Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Done for the Week

I'm six different kinds of busy, and the sister's wedding is going to occupy all the rest of the week, so I'm calling it. See you monday.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Look! Over the Hill! It's the UN! We're SAVED!

I begin to wonder if Bush hasn't deliberately gone the multilateral approach in Sudan to demonstrate how completely and utterly useless it is.

Another possibility is that we're a bit busy at present, and need to keep the issue in the eye until we can free up a few divisions.

Boy, it would be nice if somebody else ever took the lead on dealing with this stuff...

Friday, September 24, 2004

In the Trenches

I've been arguing with lefties on the Conservative Punk forums so much these past couple of days that I've hardly blogged. I need to do something about that.

Probably after this weekend, which I'll be spending in New York.

Have a good 'un.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

River of Condescension

Drudge links this report on the French PM's warning against letting Turkey into the EU. Jean-Pierre Raffarin said that doing so would "allow a river of Islam into a riverbed of secularism."


Let's imagine, just for a moment, that any American leader, any member of the Bush administration or Congress, had warned, even after 9/11, of a "river of Islam" threatening to swamp our precious civil liberties or otherwise undo our culture. Just think, for a minute, about what the reaction would be, both at home and abroad.

I'm waiting to see if one of the two heads of the French government will be subject to anything like that, but I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Coffee and Cigarettes

I first heard of Jim Jarmusch sarcastically, as a throwaway line in one of my less favorite MST3K episodes, Tom Servo noting that a crappy sci-fi film had taken a "distinctly Jarmuschian turn." I had no idea what that meant at the time, but found out later.

My next encounter was reading about the film Coffee and Cigarettes, because someone in one of the slick music mags thought it absolutely adorable that Meg and Jack White of the White Stripes had a scene in it. I was seriously geeked on the White Stripes at the time (still am, truth be told), so I read all about it, sure that I'd never get a chance to actually see the movie.

That'll learn me.

The problem was, I'd become used to the Blair's Video next to the Food Lion I shop at having jack squat for movies. When I returned my copies of Dead Again (Branagh showing remarkable restraint until the cornball final scene), Mulholland Drive (Lynch getting wierd, then wierder, then slap-your-head bizarre), and Repo Man (Alex Cox' inability to sustain a narrative passed off as absurdism, but with a killer soundtrack), I spotted the film, and looked over the cast list, saw the words "Stephen Wright," "Iggy Pop," and "Tom Waits," and proceeded, tremblingly, towards the counter, where I valiantly withstood the clerk's attempt to sign me up for their monthly program.

So there I was, getting off on the Jarmuschian (at last! I get to use that word and not be a poseur!) minimalism whilst my steak cooked, knowing full well that Meg and Jack's scene wouldn't surprise me at all when it showed up. I knew the conversation would be about Tesla and Tesla coils, and that Meg would make a lame joke.

Fool that I was, to doubt the Jarmuschian (hmmm...better backpedal on that term a bit) genius. The scene rocked. Jack was geeky and Meg was coooooool. I laughed, I cried, it was better than Alien 4.

Rest of it was good, too, for being such a simple premise: 11 conversations centering on coffee and cigarettes, all with famous and semi-famous people trying their damndest to be "normal". It wasn't an earth-shattering experience, but I enjoyed the mellow vibe being turned out. I give it two thumbs up. Fine family fun.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Watch Me Surprise You... saying that Jonah Goldberg frankly nails it in his column on NRO today.

That's sarcasm, of course. Me praising Jonah would be about as counterintuitive a move as Morat over at Skeptical Notion praising Atrios or some such. Goldberg is a conservative, and so pretty much am I.

I know this. You know this. I know you know I know you know, etc.

Why, then?

Because I think it points out something very serious about the differences between liberals and conservatives, and why electing our current imperfectly conservative president remains a priority.

Jonah's column, summed up succinctly, says that war is a difficult enterprise. It nearly never goes according to plan. There's always an unexpected factor to contend with. Someone nearly always screws up, and in an ugly and spectacular manner. The enemy nearly always finds a way to disrupt your strategy somewhere along the line. Iraq is no exception.

Now, liberals think this about war, because liberals don't like war, and liberals like the kind of macho confidence that people begin a war with even less. The argument that war is a process of bloody miscalculations is one that liberals are happy to throw into the teeth of both war and machismo.

But conservatives know that the above is true about war, because conservatives read about and study war. One hesitates to generalize, but I think its fair to say that liberals want to know how to avoid war, and conservatives want to know how to win it. Conservatives, being conservatives, know that war is not something that's going to go away as long as humanity has something to argue about, and they also know that humans have a nearly infinite capacity to find things to argue about. Therefore, they want to know how wars are fought and won, what mistakes can be avoided and what mistakes probably can't, so that when war comes they will be ready.

If the above is true, and I think it is, it goes a long way toward explaining why conservatives have been so patient in Iraq and the WoT in general and liberals so changeable and skittish. Since 9/11, conservatives have been the ones saying "this will take years," and "Afghanistan is only the beginning," and "there is still much to do." Liberals, on the other hand, have been declaring quagmire since the first week of the Afghanistan campaign. I don't think this is an accident. Conservatives know that the fortunes of war are mutable, and liberals think anything more difficult than Hitler's remilitarization of the Rhineland in '36 is the prelude to defeat. They simply don't know any better.

Of course, there is the fact that the WoT is being led by an arguably conservative Republican President. I don't discount this. Were the situation reversed, the paleocons and Buchananites might be a much bigger voice on the right than they are today. But while I can't speak for anybody else, I can say without hesitation that if Al Gore had won in 2000, and if Al Gore had responded to 9/11 by invading Afghanistan and Iraq, by putting Syria, Iran, North Korea, and the PLO on notice that their malfeasance would no longer be tolerated, by following bipartisan recommendations to revamp our intelligence community, then Al Gore would have my vote in 2004. Al Gore being Al Gore, he probably would have went about things differently, but if I saw a serious, aggressive war on terrorism and terrorist states, then I'd have to be really impressed with any challenger before I got rid of him. I believe many in the blogosphere would feel similarly.

There's also the possibility that Al Gore would have made a bunch of threatening noises and done very little. Alternative histories can't be nailed down by definition. But the point is, a centrist Democrat who was willing to take the fight to the enemy might have found a great deal more support on the right than one might think, maybe more support on the right than the left. After all, in England, the Tories have been rock-steady on Iraq since day one.

Watch the Donkey Flail

NEW YORK (AP) - Staking out new ground on Iraq, Sen. John Kerry said Monday he would not have overthrown Saddam Hussein had he been in the White House, and he accused President Bush of "stubborn incompetence," dishonesty and colossal failures of judgment. Bush said Kerry was flip-flopping.

New ground? This is to suggest that there's anything as solid as terra firma in Kerry's utterances, rather than the oozing mush we normally expect from the Empty Senator. Let's see how long he manages to stick to this before switching gears again to a Dean-like "But we're committed."

Less than two years after voting to give Bush authority to invade Iraq, the Democratic candidate said the president had misused that power by rushing to war without the backing of allies, a post-war plan or proper equipment for U.S. troops. "None of which I would have done," Kerry said.

Am I to assume that Kerry is the only guy in the U.S. Senate who was unaware of the fact that Chirac was going to support our operation when hell froze over, and that Schroeder was too busy running on "Bush = Hitler" to consider coming to our help? Or should I simply believe that the guy who voted against the supplementary funding bill for Iraq, then claimed to vote for it, and is now blaming the administration for not funding the war, is an idiot?

Is there anything that will get this silly bastard to stand on his vote?

"Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell," he added.

But typically, you're not only unwilling to put him in that place, you're willing to attack the guy who is, and render him unable to complete his job. So this acknowledgement of Saddam's wickedness serves only as dross for what your real goal is. Spare us.

"But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact:

What you mean "we," Kemo-sabe?

We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

Unproven. Please demonstrate that we are less safe than we were on the morning our largest city lost its largest buildings.

Bush hit back from a campaign rally in New Hampshire, interpreting Kerry's comment to mean the Democrat believes U.S. security would be better with Saddam still in power. "He's saying he prefers the stability of a dictatorship to the hope and security of democracy," the Republican incumbent said.

"Today, my opponent continued his pattern of twisting in the wind," Bush said. "He apparently woke up this morning and has now decided, No, we should not have invaded Iraq, after just last month saying he would have voted for force even knowing everything we know today."

Note the dynamic: Bush, the guy that everyone described as a feckless, mumbling blueblood dunce in 2000, is now pointing at his opponent and laughing at him. And unlike the lame "fuzzy math" quip he tried to foist on Gore, this barb has already stuck.

Both candidates addressed partisan crowds, drawing cheers and hoots as they stretched each other's records and rhetoric - mixing facts with political creativity toward the same goal: raising doubts about the other man's credibility.

In addition, both candidates were speaking English and breathing oxygen, although CBS has recently found documentation claiming that Bush is not a carbon-based life form.

Kerry called on Bush to do a much better job rallying allies, training Iraqi security forces, hastening reconstruction plans and ensuring that elections are conducted on time. But his speech was thin on details, with Kerry saying Bush's miscalculations had made solutions harder to come by.

Do you love that? Kerry is trying to pin his indecisiveness on Bush, claiming that the problem of defeating a guerrilla insurgency is apparently so novel and difficult that John Wayne Kerry can't begin to come up with a solution. Well, it's unsurprising. The last time we were trying to do that, Kerry bugged out before he finished his tour.

Bush cited Kerry's four-point plan and dismissed it as proposing "exactly what we're currently doing."

One of these guys is cribbing notes. I'm gonna give the benefit of the doubt to the guy who gets the defense briefings.

With more than 1,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, including nearly 900 since Bush declared an end to major combat, with free elections in doubt, reconstruction efforts stalled and violence and kidnappings on the rise, Iraq could be Bush's biggest political liability. Even some Republican senators have begun to publicly second-guess the president's policies.

Fair enough. It's hard to maintain resolve when things look rough. But Bush isn't gonna cut and run, and I don't see that we're at that point yet. Kerry seems to be prepping us to do exactly that.

But Kerry has failed to capitalize thus far, struggling for months to find a clear, consistent way to differentiate his views from those of his Democratic rivals during the primary season and, since the spring, his general election foe in the White House.

Kerry's advisers say they're not sure whether it is too late for the Democrat to make the Iraq critique resonate. Polls show voters favor Bush over Kerry on Iraq and terrorism. The president shines the spotlight on his foreign policy agenda with a visit Tuesday to the United Nations.

So one candidate is proudly displaying his agenda to a world he knows damn well is hostile to it, and one candidate's boys can't come up with anything more forceful than "not sure whether it's too late to make [it] resonate."

Which of these candidates is taking the initiative and running with it?

Kerry said in August that he would have voted in 2002 to give Bush war-making ability, even had he known no weapons of mass destruction would be found. He stood by the vote again Monday, saying the president needed to use the threat of force to "act effectively" against Saddam.

He made a distinction between that vote to grant a president war-making authority and what he himself would have done as commander in chief with such power.

"Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?" Bush's presidential rival said at New York University.

"Even though I say that, knowing what I know, I would do exactly the same thing in my power as a Senator to authorize military force, it's obviously pig-headed for the President to say that, knowing what he knows, he would to exactly the same thing in ordering military force."

What a schmuck.

"Is he really saying to Americans that if we had known there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaida, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is resoundingly no because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe."

But. What. WOULD. You. DO????????

Kerry called national security "a central issue in this campaign," a bow to the fact that the race is being waged on Bush's terrain.

"Invading Iraq was a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight," he said.

Kerry used the word "truth" a dozen times to say Bush had dodged it. That doesn't count the number of times he said the president "failed to level" with Americans or misled and confused them. He blamed Bush for "colossal failures of judgment."

"This is stubborn incompetence," he said.

Only if we lose, smart guy. Then it magically becomes world-changing courage. Now ask yourself the question: Can we win? If we can, and you think the President can't, then get off your deity-expletived high-horse and let us in on your strategy. It's go time.

Kerry has sounded more hawkish, as in December when Democratic primary rival Howard Dean said the world was not safer with Saddam out of power. Anybody who believes that, Kerry said, doesn't "have the judgment to be president."

Reading that quote to his GOP crowd on Monday, Bush cracked: "I could not have said it better."

I wonder if Kerry knows that Bush is using his own sound bites from the primary, the time when you're supposed to shore up your party base by getting in bed with the wings, to attack him in the general election, when you're supposed to run to the center. I wonder, if he knows, how he feels about that.

The running mates got into the act, too. "Iraq's a mess," said Democratic Sen. John Edwards, while Vice President Dick Cheney said Kerry offers only "confusion, weakness, uncertainty and indecision."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Everything Old is New Again

And as The Communists in China start acting like the Manchus, the comparison of Vladimir Putin to Tsar Alexander III is becoming ever more apt, according to this report by Ariel Cohen on TechCentralStation. Amazing, ain't it? One begins to wonder if we're the only place on earth, aside from that constitutional monarchy that hangs out with Europe, that really gives a crap about democracy.

Doubtless non-Americans the world over would find that remark patently offensive. And on further consideration, I know it to be wrong. I think the Eastern Europeans care about democracy very, very much. The Poles, for example, care so much that they have a brigade at work in Iraq.

For most of the rest (musn't forget the Italians), however, I shrug Gallicly.

Bloody Lanes

This old Civil War buff should be flogged before the entire regiment for failing last Friday to mention the 142nd anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the only major battle of the war to be fought in my home state of Maryland (if you don't count the Rebs' 1864 Monocacy-Silver Spring farce, which I don't), and the bloodiest single day of combat in American history.

That's right, gang, Antietam beats out D-Day by a substantial margin. How bad was it? The Union army dropped 13,000 dead, the Confederates 10,000, all in one day (September 17, 1862). That's right, 23,000 dead men, or 23 times as many as we've lost in Iraq over the course of a year. Just offering some perspective for those ready to run up the white flag.

Sully Wants the Administration to Spend More Money...

...on Iraq. The old rule is proved: on matters that they consider important, everyone's a liberal.

Mandate of Heaven

Anyone with an elementary grasp of Chinese history should feel the warm embrace of familiarity upon reading the AP story on the leadership change in the "People's Republic." Here's what I mean:

Despite repeated orders from Beijing, local officials have balked at orders to cancel major construction and other big spending projects - austerity moves that could cost local jobs and reduce opportunities to line their pockets. Hu and Wen reportedly have been forced to visit Shanghai and other areas to compel obedience in person.

Imperial authority wanes, local warlords wax. Can the dynasty hold on?

Friday, September 17, 2004

I'm Not as Thunk as You Drink I am

Back in college, I got tired of enduring the autumnal round of "My God, college students are Drinking!" stories in the local and national news. So I wrote a piece in the student paper taking adults to task for their hypocrisy, for romanticising their party days in films like "Animal House," but having spitting hissy fits when their kids do likewise.

I'll be honest: as far as I, and just about everyone I knew, was concerned, the drinking age being 21 was a minor inconvenience, easily surmounted. I had liquor just about whenever I wanted it, without bothering about a fake ID. I broke the law, deliberately, repeatedley, and without remorse. I justified this by the old dictum that an absurd law has no binding effect.

This guy (link via The Agitator)suggests that the 21 law is not only absurd, but bad law. Apparently binge-drinking is the result of the 21 Law, because kids wouldn't do this if they could drink in bars. He then claims to be a "charter member of Presidents Against Drunk Driving," which has no web site that shows up on Google, yet has no better solution to the drunk-driving problem than baldly declaring that if we were really worried about that, we'd raise the driving age to 21.

A stupid argument, but here's something worth looking at: according to MADD's own figures, the age group most likely to die in a crash that's due to alchohol is not teenagers or twenty-somethings but those between 31-40. Add to that the fact that the number of highway deaths total has been static since the early 80's and we have to ask: is there a way we can have driver safety and still let 18-year-olds, who can vote, drive, marry, and die for their country, have a beer?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

I Don't Wanna Grow Up

Johnny Ramone, who spent his life dressed as a snot-nosed kid in a black leather jacket, has died of an old man's disease, prostate cancer. He was 55.

This is the third Ramone to drop dead in the past three years. Joey's death from lymphoma was Grandly Tragic; everyone who loved the Ramones was sad, and everyone paid tribute to him, and kids rode the albeit brief nostalgia wave to rediscover one of the great American bands. Dee Dee's overdose and death in 2002 was gratuitous and offensive, an act of nihilism that a man his age should have learned to grow beyond.

Today, I just feel empty and sad, for a fellow man's struggle against the grind that wears and wears and beats you down. I can't help feeling like maybe the struggle was doomed. The Ramones were gloriously, obstinately Rock n'Roll, a purity of three-chord-three-minute mojo that many have imitated but few have loved as truly. They battled for twenty years to conquer the Rock world, and could not do it. They inspired thousands, became underground icons, but moved the mainstream hardly at all.

I don't know where I'm going with this, except to say that something sucks about the fact that John Cummings slaved for years and years so that Kurt Cobain could feel bad about himself and become a sacrifice to an ideal ill-defined and breathtakingly juvenile. Somehow the simplicity that the Ramones cherished got turned into a scream at a wall. Maybe that was inevitable, given the times, maybe it's even a healthy forum for the venting of frustrations that otherwise cause the streets to bleed.

I can't tell you, other than I'm utterly frustrated with people's foolishness, and with my own. The longing of the soul for freedom and power, demonstrated so aptly in any Ramones song, seems at once necessary and laughably futile. All that we have, all that we build, one way or another, we eventually lose.

What do we gain?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

That's Better

Other must have felt as I do, because there's a bit more war about. Instapundit acknowledged his silence by claiming he was waiting for a report, which is fair enough, and the post deals with some of the issues others have been talking about, like gradualism vs. confrontation, and the possibility that Fallujah will become a chamber pot, as old General Ducrot would put it, after the election.

Little Green Footballs, on the other hand, hasn't had too much war talk, but did link to a possible reconsideration of the War on Terror in the Vatican. Considering the particular Cardinal who used the words "Fourth World War," there may be a sea change afoot in Europe. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Or, Didn't You Know There Was a War On?

There's something distinctly odd about the dead silence on Iraq news coming from most of the right-wing blogs. The news does not appear to be good, but only Sully and the lefties, like Skeptical, are saying anything about it. That's not good.

Now on the one hand, it's useful to wait for the fog of battle to lift before making pronouncements. Iraq's been declared a quagmire before, and what appears to be going on may or may not resemble what's actually going on. But nevertheless, not talking about it, not even mentioning the difficulty, makes it that much easier to call we righties unserious about the war, which is a meme we really don't wanna see.

So, great as the CBS meltdown is, let's take a moment amidst slapping each other on the back and take notice of the other problems. If we don't, the public is gonna end up hearing naught but disaster commentary.

Sully links the David Brooks piece defending the administration's "gradualism." Read. Discusss.

UPDATE Iraq the Model thinks that the situation isn't as dire as it appears, that the insurgency isn't as popular in Fallujah as many think. He also thinks that most Iraqis will accept the collateral of cleaning the insurgents out, and that it has to be done, by the forces of the government and/or the coalition, sooner or later. I agree.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Half a War

Or, Re-thinking the Morning's Post

Sully fairly gushed about the sudden hawkishness the Dems displayed at their convention, but now he seems to have picked up on the reality that they and their candidate have no credibility on Iraq, in the sense that we have no reason to expect anything like determined leadership from them. It's a shame, because one can fairly argue that the Administration has made errors in prosecuting the occupation. The on-again, off-again, Fallujah siege, which seemed to be a good model for introducing self-policing to the Iraqis, is now arguably the biggest blunder of the war. But it was a blunder of being irresolute, not being bloodthirsty, and all it really means is that we're going to have to fight there again, and alas, this time take no prisoners. Expect it after the election, if not sooner.

But that brings us back to the Dems' credibility. Bush enjoys the incumbent's advantage of being a known quantity, of having skeletons pretty well unearthed, policies pretty well known. Kerry, on the other hand, is a gigantic question mark. He doesn't even have any gubernatorial experience to give us a sense of his leadership style (aside from being Dukakis' Lieutenant G., which nobody talked about before they started comparing him to his boss). So the campaign has come down to war candidate versus maybe-war, maybe-not candidate, a choice between fighting the enemy

We know why Kerry can't do better than "" He can't do it because his party can't do it. Dean was anti-war, and he fireballed like so much dry Icarus. Lieberman was pro-war, and he couldn't get made party dog-catcher. So they went with Kerry, not because he had the nuanced vision that could make sense of the great clash of our age, but because they thought he could beat Bush. Because, you know, there's nothing more important than that, or anything.

So instead of participating in solving the 9/11 problem, the Democrats are sitting on the ground, grumbling "not in our name." Instead of joining us to topple a movement that indiscriminately targets civilians, especially members of the wrong ethnic group, abuses women, beheads homosexuals, and justifies all this with a religious fundamentalism that makes Jerry Falwell look like Larry Flynt, they tell us that we're the problem, we're the evil, that we shouldn't even try, we can't win, we're only making it worse, et cetera ad infinitum. They have demonstrated neither perspective nor patience, nor courage, nor charity. All they've done is howl.

This is a real failure of the Left, one that we're all going to pay for. Many a conservative commentator has posited, as I have and do, that this election comes down to whether you believe we're in a war or not. They point this out with the unspoken suggestion that those who don't believe we're in a war are fools, and on the wrong side of history. But if almost half of us don't believe we're in a war, how well can this war be fought? And if almost half of us don't believe we're in a war, how can those of us who do trust their opinions of it?

I'm Getting Sick of These People

By which I mean the terrorists and their thrice-damned, silly-ass, super-telegenic "insurgency". We all know what they're thinking "kill enough people, and the West, blaming itself for the violence, will give in." We all know it, but more than enough people are willing to play the game. Let's lay it on the line: voting Kerry means voting Democrat means voting Left means voting defeat. And anybody currently unhappy with the violence (which should be just about everybody, one way or another) needs to deeply ponder what the consequences of defeate will be, for the WoT, for the world. We. Must. Not. Lose. Period.

Doubt me? Check this Marine's letter out (link via Sully). Let's hold on, and let's keep going. And you Democrats out there? If you've got a plan for doing that better, I think a lot of people will listen. But you need to come up with one, fast.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The News Object

Belmont Club points out what I earlier pointed out, but has been lost in the crowing over the "fall of the MSM (MainStream Media)." Specifically, that "the news networks still generate, via their reporters, the bulk of primary news." He then goes on to say that where the media fails is not in generating, but in analyzing news.

I think he's right (big surprise). I also think that the media is going to be transformed, but in a different way than perhaps many bloggers think. Lileks believes that we're heading back to the future: the days when each city had a handful of honestly ideological papers going back and forth like the waves. It's a good analogy, but I'm not ready to declare that "TV is dead." Those certain of their own superiority have been saying that "print is dead" for decades, who believes them? What may happen is a shift more subtle, a change in the division of labor. Reporters will "cover" the news, and provide the facts, but the recitation of it will become dryer, less prone to speculation and analysis, and less willing to jump to conclusions for fear of having to put Florida back in the Undecided Column.

On the other side, the blogs, who are empowering a people traditionally barred from entering the national public discourse, the Experienced, or People who Know What They're Talking About. The CBS story was debunked by a handful of guys with some experience in the field of document creation and technology, helped by others who had spent time in the merry land of military bureaucracy. Sure, the TV news uses "experts" all the time to lend credence to their story, but the TV format hardly ever allows someone to speak at length, and with supporting reasons, against the story. Now the kind of talk we hear at dining room tables makes it into the global dialogue. An important step indeed.

TV remains TV, the moving picture, the nearest thing to "being there." Watching the Towers fall three years ago told us all more than fifteen hundred warnings about Islamism from Instapundit or Andrew Sullivan. That isn't going to change. What is going to change is the degree to which the TV is accepted without question. No blog seeks triumph. We seek only balance.

UPDATE: Added to this a point I forgot to make before, and the link to my earlier argument. I also wanted to cross-reference this post with the fact, as noted on Instapundit, that John Kerry has been avoiding a press conference since early August. Surely, if the Old Media were such a prop to his campaign, that wouldn't be the case?

Don't be discounting them as useeless juuuuuust yet, boys.

Change is Possible

This story in the New Statesman suggests several things:

1) Islam is not incompatible with the Western notion of individual rights.

2) Not everyone views the terrorist problem as something America caused or deserved.

3) The "rage" promised in the "street" of average Muslims against us for invading Iraq and Afghanistan does not appear to have rendered them incapable of considering and dealing with flaws in their own backyard.

Now there may be an element of whitewash here. And it's tempting to read too much into this. The article made no mention of international politics, but internal politics. So it's hard to tell whether a spirit of reforming Islam necessarily translates into a disavowal of terrorism as a political force. But it is a hopeful sign, and we've been in need of those lately.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Bear is Angry

Don't know what this will develop into. If they're serious, They could become a helpful military ally, or they could become a flailing basket case in need of restraining, which will be very difficult to do.

Again, don't know. Russia is a riddle wrapped in an enigma with a puzzle on top.

Monday, September 06, 2004

On Dukakis

Or, What is the Press On?

Now that everyone is connecting Kerry to the man he served under as Lt. Governor from 1983-1985, I have a question regarding supposedly embarrassing campaign moments. Three are being passing through the meme-sphere:

1. George Bush the Elder's being shocked at a supermarket scanner.

2. Kerry going windsurfing.

3. Dukakis riding in the tank.

Plenty of hay was made about the first and third of these. In '92, Scannergate led our famously unbiased press to "wonder" to the effect that Bush was an out-of-touch blue-blood without a clue as to how the peons got their bread. denounces this as an urban legend, but even if it was true, so what? Presidents and Vice Presidents don't do their own shopping, and Bush had been one or the other for 12 years when this happened, leaving aside his time as DCI and a member of Congress. Besides, as Bill Buckley noted at the time, did anyone really believe that FDR did his own shopping? He came of a family no less wealthy than Bush's, and no one ever questioned his lack of sympathy for the common man. Why is Roosevelt, Kennedy, or Kerry wealth okay, but Bush wealth is somehow eeeeevil?

As to Dukakis on the tank, I saw that clip a thousand times back in '88 and to this day I have no idea what was so embarrassing about it. Sure, he was no George Patton, but it's not like he fell out or lost his helmet or fired off a HEAT round at the press box (if he'd done that, he might have won the election). He popped out of the tank, fired off a civilian's best imitation of a salute, and smiled. What's the big deal?

With that in mind, I'd like to address the subject of John Kerry windsurfing so I can henceforth continue to ignore it. So he windsurfs. So what? Calvin Coolidge liked to play canasta. Was this tacit support for cardplaying, with all the sin it leads to? Can't we talk about something in some way related to how these bobbleheaded schmucks are going to DO THEIR JOB?

It's long past time that we stopped scarfing up every mindless piece of trivia that the media throws at us and examining it like the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the four years that George W. Bush has been President, hardly a soul in our press corps has given the slightest thought to telling the nation what exactly he does all day, who he sees most often, how he makes the decisions that effect us. Beyond snide caricatures of the Boy Emperor Following Cheney's Lead or the Protocols of the Elders of Neocon, we've heard diddly.

Maybe the better question is, what does the media do all day?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Dixiecrats Under the Bed

Or, Drowning the Baby in the Bathwater

Sully can't seem to leave Zell Miller alone. I don't know if he finally sees someone he can denounce as a real live clansmen without sacrificing his "objectivity," but he's zeroing in on one statement and ignoring the rest of the man's subsequent career in public service, which has not been one of uniform racial hostility. Trent Lott he's not.

The sad thing is, he's got a real argument to throw against the old boy, the fact that a few of the weapon systems that Miller chastised Kerry for opposing have also been opposed, at one time or another, by GOP leadership, particularly Dick Cheney. A fair point, even if the WaPo's defense of Kerry that Sully links isn't quite the home run Sully thinks it is (so he didn't vote against them individually, just as part of a big package? Well, that makes it all better). But there is the beginning of an argument here, and if Sully stopped the "he's not a hippy, you redneck!" game, he might get somewhere with it.

UPDATE: Then again, he might not. Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiller has the goods on Kerry's Defense stance back in the 80's. The documents are here and here and there's a whole laundry list of weapons systems Kerry wanted to junk. How come Zell didn't have this handy?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

"Repeater," Indeed

Or, Why Ian MacKaye is the Lost Del-Tone

Reading Mark Andersen's often insightful, often irritating, always passionate Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capitol, one gets the impression that DC Underground stalwarts Fugazi, fronted by Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and backed by other veterans of that cities early-to-mid 80's hardcore scene, has created a form of music altogether new in America, at once powerful and gentle, beautiful and raucous. Having listened to Fugazi's popular Repeater this evening, I can find little to dispute. I hear gentility, and power, and violence, and moments of beauty.

But that ain't new.

Gah, I've started with the most prevalent of current rock criticism cliches, that All New Rock Rips off Old Rock. Man, I'd hate to have to be a new rock band today, to have all your efforts reduced to your Influences, with snide commentary. As if this makes Mooney Suzuki somehow less than the MC5. As if Nirvana didn't steal from every 80's underground band from the Pixies to Big Black. As if the Ramones didn't arrive at their entire sound by throwing together the Stooges and the Beach Boys. As if the Beatles were anything other than a bunch of Buddy Holly wannabes singing show tunes. And if you're wondering about Elvis, ask a black dude.

Now, I'm not going to argue about Fugazi's influences. As far as I can tell, Fugazi is the logical progression, not to say departure, of Ian and company's respective musicalities from the fasterlouder sheets of thrashy hum that Minor Threat exemplified. I don't think a one of their songs was deliberately patterned after anyone else's, indeed they seem to have taken great efforts to avoid such. Nobody deliberately names a tune "Song #1," unless they're interested in working from a clean slate.

But wanna do something fun, something that would probably annoy Mark Anderson until he found a point from his back notes that would cover him?

Load Repeater into your stereo so that it plays after The King of Surf Guitar: The Best of Dick Dale and His Del-Tones. Then pick your jaw up after you discover how oddly alike they sound.

Now, this might upset some people who want to believe as Anderson does, and won't have the Holy Fugazi left on a plane similar to the Strokes, who hardly get mentioned without being alternately compared to the Velvet Underground and Television. But that's only because certain loud people in the underground possess a bizzarre, obsessive compulsion to reject any music they deem as "not relevant," to which we can add as a matter of course anything more than five years old. To such as they, Dick Dale is that guy who did that song from Pulp Fiction. Yeah, it's cool, but it's old, and we have a moral obligation to listen to the new Go-Kart release, because that's about today, man.

Whatever. Anyone who uses the word "relevant" and means it is either unable to see that hunting "relevance" leads to the same kind of empty ephemerality as the record industry's business cycle, or they see it and ignore it. In either case, the position renders them blind to the truth: that Dick Dale is Rock n'Roll.

Rock n'Roll is dated. It's yesterday. Your mom and dad used to dance to it. We've all smelled that desperation in the recent issues of Spin, trying to sell the Music That Rocks, succeeding in selling the Music That Rocks, only to have the Music That Rocks still swamped like a tiny boat in the sea of Music That Goes Platinum. Hip-Hop is what lights MTV's fire, and Hip-Hop is what all the kids are listening to no matter what their melanin level. Rock is still there, but it just ain't the big dog no more.

So Rock is yesterday. It just so happens that yesterday is almost endless, today is but 24 hours, and the future doesn't actually exist in our frame of reference. And since we can't go four years without examining in excruciating detail all the cool and uncool stuff that happened in the previous decade, I say we drop, for good, any pretense of interest regarding what's going on "today." If VH1 has taught us nothing, it's taught us that whatever we think is cool today stands a real good chance of being embarrassingly laughable tommorrow.

Honestly, who cares how old music is? The first time you hear Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll", be it on your shiny copy of their fourth album or those formerly ubiquitous Cadillac ads, you're transformed, overwhelmed, and if you have any life in you, air-guitaring like a chimp on six espressos. The same goes for the most ancient of Rn'R: Link Wray's "Rumble" still swaggers mightily, as does the yob hopping of his cycle that anyone who hears this song thinks of.

So does "Run, Run, Run," or "Blitzkrieg Bop," or "Bad Reputation," or "Sabotage," or "Seven Nation Army," or any of a thousand others that have claimed neural space in our collective noggins. So who cares if Hip-Hop rules the Billboard charts? Let the industry pukes worry about such; it's their job. Ours is to cherry-pick what we like. What's worth remembering, from any genre, will be remembered.

Besides, it won't be long before H-H too becomes mostly retro, mostly reworkings of old forms. It may even be so already. Is it any secret that the best Rap steals from the best black instrumental music? Same with R&B, the genre for gospel singers who don't want to sing gospel. Sound-wise, R&B has always bowed to whatever else was hip at the time. That's why it sounded like jazz and blues fifty years ago, like soul and funk in the 60's and 70's, like disco in Michael Jackson's heyday, and today bears the description foisted on it by Chris Rock: "a bunch of people singing over rap beats." It's the only genre where people really are just interested in the vocals.

Anyway, back to Fugazi, the band that served as an escape for many from both hardcore and emo, the undiplicated punk band for grown people. If R&B is multi-genre-friendly, then Ian and the Boyz are a perfect marriage of genres: as distorted as Johnny Ramone's Mosrite and as funky as James Brown's pelvic bone. They manage to be exciting to listen to, and breathable at the same time. You could probably find a way to dance in a non-slam sort of way to them (and you'd better, at a show, lest you face the scorn of St. Ian of the Church of the Reformed Mosher), but you don't have to. The groove is enjoyable either way.

Whatever you pick, Fugazi's a lot more Rock n'Roll than they realize, and that's a good thing. They prove what can be done with Rock n'Roll if it's approached deliberately, with a mind for variation, for using the framework rather than bowing to it. Miles Davis achieved something similar with modal jazz in the late 50's with Kind of Blue (current Sales Rank: #167. So much for the tyranny of the present).

So for the truly avant-garde, for those who grok Ecclesiastes' dictum that all rivers run back to the sea, I suggest doing the twist, or some robotic form of jitterbug, at the next Fugazi show you attend. You'll be stared at, but that's half the fun, and ol' Dick will be proud.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Speaking of Same Old, Same Old...

Instapundit is surprised that this story isn't playing.

I'm not.

Yipes...Just Yipes

One never knows how well one should believe someone, who, in politics, cries "Unfair!" I especially don't want to beleive someone who says "our side is just too darn nice!" (riiiiiiight...that's what is...nice), as Susan Estrich says in her column from Wednesday.

But when Susan says she's mad as hell, and she isn't going to take it anymore, I believe her. Lacking firm evidence to the contrary, I can't even deny any of her assertions regarding Bush the Elder's 1988 campaign against Dukakis. But I also believe she's missing the message here.

Did anyone actually want to vote for Dukakis in 1988? I mean, was he the kind of man that people were falling all over themselves to elect? I was only a wee lad of eleven, but I don't recall any Kennedy/Clinton star-power that was turning the masses on. My folks were going to vote for him, and did, but then my folks voted for Mondale ('88 was the last such display of liberal certainty for them; Mom turned into a Republican during our three years in California, and voted to re-elect. Dad may have voted for Clinton, but wasn't overjoyed at it; both voted for Dole in '96 and for W. in 2000 and will be doing so again in two months).

Not that Bush had any either, mind you; P.J. O'Rourke, writing at the time, succinctly summed up the '88 election as "two quibbledicks vying for rides on Air Force One," and he was right. But when push came to shove, Dukakis was altogether too liberal and vague for the public. O'Rourke again: "If we liked Reagan, we could vote for Bush, and presumably, get seconds. If we didn't like Reagan or couldn't admit to ourselves that we did, we could vote for Dukakis and get someone else...but God knew what..."

And if I were Susan Estrich, making comparisons between Kerry and Dukakis is not the strategy I'd be pursuing right now. In fact, I'd be going out of my way to de-Dukakasize Kerry as fast as I possibly could. I don't know that reaching for further handfuls of mud, either. If Kerry had a clear objective for his potential Presidency other than Not Being George Bush, then a good combination of See My Platform and The Other Guy's an Even More Twisted SOB Than We Thought might work. But, lacking that, denouncing Bush with as-yet unheard mud ("There's gotta be three or four DWI's! And Abortions! Kitty Kelly Sez Ther're Abortions! And Cheney's a Drunk!") is gonna be more of the same-old, same-old Bushitler routine.

So it's go time. Let's have the Senator tell us exactly, or even approximately, how he's gonna fight the war on terror better, how he's gonna get the French on our side, how he's gonna raise taxes on the people that hire other people and not downshift the economy, etc. He's supposed to be a smart man, and you're all supposed to be sharp, sophisticated folk around him. So, in the debates, stand tall and tell us, what are you gonna do?

Or if it's too late for that, then set your sights on drafting someone for '08 who's done something in the past 35 years, who's taken stands and made them stick, who can draw respect from moderate Republicans and still appeal to the Democratic base. Find a candidate you can get Excited about, one that leads the party instead of hiding behind it. If you build it, they will come.

Completely Anecdotal, But...

An aquaintance of mine in the theater world was a Kucinich supporter, he even handed out literature to the gang, which I politely accepted, politely read, and dismissed. He's a quite liberal fellow who doesn't trust Bush any further than he can throw him, and has harsh things to say about Fox News and Ann Coulter besides (for the record, Coulter to me is a slightly more entertaining version of Sean Hannity, and the only time Fox gets on my nerves is when they stuff Laci Peterson and whatnot down my throat).

A few weeks ago I ran into him again at a theater camp, and as the crowd had some burgers and beer by the campfire, I heard him throw Kerry to the wolves: "He's gonna get his ass kicked."

Sour grapes? I thought so, too. I didn't believe anybody's ass was going to get kicked. I don't know that I believe it now. but I'm starting to get open to the suggestion...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

No Permit

My girlfriend told me last night that the NYPD started cracking down on protesters yesterday. Haven't seen any mention of it on the news yet, but if anyone knows, I'd appreciate a heads-up.

FOUND IT: Nearly 1,000 arrested, most of them peaceful according to the report, although it admits "a few exceptions," whatever that might mean. Can't say I like the smell of this. I see three possibilities for what's going on:

1. There are more than "a few exceptions", and the police are knocking heads. I can't say I trust the mainstream press to report it, if the protesters really were getting out of hand. But I might have heard a trickle from the blogosphere. Likelihood: Below-Average.

2. The "few exceptions" have provoked the NYPD into an all-encompassing crackdown, bringing batons on heads regardless of what protesters are doing at the time arrested. Given my gf's anecdotal evidence, this very well could be the case. Likelihood: Average.

3. This is the usual back-and-forth between cops-and-protesters, who have two different definitions of "peaceful." This article about the 2002 World Economic Forum protests in NYC might lead one in that direction. It's from the World Socialist Web Site, and they seem to have a different idea of what protesters should be allowed to do than the NYPD does. I figure most protesters would prefer the WSWS' idea. Likelihood: Above Average.

Thoughts welcome.