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Saturday, May 29, 2004

Bill Gates, Babe Magnet

Mark Cuban's fourth autobiographical post in a series includes a wonderful anecdote from when he attended a software convention some years back:

One particular year, I was on my way to having a memorable night. I had met some very, very attractive women (I swear they were). Got them some tickets to come with me to the big party. All is good. I'm having fun. They are having fun. Then we see him. Bill G. As in Bill Gates dancing up a storm. I'm a Bill Gates fan, so I won't describe his dancing, but he was definitely having fun.

At that point in time, Microsoft had gone public and Bill Gates was Bill Gates. If you were in the business you knew him or knew of him. The girls I was with were in the business. Long story short, I went to the bar to get some drinks for all us, I come back, they aren't there. Come to find out the next day, Bill stole my girls. As I would learn later in life, money does make you extremely handsome. :)

Friday, May 28, 2004

Sopranos Leaves Us Hanging

This week's Sopranos discussion on Slate highlighted a great moment from last week's episode:

Tony asks Christopher why he is once again late for a meeting, and Christopher answers, laconically, that the "highway's jammed with broken heroes, on a last-chance power drive." And he delivered this line in front of Steve Van Zandt. It was Garden State harmonic convergence.

After thinking it sounded familiar, I realized the line was from Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." Van Zandt, I realized only after an Internet search, was an original member of the E-Street Band (I'm too young or too stupid or both to have known this previously). There was a guy I knew in college from New Jersey and he used Springsteen lyrics in his email signature. I thought it was a little odd, though I guess Springsteen is a god in Jersey.

Anyway, the line fit in perfectly with the episode, which featured a final ride on the highway before Adriana's demise at the hands of Van Zandt's character. Too bad they're making us wait until next Sunday night for the season finale, which I'm expecting to be equally briliant.

Have a pleasant long weekend.

If this is "War" I wonder what peace looks like?

While Bill O'Reilly has really been outdoing himself with the inanity this week, last night his "Talking Points Memo" (not to be confused with the very different weblog of the same name) was just amazing. It was entitled, "Have Two Liberal Newspapers Declared War on the Bush Administration?" Bill's answer is a definite yes. He's referring to the New York Times and the LA Times, and his only evidence for the "war" claim is that both have put Abu Ghraib on the front page many times while the NYT put yesterday's terror alert on page 16. Never mind actually engaging with the content of what the newspapers are reporting and digging into whether it's factual or not. I wonder if O'Reilly even reads the New York Times.

(And while I'm on this, why is a terrorism alert assumed to be good politically for George Bush? To me it reaffirms the dangers we face and the need for competent leadership.)

O'Reilly's idiotic charge is especially bemusing coming this week, a week in which the NYT has finally admitted to printing lies that helped to promote the Bush administration's plans to invade Iraq. I also read plenty of NYT criticism from the left on the blogs, and this week I've seen items ranging from the paper insisting that blacks weren't systematically disenfranchised in Florida in 2000 (see here and here on that) to the Times misleading readers about the claims made in campaign ads (see here and here). And if the New York Times is truly committed to removing Bush from office at all costs, why did it run a lead editorial last week on Kerry's gas prices politicking that said "he demeans the seriousness of his own candidacy" and that "some residue of shame has kept him from joining the other Democrats calling for the reserve to be raided"? That's not the hagiography of Kerry one would expect from a paper at war with Bush.

The Church's Tin Ear, the Herald's Amateurism

I've been knocking the Herald a good bit lately, so I'll throw them a bone and agree fully with this editorial. It's pretty ridiculous that Cardinal Law, who enabled child abusers for decades, is being granted an honorific position at a Basilica in Rome. Coming the same week as an announcement that the Boston Archdiocese is closing a sixth of its parishes, this is especially bad timing. Local Catholics undoubtedly will wonder whether Law could live without his maid or other perks in order to let another church stay open back where his poor leadership precipitated the church closings to begin with.

But again, let's note the difference in headlines run by the two papers in town. The Globe: "Pope names Law to ceremonial position in Rome." The Herald: "Law's Roman holiday: It's home sweet basilica for the disgraced cardinal." Agree as I do with the Herald's take on the story, this opinion should not seep into the headline of what is supposed to a straight news piece, especially in such caustic phrasing. Even when I'm in step with the Herald's views, the paper's lack of journalistic integrity is bothersome.

One more bit of church-bashing for today: Leno the other night joked that the torture at Abu Ghraib was turning out to be so bad that some of the military leadership would have to transfer parishes.

Boston Needs a Convention Pep Talk

I've been noticing lots of cynicism regarding the convention that is coming to Boston in two months' time. The Herald has been demeaning itself with screaming front-page headlines (as noted here and here). H.D.S. Greenway also has a column in the Globe this morning about the convention "melodrama":

What seemed to be a wonderful chance to show off the city to the world is now looking like a world-class headache in the making. ... This leaves the prospect of a city abandoned to demented victims of a mysterious virus called politics as delegates and groupies flood in to fill the vacuum. The few citizens left in town who are not infected by the virus have the option of barricading themselves into their apartments. "Go to the supermarket, stock up on milk and bread or beer or whatever you usually buy, and stay off the roads," a Stoneham policeman advised.

These dire predictions of what is coming (Greenway is half-jokingly comparing the scene to the movie "28 Days Later") also seem to be causing some people to get down on their city. For example, see Jay Fitzgerald yesterday on Kerry's announcement he'll accept the nomination here:

Kerry's way of making up to Mayor Menino: Calling the DNC and Boston a "world-class stage, in a world-class city." Music to Menino's ears, fingernails across the chalkboard for the rest of us.

Does Fitzgerald--who writes a blog "about Boston and the universe for which it serves as the Hub"--not believe that Boston is world-class? We need a little more pride in ourselves.

So I'm here to say that the Democratic National Convention will not mean the end of life in Boston as we know it. There will be lots of parties and special events going on in town, in fact, and the week will be an exciting opportunity to showcase Boston to the rest of the country. I admit, Boston may not have been the best choice for the convention site because of the infrastructure and the liberal image, but now that the convention is coming, we have to embrace it. As one of the "groupies" Greenway derides, I am happy that I'll be in such close proximity to the event. Being involved in politics is a good thing, after all, right? Participating in democracy and all of that, you know? And for those people who still are determined to be grumpy about things, there is some consolation for you too: the convention only lasts four days. I think you guys can deal.

Also, let's please stop the griping about the economic impact on the city, which is really just guesswork, not to mention the complaints that the convention is a pointless charade. It will actually be a good time if we're willing to enjoy it. I do admit, though, this resignation of the transportation commissioner looks kinda bad.

On an unrelated note, I just noticed I'm linked at the DCCC blog, the Stakeholder. It's kind of exciting to show up on the site of a legitimate organization like that, and I'm sure they would echo my sentiment about seeing the convention in a positive light.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

NBA Runned by High Schoolers

So as I mentioned, last night was the Nokia NBA Draft Lottery (yep, there's a corporate sponsor for the lottery now). This was a fine occasion for yet another round of hand-wringing by the commissioner about players entering the league out of high school. In an interview with ESPN, David Stern professed his support for an age limit and worried about kids chasing a "false dream."

As you probably don't recall, I supported Maurice Clarett's efforts to become eligible for the NFL Draft, and so it's not surprising I support the right of high schoolers to go straight to the NBA too. They should be free to make a living if a team deems them worthy of a roster spot. Mark Cuban had a proposal on his blog a few weeks back that would address the commissioner's concerns without putting unfair legal impediments in the way of the occasional LeBron James either: don't guarantee rookie contracts for four years, as under the present arrangement. Of course, this logical proposal will get nowhere with the league since it was put forward by Cuban, Stern's nemesis, which is unfortunate since it makes total sense.

That means we'll see high schoolers in the draft for the foreseeable future, including several this year, the best of whom is Dwight Howard of Atlanta. The Darren Rovell profile of Howard is interesting because Howard is a very religious young man, so much so that Rovell wonders whather than will hurt him with endorsements. Howard has the following "commandments" posted to the wall in his room:

And it shall (and) will come to pass that Dwight Howard II will surpass LeBron James for the best high school basketball player, college player and NBA player. Amen.

And it shall (and) will come to pass that Dwight Howard II would stand head and shoulders over 2004 prospects in the name of Jesus. Will he do it? Amen.

And it shall (and) will come to pass Dwight Howard II will be the Number 1 draft pick in the NBA draft.

And it shall (and) will come to pass SACA will win the 2002-2003, 2003-2004 state championship.

It shall and will come to pass that the NBA will be runned by the standards of God.

Well, whatever motivates you ("runned" might be an indication as to why Howard won't be a college student next year). I find it notable that Americans are willing to let celebrities tell them what food to eat and what clothing to wear, but we don't like them telling us what religion to follow or what political party to support.

After the lottery, game three of the eastern finals began. The Detroit announcer proved himself once again to be the most annoying PA guy in all of pro sports, and then the teams started the game off with matching 24-second violations. God certainly has not blessed the shooting in this series.

Tabloid vs. Real Newspaper

Tabloid: "Sen. Flip-Flop does it again!: Now Kerry will accept nomination in Hub"
Real Newspaper: "Kerry rules out delaying tactic: OK's Hub nomination; may challenge FEC rule

It's sad how the Herald continues to debase itself with trashy headlines across the cover like this. Thank goodness we have a real newspaper in town in the Globe. This isn't necessarily to say I disagree with the Herald's language, I just think the headline of the lead story in a reputable newspaper shouldn't be tossing around insults.

I've gone cold turkey on the Kerry-bashing in the post-primary period, though if someone were to ask me if I think Kerry is a "flip-flopper", I would say that yes, I think he is. Most politicians are "flip-floppers" of some sort, based on the need to appeal to a wide range of voters. The problem with Kerry is that he's a very inelegant flip-flopper, and that's what gets him in trouble. The Herald seems to have flip-flopped itself on the issue of Kerry, though. Check out the tabloid's primary endorsement from January 22:

If we have learned anything since the 2000 presidential election it is that in a dangerous and uncertain world there is no substitute for a steady hand at the nation's helm, guided by a lifetime of experience.

And that, at the end of the day, is what Sen. John Kerry has to offer the Democratic Party as its nominee for president - a 35-year record of service to his nation and to this state.

So is John Kerry a "steady hand" or is he "Sen. Flip-Flop"? What more would you expect from a tabloid?

When the news came down last evening that Kerry was definitely accepting the nomination at the convention, he did live interviews on all three network affiliates' 6pm newscasts. The anchors seemed uneasy in the parts of two that I saw since Kerry was going on and on about how Bush hadn't addressed this or that homeland security problem. Presumably they were concerned that Kerry's verbosity would cut into the time alotted to sports and weather. This was the first time I'd seen Kerry do TV interviews in a while, and it reminded me that Kerry has a problem with being a windbag, not just a flip-flopper.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Gore's Speech

Atrios post title: "President Gore"
Drudge Headline: "Gore Unhinged"
Full Text

Drudge seems to have seized on the suggestion by Gore that Bush should condemn Rush Limbaugh:

The president episodically poses as a healer and "uniter". If he president really has any desire to play that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush Limbaugh - perhaps his strongest political supporter - who said that the torture in Abu Ghraib was a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were "good old American pornography," and that the actions portrayed were simply those of "people having a good time and needing to blow off steam."

Gotta agree with Drudge here. The president shouldn't be wasting his time worrying about what nitwits say on the radio. He should categorically condemn the torture and vow to investigate it fully, all the way up the chain of command, but it's silly to treat Limbaugh like he's Trent Lott or something.

Otherwise, I think it's a pretty strong speech. It's too bad Gore has largely marginalized himself through his ill-fated Dean endorsement.

NBA Draft Lottery

Peter May:

Welcome to the 2004 NBA Draft Lottery. Or, as it's known in the inner circles, "An Evening With Elgin."

The draft lottery is tonight at 8 on ESPN, preceding game three of the eastern finals. It's a pretty pathetic, pointless affair, as May points out, even calling top prize Emeka Okafor "a destitute man's Alonzo Mourning." But at least it can't be any more dull than the game that comes after it. Since people seem to be into making guarantees, how's this for one: no one will score 100 points in a game in the series. Complain as I might, Tayshaun Prince's block the other night was sweet.

Tell Us What You Really Think, Amnesty

Link:

"The global security agenda promulgated by the US administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle," wrote Amnesty's secretary general Irene Khan in the report's introduction.

"Sacrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have neither increased security nor ensured liberty."

The notion of fighting a campaign against terrorism so as to support human rights, while simultaneously trampling on them to achieve this, was no more than "double speak", she said.

"The United States has lost its moral high ground and its ability to lead on peace and human rights elsewhere," Khan added at a press conference in London to launch the annual report.

The report also stated that events in 2003 had "dealt a mortal blow" to the UN's vision of universal human rights, with the global body "virtually paralysed in its efforts to hold states to account" over the issue.

"Not since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 has there been such a sustained attack on (its) values and principles," Khan told the press conference.

Not to put too fine a point on it! I tried getting the report on the Amnesty site but to no avail this morning--their servers must be busy. At least we weren't manipulated into invading Iraq by Iran, though. Oh, wait. Just when you think it can't get any worse...

Michael Berg

Well, here's someone to my left. I'm sure the warbloggers are up in arms about his blaming Bush more for his son's death than the actual killers, which I agree is kind of strange.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Who's Slandering Whom, Jeff?

Jeff Jacoby has a typically foolish web exclusive op-ed on the Globe's site today, entitled "Ted Kennedy's anti-American slander." What did Kennedy say that amounts to anti-American slander, in Jacoby's estimation? The following two sentences from Kennedy's speech of May 10:

On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked, 'Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open?' Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management - US management.

Jacoby thinks that, "it crosses a line to claim that US forces in Iraq are no better than the monster they toppled." Of course, Kennedy never said any such thing. All that quoted section above says is that American troops tortured Iraqis in the exact same prison where Saddam's forces tortured Iraqis. This is a statement of fact.

Kennedy's full remarks, helpfully linked by the Globe, are entirely reasonable and well sourced. He cites congressional testimony from Secretary Rumsfled and General Myers, the Taguba Report, and the Red Cross in laying out what has occurred in Iraq and arguing for a full investigation and accountability. Anyone who truly believes in what America is supposed to stand for would support Kennedy's remarks in full.

Jacoby wants to distract readers from the torture of Iraqis by the American occupying forces to score political points for Bush. In doing so, he denigrates the service of the best public official in the state and he weakens the chances of having real accountability for the disgusting crimes committed at Abu Ghraib. It is Jeff Jacoby who is doing his country a disservice by writing this trash.

I'm "in cooperation with evil"

At least I am according to the Bigot--er, Bishop--of Worcester, Robert McManus, who wrote in a church newsletter that "Catholics, especially public officials, pushing to legalize same-sex marriage are 'in cooperation with evil.'" And these idiots running the church wonder why parishes are shutting down. You might want to start being more inclusive and welcoming so that people actually go to church, guys.

Meanwhile, in the Globe's article on Tim Russert's BC commencement speech (the picture is priceless so click on the link), we learn that Archbishop O'Malley "wore a bright pink skullcap with his usual brown robes." Has he changed his position on gay marriage now? Someone alert Jerry Falwell.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Connolly Watch 5.24.04: Nomination Games

From Fox News Sunday's discussion of Kerry possibly postponing acceptance of the Democratic nomination:

[CHRIS WALLACE:] Does this feed into Kerry's image as a manipulator, as somebody who doesn't stand up?

[BRIT] HUME: Having it both ways.

CONNOLLY: Well, sure. And, clearly, that's what the Bush folks and the Republican Party very quickly on Friday started putting out that exact message, Chris. And there are going to be be many people who are going to see it that way.

I think, in fairness, we need to point out that the Republican decisions to have their convention as late as possible in New York City certainly had some political calculation to it as well.

Uh oh, Ceci pointed out that Chris Wallace is a tool of the right who repeats Bush campaign spin points. If she keeps this up, she may never get invited back to the show once Mara Liasson's maternity leave is over.

Bush Ignorance on Afghanistan

Oops, I forgot one more thing I wanted to complain about from Bush's speech:

These two visions -- one of tyranny and murder, the other of liberty and life -- clashed in Afghanistan. And thanks to brave U.S. and coalition forces and to Afghan patriots, the nightmare of the Taliban is over, and that nation is coming to life again.

Not according to a British parliamentary inquiry, it isn't:

Three years after the overthrow of the Taliban and George Bush's declaration of victory in the first conflict in the war on terror, Afghanistan is a nation on the edge of anarchy. ... The Independent has learnt that an all-party group of MPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee has returned from a visit to the country shocked and alarmed by what they witnessed. They warn that urgent action must be taken to save Afghanistan from plunging further into chaos because of Western neglect.

Par for the course.

Nothing to See Here

I thought tonight we were supposed to hear Bush's "clear plan" for fixing the mess in Iraq. Instead we got the same platitudes he's spouted many times before. There was no hint of any change in approach, despite the accumulating evidence that the approach we've taken is failing.

To be fair, Bush did make the minor announcement that we're going to tear down Abu Ghraib prison. I was amazed he talked about that but made no vow to punish the people who perpetrated the torture there and those who allowed it to happen. He also noted that Lakhdar Brahimi will be announcing this week to whom we're giving "full sovereignty" (repeated several times though never defined in the speech) at the end of next month. Still, there's no guarantee he'll be able to come up with something people accept. And for good measure, Bush said he thinks the knife wielder on the Berg beheading tape is Zarqawi, a subject of some uncertainty to say the least.

The role of the US military in Iraq after this nominal handover of power is unclear as well. I have a hard time believing a country can be fully sovereign when it has over 100,000 foreign soldiers present, and they will undoubtedly have some role in setting policy in the country. Madeline Albright was just devastating in her remarks on CNN after the speech ended, allowing that at least Bush was "more organized" in stating what he'd already made public previously. Will look for that transcript later.

What bothered me the most, though, are the president's nonfactual assertions. He claimed all of the violent resistance to US troops comes from people who want tyranny to take hold of the country. I doubt that since at least some of the insurgents probably just want the Americans the hell out of Iraq so they can build the kind of government they want, not something we force on them. After all, "Iraqis are proud people who resent foreign control of their affairs, just as we would," to cite the president's own words. Bush also shamelessly linked the Iraq conflict to 9/11 again.

In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands on our country, and events have come quickly. Americans have seen the flames of September the 11th, followed battles in the mountains of Afghanistan, and learned new terms like "orange alert" and "ricin" and "dirty bomb." We've seen killers at work on trains in Madrid, in a bank in Istanbul, at a synagogue in Tunis, and at a nightclub in Bali. And now the families of our soldiers and civilian workers pray for their sons and daughters in Mosul and Karbala and Baghdad.

We did not seek this war on terror, but this is the world as we find it.

None of those other attacks had anything to do with Iraq. Bush doesn't provide any evidence that they did, either, but he links them rhetorically to give this false impression to listeners. This is not "the world as we find it" but a war that the Bush administration was planning long before 9/11 occurred. The fundamental dishonesty about the war's premise continues to be stunning.

VandeHei Watch 4.24.04: Giving the GOP Ammo

VandeHei and Balz were on the front page of the Post yesterday with an article on how Kerry is trying to reach out to centrists and disaffected Republicans while also maintaining a liberal base. The reporting will probably help to further the impression on the right that Kerry is a flip-flopper without convictions, as if the rumblings over possibly not officially accepting the nomination at the convention weren't enough. Observe:

"'Don't judge me by the people who preceded me,'" Kerry told Nader, according to a Kerry aide who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. "'You may have had a disagreement with Bill Clinton, or Al Gore, or the Democratic leadership in Congress... but that's not me. I have fought with you, I have been with you on a range of issues.'"

Earlier this year, Kerry told audiences that on economic policy, he would follow in Clinton's tradition: "If you liked what Bill Clinton gave you in eight years, you'll love what John Kerry will give you in the first four."

What is more remarkable to many Democrats is how Kerry is catching little flak from the party's base even when he strays from liberal orthodoxy. Abortion rights groups, for example, defended Kerry this past week when he told the Associated Press he would consider nominating antiabortion judges. Even so, Kerry sent a clear message to the base hours later when he issued a statement saying he would never appoint an abortion rights opponent to the Supreme Court.

The abortion statement is something I covered last week, and it looks like a case of Kerry making contradictory statements. He tells the AP he's willing to consider anti-abortion judges if he's sure it won't lead to Roe being overturned, then he backtracks to his original pro-choice litmus test in a later clarifying statement. Of course, this is partly conjecture since the statement he gave to the AP was so damn convoluted to begin with. I suggested it for Slate's Kerryism of the Day, and today it was selected. Clearly, Saletan reads the blog.

Hitting Pelosi Where She Lives

Mike D points out that Nancy Pelosi's criticism of Bush a few days ago elicited responses from Republicans that, rather than engaging her on the substance, constituted non-thinking ad hominem attacks on her character. Here's one of them, along with a brief accompanying sentence from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Rep. Tom Reynolds, the chair of the House Republicans re-election committee, said, "If Nancy Pelosi has nothing to offer our troops, who are living and dying thousands of miles away, besides taunting them by saying they are dying needlessly and are risking their lives on a shallow mission, then she should go back to her pastel-colored condo in San Francisco and keep her views to herself."

Pelosi lives in a red brick home in Pacific Heights.

Thanks for the laugh, Rep. Reynolds! (He's about as accurate about Pelosi's house as he is about the content of her comments.)

Ty Law is Insane

His interview from Sports Final was transcribed and posted on BSMW. Here's my favorite crazy part:

: Let me put it in layman's terms. You got a job. You're making fifty-thousand dollars a year. Forty-thousand a year. You get employee of the year like I did. I was defensive player of the year. Your boss comes to you and says next year, we can only pay you thirty-thousand dollars. You're gonna have a problem with that. Why? Well my contract, my salary says I'm supposed to make this. I've done my job. I've exceeded everyone's expectations. Why should I have to make thirty-thousand dollars. See, people are looking at the number. The millions of dollars. People can't relate. But that's fair market value. That's the fair market value for my services. No one tells Bill Gates he shouldn't make any more money. Or Henry Ford to not make anymore money.

Isn't it cute how he likens his position to that of a normal person making $40-50k a year? Not the same thing, Ty, not by a long shot. Then he goes and compares himself with Bill Gates and Henry Ford, only two of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. Again, not the same thing. You're a pro athlete, Ty. The NFL has a salary cap, and good players get squeezed out sometimes. That's the business.

Also, good for the kids at Suffolk. Romney probably thought he'd have no problems there since the kids are working class--it's not exactly Emerson, you know. But they booed and protested nonetheless.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

My Weekend of Advertising Angst

Friday night I was enjoying the Red Sox TV broadcast until they annoyingly had to bring Judge Judy of all people into the booth for an inning to promote her show on channel 4, which now has some sort of unholy alliance with 38. Not only did they blab about non-baseball stuff for an inning (which I muted), but after the Judge had left the booth, Sean McDonough kept on for the next several innings about how she had allegedly stolen some Dunkin' Donuts munchkins for her grandkids, who were later shown eating the munchkins in the stands. The whole episode was an idiotic distraction from the game, all concocted to promote the unrelated crap they broadcast in the daytime, not the spontaneous banter that can sometimes be enjoyable. They even got in an extra mention of sponsor Dunkin' Donuts! UPN should be ashamed for sucking the life out of the Red Sox games they cover like this.

Then yesterday I went to see "Troy" and was once again bothered by the commercials that they now play even before the previews start. My response the last several times I've been to the movies is to do my best to ignore the ads, unwilling to play the captive audience. I have tried talking through them to whomever I'm with, though that can be difficult with the blasting noise. People like going to the movies partly because that's a place we can watch movies with no ads interrupting. So much for that, huh? Even the word games on the screen before that and the music pumped into the bathrooms is now entirely calculated to push products as much as possible. It all makes me wonder whether in the overcommercialization of our leisure time we're ripping the enjoyment out of what should be pleasant experiences. But that's a book for me to write some other time, better to move on.

Anyway, Troy was standard summer action fare, done pretty well. The main problem for me was how much the story was conflated, especially toward the end. I was distracted from watching the film by my shock at how things were slapped together so much more succinctly. In the credits, the movie claimed to have been "inspired by" Homer's Iliad. At least they were being accurate in that respect. Getting classical details corrects seemingly took a back seat to keeping the flick to 2.5 hours with an acceptable story arc for the consuming masses. Oh well.

It's only fitting, then, that my favorite piece in today's papers is the Michael Kinsley review of David Brooks. It's just brilliant, trust me.

In fact, several other stories of the weekend can be seen in the light of the ceaseless marketing campaign that comprises our existence. Michael Moore wins the top prize at Cannes thanks to his skillful job of building attention over his dealings with Disney. (Channeling the wingnuts: the French give that fat, smelly Bush-hater the award, of course! Too bad he didn't die when the airport terminal collapsed! It would've if his lard ass had walked through!*) John Kerry's contemplating the idea of not officially accepting the Democratic nomination at the convention this summer, which has been the subject of some political chatter this weekend, is really an admission that the candidate with the most money to blow on TV ads this fall is the one likely to win; God knows why people pay any attention to political ads to begin with, but it seems they do, and this whole thing is quite depressing. Even the Bush twins--happy graduations, girls--now seem willing to join the mega-marketing campaign that is presidential politics this summer by making some appearances to help out their dad, who is lagging with the youth vote. The revelation that Barbara and Jenna would be hitting the trail yielded my favorite headline of the weekend, with which I will end: "Bush twins quit the boozing to help dad."

*To be clear, this parenthetical bit is a parody of the hateful and factually inaccurate blogging of some people on the far right. This article makes an important point that might be lost:

Mr. Moore noted that four of the nine jurors were American: Mr. Tarantino, Kathleen Turner, the director Jerry Schatzberg, and the Haitian-born novelist Edwidge Danticat. "I fully expect the Fox News Channel and other right-wing media to portray this as an award from the French," Mr. Moore said. Only one juror, the actress Emanuelle Beart, is a French citizen.

While I have my qualms with Moore's over-the-top methods and claims at times, I don't believe in ad hominem attacks on the man either. I will be lined up to see his movie when it is released stateside, especially now that I know more detail about if from Frank Rich's column.

What Would Big Russ Say?

Tim Russert has been subpoenaed in the investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to Bob Novak. NBC says they plan on fighting the subpoena. Being involved in this tawdry, shameful affair is rather incongruous, given Russert recently published a book about his wonderfully moral upbringing, "Big Russ and Me".

I heard a radio interview of Russert pimping his book last week and it just about made me want to gag. It's really insulting that Russert thinks his blue collar roots somehow make him more honorable than the other "elites" in the press corps. Bob Somerby did a great piece last year on Russert's appearance in Bernie Goldberg's last book, "Arrogance" (a fitting title, though not in the sense the author intended, I think).

As chance would have it, Russert is scheduled for a reading and signing tomorrow at the Harvard Coop at 2pm. I wonder if one of the rabid lefty partisans from the neighborhood might drop by and mention the Plame affair?

Hopefully a Misprint About Pedro Martinez

I was reading the Sunday Gordon Edes baseball column in the Globe and the following item jumped out:

Who knows whether it will last, but Martinez was in much better spirits last week in Florida, as demonstrated by his memorable nude "rally time" dash through the clubhouse. Martinez is heartened by the way he has pitched in his last three starts, and appears to have succeeded in setting his contract situation aside, at least for the time being.

Um, did I miss something? Edes doesn't even seem to be perturbed by this. If Pedro's going to run around the clubhouse naked when he's happy, then as a reporter I think I would try to get him agitated about his contract again.

Friday, May 21, 2004

An Atypical Hockey Celebration

Well, that's enough serious blogging for the week.

Last night I caught a few minutes of the Tampa Bay-Philadelphia hockey game, and the Flyers scored a tying goal with about two minutes left. The arena went crazy, and what music did the loudspeakers blast? The chicken dance. That seemed like an odd choice to me; I much prefer the old Buffalo Sabres response to a home goal, when there would be a sustained blast of a high-volume dissonant chord on the organ. That was a way to mark the occasion. Philly won in OT and there's a game seven tomorrow to determine who will play America's Team, the Calgary Flames, for the Stanley Cup. It's long since time that I link the Calgary Herald.

Blogging of newspapers named "Herald," Boston's own ran with a rather non-neutral cover headline this morning: "We're road kill: Mayor tells us to stay away while Dems play". Nice to see the impartial coverage they're giving the event. I wonder if they'll be welcoming the delegates to town in July with a big "Screw You!" cover package?

Another Boston Herald item: I noticed this week that this page is now linked at the blog of Cosmo Macero, the Herald business columnist. I would say I'm a fan of his work, but the truth is that I don't read it since Herald columns are annoyingly hidden behind a subscriber firewall online. Despite that, Macero posted his column at the blog last week, writing that he was doing so "at considerable personal risk." I wonder if the Herald higher-ups knew he was doing this and got mad at him? Probably not since the column is still posted a week later. The Herald's web folks don't seem all that savvy either.

(Irony alert: Dan Kennedy should talk! Media Log has just added Blogger's comments, which are not nearly as nice as the other comment systems available, especially for someone blogging at a legit publication's web site, rather than just a lowly Blogspotter like yours truly. There's no RSS feed for Media Log either.)

Your Bush-bashing humor for the week: Paul Slansky's quiz on "The Twelfth Hundred Days" at the New Yorker. My favorite item from it:

2. What did Karl Rove say he wished had been done differently?

(a) He wished that Condoleezza Rice had fired Dick Clarke on January 21, 2001.

(b) He wished that Paul Wolfowitz had known exactly how many U.S. troops had died in Iraq, instead of underestimating the number by more than two hundred.

(c) He wished that the "Mission Accomplished" banner had not been raised on that aircraft carrier.

(d) He wished that Fabian Basabe, the Ecuadoran socialite wanted in California on three warrants for speeding, driving under the influence, and trespassing, had not been pictured on the front page of the Daily News "dirty dancing" with the President's daughter Barbara.

I continue to insist that I think Barbara Bush (the daughter, not the grandma, you sickos) is better looking than Jenna, even though Ricky Vandal seems to disagree.

Your juvenile humor of the week: Sean McCarthy posted the link to the silly pictures of the Asian kid with fat cheeks that's been making the rounds. I laughed, but then again, I laugh at anything.

Basketball update: OK, did the hockey earlier, and we've got the NBA conference finals starting up tonight with Lakers-Wolves and tomorrow with Pacers-Pistons. The Detroit-New Jersey series was about as dull a seven-game series between good teams as I can recall seeing in recent years. Many of the games were blowouts (you knew it was over last night when Ben Wallace was knocking down jumpers), and even the 3OT game ended with the likes of Brian Scalabrine and Darvin Ham on the floor. The Pacers-Pistons series will probably be awful too, unless you're the rarity who enjoys games in the 60s.

Meanwhile, everyone is picking LA out west, as am I. One of the refrains I'm sick of is people mentioning how Sam Cassell won two championships and Latrell Sprewell got to the Finals before too, so Minnesota now has the necessary experience. Cassell, even though he had a 31-point game in the '95 Finals (or something like that), split time with Kenny Smith, who was the starter, and he was hardly the focus of the Rockets championship teams. He didn't average double figures for Houston either year. Spree made the Finals in the bizarro lockout-shortened '99 season, when the East had a power vacuum with the second retirement of Jordan, and the Knicks, riding the improbable momentum of the Ewing Theory, somehow earned the right to be smoked by San Antonio in June. They were the #8 seed entering the playoffs, hardly a juggernaut. Plus, a guy who strangled his coach and screamed obscenities to fans at MSG earlier this season hardly counts as a composed leader. You may as well also mention the fact that Mark Madsen won two rings with the Lakers if you're going to dig that deep to make the case that the Wolves have good playoff experience.

And finally, on baseball: Toronto is in town to face the Red Sox this weekend, the fourth series between the teams already this season. I'm really sick of seeing the same teams over and over as Red Sox opponents. Thanks a lot, unbalanced schedule!

Not Zarqawi?

Four arrests in the Nick Berg killing, and they seem to be Saddam loyalists. The wire stories on this aren't giving much of an indication about whether this invalidates the US government claim that the beheading was the work of Zarqawi, as well as the larger point that this is some sort of proof of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Berg's dad is speaking out against the war and the hawks are angry with him for doing so. If this turns out to be what the arrests now suggest, though, I don't see all that much significance in the Berg killing. A young Jewish American traveling alone in occupied Iraq was been killed by anti-American militants. That some in Iraq want to kill Americans is plainly apparent from the past several months of insurgency, so what new do we learn from the Berg case? It got a lot of attention because there was a video of this one man's particularly grisly demise, but there are thousands of others who have been senselessly butchered in this conflict as well.

Romney's Latest Obstruction

Now Mitt Romney is calling on Attorney General Tom Reilly to take action to stop the granting of marriage licenses to out-of-state same-sex couples. The obvious arguments against this are that it's discriminatory enforcement since heterosexual couples aren't questioned and that the law is a relic of a now-repudiated anti-miscegenation doctrine. The governor's people like to say Romney has to enforce all of the laws on the books, even though there are numerous silly laws that are ignored.

Beyond all of that, though, I think there's an inconsistency here in the regard given to the law-making process. When Romney filed a bill seeking a stay last month, the idea was to "preserve the right of the citizens to make this decision rather than having it made for them by the Court." He wanted a delay until a potential 2006 referendum on a Constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages. Now this week, we have had the State Senate vote overwhelmingly to overturn the very 1913 statute that Romney is pressing as a means to stop some couples from marrying. Though it's unlikely the House will take that up soon, I imagine they will at some point. Shouldn't the governor wait to see whether the people's representatives want to do away with the 1913 law entirely before he goes out calling for its enforcement? Wouldn't that be the course more consistent with the logic he used in asking for the stay of the original Goodridge decision? I would love to see the House follow suit with the Senate, leaving the governor in a very difficult spot on whether to use a veto.

Rudy Can't Fail

Not to get too much like Matt Yglesias by stealing the post title from a Clash song, but that's a good description of my Giuliani 9/11 commission criticism, which is echoed today by E.J. Dionne:

Rudy, no one is asking you to be perfect. No one, and I mean no one, is taking anything away from the bravery of those who selflessly gave their all that day. But the Sept. 11 commission has the responsibility for making us more ready if a dreadful event of this sort happens again. They can't overlook what went wrong.

Alas, most things are personal for Rudy. "Our enemy is not each other," he told the commission on Wednesday, "but terrorists who attacked us, murdered our loved ones and continue to offer a threat to our security." Of course that's right. But no one says you're the enemy, Rudy. Yet none of us, certainly not you, would want systems kept in place that threaten the very men and women whose bravery protects us.

Dionne is absolutely correct that the mythologizing of 9/11 is standing in the way of a vital effort to boost our preparedness for future terrorist attacks. If anything, that is what is defiling the memory of the dead, not the raising of questions about what occurred that day.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Chalabi Conspiracy

One more example of how little trust liberal bloggers have in the US government came along today when US forces raided Ahmed Chalabi's digs in Iraq. Afterward Chalabi announced he was cutting ties with the Coalition Provisional Authority. This comes on the heels of the US cutting off the money we'd been giving him a few days ago.

What's stunning is that almost instantly, theories of a conspiracy popped up on the blogs.

Atrios: "So, are we really pissed at him or is this just part of a grand plan to let Chalabi distance himself from us so that he can become the face of the moderate opposition so that we can install him as a friendly strongman who pretends to not be friendly?" Also see Ezra Klein making a similar point. Jeff Taylor holds off guessing, but notes the "unusual silence among the Chalabists."

Josh Marshall thinks a ruse is unlikely: "I've had a slew of readers writing in and asking -- or insisting -- that the raid on the Baghdad home of Ahmed Chalabi and INC headquarters was, if not staged, then conducted with the intent of boosting Chalabi's popularity by appearing to place him at odds with the American occupiers. ... But I'm very skeptical of this interpretation."

Now the US authorities are saying Chalabi wasn't the target of the raid (via the Corner). I suppose one could say that since the ploy was too transparent, the military is backing off now, but I think this whole thing is also a good example of the perils of doing instant analysis. So I'll offer none, other than to note the bizarreness.

With Trembling Fingers

Pandagon sent me to the Independent Online where I found this Hal Crowther column that is about as passionately anti-Bush as one can get. He titles the piece "With Trembling Fingers", which is probably an apt description for the way that a lot of the apopleptic blog posts on the war get written these days. It's slightly unnerving to read something that angry and cynical and yet to agree with it basically in full, as I do. Anyhow, it's still a good read, and the most interesting bit is this quote from Hitler's top lieutenant, Hermann Goering:

"It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."

Over the top to compare this to the present-day US? Maybe, but at least it balances out my recent Kerry bashing, that's for sure. And the fact that I didn't dismiss it immediately is at least worth a little tremble.

VandeHei Watch 5.20.04: Abortion Contortion

Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz co-byline an A4 story in the Washington Post on yesterday's Kerry-Nader meeting, but it's the last three paragraphs that I want to reprint here:

On another matter, Kerry yesterday was forced to clarify his position on an abortion litmus test for Supreme Court appointees. Kerry, who has previously backed a litmus test, appeared to soften that position during an interview with Associated Press.

"I will not appoint somebody with a 5-4 court who's about to undo Roe v. Wade. I've said that before," Kerry said. "But that doesn't mean that if that's not the balance of the court, I wouldn't be prepared ultimately to appoint somebody to some court who has a different point of view. I've already voted for people like that. I voted for Judge [Antonin] Scalia."

A Kerry aide privately admitted the candidate's statement was confusing, while other Democrats said it appeared like a flip-flop. Soon after, the campaign issued a statement clarifying Kerry's opposition to antiabortion rights judges.

Kerry really outdid himself with that second sentence: that doesn't, if that's not, I wouldn't! Looks like a good candidate for a Kerryism.

Kerryisms

Slate has started a "Kerryism of the Day" feature to match its famed Bushisms. William Saletan writes:

Since 2000, Slate has poked fun at George W. Bush for his torture--some say it's merely abuse--of the English language. Our "Bushisms" collection captures (as Editor Jacob Weisberg explains in his latest volume) the president's ignorance, incuriosity, laziness, and thoughtlessness expressed in frequent gaffes. Now that Democrats have settled on a presumptive presidential nominee, it's time to cast an equally cold eye on the pomposity and evasiveness of John Kerry.

Saletan's words, not mine, OK? The feature boils a quote from Kerry down to what it really means, without all of the "caveats and pointless embellishments," which are available in footnotes and as a sidebar page. After reading the sidebar you can click on "return to English version."

I'm officially anti-Kerry bashing, though I suppose it's good to see Slate is being even-handed in mocking the presidential candidates. God knows they both can be mocked, and in such different ways too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The War on War Analogies

Continuing the effort to constrain free speech in our newfound era of terrorism and preemptive military action, the media have shamed Kevin Garnett into apologizing for having the temerity to compare the Minnesota Timberwolves' game seven against Sacramento tonight to war--a comparison that has been made by athletes of various sports about a zillion times in the past. This is the same thing that happened to Kellen Winslow when, after a loss last fall, the University of Miami football stud angrily called himself a "soldier." In one ridiculous instance soon after 9/11, I read an article wondering whether the football term "blitz" was appropriate any more.

Obviously, no statement like the one Garnett made is meant to have anything to do with actual war that is ongoing or that happened in the past. It is simply a figure of speech, a way of expressing a mindset, an emotion, and nothing more. We do like our athletes to be expressive, don't we? All the faux-outrage from our saintly media members is especially galling in instances like this.

The statement actually wasn't far off in what has been a surprisingly physical and intense series for two teams not known for being that physical or intense. I think it's been good for them both because the winner will be sufficiently battle-tested (oops, I mean "tough basketball-tested," sorry) to take on the Lakers and their arsenal (er, group) of future Hall of Famers. (Do the Golden State Warriors have to change their nickname now, by the way? Commissioner Stern?) I think this hardening effect from the seven games may prove more helpful to the survivor's (ahem, winner's) chances in the Western finals. Not that they'll beat the Lakers, mind you, but it should be a good one tonight.

The NHL's Western finals between Calgary and San Jose also continues with game six tonight. It's been a bizarre series, with the road team winning each of the first five games, again proving how pointless the NHL regular season and home-ice advantage really are. For all I've been pulling for them, I want to call Calgary "America's team," except they're based in Canada. At least Canada is behind them, it seems.

As I have extended exposure to the greatness of Jarome Iginla, I also can't help but think of Chris Rock, who has made jokes for years about how black guys one day would come to dominate hockey in addition to the other pro sports. I remember Rock doing a riff on this back in his SNL days, and he recently did another bit on black guys and hockey in his latest HBO special ("LeBron on skates"). If Rock actually followed hockey, he might realize that Iginla, a black guy, is already the best hockey player in the world.

Gasoline Hysteria

Some people who think the New York Times is unabashedly in John Kerry's corner should read today's lead editorial. The Times unloads on Kerry with both barrels, absolutely trashing his proposal with regard to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, knows this, of course, and he demeans the seriousness of his own candidacy when he suggests that President Bush could single-handedly bring down fuel costs. Senator Kerry has urged the administration to stop buying oil for the reserve, as if that would make a difference. Fortunately, some residue of shame has kept him from joining the other Democrats calling for the reserve to be raided. The government's oil purchases have taken place at a time of higher prices, but they are not a major cause of the increase.

The Times is entirely correct here, and it's refreshing to see the paper hasn't fallen into the knee-jerk response of supporting Kerry's call that I've seen in some parts of the liberal blogosphere.

The plain fact is that the United States has absurdly low gas prices to begin with. By encouraging less driving in the short run and the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles in the long run, higher costs at the pump can help the US achieve several important national objectives: energy conservation, environmental protection, limiting road congestion, cutting our dependence on foreign oil, etc. This is why the vast majority of academics and policy analysts in this area have been favoring a large increase in gas taxes for years, something that is politically unthinkable for a host of complex reasons. Instead, we have the corporate average fuel economy standards--requiring manufacturers to meet miles per gallon targets--that bring about less actual conservation by not cutting the marginal cost of driving while also distorting the market and costing more than a simple tax would.

Kerry's new proposal worsens matters by giving voters the false impression that the president has the power to maintain a low price of gasoline. In doing this, Kerry will presumably delay the beneficial effects of rising gas prices outlined in the previous paragraph, all to promote a fantasy-land vision of low fuel costs forever that he hopes will help him in the election. The Republican approach of letting supply and demand take their course is clearly superior here. I've seen some blatant political opportunism by Kerry before, but this case, with the deleterious consequences that may result, may take the cake as the worst.

UPDATE: Well, I guess this post violates my no-Kerry-bashing post-primary rule. But it's about policy, not his personal style, so that's how I'll justify it. While Bush may be right in this particular instance not to intervene on gas prices, I will say that neither party gives me a reason to vote for them on energy issues. The Republican energy policy largely consists of giving tax breaks to campaign contributors, while the Democratic energy policy largely consists of prolonging and tinkering with ineffectual regulatory regimes. Even Nader has been a chief backer of CAFE from its inception, so he's useless. In short, vote on the other issues because everyone sucks on this one.

Missing the Point of the 9/11 Commission

Reading about Giuliani's appearance before a 9/11 commission hearing yeaterday reminded me of an important point:

"Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us," Giuliani told the panel. The mayor acknowledged there were "terrible mistakes" made on Sept. 11, but attributed that to the unprecedented circumstances.

"The blame should clearly be directed at one source and one source alone, the terrorists who killed our loved ones," Giuliani said as family members broke into applause.

Commission member James Thompson, before questioning Giuliani, said the panel was "not engaged in a search for blame, not engaged in a search for villains." Instead, he said, the commission hoped to save the lives of other Americans -- a comment that drew more applause.

Giuliani here is stating the obvious and misreading what the commission is supposed to be about. Yes, we all know that the terrorists perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and they're very bad for having done that. But at the same time, we need government agencies that are effective in dealing with such catastrophes. Most people are willing to give the NYC first-responders a break because of the unprecedented scale of the attack they had to deal with. Even so, it helps to revisit what happened and what could have been handled better by the authorities in order to ensure that we're better prepared for future strikes so that, as Thompson says, fewer people die.

This is a delicate task. Saying the response was "not worthy of the Boy Scouts," as commission member John Lehman did on Tuesday, does not help. Nor, however, does constantly invoking the terrorists' 100% blame, nor does implying that any attempt to learn from what happened that day constitutes defiling the memory/heroism of those who lost their lives. It is, rather, an effort to promote good governance.

The raw emotions make me wonder whether holding a hearing one mile from Ground Zero was such a great idea.

Good Luck with That

On today's Boston Globe letters page:

AS OF May 17, my family will not patronize any Massachusetts business, purchase any products originating there, or visit, for any reason. You are driving our nation down the path of decadence.

JOHN C. O'NEILL
Keystone Heights, Fla.

I wonder if this guy has any idea how much economic activity actually originates in Massachusetts and how futile his effort will be.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Connolly Watch 5.17.04 Addendum

I've posted elsewhere the transcript of the Fox News Sunday roundtable because I think it is a great example of how that panel show works, with Ceci Connolly playing the uncontroversial moderate woman while the three conservatives drown out the one angry liberal. The link is also being added to the previous Connolly Watch post for the occasional Ceci fan who finds this site.

That Camera-Moving Woman

Actually, I guess she asked the camera man to move the camera off Colin Powell during Meet the Press Sunday, but in any case, Emily Miller is the first topic in today's Reliable Source. This was kind of funny:

In 2001 Miller was working as press secretary to then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay when she lashed into Post Magazine writer Peter Perl while he was doing a profile of her boss, screaming: "You lied! . . . You betrayed him! You twisted his words! . . . We don't know you. You don't exist. . . . You are dead to us." A DeLay spokesman told us yesterday, "Tom thinks Emily did a fine job for him."

Apparently the State Department reporters also think she's really mean. "Ever Consider A Career in Diplomacy?" asks Richard Leiby in a delicious headline.

Fahrenheit 9/11 and Legal Issues

OK, I'm no legal expert, obviously, but in reading this article about Michael Moore's new movie, I came across something that I think might be illegal in some way:

Yesterday he said: "When you see the movie you will see things you have never seen before, you will learn things you have never known before. Half the movie is about Iraq - we were able to get film crews embedded with American troops without them knowing that it was Michael Moore. They are totally f---ed."

Is it acceptable to have camera crews embedded with the US military and filming under false pretenses? Seems questionable. Moore says there were some troops who helped them pull this off because they don't like Bush. I wonder if they might be in trouble.

Civilization in Ruins

Brian McGrory writes on life in a state with gay marriage today:

Back in the old days, which now count as every day before yesterday, I used to look at Mitt Romney as a governor with a lot of unfulfilled potential.

Now, I look at him as a guy with a gorgeous head of hair. For that matter, check out those deep-set eyes, that almost unnaturally trim waist, the incredibly muscled gams. All you Bobbys, Billys, and Brads of the world, you're honestly going to tell me you've never noticed how his exquisitely tailored suits fall just perfectly so?

While we're at it, why do I keep thinking about the old campaign ad in which he strides bare-chested from the surf? Or his manicured hands? I'm sorry, did someone turn on a light or did Mitt flash another smile?

A column like this one was inevitable, and McGrory does a good job with it.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Berg Conspiracy Clearing House

Kuro5hin lists all sorts of weird stuff about Berg's story and the video, complete with tons of links and comments, for anyone still interested.

A Quick Reminder: WMDs = Bad

The discovery of one shell with sarin gas in Iraq has some people on the right getting excited. (Lots of links here, and see here too.) While this minor discovery may help Bush a little, it strikes me as putting politics over security. If there really are some WMD remnants, as Republicans seem to be hoping, that suggests there might have been more that the evildoers made off with. If there aren't any such remnants, then Bush is embarrassed by being wrong about the rationale for war, but at least we don't get killed by the deadly weapons. That's why I find it rather distasteful to be cheering the discovery of this material.

Oliver Willis has a good post on this.

Connolly Watch 5.17.04: Iraq Opinions

Ceci Connolly was on Fox News Sunday yesterday, sharing her views on the presidential race and the situation in Iraq. There was plentiful inanity from Chris Wallace, Brit Hume and Bill Kristol--too much to mention, really--so I'll stick with Connolly's lines as the moderate on the panel. First, on the Bush-Kerry polling:

Andy Kohut, who runs the Pew Center, has, I think, given us some nice sort of historical perspective on this, which is that frequently what you see happening at this point in the campaign is that voters are making decisions right now about the incumbent and how they feel about the incumbent.

And it's only later, probably around the time of the conventions and the debates, that, if they feel dissatisfied in some way with the incumbent president, that they then sort of go to the second step of the decision- making process here, which is, "OK, and do I think that John Kerry is an acceptable alternative if I'm unhappy with the incumbent?"

In short, wait and see. Then on Kerry's comments regarding Iraq and his criticisms of the president's policies:

It's a very difficult fine line to walk, and I think he's probably gotten mixed grades when it comes to this. Obviously, the biggest blunder he had politically was over the vote on the $87 billion. He voted against that and has spent... [crosstalk] ... before he voted against it, as he attempted to explain to all of us, and that's consistently haunted him ever since.

Interestingly, he came out right away this week and said, "I am for the $25 billion that's now being requested by the Pentagon. I don't want there to be any doubt about that." And he tried to explain it away by saying, "But this time it's because there are going to be some, you know, tighter oversight on it," or something like that.

So this is a sticky area for John Kerry, and he hasn't done it well.

She's right that Kerry has been losing out to the tyranny of the sound-bite in this area. While Kerry needs to speak more directly, the press and the voters bear some responsibility for not having the patience to figure out a complex position on something. Finally, she gave a middling assessment of Don Rumsfled's damage control:

I think that there are probably two schools of thought. The first is that he and General Myers and some of those other higher-ups in the administration did not get out in front of this. They certainly knew. They knew about the Taguba report, but they didn't read it right away. They knew about "60 Minutes" and, in fact, asked them to hold off, but they didn't, again, get out in front. ...

On the other hand, once it has come out, I think, you know, Brit makes the very good point that he has demonstrated a seriousness about this. His testimony up on Capitol Hill, a whole long day in front of two different committees answering questions, certainly not the overly confident, swaggering Don Rumsfeld that we generally see, a little bit of a more humble kind of stature. So probably a mixed bag.

But the one point is, there are a lot of unanswered questions here.

Again, wait and see. I bet most of the Fox viewers think Connolly is some sort of a liberal since she's up there with Wallace, Hume and Kristol all the time. Every time I read one of these transcripts I wonder why Juan Williams subjects himself to the show.

UPDATE: I have posted the full transcript of the Fox News Sunday panel segment because I think this week was an excellent example of how the show works, with Ceci Connolly playing the noncontroversial moderate woman while three conservatives drown out the lone angry liberal.

That Halperin Quote

Actually worked all day, hence no posts. It's been a happy day on the blogs I've read, though, since I've consciously been focusing on the positive accounts of the gay marriage stuff. But inevitably, I'll get back to griping, as is the norm in this medium, it seems. To that end...

I mentioned last night that I was bothered by Mark Halperin of ABC comparing gay marriage pictures to pictures of torture in Iraq. Here's the exact words from last night's ABC news:

ELIZABETH VARGAS: Meantime, opponents of gay marriage are hoping the images of same-sex couples marrying will galvanize the country in opposition?

MARK HALPERIN: No question. We saw in the prison abuse photos out of Iraq, Elizabeth, the country's attention can really be focused by photographs, by moving images and people on both sides of this issue gonna watch to see how much the activists get engaged by the photos, by the pictures, and how much do the people who aren't totally focused on this issue but maybe will have strong opinions, how much do they get engaged. Again, both campaigns will watch that closely.

Fair point about the importance of imagery, but it was really uncalled for to make this comparison. People getting married is not equivalent to war crimes. Kevin Drum has a nice post on why the conservative outcry from images of same-sex weddings won't be coming any time soon.

Marriage Accounts

This will be a disjointed post linking lots of stuff that I'll try to update multiple times. Boston Online's gay marriage hub is aggregating lots of related blog posts from locals.

Atrios points to two Daily Kos diaries here and here with first-hand accounts of the scene at Cambridge City Hall late last night. You can see the photos too.

The Boston Herald's lead editorial strikes a conciliatory tone, urging calm despite the paper's own opposition to gay nuptials:

These couples are, in fact, our friends and neighbors, members of our family and members of our communities - a fact officially noted when Boston Mayor Tom Menino welcomes three of the couples involved in the Goodridge case to City Hall today.

There will be years of debate ahead for the people and the lawmakers of Massachusetts. But for now in the eye of this "perfect storm" there should be only calm.

If only some of the other marriage opponents could exhibit such class today... In fact, while more restrained, it's very similar to the Globe editorial.

Andrew Sullivan has a surprisingly brief post since I guess he's out on a book tour. ... Oh wait, he's got an op-ed in the New York Times:

Today is not the day "gay marriage" arrives in America. Today is the first time that civil marriage has stopped excluding homosexual members of our own families. These are not "gay marriages." They are marriages. What these couples are affirming is not something new; it is as old as humanity itself. What has ended--in one state, at least--is separatism. We have taken a step toward making homosexuality a non-issue; toward making gay citizens merely and supremely citizens.

Ben raises a glass to Mitt Romney, saying this day could not have come without his incompetence.

Isn't it rather ironic that the protesters were from Topeka, Kansas? The gay marriage decision was made to coincide with the Brown v. Board anniversary--that is the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The SJC was consciously likening the "separate but equal" doctrine overturned in that case to the inequality in marriage laws. And it's people from Topeka, of all places, who come to protest the first gay marriages.

Also in the Globe, Worcester, Somerville and Provincetown are set to defy the governor and marry people frlom out of state. This article focuses on prominent local figures involved in wedding ceremonies.

Nothing on the Kerry blog about this. What a bunch of cowards in the campaign. Howard Dean, meanwhile, has an op-ed in the Globe about Vermont's experience with civil unions: "Four years later, we wonder what the fuss was all about."

More linkage from Boston Common, including photos from Cambridge and HRC's newlyweds gallery.

Jesse Walker wins my vote for best retort to marriage opponents of the day: "Our more conservative readers might find this outrageous, but don't forget: Saddam Hussein was much worse."

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Three Hours to Go

Gay marriage becomes legal in Massachusetts at midnight tonight. Local TV will be doing special reports at 12:00 from Cambridge, Boston.com has a special section of news on the topic, and Jeff Jarvis linked to two people on MassLive (one, two) who supposedly will be blogging from Boston City Hall starting tomorrow morning with the people waiting to get married. I plan to keep an eye on Boston Common as well for coverage of the historic day.

I'm trying to stay positive and celebrate the occasion in spite of the continued mean-spiritedness from gay marriage opponents. Both today's Jeff Jacoby column and the statement from Archbishop Sean O'Malley have the same logical flaw, saying this will hurt families and children. What they don't understand is that gay couples with children already exist and they always will; this legal change simply gives their parents the legal protections and priviledges under law that will strengthen their ability to raise their kids.

Opponents also seem to be relying on the start of gay nuptials to spark a backlash. For instance, this was on the front page of today's New York Times, discussing the stalled federal amendment banning gay marriage:

As Massachusetts prepares to become the first state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage on Monday, several high-profile conservatives say they are now pinning their hopes mainly on reaction to events there, betting that scenes of gay weddings in Provincetown may set off a public outcry.

That's right, they are going to try to create a public outcry over consenting adults expressing their commitment to one another. Mark Halperin, on ABC's national news tonight, even likened the strategy to how the Abu Ghraib photos bolstered the anti-war political case. I was appalled that Halperin would liken gay marriage to torture in Iraq in such a crude fashion (I'll find a transcript of that eventually, probably a day or two once it's on Factiva).

But enough of that. Tonight and tomorrow are a time to celebrate, so I'll be keeping a positive outlook in subsequent posts.

Tarver's Trunks Key to Victory

I'm always amazed by how these Pay-Per-View fights manage to have almost a complete blackout on any images from them appearing in the media, even after the fact. I guess the rationale is that people won't drop $50 if they can see highlights on the news the next day for free. In any case, the few pictures I've seen (and no, I didn't pony up for the PPV last night, fortunately, seeing as the boxing lasted for hardly four minutes), I think I've identified the key to Antonio Tarver's victory over Roy Jones.

As you probably don't recall, back in November I pointed out that Tarver had no chance because he was wearing purple sequins trunks, as seen here. You're not going to beat one of the great fighters of all time wearing purple sequins trunks. I did see that fight on HBO the week after it happened, and Tarver's complaints were overblown. He dominated a few rounds, but Jones probably won eight of the rounds in less spectacular fashion and thus deserved to win. Last night, though, Tarver seemed to have learned his lesson, entering the ring in a more standard pair of blue trunks (and that's the best pciture I can find). He looked the part, and he became champion.

My other sports insight of the weekend, since I've been trafficking in conspiracy theories lately, is that the Visa Triple Crown (and you have to say the "Visa" if you're doing the NBC broadcast, apparently) is fixed--or at least, the Preakness Stakes is. I figure people will always tune in for the Kentucky Derby as a rite of spring to see the pageantry. Then they will watch the Preakness to see if the Derby winner can win again. But then no one will watch the Belmont Stakes unless a horse has won both of the first two races and has a shot at the Visa Triple Crown.

It follows, logically, that the TV/ad people would fix the race to have the Derby winner come out on top at Pimlico as well, and for three years running now, a horse has won both of the first two legs--both horses went on to lose the third. In any case, do you think Smarty Jones realizes he has a chance to make history at Belmont? They could liven up the broadcast for me at least by bringing in animal cognition experts to expound on such issues. (And yes, I realize Jerry Seinfeld has a bit about horse racing just like this, which I saw on the Bob Costas interview show after initially writing about the horsies a few weeks back.)

Tom Friedman, Again

MIcah Sifry in Altercation Friday had a good catch:

It's important to compare Thomas Friedman's latest column "Dancing Alone" with a seminal one he wrote a year ago. Today Friedman tells us that the White House cares more about politics at home than doing the right thing in Iraq. But Friedman's belated awakening to the cynical Machiavellians running the White House must be placed alongside his March 2, 2003 column, "The Long Bomb." In it he wrote, "A U.S. invasion to disarm Iraq, oust Saddam Hussein and rebuild a decent Iraqi state would be the mother of all presidential gambles. Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts." [my emphasis] So, now either Friedman is nuts, or finally he is realizing that the crazy anti-war skeptics he scorned so pompously last year were a lot wiser than him. Is this what three Pulitzer prizes are for?

It turns out my intitial response to Friedman's Wednesday column was actually too kind.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Newsweek: Bush at 42%

While I usually avoid polls, this one looks like the big story today. Bush is down 7 points since Newsweek's last poll, with the prison abuse scandal taking a big bite out of his Iraq numbers. Still, Kerry is only up 46-45 with 9% undecided, so the optimistic take for the Bush camp is that even when things are going really badly for them in the news it's tied. It's 43-42, Kerry leading, when Nader and his 5% are tossed in.

I remain annoyed that Kerry hasn't grabbed a real lead through all of this. In keeping with my post-primary no-Kerry-bashing rule, I'll refrain from voicing my frustration with him any more than that.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Not About Torture!

Sorry, got caught up in all of the torture/beheading stuff today and didn't post something amusing or happy in honor of Friday. Hopefully, the Manny Ramirez citizenship quiz will suffice. Why does Kevin Millar know who William Rehnquist is but not know about the electoral college? Also, what's up with the question about "What is the most important right granted to U.S. citizens?" The answer given is the right to vote. Given the pending court cases about enemy combatants and citizens vs. foreigners, I think there might be stuff even more important than that that comes with citizenship, like the right not to be detained indefinitely without charges. But there I go discussing terrorism and such. It's rather on the brain just now.

Blogging of Rehnquist, do go read Cass Sunstein in a recent New Yorker on the Brown v. Board anniversary. He's actually read the recent books on the subject and assesses them, with the big 5-0 approaching on Monday. In case you lack the stamina to get to the end, here it is:

Cautious as that Court's justices were, Klarman notes a significant generational fact: nearly all of its clerks were in favor of overturning Plessy. The one evident exception was a clerk in Jackson's chambers, a Stanford-trained lawyer who had grown up in Milwaukee. His name was William H. Rehnquist.

Charming, huh? I wonder what the chief justice will be saying, if anything, to mark Monday's occasion.

I also expect the blacks who are angry over their struggle for civil right being equated to that of gays to come out of the woodwork again in advance of Monday's marriage festivities here in Mass and the gays sullying their precious anniversary date (the SJC was quite deliberate on issuing their ruling so the dates would coincide). A warning to the homophobes: I will be getting all pro-gay rights again early next week, be aware.

Finally, in a return to what was supposed to be a light-hearted post, Bill Simmons says he's left the Jimmy Kimmel show to go back to ESPN full time. I'm very pleased that we'll be able to enjoy more regular writings from the Sports Guy. Thanks to BSMW for the heads up, and have a pleasant weekend all.

Berg Conspiracy Theories

I do not vouch for the accuracy of any of the info in these links, but they do raise a lot of questions about the circumstances of Nick Berg's killing in Iraq. See here and here and (a little far out) here. At minimum, this story is a boon to conspiracy theorists.

UPDATE: Dammit, the Al-Jazeera link appears to be broken now. I think their site may be having server issues, probably since there's such intense interest in this story.

UPDATE II: If you're one of those people who won't believe Al-Jazeera, how about CNN saying the translation by the US was incorrect, that "Al Qaeda" isn't mentioned in the speech on the tape. A graphic listing of anomalies on the tape is also thought-provoking. The version of the tape I watched was of such poor quality that I really can't judge some of these visual details.

Globe Ombud on Photos Hoax

Christine Chinlund, the Boston Globe ombudsman, writes about the fake photos of alleged militry rapes in Iraq peddled by City Councillor Chuck Turner and printed in Wednesday's paper. She explains the screw up and says the Globe isn't firing anyone.

I went back to my Wednesday paper last night and looked up page B2 for the photo, and it was so small that I couldn't make out any detail of the images. I guess I received a late edition copy that had the photo in a smaller size than some of the early papers. I really would never have thought anything of it without reading about the controversy on the Internet yesterday. Plus, if the Globe had wanted to push the scandal as a big story and print the nasty pictures, they could have obtained copies directly from the participants in the news conference to run full-size. Instead, the photo showed the people standing up and speaking at the conference while pointing to the photos on a stand. The story was about the allegations they were making, not the alleged rapes themselves.

So the Globe messed up printing the photos it did, but it's not as bad as some make it sound. If they had simply run a story with no photo that skeptically recounted the allegations made by Turner, no one would have cared. The real story that is being buried here, as an emailer to Dan Kennedy points out, is that the "Nation of Islam is spreading Islamist propaganda."

Thursday, May 13, 2004

VandeHei Watch 5.13.04: Knocking Racicot + Administrativa

Jim VandeHei is on the front page of the Washington Post today, and he refreshingly calls BS on Marc Racicot of the Bush campaign.

The Bush campaign has repeatedly accused the senator of "politicizing" Iraq. Bush-Cheney chairman Marc Racicot told reporters Wednesday that Kerry is relentlessly "playing politics" and exploiting tragedy for political gain.

Racicot, for instance, told reporters that Kerry suggested that 150,000 or so U.S. troops are "somehow universally responsible" for the misdeeds of a small number of American soldiers and contractors. Racicot made several variations of this charge. But Kerry never said this, or anything like it.

As evidence, Racicot pointed to the following quote Kerry made at a fundraiser on Tuesday: "What has happened is not just something that a few a privates or corporals or sergeants engaged in. This is something that comes out of an attitude about the rights of prisoners of war, it's an attitude that comes out of America's overall arrogance in its policy that is alienating countries all around the world."

What Racicot did not mention was that Kerry preceded this remark by saying, "I know that what happened over there is not the behavior of 99.9 percent of our troops."

Those four paragraphs warmed my heart.

Switching gears, Kevin Drum wrote about the larger blogging enterprise a few days back and he voiced his dislike of blogs watching political coverage:

Bloggers tend to think that one of their greatest contributions is keeping an eye on the mainstream press, but color me unconvinced. With only occasional exceptions, I've found that press criticism on blogs is little more than hyperpartisan nitpicking.

This complaint is true enough, and I've certainly written some posts that qualify in this category in the past. What I'm finding more recently, though, is that through following VandeHei and Ceci Connolly I have a jumping off point for some points I want to make, not necessarily criticism of their writing. To be sure, I do find things to complain about sometimes, but I'm transitioning my journalism watch into more of an occasional thing, I guess. I will still be following everything these reporters write, I just won't be doing the hyperpartisan stuff. And maybe I'll do it twice a week, archived here, as always.

It's not all that useful to criticize one reporter in particular when it is the broader contours of mainstream journalism that contain the problems. As Drum notes, "Newspaper articles ... are often so laden down by superflous quotes and faux objectivity that by the time you're finished you're still confused about what's really going on." This quickly grows into a meta-critique, which is something I don't want to wade into too often. I'll leave the think pieces to Jay Rosen.

With that new mission in mind, I'll briefly note that VandeHei had a pair of articles this week on Kerry's healthcare appearances (here and here). Both were stuffed by the Post, whereas today's article on Kerry's Iraq comments made A1. It makes me wonder why the campaigns even bother doing these issue weeks when the headlines from Iraq will invariably overshadow them (Bush, in turn, is currently touting his education policies).Too bad Cover the Uninsured Week didn't generate more buzz, though I guess it was predictable.

Before I close this post, I'll throw in a few other internal journalism-watch notes. Scribe Stalker noted recently that lots of people have given up their watches, as I've mentioned previously. She's also got info on the guy who wrote What a Pickler and Patricia Wilson Watch and is now in Afghanistan. If you're feeling extra generous beyond sending him pens, you can donate to Joe Hoeffel through Fact-esque and send eRobin to meet Howard Dean. She writes a watch blog that does have ample material to work with thanks to the horrendous Elisabeth Bumiller. Michael of Reading A-1 also does good stuff, but those are the only two watch blogs I've been checking that seem reasonably active these days. CJR seems too earnest so I usually don't read them--the huffing over exit polls turned me off. And for hyperpartisan nitpicking, you can't do better than the incomparable Daily Howler.

UPDATE: I see Josh Marshall posted about VandeHei's dig at Racicot before I did, alas.

$0.02 on Nick Berg

"My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this." - Michael Berg, father of the executed Nick Berg

I've written nothing on the awful beheading video that is circulating around the Internet, since it pretty much speaks for itself. As Kos and Oliver Willis attest, though, everyone seems to want to watch it, and they can't all be Al Qaeda recruits. Some bloggers have made the case that we all need to view this to understand what we're up against/fighting for/etc. So I did go and watch it last night, finally finding a crappy video feed that wasn't overwhelmed with traffic (it was a little incongruous to be on a site with naughty banner ads alongside the video I was watching). I guess the audio and video weren't aligned properly because I heard the agonized scream--which then trailed off--about 10 seconds before I saw the beheading, which added some more spookiness to the whole thing. As you might imagine, there's lots of blood involved, and it isn't easy to cut off someone's head with a knife. If you want to subject yourself to it (and the interminable Arabic speech is awful too, since you sit at the screen knowing what's coming as Berg just sits there in front of his captors), I'm sure you can locate a link.

That all said, I don't see this changing much of anyone's mind. If you support the war, this convinces you that you're right. If you oppose the war, this convinces you that you're right. Not surprisingly, I come out in the anti-war camp since what I choose to emphasize about this is how the Bushies could've taken out Zarqawi before but chose not to, for fear of undermining the case for war. The military detention of Berg also leaves lots of questions. I'm not shocked that terrorists would so violently execute an American either. Their linking this to Abu Ghraib certainly doesn't justify their action, but nor does it mean we shouldn't be concerned over US military abuse of Iraqis. That masked men beheaded an American in Iraq over a year post-invasion also doesn't justify the original invasion in my mind.

The wingers claims that this does justify the war, however, stand in stark contrast to the things the victim's own father is now saying. I expect they will push him aside, as they did the 9/11 widows, as an inconvenience to their predetermined ideological response to events. Speaking of predetermined ways of seeing things, do go see Tim Noah's compilation of wingnut statements blaming everyone from homosexuals to feminists for Abu Ghraib.

UPDATE: More on the chance to get Zarqawi before the war is here.