Friday, October 10, 2003

Why we fight

Kevin Drum has a really good post which clearly outlines what the agenda is of the radical extremists who have taken control of the Republican party and are currently running the Federal government. It's pretty scarey stuff, and, as he says, provides the only rationale we need for why we fight to hold back the right-wing tide:

Republicans may be smart enough to make soothing noises and put friendly faces like George Bush's in front of their agenda, but behind the facade this [agenda] is what they want and they won't rest until they get it. It's our job to make sure everyone knows this.

Read the post for the frightening details.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/10/2003 01:22:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Must read Krugman

One post before I head off for bed -- from Paul Krugman's column today, a pointed response to David Brooks' recent complaint about the incivility of liberals in regard to George W. Bush:

Some say that the right, having engaged in name-calling and smear tactics when Bill Clinton was president, now wants to change the rules so such behavior is no longer allowed. In fact, the right is still calling names and smearing; it wants to prohibit rude behavior only by liberals.

But there's more going on than a simple attempt to impose a double standard. All this fuss about the rudeness of the Bush administration's critics is an attempt to preclude serious discussion of that administration's policies. For there is no way to be both honest and polite about what has happened in these past three years.

On the fiscal front, this administration has used deceptive accounting to ram through repeated long-run tax cuts in the face of mounting deficits. And it continues to push for more tax cuts, when even the most sober observers now talk starkly about the risk to our solvency. It's impolite to say that George W. Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president in American history, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.

On the foreign policy front, this administration hyped the threat from Iraq, ignoring warnings from military professionals that a prolonged postwar occupation would tie down much of our Army and undermine our military readiness. (Joseph Galloway, co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young," says that "we have perhaps the finest Army in history," but that "Donald H. Rumsfeld and his civilian aides have done just about everything they could to destroy that Army.") It's impolite to say that Mr. Bush has damaged our national security with his military adventurism, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.

Still, some would say that criticism should focus only on Mr. Bush's policies, not on his person. But no administration in memory has made paeans to the president's character — his "honor and integrity" — so central to its political strategy. Nor has any previous administration been so determined to portray the president as a hero, going so far as to pose him in line with the heads on Mount Rushmore, or arrange that landing on the aircraft carrier. Surely, then, Mr. Bush's critics have the right to point out that the life story of the man inside the flight suit isn't particularly heroic — that he has never taken a risk or made a sacrifice for the sake of his country, and that his business career is a story of murky deals and insider privilege.

In the months after 9/11, a shocked nation wanted to believe the best of its leader, and Mr. Bush was treated with reverence. But he abused the trust placed in him, pushing a partisan agenda that has left the nation weakened and divided. Yes, I know that's a rude thing to say. But it's also the truth.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/10/2003 01:09:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Crunch time

Later on today (Friday) I'll be starting the crunchiest of crunch times for every new theatrical production: we begin technical rehearsals leading into our first previews of The Violet Hour, which means several 12-15 hour days, followed by a day off, followed by several more 12-15 hour days. Not only that, but the show is in what amounts to a brand new theatre, the Biltmore, which Manhattan Theatre Club has renovated from its dilapidated condition (beautifully so, I might add) to be their home on Broadway, complementing their two smaller theatres at City Center. So, while we're getting the show ready to be seen, the finishing touches to the theatre will be going on as well, which could make things interesting -- and complicated.

All of which doesn't leave much time for blogging -- actually, tech week usually leaves time for eating and sleeping and occasional drinking, but I've got to try to work in watching some baseball games as well, since the Yankees are playing the Red Sox in the playoffs -- so don't expect much from me for a while, until things calm down.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/10/2003 12:47:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Structural weakness

On Daily Kos, RonK, writing before the results of the California recall election were in, points out something that, oddly, had never occured to me:

A robust majority of likely voters disapproves of Gray Davis. Still, Davis would probably win a head-to-head contest against Schwarzenegger, Bustamante, McClintock or anybody else on the ballot today.

How can this be?

Most voters have someone they prefer to Davis, but it's not always the same someone. Some McClintock voters would favor Davis over Bustamante. Many Schwarzenegger voters prefer Davis over McClintock. Some McClintock diehards -- fighting for the ideological soul of their party -- would rather stick with Davis (and dog him in 2004) than see Arnold crowned "Mr. Republican" in 2003.

Davis probably prevails in a Condorcet election, or an IRV election, or a "Cajun primary" election, or a traditional party-nominee general election. Davis probably wins any election except today's election. If he loses the Governorship today, he probably out-polls the winner. He probably also wins a "who's your second choice?" contest as well.

As I said, it's odd that I never realized that the structure of the recall works against almost any incumbent, since everyone who supports someone else will vote for the recall, dooming the incumbent. It would have been fairer to hold two elections some months apart, the first to determine if a recall is in order, and a second one in which the incumbent can participate (if he wants to) as a candidate to replace himself. If the electorate really does want to recall the governor, the governor's appearance on the ballot would be irrelevant, but if the governor really is the most popular candidate, he deserves to be governor whether or not a majority of people can be scraped together to vote to recall him.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/08/2003 02:42:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bursting at the seams

A warning to my Loyal Dozen Readers: Make room in the Unfutz Clubhouse, because you may soon be doubling in size to Two Dozen!!. That's according to this blogging survey:

When you say "blog" most people think of the most popular weblogs, which are often updated multiple times a day and which by definition have tens of thousands of daily readers. These make up the tip of a very deep iceberg: prominently visible, but not characteristic of the iceberg as a whole.

What is below the water line are the literally millions of blogs that are rarely pointed to by others, since they are only of interest to the family, friends, fellow students and co-workers of their teenage and 20-something bloggers. Think of them as blogs for nanoaudiences.

Nanoaudiences are the logical outcome of continued growth in blogs. Assume for a moment that one day 100 million people regularly read blogs and that they each read 50 other peoples’ blogs. That translates into 5 billion subscriptions (50 * 100 million). Now assume on that same day there are 20 million active bloggers. That translates into 250 readers per blog (5 billion / 20 million) - far smaller audiences than any traditional one-to-many communication method. And this is just an average; in practice many blogs have no more than two dozen readers.

[via CalPundit]

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/08/2003 02:23:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Clark problem?

The Washington Post:

Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark may have violated federal election laws by discussing his presidential campaign during recent paid appearances, according to campaign finance experts.

Clark, a newcomer to presidential politics, touted his candidacy during paid appearances at DePauw University in Indiana and other campuses after he entered the presidential race on Sept. 17. Under the laws governing the financing of presidential campaigns, candidates cannot be paid by corporations, labor unions, individuals or even universities for campaign-related events. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) considers such paid political appearances akin to a financial contribution to a candidate.

Clark really needs to get his shit together if he's serious about wanting to be President. This is the big time, and mistakes like this aren't trivial and won't be ignored, not while the VRWC is around to keep them alive in the Echo Chamber..

Update: Josh Marshall on this:

The thing about campaigns is that they end up telling us something about the candidate. Getting a campaign up to speed in a few weeks is no simple task. If Clark is someone who will make a good president, he'll get this situation in hand.

I think that's a fair proposition.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/08/2003 02:08:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A blurb

Were I to write:

It's hard not to read this book and shout "Hallelujah!"

I think most people would understand what I meant, that reading the book in question was such an overwhelming experience that I was compelled to shout out its praise. Or, I could write:

It's hard to read this book and not shout "Hallelujah!"

and just about the same meaning would be imparted, with a slight difference in emphasis.

But if I were to write:

It's hard not to read this book and not shout "Hallelujah!"

what would that mean? The two negatives certainly seem to cancel each other out, and when they do the impression that's left is that when one reads the book, one is compelled to not shout out its praise. It certainly doesn't say, I don't think, what it means to be saying.

But that's the form of the blurb which heads an advertisement for the new book Blood, Money & Power: How L.B.J. Killed J.F.K. by Barr McKellan, the father of White House spokesman Scot McKellan. The ad placed by Hannover House, the publisher of the book, in last week's New York Times Book Review, quotes Walt Brown "editor of JFK/Deep Politics Magazine" as saying:

It's hard not to read this work and not shout out 'Guilty as hell!'

You'd think that the publisher would have had the sense to get permission to tidy up the quote a little before using it. I wonder if they bring the same kind of attention to detail to the editing and fact-checking of the book in question?

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/08/2003 01:54:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



In the comment threads on CalPundit, My Friend Roger posted a longish message (under the nom de net of "Marsman") in response to a libertarian argument about taxation. When the libertarian labelled it as a "rant", Roger backed off, but I think he may have been wrong to do so. Perhaps he did go over the top a bit, and maybe that qualifies his little essay as a "rant", but if it is, it's a well justified one.

We're dealing right now with the dire consequences of an administration whose foreign policy is run by people who dogmatically adhere to their ideological predispositons no matter what the practicalities of doing so are, and regardless of the empirical evidence which points to their policies being wrong-headed and dangerous. Because of this, Neal Gabler has labelled Bush's administration as being a "medieval" Presidency.

But dogmatism is dangerous no matter what ideology is involved, and Roger is, I think, very right to point out that libertarianism is indeed such an ideology:

Libertarians will say anything at all -- I mean, ANYTHING -- in order to affirm and proclaim their religiously-held, absolutistic dogma.

A Communist will say that Capitalism and the free enterprise system is the greatest single cause of income disparity.

A Fascist will say that scheming racial minorities, nefarious Commies, and an anarchistic and uncontrolled social order are the greatest single cause of income disparity.

Fundamentlist religionists will say that Satan -- working via immorality through whatever group or ideology the religionist personally dislikes -- is the greatest single cause of income disparity.

LaRouche-style Technocrats will say that barbarian environmentalists and anti-nuke activists are the greatest single cause of income disparity.

And the Libertarians, who at the most fundamental level are *precisely* identical to these other absolutistic extremists -- differing only in the flavor of the dogma they favor -- will without exception blame all problems on government, and proclaim all solutions to lie with anarcho-Capitalism.

Which of course is why it's easy to be a Libertarian. No thinking required. The "answer" is already in hand, always. "Government is always BAD, BAD, BAD." So simple, even a complete flaming imbecile can spout it out. All you have to do is selectively gather facts that support, or at least can be represented to support, the Revealed Truth.

Liberals and moderate conservatives, by contrast, reject absolutistic answers. Government (and business, and religion, and almost anything else) can be good or bad, a cause of help or grief, depending on many, many factors. For liberals, when one sits down to study a problem, there is NO pre-determined absolutistic answer. Facts, pro AND con, count. Nuance counts. Circumstances count. History counts. The complexities of human nature and human social interaction count. The fact that, in the end, none of us really "knows" anything for certain, counts. The inevitable fact that last year's best answer may, this year, no longer be advisable based on new knowledge and changes in the social dynamic ... well, that counts too.

That's why -- notwithstanding the endless stream of lies and misrepresentations of the extreme rightwingers and Libertarians about what we think, including those profoundly dishonest and dimwitted efforts to equate liberalism with Communism -- liberals do NOT always assume that government is "the answer" for any and every problem. We think it is frequently part of the answer. And we are not afraid of it when it does seem to be the best answer. But we are also pretty big on market forces, religious values, private charitable work, and any other social force that might help make life better.

I like to illustrate with a little thought experiment this difference in the way extremists, on one hand, and liberals on the other, think. Imagine that you have two "scholars": a Libertarian and a Liberal or moderate Conservative. And they are confronted with a problem to consider and recommend responses to ... say, global warming. Imagine that they carefully assemble all known data on this problem, objectively and fairly weigh all the facts. And let's just say that, IN REALITY -- God himself would confirm this in this thought experiment, okay! -- IN REALITY, at the end of the day the facts are that the ONLY effective response to this problem must entail some meaningful government action involving regulations, restraints on commercial activities, etc. In the case of global warming, the reasons might be because it's utterly worldwide in nature, involves time frames that are 5 to 10 times longer than any free market force would or could ever take into account, and can be constrained only by wide embrace of manufacturing practices violation of which would invariably result in vast, short-term profits.

Oops ... the Libertarian is in a real bind, now, isn't he? That's because he can NOT recommend government action. After all, his dogma has already proclaimed the Absolute Truth. Right? Government is NEVER the solution, it is ALWAYS the problem. So what can he do? As a practical matter, his intellectual toolbox is half empty before be ever sits down to the problem: no matter WHAT the facts, he already has the answer, an answer he cannot deviate from.

What's he gonna do? Well, if he's the Cato Institute, he'll probably respond by ... TA DA! ... pretending that the problem doesn't even really exist. He'll find the 5%-7% of scientists who are contrarians -- even if they happen to be cranks or working far beyond their professional area -- and champion THEIR view as the truth. Then he wouldn't even have to deal with the prospect of his dogma crashing into reality. And when THAT tactic no longer works, why, he'll start talking about all the profits to be made curing skin cancer and opening seaside resorts in places that are currently 50 miles from the ocean.

(Hey, do you know what? Forget the thought experiment now, because this is PRECISELY what the whackos at the Cato Institute did).

Which is all why it's absurd to even speak of "Libertarian scholars." It's an oxymoron, just as it was to refer to "Communist scholars." In my experience, so-called Libertarian scholars sometimes sound very convincing when attacking government -- after all, they specialize in that, don't they? -- but they live in a fantasy world when it comes to suggesting real world alternatives.

Oh, and of course, because the dogma's received wisdom is always on the line -- the highest of high stakes in every argument -- they even frequently cook the facts ... picking and choosing *just the right ones* to support their belief system, building tables and charts that conveniently twist history or omit any and all inconvenient realities.

Nope ... Libertarianism is just another pernicious, brain-dead dogma. Which is why it's entirely appropriate, when hearing a statement such as yours I've quoted at the top of this message, to retort: "Who the hell CARES what a Libertarian says? Life is short ... there are REAL issues to deal with, REAL arguments to come to intellectual grips with. One has to have priorities, after all, and arguing with people mentally enslaved to dogma should always be really low on the list. So why should we pay Libertarian dogma any more heed than we do to any other nitwit extremism?"

Roger is fond of saying that liberalism is the scientific method turned to the social and political world. It is based on reason and not dogma, and goes about solving problems through a rational analysis of the available empirical evidence to determine what solutions are viable, and then filters the selection of which solution to try through humanistic and empathetic criteria. That's the complete opposite of dogmatic ideologies such as libertarianism or neoconservatisim, which pre-determine which solutions are acceptable, and then applies those solutions to every problem, regardless of their efficacy or appropriateness.

In this respect, at least, liberalism has much more in common with the rational "realistic" realpolitik of Bush Sr. and Henry Kissinger than the policies of Bush Jr. do.

Update: I neglected to mention a website Roger cited in his post, Mike Huben's "Critiques of Libertarianiam"

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/08/2003 01:18:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Clark's Fortune

A profile of Clark in Fortune Magazine that appeared before Clark declared his candidacy is a pretty good summary of the pros and cons of the man.

The discussion about General Wesley Clark jumping into the race now focuses mostly on things like money—is there enough still out there to fund a competitive campaign? Clark doesn't seem worried about it, and his supporters tend to speak of him as the political Field of Dreams candidate: Once he's in, the Benjamins will come. A lot of Democratic fundraisers and officeholders say that's deeply naive. "It's too late," says one Democratic Congressman supporting Kerry. "This is not like Hillary jumping into the race, causing people to jump ship. Most of the money out there is committed." Without a lot of money, Clark could struggle to make a dent in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, where the critical political ground troops—the doorbell ringers and envelope stuffers—are spoken for. And if he doesn't make a dent early, he may not make one at all. Nor, to some party pros, is all the talk about Clark as VP necessarily persuasive. Hard electoral calculus makes Senator Bob Graham of Florida, another presidential candidate, pretty attractive. Democrats could run Bozo the Clown and win New York and California. Throw in Florida, and, as Al Gore might tell you, they're in business.

The more important question may be whether Clark is actually ready for prime time. By this time professional politicians running seriously for the presidency have honed their messages. They know what to say and, just as important, what not to say. Further, they do all the other things that pols are good at: They schmooze, they are especially nice to rich people with money to give, they pretend to be endlessly fascinated by what ordinary voters say, even if they've heard it 1,000 times that day.

Can Wes Clark do this stuff? He's always crisp and always gracious. He no doubt has stamina to burn. He certainly has things he wants to say. If he can figure out the bit about what not to say, he may be more formidable than the other campaigns now think. Indeed, he could be quite formidable. And if he can't, it won't be too late for the general to get in the race, but too early—about four years too early.

Clearly, Clark's entry has made a definite impression as shown by the national polls, but the money question is still not resolved.

[Thanks to Shirley]

Update: Another unresolved question concerns Clark's campaign apparatus. His campaign manager quit today, and on TAPPED, Garance Franke-Ruta comments:

I've been hearing for days that the nascent Clark campaign is divided into three factions: campaign professionals, former Draft Clark people and friends of Clark from Arkansas. With Fowler gone, watch for some of the Draft people to clash with the Washington types even more. One of the smarter political observers I know in DC was telling me last night that he's giving the campaign about two more weeks to get it's act together. If it can't do that, then it really may be too late for Clark.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/08/2003 12:25:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Comments on Dean and Clark

I'm catching up on some of the backlog that's piled up in the last week or two as my attention has been primarily on work and secondarily on the baseball playoffs. Today (Tuesday) was my day off, and after spending the morning and afternoon at various playgrounds with my son, I've been dealing with my chores: my bicycle needed a new tube on the rear tire, I've paid my bills, dealt with some of newspapers and magazines I've neglected, and now I'm getting a chance to look more closely at some of the e-mails I glanced at and then put aside for later perusal.

One of those deferred e-mails contained some comments sent to me by My Friend Roger about Clark and Dean. They were made by Roger's brother, and I present them here by permission:

Recall my fringe-paranoid worry that Shrub's goons would try to engineer another successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil a month or so before the 2004 election? I still don't put that past them. But now a more satisfactory strategy, because far less hazardous, suggests itself: spring open a cache of WMD in Iraq, with the same timing. The WMD could either be bits and pieces that special units have actually unearthed in Iraq, or, of course, a non-native arsenal planted there. It wouldn't have to be anything big. A few dozen bottles and some incomplete hardware for a nuclear weapon would neatly guarantee Shrub's re-election.

To continue this line of paranoia, the first thing that hit me when I saw a longish article about Wesley Clark a week ago was, "This guy is in danger of assassination, because he is eminently electable and the Republicans know it."

Today a photograph of Dean sent the electric conviction through me that he is NOT electable, in the absence of a very strong public reaction against Bush. I can't explain exactly why I got that feeling. The best I can say is that when I briefly inhabit the public mind and observe Dean through it, something about his chirpy, beaming, healthy, squirrel-toothed face and his bouncy compact body repels "us." The public resents any suggestion that the person running for president is better than they are, which is why they can be said to have chosen well in the last election, in one way. Don't get me wrong. I like Dean best, by far, of all the candidates now. What little I know of Clark (it isn't much) makes me think he's a little dim and also very close to the center, which means he is the equivalent of a moderate Republican 30 years ago. But because I believe that the survival of our government, and possibly of humanity, depends first of all on expelling the roaches who now populate the White House, at this moment I'm hoping Clark quickly overtakes and outstrips Dean in the polls and then manages to survive to November 2004.

I think that Roger's brother is not correct about Clark's intelligence. I haven't read his book Waging Modern War yet, but everything I have read by Clark, and his responses to interviews such as the one Josh Marshall did on Talking Points Memo, indicate that he is really very intelligent, possibly smarter (intellectually) than anyone else in the Democratic field. That's not so surprising, having been a Rhodes Scholar, but it's worth remembering that intelligence alone isn't enough -- Clinton's success, for instance, came more because of his retail political skills than because of his policy-wonk ones, and his obviously superior intelligence was not enough to keep him out of personal trouble which enabled the right-wing to launch an all-out attack and almost drive him out of office.

My concerns about Clark are about his lack of executive experience (yes, running NATO does indeed count, but it's experience of a completely different than being the elected guy in charge) and his possible lack of political skills, but the one is not a devastating problem, and the other we'll see if he develops as the election rolls along. Strangely, I also have concerns about his physical appearance. He's a big guy, at least that's the impression I get, but his face is suprisingly delicate and almost feminine looking, and that could be a problem, as people do indeed (as Roger's brother implies) form their opinions of politicians for a whole slew of reasons that have little or nothing to do with ability or character.

He's also right, I think, that politicians cannot afford to be perceived by the public as feeling that they are superior to the common man. That was one of Al Gore's problems, the inability to project an image as a regular guy, which Bush was able to do in spades. (Of course, Gore could do everything else, while Bush could do nothing else, but that's politics for you.) I haven't been exposed to Dean enough to know if he projects that kind of superiority, but if he does, it could indeed be a problem.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 11:52:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Rich and poor

The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn't; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all.
G.K. Chesterson
The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
[Thanks to Roger]

The government is exactly what makes capitalism and democracy able to coexist. Capital is not democratic. Capital and its organ-grinder's monkey, advertising, are coercive, manipulative, and solely self-interested. The government ... is at least elected democratically. ... History has shown repeatedly that wide gaps between rich and poor lead to instability - exactly the conditions in which capitalism suffers the most. Capitalism needs stability. In the 1890s and 1930s when this country became dangerously unstable, it was the government that stepped in and restored stability. ... Capitalism and markets do not provide for all human needs.
Bob Klein
letter to the editor
Wired magazine (2/97)

Americans have never minded the rich getting richer, as long as everyone else gets richer, too. The new economy, however, seems to break the link between the success of the affluent and the well-being of everyone else.
E.J. Dionne, Jr.
They Only Look Dead (1996)

You're not going to have enough locks on the doors or police in the street to protect you from a generation of people who are not part of the mainstream of American life.
Congressman Thomas Downey
before the House Subcommittee on Human Resources (c.1996)
[commenting on the growing disparity between the incomes
of the rich and the poor]

The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges,to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
Anatole France
Le Lys rouge ("The Red Lily") (1894)

The rich are the scum of the earth in every country.
G.K. Chesterton
The Flying Inn

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 11:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Wes Clark's War

In the New York Times, Michael Gordon examines Wesley Clark's record on Kosovo:

You can tell a lot about a politician by the way he handles a crisis. Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, the newest Democratic presidential hopeful, confronted his most important challenge in 1999, when he was the senior commander of NATO and the alliance went to war to stop Slobodan Milosevic from repressing the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo.

It is no secret that General Clark's relationship with the Pentagon was strained during that conflict. So it is also not surprising that reporters have begun to mine that period for the sort of score-settling anecdotes that often serve as fodder for political profiles.

But it is worth taking a step back and taking a fuller look at General Clark's record. The larger story is this: General Clark believed the stakes were so high for NATO that the alliance needed to be prepared to confront Mr. Milosevic militarily.


Since General Clark announced his intention to run for the presidency last month, a number of partial and even misleading accounts of the war have emerged. Some have suggested that his strained relationship with the Pentagon reflects badly on his skills as a leader. What is often overlooked in these accounts is that important issues were at stake in deciding whether and how to go to war.


One lingering question about General Clark's résumé is why his NATO tour came to an abrupt end in 2000. He was not fired by the White House, as some accounts have suggested. Rather, former officials of the Clinton administration say, his tour was cut short by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Gen. H. Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were still smarting over their differences with the NATO commander.

The White House was told that General Clark's tour was being shortened a bit to smooth the transition to a capable successor. When President Clinton saw it for the slight it was intended to be, he was furious, according to senior Clinton administration officials. But the president was not anxious for an open confrontation with the Pentagon and decided to leave bad enough alone.

"Our belief at the White House was that General Clark had effectively led NATO forces to victory in Kosovo," Samuel R. Berger, Mr. Clinton's national security adviser, told me this week. "What we understood we were approving, after the war, was a succession, not a termination.".

[Thanks to Peggy]

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 10:28:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


On the mark

From a column by Ed Williams in the Charlotte Observer:

Best quote about Rush

Veteran Panthers' quarterback Rodney Peete on Rush Limbaugh, reported by The Observer's Stan Olson: "I'm sure he'll find a way to retract those comments and blame it on [Bill] Clinton."

[Thanks to Shirley]

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 10:15:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


One thread of the beginning of it

In a review in the New York Review of Books of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer, about the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran, D.H.S. Greenway writes:

In the current age of American unilateralism and preemptive military interventions, it is hard to remember that just after World War II America still stood for something quite different in the Middle East. Although the US emerged from the war as "the leader of the free world," the British, French, Dutch, and Portuguese still ruled over vast empires. To many colonized people the United States was identified with Wilsonian idealism and anticolonialism. Franklin Roosevelt several times changed his mind about whether or not the French should re-occupy Indochina after World War II. American agents of the OSS had met with Ho Chi Minh in his forest hideouts.

In the nineteenth century, Americans had come to the Middle East not as conquerors and colonial administrators but as educators, often Presbyterian, who sought not to convert but to give help. Institutions such as Roberts College in Istanbul, American University of Beirut, and American University in Cairo educated the sons of the Middle Eastern elites. In Iran the American-founded Alborz College was, Kinzer writes, "among the first modern secondary schools in the country, and thousands of its graduates went on to shape Iranian life."

In the early 1950s Stephen Penrose, a president of American University of Beirut, wrote:

Until recently American enterprise in the Middle East has been almost entirely non-governmental, an important difference from most other national patterns. Americans have never been seen as colonizers or subjugators and it is hard even now for most Arabs to conceive of them as such.
Kinzer writes that the few Americans that Iranians "had come to know were generous and self-sacrificing, interested not in wealth or power but in helping Iran."

All of this changed in the 1950s, when America supplanted Britain as the guarantor of "stability" in the Persian Gulf. "Americans were indeed latecomers to the Middle East," Kinzer writes. "The British scorned them as inexperienced and naive. To a degree they were. They were instinctively repelled by Britain's colonial arrogance, especially in Iran, but they did not have enough self-confidence to act decisively on their own."

The CIA was still, early in 1953, a junior partner of the more experienced British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), or MI6. But the Mossadegh coup marked the end of British dominance in secret intelligence matters. The transition from junior to senior partner was described by the CIA's Donald Wilber, who wrote that it

quickly became apparent that the SIS was perfectly content to follow whatever lead was taken by the Agency.... The British were very pleased at having obtained the active cooperation of the Agency and were determined to do nothing which might jeopardize US participation. At the same time there was faint envy expressed over the fact that the Agency was better equipped in the way of funds, personnel and facilities than was SIS.
Britain had begun to see itself as Greece to America's Rome—more cultured, experienced, and wily, but recognizing where real power now lay.


In many ways America's obsession with terrorism since September 11 is an echo of its obsession with communism fifty years ago. Today the United States and Britain claim they must occupy Iraq because of the threat of terrorism. Officially, both say they want to get out as soon as possible; but ideologues in the Pentagon dream of Iraq advancing America's interests, and Israel's too, in the Persian Gulf as the Shah once did. Talk of a new American imperialism is becoming fashionable among conservative academics, some of them in power. They forget the lesson of British experience, which is that when a people will no longer accept it, foreign domination is almost impossible to maintain. Kinzer begins his book with an apt quote from President Truman: "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know."

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 09:15:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


How To Talk About Israel

In the New York Times Magazine, historian Ian Buruma tries his hand at disentangling anti-Semitism from criticism of Israel:

It is perfectly possible, of course, to take a critical view of Israeli policies, and of their support in Washington, without being anti-Semitic. It is equally possible to be critical of American policies without being irrationally and emotionally anti-American. Just so, you can be opposed to capitalism, or ''globalization,'' without wishing to unleash or condone suicide attacks on Manhattan. What is disturbing, however, is the way these views now increasingly come together in a hostile cocktail. Most mass demonstrations in Europe, and elsewhere, against the war in Iraq contained banners in support of the Palestinians, even the religious extremists of Hamas, and against the global symbols of capitalism. For some people on the left, being opposed to Israel, or Zionism, goes beyond specific policies in Gaza or the West Bank; Israel is seen as the colonial Western presence in an Arab world, an American client state locked into global capitalism. Even if the Israelis treated the Palestinians with the most scrupulous generosity -- which they do not -- this impression would persist.

Not every demonstrator against Ariel Sharon's government or American imperialism is an anti-Semite, to be sure, but the ready identification of Jewish interests with the United States or, in the past, with Britain is old and loaded with prejudice. Since the early 19th century, many Europeans associated the City of London, as Wall Street is today, with financial power, materialist greed and economic imperialism. To ethnic nationalists in Germany and elsewhere, Britain and France, with their relative openness to immigrants, were seen as mongrel nations, where citizenship could be bought for a crock of gold.

This is what Hitler meant when he called France, Britain and the United States ''Jewified.'' He took the view, popularized by all manner of third-rate scribblers, that a Jewish cabal was manipulating Western powers behind the scenes. French universalism and Anglo-Saxon capitalism, so it was believed, threatened the unique values of culture and race. And behind all this were the Jews, pulling strings in their cosmopolitan network of banks, newspapers and movie companies.

The United States is now the biggest capitalist power in the world. To the extent that it is an empire, it is driven by economic interests, but also, these days, by a mission to spread ''American values,'' as if they were universal. Hollywood is seen in the outside world as part of this, and so are Wall Street, the Pentagon and the International Monetary Fund. This, alas, is precisely the kind of thing anti-Semites have always associated with Jewish conspiracies. And since Israel is America's most favored ally in the Middle East, and the Palestinian cause has become the universal litmus test of liberal credentials, the idea that Jewish interests are driving American foreign policy is even more widely believed, if not always openly stated. American foreign policy and ancient prejudices are reinforcing each other in a vicious circle.

For Israel, the American embrace is an ambiguous advantage. Although perhaps vital for the nation's survival, it also makes Israel the hub of global hostility toward the United States. It is, in any case, doubtful that the fate of Israel is best served by its dependence on an alliance with Christian fundamentalists and people on a mission to liberate the world with military force. It may well be that Israel's interests coincide with those of the United States for the moment, but this should not be a given, never to be examined or reassessed.

The first condition for a reasoned examination would be to disentangle Israel's politics from all the anti-Semitic myths and other leftovers of a murderous past. This is not so easily done, since Israeli leaders have too often abused history themselves. The Israeli bomb attack on an Iraqi nuclear installation in 1981 might have been justified in many legitimate ways, but to say, as Prime Minister Menachem Begin did, that it was to protect ''the children of Israel,'' asking foreign reporters, ''Haven't you heard of one and a half million little children who were thrown into gas chambers?'' is to dangerously confuse the issue. The same was true when Prime Minister Sharon warned the United States last year not to repeat the mistakes of 1938 and sell out Israel like Czechoslovakia. Such false analogies serve only to invite equally odious comparisons from Israel's critics.

Disentangling American and Israeli interests and government actions is, if anything, even harder. To see Israel as nothing but a cat's paw of American imperialism in the Middle East is a crude distortion. And to hold Washington responsible for every Israeli action against the Palestinians is equally misguided. But it is neither anti-Semitic nor blindly anti-American to point out that the United States could have done much more to stop Israel from humiliating the Palestinians by turning the occupied territories into a kind of Wild East of gunslinging settlers and hounded natives.

Finally, the politics of the Middle East may be murderous, but it is not helpful to see them as an existential battle between good and evil. As long as such a view persists, among zealots in Washington, Jerusalem and Nablus, the struggle between Jews and Arabs will be forever obscured by a fog of noxious myths and fantasies. Religious fanaticism is confounding the politics of Israel, as well as that of its enemies. And its influence is felt in the United States as well. Americans are right to support Israel's right to exist in peace, but criticism of Israeli policies should not be stifled by Christian visions of Armageddon, right-wing zealotry or memories of the culture wars in Brooklyn. This would not be good for America, and it is certainly not good for the Jews.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 09:00:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


On suddenly being "older"

I've read (I can't recall where, exactly) that one's perceptions of one's own age doesn't progress smoothly over time, but gets "stuck" at certain ages and proceeds in fits and starts. Certainly that describes my own experience -- I felt 18 for the longest time, and then 25 and then 30ish and so on. Because of this, I still get taken by surprise when every now and again I'm forced to realize that at 49 I really am middle-aged.

The latest instance of this occured on the subway this morning, riding in to work. I was reading in the NY Times Book Review a review of a novel based to some extent on Patricia Hearst's kidnapping and later participation in various illegal acitivites as a member of the radical leftist group that snatched her. Those incidents took place back around 1974, 29 years ago, when I was 20 years old, and are fairly fresh in my memory (along with the shootout of the gang's hangout in LA), so I was taken aback when I read that the reviewer wrote:

Many older readers will remember the dramatic 1974 abduction of the Hearst newspaper heiress from her Berkeley apartment by members of the revolutionary Symbionese Liberation Army; her subsequent apotheosis as Tania, glimpsed holding an automatic rifle by a surveillance camera during a bank robbery; her yearlong disappearance underground in the wake of a massive police assault on an S.L.A. bungalow that left six of the group dead; her arrest in San Francisco and subsequent trial, during which her attorney F. Lee Bailey claimed she had acted under duress; her seven-year prison sentence, commuted after 22 months by President Jimmy Carter. Many older readers will also remember the feel of those days, the starkness of the societal polarization and the extraordinary collisions -- often in the same individual -- of the most ardent idealism and abject cynicism. Psychologically centered though it is on one small group, ''American Woman'' brings back some of the more broadly dispersed intensity of that period.


As hard as it is to swallow, I guess I'm now right up there with the septagenarians and octogenarians, an "older reader."

(These moments also come to me in rehearsal when I realize that not only am I old enough to be the father of my production assistant, but that I've been stage managing longer than my assistant stage manager has been alive.

Clearly, I'm overdue for a mid-life crisis. Unfortunately, I can't afford to buy a sports car, and I'm not interested in having an affair, so I suppose I'll have to settle for growing old and senile gracefully.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 03:01:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



From the Washington Post:

"He started off playing a chauffeur in 'Driving Miss Daisy,' and then they elevated him to head of the CIA, and then they elevated him to president and in his last role they made him God. I just wonder, isn't Rush Limbaugh right to question the fact, is he that good an actor or not?"

-- Pat Robertson on his "700 Club" television show, using the example of black actor Morgan Freeman to defend Limbaugh's jab at Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 02:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Sharon kicked the dog

According to Billmon, here's what Israel's bombing of Syria amounts to:

I was going out of the house this morning when my housemaid's kid, who hates my guts, hit me in the head with a rock. I wanted to kill the kid, but he's faster than I am and ran away, like he always does. So I thought I'd fire the housemaid. But my wife -- who really doesn't want to have to look for another maid -- told me I couldn't. She said it would be an obstacle to peace. So I went and kicked my neighbor's dog instead.

I made all that up, of course. I don't even have a housemaid. But it's a reasonable metaphor for what the Sharon government just did in bombing Syria. Following the Haifa bombing, Sharon badly needed a diversion -- a symbolic victory -- to obscure the fact that he hasn't been able to put the suicide bombers out of business. His cabinet would have liked to kill Arafat, but didn't want to create more trouble for Bush or for its neocon allies in the Pentagon -- who already have more trouble than they can handle.

But Sharon had to do something. Domestic political pressures -- plus the eternal Israeli need to demonstrate toughness -- compelled a response.

So Sharon kicked the dog, instead.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 02:19:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Popular delusions

I haven't blogged anything about tomorrow's gubernatorial recall election in California, because I don't have anything particular to say about it, and I live in New York. I'm posting these remarks by Steve Gilliard because he makes some interesting general points in outlining why, aside from the revelations about his lack of character, people shouldn't vote for Schwarzenegger:

...there are other, equally compelling reasons to vote against a total neophyte to run the California economy. Simply put, he is completely unqualified to manage the budget. Americans have an open disdain for professionals. There is the naive assumption that most people can do most jobs. People believe that they can play professional sports to a frightening degree. You have 5'10" teenagers assuming that an NBA career is within reach. Any number of rappers have tried to play professional basketball. Most adult men assume they can hit a major league fastball. Denigrating teachers is a national pasttime. Hell, people will even try to defend themselves in jury trials.

This delusion is a popular one in a society where the illusion of upward mobility and shared wealth dominates the national agenda. If most Americans understood how little they benefit from regressive tax policies and other pro-wealthy biases in the law, they would be stunned.

One popular delusion about government is that it needs to be run like a business. Because Schwarzenegger is rich and has power, it is assumed that he is a successful businessman. In reality, he has only hired a few people and for the most part is an employee. He has some business skill, but less than the average Army depot sergeant. Compared to George Clooney, he's not even hands on. There are 25 year old sergeants in Iraq better equipped to run California than

I've seen several studies which conclude that people favor policies which help only the top 10% or 5% or 1% in this country because they assume that they themselves are in those groups, when, of course, the vast majority of them are not, the gap between the rich and the middle class now being so very wide. But, as Gilliard writes, people are deluded not only about their own abilities, but of the level of accomplishment necessary to do things that we see every day on TV.

After watching almost a full season of baseball, I've seen on the order of 50-60,000 swings by major league players trying to hit major league pitching, and sooner or later it starts to look if not easy, at least doable by mere mortals like myself. Fortunately, a trip to the batting cage is sufficient to dispel that delusion, since I have a hard enough time hitting a 60 mph softball, left alone a 90+ mph baseball.

Hitting a baseball is hard, damn hard -- just ask Michael Jordan, a great athlete from another sport who couldn't hit the curve ball and failed to get past the minor leagues. Running a government, while probably not as hard a hitting a baseball, also takes special skills, and (as we've found out many times, to our regret) these are not the same set of skills needed to get elected in modern media-saturated America.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 01:44:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


As the right wing plays the Plame Game...

Kos offers a Plame Affair Primer:

For those who argue it is complicated.

  1. Plame is an undercover CIA agent.

  2. She was outed by senior administration officials in the White House.

  3. Outing a CIA agent is a felony.

Hmm, not so complicated, after all...

What was the motive? Her husband, Ambassador Wilson, criticized the administration for Yellowcake lies.

But wasn't he a partisan Democrat? No. He donated money to Bush's presidential campaign in 2000. But even if he was James Carville, see numbers 1 and 2 above.

Period. Everything else is chaff.

That seems to sum things up rather succinctly, just as CalPundit did a few days ago, both of them making it easeir to keep our eye on the ball as the right-wing goes into overdrive trying to distract and smear.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 01:02:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Mark Danner - Iraq: The New War

Although it's now a little dated (it's from late August), a recent article by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books sums up the situation in Iraq quite well:

We see the world through the stories we tell, and until recently the story most Americans told themselves about the war in Iraq was a simple and dramatic narrative of imminent threat, daring triumph, and heroic liberation —a story neatly embodied in images of a dictator's toppling statue and a president in full flight gear swaggering across a carrier deck. Those pictures, once so bright and clear, have now faded, giving place to a second, darker story beneath: the story of an unfinished war, undertaken for murky reasons, that has left young Americans ruling indefinitely over people who do not welcome them and who are killing more and more of them each day. As long as Saddam Hussein remains at large, as long as the weapons our leaders said were threatening us are not found, and as long as Iraqis go on killing Americans, this second, darker story may come to blot out and finally to mock the memory of the first.

As the war's ending and, increasingly, its beginning grow more cloudy, Americans are confronted on their television screens with a violent present that day by day becomes more difficult to comprehend. [...] Like the terrorists who hijacked American airliners and flew them into American buildings, the fighters daily ambushing American troops are attacking not American military power but American will. And thanks to the way President Bush and his colleagues chose to build the case for war, and the errors they have made in prosecuting it, American will is an increasingly vulnerable target. In the end defeat or victory in Iraq will be judged not by who controls Baghdad but by whether the war has left Americans more secure than they were before it was undertaken. All the ringing presidential pronouncements of "Mission Accomplished!" will not change the reality: America could still lose this war.


That Iraqis loyal to a security-obsessed totalitarian regime of three decades would seek to fight the Americans who have overthrown it is not surprising. Nor should it be surprising that jihadis from outside and inside Iraq should seize the opportunity to attack infidels occupying an Islamic country. What is surprising is the degree to which the Americans, through their own lack of attention to the critical political tasks of the war's aftermath, have in effect assisted their efforts. The civilian leadership of the Pentagon remains in thrall to fashionable concepts of war-fighting such as "Shock and Awe" and "Network-Centric Warfare," which emphasize information, speed, and the use of light forces, but which leave out, in the words of the military historian Kenneth W. Kagan, "the most important component of war," which is to provide "a reliable recipe for translating the destruction of the enemy's ability to continue to fight into the accomplishment of the political objectives of the conflict."

The obligation to provide such a "reliable recipe" in Iraq falls in the end to US political leaders, but they have largely abdicated this responsibility. Shortly before the war, the President, discarding many months of effort by the State Department, handed over control of occupation planning to Pentagon officials, who hastily constructed a plan based largely on optimistic assumptions about the warmth of the Iraqis' attitude toward the Americans, and about the ease with which new leaders could be imposed on the existing governing institutions. Many of these expectations, which were encouraged by favored Iraqi expatriates, dovetailed perfectly with the Pentagon's own reluctance to provide sufficient military police and dirty its hands with other distasteful "nation-building" tasks. When their assumptions proved unfounded, administration officials were excruciatingly slow to admit reality and make adjustments. These first weeks of the occupation, in which security in Baghdad collapsed, chaos ruled the streets, and the fledgling occupation authority daily issued conflicting statements and made promises it did not keep, were a fiasco. They proved an enormous boon to violent opponents, providing them, in the lawless streets of postwar Iraq, the political equivalent of a warm petri dish in which to grow.


The Bush administration has proved unwilling so far to provide the protection and resources necessary to rebuild the country. At the same time, the administration, holding to a policy that poisoned international relations before the war, is doggedly refusing to grant the modicum of authority to the United Nations that would be necessary to bring in anything more than a token number of troops from other countries, particularly from India, Pakistan, and Turkey. Whether in one month or three, this attitude may well change. Indeed, faced with the prospect of running for reelection on the record of an increasingly unpopular and inconclusive war, the administration, shielded by as many international forces as it can muster, may be tempted to take the equivalent of Senator George Aitken's long-ago advice about Vietnam: Declare victory and go home.

As one who argued strenuously against invading Iraq, I find this prospect particularly troubling to contemplate. Having invaded and occupied Iraq, and unleashed a horde of political demons there, the United States faces a number of extremely difficult choices, one of the worst of which is precipitous withdrawal. Already Secretary Wolfowitz's notion that the invasion would "demonstrate especially to the Arab and Muslim world that there is a better way than the way of the terrorist" has acquired a grimly ironic cast. For all its grandiose talk about establishing in Iraq "a shining example for the Arab world," the administration has so far not been willing to devote the necessary troops or resources to the task. The recent influx of jihadis hoping to take advantage of the chaos in Iraq in order to make of it "the new Afghanistan" suggests another possibility: that Iraq, far from becoming a symbol of the promise of democracy in the Middle East, may become afflicted with a low-level and prolonged nationalist war which the Islamists would use to attract recruits and build their movement politically, while they use terror and other guerrilla tactics to bleed and diminish the United States and weaken its position in the Middle East.


"You can't just get up and walk away from Iraq like you did Lebanon," said Ghassan Salame, the former Lebanese government minister and scholar, who was working for the UN headquarters in Baghdad when it was bombed. "No matter how bad it gets. If Iraq turns into anarchy, it's likely to spill into the rest of the Gulf. It would be a catastrophe."


The irony, nearly six months after the US launched this war, is that while Saddam Hussein has been unseated, the threat that Iraq posed to the Gulf has not been removed. Indeed, it may be that the United States, with its overwhelming military power, has succeeded only in transforming an eventual and speculative threat into a concrete and immediate one. Now the Bush administration finds itself trying to perform the tightrope walk of building a stable and friendly government beneath the shadow of escalating violence and a growing and inevitable nationalism—and it does so in the face of an impatient and bewildered public and an approaching election campaign. The administration began its Iraq venture with an air of absolute determination, taking a kind of grim pride in defying the United Nations and "doing what is right." America, and Iraq, will need a different kind of determination now—and a new-found honesty to go with it.

That's a rather longish excerpt, but it's still worth checking out the complete essay on the New York Review website.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 12:32:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Baseball, round 2

A week or so ago I made some predictions about post-season baseball, and it turns out that as a baseball prognosticator I'm pretty damn ... mediocre. Or, to look it another (more flattering) way: about the American League I was dead-letter perfect (Yankees in 4, Red Sox in 5), while I completely blew the National League (I picked the Giants in 3, and the Marlins won in 4, while I went for the Braves in 4 and the Cubs won in 5). Either way, my record's only 50%.

Which, of course, won't stop me from making the next round of picks. I've already predicted the Yankees over the Red Sox, and I'll stick with that (it'll take them 6 games). In the National League, I'll pick the Cubs over the Marlins, also in 6.

Once again the method I use for making these predictions is extremely scientific, involving the burning of aromatic herbs, consultation with the Gods of Baseball, and reading my own entrails (in situ, of course).

Actually, I'm a Yankees fan (and a Mets fan too, as hard as that is for some New Yorkers to comprehend), so I do want (and pick) the Yanks to go all the way, but, as I wrote before, if a cosmic fluke occurs and the Red Sox win, I think a Cubs/Red Sox series would be phenomenal.

Last week there was a review by Michael Shapiro in the NY Times Book Review of what looks to be an interesting book about the Yankees, Taking on the Yankees: Winning and Losing in the Business of Baseball, 1903-2003 by Henry D. Fetter:

There are no agnostics on the question of the Yankees. The team is, at turns, beloved and detested, which is fitting for a franchise for which victory has come with seeming inevitability. The record is numbingly familiar: since the team's establishment in 1903, the Yankees have won 26 World Series championships and 39 American League pennants. Considering that the team did not win a pennant until 1921, that works out to roughly 45 percent of the league's titles and just over 30 percent of the game's championships in the last 82 years. In the 1920's the Yankees won six pennants and three World Series; in its spectacular run between 1947 and 1964, the franchise won 15 pennants and 10 world championships. No team in any sport comes close to rivaling their record over the past century.

The Yankees have also made money. They were the league's top drawing team for 33 years between 1921 and 1960, with attendance figures that twice surpassed the collective numbers of as many as four other franchises in the eight-team American League. How did they do it? That question is at the core of Henry D. Fetter's first book, ''Taking On the Yankees.'' Fetter has set out to explain how the Yankees, over the course of their long history, have managed to defeat every team that tried to topple them from their singular perch. His focus is not on the game but on the front office. The Yankees, he argues, were for the better part of the 20th century the model of corporate baseball efficiency. Not only did they do almost everything right, but their challengers managed, in crucial ways, to get the big things wrong.


Money alone does not make winners -- consider the lavish payroll and sorry record of the Mets. The Yankees, much to their detractors' chagrin, have been not only wealthy but, for much of their history, wise. In the end, we are left to wonder how, with their owners off their backs and their coffers full, the men who ran the Yankees managed to keep winning, year after year, era after era, on the field and off.

I can vouch that on the subject of the Yankees, one is likely to come across some awfully virulent opinions, but I'm not so sure that the team is "beloved" in the same sense that the Cubbies, for instance, are beloved by their fans. I think one of the reason people are Yankee fans is that they win so often and so regularly, and watching baseball is simply more exciting when you can root for your team and not constantly be let done.

For myself, I enjoy watching baseball even when the teams I root for are not involved (as in this season's playoff games, especially the extremely hard-fought just-completed series between the A's and the Red Sox), but like watching good baseball better than watching bad baseball, and good baseball by a team I follow even more. It's rare that both the Yankees and the Mets play good baseball in the same season -- usually, one team is up, while the other is down -- and following both allows me to watch good baseball more often.

Of course, when they're both playing well, and especially when they play each other, I'm screwed.

Update: I've been looking at how payroll rankings correlate with the post-season. In this first round, the divisional playoffs:

#1 beat #18
#5 beat #26
#12 beat #6
#20 beat #8

One could conceivably draw two different conclusions from this, either that payroll rankings don't really correlate with success in the post-season, or that they do in the American League (the first two) and don't in the National League. I really wish that I could ask that question of Bill James, because I'm certain he'd know how to go about designing a study to answer it, but I can't so all I can say is "I don't know." I suppose it is possible that having the DH in the American League means they can use more veteran pitchers who can't hit well, and that teams in the AL who can afford to hire the premium veterans therefore do better than those who can't afford them.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/07/2003 12:02:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, October 06, 2003

A loverly one

Another lovely word I came across for the first time fairly recently is "shambolic", meaning, says the third edition of the American Heritage Dictionary, "Disorderly, chaotic, or undisciplined in procedure, behavior, or manner."

I was peripherally involved in the producing of Charlotte Jones' play Humble Boy at Manhattan Theatre Club last season, and it is in there that I first heard "shambolic", used to describe the title character, a painfully shy, stammering British astro-physicist coping with the death of his father.

The dictionary marks the word as "Chiefly British", and it does have a British feel to it, with overtones, perhaps, of "shaman", "shambles", "ambling" and "bucolic".

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/06/2003 02:11:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bum neology

On his fine blog Counterspin Central, Hesiod offers a new term to describe someone who is

conservative, or a Republican, but is so disgusted with George W. Bush and his administration that he or she will vote for just about any Democrat who is nominated?

His suggestion is "Liberalated."

Although I appreciate the thought behind it, I'm not sure that "liberalated" is going to make it -- it's just a little clunky and difficult to say. In fact, everytime I try to speak it out loud I end up sounding a little like Tom Brokaw, because the demands on my mouth are just a little too much for comfort.

Some among my Loyal Dozen Readers may have picked up on the fact that a few weeks ago I tried to popularize the contraction "liblog" for "liberal blog", but two factors stood in the way of my doing so:

  • (1) It's a pretty clunky word too, and easier to pronounce as "lib log" (which hides its underlying meaning) than as "lib blog"

  • (2) It's damn difficult to popularize anything when your blog only gets 16 visits a day, pretty much a working defintion of "unpopular". (OK, "non-popular" might be better, since not enough people read me to dislike me enough for me to be unpopular.)

When Democrats in the South and from the working class abandoned the party to vote for Reagan they were referred to as, simply, "Reagan Democrats". I expect a similar term will be used to describe disaffected Republicans and conservatives driven away by the numerous bad policies and obnoxiously arrogant attitude of the Bush administration, once they actually defect and vote for whomever is the Democratic candidate in the 2004 election.

("Dean Republicans"? Doesn't sound too likely, does it? "Clark Republicans"? Hmmmm.... better.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/06/2003 01:36:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Poetry Corner

From an AP report carried on the CNN website, we learn that George W. Bush wrote his wife a poem. It begins:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh my, lump in the bed
How I've missed you.

And here the reporter tells us, by way of explanation, "Bush sometimes refers to his wife as a lump in the bed."

My, what a sensitive and romantic guy! And what low self-esteem Laura Bush must have -- I'm pretty sure that if I referred to my wife as a "lump in the bed" I'd soon be sporting a (metaphorical) lump on my head.

But let's not interrupt the poem. Indeed, let's start again, so we can get the fullest possible enjoyment from this poetic offering:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh my, lump in the bed
How I've missed you.

Roses are redder
Bluer am I
Seeing you kissed
by that charming French guy.

Sorry, but I should explain that Mrs. Bush was kissed on the hand by Jacques Chirac earlier in the year. Given the rabid anti-French stance taken by the neo-con cabal in Bush's employ, I'm surprised she wasn't required to immediately wipe it off with an antiseptic towelette, like Adrian Monk.

But I see I've broken the flow again, so let's start over once more and press on to the glorious ending:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh my, lump in the bed
How I've missed you.

Roses are redder
Bluer am I
Seeing you kissed
by that charming French guy.

The dogs and the cat,
they missed you too
Barney's still mad you dropped him,
he ate your shoe

The distance, my dear,
has been such a barrier
Next time you want an adventure,
just land on a carrier.

(The reference is to Bush dropping the dog a while back.)

It's interesting, isn't it, discovering new things about people? Now we know Bush is not only a Bad President (perhaps Harvey Keitel could play him in a movie!) and a Bad Oilman and a Bad Baseball Owner (not to mention a former AWOL Air National Guard pilot), he's also a certifiable Bad Poet.

I'll bet that this man could be bad at almost anything he didn't set his mind to.

[link via Hesiod]

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/06/2003 01:02:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Medieval Bush

From the Los Angeles Times, Neal Gabler has a must-read op-ed:

Incuriosity seems characteristic of the entire Bush administration. More, it seems central to its very operation. The administration seems indifferent to data, impervious to competing viewpoints and ideas. Policy is not adjusted to facts; facts are adjusted to policy. The result is what may be the nation's first medieval presidency — one in which reality is ignored for the administration's own prevailing vision. And just as in medieval days, this willful ignorance can lead to terrible consequences.


The difference between the current administration and its conservative forebears is that facts don't seem to matter at all. They don't even matter enough to reinterpret. Bush doesn't read the papers or watch the news, and Condoleezza Rice, his national security advisor, reportedly didn't read the National Intelligence Estimate, which is apparently why she missed the remarks casting doubt on claims that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Africa. (She reportedly read the document later.) And although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hasn't disavowed reading or watching the news, he has publicly and proudly disavowed paying any attention to it. In this administration, everyone already knows the truth.

A more sinister aspect to this presidency's cavalier attitude toward facts is its effort to bend, twist and distort them when it apparently serves the administration's interests.


Every administration spins the facts to its advantage. As the old adage goes, "Figures don't lie but liars do figure." But the White House medievalists aren't just shading the facts. In actively denying or changing them, they are changing the basis on which government has traditionally been conducted: rationality. There is no respect for facts because there is no respect for empiricism. Instead, the Bush ideologues came to power smug in the security of their own worldview, part of which, frankly, seems to be the belief that it would be soft and unmanly to let facts alter their preconceptions. Like the church confronting Galileo, they aren't about to let reality destroy their cosmology, whether it is a bankrupt plan for pacifying an Iraq that was supposed to welcome us as liberators or a bankrupt fiscal plan that was supposed to jolt the economy back to health.


A presidency without doubt and resistant to disconcerting facts is a presidency not on the road to Damascus but on the road to disaster. By regarding facts as political tools, it compromises information and makes reality itself suspect, not to mention that it compromises the agencies that provide the information and makes them unreliable in the future. And by ignoring anything that contradicts its faith, it can vaingloriously plow ahead — right into the abyss.

[link via Daily Kos]

It's a little difficult for me to tell, living as I do in what amounts to something of a liberal political bubble, but it seems to me that things are starting to come to a head about Bush -- at least, that's the way it feels. This could certainly be nothing more than wishful thinking on my part, but I sense in the media, and in the general attitude of people -- some of whom would be among the last I would expect to abandon Bush -- the ever-growing feeling that things are very, very wrong in Washington. (Alright, perhaps less so in the media, but I've been surprised more than once by a friend of family member who is generally conservative but has spoken out to me against this administration, or at least given my complaints a respectful listen, something that wouldn't have happened in the past.) It's hard to know whether this disaffection and dissatisfaction can translate into a concrete result like the overthrow of the Bush regime (through a legitimate presidential election, I hasten to add, lest anyone reading this be tempted to wield the Patriot Act against me), but it is enough to keep my hopes alive.

Ed Fitzgerald | 10/06/2003 12:22:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

Martin van Creveld - The Rise and Decline of the State

Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
class warriors
con artists
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Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
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unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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