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Wednesday, August 30, 2006
It's An "Outrage", I Tell Ya!
Kate O'Bierne weighs in on the secret hold that someone* in the Senate has placed on a (distressingly rare) piece of good-government legislation:

The blogosphere has crossed the partisan divide by uniting in the effort to unmask the senator who has a "secret hold" on the Coburn/Obama bill that would create a searchable database of pork projects. A deluge of calls to Senate offices has yielded scores of denials while bloggers speculate about who the culprit might be. The cyberspace campaign has meant terrific publicity for the popular measure. The "Parlor Game Publicity" thrills the bill's Senate supporters. In fact, "secret holds" aren't all that secret, within 72 hours the Senate leader reveals who the senator is to the bill's sponsor. People in the know know who has this hold and expect it to be publicly known soon. And conservatives know how valuable these holds can be. Many senators have blocked many bad things by putting a hold on legislation — although this time it might be more personal animus than policy dispute.

Funny how NR always disparages things by putting them in quotation marks -- you know, "secret holds", "parlor game publicity", "civil rights". That sort of thing.

Amazing that their "intelligent bullpen" of "top-flight political commentators" would stoop to such tricks.

*ted stevens

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
A Really Bad Day
Okay, I'd just managed to stop thinking about the scientists who are eagerly messing around with killer strangelets. Turns out there's something new for us earthlings to worry about: roving gangs of rogue black holes:

Imagine a black hole swallowing Earth, ending life in an instant. It's not only the stuff of pulp sci-fi novels but, scientists say, a looming possibility.

"It would be a bad day for the solar system if we got visited by a black hole," says Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York's Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Thanks for the expert analysis, egghead. Yes, I intuitively grasped that it would be "a bad day" if a black hole came careening through our solar system.

It's nice to know that there are people out there receiving government grants to come up with new things for us to worry about.

But do I detect a kind of manic glee from the reporter writing this story?

If a rogue black hole ever closed in on our solar system and crept up next to Earth, the resulting havoc would seem like the wildest science fiction. Either Earth would career out of its orbit, spinning out of the solar system, or in the opposite direction, toward the sun, and we'd suffer a deadly warming. In either scenario, a black hole closing on Earth would cause our home planet to be literally ripped apart and swallowed whole.

Ripped apart, swallowed whole, thrown out into the interstellar void and / or incinerated by the Sun.

Well, I suppose someone's gonna destroy the Earth sooner or later. Might as well get on with it.

Nice Girls Don't Make Money
Pinging around the blogosphere the last couple of days: an astonishingly retrograde opinion piece by brain-deprived Forbes editor Michael Noer, which might as well have been published in 1966 under the title "Nice Girls Don't Earn More Than $30,000 a year":

Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career.

Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women--even those with a "feminist" outlook--are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

Not a happy conclusion, especially given that many men, particularly successful men, are attracted to women with similar goals and aspirations. And why not? After all, your typical career girl is well-educated, ambitious, informed and engaged. All seemingly good things, right? Sure…at least until you get married. Then, to put it bluntly, the more successful she is the more likely she is to grow dissatisfied with you....

To be clear, we're not talking about a high-school dropout minding a cash register. For our purposes, a "career girl" has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year.

Which yielded this response from Echidne:

It sounds like advice on what type of a car to buy: consider maintenance, durability and performance, but with the additional twist that a car will not run away whereas a wife might. So men are advised to find wives who can't run away, however unhappy they might be, and the way to guarantee this is to marry someone who can't make a living without the husband. Just in case a man might start thinking that it's not worthwhile to buy a wife at all, what with the chance that she might run away if she's educated and able to make at least $30,000 a year, the author points out a correlation between the man's income and marital status and also possible health benefits of marriage.

I think Echidne is exactly right. There is a reason why feminists have long argued that financial dependence is the primary weapon of the patriarchy (you'll remember that in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the government's first step in controlling women's lives is making it illegal for them to own property or a bank account).

This sort of thing has always been rooted in insecurity. Would Mr. Noer advocate keeping women poor and uneducated if he wasn't afraid that he himself had precious little to offer -- if he wasn't worried that he wasn't good enough to keep a smart, educated and financially viable woman by his side? I wonder if Mr. Noer is married, and if so, how well that particular marriage is going.

Just fine, I suppose -- as long as her desperate circumstances keep propping up his shabby self-image. Another triumph for right-wing "values".

Monday, August 28, 2006
Katherine Harris' March To The Sea
How pathetic is Katherine Harris' Florida Senate campaign?

So pathetic that the media -- and even TPM Muckraker - is starting to feel sorry for her:

It's increasingly clear to observers that the Harris for Senate campaign has become, in essence, a Civil War re-enactment of Sherman's march through Atlanta, with Harris playing Sherman and her campaign playing Atlanta. Even the tone of media coverage of her antics seems to have shifted, to be no more or less than a somber and respectfully brief, unflourished recounting of the mayhem that she has caused.

That's probably because she's down roughly 30 points in recent polls, so her self-immolating displays hardly matter. Hence reporters are more likely to give only a spare report of the facts, insert an obligatory Democratic "outrage" quote, make a sympathetic call to Harris' spokeswoman for whatever clean-up statement she's allowed to give, and call it a day.

Thursday, August 24, 2006
Pope Benedict, You've Made A Monkey Out Of Me
In his book The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton chided scientists for choosing to believe evolution, a "slow miracle", rather than creationism, a "fast miracle".

I never understood why Chesterton found it easier to believe in a fast miracle than a slow one. But Chesterton seems to have won the debate, because now the Church is back on his side.

Pope Benedict XVI has taken another important step in his ongoing quest to drag the Catholic Church back to the 12th century. He has fired the Vatican astronomer who audaciously claimed that the "Intelligent Design" movement isn't science:

Pope Benedict XVI has sacked his chief astronomer after a series of public clashes over the theory of evolution.

He has removed Father George Coyne from his position as director of the Vatican Observatory after the American Jesuit priest repeatedly contradicted the Holy See's endorsement of "intelligent design" theory, which essentially backs the "Adam and Eve" theory of creation.

....Father Coyne, the director of the Vatican Observatory for 28 years, is an outspoken supporter of Darwin’s theory, arguing that it is compatible with Christianity....

Although the Vatican did not give reasons for Father Coyne’s replacement, sources close to the Holy See say that Benedict would have been unhappy with the priest’s public opposition to intelligent design theory.

Father Coyne’s most notable intervention came after Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, a former student of the Pope, put the case for intelligent design in an article in the New York Times in July last year.

What little optimism I had about the future of the Catholic Church is rapidly draining away. The Church's progressive views on science were rooted, I feel, in a spirit of atonement for its past persecution of scientists. In modern times the church taught that science and faith are not incompatible because the laws of nature were created by God. Increasing our understanding of those laws could only yield a greater understanding of the divine.

No more. Now evolution is heresy. Another victory for the medievalists. And another loss for the laity.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Politicians And Eagles Don't Mix

Listen closely to this photograph and you can hear New York mayor Michael Bloomberg thinking, "Jesus, he's going to peck my eye out. I know he's going to peck my eye out...."

Finally, An Election Mark Kennedy Can Win!
Ever see the Kennedy V. The Machine logo? It's pretty simple. One one side you have Mark Kennedy, symbolized by an American flag. On the other side, you have THE MACHINE -- symbolized by a tangle of signs for special interest groups. A vote for Kennedy, see, is a vote for America. A vote for anyone but Kennedy is a vote for a gaggle of liberal special interest groups. Are we all clear on that?

As you might imagine, the content of the site is equally fair and balanced. So why is the site running a little poll right now, asking its readers this question?

Do you think the local media's coverage of Mark Kennedy's 'Right Kind of Change' tour was fair?

This would be kind of like Daily Kos polling its readers on whether or not Karl Rove engages in honest campaign tactics. But it's hard to blame KvM for putting the poll up on their site -- it's the one election Kennedy's likely to win this year.

The KvM guys have clearly been rattled lately. Kennedy's campaign has stalled. His attempts to portray himself as a Washington outsider, a consensus-builder who is "not a party guy" have been laughed off not only by the media and the Democrats, but by members of his own party as well. In most polls Klobuchar leads by double digits, and attempts by sites like KvM to smear her have fallen flat.

So who is to blame?

Well, who else? The media, silly!

After all, the media simply isn't running with the talking points provided by Shortridge and Kennedy, and it's driving them nuts over at KvM. The posts are getting increasingly hysterical. The site has become a series of loopy rhetorical questions aimed at Amy Klobuchar, and they read like a drunken missive from an irritated frat boy:

What are your ideas for the future? Oh you mean that list of complaints that you all keep adding to, but no one ever addresses how you will do anything about them. Or is your vision for the future just one that won’t have Bush and Republicans around? Is that the future you all talk about?
These guys definitely need a vacation. Hopefully they'll get one, after the site's countdown clock (prominently sponsored by the Minnesota Tax Evader's League) reaches zero.

Monday, August 21, 2006
If It's Troubling To The Pioneer Press, Think How The Rest Of Us Feel
Was I dreaming early Sunday morning, when I opened the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and read an editorial entitled "Mark Kennedy's Happy Feet Are Troubling"?

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph," thought I. "The right-leaning Pioneer Press questioning Mark Kennedy's integrity? Impossible!"

Yet not only was it not impossible, it was true. Moreover, the editorial didn't pull any punches:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy has been, by most measures, a stout-hearted defender of his party, the Republican president and the war in Iraq. Nothing wrong with that. A lot of voters count that as a point in his favor, and he has been re-elected to Congress twice by healthy margins.

But now that he is running statewide, as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate — one of the most partisan races in the most partisan institution (U.S. Congress) in a partisan nation — he is presenting himself on television as a fellow who loves to "cross party lines.''

"I'm not afraid to work with the other side … when good ideas cross party lines, we should too,'' he says in the television spot. The ad cites his work on pensions, wetlands and education policy as areas where he has worked with the Democrats or opposed President Bush.....But Mark Kennedy's overall record does not mark him as someone who works with both sides....it's hard not to see Kennedy's televised kumbaya pitch as a serious case of happy feet.

Since the dawn of democracy, politicians have behaved one way in Washington or St. Paul and then presented themselves at home as someone else. They treat us like complete idiots who don't have cable TV and internet hookups. It's an elaborate dance, a re-election rhumba, aimed at deflecting attention from their real records.

Kennedy's ads -- carefully crafted to sell him as an independent voice in Washington -- seem to be backfiring. Liberals aren't listening, independents see him as pandering, and conservatives are wondering why they should vote for someone who's willing to renounce the principles they are most likely to vote for.

Meanwhile, Kennedy v. the Machine sputters incoherently, knowing their attacks on Klobuchar aren't gaining traction. But knowing also that they have nothing else to offer.

Friday, August 18, 2006
Friday Possum Blogging




Let us take a moment to honor my favorite marsupial, the opossum.

It's Not Me, Baby, It's You
Like a spurned and disillusioned lover, Gerard Baker of the Times of London laments George Bush's countless foreign policy disasters. George is such a crazy romantic, so brash and alluring, but why won't he keep all the promises he made?

It's only the latest example of horny neocons realizing that they're never going to get their unilateralist freak on with the supine nations of their choice.

Baker puts it this way in his Dear George letter:

If I were a conspiracy theorist I would be starting to conclude that you were some sort of Iranian Candidate, an agent of Tehran, brilliantly executing a covert strategy to enhance the prestige and power of the ayatollahs...

[T]he US could take the risk of alienating the world and discarding international law only if its leadership was going to be effective. Instead its leadership has been desultory and uncertain and tragically ineffective.

It tried unilateral pre-emption in Iraq, but never really had the will to see it through. So with Iran, it went all mushy and multilateralist. In Lebanon, it thought it would cover all the bases — start by aggressively supporting Israel, then go all peacenik, holding hands with the UN in a touching chorus of Kumbaya.

Now we have the worst of all worlds. Not only is the US despised around the globe, it can’t even make its supposed hegemony work.

It’s one thing to be seen as the bully in the schoolyard; it’s quite another when people realise the bully is actually incapable of getting anybody else to do what he wants. It’s unpleasant when people stop respecting you, but it’s positively terrifying when they stop fearing you.

That's what happens when you fall for the bad boy, I guess -- sooner or later you realize it was all just a pose.

Thursday, August 17, 2006
What's Wrong With This Picture?
Maybe I'm wrong, but there seems to be something very fishy about the confession of John Mark Karr, who's been arrested for killing JonBenet Ramsey in 1996.

I don't want to spend a lot of time on this. JonBenet Ramsey is a name I was hoping to never hear again. The media feeding frenzy surrounding the murder at the time -- and for years afterward -- was nothing short of ghastly, and the creepiness of the Ramseys, who dressed their six-year-old daughter up like a whore and paraded her around like a show animal for money, is something I don't want to contemplate.

But here is something from the New York Times story that caught my attention

Mr. Karr’s former wife, Lara Karr, told KGO-TV in San Francisco on Wednesday that while the couple was still married, her husband spent considerable time researching the Ramsey case and another notorious child murder case, that of Polly Klaas, who was abducted and killed in Petaluma, Calif., in 1993.

Ms. Karr said that she and Mr. Karr were in Alabama together on Dec. 25, 1996, the day JonBenet Ramsey was murdered in Colorado.

In 2001, the Karrs and their three sons were living in Petaluma, and Mr. Karr was working as a substitute teacher, when he was arrested and charged with five counts of possessing child pornography, according to KGO-TV and The Associated Press. He failed to appear in court to answer the charges, and has apparently been a fugitive since then.

There's something wrong with Karr's story. He claims that he "loved" JonBenet but he also claims that he planned to kidnap her for $118,000 in ransom -- a strange amount -- then wound up sexually assaulting her inside the Ramsey's house and then accidentally strangling her with an electrical cord?

His wife apparently divorced him six years ago when she found out about the kiddie porn. Why would she provide him with an alibi now? Why would Karr confess so readily, and so publicly? If Karr had been writing to Patsy Ramsey for years, as he claimed, why didn't she ever say anything about it?

And what about the fact that police were pointed to Karr by journalism professor Michael Tracey, who had been a long and vocal advocate of the "intruder theory" of JonBenet's death? According to an article in E & P, Tracey had been corresponding with Karr via email for some time; if Karr was eager to falsely confess to a notorious crime -- something that unstable people do surprisingly often -- Tracey would be a likely person for him to contact.

It may well turn out that Karr is responsible for this crime. But so far no one has disclosed any connection between Karr and the Ramseys -- did he work for them, know them, socialize with them before the murder? Did he ever even live in Colorado? So far, we've heard nothing of that.

But the media is treating the story like a five-alarm fire, chasing it for all they're worth. And rather than check out the facts, they're just running with it, and hoping it doesn't fall apart.

Mark Kennedy's Plan To Use As Much Whitespace As Possible In A 14-Page Document
Mark Kennedy is foaming at the mouth to be Minnesota's next U.S. senator, so he's done the respectable thing and published a 14-page document outlining his positions. It's called "Mark Kennedy's Plan To Bring The Right Kind Of Change To Washington". Funny title for a guy who's already served two terms in Congress, but there you are.

As you might expect, it's all bullet-point sloganeering, campaign flummery from stem to stern. But because it is sometimes instructive to read between the lines, and always useful to know the tune that the devil is playing, I thought I'd share a few of Kennedy's "proposals".

I found it intriguing, for instance, that the word "Iraq" only comes up once, in bullet point #2 in his 10-bullet-point "Kennedy Plan To Win The War On Terror" :

-- Bring Our Troops Home from Iraq Once we Have Met Necessary
Milestones Defined by our Commanders on the Ground
Sounds like it was written by a committee, doesn't it? Maybe they're hoping the audience will stop reading once they've been assured he's in favor of bringing our troops home. Interesting, though, that the word "victory" is absent from his Iraq "plan".

The "Kennedy Plan To Defend Minnesota's Outdoor Heritage" only gets five bullet points, and they're curiously vague; for instance, we learn that Mark wants to "Allow Responsible Access To Public Lands". Well, we're all in favor of that, aren't we? After all, if you can't access the land, it's not public, right? And if you don't access it responsibly, why, you'll end up ruining it for everyone. So, bravo, Mark! Except....hmmm....wonder what he means by "responsible access"? I guess that could mean different things to different people. In fact, it could mean almost anything you want it to mean! If only Mark had had more room on the page to expound on this idea.

The "Kennedy Plan To Make Retirement More Secure" spends three of its nine bullet points on Social Security, but...erm...hmmm.... what's missing?

--Stop the Raid on the Social Security Trust Fund

-- Prevent a Social Security Payroll Tax Increase

--Prohibit the Government from Paying Social Security Benefits to Illegal Immigrants and Others who Use Fraudulent Social Security Numbers

Aw, you guessed it. Mark doesn't say anything about his position on Social Security's future solvency. It's a pretty big issue; President Bush claims it's a crisis and wants to replace Social Security with a system a private accounts.

Where does Mark stand on this? He's been pretty adept at avoiding the question, but I wonder: does he support the President's proposal to phase out Social Security and replace with a system of private accounts? If not, what are his specific proposals to ensure the future solvency of Social Security?

Over the last couple of weeks I've sent two emails to the Kennedy campaign, asking for a clarification on this issue. So far, no response. But if they ever get back to me, I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The Birth Pangs Of The Death Throes Of The Bush Doctrine
Lyndon Johnson once famously lamented that if he'd lost Walter Cronkite's support for the Vietnam war, he'd lost America's support.

There is no journalist of Cronkitean stature in America today, but for the wingnuts to lose George Will is not a trivial thing. Will does not represent the mainstream of American thought, but he's a hell of a lot closer to it than the wingnuts are. And it seems clear that they've lost him not only on the Iraq war, but on the "war on terror" as well.

His latest column makes a claim that -- to the Bush administration -- must be both astonishing and galling: that John Kerry's emphasis on intelligence and law enforcement to battle terrorism was the right approach after all:

Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a "senior administration official," insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

"The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren't for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It's like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn't work."

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike "the law enforcement approach," does "work."

It's not surprising for Will to describe the administration as "splenetic" (he never misses an opportunity to use that word), but "delusional" -- well, that is a surprise. Bush has already lost the mainstream of the country; but he is now losing the mainstream of his own party. It won't be long before the only ones backing Bush are the Limbaughs and the Malkins and the Coulters -- and of course the neocons who never lose faith. To them we're just a few more bombing runs from victory, just a few more months from a new Middle East. And we always will be.

Friday, August 11, 2006
Gary M Miller V. Any Honest Sentiment
Brain-deprived whackjob Gary M. Miller at Kennedy V the Machine sheds more than a few crocodile tears over the departure of Bob Collins from the Polinaut blog:

We can’t help but feel a little sad about the precipitous decline of MPR’s Polinaut blog since our friend Bob Collins left the helm 6 weeks or so ago.....Since Collins’ departure, Mulcahy and Scheck do nothing but replicate press releases, regurgitate MSM CW, and post unactivated links. Moreover, Collins at least attempted to look past the ideological prism he had the misfortune of picking up in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Collins once assured me that if he were to hurl a pencil through the MPR newsroom, it would be just as likely to hit a Republican as a Democrat. That pencil, we can now be certain, missed Mulcahy and Scheck by a wide margin.

Gary forgot to note that even in the Bob Collins era, Polinaut was listed among the "Loathsome Lefties" blogs on the Kennedy Vs. The Machine blogroll.

Interesting that Gary now feels safe referring to Collins as "our friend". Some friend -- he had never previously written a kind word about Polinaut, or Collins.

Shock and Awe, Blah Blah Blah

It's unclear how the plot by British Islamists to blow up planes bound for the United States could be seen as a vindication for the war in Iraq, but we're already hearing the arguments being tested out:

At the very least, the arrests in Britain were viewed by both parties as something of an August surprise, the kind of event that can change the story line of a campaign. The critical question now is the extent to which the fall campaign will be fought over the war in Iraq, something Republicans would like to avoid at all costs, or the overall campaign on terror, the only major issue where Republicans have consistently held an advantage over Democrats.

But in a sign of how this campaign might be different, Democrats struck a tone notably different from the elections of 2004 and 2002, when for the most part their strategy was to try to turn the subject away from national security. This time, Democrats attacked Republicans as failing to improve airline security and, most of all, argued that the decision to invade Iraq had been a distraction that depleted United States resources and allowed the world to become more dangerous.

No doubt the incident will benefit the Republicans, who in the past have never been shy about using the threat of terrorism to scare people into voting for them.

But how well will it work this time, and for how long?

Here's a clue. Almost buried by the bombing plot story were the results of the new AP poll:

Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush's job- approval rating declined to 33 percent, matching a record low, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that signaled public discontent with the economy and the Iraq war.

The survey of 1,001 adults was taken Aug. 7-9, before yesterday's announcement by British authorities that they had foiled a suspected terrorist plot to blow up planes bound for the U.S. In the past, imminent threats of attacks on the U.S. have helped underpin Bush's public support.

Precognition is not my strong suit, but my gut feeling is that this won't prop Bush's numbers up very far, and it won't prop them up for very long.

Of course the wingers are trying to scare the voters. They're doing their damndest. But my feeling is that the voters don't scare as easily as they once did, and they are, in the main, fed up with Bush and his cronies. Once you are fed up it is very difficult, I think, to get unfed. So while it seems likely that Bush and Congressional Republicans will get a bump in the polls from this, I think the wingers are going to be shocked and awed by how small the bump is. And by how fleeting the bump turns out to be.

Monday, August 07, 2006
Meanwhile, Back In Iraq....
Journalist Aparisim Ghosh writes a remarkable account of his numerous trips to Baghdad and the disastrous security situation there:

For Iraqis, reality is not just a suicide bomber in a crowded marketplace or militias running amuck in the streets. It is an accumulation of daily dangers and dilemmas--and the growing certainty that things are about to get worse. American officials and Iraqi politicians who live and work in the fortified bubble of the Green Zone are still reluctant to use the words civil war. At the start of this year, they were dismissing an all-out battle between sects as impossible. In March they were saying it was improbable. Now they cautiously suggest it is not inevitable. And that's the optimistic perspective. A more despairing assessment was on display last week in departing British Ambassador William Patey's final diplomatic memo to London. "The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy," Patey wrote in his message, which was leaked to the British media. For ordinary Iraqis who live on the other side of the Green Zone's tall walls, the time to debate if and when civil war will start is past: it is already under way. It's a view that I share. After three years of dwindling optimism over Iraq's future, I now feel a mounting pessimism.

Read the article here.

Friday, August 04, 2006
You Know, Video Did Kinda Kill The Radio Star

Martha Quinn: hotter than Madonna. Way hotter.

The other day I read the Washington Post's retrospective on a quarter-century of MTV. One thing that jumped out at me was an item from the story's sidebar, which encapsulated the "most memorable moments" of MTV's not-particularly-memorable 25 years:

Sept. 14, 1984: Madonna, not yet a star, performs "Like a Virgin" at the first Video Music Awards.

I felt elderly, reading that. It was clearly written by someone who was too young to remember that autumn now 22 years past. I was there, and believe me, the girl was a star.

I heard her first single -- "Holiday" -- on WLOL sometime in '83. The announcer (Phil Houston? Karen Wong? Can't remember) said the song was by "Madonna", and I thought Madonna was the name of a band. But by the following year -- by the fall of '84 -- everyone knew who Madonna was and what she was about. Everyone was talking about her. A lot of girls at my college were "Madonna-wannabees", wearing a lot of black lace and heavy makeup. Endless Op/Ed pieces were written about her: did she set a bad example for girls, was she tramp or just a shrewd self-promoter, was she any good as a singer?

She was arguably at the zenith of her career. She has gone through many makeovers since 1984, many ups and downs. It has been to her credit that she's managed to stay in the public eye for so long. But for all her effort I don't think she was ever able to top the dazzling, incandescent fame she achieved that first couple of years after she burst onto the scene.

A more conventional path from fame to oblivion was traveled by another denizen of MTV, Martha Quinn.

Ah! Martha Quinn! A quarter-century has passed since I've heard the seductive lilt of her voice, yet how my pulse quickens still!

Quinn's fame was tentative and fleeting at best, and her life after MTV was not the smoothest that one could imagine. She appeared in a couple direct-to-video comedies (well, alleged comedies), appeared in some embarrassing infomercials, was dissed in a hit-and-run bit on "The Simpsons" ("Thank you, Martha Quinn. I loved you in....well, whatever that thing was you were in"). She was reduced to playing one of the doomed brides in "A Very Brady Wedding", perhaps the most shameful fate any actress could endure.

Interestingly, Quinn was not even mentioned in the Post article, which -- let's remember -- apparently wasn't even written by people who were there.

But I was there, and if you had asked me: Madonna or Martha Quinn? I would have said: Martha Quinn. In a walk.

For the record, that's still my answer.

Thursday, August 03, 2006
The Soviets Did Just The Same Thing, Mark
Earlier today I pointed out an interesting post on Kennedy V The Machine that announced the new Rasmussen poll numbers. It didn't seem like the kind of thing the Kennedy campaign would want to crow about; the numbers showed Klobuchar with a double-digit lead in the Minnesota Senate race.

But lo and behold, that particular post has vanished.

The bitter truth goes down the memory hole: a perfect metaphor not only for
Mark Kennedy's campaign, but for the entire Republican majority.

Klobuchar - Kennedy: "Leans Democratic"
Larry Sabato has switched his rating of the Minnesota Senate race from "toss-up" to "leans Democratic". On his web site, he explains why:

It is impossible not to pay attention to the polls showing Amy Klobuchar ahead; she is not ahead as much as a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune poll has indicated (19 percentage points). But, the Democratic breeze in Minnesota is becoming stronger. Unless things improve substantially for Pres. Bush and conditions on the ground in Iraq also improve, it is difficult to see how Congressman Mark Kennedy is going to beat Klobuchar in this contest. For now, we list it as Leans Democratis, recognizing that Kennedy may have some aces up his sleeve, though we are hard-pressed to identify them.

The race hasn't really hetted up yet, so expect a lot of smears and dirty tricks from the Kennedy camp when things get desperate.

On the other hand, team Klobuchar hasn't really done any work to refute Kennedy's repeated assertions that he's "independent". This guy has voted with the administration 90% of the time and was hand-picked for the Senate race by Dick Cheney. He's about as independent as a storm trooper on the Death Star.

If I were Klobuchar I'd tie the "independent" issue around Kennedy's neck like a millstone. I'd dangle it in front of his eyes every place he went. I'd make him eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day until 8 PM on November 7th. I'd make the guy sorry he ever thought about running for the Senate.

Perhaps that's her plan, but I haven't seen it yet.

Update: Kennedy v. The Machine, of all places, has just announced the results of the latest Rasmussen poll. It shows Klobuchar leading Kennedy 50% - 38%. That seems consistent with the latest batch of polls.

Yes, it's early days yet, but the Kennedy people have got to be very worried about this. Kennedy has yet to score above 42% or 43% in any statewide poll; he can't afford to stay at that level, let alone lose ground. The RSCC isn't going to throw a lot of money and resources at a candidate who is trailing his opponent by double digits.

Expect the Kennedy campaign to go wildly negative -- sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Goldberg Vs. Castro: This Time It's Personal
The announcement of Fidel Castro's intestinal surgery, and the "provisional" handover of power to his brother Raoul, has caused a lot of hyperventilating among the wingnut pundits. Finally, some good news! Jonah Goldberg chatters excitedly at The Corner:

I really, really, really hope this administration has a good plan to take advantage of Castro's — tragic! That's right tragic! — demise. Undoubtedly, there are 20 kajillion old plans sitting on a shelf somewhere.
Most of them involving exploding cigars and bottles of Nair.

But a little democracy-spreading on Castro's grave would be a welcome change of pace considering the news these days.

Because foreign policy is really just designed to make wingers feel good about themselves.

No, I don't want any invasions or whatnot....

NO INVASION?!? Why not? We've got plenty of troops to spare. Anyway, what could go wrong?

...but maybe some walking-around money and some threats would work nicely.

What the hell is this, the Cosa Nostra?

It's not my job to work out the details.

For that, Jonah, America is thankful.

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