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Monday, September 29, 2003
More Baseball

Brian Murphy has Cub Fear, and Jim Caple joins me in hatin' on the Yankees.

Uh...What He Said

Kos lays the smack down on those who are calling for criminal sanctions against Bob "Troll" Novak:

Do I really need to explain the First Amendment, and the freedoms it confers on the press?

Jeez, a free and open press is the best safeguard we have against the tyranny of government. That's why the administration's past cowing of the press was so dangerous, and why the press' willingness to be muzzled so frustrating. Any governmental action that seeks to chill the free excercise of press freedoms is a clear and present danger to every one of our rights.

So quit that crap. There's nothing wrong with what Novak did. Nevermind that it has done us a favor (exposing the lengths the administration will go to smear its opponents -- even endangering national security).

Well...I disagree that Novak did nothing wrong. I think he was an idiot, and that he acted cavalierly with regard to national security. That said, there's a reason Congress wrote a press exception into this law: had Valerie Plame been some sort of rogue agent carrying out black ops against Jacques Chirac (man, I feel like Tom Clancy), it might be vital to our country's soul for Novak to out her.

In this case, it wasn' least, that's my opinion. But let's keep our focus. The real villain here is the person or persons who gave Novak the story.

Glenn Reynolds and I Agree on Something

That something is the X-Prize: a $10,000,000 prize to the first team that can get a privately funded ship into space--with human passengers, no less. The moment of victory is nigh:

In a race to achieve the first privately funded manned spaceflight, two teams of rocket engineers are poised to compete for the $10 million X Prize by launching people to the edge of space and bringing them back safely twice within a two-week period. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, said he expects that one of the two teams will launch within the next few months.

Until market forces are brought to bear on space travel, it will remain inherently expensive. Getting privately constructed and funded ships into space is the first step on a journey that leads to a true human colonization of space. (If I had fifty billion dollars, I'd sink it all into producing a lunar colony. With mines. The mineral rights alone would more than pay off my investment--and the gift of a permanently manned lunar colony to our species would be more than worth the temporary sacrifice).

As a child, I dreamed of one day visiting space. Such a visit, sadly, will probably remain beyond my grasp. But I think my daughter has a chance. And I think her daughter could move out there permanently. And if Grandpa has anything to say about it, she will. (Of course, Grandpa won't--Grandma has the final say in things.)

She Was Wearin' a Short Skirt, Officer. I Mean, She Was Askin' For It.

That's the brilliant argument of Mark Levin, who argues in re: Plamegate:

When I first heard about Wilson's wife, my immediate thought was: Wilson created the very circumstance he now complains about. He voluntarily drew attention to himself and, by extension, his family. He interjected himself into an intense international policy dispute regarding the war with Iraq. And it was his op-ed in the New York Times that caused the so-called "16-word controversy" in which President Bush was criticized for relying on British intelligence when he declared that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.

So, let me get this straight: Wilson saw a problem with lies our President was telling, and dared to speak out about it. Therefore, it was okay for the White House to leak the fact that his wife was an undercover operative in clear violation of federal law, risking national security and the lives of CIA operatives and their foreign contacts in a time of war.

Yep, the scales balance!

Next week, Levin tells us how you deserve to be mugged if you go out alone at night.

White House: It Wasn't Rove

So they now say. Which is fine and dandy, because that means that they know who it was. If they know the leak didn't come from Rove, they know where it did come from--and they haven't done diddly squat about it.

If, say, Dick Durbin had outed a CIA operative to make a political point, the wingnuts would be calling him a traitor. They'd be calling for his execution.

And rightly so.

So it's disturbing to me that the best the right can come up with on this one is that it's thinly sourced and confusing, or that Robert Novak should be held up for contempt, too. (I hold Novak in contempt, Glenn! It's just that he can't be held legally accountable for his actions, and he at least has owned up to them.) This should be condemned, and those responsible should be fired, at least. These actions are, IMHO, more damaging to the country than whether the President lied about getting a blowjob. Whether Valerie Plame was undercover in Islamabad or merely making unofficial contacts, her work served our country. By blowing her cover, the White House has placed politics ahead of national security. Isn't that what they accused Max Cleland of doing?

Finally, Glenn Reynolds says (in the post linked above) the following dumb thing:

I don't think that Valerie Plame is undercover in Islamabad, so I don't quite see where the risk is. There may be risks to contacts she developed in the past, which would be bad -- but why would that intimidate Wilson? This seems like a case of manufactured outrage to me. I rather doubt that most of the people who are so exercised here were condemning that hero of the antiwar left, Philip Agee, who really did put lives in danger.

Glenn: Philip Agee is a traitor. If he's ever caught, he should be convicted and executed. I hate him, and I wish him ill.

But Philip Agee is not the President of the United States. If Agee is evil--you say he is--so are the President's operatives and, so long as he shields them, so is the President. If Agee is guilty of treason--and you seem to think so, as do I--then so are the President's operatives, and so long as he shields them, so is the President.

Do you understand my outrage now, Glenn? Do you get this story now?


Josh Marshall asks:

Last week, and I quote, "At the request of THE DAILY STANDARD, White House staffers went through the logs to check whether [Wesley] Clark had ever called White House political adviser Karl Rove."

Can we try that again?

I don't mean to pick on any particular 'top White House official'. But the Standard's put Rove's name in the mix. And his phone logs seem readily searchable. So, just at random, let's try him.

How many calls to Bob Novak, say in the second week of July.

Presumably it can't be too difficult, take too long, or involve any issues of privilege since White House staffers did a similar search on behalf of a junior staffer at the Standard only a week ago.

I'm sure the White House will get right on this one.

Guide to the Major League Baseball Playoffs

Hello, Jeff Fecke here. Every so often we at the Blog of the Moderate Left like to venture outside the world of politics and take on other pressing issues, like the Major League Baseball playoffs.

This is a heady time at Moderate Left Manor. My favorite AL team--the Minnesota Twins--and my favorite team overall--the Chicago Cubs--are both in the playoffs for the first time in my lifetime. There's a chance--not a great chance mind you, but a chance--that the Cubbies and Twinkies could meet in the World Series. Wowzers.

As a public service, I'm going to break down the playoffs, but not in the usual way. Most playoff breakdowns compare a team's left handed hitters with the other team's right handed relievers. I'm just going to tell you who's playing and why you should root for or against them--because sports is more fun if you care.

Without further ado....

American League

Divisional Matchup: Boston Red Sox vs. Oakland A's

Oakland A's
American League West Champions, 96-66

Why You Should Root For Oakland

Because Billy Beane, the General Manager of the A's, has built a consistent contender despite being a "small market" team. With low revenue and a small payroll by baseball standards, the A's have nevertheless become an elite team in the majors.

Why You Should Root Against Oakland

Because Billy Beane is a little too proud of his accomplishments. One wag jokes that he thinks he shoud be called Billy Doubleday, after the purported inventor of the game.

Boston Red Sox
Wild Card Team, 95-67

Why You Should Root For Boston

Because the BoSox haven't won a World Series since 1918. Because the BoSox play at one of the finest stadiums in baseball, Fenway Park. Because of David Ortiz, a new slugger signed in the offseason who plays the game with joy and panache. Because the long-suffering fans of Boston's most vivid playoff memory is a ball rolling through Bill Buckner's legs.

Why You Should Root Against Boston

Because they're a wild card team, and purists don't believe in a wild card.

My Prediction: Red Sox in 5

Divisional Matchup: Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees

New York Yankees
American League East Champions, 101-61

Why You Should Root For the Yankees

Because you're a native of the Bronx. And because manager Joe Torre is a class act.

Why You Should Root Against the Yankees

Because they're everything that's wrong with baseball--a team with an infinite payroll, with the ability to load up the team with star after star. Because they win to damn much. Because their owner, George Steinbrenner, is a man who would criticize his Manager (who, after all, has only won a few world series) because the team was only in contention. Because it's your patriotic duty as an American to root against the Yanks.

Minnesota Twins
American League Central Champions, 90-72

Why You Should Root For Minnesota

Because the Twins have moxie. The ultimate small-market team, they were slated for contraction before the 2002 season; only a last-minute reprieve saved the franchise, which went on to the 2002 ALCS. In 2003, the Twins started out shaky, falling 7 1/2 games out of first at the All-Star break. But the Twins went on to the best record in Baseball over the last half of the season, and they won their second straight division tite, despite a lineup that boasts few household names.

Why You Should Root Against Minnesota

Because of Carl Pohlad, Twins skinflint owner, who offered his team up for execution before the 2002 season. And because the Twins play in the worst stadium in baseball, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which as a baseball park makes a good football stadium.

My Prediction: Twins in 4

National League

Divisional Matchup: Florida Marlins vs. San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants
National League West Champions, 100-61

Why You Should Root For San Francisco

Because of Barry Bonds, the greatest player of his generation. He may well set the record for most home runs in a career before his is over--he already holds the season mark. The slugger finally made it to a World Series last year, and this may just be the year he finally gets a ring--the only thing he hasn't accomplished yet.

Why You Should Root Against San Francisco

Because of Barry Bonds. Aloof, arrogant, rough on his teammates, he doesn't seem to play the game with joy or passion. He has accomplished a lot in his career, but he's never won the big one, and it seems unlikely that he'd pull a Kirby Puckett in '91 and tell his team he's going to carry them to victory.

Florida Marlins
Wild Card Team, 91-71

Why You Should Root For Florida

Because this was a team that was utterly dismantled after their 1997 World Championship, a team that was left for dead by former owner Wayne Huizenga, a team that, along with Montreal, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay, was a target for contraction in 2002. Their comeback has been gratifying.

Why You Shoudl Root Against Florida

Because they play in a lousy ballpark--Pro Player Stadium--and they still feel a little pre-fab; a recent expansion team, the Marlins just don't seem as valid a team as the Giants or Braves.

My Prediciton: Giants in 3

Divisional Matchup: Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves
National League East Champions, 101-61

Why You Should Root For Atlanta

Because they're one of the most underappreciated teams of all time. They have won twelve consecutive division titles, a stretch that runs from the 1991 NL Champions to today. They've gone to four world series in that stretch. They are unappreciated because they only won one title, but they were one Chuck Knoblauch fake from winning the '91 series.

Why You Should Root Against Atlanta

Because their fans don't appreciate them. The stands will be 2/3 full for the divisional series, and probably the NLCS as well, should they get there. Braves fans just haven't earned the right to expect success from their team; Atlanta's World Series struggles are karmic retribution.

Chicago Cubs
National League Central Champions, 88-74

Why You Should Root For the Cubs

Because the Cubs haven't won the National League since 1949. Because the Cubs haven't won a playoff series since their last World Series title--in 1908. Because the Cubs play in Wrigley Field, the best ballpark in the country. Because Cubs fans are as likely to fill the stands when they're last in their division as when they're in first. Because of Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Zambrano, as good a group of starters as there is in baseball. Because of Sammy Sosa, the first player with six consecutive 40-homer seasons, who plays the game with joy.

Why You Should Root Against the Cubs

Because the Cubs are loveable losers, and them winning anything just seems...wrong somehow.

My Prediction: Cubs in 5

So that's it for the divisional series. We'll reset when the League Championship Series begin, but here's a preview of what I see happeniing:

Boston beats Minnesota in 6

Chicago Cubs beats San Francisco in 7

And in the World Series, a giant meteor smashes into Earth, because neither the Cubs nor the BoSox can be allowed to win. No, seriously, I see the Cubbies beating the Red Sox in seven, with Sammy hitting a monster shot over the Green Monster in the top of the eleventh to win it. At least, that's what I want to see. What will actually be is another question altogether.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

So it's in the middle of a war, and there's this guy who's saying things that make the administration uncomfortable. But you see, here's the kicker--his wife? She works for the CIA. So the Administration, seeing nothing wrong with compromising national security to get back at the guy, blows his wife's cover--destroying her career and who-knows-who-else's. To get back at the guy.

What clueless, traitorous Administration did this? Johnson? Truman?

If you said Shrub, you win!

Yep, the grownups saw nothing wrong with compromising our nation's security in order to get back at the evil Ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame, happened to be a covert operative for the CIA.

The evil of this, the contempt for everything our nation stands for--not to mention the complete disregard for our nation's security--boggles the mind.

Thank God it's a felony--and double-Thank God that the leakers from the Administration tried to sell it multiple times before Bob "Troll" Novak bought it and ran with it.

And ha ha, one of the leakers may just be Karl Rove!

I'd be gleeful, save for the fact that our administration was willing to risk our nation's safety to score political points. I hope that those responsible are, as Ambassador Wilson described, frog-marched out of the White House. If they had any decency, they'd resign. Now.

Of course, we know just how decent this administration can be.

Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Cubs Win!

Back at the start of the season, I referred you to an article that said the Chicago Cubs could be this year's Anaheim Angels--a team that comes from nowhere to be the champs.

Step One is now complete.

Now it's on to Atlanta, where 1,231 screaming fans will support one of the great teams of all time. It's a tough task for my Cubbies, but who knows?

As for my Twins, they get New York, a team that's beat the Twins 13 times in a row. Again, not easy, but there's a reason they play these games.

Cubs-Twins series? Could be. Or Cubs-BoSox. Either would be fun.

Let's get some runs!

Thursday, September 25, 2003
Way Too Funny!

Ha ha! Those College Republicans are so dang funny!

Don't Call Tucker Carlson

Not that I wouldn't ordinarily encourage pranking Tucker, but since FOX News decided they would give out Carlson's home phone number, I feel it would be inappropriate.

Why did they do this? Well, Carlson did a little thing that talk show hosts like to call "schtick," pretending to give out his number on the air while directing callers to FOX's switchboard.

FOX, showing the awesome sense of humor they displayed in l'affaire d'Franken, has gone nuclear.

(That's "nuclear," not "nucyooler," Mr. President).

So don't call Tucker Carlson. You know, unless you have personal business with him.

Who's Up, Who's Down?

Clark is winning Wisconsin while Lieberman leads in New York. So Who's Up, Who's Down, and Who's Out?

Who's Up?

Wesley Clark

From not in the race to clear frontrunner in nine days, Clark's rise has been remarkable. Of course, his fall could be precipitous, and the GOP seems determined to spread some love his way. So far, so good, but he needs to get a little more polished and a bit more consistent on the stump.

John Edwards

Wha--? Yes, John Edwards is up, thanks to polls that show him alive in Iowa and winning South Carolina. This doesn't mean that he's vaulted into the top five, but it at least indicates potential viability. If Edwards can somehow finish fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire and win South Carolina, he has a shot.

John Kerry

Good hair. Served our nation well. Pretty good Senator. Needs Wesley Clark to choke on a crueller.

Nevertheless, Kerry's strength in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, where he beat Bush in a straight-up matchup, is great news for the Kerry campaign. He's also starting to show up in third in the meaningless nationwide polls.

He still needs to give us a reason why he's the right war hero for the job. But at least he's looking better than he was a week ago.

Who's Down?

Dick Gephardt

Wesley Clark's entry should've helped Dick. It didn't. He's fallen badly in most polls. Can people actually be leaving Gephardt for Clark?


Most likely, Gephardt's fall is due to his recent attacks on Dean. Maybe it's me, but I'm getting a sense that the circular firing squad is not going to be well tolerated by rank-and-file Democrats. Lieberman has been in freefall since he launched at Dean, and rightly so. If Gephardt breaks off the attacks, he should rebound.

Howard Dean

Everyone loves Howard Dean, but he's gone from frontrunner back to insurgent in less than nine days. That doesn't signal a great deal of strength, no matter how impressive his internet organization. Dean is still #2 with a bullet, but if he wants the nomination he's going to have to work harder to prove his electability (which is the biggest question mark on Dean) and hope Clark stumbles. The latter probably will happen. The former needs to happen, too.

Joe Lieberman

He's almost to "Who's Out" status. If he wasn't winning New York, he would be.

Lieberman has one raison d'etre: he can win. But he's only third-best in test matchups with Bush, behind Kerry. If Joe Lieberman isn't the best against Bush, he will lose.

Who's Out

Bob Graham

10:52 - Polling at 1% in Iowa
10:54 - Eat a tunafish sandwich
10:59 - Wonder why it is I ever thought I could be President
11:01 - Remember that I'm from Florida
11:02 - Wait by phone for possible Vice Presidential nod.
04:32 - Still waiting....

Dennis Kucinich

He's vegan. He's from Ohio. He's toast.

Al Sharpton

He's in third in New York. That and 35 cents....

Carol Mosley Braun

No truth to the rumor that she used entire $135,000 campaign war chest to travel to resort in Hawai'i.

So without further ado, my power rankings, and--new!--my odds:

1. Clark (3) 5-1
2. Dean (1) 4-1
3. Kerry (4) 10-1
4. Gephardt (3) 8-1
5. Lieberman (5) 50-1
6. Edwards (6) 100-1
7. Braun (8) One Million-1
8. Graham (7) 100,000-1
9. Sharpton (10) One Billion-1
10. Kucinich (9) One Trillion-1

All rankings based on my gut feel. Line for entertainment purposes only.

So How Does Fox Spin This?

Bush is down to 50% support in the latest - FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. His disapproval is 40%.

"That's a 10% positive! He's massively popular!" says Brit Hume.

"I agree," says Sean Hannity.

"Well...yes. He is the greatest man alive," says (Alan Colmes).

Bush is also tied in the generic re-elect, 39(!)% to 39%. He does beat actual people, including Wesley Clark.

Clark leads the field of Dems in the meaningless nationwide poll with 20%. He's followed by Dean at 13%, Kerry at 10%, Gephardt at 9%, Lieberman at 9%, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003
I was right! Right right right! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain....

The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder and refused to account for them when confronted by the world.

So says Fearless Leader.

Psst...George? We haven't found any weapons of mass destruction. None. Bupkis.

George W. Bush went to the UN today and told them...well, pretty much exactly what he told them last year, before we'd gone and pissed everyone off.

Of course, last year, we could argue that Saddam might have WMDs. Now, it's a little hard to argue that. And last year, we came from a position of strength, telling the UN that we were willing to go it alone if need be. This year, we're coming from a position of weakness, asking the UN for help in a nation that is proving more difficult to tame than the neocons once claimed.

One might think our President might...oh, I don't know...change tone. But no. That wouldn't be GDub.

As Fred Kaplan notes:

Bush dredged out the familiar formula—weapons of mass destruction plus terrorism equals the enemy in Iraq—forgetting, or perhaps not caring, that it didn't persuade the United Nations back in November, when Saddam was still in power, and couldn't hope to win backers now.

He described the guerrilla war, still ongoing, as a battle against "terrorists and holdouts of the previous regime"—ignoring a recent finding of the U.S. intelligence community that the main, and most rapidly growing, threat these days comes from ordinary Iraqis, resentful of the occupation.

He laid out the context of the battle as a contest between "those who work for peaceful change and those who adopt the methods of gangsters." Yet it is hard to see how Bush's pre-emptive-war doctrine fits the former category, and it's painful to observe that many Iraqis would say the U.S. occupation—whose soldiers have pounded down so many doors in the middle of the night—fits the latter.

He acknowledged no mistakes, either in the intelligence that preceded the war or in the planning (or lack thereof) that followed it.

And therein lies the problem, the giant sucking sound that is the Bush presidency. Everyone--everyone--knows that things aren't going according to plan in Iraq. And if Bush would just admit that, and look to try something new, perhaps we'd be willing to cut him a bit of slack. (Well, not me, probably, but much of the middle that's racing away from GDub right now.)

But of course, Bush can't do that. He was right! And any attempt to suggest otherwise is Helping Evil. He's too blinded by what he perceives to be truth to do the right thing--approach the UN with a modicum of humility and a polite request for help.

I am not one who believes we can simply walk away from Iraq. Painful as the price is in human and dollar costs, we must see this occupation through to its conclusion. We're stuck. It would be nice, though, to have a bit of help. Or as Kaplan says:

One section of Bush's speech is worth very serious note. "Success of a free Iraq," he said, "will be watched and noted throughout the region." A free and democratic Iraq would provide a shining example that could transform the Middle East, and "a transformed Middle East would benefit the entire world."

Bush is absolutely right on this point, which is why he needs to get over his hang-ups about France, the Security Council, and the diplomatic disasters of last November, and to get serious about working out a common solution to the much bigger disaster that looms in Iraq. His speech could, and should, have signaled a new opening. Instead, it seemed to close off every option.

Indeed. The neocon antipathy towards the UN and our allies has cost us dearly thus far. It has cost American money and American lives. And unfortunately, our President is too myopic to recognize this, too pigheadedly proud to ask for help.

And meanwhile, Americans keep dying.


Ben and Jen are back together!

We can downgrade our threat level to condition yellow.



Clark, Kerry lead Bush in CNN Poll

Lieberman, Dean, Gephard trail within Margin of Error

GOP: This Means Nothing! Really! I mean it!

Holy cow.

When I said we had the mojo, I had no idea things were going this well.

For the record, here are the head-to-head matchups. Margin of Error is +/- 3%, meaning all polled races are statistical ties.

CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, September 19-21, 2003

Bush (R) [I] 46%
Clark (D) 49%

Bush (R) [I] 47%
Kerry (D) 48%

Bush (R) [I] 48%
Lieberman (D) 47%

Bush (R) [I] 49%
Dean (D) 45%

Bush (R) [I] 49%
Gephardt (D) 45%

Job Approval, CNN/USA Today/Gallup, September 19-21, 2003

Approve 50%
Disapprove 47%

Question: Do you agree or disagree with the President on issues that matter most to you?

Agree: 46%
Disagree: 51%

There is just one word to describe these polls for President Bush: disastrous. An incumbent should be trouncing the opposition before the primaries have concluded. That Bush is losing signals less about the strength of the Democratic field than the weakness of the President.

Now, this does not mean that Bush is doomed. Dole led Clinton in 1995. But Bob Dole was far more a known quantity to the general electorate than, say, Howard Dean, who is in a statistical dead heat with Bush. And Clinton had never hit the kind of popular highs that Bush has faced--indeed, 1995 was pretty much the low-water mark for the Clinton presidency, even considering impeachment. Bush is a President who fought and won a war just six months ago.

Can Bush rebound? Sure. But right now, if I were a betting man, I'd set the line on his being reelected at 3:1, with the odds of a Democrat winning at 2:3. Bush's popularity has been in freefall since the war ended, and nothing he's doing has changed that.

Sunday, September 21, 2003
Shut up, shut up, shut up!

Josh Marshall has dared to take a few mild shots at Howard Dean lately.

Now, I am intrigued by Dean. I think he has some of the straight-talk qualities that I think America is looking for. That said, I'm not sold on Dean quite yet; I'm leaning Clark. But in the end, should Dean be the nominee, I'll support him (as I would with Gephardt, Kerry, or *shudder* Lieberman).

But unfortunately, some Deaniacs don't feel the same way, based oncomments Marshall received:

A lot of us are tired of the arrogance of the DNC, DLC and Josh Marshalls who are convinced that they know what is best for us. (Your track record isn't that impressive!) If you succeed in using dirty tricks to topple Dean, I will not be voting in 04, and I know a lot of other Democrats who will join me in sitting it out. Watch the hubris, it could be your undoing!

Marshall responds:

My own feeling is that the only real Democrats are those who will support the party's eventual nominee, end of story.

Indeed. The idea that there are Democrats and "Real" Democrats has been a problem for me since I wandered into my first precinct caucus. If you happen to harken from the more moderate wing of the party, you're not a "real" Democrat. You're a republican in disguise! Never mind if you're pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-civil liberties, pro-using taxes to balance the budget, and so on, and so forth. If you, say, aren't sure about single-payer health insurance you may as well go join Pat Buchanan.

For the Democrats, 2004 should be about one thing: beating George Bush. The Dean supporter who emailed Marshall is one of the Naderites of '00. Sitting out the general--or voting for Nader--will ensure four more years of GDub. That would be disastrous. I'll vote for the eventual nominee, whomever he or she is. That's what real Democrats do.

A Blast From the Past

Here's a little story from before the Iraq war:

Bush will make the case that an institution such as the United Nations has to show it is "actually capable of acting, and really willing to act, and not just debating," said Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser.

Oh, wait. Did I say that story is from before the war?

No, I meant it was from now.

Bush, addressing the General Assembly on Tuesday, will argue — just as he did last year — that the United Nations needs to meet its global responsibilities or risk being irrelevant.

With rising U.S. casualties and high costs already causing problems for Bush, American taxpayers could face a bill, if other countries refuse to help, that is even larger than the $87 billion the White House has requested.


But Bush should not expect U.N. members to bend easily, analysts said.

After a year of acrimony over Iraq and opposition to the U.S.-led war, the mood in the United Nations and among allies "is about as foul and bad as it's ever been," said Ivo Daalder, a Brookings Institution analyst and co-author of a book on Bush's foreign policy.

He said Bush's tone toward the rest of the world has been "we're right, and it is your duty and your responsibility to join us on our journey."

"If that's the attitude, he's going to get the door slammed in his face," Daalder said. "Because no one regards it to be their duty or responsibility to clean up the mess that many people think has been created by the way we have handled the postwar period."

Bush to UN: "You're irrelevant! You didn't help us in Iraq! So help us now, or you'll be irrelevant! And we'll keep coming to you and saying you're irrelevant until you help us!" there's a threat.

The fact that we are back at the UN asking for help proves one thing: the UN is relevant. Period.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Clark's In

Well, guess Dean won't be tapping him for Veep quite yet:

"My name is Wes Clark. I am from Little Rock, Arkansas. And I am here to announce that I intend to seek the presidency of the United States of America," he said.

General Clark becomes the 10th Democrat to enter the 2004 race for the White House. He hopes to capitalize on his 34-year career in the military to make the case that he is best qualified to lead the country at a time of war. General Clark was the commander of NATO forces during the 1999 campaign in Kosovo.


In announcing his candidacy, General Clark said he would focus on restoring the nearly three-million jobs lost under the Bush presidency and on improving the U.S. image abroad.

So, what does this mean for everyone? Well, let's start a semiregular feature here at the BOTM--Who's Up, Who's Down, Who's Done.

Who's Up?

Wesley Clark

Obviously. He's got all the media attention, all the news coverage, all the story right now. He's got a great resumé, he's bright, he's not afraid to mix it up with Bush, and he's an outsider who voted for Reagan--so he's not too partisan to win in the General.

He's got an eight-month lag, but don't get hung up on that. Actual Americans (as opposed to we the blogosphere) are just now starting to realize that there's an election in fourteen months; Clark has ample time to ramp up to competitive in the early states (which he need not win to stay in the race). He has the makings of a good organization, and rumored commitments of $1 million, and the all-important tenative commitment of the Blogger of the Moderate Left to support him, unless Dean or Kerry can make me believe. In other words, this is Clark's moment.

Dick Gephardt

Helped just a bit by someone other than Dean being out there. Adding another moderate to the bunch should help Dick secure votes on the left wing. Enough to win Iowa? Time will tell.

Who's Down?

Howard Dean

Conventional Wisdom says that any major change in the dynamic of an election hurts the frontrunner. See: Bush Pere v. Clinton v. Perot, 1992. Clark's entry doesn't knock Dean out of the top spot, but it certainly doesn't help him. Clark was as outspoken as Dean against the war, but the four stars on his shoulder blunt the anti-military card that can be played against Dean in the general. Democrats like Dean, but more than that, they want to win in 2004, and if Clark seems better positioned to win than Dean, it will hurt him.

That all being said, this is still Dean's race to lose. And while this doesn't help him, it doesn't hurt him badly--yet.

John Kerry

This has hurt John Kerry badly--possibly fatally. No longer the lone war hero of the group, Kerry must now find another raison d'etre for his candidacy. Let's see...he's not the most moderate, not the most charismatic, not the most in touch with the people, not from the South, not from a vital swing state...nope, I've got nothin'. Unless Kerry somehow wins New Hampshire, he's toast.

Joe Lieberman

Like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, he's dead but he doesn't know it. Yeah, yeah, he's got swell national polls. That and $.59 will get you a taco. He's got to actually win somewhere...and I'm not quite sure where that is. Certainly not Iowa and New Hampshire. Clark has enough moderate credentials to blunt Lieberman's "Hey, I can win" appeal--the only one he's got--while enough liberal credentials to actually garner votes among the liberals who decide who gets to run.

Who's Done?

John Edwards

What if someone ran for President and nobody showed up? It pains me to say it--Edwards was my early fave and my pick to click--but he just has no reason to run. At best, he's running for Vice President, and every poll that shows him with 3% support blunts that appeal. He's got nothing. And I don't see that changing.

Dennis Kucinich

Has to show up above 5% on some poll, somewhere, very, very soon, or it's into the Bob Dornan/John Kasich/Dick Lugar/Alan Cranston scrapheap of politicians who "ran for President" without actually garnering any support.

Bob Graham

See: Dennis Kucinich

Al Sharpton

Done before things ever started.

Carol Mosely Braun

Done before she was sworn in as Senator.

Kos has his power rankings, here are mine. (In future editions, the previous ranking will appear in the parenthesis):

1. Dean (-)
2. Gephardt (-)
3. Clark (-)
4. Kerry (-)
5. Lieberman (-)
6. Edwards (-)
7. Graham (-)
8. Braun (-)
9. Kucinich (-)
10. Sharpton (-)

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Nice to see national bloggers like Atrios picking up on the phenomenal Star Tribune Editorial in today's paper:

Editorial: Truth / Too little of it on Iraq

Published September 17, 2003 ED17

Dick Cheney is not a public relations man for the Bush administration, not a spinmeister nor a political operative. He's the vice president of the United States, and when he speaks in public, which he rarely does, he owes the American public the truth.

In his appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday, Cheney fell woefully short of truth. On the subject of Iraq, the same can be said for President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. But Cheney is the latest example of administration mendacity, and therefore a good place to start in holding the administration accountable.

Cheney repeated the mantra that the nation ignored the terrorism threat before Sept. 11. In fact, President Bill Clinton and his counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, took the threat very seriously, especially after the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000. By December, Clarke had prepared plans for a military operation to attack Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, go after terrorist financing and work with police officials around the world to take down the terrorist network.

Because Clinton was to leave office in a few weeks, he decided against handing Bush a war in progress as he worked to put a new administration together.

Instead, Clarke briefed national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Cheney and others. He emphasized that time was short and action was urgent. The Bush administration sat on the report for months and months. The first high-level discussion took place on Sept. 4, 2001, just a week before the attacks. The actions taken by the Bush administration following Sept. 11 closely parallel actions recommended in Clarke's nine-month-old plan. Who ignored the threat?


Cheney also cited a supposed meeting in Prague between hijacker Mohamed Atta and a senior Iraqi intelligence officer -- but the FBI concluded that Atta was in Florida at the time of the supposed meeting. The CIA always doubted the story. And according to a New York Times article on Oct. 21, 2002, Czech President Vaclav Havel "quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports" of such a meeting.


On weapons of mass destruction, Cheney made a number of statements that were misleading or simply false. For example, he said the United States knew Iraq had "500 tons of uranium." Well, yes, and so did the U.N. inspectors. What Cheney didn't say is that the uranium was low-grade waste from nuclear energy plants, and could not have been useful for weapons without sophisticated processing that Iraq was incapable of performing.

Cheney also said, "To suggest that there is no evidence [in Iraq] that [Saddam] had aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons, I don't think is valid." It's probably not valid; Saddam wanted nuclear weapons. But Cheney is changing the subject: The argument before the war wasn't Saddam's aspirations; it was Saddam's active program to build nuclear weapons.


To explore every phony statement in the vice president's "Meet the Press" interview would take far more space than is available. This merely points out some of the most egregious examples. Opponents of the war are fond of saying that "Bush lied and our soldiers died." In fact, they'd have reason to assert that "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz lied and our soldiers died." It's past time the principals behind this mismanaged war were called to account for their deliberate misstatements.

Wowzers. Of course, this is all old news to those of us in the blogosphere, but this is a major metropolitan newspaper. Yes, the Strib leans left, but to see them calling the neocons liars--well, it's kind of nice.

The "Bush is a liar" storyline is growing, bubbling beneath the surface of the national debate. Don't misunderestimate it. In 2000, the story was all about how Al Gore was too condescending and a liar. It colored every story. If the story in 2004 is how Bush has lied for four years, it should make for a fun year for the Dems.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003
WUSA Folds

Okay, hands up if you even know what that means.

The Women's Unted Soccer League, another textbook case of how not to start a professional league, has folded.

The league has burned through a staggering $100 million in its brief history, and its folding on the eve of the Women's World Cup is doubly galling.

I'm a big fan of women's soccer. I grew up watching my sister play keeper for a variety of teams--she ended up at Kansas, eventually--and I've seen enough women's soccer over the years that I watch it like any other sport. I'm looking very much forward to the World Cup, which starts this weekend.

But I have no sympathy for the WUSA, which folded because it was based on unrealistic assumptions.

This doesn't mark the end of professional women's soccer in the US; indeed, it can mark a new beginning if the new league starts with a few simple rules in mind:

1. Think Small

You may not be able to pay enough for Mia Hamm to view your league as worth her time. You may not draw more than a couple thousand people per game. You may be touring on busses, not planes.

Deal with it.

Major League Baseball started out with a bunch of semipro guys who worked in the offseason as laborers and insurance salesmen and pitchmen. It took decades for it to pay enough to be a full-time job. Don't expect that you can simply jump to the big time just because you want to.

This means that some players on your team will get paid $300 per month. Some less. A few stars might be worth more. But not much. And if the Brandi Chastains of the world decide to pass on the WUSA, don't worry. You're building for the long-term future, not today.

2. Diversify Geographically

The WUSA featured teams in San Jose, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, the Carolinas, Washington, San Diego, and New York. What do those cities have in common? That's right, not one of them is located in the midwest.

More to the point, all of those cities already host at least one professional sports team. Atlanta, especially, is renowned as one of the worst sports cities in America.

Instead of trying to crack New York, go back to rule #1. Look for teams in Des Moines, in Boise, in Syracuse, in Lubbock. Don't be afraid to tap smaller cities, because these cities don't have a top-flight pro team to compete against.

3. Baby Steps

Don't worry if you don't get nationwide cable coverage. Don't worry if you can't get public access coverage. Stick to a small-scale model and grow slowly.

4. Attack your base...

That's soccer families. Go after these people with everything you can. Give away the tickets if you have to--get them to the field. These people will pay for your team.

5. ...but don't be afraid to draw outside of it.

The Saint Paul Saints are a minor league team in a big-league town. How have they drawn fans opposite a pennant-contending pro team? They've created a fun atmosphere, with massage-giving nuns, a pig that brings baseballs out to the ump, and a lighthearted, fun atmosphere that practically screams that they don't take themselves too seriously.

You can draw a few thousand folks out to a good time that happens to be a soccer game. Will these people be your core fans? No. But no team makes it on core fans alone.

So there you go. My plan for starting a pro-anything league. I offer it free of charge to anyone willing to take it and run. Follow these steps, and in a generation or so, you may have an actual major sports league.

Hey, it's not quick, but it's a better model than the WUSA.

The Invincible George W. Bush

Now, an internal House GOP conference poll shows him with sub-50% approval (49% approve-46% disapprove). More alarming, the generic Congressional ballot question gives the Dems a 45%-40% edge.

In an internal GOP poll.

So...this isn't a Zogby poll, so you can't immediately discount question again: righties, tell me how this is a good thing for you.

"8 Simple Rules" to Continue

Does this make any sense?

This is "News Radio" after the death of Phil Hartman--it just won't work. ABC would do better to simply cancel the show with dignity. But that's not what a network would do.

Sunday, September 14, 2003
$87 Billion Here, $87 Billion There, Pretty Soon You're Talkin' About Real Money

Vice President Dick Cheney (R-TX-WY) says the $87 Billion that President Bush asked for last week may not be enough:

Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if that would be the final such request, Cheney replied: “I can’t say that. It’s all we think we’ll need for the foreseeable future, for this year.”

Cheney hinted Sunday that the Bush administration would seek more money than the $87 billion already requested to pay mainly for postwar costs in Iraq.

He also said the administration does not know when the U.S. military presence in Iraq will end. “I don’t think anybody can say with absolute certainty at this point,” Cheney said.

Meanwhile, America responds to our President's plea with cool disdain:

A majority of Americans disapprove of President Bush’s request to Congress for an additional $87 billion to fund military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year, amid growing doubts about the administration’s policies at home and abroad, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Six in 10 Americans said they do not support the proposal, which the president announced in his nationally televised address last Sunday night. That marks the most significant public rejection of a Bush initiative on national security or terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In a second rebuff to the administration, more Americans said that, if Congress decides to approve the additional money, lawmakers should roll back the president’s tax cuts to pay for the increased spending, rather than add to the federal budget deficit or cut government spending.

The public’s judgment of the way Bush is handling international affairs has never been lower, the Post-ABC News poll found. Slightly more than half — 53 percent — approve of the president’s policies abroad, a precipitous fall from 67 percent barely two months ago.

I said we had the mojo. This tears it. Bush is beyond merely no longer being popular. He is now in trouble, and he will be fortunate to be reelected come 2004.

This is not to say that Bush is done; a rebounding economy would help him, as would stabilization in Iraq. But the Iraq win was supposed to solidify his countrol of the nation. It has done just the opposite.


Shocked...part two

David Kay's September Surprise?

After failing to get any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the US and Britain have decided to delay indefinitely the publication of a full report on the controversial issue, the media reported today.

Efforts by the Iraq Survey Group, an Anglo-American team of 1,400 scientists, military and intelligence experts, to scour Iraq for the past four months to uncover evidence of chemical or biological weapons have so far ended in failure, The Sunday Times claimed in its report.


All I know is that when they finally do find those weapons of mass destruction, those liberals who've been complaining will be in a world of hurt.

Unfortunately, it looks like they may not be found for a couple thirteen fourteen years, so I'll take my chances.

(via Pandagon)

I'm Shocked, Shocked....

Ben and JLo have split up.

In a world where Ben and Jennifer couldn't make it, how can any of us believe in love?

Saturday, September 13, 2003
Ann Drinks the Kool Aid

But we knew that:

On the basis of their recent pronouncements, the position of the Democratic Party seems to be that Saddam Hussein did not hit us on 9-11, but Halliburton did.

Um...Ann? Psst...Osama bin Laden hit the U.S. Thought you'd want to know. I'm sure you'll issue a correction.

That statement is only the most egregiously insane in an article full of half-truths and willfull ignorance of history. The most ridiculous, of course, is that the internationalization of the occupation of post-war Germany caused a forty-five year Cold War and the Marshall Plan, which she notes was not needed in Japan.

Ann...where to start? One might start by noting that THE FUCKING SOVIET UNION OCCUPIED ALL OF EAST GERMANY TO BEGIN WITH, AND WE DIDN'T WANT TO FIGHT A WAR TO PUSH THEM OUT. Of course, I'm sure that was part of Truman's plan to give all of Europe to the Soviets.

In Japan, we controlled the nation because we did all the major fighting. We didn't need to share power because--unlike the European theatre--we were the only folks in position to occupy Japan. And why didn't we put a Marshall plan to work in Japan? Maybe it was because THE COMMUNISTS WEREN'T POISED TO TAKE JAPAN.

They were poised to take Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, and Italy. The Marshall Plan prevented that. But then again, I'm sure it was just canny strategy. There's just no way that a Democrat would work against the Soviets. No way at all.

I Walk The Line

I was too busy to blog yestertay, so I failed to note the passing of Johnny Cash, one of the all time greats.

I won't waste your time with day-late thoughts, but I'll point you to two atricles, one from before his death, one after.

Virginia Hefferman reviewed Cash's video for "Hurt," a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song that improves on the original. The video is haunting, even more so now at the end of Cash's life, and the article helpfully has a link to the video.

The other is from Reason's Hit and Run blog, where Jesse Walker eulogizes Cash. The intriguing section is a quote of Cash in 1969, discussing the Vietnam war, a war he quietly opposed while wholeheartedly supporting the troops--yes, Ann, it's possible. The quote that sticks with me:

And a reporter friend of mine asked, said, "That makes you a hawk, doesn't it?" And I said, "No, that don't make me a hawk. No. No, that don't make me a hawk."


But I said, "If you watch the helicopters bring in the wounded boys, then you go into the wards and sing for 'em and try to do your best to cheer them up so that they can get back home, it might make you a dove with claws."

Rest in Peace, Man in Black. And say hi to June.

The Neocon Quiz

I'm a realist. But I knew that already.

Thursday, September 11, 2003
Not a Good Development


The United States is making clear its opposition to the expulsion of Yasser Arafat from Palestinian territory, as decided on in principle by Israel's security cabinet. U.S. officials say Mr. Arafat might be more disruptive to Middle East peace effort than he is now, if we went into exile.

The Bush administration has strongly supported a political boycott of Mr. Arafat, and has had no direct contact with him since last June when President Bush called on Palestinians to shift power to an independent prime minister. But briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said expelling Mr. Arafat would "not be helpful at all" and would only give him an international stage from which to frustrate regional peace efforts.

For once, I agree with the Bushies: Arafat is likely a more formidable force in Palestinian politics abroad than he his holed up in Ramallah.

And I'm guessing he won't go quietly.

Might just as well have used a map of Iowa as this roadmap for peace.

Why Doesn't Jeff Fecke Hate America?

Being a good liberal, I know I should be, you know, burning a flag in my front yard or walking around in a Burqa or my "CCCP" hockey jersey, but instead I put my American flag up last night (replacing the Winnie-the-Pooh flag that usually adorns my house).

Maybe, as a friend once suggested, it's an "uninformedly bourgeouise" act to fly the flag. Don't care. I love my country, and today is a good day to show that love.

The Legacy of 9/11

Josh Marshall style:

As the documentary moved toward the aftermath, I wondered whether those thoughts of mine would seep into the present to color what's happening today.

They didn't.

What I felt wasn't continuity but the jarring contrast, the cheap, obvious lies, the hubris, the tough-talk for low ends, not so much the mistakes as the tawdriness of so much of what's happened, especially over the last eighteen months.

Read it.

Bush Blew It

So says Slate's Fred Kaplan:

Aside from letting a handful of NATO's AWACS radar planes come help patrol American skies, Bush's response was a shockingly terse: Thanks, but no thanks; we'll handle it by ourselves. Marc Grossman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, later admitted to the Washington Times that the United States initially "blew off" the allies. Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said that the United States, in the Times' words, "was so busy developing its [Afghanistan] war plans that it did not have time to focus on coordinating Europe's military role."

The effect, of course, was to alienate the allies just as they were rediscovering their affections. As London's conservative Financial Times later put it, "A disdainful refusal even to respond to a genuine offer of support from close allies, at the time of America's most serious crisis in decades, spoke volumes about its attitude to the alliance."

As late as a year ago, around the time of the attack's first anniversary, the bloom had not yet entirely worn off. On Sept. 8, 2002, the French president, Jacques Chirac, repeated the words of Le Monde as if they were his own—"We are all Americans"—and added that these feelings "haven't disappeared," that "when the chips are down, the French and Americans have always stood together and have never failed to be there for one another."


A week before the Prague Summit, Lord George Robertson, NATO's secretary-general, gave a glowing speech about its prospects to the NATO parliamentary assembly in Istanbul. "Prague," he said, would "give us the chance to demonstrate that not only our security environment has changed, but that NATO has changed with it." The summit would confirm that NATO was becoming "the focal point" for the fight against terrorism. And it would "debunk the myth that has crept into the trans-Atlantic relationship after 9/11—the myth that the US and its Allies are no longer able or willing to cooperate as a military team. … It will demonstrate that Europe and America are on the same wavelength—both mentally and militarily."

Of course, the summit did no such thing. Bush's delegates used it only as a vehicle to rally support for the impending war against Iraq. Rumsfeld exacerbated the growing rift by going so far as to tout the new members of the alliance—the small nations of the former Soviet empire, whose leaders tended to endorse the war—over the traditional and much larger Western allies, whose leaders tended to oppose it.

Ah, yes, and this works out well for us. After all, it's not like we're saying we need more troops in Iraq that, say, our allies could provide.

What? We are? We do?

C'est la Vie.

New Robert Heinlein Novel!

No, really.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Atrios has Rummy dead to rights.


The day is still fresh in my mind. It always will be, I suppose.

My fianceé had gone to a legal conference in Minneapolis that morning. I was up early because I had to vote that morning in the mayoral primary and then I had to take a bus across Saint Paul to the doctor, all before I had to go to work.

I was flipping around before I had to leave. I chanced across and ancient "Little House on the Prairie," but couldn't watch for more than a few minutes. I checked the clock--almost time to leave. Absentmindedly, I switched over to the "Today" show.

We're showing a live shot of the World Trade Center, which is on fire this morning. We believe a commuter plane may have hit the tower....

* * *

Seven hundred and thirty days have passed since September 11, 2001.

Two years ago today, a day of infamy for those of us who lived through it, there was the most terrible day for America in my memory.

Odds are that everyone reading this remembers that day clearly, remembers the way the wind was blowing, the way the sun shone. The moment is still fresh in our minds, the pain still all too real.

But as two years have passed, the pain is lessening.

* * *

I tried to reach my fianceé on the cell phone. "Hey hon, just wanted to let you know a plane hit the World Trade Center. Hope you're having a good day,talk to you later." With that, I left our apartment and headed over to my polling place.

I had my radio on to KQRS--Tom Barnard's show had not quite taken the hard, hard right turn it would take in 2002. They were discussing the fire in the World Trade Center, talking about what it could be. And then I heard a sudden outburst that I'll never forget.

Oh my God! A plane just hit the tower!

Is that a shot of the first plane hitting?

No! No, it's another plane hitting the other tower!

My heart sank. Because there was no doubt at that instant that we were at war.

Voting took on added urgency. I told an aging poll worker that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. "In Saint Paul?" she asked, referring to the decidedly less symbolic tower on West Seventh. "No, in New York," I replied. "Oh," she said, suddenly disinterested. "Here's your ballot."

I've wondered often what she thought later, and if the provinicalism she expressed carried over to later in the day. I rather doubt it.

I voted for Randy Kelly--I'd worked on his campaign, and was quite sure he was the best guy on the ballot. I had been thinking about going to the party that night, but my heart wasn't in it anymore. Instead, I turned back to the radio and over to MPR, which was now in the wall-to-wall coverage that was warranted.

We didn't know anything yet. Nothing at all. All we knew was that someone hated us enough to kill us. There were people trapped, they said. I hoped they could evacuate.

I boarded the bus to the doctor--it hadn't occurred to me that I shouldn't. On the ride, the driver kept shooting rude looks at me. I had the radio cranked, I didn't want to miss a word. The rumor of what was happening was spreading among my fellow passengers, and when the driver made an announcement that radios needed to be turned down, the result was a bus full of people yelling, "Shut Up!"

"They've hit the Pentagon," I reported to the group.

"How bad?"

"Don't know yet. But they've hit it."

* * *

I didn't know who "they" were.

I knew there was a "they" as sure as I was alive. This wasn't accidental. Someone had coordinated this, and they had done their best to bloody us. And they had succeeded.

But I remembered the Oklahoma City bombing, and knew that we had played pin the blame on the Arabs before it turned out the murderer was a sick white boy from the heartland. didn't feel like Oklahoma City. The Murrah Federal Building was a target onlya Midwesterner would pick. (McVeigh had toured the Federal Building in Minneapolis, among others). It was a strike at the heart of America.

A strike at New York was more like a strike at the face of America. It just wasn't a place an American would choose--not even an angry rural anti-metropolitan American.

This was someone else, but I didn't know who.

* * *

I went through the appointment half-there, and came out to the news that Tower 2 had collapsed, and a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. Every plane in the air was landing at the nearest airport. Billions of dollars, they said it would cost. But it seemed irrelevant compared to estimates of ten thousand dead if Tower 1 collapsed too.

It did.

I bought a donut at a gas station while I waited for a bus.

"Doesn't seem right to say here," said the girl behind the counter. "Seems like I should go home. What do you think's going on?"

"I think we're at war," I said. I bought a newspaper, too. I didn't read it. I just wanted to see something from before.

I went off to work, and spent the day trying to track down every bit of news I could get my hands on. I was hardly alone. Indeed, my boss dropped by often to check on the news. Nobody was calling. Nobody gave a damn about getting rid of their cable. It could wait.

I went home, listening to the radio again, listening to the stories that were coming out about the dead. It sounded like the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania might have been taken down by the passengers. Good. Already, we were fighting back.

Osama bin Laden was being fingered now as the culprit. No evidence was presented, but it made sense. The President gave a shaky speech but at the time I didn't notice. He was my President and he had my support, even if I didn't like the guy.

I got home to my fianceé, and we spent the evening watching TV, and for the first time I saw the planes hit the tower.

And I cried.

* * *

For a time, the best of America was brought out by the attack.

We pulled together as we never had in my lifetime. Whether it was people standing in line to donate blood or Congress--all of Congress--standing on the steps of the Capitol singing "God Bless America," there was an overwhelming sense that we were in this together.

When evidence pointed to Afghanistan as bin Laden's base of operations, few questioned whether we would attack them. Oh, a few inveterate lefties like Noam Chomsky felt the need to yammer about seeking peaceful solutions, but no matter what myths the right try to spin, nobody of significance--not Paul Wellstone, not Russ Feingold, not Tom Daschle, not Ted Kennedy--nobody objected to ousting the Taliban. In fact, everyone was pretty keen on it. If there was a complaint, it was that we moved to tenatively in our response.

We won in Afghanistan, won easily. The Taliban was ousted, and no matter what came after, it could scarcely be worse.

I was thrilled. I was even (gasp!) wondering if I should consider voting for Bush in '04.

And then the wheels started to come off.

In the wake of our victory, the Bush administration started to recognize the enormous political advantage they had been given. And they used it. They used it to accuse the Democrats of being unpatriotic, of being less than committed to the War on Terror. Their surrogates used it to accuse Democrats of treason. They accused a Senator who left three limbs in Vietnam of being pro-Osama and anti-American.

And then they decided that it was the time to invade Iraq.

By the time of the President's May 1 infomercial on the aircraft carrier, any notion that we were in this together had been obliterated. We had won in Iraq, for the most part. But the victory had come at a price. It had come at the price of our alliances and at the price of national unity. Which would have been fine had Saddam really been as dangerous as the Bush administration said.

But of course, he wasn't. And now we have come full circle to where we were on September 10, 2001, with a deeply divided, embittered electorate and an unpopular President presiding over a bad economy, the Taliban on the rise again in Afghanistan and the Wahabist Muslims operating unfettered in Saudi Arabia.

But despite all of this, I remain optimistic. Because despite the pain and destruction of 9/11, we have been able to survive as a nation, and the instinct that drew us together has not passed--will not pass.

Seven hundred and thirty days have passed.

We are not any closer to nirvana, nor to enlightenment. We have learned a few hard truths, but sometimes, I fear, too few. And as much as we swore it never would be the same as it was before, it pretty much is.

And we are that much closer to the day when September 11 isn't a day that causes our whole nation to worry, to think back to memories of planes hitting buildings and people falling like rain.

* * *

My daughter was born August 11, 2002. For her and for her generation, September 11, 2001 will be like December 6, 1941 or April 4, 1969 or November 2, 1963. A date of horror that will be marked with a mention on the news, and maybe a wistful look from a parent.

Her children will study it in textbooks.

Their children will remember it like I remember the Great Depression.

And their children may not remember it at all.

This does not diminish the events of September 11. But it bears noting. When people ask why the networks aren't spending all their time this year on 9/11, it is because we have lived through seven hundred and thirty days, and we are reaching the point where things are back to normal, or at least, as normal as can be.

We are almost there. And while those of us who lived through 9/11/01 wll never forget it, we will find soon enough that it is no longer the defining moment in our nation's history, nor our own. Another tragedy (a President killed...a nuclear asteroid strike....) or another victory (a Mars landing...a cure for old age...peace in the Middle East....), that will supplant 9/11/01. And then something will supplant that, and so on forever.

That is how it always has been, and how it always will be, as far back as the history of man and as far forward as the life of the universe.

9/11 was a terrible moment, but it was only a moment. We must mourn it, remember it, cherish it. And then, we must move on to a future we can all share in. I doubt we have reached the point as a society that this can be done. I haven't. But we will. We must. Because America has never been about the past. And God willing, it never will be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
And why is it I pointed out Gregg Easterbrook's Blog?

Because he's willing to say things like this:

Families who have taken the federal compensation have, so far, received average awards of $1.6 million, tax-free. Families of the United States personnel murdered by Al Qaeda in the Kenya and Tanzania terror attacks of 1998 received, on average, nothing. Families of the several hundred United States military personnel killed in Afghanistan fighting to destroy al Qaeda, and killed in Iraq fighting at least in part against terrorism, received, on average, $9,000, taxable.

Now some 9/11 families are saying $1.6 million isn't enough. Set aside whether they should be receiving anything from taxpayers, given the myriad other circumstances in which Americans die in various horrible events every bit as traumatic and devastating to their families, who receive nothing at all. Assume for the sake of argument that something about 9/11 justifies offering victims' estates a very large special payment. Yet some 9/11 families are saying very large is not large enough. This is greed; it is employing the memory of lost loved ones for gold-digging.

But we need a lawsuit to find out the truth, some families say. Every single person in the world already knows the central truth of 9/11, that United States airport and airplane security was poor. There isn't any hidden secret about how knives got through shoddy security checks, or flimsy cockpit doors were kicked in. We were all going through those checkpoints and riding on those planes, all as a society sharing the risk--including the federal judge who himself was getting on those planes though he now says it could have reasonably been foreseen they would be crashed into buildings. How odd he himself didn't foresee it.

Easterbrook. A blog. It don't get any better than that.

I'm Not Above Linking To You

At least not if you point me in the direction of interesting articles on Iraq. A snippet:

The American soldiers smashed through 68-year-old Ali Ahmed’s door at 2:30 in the morning.

According to Ali, the Americans roughed up one of his four sons who had gone downstairs to see what all the commotion was about. Then they handcuffed everyone except his wife and 12-year-old boy.

The soldiers ransacked their tiny apartment, took what little money they had, and finally hauled Ali and three of his sons off to what was formerly known as Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace, a sprawling compound not far from Ali’s home.

For the next month, Ali essentially disappeared from the face of the earth. His wife and young son, Hassan, tried desperately to find him, but without success. There were no phone calls, no letters, no hints of whether he was alive or dead or would ever be returning home.

A few weeks after finally being released, Ali, a carpenter by trade, sat in his sweltering apartment above a ramshackle store in a rundown Baghdad neighborhood and offered flat Pepsi to two visitors who had come to hear his bizarre but all-too-common story.

I'm hoping this story is exaggerated, because this is decidedly not the way to win friends and influence people.

Revenge of Gregg Easterbrook!

The fine writer has a blog! Much rejoicing in the land, expecially since he's also still writing the finest football column in the history of mankind, Tuesday Morning Quarterback.


That's my take. Atrios says they're monsters:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The burning ruins of the World Trade Center spewed toxic gases "like a chemical factory" for at least six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks despite government assurances the air was safe, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The gases of toxic metals, acids and organics could penetrate deeply into the lungs of workers at Ground Zero, said the study by scientists at the University of California at Davis and released at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in New York.

Lead study author Thomas Cahill, a professor of physics and engineering, said conditions would have been "brutal" for workers at Ground Zero without respirators and slightly less so for those working or living in adjacent buildings.

"The debris pile acted like a chemical factory," Cahill said. "It cooked together the components and the buildings and their contents, including enormous numbers of computers, and gave off gases of toxic metals, acids and organics for at least six weeks."

The report comes amid questions about air quality at Ground Zero and what the public was told by the government.

Last month, an internal report by Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) Inspector General Nikki Tinsley said the White House pressured the agency to make premature statements that the air was safe to breathe.

The EPA issued an air quality statement on Sept. 18, 2001, even though it "did not have sufficient data and analyzes to make the statement," the report said.

I know it was important for us all to get back to business and to get in there and clean up Ground Zero and all, but was it worth the health of the workers? Was it worth the lives and health of those who lived near the site who were told it was okay for them to go home?

I don't fault the administration for wanting to get people back into lower Manhattan. I fault them for being so eager to that they ignored the EPA, and risked even more lives in the process.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Due to the ever-expanding length, I've switched to archiving by month. I doubt anyone cares much, but thought you might like to know.

Tears fall from my eyes. I love Big Brother.

It's good to know that Donald Rumsfeld is conversant with the First Amendment:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Monday opposition to the U.S. President was encouraging Washington's enemies and hindering his 'war against terrorism'.

Rumsfeld was speaking after a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq where he sought to highlight progress on reconstruction efforts and dampen criticism of the U.S. presence there and the almost daily casualties in a guerrilla campaign against occupation.

He said if Washington's enemies believed Bush might waver or his opponents prevail, that could increase support for their activities.

"They take heart in that and that leads to more money going into these activities or that leads to more recruits or that leads to more encouragement or that leads to more staying power," he told reporters traveling with him on his plane.

"Obviously that does make our task more difficult."

Ah, yes. That's right, I forgot, we who question whether the Bush administration knows its collective ass from a hole in the ground are objectively pro-terror! I forgot for a minute.

Of course, Secretary Rumsfeld remains objectively pro-communist so long as he refuses to invade China. Why does Donald Rumsfeld hate America?

* * *

You know, I consider myself a moderate. It's the title of this blog, it's my general political nature. I lean democratic, but I haven't voted for a single Democrat to be Governor of my state (for the record: Carlson [R] '94, Ventura [Ref] '98, Penny [IP] '02), and I've been more than happy to blast the Democrats early and often.

And yet, over the past several months I've noticed myself becoming more and more partisan, and I've wondered why.

Donald Rumsfeld's comments are why.

I was sort of for the war and sort of against it--there were good points on both sides, and while I didn't cry for Saddam, I remained unconvinced that we had to invade when we did, with as little international support as we had.

After the war ended, and it became obvious that our raison d'etrê for this war--weapons of Mass Destruction, folks, don't even pretend otherwise--simply didn't exist, I became angry at having been misled. When Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" before we had secured the country, I became furious at the chutzpah of our leader, and the ridiculous politicization of war. And as the months have worn on and shown that we did not adequately plan for just what the Hell we were going to do once we took over Iraq, well, that just has pushed me into full meltdown mode.

I started this blog by declaring I was no longer a Democrat. Well, Mr. President, congratulations: I now am.

Of course, it is treason for me to say so--treason for me to argue that we were wrong to fight in Iraq before Afghanistan was secured, treason for me to argue that we should be looking for international support (as we should have back in March) without strings attached. It's treason for me to mourn the death of American soldiers in Iraq--as a liberal, I am not allowed to mourn. Any note of the death of a soldier is gloating.

And any criticism leveled at the Bush administration helps our enemies.

Well, I've had it. I can't stand by and let an administration that lied about the need to go to war, severely damaged our international alliances, and then, when war was over, mismanaged the peace off the hook. Getting Saddam Hussein was good. It was. But the way we did it was not, and the actions we continue to take are not. And it is not treason to say so.

Or as Josh Marshall says:

So here the whole sordid business comes full circle. The administration games the public into an endeavor by exaggerating the gains and minimizing the price. Then the gains are revealed as not quite so great. And the price is revealed as very much greater. And if all that weren't bad enough, the operation is bungled on several fronts. So the gamers and the scammers say it's the fault of the critics who tried to carve through the mumbo-jumbo in the first place. And when the public has a touch of buyers' remorse over a product that was peddled on false advertising, the answer lies in the public's own degeneracy and division.

It's everyone's fault but theirs. 'The terrorists', domestic enemies, cultural declension, the French, perhaps tomorrow the decline of reading, the end of corporal punishment in the schools, permissive parenting, bad posture, rock 'n roll, space aliens. The administration is choking on its own lies and evasions. And we have to bail them out because the ship of state is our ship.

Indeed. We have no choice but to go ahead in Iraq--to give Bush $87 billion and more. We have no choice because we've created this mess, and we have to get ourselves out of this. But we don't have to like it, and we don't have to pretend that the men and women responsible are blameless. And I'll be damned if I do.

Why Does Ann Coulter Hate America?

Via Democratic Underground, transcript of Sunday Final with Lawrence O'Donnell, August 30, 2003:

[Ann] COULTER: Well, I think I can answer everyone’s objections.

[Penn] JILLETTE: Go!

COULTER: These are the same arguments, the precise same arguments that were being made before the war. It’s going to be a quagmire. What is the plan? When do we get out? How much is it going to cost? Someone in the military might get his hair mussed. We heard all these arguments.

JILLETTE: No, not mussed. They might die; people die.

COULTER: With many candidates voting in favor of it.


JILLETTE: This was not a hair muss; they died! They died! They did not get the hair mussed.

COULTER: ... more like I say.

JILLETTE: I know it happens in war, which is why ...


JILLETTE: People died.


JILLETTE: That’s why you have to think a lot about it before you went into the war. That’s why you have got to know what you’re doing all the way through to the end. That’s why you can’t be faking it. You can’t fly by the seat of your pants, because people die.

COULTER: ... going magnificently well.

JILLETTE: My hair can get-if we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) well, more people died since we were done. That’s not magnificently well. That’s people dying.

COULTER: That’s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we had very few casualties.

JILLETTE: Those are honest to goodness people dying, while (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Yeah, it's sad how when you get hit by an RPG, you hair often ends up mussed. And blood can really stain uniforms!

Of course, we liberals hate the military. Thank god enlightened folk like Ann Coulter show them the respect they deserve.

Also, Ann: one might suggest that the reason all these same arguments that were made before the war are still being made after is that they were right. At the very least, you boy GDub hasn't exactly proven the rest of us wrong.

Sunday, September 07, 2003
If Mitch Berg's Football Analogy is Right, We Just Got an Interception

I look forward to the spin on this news:

President Bush's job approval rating dropped in two polls released on Saturday amid concern about the economy and instability in Iraq.
Bush, who faces a re-election fight in just over a year, saw his rating fell sharply from last month in a Zogby America poll of likely voters. Forty-five percent gave Bush positive marks for job performance in the new survey, down from 52 percent in August and the lowest since January 2001, the month he took office.

In a Time magazine/CNN poll of registered voters, the president's approval slid to 52 percent. The same poll recorded 63 percent approval for Bush back in May.

To reiterate, the Zogby poll reads thus:

Approve: 45%
Disapprove: 52%

In other words, a majority of the American people now disapprove of the way our President--our popular, invincible President--is conducting himself in office.

So how 'bout it, righties? Is Bush invulnerable still? Should the Democrats just pack things up for '04? Is the Republican party still clearly ascendant?

Come on, tell me how these polls show your party's strength and my party's weakness.

I'm waiting.

Thursday, September 04, 2003
Pandagon Back!


The Department of Homeland Security can stand down.


The many people Bill O'Reilly has told to shut up.

And Meanwhile, in Iraq....

Speaks for itself:

A year ago, American General John Abizaid published an internal Defense Department book about urban warfare. Abizaid’s “Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations” (see sidebar) was all but ignored by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, who ran the Iraq war and the initial postwar occupation.

Abizaid wrote about the massive troop requirements for urban warfare; warned of rapid burnout of soldiers and equipment assigned to urban battlegrounds; and time and again referenced catastrophic instances of over-confidence and under-preparedness among commanders and of disastrous misunderstandings of local cultures and their motivations. He also stressed how “essential” it is that “law enforcement” and other “routine activities” be “returned to civilian agencies as quickly as possible.”

Abizaid was brought in a month ago to clean up the mess created by Franks and Rumsfeld. But it might be too late.

Via TPM, natch.

The Personal and the Political

Michael Kinsley takes Ahnuld to task for his risqué Oui interview, in which the Guvunator said, among other things:

Once in Gold's gym there was a black girl who came out naked. Everybody jumped on her and took her upstairs, where we all got together. But not everybody, just the guys who can fuck in front of other guys.

Much fun has been had at Ahnuld's expense, and heck, it's a funny article. It doesn't exactly reflect well on the guy, but he wasn't married in 1977, and it's not like the seventies were a time of puritanism.

Does this mean Ahnuld is unqualified to be Governor? Of course not. (The fact that he is actually unqualified to be Governor takes care of that). Schwarzenegger's private sexual acts are none of my business--and if he chooses to make them public, as he did twenty-six years ago, I'd just as soon ignore them. To the point: what Schwarzenegger did or did not do sexually--like what Clinton, or Gingrich, or Coleman do--has little to do with their ability to lead.

That's what I say.

Not Michael Kinsley:

In terms of his fitness for elected office, the fact that Schwarzenegger bragged about this episode in a published interview makes the question of whether it really happened almost irrelevant. In 1977, at least, he wished to have people believe that he shared and was proud of an attitude toward women that is not acceptable in a politician. [Emphasis added]


Okay, I see what Kinsley's saying. He's saying that guys who treat women like sexual objects are just not capable of good governance, because....


Okay, someone's going to have to explain it to me, 'cause I don't get it.

I consider myself a feminist. I believe in equal pay for equal work, a woman's right to choose, I'm even a booster of Title IX. And I will assert that Kinsley is conflating issues like crazy here.

Some of the most liberal, feminist men I've ever met are--how shall I put this?--well, if they were women, they'd be called sluts.

Some of the most retrobrained, anti-women men I've ever met are faithful as the day is long.

Most of us who have lived a while and met a variety of people realize the the personal should rarely meet the political because the personal so rarely affects the political.

Pop quiz, women: who do you trust more on "women's issues?" Ted Kennedy, or Orrin Hatch?

Kinsley is just wrong here. Ahnuld may not be the best choice for California, but this is not the reason. His youthful excesses and bragging--true or false--are funny. But they are largely irrelevant today. It's much more of an issue that Ahnuld refuses to debate, or come up with a coherent policy position. In the end, that is what matters to the people of California--not an interview given to a porn magazine before many California voters were even born.

404 Error

Jesse! Where are you?

Not Found
The requested URL / was not found on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

Apache/1.3.28 Server at Port 80

This ain't no good.

UPDATE: Well, unlike Lileks, it doesn't look like he forgot to reregister his domain:

Registrar: DOTSTER
Created on: 24-NOV-01
Expires on: 24-NOV-03
Last Updated on: 24-NOV-01

The mystery awaits....

And meanwhile, in a parallel universe....

Tim Graham on The Corner:

Am I the only one to find it disturbing that NBC/MSNBC is routinely referring to abortionist-killer Paul Hill today as an "anti-abortion activist," as if he's comparable to Chris Smith or Phyllis Schlafly?

In answer to your question, Tim: yes. Yes you are.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003
A New Feature

Every so often, I'm inspired to wonder just what's going on in the world--not the obvious, blogged about stuff that everyone can find out, but the behind-the-scenes, hidden stuff we may never know.

So I've decided to start a new featurelette here at the BOTM: Blog of the Moderate Left short stories. They're fiction (duh), but based on real figures and real events, and maybe, just maybe, they are a little closer to the truth than we normally get. (And maybe not).

My standard disclaimer: Blog of the Moderate Left short stories are works of fiction. They do not purport to be the truth. If you wish to believe they're true, that's your problem.

Without further ado....

His Great Reward
A Blog of the Moderate Left short story

by Jeff Fecke

He though it odd that the doctor was checking his health. After all, within a few minutes, he would be dead.

Not that he minded. He had done what he was being executed for--killed the doctor, killed the bodyguard. He had snuffed out their lives like they'd snuffed out the lives of so many unborn children.

He felt no guilt, none that he'd admit to, anyhow. He told everyone that would listen that he had killed the doctor to save lives, that others should follow his lead.

It was his hope and his dream that his death would end with hundreds, thousands of copycats. They would rise up against the abortionists and kill them, kill them all, until no man or woman would dare to kill a baby ever again. It would be glorious.

They pierced his vein, and the minister began the familiar Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...."

He felt the saline now, burning just a bit as it entered his bloodstream. He closed his eyes and envisioned the future, the afterlife, the glory of God. He would be welcomed as a hero, he was a martyr of God. Saint Paul, he chuckled, as he felt the next drug enter his system. Yes, he would be welcomed as a champion of his Lord.

He struggled to maintain his consciousness as the tranquilizer took effect. He would see God soon, he would see his God soon....

A verse stumbled through the back of his mind. "Thou shalt not...."

* * *

And then, he was flying. He saw himself below on the gurney, an IV strapped into his arm. He turned, and there was a tunnel with a light at the end. He was pulled towards it. Heaven--!

He reached the light quicker than he could imagine, and gasped at the sight. It was a sea of angels lined up along a golden road, leading up to a towering desk with an old man sitting at it. Saint Peter--it had to be. Waiting to welcome him! He wanted to run to him, but he found he was unable to. Instead, he walked respectfully past the angels.

He tried to look at them, but he wasn't able to get a good feel for them. They were all looking at him, staring, really. He turned back to Saint Peter, who was smiling at him.

"Your Holiness," said Paul, as he reached the desk.

"Reverend Hill," said Peter. "Welcome to the next life. The Lord bless and keep you."

Paul smiled broadly. He started to speak, and found himself unable to.

"You were a man of the cloth on Earth, Reverend Hill. You preached the gospel, and you studied the Bible. You know well that the Lord's love is infinite."

Yes, thought Reverend Hill.

"And you know the Bible, and what it requires of you, do you not?"

Of course, thought the Reverend.

"You may enter Heaven--if you are able to answer my questions of you."

At this, the Reverend's smile faded slightly.

"To whom belongs Vengeance, Reverend?"

Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord.

"Indeed. And shall a mortal judge another mortal's life?"

Judge not, lest ye be judged. The Reverend could feel a mounting panic as he realized where this line of questioning was heading.

"And are you justified in murdering another?"

Thou Shalt Not Kill.

"Correct, Reverend. One more question: how, can a man of God declare himself God's agent of vengeance and kill those he judges to be wrong?"

"He was killing babies!"

"So you have said, often."

"What was I supposed to do? Sit idly by while he killed them?"

"MINISTER TO HIM!" thundered an exasperated Saint Peter. "Minister to them all! You were a man of God, ordained in the name of the God who enjoined his flock to turn the other cheek. It was not yours to take these men's lives. That right resides only with God."

"But I thought--I mean, abortion is wrong."

"Hmmf. You know not what right and wrong is. Believe me though, when I say the Lord would sooner welcome an abortionist to Heaven who was contrite than a murderer who bragged about it, and told others to do the same.

"Reverend, here is the great glory you spoke of, the great glory of God."

As Peter spoke these words, he laid a hand on Paul Hill's head, and suddenly the Reverend felt the bullets piercing him, and piercing again, and he saw through the woman's eyes her husband falling, dead, while the bullets tore through her....

And more than that--the pain of the women who had endured pregnancies in fear of injury, the pain of those who died for want of thereputic abortions, the pain of the unwanted....

And he felt the fear of every doctor and nurse and secretary that had ever walked from the office aware that somewhere, out there, was a man who wanted to kill him, and the pain of the doctor whose children's pictures had been posted on the internet....

He felt all of this pain at once, all of it flowing through him, his great reward for his selfless deed. And when all the pain had flowed through him, he stood again before Peter.

It seemed like years had passed. Peter looked at him sternly. "You are not worthy of Heaven. Leave my sight."

And with that, the gates of Heaven disappeared, and the erstwhile reverend was falling towards another place.

And it occurred to him as he fell that maybe--just maybe--he had been wrong.