Thursday, March 30, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 3/30/2006

1) THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT – Apparently there has been some grumbling recently in the Daily Kos community that some of the new front pagers simply aren’t up to snuff. Specifically, Kossacks are griping over the length of the new front pagers’ posts.

They have a point. Sort of. Past front pagers like Steve Gilliard were also verbose in the extreme. The difference between Gilliard and current front page occupants like Georgia10 is that Gilliard actually wrote, admittedly poorly, about things and events; Georgia10 and the rest of the new front page cohort tend to write, also poorly, only about how THEY FEEL about things and events. Joan Didion can get away with this kind of writing; Georgia10 cannot.

Yesterday Markos responded to the community’s complaints with characteristic diplomacy:

This morning I've scanned some of the going ons of the last few days (I'm completely out of touch when on the road), and I noticed the dustup over long front page posts. Here's my "official" response: tough shit. If 400 words is too much for you to handle, then you've got a couple of options: 1) Read the funnies. Not a lot of words there; 2) learn to scroll down a page; 3) get an RSS reader and set it to read just headlines. No extraneous words in headlines; or 4) find a site that better suits your style. (Ed. Note – That’s four options, not a couple, but who’s counting?)

Some of Markos’ readers, for some reason, found their leader’s attitude somewhat off-putting. “Why not be an ASS about it?”, asked one commenter. “You are nothing without the community. No wonder your traffic is on the decline with an attitude like that.” Queried another Kossack, “Who is this asshole, ‘No Shit?’ He started this thing? flame out mother. This dude don't do rude.”

Apparently the “dude” will be joining the swelling ranks of former Kossacks. The Daily Kos’ traffic is down and the trend line isn’t promising. Could it really be Georgia10’s fault as I’ve been suggesting merely tongue in cheek for the last couple of months?

2) YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, I’VE GOT ANSWERS – Yesterday I linked to that great essay by the screenwriter who fought cancer. I mentioned that his essay concluded with an enigmatic line that I needed Jonathan Last to explain to me. I was not alone. Here’s the explanation: There’s a movie coming out called “Snakes on a Plane” starring Samuel L. Jackson. This movie has become an object of obsession with cinephiles everywhere. The already infamous tag-line, the “make my day” of the film if you will, is Jackson saying he wants the “motherf****** snakes” off the “mother******” plane.” By concluding his essay on cancer with that line, the screenwriter/author is showing he’s back to normal, ready to re-engage in the hobbies, interests and passions that marked his life before cancer changed it. I think it’s pretty brilliant, but you can decide for yourself.

3) THAT BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN GOT HIM GOOD – Randy Quaid is suing the producers of Brokeback Mountain, claiming that he was induced to perform in the film for peanuts because he thought it was a tiny art house movie about gay cowboys, and he never would have worked for so little if he had known the film had an advertising budget of a gazillion dollars. Quaid is suing for $10 million, which seems like an odd figure because I didn’t realize that Randy Quaid typically received Tom Cruise money.

But I love the language from Quaid’s complaint: “(The producers) have enriched themselves to the tune of approximately $160 million in worldwide gross box office receipts on the back of actors who were convinced to cut their fees purportedly to ensure that the film reached the screen."

Who says lawyers don’t have a sense of humor?

4) THE SUN IS VERY HOT – Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe produces a startlingly original analysis that leads her to the conclusion that Andy Card wouldn’t have a great chance of success if he entered the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. Duh! Card was the chief-of-staff for a President who has something like a 13% rate of approval in the Commonwealth. Card has never won an election of any sort. Massachusetts Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 5-1 margin. Other than those factors, it looks like a very promising situation for Card.

5) DOG BITES MAN, PART I – Peggy Noonan has another column whose general theme is that the country is going to hell in a hand basket; this time it’s because the country is insufficiently populated with patriots who love the land. I find this type of column endlessly tiresome. America-haters have been prominent since the 60’s. There’s nothing new here, and the situation is clearly better now than it was in the 1960’s and other times in the past 40 years.

6) BIG TALIBAN ON CAMPUS, PART 7,863,921 – Someone at the Journal has to do some sort of intervention with John Fund. Yale is debased, Yale is pathetic, Yale is immoral – we’ve got it. Besides, the Taliban thing just puts an exclamation point on the crisis in modern academia; the fact that Harvard and Georgetown have each prostituted themselves to a Salafist Saudi prince to the tune of $10 million is an example of the same thing. (At least Harvard and Georgetown are high-priced street-walkers – Yale apparently humiliated itself for free.)

Fund has to move on. He simply cannot keep writing about this and only this forever. He has shone the light and done an invaluable service in doing so. Now it’s time to write about something else.

7) THE NO FUN LEAGUE – The N.F.L., in its infinite wisdom, has decided to clamp down on excessive celebrating. Excessive celebrating has always been part of the NFL’s appeal. The taunting, the juvenilia – it’s all part of the show. If it were up to me, I would make it mandatory that every sack be punctuated by a Mark Gastineau-like sack-dance. His team’s fans loved it; the opposing fans were enraged. All in all, it was good fun.

8) GOOD NEWS – Jill Carroll has been released. Ms. Carroll said she "was kept in very good small, safe place, safe room, nice furniture, they gave me clothing, plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers, go to the bathroom when I wanted," but she didn't know where she was. "The room had a window, but the glass was ... you know you can't see, and curtains... I couldn't hear any sounds."

Now, pardon me for saying, but Jihadis aren’t well known for either their chivalry or their humane kindness to apostates. This leads me to believe something else quite distinct from Jihad was going on with Carroll’s abduction. It was all about money.

Let’s hope they didn’t get any.

9) INCORRECT, BUT PROVOCATIVE – The New Republic has an interesting take on the Ben Domenech affair:

Domenech deserved to be let go; but in the course of celebrating his demise, liberals have missed the real lesson of this entire episode. Instead of hiring a conservative, the Post hired a caricature of one; Domenech's blog would have been less a product of red America and more a product of what blue America understands red America to be. More than anything else, the sad saga of Ben Domenech reveals just how simplistic blue-state elites have become in their understanding of American conservatism.

It’s true that liberals caricature conservatives as either NASCAR supporting boobs or bow-tie wearing ninnies. But lost in TNR’s analysis is the following fact – the prominent conservative blogosphere is composed largely of grown-ups with grown-up jobs and responsibilities. Few of us would have any interest in being a full-time “blogger” for the Washington Post or any other liberal newspaper. Speaking just for myself, I would rather suck on a ’72 Volkswagen Van’s tailpipe than be the Boston Globe’s in house conservative blogger. (Marty Baron, if you’re reading, don’t take this the wrong way – I would love to be an op-ed columnist. Call me anytime.)

It’s just “full-time blogger” is a job with limited appeal. If the New York Times asked the Baseball Crank to be its full-time blogger, he would nearly die laughing before asking how the hell he would pay his mortgage and support his family on a blogger’s salary.

My point is, take the plagiarism out of the picture and Domenech is about as good as you’re going to do if you want to hire a full time blogger. Full time blogging is a young man’s game, and mostly a weird young man’s game at that.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at


I have a lengthy piece up at Gelf Magazine chronicling the history of Roger Clemens with the Red Sox and begging Roger to come home. If you follow the link, I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. And if by some fluke you have Roger’s email address, please send it along to him.

Spanning the Web will appear later today.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 3/29/2006

1) BETTER LATE THAN NEVER – I know I’m a little tardy in linking to this important column, but Charles Krauthammer (the best columnist in America, period) had a remarkable piece in Time Magazine fully playing out the horror of Iran getting a nuclear bomb. Long story short, if Ahmadenijad gets a bomb, he won’t be the last medieval-minded psychotic to get one. History demands that we draw a line in the sand now. Do we have the guts?

2) WHILE I’M ON THE SUBJECT…Amir Taheri has a related piece on the Wall Street Journal’s website. Taheri writes how our enemies view our current president as an anomaly. Reagan cut and ran from Beirut, Bush 41 from Iraq, Clinton from everywhere but most prominently Somalia. The current president has the willpower to stay, but the Jihadis are convinced that if they can just hold on until 2009, things will be back to normal in the sort-of-round office. We had better hope they’ve misjudged our political caste, but there’s reason to fear they’re not entirely mistaken.

I should add that that’s one of the reasons I have such hope for James Webb’s Senate campaign in Virginia. Webb is a Democrat, but a warrior through-and-through (unlike empty uniform pencil-pusher Wesley Clark) who has no patience for East Coast elitism and sacred left wing cows like diversity. If the Kossacks who are running his ad on their website disbelieve any of this, they should check out his masterly history of the Scots-Irish in America “Born Fighting.” If Webb becomes a prominent Democrat, it could quite literally save the party. I have nothing against George Allen, but I would have a lot of trouble voting against James Webb.

3) THAT BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN GOT ME GOOD – For the first time in ages yesterday, I clicked over to Andrew Sullivan’s site. I was quickly reminded why I stayed away:

The newly-released Canadian activist, James Loney, was captured in Iraq by a nasty terror group who killed one of his colleagues. It now turns out he's gay - but kept it secret while in captivity. His partner was forced to stay silent - so as not to provoke the Islamists from having a very good reason to murder him. It's great news he is now free; and his statement on his escape was an appropriate one:

"I'm going to disappear for a little while into a different kind of abyss – an abyss of love. I need some time to get reacquainted with my partner Dan."

It's good to see a Christian openly embrace the man he loves.

I first heard the phrase “moral idiot” when a critic appropriately attached it to one of my favorite authors, Richard Ben Cramer, for his bizarre defense of Islamic “honor killing” in his book on Israel. For some reason, Sullivan’s recounting the tale of a man who had to hide his sexuality because practitioners of a certain faith would have surely killed him had they known about it and then taking a gratuitous pot-shot at Christianity brings that potent putdown to mind.

4) SAGE ADVICE – Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen wrote a memo to Ken Mehlman suggesting that Republicans in congress tempted to try some amateurish version of Clintonesque triangulation should resist. Bush may be unpopular, but fortunately the election won’t just be a referendum on Bush. The Democrats have to bring something to the table, and that looks increasingly unlikely.

(By the way, in reporting this story Kos front-pager Georgia10, apparently unfamiliar with non-American names and how they work, referred to van Lohuizen as a woman twice. The great minds of the blogosphere at work!)

5) THE READ THE WHOLE THING PRIZE GOES TO…First of all, this was a strong day. The Krauthammer and Taheri pieces above are worth your attention, as is the Hugh Hewitt link that follows. But the linked essay is amazing. Jonathan Last at Galley Slaves called my attention to it (and personally explained the last sentence to me but I’m a bit slow – I bet all of you will understand it). The essay is by a screenwriter detailing his battle with cancer. It’s moving, hilarious and inspiring.

6) THE DEBASED MAINSTREAM MEDIA - Hugh Hewitt had an on-air interview yesterday with Time Magazine’s Iraq correspondent, Michael Ware. Ware has the dubious distinction of being perhaps the first person in the world to perfect non-judgmentalism. Although Ware will interview Zarqawi and his minions, he won’t stand in judgment of their practices or their goals.

Being so perfectly non-judgmental requires a certain willing obtuseness that Ware displayed in spades during his interview with Hewitt:

Hugh Hewitt: Because we talked about this on CNN. Do you think Iraq is better off today, just...than it was under Saddam? Do you think that...

Michael Ware: Well, I was never here under Saddam. My period during Saddam's regime was in the Kurdish North, where with U.S. air cover, they've forged their own autonomous sanctuaries. So I never lived under Saddam, and I can only imagine what the horrors were like, and what the restrictions were like. All I can tell you that life here right now is extraordinarily difficult, and there's a lot of killing going on, and there's a lot of deprivation going on, and to be able to compare that to something I never saw is a bit difficult for me.

HH: Well, do you think the Russian people were better under Krushchev than they were under Stalin? Neither of us saw Kruschev or Stalin, but both of us...

MW: Yeah, I wouldn't have a clue, you know?

HH: You wouldn't have a clue? Really?

MW: No, not really. I mean, Stalin was the beast of all beasts, but you know, I'm not a student of Russian modern history, nor of the Cold War, on where the broad brush strokes...and I certainly don't hold myself out as expert enough to be able to comment on something like that. All I can tell you about is what I see, and what I experience. And what I know is the reality on the grounds here. Now was a vicious dictatorship removed? Absolutely. On a human rights basis, it has to have been a good thing. However, as the result of which, we've let a horrific genie out of the bottle, where 50 or 60 people are showing up dead every morning from an undeclared civil war that even the American ambassador now acknowledges is killing more people than the insurgency. Now that's something that was not here before, yet is here now. So I mean, it's an entirely different problem set that I really don't think can be competently compared like that. It's not that simple.

This exchange leads us to two possible conclusions: Either Ware is so stupid that he shouldn’t be trusted with the responsibility that comes a typical driver’s license, let alone the responsibilities that come with being a war correspondent.

Either that, or he’s a perfect moral idiot.

7) WITH THE NIMBLENESS OF TED KENNEDY…The Washington Post’s David Ignatius writes that the Democratic Party is a “party ready to pounce.” Ignatius senses that the Dems feel the wind at their back and are ready to make major scores in November. So eager are the Democrats, “They have crafted an upbeat, patriotic (and also somewhat vapid) slogan: ‘America Can Do Better.’ It may be upbeat, it may be patriotic, it’s definitely vapid. And more importantly the Democrats have no platform explaining why or how Democratic leadership will help us “do better.”

8) I LOVE BOOKS LIKE THIS! The New York Times’ business correspondent, Louis Uchitelle has written a book decrying the layoffs that to his mind afflict the American economy. The Times today gives its correspondent’s book a very positive review. I especially love this line: “In this retelling of American history, Mr. Uchitelle is baffled by the collapse of any serious resistance to these mass layoffs. Even the protestors who began to sound off in the 90's generally believed that companies did have to downsize or die.”

I know why Mr. Uchitelle is baffled. Working for the Times, he has yet to realize that ours is not a Socialist nation. With rare exceptions, employees are employed at-will and can come and go as they please; the flip side of that coin is that the company from whom they draw a paycheck can send them packing at will. Being a free economy, our companies and corporations run themselves and aren’t subject to the vicissitudes of populist demagogues or governmental whims.

Then again, perhaps Uchitelle knows that we have a market economy and is just frustrated by its workings in light of the shabby way it’s treating the Times.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 3/28/2006

1) MANDATORY “LEARNING TO EAT SOUP WITH A KNIFE” SHILL – I promise I’ll stop saying something about this book every day really soon. There’s a chance that this might be the last time I bring it up.

Anyway, I come today bearing a fresh insight! Even if counter-insurgencies aren’t your cup of tea for pleasure reading and the histories of warfare in Malaysia and Vietnam leave you dry, there’s still a good reason for you to buy this book; it may well be the most insightful tract on management techniques I’ve ever read. At one point, Nagl offers the philosophy of Sir Gerard Templeton, the brilliant English officer who transformed Britain’s Malaysia effort from a Vietnam-like quagmire into a triumph. Here are Templeton’s guiding principles:

a) Get the priorities right.
b) Get the instructions right.
c) Get the organization right.
d) Get the right people into the organization.
e) Get the right spirit into the people.
f) Leave them to get on with it.

Believe you me, you could read a library full of sports-coach platitudes and “Who Stole My Cheese” parables without coming away with 2% as much business horse-sense contained in Templeton’s counsel. Templeton used this philosophy to squash rebels. You can use it however it suits you best.

The book has dozens of similar insights that would be of great use in any business context.

2) THE BLOGOSPHERE IS ABUZZ! – In his column today, Charles Krauthammer takes down Francis Fukayama so thoroughly that Fukayama’s reputation may well never recover:

It was, as the hero tells it, his Road to Damascus moment. There he is, in a hall of 1,500 people he has long considered to be his allies, hearing the speaker treat the Iraq war, nearing the end of its first year, as "a virtually unqualified success." He gasps as the audience enthusiastically applauds. Aghast to discover himself in a sea of comrades so deluded by ideology as to have lost touch with reality, he decides he can no longer be one of them.

A very nice story. It appears in the preface to Fukuyama's post-neocon coming out, "America at the Crossroads." On Sunday it was repeated on the front page of the New York Times Book Review in Paul Berman's review.

I happen to know something about this story, as I was the speaker whose 2004 Irving Kristol lecture to the American Enterprise Institute Fukuyama has now brought to prominence. I can therefore testify that Fukuyama's claim that I attributed "virtually unqualified success" to the war is a fabrication.

Krauthammer goes on to prove that Fukayama lied about an actual event in order to make a point. For most people, a little creative license wouldn’t be a big career running calamity. But for those of us with pretensions to being thinkers (and no one is more pretentious in this regard than Fukayama), fidelity to the facts is a necessary precursor to the all-important intellectual honesty.

I’ve got to tell you, the past fortnight has been really shitty for Fukayama’s reputation. Does anyone out there still respect him, or are his fans now limited to Bush-hating fever swamp denizens who would rally around the devil himself if he bashed the White House?

3) REALITY MUGS RICHARD COHEN – Richard Cohen is one of the Washington Post’s in-house columnists. He’s a liberal, but an intellectually honest one and a lot more palatable than the shrill Krugman types that we bloggers so often ridicule. Today, Cohen turns his gaze to the Muslim world and can scarcely believe his eyes:

“The murder of a person for his religious belief ought to be inconceivable…I can embrace an Afghan for his children, his work, even his piety -- all he shares with much of humanity. But when he insists that a convert must die, I am stunned into disbelief: Is this my fellow man?”

The fact that Cohen is “stunned into disbelief” suggests that like too many Americans he’s been deluding himself with John Esposito-penned romance novels and hasn’t been spending a lot of time reading Jihad Watch or Little Green Footballs. Although he’s late to the party, let us welcome Cohen: Now that you understand the challenge, Richard, any constructive ideas on how to move forwards besides criticizing the Bush administration about nearly everything?

4) MAKE ME STOP! - Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Dog Trainer takes on the thorny issue of illegal immigration and does the seemingly impossible – he makes a bigger ass of himself than he did when he wrote his idiotically defiant column in which he declared he didn’t support the troops. “I kind of like the Mexicans,” Stein says. “I find it hard to hate people who clean my house and serve delicious, cheap food. If the Germans could learn to dust and make a decent taco, I think we would have stopped making Holocaust movies a while ago.”

As Lileks tried suggesting to Stein months ago, the key to writing a humorist’s column like his is to come across as ENDEARINGLY clueless.

5) WRONG TARGET – The City of North Hills, New York is trying to expand the wretched eminent domain decision of Kelo in a breathtaking fashion. There’s an exclusive golf course in North Hills. The city wants to take it over to make it a revenue generating country club for the city. I guess some clubs or organizations would be intimidated by such governmental overreach and abuse. But this country club has in its membership at least one partner of the New York City law firm Wachtell Lipton which is now representing the club. Wachtell Lipton is arguably the toughest, most skilled and fiercest fighting firm in the country. Here’s my prediction – by the time this is over, we’re more likely to see the country club own the city than the other way around.

6) THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE – Massachusetts’ own Andy Card is resigning his post as the president’s chief of staff. It’s nearly impossible to mention Card without mentioning the fact that he’s the longest serving chief of staff since Sherman Adams. And even though it has nothing to do with anything, it’s nearly impossible to mention Sherman Adams without mentioning a vicuna coat.

The wags are already suggesting that this move will be insufficiently dramatic to revive the Bush administration, mired as it is in its “troubled second term” as the New York Times sympathetically refers to it. But the most recent Rasmussen poll (which has been the most accurate polling service by a mile for a few years now) has Bush’s approval at 45%. That poll suggests that the administration may be less “troubled” than the conventional media narrative would lead one to believe.

For what it’s worth, Daily Kos front-pager and resident shopaholic Georgia10 is unimpressed by the shake-up. “I'm sure the pundits will be abuzz with how this staff shake-up may invigorate the President's second term,” pouts the pouty bloggress, “but no matter how much new blood Bush brings in, there's no saving this failed Presidency now.” If Bush thought Card’s resignation would net him the support of the Daily Kos, he obviously miscalculated badly.

7) SORRY FOR MY TARDINESS – I’m six days late getting to this, but last Tuesday the incomparable Boston Sports Guy did a two hour live chat on As he always does, BSG brought the funny:

James from Boston: Seriously SG, is Candace Parker really front-page news? I mean come on, I used to be able to dunk a tennis ball and I'm 5'9" and fat. Shouldn't all 6'3" athletes, male or female, be able to dunk a women's ball? And if they can't, shouldn't they ALL, male or female, be playing in women's college basketball?

Bill Simmons: (1:10 PM ET ) Laying the ball in and grabbing the rim is NOT a dunk. End of story. If I were a women's basketball fan, I would be embarrassed by all the attention about this over the weekend -- it undermines the whole "our product compares to the men's product" spiel.

8) WE CAN’T HELP OURSELVES – What is it about the Democratic Party that makes it think that Ted Kennedy is a good spokesman for the party and its causes? Do the people running the show there not realize that every time they cause people to associate the party with Ted, they lose a helluva lot more votes than they gain?

This past Sunday, Kennedy was the chosen Democrat to appear on “Face the Nation.” During his appearance, he showed all the intellectual and verbal coherence that we’ve come to expect from the liberal lion, as well as his usual quantity of increasingly asinine partisan bile.

BORGER: ...on another national security matter, there is a Pentagon report that has been out this weekend saying that the Russians provided intelligence to Saddam Hussein during the US invasion. The administration is saying they're looking into it. The Russians are denying it. How important a matter is this?

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, I think it's a matter of enormous importance and consequence. Basically what that report is saying, we were endangering American lives, troops, on this. And if this were to be true, this would, I think, be a matter of enormous significance and importance. We are--now the administration--and I--it's difficult for me to understand why the administration doesn't know today what happened. I can't think of anything that's on the president's desk or on the National Security Council desk more important. And I think we need an entirely new assessment of our relationships with Russia should this be true.

BORGER: How so, if it's true?

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, we have the--because they've endangered American lives on this.

BORGER: So what would you do? What would you do?

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, I, I think you'd have to rethink whether we're going to the G8 conference, clearly. We're, we're not going to have business as usual with this kind of...

Ted’s right - that’ll show them!!!

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Monday, March 27, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 3/27/2006

1) DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT – “The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander” – T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia. (Like this morning’s post, this quote is stolen from John Hagl’s spectacular “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife,” which, by the way is, a T.E. Lawrence quote describing the difficulties in putting down a rebel insurgency.)

2) GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER – During the winter months, Soxblog Manor South is nearly overrun with refugees from the North seeking temporary shelter from the cruelties of a New England winter. This is a uniform pleasure for us, as all our guests have been undemanding (with the notable exception of my friend Brendan, who becomes cranky unless he is supplied with limitless quantities of junk food, Sunkist Orange Soda and Sam Adams beer).

As difficult as Brendan’s demands are to meet, Mrs. Soxblog and I can only thank our lucky stars that John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry have never stopped by for a visit. Thanks to the Smoking Gun, we know what kind of service the Heinz-Kerrys demanded while on the campaign trail. Suffice to say, their list of demands went well beyond a readily available domestic beer and multiple munchies.

Kerry’s list made it clear that if he were to receive pancakes or bacon, the items had to be delivered to him directly to ensure that they didn’t get cold. The list also made it clear that he “hates” celery, perhaps as much as he hated terrorists.

But the oddest wish came from his wife who insisted on bottled water, and not merely any bottled water other than Evian (which was one of her husband’s demands). Teresa required bottled water that was made from a reverse osmosis filter (pictured above, whatever it is).

The rich truly are different. But I have a feeling this pair wouldn’t be any more likable if they were penniless.

3) IF YOU READ ONE JAMES CARROLL column this year, make it today’s! With today’s effort, Carroll perfectly distills the loathing he harbors for America, as well as the tin-foil hat distrust he has for any piece of news that might shatter his comfy notion of America as the locus of global evil. The article is basically a compilation of everything that has pissed Carroll off over the past 50 years. The list is as extensive as it is incoherent:

In reviewing an arms race that led, across 40 years, to the accumulation of more than 100,000 nuclear weapons, when will the United States reckon with the truth that Washington held the initiative at almost every stage of that escalation, with Moscow forever struggling to catch up?...

What does it say that, as pressures periodically built to rein in Pentagon budgets and influence, new threats and enemies were conveniently discovered, ''rescuing" the Pentagon, as Dean Acheson said of the North Korean invasion of South Korea? Ho Chi Minh, Manuel Noriega, and Saddam Hussein were such rescuers, and so was Osama bin Laden. Now comes Iran.

Right – bin Laden was no threat. Pay no attention to that big hole in the middle of downtown Manhattan. And Iran? They’re just peace-loving folks who want some nuclear power. Only Pentagon-inspired paranoia would cause you to view things any other way.

All of which reminds me: It’s been three days since I’ve received an email saying that someone’s gotten their 75% discount from the Globe. I hope this means everyone already got their do-re-mi. If not, what are you waiting for?

4) THE YOUNG GEORGE F. WILL – Okay he’s my editor and my friend, but I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true. Jonathan Last’s weekly op-ed columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer should be an object lesson to the fat and lazy majority who populate the op-ed pages of America’s leading dailies. Like George Will does, JVL actually does some reporting and brings to light stories that you probably weren’t aware of. Most columnists just spout off or string together some failed attempts at wit (see Dowd, Maureen). Yesterday Jonathan pointed out that the Notorious B.I.G.’s greatest album will be pulled from record store shelves across the country thanks to judicial activism. Additionally, there’s this priceless line: “Even if you're not a devotee of the Notorious B.I.G. - and believe me, it's your loss if you aren't …”

There’s a line you’ll never see from the pen of George F. Will.

5) HANG ‘EM HIGH – Zacharias Moussaoui took the witness stand today to try to ensure that America will give him the death penalty. He testified that not only did he know of the 9/11 plot well in advance, he also explained that he and Richard Reid were supposed to hijack a fifth plane that day and crash it into the White House. Although I oppose the death penalty, I think we should grant Moussaoui’s wish.

A word of explanation seems in order. I oppose the death penalty as part of the criminal-justice system. I don’t oppose it as part of a war effort; indeed, dealing out death would seem rather integral to a war effort worthy of the name. Moussaoui is at war against us. We best be at war against him and his ilk. Like I said, hang him high.

6) TAKE THE WAYBACK MACHINE to last Thursday. Here’s a little snippet from a New York Times editorial that I quoted: “Just this week, Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall provided a bloodcurdling account in the Times of how a Special Operations unit converted an Iraqi military base into a torture chamber, even using prisoners as paintball targets.” As you might recall, I ridiculed the use of the word “bloodcurdling.” It struck me as a tad overwrought. Indeed, it was so obviously overwrought, it was clearly just another tiresome piece of the Times’ never-ending stream of anti-Bush agitprop since even the Timesmen’s blue-blood would doubtlessly remain uncurdled upon hearing of paintball “torture.”

Now here’s a snippet from a story that appeared on the front page of Saturday’s New York Times describing Iraqi atrocities: “There were the four Duleimi brothers, Khalid, Tarek, Taleb and Salaam, seized from their home in front of their wives. And Achmed Abdulsalam, last seen at a checkpoint in his freshly painted BMW and found dead under a bridge two days later. And Mushtak al-Nidawi, a law student nicknamed Titanic for his Leonardo DiCaprio good looks, whose body was returned to his family with his skull chopped in half.”

No word on whether or not these details have curdled the Times’ editors’ blood. I’ll keep you posted.

7) BIG TALIBAN ON CAMPUS, PART 1,872 – John Fund keeps up his excellent reporting of Yale’s moral obtuseness. He even managed to do what I thought was impossible – he found a fresh angle to the story. Fund interviews a 27 year old female refugee of the Taliban’s barbarism who would love to go to Yale and seems a lot more qualified for the “honor” than the former Taliban spokesman currently in residence in New Haven munching on Kosher food (near Joos!) when hunger strikes. More must reading from the invaluable Fund.

8) I LAUGHED OUT LOUD…Maybe you will, too. In his continuing effort to completely jump the shark, Francis Fukayama wrote an op-ed piece for today’s Wall Street Journal that was just spectacularly ignorant in all regards. I couldn’t help but think while reading it how this purported intellect giant doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know a whit about what kind of war techniques work against insurgencies, and he certainly doesn’t know a thing about Jihadism.

Here’s the line that made me laugh out loud: “The United States and its Western allies should be helping genuine, traditional and pious Muslims to reassert their dominance over a beautiful and capacious religious civilization in the face of a well-financed assault by extremist thugs.” That one sentence shows such spectacular ignorance, it’s amazing it sprang from Fukayama’s keyboard. Dismissing Jihadism as an apparent fringe movement of extremist thugs that has achieved prominence thanks only to some solid financing is obtuse in the extreme.

Goodness, what the hell happened to Fukayama? Did John Esposito and Karen Armstrong kidnap him and then brainwash him?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at


(I spent a good chunk of yesterday reading Colonel John Nagl’s “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife,” a book we spent a little time talking about last week. Nagl was a West Point grad who after a decade in the Army went to Oxford to earn a PhD. “Learning to Eat Soup” was his thesis. I just wanted to mention Nagl and his book up top, because what follows is inspired directly and lifted partly from his book and I don’t want to get Domenech-ed by the Kossacks. There are about a thousand invaluable insights packed within the pages of “Learning to Eat Soup.” It’s written like a PhD thesis which is to say it doesn’t exactly sparkle with Gladwell-esque prose, but it’s the single most original and provocative book I’ve read since Tom Barnett’s “The Pentagon’s New Map,” which clearly influences Hagl’s “new for paperback” preface which reflects on the year he spent in combat in Iraq.)

In many ways, World War II was the perfect American war. Since the Revolution, an American doctrine of war had developed. Ideally we would determine an enemy and then set about annihilating him. That doctrine is why the Civil War was so completely in our wheel-house. Same thing for World War I. In both conflicts, we had an enemy on whom we unleashed the complete package of American power and ferocity with the goal of beating them into total submission.

But World War II was really perfect. The enemy was entirely loathsome. As Indiana Jones famously quipped, “Nazis – I hate those guys.”

As if that weren’t enough, the Nazis were in league with fellow-fascists who had launched a sneak attack on us while we were engaged in high level diplomacy with them. The enemies’ evil nature resulted in nearly 100% American public support for WWII. Within days of Pearl Harbor, the America First movement disbanded. America First was composed of the Buchananites of the day, who in spite of their hostile and mean-spirited rhetoric were nothing so much as childlike in their naïve belief that America could wish the world away. America First wanted to disengage from the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan; Pearl Harbor proved even to them that even two oceans of separation made such a disengagement impossible.

For many of the reasons listed above including of course our ultimate triumph, WWII has gone down as “The Good War.” Never before had America confronted enemies so detestable and so threatening that we enjoyed public unanimity on the need to destroy them. After all, even the Civil War had its Copperheads and the Revolution its Loyalists.

From a tactical perspective as well, WWII was also perfect. America prefers to enter its wars whole-hog and slaughter the enemy. Both the Germans and the Japanese were eager to line up for total engagement where America’s economic might combined with the war’s domestic popularity made the enemies’ destruction inevitable.

IF ONLY WE COULD HAVE SUCH A WAR TODAY. Alas, given the decidedly heterogeneous nature of our society, virtual unanimity on anything let alone something as important as war is almost unimaginable. Picture this – within days of 9/11 we had idiot talk-show hosts insisting that any memorial at Ground Zero include a “Why They Hate Us” pavilion. A lot of people still think that’s a swell idea, even if they’re now normally smart enough to not say so out loud.

But even more problematic is the nature of our enemy. Someone as vain and foolish as Saddam Hussein comes along rarely. America will probably never again be so blessed as to face a foe who willingly lines up to be slaughtered by America’s vastly superior might as Saddam did in 1991.

That means America will have to fight this war, the one against radical Islam, in a manner different from the one we know and love. It would be swell if the Salafists who run the show in Saudi Arabia would say out loud that they’re dedicated to our destruction. Actually, they often do but we don’t listen. But it would certainly make things easier if our enemies declared war on us AND came out in the open to fight that war. But that won’t happen. This enemy won’t do that.

So here’s where we stand – we have to fight a war that goes against our historical preferences for what wars should look like, and we’ll have to do so with less than complete public support. Given the reaction to 9/11 and the eagerness to pronounce Afghanistan a quagmire after 20 minutes after operations there began, I don’t see public sentiment ever being unanimous. And we know the insurgents will use terrorism as their chosen method. There will be no Jihadi Pickett’s Charge.

But that’s it. It’s where we stand and the task we face. For those of us who get it, there’s no sense is complaining or whining. To paraphrase a great man, you go to war with the war you have, not the one you want to.

(Spanning the Web will appear this afternoon or early in the evening. Sorry for taking the weekend off. Needed to recharge the batteries a bit.)

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Friday, March 24, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 3/24/2006

User beware: I intend to use obscenity on this post, and maybe a lot of it. Perhaps it’s just for the change of pace. Maybe I’ve watched too much “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and gotten addicted to casual obscenity. Whatever the reason, what follows will be rated PG-13. If you are easily offended, check back in tomorrow.

1) WHO CARES? I didn’t give a shit when the Washington Post hired Ben Domenech, a conservative blogger. I didn’t give a shit when he turned out to be a plagiarizer. I still don’t give a shit now that the Post has decided to “resign” its conservative blogger. The only thing I give a shit about is that the guy plagiarized second rate P.J. O’Rourke crap. (Some of P.J,’s stuff is terrific, but the stuff this Domenech guy ripped off was dreadful) If you’re going to plagiarize someone, why not swipe from Andrew Ferguson or Charles Krauthammer? Plagiarism is against the law. Bad taste should be, also.

2) THAT’S BECAUSE WRITERS NEVER RAPE OR MURDER: Said the Post’s Jim Brady in announcing the departure of Domenech, “Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of.” I’m thrilled that in its brief foray into the blogosphere, the Post opted to take out for a spin the sloppy prose that we bloggers get away with!

3) REVERSE THE CURSE - The Baseball Crank’s been crunching numbers on how the American League East shapes up. Here’s all you need to know. The Red Sox have remade themselves in brilliant fashion. They will kick ass, win over 105 games, and finally win the American League East. Once in the post-season, they'll have the kind of team that goes far – namely the kind that is stacked with great front-line pitching and super power-hitters. Finally, the Curse will be broken. Do you know we haven’t won the World Series in Boston since 2004?

One more thing: There’s this rumor that Johnny Damon is having trouble with his “throwing” arm. The word “throwing” should never be used in relation to Johnny Damon’s arm. I love Johnny, and he was great for the Sox, but by the time this contract is up, he’ll probably be rolling the ball towards the infield.

4) WHAT A SELF-PROMOTING GASBAG! - There’s a fantastic article in the Weekly Standard today about the continuing Mosque saga in Boston. Full disclosure – I wrote it. There’s actually a really important sub-story in there (if I do say so myself). On the one hand you have guys like Georgetown’s John Esposito who give legitimacy to completely illegitimate people like Yussuf Al-Qaradawi. What motivates a guy like Esposito, I couldn’t begin to say. But since Esposito has PhD’s up the yin-yang and smiles on “the other,” he’s treated with a fawning respect by the ever-tolerant media even though he’s wrong about virtually everything in just about every way imaginable.

On the other hand, you have competing academics like Daniel Pipes and Walid Phares who tell it like it is and who are reliably deemed haters for their trouble. But that’s not all. They also get all manners of harassment and the disheartening murder of Theo van Gogh to haunt their dreams. Esposito’s kind of thinking has been dominant for decades now. That HAS to change.

5) FAREWELL ADAM – It probably says way too much about my juvenile make-up that the single happiest moment in this middle aged man’s life was when Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI. (That’s just a moment – the happiest DAY in my life was, I have to say, of course my Wedding Day.) Now Vinatieri’s leaving the Patriots and it sounds like people in my hometown are apoplectic.

Get a grip, people. The reason the Patriots are so successful is because they pay players for what they’re going to do, not for what they’ve done. Adam is 34 and leg-strength has never been his strong-suit. He’s also beginning to get a little creaky, injury-wise. It’s truly sad to see Vinatieri leave, but it would be even sadder to see him stay on as an overpaid and aging millstone.

People in Boston who witnessed the tragic heroes’ decline of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale should know this better than anyone else.

6) COLUMNISTS MURDERER’S ROW – Leading off, Dan Henninger. As I often note, Henninger is the best columnist in America, non-Krauthammer division. Take it away, Mr. H: “When in our time people think of collapsed presidencies they often have in mind Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. For different reasons, both men broke. What Bill Clinton proved above all else is that no matter what the press, law and politics throw at you, the protective powers of the presidency are almost limitless--if you don't break. Mr. Bush's opponents, such as Democrats waving censure motions or blood-soaked front pages, had better get a grip: He isn't going to break.”

I often think that Bush is sort of an Andrew Jackson of our time, minus all the fun stuff like dueling and gunfights. If it’s a battle of wills, he’ll win.

7) COLUMNISTS MURDERER’S ROW – Batting second, Charles Krauthammer, the best columnist in America period. Observes Dr. K:

The principal issue, and measure of our success, is the shaping of disciplined and effective security forces. And that is why the political negotiations that have been dragging on are so critical. It is the political track that must secure leadership for both the defense and interior ministries that is nonsectarian and committed to a unitary force whose members do not answer to private warlords.

Civil wars are not eternal. This war will end not with an Appomattox instrument of surrender. It will end when a critical mass of Sunnis stops supporting the insurgency and throws its lot in with the new Iraq.

8) BATTING THIRD, VICTOR DAVIS HANSON – Remember a couple of days ago when in praising VDH’s “Carnage and Culture” I said that reading his books gives you insight into how he so effortlessly dissects current events? Today’s column is a perfect example of what I was talking about:

Past history suggests that military efficacy is not so much always a question of the number of troops — but rather of how they are used. Especially large American deployments can foster dependency rather than autonomy on the part of the Iraqi security forces. Each month, fewer Americans are dying in Iraq, while more Iraqis are fighting the terrorists — as it becomes clear to them that some enormous occupation force is not on its own going to save the Iraqis’ democracy for them…

Legitimate questions arise as to whether America’ army is too small, or whether requisite political support for military operations is too predicated on the 24-hour news cycle. But all those are issues transcending the war in Iraq. In retrospect, up-armoring humvees would have been wise from the very outset — so would having something remotely comparable to a Panzerfaust in 1943, more live than dud torpedoes in 1942, or deploying a jet at the beginning of the Korean War that could compete with a Russian Mig 15.

In a day packed with quality stuff, VDH takes the “read the whole thing” prize. Today’s column is the great man at the absolute top of his game. If you haven’t already, check it out.

9) YOU KNOW, I SOMETIMES JUST LOVE THE CORNER – Today provides an example why. In a running conversation, several of the writers talk about things that they once thought were funny but that they now realize aren’t. Warren Bell puts it best, saying, “I think I've written here before about the disaster that is viewing Blazing Saddles at age 42, after having wallowed in its glory at age 13.”

You know what I would put into that class? “Cheers.” How I used to love that show. But now I see reruns on TV Land and the acting seems hammy, the writing not always sharp. God, I used to think that show was brilliant. Perhaps because Seinfeld, Frasier, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Everyone Loves Raymond raised the bar, Cheers doesn’t look so hot. But whatever the cause, it looks like a creaking relic of the 80’s as surely as your dorky cousin’s Member’s Only jacket does.

10) REPORTS FOX NEWS: “CALCUTTA, India — One of the world's oldest creatures, a giant tortoise believed to have been about 250 years old, has died in the Calcutta zoo where it spent more than half its long life.”

It all goes by so fast.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Thursday, March 23, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 3/23/2006

1) I WOULD LIKE A FOOTNOTE – Helen Thomas’ latest column begins this way: “Standing on a rooftop, an American soldier recently fired a shot at an Iraqi man walking down the street. As the dying Iraqi grabbed at his wound, he cried out: ‘What did I do?’ That's for every American to answer.”

Perhaps Ms. Thomas would be good enough as to provide some details of why this American soldier allegedly shot this apparently innocent Iraqi. Perhaps she would even tell us where she heard the story. We know she didn’t witness it herself, since she’s rooted in the White House briefing room and does all the on-the-scene reporting of a potted plant.

This sounds a lot like the kind of calumny that Vietnam soldiers had to deal with. It’s shameful that she would write it without sourcing it, and it’s doubly shameful that anyone would publish it.

2) THEY LIKE HIM, THEY REALLY LIKE HIM! -The American Prospect, the nation’s leading left-wing journal of opinion, runs a fawning cover story on this week’s flavor of the month, Al Gore. I’ve got to tell you, this one’s got me stumped. There are people out there positively panting for Al Gore to run in 2008. I can’t begin to understand that.

Even though I really didn’t like him, I can understand people falling in love with Bill Clinton. And even though I can’t stand Jimmy Carter, I understand him having his fans also. But Al Gore? The guy has changed styles so often, the only constants to hang on to are his haughtiness and his ludicrous pretensions that he’s some kind of deep and original thinker.

As proof of the latter, much of the article details how Gore’s new political strategy hinges on disintermediation. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’ll have to follow the link to familiarize yourself with it (assuming the not knowing is just killing you).

3) ADD TO MY SHOPPING LIST one George F. Will voodoo doll. Here’s a quote from today’s column on school vouchers:

All of Archbishop Curley's 43 Opportunity Scholarship children who are not graduating in June are going to stay in the school. The voucher is worth about $1,800 less than the school's $6,400 tuition, and about $3,400 less than the $8,000 cost of educating a pupil. But Brother Patrick Sean Moffett, the head of the school, says, "We're going to keep them all, somehow."

It is stirring to see the quiet tenacity of people whose lives are disrupted by other people's political struggles. When Octavia and her mother -- and David Hill, 14, a ninth-grader, and his parents, and several other parents and relatives of students -- recently gathered around a table at the school to discuss the end of the OSP, there was no rancor. The children and parents at the table were black. None were Republicans. The NAACP, as usual, is in lock step with the Democratic Party, which is in lock step with the teachers unions. But the people at that table spoke only words of gratitude for the school -- its small classes and respectfulness. All displayed the dignified patience that ordinary people often display when they are buffeted by the opaque storms of politics.

Put the politics aside (although today I happen to agree with Will). That is some seriously good writing. Frighteningly good. Insanely good. For the love of God, read the whole thing and savor every word.

4) THIS IS SO DISTURBING ON SO MANY DIFFERENT levels I hardly know where to start. Those of you with sensitive stomachs might want to skip down to Item 5. The Daily Kos has a new diarist. His name is Jimmy Carter and he was the 39th president of the United States before becoming better known as the worst ex-president ever. The subject of his diary is a man named Jack Carter who is seeking elective office in Nevada. Jimmy Carter tells the Kossacks that the republic needs Jack Carter in Congress. Jack Carter is Jimmy Carter’s son.

I think we can all agree that the sins of the father should not be visited upon the son. But surely we can make a common sense exception to that rule every now and then when extraordinary circumstances warrant.

5) BIG TALIBAN ON CAMPUS, PART 812 – John Fund writes yet another story on Yale’s most controversial exchange student. Does it make me some sort of conservative apostate if I observe that this story seems to have been well covered and that it’s perhaps time to move on? Yale disgraced itself. Got it. Yale further disgraces itself each day by not getting right on this issue. Got that, too. But it seems like we’ve kind of run out of angles on this one. (I’ve got a potentially fresh angle in that I think I know the guy who gave the money to fund the Kosher dining room where the Taliban takes his meals. Really. I could call him up and get his perspective. But then again, who cares? If you don’t grasp the moral depravity of what Yale’s done here yet, I doubt anything Mr. Slifka says will change your mind.)

6) THE WORD IS LUFAH – The New Yorker runs a lengthy profile of Bill O’Reilly this week that’s well worth a glance. Here’s my opinion on O’Reilly. His show exists for him to express his opinions. The “guests,” be they friend or foe, are merely foils who better enable him to get his opinion across. There are two things that account for his popularity, and it amazes me that most of his critics can’t grasp them: 1) He’s entertaining, or at least he’s entertaining to a lot of people. Oddly enough, being entertaining is the lingua franca in the entertainment world. You gotta admit, he’s seldom dull; and 2) A lot of people agree with him on most issues. He comes at everything from a “horse-sense” point of view. So don’t most people. Hence, his enormous fan base.

7) HAVE WE BEEN TOO TOUGH ON THE GLOBE? Its earnings are way down. Circulation is down by more than 8%. And this all happened before they got sloppy with 180,000 customers’ credit card information. An additional 4,000 people canceled their subscriptions after that happened.

But the Globe still has 413,300 daily buyers. Why would so many people buy something that’s given away for free on the internet? Is it possible that all these people don’t have computers?

8) PURE GOLD FROM PEGGY – Yes, Peggy Noonan is in fine form today. Her article recounts the miscalculations that led to the excessively bloody partitioning of India. I don’t really agree with her conclusion that governments are necessarily composed of elites who don’t understand their people. No one questions that Ronald Reagan understood his people. So did Bill Clinton for that matter. Still, the column is a terrific read.

(She must not have done any flying lately.)

9) DAWN OVER MARBLEHEAD – I’m beginning to get the sense that the New York Times’ editorial board really doesn’t care for the Bush administration. Dismayed over the lack of outrage that their new prisoner “abuse” scandal exposé generated, the editorial board takes another whack at it today. “Just this week,” the Grey Lady scolds, “Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall provided a bloodcurdling account in the Times of how a Special Operations unit converted an Iraqi military base into a torture chamber, even using prisoners as paintball targets.” Look, using prisoners as paintball targets is certainly sophomoric, mean and unnecessary, but I’m not sure the adjective “bloodcurdling” is warranted.

Anyway, the editorial is titled “The Joy of Being Blameless,” referring to how Bush and Rumsfeld appear to be going unblamed for these bloodcurdling events. But I’m not sure the editorial board read the entire bloodcurdling story very carefully. If they did, they would know that one of the story’s themes was how Rumsfeld and the civilian command were trying to control the overly rambunctious military-men.

10) DERSH WATCH – The J.D. Salinger of the law, the normally reclusive Alan Dershowitz, made a rare public appearance in which he challenged that ridiculous Kennedy School document which proclaimed that America is controlled by the Joos. David Duke loved the K-School work. I bet some people down in New Haven did also, as some Harvard people are obviously intent on proving that they can be every bit as obtuse and insensitive as their Ivy league junior colleague.

Currently training his own potent Joo-beams on the article, Dershowitz is working on a paper of his own that will refute the Klan-approved study. The normally publicity shy law professor has also challenged the paper’s authors to a public debate.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I wanted to write a Spanning the Web last night and I again wanted to write one today. I just couldn’t.

Here’s the deal. Just for the moment, I’m a little tired of fighting the tide of disappointing, annoying and just plain stupid articles and columns. Lord knows, if I had been able to rise to the occasion, I would have had a lot to talk about. Helen Thomas alone could have filled up three or four bullet points. Add that to the left’s outrage over the Washington Post hiring a right wing blogger, and my plate would have been full.

Unfortunately, I spent a lot of energy putting together a piece for the Standard yesterday and I just lack the will to wrestle with ideological adversaries this afternoon. I’m sure my fighting spirit will renew itself between today and tomorrow, but I figured as a refreshing change of pace, today I’ll post a list of ten things that I really like. If you wish for your personal interests to mirror mine, I’ve provided helpful links to buy most of the things that appear below.

I also have a perverse hope that this could start a blogosphere wide virus where for one just post every bloggers beats his modem into ploughshares and accentuates the positive. Come on, HH – help spread the word.

Without further adieu and in no particular order, ten things I really like:

1) AMERICAN IDOL – I’m a little embarrassed about this one. Believe it or not, I never watched the show until this year. I wouldn’t recognize Kelly Clarkson if I bumped into her at the neighborhood Publix.

So it was a little surprising for me when I began watching the show this year and got hooked. I was even more surprised when I discovered that I love virtually everything about it. I love the way Ryan Seacrest effortlessly presides over the hootenanny; I love the way Seacrest and Cowell clearly don’t care for each other. I even don’t mind Paula Abdul.

But the best part is spending a few weeks determining who has “it.” That’s long been an obsession of mine. Tim McGraw is a superstar not because he possesses any outsize talent, but because he has “it.”

For what it’s worth and for you fans of the show, Chris (the bald guy) has “it” and so does Mandissa. (How did they let Mandissa get away with calling herself just by one name like she’s Cher or Madonna? Isn’t that a clear advantage over the others?) If the winner isn’t Chris or Mandissa, I’ll be crestfallen over my apparent inability to spot “it.”

2) “24” – Hugh Hewitt had the best commentary of why this show is so compelling. The central character, Jack Bauer, always makes morally proper decisions. That gives the action/adventure show a heart and soul that most examples of the genre lack.

3) “HEAT” – If anything, the 1995 crime-caper classic starring Robert Deniro and Al Pacino has gained stature since its release. I remember the day after seeing it pronouncing it the best cops-and-robbers movie ever, truly in a class by itself. My business partner said I was just speaking in the heat of the moment (as it were), having just seen it and that when I calmed down, I would have a better perspective on things. Over ten years later, the world has come around to my point of view – “Heat,” in spite of the tepid reception that critics offered it upon its release, is now universally hailed as a great film. Give it another ten years – then it will be universally hailed as a classic.

4) “THE OFFICE” – Not the American version, which I haven’t seen but which I hear is terrific. I’m referring to the original BBC version created by and starring Ricky Gervais, the same guy behind (and in) the equally brilliant “Extras” on HBO. In addition to being perhaps the funniest show ever, “The Office” still manages to capture the oppressive melancholy that comes along with a go-nowhere career and a dispirited work force. The show will make you laugh out loud, but more importantly, it has soul.

5) “CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM” – Here’s something personal about me that you didn’t know. Just about every night at 11:00 p.m., I watch an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” before I go to sleep. Even though I’ve seen every episode multiple times, it always makes me laugh out loud. Here’s something else you didn’t know about me and that might frighten you – about 90% of the time, I think Larry David is completely in the right.

6) ANYTHING BY JOHN HIATT – There was a time back in the late 1980’s when everyone thought roots rocker John Hiatt was going to be a superstar. Having finally beaten the booze and drugs that had plagued him most of his adult life, Hiatt produced a couple of amazing albums that featured his remarkable singing and song-writing talents. But he missed his moment. The Spingsteen-Mellencamp era was already in eclipse by the time Hiatt got his act together, and besides Hiatt had a face more suited for radio than the MTV era. But for almost the past 20 years, Hiatt has produced one spectacular album after another just about once every 20 months or so. I have them all, and love them all. (He’s also a great live performer.)

7) BANDON DUNES – My favorite place on earth. This resort on the remote Oregon coast isn’t easy to get to, especially if you live on the east coast. You fly to Eugene and then drive for three hours. But it’s worth the trip. Bandon has three of the world’s greatest golf courses located right on the rocky Pacific coastline. There’s no place like it in the world; no other spot offers such a wealth of amazing golf all within a half mile of your hotel room. It’s also sorta reasonably priced; a trip there costs about half of what a comparable trip to Pebble Beach would and, I’m told, is infinitely more satisfying for the true golf enthusiast.

(By the way, I’m desperate to play the Sand Hills golf course in Nebraska. If any readers have any bright ideas on how to pull that one off, I’ll be forever in your debt.)

8) “A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE” by Paul Johnson. If you’ve never read anything by Johnson, you should. Johnson is best known for writing incredibly thick survey volumes like the one listed above; if you drop it on your foot, you’re in for a trip to the emergency room. But his books are also amazingly well written, packed with information filtered through Johnson’s sometimes contrarian sensibilities. Perhaps the best thing about this book is the way it deconstructs myths that hardened into history. For instance, Warren Harding wasn’t the total bust as president that we’ve all been led to believe he was. And Johnson has the footnotes to prove it.

9) “CARNAGE AND CULTURE” by Victor Davis Hanson. I’d wager that most people who read this site also read VDH’s weekly columns on National Review On-Line. Reading his books, you get to see how he honed the intellect that allows him to so effortlessly deconstruct the events of the day. I think “C&C” is his masterwork, pretty much the distillation of everything that he learned in over two decades as a scholar. Be forewarned – C&C is not an easy read. It mostly deals with events that were long ago and foreign in every sense of the term. But it’s well worth the effort. In addition to being entertained, you’ll learn much about both the past and the present.

10) THE BOSTON REDSOX - Being a Red Sox fan has been great for a while now. Even when the team was breaking our hearts, it was never dull. How much worse it must be to be cursed with an affection for the Cleveland Indians! Having broken the Curse, rooting for the Red Sox is now an undiluted pleasure. No longer do we fear the manager’s brain cramping up at the worst possible time, or a lumpy reliever throwing a wild pitch to cost us the World Series. We can now enjoy being fans and go to the park without fearing the worst imaginable thing happening every moment.

One final word – if you’ve never been to Fenway Park, you’re missing something special. I should warn you that your experience will be enhanced if you’re a relatively compact person. The park was built to accommodate the average sized man of 1912.

We’ll be back tomorrow with our regularly scheduled programming. In the meantime, if enough readers send me emails of a few things they really like, I’ll post them.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


WE KNOW WHY THE LEFT wants to call what’s going on in Iraq a civil war. The impulse to call it a civil war comes from the same place the that the need to trumpet every car bomb that exploded in Iraq came from. The people calling it a civil war do so for the same reason that they rallied around an overtly anti-Semitic lunatic like Cindy Sheehan.

The left wants to embarrass the Bush administration. It wants to humiliate and marginalize it. So declaring that Iraq is embroiled in a civil war three years after Operation Iraqi Freedom certainly conveys a lack of progress. Calling it a civil war means the administration’s efforts to date have failed. It suggests that the administration is incompetent – a total bust.

I don’t buy the “civil war” description, at least so far as the term is understood in the American vernacular. But to hell with that. Let’s call it a civil war.

On one side, we have the American troops and the Iraqi government. My question for the left is this: Who’s on the other side?

IF IRAQ IS INDEED IN A CIVIL WAR, then the people we’re fighting are people that we have to fight. They’re Jihadists bent on expanding their philosophy. Or they’re unrepentant Saddamites who can’t be trusted to behave responsibly with a government at their disposal. Or they’re just nihilistic terrorists fighting war under the banner of radical Islam and Sharia’a.

The insurgency doesn’t have an agenda in the sense that no one fighting for the insurgency will ‘fess up to its true purposes. Normally in a civil war you’d have an insurgency that would be promising things like a workers’ paradise. This civil war has no such thing.

The insurgents can’t claim their agenda because if they did, their agenda would make America’s next move obvious. Our next move would be so obvious, even people as hidebound as Ted Kennedy would get it.

The insurgents’ agenda is the same as Osama bin Laden’s. They want to continue the spread of Sharia’a and enrich the cause of radical Islam. But if they ever publicly said so, even individuals as intellectually nimble as Jack Murtha would have trouble making the case for why we should leave these people alone and not fight them. After all, the biggest problem in the war on terror is locating the enemy so he can then be killed. In Iraq anyway, this problem has been solved.

The neo-cons’ widely belittled dream that gave birth to the Iraq war was that the Middle East had to be integrated into the rest of the civilized world. This would necessarily involve the defeat of radical Islam. Iraq was considered and has turned out to be as good a place as any to start.

It’s important to note that this venture wasn’t spawned by Republican warmongers or, worse still, Wilsonian dreamers. Folding the Middle East into the family of civilized nations (or the Core as Tom Barnett refers to it) has to be done for reasons of self preservation. The clock is ticking – left unchecked some bad actor in that region will develop the ability to hurt us in a way that makes 9/11 look like a walk in the park. We can either change things there before that happens or afterwards.

SO BY ALL MEANS, let’s call it a civil war. Let’s defer to our friends on the left on this. And then let’s ask who exactly it is that’s fighting against us and the established government in Iraq. After all, war, especially a civil war, needs two recognizable sides.

Now that America’s liberals have eagerly pounced on the civil war description, let them tell us who the opponent is. And then let them explain why it makes sense not to fight.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Monday, March 20, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 3/20/2006

1) DUST-UP IN THE BLOGOSPHRE – As I’ve observed here in the past, ‘tis the season for big-name bloggers to publish books. I reviewed Markos Moulitsas’ book on Friday, and Glenn Reynolds’ “An Army of Davids” has been a ubiquitous blogospheric presence for the past few weeks.

Alongside my review of the Kos Manifesto, the Standard ran a review of Glenn’s book that wasn’t exactly flattering. Glenn’s a fan of the blogosphere; so are most prominent bloggers. The Standard’s reviewer, Andrew Keen (who also wrote the phenomenal “Web 2.0” story for the site), found Glenn’s enthusiasm for the web misplaced. To briefly summarize Keen’s argument, the web/blogosphere and other technological advances are just tools. How they’re wielded will determine whether or not they’re ultimately good for society. And how they’re wielded will have everything to do with man’s intrinsic nature. "An Army of Davids" failed in that it didn't address this fundamental issue.

I’d add that blogosphere triumphalists everywhere should at some point deal with the issue of whether or not the blogosphere to date has been a blessing or a curse. I’ve enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) my time here, but let’s consider the record: On the one hand, the blogosphere has given an outlet and an audience to smart guys like Eugene Volokh, Glenn Reynolds, and Scott Johnson. On the other hand, the blogosphere has essentially rendered one of America’s two political parties incapable of playing a constructive role during a time of war.

One could argue that blogging technology has to date been a net minus. One could EASILY argue that its transformative power is as likely to be destructive as constructive.

Jim Geraghty of NRO’s TKS seemingly disagrees. He loves the theory behind “An Army of Davids” and seems to share Glenn’s optimism. He takes issue with Keen for wanting Reynolds to write a different book than the one he did, saying that if Glenn didn’t want to talk about the nature of man, that was his business.

True enough. But I doubt Reynolds set out to write a book whose message was anything so banal as, “Technology and the web change everything!” Indeed, from every review I’ve read, an “Army of Davids” thesis is that various technologies are empowering the little guy, and that this is good.

I haven’t read Glenn’s book. It may be the finest use of the English language since “Hamlet” as Geraghty’s Instalanche-producing review implies, or it may duck the big issues as Keen’s review suggests. After all, the next really popular David with a huge slingshot might be a repulsive sort, the kind who could popularize a “Mein Kampf” like philosophy or a dedication to Sharia’a.

Nonetheless, Keen’s review, just like his Web 2.0 column, raises some very important issues. Dismissing them out of hand, as Jim does, seems rather odd.

2) SPEAKING OF THE KOS BOOK – I gave it a good review. Kos himself said I gave it a good review. But someone at “The Unofficial John Kerry Blog” thinks I gave it a bad review. Obviously disoriented by my negative commentary regarding the progressive movement, the writer thought that just because I said mean things about the Democratic Party I was giving the book a bad review.

I could pick on the writer. After all, this is sloppy reading of the first magnitude. Hell, I’ll say it again - even the book’s author thought it was a positive review.

But picking on a person who writes the “The Unofficial John Kerry Blog” seems like it would be gratuitously cruel. Is not an endeavor such as preparing the “The Unofficial John Kerry Blog” a cry for help?

These people are obsessed with all things Kerry. Being obsessed with Britney Spears or Clay Aitken is one thing, but this? Such passionate for support for John Kerry is positively creepy.

3) HOW LOW CAN THEY GO? - The left has a new program that it’s positively giddy about. (Moulitsas praises it today.) In order to express its concern for the environment, there’s an entire movement that dictates that good citizens should offer their middle finger to Hummers. Is it just me, or does this seem rather coarse?

If you click over to the website, you’ll see that most of the people who photograph themselves in the act of flipping off a Hummer are doing

Lionhearted lefty in action

so while the vehicle in question is unoccupied. Chickens. What the hell kind of statement is that, giving the bird to an inanimate object? Methinks they lack the courage of their convictions. Let them begin making obscene gestures to occupied inner city Escalades – then they’ll have my respect.

4) BIG TALIBAN ON CAMPUS, PART 47 – John Fund continues to do Yeoman’s work as he explores the moral depravity at Yale. This week’s entry concerns Yale’s past efforts decades earlier to drive former Nazis from the campus and asks what the difference is today. Obviously the difference is that moral relevancy and an insatiable thirst for diversity hadn’t achieved the primacy that they now enjoy back when the Nazis were hounded out of their Ivy-clad confines.

You have to hand it to Yale. At a time when everyone paying attention to higher education (all 16 of us) would be scorning Harvard for the denouement of its Stalinist prosecution of Larry Summers, all eyes instead are focused on the seamy city of New Haven.

5) WELCOME BACK - The Galley Slaves are back, and sexier than ever. Sporting a sleek new look, Jonathan Last and the other Standard writers are back with more piquant observations and a crazy new motto (this time in English so we can all understand it!). The blogosphere is now a cheerier place.

6) I’VE CHANGED MY MIND! Don’t anyone tell Mrs. Soxblog – she thinks such a happenstance is an impossibility. Specifically, I’ve changed my mind regarding the Dubai Ports World deal.

My new friend, Walid Phares, the man who probably knows more about Islamic Fundamentalism than anyone else alive, walked me through the details this weekend. The UAE has a prominent Salafist movement. Unlike Jordan which has its Salafist movement blanketed and contained by a vigorous and loyal intelligence force, the UAE as of this writing has no such luck.

That means that Salafists could and would inevitably infiltrate some aspect of DPW’s management of the ports. In turn, an American sleeper could probably use that infiltration to gain a job at one of our ports that offered inappropriate clearance and access.

So what’s new about Phares’ analysis that I hadn’t heard anywhere else? The distinction between Jordan and the UAE is new information that I hadn’t heard in previous analyses, as is acknowledging the Salafist presence in the UAE.

You may never have heard of Walid Phares. That’s a shame. No one knows more about the current global Jihad movement than he does. Dismissed as a Cassandra throughout the 80’s and 90’s, he’s now seen as uncannily prescient. His latest book is called “Future Jihad.” If you want to exponentially increase your knowledge about what lies ahead for us in a few short hours, read this book. I’m giving it today’s “read the whole thing” prize.

(There was some grumbling yesterday when I gave the “read the whole thing” prize to a ridiculously long NYT article. Well, you critics, today I’m giving it to a WHOLE book. How you like them apples?)

7) SPEAKING OF NEW BOOKS…The Wall Street Journal (subscription required, but haven’t I told you a hundred times to subscribe?) profiles a new book that is changing the way we view the Vietnam war and hopefully will change the way we fight future insurgencies.

In 2002, Colonel John Nagl published his Oxford thesis suggesting that America’s passion for “big wars” threatened our ability to deal with insurgencies. Hagl argues that since insurgencies are what we’re going to see from now on (Saddam Hussein circa 1991 will probably be the last person on the face of the earth dumb enough to line up his army against the United States’ in a full-on battle), the Powell Doctrine and its dictates are at best irrelevant, more likely dangerous. What’s more, the lesson learned from Vietnam that failing to commit whole-hog led to our defeat is completely wrong. Trying to shoehorn fighting an insurgency into a big-war philosophy was the root of our problems. Going bigger wouldn’t have solved anything.

Nagl’s book is now widely available in book form. Titled “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife,” it sounds like must reading. I’ve already ordered my copy.

8) CAN’T FIRE THE COACH…In the Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes suggests that President Bush reshuffle his Cabinet to inject some new life into the administration. Fred’s most “out of the box” idea is that Cheney step down as veep and be replaced by Rice. Fred also sees Cheney going to Defense, partly because of the grand theatre that the confirmation hearings would no doubt provide. (By the way, I wouldn’t want to fire the coach, even if we could. I think the coach is great. It’s the knights of the keyboard and the fans who are the problem.)

9) YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, I’VE GOT ANSWERS – Confused by last night's Sopranos episode? Concerned that you missed some important pieces of symbolism? This guy at the Star Ledger (where else?) has it all figured out. Must reading for Soprano’s fans.

10) NEWS WE CAN USE - Since November, the average number of Americans killed per month in Iraq has dropped from 96 a month to 37 a month. I speak with complete authority in that in commemorating the third anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Cindy Sheehan, the Daily Kos, NPR and the New York Times editorial board did not take note of this fact.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at