Sunday, April 30, 2006


IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL SUN-SPLASHED afternoon in Boston. Temperatures hovered in the mid-60’s and in April in the Bean, you just can’t do better. So you know what I did – I went to the movies. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to see “United 93.”

In writing about “United 93,” there’s an obvious temptation to treat the movie as something different than an ordinary movie because of its profoundly serious subject matter. As a consequence, most of the reviews I’ve read have offered polemics on courage or fully-deserved testimonies to the faithfulness and skill of writer-director Paul Greengrass in handling such a sensitive matter in such an adroit manner.

But what’s been lost in many of these reviews, and I hope I can say this without sounding like an insensitive lout, is that “United 93” is a spectacularly exciting movie. You won’t spend a more nail-biting, harrowing and ultimately inspiring 100 minutes in a movie theatre this year.

IN THINKING OF PARALLELS TO “UNITED 93,” two past movies spring to mind, both of them also great. The first is 1958’s “A Night to Remember” which was a spirited docudrama about the sinking of the Titanic. Unlike future disaster movies, “A Night to Remember” didn’t lard the very serious and inherently dramatic narrative with made-up characters to better dramatize the fact that the death of 1500 people at sea was a rather awful thing. Like “A Night to Remember,” “United 93” is appropriately about the disaster, not about fictional (or fictionalized) figures.

I don’t mean to pick on James Cameron’s 1997 version of the same story, the multi-Academy award winning “Titanic,” which tugged at our heart strings by getting us attached to people who never really existed. Cameron merely built on a generation of disaster movie conventions in which the film-maker would reduce a huge catastrophe to more comprehensible levels by showing the headlining disaster impacting characters that we had already come to care for. The movies in this genre usually came with stock figures like the star-crossed lovers or the touching old couple or the courageous but doomed hero.

When done well, as was Cameron’s “Titanic,” such movies were undeniably effective. But they were also in a way cop-outs. Cameron took 90 minutes to make us care about his leads; a combination of skillful acting, sharp writing and top-notch writing can make the audience care for a character in seconds.

But accomplishing such a thing requires real skill. And that’s what makes “United 93” such a small miracle. The moments of exposition for the ill-fated passengers are few and brief. But the characters are instantly recognizable, because they are us. They are businessmen, grandparents, college students and senior citizens. We don’t need to see them dancing in steerage to feel for them as fully human beings.

The other movie that came to mind was Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart.” In “Braveheart,” Gibson’s character, the real-life Scottish warrior William Wallace, was the embodiment of heroism and for his heroism he met a gruesome fate. And yet his example was uplifting. One finishes watching “Braveheart” saddened by the Wallace’s demise, but inspired by his example.

“United 93” leaves the viewer with similar emotions. You will find the movie powerful, but you won’t find it devastating. You’ll find it inspiring.

The last 30 minutes of the movie unfold in real time, beginning from the moment the hijackers take over the plane. In that span, we see incredible things. The passengers take a journey from abject terror to false hope to cool-headed realism. They realize that nothing will save them except for their own actions. They have to summon an almost unimaginable amount of courage to assault their captors.

Mounting the physical challenge could not have been easy. Nature has not programmed us to attack psychotics wielding knives and threatening to explode bombs. On the plane, there was a passenger urging dialogue with the terrorists. How much easier it would have been to listen to him than do what the passengers on Flight 93 did.

On the movie-goer’s part, there is a visceral satisfaction when the passengers launch their charge against the terrorists. Ultimately the passengers die, but they do so heroically and inspirationally. I have never felt so much like applauding in a movie theatre than I did at the end of “United 93.”

“UNITED 93” IS NO LESS dramatic for the fact that we know how it will end. From start to finish, the movie tells aspects of the story of 9/11 that we aren’t particularly familiar with, and does so in a thrilling way. You’ll be riveted, you’ll be excited, and you’ll be moved

But most of all, you’ll be entertained. There seems to be an understandable reluctance to discuss this aspect of the movie. I went to see “United 93” this afternoon out of a sense of duty and a sense of curiosity.

You can go for those reasons as well. But you’ll also get to witness a sublime piece of film-making in the bargain.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Thursday, April 27, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 4/27/2006

1) UNITED 93, PART I: On the Wall Street Journal’s site, Todd Beamer’s father has an important article on the movie. First, it’s a relief that he finds the movie a worthy tribute to tribute to his son. The pressure on the filmmakers must have been intense; Stephen Spielberg used to refer to “Schindler’s List” as “the document” while he was filming it because he thought it was so important to commit an honest and unflinching look at the Holocaust to film (which makes his editorial decision regarding the little girl in the red coat really strange). While Paul Greengrass has apparently avoided any such public utterances of grandiose self importance, he no doubt felt history’s burden bearing down on him.

The second aspect of Mr. Beamer’s article that makes it a must-read is that he identifies the so called war on terror for the public relations sham that it is. We’re not fighting a tactic; we’re not even fighting Al Qaeda. We’re fighting radical Islam, and even where we’re not fighting it, it’s fighting us.

I am very somberly giving Mr. Beamer’s article today’s read the whole thing prize. Check it out.

2) UNITED 93, PART II: Over at the Standard’s site, John Podhoretz gives the film a boffo review. As an ad might say, the critics agree! JPod also points out the following historical fact that I discussed briefly yesterday:

ON SEPTEMBER 18, 2001, ABC News president David Westin decided that his network would no longer air footage of the attacks on the World Trade Center only a week before. The constant repetition of the images of the planes crashing into the buildings had become "gratuitous," a spokesman said.

Almost immediately, all other networks and news channels adopted the same policy, and ever since, it is only on rare occasions that Americans have been exposed to those indelible images. This extraordinary act of journalistic collusion followed another mysteriously unanimous decision to censor the photographs and moving images of those victims who had chosen to jump to their deaths rather than be burned alive.

At the time, these choices seemed tasteful and appropriate.

Like you, I was there, and I know we’re not supposed to discuss in polite company one of the main reasons the footage was removed. As you might recall, there was a great fear that the 9/11 images would agitate ordinary Americans into going wilding, searching for the nearest Muslim upon whom we might visit retribution. Even though nothing happened between 9/11 and 9/18 to suggest such a thing was likely or even possible, the networks bought this CAIR peddled notion hook, line and sinker. (If you click over to CAIR’s site, you’ll see they’re still peddling it.)

Another version of the same kind of warning came two and a half years later when certain leading intellectuals like Frank Rich and Abe Foxman cautioned that Mel Gibson’s “Passion” would turn America’s Christians into saber-wielding Cossacks looking for the nearest synagogue to burn down. Once again, ordinary Americans exceeded their so-called betters’ soft bigotry of low expectations.

Americans can handle the truth. And we’re at a point in time where Americans need to begin hearing it from their government, their entertainment community and from their so-called experts.

3) THIS IS NOT WHAT I HAVE IN MIND – Strangely, on the United 93 website, there’s a section devoted to answering the question, “Why Do They Hate America.” In that section, there’s an explanation of Jihad that takes the John Esposito line that Jihad is a form of spiritual yoga.

This is rubbish – pure, unadulterated rubbish. It’s too bad the film’s website has to be polluted with such nonsensical propaganda. For more information on Jihad, read Andrew Bostom’s “The Legacy of Jihad.” And for those of you in the Boston area, Andy will be speaking at Harvard tomorrow night at The Semitic Museum, 6 Divinity Avenue, Room 201. The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. I may well be there, so if it’s a Soxblog meeting you crave (and if it is, please seek the professional help you probably need), this might be your big chance.

4) IN HIS DOME – Drudge printed another report pointing out what he considers to be the sluggish sales of Markos Moulitsas’ book. Markos again took the bait and responded with another embittered blog posting. Again, I think for a boutique book, Markos’ opus is doing pretty well, and if Drudge thinks it’s so easy to write the next “DaVinci Code,” he should just go ahead and do it. He would certainly become a far wealthier man for the effort.

The reason I once again call this stupid controversy to your attention is because of an exchange within the comments on Markos’ response post. Comment # 1 goes like this:

There are in excess of 80,000 dKos users (Ed. Note: Huh? Markos keeps telling me it’s over a million. Why are liberal politicians doing backflips to please a community of moonbats one fifth the size of Rochester?). I had my copy ordered before February. Methinks there are a few lazy kossaks out there.

Comment #2 takes umbrage at Comment #1. Please have a hankie or tissue handy before reading on. You may well be overcome with emotion as you read of a particular Kossack’s plight:

Sorry, but to assume all of us just have $15 kicking around (according to amazon's price) and that we're lazy if we don't spend it is really naive.

Eg, I'm getting my masters degree in May, it's not a terminal masters, I'll be continuing to the PhD hopefully in 1 more year. Just today I just found out Jon Stewart will be the commencement speaker so I want to walk in the ceremony. But I don't have the $85 to pay to buy (not rent but buy) the friggin' cap and gowns required.

I've already fallen into debt at the beginning of my grad school years, luckily I caught myself before getting trapped in debt, and took out a loan from my schools credit union to pay off my credit cards with a reasonable interest rate. I'm now very careful with extreanous (sic) purchases, I've got a basic budget going, and it's freaky how little room there is for excesses.

At least while the lad is getting his education, he’s learning about words like “extraneous,” if not quite buttoning down their correct spelling or usage. But let us all wish him good luck in finding some way to get to see John Stewart. Whoever you are, pathetic Kossack, I hope it comforts you that the prayers and sympathies of Soxblog Nation are with you.

5) THIS WOULD PISS ME OFF, TOO – Most of my readers know that I have no problem with gay marriage, although I don’t approve of it being mandated by judicial fiat. I know this puts me at odds with many of you, and I value the fact that we can disagree without being disagreeable.

But this is going to far: In the posh Boston suburb of Lexington, a 2nd grade teacher presented to her class a storybook celebration of homosexual romance and marriage. The book, “King and King,” culminates with two princes marrying and celebrating the day with a passionate lip-lock

Ick! Mind you, this tale in question was read to 2nd graders. Jeff Jacoby, the presumably lonely sane columnist at the Boston Globe, has all the gory details.

6) THE TAO OF RON – Every now and then, the perfect chance to wheel out my all-time favorite Ronald Reagan quote presents itself. As the Republican Party appears increasingly determined to out-dumb the Democrats on the non-issue of gas prices, I think we need to recall Dutch’s piece of wisdom regarding what government’s default position should be: “Don’t just do something – stand there!”

Sorry for posting so late tonight. I’ll try to be more punctual tomorrow.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 4/26/2006

1) LET IT SNOW – Hugh Hewitt says something explicitly that I alluded to last night – that Tony Snow is serving his country and in doing so is showing great patriotism. His talents are needed (more on that below), and taking on this huge challenge can’t be an easy thing for him given the pay cut, his health issues and the time he’ll have to spend away from his family.

I do have one quibble with Hugh, beyond his historically silly claim that Rocky Colavito should have gone into the Hall of Fame twice before Carl Yastrzemski went in once. Hugh offers the following appraisal of the “hollowed ground” (as liberal bloggers Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong referred to it in their runaway best-seller “Crashing the Gate”) of the White House Press corps: “There are some smart folks in the WH press room, but there are plenty of pretty faces as well.”

It is not immediately apparent to me where Helen Thomas fits on this continuum.

2) …BUT DEFEAT IS AN ORPHAN – Because Snow has written a handful of columns that were critical of the White House and has still been welcomed into the administration’s inner sanctum, James Taranto (probably the country’s best blogger) suggests that the administration has been taking the advice of Peggy Noonan (probably not the country’s best columnist). Noonan wrote last week:

In the end it doesn't matter if White House staffers suddenly listen to critics, to non-pre-vetted policy intellectuals, to questioners, complainers, whiners, Wise Men, if you can find them, and people who actually have something to say. But it does matter if George Bush does.

It matters that he becomes his broadest self and comes to tolerate dissent, argument, ambiguity. That actually would be daring. It would mark not the appearance of change but change, not the appearance of progress but the thing itself.

When Noonan wrote this last week, I let it go without comment because I thought it sufficiently banal that it didn’t warrant any column space. But the suggestion that this president demands everyone march in ideological lockstep is a liberal canard that has gained widespread currency simply because it has been repeated so often.

Does anyone think that Donald Rumsfeld doesn’t speak his mind? How about Colin Powell? He was around for four long years. I would daresay you would have a far easier time identifying ideological outliers in the Bush inner sanctum than in the Clinton inner sanctum. In the Clinton inner sanctum, the only name that leaps to mind is Robert Reich, and he outlied in the wrong direction.

Yes, Ronald Reagan staffed his operation with a bunch of non-team players and free-lancers. But the Reagan cabinet has never been held up as a paradigm that future presidencies should seek to emulate.

3) YOU TALKIN’ TO ME? - Matt Drudge ran a little piece about what he calls the sluggish sales of Markos Moulitsas’ book. Drudge says that Nielsen’s book scan shows that only 3600 copies of the book have been sold, which for what was heralded as the blogospheric equivalent of “Gone with the Wind” seems a tad disappointing.

Markos struck back at Drudge with a furious blog post insisting that “Crashing the Gate” is hotter than Teresa Heinz Kerry in a silky negligee. For the record, contra Drudge, I think the fact that Markos’ book ranks # 25 on Amazon is pretty impressive. The fact that it’s apparently selling fewer copies at big box bookstores than the Collected Works of Helen Thomas seems rather contradictory.

Or is it? It’s hardly surprising that Markos’ core audience inclines to internet purchases. It’s also not very surprising that he doesn’t have much appeal beyond his core audience. Let’s face it – he’s an acquired taste. While I think “Crashing the Gate” provides a valuable and crisply written account of where the Democratic Party is today (a.k.a. Nowheresville), I can’t imagine anyone other than a political junkie purchasing the book.

What is sad is that Markos felt it necessary to respond to Drudge’s baiting. Drudge was obviously just trying to get under Moulitsas’ skin. Clearly, he succeeded.

4) GREAT MINDS OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY…I know no one ever follows the links when I link to Kos, but follow this one. Just trust me.

I have frequently called Chris Bowers the sharpest of all liberal bloggers. Bowers seems perversely intent on proving me wrong, as he continues on a strange quest to prove that he’s no sharper than the typical bowling ball.

You might remember after the primary for the Congressional seat formerly held by the orange jump-suit wearing Republican Duke Cunningham, Bowers assured us that it was bound to be a Democratic carry since Democrat Francine Busby picked up 43% of the vote and the combined 8 Republicans in the race picked up 57%. Even though the 43% was below the Kerry line, Bowers figured that pealing off 8% of the Republican vote would be easy enough come general election time. At the time, I confessed that I had obviously over-estimated Chris Bowers.

Well, Chris is still at it. In an internal Busby poll, the news of which Bowers triumphantly heralds, Busby is trailing the Republican nominee 45% - 43%, suggesting that to date Busby has picked up exactly 0% of the 8% she needs to secure the victory. Writes the chest-thumping Bowers, “One week after the primary election, Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray are locked in a statistical dead heat, with 45% for Bilbray and 43% for Busby, with 3% for minor candidates Libertarian Paul King and Independent William Griffith and 8% undecided. These data reflect the strength of Busby's candidacy for a number of reasons.”

Normally I would consider myself responsible for smacking down such nonsense, but guess who beat me to the punch. Seriously – guess. Okay, I’ll give you a hint. His name rhymes with Farkos Foulitsas.

It’s true. None other than Kos himself responded to this laughable nonsense in a withering fashion: “This is a district in which the former Congressman is in prison for corruption far beyond the usual ‘culture of corruption’ craziness, and our candidate's own internal poll doesn't have her above the Kerry line for the district? I don't think this poll looks all that hot for us, frankly. In fact, I think it looks terrible. If voters were ready to punish Republicans for their culture of corruption, what better place for that to manifest itself than in the district of one of the most corrupt of the lot?”

Now please, let’s keep this quiet because we don’t want the Democrats to figure this out: This “culture of corruption” may set bloggers’ hearts ablaze, but it falls flat with the rest of the electorate. So does this “competency” thing. Modern Democrats might want to ask Michael Dukakis how well a campaign based on the decidedly non-soaring ideal of competence tends to work out. In order to win anything, the Democrats will have to do a lot more than just show they’re really angry.

5) I’M GOING ON THE RECORD – Over at my friend Jonathan Last’s Galley Slaves site, JVL is presiding over an interesting debate about what kind of box office “United 93” is going to do. I’m chipping in my 2 cents now: United 93 will be the biggest box office hit since “Titanic.” Hollywood will be stunned; so will left wing pundits who invariably argue that either a) We should stop talking about 9/11, or b) It’s too soon to make such a film.

Largely because of a bizarre media campaign to not tell the entire gory and disturbing story of 9/11 and to prematurely yank the footage from the news stations, there’s a great pent-up desire across the country to talk about what really happened that day. By all accounts, “United 93” is a great movie and will provide such a moment not for healing, but more importantly for understanding. At the risk of venturing into Frank Rich territory, “United 93” will be a landmark cultural moment.

6) HONEST QUESTION – Precisely what portion of our dependence on foreign oil is due to our automobiles? Does anyone know? If you do, could you send me the information? I could do the research myself, but I’m looking for someone authoritative who knows this stuff like the back of their hand.

7) Today was a travel day, which accounts for the late and light post. But because you all care, I will share some fascinating details of a genuinely unusual flight.

I was seated on the aisle in the last row. By the way, Jetblue doesn’t board by rows anymore; all the computer modeling and everything else have shown that random boarding is the fastest way to fill the plane. I have a theory for why this is so. People who are inclined to get on a plane first (even though it obviously won’t get them to their destination any faster) are doers. They’re (we’re) Type A’s. In other words, we’re not the kind of folks who will dawdle endlessly searching for Row 14 and then take twenty minutes figuring out how to jam our carry-on into the overhead compartment. Because of this free-boarding system, we get on first (because that’s our way) and then the dawdlers who putter down the aisle saying to no one in particular, “I need a blanket and two pillows” don’t hold up the show because basically they’re amongst their own kind.

After I sat down, just such a dawdler came towards my row. She was sitting in the window seat. As I got out into the aisle to let her in (as a gentleman should), she told me I might want to consider staying in the aisle for a couple more minutes because her daughter who had the middle seat would be along presently. Sure enough, I looked up and saw about ten rows away a woman who was clearly the daughter in question. She was also carrying a duffle bag roughly the size of Shaquille O’Neal.

One of the flight attendants spied her and said there was no way the overhead compartment would accommodate that thing. The mother interceded, saying to her daughter, “Tell her what’s in it.” The daughter said, “It’s an urn.” The mother said, “It’s my husband’s ashes and we’re bringing them back to Boston. He died in Florida over the winter.” The flight attendant suggested they take out the urn, but that the rest of the giant duffel bag would have to go underneath. The urn in its velvet case rode back to Boston under the seat next to me. The daughter said to me, “I bet you’ve never had an urn next to you for a flight before.” She was correct.

Normally, that would be plenty of excitement for just one flight. But we had more in store. As we made our final approach to Boston, the plane began swaying violently. The pilot was obviously having some sort of problem with the yaw. Just before we touched ground, literally just a few feet before, the pilot pitched us upward and we zoomed away.

As we climbed back to 4,000 feet, several passengers became unnerved. I always take my cues from the flight attendants. They, too, were rattled. I decided to try to calm the flight attendants (who were sitting en masse right behind me) with a stupid joke. As panic swept over the cabin and strangers began holding hands, I turned to the flight attendants and said, “I know this might sound strange, but I really don’t want to die a virgin…”

Anyway, we landed safely. And my marriage vows remain unbroken.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


1) LIBERAL LOGIC, 101: On Sunday, accused CIA leaker Mary McCarthy was lionized by the left as a heroine with the guts to speak truth to power. I saw it with my own two eyes: Juan Williams on FoxNews Sunday was making the breathtakingly obtuse assertion that as an American, McCarthy had the right to speak her mind, even if what was on her mind was highly classified matters.

Then last night, I was watching Keith Olberman (I have my reasons!) who was excitedly reporting the news that Mary McCarthy’s lawyer was denying the charges. In other words, McCarthy is innocent! This seemed to provide Olberman with no small amount of pleasure.

But here’s the problem: If she was a hero for revealing this awful program, does she not morph into a collaborator with the evil Bush administration for not shining the light on this grotesque exercise in government abuse? She then must be a villain, right?

Anyway, given the nature of today’s reports, it seems like we’ve achieved a consensus that whoever leaked highly classified data did a very bad thing, even if doing so damaged the Bush administration. So I applaud the left in reaching this realization, belated though it may be.

2) THEY HAVE A PLAN! Reading the Daily Kos today (again, I have my reasons!), I was pointed to this “plan” by the Democratic Party to grant us energy independence by 2020. Naturally, much of it has nothing to do with energy independence in 2020 but instead with political demagoguery in 2006. The Democrats plan to:

-Prevent oil company price gouging, market manipulation, and disaster profiteering
-Increase energy market transparency and consumer choice at the pump
-Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to cover increased household energy costs
-Provide car buyers with accurate fuel economy information
-Protect pristine public lands from short-sighted oil and gas exploitation

I assume the “pristine public lands” in the last bullet point refers to the huge oil supply resting under the ANWR. Obviously to Democratic “thinkers,” the only way we’d exploit such a natural resource is if we found it underneath non-pristine lands like downtown Cleveland.

But what really caught my eye about this entire fatuous venture was the pledge to “Launch an Apollo Project for Energy.” We know what they’re talking about – a Manhattan Project. Yet such is the nature of their peacenik base and their obsessive focus group driven ways that they had to change “Manhattan” to “Apollo.” Just for the record, splitting the atom produced a lot more energy than going to the moon did.

3) BUT ARE THE REPUBLICANS MUCH BETTER? - My favorite futurist relative called the other night and suggested I do some muckraking regarding the oil companies and their price gouging. I told him that not only has the subject been covered rather exhaustively, but the FTC monitors these things pretty closely and we have a market-wide exacerbation, not an oligopolistic manipulation.

Anyway, it appears he got through to the Republican leadership in Congress which appears determined to not be outdone by their Democratic counterparts in demagogueing the oil company’s windfall profits.

The Wall Street Journal has an appropriately withering editorial on the matter, suggesting that a Nancy Pelosi fright-wig doesn’t look very becoming on Denny Hastert. Here’s what I’d suggest to Congress – nationalize the industry. After you’re done with that, maybe you can convince Hugo Chavez to come over here and serve as president-for-life.

4) FAREWELL, GEORGE MELLOAN – George Melloan has written a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal for fifteen years. He has always been a calm and dignified presence, a living embodiment of what separates the Journal from literally every other major U.S. daily. Today is his last column. He will be missed.

5) HMMMM…The Harvard undergrad with the rich book contract and the Doris Kearns Goodwin curse of having other authors’ words turn up in her work has spoken. I offer you her explanation without interruption:

''When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty, 'Sloppy Firsts' and 'Second Helpings,' which spoke to me in a way few other books did. Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel, 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,' and passages in these books. I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words. . . . I can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious. . . . I sincerely apologize to Megan McCafferty."

Internalized Ms. McCafferty’s words – that’s the ticket! Is it just me, or does the Ivy League seem to produce a fresh embarrassment every week these days? And just wait until Juan Cole joins the Yale faculty. Then the fun will really begin.

6) THIS IS A NEW ONE – Boston Globe columnist HDS Greenway has a beef – the history books are whitewashing the founding fathers. Seriously. “Do we Americans glorify our Founding Fathers too uncritically?”, asks the puzzled Globie.

First of all, the contention is ludicrous. For the past generation and a half we’ve heard nothing but Washington owned slaves, Jefferson slept with slaves, and Lincoln slept with men…On and on the litany goes. If this is a whitewash, I’d hate to see a cold-eyed look at things.

But Greenway thinks there’s a whitewash, and he knows who’s to blame. Bush!!! “Do Americans,” Greenway wonders, “in these morally ambiguous times of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the secret prisons into which our prisoners disappear without trial or hope, long for heroes and heroic times? Perhaps Americans feel a need to hang on to the glory days of our national youth, when all our leaders were brilliant, brave, and beyond reproach, even if it is not always entirely true.”

7) IF YOU DON’T WANT YOUR MOOD SPOILED…you might consider skipping down to Item #8. Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs calls our attention to this positively stomach-turning review of “United 93” written by some guy naked Keith Uhlich at something called Slant Magazine. My surmise is the “slant” in question goes well to the left.

“The families of those onboard gave it their full-on approval. Not all the families, of course. All evidence suggests that the terrorists' relatives were left entirely out of the creative process, an action which goes a way toward revealing the film's hagiographic bias (how easy it then becomes to turn victims into heroes and adversaries into monsters).”

Just so you can understand the kind of enlightened sensibilities required to reason one’s way out of the facts that the passengers on Flight 93 were in FACT heroes and the terrorists were in FACT monsters, consider this little snippet from earlier the review:

“People have been making "post-9/11" art of tremendously varied quality since at least the time American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower. A filmmaker I knew back then rather callously bragged about how he intercut footage of the towers burning and falling with shots of him shrugging the whole thing off like it was no big deal. Standoffish? Yes. Adolescent? I think so. But per the maxim oft attributed to Voltaire, ‘I will defend to the death his right to say it.’”

I would bet if the author had lost a loved one in 9/11, he would be a little slower on the draw in invoking that Voltaire quote, which truly is becoming the last refuge of nitwits. One can almost sense the juvenile self-congratulation leap off the screen as you read this sublimely childish rubbish. I assume none of you subscribe to Slant Magazine, but if you do, you’d be well advised to cancel your subscription.

8) GOOD NEWS OF THE DAY – Tony Snow will likely be taking over for the gravitas-deprived Scott McClellan in the White House press room. This is very good news.

I should be clear that policy mistakes have not been McClellan’s responsibility, and obviously even the most gifted press secretary can’t turn a sow’s ear of a governmental blunder into a silk purse of a press briefing. But McClellan was in over his head dealing with David Gregory, Terry Moran, and that elderly bag-woman who always sits in the front row. The Bush administration has been doing consequential things. But when defended by the charmless McClellan, well…Let’s just say being a presidential press secretary wasn’t his true calling.

I also love the fact that Snow is following up his bout with colon cancer to take on the biggest and most important challenge of his life. Serious illness leaves one with the desire to do something consequential with the days remaining. Tony Snow will now be where his country needs him most doing important work.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Monday, April 24, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 4/24/2006

1) ONE MORE THING ABOUT KERRY…and then we’ll move on, to coin a phrase. It’s fairly remarkable that he keeps bringing up his Vietnam testimony. It’s even more remarkable that there is apparently no one on his staff with the standing or the stones to say, “Senator, we should probably let this one be.” In a public life composed of various acts of scumbaggery, Kerry’s Vietnam testimony is the unquestioned low-point. And yet he keeps bringing it up. It’s like if George W. Bush kept constantly bringing up that weekend he was tipsily tooling around Kennebunk with Rod Laver riding shotgun.

If Kerry apologized for the Vietnam testimony or at least the parts of it that are offensive, it might win him some points with some people. But more pressingly, what it is it about this man that he can’t just leave it alone? Why does he have to keep revisiting his own personal Waterloo and behave as if it were an unqualified triumph? It’s goofy. It’s weird. And it’s positively horrifying that this guy almost became president.

2) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST…I honestly don’t know how stuff like this keeps happening. Some gullible publishing house paid a Harvard freshman $500,000 to write her first novel. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news – there’s a pretty decent chance it will be her last novel.

According to the Boston Globe, it appears that the frosh-person in question plagiarized significant portions of said-novel for which she was so richly compensated. Still, a half million dollar score for a an 18 year old grifter is nothing to sneeze at.

I should mention the Soxblog policy on plagiarism: Everything here is original content, unless it comes from an especially insightful email that I decided to steal and pawn off as a fresh insight of my own. What percentage of Soxblog comes from these insightful emails? It’s impossible to say, but I can tell you Item 1 came partly from an email, but I added the Rod Laver crack and the snappy alliteration.

3) A DANGEROUS GAME – In its apparent never-ending quest to cripple this great nation, the New York Times over the weekend published a story titled, “Young Officers Join the Debate Over Rumsfeld.” The article breathlessly reports, “Junior and midlevel officers are discussing whether the war plans for Iraq reflected unvarnished military advice, whether the retired generals should have spoken out, whether active-duty generals will feel free to state their views in private sessions with the civilian leaders and, most divisive of all, whether Mr. Rumsfeld should resign.”

What ever could have provoked junior officer to engage in such a reckless and extra-constitutional debate? Glad you asked, because the Times has the answer: “In recent weeks, military correspondents of The Times discussed those issues with dozens of younger officers and cadets in classrooms and with combat units in the field, as well as in informal conversations at the Pentagon and in e-mail exchanges and telephone calls. To protect their careers, the officers were granted anonymity so they could speak frankly about the debates they have had and have heard. The stances that emerged are anything but uniform, although all seem colored by deep concern over the quality of civil-military relations, and the way ahead in Iraq.” In other words, the junior officers “joined the debate” because the New York Times called to interview them.

I know the Times thinks this is really cute, but the paper and the its fellow travelers in the Democratic Party and the blogosphere are playing a very dangerous game. Civilian control of the military is kind of important. Even more important than embarrassing President Bush, I’d suggest.

I would be remiss if I didn’t make a special nod to the Times for its remarkable creativity in reporting this “news.” The Times created this story, and then reported it as if it were a spontaneously generated happening. Just curious – does the paper automatically get a Pulitzer for that, or is there a prolonged and exhaustive process before it gets one?

4) A DANGEROUS GAME , PART II: Mary McCarthy is the CIA agent who thought revealing classified secrets was a worthwhile thing to do if it would embarrass the administration. Unfortunately for this Democratic partisan, she crossed the proverbial bridge too far. On FoxNews Sunday, even Jane Harman was cutting McCarthy off at the knees, making it perfectly clear that she did not support what McCarthy had done.

What Harman and fellow Democrats fail to realize is that McCarthy’s antics are a logical example of the chickens coming home to roost. The mindset on the left is that anything that damages the administration is worth doing, even if it damages the country. Hence, you have things like the Times’ insane campaign to undermine civilian control of the military. McCarthy did what she did, and found herself lionized by the usual suspects at the New York Times and the Washington Post.

But Democratic politicians who haven’t liberally imbibed from Howard Dean’s homemade Kool-Aid know that a Democratic partisan exposing highly classified and very important national secrets is bad news politically. Really bad news.

5) “UNITED 93” WATCH – The Times does have an excellent story on director Paul Greengrass’ unique challenge in making his movie of Flight 93. Because no one knows exactly what happened on the plane, no one knows precisely who the biggest heroes were. But there was a bigger problem than that – none of the victims’ relations wanted to see their loved ones graded as anything less than A+ in the heroism department.

It was an interesting conundrum Greengrass faced. After all, common sense would dictate of the 40 people on board, some were so stricken with terror that they were unable to function. There’s also the strong chance that some people wanted to do nothing and hope things would somehow work out. Of course, portraying any of the passengers in such a light would defame all of those who weren’t specifically identified as leading the charge to the cockpit.

The decision that Greengrass made was that Flight 93 was carrying 40 uniquely heroic individuals. That’s a fair summation. History is full of such fitting generalizations. Everyone who died at the Alamo is considered a hero, even though there was only one Davy Crockett.

6) UNITARIANS IN YARMULKES – A couple of weeks ago in describing the taxonomy of various sects of Judaism, I described Reform Jews as practically Unitarians in yarmulkes. As if to prove Soxblog is always a couple of weeks ahead of the news, the Boston Globe reported this weekend on actual Unitarians in yarmulkes.

There is a sect of Jews who have rejected all of the religious stuff about Judaism but still want to be Jewish in some sort of spiritual sense nonetheless. So they have become what they call Humanistic Jews who garb their non-belief in a lot of spiritual sounding mumbo-jumbo such as prayers that go, “Radiant is the light in each of us.” They even have rabbis, which frankly sounds like a pretty easy job since there are no rules to the faith. A bit like playing tennis without the net, no?

Anyway, far be it from me to ever question anyone’s belief system or lack thereof, no matter how silly it might be. As Tony Soprano would say, “God bless.”

7) BIG TALIBAN ON CAMPUS AND JUAN COLE – John Fund reports that Yale seems ready to part ways with its prized diversity student, the former spokesman for the Taliban. But the news out of the cesspool that is New Haven isn’t all good – Yale seems on the verge of hiring leftist Middle Eastern professor Juan Cole.

A word about Professor Cole, and you may not like this: I had occasion to interview him last week and he was a really pleasant, likable guy. He knew I was representing a viewpoint diametrically opposed to his own and he still couldn’t have been more polite. It just goes to show you – people whose political views you dislike or even detest can still be okay in most ways.

This is a fact of life that bloggers on the left are entirely unfamiliar with.

8) BIN LADEN’S BACK – Over the weekend, Osama bin Laden made an effort to keep his name in the news that was so pathetic it could be fairly called Kerry-esque. I don’t really have anything to say about the statement itself – I don’t even feel like dignifying it with a response.

But I do think worth noting is the commentary of some haircut (I think it was John Roberts) who was a guest on Howard Kurtz’s weekly CNN extravaganza yesterday. When asked for his reaction to bin Laden’s statement, the haircut responded with words to the effect that after umpty-zillion dollars, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and thus the administration really sucks.

Again, more comments I don’t feel like dignifying with a response.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Saturday, April 22, 2006


John Kerry has an op-ed piece in today’s Boston Globe that is fairly stunning, even given Senator Kerry’s previously demonstrated ability to shock us.

Before getting to the meat of the piece, let’s start with a telling detail. Today, as you doubtlessly, know is Earth Day; that means environmentalists spend the day solemnly saluting Mother Earth while enjoying their own moral superiority. (I’ll admit to having an irrational hostility to Earth Day since my failure to summon adequate enthusiasm for the 20th Earth day resulted in the bitter end of a budding law school romance. I liked the girl, but I’d be damned if I was going to spend a beautiful Spring Sunday picking up trash in Brighton.)

While Senator Kerry’s fellow lefties are toasting the planet today, Senator Kerry is toasting…himself. Yes, it’s true. As if it weren’t even Earth Day, Kerry is giving an address at Boston’s Faneuil Hall today to commemorate the 35th anniversary of his congressional testimony regarding the Vietnam War.

Which finally brings us to Kerry’s op-ed piece. His op-ed is a salute to…himself. Kerry is apparently awed by the greatness he showed in 1971. Listen to the man:

“THIRTY-FIVE YEARS ago today, I testified before the United States Senate. I was a 27-year-old Vietnam veteran who believed the war had to come to an end…Many people did not understand or agree with my act of public dissent. To them, supporting the troops meant continuing to support the war, or at least keeping my mouth shut. But I couldn't remain silent. I felt compelled to speak out about what was happening in Vietnam, where the children of America were pulled from front porches and living rooms and plunged almost overnight into a world of sniper fire, ambushes, rockets, booby traps, body bags, explosions, sleeplessness, and the confusion created by an enemy who was sometimes invisible and firing at us, and sometimes right next to us and smiling.”

Oh, the children! Kerry was testifying to protect the children. Reading that passage, you would get the sense that the heroic young Kerry was defending his youthful comrades-in-arms who were innocents being slaughtered by the combination of a feckless government and a ruthless enemy. Just like in Iraq!

Alas, the actual words of the young Kerry took a different tone towards U.S. soldiers. 35 years ago, the word “children” didn’t enter the conversation, at least not in regards to the American troops. Here’s how Kerry began his congressional testimony 35 years ago this very day:

"I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

"It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.

"They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”

The troops were bad children, apparently. Very bad children.

THERE WAS A SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE sketch in November of 1988 whose premise was that the Bush campaign had some money left over after the successful campaign against Dukakis and thus would run one more ad. The “ad” in question was a negative hit job on Dukakis and concluded with the following tagline – “George Bush – He Beat a Very Very Bad Man.” For some reason that skit sprang to mind this morning as I read Kerry’s op-ed piece.

If Kerry wanted to apologize for the parts of his congressional testimony that most people find offensive, he would earn some people’s forgiveness. Certainly not everyone would forgive him – Paul O’Neil and others (including me) consider his 1971 testimony a hanging offense as far as his character is concerned. But at the very least, the acknowledgment of some error would show a sign that the man doesn’t view his every action as unimpeachably perfect.

There was a humorous moment early in the 2004 campaign where Kerry took a dixie on the ski slopes and blamed his secret service agent, because in Kerry’s own words, “I don’t fall.” Alas, like the rest of us, John Kerry falls, stumbles, makes errors and shows signs of moral imperfection.

John Kerry’s biggest problem has always been that he doesn’t know it.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Thursday, April 20, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 4/20/2006

1) CAN YOU SENSE HILARY TREMBLING? Well, she has good reason to. Political force of nature John Kerry today shocked the world by saying he will consider seeking the oval office again in 2008. This stunning development throws the entire Democratic nomination process into flux. With Kerry intent on tapping his rabidly passionate and numerous base of support, is he not the instant favorite?

2) ON ANY OTHER DAY…John Kerry confessing that he’s “thinking hard” about running for president again would be the funniest item. But today, my friends, is not just any day. Stand-out blogger Patterico has a nemesis in the L.A. Times’ in house blogger, the Pulitzer Prize winning business columnist and likely mental patient Michael Hitzlik. Today, Patterico cruelly pantsed Hitzlik in front of the entire blogosphere.

Hitzlik has the habit of commenting on blogs like Patterico’s under pseudonyms. His secret alter egos usually say something along the lines of, “Michael Hitzlik is both a brilliant and handsome man.” Patterico lays out his case in exhaustive detail. Like the prosecutor he is, Patterico has put together an air-tight case.

If I commented pseudonymously on blogs saying things like “Dean Barnett and Soxblog rock!,” it would be dishonest, sleazy and embarrassing. But most of all, it would be pathetic. If I were exposed as Hitzlik was today, I would apologize and then spend the next week in the bath tub curled up in the fetal position out of abject humiliation.

3) BUT HITZLIK IS CUT FROM A DIFFERENT CLOTH – In a stunningly obtuse and offensive blog post, Hitzlik responded to Patterico not by apologizing, not by denying the charges, not by even addressing the charges. Instead , he lashed out with a series of ad hominem insults. According to Hitzlik, Patterico: “has apparently worked himself into a four-star ragegasm...(has as) one of his defining characteristics the casual attribution of moral and intellectual faults to others that he exhibits in stupendous measure himself…(is trying to make his blog) a paradise of enforced harmonious thought.”

But nowhere does Hitzlik offer any defense for his habit of pseudonymously praising himself. Have I used the word “pathetic” yet?

4) ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY…Jimmy Carter survived his brush with a killer rabbit that tried to assassinate the then-president. The Ace of Spades reflects on the peril Carter faced, and the supreme courage that he showed. “I can almost see myself there,” writes Ace, “confronted by a swimming rabbit, fiendish nostrils a-flare, big teeth ready to nibble on your bum. And I wonder, as men often do: Would I have risen to the occasion, like Jimmy Carter did? Or would I have cowered in the boat like a, umm, coward?”

As funny as the story of Carter and the killer rabbit is, even funnier is one of the comments left by one Ace’s embittered lefty readers:

Oh, and Ace: The guy serves one ineffectual term in office a quater of a century ago, then devotes the rest of his life to social justice, homes for poor people, and world peace, and you folks can't stop making fun of him? You may disagree with his politics, but you can't fault his dedication and integrity (just as I admire Monty for jopining up for the same reasons) I can't understand why people think conservatives are mean-spirited haters, and not the upright, principled, compassionate people they claim to be.

Too snarky? OK, how about this: GIVE IT A FUCKIN' REST.

Or this: Save it, he'll die in a few years, then you can have a freaking 24 hour marathon mock-fest on the day of his funeral.

Seriously, have you no shame? Or sense of proportion? Or is the news so bad for your side that this is the best you can come up with? Pathetic.

Now go to your room and think about what you've done. Would your Mom be proud of you? Your grandma? Hmmmmm?

As one of Ace’s other commenters observes, letters like that could give one the impression that the type of people who gravitate to Jimmy Carter’s sanctimonious crapola might well tend to be humorless dweebs.

5) I DON’T SEE IT: The kids at National Review have an editorial today about the impending Republican disaster at the polls. Okay, I understand the logic. Bush has awful approval ratings and the Republican congress doesn’t’ do much better. But, as I tell you at least once a week, click over to Rasmussen Reports. You’ll see that all the individual races are trending in the Republican direction.

And that was before we dumped Scott McClellan!

6) STUCK CLOCK ALERT: Markos Moulitsas today on the Sierra Club:

This may very well be the most moronic move by any organization this election cycle.

U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators in the country. But Wednesday, the national Sierra Club came out in support of him.

The Sierra Club is endorsing Chafee even though the group gave the senator only a 20 percent rating in its environmental scorecard in 2004.

The club said a vote for Chafee is better than a vote for a Democrat because of his position as a
dissident within the majority party.

Um, guys over at the Sierra Club? Yeah, you, Carl Pope? How has Bill Frist and the Republican Congress been for your agenda? You know, the guys that Chafee enabled? And how was his 20 percent rating? That's all it takes to get an endorsement these days? Are you really that easy?

Of course, the idea would be to make Republicans the minority party. But good luck seeing your agenda continue to be demolished by the GOP leadership Chafee will continue to enable.

This jibes with my general thesis about the upcoming elections. The Republican Party is in disarray, floundering both in the White House and in the Congress. But the Republican party has done one thing right: It has shown exceptional wisdom in picking its foes. With enemies like the Sierra Club, who needs friends?

7) BLUE DEVILS – According to the New York Times story I’m linking to and the timeline Sean Hannity just walked me through, this is looking more and more like a case of prosecutorial abuse every day. Mind you, that does not give Duke a pass for selling its soul for its athletic program. But at the end of the day, one arrogant and ambitious District Attorney is more dangerous than all the lacrosse players in the Atlantic Coast Conference. And the Big East, too. And the Pac 10.

8) AN AGE OF MIRACLES – Panasonic has announced the invention, nay, “creation” is a more appropriate term, of a 103” plasma TV screen. I can’t help but think of a ski weekend some 15 years ago with my favorite futurist relative who there announced that within 5 years every house in America would have an 8 foot television. My friend Steve and I scoffed; I still recall Steve acerbically remarking, “Oh, good news for the inner city.”

Well, similar to the way Back to the Future II erroneously predicted we would have flying cars and hover boards by 2015, sometimes progress doesn’t move as quickly as we dreamers hope it will. But the fact that a 103” television has been willed into existence should give every human (or at least every male human) cause to smile.

9) ANGRY INDIAN FAN MAIL – The same Indian fan who informed me that the Indians had more Hall of Famers than the Red Sox sent in an angry missive regarding the fact that I was unimpressed by this measure of putative Indian greatness. My observation that the Red Sox put team accomplishment ahead of individual accomplishment (as Al Capone would have it) elicited astonishment that I had made such a comment “without any apparent irony, about the team to which the delightful ‘24 (sic) players/24 (sic) cabs’ description was first applied.”

It is true that the Red Sox were renowned for their selfishness and their 25 players/25 cabs outlook when they were winning 95 games a season in the 1970’s but not winning titles. (Meanwhile, I believe the 1970’s Cleveland Indians were best known for the Human Rain Delay and Toby Harrah.) But we put that behind us and became
Champions. Learn from us, Cleveland.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at


FOR A GREAT UNDERSTANDING of the state of the anti-war left as far as Iran is concerned, look no further than this Matthew Yglesias essay for The American Prospect. TAP is the country’s sharpest liberal journal of opinion, and Yglesias is probably the publication’s smartest young voice. To Yglesias’ credit, he certainly doesn’t make you read between the lines to figure out where he stands. “Should we go to war with Iran?,” he asks. “The short answer is ‘no.’ The long answer is ‘hell no.” While I admire Yglesias’ clarity of expression, I nevertheless find reason to question his comprehension of the complex matter that he so authoritatively addresses.

For instance, take this passage: “The United States military is, for one thing, in much worse shape today than it was in March 2003 with far fewer resources at its disposal (see the Iraq War). The Iranian military, meanwhile, is in better shape than Iraq’s army was, since it hasn’t been subjected to more than a decade of stifling sanctions. Iran is geographically larger than Iraq.”

Let’s take the second assertion first. I find myself asking what exactly Yglesias knows about Iran’s military. It’s true that Iran’s military wasn’t crippled by sanctions; it didn’t have to be. It had already been basically destroyed by the mullahs’ war with Iraq.

Taking a hard headed look at Iran’s conventional military abilities leads to one inescapable conclusion – there aren’t, any, or at least not any to speak of. Iran doesn’t have a modern air force; without control of the skies, even an elite fighting force is defenseless. For a brief history on the matter, Yglesias might want to research the fate of Iraq’s Elite Republican Guard on the highway of death.

But then again, Iran doesn’t have a fighting force equal in any way, shape or form to the early ‘90’s version of the utterly unimpressive Elite Republican Guard. So when Yglesias writes a glib sentence that seemingly offers a sobering appraisal of Iran’s military strength, it’s fair to ask what on earth he’s talking about. I think it’s a fair inference that he himself doesn’t know.

Even more embarrassing is his crude assertion that “the United States military is, for one thing, in much worse shape today than it was in March 2003 with far fewer resources at its disposal (see the Iraq War).” Loyalty to an employer is a good thing, and it’s nice to see Yglesias is unthinkingly adopting even the most nonsensical of TAP editor Robert Kuttner’s nonsense. After all, in the Kuttner world view, Iraq has been ruinous to America on all levels imaginable.

But if the Iraq war has weakened the American military, Yglesias should be so good as to specify how. Does the military now suffer from a shortage of manpower that it previously didn’t? Materiel? Have the troops become demoralized? Shell-shocked? Is mutiny in the air? Have re-enlistments declined?

The answer to all these questions is no. Now if Yglesias had said American prestige is in worse shape now than it was in 2003 thanks to the Iraq adventure, we might have something to argue about. Or perhaps he’s arguing that it would be impossible to shift troops from an Iraqi theatre to an Iranian theatre and therein lies the new weakness. If that’s the argument, Yglesias’ rhetoric is once again outracing his actual knowledge of military affairs. A significant force deployment mere miles from Iran makes an invasion more accessible than it would be if the troops in question were in, say, Fayetteville.

One further quibble: Yglesias specifically said the military is in “much worse shape” because of Iraq. Quite the contrary, the military right now is in better shape than it was in 2003 – America now has a lean and battle hardened military, something we haven’t had in over half a century.

But the folly doesn’t end with Field Marshall Yglesias’ military analysis. There’s also this penetrating insight into the Iranian frame of mind: “The idea that any Iranian leader would commit national suicide in order to harm Israel is ridiculous. Lots of ‘crazy’ leaders -- Stalin, Mao, Kim Jong Il -- have had nuclear weapons and they’ve never done anything like that. What’s more, if Iran wanted to start a war with Israel, kill a bunch of Jews, and get wiped out in the process they could do that with conventional weapons.”

There’s a lot of ignorance in that paragraph, and frankly I don’t have the patience to point out all of it. I do have a couple of suggestions for Yglesias for further study, though. First, he might want to research how many tens of millions of lives Stalin and Mao were willing to sacrifice to achieve their sick visions. Furthermore, neither man was particularly shy about sacrificing tens of millions of his own people.

Perhaps he should lump Hitler into his study since he was the great loser of the 20th century’s madmen. If Yglesias can find a surviving member of Germany’s 6th Army that perished in Stalingrad to prove how tough Hitler was, an interview with such an individual might be enlightening. He might also find that national suicide was not outside Hitler’s portfolio.

Lastly, Yglesias might want to look carefully into the psyche of the Iranian leadership and the fundamentalist form of Islam that animates it. What these men deem a worthwhile sacrifice and what Yglesias would consider a worthwhile sacrifice may well differ.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE READERS often writes me thoughtful letters in which he documents evidence for his theory that modern liberalism is like a religion. Faith, he argues, is substituted for rational thought. In the religion of liberalism, faith for false gods of environmentalism, give peace a chance-ism, etc., etc., must never be questioned or one becomes labeled a heretic.

I’ve never completely subscribed to his theory, but Colonel Al, this is your moment. Yglesias’ essay shows nothing so much as a willingness to suspend his powers of inquiry so he might better support liberal shibboleths that strike his fancy.

Yglesias, a 25 year old Harvard grad, is a smart guy and a good writer. But this essay shows a shocking inability to look beyond the Clausewitzian dogma that they dish out in such huge quantities in Harvard Yard. Once again, Yglesias and TAP represent the cream of modern liberalism.

More’s the pity.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 4/19/2006

1) FINALLY – The gravitas-deprived Scott McClellan is leaving. McClellan may be a wonderful guy, a terrific husband and a joy to his parents. But as White House mouth-piece-in-chief, he was sadly overmatched. I used to dread watching the press briefings, knowing that McClellan was in over his head dealing with the decidedly non-brilliant likes of Terry Moran, David Gregory and that nutty bag-woman who inexplicably sits in the front row for every presser.

Best of all, there is speculation that Tony Snow may be McClellan’s replacement. If I knew how, I would literally be licking my chops in anticipation of the intelligent, well-spoken and gravitas-rich Snow running circles around the hapless White House Press Corps. If this is to truly happen and it represents a start of the program to actually revitalize the administration, I say give us more!

2) REALITY MUGS THE GREY LADY – The New York Times editorial board is disappointed and surprised by Hamas’ reaction to yesterday’s mass murder in Tel Aviv. Laments the Grey Lady:

After the Palestinian election, the burning question was which part of Hamas would dominate the new government: would it be the political organization that provides a desperate people with vital services, or the terrorist group that advocates the violent destruction of Israel? Now we have the answer, in Hamas's monumentally cynical and dimwitted applause for the bombing that killed nine people and wounded dozens in Tel Aviv on Monday.

Even on those rare occasions when a Times’ editorial makes some sense, I still find much to take issue with. For instance, for those who had followed the organization, it was not a “burning question” which part of Hamas would dominate – the do-gooders who provide meals-on-wheels or the Jihadist lunatics. Anyone who hasn’t spent the past generation pursuing willful ignorance knew that the meals-on-wheels side of Hamas was not a separate face, but rather part of an integrated approach whereby Hamas could gain more power with which it could wreak more havoc.

My other quibble with the Times is that it chooses to characterize Hamas’ response as “cynical” and “dimwitted.” While Hamas is of course both of those, a better word for the occasion would perhaps be “evil.”

3) TO PROVE MY POINT…Bloggress Meryl Yourish has a must-read post on the nature of these barbaric attacks and the wanton cruelty that is so much a part of the perpetrators:

Shrapnel is what killed Phillip Balhasan, who stayed alive long enough to realize his children had survived, and to hug them tightly before he collapsed.

But even this is not enough for the terrorists. They also soak the shrapnel in rat poison, because it causes hemorrhaging — victims may bleed to death before they can get to the hospital.

Remember all of this, when you hear the world tell Israel to “use restraint” in responding to this attack. Remember all of this, when you read about the innocent metal shop owners who insist their shops were only making nails and screws for construction purposes.

Remember all of this, when Israel is the nation that is demonized by the blind, hateful people who wear checked kaffiyehs at anti-war protests, and call Israel an “apartheid state” for building a separation barrier — to keep out the monsters who would use bombs like I have just described.

4) OUR FRIENDS AT CAIR – Here’s the deal with CAIR – it fills a vacuum. While CAIR no more speaks for Arab Americans than Jesse Jackson speaks for African Americans or the ADL does for American Jewry, it is the most prominent group of Arab Americans and thus its loathsome spokesman Ibrahim Hooper gets more media time than Angelina Jolie.

CAIR is also a simply odious organization, combining the race relations pimping of Jesse Jackson with a fondness for Jihad. Daniel Pipes has a must read column on some of the people who CAIR apparently has on its speed dial. If you read the story, even if you’re a libertarian by nature you might be inclined to judge the NSA snooping program a little more kindly.

5) DID SOMEONE MENTION JESSE JACKSON? - I forget where I read it, but I seem to recall he’s off to Durham to offer his unique form of camera chasing healing to the community. I should clarify something that I said about the Duke Lacrosse rape trial. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if much of this case is the result of an ambitious prosecutor pursuing a high profile case by which he hopes to further his political ambitions. Such is justice in the United States, and it’s a sickening thing. Those of us in Massachusetts who had a front row seat for the Amirault witch hunt know more than we want to on the subject.

But the prosecutor’s conduct and the defendants’ presumed innocence doesn’t mitigate the fact that Duke should have been ashamed of its lacrosse program for years now. If the university were capable of embarrassment regarding such things, the lacrosse team would have been a constant source of it for quite a while now.

6) I’M LOVIN’ IT – McDonalds’ sales have rebounded, but much to the New York Times’ horror, the increased sales aren’t due to the healthy new salads that now pollute the formerly pristine Golden Arches but are instead because of more purchases of all-American God-fearing foods like double cheeseburgers. The Times’ write-up of this development could have been prepared by Michael Dukakis, so redolent is it of nanny state put-on-your-galoshes hand-wringing. A couple of samples:

- Last May, the company ran a commercial featuring four African-American women talking about the McDonald's fruit and walnut salad and getting their "fruit buzz." The ad ran on BET, the Black Family Network and "Girlfriends" on UPN.

But Professor Williams at the University of Texas says the majority of McDonald's ads aimed at blacks feature Quarter Pounders With Cheese, Big Macs and French fries. McDonald's says that it advertises all its products equally across all markets and that over the last three years the most advertised menu items were Premium Chicken Sandwiches, McGriddles breakfast sandwiches and premium salads.

- Dollar Menu ads aimed at young blacks and Hispanics often focus on how much hearty food can be bought for just $1, a message many young consumers are eager to hear.

"The problem here is that you're dealing with a segment where you have these huge obesity issues and you're making eating Big Macs and double cheeseburgers look like it's fun and exciting," said Jerome Williams, a professor of advertising at the University of Texas, Austin, and one author of an Institute of Medicine report last year on the marketing of junk food to children and teenagers.

David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children's Hospital in Boston, calls marketing fast food to blacks and Hispanics a "recipe for disaster."

I have to say, if I belonged to one of these groups that the Times and its experts consider too weak-willed to resist the siren-song of a 30 second McDonald’s spot, I would almost be offended. Anyway, writing about this has made me hungry. I need a quarter pounder with cheese.

7) BUT WHAT ABOUT WES? The Times’ has another story about the beleaguered Donald Rumsfeld and his attempts to hold on to his job. I’m not going to rehash that debate (today anyway), but what I find funny is the Times mentions six retired generals who called for Rumsfeld’s resignation. Is Wesley Clark not a retired general? When he lumped himself on to the pile, did that not make seven? And yet the Times, as did other outlets, apparently froze the figure at six or didn’t consider the Falcon of the Balkans to be worthy of inclusion.

Well played, General!

8) THE SOX, AND THE SOX, AND THE SOX – While Red Sox Nation continues to patiently await Manny Ramirez’ first homerun, the Sox remain on fire. Even a brain fart by the manager last night couldn’t derail us. (Why did Francona bring in Timlin in the middle of an inning? Why do managers do such things? Every fan watching at home knows Timlin cannot enter a game mid-inning. It’s an immutable fact of life, like Cynthia McKinney playing the race card whenever she gets in trouble. And yet, remarkably, the one man in the world trusted with the precious gem that is the Boston Red Sox seems unaware of this fact.) But enough moaning – I’m sounding like a Cleveland Indian fan who hasn’t seen a team win a title since the earth was flat.

(Did you know the Cleveland Indians have more Hall-of-Famers than the Red Sox do? I do, thanks to helpful emails from embittered Indians fans who seem to think such things matter. We have a saying in Red Sox Nation – there’s no “I” in “TEAM”.)

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 4/18/2006

1) GREAT MORALISTS OF OUR TIME: In an interview with the Boston Globe, Ted Kennedy rejects the notion that the country has shifted to the right. ''People haven't lost their sense of compassion, they haven't lost their sense of decency, they haven't lost their sense of fairness," says Kennedy.

If asked to come up with three words that describe Ted Kennedy, I doubt I could do better than “compassion, decency and fairness.” Add it all up – Au Bar, carousing with the young ones, waitress sandwiches, Chappaquiddick, serial infidelities and what else could you come up with besides “compassion, decency and fairness?”

The fact that Kennedy and his party have convinced themselves that they are the exemplars of these virtues shows how sadly out of touch with reality they have become.

2) WHO’S TO BLAME? - In reviewing Joe Klein’s new book, the Wall Street Journal offers the following interesting quote:

"I am fed up," Mr. Klein writes, "with the insulting welter of sterilized speechifying, insipid photo ops, and idiotic advertising that passes for public discourse these days." Campaigns have become "overly cautious, cynical, mechanistic, and bland." Mr. Klein is bored, and Americans have tuned out. Who is to blame? The nefarious "pollster-consultant industrial complex."

Given the nature of the above passage, I think it provides me with an opportune moment to set something straight regarding my own past writings. When I wrote about the left wing blogosphere, a lot of people thought I was blaming the blogosphere for killing the Democratic Party.

Au contraire, my friends. While the left wing blogosphere is no friend to any liberal politician who might be inclined to pursue a responsible and mature path, the shenanigans of the Democratic Party must be laid at the feat of the party’s ostensible adults. When Dick Durbin goes into the Senate well and compares our troops to the Khmer Rouge, that’s his fault and his fault exclusively. While it would be fun to blame some chain-smoking, pathetically embittered Moonbat pecking away furiously on his or her keyboard, the political class is responsible for its own actions.

So mark my words – during the upcoming campaign season, a handful of Democrats from red states will be tarred by their willing association with left wing blogs. And they’ll have only themselves to blame.

3) STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE – There’s an old saying about the Palestinians – they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. As you undoubtedly know by now, there was a savage suicide bombing in the contested territory of Tel Aviv yesterday, killing 9 and wounding 60. Hamas, the duly elected “government” running the Palestinian statelet, has announced its support for this little mission. So if you’re running Israel, can you deny that the situation with Palestine is anything other than war? While that’s not what anyone in the West wants, that’s what it is.

4) THE ADVANCE BUZZ – Last week the Ace of Spades linked to a sneak early review of the movie “United 93” that said the movie was spectacular. Today Dennis Prager writes an article with the same conclusion, imploring all Americans to see the film. Prager also takes on the ludicrous notion that the movie comes “too soon.” “If this is so,” writes Prager, “it is an ode to the weakening of the American people.”

One thing that I’m not sure Hollywood understands is that there’s a great human desire for heroism. That’s why people pack sports arenas – they’re searching for heroes. On Flight 93, there were heroes, and amazingly, they looked just like us. It’s hard to imagine a more inspiring or important subject for a film.

If the movie is any good (and all advance word suggests it is quite good), there is a real chance that it will prove to be a seminal cultural moment as Americans learn about our enemy’s nature as well of our own.

If “United 93” lives up to its potential, there will also be a delicious irony. “Brokeback Mountain” didn’t change the culture but instead became a national punch line for gay jokes, contra the dictates of Andrew Sullivan and Frank Rich. And yet the very differently (and far more traditionally) themed “Passion” already was the real deal as far as being a significant cultural milestones, and “United 93” seems likely to follow on its heels as a hit that shocks the industry.

5) THE GREY LADY STRIKES – The New York Times shines a bright light on a bunch of idiots who have adopted the sickening habit of protesting the funerals of fallen American soldiers with signs like “Thank God for IEDs.” But here’s the Times’ punch line – these protestors are from a church group who thinks American’s misfortunes are a result of God frowning on our permissive society. In other words, to decode the Times’ message, these are right wing kooks.

If the Times would like some example of left wing kooks offering up similarly loathsome conduct, I can help. Just off the top of my head, I even recall a Senator from Illinois comparing our troops to the Nazis and being lionized for his courage.

6) NOW YOU LOVE THEM! - It seems like not so long ago the left was rallying behind a presidential candidate who once had written a letter where he confessed that he “hated the military.” It seems like an even less remote memory where the left rallied behind a candidate who accused soldiers in Vietnam of behaving in a manner reminiscent of “Genghis Khan.”

And yet now, a half dozen generals have earned a strange new respect from a bunch of journalists who aren’t usually in the habit of granting General-types a wide berth. HDS Greenway sums up the new weltenschaung of the left nicely, writing, “But the provocation that brought these American generals to go public was intense. To my mind, none of the generals put it better than Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold when he told Time magazine that ‘the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and a swagger that are the special provinces of those who have never had to execute these missions -- or bury the results.’”

Actually, the Newbold comment and the fact that Greenway selects it as his money quote gets closer to the heart of the matter than Greenway would dare confess. If you read carefully, you’ll note there’s nothing in the selected remark regarding military tactics or strategy. Quite to the contrary, the differences between Newbold and the civilian leadership seem to be personal in nature. Predictably, Greenway follows up the Newbold quote by bringing us the earth shattering revelation that neither Bush nor Cheney served in Vietnam.

Greenway spends much of his column defending the principle of civilian leadership of the military. I have little reason to doubt his fidelity to this concept, just so long as the civilian in question is someone he voted for.

7) TROUBLE AT DUKE – I don’t have the links handy, but whether there was a crime committed by members of the Duke Lacrosse team or not, there’s little doubt that they have a pronounced cretinous (if not criminal) element on the squad. This entire episode, even if it was just a bunch of innocent under-aged drinking combined with strippers illustrates how colleges are so often willing to sell their souls for the benefit of their athletic programs.

8) ON THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM…We have the Boston Red Sox! Yesterday brought another remarkable triumph as the newcomer second baseman Mark Loretta hit a two-run, two out homer to turn a 6-5 loss into a 7-6 win. Loretta’s heroics were preceded by an infield hit by my lumbering luntzman, Kevin Youklis. Loretta’s father was in attendance, and noticed the stark differences between Loretta’s former team in San Diego and the Red Sox:

''I've been here six games now, I gotta tell you this is a totally different feel. This is really the major, major leagues. Red Sox Nation, you can't describe it. It's one thing to say 'Red Sox Nation' as a term, but it's another thing to just feel the vibrancy, the energy this whole thing has."

The senior Loretta also had some interesting comments about California (where he, his wife and teenage daughter still live) in general, observing, “(Unlike Boston) it doesn’t have the tradition, history, any of that stuff.”

Sounds a bit like the Cleveland Indians.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Monday, April 17, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 4/17/2006

Me and Stinky enjoying the Florida sun
1) MORE RUMMY – Oh, what a joy it must be to be a Democrat! Yesterday I watched half of the notorious Senate Waitress Sandwich team, Christopher Dodd, expound on why Donald Rumsfeld should be fired. What was interesting although hardly unique about Dodd’s criticism is that he had nothing constructive to offer. I can deal with a Senator saying that a Secretary of Defense is incompetent and thus should resign. I can also deal with a Senator or a whole raft of Senators saying that the Defense Department needs to “head in a different direction.”

Where they lose me is with their utter refusal to specify what that “different direction” should be. Also noteworthy is the schizophrenic nature of their complaints. They used to want more troops in Iraq in order to ensure success. But ever since Jack Murtha popularized and legitimized cutting and running in the eyes of the nutroots, that’s been their battle cry (if you will). But with an election season upon us, even the most obstinate Democrat realizes that defeatism is a sure loser in American politics.

So what we’re left with is a major party that has no agenda beyond pissing and moaning. It’s embarrassing. Sure, I’m embarrassed to be a Republican at times. The mere mention of the odious words “Lincoln Chafee” makes me blush. But I’d be a whole lot more embarrassed to be a Democrat.

2) ON THE BOOKSHELF – I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to mention this, but here goes. Embittered Cleveland Indian fan Hugh Hewitt’s best seller, “Painting the Map Red,” quotes me extensively. Not to act like a little kid seeing himself “on TV” on a closed circuit security system, but this delights me no end. In the book’s index, my name is listed right between “Fred Barnes” and “Michael Barone.” Truly – how cool is that?

Anyway, I just started reading “Painting the Map Red” this morning. I’ll be offering my thoughts later in the week. But obviously I’m biased towards an author who actually republished one of my blog posts in a best seller.

3) SPEAKING OF BLOGS…The Boston Globe has an article titled “Blogging ‘essential’ to a good career.” I don’t know exactly what the scare quotes around the word “essential” are supposed to signify, but I do think this assertion overstates things by quite a bit. Blogging is fun; it’s a good hobby that can lead to other things. But I think you can have a perfectly fine career without being a blogger.

Just one guy’s opinion.

4) HOW CAN THIS BE? - Remember the good old days last week when the New York Times editorial board assured us that Iran was ten years away from acquiring a nuclear bomb? And remember when all sorts of Pelosi-type politicians took to the airwaves to parrot this unsubstantiated assertion? Well, it looks like those good old days are gone with the proverbial wind.

Today the Times reports (in its “news” section, not on its editorial page) that we basically don’t have any frickin’ clue when Iran will get the big one. So thus, the decision boils down to whether or not we can afford to wait too long. Or, if you prefer a less muscular/defeatist course of action, the “battle plan” must now focus on determining how we can “manage” a nuclear Iran.

We know where the Democrats stand on this. Howard Dean explicitly stated (to a Jewish audience…hmmm) that the Democrats would never tolerate Iran becoming a nuclear power. So now all we have to do is wait for Dean and company to translate that rhetoric into a plan.

You may want to get comfortable while awaiting this development.

5) MORE RUMMY STILL – The piece I wrote on Rumsfeld being a fighting general and his critics being something else provoked a pretty heavy response. I should make it clear that I’m not saying that Rumsfeld’s critics are wimps (although I would consider making an exception where Wes “The Falcon of the Balkans” Clark is concerned. Regarding Clark, I find it especially noteworthy that he became the 7th general to speak out, waiting for all his former subordinates to take the initiative before exposing himself to any danger. Even though he’s now a partisan politician, excessive caution and naked self-interest still characterize the man’s every move.).

My point was that fighting wars requires a particular kind of general. Let’s just say that on one end of the spectrum you have Colin Powell and the other end of the spectrum you have U.S. Grant. The closer your leading generals are to the Grant end of the spectrum, the greater your likelihood of success. That doesn’t mean the Powell-types lack personal courage; it just means they’re the wrong men in the wrong place.

On a related note, this weekend I attended a forum featuring three of the military analysts you know from cable TV – Bill Cowan, Jack Jacobs and Ken Allard. Moderating was the brilliant Walid Phares.

All three analysts criticized Rumsfeld for not sending enough troops into Iraq, but all defended him as a fighter. Cowan explicitly made the point that most other Secretaries of Defense would be trying to avoid body bags and thus crippling the war on terror. None thought he should resign. All took an extremely dim view of the headline seeking generals. Their views on the generals ranged from chagrin to carefully calibrated outrage.

6) BIG TALIBAN ON CAMPUS, PART 10,732 – John Fund is back trampling over the same territory, explaining how Yale really messed up accepting that Taliban guy. If you read the piece, you’ll see that Fund went out in search of the “diversity student” Yale lost to Harvard that made the Yale admissions office so determined to land the Taliban.

A personal note: A while after this story first appeared, a reader sent me an email suggesting that I go look for the Harvard’s diversity student who had such a bearing on the Taliban winding up in New Haven. I thought it was a neat idea and pitched it to someone. This kind person, like a patient parent dealing with a six year old, walked me through the basics of why this was basically a non-story. He convinced me. Now mind you, this was over a month ago when the Taliban Man story was only a little moldy.

Let me be clear – Fund is completely right. Yale should be ashamed. But writing the same thing over and over again is less than scintillating journalism. For more information on the topic, please see the collected works of one Andrew Sullivan regarding gay marriage and Abu Ghraib.

7) THEY’RE BACK – A suicide bomber struck in Tel Aviv, killing five. (By the way, when I report the death tolls I do not include the suicide bomber. Some news agencies have different practices.) If I were the mad Mullahs or Hamas or Islamic Jihad, I would be spending my time laying low, trying to lull the west into a false sense of complacency that many both here and in Europe are only too eager to fall into. But then again, I guess part of being an unhinged fanatic is a general aversion to strategic thinking.

(By the way, one of the highlight’s of the weekend’s panel discussion was when a questioner asked the Colonels what they would do about Hamas. Jack Jacobs responded, “A low yield nuclear device.” It got a big laugh. It wasn’t clear that Jacobs was completely joking.)

8) AND NOW JAMES CARROLL: “An Iranian official dismissed the talk of imminent US military action as mere psychological warfare, but then he made a telling observation. Instead of attributing the escalations of threat to strategic impulses, the official labeled them a manifestation of 'Americans' anger and despair.’ The phrase leapt out of the news report, demanding to be taken seriously. I hadn't considered it before, but anger and despair so precisely define the broad American mood that those emotions may be the only things that President Bush and his circle have in common with the surrounding legions of his antagonists.”

Without stooping to shooting dead fish in a barrel, this passage nicely illustrates the failure of the left to even grapple with the big picture of the war on terror and the situation in Iran. If James Carroll thinks Iran should have nuclear weapons, he should say so. If he thinks Iran should not, he could offer guidelines of how far we can or should go to prevent the Iranians from acquiring such weapons.

But assuming either position would require some intellectual elbow grease. Calling Bush dumb, frustrated, Oedipal, whatever – that, on the other hand, is easy.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at