Sunday, October 31, 2004

The rest of Bin Laden's tape 

From the New York Post:
Officials said that in the 18-minute long tape — of which only six minutes were aired on the al-Jazeera Arab television network in the Middle East on Friday — bin Laden bemoans the recent democratic elections in Afghanistan and the lack of violence involved with it.

On the tape, bin Laden also says his terror organization has been hurt by the U.S. military's unrelenting manhunt for him and his cohorts on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Free elections drive the Islamists crazy. "Everybody" said that they could not happen in Afghanistan, and they did. We have to help them happen in Iraq as well because the Islamists are fighting so hard to prevent them. Whether you once thought that Arabs and democracy don't mix, we know now that the prospect is credible enough that it terrifies the Islamists.

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The Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll shows 48 percent of Iowans likely to vote in Tuesday's election, or who have already voted by absentee ballot, support the Democratic candidate and 45 percent back the Republican incumbent. The poll's margin of error is 3.5 percentage points....

The poll, taken Monday through Friday night, shows the Massachusetts senator has gotten a jump on the president among those Iowans who have cast absentee or early ballots - a major get-out-the-vote strategy of both parties.

Twenty-seven percent of Iowa adults surveyed said they had already voted. Kerry leads Bush, 52 percent to 41 percent, among that group of early-bird voters. Among the 73 percent who said they definitely would vote on Tuesday, Kerry and Bush are tied.

CWCID: Rob of Maize.

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Puyallup bans Halloween costumes from its schools 

Because, get this, they are disrespectful of witches.
Assistant Superintendent Tony Apostle advised Puyallup principals in a memo last week that Halloween costumes and parties are now banned. Pumpkins and cornstalks are fine, he said, but witches, black cats or "similar decorations that are intended to frighten or scare individuals" are not.

Halloween is a religious holiday for Wiccans, the memo noted, and its celebration in mainstream culture has generated unsavory images that might offend real-life witches.

That sort of makes sense -- we can't really piss off witches now that we can't burn them at the stake -- but doesn't our national fetish for consistency demand that we ban actual living children from school because they might make zombies feel badly about being undead? TigerHawk demands to know who is looking out for the zombies! And what about vampires? Shouldn't all school be conducted after sundown so that we can make sure that little vampire children feel welcome? True, we've carefully avoided the risk that they might see a cross at school, but what about sunlight? I mean, there isn't a lot of that in Puyallup, but I think they get all burned and stuff even if it's coming through the clouds.


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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Deeply offensive left-wing anti-Bush game 

This has been kicking around the lefty blogosphere for the last ten days or so (according to Technorati), but I got it from a law school dean (see, they aren't the scary people we thought they were). I was so outraged on behalf of our President that I had to play it several times.

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Bohemian Rhapsody 


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Also not the TigerHawk endorsement post 

But I could of written it, if I were as smart and eloquent as Megan McCardle. Among those of us who think independantly (recognizing that many of my friends would dispute that characterization in my case) and tend toward libertarianism, Megan has written the best endorsement of George W. Bush that I have seen. You might consider reading the "prestigious Jane Galt endorsement" in preparation for the big TigerHawk endorsement post at the end of the weekend.

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Death wishes 

The mainstream media have been full of tear-jerker stories of death-bed denunciations of Bush. See here, here and here for examples. As Denny Wilson points out, it goes both ways.

It is interesting that the dying people all want you to vote against Bush or for Bush. Nobody seems to want you to vote for Kerry or against Kerry. With almost half the electorate willing to vote for anybody but Bush, it is astonishing that the Democratic candidate inspires virtually no intrinsic support. If he is elected, the people who voted for him will have achieved 100% of their objective. How will Kerry govern thereafter?

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The Grouchy Old Cripple thinks he can distinguish "bad towel-heads" from "good towel-heads." NSFW, deeply offensive, yet both inciting and insightful.

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Bin Laden's new speech 

The new Bin Laden tape is interesting because it proves that he is alive -- which was something of an open question, insofar as we haven't seen a verified tape of Bin Laden since December 2001 -- and because of its timing. He clearly wants to influence the American election, or at least be seen as able to influence our election in the Muslim world.

More interesting, though, is what he did not say:
It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out. (emphasis in original)

Is not this strategic retreat by omission the most interesting aspect of this story?

UPDATE: Orin Kerr makes the point that Bin Laden's admission trashes the paranoid belief among many Arabs (a quarter of Palestinians, according to Kerr) that Israel was behind the attacks on September 11 in order to lure the United States into war in the Middle East. The question is whether Arab conspiracy theorists will actually believe Bin Laden.

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The weather in Ohio next Tuesday 

Cleveland: Rain in the "blue" north.

Cincinnati: Not rain in the "red" south.

Back in the day, Republicans were thought to be more dogged voters than Democrats, and therefore less deterred by rain. If that is still the received wisdom, rain in the north of Ohio and no rain in the south is bad news for John Kerry.

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Not the TigerHawk endorsement 

We need four more years of tax cuts and dead terrorists.

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New Bin Laden video 

Stratfor($) says there is a new Bin Laden video:
Arab satellite channel al Jazeerah announced Oct. 29 that it is airing portions of a fresh videotaped communiqué from al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Nothing yet on the Al-Jaz English web site.

UPDATE (4:56): MSNBC has a clip of the tape. It certainly looks to me as though Bin Laden is still alive. Bin Laden takes full credit for September 11 ("I ordered" the attacks), and specifically refers to both Bush and Kerry (establishing to a high probability that the tape was produced in 2004).

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Better late than never 

A Scottish town is to mark Halloween by granting official legal pardons to 81 supposed witches executed during a frenzy of religious fervour around 400 years ago, officials said on Friday.

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Scary Halloween costume 

The kid who comes to my door wearing this mask is gonna get a rock.

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We will know who the next president will be on Sunday night 

See SportsProf.

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TigerHawk endorsement post Sunday night 

Drop by Sunday night or Monday morning for the big TigerHawk endorsement post. It may surprise even me.

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Will New Hampshire stay "red" after all? 

It will if Curt Schilling has any influence over voters.


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Thursday, October 28, 2004


Cubs fans have never been so lonely.

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Sox close it out 

The Red Sox closed out their first World Series championship since 1918 behind a dominating Derek Lowe, beating the Cardinals 3-0. There were a lot of interesting stories in this short series, but the utter futility of the Cardinals batting order is right up there, along with the much maligned Lowe becoming the first pitcher in baseball history to win three clinching games in a post season, as he closed out the Angels, Yanks, and Cards in dominating fashion.

And so a long chapter in Red Sox history is finally closed, and sports writers next year are going to be short one of their trusty fall-backs when facing the deadline. As I watched the Red Sox celebrate the big win, my mind's eye saw Kolchak the Night Stalker sewing rock salt into the mouth of the sleeping zombie. And just like that, the Curse of the Bambino is laid to rest forever.

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Mind over matter 

There's a company out there called Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, which is working on a system that would permit an operator to control a computer, or anything controlled by the computer, via a neural sensor implanted in the operator's brain. Although in its early staqes, the Cyberkinetics technology is amazing, jaw-dropping stuff (at least to a simple guy like TigerHawk). The medical applications are obvious:
The ultimate goal of the BrainGate development program is to create a safe, effective and unobtrusive universal operating system which will allow physically disabled people to quickly and reliably use their thoughts to control a wide range of devices, including computers, assistive technologies and medical devices.

One can also imagine frivolous applications (no more game controllers!) and military applications (is there a faster targeting computer than human thought?). And, obviously, there would be no more hunting around for the remote control.

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Mullah missle 

The next thing to deal with. Posted by Hello

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History's crossroads 

Had Lincoln lost the 1864 vote, a victorious General McClellan would have settled for an American continent divided, with slavery intact. Without Woodrow Wilson's reelection in 1916 — opposed by the isolationists — Western Europe would have lost millions only to be trampled by Prussian militarism. Franklin Roosevelt's interventionism saved liberal democracy. And without the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan and his unpopular agenda for remaking the military, the Soviet Union might still be subsidizing global murder.

Read the whole thing.

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Short Merck? 

Legal Underground has a few factoids of interest if you want to bet against Merck, or if you have ever taken Vioxx.

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Lunar eclipse blogging: Aboard AA 1914 (via email, delayed release) 

It is just after 10:10 pm EDT, and I am writing this aboard American
Airlines flight 1914 from Chicago to Newark (Blackberry transmitter off, of
course). Based on the lights below, we are passing over Lake Erie into Ohio
(I believe I see Cleveland). The pilot has just spotted tonight's total
eclipse of the moon off the starboard side of the plane, and asked that we
dim the lights so that we can take it in. And there it is, God's Pac-Man
over Akron. Then, like a fun-loving aviator of old, the pilot announced
that he was altering the course of the aircraft so that the passengers on
the other side of the plane could get a look. Very cool. A lunar eclipse
is definitely worth a zag over Ohio.

It's about time somebody injected a little impromptu fun back into air
travel. Here's to something special in the air!

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A dangerous moment for John Kerry 

Bush, Kerry to Appear on 'SportsCenter'

On the eve of election day, if you can believe it:
The 30-minute program will feature one-on-one, sit-down interviews with the candidates that will focus on their love of sports and how sports impact their lives," ESPN said in a statement Wednesday.

Here's to hoping that Kerry says he's a huge fan of the Michigan Buckeyes.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Exorcism Underway 

It's not in the bag yet, but with last night's 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox appeared to be on the cusp of winning their first World Series since the Bambino was sold to the Yankees early in the last century. The key play of the game came in the second inning, with the Red Sox leading 1-0. The Cardinals had men at second and third and nobody out, with Larry Walker at the plate facing a somewhat erratic Pedro Martinez.

Walker did his job, hitting a sharp grounder to the right side of the infield. But instead of dashing home from third base, Jeff Suppan froze like a deer in the head lights, allowing David Ortiz to gun him down at third after forcing Walker at first. Instead of a 1-1 game with a man on third and one out, there were two outs and a man still at second, and the Cards came up empty. It was a remarkable play on many levels, not the least of which was the fine throw made by the lumbering Ortiz, who is a DH by trade and played the field in less than 40 games during the season. Pedro seemed to get in a groove after that, the Sox started tacking on runs, and the game was over before you knew it.

The great thing about post season baseball is that there is always something new to watch, like last night's play, or the out ruling on A-Rod's tomahawk chop of Arroyo in game 6 of the ALCS. If Boston closes out the series tonight it will be a great moment in the history of the game, but I'll still be sad that the season is over.

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The best reason yet to follow Sarbanes-Oxley 

'Former HealthSouth CEO Scrushy turns televangelist' - headline, USAToday.com.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Annals of numismatics: The Iowa quarter (via email) 

The daily trip to the SuperFresh(tm) prepared foods counter contained more
than the usual excitement. Yes, TigerHawk got his first Iowa state quarter
in circulation. The reverse includes a one-room schoolhouse rendered after
a Grant Wood painting, I believe - I confess that I am stepping up to this
claim based on the words "Grant Wood" at the bottom of the coin, rather than
any revealed command of American art history - and the legend "Foundation in
Education." This last bit of Iowa propaganda reflects Iowa's assertion that
it has been the "most literate" state in the country for roughly 100 years,
by which it means that it has the highest rate of functionally literate
adults, as opposed to an unusual concentration of literati. I daresay that
even The Tall Glass Of Milk didn't run around saying "you'll find it in
Balzac," Mason City upbringing notwithstanding.

In any event, it is rare that we are able to combine two of the TigerHawk
sub-topics - numismatics and Iowa - so elegantly.

UPDATE (7:15 am Chicago time -- that being where I am -- October 27, via conventional blogging): Here's the lowdown on the Iowa quarter via the U.S. Mint. There's a detailed discussion of all the goofball mottos rejected in favor of "Foundation in Education," leaving me to wonder why they didn't stick with Iowa's official motto, "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain." Rights maintenance being sort of a hot topic these days.

Back in the day, Iowa had a great pop slogan, "A place to grow," which the state eventually abandoned in favor of any number of less textured efforts. I thought that "A place to grow" captured Iowa perfectly at many levels, and it definitely blows doors on "Foundation in Education." But with the Democrats in charge, it isn't surprising that the state is less in favor of growth and talking more about literacy -- that's the way things go.

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The weather in Cleveland 

Next Tuesday: Republican rain.

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The New York Times and the missing explosives 

Yesterday, the NYT ran on its front page this story, which strongly implied that 380 tons of high explosives disappeared from an Iraqi arms depot that should have been under American guard. Andrew immediately jumped ugly ("criminal negligence"), the Kerry campaign waxed indignant, and, according to Fox this morning, somebody littered the driveways of non-subscribing Floridians with copies of the Times. This morning, the Times broke its shoulder patting itself on the back for outing a "campaign issue."

The only problem is that the vast proponderance of the evidence indicates that the high explosives disappeared before American soldiers got there. I was going to write an extensive, link-rich evisceration of The New York Times and call on Andrew Sullivan to repeal his own indignation, but Rob A. has already done the work. Go here, work your way through the links bearing in mind that this story broke between the publication of the two Times articles, and then ask yourself why anybody should ever believe that bird-cage liner newspaper.

UPDATE (11:20 am): CNN:
"In a shameless attempt to cover up its failure to secure 380 tons of highly explosive material in Iraq, the White House is desperately flailing in an effort to escape blame," Lockhart said. "It is the latest pathetic excuse from an administration that never admits a mistake, no matter how disastrous."

Lockhart did not elaborate on how the Bush campaign was distorting the NBC report.


UPDATE (12:30 pm): Andrew digs in. He claims the evidence still points in the direction of American negligence (citing Talking Points Memo, which does make some powerful arguments in support of the Times account), but will retract "if the facts change."

I look at this a little differently. There is no strong evidence that the material was looted after the end of major combat operations against Iraq's conventional military. The Left would like for Bush to be responsible for all munitions after the first moment that American troops crossed into Iraq, or the first date that American soldiers passed through the facility in question. But is that reasonable? The argument that we needed to guard all found munitions at all times seems like a smart one in retrospect, but winning the conventional war must have appeared to be the greater priority at the time. In retrospect, we know that Saddam planned to defend in depth via guerrilla actions, and that he dispersed most of his weapons long before American soldiers got there. Had we known then what we know now, we probably would have taken greater care to secure explosives as we tore through to Baghdad. But what actually are the consequences? The explosives at issue, if they are in fact "in play," amount to a few hundred tons in a country with more than 600,000 tons of munitions before the war. We have secured more than 400,000 tons, but there are still staggering quantities that are unaccounted for, and undoubtedly in the hands of insurgents terrorists. For the Times to act as though a few hundred tons, more or less, is "new news" is at best disingenuous.

This incident is at best incremental evidence that we should have invaded with a bigger army. Maybe, but that is hardly a new controversy.

Final Update (unless it isn't, 7:30 am Chicago time, October 27): Wretchard drives a stake through the NYT's story.

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Monday, October 25, 2004

You can't make this stuff up 

If you are running for public office, never, ever, pretend to sports knowledge. Just admit you don't know shit from apple butter and turn the subject to national health insurance.
Twice on Sunday, the Democrat said he was basking in the glory of Boston’s 10-9 win on Saturday night. The problem was, the Red Sox won 11-9.

"Ten-nine, the Sox did fabulous," Mr Kerry said with a big smile as he ducked into church on Sunday morning in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Inside, the minister asked worshippers to clap "if the Lord has done anything wonderful in your life this week", to which Mr Kerry applauded.

"I had a special reason to clap," Mr Kerry explained. "The Red Sox won 10-9."

Mr Kerry’s spokesman, David Wade, said the senator got the score wrong because 10-9 was the last update he got during his late-night flight to Florida.

The problem is, the score never was 10-9. The Sox won on a two-run homer, meaning they went from nine runs to 11. Regardless, Mr Kerry’s adviser, Mike McCurry, explained to reporters: "The senator had bad intelligence last night."


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Paris Hilton to Open Club Paris in Vegas  

The Aladdin intends to rent out her suite when Hilton is not using it.

I assume that there is a web cam above the bed.

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Ann Althouse dreams of blog vengeance 

In fact, I did have a blog-related dream last night. I was sitting alone at a big table in a nice and crowded restaurant, having nothing but a cup of black coffee. The waiter brought the check, charging me $20: $5 for the coffee and $15 for occupying a table that could have been used for customers who would have ordered dinner. I told him if he didn't take the $15 charge off the check, I was going to write about it in my blog. Oh, what? You have more exciting dreams, I suppose?

No, Ann, I don't.

We all have blog-vengeance fantasies -- mine come when some dead game sport cuts me off on U.S. 1, and I imagine that he would hear about my rage and feel shame if I were only to post his tag number -- but it must be quite something to have them when it is within your power to twitch up a post on Instapundit.

Use it wisely, Professor Althouse. With great power comes great responsibility!

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This day is called the feast of Crispian 

Professor Bainbridge has posted The Speech in its recognition.

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Miscellaneous stuff of interest 

Most of you have undoubtedly seen the video of MSNBC's "analyst" Lawrence O'Donnell shouting down Swifty John O'Neill on Scarborough Country Friday last. But if you haven't, here's the link. You have to wonder why O'Donnell thought that this outburst helped his candidate's cause.

Not surprisingly, the Washington Post endorsed John Kerry. Surprisingly, the endorsement editorial was arrestingly balanced, and left plenty of room for the WaPo's readers to vote for Bush. Indeed, on national security matters the Post was very supportive of Bush Administration policies, mistakes notwithstanding, and breaks for Kerry largely on domestic issues:
The balancing process begins, as reelection campaigns must, with the incumbent. His record, particularly in foreign affairs, can't be judged with a simple aye or nay. President Bush rallied the nation after Sept. 11, 2001, and reshaped his own world view. His commitment to a long-term struggle to promote freedom in the Arab world reflects an understanding of the deep threat posed by radical Islamic fundamentalism. His actions have not always matched his stirring rhetoric on the subject, and setbacks to democracy in other parts of the world (notably Russia) appear not to have troubled him much.

But Mr. Bush has accomplished more than his critics acknowledge, both in the practical business of forming alliances to track terrorists and in beginning to reshape a Middle East policy too long centered on accommodating friendly dictators. He has promised the large increases in foreign aid, to help poor nations cope with AIDS and for other purposes, that we believe are essential.

The campaign that Mr. Bush led to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan seems easy and obvious in retrospect, but at the time many people warned of imminent quagmire. Mr. Bush wasted valuable time with his initial determination to avoid nation-building after Kabul fell and his drawdown of U.S. forces. But even so, Afghanistan today is far from the failure that Mr. Kerry portrays. Afghans and U.S. security alike are better off thanks to the intervention.

In Iraq, we do not fault Mr. Bush for believing, as President Clinton before him believed, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. We supported the war and believed that the Iraqi dictator posed a challenge that had to be faced; we continue to believe that the U.S. mission to promote a representative government in Iraq has a chance to leave the United States safer and the Iraqis far better off than they were under their murderous dictator.

We do, however, fault Mr. Bush for exaggerating to the public the intelligence given him privately and for alienating allies unnecessarily. Above all, we fault him for ignoring advice to better prepare for postwar reconstruction. The damage caused by that willful indifference is incalculable. There is no guarantee that Iraq would be more peaceful today if U.S. forces had prevented postwar looting, secured arms depots, welcomed international involvement and transferred authority to Iraqis more quickly. But the chances of success would have been higher.

Read the whole thing.

Bob Woodward, though, may still be on the fence. He has a long list of questions that George Bush was willing to answer on the record, but which John Kerry refuses to answer. They are damned good questions, and Kerry's supporters should forgive us if we wonder why he won't step up with some crisp answers. Woodward's been on Kerry's case about this for weeks. From Meet the Press back in mid-September:
MR. RUSSERT: Bob Woodward, when you talked to the president during the course of writing "Plan of Attack," you asked him about his presidency and how Iraq might affect it. And here is the exchange: "`And if this decision'"--going to war with Iraq--"`costs you the election?'" Woodward asked. "`The presidency - that's just the way it is,' Bush said. `Fully prepared to live with it.'"

He knew then the stakes would be high politically?

MR. WOODWARD: Certainly, and they should be. One of the common themes you find in talking to people in the White House and in the government here at all levels is, if you want to understand Bush, look at this decision. It defines him, and he knows that. What interests me, from the point of view of our business, the news media, is we have not found a way--we know how Bush operated. I mean, to his credit, he was willing to sit for three and a half hours and answer questions about how and why he made these decisions. We have not found a way to go to the political opponent, Senator Kerry, and say, "How would you deal with these things?" Not with sound bites, but in a long, detailed excavation of how John Kerry would be commander in chief. That's the missing piece in this political campaign.

You've probably also read that the Democrats' litigation assault has begun. They sued to overturn a ruling of the Ohio Secretary of State that would have prohibited the casting of provisional ballots anywhere other than in the voter's assigned precinct. After winning at trial, the 6th Circuit reversed. With 10,000 lawyers on the job, though, the Democrats can expect to win more of this litigation than they will lose.

Meanwhile, Spoons and others think that the Cayahoga County (Ohio) ballot has been printed in a way that favors Kerry -- apparently, there's a big arrow pointing to a vote for Kerry, and no such big arrow pointing to Bush's name. The Associated Press has more. There's lots of argument about whether the error is deliberate, inadvertent, or not an error at all. The only thing that is clear is that it will be grist for litigation.

Speaking of voter fraud, somebody tried to disenfranchise a tall glass of milk. Bad idea. My only question: What's the point of stealing votes in California?

Finally, the Boston Red Sox won twice, notwithstanding errors all over the field. My only question: Don't the Boston fans in the stands look like they're from Boston? They look way more like people from Boston than, say, Mets fans look like people from New York. I'm just saying, is all.

UPDATE: And don't miss Arthur Chrenkoff's latest round-up of good news from Iraq.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Electric sex 


Possibly NSFW, depending on the sense of humor or lack thereof in your HR department. However, I guarantee you that the IT department will not rat you out.

CWCID: Solomonia.

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Oil-for-food and the collapse of containment 

Joe Gandelman has a lengthy post excerpting the newest news around the United Nations oil-for-food scandal, whereby Saddam Hussein traded business with Iraq for political leverage. These quid pro quo transactions were in addition to the enormous amount of out-and-out smuggling through neighboring countries, more than $8 billion in illegal trade between 1996 and 2003, virtually all of which came after 2000.

I as I have argued at length elsewhere, intrusive "containment" was the only policy short of regime change that prevented Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons. That containment rested on four pillars: U.N. inspections, brutally tough economic sanctions, the enforcement of "no fly" zones, and a substantial American military presence in the Gulf. It is abundently clear that containment in this fashion "worked," in the sense that Saddam did not have the wherewithal to restart his nuclear weapons program for a third time as long as the four pillars were standing. The critical question is whether the four pillars of containment could have been sustained for the indefinite duration of the Saddam-Usay-Qusay regime.

The mounting revelations around the oil-for-food financial scandal and the concurrent smuggling strongly support the claims of supporters of the war, including me, that at least the economic sanctions were collapsing. Not only was Saddam using the oil vouchers to buy influence with France and Russia on the Security Council, but the flood of smuggling through Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt would have been almost impossible to stop. As Kenneth Pollack wrote as late as January 2004, long after it became clear that Saddam had no viable nuclear weapons program:
The oil-for-food program itself gave Saddam clout to apply toward the lifting of the sanctions. Under Resolution 986 Iraq could choose to whom it would sell its oil and from whom it would buy its food and medicine. Baghdad could therefore reward cooperative states with contracts. Not surprisingly, France and Russia regularly topped the list of Iraq's oil-for-food partners. In addition, Iraq could set the prices—and since Saddam did not really care whether he was importing enough food and medicine for his people's needs, he could sell oil on the cheap and buy food and medicine at inflated prices as additional payoff to friendly governments. He made it clear that he wanted his trading partners to ignore Iraqi smuggling and try to get the sanctions lifted.

Got that? Saddam was using the oil-for-food program, which was put in place to ease some of the impact of economic sanctions on innocent Iraqis, to undermine the sanctions regime, which was in turn a critical element of the containment that was keeping Saddam from developing nuclear weapons.

Thoughtful opponents of the war argue that containment had worked to prevent Saddam from re-starting his nuclear weapons program. Containment was falling apart, though. The U.N. inspectors were gone, and only able to return after the United States positioned a full-fledged invasion force on Iraq's border. The "no-fly" missions (one of the better oxymorons in geopolitical discourse - ed.) were increasingly unpopular in the Gulf States from which they were flown and in the Security Council (the French had bailed in 1996). The huge presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia could not have continued for many more years. Between smuggling and oil-for-food corruption, Saddam was able to break the embargo against him and develop Western allies against his own containment. It would not have been many years before Saddam would have launched his third (or fourth) attempt to develop nuclear weapons.

Genuine opponents of the Iraq war -- excluding those who supported the war but for its timing, manner, and diplomatic context -- need to demonstrate how containment, which was never meant to have been a long-term policy, could have been sustained credibly for the expected life of the Saddam-Uday-Qusay regime. Unless they do, they must have been willing to countenance Saddam Hussein or one of his less rational sons armed with nuclear weapons, or have been genuinely willing to fight a future war against Iraq on Saddam's terms, rather than ours.

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Humor and the presidency 

David Gelernter has a little essay in the Los Angeles Times on the role of humor in a presidential campaign, and why his belief that a sense of humor is essential in a president compels him to vote for Bush. While he agrees that Bush is rarely laugh-out-loud funny on purpose, he has a gentle sense of humor ("Want some wood?") that Americans virtually require in their presidents. Why? Because we always regret it when we elect stiffs:
In modern times, we have occasionally elected a massively humorless president, and have always regretted it. It is no accident that Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter are the two (a) least funny and (b) most embarrassing presidents of modern history.

And if you don't think Jimmy Carter was, and is, embarrassing, you are almost certainly going to vote for John Kerry. Go ahead, nothing you see here will change your mind.

Gelernter's most illuminating paragraphs, though, tell us what we have learned about George W. Bush by watching John Kerry:
Granted: Sen. John F. Kerry is the perfect matte-black background for a man like Bush. Kerry brings out sterling qualities you never knew Bush had.

Bush is not pompous. Bush is not mean. Bush is not wooden. Bush could not be replaced by a humanoid robot without his friends ever noticing. Bush has friends. Bush is never patronizing. Until he ran for president against Kerry, Bush never used to beat people around the head with phony, meaningless, unverifiable statistics instead of speaking to the point. (Admittedly, he has now learned how, from Kerry.)

There are many on the Left, of course, who would object strenuously to this characterization of Bush -- they would say that his positions on various issues prove he's mean, for example -- but as a matter of personal reaction to individuals Bush seems as Gelernter describes him. And to me the most telling is the simple implication that George Bush has friends and John Kerry does not. Is this implication fair? I have no idea, but if John Kerry does not have old friends -- people who he keeps in touch with and steps up for even when he has no current need of them -- then he probably does not have the capacity to earn the respect of the average American.

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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Supporting Bush in Blue country 

Slate's Richard Rushfield conducted "a political and journalistic experiment," hoping "to see how people who live in primarily one-party areas would react when faced with a living, breathing member of the opposition." Rushfield donned "Kerry/Edwards" logo atire in Newport Beach and Bakersfield, both seriously Republican areas, and then switched to Bush/Cheney gear in Blue country. What did he learn? The results aren't pretty:
Reflecting on the sting of being called "asshole" during my travels through Blue America, I wonder: If I were truly a Bush supporter, how long would I be able to endure a life filled with epithets before I gave up on the shirt? Changing into a nonpartisan brown Gap polo, I breathe a sigh of relief that I will never have to find out.

None of this is surprising to a conservative living in an Ivy League college town (that would be me). To get to my house, I have to pass an endless gauntlet of Kerry/Edwards signs, several of which have revised "A stronger America" to read "A smarter America." We can't just disagree, we have to be stupider than them? [UPDATE: Ironic, in light of this story, n'est-ce pas? - ed.] In the local coffee shop, Mrs. TigerHawk overhears almost endless sneering about Bush ("a monkey," according to one Princetonienne). At a potluck supper for the parents of my daughter's fourth grade class, I was repeatedly asked if I drove a green BMW. The simple "W" sticker next to the yellow ribbon was enough to arouse their curiousity. Who among them might be the Bush supporter other than the corporate executive? Several Kerry supporters said it was "courageous" of me to put that sticker on my car in Princeton. I was tempted to ask who among them was the vandal.

Via Professor Bainbridge.

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Steve Tyler sings the National Anthem 


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The Guardian calls for the assassination of an American President 

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?

Of course, coming as this does from an oracle of the Left, there will be no squeal of outrage from The New York Times, no tut-tutting on "Reliable Sources," and no fulminating over lattes at Small World Coffee. Can you imagine, though, the bleatings of indignation and harumphings about "hate" if Fox News or the New York Post had called for the murder of John Kerry?

If Bush wins, and if his victory holds up after the subsequent litigation, how many of these crazed lunatics will actually burst the cerebral aneurysms that must be there already, pressing on some or another center of reason?

Via Glenn, Dean, etc.

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I can't take it any more (via email) 

The sun has gone behind the clouds, both literally and figuratively. The
temperature having fallen with the fortunes of Tiger football, Harvard being
ahead 32-14 with 9:42 to go, and with Michigan vs. Purdue beckoning at home,
this fan is going to pack it in. Princeton's very streaky quarterback, Matt
Verbit, is working on his third consecutive ineffectual quarter, so I don't
think I'm going to miss much.

Wait. The Tigers just got some serious home cooking on a pass interference
call, so maybe I'll watch this last set...

Verbit just threw another pass interception. NOW I'm done.

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Harvard vs. Princeton (via email) 

At halftime, Harvard leads 22-14, having scored 19 unanswered points in the
second quarter. No matter, it is a beautiful day for football in Princeton,
apart from the stiff breeze out of the east, right into the faces of the
hometown crowd.

Ivy League football games are very polite affairs. The crowd sort of claps
when the Tigers do something gratifying -- you wonder if there ever was a
time when the fans actually went nuts. Perhaps, back in the day. The old
grads "coming back" (as we say here) certainly claim there was. My own
stepfather, Princeton '56, bellows out "the refs are blind" and such, which
gets chuckles from the old guys in their black and orange tweeds and
slightly annoyed backward glances from their wives.

The halftime shows with their "scramble bands" have gotten pretty tame in
recent years, generally in sync with the blanding down of American society
generally. There used to be all sorts of subversive dialogue read over the
loudspeakers during halftime, but puritanical types on the left and right
objected and by the mid-eighties the University had interposed a censor
between the Princeton Marching Band and its audience. Now the edgiest it
gets is a set of placards that read "Tigers Kick Ass" or somesuch. A far
cry from 1981's famous "Yuck Fale" show. Ok, so maybe it isn't clear that
censorship has done real harm.

More later, unless I can't take it.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Take the test 

You preferred Bush's statements 67% of the time
You preferred Kerry's statements 33% of the time

Voting purely on the issues you should vote Bush

Who would you vote for if you voted on the issues?

Find out now!

Like Dean, I wished I could answer "both" or "neither" in various cases, but that wasn't -- and isn't -- an option.

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The monthly "Hatewatch" brief at Winds of Change is up. The highlights:
Religious Hate: Indicted London mosque leader praises mothers of suicide bombers; Egyptian Islamist party leader justifies terror bombing; Al-Qaida web article praises beheading of Egyptian; Death threats for defamers of the Taliban; Christian Churches attacked in Istanbul – and Badhdad – and Zanzabar; A primer on Tariq Ramadan.

Idiotarian Seethings: Egyptian editor blames hatred on the West; BBC documentary broaches Al-Qaida denial; Hatred in Arabic at the Frankfurt Book Fair; Nobel winner claims AIDS is western bio-weapon; French neo-fascist too extreme for his own party; Anti-Americanism in Britain?; Neo-anti-Semitism in Italy; Delegitimization of Israel in academia.

Race and Culture: Racism as the source of conflict in Darfur; Bombing at Ras Shytan aims to drive a wedge between Egyptians and Israelis; Interference with Israeli rescue efforts at Taba alleged.

A Hopeful Note: Al-Arabiya TV director condemns Taba bombing; Arab progressive denounces terror; Separation of mosque and state in Afghanistan; Muslim apostate debates Muslim convert.

Among other outrages, WOC identifies a return of the blood libel in another form:
Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai has won the Nobel Peace Prize for her environmental activism. Her political outlook is arguably – how to say this – problematic. Some may disagree, but to me the notion that HIV is a bio-weapon invented by Western scientists to decimate black Africans is a kind of latter-day blood libel.

Why are so many winners of the Nobel Peace Prize complete whack jobs? Scandinavians are usually such sensible people, but they seem to go insane when handing out this particular trophy.

Read the whole thing, to know your enemy.

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Fall Classic 

It's going to be the Boston Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. I am still stunned after the incredible drama of the Yankees-Red Sox series. It is being covered in such depth elsewhere that I have little to add. It has been widely written that the four game collapse of the Yanks after taking a three game lead is historic in sports. It could have happened to any team, but this kind of stuff just doesn't happen to the Yankees. It's more the stuff of Cubs or Red Sox lore. Yankee fans now have had a small taste of the bitter drink that Red Sox fans quaff with disturbing regularity. (The Cubs' history of failure is less tragedy than futility. It's not tragic when you're 15 games out on August 1, it's just pathetic.)

It is sad that the glare that is the Sox/Yanks rivalry seemed to suppress the spectacular NLCS, which also went to 7 games and had its share of extra innings and walk-off drama. The series was decided in a two batter sequence last night. With two out in the sixth, Houston's Roger Clemens was cruising with a 2-1 lead and a man on second. Albert Pujols singled in the tying run, and Scott Rolan followed with a two-run shot that sounded titanic on ESPN Radio. We are thus deprived, I say mercifully, of Roger facing the Red Sox in the World Series.

The Red Sox and Cardinals have both been to the World Series many times in their storied histories, yet they have never met. Both clubs are supremely talented and between them have several potential hall of famers on their rosters. It will be interesting to see whether their hard fought battles to get this far will bring them in on the crest of a wave, or have left them utterly depleted.


An alert reader catches me in a sloppy error:

I think you missed one, though, on the Sox and Cards -- they met in the '67
Series, which the Cards won in Game 7 and in the fateful 1946 World Series,
where Ted Williams' really didn't hit, Enos Slaughter had a mad dash home from
first on a single (but did Johnny Pesky, so beloved in Boston, really hold the
ball too long?)and even Joe Garagiola (Sr., for those too young to remember the
host of "The Price is Right") made a big contribution.

No excuses, just deepest apologies. That will teach me to post "facts" overheard on TV broadcasts.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

One beautiful man 

Hey, it takes hard work to look this good. (Broadband only)

CWCID: The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

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It could be a long four years 

Slate's Chris Suellentrop wonders why John Kerry can't just stick to his script. Suellentrop tracks Kerry's actual words against those written for him by his speechifiers. His findings suggest a certain lack of, well, discipline. Here are a couple of the many examples in the essay:
Kerry's Script: Most of all, I will always level with the American people.

Actual Kerry: Most of all, my fellow Americans, I pledge to you that I will always level with the American people, because it's only by leveling and telling the truth that you build the legitimacy and gain the consent of the people who ultimately we are accountable to. I will level with the American people.

Kerry's Script: I will work with Republicans and Democrats on this health care plan, and we will pass it.

Actual Kerry: I will work with Republicans and Democrats across the aisle, openly, not with an ideological, driven, fixed, rigid concept, but much like Franklin Roosevelt said, I don't care whether a good idea is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea. I just care whether or not it's gonna work for Americans and help make our country stronger. And we will pass this bill. I'll tell you a little bit about it in a minute, and I'll tell you why we'll pass it, because it's different from anything we've ever done before, despite what the Republicans want to try to tell you.

Kerry has been very critical of President Bush for not taking "advice" that he has supposedly received on any number of important subjects. All well and good -- the taking and rejecting of advice is part and parcel with effective executive management, and sometimes we take the wrong advice. But what comfort should we have that John Kerry will take good advice on important matters if he can't even deliver a speech without giving into his impulse to ad lib?

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Scissors cuts rock 

It was actually happening. The nerd was kissing the homecoming queen. Paper was beating scissors; scissors were beating rock. Charlie Brown was kicking the football. The Red Sox were beating the Yankees for the American League pennant.

Via The Sports Frog.

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Can Iraq become a strategic defeat for al Qaeda? 

Yes, according to James Dunnigan:
Al Qaeda's man in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, has become the most hated man in Iraq. Just as in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda was founded, and any other country they have operated in (like Saudi Arabia), the terrorist organization eventually becomes widely hated. The suicide bombs make great propaganda, but the locals don't like getting blown to pieces as a side effect. Even the anti-government forces have turned on al Qaeda, and especially al Zarqawi, because they resent the Jordanian terrorist leaders grabbing all the headlines. Media exposure is the the major currency in this war, and al Zarqawi is seen as selfish and greedy when it comes to sharing the limelight. So the consensus among Iraqis, both pro and anti-government, is that al Zarqawi must die. Meanwhile, al Zarqawi fancies himself the "new bin Laden," because while al Zarqawi leads the bloody and fruitless battle against the forces of peace and democracy in Iraq, Osama bin Laden cowers in a cave somewhere along the Afghan border. Al Zarqawi might try to flee Iraq, to save his life, and enjoy his new stature. But where can he go? Not Iran, mainly because al Zarqawi has preached civil war between Sunnis and Shias as a way for al Qaeda to gain power in Iraq. This does not go down well in Shia Iran. Perhaps Syria? Maybe, but Syria's in enough trouble as it is, and does not want to openly join the Axis of Evil. So where could al Zarqawi go. There are few options, although one of the many caves along the Afghan border might be his best bet.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Notes from the CNS: The child with two faces 

As previously reported, I've been in San Francisco for the last few days attending the annual meeting of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. One of my duties pleasures is to break bread with neurosurgeons who are our customers or scientific collaborators. Last night I had dinner with two chief residents from an important West Coast hospital. Since neurosurgery has the longest residency in medicine -- something like nine years -- these were experienced surgeons notwithstanding their status.

As usually happens over dinner with surgeons, the conversation turned to surgery very quickly. This might be unappetizing for the average diner, but it is de rigeur shop talk in the medical device industry (and, I should add, a stark improvement over the dinner conversation at my last company, which sold products to pathologists). We ended up talking about conjoined twins cases, which are very challenging for the neurosurgeons, garner enormous publicity for the hospital in an age when hospitals love publicity, and give medical device companies an opportunity to showcase their technology (our company builds and usually donates custom "cranial stabilization systems" for fixing the heads of these poor children absolutely motionless for these long operations).

Not surprisingly, these cases can pose tremendous ethical questions, particularly when the survival of one of the twins is problematic, or even impossible. The most difficult such case that these surgeons knew about involved a subject that rocked our bedrock assumptions about the essence of individuality. This patient -- or patients -- had one body and one cranium, but two apparently functioning faces and roughly 1 1/2 brains. The second face included two eyes, a nose and a mouth, all of which functioned. The second mouth drained into an esophagous, which joined with the "primary" esophagous at a "Y" junction in the common throat. It is not clear whether the second face, with its partial brain, had a separate consciousness.

Now assume that without an intervention the patient or patients -- whether one or two -- will die. What to do?

We are ill-equipped linguistically even to discuss such a question. Start with the language we use. Is this "a patient" or "patients"? "A child," or "twins"? If you call the procedure a "separation" of "twins" you have assumed one conclusion, and if you call it a "reconstruction" of a deformed baby you have assumed the opposite conclusion. We have no vocabulary that does not assume the conclusion, but the conclusion is critical, perhaps, to deciding whether it is permissible to attempt a "rescue" of that part of the patient(s) with the primary face and intact brain. If the procedure is merely plastic surgery with a neuro twist, there is no question that you must rescue the child. If the procedure calls for homicide -- the affirmative termination of a dependant individual in order to rescue the complete individual -- you might reach a very different conclusion.

As it turned out, the patient(s) were in the care of a hospital with religious roots, and the hospital's ethics review board would not permit its attending surgeons to perform the operation that would have rescued the complete child (see, by the way, how I have to torture the language even here to avoid assuming a conclusion, and you might well argue that I have failed). The patient(s) died.

One of the surgeons present was appalled that "religious" considerations played a role in this decision (the other surgeon remained curiously silent). My unspoken response -- unspoken because there is never a payoff in arguing religion with a customer -- was to wonder how you might decide this question without resorting to religion, or at least faith?

We live in interesting times.

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Fountainhead of a thousand barfights 

Is this the most subversive technology since the World Wide Web?

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Overheard in Ann Arbor 

Proof that if you keep your ears open you can hear anything, anywhere.

Word, indeed.

CWCID: Spoons.

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Arrogance on the Left 

The TigerHawk wife, living as she does in an affluent, Ivy League university town in a navy blue leaning-Kerry state, has a thing or two to say about the arrogance of the Left, which she has reduced to a letter to the editor of The New York Times. Gambling that it won't be published there, we offer it as an exclusive feature to our readers:
To the Editor:

It's hardly a shock that the New York Times endorsed John Kerry and thinks the Bush presidency is a "catastrophe". What moved me to respond was the "heartbreak" characterization of the past four years and the follow-up letters to the editor denouncing Bush voters. Although I am critical of various actions of the Bush administration I will still vote for him and I'm not ignorant, stupid or deluded, thank you.

My heart broke on Sept. 11, 2001 when I realized that terrorism was no longer a faraway problem in places like Northern Ireland and Israel. That day I realized that we were vulnerable here at home, and American life would never be the same. I knew that terribly difficult choices about rights versus security, and consensus building versus standing alone if necessary, lay ahead. I don't blame Bush for that, I blame the terrorists and their state sponsors - and I note that their plans date well back into the prior administration.

What upsets me about the politics of this election is not that reasonable people can differ on the difficult and troubling problems of protecting America in the 21st century. What really troubles me is all of the liberals I have heard talking about how anyone who votes for Bush is stupid or deluded (just as they depict Bush himself as stupid and deluded - I heard him referred to as a "monkey" in a local coffee shop.) For the party supposedly representing the common man, the Democrats sure don't give much respect to red-state voters. Barely concealed between the lines is the academic-liberal snobbery that Bush voters can be dismissed as ignorant "trailer trash", religious nuts, etc. The following quotes from the Tuesday letters make my point: "the minds of so many Americans have been spun into a place beyond reason, and the rancid foam of fear has clouded their clear sight" (hey, that sounds like the Kerry supporters to me) and "If only all Americans were as lucid [as the Times editorial] the election would be in the bag . . . if Bush manages to be re-elected, it will be a sad day for the nation, for it means that the public is far more ignorant and susceptible to manipulation than ever before." Excuse me, but who's arrogant now?

This election's been so divisive because most Democrats have worked themselves up to such a level of emotion that they think the world will come to an end unless Bush is replaced. Yet, only one Democrat has been elected to the office since the post-Watergate election of Jimmy Carter. Why is that? Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were elected because they inspired, and gave confidence to, more voters (a LOT more voters) than the Democrat who ran against them. No Democrat except Bill Clinton - who, like George W. Bush, squeaked into office by the skin of his teeth - has gotten the votes, period. If Democrats spent more time thinking about why that is and less screaming about how much they hate Bush and are ashamed of our conduct in the world, maybe they could win the election on a positive basis.

Thus, the real heartbreak for liberals and Democrats is that a majority of the country tends not to agree with them. Remember, people may be angry about Florida in 2000, but if Gore had won more "swing votes" elsewhere the election would not have turned on Florida's recount. He was riding the coattails of an incredibly popular, moderate President - yet managed to lose. New Jersey has gone Democrat for as long as I can remember (including in 2000), but it's in play this year. Why? Because enough New Jerseyans support the President, and disagree with Kerry, to put it in play. Maybe Bush will get re-elected and maybe he won't, but I am sick and tired of Bush voters being characterized as too stupid, deluded or ignorant to know any better. Talk about arrogance. Finally, I think it's ludicrous that the supporters of a man who's telling Americans their Social Security will be taken away and their children will be drafted would decry "scare tactics." Give me a break.

Sincerely, etc., etc.

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Light blogging 

I've been in San Francisco since Saturday attending the annual meeting of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (not that I am one). So my schedule is both off-center and quite crowded. Blogging will therefore be light for the next couple of days, unless (i) I get some free time at a Starbucks with a wireless hotspot, or (ii) Charlottesvillain steps to the plate.

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Monday, October 18, 2004

Hawks Roll 

Until Saturday, the Iowa Hawkeyes had not defeated Ohio State in Kinnick Stadium since Chuck Long's sophomore year in 1983. This long streak of futility was at least temporarily interrupted Saturday with their 33-7 rout of the Buckeyes. Ohio State is clearly having a down year, but this has never mattered in the past when they encountered the Hawkeyes. The team is less than two years removed from a national championship for Pete's sake!

This is a big win for the Hawkeyes no matter how you cut it. It was the first win over OSU by Iowa head coach "Captain" Kirk Ferentz. It also preserves Big 10 title hopes for Iowa, provided they win the remainder of their games and Michigan loses twice. Iowa has the benefit of playing Wisconsin and Purdue at home, and must hope that Purdue defeats Michigan next week, a possibility, and that the Buckeyes find a way to beat the Wolverines as well. (Not likely.)

Via the usual Big 10 scheduling quirk, the two undefeated teams in the conference,Wisconsin and Michigan, will not play each other, although if they both run the table than Wisconsin takes the championship as a result of Michigan's loss to Notre Dame.

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National identity is a tricky thing 

Whatever the merits of the idea in the abstract, Germany shouldn't be proposing concentration camps.

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Arthur Chrenkoff's latest installment of "Good news from Afghanistan" is up, with lots of post-election coverage.

Afghanistan is a long way from the Jeffersonian ideal, but the progress there, especially in the last year, has been remarkable. At least two things may be said of it. First, we will have to stick with Afghanistan through more than one election cycle. In that part of the world, "one man, one vote, one time" is more the rule than the exception, and the real test of any legitimate government is whether it can replace itself with equal legitimacy.

Second, the United States has, temporarily at least, achieved its strategic objectives and confounded both its critics and its enemies. The strategic objectives included the displacement, if not the destruction, of al Qaeda. Years too late, we have turned Afghanistan from a genuine "haven" for terrorists (in the oft-repeated phrase of the Kerry campaign) complete with training camps turning out thousands of new enemy soldiers into a place where Western soldiers hunt down the enemy and kill them. The inability of the Taliban and their allies to disrupt these elections -- which they had repeatedly threatened to do with all the usual rivers-of-blood rhetoric -- is strong evidence that we have massively reduced the destructive power of the Islamists in and around Afghanistan.

Of course, our other strategic objective is the political and military encirclement of Iran, which we began with the invasion of Afghanistan and completed with the occupation in Iraq. I believe it is the case that there are American troops -- officially or otherwise -- in every country that borders Iran. While it is not clear to me precisely what policy opportunities derive from that fact, it clearly gives us options for dealing with Iran that we did not have before September 11.

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Why stop with prescription drugs? 

"I have a plan to get every American hooked on Canadian bacon," said Mr. Kerry during a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Oregon. "All we need to do is get American farmers to export their hogs to Canada, where the government could impose price controls, then we re-import the processed Canadian bacon to the United States at prices lower than those available here on ordinary bacon."

Mr. Kerry's Bring Home the Canadian Bacon plan has ignited almost as much enthusiasm across the United States as his plan to re-import American prescription drugs from Canada.

"The reason these plans work," said Mr. Kerry, who is also a U.S. Senator, "is because they give us the best of both systems--capitalism and socialism. American companies do the risky work of developing these products, and then we allow Canada's government to control how much profit they make. The bottom line: when American companies make smaller profits, their workers will have less money. And that's why they'll need cheaper drugs and bacon."

Meanwhile, the "real" plan unravels.

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Fish out of water 

It must be tough trying to read a hymnal without your reading glasses. Posted by Hello

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A pie crust promise 

Easily made, easily broken.

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New Jersey on the bubble 

Bruce notwithstanding, the race for New Jersey's 15 electoral votes is very close, and the Bush campaign has scheduled at least one rally here. How could such a navy blue state -- which went for Al Gore by 16 points -- be on the bubble? Well, there is the corrupt incompetence of the McGreevey administration, and the wretched sleaziness of his famous delayed resignation. And then there is our proximity to Pennsylvania, which means that we get a lot of Swift Boat advertising leaking over the Delaware from that battleground state. And finally there's this:
Nearly 700 New Jersey people died in the attack, after New York the highest toll paid by any state from Sept. 11, 2001. New Jerseyans' lingering angst - state polls indicate Sept. 11 is a major factor in the presidential race - is the main reason Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry are in a tight race for the 15 electoral votes from the state that last voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 1988.

I don't know anybody who didn't know somebody.

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Is the Bush Administration responsible for the flu vaccine shortage? 

John Kerry says so. Ridiculous:
[Wyeth's exit from flu vaccine production] is part of a long, slow industry-wide flight away from flu vaccine, which has simply become more trouble than it's worth.

"It shouldn't be surprising to anybody," said Gregory A. Poland, director of the vaccine research group at the Mayo Clinic, in Minnesota. "In fact, I marvel that there are companies willing to stay in the business."

As a practical matter, there is no money in the production of flu vaccine. Despite all the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, neither the government nor private insurers value flu vaccination enough to pay enough to make the business profitable. As a result, one company after another has abandoned the business. While it may be the case that we could guarantee adequate vaccine by entering into long-term cost-plus contracts with pharmaceutical companies, it is sort of hard to imagine that the Democrats, bent on destroying the profitability of the pharmaceutical industry, would support such an arrangement.

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The greatest commercial. Ever. 

And it's for a hamburger.

CWCID: Spoons and the Shape of Days.

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President Bush and "jobs" 

Tired as I am of incessent bleating over "jobs," which are a Democrat's preferred means for making a living, I bow down in awe to Rusty Schackleford's evisceration of John Kerry's oft-reported and never-challenged claim that George W. Bush is the first president "in 72 years" to lose jobs. If one were charitable toward Kerry, one would describe his fun with employment statistics as "mistaken." It is more honest to call it dishonest.

Read the whole thing.

CWCID: Wizbang!

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Mary Cheney kerfuffle 

The TigerHawk take:

First, John Kerry and John Edwards intentionally brought up the "Vice President's daughter, who is a lesbian," to rattle the conservative base. How can there be any doubt that it was deliberate snarking and not in the least bit compassionate? But is the statement in and of itself the giant outrage that Republicans claim it is? C'mon. Of course it isn't.

Second, the conservative eruption over this, including the Cheneys' personal rage, is partly genuine and partly calculated to fire up the base. It is getting less genuine and more calculated as the hours tick by.

Third, Elizabeth Edwards' suggestion that the reaction of the Cheneys may reflect their "shame" over their daughter is the single most offensive statement in the whole controversy. John Kerry's mild reference pales in comparison to Elizabeth Edwards' implicit assertion that the Cheneys don't love their daughter with their whole heart, which is manifestly a slander. There is absolutely no evidence that the Cheneys are "ashamed" by their daughter's sexuality. Elizabeth Edwards needs to apologize now. Is there any doubt that she should?

Fourth, if you don't think there was something at least a little bit wrong with Kerry's original reference (that would be you, Andrew), take this thought experiment: Suppose that in a discussion of health care the topic of obesity had come up, and George Bush had said "We need to have compassion for people who struggle with their weight, even if they burden the health care system. I'm sure Elizabeth Edwards believes that her weight is very much a part of her nature." Is there any doubt that the Democrats and the mainstream media would be outraged? And then suppose that Lynn Cheney had said that that outrage might reflect "shame" over Elizabeth Edwards' obesity. How would the Democrats have reacted?

'Nuff said.

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Rob A. is getting married today. Go give him and his bride your best.

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The New York Times was for the Plame investigation before it was against it 

A prosecutor's investigation into an apparent attempt by the Bush administration to punish a political opponent by revealing classified information has veered terribly off course. It threatens grievous harm to freedom of the press and the vital protection it provides against government misconduct.

The reality of the threat was driven home, quite personally for us, last week, when a federal judge in Washington sentenced a Times reporter, Judith Miller, to up to 18 months in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

Of course, the Times was all for this investigation until prosecutors started requiring reporters to testify. Its change of heart now is understandable -- there is a big difference between nailing Scooter Libby and throwing Judith Miller in jail for contempt -- but the Times tries to argue that the prosecutor is unreasonable in pursuing his leads and maintaining the secrecy of his evidence, and it snarkily wonders why "Mr. Novak, who originally published Ms. Plame's name, appears to be in no jeopardy." Heh.

The national press corps sleeps with the official Washington. When the New York Times campaigned for a criminal investigation into a leak -- which is what the Plame case is all about -- it was asking for prosecutorial intrusion into relationships between journalists and all possible leakers. That the evidence thus far does not point to the Times' preferred targets -- Libby and Novak -- only reveals the hypocrisy in its position. As far as the Times is concerned, the Plame investigation was just friggin' fine right up to the point that it failed to expose Dick Cheney's right hand man and journalism's Prince of Darkness. Now that it looks like Joe Wilson lied about his wife's involvement and the prosecutors are asking for Judith Miller's phone records, the Times can only conclude that the investigation has "veered terribly off course." Not, apparently, that it was a bad idea to begin with.

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Free Russell Chmieleski 

A teenager has to serve six months to two years for streaking through a high school graduation, "because children were in the crowd." Huh? Children have become our catch-all unimaginative excuse for abolishing humor from our world. What sort of people do they have in Towanda, Pennsylvania? Fundamentalist Muslims? If you're going to throw somebody in jail for six months to two years, why not just go whole hog and stone women showing a turn of ankle? Streaking is funny, and the maximum sentence for it should be a ticket or an order to pick up litter along a stretch of highway. Under what theory of justice do you devestate a young life for public nudity? The city fathers of Towanda should be ashamed.

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Friday, October 15, 2004

The Hawkeyes and Bruce 

Almost four minutes of Hawkeye highlights from the spectacular 2002 season: "The Rising."

Only one of many great offerings at ScottHawk, a very bonnie tribute site in honor of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

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Graduation day 

Iraqi National Guardsmen, parading on their graduation day. Posted by Hello

CWCID: The Australian.

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Isn't this Pope Gregory XIII's fault? 

'Sunday Halloween irks some in bible belt' - headline, Associated Press.

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Annals of numismatics: Tip jar temptations 

At Starbucks this morning, I couldn't help but notice a manifestly worn cent (a "penny" in the vernacular) in the tip jar. Impulse control never being my strong suit, I bent at the waist and peered closely into the little lucite cube, very excited to see a 1936 cent. But was it minted in Philadelphia, Denver, or San Francisco? To know that, I would have had to see the reverse of the coin, and to see the reverse I would need to reach into the tip jar in the manner of George Costanza. Then I noticed a line of at least ten people behind me, most of whom were staring at me staring into the tip jar. No way I was reaching in.

So here I sit, wondering about the goddamn mint mark on that Lincoln cent. Why? Because that's what coin collectors do -- we wonder about mint marks. So without the benefit of actual knowledge (or courage -- either would do fine) I need to inform my speculation. Fortunately, there is a web page with all the Lincoln Cent mintages since 1909, so I can confirm that the cent production in the Philadelphia mint in 1936 was roughly eight times the production in Denver, and ten times the production in San Francisco. So on odds alone you have to figure it was a Philadelphia coin. If we add the impact of proximity (however much 70 years may have attenuated its influence), and you gotta figure there's a 90% chance the coin is from Philly.

But what if it isn't?


UPDATE: A commenter pointed out that I have had a massive brain fart: the mint mark on the Lincoln cent always appears on the obverse! DOH! For some bizarre reason I had it in my head that the obverse mint marks dated only from 1959, when the reverse converted to the Lincoln Memorial, but of course that isn't true. ARRGH!

But if I had remembered that point, I wouldn't have had an excuse to link to the whole George Costanza "tip jar" script, so the post isn't a total loss, even if it makes me look like a moron.

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Can a hawk support Kerry? 

The liberal hawks, torn by their support for an aggressive war against Islamic fascism abroad -- which we know Bush will fight and can only hope Kerry would sustain -- and their generalized disgust at the Bush administration, are trying to argue that Kerry will have to keep fighting the war, so we can have our cake and eat it too. Andrew Sullivan has been making this point for a while (although without clearly embracing it or rejecting it), with his latest post up this morning:
It's a simple argument and it goes as follows. One reason to vote for Kerry this time is that, whatever his record, he will, as president, be forced by reality and by public opinion to be tough in this war. He has no other option. You think he wants to be tarred as a wimp every night by Fox News? Moreover, he would remove from the Europeans and others the Bush alibi for their relative absence in the war on terror. More important, his presidency would weaken the Michael Moore wing of the Democrats, by forcing them to take responsibility for a war that is theirs' as much a anyone's.

Andrew goes on to quote Bob Kagen and Max Boot, who argue that just as the election of Eisenhower forced Republicans to support the containment of the Soviet Union (as if Joe McCarthy's Republican Party needed a big boost to that rung on the ladder), a Kerry Administration would force the Democrats to take ownership of the war on terror.

This is wishful thinking of a very dangerous sort. While it may be the case that Kerry surprises us -- the office changes the person in it -- everything in Kerry's "lifetime of service" and much of what he has said in this campaign suggest that he wants to fight the war defensively, rather than aggressively overseas, and that is a war that I don't think we can win.

He has a long history as a dove, the most damning moment being when he voted against the recovery of Kuwait in 1991. Whatever the merits of Dubya's "Coalition of the Willing," Kerry is right that we had a vast coalition going in with us in 1991. The Gulf War was a very different story from 2003 as Kerry himself has argued incessently, yet he voted against even that ultra-multilateral response to overt aggression.

Kerry has also repeatedly emphasized our current failings in defensive homeland security, spelling out our weaknesses in such detail one wonders whether al Qaeda isn't taking notes. He has complained about the lack of federal funds for fire departments (even though the number of fires of the non-terrorism variety has declined precipitously in the last thirty or forty years), and wants to inspect everything (without, however, violating anybody's rights). Bush's response, which is essentially that you can't guard everything which is why you have to kill Islamists overseas, demarcates a stark difference in the thinking of the two candidates.

More fundamentally, Kerry's own statements in this campaign undermine our ability to imagine that he will pursue the war on Islamist fascism aggressively. Joe Katzman of Winds of Change wrote it best:
I even understand the impetus to look at 2 candidates who offer less than the times demand, and see the stakes before us, and tell oneself that Kerry will have to do the right thing.

But you know what? He absolutely does not.

Look at Europe now, or look back into human history - illusion and passivity in the face of real threats is an option, and some leaders and states will take it.

One question: is Kerry one of those people? Simple question. Simple answer.

Kerry's positions on issues like Iran are clear, and were openly stated in the debate: normalize relations with the world's #1 terrorist sponsors while they undermine Iraq & Afghanistan, offer them nuclear fuel, propose sanctions the Europeans will drag their feet on in order to stop a late-stage nuclear program that's impervious to sanctions anyway, and oppose both missile defense and the nuclear bunker-buster weapons that would give the USA defensive or offensive options in a crisis.

The liberal hawks have no easy way out because they cannot support their hopes for a hawkish Kerry on the basis of his record of actions and statements. The choice is as difficult as it always has been.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Why was Voltaire exiled? 

According to the TigerHawk son, on a friggin' history test: "Because he fought the Power."

True, and hilarious in its own way, but powerful evidence that we need to ease the comedy out of the taking of tests.

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Progress in Afghanistan and, of a sort, in Iraq 

The Christian Science Monitor has consistently produced the most intrepid reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq, going where more, shall we say, corporate journalists are loathe to tread. Tomorrow's issue has two very interesting stories that paint quite a different picture from the rest of the mainstream media.

Scott Baldauf writes that the Taliban are no longer able to make good their threats.
Afghanistan's first ever presidential elections were an unmitigated disaster - if you're a hard-core Taliban fighter.
Far from staying away from the polls, the Afghan voters came out in droves. Instead of being intimidated by threats of violence, villagers walked for miles to the nearest voting station to give democracy a try. Worst of all, from a terrorist's perspective, the Taliban were unable to deliver on their promise to spread election-day mayhem. In fact, it was the calmest day in recent memory. (emphasis added)

The good guys (which in Afghanistan is an "enemy of my enemy" kind of thing) scored some impressive victories:
[T]he main story of election day was what didn't happen. A fully loaded fuel truck with explosives packed in the tires didn't explode outside a polling station in Kandahar. Instead, it was stopped by Afghan forces on the road from the Pakistani border. In Khost Province, a 12-year-old boy didn't carry explosives into a busy polling station. Police arrested him before he left his house, acting on a tip-off from neighbors.

And a group of Taliban commanders, meeting in the village of Charasiab, an hour outside Kabul, did not fire hundreds of rockets onto Kabul or nearby polling stations in Logar Province. Instead, they were arrested on the morning of election day, after a four-hour gun battle with Afghan special Task Force 333, an elite group in the Afghan National Army.

As even this optimistic article admits, the war is far from over. Civil insurgency comes and goes in Afghanistan. But the Taliban are getting weak and tired, and Afghanistan is no longer a "haven" for terrorists. Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, the CSM also sees progress in Iraq, notwithstanding tonight's attack in the Green Zone.
But despite continued insecurity, the steady US military pressure against insurgents, coupled with efforts of the Iraqi interim government to negotiate, may be gaining at least some degree of traction.

Among the signs of progress in the conflict:

• Fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr this week turned over many heavy weapons for cash as part of an agreement to stop fighting, and bring more aid and government control to impoverished Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad.

• Rocky negotiations had continued in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, spurred by almost nightly US air raids.

There is no question that there is enormous trouble in Iraq, even if we might argue over the extent to which it is attributable to Bush Administration errors. One of those alleged errors was our decision to back away from Fallujah in April -- we might reasonably wonder whether that retreat prevented a huge surge in American casualties six months ago at the cost of continuing instability and loss of life in the time since. This CSM article does, however, reveal the different wisdom in Allawi's more deliberative strategy of negotiation combined with coercion. In particular, the article elaborates at some length on differences between the Shiite rebellion among al Sadr's followers and the Sunnis in Fallujah, and the growing divisions in the latter. Indeed, StrategyPage made much the same point earlier today, before the CSM published its story:
Sunni Arabs in Iraq are becoming more agitated about being caught in a war pitting an alliance of Saddam supporters and Islamic radicals, against the majority Shia Arab and Kurds who want peace and prosperity, at any price. The Sunni Arabs are increasingly desperate to do something about their situation. Despite the threats from Saddam's old enforcers (almost all of them Sunni Arads), and the al Qaeda influenced Islamic radicals; tribal and religious leaders are suggesting that the Saddam hardliners and foreign Islamic radicals leave. Leave Sunni Areas, leave Iraq, leave this life, it doesn't really matter.... The Sunni Arabs have been cowed by the terror, but not completely immobilized. Deals are being cut, to be finalized when Iraqi troops and police enter Sunni Arab towns under the shadow of American firepower. Will the Sunni Arab leaders remain with the Iraqi majority. Considering the alternative, they probably will.

Beneath the surface of the Ramadan offensive and the apparently rising violence there is a game being played, deeper than than we can understand from any newspaper. As in Afghanistan, the forces of Islamic fascism are fighting hard to prevent the establishment of a broadly legitimate, pluralistic, representative government. They are fighting so hard because such a government is possible, notwithstanding the scorn heaped on Bush for this belief, and its success will be devestating to Islamist jihad.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds, writing in The Guardian, thinks he knows why there has been so little press coverage, favorable or otherwise, of the elections in Afghanistan:
The election may not have been perfect - the UN apparently needs a better ink supplier - but international monitors pronounced it fair.

As a result, it is getting rather little attention in the western media - because if Afghanistan is obviously not the "quagmire" people have been calling it for three years, Bush must have been doing something right. That raises the troubling possibility that he might know what he is doing elsewhere, a notion that must not be entertained - if at all - until after the US elections.


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I hope it wasn't Princeton 

FBI agent Joseph Billy Jr. told The Record of Bergen County for a story in Thursday editions that the [al Qaeda] operative lived in New Jersey and attended several schools there while carrying out the reconnaissance operation. Billy did not identify the schools.

U.S. officials have identified the suspect as 32-year-old Dhiren Barot. He was arrested by British authorities in August and remains in custody there.

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Advice for Tom Ridge 

A color-coded nuisance alert system -- just the sort of thing that we could use around the office.  Posted by Hello

CWCID: Cassandra and Commonsense and Wonder.

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Zero tolerance stupidity 

Joshua Phelps, a teenaged history buff in Pine Bush, New York, was detained by his high school and arrested by the local cops for leaving a replica (i.e., fake) musket in his car after a Civil War reenactment.
Pine Bush School Superintendent RoseMarie Stark called the incident a student discipline matter and declined to comment further.

Would she be willing to comment further if we characterized it as a "school bureaucrat stupidity matter"?

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The silly assault weapons ban 

I am not a big gun guy -- I do not own a gun but I think they're cool, and that gun nut bumper stickers are funny -- but I have come to realize that the "assault weapons ban" that Clinton passed and Kerry keeps bleating about is nothing but political make-up. Dave Kopel explains why in a four sentence post at The Corner.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debate #3 

Well, if it wasn't clear after the first debate it is clear after three of them -- John Kerry is a far more effective debate than George Bush. But a good debater does not make a good President. I think Kerry "won" tonight on policy matters -- never mind that I thought he was completely full of it on the substance, he served up answers that the voters who are concerned with domestic policy want to hear. Bush did better on the "personal" questions -- those that related to religion and family. I am not a very religious person -- I go to church about one week in four, and largely to set a good example. But I am also not offended by overt religiousity, which Bush expresses as movingly as anybody in American politics. His expression of his faith is so vastly more attractive than that of our last evangelical President, Jimmy Carter, that I do not understand why people are so much more offended by Bush's religion than they were by Carter's.

In any case, the real question will be how the press spins this debate. If post-debate polls count only answers of people who watched the debate, there will be two factors that heavily influence the results. First, I wonder how many people in this country are actually going to vote on the basis of domestic policy (I mean, other than the guy behind the MSNBC set with the sign that says "Screw Iraq, I need a job"). The people who care about foreign policy the most may have bailed to watch baseball.

Second, a lot of people, particularly in the Boston - New York corridor, will have bailed to watched baseball in any case. If major league city-dwellers generally are more likely to be baseball fans and Kerry voters, did that skew the debate-watching population to the right?

I doubt the polls move much in the next few days. It is going to be a nail-biter, barring an unbelievable October surprise.

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I'll be over at Spoons 

Spoons will be liveblogging, and I'll be in the comments. Assuming that I have something to say.

UPDATE: Here's the link to the Spoons liveblogging post.

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Hate speech, apparently, depends on the speaker 

This is an actual campaign flyer distributed by an actual Democrat, Chris Fitzhugh, of the Tennessee state legislature. I think this makes up for the "ban the Bible" mailer, don't you? Posted by Hello

OK, I admit it -- there's a small part of me that thinks that both this little bit of ugliness and the "ban the Bible" mailer are hilarious, but it's the part that worships this comedian (may he rest in peace), not the part that goes to church at least one Sunday a month.
CWCID: Best of the Web.

UPDATE (Thursday afternoon): Best of the Web corrects, and so shall we. It was Craig Fitzhugh, not Chris, who distributed the flyer. BOTW also acknowledges that the flyer is a rip-off of an old Internet gag, as tagged in the first comment to this post. But that doesn't mean that Fitzhugh didn't distribute the image on a flyer.

UPDATE (Friday afternoon): The Democrats are crying foul. This looks like a dirty trick.

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