August 22 2003
SOBIG DEAL: If you've sent us an email in the last couple
of days and it bounced back or we haven't responded it's because
we've been swamped by virus emails. Hopefully it will pass and
we'll be back to normal soon.
WINNING: Okay, this is going to a longish post, so strap yourselves
in. On Wednesday, Josh
Marshall wrote the following about the UN bombing in Iraq
and demanded some answers:
Yglesias' site that there is a notion being peddled by certain
conservative columnists that the bombing of the UN mission in
Baghdad is actually a sign that the bad guys are on the ropes.
Now, that strikes me as a rather creative of interpretation
of the event...
we have what I guess we could call the 'paradoxically
positive mass-casualty terrorism event' theory: that mass-casualty
terrorism events show the success of our policy since they are
a sign 'the terrorists' are becoming desperate.
my part, I don't think either guerrilla attacks or mass-casualty
terror attacks in themselves show the administration's policy
is a failure. This is a difficult business. But they also don't
strike me as positive developments.
think it's time for the hawks to give us a few examples of events
that would show that our policy was not working or at least
facing setbacks. You know, just so we can put down some benchmarks,
so we can know what we're working with..
one of the "hawks" who believes in Marshall's "paradoxically positive
mass-casualty terrorism event" theory I guess it falls on me -
at least in part - to respond.
Let me start
first by saying that Marshall misses (either purposefully or not)
the fundamental point of the argument. The question isn't whether
terrorists in Iraq are still able to blow things up and create
mass casualties - they can and will continue to be capable of
doing so for the foreseeable future with some degree of success.
We will never be able to prevent every attack.
of the hypothesis, at least in my mind, is that the success of
our policy in Iraq is demonstrated by the simple fact that the
terrorists are not able to attack the targets they want to in
the way they want to attack them. That fact, in and of itself,
proves the terrorists are operating from a position of weakness.
all the various terrorist elements operating in Baghdad have a
common goal: to kill Americans and to drive the U.S. out of Iraq
in humiliating fashion. But if every terrorist in Iraq were to
sit down and put together a list of the Top 10 targets they would
most want to strike, parking a truck bomb outside the hotel where
the UN was conducting business would almost certainly not be among
forced into striking the UN because it was one of the most attractive
soft targets available to them at the time. Even more tragic is
the fact that the attack could most likely have been prevented
if the UN had accepted the offer of protection given to them by
Now, by saying
this I'm not making the false argument Marshall implies, i.e.
that the death of large numbers of people at the hands of terrorists
in Iraq is somehow a "positive" event. It's not - and I think
Marshall has done himself a disservice by trying to mischaracterize
the point people are making.
knows full well that it's impossible to ignore the important role
symbolism plays in acts of terrorism. The symbolic nature of a
terrorist target is at least as important, if not more important,
than the number of casualties the attack produces and that each
attack (excluding the Israel-Palestinian conflict which I think
has taken on its own unique set of properties) is intended to
make some show of force or power. Simply producing casualties
- whether at a hotel in Iraq or on a beach in Bali - isn't enough.
less people died in the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000
than did this week in the bombing of the UN in Iraq. Yet the ramifications
of the attack on the Cole, both in America and around the rest
of the world, were more significant by a factor of a hundred because
of what the target was, where it was attacked, and who the casualties
another example, this time a hypothetical from the terrorists'
point of view. If you were a terrorist in Iraq and you had your
choice, which would you rather do: blow up 500 aid workers in
Mosul or successfully assassinate L. Paul Bremer? Every single
terrorist would choose the latter because it would have a devastating
psychological effect on our troops, our government, and the American
a list of examples that would show our policy in Iraq isn't working
or is facing set backs. Here's mine, in no particular order:
in Iraq is failing when terrorists can successfully prevent
-keeping schools and hospitals open
-continuing to establish a functioning form of representative
government for the Iraqi people
-conducting military and security operations
-continuing to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure
-winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people
on the last point: despite what has been reported in the press
over the last few months, there is a significant body of evidence
suggesting that the Iraqi people understand that we are there
to help, not to conquer. Furthermore they are glad we're there,
wish there were more U.S troops there, and hope we'll continue
to stay for quite some time.
in Iraq is safe as long as public sentiment doesn't turn overwhelmingly
against us. Right now, it's hard to see how that will happen,
given that we continue to labor and produce tangible results for
the Iraqi people every day while rogue terrorist elements seek
to do exactly the opposite.
TORTURE: If the producers of CNN's
Crossfire were trying to give Tucker Carlson a brain aneurysm,
then having Janeane Garofalo co-host the show all week was the
I used to
watch and enjoy Crossfire a lot during the Kinsley-Buchanan heydays,
but today the show is virtually unwatchable. In a desperate attempt
to revive the once-great show from sagging ratings, the folks
at CNN have turned it into a parody of a political talk show.
There's barely a serious thought spoken in the entire thirty minutes.
Now it's just four people racing through partisan talking points
as fast and furious as they can and seeing who can come up with
the best one liner - all to a Jerry Springeresque live audience
hooting and hollering with approval. No wonder their ratings continue
to suck. - T.
Bevan 8:00 am
August 21 2003
GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Schwarzenegger did
what he had to do yesterday in a very
impressive news conference to kick off the substantive phase
of his campaign. He was able to put to rest the background noise
from last week that questioned his commitment to lower taxes and
less government regulation. Just these few comments below on taxes
will be enough to win over conservatives whose votes he will need
to win: (video)
that mean we are going to make cuts? Yes. Does this mean education
is on the table? No. Does this mean I am willing to raise taxes?
No. Additional taxes are the last burden we need to put on the
backs of the citizens and businesses of California.
feel the people of California have been punished enough. From
the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet they're
taxed. When they go get a coffee they're taxed. When they get
in their car they're taxed. When they go to the gas station
they're taxed. When they go to lunch they're taxed. This goes
on all day long. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax.
is this exactly what conservative voters want to hear, this message
will resonant with millions of voters in the political middle
who also feel they are overtaxed considering what they get in
return from Sacramento.
anti-tax message is contrasted with Lt.
Gov. Cruz Bustamante's plan to raise taxes and fees a whopping
8 billion dollars it will work as a very powerful campaign
message between now and October 7.
OR DAVIS? DAVIS OR CRUZ?: Before this week I had been
of the belief that the Democrats would jettison Gray Davis sometime
in the next several weeks and move all their support to Bustamante.
However, after Cruz's terrible performance earlier this week where
he basically promised the voters he would enact policies that
will chase more jobs and businesses from California - and then
Arnold's performance yesterday where he promised voters just the
opposite - I don't think Cruz has a chance. And I think the Democrat
powers-that-be in California might just come to that same conclusion
It may be
Cruz, and not Davis, who gets chucked overboard by the Democrats
in the next few weeks as they decide that rallying around Governor
Davis and trying to convince the voters the entire recall is a
"right-wing power grab" is the best strategy in their
attempt to hold on to the nation's most important governor's mansion.
are saddled with two not so attractive choices: 1) backing Cruz,
who will lose or 2) rallying around the most hated Governor in
America. It should be a fun six weeks if you are a Republican
because the odds look pretty darn good that the next governor
of California will be Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. J.
McIntyre 7:26 am
August 20 2003
AMERICA, WE'RE STILL AT WAR: While we're focused on blackouts
yesterday came a couple
of stern reminders that we're still fighting a deadly war
against terror - even if the most recent manifestations of evil
weren't perpetrated directly against U.S. troops or American citizens.
Peters gets it right in today's New York Post: the attack
in Iraq is another indication of the terrorists' weakness, not
their growing strength. Even if the terrorists consider the
killing of 20 UN workers a "success", they are pursuing
a strategy that over the long term will alienate the Iraqi population
and hopefully continue to galvanize the international community
to fight against terrorist groups around the globe. It is a strategy
that is ultimately doomed to failure.
way we can lose the fight is if we lose our resolve - which is
what bothers me about this dispatch from Reuters suggesting the
is leaving Baghdad. This is exactly what the terrorists wanted
to happen and it will convince them that future bombings will
produce similar results. We cannot allow that idea to stand.
BUDGET: Bustamante is calling his
new budget "tough love" for California. Here's a
blurb on it from Dan
plan would raise taxes by $8 billion on the wealthy, business
owners, commercial property, and on the users of cigarettes
taxes are placed on alcohol and cigarettes because they are "sins"
which the government would like to deter people from using - or
make them pay extra for the "privilege" of consuming
- because of some of the additional burdens placed on states down
the road in terms of health care costs, etc.
curious that Bustmante's budget lumps the earning and creation
of wealth, businesses and jobs along with other "sin taxes."
And doesn't simple logic suggest that the more taxes you place
on these things the less of them you'll get?
If you missed the
story yesterday, President Bush's team unveiled the new Bush-Cheney
2004 campaign web site. Former
blogger Patrick Ruffini is heading up the operation which
includes some new
tools designed specifically for bloggers and the Internet.
Check it out. And don't forget to donate.
PART II: A few days ago I ripped
Joe Conason for his awful
Oberserver column accusing Republicans of an "unquenchable
urge to seize power by whatever means are available."
looks as if this was just the beginning, rather than the end of
Conason's ridiculousness. It now turns out that liberals
are responsible for everything good in our society. - T.
Bevan 8:05 am
August 19 2003
THE SCHWARZENEGGER PICTURE: In case you didn't get the
memo, today's media theme is "conservatives wary/concerned/upset
about Arnold." (For reference see: Washington
Street Journal, CS
addressed this issue at length on Hugh
Hewitt's radio show last night, I'm going to spare myself
the trouble of writing anything original and just paraphrase his
By and large,
it seems as if California conservatives are willing to give Arnold
a pass on his liberal social views. Peter
Robinson, former Reagan speechwriter and current host of Uncommon
Knowledge, agrees in John
Fund's column this morning that conservatives are indeed "willing
to cut Schwarzenegger enormous slack."
won't tolerate, however, is Arnold going soft on taxes. Schwarzenegger's
ultimate success rests not on him proving his liberal social credentials
to moderates and Democrats but on his ability to assure Republican
voters that he is a solid fiscal conservative. It's a crucial
piece of the overall puzzle.
the Buffett fiasco is so damaging to his candidacy. When your
newly-anointed superstar economic advisor walks over and grabs
the third rail of California politics with both hands and holds
on, you need to respond in a big, public way. Arnold should have
gone straight into the studio the day after Buffett's interview
and cut a :30 TV or radio spot declaring he would "terminate"
any proposal to raise property taxes. He didn't do that and the
festered in the media, despite his campaign's best effort
at swatting it down.
has time to right the ship - but he needs to get cracking. The
willingness of conservatives to compromise on his social views
is a significant development. This is a group of voters who rarely
put pragmatism ahead of principle. It's an opportunity that won't
last very long and one Arnold cannot afford to miss.
moderate Dick Riordan last year in favor of conservative neophyte
Bill Simon and watching him implode against Gray Davis, it seems
as if conservatives are looking at Arnold and finally seeing the
bigger picture. He may not be the Moses of the California GOP,
but if Arnold can begin fixing the state's problems and win a
second term, voters in the nation's largest state will begin to
remember that Republicans aren't such terrible creatures after
all. And that may eventually pave the way for those with more
conservative social agendas to win statewide office.
ANALYSIS: Check out Hugo
Young's white-is-black, black-is-white" 2004 election analysis:
[the Bush government] is a hard-right administration offering
virtually no concessions to the soothing niceties that might
make it more electorally attractive to voters who are not Republicans.
Its tax policy is grotesquely loaded against the masses and
in favour of the rich. Its bias on the environment unfailingly
comes out on the side of the big commercial interests. It is
daily tearing up tracts of policy and practice that protected
the basic rights of people snared in the justice system. It
is the hardest right administration since Herbert Hoover's from
a very different era. And, which is the point, delights in being
so. There is no apology or cover-up.
even that isn't the most striking thing about the set-up as
it now stands. For this we have to turn to the Democrats. Unlike
Bush, many Democrats are sticking to the conventional wisdom.
They grope for some kind of centre ground. But so far has the
territory shifted, thanks to the Republicans' shameless stakeout
on the hard right, that their quest continues to drain their
party of most of its meaning and any of its capacity to inspire.
to Young, Joe Lieberman is "dreary" and John Kerry is
a "calculating wimp." And Howard Dean is right down
the middle. - T.
Bevan 8:45 am
August 18 2003
PROGRAMMING NOTES: Over the weekend we made a couple of
changes to the site. First, we added a page devoted to coverage
of the California
recall election. As usual, we've tried our best to create
a page that displays the most recent news stories and polling
data in a simple, quick-read format, as well as to create a base
from which you can easily access all the news coverage. Please
take a visit and let
me know what you think.
made a change to our News Coverage page.
Instead of compiling a list of day's top 15 or 20 news stories
from various sources (which you can find on hundreds of web sites
out there) we've reconfigured the page to display the stories
that are running on the front pages of the top 15 to 20 newspapers
from around the country (something I don't believe you can find
anywhere else). Again, please check out
the page and give
me some feedback.
ARNOLD: Speaking of the California recall, Bill Simon went
up with radio ads attacking Arnold for being a "liberal"
and exploiting Warren
Buffet's recent gaffe on Prop 13. Simon also used his appearance
the Press yesterday to drive the point home:
know, itís good to hear about some of the stances that Arnold
has. You know, for example, heís pro-abortion; Iím not. Iím
pro-life. But the bottom line, again, is this: We need plans
to fix California. We need to hear about Mr. Schwarzeneggerís
ideas in a broad variety of areas. The lieutenant governorís
correct. This electionís not about personality; itís about plans.
Itís about people that care about California. To me, itís not
about raising taxes. When the lieutenant governor says, ďLetís
repeal the tripling of the car tax,Ē I agree. But I believe
what heíd like to do is raise taxes in other areas.
want to do that. I want to shrink the size of government. Mr.
Schwarzeneggerís surrounded himself with liberals in terms of
spending. Mr. Buffett said last week, his chief economic spokesman,
that he thinks the property tax is too low. I donít think it
is too low. Iíve talked to hundreds of thousands of our citizens
that are having trouble making ends meet, having trouble paying
their electricity bills, making their mortgage payments. This
is not a time for higher taxes. It is a time for responsible
is back to the RINO (Republican In Name Only) campaign that worked
against Riordan in last year's primary - thanks to $10 million
of help from one Gray Davis.
I can't speak
for California voters, but from where I sit Simon is the least
attractive of the GOP candidates if for no other reason than because
the guy just had his bite at the apple last year and choked on
it by running a crappy campaign.
looks to be the new standard bearer for California conservatives
and it's quite possible that Simon's ads tagging Arnie as a liberal
will benefit McClintock more than Simon.
On the other
hand, on MTP yesterday Simon didn't knock down the possibility
of getting out of the race at some point in the future. So what's
his plan? Take a swing at Arnold's kneecaps and see if he falls.
But if Arnold
doesn't fall, and if Bill Simon stays in this race and Schwarzenegger
eventually loses in a squeaker to Bustamante, Bill Simon will
almost single-handedly be responsible for keeping the GOP locked
out of the governor's mansion twice in less than a year.
LIKELY": A study due out today from the World
Markets Research Center has the United States ranked
4th on a list of countries most likely to be targeted for
a terrorist attack in the coming year.
is ranked number one on the list, for good
SENATE: Quick update on the race from Steve
Neal: Barack Obama,
the Harvard-educated Illinois State Senator is gaining ground
and could be paving the way for an upset victory in the Dem primary.
THE HUMAN SHIELDS: I'm not crazy about the Justice Department
spending valuable resources prosecuting
a few hundred anti-war-granola types who were so misguided
they thought putting their lives on the line in defense of Saddam
Hussein's regime was a good idea and a moral cause.
said, if you break the law you should suffer the consequences.
In this case, the consequences are some hefty fines for violating
sanctions against Iraq that have been in place since 1990. It
doesn't matter what these people thought about the morality of
the war or what their intentions were.
quote from one of the human shields followed by a response from
the spokesperson from the Treasury Department:
we did going over there was a humanitarian act, and to be prosecuted
for it is a form of persecution," Passalaqua said.
denied that the letters carried any political overtones or were
intended to soften criticism of the Iraq war.
right to free speech is not a license to violate U.S. or international
sanctions," Griffin said. "And while free expression is a right
enjoyed by all Americans, choosing which laws to abide by and
which to ignore is not a privilege that is granted to anyone."
to argue with Griffin's logic.
thing: the US military's forced removal of Saddam's regime and
their continued presence in Iraq today represents the single greatest
humanitarian act performed on behalf of the Iraqi people in the
last half-century. Yes, it came with and continues to exact a
cost in terms of the loss of innocent Iraqi civilians and the
precious lives of US soldiers.
But we also
freed 35 million people from tyranny and gave them hope for more
prosperous, peaceful lives. Isn't that better and more humanitarian
than delivering "several hundred dollars worth of vitamins,
children's Tylenol, iron supplements and water-filtration kits"
to Iraqi citizens but leaving them to be tortured and terrorized
by Saddam Hussein? - T.
Bevan 9:15 am