Saturday, March 20, 2004
File Under 'Man Bites Dog': In today's New York Times, David Brooks finally finds something critical to say about the status quo -- for perhaps the first time in his career, based on my reading of his breakthrough book, Bobos in Paradise. Equally as newsworthy, Brooks actually includes a correction at the end of his column. (No word on whether he's planning to correct his assertion that every Democratic presidential candidate has been fabulously wealthy.) Behold today's bold, razor-sharp analysis:
Bush foreign policy is bold, idealistic and controversial, but Bush domestic policy is smaller and uninspiring, even to the administration's natural allies.
Of course, the problem isn't Bush's fault, Brooks goes on:
Compassionate conservatism's decline began with the Florida election mess. Suddenly there was so much animosity, it became hard to build a bipartisan movement about anything.
To some, a contested election would provide added incentive to build bipartisan coalitions to cement legitimacy. Not David Brooks, nor George W. Bush. Of course, as Kevin Drum points out, legitimacy has never been a concern to our misleader.
Throw in September 11, we are told, and poor Bush simply was unable to represent all Americans as well as he wanted to. Alienating the center was never Bush's strategy, Brooks would have you believe -- despite many reports since 2000 acknowledging Karl Rove's plan to court the base for three years and move to the middle in 2004. If Rove believed George H. W. Bush's signal failing was not supporting his base, then why should we believe that the Bush administration ever intended to reach out to the center in its domestic policies? Certainly the Bush administrations unhealthy obsession with unfair tax cuts and reverse-Robin-Hood philosophy predated both the Florida debacle and 9/11.
Here's where Brooks gets typically asinine:
Let's hope they're as bold and idealistic as the president's dream of democratizing the Middle East. At the moment, it's weird having an administration that is soaring abroad but is earthbound at home.
Doesn't Brooks know that Bush already backed off his Greater Middle East Initiative-- a Bush "flip-flop," if you will? Of course, it's hard to blame Brooks for his ignominious ignorance. His own newspaper buried the story on page A11. So Bush's plan isn't idealistic, because he still wants Middle Eastern thugocracies to exist, as long as the dictators aren't people who tried to kill his dad. And what's that garbage about "soaring"? Methinks Mr. Brooks needs to lay off the mescaline.
Friday, March 19, 2004
Franz Doesn't Pump Me Up: Indie-rock fans, what's the deal with Franz Ferdinand? Nothing about them excites me. I like the catchiness of "Take Me Out," certainly, and "Michael" is kinda fun despite the Teutonic beat, but "Darts of Pleasure" always makes me think of "The Monster Mash" -- and not in a fun, childhood-Halloween-memory kind of way. Pitchfork's "look at me, I'm still clever" Gonzo review likened the record to Blur's Parklife, the most ridiculous comparison I've ever heard because the dance-pop of "Girls and Boys" was ironic (the dance-punk of Franz Ferdinand and other Gang of Four clones seem humorless and cooler-than-thou). Plus, Blur actually knows how to write lyrics; Parklife was a concept album that works on multiple levels. Franz Ferdinand is Gang of Four given high school cheerleader melodies and meaningless dance-party lyrics. Is this really the best that indie rock has to offer us? What about the unbridled pop experimentalism of Cloud Cult or the arty yet childlike genius of The Love of Everything. Seriously, if indie websites just give high marks to everything that they think soulless trend-seekers will like, then they're no better than Rolling Stone. Yes, Franz Ferdinand has a trendy sound, but then, John Kerry is an "electable" candidate. Supporting NME-approved artists like Franz Ferdinand despite mediocre recorded output represents the same moral bankruptcy as picking your candidate only because Iowa voted for him. I'd like to move to a parallel universe where I can support John Edwards for President and Cloud Cult for Indie Band of the Year.
Silly Bush, Blix Is for Kids: A Chicago Tribune interview with the former U.N. weapons inspector proves revealing. According to Hans Blix, "(T)he war in Iraq has not made the world safer, and the widening violence there has underscored the need for United Nations backing of military action."
In other news, the Bush administration Photoshop expert has found an image of Blix holding hands with Jane Fonda.
Bob Dylan's Most Underrated Album: Last night I received Bob Dylan's 1970 gem New Morning in the mail from Half.com. It's a record I've been enjoying in MP3 form ever since I first saw The Big Lebowski, which features the gorgeous, gospel choir-soaked "The Man in Me" not once, but twice. Yet the disc's charm is in its hastily assembled, tossed-off style. Rushed to release after the critical and commercial failure of predecessor Self Portrait, New Morning lacks the structural integrity and self-consciously brilliant lyrics of some of Dylan's more ambitious works... and that's why it works. It bridges folk and The Band-style rock better than any of Dylan's other albums for a fun, uplifting journey into the mind of a genius. The loping title track and hooky "If Not For You" twang their way through the joy of love, while jazzy numbers like "If Dogs Run Free" and "Sign on the Window" show an unexpected -- and appealing -- side of Dylan. "Day of the Locusts" is one of the best songs ever about graduation, and "The Man in Me," of course, is simply sublime. With the economic and political climate growing ever darker, New Morning is something to be happy about.
Maybe They Can Get Us Some Cuban Cigars, Too: Atrios highlights a piece from Newsday about Bush's anti-American instincts:
The official merchandise Web site for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign has sold clothing made in Burma, whose goods were banned by Bush from the U.S. last year to punish its military dictatorship.
The merchandise sold on www.georgewbushstore.com includes a $49.95 fleece pullover, embroidered with the Bush-Cheney '04 logo and bearing a label stating it was made in Burma, now Myanmar. The jacket was sent to Newsday as part of an order that included a shirt made in Mexico and a hat not bearing a country-of-origin label.
Bush campaign officials did not return calls seeking comment. The imports are potentially an issue because outsourcing has become a hot political topic in the election.
Bush last July signed into law the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, saying "The United States will not waver from its commitment to the cause of democracy and human rights in Burma."
Coming soon to a runway in Myanmar: the 2004 Republican fashion show.
Bad news for people who love fake news
Blair's 'House' Flops on Book Sales Chart
Thu Mar 18, 4:19 PM ET
By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer
NEW YORK - Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, two young journalists notorious for fabricating stories, have something else in common: Both have written highly publicized books that few people are buying.
Blair, a former New York Times reporter, received a six-figure advance for "Burning Down My Master's House." Published March 6, the book had an announced first printing of 250,000 and plenty of media coverage, including author interviews with Katie Couric on NBC and Larry King on CNN.
But in its first nine days of publication, the book only sold about 1,400 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. Figures from Nielsen usually represent about 70 percent of total sales.
I'd love to say more, but I have a toe-touch dateline to collect. -- Fritz
Who Does Donald Rumsfeld Think He Is? Oh yeah, the Secretary of Defense. But his op-ed piece in today's New York Times contains enough deceit and illogic for a Bush campaign commercial. See how the Times lets him rant:
(Saddam) was being held to a simple standard: live up to your agreement at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war; disarm and prove you have done so. Instead of disarming — as Kazakhstan, South Africa and Ukraine did, and as Libya is doing today — Saddam Hussein chose deception and defiance.
It's hard to claim now that Hussein didn't disarm, in the face of the statements by David Kay and Hans Blix, not to mention the staggering lack of evidence. The only deception and defiance he chose, then, were deception of his countrymen and fellow Arab nations in order to save face. And our vaunted intelligence organizations never figured this out, or were never allowed to, so that Bush could engage in deception against the American public and defiance against international institutions in order to launch his misbegotten war. Saddam Hussein was evil, but Rumsfeld is tilting with windmills here.
But when freedom and self-government have taken root in Iraq, and that country becomes a force for good in the Middle East, the rightness of those efforts will be just as clear as it is today in Korea, Germany, Japan and Italy.
Oh, that's right. We went to war because President Bush supported a nation-building effort in Iraq. How silly of me not to remember. But what of Bush's State of the Union address, in which, as we all by now remember, he made WMD the central justification of the Iraq war? What of Cheney's many sneering implications of an Iraqi-Al Qaeda link? What of Condi Rice's disingenuously poetic admonition that we don't want our "smoking gun" to be a "mushroom cloud"? If the American people had debated and approved a war for the freedom of Iraq, then Rumsfeld's statement, such as it is, would be acceptable. But we did not.
Furthermore, the nations he mention all had either democratic traditions or an internal movement for democracy. Iraq, like its parallels in Eastern Europe (Vladimir Putin's quasi-dictatorship, anyone?) does not. Therefore, if we ever actually grant it the right of self-determination (questionable given that so many rights for the U.S. military are written into the country's interim constitution), it might well choose theocracy or autocracy, or the lingering tribal leadership of Afghanistan. Then, it seems clear, an Iraq war for the express purpose of "liberating" the Iraqi people was not worth the costs. One wonders: Why did Rumsfeld not mention the Phillippines, which after a long-ago U.S. "liberation" and years of occupation still has not emerged as an effective "force for good"?
Today, as we think about the tens of thousands of United States soldiers in Iraq — and in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world fighting the global war on terrorism — we should say to all of them: "You join a long line of generations of Americans who have fought freedom's fight. Thank you."
Secretary Rumsfeld, what does Iraq have to do with terrorism? Afghanistan I fully understand and support, although I wish we were doing a better job there instead of sending soldiers on a nation-building mission to Iraq, adding a new front to the War on Terror where none existed before. Great work, Secretary.
Lastly, I'm not sure why anyone would give any credence to a word this lying S.O.B. says after his shameful, lying-through-his-teeth performance on "Face the Nation" last weekend. Every American should watch this video.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Kerry a Uniter, Not a Divider: Looks like John McCain has once again enraged the Bushies by cozying up to the Democratic challenger. The Washington Post has the full report.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday he did not believe Democratic candidate John Kerry, a friend and Senate colleague, was weak on defense or would compromise national security if elected president.
"This kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice," McCain said on "The Early Show" on CBS. "You know, it's the most bitter and partisan campaign that I've ever observed. I think it's because both parties are going to their bases rather than going to the middle. I regret it."
Vote for Bush and the Terrorists Will Have Won:
A letter purported to be from an Al Qaeda-affiliated group states:
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."
"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
As DailyKos observed, I guess some foreign leaders are actually for the President. That Kerry is a big fat liar.
P.S. I should plug my personal website, http://marchogan.freeservers.com. Woo.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004