Saturday, November 01, 2003

Some Good News 

Gillian Welch Tour Dates: 2003
more information

November 2003
Nov 2, Sun. - Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis, MN
Nov 3, Mon. - Barrymore Theater, Madison, WI
Nov 6, Thu. - The Tralf, Buffalo, NY
Nov 7, Fri. - State Theater, Ithaca, NY
Nov 8, Sat. - Avalon Ballroom, Boston, MA
Nov 10, Mon. - Pearl Street, Northampton, MA
Nov 11, Tue. - The Egg, Albany, NY
Nov 13, Thu. - Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
Nov 14, Fri. - Town Hall, New York, NY
Nov 16, Sun. - Recher Theatre, Towson, MD
Nov 17, Mon. - Theater of the Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Nov 18, Tue. - 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
Nov 19, Wed. - Charlottesville Performing Arts Cntr, Charlottesville, VA
Nov 20, Thu. - Lyric Theatre, Blacksburg, VA

Friday, October 31, 2003

Tough Talk At The Corner 

One of those "girly boys" of the NRO is trembling with indignation again. The object of his ire, the Iraqi contingent of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Here's Cliff May's reaction to the news of the bombing at the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad on Monday.

"Of course we don't understand why somebody would attack the Red Cross," said Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani. "It's very hard to understand.

No, Ms. Doumani, it's actually quite simple. The Saddamite remnants and their foreign jihadi allies don't want life to get better for ordinary Iraqis. That's why they attack you. That's why the attack American troops repairing water lines and guarding hospitals. That's why they attack Iraqi police cadets. That's why they attack U.N. headquarters. That's why they attack Jordanian diplomats.

What do the terrorists and their allies want? They want to get Iraq and its resources – e.g. oil, weapons, cash, -- back into their sweaty hands so they can utilize them to further for their viciously destructive aims. They can accomplish that by killing as many all foreign infidels and their allies as possible, and by driving the rest out of Iraq.

That includes you, Ms. Doumani. You too, represent the hated Judeo-Christian West and it won't help for you to say you never eat at McDonald's and that you think George W. Bush is a unilateralist and uncultured cowboy. The fact is you're working for the Red Cross and people who remember the Crusades and the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols remember what that cross used to stand for.

Can you feel the love, the sympathy, the moral imagination here? No? Okay, then notice the confusion; what point is being made by that last sentence; that the evil ones have obsessive memories of past atrocities and lack Christian forgiveness, or that they have a strong reason for being so angry?

What the context was for Ms. Doumani's remarks is ignored and Mr. May offers no link to the original news story. Couldn't it be that she was responding to a dumb question, that she was still in shock from what had happened. or that she was stating the obvious; aren't the motivations of anyone who blows themselves up in order to attack others for whatever cause ultimately hard to understand?

Other than its instinctive disdain for any international organization, even the Red Cross, for heaven's sake, what comes through most clearly in May's angry lecture to a group of people who have just experienced a profound tragedy, as it does in most of the comments about Iraq from this administration and its supporters, is a qualifty of abstraction. Their interest in Iraqis lacks immediacy, specificity, curiosity about the multiple and diverse actualities of what's going on in Iraq.

Does Mr. May know, for instance, any of what this article about the Red Cross's reluctant decision to withdraw foreign workers from it's Baghdad headquarters tells us about this ICRC? That it is a Swiss organization, that it stayed in Baghdad through-out our military campaign to remove Saddam, that it has about 600 Iraqi employees who will, of course, stay on duty, but that the important task of visiting prisoners held by the coalition, of which there are at least ten thousand can only be done by foreign personnel?

The ICRC is mandated by the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war to make such visits, to check on conditions and to enable prisoners to communicate with their families.

Do the folks at the NRO really want to win hearts and minds in Iraq? If they do, they need to pay a different kind of attention to what's happening there, the kind that Arthur Miller meant when he had Mrs. Loman say, "attention must be paid," specific attention, to the details, of individual, indivisible lives.

Like this young life, which is all about paying attention to what's around her.

The Red Cross have started pulling out their personnel. A friend of mine who works with the Red Crescent said that they were going to try to pull out most of their personnel, while trying to continue with what they're doing- humanitarian assistance. When I heard Nada Domani, the head of the ICRC in Iraq, say that they'd begin pulling out their personnel on Tuesday, I wished I could yell out, "Don't abandon us Nada!" But I realize that their first priority is to ensure the safety of their employees.

The Red Cross is especially important at this point because they are the 'link' that is connecting the families of the detainees and the military. When someone suddenly disappears, people go to the Red Cross and after a few grueling days, the missing person can often be tracked down at one of the prison camps or prisons.

Read the rest for a detailed, specific discussion of the complexities of understanding who is attacking what in Iraq, and why they might be doing it. Increasingly, Riverbend (also known as Baghdad Burning) is becoming mandatory reading for everyone who is committed to paying attention to what is happening in Iraq.

Match Game! 

Match the following quote to its actual source:

"...spank me three times a day, until the inhalant demon leaves my body."

Was it...

1- A Rush Limbaugh recovery alert update?
2- Joel Mowbray's weekend with the Boykins?
3- A justice department memo leaked by a senior official close to John Ashcroft?
4- An Opus Dei summer camp counselor speaking to a group of 7th graders?
5- A line from the movie "Blue Velvet" starring Dennis Hopper?

No no, its none of those....it's - the General, in his Rehab Labyrinth

Shirk's "Unsticker" Sticks it to Others 

As you know from reading CNN, "assigning responsibility elsewhere" is atypical of the Bush Administration, which is why we had to wait a full 24 hours or so for them to do it again: Rice Faults Past Administrations on Terror. David Sanger's observation is a nice touch, I think:

Ms. Rice's comments make no reference to what the Bush administration itself did between Mr. Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2001, and the Sept. 11 attacks.

What does Sanger mean? They did nothing, and she said nothing. I'd say that pretty much sums it up.

The "Girly Boys" of the National Review 

Ya sure can miss stuff when you go away for a little while.
So let me see if I have this right.

The "girly boys" at National Review Online have apparently worked themselves into quite a shin kicking titter and are now stalking about in a haughty agitated bow tied snit. And, all this prissy quivering the end result of, to cite one example, NRO cupcake Donald Luskin's very own column headline characterizing himself and NRO as the "We" who allegedly "stalked" Paul Krugman? As in: "We Stalked, He Balked". Krugman for his part, if we are to believe the headline, responded with some kind of baseball pitching violation. Which of course is much worse than stalking especially if you're a stalker.

Submit one Atrios, who has commented often on Luskin's noisome infatuation with Paul Krugman as well as NRO's characterization of themselves as the "We" who "stalked" the you know who. Atrios, commenting previously on the NRO "girly boy" gaggle's honkings on a variety of matters is now being stalked himself, in a manner of speaking, for engaging in what can only be described as pointing out and satirizing the obvious. Runts like Luskin, who soon found himself running around in circles like a rat trapped in a bucket, is now apparently convinced that shifting his fetish from an economist to a blogger will somehow free him from running around in circles inside of a bucket? Uh, Luskin, you stupid dizzy rodent. You're just jumping from one bucket to another. And hovering above this new bucket that you may soon jump into is a great big sack of snarling angry cats! Oh Luskin...you stupid dumb bastard you!

The stalker characterizations and pie heaving antics that NRO and Luskin himself helped primp and preen with regard to Krugman have now come home to shit all over the bottom of the gilded NRO cage. And because of this, NRO's thin skinned silver spoon fed busy bodies have threatened to pursue frivolous litigation via "further legal action" against Atrios and Eschaton should Atrios refuse to alter or remove his previous posts and reader comments criticizing and satirizing the NRO/Luskin cult and their own continuing thin skinned misfires and prowlings and excitable pie slinging ventilations.

Are these NRO sucklings for real? Boys, you're puling nerds from the National Review for Christ sake, you're not longshoremen. You guys are afraid of Ted Koppel. You couldn't beat up Liza Minnelli's husband even if you were drunk and booted full of methamphetamine and wearing a pair of advantage timber patterned Silent Snake microtex pants. That rubber chicken party hag Ann Coulter kicked your ass and you even had the jump on her. Do yourselves a favor, go home and take a long nap. It'll be ok, we all remember our first beer.

I doubt they'll heed my advice. Too bad for them. And ain't that always the way with petty overfed over pampered reprobates? They just can't resist bragging and gloating and drunkenly prating about their half-baked swindles and hijinks and frisky cavorts until someone calls em on their arrogant piffle, at which point they begin bellowing like schoolgirls being chased around the room by a garden spider. Luskin and his cowering momma's boys at NRO don't have the sack of berries to take it on the chin or defend their pursuits and rhetorical mutterings in the free market of ideas and debate and instead retreat straightaway to even more cowardly hijinks and capers and low-road show boating. In this case unleashing litigious legal lap-dogs and a good deal of general altogether phoney theatrics to cover for their lack of intellectual muscle or integrity. From stalking to skulking to pathetic self pitying sulking. These are the tough guys of NRO. Talk about yer cream pies.

I wonder if Jonah Goldberg's mommy -- that chain-smoking, troweled pancake-makeup warthog that emerged from some dank cavity of the Nixon legacy's bloated corpse -- consulted on any of these recent legal schenanigans? Dirty trick recipes from Jonah's mommy! Hmmm? Lets file false liens against the little people. That'll teach em to get uppity!

Anyway, this kind of ominous behavior from cowards like Luskin and the pampered dandies at NRO can only be described as bitchilly sinister. Bitchilly sinister as only rich pampered litigious sanctimonious silver spoon fed elitist ivory tower right wing boy-whelp sons-a-sinister bitches can be.

Well - I'm no legal expert and I'm not even sure bitchilly is a word but it also seems to me that dainty Donald and the little vibrating sniffs at NRO may have cooked up their own greasy tray of half baked torts simply to manufacture some grave threat which they can use to claw away at one high profile blogger's privacy, reveal his identity and sell more of their cheap-labor-conservative magazines as a result of such nosy personal obtrusions.

So listen up NRO, you spineless groveling greedy weakling geeks. You snooty elitist gilded cage dandy-boy conservative sucklings. Give it up! Quit yanking on your own shriveled stalks for a change. Before you go completely blind.

Ok, that's enough. Release the fucking cats.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

The shorter Donald Luskin 

"I can dish it out, but I sure can't take it."

Ridiculous. Even for the wingers. See Atrios.

Always glad to see a little frivolity injected into the legal system!

A Prick From A Prick 

Donald Luskin had always struck us as more to be pitied than despised. It's not fun to be obsessed by another human being you want to hate but can't let go of, especially if that person insists on going about their life and work as if you didn't exist. All those words expended about Herr Krugman, and not a single phone call, not even an indignant protest, during those long Saturday nights, waiting by the phone. Who among us hasn't been there, and done that?

Early this AM, but later than almost everyone else, we found out we were wrong. In addition to being that "Terribly Unsuccessful Fund Manager," as Sullywatch is pointing out everywhere, Mr. Luskin is a despicable, unprincipled, shmuck.

Aside from all the fru fru window dressing of law firms and letters and threats and deadlines, Donald Luskin's pathetic attempt to intimidate Atrios, the Godfather of this blog as of so many others, has turned out to be an irritation more than anything else, an unimportant prick from a self-important one.

The response, witty, wise, generous, principled and outraged has been heartening, even inspiring. Misha at The Rottweiler has chimed in and provoked an interesting comments thread, and the NRO has at least had the sense to be embarrassed by Mr. Luskin's frivolous use of our Justice system.

We should note that Luskin is not alone in his obsession with Krugman; in fact, scroll down at The Corner, and you'll run into lots of free-floating Krugman bashing, "lots" compared to the single post questioning Luskin's actions. (It all has to do with this hilarious and witty notion that for each sign of improvement in the economy, Krugman kicks his cat, or a cat, or a friends cat; from this trope flows much snarky adolescent humor.) The distinguished economist and professor is providing more than mere irritation to much of the right in this country.

We were Atrios, for a little while; Mr. Luskin has provided us the opportunity, along with many others, to proclaim to Luskin, and his lawyer, and the world, that we are still Atrios. This petty attempt to use a bogus lawsuit to unearth the private identity of a blogger who's public identity is displayed daily at Escaton, is doomed; like so many others we hereby take the pledge that we endorse the post and the comments thread being objected to and that Mr. Luskin now needs to include this little upstart of a blog in any legal action he might be contemplating. You are a stalker, Mr. Luskin, you are a crybaby, Mr. Luskin, you are a winer, Mr. Luskin, and to end on a note that is not unduly negative, we are happy to acknowledge, Mr. Luskin, that this little incident probably rates as a personal best for you, in the annals of bad sportsmanship.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

"Note"-worthy Scrutiny 

I know I'm supposed to be impressed by ABC's The Note, of which Josh Marshall and other bloggers are avowed fans, but I'm not. In fact, every time I read it I get the feeling I'm reading the syllabus for the next Daily Howler or issue of MWO. Today, for example, The Note announces "the seeming end of Howard Dean's amazing run to the front of the pack without getting anything like the normal level of scrutiny a leading candidate normally gets on issues as diverse as affirmative action, the death penalty, the assault weapons ban, tax cuts, the Social Security retirement age, veterans' benefits, the legitimacy of using old "votes and quotes" to attack an opponent, ethanol, matching funds, the war in Iraq, American troops in Iraq, NAFTA, Yucca Mountain, baseball, and others." (emphasis added)

If you're like me, you're now doing a Jon Stewart, rubbing your eyes while exclaiming, "Waaaa?" We all remember the "normal level of scrutiny" Bush got over his economic policies throughout the entire 2000 campaign for example; see The Great Unraveling for a reminder. And we also remember how the press would have gotten to Gore's policies but were thwarted by his refusal to stop wearing unapproved clothes, or saying things he didn't actually, you know, utter, thereby sucking all the oxygen out of the room for discussion of anything else.

So given this preening invocation by The Note of a hitherto unknown normative standard of professional political journalism, I assumed what it really signaled was more press clowning, and when the Note pointed as evidence of this new scrutiny to three "anti-Dean" pieces in The Boston Globe, where John Kerry's Jewishness is an obsessive topic of concern, my suspicions were all but confirmed. And indeed, the first piece exceeded even my soft bigotry of low expectations. Under the headline, Rivals Continue to Pick Apart Dean's Record, the Globe lede informs readers that,

Howard Dean has cited his support for a 1997 federal law curbing Medicare costs in an effort to fend off attacks from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, but correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that Dean, as governor of Vermont in 2000, complained to federal officials about a significant provision of the cost-containment law signed by Bill Clinton.

Now, right off, the attacks alluded to were precisely because of his support for that law, making it odd for the Globe to switch the polarity of the issue--unless, of course the point is simply to screw Dean. Which is pretty much what the piece sets out to do.

What, exactly, is the story behind Dean's letter to Clinton, according to the article? Does it really attack "cost containment", as the lede coyly implies?

Not hardly. The reader who slogs through the article, without assuming that it documents what it purports to, will learn:

1) That the provision in question dealt with a loophole under existing Medicare law that set reimbursement fees for inpatient but not outpatient treatment, leading hospitals to shift more and more of its costs to the unregulated, outpatient side.

2) The provision tried to address this problem by setting a nationwide fee schedule for outpatient services as well.

3) Although hospitals in most states charged more for outpatient services than the fee schedule proposed under the provision, Vermont was an exception. Apparently the proposed fee schedule would be mandatory and not simply a ceiling (the article is too busy misdirecting readers to make this clear), so the end result would be that Vermont seniors would pay more on their copayments than before. As governor of Vermont, Dean found this objectionable.

So. A federal law designed to cut Medicare costs would have had the perverse effect in at least one state of increasing Medicare costs and patient copayments. By raising objections to this, Dean demonstrated that he was inconsistent on curbing Medicare costs.

You know, I think this qualifies as the "normal level of scrutiny" after all.

Someone else can read the other two Globe pieces. I don't have time for this horseshit.

Still Bending Over for Bush 

On the flat-out lie by Bush about the "Mission Accomplished" banner, CNN had this to say:

Assigning responsibility elsewhere, especially to the military, is not a typical move for the Bush administration...

I wanted to think this was some kind of dry joke, but 3 years of servile Bush apologetics from outlets like CNN prevent me. Examples of shifting responsibility? Let's see: there's
The lie that the Clintonites trashed the White House
The failure to prevent 9/11
The failure of its economic policies
The explosion of the budget deficit
The failure to catch Bin Laden
Its role in the California energy crisis
The failure to get multinational support for attacking Iraq
The failure to secure virtually every major Iraqi institution after the fall of the regime
The "16 words" that came out of Junior's own mouth during SOTU
The intelligence failure about Saddam's WMDs
The ongoing anarchy in Iraq
Leaking Valerie Plame's name to the press

I'm sure our knowledgable visitors can supply many, many more. In fact, I can see it becoming a popular parlor game: "Shirk: The game where the biggest loser is the winner." Not a bad nickname for Junior either...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Deja Vu All Over Again 

One journalist recounted how the California wildfires started this way:

On the morning of 26 October, Southern California woke up to perfect fire weather. Los Angeles Fire Chief Donald Manning accurately assessed "a potential day for disaster" and dispatched 10 city engines to the rim of the San Fernando Valley where chaparral meets suburb. And shortly after lunch, a blaze flared up....

Early [the next] morning, as a 50-mile-per-hour Santa Ana whipsawed power lines and ripped the fronds off palm trees, fires erupted one after another....As dawn broke...fires were out of control, five firefighters had already been critically injured, and new blazes were being reported throughout five Southern California counties....

[Firefighters] arrived too late to save the two dozen homes destroyed by the first...fire, which ultimately incinerated 39,000 acres. But events... were overshadowed by the fire that began [the next day] after lunch and with incredible speed consumed Laguna Beach "as if it had been soaked in gasoline."...

The Laguna Beach blaze... injured 65 firefighters, destroyed 366 homes (most of them valued at over $1 million) and caused $435 million in damage. It seemed to be the dramatic denouement to a catastrophic fire week. In fact, it was only the first act.

The fires are not those of the week of October 26, 2003, but rather of 1993, described by muckraking journalist Mike Davis in his prophetic Ecology of Fear. In "The Case for Letting Malibu Burn," Davis catalogs the stately procession of catastrophic wildfires that have rolled across Southern California almost since the dawn of time with a periodicity that makes Pacific ocean breakers look random by comparison, but which, unlike the latter, are steadily worsening. Chaparral ecology, he points out, is literally rooted in periodic wildfires as a means of regenerating its ecosystem. And this ecosystem's imperatives will not be denied:

A key revelation was the nonlinear relationship between the age structure of vegetation and the intensity of fire. Botanists and fire geographers discovered that "the probability for an intense fast running fire increases dramatically as the fuels exceed twenty years of age." Indeed, half-century old chaparral--heavily laden with mass--is calculated to burn with 50 times more intensity than 20-year-old chaparral. Put another way, an acre of old chapparal is the fuel equivalent of about 75 barrels of crude oil.

Prolonging and hence exacerbating the fire cycle has, of course, been human development with the attendant short-sighted policy of "total fire suppression." Moreover, under this policy, each wave of extreme fires has had the effect of worsening the prospect of the next one by damaging the overall ecology. Extreme fires actually transform the chemical composition of the soil, exacerbating erosion and flooding, while the successive waves of destruction favor speculative development in favor of the well-heeled, who have the political pull to neutralize zoning codes that might, for example, prohibit shake cedar construction, while socializing the costs of their pyrophilic habits onto others. The results are graphically on display here.

Again prophetically, Davis concludes:

Once again, politicians and the media have allowed the esstential landuse issue--the rampant, uncontrolled proliferation of firebelt suburbs--to be camoflaged in a neutral discourse about natural hazards and public safety. But "safety" for the Mailbu and Laguna coasts as well as hundreds of other luxury enclaves and gated hilltop suburbs is becoming one of the state's major social expenditures, although--unlike welfare or immigration--it is almost never debated in terms of trade-offs or alternatives. The $100 million cost of mobilizing 15,000 firefighters during Halloween week 1993 may be an increasingly common entry in the public ledger. Needless to say, there is no comparable investment in the fire, toxic, or earthquake safety of inner-city communities. Instead, as in so many things, we tolerate two systems of hazard protection, separate and unequal.

Predictably, the Bush Administration has already seized upon the current catastrophe to try to ram through a "forest policy" retrofitted to its pre-existing agendas, benefitting timber interests and few others. More surprisingly, a Senate alternative sponsored by Diane Feinstein and Ron Wyden would actually re-orient fire policy away from "ignition control" and toward managing chaparral accumulation in the form of regular thinning and prescribed burns. (It's unclear whether another alternative sponsored by Barbara Boxer and Jeff Bingaman would simply perpetuate the short-sighted total fire suppression policy currently in place.)

If the Feinstein/Wyden bill manages to snuff out the Administration's cynical giveway to timber interests, we might actually be looking at a semi-sane fire safety policy for once. If not, expect to meet here again on this tragic subject, another 10 years out.

Monday, October 27, 2003

More Good News From Baghdad: Ramadan Begins With A Bang 

According to the WaPo, early Sunday morning:

The U.S. occupation authority abandoned the al-Rashid Hotel after it was hit early Sunday by a fatal rocket barrage fired from a launcher disguised as a portable generator. A senior U.S. Army officer was killed and 17 people were wounded in the brazen strike at the core of the U.S. presence in Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who was in the hotel but unhurt in the attack, vowed that "we're not giving up on this job."

This morning, the AP informs us:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Suicide bombers struck the Red Cross headquarters and three police stations across Baghdad on Monday, killing about 40 people and injuring more than 200 in a coordinated terror spree that stunned the Iraqi capital on the first day of the Islamic holy month of fasting, Ramadan.

The string of car bombings, all within about 45 minutes, was the bloodiest episode yet in the city of 5 million by insurgents targeting the American-led occupation and those perceived as working with it.

It also appeared to mark a dramatic escalation in tactics, suggesting a level of organization U.S. officials had doubted the resistance possessed. In past weeks, bombers have carried out heavy suicide bombings but in single strikes.

What, you may be asking yourself, is the good news. That is the good news.

These attacks are a measure of the progress we've been making in Iraq, if the media would but tell you. That these evil ones, these terrorists, who just love to kill, and who hate progress, peace and freedom would feel compelled to attack the US occupation at its very heart, that they would target the International Red Cross, and police stations is evidence of their desperation. To quote our President:

"The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react," Bush said. "And our job is to find them and bring them to justice. Which is precisely what General Abizaid briefed us on."

"These people will kill Iraqis. The don't care who they kill, they just want to kill, and we will find them," Bush pledged.

"There's a handful of people who don't want (Iraqis) to live in freedom," adding that do not support the reconstruction, including the restoration of electricity and oil production or the rebuilding of schools.

"They'll do whatever it takes to stop this progress. And our job is to work with the Iraqis to prevent this from happening."

This from the Oval Office, where the President was meeting with Viceroy Brenner, Ms. Rice, and Generals Meyers and Abizaid. There was even some good news about Iraq that didn't require being measured by the bloodiness of the resistence to our presence there.

Bush also hailed the outcome of the donors' conference for Iraq in Madrid which raised pledges of 13 billion dollars in addition to about 20 billion dollars from the United States.

"We spent time talking about the success of the donors conference, the fact that the world community is coming together to help build a free Iraq. And we want to thank the world for the willingness to step up and to help," Bush said.

And the world, I'm sure, is saying, you're welcome, Mr. President.

What is there to say about the use of this kind of logic, this rhetoric, so clearly PR rather than policy driven?

For a dose of reality, here's an early but detailed report of what it was like in Baghdad this morning from the NYTimes, and from the BBC, a report on the complicated reactions of actual Iraqis.

One more dose of reality, in the coordinated attack of the last several weeks on the media as deliberately witholding news of the progress being made in Iraq under our occupation, would you not agree that the unreported story most often referenced was the reopening of Iraqi schools? Here's just a small sampling of the stories covering that event that appeared at the time in the Christian Science Monitor, the BBC, another from the CSM, and yes, even Dan Rather's CBS. See what you think of the coverage.

One last question about the last two days - what was Sec. Wolfowitz doing in Iraq? Give him credit, as Atrios does, for at least staying in Baghdad, but why go there at all? Hard not to see it as a form of waving the bloody shirt, in this case, of our occupation. Mind you, I don't bebrudge the Secretary the warm welcome he received from the Kurds; their feelings of warmth towards him are perfectly understandable. But to the extent those feelings aren't as prevalent in neighborhoods in Baghdad, or in Najaf, or Karbala, to the extent he might not dare take a walk in those cities, isn't his presence in Iraq ultimately divisive in a way that impedes the result we want, a unified, democratic Iraq?

That today's suicide bombers may be foreign jihadists is hardly good news from an Iraqi point of view. What was the point of a visit that emphasized the American nature of this occupation? To reassure them that we're in it for the long haul? Somehow, I don't think that's what even the most sympathetic Iraqi is worried about.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

What Else Attracts Flies? 

Our informed visitors know that, according to Andrew Sullivan and others, the catastrophe in Iraq is actually a good thing, because the American presence there acts like "flypaper" to terrorists, thereby keeping America safer.

Time to admit it: Sullivan was right. And it looks like we've found a flypaper "best buy."

AFTER the 6:10 a.m. attack, a shaken-looking Paul Wolfowitz, the visiting deputy defense secretary, said the attack would not deter the United States in its mission to transform Iraq.

Maybe Cheney should go next? After all, didn't his boss famously say, "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!"?

Despite the demonstrated validity of the flypaper theory, however, something tells me we're going to go back to buying generic from now on--"other priorities" and all that. Besides, Kuwait City is lovely this time of year...

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