November 28, 2004
— Ace Here's a bit of, ahem, no spin zone apologism on behalf of Dan Rather:
The ordeal of Dan Rather goes far beyond the man himself. It speaks to the presumption of guilt that now rules the day in America. Because of a ruthless and callow media, no citizen, much less one who achieves fame, is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to allegations or personal attacks. The smearing of America is in full bloom.
That [Kitty Kelly "smear" on George Bush] came on the heels of the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks on John Kerry [related, bio], an ordeal that may have cost him the election. While some of the Vietnam vets had valid points, more than a few of the accusations against Kerry were simply untrue.
Right-wing talk radio, in particular, pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident - the charges against George W. Bush vis-a-vis his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing. Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made President Bush [related, bio] look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.
O'Reilly goes on to say he's known Rather for "20 years," and vouches for his integrity.
Well, may be.
But is it just me, or did Bill O'Reilly's jihad against the so-called "smear merchants" seem to begin, coincidentally enough, at about the same time he was being informed of the sexual harassment lawsuit against him?
Several months prior to the infamous loofah dirty talk incidents -- alleged, I suppose I should say-- I noticed that O'Reilly seemed personally invested in the notion that "smear merchants" were peddling "lies" and "slanders" against all the good, unimpeachable folks in the US media. He seemed to be spending an awful lot of time discussing "Stuart Smalley" (his not really cute or funny put-down of Al Franken) and making asinine and self-serving sermons to Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, branding them "rightwingers" and "smear merchants" who were more interested in sensationalism and partisanship than truth and fairness.
Perhaps I'm just too cynical, but I rather doubt O'Reilly's newfound crusade is entirely principled. I would suggest that he began this campaign against "smear merchants" in order to insulate himself against his own coming scandal, one he knew about but which his audience did not. Now he can claim that he doesn't have to discuss his scandal, because he won't give the "smear merchants" time on his show, and that's a principled position he's strongly believed in for, oh, three or four months or so.
O'Reilly occasionally he does ask tough questions of those who need asking, and he's pretty good about animating America about important issues. I don't get his "Guards on the border" fetish, but I'm thankful for his promotion of the boycott-France movement.
And yeah, it's sorta fun to watch him engage in shameless puffery night after night, opining how this guy and that guy won't talk to them because they're "afraid to take the heat" from no-spin O'Reilly.
But he seems to be tailoring some of his positions to his best personal advantage. I can't take the attacks on Coulter or the defense of Rather, myself.
KerrySpot Agrees: So I'm not the only one.
— Ace It had to happen eventually.
— Ace Keep it up:
The 300 men filling out forms in the offices of an Iranian aid group were offered three choices: Train for suicide attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, for suicide attacks against Israelis or to assassinate British author Salman Rushdie.
It looked at first glance like a gathering on the fringes of a society divided between moderates who want better relations with the world and hard-line Muslim militants hostile toward the United States and Israel.
But the presence of two key figures a prominent Iranian lawmaker and a member of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards lent the meeting more legitimacy and was a clear indication of at least tacit support from some within Iran's government.
Since that inaugural June meeting in a room decorated with photos of Israeli soldiers' funerals, the registration forms for volunteer suicide commandos have appeared on Tehran's streets and university campuses, with no sign Iran's government is trying to stop the shadowy movement.
We have all the justification we need. Now we just need to make the decision.
Thanks to GregS.
— Ace You know the Washington Post didn't want to write this article, but they did:
This election was the first in which exit polls showed equal numbers of self-identified Republicans and Democrats -- both at 37 percent -- erasing what had been a decades-long advantage for Democrats, 4 percent in 2000..... On a percentage basis, he improved on his 2000 performance in 48 states.
Most significantly, in the view of people who suspect realignment, exit polls showed Bush cutting into Democratic advantages with some historically Democratic groups -- especially Hispanics, who gave Bush 42 percent of their votes, compared with 35 percent in 2000. ...
A preeminent scholar of realignment is Walter Dean Burnham at the University of Texas at Austin, the author 33 years ago of "Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics." He was out of the office and did not return messages during the week before Thanksgiving, but he recently told the Weekly Standard magazine that long-term trends favoring Republicans among culturally conservative and hawkish voters came to full flower in 2004, and he predicted, "If Republicans keep playing the religious card along with the terrorism card, this could last a long time."
Mark Gersh, a leading elections analyst with the Democratic-supporting National Committee for an Effective Congress, said he does not believe a realignment has occurred, but he does fear that the results highlight serious structural problems for Democrats. In addition to the higher number of Republican-leaning states -- a major GOP advantage in the Senate -- the Democrats are getting trounced in the outer suburbs of metropolitan regions. While these areas still produce relatively few votes, they are the fastest-growing areas of the country. A Los Angeles Times analysis found Bush won 97 of the 100 fastest-growing counties.
"If the Democrats don't do well" in places and with groups "that are growing faster than others," said Gersh, "they are going to be in trouble."
Fred Barnes puts it like this: the Republicans have not achieved political dominance as the Democrats enjoyed throughout most of the post-WWII period. But they have achieved "parity-plus" in his term, equal footing plus just a little something extra. And that, in itself, represents a realignment (albeit one that's been coming for a long time).
The Democrats take a lot of solace in the fact that Bush, an incument during wartime, did not score a landslide. Thus, they believe, they're in pretty good shape in 2008.
But that analysis seems strongly at odds with their pre-election beliefs. Before the election, they claimed -- and they honestly believed, I'm sure -- that Bush was the most disasterous president since, well, either Herbert Hoover, Andrew Johnson, or Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone. If President Bush was such a failure in terms of results, and yet he still won a somewhat comfortable popular-vote victory, well then, the public must really appreciate Republican ideas. After all, Bush had few results to show for his first term.
Bush wasn't nearly as "disasterous" a President as the Democrats believed, but, speaking honestly, the facts on the ground were not much in his favor. Yes, there are reasons the economy is still "ooching" along, as President Bush once said; but it is still merely ooching, not growing gangbusters. Iraq is not nearly the fiasco that Howard Wolfson claims, but it hasn't been a real success, either, at least not since April or May of 2003.
And yet-- Bush won.
The Democrats, then, should not be sanguine about almost beating a Republican President with a so-so economy and mixed-to-bad war of his own making.
Al Gore's administration presided over the greatest expansion in history, and could crow about how "peaceful" the world was under his watch. (We know better now, of course.) And yet he lost-- narrowly, yes, but still, he lost.
If the Democrats have to produce a candidate as charismatic and skilled as Bill Clinton, plus a gangbusters economy and no major foreign policy threat known by the public in order to win an election, that means they're not going to win too many elections in the future.
Heck, any party can win with a Bill Clinton presiding over a supercharged economy. Even, say, the Libertarians. But any scenario less advantageous than that seems to produce Democratic losses.
And that's a problem. That's a big problem.
November 27, 2004
— Ace Post-Modern Clog is there, camera in hand.
Kinda cool. He was one of the first blogs to ever link me. Now he's got a Sully-lanche for his efforts. Good work, Clog.
— Ace They didn't quite manage to win Wisconsin for Bush, but they did a hell of a job getting the word out about John Kerry's penchant for catching like a girl.
And now they're reborn as Football Fans and Beyond.
With pictures like this
they can't fail.
— Ace Not even the New York Times will come to his aid:
Now Oliver Stone has Alexander the Great, the Macedonian tyrant who cut a bloody swath through the ancient world to no obvious end other than, if Mr. Stone's big, blowsy movie is to believed, get away from his kvetch of a mother.
As the young marauder kills and enslaves peoples from Egypt to India, Mr. Stone repeatedly returns us to Olympias, snakes coiling around her body and chastising her absent son in a bewildering accent, part Yiddishe Mama, part Natasha of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fame: "You don't write, you don't call, why don't you settle down with a nice Macedonian girl?" or words to that effect. Rarely since Joan Crawford rampaged through the B-movie sunset of her career has a female performer achieved such camp distinction.
This is the costliest, most logistically complex feature of the filmmaker's career, and it appears that the effort to wrangle so many beasts, from elephants to movie stars and money men, along with the headaches that come with sweeping period films, got the better of him. Certainly it's brought out the worst in terms of the puerile writing, confused plotting, shockingly off-note performances and storytelling that lacks either of the two necessary ingredients for films of this type, pop or gravitas.
The reviewer whines a bit that Stone doesn't castigate Alexander enough for being a conquistador, so, you know, he's a bit of a horse's ass. But still.
Rotten Tomatoes Update: Only 14% fresh. Sounds like a perfectly vile film.
— Ace Good for him:
Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric is opposing any delay in elections scheduled for Jan. 30, as demanded by other political factions, Iraqi Shiite leaders said Saturday.
The top American civilian official in Iraq, John D. Negroponte, lent his forceful support, saying elections will be held in January, adding, "we want to do everything possible to create the conditions so that everyone who is eligible to vote in this country will be able to do so."
The office of the Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, made its position clear in telephone conversations on Friday with Sunni Muslim leaders who are agitating for a six-month postponement of the elections, one of the Shiite leaders said.
Over the last week, a movement largely spearheaded by Sunnis to delay the elections has gathered huge momentum. On Friday, 17 political groups, most dominated by Sunnis but also including two Kurdish groups, endorsed a statement calling on the Iraqi Electoral Commission to put off the Jan. 30 voting because of the violence that afflicts much of the country.
I wonder how much of this agitation for a delay is actually due to fears about security, and how much is due to some parties' thinking they're not well-positioned to win in January, and thus would rather have another six months to politick.
— Ace You can specify all the checks and balances you like, but utlimately it's only a respect for tradition -- and a regard for the judgment of history -- that preserves a democracy:
Ukraine's Parliament, meeting in special session, voted Saturday to declare last Sunday's presidential runoff invalid, but failed to set a date for a new election, as the country's opposition leader and diplomats in Europe have demanded.
Outside Parliament, tens of thousands of supporters of Viktor A. Yushchenko, the challenger, who has claimed the government stole his rightful victory, cheered and jeered as the debate inside unfolded, broadcast on large television screens set up on the streets.
As the Parliament voted on each of several resolutions, the crowd roared, chanting "Yushchenko is our president!" or "Kuchma out!"
The fight over the election - over the country's very future - is now moving on several fronts, each utterly unpredictable six days after the runoff. It has been only 13 years since Ukraine became independent in the breakup of the Soviet Union; its democratic traditions are still being formed, and its branches of power are youthful and largely untested.
On the streets of Kiev and other cities, antigovernment protests continued and appeared to grow.
On the legal front, the Supreme Court is to hear Mr. Yushchenko's complaints of electoral fraud on Monday.
This is a dangerous game.
If the Democrats want to clean up the election process, they're the only ones holding it up. They are the ones who scream at the idea of voter ID cards; they're the ones who insist that even asking a "voter" for a driver's ID or utility bill constitutes some sort of "chilling" effect on recently-minted citizens.
This is ludicrous. Those who go through our naturalization process are the most aware of their rights as Americans. They spend years studying civics as adults, and know American government better than natural-born citizens. After years of waiting, they are finally told in a big ceremony that they are now US citizens, full-fledged Americans, and of course they are entitled to vote.
Genuine US citizens know they can vote. And merely asking for an ID isn't going to send them running from the polls.
The current situation is intolerable. There is too much bad faith in politics, and neither party trusts the other.
But the Democrats are playing a double-game. On the one hand, they suspect electoral fraud whenever they lose. On the other hand, they rely on those extra several hundred thousand illegal votes they know they're going to receive every election -- and please, don't tell me this is about principle; you can tell who's benefiting from the illegal vote by who wants to crack down on it and who wants to perpetuate it -- and thus will not agree to anything resembling electoral reform.
We did not come by our democracy easily, and we could lose it in a few bad months. Bush won handily this time around; but what if he had not? What if he had only squeaked by in a few key states? Would we have rioting as they do in the Ukraine?
And, for that matter, what if Kerry had just barely won, in a few states known for having high numbers of illegal votes?
This system has to be cleaned up. Democrats have to stop weighing the political advantages that inure to them from illegal votes and instead consider the effect on our democracy if this madness continues. Partisanship breeds high passion, and high passions can only be cooled and kept peaceful if all parties have a reasonable degree of confidence that the results that come in on election day are valid and honest.
And Keith Olbermann should be ashamed of himself. Desperate for ratings and driven by liberal-left lunacy, he's trumpeting easily-debunked conspiracies about the "stolen" election of 2004. Does he actually want blood in the streets in 2008? Or even 2006?
That's the same guy. There's some suspicion that opposition leader Yuschenko has been poisoned, and looking at the before and after, I can't say it's a ridiculous idea.
November 26, 2004
— Ace First the Chilean security service, now this. Can't the man just let the occasional scrape pass without diving in?
— Ace I think this is a bad idea.
First of all, any postponement will be seen as a victory for the terrorists. Which of course it is.
Second, at some point it has to be the Iraqis fighting for Iraq. There must be a purely Iraqi face leading Iraq. We are committed to winning in Iraq, but this committment cannot be absolute. We cannot do for the Iraqis what they will not or cannot do for themselves indefinitely.
We have already paid a high price in blood and treasure to secure the future of Iraq. Our resources are not infinite.
— Ace Great piece on his October 29th video threat. We were all so busy examining the political ramifications at the time, we hardly noticed what he as actually saying.
Turns out he's in disbelief that we won't roll over and appease him. I think we need to provide him with more such disbelief:
Â Â Â ''This is the message which I sought to communicate to you in word and deed, repeatedly, for years before September 11th,'' the fugitive al-Qaida leader said in a videotape aired around the world Oct. 29. ''But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11th . . . the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred.''
Â Â Â Eight years after issuing a written declaration of war against the United States, the theme of bin Laden's speech was disbelief that he had failed to make his point with the American people, even after the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil and a succession of bombings [and other terrorist acts.]
November 25, 2004
— Ace "Someone" says this is the best Thanksgiving post ever, courtesy of Charles Krauthammer. Who am I to argue?
November 24, 2004
— Ace More due to hubris, hackery, and liberal arrogance than bloggers, but still.
Makes sense to me.
Out of Here Update: Gotta catch that train. Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone important to you.
— Ace Thank you Madfish Willie!
Okay, they don't seem to completely work-- the "remember me" function still isn't working, but at least you can write your name on the post now.
Thanks so much, Madfish!
— Ace I'm not quite done here yet, but most of you are either gone or going soon. I hope you all have terrific Thanksgivings. We should all be grateful for what we have.
Blogging will be light but I hope to do at least some blogging Thursday and Friday. I'm going away, but I will have occasional access to a computer. The only thing standing between me and blogging extravaganza is tryptophan.
Travel safely and love your family and friends.
— Ace Great piece:
When Senator John Kerry finally came out of hiding on Friday, Nov. 19, and posted a new message on his Presidential campaign Web site, who was holding their breath?
An army of barefoot, pajama-wearing bloggersand their general, the host of MSNBCs Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
The bespectacled newsman has dedicated numerous broadcasts and copious blogging hours to "voting irregularities" since Nov. 8every scrap of evidence or even feeble insinuation was kindling for a burning obsession that has largely been dismissed elsewhere in TV-land. Nowadays, Countdown is Recountdown.
Nineteen months into his latest TV incarnationhaving gone from disgruntled ESPN guy to disgruntled NBC News guy to disgruntled Fox Sports guy and back to NBCthe 45-year-old Mr. Olbermann is going Watergate on the Ohio recount, making his show a major-media beachhead for dozens of lefty quasi-conspiracy theorists who clearly wanted to one-up the guys who hog-tied Dan Rather over the summer.
These bloggers, said Mr. Olbermann, were his allies: They "can go places I cant go. They are my minionslike an unpaid research staff."
A former sportscaster with a Letterman-era sense of ironya suppressed smarty-pants smirk that hasnt exactly captured the imagination of the massesMr. Olbermann shares with these folks a baseball-card collectors penchant for obscure data and a sometimes tedious if highly principled interest in below-the-radar minutiae.
Highly principled? Okay, he lost me there.
Mr. Olbermanns fixation on the vote-count story was stoked again on Monday evening, when the Ohio Democratic Party announced that it would join with the Green and Libertarian parties in pursuing a recount in the state of Ohio, offering the remote possibility of a reversal in the outcome of the 2004 Presidential election. At 7:12 p.m. that day, Mr. Olbermann e-mailed to say, "I think it kinda just went mainstream."
But it kinda just didnt. ...
And so down the wormhole he went.
It didnt bother Mr. Olbermann that most of his cheerleaders were Web-based Democrats. He said he read a number of blogs, including the left-wing Daily Kos and the right-wing National Debate. ...
For his part, hes invited vote-fraud pooh-poohers on the air and let them have their sayfair and balanced. And if Mr. Olbermann was angry, he didnt show it. But he did say that if hed stayed at NBC in the late 1990s instead of departing for Fox Sports, he would now have the same ratings as Mr. OReillyover 2 million a night, or close to it. "If I hadnt left," he said, "wed be doing about as well as OReilly is now."
That may have been Mr. Olbermanns nuttiest theory yet.
— Ace It seems this is the first gun-confiscation program that the Europeans don't like:
NEAR FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Arab militants and insurgents who ruled the volatile city of Falluja before a U.S.-led offensive this month had enough weapons to take over all of Iraq, Marine officers said on Wednesday.
"We found enough weapons in Falluja for the insurgency to take over the whole country," Lieutenant Colonel Dan Wilson told a news conference at a U.S. base near the western city.
Wilson said the Marines were surprised by the number and range of weapons, from home-made flame throwers to surface-to-air missiles, found in a city that was seen as the backbone of a relentless insurgency.
But few dare call it victory.
Thanks to Tanker.
— Ace I'll give you a moment to retrieve your jaws from your lap. "What's that, you say?" you're befuddling. "Are you saying that Oliver Stone has failed yet again to capture the cinematic magic of The Doors or Salvador?"
This guy's best work remains the writing/rewriting he did for Conan the Barbarian.
On to the reviews. I guess we should be grateful Stone's served us up anonther ginormous turkey just in time for Thanksgiving:
If you played a word-association game with "Alexander the Great," you'd probably come up with "conqueror," "king," "warrior," "legend," "despot," "wastrel" or "killer." Unfortunately, Oliver Stone has chosen to build his epic of the Macedonian military genius around a word highly unlikely to make the list: "crybaby."
In Stone's view, this is a highly neurotic young man whose emotions, far from being repressed or disciplined as one would expect of a great soldier of the 4th century B.C., are worn on his sleeve, except, of course, that he doesn't have sleeves, the shirt still being two millennia down the road. So he wears them on his wrist -- and it's a limp one.
That's the weirdest aspect of the extremely weird, if absurdly expensive, movie. Stone gives himself much credit of "telling the truth" about Alexander's bisexuality as if it's some progressive badge of honor, but at the same time he can't get away from the cruelest, least imaginative stereotyping: His Alexander, as expressed through the weepy histrionics of Colin Farrell, is more like a desperate housewife than a soldier. He's always crying, his voice trembles, his eyes fill with tears. He's much less interesting, except as a basket case, than Richard Burton's Alexander of far less enlightened times -- 1956 -- in Robert Rossen's "Alexander the Great." Burton got Alexander's dissipation, but also his martial spirit; this was, after all, one of the great light-cavalry commanders of all time and a general who fought by leading his troops, sword in hand, not directing them from some safe hill. But in this one you think: Teri Hatcher could kick this twerp's butt.
Stone's never been subtle. I'm surprised that Willem Dafoe's crucifixion-pose death scene wasn't underscored with the words "Christ Figure! Christ Figure!" flashing on the screen, just in case you missed it.
Oliver Stone's Alexander, which opens today, isn't just bad. It's Springtime for Hitler bad. I haven't guffawed this hard since I saw Airplane for the first time 24 years ago. This is one of the colossal catastrophes of all time. At a screening on Monday night, during the death scene of Alexander's lover Hephaiston, people were screaming with laughter as Alexander made a big speech while, behind him in soft focus, Hephaiston went into a conniption fit and croaked.
Of course there's more.
— Ace If it's not the Great or Little Satan doing the war-crime, it's just not that important.
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