June 30, 2004

A Question for Mickey Kaus
— Ace

Mickey Kaus is a perceptive and fun writer. However, he does have one grating idiocy: He pretends to think that perhaps Al Qaeda actually wants George Bush re-elected president (scan down to June 20th item).

As he's a Democrat, I can understand his desire to engage in this fantasy. The fact that Al Qaeda is rooting for John Kerry is obviously not an endorsement that will help the Democratic candidate. So he likes to pretend that it's difficult to say precisely whom Al Qaeda is rooting for. Perhaps Zarqawi is rooting for Kerry, but oh heavens no, not bin Ladin himself.

There is one big problem with this goofy thesis. Al Qaeda announced that it hoped the Madrid bombings would drive the hawk out of office and bring the dove into office; it seems awfully strange that Al Qaeda would be pro-Zapatera and yet anti-Kerry.

But let's put that aside.

Mr. Kaus, it's your theory that Al Qaeda wants Bush to win the election, correct?

Answer me this:

If Al Qaeda wants Bush to win, why don't they make the one statement -- costing them nothing at all -- most likely to insure his re-election?

With one single statement, they can destroy John Kerry's candidacy and guarantee a Bush landslide in November.

It doesn't matter if the statement is true or not. I think it is, but that's irrelevant.

The one statement?

Saddam Hussein funded us, trained us, and cooperated with us in planning or executing terrorist attacks.

If Al Qaeda wants Bush to win, Mr. Kaus, why don't they just say that?

Why do they continue maintaining the position that hurts Bush and helps Kerry?

For an organization that you claim is so thankful to Bush for "playing right into their hands," they sure have a funny way of displaying their gratitude, now don't they?

Posted by: Ace at 04:23 PM | Comments (16)
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Even Moore Lies
— Ace

Devastating.

Yes, we all knew it was a pack of lies. We all knew every word in it was a lie, including the "the's" and "and's."

But it's nice to see the liberal media actually trouble itself to take note of this fact.

Update: Screw that, I just realized. Does anyone doubt that if there were a rightwing film filled with this sort of absurd deception that there wouldn't be "Truth-Squad" features running on the film on all the network newsmagazine shows, including 60 Minutes, and furthermore before the film even opened?

Why is the television media suddenly so indifferent as to whether a political film is actually, you know, accurate in its various slanders or not?

Posted by: Ace at 03:49 PM | Comments (10)
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Kerry Support Plummets in... Maine?!?!
— Ace

Bush's numbers are improving in a bunch of crucial states -- Arizona (need it), Colorado (need it), and Wisconsin (want it), as well as Florida and Ohio (need it, need it).

But now Kerry's losing support in... Maine? Maine, whose license plates read "The Almost-Canada State"? Maine, which views vacationers from Boston and Burlington, Vermont as right-wing redneck yahoo invaders?

But yeah-- Maine too, now:

PORTLAND, Maine — John Kerry´s double-digit lead over President Bush evaporated Wednesday in a new statewide poll that also found a drop in support for a controversial plan to cap property taxes.

Bush and Kerry were tied at 35.5 percent, according to the latest quarterly survey by Strategic Marketing Services. But when those leaning toward the candidate were added to those who intended to vote for him, Kerry had a slight edge, 43.5 percent to 41 percent. Ralph Nader had 4.5 percent and 11 percent were undecided.

By contrast, the marketing research firm´s Omnibus Poll in March showed 51 percent intending to vote or leaning toward Kerry, compared to 38 percent for Bush, 4 percent for Nader and 7.5 percent undecided.

A poll conducted this spring by another Portland firm, Critical Insights, had Kerry leading Bush by a margin of 49 percent to 39 percent, with 12 percent either undecided or favoring another candidate.

Patrick Murphy, president of Strategic Marketing Services, said he was "a bit surprised" by the size of the drop in Kerry´s support. He suggested that the numbers may reflect Republican advertising that Kerry had yet to respond to as well as the blanket news coverage of former President Ronald Reagan´s funeral.

Look, I'm no Larry Sabato, but if Kerry has to fight for Maine, he's gonna have some problems in Pennsylvania, no?

But Let's Not Open the Champagne Yet: ARG, which I tend to find errs on the side of Democrats, finds that Kerry leads in absolutely-gotta-have-it Ohio.

Posted by: Ace at 02:22 PM | Comments (10)
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An Open Letter to Oliver Willis
— Ace

Dear Mr. Willis, Retard, Esq.,

Bite me.

Your Faithful Servant,

Ace

PS: I'm tired of the He Who Shall Not Be Named schtick. I'm not Voldemort and you're not Harry Potter. Are ya tryin' to deny me traffic, Odub? My traffic's higher than yours now, so you can knock it off with that nonsense.

PPS: And you should be grateful to me besides. You haven't done another one of those lame Britney Spears "fake news articles" since I humilitated you over the last one. Someone needed to tell you they weren't funny, and that task, sadly, fell to me, the internet's self-appointed one-man arbiter of not-funny.

I still haven't received a proper "Thank you" for my troubles, you ingrate.

PPPS: And I'm quite willing to end the juvenile taunting and debate your positions, the moment you actually figure out what your positions might be. Your only position seems to be that whatever Bush does is wrong, even if claiming that contradicts something you claimed just a week before. We can move past the nyaah, nyaah stage once you clearly explicate the "Willis Plan" for Iraq.

PPPPS: In fairness, I suppose I should allow that you are in an unenviable position, as you are requred to defend "Kerry's Plan," but as of yet Kerry has not told you what his plan might be.

You thus are required to defend a plan which has not yet been explained, and you don't know, yet, what plan it is you're supposed to be claiming is The Wonderfully Perfect Plan for Iraq Which Should Have Been Obvious to Anyone Who Thought Carefully About the Situation for Five Minutes But Too Bad That Bush Didn't Because He's So Damn Dumb.

Perhaps, when someone in the media actually bothers to pin Kerry down on his specific position on the War on Iraq and his specific plan for improving security there, you will then be in a better position to proclaim "Here is what I've been for all along, even though I didn't realize it before."

When that happy day arrives, I trust we will share further illuminating correspondence.

Posted by: Ace at 01:29 PM | Comments (31)
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Top Al Qaeda "Spiritual Guide" Shot Dead Like a Dog in Saudi Arabia
— Ace

Reuters always has a funny way of putting things, doesn't it?:

Saudi police killed a top spiritual guide for the Saudi wing of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network during a shootout in Riyadh on Wednesday, security sources said.

They named the slain militant as Abdullah al-Roshood, on a list of 26 most wanted suspects, and said his death was a hefty blow to the ideological hierarchy of al Qaeda in the world's biggest oil exporter.

...

"A police search of the militant's den showed that it was a factory for explosives," it added.

This "spiritual guide" had a bomb factory? What a shock.

Top Ten Other Items Discovered in Al Qaeda "Spiritual Guide's" Hideout

10. Explosive crystal unicorns

9. Cyanide-filled dominoes

8. One (1) special Magic: The Gathering deck with unique card, Osama bin Ladin: Half-Elf Ranger Lord

7. Three "organic" crystal balls which look suspiciously like severed human heads

6. Special tarot cards featuring grotesque anti-semitic caricatures, such as "Schlomo, The Hook-Nosed Rag Merchant"

5. A ouija board containing only two sections, "Kill Infidel Crusaders" and "Kill Jewish Pig-Monkeys"

4. A lockbox labeled Secret Scrolls of Righteousness -- For the Spiritual Guide Only, containing 40 back-issues of Oui and Juggs magazines

3. One cancelled membership card for the Uri Geller fan club

2. Four yoga mats upon which are written inspirational or humorous jihadist messages, such as "Suicide Bombers Do It With Their Belts On" and "Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life"

... and the Number One Item Discovered in the Al Qaeda "Spiritual Guide's" Hideout...

1. One reviewer's copy of Fahrenheit 911; cover signed, "Keep the faith -- Mike"

Posted by: Ace at 11:49 AM | Comments (10)
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Another Moore Rip
— Ace

A good one. Almost as good as Hitchens'. He makes the obvious point (so obvious I've made it) that the liberal media has a bit more tolerance for this ham-handed, conspiracy-minded, often-flagrantly-dishonest dreck than it did for The Clinton Chronicles.

I guess a bit of wild-eyed conspiracy-mongering and flat-out lying is justified... in a good cause.

So many reviewers are cautious to point out the film is often dishonest while praising it to the nines. There's a reason for this, of course. They know the film is obnoxious, deceptive swill, but they want their bumpkin countrymen-- Middle America, which largely isn't employed in tony jobs like internet film critic and thus can't be expected to know better -- to believe the film anyway.

No harm, no foul, they think. It's important that Bush be put out of office, and they don't mind if people vote him out of office for proveably false reasons.

As the useless idiot film critic for the amateur leftist newsletter Slate said, the film is a "legitimate abuse of power."

Everything with the left is about "context" -- context, of course, always meaning "does this advance the liberal cause or not?"

Is political violence acceptable? It depends on "context." Right wing poltical violence is bad, but really, ELF is just using some violence to achieve a good end, right?

Are former terrorists deserving of cushy jobs in the academy? Well, if they were left wing terrorists, working with the Black Panthers or the Weather Underground, then yes, they can be forgiven for planting bombs. Somehow, though, no one ever suggests that perhaps Timothy McVeigh would have made a fine addition to the Columbia faculty.

Are books exhorting the reader to kill the President worthy of publishing by big publishers? Well, once again, it depends on which president, doesn't it? The Turner Diaries are rightly condemened as an exhortation to racial violence. But Alfred Knopf has no problem publishing a book containing a 115 page meditation on why Bush should be assassinated, and how to best go about doing so.

And are political lies permitted in heavily-promoted, media-praised documentaries? Well -- it depends on context. Sometimes, you know, a few lies here and there can be a "legitimate abuse of power."

We've appealed to their honor. No dice. We've appealed to their sense of basic fairness. No help. We've asked them to consider their actions in the light of the necessities of a functioning civil democratic society. Again, no movement due to that argument.

I don't know. I personally don't want my President assassinated (and neither did I want Clinton assassinated). I was, and am, and always have been against cutesy invitations to political violence or actual assassinations, no matter who the target might be.

But it appears that the left, as usual, is not willing to make such blanket prohibitions. As usual, it all depends on context.

Update: Hypothetically, if someone presented a book urging the assassination of a high-profile Democratic politician, would Alfred Knopf publish it, I wonder? Would the media defend it as being a legitimate expression of anger?

Or would they decide that the risk of inciting an mentally-unstable reader into violent action outweighed any conceivable literary merits?

Context, context.

By the way, this writer doesn't have a lot of literary merit. His first book, Vox, was an embarassingly slim volume about two people jacking off over the telephone. Honestly-- that's what the book was about. There was no narration; it was just dialogue between a man and a woman for 130 pages or so, like this:

Bill: I like big boobs.

Mary: I've got big boobs. I like big weiners. Let's rub ourselves vigorously.

I read it when it came out-- or I tried to, at least. Even though the book was thin and sparse (they had to use lots of white space and publish it in small-book format to even get it to barely break 100 pages), and even though it was about a man and a woman masturbating, I still couldn't finish it, because it was boring.

The sex-talk was boring. The not-sex-talk was even more boring, although there wasn't much of that. Just enough to make the onanistic protangonists "fully fleshed out characters." (Ahem.)

He became half-famous not because he was a deep thinker or terrific stylist, but because he had one kinda-good commercial insight-- people like reading porn under the guise of respectable literature.

Wait a minute...! Maybe people like reading porn under the guise of political satire as well!

Hey Knopf-- give me a call, huh?

Posted by: Ace at 11:10 AM | Comments (10)
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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs... "Nearly a Million Jobs in 100 Days"
— Ace

Consensus estimate: 250,000 in June, slightly beating May's 248,000.

There's the possibility of upward re-adjustments of previous months, which is something we've seen again and again during this boom. And of course we could get another pleasant surprise, and see even more jobs than this created.

But I actually think that the period of positive surprises is passing us; I think that economists have adjusted their thinking, and that therefore the estimates won't necessarily be lower than the real numbers anymore. We'll start seeing estimates that are high about half of the time and low about half of the time.

On to the cowbell:

WASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) - U.S. employment likely surged again in June, taking gains this year to some 1.4 million jobs and bolstering President George W. Bush's economic record ahead of the November election, analysts said onWednesday.

Economists believe 250,000 jobs were created this month, virtually matching May's jump of 248,000, though the unemployment rate probably will not budge from 5.6 percent because newly hopeful job-seekers are returning to the job market.

"I think the gains will be quite widespread again, and as we saw in April and May, we are likely to create slightly more higher-paying than lower-paying positions," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Banc of America Securities.

Even if the unemployment rate does not decline, analysts expect the Labor Department's closely watched payrolls report, due on Friday, to confirm broad strength in what months ago was still only a tepid economic recovery.

The creation of nearly a million jobs in the last three months ended years of worry about the slow recovery from the 2001 recession and cemented expectations the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates to head off inflation.

While 1.2 million jobs have been lost since Bush took office, that deficit could easily be erased if hiring continues at its recent pace, and talk of Bush being the president with the worst job record since Herbert Hoover has faded.

And how! As others have pointed out, we knew the economy was booming when the liberal media stopped asking Bush about it.

For three years they wanted to talk about nothing but the economy. Veritable economic Chatty Kathy dolls, they were.

And then, suddenly-- thin-lipped silence. No more talk of "the Bush economy."

There's your leading economic indicator, right there.

"The economy has turned very sharply in Bush's direction, so his biggest weakness is becoming a strength," said Cary Leahey, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities.

The shift in political rhetoric from the "jobless recovery" lament of the Democrats to "nearly a million jobs in 100 days" of the Bush administration appears to have reached consumers, whose confidence levels hit the highest level in two years in June, according to a Conference Board report this week.

Finally.

And yet no credit to Ace of Spades HQ.

Screwed again. I blame Instapundit for this slight.

...

Longer hours and fatter paychecks are seen by experts as evidence the economy is on the threshold of even stronger job gains in the months ahead.

Even stronger job gains in the "months ahead," which, I'm sure you all realize, are also the "months ahead" of the November election.

Three words:

Cow. Frickin'. Bell.

Posted by: Ace at 10:13 AM | Comments (13)
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Tom Brokaw Helpfully Corrects Prime Minister Alawi
— Ace

You know, there's a great amount of psychological import in having an Iraqi leader I can call Prime Minister. We're going to feel the effects of this more and more as we go. As others have pointed out, from here on out, Al Jazeera won't be able to run footage of Paul Bremer issuing orders; all the orders will be issued by Alawi, an Iraqi, speaking his native Arabic.

But anyway.

The MRC catches Brokaw "correcting" the Prime Minister of Iraq on Saddam's Al Qaeda ties (first item). Eh, what would Prime Minister Alawi know. He's just Prime Minister of Iraq and all, and just a man who's been opposing Saddam for 30 years, while Brokaw and his buddies at CNN were coddling him.

Check out the last item, too. Once upon a time I was rooting for Dave Letterman to get the Tonight Show slot; and then I rooted for him to trounce Leno. No more.

He stopped being funny around five years ago, at least. Actually, some say he stopped being funny during the whole NBC dispute in 1991-1992 or so. And now he's also a partisan shill in addition to being unfunny.

I'd suggest boycotting him, except it seems that most people already aren't watching him for non-political reasons.

As a country song (I think) says, Dave, when that Nielsen box ain't pinging, that's me not watching.

Posted by: Ace at 10:01 AM | Comments (8)
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A Quarter Point
— Ace

Greenspan raises the fed funds rate by .25%, as expected. The markets are trending slightly up on the news, apparently pleased that he didn't raise rates by a half-point.

I guess we're still waiting to hear Greenspan's report.

Update: No Greenspan news is good news:

There was little unexpected in the Fed's accompanying policy statement as well, which promised to continue a "measured pace" of rate increases to combat inflation. While the Fed admitted that there is a somewhat higher risk of inflation, the statement added that some of the inflation factors were transitory and that the risks were balanced.

The markets are up a little more. No big thing.

Posted by: Ace at 09:45 AM | Comments (7)
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June 29, 2004

AP's Man on the Street: Saddam's Portrait-Painter
— Ace

This has got to be one of the best bits of blog-journalism I've read so far.

The AP finds a "typical Iraqi" to tell them what they want to hear about the transfer-of-power-- it's a sham, it doesn't solve anything, etc. One would imagine the "man on the street" should be kinda-sorta representative of other men on the street.

But the AP's man is not. In fact, he's a painter who prospered under Saddam and painted numerous portraits of him. And he's previously declared that he's not so hot on the whole "end of tyranny" thing:

The conversation shifts to the impending war. Qasim says if the US attacks he will sit with his Kalashnikov and wait in his house, "because this is my home and no one will take it away from me."

I'm too bad the AP couldn't find an actual typical Iraqi they could talk to. But I guess that's a danger you risk when news organizations

[rely] on Iraqi stringers filing by telephone to our correspondents in Baghdad, and on embedding with the military. The stringers are not professional journalists, and their reports are heavy on the simplest direct observation.

The last bit from Andrew Sullivan, who manages to post a little on Iraq in between his reminiscences about Ptown. The previous link from Instapundit.

Nice work, Adeimantus.

Posted by: Ace at 10:35 PM | Comments (11)
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A Comic Who Actually Is Funny
— Ace

I spend a great deal of time lecturing my readers to the point of boredom about why some people are not-funny. Maybe it's time to mention someone who is.

If you're watching Last Comic Standing, you know the funniest man in the competition was actually denied a slot on the show. He was so obviously the top talent in the competition that when he was denied a slot on the show, celebrity "judges" (turns out they weren't judging anything-- it was a rigged job) walked off the stage while on camera and personally apologized to the man, and also chewed out the producers.

The guy's name is Dan Naturman. He's hysterical. He's got this bizarre throwback cadence -- he sounds a little like a 1940's radio announcer -- and he's got the jokes along with the delivery.

As an added bonus: Although so much of his statement was bleeped out for profanity that I can't absolutely swear what the man said, I think he called Michael Moore's movie an absolute pack of bullshit and lies on tonight's Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.

His act is non-political, so I had no idea what his politics were before deciding he was hugely talented. To tell you the truth, I'm still not sure what the hell his politics are; he could be very liberal, but conservative on the question of Iraq. Or maybe he just hates Michael Moore. Or maybe I misunderstood what he was saying about Moore entirely (although Colin Quinn seemed to take it as a dig; he enjoyed the remark, whatever it was).

Whether he's liberal or conservative, he's funny as hell, and he got screwed out of his rightful place on Last Comic Standing as the comedian to beat. So, if you happen to notice the guy's name at your local comedy club, check him out. I can say with a high degree of confidence you'll laugh yourselves silly.

A little bit of his act can be found here; (real audio, broadband; for lowband, check his site.) It's fairly work safe; it's an appearance from Conan O'Brien, so there's no cursing or terribly objectionable material. But the end of his bit is about prison rape; his main point is that he doesn't fear the actual sex so much as the cuddling, which I think is an interesting observation.

Update: If you're in New York and a nightowl, he's appearing at the Comedy Cellar on MacDougal Street in the 11:00 pm set Wednesday night (tonight), which means he might not get on until 1:00 am.

Update: Apparently he was plugging an anti-Moore website called MooreLies. The bleeping was probably not for profanity, then, but Comedy Central censors bleeping out the "www" and "dot com" to avoid giving a free commercial plug.

Posted by: Ace at 09:30 PM | Comments (17)
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The Quick and Dirty Andrew Sullivan
— Ace

Sure, we all want to keep up with the Internet's most popular hissy-fit artiste, but who has the time anymore?

Well, you're in luck. Iowahawk presents his own stripped-down and streamlined Andrew Sullivan Daily Dish blog.

You won't have to read Andrew Sullivan again, because, honestly, every day is pretty much just like this, only not funny.

And He Makes a Good Point: You know, Sullivan really does publish a lot of "You're great/I agree with you/Hang in there, girlfriend" letters from readers as "Emails of the Day." Like, a lot.

Seriously: What's up wit' dat? Who else could get away with that kind of self-serving bullshit?

Email of the Hour Update: Just got this note, which I think it's very important for you all to read:

Dear Ace: You rock my world. I agree with everything you said about whatever you were just talking about. You're just so fucking cool I just can't believe it. Sometimes I think you must be some sort of mental halluciantion, because surely nothing as great as you could exist in the real world.

Don't let the "dittoheads" or "partisans" bring you down. We all cherish your brave, unflinching, politically-independent voice. And let me know about that offer for anal. That's still totally on the table-- or on whatever surface you'd prefer. A ha ha ha. (But I am really serious about anal.) -- OliverW.

Well, thanks, Ollie. Very nice of you to say such kind things. I'm sorry that I can't publish every nice comment or email I get, but from now on, I'm sure the hell gonna try.

Posted by: Ace at 02:29 PM | Comments (14)
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Shock: Canadians, Poised to Jolt World Politics With Dramatic Election, Instead Choose To Be... Well, Canadian
— Ace

Boring, I'm saying. Not worth discussing much.

The stupid Canadians actually got me somewhat interested in their ridiculous, meaningless let's-pretend-anything-we-do-matters elections. And what did they do? They voted the liberals back into power.

Yeah, it's cute you call your electoral districts "ridings" and all, but seriously, don't bother me again until you're ready to actually do something interesting.

Life's too short for fucking Canada.

Posted by: Ace at 02:08 PM | Comments (12)
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We'd Like To Debate Our Opponents' Policy Positions... Except the Media Won't Help Us Discover What Those Might Be
— Ace

The media is forever tut-tutting that Americans spend most of their time arguing about character and personality issues rather than policy issues.

Fair enough. I think they've got their heads up their asses about that -- character and personality have long been used as issue-proxies -- but whatever.

They're very concerned that this election campaign will once again go into the gutter over gotchas and flip-flops and insignificant Willie Horton issues. (Insignificant by the media's lights, I mean-- most would say that a convicted murderer let out of jail for the weekends who then imprisons and multiply-rapes and stabs a woman would be a somewhat important issue. But that's just us krazy konservative kultists.)

The media would very much like to have a campaign which, for once, focuses on politicians' detailed policy positions.

Okay.

Then how about you help us do so and actually trouble yourselves into inquiring as to what John Kerry's positions actually might be?

What is John Kerry's position on using tough tactics, or even torture, on important Al Qaeda prisoners? I don't know what it might be, and I read quite a bit. I know that John Kerry offers us vague formulations and mentions the need to "balance" the rights of prisoners against national security, but that's a no-brainer; George Bush is also trying to "balance" competing factors. The question isn't whether or not there's a 'balance" to be struck, which everyone already knows; the question is Where does John Kerry come down on the balance?

Where's his fulcrum? To the left, or to the right? Does he expressly rule out any harsh interrogation methods for all prisoners? Or for most prisoners? Or would he do what Bush is basically doing, but "just a little bit less"?

Do any of you know? Does Chris Matthews know? Does even John Kerry himself know?

I don't think anyone knows, because John Kerry isn't saying, and the media, trying to safeguard John Kerry's political viability, won't ask him. The media knows that no good can come from asking John Kerry such difficult questions, unless you count providing information the public and letting voters make an informed decision as to which candidate's policies they prefer as "good," of course. But the media doesn't count that as "good" -- not in this case, at least.

The media knows that whatever John Kerry's actual, specific position on this issue might be, it will cost him votes. If his position is too similar to Bush's, he loses those voters flirting with Nader. If his position is too close to Nader's, he loses a big chunk of independents who aren't quite sure we can swear off all tough tactics in dealing with Al Qaeda.

John Kerry wishes to remain vague on the point, because, by remaining vague, he hopes to dishonestly convince both right- and left- leaning voters that his actual position is the one they prefer. I say "dishonestly," for the simple reason this is in fact dishonest: obviously one of those groups will wind up being disappointed by his actual position. By being vague, Kerry is lying to somebody; we just won't be sure to whom he's lying until he's in office for a couple of months.

Similarly, I don't know precisely what Kerry wants to do with all of these illegal combatants at Guantanamo. Does he want to give them all lawyers, as the Supreme Court now seems to require? Does he simply want to set them all free unless they're charged with a crime? What, exactly, the fuck might his position actually be? I don't know, and the media damn-sure aren't going to ask any questions which might illuminate me.

I also don't know where John Kerry stands on bugetary matters. I know, by the estimates most favorable to him, that his spending will exceed his "revenue enhancements" by $900 billion. I know he also claims he'll balance the budget. So I know, to a mathematical certainty, that he's either being dishonest about his spending, or his taxing, or the prospect of him achieving a balanced budget, or a little mix of two or three of the above. But he won't say precisely how he intends to both spend $900 billion more than he's taking it while balancing the budget.

I do know this: When the Bush people took at guess at which of his promises he'd break -- and, once again, at least one of them will have to be broken -- the liberal media cried foul and accused Bush of "distortions" and "misrepresentations."

Again, Media: We wouldn't have to guess which promises John Kerry would break if you could somehow manage to courage to ask him yourself. Would John Kerry reduce the scope of his spending (in which case he can't beat up on Bush for not doing enough to help the "middle class")? Would he raise taxes on the middle class (in which case he's doing precisely what Bush guessed he might)? Or would he let the deficit balloon (in which case he can't complain about Bush's deficits)?

The media seems to be claiming that because John Kerry won't be specific as his budgetary priorities, George W. Bush will just have to live with that vagueness and is "dishonest" for attempting to pin him down on a specific plan.

Dick Cheney can instruct you on some pleasurable-but-difficult solitary activities regarding that claim.

So, Media: Which is it? If we're going to have a "debate" on the "issues," we actually do require you, at some point, to inquire as to John Kerry's delicately-nuanced and gauzy-gray positions.

If you refuse to do so, as you have steadfastly refused so far, then we're just going to have to have the typical "you're a liberal/you lied" election you say you hate so much.

If John Kerry isn't offering us any actual concrete policy positions on the war on terror, and instead only offers us himself -- his resume, his personality, his character -- for consideration, then how can we have a debate on anything other than John Kerry's fitness for office?

Posted by: Ace at 01:13 PM | Comments (7)
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CBS/NYTimes Poll: Bush's Approval Rating Now at Negative Sixty-Six Bazillion
— Ace

At least that's what you'd imagine it must be were you to canvass their headlines for the past four years. According to NYTimes' headlines, Bush's poll numbers are always sinking, month after month after month. Their headlines almost never indicate an uptick for Bush.

But of course Bush's numbers go up about half the time; that's why his current job approval rate is not, as of yet, negative eleventy-thousand percent. The NYTimes just prefers shielding its sensitive, dispirited liberal readers from such ugly truths.

But that's been true for years. What's new today is that Mickey Kaus not only catches Adam "Spinster" Nagourney burying the lede -- that Bush is back tied with, or even ahead of, Kerry, having been eight points behind a month ago. One would think that Kerry falling seven points would be headline-worthy.

Oh, wait. That's not a new practice either. The Times has done this too many times to count. The Times flagrantly and consistently ignores the big obvious news in a poll if it favors Republicans to look "more deeply" into decidedly-secondary questions that might seem to favor Democrats.

Remember: The New York Times' poll actually correctly predicted the Republican triumph of 2002, but Adam Nagourney buried that lead and all but contradicted it in his desire/need to find something favorable, or at least netural, towards the Democrats. The headline the Times chose to run with on that day -- rather than "Republicans Poised to Make Historic Gains in Election" -- was something like "30% of non-lipstick lesbians have stopped wearing truckers' hats because they feel such hats signal an affinity towards conservative politics."

No, what's really new is that Kaus catches the Times dissembling -- that's polite language for "lying its ass off" -- about the poll. The headline says, "Bush's Rating Falls to Its Lowest Point, New Survey Finds."

That must be true, right? They wouldn't actually lie in their headline, now would they?

Well. You'll just have to see, won't you?

Update: Soxblog had this story first, and I think I actually like Sox's take better than Kaus'.

Posted by: Ace at 11:42 AM | Comments (9)
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Partisanship is Fun; Principle is a Drag
— Ace

The Round Mound of Non-Profound, obnoxious ovoid Oliver Willis quotes the following observation approvingly:

Personally, though, I'm concerned about the symbolism. What does it say that, for fear of violence, we have to transfer sovereignty early and in secret? It would have been a better show of strength, I think, to have done it as planned, in a large public ceremony, and pulled it off without violence. That would have sent a message that terrorism isn't going to affect the normal day to day operations of Iraq.

He then comments:

Then again, Alex, that would mean the Bush people actually care what Iraqis think. They want out, and they want out by November. There are elections to win, and Iraqis don't vote.

Anyone care to guess what Willis would have said had Bush had a big public ceremony for the transfer of power?:

Today, George Bush risked the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women, and children in order to have a phoney photo-op that would lead the nightly news. He made the transfer of power an irresistable terrorist target simply to give himself a minor bump-up in the polls. He put his own electoral chances ahead of the very lives of the innocent Iraqis he claims to be working to protect.

Wouldn't it have demonstrated actual concern about Iraqi life and limb to have conducted a subdued, perhaps secretive, transfer of power ceremony, rather than risk so many lives for fireworks and favorable news coverage?

Then again, Alex, that would mean the Bush people actually care what Iraqis think. There are elections to win, and Iraqis don't vote.

Exact opposite hypothetical premise, but the exact same conclusion.

Some time ago I wrote a long (some would say too long) analysis concluding, inter alia, that our then-current mission of doing as much as possible to fight terrorists in Iraq was in fact counter-productive, and that the best policy was Iraqification-- letting them handle their own problems.

This caused some disagreement among my readers. Which is good-- we were all debating strategy and principle. We were all thinking about the war, and how best to win it.

But liberal hacks like Cankles the Clown never write posts that their readers might disagree with, because they don't bother analyzing strategy and principle. If they did, there's the risk that Bush might actually follow their suggested strategy, and then they'd have to praise his wisdom on that point; and they daren't risk that.

So instead their blogs are nothing but partisan conclusions. If Bush does A, A is wrong, and Bush sucks. If Bush does Not-A, then Not-A is wrong, and Bush sucks.

Oliver Willis is particularly obnoxious in this regard, shifting his "position" from the left to the right and back again depending on the particular partisan needs at the moment. If Bush is being tough in Iraq, he complains that this hardline attitude lacks nuance and that Bush is a bloodthirsty cowboy. But the moment Bush seems to be pursuing a softer, more accomodationist policy, Willis complains that we're selling out the Iraqis in order to disengage in time for the elections.

It's one or the other, Fatboy. It can't be both. If you favor a get-tough, damn-the-consquences policy, say so, but then you can't whine about that approach when Bush takes it. If you want greater Iraqification, then say that, but you are forbidden to whine that Bush is being a pussy for following your own policy prescriptions.

Willis' critics accuse him of mere "carping." Willis piously rejoins that it isn't "carping" just to disagree with Bush.

With all due respect, Man-Tits, yes it is-- at least in the manner you disagree with Bush. It is not carping to state a position and then argue in favor it. But Willis, of course, doesn't do this; what the hell is his position? It changes from day-to-day, depending on what Bush is doing at the moment. Whatever Bush is doing at the moment, that's the wrong position, and Willis argues for the alternatives.

That, Roundy McHeartdisease, is in fact mere carping. That is the definition of childish nay-saying. This is Argument Clinic stuff-- taking a contrary position simply to take a contrary position.

Does Willis want out by November? If not November, then when? Since he's been against this war from the start (or at least until it became clear that the Democratic standard-bearers were opposing the war), it's kinda weird to see Willis suggesting that we take a maximalist approach to a war he thinks was unwise, unjust, and unnecessary in the first place.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Willis is all in favor of a true bug-out himself, but that he doesn't want that bug-out to come until after the November elections. He loves the idea of a bug-out; he just doesn't want George Bush stealing all his great ideas.

He favors a bug-out in which we abandon Iraq, but he wants to make sure American soldiers continue dying in large numbers for a futile cause he wishes to abandon-- at least until the elections, because American deaths = Kerry votes.

I don't know, Krill Breath. Since the Democratic line seems to be in favor of abandoning Iraq, wouldn't it make sense to abandon sooner than later, if we are in fact going to bug-out? What possible reason could antiwar hacks like Willis have for favoring both bugging-out but not bugging-out too soon, except that they want the carnage to continue as long as possible to hurt Bush?

Listen, Ochubb, you want to elevate your game and be taken more seriously, I suggest you actually announce a clear position and stick with it. "Bush is bad and whatever he does is likewise bad" is not a substantive position.

It's just the whining and carping of a sad, lonely, untalented and unfunny man pecking at the keyboard in rotund insignificance.

By the way: Don't call Willis "Ochubb" or "Fatboy" in his comments. It seems that just might get you banned. Apparently he's a little bit sensitive about his weight issues.

And yeah, this post is pretty juvenile. What of it? Oliver Willis trades in this sort of playground invective everyday, so I can't see how the rules of elevated, civil discourse should constrain me while they've never constrained him.

The only thing that seems to constrain Willis is the frayed and straining elastic in his husky-sized sweatpants.

But Can Weathervanes Be Spherical? Nick Kronos gets into the spirit of things and posts some of Cankles the Clown's older musings. You will not be shocked to learn that his positions have, errr, evolved as we've gotten closer to election day.

Posted by: Ace at 10:13 AM | Comments (18)
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Triumph of the Shrill
— Ace

David Brooks examines Michael Moore's strange savage "love" of his country.

Newsmax also collects quotes displaying Moore's odd "tough love" style of patriotism.

Debbie Schlussel on Moore's fictional fictions.

Hitchens' already-famous delivery of a full Wonkette into Moore's ample dumper.

Even a liberal TNR writer is annoyed by Moore's dishonest style of "argument:"

There's a central -- and dishonest -- trick to what Moore is doing here: He's conflating two questions that have very little to do with each other. The question of whether a war is just (Moore's thesis is that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were not) has no logical connection to the question of whether it is fought by a justly selected military. Vietnam was not an unjust war because elites received draft deferments; it was an unjust war in which the burdens of military service happened to be spread unfairly. Every war the United States has fought since Vietnam has been fought by an unjustly distributed military. But not every war has been unjust. The distribution of sacrifice in a democracy is a moral problem all its own.

Jonah Goldberg makes a similar point. Moore points out the high cost of war -- showing those killed or maimed -- but how is this different from any other war? Iraq is either a just and necessary war or it is not. The fact that young men and women (and their families) suffer due to this war is no evidence that it is unjust or unnecessary:

First, to the extent that Moore's depictions of grieving mothers and remorseful soldiers are accurate, they are true of pretty much every war ever fought. The notion that the Iraq war is somehow unique because some American soldiers did not want to fight it or because some mothers didn't think it was worth losing their sons to it is bunkum. All things being equal, it would be easy — easier in fact — to show similar grief and remorse about World War II or the Civil War (and I have little doubt that had Moore been given the opportunity, he would have). But that is not a persuasive argument against fighting those wars. It would merely be an indication of the very real costs of those wars.

Newsmax makes the slightly ticky-tack, but still delicious, point that Moore's film may be playing on screens partly owned by the notorious Carlyle Group he hates so much. Perhaps Osama bin Ladin can be said to have funded this film.

Even the very liberal Guardian UK can't help but notice that Moore is a shameless self-promoting shill.

The GOP is guilty of political negligence if it does not tie Michael Moore around John Kerry's neck. The entire Democratic Party establishment has embraced this film, and promoted it; the Democrats cannot now say it is unfair to associate them with Moore. They have associated themselves with Moore. They cannot claim they are only to be associated with Moore as to the bits which they find politically helpful, while not associating with him as to the bits which are politically damaging.

The Democratic Party claims to be patriotic, and maybe it is, to some extent. But obviously patriotism is not especially high on their list of values, because they are gleefully promoting a man who called enemies of the US -- killers of American boys -- the "Minutemen," who, he boasted, would win against us because they deserved to.

If there were a conservative filmmaker making a film believed helpful to Republicans, but that filmmaker had some alleged homophobic or antisemitic impulses, the liberals would have no compunctions about using that filmmaker as evidence of the GOP's own homophobia or antisemitism.

And this isn't a hypothetical, of course; it's already happened. The liberal elite has used Mel Gibson to paint the GOP as Jew-hating and gay-baiting.

If patriotism really were one of the most cherished values among the liberals, they would have no difficulty condemning Moore's vicious anti-American schtick. But it's not one of their most cherished values, and they view his overseas anti-American slanders as a misdemeanor at worse. It's an easily-excused lapse in their view, greatly outweighed by the "positives" of Moore's vile "message."

Most of America does not consider that behavior to be a misdemeanor, nor so easily forgiven. And there the GOP should have no compunction about demonstrating this divergence of values between the Democrat Party and the rest of America.

Thanks to Eric for the title of this post.

Posted by: Ace at 09:19 AM | Comments (10)
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June 28, 2004

Americans Are From Mars, Europeans Are On Crack
— Ace

Excellent International Herald-Tribune piece on Europeans' near-pathological need to hear their idiocies reinforced, especially by traitorous Americans like Michael Moore.

Europe was hoping that Bill Clinton would give them all a little of that old-time "Americans are the most ignorant people in the world" religion, but he disappoints them by asserting that America needs to act unilaterally, when it's in our interests. Undeterred by that -- still needing to hear that "Europeans are smarter and wiser and in all ways better than their fatter but more-hygenic transatlantic bumpkin-cousins" -- Europeans still insist on reading Clinton's latest remarks as a full affirmation of European Exceptionalism.

And then comes this:

The most conspicuous revisionist among these was Hubert Vedrine, who as French foreign minister spent considerable time saying that Clinton's America was a country indulging in "inadmissible" unilateralism. This, he said, had to be contained by other countries working together to save the world's "mental identity."

France's task in gathering blocking groups to hold Clinton's America in check was of such importance that, like Marcus Aurelius laying out Stoic principles for political action, or Che Guevara defining the revolutionary struggle from the Sierra Maestra, Vedrine actually made up a list of five precepts (like having solid nerves and perseverance) for the undertaking.

Now, with the book out and Bush's defeat a possibility, Vedrine describes Clinton as a president "who succeeded wonderfully on all levels" and who made the American "hyperpower" both "likable and seductive." In contrast to Bush's, he suggests, Clinton's world was a pleasure to deal with.

But this goes only so far. Vedrine rejected Clinton's assertion accompanying the book's publication that Yasser Arafat's unreliability had been the essential cause of the failure of the Camp David accords between the United States, Israel and the Palestinians.

"Clinton is loading this on Arafat because, however brilliant Clinton is, he remains an American politician," Vedrine said. "He's a bit constrained on this point."

Nudge-nudge. Vedrine is not only saying that dark forces, which he is too discreet to name, run American Middle East policy, but that Clinton was not being forthright about a critical moment of recent history.

This is a French vision, like others in Europe involving American motivations on various subjects, that even when larded with flattering phrases essentially demeans Clinton and other presidents, or presidential candidates, for defending American notions of what is both just and in the interest of the United States.

If Clinton, from his spotlight of the moment, persists these days in saying a lot of things some Europeans would prefer not to hear, the explanation may come down to his being, very irretrievably, like Bush or Kerry, just another American. The U.S. Census Bureau's latest figures count 282,421,906 of them.

Good piece.

Posted by: Ace at 04:44 PM | Comments (12)
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Not-So-Special Effects
— Ace

This is an off-topic post/rant, but it's been bugging me for a while, so forgive me.

Greeg Easterbrook comments on one of my three cinematic pet peeves: as special effects have become "better," they've actually become far worse. Model-work and bluescreening and matte-painting have their limitations, of course. But while the old-school special effects would often thrill (even as you caught telltale signs of the fakery), the theoretically visually-perfect CGI effects in recent movies are rather blah.

Easterbrook thinks part of the problem is that, as effects have moved out of the real world and entirely into the cybernetic world where gravity and such are disabled by simply hitting an "Off" toggle, recent effects are just too unrealistic to trick us. They may look okay -- perhaps better than the way old-school effects looked -- but they're representing things that are obviously impossible, and we are therefore not fooled.

I have a specific complaint in this area: CGI effects artists have become counterproductively fascinated with speed. CGI effects don't need to move slowly like most old-school creations needed to; you can easily make your fakey monster move at 120 mph if you like. Witness Godzilla.

The trouble is, a lot of the speed ends up looking fake. Either fast-moving CGI creations look as if they have no weight and are therefore digital creations (precisely what you don't want), or they just look silly. The huge, fast-moving Scorpion King from the end of The Mummy Returns, for example.

In reality, I suppose, there's no reason why big giagantic creatures must move slowly; but in our cinematic imagination, we all know that's just the way it's supposed to be. Smaller creatures may move around with blurring speed. Not huge monstrosities. They're supposed to lumber towards you with dramatic deliberateness.

And don't get me started on the fast-moving zooming CGI camera. We all know that real cameras can't be moved too quickly. So, the moment I see a fake CGI "camera" zooming around at 80 mph, doing quick turns and generally defying the laws of gravity and momentum, I know I'm watching an entirely CGI shot, and it destroys the suspension of disbelief. The giant statues at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring were CGI, but they looked good. Saruman's tower looked stupid, on the other hand, chiefly because it was "filmed" with a hyperactively zooming CGI camera that didn't allow the viewer to take in the scenery. Movement was the star of the shot, not the actual thing being filmed.

I don't get why they use CGI for everything. There's a massive head-on train collision at the end of Under Siege 2 which looks terrific. And of course it was all done with models. Or compare ED-209 from Robocop with any of the bazillion CGI robots from the recent Star Wars blasphemies-- which looks like a real robot?

Is CGI now cheaper than conventional model-work? I can't think of any reason why a producer would keep using CGI for everything, even for effects where old-school practices are superior, unless this is now the cheap way to do it.

Or unless kids today just "love that CGI," even when it looks like crap. I actually think this might be the case, or at least that producers think that this is the case.

Correction: Originally I said that Easterbrook had made an error in the piece, having to do with the formula for falling distance. Turns out his "error" was due to my own miscalculation.

Posted by: Ace at 04:01 PM | Comments (52)
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Words of Gratitude From Iraqis
— Ace

Michele has a very heartening round-up.

This opening from Aala is pretty nice:

Hail our true friends, the Great People of the United States of America; The Freedom giving Republic, the nation of Liberators. Never has the world known such a nation, willing to spill the blood of her children and spend the treasure of her land even for the sake of the freedom and well being of erstwhile enemies. The tree of friendship is going to grow and grow and bear fruit as sure as day follows night. And the people deep down at the bottom of their hearts, they appreciate.

Posted by: Ace at 01:09 PM | Comments (7)
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