February 26, 2005
— Ace Just because several pundits choose to write about the same topic in the same week doesn't mean anybody knows what the hell they're talking about.
But... when three influential pundits are all saying virtually the same thing on the same day, it's likely they will at least shape media (and therefore public) perceptions.
David Brooks wrote about the new optimism in geopolitics -- "Why not freedom here?" -- in a must-read column yesterday. (Excerpted at the end of this post if you don't read the Times on general principles.)
Now Thomas Friedman and Michael Barone write essentially the same story: that, whether you wish to give Bush credit or not, the world has changed since the Iraqi elections of 30 January.
he other night on ABC's "Nightline," the host, Ted Koppel, posed an intriguing question to Malcolm Gladwell, the social scientist who wrote the path-breaking book "The Tipping Point," which is about how changes in behavior or perception can reach a critical mass and then suddenly create a whole new reality. Mr. Koppel asked: Can you know you are in the middle of a tipping point, or is it only something you can see in retrospect?
Mr. Koppel was raising the question because he wanted to explore whether the Iraqi elections marked a tipping point in history. I was on the same show, and in mulling over this question more I think that what's so interesting about the Middle East today is that we're actually witnessing three tipping points at once.
Which he identifies as the Iraqi elections, the Lebanese uprising against Syria, and the possibility of a real Israel-Palestinian peace. After the obligatory and obvious (and word-count padding) disclaimers about how anything can go to hell at any time, he concludes:
Nevertheless, what's happened in the last four weeks is not just important, it's remarkable. And if we can keep all three tipping points tipped, it will be incredible.
Michael Barone also uses the term "tipping point" as a hook (citing, actually, Friedman's appearance on Nightline), noting that minds are changing in a column called, uhhh, Minds Are Changing. He confesses to have been previously over-optimistic about the pace of change in Iraq...
But the spectacle of 8 million Iraqis braving terrorists to vote on January 30 seems to have moved things up to breakneck speed.
Evidence abounds. Consider what is happening in Lebanon...
eporting from Beirut last week, [the Washington Post's David Ignatius] wrote movingly of "the movement for political change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world."
Ignatius interviewed Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader long a critic of the United States. Jumblatt's words are striking: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
Or read Claus Christian Malzahn in Der Spiegel. "Maybe the people of Syria, Iraq, or Jordan will get the idea in their heads to free themselves from their oppressive regimes just as the East Germans did," he writes. "Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was."
It is often said that the press is lazy and prone to herd-thinking, simply parroting the received wisdom of the elite urban caste.
And while the media's favorite narrative is the one they've simply repeated ad nauseum for years -- after all, that's the easiest one -- their second-favorite narrative is one of Major Change With Serious Implications.
Perhaps Brooks, Barone, and Friedman will together produce another stampede of media group-think.
And if they do, we shouldn't think necessarily that they're right; they'll just be mindlessly repeating the new buzzwords "Kuhnian paradigm shifts" and "tipping points" as they were previously repeating "quagmire" and "exit strategy" a month ago.
The evidence is still out as to whether we will see a real paradigm shift in world geopolitics; but there is a fair chance of a paradigm shift in media groupthink.
And I wouldn't complain too much about that.
A lazy, soft-headed media is still a lazy, soft-headed media, but it's about time they were soft-headed towards the possibility-- the possibility, mind you-- that freedom works.
Fourth Time a Charm? Actually, the first time, as NRO Corner writer Mark Krikonian wondered Thursday morning if 2005 might not witness a bubble of revolutions not seen since 1848.
— Ace Regarding FoxNews' large number of viewers:
Theyre giving their ideological audience what that ideological audience wants. They bought into a belief system that cant be challenged by any evidence to the contrary. -- Bill Moyers
He does say something I think most of us would agree with:
But theres no institution more immune to criticism than the media.
But of course by that he means that the New York Times has just been too gosh-darn easy on the Bush Administration.
He also veers off into Michael Moore territory:
There are always a lot of people who prefer the comfortable lie to the uncomfortable truth. In this case, a majority of voters knew exactly what youre saying, yet voted for him none the less. They did so for one of two reasons. First, Bush had America scared to death. And fear was the dominant issue in that campaign, not moral values. Second, many of Bushs supporters buy into the belief system that he and his allies have propounded. And in that belief system which is supported by Fox News and talk radio no evidence to the contrary can be permitted.
Ideologues embrace a worldview that cannot be changed because they admit no evidence to the contrary. The Washington Post had a story about a study recently about how even if what people first hear turns out to be wrong, they still tend to believe its true. Thats because, if it fits their value system, they dont change it after they learn its not true. Its a weird phenomenon. Id also say conservatives have never been more politically dominant and more intellectually and morally bankrupt. Because of that they can keep their troops believing the Big Lie. The Big Lie is that the threat of Al Qaeda is greater to us than the threat of low wages, environmental pollution, the growing inequality in America, or the terrible failure of the Bush policies on schools. People just didnt want the uncomfortable truth to disturb the comfortable lie.
Hey, nitwit, let me explain something to you. Low wages, etc., have been problems in this country since its founding, and furthermore, we have been addressing these problems (to the extent they are problems, rather than bugaboos imagined by leftists like you) by incrementalist reforms.
On the other hand, the threat of suddenly being killed by terrorists is a rather new phenomenon, and does not readily admit to an incrementalist approach.
Does this simpering red-diaper baby really imagine that he is non-ideological? If Bill Moyers isn't an ideologue on the left, who the hell would be?
You can read the rest of it, but it's more of the same.
— Ace Big spoilers-- at least there are spoilers if you didn't know the film would feature 1) light sabres 2) space battles 3) dorky-looking Imperial droids and 4) Anakin ending up looking like a Deadite captain from Army of Darkness.
Do we still care? I don't, really, and yet there is still some hopeful eight-year-old kid inside of me hoping that maybe Lucas gets one right for a change, instead of producing another tech-heavy Willow.
Coming Soon Trailers: Haiku contest winners to be announced late tonight or early tomorrow.
Hopefully, Jeff Gannon will respond to our questions by early next week, as I just sent him out the questions I'd like him to answer.
And then, sadly, the Jeff Gannon banner will come down.
We cannot mourn him forever. We must find the mettle to soldier on without him, else we tarnish his memory with our cowardice.
— Ace In '92, '96, 2000, and 2004, the BEA has overprojected the rate of GDP growth for the last quarter before the election when a Democrat was the incumbent, and underprojected the rate of growth when a Republican was the incumbent.
Granted, this is a tiny sample size. It's difficult to get animated about what could very well be a normal run of chance.
Still, it is interesting. I'm not ready to cry "Conspiracy!," but if one suspects, as I do, that the majority of bureaucrats working in Washington are Democrats (often of a liberal stripe), then one does begin to wonder, just a bit, if a partisan pessimism creeps into their analyses when a Republican is in office, and a partisan optimism helps goose the numbers when a Democrat is in office.
One of the mis-projections is trivial; just one tenth of one percent. But two others are substantial-- a half a percent, and one time (in 1992, amidst claims that George Bush the Elder had put the economy into the toilet for the foreseeable future), .7%.
Probably nothing to get excited about... still, it's an interesting little historical nugget dug up by a blogger, and it represents original reportage of a sort. So I'm happy to link it.
— Ace Can you lose your tenure for just being an f'n' douchebag?
And... Video of Maurice "Moonbat" Hinchey on Hannity and Colmes.
Get a load of this guy.
Update-- Churchill Will Go Quietly... For $10 Million: Otherwise he'll sue you and everyone you know and work with, Jerky-Boyz style.
Thanks to JimW.
February 25, 2005
— Ace Overstated, perhaps, but two interesting stories suggest that Syria might have made its last consequence-free mistake.
'U.S. will get Syria out by May'
Former Lebanese PM says war in Iraq will allow his country to be free
By Aaron Klein
JERUSALEM -- The U.S. led war against terrorism and its advances in Iraq and Afghanistan have enhanced the climate in the Middle East and will enable the international community to force Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon likely by May, former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun told WorldNetDaily today in an exclusive interview.
"The U.S. and EU are backing us in our movement to free Lebanon," said Aoun, speaking to WND from France. "They are interfering through diplomacy and threats of sanctions, and the situation is such today that Syria must comply. If the U.S. and Europe follow through, Syria will be obliged to withdraw before Lebanese elections in May."
Without offering a timeline, Syria announced Wednesday it will withdraw its troops from Lebanon to the eastern Bekaa Valley....
"The U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed the Middle East. Not only the attacks to oust the rulers of those countries, but the consequences of the attacks changed things as well. They are democratizing the region and this will put pressure on [Syrian President Bashar] Assad to follow through," said Aoun.
"All these changes in the Middle East make obsolete the previous ways of Syria in dealing with Lebanon and Syria's involvement with political terrorism, which is not accepted anymore."
Meanwhile, a reader of TKS says...
...that the Iraqi forces are being built up to eventually take action against Syria. He adds the military action would be associated with Syria's refusal to police the border with Iraq to prevent terrorists and Baathists from entering Iraq.
This oddly echoes Kevin McCulloughs Pentagon source who said yesterday, Likely, Syria's meddling in Iraq and the upcoming Lebanese elections will provide sufficient trigger for some "coalition" action. That action may well have an "Iraqi" face.
The liberals may bleat, but a couple of points:
1) Europe actually seems to give a rat's ass about Lebanon's freedom, largely because France has always viewed itself as the protector of Lebanon's Christians. They might even pony up peace-keepers to keep order as the Syrian army departs.
2) It would not take a land invasion to drive Syria from Lebanon, should it come to that. Airstrikes on their troops should encourage them to depart as soon as humanly possible.
3) We wouldn't have to invade or occupy Syria, which we don't consider a threat like Iraq or Iran at this point; simply driving Syrian from Lebanon, and perhaps hitting military targets within Syria, would be enough. Not all military action needs to be a full-scale Iraq-style invasion and occupation (and reconstruction); American airpower can make life miserable for an intransigent regime.
I don't agree with Pat Buchanan much these days, but I do agree with his critique that Bush has to stop "warning" countries and threatening consequences unless he's actually prepared to do so-- unless he wants to see his credibility fall to nearly UN-levels.
Perhaps Bush agrees, and is putting out these sorts of low-key, unofficial threats out there to let Damascus know we're serious... or that we soon might be.
This is the most powerful question in the world today: Why not here? People in Eastern Europe looked at people in Western Europe and asked, Why not here? People in Ukraine looked at people in Georgia and asked, Why not here? People around the Arab world look at voters in Iraq and ask, Why not here?
Thomas Kuhn famously argued that science advances not gradually but in jolts, through a series of raw and jagged paradigm shifts. Somebody sees a problem differently, and suddenly everybody's vantage point changes.
"Why not here?" is a Kuhnian question, and as you open the newspaper these days, you see it flitting around the world like a thought contagion. Wherever it is asked, people seem to feel that the rules have changed. New possibilities have opened up.
Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an important essay for this page a few weeks ago, arguing that American diplomacy is often most effective when it pursues not an incrementalist but a "maximalist" agenda, leaping over allies and making the crude, bold, vantage-shifting proposal - like pushing for the reunification of Germany when most everyone else was trying to preserve the so-called stability of the Warsaw Pact.
I was skeptical of Bush's full-throated call to place freedom and democracy at the heart of American foreign policy, and I guess I remain so.
But I guess we'll just have to see, won't we?
Read the whole thing. I don't think I've excerpted the best parts, because most of the essay is "best parts."
— Ace I always thought it would be difficult to switch from a guest to a host. That's why I think Ann Coulter doesn't have a show yet.
I hope Michelle does well. I'm sure we'll all be watching.
Video Update: Trey Jackson has video of Michelle's guest-hosting spot.
— Ace Apparently Keith "Dog With An Unfunny Bone" Olbermann has been dedicating show after show to savaging our Immortal Hero, Jeff Gannon, the same as he beat various dead horses such as all that "Republican vote fraud" in Florida and Ohio you haven't been hearing about (because no one watches Keith Olbermann).
An unknown commenter points out that Drudge has taken a little dig at Not-Funny Keith:
CABLE NEWS RACE
THURS., FEB 24, 2005
FNC O'REILLY 2,181,000 [VIEWERS]
FNC HANNITY/COLMES 1,622,000
FNC SHEP SMITH 1,386,000
FNC BRIT HUME 1,318,000
and at the very bottom of the list:
MNSBC OLBERMANN/GANNON 208,000
But then again, perhaps Olbermann will soon get better ratings.
After all, a wise man once said: "With Jeff Gannon, all things are possible."
Jeff Gannon: REAL Ultimate Power Update: Well, it was only a matter of time. In the spirit of the web-classic Ninjas: REAL Ultimate Power comes this work of devotion to Jeff Gannon:
Hi, this post is all about Jeff Gannon, REAL JEFF GANNON. This post is awesome. I'm a left-wing blogger, and I can't stop thinking about Jeff Gannon. This guy is cool; and by cool, I mean totally sweet.
1. Jeff Gannon is a mammal.
2. Jeff Gannon makes out with right-wing extremist guys ALL the time.
3. The purpose of Jeff Gannon is to flip out and ask crazy questions at press conferences.
Although the military has put off funding the next phase of development for its unmanned, armed robotic kill-copter, they're still doing some tests on weapons systems.
And Boeing has just weaponized one of its special-forces unmanned copters, too.
Link Fixed. Thanks, Tall Dave.
— Ace Chiefly due to increased optimism about the elections some said would never be held, and would never work:
Australia said it would dispatch 450 new troops to Iraq -- more than double the number of its forces now deployed in the country....
Portugal could send back almost as many troops as it had earlier deployed in Iraq....
Poland, which withdrew 700 of its 2,400 troops this month and said it would withdraw the rest this year, is now sending a general to Washington to discuss how to restructure the Polish mission to contribute to training.
The Ukraine, Macedonia, and the Netherlands are also considering taking a greater role in training Iraqi forces and police.
Strategery Fever-- Catch It!
— Ace Kevin Sites gets world recognition, this poor guy merely gets a decline-to-prosecute:
Military investigators have decided there is not enough evidence to bring formal charges against a Marine who killed an unarmed Iraqi while his unit searched a Fallujah mosque, CBS reported on Wednesday.
After what he reported as movement, a Marine fired at one of the men on the floor, killing him.
"The insurgents, it turned out, were unarmed," CBS reported. "But investigators say the Iraqi the Marine thought he saw moving could have been going for a weapon."
"At the very least, Navy legal experts believe the situation is ambiguous enough that no prosecutor could get a conviction," the network reported.
Of course we want our boys to be careful about pulling that trigger. But no man can be expected to show godlike restraint in the face of possible threat to his own life, or the lives of his comrades in arms. Even if that possibility turns out to be phantasmal.
Thanks to Hobgoblin.
— Ace Ahhh, the sophistication and nuance of Democratic diplomacy:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has touched off a diplomatic flap with Iraq's incoming government by questioning whether the leading candidate to become the next prime minister is too close to Iran's ayatollahs.
The likely new prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, shot back at Clinton, who just completed a visit to Iraq, by questioning her credibility as a spokeswoman for U.S. foreign policy.
"Hillary Clinton, as far as I know, does not represent any political decision or the American administration and I don't know why she said this," al-Jaafari told The Times of London.
"She knows nothing about the Iraq situation," he added.
"There are grounds for concern and for vigilance about this," said Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Deciding she needed to do even more to advance American interests around the globe, she then offered her opinion that Tony Blair "might not be gay per se, but I'm sure he didn't make it through the British public school system with his boycherry completely intact."
The weird thing about this is that Ahmed Chalabi may actually be picked, after all that stuff about how no Iraqis would ever accept him.
He probably won't be picked, but I think the fact that he is al-Jaafari's major competition within the party says something, yet again, about the predictions of the anti-war left.
Ummm... A Clarification I Didn't Think Was Necessary: Hillary did not say that about Tony Blair.
It's the usual set-up you see on Conan O'Brien or Weekend Update on SNL. First comes the real news, then comes a hyperbolic joke riffing off the news item.
I thought that was obvious. But sometimes, I guess, the obvious isn't so obvious.
Living in Berkeley does not, in fact, give you license to be a complete asshole.
Dirty Pool Warning: Please don't post personal phone numbers in my comments. There's free speech and then there's just harassment.
It's one thing to blitz a company with complaints, but someone's personal phone numbers are a different thing entirely.
I wouldn't want the moonbats to publish my home number; I trust none of you would want the same done to you.
So-- no personal addresses, no home phone numbers. Nothing that can be used for simple petty harassment.
Thanks for understanding.
— Ace Just heard back from RockNClothing...
They say it would not be difficult to offer the shirt in two different forms, one with the Mencken quote, the other without it.
I think, though, that the shirts without the quote would have nothing on the back, which I don't think is a major deal, but maybe some people wanted *something* on the back.
I asked about the possibility of two alternative quotes -- maybe "You're all on notice" or "Slice like a fucking hammer" -- but I think that is the Rubicon which they will not cross.
Alternate Quotes: Not right now, says the vendor. He'll wait and see about the initial response to the basic shirt. He doesn't rule out alternate quotes in the future, though, should the initial purchase be large enough to justify setting up a new screen for printing.
— Ace Your three choices:
a) "Trinity" from the Matrix
b) "Neo" from the Matrix
c) "Hitler," also from the Matrix (glimpsed in one of the TV's in "The Architect's" office in the second movie)
If you didn't guess before seeing the answers, you just haven't been paying attention.
— Ace Yes, you read that right:
A PLAN by a German zoo to test the sexual appetites of a group of suspected homosexual penguins has sparked outrage among gay and lesbian groups, who fear zookeepers might force them to turn straight.
"All sorts of gay and lesbian associations have been emailing and calling in to protest," said a spokesman for the zoo in the north-western city of Bremerhaven.
Theorizing that perhaps the male penguins had turned gay due to a lack of females, the zoo's director decided to ship in some, get this, Swedish female penguins. (No information as to whether or not they played vollyball.)
And that was too much for gay activists, who saw the scheme as some sort of a flightless-bird conversion process to repress gay penguin activitiy.
But the zoo was quick to attempt to assuage the newly-minted Gay Penguin Lobby:
"Nobody here is trying to break-up same-sex pairs by force," the zoo's director Heike Kueck told public broadcaster NDR.
On the other hand, the zoo is planning to decorate the penguin cage with posters of Daisy Duke and Sports Illustrated football phones. The penguins will also be forced to watch 24-hour A-Team marathons while wearing "Who Farted?" t-shirts.
Update: The zoo suspected the penguins were gay when they were incapable of reading a map to find their way to the closest Waffle House.
(Which article, by the way, sort of suggests that Tall Dave is wrong-- homosexuality probably is largely an innate, in-born phenonmenon.)
— Ace Ohh, it keeps getting better and better.
Thanks to JimW.
Update: "What obligation does society have to fund its own sickness?" Newt on Churchill.
Also contains the Coulteresque line: "We should give him free speech by not paying him."
The economy grew at a solid 3.8 percent annual rate in the final quarter of 2004 - stronger than previously estimated- and an encouraging sign that the business expansion was firmly entrenched at the start of the new year.
The new reading on gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department Friday, was better than the government's initial calculation made a month ago. That estimate showed the economy growing at a 3.1 percent pace.
The new fourth-quarter GDP figure also was better than the 3.5 percent growth rate that economists had forecast in advance of Friday's release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Although economic growth in the final quarter of last year was a bit slower than the 4 percent pace measured in the third quarter, the performance was still solid.
For all of 2004, the economy expanded by 4.4 percent, the best showing in five years. This annual estimate was the same as first reported last month.
Thanks to Chickpea.
February 24, 2005
— Ace Some of my readers have expresed interest in an Ace of Spades HQ t-shirt. I've always wanted to put t-shirts like that out; hell, at this late stage of the game, it's probably the closest I'm going to come to feeling like a member of Led Zeppelin.
Well, except that my editor choked on his own vomit. But I don't like to talk about that much.
I haven't done it before because I couldn't find anyone willing to print color graphics on to dark-gray shirts. The best I could find was some sort of "ash gray," which is code for "sort of dirty speckled off-white, like you ran a t-shirt through the washer with a pack of Marlboro Reds."
They told me "no problem" with getting the sort of shirt I wanted printed up.
So, what I'm thinking is: the death card on the right breast, beneath that Ace of Spades HQ (in red Copperplate, just like in the banner).
— Ace H/t to Alarming News, whose title, I think, sums it up pretty well: Can't Say I Saw This One Coming.
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian told an opposition leader Thursday that he would not shut the door on eventual unification with rival China if Beijing expressed goodwill.
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