Feeling awful today. Have some flu-like symptoms and have already indulged in Nap No. 1. Just around the corner, Nap No. 2. No original blogging today, as a result. Did summon enough strength to check out a few other weblogs, and stumbled across Dan Kennedy’s feuding-sports-writers item (scroll down a bit) with an accompanying link to Chris Young’s insightful piece on the feud and the sports-media scene. ... Now off to get some cold medicine and then back to bed.
Hey, it’s ‘only’ $10 million:
Next time someone pooh-poohs a savings of ‘only’ $5 million by eliminating the MDC or saving ‘only’ $9 million by reforming the judiciary, point them to this Globe editorial
bemoaning the cut of $10 million from welfare programs. Strange, the Globe didn’t put the word ‘only’ in front of the $10 million figure. ...
... We can only hope the Bulger angle
on this story is true. ...
Alas, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
, which isn’t a liberal advocacy group known to play loose with the facts, probably has it right: The state can’t just cut and reform its way out of a $3 billion deficit. We’ll see. Mitt presents his no-new-taxes budget tomorrow and Wednesday. At least let him make his case and see what’s there. Might have more on this later. But let me just say: I think Mitt has missed an opportunity to dangle the possibility of a tax hike in exchange for true, genuine reforms and logical control-the-spending cuts. That’s called ‘leverage’ and it would have, perhaps, pulled some key portions of the progressive wing of the Democratic party into Mitt’s reform camp, under the mantra: No reforms, no new taxes. Again, though, we’ll see. ... More pressure on Mitt from the business-community end
of the budget debate.
‘Speaking of farewells’:
That’s the headline of this morning’s column by Adrian Walker
, who, in case you haven’t noticed, has quietly emerged as one of the city’s top columnists. This column is yet another example why. (Later this week, Walker is the type who could just as easily start an anti-Trav campaign, if the mood strikes him. Just throwing out ideas, Adrian.)
Prowar and anti-war annoyances
: Hey, there’s a war going on -- and another conflict is about to break out in Iraq. One can’t just sit by and not have an opinion. But there are days you feel the same sentiments as expressed in this Dan Kennedy item.
Those arguing in near fanatical absolutes, in particular, are annoying and exhausting. Thank goodness for columns like this one from Cathy Young.
OK, she can be accused of the ultimate pundit sin: On the one hand ... on the other hand
. Still, take a gander at some of what she writes:
“Both the prowar and the antiwar camp have some solid arguments - and sometimes each camp acts and talks in a way that is likely to make one root for the other side.”
“Other arguments for military action seem more dubious. Many supporters of a US-imposed regime change in Iraq, such as neoconservative commentator William Kristol, believe that America has a mission to overthrow evil tyrannies and champion liberty everywhere around the world. As someone who knows what it's like to live under a totalitarian dictatorship - I was raised in the Soviet Union until the age of 16 - I am instinctively sympathetic to this idealistic vision; as an American, I fear that it can impose an intolerable burden on the United States.”
“Unfortunately, the antiwar movement, in Europe and even here at home, is dominated by very different arguments. While no one should be called unpatriotic for opposing the war, the protesters' cause is inevitably tarnished by the fact that they have allowed their demonstrations to be coordinated by hard-left, anti-American front groups such as ANSWER (a fact exposed by the liberal online magazine Salon). Watching television coverage of the protests, it's easy to spot placards making the Orwellian claim that President Bush, not Hussein, is the unelected war-mongering tyrant.”
As a friend said to me not too long ago, “It’s tough being a moderate on Iraq these days. Everyone’s position is hardening.” Yes, clubbing down hard-core arguments coming at you from two directions can get tiring. But
‘USA Oui! Bush non!’ Part II
: Cognizant I may be morphing into one of those Iraq ranters who should just shut up, I can’t help but throw out this op-ed as undeniable proof
of Hub Blog’s theory that the anti-war movement is now sucking up to the French. The op-ed, entitled ‘The French Lesson,’ appears in the NYT's suck-up editorial pages and is written by Frenchman Regis DeBray (who I’ll let Andrew Sullivan
describe). Samples from DeBray:
“To each its own geopolitics. ...
“Not having any training as a satellite state, unlike the countries of Eastern Europe, France has assumed the right to judge for itself (despite a number of elites firmly in the American camp). ...
“To be sure, in defending its interests a great nation may end up promoting freedom. Such was the situation with the concentration camps. It will not be the case for the $15 barrel of crude. ..."
“It is past the age of ultimatums, protectorates at the other end of the planet, and the white man's burden. Is that the age America is intent on entering? One can only wish it good luck. ...
“In its principles of action, America is two or three centuries behind ‘old Europe.’ Since our countries did not enter history at the same time, the gap should not surprise us. But as to which of the two worlds, the secular or the fundamentalist, is the more archaic, it is surely not the one that Donald Rumsfeld had in mind. ...”
anti-Americanism? See item below.
-- Attention all you anti-war types sucking up to the ‘anti-war’ French. Read this column
from the Washington Post. Guess who French Foreign Minister Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin’s hero is? Hint: He’s a long-gone Corsican not known for his love of pacifism.
De Villepin’s views on Waterloo and Napolean remind me of this passage from the late Italian journalist Luigi Barzini’s book ‘The Europeans’: “Count Carlo Sforza, Italian foreign minister, defined the differences between the Italians and the French after World War II. He said to me: ‘Simple. The Italians must forget a defeat. The French must invent a victory. Our task is infinitely easier. ...’”
-- James Lileks
is fisking the DeBray op-ed (scroll down). (Via Instapundit
‘USA Oui! Bush Non!’:
More evidence keeps trickling in confirming Hub Blog’s theory that the anti-war left is embracing France as an anti-Bush utopia and saying, “But what
anti-Americanism?” This latest piece of evidence is via Dexter Van Zile
, analyzing an Eric ‘USA Oui! Bush Non!’ Alterman
column about Bruce Springsteen. No offense to Dexter, but I couldn’t read the two pieces in full. Bruce’s ‘political message’ has always struck me as two-faced, you-won't-figure-me-out-today, reverse-drag-queen Madonna-like nonsense. But it IS evidence of my theory: Watch out for the ‘an-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend’ argument toward France. OK, that’s a little harsh. Let’s try this toned down version of a silly ideological, broken-record cliche: ‘An-ideological-opponent-of-my-ideological-opponent-is-my-friend.' A lot of people in the anti-war movement are sucking up to France these days. Big time. The case is slowly being made
. They’ll live to regret it. Guaranteed. France is France. Warning: Chirac, a right-wing Gaullist, is just another Henry 'Balance of Power' Kissinger.
Mini-review of my mini-review of “Strange Victory”:
The rainy weather is bringing out some classic readers of (and writers to) Hub Blog. Here’s Brighton Reader responding to my earlier hack review
of Ernest May’s “Strange Victory: Hitler’s Invasion of France:”
“After reading your comments on ‘Strange Victory’ I hunted down some reviews. The ones from the NY Times and some others focused more on May's contention that that it was an intelligence failure as much as anything that led to the defeat. Perhaps so, but that is rather like saying the U.S. could have beaten the Japanese at Pearl Harbor if we had paid more attention to the information we had at hand. Overall they gave it a thumbs-up.
“Without having read May's tome, I agree with you that William Shirer's book (“The Collapse of the Third Republic”) is superior. The biggest problem for the French was not the battlefield defeat but the collaborationist Vichy regime after. Many nations were overrun by the Nazis, but their governments set up shop in London and supported the war in whatever way they could. Instead the French had DeGaulle as the self-appointed leader of the Free French and a government in France claiming it was the legitimate regime. If the French government, navy and whatever land forces they could extract had decamped to continue the fight, people would remember and appreciate the many lives lost in that brief campaign (I have seen estimates as high as 165,000). What happened after the catastrophe on the battlefield is what really haunts the French.”
Hub Blog’s response
: The ‘failure of intelligence’ argument pushed by May didn’t/doesn’t hold water, in my opinion. May, once again, didn’t really make it clear what he was trying to say in his book. Did the French have the goods on Hitler’s Ardennes plans? Did they botch the analysis? He says French intelligence was, at one level, really good, but at another level, it was really bad. ... Shirer’s account about the formation of the Vichy government was chilling and dramatic, something May’s book doesn’t touch upon, incredibly. Abolition of the Third Republic, which was never popular in France, was overwhelmingly approved by the French parliament -- socialists, democrats, monarchists, communists, fascists, militarists. Granted, some had guns literally pointed at their faces as they voted. But very few stood up for the republic when it most counted. The French had ample opportunity to send their entire navy and intact air force to French North Africa (and, yes, Shirer shows how the French Air Force was largely intact at the end of the battle -- and in so doing he destroys the French myth that the RAF could have changed the course of the battle if only Churchill had committed the full RAF to the continental conflict). The French chose not to. They could have provided entire divisions, armadas and thousands of fighert planes to the Allied cause. They didn’t. One person who comes across quite well in Shirer’s book is Charles de Gaulle. He was one of the few to see the tragedy unfolding and angrily bolted, barely escaping the Petain government’s goon sqauds. Very dramatic tale in Shirer’s book. Part of de Gaulle's later anti-Americanism can be traced, I believe, to the shabby way he was treated by FDR. ... Disturbingly, there’s something deeper to May’s book, which I haven’t quite put my finger on, that has something to do with ‘revisionism,’ or as Josh Marshall
put in his highly flattering review of May’s book, the attempt to discredit the “mythology of appeasement.” There’s something strange under way about France's new friends and defenders -- which is starting to resemble the old 'any-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend' argument. Keep an eye on it.
Bottom line (again): Shirer's classic "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" has withstood the test of time. His "Collapse of the Third Republic" passes the same test, with flying colors.
Happy rainy Sunday Hubblog
: Some random thoughts from Reader No. 1:
"Happy rainy Sunday Hubblog. ... A couple of thoughts on:
-- "West Warwick
: 1. Are you sure you want to own a bar? 2. When will we see a call on rock'n'roll as a threat to public health? There's plenty of data in form of well-documented deaths, substance abuse, fan-stampede deaths... on a per capita basis, is the fast food industry worse than the rock biz? (I write as a longtime fan, not as the historical befuddled jazz or classical buff...)
It seemed to me that Richard Vinen's Globe piece on France today "buried the lead" very effectively with his Oh-By-The-Way notation of the elite spawning ground of that country's political leadership in the next-to-last paragraph...
"I'm sure you'll get sick of this soon too, but I just collected another bit of evidence on France becoming the Left's favorite new country on taxpayer-subsidized NOW with Bill Moyers
. The NATION's John Nichols asked pseudo-rhetorically if it was possible that France and Germany were opposed to Iraq because -- they KNEW more than we do?
-- "Reader BK and Mitt
: I've got mainly a semantical problem with Reader BK as to how he characterizes the last 3 Republican administrations in Massachusetts. He might have noted that the background of the prior 3 was deeply rooted in politics, whereas Romney brings the significant management-business perspective. (Weld tried to get it by osmosis but it didn't take). I think it would be more accurate to note that the last 3 administrations were much like the Washington DC Republicans Tom Bethell characterizes as being in favor of 'the same but less of it.' And one way they managed to hold onto power was by allowing the same but more of it in state government (noting the growth in tax revenues which Jacoby
Forget yesterday’s note about how Hub Blog might be light on blogging this weekend. It’s cold and clammy outside. No spring-like weather today. So no walks. So ...
No more ‘dependably pliable’ relationships
: Reader BK writes in:
“Reading Hubblog over the last week or so (and then reading the Globe and Herald stories linked-to via Hubblog,) leads me to ask Hubblog four related questions:
“Could it not be fairly argued that while Massachusetts has had three Republican Governors (Weld, Cellucci, and Swift) between 1990 and 2002, what, in fact, we've really had were two-and-a half dependably pliable Democratic Administrations (with only the first half or so of Weld's first term being dependably Republican or somewhat conservative)?
“And that what, in 2003, we're finally getting with Mitt Romney is a Conservative- Independent in the corner office on Beacon Hill -- and that this is not going down too well with Hubblog's many "warm" friends and acquaintances in the State's Democratic Party and throughout the ‘Hack-o-sphere?’
“One has to wonder if the Big Dig project might well have been managed better throughout those 1990-2002 Republican Governorships if we'd had three R-Governors who "managed-a-little-bit-more-by-walking-around" than Weld, Cellucci, and Swift were willing to warm to the task of doing so?
“Do you think this has crossed Mitt's mind a time or two (or three) during the last several weeks of ‘discovery’”?
The myth of ‘stingy’ state spending in the ‘90s
: Thank you, Jeff Jacoby
. He confirmed Hub Blog’s prior
windy, convoluted but still accurate hunch that the liberal Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center was playing loosely with the facts, as usual. According to Jeff’s column (with key information based on Cato Institute data), the state took in $9.37 billion in tax revenue in 1990. By 2001, the figure was $17.23 billion. As a simple analysis of CPI figures show (see the Hub Blog link above), state spending sometimes ran at nearly twice the rate of inflation throughout the 1990s. State spending didn’t contribute to today’s deficits? What a myth.
‘Newshound becomes hunted’
: Would hate to be in Jeff Derderian’s
shoes these days. It sure looks like his nightclub in West Warwick did have illegal pyrotechnic displays in the past
. The big questions that are still unclear: After owners sound-proofed The Station, did they correspondingly change their policies about pyrotechnics? Did ‘Great White’ seek and receive permission to use pyrotechnics for that specific post-sound-proofing show? Not that this will help Jeff. He’s screwed
and everyone knows it. ‘Great White,’ obviously, is screwed (or should be) too. They literally lit the fuse. ...
Do the French really hate us?:
Hub Blog is keeping a careful eye on whether the politically correct are starting to mobilize in defense of France. The preliminary evidence trickling in indicates, yes indeed
, the anti-war and anti-Bush crowd is starting to do just that, albeit slowly. This article
in this morning’s ‘Ideas’ section of the Globe has a lot of fascinating information about anti-Americanism in France. The piece intelligently delves into the issues of both left-wing and right-wing anti-Americanism among the French, as well as the relatively new phenomenon in France of intellectuals criticizing simplistic anti-Americanism. So far, so good. But then there’s this line:
“The real problem here is not that the French people, or other Europeans for that matter, have become more ‘anti-American’ but rather that Americans have become ever more pressing in their insistence that anything less than unconditional support amounts to ‘disloyalty.’ George W. Bush's division of the world into ‘those for us and those against us’ is widely regarded as dangerously simplistic. This insistence on unconditional support marks an important change.”
The ‘real problem’ is Americans and Bush? And he suddenly drags in ‘other Europeans for that matter’? Please. Hub Blog, a harsh critic of the administration’s poor use of diplomacy, has consistently made this point: Bush has exacerbated anti-Americanism, but he certainly didn’t create it. It has existed, and deeply so, within European intellectual circles for decades and decades, well before World War II and well before George Bush was even born, for that matter. The French left, which is far more extreme than the American left, generally sees in America capitalism, imperialism, fascism, materialism. The French right, meanwhile, institutionalized its anti-Americanism under de Gaulle and within the Ecole Nationale d'Administration
, where French leaders, a class truly onto themselves, learn about their Kissinger-like ‘balance of power’ etc. All of this occurred well before Bush. Summary: Knee-jerk anti-Americanism in France and Europe has been, and remains, a serious, serious problem and it can’t be smoothed over, as much as the author of the article tries.
: For more proof of Hub Blog’s emerging theory that political correctness is seeping into any discussion of France these days, read Jan Freeman’s column
this morning. God, she’s so condescending.
FYI II: Check out my post the other day about the new anti-war Euro and French suck-up artists.
Remember: It's only an emerging theory of mine, but the evidence is growing. Jacques Chirac nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. How absurd, not to mention depressing.
Terrific discussion on Iraq over at Josh Marshall’s site
: Josh Marshall
interviews Kenneth Pollack, author of the “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq” and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. Don’t go there if you want to merely confirm your preconceived notions about Iraq, Bush, the UN. Etc. A calm, highly nuanced, engaging discussion that challenges a lot of myths and comfortable assumptions. Wish more discussions on Iraq were like this. (Via Instapundit
Only a few quick posts today and hopefully this weekend. Feels like spring -- yes, I know nature is just teasing us -- and want to get outside, go for some walks, air out the apartment, get some much needed sun in my eyes. Here goes:
Update 6 p.m.
-- The day was indeed like spring. Unfortunately, it was indeed like spring -- rain, rain, rain. Anyway:
The West Warwick fire
: Too much to take in. Just glanced at all the headlines in the Globe
, the Herald
and at the Providence Journal
. Probably because I’m too exhausted by all the tragedies we’ve seen in the past 18 months, it seemed only the off-the-beaten-path stories could grab my attention, such as this AP piece on how a rare emergency “blast” page
alerted hundreds of doctors and nurses of a catastrophe and how they instantly rushed to R.I. hospitals to perform their duties; this story about the band ‘Great White,’
which, to my shock, gave the world the huge hit “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” (definitely trivial) and this story about WPRI-TV cameraman Brian D. Butler’s
professionalism, sixth sense and luck.
Storming the Bastille ...:
Here were are, storming the Statehouse Bastille, heroically throwing up street barricades, pikes and pitchforks in hand, screaming Liberte!
-- and what does the evil Dan Kennedy
do? He throws reality at us:
“The problem, of course, is that there's absolutely no need for the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature to do anything with Romney's proposals. The legislators can make paper airplanes out of them and toss them out the window: the Republicans are so outnumbered that they can't even force a roll-call vote.”
One quibble with Dan’s item -- besides the fact he seriously punctured our glorious fantasy -- is his use of the word ‘cynicism’ to describe Mitt’s numbers. Instead, I’d use the word ‘pettiness,’ for he could have just said, ‘Yes, my savings numbers are off. But the idea is still sound. Care to argue that point?’ But he didn’t say that, for petty political (and vain) reasons. As for lawmakers, whether they’re faced with idealism, cynicism, pettiness, whatever, they will not budge on giving up their power and perks. No Mitt, no referendum, no appeal to logic or to the Massachusetts Supreme Court will move them. Except, maybe, our Big Bertha secret weapon: Question 1, Redux. ... Citizens, to the barricades! Alors! Liberte!
The West Warwick tragedy
: More than 20 killed in a Chicago nightclub tragedy. Now more than 60 are confirmed dead -- and the death toll is rising
-- from the West Warwick nightclub fire last night. One can’t help but recall, with these awful tragedies, the Concoanut Grove fire
in 1942, when 492 people perished in yet another nightclub calamity. The more things change, the more they stay the same. ...
... Television coverage has been OK, but you can tell they’re already going into crisis team-coverage overdrive. How? Earlier this morning, Channel 7’s Steve Cooper spent ten minutes interviewing a ‘grief counselor,’ who talked about the need to cry, to let your emotions out, for closure, for the grieving process, for the ‘pain will always be there.’ The Modern Media Grieving Extravaganza has begun. The most offensive aspect of the interview with the ‘grief counselor’: He said those who go to these nightclubs have an “emptiness” in their lives and they “can find fulfillment in other ways.” ... I feel like I’m lowering myself by even bringing up this obnoxious drivel, this phony and shallow and offensive journalism. So I’ll end it here. What sadness.
Boston.com has pulled out of the Globe's archives a far superior link and account
about the Cocoanut Grove fire. Very sad. ...P.S. As of 1:45 p.m., the death count now stands at 75 and will likely keep rising.
Tightening the ‘noose around the sacred cows’
: Another day, another attack on the Bastille, another counter-offensive from hacks throwing boulders from the ramparts. Mitt: Keep it up. Yesterday’s target: The judiciary. Here’s a Herald analysis
. Here’s a Howie column
. Here’s the Herald’s editorial
. The Globe’s coverage
are a little more tame, but you can tell they fully understand Mitt has launched a full-scale assault on the patronage system here. ... OK, Hub Blog concedes: Mitt’s numbers don’t add up and some of the details are questionable. But that doesn’t take away from the overall fact that what he’s attempting to do is the right thing. ... The Globe’s coverage (actually, its tone) may be more tame for distinguished diplomatic purposes, but they’re getting into the fun and throwing punches too, though they wouldn’t phrase it that way. Oh, just a mere $214,000
because the Senate exempted itself from rules that apply to others. What can you say? ...
... On the MCAS front
, the anti-reformers are still pressing their case to kill or mortally wound MCAS. Scot Lehigh
meets their challenge. ...
... Where does all of this leave us? As of now, the anti-reformers are trying to block or kill: A.) MCAS B.) Charter schools C.) Clean Elections D.) English immersion E.) Elimination of the MDC F.) Reform/elimination of the Bechtel Turnpike Authority G.) Reform of the judiciary. The list could go on and on and on.
The Bechtel Turnpike Authority
: Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff issued a rebuttal
yesterday to the Globe’s series on Big Dig cost overruns. Don’t believe the counter charges. Not a bit. Why? Read this Steve Bailey column
, which includes excerpts from one of the most amazing state government memos you’ll ever spill your coffee over. No exaggeration. Read it. It lays out, clearly, that the Swift administration knew about the cost overruns, knew who was responsible -- and then launched a full-scale assault on whom? On those calling loudest for tough actions and reforms. File the memo under: Standard political protocol in Massachusetts.
An anti-war/Euro-suck-up lefty in moderate sheep’s clothing
: Oh, please. Who is Molly Ivins? She’s getting a lot of attention these days, such as over at Instapundit
. Hub Blog’s conclusion: Molly is an anti-war/Euro-suck-up lefty in moderate sheep’s clothing. ...
... Anyway, this is a somewhat tricky Molly column (‘Trashing the war critics doesn’t help’
) to trash -- but not too tricky -- because I’ve been very harsh on the Bush administration’s zigzagging, needlessly bellicose language and diplomacy over the past year. My and other moderates’ intention has always been to give the Bushies constructive criticism in order to achieve a desired result: Disarming and getting rid of Saddam, by military means if necessary. It’s a disagreement about the means, not the end. ... But, Molly, well, she’s hurt -- or feigning hurt -- that the Bush administration is trashing ‘critics of the war,’ i.e. the anti-war movement. Listen, Bush has been ‘trashing’ the UN and NATO and normal multilateralist venues. But he hasn’t been ‘trashing’ the anti-war critics, as much as the self-centered, self-pitying, self-appointed martyrs of the anti-war movement like Molly think and desperately hope. I suspect Bush could care less about the hard-core anti-war crowd. As Alistair Cooke
recently wrote: “I do not think we have any obligation to debate anyone who is for peace at any price.”
... What the anti-war types like Molly are cleverly trying to do is co-opt the moderate language of legitimate criticism of the Bush administration’s means and then twist it to their own ends: No war. Read some of the silly things she writes: “Why not see if it (containment) will work this time? What about a UN resolution saying, 'Any place Saddam Hussein doesn't let the inspectors go into gets bombed immediately'?” Or: “Painting the antiwar movement as pro-Hussein gets us nowhere.” Or: “What the Europeans are trying to say is ..” Or: “Look, the rest of the world is deeply worried about the possibility that this war could set off a holocaust. That is not a concern that should be treated with contemptuous dismissal.” ... As I said: Molly is an anti-war/Euro-suck-up lefty in moderate sheep’s clothing.
France and the anti-war movement
: Meanwhile, a fascinating, fascinating thing is now under way within the ‘peace movement’: Defending France. Molly did it the other day
(via the link above at Instapundit). France. The ammoral, ‘balance of power,’ neocolonialist, UN and NATO and Eastern European trash-talking French. Yeah, the French. The Boston-based Christian Science Monitor
had an excellent piece this morning on how the anti-war movement is now coalescing around France and Jacques Chirac in particular. (Which probably explains Molly’s French-defending column the other day.) Hub Blog thinks this development has a lot to do with France being the most notoriously anti-American country in Europe. Anyway, I couldn’t believe it when I read Chirac has actually been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Chirac? The Nobel Peace Prize? Is this the same guy who greased the deal for Saddam to build a nuclear plant that everyone knew he would use to try to build nuclear weapons? Is this the same Chirac who said the following to Time magazine the other day, "Any community with only one dominant power is always a dangerous one and provokes reactions. ... That's why I favor a multipolar world in which Europe obviously has its place"? He sounds like -- and has a track record resembling -- Henry Kissinger. Chirac? Anti-war? Nobel Prize? The world really is going mad.
... Speaking of France, my review of Ernest May’s ‘Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France’ is directly below. I’ll be adding an update at the end in light of Molly’s column and the Christian Science Monitor article on France.
Mini-review of 'Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France':
As promised, here's my quick review (OK, so it’s not so quick and mini) of Harvard professor Ernest May's recent book, "Strange Victory," on the fall of France in ‘40, prompted by a prior discussion on Hub Blog
about France and William Shirer's "Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry Into the Fall of France in 1940." If you want to skip this, click here
to go to the next item. Otherwise:
My erudite reaction to 'Strange Victory': I didn't like it very much. Not at all. It’s hard to get into a book, let alone respect and sympathize with it, when you read passages like this in the introduction:
“Recent studies of General Gamelin, of France’s prime minister, Edouard Daladier, and of Britain’s long-maligned prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, not only explain why they were thought to be heroes before the debacle of 1940 but why they deserved
to be held in high regard.” [The author's italics, not mine.]
“In fact, the Maginot Line (was) indicative neither of despair about defeating Germany nor of thought mired in the past. It was instead evidence of faith that technology could substitute for manpower. It was the forerunner of the strategic bomber, the guided missile, and the ‘smart bomb.’”
Yeah. He wrote that. I could end the review here.
But there are indeed aspects of the book that are somewhat illuminating: how well individual French soldiers and units fought during the 'Battle of France'; how much the French sacrificed in the mere six weeks of fighting (anywhere from 85,000 to 150,000 killed, depending on whose numbers you trust); how the Allies had more and better weapons at the outset of the campaign; how the Allies had golden (but blown) opportunities to block the Germans' Ardennes offensive before and after it started -- and even after it was well under way; how nervous Hitler and German generals were about the fate of the battle before and during the conflict. Germany's victory in 1940 was not inevitable, as both May and Shirer observe. These points tend to get lost whenever we undergo periodic bouts of French bashing, as we’re experiencing today (with Hub Blog gleefully partaking in the fun).
But there May and Shirer part ways.
May seems determined to prove this point: The French were better prepared, more united and fiercer in battle than history has given them credit for. One wants to concede the point: OK, fine. But he keeps hammering away at this theme, almost to the point where you get the clear impression he’s out to twist logic to prove his case. He shrugs off assertions France was a divided country going into war, saying they pulled together in 1938-1940; downplays and buries arguments that French military doctrines were outdated and inadequate to meet the Blitzkrieg, saying the French did have armored divisions of their own. It all comes back to this: The French were better prepared, more united and fiercer in battle than history has given them credit for.
For these and other reasons, there's something strange, disingenuous about May's book. Take the Chamberlain quote above. In his chapter on Chamberlain, May starts out with this quote from Winston Churchill: “What a pity Hitler did not know when he met this sober English politician with his umbrella at Berchtesgaden, Godesberg and Munich, that he was actually talking to a hard-bitten pioneer from the outer marches of the British Empire!” ... Kind of flies in the face of everything we’ve heard Churchill say about Chamberlain and his pre-war policies, right? Then you notice the date Churchill said those words: Oct. 25, 1939. Think about it. Churchill said these words after the war had started. After Churchill was admitted into Chamberlain’s government. What else was Churchill going to mutter at that time? What a strange, disingenuous quote to attribute to Churchill, don’t you think?
Frankly, I couldn’t figure out May’s politics or motives as I read ‘Strange Victory,' except for the ever annoying sense he was trying too hard to make his ‘revisionist’ points, including how French intelligence services did/didn’t do their job. He makes a big deal about the intelligence failures in particular, as if they alone explain France's defeat. But he just didn’t succeed in revising my overall views beyond what I learned in Shirer's book. He doesn't deleve into his controversial positions head on and in detail, like the Chamberlain and Maginot quotes above. I searched and searched for some grand summary, after each chapter, to back up his provocative claims. Never materializes. Again and again, he raises fascinating points, then drops them. Plunk! Then lets you fend for yourself, as if he thinks you haven't noticed how he drops, switches, obscures, bends subjects etc. The gaps in his logic are sometimes glaring.
The late, great Italian journalist, Luigi Barzini, once wrote a classic book, “The Europeans,” a series of beautiful essays on Europe’s leading nations (and, tellingly, he includes a chapter on “The Baffling Americans.”) The chapter on the French is called the “The Quarrelsome French.” Among other great observations about France, Barzini wrote: “Count Carlo Sforza, Italian foreign minister, defined the differences between the Italians and the French after World War II. He said to me: ‘Simple. The Italians must forget a defeat. The French must invent a victory. Our task is infinitely easier. ...’”
For whatever reasons and motives, May seems to be performing somersaults and bending over backwards to help the French invent a victory. Or at least make it less
of a defeat.
Now William Shirer, well, what can Hub Blog say? Shirer’s “Collapse of the Third Republic” -- which I read only a few months before ‘Strange Victory’ -- isn’t nearly as dramatic as his classic “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” But “Collapse of the Third Republic” is still tremendous and breathtaking in its scope. Shirer, who used to be based in France as a correspondent and who absolutely loved the French, steps way back and provides a sweeping examination of the French nation and its people from 1870 (at the founding of the Third Republic, following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War) to 1940. The picture he paints isn’t pretty: France was (and remains) a very proud but divided nation, with extreme politics that make our extreme politics look tame.
The Third Republic itself, while it had many accomplishments (such as winning World War I -- and, yes, France deserves credit for sacrificing more than a million men in that war), was deeply, deeply flawed, going through scores and scores and scores of governments, making the Italian government changes of the 1970s look downright stable in comparison. France was scarred by World War I, as was Britain, and repeatedly missed opportunities throughout the ‘30s to confront and crush the Nazis. Shirer is very brutal on Britain -- and America -- for the lack of support and sympathy for France’s unique peril. But he does lay primary blame on France itself. Shirer’s chapter on France’s military erosion during the ‘30s is jaw-dropping. His description of the battle itself is gripping. His account of the last, agonizing days of the Third Republic is heart breaking. And his detailed description of the surrender of France and the formation of the Vichy government will make your blood boil.
Bottom line: Shirer blows May away. No contest. If you want to learn about France in general and its 1940 defeat in particular, read Shirer’s “Collapse of the Third Republic.” Highly recommended.
Update 12:50 p.m.- 2-21-03 --
A couple of stories -- here
-- have popped up recently, loosely having something to do with the subject of France and/or France's defeat in 1940. Notice how some on the anti-war left are now starting to suck up to/stick up for France as war approaches on Iraq. Not saying this was May's intention -- though he opens himself up to such suspicions -- but it's still a very, very curious development. P.S. Chirac reportedly has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Chirac. Interesting.
Corporate taxes and job growth
: Smart op-ed from BBJ editor George Donnelly
: "Should we heap more burden on companies that are creating jobs in the commonwealth? I would suggest it's smarter fiscal policy to tax an income after a job has been created than to overtax a corporation into not creating a job in the first place. " ... He has a lot more on the subject of taxes, jobs, fairness and competition.
Pushing back at the boycotters
: Some of the recent criticism aimed at Israel has clearly been anti-Semitic. Some hasn’t been anti-Semitic. But can you really blame Israelis -- and Israeli academics
in particular -- if they think it’s more of the former? Good for them. Push back.
Winter Wonderland, my butt
: God, it’s so ugly out there
now. The beautiful snow trenches have melted and/or collapsed. The snow that’s left is covered in mud. Trash bags are heaped on top of the mud-covered snow. Traffic is horrible. .... But it was nice for at least one day, as this Christian Science Monitor op-ed
‘What’s missing’ on Iraq:
Excellent column by Joan Vennochi
tracing the evolution/convolution of the president’s war strategy. After reading this column, I feel like I’ve been pretty hard on the president. He has good gut instincts. Or had good gut instincts when it counted right after Sept. 11. As for some of his advisers, though, well. ...
... Definitely check out tonight’s ‘Frontline’
show, which, judging by this review, traces the strains and tensions within the Bush administration, i.e. Powell vs. Wolfowitz. You know my opinion about Wolfowitz et gang. However, despite my admiration for Powell, I’m not a groupie of Powell. He’s too, well, risk averse at times, for lack of other words. He believes too much
in multilateralism and seems paralyzed at times at making risky decisions. Remember: No one is perfect, including Powell's boss and Powell's nemesis, Wolfie. ...
-- Now here’s a boycott
Hub Blog can -- and will -- support. Americans are furious at the French, as they should be. Hadn’t heard about the protest outside the French Consultate in Boston. The signs could have been more strongly worded, in my opinion. A sober quote, though, from the story: "It's not the first time Americans have poured French cognac down the sewers," says Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the Brookings Institution. "But it's a bad time ... because it encourages Saddam Hussein to hold tight, because he sees the West as split." ... Good point. But Saddam is
getting help to hold tight from the French, n’est pas?
Build it -- and they will ride
: Good editorial on the need to push ahead with the Greenbush line
.... But this story is depressing
and puts Hub Blog, a big transit backer, into the uncomfortable position of coming across as a Hingham-like hypocrite, to wit: The MBTA may want to close down the Chinatown YMCA to make way for the new Silver Line’s underground bus route linking the Boylston Street area with South Station. (A quick aside: Glad they’ve calling the Silver Line for what it truly is: a glorified ‘bus route.’) Anyway, here’s my dilemma: I’m a member of the Chinatown Y and don’t want to see it closed!
Saving ‘only’ $5 million
: So eliminating and merging the MDC
into another agency would “only” save $5 million. Mercy. FYI: That “only” $5 million is more than 10 percent of the MDC’s budget. ... And as Mitt said, according to this Herald story
: ``What changes is, how many commissioners do we need at the top, how many assistant commissioners, how many boats? ... That's where you are going to see the reductions. It's the overhead that's duplicative, not the people doing the work that citizens see.'' ... But it’s that overhead that Trav and the boys are desperately trying to preserve for reasons that we all know too well. ...
... Mitt is apparently going to ruffle more feathers today when he announces his plans to revamp the state’s judiciary. This guy is on a roll. From the Herald: “Romney also pledged on the campaign trail to wrest hiring-and-firing power away from state lawmakers and turn it over to top court officials, claiming that lawmakers ‘threaten the balance of powers’ by stacking the court system with their cronies.”
RIP, Alta Vista:
From Steve Syre
: “Now one company is a ubiquitous Internet presence and the other is practically a trivia question. How did AltaVista end up this way?” Another favorite quote from his column: “AltaVista was the Google of its day.'' What a timely piece and good analysis.
Ding, ding, ding! -- Reader No. 1. Does it again! On Iraq to boot
: I’ve sworn to be more like Alistair Cooke in the future, a vow I don’t think I can keep but hope I can uphold in terms of controlling/extending constructive criticism to the Bush administration. Anyway, here’s Reader No. 1 on a prior Hub Blog post
“OK, I read the Tom Friedman
, I read the Andrew Sullivan
. Is it possible to admit everyone is mostly/mainly right? Sure, the Bush Administration could have been more solicitous of European opinion in the past 12 months. Doesn't mean it would have done us a bit of good (I'm open to seeing the data on how it would have swung the German election).
“The Clinton Administration was much more openly solicitous of world opinion (one reason the ex-Prez does so many of his big $ speaking engagements outside the US). Those efforts do not appear to have bought us much good will, or harmonizing of interests between the US and Europe over the last decade, however (Blair excepted, and after all, that's a Special Relationship). The problem didn't start with Bush.
“We can bitch and moan about whether the President has made it better, but we can't turn back the clock. Here's an alternative view for you: what really galls the handful of European nations remaining opposed to the war is the possibility that the US WINS THE DEBATE WITHIN THE UN??? Less than 50% probability, but it could happen. We have friends elsewhere in Europe, and apparently some quiet allies in the Middle East... to that end, it wouldn't surprise me if Bush winds up operationalizing Friedman's advice. In fact, I suspect he's already doing that. One of the many noteworthy segments of the Atlantic Fallows/Clinton article is that segment you noted where Man From Hope gives Bush credit for dialing down the rhetoric. It takes one clever card player to know another.”
Hub Blog’s response
: As usual, thanks. Truly. Now, taking Reader No. 1’s message in order of selective quotes:
1. “Is it possible to admit everyone is mostly/mainly right?” ... This is first time an ardent Bush backer has written to Hub Blog even remotely suggesting that, well, those of us non-lefties might have a point. The ice is thawing.
2. “The problem didn't start with Bush.” ... I’ve been saying this all along: Bush didn’t create anti-Americanism. But he HAS exacerbated it.
3. “We can bitch and moan about whether the President has made it better, but we can't turn back the clock.” ... See first point. We’re making progress. The ice isn’t just thawing, it’s cracking into noticeable gaps. We can argue if Bush might have been wrong the past year? Perish the thought! Bush is Churchill, after all. The wild policy swings between unilateralism and multilateralism in the first half of 2002, ending up today within something, somewhere called the ‘middle’? Heresy!
4. “It wouldn't surprise me if Bush winds up operationalizing Friedman's advice. In fact, I suspect he's already doing that.” ... Don’t know what ‘operationalizing Friedman’s advice’ means, but I suspect it means conceding Friedman makes a hell of a lot of sense, so the Bushies will try to cover their tracks and claim the ideas/strategy for themselves to make it look as though they thought about it all the time. Remember: Churchill!
5. “One of the many noteworthy segments of the Atlantic Fallows/Clinton article is that segment you noted where Man From Hope gives Bush credit for dialing down the rhetoric. It takes one clever card player to know another.” ... Hub Blog is speechless. A kind (if backhanded) word about Clinton, who, in Hub Blog’s sincere view, doesn’t deserve many backhanded compliments. But it’s progress. Because he deserves compliments now and then. As radical as that sounds.
One last note: I sincerely wish we could, at this time, have a combination of Bush and Clinton, tilting clearly toward Bush. I like Bush’s sense of purpose, his clear sense of mission, his no-nonsense “boots on the ground” approach to problems. I wish we had Clinton’s sense of eloquent timing, his feel for what others happen to think, his feel that world opinion counts. We are, indeed, talking about “substance” over “style.” I’ll take substance any time. Therefore, I take Bush. But I sure wish he had more sensitive style and timing. It’s killing him -- and us. Is this such a radical thought to entertain? Bush has serious, serious problems overseas. And it ties in with the fact that he, not so long ago, tied into the silly rhetoric/logic about ‘pure’ unilateralism vs. multilateralism and ended up adopting a more intelligent unilateralist/multilateralist approach in the end. It’s probably too late to rectify the administration’s past mistakes on Iraq, but it’s not too late to start thinking/hoping about the Phase III/Post-Iraq phase of the war. This administration has been noble in its mission, but horribly inconsistent and crude in its use of, and respect for, diplomacy.
A Winter Wonderland, Part II
: Amazing how everyone took the storm in stride. The street plowing was excellent on Beacon Hill. Hope other neighborhoods fared as well. Hearing no major gripes across the city, I assume one can safely say, ‘Mayor Menino, well done!’ ... But the really extraordinary thing was the sidewalks, the vast majority of them dutifully shoveled, creating a lovely maze of Beacon Hill snow trenches one could weave in and out of at strategic points. Who shoveled these strategic exit/entrance portals into and out of our beloved snow trenches? Don’t know, but: ‘Thank you! Well done!’ ... Scot Lehigh
brings up a very, very sensitive subject: Post-blizzard parking-space wars. The magical sense of community a major storm causes will soon crack. No doubt. Yesterday, as the storm ebbed, I looked out my window and saw my neighbor digging out his car, a black VW Golf. This morning, I see a beat-up late ‘80s Toyota tucked in his parking-space snow cave. If this isn’t evil, I don’t know what is. ...
... Steve Bailey
is trying to sow post-blizzard discord, calling those who didn’t go to work yesterday “weenies.” Admire the old-fashioned New England sentiment behind it: Tough it out, New Englanders! Tough it out! Don’t be weenies! At the same time, though, I got the impression Steve was like one of those Wayland students who never get a snow day and hate the world for it. I didn’t go to a movie yesterday. Instead, I did the logical non-essential manly thing: I went to a bar. And it was packed at 2 p.m.! Very festive, snug atmosphere among us happy non-essentials. Pints went down quite well. Nah, nah. Take that, Steve!
Jeff Jacoby, you’re wrong -- oh, never mind
: A true incestuous blogosphere spat going on over at Mickey Kaus’ site
(scroll down until you see the ‘Update: Kaus Files gets results’ item) involving Jeff Jacoby, Roger Ailes
etc. In case you need a scorecard: Roger challenged Jacoby’s assertion in this column
that John Kerry didn't try to correct past page-one references in the Globe to Kerry being Irish. Jacoby fired back an email to Mickey with his evidence. Roger admitted defeat
A piece of humble pie on Iraq
: Alistair Cooke. Can’t believe he’s still alive and cranking out beautiful pieces like this column
(indirectly via Andrew Sullivan
). What magnificent, calm, take-your-time journalism. There’s enough humble pie here for everyone. Cooke:
-- “His (Bush’s) strength - and his weakness - is that he is a Christian idealist on the Woodrow Wilson model. He truly proposes what most of us find simply undoable -- to depose tyrants and introduce democracy everywhere. The first European fear about him when he took office was that he would retreat into the old, inter-war Republican isolationism. Now he's accused of wanting to police the world. He believes it's America's duty, as it once was Spain's, France's, Britain's. ”
- “... I do not think we have any obligation to debate anyone who is for peace at any price.”
- “... Contrary to the foreign tabloid obsession, nobody is breathing fire and smoke, nobody wants to go to war. The very latest polls show 65% of Americans willing to go to war if the United Nations sanctions it. Only 37% if not. But it has to be said that as the prospect darkens, no more than half the American people want to go to war at all.”
There’s much, much more. Cooke is simply the most dignified anti-ranter around. Makes me feel silly for any number of rants I’ve had since starting Hub Blog last summer.
Boston, a biotech mecca
: One week, it’s panic time over our place within the biotech world. The next week, you read stories like this
and how people are genuinely excited about transferring to Boston. Talk about humble pie. One note: Housing in Boston is critical to our economic future. This point comes across loud and clear in the story. ...
... Another update on another healthcare/research development
. Hub Blog is very excited about this MGH/Charles River Plaza development. Like the retail component -- and love the Bread & Circus component above all else. Hub Blog, with a lot of time on my hands these days, has taken cooking classes lately and I’ve really begun to appreciate how bad Stop & Shop’s meat and fish sections are compared to Bread & Circus’ meat and fish sections. Not that this has much to do with a 350,000-square-foot development going up on Cambridge Street.
Pounding the French
: The Globe has swung back to its more clear-eyed views on Iraq, NATO and France. God, they beat the crap out of France
in this editorial, taking obligatory swats at Bush, of course, but clearly relishing the time-honored fun of pounding away against French arrogance. The Globe:
“One irony in French President Jacques Chirac's tirade Monday against East European countries supporting the US and British position on Iraq is that Chirac indulged in the same arrogance and bullying that Paris inveterately attributes to the US ‘hyperpower.’ Indeed, Chirac added an offensive tone that no American head of state could be expected to match, a condescension that only a conservative mandarin of the French governing class might express toward the new democratic countries of Eastern Europe that are eager to join the European Union.”
: See post directly below. Also, Hub Blog has finished reading Harvard prof Ernest May’s “Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France.” (Did I mention earlier that I finished it? Anyway ...) Hope to have my mini-review within the next few days.
-- Perfecto. Simply a great column by a frustrated Tom Friedman
. As a friend said to me the other day, "It's tough being a moderate on Iraq these days. Everyone's position on Iraq is hardening into pro-Bush or anti-Bush, as if you can't praise him for some things and criticize him for others." ... Or like saying we're doing the right thing but not necessarily in the right way. Or like saying you have to be sensitve to world opinion but not be necessarily swayed by it. But I'll stop there. I'm going to strive to take Alistair Cooke's anti-rant approach in the future on Iraq.
A reader responds -- 3:45 p.m.
: Reader Matt has this to say about the Friedman column:
“Unfortunately, Friedman ruins what was shaping up to be a pretty good column by trying to make the case that Bush should've taken Kyoto more seriously. If the price of support against Iraq is paying lip service to the Kyoto protocol and the dubious UN-funded junk-science behind it, we should be prepared to go it alone in Iraq or not go at all.
“I'm mildly hawkish on Iraq, but there are only so many polite fictions I'm willing to entertain (and isn't that what "multilateralism" really is?) to placate the socialists in Brussels, Paris, and Berlin. Clinton signing that treaty knowing full well he wasn't going to be the one expending political capital fighting for its ratification meant that someone else was going to have to pay the price for pointing out the unpleasant truth -- it's a treaty meant to cripple the economy of the United States while only reducing CO2 emissions by a few percent. Utterly disgusting, and utterly Clintonian.”
Hub Blog’s response
: When you agree with a column on the most critical points and its overall thrust, I think that's important. Maybe I shouldn't have said the Friedman article was 'Perfecto.' But it was ‘Near Perfecto’ in expressing a genuine, widespread complaint/concern/frustration/whatever about the administration. (I kind of glanced over the Kyoto reference, frankly, in the Friedman piece. I’m no fan of Kyoto -- not at all. However, I did read somewhere, not too long ago, that the Bush administration, today, deeply regrets how they handled rejection of Kyoto. Again, it’s always screwing up the ‘means’ when it comes to these guys.) Friedman made an awful lot of sense, and, in my opinion, you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when you object to a few of the non-critical underpinnings of his argument.
Nothing to do with Matt’s email: Read Andrew Sullivan’s post
on the same column. Look at what he
seizes on in Friedman’s column. The utterly astonishing thing to me is how so many Bush backers adamantly reject any criticism of the president on Iraq, even from people like me who are naturally inclined to support him. This is a critical, critical flaw in the administration -- and with its most ardent supporters. One would think they would welcome good old-fashioned, as-corny-as-it-sounds constructive
criticism. Nope. Bush, good; Bush criticism, bad. They won’t even concede an ounce of criticism on the issue of whether he’s diplomatically handled the Iraq crisis well/consistently over the past year. ... Wait. Stop. Hub Blog, what did you say to yourself this morning? No ranting on Iraq. Remember: Alistair Cooke, Alistair Cooke, Alistair Cooke. No Ron Borges-like obsessions
. There, there, that’s a good Hub Blog.
Reader Matt writes in again (and it's funny):
"Well, I didn't mean to beat you up over your praise of the column. My email might have been better directed at Friedman himself. For the most part, Friedman gets it with respect to Iraq. And I have no problem with many of his criticisms regarding GWB's handling of this particular crisis. His exercise in contrasting Bush II with Bush I was pretty good. The frustrating thing is that he can't keep his inner Lefty-bot hidden for too long. I mean, jeez, Kyoto???!!!!"
Bush vs. Chirac
: I've been tempted for days to compare the two. They're strangely the same, when you think about it. Unilateralist vs. unilateralist, two peas in the pod, acting as if they're both multilateralists trying to save a multilateralist world and UN (and EU and NATO). Instapundit
, which tipped me over the edge to bring up this point (shame on me), has one slightly different view of the Iraq matter. I have another. ... But I will give Bush this credit: He's bumbled his way into the deft use of using unilateralism and multilateralism together, something the pure unilateralist and phony multilateralist Chirac hasn't figured out yet. Score one for the reluctant unilateralist/multilateralist Bush. Go, George! Go! Keep it up!
Clinton on everything
: James Fallows interviews Bill Clinton
over at Boston-based Atlantic. The interview was conducted last fall, just as the UN/Iraq process got under way. Only now was the interview published. Interesting thoughts on Bush, the UN, Tony Blair's tenuous postition, how he wants to be like Jimmy Carter in his post-president years. In other words, enough there to find something to love or hate. Typical Clinton. Here are some excerpts from Clinton on Iraq:
On Kosovo and Iraq
: "My model here (for Iraq) is Kosovo, where the Russians couldn't quite let us go. They're Slavs, they're Orthodox Christians... But then it was a bona fide emergency. You had NATO, you had the nonaligned countries, you had the Muslim countries, and then Russians could feel that they were part of a deal." [See note below.]
On meeting with Tony Blair late last year
: "He was somewhat bullish on our ability to have good things happen in Iraq. But he also was determined to pull for the moderates in the Bush Administration who wanted to do this, if at all possible, with broader Allies and in a way that strengthened the multilateral process and the UN. So I always thought Blair did not get enough credit within Great Britain for trying to bring the Europeans and Americans together, under the UN rubric, or as close as possible to it. That's what I hope will happen."
On Bush embracing the UN process
: "Furthermore I think President Bush has pretty good political instincts. I think his antennae are sharper than, you know, than the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz wing. I think he's got a sense of what the traffic will bear. But for whatever reason... And Colin, you know, Secretary Powell, he must have been weighing in. And he, after all, has more military experience than all those people counseling war. I just think they're coming to a place—and it might all be a ruse, but it looks legitimate. It looks like they're really trying to get this passed. It looks to me like it's a real straight-up deal."
Note: Tom Oliphant
in today's Globe notes how Clinton, when faced with a likely Security Council veto over Kosovo, simply yanked the resolution and went the NATO route in order to take action there. Clinton also mentions in the interview how, if Bush plays this out at the UN to the very end, he'll support him. He's on the record as saying it.
A Winter Wonderland?:
It’s not like the Blizzard of ‘78. Something’s missing. Maybe it’s peace. Whatever the mood, it’s still a beautiful pain-in-the-ass outside.
Those darn tax cuts did it:
Refereeing arguments between ideologues is tiring. Like weeding the old garden, you just have to yank them out, sadly knowing they’ll grow back. Never ends. Today’s installment of tax-and-spend versus no-new-taxes comes from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
, a liberal advocacy group. Their conclusion about the state budget deficit: Past tax cuts caused the current budget gap, not overspending by the legislature. Obligatory lip service is given to the (shhhhhhhhh! don’t say it too loud, for it will disrupt the ideological arguments on both sides) recession. Oh, the liberal policy center doesn’t come right out and say tax cuts were the cause, I should be fair. But they do come up with a list of past tax cuts that amount to about $3 billion -- or roughly what the projected worst-case budget deficit is for next fiscal year. What a coincidence! (Never mind if you add up all the deficits in the past two years -- the projected $3 billion deficit next year, the current $650 million gap, the hundreds of millions of dollars in past spending cuts enacted by the legislature and ex-Gov. Swift, the $1.5 billion in tax hikes already approved by lawmakers -- and they don’t add up to that near perfect $3 billion figure. The mathematical difference is the obligatory part that the center probably blames exclusively on the recession. Sigh.) But, ah, ...
... tucked into the Globe story (which was pretty well balanced, I might stress) there’s this passage: “The budget and policy center's study found that while personal income rose at a 2.6 percent annual average clip above inflation between 1991 and 2002, the budget rose just 2.3 percent above inflation on average.”... Now, throw out the “personal income” part. That’s
nothing but policy-wonk smoke; they’re comparing personal income growth to the inflation rate growth, i.e. comparing apples to oranges. I’ll address that in a bit. Until then ...
What do we have left? A little clause acknowledging that, each and every year, state spending “rose just 2.3 percent above inflation on average.” Don’t quite know what “2.3 percent above inflation” means, for it’s not explained. Does it literally mean 2.3 percent above the rate itself? Meaning: If inflation was 2.5 percent in one year, the legislature spent about .06 above that rate, bringing the overall spending growth to 2.56 percent for that theoretical year? In that case, the adjective “just” is deserved. Or, more likely, does it mean the legislature spent 2.3 percentage POINTS above the average inflation rate? If it’s the latter, the word “just” is ludicrous and indicates, if memory serves well, that the rate of spending was indeed well ahead, sometimes double, the rate of inflation during a low-inflation decade. That, in the policy-wonk world, is called a smoking gun. (Because Hub Blog isn’t paid for this blog, I’m not going to immediately fetch the inflation-rate numbers. Got other work to do. Also have a book on King Arthur I want to finish. I’m sorry. The commentary is free; the reporting is not. But you get the picture of what I believe the policy center is trying to obscure. ... )
... There is one other curious aspect to the center’s apples-to-oranges comparison: Unless I’m misreading the center’s intentions (and I don’t think I am), there seems to be an assumption that government spending is modest and therefore out of whack when the state isn’t taking all of your income increases above the inflation rate. Think about it. ...
... Where does this leave us? The state DID overspend in the ‘90s, sometimes comfortably and consistently above the inflation rate, and, therefore, spending is part of today’s problems. Now, we can argue and argue about whether Taxachusetts/Massachusetts is “overtaxed” or “undertaxed.” But, please, stop with the truly radical-liberal assumption that reducing spending isn’t an important part of the solution to the state’s budget woes. FYI: Hub Blog is on record as saying increasing taxes is part of the solution, too, despite Mitt’s no-new-taxes pledge on the deficit. But Hub Blog does have one caveat on taxes: No reforms, no new taxes.
: For the sake of argument, Hub Blog concedes the point about past spending increases going mostly to education and health, though one has a hunch that the liberal center ... oh, never mind.
Update on CPI and state spending
-- What the hell. An appointment was canceled and I’m not interested in reading about King Arthur. So Hub Blog had some free time to check out some Consumer Price Index stats. These are national numbers, not Massachusetts numbers (which I couldn’t find). Assume Massachusetts’ inflation numbers are higher because of housing costs here. But that would still prove my point about the size of overall state spending each year. National numbers will do. Keep in mind the center’s own assertion that state spending exceeded inflation by an average 2.3 percentage points (and I’m assuming points) per year. Here goes (with annual CPI averages and December to December CPI averages):
1991 -- Average: 4.2/Dec. to Dec. average: 3.1
1992 -- Average: 3.0/Dec. to Dec. average: 2.9
1993 -- Average: 3.0/Dec. to Dec. average: 2.1
1994 -- Average: 2.6/Dec. to Dec. average: 2.7
1995 -- Average: 2.8/Dec. to Dec. average: 2.5
1996 -- Average: 3.0/Dec. to Dec. average: 3.3
1997 -- Average: 2.3/Dec. to Dec. average: 1.7
1998 -- Average: 1.8/Dec. to Dec. average: 1.6
1999 -- Average: 2.2/Dec. to Dec. average: 2.7
2000 -- Average: 2.4/Dec. to Dec. average: 3.4
2001 -- Average: 2.8/Dec. to Dec. average: 1.6
2002 -- Average: 1.6/Dec. to Dec. average: 2.4
Whatever annual numbers you prefer to use (Average or Dec. to Dec.), what’s the common thread here if you assume state spending rose 2.3 percentage points on average per year above the inflation rate? You can generally draw the reasonable conclusion that in some years spending doubled or nearly doubled the rate of inflation or increased by more than 50 percent in other years. Don't have year-to-year state spending stats to make definitive comparisons. We're still talking generalities here. Also, if you assume that Massachusetts’ inflation rates were higher, the percentage increases aren’t as damning, but they’re still pretty damning.
Repeat: This is NOT to say tax cuts and the recession haven’t contributed to the state’s current budget woes. They have. But it does show, generally, that spending DID contribute if you measure it by inflation rate increases, which is a legitmate and widely used method of, well, measuring the rate of spending. Please, don’t tell me about how wise the legislature was to put money aside in emergency reserves. It was wise. And prudent. But they’ve now spent most of it in a desperate attempt to keep spending at increased levels you see above -- and so spending reserves is still a form of spending that has to be factored into figures.
‘When Boston was a theater hub’
: Why is the Herald writing this story?
Doesn’t matter. It’s a great, out-of-the-blue look at Boston’s once thriving theater district, thanks largely to Benjamin Franklin Keith, a New Hampshire native “whose Boston storefront spawned a nationwide vaudeville empire of more than 500 theaters.” ... Slap Mayor Menino around all you want, but one thing he deserves enormous credit for is helping to revive the theater district, though I’m still bummed about his decision on Hayward Place. Should have been housing, mayor. ... Postscript: There are a lot of ‘retro’ trends all around. With ‘reality’ TV and other gross junk posing as entertainment these days, do you think a modern version of vaudeville might work? Just wondering. Hub Blog thinks the ‘clean wholesomeness’ would be a big hit with parents and kids. Again, just wondering.
Phil Donahue, Oliver Willis wants your job
: Boston blogger Oliver Willis is chomping at the bit for a talk-show audition, here
. And Instapundit
is pushing it. Alex Knapp
is pushing it. And Hub Blog chimes in: Anyone but Phil Donahue would work. Give Oliver a try! (FYI: If Oliver does get an audition and/or job, it will be another sign of the blogosphere’s growing influence. I have good vibes about some blogger-reading executive at a TV or radio station/network actually giving Oliver a chance. Just a hunch. Hope it’s true. Stay tuned.) ... Postscript: Can Instapundit and other bloggers start a lobbying campaign to get Hub Blog a job anywhere within the media? (I prefer a foreign correspondent job covering food and wine trends in Tuscany, but I’m not going to be picky.)
Journalists and poets -- and Krugman on the Trans-Atlantic media
: The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen
has a few words about the holier-than-thou-poets issue. Cohen:
“They (poets) have become a sort of secular clergy, as fixated with ‘the word’ as some preachers and just as likely to confuse metaphor with truth. ...
“Those of us who were against the Vietnam War but who now find ourselves enlisted in Bush's Brigade are always looking over our shoulder, fearing history doing a reprise. (I have been re-reading Norman Mailer's wonderful ‘Armies of the Night.’) I scan the new poetry, as I do the placards at the peace marches, alert to the cathartic nugget of wisdom that would avert war while dealing realistically with Hussein. What I find, instead, is yesterday's wisdom about Vietnam misapplied to today's challenge of Iraq.”
Cohen also took a whack at journalists waxing poetry about poets. Wonder if he saw the editorial in the Globe
about the noble nature of poets. ...
... Ah, Paul Krugman.
I’m not one of those bloggers who’s usually on his case. Because I usually ignore him. But when he writes an entire column about media bias, Hub Blog’s journalistic bunny ears go up. Krugman writes about the differences between the American media’s coverage of Iraq versus the European media’s coverage of Iraq -- and which one better reflects reality. He ends the column: “So which is it? I've reported, you decide.” ... Gee, Paul, that’s a tough one. Where do you stand Paul? Could it be the side that best reflects your views? ... He makes no mention, by the way and needless to say, that most broadcast outlets in Europe are owned and run by the government.
The dot-com energy companies
: Charlie Stein
has a nice piece that sort of bumps into a pet-peeve of mine: The monopolistic local electric industry that emerged from our poorly implemented deregulation. Charlie isn’t talking about the local electric industry, but this quote about the national scene covers it well: “Surely a business as old and stable as the power industry couldn't have been seduced by the siren song of the new economy (of the ‘90s), could it? It turns out the answer is yes.” ... And we’ll be paying for the folly very soon and for a long time if something isn’t done.
The Keystone Hacks to the Rescue
: Don’t panic! Everything is under control! The Keystone Hacks have arrived! The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority
is going to go after Bechtel to recoup the money that shouldn’t have been lost in the first place! ...
... Unbelievable, eh? What a news town! They’re like shooting fish in a barrel. This is the fall-off-your-chair-laughing part of playing follow-the-dots: As chairman of the Turnpike, Matthew Amorello
, described as a “former state senator who is fighting to keep the Turnpike Authority and his job intact,” rehires attorney James Aloisi, who is described as being “fired two years ago by former chairman Andrew Natsios after the Big Dig costs spiraled out of control.” Both Amorello and Aloisi, in turn, are described as having “close ties” with Senate President Robert Travaglini, who last week was described as “speaking in deeply personal terms
(and) stressing his working-class roots” when defending the Turnpike and MDC against planned reforms and/or elimination and ....
... Don’t panic! Everything is under control! The Keystone Hacks have arrived! The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is going to go after Bechtel to recoup the money that shouldn’t have been lost in the first place! ...
... Note to readers: In the second link above, you have to hack (no pun intended) your way through the first item about judges secretly plotting their anti-reform strategies before reaching the part about Amorello rehiring Aloisi and their connections to the deeply emotional Trav.
Some call it ‘The Maze’
: More reform ideas
from Mitt. More carping.
Why we should be helping Africa
: Their ‘thank you’
is enough to be moved to do the right thing. Good column. And can’t wait for President Bush’s AIDs program to kick in. More worthy lives will be saved, perhaps (probably) millions, if done right.
Wait! Maybe we need the UN!: Andrew Sullivan
(scroll down a bit to the ‘Saving Blair’ item), who recently said it was “over” for the UN, now says: “But this weekend changes one thing, I think. Blair may not survive politically if we go to war with no further attempt to bring the U.N. around, and the war is in any way complicated or prolonged. It makes no logical sense to go back to the U.N. But it makes a lot of political sense -- if only to show the world American reluctance to go to war and to shore up an absolutely critical ally. ... It would put the onus back on Saddam, help Blair, show a little flexibility on the part of the U.S., maybe bring around a few more Security Council members and not lose any significant time. Again, this isn't logical from the point of view of 1441. But it is a reflection of the political pressures on a key U.S. ally. Recognizing that political pressure is not surrendering to it. But ignoring it when we can still offer an alternative would be foolish. We can afford to be a little flexible. So let's be.” ...
... Let’s repeat those last four sentences: “Recognizing that political pressure is not surrendering to it. But ignoring it when we can still offer an alternative would be foolish. We can afford to be a little flexible. So let's be.” ...
... And let’s hope the administration, in Phase III of the post-Iraq portion of the war, remembers that we may not always need the UN, but some of our allies need and want the UN, and we just have to live with that. And Andrew’s right: It’s not always logical to go to the UN, but it is does make a lot of political sense now and then. So let’s junk this foolish talk about pure ‘unilateralism’ or pure ‘multilateralism.’ Again: You use them in conjunction with each other, like knives and forks
, and there’s no escaping the value of using both at the same time to achieve desired results. And I’ll stop making this point. Starting to feel like Ron Borges going on and on and on about Drew Bledsoe
... Speaking of the war: There are some who go when called to duty
; there are some who rush to the courts.
More on Mitt and reform
: Brighton Reader
sends along the following message. Haven’t read the Seth piece, but, if Brighton Reader vouches for it, so be it. From Brighton Reader
with added bonus comments:
“Here is a link to an article by Seth Gitell
of the Phoenix about Finneran. Thought it was pretty good. I think it ties in to how Romney's initiatives will fare.
“Romney is making the right move in putting his restructuring into one package with a big ‘reform’ label on it. Make them vote it up or down. What he needs to do next is what other governors, but not his recent Republican predecessors, did -- pick up the phone and ask legislators for support. The last time most of them were asked for their opinion it was by a telemarketer. Making the effort to woo the rank and file, especially in the climate after the strong support for income tax repeal, could get him the votes he needs. Getting out there, making his argument to the public will make a difference, too.
“I was amused, somewhat disgusted but not at all surprised by Trav's defense
of the MDC and the Mass Pike at the Boston Chamber of Commerce recently. It always comes down to patronage with him. Note the only passing reference to aid to schools. How about setting out some policy priorities, Bob?”
Iraq and ‘Intelligent Consensus Building,’ Part II
: Once again, thanks for all the email. Have gotten a lot. One humble request: No need to send me links to the photo with the left-wing protester holding the Chamberlain sign. Already know they’re idiots. Don’t send me the 10,000th article I’ve read about the Europeans being idiots. Already know. Don’t send me the 20,000th article about Saddam being evil. Already know. You’re preaching to the converted, which is kind of my point: Too many people on the right are preaching to the converted these days. Repeat: My beef with the administration is with the means, not the ends. But, ah, Reader No. 1
has returned! With an excellent retort on the original "Iraq and ‘Intelligent Consensus Building’" post below, which was based on musings of a friend, which, obviously, Hub Blog agreed with. From Reader No. 1
“1. I think it is dangerous to assume "Americans" or "the French" think as one. There are many different reasons to support or oppose the conflict. (Apologies in advance for violating this principal.)
“2. I humbly offer the most obvious reason why so many express at best hesitant support for the US government against Iraq: our country rarely initiates wars; we're primarily reactive. The most famous examples: September 11th and Pearl Harbor. And we NEVER go looking for fights for dangerous opponents who probably possess weapons of mass destruction that could kill us in large numbers. (This is a critical distinction from the adventures of the Clinton years, in which the US played a rescuing or peacekeeping role. One might argue the first Iraq war's efforts on behalf of the Kuwaitis served as a precedent -- although the prospect of oil-induced-economic catastrophe certainly loomed large in 1991 albeit not rhetorically.)
"3. Having said that we don't historically start fights with big dogs, let's also acknowledge that we have entered a period in human history where waiting for those aforementioned weapons of mass destruction to be used first should be construed as a dereliction of duty in assuring national defense.
"4. I will also submit that the "consensus-building" which my fellow HubBlog reader (talks about) is greatly overrated and terribly unlikely to have had any better outcome than where we are today. To the extent that lawyers have achieved greater prominence in US society and so dominate the legislative ranks and the political process, many have developed a tendency to think practically anything can be negotiated or if necessary, litigated to resolution. Tell it to Neville Chamberlain.
One reason to conclude that sweeter talk from Donald Rumsfeld wouldn't have made any difference: the response of foreign governments to the Blix reports which pretty unequivocally state that Iraq has lied and misled on its inspections. Those who have asked for more time all along are still asking for more time. Incidentally, has anyone suggested that the minimal progress Iraq has made so far is entirely because of the "swaggering" actions of the US in preparing for a war?
"5. What bothers me about Bush Administration bashing is that it lays the blame for European opposition at the US' feet when there is evidence for some number of years that many European governments don't share our interests. Anyone in doubt on this point should read the excellent December 2002 issue
of The American Enterprise, excerpt here:
"6. Lastly, I think it is entirely possible that the President does believe what he told the troops about the UN turning into a debating society. This is why it was so critical to have the case for forcible disarmament made there so powerfully by Secretary Powell (whose advice in 1991 is one factor leading us to today's juncture). I suspect the real problem, particularly for the diplomatic professionals and the reporters who cover them, is that this President like several of his predecessors doesn't value the UN's interests more highly than the US'. Nor should he."
Hub Blog’s response
: Since my friend can’t really defend himself and since I agreed, obviously, with many of his points, I’ll respond. Here goes, point by point: 1.) Agreed. Advanced apologies accepted. Always do the same thing myself. 2.) Agree, again. Just wish the Bush administration had better respected this obviously legitimate fear/concern from the outset, as well as the fact that many (not all) non-leftist Americans happen to have been raised on believing in the UN and NATO, as silly and naive as that may sound. It’s just a PR reality the president didn’t deal with. Again. 3.) Notice my emphasis in past posts about agreeing with the ‘goal’ of the administration. It’s the administration’s methods (the means) that I disagree with. And no one is asking him to neglect his duties. 4.) Ah, aren't we now involved in multilateralism? Up to our teeth. My repeated contention: We could have done better if we had tried it more deftly and differently. Again: The means. 5.) What bothers me about Bush cheerleaders is that they will never, ever, attribute even a tiny bit of blame to him. He’s Churchill, after all. If I had to lay blame for events of recent weeks as they apply to our affairs in Europe, I’d put about 20 percent on Bush, 60 percent on France and Germany, the rest sprinkled about. With that said, I’d love to hear, one day, somewhere, a true Bush believer acknowledging he’s at least partly to blame (10 percent, 15 percent, whatever) and that, well, yes, OK, he’s not perfect. Just partly. Details, please. By the way, that 10, 15, 20 percent matters. Could have swung the German election the other way, for instance. Hope he does better on the diplomatic front in the Phase III, post-Iraq portion of the war. 6.) I also believe he believes what he told the troops about the UN turning into a debating society. What I don’t believe is that he's trying to save the UN. Nor should you.
An aside note
: Sorry we disagree on this issue, Reader No. 1. One of the few where we do. Let's hear more on your views about, oh, Mitt. Welcome back!
Mitt and playing hard-ball reform:
Fascinating strategy. Hope the all-or-nothing plan
works. But I have my doubts. The Weld and Cellucci administrations tried similar ploys. I know Mitt -- by threatening to invoke the state’s Article 87 clause in the constitution -- says he’s willing to negotiate before putting the gun to the legislature’s head. Still, keep in mind: This is the same legislature that blocked Clean Elections, even to the extent of all but defying the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Then there are the other voter-approved referendums they routinely ignore. Etc. They don’t care. Meanwhile, Tommy and Trav are already talking about keeping the MDC. Others are threatening to kill MCAS, the new voter-approved English immersion law, charter schools, etc. etc. etc. and ...
... and look how deep the ‘permanent bureaucracy’
reaches. The politically connected judges are mobilizing to block Mitt’s judicial reforms and budget plans (when one of their own isn't getting busted on DUI charges). The Turnpike is mobilizing. They’re all mobilizing and maneuvering to kill off what? Reform.
... Seems like the only way to get rid of these guys is if we buy them off.
Literally. Favorite line from the same ‘Ki$$’ story comes from Lou DiNatale, a political analyst at UMass-Boston's McCormack Institute: “Joyce may end up as a poster boy for public-sector greed, but it's unlikely he will stick in the public's memory any more than any of the others have. ... It is certainly worth something to the state to have him out of the way.'' Think about that last sentence. We have to pull slimy pension-grab tricks to get these guys to go. Lordy.
... Here’s an interesting story about how Mitt’s press/message management style
is very similar to George Bush’s tactics. Good article.
A reader responds
: Mysterious S Reader responds to the Mitt press/message story directly above. Personally, I still think it was a good story, but here's Mysterious S' view:
"Was not going to drop you a line about that Stephanie Ebbert article today, but since you commented first... As with the previous Phillips piece, I feel like it's a bit of navel-gazing for the Globe to keep writing articles complaining about lack of access.
"I don't have empirical data, but wasn't one of the knocks on Jane Swift that she was never around (calling in by speakerphone, at home in W. Mass with the kids, etc.)? It seems like Romney is at least as available if not more.
"And the close of the article came right out of the 'growing in office' article-o-matic, (i.e.) The politician is doing more of what you want (being more accessible) and making it a 'significant development.'
"I know I hold the Globe to a high standard, but its seems to me that a paper which can digest 15 years of Big Dig paperwork can do better than turn out multiple thumb-suckers on Romney's process as opposed to his substance."
Iraq and ‘Intelligent Consensus Building’
: After hashing over the merits and flaws of the Atkins Diet while stuffing our faces with beer, wine and steak tips at a restaurant the other night, a friend and I had a most interesting conversation about Iraq. My friend, a regular reader of Hub Blog, was posed this question by yours truly: "Am I crazy for harshly criticizing the anti-war left while at the same time harshly criticizing the Bush administration’s clumsy swaggering on Iraq?" He said: No ... but.
Here goes with what my friend, who describes himself as drifting between libertarianism and conservatism, said about Iraq and Bush (and I’m mostly paraphrasing):
The American public is generally a conservative but idealistic bunch. For whatever reasons. But the Bush administration’s initial talk of “unilaterally” taking on Iraq was jarring to many Americans. It is in the best American tradition to seek to build an intelligent consensus for our actions-- to be unafraid of frank and democratic debate. Americans instinctively believe that when we’re right, we can marshal the facts, in plain view, to state our case, debate it, and gain the support we need. It can be argued that mouthing off about a desire to “go it alone” (with Britain in tow) before launching our case before the U.N. was pre-empting the necessary, intelligent consensus-building phase with our allies; it was poor diplomacy, it was ham-fisted, it wasn’t in the American “tradition” of clear-eyed, honest diplomacy. That’s why so many (including Hub Blog) register a preference for reasonable UN and NATO involvement for any armed action against Iraq – as poll after poll of Americans show. Hub Blog’s criticism of the administration’s “swaggering” tone is a legitimate area of debate. It’s a legitimate concern over methods and means. It isn’t a rejection of the issue at hand. ... It should be noted -- and can’t be overemphasized -- how utterly brutal my friend was on the political left. Their problem, he said, is that those on the hard-core political left are blinded by their knee-jerk anti-American, so convinced America is imperial in its aspirations, so willing to abandon traditions for a new utopian-like future, so out of it in terms of how the real world really works as Americans see it. And my friend added: "The French don’t understand the American approach." They don’t get the pragmatic side of American democratic consensus-building. They think it’s a trick that has to be thwarted, he said.
His verdict on Hub Blog and others’ with similar views on Iraq: “Criticizing the administration for its ‘swaggering tone’ is perfectly within the legitimate realm of debate over Iraq. I may not agree entirely, but at the end of the day we’re in agreement about the goals. You think we could have gotten to this same point in a better way with better results ... I'm in agreement."
-- My friend has seen this post and -- with some quick and small editing changes -- he says it accurately reflects what he said over multiple beers, wine and steak tips. ...
I should add that, personally, the gulf between the Bush administration and good old mighty Hub Blog began to widen not when Bush initially balked at the UN option, but when the administration actually suggested, in a trial balloon some time ago, that it didn’t need Congressional authority to move against Iraq, arguing that the original Gulf War resolution from 1990 (or ‘91 -- forget) was sufficient. It was at that moment I became convinced the administration wasn’t just interested in international democratic consensus-building, but also it wasn’t interested in genuine domestic
democratic consensus-building. Again, we’re arguing over methods here, not the goal. I just think the administration has blown opportunity after opportunity to garner more support for this cause. The methods have been ugly to behold. ...
... Count the Herald’s Wayne Woodlief
as one of those who isn’t impressed with how we got to where we are today, faced with “a war on Iraq that few people wanted but that many are being cajoled, convinced and, yes, even bullied into accepting as inevitable.” Wayne isn’t a knee-jerk leftist liberal, folks. Don't dismiss him. ... Anyway, Wayne raises yet another loose-talking/tough-talking peeve about the administration: Talk of possible use of nukes in Iraq. I know. I know. They’re doing it largely for deterrence reasons, but ... but it’s just another example of the administration’s talk-tough/backtrack approach, with Rummy now having to clarify the administration’s position. Why does the administration always find itself in this position? It’s not because of a left-wing conspiracy to misuse their words. They’re unnerving
a lot of people. Constantly. FYI: The nuke issue was debated on PBS’s “McLaughlin Group” the other week. You know, the “McLaughlin Group,” that beehive of left-wing anti-Americanism. And it’s slowly been seeping into the mainstream press, such as this op-ed
the other week in the Christian Science Monitor. Now it’s being aired in that left-wing commie newspaper, the Boston Herald. Wayne on if war breaks out: “How we fight that war and how we handle its aftermath - the necessary reconstruction of Iraq and its democratization - then become vitally important.”
... From an AP story
: “British and American diplomats conceded they would need to go home, consider the views of others (at the UN) and soften the tone of the draft.” ... Tough talk, back track. Again. Well, at least this time it involves the Brits. ...
.... Andrew Sullivan
says the U.N. approach (and probably the U.N. itself) is “over.” And he adds: “But (the UN approach) was still worth trying, even if only to give it one last chance.” And then he adds the U.S. has to reassess its future with the U.N.: “I'm not saying complete U.S. withdrawal (from the UN), although I'm beginning to think that now makes a lot of sense.” ... As they say, you can’t be half pregnant. Might as well go all the way, which leads logically to what a lot of hard-core conservatives have been advocating for a long, long time: The US out of the UN. Connect the dots, as they say. ...
But, ah, the president told troops recently: ``Free nations will not allow the United Nations to fade into history as an ineffective, irrelevant debating society.'' ... Does anyone really believe the president believes this?
I.e. “... not allow the United Nations to fade away.” Christ, he had to be dragged into the U.N. approach, and now he’s championing its noble nature and its need to exist? But the key phrase is “an ineffective, irrelevant debating society.'' Mark my words: That’s going to be the pretext to get the U.S. out of a UN that Bush says he won’t let fade away. Also mark my words: NATO already is, and probably will remain so at the end, in shambles because of the Iraq crisis. But will the Bush groupies accept even an ounce
of responsibility? Nope. None. It's all the fault of the evil French -- and crocodile tears will be shed as hard-core conservatives wave good-bye and say 'good riddance' under their breaths to both institutions. They're already doing it.