Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
backseat driver
but never a Monday morning quarterback

adrag1 at [until the QP server gets fixed]
willv at


Virginia Pundit Watch Will Vehrs' Weekly Column at Bacon's Rebellion

DC Metro Blog Map

UVA Center for Politics and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Predictions 2002


Spinsanity - Countering rhetoric with reason


On the Third Hand
A blog by a proud member of the Bellicose Women's Brigade


Newsrack Blog

Mark A. Kilmer's Political Annotation

A Nickles Worth of Free Advice

Where HipHop and Libertarianism meet

Note To Self
"Crash"'s way kewl blog

The Rallying Point

Mind Over What Matters

MaxSpeak Weblog


Off the Kuff

What She Really Thinks

Unqualified Offerings

Talking Points Memo


Matt Welch


the talking dog

Cornfield Commentary

Cooped Up

The Rittenhouse Review

The Lefty Directory

Sneaking Suspicions

Derek Crane

Common Sense and Wonder

Jim Miller on Politics

Croooow Blog: Rantings and ravings on the news of the day.

Ipse Dixit

The Road to Surfdom

Jason Rylander


Smythe's World

Weblog Central



War Liberal

Andrew Sullivan

The Volokh Conspiracy

Counterspin Central
perfunctory links(We think it's "the Mother of links pages for news and pundit junkies" - eds)

Independent Gay Forum
Independent Gay Forum

Town Hall: Conservative News and Information - The Conservative Movement Starts Here

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Saturday, November 17, 2001
Dining Out
Tony Adragna
OK, here it is folks, my review of the KFC/A&W concept - I don't have enough thumbs to express how I feel, but if I did, they would all be pointed down. PepsiCo just wanted to get it's mitts into the hamburger part of the fast food market (along with the fried chicken, taco, and pizza sidelines). I can forgive them for replacing the "drive-in" with a "drive-thru", but apart from the twinge of nostaligia at seeing the A&W logo displayed prominently, the experience was nothing akin to what I remember as a child.

The menu is where my problem started. NARY A PAPA BURGER IN SIGHT! Adding to my unfamiliarity with the new menu was the inclusion of the standard KFC fare. I almost broke down and ordered a three piece chicken meal. But, I was determined to give their burgers a try (hey, the names might've changed, but maybe the food is the same). So, I ordered a deluxe burger, and William ordered a double bacon cheeseburger and a chili dog (three meals w/lg sodas: $14.26). I started eating the fries on the way home in the car (I can't help it) - they were undercooked and limp. We got home and sorted the sandwiches - both were delux double bacon cheesburgers. I HATE CHEESEBURGERS!

We could've driven half the distance and gotten the same service at Micky D's

More on "franchise wars" in tomorrow's installment of From Left Field...

Cheeseburger Hell
Will Vehrs
Just think, Tony--the counter person and cook that screwed up your double burger order were probably screening passengers at Dulles or BWI last week. Within a year, their manager will be working at the airport and they'll be in fast food management.

Can Aybody Build A "Bomb"
Tony Adragna
Glenn Reynolds, Rand Simberg, and Declan McCullagh, all point to an article in "The Daily Rotten" which debunks the reporting surrounding those "documents" found in Kabul. This is good news, indeed.

But, is the idea that somebody like bin Laden could build a "bomb" really so far fetched. No! While everybody is correct that the hardest part of the operation is obtaining the warhead materials, once that's done it's straighforward engineering. That's right: not physics, but engineering. All the "physics" has already been worked out, and is (for the most part) published. The problem with the study involving the physics students is that physicists don't build things. See, if you want something built, you give the job to an engineer.

Well, hold on a minute - the job isn't as hard as physicist might want to make it seem, but neither is it as easy as simply letting an engineer run with it. The only way to ensure that you have a working bomb is to test it. So, even if bin Laden's thugs had good plans, and the necessary materials, they would still be a long way off from a working bomb...

It's a Different World Now
Will Vehrs
Tony, you slept in and I was bereft of ideas ....

I'd like to lay the lack of character education at the footsteps of teachers, but parents and guardians are the true culprits. A Bill Rumsey would be the most controversial teacher on campus today and would probably be in the Principal's office more often than bad students. Most parents won't give a teacher the respect and trust he/she needs to run a classroom properly. When I was growing up, the teacher was always right and my parents didn't want to hear that this or that was "unfair." The teacher isn't always right, of course, but the student isn't really equipped to handle challenging the teacher until late high school. Parents challenging the teachers just demonstrates to the student that the teacher isn't really in charge.

I hope this stimulates some debate in our forum. I know some of our readers are in education or have strong opinions on the subject. It would be great to hear from them.

I would agree, in part
Tony Adragna
I think the primary responsibility for character development is the parents'. But, I think that a BIG reason for the change in the way parents deal with teachers has to do with changes in education that were promulgated by teachers. Is it a coincidence that today's teachers and parents were educated in the '70s & '80s?

Another Exemplar for Today's Educators
Tony Adragna
Good morning Will (yes, I just woke up), Colbert King writes a stirring tribute to Bill Rumsey on the opinion page of today's WP. I think there was a lot more "character development" in schools - even public schools - at the time that Colbert attended Dunbar High School Put the lack of character development together with the emphasis on "technical" education (versus liberal arts and critical thinking) and I posit that this is where education in the U.S. has failed students.

To be fair, most school districts do have programs geared toward character development, or "citizenship education", but this shouldn't be a "program" - it should be part of what happens in every classroom. It used to be - why isn't it in today's schools? I hate to say that the problem is "teachers" - I had some exceptional teachers, as did Colbert - but teachers do run the classrooms, so I don't know where else to turn...

Friday, November 16, 2001
Prof. Reynolds "ID"s the real problem
Tony Adragna
Not that the idea of National ID cards needed any killing - it was DOA - but Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynold's current FOXNews column put's the hermetic seal on that nailed down coffin. Not only would a national ID card make us no safer: it could make us less safe. If people are going to put their faith in something that's just as suspect as the current ID system, then the exercise is destructive.

Besides, the whole damned scheme is impractical.

HP Saves the Economy
Tony Adragna
No, I'm not talking about Hewlett-Packard... Paul Kangas' crew on Nightly Business Report talked about the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, it's impact on the movie theatre business, and they mentioned some BIG numbers. (note: tonight's NBR transcript is not up yet)

Hey, remember, you heard it first at QuasiPundit back on Nov 11.

Oh! Wait a minute... Washington Week is on the tube (behind me - I'm listening). Somebody just made the same point that I've made several times in re Putin vis a vis the war on terrorism and a quid pro quo for Russia on Chechnya...

I hafta go read Glenn Reynolds latest FOX NEWS piece now... be back later with comments and the link...

Military Tribunal Conducts Secret Viewing of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"
Will Vehrs
Tony, I think some Harry Potter escapism this weekend will do everyone a world of good. This review is lukewarm, but who stays away from a true blockbuster because a film critic found fault? I might wait for your review ....

Last night I visited the Swift Creek Elementary School Book Fair and my daughter is now the proud owner of a Harry Potter secret code coloring book. The Harry Potter section was mobbed. J. K. Rowling and her Harry have done wonders for reading, as George Will notes--again--today.

Rita Kemply is a Muggle!
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, I may be the only "unaccompanied adult" at the movies this weekend - I don't care, gotta see it! I've read all of the HP, books - I wonder if Ms. Kemply has? I usually don't enjoy seeing a movie after I've read the book, but Kemply's criticism has only convinced me that this is going to be another exception.

So, I'll go see HP this weekend, confident that nothing unexpected is going to happen out there in the wide world - and satisfied that I was more right than Safire (I love the headline "A Summit of Style Over Substance")...

Meet Me In Moscow
Will Vehrs
Tony, you are bound and determined to prove your Russian analytical bona-fides. You would have made a great Sovietologist, divining policy from those annual pictures of Brezhnev and the boys reviewing the May Day troops. Your assessment of Putin was prescient and I hope Safire starts reading Quasipundit. I would only suggest that Putin will be more likely to make concessions when President Bush is on Russian soil, yucking it up with the Muscovites and plugging Putin's soul. Hardliners in Russia would have frowned on Putin making a deal after getting just grilled steak and country music. Watch for Bush's Russian visit to be the one where breakthrough agreements are announced and remember, you heard it here first.

Moscow has a "Micky D's"...
Tony Adragna
... but does Moscow have an A&W. That's right - remember the A&W drive-in? (from a long time ago) Well, it's not a drive-in anymore, but somebody has opened a KFC/A&W franchise in Hyattsville. We're going there for dinner tonight - I hope they still have the "Papa Burger": I was never allowed to order one when I was little...

As for Putin, I think everybody is all wrong - it's the other way around. He's not "making mean" with his hardliners at home in order to appease them: he's "making nice" with us in order to make us happy. Dime to a donut that when they meet in Russia Mr. Putin is gonna make his "da means nyet" style of talk perfectly clear to anybody willing to listen...

Thursday, November 15, 2001
For the Record
Tony Adragna
Hey, Will! I've had a little bit to say recently about the "military tribunal" notion, and lest everyone begins to think that I'm fully in favor of whatever Mr. Bush has in mind, let me disabuse you of that thought. I just read the Executive Order, and it's certainly not what I had in mind when I spoke in defense (as I'm about to again) of "militatry courts."

Let me first pick up the ball from where I dropped it this morning - Judge Napolitano's comments from last night. I can't find a transcript, but I can paraphrase that with which I took exception: a) military tribunals are OK for members of the military because they give up constitutional rights when they join, and b) the failure to aknowledge that these particular terrorists are in fact at war with us.

The first line is one that's often been recited, but it's just plain old wrong. Members of the military retain all of their constitutional rights - they merely agree to a code of conduct that restricts the exercise thereof. "What's the difference?" you ask. The difference is in what the government can do to you for violating the code when it touches on "constitutional rights". The fact is that when members of the military are "punished" for "protected exercises", the punishment most often involves either a mild reprimand, or separation from the service - either of which can be career destroying, but neither of which could be considered an "infringement" on individual rights. Why? Because the punishment is for breaking the code, not the exercise of the protected right.(it might still be unclear, but I don't know how else to say it)

The second point goes to my earlier caution that what I envision as "military trials for terrorists" should only be applicable in cases where persons have declared themselves to be "at war" with us. If that is their claim, then they aren't civilians, and ought be subject to the laws of war. Reading Mr. Bush's order, I'm left with the impression that he has come to the same conclusion. Judge Napolitano's point is moot, unless he insists that the people belong to an actual army before they can be judged under military law - if that's the case, then he should also have problems with the use of our military to fight against the Taliban, which is really just a band of thugs claiming to be an army.

Having said all that, now I can say that I very much oppose the EO as Mr. Bush has constructed it. There's absolutely no reason that a normal military court, under normal procedures for military trials, can't handle these cases. What Mr. Bush proposes does, very much, seem like a "kangaroo court." My only hope is that the professional military officers charged with conducting these trials adhere to their code - if they resist the efforts to totally dispense with what normally passes for rules at law , then we can still walk away from the ordeal without looking stupid. I would still rather have the type of tribunal that I envisioned.

A Compromise Only Congress Could Love?
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm happy Congress reached a compromise on airport security, but it sure sounds "back-asswards" to me. Everybody goes Federal, then some airports can go back to private, and then even more can? I sure would have thought they'd have gotten Federal employees into some of the bigger airports first, then decided if and when to expand it everywhere else.

I hope it works.

Looks Like the 2001 Tax Package
Tony Adragna
Guess what Will, the "Federalizers" have won the day. Once airport screening is federalized, let's see how easy it's gonna be for those airports to get rid of the federal screeners. Kinda like the "sunsets" in the previous tax bill... he he he

He's So Smart
Tony Adragna
I just read Sandy Berger's piece on Putin - exactly what I've been trying to say. Of course, Berger says it more convincingly than me...

Also, Richard Cohen's bit on Ashcroft is an eye opener - Ashcroft supporters beating up on Ashcroft? Judge Napolitano really got my heart racing last night when I heard him lambasting the military tribunal idea (I think it was on FOX). I disagree with the Judge in part - but he made some valid points. If I can find a link to the transcript I'll post it.

Berger With Surprise
Will Vehrs
Sandy Berger's essay does do a good job of analyzing Putin's underlying motives in pursuing an alliance of sorts with President Bush and the US. One thing Berger doesn't cover in detail are the political moves Putin must make at home to maintain his popularity and support. Sometimes those appear to conflict with his signals to the US, but he has to walk a fine line with Russian "hawks and doves." We have to forgive some of that, or understand why he must maintain some semblance of the old Soviet-style bluster for effect.

It's nice to see Berger slipping into the "establishment" foreign policy mentality, as opposed to being reduced to just a defender of past Clinton policy moves. Foreign policy politics are much more civil in tone and shaded in differences than domestic politics. While that sometimes eliminates truly innovative policy options, it does offer a certain stabilizing foreign policy predictability to the world.

As for Richard Cohen, I think he is overstating the support he's offered to Ashcroft in the past to make his criticism seem more grounded in principle. I suspect the military tribunal order will be a major topic in next week's Punditwatch. Cohen has weighed in and William Safire blasted the idea in today's New York Times. I don't think too many pundits will be supportive; support will come from op-ed pieces by the likes of Doug Kmiec of Catholic University, who has one in today's Wall Street Journal. Kmiec, of course, will be denounced as a right wing apologist, but I think both sides have a compelling case to make. I come down on having the option of using a tribunal. When Rumsfeld issues his guidelines will be the time to debate the issue.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001
Who's Gonna Save Them From Themselves
Tony Adragna
A little news about an Army, but this one isn't fighting in Afghanistan. Anybody who remembers the flap that arose over Mr. Bush's desire to exempt religious organizations from state & local non-descrimination policies should also remember what prompted the flap - a telephone call from the Salvation Army. Well, they're at it again, but this time the dispute is internecine.

It seems that the Saly's Western Division took some direct mail verbiage literally, and decided to begin offering domestic partner benefits, but the National Office quickly shot that down. Hey, if they want to discriminate, they oughta just be honest about it - doesn't really bother me, I patronize Goodwill instead.

Just so everbody understands: I don't think there should be any attempts to force the Salvation Army, especially through government action, to not discriminate. But, that's a two way street - it they want to discriminate, then they shouldn't expect government money (i.e. the "faith based initiative").

A Bit of Ridicule...
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, I'm glad Michael Kelly's piece got a mention in today's Punditwatch. I read the piece on the train home - uproariously funny (if the aisle hadn't been packed I would've been rolling in it).

The only thing that could've prompted a bigger laugh (if it wasn't so serious) was Jim Wallis' piece. He seems to think that we're going about this war all wrong - wants a "return to the path of restraint that marked the first weeks of our response to the attacks." Doesn't he realize that all those things he wants - an end to the slaughter of innocents, feeding the starving, JUSTICE - can only come about by winning the war! The prior "path" still had the Taliban in control, execising their brutal form of Islamic law. He cites the deaths of civilians, but does he even consider all the Afghan deaths at the hands of the Taliban? Does he consider the fact that killing off the Taliban is the only way to ensure that humanitarian supplies (food) get to starving Afghans? And, what's with the continued call for "justice" that keeps popping up out of the religious arm of the peacenik movement? Haven't they ever heard of "just war"? 'Tis a good thing these people never prevail, else we'd all be "good li'l Nazis" right now (NOT! I've known a few peaceniks who became hawks after witnessing brutality firsthand).

Anyway, our readers are looking for "culture" - did you see the Jackson reunion the other night? I didn't [want to] see it, that would've taken time out of my online porn viewing! Don't know anything 'bout what exists between the two coasts, either - 'less, you wanna talk about the time I spent in Meridian, Mississippi (hated it), or the week that I spent in Beeville, TX (not as bad, but..).. Maybe I'll give evreybody a little "culture" vis a vis my review of Harry Potter (soon as I get to see it).

Anyway, I have loads to do before I settle down for my favourite TV drama tonight - yes folks, I'm a West Wing fan (maybe someday before I leave this miasmal swamp that we call our nation's capitol I just might finally make that White House tour)...

Tony, You May Have to be the Culture Guy
Will Vehrs
Tony, I recently mentioned my cultural "blind spots." One that surprises people I know is that I have never watched one minute of the West Wing. I can't explain it ... I guess reality is enough for me. As Imus frequently says, "you can't make this stuff up." Oh, I didn't see the Jackson Reunion, but I won't claim that as a cultural blind spot.

Still, I think our kind reader is on to something. I suspect we will tackle cultural subjects and issues on occasion. Your From Left Field essays will probably touch on them from time to time. If you'll be our "left coast" specialist, I'll take the Midwest and Deep South.

Enjoy the show!

A Clean-Shaven, Music-Accompanied Punditwatch Has Just Been Posted!

Tuesday, November 13, 2001
I Told you I'm Psychic
Tony Adragna
There are two bits of the "fall of Kabul" story with which I take exception: a) the Alliance didn't "capture" Kabul, as some in the press have been reporting - it changed hands after the Taliban ran away, there was no resistence for the NA to "up with put", and b) I called it...

Well, really I didn't. I was merely observing a fact recited in a column by Jefferson Penberthy on Oct 4:

Myth 2: The moujahedeen took Kabul from Najibullah - Militarily, they did not. Hopelessly divided along ethnic lines, they barely touched Kabul until Najibullah's tough Uzbek militia under Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum revolted over a pay and promotions dispute. In April 1992, the moujahedeen arrived in Kabul with hardly a shot fired except for endless volleys of "happy fire."

What our bombing did, besides killing alot of pro-Taliban Afghans, was to induce a "division" within the Taliban. Naijibullah's regime couldn't get it together because of all the ethnic divisions - the Taliban can't get it together right now because we've destroyed their ability to, well, get together. Reports are that the various commands within Taliban territory can't even communicate with each other.

Hey, it's still a victory! Now the Afghans need to get around "Myth 4" somehow. Maybe we can help, maybe not - bin Laden and his thugs are still our primary concern...

Non-Euclidian Relations
Tony Adragna
I just looked in The Forum, Will, and had a great laugh. If a-z were here, then I'm sure an answer to the question that you, Joe, and Arthur were throwing around would have shown up by now. Good thing that I know the answer. Look at the definition of Euclidean geometry! (get it now?) That's one change that would have a great impact upon me - I don't take dates across the Potomac, but I might consider changing that rule.

You know, we still have a few "state stores" here in Maryland (I'm pretty sure it's actually the counties that run them), and no liqour sales on Sundays (I never knew what a "blue law" was - silliest damn things). You can buy beer and wine on Sunday, so I haven't been pushing too hard for change. Besides, the bars are open, and the booze is flowin', so you can still get a "shot".

I think I'm gonna have to read Hinkle regularly, I like the way he thinks...

Somebody that I'm still trying to stay away from (unsuccessfully) is Krauthammer. Did you read his column today? Sheesh - is there any way to make this guy happy? The scary thing (for me) is that I agree with every word...

Imus and Krauthammer
by Will Vehrs
Tony, of course I read Krauthammer this morning ... Punditwatch gets up really, really early just for that kind of red meat. Poor Charles ... with Post headlines screaming that the Northern Alliance was in Kabul, his column was urging Bush to unleash them for that purpose. Imus or some wag on his show said that since the Alliance doesn't listen to Bush, he should warn them not to attack Bagdad. The folks in Kabul looked pretty happy to see the invaders, didn't they?

Who knew that our Forum would turn into a rollicking A. Barton Hinkle comedy routine--who's on Euclid? Tony, if you should date across the Potomac before our quaint laws are changed, you might want to keep Arthur Stock's office number handy. It's always good to have a Philadelphia lawyer.

I grew up in Prince William County, VA, a "dry" county. There was a little store just over the Fairfax County line, "The Shopping Bag," that did a brisk business during those times, but it folded up quick when Prince William began allowing off-premises beer and wine sales. I remember the "blue laws" well, too.

Tragic Events...
... and Poignant Essays
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, I read Dionne's essay on the train this morning -very touching. Unfortunately, there aren't very many pockets of Amerca like that neighborhood - not as many as there used to be, anyway. I remember that San Francisco neighborhoods were like that, until everybody started moving to the 'burbs. Again, it takes a tragedy for people to appreciate all the things that they've overlooked for so long - at least the folks up in Rockaway never forgot.

Your friend (our friend now) "Pen Lady" asked me the other day, "why does it take a war for so many to realize and appreciate what our military folks do every day of their lives?" I'd like to extend that question to all of the other expressions of postive sentiment that have been circulating lately. I gave her my snide short answer (everything I hated about the late '80s and the whole of the '90s in a succinct form), but I think the answer goes deeper - I'm not really sure exactly what the full answer is. What I do know is that, sadly, after the dust settles from our current struggle things will return to what they were pre-Sep 11. Right now we're a nation of tragic events and poignant essayists, and I'm not sure that I like this any better.

Tony, Don't Be So Pessimistic
Will Vehrs
The cynic in me agrees with you--after the dust settles, we'll be back to our self-absorbed ways again. But the optimist in me sees the potential of an expanded Americorps, a useful civil defense volunteer effort along the lines that President Bush has proposed, and just a general searing in our collective memories of firefighter, police, military, and civilian heroism to make us much more aware, every day, of our collective need to defend America. That could lead to a greater appreciation for those really on the front lines every day. When there doesn't seem to be any cost to us, when we don't know someone engaged in our national defense effort, it's easy to forget except during a crisis. The war against terror, if it is the long struggle many envision, imposes that cost.

I'm an American Pragmatist, Will
Tony Adragna
I'm always working toward the ideal, and always hopeful - you know that. But, I've only seen a "glimmer" so far...

After the Election, Some Agenda Beckons
Will Vehrs
Governor-elect Mark Warner of Virginia has been credited by many, including Quasipundit, with running an almost flawless campaign. Democrats in Virginia had not won a state-wide race since 1994, and then only narrowly--Charles Robb defeated Ollie North for the Senate. A flawless campaign, however, is usually one that allows voters to graft their own hopes and aspirations onto it because the winning candidate avoids controversy and specifics, while tarring his opponent with something unpopular. Warner never really said what he would do about Virginia's budget imbroglio or what his being a "fiscal conservative" would mean for state services.

Today's Richmond Times-Dispatch features a column by A. Barton Hinkle that chides Warner a bit for failing to address the budget mess and offers the new governor an early agenda. Hinkle appears to be the heir-apparent to editorial page editor Ross MacKenzie. He has a strong libertarian streak and delights in making politicians and candidates squirm.

Hinkle needles Warner on the budget:

During the campaign Warner routinely sidestepped questions about state finances by saying he first needed to look at the books - as if the budget and revenue forecasts are kept on a papyrus scroll in a locked sarcophagus. His Democratic friends in the General Assembly could have told him anything he wanted to know - or he could have picked up back issues of newspapers such as this one, which have provided thorough coverage of Virginia's fiscal situation. Warner should have been well-tutored in the budget months ago - probably was - and he should give the citizens who elected him enough credit to be straight with them about his plans and priorities. If he does need to wait until he is in office to get his ducks in a row, then we have what they call a situation on our hands.

He counsels Warner to be blunt with Virginians and to go after "sacred cows." He lists some--at least one would probably hit me hard, but it's hard to disagree.

Libertarians (and a few others) would probably applaud this big symbolic action that Hinkle proposes:

Push for repeal of outdated and odious statutes.
-Start with Virginia's prohibition against radar detectors, the only one in the nation. This prohibition enhances revenue from speeding tickets, not safety. In fact, permitting radar detectors could improve safety through the simple expedient of placing unmanned radar guns on roads where speeding is a problem. If the leadfoots catch on, then rotate the unmanned units with manned patrol cars.
-Strike down some of the silly statutes, such as the law against spitting on the sidewalk, and the law against "lascivious cohabitation" (otherwise known as shacking up), and the law against working on Sunday. That one has lots of exceptions, such as for those work- ing in hotels and movie theaters and ship chandleries, but a lawyer or housepainter who labors on Sunday is breaking not only the Sabbath commandment, but Section 18.2-341 of the Virginia State Code as well.
-Go after the crimes-against-Nature law, hammered repeatedly in this space because it deserves repeated hammering. It does nothing but stigmatize one class of citizens - homosexuals - which is hardly a proper function of state law. Other statutes, such as prohibitions against public indecency, can be used against individuals sexing it up where they shouldn't. As for those concerned somebody might be having non-Euclidean relations at home, they should be told that what other consenting adults do in private is none of their business, either. Those who object on biblical grounds are welcome to their view - but they should re-read the Constitution to remind themselves America is not a theocracy.

I don't usually quote so liberally from a printed piece, but this one struck a chord with me ... and I think it has some applicability way beyond Virginia. I also loved the part about papyrus and locked sarcophagus.

"Unshakable Rockaway"
Will Vehrs
E. J. Dionne, Jr. has a touching piece in this morning's Washington Post about the New York City neighborhood that has suffered so much over the last two months and two days. Dionne ends it this way:

A few weeks back, I was talking with Monsignor Martin Geraghty, the pastor of St. Francis de Sales, about his neighborhood's troubles. He's a deeply thoughtful man, a neighborhood intellectual who never flaunts how smart he is. He spoke of the academic trend to deconstruct, and thus explain away, anything. "You can deconstruct everything," he said, "except suffering." I don't envy Monsignor Geraghty's task of explaining to the good people of this exceptional neighborhood why the inexplicable keeps happening to them.

A difficult task, indeed. And let's not forget those who waited at the Dominican Republic airport gate for loved ones who never arrived. Their loss is ours, too.

Monday, November 12, 2001
A Tragic Accident
Tony Adragna
While we still can't rule out terrorism, I think we need to remember that terrorism isn't the only thing that can bring down aircraft. Joe Britt points out (in The Forum) that this type of catastrophic failure isn't common in the A300 - I'll go a step further, it isn't common in any aircraft type. But, "isn't common" is a long way off from "never happens". There are several items which lead me to believe that this was a tragic instance of catastrophic mechanical failure:

a) this isn't the first time that a crash has resulted from an aircraft engine separating from the aircraft - it rarely happens, but it does happen
b) the aircraft had been in maintenance yesterday - accidents have been known to happen as a result of something missed in the shop
c) there were reports of an engine being on fire during take-off, and bloger Kathy Kinsley pointed me to an FAA Flight Standards Information Bulletin from Feb 2000 that speaks directly to engine fires in A300-600 and A310 aircraft.

I'm very confident that this was a tragic accident, not terrorism.

Breaking News
There was just a plane crash in New York - most probably purely accidental, Stay tuned

Update: It was an American Airlines A300 Airbus that crashed in Queens, about 5 miles from JFK, soon after takeoff. An eyewitness says that she saw smoke & flame, and pieces of the plane falling out of the sky before it crashed into a neighborhood.

Update 10:20 - reporters were suggesting that the military fighter jets in the area meant that this was possibly terrorism - Pentagon just anounced that the fighters were scrambled after the event as a precaution.

Update 10:35 - Giuliani's first words on hearing about the crash, "Oh my God." He points out that the area where the plane crashed was also disproportianately affected by 9/11, many of the people who died then came from this neighborhood.

There's also been a bit of "airport security" opportunism - a woman arguing that if we had good security already people would feel more certain about this being an accident. That may be true, but this isn't the first time that an airplane has crashed due to mechanical failure, "airport security" isn't going fix that problem.

Update 11:07 - The WaPo uses this tragedy for more "airport security" opportunism.

There's also word of "an explosion" onboard the plane before it crashed: an engine fell off the aircraft, so an explosion makes sense. But, that explosion could very well have been the engines failure, not a deliberate act of sabotage.

Update 11:31 - At least New Yorkers aren't panicking! Reports are that residents of of the Rockaway neighborhood ran toward the scene of the crash, to lend assistance and help rescue people. People seeing things that need to be done, and doing...

Of course, Wall Street is behaving very stupidly right now - what's new...

Update 12:14 - Ari Fliescher, speaking from The White House, contradicts claims from "government officials" that the FBI is looking at reports of an explosion onboard the aircraft. More mixed signals?... He also makes the point that I alluded to in an earlier update - planes were crashing before Sep 11, and they'll continue to crash after today...

Tragedy Strikes NYC Again
Will Vehrs
I'm totally numbed as I watch the awful images from CNN: smoke billowing from a plane crash. Details are sketchy, but an American Airlines 767 has gone done in a Queens neighborhood. For a city and nation that has suffered so much, this is another punishing blow.

Give Blood in Presidential Election Years Only
Will Vehrs
The new and improved Quasipundit Forum has gotten the first of hopefully many substantive posts in response to our ramblings or the great issues of the day. Joseph Britt reports that he was recently disqualified from giving blood due to some long ago international globe-trotting. He thought nothing of it until he read that the Red Cross was burning blood. It appears that the Red Cross is trying to limit the amount of blood coming into the system. There's a huge danger here. Lots of blood donors will undoubtably be angry about the blood burning; others who have an experience like Joe's might be angry about the new criteria for donating--if they even try to donate again.

Tony and I are anxious to get commentary in the Forum. Please use it to guide and chide us.

Sunday, November 11, 2001
Musings from Down Under
Tony Adragna
An Australian with whom I ocassionaly correspond through email sent me this poem today:

Somewhere in America
Somewhere in America her poets are typing birdsongs onto paper trees.
Somewhere in America someone is insuring sacred objects with better skins.
Somewhere in America a red haired woman is varnishing the nails of the sun's fingers.
Somewhere in America doctors have suspended a live eye in a magnetic field.
Somewhere in America the President is dreaming his wife's nipples are red buttons.
Somewhere in America misery transducers have been slashed to $128.50...

There are more lines, but you get the picture. He then signs off with, "Well sometimes elections do this to me." He's obviosly not too happy that John Howard, the Liberal MP for Bennelong (NSW) retained the premiership. I don't see what America has to do with that - New South Wales is a hell of a long way from America, and I doubt that most Americans have even heard of Bennelong. Well, see, Mr. Howard got a photo-op with Mr. Bush at the APEC summit, as a "thank you" for supporting US efforts in our current war - the correspondent is against our efforts.

Somewhere in Australia Kim Beazley is trying to figure out what happened...

Great Minds Think Alike
Will Vehrs
Yes, Tony, you can be the "Chris Mathews of online non-professional punditry," but you'll have to be like Chris--write in all caps (cyber yelling) and never let me get an edge in wordwise. Or vice versa.

I've been hard at work all week, gathering print pundit material for Wednesday's Punditwatch. So much for my original thoughts. You read George Will today and extracted exactly the same quote I was going to use! Andrew Sullivan chose the same quote I was going to use from Paul Krugman's New York Times column today as his "Begala Award" selection. I'll be reduced to commenting on Ann Coulter by the time Wednesday rolls around.

The great minds at the Washington Post shamelessy lift material from your essay after you write it. What am I doing wrong?

A woman on "wargames"
Tony Adragna
The days of chivalry are long gone, and, to tell the truth, I don't think that women ever really did need the coddling protection that men thrust upon them. Kathy Kinsley (no relation) makes the point very clearly that women are just as capable (though, not as well represented) as men when it comes to war. This isn't a new phenomenon either - Joan of Arc, and Elizabeth I, are two women who imediately come to mind.

... and Who's Reading QuasiPundit?
Tony Adragna
I just turned to the WaPo's editorial page, and found their bit on Veterans' Day. Seems that I'm not the only one coming in "From Left Field" - does the WaPo's editorial board read QuasiPundit? That would be somethin'...

And George Will takes on all of the recent QuasiPundit issues (plus one: the Ford & United cashierings) in his assessment of factors going into '02 - bottom line: " 2002 may reward those who are not risk-averse, and may punish those who do not have ideas for the further churning of America." I agree (though, I am, as I forever am, hopeful that it's the Dems who put George's advice to best use)

A must read is "Mister" Buckley's recent essay on the Oregon assisted suicide "imbroglio" (I love his use of our language). As usual, Bill gets "deep" on us - not offering any answers, but calling to mind all the right questions. I remember reinventing an old saw during the "stem cell" debate when I commented that "Old Age is wasted on the Elderly":

"Everybody is talking about when human life begins as if the sine qua non of being 'human' is something other than human biology. If that's the case, then when does 'human life end. Could it be at some point before biological death?"

OK, so all I do is ask questions, too. But, you know how we philosophy majors (me) are...

BTW: Will, I think I've found my "niche" - I'd like to think of myself as the "Chris Matthews" of online non-professional punditry. Can I? Huh, huh - can I?

No Word On the Stimulus Pacakge?
Tony Adragna
I'm surprised that there was no mention of the economy in Punditwatch - did the pundits have nothing to say? I'm trying to do my bit for the economy, Will. I want to go see a movie, but Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone doesn't come out til Nov 16. Movie theatre geedunk sales alone ought to provide a stimulus for the economy (have you priced a pack of Twizlers at a theatre lateley?) - especially if I'm at the movies. I guess I'll just have to eat bison burgers for now.

There's more bad press for the Red Cross. Apparently, they collected too much blood. Something was brought to my attention by William (who works in health care) last week - did you know that the Red Cross actually sells donated blood to hospitals? I understand that they need to recoup the cost of collecting and processing blood & blood products, and the sales are on a non-profit basis, but I would feel more comfortable if they found another way to recoup those costs. I also wish that I were allowed to donate...

Just Class Warfare ...
Will Vehrs
Tony, the problem with Punditwatch is that I have too much good stuff. I indirectly mentioned what the pundits had to say about the stimulus package--the old "class warfare" schtick between Hunt and Novak was all about the stimulus package. Hunt, of course, favors the Democratic plan; Novak the Republican (minus all the "pork"). Senator John Edwards (D,NC), the oft-mentioned potential nominee in 2004, was a guest on the show (The Capital Gang). He said all the right things in a centrist tone, never taking Bush on, but tut-tutting House Republicans.

I long ago predicted that fallout from charitable activities after the 9/11 attacks would be the big story of the winter. This blood burning just makes me shake my head. Somehow the Red Cross, overwhelmed by the unprecedented patriotic giving of the American people, couldn't figure out a way to say NO to more blood and more money than they could possibly disburse.

Punditwatch Update
This week's TV Punditwatch has just been posted ... Tony, I forgot to mention the "Plug of the Week." George Will came out four square for J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter over Microsoft's new game contraption. I know you're a big Harry Potter fan ....

Aren't You Supposed to be Watching the Tube?
Tony Adragna
Yes Will, I was very upset about the comments section going down (I've had to sneak into the fray to get my fill of Joe's commentary). But, it was actually a fortunate ocurrence, since it forced me to look for something better - I like the ability to post in threads. Maybe we'll get some good discussions going between readers (I hope).

Now, get back in front of that "tube", I'm looking forward to PunditWatch...

Start Those Cards and Letters to Quasipundit Again!
Will Vehrs
Tony, the comments section after Quasipundit entries hasn't been working the past few days. JulieC and Joseph Britt, old friends from Slate's Fray, were among those who pointed out this unfortunate situation. Now we know why! A new and improved comments system has been installed. I've tested both a comment and a reply. It works! That's a high compliment (made tentatively, of course), especially after being one who endured Slate's glitch-plagued redesign.

So, Quasipundit, Punditwatch, and From Left Field readers, please send us your comments, questions, suggestions and gripes.

As we've noted in this humble blog, today is Veterans Day. Tony, that your first From Left Field essay was on the meaning of this holiday is telling. One "holiday" we failed to note was the three month anniversary of Instapundit, IMHO, the "gold standard" of amateur mezine. I know that Glenn Reynolds helped inspire you, Tony, to start Quasipundit, just as he inspired many of us to think more critically as the Slate Frayster known as A.G. Android. The veteran who founded Quasipundit and the veteran who makes up the staff salute Glenn. That mezines and blogs, bastions of free speech, flourish in America is due in no small part to the veterans who have consistently defended this country in war or stood by to defend it in peace.