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Saturday, December 08, 2001
Speaking of tribunals
Tony Adragna
I was cruising around, and during my stop at Brian's spot I noticed this very interesting item on "Elf Tribunals". This story touches on all of my pet peeves - unions, overbearing megalomaniacs, spiteful little people...

Let's back up a step...
Tony Adragna
OK Will, I've had a little time to reflect. It seems that Mr. Ashcroft's statement wasn't aimed at policy foes. Well, who else would it be aimed at? I think that this is blatant spin control, but let's give Mr. Ashcroft the benefit of the doubt and examine the issues that concern him.

It seems that he's concerned about things like use of the word "eavesdropping" to describe "monitoring of some attorney-client conversations". He's got a point, it's not "eavesdropping" if those being monitored are aware of the monitoring (eavedropping is by definition "secret", but everybody knows, including those subject to monitoring). Mr. Ashcroft also objects to the opinion that focusing on Arab aliens is "racial profiling". Well, I don't know what else to call it. The current profiling may be rationally justifiable (though I've argued that it isn't effective) since it's targeting foreign nationals from specific countries. But, it's perfectly reasonable to call it "racial profiling" - all of the foreign nationals being profiled are Arabs, from Arab countries. OK, those countries all share a history of Islamist extremist terrorism, and that justifies giving people from Arab countries extra scrutiny - it's still "racial profiling", it just happens to pass scrutiny.

If this is the case that Mr. Ashcroft is making, then I'll concede, but allow me a fair reading of his comments. The critics, many of whom support the war, have raised valid issues, and it's beyond the pale to suggest, as he does, that those who read the administration's action in a not so pretty light are "traitors"

And, since Mr. Ashcroft is so concerned about "misinformation" let's hear a little criticism from him of his own supporters who have, and still continue, to blur the line between tribunals and courts-martial. I understand that the DoJ isn't the competent authority on military tribunals, but the A.G. is still responsible for defending the legality and constitutionality of presidential actions, and the suggestion that it's unfair to criticise the A.G. on the tribunal issue is really disingenuous since the president relied on advice from Justice in making the decision. I wonder how much of that 90% approval rating would disappear if people understood that they're being misled on some issues that really don't need to be spun.

I accept that some "liberal lefties" are guilty of irresponsible mischaracterizations in their criticism of the administration, but some of the "VRWC" types are just as guily in their criticism of the opposition. Yes, Mr. Ashcroft, let's have some rational debate. I'll agree to be rational (as I always am) if you agree to admonish you own supporters to do the same - a good place to start would be distancing yourself from your own polemics.

Back to Politics as Usual
Will Vehrs
Tony, glad to see you back in the Quasipundit saddle. I was beginning to worry.

I'll be sure and have MACREDO send a threatening letter to your recycler. Failing to pick up the bin you've meticulously prepared should at least be a midemeanor. Oops, you don't want to criminalize non-recyclers ....

As you know, I've never been much of a Clinton supporter, but I have never joined the "blame Clinton" chorus in the aftermath of September 11th. In hindsight, every administration could have done more in one area of the world or another, or attacked this or that problem with more vigor. The fact is that this is a big, confusing world and this country has a sprawling bureaucracy. Presidents have priorities and must make decisions that balance the ideal with the possible. There simply wasn't the national will to go after terrorism before September 11th. As much as I deplore the "blame Clinton" mantra, I also reject the self-serving spin Clintonites put on their actions, often before anyone questioned their strategies. The "permanent campaign" really is permanent. Our view of foreign policy changed irrevocably after September 11th. We have had to start over. What came before is largely irrelevant now, except as a series of cautionary tales.

On the home front, politics as usual is returning with a vengence, it seems to me. Gary Condit is running again. Critics blast Attorney General Ashcroft in the most vituperative terms, then are shocked when he responds in kind. A trade bill passes by one vote. Pinning the blame for the recession through TV ads is more important than doing something about it. It's depressing and fascinating at the same time.

I've got a whole lot of punditry to wade through ... it's amazing how much one misses in just two days away from the maelstrom. Punditwatch should never be allowed to rest.

A.G. Ashcroft's polemics..
Tony Adragna
I wasn't going to comment on Ashcroft's comments on the Hill, but everybody else is, so here goes.

The great problem with Mr. Ashcroft's "formulation" is that it's a purley emotinal argument dependant upon rational ignorance. The fact that most Americans supposedly (I still don't trust polls because of "framing effects") find it much more economical to let Ashcroft have his way (or don't seem to be concerned enough ) rather than asking the critical questions is troubling, but Mr. Ashcroft's condemnation of those who are asking questions is even more troubling.

Now we have to ask Mr. Ashcroft another question: are you, somewhere deep in your heart, also at war with everything that you hate about America? I'm not simply being snide - Mr. Ashcroft wouldn't be the first to use a real emergency to advance some other agenda, and he's not the only person doing so now. The "liberal lefties" have been accused (correctly in some instances) of using Sep 11th to advance an anti-conservative agenda, but might not the A.G. and his party be doing the same thing in reverse? It's a valid question, no matter where you come down on the answer.

I don't have an answer - yet. But the polemics are still troubling...

The Dec 7th analogy...
Tony Adragna
Welcome back Will! I unapologetically took the day off from quasi-punditry yesterday - ostensibly to let the "real" pundits catch up with me (that's what I convinced myself of, anyway). The truth is that I've been doing some very important, yet mind-numbing, work. I've barely had time to read the WaPo let alone any other newspapers. Thanks again to the several readers who have brought some juicy tidbits to my attention, otherwise I might not have had anything to say on Thursday.

As you know, Dec 7th is a day that has several degrees of significance for me. I considered sharing my thoughts on the subject, but I couldn't think of anything pithy to say. About the only thing that I can come up with is the dissimilarities between the two points in history. Sure, both events were surprise attacks, and have moved the country toward doing a deed that can't go undone, but Sep 11th was much worse than Dec 7th. The attack on Pearl Harbor was at least a "legitimate" use of military force against a military target. The real atrocities in that war came before and after Pearl Harbor (i.e. Nanking and Bataan). The lesson of Sep 11th is that we can no longer afford to wait for thugs to bring the fight to us - that lesson cost us 5000+ innocent lives in New York, and there's nothing in US history comparable.

While I'm on the subject - everybody's taking up the "Clinton coulda done something" banner (thanks for the heads-up, MommaBear). I won't deny that the Clinton administration (for the love of God - please stop the ad hominem arguments people!) screwed the pooch, but there's alot of "Monday morning quarterbacking" going on. We could've used all of that information, but it's not so clear that we would have been able to prevent anything that has happened subsequently. It's also disingenuous to argue that the Clinton administration did nothing with the information that it got after the Khobar Towers bombing. By the time of the attacks on the embassies in Africa bin Laden was already in Afghanistan, and our attempts to get him there (which the right-leaning press is leaving out of the picture) were given the same kind of treatment by Mullah Omar as the Bush administration's diplomatic efforts. Sorry folks, the only thing that would've prevented what we're going through now is what we're going through now - a war on thuggery. I could ask "how many people would have called for war prior to Sep 11?". I'm afraid that I'll get alot of "false positives"...

Um, since you asked...
Tony Adragna
Could you do something about my recycler? They don't always pick up our bins...

OK, I think that recycling is the best thing since the disposable razor, but ought it be mandatory? I know of a few local jurisdictions where code enforcement personnel actually check curbside garbage for recyclables - and fine for non-compliance. College Park even insists on a certain type of "refuse cart" for regular trash (which they do provide for free, along with recycling bins). I recycle because it's the right thing to do, I just have a problem with making non-recyclers criminals.

Friday, December 07, 2001
Tony, Do You Recycle?
Will Vehrs
I'm back from my MACREDO conference in beautiful Lewes, Delaware. Sorry I'm so late posting, but after arriving home from my 300 mile drive, I was informed that I'd be attending a "living nativity" performance tonight.

In case you didn't click on the link, MACREDO is a regional recycling organization, not a a McDonalds waste product or funky dance. All is not well in the recycling ranks. Commodity markets for paper, plastic, glass and other recyclables are in the dumper. State agencies that oversee recycling claim they don't have enough money and some complain that they don't have enough people to audit the "entrepreneurs" who receive government grants to start recycling businesses that invevitably fizzle. The highlight of this meeting was the tour of a Perdue plant that turns chicken waste into fertilizer. Thankfully, the plant anticipated tours when it was designed, so it built a glassed in walkway for us to observe the process. Even with that bit of consideration, the odor was unmistakeable and almost overwhelming.

I don't know the status of our Forum, er, Refuge ... I haven't had much of a chance to catch up on things, but I'd be interested in knowing what you and our readers think of recycling--government mandating it, bottle bills, quality of products with "recycled content," problems with curbside or drop-off recycling, etc., etc. ... anything anyone wants to sound off about regarding recycling. Will it save the planet or is it just a pain?

As I drove back, my colleague Steve and I listened to President Bush's speech, broadcast live by local Hampton Roads, VA radio stations. It's seldom that one gets to hear a full presidential speech, unless it's a nationally televised set-piece address. Bush was not particularly eloquent today, or particularly inspiring on a grand scale, but he seemed to connect with his audience of service members on the USS Enterprise. He tied Pearl Harbor to the current confIict effectively. I felt moved by his words as I drove--his simple message of persevering in a patient way for a noble cause just resonates with me and, I think, most of the country.

Let me get up to speed on what's happening in the world and what you've been saying about me while I was gone ... it's good to be back. I really missed blogging.

Thursday, December 06, 2001
And reason comes to my rescue...
Tony Adragna
Gotta love those guys at Spinsanity! I can stop "bouncing off the walls" now - Brendan takes up where I left off. And, as he points out, the "if it's good enough..." rhetoric hasn't stopped. In fact, it may have even gotten worse. Don't believe me? - read what Brendan quotes from people who oughta know better... Remember, you heard all these arguments here at QP first, Spinsanity just does a better job at delivery...

More late starters
Tony Adragna
Joe Califano jumps on the bandwagon to pull in the reins on a runaway team. Granted, we're nowhere near a "police state", but the only reason that this is true is that we've always checked the power of our govenment. Mr. Califano has some valid concerns that do need to be addressed, and the same goes for questions being asked by Senators Kennedy, Leahy, and Grassley (thanks for taking down Ashcroft for me, Brian - your phraseology is much better).

The only question I have for Califano is: where were you when this non-professional unpaid web jounalist was making the same point?

In fairnness, Califano did offer an option on airport security that neither Will nor I bothered to talk about - beefing up local airport authority police. This gives you the advantage of a "sworn police officer" handling security without having to "federalize"...

There's more than one Berry in DC
Tony Adragna
"This sounds like a bizzaro world where Berry is an insane southern governor and Kirsanow is the first black college freshman." - That's what QP reader Matt Drachenberg says about a Washington Times story on Mary Frances Berry's refusal to swear in a Bush appointment to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and I agree.

Now wait a minute - I'm not saying that the WT has become a respectable paper all of a sudden, but even mean spirited people can stumble onto an exceptional truth that proves their rule: Mary Frances Berry is that exception. I would normally look deeper into a WT story, but anybody who saw Berry in action during the hearings on voting rights violations has to admit that the folks at WT are on target this time.

Thanks for the heads-up, Matt!

Sure do look purty
Tony Adragna
... too bad it's a "slice of bovine excrement!" There are Mac users (which I'm not), PC users (they rule), and then there are I-Mac users - today I was an I-Mac user, but not out of choice ( hey, I was just happy to get an assignment, but I do apologize for the paucity of posts). What's wrong with the I-Mac?(thanks for asking). Well, you know how these types of deals are supposed to take the best of both and produce something truly "WOW"ing? Well, I think what happened is that they took the worst of the two and came up with something that's really nothing more than a mental execise in "the act itself". Why am I ranting about this now? It's the first time I've ever used a Mac...!

I mean, what's with this one-button mouse? I really missed my right mouse button today! I needed to do a lot of "cut & paste", but the only option that the I-Mac gives me is using the menu, or using the stupid ctrl+key commands (actually, it's a "funny little function button"+key command). It was faster for me to just retype the stuff - who remembers keystroke commands!

But, it's a great site that I'm at - Very Special Arts is an international non-profit that funds arts programs for disabled people. Their downtown DC office is a virtual gallery of very wonderful artwork produced by disabled people, and most of it is for sale.

Well, let me do some reading now... be back later!

The reinforcements have arrived
Tony Adragna
I just wanna know - where were Jacob Weisberg (see item below from yesterday), Ken Layne, and Andrew Sullivan back on Oct 25th when I defended Rational Liberals?

Wednesday, December 05, 2001
Is this a real phenomenon?
Tony Adragna
Jonah Goldberg talks about the rift on the "right" (thanks Dan), Matt Welch talks about the rift on the "right" (thanks Cal) - what happened to bashing the "left"?

Actually, I've only seen anecdotal evidence of any changing attitudes on the right. It could very well be that these are sentiments that my conservative friends all held prior to 9/11 (I have some anecdotal evidence of my own), but would never have expressed for fear of lost "standing". Could also be that these sentiments aren't genuine, but any other sentiment would result in outrage.

I'll wait til I see some real changes before I make a determination - talk is cheap...

If he only knew...
Tony Adragna
Hey Brian, you're only 33% correct in disassociating me with The Onion's comments. I really don't mind being called "weirdo" (I am moderately eccentric), but I do draw the line at "creepy" (I'm actually quite amiable), and "middle-aged" is fightin' words (I'm only 36, and I've been told that look a bit younger - though not recently, SIGH ).

I love The Onion, too!

Enough about me, now that Will is away we can talk about him...

Democratic Dominatrix
Tony Adragna
I think it's great that Nancy got the Whip, but I'm still not satisfied - I'd like to see a female Speaker! Really, we all know that it's the women who run a House...

Found something interesting at InstaPundit this morning - an anti-war site that supports our current war - it's a must read! "Crash" agrees (not surprisingly)! He had previously said that my Vet's Day essay was almost a justification for war, but I really intended it as a justification for fighting back against thugs. Looks like some people in the "anti-war" movement are finally getting the message: give a thug the other cheek and he's not gonna be happy til he's "Saddamized" you! (misspelling intentional) BTW: I never lost my fatih in American youth...

A good piece on the "anti-war movement" is Jacob Weiberg's "Left Behind". Jacob does a good job of taking down pundits who have overplayed the link between their anti-war colleagues and some larger "anti-war" movement. He also proves the irrelevancy of what anti-war opinion does exist, both vis a vis the real limited size of that movement and the eccentricities of some of the movement's "spokespersons". Another must read.

I need to go read the op-ed pages now - be back later...

Punditwatch Is Up!
Will Vehrs
Hawks and Doves, pundit feuds, ghosts, and Don Imus with a hose are all a part of this week's print Punditwatch. Now I leave for my "pundit-free" trip to Delaware. I should be back at the Quasipundit desk by Friday night.

My heartfelt sorrow and deep appreciation go out to the American soldiers killed or injured by the just reported friendly fire incident. As the President and Defense Secretary have repeatedly said, this is a long and difficult struggle, confounded by a "fog of war" that is even thicker than most conflicts have seen. God bless our fighting men and women.

Punditwatch is Manwatch
Will Vehrs
Good morning, Tony. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post has an interesting article this morning on the gender make-up of guests on the Sunday political talk shows. It turns out that

Women represent only 10.7 percent of guests on the five major network shows, according to a study being released today by the White House Project, a New York-based group that promotes women in leadership positions.

"It's a vicious cycle," says Marie Jones, the project's chairman and president of the Ms. Foundation. "It's probably easier to get people who you've known, who you've seen, who've got juice, like John McCain. I think there are women who have juice, but it takes a little time to get on and show you have juice."

As you know, I'm the ultimate aficionado of Sunday talk and I've certainly noticed the paucity of female perspective, but I had no idea the scales were that unbalanced. Think how bad it would be if not for Condoleezza Rice! To be honest, I have been surprised that so few of the vaunted female Democratic Senators (and Republicans, too--Collins, Snowe, & Hutchinson) have been tapped by the leadership to appear on the shows. I'll be curious to see if new Democratic whip Nancy Pelosi starts getting booked and shows "juice."

Yes, I did see Mickey Kaus' dust-up with Kutter--great stuff. Kaus is always feuding--his battles with Jeffrey Toobin are legendary. I'm off to write print Punditwatch--mostly male pundits there, too.

Almost Forgot--Another Kaus "Katch"
Will Vehrs
Tony, as I often do, I sometimes leave something out of Punditwatch that I meant to include. E. J. Dionne, Jr. had a column this week that sounded reasonable:

Recession has now struck. And with welfare reform up for renewal next year, you might presume that its critics would be demanding the law's repeal.

But that is not happening. Instead, a coalition of organizations that work on behalf of the poor has adopted a different objective: It says it will be fighting to make welfare reform work as well as its advocates claimed it would.

Kaus went back and showed just how bitter Dionne had been about welfare reform when it was first passed, asserting it would be a disaster. When Kaus gets you in his sights, watch out!

Tuesday, December 04, 2001
When Johnnie come marching home...
Tony Adragna leg irons, thank God. You know, Will, there was a good question posed during a Senate hearing this morning: would this John Walker Lindh freak be subject to prosecution by military commission? The answer is yes, even though the president's order (taking the admin at it's word) only applies to non-citizens - the nexus is his involvement with al Qaeda. Tell the truth, I'd rather he be tried by military commission as a war criminal - if there's anybody who doesn't deserve the "full panoply of constitutional protection" it's him. Oh, and I agree with Anne wholeheartedly... I've always admonished people to be careful about word usage, especially when people refuse to use the proper word - he is a TRAITOR!

I did note that the traitor and I share two links - Northern California and DC. I've never lived in Montgomery County, though, else I might have turned out just like him (NOT!!!). I am glad that I'm now living in PG County rather than one of the aforementioned three places, which have all been the brunt of ridicule recently...

About that Senate hearing I was watching this morning - it seems that the problem with the order is that it "really isn't an order", it's more "like a notice of proposed regulation." Well, the problem is that it was isssued as an Executive Order, and the things that I've been worried about have nothing to do with the "regulations to follow". If the president never intended for that order to be as broad as it is at plain language, then why not draft an order with the narrower language? Anyway, all of the lawyers on the panel (with the exception of the guy from Cato) agreed that as the clarifications come along, and the scope is narrowed, the "funny feelings" are disappearing. The only real sticking point is that we still haven't seen the actual procedural rules - if they meet some minimum standards (not the same standards as at federal court - agreed), then we withdraw our reservations.

I'll pass on Easterbrook - I know nothing of football or T&A... that's your department.

I knew that Warner embraced guns, but NASCAR and Bluegrass music? OH well, "we gotta get elected, too"... I'm not sure about running against the other Warner, though. He's one of those politicians who is popular with alot of folks in the other party (my party) - with good reason. Besides, he's one of those Liz Taylor throwaways who will always have my sympathy.

Did you read Mickey's update on the Reich post? Seems like he's in a bit of a cat-fight with Robert Kutter over some "cheap shots" that Mickey took (probably the "short schtick" comment in re Reich). Kutter lobs back a "vanity webletter" comment (refering to kausfiles). I think they're both hitting below the belt... how low do you gotta stoop to hit Reich below the belt?

"Just a little off the sides..."
Tony Adragna
Some more evidence of brutality from Afghanistan - shave your beard, loose your nose & ears, too. Thanks for the heads up, Dan!

I still haven't finished my reading assignments, Will (had to do some stuff around the house). I'll be back later...

Guilty Pleasures
Will Vehrs
Some people read romance novels for relaxation; others read Tom Clancy thrillers. I read "true crime" books--the factual accounts of murderers and serial killers. One of the all-time serial killer stories may finally be ready for an author to tackle authoritatively. The Green River Killer has been credited with the deaths of 49 women in the 1980's, most of them runaways and prostitutes. There have been many suspects in this State of Washington case, but no arrrests--until last week.

Gary Ridgway, 52, linked by DNA evidence to several of the victims, has been arrested. He goes before a judge for the first time on Wednesday. Meanwhile, police are digging in his backyard. The answers to this horrific series of crimes may be near and a blockbuster "true crime" book won't be far behind. Assuming Mr. Ridgway is guilty, it will be a story of dogged police work and never giving up, even for victims that are not always sympathetic.

Reading all the "true crime" books that I have has strengthened my support for the death penalty. There are monstrous predators among us. Ridgway, if he is guilty, is one: a factory worker by day, a killer of the weak and voiceless by night. We show no respect for life if we spare such a killer the death he so calculatingly inflicted on others.

Treason and T&A
Will Vehrs
Great Anne Applebaum column in Slate, Tony. She notes how the media is tiptoeing around John Walker, the US Taliban fighter. She's made up her mind:

I'm very sorry for John Walker's parents and am indeed very sorry for John Walker, who has made some bad choices at a young age. Nevertheless, he has committed treason—and I think we should have the courage to say so.

I'm with Anne.

I'm not so much with Gregg Easterbrook and his Tuesday Morning Quarterback (TMQ) Slate column. Last season I thought TMQ was the funniest and most original sports column I'd ever seen. This year, it's still funny, but Mr. Easterbrook is a little full of himself, in my opinion, straying too much from sports and into long reveries on "mega babes" and providing links to NFL cheerleader pics (links I never click on, of course ....) I'm no prude, but I subscribe to the Seinfeld theory of cleavage--it's like looking into the sun. Don't stare. In this case, a little bit goes a long way, but Easterbrook goes on and on today. More football and less T&A, TMQ.

Special Announcement
The new QuasiPundit Forums are up and running. Three cheers for our favourite "Bellicose Woman" and proprietor of "On the Third Hand" - Kathy Kinsley! Huzzah! Huzzah! HUZZAH!!

n.b.: the link to the Old Forum is still up on the left, below above the scrolling news. It will go away at the end of the week.

If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em
Will Vehrs
There was a lot of crowing about Democrat Mark Warner's victory in the Virginia Governor's race at the "American Democracy Conference" held yesterday. Much was made of how Warner won in normally Republican rural areas by stressing economic populism and downplaying social issues. I was struck by this:

Jenny Backus, the communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee . . . said the Democrats also plan to run candidates who are pro-gun and pro-life in selected congressional districts next year.

Hmmm. How big is that Democratic tent, Tony? The late Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey must be smiling.

Thanks for the time off--you're such a pushover. Wait until I hit you up for vacation! I'll post from Delaware if I'm able to find a computer, but I suspect that the accommodations will be pretty spartan. I'll fill everyone in on cutting edge recycling issues when I get back.

Leave approved
Tony Adragna
On one condition - you have to send To: Any Service Member... Holiday Messages from Home. There's not a whole lot that us vets can do ('specially since they won't let us back in), but we can do this. In fact, anybody with a 'puter can do this, and should.(thanks to our friend MommaBear for the link)

Haven't seen those "M" cigs. I've been sticking to "Basics" lately - they're Philip Morris' "generic" brand, cost a whole dollar less that Marlboro's, ad tast exactly the same. I'll have to see if I can find a link to that feature...

Selling Cancer for Christmas
Will Vehrs
Tony, as Quasipundit's unrepentent consumer of tobacco products, I'm wondering if you've seen or heard of Philip Morris' new "holiday" cigarette, "M." The Wall Street Journal's advertising feature, written by Gordon Fairclough, covers a flap over the new product. "M" is being touted as "A Special Blend for a Special Season," with point of sale signs that have green and red paisley backgrounds that look like wrapping paper. They say, "Season's Greetings from Marlboro Country." Anti-tobacco activists are "livid," according to Fairclough. "It's selling cancer for Christmas," says Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He wants Philip Morris to withdraw the product, saying the slogan should be "'M' is for murder." What is it, Tony--innocent marketing campaign or insidious "Big Tobacco" plot?

I guess I'm okay with it as long as those Kensington Santas aren't putting promo boxes in the stockings of good little boys and girls ....

Yes, we all ought to lighten up, especially when a writer is a HUMOR COLUMNIST. Another humor columnist I cited a while back accused you of being a Harry Potter dweeb and you didn't get all bent out of shape. And I'm not offended by your humorous efforts to tie my lack of "excite" at home with the latest from excite@home.

While you're in a jocular mood, Tony, I need a few days off. I have a conference in Delaware on Thursday and Friday--I have to leave tomorrow after I post print Punditwatch. I know I haven't worked here very long--some might say I haven't worked at all--but I promise to make it up to you. I'll buy you a carton of "M's" for Christmas ... The conference center is near the beach. What great timing--the beach in December.

Get a sense of humor!
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, you ever read Gene Weingarten's stuff in The Washington Post Magazine? The reason why I ask is because I think some people have taken Gene's "armpit of America" piece a bit too seriously - actually, waaay toooo seriousleee.

OK everybody, let me clue y'all in - Gene Weingarten is a HUMOR COLUMNIST. He writes a regular feature titled "Below the Beltway" for the magazine. Read some of his other columns - he's hilarious! The feature title - Below the Beltway - is a joke unto itself.

Lighten up people! Sheesh, we still gotta laugh!

BTW: The Hank Stuevant item that some people took a a rant against Harry Potter was of the same ilk as Gene's columns - Hank just wrote his column as a weekday "Below the Beltway".

Monday, December 03, 2001
Did we ever go off alert?
Tony Adragna
Tom Ridge says we're still on alert but also says that "The president also reminded all of us that a terrorism alert is not a signal to stop your life..." Hey, Guv'na, that's what we're all doin'...

Drugs aren't the answer!
Tony Adragna
What's the question? How does Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds get all of that posting done? No, he's not tweeking on crystal, that's not the answer. I know what it is, though - he's a robosex luv'n android. I knew this all along, and if anybody had bothered to ask I would've happily shared my knowledge.

Will's woes at home
Tony Adragna
Er...ummm.. I mean Will's AtHome woes - I see you got a reprieve, Will!

Who wants to meet me in Kensington - for a drink!
Tony Adragna
Hey folks, Kensington did something right - for the first time in over 100 years you can get an alcoholic beverage in Kensington, MD. The change to the city's ordinance was approved last year, but a restaurant just opened where Kensingtonians can now imbibe in their own community. WOOHOO, now they can put away what they were smoking (or, just pass it over to me), and invite the county council over for a cocktail...
(sorry, no link to this item - I just heard it on Newschannel 8 but it's not on their website)

Afghan Melt II
Tony Adragna
Anybody want more evidence that the "foreign Talibs" aren't really interested in surrendering? Try reading the WaPo story about "A Brush With Disaster At Taloqan's Hospital" . "Wounded" Taliban soldiers booby trapped themselves, were admitted to a hospital (even though it was known that they were foreign Taliban supporters - non discrimnation, you see), and were biding their time hoping for someone important to blow up.

I read the John Walker story, but you missed the point that OpinionJouranl made:
"'Everyone who knows him loves him,' his mother also says. 'Everyone expected him to become a scholar.' Well, talib does mean 'student.'"(quoting OpinionJournal)

Definitely - TREASON. Just let one foreign journalist try to cry foul over that one... I also read the posts from Joe, and WillA, nothing to add there.

We Need Some Wizardry in the Middle East
Will Vehrs
Interesting review of HP, Tony. I think a fan of the subject writes a better review than someone with studied detachment. I liked your rating system ....

I like Brian "AintNoBadDude" Linse, too, but sometimes his choice of words is ... well, a bit rough for my tastes. We all have our own styles, though. He smokes a cigar while he reads Punditwatch--gotta love that.

Looks like we'll have an early test of the Bush Administration's terrorist legal strategy with John Walker Lindh/Abdul Hamid, captured after the shootout at the prison in Mazar-e-Sharif. Walker appears to be a US citizen who went from studying Islam in Pakistan to fighting for the Taliban. His case will be a test for the "bellicose women theory." Already his parents are saying he had to have been brainwashed and that he was "a sweet, shy kid." He might have to use that defense at a trial for treason--a trial, not a tribunal.

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger was on The News Hour tonight. He seemed visibly agitated and extremely concerned. He said the situation in the Middle East was out of control, or nearly so. Usually the foreign policy establishment rallies during a crisis and sees hope no matter what, but this latest flare-up seems to have left everyone throwing out the old playbook. I think Joseph Britt summed things up well in our Forum:

Exasperating as I have found Israeli policy and the many Americans who over the years have demanded that American interests be identified with Israeli interests, no people as enthusiastic as the Palestinians are about barbarous tactics like suicide bombs has any business being allowed to govern itself. Until they are able to curb that enthusiasm America has no interest in helping them get anything they want.

Check out Will Allen and MarkD, too.

Tony, I noticed in the Slate Fray for David Greenberg's article than you linked that our old friend Arthur Stock, no slouch as a historian or lawyer, signed on to your analysis. Now that's a contribution to the debate.

That funny feeling in my tummy
Tony Adragna
Hey, read Brian (AintNoBadDude) Linse's take on the Israeli/Palestinian issue, and what the US oughta do. He concludes:

"And how fucked up is it that a liberal like me has to post an opinion like this?

Fuckin' Osama bin Laden.... "

Hey, I'm right there with you, Brian. And Will, that funny feeling is gone - at least when it comes to agreeing with Krauthammer...

Santa's last Huzzah
Tony Adragna
Actually, more like Santa got the last laugh. That's right folks, despite the town Of Kensington's effort to ban Santa from the annual Christmas tree lighting (in fairness, only at the request of two very unjolly citizens), Santa showed up anyway.

Who was it that came to Santa's rescue? Would you believe it? - a volunteer fireman, that's who! I don't have enough heart to send our fireman what they deserve, so maybe all of you can join me in sending out some heart to those wonderful people!

(Disclaimer: I've fought a few fires, and know quite a few volunteer firefighters - one of them is a housemate - so I knew all about these wonderful people before 9/11. I love them even more now)

QP pointage
Tony Adragna
Take credit where it's due, Will, it's better than you think. As well as the issues that you cite there's also the following:

William Raspberry picks up our education debate: we're all correct.

On the tribunal/habeas corpus issue, my call for the "Big Boys" to tackle the distinction between "tribunals" & normal military courts (courts-martial) has produced a plethora of on point opinions, and David Greenberg at Slate even uses the same Ex parte Merryman link that I used.

I think we've contributed alot to current debate - even where we might have been wrong, at least the debate is taking place. I'm not so arrogant as to think that we've been giving the "Big Boys" their cues, but ya never know...

Not holding my breath...
y'all don't hold yours
Tony Adragna
Hey Will! After the long wait, my "review" is published!

On the RFK quibble, I could say the same thing about that veneralbe old hulk in my beloved San Francisco - alot of people have fond memories of Keizar Stadium, but that doesn't make it any less of a decrepit old hulk.

You already know my response to the Middle East - my backhanded agreement with Krauthammer still stands. I'm still one of those who thinks that Arafat really does want peace, but I've iterated and reiterated that what Arafat want's doesn't matter - he can't get the job done. The only thing that a general PA crackdown on the extremists will produce is Arafat's death. That might signal the willingness of somebody on the Palestinian side to die for "peace", but I'm not holding my breath - Arafat's not the martyr type. The only solution is for somebody to go in there and clean the terrorists' clocks, and since Arafat is either unwilling or unable to do it, the Israelis shouldn't hesitate (and the US should let it happen). And, since HAMAS & Islmaic Jihad are now killing Palestinians in the bombings, I'll venture a bet that the "Arab street" (just like the "Afghan street") won't wail too loudly over Israeli action (as long as it's "targeted").

My solution to "districting" - repeal that stupid law that limits the size of House membership to 435. Let the House grow! More seats, more competitiveness! There's an intersting side effect - it'll be more difficult to get things done, ergo, less chance for them to screw things up! (OK, I'm only being half serious - you figure out which half)

Advantage, Quasipundit?
Will Vehrs
I'm still relatively new to this blogging stuff, but one thing to savor is getting ahead of the professional pundit class or even the politicians themselves. Quasipundit was ahead of the curve on three recent items. We covered the Philadelphia schools story. Today, that situation is the Wall Street Journal's lead editorial. We've covered the judicial confirmation issue. Today, also in the Wall Street Journal, several Republican Senators have issued a letter making some of our points. Finally, on Saturday, we covered the Robert Reich for Massachusetts Governor story. Mezine royalty Mickey Kaus is covering that story today. Am I claiming cause and effect--QP reports, they cover? Well, no. Am I claiming QP covers the issues faster and better? Well, not that, either, although we can be fast. All I'm saying is that there's something worthwhile to be gained by utilizing unconventional media outlets like Quasipundit and our blogging bretheren.

Of course, I'll not mention all the things we might have gotten wrong ....

Tony, Don't Mess with Hallowed Ground!
Will Vehrs
Tony, Christopher Pellerito, author of the fine Liberty Blog, reports that you corrected him on the non-existence of "Raljon," once erroneously listed as the site of FedEx Field, formerly Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, home of the Washington Redskins. This stadium replaced RFK Stadium in downtown Washington as home of the 'Skins. So far, so good. But then Pellerito says, "He [you, Tony, paisan, goombah, and QP Founder] also contends that RFK was a decrepit old dump -- having never seen a game there, I'll take his word for it. Thanks for the correction, Tony." Say it ain't so!

RFK is sacred ground to this old Washington Senators and Washington Redskins fan. This is the place where Frank Howard hit gargantuan home runs, where Lombardi last coached, where Sonny and Billy played for George Allen ... I could go on and on. RFK is no dump--what happened there and what it represents makes it more akin to an art museum. Don't take my word for it. Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon talked to some Dallas Cowboys yesterday:

The road the police escort uses to bring the Dallas Cowboys to FedEx Field goes right around RFK Stadium. The old Cowboys, notably Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson, nearly genuflect before the ballyard as they pass by. "We've got a lot of young guys who probably have no sense of the rivalry," Woodson said last evening. "But I love RFK, absolutely love it. It's fun to take that ride by it. It was the most fun stadium you could play in. . . . They should have a throwback game there."

Christopher, please don't take Tony's word for it ... he may know Harry Potter, but he doesn't know the glory of RFK ....

The Middle East and Closer to Home
Will Vehrs
Tony, you sure know how to keep us in suspense. That little "teaser" of an HP report whetted our appetite ... as did the mention of that lamb roast.

Middle East There is near universal finger pointing in the direction of Yassir Arafat after the horrific bombings in Israel over the weekend. Senator Hillary Clinton, now a certified bellicose woman, is typical:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton warned on Sunday that the United States would "root out" any terrorist elements in Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority -- just as the Taliban became a U.S. target for harboring al-Qaida.
"The same message must be sent to the Palestinian Authority and to Chairman Arafat: Anyone who harbors or turns a blind eye to terror in their midst will be held accountable," said the senator.

I don't think there's going to be a "counterspin" of sympathy/understanding for Arafat's difficult position or the aspirations of the PLO this time. Patience with terrorism is over. I truly expect the Israeli miliatary response to be one designed to foment a civil war between Arafat and radical organizations such as Hamas. The US will make the obligatory calls for restraint, but they will include a wink and a nod.

If just one of these bombings had occurred in the US, John Ashcroft probably couldn't ride roughshod over enough civil liberties to satisfy the American people.

Political Conventions A New York Times editorial says both the Democrats and Republicans are considering Madison Square Garden for their 2004 conventions. Obviously, it would be grand gesture toward New York City and its resilience after September 11th. How long until we start hearing the dream scenario of political junkies everywhere--a brokered convention, one that goes past the first ballot? It would be high drama in the Big Apple, but, alas, it hasn't happened since '52 and probably won't ever again.

Too bad New York didn't get the Super Bowl. I think that had more to do with TV executives and league officials being afraid that the game might be played in--gasp--cold weather, with either rain or snow preventing the glitterati from glittering.

Redistricting I think I wrote a while back about the dearth of contested congressional races because of the power of partisan computer-assisted redistricting--gerrymandering, if you will. Joann Dann in Sunday's Washington Post had a great piece on this anti-democratic phenomena. A few highlights:

There are still a few states, such as Iowa and Washington, which routinely host some of the most hotly contested congressional elections in the country. It's no coincidence that both states have handed over redistricting to a nonpartisan or bipartisan group -- and that both have a track record of sending independent-minded moderate representatives to Capitol Hill. "I can't believe everyone doesn't use our system," Marlys Popma, executive director of Iowa's Republican Party, told me.

Ironically, the overall decline in competitiveness -- and the House's current fractured state -- can be seen as an unintended consequence of a landmark series of Supreme Court rulings that were intended to open up the political process: the "one-man, one-vote" cases of the 1960s. The court, citing Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, required congressional districts to have roughly the same number of people. Before the court's rulings, districts could be of varying population; boundary lines generally were redrawn only when population changes caused a state to lose or gain a seat.

Creating districts of equal population was clearly a better way to ensure equal political power. But in effect, the court's ruling opened every district to redistricting mischief every 10 years. The process had always been highly political, but now the majority party in each state capitol had a greater opportunity to carve out safe seats. Or, in cases where the two parties share power, they can dicker and bargain over which districts will be primarily Democratic and which will be primarily Republican. Working with increasingly sophisticated computer programs, consultants hired by state legislatures can draw these partisan districts with ever sharper expertise.

Sadly, it would take something like the "Progressive" movement of the past to even have a hope of changing this. There are too many vested interests for large numbers of politicians to take this on. Ironically, more competitive races would bring more money into the political system for a good purpose. Money flowing to unchallenged incumbents is an obvious source of potential corruption, while money flowing to neck and neck competitors would be spent on ads and get out the vote efforts.

Sunday, December 02, 2001
Very Happy (& slightly disappointed)
Tony Adragna
Just got back from HP (I'll post a "review" tomorrow) - took my seat at 6:30 & didn't get out til 9:15. Just some preliminary thoughts: I thought the adult actors overplayed the parts (except Coltrane as "Hagrid" - his performance was perfect). All of the young characters were exactly as I expected - I just wish that there had been more of the Weasley twins (anybody who has read the books knows what "characters" Fred & George can be).

Anyway, I'm eating that lamb roast right now (yes, I finally got around to cooking that, too).

Waiting for Tony's Harry Potter Review? Read Punditwatch!
Will Vehrs
I've just posted the latest TV Punditwatch. Read it while Tony is taking copious notes in a dark movie theater, or after your Lutefisk lunch ....

What is "Lutefisk"
Tony Adragna
Hey Dan! According to Olsen Fish Company: "Literally translated, Lutefisk means lyefish, which refers to the early process of soaking where a lye solution made of birch ashes was used in the luting process.

Today we feel that a new meaning has been given to the work Lutefisk; one that means family, fellowship and good times"

Check out Olsen's Lutefisk Facts page. I like cod, but I'm not sure that I'd like this dish (but then, I'm one of those crazy Sicilians who shouldn't oughta comment on what others do with fish). There is also an UNofficial Lutefisk Website (which includes lyrics to the "Lutefisk Song", and a Scandanavian Canadian American Lutefisk Society.

QP readers ask, and we endeavour to provide answers...

Out of My System
Will Vehrs
Good morning, Tony. I want to apologize for losing my cool and any pretense of blog journalism objectvity last night. I was horrified at the carnage I saw on CNN last night and totally frustrated that all the efforts, some of them herculean, to achieve peace there inevitably come to naught. This morning I realize that this is no more a watershed than any other Middle Eastern event. The US will continue to try and find a formula for peace, as it should. That a goal is crushingly elusive is no reason to drop it.

I'm a bit sore this morning from all the unusual ladder climbing I did yesterday. I see that you are thumbing your nose at me in the Forum, having completed your Christmas decorating. I will avoid the impulse to catalog the vast inventory of holiday bric a brac that will adorn my property and challenge you to match it. That's mainly because I don't have anything as technologically bracing as your outdoor projector, but I suspect you don't have anything to match my Santa sled with wrapped presents and an array of stuffed teddy bears cavorting with a luminated jolly St. Nick. I do sometimes wish I celebrated Hanukah. One big Menorah in the window and I'd be good to go.

Tony, you are finding some great blogs. That site Kathy referenced is embarassing. Should I be concerned that my six year old sometimes claims she's a Wiccan?

A brief update: a few days ago I referenced the Houston Mayoral race and a Wall Street Journal editorial decrying racially charged advertising against the Hispanic candidate and in support of the African-American incumbent. The voters have spoken.

HOUSTON –– Mayor Lee Brown held off City Councilman Orlando Sanchez in a tight race Saturday to win re-election to a third term and derail Sanchez's bid to become Houston's first Hispanic mayor.

With 95 percent of the precincts counted, Brown had 162,751 votes, or 52 percent, to Sanchez's 152,552, or 48 percent.
Overwhelming support for Brown in several late-reporting and predominantly black Fort Bend County precincts put the incumbent over the top after the two candidates to lead the nation's fourth-largest city swapped the vote advantage repeatedly throughout the evening Saturday.