Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
backseat driver
but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Saturday, December 22, 2001
I've had crabs...
Tony Adragna
I know that Dawson is on your beat, Will, but I must comment on his culinary comparative from the Carolina Coast. Dawson quotes John Weidner's San Francisco "crab season" item, then he goes on to say "We get some succulent specimens here...".

Dawson, Dawson, Dawson.... Sure, we get crabs out here on this coast, but they're nothin' like what you can get in my beloved San Francisco... and don't even get me started on the religious ecstasy brought on by fresh San Francisco sourdough...

Embittered Copy Boy, Recently Demoted, "Goes Blogal"
Will Vehrs
For a minute, Tony, I thought we were having flashbacks from our days in Slate's Fray, although "Bite Me" is almost Socratic dialog there.

The Blog world is rejoicing at the events in the sky today. It's natural to be proud of Special Forces or Top Gun pilots doing great work in Afghanistan, but for most of us, it's hard to identify with them personally, to see ourselves doing that work. It's now easy to imagine ourselves on a plane, rushing a terrorist, cooperating with other passengers to subdue a maniac. I think in some way that sense of vigilance, being willing to act (your apt pharase) takes the place of the "sacrifice" some commentators seem to want the country to undertake.

Media News
QuasiPundit Managing Editor accepts apology for snide remark; Star reporter takes demotion to copy desk...

Just kidding

I agree, Will - vigilant citizens are "ready to act". I feel kinda creepy having written that admonition the other day...

No, You Bite Me, Tony!
Will Vehrs
Ok, Tony, it was a snide remark about European security. At least I didn't second Ann Coulter's call to declare war on France because of this.

I hope we aren't going to start making passengers take off their shoes because of this incident. Security has many layers, each layer filtering threats from large to small. Here, it looked like customs failed (fake passport?) and screeners didn't catch anything suspicious. That left it up to the crew and the passengers, as "Katkin" points out in The Refuge. I think what upgraded airline security has done is narrow what a terrorist can attempt--in this case, probably a small amount of explosive in a shoe. Unless a terrorist can immobilize everyone else on the plane, he or or she can be controlled by individuals willing to give their life to save everyone. Of course, Dan Dickinson warns "Katkin" to never say never when it comes to terrorist plots.

The bravery of the passengers and crews is a nice reminder that regular Americans really are willing to fight back against terrorists. The September 11th heroism continues to inspire.

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Who "Howls" louder, Red v. Blue; Rallisms assembled; Breaking news

Damian Penny: Rehabilitating Fisk's friends; Huzzahs to citizen soldiers

Dr. Frank: Russian Rouble is currency of choice in Europe; motivational counseling; anti-Semites hate Jews who accuse them of being anti-Semitic; an interesting genre of Xmass gifts - "crap"

Tim Blair:And now, Sideshow Bob's next stunt will be...; Santa's 'ho's

Duncan Fitzgerald: Spilling an open can all over Goldberg; it's okay to be off-color if you're a person-of-color; Ali v. Foreman aint got anything on Bozell v. Alter

Jeff Goldstein: Krauthammer reads blogs; Looney Mooney anti-astrologist rant; When Johnny comes marching home...

Allen S. Thorpe: Johnny watched too much t.v....

Click here: for more "Blog Watch"ing

Update: OK, the guy had a UK passport with a typical Anglo sounding name - turns out he's most likely middle eastern. Sounding like somebody trying to avenge his militant comrades in Afghanistan.


Bite me, Will!
Tony Adragna
You're too right about the debate over security, however, I don't think anybody's solution would've worked. A sniffing dog woulda caught it, but you can't run a human being through one of the machines currently being used to detect explosives.

Thank God he didn't have any other weapons on him - except his teeth: he bit the flight attendant that initially approached him.

First Impressions
Will Vehrs
Tony, my huzzahs added to yours for the alert work of that flight crew. The full story should be coming out just in time for the evening news.

Ahead of that, let me be one of the first to mention that were told how well European security worked during the debate over Federalizing baggage and passenger screening. Oops ....

UPDATE: Here's a link to the story at MSNBC: Plane lands, bomb reportedly found

There were also fighters escorting the jet during its diversion.

Blow my socks off
Tony Adragna
A plane from Paris to Miami was diverted to Boston due to a passenger who had explosives on him. Crewmembers noticed a sulfur smell, like from a match, and notices a "wire" sticking out of the passenger's shoe. Turns out it was det-cord, and he had C4 in his shoes. Crewmembers subdued the passenger - looks like vigilance is paying off.

I haven't found a link to the story yet.

Huzzah to the flight crew!

What I Learned
Will Vehrs
Tony, I was going to tell you how much I had learned from stories like "Sneetches," but then I noticed that I had misspelled "Seuss" twice in my last post. It's been corrected and I will go back to my studies.

Dr. Seuss is for all ages
Tony Adragna
I think that adults can learn alot from reading stories like "Sneetches". Maybe I'm just being silly, but I see some contemporary parallels to that "Star-belly Sneetch Machine".

For instance, look at what drove "the bubble". Like those Sneetches lining up to pay "Sylvester McMonkey McBean" to become "stars", all of those "dotcom"ers, and the people who bought into the IPO madness, were ignoring fundamentals. All of the BMWs and outragously priced apartments are just belly-stars worn as badges of "belonging". I'm not saying that there's something wrong with wanting lots of money and nice things, or spending money however one wants, but do these people really live la dulce vida? I'd rather be poor and ulcerless! (actually, I'd rather be RICH and ulcerless)

On the theme of "Sneetches", I think that Dr. Seuss has been vindicated. All of the money that's been poured into "leveling the playing field" has had great economic impact, but race relations (and other problems based on irrational bias) have progressed more on the efforts of people coming together to break down the social barriers. It's a slow process, still not complete in some places, and people shouldn't have to wait for the full dignity due by virtue of being human, but there's no immediate gratification when dealing with issues that matter funadamentally.

Your Tax Dollars at Work
Will Vehrs
Hey, Tony ... you slept in; I woke up early, Blog Watched, then skedaddled. Visiting any store after 11AM this close to Christmas is madness, so I was on the way home by that witching hour. I can't imagine what it would be like if retailers were having a good season ....

Has anyone gotten a big, tri-fold mailing from their Congressperson, with a "Your Congressman Is Only A Click Away ...." on the reverse of the address side? I got mine from my Congressman, 7th District freshman Republican Eric Cantor, yesterday. I'm wondering if this is based on a template that everyone in the House uses and if senior members get theirs sent out first. The franking privilege has come a long way from the little newsletters I remember. Now I can sign up for Cantor's email updates on the issues. Had I done so earlier, I wouldn't have missed his "calls for destruction of infrastructure supporting terrorists," his request for "continued prayers for America during this time of crisis," or his securing of funding for "Culpeper's National Audio-Visual Conservation Center." And let's not forget his meeting with local students who are supporting a bill they wrote: "The Liberty Bill Act," calling for the constitution to be printed on the back of US paper currency. Get in a constitutional argument with someone and whip out your wallets to settle the issue ....

Ah, it all comes back to Dr. Seuss, doesn't it, Tony? My favorite Seuss book is The Sneetches and Other Stories. It's a famous story about irrational prejudice, overshadowing three short stories that I love: Too Many Daves (Did I ever tell you that Mrs McCave/Had 23 sons and she named them all Dave?), The Zax (For I live by a rule/That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School./Never budge! That's my rule.Never budge in the least!/Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east! ), and What Was I Scared Of? (I said, "I do not fear those pants/With nobody inside them."/I said, and said, and said those words./I said them. But I lied them.) I must have read those stories to my daughters 800 times.

I'm a little more supportive of tort reform than you are, Tony, but we're pretty close. Everyone should have their day in court, but that's 23 hours too long for some of these ridiculous cases. I suspect that the "horror stories" are not indicative of a system-wide breakdown. Still, we should stamp out abuse wherever we can. I'm particularly incensed at some of those class action lawsuits. Attorneys get millions; "victims" get a discount coupon.

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Tony Adragna
Good morning! Sorry for being tardy with "Above the Fold" this morning - I slept in. I had a good excuse, too! The Boston Pops holiday special was re-aired late last night, and I just couldn't miss their reading of that classic Dr. Seuss poem- complete with music & lyrics (I always wondered exactly what those silly Whos were singing).

I've always jokingly told friends that I don't read any newspapers with the word "Times" in their title, excepting the New York Times. But, that stupid headline this morning has got me reconsidering - I just may have to put the NYT in the same pile as the Washington Times (I cant stand that rag). Who does the NYT think they're fooling calling Walker an expat: it might be a technically valid description, but it's so disgustingly morally neutral. Walker is a TRAITOR - he even admitted his treachery - regardless of the legal problems with proving that charge at the bar. While I'm still in opposition to the death penalty, I would have no problems locking Walker up for the rest of hs life...

If you buy the New York Times, then the terrorists have won...

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Front Page Image

Bush's Budget To Include Big Security Boost - President Bush will make a dramatic increase in spending on homeland security initiatives the centerpiece of his fiscal 2003 budget, including more than a doubling of funds for local police, firefighters and other "first responders" and a major boost for public health agencies and hospitals, according to administration and congressional sources.

7,000 Pro-Taliban Fighters Held - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 21 -- Anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan are holding about 7,000 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, who are being screened for their ability to provide intelligence and for possible prosecution by U.S. authorities, American officials said today.

Early, Intense Action Marks Bush's Hill Wins - This week brought out the best and worst in President Bush's relationship with the United States Congress.

New York Times:

Front Page Image

Argentina's Chaos Raises New Doubts on Monetary Fund - WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 — The deadly riots in Argentina, the collapse of its government and another multibillion dollar bailout gone awry have raised fresh questions about the effectiveness of the International Monetary Fund and the financial policies of the United States, the fund's leading shareholder.

Convoy Containing Suspected Taliban Leaders Hit by Airstrike - KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 21 — Some 100 days after a terrorist attack on America turned the world's attention to Afghanistan and its Taliban regime, Afghans prepared today to install an interim government they hope will prove historic by ending 22 years of war

U.S. Expatriate Is Seen Facing Capital Charge - WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 — Administration officials said today that John Walker, the American who was captured in Afghanistan, would probably face at least one charge that would carry the death penalty, and President Bush linked Mr. Walker directly with the terrorist group Al Qaeda.
(sorry, just a quick comment on this one: So he's an "expat" now? - Tony)

India Recalling Pakistan Envoy Over Delhi Raid - NEW DELHI, Dec. 21 — India today recalled its ambassador to Pakistan and ended bus and train service between the two countries to protest what it called Pakistan's failure to shut down two Pakistan-based groups India has accused of carrying out a suicide attack on Parliament last week.

U.S. Inquiry Tried, but Failed, to Link Iraq to Anthrax Attack - Shortly after the first anthrax victim died in October, the Bush administration began an intense effort to explore any possible link between Iraq and the attacks and continued to do so even after scientists determined that the lethal germ was an American strain, scientists and government officials said.

Washington Times:

Rules loosened for U.S. troops - U.S. commanders have given special-operations troops more latitude to attack al Qaeda terrorists trying to flee Afghanistan's Tora Bora region for the Pakistani border.

Leaders of Taliban said killed - U.S. warplanes struck a convoy of vehicles in Afghanistan carrying leaders of the ousted Taliban militia, killing several, the Pentagon said yesterday.

Los Angeles Times:

A Widow Finds Life in Family - NEW YORK -- After 21 days of bagpipes, tears and eulogies, Sally Siller was reeling from grief. She had mourned at the funerals of firefighters killed in the World Trade Center attacks, and now it was time to face her own loss.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

Joanne Jacobs: Flit, top refuter; reading doesn't come naturally to children.

Charles Johnson. Ex-CIA chief waxes Jacksonian in bar; Saudi macho royal-boy, times have changed; Microsoft Swiss Cheese; future of the net; Innocent professor suspended on inferences; hiding suitcase nukes.

Jeff Jarvis We're an American brand; beware of war images-it's not comic relief; Ken Layne sneezes; great link discoveries include erotic alphabet; worst disaster list.

Libertarian Samizdata Debka, waste of pixels; don't cry for Samizdata, Argentina; metric martyrs; eerily prescient 1901 book; blog staff bares all (oh Natalie, Spitfire!); abjectly stupid clown chorus still wrong on Tanzania deal.

Steven Den Beste Torch the silly Olympic flame; Driving Miss Daisy through thoughtful essay on racism; if they think it, he will bomb; is "small size" equivalent to "shitty little?"

Dawson Search for aesthetics and misspellings leads to Clinton's legacy; John Derbyshire a disgrace to hetrosexual conservative who carries a big stick; the real Ann Coulter firing story?

Kathy Kinsley Sign up for psyops brainstorming session, possible future action, all three of you; Tony Blair's dossier; [vomiting] over Paul Sperry story.

C. Dodd Harris IV Caption contest winner announced, Vehrs an also-ran; new car parked crooked; Childcare Action Project review of Lord of the Rings lacks spiritual depth.

Friday, December 21, 2001
Reading Assignment
Tony Adragna
Why am I ambivalent about tort reform? Well, I strongly believe that everybody has a right to have disputes settled before a judge - but I also think that there's too much nonsense going on. Here's a recent series of stories (thanks Ray!):

"'Right now,' he says, 'there's no way for a company that makes an honest mistake-or any other kind of mistake- to extricate themselves from litigation other than bankruptcy.'" - Richard Scruggs, tobacco litigation pioneer, now defending a manufacturer of defective hip implants.
U.S. News: Lawyers on trial (12/17/01)

"'It's a booming business,' says William Schroeder, a law professor at Southern Illinois University.

Why so much activity? Ask corporate lawyers, both here and elsewhere, and they'll tell you that Madison County's judges just seem more sensitive to the plaintive claims of plaintiffs. 'A plaintiffs' lawyer would be derelict if they didn't get their case into this environment, and people are doing that,' says Schroeder. 'All the factors are skewed to one side.'"
U.S. News: The judges of Madison County: Lawyers looking for fat payouts in class action cases know where to head (12/17/01)

"In late October, a Mississippi jury ordered three firms, including oil-services giant Halliburton and manufacturer 3M, to pay six plaintiffs $25 million apiece. It wasn't the price tag alone that stunned asbestos experts-victims of asbestos-related conditions have gotten huge settlements for years. What made jaws drop was that the plaintiffs weren't even sick-their X-rays just showed they stood an increased chance of getting sick. 'Most of these guys have not missed a day of work in their lives,' their lawyer said"
U.S. News: Looking for some million-dollar lungs (12/17/01)

"'People think they don't have a case because they assumed the risk of Nasdaq going down, but they do.' Brokers who let clients load up on tech stocks were negligent, he argues, even if clients demanded it."
U.S. News: A bear market bonanza: How investors' losses can convert into lawyers' gains (12/17/01)

"Many law firms also offer one-click suing. At, it takes an Enron shareholder just one mouse click to retain tort leaders Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach to sue the bankrupt energy firm for allegedly manipulating its stock price. If they happen to own Firestone tires too, they can click again and join another class action."
U.S. News: One-click suing: You, too, may be a victim (12/17/01)

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Yes, Virginia, there are centrist liberals; you can get scapegoats in the free market, as long as you go to the right institution.

Andrew Hofer: "Because you are so wrong"; a list of British inanities foisted upon America that call for an apology

Damian Penny: drill in Alaska! - stop giving the Saudis a reach around (actually, we're still looking at those tar flats, Damian - Tony); whoring for the "Masters of War"

Dr. Frank: Spread that fat; "Talibashing"; NO AM DECAPITATION; exploding warblogs; Tony baits weasles in the sun

Moira Breen: Taxation without representation; the British Army is impotent ant the FBI's got a hard on; Judge Lamberth speaks, Kennewick man becomes silent.

Tim Blair: Fast red cars v. flowing red robes; "BEYOND HEARTBREAKING" (I couldn't make silly with this one - Tony); the intellectually disadvantaged

Duncan Fitzgerald: "I don't get this joke"; clearly consistently good guys; emotional Anarchists are hot in bed

Jeff Goldstein That's really "chicken shit"?; we oughta be shocked at the treatment of "Mumian peasants"; them's fightin' words

Click here: for more "Blog Watch"ing

Damn! Almost made it...
Tony Adragna
Hey Will - I just hope I don't end up where this guy is going...

12/21/01 There goes Santa Claus - Chip Bok

Karl Rove Called ....
Will Vehrs
Tony, I had to tell him the truth when he called for a reference. Before he hung up, though, I said I still held you in "high esteem." He said well, if not the White House, then maybe you could work at Dick Cheney's secret hideaway setting up his video conferences, if you didn't mind being blindfolded for the ride there ....

Seriously, that's way cool! Hope you check out as a good, bellicose citizen--surely you have more impressive references than me to dazzle them ....

Diary of a Temp
Tony Adragna
Today - American Rivers. Tomorrow - The White House!

Seriously, Will! If I get "cleared", then I may get a one-day gig at the White House next Friday. Should I feel like "the chicken in the fox den"?...

If it's a "good thing", then there's a catch...
Tony Adragna
You're "on the money", Will!

I watched Mr. Fienberg's performance last night on CSPAN - and he wasn't "acting". I was very impressed with two things that he did. First, he admonished people to not rush into the program - the "catch" prevents you from getting back out that door. If you put your steak in that grinder, then you waive the right to complain about chopped liver. But is it "chopped liver"? Definitely not! He "ultimately" urges people to take the deal, because it's much better than what's gonna be available at litigation. Hey, if the trial lawyers are backing it (instead of feeding on the potential fees that they could make), then that's gotta mean you've got a "snowball's chance" in court.

While I'm ambivalent about liability caps (and tort reform in general), I agree that there's too much ugliness in this area of litigation. I would prefer that judges excercise some common sense in dealing with frivolous suits and outrageous awards, rather than having legislated caps. However, I can't really argue with what congress did in this instance - It really is best for everybody

If They Say It's Not About the Money, It's About the Money
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm reminded of that old legal aphorism after listening to talk radio for a little while this morning while cruising down Broad Street in Richmond. I had a talk show on the radio--I think it was Mike Gallagher--and he was in a lather over the comments of some 9/11 victims' family members after the announcement by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg of the government settlement offer. Gallagher couldn't believe that family members would speak in such disparaging terms about the amount of taxpayer money they would be receiving. A lawyer representing some of these families defended their comments.

Mr. Feinberg had one of the toughest and most heart-wrenching jobs anyone could imagine. He said his goal was "to make the awards fair, minimize disparities in the size of awards and provide speedy and efficient relief." I think he succeeded as well as possible under the horrible circumstances. I am in agreement with the Washington Post editorial on the subject:

Some families nonetheless are upset by the arrangements. The average initial award is projected to be $1.6 million, and the range of awards will be relatively narrow. Families of those in the highest income brackets could end up getting less than the lifetime earnings might have been. Under the law, the awards will be reduced by the amount of life insurance, Social Security payments and death benefits -- meaning that some final payments could be smaller than people expect. Moreover, pain and suffering will be compensated according to a fairly restrained formula. As a result, awards may fall significantly below the maximum that victims might win in the high-stakes casino of the courtroom -- were that arena truly available to them.

Yet advantages of the system outweigh these disadvantages, even if one accepts that they are disadvantages. The money will come soon. Trial lawyers will not be pocketing big chunks of the awards, and the awards will be tax-free.

The discretion in the system also should help prevent excessive awards to the rich and insultingly small awards to people who need help. No system will give all of the families what they think they deserve. After all, they deserved not to lose their loved ones in the first place, and any attempt to replace those people with dollars necessarily trivializes the loss. But the public policy purpose here is to make sure that the families are taken care of swiftly without crippling the airline industry with litigation. The compensation system Congress and Mr. Feinberg have set up is a good step in that direction.

If families don't like the settlement, they can quietly pursue legal remedies, without using ill-considered characterizations of a good faith effort to be fair ("insulting"). I think they dishonor their lost loved ones, themselves, and the special spot September 11th holds in American hearts when they use arguments like this one:

Craig Sincock, founder of Pentagon Angels, which represents 312 people who lost relatives in the attack on the Pentagon, said that the plan favors people "who didn't plan ahead" by purchasing life insurance.

"For those of us who planned ahead, we get nothing out of it," said Sincock, who predicted that many families will sue rather than apply for benefits

The victims were all in the towers and Pentagon together, the insured and the uninsured, the gay and the straight, the executives and the janitors.

The “pulse of the people”…
Tony Adragna
That’s what I like most about what we’re doing, Will; we don’t have any “interests” – corporate or otherwise – that we need consider. All we have to do is deliver our readers some thoughtful discussion, and let them decide.

I agree with you on Mumia, and it should be noted that there’s nothing stopping the prosecution from taking the case back into court for a new sentencing – except the fear that a new sentence might come back being so light that it would amount to time served. In that case the prosecution should just let the judges order stand...

I’m not able to read the Roll Call piece that Mickey cites, so I don’t know exactly what’s being predicted. I just need to note something for the record in re that recent poll - “Asked to name the one most important problem Congress should address next year, one in three respondents talked about the economy or unemployment…”.(emphasis mine) The WaPo notes that this is “twice as many” as those who cited the war effort, but it’s also an indication that 2/3 of the respondents don’t consider the economy something that needs to be addressed immediately. Seems like we’re not alone.

Heroes and Assorted Thoughts
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm glad to know that while you can't say that I'm one of your heroes, you do hold me in "high esteem." I like you, too, muscle brain. Perhaps you'll be able to say those words when I pull you from a burning blog someday.

Speaking of blogs, Instapundit congratulated us for our mention yesterday on Slate's new "On Other Websites" feature. Thanks, Glenn, but more noteworthy is the fact that the modest professor is now listed by Slate as an "equal" with Virginia Postrel, Mickey Kaus, Joshua Micah Marshall, and Andrew Sullivan, all professional writers, on their mezine links. I remember lobbying for Instapundit to just get listed as an "add-on" to Slate's old Mezine Central feature. He has come a long way and given blogging credibility. Without him, I doubt if amateurs like us would ever break through the "snotty ceiling" that exists among some of the professionals.

I don't know about you, Tony, but I love doing Blog Watch! It's one thing to read through the blogs, it's another to study them and see the remarkable amount of thought the bloggers pour into their product and their willingness to entertain and debate alternative points of view. Tim Blair really has given us the blog equivalent of a license to make money. I know his franchise puts a premium on brevity, word play, and cracking wise, but I hope the respect for the individual blogger's craft shines through in our summaries.

On the issues front, I'm glad Congress is going home to get "the pulse of the people," if not the "loot of the lobbyists." Mickey Kaus thinks they'll come back and pass something on the stimulus/relief front. Maybe it will be something more to our liking. There's lots of controversy about NBC agreeing to run liquor ads. I don't have a problem with it; most people are leaving the room to get another beer out of the refrigerator during commercials, anyway. The kids we're worried about are probably surfing MTV and VH1 during commercials, if they're watching NBC at all. I think Mumia is an unrepentant cop killer, but as long as he's in jail, I'm okay with no death penalty--Pennsylvania doesn't execute, anyway, their law nothwithstanding. I just wish the glitterati who are so taken with him would look to help less articulate, PR-challenged prisoners who were further from a smoking gun than Mumia was.

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Besieged President Resigns in - BUENOS AIRES Dec. 20 -- President Fernando de la Rua resigned today after two days of anarchic street protests against his government's stringent economic policies left more than 24 people dead and destroyed stores and restaurants around the country.

Anthrax Exposure Estimates Increased - Four dozen congressional aides began receiving an experimental anthrax vaccine yesterday, as federal officials announced that Capitol Hill employees and postal workers had been exposed to much higher levels of the deadly bacteria than had been previously known.

U.S. Sets Formula to Pay Victims - Families of those killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would receive payments averaging $1.65 million under a federal government plan announced yesterday, but beneficiaries complained that it is too little help for some of the victims.

Citing India Attack, U.S. Aims at Assets of Group in Pakistan - WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 — President Bush moved today to freeze the assets of a Pakistani-based terrorist group that he blamed for the attack on the Indian Parliament last week

Argentine Leader Quits as Economy Begins a Free Fall BUENOS AIRES, Dec. 20 — President Fernando de la Rúa resigned today, halfway through his four-year term, swamped by violent protests and looting that erupted when his government failed to reverse a deepening economic crisisNew York Times:

A Poor, Ethnic Enclave in China Is Shadowed by Drugs and H.I.V. - UTUO, China — By day, Butuo is an ethnic backwater, where women in long embroidered blue skirts tote baskets filled with chunks of pig, and men in full-length capes carry bundles of twigs, fuel for indoor fire pits.

Killings Increase in Many Big Cities - Homicides have increased sharply this year in many large cities, a development that troubles law enforcement officials and experts who fear it may signal a return to rising crime rates after a large decline in the 1990's.

Washington Times:

U.S. rules let al Qaeda flee - U.S. special-operations troops in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan have been forced to let some al Qaeda fighters escape to Pakistan because of strict rules of engagement.

President of Argentina steps down - BUENOS AIRES — Argentine President Fernando de la Rua resigned yesterday after two years in power, as his government crumbled amid deadly rioting and looting sparked by anger over the nation's deepening economic crisis.

Los Angeles Times:

Architects Ask, 'What Did I Do to Cause This?' - In the restless weeks since Sept. 11, a host of conflicting emotions has stirred the imaginations of architects: Anger. Defiance. Hope. Melancholy. And, perhaps especially, guilt.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

Joanne Jacobs: Jacques Littlefield's Fourth of July party: the firepower, mobility and shock action of armor.

Charles Johnson. Saudi Arabia & France targeted; whirlpool bath guy builds Iraqui weapons sites on the side; Arafat speech ignored; bogus research on civilian deaths cribbed from al Jazeera and badly bruised Fisk.

Jeff Jarvis Debka on Iraq: intelligence, rumors, or speculation? Blog watch for retirement; meaningless, offensive math of war.

Libertarian Samizdata No British radar for venal, foolish and corrupt Tanzania? Enron a "regulated" market failure; Flitting around with the Vile One.

Steven Den Beste DVD burners won't get hot; Land mine dissertation; Bad after bad for PLO; poll rant validated by Iain Murray; Scheer madness; Belgium, world's courthouse ; "International Peacekeeping Farce."

Dawson Guest columnists will titillate; Ad snatcher strikes, boyfriend of femme fatale to the rescue; is "vaginalesque" a word?

Kathy Kinsley Real victimization; no so merry Christmas.exe; more Aussie Taliban needed to challenge Tim Blair's wit; new Gerald Grimes cartoon.

Christopher Pellerito Conflagration in Argentina; Milton Friedman's pick-up lines; live dangerously in an SUV but drive a hybrid; Protein Wisdom.

Click here for more "Blog Watch"ing by Tim Blair.

Thursday, December 20, 2001
My "conservative" hero...
Tony Adragna
Well, I really have two - Winston Churchill is one. Until I read Jonah Goldberg’s column the other day I hadn't thought much lately about the other conservative who I hold in high esteem. When Jonah wrote "...nothing more than a dead-languages society or dress-up club for the sorts of people who like to quote Burke and Aquinas", I got the feeling that he had someone in particular in mind. Does that sound like somebody we know? Like William F. Buckley, Jr, maybe?.

When Bill says of somebody, "There is muscle of the brain there", that's high praise as far as I'm concerned. I don't always disagree with Bill, but when I do disagree it's not because I think he's just being silly. I fully agree with his approbation of Codevilla. It's the same point - "It's the Regime stupid!" - that I was attempting to make in my most recent From Left Field essay .

I guess that means Bill would think that "There is muscle of the brain" up here, too...

Addendum: OOOPS, I didn't mean to leave you out, Will! I do hold you in "high esteem", I just can't bring myself to say, "you're my hero"...

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Class clown takes on "The Prof" (again) in re "loopy" US gun laws; lacrimal jocularity at WP; girls = evil; can Johnny come out to play, Mrs Goldberg?

Andrew Hofer: Pushing Europe to accept American culture - the "jelly doughnut"

Damian Penny: Shredding "Afghan casualties"; Canadian drunk draws no critics; "I want my three hours back"

Dr. Frank: How to say merde in Yiddish; George needs to relearn his equations; spelunking Afghan-style

Tim Blair: Insane survey of "opinion leaders" provokes Australian attack; junk mail from Glenn Sacks

Duncan Fitzgerald: Dems take "the plan" into "the stall"; something smells funny at

Click here: for more "Blog Watch"ing

America Wins!
Tony Adragna
I’ll tell you what I think is gonna happen – we’ll see some separation between the “stimulus” provisions and the “relief” provision. “Relief” will pass easily sometime early in the year (after the pressure is off we may see more reasonable negotiations), and the relief will take the form of tax breaks and government spending. That puts the “tax policy v. entitlement” debate back into its proper context – long-term goals -; we’ll have a good debate and get a decent piece of legislation by next fall.

Just guessing, but I’ve been correct before…

p.s. We got picked by Slate today!. Kewlness!

Who Wins on Stimulus Gridlock?
Will Vehrs
Tony, we agreed that no stimulus package was the best possible outcome, given the flawed approaches by both parties. Leaving the merits of any or all stimulus aside, what are the political implications?

USA Today reports that President Bush's job approval rating is still at an astounding 86%. More importantly, only 44% blame him for the recession and 76% believe the economy will turn around in 2002.

Warns Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri, "We intend to spend part of January explaining to the American people how the economy got to where it is."

That Democratic strategy, no stimulus bill, and Bush's very public pressure on Tom Daschle for a bill combine to give the short term political advantage to Bush, it seems to me. Democrats will be able to chip away at Bush's numbers, but they'll have to spend a lot of money to do it. Any sudden military crisis could stop their attack in its tracks; even a medium level of military action will make Democratic criticism risky. Right now, by combining a successful war with interest in the plight of Americans hurt by the recession, this Bush is avoiding the mistakes of his father.

Only a failure of the economy to be on the rebound by summer could really harm Bush, absent some major event handled badly. Even then, Bush could blame Democrats for not passing a stimulus bill. It would get down and dirty from there, but right now I see Bush having overcome or at least broken even on Democratic domestic issue advantages.

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Economic Stimulus Deal Appears Dead - Congress will not reach agreement this year on an emergency measure to bolster the faltering U.S. economy, senior lawmakers from both parties said yesterday, as both sides engaged in a furious legislative endgame designed to assign blame to the other party for the failure.

Giant Cable Merger Planned - Comcast Corp. and AT&T Corp. yesterday agreed to merge their cable operations in a $72 billion deal, creating the nation's largest provider of pay television and high-speed Internet service.

State of Siege in Argentina - BUENOS AIRES, Dec. 19 -- After months of escalating economic crisis, Argentina boiled over today in a wave of street violence and looting, raising alarms that Latin America's third-most populous country is being destabilized and that its government may be in danger of falling.

Al Qaeda Prisoners Rise Up in Pakistan - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 19 -- Several dozen Arab fighters captured by Pakistani forces after fleeing across the border from Afghanistan overpowered their guards today and set off a gun battle in which 13 people were killed and some of the Arabs escaped, Pakistani authorities said.

New York Times:

Troops May Scour Caves for Qaeda, U.S. General Says - TORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 19 — Frustrated by the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan has proposed that United States marines or Army troops be deployed to comb the wild terrain of Tora Bora to try to determine the fate of Al Qaeda leaders, American officials said today.

Congress Gives Up on Deal This Year to Help Economy - WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 — Congress gave up hope today of reaching a deal this year to help the growing ranks of the unemployed and hasten a recovery from the recession and along with the Bush administration turned instead to partisan finger- pointing over who was to blame for the impasse.

Comcast Wins Bid for AT&T's Cable Unit - AT&T agreed yesterday to sell its cable television business, the nation's largest, to the Comcast Corporation for about $47 billion in stock.

An Iraqi Defector Tells of Work on at Least 20 Hidden Weapons Sites - An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.

Washington Times:

Daschle blocks stimulus vote - President Bush struck a bipartisan deal at the Capitol yesterday to revive the economy and aid the unemployed, but Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle refused to allow a vote on the bill.

Return of terrorists worries Rumsfeld - Hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists have fled into Pakistan but still pose a threat of returning to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

Los Angeles Times:

Bill to Revive U.S. Economy Nears Collapse - WASHINGTON -- Legislation in Congress to shore up the economy essentially collapsed Wednesday as both parties sought to shift blame to the other side for the bill's anticipated demise.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

Welcome to the grand opening of Tim Blair Corp.'s first North American franchise ....

Joanne Jacobs: Gay link to Tali-Boy Walker; Allison doesn't fall far from the tree; cut the soot, diesel breath; Irish education paradox; Gray Davis dirty trick.

Charles Johnson. Chomsky Cult intellectual Kool-Aid; Arafat Sincerity Poll; bug news and delousing update.

Jeff Jarvis First Slate weblog blog review; smart, gutsy and ... pretty women; espresso breath Michael Kinsley; appalling pork.

Libertarian Samizdata Compulsive blog list misses Quasipundit; smarmy Eurocrats will produce Slavic angst fest; political spam protected while teen sluts get the shaft; cryptic message needs decoding.

Steven Den Beste Forgetful anti-semite; late jets; the fictions of cold, dark, and peace; shelf life of Dutch legal rhetoric.

Dawson Ann Coulter, did you do me? Rambling philosophical blog autobiography by a sleep-deprived tadpole in the ocean; Brian Linse is not a stinking commie bastard.

Click here for more "Blog Watch"ing

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Why QuasiPundit prefers "gridlock"

Tony Adragna & Will Vehrs
There's much disagreement over how the economic stimulus package should look. What there isn't is an economic stimulus package being considered. The current "package" isn't about "stimulus" - it's about "economic relief". That goal might be laudible on it's own, but it's not something without which the economy will recover. In fact, the plans being offered by both parties - outright spending v. tax cuts - do nothing to stimulate the economy in the short term, and both plans could have long term negative consequences. Besides, anybody who knows anything about how to provide immediate economic stimulus will tell you that tax policy and spending don't get you there.

Do we even need an economic stimulus package? Well, the Fed may still be getting alot of flak, but it turns out that Mr. Greenspan may have been doing the right thing all along. Fed watchers have recently pointed out that we're just beginning to see the effects of Fed rate cuts from last year. It's looking more like the economy is well on its way to recovery - according to the economists anyway. So, if we don't really need a stimulus package, then what is the fight really about? Get ready for it! - are you seated? - this is gonna be a shocker! - - It's about politics as usual! Both parties are piggybacking on the "need for stimulus" as a gimmick for pushing pet programs and taking care of special interests.

There are people, and sectors of the economy, in need of short term relief - let's not hold them hostage to long term partisan agendas being puched as "stimulus"

We prefer "gridlock" on this stimulus package because the alternative won't have any impact at best, and will be bad legislation at worst.

Some People need to watch t.v.
Tony Adragna
I just saw John Esposito, John Esposito, of Georgetown University, speaking today about how the US deals with Islam. He wanted to make a point about how things have changed since Sep 11, and he started talking about how different television serials ran special episodes after Sep 11. I'm not sure exactly what point he was trying to make - I wasn't paying very much attention - but the point was specifically about things after Sep 11.

So, why did he bring up last night's J.A.G. episode? - It was a re-run from LAST YEAR!

The Mail Bag and Blog Benefactors
Will Vehrs
As I wait for Wall Street Week in Review to cover the Tim Blair-Quasipundit "Blog Watch" joint venture, I thought I'd check the mailbag and express some Quasipundit thanks. We weren't exactly blogging fools today like we promised, were we, Tony? Blame it on Blogger ....

Alert Punditwatch reader Vlad Signorelli found the tribute to retired pundit Anthony Lewis that I couldn't. Jude Wanniski, no ideological soul mate of Lewis, had kind words for his work. Thanks for that catch.

Joseph Britt sent the link to a database of all Federal Farm subsidies since 1996. Verrrrry interesting. It can be searched by state, county, or zip code. Check out who in your neck of the woods is getting subsidized, or drive by and admire your tax dollars at work.

MommaBear, a dedicated poster in The Refuge and certified bellicose woman, finally got me on her mailing list and sent word of an Orwellian new national id technology. She writes, "now THEY can not only count us & manageus, but track us as well...we might as well just lie down at birth, curl up, and then die."

Tony, we have been remiss in not thanking two benefactors in this space. A mysterious "Merry Christmas" sponsored the removal of the ad from "Shouting 'Cross the Potomac" and said some kind words about us, not all of them true. Many thanks. The ultimate benefactor, of course, is Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit. Not only did he get the bandwagon started on bringing down ads throughout blogdom, but he personally took the ad down from Punditwatch. To say that I was bowled over by his recognition and generousity would be an understatement. Thank you, Glenn.

Tony responds:
Tony Adragna
Will, you know that I'm in the "gridlock" gang, too - at least when it comes to the "stimulus plan". BTW, Ari is talking to the press right now, and just made the point that I did - he even said "the Budget Act point of order"... He's also defending the Bush statement about a "bi-partisan agreement", which relies on "centrists". Problem is that this "centrist" coalition doesn't get 60 votes in the Senate. Gotta give him credit for pushing the point...

CSPAN is rerunning Daschle's comments from earlier today. Gotta go downtown to pick up my check now... back in a couple of hours....

About All the Stimulation I Can Stand
Will Vehrs
Here I am, wheeling and dealing in the Outback, and you're watching CSPAN. Life ain't fair.

I'm glad you acknowledge that gamesmanship on House and Senate rules to stifle legislation is the ultimate bi-partisan effort. If we agree with the stifling, it's democracy in action. If we don't, it's an abomination.

Count me among the "gridlock" gang. I won't weep if no stimulus package is passed.

Some "stumulating" discussions...
Tony Adragna
Hey Will! I just watched two very interesting scenes on CSPAN - Mr. Bush on the Hill speaking to legislators about a "bi-partisan agreement" on stimulus that's being taken up by the House, and a press confab with House & Senate Democrats who responded "What?"

There's been alot of criticism of Daschle over "stimulus", and I think that most of it is unfair. We can argue over whether the sticking point is "ideology", or "substance", but it's a debate that I'd rather not have - the truth is that it's both. The substantive differences reflect the ideological differences. Look at the prefered methods of delivering relief and you'll see what I mean - Republicans typically opt for tax incentives (cut's or credits), while Democrats opt for spending. In either case, though, there's an impact on the federal budget, and that's where the point of Tom Daschle's "two thirds" comment has been misconstrued.

What am I talking about? Well, any bills in the Senate that will exceed the Budget Resolution (remember back to earlier this year) are subject to a "point of order", and the only way to get around the "point of order" is a successful cloture motion. The fact is that unless two thirds of the Senate are willing to agree on a stimulus package, then it isn't going anywhere.

Now, are Democrats the only people who use "the rules" to "obstruct" legislation? If that's the case that people wanna make, then they should hear Tom Harkin right now speaking about the failed "Farm Bill" - Republicans voted down cloture! The bill might deserve to die on it's merits, and the same holds true for the Democrat backed Senate stimulus package. All I'm saying is that using "the rules" to obstruct legislation is a bi-partisan activity.

And people oughtn't accuse the Democrats of failing to compromise - you know what the sticking point on the stimulus package is? Health care for people who are losing their jobs! What kinds of compromise did Republicans make? "Oh, we'll give you 'pre-existing conditions' in the COBRA." Um, guys, "pre-existing conditions" are already covered in COBRA...


Blog Watch to Post From Two Continents

From Wire Reports

Scrappy underdog blogs Tim Blair and Quasipundit today announced a unique joint venture that will capitalize on Blair’s hugely popular “Blog Watch” summary. (For a sample, click here.) Quasipundit will operate a “Blog Watch” territory under an airtight contract with Tim Blair Corp. This deal is reported to be the first formal cooperative effort between an Australian and an American political blog.

“It’s a great fit,” said one blog analyst. “Quasipundit has twice the staff of Blair and they’ve been mining the summary niche with Punditwatch and their new Shouting 'Cross the Potomac feature “Above the fold.” They are no strangers to cooperative agreements and, as the famous song said, 'ain't too proud to beg.' Kathy Kinsley had to bail them out recently to save their reader feedback feature.”

Another analyst saw this deal as a win-win. “Quasipundit gets something people will read. Blair gets time to eat and a chance to burnish his ‘oppressor’ image. He’s vowed to enforce MacDonalds-like conformity on his franchise.”

“Blog Watch” will begin appearing tomorrow morning and evening on Quasipundit and at its regularly scheduled time in Tim Blair’s time zone.

Teeth Pulled, Punditwatch Posted
Will Vehrs
Blogger has been acting up (did they take the InstaMoney and run?), but I finally got Punditwatch posted. It doesn't have "live" links because of this morning's problems ... I'll add them when I'm sure Blogger is stable.

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Broad Effort Launched After '98 Attacks - Two years ago, Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet phoned the White House. The agency had a lead, he said, on Osama bin Laden.

U.S. Offers Anthrax Vaccine to Thousands - The federal government will begin offering anthrax vaccine as an experimental treatment to thousands of people potentially exposed to the deadly bacteria during a series of attacks this fall, administration officials announced yesterday.

U.S. Warns Against Helping Bin Laden - As Afghan fighters and U.S. Special Forces troops searched cave-to-cave in eastern Afghanistan yesterday for an elusive Osama bin Laden, a high-ranking Defense Department official warned that the fate of the Taliban was a "good lesson" for any country thinking of helping the leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network.

New York Times:

Congress Agrees on Emergency Relief for New York - WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 — Negotiators for the House and the Senate agreed tonight to provide New York with an additional $8.2 billion in emergency aid to help recover from the World Trade Center terrorist attack and also approved billions more dollars for tighter domestic security nationwide as part of a broader defense appropriations bill.

Hundreds of Qaeda Fighters Slip Into Pakistan - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 18 — Hundreds of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have slipped across the Afghan border and evaded the Pakistani Army to disappear into remote tribal areas, Western and Pakistani officials said today

U.S. Will Offer Anthrax Shots for Thousands - WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 — Federal health officials said today that they would offer the military's anthrax vaccine, as well as extra medicine, to thousands of workers on Capitol Hill and postal employees who were exposed to anthrax and remain at slight risk of developing the disease, even after a 60-day course of antibiotics.

Tora Bora: Deep Ravines Hide Many Enemies - TORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 18 — The sun so pulsed off the great gorges here that the walls of rock seemed adorned with spangles. Below, at the floor of the canyon, a shallow river, barely inches deep, rushed across a bed of stones. The water was glassy clear.

Washington Times:

Cheney sees tribunal options - The al Qaeda terrorists taken prisoner by U.S. forces in Afghanistan could be the first to be tried by military tribunals as established by President Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said yesterday.

Bush: Moussaoui will not be tried in military court - The decision to try Zacarias Moussaoui on terrorism charges in a federal court instead of a military tribunal was made by President Bush, based on the strength of the pending case and an assessment that an open trial would not hurt national security, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said yesterday.

Los Angeles Times:

Shroud Comes Off Fate of 'Disappeared' Radical - MEXICO CITY -- They were joined together in a clandestine ceremony, a blessing from a Catholic priest. It was a substitute for the wedding that had to be canceled because both bride and groom were wanted by the police.

The Afghans need a Marshall
Tony Adragna
I've been meaning to say something about Gordon Brown's "Marshall Plan For the Next 50 Years" (Dec 17 Washington Post). Glenn beat me to the punch (that is why he's "InstaPundit"), but I still feel the need to pile on....(more at From Left Field)

Tuesday, December 18, 2001
As secure as I wanna be,
no more than before...
Tony Adragna
Our good friend Kathy has some nice things to say about Tom Ridge, and good points to make in re personal security - that is, everybody should be personally involved in addressing the threats that we face. Nobody's calling for vigilantes - well, actually, we are, but that's not a bad thing per se.

The idea of the vigilant citizen got a bad rap by way of "vigilance committees" and "vigilantes". We certainly don't want a return to lawless justice, but that doesn't mean that a person should sit idly by while the thugs do their damge. This is about empowerment - realizing that there is something that you can do, and doing it.

Now, I'm not argiung that we should all go out looking for danger so that we can put ourselves into that danger. "Discretion is the better part of valour" still rings true. There are, however, things that we can do to help that don't put ourselves into danger. But, when you do find youself in danger, then you better be ready to act - if not in defense of others, then at least consider your own safety.

If you're prepared, then thugs can only do as much damage as you let them do...

I want my MLB
Tony Adragna
Lookie here, Will! Chris makes the case for why D.C. won't get a baseball franchise (If these comments came from Brian, then I woulda read a little "neener neener nee-ner" into them).

I would counter that my beloved Bay Area has TWO baseball teams and TWO football teams in fairly close proximity to each other. But, those teams have "history" where they're at, so I really couldn't offer that example as relevant. However, unless professional football plays by different market rules, then it seems to me that "proximity" isn't a very good reason. Look, the Ravens got to go to Baltimore, even though there was already a pro football team in the area. And don't tell me that the For... um... er... I mean, the Redskins don't count.

The only argument that really makes sense is the fact that two franchises previously bolted the city, and some may say that DC doesn't deserve another chance....

Can we have a baseball team Will? Please! Huh, huh, can we?

Well, I guess I'll just have to be happy with watching my friends from old British colonies play cricket in Langley Park...

Blog of Fools
Will Vehrs
Tony, I haven't exactly been burning up the blogways myself the last few days ... if you want to blog it out tomorrow, I'll be ready. I'll do Punditwatch first thing, then try to match your bodacity. I will attempt to gain the advantage by not allowing porn to distract me ....

There'll be lots to talk about--blog benefactors, peacock liquor, the future of "Free Mumia" graffiti/vandalism, charges that we're whining about baseball in DC, and yet to be written news that might trip our triggers. Go easy on me tonight--see you in the morning.

I'll be a bloggin' fool!
Tony Adragna
Much apologies to our readers (and you too, Will). It's been hard for me to get into the "cycle" lately because I've been on assignments. But, I'll be on call from home tomorrow, so you can expect some bodacious bloggage type commentation from me all day long (when I'm not toggled over to my favorite live porn site, that is). In fact, I plan to start tonight!

I spent alot of time at the Oakland Coliseum when I was a sports fan. During A's games we used to sit in the outfield bleachers (now extinct) and give the opposition outfielders a hard time. Never threw anything 'cept insults out into the field, and even the insults were delivered in a sportsmanlike manner (no swearing, or bringing anybody's momma into the fray). Don't ask me 'bout them Raiders - Big Al is the reason I swore off sports. And there was more than sports happining at the coliseum - the first real concert that I ever went to was a Simon & Garfunkle "Day on the Green" show.

When did they change the name to "Network Associates Coliseum"? I see that they did some major renovations, but at least the BART train still runs to the coliseum - did you know that the only public transit access to the home fo the Redskins is a $5 one way Metrobus ride from Landover station? Outrageous!

Well. let me go get some dinner, catch up on my CSPAN viewage, and I'll be back sometime after tonight's J.A.G. episode.

Above the fold
Tony Adragna
Washington Post:

Anthrax Vaccine Urged for Hill Staff - Federal health officials yesterday began urging Capitol Hill workers to take an as-yet unlicensed anthrax vaccine as part of a plan sparked by fears that deadly spores may be lurking in the employees' bodies and could erupt once antibiotic treatments end.

Afghan Militias Claim Victory in Tora Bora - TORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 17 -- Afghan militia commanders declared victory today in their battle to drive Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda fighters from their last mountain redoubts, as U.S. warplanes bombed al Qaeda troops retreating toward Pakistan and bin Laden's whereabouts remained a mystery.

Pursuit of Al Qaeda Poses New Risks - Just when the Afghan war may seem to be ending, some experts believe it is entering the most dangerous phase for U.S. troops.

New York Times:

With Seats Empty, Airlines Cut Fares to Bargain Levels - Airlines desperate to fill seats in the economic downturn that deepened after Sept. 11 are cutting some fares to levels not seen in years.

Al Qaeda Fleeing Toward Pakistan, U.S. Officials Say - TORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 17 — Hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters have fled from the caves of Tora Bora into the snow-capped mountains that mark the Pakistan border, and Osama bin Laden may be among them, according to United States intelligence officials, who acknowledged today that they had lost track of him.

Lobby Groups Find Congress in Giving Mood - WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 — Congress is dispensing last-minute legislative favors before it adjourns for the year, and lobbyists for special interests have lined up with a long list of requests, some of which raise major questions about the proper role of government in a weak economy.

Washington Times:

Bush turns up heat on Daschle -- The Washington Times - The White House yesterday escalated its battle with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, pressuring him to approve a bill to help the economy as House Republicans began bargaining anew with a swing Senate Democrat.

Los Angeles Times:

Camps Are Rubble but Their Threat Remains - WASHINGTON -- Surrounded by mud walls and hidden in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the Khalden camp was the birthplace of deadly terrorist attacks and plots against the United States for nearly a decade.

Ugly Sports Excess
Will Vehrs
Good morning, Tony. Sorry I ducked out yesterday, but I had offers I just couldn't refuse.

I meant to rant yesterday about the ugly incident Sunday at the Browns-Jaguars game in Cleveland--a riot by fans after a questionable call went against the Browns. Later, Browns management downplayed the fans' despictable behavior. Today Michael Wilbon's column in the Washington Post pretty much sums it up. He blames Browns management, but also finds a culprit elsewhere:

I'd be remiss if I didn't assign some of the blame for this acting out to the TV networks and newspaper columnists who pay anything more than passing attention to places like "The Dawg Pound" in Cleveland and "The Black Hole" in Oakland. As often as not, these are sections of a stadium where people get painted up, dressed up, and too often lathered up. If the TV cameras show a fan often enough, he begins to think he's important, that his ability to look ridiculous somehow helps his team and distinguishes him, marks him as "caring enough" about his team.

Amen. It's just a game and the thin veneer of civilization need not be checked at the gate. Whenever I see an egregious example of excess in sports--and I'm seeing all too many these days--I'm reminded of something I believe Jack Scott said long ago: "The ancient Greeks crowned their champions with laurel wreaths, a prize which, since it withered and died, symbolized the ephemeral value of sports."

Monday, December 17, 2001
Spinsanity - The John Walker Attack on Liberalism
Tony Adragna
Three cheers for Ben - Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! My head was starting to hurt after dealing with Steele and Sullivan (the walls aren't padded), but Ben takes on the whole gaggle, with a display of mental adroitness missing in the items being critiqued.

Why I don't like "Opies"
Tony Adragna
Lest I again be accused of saying "I don't like something, therefore it's not good", let me explain why Opus Dei drives me crazy.

The spirit of Opus Dei, literally "God's work", is something that I quite agree with - if you're going to call youself a Christian, then you ought live like a Christian. I would rather spend time with a "good soul" who happens to be an atheist, than with a "church goin' Christian". Which is where my problems with Opus Dei begin.

One of the "main features" of Opus Dei is their notion of "divine filiation": "The Christian is a child of God by virtue of baptism". This formula is at odds with the rest of the church, which recognizes that all humans are children of God. Some "squishy" Opus Dei members actually do subscribe to the broader concept, but it's the older notion that prevails.

Why does Opus Dei hold firmly to the condition of "baptism" for being "of God" when the rest of the church recognizes that baptism is a celebration of one's acceptance into the community of the faithful (Sidebar: "child of God" v. "of the community"). The only explanation that I can come up with, though Opus Dei members will deny that there's anything to my reasoning, is that Opus Dei sees itself as "correct", and the rest of the church as "wrong". I've met many members who view themselves as sort of an "elite" within the church. This isn't only antithetical to Catholicism, but it's also contrary to the spirit of Opus Dei.

I've seen to much arrogance where their should be humility, and it's very off-putting.

Mr. Hanssen's Opus
Tony Adragna
Don't get me started on Opus Dei, Will. The "personal prelature" is OK in concept, but "Opies" drive me crazy. Me and Joann P. dealt with Opus Dei in the fray awhile back. By the way, Opus Dei isn't an "order" - it's more a "society". But, I didn't watch 60 Minutes, so I'll defer to your comments.

Can I claim a little more QP pointage? Josh just picked up on "the freak's" connection to al Qaeda. QP noted the connection on Dec 4th. We can disagree about whether what'shisname oughta be subject to prosecution by a military commission, but you can't deny his links to al Qaeda.

Well, I'm sitting here on call in our downtown office, so I may not be back til this evening.

60 Minutes Kink
Will Vehrs
Tony, great to see "Above the fold" posted so early. I hope those fleeing al Qaeda are alternately freezing from the mountain cold and being singed by fiery American ordnance. We heard a lot early in the war about how the Afghan winter would shut down the fighting, but like many other predictions, that one appears to have been overblown.

Between changing the sheets and watching Blazing Saddles, did you catch 60 Minutes last night? I was appalled at Lesley Stahl's fixation on spy Robert Hanssen's kinky sex life, egged on by the leering Norman Mailer, who's apparently doing a book and cooperating on a movie about the traitorous FBI agent. When Stahl wasn't obsessing on Hanssen's "betrayal" of his wife, she was hitting his betrayal of Opus Dei, the Catholic order he joined.

While the sex stuff is sensational, the real story continues to be FBI's complete and utter failure to exercise the most routine supervision of its employees. Now it turns out that the FBI was tipped off about Hanssen long before they investigated him. At the time of the plea bargain in his case, I questioned whether Hanssen's wife should be entitled to his pension, a pension earned selling out the United States. She had to have been at least an enabler, if not a co-conspirator. The revelations about her role in Hanssen's non-spying kinks don't make her look very sympathetic, nor does the report that she still "loves" him and forgives him. It's easy to forgive with that big pension rolling in every month.

Above the fold
Tony Adragna
Washington Post:

Remnants of Al Qaeda Flee Toward Pakistan - TORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 16 -- Hundreds of al Qaeda fighters were escaping into snowy mountains toward Pakistan today as the battle to seize their mountainous base appeared to be nearing a close, Afghan commanders said. There was no sign of the primary target of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, their leader Osama bin Laden.

Deal-Making Let Many Leaders of Taliban Escape - KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 16 -- The Taliban has been driven from power, but almost all its top leaders remain at large, in many cases through battlefield deals that exchanged the peaceful surrender of territory for the safety of the defeated commander.

Rumsfeld: Mission Far From Over - BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Dec. 16 -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made an upbeat visit to newly liberated Afghanistan today, meeting with two of the country's top interim leaders and hundreds of U.S. troops guarding this heavily damaged former Soviet base.

New York Times:

Arafat Demands Halt in Attacks Against Israelis - RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec. 16 — With the United States and Europe pressuring him hard to stop anti- Israel terrorism, Yasir Arafat went on Palestinian television tonight to appeal for a halt to all armed activities against Israelis, including suicide bombings.

Terror War Not Over, Even in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 — With the collapse of Al Qaeda forces in Tora Bora and the installation of a new, if shaky, government in Afghanistan, the Bush administration is putting out two messages: It's not over till it's over, and even when this first phase of the war does end, Mr. Bush plans to move quickly to other terrorist havens.

U.S. Officials Say Al Qaeda Routed From Afghanistan - TORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 16 — American officials said today that Al Qaeda had been effectively destroyed in Afghanistan, and Afghan commanders here declared victory in the fierce battle for the mountain stronghold of Osama bin Laden's organization. But neither Americans nor Afghans said they knew where Mr. bin Laden was.

Loyalty in Rural Afghanistan Places Tribe Before Country - NAWNAIZ, Afghanistan, Dec. 16 — Wrapped in dark blankets and thick, dark turbans, three fierce-looking tribesmen stared at the outsiders approaching the village. The tribesmen's narrowed eyes and weathered faces radiated distrust.

Washington Times:

Al Qaeda routed from Tora Bora caves - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan —Afghan ground forces claimed yesterday to have nearly won the war by routing al Qaeda fighters from their mountain lairs in Eastern Afghanistan, but Osama bin Laden's whereabouts remained unknown.

Los Angeles Times:

Firms Hit Hard as Asbestos Claims Rise - A series of multimillion-dollar jury awards to victims of asbestos exposure in recent months is sending shock waves through corporate America, contributing to several major bankruptcy filings and warnings of massive future damages.

Sunday, December 16, 2001
Ahhhh... clean sheets...
Tony Adragna
Kitty Dakkar just curled on the pillows - the case is still warm from the drier.

Yes, my musical tastes are eclectic! I like everything from Gregorian chant (go figure) to Punk. Remember several years ago when Gregorian chant was suddenly "cool"? Well, I pulled out some old tape recordings for my friends to hear, and told them that I was one of the voices. Of course, they all thought I was full of it, until I explained that the recordings were made between 1983 and 1985 - while I was a seminarian. Advantage Tony Adragna!...

You're "doing cards"? I send e-cards! I always make sure to pick something that prints out nicely - just in case you want something for the mantle...

Do you still fold your clothes to fit in a seabag? (that's "dufflebag" to you "dogfaces"). I do! Not that I'm some kinda obsessive-compulsive or anything - it's just that "the system" is the only way that I can store all of my clothes. I don't really know where all these clothes came from, because I don't shop... I do have a good solution to that "sock" thingy - all of my socks match...

I need to amplify that I'm not making any criticism regarding Brooks' Atlantic piece - he may end up saying exactly the same thing that both of us are saying. I always find that the most useful criticism comes from someone who has actually bothered to read (listen to) the arguments. I sure do wish that some people had read my argument before attributing to it some assumptions that I carefully point out are not at the foundation of my argument...

Ooooh, gotta go - "Blazing Saddles" just came on Comedy Central (I'm sure they won't edit it the same way that Family Channel did). Sorry, I just can't get into the news cycle today...

Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm sitting here doing my Christmas cards, watching the Redskins' game on "mute" TV while listening to the radio broadcast by Sonny Jurgenson, Sam Huff and Frank Herzog. There's a pile of laundry that needs folding beside me--ocassionally I'll spend five minutes or so trying to match up socks during a commercial.

Your musical tastes are quite eclectic--The Sound of Music a few weekends ago, The Wall last night. I prefer the former of those two. My favorite musical, by the way, is Cabaret.

I think I've said before that I'm in the tank for David Brooks. He is a marvelous observer of politics, culture, and their nexus. I haven't read his latest Atlantic article, either, so I would tend to agree with you, in the absence of his argument, that the red and blue states aren't all that far apart. A columnist I'll highlight on Wednesday makes the point that the war has shown that Americans agree on 80% of things. The pundits tend to focus on the 20%. Like you, I think he's on to something with the "economic envy" theory.

Hope you'll be back after you've cleaned your room. Thanks for the kind words on PW; I would have no life if not for the weekend talking heads ....

I hit "The Wall" last night...
Tony Adragna
Should I congratulate on another stellar Punditwatch, Will?

I've been catching up on my CSPAN viewing. David Brooks was on this morning, talking about his latest Atlantic Monthly article, "One Nation, Slightly Divisible". I haven't read the piece (I'm a cheapskate), so I can't comment. But, I'll have to reserve the right to object. It seems that he starts with this "Red -Blue" divide (remember those electoral maps?), and while he tries to play down the differences, I still think that the whole notion is overblown.

This is my main objection: there has been alot of pointing at "the map" and saying "see, America's predominantly ____." The problem is that "the map" doesn't reflect the attitudes, leanings, beliefs, etc. of every voter - it merely says "____ won in this state", even where the margin was fairly small.

I do think that Brooks hit the mark when he addressed "economic envy". There is less "envy" in parts of the US where there are fewer "big ticket" experiences to be had. He illustrated the point by drawing comparisons between dining establishments in the typical "Red" v. "Blue" area. Take DC, for example, where the average meal is $20 per plate (not including drinks & gratuity), whereas in a community that boasts "Red Lobster" as one of its classier restaurants $20 could feed two. In other words, dining out in some places is more "democratic". The point that Brooks was making is that in places where "economic inequality" is more visible, "economic envy" is more present.

In my more radical days I would've twisted Brooks' words, and started ranting about how this is just another sign of how corrupt & uncaring our capitalist pigs are. Thank God I grew up! But, last night I experienced a little flashback to those days. VH1 ran Pink Floyd's "The Wall" (1982). I don't remember what I was on the first time I saw the movie, but the flashback was way kewl.

I hafta go finish cleaning my room now...

For a Good Time, Read Punditwatch
Will Vehrs
George Will talks about sex, David Brooks talks about Mrs. Tweedy, and Al Hunt admires a tough hombre, all in the latest Punditwatch, just posted.

Above the fold
Tony Adragna
Washington Post:

Afghan Courts a Broken Nation - KABUL, Afghanistan -- The summit began, as so many here do, with the figs. To break fast at the end of another day of Ramadan, Hamid Karzai took one from a box that was then passed around the gathering of dozens of political and military leaders. With all eyes on him, Karzai chatted amiably with a political rival, Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf.

Al Qaeda On the Run; Bin Laden Still Elusive - TORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 15 -- Afghan fighters and U.S. Special Forces scoured mountainsides today in an effort to root out Osama bin Laden's loyalists, reporting advances against al Qaeda's positions but no fresh evidence that they were closing in on its leader.

Chemical Plants Are Feared as Targets - The out-of-town pilot who landed at the Copperhill, Tenn., airport called himself "Mo" and asked a lot of questions. He was particularly interested in a chemical plant he had just flown over: What kind of chemicals are in those massive storage tanks?

New York Times:

Equal Opportunity Recession: Almost Everyone Is Feeling It - In the three months since Sept. 11, the economic downturn has quickly become one of the broadest on record.

Tora Bora Attack Advances in Tough Fighting - TORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 15 — Even as American forces and their Afghan allies close in on Al Qaeda fighters in the mountains here, the forbidding terrain and the stubbornness of some of the foreign followers of Osama bin Laden are making the struggle for Tora Bora the most complex battle of the war.

Steep Rise in Gun Sales Reflects Post-Attack Fears - Since Sept. 11, more Americans are taking what many consider to be the most personal step toward feeling safer: arming themselves.

Washington Times:

Israel steps up search for militants - GAZA STRIP — Israeli troops searching for militants flattened houses and security buildings in the Gaza Strip yesterday and briefly took over part of a Palestinian town, setting up tents outside a girls' high school. Five Palestinians were killed, more than 50 hurt and 15 arrested, witnesses and officials said.

Tora Bora fighters may be crumbling - TORA BORA, Afghanistan — The last major pocket of al-Qaida resistance in Afghanistan appeared to be crumbling yesterday as groups of fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden were captured or fled and others debated over two-way radios whether to surrender.

Los Angeles Times:

Fraudulent Passports Key Weapon for Terrorists - BRUSSELS -- The murder weapons were a bomb and two passports.