Monday, March 31, 2003

POOP HITTING FAN: The battle between Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon by Seymour Hersh. Via Josh Marshall. You know, if Rumsfeld wasn't such an asshole, people wouldn't hate him so much. I realize that's the warblog equivalent of a "MEAN PEOPLE SUCK" bumper sticker, but still. Diplomacy matters.
IF YOU NEEDED ANOTHER REASON TO HATE FOX NEWS: The blonde sameness of their on-air womenfolk is another good reason. Via Radley Balko. Fuck conservatism at the specific point where it remains frozen in the 50s and imagining blonde white chicks the highest standard of female beauty. Fuck The Man Show, for that matter, for its imagined universal standards of masculinity. And God bless the all-American multiethnic hotties of MSNBC. U-S-A! U-S-A!
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MICHELLE: The deal with Michelle Kwan, I think, is that she's the best at what she does. At the same time, she is completely beatable--her skates are physically conservative. But her performances are completely flawless. So you can beat her if you do something physically spectacular and do pretty well on the performance angle. But if you're going to beat her that way, there's a much greater chance you're going to screw up. So while Michelle gets beat by the Lipinskis and Hughes of the world in these flash-in-the-pan Magic Moments at the Olympics (where Michelle, of course, assists them with her own mistakes) she ends up being a far better skater than they because of her devotion to her sport. I mean, maybe she'd've retired years ago if she won a gold and gotten overwhelmed by it all, like Sara Hughes, who is probably retiring right now. But she didn't, and so she continued to develop into the dominant figure she is now. Figure skating needs more athletes like her, doing it for the love of the game and not because East European taskmasters are driving them on. Check out this bit from The Washington Post:

"This year has been so enjoyable because it's been so relaxed," Kwan said. "Maybe it's telling me something: I should put less pressure on myself, just go out there and have fun . . . I like it this way. It's just like, no pressure, easy-going. It's the way it should have been last year, and at other competitions when I was too intense."

She found her coach, Scott Williams, whom she hired late last summer, a perfect partner with whom to take this season's weird ride. A handful of prominent coaches offered their services after she competed last year with only her father rinkside. Kwan, though, chose the little-known Williams, a long-haired, longtime friend and former elite skater who shares Kwan's California tan.

She no longer needed the strong opinions of Frank Carroll, whom she dumped a year before the Olympics. She did not need the hard-core training approach of Russian coaches Tatiana Tarasova or Alexei Mishin. She needed someone who exuded calm rather than tension. Williams seems to consider himself little more than the instrument-tuner in Kwan's symphony. And that suited her perfectly.

"He has this sort of aura, very relaxing, very calming," she said. "He has a great effect on me on the ice and off the ice. It helps me get in that zone when I am very confident."

It's like, for her, little league is over--she's got a major league mentality, where browbeating is no longer required and a soothing, dareIsay Phil Jacksonesque figure is. This can only be good for the athletic legitmacy of figure skating, which needs to encourage skater to stay "amateur" and develop into really really good skaters. It's a shame this is happening at the same time as the ISU is at it's lowest state, but what can you do.

Michelle Kwan won her fifth world title on Saturday. By the way.

Friday, March 28, 2003

NO, IT WASN'T DAVID FRUM: It was, in fact, Harlan Ullman who came up with "shock and awe." Here's something of his from the New York Post. You learn a lot listening to NPR all day.
YOUR POLITICAL SPECULATION OF THE DAY: From Steve Sailer, Man Without Permalinks:

In the unlikely event that this war turns out very badly, Rumsfeld might go too for his credulity. Perhaps Powell would then switch to Defense to reinstate the Powell Doctrine of massive force. Pressure would then emerge for the appointment as new Secretary of State of the one man best situated to patch up American relations with the rest of the world. Who is that American statesman popular worldwide? You guessed it: Bill Clinton.

That would be a pure pro wrestling moment--Team Bush down in the ring, right after Dubya has laid out Rummy with a chair shot. "I'd like to introduce.....our NEW....Secretary Of Defense....." And out comes William Jefferson Clinton. "My God! That's--that's Bill Clinton's music!"
ON HANNITY AND COLMES LAST NIGHT: I don't know who he was, but he was the smirkiest, most sarcastic and greatest French guy ever. Hannity was trying mach-five levels of self-righteousness and nothing worked--the French guy was deep deep in a smug bunker from which he could not be rooted out of. And he had this weird shifty-eyed thing going on; he wasn't going to play that direct eye contact game, nosiree. "The ferocity of the French taunting took him completely by surprise."
FUEL, MEET FIRE. FIRE, FUEL: Evangelical aid groups poised to enter Iraq.
DR. RUTHSFELD: Sex tips from Donald Rumsfeld. Via medpundit. "There is no such thing as premature ejaculation. There is ejaculation, and there is non-ejaculation. If your husband is ejaculating, then count your blessings. Congratulations, you just had sex. That's what men do—they ejaculate."
ONE WAR I CAN GET BEHIND: The Smoking Gun's war on Fox programming continues.
WORLDS THIS WEEKEND: As figure skating self-destructs, you can still see if Sasha Cohen can finally beat Michelle Kwan, now that all the screeching teenagers seem to have eliminated themselves.

Thursday, March 27, 2003


Sitting here, looking at a couple websites, I've been able to build up a 90% accurate picture of the strategic situation. There have been no surprises, no aces up Gen. Franks' sleeve that I didn't see coming hours or days off. Everyone in the world knows, if they care, roughly when the next U.S. armoured division is likely to arrive in Kuwait, how many tanks the U.S. lost yesterday, and to what... imagine how much more you'd have if you were the Iraqi commander and you also had the input of your own recce assets to feed into that.

In 1991, using skilful misdirection and overwhelming aerial superiority, the Americans basically denied the Iraqis ANY intelligence about their location or intent. When the hammer fell, it fell, for the Iraqis, out of fricking nowhere. Not this time. All that's been ceded over. Now everyone knows where the Americans are: it's the knowledge of the Iraqi situation that's imperfect.

Watch for the embeds to start being left behind or clawed back. We've already seen one kicked out of theatre, for saying something actually rather innocuous. It was probably more to encourage the others. In fact, the lull you're seeing today in news probably has less to do with actual quiet on the ground, and more on reporters and their minders trying to establish what the new rules are going to be. And expect the generals to start shutting up.

Lousy stupid shock and awe....
YOUR GREATEST SEARCH THAT FINDS MY WEBLOG POST OF THE DAY: Number 8 for "Tony Blair is a wanker." Read 'em and weep, beeotches. I mean, pooftas.
RALPHY 'N' RUMMY: Here's some Ralph from a few days back:

I do not doubt our ultimate success. But the impressive television images of tanks charging across the desert mask a numerical weakness for which technology may not fully compensate. One senior officer serving in the Persian Gulf complained to me that had we had sufficient forces on hand to deploy security elements along our routes of march -- the usual practice -- those American POWs who appeared on Iraqi television might not have been captured.

The troops at the front of our attack are performing superbly, but they are operating on adrenaline at this point. Four to five days into any conflict, another division should have conducted a "forward passage of lines" with the 3rd Infantry Division before the final push to Baghdad, giving the 3ID a chance to rest, rearm and reequip before returning to battle. But no other heavy division is on hand in the theater of war to relieve or reinforce our tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. The closest unit is on ships in the Red Sea, at least 10 days away from any ability to influence the battle.

Why did Rumsfeld and his most trusted subordinates overrule the advice of their military planners? For political, bureaucratic and theoretical reasons. Rumsfeld, who is otherwise an inspiring wartime official, was out to prove a point. In his vision of the future -- one shaped by technocrats and the defense industry -- ground forces can be cut drastically in order to free funding for advanced technologies. To that end, Rumsfeld has moved to frustrate the Army's efforts to field medium-weight brigades that can be deployed swiftly to a crisis, which would have been invaluable in this conflict.

This war was supposed to prove the diminishing relevance of ground forces, while shock-and-awe attacks from the air secured a swift victory. Instead, the plan had to be rearranged so that ground forces could rush into Iraq to prevent economic and ecological catastrophes -- you still cannot seize ground, prevent sabotage, halt genocide and ethnic cleansing, or liberate anybody from the sky.

We are headed for victory, but, as the Duke of Wellington observed of Waterloo, it may be a "near-run thing" on the ground.

Some lessons of this war are already clear: Ferocity, skill and determination, not theories, win wars. And our nation will continue to require balanced, adequately funded forces -- in all of our armed services -- for a very long time to come.

Oh, and here's a put-down:

Some things do not change. The best way to shock and awe an enemy is still to kill him. Those who want to wage antiseptic wars for political purposes should not start wars in the first place.

NEOCON DECEPTICONS: Josh Marshall lays out the neocon scheming for all to see:

The hawks' grand plan differs depending on whom you speak to, but the basic outline runs like this: The United States establishes a reasonably democratic, pro-Western government in Iraq--assume it falls somewhere between Turkey and Jordan on the spectrum of democracy and the rule of law. Not perfect, representative democracy, certainly, but a system infinitely preferable to Saddam's. The example of a democratic Iraq will radically change the political dynamics of the Middle East. When Palestinians see average Iraqis beginning to enjoy real freedom and economic opportunity, they'll want the same themselves. With that happy prospect on one hand and implacable United States will on the other, they'll demand that the Palestinian Authority reform politically and negotiate with Israel. That in turn will lead to a real peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. A democratic Iraq will also hasten the fall of the fundamentalist Shi'a mullahs in Iran, whose citizens are gradually adopting anti-fanatic, pro-Western sympathies. A democratized Iran would create a string of democratic, pro-Western governments (Turkey, Iraq, and Iran) stretching across the historical heartland of Islam. Without a hostile Iraq towering over it, Jordan's pro-Western Hashemite monarchy would likely come into full bloom. Syria would be no more than a pale reminder of the bad old days. (If they made trouble, a U.S. invasion would take care of them, too.) And to the tiny Gulf emirates making hesitant steps toward democratization, the corrupt regimes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt would no longer look like examples of stability and strength in a benighted region, but holdouts against the democratic tide. Once the dust settles, we could decide whether to ignore them as harmless throwbacks to the bad old days or deal with them, too. We'd be in a much stronger position to do so since we'd no longer require their friendship to help us manage ugly regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

The audacious nature of the neocons' plan makes it easy to criticize but strangely difficult to dismiss outright. Like a character in a bad made-for-TV thriller from the 1970s, you can hear yourself saying, "That plan's just crazy enough to work."

But like a TV plot, the hawks' vision rests on a willing suspension of disbelief, in particular, on the premise that every close call will break in our favor: The guard will fall asleep next to the cell so our heroes can pluck the keys from his belt. The hail of enemy bullets will plink-plink-plink over our heroes' heads. And the getaway car in the driveway will have the keys waiting in the ignition. Sure, the hawks' vision could come to pass. But there are at least half a dozen equally plausible alternative scenarios that would be disastrous for us.

Via Matthew Yglesias. You should really read the whole thing, it's all about how every neocon plan could have different consequences from what the neocons say will happen. And argues one of the key neocon strategies has, in fact, been deception:

Today, however, the great majority of the American people have no concept of what kind of conflict the president is leading them into. The White House has presented this as a war to depose Saddam Hussein in order to keep him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--a goal that the majority of Americans support. But the White House really has in mind an enterprise of a scale, cost, and scope that would be almost impossible to sell to the American public. The White House knows that. So it hasn't even tried. Instead, it's focused on getting us into Iraq with the hope of setting off a sequence of events that will draw us inexorably towards the agenda they have in mind.

More inevitability crap. Or in this case, inexorability crap. Dang it. When all the neocons form a giant robot, what do they call it? Imperius Rex? Rovinator? Machiavelli Max? Cybertron, my Cyberton, I weep rusty tears for ye.
MORE CRETINOUS DIPLOMACY: The Blame Canada party is beating their war drums. Via Matt Welch.
LISTENING TO THE BUSH/BLAIR NEWS CONFERENCE: And comparing both of their answers to a question that was something like, "Why are traditional allies not supporting the war?" The Blair answer was something like, yes, there are differences of opinion, some are for us and some against us and these will need to be addressed after the war. The Bush answer was something like are you nuts, there's no problem whatsoever, we have more nations on our side than during Gulf War I--denial, basically. This whole "aura of inevitability" crap--defined as the persistent overstatement of one's case--is as annoying now as it was in 2000.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

GOOD POST: RiShawn Biddle answers Patio Pundit's question, "Have you lost any friends since 9-11?" I liked this part:

[T]here are going to be Reagan-era libertarians (Virginia Postrel, Reynolds, etc.) who will become aligned with conservatives within the next ten years. One reason: They're getting old; age can change points of view. The other reason: Because they had bought into the conceit that dollar diplomacy (a.k.a free trade can fix anything) would restrain ideologically-driven and power-hungry types such as terrorists. Now, any old-time libertarian/old whig such as Hayek could have told them otherwise; so could this newbie libertarian. But it took the World Trade Massacre to prove to them that their conceit was wrongheaded. Now that they're disillusioned, they're casting the whole baby out with the bathwater.

Which is good an explanation as any for Virginia's Frum-love.
ALSO VIA JOURNALISTA: The 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers. It's great to see New York hate on itself. Number 2 is Ted Rall; here's #1:

1 Keith Blanchard, Editor, Maxim

The smarmy doughboy of the lad mags is still under the illusion that Maxim is the first tits and gadgets magazine ever. Honestly thinks his glossy is a populist organ of substance and not a sheep-herding, post-frat social crutch for drooling, entry-level, corporate cogs. Once disparaged lengthy articles as "rants" aimed at "cranky retirees" and claims his monthly catalogue is the brave, new face of journalism. If so, then journalism exists to give cubicle dudes whack-off material for when their web use is being monitored. No doubt all the interns blew the boss for his debut novel, the borderline-illiterate Maxim epic The Deed, but for everyone else it just cemented his rep as a grade-A asshole.

Keith: You already know that you’re a no-talent hack. Now, you’re officially the most loathsome New Yorker. And to think, you only work here! Congratulations.
IT'S NOT LIKE IT'S A SLOW NEWS DAY: Why is Wonder Woman's haircut getting press?
THE WAR COULD TAKE A WEEK--POSSIBLY EVEN TWO: Joseph Galloway, the Knight-Ridder war correspondent, was on Fresh Air today and I googled up his articles. Here's the one where he makes his points that he made on the radio today:

Five days into the war, warnings are surfacing about a potential mismatch between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's strategy and the force he sent to carry it out.

The optimistic assumptions of the Pentagon's civilian war planners have yet to be realized, and the risks of the campaign are becoming increasingly apparent, say some current and retired military officials.

The outcome of the war isn't in doubt: Iraq's forces are no match for America and its allies.

Army Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday he did not think the U.S. military had invaded Iraq with too small and too light a force.

But less than a week into the war, resistance is proving to be tougher than expected by some of the architects of the American strategy. As a result, the war could be longer and costlier in American and Iraqi lives.

And if weather, Iraqi resistance, chemical weapons or other factors turn things suddenly and unexpectedly sour, the backup force, the Army's 4th Infantry Division, is still at Fort Hood, Texas, as its equipment sails around the Arabian peninsula.

The 21,000 soldiers could begin arriving in Kuwait almost immediately. But the 35 cargo ships carrying their heavy armor and equipment will not arrive in Kuwait until the first week of April at the earliest.

"In my judgment, there should have been a minimum of two heavy divisions and an armored cavalry regiment on the ground -- that's how our doctrine reads," said retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

His comments are part of a heated debate about the "rolling start" plan, in which combat actions began before the arrival of all ready forces, which are being brought forward or held back depending on how the battle proceeds.

Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the war in Iraq, has "incredible flexibility," McChrystal said. The heavy 3rd Infantry Division is pushing rapidly to Baghdad, supported by the 101st Airborne Division, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and a British division.

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, now a Pentagon consultant, agreed, saying those units -- all of which have been reinforced with additional troops and equipment -- represent "more combat power on the ground than is generally recognized."

According to some Army officers who were involved in some aspects of the war plan, air power more than makes up for the firepower that would have been provided by more tanks and artillery.

Yet despite the aerial pounding Iraqi forces have taken, it's not clear that they are either shocked or awed.

Instead of capitulating, some regular Iraqi army units are harassing American supply lines. Contrary to American hopes -- and some officials' expectations -- no top commander of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard has capitulated.

Many ordinary Iraqis are greeting advancing American and British forces as invaders, not as liberators. Even in the Shi'ite regions to the south, brutally suppressed by Hussein for decades, there has been stubborn fighting.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a commander during the gulf war, said: "The stability of the liberated areas is clearly at issue.. The postwar transition has to begin immediately in the wake of the attacking forces, and they seem to be short of forces for those important missions at this time."

Knowledgeable defense and administration officials say Rumsfeld and his civilian aides at first wanted to commit no more than 60,000 American troops to the war on the assumption that the Iraqis would capitulate in two days.

The ground war that is occurring was not going to happen in Rumsfeld's plan, a Pentagon official said. Because the Pentagon didn't commit overwhelming force, "now we have three divisions strung out over 300-plus miles and the follow-on division, our reserve, is probably three weeks away from landing," the official said.

Intelligence officials say Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilians ignored much of the advice of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Instead, they relied on reports from the Iraqi opposition and from Israeli sources that predicted an immediate uprising against Hussein once the Americans attacked.

The officials said Rumsfeld also made his disdain for the Army's heavy divisions very clear when he argued about the war plan with Franks.

Franks wanted more forces and more heavily armed forces, one senior administration official said. Rumsfeld pressed for smaller, lighter and more agile units, with much bigger roles for air power and special forces.

"Our force package is very light," said a retired general. "If things don't happen exactly as you assumed, you get into a tangle, a mismatch of your strategy and your force. Things like the pockets (of Iraqi resistance) in Basra, Umm Qasr and Nasiriyah need to be dealt with forcefully, but we don't have the forces to do it."

A retired senior general who has followed the evolution of the war plan said: "The secretary of defense cut off the flow of Army units, saying this thing would be over in two days.

"He shut down movement of the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Armored Division. Now we don't even have a nominal ground force."

In addition, said senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, Rumsfeld and his civilian aides rewrote parts of the military services' plans for shipping U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf, resulting in mistakes and delays, and also changed plans for calling up some reserve and National Guard units.

"There was nothing too small for them to meddle with," said one senior official. "It's caused no end of problems, but I think we've managed to overcome them all."

Rumsfeld has always been the scariest member of the Bush team, his preening assholeness reminding me of no one in popular culture as mush as The Red Skull. Not that him being an asshole means he's going to make bad decisions, but I'd like to believe it counts for something. Did you notice how animated he was when he was talking about how amazing it was that the whole war was being televised? He's a geek, and geeks shouldn't be making war decisions--they all think they're newfangled Alexander the Greats who are unjustly confined by an emasculating modern culture and know deep in their hearts that their balls are bigger than the military types they're suddenly in charge of. In actuality, Alexander the Great would've stolen Don Rumsfeld's girlfriend and left him picking olives in the hardscrabble Greek rocklands. My point being, the waging of this war seems to be being as run as well as the diplomacy that led up to it.
IF I WAS A STRICT PAGLIAIST: I'd believe, like, that the greatest sandstorm ever and the torrential downpours and the Columbia explosion and that a Roman general would have turned back all add up to something. But to be that strict a Pagliaist you'd have to be Camille Paglia. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. Probably.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

INSERT SEAQUEST JOKE HERE: K-Dog The Battle Dolphin. Oh, woe to us hu-men, who make the peaceful and intelligent dolphin into an instrument of our aggression. Someday we will return to the sea. Or something.

Wait, why would anyone make a Seaquest joke?
IF YOU DON'T HAVE A DISH: We're in the same boat then, li'l fella. Luckily Tim Cavanaugh is watching for you, though from reading the article it seems he missed the extensive live coverage at Umm Qasr on MSNBC over the weekend, with whoever the embedded guy was crawling up to interview a Marine and drawing little maps of their position in the dirt. Sgt. Stryker is watching television too and mentions one of my favorite anchors, MSNBC's Dan Abrams, who is perpetually heading over the top. The Sarge says:

Dan Abrams of MSNBC is pissed. It's kind of wierd to see a television anchorman displaying frustration and disbelief at certain things going on. The whole thing about the Iraqis dressing in civilian clothes and shooting from protected sites has really stuck in his craw. First he hammered Gen. Trainer about it, and the General explained LOAC and all that good stuf, but Abrams just wasn't buying it. I tlooked to me that he just wanted to blurt out, "Why can't we blow up that mosque, if they're killing Marines?"

Then he had a retired JAG on and hammered him about the same thing. And then I heard something I thought I'd never hear an "objective" journalist say, and I paraphrase, "So our guys have to check with lawyers before they fire back? So we have these self-imposed rules that lawyers impose on our troops and the government imposes on itself and now Marines are dead because of it." That last line was a statement, not a question. The JAG guy's trying to explain about PR and the rest of it, but Abrams was on a roll. "Those Arab TV networks are going to show us supposedly targeting and killing civilians no matter what we do while we follow the Rules of War." It was nothing short of astonishing to hear that. I don't know what prompted all this. Perhaps he saw the tape of the Americans executed and exploited on TV. Who knows? But man, it was something to see.

This is exactly the kind of thing Abrams would do when he had his early evening show, if I remember right. Which was weirdly entertaining; he would get enraged, in a really direct, non-rhetorical way--not the shouting-down-your-opponent Bill O'Reilly way, more like genuine moments of annoyance at the sheer stupidity he face in his guests. I don't know why MSNBC is failing, they have weirdo anchors, hot chicks and the best embedded reporters I've seen.

Monday, March 24, 2003

OLD SCHOOL: Was the movie I saw this weekend and it rocked. It was like they took an 80s frathouse movie and replaced crappy stock actors with actual credible actors. And rewrote every character just slightly so they'd be distinct from the generic fraboys-versus-crusty-dean plot they were trapped in. AND just gave up on pretending 30 year old actors were 20 year old fratboys by just making the characters themselves 30. And made the sole appearance of female nudity in this movie something awful and threatening and directly causing the death of one character. Just a really original reworking of the frathouse genre. Plus I kept getting the Rushmore/Royal Tenenbaums vibes due to Luke Wilson and the first post-Rushmore Sara Tanaka role. The scene with her, Jeremy Piven and Jeremy Piven's lackey in the empty stadium was straight out of Rushmore.
A TEMPLATE, ETERNAL AND UNCHANGING: My template refuses to update, I guess the Blogger template computer is still on its seventy-year orbit around the Solar System and won't be in transmission range again until 2036. If I could update it, I would add a link to the weblog of Maria Yang, who is a medical student at UC Davis and writes cool stuff. You should visit her site and read what is contained therein. Verily. Uh, Maria found via Andrea See.
HEY, I HAVEN'T DONE A BILL SIMMONS POST LATELY: You know, you wouldn't think it would be difficult to remember that there were great NBA players before Michael Jordan. And yet, Bill Simmons seems like the only guy to consistently acknowledge that fact:

For instance, everyone became enthralled by Kobe after his February scoring binge -- playing on a superior team, in a more structured system, with the best center in the league on his side -- whereas McGrady has submitted slightly better numbers this season in relative anonymity. Hey, nobody loves Kobe more than me, but if you don't think McGrady could average 40 a game for an entire month playing next to Shaq, you're crazy. Kobe works harder for his points than McGrady does, and that's the frightening thing about T-Mac -- sometimes it feels like he's just scratching the surface of his abilities, like those games when he scores 48 in three quarters and doesn't seem like he's even breaking a sweat.

You always hear people mention how Kobe is evolving into the next MJ, but nobody ever mentions how T-Mac is evolving into Julius Erving (the ABA version), only with a more reliable jumpshot. He's the second coming of Doctor J. Believe me. Back in the mid-'80s, everyone always compared young MJ to Doctor J -- erroneously, as it turned out, because MJ played much more like an evolutionary David Thompson, the high-flying Denver guard who battled drug problems and never reached his full potential. And now here's somebody who really is the next Doctor J, and nobody ever mentions it.

Did you ever wonder what would happen if Doc and MJ ever met in their primes? The next few years of "T-Mac Vs. Kobe" should serve as a real-life computer simulation. I can't wait to see how it turns out. As an aside, I never thought we would see someone like Doc again -- the way he gracefully carried himself on the court, balanced by how he violently attacked the basket -- and yet here's McGrady doing the exact same thing. It's unbelievable.

Which reminds me, John Hollinger also has some T-Mac appreciation:

Let's not mince words: Right now, McGrady is flat-out the best player in basketball. It's not even a close call. His current average of 32.4 points per game is the highest in the league in 10 years, and if you eliminate players named "Jordan" from the equation, it's the highest since Bernard King averaged 32.9 in 1984-85.

Yet that average actually understates how well McGrady is playing. Here's a trivia question to get things started: Since Christmas, how many times McGrady has been held under 20 points?

While you ponder that answer, let's look at his accomplishments.

For starters, can we give him an Oscar for Best Performance Without a Supporting Actor? Despite a roster that, minus McGrady, would have trouble beating Cleveland or Denver, McGrady has managed to raise his game across the board and drag the Magic into the playoffs. Their current four-game win streak even has them challenging Boston for the No. 6 seed.

McGrady is shooting more -- boosting his shot attempts from 20.9 to 24.1 a game -- but yet also managed the difficult feat of shooting better -- his field-goal, free-throw and 3-point percentages are all significantly higher than a year ago. Having overcome last year's back trouble, the 23-year old simulatenously has shouldered a bigger load while improving his efficiency.

Now, back to that trivia question. The correct answer is zero. McGrady has scored at least 20 points in 40 straight games -- he'll make it a full half-season Monday night against Memphis. He's also been Orlando's leading scorer in all 40 of those games. That accomplishment is a monument to his consistency.

Look closer at his 40-game stretch. He's averaging 33.9 points a game -- even Jordan averaged that many only twice, and other than His Airness, the last player to score that much in a season was Bob McAdoo in 1975-76.

McGrady's raised his game even more down the stretch, averaging an amazing 37 a game over his past 15 contests as he leads the Magic's playoff charge. That includes Sunday night's stellar performance in Miami, when he had 32 at halftime and then put it in cruise control as Orlando rolled to a blowout win.

And yet, when the topic of MVP comes up, McGrady's name is mysteriously absent. Despite putting up the best scoring season in a decade and taking an otherwise talentless team into the postseason, all eyes have been focused westward, toward Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

All three are great players and worthy candidates in another year. But McGrady has been head and shoulders above the rest, and in a fair world, his amazing 40-game stretch should have cemented the award a long time ago.

T-Mac is so much fun to watch--just so smooth and effortless-looking. I think I've said this before, but for completely aesthetic reasons I'll always prefer his game over the shot-forcing, ref-baiting Kobe/Jordan style of basketball.
MORE REMIXED PROPAGANDA: Though not Micah Wright's this time. Via Dr. Frank.
MSNBC'S WAR COVERAGE RULES, FOR COMPLETELY PREDICTABLE REASONS: I mean...Jeannie Ohm, Rosalind Jordan and Kelly O'Donnell? That trio is the best of all possible Miss April, May, and Junes and I will always look forward to Jeannie's cute, fumbly reports from the Pentagon as I lay in my lonely bed somewhere in the vicinity of 2 in the morning. Is it.....still....midnight choking......if it's past.......MIDNIGHT? Huh?
TODAY'S FRESH LIVE GNOME BAIT: From the Salon interview with Paul Berman:

I'm sure this one line in your book will infuriate some and surprise others -- especially Europeans. You wrote: "In this country, we are all Noam Chomsky." What do you mean by that?

Chomsky is a man who thinks the entire world operates on simple and rational principles. The reason he's able to crank out these thousands of pages a year on all subjects is because he has an extremely simple analysis: Evil American corporations are acting in their own self-interest and trying to increase and spread their exploitation around the world. The American government is in their hands and is acting to expand its nefarious control over the world. The press has been corrupted by the wealth and power of corporations and spreads the propaganda messages required by the corporations. American claims to ever do any good around the world are merely hypocritical mendacities uttered for the purpose of advancing the larger cause of exploitation and oppression. And the response of other people in the world is that of resistance as inspired by an instinct for human freedom, even if the resistance sometimes takes a perverse and unfortunate form. Therefore, from Chomsky's point of view, all events are rationally explicable according to one or two tiny little factors: the self-interest of American corporations and the urge to resist the American corporations.

It's a very simpleminded view in which nothing inexplicable ever occurs. And yet although Chomsky is regarded by some people as the great anti-American, this kind of thought is entirely typical of America itself, of people across the political spectrum in America. People tend to think that everybody around the world is acting on some rational calculation, that the mad and pathological movements I describe that have emerged from the First World War really can't exist, that surely everybody is acting in some way in their own self-interest in a fashion that could be calculated and addressed. Finally, even the FBI and the CIA have obviously thought along these lines because it never crossed these people's minds -- not seriously anyway -- that somebody was going to be so mad to attack the United States directly. Sept. 11 revealed many shocking things and the most shocking was that the Pentagon had no plan to defend the Pentagon. In that sense, everybody in the United States, even the Joint Chiefs of Staff, everybody is a simpleminded fool.

Berman being the author of that New York Times article on Sayyid Qutb everyone and their mother has linked to. And with good reason--it explains the Islamist point of view I found myself yearning for a universal order. But all my favorite porno movies starting playing in my head and drew me back into modern living. Meanwhile while I was tiptoeing through the cybertulips I came across this book, which seems like Berman's, and this review, which made this point:

Islamic fundamentalism is not an indigenous growth. It is an exotic hybrid, bred from the encounter of sections of the Islamic intelligentsia with radical western ideologies. In A Fury for God, Malise Ruthven shows that Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian executed after imprisonment in 1966 and arguably the most influential ideologue of radical Islam, incorporated many elements derived from European ideology into his thinking. For example, the idea of a revolutionary vanguard of militant believers does not have an Islamic pedigree. It is "a concept imported from Europe, through a lineage that stretches back to the Jacobins, through the Bolsheviks and latter-day Marxist guerrillas such as the Baader-Meinhof gang".

In a brilliantly illuminating and arrestingly readable analysis, Ruthven demonstrates the close affinities between radical Islamist thought and the vanguard of modernist and postmodern thinking in the West. The inspiration for Qutb's thought is not so much the Koran, but the current of western philosophy embodied in thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Heidegger. Qutb's thought -- the blueprint for all subsequent radical Islamist political theology -- is as much a response to 20th-century Europe's experience of "the death of God" as to anything in the Islamic tradition. Qutbism is in no way traditional. Like all fundamentalist ideology, it is unmistakeably modern.

I know Nietzsche is a major figure in philosophy, and wasn't actually anti-Semitic, but when you end up inspiring the Nazis and Al Qaeda, I mean--daang.

Saturday, March 22, 2003


Friday, March 21, 2003

FROM ONE WASTELAND TO ANOTHER: Welcome to Camp New Jersey, ladies and gentlemen. Awwwww yeah.
BY THE WAY: It's weird seeing the Ottoman Empire back in the news. Back in grade school I only remember hearing about the Ottomans when they sort of added, "oh, they were with the Germans too" when they taught us World War I.
NOVICE GEOPOLITICAL QUESTION: What--exactly--are the arguments against letting Iraq break up into Shia, Sunni and Kurd states? It would rid the world of one more illogical state. You wouldn't have to force a central government on a bunch of people who don't want to live together. It would be reverse-colonial and not neo-colonial because you'd undo the post-World War map-redrawing that gave us the modern state of Iraq. You wouldn't have people on the radio talking about "the Iraqi people", as if there was such a coherent group of people who defined themselves as being Iraqi. I mean, what's the point of remaining attached to colonial-era national boundaries? Is this an oil thing?
THE TIME HAS COME, THE WALRUS SAID, TO TALK OF LAKERS AND KINGS: Last night was kind of a repeat of the Christmas Day game, with a competitive game for three quarters and the Kings pulling away in the fourth. This is kind of low tide for this Lakers team, as the Associate Lakers are finally breaking down and being exposed for the pikers they are. And the Kings are starting to figure them out. It's going to be a fun fun postseason.
ALL OUT OF MAVS LOVE: The Mavs novelty has worn off on me, what with the latest Mavs loss last night. Wherein Tony Parker beat five Mavs to the basket to take the lead in overtime with like a second and a half left. Just horrrrible. The Mavs are in first place and they've already been written off by most basketball people, including me.
THE MOTHER OF ALL ROAD TRIPS: That's what's been on my teevee lately. What the hey? I mean, there aren't any roads, but still....

Thursday, March 20, 2003

NASCENT REPUBLIC OF KURDISTAN: I love reading the Tim Noah "Kurd Sellout Watch" posts, for me if the Kurds end up with their own state at the end of all this it would be a Good Non-Cynical Reason for going to war. So I was chagrined when I read this Melik Kaylan piece in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago which claimed that not just that the Kurds weren't all marshmallows and sunshine but that they were a pack of thugs and not really a blooming democracy at all. But Tim saw it too and he's got the goods on Kaylan, which make me feel better about my Kurd-support:

Kaylan is on the scene, whereas Chatterbox is not. Consequently, Chatterbox would ordinarily grant Kaylan considerable deference. But Kaylan completely ignores the demonstrable facts that Iraqi Kurdistan enjoys a free press and has held an election that passed muster with independent observers—not something you can say about almost any other part of the Middle East. You'd think Kaylan would want at least to refute these points. That he doesn't arouses suspicion. Chatterbox's confidence in Kaylan's judgment was further undermined when he remembered an earlier Journal op-ed in which Kaylan argued for a tax cut on the grounds that America needed to nurture and expand an aristocracy that lived entirely on inherited wealth. (Chatterbox answered Kaylan here, here, and here.) Is Kaylan the Journal editorial page's designated crash dummy, sent out again and again to test the viability of outrageous new doctrines? Chatterbox is beginning to think so.

Tim also linked to this choice rundown on the situation in Kurdistan. And you should read any and all Elizabeth Rubin in TNR you can--she's reporting from Kurdistan as we speak. No links though, you gotta pay for TNR these days--but it's usually worth it, as Charles Murtaugh suggests. Their arts coverage is kind of snotty, but there's usually one or two really great articles per issue.
AM I SADDAM OR NOT?: My guess is no, that dude looked a little too unconcerned and he didn't have that Saddam-like glint in his eyes, which is I guess what the giant glasses were meant to cover up. And I'm a guy with a weblog, so you better recognize.
SHANE BATTIER, QUIET PATRIOT: Lang Whitaker pointed out this Battier quote:

"We all have a role to play in this world," Battier said. "A lot of times, people scoff at our profession and those in the entertainment industry. But we know there are so many people in this country who work hard and who are under pressure who need to take a break from the world events. That's when they can watch sports on TV, or maybe come to a Grizzlies game, and maybe relax for a few hours."

It also struck Battier that the role of sports intensifies in time of war.

"I was watching SportsCenter and it was pretty moving to me when they were talking to a young infantry man in Kuwait," Battier said. "He was saying how important sports was to our guys and girls in the Middle East. A lot of them follow us and want us to keep on keeping on.

"So my approach is I'm going to do my job as an American. I'm going to do my job to the best of my ability, and try to bring a piece of America to the Middle East, and raise morale over there."

It's weird how Duke players become dramatically less annoying once they reach the pros--well, maybe not that weird, their annoying on-court behavior is all part of the Mike Krzyzewski game plan.
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF WARLIKE TOYS: The GI Joe Hovercraft actually exists. And, also on the Hasbro war front, Optimus Prime just shipped out. Via Hit&Run. You know, it's weird how the pop culture of my childhood (the early 80s) is almost completely un-nostalgiaized--and I'm not sure what I even mean by that. Mainly that the pop culture images of that time are not in general circulation; they only make guest spots in cultish areas like The Cartoon Network and comic books. Like everyone recognizes Yogi Bear or Marvin The Martian or KISS or Darth Vader, but you have to have actually been there at the time to remember Optimus Prime or Skeletor or Cobra Commander. Is it just demographics--late Gen X/early Gen Y being a small generation? Was the 70s the last gasp of a shared national popular culture? Maybe Franklin has some thoughts.
AND HEY, THERE'S MARCH MADNESS TOO: Early games are on ESPN--there's some kind of geopolitical conflict on CBS....
SAC KINGS/LAKERS TONIGHT AT TEN: And good ol' Shaq has been adding fuel to the fire:

"How did Mike Bibby get on the team?'' Shaq wondered aloud. "Any Cub Scout with Boy Scouts can do Boy Scoutish things. When (Bibby) was in the Cub Scouts, he was a Cub Scout. When he was with Vancouver, nobody heard about (him). Now that he's with Sacramento ... he's on the team. I ain't going.

"And Allen Iverson isn't on the team? Why not? (U.S. coach) Larry Brown should have said, 'If he's not on the team, I'm not going.'''

The best part was Bobby Jackson's comeback:

"That's just talk from a guy who likes to talk,'' Sacramento's Bobby Jackson said. "Nobody cares. You can't listen to everything he says. Even he don't listen to everything he says."

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

OTHER AFL BLOGS HEARD FROM: The Unofficial Blog of the AFL. The Australian Football League, of course, and not our decent God-fearing Arena Football Leauge.
DERB DERB DERB WELL THE DERB IS THE VERB: I guess you would call this John Derbyshire piece a more Bush-apologetic version of that Fareed Zakaria article:

We don't understand — How badly George W. Bush travels. Never having been schooled in the fast repartee of a parliamentary debating chamber, Bush seems slow and inarticulate in response. Coming from the openly confessional tradition of Southern Christianity, he seems to foreigners to be religiose rather than religious. Having spent most of his life in a region with a strong sense of identity, he speaks his local dialect unselfconsciously, which makes him sound like a bumpkin to other English-speakers (and even to some Americans). Pronouncing "nuclear" as "noo-koo-luh" tells you nothing more about the man than that he comes from Texas and doesn't care who knows it. It is no more reprehensible than my pronouncing "schedule" with a "sh" instead of a "sk," and it is very unfair of non-Texans to snigger at it. They do, though, and I am not sure they are wrong to do so, bearing in mind what terrible responsibilities lie behind that word "nuclear."

Via the DVDVR. Of course, it only explains why Bush travels badly in the U.K., not everywhere else.
YOUR GREATEST GOOGLE SEARCH THAT FINDS MY WEBLOG POST OF THE DAY: "Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki fan fiction." Which is two steps away from "Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki slash fiction." Holy crap, there actually is some. Crikey. I am appalled and amused. Nash/Nowitzki slash fiction is going to give Kirk and Spock a run for their money. You heard it here first.
I DO SO LOVE THE BLOGS: So I love the Jason Malloy response to a Marc Miyake article, and when I go to Amritas to get a follow-up I don't get one but I do get further criticism of the Scientist-Gnome. I'm not informed enough by a long ways to judge how right either guy is; Marc is clearly deep in the Chomsky hate, but he can back up what he says with actual linguistic knowledge--which impresses me, anyway. But I do think Chomsky is going to wind up being closer to the Freud of his field than the Darwin; you know, paradigm-altering, dead wrong about a lot of things, and ceaselessly entertaining. (Chomsky not so entertaining to me as Freud, but others find him entertaining, I understand.) Not someone they keep going back to years after the fact like biologists still do with Chuck Darwin.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

READ FAREED: My favorite part of the Fareed Zakaria article everyone's linking to:

President Bush’s favorite verb is “expect.” He announces peremptorily that he “expects” the Palestinians to dump Yasir Arafat, “expects” countries to be with him or against him, “expects” Turkey to cooperate. It is all part of the administration’s basic approach toward foreign policy, which is best described by the phrase used for its war plan—”shock and awe.” The notion is that the United States needs to intimidate countries with its power and assertiveness, always threatening, always denouncing, never showing weakness. Donald Rumsfeld often quotes a line from Al Capone: “You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.”

But should the guiding philosophy of the world’s leading democracy really be the tough talk of a Chicago mobster? In terms of effectiveness, this strategy has been a disaster. It has alienated friends and delighted enemies. Having traveled around the world and met with senior government officials in dozens of countries over the past year, I can report that with the exception of Britain and Israel, every country the administration has dealt with feels humiliated by it. “Most officials in Latin American countries today are not anti-American types,” says Jorge Castaneda, the reformist foreign minister of Mexico, who resigned two months ago. “We have studied in the United States or worked there. We like and understand America. But we find it extremely irritating to be treated with utter contempt.” Last fall, a senior ambassador to the United Nations, in a speech supporting America’s position on Iraq, added an innocuous phrase that could have been seen as deviating from that support. The Bush administration called up his foreign minister and demanded that he be formally reprimanded within an hour. The ambassador now seethes when he talks about U.S. arrogance. Does this really help America’s cause in the world? There are dozens of stories like this from every part of the world.

In diplomacy, style is often substance. Consider this fact: the Clinton administration used force on three important occasions—Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo. In none of them did it take the matter to the United Nations Security Council, and there was little discussion that it needed to do so. Indeed, Kofi Annan later made statements that seemed to justify the action in Kosovo, explaining that state sovereignty should not be used as a cover for humanitarian abuses. Today Annan has (wrongly) announced that American action in Iraq outside the United Nations will be “illegal.” While the Clinton administration—or the first Bush administration—was assertive in many ways, people did not seek assurances about its intentions. The Bush administration does not bear all the blame for this dramatic change in attitudes. Because of 9-11, it has had to act forcefully on the world stage and assert American power. But that should have been all the more reason to adopt a posture of consultation and cooperation while doing what needed to be done. The point is to scare our enemies, not terrify the rest of the world.

The phrase "Mayberry Machiavellis" keeps running through my head. Something about having unsophisticated weirdos running the country. And how I can't wait to vote for anybody else in 2004. But I can't, like, prove any of that. Except that last part.

Monday, March 17, 2003

MEMO TO CHUCK TAYLOR: Don't be an ass. Your guy Clinton cost you assholes the White House by being a morally reprehensible creep who ended up costing Gore half the country and any chance of a coherent message. And you're blaming the war on Nader-voters? Kee-ripes....
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY: From me, and then--in idiosyncratic linguistico-Chomsky hatin' fashion--from Amritas.

Friday, March 14, 2003

HEY WOW, MY FIRST BIG MEDIA MENTION: And in the beloved paper-of-college-years Baltimore Sun, no less:

Bloggers have a knack for devising creative titles -- such as "Insolvent Republic of Blogistan" -- and ingenious new words. When one blogger assails another's claims in a long, point-by-point screed, it's called getting "fisked" -- after left-wing British journalist Robert Fisk, whose articles inspired such attacks.

There you go. Via Radley Balko. Meanwhile, the new SI is reporting that Manu Ginobili gets 50 hits a day on his site--more when he plays well--making me nearly as popular as everyone's favorite Spurs rookie. How about that?

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

INITIAL "GODS AND GENERALS" REACTION: You know, I can't help but think that a movie like "Gods And Generals" that attempts to interpret the Civil War as a national tragedy whose combatants--on both sides--are worthy of being remembered and understood, and tries to make the Southern perspective part of a larger American history--tries to give both sides equal standing and in effect makes the War accessible to all Americans, as something that happened to all Americans, where the South's perspective is an American perspective, as much as the North's was--is about a million times more constructive than the playing-to-Northeastern-vanity morally superior "Just say slavery"* mindset that I think was behind many of the negative reviews G&G got. Maybe I'm engaging in political fantasy here as much as the "It was all slavery. Yep." types, but I like my tragic War Between The States fantasy way better than the Virtuous North Beats Racist South fantasy, because it is (ironically, I guess) that much less divisive. I don't see the point in continuing the demonization of an entire region of the country. Besides, how can you not love a movie with the stones to have a twelve-minute intermission in the year 2003? See it somewhere with free refills.

*--From that Simpsons episode where Apu take his citizenship test and one of the questions asks for the reason for the Civil War and Apu gives a bunch including slavery. But slavery is the right answer. Thus, "Just say slavery."