Thursday, October 31, 2002

Put Out Your Power Line

For some excellent analysis of the fallout from the Wellstone Rallygate check out the Power Line blog. They also have a debunking of the theory espoused by Robert Novak and repeated by Rush that the DFL rejected Alan Page to replace Wellstone because Minnesota is such a white state and he would not win. As a long time supporter of Norm Coleman I was quite fearful that if Page was the choice he would be unbeatable. A popular ex-Viking with his name recognition would be a tough opponent and I don't believe that fact the he is a minority would really hurt him that much. At least with Mondale there is a history to campaign against as well as the age factor. And if Norm can get Fritz to debate I think he'll tear him to shreds. There still is hope.

Mourning is Over

A constant theme throughout the Wellstone tributes of the past few days has been his unwavering integrity, the fact that he always fought for what he believed in, even when it was an unpopular stance. This claim has some validity--but only when analyzed in a relative sense. Yes Wellstone may have had integrity, be it to a dangerous and destructive belief in centralized government as a vehicle to improve the lives of people, but only when you compare him to his brethren in the ranks of elective government. My observations tell me most politicians, particularly from the Democratic party, will say anything to get elected and their votes are always subject to their evaluation of the prevailing popular opinion. And perhaps Wellstone was less willing to engage in this odious form of pandering. This is probably why his Senate colleagues have begun calling him "the conscience of the Senate," which to me seems like an inadvertent admission by his colleagues that they don't have any consciences or integrity themselves.

But the fact that Wellstone was slightly better than the abysmally low standard set by Daschle, Bird, Kennedy, Biden, et al., doesn't necessarily mean he had integrity in an objective sense. In the months leading up to the election several commentators on the Left had begun to raise these very questions about Welltstone's record and his specific abandonment of his principles in the face of potentially adverse popular reaction in an election year.

The specific examples include his voting for the USA Patriot Act earlier this year. According to an article in the January 16, 2002 issue of City Pages G.R. Anderson reports reactions from the Left included:

For me, the most disappointing surprise in the Senate tally was the Paul Wellstone vote," wrote Nat Hentoff, a columnist for the Village Voice and longtime Wellstone admirer. "He is one of the few authentic liberals left in Congress."

"He screwed up and pissed off his constituents. He has to backpedal and put this stuff out to show that he's still concerned about civil rights," offers Ken Pentel, a coordinator for the Green Party of Minnesota and former gubernatorial candidate. "You can't hold him accountable for the whole Senate. But at least from Senator Wellstone you might expect something to distinguish himself. Instead, there was nothing. Complete silence."

Regarding the debate about military intervention in Iraq, Steve Perry had the following comments, in the September 18, 2002 issue of City Pages:

This summer, Bush had to fight off members of his own party and a few rebellious Democrats when he began stumping to invade Iraq. Wellstone, meanwhile, got in lock step with the majority of his party, known to those who track campaign contributions as the Democratic Leadership Council. Like most incumbent legislators up for reelection this fall, Wellstone's safely neutral position is that Bush must prove that Hussein poses a "credible threat" before he would sanction unilateral military action. Whatever that means.

And later in that same article:

So where's Wellstone? After all, this is the guy who told the New York Times a year after he was elected that "life is sacred, and my standard is to do everything you can to avoid loss of life, regardless of who the people are and the country they live in."

According to Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant, who chimed in last week with a piece entitled "Paul Wellstone is not an outsider anymore," it is simply a matter of maturity. Our senator, Sturdevant concludes approvingly, "appears to have concluded that playing the respectfully skeptical seeker of truth is more, well, senatorial."

No kidding. At any rate that's one way to put it, agrees a Democratic insider turned Green strategist I talked to last week. Especially if your definition of "senatorial" squares with the centrists who run the Democratic Party, fund campaigns, and convince candidates that public opinion polls are more important than principle: "The guy has a messianic complex. The party has convinced him that the future of the U.S. Senate rests on his shoulders. What does that mean? It means don't rock the boat. And yeah, that kind of makes you wonder: What's the point?"

Regarding Wellstone's support of the 1996 Defense of Marriage bill, Green Party member Jeff Taylor had this to say, in the August 13, 2002 issue of Alexander Cockburn's Leftist magazine, Counter Punch:

Gay and lesbian activists were stunned and angered in June 1996 when Wellstone announced at a gay-sponsored fundraiser he "personally opposes same-sex marriages" and was considering voting for the "Defense of Marriage" bill which would deny federal recognition of them (Star Tribune, 6-5-96). It seemed completely out of character for the "enlightened," progressive politician.

We might be able to piece together an explanation from the news story. The Star Tribune noted, "He faces reelection this fall in a race that is a top target nationally for Republicans." Two sentences later, the reporter says, "Wellstone shocked the crowd when he said he was raised to believe that marriage was reserved for the union of one man and one woman." This was the first his gay supporters had heard of this basic belief. Presumably, Wellstone was also raised to believe that romance and sex should be between one man and one woman, but that hadn't stopped him from unreservedly supporting gay rights throughout his years as a college teacher, political activist, and office holder.

From Taylor again, regarding Wellstone's reneging on his pledge to only serve two terms, due to the fact that Republicans controlled the White House and House of Representatives, so circumstances had changed since 1996 :

The changing circumstances rationale first used by Wellstone and echoed by apologists is probably specious anyway. Wellstone didn't groom anyone within the DFL to succeed him after making and remaking his no-third-term pledge. That strongly suggests that he had no intention of keeping his promise. Wellstone continued to raise campaign money and passed up the opportunity to publicly promote a successor in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Four years passed between his second election and the supposedly crucial changing of circumstances (Bush elected and the Senate evenly divided). This would lead an objective observer to suspect, if not conclude, that Wellstone never had any intention of retiring upon the conclusion of his second term.

Paul Wellstone is now a professional politician. There are certain groups which have a vested interest in keeping Wellstone in power, namely (A) the quasi-liberal interest group leaders who make a good living off talking about the problems of others and exploiting their fears and (B) the corporate-funded Democratic Party which finds it useful to have a tame "liberal" on board to point to whenever Ralph Nader begins his siren song.

And finally, Taylor's analysis of why the Democratic party embraced Wellstone, and in retrospect, it's an adequate explanation of why the entire Democratic party power structure was in attendance at Williams Arena on Tuesday night:

Breaking his promise to serve only two terms isn't the real problem. It's a symptom. Wellstone the populist fighter lives on only in memory, stump speeches, and slick TV ads (many paid for by DFL soft money). Wellstone can't claim to be a man of great integrity. He's not that different from all the other politicians who call themselves "public servants" while they mostly serve themselves, their friends, and their pet causes.

The Senator can't hardly run on the slogan "Paul Wellstone: Just Another Politician Trying to Hang Onto His Job," so the race is cast in portentous, almost apocalyptic terms. "Wellstone has to win to keep a Democratic majority in the Senate." "Wellstone is Bush's #1 target." "If Wellstone loses, it's the end of liberal civilization as we know it." Yeah, right. How is Wellstone's reliably Democratic vote any different from those of Tim Johnson or Bob Torricelli? When he does swim against the Democratic current, he's casting a symbolic vote which doesn't accomplish anything beyond bolstering his threadbare maverick image. If his one vote would make a real difference-against the interests of the Democratic establishment-he'd probably knuckle under with a self-deluded explanation.

Those same slogans will now be used to bolster the campaing of Walter Mondale and now they'll have the added enhancement of the legacy of the so-called last man of integrity in the Senate.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Loons of the Northwoods

Andrew Sullivan has a good piece at on the ludicrous notion being bandied about by the lunatic Left that perhaps Paul Wellstone's death was not an accident but rather an act of sabotage. As silly as it sounds there are those out there who take this quite seriously. Here in Minnesota I first personally heard mention of this far fetched conspiracy mere hours after the crash. You see Wellstone was a progressive, fighting against big business, against the looming war with Iraq, and so he had to be silenced. Or so the theory goes.

The fact is that for all the acclaim and glory that has been posthumously heaped upon Wellstone he actually didn't accomplish much of significance during his two terms in the senate. Certainly nothing that would cause him to be worthy of such crackpot conspiracies. Being on the losing end of 98-2 votes could be viewed as courageous by his supporters but what did it really achieve? Did he stop the Gulf War? Did he stop the Clinton welfare reform plan? Did he stop the Bush tax cuts? Of course not. In some ways having a real live Left leaning verging on socialist liberal like Wellstone around was good for Republicans including the Bush administration. They could point to Wellstone as an example of the what the Left was really all about and use him as a bogeyman to rally their supporters. What good could possibly come from "silencing" him?

I'm also curious as to what kind of person subscribes to a worldview that believes someone like Wellstone would be killed anyway. Can they not except the fact that life does not always make sense? Things don't always happen for a reason and every tragedy cannot be blamed on someone else. Part of the problem likely stems from ignorance as well. I heard a remark that "you never really know what caused these things" on Friday in reference to the crash. Actually you usually do know, in quite great detail if you choose to pay attention. When the National Transportation Safety Board investigates a plane crash they carefully go over every possibility and examine every piece of evidence before arriving at a conclusion. This meticulous work can't be completed in a few days and it often takes months before an official report is released. By that time your average Lefty loon has moved on to their next great injustice and doesn't have time for those pesky things called facts.

A Masterpiece on Terror

Michael Ledeen's tome on the countries behind terrorism and what must be done to defeat them should be required reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in the war. The War Against the Terror Masters is a concise, easy to understand, instant classic that earns a well deserved spot in our Conservative Canon. Ledeen makes two critical points that are well worth remembering as the debate on action against Iraq continues:

1. Stability as it is currently defined in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia is not a good thing. The only way to win the war on terror is to bring INSTABILITY, on our terms of course, to these countries.

2. As Machiavelli first detailed, winning is all that matters. If you win your motives and actions will be justified.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Shut Up, He Explained

National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru makes the case that Walter Mondale may not be the lead pipe cinch victor in the Senate race that he appears to be. I agree with all his points, but I think the biggest factor will be the media's coverage of the Coleman campaign, and whether they'll be willing to allow Coleman to contest his candidacy at all without accusing him of attacking his opponent or politicizing a tragedy. This whole election comes down to the 20% of the electorate who are generally nonpartisan and this group has consistently proven they vote on whims and impressions, like if they think one of the candidates is "mean" or that someone "seems to care about me." The conveyed impression that Coleman is putting his own ambitions above something as solemn as the legacy of the cuddly, fuzzy-haired, passionate defender of the "little guy" (as the front page sections of the local newspapers portrayed him) could sink his chances, no matter what he actually says or does..

Of course the Democrats will use this strategy to it's full extent. In fact they've already begun, as witnessed by James Carville's performance on NBC's "Meet the Press" this past Sunday. MSNBC has a transcript of the entire exchange between him and Newt Gingrich. My favorite part was this, after Tim Russet asked Gingrich to speculate on how the campaign will procede over the next week:

MR. GINGRICH: Well, sure. I mean, look, the Democrats legitimately will try to ensure that nobody thinks about who Walter Mondale is or what he stands for, and that it’s an emotional campaign. But I think Norm Coleman has a strong base statewide. I also think the fact that Walter Mondale—going back to James Carville’s point, Walter Mondale chaired a commission that was for the privatization of Social Security worldwide. He chaired a commission that was for raising the retirement age dramatically. He has a strong record of voting to raise taxes. And I think that what you’ll see on the Republican side is an issue-oriented campaign that says, you know, “If you want to raise your retirement age dramatically and privatize Social Security”-Walter Mondale’s a terrifically courageous guy to say that—”and if you want a big-tax-increase person with a long history of raising taxes, Walter Mondale’s a perfect”—but this is a six-year seat .......and people ought to vote over how they’ll vote, not the emotions of this week.
MR. CARVILLE: I think what you’re seeing right now is—you know, of course, Senator Mondale is a distinguished person; served as vice president of the United States Senate, was in the past—what you’re seeing is a Republican attack, which Senator Wellstone is not—by the way, we haven’t even grieved Senator Wellstone; neither has the Republicans. But this all the Republican talking points. I think people in Minnesota know Senator Mondale quite well and know his record. They know his dedication. And I think that they are horrified that Senator Wellstone’s memory has not even been paid respect to before the kind of attacks that you hear now out of Minnesota and right here on MEET THE PRESS against Senator Mondale, who is probably one of the great distinguished Americans in the last 50 years.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to another issue.

MR. GINGRICH: But just one thing. Why is it an attack to state publicly somebody’s public positions that they have taken? Now, that wasn’t an attack on Walter Mondale.
MR. CARVILLE: Right. Right. Again, I think the people of Minnesota would honestly like to grieve the loss of their senator and his family, who did that—and many of the positions that Senator Mondale has are the same positions that Senator Wellstone had, who, by the way, was getting ready to win that race. He was 5 points up in the polls...

MR. GINGRICH: I just...

MR. CARVILLE: ...before this tragic accident happened. But this is the kind of slash and burn, attack, attack, attack things that you’re seeing from the Republicans, and you’ll see this in Minnesota. Norm Coleman has never had a consistent position on anything. And the truth of the matter is, is Paul  Wellstone did not like him. He liked Jesse Helms better than Norm Coleman because ... Jesse Helms and Paul Wellstone stood for something. Norm Coleman stands for nothing but attack.

I was listening to Rush today, and he described Carville's performance as "demonized and possessed" and that "it was only missing his head spinning and the appearance of pea soup." If you saw it yourself, you know Rush was dead on accurate, it was appalling and amazing at the same time. Today's Rush program also brought back the reference to "Walter Mon-dull." Something he used to say all the time when Mondale was still a newsworthy person. I don't know why, but I've always found that reference hilarious. Maybe it's that dreadfully boring, aristocratic tone Rush affects when he says it, or just the fact that it's a succinct and perfectly accurate, yet refreshingly juvenile, way to conceptualize the man.

Monday, October 28, 2002

In the Company of Men(only)

Congratulations to the Anaheim Angels on their World Series championship. In spite of their odious rally monkey, the annoying South Korean noise makers, and the fact that they had two guys named Benji on the squad, they were the more deserving team. If the "family friendly" Giants had won we might have seen an expansion of the recent disgusting trend in professional sports of athletes involving their children in every aspect of their world.

When the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup last year Luc Robitaille insisted on dragging his kid into the team picture immediately after the last game. These guys had played eighty plus regular season games together and then had to win four grueling playoff series to claim the magical Cup. The team had won it. Not the player's families.

Whether it's an attempt to soothe guilty consciences for the amount of time they are away from their families or whether it's an honest heart felt desire to include their families in their moment of triumph it just ain't right. Players belong on the field. The kids, wife, and girlfriends belong in the stands.

Thanks, But No Thanks?

Usually when a candidate for political office receives an endorsement from a leading newspaper it would be a cause for celebration for the campaign. But I have to wonder how excited the Independence Party's Tim Penny was about receiving the Minneapolis Star Tribune's endorsement for governor on Sunday. The news hardly caused a ripple in the Minnesota political scene since most of the attention has been focused on the senate race after Paul Wellstone's tragic death on Friday. And the endorsement of the paper doesn't exactly help Penny convince voters that he's a moderate alternative to the conservatism of Republican Pawlenty and the liberalism of Democrat Roger Moe. Sure the paper claims it supports Penny because he's a "centrist" but anyone who leans even slightly to the right of the political spectrum may view the endorsement from the notoriously liberal Star Tribune as the kiss of death for Penny. Since Penny needs to draw voters from both the Left and the Right to win the race this endorsement may actually hurt more than it helps. I expect the Pawlenty campaign to use it to show that Penny's claims to moderation are an illusion and to shore up his base among conservatives who may have been considering voting for Penny.

The endorsement also speaks volumes about the pathetic state of the Moe campaign. This was his endorsement to lose as the Star Tribune almost exclusively favors Democrats particularly those who have well established political careers and recognition as Moe does. Getting the Star Tribune to support him should have been a gimme and although receiving the endorsement would not likely have helped his campaign too much (since most would have assumed it all along) not receiving the endorsement could be a crushing blow to his campaign. There has been speculation that Moe might benefit from the sympathy vote arising from Wellstone's death but in a column by Doug Grow yesterday Moe was concerned that without Wellstone campaigning beside him he will be challenged to energize Democrats and bring out the vote. An understandable concern since Moe's bland personality makes Al Gore seem engaging and charismatic.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Fare Thee Well, Paul Wellstone; Fare Thee Well Our Magic?

Does it make me a bad person if I'm not overly saddened by the death of Paul Wellstone? In a word, well yes, I think it might mean just that. I guess I'll just have to deal with the implications (for the rest of my life!). But, after doing a complete emotional inventory (or a Level 1 Diagnostic, for you TNG fans) I must admit that I have no substantial emotional response to this event. Upon hearing the news, I was shocked for several minutes and then I fast-forwarded through the other stages of the grieving process in about 45 seconds, upon which I immediately began to ruminate on the political impact and repercussions of this event.

Of course, I don't celebrate his death and as I'm involved with humanity, the death of any man diminishes me. And this whole business can rightly be described as a tragedy. The inclusion of his wife and daughter and staff members on the Grim Reaper's butcher's bill further compounds the scope of this untimely loss. But, honestly, the death of Paul Wellstone means nothing more to me on a personal and emotional level than, say, the death of Mel Carnahan in 2000. I think it has affected a similar response to me as the death of any other political figure would, for example a Zell Miller from Georgia or Phil Gramm from Texas. And I dare say if Norm Coleman or Tim Pawlenty would have been killed, my feelings would have been the same. That is, a recognition of the loss of a human being, empathy and prayers for their loved ones, and then back to my life as normal in short order. I think this is an entirely reasonable response to the death of a political figure. But, compared to the media in Minnesota, from Don Shelby's shaking voice and tear stained eyes on Friday night through the editorializing hagiography presented on the front pages and within special sections of the major newspapers, it seems I'm the a-hole here.

I will say that Wellstone was a uniquely potent lightning rod for the adverse political analysis of me and other members of the right wing cognitive elite. Out of respect for a period of mourning, at this time I won't go into the entirely legitimate reasons for his drawing of my ire. But I wonder how the absence of this person, who inspired so much passion in his critics, will effect my behavior? Will I cease to be inspired to think and read and argue over politics as much anymore, since I may not feel the need to respond to the particularly aggressive assault on my political sensibilities by this individual?

I suspect I won't change too much, but I'm reminded of a quote from the 1976 remake of the movie King Kong. Jeff Bridges, playing "Jack Prescott"--an idealistic anthropology professor and Cro-Magnon Man impersonator, is berating the snarky oil company executive "Fred" (played by the snarky Charles Grodin) for taking Kong out of his natural environment for the purposes of economic exploitation. Fred responds by saying something to the affect of "Well, why don't you ask those natives back there on the island how wrong it is!" (Since Kong had acquired a taste for native as a between meal snack). Whereby Jack Prescott responded indignantly, "You've taken away their God, you've taken away their magic, go back there in a year and you'll find nothing but an island full of alcoholics!"

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an Internet source containing those exact quotes from the movie. But trust me, the above paraphrases are generally accurate. The young Jessica Lange's leggy, curvy performance in this movie has captivated me since the first time I saw it as a wide-eyed 7-year-old and her appeal has resulted in (and endured through) many, many viewings since then. The good news is, I did find two other quotes from King Kong that I think also directly relate to the matters at hand:
"There is a girl out there who might be running for her life from some gigantic turned-on ape."
(Jack Prescott)

"Lights! Camera! Kong!" (Fred)

Friday, October 25, 2002

A Weekend of Mourning and Maneuvering in Minnesota

Today's tragic news that Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, and daughter were killed in a plane crash near Eveleth, MN has opened what promises to be a fascinating weekend of remembrance of Wellstone and his life and a mad political reshuffling before the November 5th election. Obviously it is a very sad day in Minnesota and it goes without saying that the Wellstone family and their friends will be in the hearts and prayers of Minnesotans for the next few days, but it also does raise some interesting political possibilities to consider:

* Will the DFL put up another candidate to fill Wellstone's place on the ballot? If they choose this option who gets picked? Judi Dutcher? Skip Humphrey? A Walter Mondale comeback perhaps? Right now I don't see any viable candidates out there.

* If Wellstone's name stays on the ballot and he wins it appears as if Governor Jesse Ventura would be able to appoint an interim Senator before a special election would be held. Would Jesse appoint a Democrat to honor the will of the voters or throw a wild card at us as he likes to do? If Independent Party candidate Tim Penny loses the race for governor would Jesse pick him for the Senate? Do the Democrats trust Jesse enough to the chance?

* What the hell does Norm Coleman do now? Obviously he needs to lay low over the weekend. But what then? Does he sit back and lose the election as voters deliver a sympathy vote for Wellstone? Or does he make a play to try to unite voters in a "we're not Democrats or Republicans now we're just Minnesotans"? No matter which path he takes the next ten days will be very tough for his campaign and possibly his political future.

* How will the Green Party candidate Ray Tricomo react? Does he respectfully step aside or does he go after some of Wellstone's supporters who were on the fringe on the DFL and backed Wellstone because of his ultra liberal positions? This could be an opportunity for the Greens to hit that all important 5% vote threshold in this race.

The closeness and political implications of this race had already generated a great deal of interest both locally and nationally. Now it may become one of the most interesting and controversial contests in years. The cold gray weather may be bland in Minnesota this weekend but the political conversations will be anything but boring.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Our Man in Iran

Yesterday, the company which employs me received a letter from Iran. Not something most Minnesota companies can claim, except perhaps for various sleeper cell front organizations in South Minneapolis and perhaps the Metropolitan Council (Dear Mr.Mondale--Congratulations on your heavy handed tactics and brutal disregard of your citizens' opinions. Unyielding belief in religious dogma, whether it be radical Islam or Smart Growth, can never be subordinated to the will of the people, otherwise what would be the point of being an unelected despot? Keep up the good work. Yours in spirit, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei).

Since my company is in the business of sending surveys out via the mail, and typically our clients are magazine publishing companies, undoubtedly this Iranian gentleman was a recipient of a publication we were researching. Maybe a farming title such as Pigs International or a medical tome like The Journal of Joint and Bone Surgery. Or maybe one of the niche publications, like Advances in Puss Discharge Research Weekly or most probably Modern Arab Magazine (whose New Technology Products Showcase issue recently profiled the Guttenberg Printing Press and Charles Babbage's Difference Engine).

As you'll see below, the spirit of his correspondence was undeniably friendly and professional, at least by Iranian standards (by that I mean he didn't threaten to remove my spleen with his rusty scarab knife). And I have to give him credit for his very serviceable use of the English language, since my Farsi response will be nearly unintelligible. The exact text is as follows:

To: Mr. [Saint Paul]

1 - Many thanks for your letter
2 - Also many thanks for the same of one $ ; which I will keep it as a memory
3 - You will find the complted; survey;sheets:attached
4 - Attached to the survey you will find a memorial money
5 - If there is any thing which I can do for you , please do not hesitate.

Any thing?--Well how's about overthrowing your country's tyrannical regime? Or maybe just ease up on that "Great Satan" thing just a tad, we're starting to get a complex over here. I suggest "Great Inconveniencer" instead.

I was also surprised to find out that our company would send a US dollar bill to a place like Iran. I assume being caught with the money of the infidel would result in government agents performing the drum solo from Wipeout on the soles of your feet. Needless to say, that tends to have a negative affect on response rates.

After his letter, he left his phone number, fax number, and complete mailing address. (This guy really has no fear--and I don't mean of his government, rather of receiving a crushing influx of follow-up direct mail marketing materials based on his responses--a fear that paralyzes most Americans). And best of all, he included his self-described "memorial money" which upon further review was a Iranian 2,000 Rial bill.

It's a very attractive, ornate bill, about the size of a US dollar, multicolored and complete with many of the anti-counterfeiting measures I recognize from our own currency. It also includes something we should consider, that is a watermark of a face that looks exactly like a cross between the Buddha and O.J. Simpson (really).

The main images are an engraving of the Ka'ab shrine in Mecca on front, and on back an engraving of 13 scruffy looking angry mob types, holding aloft flags and automatic weapons, with a guy in the front lovingly cradling a poster of Ayatollah Khomeni. I believe this is a tribute to the 1979 Islamist revolution and it also may be the first and last time the legendary "Arab Street" has actually gotten together. My guess is that most of these guys got real jobs, got married and moved to the suburbs and their wives don't allow them to ululate with the boys on Saturday nights anymore.

I was impressed by this man's gesture, as we usually don't get anything in return from our respondents (other than their entire financial histories and painstakingly detailed records of their personal habits--and all for the recompense of one dollar). I also suspect most Iranians don't usually have 2,000 rials to pitch around with impunity. However, upon researching the exchange rate, my admiration was diminished somewhat. As of October 22, one US dollar was worth 7,941 Iranian Rials. Which makes his gift worth all of about 25 cents.

I don't know what the standards of appreciation are in Iran (maybe I should ask Salman Rushdie), but I know what they are in Minnesota. Meaning, my return note to our Persian pen pal will consist of the following: "Dear Sir--thanks for the kind words and gift. I suppose it was a nice thought, but unfortunately for you, there's no one working here by the name of Jack Squat!"

Anybody out there able to translate that into Farsi?

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Put A Koster On The County Roster

After reading an editorial in yesterday's paper in which the Star Tribune endorsed Amy Klobuchar in her unopposed reelection for Hennepin County attorney something just didn't sit right with me.

I guess if I was of the liberal persuasion I might describe it as feeling "disenfranchised". We're living in America not Iraq and the thought of Amy Klobuchar tallying up Saddam-like election results made my stomach turn. Something had to be done. The people need a choice.

And we have a choice. His name is Nic Koster. He lives in Hennepin County. He's a lawyer. He likes beer and baseball. What more do you need to know?

So when you go to the polls on November 5th and see that blank space next to Amy Klobuchar's name for Hennepin County attorney remember Nic Koster and write him in. Let's send a message to all those inside the 494 beltway, out of touch, pointy headed, bureaucrats in their ivory towers, that the people are mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. That's Nic Koster. He's not Amy Klobuchar.

Please pass this on to as many voters in Hennepin County as you can. It would be great to at least get a couple of hundred votes. Remember the slogan: "Don't be a dick, vote for Nic."

No, A Jury of MY Peers

MTV's The Real World is one of my guilty little vices. I've been watching the series going way back to the first year in New York. Every year when the new season rolls around I swear off the show citing its increasingly shallow group of characters and apparent growing orchestration of events for dramatic effect. But invariably I catch a moment here, a moment there, and next thing you know a 'Real World Marathon' comes on one day when I'm nursing a hangover on the couch and bingo I'm hooked again.

This year's show is set in Las Vegas and features more of the same whiny, immature, self absorbed youths and their day to day travails. MTV does seem to have ratcheted up the sex appeal of the show a few more notches by filling the cast with good looking babes and hard bodied guys. They also appear to be encouraging romantic relationships among the cast members. Well, maybe relationships isn't the proper way to describe it as much as " hooking up".

Of course this can lead to added jealousy and friction between the roommates and on a recent episode it boiled over in a confrontation. One of the gals, Brynn, who had not successfully hooked up with the show's lead male hottie, Steven, despite numerous attempts, let her pent up frustration and envy get the best of her and whipped a fork at him in midst of an argument. It quickly escalated from there and while he verbally lashed her pretty good she took it to another level by physically pushing him.

At this point the combatants were separated and the other roommates tried to cool them off. Steven was understandably quite upset and demanded that Brynn be banished from the show for her action. He made an excellent point that had the situation been reversed and it was he who had pushed her he would likely already be out on the bricks. His roommates attempted to pacify him and tried to convince him to at least sleep on it for the night before calling for such drastic action. But he would have none of it and insisted that she get the boot.

Now, for the benefit of those of you unfamiliar with the show let me explain that if one of the seven roommates is guilty of wrong doing the other roommates can vote to have that person removed from the show. It has happened a couple of times in past episodes. Now in this particular situation two of the roommates had squared off against each other and one had clearly crossed the line. The aggrieved Steven wanted Brynn, the aggressor, tossed off the show while Brynn apologized and wanted to remain.

Perfect I thought. You have the accused, the victim, and five somewhat objective bystanders. The other roommates can be the jury and they can decide Brynn's fate. Well silly old me. I had forgotten just how deeply moral relativism had pervaded the thinking of this generation of youth. Instead of stepping in and being willing to make a judgment of the incident and decide the consequences that would result from it each and every one of the other roommates abdicated their responsibility by claiming that "We can't decide because we weren't the ones it happened to. We weren't in Steven's shoes so we don't know how he feels." God help us all. Actually God help those who find themselves on either side in a criminal case where folks like these may be on the jury.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Ken Pentel's Comedy Showcase

Green Party candidate Ken Pentel actually had me rolling last night during the Minnesota gubernatorial debates sponsored by KSTP TV and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His arguments are a stand up comedy routine. I enjoyed his little gun tale as much as my friend P did which he described below:

My favorite Ken moment was when he got a question on concealed carry, which empirical studies show reduces violent crime. Pentel responded with a story about one of his relatives who had a hunting rifle and a small child. He thought the safety was on and he thought the gun wasn't loaded. Yet still--blam! It turns out that no one was injured from the incident. Ken's story is so ridiculous on so many levels. 1) Hunting rifles aren't covered by concealed carry 2) Anecdotal evidence is worthless in the face of contradictory empirical evidence (although this type of argument is a favorite tactic of obfuscation by the left) 3) The anecdote doesn't even prove his point that guns kill innocent people.

It was so silly it brought laughter. A high school debater wouldn't have used such an irrelevant and easily disputed example. I think Pawlenty scored big on the concealed and carry portion when he cited that fact the 34 other states have passed it with no appreciable increase in gun violence. My personal favorite Ken Pentel moment was on transportation when he said we need local buses, regional buses, light rail, heavy rail, monorail ( the Simpson's song immediately popped into my head ), and any other rail you could think of. As to how he would pay for his everything for everyone transportation philosophy he said, "We'll talk about how we'll pay for it later." Again I was laughing out loud. While this is a pretty good summation of Democratic politics "promises now, high taxes later" at least they manage to couch it in terms that hide the real meaning. Pantel just gets up there and lets it rip believing that somehow people will respect his honesty despite the absolute absurdity of most of his positions. He cracks me up.

Tim Penny on the other hand bugs me. At least you know what you're getting with Roger Mo' Money. I actually used to respect Penny when he appeared to be a Democrat who understood the real world. Now he reminds me of AlGore. He's not really sure what he believes any more and you almost get the impression he has to consult the Independence Party platform before answering a question to make sure it jives with them. His response on the 24 hour waiting period before having an abortion was slow in coming and then incredibly wishy washy. Rather than just coming out and saying he unconditionally supported a woman's right to have an abortion as both Moe and Pentel did he tried to make it a equal rights issue by saying that he opposed making woman wait for a medical procedure and not men. Come on Tim. Even the most ardent pro-choicer would admit that having an abortion is not comparable to a guy going under the knife for a vasectomy. Instead of standing up and taking a clear stand he tried to dodge the crux of the issue and ended up looking weak and indecisive.

Those Minnesotans who missed out on all the fun last night have a chance to watch it again tonight on Channel 45 at 8:00pm. Ken's show will be closing in a few weeks so catch this joker while you can.

Fear the Idiot, Not the Criminal

Although no evidence has been detected regarding actual cases of voter fraud in Minnesota, much ado has been raised by the local media of the potential for abuses, given the lax standards for registration that have been adopted in this state over the past 10 years. Given the shenanigans going on in this regard across the country perhaps the scrutiny is merited. However, I believe the likelihood of any significant level of voter fraud in this state is limited.

The potential for abuse lies with two specific procedures. First, voters are able to register on election day itself, at the polling place. Furthermore, only a very basic level of personal identification is needed. A driver's license with the correct address will suffice. Even if you don’t have any official ID with your correct address, you can still register, as long as you have or any Minnesota issued photo ID (no matter what the address) and a utility bill with your name and an address listed within that precinct.

What if even if these barriers are too steep? What if these criteria unjustifiably filter you out from your sacred right of the vote (and it should for about the same proportion of the population that finds an Al Sicherman column funny)? Well, there is another option. Simply find someone who is registered to vote in that precinct to vouch that indeed you do live within that precinct. In fact, the voucher doesn't even have to know exactly where you live (that is, they don't need to know the address or even the street name), they just have to personally verify that the potential registrant lives somewhere within the precincts specified boundaries. (I suppose the proponents of this statute were prepared to rely on Americans' well known skill in understanding geographical boundaries--what is it, about 33% who are able to find the Pacific Ocean on a globe? )

The system is set up to allow even the most casually interested citizen to vote. Anyone who happens to be roused from the fog of their own existence on the first Tuesday in November due to hearing that a professional wrestler is on the ballot, can stumble in to a polling place, register, and then cackle and snort at their own withering social criticism of metaphorically blowing their nose with their ballot (which of course turns to frustration and then rage as they search in vain for the listing of Rock and Roll Buck Zumhoff for Attorney General). But this in itself isn't fraudulent. Yes, it's one of the many possible negative results of a poorly designed law with potentially disastrous consequences But it's 100% legal.

However, the system is also vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation. That is, with very little technical expertise or guile an individual could indeed get to vote in a precinct where they are not legally permitted to do so. A willing confederate who is legally registered is all it would take. In fact, it's also possible for such a willing confederate to show up at a precinct location with a busload full of outside agitators and vouch that each and every one of them live in that precinct and they all would be allowed to vote under the law. (There is no limit to the number of people one individual can vouch for).

So why hasn't this variation of fraud happened yet and why is it unlikely to happen this year? In short, because even cynical, devious political operatives are afraid they will get caught. The only way to exploit the Minnesota registration system is for one legally registered person to step out into the sunshine and put their ass on the line. And that's too much risk for most people.

The voucher has to have an address on file with the county elections office (vouchers can't vouch for other vouchers) and they would have to read and sign an oath regarding their actions. This creates a paper trail that could be used in the event of an investigation.

In truth, any such investigations are extremely rare, but the possibility alone is enough to deter most people. And the random, rare coffee house revolutionary who is willing to break laws to illegally vouch for one or two other people will not be in a position to influence the outcome of an election. Only egregious violations have this potential and it's these types of events that would draw the increased scrutiny of election judges. Any episodes of "high strangeness," such as a busload of Mexican migrant workers in Wellstone t-shirts, showing up in Minnetonka and being vouched for by one person, would draw attention.

In Minnesota, the judge system is set up not to be neutral, rather it's equally partisan, so each precinct is staffed with at least one member of each major party. Therefore, a Republican should be present to witness any hijnix perpetrated by the Wellstone campaign. Furthermore, a judge can challenge any voter they suspect to be ineligible, that is by asking them where they live and how long they've lived in Minnesota. If these questions are not answered to the judge's satisfaction, the voter can be denied--with no option for appeal. Even if the questions are answered appropriately, the judge can report his suspicions to the county elections department. This won't prevent the votes from being cast, but it will put the spotlight on the voucher. And this is generally enough to prevent people from volunteering to throw themselves on the sword, no matter how much they want to see their richer neighbor's taxes raised.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Using the Pulpit Bullishly

After hearing the Gospel reading at Mass last Saturday I sat back in anticipation of an intellectually stimulating and thought provoking homily. I was not disappointed. The reading was from Matthew 22: 15-21 (KJV) in which the Pharisees attempt to entrap Jesus by asking him whether it was acceptable to pay taxes to the Romans or not. Jesus replied with the well known "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." quote which has been oft used to explain relations between the church and state.

Our priest started his homily with a little background on the Gospel reading and then went into a history of opinion on the acceptable church and state relationship focusing on Saint Augustine's view that humans were essentially animals and needed government to control society and the more benevolent beliefs of Saint Thomas Aquinas in the good that government could do for people. He also spoke of the fallacy of separation of church and state as in commonly understood in the United States today by explaining the original motives of the founders in establishing limitations on the interaction between church and state. Next he spoke of the responsibility that Christians had to get involved to make their government the best it could be and capped it off by stating that not voting was a SIN. Now this the sort of stuff I want to hear from my priest. He went on to explain that he wasn't about to tell people how to vote but that they had a duty to be informed and active. Amen padre.

This is the same priest who has previously delivered homilies in which he explained why George Washington was a personal hero of his, justified a U.S. military response after 9/11 through the doctrine of self defense, and expressed his personal anguish on the Church's sexual abuse problem. He is the reason that I attend the church I do. If you think about it the homily is the really the only thing that distinguishes one mass from another. Sure the readings are different week to week but if you have been a Catholic as long as I have, including many years in Catholic schools, you've heard em' all more than once. I want a priest who takes his role seriously and prepares and delivers a homily that both reflects upon the week's Gospel and also speaks to my life in today's world. This guy is my guy.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Dignity

The inevitable, yet long overdue, has finally occurred, that's right, t-shirts accessorized with the scowling visage of Paul Wellstone as V.I. Lenin. Right now it appears only t-shirts are available, but perhaps this organization will ultimately see the potential here and soon you'll be able to purchase Wellstone as Che Guevara black light dorm room posters, Wellstone as Mao black silk pajamas, Wellstone as Robert Byrd white sheet bedding sets, and Wellstone as Woody Harrelson roach clips. That's almost everything you need to throw your own Democratic party. The possibilities and corresponding cash flow seem endless.

I think the beer will be taken care of

Sign up for a moving party where you don't have to worry about screwing up your back and you can be sure that they won't run out of beer (unlike your cheap friends). The Great Grain Belt Moving Party is taking place next Friday as the official Grain Belt recipe will be transferred from St. Paul to the Schell Brewery in New Ulm, MN. You can sign up for a chance to attend the bitter sweet event and get a shot at some classic Grain Belt memorabilia. Best of all, free beer.

Friday, October 18, 2002

A good night to curl up with a good hockey team

Miserable, cold, gusty, overcast, gloomy, gray day here in Minnesota. The kind of day that makes you not wanna get out of bed in the morning. The kind of day that makes you want to go home at lunch, climb into a warm bed, and nap away the afternoon. The kind of day that makes you want to go home at the end of the workday, throw down some chow, pour yourself a single malt, open a bottle a bottle of pale ale, and flip on the tele to watch the defending national champions of college hockey battle a highly ranked foe from the east. Thank God I don't live in Duluth, St. Cloud, or Mankato.

Ali in Baghdad, You're On With Tom Cruise

Fascinating, revelatory article by Franklin Foer in The New Republic on the Orwellian state control of the Western media who operate in Iraq. Not only does the government insist on prior restraint privilege for all editorial copy (and amazingly, organizations such as CNN and NBC agree to this condition), they also employ 24 hour overt and covert monitoring of all journalists, they actively attempt to compromise male reporters with sexual propositions (makes you wonder who might have been hiding under the bed with CNN’s Peter Arnett, Wolf Blitzer and Bernard Shaw as the bombs started dropping in ‘91), and they regularly threaten and physically intimidate anyone they feel is reporting in a manner inconsistent with the wishes of the beloved dictator, on one occasion actually murdering a reporter from the London Observer.

"Sometimes the officials go beyond angry lectures. According to a network source, on about four separate occasions in 1996 the Iraqis roused [ABC News' Shelia] MacVicar from her hotel room at 2 a.m. and drove her to the Ministry of Information, where officials screamed that she was working for the CIA. The French documentary filmmaker Joel Soler told me how his minder took him to a hospital, ostensibly to examine the effects of sanctions, but then called in a nurse with a long needle. "He said, 'Now we'll do a series of blood tests.'" Soler jumped on the table screaming: "I said, 'I'm calling my ambassador.' If I'd been American, forget about it." There's the horror story of The London Observer's Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian-born British journalist. A few months before the Gulf war, the Iraqis tried Bazoft behind closed doors on charges of espionage. They then hung him. As he turned over Bazoft's remains to the British Embassy in Baghdad, Information Minister Latif Nassif Jassim told journalists, "Mrs. Thatcher wanted him alive. We gave her the body."

The article goes on to show how nearly all journalists are cowed into accepting these rules of reporting and end up mouthing only officially sanctioned propaganda Thus, these reports have no more validity than the rhetoric espoused by the Iraqi Ministry of Information. Remember that next time some useful idiot claims "half a million" Iraqi children have been killed by US-sponsored sanctions since the Gulf War.

However, in the spirit of embracing diversity, I will acknowledge that even brutal, oppressive dictators sometimes have a point about what is reasonable to show on a cable news program. According to Foer:

Even when reporters faithfully follow the regime's instructions, the Ministry of Information still torments them. [CNN's Peter] Arnett describes constant harangues from ministry officials, even about colleagues over whom he had no control. They'd complain, "What the hell is Larry King saying? Can't you shut him up?"

No doubt this was in reaction to a hard hitting interview with Rosie O'Donnell or a King musing like "For my money nothing quenches my thirst like...water" or "If you only see one movie for the rest of your life, let it be...The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood."

Vote Early, Vote Often, Vote Free Growth

If you live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area and want to let the Met Council know what you want in your transportation future, go to Take Charge, Twin Cities and cast your vote. This unelected governmental body usually likes to dictate policy to the ignorant masses of the area so this is a rare chance to have your voice heard. Thanks to a local friend for putting me onto this one.

Catch It While It's Hot

Call me crazy but the I believe that the Brit import Trigger Happy TV airing on Comedy Central is the one of the funniest shows on the air right now. It's sort of a 'Jackass' with wit and a touch of subtlety.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Something's Missing With Today's Intelligensia

Sharp piece by Mark Goldblatt at National Review Online exposes the lack of substance among certain members of the liberal media elite and intoduces the Dowd Rule:

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who once upon a time was a clever little girl, but who's been running on fumes since roughly the last presidential election, nowadays can hardly write 600 words without a gratuitous swipe at George Bush's supposed lack of intelligence. In her honor, therefore, I would like to name the Dowd Rule. To wit: No one who thinks George W. Bush is stupid is as smart as George W. Bush.

Bob Costas--A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

Of all the hatreds in the world, the one (and only one) I've never understood is anti-Bob Costasism. It's rampant within my own social circle and prevalent within the larger society too. Back in the days when when Costas used to do baseball play-by-play I always looked forward to his broadcasts. He had a solid mastery of the English language, knew how to use it for the purpose of description (a lost art among current broadcasters) and he endeavored to use his knowledge of baseball history, and of history in general, to help him tell the story of a baseball game. Not always succeeding, but usually he did. His delivery was smooth, it had a recognizable meter and flow, and his lexicon was relatively free of cliché and gross exaggeration. He reminded me of a young Vin Scully (who in turn reminded many of the WWII generation of a young Red Barber). John Miller, the current SF Giants broadcaster and the play-by-play man for the Oakland-Twins ALDS series' games in Oakland has a very similar style and delivery too.

NBC used to pair Costas with Bob Uecker, and listening to them was like listening to a classic comedy team from the 50's, with Costas assuming the role of the unflappable, nonplussed, Bud Abbot-like straight man and Eucker acting as the foolish and outrageous Lou Costello-esque clown. It was funny and interesting and moved the game along in a sprightly manner, even if the action on the field was lackluster. Contrast this with the bombast and mindless chattering of characters such as Joe Garagiola or John Gordon or Steve Lyons and the true quality of a Costas call is clear.

I'm not sure what the source of anti-Costasism is, but like all irrational hatreds, it's probably based in one of the deadly sins--my guess is envy. However that doesn't mean that the hatred itself can’t be well articulated. And so it is, on the Tony Pierce blog. (Check out the posting for Tuesday, October 8). This is so well written that despite my own feelings on the matter, I'm prepared to start hating right along with this guy. (I've really got to work on my critical thinking skills or next thing you know I'll really start believing that Norm Coleman "supported a tax break for Enron!!!") Plus you've got to love the picture of Harry Carey inhaling the left half of Hillary Clinton's face with his sloppy smooch. No doubt her nasal passages are being marinated with Harry's Budweiser infused breath as well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

I Can't Standz No Moore

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theaters comes news that Michael Moore has a new movie out titled 'Bowling For Columbine'. Apparently his recent book 'Stupid White Men' ( No link provided. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever buy this book. If you never knew of the existence of this book your life would be better. For further proof read James Lileks Screed on it.) wasn't enough to raise the bile in the throats of every decent rational thinking American. No, now we must be subjected to an anti-gun documentary sure to be filled with the hoariest of clichés and the weakest of arguments. Please God no Moore.

I have to admit that once upon a time I thought Moore was funny. Back in my college days I watched his first film 'Roger and Me' a number of times and found his populist critique of GM clever and daring. Why? Well, as one of the Soprano's might say I was "fookin' stoopid". The problem with being stupid is that you don't realize that you are until years later, if at all. Hell, during my college years I thought drinking a liter of cheap vodka until I threw up or passed out or both was funny. Fortunately I believe that I have grown wiser and more mature with age ( though there may be a few who would argue this point ) and no longer consider myself a member of the "fookin' stoopid" crowd. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Michael Moore.

If you are interested and a glutton for punishment you can check out the synopsis of the movie . But if you really want to know what's going on it's probably best to hear from Moore himself and read his latest Mike's Message. Here are some choice excerpts:

I am very happy and excited to tell you that this Friday, October 11, my new film, "Bowling for Columbine," will open in New York and Los Angeles.

So buy your tickets now.

It is, I promise, the last thing the Bushies want projected on the movie screens across America this week. The film is, first and foremost, a devastating indictment of the violence that is done in our name for profit and power -- and no one, in all the advance screenings I have attended, has left the theatre with anything short of rage. I truly believe this film has the potential to rock the nation and get people energized to do something.

Yes, I'm sure the administration will spend many a sleepless night wondering how to counter this "devastating indictment". Be prepared, for the nation will shortly be rocked and people may "do something".

This is not good news for Junior and Company. Not when they are trying to drag us into another war. Not when a crazed sniper is exercising his constitutional right to own a high-powered rifle. Not when John Ashcroft is still prohibiting the FBI from looking through the gun background check files to see if any of the 19 hijackers or their associates purchased any weapons prior to 9/11 -- because THAT, we are told,
would "violate" these terrorists' sacred Second Amendment rights!

Junior? Oh yeah, 'cause of his Dad and everything. Wow now that's funny. One can only hope the movie is able to equal such sharp edged wit as Moore displays here. And if you were wondering who was really resposnsible for 9/11 you now know. The NRA. I guess it makes sense right?

Yes, I believe this movie can create a lot of havoc -- but I will need ALL of you to help me do this. Are you game?

Of course we are. I mean the whole point of making a movie is to "create a lot of havoc" isn't it? Where can I get my ticket?

Now I would like to ask you again to help me with my latest work, "Bowling for Columbine." It's a movie that many critics have already called my best film to date. They may be right. It is certainly the most provocative thing I have ever done. I have spent three years on it and, I have to say, it cuts deeper, harder and funnier that anything I have given you so far.

It's obvious that Moore does not suffer from a lack of self esteem. But can it really cut deeper, harder, and funnier than 'Canadian Bacon'?

The movie opens this Friday in New York and Los Angeles, and then in 8 more cities next week. How it does in these first ten cities will determine whether or not the rest of the country gets to see it. That is the nutty way our films are released. If it doesn't have a big opening weekend, you can kiss the film good-bye. Therefore, this weekend, this film must be seen by millions of Americans. Can you help me make that happen?

In other words can you help me make millions by shelling out $8 for a movie ticket?

"Bowling for Columbine" is not a film simply about guns or school shootings. That is only the starting point for my 2-hour journey into the dark soul of a country that is both victim and master of an enormous amount of violence, both at home and around the world. With this movie I have broadened my canvas to paint a portrait of our nation at the beginning of the 21st century, a nation that seems hell-bent on killing first and asking questions later. It is a movie about the state sponsored acts of violence and terrorism against our own poor, and how we have created a culture of fear that is based on the racial dilemma we continue to ignore. And it's a devastating comedy.

You see, Michael is so much more than merely a movie director. He's an artist. And I don't know about you but what could be funnier than a look at the violence, terrorism, and racism perpetrated by the American government against it's own people? I'm cracking up just thinking about it. Just in case the critics might miss it Moore helpfully points out that his film is a "devastating comedy". Devastating must be the word of the day for him. Good thing he can be so objective about his work.

This film is going to upset some pretty big apple carts. No film has EVER said the things I am saying in "Bowling for Columbine." I expect to be attacked. I expect certain theatres will not show it for fear of retribution. I expect that this movie will be a bitter pill for many to swallow.

Okay the arrogance of this prick is starting to get to me. Exactly what "big apple carts" are going to be upset here anyway? His delusions of grandeur are laughable. Notice the prevalence of the word I in his writing. And he's already clamoring for martyr status before anyone has even thought about picking up a stone.

This is why I need your help. Movies live or die based on what happens at the box office the first weekend of its release. I need you, if you live in the New York or L.A. area, to go see "Bowling for Columbine" this Friday and Saturday -- and take as many family members and friends with you as possible. I guarantee you will not be disappointed -- and you may just see one of the best films of the year.

And then buy my book, feed my dog, and take out my trash. Please make as much money for me as you possibly can. The inflated ego of this guy is just sickening.

The hate mail, the threats, the promises of retribution have already started to roll in to the distributor of this movie, United Artists. They are not backing down. But how long will this last? I need all of you in the New York tri-state and southern California areas to go see "Bowling for Columbine" THIS weekend -- the rest of you can see it in a couple of weeks when it comes to your town. A strong opening not only means that the rest of America will see this film, it means that a good number of people who see it are going to leave the film angry enough to get active and get involved. If it does poorly, I will have a difficult time finding the funding for the movie I want to make next -- a film about 9/11 and how Bush is using that tragic day as a cover for his right-wing agenda.

Another shameless plug, actually more like a shameless plea to buy movie tickets. What a sad day it will be for America if Moore is unable to make his next "devastatingly funny" film on 9/11. How will the Republic survive?

Don't let that happen. Don't let the NRA have one more success by stopping the wider distribution of this movie. And, together, let us not remain silent in our opposition to Bush's phony war against Iraq.

Ahhh... yes if all else fails invoke the specter of the evil NRA. If you don't go see this movie then the NRA wins. What good lefty could refuse this call to duty? I am a bit confused on the "Bush's phony war against Iraq" line. Is it phony because there is no war right now? Or does he mean "phony" in that the war-which actually hasn't started-is somehow illegitimate? Perhaps another "devastatingly funny" film is in the works to clear this matter up. Or maybe 'Bowling for Columbine' will be crushed by the the vast right wing conspiracy led by the oppressive Bush administration and Michael Moore will be forced to peddle his biting insights elsewhere. One can only hope. No Moore, no mas.

Our Way Or The Highway

Steve Berg's October 15th editorial '12 reasons why Minnesota lags behind' is a perfect example of the Star Tribune's Editorial board "our way or the highway" attitude on transportation issues. Although they claim to want an open debate on the matter they have shown time and again that if you oppose their viewpoints you will be branded as part of the problem.

Berg uses the Republican Party's opposition to the Hiawatha light rail line to claim that the party is against all rail options and only supports roads. If a viable, economical, and efficient rail plan was proposed that would actually ease congestion I am certain that Republicans would be in favor of it. Just because you oppose a bad rail plan does not mean that you are opposed to all rail plans.

He then goes on to complain that making progress is difficult when the debate is driven by "groups of self-interest". I'm sure that Berg and the rest of the editorial board would rather that the Star Tribune control the discussion thereby limiting real debate and making it much easier to achieve their goals. Those pesky "groups of self-interest" whose influence Berg so laments are made up of citizens who have joined together to make their opinions heard. They are an integral part of our democracy despite the media elites distaste for them.

If us Minnesotans would quite being so difficult and just let the Star Tribune editorial board make transportation decisions for us we'd be much better of. Just ask them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

What if Zogby Was One of Us?

Perhaps Wellstone's lead in the polls is an abberation after all. None other than the sponsor of the Zogby poll himself, John Zogby, says that if the election were held today Norm Coleman would beat Paul Wellstone. As quoted in the Washington Times:

"If the election were held today, the Republicans would pick up Missouri, South Dakota and Minnesota," Mr. Zogby said. [In Minnesota] Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone — who trailed by 6 percentage points in the Zogby poll last month — shows a 9-point lead over Republican Norm Coleman, the former St. Paul mayor. Mr. Zogby stands by his latest poll but still thinks Mr. Coleman has the edge because "only 45 percent [of respondents] say Wellstone deserves re-election. That number and the fact that less than 50 percent say they will vote for him is bad news for any incumbent. Voters are saying they want someone new in the Senate, and the burden on Coleman now is to show he is the new someone they want," Mr. Zogby said.

Now that's getting behind the music on polling results. He's predicting the opposite result of the horserace question (one showing a statistically significant difference no less), based on an understanding of the context and the backgrounding data. As someone in the business of data interpretation myself, I can testify that's a steely-eyed analysis, taken to a level not usually seen in the biz. And it's a brave stance too, given the public nature of his reports and the high stakes risk of being proven wrong. His sophisticated analysis and subtle interpretation will likely be misinterpretated by many (like me?) and he'll be easy to dismiss as unreliable by those paying only superficial attention to these results and his comments. "Those" being the likes Don Shelby, Paul Magers, and whoever anchors at Channel 5 these days (Barry ZeVan? Russel Schimooka? Sunny Haus?). By the way, Zogby is a self professed Democrat, yet both parties have availed themselves of his services, he's that good.

GW Hardly the First to Question the Value of the U.N.

Last night while plowing through the my latest reading project, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in the politics of the Middle East (and who isn't!), I came across a quote from LBJ in which he described the U.N. as "a zero" and explained to an aide that if Israel's hopes for peace rested with the U.N. then he could not blame them for striking their enemies preemptively.

The notion today that the Bush administration's reluctance to rely on the U.N. in shaping American decisions abroad is somehow a dangerous departure from fifty plus years of established American relations with the U.N. is ridiculous. Every adminstration from Truman through Clinton has acted through the United Nations when such action would benefit the United States (or at least cause it no harm) but has not hestitated to circumvent the world body when they felt that U.S. strategic interests were at stake.

Who Are The Ad Wizards Who Came Up With This Guy?

Disturbingly, the latest poll from Zogby (one of the pollsters I most respect) shows Wellstone pulling away from Norm Coleman in the race for U.S. Senate, at a level of 46% - 37%. This effectively reverses a previous trend toward Coleman, most recently shown in mid-September where the Zogby poll showed a Coleman lead of 48% - 41%.

If this movement in the electorate is true, it doesn't bode well for those us trying to get Wellstone back to his true calling, that of poisoning the minds of the students in his classes against their country and to stirring up trouble at wildcat meat packer strikes. Such a deficit this late in the game is not easily overcome.

It's been well documented that Wellstone has never received more than 50% of the vote in Minnesota. I think it's fair to say that a person with such an abrasive personality and radical ideology could never attain a mandate from the Minnesota electorate and he's only able to get even 50% by energizing his base to a n extreme degree. Inside sources from the elections staff in Ramsey county say that Wellstone is expending an unprecedented effort to get out the college student vote. He's going so far as establishing a campaign presence on every floor of each residence hall on metro area campuses with a corresponding "floor captain" who will be tasked with getting every single person to the polls. He's no doubt counting on the established immaturity and pliability of student voters, their misguided sense of rebellion (rock the vote indeed) and his fetishization of education and promises of more and more aid to get them to support him (and they will).

Even given this, it continues to dumbfound me is that he Wellstone can attain even 50% of the vote. Watching his performance in the debate against Coleman last Friday night, it should be clear to any reasonable observer that the guy is fundamentally an arrogant, antagonistic, little bully. As an example, he filibustered every question asked of him for an interminable amount of time and whenever Coleman would reasonably and politely try to break in, to respond to some unsubstantiated slur, Wellstone would stab at him with his index finger and shout angrily "Don't interrupt me!" and then proceed with trying to convince Grandma that her Social Security benefits were about to be limited to a cardboard refrigerator box and a 2 for 1 coupon on Alpo. Then, when Coleman was responding to a separate question, Wellstone would butt in and begin shouting him down within 30 seconds. This happened over and over--behavior that would be considered unacceptable in the Monday morning staff meetings at even the most unsophisticated, slack ass offices in town (think Tires Plus or the Star Tribune editorial board). Any competent, reasonable boss would put an end to it in good order with some "persuasive" one-on-one counseling and failing that, the lead pipe. Yet Wellstone suffers absolutely no electoral sanction for his childish and counter productive behavior

I guess the lesson learned is that it doesn't matter if a candidate is antisocial and annoying as long as you're convinced the little prick is on your side. (I woudn't really know, since I can't think of a single Republican who is prone to act this way. In fact, I suspect it would be impossible for someone of such retarded social development to attain any influence within the institutional structure of the GOP). If your voting choice is predicated on selecting the candidate who will "fight for you"--that is, the one who will make sure you're a net gainer in the societal redistribution of wealth--then it doesn't matter if he's beneath contempt as a human being. I think that adequately describes the calculus of most hardcore Democratic voters.

But what about these so-called swing voters? Those that don't make up their mind until late in the game and really don't have any ideology to base their electoral choices on. Those who base their vote on their opinion of the man and not the party? Shouldn't Wellstone’s behavior be a turn off to these people? If it is, there's hope that more displays of Wellstone's true personality could yet turn the balance. More commercials like the one that shows Wellstone hopping up and down and screaming during a speech at a labor rally would help.

Coleman also needs to hammer away at Wellstone's promise to only serve two terms. I personally don't think it is a significant issue (what's that compared to his permanent stance for more taxation, less defense spending, and fewer individual rights?)--yet some observers believe it's a wedge issue. Most interestingly, his own former advertising guru, Bill Hillsman thinks this issue is critical to Wellstone's swing vote. His definition of the "swing vote" and why Wellstone will have trouble in getting them back, as quoted in this month’s issue of The Rake:

"They were mostly guys, living up in places like Anoka. You'd ask these guys, "Why do you vote for Wellstone? You don't agree with him on a single thing." And they'd scuff their shoes and look at the dirt and say, "I think he's honest. I think he's got integrity. And there ought to be one son-of-a-bitch like that in the United States Senate." And that's his swing vote. He's not going to get them this time."

What Wellstone doesn't understand, because he's too caught up in Washington, is that the two-term pledge he made is a deal-breaker with these people. These are people he made a promise to--I mean, I was there when he made it, time after time. He hated being called a professor because Boschwitz was calling him that to paint him as ivory tower, out of touch. So he said, "No, I'm a teacher. And after I serve my two terms in the Senate, I'm gonna come back to Minnesota and I'm gonna teach. And it's not going to be at Carleton or any other private school, it's not going to be at the University of Minnesota, it's going to be in the community colleges." Well, that's these guys' kids—that's his swing voter's family. That's where they go to school. That was a deal to them, and now he's reneged on that deal.

Amen brother.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Go Twins (and Take the Vikings With You)

By any standard, the Twins season was a success. Their run to the American League Championship Series exceeded the expectations of their fans, the baseball experts, and also exceeded their own skill levels. Alas, the weaknesses inherent in the team were finally exposed through the crucible of playing the elite of the American League for 10 straight games.

Perhaps Alex Rodriguez's recent comments that the Twins would have ended up in last place if they had been in the AL West contained more truth than Minnesotans were initially prepared to acknowledge. It was an interesting and fun season of baseball, but the team's immolation in Anaheim this weekend was difficult to watch (in a slow motion, car accident sort of way).

They could not string together any clutch hits and the bullpen seemed unprepared, consistently throwing exactly the wrong pitch to the wrong guy at the wrong time. They were in a terrible slump.

During the season they could always count on the Tigers or Royals rolling into town to break them out of it. But in the playoffs that simply doesn't occur and down they went.

The good thing about a team stinking out the joint, game after game, is that you become very eager to see them take 5 months off--and that's where I am now, relieved that they're gone. And with baseball's departure from my consciousness, and the Vikings non-appearance, I can devote my time to more productive pursuits (Timberwolves, Gophers' basketball, Real World-Road Rules Challenge.)

Chronicler of 'The Greatest Generation' Moves Into the Wild Blue

Sad news yesterday of the passing of historian/author Dr. Stephen E. Ambrose. Ambrose was probably more responsible than any other for the renewed interest in World War II in recent years through his many popular books (The Wild Blue, The Good Fight, Citizen Soldiers, D-Day, Band of Brothers, Pegasus Bridge) and his founding of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. Ambrose was particularly interested in the stories of the individual American soldiers, sailors, and airmen and focused his work on their recollections. Last year he was stung by allegations of plagiarism and he has been criticized for "simplifying and selling history" by other "more serious" historians. While I have only read two of his books (Band of Brothers and Citizen Soldiers) I found them to be engaging and entertaining and anyone able to broaden the audience for history should be lauded. RIP.

Savard Smoked Em'

Saint Paul's remarks on smoking and professionial athletes immediately brought Dennis Savard to mind. The flashy center played for the Chicago Black Hawks in the '80s when a heated rivalry existed between my dearly departed Minnesota North Stars and his club.

Many was the night when Savard broke my young heart, using his blazing speed and lighting quick spin moves to blow by the North Star defense and light the lamp behind Beupre or Meloche. I was later stunned to learn that Dennis not only enjoyed a post game heater or two but that he actually liked to puff a couple of nails between periods during games. Kent Hrbek smoking and drinking is one thing, I mean how much wind do you really need to play first base? But an all star NHL center? Now that was a man's man.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

These Pig Knuckles Are Making Me Thirsty

Call me naive or just properly brainwashed by Skip Humphrey and Mike Ciresi, but I still find it surprising to find out that some individuals engaged in professional athletics also smoke cigarettes. Reusse's column today recounts a story which includes a reference to former Twins' manager Gene Mauch's on-field smoking antics.

I remember years ago, Reusse mentioning that many members of the '87 Twins enjoyed a post-game heater, along with their cans of Old Style (Kent Hrbek specifically comes to mind). Despite this evidence to the contrary, there's a part of me that finds it impossible to believe that a smoker can make it up a flight of stairs at a good clip, let alone perform at the highest levels of sports. Drinking, smoking dope, shooting heroine, freebasing cocaine, all seems plausible to me, in fact I'm surprised to hear about an athlete who doesn't engage in these past times. But smoking cigarettes? I'm still reflexively aghast!

Less surprising, but funnier, are stories of the gargantuan food appetites some of these guys have and which don't really match up with the image of anyone professionally employed as an athlete. What follows is an excerpt from the current issue of GQ about world class eaters. (FYI--the current issue of GQ is known as "The Sports Issue," which is not to be confused with next month's Persnickety Fop Issue--which I wouldn't be caught dead reading).

"History is bursting at the seams with athletes who couldn't resist a good meal. In the 1950's Forrest Gregg of the Green Bay Packers routinely polished off six hot dogs in the locker room at halftime. John Kruk of the Philadelphia Phillies often ate four dogs before games during the team's 1993 run to the World Series (he batted .316). And Nate Newton of the Dallas Cowboys celebrated pregame in the '90s with a heaping plate of pasta, chicken, hash browns, a plate of eggs, bacon, and a half dozen slices of French toast. But Tony Mandarich must take the cake, the cookies and the ice cream too. He was inhaling up to 15,000 calories a day when he bottomed out in the NFL. That's twice what a sumo wrestler eats.

Babe Ruth has to be the big man in the eaters' Hall of Fame though: The Babe liked to see eighteen eggs in his omelets. He ordered his porterhouse with a side of lamb chops. Is it any wonder he had bicarbonate of soda delivered to the Yankee's dugout? "I've seen him at midnight, propped up in bed, order six club sandwiches, a platter of pigs' knuckles and a pitcher of beer," Ty Cobb said. "He'd down all that while smoking a big black cigar."

Friday, October 11, 2002

Life In The Deli Express Lane

A quick observation on why some members of the lower class remain in their strata for life:

You know where working guys eat lunch? I mean the seasonal kind of working guys like carpenters, lawn workers, landscapers, etc. You might think fast food Mc Donalds, B.K., etc.

Nope. Gas stations.

Go to a Super America at lunch around here and the place is full of these types buying Deli Express sandwedges, chips, Mountain Dews, and maybe a pack of smokes. Easily dropping between $5-$10 I imagine. This is in addition to their morning trip to the gas station to get coffee or Dew, a donut, and their first pack of smokes for the day.

I experienced this first hand in a couple of my summer college jobs and these guys make it a routine. So how does this affect their economic status? They plan nothing and so never buy economic quantities of these goods. Instead a getting a case of soda at Cub for $5 they drop $1-2 a day on it. Instead of cartons of smokes they get individual packs. They could buy bread and meat and make sandwedges at home but its easier to drop $2-3 at the store each day. Many of them buy their booze in the same manner picking up a six or twelve pack on their way home to be consumed that evening and repeated the next day.

Perhaps they are like dogs and that if they had these items around they would be unable to not eat or drink them all at once. Whatever the reason it hits em' hard in the pocket book. When people talk about giving up your daily latte to save for retirement I usually scoff at the idea of frugality for the future. But for these guys there is usually no retirement plan from their jobs. No 401k or profit sharing. The $25-$50 a week that they could potentially save actually would have an impact on their future. If not for the future then as savings to pay the down stroke on a truck or house. Instead they're dumping their cash on the Apus of the world, willingly being gouged at every turn and then wondering why they don't have any money.

A Double Axe Attack

NRO's John Derbyshire outdoes himself with a blisteringly funny deconstruction of New Jersey's newly named poet laureate. It's a good thing to have a guy like Derbyshire on your side of a partisan dispute. Because he's a scholar of English literature and the Classics and he's able to fight those battles without my assistance, I can redirect my intellectual energies to other fields. Tune in tomorrow for my editorial on fat people who wear spandex shorts while biking.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Television: teacher, mother, secret lover!

Caught an amazing piece on PBS's Frontline last night on John O'Neil. He was one of the FBI's foremost counter terrorism experts and was one of the first to recognize the the threat that Al Qaeda posed to the United States. Unfortunately, his style was not appreciated by some of his superiors and he left the FBI in the summer of 2001. His new job was as security director at the World Trade Center and was he killed in the September 11th attacks. It was a riveting and utterly fascinating story delivered to the usual standards of excellence that Frontline has established. I don't always agree with the perspectives presented on Frontline but it is easily the most detailed, in-depth program of its kind on television. And the guy who usually narrates the show has a serious yet soothing vocal delivery that I first noticed on the documentary series 'Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War'.

Yet another rebuttal of the notion that television is all mind numbing garbage devoid of intelligent thought. James Lileks has made this point on more than one occasion in his daily Bleats but it bears repeating. There are a number of pseudo intellectuals out there who like to throw a blanket over all TV viewers and belittle us as ignorant dullards while acting is if reading the latest Barbara Kingsolver novel is the height of intellectual enlightenment.

The problem is that these pointy headed poseurs make it an all or nothing proposition.You either watch four hours of junk TV a day (bad) OR you read books (good). Au contraire, I say. Rather than satiating my desire for information, watching a well done television program only whets my appetite and often sends me to the local library, bookstore, or the Internet in a quest to further my knowledge of the subject matter.

By no means am I say it's all good. It ain't. Or that watching 'Friends', 'Survivor', or 'Boston Public' will make you a better person. It won't. Watching TV is like drinking whisky. You need to be discriminating to get the most out of it. There's a lot of Windsor out there but you can still find the Oban if you know where to look.

You Label Me? I Label You!

The Democratic Party has announced they are preparing to dispatch thousands of lawyers on election day to monitor polling places in Florida so as to ensure proper procedures are being followed and that the so-called "disenfranchisement" of minority voters, experienced during the 2000 election, is not repeated.

(Incidentally, the preceeding sentence is a rare double play from the pages of the New York Times Stylebook; namely the dismissive bludgeoning of the subject with the use of "so-called" with the simultaneous disparagement of the "scare quotes." Maureen Dowd would be proud. Which, come to think of it, should be the chant that goes up whenever one of these Democrat lawyers publically flogs some poor 75-year-old election judge in Boca Raton for not bowing obsequiously enough when confronted with a non-registered, illegal alien, convicted felon, who thinks he might live in that precinct).

Needless to say, there is no substantive evidence of any disenfranchisement in 2000. It simply didn't happen. Yet the strategy the Democrats are adopting is that of a policeman (with an ax to grind) who chooses to follow closely behind behind a motorist until the poor sap, now under durress, happens to violate any one of hundreds of statutes and laws that have been enacted to regulate driving. And then the sirens go on and the hammer drops.

As I've previously stated in this forum, the typical poll worker is nothing more than a common citizen who has a heighted interest in public service. Usually these individuals are under-trained (at least by professional, lawerly standards) and subject to very trying working conditions. Proper implementation of election procedures relies on the poll worker's innate intelligence, quick-thinking ability, and an unstated social contract between the voter and poll worker that they're both going to act in good faith and they're going to do their best to move things along efficiently. As with driving, at times technical violations are made, yet the primary goal of the excercise is usually achieved, and it's all well within the spirit of the law and meeting the intent of all interested parties (in this case, the electorate and the candidates). Injecting hyper-interested vultures with goals other than the administration of elections into this process will only erode the de facto and necessary framework that has evolved around the act of voting. And I wouldn't be surprised that if these Democratic operatives chose to interefere (which they'll do only if they're losing), the very inefficiencies and "disenfranchisement" they claim to be fighting will ultimately be increased.

It also seems disingenous for the Democratic party to be enlisting thousands of lawyer-observers during the election, in the name of ensuring proper procedures are followed, when at the same time most counties are in desperate need for more (and more competent) election judges and poll workers. (In fact, the Miami Herald reports that South Florida still needs thousands of volunteers). These Democratic lawyers would be welcomed whole-heartedly if they volunteered to serve as poll workers. And given their professional credentials and presumed competence, they would naturally be assigned to the very precincts that were in dispute. If the Democratic Party truly had the proper implementation of election laws as their goal, they would simply have to encourage their educated elite to get involved with the mechanics of running elections and then they themselves would be personally and legally responsible for oversight. Yet, instead, they'd rather direct their resources toward the establishment of a class of professional finger pointers, second guessers, and hectorers. Rather than ensuring that voting rights are safeguared, it appears as if their real goal is to simply delegitimize any election result they don't like.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Be Careful When Playing the Age Card

There is a series of commercials running on the radio in which an announcer gravely informs us "as recently as July, Norm Coleman said that he still favors a partial privatization of social security." It then goes on to say that this runs counter to more recent claims by Coleman that he is against privatization and that merely the mention of the word privatization would result in senior citizens being forced to burn their furniture for heat, sell their gold fillings, and learn the 101 different ways you can prepare Alpo for dinner. Well, not exactly.

But the ad sponsored by the DFL Party of Minnesota is clearly a scare tactic to stampede the vulnerable senior voters into the camp of Paul Wellstone. It really is not all that surprising considering that the Senior Scare has been a favorite of Democrats going way back to the early '80s when it was the cruel and heartless Ronald Reagan who was ready to throw Grandma out into the street. The problem that the Democrats run into today is that this blatant pandering to the senior constituency might backfire and cost them support among other age groups.

Sure we all know that seniors vote in far higher percentages than any other age based demographic groups. But most seniors are also already more politically involved than their junior citizen counterparts and with less than a month to go before the election I would guess that most of them are pretty much locked in on one candidate or another. The DFL ad may cause a couple of previously undecided seniors that Wellstone is their man but I suspect the impact will be minimal.

For those of us from the younger set however the ad may be interpreted positively for Coleman. Despite the recent mauling that the bear market has inflicted on our investments, I believe that most of my generational cohorts ( Personally I hate the Gen X and Gen Y labels. Let's just call ourselves the "not Boomers" and leave it at that) would much rather have the option of investing even a small portion of our social security contributions in the stock market rather than relying on the continuation of the Ponzi scheme that is the current SS system. When I hear that Coleman still supports some sort of privatization my reaction is the complete opposite of what the DFL ad intends. I actually wish that Norm would stick to his guns and push for privatization and I'm betting that a number of other of non-gray hairs agree with me.

According to a Star Tribune editorial Republican pollsters have advised candidates to duck the issue and avoid using the "P" word for fear of incurring the wrath of the senior voters. Obviously the DFL has picked up on the anti-privatization sentiment and is hoping that the ad will drive seniors away from Coleman. And they may have some limited success. But they also may unintentionally attract younger voters to Norm's side of the fence. Playing generational politics can be tricky and the DFL might not like the results they see come November.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Setting em' up and knocking em' down

Three months ago the Bush administration's Iraqi policy seemed disorganized and aimlessly adrift. Today, it is clear that the administration has been following a carefully prepared plan of action all along which has allowed them to outmaneuver their opposition and has all but assured them of ultimate victory (on the political battlefield at the least). GW's speech last night was just the latest example of Bush deftly knocking another barrier to war aside.

When the administration first started to turn up the rhetoric at the beginning of the summer they made almost no mention of the U.N., congressional approval, or the need to make the case to the American public. The message seemed to be "we can go to war if and when we want to and we don't have to explain why". This brought those who opposed military action out into the open and they began laying down a gauntlet of demands that the administration would have to meet before they could support a war. They acknowledged that Iraq was a problem but before the U.S. could act specific conditions must be satisfied:

We would have to get our allies involved, we would have to go through the U.N., Congress would have to debate the matter and approve a resolution supporting the president, and Bush would have to convince the American people that war was the only option.

In reality the opposition never had any intention of supporting the Bush administration. The conditions they had set out were designed as road blocks that they were sure the administration either would or could not overcome. They had begun to believe the hype that Bush was a vigilante cowboy who was determined to act unilaterally and would never allow the U.N. or the Congress to interfere with his vendetta against Saddam. Not for the first time did his opposition grossly underestimate him. Bush allowed the opponents of the war to huff and puff for a while and then he systematically began to kick the legs out from under their arguments.

It started with the diplomatic work behind the scenes that secured support for military action from Britain, Turkey, Kuwait, Canada, Qatar, and even a shaky endorsement from the Saudis. Next he went to the U.N. and presented his case against Iraq to the world body. While it still is not clear whether the U.S. will get the type of resolution from the Security Council that Bush desires, the fact that he sought approval from the U.N. allows him to at least say that he tried. That will probably satisfy the majority of Americans who hold no special love for Khofi's boys anyway.

The U.S. Congress has been debating the war for the last few weeks and even Daschle's crying about "politicizing the war" (isn't a debate political by its very definition?) hasn't dampened the chances for successful passage in both the House and Senate of a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. Last night the President clearly and concisely laid out the reasons that he feels that war is necessary and at the same time addressed nearly all the coherent arguments against war, explaining the flaws in each of them. The speech was the capstone to what has been a remarkable couple of months of Bush appearing to let the opposition dictate the terms of debate while in reality he was forcing them into fixed defensive positions which he has rolled over one by one.

Not bad for a guy now officially hated by Jessica Lange and once described by the Minnesota born star as "such a stupid man". I hope he can still sleep at night.