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Dept. of Michael Moore Predictions: From an interview with my Nader-covering partner Jennifer Bleyer of NewsForChange, published Sept. 27, 2000:
NewsForChange: What do you say to the question that’s on a lot of people’s minds, is a vote for Nader a vote for Bush?

Michael Moore: Number one, Bush is not going to win. I truly believe that, because the people of this country are not that stupid. He’s behind 52 to 38 (percent) right now and every week he goes lower and lower. He’s going to continue to sink like a stone.

2/16/2002 10:33:38 PM

Pierce: ‘What it Means to be Black’: I suppose I should apologize for linking to Tony Pierce so much, but he keeps putting up great photo-essays during Black History Month:
my name is tony
my first car was a cadillac
i think oj's not guilty
my mom took a picture of
the first time i ate fried chicken
i may be light skinned
but im Black
You have to see the picture to get the full impact. Also, this slide contains four solid blogs and the man who hosts all of them for below-market prices.

2/16/2002 09:56:53 PM

At Last, Some Reasonable Writing About the French: Every day I’ve been meaning to write an “enough already” post to the bloggers who have written off the European Continent, and especially the French bit, as a bunch of thankless, feckless, cheese-eating anti-semitic surrenderholics to be abandoned to their own statist Arafat-loving fantasies at the soonest possible moment. But each day there were so many new polls about bombing France, so many, ah, unfortunate figure-skating snafus, and purple-faced posts, I just decided to cover my ears and sing La Marseillaise every time I heard someone shout “Fuck Europe, Fuck Europe, Fuck Europe.” Fortunately, UPI columnist James Bennett writes a fine column today (via Glenn Reynolds) about our French pals, and the context in which we should place their recent carpings about U.S. foreign policy (to which I’d add another: there’s a heated presidential campaign in progress over there, and attitude toward America is one of the main theoretical differentiating points between Socialist Lionel Jospin and Gaullist Jacques Chirac).

We are part of the same alliance, same basic family (literally true in my case), and same civilizational conversation. Like any family, there is some trash talking, which should always be encouraged and laughed at, especially since when the chips are finally down (as they were in the Gulf War), the French usually join the fight to a level exceeded only by the Brits. For years, I have heard the same old comfortable jokes – Jerry Lewis this, McDonald’s that, ignorant arrogant cowboys here, faux-sophisticates without moral compasses there, etc. Read any book about, say, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and you’ll see all the same complaints, dressed up in period clothes. And you’ll also see how the French admire our crazy energy & idealism, and how we like the Frogs enough to make Paris the number-one travel destination year after year. It’s all good … except when either side forgets it’s a member of the same family, and sinks to the lowest level of mutual insult.

Still, the recent hubbub is notable for being the first time in my memory (and I do not remember the anti-nuke protests in Western Europe during the 1980s), where the American “street” is noticeably pissed off by what they’ve usually ignored with a chuckle. I was annoyed enough during my recent visit there to write this and this, and I’ve certainly never shared Ralph Nader’s desire to switch systems with France, but irritated Americans seem to be criticizing Europeans both for being geopolitically irrelevant (comparatively), and for griping about said irrelevance. If the U.S. continues its longstanding policy of deliberately blunting the military ambitions of its friends so it can be the lone superpower, there will be griping and immaturity galore. And some of it will even be justified, unless you believe that power somehow doesn’t corrupt. By all means, continue smacking around whatever Euro-nonsense is deserving, but for heaven’s sake, don’t mistake the barkings of a single commentator or politician or even newspaper for that of 280 million very different humans. If you don’t like the byproducts of negative foreign opinion about America’s outsized military power, ask yourself for how long you want, say, 37,000 U.S. troops to be stationed in Korea. And if you want to keep condemning all the French, realize that you are, in fact, condemning my wife. And look how funny she is.

2/16/2002 09:43:43 PM

The ‘Truth’ About Nader’s Strawberries: Ralph Nader’s campaign memoir, lucky for me, is subtitled “How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President.” Here’s a bit from page 175, about the Green Party candidate’s performances on late-night comedy programs:
Then I went on Jay Leno, who does go into the green room with the guests to chat, and David Letterman, who does not. Probably the latter approach makes for more spontaneity – at least it did for me. Both appearances went well.
Italics mine. There were two reporters at the Jay Leno taping – me, and the AP's Scott Lindlaw. The headline on the AP wire that night was “Nader Mocked by Fellow Guest, Leno” (CBS News called it “Nader Lays Egg on Leno.” Here’s how Lindlaw described the excruciating guest spot:
Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader pulled a rubber chicken from behind a couch on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" to make his point that Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore are ducking debates with him.

He ended up in an impromptu debate with a fellow guest who was mocking him.

"The only explanation I can give you as to why Bush and Gore are afraid to have me debate," he said, holding the chicken around the neck.

The gag drew tepid laughter.

"This comedy is not easy, is it Ralph?" Leno said.

Other jokes that are Nader favorites on the campaign trail drew similar responses.

"Bush is really a corporation running for president, disguised as a person," Nader said, to scattered laughs.

The Hollywood audience seemed baffled when Nader told Leno what he does for fun: "strawberries."

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted a few days later that “Nader confused nearly everyone this week when Leno asked him what he does for fun.” Robert Salladay of the San Francisco Examiner commented:
The awkwardness, the sheer nerdiness comes when Nader attempts to start talking about himself, like when he inexplicably told Jay Leno this week that "strawberries" are what he does for fun.
In a longer article I wrote later about Nader’s surprisingly effective use of humor to soften his woefully bleak critiques, I said:
Some of his wisecracks have fallen with a painful thud, such as during his painful appearance on the Tonight Show.
Jeez, nothing like the word “painful” twice in the same sentence…. Anyways, long after the election, Nader 2000 staffers would still wince and groan if you just mentioned the word “strawberries,” though some claimed Leno somehow set Ralph up. In post-election interviews, Ralph made the exchange sound far less weird, by adding words that, truthfully, he did not say. “I said, ‘I eat strawberries,’” he told People magazine.

Does any of this matter? Not really. Just wanted to Set the Record Straight. And who knows – maybe Ralph really thinks his chicken-strawberry act went over “well.” Then again, if that was the only factually questionable portion of the memoir, I probably wouldn’t be mentioning it….

2/16/2002 05:10:56 PM

How Tim Robbins Likes the Word 'Evil' ... When it Describes Republicans: At the end of Ralph Nader’s campaign memoir, he tacks on several appendices of things like FDR speeches on progressive politics, lists of Clinton/Gore actions that might as well have been Republican, and then this August 2001 speech by actorvist Tim Robbins, called “What I Voted For.” The first thing that jumped out at me was Robbins’ tendency, mirroring that of Nader (noted below), to ascribe nothing but the highest nobility and coherence to the Seattle kids and their scatter-brained protests:
There is something truly significant happening today. A new movement is slowly taking hold on college campuses, among left-wing groups in Europe and human rights groups throughout the world. The protests in Seattle in 1999, the IMF-World Bank protests in Washington, DC, in 2000, and the continuing presence of agitation wherever corporate entities gather to determine global economic and environmental policies do not, as the media portray them, merely reflect the work of fringe radicals and anarchists. Such events arise out of a broad-based coalition of students, environmentalists, unions, farmers, scientists and other concerned citizens who view the decisions made in these cabals as the frontline in the battle for the future of this planet. This is a movement in its infancy that I believe is as morally compelling as the early abolitionists fighting to end slavery in the eighteenth century; as important as the labor activists advocating workplace safety and an end to child labor in the early 1850s; as undeniable as the scientists who first alerted the American public to widespread abuse of our environment by corporate polluters. All of these movements met with overwhelming condemnation by both political parties, were ignored and then criticized by the press, while their adherents were harassed, arrested and sometimes killed by police and other agencies of the government.
Italics mine. The other, more remarkable thing, is how Robbins cheerfully acknowledged to his SoCal progressive audience that he is someone who
at one time recognized all Republicans as evil incarnate.
I guess the word “evil” is appropriate now and then, eh? From the tone of that line, however, you’d think that he’d come to learn the errors of condemning half the United States as the Great Satan. Au contraire. In fact, he’s pretty sure that most all the country is wearing a devil’s haircut:
There was a time when I would have said that it is the "evil" Republicans who fear democracy. But the sad realization I have come to after the 2000 election, and after experiencing the reactions to our support for Nader, is that you can count the Democrats in that bunch, too.
Robbins does finally make a call to “stop demonizing people for their political affiliations” – maybe he got sensitive after one of his “kids was admonished in public” – and urges us to “follow the example” of Jim Jeffords, the party-switching senator from Vermont, and an “embodiment of political courage in this country.”

I’m working up an essay on the Nader book, so you’ll have to bear with just one last round of campaign nostalgia, and strange tie-ins to the consequentialist spasm of Sept. 12.

2/16/2002 11:07:39 AM

Ralston Routs Shuger on Afghan Civilian Deaths: Bruce Ralston, who has been invaluable in tracking the different studies on Afghan civilian deaths caused by U.S. bombs, criticizes Slate’s Scott Shuger for suggesting that George McGovern be appointed to head an independent investigative commission to determine a final number. I think the data is less predictable than Ralston does (which he bases on four studies that yielded similar numbers), but he makes some good points about this, and also about Iraq civilian deaths dur

Fear Not, Natalija: Los Angeles is not a hotbed of war-crimes apologia, despite whatever trash the L.A. Times chooses to publish. This link takes you to the first two reaction letters the paper printed; here’s the one by Nayyer Ali from Huntington Beach:
It is absurd for Lopusina and Huzsvai to argue that there was a long-term NATO (read American) strategy to take over the Balkans. President Clinton had to be dragged into the Bosnian and Kosovo quagmires, and the American public certainly never clamored for intervention. To this day, it is hard to construct any rationale based on national interest for our interventions. The truth is, we used our military power to stop a madman from carrying out his dreams of a "Greater Serbia" based on violence toward others.

Milosevic now finds himself on trial for his war crimes. There were crimes committed by Croats and Muslims, and the writers fail to note that Croats and Muslims have also been indicted and stood trial in The Hague. It is not simply "victor's justice" but a serious attempt to bring justice to at least the leading war criminals of all sides. But no fair reading of Balkan history would be complete without noting the prime and despicable role of Milosevic. His apologists even now seek to obfuscate this basic fact.

2/15/2002 11:40:09 AM

The Best of Tony Pierce: Good round-up of a dozen or so of the Reverend's most popular photo-essays. Some day soon I will spend much time saying "No really, I coached Little League with this guy in 1990!"

2/15/2002 10:56:17 AM

‘Cool Legacy, Dude’: Dr. Frank, the rock musician from Berkeley, has an excellent post on a Bay Guardian story about the SLA and the ‘60s generation.

2/14/2002 10:28:37 PM

‘Liberal Media Ignore What They Don't Want to Hear’: That’s the headline on an interesting Norah Vincent column today, discussing a hot-selling book I’d never heard of from an ex-NOW chapter president who criticizes the Left’s attitudes toward free speech. According to Vincent, this book just doesn’t exist in the progressive media.

2/14/2002 11:47:06 AM

Thunder From Down Under: You’ve probably seen it already, but in case you haven’t, go read Pirate Tim Blair’s three-part epic picking apart his online rival, Margo Kingston. Publishing wonks should appreciate the contrast in business models between Blair, whose blog is something like two months old and gets crazy traffic, and Kingston, who writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, pulls down a robust salary for her web diary, and brags about attracting 9,000 readers a month (and immediately ponders charging them all subscriptions).

2/14/2002 10:30:27 AM

Ralph Nader vs. Jon Stewart: Just ducked into the bedroom for a few minutes while my gorgeous wife did a live radio report, and who did I see but my old pal Ralph Nader being cross-examined by my favorite political interviewer, Jon Stewart. The Daily Show host asked him something like: “All these WEF kids … I have no idea what they want. All I know is that they have puppets and smell like the patchouli. Isn’t that a problem?” Nader said something like “Well they know they need the puppets, because that’s the only way they’ll get on the media. But what they want is simple: Democracy.” He then went on to graft his usual list of criticisms onto the noodle-muppet crowd: they just want us to support “workers and peasants instead of oligarchs and dictators,” to “wage peace,” fight for “democracy against autocracy,” etc.

Unlike many of my more Democrat friends, I like Ralph. He’s kinda funny, he works his ass off, he’s deeply patriotic in his way. I voted for him, though we don’t come close to agreeing on foreign policy, trade, and a few dozen other things. I wouldn’t vote for him or any other Green candidate next time, for several reasons, one of which is that he and the other key figures on the capital-L Left refuse to repudiate their own lunatic supporters, and cast the rosiest possible glow on the actions of young people who have unsound ideas based on clumsy lies.

Take his comment on the Daily Show tonight: Were all the WEF protesters really fighting for “democracy”? (Stewart had a great comment about how these kids probably wouldn’t like an actual democracy, because people in democracies will still choose McDonald’s and Starbucks). Here’s a selection from Ralph’s new campaign memoir, which I’m halfway through (haven't yet got to the part where I started covering it). In this selection, he’s talking about the protesters at the Republican Convention:

Reporters described the assemblage as a motley crowd with a grab bag of causes having no seeming connection to one another. What, pray tell, were they protesting that the media found so difficult to describe? Here’s what: poverty in an era of great concentrated wealth; corporate welfare; globalization through the WTO, NAFTA, and the World Bank; corrupt money in politics; bloated military budgets; global warming and other ecological degradations; genetically engineered foods without labeling; Occidental Petroleum’s plans to drill on the sacred homeland of the U’wa tribe in Colombia; the prison-industrial complex; the widening income gap; sweatshops; the need for mass transit; tobacco industry and its lavish $1,000-a-plate event for “Blue Dog Democrats,”; and the giant media conglomerates. Simply put, the entire agenda for progressive liberal politics.
This is wishful thinking. Not because his laundry list is false (though who knows?), but for what it leaves out. For instance, the protesters waving banners for socialism, or the ones who spray-painted “GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE - COPS KILL PEOPLE!" Or the California hippies at the Democratic Convention praising Fidel Castro
and handing out Maoist newspapers, or perhaps the Green Party candidates in Missouri standing right next to a smiling Nader and declaring, to a cheering audience:
We always thought Communism would bury us. It's not Communism that's going to bury this country. It is going to be buried -- it's well on it's way -- and it's by capitalism.
When you fail to rebuff supporters who espouse nonsense, when you in fact ascribe coherence to incoherents and pander to them with vague John Reed talk of “workers and peasants,” you are not building a pro-democracy movement, you are erecting a political circus tent for unchallenged freaks. It is no wonder that the Far Left bungled so badly after Sept. 11 – so many of the Free Mumia set are unused to their goofy ideas being fact-checked by comrades, let alone noticed by political opponents. Sure, it’s not Ralph’s duty to correct every mistake he hears, or actively scare off his own meager following. But surely he and his buddies want the Republicans to repudiate their Falwells and Buchanans (which they have done, for the most part); the very least Nader can do in return – unless he’s content to forever be the butt of Jon Stewart jokes - is confront his own coalition’s Castroites.

2/14/2002 01:44:53 AM

‘Probably the most disgraceful thing published by the L.A. Times...ever’: That’s how Perry de Havilland describes the Milosevic-defending column I’ve been harping on the last two days. De Havilland’s fiery colleague Natalija Radic, who had a front-row view of Slobo’s devilry, was literally too upset about the column to write about it.

2/13/2002 08:40:30 PM

Perhaps You’ll Now Wish I Posted Less: Sorry for the silencio; have been trying to pay the bills (you can always help me!). Ah, the freedom of being unencumbered by shame…. Anyways, have been doing much extremely random research – here’s where you can get your information about Shroud of Turin Centers and Organizations, here’s a company that organizes baseball-playing tours in Cuba (here’s another!), here’s that National Museum of Roller Skating you were looking for. Time has also been spent of late demonstrating to visiting young southern gentlemen Jackson Cooper and Henry Hanks how certain bars in East Bloggywood take a principled libertarian stand against California smoking laws. Speaking of L.A., I’d like to third Glenn Reynolds’ nomination of Mickey Kaus to be the new editor of Slate; we can allay Layne’s concern about losing a neighbor simply by moving Slate’s entire editorial operation down to Los Angeles. The Microsoft boys should have a good handle on the code by now; time to move down to a real media capital.

On a more serious note (as if that would be hard), here’s reader Brian Hoffman’s reaction to that grotesque Milosevic apologia that the L.A. Times defiled its pages with yesterday:
Man, it's not enough that the LAT would publish anything by these David Irving manques, but also that editors would simply let the phrase "provocations and setups in Srebrenica to Racak" stand. I would LOVE to hear about the "provocations" in Srbrenica. On second thought, NO I FUCKING WOULDN'T. And I guess "Srbrenica to Racak" covers a lot of ground. Like Foca. Banja Luka. The shelling of Dubrovnik. And other things that never happened. Will the LAT accept my articles about the provocation of Auschwitz and the setup of Viengsai?

One thing you left out when you mentioned the "petition": it was on the "International Action Center" website, the piece-of-shit parody-of-itself Ramsey Clark/International Socialist Organization mouthpiece, last seen doing its helpful work defending the poor oppressed of Afghanistan, the al-Qaeda and Taliban's "soldiers" (now here are some applicable scare quotes!) in Guantanamo. What a bunch of sick fucks.

2/13/2002 04:01:58 PM

Scott Rubush Discovers Grand Central Market: It only took him a year and a half to experience one of L.A.’s most pleasurable landmarks, but don’t hold that against our young Front Pager. This town has a way of parsing out information about itself, and hiding marvelous things in plain sight. I’m sure 75% of my neighbors don’t realize that just off Sunset Blvd. you can find entire blocks of houses that look like this. I probably wouldn’t either, if I didn’t have to write a history/architecture chapter in a guidebook a couple years back.

2/12/2002 02:00:24 PM

Keith Brown Would Have Been 33: Greg McIlvaine pays a quick tribute to one of the better rock showmen to have walked the earth. They played together with Steve Coulter and Dan Kern in the best live band I will probably ever see. Also, scroll down Greg’s site for some good stuff on Black History Month.

2/12/2002 01:06:46 PM

Mazza and the Fat People: Ex-Tabloid correspondent Ed Mazza talks about his contentious relationship with the morbidly obese, and the death of his cousin at the World Trade Center.

2/12/2002 12:48:04 PM

Milosevic Family Values: The Guardian publishes translated transcripts, provided by an eavesdropping Croatia, of Slobo talking to various underlings and his pathetic thug-son. Via Nick Denton.

2/12/2002 12:44:55 PM

Tony Pierce’s Olympic Commentary: Click on the pictures to enjoy the photo-essay. Also, Heather Havrilesky tosses off this insightful observation about snowboarders:
They all seem to have those strange inverted chins that come from saying the word "dude" too much.
Like here.

2/12/2002 09:30:19 AM

Slobo-Nostalgia in the L.A. Times: My hometown paper publishes a noxious op-ed today from Marko Lopusina and Andre Huzsvai, where poor Slobodan Milosevic is described as “a scapegoat in a show trial with a predestined outcome.” Here’s the loopy nut graf, notable for its insight into the fevers of people who blame the U.S. for absolutely everything.
Were allegations of Milosevic's "war crimes" in Bosnia and Croatia true, he would have been indicted in 1995, instead of rubbing elbows with U.S. politicos at the Dayton peace talks. Were Washington serious about toppling him, it could have done so in 1996 by supporting the Serb opposition movement, Zajedno. Yet the U.S. seems to have been more interested in keeping Milosevic in power until the last part of the Pax Americana scenario in the Balkans played out with the NATO occupation of Kosovo.
Milosevic wasn’t indicted in 1995, because the U.S. needed him to negotiate Dayton. He wasn’t arrested at Dayton, because it’s considered bad manners to arrest foreign presidents just after they’ve negotiated peace deals. If Washington was as “serious about toppling” Milosevice in 1996 – which could have only been done by invading a country which was then not at war – the authors would have been the first to condemn the action as an illegal and imperialist intervention. The U.S. did support the opposition movement Zajedno, but not to the point of giving it guns, or somehow enforcing the elections Slobo was busy ignoring. By “the last part of the Pax Americana scenario in the Balkans,” I assume the authors are referring to “democratic elections in Serbia,” which is what led to Milosevic being arrested and charged.

Huszvai is no stranger to Slobo apologia. Last year, he signed a petition called Stop the Witch Hunt Against Slobodan Milosevic, which included the following howlers:

Milosevic the so-called "ethnic cleanser" preached multinational unity, not nationalist intolerance. … The effort to prosecute Milosevic is an attack on all who support multinational unity.
and
Crimes were committed in Yugoslavia - but not by Milosevic. They were committed by American and NATO leaders who authorized a low-grade nuclear war that specifically targeted civilians and left huge portions of the country contaminated for the next 4.5 billion years.
and
Slobodan Milosevic's real offense was that he tried to keep the 26 nationalities that comprise Yugoslavia free from US and NATO colonization and occupation; his nation's resources, industries, and media from being stolen by multinational corporations; his nation's institutions from being controlled by US consultants and advisers. His real offense was to defend his nation's freedom and sovereignty from a political "opposition" bought and paid for by the United States and installed into power by US specialists in psychological operations. He and all those now under attack resisted Western colonization to the very end.
and
As the experience in Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe has shown, bowing to Western pressure will never improve living standards; and imposing political repression will only leave deep and long lasting scars on the national psyche.
I remember the difference between Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in 1990 – living standards were so much better in Yugoslavia it wasn’t even funny. Skopje, considered a backwater today, was leagues ahead of now-fashionable Prague. By 1996, when I visited Belgrade to cover the student protests, the Czechs, Hungarians, Slovaks and Slovenes had “improved” to such a degree that the thousands of Yugo refugees in Budapest and elsewhere were reduced to nostalgia for the 1980s, when they would feel like kings visiting their poor Warsaw Pact cousins. In today’s piece, which does have a few valid points (the trial will hopefully bring out the truth, the Balkans are complicated, Croats and Muslims did bad stuff too, the KLA is scary, and the international community has frequently bungled its interventions), the authors seal their ignomy by using scare-quotes around “war crimes,” “rape camps” and “concentration camps,” calling them all “myths.” That will be news to the half-dozen friends I know who have seen and documented all of the above. Surely the L.A. Times can find critics of the Milosevic trial, and of U.S. intervention in the Balkans, who don’t resort to grotesque denial.

2/12/2002 09:05:57 AM

Warbloggers’ Proximity to Ground Zero on 9/11: Even though I have exchanged scores of e-mails with, and received incredible generosity from, Mr. Andrew Hofer of More Than Zero fame, it never really registered in my swollen skull that he was so damned close to the World Trade Center five months ago today. The “MOWM” logo on that picture refers to the estimable Jay Zilber, who publishes Mind Over What Matters. If anyone else uses that photo to photoshop their own locations from that morning, please let me know.

2/11/2002 08:15:37 PM

Tony Pierce Interviews Oliver Willis for Black History Month: The two L.A. blogging titans discuss kissing white girls, Britney vs. Mariah, NFL head coaching slots, whether Jason Kidd is black, and the joys of publishing. A must.

2/11/2002 02:40:45 PM

Will Jesse Jackson Visit L.A. to Support Chief Parks?: Here’s an update on the racial simmer-fest taking place on the op-ed sections of our local papers, regarding white mayor Jimmy Hahn’s decision not to back black Police Chief Bernard Parks for a second five-year term. My previous post on the topic linked to columns by South L.A. politico-toughie Maxine Waters (maybe the black community should recall the mayor who wouldn’t be there without its support), L.A. Times local columnist Steve “Philadelphia” Lopez (Hahn made the right choice, but everyone’s to blame), and New Times aggro-centrist Jill Stewart (Parks should stay; it's all a power play by the venal police union). Over at LA Examiner I also added L.A. Weekly paleo-lib Harold Meyerson (this proves Hahn’s anti-Latino coalition was bogus from the start).

Since then, the local commentariat has really kicked into gear. The Times today ran an solid story with a wishful it’s-not-about-race spin, in which we learn that, for example, Koreans seem to like Parks just great because he’s promoted several Asian-Americans. The always-interesting Gregory Rodriguez wrote a let’s-get-beyond race column Sunday, in which he listed a whole bunch of mixed marriages among prominent L.A. officials. Impressive civil rights attorney Connie Rice weighs in with the most convincing (to me) Parks-must-go column to date. LAPD apologist Joseph Wambaugh argues that the new chief should be (of course!) promoted from within, but then goes ahead and names an intriguing Cuban-American character named George Gascon. Philadelphia Lopez today takes an angry reader up on his offer to drive while black around South L.A., and the L.A. Times editorial board weighed in Sunday with a lengthy and impressively incoherent editorial gingerly asking Parks to play nice and step down. Over at the sometimes-conservative, always-separatist Daily News (who print my columns sometimes), an editorial today takes a whopping three paragraphs to link the Parks flap to Valley cityhood, and then star political columnist Rick Orlov drops this bombshell:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has talked to at least one local official about coming out to support Parks. Jackson called City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo -- who has endorsed Parks' reappointment -- offering to get involved.
L.A. me-ziner Mickey Kaus has yet to take a firm stand, though I can’t connect to his site right now.… Why is all this important? L.A. has avoided high-profile racial tension for a good long time, as we’ve quietly rebuilt from the various catastrophes of the early 1990s. Now that Seattle and Frisco have crashed, our city has cycled back into its role as the confident capital of the West Coast. Racial tensions have always bubbled under the surface, and frequently exploded in plain sight. Yet there seems to be a growing mass of people from all tribes who actively enjoy the multi-glot, and are increasingly weary of the tired tribal warfare routine. This might be the moment when L.A. can finally “get beyond race,” just as (I hope, desperately), Singapore Gray Davis’ ugly attempts to smear Richard Riordan as an anti-abortion monster will backfire, and mark the point where state politics get beyond the cheapest and most irrelevant of aesthetic culture-war slurs. I do have a weakness for optimism, it’s true….

2/11/2002 01:40:50 PM

Afghan Civilian Deaths in the ‘Mid-hundreds,’ AP Estimates: AP special correspondent Laura King reports today:
Although estimates have placed the civilian dead in the thousands, a review by The Associated Press suggests the toll may be in the mid-hundreds, a figure reached by examining hospital records, visiting bomb sites and interviewing eyewitnesses and officials.

The number of confirmed deaths will surely rise as more exhaustive tallies are compiled by independent bodies. Neither the U.S. nor the Afghan government is attempting to tally the civilian dead, but two Afghan nongovernmental groups are undertaking a count. The New York-based group Human Rights Watch also plans a study.

One factor contributing to inflated estimates was the distortion of casualty reports by the Taliban regime. Afghan journalists have told AP that Taliban officials systematically doctored reports of civilian deaths to push their estimate to 1,500 in the first three weeks of the war in an attempt to galvanize opposition to the bombing.

"Our chief was from the Taliban. His deputy from the Taliban. The information minister was from the Taliban," said one journd one journalist, Mohammed Ismail. "We could not do our jobs. We could not tell the truth."

The report visits every major city bombed and provides a death count, interviews victims & tells their stories, and breaks down how other reports came up with their numbers.
While an agony for the families involved, deaths in Kabul were fewer than might have been feared in five weeks of fierce and concerted airstrikes. By contrast, the Red Cross has said that during ferocious factional fighting in 1992-96, an estimated 50,000 civilians died in Kabul alone.

Besides the 70 in Kabul, the AP count of civilian deaths includes: 81 in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar; 55 in the eastern city of Jalalabad; 10 in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif; 18 in the western city of Herat; 25 in and near Spinboldak, a town south of Kandahar; and 55 in the village of Karam, near Jalalabad. An additional 167 were killed in three villages in the heavily bombed Tora Bora region: 155 of those in Kama Ado, five in Agom and seven in Pacir.

Also notable is this apparent backtrack from University of New Hampshire Professor Marc Herold, who previously had talked about a “conservative” figure of 3,700+ deaths as of early December.
In interviews last week [Herold] said he believed the range of deaths was between 3,100 and 3,800.
Here’s another intriguing tidbit:
According to a Saudi-based U.S. Air Force official, a unit has been set up at Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh to check allegations of civilian casualties and see whether they have been exaggerated for propaganda purposes.
This is far and away the best reporting I’ve seen on the issue, and it would have been so if the honestly-sought figures had been ten times higher.

2/11/2002 12:04:59 PM

Even Kurtz Ignores the Houston Business Journal: Granted, the Washington Post’s far-superior media reporter Howard Kurtz wrote a much shorter and less puffed-up how-the-media-muffed-Enron story than the L.A. Times insufferable David Shaw, but if you’re going to examine the Houston Chronicle and quote the Houston Press, why can’t you pick up the phone and contact the paper that does the most business journalism in Enron’s home town?

2/11/2002 10:57:42 AM

Some Good New Letters Up…: And hopefully I’ll learn how to post them on the correct page….

2/10/2002 11:22:49 PM

Citizens for Michelle Malkin Control: Greg Beato has some fun with the columnist’s questionable quotations of film critics, descriptions of MTV, and one-sided attacks on politically leaning nonprofits.

2/10/2002 11:07:15 PM

Friedman Takes it Personally: Thomas Friedman, who has been invaluable since Sept. 11, writes an impassioned and insightful answer to this question posed to him by an Arab journalist: “Are Jews in the media behind the campaign to smear Saudi Arabia and Islam?”
My first instinct was to ask a question back: When Jewish reporters in Beirut and Israel were at the forefront in covering such stories as the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinians, why did no one in the Arab world ask whether they were part of a Jewish conspiracy?
Friedman, who is Jewish, won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Israel’s disgusting role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
When Jewish congressmen and commentators led the campaign for U.S. intervention to save the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo and to roll back the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf war, why did no one in the Muslim world complain about a Jewish conspiracy?
Friedman supported Yugoslav intervention as well.
The truth is that Jewish commentators and lawmakers have probably been more outspoken in support of using American force to rescue Muslims in the last 15 years than any other group — including American Muslims.

So, to begin with, maybe — just maybe — there is no Jewish conspiracy against Muslims or Saudi Arabia at work here. Maybe, just maybe, many Americans are upset because 15 Saudis took part in the Sept. 11 attacks, private Saudi charities financed Osama bin Laden and hundreds of Saudis fought with Al Qaeda against America in Afghanistan. And these hard facts have hardened U.S. opinion against them.

Friedman is clearly an integral part of the Saudis’ pathetic Jew York Times smear campaign, and he seems to be rising above it while not shying away, for which he deserves praise. If you haven’t yet read his foreign correspondetry memoir, From Beirut to Jerusalem, by all means go buy it. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. Both books are tailor-made starter kits for MidEast ignoramuses like me.

2/10/2002 09:09:59 PM

Frugal Travel, on $350 a Day: Today’s New York Times Travel section has a “Frugal Traveler” column about visiting Los Angeles for three days. The writer spends $355 on airfare, $324 on hotels, at least $132 on a car rental (though she recommends you just take a $50 taxi from the Long Beach airport to Santa Monica & Venice, since that’s all you really need to visit to experience “Los Angeles in a nutshell”), and has enough left over for various $48 meals and a $26 “light dinner.” It’s amazing to me how the Travel and Magazine sections of newspapers are aimed squarely at the six-figure demographic, and the journalists who work for them are only happy to play cheerleader for the rarely attainable lifestyle. It’s a long, long way from afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted, that’s for damned sure.

2/10/2002 01:23:08 PM

Speaking of Magazine Articles Not Yet Online: Jack Beatty has a bracing little column in the February Atlantic, chastising the rich world for clinging to protectionist policies that hurt the poor. Beatty estimates that
Developing countries lose about $100 billion a year owing to Western export subsidies and trade barriers. For agriculture alone these amounted $245 billion in 2000 – about five times what the West spent on development assistance that year. Tariff barriers against manufactured goods from the developing world are, on average, four times as high as those against products from the industrialized world. […] Every 0.7 percent increase in … exports [from the 49 least-developed countries] generates as much income as they now receive in aid.
If free traders spent as much time railing against rich-country protectionism as they do making fun of the anti-globalization kids, the pig-puppet audience would dwindle to a core of fog-headed Maoists, and more importantly, destitute people around the world could vault out of poverty much faster. Though it seems absurdly obvious to point out, it is not enough to stand around saying “We are moral! We are just! All you who criticize us are wretched fools!” If you insist on a policy of discouraging other countries from being mature enough to handle their own security, you had better be vigilant about ensuring as moral a foreign policy as possible, while being thick-skinned enough to withstand the inevitable barbs from immature critics.

2/10/2002 12:26:13 PM

Iraqi Trial Balloons: More and more, I’m becoming persuaded that the Bush Administration is threatening war on Iraq in an effort to make renewed and strengthened weapons inspections seem like a terrific compromise to everybody. This story in today’s L.A. Times, which posits a smart sanctions/inspections plan as the mildest and most likely of three Iraq policy scenarios, contains lots more internal Cabinet musings than usually seep out from the White House. Meanwhile, as both the article and an op-ed today from former weapons inspector (and current sanctions critic) Scott Ritter both indicate, the suddenly nervous Saddam Hussein regime has launched an “unprecedented diplomatic offensive” to communicate its “stunning recent reversal” about being willing to allow weapons inspectors back in the country for the first time in four years. The current sanctions policy is a disaster – it punishes civilians, leaves Hussein intact, no longer serves as a significant brake on Saddam’s weapons-gathering ability, undermines American moral authority and serves as a galvanizing agent for the Great Satan crowd. If Dubya’s bluster can create a situation whereby current sanctions can be effectively traded for real weapons inspections, then the State of the Union address will truly deserve to be called great, and those howling about the “Axis of Evil” line will have more explaining to do.

On a related note, my Iraq sanctions piece is in this month’s Reason, which I heartily encourage all of you to buy, for Charles Paul Freund’s cover story in praise of vulgarity, if nothing else.

2/10/2002 12:02:06 PM

2/10/2002 12:02:06 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

> Speaking of Magazine Articles Not Yet Online: Jack Beatty has a bracing little column in the February Atlantic, chastising the rich world for clinging to protectionist policies that hurt the poor. Beatty estimates that
Developing countries lose about $100 billion a year owing to Western export subsidies and trade barriers. For agriculture alone these amounted $245 billion in 2000 – about five times what the West spent on development assistance that year. Tariff barriers against manufactured goods from the developing world are, on average, four times as high as those against products from the industrialized world. […] Every 0.7 percent increase in … exports [from the 49 least-developed countries] generates as much income as they now receive in aid.
If free traders spent as much time railing against rich-country protectionism as they do making fun of the anti-globalization kids, the pig-puppet audience would dwindle to a core of fog-headed Maoists, and more importantly, destitute people around the world could vault out of poverty much faster. Though it seems absurdly obvious to point out, it is not enough to stand around saying “We are moral! We are just! All you who criticize us are wretched fools!” If you insist on a policy of discouraging other countries from being mature enough to handle their own security, you had better be vigilant about ensuring as moral a foreign policy as possible, while being thick-skinned enough to withstand the inevitable barbs from immature critics.

2/10/2002 12:26:13 PM

Iraqi Trial Balloons: More and more, I’m becoming persuaded that the Bush Administration is threatening war on Iraq in an effort to make renewed and strengthened weapons inspections seem like a terrific compromise to everybody. This story in today’s L.A. Times, which posits a smart sanctions/inspections plan as the mildest and most likely of three Iraq policy scenarios, contains lots more internal Cabinet musings than usually seep out from the White House. Meanwhile, as both the article and an op-ed today from former weapons inspector (and current sanctions critic) Scott Ritter both indicate, the suddenly nervous Saddam Hussein regime has launched an “unprecedented diplomatic offensive” to communicate its “stunning recent reversal” about being willing to allow weapons inspectors back in the country for the first time in four years. The current sanctions policy is a disaster – it punishes civilians, leaves Hussein intact, no longer serves as a significant brake on Saddam’s weapons-gathering ability, undermines American moral authority and serves as a galvanizing agent for the Great Satan crowd. If Dubya’s bluster can create a situation whereby current sanctions can be effectively traded for real weapons inspections, then the State of the Union address will truly deserve to be called great, and those howling about the “Axis of Evil” line will have more explaining to do.

On a related note, my Iraq sanctions piece is in this month’s Reason, which I heartily encourage all of you to buy, for Charles Paul Freund’s cover story in praise of vulgarity, if nothing else.

2/10/2002 12:02:06 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.