Wednesday, December 18, 2002

On Hiatus
I'm going up to Long Island for a few days before returning home to the Washington, D.C. area for Christmas with my family. Therefore, The Daily Review will not be daily until next week. Enjoy yourselves.
India Staggers Closer to the Brink
A smashing electoral success for the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, in the state of Gujarat is cause for concern for those who look hopefully to India as an example of how democracy can succeed in the developing world. India's democracy has never been perfect, but neither is Japan's--our ours, for that matter. Nevertheless, the Gujarat BJP ran a vile campaign based on hatred of and violence toward the region's Islamic minority (about 10% of the population). And they were rewarded for it. What effect will this have on communal relations in India? Too early to say for sure, but it won't help. What is even more worrying is what effect this election will have on the BJP's moderate Prime Minister, who has managed to govern India without unduly alienating Muslims or secular Hindus. Will the national BJP move to the right in reaction to the Gujarat election? Let's hope not. I'll keep watching.
Shhh! Don't Mention the 'O' Word.
According to a new United Nations report, those fun boys in Al Qaeda are busily re-intalling themselves in Afghanistan--this time in camps near the Pakistani border. CNN touts the story here. This is the sort of thing the Bush admin doesn't want any of us thinking about, let alone discussing it openly. The success mythology the admin has wrapped around itself like an American flag--with the craven collusion of the national media--rests largely on our alleged victory in Afghanistan. Of course, no such victory actually exists--yet. Sure, the Taliban was routed, but that was always a foregone conclusion. The Taliban was/is a ragtag gang of religious fruitcakes completely dependant on the financial and logistical support of the Pakistani intelligence service (the ISI) and once that support was withdrawn, was incapable of putting up even the barest minimum of resistance to the Northern Alliance and U.S. military. The real victory in Afghanistan will not be won until the entire country has been pacified to the extent that international terrorists no longer feel safe setting up camps within the borders of the country. Clearly, that is not the case yet at all. Some courageous liberals have been making this point for some months, only to be shouted down as traitors trying to undermine the achievements of the U.S. military. However, the failures of U.S. policy in post-Taliban Afghanistan are not military, they are political. The U.S. Armed Forces did its job, it is the admin that has fallen down on the job.

Despite recent talk of 'nation-building', the Bush admin remains as hostile and/or clueless about this mess as ever. Our man in Afghan, Hamid Karzai, holds the title of Prime Minister, but Mayor of Kabul might be a more accurate epithet. Mr. Karzai's authority extends only as far as his reach and the provinces are once again governed by fractious and violence-prone warlords--many of whom might be willing to rent out their territory to the best offer Osama and Associates can make. Afghanistan is still a 'failed nation' where international terrorists can settle down, breathe deeply, and spend their money on building their network of murder. All this is obvious to even the most blinkered of observers, but don't tell that to the Bush admin. The Afghan War was a smashing success, you know, and any implication to the contrary will be dealt with most harshly.

"Mr. Ashcroft, see what you can do about those nattering nabobs of negativity, would you?"
Hillary Has it Right
For all those wondering about what strategies the heretofore spineless Democratic party will pursue in the coming years, this article from Josh Benson of The New York Observer provides welcome news. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who will soon take control of a key policymaking body, the Senate Steering Committee, and plans to use it aggressively to promote Democratic principles--by copying the hyper-successful media strategies of Republicans like the odious Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Mr. Norquist hosts regular strategy sessions with like-minded right-wing psychopaths in Congress, think tanks, and the media and the result of those meetings is that an establishment Republican position is defined and widely disseminated very quickly. When members of Congress and their servants/allies in the conservative media goliath are constantly parroting each other in front of newspaper reporters and television cameras, superior but ineffectively-marketed liberal policies are strangled in the crib. Rather than being infuriated by this sorry state of affairs, Democrats need to model their media and strategy sessions on the Republican pattern. Democrats adopting successful Republican political strategy would make a nice change from Democrats adopting disastrous Republican policy. Senator Clinton seems to understand this. Good for her. Hopefully, she'll be able to explain it to some of her more thick-headed Democratic colleagues.
Tragedy in the U.K.
I don't normally go in for horrific stories of child abuse, but for some reason I found this one from the United Kingdom particularly tragic. It's an ugly story about ugly people, incompetent bureaucrats, and one little girl who died young and in pain. If it won't spoil your next meal, I encourage you to have a look.
The Daily Review NFL Power Poll
For some time I have been compiling a weekly NFL Power Poll at another Web site. I'll reproduce it here for all the football fans to peruse and criticize. It's fairly self-explanatory. The letters or numerals inside the parentheses at the end of every ranking indicates whether they have moved up, down, or not at all since the last power poll. For example, (+2) would mean the team has moved up two spaces since my last power poll. Enjoy.

1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-3): No need to change what I wrote last week: Have responded to the loss of McNabb like a true champion. Could this be their year? (no change)

2. Green Bay Packers (11-3): Tough road win against the Niners proves The Pack is serious about a return to its Glory Days. (no change)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-3): Disappointingly narrow win over Detroit doesn't inspire confidence, but the record still speaks for itself. (no change)

4. Miami Dolphins(9-5): This team has risen seven spots in two weeks and they've earned every one of them. Miami is winning with solid, but unspectacular quarterbacking, a great running back, and a stifling defense that frustrated Rich Gannon. This is a good combination. (+4)

5. Oakland Raiders: Bad loss to Miami, but Gannon is the best quarterback in the league and he'll bounce back. (-1)

6. Tennessee Titans: Besting even the fast-rising Dolphins, the Titans have rocketed up eight spots in two weeks. It's all McNair in Tennessee. Air McNair. Ground McNair. He is to Tennessee what McNabb has been to Philly. (+4)

7. San Francisco 49ers (9-5): Had a chance to establish some bona fides by beating the mighty Packers, but let it slip away at home. If Niners had another decent team in their division, they'd be in trouble. (-2)

8. Indianapolis Colts (9-5): Down and almost out against the Browns, Manning and Harrison come roaring back to save the season. (+4)

9. Atlanta Falcons (8-5-1): Two straight losses--the last one to Seattle--do not bode well for this team. Defense let them down this time and that cannot happen again. When Michael Vick plays well, the Falcons MUST win. (-3)

10. New Orleans Saints (9-5): Losing to Minnesota now? Saints are limping towards a playoff berth they probably don't deserve. (-3)

11. New England Patriots (8-6): Monday Night Football was a Monday Night Whipping. Memo to Bill Belichick: A running game might help. (-2)

12. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1): Crushing Carolina only proves the Steelers are one of the most unpredicatble, least reliable teams in the league. (+3)

13. Denver Broncos (8-6): Griese to the rescue, but where would this team be without one rookie named Clinton Portis? (+3)

14. San Diego Chargers (8-6): Couldn't score more than one touchdown against that Buffalo defense? That's the Martyball I recognize from D.C. (-3)

15. New York Giants (8-6): Exterminating Dallas was nice, but it does not escape my notice that the Giants have not beaten a team with a .500 record or better all season long. (+2)

16. New York Jets (7-7): Destroyed playoff chances by losing to no-account Chicago. It was a classic trap game and the Jets fell right into it. (-3)

17. Kansas City Chiefs (7-7): Priest Holmes runs for 161 yards on only 18 carries and the team still loses! How?? (-3)

18. Buffalo Bills (7-7): Beating the Chargers by a touchdown is a quality win. If this team can ever learn to play defense (uh, paging Gregg Williams!), the Bills will be back at the top. (+1)

19. Baltimore Ravens (7-7): AFC Coach of the Year is Brian Billick. Don't look at me that way--I don't like it any more than you do. (+1)

20. Cleveland Browns (7-7): Had the Colts down and couldn't finish. Browns cannot win with Couch alone. First four years will yield no playoff appearances. Not exactly what they had in mind. (-2)

21. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8): Sorry, beating Cincy by 14 points does not give you a bump in the polls. Beat a pro team and we'll talk again. (No change)

22. St. Louis Rams (6-8): Anyone else noticing how this team wins when Kurt Warner doesn't play? (+6)

23. Dallas Cowboys (5-9): Humiliating stomping by a previously unimpressive Giants team has Dave Campo in hot water with lamebrained owner. (-1)

24. Washington Redskins (5-9): Found a quarterback on Sunday. Now, about the rest of the team... (-1)

25. Seattle Seahawks (5-9): Hasselbeck outduels Vick to a great upset win over Falcons. A late surge could save Mike Holmgren's job. (+2)

26. Minnesota Vikings (4-10): Vikes could be a good team with a better defense. Upset win over the Saints proves it. (+3)

27. Chicago Bears (4-10): Great game by Chris Chandler and the defense earns a shocker win over the red-hot Jets. Chandler should have been starting all year anyway. That mistake alone should cost Dick Jauron his job. But it won't. (+3)

28. Carolina Panthers (5-9): Barely over 100 yards of offense against Pittsburgh. This team has so many needs, I don't know where to start criticizing. (-4)

29. Arizona Cardinals (5-9): Another week, another loss. Can't fire the dimwit owner so I guess the coach goes. Again. (-4)

30. Houston Texans (4-10): Fought hard, but still cannot figure out how to win games late. Perhaps Steve Spurrier's Gang that Can't Shoot Straight is the answer to their prayers. (-4)

31. Detroit Lions (3-11): Played hard against Tampa, but still lost. And now Harrington is hurt. Just keeps getting better, eh? (no change)

32. Cincinnati Bengals (1-13): There needs to be a federal investigation into how one team can be so bad for so long. (No change.)
Since this is intended to be a review of culture, I thought I'd mention that I am currently listening to a cd called "The Richest Man in Babylon" by the Washington, D.C.-based electronica group Thievery Corporation. The cd was just released this year by ESL records, which is affiliated with the 18th Street Lounge in Washington, D.C. The album is full of slick, mid-tempo productions that rely heavily on Middle Eastern influences. Songs like Heaven's Gonna Burn Your Eyes, The Outernationalist, OMID, The Richest Man in Babylon, and Liberation Front are rich, lush electronic compositions, some featuring mostly female lyrics, others relying solely on instruments. None of this is stuff you will hear on Top 40 radio in the United States, which should be reason alone to give it a listen. Next time you are visiting your favorite music store, check out Thievery Corporation. Most of you won't regret it.