Saturday, December 28, 2002

More Than Skin Deep
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will fire Head Coach Dave Campo at the end of the NFL regular season (December 30). The question right now is: Who will replace Mr. Campo? Jones covets football coaching legend Bill Parcells and has already had two long discussions about football (and perhaps more specific subjects) with the latest object of his desire. Now, it seems former Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Dennis Green is a candidate for the top job in Dallas. Hmmm. Maybe. The official word is that Dennis Green is not a token black candidate to comply with the NFL's new policy that all head coaching searches must include minority candidates. I'm not sure I believe that. Dennis Green is no more than a fallback plan for Jerry Jones; he wants Parcells.

Friday, December 27, 2002

This Won't Be Easy
A superb article from Michael Lind in the Financial Times about the steep challenges American liberalism confronts, no matter who wins the 2004 elections. The American Right is now a fairly unified fusion of social reactionaries, big business interests, and belligerent militarists--lavishly supported by wealthy conservatives and a vocal right-wing media composed of The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, and Fox News.

Oh, well. Anything worth doing won't be easy.
The Daily Review NFL Power Poll
1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-3): No change.
2. Green Bay Packers (12-3): No change.
3. Oakland Raiders (10-5): +1
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4): -1
5. Tennessee Titans (10-5): +1
6. San Francisco 49ers (10-5): +1
7. Atlanta Falcons (9-5-1): +2
8. Miami Dolphins (9-6): -4
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5-1): +3
10. New York Jets (8-7): +6
11. New York Giants (9-6): +4
12. Indianapolis Colts (9-6): -4
13. New England Patriots (8-7): -2
14. Kansas City Chiefs (8-7): +3
15. New Orleans Saints (9-6): -5
16. Denver Broncos (8-7): -3
17. San Diego Chargers (8-7): -3
18. Buffalo Bills (7-8): No change.
19. Cleveland Browns (8-7): +1
20. Baltimore Ravens (7-8): -1
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-9): No change
22. Washington Redskins (6-9): +2
23. Seattle Seahawks (6-9): +2
24. Minnesota Vikings (5-10): +2
25. St. Louis Rams (6-9): -3
26. Dallas Cowboys (5-10): -3
27. Carolina Panthers (6-9): +1
28. Chicago Bears (4-11): -1
29. Arizona Cardinals (5-10): No change.
30. Houston Texans (4-11): No change.
31. Detroit Lions (3-12): No change.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (2-13): No change.
Human Goofballs Clone Human Baby?
Clonaid, a company affiliated with a group called the Raelians, who believe all human life was created by alien genetic manipulation, claims to have cloned a human infant. (Check out the group's Web site. The flash intro is a hoot.) The established scientific community is regarding this cloning assertion with something less than undiluted credulity. Even if true, it is hard to see a non-commercial point to this cloning. There are other solutions for infertile couples. But, of course, there probably is no non-commercial justification for this alleged outrage.

However, Clonaid has been involved in making false promises about human cloning before. A Clonaid laboratory in West Virginia was shut down by the Federal Drug Enforcement agency two years ago. The lab has been described by witnesses as being on the high school level of scientific sophistication.
Auld Lang Syne for the Iberian Lynx?
Planning to knock back a little champagne on New Year's Eve? The World Wildlife Fund for Nature says you can to tickle your nose and save the Iberian lynx at the same time. Doesn't seem so onerous.
Darkness Wars With Darkness
Chechen rebels have struck again, killing at least forty people in an apparent suicide attack. It's tough to know who to support in Chechnya. The Russian human rights abuses in that blighted country are too numerous to count, but the rebels are clearly allied with (or controlled by) Islamic fanatics from Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda. There will be no peace in Chechnya for a long, long time.

And there's more. The French government says it foiled an attempt by Islamic extremists to bomb the Russian embassy in Paris. The links between Chechen rebels and Al Qaeda are too obvious and numerous to ignore. It's a shame a legitimate nationalist movement has been completely hijacked by the scum of the Earth. At this point, I'm thinking the Russian government wishes it had never heard of Chechnya, let alone invaded the damn place.
The Year in Movies, Part One
James Parker of The American Prospect gives us his version of the best movies of 2002.
The 20 Most Annoying Conservatives of 2002
Pandragon chimes in with The 20 Most Annoying Conservatives of 2002. It's a good read, though I don't know how Michael Kelly missed the list.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Bush to Military: It's Your Turn
Thanks to Daily Kos (by way of Atrios) for this bit of news about how the Bush admin is shortchanging to millions of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and veterans. Meanwhile, tax cuts for the monied interests who have bankrolled Mr. Bush's political career are unscathed. How lovely. What should we expect from the Chickenhawk Gang?
And The Award Goes To...
Congratulations to Lance Armstrong for winning the Associated Press Athlete of the Year. After surviving cancer and winning five straight Tour de France championships, this is an award Mr. Armstrong richly deserves. Superman Barry Bonds came in a close second.
Journalism for Dummies
A USA Today article complains that all of us ungrateful Americans are, well, complaining too much. As evidence, author Deborah Sharp notes that Americans are far less satisfied with the way their country is heading than they were one year. Hey, Deb, maybe that's because more Americans have become aware just how poorly this country is being governed. Lousy economy. No peace in the Middle East. War on Terror seemingly endless. Our hard won civil liberties being discarded by a power-mad administration. What the hell are we supposed to be so damn jolly about?
Dems Find Their Voices
It seems a few presumed Dem candidates for President are beginning to question the alleged success of our War on Terror. I'd congratulate these gentlemen, but I'd say all this is about nine months overdue. Still, better late than never, I suppose.
Slowly Catching On?
The estimable Liberal Oasis leads with the story of Mr. Bush's dropping approval ratings. And the lack of attention those numbers have received from the media. The "liberal" media may still be captivated by Mr. Bush, but it seems a few people out there are beginning to catch on.
You Lost. Deal With It.
A bronze statue of President Lincoln will soon be unveiled in Richmond, Virginia--the capital of the old Confederacy--and some of the town's good ol' boys ain't too happy 'bout it. This is a thread in the unreported Trent Lott story: That the Mississippi Senator/Racist actually spoke on behalf of a fair number of people in the South.
Shrubonomics Does A Little Good
Dubya's limping economy has accomplished one thing, at least: the teaching shortage is easing. The year 2001 was the worst year on record for teacher shortages across the country, but the problem has eased somewhat in 2002, due in part to the sluggish economy. People are looking for more secure jobs and states and local governments are doing more to attract and retain teachers. I know it is a cliche, but it bears repeating that most teachers are overworked, underpaid and still spend a chunk of their own salaries on their students. I have the honor of knowing several teachers and they're all first rate people.
Hunger? What Hunger?
God bless Molly Ivins. The old girl skewers the carefully-cultivated myth of compassionate conservatism. It's a must-read.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post also notices the lack of compassion in compassionate conservatism.
White Christmas
Well, Christmas is over and that's always a bit of a drag. Must not let it bring us down, though. Chin up and all that. It snowed in the Washington, D.C. area on Christmas Eve and then again on Christmas Day. I cannot remember the last time that happened, if ever, in my lifetime. It was just the thing to make a wonderful Christmas just about perfect. Hope all of you enjoyed yours.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

I'll be back on 12/26
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
I Gots Me Reputayshun Back!
Mr. Bush's first round of pardons have come out and one of the fortunate is a convicted moonshiner. I think we can all agree this is a naked attempt by Mr. Bush to curry favor with the Toothless Hillbilly vote--a critical constituency for any Republican president.

Imagine how disappointed Mr. Bush must have been when informed he doesn't get to order a round of summary executions to cleanse his palette. Sorry, W--that's just a Texas thing.
I Vant To Suck Your Blood!
Vampires have invaded the small African nation of Malawi. Or have they? Well, one man is already dead. Of course, he was murdered by vigilantes who think he was pulling a Renfield.
Dopes Volunteer for Suicide
Volunteer human shields arrived in Iraq today, with the goal of forestalling a U.S. invasion by doing Saddam's dirty work for him. Eleven years ago, Saddam was kidnapping people to use as human shields. Now, people are volunteering for the job. One thing is very clear from this: Human beings are not getting smarter.
The Ragged Army
Joe Strummer of The Clash died in southwestern England yesterday at the age of 50. I'm too young to call myself a fan of The Clash during the height of their popularity, but I became a fan after the fact. There are not ten albums in history better than the immortal London Calling and other efforts like Combat Rock and Sandinista! are remarkable works in their own right. I never agreed with The Clash's anti-Americanism, but they were one of the few bands who actually tried to think. The Clash were The Sex Pistols--except with lots more talent and lots less posing. I haven't really kept up with Mr. Strummer's solo career, so I won't actually miss him, but I'll always remember these words from Spanish Bombs:

"The hillsides ring with 'Free the people'
Or can I hear the echo from the days of '39?
With trenches full of poets
The ragged army, fixin' bayonets to fight the other line"
While The Emperor Fiddles With Iraq
Here's the bad news: North Korea's vile government announced it is dismantling U.N. inspections equipment at a nuclear facility where it is suspected that research into the development of nuclear weapons has taken place. Here's the worse news: the Bush admin says 'there's not much we can do' about this. Nevertheless, a key source in the admin assures us that they are 'cool, calm and collected' about this. So, in other words, the Bush admin is 'cool, calm and collected' about their admitted inability to do much about the alarming developments in North Korea. Now, that's a sound policy. Despite Mr. Rumsfeld's bluster about fighting two wars at once, we're in a pickle here. There are 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea and the capital Seoul is in easy range of North Korean missile batteries. We have to try to work something out here or we risk disaster. What a shame the Bush admin has said it won't negotiate with North Korea until it stopts its nuclear weapons program. But since the nuclear weapons program is exactly what we want stopped, negotiations are inevitable. The Bush admin is courting catastrophe by denying the blindingly obvious. Makes one wonder if Bush's crack economic team is now working on foreign policy.
Now, Play Fair Boys and Girls
A settlement between major Wall Street brokerage firms and federal regulators has resulted in a $1.4 billion fine for the top ten brokers in the country. In addition, a package of reforms has been agreed upon to create a 'best practice' standard for all brokers in the future. In future, the process of 'spinning'--giving certain executives inside information about stocks in return for future business--will be banned. As usual, the devil is in the details. Everyone even remotely connected to the various scandals will want their cut, whether they deserve it or not, and the efficacy of these reforms will depend greatly on 'enforcement.' Naturally, the Bush admin will be keen to offend its moneymen on Wall Street by actually enforcing tighter regulations.
The Buck Doesn't Stop Here!
Hounded by entirely appropriate accusations that he mishandled monetary policy in the late 1990s, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan is fighting back in the press. Essentially, Greenspan argues that it would have been too dangerous to let the air out of the financial bubble and that his policy of benign neglect was the best that could be done. Too dangerous? As opposed to letting the bubble pop, leading to the disappearance of $7 trillion (yeah, you read that correctly) and...well, the economy we have now? Greenspan goes on to argue that it would have been arrogant to substitute his judgment for those of millions of investors. Uh, actually, Alan, that sort of 'arrogance' is what you were hired to provide. Of course, the truth is that after his 1996 'irrational exuberance' remark, Greenspan threw caution to the wind and got caught up in the fun just like so many others. Boy, doesn't Bob Woodward's Maestro, a book virtually dictated by Mr. Greenspan and his allies, look silly now? I wonder how Bush at War will look in a few years. Probably no better.
Don't Hold Your Breath
Despite the wonderful time I had in New York, I took great pleasure in seeing my family again. I went to the Redskins game on Sunday (I have season tickets) and actually enjoyed a win. For a change. Let's hope the Skins can make a habit of it. Beating Dallas to finish the season would be nice. Just don't ask me to bet on it.
Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time
My few days in New York reminded me why people go to Manhattan at this time of year. It isn't the food, though the food is good. It isn't the stores, though the shopping is good. It isn't the tourist destinations, though the island has more things to see than any comparable space on the planet. It's everything. Manhattan, always a glorious spot on Earth, takes on an added luster this time of year. A perfect example of this are the shop windows decorated with Christmas themes. The windows of the Lord & Taylor store were a magnificent re-creation of The Nutcracker. The moving figures were exquisitely crafted and each 'set' was built with the most meticulous care. I know companies like Lord & Taylor and Saks do this sort of thing to promote the store and increase traffic during a heavy buying season, but it still feels like a public service when you're looking at it. See, capitalism can work.