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Saturday, February 18, 2006
Dogs Doing Calculus?

Interesting article.
The Cheney Story In Pictures

Hint suggested by Texas Songbird: If you aren't sure what a particular picture means, hover over the image and look at the image file name in your browser status bar.

tried to


in the

but there was a slight




Some particularly

at the

tried to

his reputation.

, better known as the

, claimed that

had too much to


suggested that he was trying to


Of course, they're

Friday, February 17, 2006
I'll Have a Cheese Rose of the Prophet Muhammed

The successor to Liberty Cabbage and Freedom Fries.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Separate the Wheat from the Chafee

I've been prodding my fellow Republicans to leave Lincoln Chafee alone for awhile now. Yeah, he's a RINO, but we're not going to get a real Republican in Rhode Island. And if we try, we're liable to get a real Democrat.

Brown University's latest poll of Rhode Island voters makes that point:

U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee is locked in a close race with Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse and Matt Brown in the Senate general election, according to a new statewide survey conducted by researchers at Brown University.

The survey was conducted Feb. 4-6, 2006, at Brown University by Darrell M. West, director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the John Hazen White Sr. Public Opinion Laboratory. It is based on a statewide random sample of 785 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

If the general election were held today, Chafee has an advantage of 40 to 34 percent over Whitehouse (compared to his lead of 38 to 25 percent in September). If Brown is the Democratic nominee, Chafee’s lead is 38 to 36 percent (compared to 41 to 18 percent in September).

If the Republican nominee were Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, Whitehouse is ahead by 44 to 29 percent (up from the 35 to 25 percent lead Whitehouse had in September). If the nominees were Laffey and Brown, Brown has an advantage of 47 to 24 percent over Laffey (up from 30 to 26 percent in September).

Got it? Chafee beats the Democrats--barely, but he does win. Laffey gets spanked by the Democrats.

It's all about winning, folks!
Slaying an Old Bogeyman

Chris at Lucky Dawg pointed me to this article by Pat Buchanan, where he rails against the US Trade Deficit:

Now that the U.S. trade deficit for 2005 has come in at $726 billion, the fourth straight all-time record, questions arise: What constitutes failure for a free-trade policy? Or is there no such thing? Is free trade simply right no matter the results?

Last year, the United States ran a $202 billion trade deficit with China, the largest ever between two nations. We ran all-time record trade deficits with OPEC, the European Union, Japan, Canada and Latin America. The $50 billion deficit with Mexico was the largest since NAFTA passed and also the largest in history.

When NAFTA was up for a vote in 1993, the Clintonites and their GOP fellow-travelers said it would grow our trade surplus, raise Mexico's standard of living and reduce illegal immigration.

None of this happened. Indeed, the opposite occurred. Mexico's standard of living is lower than it was in 1993, the U.S. trade surplus has vanished, and America is being invaded. Mexico now is the primary source of narcotics entering the U.S.

Okay, that last sentence should get a horselaugh. I would guess that Mexico has been the primary source of narcotics entering the US since about 1915. Buchanan's claim that Mexico's standard of living has declined since 1993 is absurd. I live in a border state and I can tell you that Mexico's standard of living has improved quite substantially in the last decade or so. In 1993, Mexico's GDP per capita was $3,200. In 2004, it was $9,600. By contrast, the US GDP per capita in 1993 was $22,470, almost exactly 7 times the per capita output of Mexico. In 2004, the US GDP per capita was $40,100, or a little more than 4 times the per capita output of Mexico. So both of us have gotten wealthier, but the Mexicans have been doing it a little faster. They're nowhere near as wealthy as we are, which is why we still have the immigration problem, but they're making significant progress.

But is the trade deficit really bad for the economy? Think about what a trade deficit means; essentially it means we are buying more from other countries than they are buying from us. It sounds like wealth is draining from our economy into others. Except, of course, that we aren't just tossing our money at Chinese manufacturers, we're getting something that we want in return: shirts, computer equipment, garden hoses, etc. So there's no real wealth lost; it's just monetary wealth exchanged for goods wealth.

Here's an interesting article on the trade deficit which pokes some holes in Buchanan's concerns.

Years in which the U.S. current account deficit - which largely consists of the trade deficit - is rising show stronger growth than years in which the current account deficit is shrinking. Let's first look at those years where the current account deficit shrank, which - according to conventional wisdom - should be a good thing. But the data says otherwise: In those years since 1980 when the current account deficit declined as a share of GDP, the economy grew by an annual average of only 1.9%.

In contrast, during those years in which the current account deficit grew moderately, real GDP grew at an annual average of 3.0%.

More astonishingly yet, in those years when the U.S. trade deficit "deteriorated" most rapidly, to borrow another popular characterization, real GDP grew by a robust annual average of 4.4%. In other words, growth in those years was more than twice as strong as in years when the deficit was "improving."

As a matter of fact, four of the five best years for U.S. GDP growth since 1980 have occurred in the same years when the U.S. current account deficit increased most rapidly.

The same pattern emerges in the U.S. manufacturing sector. It has become the conventional wisdom that a trade deficit hurts manufacturing activity in the United States, because imports presumably displace domestic production.

But the plain evidence of the past quarter century contradicts that general presumption. U.S. manufacturing output actually declined slightly on average in those years in which the U.S. current account deficit shrank.

In contrast, manufacturing output grew by 4.1% in years when the current account deficit grew moderately - and by a brisk 5.3% when the deficit grew rapidly.

I should point out here that I don't think that the high trade deficits lead to strong economic growth; I think the causality goes the other way. That is, strong economic grown leads to high and rising trade deficits, while poor economic growth leads to low and declining trade deficits.
York on Loftus--Updated

Byron York catches the James Loftus connection to the Saddam tapes:

Whatever the status of Cherney, and whatever the motives of Woolsey and Deutch, what is missing from the story is some perspective on John Loftus. I first encountered his name in the fall of 2003, when I was working on a story about Bush hatred. I was looking at the people who claim that the Bush family got its wealth from financing the Nazis, and I discovered that one of the sacred texts of that particular worldview is a book, The Secret War Against the Jews, by the authors Mark Aarons and...John Loftus. In 1995, when the book appeared, Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman, who can reasonably be counted on to speak out against people who financed the Nazis, called it "so exaggerated, so scantily documented, so overwrought and convoluted in its presentation, that Loftus and Aarons render laughable their claim to offer 'a glimpse of the world as it really is.'"

One might guess that the Sun is not aware of Loftus' other work, but that would be incorrect. In January 2004, the paper published an article on those notorious ad submissions that compared George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. The story included a quote from Loftus, who said the ads were basically accurate. "The Bushes played a significant role in bringing money into the Third Reich," Loftus told the paper. "They literally financed Hitler. It was all about the money. It wasn't about the ideology."

Of course, I highlighted the Loftus connection to the Bush/Nazi story yesterday.

Update: Debbie Schlussel has pulled out of the Loftus event:

Mr. Loftus has presented himself--and continues to--as a "terrorism expert" over the years, and many foolish parties have bought in, including The Washington Post and FOX News Channel. FOX News hired Loftus as its terrorism expert, but fired him after he broadcast the address of a California home as being the home of an Islamic terrorist. It was not, and the innocent people who lived there had their homes vandalized.

Rick Moran has more.
Answering the Challenge

Peter Daou has a challenge for right-wing bloggers.

I know the assertion that [supposedly neutral or liberal] reporters favor rightwing narratives blows your mind; after all, the liberal media fiction is hard-wired into the right's political nervous system. But why should I believe your foregone conclusion that these people are left-leaning? Just because you say it with such conviction? Give me concrete examples of bias, not of negative coverage. (How can there not be negative coverage of the mess in Iraq? Or Katrina? Or the Plame outing? Or the NSA fiasco? Or do you want our media to simply fawn over the government? Is anything less than total pro-Bush propaganda considered media bias?)

Left-leaning is a tricky term. I'd rather just look at whether they're voting for Democrats. And there the evidence is pretty strong. For example, consider the online magazine Slate. They have been around for two election cycles, and they are the only media outlet I can think of that has their staff declare for whom they're voting. Here are the votes for 2004:

Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Bush (intern!), Kerry, Kerry, Bush (economic writer), Kerry, Not Voting (Canadian), Bush, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, David Cobb (?), Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Badnarik (Libertarian), Kerry, Bush, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry.

That's 43 Kerry Votes, 4 Bush votes, and 2 for others. Just a fluke because Seattle's a windsurfing kind of town and Kerry's a windsurfing kind of guy? Nope; in 2000 here were the votes:

Gore, Bush, Nader, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Bush, Browne (Libertarian), Bush, Gore, Gore, Nader, Gore, Gore, Not Voting (Canadian), Not Voting (foreign not specified), Gore, Gore, Browne, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Not Voting (British), Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore, Bush, Gore.

That's 31 Gore votes, 4 for Bush, and 4 for others.

I'd love to be able to tell you whom the New York Times reporters vote for, and the ABC News Team, and the staff of 60 Minutes, but they won't tell us. So the one media organization that was willing to reveal its votes turned out to be overwhelmingly voting for the Democrats.

Peter goes on to document examples of what he obviously considers "conservative media bias":

ISSUE: Cheney shooting incident --- NARRATIVE: Bush and Cheney are infallible --- EXAMPLE: ABC News covered the Cheney hunting incident by downplaying the significance of the weapon itself. ABC reported that "the vice president accidentally shot prominent Texas lawyer Harry Whittington with a pellet gun while hunting for quail." Cheney used a shotgun, not a pellet gun. ABC later altered the story to read, "a shotgun loaded with birdshot." (Which is why we maintain screenshots of all print stories we reference.) This exemplifies a common tendency of the media, namely, to play defense for Bush and his team, downplaying negative news or polls.

Can we say the obvious here? This was a mistake, plain and simple, that probably indicates that the reporter involved doesn't know jack about guns? He (or she, there's no byline on the piece) heard that Whittington had been hit with pellets, and logically but mistakenly assumed that meant he'd been shot by a pellet gun. What value is there to the reporter or news organization to getting this wrong? Was anybody really fooled by the story? And how in the world does this suit the narrative that Bush and Cheney are infallible?

ISSUE: Cheney shooting incident --- NARRATIVE: Bush strong, Dems weak --- EXAMPLE: CNN's Bruce Morton used the VP's shooting to repeat the tired GOP spin that Republicans are tougher than Democrats, and specifically tougher than war hero John Kerry. Morton commented that Bush and Cheney are avid hunters, and contrasted the observation with 2004 Bush campaign talking points by saying Sen. John Kerry "spent time posing with guns" two years ago, and that "voters probably saw more of him pursuing exotic sports, windsurfing and so on." The truth is Kerry has been hunting since the age of 12. As Media Matters points out, "Morton's jab echoed language Cheney used during the 2004 campaign to attack Kerry as effete and elitist."

Anybody remember Kerry's explanation of his method of hunting deer?

"I'd have to say deer," said the senator. "I go out with my trusty 12-gauge double-barrel, crawl around on my stomach... That's hunting."

Of course, you don't shoot deer with a shotgun, you shoot them with a rifle (correction: Apparently shotgun hunting for deer is common in Massachusetts), and you certainly don't crawl around on your stomach. Deer have amazingly sensitive hearing, so the key is to be absolutely silent and still; you have to let the deer come to you, not try to crawl to it. So I'd say that it's pretty obvious that Kerry was posing with guns, and we did see a lot more photos of him windsurfing and the like than him actually hunting. In terms of narrative, doesn't this play more to the "Bush genuine, Kerry phony" meme?

ISSUE: Cheney shooting incident --- NARRATIVE: Bush and Cheney are infallible --- EXAMPLE: Jane Hamsher notes that CBS News ran a provocative news item on Monday, explaining that "Texas authorities are complaining that the Secret Service barred them from speaking to Cheney after the incident." For reasons that are still unexplained, CBS has scrubbed the report from its website without explanation.

Again, I'm not sure how this fits the narrative that Bush and Cheney are infallible. The most obvious explanation for the scrubbing is that CBS discovered that Texas authorities were not barred from speaking to Cheney after the incident.

ISSUE: Cheney shooting incident --- NARRATIVE: Bush and Cheney are infallible --- EXAMPLE: Shortly after the incident first made national news, MSNBC's Chris Matthews repeated White House spin without hesitation: "I can understand that in the urgency of the moment that the Vice President's concern was life and death and not [public relations]." The reality is, Cheney was deeply concerned about public relations and managed the controversy personally, overriding the suggestions of White House staff who urged public disclosure.

Obvious question: When did it become apparent that Cheney was deeply concerned and overrode the suggestions of White House staff? The story broke Sunday afternoon; assuming that Matthews reported it Sunday night (shortly after the incident first made national news), he may have just been going with the story as reported at the time. The Time Magazine piece that Peter points to as showing Cheney's involvement with the PR issue came out on Monday.

ISSUE: Cheney shooting incident --- NARRATIVE: Bush and Cheney are infallible --- EXAMPLE: NBC News quoted ranch owner Katharine Armstrong as saying Cheney's pre-hunt picnic may have included "a beer or two." The MSNBC website has since been scrubbed to remove the quote with no explanation for readers.

This seems a legitimate gripe, especially since the Veep acknowledged to Brit Hume last night that he had a beer with his lunch. Anytime there's an accident (hunting, car, slip and fall) it seems appropriate to ask whether alcohol was a factor. Given that MSNBC had a source who confirmed that alcohol was present, they probably should have let the story stand. This one also plays a little to the "narrative" that Peter seems obsessed with.

I could go on; Peter's got lots more examples. But he asks for examples of liberal bias in the news. Here's one in a New York Times article I stumbled across last night while looking through the archives.

To analyze Web log buzz, the study zeroed in on a few dozen political blogs, from left-leaning forums like Daily Kos and AmericaBlog to conservative ones like Instapundit and Power Line, as well as middle-of-the road sites like BuzzMachine and Wonkette. All were "filter blogs," or blogs that comment on - and link to - content found elsewhere on the Web, according to an emerging taxonomy of the form.

Don't you just love that? Kos and Aravosis are left-leaning, but Instapundit is conservative? And Jeff Jarvis and Wonkette are middle-of-the-road? That's absurd. Kos and Aravosis are left-wing, Jarvis and Wonkette are liberal (although Jarvis is more moderate) and Instapundit is libertarian. The only blog they've placed correctly on the political landscape is Power Line, which is indeed conservative (or right-wing if you prefer).

There's a fascination with "narrative" throughout Peter's piece. As I understand it, the theory here is that reporters unconsciously reinforce Republican themes. Let's look at the "narratives" that Peter sees:

NARRATIVE: Bush and Cheney are infallible. I know, try not to laugh. Peter acknowledges tough reporting on Katrina and Iraq; how that fits with selling the notion that Bush walks on water is beyond me.

NARRATIVE: Bush strong, Dems weak. Here's one that I think is valid, both as a media criticism and as a criticism of the Democrats.

NARRATIVE: Dems do bad things too. Of course, Peter would prefer a narrative that goes "Only Republicans do bad things." I mean, c'mon. He specifically points to the Abramoff scandal, which almost every commenter under the sun has said was mostly a Republican scandal, although it does involve some Democrats, including Harry Reid. I don't get why liberal bloggers become unhinged whenever anybody dares to mention that this is not solely a Republican scandal. (I know, I know, because it's selling the wrong "narrative".)

NARRATIVE: Dems are "angry". This again is legitimate both ways. The Dems are angry, and the media are reporting it. But note the example Peter provides:

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller pushed Ken Mehlman's latest meme -- Hillary is "angry" -- during an interview with DNC Chair Howard Dean. Bumiller asked Dean (twice) about Mehlman's charge that Hillary is "too angry and that Americans will not elect an angry candidate."

This is ridiculous. Mehlman put the story out there, and Bumiller asked the head of the DNC what he thought about it. Would he rather that Bumiller ignored the topic? Yesterday, Lawrence O'Donnell pushed a theory that Vice President Cheney was drunk when he shot his friend. Was Hugh Hewitt pushing that meme by having O'Donnell on his show yesterday afternoon?
The Incredible Disappearing Democrats

Our buddy Mr Right over at In the Right Place informs us that liberal Democrats are being swept up in the long-feared purge of the reality-based community.

"He hasn't posted in weeks," said his friend, "and that's just not like him at all! He used to be in here all day, every day... I mean, it's not like he had anything better to do, being unemployed and all in Bushitler's Fascist Wonderland. His sudden extended absence got people talking. The way we figure it, it's proof positive, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Bushco has begun rounding us all up for extermination! I mean, what else COULD it be??? I really miss his wit - God, I loved that guy! Buck Fush --- now THAT'S comedy! I even changed my own screen name from "Republitards Sukkk" to "Chuck Feney" for awhile, but I changed it back because no one seemed to get the joke. They all thought Chuck was my real name."
Katrina Hits & Myths

Popular Mechanics does a terrific job of debunking the Katrina story. I seem to remember they did a marvelous job of bursting the 9/11 conspiracy believers' balloons as well.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Nightline Comments

I thought the show was solid; the only part that baffled me was the ending when the correspondent made the comment that both sides in the debate over the war would find something to bolster their case in the tapes. It seemed pretty doggone obvious that there wasn't much in the report for the antiwar types.
The WMD Program And Nightline

Lorie Byrd has an excellent post over at Polipundit on this.

Update 4:25: I just watched the video (actually I could only get the audio) from the ABC site. The following is my interpretation (paraphrasing) of what was said. Please hear it for yourself.

In the beginning of the tape, Saddam says terrorist attacks are coming to the US but they won’t be from Iraq. Tariq Aziz then tells him that it would not be hard to set off a nuclear, chemical or bio weapon in Washington, but that it was not necessary for a state to do it. There is then some discussion to the effect that anyone could easily do such a thing and it could be argued, says ABC’s Ross, that this could be interpreted as Saddam saying he fears Iraq would be blamed for such an attack. The second part of the tape includes discussion about how quickly Iraq could reconstitute their WMD capability. Duelfer was interviewed for the piece and he said it does not prove that Iraq had WMD, but it shows that Saddam was a master of deception with the intention of acquiring and using WMD. The ABC story linked above gives many quotes from the piece. It is quite interesting.

Rick Moran urges some caution:

Another aspect of this story that should give us pause is that the tapes come to us via a man named John Loftus. Loftus is known as something of a gadfly in intelligence circles and his book about the Nazi connection to the Vatican and American intelligence has been criticized for sloppy research. That said, Loftus really has nothing to gain from trying to perpetrate a fraud and the House Intelligence Committee felt them important enough to verify and examine.

Indeed, I did some Googling of Loftus and found some interesting stuff. For example he wrote an article claiming that the Bush family fortune came from their supposed connections with the Nazis. I have read the article and several like it and can get no clear idea of what Prescott Bush is supposed to have done for the Thyssens, and what he received out of it.

Now you know how that is; it certainly indicates he's unlikely to be shilling for the administration; on the other it marks him as something of a kook.
More Hot Air from Gore

Mrs M points to this article on Gore's most recent wild claim about the effects of global warming:

Two scientists from the University of the Philippines yesterday lamented how Gore's "doomsday" pronouncements apparently received more attention than the more detailed analyses and solutions offered by Filipino environmental experts.

They also challenged and branded as "exaggerated" what the former US leader said about Manila Bay "overflowing" because of the greenhouse effect.

Too much use of ground water by typical households and establishments-not global warming-was the bigger reason the metropolis is sinking, said Dr. Carlo Arcilla and Dr. Fernando Siringan of the UP College of Science in Diliman, Quezon City.

Indeed, if you look at most of the places where "global warming" has supposedly resulted in flooding, you will find that ground subsidence, rather than water rising, is the culprit:

"While it is true that global warming could contribute to the rise, this is only in the millimeters, but the centimeters' rise could be attributed more to heavy groundwater extraction which results in subsidence, which makes it appear that the sea is invading land," he explained.

Sea level is not rising. We know this for a fact because there are so many low-lying areas that even a couple inches would be noticeable. What about the Tuvalu Islanders? They live on coral atolls; it is well known that those degrade over time naturally:

...degradation of coral reefs by crown-of-thorns starfish...
Maybe the Media Are Being Cowards

Stop the ACLU notes that the media's willingness to incite Muslim anger varies based on the likely target of that anger.

The images apparently shown on Australian TV are here. The link warns of graphic images, but I didn't see anything horrific. There are a couple of photos of men being intimidated by dogs, and one where it appears a man had been bitten. Not good obviously, but we've known for over a year that things got out of hand at that prison.
The HuffPo'ers on the Batman Anti-Terrorism Plot

Holy fruitcakes, Batman!

A lot of them catch the mistake in the Huffpo headline (Miller may be a creator who worked on Batman, but the creators of Batman were Bill Finger and Bob Kane). But check out some of the goofier comments:

But whatever his politics were 20 years ago, ever since 9/11 he has turned into a government-drivel supporting calcified-brained "patriot". I've read the interviews. That's why he never will be writing a book in which Batman (who I would say is a pretty good detective character) investigates 9/11. Miller has swallowed the anaesthetic on this one.

Indeed, this "Why doesn't Batman investigate what really happened on 9/11" is a common theme:

I would bet that Miller will give an even handed portrayal to the Muslim community, however I don't expect him to challenge the assertion that Al-Quada was behind 911.

Israel comes in for some pro-forma bashing as well:

They should make a Batman movie about the attack on the USS Liberty.

Too bad that Bats isn't taking on the Mossad as well. That would pretty much wipe out a lot of the terrorism in the world.

Some of them can't disguise their lack of support for the troops:

Batman is a fine metaphor for the cowardly act of flying in a black undetectable aircraft at 40,000 feet and dropping bombs on women and kids.
Cuba's Vibrant Democracy

Here's a email from an educator wanting to get on David Horowitz's list of the 101 most dangerous professors in America. Qualifications:

During the Reagan years, when the CIA was engaged in its illegal war against Nicaragua, I went to Nicaragua and taught agronomy students biology, attempting to help the struggling Sandinista government, and I have been vociferous in defense of Cuba’s right to exist and its impressive agricultural system, which I have seen first hand on several visits to that country. I also give talks around town about the Cuban agricultural system and its vibrant democracy, which I contrast with the moribund democratic system (at least that of which remains) of the United States.

I'd say that he deserves to be on the list.
Thanks to John Hawkins--Updated!

For including me on his 40 Favorite Blogs list. It's always a thrill to make that list, because John is diligent about reading lots of blogs to see what's up. To be honest, I have to pinch myself when I see some of the blogs I'm ranked above, and when I look at the ones I'm ranked behind I'm truly humbled.

May I recommend that you surf on over to John's list and check out one or two of the blogs that you may not recognize? You're liable to find a new personal favorite!

Update: Our buddy Buckley F. Williams has also ranked his top 25 blogs. Check out the two blogs he places Brainster's between--pretty heady company! :)

Also see Danegerus, who has a more eclectic group of blogs that I am slowly making my way through.

David Ignatius draws a silly parallel:

Nobody died at Armstrong Ranch, but this incident reminds me a bit of Sen. Edward Kennedy's delay in informing Massachusetts authorities about his role in the fatal automobile accident at Chappaquiddick in 1969. That story, and dozens of others about the Kennedy family, illustrates how wealthy, powerful people can behave as if they are above the law. For my generation, the fall of Richard Nixon is the ultimate allegory about how power can corrupt and destroy. It begins not with venality but with a sense of God-given mission.

Let's see, is Cheney-Quiddick comparable to Chappaquiddick? Yes, if Dick Cheney had left the man he shot to die. Yes, if Cheney had been drunk like Kennedy was, but so far the only evidence on that front is "Of course he was drinking; he was hunting in Texas, where all hunters carry a hip flask." And of course it would be comparable if Cheney were a notorious womanizer, like Ted Kennedy. On that last front, a HuffPo'er has claimed (on the basis of a Sirius Radio show account), that the delay in reporting the news was so Cheney's supposed mistress could get away.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Understanding Hackett's Demise

I don't usually point to "progressive" bloggers except to critique, but this is a terrific piece of writing on the Hackett/Brown controversy.

The real reason so many people are upset that Hackett left the race has less to do with ideology than it has to do with the ongoing class war within the world of progressive activists. Online, Hackett's support came primarily from those activists who have very little power within the progressive movement as a whole: the working class within the progressive movement. By contrast, Sherrod Brown's support came from the aristocracy within the progressive movement: those who, like Charles Schumer and Rahm Emmanuel, have a lot of power over the direction of the progressive movement. Class, in this sense and in the world to which I am applying the term, is not determined by income. Rather, it is determined by power and ownership over the progressive movement. The outrage comes from the generally accurate perception among the progressive activist working class that the progressive activist aristocracy used their vastly greater power to remove Hackett from the race in favor of Brown.

Worth the read. Bowers impressed the heck out of me with this analysis.
Peter Daou Proves Greenwald Wrong

(Note: See the correction at the bottom)

You may recall a few days ago I tackled a post by Glenn Greenwald wherein he claimed that the only thing that mattered to conservatives was supporting Bush.

Peter Daou today proves Greenwald wrong, ironically in a post that lavishes praises on Greenwald's comments. How?

Lately, there's been a burst of energy in the progressive blog world, with dozens of great posts from high profile - and high traffic - bloggers on Daily Kos, Eschaton, HuffPo, C&L, FDL, MyDD, TPM, and several others. Among those blog entries are two seminal posts, one by Digby, the other by Glenn Greenwald.

Get it? Lots of activity from "progressive" bloggers, here are two examples, Digby and Greenwald.

Except that Greenwald's qualifications as a "progressive" are pretty light. Remember, he blasted conservative bloggers for calling him a liberal:

Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is. Whether one is a "liberal" -- or, for that matter, a "conservative" -- is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush.

Of course, to Daou, there's only one requirement to be a progressive: The lack of loyalty to George Bush. But poking around in Greenwald's blog, I found a fair amount of evidence that he's not a liberal, or progressive at all. Indeed, it's not hard to find some posts where he blisters the liberal blogs, like this one:

My recent reference to Rep. Cynthia McKinney as a genuine “hater of America” sparked a dispute in my Comments section -- as well as on the far-left, oh-so-cleverly named Smirking Chimp site -- as to what constitutes “anti-Americanism.” Clearly, mere criticism of the American Government or even the U.S. generally is not sufficient to merit that term.

Correction: Peter Daou stops by in the comments and notes this caveat at the end of his post, which I confess I didn't catch:

NOTE: Although this piece is about the trajectory of progressive blogging, I should note that Greenwald's post is not written from a specific ideological perspective.
Cedar Revolution at One

Michelle Malkin reminds us that it was a year ago that the fuse was lit for the Cedar Revolution. A bomb blew up former Lebanese Prime Minister Harari a year ago today.

Ya Libnan, our friends in Lebanon, covered the massive demonstrations today marking the anniversary.
How's GoreTV Doing?

Not great according to this article, which is a couple days old.

However, in the months since it went on the air, Current has yet to announce any new cable deals to expand the meager distribution footprint it inherited when it bought Newsworld. It is distributed in only about 20 million households (roughly 50 percent of them via Rupert Murdoch's DIRECTV), barely half the number industry experts say is necessary if Current is to succeed financially.

With power concentrated in the hands of a few cable giants, including Comcast and Time Warner, it's a tough sell for any channel not owned by a media conglomerate to break onto TV screens. But that may be especially true for Current, precisely because its chairman is Gore, observers say. As a U.S. senator, Gore helped push the Cable Act of 1992, which cost the industry many millions of dollars by restricting how cable operators charge consumers and earned him the scorn of some of the same executives whose favor he now needs to help jump-start his fledgling cable enterprise.

"So far I would say it looks like payback time," says cable industry consultant Gary Arlen, a reference to Gore's apparent slow going in winning many converts within the cable sphere. "People in this industry have exceedingly long memories."
That's Not Funny!

Well, only two days after flooding the internet with pictures of Dick Cheney as Elmer Fudd, the liberal blogosphere has decided there's nothing funny about the shooting incident. This of course coincides with everybody else's decision that it's something of a hoot.

Note: Just saw the report that Whittington suffered a minor heart attack. That's obviously not funny; we'll see whether it's a serious matter; the article includes this:

Peter Banko, the hospital administrator at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial, said Harry Whittington had the heart attack early Tuesday while being evaluated.

He said there was an irregularity in the heartbeat caused by a birdshot pellet, and doctors performed a cardiac catheterization. Whittington expressed a desire to leave the hospital, but Banko said he would probably stay for another week.

Sounds like they're treating it as rather routine.
Barone on Impeachment

He sounds the right note:

The Democratic bloggers note correctly that impeachment didn't help the Republicans politically. But they still seem incensed, and I think that's because they believe that impeachment, in their view unfairly, tended to delegitimize the Clinton presidency.

This is one of the oddities of the push by the Lefty bloggers to impeach President Bush. They make a big deal out of how illegitimate the effort was to impeach Clinton, but then they turn around and say, if that was worthy of impeachment, so is (wiretapping/starting a war on false pretenses/insert latest outrage here). But of course, if the impeachment of Clinton was illegitimate, then that experience tells us nothing about what are legitimate reasons for impeachment.

It's sort of like saying, Boomer Esiason doesn't belong in the NFL Hall of Fame, and therefore Kurt Warner does belong in the Hall of Fame, because he's better than Boomer.
Cheney's Big Moment

The media are going to try to keep this story afloat, but really it's more comical than anything else. So I can't get upset over the Dana Milbank incident on Keith Olbermann. He was making light of a silly story; more power to him.

If only some of the press corps gaggle had the sense to approach the story in the same way. Did anybody catch the "What did the president know and when did he know it?" question? The old observation that history repeats itself--the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce--was never more apt.

In keeping with the humorous nature of the incident, here are the late night comedians' jokes. Best one:

"After he shot the guy, he screamed, 'Anyone else want to call domestic wire tapping illegal?' "

Kurtz compares the stories on the last two veeps, but includes this clunker:

I was looking forward to Bill O'Reilly's take, but his lead was: "Did Al Gore Go Too Far?" (In fairness, Gore charged in Saudi Arabia that Arabs in the U.S. are being mistreated and would not provide specifics to the Factor.) O'Reilly did give the veep's misfire a couple of sentences--as "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day." Hannity & Colmes led with Gore too, with Colmes offering this ringing defense: "It's not like he shot anybody."

Of course, to most of us, the Gore speech was more newsworthy than the Cheney shooting incident.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Hackett Gets Knifed In Ohio Senate Race--Updated

Remember all the libs crowing about Democrat Iraq vet Paul Hackett, who managed to get 48% of the vote in a special election to fill a Republican seat in Congress? The darling of the netkooks?

After the lovefest was over, Hackett decided to run for the Senate. And while he originally looked pretty good for the nomination, an experienced Democratic congressman, Sherrod Brown decided to run as well, after initially passing on the opportunity.

Tonight Hackett dropped out of the race. But get the bitterness:

"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes two days before the state's filing deadline for candidates. He said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not enter the Second District Congressional race.

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."

Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security.

"Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans that we've worked to run for Congress," said Mike Lyon, executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to national office. "Now is a time for Democrats to be courting, not blocking, veterans who want to run."

Some of the more famous lefty bloggers, who had showered praise, donations and volunteers on Hackett during his summer 2005 run, now were eager to get rid of him. David Sirota, an influential liberal blogger with posting privileges at the Huffington Post appeared to have a particular grudge against Hackett, as you can see by checking his archives over there.

Update: Gary Hart agrees.
Ten Ways Dick Cheney Can Kill You

This is funny (Photo of the Day)
The Animated Glass Ceiling

The latest cause: More women in cartoons.

"It's important for what kids watch that as far as possible, they see the real world reflected, to see men and women, boys and girls, sharing the space," said Davis, co-star of the female-empowerment film "Thelma & Louise" and star of TV's "Commander in Chief," in which she plays the U.S. president.

Female empowerment film?
It's Tempting to Cheer--Updated!

(Welcome, fellow Michelle Malkin readers!)

Michelle Malkin points to Frank Miller's next Batman project, which certainly sounds promising:

Miller proudly announced the title of his next Batman book, which he will write, draw and ink. Holy Terror, Batman! is no joke. And Miller doesn't hold back on the true purpose of the book, calling it "a piece of prop[a]ganda," where 'Batman kicks al Qaeda's ass."

The reason for this work, Miller said, was "an explosion from my gut reaction of what's happening now." He can't stand entertainers who lack the moxy of their '40s counterparts who stood up to Hitler. Holy Terror is "a reminder to people who seem to have forgotten who we're up against."

It's been a long time since heroes were used in comics as pure propaganda. As Miller reminded, "Superman punched out Hitler. So did Captain America. That's one of the things they're there for."

"These are our folk heroes," Miller said. "It just seems silly to chase around the Riddler when you've got Al Qaeda out there."

It could be terrific and I will probably have to give it a chance. But I'm a little leery, because Miller's also responsible for two absolutely wretched recent Batman series : DKR2, and All Star Batman and Robin. I covered the first issue of the latter series here. Suffice to say that I am not reading that set any longer; apparently the direction it has taken has been for Robin/Dick Grayson to become a serial killer (at about age 10).

Miller did write and draw the original Dark Knight Returns series back in the 1980s, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, that series was the worst thing that ever happened to Batman, as DC began molding the character to make Miller's vision of Bruce Wayne as a bitter, alcoholic loner at 50 come true.

Update: Scott, one of Mrs M's emailers comments in her post:

Oddly, Miller's hugely influential reworking of the Batman mythos in the 80's (to a darker, grittier, quasi-vigilante Batman) was intended to be a skewering of the (in Miller's eyes) crazed right-wing fundamentalist police-state Reagan era. For example, Superman was always portrayed as a simple-minded Boy Scout duped into committing war crimes for a warmongering, jingoistic America. But Miller did such a good job of attacking leftish pacifism that his work came across as an endorsement of the tough-on-crime, tough-on-commies attitude. Especially the tough on crime part.

That first part is pretty much where Miller still stood as of 2001 when DK2 came out, as you can see (click on the picture 1-2 times to enlarge so you can read it):

The angry fellow is former cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, a middle-aged, bitter leftist, as you can see. In a later revelation, it turns out that President Rickard doesn't exist at all; he's a computer animated character (a la Max Headroom), so it's reasonably safe to say that we're intended to agree with Olsen.

It's possible that Miller's a 9-11 Democrat, as Hugh Hewitt likes to describe them, someone who had the scales fall from his eyes as the towers pancaked to the ground. I did not detect any overt political messages in the more recent All Star Batman and Robin.

I'll see if I can come up with a couple panels from the original DKR to illustrate Scott's point about it being anti-Reagan, but also anti-soft on crime. There are a couple good ones.

Later: This conversation between Superman and the President shows how Miller felt about President Reagan; half evil, half amiable dunce:

On the other hand, Miller does a pretty good job of parodizing a "soft on crime" liberal psychologist here:

As is somewhat cliche in these vigilante stories, the soft on crime guy always finds out that the crooks he romanticizes are indeed quite evil.

Update II: Super Fun Power Hour connects this story with the Danish cartoons story. Good job!

And the Platypus Society speculates on a few further storylines we may see if this comic is successful, and brings up the Superman versus the Klan storyline from the 1940s radio show.

Last Update: Dave in the comments puts up a terrific quote from Miller:

Troublesome as the so-called Religious Right can be, they're generally a pretty clumsy bunch. They swing a club. 'Liberals', on the other hand, use a scalpel, and only after they've applied intellectual anesthetic. Any pain is felt much later. This makes them much more dangerous censors. Especially since most artists tend to be vulnerable to their anesthetic. The most palpable threat to free speech these days comes from the secular political left. Janet Reno, Paul Simon, all those little 'politically correct' fascists that haunt our universities, preaching that the purpose of fiction is not entertainment, but rather indoctrination. These shameless, lying, whiny scumbag baby boomer, sixties-generation spoiled brats who think they serve society by rewriting history and trying to unravel our language...they represent a much more effective and successful effort to shut down free speech and the free press than the Bible-bangers ever have."

Frank Miller, 1994.

Maybe that marks Miller as a libertarian rather than a liberal. But (you knew there had to be a but there), I spent about $6 on the first two issues of All Star Batman and Robin, and I absolutely agree with BC Monkey (also in the comments): It was nihilistic crap. I also bought the first two issues of DK2 before giving up in exasperation. Fool me once, shame on you fool me twice shame on me... and yeah, I gotta buy the first issue still.

Aaron brings the loathsome Ted Rall into it, who's considering suing Ann Coulter (if he can get the little people who read his blog to bankroll him).

Rall announced on his blog that he would look into taking legal action against Coulter if readers of his blog wanted him to -- and if they pledged the $6,000 needed to draft and file a lawsuit in New York.

"If enough 'yes' votes come in with enough serious pledges, I'll see Ann in court," wrote Rall. "If not, well, chalk up another victory for the Right."

But get the "supposed cause" that Rall's going to sue over:

Coulter reportedly said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.: "Iran is soliciting cartoons on the Holocaust. So far, only Ted Rall, Garry Trudeau, and The New York Times have made submissions."

Um, can we say the obvious here? If $6,000 gets donated to Rall, I suspect that $500 will get paid to the lawyers to tell him that he doesn't have a case, and $5,500 will go for incidental expenses?

Still more coverage of Batman on The Lone Elm and the Real Ugly American.

No Oil For Pacificists promises not to riot, even if the comic turns out badly.
In Case You Didn't Get The Memo from Rove

Jane Hamsher wants us all to know that Dick Cheney's hunting mishap (he accidentally shot one of his fellow hunters) is being talked about by Republicans as a possible reason to dump Cheney from the Vice Presidency. What Republicans? Jane of course doesn't answer that. It's just an excuse to put up a "funny" photoshop.

Oh, and Greg Mitchell wants to know why it took so long for the story to be reported. I dunno, maybe because it was just an accident with little real news value?
Return of the Goron--Updated!

Can anybody explain to me what Al Gore thought he was accomplishing with this?

Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience on Sunday that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment.

Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

"The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake," Gore said during the Jiddah Economic Forum. "The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."

"Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it's wrong," Gore said. "I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country."

Gore's never been a particularly smart man; remember he flunked out of both law and divinity school. It may be as simple as the notion that "By hurting my enemy (President Bush), I'm helping myself."

Update: Rick Moran and Pam Meister have more thoughts on the Goron. See also our longtime buddy Bill Faith's post which has the funniest picture of Gore I can remember.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
The Coulter Thing

Her words have already been denounced eloquently by Mrs M and Rick Moran.

Like many conservatives I have a love/hate thing with Ann Coulter. On the one hand, her books have been rollicking good fun to read. But think about that "loose cannon" term and how perfectly it describes some of Coulter's more outrageous comments, like the time she said that the only thing she had against Timothy McVeigh was that he didn't blow up the NY Times building.

She's very much like a cannon that is unsecured; although aimed at the enemy, once fired the piece has a disturbing tendency to kickback and hit those on our side as well. I'd rather not have to defend the conservative movement from charges that we're a bunch of racists because Ann Coulter described the people we're fighting as ragheads.

Awhile ago, I recall reading a post somewhere where Kos mentioned that while he liked the guy's blogging, he thought he needed to be more of an *sshole. My own thought is that while being a jerk may be a route to the top, it's not one I'd care to take. That's why sometimes I decline to join in the cause du jour that hits the blogs, because I'm trying to generate light not heat.

Ann hasn't solely made it to the top by being a "controversialist" as she likes to put it. But it's been a part of her success. I suspect like all others who ride the tiger, she may find it hard to get off.

Update: As I mentioned in the comments to Chris, the problem with a term like "ragheads" is that it convinces the other side that we're battling on the basis of superficial physical differences and not profound ideological ones. We don't oppose Islamofascists because they wear turbans.
What Is Conservatism?

Here's a buffoonish post by Glenn Greenwald. He does make one or two valid points but overall it's breathtaking in its cluelessness.

That "conservatism" has come to mean "loyalty to George Bush" is particularly ironic given how truly un-conservative the Administration is. It is not only the obvious (though significant) explosion of deficit spending under this Administration – and that explosion has occurred far beyond military or 9/11-related spending and extends into almost all arenas of domestic programs as well. Far beyond that is the fact that the core, defining attributes of political conservatism could not be any more foreign to the world view of the Bush follower.

The criticism of domestic spending is valid; however, given the fainting spells the liberals are prone to anytime some program gets cut (or, as we all know, gets the rate of increase cut) it's hard to credit their sudden fiscal conservatism as anything other than a convenient stick. If President Bush were to suddenly get some fiscal discipline we'd hear moans about how much his cuts were hurting the poor.

And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader.

It is hard to describe just how extreme these individuals are. Michelle Malkin is the Heroine of the Right Blogosphere, and she believes in concentration camps. As an avid reader of Michelle’s blog, I really believe that she would be in favor of setting up camps for Muslim-Americans and/or Arab-Americans similar to the ones we had for Japanese-Americans which she praises. Has anyone ever asked her that? Could someone? I don’t mean that she would favor interning them indefinitely - just for the next few decades while the war on terrorism is resolved.

A little red meat for the partisans there; Greenwald, like most liberals (a term he spurns but does not explain why it does apply to him--See Correction Below) has no real knowledge of conservatism, so he ascribes the "extremist" label to us. The comment about "she believes in concentration camps" is just plain silly. I read In Defense of Internment; it's not hard to guess that Greenwald didn't. What she is defending the internment camps from is the charge that they were solely motivated by an irrational racist hatred of the Japanese.

And the claim that "I really believe that she would be in favor of setting up camps for Muslim-Americans and/or Arab-Americans similar to the ones we had for Japanese-Americans which she praises. Has anyone ever asked her that? Could someone?" is buffoonery. Not surprising, since Mohammed Atta's picture was on the cover, she was asked that question many, many times in interviews when the book came out and always answered no. But if Glenn Greenwald wasn't watching, it didn't happen I suppose.

As for this part, it is just projection:

And the core emotions driving the Bush extremists are not hard to see. It is a driving rage and hatred – for liberals, for Muslims, for anyone who opposes George Bush.

Come on, Glenn, do you really believe that Bush's supporters are the haters here? Just compare the level of discourse at, say Power Line with that of Fire Dog Lake or the comments section at Atrios or even the HuffPo. Who's got spittle coming out of his/her mouth, Rush Limbaugh or Randy Rhodes?

There's a germ of a decent post in there, but it's hard to get at. You know how it is, Glenn is so suffused with hatred for Bush that he can't see straight. He sees all conservative bloggers and columnists politicians as identical; we get our marching orders from Rove and we blindly obey.

Rick Moran also deconstructed Greenwald's post. I disagree with Rick about Andrew Sullivan here:

Is Andrew Sullivan a conservative? As far as I’m concerned, he can define himself any way he chooses and we are free to agree or disagree. I look upon Andrew as our crazy conservative uncle whose rants show an independence of thought that is vital to any ideological movement. He will continue to be flayed by those whose shallowness matches Mr. Greenwald’s in seeing his disagreements with the Administration as something akin to treason. But for Greenwald to posit the notion that Sullivan is no longer considered a conservative because of gadflies like Bozell is loony.

That's wrong. I suspect that most conservative bloggers think Andrew Sullivan should no longer be considered conservative, as would my fellow right-wing commenters over at Lucianne.

And although I've had some pretty tough words for Andrew in this blog, I would disagree with those conservatives. Andrew's still reasonably conservative, he's just got one overriding issue--gay marriage--that results in him voting against his positions on other issues.

So I do think that Greenwald makes a reasonable point here; split with Bush far enough, and you're no longer considered "conservative". Of course, many Democratic bloggers have been attempting to drum Joe Lieberman out of the party for not being relentless enough in opposing Bush, so it's hardly a unique failing on the Right. A

Correction: Up above I wondered why Greenwald spurned the term liberal. I was able to locate a few posts where Greenwald certainly did not appear liberal on some of these issues: spending, abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, immigration, "judicial activism," hate speech laws, gay rights, utopian foreign policies, etc. etc.

If he's really on the conservative side on all those issues (I certainly found evidence on the abortion question), then I gotta think he's legitimately not a liberal, just like Andrew Sullivan is not a liberal. He's just got an issue that pulls him strongly to the liberal side for now. I still think it's a pretty shallow piece of preaching to the choir.
The Non-Cartoon Jihad

Discussed by the WaPo's Jim Brady:

Out in the Web woodshed, a handful of bloggers called me gutless or a puppet; some of them compared me to assorted body parts and characterized me as the worst person to come along since, well, Deborah Howell. And any nasty posts I didn't see myself, my friends gleefully provided to me via e-mail. A few friends said they came close to jumping online to defend me, but chose not to for fear they'd be next in line for a public flogging.

This all raises a question: Why are people so angry? It was a mistake, it was corrected. Part of the explanation may be the extremely partisan times we live in. For all the good things it has brought our society, the Web has also fostered ideological hermits, who only talk to folks who believe exactly what they do. This creates an echo chamber that only further convinces people that they are right, and everyone else is not only wrong, but an idiot or worse. So when an incident like this one arises, it's not enough to point out an error; they must prove that the error had nefarious origins. In some places on the Web, everything happens on a grassy knoll.

Another culprit in Web rage: the Internet's anonymity. It seems to flick off the inhibition switch that stops people from saying certain things in person. During the Howell flap, many of the e-mails I received that called me gutless, a coward or both were unsigned.

Not surprisingly, Brady's letter is being greated with more calls of death to the infidels.

And now Brady comes back with a truculent regurgitation of right-wing bias, as if to prove that he might be accountable to someone, but that someone is not 'the left' or 'partisans'. In his bitchy little note, he wouldn't even name Jane Hamsher or Atrios by name, even though he quoted both of them. They were intentionally nameless and faceless mean angry bloggers. Jane of course is an accomplished screenwriter, novelist, and journalist, Duncan has a PhD in economics. Riff raff.

That's about right. Black may have a PhD, and Hamsher may be an accomplished screenwriter, but they're both leftofascist trash. Hamsher recently congratulated a jihad against conservative books on Amazon in which a bunch of "liberals" left nasty reviews.
Steyn On!

One of his more amusing pieces:

From Europe's biggest-selling newspaper, the Sun: ''Furious Muslims have blasted adult shop [i.e., sex shop] Ann Summers for selling a blowup male doll called Mustafa Shag."

Not literally "blasted" in the Danish Embassy sense, or at least not yet. Quite how Britain's Muslim Association found out about Mustafa Shag in order to be offended by him is not clear. It may be that there was some confusion: given that "blowup males" are one of Islam's leading exports, perhaps some believers went along expecting to find Ahmed and Walid modeling the new line of Semtex belts. Instead, they were confronted by just another filthy infidel sex gag. The Muslim Association's complaint, needless to say, is that the sex toy "insults the Prophet Muhammad -- who also has the title al-Mustapha.''

In a world in which Danish cartoons insult the prophet and Disney Piglet mugs insult the prophet and Burger King chocolate ice-cream swirl designs insult the prophet, maybe it would just be easier to make a list of things that don't insult him. Nonetheless, the Muslim Association wrote to the Ann Summers sex-shop chain, "We are asking you to have our Most Revered Prophet's name 'Mustafa' and the afflicted word 'shag' removed."

If I were a Muslim, I'd be "hurt" and "humiliated" that the revered prophet's name is given not to latex blowup males but to so many real blowup males: The leader of the 9/11 plotters? Mohammed Atta. The British Muslim who self-detonated in a Tel Aviv bar? Asif Mohammed Hanif. The gunman who shot up the El Al counter at LAX? Heshamed Mohamed Hedayet. The former U.S. Army sergeant who masterminded the slaughter at the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania? Ali Mohamed. The murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh? Mohammed Bouyeri. The notorious Sydney gang rapist? Mohammed Skaf. The Washington sniper? John Allen Muhammed. If I were a Muslim, I would be deeply offended that the prophet's name is the preferred appellation of so many killers and suicide bombers on every corner of the earth.


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