Friday, August 11


Good, sensible advice that U.S. government leaders would do well to heed:

John Reid's task, as he comes up on airport television screens, is to reassure the milling masses of grounded holidaymakers that the state has a grip of the situation. This is as much about tone and body language as about the precise words he uses.

The terrorist wants to hear the crack of uncertainty in his voice, and see a hesitation look in his eye. Reid is a good choice for this role. He has a natural authority.

My advice to him now would be to rein back his natural - occasionally splendid - aggression and use the quiet power of his voice to convey a solid competence. And I would advise him against rhetoric. Make no sweeping statements about the war on terrorism, arcs of extremism, axes of evil. This is what terrorists want to hear. It gives them status as ideological warriors, rather than squalid would-be killers.

Leave that kind of talk to columnists. Use understatement and let the public draw its own conclusions. Don't labour the point that this plot - which has the feel of something genuine and very serious - underlines what you've been saying about the nature of the threat. It does. Let others say that for you.

The British public needs a sense that its political leaders, speaking for operational intelligence and police officers, are applying calm and wise judgement. This is the point of the home secretary leaving Cobra meetings to face the cameras.

The purpose of terrorism is literally to terrify the public, so that fear spreads beyond the immediate victims, or intended victims, to a point at which the population cannot go about daily life without dread. At that point, the terrorist would have created a general sense that events are slipping beyond the state's control, to the extent that it can no longer provide the security necessary for routine life to go on without crippling disruption.

This may sound apocalyptic, but the bombings at a disco in Bali and at the British consulate at Istanbul did serious economic damage by deterring tourism. The tourist trade is a worldwide soft target. If people no longer feel safe to travel, the terrorist would have achieved huge dislocation to ordinary life. And a spreading sense of dismay and hopelessness would give the terrorist a substantial achievement, even if loss of life is averted.

This plot is intended to strike terror into every family preparing to take children to the airport for the annual getaway, as the tube and bus bombings last year were intended to disrupt by frightening commuters. Charles Clarke did a solid job of reassurance a year ago, and now it falls to John Reid to ensure that people don't do what the terrorist wants by concluding that the only safe thing to do is stay at home.

Sadly, we now live in a world in which going out every day involves an unconscious calculation of risk, if you are going to pass through the kind of public place that terrorists might target. That calculation remains unconscious only if the state appears competent. This is the battle for the public mind which John Reid must now win.
[emphasis mine]


It's going to get worse before it gets better.

Initially my company leaders were projecting a "soft landing" for the real estate market/home building industry that would take about 9-12 months to pass. In recent months they've lengthened the projected time to 18-24 months. People all over the country are delaying home buying decisions or outright cancelling contracts, causing a glut of inventory and existing homes. Luxury builder Toll Brothers announced today that orders are down 47%. Our canceled contracts last month were 44%.

The home building industry accounts for 15% of the economy's gross domestic product. Do the math.

Wednesday, August 9

While pundits and others contemplate the implications of the Lieberman loss, consider this: CNN's Bill Schneider reported this morning that 86% of Democrats oppose the Iraq war (60% of Americans at large).

Enough said?


The NY Times nails it.

The rebellion against Mr. Lieberman was actually an uprising by that rare phenomenon, irate moderates. They are the voters who have been unnerved over the last few years as the country has seemed to be galloping in a deeply unmoderate direction. A war that began at the president’s choosing has degenerated into a desperate, bloody mess that has turned much of the world against the United States. The administration’s contempt for international agreements, Congressional prerogatives and the authority of the courts has undermined the rule of law abroad and at home.

Yet while all this has been happening, the political discussion in Washington has become a captive of the Bush agenda. Traditional beliefs like every person’s right to a day in court, or the conviction that America should not start wars it does not know how to win, wind up being portrayed as extreme. The middle becomes a place where senators struggle to get the president to volunteer to obey the law when the mood strikes him. Attempting to regain the real center becomes a radical alternative.

When Mr. Lieberman told The Washington Post, “I haven’t changed. Events around me have changed,” he actually put his finger on his political problem. His constituents felt that when the White House led the country into a disastrous international crisis and started subverting the nation’s basic traditions, Joe Lieberman should have changed enough to take a lead in fighting back.


Tuesday, August 8


Interesting incident aired on Chris Matthews' Hardball this afternoon. Chris asked a huge crowd of half-Lieberman/half-Lamont supporters, "Was it a good idea to invade Iraq?" There were absolutely no hands shown in favor. The most articulate guy interviewed, a Connecticut fire fighter for Lieberman, said it wasn't a good move, but here we are and anyone who thinks we can get out in a week is unrealistic.

A Lamont supporter said Democrats can't support a man who's the favorite of Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter. Chris asked, "What's wrong with that?" The supporter replied, "Hannity's a hater. Ann Coulter's a hater."

That's a microcosm of your Democratic Party voters, guys.

The Lieberman campaign's web site went down today, and they blamed -- gasp! -- Ned Lamont's campaign.

One exchange between guest Al Sharpton and a rep from the Connecticut Fire Fighters Union, a Lieberman supporter, favored again (in my mind) Sharpton's remarks that a man's former achievements and acts pale in the face of (he used the LBJ example) current policy position of said politician.

The punch line for me is, Joe hasn't rescinded the widely-reported option of running as an Independent. It's all about him, you see.



Giggle. Cackle. Guffaw. Hoo-hoo! The Supreme Court passes on GOP DeLay appeal.

There's not much that could please me more (well, winning the lottery would be nice, though it can't compare, of course, to world peace).

“We are not surprised that Justice Scalia has denied the Republicans’ motion to stay,” Mr. Richie said. “Every judge involved in the case so far has agreed with us on the merits of our argument. It is time for Tom DeLay and the Republican Party to get out of the courtroom and quit this abuse of the voters, who have been without representation for months. Both parties have candidates, and it is now time to move forward and allow voters to participate in a fair and meaningful election.”

The legal issue hinged in part on whether party officials could replace a nominee who had been selected by the voters. Having decisively won a hard-fought four-way primary in March, Mr. DeLay upended Texas politics by unexpectedly declaring that he would drop his campaign and resign his 22-year seat to move to Virginia.

But a Texas judge, a federal judge in Austin and a three-judge federal appeals panel in New Orleans blocked the Republican Party from choosing a replacement under provisions of Texas election law and the Constitution that barred tampering with candidate lists and election standards.

In light of the announcement, DeLay said through his daughter that he will withdraw his name from the ballot, which means that there will be no Republican listed. "The Hammer" intends to support a write-in candidate.

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Could the neocons really be that cruel?

You tell me. Those guys creep me out more than the stringy-haired woman in The Ring.

Sunday, August 6


Yeah, it's that time of year again. Two weeks from now, college football will reign supreme in my thoughts, and those of my family.

Yesterday I attended my four-year-old grandson's debut game at Texas Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) along with our big family (five kids, two boyfriends and one girlfriend) in 100-degree Dallas heat, before heading for a North Texas Seminole Boosters kickoff meeting. Regular readers will note that our family are rabid FSU fans (The Sage and I both went there, along with our oldest son and 78 members of our extended family). The funniest thing about the day was that my grandson,
Valor, was happier on the sidelines digging into the turf to find bugs than he was in playing the game. He spent most of the game pouting, arms crossed, because he couldn't join us in the stands. I'm convinced that four-year-olds are not ready to play team sports, although I'll concede that such activities may prepare them for the future. Team spirit is a worthy value, after all.

The real excitement was hearing, at the FSU conclave, insights into the team and the coming season.

And why, may you ask, with all the problems in the world, would a blogger such as I focus so much attention on college athletics?

I can't answer that definitively. I'm not under the care of a psychiatrist. I'll only say that it's not so strange, given that football is a metaphor for the entire, competitive, U.S. population. We root for "our team," whether it's in a military battle or otherwise.

And we have a whole lot better chance of winning.


On the Lieberman thing, nobody in the Beltway inner circles or the mainstream media gets it.

What progressive would support a Democratic politician touted by the likes of Sean Hannity, Dick Morris and David Brooks? Chris Dodd is only partially right when he says it's all "about Bush." It's also about Trent Lott and Tom DeLay, Zell Miller and, oh yes! Dick Cheney.

Birds of a feather, man. You're known by your associations.



The NY Times editorial board chides the Democrats for advocating a timed withdrawal from Iraq. What they fail to mention is that their proposal mirrors almost perfectly John Kerry's own vision for Iraq, which he articulated during the 2004 presidential race, and the Times itself pronounced "sensible." Kerry, of course, was widely derided by Republicans and conservatives for his nuanced approach to the problem and suggestions that the international community should assume a greater role in resolving the conflict.

Democrats are embracing the withdrawal option because it sounds good on the surface and allows them to avoid a more far-reaching discussion that might expose their party’s own foreign policy divisions. Most of all, they want an election-year position that maximizes the president’s weakness without exposing their candidates to criticism. But they are doing nothing to help the public understand the grim options we face.

The only responsible way out of Iraq involves all the things President Bush refused to consider on the way in. That means enlisting help from some of the same Arab neighbors and European allies whose opinions and suggestions were scornfully ignored before the invasion. Getting their assistance would be a humbling experience. Americans may feel the war is going badly, but they have not been prepared to acknowledge failure.

America’s allies have an interest in not seeing Iraq turn into a hive of terrorists and a font of regional instability. However, before other nations become involved they would certainly insist on a laundry list of American concessions, from a share in war-related business for their contractors to an all-out United States push for a renewed peace process among Israel, the Palestinians and their neighbors.

A serious plan for disengagement from Iraq is not well tailored to the campaign trail. Real withdrawal will be messy and unpleasant. Even under the best of circumstances, it could well end in disaster. But the country cannot afford another election cycle of bipartisan evasions.

It is not "evasion" to say, at this point, that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq. We've learned, to our dismay, that American voters "don't do nuance." Democrats, if they were in power, wouldn't precipitously pull out the troops but would, in the manner of Clinton towards Bosnia, seek an international solution, which Bush has failed to do but pretends to have done with his bogus "coalition of the willing." But the details are too complicated for corporate media sound bytes. When we start to expound upon the diplomacy necessary to support a U.S. withdrawal we lose the media and, by extension, the voters. The Times understands this. They are being disingenuous in suggesting that the Dems are playing politics here. An announcement that the U.S. is serious in its intent to withdraw from Iraq would signal to the Muslim world that we do not intend a permanent occupation (which Bush's military base-building contra-indicates), and a serious attempt to engage our European allies and Arab countries neighboring Iraq would certainly accompany such an announcement (under a Democratic administration).

But George W. Bush will remain president for another two years. Given his track record, one can hardly have confidence that he will trouble himself to seek the kinds of solutions the Times or Democrats, might suggest. Two more years of this debacle in Iraq will bankrupt the American treasury and any remaining U.S. moral authority. Given that, all the Democrats CAN do at this point is insist upon a withdrawal.

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