Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2004 September 1-31

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Consolation Prizes

Academy buffs can stop arguing about whether Fahrenheit 9/11 is "really" a documentary. Michael Moore isn't going to submit it for the Best Documentary prize. "Let's let someone else have that Oscar," he explained in a statement. "We already have a best documentary Oscar."

The fact that this encourages Moore fans in the Academy to vote for his movie in another category -- say, Best Picture -- just might play a role as well.

Question: Does Moore's movie have a better chance of winning an Oscar if Bush wins or if Bush loses? My first thought was that if Bush loses, Moore will get a boost -- he'll be touted as the Daniel who brought Goliath down. But by the time the Academy actually casts its ballots, its fickle voters might have forgotten how much they hated W. ("Bush who? Isn't one of the good guys president now? Support our troops!") If Bush wins, on the other hand, giving Moore an Oscar for Best Picture or Best Director might be a liberal consolation prize: a way Hollywood's left can rerun the election on its own turf and let Not Bush win.

Update: A couple of readers have noted that I wrote "Daniel" where a Biblical literalist (or a more careful proofreader) would have said "David." On reflection, though, neither name is right: If physique counts for anything, Moore should be Goliath.

And me? After a mistake like that, I'll have to cast myself as a Philistine.

Frozen Freedom

I hope my last post didn't make it sound like there's no room for liberty here in Baltimore. For a more benign side of the city, turn to The Sun's Steve Kiehl, who included this vignette in a charming article about a pair of rival snowball sellers:

Snowballs really took off in the 1930s, when an electric ice shaver was invented, greatly reducing the time it took to make the treats. Before long, there were a thousand or more snowball stands in the city, as men out of work in the Depression set up stands to make a few bucks.

The concoction was also popular in Philadelphia, but its spread was halted there in 1949, when the health department moved to arrest snowball vendors under a city law prohibiting the sidewalk sale of uncovered foods. Baltimore authorities were smart enough to take the opposite stance, declaring no health threat was posed by snowballs. They haven't changed their tune since.

"We have no intention of shutting down snowball stands," said Baltimore's current health commissioner, Dr. Peter Beilenson. "They're good things. I eat out of them."

To this day, many a Philadelphian has taken I-95 -- some call it "the freedom highway" -- to the city two hours to the south, where the iron hand of the state has not yet denied its citizens the simple pleasure of an icy treat. Give us your tired, your hungry, your sweet-toothed masses yearning to eat free, the wretched refuse from your Philly streets. Send them, the dessertless tempest-tossed, to Baltimore. We lift our syrupy spheres beside the golden harbor.

"Barlow...caves in to fear."

After reading Reason's recent interview with cyperspace guru John Perry Barlow, Tech Central Station's Arnold Kling tut-tuts the lyricist-rancher-netizen for caving "in to fear." To wit:

If Barlow and others think that the next version of Windows is just too creepy [due to its "trusted computing" and "identity-authentication" functions], they can stick with XP. Or Windows 98, for that matter, which still has a huge installed base. If identity-authentication is enough of a show-stopper for enough people, then Bill will have to leave it out in order to get people to buy the next upgrade.

Of all the organizations you could look to because you fear identity-authentication, it is ironic that Barlow would choose government. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which Barlow founded, has spent considerable effort in fending off government attempts to make the Internet wiretap friendly, efforts which date back to the infamous Clipper Chip. Turning to government to help maintain anonymity on the Internet is like going to the Pope for help in keeping abortion safe and legal.

Whole thing here.

Reason's Q&A with Barlow here. Reader comments to that exchange here.

"Cool T-Shirts Remain Available"

As Election 2004 inches closer, more and more campaign-finance laws that regulate free speech kick in. I recently had an e-mail exchange with Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley Smith about just what that means. I asked:

Pursuant to the various lawsuits, rulings, etc on 527s: Given that we're now 60 days from the election, is it now the case the groups such as Swift Vets, America Coming Together, MoveOn.org, etc can no longer run ads on TV or radio that mention specific candidates?

Smith's response:

They can run ads so long as 1) they are not incorporated, and 2) they use only individual contributions, no corporate or union money. I do not know if any of these groups is incorporated, although I have heard rumors that Swift Boat Vets is not. You would want to check that out. Also, the limits only apply to broadcast and cable ads--print, internet, direct mail, billboards, park benches, skywriting, and cool T-shirts remain available.

I'd very much like to see skywriting play a bigger role in this election (maybe something about the Kyoto treaty?).

More with Smith here and here.

Political T-shirts here.

Seeing Like a City

If Reason's personalized June covers freaked you out, you might not want to buy a home in Baltimore. In today's Sun, Doug Donovan describes how the local government came to possess a "comprehensive view of every nook and cranny" in town:

In November, the city paid Pictometry $54,075 to photograph every address in Baltimore from every direction. In January, pilots in a Cessna 172 crisscrossed the city at 5,000 feet for broader swaths and at 2,500 feet to obtain neighborhood-size shots, said Dante Pennacchia, Pictometry's senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Three digital cameras on the plane constantly clicked pictures: One lens faced straight down while two others, protruding through holes in the plane's sides, took photographs at 45-degree angles, Pennacchia said. Each image is labeled by latitude and longitude as it's recorded, allowing city officials to measure distances, heights, widths and slopes of any street, object or structure in the city.

Also new is integrating other databases...with these more detailed images. The photographs are also useful as virtual maps of neighborhoods and buildings.

Perhaps surprisingly, the ACLU isn't upset about this. That is partly because the database will only be updated every two years, so it doesn't represent perpetual surveillance; partly because the photos aren't quite detailed enough to show faces or license plate numbers; and partly because, in the words of spokeswoman Stacey Mink, there's "a legitimate use" for the images. And indeed, as Donovan notes, firefighters "could type the address into a laptop computer loaded with Pictometry images and -- as they raced to the scene -- get a clear photograph of the structure at that address. They could also see what obstructions might be on the roof or in an alley. And by clicking and dragging the computer mouse, they could measure the building's height and its distance to neighboring structures." Sounds pretty legitimate to me.

But the first branch of Baltimore's government to make waves with the new technology isn't the fire department. It's housing officials, who are using it to enforce busybody regulations:

Superimposing deck-permit data over corresponding aerial images, housing officials can easily see which decks have permits. Software marks any address that does have a permit with a red dot. No red dot means no permit -- and a visit from a housing inspector.

When the images were taken in January of the 2300 block of Eastern Ave. where [Steve] Ford lives, eight houses had decks. Six had permits. Ford's deck wasn't one of them. He said his deck has a permit, but city records indicate otherwise.

Ford said he does not object to the city owning such images, unless, he added, "it's used for nickel-and-dime stuff like that."

'The W Stands for Wrong'

Finally, someone has suggested an answer to a question I posed last November. Now if only we could figure what the F stands for.

"The blood of our husbands and the body parts of our children . . ."

Say you're a jihadi, going about your sacred work of sawing off the heads of Nepalese dish washers, kidnapping Turkish truck drivers, etc. What's the one thing missing from your life?

Did you say an online magazine for your wife? Well, here's Al-Khansa, apparently "the first 'jihadist' publication aimed exclusively at women." Among the topics discussed in the inaugural issue: raising children in the path of jihad, providing first aid, and phys ed for women in training for fighting.

According to the BBC, "One of its encouragements to jihad reads: 'The blood of our husbands and the body parts of our children are our sacrificial offering.'"

Farookh Bulsara's Greatest Hits

The "first rock act to receive an official seal of approval in Iran" is ... Queen.

First You Get the Money...

...then (pace Tony Montana) you get the woman, then you get political power. That, at any rate, seems to be the theory behind the attempts to use cash and sex to draw voters to the polls—and I don't just mean the "Axis of Ass." The guys behind HotorNot have launched VoteorNot, with $200k in prize money up for grabs for some lucky voters. And Votergasm is seeking to entice folks to the voting booth in hopes that if they pull the lever there, they won't have to at home later.

Calling All Terrorists

Who knows what Russian President Vladimir Putin really said to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, if anything. The important thing is today's terror conflicts have dozens of angles and inflection points.

And that makes the binary clash of civilizations framework seem even more flimsy. Or do the Eastern Orthodox and Hindus comprise a single culture?

Pigskin Glory

With the NFL's regular season kickoff just two days away, I must return to the theme that has haunted me for nearly two decades now: Why hasn't there ever been a 1985-86 Chicago Bears movie? It practically casts itself:

Ving Rhames as Mike Singletary
Brendan Fraser as Jim McMahon
Tom "Tiny" Lister as Richard Dent
Orlando Jones as Sweetness
Anthony Anderson as The Fridge
Willie Gault as Himself
The Rock as Keith van Horne
Wilford Brimley as Buddy Ryan
James Gandolfini as Mike Ditka

"Super Bowl Shuffle" performed by Outkast

This movie will do more than the Reagan funeral to get the long-stalled eighties nostalgia boom off the ground. What is Hollywood waiting for?

The Geography of Shahid Alam

One Shahid Alam, an economics professor at Northeastern University, has penned a splendid tissue of nonsense for Al-Ahram Weekly on the Bush administration's endorsement of the "clash of civilizations" toward the Muslim world. One doesn't know quite where to begin to pick apart his half-baked affirmations, preposterous generalizations and multiple contradictions.

I will stick to two choice passages, since any more would require more effort than the tiresome article merits.

This ideology [of the clash of civilizations] is problematic. First, there is its flimsiness. It uses an inane concoction to deflect the blame for the 11 September attacks from US policies in the Middle East: our craven pandering to Israeli aggression, our vital support for corrupt and dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, and the war and deadly sanctions against Iraq since 1990...

The clash thesis and the associated war on terrorism carry little or no credibility outside the United States. This was first demonstrated in massive worldwide protests against the planned US invasion of Iraq. Outside of the United States and Israel, the overwhelming majority of world opinion regarded this war as illegal and immoral. Now, more than a year after a failed occupation of Iraq, after the revelations of systematic torture by Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, after the erosion of liberties inside the United States, after the establishment of an American Gulag whose geographic expanse exceeds anything established by the Soviet Union, American prestige in the world has sunk to the lowest point in its history.

To the first passage one can only respond: So the masks are down: 9/11 was effectively caused by America's own actions, therefore it was, somehow, merited. Alam would surely protest against such an interpretation, but, bottom line, that's what he's saying. As for the question of supporting dictatorial Arab regimes, I'm rather lost. Are Alam and his like-minded friends angry because the U.S. once supported Saddam Hussein, or are they angry because the U.S. overthrew him? I never can seem to figure that one out, and the rules say it can't be both.

As for the second passage, I marvel at the clause, "the establishment of an American Gulag whose geographic expanse exceeds anything established by the Soviet Union." The operative word here is, of course, "geographic" since even a silly-billy like the good professor could probably compute that in terms of lives lost his comparison merely elicits contempt � or hilarity.

So now we must go back to geography and picture this exotic scene: Professor Alam, ruler in hand, a wallpaper world map before him, measuring the distance between Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq, and announcing with much gravity to the assembled dunces that it certainly surpasses the distance between Vorkuta and Karaganda.

The true irony here is that such intellectual debris is what really fuels the so-called clash of civilizations. Even after years in the U.S. (Alam speaks of "we" when referring to Americans), the professor can only spout reductionist clich�s, with no hope of ever being a bridge between his two cultures.

New at Reason

Marc C. Johnson logs on with Iran's internet dissidents.

New at Reason

Jesse Walker tunes in to the left-wing stylings of a gigantic radio conglomerate.

New at Reason

Cathy Young looks on the campaign and despairs.

E-mail Privacy

The good thing about lower courts is that when they make a really stupid decision, they can be overruled. I blogged a while back about a court that decided that an e-mail provider can read his client's e-mails for any reason. Now the Justice Department and some civil liberties groups are trying to get the case reheard.

I was just struck by something when I reread the capsule description of the case in this article:

Councilman was charged in 2001 by the U.S. Attorney's office with violating the Wiretap Act, which outlaws most interceptions of phone calls and e-mails. The case never made it to trial, as the court dismissed the charge.

A three-judge panel from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, arguing that the wiretap law did not apply since the e-mails were stored, even if only for seconds, on Councilman's computer.

It seems to me that a surprising number of legal problems are created by the way computers deal with moving files around. When I started to study computer programming in college, I learned to adjust to the fact that you can't directly move things - a file, a stored variable, or anything else - to a different memory location. That's just not the way computer memory works. Instead, you simulate the process of moving by making a copy to the location you want the thing in, and then deleting the original. Copying is a fundamental activity of a computer, and moving is only derivative. It's not at all like the world of physical objects, where moving things around is trivial (unless they are very heavy) and making a copy is cumbersome.

So, when you try to apply laws created for the physical world to the digital world, you come up with all kinds of problems. The Wiretap Act may not apply because e-mail files are almost always "stored" somewhere instead of "in motion". Taking a legally-downloaded mp3 from your computer and putting it on your portable device can be blocked by a DRM scheme designed to prevent illegal copying. And so forth. It's really quite troublesome. Much more so than I thought during Programming 101.

Have a Coke and a Smile

Remember that study from a few weeks back that reportedly said that women who drank soda pop got fat and developed diabetes from their cola jones?

Well, it's all media spin that was abetted by the study's authors, says the invaluable Steven Milloy of Junkscience.com in the Washington Times. In fact, the study

reports women who consistently drank one or more regular soft drinks per day during those four years actually gained slightly less weight than women who consistently drank less than one soda weekly in that period.

More interestingly, Milloy points out that one of the coauthors was involved in a 2003 study that contradicted the new study. Curiously, that 2003 study goes unmentioned in the new one.

Whole thing here.

Update: Tim Lambert of the blog Deltoid writes to tell me that it's Milloy who's full of junk science. In a post on the matter, he takes issue with Milloy's characterization of the study and also writes

Milloy even accuses the authors of "scientific misconduct" for not mentioning another study that Milloy alleges contradicts their results. But that other study was not about soft drink consumption but about overall sugar consumption. The new study suggests that consuming sugar in a drink where it is more rapidly absorbed may increase the risk of diabetes. This is hardly contradicted by results that suggest that sugar intake including that in solid food is not a risk factor.

Whole thing here. Lambert also points to this critique at Crooked Timber of Humanity, which includes an interesting thread including comments from Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings.

Even More Update:
Here's a Tech Central Station piece by Jon Robison that slams the JAMA study. A snippet:

A closer look at the findings shows that even the proposed associations between the variables are questionably weak at best. After correcting for confounding factors, the relative risk of developing diabetes in women drinking the greatest vs. the least amount of sugar-sweetened beverages was 1.32. Epidemiologists generally agree that relative risks less than 2 should be ignored or at least viewed with extreme skepticism, particularly when there is conflicting research available.

Whole thing here.

Holy $#!+

Ok, I had heard about this, but haven't really been paying attention to TV convention news since Monday or so, so I hadn't seen it until tonight with friends who TiVOed it. And I understand that it's already gotten enough buzz for this to be redundant. But I feel like it's worth a couple news cycles when it's abruptly revealed beyond any possible doubt that a sitting U.S. Senator is completely batshit insane.

New at Reason

Jacob Sullum says GOP isn't the solution to the problem; GOP is the problem.

Little Rock Bypass

We knew Bill Clinton was an attention hog, but this, quad bypass on the old ticker?

Al Gore is one unlucky sumbitch, almost as bad as the positively cursed John Kerry.

Did the Dems Sell Out?

The San Francisco Chronicle's Debra Saunders has an interesting column about differences between the Dems and GOP when it comes to what might be called internal integrity:

A New York Times/CBS News poll in July found that three-quarters of Democratic voters and 86 percent of Boston delegates opposed the war in Iraq. Yet both John Kerry and John Edwards voted for the resolution authorizing force in Iraq in 2002.

The same poll found that 19 percent of GOP voters and 3 percent of GOP delegates oppose the war. Those delegates are in harmony with Bush and Veep Dick Cheney, even if 51 percent of all voters polled oppose the war.

That's the central difference between the GOP and the Democrats: The Democrats were willing to -- no, they chose to, by nominating Kerry --sell out their core issue in order to beat George W. Bush.

Whole thing here.

Despite Bush's apparent climb in recent polls (it's also assumed that, unlike Kerry after the Democratic convention, he'll get a true bounce from the GOP convention), it's obviously way too early to declare the race. But Saunders is right to suggest that a party that nominates a candidate at odds with its core beliefs is a party in trouble. This helps to explain weak and inconsistent messaging on the part of the Democrats. And it also suggests John Kerry may need to become more vocally anti-war in Iraq to mollify the Democratic base--a tactic that will only lend more weight to the flip-flop millstone around his neck.

Pleasure Boat Captains For Truth

This is pretty funny, if only because it's not immediately clear who the ultimate target is: Pleasure Boat Captains for Truth.

Private Pot

NORML notes that Alaska's Court of Appeals is following through on the logic of its 2003 ruling that residents of the state still have a right to possess up to four ounces of marijuana in the home, despite a 1990 ballot initiative that ostensibly recriminalized such possession. In a decision issued last week, the court threw out a search warrant that resulted in a man's arrest for marijuana cultivation because the police did not have probable cause to believe that more than four ounces were involved. The court held that "a judicial officer should not issue a warrant to search a person�s home for evidence of marijuana possession unless the State�s warrant application establishes probable cause to believe that the person�s possession of marijuana exceeds the scope of the possession that is constitutionally protected under Ravin," the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision that said pot possession in the home was protected by the state constitution's privacy clause.

RNC Endgame

So the Republican National Convention is over, and, later today, this special convention blog will shut down; readers are invited to join the ongoing "news, views, and abuse" over at Reason's staff blog Hit & Run.

What's left to say about the RNC, an exhausting event as these things always are (political conventions are like triple albums that should have been double albums at best)? As Matt Welch suggests below, and a number of us have suggested over the past few days, it was a hugely successful bash (apt word, that) for the GOP, one in which they sharpened their campaign rhetoric and, more important, defined the Democrats and John Kerry as a party of craven cowards too wishy-washy to fight for all that is good and decent in the world.

If Kerry linked Iraq to Vietnam, Bush cast it in terms of World War II and the Cold War, twilight struggles whose outcome will determine whether the country survives. Bracketing the question of whose characterization is more accurate (short answer: neither), it's clear that Bush's formulation is far more attractive: Not only did the U.S. win both those wars, but they suggest a degree of unified purpose that is elevating and ennobling.

Bush's speech last night had more than its bizarre moments: If I'm not mistaken, increased funding for community colleges will somehow help us defeat international terrorism. But picking up on all of the week's previous speeches, it also hammered large themes--about America's role in the world as guarantor of freedom and liberty, about the need for an "ownership society," and more--that were generally lacking at the Democratic convention a month ago.

There remains a real question of how the economy will affect the election. As the Republicans will tell you, unemployment now is right around where it was when Bill Clinton sent Bob Dole packing in '96. But there's also a sense that the economy is underperforming; job anxiety seems to permeate the culture in a way it never did in the late '90s (yes, yes, "permeate" is a soft measure, but what can you do?).

There remains a real question, too, of who exactly was watching the GOP convention. While it's interesting to note that the Fox News channel killed its cable competition, it's not as if the RNC was the last episode of M*A*S*H, the Who Shot J.R.? episode of Dallas, or Granny's epic battle with a "giant jackrabbit" on the Beverly Hillbillies (for a time the highest-rated regular episode of a TV show).

Whatever the audience for it, Bush's speech certainly made this much clear: It explicitly tossed overboard the Reaganite mantra that "government was the problem, not the solution" and embraced "compassionate conservativism" as the party's new ethos (given Reagan's manifest lack of interest in actually curbing government spending, this may mean less than it seems to).

To be sure, Bush mumbled some lines about fiscal "restraint" and simplified tax laws even as he slogged through a list of expensive new government programs and credits that will only pile on more spending and pages to the tax code (this was all on top of his recitation of the expensive new programs, such as No Child Left Behind and the Medicare drug benefit, that got passed in his first term). But he made it clear that as a majority party, the GOP would not hesitate to use the U.S. treasury as a slush fund to keep voters happy. That may well be enough to guarantee him a second term.

Foley Square II: Anarchist, Anarchist, Cop

"We have a rocky relationship," says a sandy-haired young police officer named Greg. "Like any relationship, it's got its ups and downs." Another, a buff 29-year-old with a shaved head named Mike chimes in: "They hate us one minute, then a couple of them will come over and talk to us, then they hate us again... and then there's this guy. He gestures at a man holding a sign that reads "FUCK OFF NYPD" on one side and "NYC POLICE ARE SICK PETTY STUPID COWARDS" on the other.

If you just listened to the protesters' chants, you'd reasonably enough conclude that the cops and protesters are natural born enemies. Dana Rose, 36, of Oregon, who came up with a group called the Pagan Cluster, tells me that protesters waiting in detention would pass the time by playing a variant of Duck, Duck, Goose called "Anarchist, Anarchist, Cop." Yet their reaction to the "Fuck Off NYPD" guy is mostly hostile; many blast him as needlessly provoking the otherwise pretty laid back officers. One older woman runs up and yells at him: "Steve, I guess you want the attention and not the prison time." (He's apparently been mugging for cameras as a lone sign-holder rather than participating in the more issue-oriented protests, with their attendant risk of arrest.)

It's not exactly a big group hug out there, but many of the interactions seem to be at least civil and aimed at mutual understanding. Two anarchists debate then merits of masked protest with a cop whose badge identifies him as Hopper. "That law that bans people wearing masks is 150 years old," Hopper is saying, "And you know why? Because the people in masks are the ones who are out to hurt people; they don't care about the damage they do." The mohawked anarchist counters that the masks are worn "in solidarity with the oppressed people of the world," though he concedes the secondary (and more plausible) purpose of concealing one's identity. Hopper's doubtless right that some of the black bandanna types are just out to cause mayhem, but I'm also picking up on a vicious cycle of fear: Some protesters think that they might be targeted later if they're photographed taking part in even a peaceful protest; some police conclude that the masks are proof that the activists aren't interested in peaceful protest and ought to be targeted.

Two others are talking with another officer about how better communication between police and protesters might make these events run more smoothly. They seem to be getting on well, though the cop bristles and become visibly angry when the Abner Louima case is mentioned. Still, the tense moment is defused, and they continue chatting politely.

Paul Marks (22) and Natalia Caraballo (19) report a striking contrast between different groups of police they deal with after being arrested. Upon arrest, Natalia tells me, people are put in tight plastic cuffs, which aren't cut off for (she estimates) an hour, even after everyone's in detention. She reports seeing one person whose hand's turning bluish from circulatory interruption, and Paul adds that his thumb is still numbed from the cuffs. The initial group they dealt with, says Paul, had plastered Bush/Cheney stickers around the detention area and were chanting "Four More Years" to irritate the detainees... and to frighten them: "You don't want to fuck with corrections [officers]," he reports them announcing, "They'll make us look like fuckin' Mother Teresa; they'll fuckin' kill you."

They find just the opposite to be true: Upon being handed over, the first corrections officer Paul encounters says: "So Bush, huh? Fuck Bush!" Both have only kind words for this group: "As soon as we got there, they fed us, they took care of us. They were good guys."

Indeed, that corrections officer isn't alone in expressing a certain amount of sympathy for the protesters' politics. After reassuring himself that I'm not going to use his full name, Mike—the buff cop with the shaved head—tells me: "We've gotta get rid of Bush; he's gotta get out of office. It's the lesser of two evils, like it always is, and I agreed with him on the war for the most part. But I disagree on every other domestic issue. Stem cells and abortion are more important to me." He pauses before summing up: "Bush is retarded."

As best as I can gather from our brief conversation, Mike is a mensch. He's got a remarkable sense of humor for someone who's been riding around the city or standing guard for over nine hours. Under other circumstances, he could probably sit down for a friendly beer and some good conversation with some of the ragged anarchists milling about here. In fact, almost all the people I talk to seem like genuinely sympathetic people. Individually, anyway. It's en masse that the folks on both sides of the barricade tend to behave badly, because en masse they're The Cops and The Anarchists. The Cops and The Anarchists communicate in the vernacular of the angry chant and the truncheon; it's the individuals who are capable of conversations.

It's Friday. It's Fun. It's a Link.

Larry King interviews bin Laden.

Foley Square I: "Welcome Back to Freedom"

I spent much of Thursday evening at Foley Square across from the courthouse at 100 Centre Street, where a few hundred protesters had gathered to await friends who, in the wake of a judge's order that detainees be released, were trickling out at 10 to 15 minute intervals.

Each time someone crossed the street, the gathered crowd would erupt in applause and cheers, friends running up to embrace them and strangers patting them on the back with shouts of "welcome back to freedom!"

A few came out crying and visibly shaken, but most just seemed exhilarated to be out after spending many hours penned up in a filthy warehouse-like building with hundreds of others.

Once out, legal observers took names in order to try to keep a running tab of how many were left inside, and volunteers from Food Not Bombs ladled out plates of vegetarian food (Indian, if my nose discerned correctly) from cylindrical vats. ("Please don't take our picture," one of them asks me, "what we're doing is illegal," a fact a nearby officer confirms. Serving food in the park's apparently technically a no-no, but the police have obviously concluded that enforcing this one's not worth the trouble—more on that later.)

There are some organized groups working there—observers from the New York Civil Liberties Union and National Lawyers Guild—but also a fair amount of anarchic-yet-effective coordination. Someone will periodically volunteer to lend a hand at the food table or with the legal observers, if only for a half hour or so. Jamie, 26, has brought some clean T-shirts which she's distributing to the (often rather bedraggled) folks being released, part of what she calls a "mutual aid effort." "Most of the people here identify as anarchists," she says, "so there isn't really a central group planning anything." When announcements need to get made, the group borrows a trick from the fireflies: one girl stands in a crowd and shouts a sentence or two of the message to be relayed. The few dozen people around her then repeat the message in tandem, forming a booming impromptu PA system.

Drink Tank

Some photos from the final lefty speech-watching party at The Tank:

The bar, the blogger gallery, and the courtyard

Bush Boxing

Joe Trippi holds court

Maybe He Scared Bush Too?

There are some indications that the Bush team may be trying to keep their distance from Zell Miller's convention rant.

More Midnight Madness

This is just a rumor, but John Kerry and John Edwards, appearing as "The Nerk Twins," are going to do a quick set between tonight's showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Reefer Madness at the West Theater in Barberton, Ohio.

Kerry's Weak Witching Hour Riposte

Speaking at midnight last night in Springfield, Ohio, John Kerry channeled the ghost of Buckeye State late-night movie hosts such as Columbus' Fritz the Night Owl and Cleveland's The Ghoul to wail about his treatment at the hands of the GOP:

"For the past week, they have attacked my patriotism and even my fitness to serve as commander in chief," Kerry told thousands here at a midnight rally shortly after Bush accepted the Republican nomination for a second term and questioned Kerry's support for combat troops in Iraq.

"Well, here is my answer to them," Kerry said to cheers. "I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq."

Whole account here.

To be sure, Kerry's got a lot of ammunition if he wants to attack the Bush administration's head honchos regarding duty in Vietnam: Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, and others went out of their way to avoid the shooting there.

But to the extent he does that, he's literally fighting the last war (actually, a couple of wars ago). Worse still, he's kickstarting more discussion of his anti-war activism, which is the real motivator of the Swift Boats Veterans for Truth and a topic that's yet to be aired fully--and when it is, it ain't going to be flattering to a guy who wants to be commander-in-chief. Kerry has presented an extraordinarily confusing picture of a warrior-president: a war hero who made his entry into public life by challenging the war that made him a hero. Forget the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any of the charges about his medals, etc--at its core, his identity on this score is fundamentally ambiguous.

As important, when he turns his attention to Iraq, he's got a program that's completely muddled: What's the first thing he'll do if he's elected? Will he send more troops or less? Under U.N. control or U.S.? (This isn't to say Bush's next step is any clearer--but such is the privilege of incumbency that he can talk about staying the course, or even removing troops, without eliciting the same response.)

From a pure p.r. strategy POV, Kerry's midnight madness rally was a stroke of stupidity. If he wanted to go to show his brass balls, he should have held the conference at 12 noon yesterday, pointedly breaking with the traditional silence of candidates during their counterparts' conventions to answer the "unprecedented" attacks on his character, etc. That would have made the evening news before Bush spoke and might have put a little spine in the flip-flopper image that the GOP tattooed into the brains of all 10 Americans who actually watched the TV coverage of the RNC. Certainly Kerry had a free pass to do so after Zell Miller's spiel.

Instead, Kerry, who is increasingly looking like the Bad-luck Schleprock of presidential contenders, got pushed off the morning news shows today by the Russian school hostage crisis and a weakened Hurricane Frances. And with the U.S. Open heating up, it might be another week before he makes it back into the papers.

Wolcott, You Magnficent Minx, You've Done It Again!

Vanity Fair's James Wolcott, the It's Pat! of media mavens, has managed to make cyberspace a little smaller by starting his own blog, properly titled "Everyone Likes the Smell of His Own Brain Farts" but more prosaically called James Wolcott. Here's Wooly's steel-trap take on the GOP convention:

My clinical evaluation. I don't know if Bush is going to lose the election. But I think he thinks he's going to lose. His eyes were lifeless, devoid of spark. His smiles were forced, his expressions of gratitude for the audience applause more of a mechanical pause than a transference of energy from him to the crowd and back again. When the camera cut to the audience they were doing their orchestrated bit, holding up those dopey signs, but there wasn't the ebullience you saw among the Democrats. Bush seemed to know this speech simply didn't have it, and he didn't have it in him to put it over.

More, including props to Anthony Trollope, Jean Negulesco, and Fred Sanford, here.

Vote for Bush: He's Not Bush

First I thought the high point of the convention was Giuliani's witty address on opening night. Then I thought it was Arnold Schwarzenegger's brilliant koan, "Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air." Then I thought it was Zell Miller's impression of a psychotic rooster, which will surely go down in the history of performance art.

But President Bush gave them a run for their money last night, when he said this:

To be fair, there are some things my opponent is for. He's proposed more than $2 trillion in federal spending so far, and that's a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts.

Wow. John Kerry is such a Massachusetts liberal, even George Bush, the least thrifty president since Lyndon Johnson, thinks he's a big spender. Now that's a damning attack.

There's all sorts of things you can do with that approach. If things are looking really bad in Baghdad come October, Bush could even jump on the antiwar bandwagon. Imagine the ad:

Four years ago, George W. Bush ran for president promising a "humble" foreign policy. But the Senate ignored his wise warning, and voted to authorize an unnecessary and disastrous war in Iraq. Now America's finest men and women are dying in the desert sands -- and for what?

Among the senators who voted for that war were (cue spooky music) John Edwards and John Kerry.

If anyone calls him on it, Bush could just say the humble foreign policy is part of his second-term agenda. You know, like Social Security reform.

Bloody Shootout Ends Russian School Siege

Reuters account here.

Background on the larger, and long-lived conflict here. This one's not ending any time soon.

Big Daddy Bush

The Boston Globe quotes Bush aide Andy Card on the president's attitude to his subjects:

''It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child," Card said. ''I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Wartime Edition

A Young Republican explains why she doesn't plan to enlist in the military:

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that."

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

When protesters obstructed my path to the Libertarian/Green debate Tuesday night, I eventually gave up my cab and joined the scraggly unauthorized procession up 8th Avenue, the street being half-literately chalked in the photo above. It could have been any Hundred-Man March on any college campus, except for one chant that was new to me (and, thankfully, didn't include the words "hey hey, ho ho"): "This is what democracy looks like/This is what democracy looks like!" (Imagine a catchy, impatient rhythm of "BAP bap bap, ba-bap ba-bap bap bap.")

The sentiment, too, struck me as apt, and not necessarily in the way that the demonstrators intended. To my Californian eyes, New York City this week has been a teeming marvel of humanity in all its random glory and variety. When you haven't been to the Lower East Side since murderous shitbags massacred 2,762 people while aiming for 27,620 more, and when your most recent convention memory was of a city that sleeps (or at least closes bars) at 1:30 a.m., witnessing a Benetton-style parade of furious Bush-haters march past skeptical and funny cops while 15,000 Karl Rove and Jenna Bush look-a-likes line up for "Liberty Buses" even though Bangladeshi CB operators are ready to cab them across town ... well, it can seem like a big, brawling beautiful mess, and a rousing advertisement for our democracy. Even the usually loathsome Mayor Bloomberg showed flashes of brilliance, saying of a nude protest over the weekend: "This is New York. Of course we had seven naked people on Eighth Avenue before. What's the question?" This wild, fabricated island -- almost unrecognizable from the fear pit I remember from my first encounter in the Zodiac Killer summer of 1990 -- has rebounded from its injuries in way that inspires pure awe.

I was buzzing along with these thoughts & with that catchy "Democracy" chant in my head on the way home after Tuesday night, when an earnest, lone, Seattle-looking kid stopped me on the street. He was resting on one of the city's roughly 3,000 street barricades, several blocks from Madison Square Garden, holding a sign that read something along the lines of "This is what a police state looks like."

"What do you think of this sign, and the sentiment behind it?" he asked quietly.

I hemmed and hawed about sorta seeing where he was coming from, but thinking that this whole week had been kinda cool from all points of view, and that one of the best parts was how the protesters and cops and delegates and non-participating natives all seemed to be treating each other with as much respect as New Yorkers can be expected to muster, etc.

"But look around you," he said, pointing to a street a half-mile from the Garden, totally closed off and guarded by dozens of uniformed and plain-clothes police and dogs at 2 in the morning. "In an ideal world, we could have democracy without all this stuff."

In an ideal world, of course, Islamicist hijackers wouldn't have tried to earn their virgins by blowing us and themselves up. Instead, we live in the tense, heavily (and properly) disputed aftermath. How we respond to that fact, hunt down them that blew us up, and prevent future attacks, is the only political debate that matters, and it's not remotely a binary, black-and-white issue, no matter how many times that goo-goo notion was trotted out in the last week. "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists," Rudolph Giuliani approvingly recited President Bush's famous quote Monday, in his firecracker of a speech.

We can only assume, since Rudy's God-given president has said so repeatedly, that Saudi Arabia belongs to the "with us" category. That would be the same totalitarian shit-hole of a country whose own Prince Al-Walid presented Giuliani a check for $10 million in October 2001, but only with the warning that the U.S. "should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause."

Back in those days, standing up to the routinely anti-Semitic calumnies and terrorism-spawning policies of the House of Saud was not high on Michael Moore's things-to-do list; it was more the concern of anti-"Arabists," right-wingers, and those that rail against "moral equivalence," including and especially America's Mayor, who rightly refused Al-Walid's dirty check, saying:

To suggest that there's a justification for [the terrorist attacks] only invites this happening in the future. It is highly irresponsible and very, very dangerous.

And one of the reasons I think this happened is because people were engaged in moral equivalency in not understanding the difference between liberal democracies like the United States, like Israel, and terrorist states and those who condone terrorism.

It's worth recalling that the Saudi press -- which ranks among the least 10 free in a world not short on contenders, according to Freedom House -- responded by saying

The words of [Prince Al-Walid] did not, of course, please the Jewish lobby in the home of the largest Jewish community in the world. Because the governor of the Big Apple is a Jew, he refused and caused a storm.

By Allah, I am amazed at your act, you Jew; everything Prince Al-Walid said was true…

What happened proves beyond any doubt the public insolence, the open hatred, and the collapse of American democratic theory. If democracy means a governor who is a homosexual in a city in which dance clubs, prostitution, homosexuality, and stripping proliferate – the U.S. can keep its democracy.

I guess someone has to make Rick Santorum look good. At any rate, the point of dredging up all this recent but seemingly ancient history is that the positive-sounding and attractive (to me, at least) Republican foreign policy vision of global freedom and democracy and toughness, articulated very well tonight by President Bush, nonetheless lacks five crucial elements: 1) Any sense at all of what this means next, for countries like Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia; 2) free acknowledgement of error; 3) a stark assessment of how we can actually afford to fight the next round of wars, given the current military stretching and utter lack of willingness of the rest of the world to provide significant money and manpower; 4) an "adult" admission that fighting even necessary wars forces a state to make expedient alliances with countries that are not only steadfastly opposed to any Middle East democracy project, but whose appalling misgovernance feeds tangibly to the global pool of terrorist manpower and financing; and 5) any shred of concern that supporting an ever-greater American role will, among other possibly beneficial things, increase the target on our backs.

I didn't expect George Bush to address these issues tonight; conventions are about winning elections, not pleasing Matt Welch. And, as much as I detested the two previous Democrat nomination speeches I covered, I think his was the least worst, and even came with some detail (I was pleasantly surprised that he even mentioned Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, though we are still in the uncomfortable position of taking his word for it that our influence in those two countries is producing better results than if we demanded of them the same democratic reforms that we rightfully urge of the Palestinian Authority).

And there's a missing No. 6 in that list above, which comes back to the original point of our earnest protest kid, and also to Zell Miller's obnoxious speech -- what kind of country is Bush and the Republicans truly advocating that we become in order to win this war? In literally hundreds of articles and columns since Sept. 11, Reason magazine has attempted to illustrate how excessive secrecy, regulation in the name of security, and the expansion of the government's power to arrest and detain its own citizens is not only illiberal, but counter-productive to the very War on Terror that the measures were aimed to abet.

The Republican Convention reduced all of these issues to "we're the party with the spine, they're the party with the Camembert," as if the declaration of strength and resolve itself was enough to overcome and even render insignificant any problems with implementation. This may prove electorally effective, but it gives me no particular confidence.

All that said, at least Bush and his party-mates repeatedly addressed -- even if by caricature -- the only war that matters, not some transparently "I'm tough, too!" glory-days nonsense from back when I was six months old. Seems obvious to me that, from both a strategic and specificity perspective, the Republicans kicked the Democrats square in the tail. But I've been wrong before.

Satire 8, Libel 0

A while back, some officials in Texas decided to sue the Dallas Observer for libel because it didn't label a satire as a satire. Today the state Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that the plaintiffs didn't have a case.

Bush vs. the Anti-Bushes

Some point-counterpoint from "The Tank," a Deantastic gathering of around 200 anti-Bush partisans (including Joe Trippi and the blogger still known as Atrios) on 42nd St. who marked the president's speech by drinking cheap beer, scarfing pizza, and hurling profane, surreal and occasionally funny insults at a hapless television set, one that featured a dunce-cap taped right where Dubya's head ended, and signs reading "shame" and "what's your fuckin problem."

Here is a selected list of Bush statements and the hollered rebuttals that followed:

We learned of passengers on a doomed plane who died with a courage That you never had!

Since 2001, Americans have been given hills to climb
What? Where are these hills?

I am grateful to share my walk in life with Laura Bush.
She's a fucking robot!

[Ronald Reagan] will always define our party.
You're party's dead -- just like Ronnie!

Because we acted, our economy is growing again, and creating jobs and nothing will hold us back.
Why don't you take credit for the fucking sun, you fucking prick!

The workers of our parents' generation typically had one job, one skill, one career -- often with one company
We all work at Wal-Mart!

America must be the best place in the world to do business.
We don't know, we have no money!

we must protect small business owners and workers from the explosion of frivolous lawsuits
Explosion of shit! Suck my Cheney, Bush!

The American people deserve -- and our economic future demands ---- a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system.
Yeah, so you can understand it, idiot! Can we put it on a flash-card?

We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account -- a nest egg
We're gonna build a nest egg on your head!

We are insisting on accountability
Starting with you, George!

this year 90 percent of its students passed state tests in reading and math.
More than you!

No dejaremos, etc.
Callete! No mas!

Anyone who wants more details on my agenda can find them online.
Fucking socialist!

we must make a place for the unborn child.
More children mean more unborn soldiers! Huzzah!

Because the union of a man and woman deserves an honored place in our society
That is the ugliest shirt I have ever seen in my life.

That guy's a shitty actor -- I hate him!

Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and support for terror.
What about your record of terror, you murderer!

We knew his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction. And we know that Sept. 11th requires our country to think differently
Iraq didn't do it!

democracy is coming to the broader Middle East.
Sieg heil! You killed one thousand citizens! Where are the weapons?

and President Kwasniewski
Oh my God, he pronounced Kwasniewski! He was up all night, rehearsing Kwasniewski, I swear to God.

People sometimes have to correct my English -- I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it.
Yeah, hasta la vista, fuck-hole!

Gulliver in Beirut

After Tim Cavanaugh, it was the New York Times' turn yesterday to make a case for Lebanese democracy under the Syrian protectorate. It's perhaps a trifle late (the Syrians have been in Lebanon for 28 years), but certainly not too late. The Times piece also went further and mentioned Lebanon's importance as a relatively democratic outpost (when the Syrians leave us be, and our politicians check their ambitions) in a mostly dictatorial Middle East. Many of us here in Beirut have been making that case for some time, and with the UN Security Council passing a historic resolution yesterday calling for all "foreign forces" (hear Syria) to leave Lebanon, we might finally have gotten a hearing.

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad has blundered splendidly. He may have studied ophthalmology, but he was blind as a rock on this one. He succeeded, by insisting on extending Emile Lahoud's mandate (Lahoud is Lebanon's remarkably shameless president) despite warnings not to do so from the U.S. and France, in internationalizing the Syrian-Lebanese relationship. Bashar's father always made sure that was one mistake he didn't make. Thank heavens, the son is cut from different cloth.

And what's going on here? Across the square from my house, workers have erected a four-story-high portrait of Lahoud, momentarily allowing us to observe, like Gulliver in Brobdingnag (with some poetic license): "His skin appeared so coarse and uneven, so variously colored, when I saw him near, with a mole here and there as broad as a trencher. And hairs hanging from it thicker than pack-threads�" Banners have been put up (apparently on the initiative of the intelligence services, but also probably the Interior Ministry, controlled by Lahoud's son-in-law) hailing the great man, and speakers have been blaring patriotic songs from the square. Even as I'm typing a fireworks display has started. The feigned joy touches no one, but is typical of regimes that must manufacture support for fear of seeing the vast emptiness of the real thing.

I can hear a baby crying�

New at Reason

Charles Paul Freund grabs his walking stick and takes a tour of Old D.C.

30 Minute Hate

Welch & I are watching the speeches with a gaggle of lefties from a party at a joint on 42nd street called "The Tank"; the mood is intense, a kind of anti-matter version of what it's like to be on the convention floor. The odd thing is, these guys are booing even the stuff he's throwing out that they should approve of: More federal spending on education, health insurance, and so on. That he can propose all this and then rag on Kerry for his vision of federal bloat is more than a little surreal.

Scenes From The Floor

Death Metal icon Pat Boone reaches out.

Owl-Jazeera reporter asks the hard questions.

Young Republicans blow.

"Can you hear me now?"

There is a strong possibility that this gentleman may vote for Bush in November.

Getty Images footwear correspondent Spencer Platt scoops the opposition.

"I want a pair of these so bad it fucking hurts," says Blair.

Do you think that button is big enough?


Not one of the protesters.

(We're beat. Please offer a caption in comments.)

"This still beats a night at the theater."

PHOTOS by Jim Lowney
CAPTIONS by Lowney & Blair

Cowboy Hats Welcome President

Jim Lowney Photo

Bush Speaks

Compare and contrast Bush's applause points with Kerry's applause points, which ran to 56 in 55 minutes, with Nixon-level perspiration beginning around applause point 32. Bush is scheduled to speak shortly; updates soon.

UPDATE. A massive win to the Prez; 105 applause points in 65 minutes. Killer speech, too. Shorthand notes follow:

Applause point 1: "Thank you all."
Applause point 2: "I accept your nomination."
Applause point 3: "Passengers on a doomed plane dies with a courage that frightened their killers."
Applause point 4: "Acts of valor that would make the men of Normandy proud."
Applause point 5: "Nothing will hold us back."
Applause point 6: "I am fortunate to have a superb Vice President."
Applause point 7: "I'm honored to have him at my side."
Applause point 8: "I am honored to share my walk in life with Laura Bush."
Applause point 9: "We love our First Lady."
Applause point 10: "I'm the proud father of two spirited, lovely young women."
Applause point 11: "My sister and two brothers are my greatest friends."
Applause point 12: "I'll always be the grateful son of George and Barbara Bush."
Applause point 13: "Ronald Reagan."
Applause point 14: "(Reagan) will always define our party."
Applause point 15: "Where I will lead this party in the next four years."
Applause point 16: "Nothing will hold us back."
Applause point 17: "Nothing will hold us back."
Applause point 18: "The largest tax relief in a generation."
Applause point 19: "NWHUB."
Applause point 20: (on American uncertainty) "This will not happen on my watch."
Applause point 21: "Governments should help people improve their lives - not run their lives."
Applause point 22: "With your help, we will win this election."
Applause point 23: "We will extend the frontiers of freedom."
Applause point 24: "Two-thirds of all moms also work outside the home."
Applause point 25: "Make your own choices and pursue your own dreams."
Applause point 26: "America must be the best place in the world to do business."
Applause point 27: "Making tax relief permanent."
Applause point 28: "We will make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy."
Applause point 29: "Export American ingenuity."
Applause point 30: "We will protect America from the explosion of frivolous lawsuits across the country."
Applause point 31: "Americans deserve a simpler, pro-growth tax system."
Applause point 32: "Reform and simplify the Federal tax code."
Applause point 33: "Increase funding for our community colleges."
Applause point 34: "Bring hope and work to all of America."
Applause point 35: "We must allow small firms to purchase health care at the rates available to big companies."
Applause point 36: "You can take your account with you whenever you change jobs."
Applause point 37: "I will ensure every poor county has a community health center."
Applause point 38: "The high cost of liability insurance."
Applause point 39: "We must pass medical liability reform now."
Applause point 40: "(Health decisions should) not be made by bureaucrats in Washington D.C."
Applause point 41: "Home ownership is at an all-time high."
Applause point 42: "More Americans will be able to open the door and say: 'Welcome to my home.'"
Applause point 43: "A nest egg you can call your own, and government can never take away."
Applause point 44: "More control over your own life."
Applause point 45: "I say to every child: 'No matter what your circumstances, or where you live, your school will be the path to promise in America.'"
Applause point 46: "Local people will be in charge of their schools."
Applause point 47: "We are providing a record level of funding."
Applause point 48: (on a Gainesville school) "Ninety per cent of its students passed tests in maths and English."
Applause point 49: "The soft bigotry of low expectations."
Applause point 50: "We will leave no child behind." (also in Spanish)
Applause point 51: "We will help more Americans start their careers with a college diploma."
Applause point 52: (Something about health care and children)
Applause point 53: "georgewbush.com"
Applause point 54: "Senator from Massachusetts."
Applause point 55: "He is running on a platform of increasing taxes - and that's a promise a politician usually keeps."
Applause point 56: "We are not turning back."
Applause point 57: "I support welfare reform that requires work."
Applause point 58: "We must make a place for the unborn child."
Applause point 59: "Our government must never discriminate against them."
Applause point 60: "I support the protection of marriage against activist judges."
Applause point 61: "Strict interpretation of the law."
Applause point 62: "If you say that the heart of American values is in Hollywood, you are not the candidate of conservative values."
Applause point 63: "You are not the candidate of conservative values."
Applause point 64: "You may be a lot of things, but the candidate of conservative values is not one of them."
Applause point 65: "You know where I stand."
Applause point 66: "I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes."
Applause point 67: "We are striking terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home."
Applause point 68: "We will prevail."
Applause point 69: "More than three-quarters of al Qaeda's associates or members have been detained or killed."
Applause point 70: "America and the world are safer."
Applause point 71: "We will confront threats to America before it's too late."
Applause point 72: "I will defend America every time."
Applause point 73: "Democracy is coming to the broader Middle East."
Applause point 74: "A resounding result for democracy."
Applause point 75: "America must keep its word."
Applause point 76: "Free countries fight terrorism, and that helps us defeat terrorism."
Applause point 77: "Our troops will return home with the honor they have earned."
Applause point 78: "Our men and women in uniform are doing a superb job for America."
Applause point 79: "People in Iraq no longer fear being shot and left in mass graves."
Applause point 80: "We will give (troops) all the resources and tools (they) need for victory."
Applause point 81: "There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat."
Applause point 82: "Prime Minister Tony Blair."
Applause point 83: "Australia."
Applause point 84: "(Allies) don't deserve the scorn of politicians."
Applause point 85: "A prayer for God to bless America."
Applause point 86: "Our country remains the greatest force for good on this earth."
Applause point 87: "Discredit their radical ideologies."
Applause point 88: "People in free societies do not strap bombs to their bodies."
Applause point 89: "Freedom is on the march."
Applause point 90: "Our good friend Israel."
Applause point 91: "America will be more secure and the world more peaceful."
Applause point 92: (on a 1946 New York Times piece that expressed doubts on post-WWII progress) "Maybe that same person is still around, writing editorials."
Applause point 93: "We live in a better and safer world today."
Applause point 94: "(Democracy) is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world."
Applause point 95: "My fellow Americans, I ask you to stand with me."
Applause point 96: "You know what I believe and where I stand."
Applause point 97: "People sometimes have to correct my English. I knew I was in trouble when Arnold Schwarzenegger doing it."
Applause point 98: "I have a certain swagger, which in Texas is called walking."
Applause point 99: "I sometimes come across as too blunt, (for which) you can thank that white-haired lady sitting over there."
Applause point 100: (on life in the White House) "Whatever strengths you've got, you'll need 'em."
(Beyond this point, Bush became visibly emotional)
Applause point 101: "Here buildings fell. Here a nation rose."
Applause point 102: "A confident nation can achieve anything."
Applause point 103: "This young century will be liberty's century."
Applause point 104: "The dream is renewed."
Applause point 105: "May God continue to bless our great country."

Frenchie Fuqua Not Welcome

I'm pissed that I missed NFL and Steelers' great Lynn Swann earlier this evening at the RNC. Did anyone hear what the hell he had to say?

And how come the Dems didn't have Frenchie Fuqua, the Steeler RB best known for his inadvertent role in the Immaculate Reception, speak at their con, if they're so Eurocentric?

Hey Delegate! Why Should a Small-Government Libertarian Vote for Bush? (4)

Arthur Levine, 49-year-old delegate from Indiana, retired (!).

A: Well I think we all share that concern to an extent, however there are always times of national emergency, and situations where you have to help the economy, and tax cuts are the way to do it. And the short intermediate problem is obviously a bigger deficit and bigger government.

But I think one of the things that we're resigned to is that the money is going to be spent, the question is, the Republicans are going to try to accomplish certain goals, if the money's going to be spent, we're gonna want to do it the way Republicans are gonna want to do it. And hopefully with a growing economy the deficit is going to take care of itself, just like it did in the '90s, but in the meantime our programs are going to be established, and sometimes they do cost money.

Q: One of the reasons why the deficit was [cut] in the '90s, presumably, is that there was political capital behind the idea; it was a national topic. Do you get a sense that that's a pressing issue for the Bush Administration and the Republicans.

A: I think that one of the great shames is the ridicule that trickle-down economics took. Which was nothing more than the '80s tax cuts that carried into the '90s, that just absolutely turned the economy into a boom. The fact that Bill Clinton increased taxes in 1994 was so negligible and really punitive, and is being given credit for solving the budget deficit, when the reality is we truly did grow our way out of the economy. We grew our way out of the deficit because of the tax cuts of the 1980s.

Q: Switch to another topic: You mentioned that, you know, in a time of crisis you gotta do what you gotta do, basically, and you trust the Republican way of doing it better. I presume we're talking a lot about foreign policy, and fighting wars, and being tough on terror. If it came down it right now, do you think we could fight another war somewhere if it became necessary? Do you think we might be over-extended somewhat? Is that a worry of yours?

A: Well, I would never short-change the U.S. military and what it's capable of doing in times of emergency. We were obviously able to do it during World War II, although it's true that we had a draft. But I think that anytime there was a necessity I would never sell our country short its ability to beat it. So I don't lose sleep over it.

In Little Rock they Love the Gov'nor (Ooh hoo hoo!)

The movie Footloose taught us that, with a little help from Kevin Bacon, conservatives too can dance. The "Brooklyn State of Mind" open-air festival held in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge at Fulton Landing on Wednesday afternoon reminded us why they probably shouldn't.

Of course, given what I typically look like on a dance floor, I probably shouldn't talk, and between the gorgeous day, the costumed performers, jugglers, and (crucially) free Boston Lager, even my snark circuits were running on relatively low power.

The main attraction was the band Capitol Offense, playing some familiar classic rock—and mostly southern rock—standards. The singer forced my to reconsider my lifelong commitment to free speech, but bassist Mike Huckabee is pretty competent. He's also governor of Arkansas.

The snark circuits do briefly reactivate when Huckabee introduces the Three Dog Night song "Joy to the World" by saying "this is what there's gonna be when we reelect George W. Bush on November 2nd." In the original context, after all, the phrase is celebrating the coming of Christ, which even if you're pro-Bush seems excessive. "Sweet Home Alabama" gets a slight tweak, which I'm not sure whether or not to read as incongruously pro-Clinton or not: Instead of a reference to Watergate, we get "Whitewater may have bothered some, but does your conscience bother you?" Anyway, decent chops for a politico's side project, and they mercifully refrained from covering "Let the Eagle Soar."

Go Well, Go Zell

One important difference between the two conventions: in Boston, the Democrats were unable (or willing) to talk to their base.

Speeches were aimed at pacifying doubtful voters, and drew mainly qualified support from anti-war, anti-Bush Democrat diehards. Many who applauded John Kerry's speech did so not because they necessarily agreed with it, but because they thought it the right speech to give in order to win the election. Compare that tentative, market-tested, second-guessing approach to what we've seen in New York. As one commenter noted in an earlier thread: "At least one side is willing to stand up and shout what they believe in."

Damn straight, although the "one side" in New York includes a certain southern Democrat. Kerry's "warrior liberal" act comes off as even more implausible than George W. Bush's 2000-era "compassionate conservatism", especially when contrasted with the direct and entertaining speech delivered last night by Zell Miller.

Speaking of whom ... Hoo, boy! Matt Welch got himself all scared and spooked by ol' Zell, mostly due to the Georgian's "militaristic" tone (attempting to impersonate him last night, Matt worked up an apocalyptic sound somewhere between Linda Blair in The Exorcist and Lyndon B. Johnson). I liked the speech, of course, but I worried about what it might do to my friend Ken Layne, who has Unresolved Issues with us hate-speaking conservatives. Turns out I was right to be concerned:

I grew up in the South, surrounded by sons of bitches like Zell Miller -- bitter old nigger-haters who couldn't possibly understand why they weren't right about anything -- and this dixiecrat piece of shit is probably the best advertisement for the Bush Administration's Compassionate Conservatism we've ever seen. Thank you, Zell. Now we understand. Sorry about wishing the Bush Administration all the best after 9/11. Sorry I ever entertained the thought that these vicious pigs might find redemption in defending our country with honor.

God only knows what they're saying over at Democratic Underground and other, less balanced sites.

Actually, compared to the themes routinely hauled up by the anti-Bushites - Hail to the Thief, Halliburton, Bush Lied, Bush Knew, BusHitler, etc. - Miller's speech was an exercise in elegant restraint. Maybe Zell should've punched it up a little. Well, James Lileks thought it had just enough righteous fury:

The angriest man at the convention turns out to be a Democrat: who'd have thunk. He's brutal. He's hammering Kerry like a blacksmith; if Kerry was a horseshoe he’d be thinner than aluminum foil.

Democrats, I suspect, would've loved someone to have delivered such a blacksmithing to Bush. Too bad they only talked like that in corridors and the hall instead of on stage. Wimps.

Hey Delegate! Why Should a Small-Government Libertarian Vote for Bush? (3)

Wayne Turner, 67-year-old alternate delegate from Texas, retired.

A: Um. They're in a dilemma just like a lot of people, because the Republicans, especially Bush, are trying to keep the country together, so you've got to stay in the center. And so I'm part of that moderate, in the center. I don't like a lot of government, I don't like a lot of regulations, but the alternative doesn't tend to be all that great, either, so.

Q: Do you think that a government dominated by one party -- both houses of Congress, the president -- do you think such a set up government, even if it's Republican, can reign in spending and control the size of government?

A: Well, 'til they get rid of the bureaucracy, nothing's gonna reign in the spending. Both parties, once they get there, they want to stay. And so a third party, I think would help the country. But the media is not going to do it, so I don't know what the answer is, I really don't.

Q: But you're not a fan of the divided government idea?

A: No, because once they get there, there's not a whole lot of difference.

Hey Delegate! Why Should a Small-Government Libertarian Vote for Bush? (2)

June Rentmeester, 66-year-old delegate from Texas, retired.

A: Well, George W. Bush is for smaller government, and he is trying to encourage entrepreneurship by having small businesses, many small businesses, so we don't start outsourcing to all of the other places in the world. And the small businesses is one of the reasons that he brought about tort reform, because small business have a terrible time having to pay insurance for their employees. I mean, I believe in small government myself.

Q: Given the government has grown by something like seven percent in the last four years, do you have confidence that having one party control the major branches, is it possible to keep a cap on spending in that environment?

A: Yes I do, because Republicans are very concerned about spending, and increased taxes, but the problem with all the increases was our war in Iraq, which has escalated everything.

Q: So you don't see any possible use of having a divided government; there's an argument that when Clinton was in power and there was Republicans controlling Congress, the gridlock actually prevented spending. Is that a persuasive argument for you?

A: No it's not a persuasive argument, because during that time they had control of the House, but there was only one vote in the Senate, and they could do nothing. And it's just like the fact that Congress has not okayed the judges that we sorely needed, because they're clogging up the courts. We sorely need those judges. And to give a litmus test on the one issue, is inexcusable.

Q: Two final questions: Are you a fan of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Medicare bill?

A: I am a fan of the No Child Left Behind Act. I think it's fantastic. I'm a retired teacher and I've been volunteering out at schools for the last 30 years. And I think there's much to be done about the Medicare thing.

Q: And finally, what's your biggest complaint about John Kerry?

A: My biggest complaint with John Kerry is that he has been coming out with all these things -- he's going to correct Medicare, he's going to take care of the war in Iraq, he has a plan to withdraw -- but he never, ever, ever says how he's going to do this!

Hey Delegate! Why Should a Small-Government Libertarian Vote for Bush?

First up: Buddy Adams, 63-year-old alternate from Georgia, retired.

A: Neal Boortz. Well, we listen to Neal Boortz in Georgia. He's a libertarian and he's supporting our president. And I think George Bush is the right guy at the right time at the right place, for what we have gone through after 9/11. He has stood strong, got good moral character, he won't back down, he is qualified to be our president for four more years.

Q: Are you a fan of things like the Medicare bill, the No Child Left Behind Act, these sort of expansions of the federal government?

A: My wife's a retired schoolteacher, and I am for No Child Left Behind. I got four grandchildren in school; I'm sending 'em to the private school because our schools are not up to what I think should be, because of the Pledge of Allegiance, the no prayer in the schools, stuff like that. They go to Christian private schools. Everyone that comes out of that school they're going to, we have 95 percent rate of kids going on to college and graduating from college. So I think religion should be separated from government, but it should be in government.

I think George Bush is like that, he's a real religious-type person. I think he is just a guy that's come at the right time.

Q: And are you worried at all about things like the budget deficit? Do you think he should pay attention to that in his second term?

A: Oh I think he should, be had no control over it. We inherited the recession from the previous administration, and it's taken him this long to bring us out of recession, and we had no control over 9/11, and that really set this country back a long ways. I'm for the Fair Tax proposal. Are you familiar with it?

Q: Yes (a lie)

A: I think it would help our economy because it would give us a fair share of markets and put us on fair ground with these foreign countries on taxes. I think that's the only thing that's really gonna bring the economy back at full strength so we could lower the deficit.

Q: Final question for you: What's your biggest complaint about John Kerry?

A: John Kerry? He's wishy-washy, he don't know where he stands. The main thing, he has said all these things but he has not told us what he's going to do. I'd love to seem him come down with a program, what is he going to do for education, what is he going to do in defense. He says he's got programs, but we haven't seen any of those programs yet.

Mr. Adams is alive thanks to a liver transplant, and he encourages all of you to become donors.

Gotta Catch 'Em All

In order to promote their site, RepublicanEmail has produced a series of GOP trading cards. I can just imagine fresh faced young kids tearing open packs, hoping for a Roy Moore or an ultra-rare Bob Packwood...

Horse's Mouth

Tariq Ramadan, the controversal Swiss scholar whose visa to teach at Notre Dame was revoked recently, states his case in the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times. Read 'em and see what you think.

Playing with Numbers

Horserace devotees might be interested in these "Eleven Public Opinion Insights on the Election," from the gang at Gallup.

Ayman al-Aathar, Superstar

Libya, of all places, has been in the throes of celebrity fan culture. A young singer named Ayman al-Aathar has won this year's Superstar competition, a variation on American multi-week talent contests that in its two years has become a major TV event in the Arab world.

The BBC reports that during the contest, posters of the singer were displayed throughout the capital. When al-Aathar and his last remaining competitor, a Palestinian singer, visited Libya to promote the final program, they were met at the airport by crowds of excited fans. Yet more swarms of fans surrounded the hotel where they stayed, and al-Aathar was met by autograph seekers wherever he went.

Even Gaddafi greeted the two singers, though he was concerned "that such events were distracting people from the on-going conflicts in Iraq and the Palestinian territories." The BBC notes that "This is the first time that Libyans have expressed a keen interest in an area that deviates from the norms of the country's traditional and conservative lifestyle."

The Palestinian finalist, Ammar Hassan, also faced political objections to his popularity. "Some militants," reported the Beeb, "have frowned on what they see as frivolous activity and the singer had been criticized at the local mosque. But his father said: 'To each his own. Some fight for Palestine. My son sings for Palestine.'" Much of the Arab world's high culture has been subject to restriction within politically acceptable limits on the theory that nothing should be allowed to distract people from the Arabist agenda. It's noteworthy that in the Arab world, as elsewhere, it is low, "vulgar" culture that is out of political control.

Superstar is a Lebanese program that starts with a large number of contestants, and relies on audience reaction to determine whether singers stay or go. It is one of the most popular entertainment shows on Arabic-language TV; 3.2 million votes were reportedly cast in the show's final week. Many votes are cast at Internet cafes, and apparently Libyan caf� operators required their customers to vote for al-Aathar. On the other hand, a Palestinian computer whiz created a program that allowed Ammar Hassan's fans to cast multiple votes for his cause.

Last year's Superstar competition erupted in a studio riot when Lebanese favorite Melhem Zein was eliminated amid accusations of conspiracy. (Zein is currently enjoying a big hit with a strange, dreamy video that features sequences suggesting bondage.) Some of the social implications of the exploding Arab pop video scene are considered here.

What Gets Redacted

This defies satire.

[Via Liberty & Power.]

Zell's Hell

I was typing a long blog post about just why Zell Miller freaked me out tonight, and then I noticed it was A) half-finished, B) 1,192 words long, C) 8:50 in the morning on a night (?) I still haven't gone to bed.

So, let's start off with an easy one:

President Roosevelt, in his speech that summer [of 1940], told America "all private plans, all private lives, have been in a sense repealed by an overriding public danger."

Can you see how this sentiment, intended as a useful comparison to our current times, might give a libertarian-leaning fellow some pause? I want the government to take important steps protecting us from terrorism, even going to war if absolutely necessary, but I won't have my private plans, let alone all private lives overridden in that cause's name. When the government "ovverrides" us in the name of war, then the terrorists truly have etc. Also, I might add, this is neither required nor remotely effective, and the fact that the party of limited government (snicker) finds such twaddle appealing -- and has in fact used similar justifications for any number foolish power-grabs, from expanding government secrecy to placing detainees in legal limbo, is both scary and topical.

there is no better example of someone repealing their "private plans" than this good man [Wendell Wilkie; Republican nominee in 1940]. He gave Roosevelt the critical support he needed for a peacetime draft

First of all, there have been plenty of greater sacrifices made in history than a presidential candidate agreeing with the incumbent about some issue. Pat Tillman strikes me as having sacrificed a good deal more -- for instance, his multi-million-dollar football career, and his life -- than losing a political campaign he was likely to lose anyway (though, for old hacks like Miller, it's not surprising that losing an election is somehow worse than death). More importantly, this is a friendly contemporary reference to a war draft, which is an idea I hope never regains one inch of traction in this country. If, as the Republicans have been saying all week, the WoT is just like WWII and the Cold War, why, after all, shouldn't we be applying the same policies? I'll answer: Because I don't want the government forcing its citizens to kill strangers, period. Again, this is also a lousy way to win wars.

Where is the bipartisanship in this country when we need it most?

Now, while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief.

Read those two sentences separately, then reflect that they were consecutive. That's just crazy talk (taken straight out of the Kerry playbook, to be sure). More importantly, his embarrassing hyperbolizing of what the other mainstream presidential candidate has done -- has he really torn apart this nation? -- has the consequence and direct intended effect of shutting down criticism of the Commander in Chief. Again, not something to be welcomed, and again, something that is directly deleterious to the War on Terror.

Incidentally, I'd like to make a public service announcement that apparently will come as a great shock to some of you: Americans who don't plan on voting for Bush also want to win the War on Terror.

Tell that to the half a billion men, women and children who are free today from the Baltics to the Crimea, from Poland to Siberia, because Ronald Reagan rebuilt a military of liberators, not occupiers.

I will yield to no American politician my celebration of the 1989 revolutions, but to attribute them directly -- and solely -- to Ronald Reagan rebuilding a military of liberators (who didn't, incidentally, fire a shot), is just silly and narcissistic, not to mention a bit condescending to our Czech friends. And once you take that formulation -- all it takes to free the world is a massively rebuilt U.S. army! -- you can extrapolate it in ways that will be counterproductive to the War on Terror, democracy in America, and the very global freedom it aims to engender.

For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.

It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.

This, my friends, is militaristic bullshit, and if any of you applauded these lines, you ought to be embarrassed. It is the Constitution that gave us freedom of speech and assembly, not our great servicemen and women, and any politician who doesn't understand that -- while looking back fondly on the military draft, attributing peaceful revolutions to American military buildups, and murmuring with approval at "overriding ... all our private lives" -- should be voted out of office with gusto, and forced to do late-night cable shows with Arianna Huffington. This is a child's empty bluster, not some kind of stern, adult "straight" talk. Not to mention the cheap digs on those hated reporters, poets, agitators and protesters, each of which was met with hoots and stomps and hollers from the Republican delegates, many of whom are elected officials themselves.

So, this is why I found it frightening. The phony and monstrous world of militaristic government expansion that Miller conjures up is one I would refuse to live in, though thankfully it won't come to that, and the fact that national politicians who currently run the free world find it persuasive makes me shudder with revulsion. There's plenty more in the speech worth criticizing -- I didn't even talk about how creepy he looked and sounded! -- but even though this city never sleeps, I sure need to.

Tough Broads Make Bad Cases

Lynne Stewart, the lefty lawyer at the center of this story from our June issue, is doing her bestest to lose her case in the court of public opinion. Stewart is currently out on bail, awaiting trial "for allegedly helping a convicted terrorist leader direct jihad operations from inside a federal prison."

Here's a snippet from an interview with her in the hyper-lefty Monthly Review:

I�m such a strange amalgam of old-line things and new-line things. I don�t have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous. Because so often, dissidence has been used by the greater powers to undermine a people�s revolution. The CIA pays a thousand people and cuts them loose, and they will undermine any revolution in the name of freedom of speech.

On the other hand, I do believe in a free marketplace of ideas. I have a big problem with government repressing that kind of exchange...

Whole thing here, via The Machinery of Night via Volokh Conspiracy.

The Sleeper Cell That Wasn't

From the Washington Times:

Terrorism convictions in Detroit cited last year by Attorney General John Ashcroft as proof that the government's war on terrorism was working should be dismissed, according to the Justice Department, which now says prosecutors erred in bringing the nation's first post-September 11 case....

In a 60-page memo, the Justice Department said this week that the prosecution was filled with a "pattern of mistakes and oversights" that warranted dismissal of the convictions. An internal Justice probe found evidence prosecutors failed to turn over before trial.

"In its best light, the record would show the prosecution committed a pattern of mistakes and oversights that deprived the defendants of discoverable evidence ... and created a record filled with misleading inferences that such material did not exist," the Justice memo said.

The case involved an alleged "sleeper cell" of Moroccan terrorists living in the United States. Whole thing here.

"The reformers want the bomb"

Finally, the national security question of the age sees the light of day.

Nuclear proliferation, primarily Iran's pursuit of nukes and Israel's reaction to that but also what happens in Pakistan, is pretty much the whole strategic ballgame at this point.

BTW, there's a typo in the grafs on the Mujahedeen Khalq. It should read pressure on Iran, not Iraq.

This Just In: Zell Miller Loves, Doesn't Eat, Puppies; Used To Like Kerry, Too

Joshua Micah Marshall points to this March 2001 intro of the John Kerry by "Give 'em Zell" Miller at something called "The Jefferson-Jackson Dinner." Time was when Zell loved the Bay State Blowhard. Snippets:

My job tonight is an easy one: to present to you one of this nation's authentic heroes, one of this party's best-known and greatest leaders - and a good friend...

[H]e fought for balanced budgets before it was considered politically correct for Democrats to do so.

John has worked to strengthen our military, reform public education, boost the economy and protect the environment....

As many of you know, I have great affection - some might say an obsession - for my two Labrador retrievers, Gus and Woodrow. It turns out John is a fellow dog lover, too, and he better be. His German Shepherd, Kim, is about to have puppies. And I just want him to know … Gus and Woodrow had nothing to do with that.

Whole thing here.

For stories on Miller's embrace of the GOP (or more precisely, President Bush), here are two stories, one from the Washington Post and one from Slate. This very brief piece from National Review boils down Miller's conversion to a simple charge: That Bill Clinton didn't govern the way he campaigned.

New at Reason

Cathy Young has a hard time taking Stephen E. Rhoads' Taking Sex Differences Seriously seriously.

New at Reason

Ron Bailey finds out Howard Jones was right: No-one is to blame.

Hastert Update

Dennis Hastert has responded to the charge that he smeared George Soros by suggesting he was on the take from drug cartels. From his letter to Soros:

...you have funded organizations such as The Drug Policy Foundation, The Open Society, The Lendesmith [sic] Center, the Andean Council of Coca Leaf Producers, and several ballot initiatives across the country to decriminalize illegal drug use. Promoting drug use, in my view, will lead to more lives lost and more tragedy for our children. I think this approach is simply wrong.

These were the drug groups that I referred to in my comments on the Fox News Sunday program. Chris Wallace said, "drug cartels." I did not.

Let's review the transcript:

WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

HASTERT: I'm saying I don't know where groups--could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know. The fact is we don't know where this money comes from.

It is indeed Wallace who introduced the phrase "drug cartel." But Hastert does not reply, "No, that's not what I meant." He says "we don't know."

That's not the only thing that's disingenuous about Hastert's letter. As Jack Shafer notes in Slate, the "drug groups" Hastert cites "are beneficiaries of Soros wealth: He's given them money. In the program transcript, Hastert is clearly asking about the source of Soros' money for his political and social campaigns, and then he asks the leading question, is it from 'overseas or from drug groups'?"

Shafer adds that the Speaker isn't the first person to accuse Soros of being a narcotics kingpin. Apparently, the charge has been drifting around LaRoucheville for years.

[Thanks to reader Adam Scavone for the tip.]

Cheney's Ragged Dick Tale

Cheney's still clearing his throat and has already coughed up a great biographical tidbit, an incredible Ragged Dick Horatio Alger tale: His grandparents lived in a Union Pacific railroad car but still thought Franklin Delano Roosevelt should know about their grandson's birth (who shared a b-day with FDR).

(Somewhere, a Democrat strategist is hatching an Edwards' counter-claim in the inevitable VP debate: How about great-grandparents who lived in a shoe once owned by Mr. Warren G. Harding?)

The larger point of Cheney's family anecdote is the unassailable Yakov Smirnoff punchline: Wotta country!(speaking of end-of-Cold-War casualties, word is that even Chechen terrorists refused to take Smirnoff, currently in internal exile in Branson, Missouri, hostage). Pace economist Joseph Schumpeter, who famously quipped "that Americans go from workclothes to workclothes" in three generations, the Cheney clan has gone from nothing to next-to-the White House.

But the (red) meat of this talk is the need for a tough commander-in-chief. (Christ, how different it was four years ago, when that presidential role was seen as outmoded.) Cheney is now in the thick of a long litany of just how wrong Kerry has been as a senator. It's late, Cheney's voice is soothing, monotonous, sleep-inducing, the political equivalent of smooth jazz. With every passing charge from the VP, Kerry's strategic mistake at the DNC is becoming clearer: By failing to characterize his Senate career in terms of themes, legislation, and leadership, Kerry has allowed the GOP to write a script that is unrelentingly negative. And, in the absence of a counter-story, mostly believable. Certainly, Cheney's attack on Kerry was helped immensely by the VP's blunt, plainspoken style.

Yet Cheney's speech--like much of the RNC--pivots on a highly debatable, indeed, the highly debatable point that "we're in a war we didn't start." That's only partly true: Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. and deserves to be killed to the last man for that; they started things. Yet no one--certainly no one in mainstream politics--is against blowing Al Qaeda to kingdom come. The questions most Americans have relate to the war in Iraq, a battle whose timing and shape was very much dictated by the White House.

Bracketing for the moment the large question of how the economy will affect votes, if the GOP is able to define the War on Terror and the war in Iraq as coterminous, they'll win in a walkover. If the Dems somehow manage to separate the two, it'll still be competitive.

And the Madness of Crowds

The crowd inside the Garden was absolutely howling for blood during the applause lines of Zell Miller's militaristic, Niedermeyer-like rant. As I watched a 45 foot image of the snarling senator on the big screen, I found myself thinking that this was the most frightening political speech I had ever seen in my life. I don't think I've ever been as uncomfortable at a political rally.

Pro-Cheney Couture

Addendum: Turns out the wearer is none other than blogger Boi from Troi.

Axis of Ass

In a move expertly tailored to the sensibilities of crucial middle-American swing voters, anti-Bush campaigners today performed various ass-related actions before a leering Battery Park crowd.

Some 250 members of the Axis of Eve group - featuring a surprisingly high 1/8 hot/not ratio - danced, chanted, yelled, and capered extensively, causing exactly no difference in this year's presidential election.

"We're trying to make a difference," said Axis of Eve member Heather Eve (like the Ramones, the group's members employ a common, easy-to-spell surname).

In the manner of a radicalized Jerry Springer audience, the Eves took questions from television's Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Troublingly difficult questions, apparently, given the sometimes-awkward pauses that followed.

A massive police presence (four cops) laughed and took pictures with their cellphones.

There were no arrests. A clothed and decent George W. Bush is expected to win the election, to be held on November 2.

Zell's Rebel Yell

Georgia Democrat (well, soon-to-be former Democrat)Zell Miller is working John F. Kerry over with a stick and a tremulous Southern accent, like Buford Pusser kicking some hillbilly ass. Kerry's crime? To Miller, voting against seemingly every weapons program that might actually kill bad guys.

All quotes approximate: "Almost 20 years in the Senate tells you more than 20 weeks [on the campaign trail*]." A good shot, as is the jibe that "Kerry is against outsourcing but wants to outsource the defense of America to the UNITED NATIONS" (cue boos). From John Kerry, terrorists "get a yes, no, maybe bowl of mush." George Bush has unabashed love for his daughters and he is "unashamed of his belief that God is not indifferent to the United States" and that Bush is the "same man on Saturday night as he is in Sunday morning." Miller has "knocked on [Bush's] soul and found someone home." "We got some hard-choosin' to do." "Our president has had the courage to stand up and this Democrat (Miller) is proud to stand with him."

A passionate, hectoring speech long on folksy putdowns but short on the rhetorical gestures and motifs that ran through Giuliani's and Schwarzenegger's (maybe it's the New Yawker in me, but the ministerial cadences of Southern pols, white and black, Republican and Democrat, leave me cold). Yet Miller is forcefully framing the question that is clearly one of the central issues in the campaign: In a war, who do you want to be in a foxhole with, Bush or Kerry? It's to the Republicans' credit (and the Democrats' shame) that the guy who actually has been shot at comes out on the losing end of that query.

But shh, Dick Cheney has taken the mic...

Update: * changed from "[in Vietnam]"; as I said, all quotes approximate.

C-SPAN Soul Train

If you're only watching the RNC only one of the commercial cable networks instead of C-SPAN (cable's gift to the universe), then you're missing some of the greatest film of all time: Republican delegates dancing to canned music (e.g., "Soul Man," "Gimme Some Lovin'") in between speakers. Must be seen to be enjoyed, though it may induce nightmares.

In particular, there's some guy who seems to be from the Washington state delegate. Move over, William Huang. Take a backseat Star Wars Kid. You've met your match--and he's appearing one more night in Madison Square Garden.

And rest easy partisans: Something very similar was true of the DNC, too. Politics and dancing form an uglier pair than Frankenstein and the Wolfman.

But shh, Zell "Give 'em Hell" Miller has taken the stage and is yelling at the Democrats...

Starving the Beast

I'm able to buttonhole Steve Moore (who's both the Club for Growth's head and a Cato senior fellow) for a few minutes after the "Future Stars" event. I observe that even if the president can fulfill his promise to "cut the deficit in half in five years," as the Office of Management and Budget proudly projects, OMB and CBO both use current law, under which Bush's tax cuts expire, to make their projections. If they're made permanent, those massive deficits come right back in year six and keep growing... even before taking into account the Baby Boomer retirement cash-vortex. In light of all that, I ask, should CFG maybe stop making tax cuts their priority and emphasize spending reduction? Moore is adamant:

Absolutely not. Cato's stuff is completely wrong on this. [Me: What's that?] This stupid paper Cato put out; it was on the cover of Regulation. It said that lower taxes reduce the felt cost of expanding government. And evidence shows clearly that cutting taxes keeps spending down. If we can't cut spending, we should cut taxes; all the data for forty years make clear that tax cuts lead to future reductions in government. And tax cuts do also increase growth. The left isn't stupid about this; they understand better than some of the libertarians. If they thought that tax cuts increased the size of government, they'd be in favor of it.

Now, my own impression had been that the data are more mixed than that, and the author of the article in question isn't exactly a lightweight in this field, but I'm in no position—yet—to figure out who's got the best case. But libertarians and conservatives will soon have to figure out whether "starving the beast" is a strategy that works, or just a rationalization for letting the beast feed on our kids.

New York to Bloomberg: "Butt Out!"

Of all the protest signs I've seen this week, my favorite is this one, attached to an ashtray outside an uptown bar:

To my delight, quite a few bars seem to have adopted the policy of allowing smoking later at night, often when there's only a single bartender left manning the joint. Smoking bans, of course, are typically justified by the need to protect the poor downtrodden bartenders who're choosing to flout the ban. Has it been long enough since the collapse of Marxism for the health nannies to resurrect the phrase "false consciousness" with a straight face?

The New Freedom of Speech

A delegate who was just interviewed on the conventions internal closed circuit channel (whose name I didn't catch) just said the following to scattered applause:

If you don't vote, you cannot complain.

Of course, if you vote for the least bad of two unappealing viable candiates, they'll say you can't complain when your guy wins and governs badly either.

Hope Springs Internal

After several days of finding most of the official proceedings fairly grotesque, I get a small glimmer of why libertarians have often felt more at home in the Republican Party this afternoon. But not easily.

I take the F train into Manhattan from Park Slope, where I'm staying, and head for a Club for Growth forum on "Future Stars" of the GOP. It's an old-boys-club type of place, and I'm wearing jeans, a "Free Martha" T-shirt, and a generous helping of stubble. (I'm not identifying the venue because, for obscure reasons, they ask journalists coming in to agree not to name it in their pieces, even though the event was already published on Congressional Quarterly's events list... which is how I knew where to find it.)

The portly guard looks me up and down as though I've just stumbled in reeking of Mad Dog 20/20, wearing nothing but a plastic bag and asked whether I might defecate on the Persian carpet. He holds out a beefy hand peremptorily: "Jacket and tie only." The event announcement made no mention of this. "Even journalists?" "Everybody." There's an odd gendered double standard here, as a female blogger I know comes out wearing slacks and a pretty casual blouse, but that's par for the course. Another youngish guy comes out and returns a blazer and tie. "Well, can I borrow a jacket and tie like that guy just did?" Alas, no, I'm wearing jeans, and am urged to make my way expeditiously out of the building.

I am, of course, fully and duly respectful of any private establishment's choices about dress requirements, but the guard is being significantly more of a prick about it than necessary, so motivated as much by spite as by any burning need to see the event, I scan the stores just outside. I'm not a big fan of GAP, but I sure as hell can't afford the Gucci, so I duck into the former and grab a black corduroy jacket, a green checked shirt, and a pair of black slacks, ring them up, then duck into the fitting room and stuff my old clothes into the backpack.

"Ahem... now may I borrow a tie?" Through some combination of Buddhist tolerance and my innate aversion to being punched in the face, I manage to resist appending "jackass?"

Between arriving late to begin with and this rigmarole, I've taken a pass on nascent "stars" Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Rep. David Dreier (R-California), Gov. Bill Owens (R-Colorado), and Gov. Mark Sandford (R-S.C.). As I enter, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) is launching into a speech structured, basically, as an extended naval metaphor. Despite this grating conceit, it's actually quite heartening: At long last, a breach in the wall of cheery Scientology-ish unity. The GOP, Pence intones as I enter, is "veering off ever so subtly into the dangerous waters of big government Republicanism, and we must turn the ship back!"

Thunderous applause. Like the Grinch witnessing the Whos of Whoville in song, my heart grows three sizes for the party... not that I expect this to change, but at least these guys will say things like this. Pence calls himself a "Frozen Man": after losing congressional bids in '88 and '90, he finally won election in 2000. "Frozen before the [Republican] revolution, thawed out ten years later," as he puts it, he's Rip van Winkled to discover that successive H.R. 1s—top Republican priorities—for successive Congresses are No Child Left Behind Act ("the largest expansion of the Department of Education since Jimmy Carter created it") and the Medicare prescription drug benefit ("the largest entitlement expansion since 1965"). And referring to David Brooks' NYT Magazine cover story on the end of government-shrinking as a Republican ideal, Pence declared: "To his 'new way,' I say 'no way!'"

Good stuff indeed. But I'm worried that this is a battle the Brooks side is more likely to win. It's been a long forum, granted, but by the time Pence steps down and Pat Toomey steps up to make a few remarks, there are at most a few dozen folks left in the room, and writer Deroy Murdock has to shush a chattering mob in back. At the "W Stands for Women" event, Lynne Cheney noted that some opponents of the president were spreading the scurrilous rumor that he'd allowed Deparment of Education funding to be cut. She reminds them that Bush has overseen a 49 percent increase in federal education spending, "and don't let anyone tell you he hasn't!" This, remember, is a mostly internal event meant to inspire hardcore Republicans. That's who's "steering the ship" now.

Pence concludes by suggesting that "as soon as we re-elect George W. Bush, this debate"—a debate about the future of the Republican party, a debate over whether it will be the the party of limited government or just another porcine nanny with a frumpier demeanor—"will begin." Maybe the time to start having that debate is right now.

A Star-Stunted Evening

One of various Friends of Reason who're boozing their way through various crashed post-convention parties decided to hit up a bash thrown by Ron Silver's Creative Coalition on the assumption that it'd be brimming with actors and models and whatnot. Total sightings: Joey "Pants" Pantoliano and the dude who played Norm on Cheers.

"W Stands for Women"

Yes, that's the actual title for a series of events aimed at women who support the president, from which I have to conclude that Bush/Cheney 04 has hired the guy who came up with the "Oklahoma is OK" motto for the Sooner State's license plates. (Bizarrely, the official Bush/Cheney campaign website calls it "a national grassroots effort," not the most natural way to describe something originating from and coordinated with the White House...) An event earlier this week trumpeted all that Bush has done for women, though they had to stretch a bit: Elizabeth Cheney resorts to pointing out that half of the Iraqis lately relieved of Saddam Hussein are women. They do get heavy cheers for noting the many highly-placed women in the administration, and one woman in back even yells out "Yeah Elaine [Chao]!" and "Yeah Condi!" and so on whenever one is mentioned. Also a little strange is the choice of speakers: While many of them are quite accomplished in their own right, they are all women known primarily for their relation to powerful men. Dubya's sister Doro Bush Koch, his mother Barbara, Liz and Lynne Cheney, and Jenna (who sits with them, presumably for decorative effect, but doesn't take the mic). The crowd's quite enthusiastic, though, many of them wearing spangled "W" brooches designed, I learn, by Patriotic Jewelry. One woman, whose last name is "Morrow" suggests that she'll continue wearing it even after the Dubya administration has ended: She'll just turn it upside down to form the initial "M" instead.

Could There Be Anyone Worse Than Arnold's Oppressors?

Having written about Arnold Schwarzenegger the politician several times in the past, with slightly cautious but nonetheless very real optimism, I'm pretty receptive to the guy, and certainly familiar with his stump speech.

And, well, I'll just say that at its current rate of development, his I-was-a-child-victim-of-Communism tale will soon involve being kicked by Stalin himself in a Ukrainian gulag. As Comrade Gillespie pointed out, this is an effective and blatant way to place the Bush approach to fighting Islamic terrorism in a Republican continuum of always having the stones to stand up against global nasties (well, with a few exceptions, like the racist but anti-commie Apartheid regime, Schwarzie's invocation of Nelson Mandela notwithstanding). But if Arnold really lived in fear of Soviet soldiers yanking his countrymen out of cars and shipping them to the Gulag, would he mean, let alone say, the following?

My fellow Americans, make no mistake about it: terrorism is more insidious than communism, because it yearns to destroy not just the individual but the entire international order.

Come again? Even if you include all historical terrorism (i.e., the non-theocratic-Islamic variety), it would take centuries of unimaginable chaos to approach the 80 million murders of the 20th century's vilest political science experiment. And I seem to recall that "the entire international order" was precisely what those goatee-boys and their Internationale-singing sympathizers were trying to overhaul. The most generous interpretation of Arnie's moral unequivalence is that he meant it only in the present tense, and even then you could probably find a dissenter or two in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba.

Those Crazy Gals

Everybody is angry at the Bush twins, claiming their speech last night was "lame," "unfunny," and "made me question how a benevolent God could create a universe so frightening and wrong."

Well, I think all of these people are just plain jealous. The Bush gals, Jenna and Barbara, were hilarious!

Sure, I may have cringed once or twice (the second time so severely that my facial muscles were torqued clean off the bone) and, yes, I couldn't make it through the whole speech because I shoved my head through the television monitor and thrashed about until an artery was opened, but, hey! That material was pure gold. Kudos, girls, kudos!

Meanwhile the Bush twins' opening act, feisty immigrant comedian Arnold Schwarzenegger, was observed a short while ago at a fancy Madison Avenue shoe store where even the cheapest loafers cost about the same as a healthy white slave girl.

After Arnie left, I wandered in to ask an outrageously snooty shoe salesman if the Californicator had purchased anything. "We do not reveal those details," said the upmarket Al Bundy, affecting to be all disappointed that someone should ask such a grasping, grubby question.

Just then a rear door opened and Bundy's breathless co-salesman appeared, holding several pairs of shoes he'd retrieved for Arnie's inspection. "Where is he? Is he gone?" asked the crestfallen shoe dude. Hasta la vista, snobby!

Art in a Time of Tension

The intersection of E. 72nd and Madison Ave. was closed down an hour ago. Why? Because of art!

Somebody had poured an epoxy or plastic resin on two of the intersection's manhole covers, creating a smooth, glass-like surface over the usual manhole-cover ridges and edges. Those familiar metal contours were still visible, of course, which lent the works a challenging textural duality.

The covered covers attracted four fire engines and two police cars. After determining that the pieces - traffic sculptures? reverse reliefs? - weren't any more dangerous than most other modern art, everybody left.

The mystery of the manholes will likely never be solved.

Funny Badnarik Quote From Last Night

I have a very difficult job, because most of the people in the United States have never even heard of the Libertarian Party, and those that have have misinformation about my party. I am frequently accused, of being in the Libertarian Party, "you're the party that wants our children to take drugs." That is a preposterous statement. Libertarians love their children at least as much as Democrats and Republicans.

Maybe That's How Bush = Hitler ... or at Least Mussolini

Laura Bush: "Even then, he was always on time."

Jenna Bush: "But, we've learned a lot more from them. About what matters in life. About unconditional love. About focus and discipline."

Santorum's Dominion

Not only was I unable to get in to the reception for Sen. Rick Santorum held at the New York Historical Society yesterday, but the staff manning the desk refused even to say who was sponsoring the reception. I already knew that it was Dominion Resources, a natural gas company that's donated heavily to Santorum, because Congressional Quarterly had IDed them in their daily schedule of events. But the attempt to keep such elementary information under wraps is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. I can only assume that the secrecy was meant to protect participants in the giant Crisco party raging within. Anyway, I was sad to see that the reception was being held now, and not back in June, when the NYHS was celebrating "Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution" [DOC]

Spinning the Wheel of Incarceration

I think the police they send to protests are selected for their rather dry, black senses of humor. A few lefty friends came down to Washington to stay with me during the last WTO protests, and one of them was swept up in a mass arrest for "failure to obey an order to disperse." Nobody, of course, had heard any such order, and if they had it would've been impossible to comply, because they were fenced in by walls of truncheon-brandishing blue boys in riot gear. (The arrestees were marching without a permit, but apparently you can't arrest people for that—failure to obey a police order to disperse, however, is an arrestable offense)

So I wasn't exactly surprised to arrive at Ground Zero yesterday for the War Resisters League march and find similarly arbitrary tactics in effect. As I approach the former home of the World Trade Center, I pass a long line of protesters marching two-by-two up the sidewalk, many bearing placards with the names of people killed in U.S. military actions. Some of them tell me that a few hundred of their number are in the process of being arrested at Church and Fulton. What were those protesters doing that the rest weren't? Why are some allowed to march and some locked up? Nobody's quite sure; apparently a line was drawn in the pavement, so to speak, and some folks were selected for arrest.

I'm arriving a little late to the ball, but Jeff Green of Danbury, CT, Indymedia fills me in: "I didn't hear any warning; a guy in a white shirt with lots of brass on his chess started yelling at the front of the line, some people with a banner. Then they pushed them back, cleared the media out, and came running down the stree with orange barricades." Patrick Lloyd from the New York Civil Liberties Union is observing, and he and his partner are rolling their eyes at the situation—which, fortunately, is quite nonviolent, WRL being a pacifist group—they say the arrestees are charged with marching more than two abreast, taking up too much of the sidewalk, but that the cops corralled them in without giving them any opportunity (indeed, making it impossible for them) to spread out more. Michael, a 50-year-old with curly greying hair, is fuming: "They told them it was OK to go ahead and march, and then as soon as they got them across the street they rounded them up; it was a set-up. Look at these people: 50 year old ladies! They were very orderly." They continue to be pretty orderly as they're loaded onto large busses and hauled away.

We Can Run But We Can't Hide

Yesterday's panel was big fun, as open and participatory as the blogosphere we were talking about—Technorati's Dave Sifry even showed up to chime in with some insightful comments from the front row. John Perry Barlow, however, was mysteriously absent—last we heard (and this is hearsay—Barlow was apparently SMSing members of the crowd) he was running from police after one of his "guerilla dancing" protests. Anyone have any idea what became of JPB?

The Hollinger Ring

A new investigation spells trouble for media mogul Conrad Black and his cronies, among them Richard Perle, one of the most prominent neoconservative hawks:

Press tycoon Conrad M. Black and other top Hollinger International Inc. officials pocketed more than $400 million in company money over seven years and Black's handpicked board of directors passively approved many of the transactions, a company investigation concluded.

A report by a special board committee singled out director Richard N. Perle, a former Defense Department official, who received $5.4 million in bonuses and compensation. The report said Perle should return the money to the Chicago company.

Partisan Minds Think Alike

At the College Republicans party I attended earlier this week, Karl Rove suggested that activists in non-battleground states "think about getting in the car and filling it up with gas" to come assist in the swing states next door. It's a great idea, but I think this time, Rove may have been out-Roved by some young Democratic activists.

Among the folks I met in Central Park on Sunday were Josephine Saltmarsh (28) and her husband Matt (29), Seattle natives who got sick of feeling like their votes didn't matter and launched DrivingVotes.Org. The site helps people to organize "road trips for democracy" in which folks in, say, California or Washington or New York grab some friends and caravan to Nevada or Oregon or Pennsylvania to register potential Democratic voters. Matt, Jo, and a few others had left the rest of their team with their two RVs in Philadelphia and come up to Manhattan, where they met with their Manhattan chapter. This is actually probably the most effective activist idea I've heard in a long time—if all the people out there chanting a vaginal double entendre or waving a puppet signed up at this site and loaded up their cars instead, the GOP would be in serious trouble.

New at Reason

Ron Bailey ponies up for loose nukes.

In Your Face, Istook

Today the anti-drug-war ads that Congress tried to ban return to Washington's Metro system. Last year, outraged by the audacity of citizens who dared to question drug prohibition, Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) used a transportation spending bill to withhold federal funding from any transit system that accepts ads promoting "the legalization or medical use of [proscribed] substances." In June a federal judge ruled that the Istook amendment violated the First Amendment. "There is a clear public interest in preventing the chilling of speech on the basis of viewpoint," wrote U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman. "The government articulated no legitimate state interest in the suppression of this particular speech other than the fact that it disapproves of the message, an illegitimate and constitutionally impermissible reason."

Last month the government asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn Friedman's decision. In the meantime, evidence of dissent from the drug war can be seen at the Metro's Union Station and Capitol South stops.

Vegetarian Saints vs. Hummer-Driving Idiots

The NY Times gets hep to what Reason's resident anti-Cassandra, Ronald Bailey has been saying for years now: The population bomb effectively has been defused.

Yet Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich keeps the faith, says the Times. Faced with a world of 6.3 billion people (far lower than he expected) who are living in generally improving circumstances,

Dr. Ehrlich still argues that the earth's "optimal population size" is two billion. That's different from the maximum supportable size, which depends on the consumption of resources.

"I have severe doubts that we can support even two billion if they all live like citizens of the U.S.," he said. "The world can support a lot more vegetarian saints than Hummer-driving idiots."

Whole thing here.

Link via Arts & Letters Daily.

Arnold's (Pre)Occupation

Among the many interesting, surprising, and semi-bizarre tidbits in the Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech at the RNC last night was his recounting of the postwar Soviet occupation of Austria, which lasted for a decade after the end of World War II (not surprisingly, Arnold neglected to mention what government had "occupied" Austria immediately before the Soviets and the Allies, or his father's role in that government).

Perhaps the chief accomplishment of Schwarzenegger's comments was that they created a positive and compelling (in rhetoric, if not necessarily in reality) continuity between the World War II and Cold War pasts and the War on Terror future (McCain and Giuliani did some of the spade work on this theme, but neither did so as directly or as convincingly as Schwarzenegger). Arnold figured the past 60 years or so of American geopolitical engagement with the world as an unbroken series of events, thereby creating what Van Wyck Brooks (in a literary context) called "a usable past" regarding the War on Terror.

In Arnold's telling, the War on Terror is not something happening in a new and different world or in a new century that has broken decisively with the past or with "history." It's absolutely of a piece with smashing the Berlin Wall, beating back Soviet aggression, and, before that, the Nazis. Placing the War on Terror in such a context works to remove any and all Bush administration efforts from criticism. It implicitly dismisses discussion of Iraq and Afghanistan as neo-imperial misadventures and it puts critics on the defensive by forcing them to contend with unassailable chapters in U.S. history, rather than allowing them simply to point to disturbing Middle Eastern headlines and the president's own admissions of "miscalculations."

Remember back in 1996 when Bob Dole kept yapping about a "bridge to the past" or something like that? It was rightly seen as creepy, defeatist, and unappealing. You got that sense that Bob Dole, the guy who railed against violent and smutty movies he admitted he'd never seen, wanted the world to crawl back into the basement apartment in Kansas that he famously grew up in.

Last night, Schwarzenegger offered up a very different vision that drew on the past not to eulogize the present but to point to an even more bountiful future:

You know, when the Germans brought down the Berlin Wall, America's determination helped wield the sledgehammers. When that lone, young Chinese man stood in front of those tanks in Tiananmen Square, America's hopes stood with him. And when Nelson Mandela smiled in election victory after all those years in prison, America celebrated, too.

We are still the lamp lighting the world especially for those who struggle. No matter in what labor camp they slave, no matter in what injustice they're trapped, they hear our call, they see our light, and they feel the pull of our freedom. They come here as I did because they believe. They believe in us.

They come because their hearts say to them, as mine did, "If only I can get to America." Someone once wrote: "There are those who say that freedom is nothing but a dream." They are right. It's the American dream.

Schwarzenegger's speech was hardly flawless rhetorically. A movie star in the final analysis, he couldn't help insert himself into history by telling the barely credible tale of a horribly wounded solider who nonetheless found the spunk to quote one of Arnold's signature lines:

Let me tell you about the sacrifice and commitment I've seen firsthand. In one of the military hospitals I visited, I met a young guy who was in bad shape. He'd lost a leg had a hole in his stomach, his shoulder had been shot through.

I could tell there was no way he could ever return to combat. But when I asked him, "When do you think you'll get out of the hospital?" He said, "sir, in three weeks." And do you know what he said to me then? He said he was going to get a new leg, and get some therapy, and then he was going back to Iraq to serve alongside his buddies! He grinned at me and said, "Arnold, I'll be back!"

There is something grotesque about such a story (in the end, it's all about the movie star), and especially how it is immediately put to baldly partisan use, even at as baldly a partisan exercise as a national convention. (Arnold proceeded to tell the audience tha