Ed Morrissey has blogged at Captain's Quarters since 2003, and has a daily radio show at BlogTalkRadio, where he serves as Political Director. Called "Captain Ed" by his readers, Ed is a father and grandfather living in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, a native Californian who moved to the North Star State because of the weather.
My Lunch With Hugh and the Northern Alliance
Fortunately for me, after the debacle of my attempt to attend the Patriot Forum on Thursday, I received an invitation to have lunch with Hugh Hewitt and the bloggers of the Northern Alliance. As guests of The Patriot in the Twin Cities, we all met for lunch at Billy's Lighthouse in Long Lake, a terrific restaurant owned by a fan of Hugh's. It was the first chance I'd had to meet most of the Northern Alliance bloggers, as well as Hugh and the Generalissimo, Duane.
I think I can speak for the group (although you can check out their blogs, as I'm sure they'll be posting on this) when I say what a blast we all had. Hugh is every bit as gracious and friendly as you'd imagine from his show and his writing, and funny as well. We all talked about Minnesota, blogging, politics ... I don't remember the last time I had this much fun getting out for a lunch with colleagues. As you'll see in the extended post, Hugh happily posed for pictures. Duane was quite different than I imagined, and with both of us being California natives, we traded a couple of stories about the area and explained California weather and geography to the others at the table.
While I'd met The Elder and RB from Fraters Libertas, I hadn't met Saint Paul or JB Doubtless until today. They're a great group of guys, of course, but the life of the party (besides Hugh) had to be Mitch Berg of A Shot In The Dark, who towered over the rest of us. Hindrocket and Big Trunk from Power Line showed up at the same time as I did, and they were a lot of fun to talk with at the table. Eloise and the Warrior Monk from Spitbull drove quite a ways, I believe, to be there with us, as did King Banaian from SCSU Scholars. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that you'd be hard pressed to find a nicer group of people.
A couple of items to note. First, Hugh had us all predict which states would go for Bush and which would go Democrat in November, and promised to ridicule us all with the results at the appropriate time. I'm certain that if my predictive track record means anything at all, I just doomed the Bush campaign. The second item is that we have big plans for the Northern Alliance. Hugh challenged us to do something special, and we're all pretty enthusiastic. I won't say any more than that at the moment, but stay tuned.
Just click below to see some of the pictures I took of the event. (Thank goodness for digital cameras!) And once more, let me thank Hugh, Billy's Lighthouse, and The Patriot for a wonderful lunch and a great time.
Neel's Strategy Memo to the Deaniacs
Thanks to alert reader Mark from Minnesota, we now have the latest strategy memo from Roy Neel, the new Howard Dean campaign chief. I'm posting it in its entirety. Neel attempts to explain the retreat announced this week from the February 3rd primaries, in what you could look at as the Ross Perot strategy:
This campaign has always defied conventional wisdom. Our extraordinary rise last year defied conventional wisdom—so did our fall in Iowa, and so did our comeback in New Hampshire after most pundits predicted Howard Dean was finished.
Conventional wisdom has been consistently wrong about this race.
So when conventional wisdom says a candidate must win somewhere on February 3, or that John Kerry will have wrapped up the nomination after fewer than 10% of the delegates have been chosen, we disagree.
Our goal for the next two and a half weeks is simple—become the last-standing alternative to John Kerry after the Wisconsin primary on February 17.
Why Wisconsin? First, it is a stand-alone primary where we believe we can run very strong. Second, it kicks off a two-week campaign for over 1,100 delegates on March 2, and the shift of the campaign that month to nearly every big state: California, New York, and Ohio on March 2, Texas and Florida on March 9, Illinois on March 16, and Pennsylvania on April 27.
In the meantime, Howard Dean is traveling to many of the February 3 states, sending surrogates—including Al Gore—to most, and conducting radio interviews in all. We believe that one or more of our major opponents will be eliminated that day, and that the others will fall by the wayside as our strength grows in the following days. As a result we have elected to not buy television advertisements in February 3 states, but instead direct our resources toward the February 7 and 8 contests in Michigan, Washington and Maine. We may not win any February 3 state, but even third place finishes will allow us to move forward, continue to amass delegates in Virginia and Tennessee on February 10, and then strongly challenge Kerry in Wisconsin.
Regardless of who takes first place in these states, we think that after Wisconsin we’ll get Kerry in the open field. Remember one crucial thing about the 2004 calendar—in previous years a front-runner or presumptive nominee would typically emerge after most of the states had voted and most of the delegates had been chosen. The final competitor to that candidate, even if he won late states, as many have done, has not been able to win a majority of delegates under any scenario.
This year is very different. The media and the party insiders will attempt to declare Kerry the winner on February 3 after fewer than 10% of the state delegates have been chosen. At that point Kerry himself will probably have claimed fewer than one third of the delegates he needs to win. They would like the campaign to be over before the voters of California, New York, Texas and nearly every other big state have spoken.
Democrats in Florida, who witnessed a perversion of democracy in November 2000, will not have a choice concerning the nominee if the media and the party insiders have their way.
We intend to make this campaign a choice. We alone of the remaining challengers to John Kerry are geared to the long haul—we’ve raised nearly $2 million in the week after Iowa, over $600,000 in the 48 hours since New Hampshire. No candidate—not even Kerry, who mortgaged his house and tapped his personal fortune to funnel $7 million into his campaign —will have sufficient funds to advertise in all, or even most, of the big states that fall on March 2 and beyond. At that point paid advertising becomes much less of a factor.
And we alone of the remaining challengers offer a clear choice to Kerry. Howard Dean is no Johnny Come Lately to the message of change—he has actually delivered change in Vermont. Howard Dean has the courage and conviction to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s not politically popular, as opposed to the cautiousness, compromise and convenience that has characterized John Kerry’s 19 years in the Senate.
We believe that when the voters of the post-Wisconsin states—which constitute 75% of the delegates that will be chosen in the states—compare Howard Dean and John Kerry, they will conclude that Dean, not Kerry, has the best chance to beat George Bush, because only Dean offers a clear vision of change and a record of results that contrasts against the rhetoric emanating from Washington. We believe they will increasingly reject the rubber stamp presented to them by the media.
Has such a strategy ever worked before?
No. It's never been tried.
But prior to this year, no candidate had ever raised $46 million dollars, mostly from ordinary Americans giving $100 each. Prior to this year no candidate for President had ever inspired the kind of grass-roots activity that has been this campaign’s hallmark. Prior to this year no candidate for President had so clearly revitalized his party, allowed it to reclaim its voice, and shifted the agenda so clearly to a call for change.
Let the conventional wisdom and the media declare this race over. We’re going to let the people decide.
CEO, Dean for America
Roy Neel is not quite correct in one conclusion: this strategy has been tried, and it worked very effectively for Ross Perot in 1992. Faced with a poor organization and a chaotic third-party constituency, Perot retired from the race throughout the summer, staging a "draft" in late September to return to the national stage. While Perot didn't get elected, he did allow Bill Clinton to win with just 43% of the popular vote. Perot avoided most of the bruising trench warfare and emerged with a huge boost from the media. He played the gadfly to perfection and captured 19% of the popular vote, despite being a paranoid schizophrenic (he claimed the Bush family sabotaged his daughter's wedding).
Will this work for Dean? Maybe, although the dynamics are different. Neel proposes that after February 3 that Kerry will be the only viable candidate left. However, it's unlikely that everyone will drop out after the first Super Tuesday, which means that Dean will still have to compete against Edwards and possibly Clark in Wisconsin, where Neel proposes to make his stand for Dean. Neel is also mistaken in thinking that the media will be anxious to anoint a clear winner by next week. Where's the news in that? The media will be looking for ways to make sure that Kerry doesn't have it locked up. They want conflict and tension as long as possible to keep people tuning in and buying newspapers and magazines.
At best, this is a "strategy" borne of practical necessity. The Dean campaign has run through their money faster and to less effect than they planned, and with Dean taking an unexpected beating early, the donations are slowing down. Money and endorsements are flowing to the candidate who's winning, not talking about moral victories in finishing twelve points back in New Hampshire. Neel doesn't have the means to run an effective media campaign for February 3rd, and so he's making its absence seem strategic. The Ross Perot strategy may work, but it's more likely to have a Ross Perot result.
UPDATE: No one caught this, but I claimed that Perot captured 19% of the electoral vote, when in fact it was the popular vote. Perot didn't win any electors. I knew that but used the wrong term. (Bad Captain! No rum for you!)
More Canceled Flights
Several international flights to the US have been canceled for the weekend:
British Airways and Air France on Saturday announced the cancellation of seven flights to and from the United States because of security concerns. BA canceled four flights between Heathrow Airport and Washington on Sunday and Monday and one from Heathrow to Miami on Sunday. Air France canceled two Paris-to-Washington flights.
There seems to be less information forthcoming on these cancellations than the ones over Christmas, and that's probably a good thing. The spectacular attention those received may have exposed intelligence assets and scared off the terrorists. Let's hope that security agencies have better luck this time around.
Congress: No Evidence CIA Slanted Iraq Intelligence
Despite the shrill rhetoric emanating from the Democratic primaries and certain broadsheets, two Congressional investigations have concluded that no one pressured intelligence agencies to slant their data to support the Administration's casus belli:
Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties. Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who is leading the CIA's review of its prewar Iraq assessment, said an examination of the secret analytical work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years.
"There was pressure and a lot of debate, and people should have a lot of debate, that's quite legitimate," Kerr said. "But the bottom line is, over a period of several years," the analysts' assessments "were very consistent. They didn't change their views."
In other words, both investigations have confirmed the obvious. If you read the newspapers from 1991 forward, the intelligence data on WMDs has remained consistent, and in fact the UN and all of its Security Council members have operated from the same understanding of Saddam's weapons programs. Not only has there been no change in the intelligence, there was no change in the conclusions between the Clinton and Bush II administrations: regime change was the only way the WMD question (and Saddam's oppression and aggression) could be resolved. The only difference was in strategy, and that didn't change until after 9/11. Just before that, Bush and Powell were about to roll out a new plan for "smart sanctions" that would more effectively target Saddam's personal and military interests.
Democratic insistence that some unholy cooking of intelligence occurred when the exact same allegations, figures, and conclusions were operative during the Clinton administration makes them look extremely desperate and not terribly honest. The real question should be how the American and international intelligence communities could have been so far off, if indeed we never find WMDs, which may still be an open question. Two changes in American intelligence strategies contributed to the problem: the Carter administration's insistence on curtailing human intelligence assets and the Clinton administration's order to refuse association with field assets that don't support our human-rights values, as if the people who present a danger to us only associate with Boy Scouts. On top of that, Senator John Kerry led the fight to cut CIA funding in the 1990s as part of the so-called "peace dividend" (see this for an interesting perspective). You can't tie blinders onto a horse and then beat him for wandering off the road.
If Americans want their intelligence services operating correctly, it seems to me that the solution isn't to let the people who caused the problems dictate the solutions. Instead of making ludicrous claims that the Bush administration twisted intelligence so much that it was identical to what Clinton produced, Democrats should be addressing their plans to reinvest in humint and taking the shackles off of the CIA. Their rhetoric demonstrates that they do not intend on fixing the problem and instead want nothing more than to score political cheap shots.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers, and a big thanks to Glenn! I hope you take a look around and make Captain's Quarters a regular read.
Kerry: Lobbyist Magnet
Far from being the scourge of special-interest lobbyists that he declares himself to be, John Kerry has raised more money from lobbyists than anyone else in the Senate over the past 15 years:
Kerry, a 19-year veteran of the Senate who fought and won four expensive political campaigns, has received nearly $640,000 from lobbyists, many representing telecommunications and financial companies with business before his committee, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
For his presidential race, Kerry has raised more than $225,000 from lobbyists, better than twice as much as his nearest Democratic rival.
Kerry claims that all that money can't buy his vote, but he may have trouble explaining the juxtaposition of this:
One of Kerry's biggest -- and perhaps most controversial -- donors has been the Boston-based law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. The group, which lobbies on behalf of the telecommunications industry -- and employs the senator's brother, Cameron -- is his single largest contributor over the course of his Senate career. David Leiter, Kerry's former chief of staff, is vice president of a lobbying company affiliated with the Boston-based law firm.
The Center for Public Integrity criticized the senator's relationship with the firm in a little-publicized report released last year, accusing him of pushing the agenda of those helping to pay his bills.
"Kerry, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, has sponsored or co-sponsored a number of bills favorable to the industry and has written letters to government agencies on behalf of the clientele of his largest donor," the report said. The Boston law firm's client include the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), an umbrella group for telecommunications companies.
Since 1999, Kerry has sponsored at least two bills and co-sponsored half a dozen that were sought by the CTIA, including industry-backed plans for winning lucrative auctions of spectrum, or airwaves. Thomas Wheeler, the former chief executive of the CTIA, and Christopher Putala, a lobbyist for the group, are both among Kerry's biggest presidential fundraisers.
Let's not kid ourselves; lobbyists give money to everyone. The problem here isn't that Kerry takes lobbyist money, it's that he claims to be the champion of the anti-lobbyists while raking in the money. It demonstrates his hypocrisy and his willingness to say anything to get elected. He voted against military action in 1990 because he supported military action to eject Iraq from Kuwait. He voted to authorize military action in 2002 because he didn't support the use of force in Iraq. He's taken more money from lobbyists than anyone else in the Democratic primaries because he wants to kick the lobbyists out of Washington, saying at one stop, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Kerry will take both sides of any position and feign as much passion as he can to convince you that the earth is round, but in a really flat way. Or, to put it another way -- he's the kind of man who makes a public spectacle of excoriating the influence of lobbyists while writing and sponsoring bills for the benefit of his brother and his lobbyist cronies. He's a hypocrite, and a blatant one at tha. Is that what Democrats propose for the nation? Is that the best they can do?
Al-Qaeda: Fighting On
A message purportedly from al-Qaeda states that they are still valiantly hanging on in their struggle to remain deadly:
Al-Qaeda vowed in its Thursday statement to continue fighting the Saudi government and its Western supporters, swearing to "take revenge on anyone who fights the faith and its people, or stands as a line of defence for the Crusader forces". ... The alleged al-Qaeda statement, a copy of which was emailed to The Associated Press today, also said government forces detained one of its members, Khaled al-Juwaiser al-Farraj, and that al-Farraj's father was wounded in a shootout with security forces, but that the rest of the group escaped.
The Interior Ministry, said, however, that al-Farraj's father was killed - but not by security agents.
This statement followed either (a) a deadly shootout with Saudi security forces, or (b) an ambush on them by al-Qaeda, depending on who's doing the talking. It underscores the recent trend of al-Qaeda of focusing on governments in the near area of Afghanistan and Iraq, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, attacking Muslims rather than those outside the ummah. Historically, though, religious zealots always seem to save their worst punishments for their brethren who, in their judgment, fail to meet the zealots' exacting standards.
Despite their zeal, al-Qaeda has only succeeded in driving the Saudis closer to the US, especially now that our armed forces have left their country. Since the car bombing last May, Saudi security forces have been much more energized in tracking down al-Qaeda personnel and infrastructure:
In recent months, Saudi security forces have arrested scores of terror suspects and seized large caches of weapons, ammunition and bomb-making material, spurred in part by suicide bombers' attacks on housing compounds inhabited by foreigners last May and November. Both US and Saudi officials blamed those attacks on al-Qaeda.
The Interior Ministry said Friday that security forces raided a home in al-Saly, east of Riyadh, and confiscated a cache of weapons. A booby-trapped pickup truck, explosives and ammunition, two automatic rifles, two pistols and a computer also were seized yesterday, it said.
In a second raid in the same neighbourhood, security agents found rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, Kalashnikovs rifles, pistols, hand grenades and explosives, the ministry said.
A year ago, the Saudis were only paying lip service about being our partner in the war on terror. Literally paying, actually, to the tune of $5 million a year, for advertising in the US about their friendship with the American people. Since May and especially since November, at least part of their government has gotten serious about the friendship. Let's hope it continues. Al-Qaeda is certainly doing their part.
French Corruption Scandals Grow
The French just capped off a glorious week of scandal and corruption with the conviction of former PM Alain Juppé, a crony of Jacques Chirac:
In a stinging reverse for President Jacques Chirac, the former French prime minister Alain Juppé was banned from office for a decade yesterday after being found guilty of corrupt party financing. ... A court in Nanterre in the Paris suburbs found him guilty yesterday of "taking illegal advantage" of public funds. He was given an 18-month suspended sentence and ordered to serve the mandatory 10-year suspension from elected office. More than a score of other serving or former party colleagues or associates of M. Juppé and M. Chirac were given suspended prison terms. ...
The legal conviction of M. Juppé also amounts to a political indictment of M. Chirac. The offences of which M. Juppé was convicted - embezzling the money of Paris taxpayers by putting seven party officials on the town hall payroll - occurred while M. Chirac was mayor of the French capital. It is generally accepted that the President would also have stood trial if he had not been protected by his immunity as head of state.
After the publication of the oil-for-food bribery list, featuring prominent French politicians who made France the second-largest recipient of Saddam's generosity, this additional scandal will rock Chirac's standing in the EU. Added to Elf-Aquitaine and their insistence on getting immunity in the US for the Executive Life collapse, and it is apparent that Chirac may be running the most corrupt Western European government since the Nazis stole everything that wasn't bolted down.
This scandal-ridden administration should make clear to all, especially Americans, that France no longer has any credibility. Chirac has forfeited any claim to speak for international agreements, let alone lecture the US on morality. Their self-assigned role as arbiter of our foreign policy, and the importance that certain politicians put in their opinion and assent, clearly are discredited now. Any candidate at any level that argues for French agreement (and Russian, for that matter) before pursuing foreign-policy and national-security objectives demonstrates their lack of qualification on national defense.
Kerry: Terrorist Threat Exaggerated
Power Line picks up on an interesting Washington Times article on yesterday's Democratic debate, in which the Times manages to catch something that the NY Times buried and the Washington Post completely ignored:
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said during last night's Democratic presidential debate that the threat of terrorism has been exaggerated. "I think there has been an exaggeration," Mr. Kerry said when asked whether President Bush has overstated the threat of terrorism. "They are misleading all Americans in a profound way." ...
Sen. John Edwards, who was born in this state and has said he must win here, took the first opportunity to disagree with Mr. Kerry, the victor in both the binding Democratic contests held so far — the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. "It's just hard for me to see how you can say there's an exaggeration when thousands of people lost their lives on September 11," Mr. Edwards said.
If there is a better argument for keeping Kerry out of the White House, I'd like to hear it. How typically left-wing is it to claim that the Republicans are exaggerating the threat of foreign attack? It takes us back to the Carter presidency, who shifted American foreign policy from Cold War containment to peaceful and friendly coexistence (famously smooching Brezhnev) -- only to see the peaceful and friendly Soviets overrun Afghanistan.
As Edwards reminded the audience, 3,000 dead Americans on 9/11 wasn't the result of exaggerated threats; it was the result of decades-long minimization of the one-sided Islamofascist war on the West in general and the US in particular. Kerry proposes to take us back to the days of minimization, where we close our eyes to the threats and insist that we spend the "peace dividend" on domestic social engineering. That thinking brought us 9/11.
When we looked at the burning and collapsing towers behind the Statue of Liberty, the smoldering wreck of the Pentagon facade, and the pit made by the heroes of Flight 93 when they thwarted the hijackers, didn't we vow to remember? Did we vow to become vigilant and to take action to make sure that such a thing never happened again? Or did we all decide to write it off as "s**t happens" and assume that the UN will protect us from harm? Kerry's message to the world appears to be the latter.
ABC: Saddam's List
ABC News reports further on the list of global government officials on Saddam's bribe list:
All of the contracts were awarded from late 1997 until the U.S.-led war in March 2003. They were conducted under the aegis of the United Nations' oil-for-food program, which was designed to allow Iraq to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods. The document was discovered several weeks ago in the files of the Iraqi Oil Ministry in Baghdad.
According to a copy obtained by ABCNEWS, some 270 prominent individuals, political parties or corporations in 47 countries were on a list of those given Iraq oil contracts instantly worth millions of dollars.
These bribes worked by assigning barrels of oil to people at a rate 50 cents below the market value as a commodity, which allowed the recipients to sell the oil to legitimate brokers for a a profit, without ever touching a barrel themselves. If I had 1 million barrels, I would receive $500,000 for no more work than making a phone call. So let's take a look at some of the people on Saddam's list, shall we?
* Indonesia President Megawati Sukarnoputri: 10 million barrels. Spoke out against war.
* George Galloway, MP UK: 19 million barrels. Demonstrated against war.
* Patrick Maguein, French businessman and crony of Jacques Chirac: 36 million barrels.
* Charles Pasqua, former French Minister of Interior: 12 million barrels.
* Michel Grimard, French founder of French-Iraqi Export Club: 17.1 million barrels
* Head of the Russian Presidential Cabinet: 90 million barrels
* Russian Communist Party: 137 million barrels (I guess everyone's a capitalist at heart)
* Russian Orthodox Church (?): 5 million barrels
* Arthur Millholland, Canadian CEO of Oilexico: 9.5 million
Altogether, Russia received 1.3 billion barrels of oil, coming in first on the list, with France coming in second. Oddly enough, France and Russia threatened to veto any enforcement of Resolution 1441 and the 16 UNSC resolutions preceding it. The International ANSWER people were all wrong. The war for oil wasn't fought in Iraq, it was fought in the United Nations Security Council. Russia and France lost, but the oil revenue that found its way to Moscow and Paris will eventually be enjoyed by the Iraqi people instead.
Blogs for Bush also has the whole list up.
Poll: Kerry Edging Bush Among Minnesotans
A poll by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio shows John Kerry slightly ahead of George Bush among Minnesotans, and the only Democrat who would beat him at this point in the race:
The poll, commissioned by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio, puts Kerry at 43 percent, Bush at 41 percent and undecided Minnesota voters at 16 percent. The poll was taken shortly after Kerry's victories in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, which have given him momentum versus the rest of the field. ...
In Minnesota, Bush would defeat Gen. Wesley Clark by a 5-point margin, Sen. John Edwards by a 6-point margin, Sen. Joseph Lieberman by an 8-point margin and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean by a 14-point margin. Among women, however, Democrats would defeat Bush — except Dean, who lagged by 1 point with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.
"The interesting thing there is how badly Dean does," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll. "He is clearly the weakest Democrat right now against the president."
Statistically, it's a dead heat (which the article stresses in its opening paragraph), and with 16% undecided, it would appear that the partisans have already decided and the more independent voters are keeping their powder dry. The keys among the poll demographics were the war on terror and the economy. Minnesotans approve of Bush's handling of the war on terror, 53-47, and if we can keep Iraq together and make progress against al-Qaeda, that number might go up a little more. His approval rating specifically on Iraq was 49%, to 40% disapproving and 11% undecided, an oddly high number. After the fall of Baghdad -- the last time the Pioneer Press did a poll -- Bush's numbers on the terror war were at 61%, not as high as his national numbers. The war will never show ecstatic numbers here in the North Star state.
Bush's rating on the economy came in at 47-42-11 disapproving, significantly below his national numbers, and this needs attention, quickly. It doesn't help that the major daily in Minnesota takes its economic cues from an increasingly hysterical Paul Krugman, whose columns it reprints without question. The Bush campaign should begin to advertise its economic successes and strategies for the future to Minnesotans in order to provide an alternative to the partisan volleys from the Strib. Hopefully those numbers will organically improve as more jobs open up in Minnesota.
I think that if the election were truly held today, Kerry would lose by a razor-thin difference to Bush; Minnesota went significantly to the right last election, and the pollsters missed that, too. But it would be a close-run thing, and if the Bush campaign wants a stronger result, kicking a few ad dollars this way now would be a good idea.
Why I Missed the Patriot Forum Tonight
I am so pissed -- at no one in particular, but I'm still pissed.
As I blogged earlier, my wife and I planned on going to the Patriot Forum, a dinner and discussion with Hugh Hewitt, an event I have been looking forward to attending for over a month. I got stuck in a meeting at work and couldn't escape until 4:45, although I made it home in a half-hour, something of a record for this time of year. I had originally planned to leave the house about that time, but I got ready as quickly as I could and started to head out the door. I asked the First Mate to check with the hotel to see if they had valet parking, for which I would gladly pay a small fortune on a -15-degree night. (There are other reasons, which will come into play later.) The hotel confirmed that valet parking was available. It was about 5:40, five minutes before cocktails but almost an hour until dinner.
The problems started immediately after that.
First, as we were throwing on our dressy coats, I saw that the jacket of the brand-new outfit my wife bought for the occasion still had the EAS tag on it from the store. I tried for five minutes to remove that ^&%*&% tag to no avail. She left the jacket at home while I not-so-silently cursed the sales clerks at Macy's. We went out the door and into the car, where I had to get cash for the aforementioned valet. After that, we set out for Saint Paul, and I figured it would take me about a half-hour to get to the hotel. No sweat; we'd arrive just as dinner would be served.
We drove into Saint Paul -- not reknowned for its user-friendly layout -- and promptly got diverted from our route, thanks to a combination of the Ice Palace and a Minnesota Wild hockey game that came as a surprise to me. After negotiating our way back from the river (and not really having a clue where I was going at that point), we finally rolled up in front of the hotel -- to see several large signs informing us that VALET PARKING WAS FOR OVERNIGHT GUESTS ONLY. Oh, yeah, and their lot was full, too. Welcome to the Saint Paul Hotel, and go screw yourself.
By now it was 6:30. Dinner was being served, and Hugh would begin speaking in an hour. However, I could not find a parking space close by. In fact, I could not move for over 15 minutes, as three different buses decided to turn left from the right-hand lane at the other end of the street, keeping a whole line of cars backed up. After I finally made my way past that knot -- for all I know, there's still two buses sticking halfway out into that intersection -- I found parking four blocks away from the hotel.
Here's where the rest of the problems start. To begin with, the First Mate was dressed for valet parking; it was -15, and the wind chill had to be -30 or below, and she wasn't going to do very well walking four blocks in that weather in her very elegant but thin outfit. Next, because of chronic health issues, she can't walk for long distances even in the best of weather. Third, because of her diabetes, she can't afford to skip a meal, and since it was now 7 pm, I wasn't even sure we'd get there before Hugh began speaking. We had almost certainly missed dinner, and there was no place to stop on the way there and no time to do it anyway. (I'm Type II and shouldn't skip either, but sometimes I do.) Finally, even if she managed to survive the walk to the hotel, she certainly wouldn't make the walk back, just to get into a subzero car which might finally warm up when we pulled into our garage.
So, muttering curses under my breath, we left the parking lot and went home. Which is why I'm pissed. I'm sitting here with my computer on my lap instead of sitting in an elegant ballroom at the hotel, listening to Hugh speak and meeting my Northern Alliance brethren, as well as DC from Brainstorming and a number of other people. Sorry, everyone.
Worst of all, my wife is upstairs, convinced that I'm pissed at her, when it has nothing to do with her. I gave her a hug and told her that I wasn't mad at her; I was just mad and she needed to let me be mad for a while. (If anything, I'm pissed at the hotel -- if they had told me that there wasn't any valet service except for overnight guests, I would have called a cab.) She doesn't believe me and still thinks she ruined the evening for me. But now that I've managed to get this out of my system, I'm going to go back upstairs, make a joke, eat something, and try to be a bit more jolly the rest of the night.
But you all know ... I'm still pissed.
Dean Flounders, Pulls Back Advertising
In what looks suspiciously like capitulation, the Howard Dean campaign has suddenly canceled its advertising in the seven battleground states voting next week on the Democratic nomination for President:
Howard Dean will not air ads in any of the seven states holding elections next week, officials said Thursday, a risky strategy that puts him at a distinct disadvantage with high-spending rivals for the Democratic nomination. With his money and momentum depleted, Dean decided to save his ad money for the Feb. 7 elections in Michigan and Washington state and, 10 days later, the primary in Wisconsin, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One of the stories on Joe Trippi's departure published yesterday reported on strategic differences between trippi and Roy Neel, who took his place. If surrendering on Tuesday is part of the strategic realignment of this campaign, why did Trippi need to leave? I assume that Trippi saw this strategy as the acknowledgement of Dean's faltering appeal that it is, and Trippi knows that the image of a candidate backpedaling and downsizing holds little attraction to people concerned about electability. Kerry already held an edge among Democrats for whom electability against George Bush was the main motivation for their vote in New Hampshire, and with the turmoil in the Dean camp the past two weeks, it's sure to be more of an issue now.
Howard Dean looks increasingly incompetent as a national candidate. If he doesn't compete for next Tuesday's primaries, he will drop further off the radar screen and allow John Edwards to grab the momentum for second place. In two weeks, Howard Dean will be finished as a credible contender.
Limited Blogging Today
I will not be doing too much blogging today, as the First Mate and I will be attending the Patriot Forum tonight in St. Paul, featuring Hugh Hewitt as guest speaker. Hugh and Duane will be visiting us just in time to see the physical proof of Al Gore's theory of global warming; as I write this, it is 15 degrees below zero. (I'm actually surprised the former Vice President isn't speaking in the Twin Cities this week to continue his "Bitter Cold of Global Warming" series of lectures. We could use the hot air.) We'll be dining with our fellow bloggers of the Northern Alliance, such as the gang at Fraters Libertas, Mitch Berg at Shot In The Dark, Big Trunk at Power Line, and many more. If you are a listener of Hugh's show, James Lileks will be guest-hosting live from our own Patriot station here in town, so be sure to stay tuned.
To get us all into the mood, make sure you get a chance to read Hugh's latest column in the Daily Standard on John Kerry. Only Hugh could tie the Boer War, McCarthyism, and the UN together coherently and apply it to the primaries. In discussing John Kerry's vote against the 1991 action to eject Iraq from Kuwait with full UN blessing, Hugh notes:
But a singular focus on the war is a lesson from 1900 that the White House has no doubt already absorbed. A vote for the Democrats isn't a vote for the Baathists, but it surely is a vote for the United Nations. A solid majority of Americans aren't going to support a side which believes that legitimacy resides only in recurring consents from the Security Council and recoils from the use of force even when the Security Council is onboard.
John Kerry voted against the Gulf War in 1991. Had Kerry had his way, Saddam would now be a member of the nuclear club, and the WMDs he had in '91 would have doubled and tripled in scope and lethality. Kerry was absolutely, positively, and enormously wrong about the most important vote of his public life. His judgment was flawed then and remains flawed now. A vote for Kerry is a vote for the Security Council, except in 1991 when that Council wanted war.
Make sure you read the whole thing, and then listen to Lileks tonight. We'll be at the St. Paul Hotel, if we haven't frozen to the road on the way there.
What Happened To The Left?
Dissent Magazine published an excellent essay on the moral abdication of the Left in the fight against fascism. It's written by a Leftist who is dismayed by his sudden isolation:
"And yet," I insisted, "if good-hearted people like you would only open your left-wing eyes, you would see clearly enough that the Baath Party is very nearly a classic fascist movement, and so is the radical Islamist movement, in a somewhat different fashion-two strands of a single impulse, which happens to be Europe's fascist and totalitarian legacy to the modern Muslim world. If only people like you would wake up, you would see that war against the radical Islamist and Baathist movements, in Afghanistan exactly as in Iraq, is war against fascism." I grew still more heated.
"What a tragedy that you don't see this! It's a tragedy for the Afghanis and the Iraqis, who need more help than they are receiving. A tragedy for the genuine liberals all over the Muslim world! A tragedy for the American soldiers, the British, the Poles and every one else who has gone to Iraq lately, the nongovernmental organization volunteers and the occupying forces from abroad, who have to struggle on bitterly against the worst kind of nihilists, and have been getting damn little support or even moral solidarity from people who describe themselves as antifascists in the world's richest and fattest neighborhoods."
Read the whole essay. (via Crossing the Rubicon2)
Arts Funding Increase? Why?
The New York Times reported yesterday that President Bush will request a substantial increase in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts:
President Bush will seek a big increase in the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single source of support for the arts in the United States, administration officials said on Wednesday. The proposal is part of a turnaround for the agency, which was once fighting for its life, attacked by some Republicans as a threat to the nation's moral standards.
I don't think it's a threat to the nation's moral standards; daytime soap operas present more of a threat than art-house displays of Robert Mapplethorpe's rear end ever could. It's a nonproductive waste of money and it's completely unnecessary. Artists sell their wares in a free market here in the US. Artists who can't make a living out of it on their own should hardly be supported by government grants to go on being unproductive. Not only that, but the NEA is expected to supply patronage without discernment -- funding is demanded for all sorts of projects of questionable taste, such as the notorious pictures of bullwhips protruding from Mapplethorpe's ass. It's the first patronage system in history where the patron is held hostage to the artist.
One side benefit of being the NEA, I suppose, is that you can get really talented writers to produce works of fiction to support your organization, such as:
Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a New York Democrat who is co-chairwoman of the Congressional Arts Caucus, said she was delighted to learn of Mr. Bush's proposal. "There's nothing in the world that helps economic development more than arts programs," Ms. Slaughter said.
Yes, it was that all-important art industry that pulled a great nation from the Great Depression. And it was lucky, too, that it came along when it did. Why, if the great engine of the arts hadn't been around, we'd never have been able to bomb the Nazis with primitive sculptures and Cubist watercolors. Memo to Ms. Slaughter from planet Earth: There's nothing in the world that helps economic development than free-market capital. And the NEA eats up too much of that as it is.
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