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The French Depressed




The horror inflicted on Israel by suicide bombers is the stuff of nightmares – and it’s not difficult to sympathize with the impulse that leads that country to launch a raid on Syria. But was the acquiescent US response the right one? The Economist may not have all the right answers, but it’s asking some difficult questions.

It would be foolish to deny that there are links (and, presumably, close ones) between Palestinian terror groups and their wider Islamic terrorism. In fighting terror, the interests of Israel and the US often overlap – but, the Bush administration needs to recognize, not always so. The Syrian regime may be deeply unattractive (to put it mildly) and chances of any accord between it and Israel remain slim, but it’s possible to see how, given the right incentives (carrot as well as stick) that Damascus could be persuaded to put some distance between itself and the type of Islamic terrorists (apparently now going through that country on the way to Iraq) with whom it has strong ideological differences and who are, incidentally, much more of a direct threat to the US than their counterparts on the West Bank, in Gaza or southern Lebanon.

Seen from the perspective of Jerusalem, Israel’s action in Syria may be logically defensible, but (and I hope I’m wrong about this) from the point of view of US interests it may well have been counterproductive. Publicly humiliated by the raid (including, critically, in front of his own people), Assad may now find it even more difficult to come to some sort of accommodation with this country, an accommodation that could be very useful indeed in our war against terror.

It may be time for a tough conversation between Messrs Bush and Sharon.


Kudos For Tony Snow


Jay Rockefeller is on Fox News Sunday arguing that the president lied about the imminence of the Iraqi threat. Tony Snow points out the president never used the word, that he, in fact, said that we could not wait for Saddam to become an imminent threat. Rockefeller responds that he was at the speech and was close to the president when he delivered it (the SOTU) and imminence was “the feeling” that one came away from the speech with, whatever the president said. Snow then points out that Rockefeller himself said the threat was imminent, not the president. But that’s the president’s fault, says Rockefeller–he put “psychological pressure” on Congress.

Web Briefing: January 29, 2015

Fenwick Skrimshire


The Economist also has a review (requires subscription) of John Clare, an English “peasant poet” from early 19th Century Northamptonshire (Derb country, I think: the county that is, not the century). John Clare was an interesting man, but more beguiling still is the entertainingly sinister name of the Doctor who admitted him to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, one Fenwick Skrimshire.

Poor Clare didn’t end well, due, explained the sensible Dr Skrimshire to “years of addiction to poetical prosing.”

Fenwick Skrimshire! Whatever happened to names like that?


Joan Didion


OK, I’m decades late in getting round to this, but (courtesy of a diehard liberal friend in
Seattle), I’ve spent the last couple of days reading Joan Didion. It’s been a delight although she is not, it has to be said, uh, exactly conservative, but then, on the other hand there’s this (from the rather cheekily named White Album):

“There is one of those peculiar social secrets at work [on people's response to the – then new – Getty museum] here. On the whole “the critics” subscribe to the romantic view of man’s possibilities, but “the public” does not. In the end the Getty stands above the Pacific Coast Highway as one of those odd monuments, a palpable contract between the very rich and the people who distrust them least.”

There’s something about those words that make me think about Arnold’s election.

Oh Really?


These folks (“A Smoke-Free New York Works”) have started putting out annoying advertisements in New York City. Now of course these ads are satire, but in their implications they are also spectacularly dishonest – people opposed to the anti-tobacco jihad always said that the early ‘reasonable’ measures taken to curb smoking were nothing more than the thin edge of the wedge – and they were right. The satire, however, has nothing on ’statistics’ like the claim that secondhand smoke “takes the lives of 53,000 Americans each year”.

Let’s think about that for a second. It’s usually said that around 400,000 Americans die each year from smoking related causes. Are we really expected to believe that nearly one in eight of them will killed by secondhand smoke?

And then there is this claim:

“Studies in cities across the country demonstrate no effect on bar and restaurant revenue as a result of smoking bans. “

Well, some studies doubtless have. Others would not agree. Take this, for example:

“For example, California’s smoking ban is the wall trophy for tobacco haters, but the political rampage was not without victims. More than 1,000 bars, taverns and “mom & pop” restaurants closed their doors, with thousands of servers losing their jobs.

“In Canada, a citywide ban in Ottawa has nearly destroyed all downtown bars and restaurants as patrons flock to the suburbs. In British Columbia, a disastrous experiment with a ban lasted only 80 days, but in that brief period, 910 workers were laid off, with multimillion-dollar losses in the hospitality and tourism industries.”

The organization behind A Smoke-free New York Works is the American Legacy Foundation, a propaganda mill funded by tobacco ’settlement’ money and, thus, of course, something that owes its existence at least partly to complaints about misleading advertising.

Well, that’s at least one tobacco industry tradition that they are keeping alive.

Saddam Cash in Syria


Faux Folksiness


A post the other day on the faux folksiness of today’s politicians (triggered by all those shirtsleeves on display during the Democrats’ debate in Arizona) produced this entertaining rant from a reader in Indiana:

“You struck a nerve on my pet peeve of modern Presidential campaigning: the “regular guy” photo op, where the candidate drives a fork lift truck at the factory five feet for the cameras in shirtsleeves to prove he’s just a regular Joe, despite the fact that he was National Merit Scholar, Ivy League graduate, Rhodes Scholar, Fulbright Scholar, blah blah blah seriatim. Although he reads Plutarch in the original for recreation, he feels obliged to quote Toby Keith on the campaign trail. And oh God, the “what is your favorite rock ballad” question…

” My absolute favorite piece of Presidential photo journalism is the one of John F. Kennedy at an Indian reservation in 1960. He holds a war bonnet by the fingertips, as if the headpiece is coated with powdered sarin. He is looking daggers of high dudgeon off camera, undoubtedly at the advance man who set up this photo op. He does not put on the bonnet…

“And don’t get me started on the obligatory Barbara Walters/Katie Couric crying jag interview (with the camera lens fogged up to imply softness), where the candidate must relive a traumatic moment from the past so he can tear up on camera, to prove what I don’t know: Sensitivity? Depth? Courage? Courage today would see a candidate at a fundraiser, at a table, with a cigar in one hand, a bottle of champagne at the elbow, and a plate of veal parmigiana in front. JFK would do it and tell detractors to go to hell…”

That’s very well said, although I do seem to recall a photo of Calvin Coolidge, wonderfully gloomy in an Indian war bonnet. And as for today’s politicians, there’s one who would, I reckon, be more than happy to be photographed with a cigar, champagne and a veal cutlet.

Californians voted for him a few days ago.



The Indianapolis Star comes out in favor of politically correct censorship, and ultimately for stupidity and moral illiteracy.

Can’t Wait


to hear Rich’s take on the ugliness at Fenway last night.

Baghdad Carbomb(S)


Who’s Who On The Sunday Shows


Today’s schedule. (Don’t forget Jonah on Late Edition!)

Steyn On The Recall


Here’s Mark Steyn on the European response to Arnold’s election. His conclusion?

“California’s problem was that it was beginning to take on the characteristics of an EU state, not just in its fiscal incoherence but in its assumption that politics was a private dialogue between a lifelong political class and a like-minded media. It would be too much to expect Le Monde and the BBC to stop being condescending about American electorates. But they might draw a lesson and cease being such snots about their own.”

It’s Saturday...


So I get to post a self-serving email to:

Hi Jonah,

I just read your corner comment about the hotline mistake and the example emails from your lefty readers. I am a political centrist and I’m comfortable saying that I can see through spin, propaganda, and lies as well as anyone. I must disagree with the delusional leftist jokers who emailed you because I consider you a very honest conservative. In no way do I see you as just a spinning/BS’ing republican party hack.



I’ve discovered why so many foul-mouthed buffoons are sending me this hysterical, unhinged nonsense about Dean (I don’t mean the correction stuff, that’s fair game. I mean the aggressive stupidity and crudity).

They’re typical “Atrios” readers. My apologies to Dean fans. It turns out Dean-support isn’t the common denominator at all. It’s the sort of folks who think it takes a lot of cleverness to write like a ninth-grader who just learned the F word.

Dean - Correction


I’ve gotten a lot of email from Dean supporters saying I got it wrong about his “gaffe” with the Hispanic questioner. Apparently Dean had conflated answers to two different questioners. His reference to “your income level” was a reference to a previous question. I relied on the Hotline for the facts, something I am — and will continue to be — completely comfortable doing. The Hotline, if you didn’t know, is an entirely non-partisan Washington tipsheet owned by the National Journal (which costs quite a bit to subscribe to). But in this case they got it wrong and therefor so did I.

What I find hilarious, however, is the near hysteria of the Dean emailers. I can’t print many of them because of the language. But here’s two that will give you the flavor:

Mr. Goldberg,

Here is the woman’s question on Medicare from the recent Democratic debate:

“QUESTION: Yes. Forgive me for having to read this.

I am a stroke survivor, I am disabled and on a fixed income. For seven
months I went without prescription medication because we cannot afford supplemental insurance to my Medicare.

I chose food over medicine. How can you assure me and the many other voters — there’s millions like me — that you empathize with my hardship and as president you will make certain this won’t happen to any other American? Thank you.”

She said she was on a fixed income, and Dean remembered that when he answered the question. FIXED INCOME. You were WRONG when you called Dean’s answer racist responding to a Latina. Are you going to correct your gross error? I didn’t think so. It would just spoil your record of spreading untruths. You and your ilk are what make this country rotten.
[Name withheld]

And this one sent to the Corner:

Jonah obviously couldn’t be bothered to track multiple questioners and a multi-part response from Gov. Dean. Hint, Jonah-boy, read the transcript and see if you can spot your error. Or was it an error, and not a spin-driven lie????


[Name withheld],

“Cowboy Up”--Dream On!!


Some Life Is “Normal” in Iraq


Paul Bremer reports Iraq is back at prewar levels of water, power; schools and hopsitals are open and running. All that and no evil tyrant and his gang of depraved thugs (and sons) to fear. More from Bremer here.

Giddy Neocons


Check out the al Jazeera choice of Cheney/Rumsfeld shots.

Cliff May


has an excellent column (his syndicated–get your local newspaper to pick him up! [along with Lowry and Goldberg, of course!]) on the Condi shakeup and the long road in Iraq.


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