The Spectacle Blog

Re: Olympic Agonies

By on 2.26.06 | 4:13PM

John: No matter how you slice it (or edit it) objective results are what make sports different from soap operas. Subjective scoring is inherently inconsistent with sports. If you add enough style points, you could make NFL football into a sport the ladies would play.

Re: Olympic Agonies

By on 2.26.06 | 3:03PM

I wouldn't be so hard on sports that include style points, especially now that judging is moving toward more objective measure. But the real problem with NBC's Olympic coverage has been the editing. Instead of showing one event start to finish, they cut back and forth between two different events. I guess this is supposed to keep the audience for both events glued to the TV, but it seems more likely to leave fans of one or the other sport too bored to stay tuned in -- particularly since they mix sports that appeal to different demographics. I'd imagine that a mix of figure skating and freestyle skiing aerials or ice dancing and snowboard cross pleases very few viewers.

Olympic Agonies

By on 2.26.06 | 2:24PM

The Winter Olympics -- thanks, mostly, to NBC -- have been a crashing bore. For all the bad ratings they've been getting, even worse have been earned. Now they're talking about how to fix it by breaking what little is left in one piece.

You may have seen some of the idiocy being touted on AOL, such as "athlete confessional rooms" for failures to wail away the hours and a new version of the Olympic Village. Great. Guarantee more touchy-feely junk and make Oprah the ever-present anchor. All this needs is Dr. Joyce Brothers debating Alan Dershowitz about the significance of failure.

On the Waterfront: The Facts, the Jingoists

By on 2.26.06 | 2:05PM

Observe that the WSJ editorial on the weekend -- “Ports of Gall” -- summarizes in cogent prose the facts of the matter of the port imbroglio. I mention that in the course of last week’s report, I learned that the jingoism, demagoguery, and base poor research by members of Congress are a sizable threat to rational political discourse.

The facts are that there are four major terminal operators on the planet. Number one is a private owned but China/> based firm from Hong Kong, Hutchinson/>, and will not do business in the U.S./>/> because of the unions and the shoddy port political environment. Number two and three are a Singapore/> government-owned entity and a privately owned entity from Denmark/>/>. With the DP World purchase of P&O, it becomes number four in the world.

Iraq WMD: Mystery/Threat Continues

By on 2.26.06 | 2:02PM

Spoke with UNSCOM veteran and Arab translator Bill Tierney re his work on the Saddam tapes that he released in Arabic at the

We concentrated on the pericope where two named briefers, Maldoud and Abbas, report to Saddam Hussein with regard a “plasma” component of the Iraqi WMD program that is concealed from UN inspectors.

The date on the briefing is post 2000.

“Plasma” refers to the plasma separation process (PSP) that was developed by U.S. and French teams and then abandoned for other pursuits in the 1970s and 1980s.

Significant is that the Iraq Survey Group final report stated that Iraq/>/> quit pursuit of PSP in the early 1990s.

Also significant is that neither of the briefers was known to UNSCOM nor is mentioned in the Iraq Survey Group report: their whereabouts then and now is unknown.

Mitt for President?

By on 2.26.06 | 8:48AM

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney appeared on Fox News Sunday this morning. Here are the highlights:

-Speaking about the new prescription drug benefit: "We need to find a way to reduce the entitlement burden."

When the Massachusetts governor is more fiscally conservative than our Republican president, things are seriously wrong at the top.

-Romney's explanation of his evolving abortion positions was fairly weak. Though unwilling to be pinned down, he suggested that he concluded that human life begins at conception while researching the embryonic stem cell issue. Props to him that he now recognizes that fact. But his statement that he believes abortion belongs in the hands of the states and thus he wouldn't mess with Massachusetts's laws doesn't wash. As governor, he's the right person to help change state laws. To get elected, he took that off the table. He'll have to answer for that.

Ummah at War: America Intimidated

By on 2.25.06 | 11:39PM

Signals source warns that the Friday prayers in the ummah were united in the charge that the Samarra shrine bombing was the work of the American invaders and their infidel heretical secular agents in the Baghdad government.

This accusation was the same in the Sunni and Shia mosques. The charge is that the American crusaders have concocted to favor the non-Islamic elements in the elected officials -- by this is meant al-Jaafari of Dawa, Allawi of the INA, Talibani and Barzani of the Kurds, likely also al-Hakim of SCIRI. In sum, all the elite of the U.S.-backed Parliament.

Nepal, Now Appalling

By on 2.25.06 | 5:08PM

Melinda Liu, Newsweek Beijing Bureau Chief, spoke at SAIS on Thursday on the Chinese attitude post-Iraq. She was engaging in that regard (read the fuller account here) but particularly notable for her comments on Nepal, where the Maoist rebellion is blighting a country one State Department researcher described as proof that low economic development and abject misery were not doomed to go hand in hand. Liu described the determination of longtime expatriate friends in Nepal that the Maoists would gain the upper hand and make Nepal unliveable; they had already made arrangements to leave the country, having spent decades there in peace. Beijing, ironically, wants good terms with any Nepalese regime but feels a certain awkwardness toward Nepal's bands of fanatical throwbacks. "Straight outta the 50s," Liu said, Nepal's Maoist movement is complete with armed women's groups, austere uniforms, and communist dance circles. But for all the kitsch, Nepal is descending into what Liu flatly described as a "mess." What are the implications for the China-India relationship?

Re: Radio Address

By on 2.25.06 | 6:14AM

Jed and Dave,

Reagan created the radio address, writing the scripts himself quite often, as I understand. He aimed at evoking the spirit of FDR, and, being Reagan, he succeeded. Ever since, no President has felt secure enough to stop doing it, though nowadays I truly see no point in it.

Laughing at Tyranny

By on 2.25.06 | 12:49AM

There's a certain style of pitch-black humor -- one often encounters it among Eastern Europeans of a certain age -- that seems to sustain people caught under illiberal thumbs. Egyptian blogger Big Pharaoh serves up a classic slice:

There was a solidarity rally in front of the Danish embassy in Washington. The rally was led by Christopher Hitchens. I'm thinking of organizing the same rally in Cairo. I just need 70 bodyguards, 3 armored humvees, plenty of tear gas, and 3 helicopters to immediately airlift the participants in case things got nasty. If you would like to participate please register your name by sending an e-mail to