The Spectacle Blog

What, No Steinbeck?

By on 5.31.06 | 8:19AM

The Power Line guys posted a Memorial Day weekend list of the 21 best American novels. The list is mostly solid, except for a classic omission: John Steinbeck. English departments usually omit his works from their syllabi, for reasons that elude me (though I am told many English profs can't stand his moralizing).

Hinderaker writes that they ignored "politics and sociology" in compiling the list, but when a friend suggests Grapes of Wrath, he replies, "No socialist realism for us, thank you!" So I guess politics were not ignored? Either Grapes or East of Eden deserve a place on any list of best American novels.

What Is Happening In Somalia?

By on 5.31.06 | 7:27AM

Postscript to my thoughts on Sudan last week: we need a public conversation grounded in actual fact on the Somali situation, where the War on Terror has gone hot. The trouble is the same problem that has lurked at the heart of the war since its inception -- it is really a war on terrorist Islam, and anyone who picks up a gun and starts shooting bad guys is on our side for good or ill. In the case of Somali warlords, the same types that once gave us Black Hawk Down, the ill is palpable. They occupy hospitals, and they appear to be losing.

What Happened at Haditha

By on 5.30.06 | 3:55PM

The major print and TV media and John Murtha are billing the killings at Haditha as the next Abu Ghraib. Murtha timed his press conference announcing that the Marines killed Iraqi civilians "in cold blood" to coincide with six months since his call for withdrawal from Iraq.

Not so fast. John Murtha, much less the media, doesn't yet know what happened. Charges have not been filed. The Marines are investigating. And the only military man the Washington Post could get on record tells Mary Katherine Ham that his quotes were wildly distorted.

The media will attempt to make Haditha the next Abu Ghraib. Look for their efforts to ramp up in the coming weeks. As they do, ask for hard evidence, and not Murtha's gossip.

It’s Not Easy Being Reid

By on 5.30.06 | 3:13PM

"Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing," the AP reported yesterday afternoon.

That's not the Minority Leader's only headache: Hotline notes that his poll numbers are starting to suffer in Nevada: "[Reid's] reputation with home-state voters as a middle-of-the-road Red-state Dem is eroding. If this storyline seems familiar, it is. It's exactly what happened to Tom Daschle."

Reckless Hearing

By on 5.30.06 | 12:17PM

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing this morning titled "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?" All four witnesses answered that question in the affirmative. I only caught the very end of the hearing on C-SPAN, but judging from their prepared testimony, none of the witnesses acknowledged the extraordinary constitutional safeguards built into the search warrant. What a joke.

Snow Out

By on 5.30.06 | 9:05AM

At long, long last, John Snow is resigning as Treasury Secretary, the AP reports. Goldman Sachs chairman Henry J. Paulson, Jr. is the expected replacement. Two questions: 1- Will the press refer to him as the Goldman Sachs "chair," an inanimate object? 2- Will the Bush administration begin undermining him within a year?

McCain’s Boxing Tickets

By on 5.30.06 | 7:58AM

The Washington Post and Drudge report this morning that Harry Reid accepted free boxing tickets from the Nevada Boxing Commission while a related bill was pending in the Senate. Say what you will (and what I will) about John McCain, but at least he insisted on paying the full price of his ticket.

There’s More Than One Way to Arm a Nuke

By on 5.29.06 | 2:33PM

Today's New York Times reports that "Iran appears to have slowed its drive to produce nuclear fuel, according to European diplomats who have reviewed reports from inspectors inside the country." The article indicates that, either for diplomatic or technical reasons, Iran's uranium enrichment program at Natanz seems to have stalled. But uranium enrichment is not the beginning and end of Iran's "drive to produce nuclear fuel."

In addition to uranium enrichment, Iran is also on the route toward producing weapons-grade plutonium. This brief (.pdf) from the Institute for Science and International Security shows, with satellite imagery, that construction is continuing steadily on a heavy water reactor in Arak. If it stays on schedule, this reactor could be fully operational by 2009. From the brief: