The Spectacle Blog

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Pay The Opposition

By on 1.22.06 | 9:50AM

The dark humor of Batchelor's high and wild prose poetry on Syria, below, gets one feeling like a doomed revolutionary, and the fun of revolutions is to be had in "letting the chips fall where they may." Overturning the status quo, as an analytical imperative, can be eclipsed by a second-order emotional imperative upon realizing that whether or not one wins or loses is still entirely up for grabs. What one was willing to do to start a revolution often falls short of what one is willing to do to win it -- kicking over the status quo creates policy options by creating chaos, and a certain improvisory spirit is demanded.

So after championing Palestininan democracy, America turns to USAID to funnel $2 million into Fatah, hoping, suddenly rather desperately, to fend off a big victory for Hamas at the polls. "U.S. and Palestinian officials," the Washington Post reports, "say they fear the election, scheduled for Wednesday, will result in a large Hamas presence in the 132-seat legislature."

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John Kerry at Tora Bora

By on 1.21.06 | 5:50PM

"Isn't it time we had the truth? Yes or no, did Osama Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora in 2001?" -- John Kerry, Daily Kos, January 20, 2005

John Kerry, the world famous Francophiliac junior senator from Massachusetts, now begins blogging at the cozy Dem cave of Daily Kos with the same high dudgeon of his late campaign.

It is strangely nostalgiac to hear John Kerry's rightous tone sound exactly the same today as it did the last time he was on the stump, November 2, 2004. It feels fourteen months as if it is fourteen minutes, because he launches into the podium pounding mode about Osama Bin Laden, Tora Bora, what Bush didn't do, war on terror, yes or no, war, war, bring it on, me, Bush, me.

The Kerry charge, from the last weeks of the campaign, as I best recall it, since it seems like last year's runner up movie for the Golden Globes, is that George Bush ran down and trapped the scared, hallucinatory, mass-murdering OBL in the perilous landscape of the Tora Bora mountains in November and December, 2001, and then, because George Bush is a wimpy, stupid, slab-sided, Cheney-creepy commander in chief, George Bush let OBL get away.

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Dead Arafat, Live Casus Belli

By on 1.21.06 | 3:37PM

In Damascus, the usually unoriginal and clumsy Bashar al-Assad now announces a shrewd, dangerous new game when he charges that Israel assassinated the dead Egyptian national Yasser Arafat.

"Among the many assassinations that Israel has carried out in a systemic and organized manner, the most dangerous one was the assassination of Arafat." He adds, "This was done secretly, under the watching eyes of the world. But no country responded -- as if nothing happened at all."

This is not the idle blame-shifting of a rascal. I read al-Assad's charge as a cunning invention of a useful casus belli to attack Israel and its supervisors the U.S., the UN, and anyone of the road map that want to get in the way. Since Damascus and Tehran routinely pay for and order attacks on Israel already, Bashar al-Assad is not searching for a reason to attack, he is naming the reason to continue the attacks, to increase the pace going into the March elections in Israel

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Iran Talk and November 2006

By on 1.21.06 | 1:40PM

Iran Talk is a most hot new topic for the foreign policy crowd and the few thousand wine-sipping diplomats who circulate poorly heated chateaus and speak of demarches and defuses.

But is Iran Talk hot enough to gush into the Congressional campaign in November 2006? Can Team Bush transfer the mumbling evasiveness of Straw, Steiner, ElBaredei and Lavrov into slogans to take into the field to rally the GOP base for several wobbly Senate seats?

For example, how does Iran Talk play in Pennsylvania to help the President appear on platforms with incumbent, poll-trailing Rick Santorum? Does telling the evangelical-Catholic-veteran-Fox red base that a vote for Rick is a vote to strengthen my hand in the coming showdown in the Perisan Gulf -- does this turn out the numbers to overwhelm the routinely sluggish blue team of minorities and union legacy hosueholds? Does give-me-strength work in Rhode Island for sad sack Chafee; in New Jersey for young Kean against the machine pol Menendez; in Florida for the femme fatale Harris against the dullard Bill Nelson?

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EU Reps Are Kidding Themselves

By on 1.21.06 | 10:44AM

The joke's on them: the European Parliament passed Thursday a fresh resolution declaring further enlargement of the EU impossible without first voting in a new EU Constitution.

The argument is that the Treaty of Nice set the EU max-out point at 27 members -- which will be realized when Bulgaria and Romania are brought into the fold as early as 2007. Sensible enough -- only the resounding defeat of the vast and incomprehensible EU Constitution that Europe already voted on makes the exercise more academic-bureaucratic than anything else.

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McCotter for Republican House Policy Committee

By on 1.20.06 | 4:33PM

Thad McCotter of 11th Michigan explained last eve his candidacy for Republican House Policy Committee chair, the GOP leadership position given up voluntarily by John Shadegg in his run for leader.

The Republican House Policy Committee was the shadow government place back in the Dem majority days, pre-1994. Gingrich, Armey and crew used it to hammer out positions to use to hammer the flaccid Dems. Of recent times, the HRC has fallen into disrepair, trying to maintain too many positions that are just supportive of the majority offices.

Thad McCotter wants to transform the Policy Committee back into a think tank for the ideas needed in future to guide the GOP in House He says he wants a transformational entity, not a transactional. Thad talks like this. He's 40, from a purple district with lots of union legacies, and is smart, very smart, and very very conservative, though he does not line up with the Pence crew in the Republican Study Committee that Shadegg once ran.

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Reid Rumblings

By on 1.20.06 | 2:57PM

It wasn't simply out of Senate gentility that Democratic leader Harry Reid apologized to the Republicans for the ugly hit piece his office sent out fingering 33 Republicans as bribe-taking criminals.

Word on Capitol Hill is that Reid is very nervous about drawing too much specific attention to himself in this newly ethics conscious environment of Washington. And it isn't just his own actions that he has to worry about. Both his wife and his son are active in Washington lobbying circles. The Reid tree's roots are deep, and we're told that Reid was reminded of this early yesterday. The letter was out the door by noon time.

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Re: Release the Rest

By on 1.20.06 | 2:03PM

Dave: Don't keep your hopes up, if Washington Post coverage is any indication. The paper's big story today almost pulls a New York Times in not including any mention of the pages missing from the released version of the report. I said "almost" because buried in the middle of the story is this mealy-mouthed reference: "The document, which was released with limited redactions..." How can 120 pages amount to "limited"?

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Nigerian MEND: Viet Cong with Oil?

By on 1.20.06 | 1:38PM

Report from Financial Times correspondent at Lagos that the fresh threat to Dutch Shell's platforms and people in the mission-critical Niger Delta is unlike any previous cycle. Usually the gangs steal from the pipelines; the gangs grab a foreigner and ransom him back; the gangs demand protection money. But the new gang is called MEND, for the liberation of the Delta from the central government and the oil cartels, and it looks much more like a nationalist cadre than a shakedown crew. Is this the beginning of a Viet Cong with oil? Grabbing four engineers, from UK, U.S., Honduras and Bolivia, the MEND gang wants Ijaw sympathizers released from government jail and wants Shell to make a $1.5 billion downpayment to clean up the environment of the Delta.

Nigerian output is down near ten percent in less than a month. The Obasanjo government is confused and fractured. The 2007 election demands a new president. Will Obasanjo use a crisis to continue his clumsy, kleptocratic rule? Will Shell and Total and Agip find a fee that the MEND gang accept instead of power sharing in the Delta?

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Re: Providence College Bans V Monologues

By on 1.20.06 | 1:38PM

Dave: I did not realize that we shared an alma mater. Though in my days at PC, the biggest to-do I recall was the departure of Rick Pitino to the Knicks, after he had led the most Cinderella of teams, the 1987 Friars, to the Final Four. Ensler had not yet defiled the printed page with her Monologues. I do recall the college's putting on an Edward Albee production, Seascape, one of his less objectionable pieces. Of course I only bothered attending because I was interested in the woman lead …. But I digress.

Good for Shanley. This bodes well for his presidency, and the college.

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