Archive for March, 2004

The big topic in the blogosphere today is the implications of the Spanish elections. In the wake of the terrorist bombing in Madrid a few days ago, the Popular Party government of Prime Minister Aznar (which was leading in polls prior to the bombing) was defeated by the Socialist Party. Unsurprisingly, I think this is going to have some very bad consequences.

There is reasonable dispute over the extent to which the bombings influenced the election. The vast majority (90%) of the Spanish public opposed the Iraqi campaign; it’s possible the Popular Party would have lost even without the bombing. The government’s rush to blame the bombings on the ETA (a Basque separatist movement which has been committing acts of terrorism in Spain for some time) was also seen by many as a transparent attempt to manipulate the fallout from the Madrid bombing in a way more friendly to the Popular Party.

I don’t think these things matter too much, though. Even if we stipulate that the Spanish electorate wasn’t motivated by a desire to appease the terrorists, and that the Popular Party would have lost the election even without the effects of the bombing, we’re left with the question of what lesson the terrorists will take from the election results.

This election was the first offensive strategic victory the terrorists have had since 9/11. From their point of view, a terrorist strike was immediately followed by the replacement of a strong anti-terror government with one that is likely to be much less so. (The new Prime Minister-elect has already promised to withdraw Spain’s support for the Iraqi reconstruction come July, and other Eurosocialists are already proclaiming that the bombing ‘proves’ that terrorism cannot be effectively opposed by military means. This makes about as much sense as claiming that the Battle of the Bulge proved that Nazism couldn’t be effectively opposed by military means, but I digress.) It looks as though a terrorist strike has toppled a major Western government and knocked out an ally from the coalition of the willing.

Even if this appearance is deceiving, even if it wasn’t a planned result of the attack, it has to have gotten the attention of the terrorists. There are other nations in the coalition whose governments might be vulnerable. Italy is an obvious example. (Britain less so, given that the likely replacement government under Michael Howard would be as strong an ally as Blair’s Labor government. Perhaps even stronger.)

And, of course, there’s the United States. President Bush has to be the number one target of the Islamofascist terror movement. If they think a terror strike in the United States in the runup to the November elections has a chance of replacing him with John Kerry, I can’t see why they wouldn’t go for it. An “October Surprise” is significantly more likely now than it was a week ago.

Of course, Americans aren’t Spanish. I’d like to think we wouldn’t react the way they did. But I’m not sure. A lot would depend on the timing.

A terror strike immediately before the election would result in Americans voting while the emotions of the attack were still raw. In that case, I think the question foremost in the mind of the electorate would be something like “Who do I trust more to track down and eliminate the people behind this attack, Bush or Kerry?” This scenario favors Bush. But a terror strike several months before the election would provide time for the shock to wear off and the media spin machine to present the attack as proof that Bush’s policies have failed to protect the nation. That scenario would favor Kerry.

I expect Kerry will start to lay the groundwork for the latter scenario by pushing the idea that any successful attack is ipso facto proof of the president’s failure.

There is some serious shit going down in Syria as I type this. It’s not getting much press right now, possibly because of the apparent communications blackout from the area.

This was originally reported as a “riot” at a soccer game. That is true to a point, it seems, although the fighting sides were Ba’athists and Kurds, and it has turned into a full scale uprising that sketchy reports say has claimed dozens of lives and currently engulfs four cities in northern Syria.

The Syrian military has dispatched a force of 10,000 troops to the region from Damascus, so this is hardly a mere riot anymore. Syria appears to have sealed its border with Iraq, and on the ground reports claim that the Syrian troops are arresting large numbers of people.

Last Friday the Syrian Embassy in Brussels was stormed by Kurdish activists, and the Syrian consulate in Geneva has been taken over by Kurdish activists who are trying to raise international awareness of what is currently going on in Syria.

We may be looking at the beginning of another mass purge of Kurds by the Syrian Ba’athists, and if the Iraqi Kurds on the other side of the border get through the Syrian blockade, there’s going to be a bloodbath.

Not quite as bad as the comic book stunt, but still pretty repulsive:

Representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, including a person dressed in an 8-foot-tall chicken costume, passed out “Chicken Chumps” trading cards to Lincoln Elementary School students Thursday. The cards showed unhappy-looking children with names such as “Cruel Kyle,” eating chicken.

Ravi Chand, a PETA campaign coordinator, said the oversized chicken accompanying him brought a message of caring and compassion to the children.

PETA’s website has a small section devoted to this. Check the .pdf of the cards themselves for pics of the backs of the cards as well.

From the “Sickly Sally” card:
Most chickens in stores have germs on them that can make you sick, and often those germs are really just poop! Sally feels awful after eating that poop-covered, germ-filled chicken sandwich. Her head is pounding, her stomach hurts, and she can’t get out of bed without throwing up.

From the “Cruel Kyle” card:
Eating at KFC is mean. KFC chickens are stuck in a big shed and don’t get to breathe fresh air or feel the warm sun. They live in their own poop and pee and are treated horribly from the moment they’re born until they have their necks cut open with a big knife. You can stand up for chickens: Don’t eat at KFC, and tell your friends not to eat there, either.

Such lovely imagery. Remember, we’re talking about elementary school children that PETA is handing these things out to.

Instapundit has suggested that people can express their condolences to the Spanish people by sending flowers to their embassy in Washington DC. I think that’s a great idea, and I ordered some white roses delivered just now. Spain has been a strong and steadfast supporter of the war, and stood by the United States after 9-11 when so many countries did not.

I happened to choose Twin Towers Florist, since they are relatively near to DC and the shop’s name seemed appropriate. There are other florists in the DC area. If you would like to send flowers to the Spanish Embassy (or any other message), this is the address and phone number to use:

Spanish Embassy
2375 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20037
(202) 452-0100

Wretchard has had a couple of interesting posts lately touching on the issue of “opting out out” of modern American society as it becomes increasingly hostile to traditional values. Although I have significant differences with the “traditional values” often espouded by the religious, I do think there’s something going on here.

In this post, Wretchard quotes a correspondent as follows:

I will not buy French products, even though in the past I was a huge fan of Izod shirts. I have a German car, but it is the last I will ever own once my lease is up in a year. I do not watch television, nor do I subscribe to the local newspaper due to its’ clear ideological bent…

Neither Anne nor I are particularly religious. We don’t go to church. I’m a self-described atheist. We don’t have any children to protect. Nevertheless, elements of the above litany strike home with me. Thanks to TiVo, my television watching habits are highly focussed on a vanishingly small segment of the shows being produced, and I’m never exposed to the stuff a lot of other people are watching. I don’t watch television news, or subscribe to the local newspaper. Etc.

By and large these weren’t explicitly ideologically driven decisions. I simply wound up using technology to filter out the elements of popular culture that I found distasteful. My time is too precious to me to waste it wallowing through cultural products that are dull, uninteresting, insulting or flat-out dishonest.

And yet… I’m not sure I like the potential consequences of trying to build the cultural equivalent of a redoubt and then retreating behind its walls. Sure, it’s more comfortable in here right now, but I can see the metaphorical barbarian hordes gathering outside. I’d be perfectly happy to leave them alone; the problem is that they don’t seem willing to grant me the same courtesy.

Anne Speaking:

The internet has made it much easier for me to get thorough, immediate news and commentary from virtually unlimited sources. Why should I sit through a TV news program to find out what usually amounts to information that is already 24 hours old (or more) compared to online sources, extremely fluffy with very little actual content, and the “punchline” is kept for the very end of the program. It takes them 30 minutes (including commercials) to tell me 3 minutes worth of news that I could have read online the day before.

The newspaper in the same. Our local one is the San Jose Mercury News, which is apparently considered one of the top 5 newspapers in the nation. I find that fact pretty scary, honestly. We decided to cancel our subscription when we realized we were only reading the comics and the rest was creating a fire hazard in our home. Besides, I can read the Murk online for free.

And, as Kyle said, thanks to Tivo, I have watched perhaps two commercials in the past year. We don’t watch live TV anymore; we don’t have to.

I think of this “opting out” as a logical extension of the “consumer’s vote”. Don’t like it? Go somewhere else and take your money with you. Evian is my favorite bottled water, but I don’t drink it anymore because it’s a French product. I’ve also developed a taste for Australian wines, and those of my home state (which are better than French wines anyway).

In the case of news, I’m taking my valuable time elsewhere. News media want my attention, and I have already evaluated the various options and decided where my attention is best focused. Their advertisers will presumably get a clue, eventually.

Honestly I’m not sure why TV news has survived as long as it has into the internet age. It must be because the majority of Americans still haven’t turned to the internet for their news. TV is a longstanding habit in our culture, but frankly ours isn’t even on most of the time these days.

Former Clinton pollster Dick Morris has an article on today arguing if Hillary isn’t Kerry’s veep candidate in 2004 she’ll be effectively blocked from the Presidency until 2016. An interesting read, although I am somewhat dubious about his assertion that Kerry would also benefit from Hillary’s presence on the ticket. Morris writes:

A vice presidential candidacy by her would turn his campaign into a crusade and would energize her supporters to a fever pitch. It would summon all the good memories of the Clinton prosperity without the bad reminders of Monica, et. al.

I wonder. One of the problems Bush has been suffering from recently is alienation in his base. The massive new Medicare entitlement, his immigration reform proposal, and his profligate spending have led more hard-core conservatives to question their allegience to Bush. These people aren’t likely to vote for Kerry (he’s even worse on the issues they care about), but there’s a real possibility they’d stay home on election day. But Clinton hatred is still alive; many of the people who might not be motivated to turn out in support of Bush would crawl over broken glass for a chance to vote against a Clinton.

I’d be hard-pressed to come up with any other single action Kerry could take that would be better suited to unite the wavering conservatives behind the President.

To the Santa Clara County Sheriff and the Santa Clara Police Department,

Dear Sirs:



Apparently Bush is speaking this morning in the Santa Clara Convention Center, which is in the same lot as the building where I work, and right next to it. I had to solve a puzzle to figure out how to get into the building today.

Ok, the police horses are cool.


UPDATE: About 60 protesters have set up shop on the other side of the street. I can’t make out what their signs say from here (5th floor), but my coworker says they are shouting “Bush, Bush Go Away!”

So of course the police have closed the road, screwing up traffic even more. Dude, there are police in our parking garage.

Good thing I can walk to lunch.

UPDATE 2:00pm: Note to self – when you leave the building to go to lunch, make sure to ask if the police will let you back in.

So I hung out on the corner for an hour with the anti-Bush protesters, and a few pro-Bush folks. They gave me a Bush/Cheney ’04 bumper sticker. Cool.

One woman was holding a sign that read “2.3 million jobs lost under Bush, time 4 a change”. I read the sign aloud and then commented, “including you apparently”. She said no, she had a job, but her son, brother, etc. did not. I said, “Why is that Bush’s fault?” She replied, “I don’t want to argue with you. I’m happy protesting like this.”

Spoken like someone without a real argument. But I was genuinely curious, which is why I asked.

My favorite protester was the guy in the black aloha shirt with marijuana leaves all over it. His sign read, “Medical Marijuana Is Not Terrorism”. Now that I can support.

And there was a guy there proudly displaying one of these flags, which you can buy from Adbusters:

The guy holding this flag commented, “I’m kinda sorry to see Apple on there, as a dedicated Mac user myself.” So corporations are okay, as long as they have a hip, progressive image and you happen to personally like their products? Just another hypocrite.

Personally what I find amusing about this flag is the presence of both the Windows logo and the Internet Explorer logo, which are both Microsoft products. I guess Microsoft is doubly evil so they had to put it on there twice.

Today has started very well indeed. Perhaps there is some justice in the world after all.