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Shock and Awe

Doing the job...

... and the Iraqi people like it.

Wow. There's a lot of fighting left before us, but things are going extraordinarily well:
-- Light US casualties
-- Armored columns halfway to Baghdad
-- Entire DIVISIONS surrendering en masse
-- Iraqi leadership in disarray, mass murderer general "Chemical Ali" dead, other generals fleeing
-- Little collateral damage, few civilian deaths
-- Only a few oil well fires, which are quickly doused by the Deltas and the SEAL teams
-- Approval of Iraq action now 76%, with six in ten Americans "strongly" supporting (top box, for you planner geeks out there)
-- French carping even more irrelevant by the moment
-- No terrorist attacks anywhere
-- Dow up again by 250 points, economy primed to recover

To sum up:
Western Civilization appears to be ripping a new a**hole in the foul body of Islamic fascism. And doing it quickly, with limited casualties and civilian deaths, and an appreciative Iraqi population.

To the antiwar protesters, this must be their worst nightmare. Antiwar protesters in San Francisco have grown so desperate that they are literally crapping in the streets. Bereft of argument, their rallying cry seems to be shifting from "No blood for oil" to "Hey, look at me! Wait, where are you going? Look at me! LOOK AT ME! PLEASE!!!!!"

As I was pondering all this last night, I felt a strange feeling I haven't felt in a long time. Hope.

Hope for the safety of our troops. Hope or the swift victory of our forces. Hope for a victory that will silence those who wish America ill, or at least reduce them to impotent carping. Hope for the liberation of an enslaved people. Hope that the national wrangling and uncertainty on so many levels will be over.

Thanks, Tad, and all your colleagues taking care of business over there. You inspire us all.

I even felt happy enough to listen to 1970s music. YMCA came on, and I started smiling, thinking it a good soundtrack for watching the tanks as they bounded along through the desert. And about how wonderfully diverse our country and our culture is, from Lee Greenwood to the Village People. And how our victory will preserve that way of life and that freedom for us to be whoever the hell we want to be and to do whatever the hell we want to do. For men, women, Republican, Democrat, Pro-Liberation, Anti-War, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, straight, gay, even Duke fans. All of us. Free.



As much as I support what we're doing in Iraq, I hate the name, "Operation Iraqi Freedom". In the past, we had some great kicking-ass-and-taking-names code names that you could quickly turn around into a video game: Desert Storm, Rolling Thunder, etc. This one is just blah.

In advertising, we call this "strategy on screen": sure, you're communicating the strategy, but in a way that does not engage, entertain, or inspire, that ultimately will be ignored and forgotten. Like a Buick commercial.

It's even worse than "Just Cause" for the Panama invasion back in 1989.

Karen Hughes is back and Karl Rove remains the Brand Planner In Chief; the administration has no excuse.

That's nice, now go away

InspectorMan Hans Blix has taken time out from his busy schedule expounding about global warming on MTV to inform us that Iraq is material breach of Resolution 1441 when they fired the Scuds at us in Kuwait. No need to thank us, just make sure you let the French know about this.

You're all winners just for playing

You hear about the "fog of war", and that's certainly true with the Iraqi Army. In the last Gulf War, things were easy. You had the regular Iraqi Army, and you had the "elite" Republican Guard. The draftees and the hardcore guys, kind of like the Wehrmacht and the SS in World War II. Simple.

You still have those guys, but now there's also the Special Republican Guard. Supposedly, they're the super-elite, the "best of the best" of the enemy forces.

Unfortunately for the Iraqis, the name does not inspire the level of dread that they intended. When I hear "Special Republican Guard", my first thoughts are quite different.

The first thing that pops into my mind, unfortunately, is that this is Iraq's equivalent to the Special Olympics, sort of a "Junior Republican Guard" for folks who couldn't get into the regular Republican guard, but wanted to spread evil anyway. Last night at dinner, colleague ExpatRoger wondered, "do they go into combat in the short buses?"

The second thing that pops into my mind is that they're the "very special" troops, sort of like the "very special episodes" of TV shows, where a character dies, fights drug addiction, suffers from the trendy disease of the month, etc.

Sure, they're evil Republican Guard henchmen, but they also take time out to help the community, rebuilding the homes they destroyed in the crushing of the 1991 Basra uprising, coaching little league teams, giving motivational pep talks to dissidents to encourage them to change their ways before feeding them into plastic shredders and/or raping their wives and children in front of them. The "spirit of Baghdad", you might say.

AND WHO MADE THESE GUYS REPUBLICANS, ANYWAY? They don't seem like any stripe of Republicans I've ever met: Neocons, Libertarians, South Park Republicans, Mainstream, Old Yankee, Conservative, Moral Majority...

There are religious fundamentalists in the Party (not my thing, as you may have gathered), but they tend to be Christian fundamentalists, and I don't think the "flames of Allah will consume you" hardcore Muslims would mix well with them at the meetings.

Republicans? Seems like they'd be more likely to vote for Tom Daschle than W. Paging Karl Rove...

I love this country

One of the Armored units Fox is embedded with has the call sign "Team Heavy Metal". Their backup is "Team Rock and Roll". Cool.

Product Placement

One war stock to buy? GM, marketer of the HUMMER brand. Tons of free advertising. There's the battlefield coverage of embedded correspondents bounding along in H1s, following along the Abrams and Bradleys, of course, just as we saw in the last war.

Now, apparently, GM has also reached a naming agreement with the Dept. of Defense. The DoD is referring to the enemy airbases in Western Iraq captured by the Special Forces as H1, H2, and H3. SUV cognoscenti know that the H1 is the original gigantor Hummer, H2 is the new, merely large Hummer that just came out, and H3 is the Wrangler/Liberty-class model that will launch in 2004.

Why We Fight, part 18

P.J. O'Rourke on the end of the last war, as he sat in the cockpit of a C-130 as the pilot chased camels along the Saudi desert:
This was the stuff that made it all worthwhile, to be in absolute charge of 17,000 horsepower, to have, gripped in your fists, the whole might of science, of industry, of civilization's mastery of the world -- our civilization's mastery of this world. "HOOOOO-AH!!!" as the Gulf troops say.

We popped over the top of a little ridge, and there was a Bedouin camp on the other side. I watched a boy about nine or ten years old come running out from one of the goat-hair tents. We were so close I could see his expression – thrill and fear and awe and wonder combined. His whole life he'll remember the moment that sky-blackening, air-mauling, thunder-engined steel firmament of war crossed his face. And I hope all his bellicose, fanatical, senseless, quarrel-mongering neighbors – from Tel Aviv to Khartoum, from Tripoli to Tehran – remember it too.

-- P.J. O’Rourke, Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice and Alcohol-Free Beer

Gulf War II Drinking Game

This was inevitable, but it happened quicker than I anticipated. And just in time for the weekend.

Jonah Goldberg at National Review has created a drinking game you can play while watching the war coverage.

It works best if you're watching Sheppard Smith, Fox News' male equivalent to Laurie Dhue, but after extensive research, you can use it for any network's coverage.

The rules are simple:
-- Every time you hear the word "embedded", take a drink.
-- Every time you hear the anchor or someone else ask, "Am I pronouncing this correctly?", chug.

Best Cinematography

Watching Iraqi news conference live on BBC right now. Two spokesmen at the podium. One of them is droning on like a comic book villain, "We will defeat them, they thought they could confuse us by invading in different places, but we are not confused, etc we have defeated them and their nefarious plans, yadda, yadda, yadda..."

His buddy, standing on the left, occasionally adds helpful comments.

As the cameraman pans over to the buddy to the left, the camera also pans down. The buddy is has carried his AK-47 with him to the press conference, and he's holding it by his side. The camera zooms in.

Buddy is not just holding his gun, but his finger is on the trigger, sliding it up and down as the other guy rants.

THAT'S good camera work, and amazing journalism.

What else do you need to know about Iraq from the press conference? We've know they're a dictatorship, that's not new. This tells us they're rattled, too.

When Americans Attack

Fox News kicks it for another straight night. And not only because of my unrequited love for Laurie Dhue.

Tonight, Fox unveiled its newest reality series, its best ever, better than Cops, better even than the hot tub episode of Joe Millionaire. Since they haven't named it, I will give it a Fox name: When Americans Attack!

I am referring, of course, to the embedded reporter coverage from Fox News of the soldiers invading Iraq in real time. All the networks are doing this, but Fox is doing it more than the others, and it is extremely compelling, riding along with the Abrams and the Bradleys as they go bounding along through the desert. I'm not sure if this comes from their decision to stick with the live battlefield footage or that "their" units are more involved early on than the others.

It is addictive, though, and, surprisingly, very tastefully done. You get the feel for the scene from reporters, who stand back and shoot, letting the guys do their job.

The best macro overview of the war, not surprisingly, came from the Brits (hey, they invented the language). Every time I flipped to them, you could get a great picture of how the campaign was proceeding within five minutes, usually with news you hadn't seen on the other channels or sometimes even the Internet.

You couldn't stay with the Beeb for long, though, because the news would then switch to a longer "analysis" piece not much different from CNN, or a 10-minute protest overview, with lots of man-in-the-street pieces from Paris. Not that protests aren't important, but interviewing the French seemed a bit much, because they are irrelevant now. And because it's our troops and the Brits' who are over there.

Although it was fun to watch almost every Frenchman they spoke with state that, gosh, no, they didn't hate Americans, just George Bush and his policies, that surely the American people knew that and wouldn't take offense, and that all the unpleasantness would blow over in a couple of weeks.

I don't think the French understand the depth of feeling at the way they are perceived as having tried to undermine America in its hour of need. Even my peace friends aren't thrilled at the way the French acted, and many of us on both sides of the debate feel that the French government's intransigence backfired by stiffening our resolve and took us closer and faster to war. Some things haven't changed after 9/11 (look at shows like Joe Millionaire and the national fascination with Elizabeth Smart). But anger at the French will take a long time for a lot of people to move beyond.

Information overload

Multiple newsgasms as we watch history in the making: mass surrenders, Umm Qasr and the Kirkuk oilfields waving the flag, the upcoming battle of Basra... too much to keep up with individual news items to post everything I want to here, so I'll comment on what interests me, and there's a ton of that. To quote Dennis Miller, "if you're coming to me as your first source for hard data, you need to give it up, baby."

Spewing propaganda

The Starbucks-trashing radicals out in San Francisco have made most of us sick to our stomachs for quite a while, and now they're doing it to themselves. The newest tactic for the barista-bashers by the Bay? "Vomit-ins" in front of government offices.

March Madness is finally in full swing, and the radical SF crew demonstrates why they got the #1 seed in the West for IronyFest2K3.

March Madness
or, alternatively, how world politics would be reported on ESPN, because 24-hour gorging on war and basketball are causing the two to blur in my mind (I am Olbermann, hear me whine)

In case you were wondering, the other #1 seeds for IronyFest 2K3 are:

East: France
The most obvious #1 seed, detailed here and elsewhere on this page. Their biggest strength, of course, is their tenacious and often irritating "prevent" defense, led by Jacques "Coq" Chirac and Dominique "Wilkins" de Villepin, which they use to try to stay in games against teams much larger and powerful than they are. When combined with the team's "trash-talk" attitude and penchant for fouling, they can stymie any team for seemingly months at a time. Swedish exchange student Hans Blix was an important substitute player during the regular season, but sustained injuries during the conference championship Monday in New York that will likely end his career.

The UN Security Council made a strong showing that earned it a #2 seed, but conference tournament losses to the US and Great Britain ensured that the selection committee would give the top slot in the bracket to the French.

MidEast: Saddam
Another traditional favorite and perennial #1 seed from the region. Saudi Arabia came close and had a strong start this season, but fell back when the US showed its resolve during a couple of nonconference matchups during the regular season. This season may also have been Saudi Arabia's swan song as a major player. Saudi Arabia relied on its traditional series with the USA to give it the strength of schedule to argue for status as a powerhouse, but wins over Iraq and others may allow the US to finally drop the Saudis from its schedule, as many fans have been arguing for years.

South: Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV)
A surprise #1 pick in a region with other strong contenders in the region, including Fidel "Socialism or Death" Castro's Cuba and Venezuela's Hugo "Castro Lite" Chavez.

Knowledgeable fans of irony have long known about the merits of West Virginia's elder statesman, but considered his conference, the US Senate, a bit small when compared with some of the others, such as NATO and the European Union. Byrd overcame this handicap with two of the strongest irony plays of the year. France may wear you out day in and day out with strong play, but Byrd has the biggest flair for the dramatic on Earth.

Fans knew Byrd was special early on, during December's preseason Trent Lott invitational, when Byrd helped lead the Democratic charge against the Mississippi Republican point guard's double team alongside South Carolina forward Strom Thurmond. Byrd astonished everyone with his denouncement and ironic play against the old South duo, even though Byrd himself had been a wizard of the Ku Klux Klan during his freshman season, and recently played a bit role as a Confederate general waving the Battle Flag during this winter's film Gods and Generals.

And then, during the conference tournaments this weekend and earlier this week, Byrd made the play that made the selection committee sit up and take notice. At the last moment, as the bombs literally began to fall, Byrd decided to rip into the administration and to "weep for his country". Principle is one thing, but it doesn't win you points in IronyFest. No, he got the seed because he had already voted to give the President authority for war, and that a higher percentage of West Virginians have fought in recent wars than residents of any other state. Tenacity, chutzpah, and sheer cluelessness... all the elements of a true prime time player, a true Rolls-Roycer who knows when to turn it on when the game is on the line.

Transformers, robots (and guardsmen) in disguise.

Talk about shock and awe. Remember the Transformers cartoon from the 1980s? Well, it turns out that Optimus Prime is a reservist in Cleveland, and he's being shipped out to the Gulf. A general at the Pentagon is quoted as saying, "It's great to have the employ of the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard". I am not making this up.

Which gets me to thinking about what other '80s icons are doing in the war effort. Hans Blix would have been much less feckless had Inspector Gadget been on the job, but I think I saw go-go Gadget deploying his gas mask on a shopping mall rooftop in Kuwait City on CNN.

The A-Team is probably in their black van streaming north to baghdad alongside the M1 tanks and the Bradleys, the only question being whether Mr. T will even deign to pity the fool that Saddam Hussein is when he gets to Baghdad and throws the Butcher of Baghdad hella far. Like the 1st Marine Light Armored Division, nothing will stop T's inevitable onslaught of pain.

The G.I Joe team, Chuck Norris, Rambo, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and the rest of them are probably doing the scud-hunt thing with the Deltas in Western Iraq.

Knight Rider Hasselhof is probably trying to lifeguard the Marine landings at Umm Qasr, but he's having trouble because his TransAm, now 20 years old, keeps getting stuck in the sand, rusting in the salt air, and whining. Pammie, Carmen, Yasmeen, and the rest of the Baywatch girls have been removed to a secure location, awaiting their unveiling at the victory parade in downtown Baghdad. Right now they're practicing for the pole dances they'll be doing on that crossed-swords Mother Of All Battles monument that used casts of Saddam's forearms for the hands.

But if we really were serious about surgically taking out Iraq's leadership, we need to get MacGyver on the case and save the Tomahawks for other targets. Just parachute him into Baghdad alone, and he wouldn't need equipment. He'd sneak in, and then, using a mixture of couscous, rubber bands, lint, and goat cheese, he'd blow up the bunker and bring Saddam out for the Iraqi people to b***h-slap, Ceaucescu style, on worldwide TV. Blood for oil, indeed.

And we could probably get Richard Dean Anderson pretty quickly anyway, now that the TV version of Stargate is in the SciFi channel death spiral.

The only other '80s icons I'd dearly love to have back are Francois Mitterand and Helmut Kohl, to show their successors what honor and balls truly are.

Let's roll

We opened the can last night.

For the troops, for the peace, for the Iraqi people, our only option now is to win the war, and to win it quickly.

And as individuals, to pray for our troops.

Semper Fi, Tad.

Why we fight

From the side of a Navy ship...

and from the Iraqi exiles.

Fun with photos

New captions for this photo:

Iraqi WaterPik (from FootballBatJim, thanks!)
Coalition forces make surgical strikes on "targets of opportunity" in Iraq leadership

The caption contest is still open, so keep those cards and letters coming!

Must-see Iraqi TV

Premiering on Iraq 2 tonight... Saddam or Not!

When you're a dictator trying to rally your forces in the face of imminent destruction, wearing a beret always helps. The circa-1985 RunDMC eyeglasses are a nice touch as well. After all, you want your enslaved subjects to know that you're not just evil, but you can also rock the mike and the wheels of steel.

Favorite line from the badly translated "Saddam" rant?
"Drive out the enemy invaders with your swords."
Swords? We have Stealth bombers, Raptor fighters, Abrams tanks, and a whole lot of Marines with M-16 rifles. If you want to play it that way, fine. Rock beats scissors, game over.

Rolling down Imperial Highway, big nasty redhead at my side, Santa Ana winds blowing hot from the North, baby, we were born to ride...

Bombs over Baghdad, or sunrise over El Segundo?

Maybe I've spent too much time in California, but the static shots of Baghdad the cable networks keep flipping back to look an awful lot like Los Angeles. Occasionally they'll rotate in that shot of the minaret that looks like a phallic symbol, but usually it's just the same intersection.

What is the deal with the traffic cams anyway? If you watch any morning TV at all, you expect to see the "Gridlock Busters!" graphic fly in and hear somebody shouting into a helmet mike from a traffic copter:
"Hi Steve, Hi Jillian, here's what we're looking at this morning as you head into work. That tie-up we had this morning is gone now, pretty much smooth sailing as you head into work from the suburbs and along the river this morning across the bridges. Just remember, the inside lanes are blocked off for construction for several miles along Saddam Highway and the 72 Virgins For Jihadi Martyrs Turnpike.

And, if that wasn't going to tie things up enough for your drive home later today, the DOT also tells us to expect heavy delays due to Coalition airstrikes all up and down the 405, especially around the exits for the Ministry of Defense and the Saddam bunker.

Try to take alternate routes and side streets and avoid driving in military vehicles if you can.

Time to turn it over to Abdul for your Accu-Weather forecast, and because a Marine F-18 just fired a set of AMRAAM missiles at my chopper. In Sky5, I'm Chopper Dave, reminding you to die a glorious death repelling the evil imperialist infidels, and for first news, turn to Baghdad 5 Action News, Dedicated, Determined, Dependable."

OK, then

Headline ticker on Fox:
Well, duh.

We report, you decide

Didn't get up to speed on the war until later than most folks last night. Was out having dinner with the Dallas crowd and FreakingBamahTara, in town from NY for a visit (quick review: Hattie's in Oak Cliff rocks).

I wasn't expecting a strike last night. Bush wasn't expected to speak, and everyone said we'd never strike on the night of a full moon. Can't remember if the concern about the full moon came from the Pentagon being worried about bad guys being able to see Stealth bombers in the light, or if Area 51 knew something about werewolves that we didn't.

Needless to say, the rest of the night was a prolonged newsgasm, flipping channels and web surfing.

My take on the networks:

CNN: Very little news or insight. The same one shot of a missile, over and over and over and over again, with the same inane commentary and less-than-penetrating comments from Aaron Brown: "So, Bob, how do the (troops/Iraqis/French/Adminstration officials/Klingons) FEEL?" Mental note: short AOLTimeWarner.

BBC: As with CNN, lots of missile shot replays, but they stayed with the disconcerting underwater camera version. But decent insight and commentary in the voiceover, as you'd expect from the Brits.

MSNBC: Bad computer graphics. REALLY BAD computer graphics, like a huge map of Iraq, with three very tiny 1989-era Nintendo-style flames flickering in the middle. Come on, guys, this is 2003, the era of PlayStation 2. And the "MS" in your name stands for Microsoft, the makers of the XBox. Your new slogan may be "NBC News on Cable", but you have no excuse.

To distract us from the Commodore Amiga graphics, MSNBC put retired military people onscreen. Everyone does this and you need guys who've been there and done that to give you color commentary. But MSNBC takes it to the extreme, to the point last night where it seemed like senior military officials are required to do a tour of duty on that network as part of their reserve commitment upon discharge.

Their retired colonel who had won the CMH was pretty good, though. He knew his stuff and was able to express the different churning emotions and priorities going through the minds of officers and soldiers as they go into battle.

The colonel also had that matter-of-fact chipperness that you hear from real military operators when they describe how things work. It can be unsettling to some because they're discussing actions which result in death and destruction. It was strangely reassuring and humanizing to me, though. You hear a lot of rhetoric about the heroism and sacrifice of the military, as we should. But listening to the colonel also reminded me that our troops, like many of the best people I've known and work with, are extremely competent, creative, professional people who have difficult jobs to do and take pride in doing them well. Extremely well.

FOX NEWS: I saved the best for last.

Great mix of commentators, and really good NFL-style graphics. They even upgraded the solo F-15 blowing things up on the War/News Alert bumper to a SQUADRON. Ooooooh.

More substantively, they also made good use of their link with SkyNews in the UK, and reported a wider range of breaking news than anyone else.

And best of all, their anchor was Laurie Dhue. Mmmmmmm... Laurie.

Live from Baghdad

Came across this site last night, a web journal by a guy living in Baghdad and impatient for liberation. Definitely worth a look, while they still have electricity and phone lines.

Apparently the strike was surgical; very little damage in civilian areas, but most of the shops are closed.

Interesting perspective, and, along with Anna Kournikova pictures, a wonderful demonstration of the power of the web.

"Lock Box" Powerbooks for 2004?

As a Mac fanatic who happens to be a conservative, I'm not sure how to feel about Al Gore joining the board of Apple Computer.

I am, however, very happy that Al Gore didn't have any other jobs that would have kept him for the board position.

Moment of truth
Stout hearts, everybody.
"Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves."
-- Winston Churchill, "The Gathering Storm."

We won't target civilian areas

If you can think of a better caption, please let me know (e-mail link on the left works now).

Deadline in a few hours. Time to pray.

But the news so far has been pretty good, whether read by Laurie Dhue or some other, lesser anchor. Consider:

Thousands of Iraqi troops trying to surrender. Ever polite about the rules of war, we and the Brits turned them back since we weren't officially at war yet (but we told them we would happily and gratefully take them in should the war begin). Surrendering Iraqis, and Yanks and Brits following the rule of law.

30 nations now with us in the coalition of the willing. And that doesn't even include Arab countries like Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and now Turkey, which are giving us bases and overflight rights. See, we aren't going it alone.

Americans rallying around the flag and the troops (this matters to the men and women over there, who do worry about support back home and know very well how veterans were shunned and spat on after Vietnam). According to a Washington Post poll, 71 percent of Americans overall support for the war as the only option left to us.

Heck, even 53% of BRITONS say they have confidence in President Bush to make the right decisions on Iraq. And this was a poll commissioned by the Guardian, the main Labour newspaper in the UK.

And now even two thirds of WOMEN in the US support the war. Guess this means that the Lysistrata Project (a/k/a the Great American C**k Block) is, happily, not gaining traction.

The project was based on an ancient Greek play where the women, sick of war, all quit having sex with their husbands, and the idea was to do the same here in America.

The project came from a feminist peace group, Code Pink, who base their thinking on this logic:
"On the question of invading Iraq, men really are from Mars and women from Venus. Just as that ancient Roman god and goddess disagreed on matters of war and love, the two sexes are arguing today on whether armed conflict is the answer in Iraq...Women fear for people's lives; they see their children, their husbands, in the line of fire. Bring up the issue of war to many men, and their response is matter-of-fact: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must be removed from power, and war may be the only option."

One response would be to quote a clip from the movie Airplane, where they are showing different anchors in different countries describing the plane disaster about to happen, and leave it at that:
PBS Announcer: "If this world were run by vegetarian women rather than flesh-eating men, this kind of thing wouldn't happen, would it?"

The better thing to do would be to point you to a couple of places where women themselves have taken on the issue, here and here.

Of course, the best response is from Eliza Gauger, who created the Mommy Liberty right after 9/11:

Freedom fries: The Empire Strikes Back

If you were hoping the French would capitulate so easily against our onslaught of renaming "French" things to "Freedom" (fries, toast, ticklers, etc.), you would be wrong. Dead wrong.

The food battle has been joined. A French anti-war group is raising money to send pretzels to President Bush (he fainted when he choked on one last year while watching a football game). They do get points for creativity.

Here's how it works. You go to their website, and click on the US Flag to read a version of the site in English instead of crazy foreigner talk. Those taking part pay 7 Euros (about $7.56 in real money) for a packet of pretzels to be sent at a later date.

The actual working of this, though, seems a bit dodgy. You don't get any pretzels yourself, first off. Your packet is being stored with others to be sent at a strategic later date (a bit late, if the objective is to stop Bush from leaving the Security Council runaround and striking against Iraq without France's sanction). And pretzels and shipping must be expensive in France; only 1 Euro of the 7 goes to the peace movement.

The idea hasn't exactly caught fire among actual Frenchmen, though. The site says they've raised $798 (€739 in crazy multicolored non-American money) so far. Not exactly sweeping la patrie, especially when compared with the strength of the Freedom Fries meme.

Maybe the French are capitulating; they have had lots of practice. Maybe America is more beloved in France than the pundits are letting on. Or maybe it's because we Americans tend to take matters into our own hands, and the first response of many continental Europeans is to wait for the government to do something before they strike out on their own.

And for you former Washington High School football players out there, note the title bar of the French website: "No War--Protect Childrens". I hope Coach "Mens" Gibbs hasn't moved to France and gone into e-commerce.

Happy Days
Medical alert: Those from back home afflicted with ABC (Anybody But Carolina) Syndrome are encouraged to scroll to the next article. Post contains reminiscence of UNC basketball before Doherty, mentions of Michael Jordan and Dean Smith; may induce stomach pains, nausea, and impotence in those suffering from your condition.

Despite my crush on Laurie Dhue that will not go away and my seeming obsession with matters of war, diplomacy and conservatism, I do watch other channels on TV besides Fox News (please don't hold it against me, Laurie; I always turn back).

Tonight it was the a replay of the 1982 NCAA Championship , UNC vs. Georgetown, on ESPN Classic, which has become the "SafePlace" for Tarheel Nation in the last couple of years, when we haven't even made it to March Madness (we did win our NIT game tonight, but it wasn't televised here in Texas).

(Making Homer-Simpson "donut" moans and drooling) Mmmmmmm...1982... Sweeeeeeeet.

Carolina's third NCAA title in basketball. Dean Smith's first, after years of going to the Final Four without the big one (darn that Kareem). Getting to see James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and even our present coach, Matt Doherty, in blue and playing well.

And best of all, as you see in the picture above, it had arguably the biggest moment in basketball history. Carolina had held onto a one point lead for four minutes by running the very effective (but mind-numbingly boring) Four Corners offense. Spread the court, pass the ball, run the clock out or force the other team to foul you. Can't do that today with shot clocks.

With one minute left, Georgetown somehow stole the ball without fouling, and streaked up the court to take the lead.

Carolina's ball. One minute left. Crushing defense from Pat Ewing and the other Georgetown players. Point guard Jimmy Black can't find anyone to pass to inside to get the easy layup and the win (no 3-point shot back then, either).

Thirty seconds. Twenty seconds. Dean Smith is going to go home from the Final Four without a national championship for the eighth time.

Nineteen seconds. The 2 guard is suddenly open on the outside. Black dishes the ball to him.

With seventeen seconds left, the guard, #23, quickly drains the jumper.

Carolina wins the national championship.

That was the night that guard, #23, went from being "Mike Jordan, freshman from Laney High School in Wilmington", became the Michael known and beloved around the world today.

Except by Dukies, State fans, and others afflicted with ABC Syndrome. And probably the French, just on general principles.

Not sure if this is worth a thank-you note

We didn't really need another reason to hope Saddam doesn't use his nuclear weapons, but we got one today. France said that if our troops were attacked with chemical weapons, they MAY come to our aid.

Once again, France's government shows us how it deserves its #1 seed in IronyFest 2003 with a 4-point play:

First of all, we know France is probably trying to smooth things out with us after the diplomatic b***h-slapping they've done the last couple of months, but there's that little weasel word "may".

Sounds like we'd be up for another round of the French decisiveness and fast action we've come to love. If we're attacked, I guess that would mean then flashing the Security Council's yellow bat-signal-like "UN" alert light to summon Hans Blix from another guest-host gig on Total Request Live discussing global warming to put on his InspectorMan costume and hop in the UNMOVICmobile (a nice white LandCruiser) to appear at the UN to "investigate", get the Ambassador from Cameroon to put down his urine health drink, and listen to Dominique de Villepin grimace, shrug, say "bof", and lecture us for several months with no end in sight?

Nice try, but since troops attacked by chemical weapons would only have 9-15 seconds to pull on their masks and MOPP gear, ultimately meaningless.

Second, where did the materials for Iraq's chemcial weapons come from? Or, more accurately, quel est le provenance des materiels pour ces armes chimiques Irakiens?

Third, wasn't France arguing that the inspectors were proving that Iraq had no chemical weapons?

Finally, there's this line from the statement:
"France would assess what measures of assistance to take in a spirit of friendship and solidarity."

Assistance, friendship and solidarity. From the French government?

Ponch on politics

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle once again demonstrates why he's now the Minority Leader.


Thanks to everyone who has stopped by in the last week or so. Hope you're enjoying things and the frequent updating. Check out the archive pages as well if you're new.

And I'm even getting feedback, at least from folks back East:
"Enjoyed it"
-- MarineTad, somewhere in the Persian Gulf

-- JeepstahBen, somewhere in Virginia

-- TigahBo, somewhere in the Carolinas

I haven't gotten many comments from the rest of you, just spam e-mails hawking Viagra, home mortgages, and pictures of nude women. But I know that's just your way of playing hard to get.

I've talked about Tad and Ben, but TigahBo is new. He's a good friend with a beautiful wife and two great kids back in the homeland. More importantly for the current crisis, he has a very powerful friend: Mr. T.

Here's TigahBo with T last fall. I'm not sure what they're talking about, probably either long distance rates or Clemson recruiting. From the look of it, I'd say long distance. And maybe TigahBo had even mentioned Carrot Top.

Like the Bush family and America, it seems that Mr. T has had to deal with Saddam Hussein before.

But no matter where Saddam hides, or even if he got a deal on a last minute ticket at Priceline, there will be nowhere to hide from Mr. T's inevitable onslaught of pain.

The only question I have: since we're at war with Saddam, should Mr. T even pity the fool at all? I just don't know.

Orange alert, red meat

More Rumsfeldian wartime propaganda from

Freedom fries, the final frontier

It was only a matter of time.

48 Hours

Great speech by the President last night, in my opinion. He made the case without a lot of rhetoric or grandstanding. He just laid it out, calmly, with determination. If Bush is a cowboy, he's Gary Cooper from High Noon, not the Slim Pickens from Dr. Strangelove that the French and others make him out to be.

But what really intrigued me was the 48-hour deadline for Saddam to get out of Dodge. It combines my long history as a business traveler and my interest in world politics.

He's going to have to fly commercial. The no-fly zone means no jets from his air force. Asking us for a plane has to mean a diversion for "mechanical" reasons to Guantanamo if he's lucky; Huntsville, Texas if he's not.

48 hours means the airlines are going to hose him if he tries to call over the phone--walkup fares for the whole family of evil, Uday, Qusai, Uttbay, Itchbay, Ebay, and all the little Bays. The crush of people trying to get out of Baghdad means he couldn't use frequent flyer miles either, since all the seats would be taken already, even for "executive" flyers like him (sure, they SAY you'll always be able to get a seat once you reach a certain level, but just try doing that on a holiday).

Since he's leaving power, he's probably going to have to make the reservations for himself. As a soon-to-be ex-dictator, he wouldn't want the travel office or anyone else to know he was gone until it was too late (remember Ceaucescu?). And the NSA and the Pentagon are probably tracking all the cellphones and satphones in the Greater Baghdad metro, so he can't call direct.

So if Saddam actually listened to the speech and has half a brain (or even a quarter), he should be hunched over a laptop surfing travel sites as I write this. So which site would Saddam use? He likes having power, so he may be drawn to Priceline, which would let him name his own price. Not being able to pick his airline might get under his skin, though, so he may be drawn to Orbitz, with good webfares from major airlines.

I suspect, though, that he's probably comparison shopping between Travelocity and Expedia to have the greatest number of options to manipulate (something he's done for quite a while with the UN). And after having been the undisputed lord and master over 25 million Iraqis, you know he's into control. Probably looking for a first-class seat with personal video and a lay-flat bed at a discount, if I had to guess.

Hopefully the CIA and NSA are wise to this, and will direct their hackers to track the Butcher of Baghdad and limit his options so that the best he can get is a multi-hour flight with middle seats for everyone, five connections (including one through O'Hare on a foul-weather day) before his destination, no meal (not even a bistro bag or pack of trail mix), broken headset with no replacement, and flight attendants who only come by once and refuse to give him the whole can of soda. And then, when he finally gets to his destination, we send in the Delta Force and nab him anyway. But not before "losing" his bags and acting really fussy about the claim check tickets.

Or Saddam could stay in his gold-plated bunker and take his chances. Dying in the bunker might be more comfortable.

Orange alert

Great Seinfeld question from last fall:
Why do the clips of Al Qaeda on TV always show the terrorists on the monkeybars?

The second casualty of war

It has been said truth is the first casualty of war. The way the ironies are piling up these days, a sense of irony among governments and public figures must be the second.

You would think the French, of all people, would have the grace and style to be a bit demure after President Bush zinged them tonight:
"These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it."

Mais non. There was, of course, a strongly worded response issued in President Chirac's name from the Elysee Palace this evening:
"So, you think you could out-clever us French folk with your silly knees-bent running about advancing behavior?! I wave my private parts at your aunties, you cheesy lot of secondhand electric donkey-bottom biters."

Oh, wait, that was from John Cleese playing a French soldier (rather a contradiction in terms) in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Here's an excerpt the real statement:
""Whatever the objective pursued, France recalls that only the Security Council has the authority to justify the use of force. Shirking the legitimacy of the United Nations, privileging force over justice, that would be taking on a heavy responsibility"

Strong words, but not as strongly felt as you may think. Monday morning (yes, yesterday) French commandos took over an airport in the Central African Republic without so much as an e-mail to the Security Council. Just like they did in the capital city of the Ivory Coast two months ago , in the name of "restoring order" (protesters there wave American flags, still more irony). Actually, the French send troops into African countries with frightening regularity for such an enlightened, postmodern culture.

And it goes beyond sub-Saharan Africa, too. The French didn't phone Kofi, Boutros, or Boutros when they resumed nuclear bomb testing in the South Pacific in 1995. Or before their special forces bumped off the Greenpeace protestors Nor did they consult the UN before their botched invasion of Egypt in 1956, or their war to reclaim Vietnam in the early 1950s, forcing us into 25 years of war in Southeast Asia and decades more of Oliver Stone films.

But we go to the UN, get a resolution, and diddle around for a couple of months longer than we should just to be nice to everyone, and WE'RE the imperialistes? I don't understand. Must be a bad case of simplisme from too much Anna Nicole Smith. Je vous en prie.

Do the dew

Believe it or not, there is a silver lining to the end of diplomacy.

"Undecided" Security Council member nation Cameroon no longer has the to worry over the weighty questions of war, peace, proliferation of weapons mass destruction, the effectiveness of the UN, the role of the American hyperpower in a post-9/11 world, the fringe-vs.-center debate in the EU, the solidarity of the West, and the competing appeals from Dominique de Villepin and Colin Powell.

Now that the long months of wrangling for its support are over, Cameroon is free to focus all its energies on its main domestic problem, people consuming their own urine as a health drink. I kid you not.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

On the way back home tonight, I passed a BAGPIPER in full kilted regalia playing outside the pub down the street from my house. Very cool. Sometimes you just have to love living in the city.

AND the market was up 282 points. Lots of good news. Prosperity can't return too quickly.


Just heard back from my cousin over in the Gulf, and just in time, because they're shutting down the troops' e-mail. I would imagine they're going to be a little busy for e-mailing for a while.

But he was able to look at the site, and had some good things to say--how cool is that? Thanks, and we'll keep posting!

Godspeed Tad, and good luck to you and your comrades. Semper Fi!

Crying havoc, letting slip the dogs of war

"Send lawyers, guns, and money, the **** has hit the fan"
-- Hunter S. Thompson

Quite a busy morning.
UN inspectors pulling out of Iraq.
All UN staff now ordered to bug out.
Second resolution withdrawn at the Security Council.
President Bush to address the nation at 7pm Central tonight (8pm Eastern, 4am Gulf).

Looks like it's for real. Pray for our troops and our nation.

Who let the dogs out?

Vous connaissez qui. Comment dit-on "bloody-minded intrasigence" en francais?


Another case of truth being funnier than anything you can make up. Thanks to aimstah for the e-mail.

Of course, this does mean that things could get interesting should the antiwar protests turn violent.

Shock and awe

Came across Randy Newman's song "Political Science" today. The song was produced in May 1974 and used in a couple of movies, but the lyrics sound as if they were written yesterday:

No one likes us, I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but Heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money, but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us,so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one, and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All-American amusement park there
They got surfing, too

Boom goes London, and boom Paree
More room for you, and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono, baby
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

Food for thought, no matter how you feel about the war.

A bulldog, not a poodle

Great line (as always) from Peggy Noonan in today's WSJ, this time about British PM (and Labour Party leader) Tony Blair:
"I never thought I'd live to have a socialist as a hero."

Me neither.

I'd like to paraphrase longtime hero Margaret Thatcher here. Since 9/11, America has not had a truer friend, nor England a wiser patriot.


I'm as miffed at the French as anyone else, but the freedom fries renaming thing is now verging on the ridiculous. OK, forget verging, we've now crossed the line.


According to Macleans, Canada is becoming anti-American. But since all their best hockey players, entertainers, and brand planners all live here in America, and we've re-learned how to brew decent beer here in the States over the last couple of decades, does it really matter?


Duke beats Carolina and wins the ACC, ending our hopes to get to the Big Dance. Wars and rumors of wars. Now this.


Yesterday's thought for the day from Andrew Sullivan:
"Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves."
- Winston Churchill, "The Gathering Storm."


UN inspection honcho Hans Blix sat down for a long interview with MTV the other day.

The money quote?
"I'm more worried about global warming than I am of any major military conflict."

I see two problems here.

1. Depending on your worldview, global warming may or may not be a problem. And surely there are people addressing this at the UN. How well, I do not know, this is the same organization that booted us off the Human Rights Commission and has selected Mo Gaddafi's Libya to run that commission this month, but there are probably people working the problem and scrunching up their faces like Dominique de Villepin to demonstrate their sincerity.

But Hans Blix is the CHIEF ARMS INSPECTOR for the UN. Sure, you want your global warming guy to think like this, but don't you want the head arms guy to be more worried about weapons and war? Call me crazy.

2. What is he doing giving a long interview to MTV anyway? We are on the brink of war, with all hell about to break loose over the question of Iraq's weapons, and he is having bull sessions with the folks from Total Request Live.

Probably doesn't matter in the long run, though; the Iraq question will be resolved in the next few days.

Just not by the UN.


Euphoria over Friday's win meant that I skipped the annual St. Patrick's drunken silliness on Greenville Avenue to watch this. Even with Sean May back, the Axis of Evil's Durham branch knocked off the representatives of the Southern Part of Heaven, 75-63.

Still, it's been a heck of a week, and it bodes well for next year. Between them and the stellar recruiting class we had for football, perhaps the universe will resume its normal shape for the 2003-2004 academic year.

As will world politics and American security.


Apparently, I am.