Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Seeding Armageddon

What should we do about the centuries-old bloody sectarian tensions that are ripping Iraq apart and destroying what hopes remain for a stable, democratic society?

President Bush thinks we should exploit them. The best way to counter Shiite Iran’s regional (and nuclear) ambitions? Arm the Sunnis! (And the Israelis!) Because it should be clear to everyone by now that what’s really wrong with the Middle East is a dearth of weaponry.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed that the United States is in the process of negotiating a $20 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as “part of an American strategy to contain the growing power of Iran in the region.”

So while making nice to Saddam Hussein (including turning a blind eye to his use of chemical weapons on his own people) during his war with Iran in the 1980s didn’t work out for us, and while supporting Osama bin Laden’s mujahedeen against the Soviets and giving millions of dollars to the Taliban came back to bite us in the ass, apparently plying Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist monarchy with satellite-guided bombs, even as they work to undermine our pro-democracy efforts in Iraq by funneling weapons and support to the insurgency, is a really great idea.

We’re “bribing the Saudis to make them more cooperative in Iraq,” says Shmuel Rosner, but “[t]he problem with the Saudis, though, is that time and again they have proved to be unbribable and unmaneuverable.”

While we may be selling $20 billion worth of stuff to the gulf countries, we’re giving Israel $30 billion in “military assistance” during the next decade, a 43% increase over the previous ten years. Robert Baer, writing for Time, says, “the Israelis make no bones about how we got here: the Bush Administration completely botched the Iraq invasion, allowing Iran to effectively annex Basra and a large part of southern Iraq.”

It’s not nearly as simple as saying Shi’a = bad, Sunni = good. Encouraging sectarian warfare across the Middle East is a messy proposition. True, in the Shiite camp we find Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah and the Syrian government. But Sunni groups include Hamas, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the fledgling democracy we’re desperately nurturing in Baghdad is mostly Shiite with ties to…Iran. Do we really want to stir this pot?

The Washington Post’s William Arkin says this will backfire: “the army of contractors and U.S. servicemembers that will have to go to Saudi Arabia to support the deal…will just fuel more Arab anger and more terrorism….We will once again renew the cycle of American penetration into the heart of Islam, one of Osama bin Laden’s original and most compelling rallying points.”

The arms deal speaks volumes about whether the President and his advisers think we can achieve our original goals in Iraq and whether they believe their own rhetoric about freedom and democracy on the march in the region. Clearly, they do not. They are anticipating greater conflict and, indeed, provoking it by selectively arming the likely participants.

One of the original rationales for removing Saddam Hussein was that he was a threat to regional stability. Now that we’ve solved that problem, what do we do about George W. Bush?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Open Mike Mondays

Fuck this present state of affairs and the horse on which it hobbled in.

- the inimitable DJRaindog

Hear, hear.

So, I wrote this long post today about what's wrong with our proposed $20 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. I got to the end of it and I thought, "Ugh. Who cares?"


Chief Justice John Roberts suffered a seizure this afternoon. I guess he's okay. The doctor was quoted as saying it was a "benign idiopathic" event. Kind of like American Idol.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Open Thread: Are We Ruled By Our Government?

Hi. I'm too busy to blog anything substantive. But there are some interesting ideas floating around in the comments on this post that's about to roll off the screen, so I thought we could continue the discussion here.

Here's my two cents, to keep the ball rolling. The Declaration of Independence clearly says that a just government derives its power from the consent of the governed. Little Cicero seems to think this means that we consent to be ruled by whomever is in power. (I'm interested to see if his argument moderates itself under President Clinton in 2009.)

I am, not surprisingly, disinclined to agree with that particular interpretation. As Americans, our allegiance is to the Constitution, not to the President. The nation's chief executive was intended by the Framers to bound by the Constitution and accountable to the other two co-equal branches of government, as well as to the people. I am trying to impress upon him that I think there is a significant difference between governing and ruling. Thoughts?

Also, feel free to continue along the thrust of the thesis of the original post: Is our President insane?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Book Review: The Case for Christ

A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Though I found his other book, The Case for Faith, inconsistently persuasive (both because of the difficulty of making a rational case for super-rational beliefs and also because of the weakness of some of the arguments), I figured a study of the textual, historical and archaeological evidence from the time of Jesus was a worthier, more interesting goal.

Alas, Strobel’s “case” is porous and badly argued. He makes much of his decades-long career as a reporter for The Chicago Tribune, which lends a veneer of objectivity and academic rigor to transparently agenda-driven and poorly supported claims masquerading as “research.”

Much of the problem lies with the book’s format. As with Case for Faith, Strobel selects a series of questions or objections skeptics raise about Christianity, and then assigns an expert of his choosing (always male, always an Evangelical) to form an argument in rebuttal; one question, one expert. For example, he queries a coroner to determine if Jesus could possibly have survived the crucifixion. (The answer is, “No.”)

Strobel pretends doubters have only inane questions (“Could Jesus have faked his death?”), not well-formed arguments. He fails to note that they aren’t just ill-informed atheist strawmen, but intellectuals who have been alienated from faith by patronizing, simplistic “answers” such as these.

Chapter 1 is, “Can the Biographies of Jesus Be Trusted?” Whole books have been written on the chronological and geographical inconsistencies of the Gospels, as well as the inherent difficulties created by translation, concerns that are not easily dismissed by merely insisting on the their general agreement. His argument misrepresents the aims of the Gospel authors; these are not “biographies,” in the modern sense. The concept of writing down a purely fact-based, “this happened, then this happened” summary of a historical personage’s existence was unknown in the ancient world. Each individual Gospel is a portrait of Christ that grew out of the traditions of a specific community in a specific time and place in the first decades after the crucifixion, and it is those historical and literary variations that best account for what read like inconsistencies when you try to line each Gospel up side by side for comparison.

Strobel notes that there is no comparable literary work from the ancient world in which modern scholars have so much confidence in the accuracy of their translations. There is significant evidence (in the form of thousands of corroborating manuscripts from different parts of the Levant in different languages) that modern renderings are faithful to the lost originals. But this testifies only to textual, not historical, reliability.

He points out that much of what researchers have pieced together about ancient history comes from single, often fragmentary sources, whereas we have an enormous body of contemporary literature concerning the existence of Jesus; for example, much of what is known about Alexander the Great is single-sourced. What Strobel chooses to leave out, however, is that historians tend to discount the sources that are implausible or fantastical: notably, one of the pervasive, contemporary legends about Alexander was that his was a virgin birth. The ruins of Troy don’t point to the existence of Zeus.

Similarly, it does not seem particularly controversial among historians to assume that there really was a radical Jewish preacher in first-century Palestine who hailed from Nazareth and was crucified by the Romans, whose teachings inspired a cult that grew into the world’s largest religion. It’s not even controversial to attribute many of the sayings in the Gospels to this man. Making the leap, however, to saying that what seems unlikely or impossible (immaculate conception, miracles, resurrection) must be true because portions of the Gospels are plausible is specious. One could well argue that based on the astonishingly accurate depictions of real locations and the proven existence of antimatter technology and some guy called “the Pope” that Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons is a true story.

Strobel is preaching to the choir; there is nothing in this book to help a Christian seriously engaged with his doubts, let alone anything an atheist would find satisfactorily conclusive. The truth is, there is only a smattering of circumstantial evidence that Jesus actually lived, and it would take a genuine historian and researcher to even begin to make that case. Strobel is too easily won over by infuriatingly facile dismissals of difficult questions to take on that job.


The promised new Richard Dawkins post is on hiatus for re-tooling. I think I want to take it in a different direction.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Salute to a Patriot

Today I want to give a shout-out to the one and only Trickish Knave, on the occasion of his retirement from the U.S. Navy.

"TK," as I affectionately call him, has been hanging around my blog longer than anyone except my mother. (Hey, mom!) Despite our differences (he supports the War on Terror, I support Reality), we have more common ground than you might think. For example, we can agree on...umm...ermm...well, we agree on what day of the week it is, apple pie is delicious, horses have four legs, and Thomas Jefferson is dead. See all that common ground? (I think we both also enjoy Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" video, but for different reasons.)

Seriously, though, I want to extend my congratulations to TK on this momentous day. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the fine people who volunteer to put their lives on the line to defend this great nation. I mean that. TK: thank you for your service. I wish you and your family always and only the very best. Best of luck to you as you embark on this new chapter in your life.

PS: Obama '08.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thanks For Playing

Wow, I've never been turned down during a job interview before.

Actually, it's okay. I was really unsure I wanted this position; great job, great company, I just wondered if I'd really be especially interested in the work. What killed me/saved me was the question, "Where do you see yourself in three to five years?" and I said I was still kind of unsure, but that I was thinking about arts administration. She was very nice, but she said she was looking for an assistant who really wanted THIS job and was going to stick around for a few years, and she wasn't sure that would be me. And I agreed. So, while it may sound harsh, actually, I'm completely relieved.

My current temp job drags on. They finally wised up and blocked all domains with ".blogspot" in them, so no more blogging or even blogreading while I sit there collecting dust at $17 an hour. I am so bored! (I can write this because now no one at the company can access my blog, anyway!) They've also blocked all internet mail and all job search websites, so I can't even keep up with the job search. This may put a major dent in the frequency and quality of my blogging for a while.

I spend my days filling out a few check requests, delivering the mail, making occasional copies, and answering the phones about once every three hours. Other than that, I toggle back and forth between CNN and The New York Times about every 30 seconds looking for something interesting to read. I knew about the steam pipe explosion before most New Yorkers did.

You can help me out by posting internet reading suggestions here or emailing them to me. I'm looking for SAFE FOR WORK news sites or political or religious things. I read Kevin Drum's blog and Andrew Sullivan (he's only half-right, all the time) and The Nation and occasionally Alternet. I just need something to keep my brain alive.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bonus: Monday Photo Blogging!

Tonight we had another beautiful sunset. I ran outside to snap a couple of photos, but when I turned around, it seemed a couple of cats were also enjoying the view.

In other news, Rocky is a fruitcake.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Photo Blogging: [Redacted]

Last weekend, a new friend and I went hiking up near Mt. St. Helens. This trail instantly became one of my all-time favorite places on earth. It follows an unbelievably clear brook along a series of spectacular waterfalls and deep, calm pools. I'm not publishing the location here because I don't want my secret to get out!

This is the first of two big waterfalls you encounter on the trail. This one's about 40 feet high (according to my guidebook -- I can't estimate height/distance for crap) and splashes down in this cool S-shape into an amazingly deep, calm emerald-green pool. When we passed it again on our way back to the car, there was a hot, hunky guy going for a swim. (WHY didn't I take a picture of THAT?)

Look how clear the water is! We both assumed it would be FREEZING (freshly melted snow, after all), otherwise I'm sure we would have attempted a dip. This little pool in the small, rocky gorge looked pretty deep -- I'd say 15 feet, or so. The best adjective I can come up with is inviting.

After about four miles, you finally come to a small gully with this beautiful 50-foot waterfall that splashes down into yet another deep green pool. Most of the trail is easy, but getting to this spot requires scrambling over some rocks and a giant fallen log. It's worth it, though -- my friend and I both said "Wow!" about a million times and then we sat down on some of the boulders at the foot of the falls to rest and eat. We talked for a bit, but eventually our conversation subsided and we just sat in silence and listened to the roar of the water and watched the dragonflies buzz around. We both agreed that we could happily have stayed much longer.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Random Friday Cat Blogging

I'm stealing an idea from Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly: Friday Cat Blogging. (Inkblot and Rocky look a lot alike, don't they?)

Here's Rocky sitting in the living room window, enjoying a warm sunny afternoon. I'm biased, of course, but...isn't that a nice view? Okay, sure, the gas meter isn't super pretty. At least they thought to put a bush in front of it. I still think it's an overall improvement.

I have taken to having dinner on my little patio. The days of late have been really hot, but around 9:00 the temperature drops down to about 70 and, since we have no humidity to speak of, it becomes incredibly pleasant just to sit outside. I can't emphasize how QUIET it is here. Right now it's 9:15 on a Friday night (still light out), and the only thing I can hear is the occasional peep of a bird and some meows from the cats on the window sill behind me who say they would really like to come out and join me.

I bring my laptop out and check email and look at job listings, and then relax in the twilight with a glass of wine or two before retiring to bed. Last night I was sitting here when a summer rainstorm came up out of nowhere, and I just sat and listened to the rain, and it wasn't long before the most incredibly wonderful smell came wafting up out of my lawn. The sky lit up with silent summer lightning, and I just sat and sat in the stillness and breathed the nice clean, damp air, and sighed some big sighs.

I know, you're thinking, "Loser, why are you just sitting at home on a summer Friday night?" Well, because it's nice. It's so relaxing. And I'm trying to get people together for a dinner/movie/cocktail excursion tomorrow, so don't worry, I'm not turning into some kind of hermit. Right now I'm debating whether I want to go on another hike tomorrow. It's tempting. (Such hard decisions I face, I know.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007


We are in so much trouble.

President Bush is a lunatic. There’s really no other way to put it. Our president is a man so arrogant, so completely assured of his own wisdom, that to this day he continues to define the situation in Iraq in ways that are wholly at odds with reality. A president who cannot accurately recall his own steps in leading the nation into war and who repeatedly demonstrates he does not understand the goals of the players involved will never be able to lead us to the triumph he asserts is necessary. How do you win a war if you fail to understand who your opponents are and what motivates them?

His press conference this morning was ghastly. After trying to spin the Iraqi government’s failure to achieve “satisfactory” progress on a majority of the 18 mandated benchmarks as a cause for optimism, he then completely re-wrote history in response to a question about whether the authority to end this war rests with him.

“Actually, I was hoping to solve the Iraqi issue diplomatically,” he said. “That’s why I went to the United Nations.” That’s just a flat-out lie. He tried everything he could to avoid the U.N., and for a while the White House talking point was how we should not let our policies be dictated by foreign diplomats. He only went to the U.N. when the political pressure made it necessary. And then, when he could not get his resolution approved by the Security Council, he withdrew it and invaded anyway.

Today, he tried to gloss over that appalling diplomatic failure by confusing it with resolution 1441, which passed unanimously and, in the president’s words, required Saddam to “disclose, disarm or face serious consequences.” But as tragic events demonstrated, Saddam did disclose. He had disarmed. He had none of the weapons or weapons programs of which he was accused. To claim now that Saddam was in violation of 1441 as a justification for the war is insanity.

And then he argued the decision to go to war was Saddam’s, anyway.

He repeated the bogus idea that “we ought to defeat them there so we don’t have to face them here,” as if the conflict in Iraq were some kind of all-powerful terrorist magnet that prevents radical Islamists from staging attacks elsewhere in the world, or that our victory in Iraq could ever be so complete that the planet would be forever free of terrorism.

“The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th,” he said. If he is serious in making this statement, then we truly have a president who is profoundly confused about matters of terrifying importance. It doesn’t even allow for the reality that both sides in the sectarian fracas are bombing each other. He just thinks there’s Al Qaeda and the Good Guys.

He also mischaracterized the discussions going on in this country about the war, and in the process, insulted the American people. It is no longer a question of whether we can win, as the president seems to believe. (His answer is, “We must.”) The question before us now is, how do we get out? The reality we find ourselves in is that the president has left us no good options. Yes, there could be a bloodbath if we leave. Yes, radical Islam might gain a secure foothold in Iraq. The country could fragment. But no one believes that there remains anything for the United States to do about it. The president now has a six and a half year record of being wrong about everything. He asks for patience and recommends that we continue throwing away American lives for an unachievable objective. Noble as his vision might be, it’s a fantasy.

He said he understood that the American people are “tired” of the war. I have an incredible urge to insert an expletive here. We are not “tired” of the war, like it’s a once-promising TV show that has lost its edge and we’re looking for something else. We’re dismayed. We’re horrified. We are clamoring for justice, honesty and accountability. We are begging to end the loss of life and the hemorrhaging of dollars that could be better spent. We are despondent that the people responsible for leading us into an illegal, unjust, futile war will never pay a real price for having done so.

Starbuck is a Star! (But She Already Knew That)

I knew back when she was still a wee bitty kitty that she had model potential.

And now it's official. Remember that picture about three weeks ago of Starbuck reading The New Yorker? It's going to be published in a book! You know, a real one, that's like, for sale and stuff.

What Pets Do While You're At Work, by my uberfabulous New York friends (and newlyweds) Jason Bergund and Bev West, is now available for pre-order, and is due out in October. It's a humorous photo book, along the lines of their previous work Fat Daisy: Inner Beauty Secrets from a Real Dog and PugTherapy.

Here's me at their wicked cool Upper West Side home a few years ago for a Halloween Party (I came as a Republican tourist). The lovely pooch in my lap is the famous Fat Daisy. Daisy the chihuahua had a torrid romance a while back with a pug named Elvis, and she came down with a case of pregnancy -- 4 pughuahua pups inside that tiny little body! And...how do I put this delicately? She never quite recovered the figure of her youth. But she's beautiful all the same.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I don't know what's wrong with Blogger. It won't let me enter a blog title on the previous post.

So, I DVR'd CNN's "Faith and Politics" special from...oh, weeks ago...with Soledad O'Brien facilitating a discussion with Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, and only tonight did I finally get around to watching it.

There's much I could say, but I'll focus on Senator Clinton.

Regular readers of my blog know I'm not a fan. I'll say this, though, about a potential Clinton presidency: we could do worse.

Watching her speak, even on topics where I'd take issue with some of her positions, I can't help but notice that she is smart. It's not even worth discussing potential Republican opponents; there isn't a one that can hold an intellectual candle to Hillary Clinton. Comparing her to the current president is practically unfair, like betting on who'd do better on the SAT, an MIT grad or a homeschooled kindergartner. And yes, I think she's even sharper and more eloquent than any of her Democratic rivals.

I'm pulling for someone else (Obama), for a variety of reasons, but I felt obliged to state: we could do worse.
Last night I had this really disturbing dream where my tongue was growing longer and longer, and I could no longer contain it in my mouth. It was starting to pop my teeth out from behind.

So, I did what anyone else with a previously unheard of medical condition would do, and I sought out the advice of an Indian sage. (In my dream it was unclear if I actually went to India somehow, or whether I managed to find one in Beaverton.) He was sitting on a rock with a loincloth and a yellow turban, and he talked like Apu.

I explained what was happening to me and he tilted his head to one side and said, "Silly boy, it is immediately apparent to me the reasons for your discomfort. Your present occupation allows you no outlet for self-expression."

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Roll of a Lifetime

From CNN, "the most trusted name in news," the folks who brought us an hour of Paris Hilton on Larry King:

Britney Spears Makes Bizarre Apology

Apparently in February she attacked a paparazzo's car with an umbrella. On Wednesday she finally apologized, saying she was "preparing my character for a roll [sic] in a movie" and "got a little carried away."

I can't believe someone finally optioned Mary Poppins 2: The Revenge.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Hal Lindsey Report Report

I've taken to watching The Hal Lindsey Report on Sunday nights. Mr. Lindsey, if you're unfamiliar with him, is a leading proponent of the pre-millennial dispensationalist wing of American Evangelicalism, and firmly believes that we are living in the "End Times" immediately prior to the second coming of Christ as "foretold" (by ripping various verses out of context and reassembling them to conform to a made-up timeline) by the Bible. He now hosts a weekly cable show in which he points to current political events that purportedly indicate "the Rapture" is close at hand.

While mainstream Christianity defies the binary American political affiliations, Lindsey happily promotes the common misconception that Christianity somehow has something to do with conservative -- and uniquely American -- politics. "Liberals" are regularly blamed for all of society's ills.

He frequently attacks the "liberal bias" of the "mainstream media." In the July 1, 2007, edition of his show, he claimed that records of reporters' political donations are sufficient evidence of bias. After extolling the virtues of "the free market" to explain why conservatives dominate talk radio, he then argued that reporters (at least, liberal reporters) should not be allowed to donate to candidates and movements of their choice, as if giving $250 once to Howard Dean, as The New Yorker's Mark Singer did, renders him incapable of objectivity. He didn't offer an opinion as to whether we can trust the objectivity of a reporter who may have donated to conservative causes.

What's fascinating about Lindsey is the frequency with which he displays the most appallingly unconscious hypocrisy and astonishing hyperbole; he is self-unaware in the extreme. After criticizing Singer for obliquely comparing Bush to Hitler, he excoriates The New York Times' "The Ethicist" columnist Randy Cohen: "His journalistic ethics didn’t prevent him from donating to MoveOn.org. Cohen said that ethically speaking he didn’t think donating to MoveOn.org was any less ethical than donating to the Boy Scouts. Now, that’s about like arguing that donating to Al Qaeda is the ethical equivalent of donating to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.”

Stay tuned. I plan to keep posting on the terrifying hilarity that is Hal Lindsey.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th!

I'm at the beach. Leave a message. Beep.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Beverly Sills, 1929 - 2007

One of the greatest singers of the 20th century, Beverly Sills has passed away from cancer. Born Belle Silverman in Brooklyn, she grew up to be the great American Diva of the 1970s. She dominated the New York City Opera and sang on the great stages of the world, specializing in bel canto and romantic French repertoire.

In addition to possessing a distinct, strong, silvery lyric-coloratura soprano voice and a formidable technique that allowed her to dispatch florid passages with ease, she was a gifted, intuitive actress and a major personality. Far from cultivating the stereotype of a "diva," she aimed to be a populist, and appeared on The Carol Burnett Show and The Muppets.

Yet she knew how to be a diva when called for. One of the famous stories about "Bubbles," as she was known, came from her debut at Milan's Teatro alla Scala, the pinnacle of any opera singer's career. She was replacing Renata Scotto in a planned production of Rossini's L'Assedio di Corinto, and had requested that the costume, originally designed in flattering gold for Signora Scotto, be re-made in silver. "No problem," she was told. Still, the gold gown hung in her dressing room. She kept asking the costumer about it, but was told, "Si, si, not to worry." When the dress rehearsal arrived and she was still without a silver version of the costume, she took the gold dress on stage with her and cut it in half.

As she retired from the stage in 1980, I never had the chance to hear her live. (I am happy to recommend recordings to anyone interested.) I did, however, get to meet her in March of 1994. At that time, she was the newly appointed chairwoman of Lincoln Center, and I had just begun working as a sales associate in the gift shop at the Metropolitan Opera -- in fact, it was my first day and I'd only been there about 20 minutes when she came in, walked straight up to me and said, "Do you have the new autobiography of John Dexter?" "Why, yes, of course!" I gushed, hoping to God we actually did. (We did.) Afterward, one of my co-workers said, "You know who that was, right?" "Duh," I replied.

La Sills was a hero and role model of mine: that rare singer who managed to combine impeccable musicianship, flawless technique, genuine acting ability and, above all, a miraculous voice. May she rest in peace.

And now, in tribute to her amazing career, I am pleased to share with you video footage of one of her greatest triumphs, Pigoletto.

Pay Attention to Those Who Pay Attention

Ah, public opinion polls.

Today the media is reporting the shocking news (meaning, they are shocked, since they are so enamored of their own conventional wisdom) that Barack Obama mopped the floor with Hillary Clinton in the last quarter's fundraising for his presidential campaign.

How can this be, they want to know, since Hillary is still ahead in the polls?

Remember the Iraq war? Back in 2003, when we started this disgraceful enterprise, public opinion was solidly in favor of it, with a distinct minority (something less than 30%, I recall) opposed. This minority was assaulted with a broad range of calumnies, accused of desiring to appease terrorists, engaging in partisan obstructionism and even actively supporting Saddam Hussein. But the objections of those of us who opposed invading Iraq proved sadly Cassandraesque: we weren't convinced that the U.S. had an actual plan for occupation and reconstruction, we weren't convinced of the evidence for WMD's or a link to Al Qaeda, and we worried that Iraq's long-simmering sectarian enmities, held in check for so long under the iron fist of Hussein, would boil over into civil war. Everything that is now playing out in what Jon Stewart dubs "Mess O' Potamia" was accurately foreseen by those of us who were pragmatic and sincerely interested enough not to blithely assume a functioning western-style government could be established overnight, or that centuries of deep mutual hatred would melt away under Bush's naive calls for "freedom" and "democracy."

So where did the American public get the idea that our disastrous Iraq venture was a good idea? From our complacent, cowardly Congress (hardly anyone, including Candidate Clinton, read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq before authorizing Bush to invade) and our credulous media, which largely reported unchallenged the Bush administration's assertions and justifications for war.

The same media machine which finds it appropriate to grant Paris Hilton an hour-long interview on a channel which dubs itself "the most trusted name in news" has virtually manufactured the Clinton campaign out of whole cloth. The only reason people support her is because the media thought she had it sewn up. She's ahead simply because of name recognition.

But Senator Clinton's negative poll ratings are higher than Kerry's or Gore's during any point in their campaigns. That's highly significant: she's so unpopular that as a candidate, she would be a major inspiration for rallying the Republican base. She's a walking campaign issue.

Those Who Pay Attention know this, and have for some time. Those Who Pay Attention are interested in the junior senator from Illinois. Those of us who were right on Iraq want a candidate who was also right on Iraq, not some triangulatress who argues that knowing everything she knows now she would still invade a non-WMD-possessing nation with no ties to Al Qaeda, she'd just do it differently.

Hillary is the "front-runner" because the media just decided she was, and that's good enough for the average American who doesn't have time or the inclination to closely follow politics. Let's hope Obama's fundraising success causes them to re-evaluate this entire race, before their smug conventional wisdom saddles us with another sure-fire loser candidate.

Once the media starts accurately and meaningfully reporting on the candidates and not just granting default "front-runner" status, we'll see those polls turn around, just as they did on Iraq.

[Full disclosure: I'm rooting for a Gore/Obama '08 ticket.]