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September 19, 2003 PERMALINK
Clark: Not a Target-Rich Environment
(posted Sept. 19 12 AM ET)

One thing to argue in favor of Wesley Clark‚s electability: it appears the Right has nothing on him.

Not that the conservative attack machine hasn‚t been up and running to greet Clark‚s entry.

This Scoobie Davis piece, and a series of posts from Counterspin Central, all have chronicled (and debunked) many of the attempts to smear Clark early.

But what‚s notable is how weak the attacks themselves are.

There are the hysterical conspiracies, that he was responsible for the deaths at Waco, and he‚s „Hillary‚s sock puppet.š

There is that he‚s an hysterical conspiracy-monger, that he lied about the Bushies pressuring him to finger Iraq for 9/11, and also about them trying to fire him from CNN.

There is also the „he‚s no Ikeš line, which aims to minimize his achievements and trash his Supreme Commander aura.

For example, on 9/6, Fox News‚ Mort Kondracke said:

∑now he thinks he's Dwight D. Eisenhower. You know, Kosovo was not World War II.

And on 9/16, his colleague Fred Barnes offered:

We know what Eisenhower did, MacArthur did. We know what Tommy Franks has done...

∑I mean he sends some bombers over. There wasn't a boot on the ground.

Is this some great military achievement? I think not.

On the same program, Brit Hume sarcastically remarked, „decisive figure, that one,š following old footage of Clark politely refusing to take reporters‚ questions after checking with an aide.

The Right is also amplifying blind quotes from a recent W. Post piece about his relationships in the Pentagon.

In it, former colleagues describe him as „abrasive,š „manipulativeš and „will tell anybody what they want to hear,š -- a lack of support that led to a slightly early, forced retirement.

(Of course, there is also much praise from other former colleagues, with one saying his critics are fueled by „jealousy and envy [and] misunderstandingš.)

And finally, his detractors (and some on the Left) are trying to hype an incident where he lost a fight with a subordinate over whether to block the Russians from securing an airport during Kosovo.

That‚s a lot of random balls being thrown at the wall. And none of them are likely to stick.

As noted earlier, the more hysterical stuff is easily shot down by the facts.

And the other stuff is simply Bush league.

You can call a guy abrasive, manipulative, indecisive, conspiratorial, hot-headed, or thin-skinned all day long.

But if he doesn‚t show those qualities on the campaign trail, no one will care.

On TV, he has consistently come across as pleasant and mild-mannered. It will be very hard to attack his personality.

The Right is right that he‚s not Eisenhower, but he never said he was (despite Kondracke‚s characterization).

That only means Clark needs to work harder than Ike to raise his profile.

But to demean a military achievement, any military achievement, is walking on thin ice -- as the Right loves to remind the Left.

And this Kosovo airport thing may be great chatter for insiders, but Powell‚s 1991 fights with Cheney about the Gulf War didn‚t make it far beyond the Beltway. This won‚t either.

Much of the Right‚s attacks on the other Dems are trumped up, and they can be countered. But you can see how they might work.

Howard Dean did oppose the war. Dick Gephardt is supporting an expensive health care plan. John Edwards was a trial lawyer. John „Frenchš Kerry was partly raised in Europe.

But these Clark attacks are non-starters, unless Clark does something in front of the cameras to lend credence to them.

Clark needs to show a lot more substance before he earns Dem support.

But the fact that the GOP doesn‚t start with any real ammo on him is certainly a big plus.

QUICK HIT

Dean Adjusts on NAFTA

Earlier in the week, LiberalOasis argued Dean needed to admit his mistake of wrongly denying that he once was a „very strong supporterš of NAFTA.

Dean hasn‚t directly owned up to it, but he is now handling NAFTA questions in a more candid and appropriate manner.

Dean told Terry Neal of washingtonpost.com:

It's fair to say I switched my position on trade.

And then he gave a plausible reason for what prompted the change.

Also, after Gephardt began distributing a ‚99 letter from Dean to Bill Clinton, offering advice on getting China into the WTO over the complaints of the „labor movement,š Dean told the Manchester Union Leader:

It‚s fair for Dick to pass around this letter, but it‚s not honest for him to claim, to pretend, that I was against Medicare and Social Security.

(That slap did not go unanswered by Gephardt, who is pushing hard his attack site, Deanfacts.com, which is all about spinning Dean‚s SS and Medicare views via selective quotation.)

LO would argue that Dean would score more points with the press if he did more of a mea culpa.

But this tack should stop the NAFTA bleeding that was caused from his Sunday ABC appearance.

It can no longer be said he is covering up his past views.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

September 18, 2003 PERMALINK
The General Is In
Does It Matter?
(posted Sept. 18 12:30 AM ET)

It‚s unquestionably a good thing that Wesley Clark has entered the race.

To have a voice as credible as his join the chorus of Bush critics only helps the Democratic Party and the cause of taking back the White House.

But is Clark going to „shake upš the primary as many commentators are suggesting?

That remains to be seen. He is as likely to shake it up as he is likely to be a non-factor.

While it is highly unlikely he‚s going to flat-out smoke the field.

His name ID is not high. Recent polls put him in the middle of the pack, at best. And his kick-off speech, while fine and inoffensive, was not the stuff of a dream candidate.

If he is to win, it‚s more likely to be from a slow, steady rise than a big, initial splash.

He‚s getting a fair share of media attention now, but he‚s not a celebrity candidate.

He will soon settle in and be treated like everyone else, which means he‚ll need to work for the nod, not coast to it.

Many political commentators are also speculating on who Clark hurts.

Does he trump Kerry‚s war record, or Edwards‚ Southernness? Is he a fresher face than Dean?

But the only polling evidence we have Ų last week‚s Gallup poll Ų indicates that he doesn‚t hurt anybody.

He takes just a sliver out of everybody, ending up in 5th place with 10%. (A recent ABC poll has him at 6%).

That doesn‚t really shake anything up.

Of course, the polls may soon show something else now that he‚s formally in.

And with so many people bunched up at the top, a small spike from the recent coverage could temporarily put him at or near first place.

But his announcement speech was so void of specifics, it‚s hard to see at this point who really would get burned, assuming he is able to build on his early support.

Not that there‚s anything wrong with rolling out his policy positions steadily. He‚ll get there soon enough.

(Some information on his views is at meetclark.com, and a couple of eyebrow raising comments are in this typically snarky W. Post editorial.)

But until he gets more specific, and until there‚s proof he can spark excitement with more than his just resume, the jury is out on how much this race has been shaken up.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

September 17, 2003 PERMALINK
Iraq-Qaeda Backtracking
(posted Sept. 17 12:15 AM ET)

The Bushies are learning that they can‚t say whatever they feel like anymore.

After Dick Cheney took some flak following his attempts to associate Iraq with Sept. 11 (see B. Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and W. Post), the Administration tried to take the heat off.

Yesterday, Rumsfeld, while not directly contradicting Cheney‚s words, sought to back away from the notion that Iraq had a role in Sept. 11. Condi did the same on ABC‚s Nightline.

That looks pretty coordinated. That looks as if they realized there's now a political risk in taking the Orwelllian routine too far.

By making these statements, they may have nipped further editorializing in the bud -- for the time being.

But it does not mean they have given up on making general Iraq-Qaeda connections.

Defining Iraq as the „central frontš for terror is still paramount to their political strategy.

Of note is this AP story that ran over the weekend, which appears to have been spoon-fed by „U.S. officialsš (and also appears to include what Cheney based much of his Iraq-Qaeda comments on).

The AP said:

The Bush administration has evidence of some prewar Iraqi contacts and training with al-Qaida∑ but no proof of joint terror operations∑

∑Most of the administration's public assertions have focused on a supporter of Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi∑

∑But U.S. officials familiar with intelligence say the administration has evidence of other contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida∑

∑Nearly a dozen current and former senior U.S. officials told the AP that the strongest account of collaboration between Iraqis and al-Qaida comes from the captured leader of one of al-Qaida's Afghan training camps.

He claimed that bin Laden turned to Iraq for technical help on chemical weapons because bin Laden was concerned that al-Qaida lacked the expertise.

The captive has told interrogators that an al-Qaida militant known as Abdallah al-Iraqi shuttled between Afghanistan and Iraq from 1997 and 2002 looking to acquire poisons, officials said.

This account makes it sound like the alleged al-Iraqi connection is news.

It‚s not.

Colin Powell already made this assertion when he gave his famous speech to the UN in February, laying out his case for war.

An address, mind you, which has since been trashed by the AP as wilting under scrutiny.

And which, according to The Nation‚s Eric Alterman, was filled with „weasel words∑that should have set off alarm bells in any first-year journalism student.š

So „the strongest account of collaborationš is simply recycled rumor, sourced from a single unnamed captive.

These paper-thin, self-serving arguments surely won‚t go away.

But the backtracking that happened yesterday shows that the Bushies won‚t be able to spray such arguments at will anymore.

And if the Bushies continue to be hemmed in by media pressure, the harder it will be for them to scare the public into a second Dubya term.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

September 16, 2003 PERMALINK
Can Dean Take The Heat?
(posted Sept. 16 3 AM ET)

Just last month, LiberalOasis asked if anyone can stop Howard Dean?

Maybe the question should be: Can everyone (including Dean) stop Dean?

Dean is facing his first rough patch (a minor one, arguably) since catching fire this summer, as his Establishment rivals are starting to pile on.

LO noted during the last debates that perhaps the other candidates were reluctant to attack Dean because they saw how Lieberman lost face each time he tried it.

But they must have taken a different lesson, that Lieberman snagged a healthy portion of next-day news coverage, which rarely mentioned the negative crowd responses.

And with time ticking away, they‚re firing away.

How‚s Dean handling it?

It depends on the issue. Let‚s look at two of the big ones.

NAFTA

Dean blew this big. But it‚s fixable, if he‚s willing.

On ABC‚s This Week on Sunday, he picked a worthless fight with George Stephanopoulos over whether he used to be a „supporterš of NAFTA (Dean‚s claim) or a „strong supporterš (George‚s characterization).

To make matters worse, the Gephardt campaign did its oppo research, and quickly alerted the media of Dean‚s '95 statement (also on This Week) that he was a „very strong supporterš of NAFTA.

(To any skeptics, check the transcript on Nexis. He said it, and it‚s in context.)

This particular flub isn‚t getting major media attention, but the political press corps (led by The Note) is surely fully aware of it, and is flummoxed, maybe even peeved.

If this is not corrected, he will be open to charges as severe as lying.

Of course, it is far more likely the case that Dean was not actively lying, (that would just be too stupid) but simply had no recollection of his earlier statement.

(There is no Nexis evidence that he ever used the phrase again to describe his position).

But it doesn‚t matter.

Furthermore, if he lets this gaffe stand, he won‚t be able to make his argument that we need international labor and enviro standards to minimize US job loss, without having others dredge all this up repeatedly.

Dean also said on This Week this past Sunday:

∑when I make a mistake, I'm going to own up to it.

This is clearly a mistake. To not own up to it will invite more media skepticism and poison his future coverage on other matters.

The sooner Dean corrects this, the better.

Medicare

The NAFTA flap was largely self-inflicted. The Medicare flap was a broadside leveled by Gephardt.

And Dean handled this much much better, though he‚s not out of the woods.

Among other things, Gephardt dug up Dean quotes from the early 90s, calling Medicare „one of the worst things that ever happenedš and „one of the worst federal programs ever.š

On the day the charge was made, Stephanopoulos was riding around with Dean for the This Week segment.

And before Dean had any chance to prepare responses in advance, George hit him hard, throwing documents at him while the cameras were rolling.

Unlike the NAFTA bickering, Dean didn‚t complain at all (despite this being true „gotcha politicsš).

He took the questions in stride and answered forthrightly:

DEAN: Of course I support Medicare. That's ridiculous. I certainly have been very angry at Medicare over their bureaucratic stuff.

They're really difficult bureaucratically to deal with.

(Note: This is backed up in what Gephardt quotes from.

In the 8/3/93 AP story with the ominous title „Liberal Doctor Is Conservative on Health Care Reform,š Dean followed his „worst thingsš comment with:

„My father was in the hospital last year and he still can't get his bills straightened out because nobody who knows anything will talk to him at Medicare. It's just a pathetic bureaucracy.š)

STEPHANOPOULOS: [Gephardt] also says that in 1995, you specifically supported the 270 billion dollars or so in tax cuts that were called for by Newt Gingrich --

DEAN: I think that's very unlikely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Here's the document∑And it's pretty clear that you said you would accept a seven- to ten-percent cut in the rate of growth of Medicare, which is --

DEAN: Oh, a cutting the rate of growth is much different --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, except that the cut in growth rate in 1995 came to 270 billion dollars.

DEAN: I've got to find out∑but I fully subscribe to the notion which is to reduce the Medicare growth rate to ten percent or less, I'm sure I said that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what Newt Gingrich was calling for in 1995.

MR. DEAN: Well, then, Newt Gingrich probably also called for a strong America and I believe in that, too.

Gephardt responded by sending an email to reporters highlighting these statements about cutting the growth rate.

That‚s a legit and healthy debate: whether or not the Medicare growth rate should be slowed to keep the fund solvent, or if that would compromise benefits.

And now it looks like we‚re going to have it.

So Dean successfully put Gephardt‚s high-profile charge, regarding his dramatic quotes, into proper context.

But now Dean needs to get ready to lay out in more detail his plans for Medicare, and how he can strengthen the program while restraining growth.

If he doesn‚t spell that out, his strong health care record in Vermont probably won‚t be enough to stop Gephardt and others from causing more damage.

To sum up:

Dean‚s inconsistent handling of the attacks is not fatal, yet.

He still has deeper support than anyone else.

The spotlight is still on him more than anyone else.

The headlines, while not as positive in recent days as they have been, are not scathing either. And they won‚t be unless Dean‚s polls noticeably drop off.

But there are things to correct.

Dean seems reluctant to show weakness, getting bogged down in a tit-for-tat, preferring to be seen as a steely fighter than a wimp.

This is in line with what Sidney Blumenthal told LO in an earlier interview:

If you don‚t stand up for yourself, people won‚t think that you will stand up for them.

So there‚s logic to what Dean is doing.

Still, when you screw up, you gotta őfess up. Otherwise, you risk being dismissed as arrogant or worse.

And if you don‚t explain yourself enough, you won‚t be inoculated when the last-minute attack pieces (Dean Wants To Abolish Medicare As We Know It!) hit the airwaves and the mailboxes.

Bottom line: Dean‚s still in the middle of his biggest test so far. He hasn‚t passed it yet.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

September 15, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Sept. 15 1:30 AM ET)

Panic mode continues.

Last Sunday, Colin and Condi handled the morning and Bush himself the evening.

This Sunday, in an atypical move, four different Bushies went on five shows.

Both this week and last are attempts to stunt the rising criticism by taking up more oxygen.

But using more people means less control of message, very unlike this White House.

(Perhaps it was a small sop to Sunday show producers, who hate having to share guests because it diminishes their ability to make their own news.)

In turn, each show went in very different directions. Just take a look at how some of the interviews began.

On ABC‚S This Week, George Stephanopoulos hit Joint Chiefs Chair Richard Myers with the most recent ugly story out of Iraq:

[In Fallujah,] 12 Iraqi police officers were killed by American officers on Friday. What more can you tell us about this incident?

On CBS‚ Face The Nation, Bob Schieffer didn‚t waste any time in humiliating Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld:

∑there must have been mornings when you have awakened to better news∑

∑here's the front page of the Washington Post∑on one side of the page a report on a new poll that says six Americans in 10 do not support the president's request to spend $87 billion in Iraq.

Then, on the other side of the page, there is this: Iraq takes a toll on Rumsfeld, and criticism mounts.

It goes on to say that many on Capitol Hill and in the military establishment are now blaming you for some of the mounting casualties and the costs of the war.

But on the main attraction, NBC‚s Meet The Press, where Dick Cheney faced Tim Russert for the full hour, what hard-hitting question did Tim start with?

Has this nation recovered from September 11, 2001?

That softest of softballs allowed Cheney to easily frame the entire interview, and all of Bush foreign policy, around 9/11

And Russert did nothing to challenge it, giving Cheney cover to politically exploit the tragedy (as is the general Bush-Rove strategy).

Time and time again, Russert allowed Cheney to make misleading or questionable statements without resistance. For example:

1. „9/11 Changed Everythingš

Cheney responded to the opening question with this:

∑in a sense, sort of the theme that comes through repeatedly for me is that 9/11 changed everything...

..I think there are a number of people out there who hope we can go back to pre-9/11 days and that somehow 9/11 was an aberration. It happened one time; it‚ll never happen again.

But the president and I don‚t have that luxury.

What Russert could have said:

„But none of your political opponents is ignoring the terrorist threat. They charge you are underfunding homeland security, not addressing port security and have diverted resources needed resources to Iraq.š

What Russert did say: „You fully expect that there will be another attack on the United States?š

2. Shrugging off a real threat: surface-to-air missiles

Russert asked Cheney about the threat of surface-to-air missiles taking out commercial airplanes:

Should we not outfit all U.S. commercial airliners with equipment to detect and avoid that?

Cheney‚s response:

There are technologies available. They are extremely expensive if you‚re going to put them on every airliner.

You‚ve got to make choices here about, you know, when you‚re dealing with a risk.

There may be certain aircraft flying into certain locales that are especially vulnerable that you may want to deal with.

But I wouldn‚t automatically go to the assumption that we need to put the most sophisticated system on every single airplane.

Russert could have said in reposnse:

„But Bush contended last week: őwe will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror.‚ Why does that apply to Iraq but not to America?š

What Russert did say: nothing.

3. Letting Saudis flee

Russert also asked this seemingly tough question:

Vanity Fair magazine reports that about 140 Saudis were allowed to leave the United States the day after the 11th, allowed to leave our airspace and were never investigated by the FBI.

And that departure was approved by high-level administration figures.

Do you know anything about that?

(The NYT reported on that story here.)

Cheney‚s response:

I don‚t, but a lot of folks from that part of the world left in the aftermath of 9/11 because they were worried about public reaction here in the United States or that somehow they might be discriminated against.

He then went on a tangent, praising the Saudis for their help fighting Al-Qaeda.

Russert could have pressed the issue, by saying something like:

„But a former White House adviser confirms that the White House approved the departures. How could you not know about it?

"And doesn‚t it indicate that your Administration has let your relationship with the Saudis compromise our security?"

But again, Russert said nothing, and moved on to the next question.

4. Those Wacky WMDs

Russert took a couple of swings at the WMD question. Feeble ones.

He replayed the clip of Cheney‚s MTP appearance in March, where he infamously said:

We believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

Then Russert gave him the out:

RUSSERT: Reconstituted nuclear weapons. You misspoke.

CHENEY: Yeah. I did misspeak.

I said repeatedly during the show weapons capability. We never had any evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon.

And that was that.

Russert should have then asked, if he had no interest in spreading false info, why did he wait six months to come back on the show to correct himself.

Further, he could have pointed out the pattern, that Rumsfeld also casually retracted on This Week his March statement that he knew exactly where the WMD are Ų four months later.

Russert also asked the basic question, „where are they?š

Cheney gave what has been the standard stall tactic:

I think that the jury is still out in terms of trying to get everything pulled together with respect to what we know.

But we‚ve got a very good man now in charge of the operation, David Kay.

Yet inexplicably, Russert failed to bring up his own network bureau's report (via Talking Points Memo) from earlier in the week that Kay‚s report is „coming up short.š

5. The Phony Iraq-Qaeda Link

Perhaps the most egregious thing Russert let Cheney get away with was his continuing of the Orwellian campaign to link Saddam‚s Iraq to 9/11.

Russert asked if Cheney was „surprisedš by a W. Post poll saying 69% of Americans believe Saddam was involved with the attacks.

Cheney said he wasn‚t surprised, and while he didn‚t know for sure if there was a connection, he stated:

We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ‚90s∑

∑We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ‚93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ‚93.

And we‚ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

The person Cheney is referring to Abdul Yasin, who actually is an American citizen by birth, but was raised in Iraq.

(Last year, Yasin admitted his role and expressed regret in an interview with 60 Minutes.)

Yasin is not considered to be the mastermind of the ‚93 attack. That was Ramzi Yousef, a Pakistani, who is now in American custody.

And the fact that Yasin went to Iraq afterwards doesn‚t mean that Iraq sent him in the first place.

As terror expert Daniel Benjamin wrote in Slate:

∑the fact that Yasin was allowed to stay in Baghdad only means that the Iraqis found him usefulųa potential chip to be played later.

So whether or not Iraq gave him „safe haven,š (and Saddam‚s Iraq, for the record, insists it incarcerated him since ‚94, even offering to hand him over last year) it doesn‚t prove any working relationship with Al-Qaeda.

Additionally, it‚s not even a certainty that the ‚93 bombing can be called an Al-Qaeda operaton.

Jason Burke, who LiberalOasis interviewed recently, argues in his book „Al-Qaedaš that ringleader Ramzi likely had no significant relationship with bin Laden, and bin Laden wasn‚t a real force until three years after the bombing.

It should go without saying that Cheney went on to dredge up the discredited story about a 9/11 hijacker meeting an Iraqi agent in Prague.

But Russert let it all stand, without question.

Russert has always been inconsistent (to be charitable) in living up to his tough questioner persona.

But the one thing has been consistent about is his handling of Cheney.

Every time Cheney has graced Russert with his presence as VP, Russert has done nothing less than kiss his ring.

If Russert really wonders why 69% of Americans believe Saddam had something to do with 9/11, he should look in the mirror as much as he looks at the White House.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

The Sandbox
Guest Humor Column by Alexander Pierre Luboknovich

Alexander Pierre Luboknovich, famed practicioner of the Russian folk art of water comedy, has entered the blogosphere. To honor the occasion, he shares with LiberalOasis his zany take on the world today.

Why I Am Not Gubernatorial Candidate

Many people say „Luboknovich, why not try to get ahead in California politics?š Easy answer: no money for avocado sandwich.

It would be easy to swoop in like California Condor and land on head of election officials and steal sandwich. But I say „No!š I have too much pride, and too few feathers. And too many belts!

Luboknovich running for office is like Bush winning reelection. Most people can‚t identify candidate‚s name and many prospective voters have been sexually overwhelmed by the man for years! Get it?!

In all seriousness I cannot run because I would need to give up seat in U.N. as phony Georgian auditor. And the Pret A Mangers in midtown are fantastic.

So instead, I stay at U.N. until someone discovers me, and I get my avocado sandwich at corner of 54th and Lexington.

My Run-in With Wolfowitz

Not every time you visit Dosa guy in Washington Square Park do you see U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense ordering a Pondicherry Masala (he usually gets the Mysore Masala Dosa).

But that‚s what Paul Wolfowitz was doing on August 25th at about 12:45 p.m.

I say, „Wolfowitz, you are a mangy wolf!š

He says: „Get a wife!š

I say: „I have wife! Perhaps you have heard of her... Irina Slutskaya?š

„Not wife,š he says, „Life! I said őget a life.‚š

But I am sure he said wife.

UN Update: What Those Fools Are Up To

As many of you may or may not know I am celebrating my one-year anniversary as a phony Georgian auditor on the U.N. Security Council.

It has been quite an amazing year! From Bush pleading for help and talking about the Patriot‚s football team on 9/12/02, to the humbling bombings in Bombay last month, I have never experienced such a diverse group of politicians in my life. And I‚m in the „wife importingš industry!

It is surprisingly easy to get past security at the U.N., as I am a recognized political rival of Swedish Generalkonsul Olle Wästberg.

He is to Cameroon what Ichiro is to New Zealand.

Yesterday, I even branded a gun in the chambers. By „gun,š I mean a tape of the 1952 Disney Goofy cartoon „Two Gun Goofy.š

(While a classic example of American humor, the 7-minute short is also a fine example of Cold War era paranoia. Goofy‚s „two gunsš are representative of his split allegiance between Capitalist oppression and Stalinist mass murder. Or so claims a guy I sat near in an East Village cafe two nights ago. The gun in his right paw represents the U.S. and the gun in his left paw represents Soviet Union, my birthplace.)

My role as auditor is simple. I simply sit in on the sessions as a representative from Georgia (I have never actually been to Georgia). I listen to what is said and I sometimes take notes. I report to no one. I plan on posting some of my observations on my new blog (more on that later).

The U.N. has a complicated building with many passageways, floors, and fire sprinklers. But I do not set them off even though it is very tempting.

Now, if you were to walk around U.N. building you might expect people are always talking about world situations and politics. But they are not!

Most conversation involves sport (but boring sport, like rugby!) and women (but boring women like Tunisians). It all adds up to a mockery of riches (the U.N. is the world‚s richest corporation because they control all of the OTB‚s in Yonkers).

Next week they are expecting more and more harassing from Wolfowitz, and I‚m telling you now, they are so annoyed with that man!

„No matter what,š one Argentinean tells me, „we will not stop entertaining ourselves with jokes about him. He may be a wolf, but he has no wits!š Get it?!

Blogs: What Are They Good For?

Every time I hear the word „blogš it makes me think of slime. Makes me think of bog. Makes me think of much muck. Reminds me of a certain stench. Now I look at blogs and say „OK, not very stenchy.š

Anyhooo, I would appreciate it so so much if you visit my blog every day. I promise to update it a lot. Here is the address, luboknovich dot blogspot dot com.

My life has changed greatly since starting blog. I can now predict lifespan of cat! Amazing, no? I am just kidding. Anyone can predict lifespan of cat. Just not everyone can predict life span accurately! Get it?!

Born in 1957 in Byelorussia, Alexander Pierre Luboknovich is represented by the immense Ralph Sovo Entertainment conglomerate, a not-for-deficit swindler, and is an associate fellow at the Ruzzzivixxxxxxen Importing Co., Brighton Beach, NY. He is one of leading practitioners of the high Russian art of „water comedy." Winner of the 1983 High Esteem Award (Saint Petersburg Times) and 7 Rikyz (Soviet Oscars), he is married to 2002 Russian silver medalist Irina Slutskaya. Major influences include Arkady Severny, Dmitiri Parentnikoff, Dudakov the Deceiver, Yuri Stimenovich, and Elizabeth Arden.

**************

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