February 28, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC — Although Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez was present for the official team visit to the White House, he did not meet the president due to being preoccupied with rolling on the Rose Garden lawn and playing tug-of-war with Barney, the Bush family's Scottish terrier, the Red Sox organization announced Wednesday. "Hey, perro! Perro! Come here! You want to play with Manny? Sure you do! Yes, you do! Hey! Come back!" Ramirez can be faintly heard to say in the background of the taped record of the ceremony, although cameras did not record Ramirez chasing the First Dog through the shrubbery or swinging the dog around in circles with Ramirez's sock clenched firmly in his jaw. Although Ramirez has posted photos of minor bites, supposedly inflicted by Barney, on his website, White House officials have dismissed the wounds as "just Barney being Barney."
Here's Manny posing with his neighbor's grill so the guy could sell it on Ebay:
Sometimes I wish I only posted one column per week on the blogaroo in order to increase the likelihood of its being read by my glitteringly intelligent and curious reader base.
Here's one by Charles Krauthammer that would qualify. Krauthammer is, by a longshot, the most objective, crystal-clear, articulate, level-headed, unemotional analyst of foreign policy I know of. Hands-down. There are other great columnists I love who are witty, intelligent, and enjoyable, but Charles Krauthammer deserves to be read by all serious students and policy analysts at the highest levels.
Feb. 22, 2008
Dems Dug in for Retreat
By Charles Krauthammer
"No one can spend some 10 days visiting the battlefields in Iraq without seeing major progress in every area. . . . If the U.S. provides sustained support to the Iraqi government — in security, governance, and development — there is now a very real chance that Iraq will emerge as a secure and stable state."
— Anthony Cordesman,
"The Situation in Iraq: A Briefing From the Battlefield," Feb. 13, 2008
This from a man who was a severe critic of the postwar occupation of Iraq and who, as author Peter Wehner points out, is no wide-eyed optimist. In fact, in May 2006 Cordesman had written that "no one can argue that the prospects for stability in Iraq are good." Now, however, there is simply no denying the remarkable improvements in Iraq since the surge began a year ago.
Unless you're a Democrat. As Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) put it, "Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq." Their Senate leader, Harry Reid, declares the war already lost. Their presidential candidates (eight of them at the time) unanimously oppose the surge. Then the evidence begins trickling in.
We get news of the Anbar Awakening, which has now spread to other Sunni areas and Baghdad. The sectarian civil strife that the Democrats insisted was the reason for us to leave dwindles to the point of near disappearance. Much of Baghdad is returning to normal. There are 90,000 neighborhood volunteers — ordinary citizens who act as auxiliary police and vital informants on terrorist activity — starkly symbolizing the insurgency's loss of popular support. Captured letters of al-Qaeda leaders reveal despair as they are driven — mostly by Iraqi Sunnis, their own Arab co-religionists — to flight and into hiding.
After agonizing years of searching for the right strategy and the right general, we are winning. How do Democrats react? From Nancy Pelosi to Barack Obama, the talking point is the same: Sure, there is military progress. We could have predicted that. (They in fact had predicted the opposite, but no matter.) But it's all pointless unless you get national reconciliation.
"National" is a way to ignore what is taking place at the local and provincial level, such as Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim, scion of the family that dominates the largest Shiite party in Iraq, traveling last October to Anbar in an unprecedented gesture of reconciliation with the Sunni sheiks.
Doesn't count, you see. Democrats demand nothing less than federal-level reconciliation, and it has to be expressed in actual legislation.
The objection was not only highly legalistic but also politically convenient: Very few (including me) thought this would be possible under the Maliki government. Then last week, indeed on the day Cordesman published his report, it happened. Mirabile dictu, the Iraqi parliament approved three very significant pieces of legislation.
First, a provincial powers law that turns Iraq into arguably the most federal state in the entire Arab world. The provinces get not only power but also elections by Oct. 1. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker has long been calling this the most crucial step to political stability. It will allow, for example, the pro-American Anbar sheiks to become the legitimate rulers of their province, exercise regional autonomy and forge official relations with the Shiite-dominated central government.
Second, parliament passed a partial amnesty for prisoners, 80 percent of whom are Sunni. Finally, it approved a $48 billion national budget that allocates government revenue — about 85 percent of which is from oil — to the provinces. Kurdistan, for example, gets one-sixth.
What will the Democrats say now? They will complain that there is still no oil distribution law. True. But oil revenue is being distributed to the provinces in the national budget. The fact that parliament could not agree on a permanent formula for the future simply means that it will be allocating oil revenue year by year as part of the budget process. Is that a reason to abandon Iraq to al-Qaeda and Iran?
Despite all the progress, military and political, the Democrats remain unwavering in their commitment to withdrawal on an artificial timetable that inherently jeopardizes our "very real chance that Iraq will emerge as a secure and stable state."
Why? Imagine the transformative effects in the region, and indeed in the entire Muslim world, of achieving a secure and stable Iraq, friendly to the United States and victorious over al-Qaeda. Are the Democrats so intent on denying George Bush retroactive vindication for a war they insist is his that they would deny their own country a now-achievable victory?
Here's a good snippet I cut from Daniel Henninger's Wall Street Journal column yesterday.
. . . . By now, the Democratic Party's ideas are largely generic. Everyone noticed that the Democratic presidential candidates were largely singing from the same script. Health care, public schools, green energy, the eternal shafting of the middle class, the unions, protecting Social Security and Medicare. This common script means that the Democratic primaries are largely an audition. The candidates are reading for a role. The lines are known.
Capt. Denny Keast flies for UAL and flew many SAMs (Special Air Missions) for the White House:
I flew 4 Presidential support missions in the C-141 out of Dover AFB, DE. Two for President Johnson and two for President Nixon.
Johnson was a first class jerk and on the two occasions I flew for him, if the Secret Service and their Liaison in the Pentagon hadn't intervened, we would have had to stay on the airplane for hours while he ( Johnson) was off somewhere. Nixon never required that and the four (4) stops we made with him, he was cordial to the Secret Service and to me and my crew.
We had a neighbor when I lived in DC who was part of the secret service presidential detail for many years. His stories of Kennedy and Johnson were the same as those I heard from the guys who flew the presidents' plane.
Yes, Kennedy did have Marilyn Monroe flown in for secret "dates," and LBJ was a typical Texas "good ole boy" womanizer. Nixon, Bush 41, and Carter never cheated on their wives. Clinton cheated, but couldn't match Kennedy or LBJ in style or variety.
The information below is accurate: The elder Bush and current president Bush make it a point to thank and take care of the air crews who fly them around. When the president flies, there are several planes that also go, one carries the armored limo, another the security detail, plus usually a press aircraft.
Both Bushes made it a point to stay home on holidays, so the Air Force and security people could have a day with their families.
Hillary Clinton was arrogant and orally abusive to her security detail. She forbade her daughter, Chelsea , from exchanging pleasantries with them. Sometimes Chelsea , miffed at her mother's obvious conceit and mean spiritedness, ignored her demands and exchanged pleasantries regardless, but never in her mother's presence. Chelsea really was a nice, kindhearted, and lovely young lady. The consensus opinion was that Chelsea loved her Mom but did not like her. Hillary Clinton was continuously rude and abrasive to those who were charged to protect her life. Her security detail dutifully did their job, as professionals should, but they all loathed her and wanted to be on a different detail.
Hillary Clinton was despised by the Secret Service as a whole. Former President Bill Clinton was much more amiable than his wife. Often the Secret Service would cringe at the verbal attacks Hillary would use against her husband. They were embarrassed for his sake by the manner and frequency in which she verbally insulted him, sometimes in the presence of the Secret Service, and sometimes behind closed doors. Even behind closed doors Hillary Clinton would scream and holler so loudly that everyone could hear what she was saying. Many felt sorry for President Clinton and most wondered why he tolerated it instead of just divorcing his "attack dog" wife. It was crystal clear that the Clinton 's neither liked nor respected each other and this was true long before the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Theirs was genuinely a "marriage of convenience."
Chelsea was much closer to her father than her mother, even after the Lewinsky scandal, which hurt her gravely. Bill Clinton did in fact have charisma, and occasionally would smile at or shake hands with his security detail. Still, he always displayed an obvious air of superiority towards them. His security detail uniformly believed him to be disingenuous, false, and that he did nothing without a motive that in some way would enhance his image and political career. He was polite, but not kind. They did not particularly like him and nobody trusted him.
Al Gore was the male version of Hillary Clinton.. They were friendlier toward each other than either of them were towards former President Clinton. They were not intimate, so please don't read that in. They were very close in a political way. Tipper Gore was generally nice and pleasant. She initially liked Hillary but soon after the election she had her "pegged" and no longer liked her or associated with her except for events that were politically obligatory.
Al Gore was far more left wing than Bill Clinton. Al Gore resented Bill Clinton and thought he was too "centrist." He despised all Republicans. His hatred was bitter and this was long before he announced for the Presidency. This hatred was something that he and Hillary had in common. They often said as much, even in the presence of their security detail. Neither of them trusted Bill Clinton and, the Secret Service opined, neither of them even liked him. Bill Clinton did have some good qualities, whereas Al Gore and Hillary had none, in the view of their security details.
Al Gore, like Hillary, was very rude and arrogant toward his security detail. He was extremely unappreciative and would not hesitate to scold them in the presence of their peers for minor details over which they had no control. Al Gore also looked down on them, as they finally observed and learned with certainty on one occasion. Al got angry at his offspring and pointed at his security detail and said, "Do you want to grow up and be like them?" Word of this insult by the former Vice-President quickly spread and he became as disliked by the Secret Service as Hillary. Most of them prayed Al Gore would not be elected President, and they really did have private celebrations in a few of their homes after President Bush won. This was not necessarily to celebrate President Bush's election, but to celebrate Al Gore's defeat.
Everyone in the Secret Service wants to be on First Lady Laura Bush's detail. Without exception, they concede that she is perhaps the nicest and most kind person they have ever had the privilege of serving. Where Hillary patently refused to allow her picture to be taken with her security detail, Laura Bush doesn't even have to be asked, she offers. She doesn't just shake their hand and say, "Thank you." Very often, she will give members of her detail a kindhearted hug to express her appreciation. There is nothing false about her. This is her genuine nature. Her security detail considers her to be a "breath of fresh air." They joke that comparing Laura Bush with Hillary Clinton is like comparing "Mother Teresa" with the "Wicked Witch of the North."
Likewise, the Secret Service considers President Bush to be a gem of a man to work for. He always treats them with genuine respect and he always trusts and listens to their expert advice. They really like the Crawford, Texas detail. Every time the president goes to Crawford he has a Bar-B-Q for his security detail and he helps serve their meals. He sits with them, eats with them, and talks with them. He knows each of them by their first name, and calls them by their first name as a show of affection. He always asks about their family, the names of which he always remembers. They believe that he is deeply and genuinely appreciative of their service. They could not like, love, or respect anyone more than President Bush. Most of them did not know they would feel this way, until they had an opportunity to work for him and learn that his manner was genuine and consistent. It has never changed since he began his Presidency. He always treats them with the utmost respect, kindness, and compassion.
Grotto friend Juan Seitz spends a lot of time on conference calls. He always closes his office door, and my sources have found out why. Most of the time, he is sitting in this, which he brings to work in his briefcase and inflates each morning:
Sometimes, at the tail end of a stressful week, he can be found on speaker phone hooked up to this product:
This lady should hang out with that whiny jerk who made the movie Super Size Me.
Girl Scout Cookies Should Be Exempt From Puritan Food-Police Crusades
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 - PRNewswire-USNewswire
Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) criticized the self-anointed obesity activist MeMe Roth for attacking the Girl Scouts in her anti-fat crusade. Roth called for a nationwide Girl Scout Cookie boycott this morning, demanding that all civic organizations must cease raising money by selling scout cookies.
A Thin Mint never hurt anyone, said CCF Senior Research Analyst Trice Whitefield in response. MeMe Roth is apparently the self-appointed national cookie czar. This is the same woman who had to be physically restrained in Philadelphia last year after she tried to vandalize a snack table at the YMCA. Roths deepest, darkest fear is that, somewhere, theres a child enjoying a snack.
Appearing on Comedy Centrals The Daily Show in November, Roth agreed with correspondent Rob Riggles suggestion that eating a cupcake is the same as putting a gun in your mouth. A month later, she took her smear campaign into Christmastime, insisting that a fat Santa Claus is a poor role model for children.
MeMe Roth should give us all a break from her silly food-cop media stunts, Whitefield continued. Food cops wont be happy until the Girl Scouts are reduced to selling high-fiber oat bran biscuits to raise money; Americans are tired of being lectured by these holier-than-thou snack tyrants.
For more information about activists who stand in the way of Americans food and beverage choices, visit www.ConsumerFreedom.com.
Here's a Girl Scout Cookie:
NEW YORK (AP) - William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he observed, abetted and cheered on the right's post-World War II rise from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.
His assistant Linda Bridges said Buckley was found dead by his cook at his home in Stamford, Conn. The cause of death was unknown, but he had been ill with emphysema, she said.
Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of "Firing Line," harpsichordist, trans-oceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayor's race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review.
Yet on the platform he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort with wide-eyed glee.
"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."
Buckley had for years been withdrawing from public life, starting in 1990 when he stepped down as top editor of the National Review. In December 1999, he closed down "Firing Line" after a 23-year run, when guests ranged from Richard Nixon to Allen Ginsberg. "You've got to end sometime and I'd just as soon not die onstage," he told the audience.
"For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television," fellow conservative William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said at the time the show ended. "He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement."
Fifty years earlier, few could have imagined such a triumph. Conservatives had been marginalized by a generation of discredited stands—from opposing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to the isolationism which preceded the U.S. entry into World War II. Liberals so dominated intellectual thought that the critic Lionel Trilling claimed there were "no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation."
Buckley founded the biweekly magazine National Review in 1955, declaring that he proposed to stand "athwart history, yelling `Stop' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who urge it." Not only did he help revive conservative ideology, especially unbending anti-Communism and free market economics, his persona was a dynamic break from such dour right-wing predecessors as Sen. Robert Taft.
Although it perpetually lost money, the National Review built its circulation from 16,000 in 1957 to 125,000 in 1964, the year conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater was the Republican presidential candidate. The magazine claimed a circulation of 155,000 when Buckley relinquished control in 2004, citing concerns about his mortality, and over the years the National Review attracted numerous young writers, some who remained conservative (George Will, David Brooks), and some who didn't (Joan Didion, Garry Wills).
"I was very fond of him," Didion said Wednesday. "Everyone was, even if they didn't agree with him."
Born Nov. 24, 1925, in New York City, William Frank Buckley Jr. was the sixth of 10 children of a multimillionaire with oil holdings in seven countries. The son spent his early childhood in France and England, in exclusive Roman Catholic schools.
His prominent family also included his brother James, who became a one-term senator from New York in the 1970s; his socialite wife, Pat, who died in April 2007; and their son, Christopher, a noted author and satirist ("Thank You for Smoking").
A precocious controversialist, William was but 8 years old when he wrote to the king of England, demanding payment of the British war debt.
After graduating with honors from Yale in 1950, Buckley married Patricia Alden Austin Taylor, spent a "hedonistic summer" and then excoriated his alma mater for what he regarded as its anti-religious and collectivist leanings in "God and Man at Yale," published in 1951.
Buckley spent a year as a low-level agent for the Central Intelligence Agency in Mexico, work he later dismissed as boring.
With his brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, Buckley wrote a defense of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954, "McCarthy and His Enemies." While condemning some of the senator's anti-communist excesses, the book praised a "movement around which men of good will and stern morality can close ranks."
In 1960, Buckley helped found Young Americans for Freedom, and in he was among the founders of the Conservative Party in New York. Buckley was the party's candidate for mayor of New York in 1965, waging a campaign that was in part a lark—he proposed an elevated bikeway on Second Avenue—but that also reflected a deep distaste for the liberal Republicanism of Mayor John V. Lindsay. Asked what he would do if he won, Buckley said, "I'd demand a recount."
He wrote the first of his successful spy thrillers, "Saving the Queen," in 1976, introducing Ivy League hero Blackford Oakes. Oakes was permitted a dash of sex—with the Queen of England, no less—and Buckley permitted himself to take positions at odds with conservative orthodoxy. He advocated the decriminalization of marijuana, supported the treaty ceding control of the Panama Canal and came to oppose the Iraq war.
Buckley also took on the archconservative John Birch Society, a growing force in the 1950s and 1960s. "Buckley's articles cost the Birchers their respectability with conservatives," Richard Nixon once said. "I couldn't have accomplished that. Liberals couldn't have, either."
Although he boasted he would never debate a Communist "because there isn't much to say to someone who believes the moon is made of green cheese," Buckley got on well with political foes. His friends included such liberals as John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who despised Buckley's "wrathful conservatism," but came to admire him for his "wit, his passion for the harpsichord, his human decency, even for his compulsion to epater the liberals."
Buckley was also capable of deep and genuine dislikes. In a 1968 television debate, when left-wing novelist and critic Gore Vidal called him a "pro-war-crypto-Nazi," Buckley snarled an anti-gay slur and threatened to "sock you in your ... face and you'll stay plastered." Their feud continued in print, leading to mutual libel suits that were either dismissed (Vidal's) or settled out of court (Buckley's).
Buckley also had little use for the music of the counterculture, once calling the Beatles "so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic."
The National Review could do little to prevent Goldwater's landslide defeat in 1964, but as conservatives gained influence so did Buckley and his magazine. The long rise would culminate in 1980 when Buckley's good friend, Ronald Reagan, was elected president. The outsiders were now in, a development Buckley accepted with a touch of rue.
"It's true. I had much more fun criticizing than praising," he told the Washington Post in 1985. "I criticize Reagan from time to time, but it's nothing like Carter or Johnson."
Buckley's memoir about Goldwater, "Flying High," was coming out this spring, and his son said he was working on a book about Reagan.
Buckley so loved a good argument—especially when he won—that he compiled a book of bickering in "Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription," published in 2007 and featuring correspondence with the famous (Nixon, Reagan) and the merely annoyed.
"Mr. Buckley," one non-fan wrote in 1967, "you are the mouthpiece of that evil rabble that depends on fraud, perjury, dirty tricks, anything at all that suits their purposes. I would trust a snake before I would trust you or anybody you support."
Responded Buckley: "What would you do if I supported the snake?"
Obama’s Big-Government Vision
By Lawrence Kudlow
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Senator Barack Obama is very gloomy about America, and he’s aligning himself with the liberal wing of the Democratic party in hopes of coming to the nation’s rescue. His proposal? Big-government planning, spending, and taxing -- exactly what the nation and the stock market doesn’t want to hear.
Obama unveiled much of his economic strategy in Wisconsin this week: He wants to spend $150 billion on a green-energy plan. He wants to establish an infrastructure investment bank to the tune of $60 billion. He wants to expand health insurance by roughly $65 billion. He wants to “reopen” trade deals, which is another way of saying he wants to raise the barriers to free trade. He intends to regulate the profits for drug companies, health insurers, and energy firms. He wants to establish a mortgage-interest tax credit. He wants to double the number of workers receiving the earned-income tax credit (EITC) and triple the EITC benefit for minimum-wage workers.
The Obama spend-o-meter is now up around $800 billion. And tax hikes on the rich won’t pay for it. It’s the middle class that will ultimately shoulder this fiscal burden in terms of higher taxes and lower growth.
This isn’t free enterprise. It’s old-fashioned-liberal tax, and spend, and regulate. It’s plain ol’ big government. The only people who will benefit are the central planners in Washington.
Obama would like voters to believe that he’s the second coming of JFK. But with his unbelievable spending and new-government-agency proposals he’s looking more and more like Jimmy Carter. His is a “Grow the Government Bureaucracy Plan,” and it’s totally at odds with investment and business.
Obama says he wants U.S. corporations to stop “shipping jobs overseas” and bring their cash back home. But if he really wanted U.S. companies to keep more of their profits in the states he’d be calling for a reduction in the corporate tax rate. Why isn’t he demanding an end to the double-taxation of corporate earnings? It’s simple: He wants higher taxes, too.
The Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore has done the math on Obama’s tax plan. He says it will add up to a 39.6 percent personal income tax, a 52.2 percent combined income and payroll tax, a 28 percent capital-gains tax, a 39.6 percent dividends tax, and a 55 percent estate tax.
Not only is Obama the big-spending candidate, he’s also the very-high-tax candidate. And what he wants to tax is capital.
Doesn’t Obama understand the vital role of capital formation in creating businesses and jobs? Doesn’t he understand that without capital, businesses can’t expand their operations and hire more workers?
Dan Henninger, writing in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, notes that Obama’s is a profoundly pessimistic message. “Strip away the new coat of paint from the Obama message and what you find is not only familiar,” writes Henninger. “It’s a downer.”
Obama wants you to believe that America is in trouble, and that it can only be cured with a big lurch to the left. Take from the rich and give to the non-rich. Redistribute income and wealth. It’s an age-old recipe for economic disaster. It completely ignores incentives for entrepreneurs, small family-owned businesses, and investors. You can’t have capitalism without capital. But Obama would penalize capital, be it capital from corporations or investors. This will only harm, and not advance, opportunities for middle-class workers.
Obama believes he can use government, and not free markets, to drive the economy. But on taxes, trade, and regulation, Obama’s program is anti-growth. A President Obama would steer us in the social-market direction of Western Europe, which has produced only stagnant economies down through the years. It would be quite an irony. While newly emerging nations in Eastern Europe and Asia are lowering the tax penalties on capital -- and reaping the economic rewards -- Obama would raise them. Low-rate flat-tax plans are proliferating around the world. Yet Obama completely ignores this. American competitiveness would suffer enormously under Obama, as would job opportunities, productivity, and real wages.
Imitate the failures of Germany, Norway, and Sweden? That’s no way to run economic policy.
I have so far been soft on Obama this election season. In many respects he is a breath of fresh air. He’s an attractive candidate with an appealing approach to politics. Obama is likeable, and sometimes he gets it -- such as when he opposed Hillary Clinton’s five-year rate-freeze on mortgages.
But his message is pessimism, not hope. And behind the charm and charisma is a big-government bureaucrat who would take us down the wrong economic road.
Lawrence Kudlow is host of CNBC's Kudlow & Company
April 23, 1997
KINSHASA, ZAIRE — In his greatest act of international heroism since alerting authorities of British Prime Minister John Major's fall down a deep well in 1993, "Houser," a big, lovable dog, brought peace and stability to the war-torn nation of Zaire Monday.
Zairian refugees near Lake Kivu are led back home by Houser, a lovable dog.
Once pushed to the brink of mass starvation, genocide and chaos by rebel attempts to overthrow President Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire is now a stable democracy, its warring factions united in their love for the cuddly, furry animal.
After solving the Zairian crisis, Houser wagged his big tail and barked triumphantly to the nation's once-warring factions, who laughed merrily and patted the shaggy canine on the head and back.
"He is a good boy," said Mobutu, who returned from exile to form a broad-based coalition government with rebel leader Laurent Kabila. "I love him so much." Mobutu then gave the dog what his advisors described as a "big hug."
Said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan: "Attaboy, Houser!"
Annan recalled Monday morning, when Houser came running into the U.N. intent on saving the day.
"At first, many of the diplomats were annoyed that the big dog came bounding into the General Assembly," Annan said. "The dog was running back and forth and barking very insistently."
"Houser was dripping wet," said Alexei Lukashenko of Belarus. "He was shaking himself and spraying water all over the delegates."
Austrian representative Gunter Hosch, who was delivering a speech advocating the passage of a U.N. resolution condemning human rights abuses in Honduras, paused mid-address to ask the dog, "What is it, boy?"
When the dog responded by barking even more insistently, many representatives began to make guesses as to what the dog was trying to say.
"Houser, have you been swimming in Old Man Seaver's pond again? We told you not to do that! Bad Houser!" Hosch told the dog.
The assembled delegates, unable to interpret Houser's frantic barking, were about to give up on the dog and have him removed when Angolan representative Goma Ndeti noticed he was carrying a handmade Zairian "Juju" doll in his mouth. "It was then I realized," Ndeti said, "that the water was not from Old Man Seaver's pond at all—he was wet from a swim across the Atlantic Ocean. The dog was trying to tell us something about Zaire."
Annan then put it to Houser: "Is it Zaire, boy? Is there some kind of trouble in Zaire?"
When Houser barked more loudly and at a higher pitch than before, those in attendance knew they had hit upon the right answer.
"What's that, Houser?" Annan continued. "Laurent Kabila and his rebel forces have seized much of the south and are headed toward Kinshasa? Come on, take us to them!"
According to U.N. command leader Edgar Nielsen, the dog led a 45-nation peacekeeping force to the city of Lubumbashi in Shaba Province, a key, mineral-rich region in southern Zaire which had fallen to the rebels. "It was tough keeping pace with the dog. He was so excited and running very quickly," Nielsen said. "But once we arrived in Lubumbashi, we dispersed troops and were able to bring stability to the area."
Nielsen said that for his great bravery and invaluable intelligence-gathering efforts, Houser was given a biscuit.
The dog then led troops to a badly ravaged encampment in central Zaire, where more than 500,000 Rwandan and Zairian refugees were dying of malnutrition and ebola. U.N. troops quickly airdropped medical supplies and food to the area. Nielsen noted that Houser saw to it personally that a young female dog to whom he had "taken a shine," was given a delicious bone.
Houser's owner, Tim, 10, was pleased with his dog's accomplishments in Zaire. "He's a good dog. And he's my best friend. I love him."
Sent in by my cousin Ken, longtime Navy and Delta pilot.
Tower: "TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 Degrees." TWA 2341: "Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?" Tower: "Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?"
A student became lost during a solo cross-country flight. While attempting to locate the aircraft on radar, ATC asked, "What was your last known position?" Student: "When I was number one for takeoff."
A DC-10 had come in a little hot and thus had an exceedingly long roll out after touching down. San Jose Tower Noted: "American 751, make a hard right turn at the end of the runway, if you are able. If you are not able, take the Guadeloupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport."
A Pan Am 727 flight, waiting for start clearance in Munich , overheard the following: Lufthansa (in German): " Ground, what is our start clearance time?" Ground (in English): "If you want an answer you must speak in English." Lufthansa (in English): "I am a German, flying a German aeroplane, in Germany . Why must I speak English?" Unknown voice from another plane (in a beautiful British accent): "Because you lost the bloody war!"
One day the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the active runway while a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around, and taxied back past the Cherokee. Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said, "What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?" The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real zinger: "I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I'll have enough parts for another one."
The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206. Speedbird 206: " Frankfurt , Speedbird 206 clear of active runway." Ground: "Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven." The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.
Ground:"Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?" Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."! Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?" Speedbird 206 (coolly): "Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark, and I didn't land."
While taxiing at London 's Gatwick Airport , the crew of a US Air flight departing for Ft. Lauderdale made a wrong turn and came nose to nose with a United 727. An irate female ground controller lashed out at the US Air crew, screaming: "US Air 2771, where the hell are you going? I told you to turn right onto Charlie taxiway! You turned right on Delta! Stop right there. I know it's difficult for you to tell the difference between C and D, but get it right!" Continuing her rage to the embarrassed crew, she was now shouting hysterically: "God! Now you've screwed everything up! It'll take forever to sort this out! You stay right there and don't move till I tell you to! You can expect progressive taxi instructions in about half an hour, and I want you to go exactly where I tell you, when I tell you, and how I tell you! You got that, US Air 2771?"
"Yes, ma'am,"the humbled crew responded.
Naturally, the ground control communications frequency fell terribly silent after the verbal bashing of US Air 2771. Nobody wanted to chance engaging the irate ground controller in her current state of mind. Tension in every cockpit out around Gatwick was definitely running high. Just then an unknown pilot broke the silence and keyed his microphone, asking: "Wasn't I married to you once?"
Unions. In Season Two of The Wire, Frank Sobotka, the head of the longshoremen's union, gives some lame speech about how his father worked on the docks, and his father's father worked on the docks, and now his son might not have a job on the docks. His point is that now, with advances in technology, many of his dwindling union membership's jobs are disappearing because robotic machines can do much of the loading and sorting, or something along those lines. And this is a bad thing? When politicians give speeches about how important it is to preserve specific types of jobs, I want to hold myself underwater until I go completely limp. Why should a longshoreman have any more job security than a waiter or a Starbuck's barista? Aren't the qualifications simply that you have a minimum amount of physical strength and the ability to follow orders? I don't get it. As has been mentioned many times on this blog, candidates like Barack Obama are the guys who would have been out there a hundred years ago giving emotional speeches about the importance of preserving the critical jobs of horse-and-buggy industry laborers, as if there's some moral obligation involved.
Check out the highlighted parts.
Obama's Teamster "Diplomacy"
February 21, 2008; Page A16
Barack Obama has pledged to "renew American diplomacy." Except, apparently, when it might interfere with an endorsement from the Teamsters.
President James Hoffa bestowed the powerful union's blessing on Mr. Obama yesterday, not so coincidentally only days after the Senator declared his opposition to the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. In a statement inserted in the Congressional Record last week, Mr. Obama said he believes the pact doesn't pay "proper attention" to America's "key industries and agricultural sectors" like cars, rice and beef. Opposition to free-trade deals is now a union litmus test, especially for the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union, which endorsed the Senator last Friday.
Try squaring Mr. Obama's views on the FTA with his criticism of the Bush Administration for not negotiating with unfriendly regimes, taken straight from an online position paper: It "makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership." Or consider this promise from his Asia policy paper: Mr. Obama "will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia" and "work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity."
Consider also that Seoul is willing to open up some of its own politically sensitive industries, such as banking and cars, for the FTA. Mr. Obama might take a look at a report last fall from the International Trade Commission, which says the FTA is expected to boost U.S. GDP by $10 billion to $12 billion annually and that the impact on American employment would be "negligible." In exchange, consumers in both countries would enjoy lower prices and a wider range of goods.
Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has put a lot of political capital behind the trade pact and President-elect Lee Myung-bak is also a strong supporter. The men, who represent opposing parties, don't agree on much but they have agreed to push the FTA through the National Assembly as early as this week. A U.S. "no" would be a huge embarrassment for them -- and for American "diplomacy."
Several people emailed me a column last week, by Gary Hubbell, about a forgotten block of voters in this year's election. I have taken this column and reprinted here excerpts, partly to shorten it, but mainly to soften it when it veers off into nastiness. The remaining version here is worth reading, I think.
February 9, 2008
There is a great amount of interest in this year’s presidential elections. . . .
. . . Each candidate is carefully pandering to a smorgasbord of special-interest groups. . . .
. . . .There is one group no one has recognized, and it is the group that will decide the election. . . . He comes from all economic backgrounds, from dirt-poor to filthy rich. He represents all geographic areas in America, from urban sophisticate to rural redneck, deep South to mountain West, left Coast to Eastern Seaboard.
His common traits are that he isn’t looking for anything from anyone — just the promise to be able to make his own way on a level playing field. In many cases, he is an independent businessman and employs several people. He pays more than his share of taxes and works hard.
The victimhood syndrome buzzwords — “disenfranchised,” “marginalized” and “voiceless” — don’t resonate with him. . . . He’s used to picking up the tab, whether it’s the company Christmas party, three sets of braces, three college educations or a beautiful wedding.
He believes the Constitution is to be interpreted literally, not as a “living document” open to the whims and vagaries of a panel of judges. . . .
. . . He owns firearms, and he’s willing to pick up a gun to defend his home and his country. He is willing to lay down his life to defend the freedom and safety of others. . . .
. . . Nobody like him drowned in Hurricane Katrina — he got his people together and got the hell out, then went back in to rescue those too helpless and stupid to help themselves, often as a police officer, a National Guard soldier or a volunteer firefighter.
His last name and religion don’t matter. His background might be Italian, English, Polish, German, Slavic, Irish, or Russian, and he might have Cherokee, Mexican, or Puerto Rican mixed in, but he considers himself a white American.
He’s a man’s man, the kind of guy who likes to play poker, watch football, hunt white-tailed deer, call turkeys, play golf, spend a few bucks at a strip club once in a blue moon, change his own oil and build things. He coaches baseball, soccer and football teams and doesn’t ask for a penny. He’s the kind of guy who can put an addition on his house with a couple of friends, drill an oil well, weld a new bumper for his truck, design a factory and publish books. He can fill a train with 100,000 tons of coal and get it to the power plant on time so that you keep the lights on and never know what it took to flip that light switch.
Women either love him or hate him, but they know he’s a man, not a dishrag. If they’re looking for someone to walk all over, they’ve got the wrong guy. He stands up straight, opens doors for women and says “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am.”
He might be a Republican and he might be a Democrat; he might be a Libertarian or a Green. . . .
He’s not a racist, but he is annoyed and disappointed when people of certain backgrounds exhibit behavior that typifies the worst stereotypes of their race. He’s willing to give everybody a fair chance if they work hard, play by the rules and learn English.
Most important, he is pissed off. When his job site becomes flooded with illegal workers who don’t pay taxes and his wages drop like a stone, he gets righteously angry. . . . When Al Sharpton comes on TV, leading some rally for reparations for slavery or some such nonsense, he bites his tongue and he remembers. When a child gets charged with carrying a concealed weapon for mistakenly bringing a penknife to school, he takes note of who the local idiots are in education and law enforcement. . . .
Gary Hubbell is a regular columnist with the Aspen Times Weekly.
February 21, 2008
TUCSON—South African golfer Ernie Els followed an errant golf ball into the scrub woods of the Dove Mountain course rough Wednesday during the Accenture Match Play tournament and has now been missing for over 36 hours, PGA officials have announced. "Els went too long on the fifth hole and struck his ball into a dense stand of sage, creosote tree, and saguaro cactus from which both Els and his ball have yet to emerge," the PGA's Ana Laird told reporters, struggling to be heard over the drone of rescue helicopters combing the brush. "We are unsure if Els was carrying water, matches, or any of the survival equipment the PGA recommends our golfers take into the rough as a matter of routine, but we stress that he will not be in danger until 96 hours have passed, and will only be assessed a three-stroke penalty." Though no sign of Els has been found, rescuers investigating circling buzzards over the sand trap on the par 4 dogleg-right sixth hole fairway have found what they believe to be the desiccated remains of John Daly.
Like most privileged, Ivy League-educated members of the coastal elites, Michelle Obama evidently regards being proud of America as just a little bit unsophisticated, naive, unworldly, lowbrow, and uncultivated. She, like so much of the Left, sees America more as a source of shame than pride. Not just as a source of shame vs. pride, but more as a source of shame than pride.
This column is a reminder that not all "women of color" with jobs and children feel the same way.
Feb. 20, 2008
Michelle Obama's America — and Mine
By Michelle Malkin
Like Michelle Obama, I am a "woman of color." Like Michelle Obama, I am a working mother of two young children. Like Michelle Obama, I am a member of the 13th generation of Americans born since the founding of our great nation.
Unlike Michelle Obama, I can't keep track of the number of times I've been proud — really proud — of my country since I was born and privileged to live in it.
At a speech in Milwaukee this week on behalf of her husband's Democratic presidential campaign, Mrs. Obama remarked, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change."
Mrs. Obama's statement was met with warm applause from other Barack supporters who have apparently also been devoid of pride in their country for their adult lifetimes. Or maybe it was just a Pavlovian response to the word "change." What a sad, empty, narcissistic, ungrateful, unthinking lot.
I'm just seven years younger than Mrs. Obama. We've grown up and lived in the same era. And yet, her self-absorbed attitude is completely foreign to me. What planet is she living on? Since when was now the only time the American people have ever been "hungry for change"? Michelle, ma belle, Barack is not the center of the universe. Newsflash: The Obamas did not invent "change" any more than Hillary invented "leadership" or John McCain invented "straight talk."
We were both adults when the Berlin Wall fell, Michelle. That was earth-shattering change.
We've lived through two decades' worth of peaceful, if contentious election cycles under the rule of law, which have brought about "change" and upheaval, both good and bad.
We were adults through several launches of the space shuttle, in case you were snoozing. And as adults, we've witnessed and benefited from dizzyingly rapid advances in technology, communications, science and medicine pioneered by American entrepreneurs who yearned to change the world and succeeded. You want "change"? Go ask the patients whose lives have been improved and extended by American pharmaceutical companies that have flourished under the best economic system in the world.
If American ingenuity, a robust constitutional republic and the fall of communism don't do it for you, hon, then how about American heroism and sacrifice?
How about every Memorial Day? Every Veterans Day? Every Independence Day? Every Medal of Honor ceremony? Has she never attended a welcome home ceremony for the troops?
For me, there's the thrill of the Blue Angels roaring over cloudless skies. And the somber awe felt amid the hallowed waters that surround the sunken U.S.S. Arizona at the Pearl Harbor memorial.
Every naturalization ceremony I've attended, where hundreds of new Americans raised their hands to swear an oath of allegiance to this land of liberty, has been a moment of pride for me. So have the awesome displays of American compassion at home and around the world. When millions of Americans rallied to help victims of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia — including members of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group that sped from Hong Kong to assist survivors — my heart filled with pride. It did again when the citizens of Houston opened their arms to Hurricane Katrina victims and folks across the country rushed to their churches, and Salvation Army and Red Cross offices to volunteer.
How about American resilience? Does that not make you proud? Only a heart of stone could be unmoved by the strength, valor and determination displayed in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., on September 11, 2001.
I believe it was Michael Kinsley who quipped that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. In this case, it's what happens when an elite Democratic politician's wife says what a significant portion of the party's base really believes to be the truth: America is more a source of shame than pride.
Michelle Obama has achieved enormous professional success, political influence and personal acclaim in America. Ivy League-educated, she's been lauded by Essence magazine as one of the 25 World's Most Inspiring Women; by Vanity Fair as one of the 10 World's Best-Dressed Women; and named one of "The Harvard 100" most influential alumni. She has had an amazingly blessed life. But you wouldn't know it from her campaign rhetoric and her griping about her and her husband's student loans.
For years, we've heard liberals get offended at any challenge to their patriotism. And so they are again aggrieved and rising to explain away Mrs. Obama's remarks.
Like Lady Macbeth, Lady Michelle and her defenders protest too much.
Peggy Noonan's columns are usually a little bit too sugary and carmelized for me, but this is a great one. The smartest part is her suggestion to the people who come under the spell of the emotional rhetoric of Obama to print out transcripts of his speeches and read the content, separating the "thrills and chills" from specific policy stances.
Try a Little Tenderness
By Peggy Noonan
February 22, 2008
Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.)
Mr. Obama is magnetic, interacts with the audience, leads a refrain: "Yes, we can." It's good, and compared with Hillary Clinton and John McCain, neither of whom seems really to enjoy giving speeches, it comes across as better than it is. But is it eloquence? No. Eloquence is deep thought expressed in clear words. With Mr. Obama the deep thought part is missing. What is present are sentiments.
Our country can be greater, it holds unachieved promise, our leaders have not led us well. "We struggle with our doubts, our fears, our cynicism." Fair enough and true enough, but he doesn't dig down to explain how to become a greater nation, what specific path to take--more power to the state, for instance, or more power to the individual. He doesn't unpack his thoughts, as they say. He asserts and keeps on walking.
So his draw is not literal eloquence but a reputation for eloquence that may, in time, become the real thing.
But his big draw is this. In a country that has throughout most of our lifetimes been tormented by, buffeted by, the question of race, a country that has endured real pain and paid in blood and treasure to work its way through and out of the mess, that for all that struggle we yielded this: a brilliant and accomplished young black man with a consensus temperament, a thoughtful and peaceful person who wishes to lead. That is his draw: "We made that." "It ended well."
People would love to be able to support that guy.
His job, in a way, is to let them, in part by not being just another operative, plaything or grievance-monger of the left-liberal establishment and left-liberal thinking. By standing, in fact, for real change.
Right now Mr. Obama is in an awkward moment. Each day he tries to nail down his party's leftist base, and take it from Mrs. Clinton. At the same time his victories have led the country as a whole to start seeing him as the probable Democratic nominee. They're looking at him in a new way, and wondering: Is he standard, old time and party line, or is he something new? Is he just a turning of the page, or is he the beginning of a new and helpful chapter?
Mr. Obama did not really have a good week, in spite of winning a primary and a caucus, and both resoundingly. I don't refer to charges that he'd plagiarized words from a Deval Patrick speech. He borrowed an argument that was in itself obvious--words matter--and used words in the public sphere. In any case Mrs. Clinton has lifted so many phrases and approaches from Mr. Obama, and other candidates, that her accusation was like the neighborhood kleptomaniac running through the street crying, "Thief! Thief!"
His problem was, is, his wife's words, not his, the speech in which she said that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of her country, because Obama is winning. She later repeated it, then tried to explain it, saying of course she loves her country. But damage was done. Why? Because her statement focused attention on what I suspect are some basic and elementary questions that were starting to bubble out there anyway.
* * *
Here are a few of them.
Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like "international justice" than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?
Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised--so raised in the liberal cocoon--that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?
Why is all this actually not a distraction but a real issue? Because Americans have common sense and are bottom line. They think like this. If the president and his first lady are not loyal first to America and its interests, who will be? The president of France? But it's his job to love France, and protect its interests. If America's leaders don't love America tenderly, who will?
And there is a context. So many Americans right now fear they are losing their country, that the old America is slipping away and being replaced by something worse, something formless and hollowed out. They can see we are giving up our sovereignty, that our leaders will not control our borders, that we don't teach the young the old-fashioned love of America, that the government has taken to itself such power, and made things so complex, and at the end of the day when they count up sales tax, property tax, state tax, federal tax they are paying a lot of money to lose the place they loved.
And if you feel you're losing America, you really don't want a couple in the White House whose rope of affection to the country seems lightly held, casual, provisional. America is backing Barack at the moment, so America is good. When it becomes angry with President Barack, will that mean America is bad?
* * *
Michelle Obama seems keenly aware of her struggles, of what it took to rise so high as a black woman in a white country. Fair enough. But I have wondered if it is hard for young African-Americans of her generation, having been drilled in America's sad racial history, having been told about it every day of their lives, to fully apprehend the struggles of others. I wonder if she knows that some people look at her and think "Man, she got it all." Intelligent, strong, tall, beautiful, Princeton, Harvard, black at a time when America was trying to make up for its sins and be helpful, and from a working-class family with two functioning parents who made sure she got to school.
That's the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family, and she apparently came from the privileged part of that divide. A lot of white working-class Americans didn't come up with those things. Some of them were raised by a TV and a microwave and love our country anyway, every day.
Does Mrs. Obama know this? I don't know. If she does, love and gratitude for the place that tries to give everyone an equal shot would seem to be in order.
I was lucky enough to spend a few days down in Georgia at a good friend's family's quail hunting plantation within the past couple of weeks. This enchanting destination is one of the very few places on Earth where I'm able to truly relax. Plus, with an all-star group of chums like we had, it was a pants-wetting-event-a-minute experience.
Roberta, Yours Truly, J. Doering, Mary H., Merrilee H., Trish B., and equestrian extraordinaire Juan Seitz:
Trish and I:
Roberta and I:
Nelson, the English Cocker Spaniel, should be on that show "Dogs with Jobs". When asked to, he races into the underbrush when a bird goes down and finds it every single time.
Self and Seitz:
Seitz taking his pants' stitching to the limit!
Johnny D. and pal:
Merrilee visiting with Nelson:
Nelson in the Bird Buggy. There are a bunch of different pairs of Pointers in the back, as they tire quickly and have to be rotated in and out.
Lunchtime at the "picnic house", many miles from the main house:
Nelson relieving himself after another find:
Thomas and Roberta:
Roberta, Self, and Russell:
Closeup of one of the excellent Pointers:
Roberta preparing to blast away:
Doering and Seitz:
Seitz and I practicing shooting clays at the Wobble House:
Trish watching Roberta land another bullseye:
Seitz and I competing:
Johnny helping out:
Thomas with two important members of the hunting party:
Trish, John, Russell, Mary, Juan, Roberta, Thomas:
Mary and I strategizing:
Nelson finds a quail:
Pics from the Great Room:
Seitz and ML:
Seitz and Mary:
Roberta, Grotto Editor, ML:
Seitz in the latest hunting footwear:
I think if Seitz ever climbed Mt. Everest, I'll bet that photos would show that he did it in a pair of Guccis:
February 13, 2008
MAPLEWOOD, MO—Ongoing turmoil in the troubled kitchen-floor region of the Branson household reached a boiling point Tuesday, as relations between rival house cats Boswell and Johnson erupted into fresh violence. Observers said the arrival of a new brown paper-bag in the area ignited long-standing tensions and set off another round of territorial conflict between the two factions in the most serious aggression since the devastating stove-side siege of 2005.
The disputed bag.
The afternoon was marred by sporadic fighting, according to reports, with opposing forces darting and then retreating in surprise attacks. Boswell held his position despite relentless onslaughts from Johnson, who repeatedly batted the controversial bag along the ancient linoleum surface. By the end of the day, neither side displayed any intention to halt reprisals without the other first relinquishing claims and pulling out permanently—an outcome those close to the fighting called "unlikely at best."
"What people unfamilar with the history here must understand is that this seemingly empty and barren paper bag has rapidly become the third most important site in the area after the scratching post in the living room and the breakfast-nook windowsill," former CIA analyst Brian Haddox said. "Not only is it seen by both Boswellist and Johnsonian interests as a crucial location for establishing territorial control in the kitchen-floor region, but it also makes a crumpling sound that both sides find irresistible."
Added Haddox, "Unfortunately, hostilities have destabilized this already tenuous peace at least until nap time."
The bag, a brown paper grocery bag from Stop & Shop with no prior claims of cat ownership attached to it, became the center of a wide-scale power play when Boswell seized control of its highly contested interior, and occupied the disputed area for approximately 30 seconds. Following immediate Johnsonian reprisals, Boswell unleashed a barrage of swats, but failed to secure a position in the bag.
Boswell (above) and Johnson (below)
Reports from the ground indicated that Johnson, once in possession of the perimeter region up to the cat dish, was forced in the early afternoon to retreat to the green rug zone, where he licked his paws with apparent disinterest for an estimated 10 minutes. Without warning, Johnson then launched a full-frontal assault on Boswell's forces, pouncing from behind and eventually chasing his rival all the way to the bathroom sink. The heavy leaping and grappling was broken only by periods of intense mutual licking. At one point, the conflict escalated into full-fledged upside-down kicking of each other in the face before Boswell was distracted by an errant ball rolling across the floor, bringing the factions to an uneasy standstill.
Despite the intensity of the fighting, no serious injuries were reported.
"People in the middle of this have tried everything they can to quell the violence, including bringing in a second bag, but nothing has worked," said U.N. investigator Caroline Olivera, adding that many residents were furious at the combatants for knocking over and destroying a prized vase in November. "It is beginning to appear that any long-term solution may have to involve deployment of the disciplinary squirt bottle."
According to International Red Cross worker Etienne Zervudacki, there was a temporary lull in the violence when both factions shifted their attention to a nearby can of tuna, craning their necks and licking their lips in apparent unity before eventually returning to the battle. While the short-lived truce was hopeful, Zervudacki said, it was a fragile pact that ignored the true causes of dilemma.
"The biggest shame here is that these two sides are so entrenched in their differences that they don't realize they are brothers," said Zervudacki, noting that even though both parties were reportedly curled up together on the sofa at press time, violence would likely break out again tomorrow. "If it's not the paper bag, it will be something else, like aluminum foil, toy mice, or plastic rings from two-gallon milk jugs."
This is sickening.
Feb. 18, 2008
Obama, Che, and JFK
By Jeff Jacoby
In 1963, John F. Kennedy was murdered in Texas by a fervent admirer of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. In 2008, a large Cuban flag emblazoned with the image of Che Guevara, Castro's brutal henchman, is prominently displayed in a Barack Obama campaign volunteer office in Houston.
Obama has been widely compared to JFK, most notably by the late president's brother and daughter. President Kennedy, a stalwart anticommunist, despised Castro and his gang of totalitarian thugs. But when word broke last week that Obama's supporters in Houston work under a banner glorifying Che, the campaign's reaction was to brush it off as an issue involving only volunteers, not the official campaign. After two days of controversy, the campaign issued a statement calling the flag "inappropriate" and saying its display "does not reflect Senator Obama's views." Would JFK have reacted so mildly?
In December 1962, Kennedy offered a blunt summary of the Castro/Che record to that date. "The Cuban people were promised by the revolution political liberty, social justice, intellectual freedom, land for the campesinos, and an end to economic exploitation," he said. "They have received a police state, the elimination of the dignity of land ownership, the destruction of free speech and a free press, and the complete subjugation of individual human welfare." Eleven months later, in a speech intended for delivery on the day he was assassinated, Kennedy regretted that Castro's "Communist foothold" in Latin America had "not yet been eliminated."
Were he alive today, it's hard to imagine JFK feeling anything but contempt for those who extol a dictatorship that has been crushing freedom and human beings for nearly 50 years. And it would surely pain him that so many of the cheerleaders are members of his own political party.
The lionizing of Che, a sociopath who relished killing and acclaimed "the pedagogy of the firing squad," is not just "inappropriate." It is vile. No American in his right mind would be caught dead wearing a David Duke T-shirt or displaying a poster of Pol Pot. A celebrity who was spotted with a swastika-festooned cap or an actress who revealed that she had gotten a tattoo depicting Timothy McVeigh would inspire only repugnance. No presidential campaign would need more than 30 seconds to sever its ties to anyone, paid staffer or volunteer, whose office was adorned with a Ku Klux Klan banner. Yet Che's likeness, which ought to be as loathed as any of those, is instead a trendy bestseller and a cult favorite.
A few years ago the New York Public Library gift shop sold Che wristwatches. These it described as "featuring the classic romantic image of Che Guevara, around which the word 'revolution' revolves." But Che's idea of revolution was anything but romantic. What he cherished was hatred and murder: "Hatred as an element of struggle," he wrote in 1967, "unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine." It was a sentiment he expressed repeatedly — and lived up to.
With Che at his side, Castro toppled Fulgencio Batista in January 1959. "As soon as they had seized power," notes *The Black Book of Communism*, a magisterial survey of communist terror and repression in the 20th century, "they began to conduct mass executions inside the two main prisons, La Cabana and Santa Clara." As chief prosecutor of the new regime, Che oversaw the bloodbath, ordering hundreds of executions in the first months of 1959. Those he killed, *The Black Book* records, included "former comrades-in-arms who refused to abandon their democratic beliefs."
Like totalitarians of every stripe, Che didn't scruple at the death of innocents. "Quit the dallying!" he ordered Jose Vilasuso, a conscientious government lawyer who was seeking evidence against several prisoners. "Your job is a very simple one. Judicial evidence is an archaic and secondary bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! We execute from revolutionary conviction."
Time magazine once called Che the "brain" of the Cuban Revolution, and saluted his "icy calculation, vast competence, high intelligence, and . . . perceptive sense of humor." A better description comes from journalist Humberto Fontova, who observes in *Exposing The Real Che Guevara* that Che was for Castro what Heinrich Himmler was for Hitler and Lavrenty Beria for Stalin — "the snarling enforcer." Fittingly, a massive drawing of Che adorns the headquarters of Cuba's secret police in Havana.
That this sadistic thug's face also adorns the office of a US presidential candidate's supporters is appalling and disgraceful. That the candidate couldn't bring himself to say so is even worse.
Three cheers for this little guy! He's taken a pretty tough hand to be dealt and kicked some butt! This fella is the ultimate "Tiny Dancer"! Thanks to CFC IV:
At just 2ft 9in, Indian muscleman Aditya 'Romeo' Dev is the world's smallest bodybuilder.
Pint-sized Romeo is well-known in his hometown of Phagwara, India - for his ability to lift 1.5kg dumbbells - despite his overall 9kg body weight.
Every day, crowds flock to the local gym to the see the mini-muscleman in training.
Unlike many dwarfs, Romeo is well proportioned, with a head circumference of 15in and a chest measurement of 20in.
Romeo said: "I've been training as a bodybuilder for the last two years and by now I think I must be the strongest dwarf in the world.
"I have always been fit but since I started working out, I have become famous for my strength.
"My size has never stopped me. I train with dumbbells and do aerobics and dance. People are always pleased to see me. I have been invited on TV shows and dance on stage."
His trainer Ranjeet Pal spents hours helping his 19-year-old protege build his small muscles to perfection.
"Because of his small size, I don't assign him hard exercises. But Romeo trains more or less the same as anyone else and he's much more determined.
"When he first started, I insisted he did a month of basic exercises like aerobics, push-ups and basic gymnastics to prepare his body.
"After that, I made lightweight dumbbells and taught him basic weight-lifting exercises to shape his biceps and triceps. His size and his weight were taken care of so that he never hurt himself."
Determined Romeo is hoping to have an entertainment career after performing in many local TV shows.
He said: "I earn good money through my dance and bodybuilding shows but being rich doesn't interest me.
"My dream is to travel a lot - I want to perform in London with my idol, Jazzy-B."
In early 1993, while living in Madrid, I visited the then-brand-new Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza across from the Prado. The Spanish government acquired this excellent collection from Swiss industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (I think he married a Spanish lady). Anyway, I bought a print of an odd Salvador Dali painting. Somewhere along the way I lost it in a move. This 1944 painting is called Sueño causado por el vuelo de una abeja alrededor de una granada un segundo antes de despertar (in English: Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate One Second Before Waking Up):
February 15, 2008
TOKYO, HONG KONG, SEOUL — Asian stocks closed one of the worst and most mournfully reflective months on record last week, with the falling American dollar negatively impacting trade volume and causing the markets to drift, like the faded cherry petals of spring blossoms, downward towards the shadowed sea of burgeoning recession, Eastern market analysts warned Monday.
"Our worst monthly drop; rate cuts make investors flee—to commodities," Nikkei Index vice commissioner Fukako Mishima said, claiming job creation by Mitsubishi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Sony failed to provide confidence in a market already as skittish as the aging husband of a teenage bride, forcing investors to shore up cash reserves with orders of durable goods and agricultural products. "Fading dollar's gleam, a feeble warning beacon: Seek bellies of pork."
Currency devaluation reflects silently on still and glassy water.
Hong Kong reported similar woes. Analysts there said the slow chrysanthemum's bloom of gains from foreign investment had entered a season of cold mists that sent tendrils creeping, creeping among the reeds, stagnant equity, and low-hooting owls from which nothing but fever, longing, and gradually downgraded credit ratings were expected to result.
By the end of trading Monday, the Hong Kong dollar was trading at .13 USD, close to a record low, and currency brokers were exchanging subtle barbs and veiled insults as do former lovers. Volume was only moderate in both cases.
"Our speculation economy was spring wine to those who believed the Middle Kingdom could support an emerging middle class, and that while American and European currency stimulated growth, all would prosper," said Jin Fusen, an executive investment director for ING at the Hong Kong bourse. "But it seems that we were attempting to ascend to the Monkey King's Heaven by treading upon a bridge cunningly crafted of obedient birds; and lo! In our haste, one foot falls too heavily; now through a clouded sky, roiled with feathers and harsh cries of alarm, we plummet."
In addition, durable-goods inventories gathered dust in Asian warehouses while salesmen sought buyers, and buyers sought more favorable credit, and all concerned adopted the aspect of a light-thirsting silk moth wavering between the cold celestial glory of a waxing moon and the sudden treacherous heat of the lantern's flame.
Portents of great woe appeared in the Hong Kong stock exchange last week.
"At sun's crimson dawning, storm grumbles, mounting, ripples of the sky and sea reflected in late trading," said Lee Woo-hyun, a strategist at Kyobo Securities in Seoul who had warned bankers in 2004 that the American real estate bubble was as artificially inflated and volatile as a gaily painted pig's bladder played with by dust-covered street urchins. "Now the rain comes, from trees striking leaf and blossom both, uncaring. Not to mention gold will soon crest $950 U.S. an ounce as I grow old without grandsons."
Still, some traders refuse to be affected by the gloom that hovers over the Eastern markets like mulberry smoke over an autumn hearth, maintaining that dramatic market corrections in an era of increasing globalization are only to be expected.
"Panic's first impulse: Fear freezes traders solid, whispers of rate cuts. Quick fix attempted, the currency devalued…instability!" Morningstar Japan's Hideyuki Suzuki intoned. "But putting our trust in rate cuts won't work in the long term, and blind faith in the overprotective vertical structure of the zaibatsu system is simply wrong.
"The plain fact is, we have to break the rigid pattern of 5 percent market drop, 7 point rate cut, 5 percent market rise, which has become almost an Asian stereotype, and start looking elsewhere for inspiration."
"What Asian businessmen are being forced to realize is that we have to adopt a more global, perhaps even a more Western, way of thinking," Suzuki added. "Two financial roads are about to diverge, and we must take the one less traveled by. When the books close on fiscal 2008, it may make all the difference."
Feb. 7, 2008
Clinton/Obama: 10 Questions in Search of a Debate
By Larry Elder
Some suggestions for the next Democratic debate moderator:
1. Sen. Clinton, you oppose the Bush tax cuts because they unfairly benefit the rich. Since the top 1 percent of taxpayers — those making more than $364,000 annually — pay 39 percent of all federal income taxes, don't all across-the-board tax cuts, by definition, "unfairly" benefit the rich?
2. Sen. Obama, you also oppose Bush tax cuts, and claim that they take money away from the Treasury. But President Kennedy signed across-the-board tax cuts in the 1960s and said, "It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low — and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now." Was he wrong?
3. Sen. Clinton, you criticize President Bush for inheriting a surplus and turning it into a deficit. The National Taxpayers Union added up your campaign promises, and they came to an increase of over $218 billion per year. What would this do to the deficit?
4. Sen. Obama, if elected, you promised to raise minimum wage every single year. But isn't it true that most economists — 90 percent, according to one survey — believe that raising minimum wages increases unemployment and decreases job opportunities for the most unskilled workers? What makes you right, and the majority of economists wrong?
5. Sen. Clinton, you want universal health care coverage for all Americans — every man, woman and child. When, as First Lady, you tried to do this, 560 economists wrote President Clinton, and said, "Price controls produce shortages, black markets and reduced quality." One economist who helped gather the signatures explained, "Price controls don't control the true costs of goods. People pay in other ways." Are those 560 economists wrong?
6. Sen. Obama, you once said you understand why senators voted for the Iraq war, admitted that you were "not privy to Senate intelligence reports," that it "was a tough question and a tough call" for the senators, and that you "didn't know" how you would have voted had you been in the Senate. And over a year after the war began, you said, "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." How, then, can you say that you consistently opposed the war from the start?
7. Sen. Clinton, you want to begin withdrawing the troops within the first 60 days of your administration, with all the troops out within a year. Former Secretary of State Jim Baker of the Baker-Hamilton report said that such a precipitous withdrawal in Iraq would create a staging ground for al-Qaida, increase the influence of Iran over Iraq, and result in "the biggest civil war you've ever seen." What would you like to say to Secretary Baker?
8. Sen. Obama, the church you attend, according to its Web site, pursues an Afrocentric agenda. Your church rejects, as part of their "Black Value System," "middleclassness" as "classic methodology" of white "captors" to "control … subjugated" black "captives." Your pastor, Jeremiah Wright, recently called the Nation of Islam's Minister Louis Farrakhan — a man many consider anti-Semitic — a person of "integrity and honesty." What would happen to a Republican candidate who attended a Caucasian-centric church, and who praised David Duke as a man of "integrity and honesty"?
9. Sen. Clinton, you recently criticized NAFTA, the free trade agreement signed into law by President Clinton. The conservative Heritage Foundation says that NAFTA-like free trade benefits the economies of the United States, Canada and Mexico, resulting in increased trade, higher U.S. exports and improved living standards for American workers. Explain how President Clinton and the Heritage Foundation got it wrong then, but that you are right now.
10. Sen. Obama, this question is about global warming, something about which you urge extreme action to fight. You criticize President Bush for going to war in Iraq, even though all 16 intelligence agencies felt with "high confidence" that Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of WMDs. Critics of Bush say he "cherry-picked" the intelligence. Hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists consider concerns about global warming overblown. Isn't there far more dissent among credible scientists about global warning than there was among American intelligence analysts about Iraq? If so, as to the studies on global warming, why can't you be accused of cherry-picking?
A female Friend of the Grotto found a great pamphlet on Capitalism in her grandmother's old belongings and mailed it to me. It's amazing to look at this dusty little tract that was designed to slug it out for the hearts and minds of people in 1959! The difference between this Capitalist propaganda and the competing Socialist or Communist propaganda is that the former is true and the latter is false.
Here's an excerpt, telling a little story to explain why Capitalism works and is the best system we've been able to come up with:
My text for today is “Hold fast that which is good”: 1 Thessalonians 5:21. These are words I heard so regularly in prayers at my Anglican girls’ school that I have been unable to forget them. I draw them to the attention of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to have forgotten them. At least, he seems to be losing his grip on what is good in this country and, indeed, to be throwing it away with both hands in his curious suggestion that aspects of sharia should be recognised in English law.
In an interview on Radio 4 last Thursday, Rowan Williams said that the introduction of parts of Islamic law here would help to maintain social cohesion and seems unavoidable. Sharia courts exist already, he pointed out. We should “face up to the fact” that some British citizens do not relate to the British legal system, he said, and that Muslims should not have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty”.
What he went on to say was more astonishing. He explained to the interviewer, in his gentle, wordy way, that a lot of what is written on this confusing subject suggests “the ideal situation is one in which there is one law and only one law for everybody”. He went on: “That principle is an important pillar of our social identity as a western liberal democracy.” How true.
However, he continued: “It’s a misunderstanding to suppose that that means people don’t have other affiliations, other loyalties, which shape and dictate how they behave in society, and the law needs to take some account of that.”
Stuff like this is bad for the blood pressure, but I listened on. “An approach to law which simply said there is one law for everybody and that is all there is to be said . . . I think that’s a bit of a danger.”
What danger? And to whom? The danger, surely, is rather the archbishop and those who think like him, who seem unwilling to hold fast that which is good. What is good and best and essential about our society – it isn’t merely a matter of “social identity” – is the principle of equality before the law. That principle and its practice have made this country the outstandingly just and tolerant state it is; it is one of the last remaining forces for unity as well.
What is also good and essential to this country is the law itself. It has evolved over centuries from medieval barbarities into something, for all its faults, that is civilised. Our law expresses and maintains the best virtues of our society. Anybody who does not accept it does not belong here.
When other legal systems or other customs clash with ours, we prefer ours, to put it mildly. At least we should; what has troubled me for years is the way that exceptions and excuses tend to be made, in the name of multiculturalism, for practices of which we do not approve. Victoria Climbié’s terrible bruises were ignored because of assumptions about the cultural norms of African discipline. Last week it emerged that someone in government has sold the moral pass on polygamy: husbands with multiple wives in this country are now to get benefit payments for each wife.
In the midst of all this moral confusion and relativism, is the premier prelate in the land holding fast that which is good? Far from it. He is recommending multiculti legal cherry-picking, in which individuals would be free to choose the jurisdiction they preferred for certain matters. He even admits that his proposal introduces, “uncomfortably”, the idea of a market in the law, “a competition for loyalty”.
One encouraging sign is the almost universal fury that our foolish archbishop has aroused: he has miraculously united the irreconcilable in opposition to himself, from Christian extremists to mainstream Muslims, from Anglican vicars to godless Hampstead liberals, from Gordon Brown to backwoods Tories.
The archbishop and his few supporters insist that the media have misrepresented him and not many people have actually read the learned speech that he gave to a learned audience after his inflammatory radio interview. They are wrong. I haven’t seen any serious misrepresentation in the media, and reading his speech several times doesn’t exonerate him. Nor does it increase respect for his judgment, his command of English or his powers of ratiocination; he is woolly of face and woolly of mind.
In any case, you do not need to follow anybody’s argument to understand that legally recognising aspects of sharia is either unnecessary or undesirable. If the aspects in question accord with English law (the Anglican archbishop is speaking of England, presumably), there is no need to offer any extra provision or recognition for religious courts. They are of no interest to the law. If they don’t accord with English law, they are unacceptable and should be repudiated, or even prosecuted.
All this has nothing particularly to do with it being Islamic law at issue. The same would apply to any other religious law: Hindu, Mormon or wiccan. However, there is a lot to be said against sharia and the desire of a reported 40% of British Muslims to live under it. That explains, in part, the present outrage. Sharia is rightly feared here: it is disputed, sometimes primitive, grievously in need of reform and wholly unacceptable in Britain.
So what possessed this troublesome priest to stir up this predictable fury with his divisive and unnecessary suggestions? Why did he choose to speak not just in a quiet academic meeting but also in the public glare of The World at One? And cui bono? It has most certainly not been good for ordinary British Muslims, as they well understand. It has, however, given comfort to Muslim extremists, who will see this as the thin end of their Islamist wedge.
Williams’s behaviour looks like vainglorious attention-seeking, but it is also something much worse. To seek to undermine our legal system and the values on which it rests, in a spirit of unnecessary appeasement to an alien set of values, is a kind of treason. It is a betrayal of all those who struggled and died here, over the centuries, for freedom and equality under the rule of law and of their courage in the face of injustice and unreason. Theirs is the good that we should hold fast and so of all people should the Archbishop of Canterbury. Otherwise, what is he for?
I recently subscribed to a new magazine called Science Illustrated. When I look back at my early academic career, I can see that the chilling, sinking, damp, depressing, suicide-watch-inducing feeling I got every time I had to sit down in a science class was a little bit of a tragedy. I dreaded science. When I think back, it's all boring memorization of photosynthesis elements and experiments that are meant to, but don't, excite young students. The bottom line is that I had a string of terrible science teachers who never made the effort to link their subject to the real world or make it interesting.
Over the past few years, I've become fascinated enough by math and science to go back and read some really cool books aimed at "laymen". Here are a few books that will blow your mind:
1) This was the cutting edge of physics in 1979. Physics is so fascinating because you're either dealing with numbers too big to imagine (e.g. distances in the Universe) or too small to imagine (e.g. quarks). This book will fry your brain:
2) Then move on to this, which is current cutting edge "String Theory" physics:
And then there's this one. Have you ever read about the Fibonacci number sequence that occurs all over Nature (for you finance people, it is also widely used in the charting of market instruments)? I think the Fibonacci number sequence is the result of God sitting around and deciding to stir a super-cool feature into how the world works! (Note: This book is fascinating, but the author tries to be witty and funny, and his efforts go over like a turd in a punchbowl each and every time. Cringe-worthy.)
Anyway, here's a page about icebergs that I scanned from the premiere issue of Science Illustrated:
If anyone ever hears me use the word "parent" (or the word "dialogue" for that matter) as a verb, please immediately strangle me to death.
Anyway, here's an excerpt from Jonah Goldberg's latest column:
. . . Families are civilization factories. They take children and install the necessary software, from what to expect from life to how to treat others. One hears a lot of platitudes about how children are "taught to hate." This is nonsense. Hating comes naturally to humans, and children are perfectly capable of learning to hate on their own. Indeed, everyone hates. The differences between good people and bad resides in what they hate, and why. And although schools and society can teach that, parents imprint it on their kids.
As a conservative, I'm a big believer in the importance of tradition, which writer G.K. Chesterton dubbed "democracy of the dead." But tradition can only be as strong as it is in the people who pass it on. And so, when I read that 23 percent of British teens think Winston Churchill is no more real than Spider-Man, it makes me shudder at the voluntary amnesia of society, the wholesale abdication of parental responsibility that represents.
Civilization, at any given moment, can be boiled down to what its living members know and believe. This makes civilization an amazingly fragile thing, and it makes parents the primary guardians of its posterity.
I seem to remember this being a sizzling, central issue in the debate over the war:
REVIEW & OUTLOOK Buried WMD Scoop February 1st, 2008 Journalists are taught never to "bury the lead." Yet it looks as if that's precisely what CBS's "60 Minutes" did in reporter Scott Pelley's fascinating interview Sunday with George Piro, the FBI agent who debriefed Saddam Hussein following his capture in December 2003. The Lebanese-born Mr. Piro, one of only a handful of agents at the bureau who speaks Arabic, was able to wheedle information from Saddam over a matter of months through a combination of flattery and ego-deflation that worked wonders with the former despot. But as Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute first noticed, the most important news in the segment comes when Mr. Piro describes his conversations with Saddam about weapons of mass destruction. The FBI interrogator says that, while Saddam said he no longer had active WMD programs in 2003, the dictator admitted that he intended to resume those programs as soon as he possibly could. Here's the relevant segment, which appears well down in the interview: Mr. Piro: "The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there." Mr. Pelley: "And that was his intention?" Mr. Piro: "Yes." Mr. Pelley: "What weapons of mass destruction did he intend to pursue again once he had the opportunity?" Mr. Piro: "He wanted to pursue all of WMD. So he wanted to reconstitute his entire WMD program." Mr. Pelley: "Chemical, biological, even nuclear." Mr. Piro: "Yes." Iraq's active WMD program had been destroyed, mostly by U.N. weapons inspectors, sometime in the 1990s, but Saddam told Mr. Piro that he maintained a pretense of having those weapons mainly to keep Iran at bay. This isn't exactly news. The key point is Saddam's admission that an Iraqi WMD program remained a threat so long as Saddam remained in power. Opponents of the war argue that none of this matters because Saddam and his ambitions were being "contained" by U.N. sanctions. Hardly. As the Los Angeles Times reported in December 2000, "sanctions are crumbling among U.S. allies, who have begun challenging them with dozens of unauthorized flights into [Iraq]." Bowing to this reality, the Bush Administration came to office the following month promising to ease the sanctions regime, even as it spent billions patrolling the so-called "No-Fly Zones." And as we learned after the invasion, Saddam was well on his way to breaking free of the sanctions by bribing everyone from a British member of parliament to a former French cabinet minister, all through a U.N. convenience known as Oil for Food. In another telling moment in the "60 Minutes" interview, Mr. Piro relates that when he asked Saddam about his use of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians, the dictator acknowledged that he had given the orders personally and explained himself in a word: "Necessary." The same still goes for getting rid of Saddam.
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Buried WMD Scoop
February 1st, 2008
Journalists are taught never to "bury the lead." Yet it looks as if that's precisely what CBS's "60 Minutes" did in reporter Scott Pelley's fascinating interview Sunday with George Piro, the FBI agent who debriefed Saddam Hussein following his capture in December 2003.
The Lebanese-born Mr. Piro, one of only a handful of agents at the bureau who speaks Arabic, was able to wheedle information from Saddam over a matter of months through a combination of flattery and ego-deflation that worked wonders with the former despot. But as Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute first noticed, the most important news in the segment comes when Mr. Piro describes his conversations with Saddam about weapons of mass destruction. The FBI interrogator says that, while Saddam said he no longer had active WMD programs in 2003, the dictator admitted that he intended to resume those programs as soon as he possibly could.
Here's the relevant segment, which appears well down in the interview:
Mr. Piro: "The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there."
Mr. Pelley: "And that was his intention?"
Mr. Piro: "Yes."
Mr. Pelley: "What weapons of mass destruction did he intend to pursue again once he had the opportunity?"
Mr. Piro: "He wanted to pursue all of WMD. So he wanted to reconstitute his entire WMD program."
Mr. Pelley: "Chemical, biological, even nuclear."
Mr. Piro: "Yes."
Iraq's active WMD program had been destroyed, mostly by U.N. weapons inspectors, sometime in the 1990s, but Saddam told Mr. Piro that he maintained a pretense of having those weapons mainly to keep Iran at bay. This isn't exactly news. The key point is Saddam's admission that an Iraqi WMD program remained a threat so long as Saddam remained in power.
Opponents of the war argue that none of this matters because Saddam and his ambitions were being "contained" by U.N. sanctions. Hardly. As the Los Angeles Times reported in December 2000, "sanctions are crumbling among U.S. allies, who have begun challenging them with dozens of unauthorized flights into [Iraq]."
Bowing to this reality, the Bush Administration came to office the following month promising to ease the sanctions regime, even as it spent billions patrolling the so-called "No-Fly Zones." And as we learned after the invasion, Saddam was well on his way to breaking free of the sanctions by bribing everyone from a British member of parliament to a former French cabinet minister, all through a U.N. convenience known as Oil for Food.
In another telling moment in the "60 Minutes" interview, Mr. Piro relates that when he asked Saddam about his use of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians, the dictator acknowledged that he had given the orders personally and explained himself in a word: "Necessary." The same still goes for getting rid of Saddam.
I was sifting through some old family photo albums and came across some pics of Yours Truly with Bucky, my golden retriever and childhood companion.
Here were are in the summer of about 1979, apparently in the middle of an intense training session. If my memory serves me correctly, that look I'm sporting with the hat was considered very stylish and smooth at the time:
Here's the two-part Christmas card we got from the breeders. It shows Bucky with all his brothers and sisters. He is on the far left:
Here's a good excerpt from Thomas Sowell's column of January 30th:
. . . There is a vast difference between what the government could do and what it is likely to do.
Economists can give you all sorts of scenarios in which government intervention could make things better, whether when fighting off a recession, regulating domestic markets or controlling international trade.
Some people even believe that whenever there is "market failure," the government ought to step in.
Of course markets can fail. Everything human can fail. But if Alex Rodriguez strikes out, do the Yankees take him out of the game and send in a pinch hitter for him?
No one would dream of suggesting such a thing. We are far more rational when discussing sports than when discussing politics.
The fact that the market is not doing what we wish it would do is no reason to automatically assume that the government would do better.
As you've noticed, most columns having to do with John McCain these days are either by angry conservatives accusing him of being more of a liberal than Leon Trotsky, or by moderates trying to "sell" him to the conservative base. I came across the following column, which I found to be very unemotional and objective. It should be help you sort through all the "white noise."
February 01, 2008
By Robert Robb
One of the larger questions overhanging the race for the Republican presidential nomination is this: Is John McCain a conservative? That question is best answered by borrowing a distinction Bill Buckley has made about both President Bushs. According to Buckley, they are "conservative," but not "a conservative."
By that, Buckley meant that they would usually list toward the conservative position, but weren't anchored by the philosophical tenets of modern American conservatism he did so much to expound and popularize. To answer the question of how much McCain can be expected to list conservative requires, regrettably, also borrowing from Bill Clinton: It depends on what the definition of "conservatism" is.
Channeling Teddy Roosevelt
McCain is most clearly not "a conservative" on the issue of the appropriate role of the federal government. Here, McCain has taken after Teddy Roosevelt, one of his political heroes. Roosevelt viewed the federal government as the ultimate arbiter in the political economy with a particular role in being a counterweight to accumulations of wealth or power. He didn't much see a need for the authority of the federal government itself to be constrained.
In his 2000 presidential campaign, McCain frequently inveighed against the power of special interests and touted himself as the guy who would get reforms done by counterbalancing their power. McCain-Feingold, of course, was intended directly to reduce the political influence of wealth.
As a legislator, McCain has also not seen natural limits on federal authority. For example, he sees nothing untoward about the federal government telling cable TV companies how they have to bundle and sell their channels. In 2008, this has not been as prominent a feature of McCain's repertoire. However, it's clearly still a part of his political persona and occasionally rises to the surface, such as his recent moral condemnation of big pharmaceutical companies.
Prominent conservatives are still criticizing McCain for his votes against the Bush tax cuts. McCain defends himself by saying he voted against them because they weren't offset with reductions in spending. But that's only part of the story.
McCain also sponsored, along with Democratic leader Tom Daschle, an amendment to eviscerate the already modest reduction Bush proposed for the top individual tax rate. This was accompanied by rhetoric criticizing tax cuts for the wealthy.
Conservatives used to be divided between budget balancers and tax-cutters. That argument was pretty well settled by the Reagan tax cuts, which both bolstered the economy and produced more revenue for the federal government. The same can be said for the Bush tax cuts.
Deficits do matter and conservatives would like to see a tighter rein on federal spending and entitlement reform. However, there is now a clear conservative consensus that priority should be given to tax changes that eliminate disincentives for productive economic activity. McCain says he would make the Bush tax cuts permanent. But it's far from clear that he has been persuaded that growth-oriented tax policy should take precedence. His instinct is still to be Concord Coalition Man, not a supply-sider.
Spending and Trade
McCain has been a valuable public scold on federal spending in general and pork projects in particular. In fact, the best conservative case that can be made for McCain on domestic policy is that he can most be trusted to expend the political capital needed to break the back of the Washington spending culture.
McCain is also a staunch free-trader. He has a record of standing his ground even when the prevailing political winds turn against him, as they are doing on free trade.
McCain's commitment to Social Security and Medicare reform to correct the fiscal imbalance resulting from the decline in the ratio of workers to retirees is also rock solid. However, his commitment to conservative reforms of the programs is less certain. He's been a steady supporter of personal retirement accounts as part of Social Security. However, he says that Social Security reform needs to be done through a bipartisan commission. All that can possibly result from that is the kind of patchwork that emerged from Reagan's similar commission: a bit of tax-hiking here, a benefit trim there.
On Medicare, McCain's track record is more disturbing. He sensibly voted against the Medicare prescription drug benefit as an unfunded entitlement expansion. However, the principal Medicare reform he has thumped for is allowing the federal government to directly negotiate drug prices, rather than the current policy of allowing providers to compete in part on the basis of price. This is his Rooseveltian distrust of markets showing through again.
McCain's support for providing legal status for those currently in the country illegally has clearly hurt him dearly with Republican activists. It is, however, less clear the extent to which this amounts to a conservative apostasy. The dominant voice belongs to the populist conservatives who believe that the principle of the rule of law is at stake, and there is considerable merit in that contention. However, some economic conservatives, while not as consequential in this debate, see it more as a matter of wrong-headed government interference with the laws of supply and demand in the labor market.
Although it is not discussed much in public, many conservatives also see the large volume of Mexican immigration the country has been experiencing as a threat to the dominant Anglo-Protestant American culture, as described with bracing candor in Samuel Huntington's book, "Who Are We?" That explains the emotional whirlwind McCain's immigration position has stirred up. Still, immigration is, at best, a cloudy lens through which to judge his conservatism.
Gang of 14
I defended McCain's brokering of a deal on judges at the time it was made.
Some conservative pundits express breezy confidence that if a showdown occurred, the ability to filibuster judges would have been jettisoned. Those counting the votes at the time didn't share that confidence. To me, the Gang of 14 agreement mostly represented a declaration of independence by the participating Democratic senators from the effective veto left-wing groups had on judges by triggering solid Democratic support for filibusters. What is known is that after the Gang of 14 agreement Roberts and Alito made it to the Supreme Court. What would have occurred without it is thinly-based speculation.
McCain was advocating rogue-state rollback back when George W. Bush was promising a more humble foreign policy and well before the axis of evil. Bush ended up, in his post-9/11 reconfiguration, adopting a sort of conservative Wilsonianism, in rhetoric if not so much in actual policy after elections brought Hamas to power in the Palestinian Authority. McCain's foreign policy is likely to be just as assertive, but without so much of the Wilsonian gossamer.
Whether this is truly a conservative approach should be subject to more debate. The conservative foreign policy instinct used to be to leave other countries alone, except to try to sell them stuff. This was set aside to deal with the expansionist threat of Soviet communism. The overwhelming conservative consensus is that the threat of Islamic terrorism also requires an active engagement in the affairs of other countries. In my judgment, too little attention is being paid by conservatives to the strategic implications of the differences between the two threats, but I'm in an extremely small and uninfluential minority.
If you want an assertive foreign policy, and most conservatives decidedly do, then you can't do better than McCain. He's the only Republican in the race with a real track record on the issue.
The conservative lions are global warming skeptics and cite McCain's cap-and-trade proposal as an incidence of ideological apostasy. However, it is not part of conservative doctrine that those who cause environmental damage shouldn't have to pay for it. Cap-and-trade does leverage markets and is generally regarded by conservatives as superior to command-and-control environmental regulation.
There is a better approach. The scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, hardly a Greenpeace front group, have developed a proposal for a carbon tax, with the proceeds used to bid down other taxes. That way, greenhouse gases are reduced while the tax code becomes more growth-oriented overall. However, if this is a problem meriting government attention, cap-and-trade is within the ambit of conservative approaches. Although liberals and conservatives tend to divide on it, whether the problem merits government attention isn't a question answerable by reference to conservative philosophical principles.
McCain's voting record should make him acceptable to social conservatives. However, they don't trust him, in large measure because of the speech he gave after losing South Carolina in 2008. While the speech ostensibly dressed down specific social conservative leaders, the rank-and-file widely perceived it as ripping the influence of social conservatives generally. It was one of the dumber political moves of our time.
In an attempt to discredit McCain on policy rather than trust grounds, some social conservatives are citing his vote against a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. McCain's position has been that he opposes gay marriage but believes it is an issue to be decided by the states. Consistent with that, he voted against the federal constitutional ban because it pre-empted the states, but supported a ballot measure banning gay marriage and even civil unions in Arizona. Social conservatives may not like that. But it's consistent with the principle of subsidiarity - no higher level of government should do what a lower level can do - that was a key tenet of the modern American conservatism founded by Buckley.
Compared to Whom?
Despite their fervent wishes, conservatives cannot exhume Ronald Reagan and put him on the 2008 ballot. So, the actionable question is which of the candidates is the most conservative. In this regard, it is surely relevant that McCain has always thought of himself as a conservative and proclaimed himself to be such. There is reason to believe that he has not always acted as one and overall hasn't earned Buckley's article as "a conservative." Conservatism, however, is the team he has always seen himself as being on. That's obviously not true of Mitt Romney, whom many conservative pundits are trying to advance as the best overall conservative in the race. In his 1994 race against Ted Kennedy, Romney famously said: "I was independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush."
While the comment has made the rounds, I'm not sure conservatives have fully pondered its significance. This disassociation from Reagan didn't occur in 1979, when it was unknown what kind of a president he would be. It occurred six years after he had left office, when his record was fully established, including the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nor was Romney a young buck, just feeling his way around politics. He was in his late 40s and, as a substantial business leader, undoubtedly followed public affairs closely.
Before being crowned the conservative candidate, surely Romney should be required to answer more fully and candidly exactly what he found so repugnant about Reagan that he wasn't even willing to be in the same political party as the Gipper.
This isn't to argue that McCain should be the conservative candidate and Romney or shouldn't. Or Huckabee or Paul for that matter. Conservatives are divided because the choice isn't clear. In making that choice, however, this much should be acknowledged about McCain: He's always considered himself to be a conservative. And where he is clearly conservative - on spending, trade and foreign policy - voters can have a considerable measure of confidence that he will remain so.
February 4th is the birthday of Grotto political correspondent Mr. LGB III, known as Terry.
Here is "The Snail" with wife Monique, who totally rules! They were freshman year "sweethearts" at Georgetown:
Here he is posing for a Blue Grotto promotional photo with Yours Truly:
Circa 1985, left to right: T. Brown, G. Noble, Grotto editor (look at all the extra hair!), J. Pruett:
Here's Terry in about 1986, probably in the parking lot before a Dead show:
And, finally, here's the birthday boy feeding himself:
A group of Americans, retired teachers, recently went to France on a tour. Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.
At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on: "You have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked sarcastically.
Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously. "Then you should know enough to have your passport ready."
The American said, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."
"Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France!"
The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained: "Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find any Goddamn Frenchmen to show it to!"
The year is 2008, and the president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women has issued a press release calling Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama over Hillary "the ultimate betrayal."
Does this N.O.W. exec think she is advancing the standing of women in society by asking them to make themselves look like complete idiots? I thought the point of the civil rights movement was to make color and gender matter LESS, not MORE.
Something makes me think that, in a hypothetical general election, if Ted Kennedy endorsed Obama over another woman, say Condoleeza Rice for instance, N.O.W. wouldn't be calling that "the ultimate betrayal."
Jewish World Review Feb. 1, 2008
The Wrath of Feminism Scorned
By Kathleen Parker
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When you're trying to fashion yourself as an agent of change, it isn't helpful when the sisters of politics past abandon their golf club picket lines in girly protest of mean men who support male candidates.
Reacting recently to Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama, the president of the New York state chapter of the National Organization for Women issued a press release insisting that Kennedy had committed "the ultimate betrayal" of women by supporting Obama.
In the world of identity politics, one woman's bad date is Every Woman's call to victimhood.
Kennedy's history with women needs no rehashing, though it's worth noting that feminists have a convenient way of measuring betrayal when it comes to politics. Womanizing — and in Kennedy's case, what might be negligent homicide by today's standards in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne — is given a pass as long as the ol' boys do what the girls tell them come vote time.
Fail that latter qualification, and watch out.
In the minds of women with nothing left to protest, true betrayal is supporting a man when a woman is running. How dare he. It's all rather ... frock-ish. Perhaps precious? In 21st-century America, feminist outrage has morphed into feminine pique.
In the press release, which featured the sort of exclamatory punctuation one usually associates with a too-tight bodice, NOW-NYS President Marcia Pappas wrote that Kennedy's endorsement of Hillary Clinton's opponent "really hit women hard."
Pappas pointed out that women have forgiven Kennedy for all manner of offenses, even "hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, and the Family and Medical Leave Act," and "buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. ...
"And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He's picked the new guy over us."
Such debutante breathlessness isn't likely to advance the notion that men and women are equal to any and all tasks. They may be equal to the requirements of the presidency in fact, but theories of women's emotional embrace of victimhood are only aided and abetted by such mewling outbursts.
According to NOW-NYS' interpretation, Kennedy has joined other "progressive white men" who can't handle the prospect of a female president.
Trying to leaven the NOW-NYS remarks, the president of NOW-New York City, Sonia Ossorio, countered with a more respectful take on Kennedy's endorsement, recognizing that people "share differences of opinions." Then, national president Kim Gandy went another step, recognizing Kennedy's work for women's civil and reproductive rights.
When feminists quarrel, is it still a catfight?
Pappas may have accurately expressed what other feminists feel. They've snuggled up to Kennedy and other men, including Bill Clinton, whose behavior toward women wouldn't be tolerated were it not for their usefulness in pushing through legislation demanded by women.
Now that a woman aims for the highest office — in fact, the woman whose husband betrayed her and countless others — they feel they have a right to expect more for their investment in iniquity.
With so many women scorned, Hell will need an annex.
But such thinking reveals an ugly truth about feminists and identity groups in general. They don't want what's best for the country; they want what's best for them. NOW wants a woman not because she's the best candidate, but because, by damn, it's their turn.
Hillary, too, might have expected more from her old Democratic chums, but she's a pro and a woman accustomed to emotional and political compromise. Thus, at Monday's State of the Union address, she did the mature thing and extended her hand to Kennedy and apparently to Obama, who was standing next to the Massachusetts senator.
A widely circulated photograph shows Obama turning away, sparking debate about whether he was snubbing Clinton. Obama has said he was merely turning to speak to someone else, and Clinton has left it to others to interpret. While Kennedy gets blasted — and Obama is characterized as snubbing the former first lady — Clinton assumes her very best role: Victim Above the Fray.
She knows the high road will take her further, as it has before. But should she win, the boys who forgot their manners had best start practicing their curtsey.
In April of 2006, I was lucky enough to spend a week fishing and beaching it in Costa Rica with host Christopher L. and guests Mary Beth O'K. (now Mrs. Christopher L.), Darcey Y., and Juan Seitz.
Hanging on the wall of the guesthouse I shared with Juan was this little poem. I love it. I find it to be very soothing and relaxing:
If I ever become a rich man
or if ever I grow to be old
I will build a house with a deep thatch
to shelter me from the cold.
I will hold my house in the high wood
within a walk of the sea
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Shall sit and drink with me.
The house on which this quote hung did indeed have a beautiful, dramatic view of the sea.
A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., British, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries.
Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks, but a French admiral suddenly complained that, "whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English." He then asked: "Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French? "
Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied: "Maybe it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German."