Sunday, December 31, 2006

So Long '06

I really wish I had a couple days more to come up with a year end post. . .but I'm not feeling much like working (still) tonight, so we're saying so long to the Year of the Dog (it sure went to the dogs, political-wise) -- without a real year-end post.
Things have been pretty good for El Jefe and his clan this year, and we have been blessed in more ways that we can count. I hope that's true for you too.
Last Tuesday night I was out in the boonies again (I cherish my chances to go there), and I went outside for a bit about midnight. I was alone, the night was cold and still, and completely silent. The skies were completely clear, and I could see literally thousands of stars, that seemed to go on and on forever. I was so grateful for the opportunity to see that, to be there, to be reminded of how big the universe is, and how amazing it is that we are in it.
I hope 07 brings you much joy, and God's good blessings to you and your families. Happy New Year.

But Yes, I'm Back !

El Jefe has returned to his capital, and all Ciudad El Jefe is no doubt in transports of delight except for a few, very few mauvais sujets whose hash the Great One shall certainly settle presently.
On a more serious note, blogging will soon resume, on a more regular and predictable basis - probably after the impending annual evening champagne festival.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Executed

Saddam Hussein, ex-dictator of Iraq, was apparently executed this morning. El Jefe is still in the bundu today, so time and computer access do not allow for a proper post, but there must be a bottle of champagne in this place somewhere.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

President Ford, R.I.P.

Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States, died this evening. Called to high office because everybody in Congress liked him, he turned out to be just the man needed to replace Richard Nixon after that President's resignation.
Even allowing for the unprecedented circumstances that put him in the White House, President Ford had a number of very difficult circles to square, mostly connected with foreign policy. It was President Ford's bitter, and unsought, task to preside over the final liquidation of the American position in Southeast Asia. The ignominious abandonment of South Vietnam and Cambodia to our cruel enemies, which so many Americans died to prevent -- is surely one of the blackest and most shameful episodes in American history. President Ford, however, was largely blameless, the humiliation the responsibility of other hands. The US held an extraordinarily weak diplomatic and military hand, courtesy of the liberal Democratic majority that controlled the Congress, and President Nixon's Watergate scandal.
Unfortunately, President Ford paid the political price both for President Nixon's errors, and for his courageous decision to pardon his predecessor, rather than putting the country through the national trauma of protracted legal proceedings. Under all the circumstances, President Ford's defeat in the 1976 election by the manifestly unqualified bumbler Jimmy Carter was probably inevitable, but still tragic. (On a personal note, I'll never forget shaking Gerald Ford's hand when he came to Houston in 1976).
After his defeat, President Ford was, in the Republican Party, politically eclipsed: he was a shade too liberal for times that called for a harder line, and the rise of Ronald Reagan and his wing of the party, at the expense of President Ford's more moderate-liberal faction was a blessing for the nation. But President Ford, with his honesty, decency and plain speaking, had just the qualities needed in 1974. Requiescet In Pace.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. God's blessings on you and your families. Keep our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq in your thoughts and prayers this season.
On a less serious note, El Jefe will be blogging unpredictably over the next several days. Before departing the Imperial Palace for his smaller, more intimate Schloss in the country (simple, and homelike, sort of like Versailles), El Jefe, will attend a special full-dress review of his elite security detachment, the Wiseguys: and take the salute of his thousands on thousands of elite Goombas as they parade by, carrying their vintage Chicago Pianos, wearing their Al Capone outfits, and fanatically cheering their beloved Boss of Bosses.

After the parade, and an exchange of telephone greetings with Bush, Putin, whoever is Prime Minister of Italy this week, all the Great and Good, and all the other Dons in their territories, and a huge multi-course meal with LOTS of several different types of wine; El Jefe, the Heir, SWMBO, his mistresses, the archbishops, the mullahs, various hangers-on, the taste-testers, the heads of El Jefe's major government departments: (Off-Track Betting, Wine Drinking, Knick-Knack Collecting, Take-Out Chinese food and Brandy Snifting), the diplomatic corps and everybody and everything including Bugs Bunny and Aunt Sally, will cruise off to enjoy the holidays.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bono the Knight

The Irish musician Bono (whose real name is Paul Hewson), a member of the band U2, is shortly to be created a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE).

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was established in 1917 by King George V, grandfather of the present Queen. Not unnaturally, as it was created by a King-Emperor who died asking "How is the Empire ?" -- the Order's motto is: “For God and the Empire.” Seems like an odd Order indeed for an Irishman to want to join. The British monarch is Sovereign of the Order, and the Wikipedia article linked above contains a good general discussion of the Order's history and structure.

Members of the Order are appointed by the Queen, which really means by the Government. According to the British newspaper Daily Mail, Prime Minister Blair delivered the “official notification” of Bono’s appointment in an e-mail beginning “Hi folks.” What a world we live in: For God and the Empire -- Hi folks !

Prime Minister Blair is under a lot of fire in Britain for using the honors system as a means of rewarding his friends and persons to whom he otherwise wishes to show favor. Some other notable recipients of a KBE in the past include Bill Gates (who made it possible for you to read this) and Rudy Giuliani. But Bono ?
“Hi folks” certainly will not do much for the general reputation of the honors system. The cynic in me suspects that some high folks in high places in Britain might not care so much if the honors system is cheapened by gongs for rock stars, or not.

The Order was founded, the Wikipedia piece tells us, to “fill gaps” in the existing British honors system, which was skewed towards recognition of military distinction, and distinguished service by civil servants and politicians. Wikipedia says that the Order of the British Empire has “. . .a more democratic character than the exclusive orders of the Bath or Saint Michael and Saint George, and in its early days was not held in high esteem.” Allegedly, this has changed, although one wonders if the author has confused high esteem with becoming modern.

Not everyone approves of Bono’s knighthood. The Mail quotes a member of parliament: “My town has lost many servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Mr. Blair is more concerned about handing baubles to rock stars." Peter Hitchens doesn't like this either, and writes, also in the Mail:
A whole generation, which likes to tell itself that it is devoted to equality and rejects the hierarchies of the past, falls to its knees and licks the shoes of the new aristocracy of fame and cool.
Is there any real distinction between the old bowing and simpering to landed gentry, and the new deference paid to the nobles of rock?
The interesting thing is, who is supposed to benefit from this parody of honour? Who is sucking up to whom?
Who indeed ? Is the British Crown honoring "Sir Dog Biscuit" as Mr. Hitchens calls him, or is Tony Blair sucking up to Bono -- of whom, Her Majesty's First Minister says, he is a "huge fan."
It's a bigger deal now to be a rock star than it is to be the plain old Queen of Great Britain, much less said Queen's Prime Minister. Sir Dog Biscuit is what society really values now, more than it does that MP's constiutents killed in Iraq or in Afghanistan, because we think we can afford to be; because most of us are so far removed from the grubby business of survival (until somebody crashes a few planes into a skyscraper or two) and reminds us things can change in a real hurry. To be fair, Bono the rock star wants us to look after Africa, and he has also used his celebrity to campaign to cancel Third World debts, which some people think is a good thing.
What a strange world, indeed. Given the choice of oligarchs to rule over us -- the bad old landed gentry, ruthless soldiers and robber-barons -- or rock stars, media personalities and blow-dried looking politicos, I'll take the old-line bosses every time. Bye folks.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sanctions on Iran

The UN Security Council has unanimously agreed to the imposition of economic sanctions against Iran for that country’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran calls the resolution “illegal” and “invalid” and has vowed to keep enriching uranium.

I have not seen the text yet, but the only sort of resolution that China and Russia would accept would be very watered-down, and reports about changes in the draft before this was done indicates that some watering-down did indeed take place.
The Iranians, then, will protest angrily, but continue as before to work on their nuclear program. The chattering classes here and in Europe will be satisifed, and cite the efficacy of multi-lateral diplomacy. The bothersome Americans will be dunned for whatever concessions they agreed to give the Chinese and Russians not to veto the watered-down resolution; and looked at with extreme annoyance when they come back for more. . .as they certainly will. The UN, like any good prostitute, only works when its pimps are paid.
Meanwhile, here’s some pertinent dialogue from Team America: World Police:

Kim Jong Il: Hans Brix? Oh no! Oh, herro. Great to see you again, Hans!
Hans Blix: Mr. Il, I was supposed to be allowed to inspect your palace today, but your guards won't let me enter certain areas.
Kim Jong Il: Hans, Hans, Hans! We've been frew this a dozen times. I don't have any weapons of mass destwuction, OK Hans?
Hans Blix: Then let me look around, so I can ease the UN's collective mind. I'm sorry, but the UN must be firm with you. Let me in, or else.
Kim Jong Il: Or else what?
Hans Blix: Or else we will be very angry with you... and we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are.
Kim Jong Il: OK, Hans. I'll show you. Stand to your reft.
Hans Blix: [Moves to the left]
Kim Jong Il: A rittle more.
Hans Blix: [Moves to the left again]
Kim Jong Il: Good. [Opens up trap, Hans falls in]

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Wages of Nicey-Nice

A Somali who was wanted by the British authorities for murder of a policewoman, escaped through British immigration wearing a veil and using his sister's passport. Prior to killing the policewoman, he had been in jail, "after a string of violent offenses" and had not been deported because Somalia was "too violent."
Four Nigerian teenagers were convicted of killing a mother of two as she held a six-month old child at a christening party. These people, who were in the UK illegally, prior to the murder were already in trouble for other offenses, and were supposed to be attending "courses run by local youth offender teams."
Oh really ? Somehow the little thugs apparently couldn't make it: they "shunned any interventions." Instead, they were killing women at christening parties. "As the woman lay dying, the gang stole money and valuables from the guests, carrying the spoils in bin bags."
Deport them ? Jail them ? Send them to visit with "youth-offender teams ?" Hell no, I'd string them up, no if's, and's, nor "youth offender teams." But we're too "civilized" for that.

But What's That Help Desk Number ?

At last, a high-tech solution to the Iraq problem: the "Windows Middle East Troubleshooter."

Maybe Cause There's No Rocks There ?

Yahoo ! news headlines can sometimes be fairly amusing. I called up Yahoo ! a while ago, and saw that: "Rockhopper Penguins [are] disappearing in South Atlantic."
Uh, yeah. Makes sense, unless you've got a flock of penguins capable of making really long hops. . .

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Listening, this morning, to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's rendition of Sir Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 2, Op. 63, and his Coronation March, Op. 65, both written in 1911. Symphony No. 2 was dedicated by the composer to the memory of King Edward VII; the March was written for the coronation of George V.
In any case, both are beautiful pieces of music, particularly the fourth movement, moderato e maestoso, of Symphony No. 2. On the whole, Elgar is possibly my favorite composer.

Christmas Slowness. . .

Okay, posting is sloooooow around here. Yes, its Christmas, and I'm behind on reading and writing because Christmas activities are eating up that time, somewhat.
No, I'm not done with Christmas shopping, but am on target to finish by, oh, midnight, 24 December.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Losing the Chattering Classes

Richard Cohen, over at the Washington Post is not happy with John McCain, who has grown, Mr. Cohen thinks, too bellicose, too conservative:

For some -- particularly the political independents who launched him into the political firmament back in 2000 -- McCain might now seem scary. In the 2000 New Hampshire primary, he ran better among independents than he did with Republicans -- and even got some Democratic votes. That will not happen again.

Anyone who knows McCain appreciates that his call for more troops in Iraq is not, at bottom, part of any political strategy. McCain is. . .fundamentally honest, with sound political values. For a long time those values -- a belief in public service, a visceral hostility to the ways of Washington's K Street lobbying crowd and a sense of honor his Vietnamese captors came to appreciate -- obscured the always present but muffled, sound of drums and bugles.

Mr. Cohen speaks well of the Senator, and clearly likes him, but politically, they have come to a parting of the ways. McCain, Mr. Cohen concludes, risks "losing Washington forever. "
No doubt Mr. Cohen means the White House, but Mr. Cohen shows that the Washington that he's risking losing at the moment is the Washington of media personalities and chattering class figures. You know who I mean, the Georgetown and New York party crowd who thought Senator McCain was the cat's meow as long as the Senator was in there kicking at Bush and the Republicans.
As long as McCain sat in the Senate and played maverick, he was positively adored by the media elites: sort of a house-broken conservative, and a totem of chattering class "tolerance" for other points of view. Useful for bashing the Bushies, and safe, because they thought they were using him -- he surely had no future with this crowd beyond use as a bashing instrument.
Now, since McCain is rejecting the cut-and-run-kiss-up-to-the-Euros-and-UN crowd, and the old McCain who engages in "incessant sword-rattling" is back, the Senator's usefulness to the media lefties is over, thank you very much.
Mr. Cohen's reading-out is a positive endorsement as far as I'm concerned. Clearly, Senator McCain is acquiring the right political enemies.

Miss USA Keeps Her Crown

Donald Trump, among other things the Grand Poohbah, (that is, the Dear Leader, or El Jefe), of the Miss Universe organization, has graciously allowed Miss USA, Tara Conner, to retain her Miss USA crown. Mr. Trump has exercised his beneficence on behalf of the gorgeous Miss Conner even though (gasp), she may have engaged in underage drinking. Miss Conner just turned 21.
I'm glad I never did that. . .underage drinking that is (cough, cough).
Anyway, The Donald reports that Miss USA ". . . left a small town in Kentucky and she was telling me that she got caught up in the whirlwind of New York. It's a story that has happened many times before to many women and many men who came to the Big Apple. They wanted their slice of the Big Apple and they found out it wasn't so easy."
Yeah, one of those ginormous-tragic-loaded-with-pathos-and-violins whirlwind in the big city kind of things. Maybe Miss USA needs to whirl around in a different city, say, Houston ? (You didn't read that, SWMBO).
I'm glad Miss USA gets to keep her crown. Maybe she should have some margaritas or cosmos to celebrate.


It's Christmas, and between that, work and other stuff, I'm a little behind on my reading, and consequently, posting is down somewhat. Down, but not out, I might have something late today or perhaps tomorrow.
Meanwhile, read Westhawk's suggestions about what to do in Iraq. I've had ideas along these lines for awhile, and occasionally hinted at them, but Westhawk beat me to the punch, and I'm glad he did, because his case is very well presented. I'll follow with my own discussion soon enough.
Also -- read Ralph Peters's dissection of the Iraq reinforcement proposals in the New York Post. Essentially, Col. Peters says that we need to send more troops only if we have some clear idea what we're going to accomplish by doing so. Col. Peters is a skeptic on this score: worrying that sending more soldiers is just a publicity stunt to bail out the politicians.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Marriage

This afternoon, El Jefe made an Imperial progress, accompanied by SWMBO and the Heir, to the far reaches of Ciudad El Jefe, the capital of El Jefe's nefarious empire. The journey took us Beyond the Loop, even (cheered wildly by the fanatically loyal populace along the route) -- to attend a wedding. Actually, it was the Brother of El Jefe's -- henceforth known as the BEJ's -- wedding. El Jefe and family wish the BEJ and his wife, S, much happiness.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Troop Increase in Iraq ?

Troops ! Troops ! Where does he expect me to get them ? Does he expect me to make them ?
Napoléon I to the messenger of his field commander, Marshal Ney, asking for reinforcements, at Waterloo, 18 June 1815.
There appears to be a consensus developing that President Bush is about to order a large increase in numbers of troops sent to Iraq, probably after the first of the year. The always prescient Gerald Baker at the Times thinks so, in my opinion correctly, and his article this morning is worth reading. Senator McCain is quoted in the New York Times, in an article by John Burns, as saying 35,000 troops -- five to ten additional brigades, the Senator says -- are under consideration. According to the thankfully re-elected Senator Lieberman, who also supports sending more troops: "[a] failed state in Iraq will be a disaster for the region and the world." Quite correct.
Presently, there are about fifteen brigades in Iraq -- 50,000 troops of our 140,000, a statistic which points up another problem right there, which I will discuss another time.

Ann Tyson, in the Washington Post discusses testimony by the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Peter J. Schoomaker, before a congressional commission. Among other things, General Shoomaker says that ". . .without recurrent access to the reserve components [that is, the Army Reserve and the National Guard], through remobilization, we will break the active component." To persons familiar with Vietnam War history during the 1967-69 period, this sounds eerily familiar.
General Schoomaker wants expansion of the regular component by 7,000 men a year (probably insufficient), and changes in the rules governing call-ups of Reserve and National Guard elements. The problems inherent in utilizing the Reserves and National Guard (recruited, like the regulars, on a voluntary but part-time basis) are at the heart of our military difficulties in Iraq, and the Washington Post article provides an introduction to the problem. Although the regular components have met or exceeded their recruiting goals, the reserve components have fallen short. Another view on the type of expansion needed (closer to my own views) can be found here.
Liberal Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) has in weeks past renewed his call for conscription – that is, for a military draft. Plenty of other intelligent people have, recently and in the past, agreed with him. Representative Rangel (a Korean War veteran) has argued, among other things, that elitist politicians are quick to involve the country in wars and armed conflicts because, quite frankly, it’s not their kids, or mine, doing the fighting and dying.

Even a cursory tour of the internet will dredge up plenty of conservative condemnation of Representative Rangel’s modest proposal, which is no doubt a bit of a poison pill, designed to influence foreign policy in the more non-interventionist direction designed by many Democrats and liberals. Reputable conservatives condemn it on both libertarian grounds as the ultimate in involuntary servitude, and on military efficiency grounds.
Well, riddle me this, my brothers and sisters. What if Rangel’s right ?
No, I’m not agreeing with Rangel, necessarily, or saying that conscription should be considered for Rangel’s reasons. But there are other considerations. First, the people who argue for additional troops in Iraq are correct that they're needed, as smarter minds than mine (William Kristol, among others) argue elsewhere. Besides, in addition to Iraq, there is the possibility of war with Iran; and a continuing war in Afghanistan. Additionally, there is the necessity of keeping reserves for unforeseen contingencies – Korea, or some development someplace else. More troops for Iraq seem to be required, but there are precious few to send.

Think of how much different the war in Iraq would look if the Army were significantly bigger than its current end strength of approximately 500,000. If military history proves anything, it’s that counterinsurgency takes vast amounts of military manpower – precisely what is provided by a conscripted army. If the United States had its Vietnam-era army, or an increased ability to mobilize substantial numbers of soldiers from civil life with reserve obligations: the Army and Marines would have long ago had more than sufficient soldiers to hunt down and destroy the rebels there and the war would have, long since, probably been over. But we have been operating two counterinsurgencies -- don't forget Afghanistan -- on a shoe-string.

No, I don’t think this is politically possible, at present -- I'm certain its not, in fact. I’m not even sure it’s desirable. But I'm not sure it's not either.

Which Donkey ?

The Obama boomlet continues, but I still don't buy it. I think the junior Senator from Illinois's popularity is more a symptom of problems with the junior Senator from New York's campaign. Hillary Clinton always stood to be in trouble if she didn't look inevitable, and now, she's looking less so.
If not Obama or Clinton, who does that leave ? Kerry sank his own Swift Boat earlier in the year, and Gore has stayed out. The others ? Mostly small fry. . .but watch Edwards. He's left-populist on economics, anti-war, and can get the lawyers to contribute.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dr. Kissinger, Call Your Office

Tense negotiations are underway, conducted by Ambassadors and Special Envoys with an occasional Chargé d'affaires thrown in - some up-front, some back-channel and in secret. Lots of tough bargaining, with the exchange of Notes, or an aide-mémoire, or maybe even a démarche or four. Communiques to interested parties are released periodically.
Is it back-channel, hole-in-the-wall secret diplomatic deals with Iraqi Sunni factions ? Talks with the troublesome Muqtada al-Sadr ? A move towards accord with Mad Jad and the mullahs over their nukes ?
No. . .much, MUCH more complicated. El Jefe family negotiations over Who Does What When at Christmas.
Some real progress is being made, but El Jefe, frustrated with the whole business, is about ready to declare that further moves towards resolution simply cannot occur unless the Family Christmas negotiations are linked to tangible and real efforts to move forward on the Palestinian issue. . .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Stupid People

There has been something unseemly about the frisson of delight that went through our media and political elites after the repudiation of President Bush at the polls this November last, and the happiness with which the same suspects greeted the perceived slapping-down to US policy administered by the Iraq Study Group report. Jack Kelly over at Real Clear Politics says it perfectly this morning. The money quote:

. . .the glee with which many in the Washington establishment -- particularly in journalism -- greeted the (glaringly obvious) finding that things are not going well in Iraq suggests an elite so insulated and out of touch that it sees no ill consequences flowing to themselves from a defeat being inflicted upon their country. The appropriate response of serious people would have been concern, perhaps anger. But an elite that sees a big setback in the war against Islamofascism chiefly in terms of its impact on domestic politics is not comprised of serious people.

"Not comprised of serious people." Now isn't that the truth ?
Plenty are spending this season toasting the come-upppance of BusHitler with excellent wine, and they now find life a political bower of roses. Some folks had their true thoughts on display this past weekend. I wish all these people plenty of joy, for the present, because the "ill consequences" of which Mr. Kelly writes will arrive, soon enough, and the party will be well and truly over. Whatever will happen to the terminally unserious then ?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Pecorino Romano cheese is very yummy.

Just thought I'd pass that on.

The Martians and the Rest

Several items from around the blogosphere and the press that were of interest to me this weekend:
The first item is from Westhawk, who points us to an interesting little article from the British magazine The Economist: "The Fog of the New Cold War." The subject is Russia under Mr. Putin, which seems increasingly willing to “cooperate with rogues” as Westhawk puts it, to advance both Russian state interests and the interest of the little pro-Putin oligarchy that runs Russia. Guess who's winning: their gangster-capitalists, or our lawyer-capitalists ?
Then we have Wretchard, over at Belmont Club metaphorically going along with intrepid ABC reporter Diane Sawyer, as she goes to North Korea. Ms. Sawyer meets North Korean school kids, and rapidly discovers that they are a “a world away from the unruly individualism of any American school" and in fact that they are eager to tell you they're the happiest kids on Earth. You don't say ? Drop Dead Gorgeous Diane might as well be a space alien – and she evidently doesn’t comprehend it -- but she is. Anyway, the visitors from Mars are amazed that the Dear Leader's kiddos have no curiosity about an American news magazine, but she discovers that the kids know that Toy Story was produced in “a strange place.” Boy and how.
Meanwhile, back in cloud-cuckoo land. The New York Times reports that a Federal District Judge is presently considering a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against outgoing US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by -- get this – former US prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan who were allegedly tortured at Abu Ghraib and other places. That’s just a total howler. We’re at war with these people, for God sakes. They were in Abu Ghraib and God knows where else because we didn’t just throw them in a ditch and shoot them like Putin’s Russians or the Dear Leader’s North Koreans would have done.
Who are the oddballs here ? On the one hand we have the North Korean kiddos, clearly demonstrating the proper attitude towards their God-Emperor-Dear-Leader and his prison-house country, as kids everywhere in all times have done, like forever; along with the God-Emperor’s Muscovite friends, subjects of the local Don, who are using the state apparatus to enrich themselves, plunder the non-connected, and kill their enemies – a sort of behavior that’s also gone on, like forever.
Then on the other hand we have free-thinking techno-Americans from Mars who can’t believe the Dear Leader’s kids don’t care who Britney is, or about the Tom/Kat marriage; can’t imagine a world in which dissidents are made to glow in the dark; and who see nothing whatever wacko about letting our enemies use our courts to sue the state in wartime ? Tell me which group is certifiable-stark-raving-nuts-crazy ? No wonder we’re losing the war.
Which way’s the wave of the future ? I’m not being totally rhetorical: I have a child, and I’m trying to figure out which way to bet. I wonder if he will be privileged to live in the same cloud-cuckoo land you and I do, gentle reader ? I mean, throughout history, lying, cheating, stealing and killing, plus God-Emperor worship have all been SOP, and there's nothing new or surprising about it.
We American live in the cosseted, comfortable, connected techno-geek media age, and have been uniquely privileged to fence the unpleasantness and squalor of tyranny out. Our astonishment and horror at How the Rest Live is a privilege, not a right, nor something that is, in historical terms, even normal. We are shocked, shocked that poor Mr. Litvinenko died most horribly by (probably) the hand of his state, and that he could have powered our Christmas trees – and the trouble is, we really are shocked.
We seem to be the only ones who don't get it -- and we will continue as a culture, not to get it, as long as our relative material wealth and distance from everything else buys us immunity, and not a moment longer.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Word Choice

The Daily Telegraph reports that Mr. Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, denounced recommendations that the US withdraw its troops from Iraq by early 2008, saying such a move would be an “insult” to the Iraqi people.
Well, sir, that's one way to put it. But the word "insult" involves a degree of moral and emotional concern that is far from the minds of those preparing to deliver this offense, so far as your country is concerned to them. Your Excellency would be more correct if you had said that such plans would be an abandonment of the Iraqi people. Your Excellency needs to reflect well on who you're dealing with now: the Evil Party is well and truly coming into the saddle here. The Evil Party abandons causes and sacrifices that they no longer care about; such causes are beneath insulting.
Still, it's high time to be worried: Things being what they are, Florida or Texas real estate might be good things to investigate. If you don’t like those places, try Massachusetts, or the UK. Nguyen Van Thieu, another President who believed in American promises, for whose country Americans also died, and which was similarly abandoned by the Evil Party -- lived in both.

Listening In

The British newspapers are all a-flutter today, because of reports that the US "secret services" were listening in on Princess Diana's telephone conversations. According to the British newspaper, the Evening Standard (via Drudge), the Americans were most interested in H.R.H's conversations with US "tycoon" Theodore "Teddy" Forstmann.
Lots of tabloid value here, and fuel for various conspiracy theories, but I don't find it particularly amazing: US intelligence taps lots of foreign telephone conversations.
I wonder if the Princess was the primary target, or whether Mr. Forstmann was perhaps of more interest ? Probably the legwork for the tapping was done by the NSA, maybe via satellite, but which US agency was interested ?
UPDATE: See Former Spook's discussion over at In From the Cold. Very well done.

There's No Place Like Home

In the eighteenth century, the English ruling classes – squirearchy, merchants, aristocracy – were men hard of mind and hard of will. Aggressive and acquisitive, they saw foreign policy in terms of concrete interest: markets, natural resources, colonial real estate, naval bases, profits. At the same time they were concerned to preserve the independence and parliamentary institutions of England in the face of the hostility of European absolute monarchies. Liberty and interest alike seemed to the Georgians therefore to demand a strategic approach to international relations. They saw national power as the essential foundation of national independence; commercial wealth as a means to power; and war as among the means to all three. They accepted it as natural and inevitable that nations should be engaged in a ceaseless struggle for survival, prosperity and predominance.

Correlli Barnett, The Collapse of British Power, (Humanities Press International, reprint ed. 1987, p. 20).

Wow. If anything written could possibly sum-up the way I think about politics and national policy in a paragraph, this above quotation would be it. I first read Correlli Barnett’s Collapse of British Power as an undergraduate at the University of Texas in the 1980’s (not assigned, just something I read) and have never forgotten the book. I’m on my second copy: I re-read the thing about once every two years.

Mr. Barnett, in this book, and in several of this other works, notably The Audit of War: the Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation, (published in this country as The Pride and the Fall) wrote extensively on the decline of the British Empire (mostly to the benefit of the United States), caused, as he saw it, by a ruling class that became dominated by “moralizing internationalists” who took their country’s power and position for granted. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it ?

With all the talk about “realism” in the press lately, it seems to me that we often forget what “realism” really consists of. Quite aside from the specific problem of Iraq: there appears to be a widespread feeling among the public that “realism” consists in doing what is convenient -- cutting and running -- coming home and putting up the drawbridges. to walking away from power.

As we power-up our Chinese made Christmas lights, which we can run on cheap electricity, drive our imported cars, use our credit cards like crazed cocaine addicts, laugh at Iranian blustering about a new Holocaust, we seem not to care about whether the Euros or the UN, or India or Borneo runs the world. Let the Chinese have it all eh ? As George McGovern would say "come home, America." Meanwhile we can forget Osama and all the loons trying to kill us and go back to arguing about abortion, gay marriage and Britney’s belly-button.

It’s going to be such an interesting little experiment, isn’t it ? Neo-Isolationism, I mean. It's just divinely ordained that Americans are going to enjoy cheap oil, easy credit, imports and Christmas lights forever, huh ? People are always gonna want American dollars. The world is always going to care what we think, because. . .well, just because, right ? Soft power's where it's at, and we need to learn to work and play well with others, again. As for winning wars, and military power. . .that's all obsolete and beside the point, isn't it ? Surely you believe me. . .or the Pelosi Democrats anyway.
Merry Christmas, folks.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Are Women Funny ?

Have a look at Christopher Hitchens' article from the January 2007 Vanity Fair "Why Women Aren't Funny." (Hat tip: Tigerhawk). The article is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but does have a point, which is (very boiled down), that men are funnier because they have to be: "Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift." Men are funnier, Mr. Hitchens says, becuase they ". . .have to pretend, to themselves as well as to women, that they are not the servants and supplicants. Women. . .have to affect not to be the potentates. This is the unspoken compromise."
Mr. Hitchens also opines that women are quicker to spot the unfunny, because "[m]en will laugh at almost anything, often precisely because it is -- or they are -- extremely stupid. Women aren't like that."
But the most important thing to bear in mind about this whole piece is that El Jefe didn't write it. (SWMBO, take note).

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Time to Snooze. . .

I had all kinds of ambitious plans for a post tonight, but no such luck. In lieu of a post from me. . . you could visit Eagle Speak and check out Cap'n. Eagle's very good Pearl Harbor post.
I'm terribly sorry, but I'm really quite sleepy. I think I'm going to get out my book for awhile and then go to sleep. Hope everyone has a wonderful evening.

History Question: The Hoare-Laval Pact

A e-mailed response to my last post asked me to explain the Hoare-Laval Pact better than the somewhat incomplete Wikipedia entry linked in my post, (which appears to me to have been a translated entry that possibly lost something in the process). Here goes.
The Hoare-Laval Pact was fundamentally an attempt by France and Britain to draw Benito Mussolini’s Italy back into the “Stresa Front” – a diplomatic bloc directed against Nazi Germany. Italy, in search of cheap military prestige and African colonies like France and Britain, had invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Unfortunately for Mussolini, he was no longer in the 19th Century, and Italy’s invasion garnered not prestige but worldwide condemnation and, at the behest of the modern UN’s forerunner, the League of Nations – ineffectual economic sanctions.

The French and British, subject to pressure from public opinion, joined in the condemnation and sanctions. However, this carried a real cost – the French and British were already locked in diplomatic struggle with Hitler’s Germany, and the British had problems with Japan in the Pacific. The Americans were living in their isolationist fool’s paradise; Stalin’s Soviets were a rather mysterious and sinister unknown quantity. Britain and France were very, very alone. Militarily and economically overstretched, (this was the middle of the Great Depression), the last thing the two allies needed was another enemy in the form of Italy.

Still, the Ethiopia invasion had been tougher than Mussolini expected, and the Duce was looking for a face-saving way to ease his difficulties. Besides, Mussolini really didn’t like the Germans, much. There was thus room for a deal.

Without discussing the details, the Hoare-Laval Pact amounted to an agreement by the French and British to abandon their mostly rhetorical support of the Ethiopian cause in Italy’s favor. The British Foreign Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, and the French Prime Minister, (the later infamous Pierre Laval), agreed on behalf of their governments to use their influence to obtain international sanction by the great powers of Italy’s annexation of part of Ethiopia, and what amounted to recognition of Italian suzerainty over the rest, in return for resumption of cooperation by Mussolini in a common front against Nazi Germany. (Italy had helped block a Nazi takeover in Austria in 1934).

The proposal would end the war in Ethiopia, (at the price to the Ethiopians of a good chunk of their territory and puppet state status), shore up the British naval and military position in the Mediterranean, and get the British and French some cooperation against the Nazis. Whether and how this would have worked out over the longer run is less clear. But for the moment, the Hoare-Laval Pact promised a win-win for everybody. Except, that is, for the poor Ethiopians. . .

But in the age of mass politics, such cozy 19th Century-style deals no longer worked. The arrangement was leaked to the French press in December of 1935, before the governments were ready for the deal to be public – and it immediately collapsed in a worldwide firestorm of media and Franco-British left wing parliamentary criticism. The Hoare-Laval Pact was denounced as generally immoral; as well as a sellout of both the Ethiopians and the League of Nations, which of course it was.

The collapse of the Hoare-Laval Pact had very serious consequences. First, the British and French governments had to disavow the deal. Hoare left the Foreign Office, (King George VI said: “[n]o more coals to Newcastle, no more Hoares to Paris"). Laval’s ministry fell in France, and the ineffectual League of Nations sanctions against Italy on Ethiopia’s behalf, without more, continued.

Much more importantly, Britain and France lost a potential ally, and Hitler broke out of diplomatic isolation. Mussolini gave up cooperation with Britain and France for good, shrugged-off the sanctions, annexed all of Ethiopia, and moved firmly into Hitler’s camp. Instead of getting half-a-loaf, the Ethiopians got nothing at all, and the next time Hitler moved on Austria in 1938 . . . he had Mussolini’s backing, and Austrian independence disappeared till 1955. When war with what became the Rome-Berlin Axis finally arrived in 1939 (Italy entering in June 1940), the British naval position in the Mediterranean was almost fatally compromised by Italian hostility.

Pierre Laval (at the time of the Hoare-Laval Pact an opponent of Germany) would never forget the personal humiliation he suffered at the hands of the French media and left wing politicians. He devoted the rest of his political life to the destruction of the French Third Republic. . .and started down the road that would lead him to control of Vichy France, collaboration with Germany, and a traitor’s death by firing squad in Fresnes prison near Paris on 15 October 1945.
Today, as some of us celebrate the virtues of "realism" and pragmatism in foreign policy, we would do well to remember Monsieur Laval, who really believed he was the ultimate realist: first he thought to contain Hitler with his clever pact -- that instead exploded in his country's face. Then, the "realist" Laval turned to collaboration with Hitler, because he thought it was pragmatic: that German domination of Europe could not be avoided. Like Monsieur Pig dickering with Herr Leopard about whether dinner will be bacon or ham. The best that can be said for Monsieur Laval is that he died well.
Hoare did better, ending his career in the peerage as a Viscount – and deservedly so. Hoare accepted his necessary demotion and humiliation loyally and in good part, and spent the bulk of World War II in Madrid as British Ambassador. In 1940 he moved diplomatic heaven and earth, successfully, to help keep Franco’s Spain neutral. (Spain’s entry into the war in the autumn of 1940 on Hitler’s side might have finished the British).

What It All Meant is not so easy to say. In 1940-1941, French and British leaders probably wished that the Hoare-Laval Pact had worked out, in 1945, with the war safely won, they could possibly afford to take the higher moral road, leaving the Italians to wish it had worked out.

Haven't Studied Yet. . .

Still haven’t made it through the Iraq Study Group report. . . work and real life have intervened. Probably won’t crawl through it till the weekend, but there's lots of commentary out there on the subject already.

The estimable Hugh Hewitt has some points about the composition of the “Study Group” and who was consulted – and not consulted, that appear to me to be well-taken. (Hat tip: Spook 86 at In from the Cold).

Okay, this point is for history nerds only. Interestingly, Mr. Hewitt compares the Study Group’s effort with the Hoare-Laval Pact of 1935, and he means this comparison as a criticism. The Hoare-Laval Pact, popularly reviled both today and when it was concluded, was, in the context of its times -- plain good sense. Unfortunately, despite its diplomatic and military practicality, the Hoare-Laval Pact was far too old world, too much a creature of cabinet-government thinking -- that is, the concerns of unaccountable professionals; too cynical, too clever by half, in other words, for a modern world with a media, run by democratic politics. Wonder if the Study Group report will work out that way ?

Now if They Could Only Find Oil. . .

This is SO COOL. I hope it proves to be true.

The Nuts Get Bolton

David Warren's piece in the Ottawa Citizen (via Real Clear Politics) on losing John Bolton is brillant: this summarization of why we needed Ambassador Bolton at the UN, and why "the best ambassador to the UN that the US has had for a generation" offended the wackjobs in the Democratic Party so much, is so excellent and chock full o' insight that it will drive me nuts for weeks that I didn't write it.
Read the whole thing: its two pages and is worth your time. The money quote:

. . .the United Nations is at the black heart of contemporary international arrangements. It was founded at cross-purposes, presented to the world as a beacon for peace, when it was designed as a prize ring for realpolitik manoeuvring. It became, by increments of Communist propaganda, the embodiment of a shining crackpot aspiration towards world government. . . Today, it is simply "on the other side".

At its best, it has at least been a clearing house, to avoid war through the unpublicized backroom transmission of credible threats and deadlines to the world's most depraved exponents of misrule. But its membership reflects the plurality of the depraved. The General Assembly is permanently stacked against the interests of all constitutional democracies. It provides a karaoke chamber to enhance the babblings even of despots as tone-deaf as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

But it is there, and until the Americans finally take up Jesse Helms's suggestion, to "throw it brick by brick into the East River" -- or remove it to a more appropriate host city, such as Mogadishu -- it will continue to undermine the security and freedom of people everywhere, by its machinations, while its barbarous "peacekeeping" troops rape and pillage defenceless women and children, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Liberia, Haiti, and seemingly any hot spot to which they are sent.

And that, friends, Romans and countrymen, is the Gospel truth.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Iraq Studying

The Iraq Study Group has issued its much-ballyhooed report today. It's 160 pages, at the US Institute of Peace Website, and you need an Adobe reader to download it. No doubt I will eventually download and read it, much to SWMBO and my sorely taxed printer's chagrin, but from what I've heard so far, there are no earth-shaking surprises or magic bullets contained therein.
There's an old saw about a camel being a horse designed by a committee, and I suspect that this report will be much the same thing. If you're interested in the subject, you'd probably do better to spend your reading effort on some other fine publications, including the numerous papers prepared by Dr. Anthony "Tony" H. Cordesman for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, such as this one, here. Only 25 pages. CSIS is, in any case, one of the sponsors of the Iraq Study Group.
As for what we ought to do in Iraq, have a look at Chester, of Adventures of Chester's suggested approach, here. Also, as food for thought, have a look at "Counterinsurgency Redux" by David Kilcullen, available over at Small Wars Journal, here (hat tip: Chester, again).

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

McCain ?

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been a big fan of Senator John McCain. In general, I'm not an admirer of mavericks and gadflies, two types of persons that the Senate and television politics in general seem to breed, and that the television press laps-up. I tend to think mavericks get in the way of adults with serious business to transact. McCain, these past few years, particularly on the issue of judges and the Republican Party's domestic program, has been more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.
In any case, I've criticised him pretty vociferously in the past, both here, and elsewhere. But he's sure right on Iraq, and has a lot of good things to say of late. If he's had the right enemies in the past, it looks that he's acquiring some of the right enemies for the future, too.
I know that I'll probably part company with some of my conservative compadres here, but I think he's worth another look. I'm willing to entertain the possibility that I have . . . entertained views somewhat subnominal in their correctness. . .about him. But McCain's solid on Iraq, solid on national defense, and is sound on the war generally and on foreign policy.
Further, on a pragmatic level, the Republicans need a Westerner. Senator McCain fills that bill: the conservative movement has to maintain its appeal in the western States, which are less traditionalist, and more libertarian than El Jefe's native southern States.
I still don't think I like him, much. But you don't hire a plumber, a lawyer or a national leader, because you like him, but to do a job of work. The chips are really down right now, and maybe McCain's the man. Besides, there aren't a hell of a lot of alternatives.

Monday, December 4, 2006

John Bolton Resigns

Ambassador John Bolton, United States Representative to the United Nations, has submitted his resignation, effective on the expiration of his recess appointment, and the President has accepted it. The text of his resignation letter may be found here.
I can see political reasons to accept the resignation, but I was satisfied with Ambassador Bolton, and am sorry matters have come to this pass. On principle, I dislike conceeding anything whatever to people of the stripe of his opponents, particularly when Ambassador Bolton enjoyed the backing of a majority of the Senate. Still, Ambassador Bolton's job was, possibly, not the issue on which to fight, nor the time to fight, either. The Left is going to have to be given some rope first. Hopefully the process is not too expensive.

Venezuelan Elections

Moonbat Chavez seems to have prevailed in the Venezuelan elections, the New York Times reports. With 78 percent of the votes counted on Sunday, Moonbat has 61 percent of the votes, to 38 percent the opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales (Governor of Zulia State). Governor Rosales' campaign, probably correctly, is crying foul. Soldiers kept polling places open beyond the legal times to allow Chavez supporters to vote, and the AP (via the Houston Chronicle) reports that Venezuelan officials stopped the broadcast of election coverage by the Spanish language international television network Telemundo.
AP describes some vintage Nutbar haranguing; the Great One thundering to his supporters from his palace balcony in a rainstorm: "Long life the Revolution ! . . .It's another defeat for the devil, who tries to dominate the world. . . . Down with imperialism. We need a new world." Anybody smell some sulfur ? Chavez's devil is Bush: many lefties here would agree with both that characterization, and the rest of his ranting.
The results are certainly no surprise. Chavez deployed the entire apparatus of the Venezuelan state to secure his re-election, and his government is flush with oil cash. There was no possibility of his defeat, even absent tampering. I suspect that Moonbat Chavez, behind the closed doors of his residence, is not particularly happy that the opposition managed 38 percent. No doubt a come-to-Jesus meeting with some election and police officials will be held and maybe the final figures tweaked a little.
This happy result fortifies Chavez's position, particularly for the years ahead when he will be forced to the necessity of more blatant tampering. "The institutions are controlled, our democracy is already very sick, we have a strongman who says he's going to be the eternal president" says Governor Rosales. Well, yes sir, he is. Did you really believe it was going to work out otherwise ?
"We have to do something," AP quotes a Rosales supporter named Dona Bavaro as saying. "My country is being stolen. This is the last chance we have. Communism is coming here" Ms. Bavaro adds. Well, that's true also, except that you didn't really have a chance to begin with. It's a little late in the game to be figuring this out. You'd have better spent your efforts on trying to subvert the army or the police, if you really wanted to stop Chavez. It's far too late in the game for ballots and elections -- has been since 2002 -- and all they do at this point is to legitimize the dictator's control. Absent a coup, foreign intervention or a lucky bullet, you've got yourselves a much younger Fidel. Miami real estate is about to enjoy a boom.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Evening in the Bundu

I'm a little north of Columbus, Texas tonight, and have been out looking at stars. Really gorgeous out. Hanging out at the country Schloss tonight, (had to haul some stuff up here) drinking a very passable Chilean Merlot and listening to old Mozart (Symphony No. 18 in F-Major KV 130, Karl Bohm and the Berliner Philharmoniker). A typical dull book on Roman history awaits, or a typically escapist movie if I'm foolish enough to turn on the television.
Gorgeous here, I wouldn't ever leave if I didn't have to. The internet is an innovation here, and I'm not convinced it's a good one.
Very quiet: no SWMBO, Heir or cats...they are all in Houston this evening.
Today in history is the anniversary of Emperor Napoléon I's great victory at Austerlitz, in 1805, and his coronation as Emperor in 1804.
Hope, dear reader, you are well tonight, wherever you are.