Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Yes, El Jefe is still here, in his palace, brooding. El Jefe's thoughts are constantly roving, encompassing the whole panorama of the struggles of peoples and nations; not to mention what he had for lunch, the beauty of Jenny McCarthy, his un-comfy shoes, and thinking on how the top of his desk very much needs a liberal application of some kerosene and a match.
No, I'm not ADD, much. Guards ! Guards ! The dungeon for whoever suggested that !
Seriously, I'm busy at work, and just not in the mood to blog so far this week. Clearly I need to retire to my massively vast estates in the country for a day or fifteen. Meanwhile, there's always Halloween. Hope you're having a good one, wherever you are; all the while making sure to drive carefully, and to keep your cats safe indoors.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cole Bomber Under House Arrest

USS Cole (DDG-67) at sea off Puerto Rico, 9 August 2002
(US Navy Photo)
Reuters reports that the government of Yemen has allowed Jamal Badowi, one of the planners of the attack on destroyer USS Cole (DDG-67) to be detained in his home, in the port city of Aden.
Yeah, prison overcrowding is a real bummer, isn't it ? No doubt that's why Mr. Badowi broke out of the pen. Hey, maybe the Yemenis think that chances for rehabilitation are markedly increased by forgetting about the prison break and allowing this bandit to stay home under house arrest. Besides, it could be that Mr. Badowi's neighborhood is in need of some demolition work anyway. Sort of urban renewal. Maybe they'll call the new development there "Crater Estates."
Say, what was that address, by the way ?

Stats for Thought

As you head out into your weekend, here's some food for thought:
While we are worrying about a third-rate power (that happens to sit on the oil), arming itself with nuclear weapons; China, according to Elisabeth Rosenthal, writing in this morning's New York Times (at page C1), produces and uses 45 percent of the world's output of cement.
Going further into the business section, (page C4), according to Chinese statistics the Chinese Economy expanded at 11.5 percent in the third quarter, which was a "slight slowing from the second quarter." The inflation rate in China in September was, according to the same article by Keith Bradsher, 6.2 percent. The annual growth rate of Chinese industrial production, according to the same article, is 18.9 percent.
Now Chinese statistics, like that of all authoritarian states, have to be taken with a liberal amount of Morton's Salt. However, China wants more access to world markets, so this rule of thumb is not as true as it used to be. In any case, China is clearly growing in economic and industrial power at a stunning rate. This is going to change our world, in all probability, far more profoundly than Osama and his tapes, or Mad Jad with his nukes. Over at Real Clear Politics, there is a piece by Francis Fukuyama (he of the End of History) opining that the "the fundamental problem remains the lopsided distribution of power in the international system." Lopsided in favor of America, that is.
Dr. Fukuyama needn't worry: the international system is about to be dramatically rebalanced, no doubt producing plenty more history. During the Cold War, America had a tremendous advantage in that its great power enemies, besides being tyrannies, embraced a completely stupid economic and philosophical system that caused them to, dramatically, underperform industrially. Now, we are witnessing the return of authoritarian great powers: states with locked-down political systems philospically opposed to ours that employ unbridled capitalist economics. For the historically minded, think of the rise of Wilhelmine Germany into the more or less unipolar world run by Great Britain. Perhaps our wishful thinkers' prayers will be answered, and China's rise to power accomplished peacefully. Then again, perhaps not.
Meanwhile, we are led in part by loons who seem to think that our power (economic and military) requires no maintenance, and can go on forever. We have been very fortunate not to run into, say, a Bin Laden backed by a great power. I wonder if Dr. Fukuyama will miss the "lopsided distribution of power in the international system" when that happens ?
Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Killer Hair

Once more I was able to convince myself how criminal the capitalistic octopuses are. On a picture of our old and bewailed comrade Stalin, I swore not to rest before these capitalistic octopuses are destroyed.
Ernesto Guevara to his aunt Beatriz (1953); as quoted in Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (1997) by Jon Lee Anderson (found at Wikiquote, here).
An auction gallery is selling a 3-inch lock of hair from the head of the murdering rebel bandit Ernesto “Che” Guevara. "Che," the cult-hero of well-off idiots and wanna-be revolutionaries frequenting dope-dens, university libraries and coffee-lounges, was killed by the Bolivian Army 40 years ago this month. More on his squalid life and his weird cult following may be found here, here, and here.
Guevara often handled executions of informers and spies in Castro's rebel movement personally. Here's the former physician's diary entry, on the murder of the first such person:
I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal. He gasped for a little while and was dead. Upon proceeding to remove his belongings I couldn't get off the watch tied by a chain to his belt, and then he [another rebel] told me in a steady voice farther away than fear: "Yank it off, boy, what does it matter." I did so and his possessions were now mine.
Diary entry from Guevara's period in the Sierra Maestra on the shooting of fellow rebel Eutimio Guerra, whom Guevara suspected of passing-on information to government forces (1957). (from Wikiquote, above and see here, here, here and here).
Bidding on the hair is to start at $100,000. Materials for cleansing this grisly artifact of the blood of thousands of Cuban political prisoners not included. As to the sale, the Miami Herald thinks that Hugo Chavez, tin-pot tyrant of Venezuela, may want to buy. How appropriate.

A sorrowful pity somebody didn’t send Guevara to Hell a bit sooner.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Are Dems Too Confident About 2008 ?

No, I really don't think so, despite recent signs of life for Republicans, and articles like this. I think the Democrats could nominate a mummy and elect him (or her) President at this point. Come to think of it, a mummy would be better than any of their declared candidates so far.
But what if they are too confident ? No, I don't believe it either, but wouldn't it be such fun to watch the resulting tizzy ? Apoplexy of the Great and Good: a whole continent of liberals going "waaaaaahhhh !"
And no Bush to blame it all on. . .

Rumblings on the Turkish Border

Turkish aircraft and helicopter gunships have attacled Kurdish rebel positions on the Turkey/"Iraq" (de facto Kurdistan) border, and Turkish artillery has engaged in some cross-border shelling. The White House has (of course) urged restraint.
I find this all somewhat underwhelming. Shelling, and attacks by aircraft and helicopters seem like the minimum the Turkish politicians and generals can do, given the (to a degree cultivated) anger of the Turkish population towards the Kurds. This appears to be a political signal for the Americans, Iraqis and Kurds to Do Something, but, without more, I question whether it is intended to be more than that.
The terrain is extremely rough: and the Kurds have survived Saddam, the Iranians, and now enjoy a degree of protection from Washington. says that the recent Kurdish ambush near the village of Daglica that killed 17 and captured 8 Turkish soldiers was made by a rebel band of about 200. Other reports have slightly different totals of Turkish casualties. The Turkish General Staff reportedly claims that some 32 rebels have been killed in southeastern Turkey -- it is not clear if this occured in this action, or elsewhere. If Orbat is correct: the fact that a band this big can maneuver and get the drop on a Turkish unit doesn't say much good about the state of things on the Turkish side of the border. An excellent topographic map of the border region is here.
The Turks have a big army, which has historically been a good one, but I wonder if they're prepared for what they might find in Kurdistan; or if the government really wishes the political consequences of finishing-off the American alliance ? Quite aside from the difficult terrain and the unfriendly local population, the likely political and diplomatic constraints appear to make a big Turkish incursion a no-win situation for everyone but the most radical Kurdish rebels and the Iranians.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Larijani Resigns: Hard-Liners Ascendant

Mr. Ali Larijani, the principal Iranian nuclear negotiator, in his capacity as "Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)" secretary, has resigned his post. Tehran Times says that Mr. Larijani has offered his resignation many times before, "but only this time the president [that is, Mad Jad Ahmadinejad] accepted it." (As an aside, it's interesting that an Iranian publication directed at an English-speaking audience would give that kind of hint about cross-purposes at the top of the Iranian pyramid).
Probably, this means nothing good. Given President Bush's warning about the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran producing World War III, a re-think of Iran's nuclear aspirations would seem to be in order. Mr. Larijani's resignation seems like a good opportunity to change course, but unfortunately this doesn't seem to be in the offing: government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham told the Tehran Times that the resignation will not affect Iran's "principled" nuclear policy.
Scott Peterson, writing in the Christian Science Monitor thinks that Mr. Larijani's departure means the ascendancy of Mad Jad's political faction, and a harder line towards the US and Europe. Mr. Larijani's successor is one Saeed Jalili, a Deputy Foreign Minister, described in the Christian Science Monitor article as an ally of Ahmadinejad's; a "hard line dogmatist" who "specializes in monologue" in debate. With commendable understatement, Mr. Peterson tells us that Mr. Jalili's selection is "not likely to produce a breakthrough" in the nuclear negotiations.
Well, no wonder the Iranians are taking a hard line. Why the hell shouldn't they ? Mr. Putin's just gotten back from bucking them up: encouraging Mad Jad and the lunatic fringe with all the growling at the various stans around the Caspian, in what Russia calls the near-abroad -- not to help the Americans against Iran. Meanwhile, here at home we have Cloud-Cuckoo-Land: Ms. Pelosi and crew knocking the props from under the US position in Iraq by antagonizing the Turks over events in 1915, and sniping at the intelligence agencies. To our enemies, the children have taken over.
The problem with the Iranian math is, as I have said before, George Bush. This president is one real bad piece of luck for the Iranians, which gets worse for them as a Democratic president looks more likely in 2008. I don't think that he is going to leave Iran for the next administration to deal with. The Iranians seem to think that Bush is too isolated domestically and internationally to stop them, and that they have at least rhetorical support from powerful allies. The problem is, isolation has a history of not fazing President Bush. The Iranians are hard-lining themselves, and the rest of us, straight to disaster.

Friday, October 19, 2007

No Silence, Just Cash

The big E-bay auction is ended. Because it embarrasses the Left, the media doesn't want you to hear about it, but Rush Limbaugh raised over $2 million dollars for The Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation via an E-bay auction of a letter, on Senate stationery, signed by Senate majority leader Harry Reid, and most of the Democratic caucus in the Senate, (including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama).

The letter, addressed to the CEO of Clear Channel Communications – Rush’s broadcaster, was a blatant attempt to use the power of the Senate to silence a private citizen by intimidating his regulated broadcaster. “Here, Clear Channel, we’re big-shot senators: you’d better shut that right-wing loudmouth up,” they thought to say. Here's to Rush for throwing it back in their faces. The drafters and signers of this letter, a document belonging on the letterhead of the Supreme Soviet of Joseph Stalin, not the United States Senate -- ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mayhem in Pakistan

All hell has broken loose in Pakistan. There has been a terrorist attempt on the life of Pakistan's once and probably future Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Thankfully, Ms. Bhutto appears to have escaped but at least 115 persons have been killed and there are many wounded. Wretchard at Belmont Club notes that the Taliban had threatened Ms. Bhutto, who had said: "I don’t believe that a true Muslim will attack me. . .I believe Islam forbids suicide bombings." A Reuters report cited by Wretchard says that the attacker in yesterday's incident was a suspected suicide bomber, so possibly Ms. Bhutto will want to re-examine her premises somewhat. Perhaps she has: AP reports that this morning she is blaming the attack on Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Also, according to the Pakistan Daily Times (cited by Wretchard), Ms. Bhutto's husband, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari is fingering "some elements within the government [i.e. the Musharraf regime], including some ministers" as the perpetrators. How Mr. Zardari -- himself an interesting specimen, who did eight years in jail on assorted never-proven corruption charges -- knows this to be so is not apparent. In any case, this statement was before Ms. Bhutto's accusations today. Meanwhile, Ms. Bhutto (perhaps understandably) wants the head of the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau, (the domestic intelligence in the Ministry of Interior, not to be confused with Inter-Services Intelligence) -- retired General Ijaz Shah -- sacked.
Truth in blogging, I've never been much of an admirer of Ms. Bhutto, who has always struck me, perhaps unfairly, as somebody who tells her western admirers too much of whatever she thinks they want to hear. Moreover, some of her western friends are just unbearably stupid. It was during Ms. Bhutto's period in power that the Taliban became powerful in Afghanistan, and her government materially assisted this process, although, to be fair, this policy was mostly pursued by the military and intelligence bureaucracies, over which it is questionable that she ever had much control. Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters, in his excellent piece yesterday in the New York Post skewers her as a "feudal landlord posing as a democrat."
In any case, I question Ms. Bhutto's wisdom in returning to Pakistan at present: which is an unmanagable mess if ever there was one. In the best-case scenario, which is really no good at all, Ms. Bhutto's reported deal with General Musharraf works out for her, and she regains some measure of power. But to what end ? Nine chances out of ten are that Ms. Bhutto's next stint in government is simply a hiatus between the present military government and the next one.
Happy talk about democracy, and government by political bosses who have little to recommend them other than their status as civilians and the fact that they are Former Office Holders, or the daughters of former big-wigs doesn't give Pakistan what it needs -- which is to build some national institution outside of the Army that happens to work. All things being equal, Ms. Bhutto would probably be safer, and about as useful to her country if she had the income of her estates shipped to London or New York, and spent her days writing articles and appearing on the talking-heads shows lamenting the policies of whoever is dictator of Pakistan at the moment.

Harry Reid Letter. . .on E-Bay

The Harry Reid/Democratic Senator letter to Clear Channel Communications attacking Rush Limbaugh is on E-Bay. According to the description:

This historic document may well represent the first time in the history of America that this large a group of U.S. senators attempted to demonize a private citizen by lying about his views. As such, it is a priceless memento of the folly of Harry Reid and his 40 senatorial co-signers.

The entire proceeds of this auction.. the entire high bid... will be donated to The Marine Corps - Law Enforcement Foundation, a registered charity which provides financial assistance to the children of fallen Marines and federal law enforcement officers. Rush Limbaugh serves on the Board of this organization and has been active on its behalf. All costs of this auction will be paid by the seller... every dollar of your winning bid will go to this charity, which has to date distributed over $29 million.

Better use for toilet paper could not be found anywhere. The current bid is $851,000. What a great cause, more power to the sellers.
UPDATE (19 Oct, a.m.) It's up to $2 million this morning. Go, Rush, Go !

No To A Federal "Shield Law"

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives approved and sent to the Senate legislation to create a so-called Federal "shield law" for journalists. This bill widely expected to be vetoed by President Bush, would create a "reporter's privilege," somewhat akin to the attorney-client or priest-penitent legal privileges, which would exempt "journalists" from having to reveal their sources to Federal grand juries or in other federal court proceedings.

To begin with, the proposed legislation is pernicious on ideological grounds because it recognizes journalists as a different, higher life-form than the rest of us ordinary citizens. Determining who is a journalist under the vague definition of “covered persons” in Section 4 of the House's bill will provide hours of fun for lawyers, commentators and courts. The House bill helpfully clarifies that “foreign powers” or agents thereof, and terrorists aren’t “covered persons.” Gee, thanks for small miracles, and bully for us. Clearly, the first thing Chinese intelligence or Hezbollah needs to do is buy a newspaper or a network and hire some journalists.

The proposed legislation has serious national security implications. If, for example, CIA Employee X, who lost the policy argument, and who doesn't like the policies of the Bush administration, violates both his oath and the law by leaking the existence of a secret wiretapping program that spies on Al Qaeda bigwigs to the New York Times, which then prints the expose in a Page 1 story -- destroying the effectiveness of the program, the reporter, under current law, can – and should -- be compelled to tell a court who his source is -- and CIA Employee X may, or may not, go to jail.
The bills do have some carve-outs, but they are essentially meaningless: the Senate version would remove the shield if a court found by a "preponderance of the the evidence" that "protected information" would "assist in preventing a specific case" of terrorism against hte United States or "significant harm to national security" that would "outweigh the public interest in newsgathering." The House version is even stricter. How would a court analyze "significant harm" or the ability to "assist in preventing a specific act of terrorism" without even more disclosure ? Maybe we can ask Al Qaeda to provide us some expert witnesses.

The First Amendment, which guards the liberty of the press, protects the right of a reporter to publish his story, and, properly, immunizes him from prosecution for so doing -- but it does not in any way mean he cannot be compelled to give up his source, when his source has no legal right to give him information. The journalist is not a journalist only, but a citizen too, and the liberty of the press gives the journalist no right to protect the identities of persons in the face of the right of the authorities to find evidence.

The unauthorized disclosure of materials in government files is often a crime. 18 U.S.C. § 641 bars the theft of public money, property and records; and 18 U.S.C. § 798 provides for punishment of whoever “knowingly and willfully communicates, .furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person. . .any classified information…” which among other things includes information concerning the communications intelligence activities of the United States; or information obtained by such activities. Moreover, the Espionage Act (18 U.S.C. § 793 et seq) prohibits the disclosure of national defense information which could be used to the injury of the United States.

Persons with security clearances are under oath to keep classified information confidential. The shield legislation pending in Congress would mean that the journalists (such as those writing the article in the New York Times that exposed the Treasury Department’s funds tracking programs; or the authors of articles describing classified details of the NSA’s surveillance programs) could not be compelled to give up evidence – that is the names of government employees who have violated the law and their service oaths by leaking to the press. The fact that the government has not (yet) gone after the leakers is shameful and a national scandal, and this legislation makes the problem worse: in practical terms, abetting an open season on leaking by making it virtually risk-free.

It is, as Seth Leibshon and Andrew C. McCarthy, argue this morning in National Review Online, absolutely “mind-boggling that Congress would take what is very likely criminal behavior and turn it into immunized behavior”(emphasis in original).

Contact your Senators! I hope and believe this legislation will be rejected in the Senate; and in the event, it passes, I believe the President will veto it. But the Senators need to be reminded that citizens have rights also -- the right to have our security secrets kept confidential when necessary; the right to have political decisions made by the elected officials constitutionally charged with making them, and not by disgruntled bureaucrats using the press to carry on turf-wars; and, the right to expect that our fellow citizens will give evidence when they are called on to do so. This bill needs to be stopped.

Friday, October 12, 2007

ALGORE Wins the Nobel !

Wahoo ! Our own Robot Vice-President, ALGORE, has gotten the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on Global Boring ! He's right up there with Arafat, Le Duc Tho, Jimmy Carter and Britney Spears.
Oh wait, Britney's hasn't happened yet, but it's coming.
So, is the Prize for the Boreacle about peace, or about tweaking the Bush administration ?
Finally, I wonder when ALGORE is entering the Presidential race ? Being a mere President is likely to be a comedown for ALGORE and his worshipers, but still, Hillary had better call her office.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Constitutional Tinkering

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, (who also runs a great political tracking and commentary website -- Sabato’s Crystal Ball), said in the Los Angeles Times yesterday that the Constitution of 1787 is outmoded, the cause of deep underlying “systemic” and “structural problems.” We need, Professor Sabato opines, a new Constitution, so that we may “make progress and achieve greater fairness as a society.”

In case you don’t get it yet, Mr. Sabato is the author of a new book: A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America A Fairer Country. Now I haven't read this book yet, but in general, I have found that when professors or politicos start talking about “fairness as a society,” or “making America a fairer country” or fixing “systemic” and “structural problems,” watch your wallets and get ready to be shaken-down or nagged by Those Who Know Better.

Professor Sabato tells us that the “. . .Constitution remains brilliant in its overall design and sound with respect to the Bill of Rights and the separation of powers.” The problem is, though, that there are “numerous archaic provisions that inhibit constructive change and adaptation.” Well, thank God for small miracles ! The Federal government, indeed all government in this country – is powerful enough to suit me just fine, thank you very much. Inhibiting change that our chattering class betters no doubt think we need is Jim Dandy to yours truly.

I agree with Professor Sabato that the Constitution has some problems. I just don’t agree that Professor Sabato’s list of deficiencies (at least as set out in the Times piece) are really problems; and I agree even less with his proposed solutions.

First, Professor Sabato wants to “restore the war powers balance.” Dr. Sabato rightly says that the Founders probably would not approve of the ability of the President to use his powers as commander-in-chief to effectively wage war on his own. To fix things, Dr. Sabato proposes a “Mother, May I ?” system of allowing the President to commit soldiers to action for up to six months – and then every six months thereafter, to seek Congressional permission to keep them there (albeit without permitting filibusters).

No thanks. In spite of some recent history, I trust Presidential instincts about war, peace, the military and national security far more than those of congressional camera-hogs and would-be candidates for President. Besides, as Professor Sabato says, we live in a “hair-trigger” world, where our welfare and security can be immediately and directly affected by what happens on the other side of the planet; and when the kaka hits the proverbial fan, there is, as Han Solo once put it, "no time to discuss this in committee." Yes, the Presidential war powers may be very emperor-like, but overall, I’d rather keep them that way than institute a system even more subject to daily media and political manipulation than current arrangements.

Next, Dr. Sabato thinks we need a “more representative Senate” He doesn’t like it that Wyoming can elect as many Senators as California. He wants to build a “fairer Senate” by granting the ten States with the greatest population two extra Senators, and the next 15 one extra, each. This is of a piece with his criticisms of the Presidential election system, giving more populous States additional electors to preclude the split between popular votes and electoral votes that occurred last in the 2000 election.

No sale again. The upshot of Professor Sabato’s proposed “reforms” would be to give more power to larger States and to big cities. If you want elections and public policies decided by New York, Chicago and LA; the bi-coastal Great and Good in media and academia to have even more influence; and the priorities of those of us in Flyover country ignored more than even currently – than Professor Sabato’s plans will suit your needs perfectly. The arrangements established by the Founders ensure that Presidential candidates have to campaign and attract support in every region of the country; and the current set-up also promotes legislation with support all across the country, and not just in major urban areas.

Finally, Professor Sabato wants to “end. . .second-class citizenship” by altering Article II Section 1 of the Constitution, and allowing immigrants or persons not born as US citizens, to be elected President. Sabato thinks this is outmoded, and notes that “[t]he founders were concerned about foreign intrigue in the early days of an unsettled republic” and that we now have 14.4 million Americans who were not born on US soil, and we need to give people who are citizens for at least 20 years the “right to aspire to the White House.”

Nope, don’t like that one either. In a world where the whole concept of national sovereignty is under philosophical attack, where populations are increasingly mobile, and where we have an educational system failing us so badly that we have substantial numbers of people who cannot tell us what the War Between the States was – no offense, but I’m not buying it. I see no compelling interest in blurring national distinctions even more by altering present arrangements, even if it means that Arnold Schwarzenegger can never be President.

A little reform can indeed be a dangerous thing. Professor Sabato can keep his proposed new Constitution. As for what I’d change, more on that another time. . .

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Flat Tire

So there I am, El Jefe Maximo, cruising down one of the main drags of Cuidad El Jefe at rush hour, listening to Robert Earl Keen; dodging idiots who can't drive (everybody but me naturally); and probably idly thinking about why Obama pulled his flag pin; whether I'm for Fred or John McCain; where Osama might be; who Mad Jad's tailor is; the Duke of Wellington; the Queen Elizabeth class battleships or something equally irrelevant. Hey, I wasn't talking on my cellaphone, okay ? In any case, my usual mother-of-all-run-on-thoughts was (were ?) abruptly interrupted by a loud roaring noise from the region of the front right wheel.
I pulled the royal coach off the road, and yes, of course, I had a flat. Spiffy. Maybe the flat had something to do with why the car had demonstrated a desire over the last couple of days to pull to the right ? Something to take under advisement.
I suppose I should be thankful the flat didn't appear while I was barrelling down the El Jefe Maximo Memorial Freeway or it wasn't a blowout, or whatever. But when, instead of rushing home to eat before getting the Heir to Boy Scouts -- you're in the parking lot of Bed, Bath and Beyond rummaging for the tire tools -- you're not usually in such a thankful mood. On the good side. . .there was a bookstore nearby. . .but I'm digressing, and SWMBO didn't read that.
The El Jefe royal coach is very German, and like all good Germans, she comes with a very complete tool kit. I felt mildly ludicrous hustling tire-tools and spare into position dressed in khaki trousers and loafers, but I felt even more absurd when I could not budge the lug nuts, even with my non-standard equipment T-wrench. So I called the auto club, hung my "I'm a Dummy Who Can't Change A Tire, Mug Me Please" sign around my neck, and waited. Fortunately, I had my book.
Auto club guy shows up -- and, after appropriate greetings, and removal of my "Mug Me Now" sign, introduces me to my next random item to throw in my trunk -- just a plain old garden-variety pipe to put on the end of my lug wrench. The pipe makes a nice lever, with which you can move machine-tightened lug nuts. (Insert appropriate intellectual-sounding comment about Archimedes and levers here). This got me back on the road, on to the tire place, so I could spend a nice evening in the waiting room comparing cell-phone ringers and watching re-runs of Oprah at the Opera, or some such thing.
Moral of this epistle: carry a pipe in your trunk; check your air pressure now and then; and take a book.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gorgeous Afternoon, Drowsy Jefe

It's such a splendid day in Cuidad El Jefe, where the weather today is as good as can be seen around here. Late September and early October are my favorite months in this city --if it was like this for very long, they'd call it California.
Unfortunately, I'm viewing this gorgeous afternoon through a window: cause there's lots to get done, even though I'm not in much of a mood to do it. Hope you're having a good day, wherever you are.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

America is Bigger Than an Idea: It's a Nation

Jonah Goldberg, writing yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, neatly defines the chasm separating the modern Left and Right; dividing Red State from Blue:
I've come around to the view that the culture war can best be understood as a conflict between two different kinds of patriotism. On the one hand, there are people who believe being an American is all about dissent and change, that the American idea is inseparable from "progress." America is certainly an idea, but it is not merely an idea. It is also a nation with a culture as real as France's or Mexico's. That's where the other patriots come in; they think patriotism is about preserving Americanness.
If you've been paying attention here at all, I imagine you can guess which of these views I would subscribe to. The different views of patriotism Goldberg describes impinge on virtually every significant political and policy disagreement we have.
I especially love that "[b]eing an American is all about dissent and change." Now isn't that laughable ? The only "dissent" the Lefties put up with is that which hews to the party line. I'm thinking of all the little goateed darlings infesting the universities, eating their granola; smoking their imported smelly cigarettes; drinking their fair-trade organically grown coffee; seeking their daily guidance from the Lefty internet; partying on Daddy's money; each with his own "Question Authority" bumper sticker. Such valiant dissenters ! They respect the right to disagree only when they share the disagreement, and question any authority that isn't theirs. Try dissenting against them, and find yourself branded the functional equivalent of a heretic; or watch the brave dissenters shout-down the next right wing speaker who appears on their campus. These are the future HR managers, lawyers, judges and other abominable no-men who will soon be telling you how to live your life because They Know Better.
I would argue that we have something more complicated than a clash between two different views of "patriotism." The fundamental political and cultural conflict in our society today is between two different world views: on the one hand, what John Fonte was pleased to dub "transnational progressivism" -- the ideology of the cultural overclass of lawyers, celebrities, media personalities and international business (to say nothing of international bureaucracies) -- and their acolytes in training in the universities; and on the other, traditional nationalism and patriotism.
Something as parochial and gauche as patriotism has no place in the worldview of the new cosmopolitans, Fonte's transnational progressives. For the international overclass, environmentalism and multiculturalism are the household gods, and, as Mr. Goldberg says, the only "we" that matters, is not the national "we" but the multicultural and global "we" as in "we are the world":
For such globalists, it just seems obvious that the U.S. Supreme Court should consult polls of Africans or the laws of France to glean the real meaning of the American Constitution. And, of course, John Kerry was right to say that there's a "global test" for what America can do in the name of its national interest.
The transnational progressive view is fundamentally anti-individual -- it has to be because it emphasizes group rights: based on race, class, gender, sexual preference, membership in a "historically underrepresented" or putatively "victimized" class. It is at once anti-democratic and paternalist, in that the emphasis on group rights -- rights that cross national frontiers -- creates a need for an overclass of lawyers, mediators, judges, human relations experts and facilitators to mediate between different groups.
Ideologically, an American member of this overclass: with his (or her) degree from an Ivy League or other right-thinking Blue State university is as home in London or Paris as in New York. Money is freely fungible and transferable, and the increasingly coordinated European and American regulatory bodies make sure that business can be conducted on the same terms in those places; and, not incidentally, ensures that bothersome local preferences of ignorant, no-class boobs in Flyover country -- expressed by state legislators and other elected local poobahs -- can be gotten around. In this world, borders and national sovereignty are a nuisance -- interfering with the free movement of capital and empowering the local unwashed.
Of course, to the Overclass, there is politically correct culture, and bad culture. "Good" is immigrants keeping the cultures of where they came from -- even having school lessons in the curriculum of the countries they came from. "Bad" is wanting the melting pot to apply -- for immigrants to adopt American culture and values. I sometimes envy the rest of the world: Frenchmen, Mexicans, Germans and everybody else can have nations. They can have their own cultures, their own laws, their own distinctiveness, they can be themselves. But the great and good say that America's an idea -- and they render the idea meaningless because at bottom they think it's no big deal: that American rights are either the same or less than human rights, and that anybody and anything from anywhere can be an American.
Maybe One World is the way to go, but as for me, I want nothing of it. To me, America is not just an idea -- a set of vague principles that anybody, anyplace can subscribe to or join. America's bigger -- it's a nation -- entitled to its own culture and development, which should look to the welfare of its own citizens first. Unfortunately though, the forces making for McWorld are in the ascendant. For their own reasons, our own elites seem to want to join their foreign confreres in tying the American Gulliver down. We shouldn't let them.

The Shape of the Future

All sorts of good news. The political situation is moving from mildly alarming to moderately desparate. Ford's US sales fell 21 percent in September, and Christian conservative movers and shakers are talking about bolting the Republican Party to form a third party if the Republican candidate is "pro-abortion" -- i.e., if the GOP candidate is Rudolph Giuliani.
While the economy sinks, and the Christian wing of the Republican Party flirts with political suicide, Hillary Clinton looks more and more like the Evil Party's nominee: big business has evidently decided the Stupid Party is finished, and wants crumbs from Hillary's table, and the Government to relieve them of their health care and pension obligations.
With the nomination looking more and more wrapped up, Mrs. Clinton no longer has to worry so much about appealing rhetorically to the Democratic Party's loony Left. Far better, now, to start sounding moderate, and leave the shrillness to an increasingly desperate Obama and Edwards. The Leftism will keep for later. . .
So, President Rodham can decide on Oval Office furniture, and china patterns, and which of the Central Asian stans Vice-President Obama will visit first; and First Laddie Bill can began interviewing interns. The more interesting political question is no longer the White House, but the issue of whether the Republicans can hang on to 40 seats in the Senate.
Given the increasingly Done Deal nature of the next election, are the Democrats to be envied, or pitied ? Are we really going to see the radical policy departures that the liberals want ? Whatever moderate pablum Hillary pushes between now and election day -- you can be sure that the Lefty within will come out on 21 January 2009. But how much will it matter ? Will the Democrats be able to at last indulge themselves ? Brace for taxes on the rich (as long as they're Republican); more money for the global warming religion; for snail-darter mating research; and for sweeping legislation to protect the rights of whichever disadvantaged minority is then in vogue.
Will the Democrats get these wish-dreams, or will reality in the form of debt and powerful and more-or-less hostile foreign powers get them locked-in to much the same the same fiscal, defense and foreign policy positions that the Bush administration now takes ? Some of the world's other movers and shakers have their own ideas what the world should look like -- ideas that even Hillary might not like much.
I wonder what the gold market is looking like ? Seems like that might be worth some research.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lefty Frauds

A group of shifty Lefties, looking to weaken a Right-wing icon, are presently attacking Rush Limbaugh for supposedly denigrating the troops.
That's preposterous nonsense. Rush Limbaugh's commentary has always supported America and its military, and promoted American success in war. The Lefty canard du jour is to talk-up "support" of the troops; while doing everything possible to prevent the soldiers from winning. It is not possible to support the troops, without supporting American victory.
The calibre of a man can sometimes be determined by the enemies he has made. Mr. Limbaugh has the right enemies. Here's to Rush Limbaugh, and hoping he spits it right back at 'em, with interest.

I Hope She Cares

Some real news after all this talk about wackos at Columbia, volcanoes off Yemen, and protests in Burma: Britney Spears has lost custody of her children to her former hubby, Fed Ex.
I suppose the real question is: will she care ?