One post: Tenet's Tenet: A Lesser Brutus--The Home Front.
One post: Tenet's Tenet: A Lesser Brutus--The Home Front.
Comes this week ex-CIA Director George Tenet's book, yet another torpedo into the side of the Bush Administration. Gratitude is not reportedly in evidence, to the man who let a Democrat keep his job in 2001, and who awarded Tenet a completely undeserved Presidential Medal of Freedom for his awful CIA work (Iraq, said Tenet famously, was a "slam dunk") WMD case). I will not read Tenet's 500-plus page burst of literary flatulence: his C.Y.A. on his CIA tenure will no doubt prove nauseating. At least Tenet could have waited until Bush leaves office, but that surely would have meant less money from publishers eager to publish anti-Bush fare from high-ranking ex-officials.
Having not read the book, I restrict my comment to what was Tenet's worst instance of misconduct during his CIa tenure, for which there can be no exculpatory rationale: Tenet's refusal to stop the Joe Wilson?Valerie Plame affair dead in its tracks. He could have ascertained from the CIA general counsel's office within 24 hours that Spy Gal Val was not a covert agent within the meaning of applicable federal law, and thus prevented a CIA referral to the Justice Department, from which sprang the disastrous choice of Patrick Fitzgerald as special counsel and the consequent destruction of Scooter Libby's life and severe political damage to the boss that Tenet was sworn to serve. A CIA "dirty tricks" operation run to protect State and discredit Defense and the V-P's office is not in a CIA director's job description.
I am tempted to call Tenet Brutus, but Brutus's ambition to topple Julius Caesar was at least in part fueled by a belief in Rome's glory in self-governance and fear that Caesar had tarnished it with his vainglory. James Mason played Brutus in the great 1953 film of Shakespeare's classic. One doubts, were Mason alive today (d. 1984), that he would deign to stoop to playing Tenet in a movie, were one made involving Tenet. Tenet will have to settle for one of today's lesser luminaries. How about a rap artist?
Two posts: (1) Turkey: Will Generals Stop Islamists?--Weenie Watch; (2) An Italian Stiletto in America's Back--Weenie Watch.
The Kemalist Turkey we grew up knowing, if not loving, was a strong NATO member and a real ally of America. The Islamist Turkey that has emerged since 9/11 is neither. But there is hope. One observer sees a chance that if Islamism prevails in the upcoming elections in May, fate may take a hand, in the form of military intervention. Several times in the twentieth century the generals intervened to restore order, each time returning the country to democratic rule. They may need to do so this time to thwart democratic rule by an increasingly militant Islam. While the US would be required by protocol to issue a ritualistic denunciation of a military takeover for public consumption, privately the Administration should welcome it. A Turkey-maven reader of FTC informs me that if the generals do not act within two years it will be too late. He who hesitates....
Italian authorities are prosecuting an American soldier in absentia for the accidental shooting of an Italian intelligence agent two years ago in Iraq. Mario Lozano, a National Guardsman, has been charged by an Italian judge with two counts of attempted murder and one of murder, in the nighttime shooting of two Italians in a car that, according to American soldiers, failed to slow down as it approached a checkpoint. The driver was killed, and an Italian journalist wounded. The journalist, a communist, accuses the soldiers of deliberate intent. Rome officially disclaims murder, but blames us for stationing inexperienced soldiers at a sensitive checkpoint. Lozano defended his conduct, telling the New York Post: "If you hesitate, you come home in a box--and I didn't want to come home in a box. I did what any soldier would do in my position."
Verily. Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of this incident, arguably worse than those willing to believe that Americans would intentionally shoot innocent people, is that many Italians apparently think our military personnel have such poor marksmanship so that with automatic weapons they could miss two people at close range in a civilian vehicle. Is Italian marksmanship better?
3 posts: (1) IRAQ: Update Assessments--Us v.Them; (2) Israel's False Friend--Weenie Watch; (3) Russia: Reality and Us--Weenie Watch.
The Weekly Standard, whose coverage of Iraq is without peer among magazines, offers three detailed assessments of matters there: a 9-pager from LA Times columnist & author Max Boot on the military picture, a 6-pager from surge co-architect & AEI scholar Frederick W. Kagan on the impact of the surge and a 3-pager from AEI's Reuel Marc Gerecht on democracy. VERY worthwhile.
Caroline Glick sees Britain as Israel's pseudo-ally. She notes Britain's long history of anti-Israel acts and positions. A Briton recently taken hostage on the West Bank had a long record of anti-Israel bias, which did not save his hide (a Wall Street Journal editorial suggests he may be dead). In addition to the numerous acts Glick lists there is my favorite, which she omits: Having in 1947 supported partition of Palestine, after Jordan annexed the parts of the West Bank it acquired in the 1948 war the Arabs started, plus so-called "East" Jerusalem, Britain legally recognized King Abdullah's action. Only Pakistan, Britain's new nation-baby, followed suit. No one else did. Which is why "occupied" is the wrong adjective to apply to much of Israel's West Bank territory. Try "recovered" instead. Of course, as Zev Chafets recounts, British journalists have responded to this latest act of Palestinian piracy by boycotting goods from...Israel. And by blaming Israel for the start of the Hezbollah-Israel war in 2006. With "friends" like these....
Nicholas Gvosdev, a top policy expert on Russia, warns us not to over-indulge our public distaste for Vladimir Putin's anti-democratic ways. Putin remains hugely popular in Russia, and would win election to a third term were he eligible. Also, other leaders inside Russia are regarded with suspicion. The disgraced oligarchs, often lauded in the West, are hated inside Russia. Well worth a read. Equally worthwhile is Russia expert David Satter's assessment of Boris Yeltsin: a hero of democratic revolution who peacefully ended Communist rule, but a goat as well, who allowed oligarchs to pillage the country in the 1990s and thus destroy hopes for any flowering of truly liberal democracy in Russia for at least a generation. Anne Applebaum's portrait is less flattering but also excellent. Yeltsin, a tragic figure, was succeeded by Putin, a sinister one.
3 posts: (1) Medicare: Markets Making It--The Home Front; (2) Non-Scandal II: The US District Attorney Firings--The Home Front; (3) Abbott & Costello See the World--Class & Crass.
In 2003 the Bush Administration reluctantly swallowed a prescription drug entitlement, hugely popular with seniors. The Wall Street Journal's astute Kimberly Strassel recounts that the Administration chose a market reform that is now also hugely popular with seniors, but not with the Democrats. The result: more choices for seniors, and at lower prices. Whether a Democratic Congress can kill success before it becomes a model for future health care reform and a 2008 issue remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
NRO's Byron York has the lowdown on the pseudo-scandal ginned up by Democrats: the firing of eight federal DAs. That A-G Gonzales was clumsy is beyond dispute. But as York shows convincingly, most notably in the most hyped case of all, the firing of Carol Lam out in California, there were genuine reasons to cashier her, independent of politics. Federal (and state, too) DA appointments are all political. Only if a specific investigation is short-circuited for political reasons does genuine scandal arise. Such is not the case here. NRO's Rich Lowry thinks Schumer is paranoid. Like a fox.
What makes this kerfuffle so appalling is that there are enough real issues so as to leave much room for the Democrats. That they play on this exposes the hollow core of their opposition, which has been reduced to a Great White Whale hunt for political scalps. Chief among the target whales is, of course, Karl Rove, whose career in politics is drawing to a close. Rove is hardly the ogre he has been painted as being, but even were he, in the midst a war of survival far better priorities exist in abundance.
In one area the Democrats do have a point, one apparently now shared by key Republican senators aghast at the disastrous performance by Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales at last week's hearing on the firings. Gonzales professed to know little, said he trusted his senior team, and admitted to incompetence. To which Republican Senator Tom Coburn, Oklahoma stalwart, opined that Gonzales should walk the plank, like the 8 DAs did. Coburn is right. Evasion, incompetence and stupidity are not enough to make the firings a scandal, but they are enough to call for change at the top of Justice.
Here is a YouTube version of the Condi-Bush "Hu's on First" routine. It has a few twists that the e-mail version sent out a few years back doesn't have. So enjoy two fun minutes in these most unfunny times.
April 25, 2007 in Class & Crass: Culture Vultures; Vultures' Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)
One post: 2008: Will America's Political Civil War End?--The Home Front.
R. Emmett Tyrrell's latest book, The Clinton Crack-Up (Thomas Nelson Books 2007) places the Clintons, once more with feeling (and also acuity plus the sharp Tyrrell wit), under the microscope and concludes that the 2008 election, with Hillary perhaps the leading contender for the Democratic Presidential nod, will once and for all resolve the intra-generation fratricidal political war within the Baby Boom (b. 1946 - 1964) cohort.
Tyrrell's book chronicles not only the lowlights of the Clinton years in Arkansas and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but also carries the story through the 2006 re-election of Hillary as junior Senator from New York. Bill has continued bed-hopping and added money-grubbing to his repertoire since leading office. Hillary, by contrast, has been generally dignified as she has risen more rapidly to Senatorial prominence than anyone since Lyndon Johnson. But she has had relapse moments, like this hilarious 45-second video on YouTube, which shows her in full First-Lady mode.
Having now written four tomes on the Clintons (two on Hill, one on Bill and now this book), the author is perhaps better qualified than anyone to lead us through the wreckage of their lives. Like Tom and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, the Clintons break things--not merely vases, lamps and plates, but also people and careers. Indeed Tyrrell's own magazine, The American Spectator, which he founded in 1967 and built into a top-drawer conservative voice, was targeted for extinction by the Clinton Justice Department in 1998 for allegedly using a slush fund to fund articles aimed at discrediting the President with false accusations. In fact, the probe was dropped after a year, with nothing proven, but not before the magazine's offices had twice been burgled, plus a New York residence of Tyrrell's. Few have survived an encounter with the Clinton Mafia, composed of a gaggle of lowlife investigators, hit-team journalists and political hacks. Everything Tyrrell printed about the Clintons turned out to be, alas for the dignity of the Oval Office and its then-occupant, in fact true.
On 2008 Tyrrell opines that the campaign will prove the final Armageddon encounter that come Judgment Day, November 4, will once and for all resolve the red-blue war between the bi-coastal Baby Boomer elite and the heartland Boomers, who clung to traditional values while the coasts turned on, tuned in and dropped out--until going on to lucrative careers. These Tyrrell labels Coat and Tie Radicals, who stood in stark contrast to the traditional values exemplified by Marilyn Quayle in her speech at the 1992 Republican convention, in which she said that many Americans, like her, embraced the credo of their parents, and reject "destroying America in order to save it."
Two years ago I would have agreed with Tyrrell that 2008 would be just this kind of election. But two things have come to pass since then that, in my view, have upset the stage. First, the unraveling of President Bush's second term has ended the chance for a massive conservative realignment anytime soon. Second, the sudden emergence of Barack Obama's candidacy has separated liberal antiwar insurgents from Hillary's support base, and made possible thwarting her bid for the nomination. Obama is a Generation X candidate who talks in post-Boomer Newspeak.
The 2008 election thus now appears to me to be the Dukakis Election twenty years delayed. In 1988 Democratic Governor-nominee Michael Dukakis famously said: "This election is not about ideology; it's about competence." But Bush Senior, in a brilliant campaign directed by the late Lee Atwater, carried the banner of ideological conservatism to victory at the polls, using (a) the Willie Horton crime issue (first raised, incidentally, by Al Gore in the primaries), and (b) the flag (plus the disastrous video of Dukakis tooling around in an M-1 Abrams tank looking like a perfect target). Dukakis, self-cast as the cool, managerially-adept technocrat, fumbled away his last chance when he was asked during a Presidential debate (by CNN's Bernard Shaw) what he would do were his wife raped and murdered. To which the Duke replied on national TV that he would alert law enforcement authorities to pursue the matter. Middle American wives felt chalk screeching on the blackboard, and the Duke was history.
That noted, the Duke's "competence, not ideology" refrain rings true for 2008. The ability to manage the huge, complex dinosaur that is the federal government bids fair to dominate the 2008, race, in the wake of the managerial train-wreck of Bush Junior: the mess in Iraq, Katrina (though the locals were even worse), Social Security reform implosion, the hapless Gonzales Justice Department, the internecine warriors at CIA, the capture of two Secretaries of State by Foggy Bottom bureaucrats deeply hostile to the Bush foreign policy agenda, a near-disaster Supreme Court pick barely headed off by a revolt within his party base, and Presidential Medals of Freedom, no less, given to certain recipients who gravely wounded the Bush Administration (i.e., Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer and CIA chief George Tenet, who called Iraqi WMD "a slam dunk"and allowed the Valerie Plame mess to spin out of control).
But that is the future, and perhaps Tyrrell's "end of civil war" scenario will be proven right, after all. Best of all in his lively book is a wonderful surprise nugget from the author: His great-great grandfather, Patrick D. Tyrrell, who came to America from Dublin, ultimately became chief of the Chicago office of the Secret Service. In the author's library, under a picture of Abraham Lincoln, hangs a tribute to P.D. Tyrrell, dated April 14, 1887, from Robert Todd Lincoln. (April 14, 1887 was exactly 22 years after Lincoln's assassination at Ford's theater in Washington, DC.) Guarding Lincoln during the Civil War years must have been quite a trial, but at least P.D. Tyrrell never had to worry about White House interns and road groupies chasing (and being chased by) Mr. Lincoln.
3 posts: (1) "It's Whose Economy Stupid?"--"It's the Earth, Stupid!"; (2) Darfur--Death By Dithering--Turtle Bay Tortoise; (3) Gun Control: Inconvenient Truths--The Home Front.
The (in)famous Clinton 1992 campaign featured Imus-clone Jame's Carville's slogan: "It's the economy, stupid!" That the economy had been growing for seven consecutive quarters after a mild six-month recession did not save Bush the Elder, partly due to his breaking his "Read my lips: no new taxes!" campaign pledge. The 2008 campaign will feature Democrats harking back to the Goldilocks economy of the 1990s under Hillary's husband, whilst condemning the years under Bush the Younger.
But ace economist Brain Wesbury compares this decade with the last, and notes differences, among them three huge changes: (1) Clinton took office after a minor recession had ended, whereas Bush II took office shortly before a recession began; (2) Clinton had the post-Cold War "peace dividend", whereas Bush II had 9/11; (3) Clinton enjoyed oil prices as low as $10 per barrel, whereas Bush II has seen oil prices as high as $70. Wesbury has more, in a well-done analysis.
Proponents of making the UN primary enforcer of global order should read the latest Wall Street Journal editorial detailing how UN dithering facilitates genocide in Darfur, as it did in the 1990s in the Balkans. Security Council permanent members China and Russia oppose stronger action, and France and the UK dawdle. Only the US tries to push the UN to act more boldly, for which it gets zero credit. If you need help, do not look to the Turtle Bay Tooth Fairy (unless you seek to commit genocide against a politically incorrect people--lay off the Palestinians).
James Q. Wilson, co-creator of the "broken-windows" theory of policing that Rudy Giuliani rode to crime-busting success in NYC, offers a crisp mini-seminar on gun control's ineffectiveness. He also nails European critics: England totally banned guns in 1996, and gun crimes have soared since. You are safer in the US than in England, France, even in pacific Sweden. An excellent read.
5 posts: (1) McCain's Unchained (Iran) Melody--The Home Front; (2) IRAN: Mullah Justice--Us v. Them; (3) Virginia Tech: The Law's Tangled Web--The Home Front; (4) PBS & Islam: The 12th Program--The Home Front; (5) Kitty Carlisle Hart: Exit NYC's Classiest Act--Class & Crass.
Yesterday in South Carolina, John McCain sang his impromptu lyric rewrite of the 1961 hit by the Regents (not by, as Drudge erroneously posted, the Beach Boys), Barbara Ann, which begins: "Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Barbara Ann...." Sang McCain: "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran...." Not Ira Gershwin, but not rap lyrics either. Iran's leaders, who probably are not familiar with the Regents, are now more familiar with how one Presidential candidate feels about their nuclear program.
Which gives us something to sing about. Well most of us, but probably not Queen Barbra of Streisand, who would no doubt prefer to sing to Iran's leaders the first line of the jazz song (repeating the title line) so memorably recorded by Joe Williams with the Count Basie Orchestra: "All right, OK, you win."
Meanwhile, just nine days after Iran's Hitler-aspirant President proclaimed Iran's first "Nuclear Day" the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have confirmed by actual observation that Iran, which until recently only had 328 acknowledged centrifuges, now has 1,3000 up and running, nearly half the 3,000 needed to start producing weapons-grade uranium. Which brings to mind the first line of another song, 'Til We Meet Again, played at the end of Stanley Kubrick's brilliant Dr. Strangelove (1963) as mushroom clouds proliferate on screen: "'Til we meet again, don't know where, don't know when...."
The New York Times reports that the Iranian Supreme Court has exonerated six Islamist killers, members of an elite vigilante force supported by Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the killing of five victims for offenses against Islam. One couple engaged to be married were walking together in public, for which they were murdered. Vigilantes may target anyone they deem "morally corrupt", a category that covers such crimes as adultery and insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Mistaken killings require that the killer, though justly motivated, pay an indemnity: $40,000 for killing a Muslim by mistake, $20,000 for killing a non-Muslim.
I have resisted posting anything on the numbing horror of the massacre at week's beginning, partly because I could think of nothing original to say, and partly because words fail me. But a New York Times article covers one crucial aspect of the problems confronting university administrators: the tangled web of legal constraints that can easily paralyze officials on campus. Thus, privacy laws bar administrators from notifying parents of a student's mental illness without first obtaining the student's consent. A university has been found liable for damages when it barred a student who had been hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Another college settled a lawsuit brought by a student it had suspended for depression. Yet a university that failed to bar a student whose writings indicated depression found itself settling a huge wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a victim the depressed student had killed on campus.
Laws are supposed to provide clear boundaries for those making decisions. But clear boundaries inevitably run afoul of the hard case where the result is thought somehow too unjust to permit. So boundaries are eroded, or erased. Or too many fences are set up, with signs pointing in opposite directions. The result is predictable: administrative paralysis. Thus the price of the pursuit of perfect justice for all is often no justice for anyone.
This week PBS has been running an 11-part series on Islam, overseas and in America, which concludes with two hours this evening. I attended a preview hosted by PBS last week, and saw clips from all episodes. The big April storm whose high winds hit DC Sunday evening knocked out my satellite dish, so I have been TV-free most of this week. Judging by the preview it appears that the series is a sincere PBS effort to present a serious, complex portrait of Islam's votaries, in America and overseas. (I did see last night's episode on Indonesia, the world most populous Muslim country. It seemed solid enough, in capturing myriad cross-currents within Indonesian Islam, and also those between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples in the country.) One program, however, produced with a major role for ex-Scoop Jackson staffer and Center for Security Policy founder Frank Gaffney, was dropped form the original PBS plan. It may yet be aired later.
Frank, a stalwart defender of America and staunch foe of militant Islam, feels that Islam and Islamists was dropped for political reasons. Weekly Standard editor Sonny Bunch argues in a 5-pager that the dispute is one in good faith. In the event, the article presents lots of fascinating background on how the series got produced. Here's hoping that Frank Gaffney's film makes it, eventually, to PBS, in a version that meets with his approval. It is an important topic that Americans should learn more about.
As evidence of this, when moderate Muslims meeting in st. Petersburg, Florida adopted the St. Petersburg Declaration, espousing moderate Muslim principles, what was the reaction of the Council on American-Islamic Relations? CAIR--one of the organizations Frank Gaffney warns us about, and which President Bush believes to be moderate--condemned the summit as one driven by "neoconservatives" and "Israeli intelligence." Here's another gem: The two leading Arabic textbooks used to teach the language on American campuses do not teach the Arabic word for "Israel."
The New York Times gives details of the remarkable life that ended Tuesday at 96, that of Kitty Carlisle Hart. The photo accompanying the obituary shows a gorgeous 92-year-old woman. Her most famous role was in the Marx Brothers romp, A Night at the Opera, in which she fought for, and won, the right to sing her song instead of dubbing it. She was sufficiently glamorous and charming to have had George Gershwin, among others, propose to her, but she married playwright Moss Hart in 1946; Hart died in 1961. The fascinating rest you can read in the times obit. But I have three personal memories of her.
In my youth Kitty Carlisle Hart was a TV celebrity on game shows, more intelligent and charming than anyone else. In 1974 I met her at a cocktail party, where also in attendance was Bess Myerson. I had come from a recital by the legendary Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz, and in my youthful enthusiasm wanted to tell everyone about it. I made the mistake of trying to chat with Myerson, also a game show veteran (1945's Miss America, a New York A-list celebrity then, and a pianist of sorts) who seemed so charming when I watched TV in the 1960s. She blew me off instantly and rudely. I tried again, this time with Hart. She was happy to chat with me, and made me feel right at home. That I was a nobody seeking to talk to a star mattered to her not at all. To her, I was a person. Finally, in September 2005, I went to Feinstein's, the NYC nightclub, with my mother and my older brother, to hear Hart sing. At 95 she was full of energy, and sang impeccably, told grand tales from her storied past and looked absolutely exquisite.
Kitty Carlisle Hart was, above all, NYC's ultimate class act. Gone with her is the elegant world of NYC's finest artistic years, never again to be duplicated. She outlived George Gershwin (who died July 11, 1937) by nearly 70 years. With her passes the surpassing beauty and elegance that the Gershwin brothers celebrated so unforgettably in song.
April 20, 2007 in Class & Crass: Culture Vultures; Vultures' Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)
4 posts: (1) IRAQ Withdrawal: The Lebanon Prequel--Us v. Them; (2) Saddam's Stateside Spies--9/11, 3/11 & N/11; (3) Unbrotherly Love: The Muslim Brotherhood--Weenie Watch; (4) Gitmo goes Hollywood--The Home Front.
Here is an excellent recap of the baleful consequences of America's 1984 withdrawal from Lebanon, which purchased short-term political peace and long-term terror attacks. Iraq War doves, take note.
The Detroit Free Press reports that two Michigan men have been charged with spying on Iraqi dissidents living in the US, and providing info on them and on folks inside Iraq to Saddam. Dissidents were thus targeted for possible assassination, and exiles who might help US forces inside Iraq were also fingered. And a Chicago jury on Monday convicted an exile of living in the US as a "sleeper" agent for Saddam.
Astute Hudson Institute analyst Zeyno Buran warns that the Muslim Brotherhood, even if not as bad as al-Qai'da, is not so moderate as oft portrayed. In Europe the MB promotes "voluntary apartheid," by which Muslim communities seek to live as separate Bantustans within Western countries, governed by Shar'ia law exclusively.
A TV show, Criminal Minds, portrays the tough interrogation tactics used by the CIA at Gitmo--denial of prayer books unless the detainees cooperate, withholding food, etc. except, as this piece explains, the CIA eschews this stuff at Gitmo. Hollywood out-toughs our Gitmo interrogators.
5 posts: (1) Suicide Obama-er--The Home Front; (2) Are We Failing Muslim Moderates?--The Home Front; (3) Nancy of Arabia: Mideast Media Grades--The Home Front; (4) The (Tax) Earth is Flattening--The Home Front; (5) Tale of Two Protests--Weenie Watch.
Barack, we hardly knew ye. Here are imbecilities Barack Obama uttered after the hideous slaughter at Virginia Tech, as to other forms of "violence" in American society (the blog is all in italics; Obama's remarks are in quote marks):
There's also another kind of violence that we're going to have to think about. It's not necessarily the physical violence, but the violence that we perpetrate on each other in other ways," he said, and goes on to catalogue [sic] other forms of "violence."
There's the "verbal violence" of Imus.
There's "the violence of men and women who have worked all their lives and suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them because their job is moved to another country."
There's "the violence of children whose voices are not heard in communities that are ignored,"
And so, Obama says, "there's a lot of different forms of violence in our society, and so much of it is rooted in our incapacity to recognize ourselves in each other."
"Barack" (skip the spelling issues) means "lightning" in Hebrew. This was a (verbal) lightning strike if ever there was one.
Ex-Muslim Daveed Gartenstein-Ross thinks so. He sees three problems: (1) few moderates who do speak out are acknowledged by non-Muslims for so doing; (2) Muslim moderates who disagree on policy issues are spurned (the reference here seems to be to to pro-Palestinian Muslims who themselves are not terrorist sympathizers, but simply leftists); (3) failure to defend moderate Muslims. Ross's piece definitely merits a look.
Nancy Pelosi's Mideast jaunt received mixed Mideast notices due in part to its sowing confusion as to just what America's Mideast policy is, and as to who is making it. Which is precisely what Nancy wanted--and our troops over there did not want.
A Wall Street Journal editorial notes that the Czech Republic has become the 14th country on the planet to embrace the flat tax, of which 10 are in Eastern Europe. The others: Hong Kong, Iceland, Mongolia and, get this, Kyrgyzistan. So, America lags, among other nations, a "stan" country in tax policy.
Anne Applebaum compares positive views held here re dissenters in Russia with more negative perceptions in the States as to protesters in the Ukraine. Unlike Russia, headed away from liberal democracy, Ukraine is halting stumbling towards it. Applebaum is at her best on issues like this.
5 posts: (1) IRAN: Tales of Past and Present--Us v. Them; (2) Ronald Reagan Only Dies Twice--The Home Front; (3) Duke: Put Up Legal Dukes?--The Home Front; (4) Arsenal of 21st Century America--The Home Front; (5) IMUS: Once More, With Feeling--Class & Crass.
Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland's latest column offers interesting history on Iran's dealings with the US and UK, plus an optimistic take on sanctions still being possible. Always well-informed and insightful, his piece merits a read.
David Frum, an astute political analyst, sees that the Reagan Revolution is over. His proof: Mitt Romney sags in polls, having chosen to run as Reagan's ideological heir, rather than on his pragmatic record of superior managerial accomplishment. Frum's take seems on the mark.
Ace defense lawyer Roy Black gives a short course on prosecutorial immunity as applied to the Duke lacrosse team rape case. Prosecutors do enjoy absolute immunity as to their actions and words in court, and in dealing with the court, but such immunity doesn't cover deliberate suppression of or falsification of evidence, nor does it cover dealings with the media. A very crisp, informative piece worth a read.
Read this article on General Atomics, a whiz-bang company that makes the famous Predator killer drone, and many other neat things that will help us kill the bad guys. The NY Times throws in the usual political stuff, but still it is worth a read.
April 17, 2007 in Class & Crass: Culture Vultures; Vultures' Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)
3 posts: (1) Tax Day: Cooking the Books--The Home Front; (2) North Korea: We Blink Yet Again--Us v. Them; (3) IRAQ: Surge Architect Answers Joe Biden--Us v. Them.
On every American's unfavorite day (well, excepting the 40+ million who pay no income tax), it is well to reflect on the Alice-in-Wonderland world of federal budgeting that both parties live in. Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper, a Democrat, gives a short list that includes such nuggets as the non-existent Social Security trust fund, the humongous share of the budget devoted to entitlements, the "continuing resolution" band-aid budgets presented as part of a five-year plan and the federal government's refusal to apply Generally Accepted Accounting Principles to its operations.
There is, of course, excellent reason why Congress ignores GAP: the understandable desire of 535 men and women to stay out of jail. The coming entitlements train wreck was, alas, eminently avoidable, and at modest cost. There were two opportunities: the first Reagan term and the second Clinton term.
In 1981 Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, proposed to cut (from 80 to 55 percent of Social Security benefits) the early retirement payment, given that its trust fund was due to run out in 1982, as it did that summer. A firestorm erupted, led by Claude "Mr. Social Security" Pepper and Speaker Tip "All politics is local" O'Neil, who, aided by inflammatory media coverage, stampeded seniors. The seniors were under the delusion that they merely received what they had paid in, a fantasy the media did nothing to disabuse them of; a 1981 study by economist James Capra of the new York Federal Reserve showed that in fact the typical Social Security recipient then got all monies paid in back within 16 months. Not that immediate benefits need have been cut. Simply by creating IRAs for those who wanted them, and re-indexing payments to prices instead of wages, presto: problem solved within a generation. The youngest baby boomer's were still in high school, and the oldest still under 40.
Enter Clinton, at the start of his second term, with a roaring stock market and spreading share ownership, Clinton at the height of his popularity, at 50 the same age as the oldest boomer, with the youngest boomer's under 35. It was the perfect time for a democratic President to do a domestic "Nixon-to-China" and reform entitlements: welfare, Medicare and Social Security, as family pocketbook change goes down much easier in good times. Clinton was dragged into welfare reform after having vetoed two bills--the second having passed the Senate with 35 Democratic votes, after his political guru, Dick Morris, warned that he would lose the 1996 election unless he kept his 1992 campaign promise to "end welfare as we know it." So Clinton signed the third bill. but he deep-sexed his own Medicare Commission reforms, and ignored Social Security, preferring to play electoral politics on an issue where voters prefer Democrats.
Comes now George Bush the Second. The youngest boomers are now over 40, and the oldest will collect their first checks in a few years (age 67). A fix will be so painful as to make it politically impossible. Barring an economic miracle, there will be a train wreck. In the game of political musical chairs being played, no one knows which party's President will be in the White House when the #&*% hits the fan. Thank you, Mr. Pepper, Tip, Mr. Bill and the media.
But there is good news. Probable GOP Presidential entrant Fred Thompson reminds us that the Bush tax cuts spurred economic growth and increased Treasury revenues, exactly as promised. Still, the looming entitlement debacle should have us hold the champagne.
North Korea has a perfect record in negotiations: duplicity, reneging and blackmail. So last week Foggy Bottom answered Pyongyang's perfidy by releasing $25 million in funds North Korea reaped from criminal enterprise. Nonpareil journalist Claudia Rosett adds her take on the cave-in, noting that North Korea pledges to use the $25 million for "educational and humanitarian purposes." No one can say that Pyongyang lacks a sense of humor. And now North Korea has (surprise!) missed the 60-day deadline for shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor it agreed to on February 13 (the deadline was yesterday, April 15). In response Foggy Bottom has (no surprise) given the North an extra few days to come into compliance. After they fail to do so, expect more carrots to be offered.
AEI scholar Frederick W. Kagan cogently answers Senator Biden's pessimistic appraisal re Iraq, posted last week on LFTC.
6 posts: (1) Will McCain's Magic Moment Prove Tragic Too?--The Home Front; (2) Fog in Iraq; Fog at Foggy Bottom--Weenie Watch; (3) Ship Container Scans: Good (Nuke) News--9/11, 3/11 & N/11; (4) Momentous May--Weenie Watch; (5) Belgium Goes Medieval!--Cyber-Serendip; (6) Memoirs of a Mensch--Class & Crass.
As this Wall Street Journal editorial says, John McCain is, if nothing else, unwavering in his determination to do what he sees as right to protect the country he loves so much, politics be damned. This is McCain at his finest. For it he gets disdain from the mainstream media (MSM) types. As NRO notes, MSM's affection for him was based upon cheering McCain at his worst: the fits that McCain during the Bush II years gave conservatives, on issues like campaign finance reform and global warming. On Fox News, Henry Kissinger endorsed McCain, while also expressing admiration for Rudy Giuliani. David Brooks argues that McCain's Iraq steadfastness may not hurt him, and that on Election Day the Mideast's broader disarray will be the issue, not the surge.
McCain proposes to put to the electorate a proposition that it no longer wishes to hear, one that was a consensus view a few short years ago: In Iraq, failure is not an option. Here is the text of his magnificent April 11 speech at VMI. If McCain's candidacy goes down to defeat, his heroism will be tragic once again, as it was when in Vietnam he endured unspeakable abuse to serve his country's interest at the expense of his own health. But give McCain the last word, from his VMI speech:
Our defeat in Iraq would constitute a defeat in the war against terror and extremism and would make the world a much more dangerous place. The enemies we face there harbor the same depraved indifference to human life as those who killed three thousand innocent Americans on a September morning in 2001. A couple of days before I arrived in Baghdad, a suicide car bomb destroyed a large, busy marketplace. It was a bit unusual, because new U.S. and Iraqi security measures in Baghdad have reduced the number of car bomb attacks. But this time the terrorists had a new tactic: they drove their car to a security checkpoint and were waved through because there were two small children in the back seat. The terrorists then walked away from the car, leaving the children inside it, and triggered the explosion. If the terrorists are willing to do this terrible thing to Iraqi children, what are they willing to do to our children?
Some argue the war in Iraq no longer has anything to do with us; that it is a hopelessly complicated mess of tribal warfare and sectarian conflict. The situation is complex, and very difficult. Yet from one perspective it is quite simple. We are engaged in a basic struggle: a struggle between humanity and inhumanity; between builders and destroyers. If fighting these people and preventing the export of their brand of radicalism and terror is not intrinsic to the national security and most cherished values of the United States, I don't know what is.
The State Department, reports nonpareil journalist Robert Kaplan, seems determined to bungle every task entrusted to it inside Iraq. It works like this. First, FB sends people over to Iraq. Second, FB then handcuffs them so that they cannot perform their mission, by confining them to base. Third, dedicated personnel somehow manage to get into the field, aided by (naturally) the American military, and they accomplish something constructive. Fourth, then they return and try to explain to FB bureaucrats what went wrong and how to fix it, asking for resources to do so. Fifth, they cannot get air time with serious FB officials who could actually implement new policy. Thus does failure persist while success proves transitory.
The weather is equally foggy in Iraq, if one believes the latest report by the ever-compelling, ever-poetic Fouad Ajami. Sunnis are coming to terms with the need to put aside centuries of anti-Shia hatred and a sense of perpetual Sunni entitlement to rule. But Sunni Arab states sit idly by, and security hangs in the balance, as American forces fight against time to leave behind a passably stable, non-terror state. Author and LA Times columnist Max Boot confirms how much fog there is inside Iraq, and why any reports that purport to generalize should be greeted skeptically. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), a serious war critic all along, writes that bad news outweighs the good.
Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office announced that a new generation of nuclear scanners is expected to be ready for installation at up to 400 ports and borders by year-end. Three firms are testing competing models. The target: ramp up to be able to inspect 98 percent of shipping containers coming in, by year-end.