September 27, 2002

I THINK IT'S TIME

the Republicans call it like it is, and blast away at the Dems for holding up the vote on Homeland Security, and for lying about what the President said about that debate earlier this week. To recap, the President tweaked the Dem-controlled Senate (not the Dems by name, just the Senate) for holding up creating DoHS to clear up the issue of unionizing that department. The GOP doesn't want DoHS unionized, the Dems do. Here's why the President and the GOP don't want the new department, which will have the responsibility of finding and stopping terrorists on US soil, unionized:

Also Thursday, [Texas Senator Phil] Gramm produced what he said was ammunition to bolster his claim that allowing a union presence in the new department would hurt homeland security because of the inherent difficulty in firing and reassigning union-protected workers. Gramm personally delivered to reporters a complaint filed by the National Treasury Employees Union against the Customs Service for failing to enter into negotiations with the union when President Bush changed the terror-meter from code yellow to code orange in response to increased terror threats.

Gramm said it proved his point that the war on terror should not involve negotiations or collective bargaining when the nation is threatened.


I ask you, is this what we want--to have to negotiate with union bosses every time the President makes some little change in the threat status, or re-fit the department to meet a morphing threat? No--it will tie the nation's hands and make us less safe. Further, the majority of workers who will fall under DoHS are, as of this minute, not unionized. The Dems are trying to create more union employees, and are holding up creating a vital agency to do it.

In holding up DoHS, the Dems are doing exactly what President Bush said they are: putting national security second to party interest groups. Without union contributions, the Dems don't have a cash cow--unionizing DoHS will put more money into their campaign coffers. But the Dems don't want that particular argument to carry the day, so they've twisted the President's words, trying to make it look like he's politicizing Iraq. They've gone from misunderstanding his words to openly, intentionally and with malice aforethought lying. For example, this op-ed by House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is one of the most dishonest pieces the NY Times has published in a while, and that's saying something. Gephardt knowingly conflates the President's admonition to get the DoHS debate done as quickly as possible with the debate over Iraq. Gephardt knows that President Bush's DoHS statement had nothing to do with Iraq. He's slipping it in to deceive the reader--he's lying. The title of his op-ed, "Defend the Country, Not the Party," is appropriate, but Gephardt and his cronies are the ones who need that advice, not the President.

So it's time that the GOP call it like it is: the Dems are trying to distract from their sullen silence, and their lack of anything of substance to offer, by lying about the President's statement, and are therefore themselves politicizing the war. It's a disgusting display going on in Washington right now. The Democrats should be ashamed, if their shame hadn't already been wrung out of them during the previous administration. The GOP should call them on what they're doing. We have a war to fight of which the DoHS will be a vital part, and with this week's actions, the Dems are weakening the cause to curry favor with special interests. There are no two ways about it.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

TOM CRUISE AND STEVEN SPEILBERG

back Bush on the war.
UPDATE: Speilberg claims his statement was taken out of context--apparently he doesn't support the war, or at least hasn't said that he does. Sigh.
Posted by B. Preston at 08:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 26, 2002

I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY

: I know how shocking that must seem. I post often, maybe too often, about all sorts of stuff. But tonight, I just don't think I can add much to the grand debate.

That would make me every bit as relevant as the average Senate Democrat, wouldn't it. What a bunch of titty-babies the Dems are turning out to be. They've chosen for the past generation or so to ignore foreign policy so they can concentrate on taking your tax dollars and my tax dollars and that guy's tax dollars and put them in a big pile, to be divied up between lots of people who aren't paying that much taxes themselves. It's a nice little scheme most of the time, because most of the time US foreign policy amounts to refereeing elections in Eritrea and trying to crack open the microchip market in Mongolia. But now, foreign policy is just about the only thing that matters, and most of the Dems have so little connection to it that they just don't have anything intelligent to say. So they whine, and accuse the president of politicizing the war by talking about a policy debate over the org charts of the Department of Homeland Security. Not all of them whine, of course. I caught Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr on Fox tonight. He's a Dem, and seems to be a fairly bright one, and had lots of good things to say about foreign policy. But he's not a party leader. If he keeps talking like he did tonight, he never will be. Most of them seem caught in a no-man's land of their own making, and they seem to sense that their choices are few. I am starting to think, deep down, that the Dems are so squeamish about the war because they just don't understand what's going on. They don't get the big picture, or the nature of the enemy, or the precarious position that we really are in right now. They certainly don't understand the broad effects a war can have. For instance, the Dem line on the economy right now is that it's weak because Bush's economic policies are bad. They seem to not recognize that our economy took a huge hit a little over a year ago, when our financial nexus was blown to bits. That day also, secondarily, devastated the airline industry, which is key to the flow of business people and money around the country. That sort of thing has an economic, as well as personal and political, effect--9-11 staggered our economy, which had been weakening since early 2000. The Dems either don't get that, or want to deny it so that they can score political points against the president and get the tax cut killed without actually having to make a case against it. Am I accusing the Dems of politicizing the war? Yes, to an extent, I am. Either that or economic ignorance, take your pick.

The other lefty Dem line is that we're not doing enough to rebuild Afghanistan. They may have a point there, but not in the way that they intend. I think that we should do more, and build more, to help drag Afghanistan to within a couple of centuries of the rest of the world. But that's going to take time, and money, and will force some hard choices on the Dems: Do you want to fund the war and help civilize our enemies, or keep creating new government entitlements that we'll be paying for long after every one currently in Congress is dead? If they want to see Afghanistan turned around, they may have to give up some of their pet pork for a while--because they dare not underfund the military or our intelligence agencies right now. And in any case, the carping about Afghanistan is laughably premature. How long did it take us to rebuild Japan and Europe, a decade? Longer? We've been in Afghanistan less than a year. As Rome wasn't built in a day, neither will Afghanistan be rebuilt in a day. Give it time, people.

I also caught Neil Bush on Fox tonight, talking about how we over-diagnose ADD and therefore over-presribe ritalin to children in this country. He's soooo right about that. Like the Bush family, my own has had a passing encounter with the ritalin candy machine, and also like the Bush family, mine sought to get to the bottom of it rather than just go along with drugging up a smart child. Turned out that the teacher who first "diagnosed" the ADD was just a lousy teacher and didn't know how to handle a bright little boy. The kid got assigned to a new teacher, and the "behavior problem" magically went away. Oddly, the kid hadn't had a problem before his time in that bad teacher's class. I know it's politically incorrect to say this, but there are lots of bad teachers in American schools. There are also lots of good ones, but I doubt that the good ones make up the majority. The good ones usually turn out to make good managers, because they know how to handle all kinds of people, and therefore usually get kicked upstairs to become administrators, department heads, principals and the like. Which leaves the bad teachers in the classroom longer, on average, than the good ones. These bad teachers, well the really bad ones, probably don't know how to handle their own kids, let alone a couple dozen of somebody else's kids all at one time. Ritalin is their magic bullet. Who knows what kind of monsters we're creating, drugging kids into a stupor when they should be annoyingly energetic and wildly creative. And yes, I do have a kid of my own. Too young yet to have faced a ritalin pusher, fortunately.

The reason I watched Hannity and Colmes on Fox tonight is that they kept saying Geraldo had just returned from the war zone, and had proof that Usama is still alive. As someone who's been saying "Usama's dead" since February, I was keenly interested in Geraldo's proof. Turns out, he doesn't have any. He just speculated that, because there was a 36-hour cease fire in the middle of the Tora Bora battle, Usama could've escaped to Pakistan. Well, duh. Who didn't know that by now? I certainly knew it, yet I'm convinced that Usama has expired because the rest of the evidence--his silence, the faked tape made to "proove" he's still alive, and so forth--leads to that conclusion. Sure, it's possible that Usama is still alive. But Geraldo offered no proof. I hate when the news nets do that. In tv parlance, it's called a "tease"--you build up the upcoming material to keep viewers with you past the next commercial. But in reality it's lying. The tease said Geraldo would prove that Usama is still alive, but he had no such proof. I'm not blaming Geraldo, by the way. Fox's promo department put that together, and should be ashamed of themselves.

To switch gears completely, I don't like Ikea's furniture much, but I love their new "unboring" ad campaign. The one with the forlorn lamp is so well done--by Hollywood director Spike Jonze--that it's actually a well-made little film. The visual storytelling is great--the camera angles, shot composition, the contrast between the rainy sidewalk and the warm, cozy upstairs apartment, the music. And the odd guy at the end telling you that you're crazy for pitying the lamp is vaguely frightening, but refreshing in a weird way. For years, we've had Disney ram home the idea that all our toys and stuff are secretly conscious when we're not looking (see Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Buzz Lightyear, even Pinnochio, though I guess they can hardly be blamed for making a great movie of a fairy tale). Ikea's "unboring" ads drive the point that a lamp's just a lamp--you don't like the one you have, get a new one that suits you better. It's one of the most sane ads I've seen in a long, long time. And the first time you see it, the Swede comes out of nowhere and is a total surprise. Hollywood has a hard time really surprising me these days, so it's nice when they manage it. Will "unboring" make me buy something at Ikea? Not likely. I go there once in while, but I generally think their stuff looks cheap. Or "unquality."

Well, I've said a lot of stuff for a guy with nothing to say, haven't I.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

FRANKENCANDIDATE: POLITICIZING WAR BEFORE IT WAS A LEFTY FASHION TREND

: Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson recalls how then-Senator Al Gore decided to support Gulf War I:

"The Gulf War vote was pretty serious business. I can't think of anyone who didn't have a lump in his or her throat while weighing the situation: 500,000 American troops already deployed; Saddam Hussein promising 'the mother of all battles'; most 'experts' predicting heavy American losses. ... The seriousness of the situation called for open, honest debate. No deal-making. No cajoling. No politics."

The night before the Senate debate that would decide whether America would back down in the face of a Middle Eastern madman bent on gobbling up the world's oil reserves, Gore paid a visit to Simpson and Dole, who were huddled in the Senate cloakroom:

"Gore got right to the point," Simpson said.

"How much time will you give me if I support the president?" the Tennessean wanted to know.

"How much time will the Democrats give you?" Dole queried.

"Seven minutes," answered Gore.

"I'll give you fifteen minutes," Dole countered. "And I'll give you five of mine, so you can have twenty minutes," Simpson chimed in, upping the ante.

Gore remained noncommittal but let it be known that he wanted his twenty minutes during prime time to maximize his exposure during the news cycle. Later that night, Gore called Republican Senate Secretary Howard Greene to see whether his twenty minutes had been scheduled yet.

When told the schedule hadn't been finalized, Gore erupted, "Dammit, Howard! If I don't get twenty minutes tomorrow I'm going to vote the other way."

When Gore arrived on the Senate floor the next day, he still hadn't let on which way he'd vote. Simpson suspects to this day that he had two speeches ready to go, and would go either way depending upon who offered him the best speaking slot.

"Sen. Dole immediately asked the Senate to increase the amount of speaking time for both sides," Simpson recalled. "I believe only then, after Gore realized that we were asking for more time to make room for him on our side, that he finally decided to support the resolution authorizing the use of force to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait."

Simpson said at the time that it gave him no joy to reveal the real story behind Gore's Gulf War vote, an episode the veep's presidential campaign advertised with the boast, "He broke with his party to support the Gulf War."


It was all about face-time.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

THE GODFATHER OF TERRORISM

may be auditioning for a new job.

I don't think he'll land it, though.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

RICHARD REID REDUX?

French police found about 100 grams of semtex--a plastic explosive--wedged between two seats of a plane on Wednesday.

It's a Reuters story, so it comes with the usual caveats about 9-11:

[Accused shoe-bomber Richard] Reid, a Briton, has been accused by U.S. officials of training with Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network in Afghanistan. Washington blames bin Laden for masterminding the September 11 suicide hijack attacks on the United States.


Would it be too much to ask that Reuters kindly add that bin Laden also blames himself--on video--for the attacks of 9-11?
Posted by B. Preston at 05:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THE DEMS' PROBLEM ON THE LEFT

: Barbra Streisand, not coincidentally initialed "BS," is trying to push the Dems into attacking President Bush, as opposed to Saddam Hussein. It's precisely this kind of thing that's keeping Tom Daschle close to the Maalox lately.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

does it again. The wily Marxist somehow manages to get it right time after time, setting him apart from all other Marxists on earth. Here's a snippet:

It must be obvious to anyone who can think at all that the charges against the Hussein regime are, as concerns arsenals of genocidal weaponry, true.

Saddam has been willing to risk his whole system and his own life rather than relinquish this goal.

And the resolutions of the UN are neither recent nor ambivalent.

I doubt that even if this evidence could be upgraded to 100 per cent it would persuade the sort of people who go on self-appointed missions of mediation to Baghdad.

These people further fail to see that governments now have a further responsibility to their citizens - namely to see that something is done to prevent future assaults on civilisation.

President Bush calls this the doctrine of pre-emption, which obviously has its perils and could be used to justify very rash actions.

Nonetheless, anybody with any sense must confess that there can be no return to the security posture adopted before September 11, 2001.

A leader who was not trying to take the war to the enemy would be delinquent in the extreme.


Yet that sort of delinquency seems to be what some people want. But, when you get them talking about 9-11 itself, they'll prattle on about what Bush knew and how could he and the FBI and CIA and NSA and DOD have been so feckless, so asleep, so...delinquent...as to let it happen. They're childish, expecting a perfect regime to just spring up in Afghanistan overnight, and to be taken seriously when they say so. Here's more:

ISOLATIONISM also overlooks the fact that Britain has friends and interests of its own in the region, as well as a long and deep connection with Iraq, and a correspondingly large stake in the outcome.

Just on the material aspect - I love it when people darkly describe the coming intervention as "blood for oil", or equivalent gibberish.

Does this mean what it appears to mean, namely that oil is not worth fighting over?

Or that it's no cause for alarm that the oil resources of the region are permanently menaced by a crazy sadist who has already invaded two of his neighbours? There is another base rumour in circulation, to the effect that Bush is doing all this for electoral reasons.

It's hard to imagine a sillier or nastier suggestion: the American public does not want a war and, as usual, prefers a quiet life.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 25, 2002

TONY BLAIR'S IRAQ DOSSIER

hasn't done much to shore up war support in the UK.

Russia isn't impressed. Neither is Germany, though according to a couple of stories France is a little more inclined to take Blair at his word. China is as obtuse as ever. They all want inspections, inspections, inspections--though their past support for inspections is suspect, to say the least. Russia wants a deal--we'll give you Iraq if you give us the Chechen rebels, which are in Georgia (the country).

The Germans are really looking like wusses--weaker than France, a country that once served as a giant parking lot for German tanks.

But I'll say it again--why should we listen to any of these people? Germany, France and Russia have long argued for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, though Saddam was flagrantly violating the Gulf War cease-fire. All three had a pretty lousy 20th century, too, with China finishing strong in the Most Brutal Regime on Earth competition. We give their opinions a respect that their track records don't deserve.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

CANADA MAY BE RUN BY A CRETIN TODAY

, but a research paper says that it has been our friend when it comes to Cuba. Canadian diplomats to Cuba apparently ran a spy ring on behalf of the US government for years. In fact, it may be an active spy outfit today, though there's probably not as much to learn about Cuba now as there was in, say, 1961 or 1962.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE

: French soldiers actually rescued Americans today, a stark reversal of the last 100 years of US-French relations. The rescued American kids even chanted "Vive la France" as the convoy of French troops passed them on its way out.

The Germans must really hate this.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

THERE WAS MUCH TO ADMIRE ABOUT BARRY GOLDWATER

, but he was wrong about one thing: Extremism in the defense of liberty can be a problem. In the process of ferretting out terrorist groups and their supporters, it is possible to needlessly muzzle innocent people's right of free speech--even offensive and unpopular speech.

That's what seems to be happening at University of Cal at San Diego, where a dippy group calling itself the Che Cafe Collective runs a web site that links to FARC, the drug-trafficking and US citizen-kidnapping gang in Colombia. FARC is a nasty group of thugs that no reasonable, freedom loving adult could possibly support, but the Che types aren't reasonable, freedom loving adults. They're Marxists, vegans and therefore likely incredibly smug and self-righteous. And they probably don't bathe regularly.

Anyway, the UCSD came down on Che for the links, demanding that they remove them, and cited the USA Patriot Act as justification. The USAPA says that it's illegal to "provide material support to terrorists," and UCSD's administrators think that the links constitute providing such support.

If they're right, then I've violated the USAPA, too--I've linked a dozen or so terrorist sites to expose them and hopefully get them shut down. I realize that Che has other purposes for linking FARC, but the action is the same. Of course, it gets tricky depending on who provides the vegans with their energy-guzzling server. If it's UCSD (and it is), then they do have a decent case for going after Che, but only if they go after every other group that links controversial stuff. They'll end up with nothing but sites full of pictures of fuzzy bunnies, but at least no one but PETA could get mad at them.

Though I think Che Cafe Collective is a bunch of navel-gazing nitwits, UCSD is wrong here. Nevertheless, Che shouldn't be surprised if they show up on a list of suspect organizations in the near future. We are known by the friends we keep, and the Che Cafe Collective seems to keep some very bad friends.

As for the USAPA itself, I think UCSD is misreading it. Providing material support is just that--support in the form of some object-noun kind of thing. I don't think the USAPA was meant to limit free speech, just allow the government to deal with people like those recently arrested in upstate New York and in Baltimore (five of whom are still in jail, by the way). It certainly wasn't intended as a mechanism for chasing campus radicals. If we did that, we'd have no time or resoucres to go after actual sleeper cells and real bonafide terrorists. And we'd just have to shut down Berkeley altogether. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing...

(thanks to Chris for the link)
Posted by B. Preston at 11:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

WASHINGTON'S WORD WAR

: Here's the headline: Daschle Decries Bush's Iraq Remarks. But wait a minute--Bush decried Daschle first, in a speech outlining the debate over homeland security. Here's what he said:

Speaking at a public event that preceded his appearance at a fund-raiser for Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester, the president said, "The House responded, but the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people. I will not accept a Department of Homeland Security that does not allow this president and future presidents to better keep the American people secure."


Doesn't the headline have it all backward? Yes, but Bush wins anyway.

Leaving aside the wisdom of saying such a thing for the moment, is what President Bush said true? Yes, it is, at least in terms of how the debate has gone in the House versus the Senate. The House passed a bill defining the Department of Homeland Security (keeping that lousy name, unfortunately), but the Senate has hung on the issue of "workers' rights." Essentially, the Senate Democrats, led by Tom Daschle, want to unionize the department. The president doesn't, citing the need for flexibility in organizational structure as well as retaining the ability to hire and fire personnel as needed. It makes sense--the DoHS will need to be flexible to adapt to what's likely to be a continually morphing threat, and the last thing it will need is employees who can't be fired once they're hired. Unions have the mostly deserved reputation of protecting every last worker at the expense of efficiency. Further, it's not difficult to see that Daschle can benefit politically from a new, unionized bureaucracy--unions make up the core of the Democrats' financial support, with a single union--the National Education Association, made up of a mostly government-dependent membership--supplying the lion's share of its funding. Without unions the Dems' finances dry up, and that's why President Bush has been courting unions so hard since taking office. The Dems could create for themselves a brand new financial base by unionizing DoHS, and mitigate the effects of any success Bush might have with the other unions. It's equally easy to see why any Republican president may oppose unionizing the DoHS--he'd be creating a financial windfall for his opposition.

Though I've joked that that's the reason President Bush doesn't want to unionize the DoHS, I don't think that's the case. He's an MBA-style manager; he's business-oriented; he has a management background; he dealt with the Major League Baseball Players Association, the union that has just about wrecked baseball. He knows unions, and doesn't like them. At least that's my take. And most of the agencies that will fall under DoHS aren't union shops now--why introduce unions if you don't absolutely have to?

And there the debate hangs. The Senate could go ahead and pass the bill, and it's likely to in the next few days, but has dithered to some extent over this union question. The president made a point of priority comparison as a way to move the debate, by tweaking his political opposition a bit--what's more important, your party's financial base or the security of the United States? Hardly a shocking political comment.

But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle went ballistic, denouncing the president on the floor of the Senate. He was joined by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-KKK, West Virginia) and a few others, none of whom covered themselves in glory. Byrd in particular looked like the throwback to Reconstruction that he is, his white mane popping the luminance levels on most of America's tv sets on the evening news.

It was truly an odd day--both Daschle and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott mustered enough passion to fill a Harlequin romance, but instead of directing it at, say, real enemies, they directed it at each other. The White House eventually clarified the president's remarks, making it clear that he wasn't talking about Iraq, but about homeland security. Wonkish, inside-baseball stuff, not whether the Dems sufficiently support the overseas war effort, nothing to get all hot and bothered about. But having already launched his torpedoes, Daschle couldn't very well pull them back. So he fired more, demanding an apology, and curiously, stating that remarks such as the president's could have no possible legitimate context.

This, from the leader of a party that has no problem accusing its opposition of wanting to starve children, throw old people in the streets, and (via its allies at the NAACP) coming just short of accusing then-Gov Bush of being complicit in the racially motivated dragging-death murder of a black man. Here in Maryland, a Dem campaign operative recently called GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich a Nazi, and said he was against Jews and blacks and old people and soft cuddly kittens and getting caught in the rain. That operative was later fired, but the scuttlebutt around the state is that he's been secretly kept on the payroll to work a couple of counties on the sly. At any rate, Daschle's party is hardly pure as the driven snow when it comes to excessive campaign rhetoric--they indulge in it like Anna Nicole Smith with ten pounds of chocolate and a jar of valium.

When I first heard about all this, my initial thought was that President Bush has screwed up. He'd said something that contained some truth, but needlessly gave his opposition something to scream about and make him look bad. But having watched Daschle's comments on tv tonight, I'm not so sure the president didn't sucker him. Daschle is in an unenviable position. Strategically, it's always best to keep one's enemy to the front. If they ever get to your flank or behind you, you're in big trouble. Daschle finds himself surrounded by enemies. To his right is most of the country, the GOP, and a decent-sized chunk of the Democrats. To his left are the peace-niks like Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the Democrats.com crowd, which is very influential in terms of grass-roots organizational support and cash. Daschle knows deep down that his party can't follow that left wing, or it will go down in flames. But he also can't follow the Zell Millers and Joe Liebermans, or he'll look like Bush's lap-dog and the Dems won't offer any alternative for the voters to hang on to. That's why he and most Dems want to just get the war vote overwith and move back to government giveaway programs--it's the only thing they really know how to do. Since most American's aren't too concerned about that stuff right now, there's a good chance Mr. Daschle's party could get voted out of its slim hold on power in November. That's what he's worried about, and that's why he lashed out--desparation.

Today, the president with his little remark exposed the raw split in his opposition, and put his Senate nemesis on a splintery spit over a growing fire. Whether that was actually his intent or not is debatable--it's hard to imagine that anyone's that smart. But I think that that has been the effect of today's little comment on homeland security. Daschle, who has been doing the very politicizing of the war that he has accused Bush of by trying to accelerate the vote and get it off the agenda, is in a tough spot. I don't envy him, having to deal with that dumb cowboy in the White House.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BLOGPILE ON FRANKENCANDIDATE

: Yeah, every one else has already linked it, but I will too. Mike Kelly's vivisection of Al Gore's San Francisco speech is priceless. And right. And agrees with a few of the points I made, but he says it better than I did. He writes for the Post, I write for a blog--you do the math.

So why do I call Gore "Frankencandidate?" I admit it's not that funny, but seems to apply. Frankenstein's monster was cobbled together from the parts of the recently deceased--a brain from this guy ("Abby Normal," in Young Frankenstein) a torso from that one, legs from someone else, etc. The monster was an unnatural beast, uncomfortable in the world and ultimately, a menace.

Likewise, Al Gore's campaign style seems cobbled together from deceased candidacies of the past--the lefty dogma of a McGovern, the wild-eyed populism from William Jennings Bryan, the class-warfare stuff from myriad Democrat candidates past and present. And Gore just seems so unnatural, rather like the alien bad-guy in the first Men in Black. That alien had an excuse--he'd killed a guy and was wearing the dead man's skin like a wetsuit. I can't figure out what makes Al Gore so uncomfortable in his own skin, but it's creepy and hard to watch. Given the reins of power, I think Gore would morph quickly from a weird guy into an actual menace.

Maybe Gore's an impostor? Henry Hanks reports, you decide.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No Title

SLAUGHTER DEFENDS ABORTION: Slaughter, abortion...get it?
Posted by B. Preston at 05:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CZECH PRESIDENT VACLAV HAVEL

: "Cuba will be free."
Posted by B. Preston at 04:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

AH, YES, THE PEACE OF RADICAL ISLAM

: More murders in the name of Allah, this time in Pakistan, where gunmen attacked a Christian charity before escaping. Another day, another outrage.

I know, I know...the war's still about oil.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

IF YOU HAVEN'T NOTICED

, I'm a little tired of playing ring-around-the-rosie with the conspiratorialists. And I'm tired of endlessly making the case for regime change in Iraq. So thank God for James Lileks.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2002

URANIUM, ALUMINUM PIPING AND A SOPHISTICATED RADAR SYSTEM

have all been on Saddam's shopping list in the four years since weapons inspectors last set foot in Iraq. The uranium and piping are for developing nukes, the radar is to paint and threaten allied aircraft. All are illegal under the UN sanctions. All constitute reasons why those sanctions, blamed for starving millions, have stayed in place. Saddam could have had those sanctions lifted years ago simply by complying with the Gulf War cease-fire--by keeping his word, the very word by which we allowed him to stay in power. And all this time, Saddam has gotten wealthier, built more palaces for himself, developed illegal weapons and menaced his neighbors. If he acquires the weapons he seeks, he menaces us too.

Those that still blame the US for Iraq's plight have a loose grip on sanity, and lack a basic ability to gather and process facts. Sorry to be so blunt, but that's the way it is.

(thanks to Dave for the link)
Posted by B. Preston at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SEVERAL YEARS AGO

, I was a lifeguard. It was just a summer thing between college years, at a church camp. I wasn't really qualified, and neither were any of my colleagues, so we had to take a class before we could officially take the job.

The class lasted several days, maybe two weeks or so, and covered just about all a lifeguard needs to know. We learned CPR, how to maintain order in a chaotic situation, how to spot troubled swimmers, even which sunblock to use to keep from getting sunburned.

Part of the training involved spotting a swimmer in trouble and dragging him back to shore. Naturally, for that part of the training our instructor picked the largest man she could find, and made us practice dragging him around the pool. All of us, college guys and girls, uniformly in decent shape and none of us very large ourselves, had to fetch this 250+ pound man and drag him back and forth. Once we'd all figured out how to do that, the instructor told him to fight us. And he did, nearly drowing a couple of the smaller women in the class in the process. But we had to get to him, take control of him, and get him back to side of the pool within a minute or so, or we had to do it again. Eventually, we all passed.

The instructor told us what kind of situations we'd probably face as lifeguards, and most of them seemed to center on us saving people from themselves. People do stupid things when they're in the water--they fight and dunk and dive where it's too shallow, they swim long after they're too tired or swim drunk (though that's not too common at church camps where the kids are 13 and under, or at least not the one I worked at). Lifeguards have to be there, not to dazzle members of the opposite sex even though that happens, not out of some power trip though that happens too, but mostly to save people from their own stupidity. Lifeguards also aren't there too see if stupid people's friends want the stupid to be saved--they're just there to save the people that find themselves in trouble. And sometimes, lifeguards have to save people that may not know they need saving. Occassionally, lifeguards have to fight the very person they're trying to save, to get them under some kind of control and move them to safety, not only to save the drowning but to make sure that they don't drag others down in their mad, desparate flailing.

One of the things I find most frustrating about the present war is that the United States is essentially cast in the role of lifeguard, and not for the first time. The Middle East is the sick man of the world, caught in the blind rage of a radical minority and in need of rescue. The longer we wait to rescue it, the closer it slips to oblivion, and the more dangerous it gets to those around it. So many around the world keep telling us what we have to do and what we can't do, but who are they to say anything to us? Chances are, we've had to save them too at some point, or save others from them, or save them from themselves. Why should we listen to Germany, the author of two world wars and host of one of the world's most malignant past regimes? Why should we listen to France, a country we saved twice from Germany, and a country whose messes we've been cleaning up for most of a century? Why should we listen to Russia or China, two nations with sad histories in the grip of communist oligarchies and virtually no history of democracy? And why should be consult anyone when a man is drowing and needs our help right now? They're not the lifeguard here, we are, and we'll do what we have to just as we always have.

So many Americans are so quick to try and find a dark conspiracy behind every public action. Usama isn't the real enemy, he's just a stooge--Bush is the monster behind it all. The planes of 9-11 were on remote control, and we still shot one down, and we're covering it up because there's still some yet darker secret worth risking the whole enterprise for. It's the kind of talk that's worthy of a trip to psychoanalysis, but a sizable chunk of the country is buying it in spite of the fact that there is literally not a shred of evidence to support it. Why are so many people so paranoid, that they would rather believe the lies of the maniacs than the simple truths of freedom and democracy? I don't understand it, and I never will. My mind just doesn't leap to the least likely possibility and seize on it as the only explanation.

The United States is the lifeguard--not the emperor, nor the invader, nor the dominator--of the world. We're not an expansionist Roman empire, committed only to getting bigger and stronger. We're not the new reich, bent on establishing our rule over everyone in our way. We don't want to rule the world. We save other peoples from themselves, and from each other. That's what the war is all about, when you really boil it all down. If we wanted to, we could colonize half the globe and ruthlessly exploit its resources, but that's not our ambition. We just want to live in peace, keep the world reasonably safe for our own democracy and encourage others to follow that democratic path when we can. Occassionally we get into a scrap, but only when provoked by some threat or some need. Often that threat hasn't even been to ourselves, but to some group under the bootheel of another. From the Balkans to the old East bloc to Taiwan and now to Iraq, our goal is and has always been simple: spread freedom, and keep the tyrants at bay.

Americans who don't understand this may think themselves patriots, and may in fact love their country. I can't judge their inner hearts to see where their intentions lie, but I can pity them. Their paranoia is robbing them of joy, and of the happiness that comes with doing something altruistic and right. Yes, the war is altruistic: we were attacked, but we responded not in blind rage but with a measured calm, and we freed a people halfway around the world and crushed a totalitarian state. In Iraq, if war comes it is because a people is unable to save itself, and the rest of world is content stand by and watch it drown. We can save it, and if we have to we will.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A FEW HARD-CORE MEMBERS

of that peaceful religion have struck again in India. So far, 29 are dead, including several children.

Will any of you brain-dead boobs out there ever get a clue that this war isn't about oil oil oil oil oil? It's about life, and the right to live it.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 23, 2002

9-11 MAY FORCE US TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION

: What would've happened of Flight 93 had crashed into the US Capitol, killing more than half of the House of Representatives? Congress couldn't have functioned, since the Constitution doesn't provide any remedy to such a situation beyond holding special elections to replace members killed. That can take up to four months, and during that time any action requiring Congressional oversight or input would be moribund. In peace time, to be perfectly honest I'd settle with a total lack of Congressional law-passing and cash-spending--I'd prefer it actually--but in a time of war it's unacceptable.

That seems to be the opinion of a bi-partisan committee formed to examine the issue and figure out how to fix it. Stay tuned though--they'll figure out how to add local highway subsidies, bogus research grants and other equally relevant amendments to whatever legislation they craft.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

AL GORE: FRANKENCANDIDATE WON'T GO AWAY

: The ex-VP (thank God for the "ex" in that formulation) gave a randy little speech today that pretty much took an axe to President Bush's performance post 9-11. Gore is a lot of things, but he's not stupid, so I have to wonder why he's so determined to run so far to the left of the average Joe, and against a president that 70% of average Joes like and think highly of. I really think that it just comes down to Gore's being a bad politician. Smart guy, dumb campaigner. Either way, unless the US meets disaster in Iraq Gore has no chance--nil--of winning in 2004. So if you really look at the things he's saying and if you think that he believes them, he either hopes for no action against a dictator that his former boss also took no action against (though under their tenure Congress made it national policy to effect regime change), or that he wants the US to fail. Either way, Gore continues to demonstrate that he is incompentent to lead this country. His internationalist fetish strengthens this point of view.

Susanna has already done a good job of swatting down most of Gore's major themes and exposing the logical contradictions his speech embodies, but I've noticed one that still needs a good whack: personalizing war. The Clinton Administration did this repeatedly, in Somalia and, rhetorically, against bin Laden. In this speech, Gore focuses on getting bin Laden and excludes the larger strategic vision of what the war against Islamism is really all about. Usama bin Laden is one facet of the enemy, which is an organization and a belief system that thinks the world isn't big enough for anything other than itself. Bush gets this, as does everyone in the top slots in his administration, and most of the American people. Gore evidently does not--he continues to chide the Bush team for having "failed to punish" the perpetrators of 9-11. But wait a minute--didn't the US drive the Taliban from power and punch the stuffing out of al Qaeda last fall? I seem to recall a battelfield rout, lots of daisy cutters, and then a new government rising up to try and piece together a land that's been torn by war for generations and subjected to one of the worst regimes on the planet in recent years. I seem to recall that that government still has our help--we just saved its president in an assassination attempt, and we're still there hunting down enemy combatants. And I remember people in Kabul dancing in the streets for the first time in years without fear that some black-turbaned thug would come along and chop their head off.

To Gore, none of that matters if we can't conclusively prove that we have either caught or killed Usama bin Laden. It's increasingly likely that bin Laden died in a Tora Bora cave last year--if I'm reading Gore right, he'd put the entire war on hold until that single fact is verified. He'd leave other terror-sponsoring countries free to plot and scheme and develop all manner of weapons to use against us and our allies, just to pursue this one guy. It's a strategy that his boss tried in Somalia, personalizing the peace-keeping mission into a sort of "Get Shorty" scenario in which we spent all of our time and energy going after a warlord named Aidid. That mission ended in disaster in terms of our nation's image, largely because of that strategic stupidity, and set the stage for the very war we're fighting now. The same began to occur once Usama bin Laden rose to the surface as an enemy. Clinton began to talk about bin Laden here and there, but never developed any strategy to get him or, more importantly, destroy the enemy force that bin Laden led. He just talked, about this one guy, without knowing how to address the true scope of the threat. It's a disease that seems to afflict most Democrats, and Gore seems virulently infected.

It's as though these guys turn everything into a mano-a-mano thing. They also did it with Ken Starr, largely to distract from Clinton's failures morally and presidentially.

Al Gore would simply make a terrible president in the best circumstances--in the present situation, he'd be distastrous. I simply can't imagine that his leadership would serve to do anything other than to diminish the United States and cost more innocent lives.

While Susanna did do a great job of hacking up Gore's speech, I will quibble with one thing she says. She called Al Gore's 2004 campaign site a "re-election site." That, it ain't. He was appoined Clinton's running mate, and Clinton won twice, making Gore the VP for eight years. He lost his presidential bid in 2000. He isn't running for re-election to anything, other than world's most annoying, hypochritical, whiny and phony pinhead--which he'll always win in a landslide.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

THERE'S "NO WAY" BIN LADEN SURVIVED

the Air Force's destruction of the Tora Bora cave complex last year, according to an Air Force source. The AF made sure to drop multiple 2,000-lb earth-penetrating bombs at each cave entrance, insuring that any and all inside never made it out. So if UBL checked in to those caves, he never checked out.

There's lots of other good nuggets of intel in the linked story, including a report on who our best ally in the Middle East is turning out to be: King Abdullah II of Jordan. Might he be trying to make up for his father's mistakes during Gulf War I?

(thanks to Chris)
Posted by B. Preston at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2002

GERMANY KEEPS LEFT

: Well, I was wrong to have predicted a center-right win in Germany today. The odious Gerhard Schroeder and his leftish coalition has won by a narrow margin, thanks to a last-minute surge by the Green party, one of Schroeder's and his Social Democrats' allies.

But here's a curious fact that's not under much discussion, at least not yet: the Greens' leader is Joschka Fischer, Germany's Foreign Minister. Schroeder credited Fischer and his Greens with keeping his government intact. Herr Fischer, Schroeder's saviour, has an interesting past that might explain Schroeder's recent spin away from the US. Joschka Fischer is a former Red Army Fraction terrorist, and has old ties to the grandaddy of terrorism:

Fischer was accused of having attended a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Algiers back in 1969, at which the PLO adopted a resolution to achieve final victory, which is to say, the destruction of Israel. That was not so good, and seemed triply bad for a future foreign minister of Germany, even if no one threw rocks or bombs. The ministry spokesman conceded that Fischer did attend the conference; but, doing his best to cope with one more embarrassing revelation, the spokesman made the mistake of adding that Fischer had spent only an hour there, which was like admitting to using marijuana but not to inhaling it. And, of course, the part about spending only an hour turned out to be untrue, and the spokesman, backtracking, had to acknowledge that, yes, Fischer had participated throughout.


Even in 1969, the PLO was Yasser Arafat's operation. Germany's anti-Jewish leanings seem much deeper than its growing Muslim population, and seem to go fairly high up in its current government.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack