Archives for June, 2004

No Gift of Gab

Does anyone know where I can get a working video feed of what has been described as a case of President Bush “accidentally interviewed by a real journalist,” namely Carole Coleman, the Washington correspondent for RTE, the Irish national television network? Jesse Walker writes about it here.

Update: here it is. Thanks to reader c.a.j. I don’t find the reporter that impressive either, except for the fact that she treats him like any other guest, as she should–and it pisses him off.

Posted on Jun 30, 2004 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Heh.

Milton Friedman, as paraphrased by Tyler Cowen:

Businessmen and academics [are] the two biggest problems, albeit for opposing reasons. Businessmen want freedom for all other people, only not for themselves. Then they want various subsidies, tariffs, privileges, etc. Academics want freedom for themselves, but not for other people.

Posted on Jun 30, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Refreshing Honesty

…or what passes for it these days:

“We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

–Hillary! [referring to the Bush tax cut].

The alternative seems to be:

“I’ll give you $300 bucks and take things away from you and your children later to fund the swag we’re handing out to old people now…”

Hat tip Christine Klein.

Posted on Jun 29, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Shut Up, He Explained

Chris Roach nails Bill Clinton for his flabby literary style:

Our witless lying ex-President is a crummy writer who listened too closely apparently to the “express yourself” cajoling of his seventh grade English teachers:

First line of Nixon’s Memoirs: “I was born in the house my father built.”

Short, direct, to the point.

First line of Clinton’s memoirs: “Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana.”

Posted on Jun 26, 2004 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

A Heartbeat Away

I don’t have a problem with Dick Cheney telling Pat Leahy to go fuck himself. Anything short of a Sumner-Brooks incident is preferable to the cloying bipartisanship that folks like David Broder advocate. And I think the phrasing with which the Washington Post chose to report it is odd:

The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

“Fuck yourself,” said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.

Wow, that is sobering, isn’t it? George W. Bush is all that stands between us and a man who uses the kind of salty expressions that are utterly common among mechanics, bike messengers, lawyers, politicians, doctors, Washington Post reporters, and most other adults.

If I worry about Dick Cheney being a heartbeat away from the presidency, it’s not because he curses. It’s because he’s an enemy of the Constitution with a predeliction for lying us into war.

Harsh? Maybe. Justified? Definitely.

If the Constitution means anything, it means that the president can’t summarily declare American citizens outlaws to the Constitution, strip them of all rights to due process, and lock them up forever. But if Cheney has his way, that’s exactly what will happen to anyone accused of plotting terrorism in this country. As Newsweek has reported, Cheney has pushed for much broader use of the “enemy combatant” designation:

“They are the enemy, and they’re right here in the country,” Cheney argued, according to a participant. But others were hesitant to take the extraordinary step of stripping the men of their rights, especially because there was no evidence that they had actually carried out any terrorist acts. Instead, John Ashcroft insisted he could bring a tough criminal case against them for providing “material support” to Al Qaeda….

In the months after 9/11 there were fierce debates–and even shouting matches–inside the White House over the treatment of Americans with suspected Qaeda ties.On one side, Ashcroft, perhaps in part protecting his turf, argued in favor of letting the criminal-justice system work, and warned that the White House had to be mindful of public opinion and a potentially wary Supreme Court. On the other, Cheney and Rumsfeld argued that in time of war there are few limits on what a president can do to protect the country.

It’s really something when an executive branch official takes a position so far out there that it makes John Ashcroft into a defender of the Constitution. I wonder if Cheney told him to go fuck himself.

As for “lying us into war,” we can debate whether many of Cheney’s misstatements in the run-up to the Iraq War were outright lies or Clintonian half-truths. But on Gulf War One, the Christian Science Monitor and the St. Peterburg Times have him dead to rights.

Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid���¢�¢?�¬�¢??September that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.

But when the St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, no Iraqi troops were visible near the Saudi border Ã?Â?Ã?¢Ã?¢?Ã?¬Ã?¢?? just empty desert….

Shortly before US strikes began in the Gulf War, for example, the St. Petersburg Times asked two experts to examine the satellite images of the Kuwait and Saudi Arabia border area taken in mid-September 1990, a month and a half after the Iraqi invasion. The experts, including a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who specialized in desert warfare, pointed out the US build-up ���¢�¢?�¬�¢?? jet fighters standing wing-tip to wing-tip at Saudi bases ���¢�¢?�¬�¢?? but were surprised to see almost no sign of the Iraqis.

“That [Iraqi buildup] was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in there, and it just didn’t exist,” Ms. Heller says. Three times Heller contacted the office of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney (now vice president) for evidence refuting the Times photos or analysis Ã?Â?Ã?¢Ã?¢?Ã?¬Ã?¢?? offering to hold the story if proven wrong.

The official response: “Trust us.” To this day, the Pentagon’s photographs of the Iraqi troop buildup remain classified.

As SecDef in that war, Cheney added to his long record of contempt for constitutional limits by trying to convince George H.W. not to go to Congress for authorization before invading Iraq. And we’re supposed to be appalled because he throws the F-bomb around? Jesus.

Posted on Jun 26, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s Good to Be the Kim

Via Boingboing comes this LA Times piece on the culinary habits of the hideous little troll who runs North Korea. (Title of this post comes from John Samples).

Kim insists that his rice be cooked over a wood fire using trees cut from Mt. Paektu, a legendary peak on the Chinese border, according to a memoir written by a nephew of Kim’s first wife. He has his own private source of spring water. Female workers inspect each grain of rice to ensure that they meet the leader’s standards. (The nephew, Lee Young Nam, who defected to South Korea in the 1980s, was assassinated by suspected North Korean agents in Seoul in 1997.)

….Admittedly, some of Kim’s tastes might be considered unappetizing. He apparently relished some foods so fresh that they were still wriggling. His former sushi chef boasted that he was able to slice a fish, artfully sparing its vital organs, so that it would still be alive when served to Kim as sashimi.

“He was loud in his praises, saying it was extremely delicious,” chef Fujimoto wrote.

South Korean actress Choi Eun Hee, who was abducted to North Korea and spent eight years there before escaping, was shocked when Kim served her a bottle of liquor that contained a snake “moving about and looking like it was belching,” Choi wrote in a memoir.

Jerrold M. Post, a psychiatrist who founded and was the longtime director of the CIA’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, says Kim’s obsession with eating the best food comes from being the son of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, revered by the propaganda machine as a god-like figure…

“This is how you prepare food and water for a god. Nothing remotely imperfect should cross his lips.”

What a cool job. Post’s, I mean, not Kim’s. A former South Korean ambassador finds some comfort in the pudgy dictator’s excesses:

“Kim Jong Il loves life. He is a drinker, a womanizer, a gourmet. To start a war requires an ascetic like Hitler who doesn’t care if he lives or dies. But I can’t see Kim starting a war that he will surely lose,” said Kim Kyung Won.

Posted on Jun 26, 2004 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Somebody Could Get Hurt

This is crazy: “Laws banning foreigners from carrying guns in Saudi Arabia are to be relaxed after several bloody attacks on expatriates in the desert kingdom.” Don’t they realize that those guns are more likely to be taken away from the expats and used against them by the terrorists?

Though it sure would be nice to see a reenactment of that scene where Indiana Jones is confronted by the scimitar-twirling thug.

Posted on Jun 25, 2004 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

It’s Happy Hour in America

I really don’t know about this new ad from CREEP. The dollop of Reaganite optimism, coming after interspersed images of a raving Al Gore, Hitler, Dick Gephardt and Michael Moore is jarring. And I object to the slogan, “this is not the time for pessimism and rage.” Why not? When’s a good time?

What’s with this fascination with optimism anyway? It’s dangerous. “As the British psychologist Richard P. Bentall has observed, ‘There is consistent evidence that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves and show a general lack of evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others.”’ Does that sound familiar?

I’d respect a politician who said, “My fellow Americans, now is the time for pessimism and rage. For bitter remarks and caustic sarcasm. Now more than ever. Cynicism in defense of liberty is no vice. Optimism in the pursuit of idiocy no virtue.”

But for my money, the greatest campaign slogan ever remains the one from the Norman Mailer/Jimmy Breslin 1968 New York mayoral campaign: “No More Bullshit!” I want a bumper sticker.

Posted on Jun 25, 2004 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Unamerican Activities

So who’s more unamerican:

this fat pantload, who produced a tendentious (and apparently dishonest) documentary arguing that the president’s a liar, a crook, and a stooge?

or this guy, who signed the bill that may make advertising the movie illegal?

You can tell a lot about someone’s conception of America by how they answer that question.

Posted on Jun 24, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“RR Paradox”?

Here’s a wonderful piece on Reagan the man by biographer Edmund Morris, who almost went crazy trying to capture his essence. I laughed out loud at this colloquy at the end, where Morris comes off as dense and pretentious as Dr. Melfi trying to explain Proust to Tony Soprano. Some would see this exchange as evidence of Reagan’s supposed intellectual limitations. But it makes me like the guy all the more:

In one of my last interviews with him, I tried out my theory that he “thought with his hips,” as follows:

Q: Mr. President, do you realize that you had Einstein all figured out at age eighteen?

A: Huh?

Q: There you were, a summer lifeguard on the Rock River, swaying every day in your high chair on the diving raft. Somebody starts to drown in midstream. You throw down your glasses–everything’s a blur–you dive into the moving water–you swim, not to where the drowning person is, but where he’ll be by the time you intersect his trajectory. You think that you’re moving in a straight line. But actually you’re describing a parabola, because the river’s got you too. Your curve becomes his curve; you grab him, swing him around, and start heading back in reverse, not toward the diving platform but upstream, sothat by the time you get to shallow water you’ll be back where you started. During all this action, you’re in a state of flux: no fixed point of reference, no sense of gravity. Everything’s relative. . . .

A (Uninterested, interrupting): Yeah, that river sure ran strong. Out there beyond the swimming line.

Hat tip: Bill

Posted on Jun 23, 2004 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

“But He Didn’t Do Anything!”

I used to say that my favorite president was a draft-dodging, womanizing Democrat elected in ’92–Grover Cleveland. In that spirit, David Bernstein makes the case for the greatest president of the 20th Century: Warren G. Harding:

Harding’s great accomplishments have been overlooked: (1) pardoning Eugene V. Debs and ending the harassment of leftists and pacifists from the Wilson years; (2) after the horribly racist Wilson years, undoing Wilson’s segregation of federal offices, supporting anti-lynching legislation, and delivering a bold speech (in Birmingham!)in favor of equality for African Americans; (3) reducing government spending and taxes back to reasonable, pre-Great War levels; (4) repealing various wartime economic controls–the latter two policies were responsible for the boom of the 1920s; (5) appointing excellent Supreme Court Justices, notably Taft and Sutherland….

All that and the largest spending cut in history–a 40 percent reduction from Wilson’s last peacetime budget. I wrote more about Harding and other great “do nothing” presidents here.

Posted on Jun 23, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Peace and Prosperity: Boooor-ing!

I have been informed that it’s “Freddy ‘the Beadle’ Barnes,” as in “a minor Church of England functionary charged with keeping order during services,”–not “Beetle” Barnes, as I wrote below. During a Google search to confirm that, I came across the following ancient entry from Salon’s media blog:

In an essay in the Feb. 24 [1997] Weekly Standard, Barnes laments the current “ennui” in Washington and confesses his longings for the glory days of old — you know, the Golden Age commonly known as “the Bush administration.” “The last great moment in Washington was Desert Storm,” Barnes writes, with an almost audible sigh. “It was exciting to follow and write about … Every press conference, I watched. Desert Storm was all I thought about or talked about. My stories concentrated on President Bush’s heroic role in the war. As best I recall, he wasn’t in a funk, not even for a single fleeting moment.”

There’s National Greatness Conservatism for you, in all its intellectual glory. Go blow something up–it makes me feel grrreat!

Posted on Jun 22, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Quote of the Day

The inconstancy of American foreign policy is not an accident but an expression of two distinct sides of the American character. Both are characterized by a kind of moralism, but one is the morality of decent instincts tempered by the knowledge of human imperfection and the other is the morality of absolute self-assurance fired by the crusading spirit.

–Sen. J. William Fulbright (1966)

Posted on Jun 21, 2004 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Legacies

The AFF Founders’ Day bash was great fun, but I almost snorted beer out of my nose when I heard Grover Norquist tell the crowd that we were living through “Reagan’s Third Term.” I’m still trying to figure out if it’s LBJ’s second term (the biggest foreign-policy quagmire and the biggest expansion of the Great Society since the last Texan was in the Oval Office) or Nixon’s. I lean towards the latter, especially given that the Bush team seems to share RMN’s view that “when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.” (On the other hand, if by “Reagan’s Third Term” he means following the pattern of Reagan’s second, characterized by increasing disengagement and foreign policy scandal, then maybe he’s on to something there, but it seems a little uncharitable towards a man whose face he wants to put on the dime, the ten dollar bill, Mount Rushmore, and possibly have carved into the moon).

Meanwhile, I notice that Beetle Barnes evaluates Clinton’s legacy thusly: “Clinton is Calvin Coolidge without the ethics and the self-restraint.” Barnes seems to think he’s damned Clinton by faint praise here. But in my book, he’s paid him a great compliment–too great, it seems to me. (The Right hates Clinton for all the wrong reasons, as I explain here.)

Mencken said of Coolidge’s reign: “He had no ideas, and was not a nuisance,” which is about the best thing you can ever hope to say about a president. Certainly Clinton was a nuisance, but, at his best, an amusing one. Joy it was in those days to be around to check the Drudge Report. I can’t say the same today.

Posted on Jun 21, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Sailboat Fuel”

If this article is right, Halliburton has been risking the lives of its truck drivers–and of the American soldiers assigned to protect them–driving convoys of empty trucks across the desert in order to run up the tab on the US taxpayer.

Empty flatbed trucks crisscrossed Iraq more than 100 times as their drivers and the soldiers who guarded them dodged bullets, bricks and homemade bombs.

Twelve current and former truckers who regularly made the 300-mile re-supply run from Camp Cedar in southern Iraq to Camp Anaconda near Baghdad told Knight Ridder that they risked their lives driving empty trucks while their employer, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc., billed the government for hauling what they derisively called “sailboat fuel.”

Posted on Jun 21, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments