Thursday, January 27, 2005

27 January 1967

38 years ago today, a Friday, was a busy day at Cape Kennedy’s Launch Complex 34. By 8 a.m. that morning, a cast of almost 1,000 had assembled to support a “plugs-out” launch simulation on Apollo 204. Apollo 204, better known to us as “Apollo 1” was to be the first manned Apollo mission, and was scheduled to fly on 21 February 1967. After lunch, the flight crew: Virgil I “Gus” Grissom (Lt.-Col., USAF), another Air Force light Colonel, Edward White, and Navy Lt. Commander Roger Chaffee, suited up and headed for Pad 34.

The oldest of these men, Grissom, 41 years old, had already flown in space twice, as well as flying 100 combat missions in the Korean War, garnering an Air Medal with cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Grissom had been told, privately, that he was going to be the first American to walk on the Moon. The Command Module Pilot, Colonel White, age 37, was, during the Gemini 4 mission (3 June 1965), the first American to walk in space. The third crew-member, Lieutenant-Commander Chaffee, age 32, had never flown in space. All were married, with children.

Shortly after 1 p.m., the astronauts entered the capsule, and the technicians sealed the hatch, then locked the booster cover cap in place. None then knew that the sealing of the hatch marked the closing of another door, for three of the finest men America ever produced had entered their pyre and tomb, and would not leave the capsule alive.

The test proceeded slowly and with numerous glitches and delays, which was not unusual, because this Apollo capsule, Spacecraft 012, had already earned a reputation as a lemon. The test went on all afternoon, and on into the evening.

About 6:30 p.m., one of the astronauts shouted over the radio circuit: “there is a fire in here.” Technicians frantically rushing to the capsule area to assist were driven back by flames so hot that they had ruptured the capsule. Grissom, White and Chaffee never had a chance to escape, caught behind a double-hatch that took over five minutes to open, bathed in highly flammable pure oxygen, strapped to their crew couches in bulky space-suits. The astronauts died by inhalation of toxic gasses.

I grew up in a space and military town, Huntsville, Alabama, and I still remember, at age 5, learning of the deaths of the astronauts. The electrical fire which asphyxiated the crew was a blow not only to the families of the crew, and to all who knew these men, but to the whole nation, already reeling from Vietnam. Col. Grissom and Cmdr. Chaffee were buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Col. White at West Point. A long ago tragedy perhaps, and subsumed to some degree now in so many others. But if you’ve a moment in the course of your day, you might remember these men.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Official Root Beer

The heir presumptive to the vast El Jefe empire, someday inheriting the loyalty of his legions of Wiseguy goombas, his vast estates and his bottle-cap collection --the heir known in fact to all as The Heir -- was feeling cranky on the way home from school this evening. Consequently, El Jefe made a stop at the local market, and purchased, inter alia, two bottles of Saint Arnold's Root Beer. Saint Arnold's is a brewery located here in the world capital, Houston, (a/k/a Ciudad El Jefe Maximo).
Now I'm not a root beer connoisseur, but Saint Arnolds has itself a fine root beer, perhaps the finest El Jefe has ever consumed. In fact, so impressed am I with this root beer, by Royal Decree, I'm designating it "The Official Root Beer of El Jefe Maximo." No doubt that will make the good folks at Saint Arnold's pleased as punch.
Be it noted that El Jefe Maximo is not a compensated endorser of said product -- although, as I've said elsewhere, (being a man of principle, especially the principles of convenience, comfort, yummy stuff and bucks for El Jefe): This Blog's for Hire.

Condoleezza Rice Confirmed

The Senate has just voted to confirm Dr. Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State by 85 votes to 13. The 13 include most of the Usual Suspects: (Kerry, Byrd, Boxer, Bayh, Dayton, Harkin, Jeffords, Kennedy, Reed, Durbin, Lautenberg, and Levin).
While not entirely persuaded that Dr. Rice is the best possible choice for the position, El Jefe is nevertheless glad to see her confirmed. Dr. Rice, of course, has just acquired the greatest distinction that it is possible for an American political figure to obtain: namely, the right, for the rest of her life, to be a “former Secretary of State.” For Dr. Rice, the Gravy Train, in the form of future offices, professorships, book deals, board memberships, guest commentator positions, etc., etc., just arrived.

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day (formerly known as Foundation Day), which originally commemorated the beginning of the colonization of New South Wales, and is now the national day of Australia. Every American should have warm and generous thoughts for our Australian cousins today: their nation descended from the same mother country as our own. Australians have been our strong allies in two world wars, in Korea, in Vietnam and now in Iraq. Congratulations, Australia, and enjoy your holiday. The rest of us will have a Foster’s or three and think of our friends "down under."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Mr. Clark and the Tyrant

Ramsey Clark, U.S. Attorney General under LBJ, who has never met a left-wing cause or anti-American dictator he didn’t like, has published an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Why I’m Willing to Defend [Saddam] Hussein.” The URL for this ordure is here:,1,1821609,print.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

If you must read it, sit down, have lots of Pepto Bismol handy, and make sure your medico has renewed your chill-pill prescription. When El Jefe read it last night, SWMBO, his loyal staff, his mistresses and goombas had to peel him off the ceiling. Some money quotes, with El Jefe’s comments, are below.

1). “Both international law and the Constitution of the United States guarantee the right to effective legal representation to any person accused of a crime.” First, what possible relevance does the Constitution of the United States have to Mr. Hussein ? Mr. Hussein is a prisoner of the Iraqi government. The Constitution of the United States has no more relevance than that of Japan. Ditto international law, since Saddam is technically a prisoner of Iraq. The only legislation of any applicability whatever is that of Iraq – and certainly under Iraqi law, as established by the self-same Mr. Hussein, there’s a statute somewhere that would make it perfectly legal to stand him up against a wall and shoot him without bothering with a trial.

2). “The war has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and the widespread destruction of civilian properties essential to life.” This is regrettable, but hardly relevant. The equally just war against Germany and Japan caused the deaths of millions of citizens of those countries, and the destruction of civilian properties essential to life. However, this hardly constituted a defense for Hitler, Tojo, or their henchmen. In all three cases, lives could have been saved had the governments in question promptly surrendered. Had Mr. Hussein left Iraq peacefully before the war, or not seized every possible opportunity to violate the cease-fire terms of Gulf War I, all of the aforementioned devastation could have been avoided.

3). “President Bush, who initiated and oversees the war, has manifested his hatred for Hussein, publicly proclaiming the death penalty would be appropriate.” Mr. Clark’s unwritten premise is that hatred for Mr. Hussein and the death penalty are not appropriate. Substitute “President Roosevelt” for Bush and “Hitler” for Hussein and see how you like the sentence. Does Mr. Clark seriously think Mr. Hussein does not deserve the death penalty? Stupid question, because Mr. Clark clearly believes Mr. Hussein does not. Quite aside from the fact that the United States does not have custody of Mr. Hussein, and that President Bush is not trying Mr. Hussein, so that Mr. Clark’s statement is entirely rhetorical anyway, I would contend that the sponsor of rape rooms for dissidents deserves death by the slowest, most painful method that could possibly be devised. Again, why bother with a trial ?

4). “The United States, and the Bush administration engineered the demonization of Hussein, and has a clear political interest in his conviction.” First, Spell Check says that “demonization” is not a word – but since Mr. Clark used to be an Attorney General, and is reckoned smart for a liberal, I’ll take his word for it. I thought Mr. Hussein “engineered the demonization” of Mr. Hussein. Wasn’t it Mr. Hussein that invaded Kuwait? Wasn’t it Mr. Hussein who murdered approximately 40 of his own relatives? Didn’t Mr. Hussein’s regime kill between 50,000 and 100,000 Kurds? Didn’t Mr. Hussein’s army dump mustard gas on Kurdish villages? Didn’t Mr. Hussein’s regime divert Oil-for-Food money to friends of the regime and to military programs, resulting in the deaths of almost 400,000 children? Didn’t Mr. Hussein’s regime execute thousands of political prisoners? Didn’t Mr. Hussein’s army loot Kuwait in 1991 ? How many Kuwaitis are still missing? Mr. Hussein doesn't seem to have needed much help with the demonization engineering business.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The United States demonized Hussein ? Who DOESN’T “have an interest in his conviction," and in making Mr. Hussein stone-cold dead ASAP.

5). “Obviously, a fair trial of Hussein will be difficult to ensure – and critically important to the future of democracy in Iraq.” This just drips of the condensation we’ve come to expect from our liberal friends. Mr. Clark's telling us the wogs and dummies in Baghdad can’t come up with a procedure that would pass muster with Mr. Clark and his friends at Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN and the ACLU. That’s not saying much, Jesus Christ on a Starship couldn’t please that crew, if an enemy of the United States was in the dock.

Even so, to evaluate this statement, we have to buy into Mr. Clark’s false premise that a fair trial is necessary for Mr. Hussein and that same is critically important for the development of Iraqi democracy. A fair trial isn’t half as important as seeing that every atrocity that Mr. Hussein and the Baath Party committed in its reign is fully aired, and seeing that Mr. Hussein is convicted and promptly made (say it with El Jefe folks !) stone-cold dead. Killing the tyrant and showing Iraqis he’s dead is much more important then allowing poseurs like Ramsey Clark a platform to snipe at decent people. If Mr. Clark and his minions had their way, Mr. Hussein would still be in his palace and his police state in full operation.

6). “This trial will write history, affect the course of violence around the world and have an impact on hopes for reconciliation within Iraq.” Absolutely right, Mr. Clark ! You never wrote truer words. When Mr. Hussein’s carcass is flung down from the scaffold and rendered into ash to be poured out in some anonymous ditch, every two-bit tyrant in the Middle East, and right round the world (yeah, you - nutbar Osama, Dear Leader Kim, and Comrades Fidel, Hugo and Bob Mugabe) will get the message that it can happen in their countries too – that they can be jerked right out of their palaces, and stripped out of their fancy-pants uniforms – and wind up in the ditch, (say it ! stone-cold dead !). Comes the day guys…But don’t worry, Fidel, Hugo, Bob, et al. I’m sure Mr. Clark will represent you the way he did Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi, Augusto Pinochet…oops, my mistake. Clark never defended Pinochet. Pinochet was pro-American, and Clark deploys his skills for primarily anti-American tyrants and murderers.

7). “Hussein has been held illegally for more than a year without once meeting a family member, friend or lawyer of his choice.” Held illegally ? How do you figure Mr. Clark ? Illegally by Divine Right of Dictators or something ? Oh yeah, perhaps it’s because you mean the United Dictators (er, United Nations), didn’t authorize us to go arrest their fellow thug. Too bad, so sad Mr. Clark. If you wanna get legal, Mr. Hussein violated the cease-fire terms of Gulf War I, and lots of United Dictators’ Club resolutions. Besides, President Bush had acts of Congress authorizing that war – legislation that actually means something, as distinguished from the bumpf produced in that international whorehouse on the Hudson. We’re as legal as we need to be, sir. As for the rest, El Jefe’s heart bleeds for poor, poor Mr. Hussein, not getting to meet a family member, friend or lawyer of his choice. At least he hasn’t yet been fed feet first into a wood-chip machine, like some in Mr. Hussein’s prison system were, eh Mr. Clark ?

8). “[S]urrounded by the same U.S. military that mistreated prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.” Well, okay, we have to consider the source. Almost a necessity for a Great Liberal Lawyer to make a ritual denunciation of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Consider the duty discharged Mr. Clark, your salaam duly made. Next time we’ll just avoid taking prisoners. No terrorist prisoners, no problem.

9). “[I]nternational law requires that every criminal court be competent, independent and impartial. The Iraqi Special Tribunal lacks all of these essential qualities…illegitimate in its conception – the creation of an illegal occupying power that demonized Saddam Hussein and destroyed the government it now intends to condemn by law.” Beg pardon, but what does international law have to say about it ? This is an Iraqi matter. If you give this argument to the Iraqi judge, he should tell you to suck eggs and haul your interfering behind right back over the border. As for all that propaganda about an “illegal occupying power” – what bosh. No more illegal than the Allied occupation of Hitler’s Germany – an occupation which “destroyed the government it…intend[ed] to condemn by law.” Are you saying Saddam’s courts were legitimate ? Saddam, who usurped state power by an unlawful coup, from persons who were themselves beneficiaries of an unlawful revolution ? Try again Mr. Clark. The government which will be installed next week, Mr. Clark, will be the only legitimate government Iraq has had since 1958, and the only government ever created in that country by the ballot. You should be ashamed.

10). “Finally, any court that considers criminal charges against Saddam Hussein must have the power…to consider charges against leaders and military personnel of the U.S., Britain and the other nations that participated in the aggression against Iraq.” Wow, that’s just breathtaking Mr. Clark. Saddam’s Information Ministry could really have used you. You’re so much better educated then Baghdad Bob, and I bet you’d have looked spiffier in that silly uniform he wore too. If it wasn’t for that U.S. “aggression,” Saddam and his minions would be killing and plotting to this day, which would apparently suit you just fine. Perhaps if similar “aggression” had taken place in 1936 against Nazi Germany, lots of trouble, say, millions dead, might have been avoided. Do you really believe what you’re saying, or is what galls you the fact that the US had the effrontery to, for once, shoot trouble first ? Had somebody removed a pro-US regime, why is it that I doubt you would care?

Finally, you tell us that the “. . .defense of such a case is a challenge of great importance to truth, the rule of law and peace.” I don’t know about that, but making Saddam stone-cold dead is certainly of importance to truth, the rule of law and peace. It will certainly make his victims rest a little easier. I hope the Iraqi judges run you right out of there on a rail.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Lefty "Patriots"

One of the Left’s most oft-cited falsehoods these days is the canard that Lefties “support the troops” – but not their mission -- and that only the Left is patriotic. The Lefities say they really support the troops because their shrill and vitriolic supporters want to cut and run, abandon our Iraqi allies to the tender mercies of the car-bomb murderers, and bring the troops home now from the “illegal and immoral” war in Iraq. This position is in general a dodge, because those who are truly committed on the Left in general despise any manifestation of American power, for any reason at all, and in particular they loathe the military. However, this view is often soft-pedaled and kept out of sight of the bulk of the public.

However, just occasionally, Lefties cannot hide their hatred, and they let their true colours shine through. Yesterday, in Seattle, a mob at Seattle Central Community College attacked a US Army recruiting table and tore up the recruiting literature. The recruiters apparently had to be rescued from the mob and were escorted from the building by campus security personnel. A photograph of this disgraceful event may be found here:

El Jefe wishes these cretins could be magically transported to Iraq and handed over to the Sunni rebels, who would certainly know what to do with snot-nosed, dim-wit Lefty "patriots" from an American university too stupid to know how good they’ve got it. The spoiled brats would be no loss to us, since all of them collectively aren’t worth the smallest bit of mud on the First Sergeant’s (see pic.) boots.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Comes the Revolution

President Bush has thrown down the gauntlet but good; his inaugural address giving verbal aid and comfort to virtually every dissident and rebel on the planet. Kim Jong-Il, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Iranian ayatollahs, Robert Mugabe, Boy Assad, et al : your days are numbered. President Bush has served ya'll notice: “The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world….it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. . ."
How bout them apples ? For those who don't get it: "Democratic reformers facing repression, prison or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.”

Get on the internet, Fidel and Hugo. Look up those pictures of Saddam in his jail cell. You too Bob, cause you’ll be there soon also. You Iranian ayatollahs are just gonna love seeing Evin Prison from the inside, where you’ve sent so many other people.

Don’t worry, maybe Ramsey Clark will be ya’ll’s lawyer. Yeah, Saddam's already hired him, but maybe Mr. Clark will give you a group-rate, if the mobs let you live to be prosecuted. Look up those pictures of dead ol’ Nicky Ceausescu for the other possibility. Comin to you soon, Dear Leader Kim. President Bush just gave ya’ll the good word. All the lawyers, resolutions of the UN (United Dictators), international borders and concerned do-gooders you can drum-up just ain’t enough these days. The Big Dog is in the troublemaking business now, and Chris Dodd, Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry and all their whiny-professor pals don’t got the horses to run interference for you anymore.

Have a nice day fellas. Sleep well, for a little while at least.

Big News Today

Around the world today, all eyes today are turned towards – LaLa Land – because the Boston Herald tells us that the world’s favorite pop-tart, Britney Spears, is preggers !

Yes, world, let the Word go Heir is to be born to Britney ! Read the whole story here:

El Jefe’s friend T (hat tip) alerted him to this vitally important story. Mrs. Federline, the “blushing NASCAR bride” as the Herald story calls her, is evidently just over two months along, although we don’t have the “official” word from Britney’s publicists and flacks, yet. No doubt this defect will be remedied as soon as the aforementioned minions determine the optimum venue and timing for the announcement from the publicity standpoint. Almost assuredly, the tabloids and glossy magazines are positively salivating over the story possibilities a few months down the line.

Meanwhile, in less significant news, President Bush’s second term begins today. More on inaugural events later, perhaps. Meanwhile, there’s been a massive weirdo convergence on Washington, and today assorted rabble will make themselves feel better by making big fools of themselves protesting.

Don’t forget that by Royal El Jefe proclamation, today is National Spend Some Bucks Day. So get out there and spend mucho dollars today. Eat out. Buy that new TV. . .Give the liberals a belly-ache.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Confederate Heroes Day

. . . I feel no hostility to you, Senators from the North. I am sure there
is not one of you, whatever sharp discussion there may have been between us, to
whom I cannot now say, in the presence of my God, I wish you well: and such, I
am sure, is the feeling of the people whom I represent towards those whom you
represent. I therefore feel that I but express their desire when I say I hope,
and they hope, for peaceful relations with you, though we must part. . .The
reverse may bring disaster on every portion of the country; and if you will have
it thus, we will invoke the God of our fathers, who delivered them from the
power of the lion, to protect us from the ravages of the bear; and thus, putting
our trust in God and in our own firm hearts and strong arms, we will vindicate
the right as best we may.

Jefferson Davis, Farewell Address to the U.S. Senate, 21 January 1861. (From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Vol. 7: 1861, LSU Press, 1992).

With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an
American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand
against my relatives, my children, my home. I have, therefore, resigned my
commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State. . .I hope I may
never be called upon to draw my sword

Robert E. Lee, to his sister, Anne Marshall, 20 April 1861. (From The Wartime
Papers of Robert E. Lee
, Clifford Dowdey, Ed., Da Capo, 1987).

Today is the birthday of Robert E. Lee, and it is still recognized here in Texas as “Confederate Heroes Day,” a State holiday. Things being what they are, it is unlikely that the Texas statute book will honor Confederate heroes for very much longer, and like “un-persons” whom the Soviet Communist Party wished to banish from public view, Lee, Jefferson Davis and everything else to do with the Confederate States of America will soon vanish down the memory-hole. Our children, if they are wise, will learn to mouth, in public at least, the proper politically correct platitudes and to recite on command the carefully packaged, all-inclusive happy pabulum that passes now for history in our schools.

We are told this is all for the best, but it doesn’t mean some of us have to like it. The names of Lee, Davis and legions of others who gave all they had for Southern independence, whose names would be household words had they won, are becoming obscure to non-historians, except inasmuch as they serve the purposes of modern politicians and shills for various causes who promote their agendas by damning the memory of the dead.

Yes, the war was partly about slavery, and the end of that beastly institution was an unmitigated blessing. Yes, scum have stolen their flag and cloaked their racist fantasies in its folds. But that’s not the whole truth, any more than the American Revolution was all about a tax on tea.

The 258,000 southerners who died for the independence of the Confederate States, and their comrades who survived the war to rebuild their broken civilization, are long beyond caring, and don’t require our approval or justification for their sacrifices. As so many said at the time, they believed they were taking up arms for the most worthy cause imaginable – protection of their homes from hostile invasion, and to vindicate the same principle Americans died for in 1776 – the idea that government should rest on the consent of the governed.

Americans not connected with the military in some way have largely experienced war a tragedy that happens in other places. Not so the Civil War, which was fought mostly in – and devastated – the American south. Despite the efforts and sacrifices of so many, Confederate soldiers were unable to successfully defend their country. American cities and fields became battlegrounds, and armies moved and camped in what are sometimes literally our backyards. American homes were plundered by soldiers speaking the same language, and often the same dialect, and American women and children became refugees. Some places never recovered. It’s hard to believe that Mississippi was once considered rich. When all was over, America was the better for the end of slavery, but when the Federal Government forced its yoke at gunpoint on those who did not want it, America lost something precious also.

Thankfully those days are past, but they are not totally forgotten. We of course remember the victors: Mr. Lincoln has a memorial in Washington, but his real monument is the country and world we now inhabit. But some of us remember others too…Lee, Davis, Micah Jenkins, Johnston Pettigrew, Cleburne, Jackson, Raphael Semmes, Maxcy Gregg, Thomas R.R. Cobb, thousands of others long dead. To borrow Mr. Khrushchev’s memorable phrase, these will not be forgotten until shrimp learn to sing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Book Review: The October Horse

El Jefe has recently finished reading Colleen McCullough’s excellent The October Horse, last of her “Masters of Rome” series. The six books in the series (each VERY large) chronicles the doings of Rome’s great, good and not-so-good, from the time of the great general Gaius Marius, in about 110 BC, ending, in October Horse, with the murder of Gaius Julius Caesar in 44 BC, and the chaos following his death leading to the Battle of Phillipi in late 42 BC.

The interesting tale of the collapse of the Roman Republic has found its bard in Ms. McCullough, an Australian, (living in the exotic locale of Norfolk Island – look it up) whose first career was as a neurophysiologist. McCullough introduces us to all the important Romans of the time, and makes their thoughts and actions both believable and comprehensible – no mean feat because this involves exploring the motivations and beliefs of persons who are not in any way influenced by a Judeo-Christian culture.

The Roman Republic was really an oligarchy where a very exclusive club of insider nobles and notables shuffled offices, cash, perks and favors among themselves. McCullough’s previous books tell this tale well and engagingly; what’s a little bribery and corruption among friends ?

“Republic” in our sense of the word is a misnomer if there ever was one. This republic was not radically different from the monarchial Empire that Julius and Augustus Caesar replaced it with, the difference being that the late Republic was not getting its work done: Rome was attempting to govern an empire consisting of the entire Mediterranean basin with the same methods used to run a city-state 150 years previously. The end-result was a slow political and ultimately military revolt of the outsiders symbolized and led first by Gaius Marius and then his political heir, Caesar. This struggle is well-chronicled in Ms. McCullough’s books.
The end of the Civil War (49-45 BC) and the final demise of the Republic is the subject of October Horse. In the first third of the book Caesar books all over the Mediterranean basin chasing the defeated Republicans, seducing (or getting seduced by) Cleopatra, fathering a king, trying to restrain his more corrupt and self-seeking followers (paging, Mark Antony), pardoning too many no-goodnicks (Brutus and Cassius, call your office), and wondering what on Earth he’s going to do with the world now that he’s conquered it.

October Horse feels different than the earlier books, chiefly because so many of the movers and shakers we have met in the earlier books, together with their causes, feuds and preoccupations – are gone or irrelevant. The world, probably to Caesar, as well as the readers, seems emptier. Caesar himself is almost the last of his breed; and his world, that of the Roman aristocrat acquiring glory and dignitas by contending successfully against his contemporaries, has, mostly because of the defeated boni, (the dominant insider-faction) committed suicide.

Most hard-core Masters of Rome series readers, like El Jefe, probably like Caesar and dislike his enemies, the purblind, prating, witless, corrupt and tiresome boni, even more than he does. (Confession, El Jefe rather likes McCullough’s Pompey, the tool of Caesar’s enemies, who, although ruthless, is not unlikable and without his good points, but El Jefe spent three books and hundreds of pages wanting John Gotti and some of El Jefe’s elite goombas to pop out of a time machine and whack Cato, Bibulus, Cassius, that milquetoast Brutus and crew – plus Mark Antony for good measure).

If you share this perspective with El Jefe, the first part of October Horse is pretty melancholy because the reader knows a Bad Day in the Senate House is a’comin. The conniving boni couldn’t beat Caesar in a straight-up fight, so their heirs decide to get together with some jealous hangers-on in Caesar’s own crew and rub him out (15 March 44 BC). The misnamed “Liberators” are at least as stupid as they are murderous, and instead of restoring liberty, the Assassins unleash chaos and ensure the definitive end of the Republic and cause nearly thirteen more years of civil wars – ending, after thousands more were dead, in a much more absolute monarchy then Caesar probably had in mind.

October Horse is really two books, and with Caesar’s death, the second volume -- and the best part of the story -- finally begins. The latter part of the book concerns the crazy free-for-all power struggle between the treacherous, ruthless and utterly corrupt Mark Antony; the treacherous, equally ruthless and super-smart Octavian, (Caesar’s 19 year old heir and adoptive-son); the rapacious and incompetent Assassins; and the hapless and incompetent Marcus Cicero’s senatorial faction.
Ms. McCullough’s retelling of the rise of the inexperienced and sickly Octavian (known to us as Augustus) and his construction of an ultimately victorious faction right under the noses of legions of more experienced and (apparently) more powerful opponents – is alone worth the price of the book. Watching Octavian in action is such great fun: 19 years old and the kid’s got moves ! It’s like The Godfather on steroids.

The book ends with the defeat of the Assassins at Phillipi in 42 BC, and this is perhaps the book’s only real defect, because Ms. McCullough states that there will not be a badly needed sequel carrying the story through to Octavian’s final victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium.
In any case, this is a great book. If you enjoy, as does El Jefe, historical fiction, don't miss October Horse, or any book in this series.

Friday, January 14, 2005

This Blog For Hire

The Honorable Rod Paige
Secretary of Education
Washington, D.C.

Dear Secretary Paige,

Your department and the Bush administration have recently been under fire for paying the TV and radio commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the “No Child Left Behind Act.” I'm sure the Democrats are shocked, shocked that your department would engage in marketing activities for its programs, and that Democratic administrations would never (well except when they do) pay for similar favorable publicity.

I confess that I am not a reader of the estimable Mr. Williams, so I’ve missed out on what you guys got for your 240,000 clams. But I wanted to lose no time in telling you about another educational opportunity for your ad dollars.

For a mere 200,000 clams, simoleons, buckaroos or whatever your term of choice may be, I El Jefe Maximo, Supreme Ruler of the Kingdom of Chaos, would undertake to put my vast rhetorical resources at the Education Department’s command. That’s $40,000 bucks cheaper then that Williams fellow.
Think about it Mr. Secretary -- $200,000 and you gain the adherence and moral support of El Jefe, his elite Wiseguy Legions and this blog. I mean Print Your Press Releases Here. If you want El Jefe to scream “No Child Left Behind !” or "Leave All Kids Behind !" -- your choice -- till the cows come home, then Rod, This Deal’s for You.

I’m not picky, and don’t want to be unfair, so in a proper ecumenical spirit, I make the same offer to your friends on the Democratic side

Waiting (by the phone) for your call, (and your bucks),

Your pal,

El Jefe Maximo

Venezuela Again

The Washington Post online today has an editorial rightly criticizing Venezuelan tin-pot dictator Hugo Chavez’s “revolution.” The Post’s little demarche seems to have been provoked by Mr. Chavez’s just-declared “war against the estates.” Earlier this week, the tin-pot signed decrees purporting to seize large agricultural and ranching properties, and sent Venezuelan soldiers and various of his thug-supporters to invade these places.

This seems reasonably intelligent from Mr. Chavez’s point of view, the rich landowners don’t like him anyway, and it is high time to use the state to impoverish his enemies, acquiring their property to give to loyal supporters, and encouraging his opponents to leave the country. The dummies too stupid, stubborn or poor to flee can be arrested or have accidents at leisure. The show trials of rich oligarchs and other opponents that are certainly coming will be such good TV entertainment for Chavez’s supporters.

The Post piece notes that new “legislation” criminalizes anti-government demonstrations: “…people who bang empty pots and pans in protest, as Venezuelans have been doing for several years, can be sentenced to jail.” Of course, there is no danger of legal challenges to these “laws” since Mr. Chavez has recently stacked the Supreme Court with pro-dictator hacks, including a supporter who has suggested amending the constitution to allow Mr. Chavez to be president for life. No doubt in the fullness of time, the amendment will be duly proposed and passed, with 99 percent of the population, whether it knows it or not, vowing its fanatical support.

The material in the Post editorial about Mr. Chavez is interesting, of course, but hardly news. Americans don’t particularly care about Venezuela, yet, because oil prices aren’t high enough, and because he doesn’t have sufficient weapons, or foreign backers to be troublesome, yet. All in good time.
Meanwhile, all the usual suspects among the lefty Washington players are doing their level best to silence the alarms, gag complainers and blame the victims. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), apologist for the El Salvador terrorists and the Sandinistas in the 1980’s, dismissed the land confiscations, the Post tells us, as an “internal matter.” Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida), clearly on drugs, opines that “[e]very indication is there will be better times ahead.” Sure, unless you’re a Venezuelan who own property, a dissident in Chavez's jails, somebody who wants free elections, or not a lefty.

The most interesting thing about the Post editorial is what it tells us about the mindset of the American moderate-left Washington establishment, which the Post editorial page so accurately represents. The Post piece deplores all of the above, including the attitude of the lefty Senators, but here’s the money quote “A generation ago, such developments in an important Latin American country might have inspired heavy-handed and counterproductive US intervention.”

“Heavy-handed and counterproductive” eh ? Mr. Chavez can barrel down the royal road towards dictatorship, jail his enemies, subvert elections, beat up dissidents, consort with Castro, buy all the Russian weapons he wants, and set the rhetorical stage for an eventual confrontation with the US, but oh no, any US attempt to interfere with Mr. Chavez would be “heavy-handed and counterproductive.” The Post and its smart opinion-makers clearly see what's coming, but have no suggestion beyond sitting and watching the monster get bigger and bigger...

Beg pardon, but heavy-handed US intervention is all that’s left. It’s too late to stop Mr. Chavez democratically. A thousand pities the coup attempt of 2002 failed – Chavez might have been stopped then relatively cheaply. Hugo Chavez means big, big trouble for the United States and for all Latin America. Chavez has to challenge the Americans eventually – his economy is collapsing and he will need a foreign threat to justify the dictatorship he is building.
The Washington Post’s and the US establishment’s position of “hands off” is the equivalent of ignoring an operable cancer – the Post objects to paying for surgery now, but we will all assuredly pay far more later. The Bush people, admittedly busy, have not done much here at all. They need to get on the stick.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

As everyone knows, both the US and Iraqi governments are hoping for good things out of the Iraqi elections, scheduled for 30 January. The Sunni terrorists are pulling out all the stops in an effort to halt them.
Along comes Mr. Karim Kawar, H.M. the King of Jordan's Ambassador to the United States, to tell a crowd at the Nixon Center in Washington that the bombings, beheadings, shootings and terrorism directed primarily at Iraqis by terrorists "...raises questions about the authenticity of the elections" because the minority Sunni Iraqis, generally opposed to the elections anyway might not vote.
The State Department should call in Mr. Kawar, posthaste, and suggest that he visit his family or other relations in Jordan, and that he lose no time in departing these shores. Secretary Powell should then request that the Jordanian Foreign Ministry send a new ambassador.
It is quite enough that we prop-up the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan -- an artificial entity created out of half of Palestine by the British Foreign Office so that King Abdullah II's great- grandfather would have a place to sit his royal fundament. It is absolutely intolerable that we should have to listen to insults and rudeness from the official representative of a government that would last, oh, twenty minutes without American friendship and support.
Public support to the opponents of free elections purchased with American blood might be expected from Assad of Syria or the Ayatollahs in Tehran, (their turn is coming, never fear), but Mr. Kawar ought to remember who butters his King's bread and learn some manners, or else learn to say "East Palestine."

National Spend Some Bucks Day

A group of lefty fatheads called “Black Thursday” is urging the public to stop all economic activity, including working and commerce, on Inauguration Day, Thursday, 20 January to protest the policies of the Bush administration.

This idea is about what one would expect of the intellectually bankrupt and bitter Left in this country. If enough people took these idiots seriously, it would cause significant economic damage and hurt to millions of people. Pain and suffering is, of course, grist to the Left's mills, because the whiners have a vested interest in as much misery for as many Americans as possible.

The “Black Thursday” people helpfully point out that you have the power, the power of your dollars. Come Thursday the 20th, use your power, once again as you did on Election Day, to tell the Loser Left what you think of their bitterness and their contempt for the choice of the American people.

El Jefe, by virtue of the powers vested in him by the High Patronesses, the cats FLINKY and MILO, proclaims Thursday, 20 January 2005 as: National Spend Some Bucks Day. Take your pals to lunch and the family to dinner. Order champagne or a decent wine, or a couple of beers and drink our President and his First Lady’s health. Stop at the ice cream shop afterwards, or buy your children toys or balloons. Thursday’s a great day to buy that new car, that dress or pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing, or something totally frivolous. See a movie. (Yes, some of your money will go to the idiots in Hollywood, but some right into local pockets too).

If you have the ill-fortune to see some protesting Lefties that day, tell the sore losers to buy themselves some Chill Pills.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Taking Fewer Prisoners: Now Why Would That Be ?

The AP has noticed that American forces are taking fewer prisoners in Afghanistan. The AP says one reason is "partly to forestall more complaints" about the military's conduct.
Well, duh.
What did the lawyers and journalists so concerned about the tender feelings of the terrorists in custody at Guantanamo and Abu Gharib think would happen when they started filing lawsuits and publishing tripe about the fate of prisoners at the hands of the "brutal" US military ? The terrorist who beheads a hostage today, or throws a grenade at your neighbor's son in Afghanistan tomorrow may one day be the plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit, or a cause celebre for our friends at the New York Times editorial and op-ed page to vapor about.
Do you suppose the soldiers, far from home and in danger daily, might not be so amused at the antics of the press and the ACLU ? (The same crowd, by the way, that swore up and down during the recent election that they "supported the troops" but didn't like their cause.) Well, the troops read the papers too. Far easier for them to simply say, "no prisoner, no problem."
The interference of the possibly well meaning (although El Jefe questions this) chattering classes in matters about which they know nothing will have deleterious effects on all concerned. First, the sensitivity to the handling of prisoners makes prosecution of the war harder, because it is harder to extract useful intelligence from the prisoners we do take. Third degree type interrogation will go on, of course, but it will be be performed by Afghans, Iraqis and other friendly intelligence services beyond the reach of US legal processes, and out of the sight of the press. (Google the term "extraordinary rendition"). Of course, all these countries and intelligence entities have their own agendas, and getting US commanders usable real-time tactical intelligence is not necessarily a priority.
Also, the attention of the press and lawyers to the plight of the enemy prisoners is dangerous for the US soldiers in the field. When the issue of prisoners comes up: in addition to the immediate problem of their own safety and that of their comrades -- the soldiers now have to weigh the down-the-line consequences of live witnesses giving rhetorical and legal ammunition to unfriendly lawyerly and media second-guessers who quail at using a fly-swatter, and can neither relate to nor care about 20-somethings on the sharp-end (let alone their officers) who just want to make it home without being shot. Dangerous, too, morally and legally for the soldiers, and a threat to discipline, because the man in the field knows that the chain of command has somewhat less of an interest in prisoners, and consequently, the troops in the field are being put in the position of finding it expedient to commit acts that possibly amount to real war crimes, as opposed to trivia.

All this is dangerous also for our Afghan and Iraqi enemies in the field, who might wish to lay down their arms and surrender, itself a dangerous act that by its very nature is fraught with opportunities for misunderstandings and sudden death under the best of conditions. Now the opponents of the terrorists have an additional complication to consider in accepting surrenders. Our enemies, whatever they are, are not stupid -- they or their bosses even read AP. What do you think will be their reaction when they read that the US military is taking fewer prisoners because of complaints about their treatment ? Fewer surrenders...and possibly, more Americans hurt or killed.
There is no law so implacable as the law of unintended consequences. Do the lawyers, media and the commentariat grasp this at all. Would they care if they did ?

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Reason the Democrats Lost: No. 5,234,906

Listening to a report on Fox News this evening, I was struck that one of the reasons the Democrats lost the recent Presidential election was because they lacked catchy campaign slogans.
What spurred this thought was an account of a rally for Mahmoud Abbas (who also goes by the nom de guerre Abu Mazen), who is the Fatah candidate to replace Yasser Arafat (ding-dong the witch is dead) as "Chairman" of the "Palestinian Authority."
Mind you, Mr. Abbas is probably the best of the serious candidates, from the point of view of peace, but what got me was the catchy slogan his rent-a-mob was chanting. "With our Blood and our Souls We Will Redeem You Abu Mazen !" Apparently, this chant used to be reserved for the dear departed Yasser.
Now you don't hear that at your average stateside campaign rally. Just think if you had a bunch of college professor types and the others who backed Kerry running around chanting "With our Blood and our Souls We Will Redeem You John Kerry !" Bet that'd get your attention. James Carville, take note !
Gives ya a lot of hope for Middle East peace, doesn't it ?

Au Revoir, 2004

Well, 45 minutes left to go in 2004, (in the Central El Jefe Time Zone), and I can't say I'm sorry to see the back of this year. Lots of good, and bad, in no particular order.
Bush re-elected of course, which was a major good, considering the alternative was so bad. The Iraq insurgency escalated: bad, but we have stayed on course towards elections and America didn't vote to cut and run in November: good. Terrorist attack in Madrid kills hundreds and topples pro-US Spanish government: very, very bad.
Tsunami in Asia: profoundly, awfully bad.
NASA rovers Opportunity and Spirit on Mars : so totally cool ! Gordon Cooper -- one of the Mercury 7 Astronauts, dead: bad.
Bird flu in Asia: very bad. A free election (mostly) in Ukraine: good for Ukraine, maybe, long run, bad for us. Fastow and Enron guys convicted: good. Martha Stewart, convicted and jailed, a travesty: bad.
President Ronald Reagan dead: so sad, so bad. Terrorist Boss Yasser Arafat dead: good.
My son's a year older, hasn't flunked out of school (doing okay in fact) and is still young enough to think life is an adventure: super good. Hope he never becomes a cynic like his old man. The Heir loved summer camp, and is going back next year: good too. Both the Heir and She Who Must Be Obeyed continue to enjoy good health: very good. Lost an old friend, possibly two, over politics: very bad. People have to do what they have to do, so vaya con Dios.
Got to spend lots of time in lovely Seaside: very good (going back with T and her family next July: good also). Getting rear-ended leaving Seaside first trip: bad. Neither El Jefe nor SWMBO were injured, and we got home safe: good. Hurricanes hit Florida: very bad. They missed Seaside: good.
Went to some cool parties in '04: always good. Still alive and kicking for '05: the best.