Friday, May 27, 2005

Why Not ?

El Jefe is at work, tending to his day job. During these periods of tedium, while El Jefe mans his desk, advancing civilization and the glory of the nation; not to mention ensuring himself undying honor and fame by drafting letters, briefs and other screeds for litigious employees, modifying employee handbooks and similar important functions, El Jefe sometimes wonders "Why ?" You know, meaning of life, and all that sort of thing.
My mind strays to similar channels, when, while slaving away, the phone chirps at me, and the secretary outside asks "are we talking to family today ?" El Jefe has a minor crisis working involving certain financial issues of other family members. So, very reluctantly, I have to say "yeah, put the call through" rolling the eyes momentarily and thinking how Unfair it all is.
When I finally escape from the call, I again turn my eyes to Heaven and think "Why ?" Why doesn't the lovely and comely secretary buzz-in with a call, but this time say "El Jefe, El Jefe, it's Jenny McCarthy and she wants your body, like now ! She's ordered some Mojitos, she's sending the Gulfstream and is waiting for you on the beach or in her private boudoir at [fill in fantasy destination here] !"
Just a random thought. Okay, back to work. Floggings will continue till morale improves.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Amnesty International, a/k/a Al Qaeda Service Organization

Amnesty International’s Secretary General, an Irene Khan, has called the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba the “gulag of our times” and denounced the United States as the “unrivaled political, military and economic hyper-power” which “thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights.” Ms. Khan denounced the Bush administration for going “…to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions.”

Hmmm, I like the “unrivaled political, military and economic hyper-power” thing. Thanks Irene. Long may that situation endure. As for the poor innocent inmates of Guantanamo, my heart weeps; they’re lucky they haven’t been given the last cigarette and stuck up against the wall.

As Ms. Khan knows, or should know, perfectly well, the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the vermin at Guantanamo. The relevant document, “the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War” (1949) provides, at Article 4(2), that persons are considered combatants, and entitled to be treated as Prisoners of War so long as (1) they are commanded by a person legally responsible for his subordinates; and, (2) they have a fixed distinctive insignia recognizable at a distance; and, (3) they carry arms openly; and, finally (4) they conduct their operations “in accordance with the laws and customs of war.”

So sorry, that definition doesn’t cover our little Al Qaeda friends at Guantanamo, who ram airplanes into buildings, certainly have no insignia recognizable at a distance, and do not carry arms openly. Claiming otherwise, as Ms. Khan and her ilk to, is both naïve and stupid, or more likely, an attempt at a power grab by self interested lawyers and bureaucrats for themselves. It also advances the cherished goal of do-gooders here and throughout the world of hobbling the United States.
"Gulag" indeed. I suspect the good Ms. Khan wouldn't know the gulag from Six Flags. Too bad Guantanamo is not the Gulag, because the Gulag is no better then those sewer rats deserve. The scumbags at Guantanamo are nothing but pirates and brigands completely outside the law. Crucifixion would be too good for them. I suppose we can't do that, but the US government would be perfectly justified in hanging the aforementioned scumbags from the nearest tree, and hopefully it does so quickly.
UPDATE: Go read Dymphna's post "Fisking Amnesty International" at the Gates of Vienna blog, here. Dymphna detailed examination of AI's bloviations shows how utterly contemptable absurd and dangerous the AI/PC International Do-Gooder claque really is.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Kicking the Can Down the Road

As everyone by now knows, a “moderate” Senate faction of fourteen Democrats and Republicans reached a deal last night that will prevent, for the moment anyway, Senator Frist and the Republican majority in the Senate from resorting to their “nuclear option” of abolishing the filibuster for judicial appointment purposes.

As readers of the Kingdom of Chaos may be aware, I never thought that the “nuclear option” was a particularly good one. Yet the Republicans, the majority party in the Senate and in the country, had few good options, given the Democratic Party’s manipulation of the Senate rules to block appointments of nominees who could win a majority of votes in the Senate. A simple majority is all that the Constitution requires.

The deal is a bad one, it remains to be seen for whom. The deal makers, in writing, have guaranteed an “up or down” vote on appointments to the various Courts of Appeals for Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, Justice Janice Rogers Brown, and Judge William Pryor. In effect, as Senator Cornyn puts it, this is an “admission of guilt” by the Democrats, that these people should never have had their appointments hijacked by filibusters to begin with. Two equally qualified judges, William Meyers and Henry Saad, have been abandoned by Republican signatories to this pact, who “make no commitment” to vote to end debate as to these judges.

How the Democrat parties to this agreement are going to enforce this deal – that is, prevent more than 40 of their confreres from voting against ending debate on Owen, Brown and Pryor (41 puts a filibuster in place) is not clear. There is also the interesting question as to whether the Republican signatories to this deal have privately agreed to vote with their Democratic friends against the confirmation of the three judges released from filibuster purgatory.

As to future appointments, “[n]ominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances” whatever that means.

The disaster has been moved from place to place, the can in effect kicked down the road. This appears to narrow President Bush’s options as to future nominees considerably. A Supreme Court appointment is likely this summer. President Bush will in effect be forced to chose a milquetoast, or face the likely invocation of “extraordinary circumstances.” Based on the text of the agreement – the fourteen signers are committed to oppose any future attempts to change the rules in the 109th Congress, so the “nuclear option” appears to be completely gone.

John McCain, the organizer of this agreement, appears to have given up his Presidential hopes, at least in the Republican Party. The Republican Party will never accept him as a nominee after a sell-out like this. I’m not even sure he can keep his Senate seat. In general, the so-called Republican moderates probably have rather bleak futures in terms of perks and pork from the party of which they are nominally a part. Senator Frist, who had Presidential ambitions, is another loser, the nuclear option was his baby.
It’s not clear that the Democrats are winners either, least of all the Democrats who signed on to this deal. The liberals, at least so far, are denouncing the deal as a sell-out. But on balance, I think for the moment, they have more reasons to be happy then the Republicans.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Return to Galveston

I would have done almost anything to get out of town this last weekend, and luck was with us, because T most graciously invited El Jefe and family down to their beach house in Galveston Saturday afternoon. This sounded like a great idea to us, so El Jefe, the Heir and SWMBO loaded up and cruised.

Now I know it’s virtually impossible to get lost between Houston and Galveston, and we’ve been down this road lots, but we gave it our best shot. Thinking to avoid the traffic on I-45 out of Houston, we opted to leave the city on State Highway 288. Good idea, because there was no traffic this way, but you do need to look out for the Sam Houston Tollway, so that you can switch back to I-45 for the bulk of the journey. However, we got so busy chattering that we missed the turn, and didn’t catch our error until we were nearly to Angleton (down the coast from Galveston). We turned around, and got a splendid tour of Alvin, Santa Fe and other Gulf Coast garden spots winding our way back over towards I-45 and Galveston.

In any case we finally made it. T promptly made some really excellent Cosmos, which was such a good thing, because I needed one at this point. Shortly thereafter we went to dinner (Playa de Loro, in Pirate’s Beach Center – try the Tortilla Soup, El Jefe pronounces it very good). Then back to the beach house where T, her husband E and El Jefe stayed up till all hours talking and drinking wine. (SWMBO retired early). The Heir, T’s kids and their other guest – a child they are keeping while his mother is in France – watched television.

Large quantities of water between glasses of wine ensured that we were able to avoid waking up with a wine-head that El Jefe, at least, no doubt merited. The Moon was very near full, producing most interesting luminous reflections off the very calm sea.

The next morning, the kids went to the beach and looked for crabs, while T made a yummy breakfast – biscuits and gravy, one of my favorites. My Mom used to make that – and except for when T makes it, I have not had it in years. Sadly, we had to leave about 10:30 a.m. to head back to Houston for a little league party. It was so nice to get out of town for even a little bit. Thanks so much to T and E for making that possible.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Saddam's Underpants

“I see England ! I see France ! I see Saddam’s Underpants !” The British tabloid newspaper The Sun today printed photographs of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein – in his underpants. The photographs have been reprinted by the New York Post, and a link to the "Butcher of Sagdad" photo is here for your delectation. Both The Sun and the New York Post are part of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper chain.

It’s not clear how Mr. Murdoch got the photographs. It is possible that they were sold to The Sun in violation of US military regulations – public distribution of photographs of Saddam, at one time considered a PW, would possibly violate the Geneva Convention, and probably US Army regulations on the treatment of prisoners. It is also possible, however, that the photographs were leaked deliberately, as a psychological blow against the Iraqi rebels.

According to Agence France Presse, lawyers representing the deposed tyrant have stated that they plan to sue The Sun. Bully for them. Long before such nonsense can come to trial, Saddam will hopefully be rendered into ashes poured out in some anonymous ditch some place (like the executed Nazi criminals at Nuremberg that Saddam emulated so well).

The matter does present some interesting legal questions. Saddam’s lawyers in this lawsuit would do well to secure payment in advance, because their client is not the only one who can manipulate the law. At one time, Saddam could certainly have claimed the protection of the Geneva Conventions, but it is far from clear these are available to him now. Saddam is no longer a PW, but technically at least a state prisoner of the Iraqi government, which may deal with him according to its laws and wishes. The WW II allies evaded the Geneva Conventions in a similar manner, when they tried the Nazi war criminals. After the German surrender, the Allies, then exercising all political power in Germany, by the stroke of a pen, turned German prisoners from PW’s into “internees” – taking the Geneva Conventions right out from under them.

Certainly, there are plenty of Saddam-era laws and regulations which would permit the tyrant to be stood up against the nearest convenient wall and shot without benefit of a farcical trial, but no doubt Saddam is going to get the due process he denied to so many others.

Similarly, it is questionable whether the present rebels can claim Geneva Convention protections, unlike the Iraqi soldiers who fought the Coalition forces during the invasion, prior to the fall of Baghdad. The rebels are not part of a regularly organized army or militia, and do not fight for any lawful government, and are thus nothing but rebels and brigands, and outside the law, and, in the good old phrase from (I think) the Roman proscription notices: "cast out from all protection of law, enemies-general of all mankind, to be dealt with as wolves are." Too bad we're too nice for that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Emperors, Lists, Day Jobs

Good morning ! El Jefe sits on the verandah of his summer palace, or whatever, contemplating his vast and nefarious empire and sipping his morning Bloody Mary.
In miscellaneous trivia important to your host, today in 1804, the French Senate proclaimed Napoléon I the Emperor of France. Going from Corsican nobody to one of the crowned heads of Europe is a pretty impressive career path.
Looking over my Really Irritating Things list and my Good Things list, I see I missed a slew of things. Could add to them, but no supplemental list at present. Still thinking about that Discovery Channel list of "Greatest" Americans. Might work on one of those too. Meanwhile, the Day Jobs are calling...

Fun and Good Things

This is the promised sequel to my earlier post “Really Irritating Things.” El Jefe, perpetually irritated about some things, can still manage to see the good in lots and lots in this world. Life is Good. Here is the by no-means exhaustive list of Fun and Good Things (FGT), and stuff I generally just like.

1. Parties.
2. November’s election results.
3. Cookies and Cream Ice Cream.
4. BMW’s.
5. A decent Merlot – from Chile not California.
6. This April’s weather.
7. Seaside, FL.
8. Dancing.
9. A trip to the Museum, and not in a hurry.
10. Tea – iced or hot.
11. Road trip to Da Beach. Cool if No. 7, Cool if Galveston or Surfside too.
12. Hiking.
13. A quiet afternoon with a book.
14. Camping.
15. When the Heir is happy.
16. Watching them drag Saddam out of that hole.
17. When SWMBO is happy.
18. 18 year old Scotch.
19. Dinner and Drinking with pals.
20 When the Heir is in the mood to tell me the kiddo gossip.
21. Jenny McCarthy.
22. Popcorn.
23. E-mail.
24. Cats, in particular, FLINKY, and MILO and the new High Patronesss, SUNSHINE.
25. Watching Lefties go Bonkers.
26. Sunsets.
27. Thunderstorms when I don’t have to be anyplace.
28. Going to a Movie with SWMBO.
29. Snail-mail. (I love to write and receive letters: See #23).
30. Hearing that the military has helped some Jihad types meet Allah.
31. Sleeping late.
32. The GoGo’s.
33. Some stuff by the Carpenters.
34. The Circus.
35. Hershey Bars.
36. Deutsche Bier.
37. Deutsche Marschmusik.
38. Payday.
39. Gossip.
40. Old Books.
41. Miniskirts.
42. Grapes.
43. Regular Coke.
44. Italian Food.
45. Rome.
46. Blueberry Pie.
47. A stay at the Four Seasons, or the Lancaster.
48 The Corrs.
49. Flirting.
50. Military History.
51. Dolphins.
52. Australians.
53. Guns.
54. A fire – fireplace or campfire.
55. The stars at night, away from the city.
56. The British.
57. Blackened Redfish or Snapper.
58. Black Coffee – piping hot.
59. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica.”
60. Austin, Texas.
61. Roller Coasters.
62. Winston Churchill and all his books.
63. Writing in my journal.
64. George Strait.
65. Barbecue – specially brisket.
66. Hats.
67. The Washington Post.
68. Ronald Reagan.
69. Keeping my friends’ secrets.
70. Paris.
71. Riding my bike.
72. A royal flush.
73. Attention.
74. Irish Whiskey.
75. Cigars (only occasionally)
76. European history.
77. Chit-Chat about nothing in particular (see No. 39).
78. VanGogh.
79. The Buffalo River valley, Arkansas.
80. Gustave Courbet’s The Sea (1867).
81. Dogs.
82. Nice shoes.
83. Chess.
84. T’s Cosmos.
85. A window seat on the plane.
86. Kate Winslet in Titanic.
87. Deeply intense conversations about abstract political or historical happenings.
88. Ernest Meissonier’s Campaign de France, 1814 (1864).
89. Pie Jesu (from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Requiem 1985)
90. Strawberries.
91. Double entendres.
92. NFL Football Games – when I don’t have to drive.
93. Kissing.
94. The smell of fresh cut grass.
95. SWMBO’s cooking.
96. An afternoon at the bookstore.
97. The Driskill Hotel, Austin.
98. Boats and ships.
99. John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1892-93).
100. Biscuits or Biscuits and Gravy.
101. The Heir’s face when asleep.
102. Masraff’s (Restaurant), Houston, Texas.
103. Le Musée de l’Armée, Paris.
104. The Forum Romanum, Rome.
105. Swim-Up Bars.
106. The Godfather (all three parts).
107. John Sanford’s Prey novels.
108. FLINKY when she Meows at my study door to be let in.
109. The smell of the ocean and listening to the waves. (See #7, # 11).
110. The color red.
111. The Band of the Coldstream Guards.
112. Chicago (before Cetera left), Boston, and the BeeGees, or most 70’s/80’s bands.
113. Stuffing my head with pointless trivia.
114. Late night phone calls.
115. Late movies.
116. Irish bars.
117. Pizza.
118. Clocks that tick loudly.
119. Women in black.
120. The Heir when he says “But I have a question.”
121. Cleopatra (Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison).
122. Late nights drinking in smoke-filled bars with obscure bands playing.
123. Buying flowers.
124. The color blue.
125. Sudden, spur of moment road trips.
126. Ceremony.
127. Hearing train whistles a long way off.
128. My book collection.
129. New and different tee shirts.
130. Cilantro.
131. Interesting perfume.
132. SWMBO’s Tales of Office Politics.
133. Not having to do anything in evenings but sit out front and chit-chat with neighbors.
134. A nice sirloin, medium, with some mushrooms.
135. St. Clement, Chardonnay (’02 or ’03).
136. An afternoon snooze.
137. Flying a kite.
138. Touring old battlefields.
139. The flag.
140. Anything with Clint Eastwood in it.
141. The Heir petting MILO.
142. An evening at a play.
143. The New Car smell.
144. St Arnold’s Amber Ale.
145. Anything about or to do with Theodore Roosevelt.
146. John Wayne movies.
147 Falling asleep – that point when not quite awake, but not asleep yet either.
148. Maps.
149. Golf, as long as we're not keeping score and somebody snuck in a flask.
150. Going bump in the night.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Really Irritating Things

Last night’s post on that silly Discovery Channel seems to have gotten me stuck on lists. Everybody in the blogosphere seems to be there too, and El Jefe definitely wants to keep up with the March of Civilization. I am relatively easy to irritate, so I figured I’d start a list of Really Irritating Things (“RIT’s”). Normally, I’m a relatively happy guy and to prove it, a sequel: Fun and Good Things, is in preparation. But meanwhile, I’m in a grumpy mood and want to talk about RIT’s. Here’s a sampling:

1. People who don’t turn their cell phones on.
2. People who call me on my cell phone, if they’re people I don’t want to talk to.
3. Inability to hang-up on an answering machine without it making your phone ring.
4. The ginormous amounts of ad material in the Sunday paper.
5. The Democratic Party since the 60’s.
6. Gossip about me.
7. Gossip about other folks I don’t hear first.
8. Not keeping my secrets or quarrelling in public.
9. People who call with a problem, and don’t GET TO THE POINT.
10. Longwinded excuses for the point. Stuff is what it is, people. (See #9).
11. John McCain. Splendid fellow, but I don’t as a rule like gadflies.
12. Getting home and going out again for something I could have gotten on the way.
13. People who don’t tell me the bad news up front.
14. Choo-Choo trains blocking the tracks where I need to drive at 5:00 p.m.
15. Missing a party.
16. Forgetting something and having to go back.
17. Tactlessness. When you have to say no, say good-bye, or otherwise deliver disappointment, it costs nothing to be polite.
18. Telemarketers at the dinner hour, or pretty much any other time.
19. Michael Moore. Needs no explanation.
20. Finding the butter left out.
21. Lateness.
22. Paul Krugman. All his stuff reads the same.
23. Being awakened before at least 10 a.m. on a Saturday.
24. No caffeine with my breakfast.
25. People who don’t return my books.
26. The sound of Rod Stewart. Makes me want to reach for my revolver.
27. People who are mean to animals.
28. The United Nations. It’s quite enough that we pay for it, why should we have to listen to it too ?
29. Ice Cream on my brownie. Put it on the side, please.
30. Fire ants.
31. Doing the first name thing if you’re trying to sell me something or do business with me and I don’t know you yet. That’s MISTER El Jefe to you.
32. Rodents – are right out.
33. Lawyers. Yes, I am one, but I put it away when I go home, as do most lawyers I like.
34. People who don’t control their kids in public.
35. John Kerry. Okay, I have a problem with Lefty Massachusetts Yankees.
36. The maids hiding my stuff.
37. People poking into my beeswax.
38. Answering questions. I ask them, thank you.
39. Bait and switch. I HATE people who revise the deal.
40. Do-gooders who want to beat on people with the law. If people want to smoke, drink, run their weedeaters or fornicate, and it’s on their dime, what’s it to ya ?
41. Rudeness. Just a “thank you,” “good morning” and a little eye-contact goes a long way.
42. Not keeping your word.
43. Ted Kennedy (see # 35).
44. People who don’t return calls or e-mails. If you have bad news – stand in the door and deliver it.
45. People who aren’t nice to my cats.
46. Finding the fridge door cracked open.
47. The color yellow.
48. Complaining, past a certain point. Specially if there’s nothing I can do anyway.
49. Silence. I like background noise, at least.
50. Spongbob Squarepants.
51. A hard sell – you don’t make me want to buy with the high pressure gig.
52. People who don’t fall in with my plans.
53. Trucks and busses in front of me when I’m driving. I like to see.
54. Liberals who can’t tell you why they think what they think.
55. Road construction.
56. Business calls at home.
57. Computer Manuals: Written by robots to be read by machines.
58. Money. Having it is good, but dealing with it is DULL.
59. Not having money.
60. Slow service.
61. People who are over-businesslike. Smell the flowers. Be impractical sometimes.
62. The paranoid set who think we’re going to wake up tomorrow in a theocracy.
63. The wingnut set who want us to wake up tomorrow in a theocracy.
64. Liver and Onions. Nooooo thanx.
65. Peaceniks. Drive their Volvos and Saabs, eat at their high dollar restaurants, wear their fashionable outfits, play 60’s music, shop at Whole Foods, and ceaselessly bleat about oil, US imperialism and the corpos that make it all possible.
66. Michael Jackson.
67. Whiny voices, specially when combined with # 48. Throw those in with # 9 and # 10 and you’ve got The Perfect Storm.
68. Too many tattoos.
69. Rap Music, Hip Hop, or whatever it’s called this week.
70. Green peas in my salad.
71. Fidel Castro. Hopefully the rotten old bastard croaks soon.
72. Chest colds.
73. A red wine hangover.
74. People who are PC.
75. When the mail’s late.
76. Malfunctioning street lights.
77. Mixed vegetables.
78. Jimmy Carter.
79. Balancing my checkbook. (See # 58).
80. Discovering the absence of TP too late in the game.
81. Family quarrels.
82. The AC getting busted. Without AC, life itself is impossible.
83. Overcast days – come on: rain or shine world, don’t just glower.
84. Not being listened to.
85. Spotting a typo after something’s already done.
86. Car trouble.
87. Bad red wine. (see # 73).
88. Disappointing the Heir.
89. Pissing-off SWMBO.
90. Leaving the mattress pad home when camping.
91. Long boring questions by know-it-alls when the speaker’s done at a seminar.
92. Dan Rather. A smug face that just begs for a slap.
93. Runny eggs.
94. Disloyal friends.
95. Commies, socialists and lefties generally. Particularly professor types.
96. A sink full of dishes and a full dishwasher.
97. Being out of red wine. (see #73 and #87).
98. Cold coffee.
99. Downwind of B.O. or bad breath.
100. Not going bump in the night.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Is There Really News in Newsweek ?

After riots with deaths and property devastation throughout the Muslim world following a Newsweek slander that American soldiers desecrated the Muslim Koran, Newsweek now tells us that it was all a mistake. According to Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker: “[w]e regret that we got any part of our story wrong and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.”

Thanks for nothing, you [fill in expletive of choice here].

After the business with Dan Rather and the forged National Guard memos in the last election; and the blatantly biased reporting most of the national television media give us on Iraq, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised at stunts like Newsweek’s. The east coast media will clearly publish or broadcast anything that undermines the Administration or the war effort. Anything is fair if it makes the US and that wicked Bush administration look bad.

This time it’s really over the top, even for the lefty media. Newsweek is admitting that it created an international political incident, and caused violence that, in Afghanistan, actually got people killed over absolutely nothing. Some media outlets abroad are already reporting that Muslims are greeting Newsweek’s retraction with skepticism, and who can blame them ? Who knows what is true with these media people ?

Explain to me again, somebody, why we have a free press ? Why is the First Amendment and freedom from legal accountability a good thing, when the press uses its freedom to – groundlessly – incite people to riot and murder and threaten our troops ? If the mass media wants to act as a propaganda platform for people who kill American servicemen and seek to incite others to do so, then it threatens the basis of its existence.

Greatness vs. Celebrity

As part of a publicity campaign for its new television show “Greatest American,” which premieres on Sunday, 5 June, the Discovery Channel, together with America Online, on 18 April released their list of the “100 Greatest Americans.” If you have the time to waste, and are that interested in who Discovery Channel and AOL came up with, see the list, here.

El Jefe expected to have some major quibbles about this list and his expectations were not disappointed. I had originally intended to go through the list person-by-person and comment on the rejects, and on omissions, but I soon found that there were more persons on the list I had quibbles with then approved of – so the exercise was pretty pointless. I think my real beef with the Discovery Channel list is that it is not so much a list of the greatest Americans, as it is a list of celebrities – that is, the most famous Americans.

When I was “editing” the list, before I gave up the job entirely, I found myself striking off “celebrity” types. Yes, I know Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ellen DeGeneres, Madonna, Christopher Reeve, Clint Eastwood, Malcolm X, Mel Gibson, etc., etc., etc. have accomplished or did accomplish much in their lives, sometimes despite serious disadvantages and handicaps, but we’re supposed to be talking “greatest” Americans here. I mean, George Washington, Audie Murphy, George Patton, and Dwight D. Eisenhower (also on this list) were what I would call great Americans. Similarly, Theodore Roosevelt was a great American, as was Alexander Hamilton – but Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh, Barbara Bush and John Wayne ? All worthy of admiration in many respects, but I’m not buying the last four in the company of the others.
Some of the choices just seemed, well, wacko to me. Lyndon Johnson ? What did he do, besides screw up Vietnam beyond belief and almost bankrupt us ? Michael Moore ? Not buying that one at all -- some of us think he ought to be behind bars rather than on a pedestal.

I found some of the omissions interesting also. I’m a southerner, so I would quarrel with any list of the hundred greatest Americans that didn’t include Andrew Jackson, Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. For that matter, where are Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman ? Without these last two gentlemen, we would be talking about two countries, not one. Where is James K Polk, who engineered the Mexican War, effectively doubling the size of the United States. How about James Madison, author of the Constitution, or John Marshall, its first important expositor ? What of Walter Reed, conqueror of Yellow Fever ? Where is George C. Marshall, organizer of victory in World War II, and savior of western Europe from communism ?

None of these people, or many others, makers of the American nation, are present on this list of “greatest” Americans, but don’t worry, Oprah Winfrey made the list.

This list is of course a product of a species of democracy in action – a half million online nominations. Discovery and AOL’s interests are easy enough to figure out – your average bear would certainly prefer to watch a half hour of TV on Hugh Hefner, Marilyn Monroe or Martha Stewart rather than a show on Chester Nimitz, and the job is, after all, to sell ads and make money. Still, wish Discovery and AOL had used a little truth in marketing and called their show FAMOUS Americans rather than GREATEST. Finally, the historical ignorance of persons who could really call Michael Jackson, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, "great Americans," on a level with Mark Twain, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, is just staggering to me.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

The Reign in Spain

Good news for monarchists everywhere: the Spanish Royal family has announced that Princess Letizia, future Queen, wife of Felipe, Prince of the Asturias, future King of Spain -- is pregnant. If the child is a male, he too is a future King of Spain. While the Spanish do not bar females from the royal succession, as does, for example, Japan, precedence is given to the male line.
In any event, the senior branch of the House of Bourbon (Juan Carlos is descended directly from Louis XIV, unlike the heirs to the French royal crown), is assured to continue for another generation. The Spanish Bourbons are serious royalty -- by comparison, the British Royal House are a bunch of minor German princelings. Congratulations to the Spanish, and to the House of Bourbon.

The West and the Past

Today is the 60th Anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany. If you’re interested in the cataclysmic events surrounding the fall of the Third Reich, there are hundreds of excellent books: In particular, I’d recommend John Toland’s The Last 100 Days, Cornelius Ryan’s The Last Battle, Christopher Duffy’s Red Storm on the Reich, or the recent book by Max Hastings, Armageddon, which is really superb.

But, as is obvious, all that’s past history. What’s more interesting to me today are the media and political world’s current reactions to this event, and what they say about our own view of how we got to the modern world. Ignorance, self-indulgence and just plain weirdness are much on display this week.

Three sets of issues call for comment: first, current views of the consequences for eastern Europe of the Soviet Union being one of the victorious allied powers; second how the Germans are dealing with their defeat; and, finally, the related question of how the Russians are coping with the fall of the Soviet Union – which amounted to the end of the World War II political settlement.

Take President Bush. I’ll give him that he had a tough course to navigate this week, but his comments on the Yalta agreement (the wartime agreement between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt on the division of influence in post-war Europe) were just silly.

At Yalta, Churchill and Roosevelt, among other things, essentially conceded to Stalin that he could keep his ill-gotten gains in Poland and along the Baltic from his earlier deal in 1940 with Hitler, and acknowledged that in the post-war world, Stalin would have the most to say about which Polish factions would govern what was left of Poland and other parts of eastern Europe

This week, President Bush said that the United States shared some blame for what happened to the Poles, the Estonians, the Latvians, and everybody else who wound up behind the Iron Curtain at the end of the war, calling it part of an “unjust tradition” of earlier treaties such as the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1940.

Well, I suppose. But saying that Roosevelt and Churchill, let alone the electorates that employed them, were at fault for what happened in eastern Europe seems pretty asinine to me. Of course the Soviet Union was going to dominate eastern Europe. Of course eastern Europe was going to go communist. The Soviet Union did the bulk of the fighting and dying in that war, and in 1945 the Soviets had 400 divisions sitting on the real-estate in question. Yes, Yalta was bad, and the fate of eastern Europeans dreadful, as Bush, very gently, and others, more loudly, such as Pat Buchanan, have pointed out. But possession is nine-tenths of the law. Just what do safe, happy well-fed editorial columnists think we should have done about Stalin in 1945 ? Fight another war ?

There was no way to prevent a communized eastern Europe, from the moment Madman Hitler got it into his head to lose a war he had already won by invading Russia. Nobody can be blamed for what happened in eastern Europe except the Germans and the elites in that country who mortgaged everything to Hitler and his crackpot party. The Germans, and nobody else, opened eastern Europe to the communists.

None of this should precisely be an education to anybody. But it just gets irritating to see so many people who should know better blame statesmen for not thinking like ivory-tower professors. There are not always choices or good options.

Then there are the present Germans, who seem to me to be, well, strange. Today’s New York Times has an article about a bunch of nice liberal Germans who want to honour deserters from the German Army in World War II. I don’t get it. That’s like the Germans who want to send representatives to the periodic ceremonies in Normandy on the anniversary of the D-Day landings or to the present event in Moscow celebrating VE Day. A segment of the German commentariat likes to claim that the fall of the Third Reich liberated Germans too.

Maybe it did, but I’m glad I’m not a German. I could never be comfortable embracing such a view. Hitler was certainly a monster, and everyone should be glad he is dead, but, thinking as a German, that’s a long way from celebrating the laying waste of one’s own country, or honouring people who deserted the colours and left others to carry on and die in their places, (the German Army was draftee -- Nazi or anti-Nazi, you had to go). I’ve got a great deal of respect for real dissidents, like Colonel vonStauffenberg, who tried to blow up Hitler, but it’s hard for me to find much emotional common ground with people who think that the invasion of their own country could ever be a good thing.

Don’t get El Jefe wrong. I’m an American, I think our cause in the Second World War was among the most righteous for which people ever took up arms, and I’m glad Americans invaded Germany, kicked the tar out of the German Army, and saw that Herr Hitler and his pals were made stone, cold, dead. It just confuses me a little that Germans could be totally okay with this, no matter how good it was to see Hitler gone. Not cricket not to care for your own side.

In a similar vein, Right Thinking People’s hearts are all a’flutter because Russian President Vladimir Putin recently characterized the demise of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” This is cited as evidence of Putin’s tyrannical tendencies.

Well of course Putin thinks the collapse of the Soviet Union (the Russian Empire by any other name) is a disaster. Why shouldn’t he ? Mr. Putin’s a Russian for goodness sake. The collapse was a disaster for Russia. Thanks to the events of 1989-1993, the Russians must suffer America setting conditions for fair elections in Ukraine, and NATO troops within 100 miles of St. Petersburg. How would Americans feel about the Russians sticking their noses into, say, Mississippi elections ?

Why shouldn’t the President of Russia be concerned with the power, standing, aggrandizement and international standing of Russia ? Of course, Putin will do what he can to rebuild the power and position of his country. Putin will try to rebuild the Russian military, and certainly try to grab back various pieces of real-estate that used to be part of the Soviet Union. This is normal, and is the way nation-states operate.

Just because Right Thinking media elites think nationalism is passé doesn’t mean that it actually is. Certainly, Putin doesn’t think so. He will certainly try to rebuild Russia. Where Russia's interests and aims do not collide with ours, we may even help Putin. It is for us, and others acting in the international system, to set down markers, so that other actors know where the limits are, and what actions, specifically will not be tolerated. But why so many seem to find it shocking that other countries and powers actually have foreign policies of their own is a complete mystery to me.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

David Hackworth, R.I.P.

One of the most decorated soldiers of his generation, U.S. Army Colonel David Hackworth, (74) has just died in Tijuana, Mexico.
Colonel Hackworth joined the Army just after the Second World War, and was surely one of the most talented and courageous individuals ever to put on the uniform. Holder of a Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, a Silver Star with nine oak-leaf clusters, a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Stars with "V" device and seven Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart with seven Oak Leaf Clusters, and a whole chest-full of other medals. Recommended for the Medal of Honor three times, the last recommendation is still under review in Washington. Veteran of Korea, and of four tours in Vietnam, Hackworth was pilloried by the Army brass when he spoke out against the conduct of the Vietnam War.
Ultimately, Hackworth resigned his commission, giving up his medals in protest, and went to Australia making millions in the restaurant business and running a duck farm. Finally, Colonel Hackworth came home, and covered the First Gulf War as a war correspondent for Newsweek. Some measure of vindication came: his books (both memoirs and novels) were well-received, and the Army ultimately reissued his medals. Even after leaving Newsweek, he always spoke out for the interests of ordinary soldiers, and against the "perfumed princes" he felt were ruining the military. He had no patience with those unwilling to "stand in the door" and do the right thing, whatever it cost.
Look up his books -- they are all excellent reading. The U.S. Army and the country were much the poorer when he left the service, and his contributions to public discourse will be missed.
UPDATE: A splendidly written obituary is available at Colonel Hackworth's website, here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Noxious Do-Gooders

I suppose, in a perverse way, it’s good to know that besides the Stupid Party, we’ve still got the Evil Party in there kicking. This Saturday, thanks to some group called “Onward Austin,” voters in the Texas capital will decide whether smoking should be completely banned in bars, bowling alleys and pool halls. It’s already banned in restaurants.

Yeah, I know about all the health arguments about smoking, and I'm sure they're true, but that's beside the point. The quasi-Fascist, Do-Gooder impulse to take care of all us cretins because we are too backward to do it ourselves just drives me absolutely berserk. I’ve never smoked (cept occasionally), but people like this make me want to go light up the biggest, smelliest cigar I can find.
This sort of thing makes me wonder about self-government in general. Back in the bad old days, King George or whoever had to be very careful about too much legislation related to health, welfare, morals or whatever wasn't directly concerned with administration of the State, because the locals, having no say in their own government, didn't necessarily need to be reminded of that fact. As long as the peasants paid their taxes on time and showed up when they got drafted, the king could rest content.
But in a republic, where we, in theory, govern ourselves (under the guidance of the overclass of lawyers, bureaucrats and lobbyists) -- self-government is used by self-interested do-gooders to stick their interfering noses into just about everything. Democracy amounts to a hunting-license for organized busybodies. More on this point another time.


El Jefe went to Galveston on Saturday afternoon, and was the guest for the evening of his friends T and E and their two children at their beach palace. Was much fun -- T made some Cosmos (which were yummy, El Jefe might have had, oh 5 or so) and we all sat on the deck and watched the sharks chasing the shrimp boats, a scary movie that night, and the weird horizon at high tide the next morning. I had been agitating to get down to Galveston for some time, and it was so cool of T to make that happen. Thanx !
UPDATE: It is been brought to the Management's attention that certain people, who shall remain nameless, don't think El Jefe has been abjectly grateful enuf for his entertainment at the Beach Palace. Okay, okay, I admit it. I left out certain things, like the grapes and the succulent hors d'ouvres while watching the table dancers, (specially hired from Ricks), the Ice Sculpture that said "El Jefe, El Supremo" on the bar, the sharks swimming in formation, the visit by Jose Cuervo (a friend of mine) and the impressive loyalty ceremony on the south lawn. I am truly, totally, grateful to T ... er, the certain people, for organizing it, and seeing that I had an excellent evening. Mucho gracias. (Hopefully, the contract I've been told that's out there will be lifted now ???).

Stop That Cheerleader !

The Texas Legislature has shown yet again why Republicans are often castigated as the “Stupid Party.” Even though we live in a state that has barely functioning public schools, an antiquated, creeky Constitution, under-funded and under-staffed courts, and wacko tax system, the House of Representatives still has time to waste on fripperies like banning “overtly sexually suggestive” performances by public school cheerleaders and drill teams. Honest, we need this, even though we’ve already got laws against public lewdness.

Of course, the draft approved by the House doesn’t identify what “overtly sexually suggestive” might be, or establish a penalty for violations. It just makes the Texas Legislature look like bigger clowns then they already are.

Hmmmm…next we’ll hear that the Legislature is establishing a “Cheerleader Review Board” to monitor which performances violate the statute…