Thursday, August 25, 2005

Base Closure Follies

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, (BRAC), a nine-member panel charged by Congress with, according to its website “ensuring the integrity of the base closure and realignment process,” has been making news these past several days, announcing approvals of plans to close some military bases and keep others. The BRAC exists because Congress doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to dispose of bases according to military advice.
When outraged constituents call their congressmen and protest that precious Camp Swampy, last of military relevance in, oh, 1836, has been closed, the solons can shrug their collective shoulders and say “Gee, the BRAC told us to close it, it’s really not our fault.”
Today’s papers report that the BRAC, against the advice of the Navy, has decided to preserve the Naval Submarine Base New London (at Groton, Connecticut) and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine. The stories are complete with photographs of smiling workers in Groton and Kittery.
Let’s understand what is going on here. The US Navy, which presumably is aware of what bases and items it needs to defend the country and carry out its missions, has concluded that the Naval Submarine Base New London, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are surplus to requirements. Despite this, the Navy is told that it will have to make room in its budget for a shipyard it doesn’t want, and a sub base it doesn’t need. What will the Navy have to forgo ?
How do the people arguing for the preservation of these bases live with themselves ? Yes, yes, of course the bases provide local employment, and cash in kind to the local economies, medical care for retired personnel, PX privileges and sundry other benefits – but the US military is NOT a social benefits or employment scheme.
My disapproval is not based on the fact my two examples are located in New England. Naval Station Ingleside, at Corpus Christi, Texas, is also slated for closure. No doubt a useful facility if we ever needed to send carrier task forces rampaging down the Mexican coast, but not otherwise. Close it.

To El Jefe’s way of thinking, the military has concluded what bases it needs, and which are surplus, and that ought to be the end of it. The Congress goes through similar chicanery with weapons systems and other appropriations, giving the services weapons they don’t want because they’re built in the right congressional districts, and depriving them of needed items for the same reason. When the service staffs conclude what is needed, again, that ought to be the end of it.

Wine and Cheese

Last night, El Jefe shamelessly abandoned the diet, enjoying with his supper most of a bottle of Fish Eye, a Napa Valley Pinot Grigio. As an extra special treat, I unmasked part of my stash of Secret Cheese No. 505, which might be the Parmigiano-Reggiano referred to in an earlier post, but El Jefe's not saying.
The Pinot Grigio had been an impulse buy. I have, in the past, not been terribly fond of California Pinot Grigios. The Sacred Books, (in this case the Wine Lover's Companion), tell us that only small quantities of the Pinot Gris grape are grown in this country, some in Oregon, some in the Napa Valley -- and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Fish Eye ('04), despite its most unprepossessing moniker, was most excellent, being neither too sweet nor too heavy.
And the chesse...mmmmmm, super yummy ! Only, the excellent cheese creates a small problem. SWMBO was very quick to note its presence in the Palace. How will El Jefe manage to replenish the supply without a fatwa being issued ? Perhaps I can explain I'm a member of the World Cheese Commission (WCC), charged with local quality assurance, or possibly that my cheese stocks are "allied stocks" held per special agreement with friendly governments allied to El Jefe ? Perhaps the cheese represents tribute from El Jefe's loyal vassals ? A difficult conundrum indeed.
Fell asleep dreaming pleasant dreams of total world domination, legions of happy subjects, vast cheese and wine quantities, huge palaces, limos, private jets and comely mistresses. (Note to SWMBO: you did not read that last).

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Heroic "Minutemen"

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?
Michael Moore, 14 April 2004 (emphasis in original)

Chester, over at Adventures of Chester, calls attention here to MEMRI’s transcript of an astonishing broadcast on Iraqi television, the interrogation of a piece of excrement named Ramzi Hashem Abed, a captured Iraqi terrorist. The whole thing is worth reading here, and as Chester says, the reels and reams of this stuff coming out now should be seen on American television. Of course that won’t happen, because the media is no doubt afraid it would cause people to understand that the Iraq War is a just one. Here’s a brief excerpt:

(from Al-Fayhaa TV)
Interrogator: "What is your full name?"
Abed: "Ramzi Hashem Abed."
. . .
Interrogator: "What organization do you belong to?"
Abed: "Ansar Al-Islam."
Interrogator: "What organization is this?"
Abed: "It is bin Laden's group."
. . .
Interrogator: "Did you kidnap women?"
Abed: "Yes."
Interrogator: "There were operations of kidnapping and rape, carried out by the squad you belong to?"
Abed: "Yes."
Interrogator: "Tell me how many rape and kidnapping operations were carried out. My information says that the kidnapped women were university students or daughters of famous people. You raped them and got money for it, and if they were not slaughtered afterwards.... Did this really happen?"
Abed: "Yes, it did."
. . .
Interrogator: "You bastards. This is Jihad? You call this Jihad? "
Interrogator 2: "Did you participate in the rape and murder?"
Abed: "No. Just one who worked for the PUK. She was a Kurd."
Interrogator: "In the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan?"
Abed: "Yes. We brought her too."
Interrogator: "And you raped her?"
Abed: "Yes."

(from Al-Iraqiya TV)
Interrogator: "Did you rape anyone?"
Abed: "Only one woman, a relative of mine."
Interrogator: "A relative of yours. You kidnapped her and raped her?"
Abed: "No, we did not kill her."
Interrogator: "You didn't kill her, only raped her?"
Abed: "Yes."

The MEMRI site linked above has the whole transcript, and a video as well.
In a sane world, things like Mr. Abed would be tied to a post, sans blindfold, given the cigarette, and given a 5.56 mm trip to see Allah, or Satan, in this case. Thank God this creature seems to be in Iraqi custody and not American, because plenty of leftist do-gooders would shout themselves hoarse seeing that this heroic freedom fighter, this “Minuteman,” got his legal rights. I’m sure the Iraqis know just what to do with people like this.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Undiplomatic Diplomats

The Houston Chronicle reports today that the Mexican Foreign Ministry called in the US Ambassador to Mexico, Hon. Antonio Garza, to rebuke him for a speech the Ambassador made on Tuesday, in Denver, stating, inter alia, that he closed the US Consulate in Nuevo Laredo to “punish” the Mexican government for its “…failure to control violence in the region.”

As is well-known, Nuevo Laredo has been convulsed by violence caused by feuding among the various drug cartels, and the Mexican government’s sporadic efforts to crack down on them. Ambassador Garza stated that he has “been clear” that his “…primary responsibility as ambassador is the safety of United States citizens.” Earlier this year, the Chronicle tells us, Ambassador Garza, evidently publicly, requested the State Department to issue travel advisories alerting Americans to the border violence.

As soon as is possible, Ambassador Garza should be quietly recalled, and replaced by somebody ready to play in the major leagues. Ambassador Garza is indeed supposed to look to the safety of American citizens, but his primary, overarching responsibility, is the advancement and protection of the state interests of the United States. This is not accomplished by open and public insults by the US Ambassador to the host government.

Certainly, Ambassador Garza might find it necessary to complain to the Mexican government about the problems in Nuevo Laredo, perhaps even close the consulate. The Mexican authorities are certainly aware of the US government’s view of problems in Nuevo Laredo, but what purpose is served by airing of a friendly government’s dirty laundry in the papers ?

The current Mexican administration is as friendly a neighbor as we are ever likely to have in that quarter. A publicly understanding, diplomatic, tone by our chief diplomat in the area is more likely to be helpful than public hectoring. The US has plenty of trouble coming down the pike in Latin America (Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba). There is no sense in buying more.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


All kinds of events going on worthy of comment: Israelis clearing out of Gaza; loonies moving into Crawford; planes going down in Greece and Venezuela; and Wacko Chavez on the warpath; but...
El Jefe is buried at work this week. Till he gets un-buried, his commentary and words of wisdom; his trips to the Palace by the Sea with his mistresses; his inspections of his fanatically loyal Guard of Goombas; the counting of his obscene profits and vast fortune; his expeditions to the local food emporium to purchase large quantities of wine, cheese and similar things....will have to wait.
See ya'll later.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Rumblings in Japan

Some big news this morning out of Japan. The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Koizumi Junichiro, has apparently asked the Emperor (as per Article 7 of the Japanese Constitution), to dissolve the House of Representatives (lower house of the Diet), after a bill to split up and privatize the Japanese postal service (Japan Post) failed in the upper house, the House of Councillors. Prime Minister Koizumi's postal reform Bill went down because defectors from the Prime Minister’s own party, the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP), either voted against the Bill or failed to show up for the vote. This Bill just squeaked through the House of Representatives back in July.

Prime Minister Koizumi had previously made it clear that he was going to treat the postal reform Bill as a referendum on his government and its policies, and he seems to be making the high-stakes bet that the Japanese people will approve of what he’s doing, and return the LDP to power.

Elections for the House of Representatives are to be held 11 September. Apparently there is a real chance that the Socialists, now called the “Democrats” could wind up running the next government.

The failed bill is even more controversial than it sounds, because Japan Post runs a large part of the Japanese personal savings system: postal savings accounts have formed an important part of the Japanese economy since Emperor Meiji, and over 80 percent of citizens have postal savings accounts. Japan Post holds about a quarter of total personal assets in Japan, and is also in the life insurance business: between 55 and 60 percent of Japanese have a postal life insurance policy. Clearly, this bill threatens to upset many apple carts.

According to the English language Japanese newspaper Mainichi Daily News online, Prime Minister Koizumi has told his party leaders that the LDP will not endorse 37 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the postal bill when it was in the lower house, and that the LDP will put up new persons to run in their places.

Some of the LDP politicos, however, don’t seem sure that Mr. Koizumi’s bet on elections is the best play. Japan Post employees have always been a bulwark of LDP support. How are they likely to feel about privatization ? Perhaps this is one reason why Kozuimi’s move to hold snap elections has produced some disagreement even within Mr. Koizumi’s government. Under the Japanese Constitution, the Cabinet requests that the Emperor order elections, and the Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries Minister, Mr. Shimamura Yoshinobu, tried to gum up the works by refusing to sign the request; whereupon Mr. Koizumi fired Mr. Shimamura and took the Agriculture portfolio himself. That much public disagreement with the boss is unusual in Japanese politics.

The LDP, either alone, or in coalition, has dominated Japanese politics for virtually the entire post-war period, except for a few years in the 1960’s. A cornerstone of LDP policy has always been the US-Japan alliance. The Democrats have historically been much more skeptical of the US tie’s value. America needs a strong Japanese ally right now, so the upcoming election will be important.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

On Cheese

One of El Jefe’s numerous vices is that he likes cheese. Not your garden-variety, so to speak, boring old yellow cheese, tasteless and clumpy, with Yellow Dye No. 6, and Special Secret Preservative No. 304, made for the mass market. No, I’m unfortunately not that easy to please. Unfortunately for both my pocket-book and for SWMBO’s peace of mind, El Jefe likes the high-dollar cheeses. The real stuff. I’m somewhat the same about mustard, but that’s a less expensive little taste.

Yesterday, El Jefe went to the grocery. It is almost never a good idea to send El Jefe marketing alone, particularly on an empty tummy, and especially not when he’s on a diet. God only knows what may come home in the grocery sack.

Yesterday, for once, I was good. But I was sooo tempted not to be. Our local Kroger had samples of some really yummy Parmigiano-Reggiano. Yes, the real stuff, all the way from Reggio Emilia in sunny Italia. Nice big blocks of it. Alas, if I came home with such a thing, I’d probably wind up looking like Nagasaki after Bock’s Car came to town, and a good thing too, or I'd be broke and the size of one of Saddam's palaces. I had to be content with a couple of samples, and fantasizing how it might taste with a decent bottle of wine. But that stuff was GOOD. Wish I could quit thinking about it today.

A New Iranian President

On Saturday, Mahmud Ahmadinejad will be inaugurated as President of Iran. Today, Mr. Ahmadinejad received the official approval of the Islamic Republic’s “Supreme Guide” – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, allowing him to take office. Winning an election in the Islamic “Republic” does not mean much – a candidate could have the real approval of 99 percent of the voters and still be vetoed by the “Supreme Guide” or his mullah “Council of Guardians.”

The outgoing President, the ostensibly liberal Muhammad Khatami, despite the hopes of journalists and other right-thinking people in America and Europe, was little more than a time-server, because the presidency means nothing more than serving as a compliant lapdog for the mullahs. Mr. Ahmadinejad, the mullahs’ chosen standard-bearer, can be expected to be an even more obedient pet.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s victory in the runoff portion of the sham presidential election should have been no great surprise. With a collapsed economy, disaffected young people, a restive business class, riots in the major cities, and the Europeans and Americans pressing the mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions, it is no surprise at all that the clerical dictators would want to be certain of their total political control. Nevertheless, the decision of Iran’s rulers to go for total political power, and to lock out so-called “reformists” will prove in the long run to be a fatal error.

There is little doubt that the Mullahs rigged the results. The Iranian newspaper Kayhan, which parrots the Mullah line, published the news of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s victory even before the polls closed, just as they had done the week previously. Aides for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s defeated rival, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, have told the press that many of their supporters and observers at polling stations were arrested and beaten.

However, this is not to say that there was not quite a bit of genuine support for Mr. Ahmadinejad. Mr. Ahmadinejad was certainly the candidate of the regime’s enforcers, and most fanatic supporters, but he also seems to have had the support of many of those who have suffered most from the Islamic regime. While the mobs and mullahs were busy throwing out the Shah, killing dissidents, destroying the middle class, burning books and making a botch out of the war with Iraq, the economy has been contracting, rather than expanding, unlike the Iranian population, two-thirds of which is under 35. In the last elections, people voted, rationally enough, for a change, the so-called “reformer,” Khatami, who revealed his powerlessness by doing exactly nothing. People may be excused for thinking the reformers are worse than useless.

“Supreme Guide” Khamenei, known affectionately in Tehran as “Ali Shah” – because he’s really a Shah, just without the birthright-- stated after the polls had closed that any effort to bring people into the streets to protest the theft is just not in the national interest. Not in the demonstrators interest either, as Ali Shah was too nice to mention that such would get them killed, tortured or imprisoned. Michael Ledeen, as well informed as anybody in the West about events in Iran, quotes Iranian bloggers as saying Ali Shah called out the Basiji (the regime’s rent-a-mob that beats up students and dissidents) to stuff the ballot boxes claiming that “Islam is in danger and it is necessary to save it by any means.”

Of course the Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Islami (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), the “eyes and ears of the Islamic Revolution” and the Basiji would support Mr. Ahmadinejad, because he is, after all, one of their own: in the early 80’s, Mr. Ahmadinejad was part of the “Internal Security” section of the Pasdaran, and rumor has it he was even one of the hostage takers when the Tehran “students” and other odds and sods and assorted rabble invaded the US embassy all those years ago.

Only in the context of a hopelessly ruined country like the Islamic Republic could Mr. Ahmadinejad’s defeated opponent, Mr. Rafsanjani, (who has old Pasdaran connections himself), be considered a “moderate.” Mr. Rafsanjani presided over the final repression of the Islamic Revolution’s fellow-traveler idiot “moderates” – secular and leftist republicans who thought they could sup with Satan Khomeini to cast out Devil Shah. While Mr. Rafsanjani was President, dissidents were tortured at home, and murdered abroad; Iranian backed terrorists helped blow up the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and the Iranian economy slide towards complete collapse, which began with the Revolution, accelerated.

But Mr. Rafsanjani’s Iran is likely to be paradise compared to what’s in store under Mr. Ahmadinejad. He has his work cut out for him. The Economist says that 200,000 Iranians are emigrating a year, and unemployment is at least 16 percent, possibly higher. Inflation is at least 17 percent per annum, possibly more.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said today that “[t]he deprived…and the poor people will be the first priority on my agenda.” Who knows what this means ? The mullahs hate capitalism. Iran is as closed an economy at present as the Soviet Union in its worst days. Barely a fifth of economic activity is in private hands. While the population has grown by a third since the end of the Shah, the economy, in real terms, has lost a seventh of its 1979 value. Things are going to get worse. Probably, judging on his conduct as Tehran mayor, Mr. Ahmadinejad will embark on a large-scale soak-the-rich campaign, and increase subsidies for food, housing, and the state controlled sectors of the economy.

The political costs of this are, for the moment, minimal. The middle and upper classes hate the regime anyway. The economic and human costs will be severe. Privatization, and foreign investment, such as it is (mostly European), is probably finished. Iran, with its vast resources, and its educated urban population, should be rich. In the Shah’s time, Iran was really developing, and considered a greater economic power than, say Turkey, with a real economic future. Today, Iran is on the royal road to basket-case status.

Mr. Ahmadinejad believes that people have “religious duties” rather than “human rights.” Personally, Mr. Ahmadinejad is said to be an “ascetic” who will seek to purge Iran of “corruption” – both of the financial variety, which is rampant, and of the “moral” type – that is elimination of anything that smacks of Westernization. Ladies: better ditch the booze, and buy your veils now, if you plan on staying. Far wiser if you get hold of your relatives in LA or Texas and join them.

A collision with the United States is imminent. The economy of Iran is imploding, and since the mullahs have locked out the reformists, there will be nobody to blame for the impending disaster. Consequently, the clerics need to whip up nationalism, so they can blame their difficulties on foreign enemies – that is, on us. The mullah government will put whatever cash isn’t spent on food subsidies for the urban poor into weapons: particularly of the nuclear variety. They will also, to the extent they are not doing this already, stir up the rebels in Iraq against the Americans, and the pro-American government there.

Long term, the only option left for the mullahs to maintain their regime will be to mortgage Iran to China. China has money enough, weapons enough and need for oil enough to be interested in propping up the mullahs. A small number of Chinese troops in Iran would buy the mullahs immunity from military problems with the United States.

In the end, however, this is going to be a sucker bet. Not even the Chinese have enough money to save the mullah regime from its fundamental irrationality. The mullahs are too old, and too hated by elite society and anybody who works for a living, to long survive. Eventually economic reality will catch up to them too, as it did to the Soviet Union, and even to China. Unfortunately, the landing will not be a soft one. By choking off all paths towards liberty or reform, Ali Shah and his gang have ensured that the revolution that unseats them will be a violent one. Ultimately, the “Supreme Leader” and his mullah gang will do little more than completely discredit the idea of Islamic religious government.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Journalists and “Omerta”

Jail was something a journalist had to endure on occasion. It is, to quote ‘The Godfather’s’ Hyman Roth, “’the business we have chosen.’”

Richard Cohen, Washington Post, 2 August
2005, p. A13.
No stronger evidence of how off-track the American journalistic profession has gotten could be offered than by Richard Cohen’s comparison, quoted above, of journalists to mob figures, even fictional ones.

Mr. Cohen writes today about Judith Miller, who has become a martyr to all right-thinking journalists because she chose to go to jail rather than testify in court as to her source of information in the Valerie Plame affair. If you, your neighbor or El Jefe were to refuse to testify when properly subpoenaed to do so, we would go straight to jail without passing go or collecting $200.00. But because Ms. Miller is a “journalist”: because she writes for the New York Times, and is not a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief, much less a ditch-digger or a blogger; Mr. Cohen and his pals in prestige journalism maintain that, simply by virtue of their occupation, “journalists” have some special legal privilege not to comply with the same law the rest of us do.

The First Amendment provides, in pertinent part, that:

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…

This has normally been understood that persons can write or speak as they please. This applies to everyone, to El Jefe, “journalists,” you, your neighbors, and ditch-diggers too. Of course, this is not, and has never been understood to be, without limits: for example, there are still libel and slander laws. But Mr. Cohen, and Ms. Miller, are claiming that the law recognizes, or should recognize a “reporter’s privilege” not to name sources. Some states do, in my view, wrongly, recognize such a right. Federal Courts, generally speaking, have not.

Ms. Miller, by her refusal to answer the Plame prosecutor’s questions is in effect contending that there is something more than the liberty to speak and write that is protected by the First Amendment: that “journalists” are a special, privileged class, who receive legal protections that the rest of us commoners (including, incidentally, bloggers like yours truly), do not.

What the press is really after, of course, is something like medieval “benefit of clergy.” In old English law, “benefit of clergy” meant that clergymen accused of offenses could claim that they were outside the jurisdiction of the King’s courts and subject only to an ecclesiastical court applying canon law. Ms. Miller, by declining to testify, as any regular citizen would be required to do, is in effect claiming that by the sole virtue of her employment by a newspaper, she is beyond the law that the rest of us must comply with.

That is not what the Constitution is about. The Constitution allows the Washington Post or the New York Times or CBS to print and to say what they will. Everyone enjoys that right. But "media outlets", because they are “media outlets” do not have rights the rest of us do not. Mr. Cohen can quote “Hyman Roth” from The Godfather (actually, Mr. Cohen, it’s Godfather II) till the cows come home, but what he’s after is not equal justice under law. If Ms. Miller wants to defy the court: if she chooses journalistic "ethics" over the law, because she thinks she owes her sources omerta, then this is the "business that she has chosen" and she is precisely where she belongs -- in jail.

One last thought: The prestige press is SERIOUSLY upset about Judith Miller. As I said, she has become a martyr to them, and they are out for some scalps. President Bush and the administration, in particular Karl Rove, who are likely to be blamed by the working press for this business, had better watch out.