Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rumsfeld Comes Out Punching

I am somewhat agnostic about US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. So much to admire: a man with many good ideas on the restructuring of the post-Cold War military; a cabinet secretary sophisticated enough and forceful enough not to be bamboozled by statistics or canned answers from subordinates with impressive resumes; or inordinately awed by fruit salad on a uniform, however well-deserved. Secretary Rumsfeld, to his credit, has always made an honest effort to do his own homework.

At the same time, Secretary Rumsfeld has perhaps been guilty of carrying his good qualities as a leader and administrator to extremes, and being insufficiently willing to suffer contradiction, or to take advice. The Secretary also tolerated a high degree of administrative chaos in his area of responsibility. Finally, and most significantly, Secretary Rumsfeld bears a large measure of responsibility for the failure to plan for the administration and pacification of Iraq after the war of 2003; and, for his apparent unwillingness to even recognize the existence of an insurgency in Iraq for much of 2003.

All that said, Secretary Rumsfeld is still a high-caliber individual; and his remarks yesterday, to the American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City, ought to be required reading. The speech correctly castigates the deserving; and hopefully indicates that the Administration is going to at last come out of the White House Rose Garden and fight like Hell to prop-up the war effort and keep the defeatists from taking over Washington.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Whither Iraq ?

Wretchard's latest Iraq post "Both Sides Now" -- over at Belmont Club has plenty of good arguments on either side of the Iraq Fiasco/Not Fiasco issue. Be sure to read the many thoughtful comments following.
I have some thoughts on the state of things in Iraq, but I am not ready to open that particular box just yet. Read Wretchard, and have a look at Professor Kenneth Pollack's testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, here; in particular Pollack's discussion, citing Andrew Krepinevich's The Army and Vietnam, of the necessity of operating so as to deny guerrillas access to the population versus the temptation to employ one's forces in "whack-a-mole" guerrilla hunts.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Light Posts, Big Storms

Working for a living and last weekend as a single parent ensured have kept posting light this week, but this too shall pass.
You could not get away from the memory of Hurricane Katrina today. By command of SWMBO, I spent lunchtime getting my hair cut. All the TV channels in my very retro barber shop had assorted politicos and newsies on peddling endless platitudes about Katrina, to the general discontent of the midday haircut clientele.
I mean no disrespect to that storm's victims, for so many of whom Katrina will ever be The Storm-- but it was clearly a slow news day. As far as the World Buzz Factory is concerned, the Lebanon War is on hiatus; Jon Benet's a bust; Ernesto looks to be one; the elections are a ways off; and, the reporters don't want to be anyplace near Iraq. TV networks and Cable News departments must have fodder in the form of new subjects to talk about, and when nothing's new we get ceaseless regurgitation. That appears to be the case this week.
Tropical Storm Ernesto is said to be weaker as it goes into Florida: apparently it lost a good deal of its strength passing through Cuba. Certainly it was not as destructive as the last storm named Ernesto that helped devastate Cuba. . .that one was better known as Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fun, Good and Interesting Thangs - Reprise

I first did this list back in May of 05. . .Most of it is the same, but some of it is not. It's just an appropriate time to, reflect again on Fun, Good and Interesting Thangs (FGIT), as sort of a reminder of the blessings that have come my way in this life, and as an antidote to my usual attitude of nitpicking irriation, and a few Storm Cloud No. 1 blog posts I feel coming on. This is a by no means exhaustive list, nor is it in any particular order.

1. Parties.
2. Double entendres.
3. Cookies and Cream Ice Cream.
4. BMW’s.
5. A decent Merlot – from Chile not California.
6. Pancakes.
7. Seaside, FL.
8. Dancing.
9. A trip to the Museum, when 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 ol'Saddam out of that hole.
17. When SWMBO is happy.
18. 18-year old Scotch (preferably Macallan).
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, MILO and SUNSHINE, the High Patronesses of this Blog.
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. Flags, particularly those of Texas, the US and the Confederacy.
31. Sleeping late -- anybody who bugs me before 10 a.m. is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD.
32. The GoGo’s.
33. Some stuff by the Carpenters.
34. Going to the Circus.
35. Hershey Bars.
36. Deutsche Bier.
37. Deutsche Marschmusik.
38. New Ulm, TX.
39. Gossip.
40. Old Books.
41. Miniskirts.
42. Grapes (red, seedless).
43. Regular Coke.
44. Italian Food.
45. Rome.
46. Blueberry Pie.
47. A stay at the Four Seasons, or the Lancaster (Houston, Texas).
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. Mozart's Symphonie Nr. 31 in D-Major "Pariser Symphonie" (KV 297).
60. Austin, Texas.
61. Roller Coasters.
62. Winston Churchill and all his books.
63. Writing in my journal (where I put all the stuff I won't tell the blog).
64. George Strait.
65. Barbecue – specially brisket.
66. Ball caps.
67. The Washington Post.
68. Ronald Reagan.
69. Keeping my friends’ secrets.
70. Paris -- standing in Place de la Concorde looking down the Champs Elysees, or walking up Rue de Rivoli.
71. Riding my bike.
72. A royal flush.
73. Attention.
74. Irish Whiskey (Jameson's).
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. 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" (by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Requiem 1985).
90. Strawberries.
91. Robert E. Lee.
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. The film 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. Howard Pyle's The Battle of Bunker Hill (1897).
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.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Eggheads Without Keepers

Some group of worthies calling themselves the "International Astronomical Union," meeting this week in Prague, have decided not to call Planet Pluto a planet, leaving dear old Sol System with eight planets instead of nine.
This follows a proposal last week by this organization's executive committee (the chairman of which is, of course, a Harvard professor), to redefine planets another way -- and instead add three planets: the asteroid Ceres, something called UB-313 and Charon -- a moon of Pluto, which would make Pluto and Charon a linked "double planet."
Conferences like this are graphic evidence of what happens when members of the Human Calculator set are allowed to run loose without minders. Still, you gotta wonder what ails the astronomers ? I mean they're in Prague, hard by the world headquarters of ale. Why can't the assembled rocket scientists just enjoy the fine Czech pilsner beers; walk along the Charles Bridge; tour Hradcany Castle; people-watch and issue the usual boring conference papers written by computers to be read by robots ? But noooooo. They have to play Mickey Mouse with the cosmos, and take away the Disney Dog's planet.
And what kind of name is UB-313 for a "planet" anyway ? Isn't UB-313 some chemical that's in sunblock ? If we HAVE to have a numbered planet, why not call it LV-426 instead ? Because, of course, the silly eggheads have no imagination, and want to un-planet Pluto.
Hmmm, time to convene the First Ever El Jefe Astronomical Summit. (FEEJAS). To be held, with lots of beer, in Beautiful Downtown Ciudad El Jefe. After a plethora of seminars, and tax-deductable meetings in big hotels (all with signs saying "Welcome, Egghead Conference !"); earnest scientific discussions at good restaurants and bars; plus some serious people-watching (possibly opposite sex, but don't tell SWMBO !) -- we can go back to the usual nine planets, and the aforementioned wacko eggheads can publish stuffy papers about How Wrong it All Is.
UPDATE: After some Watercooler Consultations, (a veritable office loya jirga), El Jefe has decided to announce the formation of the "Pluto Planetary Liberation Front" (P.P.L.F.), with, of course, El Jefe as its "Plutocratus Maximus." The objective of the PPLF is, of course, the "re-planetization" of Pluto by jihad. Our slogan and rallying-cry shall be: "God is Great, Pluto is our leader !" Our symbol is, of course, the Disney Dog Pluto, in a burqa, carrying an AK-47.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


As the cartoon suggests, the Iranians unquestionably believe that they are on a roll.
Yesterday, Iran officially replied to US/European/UN warnings to discontinue its nuclear enrichment program by stating that Iran was interested in talking, but that they intended to keep their nuclear program, thank you very much.
Also yesterday, as if to make sure the West, in particular the lily-livered Europeans -- got the message -- an Iranian warship seized a Romanian oil platform in the Persian Gulf. The oil platform in question, along with another rig, had apparently been drilling in Iranian waters; but the contract expired, and the Romanians (after getting a favorable court decision allowing them to do so), removed one platform. When they tried to move the other Tuesday, two Iranian Navy oil supply vessels demanded to be allowed to send boarders on to the platform; and when the Romanians refused, the supply ships whistled-up a warship which fired on the platform, and then disgorged commandos, which took control. Eagle Speak, (the Source on matters nautical), has a complete discussion, here.
The Iranian reaction seems extreme for what amounts to a commerical dispute. . .but Romania is very friendly with the United States, and is thus a convenient target for picking-on when looking to remind the Europeans to play nice and ignore the Big Bad Wolf's fangs and nukes if they know what's good for them.
The Iranians have thrown down their gauntlet. Anybody gonna pick it up ?

Jefe Not Happy

El Jefe will probably post somewhat less this week: SWMBO is in Amsterdam through Saturday on business. I am none too happy about this, matters in Europe being what they are, and air travel being what it is.

I am even less happy following the little incident this morning: a Northwest Airlines flight was outbound from Amsterdam to Bombay, when the aircraft turned around, picked up an escort of Dutch F-16’s, and landed back at Schiphol Airport. A number of persons were removed for questioning. SWMBO is supposed to leave out of Schiphol on Saturday.

Fox said that the Northwest captain had requested a fighter escort. Presumably he had a good reason: care and feeding of high-performance military aircraft not exactly being cheap, a frivolous request for some friendly company - not to mention turning around a scheduled revenue flight with paying passengers - could land the captain in hot water. Still, I hope it's a false alarm.
UPDATE (4:00 p.m. 23 Aug) My brother's in Qatar, and writes me that with the Iranians seizing oil platforms, he wants to know if it's risky there. Good ! Where's the Maalox ?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Getting an Education

At last I have some ammunition for those conversations with earnest students seeking El Jefe's great wisdom and free advice on where they should attend college. After all, some fields of study are more interesting than others, and a certain large University in Austin, alma mater of El Jefe, has so many advantages. Alas, I took much too much advantage. . . I did get an education, although sometimes not quite the one my long-suffering parents had in mind.
Hook em.

A Needed Grain of Salt

Without trying to minimize the Israeli political defeat in the recent fighting in Lebanon; nor the problems the conflict revealed with the Israel Defense Force's reserve structure and training, I would say that us pundits and backroom strategists should perhaps take a deep breath and think for a bit before proclaiming a total reordering in the World Distribution of Jello. In that vein, have a look at the military commentator Edward Luttwak's op-ed piece "Misreading the Lebanon War" in the Jerusalem Post here.
I'm a big admirer of Dr. Luttwak: his The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, and his The Pentagon and the Art of War are two of the most worn out and annotated books on my shelves. His article in Commentary: "Three Reasons Not to Bomb Iran -- Yet," should be required reading for anybody with an interest in this subject.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Castle Taken Over

The Heir and two of his pals are having a sleepover. The challenge for El Jefe and SWMBO are to find enough to do to keep them busy. A "wrapping" expedition was originally laid-on -- where boys take rolls of toilet paper and spread it all over the front yards of certain interesting girl classmates. Fortunately for El Jefe, the late-night provider of transport and the beachmaster for such invasions, rain in Cuidad El Jefe earlier today has put paid to this scheme.
Probably they shall be planted in front of the television, watching some suitably awful movie.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Jordan Sends Iraq an Ambassador

King Abdullah II has sent a Jordanian ambassador to Iraq, the first Arab country to send a fully accredited diplomatic representative to the new government in Baghdad.

Besides the fact that Jordan and Iraq are neighbors, and do a lot of business, there are perhaps historical reasons for doing so: the last Iraqi King, Faisal II, (murdered at age 23 in 1958, along with his entire family, by some of Saddam's equally unsavory predecessors), was a cousin of his fellow member of the Al-Hashimi dynasty -- King Abdullah II.
Dynastic and commercial reasons aside, I wonder why the Jordanians are doing this ? Mind you, this is good as far at the United States is concerned, but the Iraqi government is not what one would call stable, and King Abdullah II, already a poor risk for a life insurance policy, will possibly make himself a few more enemies this way. Also, God protect the ambassador and his family, because the bad guys will certainly be after them.
There are a couple of possibilities: First, if Iraq breaks-up into its constituent Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish parts, the Sunni area of the country, that bordering Jordan -- is not especially viable, given that, unlike Kurds and Shiites, Sunni Iraq has no oil (at least that it doesn't have to fight for), and lacks access to the sea. Jordan, a Sunni state also, doesn't have much oil -- but has the port of Aqaba. Rolling up Sunni Iraq into Jordan actually makes a bit of sense, and might help King Abdullah's country with another big problem by diluting the political power of his Palestinian residents, who are somewhat unenthusiastic subjects of his House. It would be interesting to know what the new ambassador's instructions might be about contact with Sunni leaders.
Less fancifully and more immediately, I suspect the United States is leaning on its friends (a kinder term than clients), such as Jordan, to show their loyalty, following Hezbollah's recent triumph in Lebanon. Moreover, King Abdullah probably in any case now feels a certain draft; a cold wind blowing from his family's old enemy Syria to the north, and is looking to reassure the United States of his regime's value.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dear Leader and Mad Jad Gonna Make Things Go Boom ?

The Associated Press reports that the White House is warning that the test of a nuclear weapon by the North Korean government would be "extremely provocative."
Clearly a test is gonna happen, then, may have even happened by the time you read this.
Mind you, all this is occurring two days after Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. In the Shinto religion, the souls of Japan's war dead are enshrined there -- and this includes some World War II war criminals, including some of the highest "Class A" kind. More on this another time. I don't like Japanese war criminals either, but El Jefe tends to be a contrary, nationalistic old cuss, who sticks-up for the home-folks, so if he were Japanese in the way that he is American, he'd probably visit Yasukuni too. Glad I'm not, and don't have to make that call.
Anyway, Korea, China and other nations in Asia take great public offense to these visits, and I think the evidence that a test is coming, at this time, is significant. The Japanese, as the former colonial power in Korea from 1904 to 1945, are at best not popular, and more honestly, deeply hated in Korea. Since Japan is the party most threatened by a North Korea nuclear test, much of Asia -- preferring to wax indignant, or affect to, about the crimes of the past, rather than the real dangers of the present -- will probably be at best ambivalent to the greatly increased threat presented by Dear Leader Kim's uber-wacko regime.
Don't forget we have 22 August coming up, the date the Iranians are supposed to make their official reply to the UN's nuclear proposals -- the day, as many on the web have pointed out, and, as Bernard Lewis wrote in the Wall Street Journal, that:
. . .by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.
So, the thing that El Jefe is wondering about -- is Mad Jad gonna test a bomb, also on August 22 ? I'm wondering if: (1) Dear Wacko Kim has lent good friend Mad Jad a bomb to test to "jump start" Iran's appearance on the nuclear stage, in conjunction with his own; or (2) if North Korea has been helping, and thus, speeding up Iranian nuclear efforts ? I think you can take possibility no. 2 for granted, but we should consider possibility no. 1 as well.
El Jefe is a big believer in the existence of a worldwide overt and covert anti-American alliance. This effort includes obvious players like Iran; the anti-US rebels in Iraq; Dear Nutjob Kim in Korea; Wacko Chavez in Caracas; the Castro brothers; Hezbollah, etc. Why wouldn't they cooperate ? Their interests coincide. I think there are also less obvious, silent players, including western Europeans, who do not wish to live in a world dominated by US cowboy capitalism and military imperialism. I wonder if there are even some people here, making their not-so-quiet stand against US monopoly capitalism and imperialism ? In any case, the existence of this front, and the deliberate or practical cooperation of these players (all for their own purposes), in keeping the pressure on Uncle Sam on many fronts is one big reason why the US is having such rough sailing at present.
In any case, the next week or so could be interesting.

Timing the Big Story

I guess it's lucky that Mr. Karr, the putative JonBenet Ramsey killer, waited till this week to get caught and sing like a canary to the press, as opposed to last week. I mean, with rockets on Haifa, liquids off airplanes and Paul and Heather calling it quits, TV media would have had a collective nervous breakdown. . .
UPDATE 2:45 p.m. (17 Aug.) Watercooler consensus at my office is that this Karr fellow is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. In any case, either way he's looking at three squares and a wool blanket -- either in the slammer or in the nuthouse.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

South of Da Border...

While politically preoccupied with Iraq, the Middle East, and with our own approaching elections, it would do no harm to keep a weather eye on our neighbor to the south.

Supporters of unsuccessful leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have kept Mexico City tied up in knots since the Mexican presidential elections last month. The Federal Electoral Tribunal is supposed to announce the findings of its partial recount on 31 August.

We have half the month left till results are announced, and already matters are turning violent. Yesterday, Mexican Federal Police, using tear-gas and truncheons, drove pro Lopez Obrador protesters away from the meeting place of the lower house of the Mexican congress, the Chamber of Deputies.

All this trouble doesn’t look like ending peacefully. Supporters of Mr. Lopez Obrador are vowing to place the putative winner of the presidential election, Mr. Felipe Calderon, “under siege” if the Federal Electoral Tribunal decides Mr. Calderon actually did win.

Remember that Mr. Lopez Obrador is the former mayor of Mexico City, and that all of this agitation, as summer drags on, has been going on for quite a while in Mexico City. An important thing to keep an eye on will be the reliability of the Federal Police, and whether they began, after a time, to show a certain reluctance to use tear-gas, or their truncheons, and to otherwise confront the crowds.

Street protests and agitation have been going on in Mexico City, and elsewhere in Mexico, since Don Felipe’s victory was announced. How is this possible ? Don’t the protesters have jobs ? If not, who is paying the freight – that is, organizing food, lodging, the signs, and the marches ? Worth looking into, and presumably the Mexican police and intelligence agencies have this covered.

The Mexican authorities would probably be well advised to bring in some police and military units recruited in other parts of the country, perhaps, say, from northern Mexico, and to spend some time seeing that units exposed to the rioters are properly indoctrinated and purged of the dubiously obedient.

Finally, Concise World Armies, 2006 lists three Military Police brigades as being stationed near Mexico City. Hopefully, the Mexican authorities have seen to their care and feeding. They may need them, because it looks like a long summer in the City of Mexico.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

So Mr. Olmert ? What'cha Doin After Politics ?

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is shortly going to be out of a job.

The recent cease-fire, on all counts, is an absolute disaster for Israel – and not too good for Israel’s friend, the United States – either. The débâcle is mostly the fault of the Olmert government.

Following the kidnapping by Hezbollah of two Israeli soldiers, President Bush gave Israel what amounted to a month-long hunting license, effectively stalling the diplomats to afford Israel a chance to smash Hezbollah. It is now apparent that the Olmert government squandered its precious opportunity, dithered, and opted to try to do the job on the cheap. First, the Israelis tried airpower and artillery alone; then very limited ground incursions, to keep casualties down; and finally getting serious with large numbers of ground troops in the last week -- too late. Israel got all the bad press attendant on using any military option – for virtually no result.

It appears that at least some of the planners in the IDF General Staff suggested a larger ground effort from the outset, to have the suggestion vetoed by either the Prime Minister, or by the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, whose background is in the Israeli Air Force. What really happened will no doubt be dissected in nauseating detail in the coming weeks, but it is certain that the air-heavy nature of the initial Israeli effort was a mistake.

Prime Minister Olmert, as Caroline Glick’s column in the Jerusalem Post makes apparent, is almost certainly on the way out. General Halutz’s days appear numbered as well: Haaretz reports today that the general is under fire for his sale of an investment portfolio hours after Hezbollah abducted the Israeli soldiers. Given the at-best ambigious ending to this conflict, General Halutz’s job would be in serious jeopardy even without such criticism.

The only Israeli winner in all of this is Benjamin Netanyahu, probably the most hard-line major Israeli politician, – and the next Israeli Prime Minister.

Napoléon's Birthday

I ascend the throne to which the . . . votes of the Senate, the People and the Army have called me, my heart full of the destinies of a Nation which I, from the midst of camps, first proclaimed great.

Napoléon I, 1 December 1804. (From R.M. Johnson, P.J.Haythornthwaite, eds, In the Words of Napoleon, Greenhill, 2002).

Today is the 237th anniversary of the birth of Napoléon I, Emperor of the French, King of Italy.

Born Napoleone (or Nabolione) diBuonaparte, in Ajaccio, Corsica, he just missed being Genoese, as Corsica was only transferred to France in 1768, the year before his birth. Child of a prominent, but retiring local lawyer (Carlo) and a strong-willed mother (Letizia) – she had the preponderant parental influence on him, Napoleone was sent away to boarding school at Brienne in France at the age of nine, eventually winning admission to the Ecole Militaire at Paris. Despite his obvious talent and intelligence, Buonaparte was still a minor noble from a backwater province: he would have done well to have ended his life as an obscure field-grade officer in the Royal Army. But life had other plans. The nobody officer cadet from Ajaccio, poorer than his classmates, laughed at by his fellows for his Italian-accented French, rose out of the chaos of the French Revolution all the way to the throne.

The Emperor ended the corruption, chaos and brigandage of the French Revolution and restored order. Napoléon correctly divined that the French missed the monarchy destroyed by the Revolution, and restored it, to popular acclaim, in the person of himself. His choice of the title: "Emperor of the French" drew on both the legacy of the Holy Roman Empire, and the earlier Rome of the Caesars which Napoléon and many of his contemporaries so greatly admired.

Napoléon is justly famous as a soldier, but he was a far greater ruler than he was a general. The Emperor proved to be one of the greatest lawgivers in history, and the modern French state is his creation. Napoléon's laws and administrative system still govern France today, and have had worldwide influence, as far afield as the United States and Japan. Napoléon was a great builder, and filled the country with universities, libraries, roads and other useful public works. The French educational system, and those of several other European countries were his creations.

Napoléon is mostly remembered for his wars. He made his reputation as a general in the wars of the French Revolution, and he inherited responsibility for the wars when he seized power from the corrupt French Republic in November of 1799. As soon as was diplomatically possible, he concluded a series of advantageous peace treaties, culminating in peace with Great Britain in March of 1802.

Peace was short-lived, however, and France and Britain, along with much of the rest of Europe, were soon at war again, on and off, from 1803 forward. Five great victories: Austerlitz (1805), over Austria; Jena (1806), over Prussia; Eylau and Friedland (1807), over Russia and Prussia; and Wagram (1809), over Austria again -- cemented French dominance of central and western Europe. Napoléon’s siblings were given thrones. The Corsican gunner from Ajaccio took as a second wife a Habsburg Archduchess (Marie Louise), and their child was a King from the moment of his birth. “Roll up that map of Europe” said British Prime Minister William Pitt, after Austerlitz, “it will not be needed again in our time.”

But Napoléon was unable to consolidate his rule. Despite his victories in central Europe, his greatest enemy, Britain, remained, implacable and untouchable across the English Channel, always able to field good little armies, and provide financial support to his enemies. In the west, a guerrilla war in Spain bled Napoléon's armies; although he probably would have prevailed on this front had central Europe remained quiet. But on the east, Russia, although ostensibly an ally, threatened the Empire's central European position by intriguing with Napoléon's enemies.
The Emperor overreached himself trying to resolve this latter problem, by invading Russia, in 1812, and the retreat from Moscow led eventually to defeat, exile and a lonely death on St. Helena in the South Atlantic. Still, after the fall of his regime in 1815, his successors in France found things in such good order that little actually changed, beyond the names on the office doors.

In today's more republican and pacifist times he is often blamed (wrongly, El Jefe believes) for the bloody wars of his era, but he did not start most of them, although he certainly took advantage of the opportuninties they presented for the aggrandizement of his empire.

Greatest general of his age, and possibly ever, Napoléon's metoric political and military career, and all of the monumental change which came in its train, was effectively finished by the time he was 45. Like Julius Caesar, the historical personality he most resembles, Napoléon transcended mere mortal existence and passed into legend.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Expert Excuse Makers and 1943...

The People's Cube has a hilarious parody of how today's New York Times might have covered the tragic events of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in World War II, here (hat tip: Regime Change Iran). By way of introduction: in 1943, the Jewish population of Warsaw, Poland (an area of the city into which the Germans had forced all the Jewish residents), rose up against the German occupation; the rebellion was ultimately crushed, quite brutally, by the SS.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Olmert Buys It...Or Says He Does

Late word from the AP that Ehud Olmert accepts the US/France cease fire proposal...and that he will recommend that his government accept it...on Sunday.
Which Sunday of what month ?
Sticking with my earlier view, for the moment. Hmmm. In any case, that shall be next week's problem, because the Jefe is off for the boonies.

Today's Musical Accompaniment. . .

. . .while El Jefe scribbles is Mozart's Symphony No. 12 in G major (KV 110), played by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Karl Böhm, a Deutche Grammophon recording from back in 1961 (Year 1 of the El Jefe era). From my splendid box set of Mozart symphonies by the dear old Berliner Philharmoniker and Herr Böhm.

Diplomatic Maneuvers: Convergence or Divergence ?

The Associated Press reports that United States and France have agreed on draft resolution to halt the fighting in Lebanon, which is to be submitted to the UN Security Council later.

The United States has apparently done most of the agreeing. It is not clear exactly what the terms will be – the versions discussed on Fox News; the version discussed by the Associated Press in the linked article above; and, the version that Haaretz says the Lebanese cabinet signed off on all appear to have differences. For the moment, the Israeli ground offensive is continuing and even intensifying.

The UN proposals sound unsatisfactory from Israel's perspective. Still, Israelis should not be unduly surprised if the UN resolution is slanted against them. They have had over three weeks to make military headway against Hezbollah, but frittered away a good portion of it with air strikes and limited ground incursions, rather than the heavy ground offensive dictated by the situation. Quite frankly, the present state of military affairs does not entitle the Israelis to a better deal; even with American backing, it is simply not possible for a UN resolution, or any other diplomatic solution, to give the Israelis results which their military operations have not so far obtained.

The Olmert government has done itself no favors, with its now obvious dithering between different military options; either in terms of its relations with the US, or in the Israeli domestic political arena. Benjamin Netanyahu is waiting in the wings, and I suspect, politically, he is the Israeli winner of the past several weeks. The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lieut.-General Dan Halutz, the first Israeli Air Force officer to hold that post, and presumably the military advocate of the air-heavy option that dominated the first weeks of this conflict; which lost the Israelis so much political time, and got so much bad press, would probably do well to get his resume in order.

The intriguing part of this business is how far the Americans have gone towards the French view. The US, of course, wants to keep France on board for the Iranian nuclear issue. To some degree this is dictated by President Bush’s domestic weakness: many American opinion makers, persons of Leftist views: not to mention Democratic Party heavies -- trust and agree the French government's foreign policy more than that of their own, and this constrains the President’s freedom of maneuver. I would prophecy that expectations of much from France are completely misplaced, but that is a story for another day.

What will the Israelis do ? What will the Americans do if the Israelis object to the impending UN resolution ? Probably, everybody will go ahead with what they are doing. Israeli military operations will continue for a little while longer, but Washington will fall over backwards to find that the Israelis are complying with whatever the UN passes.

Certainly, it is unlikely that the US government will ever find the Israelis are not complying with the UN, because then it would be under pressure to do something, which is a domestic political cul-de-sac no administration will get caught dead in. The Americans will say that the Israelis and US see “eye-to-eye” on whatever the resolution says; and that the Israeli cabinet has “assured” the “administration” – no names here – that Israel “means to comply with the spirit and the letter of UN Resolution XXXX” but that certain “modalities of implementation” remain to be worked out; but both Israel and the United States are dedicated to building a “just and durable” peace in “Lebanon, and all through the Middle East.”

As usual, all the assurances of “just and lasting” peace are the giveaway that the gravediggers and armaments manufacturers will continue to enjoy prosperity.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Terror Alert Changes

Alert readers will note that the "terror alert" status has changed. Flights from the UK are at Red Level "Elmo." Other commercial aviation travel is at Orange Level "Ernie." Everything else is at Yellow Level "Bert."
One kind of Sesame Street I wish we could find our way away from.

I Wish I Had Stayed in Bed

Good morning ! Today MI-5 in Great Britain arrested at least twenty persons who were apparently planning to detonate liquid explosives concealed in hand-luggage aboard trans-Atlantic passenger aircraft. Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff says it looks like Al Qaeda. Ya think ?
In Israel, 140 rockets have been fired at Israel today, so far. The rockets are not aimed, just loosed-off in the general direction of Israel, one of them killing a mother and her five-year old child. Meanwhile, the Israelis, apparently under American pressure (why, for Christ's sake ?), have postponed the further development of their ground offensive.
In Iraq, the Iraqi Army has made another division (the 4th), completely operational. Its area of operations includes Saddam's old stronghold, Tikrit. This is the fifth of a projected ten divisions to become operational. The US Army says that 25 brigades and 85 battalions of Iraqi troops have assumed "operational command and control" -- presumably of particular assigned sectors, to date. US troops, meanwhile are hunting death-squads in Baghdad. Despite all this activity, a suicide-bomber killed 35 people and injured 100 others, besides ending his own miserable life, near the Imam Ali Mosque in Najif. The Prime Minister of Iraq is blaming Sunni extremists.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic News Agency (Joseph Goebbels called his similar organization the Ministry of Propaganda) reports that Mr. Ali Larijani, who styles himself the "Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council" of Iran says that Iran will reject both the UN resolution calling on Iran to halt uranium enrichment, not to mention any actual suspension of uranium enrichment. Iran will "not accept talks under duress" says Mr. Larijani. No duress for Iran, oh God forbid, but Israel must be destroyed, Mad Jad has said.
Meanwhile, in other happy talk out of Tehran, the Iranian Prosecutor-General, Mr. Qorbanali Dorri Najafabadi, warns his countrymen that "The vicious triangle of the US, Britain and Israel in continuing hostility to Islam now targets the culture of Jihad and martyrdom. . ." This person says that President Bush and Secretary of State Rice ". . .symbolize neo-Crusaders in hostility toward the world of Islam and Muslims." Mr. Najafabadi can say this becuase he is either (1) delusional and really thinks it, or (2) because he knows that Bush and Rice really aren't neo-Crusaders, because if they were, Tehran would be glowing in the dark. Which is it ? Mr. Najafabadi is the former Minister of Intelligence, so I don't think he's at all delusional, although he is certainly somewhat unsavory. I rather suspect he thinks we are weak sisters.
I'm coming round to the view that the Iranians are at back of everything that's going on right now. Hezbollah is not some rag-tag bunch of guerrillas, but appears to have deployed some well-trained formations to oppose the Israelis, that have good equipment. A nation-state is clearly behind them: they appear to me to be more of an Iranian Foreign Legion than anything that's Lebanese. Similarly, our foes in Iran are too well equipped and financed, as are our enemies in Afghanistan. Should we just go to the source and make Tehran glow, before it can do the same to us ?

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits...

This is from Regime Change Iran, and concerns Mr. Akbar Mohammadi, an Iranian dissident, who died in the custody of the Iranian authorities, at Evin Prison in Tehran, on 31 July 2006. The translation is from SOS Iran. It takes a strong stomach to read this, so be warned. I reproduce it as found on Regime Change Iran, as nearly as I can, given the vagaries of Blogger's software (less emphasis).
Please read, and tell others, so that all may be aware of the nature of this evil regime that wants nuclear weapons; that threatens the destruction of whole states; that is egging Hezbollah on in Lebanon; that arms those shooting at our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further comment by me is superfluous.

To: United Nations Human Rights Council
Re: Eyewitness Report regarding condition of body of Akbar Mohammadi
Dear Sir or Madam,
Below please find the eyewitness report regarding condition of body of Iranian Student and Political Prisoner Akbar Mohammadi after his death in the prisons of Islamic Republic in Iran. The original handwriting report and signatures of the witnesses in Iran is attached below.

We request your office’s immediate response and reaction to this urgent matter.
Dr. Iman Foroutan
Executive Director S.O.S. Iran

A Summary of Observing the Body of Akbar Mohammadi
The police and information forces of the lawless and bullying Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran put the naked body of my son in a station wagon (against all norms) and these thugs threatened that if we held a memorial service for him, they would return the body to Tehran to be buried in an undisclosed location. We were additionally threatened that if we did not agree with these conditions, they wouldn’t release his imprisoned bother [brother], Mr. Manouchehr Mohammadi, to attend the ceremony. Mr. Saeed Ashrafpour, the uncle of Akbar, was present while the body was being washed and buried.
Mr. Ashrafpour reported his observations as follows:
1. His eyes and mouth were wide open
2. His forehead was swollen, an indication that he was beaten
3. His teeth were protruding from his mouth.
4. His skull was broken
5. His front torso, from the neck to the stomach, was cut and stapled together
6. The same scenario was also repeated on his back
7. His shoulders, arms and soles were bruised badly, indicating that he was tortured
8. When he was being washed, his head and ears were bleeding and we had to stop it with cotton
9. His fingers were mangled
10. His wrists and ankles were bruised
11. There were purplish circles around his eyes
12. His weight had dwindled from about 95 Kg (approximately 209lbs) to 45 Kg (equivalent to 99 lbs)
Myself (the father), my wife and some of our relatives were present during the funeral and we can assure you that Akbar did not look like himself. It was as if Akbar had been disguised (to cover up the fact that he had been tortured). Akbar’s body was in such bad condition that the Coroner, after getting rid of the governmental thugs and showing the body to his other uncle, Mr. Ali Reza Ashrafpour, told them in confidence they should sue without hesitation or fear.
Finally, we request that all organizations protecting human rights assist us in our demand to disentomb the body and to perform an autopsy to ascertain the cause death.Below, are the undersigned, who have seen the body in person and approve of this report.
Copied to:
1. United Nations Office
2. Human Rights Organization
3. International Amnesty
4. Human Rights Watch
5. Physicians without Borders.
6. News Agencies, both inside and outside Iran
Signed: Saeed Ashrafpour, uncle
Signed: Alireza Ashrafpour, uncle
Signed: Abdolreza Ahsrafpour, uncle
Signed: Hamid Ashrafpour, uncle
Signed: Ahmadreza Ashrafpour, uncle
Signed: Mohammadreza Ashrafpour, uncle
Signed: Behrooz Ashrafpour, cousin
Signed: Abbas Amiri
Signed: Abdollah Amini
Signed: Iman Rezaei, cousin
Signed: Ali Esmaili, Akbar’s friend
Signed: Seyed Fazlollah Mir-Esmaili, relative
And two other illegible signatures. . .

Latest Al-Reuters Photo from Beirut !

From Little Green Footballs (see also Tigerhawk and Lucianne). As Tigerhawk commenter Mystery Meat pointed out, Godzilla's Star of David armband has no doubt been airbrushed out, for purposes of objectivity.

Wackadoos Cock-a-Hoop

The New York Daily News calls Ned Lamont's defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut US Senate primary a "win for the wackadoo wing" of the Democratic Party. "Leftward, march! The sucking sound you heard from Connecticut last night was the air going out of the war on terror. At least among many Democrats." The wackadoo nutjobs have every right to be cock-a-hoop: if we cannot stop them in November it will be April 1975 (to the Lefties, the fall of Saigon was their finest hour) -- all over again. We will lose the war, because the Democrats will abandon it, with all of the attendant disasters, misery and humiliation such a calamity would entail.
"Wackadoo ?" Hmmmm, I haven't heard that one before. Describes some wackos so well ! I like the word, and will use it in future.
Some good news: another wackadoo, Cynthia McKinney, purveyor of sick conspiracy theories about 9/11 -- has been sent to crawl back under her rock in Georgia: defeated in the Democratic primary for Georgia's 4th Congressional District. Adios Cynthia, and if you want to slug any more cops, you won't have a seat in the House of Representatives to hide behind.

But WHAT KIND of Cleaning Fluid Was It ?

With all of this irrelevant news -- wars in the Middle East; political primaries; killings in Baghdad; wackos wanting nukes; nutjobs named Chavez buying Russian fighters -- it's good to see that the media is keeping us abreast of the REAL news of the day.
According to AP, Paul Macartney's (oops, scuse me, SIR Paul McCartney's) and his soon to be ex-wife Heather Mills McCartney's divorce is getting u-g-l-y pretty flippin quick.
In the latest of no doubt many more juicy installments to come, AP reports that security guards at Paul's London residence got all hot and bothered and summoned the constables when one of Heather's guards climbed a wall to open a gate to let her in. It seems Paul has recently changed the locks and frozen the joint bank accounts, and sent Heather's lawyers ". . . a letter complaining about three bottles of cleaning liquid that were taken from his home to her office. . ." (emphasis supplied).
No, I'm not making this up, people. Billion-dollar Sir Paul is worried about three bottles of cleaning fluid ? Oooookay.
Now, believe me, I can understand the part about the guards being willing to climb the walls for Heather. Hell, I'd be glad to put up Heather here at Casa El Jefe, cept when SWMBO finds out I might be getting calls from yon barristers myself.
Still, you've gotta wonder about the standards of the English speaking world's journalism schools. All this bother, and nobody thought to find out for this article exactly what brand of cleaning fluid was at issue here ? Think of the marketing possibilities: "Baz Supreme -- powerful enough to remove the worst stains AND to wash that man right out of your hair !"

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Say It Ain't So, Joe

With about 80 percent of precincts reporting in Connecticut, Ned Lamont has a narrow lead of about 7,000 votes. This will probably be sufficient to mean curtains for Senator Lieberman. I'm sure sorry, both for Connecticut, and for the country.

HQ Spies

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israel Defense Force's Chief of the General Staff, Lieut.- General Dan Halutz, has appointed Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, as his "representative" to the Israeli Northern Command -- the major command for IDF forces in Lebanon.
The officer commanding Israeli Northern Command, Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam, is not being replaced, the Jerusalem Post assures us. Has anybody told General Adam this? General Halutz, according to the article, has expressed his "full confidence" in Northern Command's leadership.
Excuse me for being skeptical, General Halutz, but that just does not wash. In an era of instant digital communications, you don't need your own spy in General Adam's headquarters. Looks to me like General Adam is being fired without explicitly saying so. I'm evidently not the only one who thinks this. The JPost says that "Some senior officers in the Northern Command were reportedly more disturbed. They stated that the nomination was a real hit to Adam's authority." No kidding.
General Halutz, your troops deserve better than that. If you have a real problem with General Adam, you ought to relieve him, and not send officers to play "representative." Now everybody getting orders from General Adam will wonder if that officer has yours, and the government's, confidence, or not. I bet that does wonders for morale.
Yet another sign that all is not well in the IDF.
UPDATE (2 p.m., 9 Aug.). An AP story, with more on Maj.-Gen. Kaplinsky's background, here. What an invidious position for General Adam to be in !

The French Move the Football

Just about every Peanuts television episode I ever saw had a Charlie Brown football scene. You know the one -- Charlie Brown gets all set up to kick the football, but Lucy, after promising not to -- yanks the football away at the last second, leaving poor ol' Charlie Brown to fall flat on his face. I always used to think that Lucy was just a B. . .but as I got older, I wondered why poor ol' Charlie Brown was always sap enough to fall for it.
Fox News reports tonight that the French, true to form, are yanking away the Football. The ballyhooed Franco-American deal on a cease-fire in Lebanon has, it seems, collapsed, because the French striped-pants set have ". . . joined with Arab nations and is now calling for a complete and immediate Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon as a condition of any cease-fire. . ." Oh yeah, and no "international force" because the French have agreed with the Arabs that the Lebanese forces that would move into southern Lebanon be accompanied by the fearsome forces of UNIFIL -- the "United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon" which has spent the last twenty five years being as effective as wet noodles at "restor. . .[ing] . . .international peace and security, and help[ing] the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area."
The Israelis should move in NOW. . .while the Hezbollah guys are all outside their bunkers falling all over themselves laughing.
Why is anybody surprised ? The French have just won themselves another twenty years of arms deals from various and sundry Muslim countries, paid a few weeks of Danegeld so that there are no Muslim riots, and humiliated those insufferable American cowboys, not to mention their Jewish colony.
Am I the only one who thinks this sounds all too familiar ? Anybody remember how the French tricked Colin Powell, in the run-up to the Iraq war, allowing him to believe that they would support eventual armed enforcement of UN Resolution 1441 -- and then yanked the football on him when it came time to stand up and be counted ? Why are we shocked now ?
To be sure, I like the French. They know how to play the game. They can always be relied on to do what they think is best for their state interests, and French statesmen are extraordinarily good at playing a weak hand. The Quai d'Orsay's mastery of the media and diplomatic game consistently allows the French state to punch out of its weight. Unlike the State Department, the French don't have hang-ups about public opinion: in fact, they are clever enough at managing it that they come off looking well to the chattering classes, and the French can always convince the doofus Charlie Browns at Foggy Bottom to line up on command for another whack at Lucy's football. Why are we surprised that our fools of diplomats are flat on our faces in front of the whole world, yet again ?

Joe Lieberman's Battle

Tonight in Connecticut, Joe Lieberman fights for his political life, as he tries to remain the Democratic Party's candidate in that State for the US Senate.
Just six years ago, Senator Lieberman was his party's candidate for the Vice Presidency. I did not vote for him, or for Al Gore, but he would have been far from the worst occupant of the Naval Observatory. Similarly, I have many disagreements with Senator Lieberman's political views, but in the nature of things, I am not likely, in general, to agree with much coming out of the offices of northeastern politicians. Still, I hope Senator Lieberman manages to pull it out, and defeat Ned Lamont, the preferred candidate of the Moonbat/Cindy Sheehan wing of the Democratic Party.
Senator Lieberman, at great political cost to himself, has been a stalwart on the War on Terror, and most especially, a strong supporter of our just cause in Iraq. The whole country is the loser if the Democratic Party is completely the captive of its "Netroot" lunatic fringe. As a partisan conservative Republican, I can see many advantages to middle of the road folks having no real alternative to the Republican Party. As a citizen, though, I think this development is bad for the country.
Frankly, I expect the worst of the Democrats. The party of Lloyd Bentsen is no more. Hillary Clinton, in Democratic terms, is positively moderate, if not right wing. The Democrats have delivered themselves, bound hand-and-foot, to the wacko professor/Massachusetts Moonbat/McGovern crowd.
If Lieberman goes down, and the Moonbats take over this November (which God forbid) -- have no illusions about what is coming. It almost certainly means the complete loss of the war in Iraq; nuclear weapons for the crazies in Tehran; not to mention the impeachment of President Bush. Byron York over at National Review Online has a complete preview of Democratic plans on this score, which everybody needs to read. I think this would be a dead-end for the Moonbats, and cause them more heartbreak than they could possibly imagine, but depend on it: they will try it with even a one vote majority in the House of Representatives.
For the moment, things look bleak, but I'm not ready to panic about November, yet. Whatever happens with Joe Lieberman, I continue to believe that the Moonbats are going to bring us millions of votes. Still, we'll get something of a clue as to our future in a few hours.

Monday, August 7, 2006


Sitting here at work trying to complete a brief and frustrated by the pesky forces of writer's block. Like Hezbollah, those blocky guerrillas are dug-in pretty good, hiding in the bunkers of my head. Thinking about something else for a moment is the best way for me to rout writer's block out of its hiding places.
I am listening this morning to Sir Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 1, (1908) (London Symphony Orchestra). To the extent that he is known by Americans at all, Sir Edward Elgar is thought of for his Pomp and Circumstance marches. Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 is overused at graduations and similar events; the trio theme from this piece is the melody for the British patriotic song "Land of Hope and Glory." Elgar's Variations on an Original Theme (better known as the Enigma variations) are also worth a listen.
In any case, Elgar's Symphony No. 1, particularly the fourth movement, "Lento-Allegro," is perhaps my favorite piece of music.
It is amazing how particular pieces of music become associated in one's mind with specific memories. Elgar's Symphony No. 1 reminds me of an especially bleak period of my own life -- when I hear certain chords, it's like I'm there again. For this reason (although it is not true today), I like to play it when I'm on a melancholia jag. I wonder about that, I'd like to talk to a neurologist or a shrink about it sometime. Still, despite some memories dredged up whenever I play Symphony No. 1, it is one of the favorite inhabitants of my music cabinet.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Who Moved My Cheese ?

Wasn't able to get out of town this weekend (had planned to go off to the country, if only for a night). Helas, no such luck, c'est trop tard. The Heir is playing football this fall, and the weekend is devoted to extensive preparations for that.
Mother-in-law is in town. Usually this is a good thing, but sometimes certain Mother in Law foibles can create....a ruction, so to speak.
The other night, I arrived home early from work, prior to taking Heir off to a football event. It was going to be a loooooong time till dinner, so naturally, El Jefe wanted a bit of a snack. Of course, like any self-respecting head of a vast nefarious empire, I headed straight for the cheese drawer, to find the Imperial stash of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parmigiano Reggiano, along with 50 year old single malt scotch, Merlot, Sirloin, good mustard and Oreo Double Stuf cookies, must be accounted, truly, as God's food. I am very picky about cheese, and if you have been allowed into my stash of Parmigiano Reggiano, you truly stand high with El Jefe. Opening the drawer, I reached in for my little cache of comfort food. . .
Yeppers, it was Gone. Not there. Nada. Zilcharino. Flew the Coop. Kaput. Adios.
Horrors ! An al Qaeda/Hezbollah cell active right here in River beautiful downtown Cuidad El Jefe. Underground cheese conspirators of the non-rodent kind !
After the volcano quit exploding, I was able to ask, in a somewhat coherent manner. . . positively oozing politeness and kindness (do not frighten the victims before obtaining information) . . the question "Who moved my cheese ?"
It emerged that, ahem, Mother in Law had. . .
Thrown it out.
Yes, you read correctly... thrown it out. She thought it was old, no good, whatever...and she threw a $20,00 brick of sunny Italia's finest Parmigiano Reggiano down the disposal.
Scuze me, I'm gonna go chew the carpet again for awhile.

Diplomatic Maneuvers

Reports this afternoon indicate that the US and France have reached some sort of agreement on steps for a UN resolution that is supposed to end the fighting in Lebanon.
A deal with France ? Humph. As Mr. John Derbyshire at National Review would say, when I hear of diplomatic deals with the French, it makes me want to reach for my revolver.
I cannot imagine that any agreement we could reach with Monseigneur Chirac or his Foreign Ministry double-talkers in the Quai d'Orsay would be worth the paper it's printed on, or even worth bothering to formulate the usual diplomatic bumpf to present it to the press. The problem, of course, particularly for Israel, is that we are trying to keep the French on board with our plans for the Iranian nuclear program. . .

Monarchy Stuff and the Great Disaster of the 20th Century

. . . Instead, the fall of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian monarchies let the poisons of the French Revolution loose unchecked upon the West and upon the world. The Marxist historian Arno Mayer is correct in arguing that in 1914, the United States represented (as a republic, with France) the international left, while by 1919 it was organizing the international right. America had not changed; the spectrum had shifted around it. . .

William S. Lind “The Prussian Monarchy Stuff." From his column On War No.177, 31 July 2006.

As readers may know, El Jefe is somewhat interested in things military, and in military history, and is of a somewhat, well, conservative bent. So naturally, El Jefe has heard of William S. Lind, the Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.

I have a lot of disagreements with Mr. Lind, over such things as the war in Iraq, but we also have many views in common, and on one particular subject, (the disaster called World War I), Mr. Lind is virtually channeling El Jefe. Go read his piece, here. Food for thought.

As Mr. Lind says elsewhere, of the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, on the 28 June 1914 which kicked-off the madness: “. . .unhappy day! Franz Ferdinand, you took the world with you.”

Thursday, August 3, 2006


Headline on AP story tonight: "No Update Given on Castro's Condition."
Cut to El Jefe airport hallucination: "Paging Dictator Castro. Dictator Fee-del Castro. Please answer the Red paging telephone in the Red Concourse. Paging Dictator Castro."
UPDATE: Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters reports that Fidel says his precise condition is a "state secret." As Captain Ed points out, Fidel must believe in HIPAA.

Where is Fidel ?

Fidel, are you alive ? Or have you assumed room temperature while your poor doctors are in concrete cells answering impossible questions posed by 20-year old cretins with truncheons ?

Reuters says people are asking questions, and that Cubans are “desperate for information.” “Why hasn’t Raul come out and spoken ? That’s what is needed,” Reuters quotes a delivery man as saying. Why indeed, Raul ?

Where are you Raul ? How’s brother right now ? Reuters quotes you as saying “Only the Communist Party…can be the worthy heir of the trust Cubans have placed in their leader.” Oh reeeaally ? Are you promising “collective leadership” like in Russia after Stalin died ? That would seem to make you Beria old man, and we know what happened to dear old Lavrenti Pavlovich, don’t we Raul ?

Do you trust your secretaries, chauffeurs, cooks and guards, Raul ? Yeah, I’m sure they’re all checked out by your own Revolutionary Armed Forces Ministry, but which of them report to DGSE (General Directorate for State Security) too ? Things have changed a little, and you're in the shark-tank for real now, guy. Gotta watch those Interior Ministry bastards – all the time – while eating, sleeping, whatever.

When are you going to speak ? Where is brother ? Whom do you trust ?

Enjoy your lunch, Raul.

Pathway to Peace

Ol' "Mad Jad" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that the solution to what everybody seems to think is a grave Middle East crisis is to destroy Israel. "Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented." The scary thing is that this is what passes for moderation from Iran.
It is quite amazing to me that, after a sufficient number of blood-curdling threats are made, people cease to pay attention to the threats. Was it like this with Hitler in the 1930's ? The problem is, of course, that Mad Jad, like Hitler before him, is not the least bit crazy -- he's just convinced his country and religion have a mission, and it doesn't matter how many die to fulfill it. Not crazy, just too dangerous to be suffered to live any longer.
My solution to the Middle East "crisis" is really much simpler and less bloody than Mad Jad's. Simply kill Mad Jad and the top 100 or so Mullahs in Iran, and the real crisis created by the deadly intersection of bumptious Persian nationalism with religious millenarianism will be solved rather neatly.

Lebanon Update

At last, the politicians in Israel seem to have pulled their thumbs out of it, and have adopted a workable plan for dealing with Hezbollah. The IDF seems to be at last on the way to the Litani River in force, much as I suggested they should be back in the middle of July. For a good discussion of recent military developments, check out this post on the Hashmonean blog, here.
Time is growing short, politically, however. Over in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Sistani is getting nervous, and this is very bad from the point of view of the US being able to maintain support for Israel's effort. Although our interests and Israel's, for the most part, coincide, they are not, completely, identical. . .

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

2 August 1914

On this date in 1914, the Kaiser's Germany delivered its ultimatum to the Royal Belgian government, demanding free passage through Belgium to invade France. The Belgian government quite naturally refused, and chose to fight, but in due course the guns of the Liege forts would give the Germans a more fitting response. At the same time as the Germans were presenting their ultimatum, they were occupying Luxembourg.
The Pandora's Box of the First World War was now fully opened, and the ordered civilisation of the 19th Century died for good, much to Germany's, to Belgium's and to France's -- as well as to everybody else's -- ultimate chagrin.

Fending off Anarchy

I’m pretty booked up this week, so comment will have to be deferred, but I encourage you to make the time to read this spot-on, very insightful post on the “My Sandmen” blog: “Termites in the House of Cards” concerning the nature of our non-State, non governmental enemies. (Hat Tip: Daisy Cutter, and Hugh Hewitt). The original post, and many of the comments are worth the investment of some time and thought.
Many commentators look with favor on the totally wired, totally globalized world that is arriving, that of the "market state" as Philip Bobbitt has called it. Call me a skeptic, concerned that, in our haste to knit together a new world, that we not instead usher in instead a world of anarchy, of all against all, with civilisation on the permanent defensive against criminals and warlords. The wars on terror seem to me to be the downside of a globalized world. We are happy to accept the fruits of globalization; to buy grapes year round, and exchange e-mails 24/7 with Europe, but not so happy with the downside, the idea that delusional fanatics from 14th century prison-houses can one day ram aircraft in to skyscrapers.

As once before in Roman times, and again since 1648, the institution of the State, in its monarchial and nation-state guises, has been the most fundamental and reliable guarantor of the physical and economic security of most people that humans have been able to devise. The development of strong states has been a boon in particular to Americans, providing stable prosperity and liberty for millions. Despite the horrible wars of the nation-state, this institution has indubitably been worth it.

Today the nation state is under threat from many quadrants: from unaccountable and unelected international bureaucracies and lawyers; from media and corporate elites which have moved beyond national loyalties; from nihilistic fanatics who reject God in the name of God, or of earthly gods; from terrorists and criminal gangs with no national locus or infrastructure to be attacked, among others. All of these groups, in different ways, threaten our civilisation, and must not allowed to bring on a new Dark Age.
Most of us take for granted the good times Americans have enjoyed since the end of the last World War. But this life is under threat, and as Victor D. Hanson reminds us, everything can change. Finding a means of accommodating the nation-state to the scientific, economic and social conditions of the wired and globalized world is probably the most urgent political task of our time, and is the key to winning the wars against the terrorists, and securing a safe future for our children.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Just Croak Already !

Comandante Fidel Castro, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, President of the "Republic" of Cuba, Prime Minister, President of the Council of State, President of the Council of Ministers, Commander-in-Chief of the Heroic Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, First Lawyer, First Taxi Driver, First Cook and Bottle-Washer, and all other Firsts, Greatests and Bests imaginable...Tyrant-in-Chief.
Oh smirk and bring out the good Champagne. Ding Dong, the Witch is dead, or if not dead, he's getting close.
And I am smirking, although I know that's not good, but in this case we can make an exception. Reason being, Gentle Reader, is that 79-year old Fidel, toast of the Hollywood Left, has had more people killed than you've had hot dinners.
The Bearded One has handed over power to Brother Raul, the long-serving Bespectacled One, who likes to wear fancier uniforms than Fidel, and calls himself a general. Are you that sure Raul's gonna give you your job back Fidel ? Maybe he's ordering the new Iranian rugs for the big offices as I write. I mean, you communists don't buy the whole God concept, so what's the problem with good-ol Raul just cranking up the classical music on Radio Havana and giving you a pillow to breathe through ?
As for you Raul, movin on up, eh guy ? A little free advice: if you want to walk in Brother's boots, you better make your bones. Order up that pillow squad pronto, then make sure Revolutionary Justice takes care of them and all Brother's other hangers-on too, before they do you first. Yeah, a dirty business, but that's the price of greatness like Fidel's. But I'm thinking you've not got the stones for it. Anyway, your time is coming too, old man. Come the day, maybe the firing squad will let you wear the general's epaulettes.
Enjoy the sickbed Fidel. And croak already.