Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Assorted Stuff

I've noticed that some days for Yahoo ! users such as moi are better than others. Yesterday, Yahoo ! ran an ad for HP all day complete with a beautiful picture of gorgeous Gwen Stefani. Ms. Stefani definitely inhabits the babe list, and yesterday she provided an excellent reason to check Yahoo !
Today, alas, Yahoo ! carries a picture of the recently deceased Leona Helmsley and her $12 million pooch. Although El Jefe could be a dog for $12 million, (SWMBO thinks he's one anyway), lets just say that Ms. Helmsley ain't Ms. Stefani.
I see that the Brokeback Restroom story is still getting a lot of play. Senator Larry Craig says he's not gay, and only pled guilty for what amounts, at best, to reasons of expediency, but looks like stupidity (he says he was "overstressed"). Yeah, I can imagine that getting busted in an airport restroom might be a little stressful, specially given the certainty of national headlines.
I'm afraid the Senator doesn't come out of this well either way: without more, the evidence looks pretty flimsy to me from the point of view of getting a conviction. So, either the plea was correct, and we have post hoc massaging of the record going on; and/or the Senator was, to put it mildly, not real smart. Either way, what's he doing in the Senate ?
Lisa Nowak's now saying she was an astronut -- she's going to try a temporary insanity defense, claiming she suffers from a grab-bag of mental disorders: major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, something called "brief psychotic disorder with marked stressors," etc., etc., etc. Temporary insanity seems as good a reason as any other for Captain Nowak's carefully planned "mission" to Florida, but the details of her defense seem a little unbelievable. However, they probably don't have medical terms for majorly pissed-off and really flipped-out. That said, I'm having trouble buying that the Navy gives a captain's eagles to such a person; or that NASA lets people with OCD or prone to suffer from "brief psychotic disorder with marked stressors" fly in space. Meanwhile, I'm re-writing the lyrics to "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun."
Hmmm, temporary insanity does sound like a good defense for Senator Craig, though.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Save the Nation General !

Because of Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev's inability to perform his duties as the president of the USSR, due to health reasons, in accordance with Article 127 of the Constitution of the USSR, the vice president of the USSR has temporarily assumed the office of acting president.
. . .The Chamber of Deputies agrees:
. . . To likewise point out that by virtue of their responsibilities, their pledge of allegiance to the Constitution and to the laws. . . it is their duty to put an immediate end to all situations herein referred to that breach the Constitution and the laws of the land with the goal of redirecting government activity toward the path of Law and ensuring the constitutional order of our Nation and the essential underpinnings of democratic coexistence among Chileans. . .
"Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile's Democracy" passed by the Chamber of Deputies of Chile, 22 August 1973: widely held to be an invitation for the military to carry out a coup d'état against left wing President Salvador Allende. The coup finally took place on 11 September 1973.
Somebody named Martin Lewis, writing in the Huffington Post, playing guardhouse lawyer, opines that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should place the President of the United States under "military arrest."

General Pace - you have the power to fulfill your responsibility to protect the troops under your command. Indeed you have an obligation to do so.

You can relieve the President of his command.

Not of his Presidency. But of his military role as Commander-In-Chief.

(bold in original)

Mr. Lewis says this is necessary, under his own reading of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, because of "current imperilment of US troops," and the President's "'Conduct Unbecoming Of An Officer And A Gentleman.'" The Huffington Post biography of this worthy contains no indication that Mr. Lewis is a lawyer, but it does mention that he was "a protégé of fabled Beatles publicist Derek Taylor" and is a "humorist" a "political commentator," a "human rights activist" and also a "noted raconteur and Bon Vivant."
Sounds like a splendid person to give General Pace advice on his legal and service obligations. Maybe we should give similar credence to President Bush's opinion of the Beatles and Hollywood parties.
Quite aside from the question of whether such a reading of the Uniform Code of Military Justice squares with Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution's designation of the President as commander in chief; just where does Mr. Lewis think we live -- Pakistan or Chile ? Mr. Lewis swears that he's not calling for a military coup, but just what else would he call placing the President in military arrest ?
I suppose this is one of those Bill Clinton definitional situations -- revolving around the meaning of "is" or something. My copy of Luttwak's Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook is still packed-up someplace, but I'm sure if we put our minds to it, we could take five minutes and find a round half-dozen coup plots since 1950 in which the plotters swore that what they were doing really wasn't a coup.
Mr. Lewis assures the general that he -- Pace -- is an "honorable, patriotic man." Somehow I suspect General Pace does not stand in need of such panegyrics from Mr. Lewis. Funny, though: if the general actually did something like this, what do you bet the Lefties would proclaim General Pace a deity -- God-Emperor of America by the next breakfast-time ? The Lefties are so crazy they'd blow up the whole world to get rid of Bush.
Going back to that biography, maybe all this is the humorist Mr. Lewis's idea of a bad joke. He should stick to being the noted raconteur at Hollywood parties.
(Hat tip: Belmont Club).
UPDATE: Mr. Lewis now says he was joking. It wasn't very funny. That would be the first joke I've ever seen quoting the Uniform Code of Military Justice or providing a list of a military officer's decorations.

It's the Thought that Counts. . .

No dead Castros yet, but not to worry. One fine day soon, the report will be right.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General is leaving office. I thought he got a bum rap, but politically, his departure is not unwelcome.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Castro Is Dead

Castro has died, according to the El Jefe intelligence network. . .

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Seven Misdemeanors of Lindsay Lohan

Sounds like a movie doesn't it ? Do her lawyers have godlike powers or what ?
No doubt this is really a Schlock Films production (rated R) soon coming to a multiplex near you. Britney Spears as Lohan; Fed Ex as Lohan Boy-Toy hanger on No. 1; Paris Hilton as herself; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the Stop and Go clerk. Cameo appearances by Judge Ito, Lisa Nowak and Michael Vick. Daniellynn Smith as baby Lindsay. Plenty of Bikinis, tattoos, silicone, game-show hosts. The Home DVD uncut version includes beach buff shot of Vladimir Putin and special Britney at fast food joint trailer.
Flying Saucers sold separately. Not available where prohibited by sanity.

Smart Bomb ? Nah, Gassing Attack

Theo: [sees LAPD SWAT armored vehicle approaching] Wait a minute, wait a minute. What have we here, gentlemen? The police have themselves an RV. Southeast corner.
Die Hard (1988) (directed by John McTiernan, Clarence Gilyard Jr. as "Theo.")
Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.
According to the Iranian press, the Iranian defense industry is ready to put a 2,000 pound laser-guided smart bomb into full production. The Qased ("Messenger") smart-bomb has supposedly been dropped successfully from Iran's American-made, Vietnam-era F-4 and F-5 fighter/ground attack aircraft.
The Iranian Defense Minister, Mr. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, is proud as punch that his country has, as the Iranian TV story reports, "joined the few countries that possess precision-guided missile technology." The Islamic Republic News Agency reports the Minister claims that his country is now "self-sufficient in production of all types of military equipment."
Maybe all this is supposed to impress us that the Iranians could build other, more powerful, weapons that are laser guided, but I'm not buying. First, what is "full production ?" How many of these things can the Iranians build ? How quickly ?
Second, what are they really showing us ? The Iranians, so far, have a pretty photograph of their late 1980's technology bomb, that they have supposedly test-dropped from their 1960's vintage aircraft. So ? Sending out their pilots in the Shah's old F-4's and F-5's (however retrofitted they may be) -- or pretty much anything else they have against the US Air Force or Navy would be an efficient way of killing-off their trained pilots, but little else.
As I've written before, the Iranians are a tough potential opponent for the United States. But their strengths are in other, lower-tech areas: the military industry is a probable Achilles heel if matters get serious. Smart-bombs on old airplanes are not going to be the Iranian weapon of choice in dealing with the US. Take another look at Hezbollah (really the "Iranian Foreign Legion") and its methods - and the IED campaign in Iraq, which you can bet your last rial is a Pasdaran operation -- instead.
We need other information to determine if the Minister's self-sufficiency claims are real or just negotiating bluster. It's all very well to have proficient factories that can retrofit other people's tanks and fighter plane and manufacture their own basic munitions; but how efficient will their military industry really be if the Iranians really tangle with America, and the ports are closed, imports stopped, the electrical grid knocked-down and bulk-transport halted ?
But this is basic, and all well known to the serious players, including the Iranians. Consequently, the boasting about smart bombs and other Iranian wonder-weapons seems more for domestic consumption, and to sway the gullible in the West than a serious military threat.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chavez: President for Life

Martov: No wonder they call you Robespierre. Everyone's got to think like you, or they're out!
Trotsky: He thinks freedom is something you write on a wall, you don't actually practice it.

Lenin: That's not true. Of course, I agree you're free to say what you like. And you must agree I'm free to shoot you for saying it.

Nicholas and Alexandra
(1971) Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (Michael Bryant as Lenin, Brian Cox as Trotsky, Stephen Grief as Martov).

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has convoked his tame National Assembly to propose amendments to the constitution there to increase the six-year presidential term to seven years, and to scrap term limits.
But no, Chavez is not, not becoming a dictator. Don't even think that, or you'll be in a dungeon someplace. “It's not that I want to enthrone myself," the Los Angeles Times quotes Hugo as saying, "This shouldn't surprise anyone.” True, you’d have to be an idiot (such as any political opponents not already living in Miami) to be surprised. Why is this even news ? Chavez has been more patient than I would be, I’m surprised he didn’t do this sooner.
“It's done this way in any number of countries.” Yeah, Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Iran, to name a few.
Is your secret police going to be more like Cuba’s or Russia’s ? Personally, I’d suggest the Russians, they’ve been doing it more efficiently, for longer. Besides, take too much advice from the Cubans and you'll be up to your neck in Castro's spies, and make the creation of potential rivals in your own system easier. It's easier to game, and watch, foreign helpers with a language and culture barrier. But that's your worry, Chief. Hope you sleep well.
Have your police officials get the Gestapo, the SD and East German Stasi manuals too – certainly worth a look. Oh yeah, and you need a foreign intelligence service: the exiles are going to began to be a problem soon, as soon as the Americans pull their thumbs out of it. You could do worse than copy the GRU. Just remember to change your personal guards every so often; vary your schedule and routes; employ food testers; and, never, ever let important people travel abroad with their families.
I do wonder, though Hugo, if you're really up to this ? You're cold enough, no mistake; and you have the demagogue's flair, but how smart are you ? Those stupid politicians and generals almost got you in 2002: if they'd had the gumption to kill you, you'd have been just another wannabe caudillo. My bet is you've learned enough, but we'll see.
Meanwhile, as the new Maximum Leader tells us. "There are many lies circulating in the world, about a dictatorship in Venezuela, about a concentration of power in Venezuela." Right, and the object, Hugo, is to make sure your "truth" is the only one your people can hear, so they know that: "This is a transfer of power to the people."
Anyway, I’m sure, Boss, that you've got some secure places for any people who get ideas about being transferred too much power.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Let Erin Remember. . .

No, not the tune. I mean...another Erin. Let Erin Remember to just go away !

Bulletin from Planet Times

You have to wonder just what world the New York Times editorial writers live in ? The subject of today’s editorial “China, Unregulated” is the recent spate of product recalls of defective Chinese toys by some big-name companies, such as Mattel. No question, this is a problem, and the New York Times, oh thank God, knows how to fix it.

“What China needs” the Times explains “is some effective and transparent regulatory system to enforce product safety standards.” Great ! And Darfur and Iraq need the welfare state; we need the crops to grow; the trains to run on time; the poor to be rich; and, a chicken in every pot.
Until the Chinese reach the New York Times nirvana of an “effective and transparent regulatory system" though, it is “the clear responsibility of companies that import Chinese products to guarantee their safety.” That means (for those of us in backwards places like Texas), that because the Chinese toys are broke, it’s time to crack down on American companies.

“Clear responsibility of companies” eh ? I’m just having visions of a bunch of pursed-lip scolds hanging around the Times last night – banging-out this editorial before hurrying out for umbrella drinks at some Upper East Side bar: there to talk about the Harvard class reunion, bitch about how hard it is to find good child care in the City and how the maid was late again.

While we’ve making the American companies buckle down to their “clear responsibilities” we need to get on the stick with the Chinese too:

American regulators, who are constantly playing catch-up, must also do a lot more to ensure the safety of Chinese-made goods, sending their own personnel to China to perform inspections of factories and test goods before they are shipped.

I wonder what the Chinese phrase is for “diplomatic incident ?”’ This is from the same people who never met a military spending bill they liked. Sending American bureaucrats to the jurisdiction of probably our largest foreign creditor sounds like a great way to make friends and influence people while we cut military appropriations in favor of snail-darter research.
Just imagine the whole concept of a bunch of American pencil-heads, (Times in briefcase), tooling around Shanghai trying to get the time of day from Chinese industrialists for diversity schemes and the Family and Medical Leave Act. We'll still be here when you're done laughing. The Times editorial writers are clearly incapable of imagining a world in which we might not be in position to give the law to Chinese manufacturers.
Of course, as you can probably imagine, part of the problem with the regulators, the Times thinks, is the Bush administration "which disdains America's regulatory system."

It is obvious there have been problems with some goods we import from China. One good solution, for those who are concerned – might be to be more careful about what we buy (the Times does point this out). Anything, in fact, that reduces American imports from China a bit would be no bad thing, given all the money we owe them.

Still, China ain’t Burbank, and the Times, and a lot of other people, need to quit gratuitously harassing the bank before the check is presented. At least they could quit treating public displays of impotence, like this Times editorial, as some kind of badge of honor.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rove Leaving

Karl Rove is leaving the White House. Not a real surprise: one of the few devices available to a lame-duck President to produce a stir is playing musical chairs with personnel, so Mr. Rove's departure is timely in that sense. Mr. Rove leaves a winner: he won two presidential elections, avoided Fitzmas, and he now has one of the most valuable gongs in American political life -- Mr. Rove's now a "former Presidential advisor" and "ex-White House official" who can ride those appellations to talk shows, the speech circuit and publication of his memoirs (soon to be in the pulp-rack at a Half Price Books near you).
Besides, Mr. Rove should still be available for duties as Bush family consigliere, off stage.
Seeing that Mr. Rove's departure leaves Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as the only lightning-rod around (albeit one that is twisting in the wind), the President needs to hire a new bad (or badder) cop, pronto.

The Dilemmas of President Musharraf

The New York Times reports that President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, speaking to a tribal assembly of Pakistani and Afghan poobahs in Kabul, admits that support from the Pakistani tribal areas and Northwest Frontier Province for rebels in Afghanistan has, as the Times so delicately puts it, "caused problems" for Afghanistan. More precisely, the President-General, belaboring the hell out of the obvious, said:
There is no doubt Afghan militants are supported from Pakistan soil. The problem that you have in your region is because support is provided from our side.
The Times reports that the President of Kabul (er, excuse me, Afghanistan), Hamid Karzai, "nodded in agreement." Well at least he can do something.
So why is Musharraf saying this ? There's no stopping such support, absent (1) a major Pakistani Army operation to clear out the tribal areas, in cooperation with the US -- which isn't going to happen; or, (2) an operation by the US alone to clear out the Pakistani tribal areas -- which isn't even practical, and is not going to happen.
The President-General probably has the toughest day-to-day political existence on the planet. He is sandwiched between, oh, lets see: an army and part of his population that to varying degrees is rather pro-Taliban; a powerful, comparatively rich and unfriendly neighbor that at bottom resents the hell out of the very existence of Pakistan -- seeing them as wayward secessionists (think the US if the Confederates had gotten away); a bureaucracy, judiciary and ruling class that hates the military regime Musharraf installed; mullahs and a religious class that is very pro-Taliban and pro Osama; and, finally, one of Pakistan's biggest enablers, bankrollers and arms warehouses -- that wants Musharaf to launch a crackdown that will upset his own population.
Gee, have I left anybody out ? Probably.
Maybe Musharraf's wife likes him, but nobody else does. I hope the pistol in his bedside drawer is kept loaded.
So here we are back at my question: why is Musharraf saying this to these people ? He cannot really do anything, and all the players know it. Why admit it ? Perhaps the agents of the aforementioned enabler, bankroller and arms warehouse are leaning on him for some results. Musharaf has to be careful, lest the big enabler get together with the unfriendly neighbor and between them they put an end to Pakistan. But he has to dodge all the other traps at the same time.
It sounds like the Pakistanis are under pressure, again, from the Americans to give them something. Maybe words are all Mr. Musharraf has ? So what's next ? What do you bet the Pakistani police and intelligence services, in the very near future, find another al Qaeda big wig ?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Who Will Shoot First ?

Death is the solution to all problems. No man - no problem.

Joseph Stalin.

The usually prescient Ian Bremmer, author of the very interesting The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall, has written an interesting column about the approaching end of dictator Robert "Bad Bob" Mugabe in Zimbabwe. This particular sawdust Caesar cannot get the chop soon enough, but it's too early to order champagne.
To begin with, Mr. Bremmer pretty accurately sums-up where things sit, but in predicting the dictator's fall, I wonder if he takes into account the dictator's foreign help quite enough ? He mentions that it exists, but as long as there are foreigners willing to bankroll Mr. Mugabe, he can probably stay in power. Assuming, that is, that he has killed, jailed or exiled all possible rivals in his own party and security services. . .

Saddam was good at that -- that's one reason we have so much trouble in Iraq: there was no logical person in country to succeed him, so the whole system collapsed and had to be rebuilt from scratch. Saddam knew his Stalin (most successful of all modern dictators) intimately well (he was a big admirer and had read all the biographies of him). As Edvard Radzinsky points out in his very readable biography of Stalin, the unsafest place in the Soviet Union was near Stalin -- dangerous, dangerous to know anything about the man, or his plans, or be known to him. Although ruthless, I'm not sure Mugabe is as effective at getting rid of potential opponents as Saddam and Josef Vissarionovich -- and that will be the determining issue in Zimbabwe. A big weakness of some dictators is the desire to have stability in terms of persons you deal with daily.

Trouble is, as Stalin understood, you have to weed out the overmighty subjects who know too much and control too much every so often. Mind you: this is not a moral judgment, it's simply the nature of personal dictatorship. When you choose to rule by decree: to ride the white horse, and put your own face on the money; you also choose to have a secret police, dungeons, prison camps and all the rest -- or you have chosen to be very dead, very soon.
Mr. Bremmer correctly sees an internal challenge from ZANU-PF as the main threat to Mr. Mugabe. The question is -- who will shoot first ? Bad Bob via a purge of his government and security services of potential successors and troublemakers ? Or maybe the would-be purgees -- ZANU people who want, along with their families -- to live ? No way to tell, but I think, perhaps, Mr. Mugabe has left the purge a little late.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Disorder in the Empire

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but El Jefe's move from Palace to Palace is approaching (another week yet), and there is great Disturbance in the Force, locally. Moreover the day job is VERY busy right now. Despite the best efforts of legions of loyal servants, and those of the ever watchful, not to be forgotten Organs of State Security, there is disorder in the offices and hallways of the Palace.
No doubt, after the Usual Suspects are rounded up, the Secret Police archives uncased, and the loyal servants driven to truly Stakhanovite levels of productivity by a few stern examples; and maybe inspired by a few Heroes of Monarchist Labor -- the usual blogging will resume.