Monday, December 22, 2008
I've concluded that when I pay attention to the multiple idiocies of US foreign and domestic policy, the only result is that my hair turns whiter, my stress levels rise, and I get a certain amount of cardiovascular exercise through rapid spikes in my blood pressure. (No, Ma, really, it's good for you!)
The hell with that.
I'm reorienting my life, getting ready to ditch this gig for a new and hopefully better one.
I'm blissing out on nature, I'm thinking about reconnecting with "real life" and not worrying so much about the multiple idiocies of US foreign and domestic policy. I'm cooking more, and taking more time doing it. I'm listening to podcasts, and reading blogs, from the paleolithic/evolutionary fitness/caveman diet folks.
I know that there are many, many ways in which we, we Americans, are alienated from the real world, and I'm trying to figure out how to get back to that real world.
I'm not quite sure where I'm going, but I've got a few ideas, and hopefully they're better ideas at that.
Peace for now, yo.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
God save donald duck, vaudeville and variety
We are the desperate dan appreciation society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
We are the draught beer preservation society
God save mrs. mopp and good old mother riley
We are the custard pie appreciation consortium
God save the george cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the sherlock holmes english speaking vernacular
Help save fu manchu, moriarty and dracula
We are the office block persecution affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the skyscraper condemnation affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the village green.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
This is NOT how my life usually goes.
My my, where DID the time go?
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Sergeant Major Basil Plumley: Sir, if the time comes I need one, there'll be plenty lying on the ground.
There are things at which the Times does excel.
One of these things is the review of the novels of Alan Furst.
I began reading Furst's novels while I was still in the Suck, still wearing the pickle suit, when the Soviet Union was still, to some degree, The Menace To Be Feared. (The fears of childhood frequently linger into adulthood, and I was, and remain, an American child of the Cold War.) I believe that the first of his novels that I read was Dark Star, although quite possibly it was Night Soldiers. Whichever of the two it was, it---or they?---was/were a grand read, and I have continued to return to them over the years, for repeated readings and great enjoyment.
I am not quite sure by what accident of fate or chance I came upon Mr. Furst's books, umm, "first." I tend to haunt used book shops more than the NYT's book review pages, and yet, somehow, I came across them.
From the first read, I knew I was sunk. I have, since that time, consumed each new Furst novel as I came across it. No artist is entirely consistent, and this is true, of course, of Mr. Furst. His novels have included high and . . . not so high . . . points, although each of them has been a pleasure, and an intrigue.
The title for this post, and the New York Times reference, comes in a review of Mr. Furst's Blood of Victory by Janet Maslin, from this paragaraph in her review:
Mr. Furst, the author of last year's "Kingdom of Shadows" and a string of alluring earlier espionage novels in a similar vein, seems to arrive effortlessly at such assurance. He glides gracefully into an urbane pre-World War II Europe and describes that milieu with superb precision. The wry, sexy melancholy of his observations would be seductive enough in its own right — he is the Leonard Cohen of the spy genre — even without the sharp political acuity that accompanies it. Of tensions between Stalin and Hitler, Mr. Furst's latest protagonist resignedly observes, "Two gangsters, one neighborhood, they fight."
Two gangsters, one neighborhood, they fight.
A frequently quoted observation is that reading Furst's Night Soldiers series is like watching Casablanca for the first time. I quite like Casablanca, for all its flaws. I cannot argue with the frequently quoted observation.
I don't know what Mr. Furst would make of me. Perhaps an elegantly drawn, throwaway minor character? At best.
But you will not go far wrong, if you venture into Mr. Furst's novels. On this, I trust the New York Times, and that's saying something.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Returned safely to earth, too!
That "clank clank" sound could have been made by two big brass balls clank-clanking against each other.
At the helm? Jean Piccard. Not Jean-Luc Picard, mind you, but Jean Piccard, a Swiss-born American. Later, he ascended to a similarly impressive height with his wife and c0-researcher, Jeannette.
I cannot in good conscience call this achievement stellar, but I can call it stratospheric.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
After 9/11, LeMonde (I think) had a headline saying "We are all Americans now."
After the South Ossetian War of 2008, John McCain said "We are all Georgians now."
Well . . .
WE ARE ALL SOCIALISTS NOW.
I'd make a joke about drinking the Kool-Aid, but that, too, seems somehow inapropos.
Rumor has it that his grandfather ate a Polish missionary.
Hey, ordinarily I wouldn't go there, that's not the kind of joke I find funny. The Polish Foreign Minister, however, apparently has differing tastes in humor. (That's cool, I mean, humor is a very individual thing.) And besides, he wasn't telling a racist joke, he was just retelling a racist joke, as an example of the racist jokes that some racist jokers tell.
I wonder if his wife will discuss it in the Washington Post?
Saturday, November 15, 2008
With Russian tanks only 50km from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia's Government. According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned. "I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls," Mr Putin declared.
Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. "Hang him?" he asked.
Mr Putin replied: "Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein."
Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: "Yes, but do you want to end up like (US President George W.) Bush?"
Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: "Ah - you have scored a point there."
Because NO ONE wants to end up like Bush!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
And it's never been a really big secret that Elton John is gay.
I try and search my heart for hatred or bigotry, and (unsurprisingly, perhaps) seldom do I find it. I'm opposed to gay marriage, but am a wishy-washy supporter of civil unions, or civil partnerships. Mostly, this comes down to a mixture of the sacred and the profane, for me. The sacred is the church, and the profane is the state.
I like to use that phrase, "mixture of the sacred and the profane," about a LOT of things, from blues music to sex, but that's really a sidebar, and only tangentially relevant to Elton John and gay marriage.
I don't mind if gay people enter into committed relationships with each other; rather, I think that's a good thing. Caring and loving? Stable relationships? In my mind, that gets chalked up in the "win" column.
But it doesn't quite seem like marriage to me. Maybe that's my heart's inner hatred and bigotry, although I don't think so, but I could be wrong.
Amid all the hubbub about gay marriage, especially in light of California's Proposition 8, along comes Elton John and talks some sense-smack about "gay marriage." In, of all places, USA Today!
The article, by Donna Freydkin, quotes Sir John:
In December 2005, John and Furnish tied the knot in a civil partnership ceremony in Windsor, England. But, clarified the singer, "We're not married. Let's get that right. We have a civil partnership. What is wrong with Proposition 8 is that they went for marriage. Marriage is going to put a lot of people off, the word marriage."
"I don't want to be married. I'm very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," John says. "The word 'marriage,' I think, puts a lot of people off.
"You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships."
As I have said before, I am a cautious progressive. I am reluctant to throw over several thousand years of history and tradition based on popular fads. Once overthrown, I find that history and tradition have a hard time coming back, if we turn out to have made an error in judgment.
Maybe I am a bigot and a hater---I don't think so.
And I have never held more respect for Elton John than I do right now.
Note: Edited on 22 November 2008 to add a "close parens" after "sad songs (they say so much". My bust, my bad, my edit. Hey, I'm not going to redact this to cover up embarrassing boo-boos!
Monday, November 10, 2008
"We're surrounded. That simplifies the problem." Chesty Puller
"Come on, you sons of bitches. Do you want to live forever?" Dan Daly
"War is a racket." Smedley Butler
"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." Clifton Cates
"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet." James Mattis
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." William Shakespeare
No better friend, no worse enemy. Teufulhunden, the hounds of hell. Devil dogs. Woof woof.
Happy birthday, Devils.
Man in the mirror time?
There's no real, tangible correlation between Iraq and 9/11, although there was a time when word on the street had it so. (C'mon, you know it's true, you lived through it just like I did. Atta, Prague? C'mon. Short term memory loss isn't that bad.) If we pretend there is, there's still the question of just how many Iraqis we've killed (liberated from life) since Operation Iraqi Liberation . . . oh wait, the acronym for that one didn't work out, whatever, started.
And Afghanistan? (More on point.) How many Afghans have we lit up? How long have we been there? How long do we plan on being there?
Contra SOW-2008! The Georgians went into the autonomos zone, killed Russian peacekeepers, and played games with artillery and Grad rockets. (Grad, or Град, is Russian for "hail." Not as in hail and well met, but as in small hard things falling from the sky.) What did the Russians do?
Only my take, of course, but it's mine.
The Russians responded with a short, sharp, shock of overwhelming force. They tore up the Georgians a hella lot worse than Obama tore up McCain (don't look at electoral votes, don't look at states, look at popular vote totals). The Russians rolled in like it was cool, killed any elements of the Georgian military that didn't run away tuit de suite, then rubbed the Georgians' noses in the mess they made by sinking chunks of their fleet.
Sorry, folks, that's what they did. While Saakashvili was blubbering on tv about the destruction of Georgia, the Russians pushed past their defensive zones into Georgian territory, laagered up their tanks, BMPs (Боевая машина пехоти, or infantry combat cars, or as we call 'em APCs), and sometimes revved the engines, like kids at a stop light looking for a drag race.
There was a lesson, there, and it wasn't just for the Georgians. It was for Europe, too, and, yes, America, although our pride prevents us from admitting it. I mean, what were we gonna do? Drop the 82d in there? Oh, wait, even if we wanted to, aren't they kind of tied up with another mission? What, we were going to go nuclear, over Tbilisi?
Maybe the Russians learned something from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Something about "not getting bogged down in a land war in Asia"? Something about "easy to seize, but hard to hold"? The kind of lessons that, ahem, we don't seem to have learned from Vietnam?
Maybe I'm a Putinist stooge, but to me it looks like a textbook military intervention. Go in quick, go in hard, kill everything that doesn't run away (or doesn't run away fast enough), and right before you get on the helicopter say "Bye. Don't make us come back, y' hear?"
Ah, I see. We're America, hence the good guys. They're Russia, hence the bad guys. Meanwhile, we seem to just keep on using air strikes against Pashtun wedding parties. Even if it's completely justified, riddle me this, Batman: does that make the Pashtun like us more, or like us less? Does that make it easier, or harder, to sell the Pashtun on the line that we're America, and hence the good guys?
I could be wrong about this, you know, but that's how I see it.
What saved the economy, and the New Deal, was the enormous public works project known as World War II, which finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy's needs.
At some cost, one must add, to "external actors."
As we've seen these last few months, John McCain was so accustomed to running against his party the old dog was incapable of learning the entirely novel trick of running for it. What about the other star names in this year's primary season: Rudy Giuliani? Well, there's a pro-life gun-nut. Mitt Romney? Technocrat governor of a deep blue state. Mike Huckabee? Compassionate conservatism on steroids.
In other words, I don't think the problem these last few years has been "right-wing extremism".
Undaunted, however. That's me.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I swear, the stuff you can stumble upon, whilst surfing dem dere intarw3bz!
Anyone would think we had just elected a hip, skinny and youthful replacement for God, with a plan to modernise Heaven and Hell – or that at the very least John Lennon had come back from the dead.
The whole thing is worth a read. Agree or disagree, that's some powerful wordsmithery right there.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
* (On the War of Transnistria): "I am proud that we helped and armed Transnistrian [separatist] guards against Moldovan fascists."
* (On the War of Transnistria): "I told the hooligans [separatists] in Tiraspol and the fascists [government] in Chisinau -- either you stop killing each other, or else I'll shoot the whole lot of you with my tanks."
* (On the Chechen War) "Unprepared, untrained boys have been thrown to face bullets. It is a criminal power that sends hundreds of its citizens to certain death."
* (On Chechen capital Grozny) "Here we have a Russian city, bombed to bits by Russian planes paid for by Russian taxpayers who are now going to have to pay a second time to rebuild it."
* (On the Russian government) "Those who profit are the ones at the top. They keep the doughnut for themselves and give the hole to the people."
* (On the Russian Minister of Defence Pavel Grachev) "I don't like prostitutes, whether they are wearing a skirt or trousers."
* (On the ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky) "The Lord God's monkey."
* (On the Western democracies): "They support Yeltsin who helped start the war in Moldova. I stopped it. He started the war in Chechnya. I stopped it. Who is the greater democrat then, he or I? Is democracy war or peace? I think it is the latter."
* (On the Russians) "Most Russians don't care whether they are ruled by fascists or communists or even Martians as long as they can buy six kinds of sausage in the store and lots of cheap vodka."
* (On himself) "I am not without sins. There cannot be an airborne assault general who has no sins. I spit on popularity ratings. I live and serve as I see fit."
Friday, November 7, 2008
Dirty sounding word, isn't it?
For most of my life, certainly, for most of my political life, by which I mean my life while interested in politics, appeasement has been a dirty word.
Quite frequently, it's linked to Neville Chamberlain, oh, and Munch! and 1939! But I'll bet you didn't know that. It takes a keen and insightful mind to notice those little details.
Sorry, I'm dancing around the issue. I am trying to hide my shame. I am trying to put off having to relate, under the thin tissue of internet anonymity, the sordid tale of what happened.
Here's the word.
The other day, my wife was upset with me. Deep down, I think she just wanted to annex Schleswig-Holstein, or maybe it was Alsace-Lorrain, but the point is, she was upset with me. She said it had something to do with the fact that I hadn't done the dishes.
And I . . . oh G-d it's hard to admit . . . I appeased her. I wrapped up what I was doing, and then I went and did the dishes.
Y'all see where this is going, right?
Merriam-Webster says that appease means "to bring to a state of peace or calm," or "to cause to subside" or, and here's the killer, pacify or conciliate, especially in the sense of "to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles."
Well, that's only the third definition. (I'm not vouching for Merriam-Webster in particular, but I don't think any kind of straight-faced argument can be made that the primary meaning of appease is "to abandon your principles.")
We have taken a sufficiently fine and honorable word, of long and regular usage, and perverted it to always mean Munich, always mean 1939, always mean Neville Chamberlain (who was in Munich! in 1939! and an appeaser!). We have cheapened its meaning in the pursuit of lockstep ideological conformity. Every conflict, every dispute, someone's gonna come running out and start talking about how any compromise with the other side is appeasement.
I speak, here, particularly of fo-po, or foreign policy.
Should I have not appeased my wife? Should I have said, "Not only will I not do the dishes, but you'll go do them right now?" Should I have further said, "And if you don't get to it tout de suite, you'll taste the back of my hand?"
No, no, and no, really I shouldn't have done that.
Now I'm hungry, and I think I'll go appease my appetite.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Relevant bits that leapt out at me:
Mexico’s interior minister and seven others onboard a government jet died Tuesday night when it crashed into a tony business district here during rush hour, igniting cars and sending dozens of people to local hospitals.
The minister, Juan Camilo Mouriño, 37, had been one of President Felipe Calderón’s closest advisers and a rising star in the National Action Party. He headed the government’s security apparatus and was the president’s point man in the increasingly bloody drug war.
And, of course,
As an investigation began, officials said that the crash appeared to have been an accident and that there were no signs of foul play.
Let's just juxtapose those thoughts: A rising star in the PAN, who "headed the government’s security apparatus and was the president’s point man in the increasingly bloody drug war" dies when his plane falls from the sky, and no foul play is suspected.
And I thought watching 24 required a massive suspension of disbelief!
Presidential signing statements?
The authority of the president to arrest anyone he deems a terrorist, without judicial review?
Vast new bureaucracies?
The idea that "we had our accountability moment, and that's called the . . . elections"?
Hey, go figure.
He is everything I despise about the Republican Party. He is not from "real America." He gets props for his service, but he was a legacy, and the idea that the son of John Sydney McCain II, and the grandson of John Sydney McCain, would do anything but join the US Navy is simply laughable. He was a military aristocrat, an officer from a family of officers, in the most autocratic and aristocratic of services, the US Navy. The impression I've got is that he sold out the POW/MIA activists, repeatedly---the very image of why I pretty much hate officers (many, if not most, of them). That is, he doesn't value what the British call the "other ranks."
He was always happy to cross the aisle . . . and go to the left. When he crossed the aisle, it was always for, what, again? Immigration "reform" or campaign finance "reform" or horsetwaddle like that.
He chased women all the time. When you're a young man, that's a good thing . . . but when you stand before God the Father and say you will cleave only unto this one woman . . . and you keep on chasing other women, then you're not much of a man yourself. John McCain isn't much of a man.
We are in for hard times, we are in for bitter times. George W. Bush can skulk home to Crawford, ruined by listening to the wrong advisers, in part, because he could not make peace with his (earthly) father. I'd probably like W. more than George Herbert Walker Bush. But Poppy was the better President, by far.
Iraq is lost. Iraq is now a de facto colony of Iran, and the Iranians have been empowered by our stupidity. The surge did not work. It has not been working. The surge was stupid. Anyone with even the most elementary understanding of counterinsurgency knows that a limited "flood the zone" type assault does not work. The insurgents go home, clean their rifles, nail their wives to make more babies to win the next insurgency, and wait, and rest, and get better.
Afghanistan is looking the same way. I could be wrong, but I don't think it's anywhere close to becoming Arizona, or even Arkansas.
The GOP has turned its back on America, for a long time now. Time for America to turn its back on the GOP.
Note: This is the e-mail I sent back to my friend, nearly verbatim. I edited it to remove the bad language I sometimes, reflexively, use in private, and to clarify a point that wasn't quite clear.
I didn't vote for him, but lots of people did, and I am moderately hopeful that he will shed a lot of his campaign rhetoric, and really represent change. Despite the variety of issues he supports, which I oppose, I do have some real hope that he'll change disastrous US foreign policy blunders.
The first black president? I've got to admit, that's pretty cool.
Only in America.
My congratulations to President-elect Obama.
That would be in the 14th Congressional District for the State of Texas.
That'd be the man who has clung, anything but bitterly, to God, to the Second Amendment, to babies, to fiscal responsibility, to limited government, the man who clung, in short, to the Constitution, the man who opposed the war in/on Iraq before Barack Obama did, the man who opposed the PATRIOT ACT, the man who opposed the bailout, the man who opposed immunity for the telecoms. The man who opposed amnesty for illegal aliens.
That'd be Ron Paul, y'all.
In your heart?
You know he's right.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
He said Lord I wanna be a Christian soldier just like you
And fight to build a new and better day
Now many years and miles from Oklahoma
That same young Okie boy still kneels to pray
But he don't pray to be no Christian soldier anymore
He just prays to make it through another day
Cause it's hard to be a Christian soldier when you tote a gun
And it hurts to have to watch a grown man cry
But we're playin' cards writin' home havin' lots of fun
Telling jokes and learning how to die
Now the things I've come to know seem so confusin'
It's gettin' hard to tell what's wrong from right
I can't seperate the winners from the losers anymore
And I'm thinking of just giving up the fight
Cause it's hard to be a Christian soldier when you tote a gun
And it hurts to have to watch a grown man cry
But we're playin' cards writin' home ain't we hadn't fun
Turning on and learning how to die
Kris Kristofferson from, what, like 1970?
Cause there's nothing like that going on now, right?
Ain't no Okie boys kneeling to pray, are there, in some foreign land?
I'm just sayin'.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I may have found one.
It occurs to me that Andrew Sullivan's head might simply explode if Barack Obama does not win the presidency. Failing that, maybe he'll just go back to his husband and cuddle, whimpering, for a few years.
At least that would spare us his peculiar variety of nose-in-the-wind "conservatism." (If anyone can explain to me the logic that led Sullivan to support Ron Paul, Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain AND Barack Obama, I would be grateful, as this is a task which I cannot master, and I've mastered the который clause!)
I am progressive in that I believe in progress. I think we can make things better. Here I speak not only of things, but of ideas as well. Our things have gotten vastly better, in many ways. Our ideas? Not so much . . . but, in many ways, yes, better. I think that if we use faith and reason, two of God's greatest gifts, we can make progress. "We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . " and all that.
I am conservative in that I am afraid of making a misstep. I have had many ideas, some of them were quite good. Some of those quite good ideas? They were simply incompatible with reality. They didn't work. Great ideas put me in mind of Thomas Edison and the (soon-to-be-banned-by-federal-law) incandescent light bulb. How many times, again, did Edison come up with incandescent light bulbs that didn't work? Doesn't the number "ten thousand" stick in the mind?
What if our grand new ideas are wrong? (Whatever they are.)
Folk wisdom, I think, mostly comes down on my side. Yes, there is "he who hesitates is lost" but there is also "look before you leap" and the wonderful congruence between Anglo-American and Russian wisdom, expressed in the parlance of the building trades. The Anglo-American version, with which I grew up, is expressed as "measure twice, cut once." The Russian version is even more cautious: Отмерь семь раз, отреж один раз. Measure seven times, cut once.
The concept of federalism in the United States was, I think, a concept of allowing fifty little laboratories to try out different approaches to life. (Fifty today, of course, latterly many fewer.) Federalism would allow California to be California, and Maine to be Maine, Texas Texas, and so on. If Texas (for instance) came up with a good, workable plan, a new idea, a better way, a great leap forward, and it worked out, then perhaps Maine and California and those other states could watch its progress, learn from its mistakes, and adopt a similar but hopefully better policy. If Texas' policy was bad, however, or misguided, short sighted, or just plain stupid, the other states would not necessarily be forced to suffer through those policies. If California sneezed, the rest of the nation would not have to catch cold.
It seems to me that today we have cast not only federalism, but conservatism, indeed, caution itself, to the winds. In almost every sphere of life, we have overturned the verities of the past in favor of grand new ideas. We press on, hurly burly, seemingly convinced that no one in the past has grappled with the issues we now face, or, at least, never grappled with those issues with the insight, wisdom and moral clarity we bring to bear.
A belief in progress says we can change things for the better. A belief in conservatism asks the green eyeshade questions: what will this get us? what will this cost us? what could this get us? what could this cost us? what are we overlooking? (Note: those are all different questions.) Faith, you might say, and reason.
Hopefully without being reduced to a Hamlet-like level of incompetence, inactivity and indecision, one must ask "what if I'm wrong?"
What about, say, immigration? Do we want high levels of immigration into America? If so, what kind of immigrants do we want? If we were to bring, say, millions of low-skill Mexicans into our country, as indeed we seem to have done, what are the probable and potential upsides, and what are the probable and potential downsides?
(Note: while there is not always an upside, there is always a downside.)
What about, say, the invasion/liberation of Iraq? Do we want to become involved in a land war in Asia? (Even Southwest Asia?) What are the probable and potential upsides? What are the probable and potential downsides?
Did we measure seven times, or even twice, before we took up the saw and cut?
Some actions, once taken, cannot be undone. I remember the old saying, "When you draw your sword against the king, throw away the scabbard." "Crossing the Rubicon" has the same connotation: when you take your army across the Rubicon, you declare yourself in opposition to Rome, and you'd best throw away that scabbard.
When I was working construction many years ago, I cut a board, neat and clear, with a circle saw. It turns out that I cut it too short. The crew chief clapped me on the shoulder and told me to go and find the board stretcher. There is, of course, no such thing.
Measure seven times, cut once.
Oh, and the mass immigration thing, and the liberation of Iraq? How have those worked out for us? Has the upside we were promised come true, and even if it has, has the downside we were cautioned about come true as well? Have there been blowback, unintended consequences, unforeseen circumstances?
Perhaps the immigration example is not to your taste, nor the Iraq example. Gay marriage? Global warming, a la Kyoto? The Great Society, or welfare reform?
"And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire," indeed.
Friday, October 31, 2008
If you want a good way to start a fight (if not an intramural knife fight to the death over a foreign minister's wife!), just ask a collection of gun nuts, firearms fanciers or people who take responsibility for themselves, "What's the best carry gun?"
It is a great way to while away the hours!
Essentially you want a pistol that carries like a bitsy Beretta .25, hits like a .30-06, is accurate like a Pardini .22 rimfire match pistol, and is as reliable as a hammer. (And not just any hammer, but something like an Estwing Sure Strike solid steel hammer.)
Today, thanks to the genius of the market (and as an entirely unintended consequence of the high capacity magazine ban enacted under Bill Clinton), there is a broad variety of handguns eminently suited to personal protection, and handgun ammunition has benefited,and massively, from brilliant designers attempting to build a better bullet.
If there is a down side to these new and probably better options, it is that they tend to appeal to our cupidity for newest-fastest-lightest-polymerest-differentest. Sometimes new junk crowds out old classics.
The revolver pictured above is one of those old classics, and it remains the pistol I have carried most often. It is a Colt Cobra, in essence an aluminum alloy framed version of the famous Detective Special. Humphrey Bogart carried many a Detective Special (and its longer barreled brother, the Police Positive Special) in films noir in the 1930s and 1940s.
The precis from Wikipedia is an accurate description and summary of the Cobra. It is a light weight, six shot revolver. It is somewhere between Smith and Wesson's "carry revolvers" on the J frame and K frame in size. To my hands, the J frame is too small, the K frame is a little bit big, and the Colt D frame is just right for a six shot .38 Special. (The Colt D frame is close enough in size to the Smith and Wesson K frame that speedloaders for the two are interchangeable.)
My version from the 1950s has a slightly shorter ejector rod, and slightly smaller sights, than my early 1960s version, but the sights are still sharp, distinct, and dialed in for standard 158 grain .38 Special ammunition. If you pull the trigger without moving the sights, the sights will be dead on with this handgun load. The trigger pull stacks slightly towards the end, but is smooth, and well suited to my handgun shooting preferences. I find I shoot better with a long smooth trigger stroke, vice a short crisp trigger stroke, which is only proof once again that I am a weirdo.
For me, it carries easier than a modern, double stack autoloader of about the same size, something to do with its dimensions and where its thick, and where its thin. It is more accurate than I am, and when I maintain a modicum of practice I find it an easy revolver to shoot quickly and accurately.
In places, the bluing on the frame is worn. Where the bluing is intact, it presents a finely polished finish that will never again be offered on a standard production handgun, and the grip frame and topstrap are matte blued to provide a pleasant, and subtle, two-tone effect.
It does not have tons of power, nor oodles of bullets. It is a defensive firearm, almost purely. It is a tool for a free man to have, with which to defend his life, his liberty, and his God-given, inalienable rights.
I like it just fine.
This has caused a schismatic knife fight to develop over at the National Review. Just as the bloodiest wars are civil, the very best knife fights are among intellectuals (said in context) over schismatic deviations and heresies.
The short version: Kevin D. Williamson wrote a blog post attacking Anne . . . the Polish Foreign Minister's Wife's Slate article. David Frum, in his own NRO blog, charged to the defense of the Polish Foreign Minister's Wife, pointing out that she was "the author of the definitive history of the Soviet Gulag."
Frum's concluding paragraph was in the "more in sorrow than in anger" mode of fake sincerity:
Anne is my friend, and of course it angers me when my friends are criticized. But this is not personal. How small has the house of conservatism shrunk when it can find no room for Anne Applebaum? What has happened at NR when this generation's greatest living expert on the crimes of communism can be dismissed as an unserious and dishonorable person?Yes, yes.
Engaging in a bit of Maoist self-criticism, Mr. Donaldson clarified his ideological deviationism, umm, I mean, he pointed out that he thought Anne Applebaum really was a swell gall, just kind of, you know, elitist.
My broader point is that Barack Obama isn’t only a presidential candidate — he’s a class marker, an item of conspicuous consumption. Applebaum is at pains to distinguish herself from the “mob” supporting McCain, and I am amused by how often Obama’s supporters marvel that he was editor of the Harvard law review, as if that were a qualification for the presidency rather than a qualification to sit on the Senate rules committee. I don’t think it diminishes Applebaum’s work, or personal integrity, to note that she has presented in this article a case that is not convincing, therefore, “It's Hard to Believe Anne Applebaum.”The problem with Maoist self criticism, however, is that sometimes it makes you want to leave a shiv in the back of your accuser. Donaldson concludes:
Frum is absolutely correct that in these disappointing times some conservatives have become far too ready to “read out” those with whom they disagree; I wouldn’t presume to do so with anybody of Anne Applebaum’s standing, of course, or David Frum’s, though I’m pretty sure that the Big Tent isn’t quite big enough to include Senator Obama, whatever his other virtues.
Ha ha, ha ha! Yes, indeedy! Some conservatives have become far too ready to "read out" those with whom they disagree . . . no one of Anne Applebaum's standing, of course, or David Frum's.
Wait, some conservatives . . . far too ready . . . "read out" . . . does that jog a memory? Why yes, yes it does!
David Frum in 2003, that memory is jogged. I think it was called "Unpatriotic Conservatives." Wasn't it? (Why yes, yes it was!)
From the very beginning of the War on Terror, there has been dissent, and as the war has proceeded to Iraq, the dissent has grown more radical and more vociferous. Perhaps that was to be expected. But here is what never could have been: Some of the leading figures in this antiwar movement call themselves "conservatives."Sounds like disagreement!
These conservatives are relatively few in number, but their ambitions are large. They aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world — the commitment that inspired the founding of this magazine — in favor of a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies.
Sounds like reading out!
And who were these anti-war conservatives who were junking the commitment to American interests and values, ignoring threats and appeasing enemies?
You may know the names of these antiwar conservatives. Some are famous: Patrick Buchanan and Robert Novak. Others are not: Llewellyn Rockwell, Samuel Francis, Thomas Fleming, Scott McConnell, Justin Raimondo, Joe Sobran, Charley Reese, Jude Wanniski, Eric Margolis, and Taki Theodoracopulos.
No one of Applebaum's standing, of course, or Frum's . . . umm, wait a minute? I have read, and widely, the vast majority of the men Frum read out of the movement. Perhaps I'm blinding myself, but if I compare any one of these men, let alone take them in aggregate, to David Frum, the comparison is . . . well, how do you compare something to nothing? (The nothing, that would be Frum.)
Just as sacred cow makes the best hamburger, the very best knife fights are intramural. Like a picador, man. Like a picador.
Note: Edited to replace "along" with "alone" in the penultimate paragraph. My bad.
He writes of mail he receives whenever he cautions that Obama is not the antiwar candidate some (many) people take him to be:
The common assumption of these letter-writers is that Obama is just trying to "pass," so to speak, as a warmonger. Once he's in office, peace will break out all over. What evidence do we have for this? None whatsoever.And in conclusion?
But – and I hate to tell you this, but somebody has to -- the politics of fear and deception have not been patented by the Republicans. Look for the Democrats to add their own ingredient to this bipartisan recipe for overseas disasters: the politics of guilt. White liberal guilt, to be sure. We'll be smack dab in the middle of Africa's feuding tribes faster than you can say "Samantha Power."
And that's the best case scenario. In the worst case, the Dennis Ross faction of Obama's emerging foreign policy movers and shakers will maneuver us into a confrontation with Iran, and relations with Russia will deteriorate to a new low as NATO escalates its eastward expansion. In any case, those who are working to effect a fundamental change in American foreign policy have a duty to take Obama at his word -- hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
Justin Raimondo is not popular among the neocons/anti-jihadist right. And there have been times when I thought his work had holes in it, places where my own knowledge pointed in a very different direction than that in which Raimondo pointed. But as I have said in the past, I expect my heroes to have feet of clay. Neither his unpopularity with the crazier, more interventionist neocons nor his occasional misstep are reasons to miss his thrice-weekly columns at Antiwar.com, however.
Obama is a blank slate, I believe he has consciously so modeled himself, and if we see in him what we wish to see, based on nothing more than our own preferences and Obama's airy generalities, then who is the fool? Is it Obama? Or is the fool us?
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Part of it is the revolution in search engines. If you want to know more about the Winter War and Christopher Lee, you just google, or ask, or yahoo "Winter War" "Christopher Lee" and shazam, there you have it.
If I discuss a particular article, I'll include a link.
Hey, I'm just doing what works for me, and I don't pretend I am right!
I started off looking for information on the T-34 tank, because I was playing a video game where that tank features, and it didn't look quite right to me. A few moments of typing, and I discovered that the T-34 in the game doesn't really look anything like a real T-34. OK, problem solved!
But . . . but wait, that's not all!
From reading about the T-34 I segued neatly into reading about the Winter War of 1939, between the Finns and the Soviets. (And I think the Winter War would be a great video game, too, giving you the chance to kill Godless Soviet Commies without having to pretend to be a Nazi, but that's a different tangent on which one could spin.)
So there I am reading about the Winter War and I discover that Christopher Lee was a British volunteer with the Finns!
How cool is that?
(Note: Mr. Lee admits that he never saw combat, as the detachment of volunteers he was with was considered too valuable from a PR standpoint to risk in battle. Still. Still!)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
88 and 14. As the Times article explained, the number 88 represents the phrase "Heil Hitler," because H is the eighth letter in the alphabet. White supremacists are also fond of the number 18 to represent the initials A.H. (Other tight-knit groups use a similar code: The Hells Angels, for example, are attached to the number 81.)
Weaker, I think, when they turn to the mystical skinhead significance of the number 5:
the number 5 represents resistance to law enforcement in the form of this five-word response to interrogation: "I have nothing to say."Willing to go out on a limb with me here? Maybe it has something to do with the Fifth Amendment? Resistance to law enforcement? Right against self-incrimination? (Hey, if I said "The right against self-incrimination" that would be FIVE WORDS. FIVE. Five.)
The parts where he explains how seeing Goldfinger gave him a whole new appreciation of Austin Powers? That was my Metamucil moment.
Roughly speaking, there are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course is in your best interest. Then you take the action.
Over the past few centuries, public policy analysts have assumed that step three is the most important. Economic models and entire social science disciplines are premised on the assumption that people are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and maximizing their self-interest.
Although I freely admit that I am only marginally familiar with Boyd's OODA loop concepts, this article seems to be heavily sympatico with Boyd's work. However, if I rightly recollect, Boyd placed the emphasis on the second stage, not the third, and explicitly noted that our orientation is heavily influenced by our own biases, predispositions and experiences. This contradicts the assumption that people "are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and maximizing their self-interest." It all comes down to the question of whether our orientation is rational or not.
Brooks spends the rest of the column attempting to shift the presence of bias over to his "first O", that of perception. Although he might never have been exposed to Boyd's work, he trudges the path Boyd blazed, with a little "right wing deviationism" thrown in for fun.
If you start thinking about our faulty perceptions, the first thing you realize is that markets are not perfectly efficient, people are not always good guardians of their own self-interest and there might be limited circumstances when government could usefully slant the decision-making architecture (see “Nudge” by Thaler and Cass Sunstein for proposals). But the second thing you realize is that government officials are probably going to be even worse perceivers of reality than private business types. Their information feedback mechanism is more limited, and, being deeply politicized, they’re even more likely to filter inconvenient facts.
This meltdown is not just a financial event, but also a cultural one. It’s a big, whopping reminder that the human mind is continually trying to perceive things that aren’t true, and not perceiving them takes enormous effort.
Who'd a thunk?
But read these two paragraphs, and riddle me whether or not an editor might have wanted to take a look at them:
After all, it was the collapse of global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union. And Iran today is looking very Soviet to me.
As Vladimir Mau, president of Russia’s Academy of National Economy, pointed out to me, it was the long period of high oil prices followed by sharply lower oil prices that killed the Soviet Union. The spike in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad — and then the collapse in prices in the ‘80s helped bring down that overextended empire.
Hmm. So it was the collapse in global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union, except that it was also the collapse in prices in the '80s that helped bring down that overextended empire.
Friedman goes on a review of the economic missteps and miscues of the mullahs, the heavy social spending, the domestic subsidies of the FIRE sector (wait, I made that one up) and concludes that if "(oil) prices stay low, there is a good chance Iran will be open to negotiating over its nuclear program with the next U.S. president."
Like Thomas Friedman, I think that would be a very good thing. I still think his reach is exceeding his grasp when he writes:
That is a good thing because Iran also funds Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and the anti-U.S. Shiites in Iraq. If America wants to get out of Iraq and leave behind a decent outcome, plus break the deadlocks in Lebanon and Israel-Palestine, it needs to end the cold war with Iran. Possible? I don’t know, but the collapse of oil prices should give us a shot.
Wait, we're going to get out of Iraq, AND leave behind a decent outcome? To paraphrase Moynihan, only if we define decent outcome down. (And I think that's inevitable.) And while we're at it, we're going to break the deadlocks in Lebanon and Israel-Palestine? That's mighty ambitious.
While I can stipulate Friedman's assessment of the straitened economic circumstances Russia and Iran now find themselves in, I think he's overlooking another country undergoing some straitened economic circumstances. (That would be us, or at least, the US.) I don't mean to get all OODA-loopy here, but the process of weighing your assets and liabilities against your potential gains and your potential losses, discounted for risk, is something that has to be ongoing and dynamic. (To Mametize this, "things change.")
Personally, I want to get the Iranians back on our side. Not necessarily the mullahs, not necessarily this regime, but somehow, someday, I want the Iranians back on our side, and so when Friedman calls for ending the cold war with Iran as the key to Middle Eastern progress, I'm down with that, homey.
Doubtless all good liberals will cringe when Friedman quotes Karim Sadjadpour on negotiating with the Iranians by analogizing to negotiating with a Persian carpet merchant---and it do have a whiff of "ethno-cultural stereotyping" to it!---but it doesn't really bother me, and I think it shows a good grounding in reality. (I look forward with equal enthusiasm to Freidman's comments on negotiating with Israel being like negotiating with a Jewish money-lender. Yes?)
Unfortunately, of course, a big dollop of love for the Democratic nominee for president lies in the middle of this poorly edited but reasonably sensible article.
You know, I wish I could see the magic of Obama, but I don't. For me he's like Seinfeld: a politician about nothing, and what's worse, an uninteresting politician about nothing. While the GOPniks are running around screaming "He'll get tough on Israel! He'll sit down to negotiate with Iran! He'll slash the defense budget by a quarter! He'll yank us out of Iraq!" I find myself muttering under my breath, "If only." But I think he's just another politician, blither-blathering whatever he thinks people want to hear until he gets his hands on the keys to the executive washroom. Still, I curiously find myself loathing him somewhat less than John McCain, because I fear that McCain really would start a serious war somewhere, like with Iran or (God forbid) Russia.
Barack Hussein Obama would present another challenge for Iran’s mullahs. Their whole rationale for being is that they are resisting a hegemonic American power that wants to keep everyone down. Suddenly, next week, Iranians may look up and see that the country their leaders call “The Great Satan” has just elected “a guy whose middle name is the central figure in Shiite Islam — Hussein — and whose last name — Obama — when transliterated into Farsi, means ‘He is with us,’ ” said Sadjadpour.
I have a final nit to pick with the closing paragraph.
“When you ask young Arabs which leaders in the region they most admire,” said Sadjadpour, they will usually answer the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. “When you ask them where in the Middle East would you most like to live,” he added, “the answer is usually socially open places like Dubai or Beirut. The Islamic Republic of Iran is never in the top 10.”Could any of that be due to the fact that most Arabs probably don't speak Farsi? How much business does the Islamic Republic conduct in Arabic? Is there any anti-Sunni prejudice, or any anti-Sunni policies, in effect in Iran? I, frankly, have no idea, but wouldn't be surprised if there were. Then again, people frequently voice admiration for revolutionary leaders while preferring to maintain their own safety, security and stability.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Bush Endorses NATO Membership for Albania, CroatiaWASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2008 – President Bush kicked off the weekend by signing agreements endorsing Albania and Croatia as NATO members and called on other Balkan and former Soviet countries to join the alliance.
And as they used to say on the late night tv commercials, "But wait there's more!"
As if letting Albania (!) and Croatia into NATO isn't enough, the Most Socialist President in US History also extends the hand of friendship to other nations yearning to breathe free:
Bush reiterated U.S. support for others to join NATO, including Georgia, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, and Serbia if it chooses. These countries “remember the pain of tyranny,” and, as a result, “treasure the blessings of liberty,” he said.
Russia only gets one finger, and it's not from the hand of friendship.
Remember, kids, just because its called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization doesn't mean it has to have anything to do with, you know, the "North" or the "Atlantic" or any of that nonsense. Besides, the Adriatic is very, very similar to the Atlantic. Both, for instance, are salty and wet.
Ha ha! That "other George W." that President George W. Bush used to talk about, he was so silly! All his blither-blather about avoiding "entangling alliances" and suchlike! Ha ha! Ha ha!
Ha ha! That "other George Bush" that President George W. Bush is related to, he was so silly! All his blither-blather "promises" to the Soviet Union that NATO would not be expanded if German reunification was permitted! Ha ha! Ha ha!
The initial impetus for the dust-up came when Greenwald wrote a post at Salon about “Our diverse and vibrant democracy.”
Ms. Young was not going to take this! Posting at Reason, “Sympathy for the devil: why is the American left making excuses for Putin’s Russia?”, she wrote that Greenwald’s take was “blatantly false—and reveals much more about the mindset of the left than about the state of American democracy.”
One of the two major presidential candidates is repeatedly lying to the American public about one of the most significant geopolitical events of the year. The other candidate has adopted the lie because doing so is more politically expedient than refuting it.
As a result, the vast bulk of the American citizenry has a completely false understanding of a war that took place this year between our "stalwart ally" and our New/Old Scary Enemy (namely, that the New Scary Enemy launched an unprovoked attack on our sweet and innocent democratic ally). That lie is then used to depict the New Enemy as a Grave Threat and to justify proposed NATO membership for the victimized ally, an extremely dangerous policy which all four major candidates, with varying degrees of qualification, fundamentally endorse (thus further eliminating any discussion, debate or dissent over it).
Ms. Young asserts that no one (save only Moose Killin’ Sarah Palin) thinks the Russian actions were unprovoked, simply “serious aggression” and, later, “naked aggression” (from McCain) which was “unacceptable” and “unwarranted” (the latter two from Obama). Ms. Young further asserts that this view is dominant in Europe, linking to a Council of Europe resolution. That resolution notes that:
5. However, the start of shelling of Tshkinvali without warning by the Georgian military, on 7 August 2008, initiated a new level of escalation, namely that of open and full-fledged warfare. The use of heavy weapons and cluster munitions, creating grave risks for civilians, constituted a disproportionate use of armed force by Georgia, albeit within its own territory, and as such a violation of international humanitarian law and Georgia’s commitment to resolve the conflict peacefully.And
6. At the same time, the Russian counter-attack, including large-scale military actions in Central and Western Georgia and in Abkhazia, equally failed to respect the principle of proportionality and international humanitarian law and constituted a violation of Council of Europe principles, as well as of statutory obligations and specific accession commitments of the Russian Federation as a member state. It led to the occupation of a significant part of the territory of Georgia, as well as to attacks on the economic and strategic infrastructure of the country which can be deemed to be either a direct attack on the sovereignty of Georgia and thus a violation of the Statute of the Council of Europe, or an attempt by Russia to extend its influence over a “near abroad” state in violation of its accession commitment to denounce such a concept.I didn’t know that counter-attacks, however excessive they might be, constituted aggression, let alone serious or naked aggression. Perhaps Ms. Young counted on few people clicking through to read her links. (In fairness, Ms. Young does prefer to use Obama’s “unacceptable and unwarranted” language.)
She then asserts that “Clearly, what irks Greenwald is not that Russia's actions in Georgia are viewed as unprovoked but that they are viewed as (to quote Obama) unacceptable and unwarranted.” Maybe she’s right—but I don’t see it that way. From my reading of Mr. Greenwald’s post, what irked Greenwald was that the lie “is then used to depict the New Enemy as a Grave Threat and to justify proposed NATO membership for the victimized ally, an extremely dangerous policy which all four major candidates, with varying degrees of qualification, fundamentally endorse.” In other words, my impression is that Mr. Greenwald was referring to the dangers of expanding NATO membership to Georgia, without debate.
But back to the Rolling Stones post: Ms. Young accuses Russia of engaging in “blatant provocations toward Georgia, apparently including the downing of a Georgian reconnaissance drone over Abkhazia.” Ms. Young glosses over the last paragraph of the AP report, which reads:
The observers’ report said both sides had violated an Abkhazia cease-fire agreement — Russia by shooting down the drone and Georgia by flying it over Abkhazia.
The blatant provocation, then, was shooting down a UAV which Georgia had (in a blatant provocation?) flown over Abkhazian airspace.
Well, whatever. Then Ms. Young concludes “Sympathy for the Devil” with a confusing paean to the good old days when the Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union:
Ah, the good old days!
When Cold War-era leftists pleaded for a more understanding view of the Soviet Union, they were at least arguing on behalf of a power that, despite its abuses, at least outwardly embraced many "progressive" ideals: free medicine, housing and education, extensive social services, secularism, women's rights, relative social equality. The Putin/Medvedev Russia is the opposite of everything today's left supports: It's a land where billionaires flaunt their $20,000 watches and $350 million yachts, social services are slashed to a minimum, religion is entangled with the state, ethnic bigotry flourishes, labor unions are trampled, and homophobia is rampant and officially condoned.
Indeed, in his follow-up post, “The Russia/Georgia conflict and the tactics of 2002" Greenwald writes, that those who
“oppose the ill-conceived, dangerous plan to turn Georgia into a U.S. protectorate through NATO membership and other entanglements -- are smeared as Putin apologists and guilty of sympathizing with, acquiescing to, and even supporting Russian tyranny.”
Now I know neither Mr. Greenwald nor Ms. Young, but have read a reasonable selection of their articles and postings, and I have never seen Mr. Greenwald display any particular affection for the Russian state. He’s writing about the dangers of expanding NATO to include Georgia, folks, not implying that we should join with Russia to stamp out a revanchist Georgia!
In the tit-for-tat world of the blogosphere, Ms. Young felt the need to further clarify her position, in a post at Reason under the title "Cathy Young Responds to Glenn Greenwald Re: The Left and Putin's Russia.” She makes five main points, none of which seem relevant or on-point to me, and concludes that:
Do I think Greenwald loves the Putin regime? No, of course not. Do I think his (often deserved) revulsion at the Bush administration's policies has turned into a knee-jerk tendency to be against whatever the "neocons" are for, and consequently into a very real moral blind spot? Yes, and this blind spot is nowhere as evident as in Greenwald's glib, reprehensible dismissal of Georgian democracy.
Of course, if she had actually addressed the issue of potential accession into NATO by Georgia, she would have been responding to Greenwald’s post, and not simply praising our plucky little democratic pal Georgia.
Obama's run has been the negation of almost every decent progressive principle, with scarcely a bleat of protest from the progressives seeking to hold him to account. The Michael Moores stay silent. Obama has crooked the knee to bankers and Wall Street, to the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear lobby, the big agricultural combines. He is more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain, and has been the most popular of the candidates with Washington lobbyists. He has been fearless in offending progressives, constant in appeasing the powerful.
Monday, October 27, 2008
The article was in Slate.
A few howlers leapt out at me. Maybe she is absolutely correct in her comments, but that's not how it looks to me.
She writes that it's "his rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party" that, finally, repulses her. My ears pricked up at this!
Her take on what constitutes a rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party is, shall we say, different than mine. Way different. My first clue to this was her praise of John McCain as "a true foreign-policy intellectual."
A true foreign policy intellectual.
A true foreign policy intellectual.
Then my suspicions were confirmed: Mrs. Polish Foreign Minister is one of them there National Greatness conservatives, she loves America because of all this power we've got (we had, we've got, we had, whatever) to throw around.
Her admiration for John McCain stems from his foreign policy pointy-headedness, his respect for budgetary sensibility and his disdain for torture, and his willingness to betray conservative principles on issues like immigration and, well, mostly just immigration. All that is trumped, however, but the aggressive anti-intellectualism of his party. And Moose Killin' Sarah Palin.
She doesn't come across as too enthused about Obama, however.
Barack Obama is indeed the least experienced, least tested candidate in modern presidential history. But at least if he wins, I can be sure that the mobs who cry "terrorist" at the sound of his name will be kept away—far away—from the White House.
Let's keep them peasants and their pitchforks in their place, dern it!
“Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”
The article's title was "An American Friend."
No, not the Wim Winders film.
While John McCain's enthusiasm for military interventions, and the fact that his chief foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann is, err, was, a lobbyist for Georgia are well known, Obama enthusiasts prefer to think of their candidate as "anti-war."
Did you watch our presidential debates? It sometimes seems like the one subject the candidates agreed on is the necessity of supporting your country, a former Soviet satellite state that has recently been warring with Russia. I was personally very surprised that the candidates were so passionate about Georgia. Of course, John McCain has been many times to Georgia and knows it firsthand. Obama said absolutely all the right things.
Do you think Georgia will be accepted into NATO in December, when the next vote is scheduled? It’s the $100 million question. I was reassured by Senator Obama, who said that we should have a NATO Membership Action Plan. Whether we get it, we’ll see.
As Pat Buchanan wrote at the height of the South Ossetian War of 2008,
From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, U.S. presidents have sought to avoid shooting wars with Russia, even when the Bear was at its most beastly.
Change? Hope? Admittedly, the belief that we should undertake military commitments to defend Georgia are a somewhat novel change, and one I hope no one seriously considers, but then again, I rarely get the change I hope for.
For me, this brings to mind the phrase that Jeff Cooper used to use to refer to the right Rev. Jesse Jackson---"the tan Fuhrer." Jeff Cooper was a Marine officer in WW2, holder of a master's degree in history from Stanford, and chief promulgator of the "New Technique" of handgun shooting. I'm pretty sure everyone knows who Jesse Jackson is.
While the election has not been held, it sure looks like Barack Obama is set to be the tan Fuhrer for real and for true.
What? I'm calling the Democratic nominee for president a Fuhrer? Well, that kind of goes with the office, these days. As someone once remarked, "It'd be easier if this was a dictatorship, as long as I'm the dictator."
For the last eight years, the Republican party and Republican activists have enthusiastically supported the expansion of presidential authority under the rubric of the "unitary executive." The Republican party and Republican activists have fervently argued in favor of "signing statements" wherein the president signs a bill into law while reserving the right to ignore those parts of the law that he finds unduly restrictive of his "inherent authority" or disadvantageous for the good of the nation. For six years, the Republican party and Republican activists have argued that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by the legislative branch back in September of 2001 established a de facto and de jure regime under which the president could do, well, just about anything he wanted to. You know, arrest US citizens without 4th Amendment protections. Use "enhanced interrogation techniques" (i.e., torture) on foreigners at home and abroad, and on US nationals, at home and abroad. Wage war on such nations, states, peoples and groups as he finds planned, authorized, committed or aided the attacks of 9/11.
(Note: I really wish that I could have typed, in place of "the Republican party and Republican activists" the phrase "conservatives." However, none of that was conservative.)
Well, shazam, as Gomer Pyle used to say.
Here's a news flash: that power is still going to be in the executive come January 20 of 2009.
In the event that Barack Obama does become president, I imagine that the Republican party will rediscover its enthusiasm for a restrained executive, will rediscover its belief that legislation ought to undergird exercises of presidential authority, and in short will rediscover that actions have consequences.
Good luck with that. You did it to yourselves, caught up in the heat of the moment, convinced of the righteousness of your cause, convinced that electoral politics, like international politics, had arrived at the end of history. You have sown the wind, and now you will reap the whirlwind.
Remember, as Bill Clinton once said, "You can't love your country if you hate your government." Hey, hasn't that been an operative meme over the last eight years as well?
If I did not look forward to the day when my daughters would be able to read over this blog and see what their old man had said, I would dip into my reservoir of truly explicit USMC language and express my true opinion of the Republican party, and Republican activists.
I've probably used the Nietzsche quote before, where he warns that when you stare long into the abyss, the abyss stares long into you. And I've thought about Bill Buckley's quote that to defeat the evil Godless Commies, we had to become, if not evil Godless Commies ourselves, then at least Soviet-Lite. And I know I've thought some about projection, about seeing reflections of ourselves in others, particularly in "the Other" (which, for all my life, hasn't been Obama, but the Soviet Union).
And so America, and Americans, look at the Soviet Union. Wait, did I say Soviet Union? I meant to say "Russian Federation." And so America, and Americans, look at the Russian Federation, and what do we say?
We say that Vladimir Putin has concentrated executive power in his administration while reducing the power of the legislative branches.
We say that Russia is an aggressive and expansionist empire looking to control the world.
We say that Russia overreacts militarily to provocations.
We say that Russia uses energy policy as a political weapon to control or influence other states.
We say that the Russian news media is in the hip pocket of the Putin/Medvedev tag-team administration, and doesn't provide accurate information on "what's really going down."
We say that Russia destabilizes the international order by recognizing new, made-up states, basically taking a whiz in the face of the Westphalian system.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, those faults we see in them are ours, that's all.
Let's see here. Concentrating executive authority? Think about the unitary executive theory and signing statements. ("I'll approve this law, except the parts that I don't like, because I'm the president.") Aggressive, expansionist empire? Just how many countries do we garrison at present, voluntarily or involuntarily? Military overreaction to provocations? Compare and contrast the very limited incursion into Georgia with our ongoing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Energy policy as a weapon? Look at the pipelines and ask yourself again about Afghanistan and Georgia and why we're now BFF. News media in the hip pocket? The "liberal benchmarks" of the New York Times and the Washington Post are enthusiastic cheerleaders for the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, carrying water for the PTB. Destabilizing the international order with made up states? That's spelled K-O-S-O-V-O. (Or is it K-O-S-O-V-A as the Albanians prefer?)
We have become what we beheld, and strangely, we are content.
Note: At or about 8:38 a.m. CDT on 28 October I revised this post, because I stupidly wrote "Russian Republic" when I meant to say "Russian Federation." My bad.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Ordinarily, you don't hear DeCoster talking up government regulation of private businesses. Ordinarily, that's because that's just not one of the arrows in her quiver.
Then again, these aren't ordinary times.
Ordinarily, I don't much care for populist mobs of peasants (that'd be me, hi Mom!) with pitchforks and pitch torches storming the commanding heights of the von du zus and other elites.
Wait, ordinarily do people who run big businesses so throughly into the ground as to demand eleven-digit federal bailouts get million dollar a month consulting fees? ELEVEN DIGITS, folks.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Conservatism today is not too ideological or insufficiently traditional. Rather, it is ideologically devoted to the wrong traditions. It sees the U.S. empire, the police state, the Republican Party, and other right-wing symbols as proxies for freedom, as institutions worth more than liberty. It has adopted coercive nationalism and utilitarian collectivism and cast away the traditions of constitutionalism, freedom, and natural law on which bourgeois values depend.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I'm sorry, that's just about the most hilarious shite ever, enough to have made The Last Action Hero not quite the worst movie ever made. And that's without taking into consideration that I got the worst grade of my life by submitting a paper arguing that Hamlet was a comedy.
The Texas tribe. The American tribe. The Christian tribe. The teuful tribe. The "Western-Civ" tribe. The Scottish tribe. The gun-nut tribe.
Moynihan was wrong.
All politics is not local. All politics is tribal.
It all depends, of course, on how you define your tribe.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I was wrong.
I was so very wrong. I was focused on "could we do it?" and not on "and then what would happen?"
I've mentioned the Coen Brothers' movie Miller's Crossing in the past, because I dig on it so much. Now I'm thinking of an exchange between Tom Regan and Leo O'Bannon.
I don't have me the transcripts, but the exchange went something like this.
Leo: You do anything you can to help your friends, the same way you do anything you can to kick your enemies.
Tom: No, Leo, you do things for a reason.
It just works out better if you've thought through the reason.
Looking back on my enthusiasm for getting rid of Saddam, my face flushes crimson. Maybe Poppy really SHOULD have gone to Baghdad, but that ain't the way it looks to me.
I think I know what to call it.
You work it as a contraction, you take parts of both words and fuse them together.
Oh, if that crack about "most conservative administration in history" above got your goat, let me enumerate. We've had massive new unfunded liabilities to seniors (Medicare drug benefits), lavish tongue baths to diversity, strong presidential action to "regularize" "undocumented" workers, centralization of the state organs of security, back-breaking simultaneous paeans to Islam as the religion of peace combined with kill-the-dirty-towelheads xenophobia and two and a half wars funded by Japanese and Chinese credit.
And the trend lines, o my droogies, they ain't looking so good.
I can't claim this as authoritative (i.e., "I could be wrong!") but a lot of people talked to me about the way things were under Brezhnev (and his successor party heads).
By that point in time, pretty much no one believed in the "Soviet system." No one really believed that the workers of the world should unite and cast off their capitalist oppressors.
But there was some stability, and if you were smart and worked hard and had some luck and knew the right people, you could make some money, have some status, do okay for yourself.
In Russian, adding "-schina" to someone's name turns it into a new noun, meaning "Age of X" or "reign of X". I don't think anyone's used the term Brezhnevschina before, so it's my very own little term of art.
For me, it means, "We all know it's a fraud, but there's still money to be made pretending, so we keep on going through the motions."
So . . . would that make it the Bushschina? I mean, here, now, for us.
We still talk the smack: freedom, democracy, capitalism. Does anyone still believe that smack? More particularly, does anyone still believe that the United States Government represents that smack?
I suppose I can take comfort in the more euphonious-sounding impending "Obamaschina."
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
had a talk w/G-d last night,
this was his offer:
all my sins forgiven,
all my debts paid,
everyone i ever fucked over or fucked,
reborn and made to feel clean,
no more pain for my eyes,
bulldozers and tanks
rust into anthills,
nothing more ever dreamed of
or manufactured to melt the skin,
hunger not even a word,
only one language - love.
or I could have stars on my boots.
And you should see them babe,
everyone wants a pair.
Note: I copied this poem down from a journal, probably twenty years ago, and have no idea where it came from, nor who, beyond the nom de plume, the author is. I humbly plead "fair use" in reproducing it here, and will provide proper citation if it is produced to me.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Fortunately, the internet is full of places where I can easily check if I have succumbed to a, shall we say, more sinister political belief. (Umm, that's sinister as derived from the Latin term for left handed, playing on the popular understanding of the "left" and "right" wings.)
It doesn't take much roaming around for me to conclude that I fit in with "good movement leftists" about as well as I fit in with "good movement rightists," which is to say, not at all.
The left, we can posit, don't really dig on meat. This is not to slander the fine barbecue-loving Democrats that make up, one hopes, most of the Democratic Party, but speaks rather to the more rigorous adherents of the fringes. Vegetarians, vegans, Veejer (wait, that was Star Trek Something or Other), PETA advocates, or just folks who prefer to think that meat is generated, pre-shrink wrapped, in supermarkets around the world. I'm going out on a limb, here, and I don't have the statistics to back me up, but I'd venture that those folks are mostly left wing.
That's one of the ways I can tell I'm no commie pinko. Because just between you and me and the fence post, I likes me some meat. Hell, I loves me some meat.
I believe I am evolutionarily a carnivore, with the whole "eyes in front" thing going for me, with the whole "growed to rip flesh not chaw cud" teeth thing going for me. I believe I digest meat better than grains, and from time to time I see internet headlines about how our brains require amino acids found in meats to fully develop. Hey, all that could be nonsense.
What isn't nonsense is how much I likes me some meat.
I likes me some cow.
Like the commercial from a few years back said, "Beef, it's what's for dinner." For me, beef is the staple, it's the everyday thing. It's a floor wax, and a dessert topping! From the high-falutin' filet to the lunch bucket ground hamburger, it's the little black dress of the carnivore's feeding wardrobe. You can accessorize your beef just about any which way and it'll turn out satisfactory. We've cracked the code on beef, plus we're relying on cow farts to stave off the oncoming Ice Age. Fart, Bessie, fart!
I likes me some pig.
I pity observant Jews and Muslims because they have done themselves out of pork products through their piety. There are atheists out there who posit that every religion is a sham and a fraud, and while I don't buy into that (in my heart of hearts I do think I have a spiritual relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that I'm racking up karma points by attempting to walk with my Savior and that there is, in the end, a Plan however I am unable to fathom it, but I'm just saying) I think in such a case a good faith argument could be made that getting to eat pork is enough reason to do some schismatic heresy-shaking. Unlike beef, pork to me has a distinct, wonderful yummilicious distinctness. (Beef is pretty much "just meat.")
Bacon? Foshizzle my nizzle. Ham, either thick sliced steaks or honey glazed slices of just hocks tossed into the red beans and rice? Shut yo' mouth good. One time back in the day, one of my Daddy's clients sent him a peppered ham, had a good, thick, 1/4" rind of peppers on it. I remember the taste of that ham TO THIS DAY, I tell you. Ahem. To this day.
Now chicken and lamb, they have their place, as do all of God's other little critters. About venison, enough words simply cannot be said, so I shan't say a thing. And I've had some mighty fine elk and moose. Huh, that brings Palin to mind, who was, by causing mass anti-hunting spasms, probably the inspiration for this post. But other meats, they are of tertiary importance compared to beef and pork, and I want to get to sleep sometime tonight, and if I start going off on individual meats, I'll be here all night.
Loves me some meat. Yeah I do.
In my way, I'm a sensualist, a hedonist. Not a libertine, mind you (although I could be wrong) but a hedonist. I try to relish the sensations of the physical world, like the feel of grass between your toes, the pleasant itchy annoyance of a mosquito bite (somewhere in Clavell's Shogun someone says "life is pain") and oh my goodness gracious the taste of meat in your mouth. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's evil, maybe it's rotten, but you can't deny that meat tastes good in your mouth, even if it's "good like a fresh hit of crack" good. (Or wait, are kids these days just doing meth? Damn, it's hell to get old.)
I love ripping meat apart in my mouth. Bite down, there's that big explosion of flavor, sometimes a rush of juices, something primeval about it, something very rooted, something very grounded. Something very traditional. (We just do those traditions a lot more than people throughout history have been able to.) It's not a pellet, it's not something plasticized and hydrogenated for your protection, not something shot through with preservatives and processed into nothingness. (Even a hot dog, hey, lips and assholes, man, as they said in the East Texas poultry business, "parts is parts.") It's something real. It's something that was living, and not "living" like a plant turns towards the sun and produces phyloplankton, but living like it had a face and a heart.
And because I have a conscience, which means I'm a liberal . . . or maybe a conservative, I get confused, but anyway . . . the meat that tastes the best is meat I've made for myself. "Making meat" is another way of saying "getting your deer" and it sums it up in wonderful, beautiful, brutal simplicity. I won't lie, I'm no great hunter, I'm barely even a hunter, been hunting six or seven times and only bagged one deer and one pig. Both Bambi and Wilbur were thoroughly consumed, and with great relish, I will point out.
Aside from the health benefits of being leaner and free of hormones, antibiotics and other stuff of the nightmares of Upton Sinclair, meat you make for yourself is more moral. Rather than being industrially produced and processed, meat you kill for yourself has probably lived a more or less free existence, running around and rutting and fighting and mating and, you know, eating acorns. (Not, sadly, ACORNs.)
So yeah. I'm no commie pinko, because I likes me some meat.