Movin' On Up!

Well, it's been great here at BlogSpot, but the Empire has outgrown its current home, and so it's time to move on.

Henceforth, you'll find the Empire at its brand new home:


See you there!
Top Ten Baseball Moments

Last night, during game four of the World Series, the top ten moments in baseball history were announced (as voted on by the fans).

Cal Ripken's breaking of Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak was the number one moment. But of course, with all due respect to Cal, the voters were wrong. The real top ten moments are:

10. Jim Leyritz's three run homer to tie game four of the World Series, October 23, 1996.

9. Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius, all homering in 9th inning comebacks, game four and five of the World Series, October 31st and November 1st, 2001.

8. Derek Jeter's amazing relay toss to Jorge Posada in game three of the American League Division Series, October 13, 2001.

7. Reggie Jackson's three home runs in game six of the World Series, October 18, 1977

6. Bucky Dent's home run in the American League East one-game playoff, October 2nd, 1978.

5. The first-ever game at Yankee Stadium, complete with a home run by Babe Ruth, April 23, 1923.

4. Chris Chambliss' walk-off home run against Kansas City to win the American League pennant, October 14th, 1976.

3. Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, May 15th through July 17th, 1941.

2. Don Larsen's perfect game, game five of the World Series, October 8th, 1956.

1. Lou Gehrig's farewell speech, July 4th, 1939.

Obviously all the greatest moments don't fit into a top ten list. There's also the "Boston Massacre," September 7th -9th of 1978, in which the Yankees swept a four game series from the Red Sox by a combined score of 42-9. There are the perfect games by David Wells (May 17, 1998) and David Cone (July 19, 1999); and no-hitters by Dwight Gooden (May 14, 1996), Jim Abbott (September 4, 1993), Andy Hawkins (in a losing effort, July 1, 1990), Dave Righetti (July 4, 1983), and Allie Reynolds (July 12 and September 28, 1951) - and of course Bill Bevens' bid for the first ever World Series no-hitter, foiled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth (Ovtober 3, 1947). There's Roger Maris' sixty-first home run (October 1, 1961), and Babe ruth's called shot in the World Series versus the Cubs (October 1, 1932) - but we did have to draw the line somewhere.
Talk Among Yourselves

Jeff Durkin emailed this to me (among others) this AM, and I thought it was worth putting it out for my 68 readers a day to contemplate and comment on as well (you can also email Jeff directly, if you like):

So, the question to answer is: Can we live in harmony with the Islamic civlization? Can we have effective, peaceful relations with a worldview so different from ours? Or, is it not that different? I would say it is, that Islam, unlike religion in the modern West, is the core of its civilization and that modern Islam is opposed to the values that are at the core of the West, but I could be wrong.

Is it possible to come to terms with a worldview that sees us as infidels to be conquered and either converted or killed? Many claim that Islam is a religion of peace. This is true only in the same way that Christianity, Judiasm, hinduism or any other major belief system are. No religion that I know of advocates constant warfare and slaughter; but all are used to justify such things. All have in them a component of strife: against one's self and aginst the evil in the world, whatever that may be. Islam, like its relatives Christianity and Judaism, is an expansionistic, absolutist creed. In the West, humanism has tempered many of the worst aspects of religion; in the Islamic world, Western humanism or an equivalent does not exist.

If we our two civilizations are incompatible, then what do we do? Global war? Retreat into a siege state and hope we outlast them? Modify our beliefs to make them acceptable to the Islamic world? Sit back and do nothing? Convince ourselves they are just like us and hope we are not proven wrong?

To answer the first question, and this is a gross oversimplification, I think there is a significant different between Islam and Christianity. There is no Islamic equivalent to Jesus' directive to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's." There is a Biblical basis for separation of church and state, and for believers to respect a temporal authority entirely distinct from God. As I understand the Islamic view - at least the one that seems to be widely held in the Middle East - there is no such distinction. All law derives from Allah. There cannot be a secular state as such.

Aside from that, I agree with Jeff's contention that humanism (I'm not sure if that's exactly the word I'd go with, but I can't think of a better one at the moment) has sanded down the rough edges of Christianity, and that a similar process has not happened in the Islamic world. The Catholic Church made its peace with the modern world a couple of hundred years ago (an overgeneralization, I know, but not totally wrong), and Islam, for the most part, hasn't.

I think that the fact that the largest single "flavor" of Christianity has a distinct, strong, unquestionable hierarchy, also makes a difference. There is one Pope, who is the spiritual leader of all Catholics, and whose words are, if not always heeded, are at least heard and usually respected. There is no equivalent in Islam; when Osama bin Laden claims that it is Allah's will to fly airplanes into buildings, there is no one indisputable Islamic authority to brand him a heretic and excommunicate him.

All that said, we get to Jeff's last paragraph. What do we do? I think war is probably inevitable. The question is whether we will fight it on our terms (with operations like the coming removal of Saddam Hussein as a first step), or on theirs (the siege state approach, waiting for the next Al Qaeda attack). I don't think that doing nothing is an option for us.

But that's just me; your comments are encouraged...

Foolishness and Lies

Well, it's the NY Times editorial page, so I guess that's to be expected. In this instance, Gail Collins and the gang are unhappy abuot executing people who committee crimes as juveniles.

Last June the Supreme Court barred the execution of the mentally retarded as cruel and unusual punishment, noting that such criminals have limited capacity to understand their moral culpability or be deterred by the threat of execution. This week, sadly, the court declined to extend that same reasoning to juveniles. In rejecting the appeal of a death row inmate in Kentucky, the court's majority dashed hopes of overturning its appalling 1989 ruling permitting executions of those who are 16 or 17 when they commit capital crimes.

Four members of the court — Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer — issued a forceful dissent arguing for an end to the "shameful practice." The majority's abdication perpetuates America's dubious distinction of being the sole Western country to impose death sentences on people younger than 18.

As opponents of the death penalty endlessly remind us, we're the only Western country to impose death sentences, period, so the last sentence there is pointless.

As is the reasoning. If someone has "limited capacity to understand their moral culpability," that's a defense against their conviction in the first place, as it is with the retarded or the mentally ill. As one would hope the Times editorial writers know, mens rea - criminal intent - is a necessary component in order to convict a defendant of a crime. If that doesn't exist, because the defendant is deemed incapable of understanding the crime in question, or of telling right from wrong, then that issue should be raised at trial.

But if a jury, taking that into account, convicts, well, the defendant should be subject to the death penalty if that's an option for the crime at hand. Even if they were 16 or 17.

As Jeff Durkin notes at his site, 16 year olds, generally, ought to know that rape and murder are wrong (those being the crimes in the "shameful' Kentucky case).

But of course, that isn't the point; the point is to find any possible reason to complain about the death penalty, because our "betters" in europe have abolished it, and, as always - at least if you write for the Times - they know best.
You Could Almost Take Him Seriously...

Certified Idiot Richard Cohen bleats on again today, continuing to draw that paycheck from the WashPost, and he almost manages to make a couple of points. Almost. But th we remember that he is Richard Cohen, and we remember things he's said in the past and his arguments, such as they are, are blown to hell.

Today's topic is the honesty of the Bush Administration:

Appearing on the old "Dick Cavett Show" back in 1980, the writer Mary McCarthy said of her fellow writer Lillian Hellman: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' " The same cannot yet be said about George W. Bush and his administration -- but it has not been around as long as Hellman was and is not nearly as creative.

Richard must have been really cracking the whip on his interns this week to come up with that little reference (not literally, hopefully, although given his history with interns, one never knows).

In any case, the same could be said of Richard.

The evidence is accumulating, though, that neither Bush nor his colleagues are particularly punctilious about the truth. For good reason, they sorely want a war with Iraq -- but good reasons are not, it seems, good enough for this administration.

Sure they are.

And they do not "want" a war. They want Saddam Hussein removed and Iraq disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, because that is what is in the interest of the American people - and the Iraqi people, and pretty much everybody else in the world. War is, unfortunately, the best - only - means of accomplishing that.

Instead, both the president and his aides have exaggerated the Iraqi threat, creating links and evidence where they do not exist. Even before this war starts, its first victim has been truth.

In your opinion, Richard. Which, given your track record, is less than persuasive.

Take Bush's oft-proclaimed assertion that there is a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. If there is, it is tenuous and coincidental. The senior al Qaeda official Bush said was in Baghdad seems not to be there anymore -- and it's not clear whether Hussein and his guys knew he was there in the first place. As for any link between the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and Hussein -- maybe none exists.

"Maybe." Well, that's certainly convincing, Richard. Is it possible, d'you think, Richard, that they can't give out the details you want because doing so would compromise intelligence sources? Maybe?

But in Bush's telling, all qualifications disappear. In speaking about Hussein last week, Bush said, "This is a man who we know has had connections with al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army."

Sure he would. He'd love to use them as an army.

Maybe in his judgment -- but not really in anyone else's. Similarly, Bush appears to be alone in thinking that Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used "for missions targeting the United States." As my Post colleague Dana Milbank has reported, the CIA indicates Iraq may have such aircraft, but their range is another matter altogether. In all likelihood, Baghdad has nothing -- no plane, no missile, no box kite -- capable of reaching the United States.

At least Richard gives credit to Milbank for his article the other day. I guess that's something.

Bush also has said that Iraq was "six months away from developing" a nuclear weapon. This is news to every expert I've talked to or read about. It is just not the case -- or, if it is, the administration has not supplied the intelligence to support its claim. At the moment, Iraq is believed to be as many as five years away from developing a bomb.

And you believe the "experts" you've talked to, who base their opinion on what, exactly, Richard? The weapons inspectors haven't been in Iraq for 4 years.

What kind of intelligence would satisfy you, Richard? And how do you think it might be given out without compromising security or sources? Or doesn't that matter to you?

At the same time, administration officials and their key allies outside of government have continued to claim that a meeting took place in Prague between Mohamed Atta, the supposed leader of the Sept. 11 terrorists, and an Iraqi intelligence official. But no evidence of that meeting exists -- not that the White House acknowledges that. Maybe it's been too preoccupied with withholding news about the North Korean nuclear program.

We discussed Richard's lies and sistortions about North Korea on Tuesday, so no need to rehash that here. As for Atta-in-Prague, up until this week, the Czechs were swearing that the meeting happened, so it's entirely reasonable for the White House to discuss it.

What's disturbing about these exaggerations is that they fertilize the growing paranoia of what must now be called the antiwar movement. Not since the Vietnam era have we seen the vilification of a president as a scoundrel and a liar -- not to mention a fool. In caricature, Bush is as dumb as Lyndon Johnson was ghoulish.

Um...your side didn't vilify Reagan? You might want to set the Wayback Machine for 1980 and do a bit of research. Maybe the intern can do it for you, Richard.

And why "must" we call it the antiwar movement? How about the "anti-American" movement? That's a lot more accurate.

Equally disturbing, we are beginning to realize that Bush's campaign tactics in the Republican primaries against Sen. John McCain were not an aberration. When Bush's allies and minions in New York distorted McCain's position on breast cancer research and earlier attacked him in personal terms in South Carolina, we got a first peek at Bush's willingness to tolerate almost any tactic on his way to a goal.

Um...just like almost every elected politican out there?

Richard, if youo're going to whine about distorting positions, you need to go back and revise your remarks on the previous President. Unless you want to be dishonest and hypocritical.

Oh, right, I forgot who I was talking about.

Bush's remarks are sometimes characterized as off the cuff and therefore not to be taken literally. But some of his not-so-precise statements were made in speeches -- and anyway, I don't see why precision is not required in all cases. All the president is doing is weakening his own arguments. His opponents can say -- as they have been saying -- that if he is sloppy about this or that fact, maybe he's sloppy about them all.

His opponents can say whatever they want. But since their views can be called, at best, at variance with reality, it's kind of hard to take them seriously. Tommy Daschle? Robert Byrd? Terry McAuliffe? The dingbats who occupy the NY Times editorial pages? None of them, or their pals, have more than a passing familiarty with the truth, and that only by accident.

If Americans are going to die in Iraq, then the reasons for war cannot be embellished. The majority of Americans who now believe that there is a hard link, virtually a working alliance, between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, between Sept 11 and Baghdad, are going to feel betrayed when they find out afterward that no such relationship existed.


The majority of Americans want Saddam removed because he's a dangerous tyrant who threatens the United States. As long as he is removed, they're not going to feel betrayed, because they won't have been.



Partners For Peace

Courtesy of Right Wing News, check out the comments of the mother of the latest Palestinian mass murderer. Some highlights:

"I was very happy when I heard that [Mahmud] killed Jews in the attack," she said. "When a warrior of jihad follows Allah's path to kill Jews, [it is the act of jihad] that gives him strength. Even if he does not kill any Jews, it is an honorable act, because he dies the death of a martyr."

"I was happy when they told me that my son had died,"

"From the first time that I said goodbye," the mother said, "I asked him not to be afraid [of fighting] against the Jews, as they are cowards, that he prepare his weapons well before embarking, that he kill [as many] as he can and leave none alive."

"I prayed that my son be killed in action, so he could be rewarded with the [72] virgins in heaven,"

And yet, somehow, Israel is to blame, and if only the U.S. would get more involved there could be peace.


Andrea Harris passes along a truly disturbing item from Samizdata.

Go there and check out the new poster that the Metropolitan Police are putting up in London.

Don't you just feel better already?

It really begs the question: what in God's name were these people thinking?
Down With the Merry Widow!

Juan Gato points out this AM that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has endorsed the Widow Carnahan in the Missouri Senate race.

Among other things, they cite:

She sponsored successful school construction legislation and a measure to require immediate electronic reporting of major stock sales by corporate insiders.

Mrs. Carnahan has a visceral dislike of the supercharged partisanship of the closely divided Senate.

That's all well and good, but what about my Mom? She's a widow, too. And we in the Empire want to see her appointed to the Senate by a governor out there somewhere.

My Mom is in favor of building new schools.

My Mom doesn't like insider trading, either, and would obviosuly support tough rules to deal with it.

And my Mom has a visceral dislike of lots of things, and people.

Plus, as noted earlier this week, my Mom would never lie about phony endorsements from the AARP, as Jean Carnahan has.

So contact your governonr and tell him or her to appoint my Mom to the Senate from your state!
Getting What They Deserve?

Greg Hlatky passes on this appalling item from today's Washington Times.

It concerns Mary Ryan, formerly head of Consular Affairs, architectrix of the "Visa Express" program, and the person under whose watch most of the September 11th hijackers were allowed into the United States. It seems that, despite being forced to resign, she has received a $15,000 bonus for "outstanding performance" during the period between April 16, 2001 and April 15, 2002.

For your enlightenment, here's the transcript of a session between reporters and the horrendous Richard Boucher, spokesweasel for the State Department (and also a recipient of an "outstanding performance" bonus). This comes courtesy of National Review Online.

QUESTION: The pay bonuses, the $10,000 to $15,000 each for over 200 members of the Foreign Service, can you give a few details about that?

MR. BOUCHER: It's an established, annual procedure. It's part of the OPM rules; it's part of the government rules; it's been around for a long time. The performance of people is examined very carefully by committees and they determine who gets the pay benefits. And it was done, I think, a long time ago by the government in order to assure that they stay competitive with the private sector. And people get these performance awards based on things that they've done and how they performed in their jobs and met the needs of the service. And in our case, it's a sign that they have performed well in terms of serving their country and their government.

We could ask the families of the 3,000 or so victims on September 11th how well served they feel by the folks who let the hijackers into the country. I wonder what they'd say?

QUESTION: Okay, a couple thoughts on that, then. By my math, then, we're talking about a ballpark $3 million going out in bonuses to these members of the Foreign Service.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure if you check with OPM you'll find the total figure for the entire government.

QUESTION: Yeah. No, and that's fine. But does that seem to make financial sense when State Department is complaining about understaffing at consulates —

MR. BOUCHER: It makes an awful lot of sense in terms of the way the government has, for many years, had these programs, has run them efficiently, carefully and confidently and wants to retain senior executives in the government so that we, as taxpayers, have the benefit of their services.

Again, I'm sure we're all glad to have had the benefit of Visa Express.

QUESTION: Okay, well, again, I guess going to the benefit of their services, the GAO report which came out yesterday was not terribly flattering, I suppose, about the benefit of the services provided by some of these officials. And if you — you know, the award is for outstanding performance.

Do you think that it is — that it constitutes outstanding performance to have visas applications that were not filled out properly still being issued to terrorists during this period? This was April 16th of last year to April 15th of this year, and it includes 9/11. Do you think that that track record from Consular Affairs — in particular, Mary Ryan got the bonus as did Thomas Furey, who was the Consul General at Riyadh who helped establish visa express, which let in three of the 9/11 terrorists — what exactly about that constitutes a track record of outstanding performance worthy of these bonuses?

MR. BOUCHER: I want to stop this right here. You've said things that I disagree with and I've said things that you disagree with. I have not gone after your paycheck.

It's not the paycheck. These awards are, specifically, for "outstanding performance." And, of course, since we as taxpayers are ultimately the employers of everyone at the State Department, we do have the right and responsibility to question whether they are earning their pay.

QUESTION: I'm not going after yours.

MR. BOUCHER: I have not gone after — I got one of these bonuses.

This one is too easy...

QUESTION: Congratulations.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

QUESTION: I wasn't questioning whether you deserved one.

MR. BOUCHER: I have not said that you didn't deserve to be paid for your services. I didn't say that you didn't deserve to be paid for your articles or your appearances.

QUESTION: Now, Richard, I'm not making this personal.

MR. BOUCHER: And I'm not going to do it now.

QUESTION: I did not go after you —

MR. BOUCHER: You're attacking friends of mine, people who dedicate their lives to their government and their country.

QUESTION: They are government officials. They owe a certain responsibility to the country.

MR. BOUCHER: People who dedicate their lives to their government and their country.

QUESTION: That's fine, but they don't have — they don't owe accountability?

MR. BOUCHER: If you want to talk about the GAO report, we'll talk about the GAO report, but I'm not going to talk about whether or not they deserve their bonuses. It's an established procedure. It's done very carefully by the government. It's done under an open set of rules that have been around for a long time. If you want to question those rules, you can go question those rules. But don't question whether these individuals deserved them or not.

And why not? These people are lucky they're not being prosecuted for criminal negligence; they damn well don't deserve bonuses!

QUESTION: Okay. And I did not make this personal. You did. And just for the record —

MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm sorry. You started naming names.

QUESTION: — I want to make sure you don't take this as —

MR. BOUCHER: You started naming names.

QUESTION: Well, they are names of people who set policies and then people need to decide —

MR. BOUCHER: Now, do you want to talk to about the GAO report?

Well, the utter contempt for the American people, and the fanatical sense of entitlement of Mr. Boucher and his pals at State comes through good and loud here. A thorough housecleaning at State is long, long overdue.

One more time: Fire them all!
Well, Tommy...?

PostWatch points out this item noted by Croooow Blog, from Fox News Sunday.

It's a conversation between host Tony Snow and Tommy Daschle:

SNOW: I want to ask you about the quote we played for Secretary of State Colin Powell, or actually put up on the screen. I want to read it again and I want to try to parse it, because you were harshly critical the other day at the Bush administration's foreign policy. Once again you said, "I don't know if we've ever seen a more precipitous drop in international stature and public opinion with regard to this country as we have in the last two years." Typically, people cite several things with regard to this. One was the Kyoto protocol, correct?

DASCHLE: Correct.

SNOW: You voted against that.


SNOW: OK. The International Criminal Court, you voted against that.

DASCHLE: That's correct.

SNOW: And Iraq, where you voted with the president.

Well, there you go. There's nothing I can really add, except that the sooner Daschle is relegated to minority leader status again, the better.

This Guy Needs to Die

I'm listening to the radio, and they're talking about the DC sniper.

Apparently (according to the letter he left, I guess), he claims to have called the tip line six times, and he claims that he was "blown off" by some of the folks who answered the phone, and that one particular tip line operator is "responsible" for five of the people the sniper killed.

No. Without knowing the details, sure, it's possible that operators and police screwed up. But the only person responsible for these deaths is, obviously, the sniper.

Apparently the sniper has also asked for $10 million, to be deposited in a bank account of his choosing.

Lovely. This guy really, really needs to die, and soon.
Does He Read His Own Words?

Tommy Friedman tries to coin a new term this mroning: the "Arab basement." Checking in from Qatar, Tommy writes:

At a seminar here this week on relations between America and Islam, one of the questions discussed by American and Muslim scholars was that elusive issue: Where is the Arab street and how might it respond to a U.S. invasion of Iraq? For my money, the most helpful answer was provided by the Jordanian columnist Rami Khouri, who said that "what's really important today is not the Arab street, but the Arab basement."

OK. This does invalidate a lot of what Friedman has said before, and it'd be nice for him to admit that. But maybe we can take this as an implicit admission of error and move on. We'll try and be generous.

This is an important distinction. The "Arab street" is the broad mass of public opinion, which is largely passive and nonviolent. The "Arab basement" is where small groups of hard-core ideologues, such as Osama bin Laden and his gang, have retreated and where they are mixing fertilizer, C-4 plastic explosives and gasoline to make the bombs that have killed Westerners all over the world.

Some of them are ideologues. But some of them, like Osama, are simply power-hungry, see themselves as the heirs to the Caliphs of old, and use any provocation or ideology that comes to hand to justify their deeds and recruit canon fodder.

And there's no solution except extermination for them.

Over the years, Arab leaders have become adept at coping with the Arab street, which is why not a single one of them has ever been toppled by it. They know how to buy off, or seal off, its anger and how to deflect its attention onto Israel. They also know that the street's wrath can be defused by progress on the Arab-Israeli front or elections at home.

Um...there's a problem here. If Arab leaders deflect the "street" by inflaming anger against Israel, then the problem on the "Arab-Israeli front" is pretty much entirely an Arab-created and exacerbated problem, isn't it?

Which is what a lot of us have been saying all along.

And which also means that any "progress" on that front will be undermined by those same Arab governments whenever their "streets" need to be distracted, which means that there's never going to be any real progress on that front as long as any of these awful governments are in power. Which a lot of us have been saying all along.

The Arab basement, though, is a new and much more dangerous phenomenon. These are small groups of super-empowered angry men who have slipped away from the street into underground cells, but with global reach and ambitions. While issues like Israeli and U.S. policy clearly motivate them, what most fuels their anger are domestic indignities — the sense that their repressive societies are deeply failing, or being left behind by the world, and that with a big bang they can wake them up and win the respect of the world.

Or; they have boughtinto an ideology which tells them that everyone not them is the enemy and must be brought to heel or destroyed.

They don't want the "respect" of the world, they want the rest of the world to live as they live, or not to live at all.

"These guys started in their living rooms," said Mr. Khouri, "then they went out into the streets, got pushed back, and now they have retreated to the basements." Unlike the Arab street, no diplomacy can defuse the Arab basement. It doesn't want a smaller Israel, it wants no Israel; it doesn't want a reformed Saudi monarchy, it wants no Saudi monarchy.

A lot of them went to other countries, took advantage of Western education and prosperity, and then decided to commit mass murder. Not quite the same thing.

So what to do? The only sensible response is to defeat those in the Arab basement, who are beyond politics and diplomacy, while at the same time working to alleviate the grievances, unemployment and sense of humiliation that is felt on the Arab street, so that fewer young people will leave the street for the basement, or sympathize with those down there — as millions of Arabs do today.

Substitute "annihilate" for "defeat" and I'm OK with that.

But as for alleviating the grievances, the only way to do that is to replace the horrendous governments that currently run every Arab country. Nothing else will do it.

There is no question that America can help by making a more energetic effort to defuse the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and by speaking out for the values that America has advocated everywhere in the world — except in the Arab world: namely democracy. I met yesterday with 50 students from an elite Qatari high school and the new Cornell Medical College in Doha. They were so hungry to talk, to have their voices heard; and what you heard when you listened was how much they still looked up to America, but how much they thought America looked down on them.

Defuse the conflict? The same Arab-Israeli conflict that Arab governments stoke to distract their people from their own unhappiness? Wrong. Won't work.

But the Arab states have a huge role to play too. You cannot seal the door between the Arab street and the Arab basement without addressing the reasons for Arabs' backwardness and humiliation cited in the U.N.'s Arab Human Development Report, which are their deficit of freedom, their deficit of women's empowerment and their deficit of modern education.

They have the only role to play. They can transform themselves into modern societies, or we can.

"It takes many years of political, social, economic and human degradation to create a terrorist," notes Mr. Khouri. "So fighting terror can only succeed by rehumanizing degraded societies, by undoing, one by one, the many individual acts of repression, obstruction, denial, marginalization and autocracy that cumulatively turned wholesome developing societies into freak nations, and decent, God-fearing people into animals that kill with terror."

My guess is that the only way to stop the drift of young Arabs from the street to the basement is by administering some shock therapy to this whole region. Could replacing Saddam Hussein with a progressive Iraqi regime be such a positive shock? I don't know. I don't know if the Bush team really wants to do that, or if the American people want to pay for it. But I do know this: If America made clear that it was going into Iraq, not just to disarm Iraq but to empower Iraq's people to implement the Arab Human Development Report, well, the Arab basement still wouldn't be with us, but the Arab street just might.

Well, that all sounds great. Too bad your employers aren't on board with that program, or the Democrats...
It's the Little Things That Make Life Worhh Living

Like this.

WARNING - the above link can be very addictive and is not recommended if you're at work and other people can see what you're doing...

(link courtesy of Steve Jackson Games)


Well, We're All Screwed Now

We are doomed.

At least we'll have some time to get our affairs in order; ten billion years ought to be long enough to get everything settled...

(thanks to Christopher Johnson for pointing this one out)

More on the Clinton Legacy

Following up on some postings from last week, check out this rundown from North Georgia Dogma.

Very enlightening.
One Big Happy European Union

I wouldn't take this too seriously, but it is pretty amusing:

what various Europeans "really" think of each other...

From Jay Nordlinger on NRO:

Caught Bill Bennett on television the other night, and he said something interesting, as always. He was on a panel in Colorado, with Karen Hughes, and the professors there — this was at a college — were calling the two Republicans “Talibanic” and “despicable.” The Left always does this, Bennett pointed out.

At which point Alan Colmes broke in and said, “You should read my e-mail, Bill! They say I’m unpatriotic, they say I should defect to Iraq,” etc. To which Bennett responded — perfectly — “Yes, but I suspect those e-mails are from cranks. I’m talking about tenured college profs, who shape the minds of our kids.”

College profs...and columnists and editors at the WashPost and the NY Times, reporters and anchors at ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN...

Wrong, Richard!

If it's Tuesday, it's time to see what new stupidity Richard Cohen has unleashed upon the world.

He's unhappy, again, with the President.

The smug spirit of Enron pervades the Bush administration.

When in doubt, mention Enron. Page one of the anti-Bush playbook. Doesn't matter how irrevelant it actually is to the topic at hand.

When it learned that North Korea had a secret nuclear arms program, it moved the disclosure off the books lest it complicate the confrontation with Iraq. The information that Congress needed as it held another one of its self-proclaimed "historic" debates was withheld -- a footnote known to only a few key members who, as with Enron's board, passively kept their mouths shut.

Well, that's not what Colin Powell said on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. He said that Senators and Congressmen were being briefed for the past couple of weeks - before the Iraq vote. Now, as noted many times, we are not fans of (hopefully soon to be ex) Secretary of State Powell, but we will still take his word over that of Tommy Daschle or Dickie Gephardt, both of whom are fundamentally dishonest, morally repugnant human beings (and calling them human is giving them both a very generous benefit of the doubt). So, Richard, before you throw out allegations, you might want to listen to both sides. Just a thought.

But Japan knew. President Bush told Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Sept. 12. It was the same day that Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly, providing the clearest rationale yet for going to war with Iraq. He said nothing in that speech about North Korea. Unlike Iraq, it is not plodding toward producing nuclear weapons. It may already have at least two.

The speech was not about North Korea; and had he mentioned them, he'd have been bashed for trying to widen the war and extend his imperialist grasp yet further. Cohen would probably have been leading the charge.

Undoubtedly, other governments also knew that North Korea was cheating on the agreement it had reached in 1994 with the Clinton administration. It was supposed to abandon its nuclear weapons program -- which, in a way, it did. But it started up another one -- and this is the one that Washington started to substantiate last summer. Washington and Pyongyang had at least one thing in common: They were both keeping a secret from the American people.

Well, from what's come out, the first hints of this came in 2000. Who was President in 2000? Let's say it all together, for Richard's benefit: Willian Jefferson Blythe Clinton.

And by the way, "in a way" North Korea did abandon their program? Well, since Cohen can't ever stay mad at his idol, the former Narcissist-in-Chief, he has to compliment him. But this, of course, is like arguing over what "is" is. Or saying that, "well, in a way he stopped cheating - he did dump Gennifer," without noting that he then started cheating with someone new. I think the phrase above was "fundamentally dishonest." It fits here, too.

In too many respects, the Bush administration operates as if it -- and not Congress or, for that matter, the American people -- owns this entity called "the government." It has told Congress to buzz off when it asked for documents telling whom Vice President Cheney met with in formulating the administration's energy policy. Enron, perhaps?

Well, he does raise a vaild point here. Unfortunately, he didn't raise this point during the eight year regime of the Clintons. I don't recall Cohen calling for Lady MacBeth to release notes about her secretive health care reform committee way back then. I don't recall criticism of executive priviledge when Billy Jeff used it.

He's not wrong about Bush, but since he carried water for the Clintons when they did the same thnigs, Cohen is certainly not the man to make that point.

It has been downright uncooperative in granting Freedom of Information Act requests from the news media and other interested parties. It fought a proposal to create an independent commission to investigate what went wrong before Sept. 11, 2001, then reluctantly agreed to one -- and now has reneged on that agreement. The intelligence community, it seems, did just a swell job -- the hole in Lower Manhattan notwithstanding.

About FOIA requests, that may be true. But without specifics, which we can't reall expect from Richard, i guess (unfounded allegations are so much easier), we can't evaulate this claim. And there may be legitimate reasons to oppose those requests due to security reasons - again, without knowing what's being asked for, there's no way to assess this acusation.

As for the commisison, I agree with him, amazingly enough. Broken clocks and blind acorns, I guess.

The news that North Korea was developing nuclear weapons -- that it just might already have them -- might not have changed the course of the Iraq debate in Congress one bit. It does not change my mind. In fact, it confronts us with what might happen when a desperate, despotic power gets its hands on such weapons. The South Korean capital of Seoul is just 40 miles from the North Korean border. If North Korea really has a nuclear arsenal, not to mention the means to deliver it, war might well be unthinkable. This, too, could happen with Iraq.

Gee, you think?

But the North Korean program certainly complicates matters -- maybe in ways that I cannot envision. This is the virtue of debate -- the teasing out of facts, arguments, positions that might never have occurred to you. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, for instance, I did not much consider whether toppling the Iraqi regime might also topple some others. I did not dwell on what would happen when Saddam Hussein was gone -- who would govern the country and whether in fact it would be governable. I was enraged. It was enough.

Well, I imagine that there's quite a lot that Richard can't envision.

And you have to love the narcissism here; how many times does he use "I" in one paragraph? It's all about how Richard feels.

The debate -- the one in Congress, to some extent, but really the one conducted on the op-ed pages of newspapers -- was extremely instructive. My bottom line did not change, but it wavered from time to time. I wanted all the facts, and in the end I thought I had them.

You still don't have them, Richard. First because no one has them, including the Administration. Second, because there are things that the Administrationand Congress know that you don't. So get over yourself already.

And of course it's all about the OpEd pages; not aming the public, because,really, who gives a damn about them? What's important is what Mo Dowd, and E.J. Dionne, and Sally Quinn think. That's what counts for Richard.

Not so, it turns out. An important piece of information was withheld -- from me, from you and from our representatives in Congress. I am reminded of the so-called secret bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Secret from whom? Not from the Cambodians. They surely noticed they were being bombed. Not from the North Vietnamese. They knew, too. The ones in the dark were the American people.

And of course we go back to Vietnam. Always Vietnam.

Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice deny that news about the North Korean program was withheld for political reasons. Bush needed time to study the matter, they insist. But he had plenty of time -- and some of that time Congress was engaged in the Iraq debate, playing the role of the oblivious board of directors. Bush is not that slow a learner. In fact, it was he -- remember? -- who included North Korea in his "axis of evil." What did he know then?

That they were a secretive, militaristic, Stalinist regime with a loon in charge. Which we all knew.

It would be one thing if this were an isolated example of the Bush administration either exaggerating threats -- the imminence of an Iraqi bomb, for instance -- or forgetting to mention one that already exists, such as the North Korean program. But this administration keeps one set of books for itself and another for the public and Congress. It's Enron on the Potomac.

And one more Enron mention, just for good measure. It doesn't matter how far you have to stretch it, as long as you can get your digs in at the President.

Hey, Paul!

Paul Krugman continues to push the Howell Raines anti-Bush agenda.

Today's column talks about the lack of serious corporate reform.

But there's something curious; Krugman notes that:

The S.E.C. has been underfunded for years...


Since 1995 Congress has systematically forced the Internal Revenue Service to shrink its operations; the number of auditors has fallen by 28 percent. Yet it's clear that giving the I.R.S. more money would actually reduce the federal budget deficit; the agency estimates that it loses at least $30 billion a year in uncollected taxes, mainly because high-income taxpayers believe they can get away with tax evasion.

The SEC has been underfunded for "years" - presumably more than two. Who was President for the eight years prior to January 20, 2001?

The IRS has been shrinking since 1995. Who was President from 1995 through January 20, 2001?

You wouldn't know from Krugman's column, which doesn't once mention the name of the man who presided over the underfunding of IRS and SEC for half a decade.

Is his memory that short, or is it simply that it doesn't serve the agenda to point out that the former Narcissist-in-Chief is equally responsible for the the problems that Krugman sees?

Just wondering.
Mixed Messages

Why can't the Bush Administration keep a coherent message out there? Yesterday, the President said:

the United States was trying diplomacy "one more time" to disarm Saddam Hussein "peacefully" and suggested that if the Iraqi leader complied with every United Nations mandate it would "signal the regime has changed."

as reported in the NY Times. But the White House also said:

Mr. Bush was not backing away from his past insistence that Mr. Hussein must leave office.

If that's true, why issue the first statement? Can't these people stay on message at all?
The Barbarians Act Again

This was noted elsewhere yesterday: barbaric Palestinian murderers slaughtered 16 Israeli citizens, in yet another demonstration of their desire for peaceful coexistence.

This attack happened shortly after Israel lifted a curfew on Jenin; and that's where the attack is believed to have originated.

And that says it all. The moment Israel lets up, even for a few hours, Israeli civillians die. Peace is impossible. The Palestinians don't want it; they want to kill Israelis, and that's the beginning and the end of things.

When will the world wake up and realize that truth?
Another Shooting

This one in the Maryland suburbs, about an hour ago. It happened at a bus stop on Connecticut Avenue. The victim was shot in the chest and is (at the moment; let's hope he remains so) still alive.

No word yet on whether or not it's connected to the sniper.

And on an "irresponsible media" note, the local morning radio show I'm listening to noted that the victim was airlifted to an undisclosed trauma center, and police did not want to reveal where he was taken. I agree; it seems that there's no real burning public need to know which hospital the victim was taken to. But when they cut to their "canned" national news report, that did reveal which hospital despite apparent police requests not to.


The Merry Widow Strikes Again!

Well, Jean Carnahan, the Merry Widow of Missouri is still fighting tooth and nail for the Senate seat she was handed two years ago. Unfortunately, she's being less than honest while doing so.

It seems that her campaign literature includes an AARP logo, implying AARP endorsement of herquest to be given four more years in the Senate because, gosh darn it, she's a widow and she deserves it!

Only one problem: the AARP doesn't actually endorse her.

Now, my Mom would never do such a thing. Which is yet another reason that all you readers need to contact your governor and tell him or her that you want them to appoint my Mom to the Senate for your state.

As I've pointed out before, my Mom has exactly the same qualification as Jean Carnahan (her husband passed away), and the same prior political experience as Jean Carnahan (none). But my Mom is a fundamentally upstanding person who would never dishonestly claim an endorsement from a group, as the Merry Widow has done.

Besides, my Mom, as a senior citizen, already is a member of the AARP. Forget their endorsement, my Mom will represent their views because she's one of them!

And as I've said before, she's willing to move to any state that will appoint her to the Senate, and she'll even pay the moving expenses herself.

So get in touch with your governors right away! You have nothing to lose but your current Senator, and you have my Mom to gain!
Jesse, Jesse, Jesse

Racist con-man Jesse Jackson is at it again, talking about (hopefully soon-to-be ex) Secretary of State Colin Powell. We here in the Empire have no real love for Powell; his views are, we think, dangerous, destructive and contemptuous of American sovreignity.

So this is not really a defense of Mr. Powell. But we do have to wonder what, exactly, Jesse Jackson means when he tells a roomful of sycophants:

''He's not on our team. If he wins, Trent Lott wins. We're not on that team. If he wins, we lose. If he wins, poor folks lose.''

Wins what, exactly, Jesse? Colin isn't running for anything. He is not in a position to win or lose anything, politically. And in any case, considering that Colin finds himself at odds with the more pragmatic voices of the Administration, I'd think that Jesse and his gang of extortionists would prefer to see Colin prevail over his opponents within the Bush Administration.

But of course they don't. Because Colin doesn't toe the traditional liberal black Democrat line; that makes him "not part of the team." Because we all know that "real" black people are all, unquestionably and evermore, liberal Democrats. And they always agree with Jesse.

Maybe someone could explain to me why, exactly, anybody takes this racist jerk seriously anymore?

National Review Versus the State Department, Continued

Joel Mowbray weighs in, discussing a newly issues GAO report which savages the State Department both for its pre September 11th visa issuance policies, and for the lack of substantative change in said policies since then.

It is, as always, both depressing and illuminating. Heads really, really need to roll. And they're not going to. And it's only a matter of time before more Americans die thanks to the "courtesy culture" that permeates State when it comes to immigrants from societies deeply hostile to the United States.

National Review Versus the State Department

Interesting article at NOR this morning, arguing that the State Department had knowledge of terrorist threats in Bali but did not warn Americans of the danger.

The most recent travel advisory on the State Department website for Indonesia prior to the Bali bombing is dated August 10, 2001. The advisory states: "The tourist destination of Bali has been largely free of the disturbances seen in other parts of Indonesia. All tourist facilities are operating normally, and to date foreigners have not been the specific target of any group."

Unfortunately the State Department was giving out advice it knew was wrong.

Writing in the New York Times, Jane Perlez and Raymond Bonner reported on October 15 that the U.S. government had repeatedly warned the Indonesians "a group linked to Al Qaeda was planning attacks to kill Americans and other Westerners…." According to the Times, the "warnings contained no details about where and when attacks might occur…" However, the Sydney Australia Morning Herald reported: "The Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday admitted that Australia received recent US intelligence identifying Bali as a possible target of a terrorist attack on Western tourists but had decided not to change its advice to Australian holidaymakers." The paper goes on to report that the prime minister "told Parliament that Bali had been mentioned in recent intelligence reports as a site, along with other tourist locations across Indonesia, in which there was a risk of "possible terrorist activity against United States tourists."

The phrase we're looking for here is, maybe, "dereliction of duty."

As the NRO piece notes:

The first duty of governments is to protect their own citizens from harm. Indonesia was not a Conventry situation — that is, we did not need to protect the source of the intelligence we had, which is what Winston Churchill had to do when he allowed Coventry to be bombed in 1941. Nor did we have to kowtow to Indonesia and keep private our concern about a looming danger. American citizens, and the citizens of America's allies need accurate and timely warnings of danger. When we have credible intelligence we need to get it to the public without delay.

How come the State Department doesn't understand that?

The Media Sucks! Film at Eleven!

Howie Kurtz seems to think so, anyway.

This morning, he laments the fact that:

(the Congressional elections have) seemingly been relegated to back-burner status

He notes that:

In years past, journalists have sounded a drumbeat about pressing issues -- say, health care or budget deficits -- and virtually demanded that candidates respond. In recent weeks, however, the loudest sounds have been the war drums over Iraq, the confrontation with North Korea and wall-to-wall coverage of the Washington sniper.

And further, that:

With the economic downturn, 45 states are facing deficits, but the press -- with its usual fixation on polls and attack ads -- has largely failed to force candidates to talk about specific spending cuts or tax increases.

Without being snide here (really!) this does raise an interesting point. What, exactly, is the role of the media in election season?

Is it to simply report what the candidates say and do, and let the public decide what to make of it all?

Or is it to try and "force" the candidates to address the issues? Which of course begs the question, if that is the media's role, who decides which issues the candidates should be forced to address?

Kurtz's above comment, about "pressing issues" gets to the heart of the question; if the public isn't clamoring to hear about a particular issue, is it really pressing? Is it the media's job to try and force the public, as well as the candidates, to care about an issue that it deems pressing?

I'd be curious to know what Kurtz's take on those questions is...

Oh, He's So Funny

Garry Trudeau has noticed the Blogosphere! Yes, now we've really made it - we're an object of ridicule in "Doonesbury."

Today's strip, which I'd assume is the first in a series, depicts two of Trudeau's annoying, redeeming-quality-less college age characters (as distinct from his older, redeeming-quality-less characters) talking 'bout blogs.

"Wait, don't you have to have something to say?" one of the characters asks, to which the other replies, "A common misconcepetion."

Oh, the humor! Oh, the cutting sarcasm!

Oh, the pointless vapidity. As if Garry Trudeau's got any standing to talk about "having something to say" - the last time he had anything resembling an original thought was probably sometime back in the 70's.


Go. Read. Learn.

Check out this gem of an article from Mean Mr. Mustard. There's lots more there, also worth reading.

Well, Here's the Agenda

In today's NY Times magazine, weekday columnist Paul Krugman was handed several pages to expound on his views of the state of the economy. Needless to say, he doesn't like what he sees.

This is no surprise, given his constant attacks against the current Administration, against the Republicans generally, and against free-market capitalism as an economic system.

He argues that the middle class is disappearing, and that we are seeing the growth of a "plutocracy" not unlike the Great Gatsby-esque 1920's (his reference, not mine).

Krugman argues that:

the United States, for all its economic achievements, has more poverty and lower life expectancy than any other major advanced nation. Above all, the growing concentration of wealth has reshaped our political system: it is at the root both of a general shift to the right and of an extreme polarization of our politics.

Nowhere does Krugman mention any other possible reasons for the poverty and life-expectancy rates in the U.S. - massive immigration, expecially from Mexico; and racial/ethnic disparities. The fact that the U.S. is massively more diverse (with all the good and ill effects implied by that) than one of the European states Krugman compares the U.S. to (Sweeden), is utterly ignored. Is it possible that that's a factor in poverty, life-expectancy and income distrubution figures?

He argues as well that politics are more polarized now than ever before in the U.S., which is simply absurd.

And it's all the fault of the New Plutocrats - as when, near the end of the piece, Krugman says that:

The point is that it is no accident that strongly conservative views, views that militate against taxes on the rich, have spread even as the rich get richer compared with the rest of us: in addition to directly buying influence, money can be used to shape public perceptions. The liberal group People for the American Way's report on how conservative foundations have deployed vast sums to support think tanks, friendly media and other institutions that promote right-wing causes is titled ''Buying a Movement.''

Of course. And who bankrolls People for the American Way? Multimillionaire television producer Normal Lear. And in any case, quoting an avowedly liberal group's report on the practices of its ideological opponents is hardly ironclad proof of an argument, as Krugman wishes us to believe it is.

Krugman also says:

Although America has higher per capita income than other advanced countries, it turns out that that's mainly because our rich are much richer. And here's a radical thought: if the rich get more, that leaves less for everyone else.

That statement -- which is simply a matter of arithmetic -- is guaranteed to bring accusations of ''class warfare.''

Well, yes, because it is class warfare.

The real way to look at it is that when the economy grows, everyone gets more. We're not talking about a zero-sum game here. There is not a fixed pie of wealth that is redistributed, even if that is how Krugman would like us to see things. As we experience more economic growth, the amount of wealth increases, and both rich and poor benefit.

Since this article is billed as "part 1", we can expect, no doubt more of this, with Krugman's perscriptions for fixing the illusory problems he's identified. I'm willing to bet that these answers will include higher and more "progressive" taxes, legislation to control the pay of corporate officials, probably an expansion of the estate tax, and other such things. Because, of course, people should not be allowed to keep the wealth they generate, nor should private organizations be allowed to decide how much they will pay their employees. It should all be decided by the Government - and by experts such as Krugman, who of course know what's good for all the rest of us lumpenproles.

It's all quite depressing, and wrongheaded. But it does serve as a great statement of the Times' economic agenda.


The Stupidity Continues

Speaking of people whose continued employment by major American newspapers is inexplicable, we have Mary McGrory of the WashPost.

She still doesn't like our foreign policy:

At a glance it would seem as if the warlords in the White House are as clueless as the frustrated police pursuing the shooter who has been rampaging through Washington's suburbs for the past 2 1/2 weeks.

George W. Bush, who had been doing a credible imitation of Alexander the Great conquering the known world, was stopped in his tracks by North Korea.

Excuse me? While "warlords" is just precious, and the Alexander the Great ref is hilarious, what, exactly, have we conquered?

Has not the President gone to Congress to seek authorization for the use of force? Has he not gone before the United Nations? Do his State Department minions not even now negotiate with France and Russia to hammer out a UN resolution acceptable to all?

In short, Mary, what the hell are you talking about?

Yes, representatives of Pyongyang's demented leader told a State Department envoy, they are working on a nuclear bomb.

Despite promises bought from them by appeasement as dictated by BIll Clinton and brokered by Jimmy Carter.You'd think that such a complete and utter failure of precisely the policy she advocated would at least cause McGrory a moment's pause. You'd be wrong.

Iraq, Bush's obsession, has been six months away from a nuke for years, and Bush wants to bomb, invade and occupy it. But here's North Korea's Kim Jong Il, who fits perfectly Bush's description of Saddam Hussein as "a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction."

Bush doesn't want to raise a finger against him.

"We seek a peaceful solution," said he.

We do?

How come?

Um...because Kim Jong Il has a couple of million men on the border with South Korea, and tens of thousands of artillery pieces within range of Seoul, which is only 40 miles from the border, and which is the capital city of an ally, and which contains several million civillians? Did you ever consider that, Mary? That an attack on North Korea will be orders of magnatitude more costly in terms of both U.S. military casualties and allied civillian casualties than an attack on Iraq?

Just wondering.

It is true that there is a difference between Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il. Hussein is power mad; Kim is mad -- certifiably so, which could make him even more dangerous. And his nuclear program -- aided and abetted by our principal ally in the war against terror, Pakistan -- is farther along than Iraq's. Moving into the broken-promises area, North Korea has been no piker: Hussein has broken more U.N. resolutions, but Kim violated the all-important 1994 agreement on nonproliferation.

Signed by whom, Mary?

As for mass murder of their own people, they are twins. The president has been telling us of the crimes of Hussein, the gassing of the Kurds and the cruelties toward his real and official family. Kim has chosen another means of exterminating his citizenry. In the wake of flood and drought, North Korea faced famine, and some think as many as 2 million died. Kim manipulated humanitarian aid programs and starved people he deemed nonessential.

Bush has no comment.

What would you have him do, Mary? What is your policy? You've been writing this crap since the early 70's. Surely you must have some ideas of your own.

Oh, never mind. I forgot who I was talking about.

What has been drained off his crusade for sending the bombers over Baghdad is the moral imperative of regime change. If Hussein has to be removed because he is so loathsome, why not Kim? You had to go to the small tent city outside police headquarters in Rockville, where frustrated cops brief press from all over the world about what they don't know, to find a more flummoxed crew than the White House warlord. The most recent shooting was of a 47-year-old woman who had survived cancer; she was felled by a single shot as she and her husband loaded their car with Home Depot purchases. The horrible event was thought to have a redeeming feature -- a harvest of clues and eyewitness accounts. But it all vanished. Chagrined officers and officials said the cream-colored van, the olive-skinned man and the broken taillight were imagined and not seen.

Fuck you, Mary. There's no more polite way to say it.

Your gloating over the fact that our nation and our leader has had an awful, intractable, horribly dangerous problem dropped in our and his lap is disgusting. This is not about politics, or about scoring cheap points, or about stupid namecalling. This is about potentially millions of lives.

Bush is moving fast these days. The commander in chief spends all his time waging war on Democrats. He should perhaps pause long enough to explain to those in Congress why he withheld the news about North Korea's nuclear program from them for 12 days, making sure that the war resolution was safely passed without any distracting revelations. Democrats who voted for the resolution, particularly those who railed against it while doing so, might find an explanation to mitigate their embarrassment. They were prodded to a roll call by Bush's hard sell about the importance of every minute; they were also being hammered on the right for being "appeasers." Democrat Paul Wellstone, despite a stiff Republican challenge, bucked the tide and voted against the war. He is so far not paying any price. Even pro-war voters have commended him for showing guts.

Gasp! the President, a Republican, wants to help his party win, and help defeat members of the opposition party. Let's impeach the bastard!

Voters have long been accustomed to living with a double standard from both parties in dealing with troublesome foreigners. Little Cuba is still caught in a 40-year-old embargo because of its Communist dictator, while humongous China, with its brazen human rights violations, religious persecution and ruthless repression, is a partner.

There is a reason for that. You might remember the Cold War, Mary? It is, perhaps, time to change our policy towards China, but there were valid reasons for our behavior towards them.

But as we barrel down the road to war with Iraq, maybe we ought to quiz our unilateralist president about why it is necessary for us to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq while North Korea gets the striped-pants treatment. Is it because North Korea has a million men under arms? Is it because Kim Jong Il never threatened to kill Bush's father, or because he has no oil, or is not a Muslim? Maybe we should ask the advocates who dreamed for 10 years of invading Iraq. Do Richard Perle, Richard Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz believe in equal opportunity for tyrants? Their leader seems to be pointing the other way.

As noted above, Mary, since you're so goddamn ignorant - or willfully blind - our ally South Korea has a big say in the matter, since they will take thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties, if there is war with the North.

Maybe the President is not quite the evil "warlord" you'd like to believe he is, Mary, and he's not prepared to sacrifice thousands of South Korean lives simply in order to placate you.

Well, She's Gone Off the Deep End

I'm not even going to link to Mo Dowd's column today. It's an entirely psychotic rant, which, as Josh Chafetz puts it, is "a precipitous plunge into utter incoherence."

That's really the only description. And, again, it amazes me that even with Howell Raines' anti-Bush agenda, that such drivel is considered fit commentary to appear in the nation's Newspaper of Record.

The Eye of the Beholder

Ombudsgod discusses the controversial "Boondocks" comic strip and its "edgy" creator, Aaron McGruder, in response to columns from the Chicago Tribune and the WashPost.

The background is that McGruder last week penned a strip unfavorably contrasting President Bush to Hitler. The Trib ran the strip, resulting in numerous complaints from readers; the WashPost did not, instead running an old, substitute strip in its place.

The Trib's ombudsman said:

As to McGruder's being allowed to say the things he says only because he is black, it would probably be more accurate to say that he is able to see the things he sees because he is black. Loath though many Americans are to accept it nowadays, having a different historical experience--whether it be slavery and segregation for blacks; pogroms and Holocaust for Jews; Communist totalitarianism for Eastern Europeans; extermination and reservations for Native Americans, or whatever it is we'll eventually call what's happening now to people who look Middle Eastern--gives one a different perspective on life and issues.

And that perspective, while not the sole determinant of a person's point of view, will assert itself in ways and places both expected and unexpected--even, sometimes, on the funny pages.

In other words, it's acceptable to be racist if you're black.

WashPost ombudsman Michael Gettler calls "Boondocks" "clever and edgy," but otherwise merely quotes the Trib and doesn't bother to add any actual thoughts of his own; it can be inferred, I think, from his presenting the Trib's words without commentary that he agrees with them.

I suppose to a certain mindset, saying inflamatory, racist, potentially slanderous things and falling back on the excuse that "it's a black thing" is what passes for clever these days.

As with today's "Boondocks" - which compares McDonalds french fries to heroin. McGruder draws one of his hateful and hate-filled characters watching a TV news report, which states:

"Following the lead set by McDonalds with their new "healtiher" french fries, the organization of worldwide heroin manufacturers announced that a new "low calorie" version of the popular narcotis would hit the streets by January. A spokesperson for the organization said: "Like McDonalds, we have learned that just because your product is highly addictive and deadly, doesn't mean you have to kill your customers off quickly. Healthier heroin is just good for business."

Yes, that's clever and edgy. McDonalds = heroin. Fried potatos are equivalent to a heavily addictive drug. McDonalds wants to murder its customers.

Well, that is a worldview, that's for sure. And it is a different persoective, no doubt one stemming from McGruder's "historical experience." Of course, it's also a perspective that is flat-out nuts.

But, hey, McGruder's great-great-great granddad might have been a slave, so of course he'll see things that I, as a child of White Opporessor Priviledge cannot see.

Yeah, that's really clever and edgy.

Or maybe it's just stupid, paranoid and hateful. I think that's a lot more likely.
Legacy? Here's a Legacy!

The usually irritating E.J. Dionne of the WashPost doesn't fail to disappoint today (well, techinically, tomorrow, since this piece is from the Sunday paper).

He writes about the former Narcissist-in-Chief, and his seeming omnipresence in the current campaign season.

Dionne writes that the Left is using Clinton to energize their base, and the Right is using his vile spectre to similarly energize theirs (as, frex, in North Carolina, where Liddy Dole's campaign ads tie opponent Erskine Bowles to the loathsome Clinton whom he served).

But of course it's not actually about control of Congress, as Dionne notes with what sounds frightening like approval, it's about Bill. It's about Bill's Legacy. Dionne compares Clinton to other forner Presidents, and decides that the only ones who really compare (in terms of age, health and political engagmenet post-White House) were Herbert Hoover and Teddy Roosevelt:

Unlike T.R. and Hoover, Clinton can't run again. So if there is a genuinely illuminating post-presidential comparison -- and neither left nor right will like this -- it is with Reagan. Why? Because like Reagan, Clinton's obvious legacy is political. That's why it matters to Clinton, really matters, that Democrats prosper.

After Reagan left office, his followers sought to build a usable and powerful past that could inspire another generation of success for the Republican right. The peripatetic conservative Grover Norquist formed an organization which he called, unapologetically, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project.

Clinton, too, hopes to create a political legacy that would celebrate a move back to the center-left after the Reagan interlude. If you understand this, all his current political activity falls into place.

Well, E.J., President Reagan's legacy was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the freeing of hundreds of millions of people from Communism. It was also a rebuilt military capable of handling any challenge the world could throw at it. And it was a strong economy.

Clinton's legacy is a weakened military, nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea, al Qaeda terrorists running free and slaughtering Americans, a recession that began in early 2000 and that continues to this day, not to mention debates over the meaning of "is" and pardons of fugitives who bribed their way to freedom at Bill's hands.

Yes, we can certainly see the comparison.

But of course E.J. still likes the old "comeback kid," which he actually calls Bill in the article. It's an embarrassing love note to a man who disgraced hiself, disgraced his office, and did harm to the country that we will spend the forseeable future trying to repair.
Why Are We So Angry All the Time?

We here in the Empire are, it might seem to some readers, very angry at a lot of people, a lot of the time.

This is not an incorrect observation.

It is probably worthwhile to explain one of the important principles which underpins the thinking here in the Empire. Stated simply (and with apologies to Stan Lee), with great power comes great responsibility.

Whether we're discussing the FBI, or the Senate, or the White House, or the Catholic Church, the principle is the same. The people whom we criticize are not in the positions they're in by accident. They are there because they have actively sought out power, be it in an agency, or by elective office, or in the Church, or elsewhere. They want the ability to write laws, to carry a gun and badge, or to take responsibility for the spiritual health of thousands (or millions, in a big archdiocese) of people.

And they claim, either explicity (as with our political class, who call themselves "public servants") or implicitly (as with the Catholic hierarchy) to be servants of the public rather than masters. They promise to put the good of those they claim to serve ahead of their own interests (or the interests of their organization).

We here in the Empire take them at their word; and our ire is raised when that word is broken, when the trust we give to these servants is betrayed. Because we both expect and demand that they will truly behave like servants, and that they will prove worthy of the power and responsibility they have sought out.

In short, we expect them to be better than we here in the Empire are. Because we here in the Empire do not seek the power to write laws, or to carry a badge and gun, or to be responsible for the spiritual health of a flock of millions. We know that we do not want such responsibility.

But the people who do want it must be held to the highest possible standards of behavior. They must put the good of those they serve ahead of their own interests.

This is obviously a high standard, but we believe that such a standard is the price for the power that is granted to those in such positions; and that only people capable of meeting such a standard ought to be in such positions in the first place.

When the standard is not met, as for example at the State Department with the ongoing saga of visa issuance; or the Catholic Church with the sexual-abuse matter, we here in the Empire believe it is not just right, but required that we cry out to the heavens about the failures of those who claim to serve, until they are removed from the positions of power they occupy. We believe that to do otherwise is to implicitly condone the behavior of these people, and that is unacceptable.

We admit that this is a simplistic view of the world. But sometimes things really are simple. Sometimes wrong and right are very clear. And we will keep crying out until such time as we deem it not to be necessary.

We suspect we won't be out of a job anytime soon.


More on the Vatican

The NY Times reports today on reaction from the American Catholic Church to the Vatican's decision not to endorse the "zero tolerance" policy adopted by American bishops in Dallas earlier this year.

Needless to say, this is appalling. There is a singluar lack of recognition, or understanding, or concern that sexual abuse is a crime. It is a motherfucking felony! It destroys lives!

It is not simply a matter for church law.

According to the article:

many bishops, priests and even some laypeople privately breathed a sigh of relief.

They said they welcomed the Vatican's decision as a corrective measure that will put the brakes on a policy that many of them now say was adopted at the American Roman Catholic bishops meeting in Dallas in June with too much haste, with too much attention to the pain of victims and not enough to the rights of priests accused of abuse.

Well, excuse me for being vulgar here, but if the church hadn't sat on its goddamn ass for the past 30 years while report after report of abuse came out; or, worse, if bishops and other church officials hadn't actively covered up abusers and even enabled their further predation on children, then there wouldn't have been a goddamn problem, and there would be no need to worry about the rights of priests accused of abuse, now would there?

Right now, the pain of the victims, and the removal of the victimizers ought to be the only priority of the church. Anything else is a direct slap in the face of both the victims and the lay membership of the church generally.

The article also notes:

Many victims' advocates and even some church officials observed that yesterday's terse Vatican letter would now give bishops who never intended to implement the Dallas policies the perfect excuse to delay doing so now. Some bishops have been hesitating to take some of the steps called for in the Dallas policy, especially permanently removing from ministry all priests with credible accusations against them. Dozens of the nation's 195 dioceses have even disregarded other measures required by the Dallas policy, such as setting up lay boards to review abuse cases, or appointing a diocesan coordinator to handle accusations.


Maybe it's time to take matters out of the hands of the church. Actually, scratch "maybe" - there's no question. Crimes have been committed. The authorities need to be arresting priests who are credibly accused of abuse, as well as the bishops and other officials who have sheltered them and obstructed investigation of their crimes. People like Cardinal Law and others of his ilk need to be behind bars for their criminal and destructive actions.

I could keep on, throwing around words like "disgraceful" and "criminal" and so forth, but those don't begin to do justice to this situation, or to the unforgivable conduct of the church officials who care more for covering the asses of accused priests than for the lives and souls of the people they have pledged to shepherd. In the end, all I can really say is that I hope that they burn in hell, and I'm confident that if there is such a place, that's exactly what will happen to them.
Also in the Times

The editorial board of the NY Times (hello, Gail!) tells us lwhat lessons we should learn from North Korea's revelation of a massive nuclear weapons program, which they had explicitly forswore back in 1994:

North Korea has stunned the world by acknowledging that it has been working to produce nuclear bomb fuel despite a 1994 agreement with the United States to freeze nuclear weapons development.

Well, it did not shock those of us who didn't believe that North Korea would honor the agreements it signed; who believed that the giveaway of aid and technology to the Stalinist government of Kim Il Jong was nothing less than appeasement on the part of former Narcissist-in-Chief Clinton and deal broker Jimmy Carter.

People on both sides of the Iraq debate will use this alarming news to prop up their views. Hawks will say this demonstrates the futility of treaties with megalomaniacal dictators, while doves will say this gives the lie to the administration's argument that Iraq is uniquely dangerous. But the one lesson we should have learned from the murky and frustrating tussle over Iraq is that there is no single approach to foreign affairs. North Korea's weapons pose an acute problem that must be dealt with on its own terms. Tough multilateral diplomacy is the right first step, as Washington understands.

Um..."tough multilateral diplomacy" is what, we were told, got us the 1994 agreement. It's also that the farce currently playing at the UN is being called. It abjectly failed with North Korea.

There can be no justifying what North Korea has done, and no minimizing its seriousness. Besides the 1994 agreement with the United States, Pyongyang committed itself by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and a joint declaration with South Korea not to develop nuclear weapons.

Well, we agree with this paragraph, at least.

When caught, North Korea neither denied the program nor promised to end it. Instead it declared that supposed American actions had ``nullified'' the 1994 agreement, and asserted that it had even ``more powerful'' unconventional weapons. It is not known whether the North has actually produced nuclear bombs yet, but it is within reach. Having recently opened channels of discussion with Tokyo and Washington, North Korea's leaders are now less isolated than before. But they have again shown themselves to be erratic and untrustworthy. A nuclear-armed North Korea could threaten South Korea, the nearly 40,000 American troops stationed there, and Japan as well. It would also be a highly unsettling neighbor for China and Russia.

They've been erratic and untrustworthy all along; some of us recognized that. Others (such as, say, some Democratic ex-Presidents and a lot of writers at the Times) did not.

America's two most important allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, strongly favor a firm diplomatic response to North Korea's nuclear program. They can contribute to one by linking further help for the North to a complete and verified dismantling of its nuclear and other unconventional weapons programs. Russia and China, which also prefer diplomatic solutions, can usefully add to the pressure on Pyongyang by announcing a similar linkage. President Bush should urge such measures when he meets with the leaders of South Korea, Japan and China later this month. If Pakistan turns out to be the source of the uranium-enrichment equipment used by North Korea, as American intelligence agencies suspect, Washington must demand an immediate end to such reckless transfers.

Because North Korea has now violated solemn international weapons agreements, any new understandings will have to be verified unconditionally and highly intrusively. If there is one analogy appropriate to Iraq, it is this: Keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of dictators who want them requires more than signed agreements.

It does require more than signed agreements. That much is true. But what the Times means by that is "extra-serious signed agreements," not any real action.

It is interesting to note that nowhere in the piece are the architects of the failed and delusional 1994 agreement mentioned. I wonder why that is?
The Vendetta Continues

The NY Times' campaign against the Bush Administration continues today with yet another hit piece from the increasingly vile Paul Krugman.

Today he trots out Hitler; attacking Republicans for analogizing Democratic lies about the tax cut to Hitler's "big lie" tactics. Says Krugman:

As far as I know, in the past it wasn't considered appropriate for the occupant of the White House to declare that members of the opposition party weren't interested in the nation's security. And it certainly wasn't usual to compare anyone who wants to tax the rich — or even anyone who estimates the share of last year's tax cut that went to the wealthy — to Adolf Hitler.

But it was usual, Paul, for Democrats to compare then-candidate Bush and other Republicans to the Nazis for virtually everything they said or did back in the 2000 campaign, and after. It was usual for Democrats to accuse Bush of complicity in the racist murder of James Byrd because he opposed hate crime laws.

And as for the opposition party not being interested in the good of the nation, well, that sort of rhetoric has been thrown around by both sides for as long as the nation's been around.

Get off your high horse, Krugman; your side has no moral standing in this debate, nor do you personally, you dishonest creep.

The rest of the column is equally dishonest and offensive; which has been for a while now the tone of the Times' editorial pages.

Vive La France?

Emperor Misha (among others ) points out France's "crucial" role in shaping a new UN resolution on Iraq.

Misha is fairly blunt in his take on the matter:

If you're still in doubts whether the UN in general and the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys in particular are about as useful as teats on a bull, consider this:

"Any kind of authenticity in the use of force will profoundly divide us," (the French Ambassador to the UN) said.

The only thing surprising is that they admit it.

Go to Hell, you useless pricks, and take your surrender culture with you!

We here in the Empire agree completely.