Thursday, February 26, 2004

The French Don't Get It. But "It" is Headed Their Way.

Merde in France helpfully translates an interview with the odious and mainstream French writer Alain Soral that apears on his vanity website. - Interview censur?

Soral can barely contain his excitement as he remembers the day he tuned in his televisor and saw pudgy, simplistic, poorly-dressed American mothers and fathers leaping to their deaths from the World Ttrade Center:

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

"I was in my home office writing a pen-named freelance psy-sex piece for a womens' magazine in order to put some food on the table, the phone rang and it was an old friend who I had a falling out with a few years ago, an old friend who was doing the same debilitating work under a pen-name for a different magazine.

He screamed into the telephone: "switch on your TV, this is great!". I turned the TV on and it was so beautful that we put our differences aside.

I then called an other friend who I had had a falling out with over some political nonsense. He had gone to Spain. On the backdrop of the same images we experienced the same communion and we buried the hatchet as well... Guys the world over who share the same feelings with those who are humilated, felt the same sense of euphoria while watching these biblical images of justice and punishment!

For me, 9-11 represents the reconciliation, concerning most subjects, with all those that this mediocre life has forced me to hate because of insignificant differences... Truthfully, it was a beautiful moment of love. That should tell you how much I remember it!"

A Frenchman in love. Who couldn't be charmed?

I'll certainly keep Soral's words in mind when I see news reports in the coming months of alienated Muslims rioting in downtown Paris about headscarves or al Qaeda truck bombs creating all new biblical images of justice and punishment on the Rue d'Appeasement.

I can't say I'll be happy. But guys like Alain Soral are going to need to feel the blind violence first hand before they figure out they're standing on the same ledge as those terrified people in the Twin Towers.

The difference is, Americans are no longer terrified . . . they're fighting back. When you're not terrified you've disarmed the terrorists.

The French? Well, they have a lot to worry about, no?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Germany: The Laughingstock of Europe

Even Der Spiegel admits that Germany has a problem.

Should one laugh or cry? The highway toll system, railway price system reform, health care reform – one failure after the other has brought Germans to doubt their own land. Are we a nation of failures, not fit for the future, governed by bungling amateurs? Or must we take the carnivalization of politics with humor?

Gee, you'd almost think they were talking about the United States.

Of course, this being Der Spiegel and all, you can't expect them to be lucid for very long. In this week's issue it describes Operation Iraqi Freedom as a "disaster" and President Bush as "hunted."

I wonder if there is any correlation between provincial and blinkered reporting on events outside Germany and that country's inability to be taken seriously on the world stage?

At least now the French have a lovely bunch of friends to commiserate with. Of course, Paris has been leading the way by recognizing they are globally isolated and losing ground to the simplistic cowboys.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Another New Yorker Who Hates George Bush

A former colleague of mine issues this statement to all those concerned:

One of my great disappintments was that Barry Goldwater was too early on the scene, and that he might have done much better in the 80's or even today. I continue to believe that Richard Nixon was one of the best presidents this country has ever had. I admired Reagan tremendously.

I wll never vote again for George Bush. I will give as much money as I can to Kerry and will vote for him.

Bush has wrecked the economy and is working had at wrecking the world political structure -- which, while I actually see the underlying logic of the policy framework, has been botched mightily by arrogant and provincisl attitudes. The sucking up to the religious right is more obnoxious than ever. The callous disregard and abuse of civil liberties is outrageous. And Bush has shown himself to be as fundamentally dishonest as Clinton.

Barry Goldwater must be spinning in his grave over how low the Republican party has sunk.

Touching, no?

Well, I can beat that. I used to be a Democrat who thought Reagan was a moron. My god, Cowboy Ronnie was wrecking the economy and alienating our allies. Why, he was overturning the entire geopolitical structure because of some provincial paranoia about the Commies! And what about those televangelists! Ed Meese! Ollie North and the secret thought police!!

But funny things were happening back then.

Interest rates declined even as the deficit rose. Our allies deployed our cruise missiles and the Soviets pulled theirs back. Next thing you know, ordinary people are streaming out of the worker's paradise just to buy bananas.

At home not only was the Constitution intact but crime was peaking, unwed births peaking, drug use peaking, pathologies that had been glorified in the sixties and had made the seventies so miserable were at last peaking.

Lots of people like me saw that we had been wrong in some fundamental way about the state of the world. Others learned nothing.

John Kerry was somewhere near the center of every major political debate in this country in the past 30 years but what did he learn?

He learned that Vietnam was an ignoble mistake that exaggerated the threat of Communism. And there are about 3 million fewer South Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians left to contradict him. Those lucky enough left in flimsy boats or were "re-educated."

He boasts of having opposing "Reagan's illegal wars in Central America," even thought those indigenous insurgencies led directly to the peace and democracy that the region enjoys today.

He opposed missile defense, military force restructuring, weapons modernization, the First Gulf War and supported just about every international treaty and obligation that would have constrained our ability to project power in defense of our national interests.

As for economics, he seems to repeat the usual Democratic slogans about "good jobs" and "working families" with all the enthusiasm of a man who has a good job for life and whose family will never need to work.

Thank God George Bush seems to have learned something entirely different in the past 30 years. Hell, he may have learned them in the last 30 months . . . I don’t care as long as he learned the lessons.

Simple lessons.

Like the world is not a "community" but a jungle.

That Americans are not hated, they're envied . . . infidels are hated.

That our values are not provincial, they are universal.

And extending those values is not imperialism, it's liberation.

Bush is not afraid to call attention to uncomfortable truths that polite people would prefer to ignore.

That France may not share our interests.

That the United Nations does not necessarily confer legitimacy.

That medieval Islamic intolerance should not be tolerated by truly liberal societies.

That our public school system is an unaccountable enterprise that traps disadvantaged children in ignorance and poverty.

That NASCAR racing is a fuck of a lot more popular and exciting than basketball.

That every dimwitted blowhard like my buddy and every eligible man, woman, and child in New York could vote for John Kerry and it would still add up to 3 fewer electoral college votes than Texas.

I plan to vote for George Bush as many times as I possibly can. New Yorkers might as well just stay home.

And as for John Kerry's populist credentials, I have just three words -- Swiss Boarding School.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Arrogant Republicans Are Not As Smart as Us

Another chock full ‘o nuts Letters page in the Times this morning. This time the inmates are reacting to an incendiary article about how the Democrats have squandered their mid-century reputation for responsible national security policies.

Jesse Lerner of Fun City, NY starts off the show with a variation on the Republicanz is dum argument:

It is no accident that the modern leaders who most strongly believed in America's right to preach to others — Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — are the ones who had the least knowledge of, and the least curiosity about, how the world actually works.

Kind of hard to measure curiosity but they sure seem to know how the world works.
Reagan believed communism was an illegitimate form of government and that the Soviets were in an intolerable threat to world peace. Next thing you know, the Soviet Union is gone. Just a coincidence of course. Oh, and by the way, all us Democrats were right there in the trenches fighting the good fight with you . . . just like the French Resistence!

Now we have Bush who believes that Islamofascism is an illegitimate form of government and fascist regimes such as Afghanistan and Iraq are intolerable threats to world peace. Next thing you know, they’re gone and the others, Syria, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, are just coincidentally more receptive to American concerns.

Most infuriating, there he is preaching to the world just like Reagan about how American values such as freedom, democracy, equality under the law apply to the swarthy parts of the world too. Outrageous!

Next up with a remarkable performance of mental jujitsu is Leona Mahler of Cedar Grove, N’jerzy. She begins by saying that Truman and Kennedy were dealing with real threats – an unassailable point.

World War II and the Cuban missile crisis were not based on abstract principles. There were real and concrete events taking place — invasions, totalitarianism and genocide.

So far so good. But then she says the schtoopid Raygun Administration was somehow not dealing with real threats

Let's remember that America's military support in those years was applied very selectively, often on behalf of horrendous leaders, with the decision being based on whether they were ostensibly anti-Communist.

Yes, leaders like Chiang kai Chek in China, Park Chung Hee in South Korea, Ngo Diem in South Vietnam . . . oh wait, those were Truman and Kennedy’s anti-Communists. Never mind about them.

It’s those pesky abstract principles again . . . freedom, justice, human dignity . . . that’s what sets the Repugnantcans apart from the Dems. Democrats only take action when there is an imminent threat. And I mean really imminent . . . think Pearl Harbor or nuclear missiles in South Florida.

And in the center ring, from East Rutherford, N’jerzy, Donald Rosanelli delivers the coup d’grass demonstrating once and for all that Democrats have no clue what makes the world go round by invoking of all people, that foreign policy visionary, friend of crazed tyrants from Paris to Pyongyang, the one and only Mista Jimma Cartare:

David Brooks (column, Feb. 17) should acknowledge that President Jimmy Carter was right in looking to poverty, oppression and the abuse of human rights as root causes of the terrorism we face today.

Islamic fundamentalism is a response to America's cold war policy. The fundamentalists can take advantage of the hatred aroused by America's past support of such repressive regimes as the shah in Iran, the Saudis and Saddam Hussein himself.

Once again, repeat after me, the 19 al Qaeda hijackers were educated, middle class Arabs who harbored a fanatic and murderous desire to wage jihad against the infidels just like Donald Rosanelli. Osama bin Laden is one a member of one of the wealthiest and most priveleged families on the planet and if he is concerned about oppression and human rights he has a unique way of expressing it.

The vast majority of the American voting population (64% vs 24%) does not trust the Democrats with important issues like national security for precisely the reasons articulated by readers in the Times this morning.

The Democrats seem to have no memory of the past, no vision for the future and no means of judging the nature of current reality.

They have an uncanny ability to see the very best motives in our enemies and the very worst in ourselves. They seem far more interested in defeating partisan opponents than foreign ones and they can’t bear to admit mistakes and would rather be guided by dogma than by experience.

It’s no wonder that the most creative and agile minds in foreign affairs are Democrats who changed their minds and went against the prevailing dogma and were ejected from the party like wet watermelon seeds.

They became neoconservatives and the rest of the Democrats became unhinged.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

George Bush at Daytona

The Daytona 500 was a reassuring spectacle this weekend. Sunny skies, loud cars, stealth bombers overhead.

George Bush fit right in. All the drivers crowded around him and a quarter million people cheered when he announced, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” NBC trailed him with a sports reporter who asked pertinent questions about sports and nothing about politics which was refreshing.

The reporter asked about the Texas Rangers/New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez trade and then asked W if he’d like to drive one of the racecars. He replied, "I flew fighters when I was in the Guard and I like speed."

That sounds like a guy who is in his element and comfortable with himself. Not ashamed of his service in the National Guard. In fact, flying one of these F-102s looks pretty cool, certainly dangerous. Somehow I can’t imagine learning to fly a Delta Dagger by showing up at the airfield once or twice a month. One good line and the whole “Bush was a deserter” story looks ridiculous.

The non-sports press was, of course, appalled. How could he talk about his National Guard service so nonchalantly? I have a clue. Perhaps he’s not embarrassed. Maybe he’s even proud of it. After all, he was a fighter pilot. That’s a hell of a lot more glam than being an army journalist writing newsletters in Saigon like Al Gore. And it’s more dignified than trading on your Vietnam experience at every opportunity like John Kerry.

The Times tried to make the point that Daytona was just a political stop for Bush in his effort to court the important “NASCAR Dads” vote.

The reality is, Bush probably has the vote of every person in the Daytona grandstands with the exception of the bewildered press. Plus, I think he went because he’s the president and can get the full Daytona experience. Tickets are expensive. This wasn’t politics, it was fun. And it was a friendly crowd.

I can’t picture Howard Dean or John Kerry at a NASCAR race unless they were compelled to go.

The Times even went so far as to quote an utterly unconvincing passage from John Kerry’s campaign autobiography, "A Call to Service," in which described himself as a "charter member of one the most selective but fastest-growing sports clubs in the world: the Nascar fans of Massachusetts."

You gotta be kidding. This sentence cancels out its own meaning.

The next lines must be something like, “Teresa and I find Nascar stock automobile racing an illuminating respite and a golden opportunity to mix with the hoi polloi. We just love watching Nascar automobile racing. I used to watch Nascar automobile racing when I was in Vietnam.”

Yesterday, Kerry called Bush’s appearance at Daytona a “photo op.” What he means, I believe, is that it was an empty gesture that revealed nothing of substance.

I disagree. Michael Dukakis driving a tank is a photo op. John Kerry at Daytona would be a photo op. But George Bush at Daytona is exactly what millions of Americans like W would do if they were president.

What’s more, Kerry decried Bush's photo op while “posing for photographs with a 40-pound (18 kg) aluminum slab into which a computer-control machine tool etched ‘Wisconsin Backs Kerry in 2004,’ according to the Times.

Kerry went even further by saying in perfectly wooden and condescending Kerry-ese:

``I believe we need a president who doesn't just say 'start your engines,' but says 'we're here to start the engines of the economy by putting America back to work,''

Oh yeah, that’s a real applause line. Can this guy really be so stilted?

The Times tried hard to make Bush at Daytona seem incongruous. But Bush, “whose tastes run to baseball, not auto racing” as the Times reported, is actually perfectly at home in Daytona.

The press believes Bush was some sort of oil executive. In fact, he was one of the pioneers of the sports entertainment industry of which NASCAR is arguably the most successful manifestation. The Texas Rangers and Ranger Stadium exist largely because of his effort. I don’t believe John Kerry has ever had a job outside of government in his entire life.

But I could be wrong.

The one thing I know for sure is that when the Nascar fans of Massachusetts get together for a clam bake on Martha’s Vineyard on Daytona weekend, they better have plenty of anti-freeze available.

One more thing about the National Guard "scandal." Don't the Democrats wonder why Bush is keeping in the news? He's kept it alive through mysterious evening releases of innocuous service records, his lingering at the National Guard car at Daytona and his comments, and now today the president gives a speech at a National Guard base where again he mentions his service record.

Why? Because if this isn't old news by now imagine how tired it will sound in 10 months.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

John Kerry’s Special Interests

The Sun in the UK is reporting that the name of Sen. John Kerry’s “intern” is Alex Polier, a cub reporter for the Associated Press. Her editorial beat seems to be bashing the healthcare industry.

While her body of work is meager it does seem to be remarkably consistent with Senator Kerry's -- companies profit while the uninsured die in the streets.

Here is a little Valentine's Day test.

Which of the following statements are from the Democratic presidential candidate and which are from the reporting of his twenty-four-year-old "friend":

Bush is to Blame

“Today, one in six Americans is uninsured -40 million people without health insurance for an entire year. “

“An estimated 1.4 million Americans lost insurance coverage over the past year due to layoffs.”

“On George Bush's watch, more than a million Americans a year are losing their health care.”

I Feel for You

“Melissa Hunter was laid off from a New York public relations firm in 2000, and chose to go without health insurance and birth control pills for almost a year.”

“Robert Giles (is) a member of the Painters' Union and the father of a two month old girl. In this economy, construction jobs are few and far between. He's can't find work, he's about to lose his health coverage but he's nowhere near able to afford to buy health insurance on his own.”

Can't Live Without It

“There aren’t enough affordable insurance alternatives for the newly unemployed.”

“When it comes to trying to afford their health care, too many Americans are one accident or one illness away from financial ruin.”

No doubt there is some innocent explanation for this confluence of rhetoric. Certainly no one is suggested a quid pro quo arrangement.

Maybe it’s as simple as you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Nope. No Connection Here.

The New York Times letters section offers up a particularly thick stew of Bushate® this morning in response to President Bush’s Sunday morning talk show interview.

First up is Brant Thomas of Brooklyn who feels betrayed and confused by the events of the past two years. He thinks President Bush should apologize for all the excitement that has jangled his nerves:

Were there weapons of mass destruction? Was Iraq involved with the 9/11 attacks? Did Al Qaeda operate in Iraq? Did Iraq have a viable nuclear program? No, though all were justifications he presented to the American people for his war.

This sort of outrage requires a sort of willful ignorance and mental compartmentalization that surely produces its own variety of stress.

Were there weapons of mass destruction? The people of Halabja are keeping quiet about them.

Did al Qaeda operate in Iraq? Al Qaeda operated unhindered in Hamburg, Ft. Lauderdale, and Finsbury Park . . . but Iraq was strictly out of bounds to al Qaeda terrorists.

Did Iraq have a viable nuclear program? Not without the help of our “allies” France, Germany, Russia. The better question might be did the Saddam Hussein administration want to have a viable nuclear program, and if so, why?

Shikha Menon of Davis, California connects all the dots and stills sees no connection at all:

In his interview with Tim Russert, President Bush referred to Sept. 11, the war on terror and Iraq, in the same sentence and context, several times. This seems to imply a connection between Iraq and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Such a connection did not exist, and the president should now give up trying to get the American people to believe that Iraq had anything to do with Sept. 11. Constantly repeating a falsehood does not make it true.

Like a particularly grisly car wreck, it’s fascinating to watch grown people make this argument.

If the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was not part of a greater war on state sponsored terrorism, then what was it? Revenge for that unflattering mosaic of W's father on the floor of al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad? No really, if the military operations in Iraq are not aimed at defusing the threat of terrorism then what was it aimed at?

Oil? Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier just cozying up to Saddam the way the French did?

Land? We’ve got plenty of godforsaken deserts already. Go to Scottsdale and see what Falluja could look like.

The Election? I’m still not sure how waging war with voting-age Americans on the front lines is supposed to be politically astute.

The Jews? Always a handy explanation when the truth is too painful. But even this excuse falls a bit short.

To review. Saddam Hussein was a well-known tyrant and bad neighbor who could do pretty much what he pleased with billions of petrodollars even before September 11. After September 11, when the threat of Islamofascist terrorism became more tangible for many American policymakers, the existence of belligerent fascist regimes in the Middle East suddenly appeared somewhat less tolerable.

Since Saddam had conveniently violated the terms of the ceasefire declared in the unconcluded Gulf War of 1991, his was a particularly vulnerable fascist regime. Not tolerating Saddam therefore became a logical reaction to the September 11 attacks.

The Taliban gave direct support to the actual perpetrators of the attacks which is why they no longer exist. George Bush’s whole point -- and a valid one at that – is that 9/11 was not some sort of airtraffic violation in which criminals should be brought to justice but an act of war. In war you don’t necessarily look for justice or rehabilitation . . . you apply violence to counter violence understanding that terrorists pose much less danger to you when they are dead.

Shikha Menon seems to be saying that because Mohammad Atta was not carrying a travel voucher signed by Saddam Hussein (or Uday, or Qusay, or Ebay) then there can be no connection to the attacks that killed more Americans and other infidels than Pearl Harbor.

The only analogy I can think of is to say that because Coke and Pepsi are separate organizations, with separate staffs and headquarters and recruitment programs, and even a rivalry that keeps them from collaborating, this somehow means they are not selling the exact same thing.

And if cola was deemed a threat to national security would it really matter if we carpet bombed Pepsi into submission first? Might that convince Royal Crown to pack it in without a fight?

The great thing is that after ousting Saddam “based on false pretenses and faulty intelligence” Libya, Iran, and Pakistan have suddenly become rather more accommodating. Maybe they took that nonsense about “either you’re with us or with the terrorists” more seriously than the readers of the Times, which is fine by me.

I certainly don't think they're owed an apology for being “misled” by Bush.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

A Hole in One on Mars

It looks like the Mars rover Opportunity actually scored a hole in one. This photo shows that Opportunity floated down and bounced across a flat barren plain before finally landing in a shallow crater . . . one of only a few on an otherwise unbroken surface.

The end result is something far more exciting than a Superbowl halftime show and now that the rover has climbed over the rim of the crater you can actually see where the parachute landed off in the distance.

We can now get up close to the rocky outcrop and see with our own eyes if the rocks are sedimentary or not. You decide, here is a remarkable closeup look.

One unmistakable characteristic of these photos is that Mars looks inconceivably lonely. How much better it is to explore this forbidding place remotely. I feel like I'm exploring it directly without any astronaut middleman to disturb the solitude.

I'm sure I'm of the minority opinion but wouldn't having live people walking around this landscape and delivering pithy remarks sort of devalue the whole experience? I'm intrigued by the idea that no one has been here yet. For me the Moon holds no interest for me . . . it's been done. So has Mt. Everest and the Titanic and just about every possible square inch of land on Earth.

But Mars is still pristine. Even the garbage looks great. And each day is a new adventure with new pictures.

This is tax revenue well spent!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Europeans Outraged at Being Europeans

Donald Rumsfeld again hurt the feelings of European diplomats on Friday by ignoring their sensitivities about their relative lack of power and consequence and accusing them of being powerless and inconsequential.

You may recall, the Euros felt that taking action against the fascist police state in Iraq was unwarranted because Saddam Hussein was only a threat to his own people and therefore not worth jeopardizing lucrative oil and weapons contracts. Some even hinted that the status quo wouldn't be as bad as the arrogant Americans winning again.

"There were prominent people from representative countries in this room that opined that they really didn't think it made a hell of a lot of difference who won," he said, nearly shouting. "Shocking. Absolutely shocking."

Even worse:

”I know in my heart and my brain that America ain't what's wrong in the world," he said.

How could he say such ridiculous things? Doesn’t he understand that he’s been roundly criticized at cocktail parties all over the world for being insensitive and drawing attention to the fact that many in the governing elite would rather talk about difficult challenges to international security rather than actually do anything about them?

Some European participants said they were stunned by what they called Mr. Rumsfeld's arrogance, especially in light of the apparent intelligence failures in Iraq. "His view is, `We're right, they're wrong, and we'll continue to be right,' " said Christoph Bertram, director of the German Institute for International Politics and Security in Berlin. "It was a performance of `We know better.' "

What a scandal this is! Rumsfeld believes he is right and actually says so . . . right in the faces of the very same people who believe they are right! Why, that means he must think those who think they are right are actually wrong.

And what’s worse, Rumsfeld doesn’t even concede that it is someone else’s turn to right. He’s planning to be right again and again. That’s not fair!

If you follow Rumsfeld’s simplistic reasoning to its absurd extremes then he’s in effect saying that the cowboy Bush administration “knows better” than the European elitists about the proper response to Islamofascism.

Why that’s absurd! I mean, France alone has millions of alienated and violent Muslims living side by side in peace and harmony with alienated and cowering French people. Obviously we must not provoke them. Rather we must win them over with our cynical cowardice.

Only then will they understand that we know better. Unlike those arrogant Americans.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

But of Course, I Support the Troops

"They personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."

John Kerry, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Statement to the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations, April 23, 1971