Friday, November 18, 2005

Thanks again to James Taranto

The following two items were reported by my idol, James Taranto. The first definitely falls under the heading "slow news day", while the second makes me wonder what the heck they put in the water in Olympia.

The online news site has this hot item on the contents of (as Dave Barry says, "I'm not making this up") Karl Rove's garage:

Click here for story.

And the following letter to the editor appeared in the Olympia, Washington Olympian:

Martial law could follow plan to fight Asian bird flu

I read with trepidation the news article regarding Bush's plans to combat possible Asian bird flu by calling in the troops. His comments brought to mind 1930s Germany, with the Gestapo (Homeland Security) and storm troopers (Rumsfeld's Pentagon) in the wings.

I wonder, could a sitting president, twice elected, and supposedly the epitome of patriotic manhood, consider consolidating his ebbing power by bringing an epidemic to his own people?

Would he use this ploy to institute martial law?

If he would give funds to Halliburton to organize the hurricane recovery in the South -- the same Halliburton that scammed millions of dollars in Iraq -- then I suppose, with the enthusiastic support of his moneyed power base, he would.

The fact that Congress voted funds, not for public health but for Homeland Security, strengthens this suspicion.

This is a sad day for our United States of America.

Peg Davidson, Olympia

Yes, Peg. It is a sad day. But not for the reason you think. The fact that a reputable newspaper in the state capital of one of our fifty states would print such drivel is what's really sad.

The fallacy of minimum wage

I read an article recently discussing how the Food and Commercial Workers Union hired Paul Blank to spearhead their campaign against Wal-Mart. Until recently Mr. Blank had been the political director for Howard Dean's presidential campaign. We all know how that turned out. ("Yeeeeeaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!!!")

In reference to the anti-Wal-Mart campaign Mr. Blank said, "The average associate at Wal-Mart makes $8.23 an hour. That's not a job that can support a family."

Pardon me, but, Duuuh!

The point that I think advocates of so-called "living wages" and advocates of raising the minimum wage miss is this: not all jobs are meant to support a family. If you want to have a family, then you need to make sure that you have a job that pays considerably more than the minimum wage, ideally with benefits. If you can only earn the minimum wage, then you really have no business starting a family.

Such benighted advocates who ignore basic economics do a grave disservice to those people for whom a job at such wages would be ideal. Take a spouse who is the primary caregiver for his children but would like to earn some extra money while the children are at school. Or a retired senior who just wants to get off the couch and out of the house several days a week. By advocating a higher minimum wage or a "living wage" these so-called advocates (I think they are really suffering a bad case of white guilt and want to assuage their own consciences) depress the demand for labor.

This is simple economics, folks. And I think it's damned irresponsible for Mr. Blank to tell Wal-Mart how much they must pay their associates, and how much those associates should sell their labor for.

Reported without Comment

Check out this article in the British Telegraph:

If you can't chuckle over this, you just aren't trying.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Democrats: The Fourth-and-a-Half Column

What the heck is a “fourth-and-a-half” column, you ask? Well, Merriam-Webster Online defines a fifth column as “noun: a group of secret sympathizers or supporters of an enemy that engages in espionage or sabotage within defense lines or national borders”. I deducted half-a-point from the Democrats because they don’t operate in secret. Quite the contrary, the publicly tout their sabotage of the war effort as something for which they should be lionized.

I got to thinking about this as I was reading Andrew McCarthy’s essay on the Senate’s deplorable decision to undermine the war effort by granting to federal judges the power to determine who is and who is not an “enemy combatant”. (See my last post for a link to Mr. McCarthy’s excellent essay.)

I started to think that the situation which obtains in Congress today bears almost no resemblance to our nation’s experience during WWII or Korea. I suspect the beginnings of the fourth-and-a-half column are to be found during the Vietnam War.

The actions of the so-called “loyal opposition” are beyond the pale. They constitute, in my opinion, a calculated effort to sabotage the war effort. And need I remind you that most of the Democrats voted to authorize this war. Plenty of columnists have written on the effort of weasel-like Democrats to lie about why they voted for the war. For good dissections of this behavior see Jonah Goldberg’s “Speak, (Selective) Memory” or Rich Lowry’s “The Gullible Party”.

What we see now are Democrats (and a few RINOs) who hate President Bush so much that they are willing to risk our security to discredit him and damage his effectiveness. How else to explain the efforts of Senators to tie the hands of intelligence operators trying to gain valuable information from captured enemy combatants (Sen. McCain’s anti-torture legislation)? Does Senator McCain think harsh language will do the trick? Is he that stupid or merely obtuse? Can he not see that without any coercive measures at interrogators’ disposal detainees will merely remain silent? How else to explain Senator Carl Levin’s efforts to extend to non-American enemy combatants the protections of our courts?

How else do you explain the phenomenon of hundreds of Left wing lawyers descending on Guantanamo Bay to represent people who would likely happily kill them if they had the chance? These parasites spend their [otherwise normally valuable] time filing nuisance lawsuits demanding high-speed internet access and DVDs among other spurious claims. No matter how ridiculous, such filings must be answered by the intelligence agencies. Time which, presumably, could be better spent interrogating the detainees so that our military can find their still at-large and still breathing comrades and, hopefully, kill them.

What about the behavior of the media? This has been so well-documented that I won’t take up too much space rehashing old news (pardon the pun). The media’s hostility to the conservative movement in general, President Bush in particular, and especially the War in Iraq is patent.

But, you know something? At least they are consistent. They’ve always been against conservatives, this President and the war. Democrat representatives and senators are the most reprehensible as they twist their words and logic trying to explain why they voted the way they did. To add to John Kerry’s ridiculous “I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” we can now add a new leader in the weasel sweepstakes.

I am referring here to Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat from West Virginia, who recently announced to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that he thought his vote in favor of the resolution authorizing the war meant that George Bush would try to gain the approval of the U.N. Security Council. Good Lord! Did he even read the resolution before he voted on it?

In addition, he revealed that he traveled to the Middle East in January of 2002. His purpose on this visit was to brief the leaders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia on what he was sure would be the upcoming war in Iraq. Am I the only one who gasped upon reading this revelation? This man is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee for Pete’s sake. I think one could easily make an argument that this behavior constitutes treason.

And, yet, Senate Democrats think that George Bush is the one who should be put on trial.

Insanity in the Senate

I know what you're thinking: could you be a little more specific? I mean, this is the chamber that brought us McCain-Feingold, after all.

I'm talking about Tuesday's decision by a margin of 84-14 to grant federal judges the authority to ultimately determine what constitutes an "enemy combatant".

Again, this seems like such a bad idea as to be axiomatic, but let me make a couple of points. First, is that judges are trained in civil and criminal procedure. I think they will likely attempt to hold the military to an unrealistic standard in the courtroom (where there is generally less lead flying about). Second is that most judges have little or no military expertise. So, just what the heck makes them qualified at all, much less more qualified than battlefield commanders, to make this determination?

Andrew McCarthy has a good essay on why this decision makes no sense. One of the points he makes in this essay with which I strongly agree is that this is another symptom of the disease of litigousness that is eating away at our society.

Mr. McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. Among other high-profile cases he has participated in, he helped to prosecute and convict the plotters in the first World Trade Center bombing case. If you are interested in the legal aspect of the Global War on Terror, I highly recommend his writings to you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Here in Sofia I have come down with a mild case of strep throat so I have been staying in most nights. HBO here in Sofia has been showing the first season of "Deadwood". I just bought the first season on DVD not too long ago, but I have been re-watching the same episodes again.

If you aren't familiar with it, "Deadwood" is set in the 1870s in the camp of Deadwood, before it became part of the United States, in modern-day South Dakota. So, from that standpoint it is a Western but it is probably a Western unlike any you've seen before. "Deadwood" depicts frontier life in all its gritty detail.

One thing that distinguishes "Deadwood" from most other shows is the quality of the writing. While I am hardly an expert on this period in our history, the characters' dialogue has a ring of truth about it. For the most part these are hardy, uneducated people and their speech reflects this. The speech patterns are a curious mixture of formal, almost Victorian-sounding speech, and the most hair-curling profanity. In the interest of keeping this blog PG, I won't go into detail. Just remember this, if and when you decide to watch it. The language is very graphic. However, I am sure that it's not done gratuitously. I think this is just the way people in that part of the country at that time talked.

However, the real reason to watch "Deadwood" is the acting - and specifically that of English actor Ian McShane. McShane is not the protagonist of "Deadwood". To the extent that "Deadwood" has a protagonist, that role is ably filled by Timothy Olyphant. Olyphant plays Seth Bullock, a former lawman who comes to Deadwood to make his fortune.

Now, I like Olyphant as Bullock, but it's McShane as Al Swearengen that really makes "Deadwood" worth watching. At first, Swearengen, the proprietor of "The Gem", Deadwood's first saloon and brothel, seems like the antagonist - i.e., the bad guy. But as you get deeper into the show you start to realize that Swearengen is much more complex than that. Self-interested and greedy to be sure, but you also realize something surprising about Al - he's honest.

For McShane, who heretofore was not particularly well-known to American audiences, this has to be the role of a lifetime. Like Jack Nicholson's Melvin Udall in "As Good As It Gets", Al says what's on his mind and he doesn't care who may be offended. And the things he says will have you staring gape-jawed at your TV from time to time and, more often than not, chuckling if not laughing outright.

McShane was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He lost to "Boston Legal's" James Spader. Now, I am also a big Spader fan and his Alan Shore is a great character, but he really can't hold a candle to McShane's Al Swearengen. Lord only knows why awards show voters vote the way they do. If I knew that, then I'd know why "Titanic" won Best Picture in 1997.

The second season just finished and my roommate Pete and I are eagerly awaiting its release on DVD. The third season is in production now and it looks like other, high-caliber actors are jumping on board. I just read on IMDB that Brian Cox has joined the cast for the third season.

Do yourself a favor - watch "Deadwood".

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What are the obligations of immigrants?

The recent violence in the banlieues outside Paris has generated a lot of dead trees and electrons about the condition of immigrants in France. Predictably many on the Left have chosen to blame liberal, Western society rather than the young hoodlums out torching cars.

This got me to thinking. What are the obligations, if any, of immigrants to their new country?

First, a disclaimer. I work in the field of immigration. I am a technical expert on the computer systems the U.S. Department of State uses to issue immigrant and non-immigrant visas. So, I have a vested interest in the U.S.' policy of controlled, legal immigration. That aside, however, I sincerely believe that immigration should be tightly controlled. First and foremost is that in a post-9/11 world, having secure borders is a matter of national security. Second, and I say this very tongue-in-cheek but with a kernel of truth at its heart, we want to keep out the riff-raff.

However, to return to the original question, once we decide to admit an immigrant, what duty does he or she have towards their chosed country?

I think it boils down to two obligations: language and loyalty.

Immigrants to another country must learn that country's language. This seems so axiomatic as to not require further elaboration, but I will anyway since there will be those who will disagree with me.

The United States is a very advanced, complex society. How can anyone expect to function (like being able to read road signs, maps, job applications or any other myriad examples) if one doesn't speak the local language? Such a person would be at the mercy of strangers (to paraphrase Blanche Dubois).

Functionality aside, how can one expect to prosper if one doesn't speak the local language? If an immigrant speaks no or just rudimentary English, he will likely have a hard time securing anything but the most menial employment. This doesn't bode well for his upward mobility.

Loyalty, in my opinion, boils down to one thing: the abolition of "dual citizenship". A legal resident (i.e., a "green card" holder) who chooses to become a citizen of the United States must take an oath to "absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen". This, in and of itself, seems to render the entire concept of dual citizenship a moot point. How can one remain a citizen of Bolivia, say, when one has sworn an oath to forever renounce such ties? It is mutually exclusive.

As one who has worked in over 40 U.S. consulates and embassies, I have seen too many people who treat a U.S. passport as an accessory. To them, U.S. citizenship is merely an ace-in-the-hole so that they can send their children to U.S. universities, go to New York, Miami or Los Angeles to shop and to help them avoid civic obligations. Take the example of South Koreans for whom their children's U.S. citizenship is a tool to help them avoid compulsory military service. In their hypocritical opinion it is fine for U.S. soldiers to keep watch on the DMZ as human canaries in the coalmine of the Korean peninsula but certainly not their own children.

I think the question of language and loyalty are intertwined. For how can a person who can't fully function in American society, since they can't speak the language, feel much loyalty towards it? Without speaking the language how can anyone hope to get to know people of other cultures and ethnicities in the American melting pot? Without the binding element of language, that melting pot becomes a salad bowl of tossed together ingredients that remain separate.

And by allowing newly minted U.S. citizens to retain their original citizenship, should the going get rough, they can simply return home. I always liked the story of Cortez burning his ships upon arriving in the New World. Renouncing one's ties to one's birth country is the immigrant's equivalent of burning his ships. He is saying, "I chose this place to make my new life and I mean it."

Is this too much to ask? I don't think so. After all, by choosing to immigrate and then become a citizen, he is asking for all the rights and protections that native-born Americans enjoy. The new citizen is accepting a contract. The United States lives up to its end of the bargain, so I think it is only right that we ask immigrants to do the same.

Don't the NCAA and American Indian activists have anything better to do?

I mean, really. ESPN reports that the University of Illinois has lost its appeal on the ban on its mascot, Chief Illinwek.

First, the reason that Indian figures and tribes were chosen for team names and mascots is because our society generally admires and reveres their physical and martial virtues. Second, these are not "cigar-store" Indians or caricatures. These are faithful representations of American Indian figures. Calling them "hostile" and "abusive" is just untrue. Third, there are like 47 people of American Indian descent that object to these protrayals. Half of them are probably lawyers and the other half are probably school guidance counselors.

If they were really so concerned about the image of American Indians in our society then maybe they should try doing something about the real and serious problems American Indians face: low life expectancy, rampant alcoholism and drug abuse, domestic violence, and chronic unemployment. That's hostility and abuse.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It couldn't happen to a nicer country

Schadenfreude, that wonderful German word which means secret pleasure at the travails of others, isn't healthy.

That being said, how tickled am I at the almost two weeks of "Eurofada" in France?

For more than two decades the French have been bending over backwards to accommodate the growing population of mainly Muslim Arabs and Africans in France. France consciously courted the regimes of the Middle East with economic and military deals. In addition to MiGs, Saddam's air force flew Mirage fighters. The hope was that France would become the vital link between the Middle East and the West.

And what has it gotten them? Night after night of skirmishes with the police, stores and cars looted and burned. This is the proverbial being hoisted by one's own petard, n'est-ce pas?

Instead, France, with a Muslim population that resists assimilation and has a high birth-rate, is poised to become the first "Islamic Republic" in Europe. Is their room on the tri-color for a crescent, and maybe a scimitar (you know, to denote how "peaceful" Islam is)?

Hats off to Interior Minister Nikolas Sarkozy for calling the rioters what they are - scum. (The actual word he used - racaille - carries much more connotation that is hard to translate.) Sarkozy is an almost certain candidate for President in 2007. His opponent will almost certainly be Jacques Chirac protege, Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin. (I qualify these predictions since no-one knows what the fallout of this episode will be. After all, Bill Clinton was the one who cheated on his wife and lied, and yet it was Bob Livingston and Newt Gingrich who lost their jobs.)

While you can't call one liberal and one conservative, in this case, "Sarko" has been advocating a much tougher course of action, while De Villepin sounds like he has been given talking points by CAIR or the NAACP. You know, the usual crap about "understanding", "root causes", "discrimination".

What's worse is that le racialle are second- and third-generation French. These [mostly] young men are Frenchmen. If things are so awful in France, why are so many Arabs and Africans immigrating there, both legally and illegally?

When will the Left learn? Actually it's le racaille that has learned. They know that the liberal establishment is going to strain the bounds of reason to blame everybody but the rioters.

Every once in awhile, I think maybe, just maybe, there is such a thing as cosmic justice after all.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Price gouging by oil companies

Lately I've been reading that various Congressional committees are going to call oil company executives onto the carpet to explain why their companies are making so much money.

This is political farce. I mean, it's almost not even worth it to explain why this is unfair, un-American and a waste of legislators' time and our tax dollars, but here goes. (It's like Josh Mostel tells Billy Crystal in "City Slickers", "Scoop of chocolate, scoop of vanilla. Don't waste my time.")

First, do we hold hearings every January, after the Christmas shopping season, so that the CEOs of K-Mart, Wal-Mart and Macy's can explain just why it is that they make so much gosh-darned money every Christmas? Do we stigmatize umbrella salesmen as profiteers when it rains? Of course not.

Look this is simple: right now, the cost of oil is high. So gas costs more than normal. So oil companies make more money than normal. This is a good thing. This means they have more money to invest in their and others' businesses. They can pay larger dividends to their shareholders. Whatever. The point is companies exist to make money. That's what they do.

Second, and this is the ugly little secret that several columnists have pointed out - and this is really what makes the prospect of hearings so ridiculous, the government is making even more money (in the form of gas taxes) from the high price of oil and gas than the oil companies!

So, who is going to call them to the carpet?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

All is right with the world!

You know how some days you wake up and you go through your day and you feel like you are living in Cloud Cuckooland?

Well, this morning I woke up and logged on to to find that all is right with the world. My number five-ranked Miami Hurricanes dismantled the previously unbeaten and third-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies - at Virginia Tech - 27-7! (And that 7 of Virginia Tech's was a garbage touchdown late in the fourth quarter.) So much for Tech's national title hopes. Now all I need is for the ground to open up and swallow either USC or Texas and we have a real shot at the Rose Bowl.

I'd like to have a shot at USC. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They average 49 points a game - but they haven't seen a defense like ours (the number one-ranked defense in the country). And, on the flip side of those 49 points a game, their defense gives up a lot of points. They gave up 21 to Arizona, 28 to Arizona State, 31 to Notre Dame and 24 to Washington. The fewestnumber of points they've given up this season is 13. Take my word for it. The Trojans can be gotten to. Not by Texas, but by us!! I'm sure the Trojans are praying for Texas to win out. I know they don't want any part of us. I would bet any amount you care to name that Miami is the one team that no-one wants to play right about now.

And we're doing it the old-fashioned way - with defense. Our offense doesn't feature the deep threats we have in years past, but our defense will keep us in any game.

Go UCLA! Go Texas A&M!

And I can't wait for our rematch with FSU in the ACC title game on Dec. 3rd. Drew Weatherford is going to have nightmares about Javon Nanton, Baraka Atkins and Thomas Carroll for weeks!


Friday, November 04, 2005

The Disingenuousness of the Left on Leak-Gate

Syndicated columnist Brent Bozell makes an excellent point - namely that it takes a lot of gall for the Left to all of a sudden be concerned about protecting the identities of covert operatives.

Ever since the excesses of the Agency in 1960s and 1970s the Left in America have done every thing they can to hamstring the CIA. Take, for example, the investigations by the Pike and Church Committees, the investigative reporting of Seymour Hersh and Daniel Schorr, and the de-emphasis on human intelligence gathering by the CIA under Stansfield Turner.

When Congress was considering the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 1982, many Democrats voted against it. Of course, now that Democrats think they have found a brickbat with which to beat the Bush administration, they are enamored of this little-known law (even though it doesn't apply in the Plame kerfluffle).

Even worse is the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Basically, Libby is being charged with perjury in a case of "he said-she said". Libby remembers his conversations with Time's Matthew Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller differently than they do. So, of course, Libby - who works for arch-villain Dick Cheney - must be lying. Never mind that he hasn't been charged with anything remotely resembling revealing Valerie Plame's name. The Left will point to his indictment (indictment - not conviction) as proof-positive that the Bush administration cooked the books on intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. (Never mind that it is mostly Joseph Wilson's claims regarding Iraq's efforts to obtain uranium from Niger that have remained unsubstanatiated.)

I am also curious about where the indignance has gone over out-of-control special prosecutors. During the investigation into the Paula Jones case the media demonized Kenneth Starr as some kind of closet pervert, while lionizing Bill Clinton as some kind of modern-day John of Arc.

And where is the Left's blase attitude about perjury? When Bill Clinton did it, we were told it was "no big deal" since it was about private (albeit reprehensible) behavior. Again, now that the Left thinks it has a "gotcha" on the Bush admininstration, perjury and making false statements are again cause for concern.

And people wonder how I can call myself a Republican. I am more mystified how anyone can align themselves with the likes of Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry.

The Alito Confirmation

Ok. Ok. After a long absence, I have decided to start offering my unsolicited opinion of the news of the day once again.

During my absence I have failed to comment on what passed for news this summer: Hurricane Katrina, Leak-gate, the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Meiers. I, for one, am grateful. While I do have an opinion on all these topics, most of them bored me to tears.

So, let's skip all that crap and get to a really good story - the President's nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

First, let me backtrack a bit and say that I was profoundly disappointed with President Bush's nomination of Ms. Meiers. As some pundit or other pointed out, I am sure she is an able attorney but was she really the best person the President could find? Not by a longshot. In fact when I first heard the name of the nominee my first reaction was, "Who?" (And being a political geek I knew many of the names on the so-called "short lists" - Lutig, McConnell, Wilkinson, Alito, and Garza, to name a few - and Meiers' name was nowhere to be found.)

I am much more enthusiastic about the nomination of Judge Alito (or "Scalito" as he has been dubbed for the resemblance his judicial philosophy shares with that of Antonin Scalia's - a facile comparison).

First, he possesses the sterling academic credentials we have come to expect of a Supreme Court justice (Princeton undergrad, Yale law, editor of the Yale Law Review). While earning a law degree from SMU is nothing to sneeze at, it hardly carries the same weight as a degree from a more prestigious institution.

Second, he has experience as a federal prosecutor. Alito served four years as the Assistant United States Attorney in New Jersey during which he prosecuted organized crime figures. He then spent four years as the assistant to the Solicitor General at the Department of Justice. Later, he returned to New Jersey as United States Attorney. Ms. Meiers had no such experience as a government lawyer. Outside of her experience as White Counsel, all Ms. Meiers' experience was in the private sector.

Third, he has 15 years experience as a judge on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. This was probably the most damning criticism of Ms. Meiers. She had no experience as a judge at any level. Never having been a judge, Ms. Meiers had no "paper trail". Judge Alito, on the other hand, has written more than 700 opinions on many of the top issues of the day: abortion, federalism, sexual harassment, and discrimination to name a few. The left will not be able to criticize Alito for a lack of a paper trail.

Of course, criticize him the Left will. One argument is sure to be that he is more conservative than the Justice he is replacing. This is preposterous as if the ideological composition of the Supreme Court is some kind of zero-sum game. This argument is also baldly disingenuous since no Democrat proffered this as a reason for voting against Ruth Bader Ginsburg who is clearly more liberal than Justice Byron "Whizzer" White, whom she replaced.

The rest of the Left's criticisms will be of the pedestrian, "he's-an-extremist" variety which can (and should) be easily dismissed.

I have already written Sens. Allen and Warner urging them to vote to confirm Judge Alito. You should, too!