Thursday, April 27, 2006

Collective IQ of Bush Administration Doubles Overnight!

Collective IQ of Universe Set to Multiply to the Tenth Power!

WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT [and I mean it this time] (Part 2):



On the weekend of April 21 this set of Marine parents (me and the spousal unit) decided to attend the first annual conference sponsored by, held in Houston, Texas.

We had absolutely no idea what to expect—what kind of cross-section of the American military family we would meet there. The experience and the people were impressive, tremendously informative, and deeply sobering.

The highest-profile (and busiest) speaker of the weekend was Colon
el Bryan McCoy, whose 3rd Battalion of the 4th Marine Regiment pushed into Baghdad on April 7, 2003, and helped the locals topple Saddam’s statue in Firdos Square on April 9th. They also saw fierce fighting (and took numerous losses) in the first battle for Fallujah in 2004. He’s a tough, intelligent, commanding man, the sort whose troops would walk through burning coals and broken glass for him—something he would never ask of them unless he had first done it himself.

At the other extreme of the assembled Marine community was Chelsea B--, a very young mother of two whose husband is serving his second tour of Iraq. She would seem perfectly at home doing her nails with her high school girlfriends listening to Britney Spears and cooing over Orlando B
loom. Instead she manages a Marine wives’ internet message board with over 300 participants, helping them manage their affairs and keep their wits collected while their husbands patrol dusty streets in over 100º heat, ignoring their 60 lbs. of gear as their eyes dart in every direction.

In the middle ground was Steve S--, wearing full dress blues and shuffling tipsily with the aid of his mother’s arms and a four-foot staff. When he sits his right arm shakes uncontrollably, fingers pounding against his knee. Amid the brown hair on the right side of his head is a massive s-curve of scar tissue, hiding the shattered source of all that nerve damage.

Among those standing for Steve when he was introduced by his commanding officer, Col. McCoy, were the Gold Star Parents for whom we had all previously stood in tribute: the Norwoods, who had sat with Laur
a Bush in the congressional gallery during the 2005 State of the Union Address and were spontaneously hugged by an Iraqi woman with a voter’s purple finger (Byron Norwood, age 25, died in Fallujah in November 2004); the Starrs, whose son’s private final letter telling of his pride in the help he knew he was giving to Iraqis longing for freedom, became famous when it was selectively quoted by the New York Times so as to appear jaded and despairing (Cpl. Jeff Starr, age 22, died near Ar Ramadi in May 2005—); the Franks, who turned their grief into action by starting the Heart of a Marine Foundation to give moral and material support to military families in need (Phillip Frank, age 20, died in April 2004 near Fallujah). There were others.

“Gung ho” is usually a derogatory term used to describe those who plough into a project with mindless enthusiasm. Our time with these Marine parents taught us, among other things, that it is clearly possible combine being gung-ho with being wise, wary, compassionate, and realistic. Having been heavily dosed with realism at every turn, we nevertheless emerged from the encounter with even greater respect for the life our son has chosen, and the sense that there is much we can do for him and his new wife, and ourselves, to take us through the perils that may lie ahead.

Or should I say, “him, his wife, and his child.” Barely have we had a chance to digest the sights and experiences afforded to us as Marine parents, before we are informed as of today that we are to be (Marine) grandparents, come this December. I am not sure which part of this scenario I find more implausible—my son the Star Wars/ Lord of the Rings geek being a father, or me the perpetually goofy failed beatnik being a grandparent. But such we are. In the space of 14 months our immediate family will have seen three weddings and two babies—doomsday demographics be damned! We’re holding up our end, by God!

Let the baby madness begin! (VISA
card now officially smokin'.)

Lesser news:
President Bush has announced what was no longer surprise news-- that he has replaced Defensive Doughboy Scott McLellan with FOX news and radio pundit Tony Snow to be his press secretary.


AT LAST somebody there will have some idea of how the job is done. Kudos to the Snow-man. Lots and lots of stuff has gone horribly wrong under the Bush administration, but the relentless, exasperating, needless, suicidal inability and UNWILLINGNESS to communicate with a predominantly well-disposed American public has been by far its most egregious failing.

It's a desperately sad -- pathetic, really -- comment on th
is administration that, in a time of a shootin' war overseas and an ideological sectarian war within the walls of the United States Capitol, the mere replacement of a press spokesman can take on such profound importance. But this move addresses (and, we hope, dresses) the most festering wound in the Republican body politic. One waggish blog commenter proposed a White House press briefing room reality show, where Tony gets to decide whether to entertain a question from Helen Thomas or just "bitch slap" her on general principles. I think his first duty ought to be to bitch-slap the President into treating us like adults.


Democrats lose yet another stick for beating the bushes.

Mum's the word. If this gets out there is a risk people will start thinking that
(a) something good could be happening over there-- CAN'T HAVE THAT!
(b) brown-skinned foreign people might actually be capable of d
emocratic self-rule, and our interest in making sacrifices to help them might be justified.

There are those who say that Republicans are spiralling into oblivion as they head towards the fall election.

Why am I sitting here feeling kind of sorry for the left? I'll deal with that later.

For now I'll just enjoy being in the grip of the warm-fuzzies, what with the stork on
the horizon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

FOX TV's PRISON BREAK is back on the air, after an inexplicable hiatus of several months, which has nevertheless failed to dim the fans' interest in the show. It continues to be preposterous in so many respects, but who cares? It's a new idea, about something other than doctors, lawyers, and cops. The cast is a great group of "types" (though they are perhaps becoming a bit too cuddly as they become the Great Escape team).

It's fun to keep watching Stacy Keach turn up in new avatars-- I've been a fan of his since he was a grad student doing Shakespeare in 1963, and have enjoyed his journey from Bad Bob the Albino to Barrabas to Frank James to Mike Hammer to Ken Titus (one of my all-time favorites), and now finally to "the Pope" of Fox River Penitentiary. (Lots of forgettable crap in between, but what actor hasn't done that?)

Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is once again up to what I am begiinning to understand are his old tricks, immediately following PRISON BREAK. Our household has quite suddenly decided to become addicted to 24, and are in the process of catching up with DVD's of the first season while trying to follow the latest instalments. Again, it's all preposterous, but well put together and a new twist on cliff-hanging.

COUNTDOWN TO CALUMNY -- The Da Vinci Code (no I'm not linking, thank you very much) opens in one month
It will probably be an entertaining film, since Ron Howard actually has talent in inverse proportion to that so absent in the bland-faced, wide-eyed fake-o literato Dan Brown.

I hate to contribute my thirteen Canuckbucks (or whatever will be the new "blockbuster" price of admission) to this ignoble effort, but I suppose I'll have to do a consumer's test on it, in the public interest of course. I had vowed never to pay the ticket price for Michael Moore's lie-fest, Fahrenheit 911 (deadly serious, highly recommended critique found here, from the Ethics and Public Policy Center in D.C.), and had planned to theatre-hop at the cineplex and see it for free. Instead I ended up buying a previously viewed DVD so cheap that Moore couldn't possibly have made enough for a Mars bar out of it-- in fact, as a re-sale item, I expect he got nothing. Ah-- feels so good.

So I'll probably see the Da Vinci Fraud, perhaps de-frauding my way into it (I've never done that before-- it's unethical of course!-- but on a 1-to-10 scale of unethical acts it has to rate about a 2 when the film project itself rates at least a 12, and the book is up in the four-score-and-seven neighborhood.)

I am one of the least "thin-skinned Christians" I know, but I've taken the pledge [The Da Vinci Code Pledge for Thin-Skinned Christians] about this book/film, and have to see the business through. Salman Rushdie has apparently pronounced the Dan Brown book "a book so bad it makes bad books look good." Amen to that, as it were. Now we have to see if Ron Howard can make a silk burse out of a sow's ear. (heh-- a little church humor there)

But I woke up and it was January 2005-- the date when a more politically astute President would have conducted a very normal, post-election "shuffle" (as they call it in the Parliamentary tradition) and pumped some new blood into his cabinet and administrative staff. The announcements over the past week or two of some personnel changes in the Bush administration are LONG overdue, and this cabinet shuffle now risks looking like the proverbial re-arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic. It needn't be, but he's cut it awfully close.

As one who has been advocating the replacement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld since December of 2003, I'd like to welcome the Snippity Six-- the list of carping American generals now calling for Rumsfeld's blood-- aboard this particular Ship of State, now that it's listing badly and limping into port with chunks of ice on its deck.

It's too little (by which I mean small and petty) too late, gentlemen. Replacing Rumsfeld now would be suicidal for the current administration both at home and abroad, would cripple the effectiveness and security of our military in the field, and wouldn't bring back a single dead kid who shouldn't have been so vulnerable to cross-border jihadists and re-grouping insurgents.

As military careerists go, what the hell are you people thinking? and how did you get into positions of authority in the armed forces? Oh yeah-- there was that 12-year hiatus in sanity, when the elder (and wimpier) Bush and the flabby anti-military Clinton were in charge, and morons like Wesley (engage the enemy from 30,000 feet-- don't fire till you see the whites of their embassy roofs) Clark, or jittery dudes like Anthony Zinni (self-admitted screw-up responsible for the USS Cole bombing) were earning their stars.

Once upon a time soldiers who couldn't carry out their commanders' orders used to run on their swords-- today they can just resign, and should do so, silently, if they cannot in conscience obey their superiors. The danger to our troops posed by this plainly orchestrated revolt of the six generals is not so very far removed from a "fragging" incident-- where the rank and file turn on their officers and kill them. Fragging is traditionally a desperate measure taken to preserve troops from some pointless suicide mission ordered by an inexperienced or unfit officer. But we should recall that during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq there was a premeditated fragging multiple murder of officers by a Muslim-convert soldier with divided loyalties. So ideological fragging has its precedents too, as does fragging by envious or tetchy malcontents.

The editorial at makes one of the more important points about the generals and their hastily-enthusiastic allies in the media:
The anti-Rumsfeld generals have a right to their opinion. But there's a reason the Founders provided for civilian control of the military, and a danger in military men using their presumed authority to push elected Administrations around. As for Democrats and their media allies, we can only admire their sudden new deference to the senior U.S. officer corps, which follows their strange new respect for the "intelligence community" they also once despised. U.S. military recruiters might not be welcome on Ivy League campuses, but they're heroes when they trash the Bush Administration.
'Nuff said.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has compiled a Rumsfeld-o-rama to discuss the situation -- typical of the good right-wing blogs, this is a place to chew on a variety of genuinely thoughtful and differing opinions on the subject. You won't find this kind of stuff too often on the left, nor will you find anyone on the left admitting that the right is the truly big-tent movement in politics. (There is one small stirring on the left, aiming to break out of the lunatic fringe's stranglehold on liberal public discourse-- if you can call the obscenity-laced blog-based spewings of Bush Derangement Syndrome "discourse" -- and we welcome and congratulate the founders of the Euston Manifesto site. But I digress.)

Having personally fumed and smoldered with frustration for about a year, I spent much of the 2004 election season sending (unanswered) emails to Mary Matalin, Mark Wallace, Ed Gillespie, Peggy Noonan, and whoever else I could think of involved in the Republican campaign, expressing, among other things, the vital need for the President to inform the nation in very specific terms about the genuine acocmplishments in Iraq, as well as the equally vital need to promise a cabinet shake-up upon re-election. If I may quote myself, I wrote to one of those people:
I don’t think it would hurt the President to hint that this [cabinet shuffle] is a possibility, the advantage to which is that it points toward dealing with the biggest liability of the current administration: like it or not, it’s Rumsfeld. He is partially a liability based on public perceptions, some of which may not be entirely fair. But in my opinion he has been a genuine liability in the prosecution of the war, and nothing – NOTHING – that anyone, including the President himself, could tell me would convince me otherwise.

He [Rumsfeld] has very identifiable theories about managing the military-- I stand with those...who think his theories are dead wrong—“dead” in the most literal and lethal sense: I believe they have cost us hundreds of unnecessary deaths among the under-trained reservists who occupied the most dangerous territory in Iraq between May 2003 and March 2004... I can also tell you, with all sincerity, that I would mark a ballot which said “Bush/Cheney but not Rumsfeld” with much more enthusiasm than the one which will read just “Bush/Cheney”—and I am not alone in this.
Obviously nobody took my advice (fools!), and Bush won by a fraction of the margin he should have, over an incompetent and repugnant (even to his fellow-Democrats) opponent.

Bush got on the "inform the people" bandwagon too late to undo the damage among a public brutally deceived by the mainstream press, and he still persists in ignoring his most powerful defense: the millions of captured Iraqi documents finally being circulated and translated. (Documents which clearly show, among other things, the active links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and Saddam's pre-9/11 plans for sending suicide bombers to the United States-- baffling! Nor has Bush seen fit to shine the glare of attention on the Oil-for-Food scam, the yellowcake lies of Joseph Wilson, and the treachery of our UN Security council "allies" every step of the way throughout his administration. Sometimes he seems almost as suicidal as the sweet-faced young bombers.)

As for the Rumsfeld problem, it is far too late to undo that at all. Much would be lost, and nothing would be gained-- at least Bush is apparently not THAT suicidal.

I suspect Bush is dealing with the McLellan problem without having read my advice, but better late than never on that one. The pudgy press prefect (whom I have previously pounded on here), has been unspeakably horrible at his job from the moment he stepped nervously up to the podium, and will soon be mercifully gone. I guess the grown-ups finally got home and the babysitter had to take away his toys and send him to bed. Good riddance. I'd feel sorry for him if I thought he had any idea how humiliating both his performance and his exit have been, but I just don't think he gets it.

The footnote to all this is that Evil Genius Karl Rove has been re-assigned to what he does best, or better anyway, that is, working on elections. He had been a chief domestic policy advisor, and as I've said many a time, this is proof enough that he's no genius-- for years now Bush has been the recipient of some of the worst advice in the history of advice (and that's from the people he actually listens to). And Rove can't really be evil because evil tends to be clever, and he's not. Anyway, he got displaced from his policy portfolio, and that can only be to the good.


According to the Washington Times, actor Martin Sheen is trading his TV role as U.S. president on The West Wing for that of a real-life college student. An Irish citizen through his mother, Sheen plans to attend the National University of Ireland in Galway, to study English literature, philosophy and theology with special interest in oceanography. the BBC reports that Sheen, 65, has several honorary degrees but has been quoted as lamenting his lack of a "proper" education. (He flunked out of the University of Dayton, purposely, he claims, so he could become an actor against the wishes of his father. Others say he never got in at all-- who knows. Or cares?)

A long-time political activist (read: left-wing Hollywood moonbat gum-flapper-- but not the worst by any means), Sheen has been approached recently about running for elected office. He wisely declined, stating "I'm just not qualified. You're mistaking celebrity for credibility." (Brilliantly put, I must admit. I'm thinking of embroidering it on a small throw pillow.)

Apropos of which, Kathryn Jean Lopez relays this from one of her readers on National Review Online-- The Corner

From a reader, reacting to Martin Sheen saying he's not qualified:

Your point is well taken, but I think Sheen is quite wrong that he is unqualified for the Senate. Besides an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a tolerance for making cameo appearances at committee meetings, what are the qualifications for the U.S. Senate again?
Martin Sheen is the father of actor Charlie Sheen, the hobbyist structural engineer who has decreed the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11 to have been the result of a conspiracy-based controlled demolition. Martin Sheen should give his son Charlie Sheen a good Irish boot upside the head.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The three most important factors in your REAL ESTATE decision:

Will it be Diwaniyeh (Iraq) or Dinuba (California)?

Historian Victor Davis Hanson does an unscientific analysis of his recent experiences at home and away, coming to the conclusion that security is a challenge everywhere, and on any given day California can feel like a war zone. Hanson wonders how Californians would feel if their dark side were publicized daily in a way comparable to mainstream reporting on Iraq. The statistics would be a little daunting if
...the world awoke each morning to be told that once again there were six more murders, 27 rapes, 38 arsons, 180 robberies, and 360 instances of assault in California — yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day... Another $20 million spent today on housing our criminals... Another $100 million borrowed today — $3 billion more in red ink to pile up by month’s end!
And on and on and on. [California: Golden State or hellhole? Film at 11:00.....]

Hanson recently returned to California from a brief sojourn in the Sunni Triangle. Things had not been so peaceful in his absence:
While I was gone, a drug-addicted criminal with a long list of convictions broke into our kitchen at 4 a.m., was surprised by my wife and daughter, and fled with our credit cards, cash, keys, and cell phones.

Sometimes I wonder who really was safer that week.

I'm not picking on Dinuba, by the way -- it just pairs up euphoniously with the Iraqi reference. (However it does have a violent crime rate 25% higher than the national average, and property crime is about 35% higher. Ahem.)

Monday, April 10, 2006


The Blogosphere is celebrating, as presumably are many Iraqis, quietly -- the major Iraqi blogs haven't weighed in yet, except at "Free Iraqi," which has changed its address to reflect the new perspective [now found at] and has maintained its motto, in place since December 24, 2004: "I was not living before the 9th of April and now I am, so let me speak!"

This is my favourite 2003 memory image from other posts of recent days (hat-tip: Winds of Change) because it's all about the future.

Michael Yon is back in Iraq ("speaking the truth to power!", as the saying goes!) and sends word of his new 'net initiative "Frontline Forum -- real soldiers with real stories"-- a forum for military people on the ground in the big sandbox, to tell first-hand about what they see and what they know the Mainstream/Drive-byMedia aren't interested in.

The April 9 entry, from Army Sergeant Tim Boggs (now on his second Iraq deployment) recounts his unit's relationship with a refugee family [refugees from an abusive marriage, not from war] made up of a mother and three children, who camped near, and eventually inside of, their base in sunny Umm Qasr -- 140 degrees and no shade. Sgt. Boggs ends with this observation:
My hope for Iraq lies in the next generation. Through the efforts of some amazing soldiers, I believe a seed has been planted that will one day bloom into a mass of young children raised on knowing the kindness and gentleness of American soldiers. When that time comes I believe we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor in the Middle East.
If there are any parallels to be drawn between the Vietnam and Iraq wars (and there are a few-- only a few), Sgt. Boggs may have hit on the most important one. The American left, and their political confrères abroad, are still living Vietnam because it suits them to be immersed in American failure and self-loathing-- they live in the past, even as the Vietnamese people (the vast majority of whom were born after the war) live for the future. Knock yourselves out, Deaniacs and Kossacks-- you probably won't be able to get the Vietnamese to hate America as much as you do, and you're not likely to get most Iraqis to do so either. History will tell.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

BACK AGAIN -- Family health crisis averted for the moment.

Nearly recovered from Total Exhaustion arising from Massive Lecture Prep on modern church architecture. (Weird, weirder, weirdissimi)


For the first time I listened in to an mp3 interview with my personal Household God of Journalism, global commentator, Mark Steyn conducted by Hugh Hewitt on his radio show. (I have only read transcripts previously.)

I associate Steyn with (1) his Montreal childhood, where (like my own spousal unit) he grew up an Anglophone in a largely Francophone society; (2) his long-time residence in rural New Hampshire, a landscape with which I became familiar over the four years that I had a kid in college there (who returned there to marry last December); and (3) his regular foothold in England, where he churned out regular columns for several publications (until recently, when two of them dropped him, probably out of genuine Islamofascisticophobia).

Now I have finally heard the Voice coming down from the Mountain, and he’s, like, a limey! I have always imagined his words issuing from a fairly ordinary Canajun hoser-hole, all “How’s aboat a donut, eh?” and “Go Habs, eh?”

Where in his bio is the part where he picks up this estuary twang? I must probe this question—it changes everything.


Both major parties in the United States, as based in Washington D.C., tend to accuse their opposite number of stubbornly marching in lock-step on every issue, to the detriment of the people who sent them to the District to govern. I would maintain that the evidence, objectively sifted, could not do other than demonstrate that this lock-step mentality has overwhelmingly prevailed among the Democrats, and has been regularly absent among Republicans, for whom lock-step unity is something they can only dream of!

The President’s party has shown itself often in disarray and dissension (especially since Tom DeHammer DeLay was sent packing—and good riddance!). On occasion it has also been divided in ways that show independent, principled thinking, such as regards the manifest unfitness of Harriet Miers to waddle her way into the nation’s highest court. (Could there be any more potent evidence than the collapse of the Miers nomination that the religious right lacks anything resembling a stranglehold on Republicans or the conservative movement?)

On immigration, though, both parties are fractured into factions – with real solutions, partial solutions, and variable recipes for pandering to the ’06 electorate. There’s insight, courage, and sincerity to be found here and there, smatterings of genuine concern about real problems among the mushies on both sides, and the usual pockets of moral vacuum, all pretty evenly distributed. There are polls to show that the average American thinks immigration is the Number 1 priority issue for the next election—or the Number 2, or the Number 6, or anything you want.

However, on immigration as a security and law-and-order issue, it is more clear than ever that any suggestion of serious thinkers and commentators on the right being mere shills for the President is absolutely laughable. For some time now many on the left have refused to notice the amount of intelligent criticism to which right-wing bloggers and journalists have subjected the embattled Mr. Bush, but NO ONE could fail to see the irate conservative criticism of his ongoing handling (or non-handling) of the border problem.

Example? Click here and watch Michelle Malkin go absolutely POSTAL about the evidence of immigr
ation corruption, cronyism, and incompetence she has been amassing for a considerable time. I suspect she doesn’t have much in common with CNN’s Lou Dobbs, whose Broken Borders/Exporting America” has become television’s dripping-faucet water-torture on the subject, but I’d bet their respective readings on the Pissed-Off-O-Meter would be very close.

Speaking of pissed off, congratulations to whichever mob of geniuses encouraged their millions of companions to wave those Mexican flags at the pro-undocumented-illegal-immigrant-alien-wetback-whatever rallies held in the past month across the United States. No telling how many nice American folks with fuzzy sympathies for hard-working border-jumpers you have now, as it were, alienated. I believe that may have been what the pundits call a “tipping point.”

The sharpest divisions on this issue for many Americans are internal—we are the descendants of immigrants, and many of us have not forgotten how our families have benefited from
entry into the Promised Land.

My little bio sketch at the right of the this site is the real thing: in addition to the old Greek who spoke so eloquently about the vision of Lady Liberty in New York Harbour and who throughout his life was American first, there were also the Bavarian farmers who settled in Minnesota and looked somewhat askance at the beautiful daughter who married the man from Greece; and on my other side were the Irish teachers and boarding-house keepers whose Celtic blood went undiluted from arrival in the 1840’s until a century later, when the post-war generation began to mix it up with the Croats and Germans and Greeks, made mobile by the upheavals of global war.

My family in Texas is well-disposed towards the Hispanic neighbours who have enriched their cosmopolitan city. (We have one in the family now.) But none of us can forget that we came from people who endured miserable sea-voyages and waited their turn in line; who were palpated and probed and whose eye-lids were lifted with button-hooks to be checked for signs of disease (early-stage trachoma, leading to blindness, reason enough for them to be turned back and sent home again, lest they become handicapped drains on the public purse).

The Irish Catholics entered into an American society where they occupied a lower social status than freed slaves, and who, excluded from participation in many aspects of American life, built a parallel social structure of schools, hospitals, colleges, and brotherhood associations, now long-since assimilated into the mainstream. As their heirs we have this kind of schizoid sense that we owe America everything, but we don’t owe nobody nuttin’.

America—the global terrorist, the greedy exploiter, the oil whore, the tyrannical empire, the materialistic plastic-action-figure of a nation—cannot keep up with the flood of people who want to live and work here, on the run from idealistic populists like Hugo Chavez, spiritual purists like the Saud family, enlightened planners like Hu Jintao and his gang of suits. We children of immigrants can relate to that, having the only “hyphenated” citizenship that means anything: “Mongrel-Americans”, and proud of it. Mutts.

At age 10, my Greek grandfather was shining shoes all day on the streets of St. Louis— for no pay, just tips. At night he and some other kids were taught English by an Irishwoman—no teaching degree, just a skill for sale. America will take much better care of its immigrants today—in return they should be ready to put up with such bureaucratic button-hooks as we think necessary, and take a cue from the old Greek,
After all the 36 days and nights on the ocean... I was very happy to see the Statue of Liberty, the light. That meant that we come to United States. And that was my ambition -- happiness -- to come to America.