Wednesday, April 30, 2003

A Vaguely Dishonest Article

Is it dishonest to deny that you seek military options when you are closing the door to every non military option? I guess that's a question every reader will have to settle for themselves, but it doesn't sit very well with me.

Michael Ledeen, writing at National Review, is concerned that we are not being tough enough on Syria or Iran. He states, "If we want a free Iran and a free Syria — and we must, if we really want to win the war against terror — we will have to fight for it. Not militarily, in these cases, but certainly politically." I'd be curious to know what Mr. Ledeen means by "free." Two democratic nations, or two nations friendly to the United States? But laying that aside, it's clear that Mr. Ledeen intends for us to believe that he favors the peaceful pursuit of our interests in Syria and Iran.

Except for he opposes efforts to enter talks with Iran or Syria. He states, "It is therefore disconcerting and discouraging to see the National Security Council's top man in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, sneaking off to secret meetings with representatives of the Iranian regime, and to see Secretary of State Powell enthusiastically contemplating a trip to Damascus. There is nothing to be gained from talking to the mullahs. They are declared enemies of everything we hold precious. . . ." So he opposes President Bush's State Department, which is trying to work out a diplomatic solution to this problem. So assuming we don't talk to Syria or Iran, what other tools do we have at our disposal? Hmmmmmmmmm. Well, I guess we do have a military presence in the region.

Jack Kemp

Well, Jack Kemp weighed in on Newt Gingrich's criticisms of the State Department last week, but I was unable to remember where I had seen his comments. Fortunately his article today is all about putting the hammer to Newt. A few choice tidbits.

"By constantly harping on the need to reform and transform the State Department without providing any specifics, it becomes clear that Gingrich is using the easy target of the State Department bureaucracy as a pretext for criticizing Bush's diplomatic policies through Powell. Gingrich appears to be attempting to drive a wedge between the president and his secretary of state in the name of reform, which plays right into the hands of America's adversaries. It also plays right into the hands of the Daschle Democrats who would love nothing better than to create dissention over foreign policy within the ranks of the Bush administration and blame the president for a failure. . . .

"He really goes over the top when he lashes out at Powell for "throw(ing) away all the fruits of hard-won victory (in Iraq) by going to Syria." In Gingrich's words, "The concept of the American secretary of state going to Damascus to meet with a terrorist-supporting, secret-police-wielding dictator is ludicrous."

"What's ludicrous is the implication that Powell would go to Syria on his own without orders from the president."

Good stuff. However, don't think this particular issue is over. There was an article yesterday by Frank Gaffney that stated, "Official Washington is notorious for its tendency to respond to unwelcome performance assessments by "shooting the messenger." The reaction to Newt Gingrich's recent, scathing critique of the State Department's conduct of diplomacy in recent months, however, seems closer to the gruesome punishment of "drawing and quartering" -- in which the victim's arms and legs were chained to, and then pulled apart by, four horses." Gaffney goes on to largely reiterate Gingrich's attack.

Does it Matter?

Now that the war is over, my main purpose has been to look to the future of Iraq and our involvement in it, rather than to dwell on the past. I think the best thing we can do is take this troubling situation, and work to turn it towards the benefit of the Iraqi people and, ultimately, ourselves.

That said, it is troubling how little it seems to matter that we haven't found any Weapons of Mass Destruction. That was the most compelling reason to invade, and everybody knows it. I suspect the US will forgive President Bush for obfuscating on this matter; but other nations around the world are less likely to be forgiving. Anyway just something to think about.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Tough Questions

Well, it turns out that we haven't found any WMD yet. And it also turns out that we don't care. The liberation of the Iraqi peoples is a noble goal in and of itself, and we should be satisfied with that. But, of course, one might ask if we are now required to rescue other peoples throughout the world. Paul Krugman, is one such "one" who asks, in his latest article.

. . . why is our compassion so selective? In 2001 the World Health Organization — the same organization we now count on to protect us from SARS — called for a program to fight infectious diseases in poor countries, arguing that it would save the lives of millions of people every year. The U.S. share of the expenses would have been about $10 billion per year — a small fraction of what we will spend on war and occupation. Yet the Bush administration contemptuously dismissed the proposal.

Or consider one of America's first major postwar acts of diplomacy: blocking a plan to send U.N. peacekeepers to Ivory Coast (a former French colony) to enforce a truce in a vicious civil war. The U.S. complains that it will cost too much. And that must be true — we wouldn't let innocent people die just to spite the French, would we?

So it seems that our deep concern for the Iraqi people doesn't extend to suffering people elsewhere. I guess it's just a matter of emphasis. A cynic might point out, however, that saving lives peacefully doesn't offer any occasion to stage a victory parade.

For those who would like more information on the Ivory Coast situation, here it is.

Abandoning Iraq

There was an article by Doug Bandow today, in which he decried America's potential nation building operation in Iraq. He states, "Having invaded Iraq, Washington has little choice but to help rebuild that nation. However, America's basic objective should be to safeguard U.S. security, not to inaugurate an Iraqi New Deal. That means being less concerned about whether Iraq holds together, who rules Baghdad, and how the country's politics are practiced, and more concerned that any regime neither traffics in weapons of mass destruction nor terrorism."

First of all, don't the rulers of Iraq maybe exert some influence over whether their nation supports weapons of mass destruction or terrorism?

But more to the point, regardless of the difficulties, the creation of a stable, democratic, capitalist Iraq would have positive reprecutions throughout the region. It would be a blessing to the Iraqi people, who have had to suffer under Saddam's despotic rule. It would show the Middle East that we come not as conquerors, nor in vengence, but to help.

There are going to be strong pressures on President Bush to abandon Iraq, but I encourage each of us to support him in his efforts to rebuild Iraq. Here is President Bush's E-mail address.

Monday, April 28, 2003

From Brandy

Here is Brandy's response to the Kathleen Parker article from earlier in the day.

I completely agree that everyone has become sooo one sided that key issues and understanding are being missed...I too have fallen into this, and its all about pride! I am a huge fan of Rumsfeld and so want to be supportive in all the man says and does (and because I have been so vocal about supporting him its added prideful pressure to ALWAYS stay supportive), but the truth of it is he has frightened me with some recent ranting, and although I still admire him, I have to vocally NOT support him on SOME issues. I think if we all could just say, yes, everyone/party/political view has good and bad points and work together -wow, how much good could be accomplished.

Now then that being said, it will NEVER happen

I remain a bit more hopeful, but recognize, like Brandy, that combativeness may be in our nature.

More Media Coverage

I was reading an article about those voices in Hollywood that have supported the war effort and are unhappy with their fellow actors who have spoken out against the war.

Then I came across this quote from Steve Doocy, of Fox News' morning show "Fox and Friends."

"In the past, Hollywood celebrities have never been held accountable for some of their kind of kooky ideas that aren't in line with the balance of America."

Read that again. Mr. Doocy is arguing that celebrities need to be held accountable if their thoughts differ from the balance of America. First of all, who determines what the balance of America is thinking? Secondly, why does someone need to be held accountable for thinking differently from his fellow American? Did that suddenly become a crime that needs to be punished?


This is from Kathleen Parker of the Chicago Tribune (I think, the article was published at

She comments, "There seems to be little sense of a middle ground these days. It's an either-or world, a condition that may be blamed in part on President Bush's "you're either with us or against us" mantra following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

If you write in support of Bush policies, such as the war on Iraq, for example, those who disagree infer that you're either on the Haliburton payroll or jockeying for a job with the Bush administration.

I assume that those who write against the war get similar mail suggesting that they're either Clinton apologists, or communists, or teen-raping, pot-smoking, baby-aborting Hollywood agitators. What were once differences of opinion among gentlefolk have become vast ideological divides between fanatics and zealots.

I've noticed this as well. The concept of respectfully disagreeing seems to have gone by the wayside, and now politics is a war in which there can be no comprimise except for victory. I believe that most Conservatives and most Liberals love their country and want to make it better, but this is not a popular view these days.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Caleb Responds to H. L. Mencken

Caleb has some comments on the Mencken Quote presented yesterday. Enjoy.

If we use education to reduce all citizenry to controllable norms and other governments use ignorance to keep the people from learning enough to know that maybe life could be better, and other governments use religion as a method of enforcing a whimsical detachment in their people then maybe people are just easily controlled, unoriginal, slobs for whom detached malcontent is the norm, and the governments no matter how much they plot and connive to keep people under their boot are nearly assuming an unoriginal, outdated, worldview that profits them nothing. Are then all social programs similarly useless ways of placating the already sedentary, and uncaring masses?

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Another Quote

That erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.
H. L. Mencken

Something to think about.

New Quote

Change the quote at the top. Enjoy.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Helen Keller

Alabama has recently selected the design for their state quarter; I was luckily enough to pick one up this last week. It looks like this.

I thought it unusually progressive of Alabama to select such a radical leftist to celebrate. Helen Keller was a well known socialist and a very insightful thinker. She initially praised the Russian revolution, although I believe she later became disenchanted with it. Note this writing, in 1932.

I am convinced that the machine has taken something out of life. We have paid, and are still paying a great price for the benefits it has given us. But the fault lies with us. We have not used it properly. If the progress of the mechanical age should suddenly cease now, I should say that its disadvantages had outweighed its benefits. But further developments are certain to come. We cannot now throw the machine overboard. It is with us to stay, and our task is to turn it to our proper need. In the machine, rightly controlled, lies the hope of reducing human drudgery to the minimum - not merely that we may be free of drudgery, but that every individual may have the opportunity for a happy life, for a leisure which, under wise guidance, may lead to mental and spiritual growth.

I do not set myself up as an expert economist, but from my detached position I have tried to examine the whole problem from a humanitarian and common-sense point of view. It is evident to me, as it must be to all thinking people, that the manufacturer and exchange of goods constitute the preponderant influences in modern life. That is a false emphasis. Now, at last, we have an opportunity gradually to shift that emphasis by using labor-saving machinery for its ostensible purpose of saving labor. This will mean a reduction in the hours of toil for the great masses of people. The trend is already in that direction, as an emergency measure, and I am convinced that the pressure toward this end will outlast the emergency, for it is a logical result of the flowering of the mechanical age. This new orientation is by no means impossible. If I thought it were, I should lose my faith in humanity.

I'd have to say that her vision has not exactly come true. Instead of allowing workers to accomplish more in less time, most modern machinery is used to eliminate jobs, by allowing one person to do the work of two or three. Information technology, such as the PDA or the Cell Phone or the Laptop Computer, lets an individual be "at work" twenty four hours a day. So, perhaps our modern captains of industry could still benefit a bit from Hellen Keller's insight.

The Coming Election

Marty Jezer, writing at Commondreams, has posted an article about Governor Dean, and the elections next fall. He paints a somewhat desperate picture for the future, saying:

"A third party presidential challenge from the left would be reactionary and traitorous in the 2004 election. The Bush Administration and the ideas it represents must be decisively defeated. That won’t be easy. A terrorist attack, another jingoistic war in the Middle East or, as I suspect, a move against Cuba might set the administration’s terms for the election. On the other hand, Bush can no longer position himself as a moderate or a "compassionate conservative." And more states may be bankrupt and more government programs slashed even as the wealthiest Americans reap their tax cuts.

But the Republicans play to win. They plan to spend $200 million even before the campaign begins and will likely bury the Democrats in campaign fundraising. The Republicans have scheduled their convention for New York City in September 2004 in order to appropriate the memorial services for the victims of 9-11. This may backfire, of course. Liberal New Yorkers may not appreciate right-wing Republicans turning their tragedy into a campaign photo opportunity. But the administration was able to convince a majority of Americans that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11. It’s not inconceivable that they’ll convince that same majority that George W. Bush is Rudy Giuliani.

Isn't it great that we get to spend the next 18 months evaluating everything and everyone we come into contact with an eye to the 2004 election? You might think I'm joking, but I'm not.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

The First Amendment

I don't know if I've commented on this before, but the movie Bull Durham staring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins was to be shown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame President, Dale Petroskey, cancelled the appearance, for political reasons. He was concerned that Robbins and Sarandon would express their anti war views, and cause trouble. Strangely enough Costner's name hasn't come up much in this story.

Anyway Larry Elder, writing at Townhall, has weighed in on this issue. First of all he quotes Tim Robbins anti-war views, saying, "There's ultimately going to be a tragic loss in the amount of people dying from this horrible attack. . . . We're not getting our way there. But we have to be mature, and we have to realize that the world does not want us to do this. . . . I support free speech, and you can't have free speech . . . in a society or even in a club, if it's Hollywood, that is saying you can't talk. . . . That's not a free society. You have to allow it. Democracy's messy sometimes." Can you count the ellipses in that sentence? Makes me wonder what else Robbins said, but I suppose Elder cut it so as to get to the heart of Robbin's meaning. It's not like Elder would cut it to make Robbins look extra radical or extra dumb, would he?

Anyway getting back to Elder's main point which is this--the Baseball Hall of Fame is under no obligation to respect the First Amendment. "Hollywood's antiwar critics seem to want it both ways. They use their podium to espouse their leftist views, yet, when individuals and private organizations react negatively, they shout: "First Amendment"! No, Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon, the First Amendment prohibits governmental interference with political speech. It offers no immunity from criticism, indeed, revulsion by consumers of your movies or by organizations that extend you opportunities to speak."

You see, the nation is legally obligated to respect open and free debate and discussion, but as individuals or non governmental organizations or business, we are under no such obligation. Freedom of Speech is a mere legal technicality, not an American Principle.

With that in mind I'd like to announce the formation of the Make Me a Commentator!!! Goon Squad. I've hired about 15 guys who are loud and obnoxious and annoying. Any time anybody in my community dares to say something I don't like, my goon squad will be there in moments (utilizing the latest in van technology) to start yelling and causing a ruckus. In that way, I can ensure that people who do not agree with me are silenced. Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

No I'm just kidding of course. Some Conservatives (and some Liberals as well) might be comfortable denying that respect for others opinions and their right to express them is not an American value, but I'm not. I believe that to be an American is to appreciate that there are other people in this nation who are moral, hardworking, good citizens, and see things totally different than you do.

Of course I could be wrong.

More Foreign Policy

This is from William Safire, writing at the New York Times.

Then France appeared to have been struck by sweet reason. Instead of ending sanctions on a regime that no longer existed, France floated a proposal merely suspending sanctions until the Security Council decides that the new post-Saddam Iraq is not making weapons of mass destruction.

Some compromise. That neat trick is designed to force the U.S. into gaining the U.N. inspectors' approval before sanctions are ended. It would keep a heavy U.N. foot on Iraqi pipelines and keep France in the reconstruction contracts business. Suspension would put the emerging Iraq in a class with Libya, still suspended after its downing of Pan Am 103.

Fortunately, Colin Powell is not about to be sandbagged again. State spent yesterday preparing a U.N. resolution to decisively end, not merely suspend, economic sanctions on Iraq. If carefully crafted, it should contain language similar to that of the oil-for-food resolution. That would guarantee that proceeds from future oil sales held in trust for the interim Iraqi authority would be immune from attachment by previous claimants.

In plain language, that means that sales of Iraqi oil sold starting now would be for rebuilding the nation, and could not be snatched by France and Russia to pay Saddam's old arms debts. Chirac and Putin won't like that a bit. Would either of them veto the will of a Security Council majority and stand before the Arab world as greedy obstructionists? Let's see.

Well, Mr. Safire doesn't seem to be on the same page as Mr. Gingrich. Doesn't he realize that praising the State Department is currently taboo? But besides that, at a certain point we have to prove to the rest of the world that Iraq has destroyed its weapons of mass destruction. We can't pretend that because Iraq is in our hands, it's now trustworthy (unless we intend to keep Iraq in our hands, which I've been ensured we don't). So at some point we have to make sure that the rest of the world understands that they are safe from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Frankly the sooner the better--the longer we let this drag out, the more dopey it makes us look.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Hey Boy, Hey Girl

If you enjoy what you see here at Make me a Commentator, why not tell your friends? Then my counter will go up and I'll be happy. Just a thought.

Walter Williams on Capitalism

We might think of dollars as being "certificates of performance." The better I serve my fellow man, and the higher the value he places on that service, the more certificates of performance he gives me. The more certificates I earn, the greater my claim on the goods my fellow man produces. That's the morality of the market. In order for one to have a claim on what his fellow man produces, he must first serve him. From

That is the wonder of capitalism. The problem is that it assumes that all participants in the game are roughly equal or start from roughly equal positions. In the real world they don't. Williams also doesn't seem all that interested in those that cheat in order to get ahead. He doesn't answer the question of fraud. Let's say a CEO takes an enormous salary and runs his company into the ground; far from being financially punished, such a CEO is likely to receive several nice parting gifts (in the form of a Severance package).

So while I agree that capitalism is a moral system, it still requires a certain amount of watching to make it work properly.

Responses to Newt Gingrich

In a continuation of the article published last night, here are some other responses for your perusal.

Well, the President viewed the diplomatic process as a very important process that allowed for the military success to take place. And the process that the State Department followed and Secretary Powell led was the President's process. This is a process that the President decided on in his speech to the United Nations in September. And the fact of the matter is the State Department and Secretary Powell did an excellent job at ushering through that process. There were others who complicated the process in the Security Council. That in no way is reflective of the State Department or what the President thinks about the State Department or Secretary Powell's superb efforts.
Ari Fleischer, Press Briefing, April 22, 2003

Gingrich, like Richard Perle a member of the Defense Policy Board, is taking the occasion of a speech today at the American Enterprise Institute to launch the latest attack on Powell. The former speaker is a longtime advisor to Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense whose obvious desire is to seize complete control of the administration's foreign policy. Who needs a State Department or a Secretary of State if all diplomacy is to be conducted by gunboat?

It says something rather unflattering about the neocons that they have dispatched the unsavory Gingrich to carry their public agenda. After all, he is among the most renowned chicken hawks, and an Army brat to boot, who managed to avoid Vietnam while Powell served. His remarks today eerily echo Joe McCarthy's jihad against the State Department -- just substitute "commies" for "appeasers" -- and he even bears a disturbing physical resemblance to the Wisconsin demagogue. But then he always resembled McCarthy, going back to the "lexicon" he used to hand out to GOP congressional candidates, which urged them to accuse Democrats of "treason."

Joe Conason

Newt said that America "cannot lead the world with a broken instrument of diplomacy." One infobabe from USA Today sniveled that Gingrich should be honest that he was really attacking Secretary of State Powell and calling for President Bush to fire him. Newt laughed off this absurdity. He targeted the career, State Department culture that existed long before Secretary Powell took the job.
Rush Limbaugh

Even Mr. Santorum's old mentor, Newt Gingrich, felt emboldened to slither back on stage with a proposal to eviscerate the State Department.

After vowing to reshape the American character when he became speaker in '94, Mr. Gingrich ultimately faced ethics questions and criticism for having an extramarital affair with a young Congressional aide after pushing for Bill Clinton's impeachment over his extramarital affair with a young White House aide. He stepped down in '98.

The man who once depicted himself as an "Arouser of Those who Form Civilization" stepped back yesterday into a clash of civilizations between the Pentagon and the State Department. In remarks at the Temple of Triumphalism here (the American Enterprise Institute), Mr. Gingrich denounced Colin Powell's domain as a "broken bureaucracy of red tape and excuses" and demanded it be "transformed," like Rummy's.

He attacked Mr. Powell for announcing that he would visit (rather than bomb) Damascus and for the prewar failure of diplomacy with Turkey — conveniently ignoring the fact that it was the Pentagon hawk Paul Wolfowitz who had tried and failed to talk turkey with Turkey.

Maureen Dowd

I guess we'll see what happens next.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Bully Politics

America is a nation that is always standing at crossroads; those are the perils of living in a democratic society. Each day we have to decide what kind of America we want, and through our voices, help to push America in that direction.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke today at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. His speech was a straightforward attack on the Department of State, as led by Colin Powell. More than that, it was an attack on the notion of diplomacy in Modern America.

Diplomacy between two nations or individuals involves an assumption of equality on some level. For example an employer and an employee negotiate a salary based on fulfilling both of their needs. Even though the employer will be allowed to direct the employee after hired, the employer respects the employees right to seek the best possible job possible. Relations between nations are similar; we obviously can't argue that other nations are our equals economically or militarily, but each nation has an equal right to exist and to seek its own destiny (unless it becomes a threat to other nations).

Newt Gingrich and others in the Defense Department do not see the need to respect this equality. Instead, they envision a world in which the United States tells other nations what to do, and they either do it or suffer consequences. Call it the "Bully" principle of foreign affairs. Not only are we going to run the world to suit ourselves (as, to be frank, we largely already do), even the pretense that we respect other nations is over.

In fact, with Donald Rumsfeld's Department of Defense we may not even need a Department of State. Much of the evidence and rational for invading Syria has come from Secretary Rumsfeld, and just this week, the UK Telegraph revealed that the Department of Defense was pushing diplomatically for the removal of Kim Jong Il from North Korea.

One snag in our new policy, however. It turns out the rest of the world doesn't like being told what to do. We've already soured relations with much of Europe and the Middle East. Further belligerence towards Syria or North Korea will sour relations further. What we need here is more diplomacy, not less.

In the 1949, the United States "lost" China to Communism. Although China's fall was clearly due to internal forces, and beyond the control of any state department diplomat; the incident led to a cleansing of the State Department. We cleaned it out. And thus when Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson (and their cabinets) needed information and advice on Vietnam, there was nobody there. Will this new purge of "career" diplomats be any more successful?

This is a democracy, and if you don't want "bully" diplomacy to become the norm, now is the time to make your voices heard.

Your Weekly Rush

What with my exciting weekend plans (involving Monkeys, Coconuts, and a bottle of French's Mustard), I never got around to your weekly Rush--so here it is.

I guess it's not surprising that Rush Limbaugh has no use for Ancient Iraqi artifacts. He has no use for any culture, really. I mean he has no use for any Culture outside the United States, and, truth to tell, not much use for much of American Culture.

What drives me nuts is not that he doesn't care about other cultures. Everybody has different interests. Instead, what gets me is his disdain for those people, such as myself, who would go to a museum, who would enjoy travelling abroad, who value art and history and literature. People who enjoy those sorts of things are unreliable, in his experience, and therefore the enjoyment of those things must be disdained.

More Politics

"President Bush's advisers have drafted a re-election strategy built around staging the latest nominating convention in the party's history, allowing Mr. Bush to begin his formal campaign near the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and to enhance his fund-raising advantage, Republicans close to the White House say.

In addition, Mr. Bush's advisers say they are prepared to spend as much as $200 million — twice the amount of his first campaign — to finance television advertising and other campaign expenses through the primary season that leads up to the Republican convention in September 2004. That would be a record amount by a presidential candidate, and would be especially notable because Mr. Bush faces no serious opposition for his party's nomination.

The president is planning a sprint of a campaign that would start, at least officially, with his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, a speech now set for Sept. 2.

The convention, to be held in New York City, will be the latest since the Republican Party was founded in 1856, and Mr. Bush's advisers said they chose the date so the event would flow into the commemorations of the third anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The back-to-back events would complete the framework for a general election campaign that is being built around national security and Mr. Bush's role in combatting terrorism, Republicans said. Not incidentally, they said they hoped it would deprive the Democratic nominee of critical news coverage during the opening weeks of the general election campaign.

A lot of people are going to complain that holding the convention, in that place, at that time, is morally ambigious. And it is. But it might end up being a successful political ploy.


Interesting article by Matt Towry about Karl Rove. Apparently, there has been some criticism of President Bush's policy of keeping his closest political advisor in the white House. Matt Towry disputes such thinking, and speculates that the forthcoming election may require Rove's assistance.

He then concludes with this sentence, "Like him or not, Karl Rove -- in the storied tradition of Bobby Kennedy and Hamilton Jordan -- is good not only for the president he serves, but for the policies being put forth for consumption by the body politic."

You may not remember Hamilton Jordan--but he was an advisor to President Jimmy Carter, who in recent months has become the Rights favorite whipping boy. It's unusual that Rove would be compared to Jordan in a conservative article. Jordan's magic didn't ensure a second term for Carter, as I recall, nor were the policies he and President Carter the sorts of things that Conservatives find praiseworthy.

Nina Simone Part II

I described Nina Simone as a jazz singer last night, forgetting momentarily that she always hated being called a jazz singer. Having been classically trained, and singing a wide variety of songs, including folk standards, she felt being labelled a jazz singer sort of put her in her own little ghetto, and didn't acknowledge that she could compete with any vocalist.

A Simplification

Dennis Prager, seeking to simplify all our lives, made the following comment. "So the next time you see "artists for" or "artists against" some cause, without reading any further, you can pretty much bet your mortgage that whatever it is they are for or against, they are morally wrong."

Doesn't that make life easier? No need to listen to Martin Sheen or Janeane Garofalo or Charlton Heston or so on.

Oh wait a second, I've just been handed a correction. Apparently if an artist is expressing Conservative political views or positions, than that artist is morally correct, and can be trusted. Ah. So if an artist is expressing liberal views, he or she is 100% wrong, but if an artist expresses conservative views, he or she is trustworthy.

Isn't that simple?

Monday, April 21, 2003

Nina Simone

Nina Simone died today. She was a brilliant Jazz singer, who did things exactly the way she wanted to. I admired that about her. Here are the lyrics to a song she wrote in 1963.

Mississippi Goddam!
Nina Simone, 1963

The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can't you see it
Can't you feel it
It's all in the air
I can't stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasn't been written for it, yet

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day's gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don't belong here
I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer

Don't tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying "Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
Washing the windows
"do it slow"
Picking the cotton
"do it slow"
You're just plain rotten
"do it slow"
You're too damn lazy
"do it slow"
The thinking's crazy
"do it slow"
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don't know
I don't know

Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

I made you thought I was kiddin'

Picket lines
School boy cots
They try to say it's a communist plot
All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you'd stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You're all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying "Go slow!"
"Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Mass participation
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Do things gradually
"do it slow"
But bring more tragedy
"do it slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
I don't know
I don't know

You don't have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam.

That's It!

The song ran into distribution problems in the South.

Troubling Times

Well our occupation of Iraq might not be easy, accoding to Paul Kennedy.

"Will the American artificers of change do better in today's Middle East? Perhaps. But the odds are not good. Even if the United States manages to impose order in the next few weeks or months, it has embarked on a difficult and dangerous enterprise. The region is still criss-crossed with rivalries and blood feuds between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Conservative sheiks sit uneasily upon their precarious thrones. The Kurds and other minorities are bursting to get free. Hatred of Israel is intense, and constantly inflamed by the media and the clerics. The city streets are full of unemployed, restless young men, and the populations of the Muslim world are still soaring. Bringing "democracy" to the Middle East -- if that simply means one person, one vote -- could easily produce majority mistreatment of minorities. Anyone who has read the Arab Human Development Report put out last year by the U.N. Development Program can only be depressed by its unflinching account of undemocratic governance, corruption, economic failures and dire social needs. Were a British administrator from the 1920s restored to life, he would find things all too familiar."

It is right and proper to be aware of the problems rebuilding Iraq and to have a proper assessment of the effect our efforts may have on the rest of the Middle East. But I think it is also important to balance that with a view of what we want to accomplish. A free and liberated Iraq, functioning as a just democracy could change the trend of the middle east towards a future in which Democratic ideals and individual liberties coexist with the Muslim Faith. We may fail at this attempt, but it is worth trying.

The other question, is, at this point, what exactly are supposed to do? Get out and let the Kurds, the Shi'ite Muslims, and the Sunni Muslims get back to the business of bicking on each other?


Well, the United Nations has an embargo on Iraq, as we all know. The United States would like the embargo lifted so that Iraq can begin selling oil to the United States (and probably other countries too). Their argument is that the embargo was against Saddam Hussein's regime, and not against the Iraqi people. The U.N. may decide that the embargo is contingent on the removal of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Here's where the shell game comes in--Iraq claims not to have Weapons of Mass destruction, and the United States claims they do have them. Now that the war is over, we are begin asked to find the weapons and destroy them. Except we can't, apparently, because we can't find them. Now the New York Times has a piece on a captured Iraqi scientist, who claims that we won't find any weapons of mass destruction because Iraq destroyed them before the war. They buried some of the building blocks of their military program, and the military has apparently recovered those burials sites.

So we will have to see what comes next. William F. Buckley has a piece suggesting that if the UN doesn't want to be further delegitimized they had best play ball and let Iraq off the hook.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Good News

War may not be coming as soon as previously thought. According to AP reports, Syria is now turning away Iraqis without visas. Will that turn away the accusations of the United States? Only time will tell.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

A Zen Story

A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: "Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?"

"You have something very strange," replied Bankei. "Let me see what you have."

"Just now I cannot show it to you," replied the other.

"When can you show it to me?" asked Bankei.

"It arises unexpectedly," replied the student.

"Then," concluded Bankei, "it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Think that over."

Alternative Cartoons Part 9 - Keith Robinson

When I was growing up Keith Robinson printed a weekly strip in the Orange County Register (and probably other papers too, come to think of it.) It was consistently funny, although my Dad said that he didn't get it. I got it. His first collection of strips "Making It - A Survival Guide for Today" was one of the first comic strip books I bought (not counting Peanuts I picked up at garage sales and what not. And I still have it.

Here's one of the strips.

If you like the strip you might check out the creator's website and maybe buy something--anyway, hope you are having a nice Easter weekend.

Edited to add--I took out the full screen version of the strip, as it's been a few days, and I didn't like the way it made the website look.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Driving around at Lunch

As many of you know, I live in Florida. And so as I am driving around, listening to the radio, I am subjected occasionally to the following message, more or less.

"You know, here in Florida, things are home spun and folksy. And also we rely on Orange Juice. Money from the sale of Orange Juice does everything from pay taxes to make the sun come up in the morning. So if you want our state to be successful, you'd better drink Orange Juice, or else."

I wonder if other states have this? Are citizens in Wisconsin encouraged to eat cheese for the sake of the children? Or New Mexicans encouraged to fill their shopping carts with Salsa?

At any rate, although I have not drunk orange juice in many a year, I promise to go buy some orange juice and drink at least one glass of it.

By the way, does anybody know what cures scurvey?

In other news, drove past an office of the local tax collection authority with a sign in the window. "No Loitering." People who loiter near tax collection agencies sort of are their own reward.

What a Conservative Wants

Jonah Goldberg writing today tackles the issue of why Conservatives, who are supposed to abhor change, are willing to embrace it in the Middle East. I wasn't wondering this myself, but I suppose other may have been. Near the end of his paper, he states, " . . . I would dearly love if we could go back to the way this country was 50 or 100 years ago. Some changes have been for the better, of course. Ending Jim Crow, color TV, rising crust frozen pizzas, etc. But on the whole, I'd prefer this country to look a lot more like it used to. Indeed, I'd like to shrink the size of the federal government by, I dunno, half? Two-thirds?"

Yep, back to the good old days. 100 years ago, unions were illegal. Worker safety and environmentalism were not issues that concerned anybody with power. Corporations could largely do anything they wanted, and largely did. Some corporations had their own private police forces to keep order in the communities they lived in. Truly a Gilded Age for America's wealthy. But, if you are one of the millions of Americans who aren't already wealthy, maybe that's not the most idyllic time to be alive.

However, Mr. Goldberg's last two paragraphs are a bit more positive, particularly in his hops for the world.

"And I'd like to spend a small fraction of those savings on tearing down the crack houses of the world, which breed crime and misery, and replace them with sights worth seeing. I'd like to see democracy and prosperity in the Middle East, and a peaceful settlement between Palestinians and Israelis. I'd like to see a unified Korea, run from Seoul not Pyongyang. I would like to see Africa moving forward rather than slipping ever further behind. I'd like to see South America so prosperous that illegally immigrating into America would seem like a pointless and silly endeavor.

I'd like to see these things for two reasons, one conservative and one "liberal." The liberal side of me says that we are our brothers' keepers and we have some minimal obligation to liberate people from tyranny and needless misery. But, just as important, I am a conservative who believes the problems of the world will find their way here and mess up the home I dearly love if we don't do something about them.

The World Of Art

There have been and will be lots of stories about the looting and the loss of priceless artifacts in the Museums of Baghdad. McGuire Gibson, a Professor at the Oriental Instituted at the University of Chicago, described it this way to Salon, "It's catastrophic. It's a lot like a lobotomy. The deep memory of an entire culture, a culture that has continued for thousands of years, has been removed. There was 5,000 years of written records, even Egyptian records don't go back that far. It's an incredible crime."

What interests me is how the right is willing to completely turn a blind eye to this tragedy, and seem annoyed that anybody would complain about it. It would be one thing if they said "Well this is a terrible tragedy, but that's what happens in a war." And to be fair, some are saying that. But some seem to think that this story is a media fabrication or something. Even bringing it up as a concern or an issue is proof that you don't love Ameirca.

But then again, what else is new.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Another Top Ten

Here is another Top Ten list, for those of you playing along at home.

My Top Ten Favorite Beatles Songs (as of this moment).

10 - You Never Gave me Your Money
9 - She Said, She Said
8 - Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey
7 - For No One
6 - Julia
5 - Any Time At All
4 - Strawberry Fields Forever
3 - Two Of Us
2 - Rain
1 - Ticket to Ride

Worrying Too Much

I bring lunch to the office here and eat sometimes. Because this is work and not home, I generally use a plastic fork, as they are cheaper and disposable (hey, I love my planet, ok. I'm just lazy). Anyway, sometimes as I'm taking my plastic fork and jamming it into my stir-fry or whatever, and bring it to my mouth, I find myself thinking, "hmmmmm I wonder what would happen if my food was so incredibly hot that it melted my fork and I jammed it into my mouth and got a mouth full of melted plastic. I don't think I'd like that."

That's why it's best to watch TV while you eat--makes it harder to think.

The Reason


No Politics Day

No Politics Day

I'm sorry, but unless something amazing happens today, I'm not going to comment on politics. I'm already annoyed with my day, and nothing I read annoyed me enough to want to comment on it.

So instead I'm going to write about other things. Here's my list of my top ten favorite Electronica Songs, as of this moment.

10. Apollo Four Forty - "Crazee House"
9. New Order (w/ Chemical Brothers) - "Here To Stay (Full Length Vocal)"
8. Mint Royale (w/ Pos from De La Soul) - "Show Me"
7. BT - "The Revolution"
6. Moby - "Body Rock (Rae & Christian Remix)"
5. Groove Armada - "Easy"
4. Underworld - "Shudder/King of Snake"
3. Chemical Brothers (w/ Richard Ashcroft) - "The Test"
2. DJ Me DJ You - "Because (DJ Swamp Mix)"
1. Fatboy Slim - "Demons (Stanton Warriors Mix)"

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

New Quote

New Quote up at the top of the page--one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands. Enjoy!


Well, Thomas L. Friedman, writing today at the New York Times, suggests that maybe Syria isn't a lock. He argues that since we have no legal basis for invading Syria, we aren't going to do it. That might be a bit naive, but I'll admit that I hope he's right.

He favors an approach he calls "Aggressive Engagement." That means getting in Syria's face every day. Reminding the world of its 27-year occupation of Lebanon and how much it has held that country back, and reminding the Syrian people of how much they've been deprived of a better future by their own thuggish regime.

This seems like a valid approach, as it is less likely to enflame Iraq and the rest of the Muslim World. But others, such as Mona Charen, are suggesting that Syria faces an ultimatum now. And we all know how ultimatums from the US work.

Walter Williams

Well Walter Williams, for some reason, really really doesn't want to touch the war. As near as I can remember, he hasn't touched it once. However, he's still got his favorite cause to keep him interested. And that cause is the government taking money away from you and giving it to poor slobs who don't deserve it. While discussing the morality of this situation, Williams comes up with this interesting statement, "How about all the government programs that account for at least two-thirds of federal spending, such as: aid to higher education, Medicare, food stamps, welfare or farm subsidies? Are they moral?"

Hmmmmmm. Two thirds of federal Spending? That sounds like a lot.

Well, lets take those five categories he suggests and graph them and see what that looks like. Do we get close to Williams' two-thirds?

Hmmmm, that's not very close, it seems to me. Now I am using 2001 data, because that appears to be the most recent year for which we have firm numbers. I got my information from Office of Budget and Management's website. Of course there isn't a budget category marked "Welfare," so I used the Unemployment Compensation and Other Income Supported programs under Emergancy Response Fund, which seemed to fit the bill for "Welfare."

Of course the missing piece could be Social Security. I mean that is a huge chunk of the budget, and I'm surprised that Williams didn't mention that in his initial 5. But then again, I'm not surprised. Social Security is a very popular program, precisely because it isn't technically a means of giving money to lazy bums. You put money in and then when you retire you get money out. It's a big harder for Williams to demonize that program in the same way he demonizes Farmers. So lets see what the graph looks like with Social Security in.

Still not even close to two thirds. Oh well, perhaps we'll never know exactly what Williams meant, except that he wants the government to fold it's tents and get out of dodge and so on and so forth.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Picture Time

Some of you are no doubt wondering what the main author of this website looks like. Well, due to certain obscurities in the American Food and Parcel Act of 1872 we are unable to post a current picture of the author at this time. However, we do have this nicely rendered conception of what the narrator may have looked like when he was about 20. Enjoy.

Tax Day

Well here in the United States, it's Tax Day. Many people across the United States are upset at the amount of money they have to give the government in return for such services as liberating the people of Iraq or being able to eat a hot dog in relative safety. Rest assured, Congress is working quickly to cut programs and benefits in order to provide tax cuts for those who desire them.

One area that Congress has decided, in its wisdom, to cut is Veterans Benefits. Paul Krugman, who I like more and more with each article he writes, puts it this way; "As the war began, members of the House of Representatives gave speech after speech praising our soldiers, and passed a resolution declaring their support for the troops. Then they voted to slash veterans' benefits.

Some of us have long predicted that the drive to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy would lead to a fiscal dance of the seven veils. One at a time, the pretenses would be dropped — the pretense that big tax cuts wouldn't preclude new programs like prescription-drug insurance, the pretense that the budget would remain in surplus, the pretense that spending could be cut painlessly by eliminating waste and fraud, the pretense that spending cuts wouldn't hurt the middle class.

There are still several veils to remove before the true face of "compassionate conservatism" is revealed, but we're getting there.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) received a letter from one of his constituents that perhaps puts it even better.

Rep. Jim Kolbe

April 14, 2003

Sir, I have been reading many articles that suggest that the upcoming budget proposed by this administration will, aside from providing tax relief for the upper class, also cut veterans benefits. As an unemployed disabled veteran who depends on the services from the VA just to survive I am deeply troubled by what I am hearing. Today Pres. Bush was lauding the accomplishments of the military and the sacrifices made. If this budget is implemented and VA services are cut, is that the support and gratitude the President was talking about?

Tucson , AZ

Something to consider in the middle of complaining about Taxes.

Baldr is not a Norse God that gets much attention these days. Baldr was a God of goodness and light and so on. He had a dream that he would die, and so his mother went to all things on the earth and extracted from them a promise that they would not hurt her son. All things agreed, save one. The Mistletoe made no promise, as he was not asked, being so small and forgettable.

Thus Baldr was immune to all things and it pleased the Gods to test his invulnerability by throwing things at him. Loki, trickster god, found Baldr's blind brother, Hod, and asked him why he wasn't throwing things at Baldr. Hod said that he was blind. And so Loki placed in his hands a sprig of mistletoe and pointed him in the right direction, and thus Hod slew his brother, though blameless.

Odin sent one of his sons to Hel, keeper of the spirits of the dead, to petition her to return Baldr to the Gods. And we pick up the story from the Prose Eddas (Jean Young Translation).

In the moming he asked Hel if Baldr might ride home with him, telling her how much the gods were weeping. Hel said, however, that this test should be made as to whether Baldr was loved as much as people said. "If everything in the world, both dead or alive, weeps for him, then he shall go back to the Aesir, but he shall remain with Hel if anyone objects or will not weep." . . .

'Thereupon the Aesir sent messengers throughout the whole world to ask for Baldr to be wept out of Hel; and everything did that - men and beasts, and the earth, and the stones and trees and all metals - just as you will have seen these things weeping when they come out of frost and into the warmth. When the messengers were coming home, having made a good job of their errand, they met with a giantess sitting in a cave; she gave her name as Thökk. They asked her to weep Baldr out of Hel. She answered:

Thökk will weep dry tears
at Baldr's embarkation; the old fellow's son
was no use to me alive or dead, let Hel hold what she has.

We see a reflection of Hel's request in the current Conservative "wisdom" regarding the most effective way to bring peace. Hel demanded all things weep for Baldr; conservatives demand that all strive for war. Only by showing total unity can dictators be deterred. Says Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., ". . . they should learn a signal lesson from the now-nearly-accomplished liberation of Iraq: War is more likely to be made unnecessary if would-be critics support the President, than by their opposing him."

Thus if we want peace, we must support war, each and every one of us.

Gaffney says this as the Administration is apparently considering an invasion of Syria, and he paints a happy picture of us liberating Syria and Lebanon, if we get to invade Syria. So maybe avoiding the war is not something he's 100% behind.

Monday, April 14, 2003


There's a new article by Howard Zinn today at Commondreams, reprinted from Newsday. Howard Zinn won't be celebrating the end of this war. He will presumably be satisfied that the killing has stopped, but as this war was not entered into for moral reasons, it cannot end happily. He calls for a new kind of patriotism, that would enable us to avoid the horrors of war.

"Should we not begin to consider all children, everywhere, as our own? In that case, war, which in our time is always an assault on children, would be unacceptable as a solution to the problems of the world. Human ingenuity would have to search for other ways."

While I understand Zinn's consternation with how we arrived at this point, one wonders why he fails to take into account those children who have and who would have grown up under Saddam's brutal regime. While I in now way want to minimize the potential problems facing the US, I don't think it's quite that easy to ignore pictures of cheering Iraqis.

The Education Front

Might not be necessary to have the Department of Defense take over the American Educational system after all. Apparently the little tykes are learning to love their country after all, at least according to Suzanne Fields, who writes;

But even before 9/11, American kids were declaring new attitudes of patriotism. In a survey of 2,911 ninth graders, fully 91 percent said they were proud of the United States; 85 percent they had "great love for the flag." The survey, by the International Association for the Evaluation of International Achievement showed no significant differences in race, sex or family incomes.

So maybe there is hope for the American Education System after all. Ms. Fields does encourage a closer reading, on the part of our youth, of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers.

Continuing Questions

Good article by Michael Kelly on the continuing questions of the war. Here we are at victory in the military struggle, where few on either side of this issue doubted we'd be. And now we need to decide what victory means. What victory will look like for us and for the Iraqi People.

What is an honest opponent of a war supposed to do? Since even the end of this war won’t settle most of the important arguments about it, dropping all opposition at the beginning of the war would surely be more intellectually suspicious than maintaining your doubts while sincerely hoping for victory. Inevitably, more than one supporter of this war has taunted its opponents with Orwell’s famous observation in 1942 that pacifists—the few who opposed a military response to Hitler—were “objectively pro-fascist.” The suggestion is that opposing this war makes you objectively pro-Saddam. In an oddly less famous passage two years later, Orwell recanted that “objectively” formula and called it “dishonest.” Which it is.

The psychological challenge of opposing a war like this after it has started isn’t supporting the American troops, but hoping to be proven wrong. That, though, is the burden of pessimism on all subjects. As a skeptic, at the least, about Gulf War II, I do hope to be proven wrong. But it hasn’t happened yet.

In other news there was a positive article at MSNBC discussing Iraqis and US starting to do Joint patrols to get a handle on the looting, and a scary article underlining that Syria is probably next on the chopping block.

A Clarification

I would like to make two clarifying points on my piece about Nazism, posted on Friday.

It has been pointed out to me that in strictly economic and organizational terms, the Nazis are closer to both the Communists and many Liberals. And I concede this point--analyzed with those strict measurements, it is undoubtedly correct to say that Nazis are closer to Liberals than Conservatives.

I don't, however, think analyzing this issue strictly on Economic and Organizational grounds works as a classifying technique, as it cuts out social and cultural issues. Social and cultural issues are often those issues that motivate a movement far more than Economic and Organizational issues. Hitler didn't come to power promising "If elected I am going to oppress the hell out of you and take complete control of the economic system." He came to power saying "Together we can create a strong unified patriotic Germany, that keeps out foreign and Marxist influences."

Secondly I'd like to clarify the purpose of this post.

There are those on the Left who apparently believe and certainly say that if President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Frist and, in general, the mainstream American Conservative Movement are given their way they will install a brutal Fascist dictatorship in the Style of Adolf Hitler.

There are those on the Right who apparently believe and certainly say that if Tom Daschele, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and the mainstream American Liberal Movement are given their way they will install a brutal communist dictatorship in the style of Josef Stalin.

Make me a Commentator!!! forcefully condemns both lines of thinking and argument. It is the opinion of Make me a Commentator that both mainstream movements want to see a strong and productive Capitalist and Democratic America that works for all its citizens.

My original post was to correct what I felt and still feel was a historical misinterpretation. My original training was in history and this is an area of some interest to me. I did not and do not intend that this information should be used to smear the modern Conservative movement.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Conservativism Triumphant

Well you have Liberals apologizing.

Paul Wolfowitz thought U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. I did not. His prediction in this case, was correct. I was wrong. (And not for the last time, I’m guessing.)

I hope Mr. Wolfowitz has equally good luck in the rest of his predictions since they seem to be driving U.S. foreign policy right now. I’d be amazed, and the consequences of his being wrong will likely be catastrophic for this country, but as I said, I’ve been wrong before. And as far as the Iraqi liberation goes, I’m extremely pleased to be wrong this time, at least in the short run. And if the Bush Administration’s past history is any guide, the short run is just about all the Iraqis can expect to enjoy.

Eric Alterman

And you have Conservatives crowing.

I want to rub it in the anti-war crowd's face so badly. I want to hear the protesters explain why it's a bad thing we released more than 100 children from an Iraqi gulag for underage political prisoners. I want them to talk about how they were fighting for the Iraqi people as the Iraqi people hug and kiss the American forces in Baghdad and greet the human shields with signs reading "Go Home You Wankers." I want them to explain why it wasn't worth it.
Jonah Goldberg

So it's a nice week to be a conservative. But of course the real question is (and always is, I suppose) now what? Most of the more reasoned arguments against the war dealt with this what's ahead of us, not what we have done. Some predicted that the war would be harder than it was; more predicted the war would be quick, although perhaps a bit more bloody. But the real question is now, what are we going to do to keep our promises to the Iraqi people? Are we going to take the time and the effort required to help them, or are we going to make a half hearted effort and then disappear? I hope it is the former; I believe it will be. But we need to keep pressure on the white house to make this happen.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Your Weekly Rush – History Moment.

I am considering starting a new feature here at Make me a Commentator!!! As some of you know, my original training is in history, and it’s still a passion of mine. It also occurs to me that many commentators speak about history without saying anything correct or meaningful. So perhaps, every so often, I’ll help set the record straight.

One thing Mr. Rush Limbaugh has said was that the Nazi movement was a liberal movement. Mostly he said this around the time of Germany’s statements against invading Iraq, which was, I admit, a while ago.

His argument was that the official name of the Nazis was the National Socialist Workers Party. So right there you see that it has socialism right in the title. And the name mentions workers as well, and as we all know, Conservatives are incapable of caring about the welfare of workers (for those who don’t know, that was a combination of sarcasm and telling commentary. Why does being for the workers make you a Liberal?).

Obviously this argument is refuted by an old analogy: if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and you call it a Socialist, well, it just might be a duck, but don’t tell anybody. The name proves very little.

The other argument revolves around the mobilization of the German economy for the war effort. Of course, we did the same thing here in the United States, but FDR did it, so maybe it was socialist.

So if I’m going to tell you that Nazism/Fascism was an extreme form of conservatism, what do I mean by conservative? I discussed this in a post down the page, entitled Conservatives Doom, Conservatives Triumph, in which was proposed two faces of Conservatism, the Libertarian and Traditionalist.

Now returning to our original subject—can the Nazis/Fascists be said to be Libertarian Conservatives? No. Personal liberties were totally irrevellent to them. What was important was the health of the state, whether it was Germany or Italy.

But can the Nazis/Fascists fit as (much more extreme) Traditionalist Conservatives? I would argue yes.

“The National Socialist movement of what was then the Worker’s Party adopted as its first principle the realization that the Marxist movement was to be fought to the end; second, the realization that the revolution as a consequence of Marxism and of an unprecedented criminal act, was not a matter of the German Bourgeoisie becoming national once more; the problem is that the German people, the broad masses, must be made national again. This means not just a pure, I mean passive, return to nationalism, but an active fight against those who have ruined it till now.”
Adolf Hitler

Note the focus on building a specifically German unity. One of the strikes against Marxism was it’s international flavor—Communism of almost any form asks a nation to abandon it’s separate culture and ideals in favor of a unity along class lines. One can also look at the Programme of NSDAP. This was a program presented on February 24, 1920 and was accepted by the party. Note these provisions:

8. All non-German immigration must be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans who entered Germany after 2 August 1914 shall be required to leave the Reich forthwith.

20. The State must consider a thorough reconstruction of our national system of education (with the aim of opening up to every able and hard-working German the possibility of higher education and of thus obtaining advancement). The curricula of all educational establishments must be brought into line with the requirements of practical life. The aim of the school must be to give the pupil, beginning with the first sign of intelligence, a grasp of the nation of the State (through the study of civic affairs). We demand the education of gifted children of poor parents, whatever their class or occupation, at the expense of the State.

24. We demand freedom for all religious denominations in the State, provided they do not threaten its existence not offend the moral feelings of the German race.

There are also planks related to the press, the importance of a strong military, and hints of the Nazi Economic program. The economic program is important, because it is one of the more common points used to indicate that Nazism was socialist. It was not. While some of the actions were similar (i.e. the management of some German industry was transferred to governmental control), the justifications were quite different.

“We therefore demand in the economy a soldierly conduct within and without. For, if the leader of a business runs it without regard to the economic independence of the nation, but only with a view to the highest possible profits, it will inevitably destroy the social peace within his company. His employees will be bound to adopt the same attitude . . .”
Werner Daitz

This economic plan rejects any sort of internationalism. It is also minimizes the possible uplift of the German workers, except in the sense that as the German people defeat their enemies all German’s will profit. But it is the life of the state as a whole that comes first, not any individual class or group.

In closing, I do want to make it clear that I do not believe that traditionalist conservatives are somehow equivalent to Nazis, any more than I believe those on the left are the equivalent of Stalinists. They have some things in common, to be sure, but American traditionalists have not, and, I believe, will not be willing to abandon the principals of Freedom of Expression or Freedom of Thought, which ideas form the backbone of what it means to be America.

Thursday, April 10, 2003


Well, in the wake of Victory in Iraq day, we turn to what's next. As you might expect, and as I've referenced before. William Safire paints a very hopeful scenario in his column at the Times today, saying, "If Iraqis are able to adopt a system of free enterprise and representative government, they will become the center of an arc of freedom from Turkey in the north to Israel in the south (with Lebanon freed from Syrian occupation, if France will liberate the state it created). Egypt, the largest Arab nation, could not long resist such a tidal wave of liberty."

I hope he's correct. One problem with conservative triumphalism, is that some are painting the most elaborate scenarios for the future, and any criticism of those scenarios is responded to by, "Wait a minute, that's the same kind of thing you were saying before we invaded Iraq." There are real problems that will have to be solved in setting Iraq on the road to freedom, and it's a lot easier and more telegenic to invade a country than to occupy it and help it move towards freedom.

Great News!!!

Ann Coulter has revealed some great news in her latest column. "Liberals are no longer a threat to the nation. The new media have defeated them with free speech – the very freedom these fifth columnists hide behind whenever their speech gets them in hot water with the American people. Today, the truth is instantly available on the Internet, talk radio and Fox News Channel." She goes on to reveal that the retraction of the Dixie Chicks attack on Bush, the booing of Pearl Jam, the firing of Peter Arnett, and the attacks on De Genova make it clear that the people can get the information they need to combat the liberal media.

Do you realize what this means? No longer do conservatives get to whine an complain about the evil liberal media that keeps people in a stupor. Now the information is out there available to all. So, either conservatism will quickly triumph, crushing liberalism once and for all, or, maybe, just maybe, liberalism's control over the media wasn't as complete as conservatives have been saying.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

The New Cabinet

Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (of the Ohio 10th) has introduced legislation mandating the creation of a Department of Peace, co-equal to the departments of Defense and Education and so on. In a press release, Captain Groovy, I mean Congressman Kucinich, stated "The Department of Peace would serve to promote non-violence as an organizing principle in our society, and help to create the conditions for a more peaceful world."

In a related story, Bryant Gries, Editor at Large for Make me a Commentator!!! proposed the creation of a Department of Commentary, co-equal to the Departments of Funk and Commerce and so on. Bryant stated, "The Department of Commentary would serve to promote snide commentary as an organizing principle in our society, help to create the conditions for a more prosperous bank account."

What's Next?

Well by now I hope we've all seen pictures of cheering Iraqis in Baghdad. We don't know if Saddam is dead or not, but either way his reign is over. So we can look for several weeks of Conservative Triumphalism, and we can look forward to what comes next in Iraq.

Thomas L. Friedman, commenting at the New York Times, stated, "We are so caught up with our own story of "America's liberation of Iraq," and the Arab TV networks are so caught up with their own story of "America's occupation of Iraq," that everyone seems to have lost sight of the real lives of Iraqis.

"We are lost," said Zakiya Jassim, a hospital maintenance worker. "The situation is getting worse. I don't care about Saddam. He is far away. I want my country to be normal."

America broke Iraq; now America owns Iraq, and it owns the primary responsibility for normalizing it. If the water doesn't flow, if the food doesn't arrive, if the rains don't come and if the sun doesn't shine, it's now America's fault. We'd better get used to it, we'd better make things right, we'd better do it soon, and we'd better get all the help we can get.

The next couple of weeks will determine if we are liberators or conquerors. I pray that we will turn out to be the former.

A Scientific Experiment

Pick up a Newspaper. I use the Wall Street Journal, largely because I get it for free. Look at the headlines. Don't bother reading any of the stories (although you can look at the pictures if you want to). Then say, in a loud and authoritative voice, "Idiots." ("Morons" works as well).

See how much better you feel?

President Bush

There is an interesting article at Salon today, explaining, in a thumbnail sketch, some of the background to the rights desire to pursue this war. It is interesting and certainly relevant but it does suggest, as many others have suggested that President George W. Bush is a puppet. "The neocons took advantage of Bush's ignorance and inexperience. Unlike his father, a Second World War veteran who had been ambassador to China, director of the CIA, and vice president, George W was a thinly educated playboy who had failed repeatedly in business before becoming the governor of Texas, a largely ceremonial position (the state's lieutenant governor has more power)."

I'm not sure this is a fair assessment. President Bush also has Colin Powell, who he listens to and meets with on a regular basis. Most give Powell the credit for pushing Bush to go through the UN. And President Bush's insistence on tying humanitarian efforts with our military operations is not a neocon idea.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Blame the Victim

This is the subject of a new article at Commondreams. Apparently Ira Chernus is upset that the American Media does not portray the American army as vicious predators, seeking to destroy Iraq. There is a stench of dishonesty in Chernus's writing. He equates American actions, designed to minimize civilian casualties with Iraqi casualties designed to maximize civilian casualties. He also assumes that Iraqi citizens are better off living under Saddam Hussein than under whatever emerges from this action.

I can't agree with either assessment. While I disagree with many of the steps that have brought us to this current war, we are in it now. We are fighting to minimize civilian casualties, and while there will be stumblings towards a free Iraq, it is every American's duty to see that we do not falter or give up along the way.


I posted too soon on an issue this morning. Apparently President Bush has clarified his remarks to make sure the UN understands how insignificant it is. So that's nice.

On the Positive Side

I liked this article by Paul Krugman on Senator Kerry's comments from last week.

In 1944, millions of Americans were engaged in desperate battles across the world. Nonetheless, a normal presidential election was held, and the opposition didn't pull its punches: Thomas Dewey, the Republican candidate, campaigned on the theme that Franklin Roosevelt was a "tired old man." As far as I've been able to ascertain, the Roosevelt administration didn't accuse Dewey of hurting morale by questioning the president's competence. After all, democracy — including the right to criticize — was what we were fighting for.

It's not a slur on the courage of our troops, or a belittling of the risks they face, to say that our current war is a mere skirmish by comparison. Yet self-styled patriots are trying to impose constraints on political speech never contemplated during World War II, accusing anyone who criticizes the president of undermining the war effort.

Along the same lines, why does the right have so little faith in our armed forces? Do they genuinely believe that any criticism of the President is going to make them lose heart? Aren't our soldiers made of sterner stuff? I believe they are.

Government put on New Footing

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. has a bone to pick with much of the world. You see instead of standing firmly behind the President's plan to blow the hell out of Iraq, much of the world stood against that plan. So now that the time has come (well, is coming relatively soon) for Iraq to be divvied up, well, Gaffney would like to see it run by that part of the government most loyal to the president, the Department of Defense.

He states, "There will, of course, be room for UN organizations to help with humanitarian relief, medical assistance, food distribution, etc., just as there will be appropriate advisory roles for State Department specialists and experts drawn from other U.S. agencies. But the authority for making the proverbial trains run on time and the wherewithal for doing so should be reposed in the one organization that has demonstrated the ability to get done the job assigned it by the President: the Department of Defense."

And it's about time. But why stop there? What did the Department of Education do to prosecute the war? Nothing. In fact there were reports of literally hundreds of teachers attacking the war from the classroom. Oh wait a second, instead of hundreds I should have written a half dozen. At any rate, it's time to teach those nogoodnik teachers a lesson by placing America's entire educational system under the Department of Defense.

And consider this chilling fact. All through this war, those Anti War protestors have been using America's highway system to drive to and from their protests. Potential terrorists could be using our highway transportation system right now! What has the Department of Transportation done? Nothing. So obviously we should bring the Department of Transportation under Department of Defense control as well.

After all, if the Department of Defense is good at one thing, they must naturally be good at other things.

Ooops. Looks like President Bush might not be on the same page as Mr. Gaffney. President Bush stated, ``Rebuilding of Iraq will require the support and expertise of the international community. We are committed to working with international institutions, including the United Nations, which will have a vital role to play in this task."

Monday, April 07, 2003

Conservatives Doom; Conservatives Triumph

Well, it looks like this war is largely over--although I would be surprised if there wasn't a bit of fierce fighting ahead. Also, according to many conservatives, this quick and relatively painless war has proven Liberalism wrong for all time. So in short order, you can look to see Conservatism being the only political philosophy around.

I can’t claim to be any great theoretician on the subject, but I have made certain observations. There seem to be two main branches of conservatism, what I will call Libertarian Conservatism and Traditionalist Conservatism.

Libertarian Conservatives are primarily concerned with the size of the government—they want it to be a lot smaller. Depending on how far they want to go, they would like to see government get completely out of the Welfare, the Retirement, the Housing, the Environment, and the Education business. They obviously want to see taxes slashed greatly, and they oppose government regulation, particularly in the corporate arena. In short they want government to focus on maximizing personal freedom (which generally means shrinking government). Libertarians are often indifferent to social issues, believing that the inability of the government to "legislate morality" renders such debate irrelevent. That said, some libertarians, on the basis of maximizing personal freedom, do support legalized marijuana or legalized prostitution.

I’ve often labeled Traditionalist Conservatives as Religious Conservatives, but recently released that that is inaccurate (as it is entirely possible to have a preference for tradition while not following any God). The Traditionalist' key concern is with preserving his or her interpretation of American Identity and Culture. Many are concerned with the preservation of American symbols, such as the Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. Many Traditionalists support a strong military, seeing it both as a protection of the American way of life and as a symbol for what is best in our culture.

Another way of preserving a traditional American culture is through cutting off our borders, keeping out those who do not share our values and ideals. It should be said that many traditionalists have a fairly restrictive view of what an American is.

Of course, the largest subset of traditionalist conservatives are religiously motivated. They want to see traditional and generally religious standards upheld. The two most obvious areas of religious influence are in the Abortion debate and the Gay Rights debate, but it also plays into the continual attacks on Hollywood for corrupting our youth (Interesting how Madison Avenue, which is probably a bit more effective at corrupting our youth, generally gets the pass.).

The abundance of secret conspiracy theories is also, in my mind, a reflection of Traditionalist interests. You see, many Americans pay little more than lip service to their concerns, particularly when it comes to Hollywood. Why is that? Since they believe in a true American spirit that should exist among the American people, they have conjured up in their mind a sort of apocalyptic scenario. The Liberals completely control our education system, and our media system, and our entertainment system. Despite clear Republican control over all branches of Government, an abundance of some traditionalists still feel besieged. And this besiegement justifies their tactics.

Now let me be clear. Not all Conservatives fit neatly into these two categories. Most have a bit of Traditionalist and a bit of Libertarian ideas in them. It helps that for the most part the Libertarian and the Traditionalist focus on different areas of debate.

But now that Liberalism has been vanquished, the Libertarian and Traditionalist forces within the Conservative Movement may start to pull in different directions. The Traditionalist feels more comfortable with FBI scrutiny into Citizen's private lives, assuming that the innocent have nothing to hide, while the Libertarian will resist (and, indeed, has already begun resisting) such encroachments into their lives. It will be interesting to see what happens.

That is assuming that Liberalism is gone for good.

Keep in mind the distinction between Libertarian and Traditionalist Conservative; we will be revisiting them soon.

Trouble Ahead

Robert Novak has begun the delicate task of telling us why we fear Iraq isn't really why we fear Iraq. Those Weapons of Mass Destruction may not materialize, and if they do, may not be as awe inspiring as they could be. Novak reminds us that our "real" reason for invading Iraq had nothing to do with Weapons of Mass Destruction.

"The real reason for attacking the Iraqi regime always has been disconnected from its public rationale. On the day after the U.S. launched the military strike that quickly liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, my column identified Iraq as the second target in President Bush's war against terrorism. I did not write one word about weapons of mass destruction because not one such word was mentioned to me in many interviews with Bush policymakers.

The subsequent debate over WMD ensued when Secretary of State Colin Powell, over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's objections, talked the president into seeking United Nations sanction for military action.

Ah, you see? It all turns out to be the UN's fault after all, ably assisted by Colin Powell (who, after enjoying warm feelings from conservatives for a brief period of time, will shortly move back to their disapproved of list). The UN wouldn't buy the terrorist connection, so the US had to go after Weapons of Mass Destruction. Of course what that says to me is that President Bush had even less of a chance proving that Iraq had terrorist connections than they did proving that they had weapons of mass destruction.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

New Quote

New quote for the weekend. Your Weekly Rush is coming, and it will be very long this week. And historical. So get ready. Clear your schedule.

For those interested in Mogadishu

Just realized something. I am getting a lot of hits lately. A lot of people looking up information on Nicholas De Genova's comments last week are spelling Mogadishu as Mogodishu. Coincidentally, I misspelled Mogadishu at this website as well, typing it in as Mogodishu. So if you punch in Mogodishu into Google, my site pops right up.

So I'm a dope, but it is helping out my hits. I wonder what other stupid things I could do to get more readers.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Good Commentary

I know today I'm sort of being more of a praiser than a ripper, but there is an interesting commentary at the Daily Kos, that brought something to my attention that hadn't been there before.
I've been watching, increasingly disturbingly, how Donald Rumsfeld keeps making foreign policy pronouncements: Syria's next, Iran better watch it, we'll only accept an unconditional surrender.

Excuse me, but isn't that the President's job? Rumsfeld is detested outside of the US. Even the Brits can't stand him, but every day he's making decisions I had foolishly been taught was the President's domain. Now, I'm not a political scientist, I studied history in college, but I can't for the life of me remember any Secretary of War or Defense who ever made such statements while the President was, oh, alive.

I didn't know that all treatymaking and warmaking authority was in the hands of the Secretary of Defense.

Well worth checking out.

Debate in a Time of War

Interesting article from Joan Walsh at Salon today, about the balance between wishing for an early victory and wishing that the "Cakewalk Conservatives" get their comeuppance. Of course any comeuppance would actually cost the lives of American Soldiers, so you can't wish for that. But the democrats could start fulfilling their role as the opposition party again.

"Yes, Rep. Dennis Kucinich has called for an end to the bombing, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have demonstrated against the war. But most leading Democrats have muzzled themselves. When Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle noted, accurately, on the eve of the war that the conflict was a result of President Bush having "failed so miserably at diplomacy," Republicans savaged him. Attack dog Tom DeLay told him to shut up in French (labeling war critics "French" is the slur du jour), and Daschle basically did. The day after the first attacks on Baghdad, House Democratic leader and war critic Nancy Pelosi shocked her San Francisco district by voting in favor of a resolution that expressed "unequivocal support and appreciation" for the way Bush handled the war and its buildup."

There is a spirit of triumphalism in conservatism that isn't going to go away by ignoring it. After the war and even now, Conservatives are trying to ensure that America remembers Democratic opposition to the war (largely rhetorical, in fact), and forgets that when it comes to voting, Democrats supported this war. Hence you see David Horowitz writing an article entitled, "The War Has Refuted The Opposition." Mainstream Liberals aren't gaining much by being quiet. Instead they are allowing fringe elements (such as Nicholas De Genova) to define liberalism. I don't expect that they will; it seems pretty clear that they've settled on a tactic of not responding to the war. Which is unfortunate.

Thursday, April 03, 2003


Sedition - \Se*di"tion\, n. [OE. sedicioun, OF. sedition, F. s['e]dition, fr. L. seditio, originally, a going aside; hence, an insurrectionary separation; pref. se-, sed-, aside + itio a going, fr. ire, itum, to go. Cf. Issue.] 1. The raising of commotion in a state, not amounting to insurrection; conduct tending to treason, but without an overt act; excitement of discontent against the government, or of resistance to lawful authority.
- Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Ann Coulter's latest article uses the term Sedition pretty easily. Now, we all know that Ms. Coulter is a propagandist not a reporter. She isn't naturally going to be held to the same standards that one might hold others too. Most of her column focused on Peter Arnett, a dream come true for Conservative columnists. What he did by appearing on Iraqi TV and saying what he said was clearly wrong and possibly treasonous. But of course, to Ann and other Conservative Columnists, Arnett is not an aberration. He's part of an organization of like minded people that Ann has dubbed "The Sedition Lobby."

I suppose that as this website has presented information questioning the wisdom of entering into this war, I must be considered part of this sedition lobby. I never get invited to the meetings though.

Sedition also has a legal meaning, one that Ms. Coulter is no doubt aware. Although not often enforced, sedition laws have been passed and enforced in our past. The most notable use of the Sedition Laws was in early days of the Republic when the Federalists used the Sedition acts against their political enemies. Does Ms. Coulter favor a new sedition law to take care of us pesky liberals?

I suppose I should be pleased that she has softened her view a little--Sedition is marginally better than Treason. Still makes it clear, though, that she'd rather be rid of liberals rather than engage them in debate.

Helpful Legal Advice

Been watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was just rereleased on DVD, and I was struck by something today. You know the scene, right when Eddie Valiant meets Judge Doom, and the Judge shows off his special toon-killing Dip? Well what crime did that shoe commit? It was looking amorously at Dooms shows.

So the lesson here is, if you have any feelings of love or attraction towards a shoe or, to be on the safe side, any piece of footwear--you'd better keep those feelings private. Remember, it's not just common sense, it's the law.

Sorry for two humorous posts in a row, but don't worry we'll get back to depressing posts about politics soon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Red Dragon

As you know this movie is coming out on DVD soon. The television campaign promises that the DVD will take you into the mind of Hannibal Lector.

I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I want to go into the mind of Hannibal Lector. I think I'll stay here in my own mind.

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here

Got some commentary by Caleb on a new article by George Monbiot, all the way from Merrie Olde England. Although merry is hardly a good word to describe Mr. Manbiot. He's not very happy, as the title of his new article reflects. "It will all End in Disaster."

He states " . . . it seems to me that the American and British governments have dragged us into a mess from which we might not emerge for many years. They have unlocked the spirit of war, and it could be unwilling to return to its casket until it has traversed the world." He is particularly pessimistic about what a postwar Iraq might look like.

Caleb responds by saying, "Monbiot suggests that brute force is the only way to keep the country together and that the US military will likely have to resort to measures similar to Saddams to preserve the nation.

Who says that we have to preserve Iraq? It would not be any more difficult to create 3 or 4 smaller countries based not upon western convenience but upon the will of their inhabitants. This would do two things. Fix the problems that occur in enforcing artificial boundaries set up after we broke up the middle east, and give places for mistrusted, and persecuted minorities from neighboring countries to settle in relative peace.

Caleb's idea is interesting, but one does wonder what sort of nations would emerge from the rubble, and if those nations would be willing to settle peacefully. There is also the problem of the Kurds. We've already largely promised Turkey not to create a Kurdish homeland--as it would inspire the Kurds in Turkey to rebel against the Government there. But it is an interesting rejection of colonialism.

Constitutionality and Libertarianism

Interesting article today by Walter Williams about a recent report put out by the magazine Human Events. It lists the top ten most outrageous Government Programs, including the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency Standards, Amtrak, Endangered Species Act, and so on. Obviously several of these programs are those that might take away some corporate profits. But that's not William.s point.

Williams presents himself as a Constitutional scholar, arguing that the mandate to enact any of those laws does not exist. The government has no right mandate more fuel efficient cars or protection of wildlife. It's clear that if Williams had his way the government would be like Chief Wiggum in Springfield.

Wiggum: Fine, let me tell you what I tell everybody who comes in here: the law is powerless to help you.
Marge: Do I have to be dead before you'll help me?
Wiggum: Well, not dead -- dying. [Marge gets up to leave] No, no, no, no. Don't walk away. How about this: just show me the knife ... in your back.

The truth is that we do have the general welfare clause which states that the legislature has the power to pass those laws which it deems necessary to protect the American people. Perhaps that clause has been stretched further than it was intended. And certainly the Congress has passed foolish laws. But I can't believe that the alternative would be much better. A government powerless to aid the people would eventually be rejected by the people.