Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Justice Alito

It's done: the Senate confirmed Samuel Alito, Jr. as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Final vote count: 58-42. Only Lincoln Chafee, king of the RINOs, voted against among Republicans. Tim Johnson, Robert Byrd, Kent Conrad and Ben Nelson voted for Alito.

Courtesy: AP.

Did Bush fail by going multilateral?

Israeli reporter, war hero, and Sharon confidant Uri Dan writes that Iran may already have the bomb. If so, the EU-3 failed and so did Pres. Bush by allowing them to negotiate with the Iranians. Dan's information is based on the analysis of former Mossad agent Rafi Eitan, who led the team that captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires in 1960 and who helped plan the Osirik attack that destroyed Iraq's nuclear dreams in 1981.

Eitan told me: "I am convinced that the Iranians already have at least one or two nuclear devices. They have been operating centrifuges for a number of years now, they have natural uranium, and who on earth believes the Iranians when they say that they have closed down one facility or another? You would have to be an idiot or terribly na ve to believe them."

Eitan says that this view was bolstered by conversations he held with various experts from abroad who came to the Herzliya Conference - that Iran already has a an atom bomb. What should concern not only Israel but Europe too, continues Eitan, is the fact that the Iranians have acquired cruise missiles with a 3,000-kilometer range. They tried to purchase nine missiles of this kind in Ukraine from the arsenal of the former Soviet Union, but Russia thwarted part of the deal and Iran received three or four such missiles.

Kerry's flop filibuster

Deborah Orin measures the potential backlash against the Democrats from the John Kerry led filibuster attempt and notes the effects that tilting far leftward are having on the party:

Not only did Kerry lose, he lost big time — just 25 Democrats were willing to join him as the party split apart over Alito [19 Dems voted for cloture], just as it has ripped apart over the Iraq war.

. . . Worse yet, plenty of Democrats who did vote for the filibuster — like New York's Sen. Chuck Schumer — left little doubt that they were livid at Kerry's stunt, since it turned into a dream come true for Bush political guru Rove.

* * *
It's the second warning for Democrats over the past few weeks about tilting too far to the angry left — the other being Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean's stunning failure at fund-raising.

Dean's team has just $5.5 million cash on hand, according to the latest reports, while the Republican National Committee has $34 million — a $29 million advantage for Bush's team. Anger doesn't seem to fill the coffers.

"The liberals in the party are marching like lemmings into the sea again," laments a veteran Democratic activist. "Sometimes I think the left wing is turning into a cult. It just doesn't allow for disagreement. If you disagree, you're a traitor."

Coretta Scott King, April 27, 1927 to January 30/31, 2006

The First Lady of the Civil Rights movement passed away in her sleep sometime last night or this morning. Born Coretta Scott in 1927, she was a Southern-born black who knew the Jim Crow* South all too well. A fine singer, who studied voice at the New England Conservatory of Music, she met her future husband Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Boston and championed the causes he did for the 15-year course of their partnership. After his assassination in 1968, she remained a civil rights leader and icon.


Monday, January 30, 2006

On Musharraf

National Review's managing editor, Jay Nordlinger, has been in Davos, Switzerland the past week reporting from the tres chic World Economic Forum. It's his third year reporting from this high profile event. His vignettes and stories about what goes on at the WEF is tremendously valuable as it captures world figures being themselves much more than the general media cares to report. His Davos' dispatches from last year were absolutely classic.

They are less interesting this year - due I think to the underlying actors themselves than any deterioration in Nordlinger's reporting. Yesterday's installment though had a refreshing look at Prime Minister Ahmed Mahmoud Nazir of Egypt and Prime Minister Musharraf of Pakistan. Worth reading in it's entirety but check these comments from Musharraf:

Someone asks, "Why should Pakistan and India be able to have the A-bomb, and Iran not?" Musharraf says that the only good reason to have a nuclear weapon is to deter aggression. "When India went unconventional, we went unconventional" — because "the balance" was upset. "Ours is a threat perception; India's may be a world projection." So why should the mullahs be deprived of their nukes? "I don't see a threat to Iran."
A word about Israel and the PA: "Who would have thought the whole Islamic world would be praying for the recovery of Ariel Sharon?" And, "Hamas must go for an approach of reconciliation. And if it does, the United States should accept that."
Finally, you may especially like this: The journalists invite Musharraf to condemn the United States for its recent raid against al Qaeda, on Pakistani soil. They sort of bait him into rebuking his American ally — holy Pakistani sovereignty, and all that.

Musharraf makes clear that Pakistan did not know about the raid in advance. (Therefore, it gave no permission.) He makes clear Pakistan's disapproval of that raid. But he wonders why no one ever mentions the violation of Pakistani sovereignty by al Qaeda and other foreigners. Yes, Pakistan doesn't like the United States operating on its soil. But what about these legions of terrorists? The United States is helping Pakistan get rid of them. The Pakistanis have captured Sudanese, Chechens, Uzbeks, Arabs, and more.

Fascinating man this Musharraf, I must admit I was quite taken aback at the military coup that brought him to power all those years ago. The fact that he threw his lot in with us and not with the Taliban made a difference. We may be well served with a long and healthy Musharraf administration - and I think we'll miss him once he's gone.

Filibuster failure

The Democrats' attempt to filibuster Sam Alito's nomination as the next Justice of the Supreme Court failed, 72-25. No Republicans voted against cloture. Here are the Democrats who voted FOR cloture:

Lincoln (AR)
Pryor (AR)
Salazar (CO)
Lieberman (CT)
Carper (DE)
Nelson (FL)
Akaka (HI)
Inouye (HI)
Landrieu (LA)
Baucus (MT)
Nelson (NE)
Bingaman (NM)
Conrad (ND)
Dorgan (ND)
Johnson (SD)
Cantwell (WA)
Byrd (WV)
Rockefeller (WV)
Kohl (WI)

Only Cantwell, Kohl, Lieberman and the two Hawaii Senators come from states that John Kerry carried in 2004 (and Kohl does only thanks to rampant voter fraud in Milwaukee). Rockefeller, Akaka, Inouye, Byrd (in reality) and Lieberman are all safe seats, but all are liberal (except Lieberman who's moderate), therefore they voted their consciences; Cantwell is solid lefty (at least) from a Democrat state, so she gets kudos too (her senior senator, the execrable Patty Murray, voted against cloture). Ben Nelson (Nebraska) is a bit of a DINO (Democrat's equivalent of RINO). The Dakotans are all from staunch Red States and are among the more liberal members of the Senate caucus -- they're voting for their political viability.

You'll notice that no less than four ostensibly "moderate" Democrat senators with potential presidential aspirations are not on the list: Hillary R. Clinton, Russ Feingold, Joe Biden and Evan Bayh. Not a good start for the 2008 field.

The vote that will confirm Alito takes place tomorrow at 11 a.m. EST.

Untameable Hamas

This is the article of the day, from Foreign Affairs' upcoming March/April issue, the summary says it all:

Optimists argue that Hamas' participation in mainstream Palestinian politics will spur the group to moderate its radical goals and terrorist tactics. But history shows that political participation co-opts militants only under very specific conditions -- and almost none of those exist in the Palestinian Authority today.

The author = Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog of the IDF.

Clear eye towards the terrorist guys [updated]

The Monk is on record as one of the first, and seemingly few, who view the election of Hamas by the Palestinians as something other than merely a protest vote against the corruption of Fatah. As I stated, the PA election in Gaza has revealed the true outlook of the Palestinian people: forget peace, destroy Israel and, seemingly, bugger the consequences.

The notion that winning an election will make Hamas responsible politically, if not intellectually, was quashed today when the terrorists' leader called for Israel to remove the two blue stripes from the Israeli flag because it is, to him, a colonial symbol of Israel's intent to obtain all the land from the Euphrates to the Nile -- the two rivers symbolized by those stripes. In reality, the new nation of Israel designed its flag to resemble the striped prayer shawls that Jews wear when they pray.

Thankfully, Secretary of State Rice seems to have her head in the right place -- calling for withholding funding for the PA because Hamas is running its government.

Some clear-eyed thinking also comes from two expected sources. First, Saul Singer of the Jerusalem Post (link in title of this post), who notes that Nazis and Communists (Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, etc.) "both took advantage of democratic processes only to eliminate them when they got the chance; there is no reason to trust Islamic fundamentalists not to do so as well." He missed one: Algeria -- where terrorists were elected into power and caused years of a hellacious civil war.

And Singer has no doubts as to who has the burden of proof of Hamas' intent:

Once Hamas, which has evidently won an absolute majority of the Palestinian legislature, takes the reins of government, a terrorist organization becomes a terrorist regime. This must be the presumption of Israel and the world, until proven otherwise.

Mark Steyn is also, as usual, no fool. First, he noted the "message" on the Hugh Hewitt show:

. . . [Palestinians are] saying to hell with that humbug hypocrisy line. Let's vote for the party that says we don't believe in a two-state solution, where what we are, we want to drive every last Jew into the sea. And in that sense, this is a less hypocritical expression of where the Palestinian people are at, than supporting Fatah was. . .

And he noted the reality more forthrightly in his weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times. After noting the extent of Fatah's corruption, he wrote:

. . . I'd like to believe this was a vote for getting rid of corruption rather than getting rid of Jews. But that's hard to square with some of the newly elected legislators. For example, Mariam Farahat, a mother of three, was elected in Gaza. She used to be a mother of six but three of her sons self-detonated on suicide missions against Israel. She's a household name to Palestinians, known as Um Nidal -- Mother of the Struggle -- and, at the rate she's getting through her kids, the Struggle's all she'll be Mother of. She's famous for a Hamas recruitment video in which she shows her 17-year-old son how to kill Israelis and then tells him not to come back. It's the Hamas version of 42nd Street: You're going out there a youngster but you've got to come back in small pieces.

But John Podhoretz makes a very valid point:

Fatah is no better than Hamas. It has a comparably monstrous history of Jew-killling, including the murder of Americans. During the last intifada, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade — which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Fatah — stood second to none in its bloodthirsty slaughter of Israelis as they dined in cafes or rode on buses.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

There are two distinctions to be drawn between Hamas and Fatah. First, Fatah has supposedly given up its goal of destroying Israel and has supposedly accepted the principle of a two-state solution. Big deal. The Palestinian educational system created by Fatah preaches Israel's destruction from kindergarten through college, as do the state-run media. Fatah remains philosophically committed to Israel's destruction, even though it has adopted a more pragmatic stance politically.

Second, Hamas has always been a very useful tool for Fatah and its leaders, who garnered support in America and elsewhere (including Israel) on the grounds that, whatever sins Fatah and Arafat might have committed, they at least weren't Hamas. Hamas was said to be infinitely worse than Fatah on the grounds that Hamas was an Islamic movement, whereas Fatah was a secular nationalist Arab movement. All well and good — except that a dead Jew is a dead Jew no matter who kills him.

And a Stalinist like Arafat was never any sort of improvement on an Islamic fundamentalist. Their goals were the same, their aims the same, their tactics equally disgusting.

And of course, Jeff Jacoby is no fool either as he rips the President for adopting the Fatah-was-corrupt rationale to explain the Palestinian vote:

Spare us, Mr. President. If a slate of neo-Nazi skinheads swept to power in a European election, would you say that the voters were seeking "honest government" and "services"? Palestinians are not stupid, and it insults their intelligence to pretend that when they vote to empower a genocidal organization with a platform straight out of "Mein Kampf," what they're really after is better healthcare. Islamist extremism isn't needed to fix Palestinian hospitals any more than fascism was needed to make Italian trains run on time in the 1920s. If Palestinians turned out en masse to elect a party that unapologetically stands for hatred and mass murder, it's a safe bet that hatred and mass murder had something to do with the turnout.

By the same token, Hamas's new duties are not going to turn it into a moderate group of diligent civil servants. When violent Islamists win political power, their brutality and zealotry do not diminish. (See Khomeini, Ayatollah and Taliban, Afghan). The notion that Hamas now has "a choice to make" is just another example of the delusional thinking that is so pervasive when it comes to the Palestinian Authority.

Jacoby thinks that the Hamas election is good because it provokes a reality check and wipes away some of the delusions that render Western states credulous and foolish when dealing with the Palestinians. Based on the President's statement that Jacoby criticized, and the reactions of Israeli PM-for-now Olmert, the two main counterweights to Palestinian terrorism have already enlisted on the side of dreamy-eyed optimism.

I'm hoping only that the Israeli leadership is as honest and clear-eyed as Steyn, Jacoby, J-Pod and Singer. Given its recent performance, that is a high hope indeed.

Deserved rip job of the day

Because it takes place half a world away in a sport with perpetually declining Q-ratings and is the major tournament most likely to be passed over by star players, the Australian Open results get little press. But there were two major developments in Melbourne this weekend:

(1) Roger Federer, the best tennis player in the world, moved himself half-way to Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles (the Grand Slam Tournaments are Australian, French and US Opens and Wimbledon) -- he became emotional upon victory and repeatedly noted how humbled and great he felt accepting the champion's trophy from Australian tennis legend Rod Laver -- a fine moment.

(2) Justine Henin-Hardenne -- the small, suspiciously muscular and often classless Belgian (her penchant for petty gamesmanship is well-known on the tour) did the nearly unprecedented and totally unthinkable: she RETIRED in the middle of a Grand Slam final. In 1989, Michael Chang refused in THREE STRAIGHT MATCHES to quit despite horrific leg cramps. He overcame those in a show of will that is now legend -- winning those matches (quarters, semis and the final) and becoming the first US player in more than 30 years to win in Paris. In 2006, Henin-Hardenne retires due to stomach cramps and denies Amelie Mauresmo her well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

Henin-Hardenne was down just 1-6, 0-2 -- if you think that's impossible to overcome, remember that Steffi Graf trailed Wimbledon dominatrix Martina Navratilova 5-7, 0-2 and had lost six-straight games . . . she then won 12 of the next 13 to win her first Wimbledon title, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 and blew Navratilova off the court. Stomach cramps can be debilitating, or they can go away. Mauresmo had ZERO previous Grand Slam titles, not more than a dozen like Navratilova -- so the CHOKE factor definitely loomed. Henin-Hardenne owed it to herself and her opponent to play on in this match -- if she really was going to go down 6-0 in the second set, it would have taken only another 15-20 minutes. Pam Shriver, Navratilova's former doubles partner and a commentator for ESPN rips Henin-Hardenne in the column linked to this post.

Deservedly so.

A good fight by McCain

John McCain has fought entirely too many bad fights, most notably championing the execrable McCain-Feingold Speech Limitation Act that a rather ridiculous Supreme Court validated. Now, however, he is fighting the "earmark" process -- the add-on expenditures that find their way onto defense appropriations bills and highway bills -- by forcing the Senate to vote on each and every earmark. Indeed, why should the Senate and the House approve pork barrel projects for districts represented by Nancy Pelosi, Carolyn Maloney and John Murtha? Why should southwestern Missouri get computer labs at SMSU in a Defense Appropriations bill just because Roy Blunt represents the moonshine region of the Show-Me State?

A good fight that McCain and the curmudgeonly Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are fighting.

Playing politics and endangering lives

Debra Burlingame blasts Congress for its useless preoccupation with the NSA surveillance issue and its irresponsible attempt to either curtail the President's use of the NSA surveillance capabilities or to impose Congressional "oversight" on such intelligence. Excerpts:

. . . Why should we allow enemies to annihilate us simply because we lack the clarity or resolve to strike a reasonable balance between a healthy skepticism of government power and the need to take proactive measures to protect ourselves from such threats? The mantra of civil-liberties hard-liners is to "question authority"--even when it is coming to our rescue--then blame that same authority when, hamstrung by civil liberties laws, it fails to save us. The old laws that would prevent FBI agents from stopping the next al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi [two of the terrorists who hijacked AA flight 77 on 9-11-01] were built on the bedrock of a 35-year history of dark, defeating mistrust. More Americans should not die because the peace-at-any-cost fringe and antigovernment paranoids still fighting the ghost of Nixon hate George Bush more than they fear al Qaeda. . .

* * *
The public has listened to years of stinging revelations detailing how the government tied its own hands in stopping the devastating attacks of September 11. It is an irresponsible violation of the public trust for members of Congress to weaken the Patriot Act or jeopardize the NSA terrorist surveillance program because of the same illusory theories that cost us so dearly before, or worse, for rank partisan advantage. If they do, and our country sustains yet another catastrophic attack that these antiterrorism tools could have prevented, the phrase "connect the dots" will resonate again--but this time it will refer to the trail of innocent American blood which leads directly to the Senate floor.

Anti-American Western governments -- the ostrich alliance

Canada is simply another country beginning to come to grips with the world -- that's the subtext of the Canadian election that Mark Steyn notes in his lengthy essay on the Canadian election result. Anti-Americanism is symptomatic of both a head-in-the-sand method of dealing with the world's reality of Islamic terrorism, and a sign that the reigning government hasn't a clue on how to tackle the issues it faces, as Steyn notes:

Remember the conventional wisdom of 2004? Back then, you'll recall, it was the many members of George Bush's "unilateral" coalition who were supposed to be in trouble, not least the three doughty warriors of the Anglosphere--the president, Tony Blair and John Howard--who would all be paying a terrible electoral price for lying their way into war in Iraq. The Democrats' position was that Mr. Bush's rinky-dink nickel-and-dime allies didn't count: The president has "alienated almost everyone," said Jimmy Carter, "and now we have just a handful of little tiny countries supposedly helping us in Iraq." (That would be Britain, Australia, Poland, Japan . . .) Instead of those nobodies, John Kerry pledged that, under his leadership, "America will rejoin the community of nations"--by which he meant Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, the Belgian guy . . .

Two years on, Messrs. Bush, Blair, Howard and Koizumi are all re-elected, while Mr. Chirac is the lamest of lame ducks, and his ingrate citizenry has tossed out his big legacy, the European Constitution; Mr. Schroeder's government was defeated and he's now shilling for Russia's state-owned Gazprom ("It's all about Gaz!"); and the latest member of the coalition of the unwilling to hit the skids is Canada's Liberal Party, which fell from office on Monday. . .

It would be a stretch to argue that Mr. Chirac, Mr. Schroeder and now Paul Martin in Ottawa ran into trouble because of their anti-Americanism. Au contraire, cheap demonization of the Great Satan is almost as popular in the streets of Toronto as in the streets of Islamabad. But these days anti-Americanism is the first refuge of the scoundrel, and it's usually a reliable indicator that you're not up to the challenges of the modern world or of your own country.

The election of Stephen Harper is not by any means a reaction to the reality of the world outside the Maple Leaf Dominion, it is primarily a counter to the Third World level corruption of the Liberals. But Steyn notes the probable salutary effects:

Canadians have been reluctant in the last four years to accept that we no longer live in an "it's probably nothing" world. Many Continentals feel the same way. Unlike his hollow predecessor, Stephen Harper is a thoughtful man who understands the gulf between self-mythologizing and the harder realities. You can't change a free country unless you persuade free people to change their minds, and he will at least start that tough job. He doesn't have to be George Bush's best friend, and he may even be more effective at opposing him on trade and agriculture disputes. But he could try being Tony Blair's and John Howard's best friend and reconnecting us with other traditional pals from whom Canada's become increasingly estranged. . .

Not the worst prescription for what ails the Canadians.

Friday, January 27, 2006

On Blogging

Since we have gone public about our desire to enlist a third blogger, let me share some thoughts.

It's fun, cathartic, addicting and, yes, time-consuming. You'll find yourself becoming a news junkie and remarkably up to date on events. It will also concentrate your mind on an ongoing basis -- exercising that 'grey matter' as a famed, fictional Belgian detective so vividly described it. I'm no diarist in any way so TKM is in some ways my diary. It's a roadmap of my thoughts and ideas and a bit of a reference too.

Ideas are important, good ideas are treasures, bad ones are, well, remarkably dangerous. Monk and I don't agree on everything but we are proud Americans, pro Israel, pro The Republic of China, pro free speech and deeply respectful of the Judeo-Christian heritage of this nation. We loathe political correctness, post modernism, socialism and communism. And, of course, the Boston Red Sox. Our readers will have seen these sentiments reflected in our posts over time. While our readership is modest we hope we have done some good during our existence in helping to shape opinions on important issues of the day. We value comments and will respond to the great majority of them, even from the moonbats. As Monk says, you don't have to agree with us but we'd want you to be intellectually rigorous and honest and have a reasonably open mind.

We live in interesting times and what we do here, in a small way, is try to have an impact. Not to be trite or to compare ourselves to our betters but if it were not for blogs like Little Green Footballs and Powerline Dan Rather and CBS may have brought down a President during a very, very serious time.

And, of course we also try to have a bit of fun.

This has been and is a labor of love.

By the way, having known him for a quarter century Monk is just as cuddly as he sounds :)

Forget Tiananmen

If you put "Tiananmen"

in Google Images US this is what you get.

in Google Images China this is the result.


HT: Jonah

Vengeance, Munich, Spielberg and clarity

Former Margaret Thatcher advisor John O'Sullivan dissects Steven Spielberg's highly questionable movie Munich in light of its debut in the UK. The discussions, reactions and ludicrous statements are highly interesting.

First, O'Sullivan notes and ridicules this gem from a Munich producer complaining about the objections that conservatives and Israelis have voiced to the tone, factual accuracy and message of the movie:

. . . one of its producers, Kathleen Kennedy, [lamented] that "we always knew...there were going to be people who were not going to be open to a discussion."

These conspirators have now spoiled Munich's chances in their typically perverse way — by openly discussing it. Or, as Kennedy puts it in her wittily paradoxical way: "We live in a time where there is a very loud and strong right-wing constituency that is hellbent on suppressing any of this kind of dialogue."

Their methods are devilishly cunning, Watson — they suppress dialogue by taking part in it "loudly." If only these suppressors were themselves suppressed, then the advocates of a free and open dialogue could enjoy the monologue of which they have been so wickedly deprived by point-scoring Trappists.

More difficult for Spielberg: criticism from the author of the book he based the movie upon and praise from the British press' biggest George Galloway sympathizer:

The criticism came from Canadian journalist and author, George Jonas, (and old friend and former colleague of mine) who wrote Vengeance, the book on which Munich is based; and the praise from pro-Palestinian British journalist, Robert Fisk. If anything, Fisk's praise was more damaging than Jonas's criticism, since it praised what Spielberg denies: namely, that "the film deconstructs the whole myth of Israeli invincibility and moral superiority . . ."

The most interesting parts of O'Sullivan's lengthy deconstruction of the movie are in O'Sullivan's comparison of the book Vengeance with the movie inspired by it. A very interesting discussion of the movie, terrorism, morality and politics.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

WANTED: Third Blogger

Wongdoer's current job requirements render him even more useless than usual. To take some of the load off, TKM is seeking a third blogger. Here are the requirements:

(1) Opinions -- you need to have them, left-wing moonbattiness not allowed for a co-blogger (we get enough in the comments), but reasonable lefties are more than welcome (Kevin Drum/Josh Marshall/Marty Peretz types, not Maxine Waters/Cynthia McKinney/Howard Dean). This is also a pro-Israel site. That means if you think Rachel Corrie was murdered or that the Jenin Massacre actually happened, you need not apply (but getting your head checked would be potentially salutary).

(2) Reason -- you need to be able to do so.

(3) Integrity -- if you fark up, you need to 'fess up. You also need to note your sources and link where possible.

(4) Time -- you need enough to post an average of 1-2 items (essentially 5+ posts) daily during the week, whenever you want to. Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules. Timeliness helps. I like Overlawyered.com, but they act on a 2-4 week delay for many of their items and I'd prefer not to do that.

(5) Rules -- follow the three rules at TKM: (a) no uncensored or unmodified curse words; (b) delineate who said what (we set off article quotes in blockquotes or colors or quote marks) and cite the sources; (c) correct your mistakes of fact if you honk on first posting. That's it.

Questions you may ask that I'll answer ahead of the query (can't call this a FAQ b/c no one asked anything yet):

-- Who is in charge?
Me, The Monk. It's my site and I both have and reserve the right to do whatever I want with it. For example, I can go into any of Wongdoer's posts and edit them. I don't do that. He has no such ability viz. my posts, the layout of the site or other content (links, ads, etc.). That said, I do not really exercise that right except as to peripheral concerns (links, ads, etc.): First, Wongdoer is fully involved in my decision-making (or decision-stalling) process on whether to change platforms and you will be too; second, I do not edit Wongdoer's posts for content and rarely edit for style or grammar.

-- What do I get paid?
Not a penny more than Wongdoer. And he gets nothing. Then again, so do I.

-- What are you looking for in the posts?
Whatever you're interested in that fits within the genres of the site -- sports, politics, religion (no proselytizing, but explanations and discussions of interesting topics are welcome), books that interest you (we all like sci-fi and fantasy fiction but you don't have to), travel, photography. I don't think knitting, needlepoint, why dogs eat their poo or how to distinguish the different species of warbler found only in Northern Minnesota fit. Also, this is a family show -- we don't need to know what you've got going on in what should be private moments and you're not allowed to post anything that wouldn't get a G or PG rating from the MPAA.

-- What if I disagree with you?
Have at it. If it's a short point, put it in the comments part of the disagreeable post. If your position needs extra explication, post a statement yourself.

-- What knowledge of blogging do I need?
None. You can learn whatever you need to know very quickly. I did and I taught Wongdoer. Then the bugger went off the reservation and learned how to fark everything up (hence, all the hinky colors he uses).

-- What do I do if I'm interested?
Contact me at my hotmail email address listed on the left. A sample post you've done at another blog, or comment you've written here or elsewhere would help distinguish you from any other applicants (if we have more than one).

Byrd on Alito

NRO's Bench Memos has Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) excoriating his Democratic colleagues for their treatment of Judge Alito. Note that he is from a red state and faces re-election this year but his comments are worth noting:

Many people and including foremost, as I say, the people of West Virginia in most uncertain terms, were, frankly, appalled by the Alito hearings. I don't want to say it but I must. They were appalled. In the reams of correspondence that I received during the Alito hearings, West Virginians — the people I represent — West Virginians who wrote to criticize the way in which the hearings were conducted used the same two words. People with no connection to one another, people of different faiths, different views, different opinions, independently and respectively used the same two words to describe the hearings. They called them an “outrage” and a “disgrace.” . . .

It is especially telling that many who objected to the way in which the Alito hearings were conducted do not support Judge Alito. In fact, it is sorely apparent that even many who oppose Judge Alito's nomination also oppose the seemingly made-for-TV antics that accompanied the hearings. . . .

I regret that we have come to a place in our history when both political parties, both political parties exhibit such a take-no prisoners attitude. All sides seek to use the debate over a Supreme Court nominee to air their particular wish list for or against abortion, euthanasia, executive authority, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, corporate greed, and dozens of other subjects.

All of these issues should be debated but the battle line should not be drawn on the Judiciary. It should be debated by the peoples' representatives right here in the legislative branch. However, too many Americans apparently believe that if they cannot get Congress to address an issue then they must take it to the Court. As the saying goes: "if you can't change the law, change the judge."

This kind of thinking represents a gross misinterpretation of the separation of powers. It is the role of the Congress, the role of the legislative branch to make and change the laws. Supreme Court justices exist to interpret laws and be sure that they square with the Constitution and with law.

Insurgency Fracturing?

The Iraqi insurgency is showing signs of internal strain USA Today reports:

BAGHDAD — A deepening rift between radical foreign-led fighters and native Iraqi insurgents has turned violent, the top U.S. intelligence officer in Iraq says. That creates an opportunity for American forces to try to persuade local guerrillas to put down their weapons and join the political process, he says.
• At least six ranking members of al-Qaeda in Iraq have been assassinated by Sunni insurgents or tribal gunmen in separate incidents since September, Zahner said. The killings are usually in retaliation for al-Qaeda's role in violence, such as the execution of local police officers, he said.

• In Ramadi, in western Iraq, he said, armed clashes have erupted between local Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda operatives in recent months. At least one high-ranking al-Qaeda member, Abu Khatab, was recently run out of Ramadi by insurgents loyal to the local tribe.

Another good reason not to cut and run.

Direct Flights between US and Iran

are what the Iranians are requesting.

"We sent a letter to the relevant American officials on Wednesday, announcing Iran's willingness to resume direct flights," Nourollah Rezai-Niaraki, head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, told state television.

He said the decision to make the request was taken by hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad due to demand from the large Iranian community living in the United States.

"They have repeatedly complained about wasting time and losing their baggage on connecting flights," the official said.




Use some sense

Why is it Drudge Report FLASH worthy (or even newsworthy) when Pres. Bush snubs Helen Thomas? She's an unrelenting critic of the Administration who is no longer a "reporter" -- instead, she's an opinion columnist (and makes Maureen Dowd look sane!). The press conferences are for reporters, not opinion columnists to make their points at the President's expense.

The Hamas win: a tonic for the dreamers?

Hamas won the election in the PA yesterday. By all accounts, it was a clean election but there were only two choices: the corrupt and incompetent Fatah; and the murderous terrorists of Hamas. Hamas' win shows just how recalcitrant and anti-Israel the Gaza populace is, thereby negating the concept of a "partner for peace". The Hamas win also means that the accountability gap is sealed: no more Mahmoud Abbas claiming that he cannot control the "militants" in Gaza because they are from Hamas. Any attacks on Israel means that Hamas is responsible (and Israel should hit back HARD). And the international community cannot logically contend (although it will) that the "militants" and the Hamas ministers in government are not connected.

Emanuele Ottolenghi sees that potential bright side:

There will be no excuses or ambiguities when Hamas fires rockets on Israel and launches suicide attacks against civilian targets. Until Tuesday, the PA could hide behind the excuse that they were not directly responsible and they could not rein in the "militants." Now the "militants" are the militia of the ruling party. They are one and the same with the Palestinian Authority. If they bomb Israel from Gaza — not under occupation anymore, and is therefore, technically, part of the Palestinian state the PLO proclaimed in Algiers in 1988, but never bothered to take responsibility for — that is an act of war, which can be responded to in kind, under the full cover of the internationally recognized right of self-defense. No more excuses that the Palestinians live under occupation, that the PA is too weak to disarm Hamas, that violence is not the policy of the PA. Hamas and the PA will be the same: What Hamas does is what the PA will stand for.

No deals with Hamas?

Yesterday I blasted Bush for the naive hope that Hamas' potential inclusion in a PA government would mollify the blood-thirsty Jew-killers.

Today, the President said that "Hamas cannot be partner for Middle East peacemaking without renouncing violence, and he reiterated that the United States will not deal with Palestinian leaders who do not recognize Israel's right to exist," according to the AP story linked above. This is the correct position, at minimum, and would force Hamas to change its nature -- after all, it's sine qua non position is that Israel must be destroyed.

And Condoleeza Rice also sounded a good note when she told the Davos Forum (aka the World Economic Conference) that "'you cannot have one foot in politics and another in terror.'"

Let's hope the Administration sticks to its words on this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Robert E. Howard, 1906-1936

The Monk missed this one, but stumbled upon a nice literary eulogy by Michael Dirda in the WaPo review of new compilations of Howard's work:

On January 22, 1906, Robert E. Howard was born. Author of the unjustly derided Conan the Barbarian stories, and similar tales featuring Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn and Kull the Conqueror, plus hundreds of other stories, Howard took his own life in 1936 after the death of his mother.

The story of Howard the man is, at best, an oddity. He was mind-bogglingly prolific in various genres (including mysteries and poetry). He wrote hundreds of stories in various genres that sold in a myriad of pulp fiction collections. Throughout his life, he lived at home, inspired by and beholden to his mother, whom he cared for as her health declined. She eventually died in the mid-'30s, and her death led Howard, in grief and despair, to take his own life in 1936.

This comment, from an excellent review of One Who Walked Alone -- the memoir of Novalyne Price Ellis who knew Howard in what became his final years, and which became the 1996 movie "The Whole Wide World" starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Renee Zellweger -- seems a solid summary.

. . . [Ellis' memoir] is a tragic portrait of a young man-- vital and filled with life, intelligent, with so much to offer the world and with so much to live for-- who instead lived a tormented existence and suffered needlessly. He was a man who loved history and longed to travel and discover adventure in the real world. But he never had the chance. He was endowed with a sensitivity-- a gentle, poetic nature which his physical appearance [> 6 feet, > 200 pounds] belied-- that kept him out of step with his environment. He was a man born in the wrong century, and decidedly in the wrong part of the world. His sensibilities were more conducive to a larger, more vibrant local[e], like New York City or any of the larger cities of Europe; places in which he would have been accepted and appreciated for who and what he was, where he and his writing could have thrived. But it was not to be; and at the age of thirty, Robert E. Howard died, right there in Cross Plains, Texas.

Howard's great creation, Conan, is great reading -- raw, direct, brutal swords-and-sorcery stories in an uncompromisingly dangerous and diabolical world filled with action, damsels in distress and power-hungry sorcerors. Conan is the precursor and template for generations of warriors in fantasy fiction, from Michael Moorcock's various eternal champion incarnations to "civilized" warriors like Lan Mandragoran (Wheel of Time), Barak (Belgariad), Fafhrd (Fritz Leiber's series), Kalam and Karsa Orlong (Malazan); and his stories inform generations of fantasy fiction.

So, a belated toast to the birth of Robert E. Howard, 100 years and three days ago.

81 and 66

On Sunday, Kobe Bryant scored 81 points (55 in the second half) to lead the Lakers past the Raptors.

On Tuesday, Mario Lemieux retired from hockey.

Bryant's performance is the second earthquake he's caused this year just by playing awe-inspiring basketball (he had 62 and SAT OUT the fourth quarter in a game against the Mavericks). He is the best player in the game and is currently playing Michael Jordan (1988-1993) quality ball. Every opponent come into a game against the Lakers with one defensive goal: limit Kobe. The Raptors stink, but they led by 14 at halftime, knew where the ball would go and had no chance to stop Bryant. The Mavs do NOT stink, knew where the ball would go and had no chance to stop Bryant.

The tragedy of Bryant is that he's a narcissistic fool who rankled in the shadow of Shaquille O'Neal despite winning three NBA titles (Shaq won the MVP of each of those title series but Kobe had the single most important performance -- putting the Lakers on his shoulder in OT of game 4 against the Pacers in the first of the three Lakers' titles), who forced a trade from Charlotte to assuage his ego, and who is intelligent enough to manipulate those around him. Worse, he cares little for his image. Jordan polished and protected his image and ALWAYS took care with how he appeared to outsiders in general. Bryant seems to finally have matured a bit this year, but his greatness will always be tainted by his malevolent arrogance.

Lemieux is the contrast. A professional who transformed a backwater franchise into a champion, the six-time scoring champion, 3-time MVP and 2-time playoff MVP (same number of Conn Smythe trophies as Gretzky, despite fewer titles). Lemieux was the anti-Gretzky and Gretzky junior all in one: huge, strong, physically intimidating unlike Gretzky, but incredibly skilled as a skater, goalscorer and passer. Unlike the 1980s Islanders and the 1980s Oilers, the Pens lacked a cavalcade of future Hall of Famers, but they won a pair of Cups before a shocking loss to the Isles in 1993 ended their nascent dynasty and Lemieux chronic injuries took their next set of tolls. Lemieux is beloved because he played hard, battled back from injury (1991 playoffs), fought cancer and serious athletic ailments (back problems, mainly) that pale in contrast to his Hodgkin's Disease, rescued the Penguins when the franchise went bankrupt and dedicated his career to his team and his teammates. He should go down in history as the second-greatest hockey player ever.

If only Kobe could take lessons in class from Super Mario, his greatness wouldn't come with the Ty Cobb asterisk -- yeah, but he was a real SOB.

Laundering Hamas

Daniel Pipes is right: Hamas is simply a terrorist organization, allowing it to participate in PA elections only enables it to present itself as a legitimate organization instead of one dedicated to evil goals through evil means. No legitimate organization would say this

Responding to a question on whether Bush is correct that U.S. engagement with Hamas would moderate the terror group, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas founder, laughed and declared that this tactic “will not succeed.” In recent days, Zahar has publicly reiterated that Hamas still intends to destroy Israel.

Worse yet is the callow and foolish thought process underlying the US's "engagement" with these terrorists:

President Bush made this argument in early 2005: “There's a positive effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say, ‘Vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America.' … I don't think so. I think people who generally run for office say, ‘Vote for me, I'm looking forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got bread on the table.' ”

This is the same preposterous thought process that the Susan Sontags and Alice Walkers emitted after 9-11-01. Pipes' rejoinder is spot-on:

The historical record, however, refutes this “pothole theory of democracy.” Mussolini made the trains run, Hitler built autobahns, Stalin cleared the snow and Castro reduced infant mortality — without any of these totalitarians giving up their ideological zeal nor their grandiose ambitions. Likewise, Islamists in Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan have governed without becoming tamed. If proof is needed, note the Iranian efforts to build nuclear weapons amid an apocalyptic fervor.

And again the US seems to be willfully ignorant of the evil it tacitly abets with this stance.

Simply said, Hamas is what it is, and will not change. As Charles Krauthammer noted a couple of weeks ago, the Aesop fable, The Scorpion and the Frog, should tell the Administration all it needs to know about the Palestinian scorpion that it hopes will be tamed:

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"

Replies the scorpion: "It is my nature..."

Saddam cinema

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has posted four videos on its site that depict in horrifying detail some of the depradations of the Fedayeen Saddam - literally "Those who are willing to die for Saddam". In fact, much of this footage were shot by the torturers themselves.

Each three minute video took close to ten minutes to load via DSL. Any imbecile who utters Bush = Hitler should be required to sit through these. Just as an example, Video 1 depicts severe beatings and throwing victims off buildings. Video 2 has hand and tongue amputations amongst other unspeakables.

Just a warning - EXTREMELY GRAPHIC.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Good Morning Canada II

While it lasts, Mark Steyn has his liveblogging of the Canadian elections up at Steyn Online. Steyn whiffed on his predictions (138 Tories, 71 Libs, 58 BQ, NDP 40) -- the final total:

Conservatives = 124
Liberals = 103
Bloc Quebecois (Quebec separatists) = 51
National Democratic Party = 29
and one Independent

The result means that Tory leader Stephen Harper will be the next Canadian PM, ending more than a decade of nihilistic anti-Americanism in the government. The BQ tends to vote closer to the Tories than the Liberals, and Steyn noted that in 37 of the 51 districts (called "ridings" in Canada) where the BQ won, the Tories came in second -- thus, the Tory influence over nearly 75% of the BQ representation should be substantial.

Another note: Alberta, the richest Canadian province and the one most often desired to defect to the US, voted for Tories in 28 out of 28 ridings. That means the Libs had NO representation from the Canadian bread basket, despite the people's republic of Edmonton!

Ed Morrissey, whose reporting on the Gomery Commission's corruption investigation (with many a leak from Canadian sources) did much to help discredit the grift in the Labour government also liveblogged the elections. Needless to say, he's pleased, not least of all because the now ex-PM Paul Martin resigned.

A good day for our neighbors to the north. Welcome back to the real world, feel free to participate.

Good Morning Canada

A cleansing wind swept through Canada yesterday was Canadian voters ousted the corrupt, incumbent, deeply anti-American Liberal administration of Prime Minister Paul Martin and brought to power Stephen Harper and a newly invigorated Conservative Party which had only two seats in the 295 member government as recently as 1993.

Harper, with 36% of the vote, has 124-125 seats in the 308 seat Parliament and will become Prime Minister with a minority government.

Canadian elections draw little attention here rating a bare mention on the network news. Paul Martin from personal experience was a finance minister who had the singular talent of sinking the Canadian dollar every time he opened his mouth.

The race had gotten ugly in the closing weeks as NRO's Doug Gamble reports:

The Liberals, scandal-plagued and out of ideas, were ugly in their death throes. Most vile among a spate of attack ads released late in the campaign was one that said Harper would put armed troops on the streets of Canadian cities. The implication was that they would be employed as Conservative brown shirts to crush dissent in a coup against democracy.

In a party leaders' debate two weeks before the election, a desperate Martin, continuing to play the anti-American card so prominent throughout his campaign, tagged Harper as a "Republican." Translated into Canadian, it's a label that virtually equals "Nazi." Two Liberal TV ads that aired in the campaign's waning days said a victory for Harper would "bring a smile to George W. Bush's face" and tagged Harper as "pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto, Bush's best friend."

Would make Gerhard Schroeder proud.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fame by association

Monk classmate Lucy Dalglish is quoted in Opinion Journal today as James Taranto reviews what disasters the press continues to reap from its idiotic fixation with the revelation of Valerie "I've not been undercover for at least six years so disclosure of my identity is legal" Plame's name.

The problem for the journos? Scooter Libby's defense team wants their notes and their testimony:

Newsday's Timothy Phelps, in an article for Columbia Journalism Review, notes that whereas the reporters who testified for the prosecution did so "mostly under agreements restricting their testimony to very specific issues," Libby's lawyers "are not bound by such agreements." If called by the defense, the reporters' case for immunity from testifying--which the courts have rejected anyhow--is even weaker than it was when dealing with the prosecution. After all, Libby has a fundamental constitutional right to a fair trial.

Super Bowl XV redux?

Is Super Bowl XL (the NFL should call it SB40, "XL" just looks like a clothing size) a classic in the making, culmination of a season for a team of destiny, heralding a new dynasty or something else?

The Monk's best parallel is Super Bowl XV. That game featured the Eagles, who had been the best team in the NFL all season, had run out to an 11-1 start before honking down the stretch, had whipped the Vikes and Cowboys in the NFC playoffs, had allowed the fewest points in the league and were just simply the better team. Their opponents were the Raiders, not the monsters of the West Coast who thrived under John Madden, but the wild card team that had to win at home, travel across country to the frozen fields of Cleveland and travel back across country to beat San Diego in the playoffs, led by a re-tread QB and which had been statistically a middling team all year (except in interceptions - a mind-boggling 35 to lead the league) before the playoffs. The Raiders used their speed and ball-hawking to throw the Eagles for a loop; forced 4 turnovers, including 3 INT by the team that had fewer INTs than any other that year, and whipped the Eagles 27-10 to become the first wild card to win the Super Bowl.

This season, the Steelers have already accomplished a first by hitting road and beating the Nos. 1, 2, and 3 teams in the AFC to make the Super Bowl (when New England won roadies to make the Super Bowl in the '85 season, the Pats started at the #4 Jets). They've been great on offense, especially Big Ben, and their defense has used its speed to flummox the Colts and Broncs. The Steelers have sufficient talent to have been a preseason Super Bowl favorite, but Roethlisberger's injury and RB questions (later solved) took their toll before the Steelers regrouped and stormed ahead to win seven straight to date.

Seattle looked good yesterday because Ray Rhodes did what Tim Lewis and Lovie Smith stupidly refused to do: dedicate the defense to stopping Steve Smith. Whereas Lewis seemed to be prepping for head coaching interviews, and Lovie just took some stupid pills by playing a regular defense against Steve Smith, Rhodes set up his defense to shut down the Carolina star, and it did. But the Steelers are different from what the S'hawks have faced: balanced, multidimensional, solid (remember, the Panthers were the #22 team on offense).

As you can tell, The Monk likes the Steelers today. I also distrust the Seahawks because (1) they're 10-0 at home, 5-3 on the road; (2) the NFC is weaker than the AFC but the Seahawks STRUGGLED mightily with the Giants and Cowboys in Seattle; (3) Mike Holmgren has committed the unforgiveable sin of losing a Super Bowl to an inferior team, Bill Cowher's lone Super Bowl appearance was against the 1990s Cowboys dynasty and the Steelers played respectably (other than Neil O'Donnell's confusion of Cowboys DBs for Steelers receivers). I may revise this thought process in the next two weeks, but right now I'm thinking this is Super Bowl XV all over again.

UPDATE: Because The Monk is fair and balanced, and a stat-head for stuff like this, I had to note a stat that ESPN brought up (which The Monk saw at lunch time): Seattle is the fifth team to go 8-0 at home in the regular season and then win two playoff games at home to reach the Super Bowl. Here are the previous four:

1985 Bears
1986 Giants
1996 Packers
1999 Rams

Notice a trend? Each of those four won the Super Bowl, and only the Rams had a particularly close (as close as it gets: Mike Jones tackling Kevin Dyson at the 1 as time expired for a 23-16 win) game. Then again: (1) each of the referenced teams' Super Bowls has been progressively closer -- the Bears won by 36, Giants by 19, Pack by 14 and Rams by 7; (2) the NFC was stronger than the AFC in '85, '86 and '96; in '99 the AFC had three of the four best teams in football (Jags 14-2, Colts 13-3, Titans 13-3).

Brilliant Satire alert

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, one of the worst judicial decisions in the history of the United States regardless of your own "strongly held beliefs" about abortion, comes this faux press release from Greg Gutfeld on the Huffington Post. It's hilarious.

It's Creed, not Soil

Tunku Varadarajan at the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating 'interview' with Bernard-Henry Levy, a French left-of-center intellectual/historian who has some very interesting comments on the United States. Levy has done a bit of a followup on Tocqueville's journey two hundred years ago called "American Vertigo".

Insights from Levy (not the book):

Why the French hate us?

"In France, with the nation based on roots, on the idea of soil, on a common memory . . . the very existence of America is a mystery and a scandal." This is a particular source of pain, Mr. Lévy says, for "the right." Contrary to what is thought generally, he insists, anti-Americanism "migrated to the left, to the Communist Party, but its origins are on the extreme right." America gives the French right "nightmares," as the country is based on "a social contract. America proves that people can gather at a given moment and decide to form a nation, even if they come from different places." The "ghost that has haunted Europe for two centuries"--and which gives fuel, to this day, to anti-Americanism there--"is America's coming together as an act of will, of creed. It shows that there is an alternative to organic nations."

The end of revolution, Cambodia:

When did the dream of revolution die? "With Cambodia," Mr. Lévy answers. This was an event "much more important than the fall of the Berlin Wall. When the Hegel of modern times will write this history, he will say that the real crucial event was Cambodia." Why? "Because till Cambodia all the revolutionaries in the world believed that revolution had failed because it didn't go far enough, because it wasn't radical enough." And then Cambodia happened--"the first revolution in history to be really radical. . . . And what did we discover, all of us? Instead of paradise, revolution gives absolute hell."

Immigration and assimilation:

...He is an assiduous believer in America's "manifest destiny," and expects this country, clearly, to uphold the highest standards--as he sees them. Some of these standards he would prescribe to France, in particular the American approach to citizenship. He contrasts the "model of Dearborn"--the Detroit suburb, home to significant numbers of contented Arab-Americans--with the "model of St. Denis," the Parisian banlieu where discontented Arab immigrants (never referred to as Arab-Frenchman) ran riot late last year. "What is good about America is that in order to be a citizen, you are not asked to resign from your former identity. You cannot tell Varadarajan or Lévy, 'You have to erase from your mind the ancestors you had.' In France, we erase."

America, Mr. Lévy concludes, "is a factory of citizens, which has some defects, some problems, but the country works, not too badly. Better, I think, than mine."

Liberals must keep blacks down

Shelby Steele has an exceptional piece in OpinionJournal today that eloquently cuts to the heart of the unholy alliance of white liberalism and black grievance.

Mrs. Clinton came to Al Sharpton's MLK celebration looking for an easy harvest of black votes. And she knew the drill--white liberals and Dems whistle for the black vote by pandering to the black sense of grievance. Once positioned as the white champions of this grievance, they actually turn black resentment into white liberal power. Today, Democrats cannot be competitive without this alchemy. So Mrs. Clinton's real insult to blacks--one far uglier than her plantation metaphor--is to value them only for their sense of grievance.
A great achievement of modern liberalism--and a primary reason for its surviving decades past the credibility of its ideas--is that it captured black resentment as an exclusive source of power.
The dilemma for Democrats, liberals and the civil rights establishment is that they become redundant and lose power the instant blacks move beyond grievance and begin to succeed by dint of their own hard work.
No one on the current political scene better embodies this...than the current secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. The archetype that Ms. Rice represents is "overcoming" rather than grievance. Despite a childhood in the segregated South that might entitle her to a grievance identity, she has clearly chosen that older black American tradition in which blacks neither deny injustice nor allow themselves to be defined by it...And, because Ms. Rice is grounded in this tradition, she is of absolutely no value to modern liberalism or the Democratic Party despite her many talents and achievements. Quite the reverse, she is their worst nightmare. If blacks were to take her example and embrace overcoming rather than grievance, the wound to liberalism would be mortal.


Just read: Old Man's War

The Monk just finished Old Man's War, a scifi adventure story that is essentially the grandson of Robert Heinlein's excellent Starship Troopers (the book, not the horrendous movie). In OMW, septugenarians are infantry recruits for the Colonial Defense Forces that protect humanity as it expands through the stars.

Why use a bunch of decrepit oldies? Life experience. The technology exists to reconfigure the recruits' physical capabilities (saying anything more would give away too much) but the CDF wants the ethics, knowledge and life experience of the grandparents who can understand the concept of fighting for abstract "humanity" more than an 18-year old kid suffused with his or her own narcissism.

Essentially, the book asks what would you do if, at age 75, you could be physically improved to youth in exchange for a two-year enlistment in the army, with the army's option to retain you for up to 10 years total, a 70% death rate in those 10 years, but the ability to retire to any human colony (no return to Earth) and live out yet another adulthood of 50+ years?

Interesting concept.

Friday, January 20, 2006

NFL Conference Championship Sunday Preview

Sunday is Conference Championship day in the NFL -- the day that the matchup in Super Bowl XL will be set. PaMonk still calls this the best football day of the year and his nostalgia is understandable. After all, when his young-to-teenage son and he watched Super Bowls together at the MonkHouse, the games were often blowouts (San Fran-Miami, Chicago-New England, Oakland-Philly, Raiders-Redskins, Redskins-Broncos) instead of classics (49ers-Bengals I is an exception) or dreams-come-true games (Giants 39, Broncos 20; 'nuff said for Giants fans who suffered for three decades).

Indeed, during the NFC's 13-year run of dominance from 1984-1996, only three games were decided by 10 points or fewer (49ers-Bengals II, Giants-Bills, Cowboys-Steelers III). PaMonk's hagiographical memory misses a few points -- after all, for all the classics (1990 Giants-49ers, 1986-1987 Broncos-Browns) you can also get more than a fair share of embarrassments (1990 Raiders 51-3 loss in Buffalo; 1991 Lions 41-10 losers to Washington). Even recently, allegedly well-matched opponents have engaged in ridiculously one-sided contests (Giants-Vikings 2000).

But the conference championship matches do tend to have a lot of drama (1990 NFC, 2001 NFC, 1995 AFC, and the all-timer 1981 NFC) and some notable upsets (2003 Carolina, 1979 Rams), especially in the AFC (1985 New England, 1986 Denver, 1992 Buffalo, 1994 San Diego, 1997 Denver, 1999 Tennessee, 2001 New England).

This year's matchups are just odd: #6 at #2 in the AFC, #5 at #1 in the NFC; and both home teams are undefeated at home this year. The Monk's predictions? Worth every penny you're paying for them:

Pittsburgh at Denver: I still doubt the Broncos, and will continue to do so even if they win their third Super Bowl under Mike Shanahan. I like how Ben Roethlisberger is playing right now and I think the balanced attack of the Steelers will give the Broncs trouble. The best way to curb the Broncs' blitzes = sprint draws with Willie Parker and look-ins to Heath Miller.

Carolina at Seattle: I do not doubt the Panthers anymore, nor John Fox. The question is do they have enough to beat the Seahawks -- no DeShaun Foster, possibly no Julius Peppers. Answer: no. Ray Rhodes was a middling head coach with the Eagles and Packers, but he is a very good defensive coordinator. I retract that statement prospectively if he cannot figure out how to jump the quick outs and/or stifle the bombs that the Panthers throw to Steve Smith.

Pope shooter inks film deal?

According to the New Scotsman, Mehmet Ali Agca who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was just released, has just inked a film deal with Hollywood where he gets eight million dollars to tell his story.

Wonder if he'll implicate his Bulgarian handlers?


The Darkening Sky

Joe Katzman, the chief at Winds of Change, has just posted an alternative view to how the Iran nuclear situation will play out.

I personally believe that we're very likely to see at least 10 million dead in the Middle East within the next two decades, with an upper limit near 100 million. I do not believe pre-emptive action will be taken against Iran. I do, however, believe the extremist mullahs in Iran mean exactly what they say. They are steeped in an ideology that believes suicide/murder to be the holiest and most moral act possible. They have been diligent in laying strategic plans for an offensive Islamic War against Israel, America and the West. Plans backed by 25 years of action, and stated no less clearly than Mein Kampf. I believe that Ahmedinajad's talk of 12th Imam end-times and halos around his head at the UN aren't the ravings of an isolated nut, simply an unusually public (and unusually noticed) expression of beliefs that are close to mainstream within their ruling class. That class of "true believer" imams and revolutionary guard types have been quietly consolidating their control over all sectors of Iranian society over the last few months, and I do not believe anyone in the world today has both the will and the capability to stop them. A key pillar of The Bush Doctrine is about to fail.

In short, Katzman believes Iran will attain the nuclear sword and they will use it killing millions and possibly Islam in the process. And because the West doesn't have the will and Israel doesn't have the ability to do anything right now means the likelihood of far more bloodshed in the future.

Damnably depressing but worth reading.

NYC transit workers reject contract

by seven votes out of 22,500.

What a farce. The MTA would have to be suicidal to make any clear concessions, by the way.

Military action against Iran -- MUST READ

Thomas Holsinger has a long, compelling piece at Winds of Change that argue persuasively for a serious military campaign to stop the mad mullahs in Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

All the reasons for invading Iraq apply doubly to Iran, and with far greater urgency. Iran right now poses the imminent threat to America which Iraq did not in 2003. Iran may already have some nuclear weapons, purchased from North Korea or made with materials acquired from North Korea, which would increase its threat to us from imminent to direct and immediate.

Iran’s mullahs are about to produce their first home-built nuclear weapons this year. If we permit that, many other countries, some of whose governments are dangerously unstable, will build their own nuclear weapons to deter Iran and each other from nuclear attack as our inaction will have demonstrated our unwillingness to keep the peace. This rapid and widespread proliferation will inevitably lead to use of nuclear weapons in anger, both by terrorists and by fearful and unstable third world regimes, at which point the existing world order will break down and we will suffer every Hobbesian nightmare of nuclear proliferation.

Holsinger reasons that a nuclear Iran and the West's inability or unwillingness to do anything about it would leads to a nuclear arms race with the likes of Syria and Egypt which would exponentially increase the chances of one being used in theater against Israeli or in a terrorist act against us. Holsinger argues that Iran could be ripe for a revolution in a few years but that we can no longer wait for that thanks to a high likelihood that the mullahs have bought enriched fissionable materials from the likes of AQ Khan and the North Koreans.

He also argues that an air campaign alone will NOT achieve our aims and we need a lightning ground invasion of Iran followed by an occupation. The good news is that the Iranian body politics [he argues] is much healthier than Saddam's and a thorough rebuilding will unlikely be necessary.

Expensive? Yes. Unpopular? Potentially spectacularly. How about compared with a nuke on Tel Aviv [and the Israeli response] or in New York?

Holsinger doesn't get into how we will get the 200,000 men he estimates will be required for the campaign or other logistics details that he believes will be a monumental challenge but his argument that the Iranian nuclear capability needs to be thwarted THIS YEAR is hard to refute.

Read it all.

This and other articles by serious folks, including Hillary(!) refusing to rule out military force is very sobering (and ought to be.) There is a great temptation to leave the status quo and HOPE the mullahs are saner than they appear. I think we would, in time, come to regret that decision. Look to Bush's State of the Union for clues on what the Administration is really thinking on Iran.

No D in Cavalier? Think again

In a performance that Virginia fans once could only dream about during the coaching tenure of Pete Gillen, the Cavs' men's hoops team held North Carolina to 36.2% shooting from the floor in their 72-68 win over UNC last night.

The Cavs are young and a work in progress, but at least their new coach Dave Leitao (say: lee-toe) has his priorities right: defense, discipline, ball control. The fact that this team has 3 ACC wins in five games, after its 4-12 disaster last year and its lack of experience, is pretty decent.

Dawn, 25 years later

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's first inauguration. At the time, interest rates and inflation were in double digits, the hostages in Iran had been held for 444 days, the previous president had been unable to understand America's "irrational" fear of communism, the country was shackled with a legacy in the previous 12+ years of political assassinations (MLK, RFK), disastrous economic policies, defeatism, abandonment of an ally (S. Vietnam), weakness in the face of terror (Iran) and the all-too-prevalent view that the only option America had was coexistence with the USSR, not defeating it.

Reagan changed all that. From setting in motion the process that would within 10 years result in the USSR's disintegration and within 8.5 years the fall of the Berlin Wall, to reinvigorating a moribund economy through lower tax rates that not only recharged the private sector but resulted in HIGHER tax revenue to the government, to reasserting both America's greatness and America's strength. Whereas Pope John Paul II acted as the moral voice against the evils of communism, President Reagan acted as both a moral voice and the sword-arm of freedom.

The WSJ (link in title) salutes Reagan's inauguration anniversary by concentrating on his economic legacy; there is no question that his policies turned around the American economy in the 1980s nor that his legacy of regulation cutting and cost cutting has been abandoned or ignored by Republicans today.

But Reagan should be saluted for one thing above all, as Mark Steyn noted in his written eulogy to the President:

Ronald Reagan saw Soviet Communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That’s what counts. He brought down the “evil empire”, and all the rest is footnotes.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Today's sign of the apocalypse

Believe it or not, the EU actually refused to release $42M that the World Bank allocated to the Palestinian "Authority" because of that entity's "lack of budgetary discipline" -- an euphemism for unrestrained corruption.

Don't worry, PA symps, a little bit of whinging and various false reassurances to the EU that the issue is being handled will change the Eurocrats' minds.

HT: LGF, which called this the "flying pig moment of the day".

Supporting Antonio Davis

Antonio Davis, the New York Knick forward, went into the stands last night during an away game against the Chicago Bulls when he observed that a fan menacing his wife who was in the stands.

There were no punches thrown and no apparent physicality.

Davis was automatically ejected from the game and faces a fine and/or suspension from the commissioner's office.

It's critical that players do not threaten paying customers, this holds true for Ricardo Rodriguez, Ron Artest and anyone else.

ESPN's Chris Sheridan who says, "No matter how benign Davis' foray ended up being, it was totally unacceptable."

However, in this case I totally disagree. What is important here (and could be borne out by evidence during the investigation or not) is why Davis went into the stands. If he legitimately believed that his wife was in PHYSICAL danger then he has a legitimate right to go into the stands. The nature of the danger is important though - it would not be justified if she was only being aggressively heckled - that is part of the nature of the game. It would wrong to punish someone who acted to physically defend his or her family - if Davis' wife was being pummelled and he could have gotten there faster than security - should he stand at the out of bounds line and shout for help??

Stern should go for a perfunctory fine and no suspension citing the extraordinary circumstances around this case which is not comparable to the Artest brawl.

Making a life out of a moment

Yes, I'm one of those people who doesn't get tired hearing stories of the 1980 Miracle on Ice, not least of all because the only US Gold Medalist who won a Stanley Cup the same year he won the gold is the Islanders' Ken Morrow, a stalwart defenseman on the 1980 team.

Read the piece linked above for a nice profile of Mike Eruzione, the perpetually positive captain of the Miracle on Ice team, and the man who scored the goal that beat the Russians.

Clinton Corruption, part MMMDCCCLXXII

Robert Novak notes the Barrett Report, released in a highly censored version the other day, about Henry Cisneros' tax evasion felonies and the Clinton Administration's cover-up for him.

Meanwhile, John Hindraker notes the difference between a whistleblower and a partisan: whistleblowers are anti-Bush.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Woman as oppressor?

Glenn 'Instapundit' Reynolds introduces a book by Norah Vincent - "One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back". Vincent is a lesbian who dressed and acted as a man for some two years, joined a male only bowling league and dated women and has written about her experience. Instapundit loves the book and provides this brief excerpt:

Bisexuals know that hurt gets inflicted by both sexes in equal measure if not always by the same means. But for these women -- who had never dated other women, and thus never been romantically hurt by them -- men as a subspecies, not the particular men with whom they had been involved, were to blame for the wreck of a relationship and the psychic damage it had done to them.

It's hardly surprising, then, that in this atmosphere, as a single man dating women, I often felt attacked, judged, on the defensive. Whereas with the men I met and befriended as Ned there was a a presumption of innocence -- that is, you're a good guy until you prove otherwise -- with women there was quite often a presumption of guilt: you're a cad like every other guy until you prove otherwise.

"Pass my test and then we'll see if you're worthy of me" was the implicit message coming across the table at me. And this from women who had demonstrably little to offer. "Be lighthearted," they said, though buoyant as lead zeppelins themselves. "Be kind," they insisted in the harshest of tones. "Don't be like the others," they implied, while having virtually condemned me as such before hand.

The feminists aren't gonna like that. And they'll like this description from an Instapundit reader even less:

[The 'feminist' cultural storm] is an epidemic of conflict and self-distortion that begins and ends with an impenetrable sense of entitlement, based on a false sense of victimhood, and for which not just any man but every man must pay forever for the restoration that's never good enough.

The "feminist" demand runs from fathers to brothers to sons and husbands, to their friends and acquaintances and chance encounters; it is endless. "I am woman, hear me roar" has produced a psychological wasteland that would put Sherman's march to shame and into which any man who travels does so at his peril."

A wordsmith this one.

NSA surveillance and the Left's foolishness

Max Boot weighs in on the NSA surveillance issue in today's LA Times. His opener shows the arrant stupidity of this president's political nemeses in full relief:

I CAN CERTAINLY understand the uproar over President Bush's flagrant abuses of civil liberties. This is America. What right does that fascist in the White House have to imprison Michael Moore, wiretap Nancy Pelosi and blackmail Howard Dean?

Wait. You mean he hasn't done those things? All he's done is intercept communications between terrorists abroad and their contacts in the U.S. without a court order? Talk about defining impeachable offenses downward.

If you want to see real abuses of civil liberties, read Geoffrey R. Stone's 2004 book "Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism." It tells how John Adams jailed a congressman for criticizing his "continual grasp for power." How Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and had the army arrest up to 38,000 civilians suspected of undermining the Union cause. How Woodrow Wilson imprisoned Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs for opposing U.S. entry into World War I. And how Franklin D. Roosevelt consigned 120,000 Japanese Americans to detention camps.

You can also read about how presidents from FDR to Richard Nixon used the FBI to spy on, and occasionally blackmail and harass, their political opponents. The Senate's Church Committee in 1976 blew the whistle on decades of misconduct, including FBI investigations of such nefarious characters as Eleanor Roosevelt, William O. Douglas, Barry Goldwater and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Get it? The FBI used to spy on the President's or just the FBI Director's (remember, Hoover ran the FBI as his own fiefdom) political enemies for political gain or insurance. That definitely doesn't compare to the NSA issue, and Boot salutes the public for its wisdom in the face of bluster and bloviations from the Dean-Pelosi crowd:

And although the government has occasionally blundered, it has also used its enhanced post-9/11 powers to keep us safe. The National Security Agency's warrantless wiretaps, which have generated so much controversy, helped catch, among others, a naturalized American citizen named Iyman Faris who pleaded guilty to being part of an Al Qaeda plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge.

No wonder polls show that most people continue to support Bush's handling of the war on terrorism. As long as federal surveillance remains targeted on the country's enemies, not on the president's, the public will continue to yawn at hyperbolic criticisms of the commander in chief.

A good primer on the issues and the law is here, just keep following the links.

Shatner Stone

No, there hasn't been a merger between William Shatner and Sharon Stone.

This might be a bit off color but I am getting a bit depressed reading about the nuclear Iran debacle and this was the funniest thing I've seen today.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - An online casino has a piece of Capt. Kirk. Actor William Shatner has sold his kidney stone for $25,000, with the money going to a housing charity, it was announced Tuesday. Shatner reached agreement Monday to sell the stone to GoldenPalace.com.
The money will go to Habitat for Humanity, which builds houses for the needy.

We have Jimmy Kimmel to thank for this inspiration.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

HT: The Corner

Hillary's tawdry slur - UPDATED

According to USA Today Clinton was speaking at the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem and this was the quote:

The House "has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about," said Clinton, D-N.Y. "It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

The term that Senator Clinton should have used was "dictatorship" if she meant to describe a system under which contrary views aren't heard. But PLANTATION works much better for race-baiting.


"The Republicans have been running the House of Representatives like a plantation - and you know what I mean."

Hillary Clinton today during a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. - I believe at a church in the Bronx. The above might not be 100% accurate but the gist of it is - the bit about the plantation. I haven't found a copy of the transcript as I saw it on the ten o'clock news. Frankly, I don't think the context matters.

It's a tawdry left-wing slur against the Republicans and conservatives - cheap race-baiting filth on a day meant to honor someone above it.

Come to think of it, 'tawdry' is a very good term for Hillary Clinton.

Kudos to Bryant Gumbel

The Monk watched much of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel last night, including the host's signoff commentary. Gumbel responded directly to Rich Gossage's public condemnation of the Baseball Writers of America, whose members vote for the baseball Hall of Fame and who elected to enshrine Bruce Sutter but not the Goose. Noting the caustic response Gossage made to the BBWA's snub, which Gumbel rightly noted as fully justified, Gumbel offered Gossage some useful advice in the form of two words: Harry Carson.

The repeated and completely unjustifiable snub of Carson by the pro football writers is one of the most narrow-minded and simply ridiculous failures by any Hall of Fame voting committee anywhere. Carson dominated his position of inside linebacker for more than a decade. He is a 9-time Pro Bowler (same as Jack Lambert, more than Jack Ham -- two Steelers in the Hall) and was the "quarterback" of the Giants' defense that finished in the top ten in total defense six times in seven years from '81-87. He was a perennial all-Pro and he is still not in the Hall of Fame despite being one of the two best non-outside linebackers of the 1980s (Mike Singletary, the middle linebacker of the Bears' top-notch defenses of the mid-80s, is the other; he's in the Hall). Maybe Carson is too intelligent, too handsome and too nice -- he never came across in interviews as a frightening, aggressive person such that one would associate him with the seek-and-destroy mindset of an inside linebacker. He is STILL a genial presence on Giants pregame and analysis shows, if less erudite tha he was in the '80s thanks to the innumerable concussions that eventually led to his retirement.

The primary justification for keeping Carson out of the Hall is that the Giants only became winners when Lawrence Taylor arrived in 1981. That's stupid. Taylor transformed the game as an outside linebacker and is probably the best defensive player ever (he couldn't head-slap offensive linemen, Deacon Jones). Carson's greatness complemented LT, it did not depend upon him: Carson was an all-Pro on a terrible team while LT ravaged ACC offenses for UNC.

Lambert was the most feared inside linebacker in football in the '70s (even by his teammates), yet Ham, Mel Blount, and Mean Joe Greene are in the Hall because they all deserve to be on their own merits. Similarly, Gene Upshaw and Art Shell are both Hall of Famers because each was the best at his position when they played, they were not debited by playing alongside each other. Unlike Singletary (Dan Hampton) and Lambert (Greene), Carson did not play behind Hall of Fame quality defensive linemen. It takes a Giants fan to remember that George Martin (not the fat author), Jim Burt and Leonard Marshall were the defensive line of the '86 champions.

Gumbel's sage advice to Gossage was to take solace and wisdom from Carson, who after one of the latest snubs a couple of years ago essentially said "forget it, I'm no longer going to concern myself with an honor bestowed by a bunch of writers who never played the game." Indeed, it would be more of an honor for Carson to sail through as a Veterans' Committee selection that would right the wrong done to a fine player and fine person.

Serial murderers' useful idiots

Good piece by Bridget Johnson on the gullibility and foolishness of death penalty foes who advocate for depraved killers. Exhibit 1 is this quote after the Commonwealth of Virginia tested DNA found at the scene of certain killings attributed to Roger Keith Coleman and proved that Coleman, who had protested his innocence up until the date of his execution, had committed the crimes:

James McCloskey of Centurion Ministries, who had spent nearly two decades trying to prove Coleman's innocence, was befuddled, asking the Washington Post: "How can somebody, with such equanimity, such dignity, such quiet confidence, make those his final words even though he is guilty?"

Answer: because these killers are manipulative psychopaths -- after all, many of them persuaded their victims to spend time with them, then committed the murders (Gacy, Bundy, etc.). Read the whole piece.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Chinese Unrest continues

A harbinger of things to come?

SHANGHAI, Jan. 16 - A week of protests by villagers in China's southern industrial heartland over government land seizures exploded into violence over the weekend, as thousands of police officers brandishing automatic weapons and electric stun batons moved to suppress the demonstrations, residents of the village said Monday.

The residents of the village, Panlong, in Guangdong Province, said that as many as 60 people were wounded and that at least one person, a 13-year-old girl, was killed by security forces. The police denied any responsibility, saying the girl died of a heart attack.

Villagers said that the police had chased and beaten protesters and bystanders alike, and that villagers had retaliated by smashing police cars and throwing rocks at security forces in hit-and-run attacks.

Residents said Monday that the village had been sealed off, with the police monitoring roads into the area to check identification and bar access to outsiders. News of the violence appears to have been blocked in China.

The Chicomms, as ruthless and bloody any group in history, are trying to hold on to political power by allowing more economic latitude. It's a formula that has worked in the past 15 years and brought great wealth, albeit drastically unequal, to the country. Rampant corruption, stifling pollution and an appalling lack of basic decency are the hideous children of the Chinese policy. As they showed in Tiananmen Square and many times since the government has no qualms about crushing dissent.

They crushed this riot today. They'll crush the riot tomorrow. They'll probably crush the riot next year. But one day, whether its an economic recession or a badly botched Taiwan adventure, they will not be able to contain it.

It might just start with a 13 year old girl who dies of a "heart attack."


This complete falsehood from Nedra Pickler of the AP in a story on the White House's response to Al Gore's criticism; here's her description of Gore:

. . . the Democrat, who lost the 2000 election to Bush only after the Supreme Court intervened.

That is disgusting.

Fact: Al Gore never won the state of Florida vote.

Fact: the major networks called Florida for Gore then recanted BEFORE THE POLLS CLOSED in the whole state. The part of the state most affected -- the western area that is the most Bush-friendly part.

Fact: the Florida Supreme Court twice violated the Constitution by setting up judicial remedies at odds with Article II of the Constitution.

Fact: every recount, except the most strict vote-counting method that neither candidate ever sought in the Bush v. Gore soap opera, resulted in a Bush win. The strict-method count that resulted in a Gore win was unverifiable.

In other words, stop the false mythos that the Supreme Court "intervened" and thereby "delivered" the presidency to Bush. He won the election, Gore lost. Period.

Teddy hoisted on own petard

Senator Edward Kennedy who excoriated Judge Samuel Alito for his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton for alleged 'discriminatory' attitudes toward women and minorities is a current, dues paying member of The Owl Club - a Harvard College finals club that admits only men.

According to the Washington Times he updated his information on the website as recently as last September.

Teddy is 'getting out as fast as he can'.

The finals clubs (as an alum, I've always known them as 'finals' clubs and not 'final') are not unlike fraternities - social clubs, men only, off campus. One difference I can remember is that one had to be invited to become a candidate to join rather than an open 'rush' in most of the Greek system. Harvard guarantees housing and does not permit fraternities or sororities in the usual sense. Frankly I don't think there's anything wrong with them but it's nice to see blubbering Teddy caught with his britches down.

HT: The Corner

Truth as a stranger to fiction

A get-it-while-you-can column from Mark Steyn (available on his website and he rotates his archives). Steyn questions the absence of interesting, thrilling spy novels in the post Cold War world. Why?

Because the threats to the world are morally unambiguous and more of the Ian Fleming variety than Le Carre's Karla, and the major spy novelists of the 1960s through the 1980s (Le Carre, Littell, Deighton) approached the whole genre as a grey-on-grey chess game, those novelists do not produce good spy novels today:

If a global terror campaign that blows up Bali, Madrid and the London Tube isn’t enough to revive the brand, what is? With hindsight, the problem wasn’t the loss of the old enemy – the Soviet Union – but the whole wilderness-of-mirrors approach to it . . . The result of this approach is that the default mode of the entire genre became a post-modern chess-game played by two sets of grey knights.

In other words, the whole moral ambiguity angle that Le Carre (who has come out as wholly anti-American in recent years) and Littell played, the conspiracy theorizing that is Ludlum's stock-in-trade, all of which resounded with literati on the Left in the '70s and '80s that saw little practical difference between the US and the USSR (we'll leave discussion of how wrong they all were for another time), does not translate to the modern threats to the West.

Steyn regrets that Charles McCarry (the Paul Christopher novels) and Alan Furst (the excellent WWII-era World at Night novels -- don't miss Dark Star) haven't tackled the current climate. He misses Joel Rosenberg's recent offerings (regarding Middle East politics) and doesn't mention Tom Clancy's prophetic novels (Sum of All Fears, Debt of Honor, Executive Orders), but the point remains the same. With a moral compass that's been demagnetized, the spy novel genre is adrift.

From the no-s**t files: an NFL mistake

I like the fact that the NFL holds its officials publicly accountable. Thus, I have no problem with Mike Pereira, the head of NFL officiating, publicly stating that the Polamalu interception overrule by Pete Morelli was wrong. Why? The officials are charged with knowing the NFL rulebook front to back. They have training sessions on that before the season so that they are familiar with the NFL's new points of emphasis, rule changes and receive a refresher on the rules as a whole.

Pereira's explanation further clarifies the "football move" concept that refs use. Of course, it cannot clarify how Morelli could have perceived Polamalu lacking control over the football while on the ground and starting back to his feet.

Next, the NFL will figure out how to overturn pass interference non-calls (Giants-49ers 2002, Steelers-Colts 2005) and fictional pass interference calls (Pats-Broncs 2005) by replay.

Or so I hope.

Monday, January 16, 2006

TV Disgrace

One of the realizations that Americans have recently made is that there is a LOT of really good TV programming in the UK; something that UK audiences (CSI, 24, The Simpsons, ER, etc.) have long since recognized about the US. Indeed, many US shows are adaptations of British TV premises, often with varying success: Loving flopped in the US, but was a huge success in the UK; The Office has done well in the Americanized version after a great run in a UK version; Three's Company was based on a UK TV premise.

One advantage of expanded cable and satellite is that the BBC programs are often available in the US on BBC America, usually a few months after they air in the UK. But some American cable stations have made the choice to purchase BBC programs and re-air them in the US. The two most notable: Hu$tle on AMC and MI-5 on A&E. Those cable stations also offer a contrast in the proper and improper way to showcase these shows.

Hu$tle debuted Saturday night on AMC (its first-season run is done in the UK) and AMC treated it right. First, AMC aired the premiere episode about 4-5 times in succession (thus helping The Monk's taping options against the conflicting AFC playoff game and Syracuse's roadie at Cincinnati, I can tape 2 at a time, not 3). Second, and much more importantly, it ran the episode in a 75-minute time slot. That's important because BBC hour-long shows are ONE HOUR LONG, not 48 minutes, because BBC programming does not break for commercials. Thus, Hu$tle aired completely but AMC still got its commercials in by increasing the airtime alloted to the program.

Hu$tle is about a group of con artists, led by a known con man Mickey Briggs. It features some Brit actors, including the young guy who played the George Stephanopoulos doppelganger in Primary Colors, and American character actor Robert Vaughn. Smart stuff, quite stylish and definitely something to follow.

MI-5 (known as Spooks in the UK, but the name had to be changed for the US audiences) is a phenomenon across the pond. Its ratings exceed CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY combined even despite a changing cast list that would make Law & Order blush. Season 4 is finished in the UK and you can obtain episode spoilers galore on the BBC website. A&E treats this excellent show DEAD WRONG. First, it will not air the fourth season until approximately this summer -- a longer delay than any other season ender in the UK to premiere in the US. Second, A&E CUTS 12+ minutes to make the show fit into the 60-minute timeslot A&E alots. Rent the DVDs and see the whole episodes and you'll realize just how much that 20% cut in the show's content means.

I hope A&E smartens up and starts airing the fourth season ASAP. This is a disgrace.