Wednesday, December 31, 2003

2003 OBITS

Looking over the celebrity deaths of the year I had forgotten that Hume Cronyn died, thought Art Carney was already dead and never even heard the news of Buddy Hackett's passing. Reading further I see that Hackett died when I was without the benefit of American newspapers.

Gordon Jump from WKRP in Cincinnati died too. He was 71. He replaced the aging Jesse White as the Maytag repairman in the late 1980s. White, was in the movie HARVEY with James Stewart, didn't die until 1997. White had a great voice and can be heard on Stan Freberg's United States of America. I always thought the switch to Gordon Jump was the youth movement, but they should have thought even younger. The next Maytag repairman should be Drew Carey.

Buddy Ebsen was a sad loss. Davey Crockett was my favorite Disney film growing up. And I also watch the Beverly Hillbillies quite a bit back then.

Hepburn, Peck and Hope all went. I can't remember three stars of that magnitude going in the same year before. Three people that hadn't worked in years that were still fondly remembered. Also, Johnny Cash, Elia Kazan and John Ritter rounded out a pretty talented bunch.

Terminator raises Park fees.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will raise state park fees to their highest levels ever, making California one of the most expensive places in the country for a family to spend time outdoors in a government-run park.

State officials disclosed Tuesday that beginning July 1, the daily cost for a family to camp at a state park will nearby double, from a maximum of $13 to $25. As part of a new sliding scale, fees will be higher during times such as the Memorial Day weekend when demand is greatest.

Asked to comment on how the increases square with Schwarzenegger's campaign promise not to raise taxes, aides said that there was a technical difference between fees and taxes, and that the governor had not broken his no-new-tax vow.

"This is not a tax," state parks spokesman Roy Stearns said Tuesday. "People have no choice but to pay a tax. People have a choice as to whether they want to pay this fee. It's like going to the movies."

User-fees are the most democratic form of revenue raising. It allows people to vote with their checkbooks. Calling this fee hike a tax is ridiculous. Parks cost money. Why should the larger expense be made by people who don't use them? I would be happy to see all government services take a user fee approach.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003


I'm getting long-winded today, but I've been sick for so long I feel that I'm behind in my blogging.

A few weeks ago I reviewed the disappointing LAST SAMURAI. Thomas Hibbs has a related article on the vogue of Japanese culture and how the modern day movies are getting it wrong. The article is really an exploration of Akira Kurosawa more than anything. I'll beat the Kurosawa drum once more. To read the whole article click here.
In Hollywood, Japanese styles and themes are in vogue, as is evident from recent box-office hits such as Kill Bill and The Last Samurai. Despite their critical acclaim and their purported desire to be faithful to Japanese sources, these films are but vulgar distortions of Japanese film culture, especially of the work of Akira Kurosawa, whose films influenced such American classics as The Magnificent Seven, A Fistful of Dollars, and Star Wars.
President Mohammad Khatami said Tuesday U.S. aid to earthquake victims in Iran, while welcome, would not alter the state of relations between the two arch foes who broke off ties nearly a quarter century ago.

"I don't think this incident will change our relations with the United States," Khatami told a news conference in the capital of southeastern Kerman province where officials say up to 50,000 people were killed in a quake that struck Friday.

If you like, we could topple your regime or something. Would that make you feel better?

I’m moving into a friend’s house that is moving away to Ohio for a job. She’s not sure if she will return but she’s keeping the power, cable and gas running in case she does.

I called the cable company to get a cable modem installed. They were more than friendly until they realized that owner of the house already had an open account with them. According to their rules I needed to get her authorization to add the cable modem. “Why?” I asked.

“ Because if she didn’t authorize the cable modem I could run up pay per view bills that she’d be responsible for” the lady on the phone said. I pointed out that I didn’t want to piggyback on her account, but wanted my own separate account that I would alone be responsible for.

“We can’t do that,” the woman said. I kept being handed off to more people who could only tell me that the computer wouldn’t let them open an account at a residence that already had an account. I said simply that I want to open an account that I will be 100% responsible for and are more than willing to pay $40 a month to do so.

“No” they said. “She would either have to authorize it on her own account or cancel her account so that I could open one in my own name.”

Well, I said, “Why not let me open one in my own name now?”

“The computer won’t let me,” she said.

The supervisor couldn’t tell me anymore than that. Finally another manager got on the line and said that the company had declared bankruptcy recently and one of the reasons was that they were counting cable customers and cable modem customers separately. “What nonsense,” I said. “ I don’t care how you count what. Just give me what I want. I’m the customer. The reason you are declaring bankruptcy is that I am offering to pay you $40 a month for a service that you can easily provide and you are asking me the customer to jump through hoops.”

“That’s your perception sir,” he said.

“What’s your perception? I asked. “Here I am offering you my money and you want me to jump through hoops. I’d call another cable company if you weren’t a monopoly. Instead, I’ll go with DSL and you’ll still lose out. It’s not your accounting tricks that are ruining your business but an inability to give customers what they want, when they want it, and at a price they are willing to pay”

If it were not for DSL, I’d have to settle for dial up or cow tow to this monolith that the government created. When the government broke up ATT&T long distance phone bills dropped and service got better. Cable companies need the same treatment.

But to go one further, I would ask anyone who has had these kinds of experiences with corporations why they continue to support a larger government and more spending. I can choose whether or not I want Adelphia cable, but I’m not s customer of the government. They are holding a gun to my head demanding payment.

I could have called her and had her add Cable Modem to her account and paid her every month, but I’m not spending $40 a month to be treated, as they would like. I’m already paying for too many unconstitutional government services and being treated like a number. I’m not going to do it voluntarily. But isn't that what people who support more government spending are doing?

The freewheeling, gossipy Internet sites they operate can be controversial: Matt Drudge, the wired news and gossip hound who broke the story about Monica Lewinsky's affair with Bill Clinton, is a blogger. Many bloggers are not professional journalists. Few have editors. Most make no pretense of objectivity.

Yet they're forcing the mainstream news media to follow the stories they're pushing, such as the scandal that took down Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. And they've created a trend that almost every major presidential candidate is following. Even President Bush's campaign Web site hosts a blog.

The Dude's anaology of the little fish being more agile is in evidence here. Even with big government and big corporations trying to run our lives for us, the Internet makes it difficult for them to push agendas. The blogosphere is liberty at its finest.

The Cuban authorities have launched an inquiry into how the official newspaper of the Communist party ran a front page photograph of Fidel Castro which appeared to have been doctored to make him look like Adolf Hitler.

Although details of what happened remain unclear, what is known is that someone or some group at the newspaper appears to have risked all in the name of political satire.

Yesterday a spokesman for the newspaper confirmed that an investigation was under way, but that the photographer who took the picture was not responsible.

Does Bush run an investigation when Gary Trudeau mischaracterizes him in Doonesbury? Does anyone think such an investigation by Castro into this incident will make Trudeau indignant to the lack of freedom in Cuba? My guess is that he and other free speech liberals will look the other way. Jimmy Carter is probably on a plane to Cuba now to praise their wonderful healthcare.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


What do you make of the Islamic websites urging Muslims to leave American big cities?
"Our Muslim brothers in America, this is our final warning. We ask you, as fast as you can, to leave the following cities immediately: Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles," the message said.

It's been so quiet since 911, it would be easy to ignore any such warning. On the otherhand, they've had a few years to plan an attack and they do seem to come every 2 or 3 years.

Why does the President allow Norman Minetta to measure airport safety against political correctness? Would it be such a bad thing to screen Middle Eastern people more thoroughly than Granny?

Monday, December 22, 2003


When I'm back to normal I promise to be more topical and interesting. In the meantime enjoy this fun little game. Think of a sitcom character or dictator and it will ask you questions until it figures out who you chose. It guessed a few obscure ones like Larry Mondello from leave it to Beaver and David Nelson from Ozzie and Harriet. I never stumped it.

Sunday, December 21, 2003


This was as sick as I have been in years. I haven’t had medicine in days and yet I still have trouble putting rational thoughts together. Thinking back, I’ve been sick three of the last four Christmas seasons. It must be some sort of combination with the hordes brining their sickness to Orlando and the change of season.

I missed Saddam getting captured. South Park had a funny episode on Wednesday that referenced it. I missed Madeline Albreight suggest that the Bush administration was hiding Osama for the election. I missed Quaddafi giving up his weapons. Howard Dean and even Wesley Clark are going to have a fun time explaining how Bush is blowing everything. The war is going even better than the administration thought.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Elian Gonzalez turns 10
One of the strongest arguments put forward to justify returning Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba was that he would not be able to live a normal life in the United States. The little boy, who survived by clinging to an inner tube when his mother drowned trying to flee from Castro's Cuba in a flimsy, overcrowded boat, became a symbol of freedom to anti-Castro Cuban exiles. Then, he became the center of an international custody battle. But Elian's life in Castro's Cuba has been far from normal.

In Miami, the little boy was doted upon by the family that took him in and was celebrated as "a miracle child" by Miami's Cuban-American community. He was showered with toys and smothered in loving attention. In Cuba, he is used as a symbol of Cuban Communism and is exhibited like a trophy. The message Castro wants to send is that the return of Elian, who gave every indication that he wanted to stay with his relatives in Miami, was a victory over the United States.

This interpretation of events overlooks the fact that the Clinton administration, with Attorney General Janet Reno in command of operations, seized the little boy from his adoptive home at gunpoint. (On Tuesday, Elian's Miami relatives filed a lawsuit seeking damages against six federal agents, alleging that the officers broke down the front door unannounced, sprayed tear gas, held people at gunpoint and shouted obscenities at unarmed relatives, supporters and news media in the pre-dawn raid in April 2000.)

Elian's 10th birthday last week was used by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to deliver a speech in which he raged at the U.S. government, describing it as "monstrous" and its officials as "idiots" and "bandits." But he said he didn't put the American people in that same category. "No one can blame them for the system they live in."

During the birthday party, celebrated at the school Elian attends in Cardenas, 85 miles east of Havana, Castro helped Elian blow out the candles on a huge birthday cake.

It is only possible to speculate about how Elian feels about the decisions that have been made for him that have changed his life. Apart from the official media, which are totally controlled by the government, no journalist has been allowed to interview Elian.

Certainly, none of the reporters at the birthday celebration were allowed to get near enough to the little boy to speak to him. It would be interesting to know what he thought of the two-and-a-half hour speech by Castro that he was forced to sit through. Hardly a little boy's idea of birthday fun. One thing is certain, 10-year-old Elian, once a symbol of freedom, has been turned into a dictator's trophy.

Did Ann Frank belong with her family in a concentration camp or would it have been permisible to save her?

Friday, December 12, 2003


One of the best criticisms I’ve heard about the media during campaigns is their disregard for the issues and their insistence on covering the horse race aspects instead. While they may like the watching the contest best, they might consider that these guys are going to have a lot of power and it might be interesting to see how they would use that power. Ted Koppel, who doesn't seem to mind asking tough questions on his regular show, fell right into the campaign trap.
Another aide to Mr. Clark put it more pointedly, if anonymously: "I think the big loser tonight was Ted Koppel. He was short on substance and short on class. It was an ad for Howard Dean and a negative ad for the Republican National Committee by repeatedly advertising all the flaws of the candidates."

Steve Elmendorf, a chief strategist and aide to Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, said: "Koppel asking all those process questions? I've never seen anything like it."

The issues are tough to cover because you have to know your homework and be willing to point out when someone is lying. It’s much easier to get reactions to temporary phenomenon like Gore endorsing Dean.

Gore’s endorsement will fade from the news, but how these guys intend to keep Social Security solvent for 40 more years without forcing tax rates of 70% might be an idea someone could explore before the end of the election.

Also, the Democrats are full of scorn because we haven’t dug up the bodies of Osama and Saddam. If they have a great plan to find them maybe they could be good Americans and share their genius with the administration now before terrorists strike again. Or maybe they wouldn’t mind a terrorist strike right before the election at that.

Since most of Democratic candidates are from Congress it might be interesting to cite the ones who have voted against budget increases for intelligence through the years and ask how that was prudent policy.

Ultimately, it would be nice to hear each candidate explain why having your material needs met by government is more valuable than the appreciation and self-respect a person feels when they get these things through their own work.

Rod Dreyer has written a great fable. . .
Once upon a time, four friends shared the forest. When an evil dictator threatened the peace and security of them all, one of the friends concluded that the bad man had to be driven out of the forest.

"Who will help me disarm and depose this dictator?" asked the American Eagle.

"Not I!" said the French Cock.

"Not I!" said German Boar.

"Not I!" said Russian Bear.

So the Eagle moved its soldiers to the dictator's doorstep on her own.

All the animals gathered in a clearing to try to talk the dictator into doing the right thing before it was too late.

"We've given the dictator 12 years of warnings, and he has done nothing but lie to us, and evade his promises. We all have solid reasons to believe he has poison weapons, and will use them against us one day if he's not stopped," the Eagle said. "Who will help me hold him to account?"

We know the answer to that one. Let's skip to the lesson.
"Who will accept my gold to aid in rebuilding this nation?" said the Eagle.

"I will!" said the Cock.

"I will!" said the Boar.

"I will!" said the Bear.

"Fuggedaboutit!" said the Eagle. "What kind of chump do you think I am?

"When I asked you to risk your blood and treasure to fight the evil dictator who threatened us all, you would not," the Eagle said. "When I asked you to send your own children and gold to help the dictator's nation recover from his misrule, you would not.

"When I most needed you, you weren't there for me. Go whine somewhere else."

And so, the French Cock, the German Boar and the Russian Bear were left to ponder a most excellent lesson on the principle of risk and reward. And they learned that day that their friend the American Eagle, when her forest allies act like Chickens and Ostriches, is not afraid to be a hard Ass.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


I don’t ever remember someone as high up as the previous candidate endorsing someone before the first primary. Reagan waited until Bush had secured the nomination in 1988 before he gave his nod. I thought it particularly surprising that Gore would endorse Dean even before the first primary, especially since his running mate from 2000 is still in the hunt.

Gore's endorsing of Dean is a swipe at the Clinton's and their support of General Clark. After Clinton sent his men to the Washington Times last week to denounce Dean, Gore’s endorsement of Dean can be seen as nothing but a shot across their bow.

Steve Saunders had a good take on it. He thinks Gore is aligning himself with the leftwing base of the party, which would make him the best opposition to Hillary when she decides to run in 2008. Gore may not know whether he will run in 2008, but being attached to Dean and the fundraising apparatus of the party would certainly help him for the following election. Only Steve thinks it won’t do any good. Hillary Clinton can have the Democratic nomination this year if she wants and in 2008 if Bush is re-elected. I agree with Steve.

Gore’s chance at being President was lost when the Democrats refused to convict Clinton in the impeachment trials. By putting political loyalty over principle doomed Gore and the Democrats. And what has Clinton done for him since?

Had top Democrats punished one of their own for breaking the law it would have given them a certain moral authority they do not have now. They clung to the polls that said that the people didn’t want him removed. But the people would have respected the principle of removing Clinton even if they didn’t want to see it happen. Under what principle did the Democrats ignore the charges, the principle that Republicans wanted Clinton gone?

Another reason Dean shines in this field is that he is not of Washington and therefore not tainted by the deal makings. The addition of Gore to the team changes that somewhat, but Dean is saying what the liberal base wants said. The other Democrats are already playing to the undecided middle of the road voters who won’t be voting in primaries.

Only Gephardt who has the unions behind him and Clark who has the Clintons is still a threat to Dean, unless, of course, Dean melts down under the scrutiny of being the front-runner. The press will certainly wants to keep the horse race going in order to fill the papers with tidbits so I would expect the press to be hitting Dean pretty hard through the first few primaries.

UPDATE: John Ellis supports Steve's theory and goes one further.

UPDATE #2: David Broder calls Gore's endorsement eccentric.

Monday, December 08, 2003


While Democrats are posturing and complaining that Bush is poorly prosecuting a meaningless war, here’s the reason why the dog had to be put down.
An Iraqi colonel has confirmed that Saddam Hussein had secret weapons of mass destruction - and revealed that front-line commanders were given warheads that could be launched against coalition forces within 45 minutes.

Lt. Col. al-Dabbagh told London's Telegraph he was the source of the British government's claim - later repeated by President Bush - that Saddam could launch a biological or chemical attack in 45 minutes after the order was given.

"I am the one responsible for providing that information," the colonel said.

The claim created a firestorm of controversy when Dr. David Kelly, a bioweapons expert with the British defense ministry, committed suicide after it was revealed he told the BBC that the government included the claim to "sex up" the dossier. The whole affair sparked a number of probes into Tony Blair's government.

Al-Dabbagh, now an adviser to Iraq's Governing Council, said the warheads were to be used by Saddam's Fedayeen paramilitaries and units of the Special Republican Guard when the war reached "a critical stage."

Will this be ignored like the Weekly Standard article a few weeks ago that noted a few dozen instances where Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were connected? My guess is that it will be ignored. Otherwise the Democrats will have nothing to run on and the newspaper business will have nothing to print.

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail. . .

Struggling 2004 Democratic wannabe John Kerry fires an X-rated attack at President Bush over Iraq and uses the f-word - highly unusual language for a presidential contender - in a stunning new interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

"I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, 'I'm against everything'? Sure. Did I expect George Bush to f - - - it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did," Kerry told the youth-oriented magazine.

Sunday, December 07, 2003


Of all the Studio releases this Christmas, THE LAST SAMURAI was the most anticipated by me. I have visited and revisited in some cases, the famous Kurosawa samurai films from the 1950s and 1960s through Netflix this year. That even led me to watch Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy starring Kurosawa’s leading man Toshiro Mifune. I liked them all and my imagination has gotten caught up in this part of Japanese culture.

I don’t know how accurate Kurosawa’s films were as critics in his own country felt that he was too “American” in outlook. Kurosawa always shot back that they were jealous that his films were seen and enjoyed by a wider audience than other Japanese filmmakers. He said the critics decided his popularity made him somehow inauthentic. I don’t know what an authentic Japanese film is supposed to be like, but Kurosawa films are very compelling and he does for Samurai films what John Ford did for the western.

In the latest Edward Zwick/ Tom Cruise film, western and eastern ideas are brought together. Cruise plays an ex Civil War soldier who is now full of drink and falling apart due to the horrors of killing innocent Indians on the frontier. The Japanese government hires him to train an army to fight the rebellious Samurai whose way of life is coming to an end with modernization.

Cruise is soon captured by the Samurai and soon goes native. This acts as a redemption of sorts. He joins one group of noble savages to make up for his defeat of the other. The parallel is a stretch because American Indians hadn’t invented the wheel when we came to the New World, where as the Japanese Samurai were at the heart of a very regimented and disciplined system that rivaled the Knights code in European at the same time. To make up for the shaky comparison, Cruise has to continually face nightmares of the Indian slaughter so that we can see his redemption with the Samurai.

The end of the Samurai is tragic in the way Don Quixote is comic. The Man from La Mancha yearns for an earlier chivalrous time when men would quietly go to their fateful death for the system of honor. These noble ideas were slow to die in even Europe and such blind gallantry was mostly responsible for the ugliness of World War I. America, at this time, was ahead of curve in modernizing and is saved us some grief.

The ancient Samurai worked in a closed system where everyone respected the history. Japan had to enter the modern world in order to compete with those nations who wouldn’t respect their rules of warfare. This idea never gets through in the picture. Even worse is that America is blamed for the modernization of Japan and by inference is, I supposed, responsible for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I went to see a film about the noble Samurai and their fight to remain viable, but instead I got another criticism of America. The samurai plot is just a backdrop for Tom Cruise to reject the failings of his own country. I no longer expect a Hollywood film about America to be supportive of America. It’s just that the plot device is so hackneyed that you’d think that critics would be getting tired of it too.

That this version of anti-Americanism has to be set in Japan is, I suppose, a fresh take on hating our country’s history. But why not make Cruise’s struggles personal instead of political. Just seeing Tom Cruise willingly and happily killing Indians would have made his transformation later more poignant than making him another victim of the system.

It’s a very easy thing to criticize one’s country for not always following the modern view of things, especially when the modern view of things is constantly changing. What’s difficult is allowing the past a fair say in what we might consider barbaric or outdated. Too many movies serve the purpose of preaching from lofty heights instead of giving the characters real human challenges. It’s another reason why independent films are more interesting. Independent films don’t always ask the expected questions and give you the easy answers.

As pure entertainment, the movie still worked until the big showdown that rang so hollow it used up what capital it had earned. It’s a shame because Ken Watanabee was great as the Last Samurai and the supporting characters were equally good. Tom Cruise suffers from having such a modern face, but he could have made it work with a more nuanced script.

Friday, December 05, 2003

"These safeguard measures have now achieved their purpose, and as a result of changed economic circumstances it is time to lift them," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, reading a statement from President Bush.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, appearing with McClellan at a news conference, said the safeguards helped the industry "get back on its feet."

He said it went through a "tough spot" after the financial crisis of the late 1990s, and the key of the tariff strategy was to give "breathing space" but not "permanent protection."

That’s a nice try at spin, but tariffs serve the purpose of making industries lazy not efficient. By artificially raising the price of steel, the steel industry isn’t forced to do the things that really make them competitive. The U.S. Steel industry is a brain dead patient whose heart won’t stop beating. We can no longer create steel competitively in the world market. Since more people use steel than make steel, it benefits more people to have a lower price over a native industry. If the difference in steel costs were listed on a car’s sticker price more people would understand the results of this protectionism.

If making steel were the only thing these people could do then protecting the industry would have a moral component. But there are plenty of non-manufacturing jobs they can do instead. People naturally hate change, but unless everyone is willing to pay for these industries to create a product less efficiently, the moral component is on the side of the consumer that shouldn’t be made to protect an industry so someone can get re-elected.

Our country is leading the way into the information age. The real money is design and communication not manufacturing. Unless the U.S. steel industry can develop better steel that cannot be made by competitors then it will die. How long should we keep these kinds of industries on government life support?

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Jimmy Breslin’s column is mostly ignored outside of New York City; his is still a strong voice I like to read though I often disagree. Last Week, he wrote a column about how great Senator Robert Byrd is.

The hand shakes but the mind does not. Nor does the voice waver. Always in his jacket pocket is a copy of the Constitution of the United States, which he loves.

And Oct. 17, Robert C. Byrd, 86, United States senator from West Virginia, rose in the Senate and read a speech, with sentences shorter than his usual because his thoughts were so biting. He had searched his heart and the skies above for words that would scald now, and be a legacy for all to follow.

Byrd is the former Ku Klux Klan member who spent a day on the Senate floor talking about how horrible Bill Clinton’s actions were in lying to a grand jury with the conclusion that no real punishment should come to him. In essence, Byrd is a windbag who will speak passionately on any topic, but vote according to how his party tells him to. Aren't words made worthless when those who can do something talk instead of act? Breslin doesn't seem to think so.

Breslin likes Byrd this time because the Senator was wind bagging in October about the war in Iraq. That Byrd would blast Bush for attacking Iraq when he had no criticism of Clinton’s actions in Kosovo or Clinton's bombing of Iraq during Impeachment seems empty. Breslin goes on to quote the long-winded speech Byrd gave in October. Here is the conclusion:
"I began my remarks with a fairy tale. I shall close my remarks with a horror story, in the form of a quote from the book 'Nuremberg Diaries,' written by G.M. Gilbert, in which the author interviews Hermann Goering.

"'We got around to the subject of war again, and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"'... But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

"'There is one difference,' I pointed out. 'In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States, only Congress can declare wars.'

"'Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.'"

The quote is interesting as far as it goes, but what great moral lesson was Byrd trying to impart? I hardly see how the United States fits this description. If Byrd’s theme is that the people were shamed into the war to prove their manhood, he is living in his own mind. How many people do you know that banged on their Congressman’s door clamoring for war because they didn’t want to be seen as pacifists?

What really happened was a bunch of liberals ignored their Vietnam Syndrome and voted for war because the people actually want to defeat dangerous regimes. The Left didn’t want to go back to voters and explain that terrorism is best dealt with by hand wringing and threats. Why didn't the Senators offer these specific criticisms when war was proposed. Back then it was about multi-lateralism, but now we shouldn't have gone because it's not easy enough. Would the war's difficulty been justified had France wanted to fight?

Worse than that is the disingenuousness of a Senator like Kerry that saved criticism for the rough times when he was perfectly willing to use the issue to look like centrist at the time.

Democrats since the 1960s have had a dilemma of whether to use force to reach peace. They usually choose appeasement or write empty agreements like Clinton's pact with North Korea in 1994.

The popularity of Bush and his policies made Democrats fear being independent. Byrd might have a thing or two to say about his party members who voted for the war as a cover and then gleefully pointed to every hitch in the road. Instead Byrd attacks the people for cowering to a government that will question their patriotism. Nice try. If Byrd doesn’t like people cowering to government, he could always support reducing the size of government.

Is Byrd the best that Breslin can do for heroes?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


Robert Rubin was on NPR last night lightly praising the tax cuts for the stimulus they provided, but complaining about the particulars. I realized that NPR is better than anyone for providing critics for conservative ideology. When Bush had the tax cuts passed in 2001, Democrats were provided time on NPR to blame them for the recession within six months of their passage.

Now that the tax cuts are working, we get a more nuanced criticism. Rubin becomes the spokesman for the admitting the tax cuts did help, but his argument was that the cuts should have been more targeted and carried a sunset provision.

This was very clever on the part of NPR. They never once cited the prior critics of the tax cuts to discredit them. Now that the tax cuts have worked, the story isn’t about the people that they trumped up prior in opposition, but the new opposition to how they could have worked better.

In the case of Rubin, he is faced with a bigger quarterly growth rate than he ever saw during the Clinton years and instead of looking inward as to how they ran economic policy, he criticized Bush’s policy because the growth wasn’t as big as his theories would suggest had it been done his way. One wonders why Rubin wasn’t pushing this grand idea during the Clinton administration?

The next NPR guests will be homeless advocates. They will agree that tax cuts did help the economy but only for people who already have enough money. While some people are having a great life, street people have never had it worse. There won’t be any explanation about the homeless problem during the Clinton years.

The end result of the economy good or bad will be that Bush, that tool of the rich, has only lined his own pockets. And there won’t be any discussion of the hundreds of millions of dollars Robert Rubin has made on Wall Street.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Also being released early in 2004 will be the 27th stamp in the Black Heritage series, which will honor actor, singer, civil rights activist and athlete Paul Robeson.

David Failor, executive director of stamp services for the Postal Service, said there was strong support from the public for a stamp honoring Robeson, who was labeled a subversive for his mid-century activism against racism and anti-Semitism.

Most people have scarcely heard of Robeson today, but he was quite a talent and also a Stalin apologist. It’s odd that the story calls him a subversive for his fights against racism and anti-Semitism when he strongly defended the 1940 pact between Hitler and Stalin. Brent Bozell laid out the case against Robeson in 1998. (courtesy of the corner)
The political Robeson was not merely a crusader for civil rights and against Jim Crow, a precursor to Martin Luther King in politics as well as to James Earl Jones in acting and Marcus Allen in sports. He was also a fervent supporter of Josef Stalin's Soviet Union, which oppressed its entire population - not to mention large portions of the globe -- far more systematically and brutally than the United States ever oppressed its blacks and other minorities. Yet in many of the recent stories, that truth about Robeson has been played down, if not ignored altogether.

In our modern enlightenment we’re supposed to look back at communists as idealists, I suppose. An idealist is nothing but a fool praised for good intentions over good sense. We don’t go around calling former Nazi’s idealists. It would be much better to label Robeson a talented guy who lost his mind. Here’s what Robeson's idealism led to.
A February 9 Associated Press dispatch from Moscow sheds light on the regime Robeson proudly endorsed. The AP looked into the files of fifteen Americans who moved to the Soviet Union in the 1920s and '30s to serve the revolution. Two died in labor camps, five went to prison, and eight were executed. Among those in the third group was Arthur Talent, who accompanied his mother to the USSR when he was seven and who, as a young adult, was befriended by Robeson's wife when she and her husband visited Moscow. Talent was shot in 1938 after "confessing" to fabricated charges that he was a spy for Latvia.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan quotes Robeson's love of Stalin.

Monday, December 01, 2003

"Congress is now spending money like a drunken sailor," said McCain, a former Navy officer, "and I've never known a sailor, drunk or sober, with the imagination that this Congress has."

He said growth of spending had been capped at 4 percent, but it was at least 8 percent higher. He said he will continue urging Bush to veto profligate spending bills. The president has not veto a single bill since he took office.

Asked if the president bears some responsibility for what is going on, McCain said:

"Yes, because I think that the president cannot say, as he has many times, that 'I'm going to tell Congress to enforce some spending discipline' and then not veto bills."

When John McCain is the conservative critic you know that the White House is more interested in politics than ideology. Bush's embrace of Karl Rove reminds me of Clinton's embrace of James Carville and Dick Morris. When you make moves designed on political gain at the expense of making moves designed on your vision, you eventually lose your way.

The reason the deficits in the 1990s were low was because a Republican Congress was unwilling to spend the money that Clinton wanted to spend. The relationship now isn’t adversarial enough. Other than the tax cut, I can think of few domestic bills that conservatives can get behind. We need a Republican to fight the war, but he’s selling out everywhere else to get re-elected.

I hated McCain’s campaign finance reform bill and his opposition to tax cuts, but the last few days has had me wondering if he wouldn’t have been a better choice for President. He wouldn’t have backed down to the terrorists either and he seems to be supporting better fiscal measures.

Bush could have proved the benefits of tax cuts if only he had cut spending. Now the tax cuts will forever be blamed for the deficits instead of the wanton spending increases. This administration needs to remind conservatives why we voted for it.

I was happy to see Bush do something as thoughtful as visiting the troops in Iraq. He’s a good man. But instead of using his popularity and political capital to strike a blow for fiscal reform, he decided to buy votes for the 2004 election. It was this kind of thinking that gave Bush’s father a conservative challenger in the primaries, and if we weren’t at war, Bush 43 would get one too.

One of the best criticisms of Clinton in the 1990s was that every move was calculated for effect. Bush's leadership in a war that Democrats are trying to make unpopular is commendable. But his domestic policy seems to reek of Clinton's. Whether seniors need prescription drugs isn't the question. The question is whether people who have far less money than many seniors should be made to pay for it. Neither Social Security nor Medicare will be available for the many people who fund the system now. Does President Bush expect younger Americans to get a second job to pay for all of this compassionate conservatism?

UPDATE: Freshman Conngressman Tom Feeney argued with Bush before the Medicare vote.
Well-placed sources said Bush hung up on freshman Rep. Tom Feeney after Feeney said he couldn’t support the Medicare bill. The House passed it by only two votes after Hastert kept the roll-call vote open for an unprecedented stretch of nearly three hours in the middle of the night.

Feeney, a former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives whom many see as a rising star in the party, reportedly told Bush: “I came here to cut entitlements, not grow them.”

Sources said Bush shot back, “Me too, pal,” and hung up the phone.

If this story is true Bush is way out of line. We want to support his leadership on the war, but his country club Republican approach to domestic policy is too much. If Bush really came to Washington to cut entitlements too he could start by cutting one.
Republican aides said conservatives who voted against the bill, including Reps. Mike Pence (Ind.), John Culberson (Texas), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) and Jim Ryun (Kan.), would suffer for their votes against the Medicare bill.
Leadership aides said those members “can expect to remain on the back bench” in the months ahead.

“Health savings accounts are the most dramatic reform of health care in 30 years,” Feehery said. “Conservatives said they all loved it, but once in the bill they forgot about it.”

Medicare is expanded to hell and back and we're supposed to be excited that the plan offers a modicum of free market initiatives. They control the White House and both chambers of Congress. Do you think the Republicans could have twisted the same arms to pass medical savings accounts without the $400 billion expansion? Instead, we're supposed to be proud that they got this one over on the Democrats who have no power at all.