Pookie Monster

Various things that you may not yet know about, but should.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Update, after Johnny Damon's jack.

Never mind.

but the Cardinals are just going to kill 'em.

It's that time again

Red Sox fans are so cute when they get their hopes up this time of year. Again. As thir team steps up and makes them think that THIS IS GOING TO BE THE YEAR! Again. Right before it all comes crashing down like the Taliban's vaunted plan to disrupt the Afghan elections. Again.

Yeah, ARod's a cheater, and yeah, a comeback from 0-3 to 3-3 is unprecedented, and yeah, Curt Schilling demonstrated tremendous guts. But Schilling's not pitching tonight, the curse is very real, and it's midnight for Cinderella.

The only way the Red Sox will ever win again is for them to make a trade to Steinbrenner for the rights to Babe Ruth's decaying corpse.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I feel sick. And angry.

I will no longer be sticking up for John Fucking Kerry.

"The president claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight."

It's one thing to disagree with Iraqi democracy as a WoT strategy. Leonard Peikoff and Orson Scott Card both honestly so disagree, for example. It's something else entirely to pretend that the strategy doesn't exist, and that Iraq is somehow not part of the WoT.

This is so off the wall that some pro-Kerry media toned it down for him. He's morphing into Howard Dean, and betraying the truth, the best interests of the country, and the reality-cognizant liberals who delivered him the nomination against Dean.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Asheville's new motto:

Glub Glub Glub

Last week: Floods shut down the water.

This week: Wind shuts down the power.

Next week: Locusts eat all the weed. Then we see The Great Hippie Riot of 2004.

I've avoided almost all the trouble so far. Yay me!

I was right.

Vladamir Putin is what partisan Democrats only pretend President Bush is.

Short story long: Previously, Russia's legislature was split 50/50 in terms of the members' manner of election. Half were elected from districts, the way we do it, and half were elected by Russians nationwide voting for their party, in a proportional representation systemwhere the party has previously submitted a list of candidates. If the party gets enough votes for 20 seats in the parliament, the first 20 names on the list get in.

Putin's party is dominant in the proportional-rep system. He won reelection last March in a landslide. The local-district elections, along with the independent elections of provincial governors, provided balancing power centers which can serve as stepping-stones for the rise of an opposition party.

Vlad's new reform: The district elections are abolished. and the provincial governors are now appointed...by Vlad. This makes it more difficult for an opposition to break in and establishes loyalty to Putin among regional officials. The new centralization means that Putin is now an elected dictator.

Next, he'll decree campaign-finance laws.

This disturbs a lot of people. If Pu-poo head is as heavy-handed in his foreign policy as in his power grab (and let's face it, autocrats are not known for passive foreign policies), he could deal significant setbacks to the War on Terror by stirring up more hostility to the West (vide Grozny) - and you can bet that Islamist propagandists will blame America.

Likewise, if V.Pu is more concerned with his own grip on power than in fighting the WoT, he's unlikely to get on board for Bushite democracy promotion. That only retards our own fight.

Likewise, if Russia enters a new Imperial era, what do we do when our allies in New Europe who showed such loyalty in Iraq - Poland, the Baltics, and Ukraine, for example - call on us to help protect them from Russian adventurism? We can't French out and abandon them, but we can't afford an all-out war with the Ruskies.

So this is bad for us, and could get worse. And I don't see a blessed thing we can do to stop it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Thatcher's 'Statecraft', Part II

What I found interesting is her account of how the EU bureaucracy's attempts to meddle in the internal politics of its members. The EU is not an international organization; it is intended to be a new federal government for all Europe. (This goal evidently has some public support; on a message board last week, I read a post from a Greek extolloling the number of Olympic medals that the 'EU' had won, and calling for a unified EU Olympic team. They really do want to get rid of national autonomy.) Thatcher attributes much of the support for British affiliation with the EU to the belief that it's joining an organization, not being subsumed into a new Eurogovernment.

In condemning the EU as anti-democratic, she places great store in the absence of a 'pan-European public opinion'.

"No matter how many attempts are made to create links between the political parties of different European countries, those parties know that they have to campaign upon, and that their fortunes will be determined by, national programmes (sic) and issues."

She points up the national differences: "...no fewer than twelve main languages are widely spoken among the present [EU] members...[a]nd it is still the case that for the great majority of Europe's population, 'home' is to be described in national, or local, not Continental terms."

However, she also notes that large fractions of younger Euros, ranging from 25% to 40%, think of themselves first as European, and only second as citizens of their nation. The Greek of whom I wrote earlier is evidently not alone.

Thatcher also bases her claim that the EU is undemocratic on the habit of Euroenthusiasts of disregarding national prerogatives in favor of the Federal program. She notes that Joschka Fischer and the other Eurosupporters in Germany ignored a 75-25 public opinion split against giving up the Deustch mark when they accepted the euro. Of course, that could also be described as dedication to principle without regard to opinion polls.

More worrisome is the " left-dominated EU Council of Ministers...imposed political sanctions on Austria in the hope that the Austrians would be prepared to put the left back in power. "EU's imposition of "political sanctions" against Austria when they elected a coalition the EU people didn't like - a conservative one, of course. In that context, Chancellor Schroeder of Germany threatened "to the effect that similar action would be taken to stop the right winning power" in Italy. Then, during the Italian election, "[a] concerted Europe-wide media campaign of vilification, the like of which I have rarely seen in politics, was launched against Signor Berlusconi to intimidate the Italian electorate into backing the left.

This narrative makes me think: How much of the EU is really a taxpayer-funded mutual aid society for leftish parties around Europe, much as the UN sometimes is for leftist activists? (Thatcher also complains about the use of 'human rights', Kyoto, and other treaties to commit our national government to courses of actions that our electorate is too conservative to accept.) A lot, I should think. Of course, the existence of sufficient affinity among Euro-leftist parties for that undercuts the idea that there is no Continent-wide public opinion. Even if Maggie's wrong about that, though, as a conservative, the use of an international bureaucracy to use tax money to support one side in elections disturbs me. A lot. And that, as a reason to oppose the EU, is compelling.

Incedentally, I wonder if a (non-taxpayer-funded) conservative-party alliance would be useful. Our Republicans, Britain's Tories, Italy's Italia Forza, India's BJP, Hugo Chavez's opponenets in Venezuela--even France has Sabine Herold and a Libertarian Party, however small. However, I wonder what sort of aid could we provide, aside from expertise and ideas, which I'm sure are already widely shared. Using office in one country to aid like-minded parties in another country places party above national interest--which is precisely what the Deanyboppers do. Bad idea. Foreign policy needs a certain level of deference to foreign electorates' choices of officeholders.

Thatcher's 'Statecraft', Part I

'Statecraft' is a very broad-based book, taking in at a gulp the lessons of the Cold War, Russia, Asia, the War on Terror, the use of 'human rights' to advance a leftist program, the interventions against Serbia, and the unification of Europe. Much of it, therefore, lacks detail, but is tied together by her familiar unflinching advocacy for individual liberty.

She recommends the autobiography of Akio Morita, founder of Sony, entitled ' Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony'. It's on my 'to read' list, which is just getting more and more backlogged as time goes by.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng provides entertainment during her 1991 visit there when she brought up the bloody Cultural Revolution. "Li Peng then repeated another standard line - namely that the Communist Party had subsequently addressed those mistakes. Mao had acknowledged that there were excesses. I said that Mao ought to know: after all he was himself the archpriest of the Cultural Revolution. This, I knew, was something that even today's Chinese communists are not prepared to admit. Li Peng at this became altogether incoherent."

On the International Criminal Court: "Major international interventions are doomed unless the US is directly or indirectly involved. [Earlier she speaks highly of the Balkan intervention, criticizing it only for not being assertive enough against Serbia.] But if American politicians, officials, and servicemen are to be put at risk of arrest and prosecution, the United States will be more reluctant to act in order to curb aggression or prevent genocide."

On modern democracy: "Political leaders have never mixed so much with their own kind and so little with others. There have never been so many international gatherings; the democratic restraints of parliamentary accountabilty have never been weaker; and the temptation to forget one's roots and abandodn one's principles has never been greater. Presidenta and Prime Ministers have to struggle as never before to keep their feet on the ground, and the risk is that many will give up the effort altogether. National electorates should be alert to this."

She is at her best, though, in the two chapters about the ever-tighter European Union. In brief, she's against it and persuaded that future generations will consider it a "folly".

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Sunday, September 05, 2004

Vladamir Putin mounts up.

"Putin went on national television to tell Russians they must mobilize against terrorism. He promised wide-ranging reforms to toughen security forces and purge corruption. "We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten," he said..."

This could be very good or very bad.

On the one hand, it would be great to have Russia acting less French, and the icy-eyed ex-KGB spook is one of the last guys in the world I'd want pissed at me.

On the other hand, the Putin Peace Plan in Chechnya over the last few years has consisted chiefly of carpet bombing random Chechens until the terrorism stops. (contra Iraq and Afghanistan, both holding elections next winter)This plan has been less than entirely successful, especially since imported jihadists began to supplant the native Chechen rebels.

Meanwhile, Putin has shown a disturbing authoritarianism as leader of Russia. This from Mikhail Khordokovsky, Russian industrialist/philanthropist and libertarian activist, imprisoned last year on probably politically motivated income-tax charges:

"It is the Singapore model, it is a term that people understand in Russia these days. It means that theoretically you have a free press, but in practice there is self-censorship. Theoretically you have courts; in practice the courts adopt decisions dictated from above. Theoretically there are civil rights enshrined in the constitution; in practice you are not able to exercise some of these rights."

Putin is not, in short, the kind of man who would find Bushian democracy promotion an attractive war on terror strategy, although he'll no doubt be sheer hell on al-Qaeda and suchlike in terms of a direct seek-and-destroy work. My guess is that Putin's promised show of strength and law-enforcement 'reforms' will actually be what partisan leftist whackjobsenjoy pretending President Bush's policies are.

Putin's getting more aggressive and I welcome it, but he doesn't shift strategy at the same time, he's a potentially very counterproductive loose cannon.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

I've just been listening to a local talk radio show featuring people competing to see who could be stupidest in public. Half of them were hippies who had heard something at some pot-fueled rap session to the effect that the Russians had historically mistreated the Chechens, and so denied that the Chechen act of terror in Ossetia had anything to do with terrorism and that the child-killers are freedom fighters, or at least excusable. The other half were blissfully unaware of the previous existence of a Chechen conflict and thought it was just odd that the terrorists chose to target an Iraq-liberation opponent like Russia.

Permit me to clear this up a bit.

There's a pattern developing here. Daniel Pipes and Bernard Lewis teach us that Islamism is a faction within Islam seeking to unify the Islamic world under their leadership, caliphate-style. They use jihad the way the Pope in Rome used the Crusades to liberate Jerusalem to rally Europe behind his leadership after he and the Archbishop of Constantinople excommunicated each other.

The Chechen conflict began in the 1840s when the Russian Empire tried to roll in and found that heavily armed Islamic hillbillies (a)live in some of the ruggedest mountains in the world, and (b)don't like the czar's revenuers. In its modern incarnation, it dates from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Chechens, who never thought of themselves as Russian, wanted independence, same as neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia had. Russia needed to keep access to the lucrative Caspian Sea oil fields, so Yeltsin ordered the rebellion put down. General Alexandr Lebed put it down, the hard way. Putin has stuck to this course.

This makes the Chechen cause sound sympathetic, and it is, as far as that goes. Over the last decade, however, foreign fighters (read al-Qaeda and like-minded groups, probably including Iran) have moved into the area to "help" the beleaguered Chechens and then and there began the suicide bombings and the civilian hostage crises. (The August 2002 issue of Maxim magazine-the one with Beyonce Knowles on the cover-includes the story of one of those bin Laden-trained fighters: Aukai Collins, of Honolulu. In 1998, he also went to Bosnia.) It seemes to me reasonable to assume that the terrorists have also been recruiting in Chechnya.

This is like Afghanistan, when Egyptians, Syrians, Yemenis, and Saudis, including bin Laden, all flocked to Masud's anti-Soviet resistance, and wound up calling themselves the Taliban and taking over the place after the Russians pulled out. They even assassinated Masud himself in August 2001. They never gave a fuck about the Afghans. Or the Chechens. They only care about their own power.

Accordingly, we aren't facing Chechen nationalists anymore. The muderers of today's headlines are simply al-Qaeda trying to gain prestige in the Islamic world by posturing as champions of Muslims. Just like Afghanistan. And Bosnia. And if they get their way, an independent Chechnya will become a Taliban-style theocracy.

That also means that Russia can't crush the 'rebellion' by military means, any more than we can 'win' the war on terror as a whole in conventional terms. We win when we can make the terrorists unwelcome in Chechnya like we have in Iraq. We will probably do that by abandoning the Chechen aspirations and supporting the Russians' Tacitean tactics, because I don't think its possible to liberate and ally with Chechnya (like we did Iraq), at least not without fighting a full-scale war against Russia, up to and including the sack of Moscow.

Pity the poor Chechens. They have the Russian jackboot on one side and the Islamist dynamite vest on the other, and no way out.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

A look into the bubble.

As a man of the right, that which most disturbs me about the left is not so much their ideology as their reality; more specifically, the distortion of information as it passes though the liberal media and their insular little worldviews which make Ann Coulter look like a model of broadmindedness. From inside that left-wing bubble, the world looks, let us say, different.

I need look no further than my local paper's letters to the editor page for expressions of shock and wonder that anyone could actually believe in conservatism, since that's exactly the same thing as choosing to be stupid, racist, "anti-intellectual", "corporate", theocratic, mean-spirited, and several other sorts of evil. I have quite literally punched two holes in my walls in sheer rage after being blindsided by unusually obtuse examples of such ignorance in local pubs.

David Adesnik of OxBlog is a genuine left-of-center intellectual who spends of lot of column-inches skewering other liberals who inhabit the Bubble, and debunking many of the unfair and irrational anti-Bush and anticonservative memes. He sounds almost like Coulter sometimmes. It's interesting, then, to read the following two comments from him the other day:

1. "Well, the fact is that no one I know and/or respect relies on Fox or Rush or the Washington Times for their news.

Now, that statement is intended as an explanation for why he's fisking Jon Stewart as an unbiased news source instead of the folks he mentions. But what's interesting is that, even if a case can be made for bias at the 'Good Times' or at FoxNews, no one - no one - in Mr. Adesnik's circle of acquaintances reads the Times or watches the nation's highest-rated cable news channel. (Full disclosure: I haven't watched Fox, or hardly any other TV, for a coule of years, but I use foxnews.com more than any other single news source.)

Rush is a different case. I don't know anyone who treats Rush as a fair and balanced news source, either, including Rush himself--and the indictment of Jon Stewart, I gather, depends on him presenting himself as a non-ideologue. Absent that, from what I read of Stewart, he may be closer than anyone else to the liberal Rush Limbaugh that they've been seeking all these years.

2. {In reference to Cheney's comments on homosexual marriage] "When Dick Cheney's right, he's right. Gay Americans are not second-class citizens. On the other hand, I'd appreciate it if more Republicans who didn't have gay children came out against the No Gay Marriage Amendment...Dick Cheney is selfish, not compassionate.

Let me preach on this for a minute. What Dick Cheney actually said was that citizens should be able to enter into any kind of relationship they wish, but that the issue was what sort of "sanction" they should get from the government. That's as succinct a statement of the opening links of my own argument against gay marriage that I've ever heard.

The point is that the government's nonrecognition of certain relationships does not prevent anyone from forming any contracts among themselves as they like. Therefore, the government's neutrality toward such contracts involves no discrimination or second-class citizenship. This holds true even in contrast with the ready-made marriage contract, with all its implied terms, that is offered for the convenience of couples that could, in legal theory at least, have children. Government, after all, has a legitimate interest in the welfare of children.

That's an argument for the conservative position on gay marriage. (Others exist, as do counterarguments.) My point here isn't that its right (although I believe it is). It's that it exists, and is legitimate, and is evidently held by Dick Cheney.

The idea that gay marriage is about ceasing to discriminate against a minority is the liberal position, or at least an argumant therefor. Cheney's comments only sound like an endorsement of gay marriage if viewed through the assumption that opposition to gay marriage is necessarily grounded in a desire to deprive homosexuals of some incidents of "citizenship", or restrict their "freedom". That's not the case.

It is true that Cheney prefers that gay marriage be dealt with on the state level. So does John Kerry, who's endorsed state constitutional amendments against it. I happen to agree with them. But that's a matter of 'how' and 'where', not 'whether', gay marriage should be forestalled.

On the other hand, it is fortunate for serious minds that a bias realized is a bias neutralized. (I'm quoting someone, but I don't know whom. Emerson? Whomever it was, Mr. Adesnik posted more recently a magnificent Roger Simon post (read the comments too) about coming out of this same phenomenon, under the title 'Me in a Nutshell'. That's fair (and balanced); no one is completely free of preconceptions, except me, [Ahem. -Ed.] and Oxblog remain my favorite liberal commentators because they do make an effort to disagree with conservatism, instead of straw-man neofascists.