Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Europe, Going, Going, Gone

According to Gerald and Natalie Sirkin, two Connecticut commentators who have appeared on this site before, Europe is becoming less significant and, so to speak, less European.

by Gerald and Natalie Sirkin

"That's how great nations die -- not by war or conquest, bit bit by bit, until one day you wake up and you don't need to sign a formal instrument of surrender because you did it piecemeal over the last ten years -- Mark Steyn

Nations are dying around us. Literally. One illness they have is bad demographics.

To hold a population steady, a country needs a fertility rate (meaning average number of children born per woman) of 2.1, assuming no immigration.

The United States has a fertility rate of roughly 2.1 . Compare that to France 1.89, the Netherlands 1.72, Canada , 1.48, Germany 1.35, Japan 1.32, Italy 1.23, Russia 1.14, Spain 1.1 . With those fertility rates, populations are aging and shrinking. Russia, from a population of 148 million in the 1980s will be down to 130 million in 2015 and down by another 50 to 60 million by the end of the century.

Fertility rates may fall further. With aging populations and fewer workers to pay the costs of the elderly, taxes will rise to new heights, which is extremely discouraging to raising families.

The amazing phenomenon of Europe’s and Japan’s committing suicide might have continued virtually unnoticed for some time, so little has it been commented upon. One still hears expressions of fear of overpopulation in the midst of these shrinking populations.

The death of nations will probably now get the attention it deserves, thanks to an outstanding book: Mark Steyn’s America Alone, The End of the World As We Know It (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing Inc., 2006, pp. 224, $27.95).

Steyn’s outpouring of commentary is heard, seen, and read in an array of print and broadcast media. With incredible research and brilliant writing, America Alone cannot be ignored. A reviewer is tempted to quote every page, so numerous are the gems. And funny. All one can do is urge readers to read the book. They will be rewarded

For America , the consequence of the demographic debacle is that we will be left standing alone as our allies and former allies and potential allies die off.

Into the vacuum left by falling populations are pouring the Muslims. Muslims have among the highest fertility rates— Mali 7.42, Somalia 6.76, Afghanistan 6.69, Yemen 6.58 . In the European countries, Muslim immigrant populations are growing rapidly. With immigration and high fertility rates, Muslims will soon be a majority in many countries.

Islamic immigrants are not like other immigrants who assimilate to the local cultures. Islam is not a nationality or a race. It is a religion. Muslim immigrants are not going to change their religion. They do not assimilate with respect to their religious culture.

Islamists do not hide their purpose. They tell us openly that they intend to carry on their jihad (war) till they have made all countries Muslim countries. They are smart enough to “know they can never win on the battlefield but they figure there’s an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western Civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default.”

The West is helping out by announcing its weakness. It makes “a thousand trivial concessions day by day.” The first reaction to September l l of just about every Western leader, Steyn observes, was to visit a mosque. President Bush, the Prince of Wales, the prime ministers of the U.K. , Canada , and many other countries, went as if to signal no hard feelings. “[Y]ou couldn’t help feeling that this would strike almost any previous society, as, well, bizarre. Pearl Harbor ’s been attacked? Quick, order some sushi and get me into a matinee of Madam Butterfly.”

The U.K. has banned flying the British flag in government offices, in prisons, and at Heathrow Airport because it shows the cross of St. George, which was used by the Crusaders and so might be offensive to Muslims.

Steyn’s summary of how Europe’s ”political class prostrates itself before an insatiable force that barely acknowledges the latest surrender before moving on to the next invented grievance,” is an exposition that Americans should not miss.

"Bomb us, and we agonize over the 'root causes.' Decapitate us, and our politicians rush to the nearest mosque to declare that 'Islam is a religion of peace.' Issue blood-curdling calls at Friday prayers to kill all the Jews and infidels, and we fret that it may cause a backlash against Muslims. . . . Murder a schoolful of children, and our scholars explain that to the 'vast majority' of Muslims 'jihad' is a harmless concept meaning 'healthy-lifestyle lo-fat granola bar.' Thus the lopsided valse macabre of our times: the more the Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily around the room."

We can expect no European resistance to the Islamization of the West. It is up to America to go it alone and stop the return of seventh-century darkness that Islam represents. Close the mosques and madrassas where young Muslims in the U.S. are radicalized and taught hatred. Put an end to multiculturalism at the heart of which “is a lie: that all cultures are equally valid.”

If the blessings of America are to survive, we must summon up the confidence and the will to defend ourselves.

*Gerald and Natalie Sirkin are residents of Sherman

Kerry on Vietman, Again

In a Journal Inquirer editorial, Keith Burris, the paper’s editorial page editor, labored to explain why a crowd composed of veterans attending Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s appearance in East Hartford was so pitifully thin.

“Is the Lamont campaign staff trying to fill halls?” Burris wrote.

Burris speculated that the Democrat Party in East Hartford may have been negligent. Couldn’t they have swelled the crowd by compelling students to attend as a part of their civic classes – not a bad idea, actually.

Kerry was praised in the editorial for his efforts to end the war in Vietnam – not a bad idea either – nor did he shrink from mentioning the Vietnam war:

“He said, in fact, that this war (in Iraq) is even worse, because Vietnam should have taught us to avoid a war like this one. He implied that this war was built upon even more lies than Vietnam. And he said the biggest lesson of Vietnam is that the government owes the public, and the men it asks to fight, the truth.”

Indeed, the truth, the inconvenient truth, always hovers around battlefields, waiting to claim its victims.

The undying Vietnam War still arouses animosity in some people, and it is always possible that some vets stayed away from Kerry’s presentation because they had read John Kerry and the VVAW.”

Or perhaps some of them remembered the events describe in his handy video, showing Kerry in a repentant mood.

American veterans, after all, are at least as literate as newspaper editors. Who knows, they may even have stumbled upon the truth in their pilgrim's progress through this sorry world.

Monday, October 30, 2006

How To Read Courant Endorsements

This is what comes of moderate thinking: It has become impossible to decipher the principles that animate Hartford Courant endorsements.

Colin McEnroe, leaker to the Blogs and also a writer for the Courant, noted on his own blog, with some dismay, that the Courant the next day intended to endorse Sen. Joe Lieberman. McEnroe also noted that the paper, surprisingly, intended to endorse New Haven Mayor John DeStefano for governor. The dawning sun on Sunday showed that McEnroe was right on both counts.

Cynics are certain to observe that the Courant’s DeStefano editorial plug is a throw-away endorsement, since DeStefano trails Governor Jodi Rell in the polls by what seems to be an unsurpassable lead, while the Lieberman endorsement is more significant. Lieberman and Ned Lamont have been nick and tuck since the opening gun in their jihad was fired by ex-governor and senator Lowell Weicker.

The question inevitably arises: What principle or principles dictate the Courant’s selections, or are their selections made with a Ouija board?

Principles – if they are principles at all – cannot be selectively applied. For instance, if my operative principle is “Throw the bums out,” a perfectly respectable modus operandi, I cannot ask others to apply the principle while sparing my bums.

If I say, as the Courant did in an earlier endorsement – “Look, a balance between the two parties is necessary in democracies; therefore we are endorsing all Connecticut Democrats vying for the U.S. House of Representatives, so that a healthy competition among the parties may reinvigorate our democracy in the U.S. Congress” -- I have laid down a principle that should apply in every instance in which governments are seemingly drifting towards a one party state.

The Courant’s principle, in other words, obliges it to seek to overturn the hateful one party state wherever it raises its horned head -- and for the same reason.

There is, however, a problem in applying the principle non-selectively: The Courant’s principle, consistently applied, would require the paper to endorse every Republican vying for the state legislature, which is dominated by Democrats. The Democrats in the state legislature are two votes shy of a majority that would be able to overturn a Republican governor’s veto.

Surprisingly, the Courant has chosen to address this issue editorially by urging voters to cast out Republican Governor Jodi Rell in favor of New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, the Big Idea candidate. In fact, DeStefano’s biggest ideas have been borrowed from the Courant’s editorial playbook.

So much for the principle stated above that governed the paper’s Connecticut congressional delegation choices: The Courant’s principles apparently are never to be applied to the Courant’s bums, a solid priciple once advanced and sturdily defended by turn of the century Tammany Hall boss George Washington Plukitt.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

BBC Commentary in Connecticut

When the British writer G. K. Chesterton on his American tour found himself besieged by a gang of reporters in a hotel in New England, he immediately proclaimed himself an amiable anarchist of the Henry David Thoueau variety – “That government governs best that governs not at all.” And then he was asked what form of government he thought the best. “A republic,” he boomed. “This hotel would make a fine republic.”

Sometimes it takes a foreign eye to confirm for us what is best in us. The BBC crew, now in Connecticut reporting on the state election that pits Joe Lieberman against Ned Lamont in a hard fought U.S. Senate race, has performed a like service for us.

Bearing in mind Oscar Wilde’s quip that the United States and Britain are two nations separated by a common language, the questions and the commentary on the BBC site, "Up All Night," are excellent. It’s easier to adjust to the subtleties on the spot, which is why Rhod Sharp, part of the BBC crew, leapt the pond to be here. (As an aside, I may say that the BBC interviewers have cleverly wormed their way into the hearts of Americans -- BECAUSE THEY LIKE BARS.) We in Connecticut must live with the consequences of our votes; people in Europe need only laugh at them.

One of the subtleties involves an understanding of the difference between a primary and a general election. The audiences are different in both cases. Primaries are party elections to which opposition party voters and independents are not invited. Ned Lamont won the Democrat primary because his message resonated with the shakers and movers of the Democrat Party in Connecticut. Opposition to the war was the principle driver in the primary. Wars are not popular in what used to be called “the provision state,” so called because the state was known for providing munitions to the U.S. military. In the BBC broadcast on Connecticut's election, Lieberman spoke eloquently to this tradition.

As everyone interested in Connecticut’s race must know by now, Lamont won the primary, and much fun was had at Lieberman's expense by bloggers committed to Lamont.

In a general election, narrow party interests are expanded because the voting field is open to moderates and Republicans. The message that resonates with the first audience may alienate the larger audience, as appears to be the case in this instance.

Some claims made by the Lamont side were patently outrageous. Connecticut does not like political manipulation, and most people in the state have an ear for authenticity. Lieberman, however conspicuous his warts, is a polished performer and a decent man. There is no question that solid Democrats of a liberal persuasion have lined up on Lamont’s side of the barricade. These are the Democrats that ousted him in the primary.

They may not have the last word.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Nixonizing Lieberman

The paradigm for war protesters who believe that Bush’s war in Iraq has become a “quagmire” and a “civil war” is, of course, Vietnam. Somewhat down in the polls, anti-war candidate for the U.S. Senate Ned Lamont has decided to play his “Vietnam card.” And if Iraq is Viet Nam, there must be in the script that runs like a golden tread through the Lamont campaign a dark-jowled Tricky Dick Nixon stomping the stage with his hobnailed boots. After all, Lamont’s senatorial ideal is ex-governor and former U.S. senator Lowell Weicker, who earned his senatorial spurs by declaiming against anti-Vietnam war candidate Joe Duffey, the Democrat nominee for senator in 1970.

Democrat Sen. Tom Dodd, Sen. Chris Dodd’s father, was the petitioning candidate in that race. Weicker, a wealthy Republican candidate from Greenwich, later changed his mind about Vietnam. Weicker and his former chief aide, Tom D’Amore, are advising the Lamont campaign. The guy in the hobnailed boots, the Nixon stand-in, is present Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman, Weicker’s old nemesis.

In what has been called a “fiery” speech to students at the University of Hartford, Lamont styled a recent statement by Lieberman that he wanted to end the war in Iraq as “an election eve Nixonian declaration” and went on to explain to the students who received his remarks warmly, “It was Richard Nixon, for instance, who told the country way back in 1969, ‘I want to end the war’ and then pressed forward with Vietnam for three more years and a cost of 9,000 more American lives. Sen. Lieberman saying now, two weeks before an election, that he suddenly wants to end the war is as credible as Richard Nixon was almost 40 years ago."

On the same day Lamont addressed the University of Hartford students, his campaign released an on-line ad that paralleled statements made by Nixon on the Vietnam War with statements made by Lieberman on the Iraq war. Nixon is seen on tape saying, “An announcement of a fixed timetable for our withdrawal would completely remove any incentive for the enemy to negotiate an agreement. They would simply wait until our forces had withdrawn and then move in.” Lieberman is shown saying, “If you tell your enemy when you're going to leave, they'll wait and create disaster.” Underscoring the similarity between the two politicians, Nixon’s face is shown morphing into Lieberman’s face, a rhetorical nicety that is the equivalent of putting horns on the head of a political opponent to suggest he is communing with the devil.

It’s all a little underhanded and overdone because – Lieberman is not Nixon, the Iraq war is not the Vietnam War, and the Viet Cong are not Islamic terrorists, whose ambitions revolve around reversing the Reconquista in which Spanish monarchs ended a seven century old presence of Islamic conquerors in Europe.

It might also be mentioned, as other points of difference, that the Viet Cong did not seek to blow up buildings in New York City. They had no designs on Spain. They certainly did not wish to levy upon Sen. John Kerry of Massachussetts a punishing tax should he decline to convert to Islam. And no Viet Cong ever suggested that the senator’s lovely wife should spend her senior years wrapped modestly in a burqa. The only thing worse than failing to learn from history is learning the wrong lessons from history; in both cases one runs the risk of repeating the tragedies of history.

Retrospectively, following Kerry’s visit to Connecticut where the former anti-Vietnam war protester stumped for Lamont, it seems that the remarks at the University of Hartford and the ad showing Nixon morphing into Lieberman may have been intended as a rhetorical welcome mat for Kerry.

This late in his campaign, Lamont should not be focusing on the war in Iraq, the issue that jump started his campaign and gave him the edge over Lieberman in winning a primary. He has wrung all the juice out of that orange. Lamont needs to focus on winning independent voters, who appear to be drifting toward the Lieberman camp. They will not be reclaimed by candidates for the U.S. senate who tell them that Iraq is Vietman, that Lieberman is Nixon and that the terrorist will trouble us no more if we redeploy troops engaged in Iraq to, let’s say, Massachusetts, so that they can better keep an eye on Hezbollah cells in Kerry’s state.

Focus! Focus!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The most conspicuous follower of President George Bush’s war policy in Iraq is, as any MyLeftNutmegger will be happy to tell you, Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman; yet Lieberman is gaining support, according to recent polls.

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, also a proponent of the war, has lost points and now is even with his challenger, Dianne Farrell.

Responding to the Hartford Courant-UConn poll, Farrell’s campaign manager Adam Wood said, “The momentum for change is growing, particularly in the 4th Congressional District, and the poll reflects that. ... People are aware of Chris Shays' support for the president's policy on Iraq and are becoming more frustrated day by day."

If support for the war in Iraq has depressed Shays’ numbers, why have Lieberman’s numbers gone up?

My best guess is that one Democrat is more attractive than the other.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Out You Go, Baby

The Hartford Courant’s across the board endorsements of Democrat liberals this year begs the question: Are newspaper endorsements effective?

First of all, it should be noted that in choosing to endorse all Democrats and no Republicans for U.S. congressional positions, the paper invites speculation that it is throwing babies out with the wash water. The Republicans against whom Courant editorial board members voted this year are all moderates, not the fire breathing conservatives that swarm past the Mason Dixon line.

The Courant -- which tends to react to conservatives pretty much in the way the devil reacts to holy water – has somewhat plausibly supported moderate Republicans in the past, arguing that the vital center in American politics, the intersection where liberalism and conservativism meet and conspire to compromise, is worth preserving.

By any rational accounting, Rep. Chris Shays, is a moderate Republican: He is the author and enabler in the House of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill. In countless editorials, the Courant sweated and groaned to bring forth campaign finance reform, both nationally and at home. Shays is deep blue on the matter of abortion, as are other Connecticut Republican congressional moderates and the Courant. In the past, Shays has had no difficulty garnering the support of the usual liberal interest groups, including Courant editorial writers. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987, Shays regularly passed the Courant’s sniff test – until now.

Off with their heads, says the magisterial Courant of all moderate Republican incumbents. There will be no room in the new congressional delegate inn for Reps. Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons.

Why the rush to purge Connecticut’s congressional delegation of hitherto inoffensive Republican moderates? Because, says the Courant, political positions nationally have been captured by Republicans and, in order to redress this imbalance, Connecticut’s national delegation must now be captured by Democrats – and never mind that the altered political environment, considered by the Courant necessary on the national front, will move Connecticut even closer to a one party state.

Deep blue Connecticut very nearly is a one party state now, if one withdraws Governor Jodi Rell from the political equation. Rell, a moderate Republican amenable to Democrat Party interests, is the kind of Republican only Courant editorialists could love, but only until, some fine day, a more attractive candidate wanders down the political pike and captures their hearts. And then – off with her head!

There are some lessons to be learned here beyond the obvious one: that Republican moderates are dispensable at will. Ned Lamont’s more energetic supporters now are suggesting that the Courant’s editorial endorsement is but a preparation for a low-down let-down: The Courant, they suppose, is preparing to endorse the “Lieberloser,” current Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman, and the Lamontites are in full cry against the paper, which they perceive as being – try not to laugh -- too conservative.

The chief lesson Republicans may draw from the Courant’s purge is that moderates, the only kind of Republican officeholders long tolerated by the liberal paper, are, and ever will be, dependent, as Blanche DuBois used to say, on the kindness of strangers.

While the Courant endorsed Diane Farrell, the former selectwoman of Westport, as “fiscally moderate,” someone who “knows how to build bipartisan coalitions to get things done” and an “effective change agent to clean up Congress,” these plaudits were once bestowed by the paper on Shays, who has had extensive practical experience in fiscal moderation – the Courant, in the very same editorial, dubbed him a “fiscal hawk” – building bipartisan coalitions, Shays-Meehan being the prime example, and serving as an effective agent of change.

No, all this is useless patter. It’s the war, stupid. Opposition to the war in Connecticut has emboldened the Courant to throw the moderate babies out with the wash water -- that and nothing else.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Interview With Alan Schlesinger Conservatives Would Like To Hear

Q: Mr. Schlesinger, do you understand why some people in Connecticut, even some Republicans, regard your candidacy as menacing? They think that a vote for Schlesinger is a vote for Lamont, so that voting for you would be something of a – if you’ll forgive the expression – gamble.

A: Very funny. But at least I gambled with my own money. I notice that powerful people in Washington who gamble with the people’s money are not subjected to the same critical analysis.

Q: Who would that be?

A: Harry Reid, the leader of Democrats in the Senate. Corruption, apparently, is catchy. The Associated Press now is reporting that U.S. Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid has slipped on blood. The anti-corruption pit bull has been using his campaign funds to give Christmas bonuses to the staff at the Ritz Carlton, an upscale condominium where he lives in Washington D.C. That’s the sort of sloppy accounting that that got Sen. Tom Dodd in trouble. This is strike two for Reid, according to the AP. Let me read a bit from the report – available, by the way, to most reporters covering my campaign as an underfinanced underdog:

“Reid also announced he was amending his ethics reports to Congress to more fully account for a Las Vegas land deal, highlighted in an AP story last week that allowed him to collect $1.1 million in 2004 for property he hadn't personally owned in three years.

“In that matter, the senator hadn't disclosed to Congress that he first sold land to a friend's limited liability company back in 2001 and took an ownership stake in the company. He collected the seven-figure payout when the company sold the land again in 2004 to others.

“Reid portrayed the 2004 sale as a personal sale of land, not mentioning the company's ownership or its role in the sale.”

Funny thing about Democrat leaders in Washington -- they have more strikes in them than a cat has lives. Connecticut’s crusading media has not yet caught up to Dodd the younger to ask him when he plans to offer a bill of censure in the Senate, so that we can get rid of these power hungry corruption pustules.

Q: Well, in your next debate with the two Democrats, why don’t you ask both if they would encourage Dodd to support a censure of Reid?

A: Good idea! I think I will.

That would enliven things a bit. Of course, an honest answer to the question would not be forthcoming from either Democrat. The point in political campaigning is not to bring the truth on the stage – that is the province of a free, non-partisan, energetic press -- but to inconvenience an opponent. Lamont thought to do this recently by sidling up to Sen. Dodd in his opposition to the nomination of John Bolton as a United States delegate to the United Nations, a laughable international oxymoron.

Bolton was placed in his present position as an interim appointment by President George Bush over the insistent objections of Dodd and others, who claimed that Bolton was a bully, an incompetent and a liar. Since Dodd launched his assault against Bolton on the floor of the senate and in several press interviews, Bolton has acquired what politicians call “a record in office.” In concert with others in the Bush administration, Bolton has been able to convince China, a large trading partner with the United States, to publicly censure North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Il, no small achievement. China is North Korea’s chief patron, and any diplomacy that left China out of account in dealing with the international scofflaw would be doomed to failure.

The diplomatic effort involved in bring China to the bargaining table to support a policy that, had it been applied in Iraq, would have been heartily approved by Bush critics, including Lamont, is not the work of a bully, an incompetent or a liar. Lamont and Dodd now propose to reward such efforts by refusing to appoint Bolton to a position in which he has been “successful” – as success is determined by administration critics of Bush’s policies in Iraq, including Dodd.

Schlesinger, who has nothing to lose, is just the sort of wild-card candidate who might, by dealing the cards straight – forgive the puns – turn the table on the two major players whose games have gone stale.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Lieberman The Independent

Nobody has given serious thought yet to what an independent Sen. Joe Lieberman would be like should he prevail against Democrat U.S. senatorial nominee Ned Lamont in November.

Lieberman, who considers himself a Democrat -- though he now wears on his chest the scarlet letter of an independent -- has said he would continue to caucus with Democrats, which seems to mean that he would be an independent in name only. Lieberman has been assured by his former political friends, now purring and rubbing their sent off on Lamont, that he would retain his 18 years of seniority; that is to say, he would lose none of his status and authority within the Democratic caucus.

A reporter caught Lieberman on the stump recently and asked several seemingly innocuous questions that caused the senator’s overly reflective brain to kick into its thoughtful mode. Should Democrats take over the U.S. House of Representatives, would America be better off?

“Uh, I haven’t thought about that enough to give an answer,” Lieberman responded.

Will he be voting this year for the Democrat nominee for governor, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, or will he be casting his ballot for Republican governor Jodi Rell?

“Uh, I’m having…” Lieberman stumbled – a brain cramp maybe.

The questions were a little Tricky-Dicky. Since homegrown Democrats this year are backing Lamont, it is not altogether certain that a rousing affirmation by Lieberman – “Of course, I’ll be voting the Democrat ticket, whatyathink!” – would be helpful to Democrats who have bailed out on him and now publicly support their party’s nominee. Perhaps Lieberman was trying to be helpful, both to his former political associates and himself; he is, after all, a hot property among forlorn Republicans and independent voters.

The reporter did not ask DeStefano or Sen. Chris Dodd whether either would be comfortable accepting a heartfelt endorsement from Lieberman, the leper of the Democrat Party.

Dodd – who managed his father’s campaign after Sen. Tom Dodd was censured by the U.S Senate for misappropriation of campaign funds, lost the Democrat nomination and launched an independent run for the senate -- soon will take a break from his own presidential campaign, a path well trodden by Lieberman, to stump for Lamont.

Dodd has been studying editorials that have popped up in Connecticut’s press, Lamont’s campaign literature and his conscience. A quick study, the senator seems to have got it all down pat: Lieberman hadn’t been paying close enough attention to the people, God bless’em; he has been too detached from the pressing concerns of his state, the result in part of his national status as a presidential candidate; independence is all well and good, but still one cannot let the partisan fire in the belly go out … yadda, yadda, yadda …

The overwhelming fact – massive as Gibraltar – that seems to have gone unnoticed is this: LIEBERMAN HAS BECOME THE ALAN SCHLESINGER OF THE DEMOCRAT PARTY.

“Alan who?” you will ask. And why does any of this matter?

Schlesinger, not accustomed to hiding his light under a bushel, is the Republican nominee for U.S. senator. Had Lieberman “gone gentle into that good night” following the Democrat primary, Schlesinger would be battling Lamont for status and prestige in Washington D.C. Campaign battles on the Connecticut home front often have been touted as battles for the soul of the parties: Democrat primary battlers Lieberman, Lamont, DeStefano and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy were said to be battling for “the soul of the Democrat Party,” a shopworn formulation that is not even half a lie. There is no soul to the parties, because the parties themselves have been reduced to ghostly presences.

Especially here in Connecticut, a no man’s land of unaffiliated voters and sovereign independent incumbents, campaign reforms have emasculated the parties. There are interest or political trusts; there is a huge struggle in the state and nation for status and prestige, a jihad for notoriety; there are party banners under which candidates stage mock battles for the soul of their parties; there are cardboard cutout political conventions and styrofoam party chairman; there are campaign signs galore – that almost always do not mention party affiliation. But there are no political parties, as Tom Dodd might have understood parties.

The parties are over. Someone please turn out the lights.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Understanding Kim Through Dramaturgy

Shin Sang-ok enters the stage and approaches a large standing mirror with great trepidation. At the end of his monologue, he will fade out and only the mirror, with Kim Jong Il’s image in it, will be seen.

Shin Sang-ok: I am not Kim Jong Il, though people have told me I look a bit like him; it’s the pompadour, I think. Kim could not be here. That would be impossible.

To understand Kim, you must understand something of the uses of imagery. I have a comprehensive understanding of the science of imagery, for I was a movie producer in South Korea, before I was abducted and taken to the North. One of Kim’s agents put a bag over my head and spirited me off. Well, you know -- North Korea; it’s not Hollywood… Having tried and failed to escape several times, I was put into a reeducation camp for four years.

Why is it always four years, I wonder? Why not ten, or eleven and a half? (He laughs) You are surprised, perhaps, that the camp did not rob me of my sense of humor? But believe me, when you are in camp – and everything that has brought you joy is stripped away from you, so that what remains is nothing but a naked, shivering ego, shorn of all its comforting illusions – a sense of humor may be your only saving grace. It took me years to become serious again.

I suppose the North Koreans, who have next to nothing, find themselves in similar circumstances; or at least they might, were it not for the reality bending enchantment of imagery. Once I was released from camp, thoroughly re-educated, I was treated well enough. I was conducted from the camp straight to Kim Jong Il’s … I will not call it a palace; but neither was it a hovel. Kim greeted me like an old friend. Here, in the permanent blackout of the North Korean peninsula, a light glows in the darkness. Kim Jong Il, you can be sure, is the light of this world, a product, mostly, of his creative imagination.

On the day of my liberation, Kim was light in every way: jovial, witty and bright, even though he has had little formal schooling. Light on his feet, he danced across the floor to greet me, one old school chum embracing another after a long absence. “Hello old fellow! Good to see you.” Would you believe it? The women of the country consider him “cute.” I cannot forget the image of Kim dancing to greet me, his face suffused with light. I know sincerity, and this scene was sincerely warm.

After the camp, where many of us had survived on a diet of corn flour and grass, to be received so cordially was (smile) somewhat disorienting, until I realized, almost at once, that here was a man who had no independent existence apart from his imagery. He was a living film. Kim opened a door and waved me into a room – and there it was: the largest private collection I had, until then, seen anywhere – fifteen thousand films. It is somewhat of an understatement to say that Kim is a film buff. He is, at once, the producer, director and principle actor in the film that records his life and the recent life of his crippled country. And here I was, a film maker -- a minor deity, to be sure -- in the presence of this maestro of image making. How could we fail to get along?

He was generous -- after my rehabilitation. He bought me a Mercedes, and reunited me with my wife, who also had been kidnapped by his imps and impets; she too had the marks of the prison camp on her. But our days of deprivation and re-education, we were given to understand, were now over. Apparently, Kim had need of a film maker. I was paid three million dollars a year. He settled upon me as his Leni Riefenstahl. Not a bad deal; Riefenstahl lived to be 101, outlasting Hitler by some 45 years, convinced to the last that she was an artist, not a propagandist. Perhaps she was an artist – one of those who create dangerously.

As for myself, I was impressed into service; I was not a willing subject. In the absence of freedom, it is somewhat arrogant to speak of free choices. In the prison camps, we had no choice of meals; flour and grass were on every menu. But the citizens of North Korea, so many of them, have had even fewer choices. Even here, in Pyongyang, the very center of Kim’s imagination – for the entire country is an imaginary construct -- there has been whispered talk of starvation.

In refugee areas across the Chinese border, boney children stare with eyes floating in sunken sockets at the desolation of their villages. Odd: One expects monsters such as Kim to be monstrous always. But it is not so. With me – perhaps because I was from the South, and a film maker – Kim was honest, after his own fashion. He could be brutally honest. Perhaps he wanted to have near him one man to whom lies could not be other than lies.

Our conversations sometimes were confessionals – not often, but sometimes. Even the great kings of Europe had their fools, and sometimes kings would permit their fools a certain license denied to even the most privileged courtiers. The people to whom Kim has dedicated his life and his most sacred honor, after all, live in the future he has imagined for them; they know little else. But me, I am from the South. I do know better. And Kim knew that I knew better, that I had a frame of reference different than those North Korean children, with distended bellies, who risked their lives crossing the Chinese border for a bit of rice they might bring back to their starving families.

Can’t fool me. “What did he want?” I often asked myself. Those children who crossed the border to gather food were ashamed that they had fallen so far short of their Dear Leader’s extravagant expectations of them. They were not self reliant enough to starve quietly; their bellies told them that self reliance was a sham. Kim threw a party for my wife and me when we were rejoined after the camps. Two bands played, a male and a female band. When the women in the band cheered him, he patted my hand and said, “Mr. Shin, all that is bogus. It's just pretense.”

What did he want with me? Affirmation, I finally decided. He wanted to be able to affirm to someone that he knew the truth, that he was not a captive of his own imagination, that he was not mad. That and, of course, he needed someone to jump start a propaganda effort. Propaganda is to these tyrants what cosmetics are to aging actresses: When the crow’s feet begin to appear around your eyes, you apply a little paint, and they appear to disappear. But underneath the propaganda, things remain as they are: Children starve and whip themselves because they are not self reliant. (Fade out)

Kim Jong Il: (Kim appears in the mirror. He steps out of the mirror) There is a little truth in all lies. First there was the testimony of my cook – that bastard! That ingrate! Now this!

One thing you can be sure of: People outside North Korea will always be ready to believe the worst of me. But here – where people know me – I am universally loved… Well, to be honest, not universally loved, but deeply loved. The people loved my father as well.

You see, in North Korea, heroism is still possible. We are brought up to identify with heroes, such as my father and – if it is not too immodest to say it -- me. But in the West, your heroes exist only in your films, which is why I have such a large collection of Western films. I have learned a good deal from them. They are my university.

There are differences between Western heroes and Eastern heroes – and similarities too, though I think the differences are more important. The Western hero is a loner; he takes his courage from what he believes to be right. But the ethic of the West is fast changing, don’t you think? What John Wayne thought to be right is not what, say, any modern hero more representative of the West thinks is right. There is something defective about this loner theory too, don’t you think? A man alone is not a blank sheet, because a man is never alone; never an island unto himself, but always part of the mainland.

And, as to the propaganda value of films, well intelligence has always been used that way. It was, after all, Hollywood that won World War II; Hollywood and George Patton, a true American hero. Film is a kind of collective intelligence, and I value it for that reason.

But I meant to say… What was it?... Oh yes, the Eastern hero is different; the wellsprings of his heroism are different. We are not afraid of insularity, self development, self-reliance – but always within the context of serving the greater good. Apart from the greater good, what is self reliance but selfishness? It is not given to everyone to know what the greater good is. When Shin Sang-ok was here, I tried to explain all this to him. But his time in the West had scribbled ineradicable messages on his soul. South Korea is the West; it is the West as surely as New York, or any large city in America, Paris or Germany, is the West. And, sadly, he agrees with me. In South Korea, the external promptings – entirely Western – have overcome internal resolve. Even in the West, the traditional Western messages – notes of conscience – are daily being overwritten by the environment. The Western hero is no longer one who struggles against his environment; he yields to it, the way a weak man yields to a beautiful woman.

That is the truth. The West is losing its struggle with the East. It may not seem so. But the West is weak, faint of soul. That is the truth. Externalities are deceptive. Rome was rich and technologically proficient when it fell. You see: I study the West; but you do not study the East. If you had studied us, you would know that isolation is our strength. The more you isolate us, the stronger we become. We are like Antaeus in the Roman myths. Our strength comes from the earth -- from the people. To kill Antaeus, the son of the earth, Hercules had to hold his feet above the earth, and strangle him; for when his foot touched ground, Antaeus grew in strength. Are you surprised I know these things? Do you think I spend all my time in the cinema? (laughs wildly)

c2006 Don Pesci

This Is An Apple; This Is An Orange

The good ship Chris Shays, captained by the besieged Republican congressional representative who this year is defending his seat against former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, ran aground when Shays said, in an address before a Jewish group, that the guards at Abu Grab were practicing a perverted form of sex rather than torture on their prisoners. Shays was immediately attacked by partisan bloggers.

“What could he have been thinking?” was the general refrain. And soon the editorialists weighed in. It has been suggested in recent days that the failure to provide enemy combatants with habeas corpus protection is a form of severe deprivation, and Shays’ remark was taken by those in the United States who wish to wrap the torturers of Daniel Pearl in constitutional cellophane as, to say the least, intolerant.

Can a distinction be made between the torture of Pearl, a journalist whose head was sawed off by enemy combatants – the event was videoed and aired on Arab television – and the sexual perversions imposed upon prisoners at Abu Grab by, among others, Lynndie England, now serving a three year stretch in the brig? Pearl is dead; one of the conspirators in his kidnapping is the notorious Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was moved in September 2006 from a secret prison to the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba. Such distinctions are commonplace – and proper. But not in Connecticut during a partisan political campaign.

While imprisoned in Jordan, the terrorist Mohammed reportedly was subjected to the water boarding interrogation technique, considered by some to be a form of torture. He withstood what has been called “an extraordinarily effective form of interrogation” for upwards of two minutes, earning plaudits and respect from his captors, after which he spilled the beans.

The charming videotape titled “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl" shows Pearl’s mutilated body and lasts an excruciating three minutes and thirty six seconds. In the first part of the video, Pearl is shown stating his captor’s demands. Images of President George Bush shaking hands with then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon flit by, along with pictures of dead muslims superimposed around Pearl’s image.

It has been suggested that Shays is incapable of identifying torture because he was imprudent enough made a distinction that would be instantly obvious to anyone who had seen the short but compelling video made by the non-combatants who sawed off Pearl’s head.

Apparently, the people who want to conflate the distinction between Pearl’s torture and the shameless and perverse treatment of Abu Grab prisoners are too busy to view videos. Perhaps the next time any one of them asks for an orange they should be given an apple, until they are made to confess – though not under torture, pray God – that there is a difference between the two.

In his original statement, Shays made two clear assertions: first, that he would oppose torture where ever it occurred, because torture should never be permitted; and second, that he felt certain torture had occurred, but not, in his opinion, at Abu Grab.

Under critical pressure, Shays amended his statement. He now considers sexual humiliation to be a form of torture. If so, it is a form that differs widely from the torture inflicted on the “spy-journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl.” A proof that torture did indeed occur at Abu Grab cannot be sustained by those who loudly condemn the lesser form of torture while winking, in their critical remarks, at the greater. Though both are fruit, apples are never oranges.

No Big Deal: DeStefano's Big Ideas

John DeStefano, mayor of New Haven, is said to be the “Big Idea” candidate. The corollary to that proposition is that his opponent, Gov. Jodi Rell, is the caretaker candidate, a nice lady but somewhat derelict in the matter of ideas.

The kind of people who admire DeStefano think big all the time. Every minute of the day, and twice on Tuesdays, a Big Idea slices into their brains, causing them to shout “Eureka!” If one could take a can opener to their foreheads, one would find any number of Big Ideas squiggling around in their brain pans. Dan Malloy, the mayor of Stamford, was rejected in a Democrat primary because DeStefano’s ideas were bigger and more adventuresome than Malloy’s. Every time Malloy, in hot debate with DeStefano, popped out with a Big Idea, he was trumped by DeStefano, who shouted from the primary podium, “Mine’s bigger than yours!”

DeStefano’s most gargantuan idea touches on property tax reform. It is said, by the Big Idea people, that the little people in Connecticut’s teeming municipalities are suffering from high property taxes. Democrats running for state-wide office hate high property taxes. Not only Republicans, but Democrats too, feel the burden of taxes. And when they talk in such fervent tones about how the people in Connecticut are suffering under an insupportable load of property taxes, one could almost imagine that they have swallowed a diminutive anti-Ronny Reagan while eating their corn flakes in the morning; one can almost hear from the depths of their throats this little manikin’s strangled cry -- “Spending is not the problem; spending is the solution to the problem.”

Now, here is DeStefano’s Biggest of his Big Ideas: 1) Property taxes are too high; 2) Property taxes must be reduced; 3) The state is contributing to municipalities less than half of the property tax bill; 4) We should increase this amount, most of which is spent by municipalities on unionized wages, to 50% -- thus reducing the amount of taxes paid by hard pressed property owners.

DeStefano’s second Big Idea is this: So long as Connecticut is rich in plunderable millionaires, it simply does not matter how much the state spends on programs – whether effective or not, whether necessary or not – because, owing to the blessings of a progressive income tax, we can always get the money from “those who do not pay their fair share,” loosely defined as anyone we wish to plunder.

Since such people represent but a tiny portion of the voting public, we can be certain that the majority will always vote for politicians like myself who promise to shower upon the multitudes state favors that are, so to speak, “free” – thanks to the millionaires. This means, we need never reduce spending.

Happy days are here again.

If copyright laws applied to podium speeches, DeStefano probably could be sued for suggesting that his Big Ideas originated with him. The progressive income tax, new to Connecticut since it was introduced to us by multi-millionaire Lamont supporter former Governor Lowell Weicker, goes way, way back. Stalin made good use of confiscatory taxes when he despoiled the kulaks of Ukraine in order to press the country to his bosom. Campaign demagoguery employing the progressive income tax was perfected here in the United States by the inimitable Huey Long – but even Long thought that those who consume state services should pay for them, which is why he taunted those who thought government services were “free” with this line: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax the guy behind the tree.”

Rell might consider using Long’s line in her next debate with DeStefano.

Or how about this: As the second debate concludes, Rell hands out to everyone in the audience a “free lunch” ticket, courtesy of DeStefano and whichever millionaire he chooses to pick up the tab. George Soros or Hugo Chavez might be easy touches.

Why should Big Ideas be limited only to Huey Long Democrats?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Swiftboating Joe: A Self Interview

Q: How’s Joe (Lieberman) doing?

A: The patient is recovering.

Q: From?

A: The mugging.

Q: Ha!!!

A: He’s up in almost all the polls -- anywhere from 10% to 15%, depending upon which soothsayer you consult. But Lieberman has received a drubbing, mostly for two reasons: He was too friendly to President George Bush, universally reviled here in the “provision state;” and, in his political life, Lieberman has not been a take-no-prisoners Democrat, like John Kerry or Ted Kennedy, both unbending opponents of everything Republican. Unpopular wars have a way of bringing out the partisan in everyone. Partisanship is in these days; mutual co-operation – collegiality, as they call it in the U.S. Senate – is out.

Q: Because we are in an election?

A: No, I think the political templates have shifted. We are witnessing a change in the political culture, a hotting-up on both sides, comparable to global warming.

Q: And the change has been prompted by the war?

A: Only in part. Partisan difference rumble under the surface a long time before the lava begins to flow. You know, I would like to think that the change has been brought about by the Huey Long biography that came out thirty years or more (Huey Long, by Harry Williams), a masterwork in political writing, mostly because Long was a master in political psy-ops. Long pretty nearly invented modern politics. But I doubt that’s the cause. Americans aren’t politically literate, which is one of the reasons why they are prey to every political huckster who comes down the pike. Political Babbittry is in the air, and those who are charged with writing objectively about politics, news reporters and the like, hardly sense it at all – probably because they have been co-opted by the present system.

Q: So much for theory. Back to the facts. Why is Joe up in the polls?

A: Wait a minute. Before we let the facts run away with us … I have this theory that theories precede facts. Facts are always opened to interpretation and ours certainly is the age of interpretation. But generally, if you get the theory right, you’ll be able to interpret the facts rightly. Anyway, that’s just me.

Q: It’s the old which-comes-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg existential conundrum, isn’t it? Does existence precede essence, or is it the other way around? Anyway, we needn’t concern ourselves that that piffle. Allow me to speculate: The only reason this has come up at all is that last night you, Andrée and Jake the guide dog saw Jean Paul Sartre’s play, No Exit at Hartford Stage.

A: Haaa!!!

Q: Did you like the play?

A: One does not like Sartre; one endures him. I liked Mr. Alighieri version of Hell much better. Sartre thinks Hell is “other people;” and you would too if you had been forced to spend long periods of time with Simone DeBouvoir. For Dante, Hell is a place of just, rather than absurd, punishment. It is the place where people receive their deserved dues, which presupposes a Just Judge, who is God. That is a more satisfying vision of Hell than the one proposed by Sartre, in which human porcupines prick each other for eternity in a Hell of their own making. In Sartre’s scheme of things, there is no God. In God’s absence, Everyman must become his own god, and the God of Dante can never be more than a farcical redundancy. Of course, there are technical problems in staging The Inferno at Hartford Stage. So, we get Sartre instead. Anyway, what the hell has any of this to do with Joe Lieberman?

Q: It’s off-point, but it seems to support my view that once you begin to talk about theories, you end up in Hell.

A: Haaa!

Q: So anyway … Joe is up in the polls, and the conventional wisdom is that his opponent, Ned Lamont, did something wrong. What did he or, more properly, his retinue -- professional advertisers, paid consultants, the best paraphernalia of modern politics that millions can buy – do wrong?

A: No one knows exactly what makes Ned run, other than the usual motivator in politics – monomania. Some people suspect it may be Lowell Weicker, Lieberman’s political nemesis. Lieberman thumped Weicker some decades ago, and now “pay back” time has arrived. Ned Lamont – like Weicker, a rich political dilettante from Greenwich – is Weicker’s “long knife.” That’s a theory satisfying on several levels, but most especially because it would confirm Dante’s view of human nature…

Q: Let’s leave Dante out of this …

A: Dante should never be left out of any final human accounting. But okay. What did Lamont do wrong? I’m tempted to say that the general election has gone wrong for Lamont because the primary went right. In the primary, Lamont was addressing himself to true blue Democrats. Now, nationally, and here in Connecticut as well, there are two kinds of Democrats: Democrat Democrats, and Republican Democrats. The Democrat Democrats – the real article; they call themselves Progressives, “liberal” having become a sullied word – rule in the primaries. So, in a sense, Lieberman, a liberal Democrat apart from his views on the Iraq war, was bound to lose the primary, a theatre of political action in which Lamont was able to define himself as the “real” (progressive) Democrat. Having been turned away by his own party, Lieberman was expected to take the loss like a gentleman and wander off into the sunset with the bitten bullet in his teeth. That did not happen. Lieberman re-engaged Lamont as a petitioning candidate in a general election. But the theatre of action had changed. In the general election, the doors of the theatre were thrown open to Republicans and Independents, as well as Democrats. The audience had changed. Lamont then became a victim of his script. What did the enlarged audience see? Republicans and Independents in the audience saw thuggish bloggers beating up on Lieberman, to the cheers of progressives such as, to mention just one of the long knives, Jane Hamsher.

Q: Of Firedoglake.

A: Right. Firedoglake is a spin-off of DailyKos, one of the more popular progressive blog sites. After President Clinton’s primary visit to Connecticut, where he stumped half-heartedly for Lieberman, Ms. Hamsher, previously associated with the Hollywood film industry, ran on her site a picture of Clinton in dark sunglasses standing beside Lieberman in blackface. Apparently, the picture was a blowback from a perceived Lieberman insult. Lieberman had suggested that the appearance of the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton at Lamont’s primary victory party would not be helpful in the general campaign he had just entered as a petitioning candidate. Commentators writing in some newspapers unfriendly to the Bush administration such as the Journal Inquirer made the same point. The re-entry of Lieberman as a petitioning candidate after Lamont’s primary victory speech – when all the progressives expected the usual concession speech on the part of the losing candidate -- was a slight not easily borne by sharp-tongued progressives. And so, we got Hampster’s blackface. It backfired, and the Lamont campaign has been backfiring ever since. Now we have a communiqué from a group of respected African American politicians in the state casting doubt on Lieberman’s early support of equality for blacks during the Martin Luther King years. Absolute nonsense. Everyone knows that’s nonsense that flys in the face of an accurate historical record. If Lieberman’s bitterest enemies wanted to drum up support for him among uninitiated Independents and Republicans – who have all but abandoned their nominated candidate, Alan Schlesinger -- they couldn’t do better than this. But the progressives, and Lamont’s handlers, seem content to spend the rest of the general election campaign preaching to the progressive choir -- probably because their internal polling may suggest that Lieberman’s support among Independents, some gung-ho Republicans, and dimly lit Democrats, is soft. The big question mark is the war. If Bush can’t hold Bagdad against the insurgents and important conservatives in his corner, Republicans may not be able to hold the House of Representatives. Here in Connecticut, Republican moderates are in trouble. The prospect of a washout of moderate Republicans from the House does not seem to trouble many conservatives. The Republican Party here in Connecticut has been reduced to – Jodi Rell, a moderate Republican whose political catchword appears to be “Let’s play ball.” No one supposes that, in the long run – or even in the short run – the Republican Party in Connecticut will win the game – or even an inning in the game.

Q: Thanks.

A: You’re welcome.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rushdie on Women's Liberation

After being forced underground for ten years at a cost of £1 million a year, the price of bodyguards in Merry Old England, Salman Rushdie, author of the Satanic Verses -- which got him a fatwah from the Ayatollah Khomeini – has lost none of his fizz.

"Speaking as somebody with three sisters and a very largely female Muslim family,” Rushdie said during a recent interview, “there's not a single woman I know in my family or in their friends who would have accepted wearing the veil.

"I think the battle against the veil has been a long and continuing battle against the limitation of women, so in that sense I'm completely on [Leader of Britian’s House of Commons Jack Straw's] side.”

And here’s the fizz: “He [Straw] was expressing an important opinion, which is that veils suck, which they do. I think the veil is a way of taking power away from women."

Although the fatwah against Rushdie presumably has been removed, opinions of this kind are not likely to earn the author a gold star among what some conservatives have fancifully called the Islamofascists.

The Islamofascists would be those who murdered artist and film maker Theo VanGogh for having made a similar point in his film “Submission,” written by Ayaan Hersi Ali, who recently moved to the United States to escape a similar fate.

Monday, October 09, 2006

L’affair à La Renaissance was arranged by conservative talk show host Brad Davis. Over six hundred people showed up at La Renaissance in East Windsor to munch on lunch and listen to Sen. Joe Lieberman -- dogged by video bloggers, sulfurous anti-Vietnam war protestors, his ancient nemesis Lowell Weicker, and Democrat nominee for his seat in the senate Ned Lamont – do his shtick.

Ten or more points up in the polls from what once was a neck-and-neck race, Lieberman is cautious but full of energy, a contagion he might have caught from genial host Davis, red haired, benevolent and of indeterminate age. An attractive woman at table told me while eating her baked scrod, “I used to listen to Brad during the old Milk Show days.”

That was long ago. American Bandstand was all the rage, and Elvis had not yet stuffed himself to death with doughnuts.

All the fast friends of Brad Davis were there: the king of “Blueberry Hill,” Davis’ nettlesome radio antagonist and Red Sox fan Ace Gizzardi, the honorable Judge Arthur Spada, the inexhaustible Fr. Ed Nadolny, and hundreds of Talk of Connecticut listeners.

The national media was not present in force. For them, the Lamont bloom appears to be off the rose. The ten point dip is a killer. It would be a real “man bites dog story” if Lamont actually won. But what have we in the offing: “Incumbent smashes challenger?” Ordinary as rain. Besides, the national media is chasing another hot story at the moment: “Republican Congressman Gropes Aides in E-Mails.”

The ambitions partisan video bloggers that have stalked Lieberman failed to make an appearance, though a functionary from ReclaimingthePropheticVoice.org was handing out what appeared to be church circulars. And “The Kiss,” a Paper Mache mise en scene that captured the MOMENT when a grateful President George Bush whispered sweet nothings into Lieberman’s ear on the floor of the U.S. Senate apparently had been mothballed after the primary. It just might, you understand, harden the prophetic love affair between Lieberman and Republicans in Connecticut who apparently, if polls are any indication, will not be voting this year for the Republican nominee to the U.S. Senate, Alan Whatshisname.

Video bloggers are purposeful folk. They are not journalists, exactly; journalists pose questions. The video blogger’s approach to truth is somewhat different. His idea is to shape a question in the form of a dagger and plunge it into his victims’ breast. Since we’re dealing with a repeatable product here, the murderous moment may be frozen into a painful clip and shown ad nauseum, in dozens of different venues, roughly forever, or at least until the victim collapses in a pool of his own blood.

Impatience, seasoned with rudeness, is the very essence of video blogging; and, of course, one must be willing to say or do anything to insure the victim’s discomfort. The victim usually does not know what to do when accosted by a determined video blogger, even when he has met the assassin dozens of times and sees the point of the dagger protruding from his belt. Lieberman tends to treat video bloggers as if they were local journalists sent out by their editors and armed with prefabricated questions that later may be molded into editorial bullets.

He is unfailingly polite, humorous in a Lieberman sort of way, and his answers to a video blogger’s pointed questions usually are weighed down with tons of gravitas, as if he wishes to crush the murderous moment by pounding it with nuance. The video blogger is never on the scene, however, to gather information. His questions are like Prufrokian streets: “Streets that follow like a tedious argument/ Of insidious intent.” He is there “to murder and create.”

This bright Columbus day, the pest stayed home, awaiting his moment. Inside, the friendly crowd moved like a nuzzling cat, and the warmth of Walt Whitman’s “democratic mass” pressed upon the speaker.

Finally, after repeated lashes of the knout, Lieberman was treated to raucous applause and friendly faces. Happy days were here again.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Foley Scandal: Inside the Ring

Clarice Feldman, an attorney in Washington, writing in the American Thinker, uncovers some -- but by no means all -- of the dark and unwholesome roots of the Foley scandal.

"Pardon me, but I smell something very peculiar in the way we have learned of the disgrace of Rep. Mark Foley.

"The email scandal which led to the resignation of the Republican Congressman is reverberating throughout the capital and the nation, as Democrats attempt to capitalize on bad news for Republicans. The seamiest of the released emails, which Foley has not denied, are right up there with Rhodes Scholar and Illinois Democratic Congressman Mel Reynolds’ taped phone conversations lusting for 15 year old Catholic school girls in their uniforms.

"But Democrats are attempting to make hay by alleging that the Republican leadership may have known about the inappropriate emails and covered them up for months. Their hope, no doubt, is to discourage turnout by disillusioned evangelical and other voters sensitive to moral issues. But the emerging background detail suggests that this is simply not the case, and that an attack strategy has been devised by parties anxious to damage the GOP and swing the coming election.

"In July a blog appeared, designed it said to trace sex predators. Few posts were made in that month or the following month. All recounted years old stories. Then on September 18, the blog printed the fairly innocuous email exchange between Congressman Foley and an unnamed page. In this correspondence initiated by the former page, Foley asks the former page how he is after Katrina (the boy lived in Louisiana) and asked for a photo. Thus began the latest political kerfuffle which swirls through the final five weeks of the campaign. How likely is it that this site with virtually no readership, few posts and hardly any history or posts of interest suddenly receives this bombshell? I’d say slight. About as likely as Lucy Ramirez handing Burkett Bush’s TANG papers. Let’s track back what else we know of this story. Sometime last year a former page contacted the St. Petersburg Times with an exchange of emails between himself and Congressman Foley. In the words of the editor, they never ran the story. (The following has been released by the office of the Speaker of the House, but does not yet appear online at the time of this writing.)

"In November of last year, we were given copies of an email exchange Foley had with a former page from Louisiana. Other news organizations later got them, too. The conversation in those emails was friendly chit-chat. Foley asked the boy about how he had come through Hurricane Katrina and about the boy’s upcoming birthday. In one of those emails, Foley casually asked the teen to send him a “pic” of himself. Also among those emails was the page’s exchange with a congressional staffer in the office of Rep. Alexander, who had been the teen’s sponsor in the page program. The teen shared his exchange he’d had with Foley and asked the staffer if she thought Foley was out of bounds.

"There was nothing overtly sexual in the emails, but we assigned two reporters to find out more. We found the Louisiana page and talked with him. He told us Foley’s request for a photo made him uncomfortable so he never responded, but both he and his parents made clear we could not use his name if we wrote a story. We also found another page who was willing to go on the record, but his experience with Foley was different. He said Foley did send a few emails but never said anything in them that he found inappropriate. We tried to find other pages but had no luck. We spoke with Rep. Alexander, who said the boy’s family didn’t want it pursued, and Foley, who insisted he was merely trying to be friendly and never wanted to make the page uncomfortable.

"So, what we had was a set of emails between Foley and a teenager, who wouldn’t go on the record about how those emails made him feel. As we said in today’s paper, our policy is that we don’t make accusations against people using unnamed sources. And given the seriousness of what would be implied in a story, it was critical that we have complete confidence in our sourcing. After much discussion among top editors at the paper, we concluded that the information we had on Foley last November didn’t meet our standard for publication. Evidently, other news organizations felt the same way.

"Since that time, we revisited the question more than once, but never learned anything that changed our position. [b]The Louisiana boy’s emails broke into the open last weekend, when a blogger got copies and posted them online. Later that week, on Thursday, a news blog at the website of ABC News followed suit, with the addition of one new fact: Foley’s Democratic opponent, Tim Mahoney, was on the record about the Louisiana boy’s emails and was calling for an investigation. That’s when we wrote our first story for Friday’s papers.

"After ABC News broke the story on its website, someone contacted ABC and provided a detailed email exchange between Foley and at least one other page that was far different from what we had seen before. This was overtly sexual, not something Foley could dismiss as misinterpreted friendliness. That’s what drove Foley to resign on Friday.

"So, the paper had nothing it could act on. But Foley’s opponent somehow got wind of the story which had appeared before only on a very new, utterly obscure blogsite and demanded an investigation. ABC then picked up the story and when it did, further anonymous sources with far more salacious and troublesome evidence appeared on the scene. What an amazing-and unlikely to me-turn of events. Like that paper, the Republican leadership only knew of the innocuous email exchange:

"Late night Congressman Hastert said of the incident (in terms remarkably similar to the editor’s):

"In the fall of 2005 Tim Kennedy, a staff assistant in the Speaker’s Office, received a telephone call from Congressman Rodney Alexander’s Chief of Staff who indicated that he had an email exchange between Congressman Foley and a former House page. He did not reveal the specific text of the email but expressed that he and Congressman Alexander were concerned about it.

"Tim Kennedy immediately discussed the matter with his supervisor, Mike Stokke, Speaker Hastert’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Stokke directed Kennedy to ask Ted Van Der Meid, the Speaker’s in house Counsel, who the proper person was for Congressman Alexander to report a problem related to a former page. Ted Van Der Meid told Kennedy it was the Clerk of the House who should be notified as the responsible House Officer for the page program. Later that day, Stokke met with Congressman Alexander’s Chief of Staff. Once again the specific content of the email was not discussed. Stokke called the Clerk and asked him to come to the Speaker’s Office so that he could put him together with Congressman Alexander’s Chief of Staff. The Clerk and Congressman Alexander’s Chief of Staff then went to the Clerk’s Office to discuss the matter.

"The Clerk asked to see the text of the email. Congressman Alexander’s office declined citing the fact that the family wished to maintain as much privacy as possible and simply wanted the contact to stop. The Clerk asked if the email exchange was of a sexual nature and was assured it was not. Congressman Alexander’s Chief of Staff characterized the email exchange as over-friendly.

"The Clerk then contacted Congressman Shimkus, the Chairman of the Page Board to request an immediate meeting. It appears he also notified Van Der Meid that he had received the complaint and was taking action. This is entirely consistent with what he would normally expect to occur as he was the Speaker’s Office liaison with the Clerk’s Office.

"The Clerk and Congressman Shimkus met and then immediately met with Foley to discuss the matter. They asked Foley about the email. Congressman Shimkus and the Clerk made it clear that to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and at the request of the parents, Congressman Foley was to immediately cease any communication with the young man.

"The Clerk recalls that later that day he encountered Van Der Meid on the House floor and reported to him that he and Shimkus personally had spoken to Foley and had taken corrective action.

"Mindful of the sensitivity to the parent’s wishes to protect their child’s privacy and believing that they had promptly reported what they knew to the proper authorities Kennedy, Van Der Meid and Stokke did not discuss the matter with others in the Speaker’s Office.

"Congressman Tom Reynolds in a statement issued today indicates that many months later, in the spring of 2006, he was approached by Congressman Alexander who mentioned the Foley issue from the previous fall. During a meeting with the Speaker he says he noted the issue which had been raised by Alexander and told the Speaker that an investigation was conducted by the Clerk of the House and Shimkus. While the Speaker does not explicitly recall this conversation, he has no reason to dispute Congressman Reynold’s recollection that he reported to him on the problem and its resolution.

"Sexually Explicit Instant Message Transcript

"No one in the Speaker’s Office was made aware of the sexually explicit text messages which press reports suggest had been directed to another individual until they were revealed in the press and on the internet this week. In fact, no one was ever made aware of any sexually explicit email or text messages at any time.

"It is not only the recent, unread blog spot breaking the story which raises my suspicions. The rest of the genesis of the story is as murky.

"Brian Ross of ABC ran the story, beginning with the same “overly friendly” but not sexually suggestive email exchange and adding a series of instant messages dating to 2003 previously unseen by anyone in Congress between Foley and anonymous recipients said to be former pages. The Republican leaders, seeing the more damning correspondence, sought and got Foley’s resignation.

"As soon as the ABC story ran, and organization called C.R.E.W., which said it had the original exchange which Hastert had heard of and the St Peterburg paper had seen, put them on their website .They said they’d earlier conveyed them to the FBI, were releasing them because of the ABC story, and asked for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Republican leadership. It is abundantly clear to me that C.R.E.W. and ABC communicated and may have coordinated the release of this story.

"Who is C.R.E.W.?

"Here’s what The Hill wrote:

"One target of Republican criticism is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the group that last year assisted former Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas) in drafting an ethics complaint against DeLay, which resulted in an admonishment of DeLay from the ethics committee. At last week’s press conference, Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, said that DeLay should step down as majority leader.

"From 1995 to 1998, CREW’s Sloan served as minority counsel for the House Judiciary Committee under Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). Before that, Sloan served as the nominations counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).

"According to GOP research, Mark Penn, who had been a pollster for President Clinton, and Daniel Berger, a major Democratic donor, are on CREW’s board. Spokeswoman Naomi Seligman declined several requests to reveal the membership of CREW’s board, although she confirmed that Penn and Berger are members. Last year, Berger made a $100,000 contribution to America Coming Together (ACT), a 527 group that was dedicated to defeating Bush in the presidential election, according to politicalmoneyline.com, a website that tracks fundraising.

"CREW declined to respond to the RNC talking points or House GOP research.

"C.R.E.W. is one of four “public interest” organizations which the RNC has long identified as major recipients of George Soros richly-funded Open Society Institute. It is backing the risible Wilson/Plame civil suit against Cheney and others.

"What do we know of Brian Ross?

"My favorite media watcher, Steve Gilbert reports:

"Brian Ross of ABC News is the reporter behind the story that Rep. Dennis Hastert is being investigated by the Department Of Justice. Ross is sticking to his charges despite vehement denials from both the DOJ and Hastert himself.

"Some may recall that Brian Ross has been involved in past journalistic controversies. Just last week, Mr. Ross reported he was tipped off by unnamed “senior federal officials” that his cell phone was tapped by NSA.

"Last month, Ross was one of the first (if not the first) to report that Rush Limbaugh “had been arrested.” Reports which turned out to be greatly exaggerated, but which Ross never corrected.

"In January, Brian Ross was the first to promulgate the claims of the self-proclaimed NSA whistleblower, Russell Tice. Ross treated Tice has a highly credible source even though Tice had been cashiered from the agency due to “psychological problems.”

"ABC has not disclosed the names of the recipients of the instant messages which were sexually explicit, years old, and not seen by anyone else. We do not know how anyone but the recipients could have retrieved them. We do not even know if they are authentic. None of the recipients has come forward and identified himself. What we do know is that reputable media and the Republican leadership acted appropriately on the initial innocuous correspondence and could not proceed further in view of the parents’ demand that their son’s privacy be respected only to find months later just before the election that same correspondence showing up on an unlikely blog site and then almost simultaneously on ABC and on C.R.E.W.’s site. As for the demand that a special prosecutor be appointed, maybe Patrick Fitzgerald can be appointed. Then he can fail to ask ABC or C.R.E.W. how they got the correspondence, ignore their political motivations, conflate their partisanship with “whistle blowing”, not look for the sources of the later sexually explicit emails, and nab Hastert for forgetting when he went to the bathroom on the day he heard about the emails.

"Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC. and a frequent contributor to
American Thinker."

Why Debates Don't Matter

Political debates, since the justly famous Lincoln/Douglas encounters, have been vastly overrated. The notion that one may deliver a knock-out blow in a debate is for the most part a fiction. It was a fiction during Lincoln’s day also.

Far more important than the Lincoln/Douglas debates -- the messages of the candidates -- was the medium. Newspapers of the day were frankly partisan. Lincoln himself wrote fake editorials, not under his own name, for Republican papers. And the truest accounts that we have of the debates are to be found, oddly enough, in the opposition press.

The most accurate accounts of Lincoln’s addresses are found in anti-Republican newspapers. Why? Because pro-Lincoln papers would guild his speeches so as to make them more stirring and convincing to a Republican readership; whereas the opposition paper would produce a true, unvarnished stenographic record of Lincoln’s address, taking care to burnish Douglas’ response. Also, Lincoln and Douglas agreed to disagree publicly, without fear their messages would be unacceptable to some ideal non-partisan auditor, whose genuine interests are supposedly represented by some ideal objective media.

Things have changed since those good old days. The mainstream media now strains for a Potemkin Village “objectivity” that falls to the ground at the slightest critical touch; political debates, causing everyone to doubt Darwin’s evolutionary theories, have devolved to gaudy press conferences studded with sound bites embedded into speeches by overpaid consultants; and the parties, at least in Connecticut, have all but disappeared. When parties and politicians become non-partisan, poof go the parties.

A clue that something has gone awry is furnished by the demand that the parties themselves should be non-partisan. Let’s see – a non-partisan party; isn’t that just the dearest oxymoron? Then too, Connecticut is quickly becoming a one party state and, as any furioso pro-Ned Lamont blogger will tell you, it ain’t the Democrat Party that’s calling the shots. The ruling party is the Perpetual Party or the Incumbentocracy, the “In’s” who never get out.

DeStefano has had a devil of a time piercing what must seem to him the governor’s impenetrable hide. It is not that DeStefano’s arrows are blunt. But they are all aimed at Rell’s well protected left flank, and there has been no assault on Rell’s exposed right flank. The Democrat gubernatorial primary has driven DeStefano far to the left. That is, indeed, the problem with primaries: They drive Democrats to the left and Republicans to the right. In DeStefano’s case, the drift to the left has left Rell in charge of what one commentator has called the “vital center” – in fact, a static doldrum in which nothing moves or breaths --and general election battles are decided on that terrain.

The Democrats are just two House members away of achieving a veto proof majority. With a veto proof majority in their arsenal, leading Democrats would be able to pass their legislative agenda without fear of effective opposition from either the governor or the disappearing Republican Party. That agenda is being shaped largely by DeStefano, whether he wins or loses. But if Rell emerges victorious, much of the program hammered out by DeStefano and Malloy in their primary is likely to be discarded by ruling Democrats in favor of more moderate baby steps forward towards the social paradise that gleams in DeStefano’s eyes whenever he mounts a podium.

The governor already has given way to the Democrats on any number of issues. The “battle against sprawl” has been for some time a cause celebre among leading Democrats and influential “non-partisan” media outlets, and Rell recently has indicated that she too finds sprawl utterly distasteful.

For those who wrinkle their noses at it, sprawl is "unmanaged" economic growth. For libertarians and “good government is small government” folk, sprawl is the outward movement of business and industry from urban areas to suburbia, an economic big bang phenomena that began when medieval walls began to disappear around fortified castles. There is, in fact, no such thing as unmanaged growth. The outward movement from castle to city and city to suburb so far has been managed – some would say ineptly – by the same invisible hand that shapes the general economy, a hand too restrained for those who prefer meddlesome, inefficient and expensive beauracracies to free market arrangements.

It would take a Lincoln and a Douglas to present to Connecticut citizens the real choices that likely will affect their futures for years to come. But their day is gone, never to return.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Death of Camelot

Sen. Edward Kennedy came to Connecticut last week to give Ned Lamont, the netroot heartthrob, a leg up in his campaign against Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman. Lamont is the Democrat nominee for the senate in Connecticut; in an odd twist of primary fate, Lieberman is the petitioning candidate.

Shortly after Lamont pushed Lieberman off the cliff in a Democrat primary, many of Lieberman’s former comrades in the U.S. Senate – prominently in the Northeast, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Kennedy – threw him over in favor of the new kid on the block, arguing that good Democrats must support the nominee of their party.

The Ned and Ted love fest at the Clifford House in Bridgeport provided several amusing moments. In one of his recent ads, Lamont claimed to be running against a politician who had “been in Congress too long,” but not quite as long as Kennedy.

Lamont also promised to refrain from bringing home pork, unlike Kennedy, without whose efforts the Big Dig in Boston might not have been a spectacularly expensive boondoggle.

When Lieberman, at a different function on the same day, laid claim to the “muscular foreign policy of Truman and (John F.) Kennedy,” the sainted president’s brother set the record straight. “President Kennedy,” said Edward, the heir to Camelot, “would have been very careful with the facts. He would have been careful not to sign on for distortions, misrepresentations and manipulation of intelligence” – unlike President George Bush who, in one of his speeches, managed to sound a lot like the senator’s brother.

Chances are that few of the reporters covering the event had a personal memory of the soul-stirring Kennedy speech in which the young president said that a new generation would “go anywhere and bear any price” for the sake of liberty. Lieberman doubtless had this passage in mind when he referred to the “muscular foreign policy” of the Kennedy administration and not, say, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which involved an almost criminal carelessness of facts deplored by Lamont’s new friend from Massachusetts.

Lamont and Diane Farrell, a former First Selectwoman in Stonington who hopes to unseat Rep. Chris Shays – like Lieberman, one of the young torchbearers of President Kennedy’s administration -- together boomed out a rendition of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

Truly, Camelot is dead.

But the enemies of liberty are very much alive. Fidel Castro, who has outlived Sen. Kennedy’s brother by more than four decades and whose consulate in Mexico frequently hosted Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, appears to be tottering towards the grave, but President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez – Castro with oil wells – has been very animated lately; so has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who hosted Chavez in Iran.

Both have made appearances in the inaptly named United Nations in New York, recently the scene of two terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers building, and both were in fine fettle, Ahmadinejad pulling the nose of the West after he had vowed to wipe Israel off the map -- presumably with nuclear weapons the UN is vainly attempting to prevent him from securing – and Chavez, holding up a book written by his mentor Noam Chomsky, marveling at the smell of sulfur left in the wake of President Bush’s, who earlier addressed the citadel of do-nothingness.

Following the Punch and Judy show, Chavez was denounced by Rep. Charlie Rangel – no friend of the Bush administration -- and even Nancy Pelosi managed a discouraging word. Here in Connecticut, Democrat nominee for governor John DeStefano bit his tongue; DeStefano has accepted discounted oil from Chavez, causing one wag to lament that he had been bought out by Big Venezuelan Oil.

Chavez’s charge that Bush is the devil did not appear to alarm the “Nedheads” supporting Lamont, some of whom agree that Bush is the Devil incarnate, Noam Chomsky or Ted Kennedy, who still can’t sing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.”

The last poll shows Lieberman leading Lamont by about ten percentage points, a disappointment no doubt to Jew haters like Ahmadinejad and Bush haters like … (fill in the blank).

Thursday, October 05, 2006


The Sirkins are commentators whose articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines.

By Gerald and Natalie Sirkin*

Prolific and invaluable investigative reporter Bill Gertz of The Washington Times has just published another blockbuster. Enemies, How America ’s Foes Steal Our Vital Secrets—and How We Let It Happen (N.Y.: Crown Forum, pp. 290, $26.95) exposes the shocking incompetence of the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency, and our other intelligence organizations.

The facts are virtually unknown to the American public. We doubt that many have heard of Katrina Leung or her FBI code name, “Parlor Maid.” Yet Leung is rated as one of the most damaging spies ever to penetrate the U.S. Government.

Leung came to the U.S. from China with her parents in 1971 when she was 15. In college she joined the student movement that supported Communist China. Soon she was working with the Chinese intelligence service. Leung was recruited by FBI Agent J. J. Smith, though he knew of her record in the student movement. Soon Smith began a sexual affair with her, in violation of the rules. Smith’s supervisor stumbled on their affair but did nothing about it.

Leung began passing classified material to the Chinese including information she stole from Smith’s brief case. She revealed the names of U.S. agents in China , who were then executed. She revealed U.S. electronic spying operations, which China then shut down. She planted disinformation particularly on how harmless China is, which has influenced American policy of every president from Ronald Reagan.

After nearly ten years of spying for China , Leung was exposed to the FBI by an intercepted phone call to the Chinese intelligence service. However, her handler, J. J. Smith, kept her in the FBI so as to not expose their affair. He was abetted by his supervisor, Bill Cleveland, who was also having an affair with her.

Ten years later, evidence again put the spotlight on Leung. The FBI investigated but turned the investigation over to a close friend of Bill Cleveland, intelligence officer David Szady. He continued the cover-up. Eventually Leung, Smith, and Cleveland left the FBI, with gentle slaps on their wrists.

This messy display of bungling and corruption was repeated many times. Middle Easterners in flight training were not investigated because of politically incorrect ethnic profiling.

From the 1980s till 2005, a Chinese electrical engineer working in American naval weapons firms gave China information about U.S. technology and weapons.

In 1999, a Chinese defector revealed that three CIA operators were spying for China . Another case, Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear weapons researcher in the Los Alamos National Laboratory, presents an example of a spy’s making fools of U.S. agencies.

Lee is known to have taken tapes containing complete information about U.S. nuclear weapons and research. The tapes were never recovered. Lee charged that he was a victim of racism. The FBI botched the investigation and Lee escaped punishment. He sued the Government and six news organizations, winning $1.6 million.

An analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ana Belen Montes, for 16 years spied for Cuba . Her information led to the deaths of American agents and Nicaraguan anti-Communist rebels. Fidel Castro traded her information to the Soviet Union and China for financial aid. Montes was only one of a long string of Cuban spies who penetrated the U.S. Government.

The answer to the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to protect themselves from penetration is an aggressive counterintelligence service, writes Gertz. Leading countries all have strong counterintelligence services, all except the U.S. which has practically none.

The slim chance of developing effective American counterintelligence is demonstrated by the FBI’s three-year harassment of veteran CIA counterspy Brian Kelley. The FBI had ample evidence that a mole was working in U.S. intelligence. But when the mole hunt intensified, investigators assumed that no FBI man would betray the organization. It had to be someone outside the FBI. They fastened on CIA Agent Kelley.

The investigators hounded Kelley’s family and imposed 24-hour surveillance on him. They interpreted every piece of evidence of his innocence including polygraph tests as evidence of his cleverness. Finally, a Soviet KGB defector offered to sell the FBI for $7 million, a telephone recording of an American mole speaking to the KGB.

The FBI, convinced they had Kelley, eagerly paid. When they gathered to hear the recording, they were stunned to hear the voice not of Kelley but of FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen. He had been giving the Soviets valuable information for years. The FBI had had clear signs of Hanssen’s treachery like large amounts of unexplained money he was spending and tips from Hanssen’s own brother-in-law who worked for the FBI. But the FBI never investigated.

A similar pattern appears in the case of Aldrich Ames, CIA Agent in charge of counterintelligence operations against the Soviet Union . From the time when he volunteered his services to the KGB in 1985 till his arrest in 1994, he handed a large volume of information to the Soviets. The damage he did led to the deaths of dozens of American agents working in the Soviet Union .

The CIA had reason to investigate Ames . He was an alcoholic. Soviet intelligence was quickly catching American agents recruited in the Soviet Union . Ames was spending heavily. But he was not investigated till1993, when the FBI took over the case.

A new counterintelligence agency, independent of the old intelligence agencies and their bungling cultures, might shut down the outward flow of American information. Meanwhile, the fruits of our weapons research will continue to strengthen our enemies.


* Published in Citizen News, 10-4-06, Sherman and New Fairfield , Connecticut

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

An interview with Bob Heurt, Candidate for Governor running on the Common Cents Ticket.

Q: You’re running for Governor of Connecticut as a Common Cents candidate, but you’re wearing a Harley Davidson campaign pin? What’s going on here?

A: We’ve taken a page from Nascar. You know how they put their advertisements on pretty much everything a television camera fondles – cars, their clothes and, for all I know, they wear little tattoos of Pepsi cans on their ankles? We’ve adopted that process.

Q: Here’s a first: You’ve sold out to Harley Davidson before your election to office?

A: We haven’t got that far yet in our negotiations with them. We’re trying to corrupt them, but it seems impossible.

Q: How come we haven’t heard about you?

A: We’re campaigning on a reduced budget. Like Blanche DuBois and Alan Schlesinger, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, we’ve found it necessary to throw ourselves on the kindness of strangers. Thanks for the interview.

Q: Aren’t you afraid that no one will take your campaign seriously?

A: Not at all. In Connecticut, most people don’t take campaigns seriously, possibly because incumbents almost always are voted back into office. Gerrymandered districts have a lot to do with the high rate of return, which is why our campaign favors forming districts that do not divide towns. It would force redistricting. We are in favor of strengthening municipal governments as against state governments.

Q: Sort of a back-to-1775 movement.

A: Well, 1775 had a lot to recommend it. That was the year before 1776. We aren’t Luddites. We don’t plan to deprive anyone of their iPods or reintroduce slavery or anything of that sort. On with it, you know…

Q: That’s the question: On with what? What’s your program.

A: Keep what works, chuck what doesn’t. That’s about it.

Q: Okay, what doesn’t work?

A: State government, for one thing. We want to get rid of it, or at least reduce it to tolerable proportions. Urban schools – get rid of them. Find out where the fathers and mothers of Yale and Harvard candidates send their pampered children to school – you can be sure it’s not one of the non-performing centers of urban mis-education in Connecticut – and send the kids there…

Q: Let me interrupt your Common Cents for a minute and ask the obvious question: Wouldn’t it be simpler, more commonsensical, to get rid of municipal governments. After all, Connecticut is a small state.

A: Never… we’re for the little guy. The smallest unit of government, said G.K. Chesterton, is the best. He was talking to an American reporter from a hotel in New Hampshire, I think, when he said, “This hotel would make a fine Republic.” As a general rule, we’re for the small, practical, efficient thing and against the complex, theoretical, wasteful thing. That’s as much political theory as we can stand. In any contest of strength, we side first with the family, then the municipal government, then the state, then, if you must, the federal government.

Q: Less is more, eh?

A: No, less can never be more than less. But less of a bad thing would be a good thing, no? We in Connecticut have been operating on the principle that more of a bad thing is a good thing. For instance, I think it’s been established that the family in our urban centers is broke and much in need of fixing. Broken families in cities leave young males without direction at the mercy of the merciless street. Whatever the solution to this problem may be, it cannot be earlier intervention by an urban public school system that for years has been incapable of producing literate and mathematically proficient young scholars. We know that failing public schools cannot take the place of fathers missing in action in our urban centers, and the answer to that problem cannot be more and earlier failing urban education. More of a bad thing is not a good thing, see?

Q: Got it. Good luck to you.

A: Want a Harley Davidson pin?

Q: No-can-do. The wife drives an Indian Chief Vintage.

A: Ah, see -- more of a good thing!

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