Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Slipping on Blood: Lessons for Blumenthal

Now that Governor of New York Elliot Spitzer has been hobbled by scandal, are there any lessons to be learned in the Spitzer mess for our own crusading Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is said to be seriously considering a run for governor?

The template for the successful attorney general here in Connecticut was fashioned by once attorney general, now senator, Joe Lieberman, who took a sleepy office and transformed it into a major indignation outpost. In the colonial period, the attorney general was the King’s lawyer; but the modern office, first under the hand of Lieberman and now Blumenthal, has been transformed into a consumer protection agency with subpoena powers.

When Spitzer, as attorney general, wanted to set right defective businesses, he would direct his sprawling office to examine all the records he had gathered through his subpoena powers and, having found a chick in the armor of the business, there he would thrust his lance. Pre-prosecution publicity, the death knell for businesses that rely upon the good will of the public, often would be enough to cause the business under scrutiny to agree to arrangements made by Spitzer’s office. The deal generally would involve a correction of the malignant business practice and a hefty fine, a portion of which would be used to defray tax collections used to finance Spitzer’s office.

Blumenthal employs the same methods and often boasts that his office “pays for itself,” since he turns backs into the general fund more money that is used to cover the costs of his office.

When Spitzer became governor, he carried with him into his new position work habits and personnel that had served him well as attorney general. His personnel also carried with them into their new position habits of mind and methods of discrediting their targets that had served them well in the past.

But a governor is not, Spitzer now realizes, an attorney general. And when Spitzer’s staff successfully planted stories in a New York newspaper intended to discredit Bruno, a political obstacle in the way of Spitzer’s ambitions, other newspapers – happy to be of service to Spitzer in the past, when he was employing them to place the hook in mouths of businesses – took note and cried “Politics! We though White Knights were above that sort of thing!”

Spitzer now finds himself “under close examination,” so to speak, and is struggling to get out from under the microscope he so successfully used as attorney general to pressure businesses to come to terms with his old office, now occupied by Andrew Cuomo, the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo who, some New York commentators think, would like nothing better than to displace Spitzer as governor.

That’s politics for’ya.

Of course, Spitzer, a bright guy who dismissed one of the two staffers who got him into this pickle – the governor himself insists his hand are clean -- will no doubt emerge from the fiery furnace a wiser, more saintly governor.

But the chief lesson here appears to be: When you move into a new house, get rid of the old furniture, and hire staff in your gubernatorial office that knows something politics. The second lesson, no less important than the first is: The media does not like to be used for political purposes by anyone other than the attorneys general.

Blumenthal, no doubt, will learn from Spitzer’s mistakes.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Speaking Truth To Power: Gingrich on Bush's Failure

If the Bush administration has suffered from a failure of thought – and it has –his Democrat opponents are suffering from a failure of will. Newt Gingrich examines both in a short, devastating analysis.

Gingrich's analysis is devastating because it is true. The Democrat analysis is impotent because it is not true. It is not true on a very elemental level, because it is a pretense that if America retreats from the jihadists, it will suffer no permanent loss in lives and honor.

Despite Democrat propaganda to the contrary, there is evidence that the surge has been at least partially successful.

There are two reasons for this: 1) The increase in troops has provided in some embattled areas of Iraq shelter from the storm of foreign terrorists, and 2) the jihadists clearly have overplayed their hand, as may be seen in this report from Jack Kelly.

But the limited success of the surge can only mean that Bush’s early strategy – low troop levels, a diminished American presence – was a horrific failure. Democrats cannot point to that failure without acknowledging the partial success of the surge. And they cannot do this while insisting that troops should be precipitously withdrawal from Iraq.

Democrats are caught, in other words, in the inextricable toils of their own campaign rhetoric. That rhetoric is the Gordian knot that must be cut if Americans are to have a just appreciation of the truth – the unpleasant, unalterable truth.

No "Three Strikes and You're Out" Law for the Outlaws

Chris Powell, over at the Journal Inquirer, has responded thoughtfully to what has been mislabeled the “tragedy” in Cheshire. Actually, it was a multiple rape and murder and a tragedy only for the victims who could not avoid the unwelcome attentions of the two rapists and murderers who decimated Dr. William Petit’s family.

Connecticut’s so called “three Strikes and You’re Out” legislation is little more than a pretense at law and order. The law, Powell writes, “merely allows prosecutors to seek and courts to impose life sentences when someone is convicted of a third violent felony. Connecticut law also merely allows prosecutors to seek and courts to impose a doubled sentence on people convicted of a second felony.’

There are no mandated requirements in the law. In practice – the only true measurement of the effectiveness of laws – Connecticut, Powell says, “is infinitely indulgent -- as are many state legislators surveyed about what happened in Cheshire.

“That is, what Connecticut calls its "three strikes" laws are like the state's capital punishment law -- misleading the public into thinking that the state is tough on crime and that its elected officials have accomplished something. In practice, as the state saw two years ago with the contrivances in court preceding the execution of the serial murderer Michael B. Ross, the only criminal executed in the state since 1960, Connecticut has capital punishment only for those who insist on being executed.”

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Slipping on Blood

According to an extensive report in The New York Times, the state’s new governor, the redoubtable Elliot Spitzer, once attorney general of the Empire state, has slipped on blood.

Evidentially, carrying into his new office some of the bad habits he so carefully cultivated as New York’s attorney general – some dare call him Caligula – Spitzer planted a story in an upstate newspaper that was designed to discredit his chief foe in the state’s legislature, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Problem was the information leaked to the paper was rancid, and not entirely true. Newspapers generally resent being manipulated in this way and, even as I write, it may be supposed that several managing editors of various newspapers are knotting the rope they will use to hang Spitzer.

The poor fellow probably lapsed for a moment into his discarded skin as attorney general and thought he was dealing not with a powerful legislator but rather with some small time businessman who had run afoul of one of many of the city’s punishing regulations; in the normal course of doing business as attorney general, Spitzer would have bullied the miscreant in print and then arranged privately for the usual shakedown.

These methods did not work on Bruno.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bobby and J. Edgar: The Historic Face-Off Between The Kennedys And J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America

Burton Hersh, the author of two books on the Kennedys and an authoritative book on the founders of the CIA, “The Old Boys”, was ambivalent about writing Bobby and J. Edgar: The Historic Face-Off between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America.

At first, Hersh wanted to keep the book narrowly focused, “though honest.” Too wide an historical orbit, he thought, “was likely to scorch out sources and friends whom I have cherished since the middle sixties.” But he had become privy through his contacts to new information, and the book flowered under his hand. Hersh’s scorched friends and sources are not likely to be indifferent to the book. Nor is anyone else who reads it.

The face page at the beginning of Bobby and J. Edgar carries a quote from Ralph Martin’s Seeds of Destruction: “John F. Kennedy ‘told his good friend John Sharon that if he had his life to live over again, he would have a different father, a different wife, and a different religion.” Sometimes in the face of brute reality, one prefers to sink into the plush arms of one’s illusions. The mythology surrounding the Kennedy family is more soothing, more edifying even, that the naked truths explored in Bobby and J. Edgar.

J. Edgar of the title was, of course, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation J. Edgar Hoover, and Bobby was former President John F. Kennedy’s Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. As a senator, when Bobby decided to rout the mob, little did he realize that the neighborhood he intended to sanitize had connections with his sometime too solicitous father, the resourceful Joe Kennedy, entrepreneur, financier, former Court of Saint James Ambassador to Great Britain in the Roosevelt administration, confident of Sam Giancana and his opposite number J. Edgar.

Hersh is a masterful wordsmith. Consider the following caricature of Bobby working the floor at the Democrat National Convention that was instrumental in sending his brother to the White House:

“A scrawny, tousled bird, his rubbery lips writing with impatience around the assertive front teeth, those pale assessing eyes beneath their sweeping folds aglitter beside his harsh chopped beak of a nose. Sleeves rolled up, by midmorning the shirttail would be blousing out and the knot on his necktie worked halfway down the front. Perspiration stood in dark blotches. All business every minute, running down the delegate count.”

The trick in writing books of this kind lies in providing the reader an aperture though which may be seen a historical period and its principal characters, while at the same time being faithful to the public and private record. The peg upon which Hersh hangs his narrative is the clash -- not always public, for Hoover rarely showed his hand; he was an equal opportunity manipulator -- between a hopelessly idealist Bobby Kennedy and a worldly wise, sometime world weary triumvirate that included his ambitious father, Hoover and his brother the president, whose relationship with Sam Giancana, a mobster and one of the principal actors in the Cuban Bay of Pigs fiasco, is examined closely in “Bobby and J.Edgar.”

Bobby and the FBI chief were bound to bang heads after JFK appointed his brother Attorney General and the energetic Bobby decided to go after the Mob. Little did Bobby realize that his father’s own personal orbit intersected with some shady characters that included many politicians, organized crime figures and the white knight of crime fighting, Hoover himself, keeper-in-chief of the secret files he used to manipulate many of the characters occupying the political stage in which Bobby and JFK and their father moved and operated.

Here is Bobby dilating on Hoover: When Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s close associate, was in the hospital Bobby asked, “What was it? A hysterectomy? … Any day now, I expect him to show up at work wearing one of Jackie Dior’s creations.” Very likely these bon motes may have been netted by Hoover in one of his frequent wiretaps. Secretly, Hoover was providing to the ambitious Attorney General the information on Giancana he needed to bust up the Mob. But that information led, by a back door, to the front door of Bobby’s father and brother – and Hoover knew it.

“After two harrowing years in office,” Hersh writes, “Robert Kennedy had genuinely come to understand that Mob history intersected along the fault lines of Joe Kennedy’s career.” Bobby, now compromised, quietly retreated. “Bobby took me off the Chicago investigation,” said Ed Silberling, appointed by the attorney general to head the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, “just when I began to come up with information, the reason being that his father was often mentioned in connection with the Mafia. He was interested in crime-busting only to the extent that his family wasn’t involved.”

Once asked if he expected that presidential candidate John Kennedy might have trouble with the Pope, Harry Truman quipped, “It’s not the Pope, it’s the Pop.” There was little that Pop Kennedy was not involved in. The force that held together Kennedy family was considerably diminished after Joe Kennedy had his stroke. The Bay of Pigs fiasco was a “smoking ruin” before Bobby understood that Giancana, who had devised a way to poison Fidel Castro, had been involved in the mess. By that time the sheen on Camelot was fading. The president was a near invalid, Bobby had been surreptitiously recruited by Hoover to place wire taps on Martin Luther King’s phones at a time when the black leader was gaining in stature and prominence. The center, it appeared, could no longer hold.

The whole thing, eventually, became bullet ridden. Giancana was assassinated, likely by an even then diminishing Mob. JFK was assassinated, and Hersh here explores possible Mob involvement in the president’s death. The president’s assassin was assassinated, and later Bobby, perhaps the most honorable of the Kennedys, went down in a hail of bullets.

“Tragedy,” Bobby had said following his brother’s death, “is a tool for living.” The overarching thesis of Hersh's book is that the bullets, as well as the tragedy are connected.

Bobby and J. Edgar
The Historic Face-off Between The Kennedys
And J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America
By Burton Hersh
Publisher: Carol & Graf/Perseus
Price: $28.95/hardcover5

Monday, July 23, 2007

At The Sign Of The Braying Ass

There’s been a little tug of war going on in blogdom – and in other places – between Lanny Davis, author of “Scandal: How 'Gotcha' Politics Is Destroying America,” and Gotcha monger Colin McEnroe, the host of an eponymous radio program and the author of “Lanny Davis Is (Still) An Emu."

The two are bickering over the question, "Is Sen. Joe Lieberman a Democrat?" (Short answer, yes and no) and a related question, "Is Lieberman a tolerable human being?" Lanny says yes; McEnroe, occasionally given to wondering why Lieberman has not appeared on his radio talk show lately, says no.

In a short column printed in the Hartford Courant, McEnroe’s stomping grounds, Davis asserts that Lieberman – with the exception of his support of the war on jihadism – has been a good liberal Democrat, and he adduces the senator’s votes as proof. Lieberman has voted with Democrats 90% of the time, and he still caucuses even with Democrats whooping it up in the anti-war camp. "According to a recently published study by a San Diego professor who evaluated the voting records of all 100 senators on a liberal-conservative scale," Davis wrote, "Joe Lieberman was among the 12 most liberal senators in the 110th Congress."

McEnroe reluctantly agrees but points out that the war just now is the defining issue in the Democrat camp. The barricades were thrown up in Connecticut when an obscure Greenwich millionaire, Ned Lamont, challenged Lieberman in a Democrat primary -- and won. At this point, Lieberman was expected to withdraw, concede that the anti-war crowd was all along right about the bumptious George Bush, and ride off into the sunset. But Lieberman challenged Lamont in the general election as an Independent Democrat – and won.

Besides all this, McEnroe has said numerous times that Lieberman is a nasty man – “a crusader against violent videogames and filth on television,” a guest on intolerable talk show programs hosted by the “scabrous Bob Grant and even Pat Roberston.” And, by the way, Lieberman's defender, Davis, is an Emu. In some quarters, this is considered a very funny thing. McEnroe has put up on his site a snarling Emu, which looks amazingly like President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in full fury, denouncing scabrous Jews and threatening to incinerate Israel.

Warming their icy hands over the little flame of their private hatreds, the run of the mill progressive blogger asks, “How do I detest thee, let me count the ways?”

McEnroe ticks them off.

Blot 1: All along, rabid warmongers have insisted that when Iraqis pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein following the entrée of American soldiers into Iraq, they were celebrating the downfall of a tyrant. McEnroe’s own heart sang as he watched the event on television. But the toppling was not what it first appeared to be: “A newly declassified Army study of the Iraq invasion confirms that the U.S. military stage-managed the fall of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad. According to the Army's own report, a Marine colonel decided to topple the statue and an Army psyops worked to make the toppling of the statue appear to be a spontaneous undertaking by Iraqi civilians. This according to the Los Angeles Times. The psyops team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqis to gather in Firdos Square and a Marine recovery vehicle was used to topple the statue with a chain.”

McEnroe does not assert that Saddam was not reviled in some quarters of Iraq – particularly by the relatives of the Kurds he gassed and murdered; he is simply making the point here that the toppling of the statue was staged managed by the U.S. military. Psyops is expected to do this sort of thing. But there is no question the Americans have been out finessed by the fierce jihadists who later on sawed off Daniel Pearl’s head and passed around the video celebrating the execution via the internet.

Blot 2: Davis in his Courant piece argues that “if you take Iraq out of the equation Joe Lieberman is a liberal and that Lieberman's most ardent critics would be mollified if they believed that.”

McEnroe casts doubt on this assertion. But, once again, he carefully does not deny that Lieberman voted with the liberals most of the time, which would make him a liberal most of the time.

McEnroe points out that there were early and disturbing signs that Lieberman was drifting into the enemy’s camp. The detestable talk show hosts he names – Sean Hannity and Glen Beck, among others, right-wingers all – received Lieberman in good humor. But the mere association with such folk has tainted Lieberman: “Why do they like him? Iraq? Maybe. But they also like his taste for keeping Terry Schiavo alive and his apology for torture. They like the way he voted against a filibuster in the Alito nomination (even if he cast a meaningless vote against Alito at the end.) They like all the Bill Bennett stuff on values and virtue. They like his speech about Condi Rice having the hearts of all Americans.”

And, oh yes, Lieberman's 90% liberal voting record is misleading, Machiavellian political psyops: “Lieberman is the master of voting Democrat at the last minute. After a crucial amendment or a cloture vote, he'll veer off sharply and vote with his party. He'll dance with the Bush administration on Social Security until his own party leaders are pulling out their hair and then run back to the fold so Davis can spin him as a Democrat.

“The complicated dance Lieberman has done to remain both a lapdog of the Bush administration, the Charo of right wing propaganda shows and yet, on paper, a plausible Democrat is covered by me in this Salon piece and, in greater depth, by this DailyKos post.”

Helpfully, McEnroe provides a link to the DailyKos post as well as his own Lieberman skewering piece in Salon, an on-line magazine.

Blot 3: And, in any case, whether these points are open to dispute simply does not matter, because Davis has not managed to grasp the nub of the discontent with Connecticut's too independent senator among Lieberman haters, which is: “So Lanny, here is something you failed to grasp: You can bring out all the liberal ratings numbers you want. Some of us just don't like Joe Lieberman as a person. He's vain, ambitious, preening, hypocritical, vindictive. He gives us the creeps. OK.”

In the face of such hot-headed vindictiveness, what is the author of “Scandal: How 'Gotcha' Politics Is Destroying America” to answer, if not: “Okay, McEnroe, you win? Why don’t you and your crowd assemble a paper maché statue of Lieberman outside your talk show site, throw a chain over it and pull it to the ground?”

Good psyops there.

The very first comment on McEnroe's "Lenny Is Still An Emu" posting, written by the scabrous CtKeith, gently chides Davis: "Lanny Davis and Monica Lewinsky are both famous because of Clintons (sic) Penis. Monica will be remembered as the more honorable one of the two."

One wonders what McEnroe's fellow columnist at the Courant, Rick Green, thinks of it all. He cannot be happy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Totalitarianism In The New 21st Century

In the future, 21st century socialism in Venezuela will be indistinguishable from 20th century totalitarianism.

Stung by Manuel Espino’s criticism during a recent pro-democracy forum in Caracas, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, retorted, “"How long are we going to allow a person - from any country in the world - to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?"

Chavez has ordered officials in Venezuela, according to a recent Associated Press report, “to closely monitor statements made by international figures during their visits to Venezuela -- and deport any outspoken critics.”

Sen. Chris Dodd, busily engaged in becoming president of the United States and considered an authority on Latin America, has yet to comment publicly on Chavez's new policy.

John Bolton, whom Dodd was instrumental in easing out of his position as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, thinks it stinks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Referendum Blowback: Marmer to Vernon -- “Let’em eat cake!”

Mayors and other keepers of the public purse have made an art of punishing presumptuous voters who deny them funds in referendums.

Taking a page from then Governor Lowell Weicker, who threatened to close state parks if he did not get sufficient votes in the state legislature to pass his income tax proposal, Mayor Ellen Marmer of Vernon closed the iconic War Memorial Tower on Fox Hill, a structure built by the Works Projects administration during the depression, after the naughty citizens of her town pared back her budget in three referendums.

On a fourth try, the town realized an increase of about 3% on its previous budget, a $2 million increase – enough, reasoned the Journal Inquirer, to maintain operations on the war memorial tower. Over in Tolland, where citizens persuaded the town fathers to reduce their proposed expenditures in a fourth referendum, a zero-increase budget finally was passed after the town poobahs somewhat arrogantly scheduled a second referendum without adjusting their first submittal, possibly because they thought public was either deaf, blind or dumb.

But Vernon takes the cake in the arrogance contest.

After Marmer closed the tower – saving a grand total of $1,300 – a white knight appeared who offered to supply the funds if the lady would relent and reopen the structure.

Eric Santini, a local businessman, said the arches of the tower and its rough hewn stone reminded him of similar towers in Italy. In a somewhat formal ceremony, Santini presented the mayor with a check. Mayor Marmer said, “We’re very fortunate to have civic minded citizens to keep our town symbol open.” The unfortunate implication of the mayor’s less than gracious remark is that the town was not as fortunate to have a mayor that closed the tower, possibly as an object lesson to those less civic minded citizens who voted down her budgets – three times.

To Mr. Santini's credit, he coughed up the money but did not hold back in his remarks.

According to an account in the Rockville Reminder, Mr. Santini said, “We didn’t think it was right to close the tower for reasons like this.” Allowing for the frustration some people may have had with the budget, Mr. Santini said, “… to take it out on the tower, it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

In a stinging editorial, the JI contended that Marmer had sold out to the unions:

Sadly, the judgment of the townspeople on how much they can afford to pay in town property taxes in hard times - an opinion that apparently was deeply held in Vernon this year, judging from the budget referendums - simply cannot be brought to bear on the biggest single expense of town government.

“While the symbol of the town could have been saved by just a little restraint on employee compensation - a mere $1,300 of restraint in a budget in which hundreds of thousands of dollars in raises were to be paid - the town government could not extract it and would not even try.

“In the case of Vernon, even the symbol of the town became expendable.

“In Connecticut today a town's welfare is no longer the first purpose of town government; town government's first purpose is to satisfy its own employees.”

Having alienated the affections of one major paper, hard pressed taxpayers in Vernon and one generous, patriotic and brutally honest doner, Marmer has chosen to lead her party's ticket in the next municipal elections.

Good luck with that.

State Republicans could offer a principled resistance to the kind of arrogance that apparently has found a home in the thinking and allegiances of mayors like Marner, but it is doubtful the state GOP has the political stomach to mount such an opposition against well organized interests that have appropriated a large chunk of the public purse to fatten their own salaries – even though, as the JI correctly suggests, Democrat politicians have long passed the reasonable tolerance levels of most state taxpayers.

The Republicans should be stumping for a state referendum on budgets. In the absence of sturdy principles, municipal referendums are the last remaining firewall against reckless spending.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Democrats Pull An All-Nighter

Democrat senators decided to pull an all-nighter at the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to persuade warmongering Republicans to adopt their plan for ending the war in Iraq.

According to an Associated Press news report, Democrats knew going into the great debate they did not have the votes necessary to achieve their objective but were none-the-less undeterred.

Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine supported the Democrat position: withdraw the troops from Iraq in 120 days. Waxing eloquent, she said at a news conference also attended by Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, “"We are at the crossroads of hope and reality, and the time has come to address reality." Snowe accused the Iraqi government of "serial intransigence,” in failing to suppress terrorists, many imported from Syria and Iran. According to the AP report, Smith, who is seeking re-election next year, “said that Iraqis appeared focused on ‘revenge, not reconciliation’ and that the administration needed to change its approach. 'The American mission is to make sure that Iraq doesn't fall into the hands of al-Qaida,’ he said, rather than referee a civil war.”

It is not known whether Smith or Snowe believe that the Iraqis focused on revenge will be able to fend off the terrorists supported by Syria and Iran within the time period specified in the legislation they supported once American troops have withdrawn from the country, thus preventing the country from falling into the hands of al-Qaida.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, according to the report, was expected to attend festivities arranged by MoveOn.org., prominent among them “A candlelight vigil and rally across the street from the Capitol.” The senator from MoveOn.org did not on this occasion express any view concerning what might happen in Iraq should Democrats and the Republicans who joined them be successful in passing the measure for which they voted, nor is it expected she will do so at any of the more than 130 events around the country MoveOn.org has arranged to coincide with the Senate debate.

Why North Korea Is Now A Nuclear Free Zone: The Untold Story

It’s very nearly impossible to find out from the cursory accounts printed in most major newspapers what persuaded North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il to agree to shut down his nuclear program.

We know positively it was not the allure of sweet reason. Since his ascendancy to the exalted position of “Dear Leader” following his father’s demise, Kim has not been friendly to reason, the delicate pressure put on his country by China, or U.S. President George Bush’s decision not to engage in direct talks with North Korea. Despite pressure put upon it by both Kim and some major American newspaper, Bush declined direct talks with Kim, preferring instead multilateral talks involving countries that would be impacted should Kim be successful in producing big boom weapons that would give the dictator a power he does not now possess to negotiate terms with other nations.

Only a few months ago, the front pages of many newspapers bristled with accounts of Kim’s steadfast refusal to succumb to pressure from the West to shut down the program. Like his counterpart in Iran, Mahmoud Amadinijad, Kim insisted that his nuclear program was intended for peaceful purposes, even as he launched test missiles in the direction of Japan.

And now, quite suddenly, Kim has caved. UN inspectors this week announced the program had been dismantled.

What’s up with that?

How the U.S. Treasury Department Dished a Dictator.

Certainly it was no secret that the upper crust of North Korea, Kim and his associates, were living high off the hog while the rest of the country was plunged into a permanent depression brought on by Kim the Communist’s lust for power and glory.

The class divisions in Korea were dramatically displayed a few months ago in a nighttime photograph of Korea showing the North plunged in total darkness, except for scattered bright spots around Kim’s abode, while the South, liberated from the same fate by an American army and now bursting with enterprising non-communist citizens, shown in the night like a bright halo.

But if North Korea was broke, where were all the posh rulers of North Korea getting the money to put caviar on the table? North Korea’s economy was kaput; it had defaulted on its sizable international debt; and it was unable to borrow money. How then was Kim financing a trade deficit as high as $800 million a year with no access to capital markets?

A small working group calling itself The Illicit Activities Initiative, several people that came from the Treasury and State Department, quickly found the answer to the question. Kim’s North Korea, like the Mafia, was essentially a criminal enterprise that was realizing huge profit margins from drug trafficking, illegal weapon sales and counterfeiting in “superdollars” so high tech as to be virtually undetectable.

The IAI’s small operation soon mushroomed into an international initiative. Juan Sarate, according to a story in the June issue of National Review, was the first to discover a punishing provision in the Patriot Act that soon would bring Kim’s regime to its knees.

Section 311 of the Act empowers the Treasury Department to designate suspect foreign banks as “institutions of primary money laundering concern.” Having done so, Treasury is enabled to impose “special measures” such as closure of “correspondent accounts” in their dealing with such foreign banks. In other words, Treasury may cut the money laundering banks from the U.S. banking system.

In 2005, Treasury discovered that a small Macau bank, Banco Delta Asia, was at the center of North Korea’s money laundering activities and applied the provision. This action was timed to break a seemingly endless deadlock in multi-lateral talks with North Korea. And within days of the implementation of the measure, North Korea agreed to fully denuclearize in exchange for economic aid and normalization of relations.

The day after Treasury’s announcement Banco Delta Asia’s reserves were depleted by a run on the bank and Macanese authorities took over the bank and froze $25 million held in several dozen accounts related to North Korea. The Bank of China froze its North Korean related accounts, and other international banks, realizing they too could be cut off from U.S. banks, increased due diligence on their North Korean accounts and refused to take on any new business from Kimland.

The reaction from North Korea was predictable: It backed out of the six-party talks for a year, declined to return to the table unless its ill gotten assets were restored, test fired new ballistic missiles and detonated a nuclear warhead.

And every time Kim’s associates approached Christopher Hill, a State Department undersecretary who represented the U.S. in the six-party talks, to demand restoration and amelioration, Hill said that the damage could not be undone unless Korea abandoned its criminal activity. The U.S. government was powerless to change economic laws operating in the international free market. Treasury could not help Kim. The Americans had not frozen Kim’s accounts: they were frozen by Macau and the China bank.

Attempting to be helpful, Treasury released a statement that the U.S. would “support a decision by the Macau authorities to unblock the accounts in question.” The accounts were unfrozen but – big problem – no bank in the world was willing to accept a wire transfer of funds tied to criminal activity. The U.S. government then asked Wachovia Bank to accept the wire transfer from Banco Delta Asia, promising it would not enforce Section 311 of the Patriot Act in this instance.

Wachovia refused.

The effects unleashed by Section 311 of the Patriot Act are almost irreversible, a potent weapon indeed, provided it is not repealed by Bush ill-wishers in the U.S. Congress. That is a slender hope for the dictators of the world to rely upon when they cannot rely upon American banks like Wachovia to bless their criminal enterprises. But who knows, rebellious Democrats, still in a campaign mode months after wresting control of the Congress from Republicans, may yet prevail and repeal the whole act.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Glory Of Biases

A green color, passed through a bias prism, is seen as red.

We all have biases, but some cherish them more than others. U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman has become a target in the blogsphere for progressives who wish to advertise themselves as such by sporting their biases.

Rejected by his party in a primary, Lieberman ran as an Independent in the general election – and won, much to the dismay of left wing Democrats who favored Ned Lamont, an anti-war Democrat from Greenwich nudged into the race by ex-Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker. At bottom, all politics is personal because, unsurprisingly, it involves persons, many of whom are unwilling to lay aside their biases for the public good.

Weicker was defeated by Lieberman in a hotly contested senate race. A few years later the sleeping bear was back again wielding a bludgeon, a left wing fellow from his old hometown, against his former rival. Since Lieberman’s defeat of Lamont in the general election, progressives in Connecticut and its environs have not stopped hammering Lieberman. Their intension is to drive him, through vitriolic attacks, from the political square. So far, this has not worked because a) Lieberman is stubborn, something – perhaps the only thing – he has in common with Weicker, and b) he does not wish to see Israel, hardly an object of affection in the Middle East, go poof in a nuclear plume. As I write, determined jihadists and others – the president of Iran comes to mind -- are plotting its destruction.

One of the principles Lieberman has clung to fervently during his career in the senate is that Israel must survive. That principle, evidently, is stronger than the gravitational pull of his party. For this reason, some on the left have derisively called Lieberman “the senator from Israel” – meaning his true allegiance is not to the genuine interests of the United States but to those of a foreign country. The last time we heard a charge of this kind was during John F. Kennedy’s presidential race, when it was alleged that Kennedy was the Pope’s man. Kennedy disassembled that roadside bomb by seeking out those occasions in which, by taking positions unaligned with those of his church, he could demonstrate his independence. All Connecticut’s Catholic politicians have followed this road to political success without deviation, even on those occasions in which public agreement with orthodox Catholic opinion would be popular among non-Catholic groups, such is the fortitude of the state’s Catholic politicians.

Lieberman is not a religious quisling. He is quietly Jewish in the same sense that Hillare Belloc, once running for a seat in the British parliament, was brazenly Catholic.

On the stump, Belloc was confronted by and anti-papist who accused him of being in the pope’s pocket.

Belloc pulled some rosary beads from his pocket, shook it at the lady and said, “Madam, do you see these beads? I pray on them every night before I go to bed, and every morning when I arise. And if that offends you, Madam, I pray God He will spare me the ignominy of representing you in Parliament.”

Lieberman is too much the gentleman to put matters in such stark terms. But one senses he feels the lash and resents it. And, as Nietzsche well knew, nothing so stiffens the spine as resentment, unless it be the kind of love that bound Belloc to the cross on his beads or the love of things Jewish – including Israel -- that animates Lieberman.

It must be said that no love was lost between Belloc and politicians:

Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician's corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged.

On the other hand, what Belloc detested most in politicians was their shifty natures, their impermanent dispositions. True affections can find no home in impermanent places:

Fame to her darling Shifter glory gives;
And Shifter is immortal while he lives.

Whatever else critical may be said of Lieberman, he does not shift with the alacrity of, say, his compatriot, Sen. Chris Dodd.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Welcome To Tombstone

Genghis Conn, Chris Bigelow of Enfield, recently proposed on his blog site, Connecticut Local politics, the question “Has Dodd’s Moment Passed?”

The Headless Horseman weighed in with this answer: “With Dodd currently polling somewhere in between the guy who fills the soda vending machine at the US Capitol, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s bones, I’d say his time is long passed, if he in fact ever had a shot.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it took him this long to actually run for president. Look how long it took him to grow up, stop going to Spring Break with Ted Kennedy, and get married and have a child.

“I expect him to have a mid-life crisis when he is 143 years old.”

That’s a “Yes.”

But it’s a “Yes” burbling with what bloggers call snarkiness: a smart answer, deeply layered with irony, a little vitriolic, the sort of response to a reasonable question not likely found on the editorial pages of a respectable hometown paper. Comments in the commentary sections of blogs are anything but stuffy. The idea is to let it all hang out while displaying your understanding of the nitty-gritty of state and local politics.

It is not thought proper for active, partisan politicians to drape themselves in anonymity and use blogs to advance their narrow political ambitions. Though no doubt some do this, there is always rejoicing in blog heaven when such a creature is outted.

The proprietor of CLP is a reference librarian addicted to orderly thought who works in a small Massachusetts’s college. His own thoughts generally run slightly left of center. His is, after all, a popular blue state blog. In Connecticut, just before he dropped the income tax anvil on all our necks, ex-Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker was often and amusingly referred to by the respectable press as a “moderate” Republican. Sometimes Weicker was referred to as a “maverick” Republican; which is to say, an out of the mainstream Republican whose policy preferences paralleled those of Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dodd, Kennedy’s Connecticut compliment, neither of whom were ever maverick Republicans. In New England, all of us have become used to terminological dissonance. A “moderate” Connecticut Republican probably would be regarded in the conservative corner of the political barracks as a leftwing Democrat.

Every so often, Genghis squishes a boisterous partisan chatting up in his sanctum sanctorum. Other Connecticut blogs, most of them energetically and exotically liberal, are more tolerant of sympathetic anarchic trolls. A troll is a nuisance who scatters frag bombs in the commentary sections of blogs. There are of course friendly trolls, menaces to ordered thought who agree with the ideological slant of the blog, and unfriendly trolls, those who purposely have wandered into hostile blogs hoping to raise Cain. These are mobbed by other blogger, roundly hammered and banished.

Whether or not a blog is more or less an open forum will depend upon the proclivities of the blog’s proprietor. Many blogs are closed systems; controversy is invited but tightly controlled. One of the exceptions, CLP – even allowing for its progressive slant – seems to relish controversy for the best of reasons. Controversy does not always produce smoke; sometimes it produces light.

The Headless Horseman, who has a sprightly sense of humor, is a recent addition to CLP’s stable of front page commentators. For some reason – fatigue, the imperious call of business, the advanced depression that sets in when one realizes one is surrounded by a mob of liberal David’s, slingshots at the ready – CLP has not been able to hang on to its conservative commentators. With the addition of The Headless Horseman to CLP’s front page, the shootouts in Tombstone are bound to be more exciting, authentic and fun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Iran Prepares The Big Boom

According to Israeli intelligence, more intelligent usually than American intelligence, the clock is ticking on efforts to persuade or force Iran to give up its effort to produce nuclear weapons. Time is running out.

According to Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, Iran is “very close” to crossing the technological threshold that will allow it the capability of enriching uranium at an industrial level. Having mastered the technology, Kuperwasser predicts Iran will be able to manufacture a nuclear device within two or three years.

Sanctions alone, Kuperwasser says in a report entitled "Halting Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program: Iranian Vulnerabilities and Western Policy Options," will not be sufficient to persuade Iran to abandon its program.

The sticking point, as always, is Russia. Because Russia is unallied with the United States, sanctions alone would be ineffective, said Kupperwasser.

"For significant sanctions to be effective the world needs to at the same time threaten the use of military force. Iran needs to be made to understand that if the sanctions won't work, the world is prepared to use military force to stop the nuclear program."

Although Iran is preparing for a military response by concealing and strengthening nuclear components -- The Washington Post has published photos of Iran's enrichment facility at Natanz which showed the digging of a tunnel that analysts said could be used to hide and protect key nuclear components – the Iranians, Kupperwasser believes, do not think either the United States or Israel were politically strong enough to launch such a complicated military operation.

In a story printed in the Jerusalem Post, Kuperwasser said “that a real threat of military action - backed up by credible threats by world leaders as well as the deployment of a large military force to the region - could have the right effect in deterring Iranian leaders from continuing with their nuclear program.

“A credible military threat combined with economic leverage had a chance at preventing the need for a future clash with a nuclear Iran and perhaps could also make it unnecessary to deal today with an Iran that is close to nuclearization.”

It is not known whether any of the US Congressional committees probing President Bush’s failed war in Iraq intends to gather and make public information from Kuperwasser and other intelligence operatives that know more about Iranian nuclear development than, say, the editorial board of the New York Times.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The End Is Near

According to the Washington Times, two of the suspects in the attempted bombings in Britain had eyes on the United States. David Hanson, the author of “A War Like No Other,” an account of the Peloponnesian War, sees the West sliding back into Carterville. But, not to worry: Madonna has saved the planet. And Colin McEnroe, once a religious writer for the Hartford Courant, planned to hobnob over the weekend with some Muslims, at least one of whom is a shady character, though not quite so abhorrent to the new left as Sen. Joe Lieberman. In view of the barrage let loose by leftist bloggers on Lieberman, the most amusing line in McEnroe’s piece is this one: “It's no accomplishment at all to hate somebody you've been told to hate. It is quite an achievement to get past those instructions and see the real people.”

Just Look Over Here: Democrats and Magic Realism

Talking a bit off page to a reporter for The Day, Democrat Rep. Ted Moukawsher of Groton blurted out the truth.

“The tax package,” he said, “… sort of just appeared, and I don't think we were invested in it. It was like budgeting by press conference. It was whatever someone decided was a counter to the governor's (latest) press conference and whatever sort of proposal she had. The leaders didn't really consult with membership at the Senate or the House level, and then when it didn't work out the way they expected it to, they never came back to us and said, 'Well, how about this?' It was really kind of weird. They never consulted us and then they abandoned us afterward. We went from being this mighty majority to being this feeble, fractured, kind-of disorganized group.”

The blustery Speaker of the House Jim Amann of course was singing a different tune. “They must be ... brain-dead,” Amann said concerning disgruntled members of his party in an interview with Ted Mann, who noted that the Speaker punctuated “the middle of that sentence with a qualifier that can't be printed here.”

According to Amann, who apparently was oblivious to the various feints and moves of the Republicans, the budget passed by the Democrat dominated legislature was the neatest thing since the invention of baloney.

Sure, the Democrats failed to pass, over Governor Rell’s veto, a much touted progressive income tax, but never mind that stuff. “Just look over here,” says the magician when he wants to beguile his audience and pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lieberman Among The Lilliputians

It’s difficult these days to get Sen. Joe Lieberman’s opponents, who are legion, to dispute with him. They much prefer abuse; it takes so little effort.

Progressive bloggers in particular, cloaked in anonymity and petulant by design, are very good at this; they all sound like Don Rickles with a hangover. Thus, Lieberman is referred to by even reasonable bloggers as certifiably nuts.

On June 10, Lieberman caused the leftist’s stomachs to churn when he said the United States and its allies should be prepared to take action against Iran, according to the Hartford Courant, “…if that country continues helping extremists who are killing US soldiers in Iraq.” And on July 2, perhaps in preparation for the holiday that was to occur two days later, Lieberman said, following a briefing in Baghdad by Brigadier General Kevin Bergrier, “The US has a responsibility to use all instruments at its disposal to stop these terrorist attacks against our soldiers and allies in Iraq, including keeping open the possibility of using military force against the terrorist infrastructure inside Iran,” at which point the combustible heads of the senator’s opponents burst into flame.

It should be noted that there is nothing exceptional in Lieberman’s statements. Of course the US, at war in Iraq, “has the responsibility to use all instruments at its disposal to stop these terrorists attacks against US soldiers.” Lieberman went on to express a hope “that these latest revelations about Iran’s terrorism in Iraq will prompt some of my colleagues in Congress to reconsider their demand that US forces withdraw from Iraq.”

But Lieberman’s colleagues in congress, particularly US Sen. Chris Dodd, have traveled too far forward on a politically expedient road to think of withdrawal now. There are Congressional seats still to be wrested from Republicans at the upcoming elections, and virtually the entire conga line of Democrats running for president have tied their success to a withdrawal of troops – never mind the consequences that will follow from what is certain to be perceived by jihadists as an American rout.

The Democrat congress is at least as obdurate in its political designs as the jihadists who, with considerable help from Iran and Syria, are attempting to drive the US out of the Arabian crescent lying on the south shore of the Mediterranean sea. North of the Mediterranean sea, the catch basin of Western civilization, jihadists have attempted to penetrate France, Spain and now England with their terrorist activities. A “scientific,” almost clinical, argument has been advanced to show that Europe has already been conquered by Muslims who procreate with greater energy than Europeans. The destiny of a nation lies in its genes. Italy and France cannot produce enough children to replenish their populations, but Muslims in all the European counties to which they have been drawn by the promise of a better (more European?) life do not have this problem. The recent foiled attack in England was thwarted by police and the ringleaders were quickly rounded up because in England the threshold for the arrest of terrorists is more easily surmounted than it is here in the United States.

Lieberman has clearly and truthfully stated his view of the jihadists’ purposes. The senator’s statements are not condemned by his opponents because they are untrue but because an acknowledgement of their sweet reasonableness would put demands on others that are inconvenient, both militarily and politically.

Despite the persistent drumbeat of failure and universal gloom, not all the news from the Middle East is uniformly bad.

Islamic theocrats in Persian Iran now have provoked a crisis that could cost the country the sympathy of supportive elements in Iraq as well as their hold on a people that never has been sold on the Iranian revolution. Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia, is not an Islamic religion. If the price of oil were to plunge from $70 to $50 dollars a barrel, Iran, already teetering in the edge of bankruptcy, would go broke. Tehran very well may be forced to give up its nuclear option through economic and political efforts to curtail its pretensions. North Korea, every bit as hard headed as mullah ridden Iran, was brought to abandon its nuclear program through economic and political rather than diplomatic means.

Syria has found it impossible to swallow Lebanon, and its attempts to do so have alienated the Arab world, which would like nothing better than to isolate it.

In oil rich Iran, there are gas lines – a testimony to the failed policies of the enemies of the United States, Europe, Chris Dodd and the US Congress.

Monday, July 02, 2007

What the Lady in Waiting to The Empress Josephine May Teach Us About Political Reporting

Madame de Remusant’s "Memoirs of the Empress Josephine," the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, was published by her grandson about eighty years after the death of Napoleon. Madame de Remusant was a lady in waiting to the empress.

It was thought an earlier printing might be possible, but Madame de Remusant’s son declined publication because many of the characters mentioned by his mother were still alive. Publication, the son thought, might be too wounding. In the modern period of course, publication almost certainly would have preceded by a day or an hour Napoleon’s trip to Elba, so little do we care about wounded feelings of those mentioned in memoirs. And Madame de Remusant, a suburb conversationalist, would have been making the rounds of the usual journalistic watering holes.

Madame de Remusant herself wanted her memoir published before she tipped into the grave, but she tucked it away in a drawer after Napoleon, always a vengeful and unpredictable character, had escaped from Elba. "People were uncertain," the grandson wrote in a preface to his grandmother’s memoir, "what he would do."


After 125 years, covered with the dust of ages, the memoir still stings.

Here is Madame de Remusant on Fouche, the head of Napoleon’s secret police:

“…an adept in the art of making himself necessary. Fouche, a man of keen and far seeing intellect, a Jacobin grown rich, and consequently disgusted with some of the principles of that party – with which, however, he still remained connected, so that he might have support should trouble arise – had no objection to invest Bonaparte with royalty. His natural flexibility made him always ready to accept any form of government in which he saw a post for himself. His habits were more revolutionary than his principles, and the only state of things, I believe, which he could not have endured would have been one which should make an absolute nonentity of him… He needed troublesome times for the full display of his capacity; for, as he had no passions and no aversions, he rose at such times superior to the generality of those about him, who were all more or less actuated by either fear or resentment.”

That is the most perfect description in all political literature of the political toady.

The next line is perfectly played: “…Fouche has denied that he advised the murder of the Duc d’ Enghien.” And the following comment, dripping with gleefully concealed rancor, is preciously asserted: “Unless there is complete certainty of the fact, I see no reason for bringing the accusation of a crime against a man who positively denies it.”

One can almost hear Napoleon whispering in the lady’s ear, “Of course you don’t, Madam, of course you don’t.”

Madame de Remusant’s characterization of Napoleon, whom she knew intimately, is the truest account of him we have; “I have never known him to admire, I have never known him to comprehend, a fine action. He always regarded every indication of a good feeling with suspicion; he did not value sincerity; and he did not hesitate to say the he recognized the superiority of a man by the greater or less degree of cleverness with which he used the art of lying. On the occasion of his saying this, he added, with great complacency, that when he was a child one of his uncles had predicted that he should govern the world, because he was a habitual liar. ‘M. de Metternich,’ he added, ‘approaches to being a statesman – he lies very well.’”

And then there is this: Napoleon “…could not pardon virtue until he had succeeded in weakening its effect by ridicule. He cannot be said to have truly loved glory, for he never hesitated to prefer success to it; thus, although he was audacious in good fortune, and although he pushed it to its utmost limits, he was timid and troubled when threatened with reverses. Of generous courage he was not capable; and, indeed, on that head one would hardly venture to tell the truth so plainly as he had told it himself in an anecdote which I have never forgotten.”

The war in Spain had been going badly for Napoleon, and he sought out the opinion of M. Talleyrand.

“There is only one thing you can do,” M. Talleyrand said. “You have made a mistake; you must say so; try to say so nobly. Proclaim, therefore, that being a King by the choice of the people, elected by the nations, it has never been your design to set yourself against them. Say that… you perceive that the Spaniards, although aware of the faults of their King, are none the less attached to his dynasty, which you are therefore about to restore to them, so that it may not be said that you ever opposed a national aspiration. After that proclamation, restore King Ferdinand to liberty, and withdraw your troops. Such an avowal… can only do you honor; and you are still too strong for it to be regarded as a cowardly act.”

Napoleon’s response, as reported by Madame de Remusant, privy to the conversation, is worth whole textbooks on political theory.

“‘A cowardly act! What does that matter to me? Understand that I should not fail to commit one, if it were useful to me. In reality, there is nothing really noble or base in this world. I have in my character all that can contribute to secure my power, and to deceive those who think they know me. Frankly, I am base, essentially base. I give you my word that I should feel no repugnance to commit what would be called by the world a dishonorable action; my secret tendencies, which are, after all, those of nature, opposed to certain affectations of greatness with which I have to adorn myself, give me infinite resources with which to baffle everyone. Therefore, all I have to do now is to consider whether your advice agrees with my present policy, and to try to find out besides,’ he added (says M. de Talleyrand, with a satanic smile, ‘whether you have not some private interest in urging me to take this step.’”

Madame de Remusant had a good long time to ponder these things in her heart. She was not, as is the case with most reporters and commentators, writing in the moment, and yet her observations about Napoleon and the other characters she sketches in her memoirs have the ring of authenticity. Napoleon could not have been other than as she characterized him:

“All Bonaparte’s methods of government were selected from among those which have a tendency to debase men. He dreaded the ties of affection; he endeavored to isolate everyone; he never sold a favor without awakening a sense of uneasiness, for he held that the true way to attach the recipients to himself was by compromising them, and often even by blasting them in public opinion.”

The type of tyrant wiggling on the end of Madame de Remusant’s pen is still very much with us in the world, but it would take a Madame de Remusant’s eye to see him, so cleverly has he in modern times allied himself with the people who suffer under him, yet who image him as their savior.

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