Sunday, August 31, 2008

On Paper Tigers

Around the time Vladmir Putin was off shooting tigers – and not paper ones – he offered this sunburst on the West, which he considers a paper tiger.

After the Russian invasion of Georga, Mr. Putain said he saw no “practical steps which indicate a cooling in relations,” between Moscow and the Europen Union.
“If any of the European countries wants to serve someone’s narrow political interests, then go ahead. We cannot stop them. But we think, as they say in such cases, ‘You have to look out for No1,’

“I think that many of our partners, and first of all our European partners, will be guided by this fairly crude but very descriptive saying,” he added.
Analysis, the TimesOnLine notes, “say that Russia’s role as a supplier of more than a quarter of Europe’s gas makes tough EU action unlikely at the summit.”


If Michael Moore, Palm d’Or winner, had three feet, he would have stuck all three in his mouth on this occasion:

This is what the Germans call schadenfreude, joy at the discomfort of others. While everyone should rejoice at Moore’s celebration of theism – the presence of storm Gustav off the shore of New Orleans, he says, is proof of God existence – the proof, which St. Thomas Aquinas missed, strikes some as a bad joke.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin and the Reversal of Fortune

We don’t know yet whether Sen. John McCain’s choice of Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin will jump start the Republican Party’s sagging fortunes, but the choice and the resulting hubbub among the chattering class, in any case, suggests a classic Greek reversal of fortune.

Before Palin, Democrat ladies were licking their sores at Sen. Barack Obama’s impertinent refusal to bring into his administration as Vice President Sen. Hillary Clinton, credited with putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling that has prevented women from rising from the kitchen to the steamy and hot political kitchen. It was feared that former President Bill Clinton might tag along and disturb Obama’s so far placid universe.

(It was not necessary to read between the lines of Bill Curry’s dispatches from the Democrat Party convention to understand that the enormously talented politician and columnist, once an advisor to president and co-president Clinton, quite obviously preferred Hillary as VP. And after Bill got a few drinks into him at the convention, he no doubt imagined such was possible. Before he left to write and think and dream and drink, we made a little side bet on the Democrat and Republican Veep choices. Bill thought McCain might choose Sen. Joe Lieberman as his Tonto. I said clearly, in the presence of his lovely sister Kathleen, that Palin might make a good choice for the Repubs, while Joe Biden would be best for the Democrats. This produced a scowl from Bill and a dollar bet – the exact terms of which now escape me. In any case, my predictions were sounder than his, and it will be very hard for him not to surrender that dollar to me. I just wanted to get all this on the record to avoid any needless litigation.)

(To continue)... after Palin it seems at least within the realm of possibility that the cracked glass ceiling may be dealt a fatal blow by a Republican Vice President, though I would not bet a dollar on it.

Before Palin, the choices for Republican VP were ordinary, if not bleek. To be sure, all the choices bruited about for so long were okay, but there was no crackling of electricity in the air – nothing to match Obama’s star status. The Democrat mega-star had just put on a performance, with fireworks, in a standing-room-only football stadium that dwarfed the Roman coliseum. It was a show worthy of Caliguila, minus the gladiatorial contests and the lions chewing up the Christians.

After Palin, there is a buzz, an excitement. Who, in middle America, could help being excited by an ex-model (she’s prettier than Barack) who was a basket ball star, a gun enthusiast (she rose at 4AM to hunt moose with her dad), a mayor of a wild-west Alaskan city, a wife of union worker, part Eskimo, who now is a stay at home dad, a mother of five, one of whom is a son newly deployed to Iraq, and a governor of Alaska?

There are some perfectionists who insist that Alaska is corrupt, to which Republicans have responded, “Chicago, Chicago, it’s a Hell of a town…”; it was in that conch shell of corruption that Obama’s political fortunes were born. And they also point out that the Moose hunter incurred the wrath of the political machine in Alaska by being to Mavericky… like John whatshisname.

It's gonna be fun

And Bill, don’t forget – you owe me a dollar.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Putin of Latin America

According to The International Herald Tribune, Venezuelan loud mouth Hugo Chavez will nationalize fuel distribution:

“Distributors, including subsidiaries of British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil and Chevron, had hoped to persuade the government not to seize total control of their businesses.” But they failed to persuade the Vladmir Putin of Latin America, who earlier had nationalized other privately owned companies. “Under Chávez,” the Tribune reports, “the government has nationalized Venezuela's largest telephone, electricity, steel and cement companies and has assumed majority control over four major oil projects.”

Exon Mobile and Chevron are American companies.

It is unknown at this point whether Mayor of New Haven Connecticut John DeStefano will protest the seizure by refusing to accept winter shipments of oil from Chavez distributed through a company run by Joseph Kennedy.

Chris Dodd, Connecticut’s expert on Lain America, has offered no diplomatic suggestions that might temper Chavez’s Cuban inspired ideas.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pope Pelosi on Abortion

The entertaining Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is not yet running for Pope, but this has not prevent her from correcting Catholic theologians when they fall short of modern perceptions.

Most of the Catholic Church, minus Mrs. Pelosi, is unhappy with the slaughter of the innocents that has occurred in the Unites States since the US Supreme Court, in various opinions, struck down state laws forbidding abortion.

The Catholic Church’s doctrine on abortion began to take form in the first century. To be sure, doctrine, as Cardinal Henry Newman insists (see "On The Development of Christian Doctrine"), does admit of development; which is to say, the doctrine, as it encounters different obstacles in its course through history, does change somewhat to meet new contingencies.

But there is a world of difference between development and categorical change. During the birth cycle, developmental changes occur in the fetus, but there is no radical change – in the absence of an abortion – such that the human being that is the end product in the process changes, shall we say, into a fish or a head of lettuce.

Well, Christian doctrine is a little bit like that.

The Catholic Church did not started out with a rather firm prohibition in the first century on abortion only to end, in the 21st century, with a doctrine that repeals its first perception that abortion and infanticide, practiced by the Roman paterfamilias -- usually on unwanted female children -- are violations against the dignity of the human person.

Mrs. Pelosi, who is a Catholic, was questioned on the matter of her church’s opposition to abortion by Tom Brokaw in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. In the course of the interrogatory, she said that “doctors of the church” have not been able to define when life begins and that "over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy."

When Brocaw pointed out that the Catholic Church “at the moment, feels very strongly it begins at the point of conception,” Pelosi said, “I understand that. And this is like in 50 years or something like that,” implying that the Catholic Church’s present view is of recent origin.

The Catholic Church did not start out with a rather firm prohibition in the first century on abortion only to end, in the 21st century, with a doctrine that repeals its first perception that abortion and infanticide, practiced by the Roman paterfamilias -- usually on unwanted female children -- are violations against the dignity of the human person.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver and his auxiliary bishop, James Conley, rose to correct the Speaker.

“Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills,” both said in a statement. “Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them.” Abortion, they affirmed, “is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it.”

The archbishop also wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press that Democratic vice presidential nominee-in-waiting Sen. Joseph Biden, like Mrs. Pelosi a Catholic, should refrain from receiving Communion because of his abortion stance.

NARAL has given Mrs Pelosi a perfect 100% score on her positions on abortion. The group has not rated the Pope. But, as many pro-abortionists will readily admit, neither the Pope nor Jesus -- "Suffer the children to come unto me" -- have many battalions in this contest, which is why, according to an exhaustive surveillance survey done by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in 2003, about one in five pregnancies end in abortion.

What the Income Tax Really Did for Connecticut

Mr. James Willhoft, a resident of Manchester, Conn., has written a piece for the Journal Inquirer on the Lowell Weicker Jr. income tax that lists in painful detail the real accomplishments of the tax. Republicans should reduce the item to a wallet sized card and keep it close to their hearts for ready reference, the silly season now being upon us.

Monday, August 25, 2008


We know the places where Senator Obama lived as a child, and we know his white grandfather wanted Frank Marshall Davis to be his mentor. We know Davis mentored him from approximately age 14 to 18. We know Davis was a black communist writer and poet.

We don’t know the details of what Senator Obama did in Chicago.* We could know more but the University of Illinois, apparently at the instance of Bill Ayers who stored the Annenberg Challenge Project files there, has denied investigator Stanley Kurtz access to those 132 boxes containing 947 files.

Obama says he was a “community organizer” in Chicago. The organization for which he community-organized was. The years were probably 1985 to 1988, when he left to attend Harvard Law School. About his relations with Bill Ayers, “domestic terrorist”—the FBI’s characterization—Senator Obama reveals only that he’s that “guy who lives in my neighborhood.” These, then, are the themes of his pre-U.S. Senate experience: community organizing and Bill Ayers.

On community organizing, much is known about ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) for which he worked. ACORN physically seized an empty building owned by the City of New York and put squatters in it. (The City later gave ACORN the building.)

The mortgage-giant Fannie Mae between 1980 and 2007 gave ACORN $797,000, its third largest grant, according to The Wall Street Journal of July 29. When in 1993 Mr. Obama was on the Board of Directors of the Woods Fund, he saw to it that ACORN got grants.

A scandal reported by the July 13 New York Post involved Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN’s founder. He stole $1 million from ACORN in 1999 and 2000.

Barack Obama as community organizer came into the ACORN picture in its voter-registration activities. He made voter-registration his work as community organizer for ACORN and its Midwest Academy for training community organizers and fundraising.

In registering voters, ACORN (but not necessarily Obama) collected fake signatures. It provided Washington State with “the largest case of voter-registration fraud in the state’s history,” reported Secretary of State Sam Reed. ACORN employees were supposed to help eligible voters complete voter-registration cards, but they submitted cards with names like “Leon Spinks, boxing champion.” The King County Canvassing Board invalidated more than 1,700 ACORN registrations. The Seattle Times editorialized, “ACORN has done some similar things in other states [14 others] and needs to be cleaned up or shut down,” according to the July, 2007, “Organizing Trends” of the Capital Research Center. We have not seen evidence that Obama was involved in these illegal activities.

Obama colleague Sanford A. Newman, associated with Project Vote, an agency similar to ACORN, has described Obama’s community work registering voters as very successful. In a letter to The Wall Street Journal, he writes that in 1992, when he, Newman, was national director of Project Vote, Obama’s efforts were on behalf of his agency, not ACORN. Only after 1992 did his agency join with ACORN in “more projects.”

Evidently, Senator Obama has utilized or is now utilizing his experience with voter-registration. According to his campaign, 3,600 trained community organizers called “Obama Organizing Fellows” have been working for six weeks in 17 states in his campaign.

Obama was busy with voter registration both before and after law school. At some time, probably before he left for law school, he had met and worked with Maoist Bill Ayers, who had graduated from bomb-throwing to Columbia University where he received a Ph.D. in education (not in English, as Obama reported).

Upon his return from law school to Chicago , Obama became involved with the Ayers family, Bill’s brother John and father Thomas, in foundations friendly to their aim of getting control of the Chicago public schools. One such foundation was the Woods Fund, whose board Bill Ayers joined in 1988. He and Obama gave Woods grants to ACORN and Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s black-liberation-theology church and $1 million to the construction company of Rezko—who later saved Obama $300,000 on the purchase of his $1.6 million house.

The most notable of these foundations, however, was the Annenberg Challenge Project, designed entirely by Bill Ayers and of which he became a board member under Obama’s chairmanship. Both men were involved with the Project from 1995 to 2000.

When Obama became the first Chairman of the Annenberg Challenge in 1995, he was only two years out of law school. It was a $50-million fund (providing 2:1 in matching grants) to reform Chicago public education. Normally, a fresh young law-school graduate would have been unlikely to head it, unless Ayers had selected him. That puts the start of their association well before 1995. Since both were involved in the public school reform movement following the 1987 Chicago teachers’ strike, it is possible, even likely, that the Obama-Ayers association goes back that far.

Ayers has not openly joined “Progressives for Obama,” which includes Weather Underground member Mark Rudd, leader of the radical students’ take-over of Columbia University in 1968, and SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) member Tom Hayden, of the Days of Rage in October, 1969, in Chicago.

But this much we do know: Obama was closely associated with the unrepentant Ayers, who said, “Everything was going great on the day I bombed the Pentagon”; who said, by chance on 9/11/01, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we did not do enough.” [New York Times]

* Where we do not specify the source, it is probably the blog of Stephen F. Diamond, an attorney who teaches law and political science, capital markets, the economy, corporate and international labor, at the Law School of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara , California .

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama, the Joyful Cynic, and the Pitcher

The rapidity with which the “candidate of change” changes is astounding.

In choosing as his Vice President Joe Biden, a fixture that has been in the senate long enough to acquire cobwebs, Obama has surrendered any claim to be the candidate of change in Washington. What Obama's choice really signifies is that the promises a primary candidate makes on the campaign trail “ain’t worth a pitcher of warm p**s,” as FDR’s Vice President John Nance “Cactus Jack" Garner once said of the vice presidency.

Garner, incidentally, was not a cynic. He served in Congress for 30 years, two of them as Minority Leader and two as Speaker of the House. He ran for president against Roosevelt but released his delegate to FDR at the nomination convention, for which he was awarded the warm pitcher of p**s. He opposed Roosevelt’s decision to run for a fourth term, challenged FDR for the party’s nomination, lost, and thereafter retired to his Texas homestead, regaling the locals with colorful stories about his life in Washington. During his life in politics, he refused to campaign for votes and refused the use of an official car to ferry him hither and yon. Speaker of the House Nancy “Gimme a Jet” Pelosi is not there yet. He also protested prohibition by downing a glass of whisky once a day throughout the prohibition years.

In modern times, politicking is endless; third rate congresspersons jet here and there on the public dole, and no one would offend political propriety by lighting up a cigar in one of their endless campaign commercials to protest the prohibition against smoking in public places.

Cynicism, in the modern period, wears a smile and is cynical about everthing but political orthodoxy.

The vice presidential office itself acquired new luster with the ascendancy of Dick Cheney, only because the President George Bush’s opponents in the media – they are legion -- were not willing to credit him with his successes. The skinny about Bush was that he was stupid. He wasn’t and isn’t. But in American politics, and increasingly in American journalism, the truth is never permitted to trump expectations outlined in absurdly comical political narratives.

The most important story of the decade is that, owing to the leadership of General Petraeus, called by idiot bloggers “General BetrayUs, and Nouri Kamel Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki, written off as a puppet of Dick Cheney, Bush may be able to bring the troops out of Iraq in time for Obama coronation, but some journalists would rather choke on a the fact than spit it out.

It has not taken long for a Chicago politician of Obama’s accomplishments to recognize all this. Obama is an agent of change only in the sense that he is able to change his positions on major issues in a nanosecond, without repercussions. In the American political dream, hope overcomes reality – at least in the short run and, in the long run, we are all dead. But Obama is something new under the political sun: a cynic wrapped in smiles, even a joyful cynic.

It certainly is ironic that the most accomplished politician out of Chicago, a hotbed of machine politicians, should claim to be trans-political, in addition to being trans-racial.

The classical Greek cynic is Antitheses, a student of Socrates and the father of Greek Cynicism, which later trailed off into Stoicism. The mark of the Cynic was his absolute rejection of political authority in favor of a “natural” rather than an artificial mode of existence. The Cynics, rugged individualists unattached to formal Greek schools, practiced anaideia or shamelessness, an absolute rejection of public norms. Radical individualism and sexual liberation flow directly from the Greek Cynics.

When Diogenes of Sinope was reproached by Plato, a pampered court philosopher, who found the “street philosopher” washing lettuce in a stream, he received a classic Cynic comeuppance. ‘Had you paid court to Dionysius,” Plato said quietly to Diogenes, “you wouldn’t now be washing lettuces,” to which Diogenes replied, “If you had washed lettuces, you wouldn’t have paid court to Dionysius”

The Cynic considered himself a citizen of the Kosmos (a cosmopolitan) rather than a citizen of the Polis, around which Athenian life revolved.

The notion that politics in Washington DC can be changed from the inside out by joyful cynics is itself cynical.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This Will Not Please the Ladies

An unnamed Democrat official is quoted in Politico as having said that Sen. Hillary Clinton was never vetted for the Vice President position in the Barack Obama campaign.

“She was never vetted,” a Democratic official reported. “She was not asked for a single piece of paper. She and Senator Obama have never had a single conversation about it. How would he know if she’d take it?”

The official also said Clinton never met with Obama’s vetting team of Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy.”

However, an unnamed Obama aide retorts, "Absolutely exhaustive research was done on her over the course of the 16 month primary. She was researched more closely than any candidate in history."

So, maybe yes, maybe no.

The title of the Politico report by Mike Allen is, “Hillary Gets Stiffed.”

If she did get stiffed, this will not go down well with her supporters.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Joltin Joe Lieberman

Sen. Joe Lieberman, once a Democrat and now an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats in Washington, has hitched his rising or falling star to Sen. John McCain, the presumptive nominee for president on the Republican Party ticket.

Lieberman’s support of McCain is trans-ideological. Theories abound: Some, mostly hot-headed leftist in the party of former President John Kennedy and former Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, both Democrats who were not uncomfortable with a strong and vigorous military, regard Lieberman as a traitor and scoundrel; others think he is primarily interested in the survival of Israel, whose foreign policy is more compatible with that of the United States than, say, Iran’s or Russia’s; still others view him as an independent in the mode of former Sen. Lowell Weicker, whom Lieberman displaced when state Republicans tired of being kicked around by a faux Republican who, they thought, belonged in the Democrat Party. When Lieberman ran for Weicker’s office, they summoned their courage and gleefully voted for Lieberman.

Sound familiar?

None of these thoughts are unthinkably wrong. It is perfectly understandable why the left, pacifist wing of the Democrat Party should regard Lieberman with loathing; he is not a man who surrenders easily to the implacable enemies of Israel and the United States. Like McCain, Lieberman has supported the aims of the Bush administration in the Iraq war, while being critical of its early, poor prosecution. The astounding success of the surge, which has hastened the pacification of Iraq, has partially – perhaps too late -- validated their views.

There is little doubt that Lieberman’s support of McCain has grievously disappointed the energetic wing of the Democrat Party here in Connecticut. Progressive Democrats in Connecticut eagerly supported anti-war candidate Ned Lamont in a primary over Lieberman. In the general election, Lieberman prevailed over Lamont, after which welts and wounds began to appear on the backs of progressive flagellants such as Tom Swan, who managed Lamont’s losing campaign.

Lieberman’s presence as the lead speaker at the Republican national convention, Swan says, should remind Democrats that “He’s been Karl Rove's puppet” since Lieberman took a call from Rove on primary night. “Why should we be surprised he's carrying his water again?”

Former Democratic state chairman and state chairman of the Lamont campaign George Jepsen said Lieberman has “completely written off the Democratic Party, not just in Connecticut, but nationally.”

But this is the overheated rhetoric of boiled-in-oil Lamont partisans. As a matter of fact, Lieberman has caucused with Democrats, being careful to withdraw when the Democrats discussed political strategy, and his voting record is not much different that of Sen. Chris Dodd, whose prescriptions on the war in Iraq so closely follow those of Swan, Jepsen and Lamont that he might be suspected of being a pawn of Weicker, whose long-time chief of staff, Tom D’Amore, actively worked on the Lamont campaign.

Asked whether he planned to strip Lieberman of his perks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, taking a pragmatic view, said, "All my close votes, he's always with me, whether it's the budget or energy issues. No matter what it is, he's always with us. He just does not vote right on Iraq. ... Why would I want to throw away a good vote?"

Lieberman is a programmatic Democrat who has supported an unpopular war. That’s it. That is the extent of his departure from Democrat orthodoxy. He will not be acceptable to Republicans as vice presidential choice, and he will never be acceptable to the pacifist wing of the Democrat Party.

His speech will be warmly greeted by Republican conventioneers; but it is the message they will embrace, not the messenger.

Lieberman’s future roll in Connecticut politics is as yet undecided. Recently, his picture was removed from campaign headquarters, but he has four years remaining in his congressional contract. Should McCain prevail over Sen. Barack Obama – a big “if,” since Obama will be able to outspend McCain in negative ads placed strategically in toss-up states – and should Lieberman be tapped by McCain for a cabinet position, not unlikely, the former Democrat’s seat in the senate, lying vacant, will be filled through an appointment made by Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, a golden opportunity to show her pluck and partisan Republican stripes by appointing a Republican to serve out Lieberman’s last four years.

One can only imagine how the Lamontistas in the Democrat Party would greet this reversal of fortune.

Republicans will be arguing that since Democrats have successfully nudged Lieberman from their party, claiming he is a tool of Karl Rove, why should they be upset when a Republican governor chooses another tool of Rove to replace him in the senate?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McCain Steps Up

A new Reuters/Zogby Poll shows Sen. John McCain with a comfortable lead over Sen. Barack Obama.

“In a sharp turnaround, Republican John McCain has opened a 5-point lead on Democrat Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential race and is seen as a stronger manager of the economy, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

“McCain leads Obama among likely U.S. voters by 46 percent to 41 percent, wiping out Obama's solid 7-point advantage in July and taking his first lead in the monthly Reuters/Zogby poll.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fatherhood and the Hood

In cities like Hartford, the hood has replaced fatherhood and some people, notably state Sen. Gary LeBeau of East Hartford and Chris Powell, the Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer, have taken notice that the lack of fathers in families is the primary cause of urban pathologies.

In an eye-opening column, Swiftian in spirit, “A city boy's chances may be better in prison,” Mr. Powell quotes former New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan on the subject of disordered fatherless cultures: “"From the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern seaboard to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future -- that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder -- most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure -- that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved."

Putin, Once a Stalinist, Always a Stalinist

In 1932-33, Joseph Stalin’s withering hand touched Ukraine. In what has come to be called the Holodomor, upwards of 5 million people died of famine. Labeled genocidal by the United Nations, the Stalin produced famine, was the first time in history that famine on this scale was used as a totalitarian instrument of oppression. Two courageous reporters who defied Moscow’s ban on travel, Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge, took trains out into the countryside and reported on the famine, Muggeridge by concealing in diplomatic pouches his dispatches to a London newspaper.

The truth about the famine, as it happened, was a very slender reed. The news was overcome by stories written by Walter Duranty for the New York Times. Duranty, whom Muggeridge later would say was the greatest liar he had met in all his years in journalism, reported that there was no famine in Ukraine, later admitting that 10 million people had died in the non-existent famine. Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his reports on Stalin’s first Five Year Plan, a precipitating cause of the famine, following which villagers affected by Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture had boiled and eaten the leaves off trees in a vain attempt to stave off starvation. Stalin, never a man of half-measures, also took pains to deprive Ukraine of its intellectuals; some were shot, others were shipped to the Gulag later made famous by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

At the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Pavel Postyshev, a Moscow appointed stooge, declared, “1933 was the year of the defeat of Ukrainian nationalist counter-revolution” The so-called counte-revolution represented Ukraine’s courageous resitance to communist oppression. In communist lingo, counter-revolutions are those in which small state seek to avoid being swallowed up by larger, militerized terrorist states. By 1933, the resistant Ukrainian peasantry had been physically exterminated, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church clergy had been eliminated. Stalin, called “the breaker of nations,” had successfully promoted the famine to bring a broken Ukraine under his hobnailed boots of the Sovit Union.

The best that can be said of Vladimir Putin is that he is not Stalin.

Looking into Putin’s eyes some time ago, President George Bush saw a man of peace, someone he thought he could deal with. Referring to Bush’s amusing pillow talk, Sen. John McCain said that whenever he looked into Putin’s eyes, he saw three letters, K-G-B.

Putin’s humiliation of Georgia, a Soviet Union breakaway state that was becoming a little too democratic and self assertive both for the former KGB chief and the heirs and assigns of Stalin in Russia’s now fascist government, demonstrates that Bush was wrong and McCain was right.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, states previously in chains began to look around for a strong wing under which they might nestle. It certainly is understandable that the progeny of those starving masses who crawled on their distended bellies into cities in Ukraine during the famine might be a little wary of such as Putin. The attack on Georgia appears to be a response to the emplacement of nuclear defense systems in formerly captive states such as Poland and Ukraine.

The only question worth discussion at this point is: What strategies may be adopted in the post- Soviet Union era that will encourage the democratization of European buffer states -- including the Baltic states, Ukraine and Poland – in the face of naked aggression from a corrupt and increasingly fascistic Russia, which is in league with terrorist sponsoring states such as Iran?

That is a question that ought to be proposed in any future “debate” between presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama.

Sending in US Sen. Chris Dodd, a proponent of soft diplomacy, to resolve the situation would seem, now more than ever, to fall somewhat short of the mark. Putin's reaction to the soft diplomacy of the Bush administration is a convoy of Russian tanks and missile emplacements in Georgia.


We know the places where Senator Obama lived as a child but not why he chose Chicago nor what he has done which bears upon the requirements of president.* Experience? Leadership? Of his activities in Chicago prior to running for the U.S. Senate, he says he was a “community organizer.”

The organization for which he community-organized was ACORN. The years were probably 1985 to 1988 when he left to attend Harvard Law School. About his relations with domestic terrorist William Ayers, he revealed only that he’s that “guy who lives in my neighborhood.” These are the themes of his pre-U.S. Senate experience and leadership, community organizing and William Ayers. On community organizing, much is known about ACORN.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), organized in 1970, physically seized an empty building owned by the City of New York and put squatters in it. The City later gave ACORN the building.

The mortgage-giant Fannie Mae between 1980 and 2007 gave ACORN $797,000, its third largest amount, according to The Wall Street Journal of July 29. When in 1993 Mr. Obama was on the Board of Directors of the Woods Fund, he saw to it that ACORN got grants.

A scandal reported by the July 13 New York Post involved Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN’s founder. He stole $1 million from ACORN in 1999 and 2000.

Barack Obama as community organizer comes into the ACORN picture in its voter-registration activities. He made that his work as community organizer for ACORN and its Midwest Academy for training community organizers and fundraising.

In registering voters, ACORN collected fake signatures. It provided Washington State with “the largest case of voter-registration fraud in the state’s history,” reported Secretary of State Sam Reed. ACORN employees were supposed to help eligible voters complete voter-registration cards, but they submitted cards with names like “Leon Spinks, boxing champion.” The King County Canvassing Board invalidated more than 1,700 ACORN registrations. The Seattle Times editorialized, “ACORN has done some similar things in other states [14 others] and needs to be cleaned up or shut down,” according to the July, 2007, “Organizing Trends” of the Capital Research Center. It is not known that Mr. Obama had anything to do with these activities.

Colleague Sanford A. Newman said that Mr. Obama’s community work in registering voters was very successful. Newman in a similar agency, Project Vote, writes in a letter to The Wall Street Journal that Mr. Obama’s efforts were on behalf not of ACORN but of Project Vote, in 1992, when he, Newman, was national director of Project Vote. Only after 1992, says Mr. Newman, did Project Vote undertake “more projects” with ACORN. What “more”?

Be that as it may, Senator Obama is now utilizing his experience with voter-registration. According to his campaign, 3,600 trained community organizers called “Obama Organizing Fellows” are working for six weeks in 17 states in his presidential campaign.

Mr. Obama was busy with voter registration both before and after law school. At some time, probably before he left for law school, he had met and worked with Maoist William Ayers, who had graduated from bomb-throwing to Columbia University for a Ph.D. in education (not in English, as Obama reported).

Mr. Obama, upon his return from law school to Chicago, was involved with Ayers, his father and brother, in foundations whose interest, like Ayers’, was in getting control of the Chicago public schools. One was the Woods Fund, whose Board Ayers joined in 1988. It gave grants to ACORN and Obama’s and Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church.

Prominent among foundations was the Annenberg Challenge Project, which Mr. Obama chaired and which William Ayers joined as a Board member. From 1995 to 2000, both Obama and Ayers were in the Annenberg fund. The whole idea of the Annenberg project came from Ayers.

Mr. Obama was the first Chairman of the Annenberg Challenge in 1995, when he was only two years out of law school. It was a $50-million fund (2:1 matching) to reform Chicago public education. Normally, a fresh young law-school graduate just two years out of law school was unlikely to head it, unless Ayers, who had designed the whole project, chose him. That would put the time of their association back before 1995. As both were involved in the school reform movement following the 1987 teachers’ strike, it is possible, even likely, that the Obama-Ayers association goes back that far.

The 1988 law following the 1987 Chicago teachers’ strike provided for Local School Councils of parents and community leaders. In that effort, big business teamed up with Maoist radicals from the anti-Vietnam War movement in support of the LSCs for different reasons. The Business Round Table was prominent in Connecticut in the effort to enact Outcomes-Based Education and School-to-Work into law. Still in existence, it is involved now in a public school fight in Seattle. Also involved was Ayers’ father, Thomas G. Ayers, retired CEO and Chairman of Commonwealth Edison, and a foundation director, sometimes on the same foundation subcommittee as Obama. Also involved was Ayers’ wife, Brinks-Robbery-participant Bernadine Dohrn, released after 22 years in prison, and Ayers’ brother John.

William Ayers has not openly joined the “Progressives for Obama.” It includes Weather Underground members Mark Rudd and Tom Hayden, of the 1968 take-over of Columbia University and the Chicago streets during the Democratic Convention. But this much we know: Obama’s pre-Senate experience includes campaigning, organizing, fundraising, voter registering, and public school reform.


* Where source is not given, it is probably the blog of Stephen F. Diamond, an attorney who teaches law and political science, capital markets, the economy, corporate and international labor, at the Law School of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara , California.

By Natalie Sirkin

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Weekend Wrapper

As we approach Thermador, the party conventions, things, as Alice in Wonderland once observed, become curiouser and curiouser.

In a Freudian slip, Democrat Party chairman Howard Dean called the Republican Party the “white party.”

Mr. Dean is white.

Democrat Party Central has opened on former Governor of Massachussetts Mitt Romney an aggressive assault reminiscent of the attack launched by former Russian President and string puller Vladimer Putin against Georgia, a U.S. ally in the Iraq war that in the near past and may again, assuming Putin has his way, become a prisoner in chains of Moscow.

“He is the most intellectually inconsistent politician in the history of politics. I have never seen anyone so completely without any commitment to any particular principle and so willing to say whatever he thinks will help him win the next election," said Rep. Barney Frank of Mr. Romney.

In a story that includes the above quote, Mr. Lee Davidson of Deseret news reminds us that Rep. Frank “has long been a vocal critic of Romney and has been a controversial figure himself. He is an openly gay member of Congress who was formally reprimanded by Congress in 1990 for his relationship with a male prostitute who claimed to run an escort service out of Frank's apartment when he was not home.”

A student of irony, Mr. Davidson notes archly, “Ironically, Republican Larry Craig of Idaho at that time pushed for more severe penalties for Frank, such as expulsion or censure. Craig, now a senator, is involved in his own scandal after pleading guilty to lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport restroom.”

Such is the sad state of the U.S Congress.

Mr. Frank , it is presumed, has no ambitions for the Vice Presidential nomination. He has not yet said how Romney fares in a comparison with the presumptive Democrat nominee for president, Sen. Barack Obama, now in the process of driving the energetic left wing of his party bomkers by shifting positions on a variety of issues.

Markos Moulitsas of the arch-progressive Daily Kos website has warned darkly, “There is a line between 'moving to the center' and stabbing your allies in the back out of fear of being criticized. And, of late, he's been doing a lot of unnecessary stabbing, betraying his claims of being a new kind of politician. Not that I ever bought it, but Obama is now clearly not looking much different than every other Democratic politician who has ever turned his or her back on the base in order to prove centrist bona fides."

Mr. Michael Goodwin of the Daily News has compared Sen. Hillary Clinton’s political machine to Putin’s war machine: “Russia rolls over Georgia, Hillary Clinton does the same to Barack Obama. Now we know who's boss. Obama blinked and stands guilty of appeasing Clinton by agreeing to a roll call vote for her nomination. That he might not have had much choice if he wanted peace only proves the point that he's playing defense at his own convention.”

Every Democrat’s nightmare just now is a run-away nominating convention in which a majority of aroused delegates spurn the mercurial Obama and turn to Mrs. Clinton as their redeemer and savior.

According to a news report from the International Herald Tribune, Hillary’s folk have been successful in convincing Obama’s folk to put her name in nomination as a “tribute” to her failed run for the presidency: “Many backers of Clinton have been vigorously pushing for her candidacy to be validated through a roll-call vote. The proceedings could take place on the same night that former President Bill Clinton is to deliver his convention speech.”

These portents have caused some Obama devotees to warn everyone of the Ides of March, even though the convention will occur well beyond that date.

The thinking is that co-presidents Bill and Hillary are clever and slippery. Some in the Obama camp recall Sen. Clinton’s airy dismissal of their hero during the primaries: Hillary complimented Sen. McCain’s foreign policy experience profusely and said that Obama’s foreign policy experience was limited to a speech he had given during the last Democrat convention.

The Republican convention, by comparison, promises to be uneventful, provided the anarchists that thus far have dogged the GOP are kept at arms length by the police from the convention floor. The Democrat Party, it would appear, once again has fallen into the bad habit of inviting anarchists into its bosom.

You Shall Not Co-operate with Federal Authorities in Enforcing Federal Law

The purpose of Hartford’s recent illegal immigration ordinance, we are told, “is to codify the policies of the City of Hartford regarding its residents and usage of City services as it relates to their immigration status.”

It’s always nice to have everyone on the same page.

The ordinance provides that, “Any service provided by a City of Hartford department shall be made available to residents, regardless of immigration status, unless such agency is required by Federal law to deny eligibility for such service to residents because of their immigration status.”

Or to put it in other words, the ordinance stipulates that no service currently provided by the city to citizens, natural born citizens and legal immigrants shall be denied to illegal immigrants.

The ordinance specifies that workers providing services to illegal immigrants “…shall encourage residents, regardless of immigration status, to make use of all City services provided by City departments for which residents are not denied eligibility by Federal law as it relates to their immigration status.

“Referrals to medical or social service agencies will be made in the same manner for all residents, without regard to immigration status.”

The exception should be noted: If federal law denies eligibility for Hartford city services to an illegal immigrant -- not very likely -- the ordinance may not trump the law. The ordinance itself does not specify those occasions in which city services provided to illegal immigrants would violate federal law.

The ordinance also specifies that nothing in the ordinance “shall be construed to prohibit any employee of the City of Hartford from cooperating with federal immigration authorities as required by law.”

The operative assumption is that federal law does not require the city service workers in Hartford to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities because, if that were the case, the exception clause would kick in – illegal immigration, however you turn the phrase on your tongue, is still illegal – and the city of Hartford would be thwarted in its attempt to provide to illegal immigrants the same services provided to citizens who have not violated federal law by their illegal entree into the country.

The ordinance blurs what had previously been a sharp line between illegal and legal residency.

On police matters, the ordinance is very specific.

It requires Hartford police officers not to make inquiries concerning “a person’s immigration status unless such an act is relevant to an investigation involving criminal activity...

“Hartford police shall not inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, or others who call or approach the Hartford Police Department.

“No person shall be detained solely on the belief that he or she is not present legally in the United States, or that he or she has committed a civil immigration violation. There is no general obligation for a police officer to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding any person, unless that person is arrested on a criminal charge.

“Hartford police officers shall not make arrests based on administrative warrants for removal entered by ICE into the National Crime Information Center database, including administrative immigration warrants for persons with outstanding removal, deportation or exclusion orders. Enforcement of the civil provisions of United States immigration law is the responsibility of Federal immigration officials.”

The last paragraph quoted above is particularly jarring because it calls upon Hartford police not to co-operate with federal officials who previously had depended upon city police to detain and arrest illegal immigrants for whom the federal government has outstanding warrants. The city of Hartford in its ordinance airily dismisses any obligation police officers may have to co-operate with federal authorities in apprehending those who have violated federal law because “Enforcement of the civil provisions of United States immigration law is the responsibility of Federal immigration officials.”

One should view the ordinance as a beginning in the struggle of states to detach themselves from federal obligations to satisfy political constituencies. The state, through this ordinance, is in effect taunting the federal government and saying to it: We know that we are servicing illegal immigrants and refusing to co-operate with federal authorities in their apprehension and expulsion. Just try to stop us.

It will not be long before the Kingdom strikes back.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Kiss 2

Shouldn’t someone be making a couple of paper mache puppets to immortalize this pre-convention moment?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Round-up

Bill Curry, now a columnist for the Hartford Courant and once an advisor to the President Bill Clinton and his lovely co-president Hillary Clinton, has chosen Sen. Barak Obama’s Vice President.

And the winner is…

No big surprise.

If Obama, in a rare act of foolhardiness, does choose Hillary as his VP, he will be the only president in history to have had two co-presidents, the second being Bill who was, Toni Morrison reminds us, the first black American president.

Kevin Rennie is hot on the trail of U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd. He thinks Attorney General Richard Bluementhal may be interested in getting his paws on recorded phone messages between the senator and his patrons at Countrywide.

John Edwards is still blue. But his mistress has refused to supply DNA to clear up a question of paternity, which is the first good news Edwards has had since two burly reporters from the National Inquirer accosted him on a staircase in a hotel where Edwards reputedly was visiting Baby O.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Another Eros Stricken Married Male Bites the Dust

This Friday, August 8, 2008, Sen. John Edwards, once a Democrat presidential candidate, now a repentant philanderer, announced that he did indeed have an affair with a young lady who filmed his campaign.

According to an Associated Press front page story in the Journal Inquirer Edwards has “denied fathering a daughter born to the woman with whom he had the affair, and offered to be tested to prove it… After the story broke Friday, Edwards released a statement that said, 'In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment… I recognized my mistake and told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. I was honest in every painful detail with my family. I took responsibility for my action in 2006, and today I take full responsibility publicly.'”

The cause of Edward’s infidelity was that ol’devil hubris, according to the AP report and Edwards’ statement: “In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.”

Edwards, bewitched by his own public appearance, regrets falling into an erotic pool, and if people want to beat up on him, that’s fine. He’s already beaten himself up.

Addressing the cancer question – though stricken with cancer, his valiant wife never-the-less campaigned for her cheating husband – Edwards’ wife said that the healing process was “oddly made easier” after she had been diagnosed with cancer in March 2007.

Some few remarks seem to be in order.

It was not that ol’devil hubris but those ol’devils Eros (think erotic) and Pan (think panic), the Greek Gods of sexual desire and free love, that drove Edward into the arms of the film-maker.

This sometimes happens among men and women. When they do not have attachments, we are trained to look the other way and put it all down to human emotion. In the post-Freudian period, we males delight in offering our wills as a blood sacrifice to the Ego, the Super Ego having shrunken in the post-Christian period to the size of a flea whose fierce bites are tolerable. In addition, women’s liberation has liberated the worst excesses of men and, all things else being equal, women.

The back-message of Edwards’ statement to the watchful media is: I’m human too; we all make mistakes. Couldn’t you find it in your heart to forgive me now that I have made a public affirmation of sorrow and repentance, and allow myself and my wife to recover and heal?

The healing process has now begun. Could you please get out of the way?

This is the usual trajectory in the case of straying politicians: fierce denials and assertions of moral rectitude; followed by the pursuit of the doubtful – in this case, moral Furies from the National Inquirer, whose two reporters followed Edwards to his liaison with the film-maker, who may or may not (Greta Van Susteren will find out) have born him a child; followed by the shock of discovery in the respectable media; followed by abject remorse and the vagrant hope that it will all go away, so that the principle culprit can resume his political career unattended by the Furies.

Such miracles happen: A drowning in Chappaquiddick was not a bar to Edward Kennedy’s long and vigorous career in the U.S. Senate; so far, Sen. Larry Craig has survived a bathroom incident in Washington; Barney Frank, who lent his house out to a procurer of sexual favors, is still plying his trade in the U.S. House of Representatives. And the countryside is littered with the corpses of discarded wives thrown over for prettier, richer women. Current and former presidential candidates John McCain, Chris Dodd and Edward Kennedy all did it. The names of U.S. Congressmen who did it would fill a small phone book.

It cannot be convincingly argued that representatives who blithely toss their ex-wives on the ash heaps of their marriage beds do not represent their constituents, since the divorce and marriage in the United States are approaching parity.

So, what’s the problem with a little fooling around in the age of liberation provided, as Edwards insists, there is no outstanding issue (read: baby) involved? And even if the worship of Eros and Pan has produced and out-of-wedlock child, why is there a problem so long as the cheater (think Jesse Jackson) supports the child?

If Edwards had made these arguments, he would have been at least plausible, though his political career would have bitten the dust.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

B**ch Slappers and the McCain Ad

Here is Maureen Dowd’s b**ch slap on McCain: First, Dowd cites, without mentioning a name, one of McCain’s “old pals in the senate,” who cringes “at what they (sic) see as his soulless transformation into what he once scorned.” The quoted portion here is Dowd’s gloss on what was said by the anonymous “they,” who is not quoted on this point directly.

Could it be that “they,” the source upon which Dowd hangs her vituperation, is one of his former Democrat pals in the senate who now support Barack Obama?

Some of the lights of the Democrat Party are featured in the new McCain ad that appeared after Ms. Dowd’s column was in print.

“He can work with Democrats on Key issues. Whether it’s campaign reform or tobacco policy, he’s worked with us” – Tom Daschle

“John McCain is a great friend, a personal friend, and I would be honored to run with or against John McCain” -- Sen. Joe Biden

“I have enormous respect for him. He is a courageous, patriotic American who stands up for what he believes” – Sen. John Kerry

“I admire Sen. McCain greatly, and he’s one of the people we’ve modeled our campaign on, because he is very direct, very blunt, and no one has to guess at what he’s thinking” – Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean

“I know that Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience he will bring to the White House, and Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002 – Sen. Hillary Clinton

Now that Sen. Clinton has made the transition from primary opponent to Obama supporter in the general election, she is bound to have second thoughts. But the other Democrats quoted above seemed to have offered their testimonials without much arm twisting.

In her column, Dowd quotes the “pal” she mentioned directly: “John’s eaten up with envy… His image of himself was always the handsome, celebrity flyboy. Now somebody else is the celebrity.”

And this is followed by another Dowd gloss on the pal’s comments: … “the colleague continued, while John looks in the mirror and sees his face marred by skin cancer and looks at the TV and sees his dashing self-image replaced by visions of William Frawley, with Letterman jokes about his membership in the ham radio club and adventures with wagon trains.”

In this kind of reporting, one hardly knows were the “old pal” ends and Dowd begins.

But the point of the column is to riff exaggeratedly on what may have been – we’ll never know because the source is not named, and no one can check – a fairly innocuous comment by someone – or no one – who claims to be close to McCain.

The McCain ad, the precipitating cause of Dowd’s bi**ch slapping column, which pokes fun at Obama’s light-headedness, never approaches this level of juvenilia.

Ms.Hilton’s ad is refreshingly free of hard analysis. Unlike Obama, Ms. Hilton seems comfortable with her persona. One cannot imagine her writing a book in which she struggles to find and put on a suitable identity. Like any great piece of art, Ms. Hilton is exactly what she appears to be.

Entirely in character, she refers to McCain as “that wrinkly white guy” and proposes her own solution to the energy crisis: a hybrid of views presented by Obama and McCain that would involve opening new oil resources in combination with other solutions to the crisis popular with environmentalists and the editorial board of the New York Times.

Ms. Hilton does not seem to understand that she has proposed not a hybrid of views but precisely the plan of the wrinkly white guy.

But one does not expect a trenchant analysis from hotel heiresses.

Ms. Dowd, on the other hand, is a sorry disappointment. From those to whom much is given, much should be expected.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

There’s Bad News and There’s Bad News.

The bad news is that in the three months ending in June, according to a report by Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, new businesss start ups dropped to an eight year low.

And the other bad news is that that 3,000 businesses closed in the second quarter of this year, also an eight year low.

Bysiewicz tried to put some lipstick on this economic pig when she said, “Businesses throughout the nation are struggling to cope with escalating energy prices, health care costs and the national credit crisis, and Connecticut's businesses are no exception.”

Economist for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association Peter Gioia said the state was in better shape than the nation and pointed to jobs added over the last couple of months, while the national economy has suffered seven continuous months of job losses.

A member of Governor Jodi Rell’s Council of Economic Advisors, Don Klepper-Smith, pointed a crooked finger at the national credit crunch, Given the tight credit, Klepper-Smith said, “it's not too surprising that business starts would be tapering off and that business failures would be on the rise. It's consistent with the picture we're seeing nationally and across Connecticut.”

Nice to know no one in the legislature or the governor’s office is responsible for the grand exodus.

Gioia remarked, “There are going to be some companies that are going to be struggling. I think it shows we don't want to do anything locally to damage the economy.”

Now, what would that be?

Connecticut’s Conspirator’s Corner

The entrée of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s J. Edgar Hoover, into the Countrywide scandal has caused several conspiracy theories to arise.

Conspiracy theory 1: Blumenthal really, really, really wants to be senator.

But there is a problem. One of Connecticut’s senatorial chairs is occupied by Sen. Joe Lieberman, formerly a Democrat, now a Democrat leaning Independent. Lieberman, unhorsed by Ned Lamont in a Democrat primary, ran in the general election as an Independent and cleaned the clock of former Governor and Senator Lowell Weicker’s favorite politician, fellow Greenwich millionaire Lamont.

The other chair is held by Sen. Chris Dodd.

As a general rule in Connecticut politics, opportunities for senatorial slots do not become available until the grim reaper hauls off the reigning incumbent across the Styx. Weicker, torpedoed by Lieberman, was the exception that proves the rule.

The Countrywide scandal presents a rare opportunity for Blumenthal. Hoover, the ambitious head of the FBI, was able to accumulate files on the important politicians of the day and leak compromising information to his favorite reportorial turnstiles whenever it suited his purposes. Blumenthal, who is not camera shy and who has during the course of his career shared information with his favorites in the media, has seemingly borderless investigatory powers that even Hoover might have envied.

The temptation among those who are privy to secret information is to use the information politically.

Conspiracy theory 2: Blumenthal really, really, really wants Dodd to emerge unscathed by the Countrywide scandal

Hoover also used the information in his possession to curry favor with powerful politicians. It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who burnished the reputation of Hoover and his G-men in order to blunt the romantic notions that surrounded depression era criminals. An entire division in Hoover’s office was devoted solely to publicity. Hoover ingratiated himself with the Roosevelt administration by performing services for anyone who could advance the interests of the FBI, including Roosevelt. Hoover did not scruple to leak information to favorite columnists, a technique that later expanded to include politicians and prominent people.

Dodd is a prominent politician; Blumenthal often has been helpful to the FBI, media stars and others… and, well, any conspitatorialist worth his salt will be able to draw pertinent conclusions…

(End Note: For the willfully stupid, I suppose I should add that this blog is intended partly as satire)

What Next? The Persian Gulf

It is now possible to imagine a victory of sorts in Iraq and pop the question: What next?

In no prearranged order, these are the elements that have improved conditions on the ground in Iraq: the 2007 surge; the capable leadership of General Petraeus, known as General Betray Us by idiot bloggers; the huge number of jihadists killed in the five years since 2003; the increase in size and competence of Iraqi Security Forces; and the understated political acumen of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

As mentioned in this spot before, the new realities on the ground have forced some prior run-for-the-hills opponents of the new strategy adopted by President George Bush to adjust their rhetoric. Almost no one any longer argues for an immediate withdrawal of troops, and talk of impeaching President Bush is now limited to such political losers as U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, twice a failed candidate for president on the Democrat ticket.

Kucinich has not formally retreated from his peace “plan” for Iraq, which includes immediate withdrawal and a guarantee of economic sovereignty for Iraq. Kucinich has not told us what he would do if the economic sovereignty of Iraq failed as a result of the premature withdrawal of American troops. Apparently that problem would be left to the same folk at the United Nations that have failed to guarantee the economic viability of, say, Darfur.

If Iraq achieves stabilization as a democratic friendly, non-aggressive, self sufficient state, several things will happen.

The non-terrorist affiliated states in the Persian Gulf, now that the mercurial Saddam Hussein is out of the picture, will undoubtedly strengthen their ties with Iraq. Rogue states such as North Korea, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, Cuba and the terrorist pirates in the badlands of northern Pakistan, despite assurances from the anti-war front in the America, do not think that the United States military is “bogged down” in Iraq. They fear the success of the enterprise far more than its failure.

So far in the Middle East, great wealth has produced two kinds of political states: autocracies like Iran and Syria that fund terrorists, and petro-billionaire states that, for the time being, are safe from the theocratic revolution peddled by terrorists.

Iraq so far fits neither paradigm. Unattended, it may degenerate into one of the two models. But at the moment, the future may hold out a different prospect for Iraq, an important point that is entirely lost in the rough and tumble of American politics, which has devolved into a juvenile struggle for political power.

Once the power question is decided in the United States, none of the problems that have bedeviled three administrations, two Republican and one Democrat, will have been settled: Saudi Arabia will continue to peddle its 17th century old noxious brand of Wahhabism; nuclear proliferation, accelerated by Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s chief nuclear scientist who was able to pilfer nuclear secrets from a spy network in the United States, will continue; Iran and Syria will continue to finance and support terrorist interventions throughout the Middle East; efforts to destroy Israel will continue; Russia and China will continue to play sinister spoiler roles. A change in administrations will change none of this. None of it will disappear when the nearly universally hated Bush regime backs its bags and leaves the White House.

The “What next” question should take us outside ourselves. The United States is not the center of the political universe. It is only contingently true that a new administration may change any of the problematic situations listed above. At the most, a new administration may, like Iraq, hold out a promise to a besieged world. But the Islamic world will not bow and scrape before American power, resolve or steadfastness. Islam is a ruling force in history, far more organized than Europe and the American Congress.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Swan Dives

Tom Swan, the head of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group and the campaign manager for Ned Lamont in his unsuccessful run for Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat, is kicking dust on John "Corky'' Mazurek’s shoes.

Swan prefers Karen A. Houghtaling over Mazurek. Houghtaling is described in one story as “a 41-year-old grandmother who works more than 60 hours a week in two jobs as a receptionist and a waitress in Waterbury.” She is backed by CCAG and labor union groups such as the United Auto Workers, AFSCME Council 4, and the Working Families Party, the usual culprits who sit like gargoyles on the left wing of the Democrat Party.

The Working Families Party is one of those odd party organs that developed as reformers attempted to bring political parties, increasingly viewed as unnecessary, into the 21st century. The “party” in Connecticut has, according to one account, fewer than a dozen registered members and a line on political ballots. It’s the line on the ballot, used by the WFP to boost the fortunes of Democrats who back union measures, that makes the party a menace to Democrat Party regulars.

In New York, the WFP obtained a line on the ballot by cross endorsing former Governor Elliot Spitzer, a virtual shoe-in. These were in the glory days of New York’s former crusading attorney general before he slipped into an erotic trough.

Swan’s beef with Mazurek involves an energy bill that did not meet the exacting standards of the CCAG.

"He brought out that rat energy bill when Fontana and Vickie wouldn't,” Swan said. "Corky's base is the Rotary Club. He was not that active in the political groups. Even the more traditional unions hate him."

Corky responded, "It's amazing how poorly informed the CCAG people are about that energy bill. I think Mr. Swan doesn't understand the bill and doesn't know what he's talking about. You can tell Swan, for his information, I received 6,000 votes against a strong Republican opponent. He's just blowing smoke. There is no Rotary Club in Wolcott, by the way."

Mazurek pointed out that the energy bill passed by overwhelming margins -- 128 to 19 in the House and 32 to 3 in the Senate -- before being signed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Turning the knife gleefully, he noted that all the Democratic leaders voted for the bill.

The Democrat machine is backing Mazurek against the waitress.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

It is easy to think that Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author of “The Gulag Archipelago,” the book that helped to bring the Soviet Union to its knees, was a contemporary of yet another great Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky. They both lived in cursed “interesting times,” Dostoevsky at the end time of the Czars, and Solzhenitsyn at a time when Soviet communism began to stink in men’s nostrils.

Dostoevsky, the author of “Poor Folk”, imprisoned by the Czar for subversive activity, was sent packing to Siberia, where he spent several years in the harsh Russian winters concocting “The House of the Dead,” his fictional novel that drew on his prison years. Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned for subversive activity by modernity’s version of the Czars, the Politburo, and he spent his time concocting “A Day in the Life of Ivan Desenovich,” which drew on his prison years.

A faithful biographer of Dostoevsky, tells us that the Czar had arranged a tormenting send off for those early socialists, writers and pamphleteers, who were swept up in what has been called the Decembrist plot. The Czar passed down, on his own orders, a sentence of execution by firing squad on the lot of them. They were all bound to stakes facing a firing squad; a priest was brought in to administer last rites; all but the head of the group, a committed atheist, kissed the cross; with hood over their heads they heard the rifles raised and cocked. Dostoevsky later said that his last vision of the world he so loved was that of the sun shining on a cross atop a church glowing in a brilliant blue sky near the yard where the prisoners were bound. Then the hood; then darkness; then the rustle of rifles.

And at that moment, seared forever in Dostoevsky’s memory, a carriage swept into the yard. A pardon from the Czar, all pre-arranged, had arrived. Dostoevsky was pardoned to Siberia where, a century later, Solzhenitsyn was struck by the piety of some Lithuanian Catholics who made rosary beads by chewing bread, molding it into small beads and stringing them together.

He asked to have a longer rosary made for him. He was writing “A Day in the Life of Ivan Desenovich” on small scraps of paper, committing the scraps to memory and destroying them. And he was using the beads as a mnemonic devise, literally praying the book on the beads. When he was release from prison, he was able to real off the 12,000 lines he had memorized.

Both in the case of Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn, their tormenters had not taken the measure of the man.

Released from prison, Solzhenitsyn showed his new novel to a few artists, among them Lev Kopelev the editor of Novy Mir, the most prestigious literary and cultural journal in the Soviet Union, who warned Solzhenitsyn that he must not show the novel to the communist soddened clerks at the magazine, who would instantly kill it. Instead, Kopelev took the novel to Aleksandr Tvardovsky, who showed it to Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

“Do you realize what you have written?” Tvardovsky asked Solzhenitsyn. Early in his career, the great Russian critic, Vissarion Grigoryevich Belinsky, after reading Dostoevsky’s “Poor Folk,” had asked the writer the same question.

Dostoyevsky didn’t, and Solzhenitsyn did.

Khrushchev, determined to bring to an end what he called “the cult of Stalin,” had the book published. And from that point on, the fate of Soviet communism was sealed; the genie was out of the bottle. Solzhenitsyn never backed away from the struggle, though at every moment of his life in Russia, the shadow of the gulag, the vast prison system that had under the Czar held Dostoyevsky, hung above his head like a Damoclean sword.

On a personal note, I brushed into Solzhenitsyn’s vanished presence in Clermont, when I went to interview a Russian Orthodox priest who is an accomplished icon maker. His was the church Solzhenitsyn and his family worshiped in when he was for sixteen years in exile in New Hampshire.

There my wife and I said a prayer for Solzhenitsyn, as I will this Sunday when I go to mass at my own church in Coventry.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

In The Rough, Hillary Agonistes

Women’s groups are trying to make lemonade out of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid.

Stacy Mason, executive director of a political action committee called Women Count, and others are demanding a plank in the Democrat Party’s upcoming convention protesting slights committed by exuberant supporters of likely presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

“There were so many examples in the media of sexist commentary,” said Ms. Mason, “where we never heard from, the party leadership or Barack Obama.”

Like what?

Quoth the Los Angeles Times: “Some Clinton supporters have complained of jibes against the New York senator by TV talk show hosts, off color novelty items that surfaced during the campaign and incidents such as one where hecklers yelled, ‘Iron my shirt!’”

Oddly enough, this sort of thing never happens to the iconic Madonna or Paris Hilton, the light as air hotel princess noted chiefly for her notoriety.

Hilton recently flitted through a recent John McCain video, her presence in the video cinching the point that Obama is largely a Hollywood production full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Far from sulking in his tent, Obama, rich as oil companies in campaign funds, rose to this insult and instantly produced a video response charging that McCain was an aging bag of suppurating insults.

Questions arise: Will an instantly forgettable plank in a Democrat platform be enough to persuade male sexists – there are such boggles as female sexists, we all know – at future campaign rallies to lay aside their prejudices and embrace feminism?

Probably not.

To what extent will any attempts to prevent big media from insulting women candidates affront the U.S. Constitution? Other than beating reporters with planks, how do you prevent them form covering hecklers at campaign rallies? If the women are as wise as serpents like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) , a group dedicated to using quasi constitutional instruments such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission to gut free speech in Canada and elsewhere, they will succeed beyond their wildest dreams.But should we rejoice in such success?

The murderer of film maker Theo Van Gogh was successful in intimidating both cartoonists and newspapers at home and abroad. In fascist China, the authorities have been successful, with a little help from American based internet providers, in purging the internet of disagreeable speech. But a plank in a Democrat platform is only useful for beating Democrat politicians who have already morally surrendered to women’s liberation – roughly, all of them.

Ms. Mason will have to become far more revolutionary before the courageous ink stained wretches and keyboard pounders at such institutions as the New York Times and DailyKos, a leftist progressive site, will be brought to heel. Jane Hamsher, the proprietress of FireDogLake, another progressive site, ran on her blog a doctored picture of Clinton in Blue’s Brother’s sunglasses and Sen. Joe Lieberman in blackface.

Lieberman, the scourge of progressives who abhor him because he supports American military victory in Iraq, has come in for some rough handling from the left. A gentleman over at MyLeftNutmeg titled one of his sunbursts “Is Joe Lieberman An Alcoholic Pedophile?”

Ms. Mason will have to become more revolutionary before the courageous ink stained wretches and keyboard pounders at such institutions as the New York Times and will be brought to heel.

Over the board criticism is nothing new in American politics. During the Jefferson, Adams campaign, one hostile Federalist referred to the author of the Declaration of Independence as “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father … raised wholly on hoe-cake made of coarse-ground Southern corn, bacon and hominy – with an occasional change of fricasseed bullfrog.”

Ms. Mason would do well to take a lesson from furious federalist; it may be time to take a deep breath and understand that women in the political kitchen (no disrespect intended) should get used to some heat and splattering.

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