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12/22/2008
COUNTDOWN TO “24″ - POLL QUESTION ON MY SUMMARIES
CATEGORY: "24", Blogging

Should Right Wing Nuthouse continue the tradition of recapping each episode of 24 when the show picks up again on January 11, 2009?

That’s the poll question I’ve posted above in order to get a sense from my reader’s as to whether the tremendous investment in time would be worth it to them - and to me.

For the past three seasons, I have blogged every episode of 24 with the dedication of a Franciscan monk. When I started, I was virtually alone in doing so - a solitary, very unknown blogger with a unique take on the show - a combination of world weary cynicism about TV’s portrayal of conservative values with a dash of pop culture snark. As far as I know, I was the first chronicler of 24 to include a “Body Count.”

Since then, there have been a number of imitators. Some have original takes of their own. Some sites even liveblog the night’s episode. Many are very good. Some are pretty sucky. The point being, I’m hardly the only game in town anymore when it comes to this genre of blogging and I have a decision to make.

The process of writing one of these summaries is quite laborious. I watch the entire show twice (once for personal enjoyment) while taking copious notes during the second viewing. I then watch parts of the show a third time, gleaning quotes and nuance from some of the scenes. After all that, I write a 1500-2000 word essay that includes an introduction that tries to fold themes from the episode into a mythic-historical perspective.

My problem is that now I have two jobs which take up 10-12 hours a day of my time. I would love to continue writing these summaries but don’t want to do a half assed job and just throw something together in a couple of hours. It will take a genuine committment on my part to produce the kind of recaps I have in the past. And before I make that committment, I would like your thoughts on the matter.

The readership of this blog has changed quite a bit since those early days. It grew tremendously, then shrank precipitously, and has now grown again thanks to an influx of the kind of reader who thinks deeply about politics and ideology rather than having simple-minded, knee jerk reactions to issues based on litmus tests and talking points. Many of you may be unaware of my previous writings on Jack Bauer and the show’s place in our political culture. Suffice it to say that many of the posts that I am most proud of on this blog are in the 24 archives.

My passion for the show led to my being invited to contribute to a best selling book on the show: Secrets of 24. To be included in a book that featured the writings of so many well known journalists, writers, theologians, philosophers, and members of the cast was a real treat.

My essay from the book (Chapter 2, page 50) is entitled “The Circles of Hell: Dante, Daniel Boone, Gary Cooper, and . . . Jack Bauer:”

Bauer has transcended the entertainment world and become a political talisman; stroked by the right and bashed by the left, 24 has become the favorite guilty pleasure of the political class in America. Even many liberals confess their addiction to the show, despite Bauer’s enormously troubling use of torture and the cavalier way in which he disregards the constitutional niceties. And many conservatives, seeing Jack taking the fight directly to our enemies (along with maintaining a moral certitude that is both refreshing and emotionally satisfying), cheer their hero on as he battles evil.

We watch spellbound as he relentlessly pursues the enemies of the United States with a frightening determination and dedication that brooks no opposition from friend or foe. His disputes with the national security bureaucracy are fought with the same tenacity and brutal “win at all costs” mindset with which he battles the terrorists seeking to destroy us. In this respect, Bauer is a man outside the law rather than someone of the law.

Sound familiar? It should. Hollywood long has prospered making heroes of such men although not quite in the same context. Jack could best be compared to the small town sheriff who finds himself up against the ruthless outlaw gang as Gary Cooper played in the classic western High Noon. Cooper’s portrayal of Marshall Will Kane, who must vanquish a gang of criminals bent on revenge on the day of his wedding, had many of the same points and counterpoints found in the character of Jack Bauer. It is the solitary nature of his fight - the man willing to do his duty against terrible odds - that brings to mind Bauer’s predicaments as Jack flies from the frying pan into the fire week after week, always coming out on top because in the end, good must triumph over evil.

Even if I don’t blog every episode, I will probably write something about the show from time to time. Any thoughts you have on whether I should continue this enjoyable but time consuming tradition would be appreciated.

By: Rick Moran at 8:13 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)

12/21/2008
WINTER SOLSTICE MUSINGS
CATEGORY: Blogging

Today marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night. In keeping with the idea that the sun is at its farthest distance from the equatorial plane, it is depressing to think that winter, enclosing the Midwest in its icy grip, has only just begun and that the warmth and beauty of summer is so very far away.

The ice storm of Friday gave way to a blizzard last night as the winds howled at 40 mph and powdery snow whipped across the barren, empty farmer’s fields where just a couple of months ago, corn stalks reached toward the sun and wheat waved in the warm, gentle breezes. Is there any lonlier sound than that of the groaning of the wind as it rips through the leaveless trees, bending branch and limb in supplication to its power?

Lying alone in bed, Zsu-Zsu gone to Ohio to see her grandchildren, I began to understand why the ancients believed in spirits and other phantasms of the night. It was as if a strange apparition was outside of my bedroom window and as the sash rattled in the gale, it made it sound as if some ghostly form was seeking to come in, clamoring to enter my bed chamber and the relative warmth therein. (Cue the Cowardly Lion: “I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I DO believe in spooks…”)

The storm has died down but has been supplemented by temperatures hovering near zero with a windchill closing in on -20 degrees. My Beloved Bears play their most hated rival Green Bay tomorrow night where the temps are expected to be as cold or colder. The game should be a real throwback, a test of human endurance and manhood as much as an athletic contest. And despite not having been to a Bears game in years, you couldn’t pay me to be in Soldier Field tomorrow night and witness what for My Beloveds will be the biggest game of the year. I am a fanatic, not a lunatic.

The Solstice is actually celebrated in many regions around the world. If you don’t believe me, check out Wikpedia which lists a couple of dozen parties that will be going on today in various countries and among some of the lesser known religions. As you might expect, the Wiccans are going to town as are the “indigenous” people of Finland, Sweden, and Norway:

The Saami, indigenous people of Finland, Sweden and Norway, worship Beiwe, the sun-goddess of fertility and sanity. She travels through the sky in a structure made of reindeer bones with her daughter, Beiwe-Neia, to herald back the greenery on which the reindeer feed. On the winter solstice, her worshipers sacrifice white female animals, and with the meat, thread and sticks, bed into rings with ribbons. They also cover their doorposts with butter so Beiwe can eat it and begin her journey once again.

I suppose I can think of better ways to entertain myself when it’s cold and snowy outside but on the other hand, the butter bit is a nice touch. Reindeer butter must be awesome to withstand the cold and still be edible.

In God’s name why? What possessed our prehistorical ancestors to feast and fornicate on this day of all days? The Summer Solstice, I can see throwing a shindig for. But how crazy of a party animal do you have to be to rock ‘n roll when bone chilling cold and the prospect of several more months of winter are staring you in the face?

I understand the notion that the time to make merriest is when you have the least to celebrate but isn’t embracing a Saturnalia in the dead of winter kind of carrying the idea a little too far? I guess our ancestors weren’t very bright bulbs when it came right down to it.

Some of these societies who celebrate the Winter Solstice are no longer with us. That makes sense given their idiocy in holding a blowout when being exposed to the elements is so uncomfortable that it doesn’t matter how much meade, or beer, or whatever beverage you imbibe, you can still freeze to death. Dying happy isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be - especially when being warm and alive is the alternative.

Apparently, German pagans really went to town on this day and still see something to celebrate even in modern times. Don’t these goofs realize that just because their ancestors were born a couple of nuts short of an almond tree doesn’t mean they have to follow their traditions like lemmings going over a frozen cliff? The Germans are generally a practical, down to earth people but this yule tradition smacks of brainlessness.

So please leave me alone in my delicious depression as I gladly wallow in feeling sorry for my weakening constitution that can barely tolerate even looking at snow and ice much less being out in it. In this respect, the classic cartoon character, the reluctant penguin Chilly Willy, who hated the cold even more than I, are probably brothers under the skin.

And I say to hell with the Winter Solstice and anyone who thinks holding a soiree to celebrate it is a grand idea.

By: Rick Moran at 12:58 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

12/19/2008
TORTURE: A MATTER OF OPINION OR A QUESTION OF LEGALITY

For all those who haven’t taken a good hard shot at me lately, I give you my newest up at PJ Media:

As the sands run out on the Bush administration and the nation looks to the incoming Obama White House with a combination of apprehension for the future and a desire to put the past behind us, there remains some unfinished business that is so fraught with political danger and so heavy with symbolism regarding how we Americans see ourselves that the political elites in Washington are reluctant to address it.

I am talking about the whole matter of detainee abuse and whether those who specifically ordered it and carried it out should be punished.

There is no other issue in my lifetime except Vietnam that has elicited such passion in both defenders and detractors. At least with Vietnam there was, if not a middle ground, a gradation of opinion about our involvement and its legality. No such wiggle room exists on the torture issue. You either excuse it or condemn it. You either see the administration as blameless, trying to elicit information that would save us from another terrorist attack, or you believe war crimes have been committed in our name. Perhaps you see the application of torture as a matter of indifference or even justified during war time. Maybe you view the “enhanced interrogation techniques” as falling short of torture. Or maybe you believe that only a full investigation into detainee treatment followed by war crimes trials is the way to redeem the American soul.

Added to the opinion war now is a report issued (PDF required) by the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Even for those familiar with most of the details regarding Bush administration decisions about “enhanced interrogation” techniques, there is some new information as well as confirmation of the involvement of certain administration officials that directly implicates them in violations of U.S. law.

Read the whole thing.

By: Rick Moran at 2:26 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (30)

12/18/2008
THE RICH GET RICHER IN A VERY UNCAPITALIST WAY

I am not a leveller. I am not a class warrior. I believe that the free market should set pay scales for everyone from janitors and secretaries to the CEO’s of large corporations. I believe the government has no business telling corporations how much to pay their CEO’s or top management. Nor should government be in the racket of giving an advantage to labor unions in negotiations by doing away with the secret ballot and forcing unions down the throat of unwilling business owners.

But what happens when the rich corrupt the market and make their own rules? What happens when powerful interests interfere with the workings of the market and make a mockery of fairness, accountability, and common sense? This is where the libertarian, laissez faire capitalism model falls on its keister and fails to do its job. When companies are so big that their movements can overwhelm the natural balance that the free market seeks to impose on all, some other entity must step in to restore that balance.

We conservatives have been loathe to see government interference in the free market of any kind, deeming such nosiness as anti-business and anti-capitalist. Indeed, many regulatory efforts by the government are counterproductive to competitiveness and inimicable to simple liberty. But there is also something to be said for a government that works to keep that balance offered by the free market by not allowing things to get too far out of whack.

The problem is that much government regulation is written by the very people it seeks to regulate. One of the dirty little secrets in Washington is that of the thousands and thousands of proposed regulations published in the Federal Register every year, very few are enacted without “input” from lobbyists representing the interests being affected. This input goes far beyond the comments requested when proposed regulations are published. In fact, the regulator and the regulatee often have an incestuous relationship where much of the language upon which a regulation is based - regulations that have the force of law - is inserted by well heeled industry lobbyists who are allowed into the process due to their expertise.

There is nothing inherently wrong in this. In fact, such a right is guaranteed in the First Amendment’s “right to redress grievances.” The problem is that many of these regulations are written to choke off competition, not protect or expand it.

But that’s only half the problem. Government has become complicit with these anti-competitive forces in Congress as well. The insertion into an innocuous piece of legislation of a tax rider that grants a specific corporation a break on some arcane IRS rule. Business cronies of members who are steered to the right people in the bureacracy who can throw a federal contract their way, thus making a mockery of the competitive bidding process.

The point is simple; when government (and I include government headed by Democrats as well as Republicans) puts itself on the side of the rich and powerful instead of on everyone’s side - rich, poor, business, labor, the middle class - the market becomes skewed and we end up with the kind of crisis and bailout mania that we have now. To those who say on both sides that the government must “choose” whose side to take, you are missing the point. If the government took the side of the market and generated regulations and legislation that increased competition, fairness, and accountability, we would not be in the situation we are today. All would benefit from that kind of government and prosperity for most would be the norm.

George Bush didn’t want that kind of government. Neither does Barack Obama who thinks he can skew things toward the poor and Middle Class rather than the perceived favoritism shown toward the rich and large corporations. The problem with Obama’s good intentions is that without massive reform in the bureaucracy and on Capitol Hill, the rich will simply go on making their own rules that either exempt themselves from market forces or make it harder for their competition to do business.

Is it a pipe dream to envision this kind of reform? Given the cynicism and venality we find in official Washington today, such reform is probably impossible. We have allowed corporations to grow beyond all reasonable bounds and it is impossible to reign them in given their international reach and massive influence on the government. Then there are the titans of finance like Maddoff who are so rich, they can make water flow uphill by getting regulators to look the other way while he steals tens of billions of dollars.

I am not complaining that Maddoff is rich. More power to him if he gambles successfully in the stock and commodities market. But his lawbreaking highlights the unfair advantage that accrues to the rich when they can bend government to their will and warp the competitive marketplace to their wn advantage.

These rather disjointed thoughts are largely the result of the $8 trillion in bailout money that has been handed to these corporations with little more than a hope and a prayer that they will use the funds in a responsible manner. The fact that most of the managers and CEO’s whose unconscionably reckless and - dare I say - greedy actions got us in this mess in the first place still have jobs at these companies does not give me confidence that anything will change. In fact, many of these top managers gave themselves large bonuses on top of their huge salaries.

In a true market economy, those guys would have trouble getting a job picking fruit. But today, they are rewarded for hastening the end of the free market in America and the arrival of the Plutocracy.

By: Rick Moran at 1:33 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

12/17/2008
BUSH: I HAD TO TRASH THE FREE MARKET IN ORDER TO SAVE IT

I think Franklin Roosevelt said something eerily similar about the New Deal:

US President George W. Bush said in an interview Tuesday he was forced to sacrifice free market principles to save the economy from “collapse.”

“I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system,” Bush told CNN television, saying he had made the decision “to make sure the economy doesn’t collapse.”

Bush’s comments reflect an extraordinary departure from his longtime advocacy for an unfettered free market, as his administration has orchestrated unprecedented government intervention in the face of a dire financial crisis.

“I am sorry we’re having to do it,” Bush said.

But Bush said government action was necessary to ease the effects of the crisis, offering perhaps his most dire assessment yet of the country’s economy.

“I feel a sense of obligation to my successor to make sure there is not a, you know, a huge economic crisis. Look, we’re in a crisis now. I mean, this is — we’re in a huge recession, but I don’t want to make it even worse.”

Let’s get something clear. What Bush and Obama are doing has nothing to do with “saving” the free market” and everything to do with saving the hides of politicians who are responding to the cries of frightened people by overturning sound economic principles in favor of corporate handouts to failing companies who gambled and lost and now want the taxpayer to subsidize their recklessness and incompetence.

And just what does Bush call this economy if not “collapsed?” He is pumping $8 trillion into the economy and I would like to know what difference it has made? The credit markets are no better, unemployment is skyrocketing, businesses from Main Street to Wall Street are either failing or hanging on by a thread. Negative growth, prices deflating, and consumer confidence is the lowest it has been since records have been kept.

Tell me, what good has all this free money done? What has it prevented? Worse? It is hard to see how things could be much worse. If Bush had allowed market forces to work as they should have, we would have seen bankruptcies, mergers, reorganizing, and a general winnowing out of winners and losers. Yes, people would be no better off - they would still be losing their jobs, companies would still be closing their doors, unemployment would still be skyrocketing.

But the seeds of recovery would already have been sown. Successful companies would know how to weather this storm and emerge on the other side even stronger. Once recovery began, it would be rapid and robust.

All of this bailout money has delayed the inevitable. It is not steering the economy to a soft landing. It is not saving one single job. Even the auto bailout is delaying the inevitable collapse of car companies that make few products that people want to buy and who refuse to face the fact that their labor costs and business plan are outdated, outmoded, and out of luck. Eventually, we are going to have to nationalize The Big Three completely or keep pumping tens of billions of dollars down a black hole of failure, cowardice, and incompetence.

George Bush is a fool if he think he has “saved” anything.

This blog post originally appears in The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 10:18 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (13)

12/16/2008
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: POLITICAL POTPOURRI

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show,, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, Jazz Shaw of the Moderate Voice, and Doug Ross of the Doug Ross Journal join me to talk about Blagobust, the Minnesota senate recount, the auto bailout, and other topics of interest.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 7:08 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

ENOUGH WITH THE ILLINOIS BASHING ALREADY

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

I rise today in defense of my home state, my beloved Illinois, where top soil is so rich you can make soup from its deep, black loam and where agriculture was first elevated to a science to become the wonder of the civilized world.

We grow a lot of things in this state; corn, soy beans, hogs, cattle, dairy products, - all in numbers that are the envy of the rest of the world. Our higher education system is second to none in turning out both scholars and people who love to party. ( I would suggest you avoid Macomb, the home of Western Illinois University, on a Saturday night unless indulging in Bacchanalia is your thing.)

Besides that, Illinois features some truly remarkable points of interest. The two story outhouse in Gays, IL is a family favorite as is the captured leg of Santa Anna housed in the state capitol of Springfield. And who would want to miss visiting the largest Catsup bottle in the world located in the bustling tourist hub of Collinsville?

Why, my own little town of Streator has a statue of one of the angels of World War II, the Coffee Pot Lady. During the war, Streator saw about 1.2 million servicemen pass through town (we were a major hub for the old Sante Fe line) and faithfully doling out coffee and sandwiches as the trains stopped for fuel and water were dozens of women who made the long trip for the soldiers seem a little less impersonal and frightening.

I highlight all these natural and man made wonders located in Illinois because it seems that my home state is taking quite a beating in the national press and on blogs of late and I figured someone had to stand four square behind the natural beauty, the slow, deliberate pace of existence, and the emphasis placed on what is really important in life here in the Land of Lincoln; God, guns, and goofy politicians.

Indeed, it is sickening to have commentators who know nothing of Illinois or her people spouting off about the corruption in state and local government here. To all who are not from this state who have found the Blagojevich scandal a perfect opportunity to feel morally superior to us Illinoisans and write vicious, ignorant screeds about our “culture of corruption,” I say butt out!

Just what do you think you know about it, huh? And who do you think you are? If anybody is going to throw bricks at our politicians, it’s us. And we don’t need any help, thanks. We’ve been doing it for 190 years and by God we’ve got it down to a science and don’t need outsiders horning in on our fun. Our rope necktie parties are for locals only - no Cheeseheads or Hawkeyes allowed.

It cuts to me the quick that all these silly, snarky bloggers feel it necessary to disrespect the politicians in my state. Besides that, they are pikers when it comes to revealing the true nature of our political culture. Only native Illinoisans can come up with descriptions of our political heroes like “They are a carefully nurtured nest of nefarious nabobs who see politics as a cross between a slot machine and a gold mine.”

Out of staters don’t even come close and their attempts at describing what they can only dimly understand usually fall flat. For us Illinoisians, it is a matter of DNA; we are born with the ability to appreciate and become outraged over the rank dishonesty, the grasping, conniving, plotting, brazenly evil nature of our politics. It’s so much in our blood that I heard tell the Red Cross has considered keeping donations from Illinoisans in state so as not to infect such political paradises as Minnesota and Kansas. They also fear mixing blood from here with that of people from states like New Jersey or Louisiana. The monster that would create, once let loose upon the country, might doom us all.

Columnists, pundits, and TV talking heads can’t decide whether to opine as if auditioning for The Last Comic Standing by trying to outdo one another with unfunny jokes about the scandal or scream about political corruption being endemic to the way Illinois politicians do business. Endemic?  Tell that to a Chicago pol and he’s liable to give you a wary look, wondering why you think he needs a high colonic and perhaps contemplate how he can make a “pay to play” scheme go by getting a kickback from the enema bag manufacturer.

Besides, the idea of someone from New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, getting into a high dudgeon over corruption in politics is laughable. And that goes for just about anyone else anywhere in the US except maybe Montana where the ratio of guns to crooked pols is no accident. They take clean government very seriously in Big Sky Country. They also are not so politically correct as to have forgotten what good uses a little tar and some feathers can be put to.

For you New Yorkers, I might ask if Tamany Hall rings a bell - a city machine so corrupt that cockroaches were denied membership for being too clean. And all you Pennsylvanians who are on your high horse about Chicago political shenanigans, I direct your attention to your current governor, the Majority Leader of your Assembly, and how many other pols caught up in scandal just this year.

Alaskans have so much to be proud of what with their senior senator, his family, their lone congressman, and half the Republican party on the hook for taking favors from an oil company supplier. Let’s not forget New Jersey and its parade of criminal Newark mayors not to mention governors who resign in disgrace for showing favoritism to their boyfriends.

As for all you good government goofs in Minnesota, I’ve got just two words for you; Al Franken.

Reading a couple of articles about corruption in this state in Wikpedia is hardly the same as having grown up with it. To those of us native to Illinois who have spent our lives watching the comings and goings of governors, legislators, aldermen, lawyers, judges, businessmen, and Chicago city workers as they walk in and out of the jail in Pontiac, scandals like Blagobust are more than mere entertainment. They are reminders to all that “There but for the grace of God and a federal phone tap go I.”

So quit your yapping about stuff you really know little about. Whatever corruption scandals you’ve had in your own state cannot possibly prepare you to think, write, or spout about the Olympian nature of Illinois political stink. Our pols are greedier, more inventive in their criminality, more brazen in their disrespect of the law, and more breathtaking in their deeds of derring-do as they try to stay one step ahead of the prosecutor and two steps ahead of that former business partner they’ve cheated out of ill gotten gains.

Ed “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak, the infamous alderman and political thorn in the side of former Chicago Mayor, the late Harold Washington, was quoted as saying that he “talks to everyone as if they’re wearing a wire - even my wife.” Vrdolyak was the target of numerous investigations through the years but prosecutors could never catch him.

In his later years, after losing his clout, Eddie “retired” to private law practice and was considered a wise head in Chicago politics, nurturing many young up and comers, showing them the ropes until he was finally caught in a bribery-kickback scheme involving the sale of a medical school building to a Vrdolyak crony. Those charges may very well stick because Eddie forgot his own ironclad rule; his partner in crime wore a wire to several meetings where the illegal scheme was discussed.

The moral of the story is that not only could an Ed Vrdolyak only exist in Illinois but that only an Illinois pol could go down with such ironic juxtaposition attending his demise. That combination of Greek tragedy and Vaudeville comedy is why the rest of the country is so ill-equipped to comment on our troubles with politicians.

So I’d appreciate it if you just left us alone to wallow in our own muck, thank you.

By: Rick Moran at 6:53 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

12/15/2008
OF SHOES AND LEFTIST IDIOCY

You’ve probably heard by now that at a press conference with Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq yesterday, an Iraqi journalist reporting for an Iraqi TV station based in Egypt threw two shoes at George Bush, narrowly missing the president:

“This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog,” the journalist shouted (in Arabic), Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times reported in a pool report to the White House press corps.

Myers reported that the man threw the second shoe and added: “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

The president showed a lot more class than liberal bloggers about the incident:

Welcome to Baghdad. An Iraqi reporter set off pandemonium Sunday by hurling two shoes at President Bush during a news conference that was the centerpiece of his secret goodbye visit.

Bush was cool under fire and prevented an even bigger incident by waving off his lead Secret Service agent, who was prepared to extract him from the room.

Video shows the president’s lead agent rushing to the podium, but the president immediately and subtly motions to him that it’s OK. The agent backs off.

The president successfully ducked both throws. Photos show him with his head down near the top of the podium.  The embarrassing incident marred a visit meant to show off the improved conditions since the troop “surge” dramatically reduced casualties to U.S. troops.

Lefties are beside themselves, using the incident as an excuse to spout inanities about Bush, the war, and America. Matthew Yglesias’s response is fairly typical:

Some people got very upset when I said I thought throwing pie at Tom Friedman was funny, but I’m having trouble coming up with appropriately humorless language with which to express my fake outrage at this incident.

A website has been set up to allow patriotic lefties to sign a petition to free the journalist who tossed the shoes. Others are urging that liberals send their old shoes to the Bush Library.

Now tossing your shoe at someone is a very grave insult in the Arab world, akin to tossing rotten fruit at a politician here - perhaps even worse. But lefties who are chortling over the incident are typically missing the point - as is the Bush deranged Iraqi journalist.

The liberals who are taking such pleasure in seeing the president embarrassed  are not realizing that this is an insult to the United States and her people. In other words, the jokes on you, dummies. When abroad, whether you like him or not, agree with him or not - even if you are still deranged enough not to accept him as “your” president - George Bush represents the government and hence, the people of the United States. Liberal views of him as a leader matter not in the slightest. The shoe toss was as much an insult directed at the left as it was Bush. The fact that they don’t realize this only makes their cluelessness all the more entertaining.

The rest of the Arab world sees the shoe toss as an insult to the US government with George Bush being its most visible manifestation. The government of the United States - last I looked - was a government of, by, and for the people. In other words, the government is us. And any insults directed at the government are insults hurled at each and every American regardless of party affiliation, ideology, or, in the case of liberals, intelligence or the lack thereof.

As for the Iraqi journalist, would he have been so brave if, instead of Prime Minister Maliki standing up there, horrified at the insult to his guest, it was Saddam Hussein? Somehow, I think the prospect of being taken out and shot would have stayed the journalist’s hand - or shoes as it were. The point being, Saddam has gone missing courtesy of the US Army and President George Bush. The journalist may face charges (try throwing a shoe at someone in America and you can be charged with assault) but will probably be released in the end so that he can practice his America hating craft safely and without fear of being arrested in the middle of the night and shot.

All of this has gone straight over the heads of our liberal friends who are chuckling over the insult they believe is Bush’s alone.

But hey! I won’t ever call them unpatriotic.

By: Rick Moran at 9:39 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (32)

12/14/2008
BILL QUICK ON IRAQ ‘VICTORY’

As a subhead to my post below on Iraq reconstruction, I immediately received an email from one of my faithful lefty correspondents who accused me of trying to “whitewash” the Iraq War. The consistency of this fellow’s idiocy would be astonishing if I didn’t keep in mind he is, after all, a liberal who has thrown out his knee by jerking it so often over the last 4 years everytime I fail to write about our “catastrophic defeat” in Iraq.

This time, he took me to task for daring to think as an historian rather than a partisan boob like him when I mentioned that the judgment of history won’t be known for a decade or so about whether the Iraq war was a net plus or minus to our strategic interests. No matter how things look today, a decade hence things will look quite different due to decisions we have made these last 6 years in Iraq.

Which decisions? And how will things look in the Middle East a decade from now? If anyone could answer those questions they would not be historians but rather stock touters as they would be able to predict the future and could really clean up in the market by putting that gift to good use.

All we can do is look at conditions today. Attempts to extrapolate from there and guess how things might be 10 years from now are fun but hardly relavent in that unrelated events that occur in that time frame may negate or augment decisions made by the US in Iraq. An example may be what we are going to do about Iran who has been emboldened and strengthened by our poor decision making in Iraq but who may find themselves less an influence in the region if the US military goes in and smashes things up. Admittedly, this is now a remote possibility but it highlights the manner in which unfolding history can throw everyone’s predictions of the future into a cocked hat.

Jules Crittenden, reporting on Bush’s surprise visit to Iraq, refers to Mr. Bush taking a “victory lap.” This drew a response from Bill Quick on Jules’ blog that I believe is the best, most concise, tour d’horizon of the consequences involved as a result of our invasion and occupation of Iraq that I’ve seen in a while. (I hope that neither Jules nor Bill minds that I have reprinted the entire comment here):

Jules, I have a problem with the generally accepted metric for “victory” in Iraq, to wit:

Ask yourself this: do you think, absent 9/11, we would have invaded Iraq? I don’t.

Since 9/11 was the proximate cause of our invasion of Iraq, what “victory” was in invasion in service to? The defeat of Iraq alone? Or as part of a larger project, the defeat of Islamofascist terrorism? I perceive it to be the second, and the Bush administration repeatedly confirmed this.

Viewed in that context, is what we have in Iraq a victory, really? We worried about Saddam getting nukes, but as a result of the Iraqi invasion and subsequent years of bungling, the US government has lost the will and the ability to stage any further military adventures, no matter how grave the situation, and so real enemies like Iran now stand on the threshold of acquiring nuclear weapons. Further, how long do you think your “victory” in Iraq will hold with a Shia government in which large parts are heavily influenced or controlled by Iran, and operating next door to a nuclear Iran?

Here’s where we stand today:

Iran: still an Islamofascist hellhole, a rabid enemy of the US and Israel, and about to go nuclear.

Syria: still the same America-hating Baathist regime, now heavily influenced and controlled by the Iranian regime.

Lebanon - a shattered checkerboard of factions, partly occupied by Hizb’Allah, (which is in large part controlled by Iran), a deadly threat to Israel and with major potential for staging Islamist terror attacks elsewhere.

Saudi Arabia - threatened by Iran on the one hand, and half-controlled by the Wahabi Islamofascists on the other. Still funneling money and men to Islamofascist terror gangs.

Pakistan - disintegrating even as we watch, and probably headed for a takeover by its most militant and anti-American Islamist factions, along with its nuclear arsenal.

Afghanistan - slowly sinking back into Islamofascist savagery, as the Taliban and its allies retake everything but the most heavily defended cities.

Osama bin Laden/Ayman Zawahiri/al Qaeda: Still alive, still in business, and effectively operating from their own nation of Waziristan.

Iraq: Enjoying a temporary respite from battle, but governed by a shaky coalition in which the Shia are by far the most powerful leg, and of which Shia many are under the control and/or influence of the soon-to-be nuclear next door neighbor, Iran.

And a host of problems with Islamofascism looming elsewhere, of which I am sure you are aware.

You may see Iraq as a “victory” but, within the context of the larger war against Islamofascist terror, I don’t. And I have to ask: Do you? Really?

I have minor quibbles with Bill’s gauging the strength of the Iranian faction among Iraqi Shias (present but influence on the wane?) and perhaps Hizbullah’s ability to hurt Israel militarily (a “deadly threat?”) but otherwise, Quick correctly asks where victory might be found in all of this. The bar has been lowered so much over the years that now simply being able to leave Iraq on our own pretty much qualifies as a “victory” along with a few other modest benchmarks.

We have not ceded the battlefield to terrorists or insurgents. There is a ever more confident and robust Iraqi government in place (how free is a matter of debate). How much of an “ally” in the War on Terror Iraq will be may also be up for discussion in a few years.

In short, when the last combat troops depart in 2011, we will be leaving behind a third world nation, riven by factions that could blow up into violence later, and with a wary but friendly relationship with our deadly enemy Iran. Victory? Perhaps so expansive a word should not be used for such a narrow success.

UPDATE

Excellent discussion among some conservatives on the issue of Iraq victory at Jules’ blog.

By: Rick Moran at 1:37 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

A STUDY OF INCOMPETENCE

When the history of the Iraq War is written a decade or more from now, it will include a lot more perspective that the press and the war’s foes are giving it now. It will no doubt view events on the ground in that country as other wars have been chronicled; a mix of stunning bravery, horrible leadership, incomprehensible decisions, and the quiet, unremarkable brilliance of the ordinary US soldier in combat.

In a decade, we will also know whether the war was a net plus or minus for US interests. (To make that judgment now is folly. Example: Viet Nam, where many historians now see the war as a pivotal event in the collapse of the Soviet Union.) We will also know a lot more about the corruption, the confusion, the dishonesty, and the jaws dropping incompetence of the the Administration, the Pentagon, the State Department, and many other government agencies who had a hand in the reconstruction fiasco.

We have known for years that the Bush Administration was unprepared for the aftermath of the invasion. We’ve known about the wasted, stolen, and misappropriated reconstruction funds. We’ve known that the Pentagon was not always honest in its assessment of the progress of Iraqi security forces.

What we didn’t know until now is just how truly bad it was.

An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ”

Mr. Powell’s assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of competent Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Over the years, the Pentagon has simply lied to us about the readiness of Iraqi forces to “stand up” so we could “stand down.” Certainly they justified some of this lying as “good for the war effort.” But it is just horrific that Rumsfeld could face the press everyday and lie about the progress of training the Iraqi army. We already knew he was a “glass half full” sort of fellow when it came to war news. But this wasn’t spin. These were deliberate lies told to maintain support for the war at home. Those of us who bought these figures and argued with war opponents that progress was being made and asked for patience it now turns out that we were just actors in Rumsfeld’s little dramas.

But it is in the reconstruction area that the Bush Administration reveals itself to be not only incompetent but probably criminally negligent with American taxpayer dollars.

You haven’t heard about it because of a government gag orders but there are at least 70 cases of Iraqi contract fraud across the country waiting for January 20, 2009 to start up against American companies who did business in Iraq with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Some trials have taken place already including one involving the company Custer Battles that was given a contract to convert the Iraqi Dinar to a new currency and ended up robbing the taxpayers of at least $10 million. Another case involving Philip Bloom who admitted bribing DoD officials with sex, booze, and cash in order to get millions in reconstruction contracts. His co-defendant was a CPA official.

The list of transgressions is staggering. Uncompetitive bidding (including the granting of Haliburton a multi-billion dollar contract without any other bidders) outright theft, contract manipulation, nauseatingly incompetent accounting by the CPA, bending and breaking of regulations, political favoritism, and $8 billion in cash that has simply gone “missing.”

That last may involve some wretched accounting by the CPA. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of evidence that a lot of that cash just up and disappeared - stacks and stacks of crisp, brand new $100 bills. How could that happen?

Because the Iraqi banking system was in tatters, the funds were placed in an account with the Federal Reserve in New York. From there, most of the money was flown in cash to Baghdad. Over the first 14 months of the occupation, 363 tonnes of new $100 bills were shipped in - $12bn, in cash. And that is where it all began to go wrong.

“Iraq was awash in cash - in dollar bills. Piles and piles of money,” says Frank Willis, a former senior official with the governing Coalition Provisional Authority. “We played football with some of the bricks of $100 bills before delivery. It was a wild-west crazy atmosphere, the likes of which none of us had ever experienced.”

The environment created by the coalition positively encouraged corruption. “American law was suspended, Iraqi law was suspended, and Iraq basically became a free fraud zone,” says Alan Grayson, a Florida-based attorney who represents whistleblowers now trying to expose the corruption. “In a free fire zone you can shoot at anybody you want. In a free fraud zone you can steal anything you like. And that was what they did.”

Does “criminally negligent” apply? That 513 page report mentioned up top supplies some answers:

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.

By mid-2008, the history says, $117 billion had been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, including some $50 billion in United States taxpayer money.

The history contains a catalog of revelations that show the chaotic and often poisonous atmosphere prevailing in the reconstruction effort.

That’s right. To this day, the administration remains clueless about not only the finances of Iraqi reconstruction but even how to go about the task of organizing the effort.

Criminally negligent? Can’t say for sure but there is certainly plenty of evidence that the Bushies didn’t care enough to resolve the parochial disagreements and turf wars that hampered efforts to consolidate the reconstruction effort and get a handle on how much was going out to pay for what and to whom.

There will be an effort in Congress next year to get to the bottom of all this. With the ascension of Henry Waxman to the chairmanship energy committee, the oversight committee chairman could very well be Ed Towns, a New York Congressman who is dogged, thorough, and much less a partisan than Waxman. But I still think it best that an independent commission be formed to look into the entire question of Iraqi reconstruction. We need to investigate the entire episode and not just cherry pick individual occurences of corruption. Congress is much to busy to do a good job in delving into the whole narrative, hence, a bi-partisan panel should be empowered.

The charge of “war profiteering” against some contractors is no doubt overblown. There are hundreds of honest businessmen who contracted with the US or Iraqi governments to supply goods and services who, by all accounts, performed magnificently - sometimes at great personal risk to themselves and their employees. But there is also a growing body of evidence that dozens of contractors saw an easy way to defraud the taxpayer and through bribery, theft, and fraud, enriched themselves.

UPDATE

He’s the only other conservative writing about this story but I still think James Joyner is on the wrong track with this:

That sounds about right. Of course, the Marshall Plan involved giving the money to leaders of advanced countries to rebuild war-ravaged infrastructure after the conflict had ended, whereas this effort had outsiders with virtually no knowledge of the area trying to create a modern state out of an underdeveloped one while terrorists were trying to undermine the effort at every turn.

My history is a little fuzzy but I remember reading Theodore H. White (who wrote extensively about the Marshall Plan when he was working with Colliers Magazine) that the entire taxpayer expenditure for the Marshall Plan was around $15 billion from 1947-51 and that the primary success of the plan lay in its building currencies and creating markets for goods. Using the dollar to stabilize currencies and aiding France so that it could buy German wheat or Great Britain so it could buy French steel are examples of specific Marshall Plan goals. More than one historian has pointed to the plan as a boost to the idea of a European Common Market.

The point being, there was a government wide effort involving State, Defense, Treasury, and Commerce to realize reconstruction based on cooperation and a specific plan. According to the conclusions in that history of Iraq war reconstruction, the Bushies never even took the first step of organizing their own administration and to this day have failed to do so. It wouldn’t have mattered if Iraq was a western industrialized nation or a third world backwater; the problem lay in a lack of focus on putting an overall plan in place with specific goals and targets.

But kudos to James for highlighting what I’m sure is going to be a big story next year.

By: Rick Moran at 10:36 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (21)