Right Wing Nut House

1/15/2009

RIGHT OR WRONG, BUSH MADE AN IMPACT

Filed under: Financial Crisis, Government, History, Middle East, Politics — Rick Moran @ 12:31 pm

Can you identify this president?

“…a good man who didn’t understand his own shortcomings. He was genuinely religious, loved his wife and reshaped himself so that he could adapt to her ways and show her true affection. He was one of the most popular men in [his state], polite and thoughtful, easy and good at the political game, charming and fine and handsome. However, he has been criticized as timid and unable to cope with a changing America.”

Nope. Not Bush. It’s Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States. This is the guy (among a half dozen others) that contemporary historians deliberately forget in order to be able to say that George Bush is the worst president in American history.

It was America’s bad luck to have a run of bad presidents at the most inopportune time. The decade preceding the Civil War saw some of our worst chief executives - all more incompetent and more wrong headed than Bush #43. We had 4 presidents between 1850 and 1860 and each one a bust to varying degrees. It is no accident that also during that decade, the nation moved slowly and inexorably toward splitting in two.

Elected in 1848 and dying suddenly on July 9, 1850, Zachary Taylor proved the adage that generals usually make terrible politicians. The Whig party, in its death throes, put “Old Rough and Ready” up, expecting to reap the spoils of having their man in the White House. But Taylor wasn’t much of a Whig and didn’t think much of Whiggery in general. His singular achievement was creating the Department of the Interior for which Native Americans will always be grateful, I’m sure. Indifferent to foreign affairs, he managed to anger the south, the north, and all points in between with his tepid policies toward slavery.

His successor was, if possible, even more incompetent. Millard Fillmore is, to this day, a national joke, a punchline of a president. Historians try to be kind to the guy but Fillmore’s rabid enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act (a product of the last great compromise by the Great Compromiser Henry Clay) meant that hundreds of freed slaves or slaves who had been living free in the north became targets of bounty hunters and slave owners with dubious claims on their person. Many freed blacks fled to Canada rather than take a chance with Fillmore’s federal marshals who enforced the act, working cheek to jowl with the bounty hunters. The legislation was part of the Compromise of 1850 that lasted less than 4 years when the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the seminal Missouri Compromise of 1820 and made the 1850 legislation moot. Even the Whigs refused to nominate him for a full term in 1852. He ended up running for president in 1856 on both the Whig and Know Nothing Party tickets. Considering that there was no such party as the Whigs except as it existed in the drawing rooms and salons of a few rich men, Fillmore’s greatest claim to fame may be that he was the last major figure to run for president on the Whig party ticket.

He was succeeded by the above referenced Mr. Pierce - a drunk “dough face” Democrat who managed to make people forget how bad a president Fillmore had been. Pierce was the darkest of dark horse candidates at the convention. He was desperation choice, receiving the nod on the 49th ballot. And the only reason he won the general election was that the Whigs had been self destructing since the Mexican War, splitting the party in two while the issue of slavery in the territories acquired in that conflict finished the Whigs off and cleared the way for a new party. The Whigs put up muttonchops Winfield Scott, another Mexican War general. This time, the military hero ploy failed as Scott managed to win only 4 states.

Pierce’s greatest success was in swindling Mexico out of a couple of million acres of land for $10 million. The Gadsen Purchase was ostensibly to be used for part of the transcontinental railroad. It never came close but they did find billions of dollars in precious metals. He is perhaps best remembered for signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act which led directly to Bleeding Kansas, John Brown, and disunion. The New Hampshirite inexplicably took the southern side when two rival constitutions were presented to Congress when Kansas petitioned to become a state. This was the last nail in the coffin of the union and paved the way for James Buchanan’s election in 1856 - my choice for worst president in history.

Buchanan plainly froze. With the nation disintegrating around him, he did nothing to stop it. Perhaps by then it was too late. We wll never know because when South Carolina seceded from the union, he failed to act. He failed to hold on to federal forts and customs houses in the south as the rebels seized them one after another. He failed to resupply Fort Sumter. State after southern state voted themselves out of the union and he basically kicked the can down the road.

James Buchanan makes the presidency of George Bush look like a smashing success.

None of those presidents placed their mark on history the way that Bush has. For good or ill, George Bush will be remembered as a consequential president whose footprint will affect presidents’ policies far into the future. Witness Barack Obama keeping many of his foreign policies - even ones he criticized during the campaign. Right or wrong, those policies cannot be easily tossed aside or, even more surprisingly, Obama found upon being briefed that the policies were sound and correct after all. This is true to a large extent of Iraq. Our withdrawal under Obama will differ only at the margins from Bush’s plan.

As for domestic policies, Bush has changed the education debate forever as he brought the idea of judging teachers for their effectiveness into the mix. Many will argue that No Child Left Behind is a horrible piece of legislation and it certainly has its critics. But no one can argue that NCLB isn’t a starting point for any further educational reform and that testing, charter schools, and perhaps some form of vouchers will be staples of the debate over the federal role in education.

Superannuated fools like Buchanan or incompetent drunks like Pierce didn’t come close to having that kind of impact on the future.

Bush certainly made it necessary for disaster relief to be a top priority of the federal government - a job previously (and best) left to local communities and the states. For good or for ill, every earthquake, hurricane, or tsunami will now be judged by how much better the response will be than Katrina. The Democrats, having politicized disaster relief, will now reap their own whirlwind.

There is one other aspect of the Bush legacy that has had an impact on the future and that will mark him as an important president; he will be held up as an example of conservative governance despite the fact that he has not governed as a conservative nor does he hold much in the way of conservative principles or any influence at all in the conservative movement.

This last may be the most consequential aspect of the Bush legacy. Democrats will successfully be able to portray Bush as a conservative largely as a result of his religious beliefs which endeared him to the social conservatives of the Republican party and his decidedly neo-conservative views on foreign policy which reflected few traditional conservative ideas but at the same time, was embraced by many conservatives following 9/11. Besides those exceptions, his policies were almost universally center right or even center left (prescription drug bill, anyone?).

This will easily affect the next 3 or 4 presidential elections - just as the presidency of Jimmy Carter was held up as an example of liberal excess by Republicans despite the fact that, even though a man of the far left now, Carter governed from the center. Many forget that he substantially raised defense spending, tried some modest entitlement reforms, and advocated a mostly free market energy solution. His social policies were decidedly liberal as was his failed foreign policy. But Carter’s judgement was always anchored in centrist politics.

Does this mean that Bush will be remembered as a “great” president? I hardly think so. Presidents who practice the worst kind of cronyism are not remembered as great. Presidents who politicize the government are not remembered as great. Presidents who stick the veto pen in their pocket while the federal deficit spirals out of control will not be remembered as great. Presidents who go to war without a plan for the aftermath and end up losing billions of dollars to corruption and graft will not be remembered as great. Presidents who create an entirely new federal department to deal with Homeland Security and then duplicate jobs that were already being done by other agencies and departments will not be remembered as great. Presidents who acquiesce and approve what the international community defines as torture will not be remembered as great.

There’s more but I want to go to lunch.

(Note: For some fun in the comments, insert your reasons why George Bush will not be remembered as a great president.)

George Bush - for effectiveness, for sound policies and judgment, and for competence in running the government - will not be remembered as a great president. He will almost certainly be ranked in the bottom fifth in any listing of our chief executives. But he is far from the worst presisdent we’ve ever had and his mark on history is assured. Might he be seen in a different light years from now? His stock may rise a bit if Iraq continues to improve. But any success in Iraq is offset by the empowerment of Iran in the region and the role Bush’s policies played in that development.

In fact, the rise of Iran brings up something very important about these last 8 years and highlights one of Bush’s biggest failings; he didn’t understand that the world and America were changing (with or without 9/11) and because of that, we are behind the curve and trying to catch up. Iran’s rise, like China’s and India’s, was inevitable. It would have taken Saddam Hussein a decade to rebuild his military to act as a counterweight to Shia fundamentalism. Knocking him out was inconsequential to the march of Islamic extremism across the Arab and Muslim world. Witness the rise of al-Qaeda allied groups in Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, and elsewhere in Asia. Our invasion of Iraq had little to do with those movements which are homegrown and have their own beefs with non-Muslims in that part of the world.

Iran, with half its population under the age of 25, was funding Hezbullah and Hamas long before Bush came into office. Only now are those seeds they planted bearing fruit in Lebanon and Gaza. They are using asymmetrical warfare to garner influence throughout the Muslim world. No Bush, no rise of Iran? If you believe that, you haven’t been paying much attention to what’s been happening in the world over the last 2 plus decades.

Still, the changes overseas and the changes at home were never anticipated by the Bushies nor was any attempt made to map out a long term strategy to counter. This may be the most critical part of the Bush legacy unless President Obama can act quickly and intelligently to get us back in the game; find a way to checkmate Iran, block Hezbullah from gaining power in Lebanon, develop a true strategic partnership with India, block Chinese ambitions in east Asia, ditto Russian designs everywhere, and shore up our friendships in Latin America. Bush did not react well to many of these changes which is why the train has left the station and Obama is running to catch up.

At home, the 8 years that Bush has been in office has seen the country slide back toward the center while demanding more from government. Obama successfully captured a yearning among citizens for an end to partisan sniping. They don’t care that the Democrats have spent the last 8 years in perpetual derangement over the Bush presidency. They want a new spirit in Washington and so far, Obama is delivering.

Talk to me 6 months from now and we’ll see if that spirit is still with us. But whatever happens, it won’t reflect the fact that Americans clearly wanted change when they pulled the lever for Obama. And that change is from perhaps the most tumultuous and consequential 8 years in several generations.

1/14/2009

INVESTIGATING THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION A PARTISAN MINEFIELD

Filed under: Blogging, Ethics, Government, History, IMPEACHMENT, Liberal Congress, Middle East, Politics — Rick Moran @ 2:24 pm

Is there any purpose served by investigating allegations of ordering torture, illegal surveillance, and other sins alleged to have been committed during the years of the Bush Administration?

For those of us on both sides who are slightly less partisan in our view of government and politics, it is a serious question. For those who have already made up their mind on both sides, not so much. While they scream at each other across the great divide in American politics, serious people will have to grapple with the serious questions - legal and constitutional - raised by the actions of the Bush Administration over the years.

As I see it, there are two major roadblocks to investigating previous actions of the administration. The first is that much of what has been alleged involves top secret programs, only parts of which we have been given a glimpse. It is a dead sure bet that no one has seen the legal opinions written by the Justice Department for any of these alleged abuses which makes any charges of illegal or unconstitutional actions by the Bushies even more problematic.

To base an opinion only on what has come out in the press about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, for instance, has always puzzled me. Forming an opinion without all the facts is the definition of “half-assed.” And what information we have as far as the TSP is concerned has come to us largely from anonymous sources who may, or may not, have had sufficient access to information about how the program worked in its entirety, not to mention a question of their knowledge of the legal implications involved. Compartmentalization of information in these top secret programs is a given and the number of people who would have a good overall picture of how they worked would be few indeed.

The only way to find out for sure is to investigate how the program was set up, how it was run, the technical means employed, and the legal justification for them. (Torture is a different matter that I address below.) But is it possible to investigate the workings of a top secret, on-going intelligence program without compromising its effectiveness?

And this brings me to my second major roadblock to investigating alleged abuses in the Bush Administration; the probability that any such investigating will degenerate into a partisan circus.

The Judiciary Committee under John Conyers has written two reports since 2006 that goes into excruciating detail about illegalities and unconstitutional actions by the Bush Administration. The problem is - and Conyers admits it - is that nothing in either report constitutes a finding of fact. This is not surprising given that the overwhelming number of allegations are based on newspaper accounts, studies done by liberal think tanks, or reports from partisan left organizations like Human Rights Watch and the ACLU.

Here’s Conyers from the Forward to today’s release of a 457 page list of allegations against Bush and his Administration. He is quoting from an op-ed he wrote in 2006 after the release of his initial report, “The Constitution in Crisis.” After all that ”investigating,” we are left with little better than a political indictment of actions Conyers and much of the left disagrees with:

The administration’s stonewalling, and the lack of oversight by Congress, have left us to guess whether we are dealing with isolated wrongdoing, or mistakes, or something worse. In my view, the American people deserve answers, not guesses. I have proposed that we obtain these answers in a responsible and bipartisan manner.

It was House Republicans who took power in 1995 with immediate plans to undermine President Bill Clinton by any means necessary, and they did so in the most autocratic, partisan and destructive ways imaginable. If there is any lesson from those “revolutionaries,” it is that partisan vendettas ultimately provoke a public backlash and are never viewed as legitimate. So, rather than seeking impeachment, I have chosen to propose comprehensive oversight of these alleged abuses. The oversight I have suggested would be performed by a select committee made up equally of Democrats and Republicans and chosen by the House speaker and the minority leader.

The committee’s job would be to obtain answers - finally. At the end of the process, if - and only if - the select committee, acting on a bipartisan basis, finds evidence of potentially impeachable offenses, it would forward that information to the Judiciary Committee.

Conyers admits he has no “answers” - only questions. Hence, the idea of some kind of “bi-partisan” committee to look into these allegations (there are hundreds) and discover “the truth.”

The Judiciary reports take issue with the Administration over just about every action they’ve undertaken in 8 years. Signing statements, intelligence, detention policies, rendition (begun under Clinton and expanded under Bush), warrantless searches and surveillance, the Plame Affair, the politicization of the Justice Department, the states attorney imbroglio, and “enhanced interrogation” or torture.

How many are actual allegations of crimes committed and how many are reasonable (or unreasonable) differences of opinion over politics? We won’t know unless someone, somewhere investigates what went on. The question of whether we need answers or not is moot. We do. The problem is who is going to find the answers?

Conyers’ idea of a bi-partisan committee or commission made up equally of members from both sides won’t fly. The Republicans tried it with investigating intelligence leading up to the Iraq War and the Democrats rejected the findings and substituted their own narrative. There was also the 9/11 Commission that degenerated into a partisan tug of war and that failed to assess enough blame to either Clinton or Bush while going easy on Giuliani and the intel agencies. There was also the findings of the WMD Commission most Democrats rejected out of hand.

The fact of the matter is politicians are, well, politicians and asking them to forget that primary fact of their existence is absurd. Hence, Conyers idea of entrusting such a daunting task to Congress is, to my mind, a non-starter. Even beyond the 9/11 Commission or the other investigative committee reports on the war, any body that investigates the president must be beyond partisan suspicion.

The leaves us with two choices; naming a special prosecutor (or several) to impartially investigate potential abuses or, intriguingly, set up a Commission of private citizens a la the South African Truth Commission. The latter idea has some interesting possibilities but at bottom, is a little ridiculous. In South Africa, they were dealing with decades of apartheid as well as political murders and violence. Unless you think Bush is responsible for 9/11 or actually caused Hurricane Katrina, I think some kind of Truth Commission is a just too much drama for what is at stake in any investigation of the Bushies.

A special prosecutor would probably be the fairest and most efficacious way to investigate wrongdoing during the Bush years. I think one should definitely be appointed to address the issue of torture which is not a political issue and represents some of the most serious charges of illegality against the president and his people.

As for the rest of Conyers allegations, I just don’t know. The problem with special prosecutors is that once you appoint one, they are almost duty bound to find illegality come hell or high water (i.e. Scooter Libby, Ken Starr). If it would be possible to narrow the scope of what a special prosecutor might be tasked to investigate, it might be possible that such an examination of Administration actions could rise above partisanship and would be accepted by a large majority.

But perhaps, that is only wishful thinking. Obama himself recognizes the difficulties which is why he would rather “look forward” than behind:

Obama also views waterboarding as torture. To find out who authorized its use in interrogations, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has introduced a bill creating a bipartisan commission with subpoena power. But when Obama was asked on ABC’s This Week whether he’d back such a commission, he was cautiously noncommittal.

“We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions and so forth,” Obama said. “Obviously, we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward.”

Some Democrats who have strongly opposed the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation practices say they agree with Obama’s cautious approach. Among them is the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin.

“There’s a big debate going on about holding the previous administration accountable for [its] actions, and I would say for the time being that the Obama team is focused properly on the future,” Durbin said. “Our economy is so weak; we’re in desperate need of jobs. Before we start looking at the pages of history in the Bush administration, we should be looking at the obvious need to create jobs and create a new economic climate in this country.”

There’s a good reason both Obama and Durbin are cautious and it has little to do with the state of the economy. Congress or any Commission named can easily carry out its duties. Congress, especially, can do more than one thing at a time.

The danger that both Democratic leaders see is in the extraordinary difficulty in investigating Bush in a non-partisan manner and whose findings would be accepted by a majority of Americans. If the investigation would be seen as a partisan witch hunt, it would not redound to the Democrat’s advantage and might even hurt them at the polls. This would seem to make some kind of a special prosecutor even more likely but even there, Obama and the Democrats will tread cautiously.

Perhaps there will be more of a push for the facts by the American people of what happened during the Bush years than one can currently imagine. But like Obama, Americans tend to be a forward thinking people who tend not to dwell on the past. Except in this case, there may be good reason to find out what went on at the White House during the last 8 years. Whether it can be done believably and fairly is another question entirely.

1/13/2009

THE RICK MORAN SHOW: JOE THE PLUMBER IN ISRAEL

Filed under: The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 7:51 pm

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

Tonight, Jazz Shaw of the Moderate Voice joins me to talk about Joe the Plumber and his trip to Israel. We’ll also look at some other issues making news today.

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

CHLOE SLAUGHTERS GARAFALO IN GEEK SHOWDOWN

Filed under: "24" — Rick Moran @ 7:48 pm

Apologies to all for the lateness of these summaries the last two days. I have been having some computer problems as well as finding it difficult to find the time to write as my day job at American Thinker must take priority. Hopefully, with only a single hour to cover next week, I can have the summary up in the morning.

When I wrote yesterday that Chloe would have Janis’s “guts for garters” in any geek throwdown, little did I know how quickly my prediction would come true.

After discovering that Chloe’s magical geek skills had allowed her to tap into the FBI surveillance cameras, Janis tried the old “Ping the server and reset” trick which did indeed, temporarily block our supergeek Chloe from helping Jack and Tony escape from FBI headquarters.

But as terrorists, criminals, and all who have crossed her in past years by trying to outgeek our beloved have come to find out the hard way, you don’t mess with Chloe when it comes to high tech techy stuff. In a couple of minutes, she had so confused inferior geek Janis with her wizardry that she not only got back access to the surveillance cameras in the building, she also shut down every traffic camera along the escape route.

She left Garafalo breathless and not a little awed by her supergeek performance. The look of fear was in the FBI geek wannabe’s eyes as Chloe made it clear that no one - and certainly not some FBI geek flunky - could ever defeat her in battle.

Chloe is back and she’s taking names and kicking butt. And judging by the look on Jack’s face when she said “hello,” she is just as much of a bitch as we all remember her so lovingly to be. That phonecon with Jack was classic Chloe:

CHLOE: Hi jack its good to hear your voice.

JACK: Yeah. Good to hear yours too.

CHLOE: I saw the hearings on C-span. I can’t believe what that senator said to you. You looked good though.

A couple of additional thoughts about hours 3 and 4.

You didn’t really think Tony was a bad guy, did you? I’ve got news for you, he can still flip back to being Emerson’s boy at any time. Jack certainly doesn’t trust him completely.

Nor does he trust Bill and Chloe. Do you really think they are running this op all by themselves with no help? I knew you were smarter than that. The question is, who is behind this “Operation White Knight?” Let’s look at some possibilities in descending order of probability.

3. Prime Minister Motobo. Why not? If Juma is running Emerson’s crew and owns some higher ups in government, why wouldn’t Motobo counter with his own operation?

2. Martha Logan. She knows where some of the bodies are buried. Plus, she has the connections.

1. I think it’s Bill’s wife Karen who is also the ex-National Security Advisor.

Let loose with your speculation in the comments.

The way the writers handled the revelation that Tony was actually a (sort of) good guy was great but I would have liked to have them build a little more suspense into it - maybe string it out over a couple of more hours. But when he whispered the code to Jack, that was a nice little shocker. Tony, if you’ve watched the show over the years, has indeed been through a lot. It would have been accceptable but sad if he really was a bad guy. Besides, as I mentioned, he may yet turn to the dark side.

As far as the ultimate goal of taking out corrupt government officials, if that’s the best they can do it is going to be a long season. High officials being bribed to oppose a military action? Not very plausible and pretty boring actually. Expect some other kind of conspiracy that threatens innocent lives.

Who is running all the FBI moles? There has to be more than one. Obvious choices (for this show) are always the least likely; Larry Moss and maybe Hillinger. Outside chance that Garafalo is the mole and her mild mannered geek personae is just an act but I’m doubting it.

Bill or Chloe are toast - slated to die. Tony, if he switches back, will almost certainly get it but I’m thinking Bill will sacrifice his life in some heroic way. People would stop watching the show if they killed off Chloe.

Romantic interest between Jack and SM Walker? She sure looked like she enjoyed torturing Tanner, didn’t she? Horrified but more at how much she liked it perhaps than how evil it was to do. My guess is that there will be an attraction but no kissy-kissy.

CTU East looks better equipped than the damn FBI office. Maybe it’s supposed to.

The First Son’s murder will never be revealed and his fiancee Sam will meet a horrible end. That’s because the First Gent’s Secret Service Agent is bent and was placed there just for that purpose - to keep the murder quiet. They’ll trump up some sex thing for the First Gent and he will be forced to keep the murder under wraps.

In summary, the second night was better than the first but still moved awfully slowly in spots. We need some kind of attack on Americans to get the juices flowing. Right now, I don’t really care that much if they uncover some greedy government servants. I want life or death, edge of your seat, ticking time bomb scenario where it is impossible for Jack to save the day - but he ends up doing it anyway.

Now that’s what I’m talking about, yes?

1/12/2009

24 FUMBLES OPENING KICKOFF

Filed under: "24" — Rick Moran @ 2:00 pm

It was a less than stellar opening for 24 last night as the show fell victim to writers more in love with exposition than advancing the plot while ignoring the perfect opportunity to rivet us to our seats by crashing two perfectly good civilian airliners and killing a bunch of innocent Americans.

And at least one character is already in the running for being the most miscast in series history. Janeane Garofalo does pretty well when she plays the world weary, cynical, and snarky best girlfriend as she has in Bye Bye Love and The Truth About Cats and Dogs. But an FBI Geek?

A GEEK? Puleeze. Chloe would have her guts for garters in any geek nerd-off that’s for sure. At least the sarcastic FBI geek Sean Hillinger, who helped Jack data mine the files to find Tony, looks the part and is suitably unimpressed by Bauer. But Garafalo doesn’t appear to have any confidence at all in her geekiness - a prerequisite for believability on this show. She has no geek cohones and so far, she hasn’t tried to out-geek anyone else. For those of us who believe the geeks actually ran CTU and kept us safe, this does not bode well for future episodes.

Not only is Garofalo miscast, but she is easily in the running for worst acting performance in the show’s history, rivaling the horrible turn by Fat Hobbit Sean Astin as CTU chief Lynn McGill. It’s hard to describe Garofalo’s performance without giggling. Not believable, amatuerish, weird, repulsive, and totally lacking in credibility are pretty good for starters. At least they didn’t have to try very hard to make her look ugly.

Don’t you already miss CTU? I mean, doesn’t the FBI have any money? Their set-up looks more like a phone sales office than the national hub of a super secret cyber counterterrorism unit. I half expected to see a Domino’s guy delivering pizza to the conference room - an ordinary room, if you can imagine that, with no gee-whiz communications do-dads, no real time satellite feeds, and no kewl surveillance videos.

Maybe they have a phone that takes pictures and connects to the internet.

Eye candy is certainly lacking except for Annie Wersching who plays straight shooting FBI Agent Renee Walker. There is apparently a “thing” between her and Larry Moss, her boss at the FBI (but perhaps its only one way with poor Larry pining away for Renee). And then there’s Carly Roth who plays the ex girlfriend of dead first son Roger Taylor. If you don’t know by now, most dark haired women on the show are villains so expect Carly to make an early and bloody exit.

All told, the two hours moved glacially and was about as interesting as watching popcorn pop. No big explosions and only a tepid firefight at the boat where Tony was holed up - hardly worth the bullets expended. The grand moment that might have brought people back to the show and riveted the rest of us to our seats never happened. I’m talking about the near miss collision at JFK between the two planes.

In previous years, the show would usually have one slam bang, shocking, horrifying, stomach turning terrorist attack in the first couple of hours and as you watched, you always beleived someone or something would intervene at the last minute and save the poor innocents from death only to be shocked out of your seat when the writers went ahead and killed everybody off.

Not this time. The writers took pity on the passengers of those two airplanes which, I fear, does not bode well for the future of the show. If the team can’t even kill off a couple hundred innocent Americans while the planes go up in a spectacular ball of fire, it’s a waste in my opinion. What are they going to do now? Show the country plunged into a blackout? Maybe show a lot of Americans drinking icky sewer water?

Maybe their FX budget got cut? Perhaps they are trying to downplay the idea that terrorism is a serious problem? Have the writers lost their nerve? Whatever it is, they better blow something up tonight or I am going to be very disappointed.

Anyway, here’s my first summary of the season. Let’s hope I have something more interesting to write about tomorrow.

SUMMARY

Once upon a time there was a Star Trek series that everybody absolutely hated named Enterprise. It had a wimpy captain, a stupid crew, a ship that a World War I biplane could have taken out, and perhaps the worst plot lines of any science fiction series in television history.

But it had one redeeming aspect; the portrayal of the alien Dr. Phlox by veteran character actor John Billingsley (Billingsley is one of three cast members in 24 who had parts in various Star Trek vehicles). Phlox was the only alien on board the Enterprise which probably was good preparation for his role on 24; he’s the only interestesting character who we’ve seen so far.

At any rate, Phlox is driving down the street with his daughter minding his own business when he is blindsided by an SUV coming out of nowhere. Another black van pounds him from the rear and several masked men emerge armed with automatic weapons, taking the good doctor prisoner.

Now any terrorist worth their salt would, we assume, either take Phlox’s daughter with them or, put a bullet in her brain. Since these terrorists did neither, we can assume they are either not very professional or have a soft spot in their hearts for pre-teen girls.

Switch to a Senate hearing room where Jack, looking quite civilized in a suit, is sworn in to give testimony about “human rights violations at the recently disbanded CTU.” The Senate is limiting itself when looking only into “human rights” violations at the former counter terrorism shop. No doubt dogs, cats, monkeys, and god knows what else were at one time or another subjected to the tender ministrations of CTU interrogators.

Jack, forthright and upstanding as usual, surprises his inquisitor Senator Blaine Mayer (played by another Star Trek alum Kurtwood Smith) by refusing to get a lawyer. Jack is being noble - and incredibly stupid of course. Perhaps he thinks that jail is the only place he can get away from the government who continually calls him back to duty even though he is sick of saving the planet and only wants a little peace and quiet.

The senator postures, mugs for the camera, and calls down the thunder as he accuses Jack of torturing some terrorist who wanted to blow up a busfull of kiddies. Finally, having enough of the senator’s bombastic twaddle, Bauer tells him exactly how it is in HIS world - a world the senator, who sleeps in a nice, comfortable bed with no idea of the threats that are out there, can’t possibly comprehend.

The senator asks Jack if he is above the law:

JACK: For a combat soldier, the diffference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people I deal with - they don’t care about your rules. All they care about is the result. My job is to keep them from accomplishing their objectives. I simply adapted.

In answer to your question “Am I above the law?” No sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay.

But please don’t sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret it. I don’t.

Ollie North couldn’t have said it any better. North called Iran-Contra a “neat idea.” Indeed it was - if we had a government made up of Walter Mittys who fantasized about playing at being spies. In reaity, the gambit backfired horribly as more Americans were taken captive as a result of Ollie’s efforts to deal with Iran. Jack, a hero in the true sense of the word, was perfectly willing to be judged by a jury of his peers for his actions. North didn’t think he did anything wrong either but never voiced the idea that he deserved to be judged in a court of law.

Just when the senate hearing was getting interesting, two FBI agents show up with a subpoena for Jack and whisk him away. One of them is Renee Walker (played by Annie Wersching) who could arrest me and tie me up any day of the week. At an FBI office, we meet SAC Larry Moss and what passes for a super geek at the Bureau Janis Gold, played execreably by Janeane Garofalo. Jack is brought in to help find the mastermind behind the theft of technological equipment, our old buddy Tony Almeida who last we saw was lying dead on the floor of the CTU clinic. We even learn there was a funeral and he was buried.

This shows that when a TV show is desperate to reclaim its former glory, it will go to any length to recapture audience. Tony was a heartthrob for the first 6 seasons and bringing him back is a nod to his popularity with female fans.

Jack doesn’t believe Tony has gone south which is just as well. We don’t believe it either, do we?

Back with the terrorists, Dr. Phlox is busy working on a module that will help the bad guys hack into the nation’s infrastructure controls - including air transport. Phlox, it turns out, designed the whole thing. And here we find a scowling, dark faced Tony the Terrorist complete with a scarred face who, come to think of it, doesn’t look all that different than the scowling, moody, dark faced Good Guy from previous years (That Tony…what an actor.) When the module doesn’t work and won’t give the terrorists control of an airplane, we immediately think how clever and brave Dr. Phlox must be to foil the terrorist’s plot. Alas, Tony employs his strong arm tactics on the good Doctor and the bleeding and bruised man goes back to work trying to fix the gizmo.

At the White House, President Allison Taylor is all set to invade the tiny, blood soaked African nation of Sangala as there is currently a mild dispute between tribes that has cost the lives of 200,000 citizens. Her logic is impeccable - for a liberal. There is no national interest in Sangala which is the only time that the left will ever consent to using military force. Sending our boys to die for somene else’s vital interests - now that’s selfless and noble.

Phlox finds the problem - overheating of the module for which he designed a work around (wish he’d come to my house and take a look at my machine. It has the same problem). With t he corrected module, the terrorists are able to seize control of an aircraft headed for New York. And that little clock in the back of our heads starts ticking because we know it is now a matter of minutes before the terrorist’s nefarious plans are carried out and a lot of people die.

To forestall that, Jack is at FBI headquarters data mining some files on recent thefts of high tech stuff. He finds the name of an old buddy he and Tony would occasionaly get spare parts off of, one Gabriel Schlecter who, as it happens, played Maximus’s servant Cicero in Gladiator (as well as a good turn as a Scottish warrior in Braveheart).

Super Model Walker (hereinafter referred to as SM Walker) convinces Larry Moss (whose rear end is so squinched up if it were any tighter you could crack nuts between the cheeks) that she and Jack should pay Cicero a visit. Dubious of the plan, Moss gives his OK but sends backup just in case.

We learn that the President’s husband may not be playing with a full deck as he is consumed with grief following the suicide of his son. In the 2 hour prequel to this season Redemption,, Roger Taylor’s friend got wind of a plot and sought his help. We never saw what happened to Roger but we can now safely assume he was murdered and the act was made to look like a suicide.

On his way out to question Cicero, Moss and Jack have a mini-confrontation where the tight ass wants all the constitutional niceties obeyed and Jack, having had as much sanctimony as he can take for the day after spending time in the senate hearing, crowds Moss a little who then taunts Bauer saying “We’re the FBI, not CTU. We honor the law.”

Perhaps Larry should recall a little of his history about FBI black bag operations and spying on civil rights demonstrators. But we’re supposed to have forgotten all of that, I guess.

A knock on Schelcter’s office door and we find Cicero in an expansive mood. He believes that with the FBI there, Jack won’t try any of his special interrogation techniques. He is mistaken. When he refuses to cooperate, SM Walker gives Jack a shaky go-ahead and Bauer goes after Cicero - with a Bic pen.

Only Jack Bauer can threaten a terrorist flunky with a Bic pen and get away with it. Of course he relents in nothing flat, Jack’s reputation having preceded him.

Just as he is about to spill the beans about Tony’s location, Cicero gets it as does his henchman. The shooter is in a building across the street that SM Renee orders locked down. And the hunt begins for the first real link in the chain that will lead to Tony.

Back at 35,000 feet, the passenger plane goes on its merry way unaware that the aircraft is now under the control of terrorists and headed for trouble when they get to New York.

BODY COUNT

A very poor beginning for the show as Jack was shut out (too bad he didn’t bring a gun to the senate hearing) and only Cicero and his assistant bit the dust.

Jack: 0
Show: 2

Watch for the second hour to be posted at 3:00 PM central.

SUMMARY: 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM

With Tony’s crew now in control of air traffic, they vector another plane to land at JFK that will

“intersect” with the original target. The poor pilots have no idea that they are not talking to ground

controllers and are taking orders that could mean their doom.

Back on the ground at the air traffic control center, the guys are frantic, trying to figure out a way to get

back in touch with the original plane. Still unaware that the second plane has been programmed to play

a little demolition derby with the first flight, the chief honcho at ground control calls Moss and lets him

know they’ve got trouble.

Moss has problems of his own as Jack and SM Walker call in and inform him of the demise of Cicero.

Jack figures out that the FBI has been penetrated else how could the terrorists mount an assasination

so quickly? But SM Walker is having none of it and tells Jack to go sit in the car and stay out of the way.

Some stiff necked FBI guy takes his gun so we know that Jack won’t be able to pull one of his “So

Sorry” cold cocks of some poor government schmuck tasked with the unenviable duty of guarding him.

The SWAT Teams enter the building and start their search.

Now that everything is in place for a spectacular and bloody act of terror, Tony calls the air traffic control

honcho (he’s listed in the yellow pages under “Air Traffic Control - Threats”) and casually suggests that

they switch on the cameras for JFK and take a gander at the runways.

After getting the level of tension to rise in the air traffic control barn, Tony greets a Mr. Emerson who is

apparently a little higher up in the plot. He takes the CIP Module (and Dr. Phlox) while reminding Tony

that he has one more job to do. When Tony tries to find out what that job is, Emerson tells him that he

doesn’t need to know yet.

Back at the White House, President Taylor meets with the former president of Sangala, Mr. Motombo.

She solemnly warns the guy that General Juma (the current dictator) must be dealt with by the “rule of

law” or Motombo won’t get a key to the democracy- only washroom when we put him back in power.

Now this is pretty silly. The idea that “the rule of law” is seriously followed in more than a couple of

dozen countries in the world is crazy. Most South and Central American countries don’t have a “rule of

law” worth anything. For most of our neighbors, the “rule of law” means “one rule for me and another

rule for you stupid, ignorant, benighted peasants.” And even in a fictional country like Sangala the idea

that the rule of law can be enforced with a genocide going on is pretty lame.

But that’s alright. Motombo shook on the deal so we are absolutely sure that General Juma will get

whatever the equivalent of an ACLU lawyer is in Sangala.

The locked down building where FBI SWAT teams are combing for Cicero’s killer, the assassin is

trapped and calls Tony for help. To prove that Jack’s instincts are still as sharp as ever, the assassin

makes his way to the basement where he runs into a turncoat FBI guy who gives him an official FBI

windbreaker and he makes his escape.

Jack is glumly sitting in the car when the driver strikes up a conversation with him, telling Bauer he

appreciates his service and all that he’s done. Bauer reflects on what has happened the last few years

and takes a decidedly naive view of the American public.

Jack: We’ve done so many things in the name of protecting this country, we’ve

created two worlds. Ours and the people’s we’ve promised to protect. They deserve to hear the truth

and decide how far they want to let us go.

Leaving it up to the mob to decide how far we should go in torturing people is stupid. There are

perfectly good laws already on the book that tell us how far we are allowed to go. If you want to go

farther, change the law. It’s that simple.

But in keeping with the show’s new perspective and Jack’s need to expunge his guilt, I imagine we’ll get

a lot more of this juvenile sophistry.

Meanwhile, Jack wants to stretch his legs a bit and gets out of the car. Wouldn’t you know it but he

eyeballs the assassin just as he is emerging from the building (a fashion plate from way back, Jack

spotted the bad guy because he had the temerity to wear workboots with his FBI windbreaker - a

fashion faux pas that no doubt cut Jack to the soul of his fashion sense). Convincing SM Walker that

they couldn’t tell anyone - not even her boss, Jack and Renee follow the assassin hoping he will lead

them to Tony.

We make the startling discovery that the CIP Module is for General Juma who has different plans than

sitting idly in Sangala while the whole US Army comes in and invites him to leave office. We also begin

to realize that there is a faction in the US government who is opposed to President Taylor’s invasion -

probably the entire idea of a woman as president. No doubt we will find out in a few episodes that there

is oil in Sangala.

The First Gentleman has received a call from a private investigator he hired to look into his son’s death

and is told that the former girlfriend of his kid received a wire transfer of $400,000 into an offshore

account 3 days after her fiance’s death. Not only is that suspicious as hell but the idea that a private

dick could find this out and not the police is astonishing. The guy must do wonders for wives getting a

divorce trying to uncover their husband’s hidden assets. First Gent corrals a Secret Service agent and

has him take a drive to the girlfriend’s office where he plans to confront her with this information.

Agent Moss, who really is a clueless sort, discovers that Renee is not at the scene with SWAT and that

she has taken off with Jack for parts unknown. He calls Renee who lies through her teeth about what

is going on. But Moss has more than one brain cell working and knows that something is up. He has

Janis triangulate the signal from her cell and takes off after her.

At Samantha’s office, the First Gent spills the beans about the off shore wire transfer to the dark

haired beauty who denies it, saying it was some money her aunt had and she was hiding it from the

IRS. No one believes that - especially the first hubby who proceeds to almost lose control. He warns

her that if she is lying, she is going to regret it.

The assassin finally makes it to the USS Terrorist, a docked boat being used by Tony as

headquarters. Renee and Jack overcome the assassin and force him to help them get through the

security. This is not good for the assassin because Jack, using him as a human shield, forces the

terrorist lookout to shoot the assassin. He made noises when he fell so he is not dead - probably. This

is important because he has Tony’s next assignment.

Working their way through the boat - offing one terrorist with some nice teamwork - Jack flushes Tony

and a chase ensues. Bauer actually corners his old friend and they exchange a look until Tony, realizing

Jack won’t or can’t kill him, makes a break for it. Bauer jumps 20 feet off the boat in a spectacular dive

and lands square on Tony’s back. A short fistfight ends when SM Walker shows up with a gun and

Tony gives up.

The scene between the two could have been done a lot better but was still effective. Tony, not saying a

word. Jack, looking at his friend with a little boy lost look and saying “What happened to you? What the

hell happened to you?”

BODY COUNT

2 terrorists bite the dust. Jack scores 1/2 for his simultaneous shot with Renee.

Jack: 1/2
Show: 4

JACK BAUER IN A POST BUSH WORLD

Filed under: "24" — Rick Moran @ 4:44 am

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

After a nearly two year sabbatical, the series 24 has returned - much to the delight of the political class in America which seems to have made the long-running drama a litmus test of where one stands on issues relating to war, to executive power, and to the role of the United States in a dangerous and unpredictable world.

Indeed, while conservatives have claimed the show as their own since the series debuted shortly after the 9/11 attacks and embraced Jack Bauer as an authentic American hero, liberals have also admitted to watching the show and deriving satisfaction from the action-packed portrayal of America at war with terrorism. For the left, however, the criticism about methods employed by Bauer to glean information from terrorists as well as questions about the exercise of executive power by the president have usually accompanied their professions of devotion to the series.

But what attracted most of us to 24 at the beginning was the moral certitude exhibited by Bauer. The black and white, good and evil portrayal of the war was lauded by the right and virulently criticized by the left even while they watched the exploits of Bauer along with the rest of us. The point of view taken by the show was intellectually and emotionally satisfying; that decisions made by the hero, which found an echo in actions taken by our government over the years, were portrayed as necessary if not morally correct and that the tactics employed by Bauer and the executive branch to safeguard America were ultimately proven to be justified by events. It is a slant that has sparked debate and criticism on the left even as they were as mesmerized by the plot twists, the high end production values, and the character of Jack Bauer himself.

This was what originally cheered conservatives about the series; the means used by Bauer and the government to get information and stave off disaster were legitimized by the fact that the circumstances were so dire. The ticking clock, the potential for mass murder, and the harrowing prospect of unimaginable destruction all combined to give Jack a “Get Out of This Moral Conundrum Free” pass when he would use unconstitutional methods to extract information from Americans and foreigners alike. No angst-ridden soliloquies by Bauer over whether what he was doing was right were heard in the first 5 seasons of the show. Jack’s sense of duty, patriotism, and a fanatical desire to win, made any such attempt to view the inner conflict within Bauer over what he was becoming a superfulous exercise. He simply did what he had to do to prevail and save America from the terrorists.

But something began to change on the show during the last two seasons when the series reflected the changing attitudes of America herself toward the war against terrorism, the Bush Administration, and the use of torture on detainees in our custody. And it was the development of the character of Jack Bauer that pointed the way to a much more nuanced, troubled, and ultimately self-loathing hero who began to hate himself and the men who were ordering him to violate the law, more often for self-serving reasons than because the country was in peril.

This descent into darkness was precipitated by the loss of virtually all of his family, friends and colleagues over the years to various gruesome deaths until, having been forced to wade through rivers of blood and subsume any moral uncertainty he might have about what he was doing, Bauer began to pull away from the everyday, sane, world he inhabited the first few seasons. He morphed into something of an avenging angel who killed in order to mete out his own brand of rough justice as well as to achieve ultimate victory over the villains. His capture, torture, and two year incarceration by the Chinese (revenge for being wrongfully blamed for a Chinese official’s death) hastened and exasperated these feelings of “otherness” that drove Bauer to the edge. He became a blunt instrument employed by evil men to protect them from blowback resulting from their own evil designs.

Finally, in last year’s much criticized season, Bauer began to question his methods for the first time, having been forced to endure torture himself at the hands of the Chinese. By this time, any extra-constitutional action he took was to satisfy his own personal agenda and not exclusively out of patriotic devotion or a heightened sense of duty.

Perhaps no other television series in history has sparked such serious debate about these issues as well as America’s role in the world and our ability to be both a force for both good and evil. Serious forums involving intellectuals and constitutional experts have convened to discuss the implications of what Bauer does in order to succeed and defeat the terrorists threatening America. Numerous articles in newsmagazines from Newsweek, to The New Republic have been written about Bauer discussing his impact on our culture and politics.

One such article by Jane Mayer appeared in The New Yorker last year where the politics of Joel Surnow, one of the creators of the show, were examined and the issue of torture was highlighted by describing a meeting on the set of the show between interrogation professionals and the cast and crew.

Jack Bauer may be the first fictional character ever to be accused of inspiring real life war crimes. This charge was not made by some obscure left wing blogger but by U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, along with several senior FBI and CIA agents who have conducted thousands of interrogations in their careers. Their verdict was simple and straightforward; the torture scenes in the show were affecting the way that cadets at West Point as well as troops in the field were approaching the interrogation of prisoners.

Finnegan said that he’d like to see a show “where torture backfired.” All the experts agreed that torture, even when used in the show’s “ticking bomb” context, would never work. They pointed out that the fanatics, knowing that the bomb would go off soon, would simply hold out, secure in the knowledge that their suffering couldn’t last much longer.

They also pointed out that terrorist prisoners actually looked forward to torture as the first step towards martyrdom. An interrogation professional would never use it and would, instead, take the opposite tack of trying to build a relationship with the prisoner, drawing him out gradually by gaining his trust. Besides, the “ticking bomb” scenario itself was totally unrealistic and would never happen in the real world.

It is a dubious proposition that a fictional TV character would cause our soldiers to forget their training and their upbringing just to imitate Jack Bauer. The evidence is purely anecdotal, presented by people with an obvious agenda. But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that they felt compelled to speak out against Bauer’s almost casual approach to violating the law and their concern that people get the wrong idea about the best way to interrogate prisoners.

The profile of series producer and co-creator Joel Surnow is a fascinating glimpse into the reasons why the show was such a success. An unabashed conservative, Surnow’s fingerprints on the series were obvious the first 5 seasons the show was on the air.

An example of Surnow’s influence is this telling exchange in season 4 between Bauer and the ruthless, fanatical Muslim terrorist Habib Marwan who has targeted a cruise missile to hit somewhere in America and Bauer, having captured him, questions him in order to discover where the missile is headed:

Jack: You and I both know all I want to do right now is kill you. But I have my orders. You win. I’ve been instructed to ask you what you want.

Marwan: What I want is already happening.

Jack: The death and destruction is a means to an end, Why don’t we just skip to the end?

Marwan: To the end?

Jack: Everything you did today you did for a reason, for your people. What do you want to change?

Marwan: I have no desire to have a political discussion with you..

Jack: You tell me where the missile is headed, you help me stop it and I’ll guarantee you’ll talk to the President. Believe me, he’ll have no choice but to listen. You have a chance to get what you want.

Marwan: I already have agent Bauer. After this day, elected officials and the American people will know that they can’t intervene in our lives, in our countries with impunity. Besides, your President sees me in only one dimension - evil.

Jack: As you see us?

Marwan: Yes…and vulnerable.

This might be termed the classic conservative position with regards to our enemies as well as a subtle critique of the liberal point of view about how to fight the war. The implaccable terrorist who seeks only death for his enemies speaks in a language not understood by those who want to ask him what he wants, what his grievances are.

Contrast that exchange with this summary I made of Jack’s conversation with the former Secretary of Defense and father to the love of his life Audrey Heller at the end of last season who was so terrorized by the Chinese while in their custody that she has become catatonic. (The exchange occurs in the last 10 minutes of the finale):

Heller is at his home talking on the phone when he hears the door open. He knows right away who it is. It’s Jack, who in one of the most obvious breaks in the real-time continuum in the show’s history (how did Jack get from the shore to the Secretary’s house so quickly on foot), has come for Audrey.

He’s not going to get her. But Jack lets Heller have it with both barrels. He’s just seen his father die and felt nothing. He blames Heller and people like him for what he has become: “The only thing I have ever done is what you and people like you have asked of me,” which is as telling a statement about who Jack Bauer really is that has ever been uttered on the show. Jack is a creature of those who created him. And in order to do as they have asked through the years, he has become what he most hates.

Heller tries to fob him off with platitudes about what the country owes him. Jack’s having none of it. “I’m not interested in what you think the country owes me. I want my life back.”

That last line was delivered almost plaintively by Jack. He wants to be normal again. He wants to live in a sane world. He warns Heller not to send anyone after him, that he’s “very good at disappearing” and “pretty good at killing, too.”

But Heller is brutal. “You’ll get back into the game,” and Audrey will suffer for it. It is then that Jack realizes that Heller is right, that he is, in fact, cursed. Anyone who comes in contact with him is doomed.

Gone is the certainty that Bauer is in the right and fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. This is a Jack Bauer who now sees that only death will release him from the demons that haunt him — a consequence of his using brutal means to achieve his ends. In a very real way, Bauer’s journey from duty-bound patriot to this troubled, torn, and cyncial soldier can be traced to the altered perceptions of the American people and their loss of faith in our efforts in Iraq, the president, and America’s mission to bring freedom to the world.

You may recall that it was the summer of 2005 when sectarian bloodletting rose to tragic heights in Iraq, turning a majority of citizens against the war. And the federal response to hurricane Katrina proved to sour most Americans on the Bush Administration. It is no accident that the following year on the show, with a terrorist threat to unleash chemical weapons on several American cities in the offing, we discover that it is the president himself who is in on the plot while Bauer, having left government service, is drawn back in for personal reasons - the death of his friends at the hands of the plotters. The killing of one of those friends — the ex-president whose life he saved from assassins in the show’s first season - drove him to execute his murderers in cold blood. Even Bauer’s few remaining friends were shocked and at the end, tried to save him from his own dark impulses - all to no avail.

This was not the Jack Bauer the audience had come to know and love. Nor was the traitorous president, seeking to gaurantee the flow of oil to America, the kind of white-hat chief executive we had become used to. The cynicism of the show seemed to match the growing sense of unease and dissatisfaction in the country with the direction of the war and the Bush Administration.

Then last season, with Bauer fighting not only terrorists but his turncoat father and brother (ultimately watching both of them die), the personal became the political. While the show was rightly criticized at mid-season for losing focus, Bauer’s fall into a deep pit of anger and hopelessness as well as his sense that he was betrayed by higher ups set the stage for this year’s incarnation of the series.

Judging by the prequel to the season that aired in November - the 2 hour movie Redemption - Jack’s past will indeed come back to haunt him this upcoming season as he will be forced to confront his inner furies as well as his past actions. No matter how the plot plays out, this will be a much different Jack Bauer than the one we met 7 years ago. It can hardly be otherwise. We are a much different country than we were then. We are sobered by our experience in Iraq that while apparently winding down to a successful conclusion is nevertheless seen by a majority of Americans as an effort we should never have undertaken in the first place and not worth the cost in blood and treasure. We have less faith in government, more suspicion of what it does in our name. And the belief that we must bring freedom and democracy to the dark places of the world has taken a hit as well.

In short, the native optimism that has made us such an exceptional people has been shaken. It shouldn’t surprise us that this should be reflected in the Jack Bauer character. Television, if nothing else, tends to reflect trends rather than create or lead them. In this respect, season 7 of 24 will no doubt mirror the mood of the country in the post-Bush era; a determined effort to take a respite from history and the last 8 tumultuous years here and abroad. This yearning for “change” resulted in an historic election where the people rejected what they saw - rightly or wrongly - as more of the same and elevated to power someone with very different ideas than Jack Bauer started out with about how to fight the terrorists.

Many conservatives will probably scoff at the Jack Bauer who will emerge this year. But Bauer remains perhaps the most fascinating single character on television and watching him as he tries to redeem himself in his own eyes will no doubt prove to be “must see” TV.

UPDATE

Welcome Hugh Hewitt readers and those of you from other blogs!

As you may know, voting for the Weblog Awards is drawing to a close. If you feel so inclined, please follow the link and vote for me in the “Best Conservative Blog” category. Your support is appreciated.

The 2008 Weblog Awards

1/11/2009

THE MASSACHUSETTS HEALTH INSURANCE BOONDOGGLE

Filed under: Government, National Health Insurance, Politics — Rick Moran @ 1:47 pm

The state health insurance plan passed by Massachusetts back in 2006 was supposed to be a model for the rest of the country. It was touted at the time as a solution to both covering the uninsured and improving services.

Spare us, please.

This editorial in the Examiner shows the nightmare that mandated health insurance systems can be, fulfilling all the dire predictions ever said about them:

To much fanfare from both right and left in 2006, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to require all residents to buy health insurance. A new state health insurance clearinghouse was created, with taxpayers subsidizing those who couldn’t afford to buy coverage. Then Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, promised that “every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance.” Yet just two years later, Romney’s much-heralded “solution” - touted by many as the model for a national program - has become an embarrassing flop.Just a year after the universal coverage law passed, The New York Times reported, state insurers were already jacking up rates to twice the national average. According to Dr. Paul Hsieh, a physician and founding member of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, 43 mandatory benefits - including those that many people did not want or need, such as invitro fertilization - raised the costs of coverage for  Massachusetts residents by as much as 56 percent, depending upon an individual’s income status. So much for “affordable” health care.

Small businesses with more than 10 employees were required to provide health insurance or pay an extra fee to subsidize uninsured low-income residents, yet the overall costs of the program increased more than $400 million - 85 percent higher than original projections. To make up the difference, payments to health care providers were slashed, so many doctors and dentists in Massachusetts began refusing to take on new patients. In the state with the highest physician/patient ratio in the nation, some people now have to wait more than a year for a simple physical exam.

The irony is that Massachusetts officials reluctantly admitted that, despite increased enrollment, the state is still far from universal coverage - the original goal of the landmark law. To make matters worse, Massachusetts is grappling with a multibillion-dollar deficit while Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick desperately tries to slow down those still-spiraling health care costs, which he said last week were “not sustainable.”

If this sounds just like Canadian-style socialized medicine, that’s because it is. Massachusetts residents now pay more for less access to health care, yet their state still has an uninsured problem!

Imagine this boondoggle tried on the rest of the country. When even a liberal Democratic governor says the increases in costs to the state or “not sustainable” you can imagine the nightmare of an Obama plan.

Most of the plans circulating on Capitol Hill require mandated participation in the system - that is, the government will force you to buy health insurance whether you want to or not. The Democrats swear that this will result in lower insurance premiums and better coverage but how is that possible? Unless the government takes enforcement seriously - which means employing the IRS as collection agent for healt insurance premiums - the chances that millions will still be uninsured regardless of any mandate are pretty good.

You also place doctors and hospitals in the position of being agents of the IRS as any citizen seeking health care who is not insured will have to be reported and forced to purchase the government plan or some private plan. Already buried in forms, you can imagine how much doctors and clinics are going to love that.

Eventually, of course, such a system will require the rationing of health care and price controls - a big step toward a complete government takeover of the health care system. The Democrats will swear until they are blue in the face that this will never happen. But one look at what is going on in Massachusetts will convince anyone that the Democrats plan to nationalize health insurance will only lead to skyrocketing costs and a loss of choice by health care consumers.

1/10/2009

24 UNTIL 24 — OPEN THREAD

Filed under: "24" — Rick Moran @ 1:39 pm

OK, fans. Time to weigh in on your predictions for the season. Make them silly. Make them snarky. Make them serious, deep thoughts about the nature of man in a crazy universe.

Or don’t.

Jack is back after nearly two years of being on hiatus. The season will kick off with a 4 hour, back to back extravaganza on Sunday and Monday (7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Central on Fox). Given all that has transpired since then in our own politics, expect a very different show than the one we’ve come to know and love over the years.

But here’s your chance to sound off about the death of CTU, the probablilty that the Jack Bauer we’ve all come to know and love over the years is about to be co-opted by a kindler, gentler Jack, and the return of Tony as a bad guy.

Or not.

My post last month asking you, my loyal and fanatic readers, whether I should continue writing my summaries of each 24 episode saw 260 of you vote with just about a 50/50 split between “don’t care” and an affirmative response. Therefore, beginning Monday morning, I will resume my post-episode blogging of the series for the 4th year running. I will try and have the summary up shortly after midnight central time - if these old, fat, creaky bones will cooperate and allow me to stay up long past my bedtime to satisfy my own fanatical devotion to the show and fulfill the wishes of many of my equally dedicated readers.

As usual, I will try and keep it light but also try and make some serious observations about how the show has changed as America has changed and how the character of Jack Bauer fits in to our culture and society in a post-Bush world.

The countdown has begun. Can you hear the clock ticking?

1/9/2009

TALKING WITH HAMAS

Filed under: Iran, Israel vs. Hamas, Middle East — Rick Moran @ 9:38 am

Word has leaked out that the new Obama Administration will likely open a channel of communications of some kind with Hamas. There is no word whether they plan on opening a dialogue with American Nazis, Kluxers, skin heads, or other groups in the US who also wish to kill all the Jews but I’m sure they will eventually get around to it.

After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Or, what’s good for Jew haters in Gaza should be fine for the Jew haters here.

The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon George Bush’s ­doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say.

The move to open contacts with Hamas, which could be initiated through the US intelligence services, would represent a definitive break with the Bush ­presidency’s ostracising of the group. The state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 ­Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to the group.

The Guardian has spoken to three ­people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp. There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive. A tested course would be to start ­contacts through Hamas and the US intelligence services, similar to the secret process through which the US engaged with the PLO in the 1970s. Israel did not become aware of the contacts until much later.

Perhaps the Obama Administration could set up some kind of cabinet level “Czar” like they have for the War on Drugs or the auto industry. Sort of like Obama’s Personal Ambassador to the Anti-Semites of the world. Not only could we have outreach programs here in the states for our very own homegrown Jew haters, but think of the possibilities abroad. There’s Iran, of course. They’re at the top of the list. Then we have Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbullah, the old war horses at the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (include the PFLP-General Command and Syrian toady Ahmad Jibril in that mix), and several other Palestinian organizations.

This Jew Hater’ Czar’s portfolio would be quite extensive. You’d also have the Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, al-Qaeda (and their numerous offshoots), as well as several far left groups here and in Europe.

The point being, if you’re going to talk with a group whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews, why stop with Hamas? I’m sure the American Nazis will feel slighted if you talk to foreigners and not engage them in the dialogue of “Hope and Change.”

I can certainly understand Obama’s reluctance to talk with the Kluxers but really now, is he the type of president who is going to show favoritism toward one Jew hating group at the expense of another? Or perhaps Obama has some secret plans to talk to al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood? I’d hate to have them thinking that their Jew hatred isn’t as pure as that exhibited by a bunch of yahoos dressed up in sheets.

A word of caution for Obama before he embarks on this historic quest to try and “understand” the world’s Jew hatred - epitomized by the fanatics in Hamas; it is best you open your mind to a new vocabulary. Otherwise, we will talk right past each other which would defeat the purpose of this exercise in “peacemaking.”

When anti-Semites talk about “Jews” and “ovens” in the same sentence, they are not inviting the Israelis to take part in a Betty Crocker Bake-Off. And if Hamas happens to mention “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” they are not asking Israel to dialogue about their college experiences with comparative lit courses.

And when they scream “Death to the Jews!” at the top of their voices they mean, well, “Death to the Jews.” The Administration’s first impulse will be dismiss such threats as mere rhetorical flourishes - kind of like when Obama says that he will “heal the oceans” and such. Obama doesn’t really believe he can “heal” the seas - at least not now. He’s going to have enough trouble healing a much smaller and less significant target; the economy. So it is understandable when Hamas and other Jew haters raise their voices about killing all the Jews, he might get the idea that they’re just funnin’ around and not really all that serious about it.

So talking to Hamas is an excellent idea - if you’re an anti-Semite. Granting legitimacy to Jew haters is certainly one way to bring peace to the Middle East. It will hasten the day when the the cartographers of the world will realize full employment as the words of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad are finally made flesh and Israel is “wiped off the map.”

The only question is what are the map makers going to put in that small little white space where the word “Israel” used to be?

1/8/2009

IRAN OPENS SECOND FRONT AGAINST ISRAEL

Filed under: Ethics, Iran, Lebanon, Middle East, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 10:55 am

The other shoe dropped today in Israel’s war against Hamas when two rockets were launched from southern Lebanon, striking an old folks home and slightly injuring a resident.

Israel responded with an artillery barrage at the site. Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora played the moral equivalencey card to perfection, decrying the attack launched from Lebanon - almost certainly by a Palestinian faction - while condemning Israel for their response.

In this, Siniora proves how much of a figurehead he really is. The man calling the shots in Lebanon at the moment is Hezb’allah “spiritual” leader Hassan Nassrallah. And the Palestinians responsible for launching the rockets were, at the very least, acting with his knowledge and approval. There is not much that happens in the south of Lebanon that escapes the attention of Nasrallah so despite Hezb’allah claims that they were not responsible for the attacks, the action has Hezb’allah’s fingerprints all over it.

Does it also have Iran’s?

It is sometimes too easy to draw a straight line from Iran to Hezb’allah in Lebanon and proclaim that the mullahs in Tehran ordered the attack. Nassrallah has his own agenda and to call him a simple puppet of Iran simply isn’t true. However, there is little doubt that when Hezb’allah’s interests coincide with Tehran’s, they are more than eager to help facilitate Iran’s strategic vision. And in this case, because of the meshing of interests between the two, it is too obvious to dismiss this action as anything except an attempt by Iran to open a second front against Israel, hoping perhaps to get the Jewish state bogged down in another Lebanese debacle.

Writing in Haaretz, Yoav Stern:

Several days before Israel launched Operation Cast Lead …, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki called several of his European counterparts and warned that Israel would face additional fronts if it attacked [Hamas in Gaza].

The rocket fire on Thursday morning … can be seen as the realization of the Iranian threat.

It is safe to assume that Palestinian operatives, working in coordination with Hizbullah and sponsored by Iran, are responsible. …

For now, Hizbullah is too sophisticated to claim responsibility. …

However, Nasrallah’s rhetoric from recent days says it all: “We are prepared for all Israeli aggression,” he said. In other words, Hizbullah won’t take responsibility for the rockets into Israel, but will claim credit for standing up against any Israeli retaliatory attacks, should there be any. …

Israel must now decide what the price tag will be for Thursday’s attacks on the north, knowing that a harsh response is likely to bring with it an escalation on the northern front and increasing international criticism.

Iran has played this card well. Israel, winding down operations in Gaza and under intense international pressure to stop fighting, can hardly be expected to launch any major military operations against the south of Lebanon - especially with the UN “peacekeepers” there.

David Hornik, writing at Pajamas Media:

If the border tensions escalate, it will also be a test case for the arrangements in place since August 2006 when, at the end of the Second Lebanon War, UN Security Resolution 1701 mandated the deployment to southern Lebanon of the Lebanese army and a beefed-up UNIFIL force ostensibly to keep Hezbollah in check and prevent further hostilities.

Critics have charged that 1701 is a flop because, since that time, Hizbullah has tripled its arsenal of missiles under the Lebanese army and UNIFIL’s vacant gaze. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has continued to claim that 1701-and the Second Lebanon War itself-is a success because Hizbullah hasn’t been firing any of these projectiles and is supposedly deterred. Reports that UNIFIL and the Lebanese army had been stepping up their border patrols since Cast Lead began seemed to bolster the more positive view

An escalation in the north, though, would put an end to much of this speculation. It would show that 1701 has prevented neither Hezbollah’s armament nor its use of the arms, which would seem logical since terror organizations and other entities don’t generally amass arsenals just to look at them. It would also show that Iran is indeed interested in expanding the war even at a time when it is in economic distress from falling oil prices.

In fact, one of those UNIFIL patrols stumbled on some rocket launchers in southern Lebanon last week not far from where today’s attack was initiated.

Too bad they missed the other 39,999 rockets shipped to Lebanon by Iran through Syria that Hezb’allah now has in their possession.

We know what’s in it for Iran by opening a second front; embarrass Israel, tempt them to overreact, deflect attention from their nuclear program, perhaps even take some pressure off of Hamas militarily.

But what’s in it for Nasrallah?

The most important elections in Lebanon’s history will take place on June 7 of this year when Lebanese go to the polls to elect Members of Parliament. A new electoral agreement signed at the conference at Doha last year will give fewer seats to members of Christian sects while increasing the number of Shia representatives in the fast growing south of the country. It is possible to imagine - although a long shot at this point - that a coalition of Shia parties and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement led by Michel Aoun as well as a few minor pro-Syrian groups could win control of the parliament.

The March 14th coalition of democrats, led by Sunni Rafiq Hariri and containing a coalition of Christian and moderate Sunni parties, is still expected to poll a majority of seats - if the election is free and fair and Nasrallah doesn’t try any bully boy tactics. That last is hardly a given, however, and it remains to be seen if any election in Lebanon can be free from the taint of Hezb’allah’s menacing influence. After all, they are the ones with the guns. And they have shown in the past that when they don’t get their way politically, Nasrallah will unleash his militia to attack other Lebanese factions.

But Nasrallah would prefer a little international legitimacy and to do so, he will probably play as fair as he is able where the election is concerned. To that end, he needs to constantly remind the voters of who their real enemy is (Israel) and who actually safeguards Lebanon (not the army). US attempts to strengthen the Lebanese military have been well meaning but much too little to make a difference in that moribund, barracks bound army. This suits Nasrallah fine as he desires no competition for the role of “Protector of Lebanon” and showing off Hezb’allah as the official “resistance” to Israel.

The rocket attack on Israel - almost certainly personally approved by Nasrallah - plays into both Iran’s strategic requirements to weaken Israel (and by extension, the West) while giving Nasrallah an opportunity to remind the Lebanese voter of Hezb’allah’s independence from the marginally pro-western government of Siniora and the terrorist’s claim as the guarantor of Lebanese sovereignty.

Might we expect more rocket attacks from southern Lebanon? I think it is almost a certainty that as long as the IDF is active in Gaza, more provocations will come from that quarter.

This post originally appears at The American Thinker

UPDATE

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a different take:

When Hezbollah goaded Israel into a war in the sub-Litani region in 2006, they launched a large number of missiles, and more effective missiles, in their attack. Firing three old missiles sounds more like the actions of a Hamas auxiliary crossing the border in order to stir up another war to distract Israel from Gaza. However, it also seems unlikely that any group could haul around missiles without getting Hezbollah’s permission to do so, and Hezbollah might not mind the idea of Israel engaging them at this point.

The Lebanese government issued a statement saying that they would investigate the rocket fire and try to determine who attacked Israel. Their army defused eight Katyushas in December in the same town where this missile attack originated, but their ability to hold the line on attacks is obviously limited. Hezbollah dominates the sub-Litani, even after Beirut promised in 2006 to have its own army take control in that region and the UN bolstered its UNIFIL mission. Their writ does not consistently run in that area, thanks to Hezbollah, which means thanks to Iran and Syria.

Ed reports that suspicion for the rocket attacks has fallen on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command and their notorious leader Ahmad Jibril. The PFLP-GC is closely allied with Syria (they have training bases there) and also are closely associated with Hezbullah and Iran. In fact, Jibril is the first old gaurd Palestinian to seek aid from Iran.

I would think this information buttresses my contention that Iran-Hezb’allah rather than Hamas (who has taken responsibility for the a missile attacks from Lebanon) are also interested in opening a second front against Israel - for their own reasons.

UPDATE II: Welcome Michelle Malkin Readers!

I appreciate it when Michelle posts a link to my stuff in her sidebar. Not only do I get a nice bump in traffic but the quality of the comments rises as well!

Perhaps you may have heard that Right Wing Nuthouse was nominated in the “Best Conservative Blog” category for the weblog awards. Michelle, of course was nominated in the same category.

Please head on over and vote for one of us. If you are feeling charitable and would like to take pity on an old fat man, please vote for me.

The 2008 Weblog Awards

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