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6/30/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW:THE NON-COUP IN HONDURAS

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

Tonight, I welcome Latin American specialists Fausta Wertz of RealClearWorld and Val Prieto of Babalu Blog to talk about the Honduran military impeachment.

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 2:42 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

MORE ON THE HONDURAN ‘MILITARY IMPEACHMENT’

Not even our own State Department is calling what occurred in Honduras over the weekend a “coup.” What’s more, Hillary Clinton’s refusal to brand the military’s legal ouster of President Zeyala a coup puts her seemingly at odds with the Obama White House.

Once again, our Keystone Kops foreign policy makes us look ridiculous when the president brands the action “illegal” while the State Department rejects that term “coup.”

Mary Beth Sheridan of the Washington Post:

President Obama said yesterday that the military ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was illegal and could set a “terrible precedent,” but Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States government was holding off on formally branding it a coup, which would trigger a cutoff of millions of dollars in aid to the impoverished Central American country.

Clinton’s statement appeared to reflect the U.S. government’s caution amid fast-moving events in Honduras, where Zelaya was detained and expelled by the military on Sunday. The United States has joined other countries throughout the hemisphere in condemning the coup. But leaders face a difficult task in trying to restore Zelaya to office in a nation where the National Congress, military and Supreme Court have accused him of attempting a power grab through a special referendum.

Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, said the situation presented a dilemma for the United States and other countries. Zelaya is “fighting with all the institutions in the country,” Hakim said. “He’s in no condition really to govern. At the same time, to stand by and allow him to be pushed out by the military reverses a course of 20 years.”

As facts begin to emerge about what Zeyala was up to, it becomes crystal clear why the military, the Congress, and the Supreme Court all felt the necessity to act. Fausta Wertz has been doing a fantastic job of translating Latin American press accounts and brings us information on the reasons for the military action:

Here is more information on Mel Zelaya’s move:

  • Zelaya couldn’t get the ballots printed in Honduras since the referendum had been pronounced illegal by the country’s Supreme Court AND the electoral board. Therefore, the government couldn’t print them. No private printer was willing to break the law, either. So Zelaya had the ballots printed in Venezuela and flown in.
  • The Supreme Court instructed the military (who would be the ones doing the job) NOT to distribute the ballots to the polling stations.
  • Zelaya then

    led thousands of supporters to recover the material from an air force warehouse before it could be confiscated.

    His supporters broke into the military installation where the ballots were kept.

  • Zelaya’s supporters started distributing the ballots at 15,000 voting stations across the country. This act placed him in outright defiance of the law, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court.
  • When the armed forces refused to distribute the ballots, Zelaya fired the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, and the defense minister, the head of the army and the air force resigned in protest. The country’s Supreme Court voted unanimously that Vásquez be reinstated.
  • Tuesday last week the Honduran Congress, led by members of his own party, passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections.
  • The Honduran Congress, led by members of his own party, named a commission to investigate Zelaya. The Commission found (my translation: If you quote it, please credit me and link to this post)

    Zelaya acted against the mandates of legal and electoral laws, the Public Ministry, the National Congress, the Attorney General, and other institutions of the State, which had declared the poll illegal

  • On Thursday (h/t GoV) the Attorney General requested that Congress impeach Zelaya
  • The position of the Honduran Congress, the Supreme Court, and the attorney general is that the Constitution is to be strictly adhered to.

This is the story not being told by the White House, the State Department, most of the mainstream press, and liberal blogs who have their panties in a twist and are close to apoplexy because Obama isn’t sending in the Marines to restore the Chavez stooge to power.

Roberto Lovato at the Huffington Post manages to write almost 1,000 words without once referring to any of the illegal, extra-constitutional actions taken by Zelaya and instead, refers to “street demonstrations” that Fausta reports is being led by Nicarauguan and Venezuelan bully boys. And in a burst of surrealism worthy of Salvadore Dali, Lovato compares these staged street demonstration by foreign thugs with the demonstrators in Iran:

Viewed from a distance, the streets of Honduras look, smell and sound like those of Iran: expressions of popular anger - burning vehicles, large marches and calls for justice in a non-English language - aimed at a constitutional violation of the people’s will (the coup took place on the eve of a poll of voters asking if the President’s term should be extended); protests repressed by a small, but powerful elite backed by military force; those holding power trying to cut off communications in and out of the country.

These and other similarities between the political situation in Iran and the situation in Honduras, where military and economic and political elites ousted democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya in a military coup condemned around the world, are obvious.

But when viewed from the closer physical (Miami is just 800 miles from Honduras) and historical proximity of the United States, the differences between Iran and Honduras are marked and clear in important ways: the M-16’s pointing at this very moment at the thousands of peaceful protesters are paid for with U.S. tax dollars and still carry a “Made in America” label; the military airplane in which they kidnapped and exiled President Zelaya was purchased with the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid the Honduran government has been the benefactor of since the Cold War military build-up that began in 1980’s;

That’s quite an original spin. Zeyala “kidnapped?” Late word is that he resigned and asked for safe passage out of the country. This was granted and he was flown to Costa Rica. Don’t even bother with the laughable comparison with Iran. Those demonstrators in Honduras are not being shot down in cold blood, axed to death, or even beaten within an inch of their lives.

And the dark hints that the US is to blame because we supplied M-16’s to a friendly government is beyond ludicrous. It’s loony. Perhaps if Lovato made even a small attempt to explain Zeyala’s illegal actions, he might have a smidgen of credibility. But in true leftist fashion, he leaves out the facts to spin his anti-American diatribe.

Once more, with feeling: Zeyala was removed by the military who were acting under the orders of the Supreme Court. Zeyala’s own party in Congress has now helped impeach him. Zeyala’s extra-constitutional actions threatened Honduran independence and the rule of law.

What’s so hard to understand about that? What’s “illegal” about it? A leftist stooge of Chavez has been removed. This is an event that should be cheered by an American president. Instead, Obama subsumes American interests to curry favor with leftists in Latin America and Europe.

It won’t work. They despise us anyway, no matter what Obama does. The more he apologizes and sides with them in international disputes, the more they hold him and the US in contempt.

If Obama is seeking to make the world like us, the only way that will happen is if we completely disarm, withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere), and agree to abide by whatever the UN says we should do in any international crisis.

As Dirty Harry said; ‘That’s a high price to pay for being stylish.”

By: Rick Moran at 7:11 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

6/29/2009
OBAMA FAILS TO STAND UP FOR AMERICAN INTERESTS IN HONDURAS

Does the fact that the coup is in the interests of the United States even matter to our president?

One less Chavez stooge - a designation that everyone agrees is correct and was the proximate cause of the coup to begin with - is very much in the interests of the United States in Central America. And yet here’s our president, hopping on the international politically correct bandwagon to condemn it.

Obama does not see the clown Chavez as a threat despite his attempts to meddle in Colombian politics by supporting narco terrorists to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. Nor does Chavez exporting his “revolution” to other countries where his influence is magnified and where his stooges try to emulate his anti-democratic policies seem to bother  our commander in chief. And I guess the fact that the Lebanese terrorist group Hezb’allah setting up training camps in Venezuela has no connection to the geopolitical alliance between Chavez, Syria’s Assad, and the Ayatollah’s in Iran.

In fact, after swearing off “interferring” in Iran where demonstrators were getting shot, beaten, and axed to death, our clueless Chief Hypocrite worked frantically behind the scenes to save Honduran President Zelaya’s job, thus interferring on the wrong side while making himself out a liar on Iran.

Paul Kiernan, Jose de Cordoba, and Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal report on the attempt by the White House to save Chavez’s stooge:

The Obama administration and members of the Organization of American States had worked for weeks to try to avert any moves to overthrow President Zelaya, said senior U.S. officials. Washington’s ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, sought to facilitate a dialogue between the president’s office, the Honduran parliament and the military.

The efforts accelerated over the weekend, as Washington grew increasingly alarmed. “The players decided, in the end, not to listen to our message,” said one U.S. official involved in the diplomacy. On Sunday, the U.S. embassy here tried repeatedly to contact the Honduran military directly, but was rebuffed. Washington called the removal of President Zelaya a coup and said it wouldn’t recognize any other leader.

The U.S. stand was unpopular with Honduran deputies. One congressman, Toribio Aguilera, got prolonged applause from his colleagues when he urged the U.S. ambassador to reconsider. Mr. Aguilera said the U.S. didn’t understand the danger that Mr. Zelaya and his friendships with Mr. Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro posed.

Retired Honduran Gen. Daniel López Carballo justified the move against the president, telling CNN that if the military hadn’t acted, Mr. Chávez would eventually be running Honduras by proxy. It was a common view Sunday. “An official who was subverting legality and had violated the Constitution was removed,” wrote Mariela Colindres, a 21-year-old Honduran who is studying at Indiana University, in an email. “Everything was done legally and this does not imply a rupture in the constitutional order.”

First of all, it should be pointed out at the outset that the Honduran military has already handed power back to the civilian authorities - an almost unprecedented action in these banana republic coup d’etats. The Honduran legislature named Roberto Micheletti, the nation’s Congressional leader and member of Zelaya’s own political party to replace the ousted Chavezista - another almost unprecedented act.

Further, the military was acting under the orders of the Honduran Supreme Court although they apparently exceeded their authority by whisking him away to Venezuela. And finally, it was Zelaya’s actions in violating the constitution, ignoring a ruling by the Supreme Court that any referendum be put on would be illegal, and the universal belief in Congress, the military, and much of the populace that eventually, he would little more than a stand in for Chavez if he was allowed to carry out his illegal referendum that sealed Zelaya’s fate.

And yet our president, acting contrary to American interests, chose the route of least resistance and condemned what many Hondurans believe was a restoration of constitutional order. The president will find himself in familiar territory with this condemnation - Castro, Ortega, and other Latin American leftist thugs also condemned the coup. Maybe someone could look it up but when was the last time we were on the same side with Cuba on any international issue?

Way to go Barry. Like, we should listen to the Castros when they complain about democratic procedure not being followed?

This was always the biggest risk in electing Barack Obama president with his mushy headed belief that we must subsume American interests to those of the rest of the world so that we could be popular again. That he would fail to stand up for American interests when the chips were down should not surprise us. He said as much during the campaign and he is simply carrying through with that promise.

What will he do if Chavez decides to use the military he has purchased from Russia and China with his oil money to invade Honduras and re-install his stooge Zelaya? How could we possibly intervene when the president has gone on recrord agreeing with Chavez that what happened was “illegal?”

Chavez has proven in the past to be more bluster than anything but he is so unpredictable, such action would not be impossible.

Then what, Mr. President? When Honduran democrats are crying for help, will you dismiss them as you have dismissed the protestors in Iran? It would seem Obama would have little choice now that he has sided with the enemies of democracy in the region.

The world Obama is creating - one with a supine and pliant America who bows to the wishes of every thug, every dictator who struts across the stage, threatening their neighbors or their own people - is a more dangerous world, a less free world, and a world where our traditional advocacy for stability and democracy is lost amidst the pious platitutdes of this starry-eyed leftist ideologue.

What happened in Honduras is a good thing for America and for the Honduran people. Given Obama’s rhetoric during the presidential campaign, it should come as no suprise that he refuses to recognize this and instead, curtsies to Hugo Chavez and other thugs in the region whose policies are inimicable to US interests.

This blog post originally appears in The American Thinker.

By: Rick Moran at 7:03 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

6/28/2009
WHY WE HATE SOCCER SO MUCH

1-16
USA forwards Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies celebrate Altidore’s goal against Spain on Wednesday. The shocking victory over the world’s #1 team propelled the US side into the finals of the Confederation Cup - a warm-up for next summer’s World Cup - in South Africa.

I know I am going against the grain by being a soccer fan in America. But I really can’t help myself. Perhaps it’s because I’m a baseball fan that I appreciate the patience demonstrated by good teams, or the delicious feeling of watching the build up on offense, the teamwork on defense, and the great individual skills on display.

Alas, the American game rarely rises to the level found in much of Europe, South America, and other soccer crazy meccas where people live, eat, drink, and die with their national teams success or failure. But for 93 glorious minutes on Wednesday, it did.

The USA national team played the mighty Spaniards with their 35 match unbeaten streak in a Confederation Cup semi-final match this past Wednesday, and with a combination of making the most of their chances, good defense, and a large dollop of simple, dumb, luck, our boys pulled off the biggest upset in world soccer since we beat the Columbians at the World Cup in 1994. The 2-0 victory pushed the Americans into the finals against otherworldly Brazil - a team we lost to early in the tournament by the lopsided, embarrassing score of 3-0.

Expect a similar result today. The skill level, teamwork, and experience of the Brazilians is just awesome and anyone with even a passing familiarity with the game knows the US doesn’t have a prayer.

Of course, they said the same thing before America’s game with Spain. But playing the green and yellow and defeating them would take another miracle courtesy of the Soccer Gods. And everyone knows the Gods are all ex-Brazil greats, deified by their fanatical supporters while still on earth.

I’ve heard the arguments why the “World’s Game” has never caught on here and I’m sure you can recite them along with me. But here’s a clueless fellow who ascribes our lack of enthusiasm for soccer as a result of our basic political beliefs:

Watching the game, one could not have been happier for a team that has not really performed all that well in recent years or, for that matter, in the first few games of this tournament. Indeed, in the first two games, the U.S. was hammered by Italy and Brazil and only got into the semifinal match by beating Egypt and the fluke of a very arcane scoring system that soccer uses to break ties among teams. And even in this game, a neutral observer would have said that Spanish players clearly outplayed the Americans, outshooting the U.S. squad by a margin of 20 shots on goal. As the U.S. goalkeeper and star of the game Tim Howard noted afterwards, “Sometimes football is a funny thing.”

Well, yes, it is. As someone who didn’t play soccer growing up, but had a dad who did and whose own kids played as well, I can say unquestionably that it is the sport in which the team that dominates loses more often than any other major sport I know of. Or, to put it more bluntly, the team that deserves to win doesn’t. For some soccer-loving friends, this is perfectly okay. Indeed, they will argue that it’s a healthy, conservative reminder of how justice does not always prevail in life.

Well, hooey on that. And, thankfully, Americans are not buying it. In spite of the fact that one can drive by an open field on Saturdays and usually see it filled with young boys and girls playing soccer, the game’s popularity has not moved anywhere toward being a major sport here in the United States. It’s grown for sure but not close to where folks once expected it to be given the number of youth that have played the game over the past two decades.

For sure, there may be a number of reasons that is the case but my suspicion is that the so-called “beautiful game” is not so beautiful to American sensibilities. We like, as good small “d” democrats, our underdogs for sure but we also still expect folks in the end to get their just desert. And, in sports, that means excellence should prevail. Of course, the fact that is often not the case when it comes to soccer may be precisely the reason the sport is so popular in the countries of Latin America and Europe.

Gary Schmitt of AEI is a clueless git. First of all, that “arcane” scoring system which allowed the US to advance is a series of tie breakers (just like the NFL), although the criteria in this case was total number of goals (USA had 4 to Italy’s 3). How much less bizarre is it for an NFL team who goes 9-7 and wins their division to make the playoffs while a couple of 10-6 teams miss the postseason because their division winner had a better record? “Excellence” being rewarded? Phooey!

The only thing “arcane” about Schmitt is his reasoning.

Then there’s the utter malarkey that many teams that dominate the game stats wise or just have the better of the play usually lose. Again, let’s look at the NFL and notice that on any given Sunday, there are several teams who are out gained on offense, outplayed on defense, but catch a few lucky breaks and win the game. It is obvious Schmitt is not a sports fan if he thinks that such happenstances are uncommon.

As in football, the team with a lead in soccer will play it safe, usually dropping a couple of players back from midfield in order to prevent the other team from organizing an effective offense. This will invariably lead to the team that is behind having much the better of the play. Also, the leading team will push forward fewer players on the counterattack. The result is exactly as Schmitt describes but the reason is not because of any particular flaw in the game as much as it is a deliberate choice by the team that is ahead. Of course Spain took 20 more shots on goal. They were behind for almost the entire game. How many NFL teams have we seen build up a big lead in the first half and basically coast the rest of the way? His criticism is nonsense to anyone who knows anything about sports.

But that’s the problem in America. I think in order to love the game, you must be familiar with at least some of its nuances and strategies. There is a method to much of the madness the casual fan might see on the field and what looks like a lot of running around is actually a purposeful offense — probing for weakness, switching the play from one side of the field to the other to exploit an advantage, the give and go, and the teamwork involved in knowing where your teammates are on the field all the time are all practiced repeatedly by good teams in order to break down a defense and create a chance to score.

Defense is the loveliest of dances - a synchronized ballet where defenders react to where the ball is on the field and move almost in unison to block the assault. If you’ve only watched the game on TV, you can be forgiven for not being able to see much of this. And if you’ve only watched American soccer - the MSL variety - you don’t see much of it anyway. The American club league is an inferior product which helps explains to the Schmitt’s of the world why soccer hasn’t caught on here.

Legendary English football writer Steven Wells (who just died last week) saw the ugliness of what he terms “soccerphobes” in this Guardian piece from January of this year:

Meet radio show host Jim Rome. Jim - a short man with a Village People biker moustache - is the pope of soccerphobia. “My son is not playing soccer, ” promises Jim. “I will hand him ice skates and a shimmering sequinned blouse before I hand him a soccer ball.” Jim’s soccerphobia is part of a grand tradition of crassly xenophobic, casually homophobic, tediously sexist and smugly pig-ignorant soccer-bashing in mainstream American sports journalism. As Sport Illustrated’s soccer-friendly Alexander Wolff put it: “There isn’t a US daily without a ’soccer stinks’ beat guy”.

“Their mania is in direct proportion to their insecurity,” laughs Miguel Almeida, a New York-based soccer writer. “Hence its intensity. And the phenomenon pops up every time the World Cup rolls around, its reappearance as certain as swarming locusts.”

Not all soccer-haters are cliché-recycling hacks. Meet (right-wing) intellectual think-tanker Stephen Moore. “I am convinced,” writes Stephen, “that the ordeal of soccer teaches our kids all the wrong lessons in life. Soccer is the Marxist concept of the labour theory of value applied to sports - which may explain why socialist nations dominate the World Cup.”

Now before you dismiss Mr Moore as an isolated and irrelevant know-nothing right-wing bollock-talker, have a listen to his fellow Washington conservative, Mr John Derbyshire: “The very inconclusiveness of soccer is, I suspect, what has made it the pet sport of the repulsive [left-wing] bobos.”

OK, but two soccer-hating American gobshites do not a sinister right-wing conspiracy make. So here’s Jay Nordlingerm who claims soccer is “a project of the left, the athletic equivalent of vegetarianism”. This bile is echoed in the letters pages of America’s newspapers: “Soccer’s slow strangulation of real sports like football needed to be stopped,” rages a reader of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “High school football programs around the country have nearly succumbed to the foreign-sports terrorism known as soccer … Young minds and bodies are being wasted by continuing the slide into the soccer abyss.”

Schmitt isn’t that bad but it begs the question; is there a political element to people’s hate of soccer?

If there is, I don’t feel it. I enjoy the game as a sports fan. Hell, I even enjoyed watching the Afghan national game Buzkashi. And that’s because there are certain universal elements to sports and competition that make watching soccer or baseball, or any other game where athletes perform and teams compete to win such a joy. “The human drama of athletic competition” was part of the opening of the old ABC Wide World of Sports that featured every kind of game under the sun including Irish hurling, Australian rules football, and something as tame as curling.

I don’t see politics or underlying political truths in games and those who do are trying too hard. The loons who wail about football or hockey being too violent or teaching our kids the wrong life lessons are no different. Concentrate on the stellar athletes - the human body in motion is enormously pleasing to watch when it is done by those born with the grace and strength to play the game - any game - at the highest level. The desire to win, the sacrifices for the team; it is the same in any game and says more about our basic humanity than it does about any silly political generality made up by partisans who wish to score points against their enemies.

Not everyone likes football. More do not like soccer. But if you are ambivalent about the game, tune in to this afternoon’s USA-Brazil match. The Americans might get creamed. But if you want an idea of what soccer is really all about, watch the play of the Brazilians.

You just might discover what many Americans and most of the rest of the world, like about the game.

By: Rick Moran at 11:32 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (20)

6/26/2009
MICHAEL JACKSON, WORLD FAMOUS PEDOPHILE, DEAD AT 50
CATEGORY: Blogging

Not speak ill of the dead, you say?

You can speak ill of the dead if they have done “ill” while they were alive. And there isn’t anything much more “ill” than molesting a kid.

To those who claim Michael Jackson was exonerated of the crime of sexual molestation of a minor, I would ask a simple question; would you allow your teen or pre teen son to spend a night at Jackson’s home unchaperoned?

I thought so.

Perhaps if you are eager to bestow such an honor on your son, you too wish to use your child for a gigantic payday as apparently some parents over the years did with their children, allowing them to stay with Jackson and being paid to keep quiet about abuse.

As for Jackson’s impact on the world, it says something truly awful about us that so many people would become rabid fans of this man of little talent. As a child with “The Jackson Five,” Michael had a nice little voice and was very cute shaking his hips like an adult (The sexualization of children Michael’s age when he performed with his brothers is another article entirely.). But as an adult, Jackson’s voice - OK for pop but no great shakes for any other milieu - was thin as a reed with an annoying false vibrato and a squeaky “hiccup” that supposedly drove female fans nuts.

His “dancing” was unique but repetitive. And I find it incredible that some would actually compare him to people with genuine talent like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. It goes without saying that neither of those two giants had to grab their crotch on stage to excite their fans.

Gregiry Hines was a superior dancer. Just about any Motown artist of the 60’s and 70’s was a superior singer. Michael Jackson, the total entertainment package, was a good showman but hardly an earth shattering talent. The outpouring of tributes to him today is a fascinating exercise in wishful - perhaps delusional thinking. Proclaiming anyone “King of Pop” and waxing lyrical about how his talent impacted the music world is a misnomer. It wasn’t Jackson’s “talent” that affected future pop artists but rather his “style” - a completely different kettle of fish altogether. It certainly was original but worthy of the kind of encomiums we are reading and hearing today? Not hardly.

In short, he was not a “no-talent” but rather a performer of limited gifts who, through savvy marketing, a recognition of trends (such as producing music videos that went far beyond concert performances that was standard fare for most MTV selections), and an eccentric personality, hit the world of pop music at exactly the right moment in history.

A comparison to Elvis Presley is useful here. Presely was also a performer of limited ability but hit America at exactly the right time in history when his shockingly unique style (and having Tom Parker, a man ahead of his time, managing his career), brought unusual success. Elvis was also a great showman and his later career was sustained by his aging female fans who never tired of watching him grind out the old favorites on a Las Vegas stage.

Perhaps it is the nature of pop music today to elevate these performers to heights undreamed of by real talents like Sinatra, Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr., and others whose pop stylings will last forever - even beyond the lifetimes of their fans. I say this not out of spite because I genuinely enjoyed Thriller, Billie Jean, and Beat It as well as other pop music of the day. Although limited in their artistic success, performers like Jackson reflected their times perfectly as all good pop music does. But does this mean that we should elevate Jackson to an artistic pedestal. Not hardly.

I sympathize with many in Jackson’s family today. Losing  a brother or a son is always a tragedy. But I don’t sympathize with Jackson’s rabid fans. Losing oneself in the doings of someone who is deliberately manipulating your emotions is a form of narcissm. I suppose like most, I will mourn Jackson’s passing as I have many icons of my youth who have left us. Farrah Fawcett, who also died yesterday, elicits the same yearning in my heart to return to what in my misty memory were simpler times when responsibilities were few and I had the optimism and confidence that the whole world was before me for the taking.

I really wish the media weren’t making such a big deal of Jackson’s death. Other, more vital stories like Iran, health care, and the continuing power grabs of the Obama administration are given short shrift. But covering Jackson means a big audience so one can hardly fault the media for trying to cash in. They’d be crazy not to milk the story for all its worth.

In 100 years, will historians be amazed at the popularity of people like Jackson? Hopefully by then, we will have outgrown our compulsion to place these people on a mountaintop and all but worship their every move.

By: Rick Moran at 6:25 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (107)

6/25/2009
CUSTER’S BAD REP DESERVED — SORT OF
CATEGORY: History

1-15

I take a break today from the depressing nature of our domestic politics and the mayhem in Iran to remember one of my favorite historical figures, George Armstrong Custer.

Custer lost his life 133 years ago today in what the Lakota Indians refer to as “The Battle of Greasy Grass Creek” and many of the rest of us remember as “The Battle of Little Big Horn.” He died as he had lived. All of his personality traits that make him such a compelling, maddening, likable, villainous, enigma-like figure in our history books were on display that day.

Custer is one of my favorites not because of his goodness or greatness but because he is one of the most fascinating personalities I have met in my exploration of American history. For every one of his virtues - and there are many - there is a corresponding trait that negates any admiration we might have for him. I can’t think of any other historical figure in my experience where this is true.

Certainly Franklin and Jefferson had many faults, both living life as hypocrites to some extent. Some giants in our history books were quite unattractive human beings despite their accomplishments. But nowhere will you find such a riotous mix of admirable and disreputable attributes being displayed by a single human being than you will if you get to know George Custer.

His Civil War record as a cavalry officer is considered brilliant. He developed extremely aggressive tactics that turned his troopers into shock troops that probed the enemy lines with razor sharp effectiveness and then, unleashed them in wild charges that usually broke and scattered his foes. General Phil Sheridan trusted him implicitly and used Custer’s command to great effect in the Valley Campaign of 1864 that eventually destroyed Confederate General Jubal Early’s threatening attacks on Washington, D.C.

At the same time, Custer was considered rash, insubordinate, uncaring of the lives of his men, a martinet who demanded spit and polish, and an officer who held most of his fellow commanders in contempt. He eagerly took to heart General Grant’s orders to Sheridan that the Shenandoah Valley, that was supplying Lee’s army at Petersburg, be denuded of food and fodder “so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their provender with them.”

Not surprisingly, Custer engendered a schizophrenic reaction in the men under his command. Many worshiped him. Several would have killed him if given the chance. Playing a role in his demise 133 years ago today was the disdain felt by some of his officers in the Seventh Cavalry. Although his two underlings, Captains Reno and Benteen, could probably hear the running battle in which Custer was engaged just north of the Indian village and where he and 210 of his command lost their lives, there was apparently no discussion about coming to his assistance. (There was some testimony at Reno’s Court of Inquiry in 1879 that he was drunk during the battle, a not uncommon occurrence in the cavalry among officers. Reno was cleared of the charges but pointedly, the Board refused to offer any praise for his conduct.)

Perhaps the ugliest part of Custer was his disdain, even hate for the Indians. Both played a role in his death as he suicidally underestimated the fighting qualities of his foe while proving in previous skirmishes his eagerness to kill as many Native Americans - men, women children, old folks - as he could. Like Little Big Horn, there are still historical arguments raging about his attack on the village of the Cheyenne chief Black Kettle on the Washita River in 1868 (who the Cheyenne claim was flying an American flag as a signal that he wanted peace.) Custer reported killing more than 100 warriors while the Cheyenne themselves claim many of the dead were women and children. The question of the battle being a “massacre” is also controversial as Custer took several dozen women and children prisoner and he claims the women that were killed took up weapons against his men.

(Note: Unlike Little Big Horn, no archeological excavations are possible in this battle because no one is sure of its exact location. Hence, one must grant equal legitimacy to the account given by both sides - especially given the accuracy of oral histories of the Lakota and Cheyenne about LBH.)

In short, Custer brought out the exact same feelings of admiration and disgust then that we who study him today experience from reading about him in biographies and other histories. And it is hard at this distance to judge him in terms of his morality. He was a man of his times, an army officer who had on more than one occasion witnessed the gruesome ways in which troopers were disfigured post mortem by the Indians - a fate that befell him and his men following their deaths at Little Big Horn. At the same time, his racist attitudes toward Native Americans - friend and foe - pegged him as as much of an Indian hater as his patron and commanding officer Phil Sheridan (”The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”).

But trying to paint Custer as a genocidal maniac is nonsense. Disdainful, yes. Paternalistic and condescending, believing the Indians were better off out of the way, uncaring of their culture and community - all of this is true. But like most Americans of the 19th century, he actually gave little thought to the ultimate fate of Native Americans beyond a date in some distant future where they would be just like any other American - Christianized farmers at peace with the White man; separate but equal. This was also the view of most of the “good White men” who sought to make the reservations to which they were herding Indians into laboratories to turn these hunter-gatherer societies into agricultural communities.

From afar, we can fault them for their callous disregard of Native American culture. And surely, if the number of Whites who really did wish to see all Indians dead was small, there was a much greater number who wished to commit a cultural genocide just as ruinous to the Indian as if they had all been killed. To my mind, this is the real tragedy in this Clash of Cultures - a tragedy that has played out hundreds, perhaps thousands of times in human history when, as Jared Diamond points out, a culture with superior organization, more lethal germs, and a more advanced technology met up with hunter-gatherer societies. The result was never pretty and always ended up the way our own clash with Native American culture eventually played out.

No excuses for Custer then, but perhaps an explanation - a context that is usually missing from the one-dimensional portrayals (good and bad) that dot our public libraries. The number of myths about Custer’s dark motivations are now as many as myths about his image as a hero on horseback.There is no evidence Custer was angling for the presidency (he could barely speak two sentences in public without fleeing the stage in terror). There are some indications that after this campaign he was going to retire with his beloved wife Libby and move to Philadelphia.

It is not true he hoped to strike it rich in the Black Hills, although he used the expedition for his personal aggrandizement. Nor, as my brother Jim points out in the comments (#4) to this post I did a few years ago about the Battle of Little Big Horn itself, was Custer disobeying General Terry’s orders by attacking the Indian village nor was his plan of attack “reckless” or unrealistic, although as previously mentioned, he wildly underestimated both the number of warriors he would be facing as well as their fighting capabilities when confronted with protecting their women and children.

The battle itself is the most written about military event in American history, surpassing even the Battle of Gettysburg. And more biographies have been written of Custer than all but a handful of Americans. Perhaps our fascination with Custer rests on a combination of our romanticized image of the Indian coupled with the equally facile way in which we immortalize the US cavalry during this period in American history. Rouseau’s noble savage and the heroic manner in which we believe the west was “opened” to white settlement are an incendiary mix that causes Custer to explode in our imaginations as the perfect embodiment of American civilization; moving mountains, carving trails out of the wasteland, hacking a civilization out of the wilderness. These are powerful images and when you place Custer in that idealized portrait, he becomes larger than life.

Custer is us - as we are today and as we used to be. The good, the bad, the whole smash of American traits that makes our history so fascinating. They will be writing about him, the battle that claimed his life, and the people he sought to displace long after the rest of us have passed on.

By: Rick Moran at 9:27 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

6/24/2009
PUT NEGOTIATIONS WITH IRAN ON HOLD
CATEGORY: History, Iran, Politics

There is no love lost between Obama and this site as anyone who has perused my posts for more than 5 minutes can attest. But the president’s response to the Iran crisis - at least on one one level - has been the correct one, in my opinion. He has been cautious, realistic, firm, and taken a tone that is non-confrontational while still offering as much support and sympathy for the Iranians in the streets that, under the circumstances, anyone should expect.

On another level, however, he has failed. By not pausing in trying to achieve rapproachment with the regime and making it clear that our policy is affected by the way they are treating the protestors, the president is giving the Iranian government a free ride. Enough with this stupid “Weenie Diplomacy” and assurances that the outreach will continue as if nothing happened. I am a realist but this smacks of stubbornness on Obama’s part and not the kind of hard headedness that is needed if the president is going to successfully engage Iran and get them to alter their nuclear program and end the threat of war.

The Iranian economy is in shambles. They also feel threatened by the United States (as well they should). They desperately need membership in the WTO and the IMF in order to have access to loans that will allow them to rebuild their crumbling oil industry and have money to invest in 21st century industries.

They also need the UN sanctions - paltry as they are - lifted. In short, there are practical, real world incentives for the Iranians to make a move toward the west. The Khatami-Mousavi faction represents this realism in the regime. It’s not a question of them being “moderate.” Both those men still refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist and believe the US to be the “Great Satan.” Nor do they particularly love “freedom” as we understand the word. They wish to reform an oppressive system not do away with it. However, they seem to be less ideological, more flexible than the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad faction and on that, the president can pin his hopes for negotiations.

But the fascists (I will not dignify their beliefs by referring to them as “conservatives”) hold the upper hand and have powerful instruments of repression on their side - the Rev Guards and Basij. And as long as the Supreme Leader is on their side, the reformers will make little progress. Eventually, there may be a “Grand Bargain” of some kind where the reformers are absorbed in some small way into the system. I doubt that Mousavi will be one of those invited in - he appears to have burned his bridges in that respect. But the bargain will be one of convenience and won’t last.

Obama is absolutely correct that he has no power to influence this internal Iranian debate and his rhetoric has reflected that reality. But he is incorrect in thinking that this means he should allow the Iranians to believe that nothing they do on the streets to their own people will deflect him from seeking some kind of deal. It seems to me that this stance would breed nothing but contempt for America from someone like Ahmadinejad or Khamenei. And having your negotiating partner holding you in contempt is not the best way to get any kind of deal that we could live with.

As for those who are criticizing Obama for his measured rhetoric on Iran, I have to ask the question: Suppose Obama were to do as you ask and use the most violent rhetoric to condemn the regime? Then what? Where do we go from there?

It certainly would feel good to give a few verbal pops in the mouth to Ahmadinejad and his crew, but when the dust settles, where are we? Are we any closer to stopping Iran from building a bomb without risking a ruinous war in the Middle East? Is Israel safer? Is Iraq better off?

Unfortunately, the advocates of tough talk are also advocates of bombing Iran, with all the catastrophic fall out that such a policy would entail. It may yet come to war with Iran. I am enough of a realist to see how Iran possessing the bomb would be, in John McCain’s words, “the only thing worse than war.” But to not do everything in our power to resolve the situation without armed conflict would be the folly of our times, much worse than the idiots who blundered into starting World War I or the appeasers who allowed Hitler to start World War II.

The cavalier way in which many talk of “hitting” Iran makes my blood run cold. Rejecting negotiations outright just doesn’t make sense to me in this situation. There are too many unknowns to be confident that bombing Iran wouldn’t make things worse. And if that would be the case, why bother? Only in the last extremity - ironclad proof that Iran has a weapon or is enriching uranium to the 85-90% level to build one - should we consider war.

Obama’s outreach to Iran will almost certainly fail as long as the fascists are in power. They are too ideological, too paranoid to change. But who knows what the future will bring? What kind of shape will the Iranian economy be in a year from now? Who will be in charge? Will it come to a point that Iran actually needs the west to stave off disaster?

This is why Obama’s rhetoric on today’s crisis may be sound, but the idea that he is not demonstrating that the regime’s treatment of their own citizens has any consequences at all is wrongheaded. Successful negotiations require that both parties respect each other. Given Obama’s actions, it is hard to believe that carrying on a “business as usual” stance with the regime will engender anything but contempt for the US from its leaders.

By: Rick Moran at 11:25 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

6/23/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: THE INSPECTOR GENERAL SCANDAL

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

Tonight, it will be that “Other McCain” - Robert Stacy joining me along with Jimmie Bise for an in depth look at the Inspector General scandal.

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 4:27 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

HEALTH CARE DEBATE IN CONGRESS: WHERE IS OBAMA?

This should be worrisome to Democrats and Obama partisans because it is the essence of governing; getting things done in Congress.

The fact is, since the stimulus bill passed, only one or two of Obama’s major agenda items or policy prescriptions has made it to the floor of the House or Senate - yet. Climate change - a much watered down version of what the president wanted (itself evidence that he is not fighting for his agenda with the usual vigor that presidents are wont to employ on centerpiece agenda items) is due to hit the floor of the House this week but other than that, the list of legislative initiatives in limbo is a long one:

1. EFCA. Despite pouring half a billion into his election campaign and those of other Democrats, unions are still having a devil of a time coming up with a legislative majority in either body.

2. TARP II. Dead in the water with no visible movement from the White House in getting it restarted.

3. Cap and Trade. This was the centerpiece of Obama’s climate change bill and was supposed to fund the health care initiative to the tune of some $700 billion. Alas, farm state lawmakers whose utility companies would be forced to charge out of sight prices for electricity have so watered down the program (and the senate is set to make even more drastic changes - perhaps even scrapping cap and trade altogether) that it not only won’t be bringing in much revenue but it won’t do what it’s advertised to do.

4. Immigration reform. Nowhere on the radar except for a vague promise to bring it up later this year.

5.. Health care. Several versions still moving through Congress.

The common thread in all of these initiatives is a lack of effort from the president to shape the debate in his own party. He has been very comfortable in allowing Congress their heads in forming legislation with very little obvious input from the president.

Bush was engaged on his major initiatives, with Karl Rove acting almost like a committee chairman at times in helping to shape legislation. Obama’s team is very adept at politics but I have yet to see the kind of engagement from the White House on legislation that a president needs in order to get most of what he wants.

Yes, the president tries to “sell” his programs. But his efforts are better suited to the campaign trail than the Big Chair in the Oval Office. The nitty gritty of “herding cats” in Congress is a matter that takes a lot of effort. And I allow for the idea that I may be mistaken, but I don’t see that effort forthcoming from the president or his top aides.

He appears to be most effective (from his point of view) where only the executive branch is involved. The auto takeovers and subsequent bankruptcies of Chrysler and GM have gone smoothly. Part of the reason there was some effective pressure put on the principles that smacked of goon tactics at times. Presidents bust heads in their own administration but the real test is in how they can cajole, plead, threaten, and reason with Congressmen in order to get what they want.

You would think a lot more would have been done in 6 months given the economic crisis and the administration’s admitted excuse to use it as a club to pass what they see is necessary legislation. Obama has imparted no sense of urgency to legislation (except for the stim bill), nor has he sought to leave many fingerprints on bills moving through committee.

Michael Tomasky argues pretty much the same thing in the Guardian and Steven Benen puts it into plainer language:

Tomasky’s argument, then, suggests it’s time to expand the elements these Dems are afraid of, and include the popular president. It’s time, Tomasky says, for Obama to show he can “scare people.”

Obviously, different approaches would be needed with different senators. There’s probably not too much the White House can do to scare Ben Nelson. But if the vote-counters are lining up support on, say, a genuine public option, I can imagine someone in the West Wing letting Joe Lieberman know, “The president is interested in hosting a town-hall event in Bridgeport, and he’s about to tell everyone in the state to call your office.” Or maybe calling Arlen Specter to mention, “Obama is going to talk about reform in Pittsburgh, and Joe Sestak might be there.”

Or maybe just telling the whole caucus, “If health care drags me down, I’m dragging all of you with me.”

There’s still time to see how all of this plays out, but when push comes to shove, it’s not too much of a stretch to think Obama might turn to his chief of staff for a few ideas on how best to scare members. When it’s time to “start banging some heads,” I suspect Rahm Emanuel might have a few ideas.

It is that kind of engagement that I am arguing is missing from the Obama White House. It raises questions about whether the president is still getting his feet wet or whether he really doesn’t have much of a clue how to govern.

Benen’s “town hall” idea is a case in point. Curiously, Obama’s forays into activating his grass roots network to help with Congress have so far met with limited success. Holding a “town hall” event to get citizens to deluge a member’s office with mail and phone calls wouldn’t be much of a threat given that fact.

Why not call the senator on the phone and use some of those community organizing skills to bring the member around? During the Reagan administration, it was Mike Deaver who would put out information on how many calls the president made to members of Congress or who he had in for a little personal lobbying. This was routine stuff and, I may be oblivious but has Obama made that kind of personal lobbying effort? I haven’t seen it so if he has, it has been under the political radar.

The aimlessness of Democrats on the health care issue as they are looking at several competing bills also suggests a lack of input by the president. It isn’t a question of expending political capital. He is head of the party and should be able to wrangle what he wants from Congress. It may be occurring at a level of which I am unaware but direction in this intra-party health care debate seems lacking. He is giving Congress their head and at this stage, it appears that the whole idea of a “public option” for health insurance - even in his own party - may be in danger.

We are far enough along in the Obama presidency to make judgments like this and my take is that either he doesn’t feel the need to get involved or he doesn’t know how to do it effectively. I’m not talking about press conferences, or town hall meetings, or his upcoming infomercial on June 24th with the Obamabots at ABC news. That’s all well and good and we know he can sweet talk with the best of them.

What we haven’t seen is the president getting in the trenches to fight for what he wants from Congress on specific bills. And unless he is prepared to do that, I don’t see how he will be a successful president.

By: Rick Moran at 8:15 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (20)

OBAMA’S MEASURED RESPONSE ON IRAN AND THE PENSION CRISIS

Two unlike subjects but don’t worry, they are the subjects of two different articles.

First, my weekly PJ Media column is up and you’re going to love it. I will give you the last graf so you will be forced to read the whole thing:

But when the stakes are this high — not just for the Iranian demonstrators but for the U.S., the Israelis, the region, and the world — I am willing to cut the president a little slack and recognize that while we all want him to say what is in our hearts about freedom and justice, his response so far has been about as good as we can expect.

The piece is self explantory. I will have no further comment.

Now for a piece of good news. I have been hired on as a weekly columnist at the excellent site of an excellent organization.

The American Issues Project will feature a little different material from me. Instead of the usual political blather you are used to, I will put on my wonk cap and concentrate on delving into many of the issues facing us today.

A sample from my first effort, “Public Pensions, Public Crisis:”

Trillions for banks, hundreds of billions for car companies and other poor little rich corporations — one wonders when we taxpayers are going to stop being so generous with our hard-earned coin. I am sure these giant corporations are overflowing with gratitude for the beneficence we have bestowed upon them, no doubt dreaming up ways as I write this that they can show their appreciation for our generosity.

Don’t hold your breath, though.

Bailing out failed corporations is one thing. Politicians are famous for being generous with money not their own. But the money in taxes we and generations of Americans yet unborn will be forced to part with as a result of the foolishness, chicanery, and procrastination of our state and local officials who deal with public pension funds will probably make us pine for the days when the Federal Reserve only had to print a few hundred billion or so to enrich a few bankers.

In truth, the “Time Bomb” of underfunded, overly generous public pensions, which many observers have been predicting for years, appears ready to blow up in our faces. Recent losses in the stock market have devastated these funds to the tune of $2 trillion, monies for which we taxpayers are still responsible. And considering that more than half of these plans were underfunded to begin with, we are faced with a potential tsunami of pension fund failures that, by law, taxpayers will be forced to make right.

Read and enjoy.

By: Rick Moran at 6:30 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)