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Willisms

« August 2006 | WILLisms.com | October 2006 »

Quote Of The Day

Sen. Patrick Leahy delivered a stemwinder today on the floor of the Senate, insisting on granting the Writ of Habeus Corpus to unlawful combatants.

James Lileks responded on the Hugh Hewitt show - "Every once in a while, a politician should ask himself, 'do I sound like I am concerned about protecting America from terrorists, or do I sound like I am more concerned about protecting terrorists from America?'"

P.S. Lileks, who is a virtual font of great quotes, also came up with this one the other day, regarding Ahmadinejad and nuclear weapons -"MAD only works when the other guy is SANE."

Posted by Ken McCracken · 28 September 2006 06:47 PM · Comments (8)

Animal Olympics Cruelty?

The Cantonese have a reputation for eating anything that moves. Even other Chinese joke about them: "they will eat anything with four legs except chairs and tables." I was in a market in Guanzhou some years ago, and I can attest to their affinity for everything from bats, kittens, badgers, to snakes - and even some creatures that I couldn't identify.

The Chinese are also known for pushing some species into near-extinction in order to provide ingredients for many remedies of dubious efficacy. The black rhino is nearly gone due to the use of its horn in medicinal compounds. The trade is illegal in international, U.S. and Chinese law, and yet it continues. There is a similar illegal trade for tigers and bears, particularly for bear gall bladders.

kangarooboxing.jpg

Now take a look at this, from the Chinese 'Animal Olympics' held in Shanghai. This article, in a bit of hyperventilated editorializing, calls it 'sickening' in its title. I don't know if it was actually 'sickening', I wasn't there, and it may only have been sickening in the mind of the journalist. In fact, the journalist does not seem to have actually been there either, and the article reads like something written by an animal rights shill. I was surprised though, I thought that 'kangaroo boxing' was a fiction that only existed in cartoons - I didn't know such events actually took place.

I don't object to eating kittens or bats - I wouldn't question your morality on that, but I would question your palate. Nor do I object to making animals do tricks. We all do things we really don't want to - and why shouldn't animals perform to earn a meal they might have to fight to the death for in the wild?

I draw a line, however, when the treatment leads to gratuitous suffering or death. Destroying nearly-extinct species in order to make medicinal remedies that don't even work seems to be a completely useless waste. Making animals do tricks that grievously harm them for no other purpose than to entertain the easily amused likewise seems gratuitous.

I make an exception for bull fighting. While completely gratuitous, it gives the bull a chance to die with a little dignity and honor while fighting - something they take to quite naturally. It isn't a fair fight - but no one ever claimed it was. The bull does have a chance at inflicting some mayhem however, and if I were sitting in the audience I would probably hope he would. I am one of those guys who only watches car racing for the crashes, by the way.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 28 September 2006 02:10 PM · Comments (12)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 72

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

penguinprotest.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
A demonstrator dressed as a "penguin" lies on a road as riot police officers stand guard outside Chile's Ministry of Education during a strike, at which Chilean teachers demanded higher wages, in Santiago, September 26, 2006. Chilean students are traditionally known as "penguins".

A likely excuse. Come on, give us the real story.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, October 3rd. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

canyouhearmenow.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. Terry_Jim:

Hi, number M-5473? I'm answering your personal ad for a young gal with red hair who loves sunning at the nude beach...
2. N.B. Goldstein:
Um...yes. You heard me correctly. I don't want you to FIX any leak. I want you to help me flood the basement. And never mind my voice - I'm fine.
3. Hoodlumman:
So, Shamu... tell me what it's like on the outside.

Honorable Mention #1 Sentinel:

Who knew they had video of the Lewinsky-Tripp phone conversation?

Honorable Mention #2 Rodney Dill:
Shut up and listen Ringo. I really am the Walrus.

Honorable Mention #3 ZsaZsa:

Waldo Conkrite alerts the authorities of poachers! Tusk, tusk...

Captioning - the pause that refreshes. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 27 September 2006 12:37 PM · Comments (27)

"Our Tone Should Be Crazed"

Ah, the beauty, the genius that is Keith Olbermann:

I think Olbermann is headed for big things. Sure, his regular audience consists of 12 or so ritalin-addicted Kos diarists, but he also has a growing audience of wiseguy rightwing bloggers who recognize comedy gold when they see it. Here, Keith delivers a 'special comment'. Kinda like a very special 'Family Ties' episode, in which the seriousness of the tone gives it the very comedy the regular episodes never have.

Keith would of course scoff at the idea that he is a crypto-comedian, but when desperate for ratings, he reaches deep down and pulls out gems like this, regarding Chris Wallace: "Had I in one moment surrendered all my credibility as a journalist and be irredeemably humiliated as a journalist as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling . . . seeds . . . by mail." Keith, by your own admission you have missed your calling. You have to watch his delivery in that video to understand how Olbermann has absolutely mastered the difficult art of the unironic deadpan. No lie, I had tears in my eyes and was slamming my fist down I was laughing so hard.

The question must be asked: is this guy so good/bad that he is actually a Rovian creature?

Yet another example of McCracken's Rule: if something is featured prominently on the rightwing blogosphere, it probably isn't helping your cause, Democrats.

Update: I got yer seeds RIGHT HERE, PAL.

seedsalesman.jpg

Posted by Ken McCracken · 26 September 2006 12:00 AM · Comments (26)

It's All About Bill

The Democratic reaction to The Path To 9/11 backfired badly, educating a large swath of the nation about how Clinton and his administration either dropped the ball or even failed to leave the bench in trying to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Yesterday, in attempting to vindicate himself in an interview with Chris Wallace, Clinton compounded this error by going into one of his famous morning purple rages - one of the few times, however, that the public has ever been treated to this particular phenomenon. It isn't playing well at all - Noel Sheppard for one states that the interview "could be by far the worst performance of his career." Some compare the performance unfavorably to that Tom Cruise moment. I compare it unfavorably to that Howard Dean moment.

Clinton's best assets in personal appearances are his charm, his coolness and collectedness, and his command of the space around him. All of that went out the window during yesterday's interview, and he just came off as a defensive, bitter and spiteful scold. Mr. Personality showed a truly ugly side of himself, and one wonders what other issues he has churning in rage just below that othewise calm exterior.

Bill Clinton was never much of a communicator. Oh sure, he can remain composed, affable, charismatic and in command during a press conference. To be a real communicator, however, you must at some point deliver actual substance. Clinton is an absolute master at moving his lips while saying nothing at all, and after watching the interview it is easy to see why he so often deploys this tactic - when pressed to answer a single substantive question from a interviewer who refused to fawn over him, Clinton got confused by facts and history, and started serving up whoppers such as:

  • Bush had three times longer to catch or kill Osama than Clinton did.
  • The 'neocons' complained that Clinton obsessed too much about UBL.
  • The interview was a Rupert Murdoch 'conservative hit job'.

Here are some thorough debunkings of Clinton's specious claims by AllahPundit, Ace, and Judge Napolitano.

You don't believe those punk bloggers? Try Michael Scheuer:

. . . the former president seems to be able to deny facts with impugnity. Bin Laden is alive today because Mr. Clinton, Mr. Sandy Berger, and Mr. Richard Clarke refused to kill him. That's the bottom line. And every time he says what he said to Chris Wallace on Fox, he defames the CIA especially, and the men and women who risk their lives to give his administration repeated chances to kill bin Laden."

More curious observations about this incredible interview:

Byron York scratches his head over why Bill Clinton kept insisting that everyone read Richard Clarke's book Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror. If this is the best case Clinton can point to that he was actually tough on terror, it is a damning indictment indeed of Clinton's laxity. "The worst thing about [Clinton]," according to George Stephanopolous, "is that he never makes a decision." That may well account for the lack of action on Osama.

Patterico points us to what triggered the Clinton meltdown:

“It set me off on such a tear because you didn’t formulate it in an honest way and you people ask me questions you don’t ask the other side,” Clinton said.

“Sir, that is not true,” Wallace replied.

Who is right, Clinton or Wallace? According to Patterico, Wallace wins this point, as shown by these questions he asked Donald Rumsfeld in 2004:

I understand this is 20/20 hindsight, it’s more than an individual manhunt. I mean — what you ended up doing in the end was going after al Qaeda where it lived. . . . pre-9/11 should you have been thinking more about that? . . . .

What do you make of his [Richard Clarke’s] basic charge that pre-9/11 that this government, the Bush administration largely ignored the threat from al Qaeda? . . . .

Mr. Secretary, it sure sounds like fighting terrorism was not a top priority.

By comparison, Wallace was going easy on Clinton.

Drudge pointed out that Clinton's speech sounds slurred. It didn't seem obvious on the first viewing, but after Drudge brought that up, he does indeed have a point. Clinton does sound fat-tongued at times. If Clinton has problems we don't know about, would his handlers and protectors please keep him off the stage for while until he sorts them out? Our ex-presidents are supposed to conduct themselves with a certain dignity, and I frankly don't want to have to watch more unhinged displays like we did yesterday that sully the repose they should have. As much as more outbursts would help the Republicans this November, I just don't want to see more.

And please Bill, put away the wagging finger. It is indeed a tell that everything that follows is a half-truth at best.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 25 September 2006 09:13 PM · Comments (12)

The White Man's Burden, Part V: Who’s Next, or Where Do We Go From Here?

Where Do We Go From Here?


Where do we go from here?
Where do we go from here?
The battle's done,
And we kind of won
So we sound our victory cheer
Where do we go from here?

Why is the path unclear?
When we know home is near
Understand
We'll go hand in hand
But we'll walk alone in fear
Tell me
Where do we go from here?

When does "THE END" appear?
When do the trumpets cheer?
The curtains close
On a kiss god knows
We can tell the end is near
Where do we go from here?

-- Joss Whedon, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Once More With Feeling” Soundtrack

Life isn’t fiction. Reality isn’t nice and tidy. “Stories” seldom have clean endings; as one series of events winds down, others tend to ramp up, fizzle out, or go merrily on utterly on their own. And while events like wars often have formal ending dates, the post-war efforts can take years, if not decades.

And in the time of war, unpleasant decisions have to be made. As I said earlier, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” might be a good short-term solution, but historically it has often been a case of today’s ally of convenience becomes tomorrow’s foe. It happened with the Soviet Union, with Iran, and with Iraq, just to name three examples.

This is not to say that those choices were necessarily wrong ones. In each case, a more imminent threat was being countered. Allying with the Soviets against the Nazis kept Hitler busy on his eastern front. Backing the Shah of Iran not only stymied the radical Muslims for years, but kept the Soviets from gaining access to the Persian Gulf. And helping Saddam in his fight with Iran was a bit of “payback” for their actions against us, as well as providing another check on radical Islam.

But in each case, we would have been wise to keep a close eye on them. As Winston Churchill put it, nations have no permanent friends or permanent enemies, just permanent interests. Hell, for our incredibly close ties to England, we have had our share of tensions. During the 20’s, there were rumors of a potential conflict, and leading up to World War II Germany had its share of American sympathizers.

So, who among our current allies should we also be eying as future enemies? In theory, all of them. Practically speaking, though, it's a tough call.

England: with Tony Blair announcing his retirement in a year or so, there is a distinct possibility of his successor, to quote one of his predecessors, “going wobbly.” I don’t see England actually opposing the US, but their staunch support could start rapidly evaporating.

Australia: Again, I don’t see that happening, either. I have a tremendous amount of affection for the Aussies, and I’m hardly unique. They remind me of us in the 19th century or so, when we were still young and rowdy.

Israel: Not likely to become an enemy per se. They are far too dependent on our good will, and we are one of their best friends in the world. (Not that there’s much comparison for that category.) They are far more likely to give us “borrowed trouble,” as we often get the blame for their perceived sins.

Pakistan: a troubling case. President Musharraf has been a fair ally, but he’s largely motivated by self-preservation. If the circumstances change where he sees his regime’s best chances for survival involve turning against the US, I think it would be a distinct possibility. There’s also the chance that he could have his government overthrown from under him, and then at that point we’ll be faced with an Islamist state that has nuclear weapons.

India: Again, not very likely. India is the world’s largest democracy, and the Islamist elements are vastly outnumbered. India is also developing more and more economic ties with the US, so I think they’re fairly safe.

Poland and the other former Warsaw Pact nations: they spent far too many decades enslaved to the Soviet Union. They’ve seen what totalitarianism has to offer, and they also saw what the United States achieved while free. They might not quite get the hang of this democracy thing, but they’re giving it the best they can.

China: an odd case. Openly rivals, they make no bones about orienting (sorry) their military posture towards countering us. They don't so much want to defeat us, but supplant our influence in the Pacific Rim and, eventually, the world. They are focusing right now on doing so economically, maintaining cordial relations with us while they undercut our economic power -- and we seem content to let them. They aren't ready to challenge us openly, but they don't mind if we get ourselves all worked up over trouble spots like North Korea. They are also content on letting us take on the lion's share of the fight against Islamist terrorism, but should they make the mistake of too openly challenging the Dragon, I believe we'll see a response that will make Tienanmen Square look like a kindergarten graduation ceremony.

France: a distinct possibility. I’ve read a couple of technothrillers that revolved around a resurgent France (including Larry Bond and Patrick Larkin’s “Cauldron,” which featured an expansionist France-Germany axis in a post-NATO world), and considering how much of France’s foreign policy seems to revolve around “let’s do whatever will piss off America the most,” I think that the French could become open adversaries of ours.

Against the possibility, however, weighs one overwhelming fact: The French are… um… well… how can I put this delicately?

I can’t. They’re FRENCH.

The idea of France forming a major threat to anything is simply inconceivable. They haven’t been a credibly military power in well over half a century. It’s been merely their insufferable arrogance and the collective manners of the rest of the world that has let them preserve their delusions of grandeur, to continue to pretend they have any real relevance in this modern world.

No, I really don’t think that we can see who might be our next enemy. In World War II, it was easy – we’d opposed the Soviets for so long before the war, the big adjustment was in putting that on hold for the duration of the war. The best advice I can think to offer is this: watch all of our allies closely for signs of “going wobbly,” and support them as best we can.

Because the story never really ends.

Posted by Jay Tea · 23 September 2006 07:00 AM · Comments (3)

The F-14 Tomcat Retires

tomcat.jpg
Tomcat! painting by Dru Blair © 1991 - http://www.drublair.com

The venerable naval fighter jet, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, has been put out to pasture. Entering service in 1974, its unique swing-wing design allowed this huge and very heavy fighter to take off from tiny carrier decks. The designers of this plane packet it with absolutely everything, from an extremely powerful Hughes radar, a 20mm cannon, advanced avionics, and Phoenix, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. The last Tomcat will leave service and make its final landing at the Virginia Aviation Museum on September 28.

The Tomcat was never really battle-tested. Its most famous encounter came in the Gulf of Sidra, where it splashed a couple of hopelessly outclassed Su-22 jets of the Libyan air force in 1981.

The Tomcat has been replaced by the cheaper and more flexible F/A-18 Hornet. "The aging Tomcat requires 40 or more hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight, says Seth, executive officer for the "Tomcatters" of Fighter Squadron 31. The Super Hornet requires less than half that maintenance time."

The U.S. naval mission is in excellent hands with the Hornet. But, damn, does any plane look cooler than the F-14?

Posted by Ken McCracken · 22 September 2006 02:06 PM · Comments (6)

The White Man's Burden, Part IV: The Path To Victory

What we are attempting in Iraq is something that has not only never been achieved, but never been attempted in all of recorded history. We are attempting to convert a nation from a hostile, brutal, repressive dictatorship and enemy into a free, independent democracy and ally. We have done that part before, in Germany and Japan after World War II, but in that case we had a somewhat easier task – in both cases we utterly destroyed the nations, and rebuilt them from the ground up.

In Iraq, we avoided the magnitude of destruction such as inflicted during World War II. We did the minimal damage we could to the society and infrastructure, and now are attempting to graft democracy and freedom and independence on top of them. It seems less cruel and expensive in the short term, but will it succeed? And will it last? Only time will tell.

But what is the grand, overall strategy behind this? What is the “big idea,” the grand plan, the overarching agenda behind it all?

Obviously, I have no inside information, only observations and theories. And there appears to be a singular historic model that might serve as useful – and that’s the British Empire, the Pax Brittanica.

Rudyard Kipling wrote in 1899 a poem, called “White Man’s Burden,” where he commented on the United States taking charge of the Philippines from Spain in the Spanish-American War:

“Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain,
To seek another's profit
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden,
And reap his old reward--
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden!
Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered laurel,
The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers.”

England saw its mission as essentially benevolent; they saw their mission to “bring civilization to the savage world.” They expected that there would be resistance from what they brought to other peoples and other lands, but eventually that would be supplanted by gratitude and appreciation, and in the end those they civilized would be thankful for what the English had forced upon them.

India was a prime example. Gandhi, when he was struggling for India’s independence, never espoused hatred of the British or called for discarding all that the British brought to India. His main message was a polite, but firm, “thank you for all you have done, but it’s time for you to leave.”

Despite the poetic words, the sun indeed did set on the British Empire. The Empire became the Commonwealth, and now is loosely referred to as “the Anglosphere,” a collection of nations that share a common origin as British colonies, but have achieved independence and stand on their own. India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, and even the United States can all be considered part of this unofficial grouping. But for the most part, being a former English colony is a far better harbinger of success and independence than, say, a French colony – take a look at some of the places that were compelled to pay homage to the Tricolor, such as Viet Nam and the Ivory Coast.

But while the basic strictures of the English model might work out, they really don’t fit our national “style” and self-image. We don’t want colonies. In our history, the United States didn’t really subjugate lands and force them to do us homage; the colonial territories we ended up with, such as the Philippines and Cuba, we took from European powers and worked towards granting them independence. Even Puerto Rico, with its unique status as a “commonwealth,” falling short of full statehood, is based purely on the wishes of the Puerto Rican people, who have repeatedly rejected either independence or full, equal status.

No, we don’t want colonies. We’ve seen too much of the ugly side of colonialism, and want nothing to do with it. Further, we are far too aware of our own genesis as a colony, and the bitter fight to end that status. We have no desire to be modern-day Redcoats.

But is there a way to take that British model that worked so well, and adapt it to our needs? Americans are great innovators, but we also are great synthesizers. Our very essence is built on the notion of taking the best that other nations, other cultures, other peoples have to offer and improving on them, combining them and twiddling with them until something wonderful emerges. Could that spirit be applied to the concept of a colonial empire?

I think so, with appropriate restrictions, caveats, and only as a last resort.

When a nation grows to be too much of a threat to us, our interests, and our allies, we ought to work with our allies to curb the danger posed by that rogue nation. But if all else fails, we had best be prepared to deal firmly, decisively, and definitively with the government that poses such a threat. It needs to be stopped, and stopped hard.

So far, we’ve done that precisely twice in the last few years. In Afghanistan, the terrorists who struck us on 9/11 were so intertwined with the existing de facto government (never let it be forgotten that the official, recognized government of Afghanistan was not the Taliban, but our allies in the Northern Alliance) that separating those who had attacked us and those who were running the country was impossible. So we acted, and now Afghanistan has a nascent democratically-elected government. It’s hardly perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than its predecessor – and far less likely to pose a major threat to world peace any time soon.

And in Iraq, we also have a nascent democratically-elected government. It’s still struggling to gain full control over its own territory, and is still terribly dependent on the US, but it’s a damn sight better than Saddam’s regime – and is growing stronger all the time. It no longer is an “exporter” of terrorism, through various means of support to terrorists, but instead is seeing up close and personal what Saddam encouraged and fomented elsewhere – and they don’t like it one bit.

Will it work? Maybe, maybe not. But we’re a better nation for having tried it. I’m not a big supporter of “it’s the thought that counts” line of reasoning – it tends to sanctify intentions far above results, and we all know the saying about the “road to hell” – but in this case we are trying – sincerely trying – to “secure the blessings of liberty” for people who have never tasted such things.

But that begs the next question: just who the hell are we to do this? Just how arrogant are we that we think that our way is so much better than anyone else’s, that we can just march in and force it down their throats?

The answer is disturbingly simple: we do it because we have to.

The days when we could count on two mighty oceans to keep the world’s turmoils and struggles at bay are long past. The world has shrunk tremendously, and events halfway around the world can affect us most profoundly in less time than it takes to read this single sentence. It is, indeed, one world, and it’s the only one we have. And if we value our existence, our way of life, we indeed do it to both “our selves and our posterity” to protect them.

I am not calling for a modern-day Pax Americana, with the United States intervening around the world willy-nilly, tossing aside any government we don’t like and imposing our own vision of How Things Ought To Be on anyone we choose. The use of force – the kind of force applied to the Taliban and Saddam’s regime – should only be for the most intransigent, belligerent cases, and only then as a last resort. Also, it should be only used when it is likely to achieve the goals.

Some critics of the war in Iraq wonder why, if Saddam was “fair game,” why not Iran and North Korea? The answer is simple: it wouldn’t work as well in those nations. North Korea is falling apart quite thoroughly on its own, alienating China – its only reliable ally – and frantically denying that its economy and very structure are falling apart while its psychotic dictator frantically fiddles around with nuclear weapons and missiles. And Iran hasn’t – quite – pushed matters to the point of no return. They overplayed their hand briefly with Hezbollah in Lebanon, but at the last minute Israel allowed itself to be brought to heel from international pressure, and Iran’s puppetry through Syria and Hezbollah remained safe.

No, invasion and forcible regime change don’t appear on the agenda for those two nations. But other, more successful tactics could be employed. The isolation and studied slighting of North Korea is driving Kim Jong Il up the wall, and he’s trying to find some way to bring the attention of the world back on him – but not in such a way that could lead to his deposal. And in Iran, there really doesn’t seem to be a good solution – they’ve seriously hardened their nuclear research facilities to the point where they are largely immune to aerial attack, and they don’t seem to fear reprisals. The very concept of a nuclear-armed Iran ought to give night terrors to any rational human being, but so far no solution has presented itself.

But back to the main point, the “New American Empire.” The model that seems to be evolving is to follow the English model of colonialism, but with one major difference: from the outset, the independence of that “colony” is the primary goal. We intend to get them back on their feet as quickly as is feasible, then get the hell out of their way while they chart their own course – free from the shackles that held them down before we intervened.

Yes, it might seem high-handed, arrogant, even imperialistic. But it’s also seeming to become more and more of a necessity.

Posted by Jay Tea · 21 September 2006 07:00 AM · Comments (5)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 71

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

canyouhearmenow.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
A female Walrus 'Pico' 11-year-old, uses her mock Mobile phone during a sea animal show at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise aquarium-amusement park complex in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006.

What a cutie! I am quite sure that caption is not the whole story, however . . .

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, September 26. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

combo.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. Rodney Dill: (Rrrrr!)

Pallbearers at Michael Moore's funeral.

2. RadioFreeFred:

The Expression For Lifting a Stone Or Passing A Stone Is Identical.

3. DANEgerus:
The finalists in the Armitage look-a-like contest grimace upon learning the prize is a dinner date with the Plames.

Honorable Mention #1 Hoodlumman:

Six reasons not to look at the Helen Thomas directly in the eye.

Honorable Mention #2 John:
Hollywood holds try outs for the role of "Harry" in the remake of "Dumb and Dumber."

Honorable Mention #3 ZsaZsa:

The challengers of the Democratic party fund raiser. "WHO CAN EAT THE MOST JALAPENOS"? Paris Hilton commented, That's hot! When asked, Have you registered to vote? She replied, I'm not sure, that's sexy!

Got captioning? Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 20 September 2006 08:32 AM · Comments (36)

The White Man's Burden, Part III: You Go To War With The Geopolitical Reality You Have, Not The One You Want

There is a truism that states that “Nature abhors a vacuum.” And it is a truism because it is more often true than not, especially in geopolitics. Nothing occurs in a vacuum. No nation is an island, entire of itself. And no event has no repercussions. The Butterfly Effect is environmental theory, but political fact.

The invasion of Afghanistan was a given. The Taliban not only gave shelter, aid, and comfort to Al Qaeda, but they persisted in doing so after 9/11. They wanted concrete, irrefutable proof before they would turn them over to us – and under their legal system, Al Qaeda’s testimony as Muslims was absolutely irrefutable against that of the secular government of the United States. And there was a legal cover for the invasion; the United Nations had never formally recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government, but preferred the Northern Alliance. We backed them in their fight (to a degree that it would be almost fair to call them a “fig leaf” to cover our own attack) and overthrew the Taliban in record time, sending them and Al Qaeda fleeing.

But the war was never against Al Qaeda. They were merely one faction – and so far, the most successful faction -- of the overall enemy, one part of the big picture. The war did not begin with their first attack on us, it had been going for some time, and even if every single Al Qaeda member were to be killed or arrested, the war would continue.

The toppling of the Taliban deprived Al Qaeda of their sanctuary, and put them on the defensive for the first time. Since that day, the vast majority of their leadership is dead or imprisoned. True, Bin Laden himself is still missing, but the 9/11 attacks represented the singular high point of their campaign against America – and the dropoff from that peak has been tremendous.

After the immediacy of Al Qaeda had been dealt with, then what? It would have been easy to declare victory and hang it up. But as I said, Al Qaeda was only one facet of the problem. There are numerous other terrorist threats in the world, and to stop at Al Qaeda would be to only leave the question of who would be the next terrorist group to try to top them. And there is no shortage of likely candidates. For example, as of September 10, 2001, Hezbollah (“Party Of Allah”) had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization also had the blood of many Americans on their hands. And that’s just four off the top of my head – a perusal of the State Department’s official list has over 40 groups.

So, now that the immediate threat from Al Qaeda has been neutralized, what do we do next? The first part is to look at a map, and see just where the terrorists tend to come from. After all, it’s better to fight them over there than back here.

We already had a sizable force in Afghanistan, as well as many more around the Persian Gulf. They were there as a consequence of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when we forcibly ejected Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Saddam surrendered in that war, and the terms and circumstances of that surrender required a hefty presence to remind him that we were watching – and wanted to make sure he kept his word.

So, why Saddam? Because he represented a unique confluence of circumstances, all of which made him the logical target for the next campaign in the War On Terror.

First, the legal justification: Saddam had agreed to repeatedly, deliberately, and willfully violated many of those terms. When the losing side of a war refuses to keep up its end of the bargain, than a resumption of hostilities is not only allowed, but arguably is required to remind others in the future the price of not keeping one’s word.

Next, the linkage of Saddam to terrorism. Despite the best efforts of some war critics to rewrite history, no one in the Bush administration linked Saddam to the 9/11 attacks. Personally, I never thought there was much of a chance of it, purely on the basis of pragmatism. This was Al Qaeda’s biggest play yet, and they had to keep knowledge of it as closely held as possible. Saddam was pushing to have the sanctions against him lifted; it very well might have suited his purpose to unmask the plan (possibly through proxies), then use that as leverage to win points with the West.

But the links between Saddam and Al Qaeda, in general, are much more tangible. Christopher Hitchens recently reminded us that President Clinton defended the 1998 cruise missile attack on the Sudan by arguing that the pharmaceutical plant struck was owned by Osama Bin Laden – and was being used to perform chemical weapon research and development on Saddam’s behalf. (There are numerous other examples, but that one will suffice for now.)

But let’s not forget that our war is not with Al Qaeda, but terrorists in general. They are a part of the threat, but hardly the whole threat. Saddam’s support for other terrorist groups is indisputable. He gave shelter to Abu Nidal. He was funding suicide bombers against Israel. He hosted terrorist training camps. So in the simple “us or them” calculus, he was quite firmly with terrorists.

So there, we have a solid case for starting a campaign in Iraq – if we chose to start one. The question remains, should we? In the long run, would such a campaign put us closer to our goal, or serve as a diversion?

Judged solely on its own merits, the issue of Iraq is a simple one. Was is absolutely necessary to invade it? Was it, as many critics say, a “war of choice?” In a vacuum, the answer is simple: yes. The problems with Iraq were not a grave, imminent threat to the United States or our interests, and did not need such a forceful, immediate solution. Hell, even President Bush said so.

But the Iraq situation was not occurring in a vacuum. There were many, many other factors in play, and those factors made it not only the wise choice, but the wisest choice from a broad slate of bad options.

Let’s look at the benefits of removing Saddam’s regime and replacing it with one more compatible with such notions as respect for human rights, the rights of their citizens, their neighbors, and a willingness to become a valued member of the community of nations:

First off, since democracies tend to not be very tolerant of terrorism, we would remove a source of support for that scourge.

Secondly, we would gain access to all the records and documents that Saddam would not have time to destroy that would detail his dealings with terrorists.

Thirdly, we would have the opportunity to test whether or not democracy and Islam were compatible, something that is often called into question. A successful, democratic Iraq could serve as an inspiration for oppressed people throughout the Muslim world – and that’s a LOT of people.

Fourthly, a strong US presence in Iraq – along with our forces in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and in several Gulf states – would serve as a constant reminder to other terrorist-sponsoring nations that we have had no problems in overthrowing two hostile governments, and are right there should we decide to keep going. (Yes, Iran and Syria, I’m talking to you.)

So the potential benefits of overthrowing Saddam were exceptional. That only leaves a couple other troubling questions:

1) While winning the war would be easy, can we win the peace?
2) If winning the peace is possible, is it worth the price?

Those are tough questions, and I don’t have ready answers. Instead, I look at it slightly differently: can we afford to not try?

We’ve tried numerous other approaches to fighting terrorism, and they’ve all worked roughly equally well – that is to say, not at all. We’ve tried negotiations. We’ve tried law enforcement. We’ve tried a bunch of other approaches, and the end result has pretty much been the same: more terrorism. The notion of “virally marketing” democracy in the heart of global terrorism has the advantage of never having been tried before, and is in keeping with our ethics and principles and beliefs.

And if that means we go it alone, or with only a few staunch allies, so what? The majority is not always right. And in the world of international diplomacy, it can be argued that it is wrong at least as long as it is right. The United Nations General Assembly is the closest thing to pure democracy on the global stage, and look at how well that works out: tyrants and petty despots stand beside democratic nations, with each nation having equal voice, regardless of their policies, how they achieve and maintain their power, how they treat their people, and countless other criteria by which sensible, reasonable people judge governments. To the UN, that is all irrelevant.

It also overlooks the brutal element of pragmatism: just how many nations could actually contribute to our cause? The case of Lebanon is providing a real-time example of that problem. Many nations have let their military atrophy to the point where such power projection is far beyond their capabilities. Many of the traditional great powers have “let themselves go” in terms of military might, and simply can’t honor their commitments. Their protestations of principle provide a slender fig leaf for their impotence.

Great Britain and the Anglosphere have proven to be good friends. Tony Blair is paying the price for his agreement with President Bush on Iraq, but Australia still stands strong with us. And while the days when Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy are long past, they have come through for us when the chips were down. Personally, I will never forget Canadians helping Americans escape Iran after the fall of the Shah, at great personal risk and with the full support of their government, and how Canada opened her arms to tens of thousands of airline passengers on 9/11, when the United States took the unprecedented step of completely shutting down all air travel. And Canada has offered its own soldiers for many peacekeeping missions around the world – while I often disagree with the advisability of such missions, the courage and honor of those Canadians has been amply proven.

The Bible says, in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded,” and Stan Lee paraphrased that for the core principle of Spider-Man: “with great power comes great responsibility.” The essential truth of both is the same: when one possesses power or influence, that carries with it the burden to use it responsibly. Even refusing to use it is a decision in and of itself, with its own sets of consequences.

The United States, for better or for worse, is the most powerful nation on earth. Every single action or inaction of ours carries with it tremendous consequences. We must use that power responsibly, fairly, and justly. And equally important, we must use at least as much care and thought when we decline to use it. Each choice to act or not to act must be weighed carefully and on its own merits; neither option should be the default. We simply cannot tread lightly on this world.

No, the fighting in Iraq has not gone ideally. But nor has it been anywhere near the disaster the nay-sayers predicted. There were no tens of thousands of US casualties in the toppling of Saddam’s regime. Iraq has a fledgling government, chosen through two well-conducted and highly-successful elections. And the Iraqi military is slowly coming into its own, resuming its pre-war responsibilities – but under a government that it can respect and trust, and not fear.

In the meantime, the United States has a very healthy military presence right in the heart of the terrorist world. Those that seek to kill Americans are presented with a whole lot of them readily at hand – but they are those Americans who are the best-equipped to take the attacks and fight back, often inflicting casualties in whole orders of magnitude greater than they suffer. Further, they are the ones who have chosen to place themselves in harm’s way, to stand between the American people and those who wish us harm.

The so-called “strategy” being espoused by the Democratic leadership, it seems to me, is precisely the worst possible solution. They are pushing for hard deadlines for solid withdrawal from Iraq, telling the enemy just how long they have to hang on until they can claim victory for having “driven” us out of Iraq. The path to victory, as I have said before, is not marked on a calendar, but a checklist.

Posted by Jay Tea · 20 September 2006 07:00 AM · Comments (2)

The White Man's Burden, Part II: “Honor The Threat”

The real world, it is often said, is not tidy. It would do much better if reality were more like fiction, when enemies took their turns in threatening us and waited patiently in line. One threat would be defeated, and a decent interval would pass before the next would arise.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t tend to happen. Threats rise and fall on their own, and the overlap between them tends to lead to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” evolving into “defeating today’s foe by creating tomorrow’s.”

During the 30’s and 40’s, three strains of totalitarianism arose around the world to threaten the democracies. Imperialism in Japan, Fascism in central Europe, and Communism in the Soviet Union all vied for supremacy. Eventually two allied and sought to prevail against all comers, then the third joined. Shortly thereafter, the Fascists turned on and attacked the Communists. The Western democracies saw the Fascist/Imperialist axis as the greater threat, and chose to ally with and bolster the Communists for sheer survival. That led to the eventual defeat of the Fascists and the Imperialists, but led to over 40 years of the Cold War and sentencing a large portion of the world to suffer under the Communist yoke.

During the Cold War, we once again found ourselves with allies of convenience, as we backed some truly unsavory governments and factions against the Soviets’ puppets and client states. Among those whose flaws we chose to overlook were the Islamists, as we on several occasions backed them in opposition to the Communists. It was, like our alliance with Stalin, a matter of choosing to oppose the very real threat today and accepting the risks of creating another threat for tomorrow.

Today, the Soviet Union is literally, as Ronald Reagan so eloquently, been relegated to the ash heap of history. Today’s college students have no recollection of its existence – it’s like Nazi Germany, a thing of yesterday, never a frightening reality. And the hard decisions we had to make when fighting for our very survival are coming home to roost.

I am not arguing that the choices we made at the time were wrong, or even ill-considered. That is a matter for historians to argue, and it is still far too close to those events, and the consequences not fully played out, for such a judgment. But it is indisputable that those choices came with prices, and those are coming due.

We, as a nation, chose to defer concerns about the rise of militant Islam from the 1970’s onward in the face of the threat of Communism and global nuclear annihilation. While we worried about that big threat, the lesser threat grew largely unchecked. And today, 15 years after the final, formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, we find the greatest threat is the same militant Muslims who served as such useful pawns of both sides.

Now, I do not see militant Islam as the existential threat that the Soviet Union posed. They do not hold the potential to destroy America, and are not likely to develop such power any time soon. But they are strong, and the stronger they grow, the greater the butcher’s bill will be to finally stop them.

Some time ago, I stumbled across the metaphor of militant Islam as a small child in your neighborhood. The child is a holy terror – loudly threatening you, committing small acts of vandalism, even sometimes openly hitting you. Each time, we have sent the child home – sometimes with a swat across his fanny, often with a threat to involve his parents. But the pattern remains unbroken – he keeps coming back for more mischief.

The situation seems unpleasant, but tolerable. Stable, even – and “stability” is a very popular word these days, and “destabilizing” is hurled around as an insult. So the child is left alone to continue.

The problem is that no child stays a child forever, and bad behavior left unchecked worsens. That child is growing larger and stronger, and their acts more and more violent. Yesterday’s 3-year-old kicking at our fence is today’s 10-year-old pitching rocks at our window – and tomorrow’s 15-year-old throwing bigger rocks at our heads. The fully-grown adult capable of seriously injuring or even killing us is years away – but he is coming, make no mistake about it. Such behaviors and patterns must be recognized and stopped as soon as possible; it is the kindest thing for both the child and the adult.

In the excellent movie “Manhunter,” based on Thomas Harris’ novel “Black Dragon,” "Red Dragon," the hero is an empath; he can capture within himself the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of the serial killer he is hunting. When his boss accuses him of feeling sorry for the killer, the as-yet-unknown Francis Dolarhyde, Will Graham replies:

“As a child, my heart bleeds for him. Someone took a little boy and turned him into a monster. But as an adult... as an adult, he's irredeemable. He butchers whole families to fulfill some sick fantasy. As an adult, I think someone should blow the sick f*ck out of his socks.”

There is no paradox here. Francis Dolarhyde is indeed a monster, and needs to be stopped. But he wasn’t born a monster, he was terribly abused as a child. That does not excuse his conduct, but merely heightens the tragedy of his situation.

Militant Islam is much like the young Francis Dolarhyde. It is well on its way towards becoming a monster. In some ways, it already is. But it does not yet possess the power to threaten all our lives, or even our way of life. It can only bother us, hurt us to a degree. That is changing, and is not changing for the better. That is why it must be stopped now.

Posted by Jay Tea · 19 September 2006 07:00 AM · Comments (11)

Talk Like A Pirate, Or Walk The Plank!

piratekeyboard.jpg

Rrrrrr!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 19 September 2006 01:06 AM · Comments (7)

The White Man's Burden: Part I: From “Feel The Power” to “Fear The Power”

The United States never sought to be a superpower, let alone the world’s only one. Once we fulfilled our “manifest destiny” and stretched coast to coast, we’d had enough. We were content, largely, up until World War II to be a largely isolationist nation, without getting too involved in world affairs. World War I left a bitter taste in our mouth, and we withdrew behind the two mighty oceans that sheltered us from the strife and bickering of Europe.

That came to a crashing halt one Sunday morning in the territory of Hawaii. Those sneaky little Nips, the slant-eyed Japs, hit the United States – hit the United States harder than we thought possible, in a place where we felt safe and secure. Our senses of invulnerability and racial superiority were shattered, and all of a sudden the foreign madness was our problem. It took almost 4 years and over 400,000 American lives (along with many times that many of casualties from other lands), but we ended that war decisively.

Then we found ourselves in a totally unfamiliar place: the undisputedly most powerful nation on the earth, yet still facing a new, implacable foe in a former ally, the Soviet Union, and tired of fighting. We had to learn a new type of warfare – a “cold war” – when we didn’t openly fight our enemy, but instead fought through other means, or through other nations. It was a fight that would take over 40 years to come to a close.

At some point during that time, the very notion of power became something, for many people, to distrust – and its exercise by the United States itself became a cause for concern. Fears about abuses of that power became, over time, fear of accusations of abuse, and eventually evolved to the point to avoiding the potential for accusations, when during the Clinton administration they focused on military actions that could demonstrably be proven to not be in our own personal interests and directly connected to somehow benefiting the United States. For example, I seem to recall numerous arguments about our interventions in the Balkans and Somalia being defended as “purely humanitarian,” as if acting in any sort of self-interested fashion was somehow corrupt.

Looking back, I find myself wondering if part of the reason Ronald Reagan was such a better president than Bill Clinton was because in his younger days, Reagan had been a lifeguard. One of the first things lifeguards are taught is to first protect themselves, to not needlessly endanger themselves, when attempting a rescue. A lifeguard who doesn’t obey that rule not only doubles the number of people endangered, but has converted himself from an asset to a liability. Clinton didn’t seem to grasp that, flailing about in the seas of international conflicts, while Reagan carefully chose his battles. And in the long run, Clinton’s adventures often left us, as a nation, weaker and less respected around the world. Folks might not have liked Reagan, but they had little doubt about his resolve.

Power, Lord Acton famously said, corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. It seemed as if that truism had become ironclad law, the immovable hand of destiny, to the point where every single potential exercise of power held with it the risk of eternal damnation. At that point, any choice to act needs to be weighed and second-guessed – and the pressure to simply choose to not act becomes almost insurmountable.

I once read an analogy that compared America’s military might as to a ferocious guard dog, kept on a chain. Within the range of that chain, the dog is utterly invincible and unstoppable. Outside the chain’s radius, it can bark and growl, but is utterly impotent. The chain represents the self-imposed restraints America places on itself – political, social, and ethical – and right up through the turn of the millennium we kept willingly choosing to tighten that chain.

On September 11, 2001, that chain was untangled and loosened, and that dog was given the greatest freedom it had had in decades.

Posted by Jay Tea · 18 September 2006 07:00 AM · Comments (4)

The White Man's Burden: Introduction

One of the recurring phrases used by people in arguments is “they just don’t get it.” It expresses the belief that one’s position is the only logical, reasonable, sensible one, and if the other side could simply hear that position spelled out clearly, they would embrace it.

It’s rarely effective or useful, but I’m going to give it a whirl anyway. I’m going to spell out, in excruciating detail, just why I think the war in Iraq was right and necessary, and why I support it to this day.

You might want to get a beverage, or hit the facilities; this is going to be a long one. In fact, it’s going to take all week to get it all out in a semi-coherent form.

The current plan is for one portion to be published each weekday, at 11:00 a.m. EST. Here's the outline:

Monday -- Part I: From “Feel The Power” to “Fear The Power”
Tuesday -- Part II: “Honor The Threat”
Wednesday -- Part III: You Go To War With The Geopolitical Reality You Have, Not The One You Want
Thursday -- Part IV: The Path To Victory
Friday -- Part V: Who’s Next, or Where Do We Go From Here?

The titles might change before publication (the first draft is finished, at just over 6,500 words), as I'm probably going to be tweaking and editing it right up until each piece is published, but that's a pretty good representation.

As I said last week, this is by far the longest piece I've ever written, and the one that's taken the most work. I think it's worth it, and I hope you'll agree.


Posted by Jay Tea · 18 September 2006 06:00 AM · Comments (0)

Outrageous Ironies In Muslim Reactions

sgorbati.jpg
Leonella Sgorbati

Leonella Sgorbati, 65, a Catholic nun, was murdered by two gunmen in Mogadishu. Murdered on a Sunday, in a hospital. Sgorbati was in Somalia to train nurses at a children's hospital.

Do we hear apologies from the Muslim world in regard to this singular atrocity? Do we hear condemnations of this barbarity? Undoubtedly good, decent Muslims are outraged over this, and express themselves so. But it is drowned out, as usual, by the teeming mass of ignorance and hatred that now defines the Islamic world: the Mujahadeen Army vows to murder Pope Benedict XVI; Somali cleric urges assassination of Pope; Jihadists threaten to kill all Christians in Iraq.

It is also drowned out by the predictable prattling of supposedly responsible Muslim 'leaders' who think that the words of the Pope taken completely out of context are somehow worse than the senseless murder of a fellow human being: "Morocco's King Mohammed recalled his Vatican ambassador for consultations, while Yemen's president denounced the pontiff." Turkish legislator Salih Kapusuz said Benedict's comments put the Pope "in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini." There are major protests planned in Iran.

So Benedict should have reached out instead to Muslims, as John Paul II did? It wouldn't do him any good - John Paul II was also the target of Jihadist assassination plots. Even before Benedict made his remarks, a Turkish novelist asked Who Will Kill The Pope In Istanbul? Pope Benedict XVI too is a marked man regardless of what he says or does, he simply is an infidel and therefore fit only to die.

Where are the millions of decent Muslims who don't want this to be what the world sees when it looks at Islam?

Posted by Ken McCracken · 17 September 2006 05:11 PM · Comments (1)

Oriana Fallaci 1929-2006

fallaci.jpg

Oriana Fallaci, journalist and author, died today after a prolonged battle with breast cancer. She was a democratic resistance fighter against Mussolini during World War II, worked as a war correspondent, was shot 3 times during the Tlatelolco uprising shortly before the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, and became famous for her pointed interviews of the good, the bad and the ugly, including Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

Fallaci was charged in Italy for the crime of "vilipendio", or vilification, for publishing her book The Force of Reason in 2004. In this book she warned of a growing Muslim siege of Europe, which will ultimately result in Europe becoming 'Eurabia'. An atheist, she had great admiration for Pope Benedict XVI (whom she still called 'Ratzinger') for his recognition of the Muslim threat to the West.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 15 September 2006 04:38 AM · Comments (8)

Wal-Mart: A Goliath Fighting For David

George Will details the enormous size of Wal-mart, and its impact on the economy:

The median household income of Wal-Mart shoppers is under $40,000. Wal-Mart, the most prodigious job-creator in the history of the private sector in this galaxy, has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S. military has uniformed personnel. A McKinsey company study concluded that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s, which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation. By lowering consumer prices, Wal-Mart costs about 50 retail jobs among competitors for every 100 jobs Wal-Mart creates. Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200 billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax credit ($34.6 billion).
So this is a good thing, right?
Liberals think their campaign against Wal-Mart is a way of introducing the subject of class into America's political argument, and they are more correct than they understand. Their campaign is liberalism as condescension. It is a philosophic repugnance toward markets because consumer sovereignty results in the masses making messes. Liberals, aghast, see the choices Americans make with their dollars and their ballots, and announce -- yes, announce -- that Americans are sorely in need of more supervision by ... liberals.

Wal-Mart is a target of Democrats because it actually supplants a little of the liberal welfare state they hope to create by offering savings and jobs to the poor and lower middle class. Wal-Mart also skewers unions, who hope to filch those savings and put them into their own pockets (as well as lining the pockets of their favored liberal politicians, such as the über-wealthy John Kerry).

The Democrats who have signed on to the anti-Wal-Mart jihad are enemies of the little guy, plain and simple.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 14 September 2006 01:15 AM · Comments (24)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 70

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

combo.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
A combo picture shows the faces of competitors lifting a 83.5 kg heavy stone during the stone throwing event at the Unspunnunen festival in Interlaken.

I think Reuters changed this caption to protect the innocent. Give us the real story.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, September 19. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

rove.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. RadioFreeFred:

I No Longer Fear The Long Armitage Of The Law.

2. : N.B. Goldstein:

Now, if you say "Republicans are the greatest", I'll give you this treat - nope, not yet! Say, it. SAY IT! Come on, now.

3. Cowboy Blob:
You missed, Grasshopper! Snatch the pebble from my hand tomorrow, or AGAIN you must mop the trail of slime left by Helen Thomas.

Honorable Mention #1 Julie:

We'll beat the Democrats like rock beats scissors.

Honorable Mention #2 Sgt. Fluffy:
Then I Popped ole Joe in the head with my ring just like that Dutch Dooley would have.

Honorable Mention #3 ZsaZsa:

Karl Rove gives the Black Power sign. We are the party of Lincoln!...

Captioning tastes great, and is less filling! Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 13 September 2006 12:35 PM · Comments (27)

Tip-Toeing Around The Crazies

One of the infuriating aspects of the War on Terror is the left's belief that we deserve the misery that has descended on us. We are told that it is our 'policies' that cause the terrorist to attack us. Presumably, if we change our 'policies' the terrorists will be mollified, and the War on Terror will end. (I just love the line that it is our 'policies' that makes the terrorists hate us. Imagine Osama bin Laden, up late at night in his cave, reading the latest State Department white paper by the light of his oil lamp, muttering 'damn those infidels! They will pay for this policy!)

Forget things like the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran. Or the ongoing insult of the continued existence of Israel. These days, there are those on the left wringing their hand over things such as George W. Bush invoking the term 'Islamic fascists' to describe our enemies. Robert Wright often appears on BloggingHeads.tv, opposite Mickey Kaus mostly, and he decried Bush's use of this term. He also decried the use of ethnic profiling on similar grounds, in that both tend to further alienate already alienated Muslims here and abroad, pushing them into the arms of Jihadism.

Think about that for a minute. We are supposed to walk on eggshells to keep borderline terrorists from fully going over to the other side. Someone who dedicates their life to terrorism because they were given an extra search at the airport is, with all due respect, already a sociopath just looking for an excuse to lash out. Anyone who suddenly thinks that murder is justified because their religion is slandered by the term 'fascist' (or cartoons, for that matter) is likewise a theo-psychotic, and probably was one long before Bush called them out. Christopher Hitchens gets off a a great line about this attitude: "homicidal nihilism is produced only by the resistance to it!"

Are we supposed to kow-tow to these people?

Wright might respond that, yes these people are exceedingly unreasonable, but we should nevertheless if possible avoid doing things that might set them off. Well, with such people something will eventually set them off - they want to find something to justify their anger and hatred, and as Shakespeare said a stick is soon found to beat a dog. We need to be frank in our discussions of these issues, and we need to take tough stances and actions. We need to call the enemy precisely what he is, and he is indeed an Islamic fascist. It is bound to anger some - but does that mean we back off?

If we do back off, we have allowed the terrorists to frame the debate and define its parameters and limits. We give the fascists input into our democratic debate, and this needs to be resisted. These totalitarians thrive on narrowed, limited discourse and rhetoric. Our strength is our right and freedom to speak out, and the terrorists deserve no veto on that.

Having said that let me seque to BloggingHeads.tv. I gotta say, I find it addicting. If you are looking for political fireworks and mudslinging, go watch the McLaughlin Group. But if you like rather low key, in-depth opinion delivered face-to-face in a very sober way, you might find it very engaging. My favorite guy is Mickey Kaus, who has a very eccentric style at Slate, but on video he comes off as likable, a little goofy, well-informed and not terribly ideological. Some of the guests there, like Daniel Drezner, are just frighteningly smart people. It's must see .tv!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 12 September 2006 01:11 PM · Comments (6)

Some 'Loose Change' Nonsense

Rob Port at Say Anything mentions the Popular Mechanics versus Loose Change debate over whether 9/11 was caused by a 'government conspiracy', and after watching it, it becomes clear that the Loose Change guys rely on the layman's preconceived notions of how planes and buildings should act when being ripped apart to make their case. Such preconceived notions can, of course, be very wrong, and can be refuted by (drum roll) . . . evidence!

One of the strangest arguments that the Loose Change weirdos make is that it was a cruise missile and not a Boeing 757 that hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Of course they have produced absolutely no evidence for this theory (nor can they) because it is nothing more than adolescent speculation. They point to the fact that there were no large parts of the plane left, such as the engines or the wings, once the fully-loaded plane hit the reinforced concrete walls of the Pentagon.

Well, the reason for that is simple. When an aircraft hits a reinforced concrete wall, it atomizes:

 

As you can see, there are no pieces of the aircraft left except the tips of the wings. Pretty good visual proof as to why there was so little left of the plane that hit the Pentagon, and not nearly the damage to the building that one would expect if one were relying on their preconceived notions. Not to mention all the people that saw an airplane slam into the Pentagon. Heh, as if eyewitnesses count for anything! Praise be to AllahPundit for the eyewitness list, as well as the Phantom footage (I think it was him - it's been floating around for a while now).

Posted by Ken McCracken · 12 September 2006 03:57 AM · Comments (2)

Kos Doesn't *Get It*, Of Course

Kos has his own erstwhile memoriam to 9/11 and its aftermath today, which consists of telling us that "Aravosis learned a few things:"

  • The Constitution only applies when the going gets easy.
  • War is the answer, even when you forget the question.
  • The truth is for sissies.
  • America has never faced an enemy as dangerous and as intent on killing us as King George, the Civil War, World War I, the Germans, the Japanese, a nuclear Soviet Union Al Qaeda.
  • The real September 11 story was badly in need of editing.
  • Just because they say it makes it so.
  • We have always been at war with Oceania.
  • A fool is born every election day.
  • Due process is for the innocent.
  • Patriotism means never having to say you're sorry.
  • It's all Sandy Berger's fault.

There you have it - the complete moonbat litany in convenient bumpersticker snippets.

Any mention of the innocents who died that day? [Oops! Yes he did, sort of. Further down in a post he mentions the New Yorkers and Washingtonians who 'bore the brunt of the attack.' Does that count?] Any resolve to win the War on Terror? Anything other than snide cynicisms? Well, further down Kos does offer banal observations on the candidates for president that should stop by and kiss his ring. Which is what really matters.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 11 September 2006 01:27 PM · Comments (2)

'Brave' Path To 9/11?

Thankfully, ABC is going to run the Path To 9/11 miniseries despite the thuggish tactics of Democrats threatening both legal action and ABC's license. It was not bravery that is keeping the miniseries on the air however - ABC has a $40 million investment in this project, and with the controversy surrounding the miniseries now at a perfect high ebb tonight, the ratings should be huge. It was a no-brainer for ABC to keep the show going.

As far as I can tell, here is what the detractors are complaining about:

Among the inaccuracies alleged by Clinton is that while the 9/11 Commission was not critical of his efforts to apprehend al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the movie insinuates that he was preoccuppied with fighting his impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky situation. The movie also has Clinton security adviser Sandy Berger denying authorization to CIA agents about to capture bin Laden, when the 9/11 Commission report said Berger actually gave the CIA the OK and was overruled by CIA chief George Tenet.

The insinuation that Clinton was preoccupied with the Lewinsky affair is absolutely accurate, regardless of what the 9/11 Commission concluded. I know, I was there - I saw the expertly prepared phalanx of Clinton toadies that went on the air and defended Clinton tooth and nail. I saw his entire cabinet line up to say they all believed the President. I saw the bare-knuckled court fights to protect the president from having to defend himself in court. Don't tell me it didn't occupy most, if not all, of President Clinton's time. If Clinton were a man of honor, he would have bravely taken his lumps, knowing as he did that the charges against him were in fact true, instead of putting our nation at great risk by shirking his responsibilities. Clinton's ego and 'legacy' never take a back seat.

The second objection is that the attempt to capture bin Laden was overruled by Tenet and not Berger. This is a minor, trivial distinction. As if the entire miniseries should be pulled to protect the honor of a man convicted of stealing documents from the National Archives - probably in an attempt to further whitewash Bill Clinton's reputation. Berger, Tenet - it doesn't matter when the truth is the Clintonistas had Osama in their sites and let him go. That isn't 'fake but accurate' - that is the incontrovertible truth. Bill Clinton even admitted as such. Clinton later 'retracted' such statements, once he realized the damage it had done to his precious legacy. I ask you however: which is more believable coming from the World's Most Famous Liar - an admission against interest, or a CYA excuse?

For all the complaints that Bush never admits a mistake, you don't see the Republicans and the White House objecting to this portrayal of their mistakes. The Republicans want to be tough on terror, while the Clintons and the Democrats want to appear to be tough on terror - which is why they are fighting so desperately against this miniseries. For all the mistakes the Bush administration made, at least they can point to very significant victories in the war on terror. The Democrats, by contrast, have nothing to show and everything to hide.

Update: If nothing else, the miniseries is making lots of people lose their already tenuous grasp of reality -

"Disney returns to the rascist, anti-semitic ... McCarthyite roots of its founder. Walt would have loved this movie.

Bob Iger must pay. Mickey Rat must die. Disney must be destroyed."

The Path To 9/11 was anti-semitic and McCarthyite? Buddy, you forgot to say it was fascist, fattening and in bad taste as well. I mean, you are allowed more than five or so lines of commentary at Kos, surely you could have stuffed in all the other nasty epithets that came to mind also? Why limit yourself so?

Mickey Rat must die.

Just remember that one when you pull the lever this November.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 10 September 2006 06:05 PM · Comments (3)

The Black Page

A video of Terry Bozzio playing The Black Page, a notorious drum-laden piece of music by Frank Zappa. Stunt guitarist Steve Vai got his start working for Zappa by transcribing this piece and sending it in to Zappa. Frank was quite impressed.

I always thought this was called 'the Black Page' because, properly written with all the notes and indications, there wouldn't be much white left on the page.


You think that's crazy? Check out the setup of Bozzio's 'contraption':



Top that, Dean Esmay.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 7 September 2006 01:52 AM · Comments (6)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 69

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

rove.jpg
Here is the actual caption:
White House political advisor Karl Rove (R) gestures while talking to reporters during a presidential visit to a maritime training institute in Piney Point, Maryland September 4, 2006.

Somehow, I don't think this gives us the full explanation of what is going on here - I know you guys can 'improve' this caption!

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, September 12. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

cricketer.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. Cowboy Blob:

Checking his Pak-age.

2. : Charles Austin:

They accuse us of cheating, but I’ll show you our balls have not been tampered with!

3. Rodney Dill:
Now that Edgar was batter he would be the one to try the 'Whack-A-Mole' ploy on the new bowler.

Honorable Mention #1 RadioFreeFred:

Inzamam Learned Cricket From Scratch . . .

Honorable Mention #2 ZsaZsa:
Pakistani Captain is quite fond of himself... He is also fondling himself.

Honorable Mention #3 Sgt.Fluffy:

Unfortunately...the Pepsi "Sports Cup" never caught on....

Captioning seperates the men from the boys. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 6 September 2006 04:53 AM · Comments (25)

Plamegate Ship Of Fools

One of President Bush's lucky gifts is that his enemies can always be counted on to overplay their hand. This was nowhere displayed better than Plamegate, the greatest non-scandal of our age. The Democrats invested heavily in this bogus story, and if there is any justice they should pay a price for it. You won't get a mea culpa from anyone on the left though, because in the surreality-based community Karl Rove really did leak the identity of uber-spy Valerie Plame, and somehow got Richard Armitage to fess up to it. The Rove-Leaked story is just too good, just too perfect, to let go.

Here is a very short and far from exhaustive list of those whose credibility is shot:

Lawrence O'Donnell - Old Sound and Fury himself screamed and frothed IT WAS ROVE across the front of the Puffington Post, citing his incredible deep-throat-like sources as his authority. Oops! The indictment was for Scooter (Who?) Libby, not Rove, and now even the case against Libby looks iffy. If O'Donnell were capable of shame or embarassment, he would remove himself from the pundit pool.

Arianna Huffington too should get the Emily Litella award for believing every nonsensical aspect of this story, as well as propping up the ridiculous O'Donnell. Well, at least Emily Litella said 'never mind' which you will never get from the liberals regarding Plamegate.

Larry Johnson - all this guy needs is a red ball nose and pancake makeup and the clown act is complete.

TruthOut - these guys are so drunk on Kool-Aid, they still think there is a sealed indictment against Rove.

New York Times - the flagship of fools. They staked everything on their 'good leaks' theory, and now with the NSA wiretap and SWIFT stories breathing down their necks, they should feel like the gits they are.

Liberal Blogosphere - not that you guys came to the argument with any credibility to begin with. But all your assured pronouncements that this would lead to Bush's impeachment, jailing yadda yadda yadda - if you have any shred of objectivity left in your withered souls you have to admit it all makes you look pretty damn stupid right now. If not, you might enjoy a career as a moderator at Democratic Underground.

So how did these fools arrive on the ship? By believing too much, by wanting too much, and by rejecting reality in favor of a fantasy land where Karl Rove really does get frog-marched out of the White House. There were signs, my dear moonbats, that the whole thing was a sham. Robert Novak told you early on that his source didn't come from the White House - but Novak is a lying right winger, so the opposite of what he says is always true, right? Saint Woodward told you early on that this was not a criminal scandal, but you chose not to listen. What he said didn't fit the template, did it. Bob Woodward was only one of several reporters from the paper that broke Watergate who told you this was not Watergate, and you didn't listen, because the dream must survive. Joe Wilson was a con man, a Pied Piper of the left that played just the tune you wanted to hear. And you followed.

Only one person looks better from all this, and that is President Bush. He was accused of going after a political enemy in a despicable manner, and now we find that the despicable actors are Bush's enemies. Bush said he would make every effort to get to this bottom of this affair, and now we have, just as he said. Bush didn't lose his head over this, commit any kind of coverup (à la Bill Clinton) or barricade himself in the White House, because he knew he had the truth on his side and acted accordingly.

Haven't you liberals learned yet that we live in a new age, and that your lies and slanders no longer go unchecked? Or that your news sources too often have the credibility of a Lebanese photo stringer?

Didn't Rathergate teach you guys anything?

Posted by Ken McCracken · 3 September 2006 06:19 PM · Comments (4)

Iraq Weapons Training

Um, if this is any indication of how well the training of native Iraq forces is progressing, we have a ways to go yet.



Posted by Ken McCracken · 3 September 2006 03:06 AM · Comments (6)

Words Can Kill

The American Spectator gives us a historical example of exactly how a loyal opposition should act during wartime. In 1942, the Republicans had plenty of ammunition to use against FDR. Theories about his incompetence leading to Pearl Harbor, or worse that FDR knew the attack would happen, were commonplace. The isolationist United States was now sucked into a worldwide conflict that it was not prepared for. So how should the Republicans react . . . ?

Savage FDR? Run on a campaign of "Roosevelt lied and people died"? Should they go out and tell the American people just how dangerously incompetent the man was, that the best thing to do was make peace with Hitler and Japan's Hirohito, then elect Republicans who would simply force FDR to bring home the boys and let the rest of the world cope with chaos? After all, a few years earlier FDR himself had turned back an ocean liner filled with 937 Jews escaping the looming Holocaust. The idea of not making Hitler, Hirohito or Mussolini any angrier than they were was certainly one approach.

...

What happened in 1942?

The Republicans won the election, gaining 44 new House seats and 10 in the Senate, not quite a majority, but erasing FDR's control. Dewey won in New York and was instantly bannered as a presidential sure thing. GOP gubernatorial candidates won across the country.

What was FDR's reaction? The news account of his post-election press conference reported FDR "laughs." Why? Said the headline: "Assumes New Congress is for Winning, So Why Should Poll Make Any Difference?"

And the Nazis and the Japanese? The so-called Axis Powers? What was their response? The New York Times editorial page trumpeted "an admission from Berlin that it would be 'harboring an illusion' to expect the Republican victory to bring any change whatever in the policy of the United States." Focusing on the silence of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, the paper concluded: "His silence is proof of the fact that we have made the unity of our purpose apparent to our enemies."

We're a long way from 1942.

Far from being silent, our enemies such as Osama bin Laden fairly regularly send out tapes that regurgitate the Democrats' talking points. Osama does not need to work all that hard to put together a PR campaign - he has Michael Moore on hand to do exactly that for him, who issues propaganda tailored to an American audience in a way bin Laden could not achieve on his own, and could not purchase with tens of millions of dollars.

(h/t Dean Esmay and QandO)

Posted by Ken McCracken · 2 September 2006 08:51 PM · Comments (2)