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December 6, 2005 - November 29, 2005

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Fair Trial

The Man in the Glass Booth, 1975

LEGAL NICETIES. So Saddam is acting up at his trial. Does this surprise anyone? A psychopathic megalomaniac who has owned a country for thirty years is hardly going to sit meekly by while the insects he used to swat presume to sit in judgment on him. Casting about for remedies, we thought at once of the old movie, The Man in the Glass Booth, in which accused Nazi war criminal Maximilian Schell is essentially put on display at his own trial in a soundproof box. Of course, the Iraqis probably didn't see that one. It wasn't exactly a big budget picture, and it may still not be the most welcome subject matter for Arab muslims. Still, it offers some design cues that would considerably lessen the amount of discord we're seeing in the courtroom right now.

It was Saddam's own half-brother who asked the other day, "Why don't you just execute us?" The question does highlight the purpose of the trial, which is one the sheep of the contemporary civilized world will never comprehend. Yes, the verdict is certain, as is the sentence. A fair trial does not mean that every defendant has a chance of being found not guilty. Sometmes it means only that there will be a judge and a jury and attorneys arguing both sides of the case before the inevitable death sentence is handed down. Is this a paradox? No. Some people really are so clearly and incontrovertibly guilty that trying them does amount to a ritual.

But it's not a trivial ritual. In such cases it is far less important that the the accused gets to confront his accusers -- though he does have this opportunity within the strict limits of coutroom protocol -- but that the victims are permitted to confront the perpetrator and the perpetrator is forced to confront his victims. This is the nature of the catharsis the trial can effect, and it is not appropriately achieved by enabling the accused to rant and rave like a sugar-crazed toddler in a nursery school classroom. And if silencing the tantrums of the accused imposes humiliation upon him, that is also part of the ritual. Those who cannot find humility within themselves are frequently destined to undergo humiliation by outside agents. This is also appropriate and, in ways the ACLU and Ramsey Clark are too insipid to understand, just. It's also the outcome Saddam and his half-brother are most afraid of. When Saddam says, "I'm not afraid of being executed," he's also saying that he is afraid of being humiliated. Good.

Therefore, we offer a few options for the Iraqi court to consider in regaining control of the Saddam trial. The cheapest and easiest recourse is a muzzle like the one Hollywood dreamed up for Hannibal Lecter.

The Lecter Muzzle

This would enable Saddam to follow the proceedings without elaborate technical assistance, but it also tends to amplify the sinister presence of the wearer. One yearns to make Saddam look, well, silly. That's why the next alternative occurred to us, some variation of the legendary device from Get Smart known as "The Cone of Silence."

The Cone of Silence

It could probably be configured to accommodate Saddam and all his attorneys. It could even be made bulletproof, which should satisfy Clark's security concerns.

Still, if we had our druthers, the Iraqis would pursue another option that occurred to us almost immediately. It's based on the exploits of Harry Houdini, who managed to escape repeatedly from a device he called "The Water Torture Cell."

The Water Torture Cell and the Great Houdini

We grant that it's impractical if the the trial should last more than two minutes or so, but there is something deeply satisfying about it. After all, it's technically possible to get out of it. But that's not going to happen. It's a perfect symbol of exactly this kind of fair trial. That's why we like it.

What do you think?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Getting away from it all.

See the hole in the North Pole? Sure you do.

TALLY HO. The news is all dreary and repetitious, and now the Christmas season is upon us in its usual premature ubiquity. Some people cope by looking for escapes of one kind or another -- a Caribbean cruise, immersion in professional sports like NFL football and college basketball, or even some form of hibernation. We don't want to derail anyone's plans, but we've discovered the ultimate escape, one designed to let you leave behind family, friends, politics, medical and weather paranoia, civilization, and just possibly your senses. Sound good?

It comes in the form of an expedition being organized out of Provo, Utah. An outfit called Steve Currey's Expeditions is promising the following:

Voyage to Our Hollow Earth - 24 Day Trip

Would you be interested in a once-in-a-life-time chance to discover Our Hollow Earth first hand? We invite you to join us now on an expedition to Our Hollow Earth!...

If we are successful in finding the polar opening, then within 1,700 miles from any farthest north Arctic land bordering the Arctic Ocean we should reach the inner continent just as Admiral Richard E. Byrd did on his 1947 flight beyond the pole, as described in Amadeo Giannini's 1959 book, Worlds Beyond the Poles. 

At that time, Giannini wrote, "This United States Navy's polar exploratory force was preparing to embark upon one of the most memorable adventures in world history.  Under the command of Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, U.S.N., it was to penetrate into land extending beyond the North Pole supposed end of the Earth ... As the hour approached for the air journey into the land beyond, Admiral Byrd transmitted from the Arctic base a radio announcement of his purpose, but the announcement was so astonishing that its import was lost to millions who avidly read it in the press headlines throughout the world...The words of the message were momentous:  'I'd like to see that LAND BEYOND the Pole."..."That area BEYOND the Pole is THE CENTER OF THE GREAT UNKNOWN!" 

Subsequently, "...the admiral and his airplane crew accomplished a physical flight of seven hours duration in a northerly direction beyond the North Pole.  Every mile and every minute of that journey beyond was over ice, water, or land that no explorer had seen...As progress was made beyond the Pole point, there was observed directly under the plane's course iceless land and lakes, and mountains where foliage was abundant.  Moreover, a brief newspaper account of the flight held that a member of the admiral's crew had observed a monstrous greenish-hued animal moving through the underbrush of that land beyond the Pole."

It is the intention of this expedition to search out and explore that area Beyond the Pole that Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd discovered.  It is estimated that within 1,500 miles of the Pole, the expedition should reach the inner continent. The coastline of the inner continent could then be followed looking for the River Hiddekel and sail up the river to the port City of Jehu to meet the inner earth inhabitants, just as Olaf Jansen and his father did in 1829...

The estimated round trip to and from the hollow earth North Countries of Inner Earth via the North Polar Opening is about 20 days.*

Steve Currey, our expedition organizer, will bring along his sat phone which can be used to send emails to friends back home from the top of the world.  Internet updates may also be made to this website so we can share with our friends back home the progress we're making, at least as long as we can make connection with the communications satellite.

Doesn't that sound great? A trip not just to the North Pole, but into the North Pole, where they keep all the really weird stuff you've always wanted to know about. In case you didn't know, lots of people believe in the hollow earth theory, and they've got tons of evidence for it. And don't be claiming it's not scientific. Of course it's scientific, or they wouldn't be able to test their theory by going to the North Pole. Don't you think you should go along? Every field trip needs at least one adult to supervise the lunatics children. Whatever. Here's what you'll be travelling on.

It's a Russian icebreaker ship. A rental. Looks comfy, doesn't it? They probably keep the swimming pools below decks because of, you know, the weather. Departure is scheduled for June of 2006, and the cost is only  $18,950 per person.

That seems like a bargain to us. We can't wait to hear from you via Steve's sat phone from the inner earth. If there's no problem about the satellite. Or the Russian rental. Or the disappearing into thin air forever factor. That's why we'll be waiting here. Someone really should sit by the phone at this end. Just in case.

Bon voyage.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Castor Oil

Honda Insight (top) and Toyota Prius (bottom)

ADAM.22.1-9. There's more and more talk these days about hybrid cars, which combine electric motors or windmills or something with internal combustion engines to use less gas. Buying one is a very politically correct thing to do, and those of us who don't are supposed to feel a little guilty about clinging to an old-fashioned technology that enriches the Saudis and represents a continuing danger to the Alaskan caribou.

I think this is a lot of piffle. The manufacturers of these things aren't serious. They're trying to score PR points with rabid environmentalists, and that's it. My evidence? Look at the damn things. These are cars for people who hate cars, a niche market that used to be served by Volvo and Saab. They're almost affectedly goofy in their lines and proportions. They're the automotive equivalent of castor oil, vile tasting stuff that's supposed to be good for you. If they could speak, they'd sound like Mortimer Snerd, and they'd say things like, "Uh, I'm just sensible transportation, yup, yup, yup, thank you very much." And, yeah, I know Honda is also offering hybrid versions of the Civic and the Accord. So what. I don't care how ecstatic Car and Driver waxes about the Accord; throughout its long history, it's been about as seductive and fascinating as a Maytag washer. Serious car people don't want'em, and there's a very long evidentiary record in this country demonstrating Americans to be, on the whole, extremely serious car people.

Furthermore, there's absolutely no reason for us to apologize for loving cars and wanting them to reflect our personalities and tastes. The ongoing geeking of America may be satisfying to some, but I guarantee that there's still a commanding majority of us who believe that even 21st century life should still permit individuals to pursue romance, excitement, and esthetic enjoyment. Environmentalists can fantasize all they want about the virtue of transforming us into a nation of drab Luddite drones, but if they should ever succeed, millions of people would stop getting out of bed in the morning. What would be the point? Life has to be about more than what we consume and excrete from our tailpipes, and recycling as an avocation is even less inspiring than collecting Star Wars merchandise.

So forget about the guilt trip. The onus is all on the automotive manufacturers. Design and build hybrids that are cooler, sleeker, faster, and more fun to drive than the old technology, and people will buy them. Until then, if I have to choose between a Honda Insight and the brand new equivalently priced Pontiac Solstice gas-burner, there's no question at all which one I'll pick.

Pontiac Solstice

NOTE TO HUGH HEWITT READERS. The reported "plummeting" of the stock was caused by a malicious rumor that site superstar Puck Punk had badly sprained his syntax and would be unavailable to play in the upcoming season. The truth is that Puck Punk suffered a compound fracture of his diction three years ago but is now fully recovered. As much as can be expected anyway.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Despicable politician (left) and despicable politician (right).

THE LIMIT. The flashpoint was a quotation posted by Laura Lee Donoho at the Wide Awake Cafe. A conservative blog quoting a conservative columnist -- Max Boot. What's the problem? Here's how it starts:

AND THE DEMOCRATS wonder why they are considered weak on national security? It's not because anyone doubts their patriotism. It's because a lot of people doubt their judgment and toughness.

It's not because anyone doubts their patriotism. It's not because anyone doubts their patriotism. It's not because anyone doubts their patriotism. It's not because anyone doubts their patriotism. It's not because anyone doubts their patriotism. It's not because anyone doubts their patriotism. How many times do we have to write and say this to appease the traitors of the left? Well, I, for one, am done with this flavor of bullshit. Sorry, Max. This time I'm lining up with Ann Coulter.

When Democratic Rep. John Murtha called for the withdrawal of American troops in the middle of the war, Republicans immediately leapt to action by calling Murtha a war hero, a patriot and a great American.

I haven't heard Republicans issue this many encomiums to one man since Ronald Reagan died. By now, Murtha has been transformed into the greatest warrior since Alexander the Great and is probably dating Jennifer Aniston.

In response to Murtha's demand for the "immediate withdrawal of American troops" — as The New York Times put it — President Bush called Murtha a "fine man, a good man" who served with "honor and distinction," who "is a strong supporter of the United States military." He said he knew Murtha's "decision to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops ... was done in a careful and thoughtful way."

Vice President Dick Cheney called Murtha "a good man, a Marine, a patriot."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Murtha is "a fine man, I know him personally ... and it's perfectly proper to have a debate over these things, and have a public debate."

National Security Adviser Steve Hadley called in his praise for Murtha from South Korea, saying Murtha was "a veteran, a veteran congressman and a great leader in the Congress."

During the House debate on Murtha's insane proposal to withdraw troops in the middle of the war, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., said Murtha deserved an "A-plus as a truly great American," and Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said "none of us should think of questioning his motives or desires for American troops."

Coulter think it's a pack of nonsense. So do I. She makes a point that should have been as glaringly obvious to everyone else as it was to her and to me:

One of only two American Navy aces that the Vietnam War produced, [Randy] Cunningham shot down five MiGs, three in one day, including a North Vietnamese pilot with 13 American kills. Cunningham never did something as insane as proposing that we withdraw troops in the middle of a war, but this week he did admit to taking bribes.

And yet, no Democrat breathed a word of Cunningham's unquestioned heroism before rushing to denounce him as "the latest example of the culture of corruption" — in the words of Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Is it okay that he took bribes? No. He's a slimeball. He's a hero AND a slimeball. Hmmm. Work it out in your little heads, kids. The key to understanding lies in the fact that the words "hero" and "saint" are not synonyms. Not even close. Here's a useful example of the difference:

At Washington's suggestion, ______ again joined the northern army, and by a brilliant stratagem dispersed the army of St. Leger, which, in cooperation with Burgoyne, was coming down the Mohawk valley, and had laid siege to Fort Stanwix. After Schuyler had been superseded by Gates, ______ was placed in command of the left wing of the army on Bemis heights. In the battle of 19 Sept., at Freeman's farm, he frustrated Burgoyne's attempt to turn the American left, and held the enemy at bay till nightfall. If properly reinforced by Gates, he would probably have inflicted a crushing defeat upon Burgoyne. But Gates, who had already begun to dislike him as a friend of Schuyler, was enraged by his criticisms on the battle of Freeman's farm, and sought to wreak his spite by withdrawing from his division some of its best troops.

This gave rise to a fierce quarrel. ______ asked permission to return to Philadelphia, and Gates granted it. But many officers, knowing that a decisive battle was imminent, and feeling no confidence in Gates, entreated ______ to remain, and he did so. Gates issued no order directly superseding him, but took command of the left wing in person, giving the right wing to Lincoln. At the critical moment of the decisive battle of 7 Oct., ______ rushed upon the field without orders, and in a series of magnificent charges broke through the British lines and put them to flight. The credit of this great victory, which secured for us the alliance with France, is due chiefly to ______, and in a less degree to Morgan. Gates was not on the field, and deserves no credit whatever. Just at the close of the battle ______ was severely wounded in the leg that had been hurt at Quebec. He was carried on a litter to Albany, and remained there disabled until spring.

Who is the great hero this passage is delineating? His name is Benedict Arnold. A hero and a traitor of the American Revolution.

I don't really care why John Murtha is a traitor. He just is. Here's his latest, culled from Drudge today:

Most U.S. troops will leave Iraq within a year because the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth," Rep. John Murtha told a civic group. Two weeks ago, Murtha created a storm of comment when he called for U.S. troops to leave Iraq now. The Democratic congressman spoke to a group of community and business leaders in Latrobe on Wednesday, the same day President Bush said troops would be withdrawn when they've achieved victory, not under an artificial deadline set by politicians.

Murtha predicted most troops will be out of Iraq within a year. 

"I predict he'll make it look like we're staying the course," Murtha said, referring to Bush. "Staying the course is not a policy."

What does this do for the troops in the field? It gives their enemies hope. It suggests that the United States military is so pitiful, weak, and cowardly that 2,000 battlefield deaths can break their spirit utterly. It suggests to the insurgents terrorists who are trying to kill our troops every day that they should try harder. It suggests to the millions of Iraqis who are trying to build a democratic nation with our help that they can't count on our help and should therefore stop taking risks for their freedom. It frightens and disheartens our allies, and it emboldens our enemies. That's treason.

And what is this all about anyway? Ostensibly it's about the dread number 2,000. (If you need proof, here's an uproariously ridiculous column by the ancient moron who calls himself Jimmy Breslin. The dread number is so awful that it even has the power to make lockstep Clinton ass-kissers turn on their beloved godhead -- send Chelsea to Iraq! -- you gotta love it.)

If 2,000 American dead are sufficient to require immediate cessation of the policy that caused the deaths, regardless of the short and long term costs and consequences, then we have a whole lot of rethinking to do as a nation. Automobiles must be outlawed immediately because while 2,000 professional soldiers were dying in Iraq, more than 100,000 American civilians were dying in their cars. All hospitals must be closed immediately, because while 2,000 were dying in Iraq, approximately 300,000 Americans were being killed by negligence, erroneous prescriptions, and surgical mistakes. All cities must be shut down immediately, because the concentration of human beings in urban centers results in homicide, and while 2,000 were dying in Iraq, upwards of 100,000 Americans were being murdered by relatives, friends, and strangers. And while we're at it, we'd best demolish the Lincoln Memorial and rip Abe's face off the $5 bill, because he misled the nation into a war that killed 600,000 Americans (corrected for population growth since 1860, that's the equivalent of 5 million of today's more sophisticated Pussy-Americans). Come to think of it, tear down the Washington and the Jefferson memorials too, because those sick bastards misled this country into a war that killed more than 7,000 Americans. And get that lying S.O.B. FDR off the dime; he said he'd keep us out of WWII and wound up killing more than 400,000 Americans. Nothing is worth this kind of loss of life.

Or so certain kinds of hero veterans would have us believe. Why? Because serving in the military in a democracy can be done by almost anyone, including fools and knaves and ambitious politicians. And if you're a canny ambitious politician, you are especially anxious to serve because then your opinions about foreign policy are automatically sanctified by your service. You become immune to criticism from chickenhawks like Dick Cheney and split-tails like Ann Coulter. You are free to pioneer a new species of vermin called Eaglepussies, who put on a raft of medals and patriotically assert that the best policy for their nation is to surrender unconditionally to those who have done her harm.

Consider it a new kind of arithmetic. Veteran + Treason = Patriotism. As long as you're a goddam Democrat.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reminding Ramsey Clark

CAREER ADVICE. According to recent trial coverage, former Attorney-General and Saddam defense counsel Ramsey Clark is concerned about security:

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who has joined the defense team as an adviser, said it was "extremely difficult" to assure fairness in the trial "because the passions in the country are at a fever pitch."

"How can you ask a witness to come in when there's a death threat?" Clark told CNN. "Unless there's protection for the defense, I don't know how the trial can go forward."

The tribunal adjourned until Dec. 5, only 10 days before the country's parliamentary elections, to give the defense time to replace lawyers who have been assassinated since the trial opened Oct. 19. Monday was the trial's second session.

We always pay close attention to what Mr. Clark says and try to apply the same lofty intellect and moral sensibility to his remarks that he brings to bear on the world stage. For this reason, we'd like to urge him not to be too hasty in his response to the current situation and to remember his own sterling principles.

Yes, it's true that a couple of defense attorneys have recently died under suspect circumstances. On the other hand, we have no absolute proof that these deaths were definitely linked to the trial of Saddam. And even if there is such a link, there's no certainty that just because there have been assassinations in the past, there will be more attempts in future. It's at least possible that everything is sort of okay security-wise. Intervention into the lives of witnesses and attorneys for the defense by military or other weapons-bearing personnel simply cannot be justified at this time without first exhausting all possible diplomatic options.

Here's what we recommend. While the trial proceeds, Mr. Clark should petition the United Nations Security Council to appoint a team of international inspectors to study the circumstances of recent deaths among the Saddam defense team. In accordance with international law, the inspectors must be given as much time as they need to conduct interviews and amass evidence, and they must observe the requirement not to work behind closed doors or to infringe the rights of any suspects they examine. The results of this investigation should then be forwarded to the Security Council for review. If that body deems, upon due consideration, that there is a quantitatively proven threat to the lives of the defense team, a U.N. peacekeeper force can be sent to Iraq for the purpose of ensuring security. However, in light of Mr. Clark's long record of opposing violence against murderers of all kinds, we would further recommend that any U.N. peacekeepers who might ultimately be sent to Iraq should be restricted to the use of rubber bullets and tasers rather than live ammunition. They should also announce, in advance, the exact date on which they will withdraw their protection. These constraints may seem onerous, but they have the virtue of being entirely consistent with French international standards of ethical conflict resolution.

We understand that the trial may be over long before the appropriate U.N. procedures can be carried to completion, but it would be far worse to sully Mr. Clark's impeccable reputation with an unwarranted application of force in what is incontestably a volatile situation.

In closing, we would also urge Mr. Clark to soften his rhetoric about those who may be disposed to wreak violence on the Saddam defense team and instead seek to understand the underlying reasons for their alleged grievances, which may involve longstanding cultural, social, and religious factors that a white man such as the former U.S. Attorney-General has no right whatsoever to condemn or engage in any preemptive way.

Good luck, Mr. Clark. We hope it all works out in a way that preserves your massive integrity -- and your scrawny old neck.

There. We feel better now. How about you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

You're fired.

Dan Bartlett, Scott McClellan, and Nicolle Devenish

THE LIST. George W. Bush doesn't like to fire people. It's his greatest weakness. If he wants to prevail in his most important policies, however, it's time he overcame that weakness. Pictured above are the first three heads that must fall: Dan Bartlett, Strategic Communications Planning; Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary; and Nicolle Devenish, White House Communications Director.

These people assumed their current posts in the wake of the President's highly successful campaign for reelection. Since then, they have presided over one public relations debacle after another -- the needless Schiavo brouhaha, the incompetently presented Social Security reform initiative, the appalling failure to take credit for successes in Iraq or to counter the MSM's "Vietnam quagmire" fantasy, the Cindy Sheehan farce, the self-destructive Miers nomination, the Valerie Plame fiction, the cone of silence enforced while the Democrats screamed and shouted their "Bush lied" lie into every network microphone for months, and the feeble counterattack that led to the ridiculous playacting of John Murtha.

By any possible standard of competence in communications, these people are miserably and irredeemably inept. If they were merely obedient soldiers executing the instructions of the big boss, they should have resigned en masse long ere this in protest at being deprived of the opportunity to exercise their good judgment. If they actually concocted the communication plans that responded to the crises listed above, as seems more likely in the court of the Great Delegator, they should be drummed out of the profession -- hollow square, buttons ripped off, swords broken -- the works.

The one thing I can't understand is why more Republicans haven't demanded exactly this step. It may be difficult to see into the workings of Bartlett's and Devenish's jobs, but we see McClellan every day. The picture shown here is typical -- hands up in surrender. He is continually at a loss, defensive, borderline oafish, argumentative when he should be cool, placating when he should be predatory. His performance alone is enough to indict his communication superiors. He's minor league and even his surname is unpleasantly evocative of the blowhard general who was always piling up more resources for a battle he could never bring himself to fight. Get rid of him. NOW.

Dan Bartlett is, according to his official bio, "Counselor to the President.... responsible for all aspects of President Bush’s strategic communications planning and the formulation of policy and implementation of the President’s agenda. He also oversees the White House Press Office and the Offices of Communications, Media Affairs, and Speechwriting." Which means he can offer up the excuse that he's too busy and important to get involved in the disastrous day-to-day bumbling of White House communications. But it's not a good excuse. There's no value in architecting the big plans for tomorrow when today is a fire burning out of control. His bio says he's from Austin, Texas. Another old friend in over his head in the big time. Get rid of him. NOW.

Nicolle Devenish. Has anybody even heard of this babe? She's 33. She's a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. [!] She's also the White House Communications Director. Her sole responsibility is to advance the president's agenda in the press and protect him from partisan assaults. Is it possible that her schooling so accustomed her to the treasonous and hateful rhetoric of the left that it doesn't even raise her blood pressure? "Never you mind, Mr. President. When you meet them for wine and cheese in the faculty lounge, they're really pussycats. Just let them talk." Or is she too busy preening in the mirror of her corner office -- sexy power player already and only 33!! Actually, it doesn't matter what the story is with Nicolle. She's a bimbo, and she needs to be fired. With prejudice. NOW.

You can whine if you want about the sin of shooting the messenger. But in this case it's a misnomer. Delivering bad news to the President isn't their primary job. Going to war in the communications arena on his behalf is. And their performance in this respect has branded them as fools, cowards, and stooges.

Now tell me why the blogosphere isn't seething and bubbling with exactly these sentiments? Are you all asleep?

Then wake the hell up.

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