July 11, 2006 - July 4, 2006
It's been a short but turbulent week in the blogosphere, and now it's
time to review some of the highlights and lowlights from our admittedly
The North Korean kerfuffle gave us the opportunity to revisit the hilarious Team America website, which did much to offset the tedium of the pundit class, most of whom are still trying to describe the right diplomatic approach for dealing with a lying, murderous midget who's broken every promise he ever made.
A word to the wise, though. One of the commenters on the January entry
offered the following (which we can neither confirm nor deny):
Another flurry of hits sought out an entry
recording one of our pet peeves: the deterioration of major league
baseball attire. A little research
turned up some kindred
spirits who also disapprove of this particular sartorial crime:
Well, it's nice not to feel completely alone on a major issue.
It's even better not to feel completely alone on a second major issue. For once we have to agree with the great blowhard Neal Boortz about something. He doesn't like the tailbone tattoos women seem determined to disfigure themselves with these days. And we have to thank him for pointing us in the direction of this great SNL treatment of the subject.
While we're being grumpy about trifles, you should know that the audio
clip playing with this entry was chosen because some of us happened to
see Kevin Spacey's movie Beyond the Sea earlier this
week. It's clear that for Spacey this fanciful biopic about Bobby Darin
was a labor of love, but the end result is completely terrible, an
unmitigated disaster. Love aside, Spacey is just plain too old to play
a young Bobby Darin and his acting is so over the top it verges on the
cartoonish. The script itself is unpleasant if not actually
deranged. And these aren't even the movie's biggest sin. Bobby Darin
was as accomplished a saloon singer as Frank Sinatra, and it was
unforgivable for Spacey to believe that he could be effective at faking
that voice and singing style. It just doesn't work, and we hope to God
it doesn't become a trend -- Steve Buscemi acting/singing the part of
Sinatra, Meryl Streep acting/singing the part of Doris Day, Forrest
Whittaker acting/singing the part of Mario Lanza... It's a dark road
that should never be travelled as far as the coast, let alone beyond
On a lighter but still musical note, we'll end with a link to a rather
delightful interview with Ann Coulter in which she recounts her life as
If you love hating Ann Coulter, don't read it because there's a chance
you'd wind up hating her a little less, and that wouldn't be any fun,
So long for now.
P.S. Yes, today is the first anniversary of 7/7 in the U.K. People are also looking for our pix from that day. They're here. We stand by what we said then. More than ever.
. I saw Mr. Bush's
press conference today with the Canadian dweeb who insisted on talking
French before English. Canadians. Hmmmph. BUT it was a Canadian
journalist who wished the President of the United States a happy
birthday, which GWB noted with typical self-deprecating humor.
So he's 60 today. That fact makes him a Charter (or seminal) Baby Boomer, since the beginning of the boom coincides with the end of WWII in 1945, and obviously, the first babies born to the boom would have been conceived in that year and born in 1946. His sixtieth birthday is the signpost of a generational milestone as the nation's most privileged generation begins its passage into the "golden years."
You'd think there would be some media attention to the striking fact that the President of the United States is, factually and symbolically, in the vanguard of the generation that benefited most from the achievements of the so-called Greatest Generation.
Yet, like the American journalists at today's press conference, there's been almost no attention paid to this significant anniversary. But there's one notable exception, and I will defer to it completely. The blogger known as The Anchoress has written a beautiful essay about George W. Bush on the occasion of his birthday. Read the whole thing here.
Fie on the mass media. They never fail to fail to be gracious to this president.
I should probably be really worried about the North Korean missiles,
but it's hard to do that. Sophisticated technology projects are
difficult enough under the best of circumstances because there's a need
for equal and opposite forces in play to achieve success. Schedules
generally call for maximum results in minimum time, while the sheer
complexity of the undertaking requires a devotion to quality assurance
that tends to moderate results and lengthen lead times. Imagine
attempting to implement an ICBM-based nuclear weapons program in an
organization headed by a single megalomaniacal retard whose idea of
project management is murdering those who fail or tell him no.
What you get in circumstances like that is a bunch of poor judgment and frightened CYA activity by those who are supposed to be dispassionate, scientific, efficient, and prudent. The results tend to be flashy but sloppy in the short term, plagued by escalating problems in the medium term, and utterly unmaintainable in the long term. Yes, the North Koreans can pull off a missile test, or two or six, but that's a very cry from being able to integrate accurate, dependable long-range missile systems with properly engineered nuclear warheads. Somewhere between now and then, they are likely to cripple their own over-extended resources through some catastrophic accident against which no safeguards have ever been put in place.
I know it will be argued that we've seen great technological achievements by other despotic regimes, notably the Soviet Union, China, and Nazi Germany. But none of these regimes was afflicted with anything like the full array of North Korea's handicaps. All three of these frightening precedents had access to vast natural resources and populations ranging from 150 million (?) in Nazi-occupied Europe to nearly a billion in China, as compared to 22 million North Korean prisoners, many of whom are starving literally to death.
All three of the old evil empires also had effective espionage apparatuses to counterbalance the weaknesses of tyrannical project management. Further, the record suggests that their accomplishments -- however frightening to their enemies -- didn't ever quite live up to the boasts made about them. In the end, the Soviet Union collapsed in large measure because of the inordinate percentage of GDP spent to create a gigantic nuclear arsenal in a totalitarian state that couldn't build a reliable automobile; for them, real efficiency was never possible. In the last five years of Hitler's rule, the Third Reich generated dozens of brilliant (non-nuclear) weapons prototypes that could have turned the tide of the war if the military had been able to manufacture them, but typically, the necessary resources were squandered to the bad decisions of the fuerhrer. Needless to say, North Korea hasn't a fraction of the scientific talent of mid-twentieth century Germany. And while China did become a nuclear power under Mao, that country has made far more progress by conning capitalist nations into selling them technology than it ever did during the Cultural Revolution.
It will also be argued that North Korea has so far prospered by blackmailing or cajoling foreigners into giving them technology. But if I give you an F-16 and you can't find a resource for spare parts, how long will that F-16 be able to fly? And if you can terrify a pilot into taking off in it, will you regard it as mere bad luck if he crashes before he reaches the target?
Here's what I believe it comes down to. Nothing technological in North Korea is maintainable, even if it can ever be made to work in the first place. Here's a telling excerpt from Strategypage's report on yesterday's missile tests:
If a rail system can't be maintained in working order, what of
intercontinental ballistic missiles? It's not as if North Korea is
exactly rich in powerful friends. Stealing from the only people on
earth who give a damn about you? Come on. That's why the American
response to yesterday's tests was so much milder than some
people seem to want. A four-year-old sociopath with a machine gun
may be a disturbing sight, but the truth is, if his finger ever gets
near the trigger when it's loaded, you can just shoot him in the head then. Everyone will understand then.
He was once the CEO of Goldman Sachs, and he was rich as Croesus. Then
he bought himself a seat in the U.S. Senate with God only knows how
many of his own millions lavished on the campaign. So far so good.
Nerdy executive wants to leap into the glamorous political life and
feel like a statesman. A statesman from New Jersey. O-k-a-a-a-y. I
could sort of buy that.
After that it starts to get fuzzy. The senior Senator from New Jersey -- a Democrat named SopranoTorricelli -- gets himself caught in a nasty bribery scandal, and the New Jersey Democratic Party replaces him in mid-campaign with 97-year-old ex-Senator Frank Lautenberg, who is duly elected by a trusting electorate.. Then, the Democratic governor of New Jersey gets himself caught in a nasty gay sex-cum-corruption scandal and declares his intent to resign at a future time that will be convenient to the gubernatorial election prospects of the Democratic Party. This historical nadir of Democrat prestige in the state is the exact point at which Jon Corzine announces his intention to run for governor, on the Democratic ticket, of course.
Well, that was confusing. I had a theory, but there were things wrong with it. The theory was that Jon Corzine actually fancied himself a future candidate for President of the United States and was the first Democrat to figure out that senators always lose the election if not the nomination. Generally, the American people want a state governor for President. A successful state governor. And there was the hole in the theory. New Jersey doesn't have successful governors. We have sleazy incompetents who are exposed as fools in the eyes of voters either immediately after their election or immediately after they leave office. How could that help Corzine's presidential ambitions? Who would want to leave the relatively safe environs of the U.S. Senate to administer one of the most corrupt state governments in the nation, particularly when the current state of unspeakable embarrassment couldn't be blamed on anyone but Democrats? Yeah, Democrats usually win the governorship in New Jersey, but not always, and when they do, they have an unbroken track record of instantaneously raising taxes in the most heavily taxed state in the union and then having to tough it out for four straight years of voter rage, which may or may not evaporate just in time to win a reelection squeaker in a heavily Democratic state.
So my revised theory was that Corzine had dreamed up a way to be a different kind of New Jersey governor. And he talked that way during the campaign. He talked about making the state attractive to business and bringing in more jobs to reverse the gradual exodus from the state that's been going on for decades. He spent plenty more millions getting out that message.
But then he took office, and what did he do? The exact same thing all his Democratic predecessors did. He announced a huge array of tax increases, including measures that penalize the working class Democratic base rather more than they penalize the affluent -- including higher (much) excise taxes on cigarettes AND a one percent increase in the state sales tax, which is already high (6 percent) in a state that has property taxes and an income tax, plus a highly regressive state-run lottery tax system business.
Well, raising the sales tax in this situation is a 100 percent guaranteed loser. You see, people actually pay the sales tax out of their own pockets -- no withholding magic -- every day of their lives. They also know that no politician in American history has ever lowered a sales tax. That means, they KNOW they'll be paying one percent more for everything for the rest of their lives.
Even the Democrats in the state legislature aren't that dumb. They rebelled. And what does Corzine do? He retaliates with an act of extortion that is once again aimed straight at the blue collar Democrat base: he shuts down the casinos because they can't run without state monitors, effectively laying off hundreds of working class wage earners and eliminating one of the major entertainment resources of thousands of other wage earners.
I have a new theory. Jon Corzine is f___ing crazy. He should be locked up.
I also have a corollary theory. Sooner or later, Democrats are going to stop seeing liberal-sounding mega-millionaire politicians as slightly less good-looking incarnations of John F. Kennedy. They may even reach the point of deducing that when you've spent your entire adult life riding around Manhattan and Washington, DC, in limousines that you can't necessarily be believed when you declare your undying allegiance to the plight of the little people. They may realize that to the Corzines and Kerrys and Gores of this nation, the little people are, in fact, just little people -- there to be used, manipulated, lied to, and patronized, with absolutely no accountability of any kind.
Maybe Corzine can escape accountability in New Jersey. There's no fool like a Springsteen fan, as we say in my neck of the woods. But the good news is, he won't ever be President of the United States. Even the dumbest Republicans will know what to do with a record like his, if he ever throws his silk tophat in the ring.