Saturday, June 12, 2004

Eat, Drink, and be Merry...

Ah, the wonders of the Internet.

Tonight I found the Death Clock which, when I tell it when I was born, what my body weght index is, and what my general outlook on life is, will tell me how many seconds I have left on this mortal coil.

Entered my info: birthday, mid-30s BMI, and generally optimistic outlook. Contrary to Wifeypooh's consternations and contrary protests to the contrary, I am going to stay on the right side of the dirt until 2065 - well into my 90s.

So, concerned as I am with my slightly marine-mammalian physique I punch in a nice(er) mid 20s BMI. That one has me croaking in 2058. So, forsaking that second ice cream serving at dinner will actually cost me seven years. Cue Burns' voice: Excellent...

Now, change my outlook to pessimistic, and even with a svelte under 25 BMI I'm croaking before I hit 50.

So happiness is the key to longevity. Groovey. You gonna eat any more of that?...

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

What are we fighting for?

From today's Washington Post (registration required, but it's free):

A U.S. law enacted in 1994 bars torture by U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world. But the Pentagon group's report, prepared under the supervision of General Counsel William J. Haynes II, said that "in order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign . . . [the prohibition against torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority."

The Pentagon group's report, divulged yesterday by the Wall Street Journal and obtained by The Post, said further that the 1994 law barring torture "does not apply to the conduct of U.S. personnel" at Guantanamo Bay.

It also said the anti-torture law did apply to U.S. military interrogations that occurred outside U.S. "maritime and territorial jurisdiction," such as in Iraq or Afghanistan. But it said both Congress and the Justice Department would have difficulty enforcing the law if U.S. military personnel could be shown to be acting as a result of presidential orders.

The report then parsed at length the definition of torture under domestic and international law, with an eye toward guiding military personnel about legal defenses."

So, if the President says it's okay, we can toss U.S. law. And, if you're outside the country, all bets are off. "Gentlemen, we've just passed into international waters -- the no smoking light is off and the captain advises you your have the option today of choosing cat-o-nine tails or thumbscrews for your interrogating pleasure".

When we become as they, what the hell are we fighting for?

Sunday, June 6, 2004

Req. in pace, Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States


Brotherdear called asking if I had seen the news, and I knew pretty much as soon as he asked what he was talking about. I had read yesterday that it appeared Reagan had taken a turn for the worst, and the concern in Brotherdear's voice for my mental state could only mean that Reagan, my idol since I was nine years old, had passed away.

I cried for Reagan tonight. Aw, hell, he's in a better place, the tears were for me. For Nancy. For all of us.

I was nine when Reagan won the Presidency. Iran, a pissant little country led by a bunch of hooligans fresh from the middle ages had taken 54 Americans hostage and held them for over a year. Inflation was in double digits, and my Dad had been out of work for what seemed like forever. Topping it off, I was a fat little kid with white hair who was regularly threatened with death in my new school. All of this was Carter's fault (even the white hair and the threatened beatings). In rides Reagan.

Ronald Reagan spoke to me that year. He understood the role of the President. The people don't need some sourpuss jackass who gets on the television, spends eleven paragraphs telling America it's screwed, and by way of solution four sentences basically saying "have faith". And, what's more, a sourpuss who looks like he's sucking a lemon suffused with goat piss. Yeah, that's what we need.

Reagan was an actor. So what. I'm married, I have a job, I have kids: I pretend all the time. We're all actors. Reagan was just better at it than the rest of us. And his best role, The role of his lifetime, was that of President. When asked in 1966 what kind of a Governor he would be, Reagan said "I don't know, I've never played a Governor." Well, I'm pretty sure Anthony Hopkins had never played a sociopathic cannibal before winning the Best Actor Oscar in 1991. He just nailed the role. Just like Reagan did.

Reagan was the right man at the right time. We needed, after four ungodly years of Carter (gas lines, inflation, unemployment, canceled Olympic appearances, military advances by the Russian bear) a radical change in direction. Reagan was that fresh wind.

He became the standard bearer for the Conservative Cause, but he governed pragmatically -- getting half a loaf rather than going hungry. He frustrated the Bejeesus out of Democrats, probably for the same reason Republicans went bananas over Clinton: the people loved them, even when they disagreed with them. There was a magnatesim to Reagan that was compelling, just like Clinton. And like Clinton, Reagan understood that the best use of a President is to set a tone -- not to engage in the minutae of government, a la Carter.

He delivered a script the American people were dying to hear. Better times were ahead, don't look back except for inspiration, and buckle up. Carter spoke of lesser glories; of belt-tightening and settling. Reagan spoke always in the positive, didn't dwell on the negatives, and focused America's attention on what should be done, not what couldn't be done.

He made me proud to be an American. I remain so. I am happy for him that his long day's journey has reached its end. I feel very sad for his wife, with whom he was so completely in love. I feel sad for us, as we lose a leader, but I am hopeful that his death at this time will lead to an examination of his life, and that our current crop of politicians may remember the simple truths that sustained and informed his tenure in public life:

Never doubt the strenght of American will and the power of American ingenuity.
Always look forward to a future that will be brighter than today.


Here's something telling, CNN is treating today's news as a solemn event, arguing about the legacy of Ronald Reagan. FOX is going with the Irish wake: an appreciation of the man; his triumphs, faults, and foibles.

Lou Cannon, who covered Reagan for years, both in California and in Washington, wrote an excellent obituary for the Wastington Post, online here (requires registration, which is free).

Go read it. And go read National Review's The Corner, which has an excellent round-up of people's reactions to Reagan's passing.

Information on the President's Funeral Arangements may be found at the Military District of Washington website.


From his goodbye address to the nation in 1989:

"I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries."

Friday, June 4, 2004

George Tenant - Au Revoir

George Tenant, the Grady Little of U.S. intelligence (this is about to become an all-Grady, all the time blog) has resigned/been given the boot.

I don't know George Tenant from a hole in the wall. For all I know he could be a nice guy who gives to the Salvation Army and never, ever cheats on his taxes. He may even be a lover of animals and work part time for his local United Way.

But the U.S. intelligence community under his watch has had a string of stunning victories more painful to bear than the last 35 years of Red Sox futility. Someone has to be held accountable for 9/11 (new story yesterday has the FBI being told about the WTC/plane plot a year before it happened), and even though Tenant was just one part of the vast apparatus -- and the story linked to just now indicts the FBI, not the CIA -- I believe the failure on so many levels to pick up what was becoming a fairly fleshed out story of a plot in the making has to be laid on somebody's doorstep.

Add to 9/11 the failure of American intelligence (and over reliance on assets that had their own axe to grind - something we conveniently overlooked because they happened to agree with what the Administration's preferred belief set was) in Iraq, and I think Mr. Tenant's retirement to greener pastures is somewhat overdue. So does the Blogfather.

Of course, the American voters may have another idea of whom to blame come November.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Return from Exile


It's been a while.

I've been off in the mountains of far Alaska recovering from the latest Red Sox debacle, chanting the mystical "om" while centering my chaka and visualizing Grady Little drifitng southward on a disabled shrimp boat...

But they're back, and I'm back. They new victim, er.. Manager, Terry Francona, seems to be an interesting, if a little stiff, guy. He played for the Expos, Brewers, Cubs, and 1980's Indians, so he really knows about winning. Err...... I mean, he had a great career as a manager, winning 77 games in 1999 finishing in third place with the Phillies... Er.....



Does anybody else think that maybe the whole hiring Terry Francona thing is maybe being driven by the fact Theo Epstein is sitting on a bunch of 1982 Fleer Terry Francona Rookie Cards and he's hoping will finally get above "common" status if the Sox somehow win the series this year?

Ye Gods.