Friday, April 01, 2011

Me On the BBC, Again

After my Monday appearance on BBC Radio, the fine folks at the Beeb had apparently not had enough of your Humble Blogger, so they asked me to appear on the TV version of World Have Your Say. Here it is.

I start in at about 29:30, appearing via Skype.

Ooooooohhh, SNAP!!!

ThinkProgress » Rand Paul Mocks Newt Gingrich: ‘He Has More War Positions Than He Has Wives’

PAUL: I was happy to see that Newt Gingrich has staked out a position on the war, a position, or two, or maybe three. I don’t know. I think he has more war positions than he’s had wives. [...]

There’s a big debate over there. Fox News can’t decide, what do they love more, bombing the Middle East or bashing the president? It’s like I was over there and there was an anchor going, they were pleading, can’t we do both? Can’t we bomb the Middle East and bash the president at the same time? How are we going to make this work?

Is it a sign of the Apocalypse that I'm agreeing with Rand Paul? It's the same feeling of disorientation I had when I heard someone on talk radio talking about how terrorism was the result of our meddling in Middle Eastern politics, nodding in agreement, and realizing with a start that I was listening to Pat Buchanan.

Strange days indeed....

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Party of Love, Yet Again

Indiana Republican: Women Will Pretend to Be Raped to Get Free Abortions

Now I remember why I'm a Democrat.

Hey, I like low taxes and less government regs too, but I'm not going to be associated with people like this. The Dem Party has some fools, to be sure, but I don't know of any Democratic politician capable of this kind of callous, brutal dismissiveness of rape victims.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: CHILD 44, Tom Rob Smith

Child 44Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boy, is this book ever bleak. It starts with a pair of starving Russian children trying to hunt down and kill a fellow villager's cat for food and just gets darker from there. But hey, it's Soviet Russia in the 50's, what do you expect? Rainbows and unicorns?

Leo Demidov is the perfect State Security agent, arresting and participating in the torture, conviction and execution of supposed "Enemies of the State". But in the nightmare that is Stalinist Russia, that could be anyone. Leo's zeal and loyalty aren't enough to save him from the machinations of a ruthless and sadistic rival who wants nothing more in the world than to see Leo suffer. Disgraced and exiled, with even more awful punishments hanging over his head and the heads of his family, Leo begins to investigate a common thread he sees in the horrific murders of several children. But the State takes it as an article of faith that there is no crime in the Worker's Paradise. To pursue a contrary truth is blasphemy of the worst kind, punishable by the worst kind of death.

Tom Rob Smith is brilliant at making you feel the constant sense of dread, insecurity, and paranoia that his characters feel every single day of their lives. This makes the book almost unbearably suspenseful. It keeps you absorbed, wanting desperately to know what's going to happen next, but half-terrified to find out. A definite winner.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 28, 2011

That's INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN Blowhard To You, Pal.

I got an e-mail this morning from a very nice young lady from the BBC World Service who'd seen the column about Libya below and wanted to know if I'd be willing to appear on their "World Have Your Say" program (or as they say "programme'). Actually, what she said was that they were "keen to speak to you about your possible participation on our radio show,"

Sure, said I, and next thing I know, I'm on the radio (or as they say, "wireless"). You can catch the podcast of the show here. I come in about 27:50, so you can skip all the boring stuff. There's a second hour, but it doesn't appear to be up yet.

Didn't get a huge block of airtime; they kept cutting back to people who were actually in Libya and theoretically had some idea of what was going on. I say theoretically, because after listening, I'm now more uncertain than ever about what's going on, which makes me even more determined that we should have stayed the hell out of this.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Don't Care How Ragtag They Are, This is A Terrible Idea (No Matter Whose It Is)

Latest Newspaper Column: The Pilot

When I first heard of the growing rebellion in Libya, one of the first things I thought was, “Well, this must be a relief to the Obama ­administration.”

It wasn’t like Egypt, where, despite our support of democracy and freedom, we had to deal with the embarrassing fact that the corrupt and brutal dictator was a longtime ally. In contrast, we’ve never been fond of Moammar Gadhafi. In Libya, we know whom we’re supposed to hate.

Later, however, when I heard that the British and French were advocating a “no-fly zone” over Libya to keep the rebellion from being crushed, I thought, “Fine. Let them impose it.” We are, after all, a mite busy right now, what with trying to wind down one Middle Eastern war and simultaneously trying to get another war zone at least stable enough to hand it back to the people whose country it is.

I felt an increasing sense of dread, however, when I realized that ­practically every news report about the rebellion in Libya described the rebel forces as “ragtag,” because let’s face it, we Americans sure do love the ragtag.

The word evokes images of Colonials with their ­hunting rifles facing the British at Lexington and Concord, or Luke Skywalker and his plucky rebel pilots going up against the Death Star in their motley ­collection of obsolete fighters. Mark well: When the media start describing a force as “ragtag,” we’re going to be in on their side before too much longer.

And soon we were.

Those of you who are always wondering, often rudely, when I’m going to say something critical of Barack Obama, this is the day you’ve been waiting for. Mark it on your calendars, because I think this is a terrible idea.

Granted, Gadhafi, Qaddafi or Gadaffy, or however you spell it, is a brutal nutcase. He oppresses his ­people. The rebels were about to be savagely crushed. I grant you all of these things. But just like I said back before George Dubbya’s Wacky Iraqi Adventure, the world is full of brutal, oppressive thugs, from nearby Bahrain, to Africa’s Cote D’Ivoire, to North Korea.

Why Libya? Why not any of those other countries?

The only answer seems to be “because in Libya, we can, and at a low risk to us.” Their air force is relatively weak; in fact, British Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell was quoted by the BBC on Wednesday as saying it “no longer exists as a fighting force.” Great. No-fly zone accomplished. Can we come home now?

Of course not. That’s not how these things work. Now, with no air power against us, NATO warplanes and missiles are targeting ground forces loyal to Gadhafi. We have become, effectively, the rebel air force. Can you say “mission creep,” boys and girls?

And as for “low risk to us,” seems to me we’ve heard that before. Not just in Iraq, but back in 1999, when we and other members of NATO intervened in Kosovo. That started as an air war, too, a mission to save ethnic Albanians from massacre by Serbs. The goals seemed simple at the time: “Serbs out, peacekeepers in, refugees back,” according to a NATO spokesman. At the time, I confess, I thought this was a great idea.

Time has proved me wrong. In the Balkans, as in the Middle East, nothing is that simple. “Ethnic cleansing” actually increased. NATO planes bombed civilian ­targets, some accidentally, others deliberately.

In the end, it’s true, Serbian thug Slobodan Milosovic stepped down. But we ended up sending in ground troops as “peacekeepers,” who nearly got into a ­shooting war with Russian “peacekeepers” over the ­airport at Pristina. Twelve years later, Kosovo is still a mess and still requires thousands of NATO ­peacekeepers on the ground.

Seems we never learn. Even so-called “limited” air campaigns invariably end up being a lot messier than we plan for. Add to that the fact that the president committing U.S. forces to a war without any authorization or even consultation with Congress is exactly the kind of exercise of “plenary executive power” that I detested in George Dubbya Bush, and which, lest we forget, was one of the things Barack Obama ran against.

I mean, jeez Louise, even the Bush administration had the decency to lie to Congress about WMDs to get them on board with an ill-considered war.

Airstrikes to aid “ragtag rebels” certainly may seem like the right thing to do. But then, most terrible ideas do.