Monday, January 31, 2005

Not to be too speculative, but an implosion would sure be nice

This piece from the Sunday times is encouraging:

Some of those interviewed believe the “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong-il, has
already lost his personal authority to a clique of generals and party cadres.
Without any public announcement, governments from Tokyo to Washington are
preparing for a change of regime.

The death of Kim’s favourite mistress last summer, a security clampdown on
foreign aid workers and a reported assassination attempt in Austria last
November against the leader’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, have all heightened the
sense of disintegration.



and then a little later in the piece:

Bush’s re-election dealt a blow to Kim, 62, who had gambled on a win by
John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Kim used a strategy of divide and
delay to drag out nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan
and South Korea through 2004.

Kim lost his bet and now faces four more years of Bush, who says that he “loathes” the North Korean leader and has vowed to strip him of atomic weapons.

Queer things are stirring at the dark end of that penninsula.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

FREEDOM IS ON THE MARCH!

I doubt any of the candidates can reach Saddam’s 100% of the vote (or was it 101%?) but, nevertheless, this is a great day for Iraqis and for Westerners who support a free Iraq. No amount of negative rhetoric from Ted Kennedy can drown out the good news. The region has taken notice and the apparently solid turnout is a finger in the eye of terrorists. Outside the region there were curious clashes of view. WSJ has one of many blog roundups of the election. (above links via Instapundit)

The President, who steadfastly remained committed to the Jan. 30th date, had this to say about the election.

And then there was the “elections are good, but…” crowd. For some, the glass is never 70% full, but always 30% empty. The goal posts are currently being moved. Like clockwork, from moderately pessimistic Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria’s piece titled “Elections Are Not Democracy” starts:

The United States has essentially stopped trying to build a democratic
order in Iraq, and is simply trying to gain stability and legitimacy


Feb. 7 issue - By the time you read this, you will know how the elections
in Iraq have gone. No matter what the violence, the elections are an important
step forward, for Iraq and for the Middle East. But it is also true, alas, that
no matter how the voting turns out, the prospects for genuine democracy in Iraq
are increasingly grim. Unless there is a major change in course, Iraq is on
track to become another corrupt, oil-rich quasi-democracy, like Russia and
Nigeria.

I may have read past it, but I did not see where Zakaria backs up his opening claim that the U.S. has stopped “trying” to build a democracy and is simply trying to gain stability and legitimacy.

And then there is that ray of sunshine that is Mark Steyn, who predicts that Iraq will be just fine:

When you consider the behavior of the Shia and Kurdish parties, they've
been remarkably shrewd, restrained and responsible. They don't want to blow
their big rendezvous with history and rejoin the rest of the Middle East in the
fetid swamp of stable despotism. The naysayers in the Democratic Party and the
U.S. media are so obsessed with Rumsfeld getting this wrong and Condi getting
that wrong and Bush getting everything wrong that they've failed to notice just
how surefooted both the Kurds and Shiites have been -- which in the end is far
more important. The latter, for example, have adopted a moderate secular
pitch entirely different from their co-religionist mullahs over the border. In
fact, as partisan pols go, they sound a lot less loopy than, say, Barbara Boxer.
Even on the Sunni side of the street, there are signs the smarter fellows
understand their plans to destroy the election have flopped and it's time to cut
themselves into the picture. The IMF noted in November that the Iraqi economy is already outperforming all its Arab neighbors.

The ''realpolitik'' types spent so long worshipping at the altar of stability they were unable to see it was a cult for psychos. The geopolitical scene is never stable, it's always dynamic. If the Western world decides in 2005 that it can ''contain'' President Sy Kottik of Wackistan indefinitely, that doesn't mean the relationship between the two parties is set in aspic. Wackistan has a higher birth rate than the West, so after 40 years of ''stability'' there are a lot more Wackistanis and a lot fewer Frenchmen. And Wackistan has immense oil reserves, and President Kottik has used the wealth of those oil reserves to fund radical schools and mosques in hitherto moderate parts of the Muslim world. And cheap air travel and the Internet and ATM machines that take every bank card on the planet and the freelancing of nuclear technology mean that Wackistan's problems are no longer confined to Wackistan. For a few hundred bucks, they can be outside the Empire State Building within seven hours. Nothing stands still. ''Stability'' is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as sophistication.


I'm hoping that the naysayers get a glimpse of the news footage showing Iraqis standing in long lines and singing and dancing with ink stained fingers, before they pretend that it never happened.

Friday, January 28, 2005

photography website

hey fellow liverputtians. check out the website i put together of my photography:

mathilbun.com

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Book review

Just a quick hit here.

A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron

I wasn't sure what to make of this, as it was a Christmas gift from my in-laws. My father-in-law reads historical books like I do, but I suspect our worldviews are a little different (though we both agree: Nazism = bad).

This book details the heroics of Polish pilots from the Blitzkrieg through the Battle of Britain. Apparently, the Poles had quite the air academy. Unfortunately, thanks to WWI and the Polish-Soviet War of 1919, Poland did not have the industry to crank out modern fighting craft. That later turned to an asset, as the pilots developed better air combat skills to compensate.

Warsaw held out to the bitter end, and a number of pilots and soldiers escaped to France, ducking the Gestapo in Czechoslovakia and Romania. They pressed the French to take the German threat seriously, but to little avail. They again fled, lastly to Britain. Britain was skeptical of the Poles' abilites, but necessity gave the Poles a chance to prove themselves in combat. The 303 Squadron, an all-Polish squadron, shot down about twice as many German aircraft than any other RAF squadron during the Battle of Britain.

Later, the Poles were denied the opportunity to march in Britain's victory parade, so as to avoid pissing off Stalin.

I was afraid this book would have dry parts, but it reads very well. Lots of action.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The inauguration is over

and it's finally safe for me to remove my bumper sticker. To-chan is in town, which is why I've been absent. We're headed for Vegas for a while, so there will be no posting for another week.

Message for Dude: I realize you're extra busy with house and family matters, but Scott is worried because he hasn't heard from you lately.

Monday, January 17, 2005

One bonehead decision deserves another

Zhao Ziyang dies

The West will know a corner has been turned when we can start lamenting the death of Chinese political figures that haven't been exiled by the Party. It hasn't happened, yet.

The deficit shrinketh

from Larry "Open the Money Spigots" Kudlow.

Rare football post

I haven't watched an entire game this season (or last season, for that matter). Since I'm primarily a Vikings and 49ers fan, my season is pretty much over. I started losing interest in the game after the Vikings had those two dominating seasons that didn't end up with a Superbowl. In an effort to rekindle some football magic, I thought I would belatedly jump on the Colts bandwagon, but that proved to be detrimental to the team yesterday. I guess I'll route for the Pats the rest of the way, if they can handle my curse. It'll be interesting to see Boston being successful in two major sports (I have no idea if the Celtics are good these days, and I'm not sure who their hockey team is - if they have one).

Sunday, January 16, 2005

French Relief Effort

via Instapundit. Humiliating coverage of the French military by French journalists.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The story of a Tron constume

via The Corner.

The Pentagon's Spanish Fly

I'm wondering if one of these was accidentally dropped on Abu Ghraib. Perhaps the cover was blown for the secret sex bomb project when locals near Area 51 noted an increase of neon signs and gentlemen's clubs at the facility.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

SECOND UPDATE: Sandy Bergler's Pants

Former Clinton White House official, Bruce Lindsey, denied reports that he met with Sandy Bergler for damage control. That may well be, but at this point I trust his word about as much a CBS employee's insistance that fake Bush memos were aired out of competitive and myopic zeal rather than any political bias.

Of note in this article is the nature of the "accidently" destroyed articles. "Among the documents Berger lifted were multiple drafts of a report assessing the 2000 millennium threat that is said to conclude that only luck prevented a terrorist attack then." Not only would that conflict with Bergler's "honest" sworn testimony to the 9/11 Commission, but it also reminded me of Richard Clarke's self importance. From yesterday's New York Sun article about the soothsaying Clarke:

"An author who interviewed Mr. Clarke extensively for his book "Losing Bin Laden," Richard Miniter, said, "In 1999, Al Qaeda attempted to carry out a series of attacks inside the United States largely along the lines of what Clarke predicted in the Atlantic Monthly. Each of those plots was thwarted by a special team run by Mr. Clarke without the Patriot Act, national ID cards, or any other changes in law."

I'm sure Clarke believes that story, but I'm guessing those thwarted plans were more a result of luck and alert border patrols rather than anything of Clarke's doing.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

What in the heck is the Aviator?

I had to think twice when pulling up Liverputty and seeing my post from a few days ago. Did I see that movie? If so, I had forgotten almost completely about it, which doesn't bode well for its resonance.

Last night I went to the Dollar Tree where they offer old TV shows on DVD. So I stocked up: Abbott & Costello, two Jack Benny discs, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Mr. & Mrs. North, The Toppers, etc. All stuff I probably would've complained about had I lived in the 50s. Take the Bickersons. A pretty worthless show. But bury it in the ground for a few hundred years and it becomes priceless. Men will kill for it....and I digress. Like party poker, I felt compelled to post something just to do it. It has taken considerable effort on my part not to post at length on the upcoming Gonzales nomination or the War on Terror. Scratch that. I think I prefer Austin Bay's Millenium War. By making daily political posts off limits, I now realize how little else there is that interests me on a daily basis.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Aviator

I’m not sure why this movie was made. Prior to seeing it, I was under the impression that it would focus on Hughes making Hell’s Angels. That was not the case. The movie started on the set of Hell's Angels, alright, but that was just the beginning of a quickly paced, yet pondering look at a heavy chunk of the man’s life. In the tradition of Gangs of New York, Scorcese doesn’t know which way to go with this movie, and, as a result, it is bloated with lots of interesting stuff, but nothing except the shell of a character to tie it all together. Obviously, Hughes was an energetic and driven fellow, if not a quirky to downright paranoid, but for the sake of a feature lengthed film, one has to decide which way to approach the story. Are we going to focus on Hughes the plane fanatic? Or Hughes, the movie mogul? Or Hughes, the playboy with a penchant for being reclusive to a fault? Scorcese never made that decision. The only way to successfully transfer the life of Howard Hughes to film is to concentrate on something specific. The making of Hell’s Angels would have been a perfect angle to show Hughes as all that stuff. It could’ve even been about his relationship with Katherine Hepburn or even Ava Gardner.

Other Bad Stuff: Cate Blanchett made a valiant attempt at portraying Katherine Hepburn, but it seemed over the top. I wouldn’t fault Ms. Blanchett, though. Scorcese’s portrayal of the period came from the childhood Scorcese watching the films and newsreels with wide childish eyes. I’m sure Katherine Hepburn was a most outrageous person, but, for the first half of the film, she was portrayed as her character in Bringing Up Baby.

Good Stuff: Jude Law made a damn good Errol Flynn. The actress who played Ava Gardner was very nice to look at. Plenty of airplanes and some good aerial shots. A fake looking, but enjoyable lift off of the Spruce Goose. A dinner with the Hepburns. And a few other details.

Conclusion: Scorcese should narrow down his stories and stop making 3 hour epics.