Saturday, August 16, 2003
But one liberal Democrat actually does get it. Thomas Friedman was a veteran Middle East correspondent for the New York Times during the 1980's and early '90's. He got kicked upstairs to the editorial page and now bangs out a foreign affairs column for the Times twice a week. Two of his books won him honors; From Beirut to Jerusalem and The Lexus and the Olive Tree.
Friedman never accepted the Bush Administration's argument that Saddam was pursuing a weapons program that posed an imminent threat to the United States. Most liberal Democrats didn't, although that was an argument the Administration never actually made. The central thesis of the Administration was that Saddam had to be killed now before he could invest his considerable oil wealth in a weapons program that he had invested in over a period of two decades. Friedman, however, has always asserted the the central aim of the Administration was to remake the Middle East in a more democratic image, with governments accountable to the governed. His reiteration of that belief is found here. I tend to agree with his central assertion.
The U.S. Government can hunt down every terrorist on the hit list until the cows come home, but unless the corrupt states of the Middle East are dragged from the Nasserism of the 1950's into the 21st Century, the hate and sense of grievance will always be with us. Throughout the Cold War, the Left admired "Arab Nationalism". The idea of shaking one's fist at the West appealed to liberals and leftists alike. Leftover guilt from the era of colonialism, coupled with a rage over having been fed too well by the G. I. generation, led to a strange identification with some of the most squalid tyrants to have graced the pages of history. What the left was applauding was fascism, of course. Entire generations of Arabs have lived under the heel of one dictator or another. Quite frankly, the Arabs have eagerly licked the boot of any fascist, any con man, any intellectual mountebank who promised to "confront" the West and destroy the "Zionist Cancer". Only now, when it is too late, are the Arabs coming to realize that it was all a lie.
It is the Arabs who must change, lest they remain an insignificant strategic backwater whose only virtue is that they live their lives on top of an ocean of oil. If they do not change, or are not forced to change, they will remain as they are: angry, vengeful, and full of hate.
That's my take, not Friedman's. Click on the link above to go to his column, however. It's quite a good read, as most Friedman articles are. It's not that Friedman is a Bush fan. He's not, he's a liberal Democrat. However, while he does tend to be rather condemnatory of tax relief, Friedman articles tend to avoid the acidity and partisanship of Paul Krugman and the chatty silliness of Maureen Dowd.
One of the things that enrages me about liberals is the way they have attempted to blame a surprise attack on the United States on George W. Bush. This effort has led to a phrase, "connecting the dots", that has come to plague journalism and political discourse. In other words, people who don't know and never tried to know are trying to blame others for not knowing what they know now in advance.
I've always tried to make an effort to compare the run-up to 9-11 with what happened to the American naval command in Pearl Harbor and the political leadership in Washington in November and December of 1941. After mid-November, Naval Intelligence lost sight of Japan's First Mobile Fleet. The fleet had left Hiroshima Bay for a secret anchorage in Hokkaido Island. Combined Fleet Headquarters had opted for a risky, northerly route that would take the fleet north of Hawaii, then turn it south, charging several hundred miles directly at the islands. Despite the fact that radio silence was broken by several ships, the fleet approached undetected and cloaked. The rest is history.
In the weeks that followed, as America suffered one reverse after another in the Pacific, the Congress held hearings into the attack. There was a political need to find scapegoats, in order to cover for the general intelligence failure of the Americans and the tactical brilliance of Admiral Isoruku Yamamato and his staff. Naturally, this led to the railroading of Admiral Husband A. Kimmel, then CINCPAC, and General Walter Short, who was Army commander at Schoefield Barracks in Oahu. In later years, they would both die broken men.
The upshot of my comparison is this. Kimmel, Short, and the staff back at Old Navy in Washington, D.C., didn't have the imagination to put themselves into the mind of their adversary, Yamamato. Everyone understood that Japan was on the verge of an offensive in Asia; the American oil embargo had insured that things would happen. But they expected an attack to the south, on the Phillipines, Borneo, and the Dutch East Indies (where the oil was). The Americans were supposed to have time to gather themselves, and steam in battleship order off to meet the Combined Fleet in a huge naval gun duel in the Carolines or the Phillipine Sea. Yamamato had other plans. No one but Yamamato, Nagumo, Genda, Fuchida and the other members of the planning assault groups knew of the time, place, and means of attacks. The Americans couldn't conceive of the possibility that someone would directly attack American territory. It was simply not possible.
Six decades later, the comparisons to 9-11 are obvious. The terrorists had the element of strategic surprise. As with the Japanese before them, they had the luxury of the initiative. Time, means, and location all lay in the hands of the senior Al Qaeda personnel (namely bin Laden, Al Zawahiri, Mohammed Atef, and a few other technical people). The idea that Americans should have been able to "connect the dots" prior to this attack is laughable, and betrays an ignorance of history and a shallow understanding of basic military strategy. It also fails to allow for the fact that on the morning of September 11th, we were a nation at peace. We had convinced ourselves that a new age was at hand, old hatreds would be buried, and a new interdependent global economic order was at hand.
Someone forgot to teach the chattering classes some history.
My cousin, Jack Getzz, had a commentary about this after he and I had knocked this stuff around a couple of weeks ago. His take on the jihad that the liberals had declared following the 9-11 report:
I've always been fascinated with systems analysis, have picked up bits and pieces.
One key aspect of any self-regulating open system is the feedback loop - approval ratings for politicians, applause for actors, telemetry for rockets, whatever. Once you look for it, it's everywhere. You also tend to notice …
Systems tend to fuck up. Systems tend to do the opposite of what they're designed (or have evolved) to do.
The common thread I've noticed in a lot of this is what I call "the perverse paradoxical feedback loop."
Normally, positive feedback keeps you ("you" including humans, robots, natural systems, whatever) on track when you're achieving or getting closer to some goal; negative feedback zaps you when you're of course, not getting it. Sometimes it works the other way around - hence perverse. It's often predictable, but at the same time, also a case of systems doing exactly the opposite of what they're designed for - i.e., IT SHOULDN'T HAPPEN - hence, paradoxical.
Railroad fatalities in 1810 are X per number of miles traveled. Over the years, designers improve the safety level of trains, tracks, tunnels, grades, whatever. In 1830, the level of fatalities is still X. The reason: engineers compensated for the increased safety by taking more risks.
A guy and a chick are having an argument. He's irritated, is driving too fast, a little erratically. She says STOP DRIVING LIKE AN ASSHOLE. The result: he drives faster, more erratically, more like an asshole. The reason: responding to the negative feedback would mean admitting, in fact, he was driving like an asshole.
Many of the perverse results arise because humans are aware of feedback systems and work to circumvent them. Why study, when you can whine and cry until your teacher into gives you a good grade? Why put on a good play, when you can use advertising pressure to bully a newspaper into giving a good review? Why listen to hard facts now that you're a Hollywood STAR when you can surround yourself with sycophants? Why accept bad news when you can shoot the messenger?
Perverse results especially crop up when the feedback loop is digital (on-off) as opposed to analog (a series of gradual corrections). I.e.: zero tolerance. If making ANY MISTAKE means getting fired, I won't correct my mistakes, I will do my best to cover up my mistakes and put the blame on someone else - hence there's absolutely no feedback.
So: airplane pilots are supposed to have perfect vision. The minute your eyesight weakens, you're out. The result is not pilots with perfect vision but pilots doing their best to hide any defects - not wearing glasses, cheating on eyetests, taking exams on their own time. (Lasik surgery's probably made this a date example.)
Broadly speaking, if you create a system where anything less than perfection is failure, you destroy any possibility of self-correction through feedback. The ideal is constant real-world feedback of every step of the process from idea to execution. Demming got into this in the industrial process. You can apply the same principle to marriages, relationships, philosophical thought, whatever.
But the only way it works is if it's safe to be open.
Hence: if we approach 9-11 as a "catastrophic failure of the intelligence community" with the intention that someone - better still, a whole line of someone's - must be crucified for it, a nice little Appian Way of crucified FBI, CIA, NSA and other governmental fuck-ups, because it HAS TO BE SOMEONE'S FAULT - the result will be that everyone involved right on down the chain will do their best to make everything about what they do opaque - to cover asses, shift blame, destroy, disappear or lose evidence, not put two and two together, to stonewall, obfuscate, lie or find sacrificial lamb if you have to because IT'S YOUR CAREER, the result will be we'll learn very little or nothing, won't refine, fix or improve the process, won't learn any lessons, won't be ready next time.
The smart thing is to say what happened was, literally, psychotic and inconceivable - that it didn't occur to us because we are a healthy, open, non-psychotic democratic society - that they're the motherfuckers, not us - that the thing to do is dispassionately examine the chain of what happened and figure out what to do differently so it'll never happen again. But that can't happen if you're looking for scapegoats.
It has to be safe to be open.
That is as superb an analysis of what happened following the September 11th attacks as I have ever read, for it gets to the nub of the matter. We either remain open to learning from our mistakes or we look for scapegoats and set ourselves up for another attack. While my cousin is not a conservative (he's a middle of the road independent voter), he is one of the people who has seen the forest for the trees.
Friday, August 15, 2003
Twenty four hours after the blackout began Democrats just about blamed the entire thing on George W. Bush. There comes a time when you just have to step back and wonder if they really believe their own horse manure. The activists do, of course, but the politicians aren't supposed to be as pig-ignorant as the activist base. Of course, what happened was a technical problem that affected the Northeastern States power grid. So far, they've been able to narrow it down to a plant in Ohio as the culprit.
Technical problems should be beyond the scope of political debate. However, once Senator Clinton tossed her broom into the ring, the rest of the Hollow Men just had to follow. You will hear, before the weekend is out, some intellectual steaming pile accuse the Administration of failing to "connect the dots" to prevent this blackout.
I promise you, this will happen. Democrats and their talking points are joined at the hip.
By the way, my cousin Jack Getzz sent me a memo concerning the entire "connect the dots" line of reasoning. I will print it here in full in the coming days. It sort of explains the reaction to the 9-11 attacks.
A Field poll to be released tomorrow has Cruz Bustamante up on the Arnold by three points (25% to 22%). As usual, the Stupid Party is splitting its vote, with the third stringers (McClintock, Ueberroth, and the joker of the deck, Bill Simon) polling in the mid to high single digits. That's enough to cut Arnold down to size and give the race to Bustamante. An analyst on one thread over at Free Republic indicates that Bustamante has no big upside to his vote, and that this poll should change as Arnold's campaign accelerates and Republicans decide to abandon the chumps and cast the "serious" vote for Arnold. I'm betting that it will, as I suspect that Arnold is hardly an empty suit.
Finally, I want to provide a link to James Wong's Yoko Kanno Project page. Yoko Kanno is one of Japan's most prolific composers and is held in high regard by everyone in the anime community. She is responsible for the soundtracks for classic animated series such as Cowboy Bebop and The Vision of Escaflowne. Two years ago, she was commissioned by Production I.G to compose and arrange music for the hit Japanese televison series, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex. Wong created this page as a tribute to her. Under the "music" category of that page, you can find Windows Media Player-capable recordings of her greatest stuff. It's absolutely a joy to listen to it, and it makes you want to go out and buy the CD's. Just click on the banner to send you there....
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Looks like God got pissed off at the Episcopal Bishops and decided to exact His Justice on the electrical power grid of the Northeast United States. According to our Friends Up North, lightning struck a power station on the American side of the Border. Of course, the Canadians started pointing fingers to make us regret not having Jean Chretien for President. Pretty piss-poor conduct from a nation whose hockey teams have yet to win a Stanley Cup this century.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton called in to the Larry King show and started to find a way to blame a power outage on George W. Bush, as if the President forgot to turn on the light switch or feed the squirrels on the generator treadmill. The woman can't help herself.
"Well, Larry, we Democrats tried to pass a bill that would have put in backup systems that would have prevented this problem, but George W. Bush and His Oil Buddies were too busy giving Tax Breaks To The Rich and forcing young black men back to plantation slavery to bother...."
Oh well, God bless her. Somebody has to. BTW, my intellectual drinking buddies, the Freepers, are having a howl with this one. The good thing about FreeRepublic is that it remains, unapologetically, the last home of Barroom Brawl Conservatism. Well, at least until Ann Coulter walks in the room. But back to Hillary.
Clinton called in to Larry while the King of Hialeah Race Track was hosting none other than our old friend, Gray Davis . Davis was going on about how this couldn't have happened in California given all the power plants His Administration Wisely Forsaw To Build. Sweet Jesus Alou, old Pete "Wetback" Wilson started those plants. Larry had on Governor Richardson of New Mexico, as well. I guess it was Old Home Week for Bubba's Leftovers at the Clinton News Network.
But I digress. I guess that Governor Davis believes that if he actually goes on Larry, the sixteen people in California who stil watch CNN will be convinced by his gravitas, his winning personality, his command of the issues and his helmet hair that he is something other than a craven, moneygrubbing poltroon. Of course, there is the fact there there are at least sixteen laughing, drooling idiots in California (hey, Davis was not only elected, he was reelected!). Is it becoming clear why Davis, Bustamante, and the rest of that crowd have lasted as long as they have?
Meanwhile, down at the Venice Beach Gym, Ahnuld is in Training. Yesterday was Warren Buffet Day. Today is George Schultz Day. Tomorrow, it's back to the banana/wheat germ Carbohydrate Blast Protein Shakes again. Schwarzenegger is hiring some serious, heavy duty gravitas to go along with his lovely wife and his penchant for contraband cigars. Again, this gets back to my observation of yesterday: the Terminator is playing a long game, and actually intends to come up with some real, honest-to-God solutions to California's budget crisis. Arnold has been preparing this for some time, and he knew exactly who to contact to help him not only win, but govern. As I said to the Freeps, I half-expect James Baker to pull on in to Sacramento as the election draws near and take out a floor of the Sacramento Radisson.
When Mr. Schwarzenegger hits the trail, Organization Democrats are expecting him to be a dim bulb with some powerful Monied Interests behind him. Again, the totemic example of the Ignorant Republican Stooge is Robert Ritchie, from last year's final season of The West Wing. "Ritchie", as we all know, was the producer's stand in for George W. Bush. The hero of the show was Josiah Bartlett, who was supposed to be a cross between the politically clever Bill Clinton and the earnestly serious Al Gore. Of course, that the liberals ended up with a character who resembles Martin Sheen in thought, word, and deed speaks volumes. Just as that show's producers thought Bush an idiot, so Democrats in California really believe that Arnold is an idiot.
But what if Schwarzenegger's campaign turns out to be some Osterreich version of Teddy Roosevelt? Elmer Gantry in lederhosen? Well, the Dems are up a creek. Period. Their entire campaign is to make it look as if Arnold has his head up his ass on the Big Issues that Affect California's Working Families, People of Color, Women, Gays, Lesbians, and the Transgendered. It all falls apart if Arnold is able to turn on a dime and attack, using his issues to frame the debate. Dan Weintraub, of the Sacramento Bee, wrote an interesting thing in his blog a few days ago, after the news that Arnold had voted for Proposition 187 (the "no citizen, no social services" proposition that had been approved by the voters, but struck down by a Federal Court). What Weintraub said was most revealing.
As an observer, I think the most important development in the entire story Sunday was that Arnold's campaign responded immediately, didn't say they didn't know how he voted or that Arnold couldn't remember how he voted, and put out a positive statement in which Arnold defended his position. If they had done otherwise, the story would have been not only that he might have backed 187 but that his campaign was in disarray in its early days. As it was, my paper described the campaign as "scrambling" in the lead paragraph of the lead story Monday. If this is scrambling, watch out when they get their legs under them...
Arnold moves fast, and has a competent campaign staff that moves as fast as he does. This is a good sign for his campaign, and a bad sign for Democrats.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Arnold Schwarzenegger brings his "A" game to a "meet and greet" with retirees at a shuffleboard court in Palm Springs.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is thinking ahead. Way ahead.
Conservatives have their suspicions about Arnold's candidacy. While they tend to gripe about Schwarzenegger's lack of devotion to the Unborn or his tendencies towards gun control, they have not been able to argue that his economic heart isn't in the right place. His advisors include Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer, and Arnold has been known to give Milton Friedman's popular argument for markets, Free to Choose away as gifts. This cast of characters should have signaled to conservatives that Arnold's head is in the right place.
Now Mr. Schwarzenegger is signaling that he is actually thinking about how he will govern. Yesterday, he brought Warren Buffet on board. This was an extremely smart move, in that it signaled that Schwarzenegger is serious about budgetary reform and that the Moody's rating for California state and municipal bonds was one of his chief concerns. Arnold was basically telling the Press that he had gravitas. But what's more, he told the economic community in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco that he is deadly serious about the State's fiscal crisis. This is very important, as it will begin to dawn on the money people in the State that Arnold isn't some ignorant prat who will fiddle as Rome burns.
This development, an alliance between one of the wealthiest Democrats in the country and California's most famous public figure, has been some time in coming, I suspect. It helps that the two have been friends for some time.
Meantime, President Bush has bounced back. Or, as the Washington Post likes to put it, Bush's numbers have stabilized at 59%. After the beating he has been taking from the liberal Democrats this summer, the fact that his approval ratings remain at 59% is a testiment to the bond that remains between the President and the nation. His reelect numbers hover around fifty right now, precisely because of the economic difficulties that are still with us. However, it's a good rule of thumb that any President going into the election with those numbers has a damned good chance of bringing home a landslide.
Arnold's ability to attract crossover Democrats and Independents remains strong, but everyone expects some softening in his support as he begins to get specific about issues in the coming week. I'm not so sure. This is the first time since the Recall was instituted by Hiram Johnson that one has been successfully sent to a ballot by the people. It seems to me that the voting populace is in no mood to split hairs, and wants someone who they believe will act. This episode looks more and more like the months prior to the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. I think they are pissed.
Not a good environment for the political class in either party, I'd say.
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
It is passing strange to watch the Democratic Party's Totenkopfverbande wing sieze control of the Party. The motivating force behind such online outfits as DemocraticUnderground.com and MoveOn.org is a deep and abiding personal hatred of George W. Bush.
It is so deep that centrist Democrats, such as the mildly liberal members of the Democratic Leadership Council, have taken issue with the Left's personal demonization of the President. The Centrists failed to understand the depth of this hatred. They also failed to realize that it could be harnessed to benefit a candidacy if properly addressed.
Liberal Democrats don't want the soft admonitions of Evan Bayh or Joe Lieberman. They want red meat and hatred.
Howard Dean understood this early on. Going into the Iraq war, Dean was one of the few Democratic Presidential candidates who came out foursquare against the conflict. Indeed, while mass graves continue to be uncovered, Uday and Qusay continue to molder in their well-deserved rest, and David Kay goes about the business of uncovering Saddam's weapons program, Dean and other Democrats continued to oppose this war. Not out of principle, of course. Rather, they oppose it out of political calculation.
Howard Dean wants to lock up the base vote so he can move to the right for a general election campaign against Bush. Antipathy towards the President helps in that effort. Liberal Democrats say to each other that this guy hates Bush just as much as they do. Liberal Democrats want an immediate pullout from Iraq, having lost their nerve to fight the war against terrorism. So to curry favor with them, Dean wants an immediate pullout as well. This kind of red meat reasoning shows the lack of serious intent within that party.
Virtually the entire Democratic opinion and political class defended Bill Clinton's DESERT FOX air campaign of 1998. Al Gore and others insisted that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, which he did, and was a mass killer, which he was. Now Al Gore and Howard Dean act as if there never was an Iraqi weapons program, the Kurds of Halabja never died, and Saddam was simply a misunderstood Boy Scout who came from a deprived home. The only thing that changed between 1998 and 2003 was the fact that there was a Republican in the White House.
With that change came a smoldering anger among base Democratic voters against George W. Bush. It is a personal hatred, based on their perception that the 2000 election was "stolen" and based the proposition that the Bush family is a corrupt instrument of the oil and banking industries. Understand this: base Democratic voters despise George W. Bush, his family, and his dogs Barney and Spot.
Liberals want them put to sleep...
They despise George W. Bush in a way that they could never hate Saddam al Hussein or Usama bin Laden. Hussein and Bin Laden were abstractions to the left. One was a comic opera fascist, complete with tailored uniform and jaunty beret. The other was a latter day Sauron of Modor, sending out Nazgul to kill people and destroy things from a metaphorical Barad-Dur.
But George Bush is real to them. And the liberal Democrats hate what is real. Part of what is going on here is a denial of reality. Remember that we all lived through the Nineties. We were all told that there was nothing but blue skies ahead. We had prosperity. We had a budget surplus. Too, we had a massive credit bubble that would inevitably burst. However, off in the distance and far away, there lived a mysterious terrorist named bin Laden who would blow up our ships and embassies from time to time. But we had other concerns: there was money to be made. That was the world in which liberal Democrats and their lovable hero, Bill Clinton, lived for almost a decade.
For all that illusion, there was a terrible price to be paid.
It matters not. Democrats want their world back. Usama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, and the other Usual Suspects won't let them have it back. Their response is to do what they normally do: blame the President for whom they have feelings of hatred, malice, and revenge.
I hold that the American people have moved past the Left. Howard Dean may seize the nomination, but elections are won by candidates who offer something to do, rather than oppose what is done by their opponent. There is a reason that Gallup, Ipsos-Reid, and FOX News/Opinion Dynamics have Bush back up the high fifties after the summer long "Bush Lied! They Died" agitprop campaign conducted by the DNC and its outriders. The hate that Democrats have for Bush, the disdain that base Democratic voters feel for the War, and the public campaign to defame the President and his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, has led to an increase in support for the President out in Middle America.
The voters understand that this President is honest about this war and sincere in his objective: to destroy the terrorist international and the states that support it, and to protect the American people. There may be reverses from time to time; there will be more dead American soldiers in the coming months. The mass of the people, however, have decided to see this through.
The liberal Democrats do not see that, yet. They will not see it until it is all too late for them. They can't, you see. They are blinded by hatred and anger towards one man. The Party that gave us such titans as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, George C. Marshall, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey is offering up a cheap, dimestore version of George McGovern in the person of Howard Dean. In the end, all the Democrats have to offer is fear itself.
The entire California political establishment had figured that Bob Mulholland had scared Arnold off with a blizzard of threats to expose Arnold's "past" to the state. Some figured that Schwarzenegger's fan dance during June and July had been a tease to get people to file into theaters to see his latest cinematic presentation: Terminator 3: etc., etc.. Most observers believed that Maria Shriver, his wife, would put her foot down and keep Arnold down on the farm. They were wrong, as we now know.
What Schwarzenegger did was masterful in its execution. His deception was aimed at Senator Diane Feinstein, the only statewide Democrat who was considered a stateswoman by members of both parties. To a lesser extent, Arnold held back from announcing until the last moment to keep Davis' people frozen in place. Arnold had let slip leaks to the press, specifically to Dan Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee (whose column is devoured by political people in the state capitol). These leaks were for consumption by Davis people, Feinstein's people, and the rest of the Usual Suspects.
Schwarzenegger's breakout depended on deception and a strike at the moment of maximum distraction. I will tell you, by the time Arnold went on Leno last week, most of the nation had concluded that Arnold Schwarzenegger had decided to listen to his wife and stay home for the fall. One of the leaks that came out concerned Arnold's good friend, Richard Riordan. Apparently, Arnold had given the former mayor fifty grand towards a Riordan Campaign. It was another, small deception that convinced Riordan that Arnold was out.
Naturally, some of Riordan's people probably talked to the Press or to Davis' people. That's how leaks are intended to work. It worked for Arnold. Up to the last minute, the entire CalDem apparatus stood against the Recall. When he announced, the dam broke.
I suspect that only Maria Shriver knew of his true intentions. Time Magazine reported that Arnold kept the deception up until the last moment, telling Leno that he intended to "bow out".
Senator Feinstein had pulled out the afternoon of Arnold's announcement. She did not want to run. Feinstein was the doyenne of California politics, and a run for governor under these conditions would have been beneath her. She bailed once she was certain that Arnold was out. Arnold had other ideas.
With Feinstein gone, all Arnold had to do was to continue to give the impression during the day that he intended to bow out on Leno. Davis must have felt that he had scared Arnold off. What Davis did not know was that he had fallen for one of the great head fakes of our time.
Schwarzenegger understood that once he was in the race, the media would come to him. He could set the table. His events would be covered by the cameras in ways that Cruz Bustamante or Tom McClintock could only dream of. He would grab hold of the strategic initiative, and hold it. That's why he did what he did: surprise was essential, and deception was a necessary element of surprise.
Arnold is working right now because a majority of the voting public suspects that something is rotten in the State of Denmark. In this regard, specific position papers are less important than how Arnie carries himself and argues for his general principle:
1. California is broke.
2. Gray Davis is at fault.
3. Ahnuld will fix things.
As long as Arnold issues reasonably thought-out position papers, responds with alacrity to attacks, and continues to campaign as "Arnold", the other Republicans will begin to drop away and the moderates will come his way.
This election is not a lead pipe cinch. Arnold could come down with a case of Taurets and start screaming the "N-word" in a roomful of black single mothers and their children. Live. On national television. But he won't. He'll probably remain focused and campaign on a few basic issues. If he keeps the campaign concentrated on a few large, if basic issues that Californians can understand and accept, I think he wins.
Monday, August 11, 2003
Sunday, August 10, 2003
It was California, the state of my birth; it was Los Angeles, my hometown. California had been a dream-state for me in my Seventies adolesence. The shock of my first return to Los Angeles in the fall of 1968, coupled with the estrangement from my father during the following decade, made my stay there in 1983 somewhat bitter and anticlimactic. I came home to Fort Lauderdale late that year, never to return. I did get to meet my father, witness the birth of my nephew, and meet by brother for the first time in a decade and a half, but California in 1983 meant a dead-end job and nowhere to go.
So I left, with no ambitions for the place and none for myself in that city. I left somewhat pissed off. My life since then hadn't been a roaring success, but I had built a career with a major company, met a wonderful woman who would become my wife and the mother to the only daughter I know.
I hadn't really "been" to California in twenty years. I was, at long last, fully a Floridian, and would probably remain one for the remainder of my years.
Before I made my first entry on this blog a week and a half ago, I had flown out to Los Angeles to see my mother, my sister, and her husband. I also had to hunt down a good friend of mine, Juan Domingo Peron (not his real name, of course) and his wife, Evita. This entry is a bit about that trip, a bit about what I saw there, and much about the politics of the place that was beginning to boil in the last week in July.
The trip itself was half adventure, half duty call. I had assisted the move of my relatives out to Los Angeles from their home in Coral Springs, Florida. It had been almost a year since then, and I was obligated to return to the state of my birth to visit my mother. She had had her back surgery delayed until I came out, and I wanted to see her before her operation. And so I went, courtesy of American Airlines, on the 19th of July, 2003.
I had a good stay, had some fun with my sister and her husband. He was kind enough to show me one of his favorite watering holes, the Scotland Yard just off Topanga Canyon on Victory. The waitress there made a wicked ale/scotch combination (I think that's what it was, anyway). We had an eminently forgettable stop at a local titty bar; at which I forgot the old admonition that a fool and his money are soon parted. My brother in law covered for me, as I was walking around woefully unprepared with traveler's cheques in a cash environment.
I offered to pay him back, but as he is a stand up guy, he refused. Family obligations, one would suppose. He has built an enormously successful finished carpentry business in the space of a year. Indeed, he is well on his way to earning what the legendary Hollywood agent, Irving "Swifty" Lazar, called his "fuck you" money (a man's first million when earned in Hollywood).
As he is a connossieur of fine cigars, I made a point to purchase him a couple of mild Maduros in dark leaf wrappers before I left.
However, while California might have its downsides, it does have one great upside, the Sagebrush Cantina. Located in Calabasas, this place does a land-office business on Sunday afternoons, invaded as it is by a combination of bikers and porn starlets. It's one hell of a place to be on a Sunday afternoon, and the beer flows. There I met one of my brother's friends, John F. Kennedy (again, not his real name), who was a happily married husband by day and allowed his eye to wander by night. It was at the Sagebrush that I relearned the old lesson: Los Angeles has more tits and ass in one place than in any other town on Earth. I might add that some of the guys there really know how to have a good time.
Even the women in their forties look good.
One of the highlights of my trip was a morning adventure into the alternate universe of the Hollywood Left, located as it is in the Topanga Canyon area. The first morning of my stay, the family went to Pat's Topanga Canyon Grill deep in the canyon's hill country. Pat is a refugee from Florida who grew up in Daytona Beach. He told me that his mother was going to name him Daytona. Ten years ago, he invested what he had, and then some, in Pat's Grill. Eight hundred thousand dollars later, Pat's remains a wildly popular, farmhouse-like restaurant nestled on a hillside next to the Boulevard.
As the family waited for a table, I spotted a tall woman enter the porch area of the Grill from the driveway. She appeared to be in her mid to late forties, wore a t-shirt, jeans and sandals, and had a full head of long, layered black hair. I knew at once that I had spotted my first Hollywood Leftist. Her t-shirt was a bit more imaginative than the usual slogans that pass for reasoning among the Sturmabteilungen of the Socialist International ("Bush Lied! They Died!" and other charming triumphs of the Socratic Method). Indeed, I should have given her a prize right then and there. This woman was obviously a member of the creative community, as her shirt displayed her understanding of irony. From her point of view, anyway....
Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492
It occured to me that nothing seemed more typical of Hollywood than a considerably well-off Topanga Canyon liberal wearing one of the Indians' now-famous "Homeland Security" t-shirts (this thing will probably become one of the better sellers since the "Fighting Whities" t-shirts of a couple of years ago.).
During the week, I took some free time to negotiate my way through the Los Angeles freeway system in my brother-in-law's Beetle. It handles well, and I fell in love with it while my brother was still living in Coral Springs. It was the perfect get around car for L.A., and I understood why it was so popular in Los Angeles when it first came out about six years ago.
I was off to Japan Town, Hollywood, and Northridge to hunt down some of the finer Japanese animation retailers in the country. As a collector of Japanese animation, I like to peek in on local retailers to see what they have. Japan Town has Anime Jungle, underground in a hotel mall near the Japan Town Chamber of Commerce Shopping Center and Tourist Trap. They've got a lot of the good stuff, DVD's, wall scrolls, and cels. A good place: I recommend it to any collector.
I went down to Hollywood to look for the Holy Grail, Animate. Animate is a Japanese chain store that decided to open up an American franchise. However, Animate decided to open up on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. High rent, and somewhat hard for the L.A. anime community to get to easily. It closed before I got there, only to be replaced by a fetish store. Finally, I made it to Anime North in Northridge, on Reseda Blvd. They had a pretty good sampling of material, and I was seperated from some of my money one more time.
An old friend of mine told me once that the collectibles business always reminded him of what the Bobcat once said about Presidential elections: it's like going to a sex shop and picking out the least painful dildo.
I contacted Juan Domingo Peron through his father, Juan Sr.. Eventually, he called me on my mother's cel phone and set up a meet. I told him that it would be best if I drove to his home in the foothills above Glendale. Peron's community was a small town of tract homes in the mountains. I drove through the twilight of rush hour on the Ronald Reagan Expressway, anticipating a meet with Peron, who I hadn't seen in twenty years.
Peron and I had gone to the University of Chicago together, along with our mutual friend, Roger Staubach (not his real name) of Plano, Texas. I had renewed my friendship with Juan back in 1983, and then lost touch with him several years after I had returned to Florida. It was good to see him again at long last. This was a friendship that had been forged in college, and that I did not want to lose. The great thing about the University of Chicago is that the friendships formed there tend to last for a lifetime.
Juan Domingo Peron is a reenactor with an infantry unit that fought in the Indian Wars. He is also a Second Amendment activist, like me, and a firearms enthusiast. Not like me: I only have a 12 guage Stevens-Savage pump-action shotgun. I don't even have any ammunition in the house. On the other hand, Juan has all sorts of toys for boys.
Aside from his day job with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Peron sidelines as a an assistant to his wife Evita's costuming company. Their outfit provides extras for Hollywood production companies. Peron has a collection of almost all of the simulations games published by James F. Dunnigan's old Strategy and Tactics magazine, where a lot of today's combat leaders got their start. S&T, as it was affectionately referred to by the gaming community, folded in the 1980's, part of the price of quartering your offices in Midtown Manhattan during the real estate boom of that decade. Dunnigan went on to become a think tank diva and a lobbyist. Juan Peron went on to collect all Jim Dunnigan's games.
Peron has a closet full of Jim Dunnigan's games, old Avalon Hill Games, games by TSR of Drang Nach Osten fame (said to have been the most difficult Eastern Front simulation ever created: think of Operation Barbarossa fought on a huge map half the size of a living room with pieces that represent individual battalions). It was a collection that, in my estimation, was worth at least two to three thousand dollars, if not more, if sold individually on E-Bay.
Peron handed me a Heineken and gave me a tour of his house. It is really well laid out. It's a small California tract home of the kind that went up during the salad days of California's defense industry. Battleship grey on the outside, the house looked as if it was built in the late forties or early fifties. A German scientist employed by Operation PAPERCLIP could have lived there incognito. Indeed, I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen one of Werhner von Braun's kameraden from the V-2 days buried next to the standalone garage. Evita decorated the sitting room and the dining are quite tastefully in late Victorian furnature. It was as if Juan and Evita had wanted to recreate the setting of a late 19th Century home in metropolitan Denver or Carson City. They are both devoted to the Old West and its history, and are two people who remain convinced that living history tells the story better than any book. Their devotion to the craft of reenacting is a pleasure to witness, speaking as an historian.
Anything you've ever been told about the Indian Wars by a Guilty White Liberal is probably either wrong or based on bad historical research, especially the 1876 Pacification Campaign against the Sioux Nation. And don't get Peron started on the Seventh Cavalry at the Little Bighorn. That appears to be one of his pet peeves, along with a distaste for Hollywood's treatment of the American West, and the Indian Wars, in recent cinema. "Homeland Security", indeed!
Juan Domingo Peron collects firearms. Lots of them. Locked up nice and snug in a large safe. I'd rather not go into the specifics of his collection. Suffice it to say, he has rifles of various kinds that I would give my right testicle just to spend a day at the range with. In addition, he is a proud owner of our old friend, the Colt Model 1911 .45 Caliber Automatic Pistol, a model that I aim to possess within the next couple of years (I am told by a local gunsmith friend of mine that Kimber Firearms makes a superior M-1911; you can tell the difference on the range). Naturally he, like most other conservatives, detests the gun laws that the regime in Sacramento has foisted upon the state to corral the Soccer Mom vote. Juan will eventually be forced to move out of state. Evita speaks well of Nevada and Northern Arizona, both in the Red Zone where one can carry firearms for personal protection.
I took my leave of Juan and Evita, not certain when I would see them again. That didn't stop me from offering to host them down here in South Florida.
There was background noise in California at the end of last month. You'd pick up the Los Angeles Daily News or the city's regime organ, the Los Angeles Times, you'd find stories about the recall of Governor Gray Davis on pages one or two. By the end of that week, the recall had been made official by the Secretary of State, and one of the most fascinating electoral experiences in the history of the Union was on. I left California not knowing whether or not the voter revolt against the regime would be beaten back by the California Democratic Party's propaganda apparatus and its network of ethnic, union, and government worker supporters.
Of course, the early line concerned Arnold. At the end of that last week, as I left on the 26th, most political professionals were convinced that Maria Shriver, Arnold's wife, would prevail on the Austrian Oak to avoid the hazards of a campaign against Governor Davis' administration and the Governor's Mr. Congeniality, Bob Mulholland. I thought that Arnold would run, as well. I understood that his movies had faced declining grosses ever since Terminator 2, arguably his most successful cinematic outing. My thinking was that he had two choices:
1. Enter politics and, if successful, become the second most influential Republican in the United States after George W. Bush.
2. Continue to build his real-estate and financial empire, while also expanding his production investments in Hollywood.
My thinking was that option number "2" offered Arnold only limited ego strokes and a very limited chance to leave his mark as his movie career was in its twilight. I was thinking he would "go" as I left California, but became dismayed as I heard that he was considering backing out and supporting Richard Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles.
Little did I know that my dismay had as a mirror a growing confidence among California Democrats that they had scared Arnold off the campaign trail. With all the dirt they had on Arnold, people like Davis, Mulholland and Gary South (Davis' campaign manager from the 2002 Campaign against the hapless Bill Simon, Jr.) had to conclude that they had this thing in the bag. They had scared off Arnold, and had kept Senator Diane Feinstein on the sidelines.
What no one knew was that everyone was falling for one of the great head fakes of American political history.
Next: radio bits, Arnold, and the One Party State.....