Thursday, June 21, 2007

Scooter Libby: Ham Sandwich, Movable Feast

Everybody's learned from crime dramas that any prosecutor worth his salt can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

And if that ham sandwich happens to be a Republican in an unsympathetic city like Washington, DC, a conviction is just the mustard on a piece of cake. So it was with the hapless I. Lewis Libby, Jr., #2 man to Lil' Bush's #2 man Dick Cheney. Poor Scooter might as well had "Hormel" tattooed on his forehead.

I dunno if he lied, but it seems he was guilty of fudging, anyway. But lying was the charge he was convicted of, because if fudging were illegal, every damn single one of us would be in jail. It turns out that the real culprit was

Colin Powell's own #2 man, who doesn't have Hormel on his forehead---in fact I think there's a U in a circle there---Dick Armitage. Armitage is downright kosher, because everybody loves Colin Powell, and so he remains a free man, and unindicted as well.

Because there's no such thing as a kosher ham sandwich.

But there's the problem of the rightosphere, especially the National Review, calling on President Bush to pardon poor scapepig Scooter. Now, I agree that this whole thing was a travesty and Christopher Hitchens has a good roundup of this panoply of slime and punishment here. Hitchens, whom I admire, also calls for a pardon, but like the Founders, I must defer to an even wiser man:

"Again, there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with all the violence of an oppressor."---Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws (1748)

It must be noted also that as governor of Texas, Bush's record shows that he denied clemency to condemned criminals if the proper procedures had been followed, and pardoned himself from considerations of mercy or even justice, relying instead upon the rule of law. The rule of law, the same drumbeat heard throughout the Clinton impeachment debacle, we must add.

So must it be with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. He must go to jail. Now, as the court has ordered (altho Libby's motion for freedom pending his appeal seems quite justifiable). So sayeth Montesqieu, so sez me.

I'm OK if President Dubya wants to clear the decks at the close of his administration for the sake of his successor's: there's precedent for pardoning whatever miscreants made bad calls in pursuit of their duty as they saw it. Dubya himself was purposeful in wiping the Clinton slate clean and that was a good thing.

But for now, no pardon for Scooter. He got a raw deal, true, but as GOPers are fond of quoting JFK, life isn't always fair. Or even kosher, he might have added.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Independent Illusion

I’m so heartbroken that Mayor Michael Bloomberg left the Republican Party. It must really be that the Party left him! Of course this lifelong liberal was only a Republican so he could run for mayor of NYC. Now the Mayor thinks he has what it takes to be President of the United States. Hubris is certainly a disease that the rich and powerful more easily succumb to, and Bloomberg has it in spades.

The illusion I refer to is two-fold. One is the illusion that to be devoid of ideology is some kind of virtue, as he implied in a recent statement: "Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology." Of course this assumes that “partisan” is bad and that political ideology is incompatible with “good ideas.” This also assumes that “real results,” whatever that means, cannot come from partisan battles.

There is so much hogwash in this statement that it leaves one flabbergasted that such a smart person could be so stupid. Yet it is not so much stupidity, but disingenuousness. Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat before his conversion of convenience in 2001, is also a lifelong liberal. When he denigrates partisanship and political ideology he is speaking about conservatives and Republicans. Independents or “moderates” almost always tilt toward the left side of the political spectrum.

The other illusion I speak of is that an independent can win the presidency. Ain’t gonna happen. It has never happened and most likely never will. What independents do when running for president is take votes from one or the other party’s candidates. Two recent examples are Perot in ’92, who took votes from the first President Bush which led to the Clinton presidency, and Ralph Nader in 2000 who took votes from Al Gore and likely gave the election to the current President Bush. Bloomburg would almost certainly take votes from the Democrat nominee.

He states that were he to run he would first have to decide that he could win; if he decides to run you will know that Michael Bloomberg is delusional.'s Reform Club

A hearty welcome to Los Angeles Times readers who've tracked down our Dr. Ben Zycher (his column linked here) and to American Spectatorites who caught my (TVD's) latest essay there.

Since every blog unapologetically loves new folks coming around, we hope you'll poke through this, our home page, because there's something here for everyone.

And we encourage comments from all comers and promise to keep all vampires off your neck if you agree to do the same; although everything starts with a monologue, dialogue is why we're all really here. Kick off yer shoes, mix up a nice toddy, and feel free to jump on in.---Ed.

(We also feature a Fred Thompson News Ticker on our sidebar>>>>>>>>>
Worth bookmarking for that alone!)


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Opera Omnia

Over the weekend my husband and I were catching up on our knuckle-dragging right wing blog favorites, and this coy link from Jonah Goldberg introduced us to Paul Potts, a somewhat more-than-ordinary looking bloke from South Wales who mustered up the courage to bare his epiglottis to Simon Cowells and a couple of people I don't recognize, on audition for the British version of American Idol.

If you have not seen this clip yet (although as of this writing YouTube reports three million viewings, so I suppose it's unlikely), watch it before reading my comments below.

Followups on NRO from some readers and the resident cranky old Englishman/immigration scold/opera buff John Derbyshire filled out the story a bit. I particularly liked this bit of analysis from a reader to Goldberg:

The video came up and there’s this dumpy guy with bad teeth. Then he started to sing. Now, I’m not an overly emotional person, but halfway through I realized I was crying. Haven’t done anything like that in many, many years, and I wondered, as I dried my eyes, how in the world his singing could have caused such a strong reaction in me....His expression before he begins to sing is that of a man resigned to disappointment. Even when he smiles, his eyes convey a profound sadness. He has been a nobody all his life. He, and perhaps only he, knows he has greatness inside of him, but he is obviously a humble man, massively insecure, afraid of rejection, unsure of himself outside the cocoon of anonymity. But you get the feeling he also knows that this may be the one chance he gets to escape the cocoon, and as he begins to sing, you can see him fighting down his fear. I think that is the wellspring of the emotion that pervades his performance. He is fighting against a life of obscurity.

By the song’s end, what was an average Joe has stepped up, beaten back his fear, and broken through. In those few seconds, he put the void behind him, and his life will probably be changed forever because he called up the courage at that moment to show what he was really made of. We saw greatness, long denied, finally being born.

Well, I agree with all that. This performance is an iconic illustration of the most beloved of all stories, the peasant who turns into a prince, but I also think there's a little more to it. It's not just that he is singing with emotion, but that this particular song expresses everything Jonah's correspondent saw.

I am by no means an opera nerd, so I may be a little out of my depth here, but I believe this is one of the few times I have heard a tenor sing an aria and really mean it. There are undeniable, significant flaws in Paul Potts's performance (which is, by the way, a shortened version of the aria, I assume to accomodate time restraints) but it is equally undeniable that he is, for the sixty seconds he is singing, wholly in character.

The aria Paul sings, Nessun Dorma, is from Turandot, the Persian fairy-tale opera Giacomo Puccini left unfinished when he died in 1926. Turandot, a cold-hearted princess, has already executed several potential suitors when a mysterious and anonymous man accepts the usual challenge: solve her riddles and he gains her hand; fail and she gains his head. The stranger solves Turandot's riddles, but gives her a second chance: if she can discover his name before dawn, she may behead him.

"Nessun dorma" means "No one shall sleep" -- it is Turandot's command, on pain of death, that all her subjects shall strive all night to discover the stranger's name. The stranger takes up this phrase, now on a major chord: yes, no one will sleep,

Even you, o Princess,
In your cold room,
Watch the stars,
That tremble with love
And with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me;

My name no one shall know,
On your mouth I will speak it
When the light shines
And my kiss will dissolve the silence
That makes you mine.

And finally, the triumphant climax:

Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vincerĂ²!

To be honest, the high B seems a hair beyond Paul's reach, but it doesn't matter. The slight crack is endearing, for he is declaring I shall conquer! And indeed he does. The audience, most of whom have never heard of Turandot and would have trouble distinguishing Puccini from Punchinello, are cheering him like Caruso at La Scala. The female judge is openly weeping, and even the snooty looking fellow, who raised his high-bred eyebrows in alarm when this lumpy nobody announced he was there "to sing opera" is won over.

The character who sings this song, Calaf, is, like Paul, an apparent nobody. His father is the former king of Tartary, deposed by Turandot's father. Calaf himself lives in anonymity, fearful of discovery, yet he retains the heart of a prince. Is that why Paul Potts chose this aria? I have no idea. It took serious cojones in one sense, because he is almost demanding to be compared to Luciano Pavarotti. Not only has Pavarotti made it his signature piece for thirty years, his recording of it was used by the BBC as the theme for the 1990 World Cup, and it became a quirky hit in Great Britain. On the other hand, perhaps he knew a comparison would be in his favor. Here is Pavarotti:

It is technically as close to perfect as man's voice can be. But it is somehow cold. No frozen heart, certainly not Turandot's, could be melted by such singing. Compare this, Paul Pott's performance in the final competition. He has spruced up, and sings the entire aria.

He won, by the way.


Shameless Self-Promotion

My op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times, in opposition to the various proposals for disinvestment by public pension funds in firms doing business with the Iranian mullahs, can be found here. It was butchered a bit due to space constraints---in particular, the explanation of why sanctions against South Africa had the effect of strengthening apartheid was essentially dropped---but I think that the central argument still gets through. Comments welcome.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wither the Episcopal Church?

Via Mark Steyn at NRO, an Episcopalian priest has decided she's also a Muslim.

[Rev. Ann Holmes] Redding's bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting.

"Exciting" is one way to put it. Unknown at this time is how a Muslim can take Communion when there's wine involved, since Muslims don't do alcohol. But if the Catholics are correct and the wine is transubstantiated into the Blood of Christ, I guess it's not wine anymore, so that's cool. But head Protestant honcho Martin Luther thought that although it's the Blood of Christ, it's still also wine (consubstantiation). As near as I can tell, the Episcopalian Church is firmly on the fence. Looks like they might have to finally sort that one out after all these years, unless they just start using grape juice.

Then again, Muslims don't believe in the Eucharist at all, so when a Muslim Episcopal priest consecrates the Eucharist, well, I remember the nuns telling us that if a fake priest said Mass but you took Communion in good faith, it was still Communion.

At least I think that's what they said. I never thought about it much because there wasn't much likelihood of running into a fake priest. Until now...


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Stupid Little Leftists

As Christopher Hitchens sagely noted, denigrating President Bush's intelligence is the sort of thing that stupid people find funny. Comedy Central has a new show for such folks.

It's predictably infantile enough, based on the clip I saw. It takes place while Bush 41 is president, and Lil' (sic) Bush and Lil' (sic) Cheney, et lil' al. won the softball game for Team Halliburton by getting revved up on crack. 41 says that cheating is fine if it wins back the trophy (apparently a reference to the 2000 election), and a knowing evil laugh is had by all. Dubya is portrayed as diabolical, but still an ignoramus, natch.

The correct contraction for "little" is li'l, of course, not lil'. This incorrectly punctuated graphic passed before literally hundreds of people at Comedy Central who apparently find the show funny.

Not a single one of them caught it. Irony knows no measure these days.