"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door." The Statue of Liberty (P.S. Please be so kind as to enter through the proper channels and in an orderly fashion)

Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

GITMO's No Gulag.

A few days ago, Republicus had a chat with an acquaintace at the neighborhood way station who the very next day was flying down to Cuba, where he was employed as a civilian interrogator at the U.S. naval base at Guantamano Bay (a.k.a. GITMO).

That gentleman is at the front lines, if you will, of the subject of the lingering controversy regarding the treatment of imprisoned enemy combatants from Afghanistan in the holding facilities there, and Republicus took the opportunity to interrogate him and clear up some confusion.

Question #1: How do you interrogate them?

Answer: With a translator present.

Question: No racks or pulling teeth?

Answer: (laughing) No.

Question #2: Have you gotten any useful information from them, that is, instrumental names or a heads-up on plots?

Answer: No.

Question: Nothing?

Answer: Nothing of high-value.

Question #3: Is there any substance to the charges that the prisoners are abused?

Answer: No. The prisoners there are granted more priveleges than you would find extended to any convict in an American prison.

Question: So Rush Limbaugh's mocking of the charges of atrocities by calling the facility "Club Gitmo" is justified?

Answer: (laughing) Yeah. In some ways, it's like a resort environment.

Question: If not a mosque?

Answer: (laughter) Right.

Question #4: Is the "resort environment" a Potemkin Village of sorts that was quickly set up in response to earlier conditions that warranted the recent outrage?

Answer: No. That was Abu Ghraib.

Question #5: What's the deal with the prisoners? Are they definitively "enemy combatants" or innocents who were at the wrong place at the wrong time?

Answer: They're hardcore.

Question: Terrorists?

Answer: They're like the Terminator.

Question: By that you mean...

Answer: They're intense. They target something and go after it.

Question: So they're dangerous. If released, they'll carry on with Jihad?

Answer: That's all they care about. That's all they know.

Question #6: What's going to happen to them?

Answer: (shrugging) They'll be released.

Question: What? Sent back?

Answer: Yeah.

Question: But if they're terrorists...

Answer: They'll be dropped off at the front lines and eventually killed in battles.

Question: I don't understand. If you know this, that they're hardcore and will only return to fight us another day, why let them go in the first place?

Answer: Politics.

So there you have it. From the inside.

Meanwhile, back here in the homeland, the very next day--no kidding--the Senate held hearings on the issue and re-ignited the debates over prisoner-abuse there, a fulminating debate still in progress.

Then, just the other day, former President Bill Clinton must have felt that too much time had passed without him seeing his name in the papers and felt the characteristic compulsion to remind everyone of his presence and relevance and inserted himself into the debate thusly:

"[Guantanamo] either needs to be closed down or cleaned up," adding "It's time that there are no more stories coming out of there about people being abused."

Well, at least he was careful to acknowledge that they were just "stories" (not even reaching the level of actionable "accusations," or "allegations," for that matter), but to close down an important facility because of "stories" of abuse would be like shutting down the Bush Administration because of the superabundance of stories of of abuse of power, and that would be...

Oh. Republicus gets it.

Anyway, for what constitutes as "abuse" these days (with the sexual arousing of Jihadist terrorists by thong-flashing female interrogators considered "torture"), one could suppose it's only a matter of time before Catholic elementary schools with the stories coming out of there of yardstick wielding, disciplinarian nuns get shut down on charges of "child abuse."

The Magpies Misfire And Miss Again.

After frothing frissons of excitement and glee and shameless displays of schadenfreude and millions of gigabytes spent gossiping and chattering away in the blogosphere with the recurring theme of "This time we got 'em!" while weaving complex, criss-crossing, conspiratorial conjectures to create eclectic tapestries that were to be used as nets to throw over and finally capture the elusive Beast (i.e. Vice President Richard Cheney), the bungling Lefty/Antiwar/Bush-Cheney-Hating magpies missed again and managed only to net themselves and thrash wildly about trying to get their credibility disentangled from their own contrivances in the futile attempt to belatedly avoid getting earmarked as mere politically-partisan mischief-makers and compulsive, chronic wolf-criers (too late for that).

Republicus is referring to, of course, the Left's disgraceful reaction to the news that the vice president had sprinkled his buddy--i.e. Mr. Harry Wittington-- with bb's in a quail-hunting accident after the latter abruptly appeared in the line of fire without obligingly yelling out "Marco Polo!" first.

The news broke while the bespattered victim was undergoing medical care, and the magpies that were perched up on the telephone wires ruffling their feathers while waiting for something to happen felt the electronic pulse pass under their scaled feet and they alarmingly flinched and jerked their heads about and towards each other not certain what to do until one caw-cawed and then another automatically caw-cawed back, and then the whole flock commenced with a cacophonic concerto of caw-cawing before flying off en masse with the abrupt hubbub of hundreds of flapping wings beating the air and darkening the sky overhead as they determinedly flew towards destinations unknown (but insisting that everyone follow them).

"What took him so long to tell us, hmmmmm?" a panting, airborne magpie would ask, "For Clinton's Sake, he shot a man with an elephant gun! Pass it on!"

"No, no, it was buckshot! Get the facts straight!"

"Breaking news! He didn't have his hunting license in order! Pass it on!"

"Breaking news! He broke all sorts of hunting protocols! Pass it on!"

"Hey, what if he waited to tell us because he needed to sober up? Pass THAT on!"

"Like Teddy at Chappaquidick?"

"SHUT UP! That was just a blowjob!"

"This is a metaphor for everything they've been doing for years!"

"Yes! Guns! Rashness! Recklessness! Shooting at innocent civilians! Cover-ups! Lies! Lies! LIES!"

"Maybe Whittington knew too much!"

"Oo! He just had a heart-attack! If he dies, that's it! It's manslaughter!"


"It's Quail-Gate!"

"More indictments!"

"Where's Fitz?"


And off they flew, disappearing over the horizon as a spry and resilient--albeit newly-freckled--Mr. Whittington suddenly appeared in public and apologized--to his friend, Vice President Richard Cheney!-- for all the caw-cawing fuss that was created because of the hunting accident.

Yes, to paraphrase one of the late-night comedians, only in Texas can you shoot a lawyer (i.e. Mr. Whittington) in the face and have the lawyer apologize and be done with it!


It was a hunting accident.

The metaphor here worth noting is not the Vice President's unfortunate circumstance representing the overall character and m.o. of the administration, but the magpies' own haphazard, misfiring reaction representing the character and m.o. of the magpies themselves.

Monday, February 20, 2006

President's Day

History of the Holiday

The original version of the holiday was in commemoration of George Washington's birthday in 1796 (the last full year of his presidency).

Washington, according to the calendar that has been used since at least the mid-18th century, was born on February 22, 1732.

According to the old style calendar in use back then, however, he was born on February 11. At least in 1796, many Americans celebrated his birthday on the 22nd while others marked the occasion on the 11th instead.

By the early 19th century, Washington's Birthday had taken firm root in the American experience as a bona fide national holiday. Its traditions included Birthnight Balls in various regions, speeches and receptions given by prominent public figures, and a lot of revelry in taverns throughout the land.

Then along came Abraham Lincoln, another revered president and fellow February baby (born on the 12th of the month).

The first formal observance of his birthday took place in 1865, the year after his assassination, when both houses of Congress gathered for a memorial address. While Lincoln's Birthday did not become a federal holiday like George Washington's, it did become a legal holiday in several states.

In 1968, legislation (HR 15951) was enacted that affected several federal holidays. One of these was Washington's Birthday, the observation of which was shifted to the third Monday in February each year whether or not it fell on the 22nd.

This act, which took effect in 1971, was designed to simplify the yearly calendar of holidays and give federal employees some standard three-day weekends in the process.

Apparently, while the holiday in February is still officially known as Washington's Birthday (at least according to the Office of Personnel Management), it has become popularly (and, perhaps in some cases at the state level, legally) known as "President's Day

This has made the third Monday in February a day for honoring both Washington and Lincoln, as well as all the other men who have served as president.


Presidential Credentials

Of the 42 Presidents that we have had (President Grover Cleveland served two separate terms as #22 & 24), 29 of them had served their country in uniform before becoming president.

Of the remaining thirteen who did not technically "serve" prior to their presidency, #3 Thomas Jefferson was a commander of a Virginia militia regiment, and-- after his presidency-- #13 Millard Fillmore commanded the Home Guard during the Civil War.

With the exception of the Vietnam War, every other major war was both won and produced a veteran that rose to the presidency.

That means that there is a very high probability that a future President of the United States may very well have been or still be in Afghanistan and/or Iraq right now (if not the Balkans from previous conflicts).

[Like the apparent Vietnam Jynx, however (ask John McCain or John Kerry), his or her presidential prospects may be kiboshed should the war, like the one in Vietnam, also be lost and stigmatized.]

Did You Know?

Current President #43 (R) George W. Bush served as an F-102 pilot in the Texas Air National Guard and attained the rank of first lieutenant.

#42 (D) Bill Clinton "loathed the military" and dodged the Vietnam War draft (his number actually came up), went to Europe, and helped organize antiwar demonstrations.

#41 George H. W. Bush attained the rank of lieutenant (junior grade). He was the youngest pilot in the navy during World War II at just 19 years old. His plane was shot down over the ocean and he was rescued by a surfacing submarine.

He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In his second term as Ronald Reagan's Vice President, the left-wing media (the dominant messengers in that pre-cable and Internet time) lambasted him as a "Wimp" (*Doonesbury* cartoonist Gary Trudeau depicted him as a disembodied feather).

He won his first term, but the outrageous attacks on his character were relentless, and wanly answered, and he lost his re-election bid to the anomalous draft-dodger Bill Clinton.

#40 Ronald Reagan served in the United States Army during World War II, attaining the rank of major. He was barred from combat because of poor eyesight, but narrated pre-flight training films for the Army Air Force Motion Picture Unit.

#39 Jimmy Carter served in the United States Navy from 1946 to 1953, attaining the rank of lieutenant.

#38 Gerald Ford served in the United States Navy during World War II, and attained the rank of lieutenant commander.

He earned 10 battle stars.

#37 Richard Nixon also served in the United States Navy during World War II, and also attained the rank of lieutenant commander.

#36 Lyndon B. Johnson served in the United States Navy during World War II as well, and also attained the rank of lieutenant commander.

He earned a Silver Star.

#35 John F. Kennedy served in the United States Navy during World War II, attaining the rank of lieutenant.

He earned a Purple Heart after being injured in the PT-109 incident.

#34 Dwight D. Eisenhower was Supreme Allied Commander in World War II.

#33 Harry S. Truman served with the 129th Field Artillery in WWI, attaining the rank of major.

He is the only president who was a veteran of a major war who did not achieve the presidency on the heels of that war (i.e. before the next major one).

#32 Franklin D. Roosevelt, who presided over WWII, had no military experience.

#31 Herbert Hoover never wore the uniform.

#30 Calvin Coolidge never put on the boots.

#29 Warren G. Harding never dropped and gave a drill sergeant 20 push-ups.

#28 Woodrow Wilson, who presided over WWI, never had to wake up to the sound of a bugle.

#27 William Howard Taft finally joined the army when he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

#26 Theodore Roosevelt led the famous charge of the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and attained the rank of colonel.

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001.

#25 William McKinley was the last Civil War veteran to become president.

He had attained the rank of brevet major.

#24 Grover Cleveland was drafted during the Civil War, but paid $150 for a substitute-- a legal option under the terms of the Conscription Act of 1863.

#23 Benjamin Harrison attained the rank of brigadier general in the Civil War.

#22 Grover Cleveland: See above.

#21 (SR) Chester A. Arthur served in the New York State Militia (1858-1862) and fought in the Civil War, attaining the rank of captain.

#20 James A. Garfield attained the rank of major general in the Civil War.

#19 Rutherford B. Hayes also attained the rank of major general in the Civil War.

#18 U.S. Grant--a.k.a. "Unconditional Surrender" Grant-- attained the rank of General of the Army during the Civil War, the first (president or otherwise) since Washington to hold that rank (the latter earning it posthumously).

#17 (NU) Andrew Johnson attained the rank of brigadier general in the Civil War.

#16 Abraham Lincoln, who presided over the bloodiest conflict in American history, served in the Black Hawk War--a genocidal war against hostile American Indians-- attaining the rank of captain.

He never saw action and was reprimanded twice, re-enlisting as a private.

#15 James Buchanan served in the War of 1812.

#14 Franklin Pierce served in the Mexican-American War and attained the rank of colonel.

#13 (W) Millard Fillmore commanded the Home Guard during the Civil War, after his presidency.

#12 Zachary Taylor served in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and the Mexican-American War, attaining the rank of major general.

He became a national hero because of his achievements in the Mexican-American War.

He was U.S. Grant's personal role-model.

#11 James K. Polk served in a militia cavalry regiment, attaining the rank of colonel.

#10 John Tyler served in the War of 1812, attaining the rank of captain.

By the time the Civil War rolled around, you could find him in the Confederate Senate.

#9 William Henry Harrison attained the rank of major general in the War of 1812 and became a national hero after his successes at the battles of Tippecanoe and the Thames (against American Indians).

His presidency lasted a month before he died.

#8 Martin Van Buren never wore fatigues, but was otherwise a snappy dresser.

#7 Andrew Jackson served at the age of 13 with the Continental Army during the American Revolution as a messenger, and was held as a prisoner of war (the only U.S. president to be so).

He attained the rank of general in the War of 1812 and became a national hero after his success at the Battle of New Orleans.

#6 (DR) John Quincy Adams had no military experience (but he skinny-dipped in the Potomac River every morning as president).

#5 James Monroe served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, attaining the rank of major.

He was with George Washington in the boat that crossed the Delaware and wished the drunk and sleeping Hessians a Merry Christmas up close and personal.

He was wounded in the process, and needed two months to heal sufficiently before returning to service and spending the next winter with Washington in Valley Forge.

#4 James Madison attained the rank of colonel in the Orange County, Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War.

He was president when the British came back in the War of 1812, marched through the capital, and burned down the first White House.

#3 Thomas Jefferson is--for the record-- counted as a no-show for military service, but he did command the Virginia Milita Regiment in 1789.

#2 (F) John Adams did not serve in the military, either.

It should be added that both he and Jefferson were nevertheless crucial players in the Revolutionary War because of their diplomatic prowess and finesse vis-a-vis shmoozing the French for recognition and assistance.

#1 George Washington served in the Virginia militia and attained the rank of colonel, then served as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War with the rank of general.

He was "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. " :)

He was promoted posthumously to General of the Armies.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bin Laden Unplugged

A new Bin Laden tape came out that is believed to be a complete version of the last one broadcast Jan. 19 on Al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite channel.

Republicus believes it was made sometime before November 16, 2005, when President Bush made the first of an aggressive series of four speeches which laid out a plan for victory in Iraq to counter the Left's charges that the president had "no plan for victory," a theme Bin Laden regurgitated in the tape.

In addition to what Republicus had presented in the January 19, 2006 post "Human Beings At Their Worst, " which provided, hitherto, the complete text of what was released, the new tape provided more evidence that Bin Laden feels cornered.

He boasted:

"I have sworn to only live free. Even if I find bitter the taste of death, I don't want to die humiliated or deceived."

Two things stand out:

1) This part: "I have sworn to only live free. Even if I find bitter the taste of death..." smacks like the spiteful boasting one would hear from Adolf Hitler in the bunker willing to taste the bitter poison of cynanide rather than be captured by the Russians.

That, of course, goes hand-in-hand with the terrorist's world-view that suicide is a way to salvation.

But perhaps he is suggesting that he is ready to go out in a blaze of glory, a la Uday and Qusay Hussein, firing his gun at advancing Special Forces until he's out of bullets, and then swinging the butt like a club, a la Davey Crockett at the Alamo?

Republicus highly doubts that Bin Laden is made of the same stuff that Crockett was made of (or even what the young guns Qusay and Uday were made of, for that matter).

If he is not planning solitary suicide, then the only "blaze of glory" one could expect from such a snake is a booby trap, having a bomb strapped to his chest when he welcomes the U.S. Military to his humble abode with that pacific smile of his.

2) "I don't want to die humiliated or deceived" indicates that he is not only becoming self-conscious of his dire straits and his loss of dignity (getting tired of a lack of indoor plumbing, electricity, and the plethora of goats, one could suppose) as well as the humiliation of being tried and executed if he just surrendered, but has also become wary of deception, i.e. he has begun to mistrust certain people around him or his operatives on the field.

He's paranoid.

Well, That Explains It (The Trademark Mouth).

February 18: Mick Jagger sings during the Rolling Stones "Bigger Bang" free concert at the Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Bond...My Teeth, Please.

Actor Daniel Craig has been tagged as the new 007 in the next Bond flick Casino Royale (in theaters November 17), adapted from Bond-creator Ian Fleming's first novel about the spy.

Like Batman Begins, this newest installment of a long-running franchise goes back to the beginning, and is an origin story.

But Craig is off to a bad start, publicity-wise.

First, he had to--naturally-- deal with groans and catcalls from both the Pierce Brosnan loyalists and the hyper-critical Sean Connery diehards.

Then he had to deal with this unflattering send-off from actress Lois Maxwell, who played Miss Moneypenny in 14 Bond films, who said he wasn't as handsome as previous Bonds Roger Moore and Sean Connery, and added:

"He has what you'd call an interesting face. Perhaps the make-up girls could do something to him, maybe give him a wig."

Then news breaks today that the chap just got two front teeth broken during the filming of the first fight scene with a mere henchman, causing the actor to stagger back on the set holding his mouth with blood seeping through the fingers (compelling the production company to fly in his personal dentist and cap the disfigurement).

Republicus shouldn't pre-judge the man, and is willing to give him a chance for glorious longevity a la Connery, Moore, and Brosnan.

Certainly, every new actor must live up to very high expectations when playing the role of an icon, especially when taking over the role from a previous actor who the fans have warmed up to and made definitive for the role.

As in the Batman analogy, Michael Keaton--who previously had played clownish characters--caused an uproar of dissent from the fan base (both from the Frank Miller Dark Knight and Adam West [!] camps alike) when his role as the new Caped Crusader was announced (the film was released in 1989), but Keaton disappointed no one when the lights dimmed and Danny Elfman's soundtrack set the mood for the Gothic cartoon.

(A-List actor Jack Nicholson as the Joker, of course, did for that film what Marlon Brando as Jor-El did for Superman the Movie, 1978--i.e. he made it a serious, heavyweight movie).

Then the franchise quickly went from grotesquely cartoonish (Keaton once more in Batman Returns, 1992) to slick (Val Kilmer in Batman Forever, 1995), to cirque de soleil and downright cheesy, however ostentatiously high-tech (George Clooney in Batman and Robin, 1997), which practically returned the franchise to the classic campiness of the television series with Adam West (Come on, Arnold Shwarznegger as Mr. Freeze?).

The James Bond franchise went through similar vicissitudes (the most most notable low being George Lazenby's Bond from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, 1969, which is the bridge between the world of James Bond and that of Austin Powers), but the franchise survived, and prospered, and perhaps Craig will indeed rejuvenate the character as Christian Bale did for Batman in Batman Begins.

Like Bale's Batman in relation to the mythical prototype, Craig's Bond--it is promoted-- is the closest thing to Fleming's original concept that will have ever graced the screen.

Or maybe Craig is the third interregnum Bond–- after Lazenby and Dalton.

It is likely that--just as Sean Connery jumped in with his last Bond role in 1983 with Never say Never Again concurrently with the release of Roger Moore's second-to-last Bond-flick Octopussy (angering the latter)--Brosnan will return for another go or two at it, if not more, depending on Craig's reception by the critics and his box-office clout.

But Craig should count himself lucky if he achieves Moore's stature as The Spy.

Republicus thinks Cary Grant could have been a good Bond, but, of course, he was born too soon.

And Roger Rees-- he of Robin Colcourt from "Cheers" fame-- would've been hilarious as a caricatured Bond in some kind of spoof.

The title would be some combination of the words Never, Enough, Love, Die, Spy, Gold, Gun, Again, and Pussy.