31 / August
31 / August
Privacy for Me, But Not for Thee

A radical website features the names, addresses, and emails of thousands of delegates to the Republican National Convention. They've also listed the New York-area hotels where some of them will be staying. One of the postings that justifies the publicizing of the material stated: "The delegates should know not only what people think of the platform they will ratify, but that they are not welcome in New York City."

Although the owners of the site supported sharing the personal information of Republican delegates with the world, they weren't so keen on divulging so much as their own names when the authorities came calling. The Independent Media Center, a group comprised of Mumiacs, anti-globalization protestors, and other assorted lunatics, is complaining that the government's investigation is "a fishing expedition to route out dissenting viewpoints, harass people who are simply exercising their free speech rights, and intimidate others from exercising their right to protest in connection with the Republican National Convention." Stamp out dissent and harass the opposition? Wow, and the rest of us thought that is precisely what the Independent Media Center is doing.

With activists attacking delegates and subjecting them to various forms of abuse, is the government wrong to see a connection between the intrusive list and the harassment and violence? Today's New York Times reports a "coordinated plan by anarchists and other radicals to strike out at the delegates at their hotels, breakfasts, parties, and on the streets." The piece adds, "The incidents are the result of months of planning by opposition groups, who report that they have obtained copies of plans and addresses for delegates' parties, caucuses and other gatherings outside the Garden." One needn't be Sherlock Holmes--or even John Holmes, Larry Holmes, or that drug-dealer guy you know who goes simply by "Holmes"--to figure out that there's a connection between the publication of the list and the harassment that delegates are experiencing.

Unconcerned with the privacy of normal people, the ACLU has defended the invented right of secrecy for the posters of the personal information of GOP delegates. The ACLU claims, "This type of investigation is really a form of intimidation and a message to activists that they will pay a price for speaking out." No, actually this type of criminal activity disguised as activism is really a form of intimidation and a message to the Republican delegates that they will pay a price for speaking out.

McCain on Moore

John McCain went after Michael Moore on the opening night of the Republican National Convention, calling the leftist filmmaker "disingenuous." On the one hand, Moore is disingenuous. On the other hand, why elevate Moore's stature by mentioning him? Why? Because it's good politics. Michael Moore is not popular. People rightly view him as a loudmouth propagandist. If this is the type of human being who opposes Bush, McCain made home audiences think, why would I want to make common cause with him?

Michael Moore may owe John McCain for increased book sales and box office receipts that the mention will bring. But Republicans certainly owe Michael Moore for showing up at Madison Square Garden and demonstrating to America who Bush's oppostion is.

Giuliani Hits a Home Run

Rudy Giuliani gave one of the most effective speeches of the election cycle. The former mayor of New York did three things for the president. First, he undermined John Kerry, presenting him as a rudderless flip-flopper. Importantly, Giuliani did this respectfully and with a smile on his face. Second, he refreshed our memories of 9/11, a low point for America but the defining moment for President Bush. Third, Giuliani made people who disagree with Bush on the issues feel comfortable voting for him because of his strong leadership. Rudy Giuliani also did one thing for himself. The payoff may come four years from now.

Wrong Convention, Dude

Two years ago, actor Ron Silver appeared "From the Left" as the guest co-host on Crossfire. Monday night, he spoke at the Republican National Convention.

Along with Susan Sarandon and other Hollywood activists, Silver founded the Creative Coalition after volunteering for Michael Dukakis's presidential run in 1988. He supported Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and Al Gore in 2000.

Silver supports a government-run health care system, federal funding for the arts, and abortion. "As Americans," Silver believes, "our respect for people's private lives, where folks make their most profound and intimate decisions, must never be superceded by the moralists in government."

Looking at the Republican platform, Ron Silver appears to have stepped into the wrong convention hall, 200 miles southwest and one month late from the gathering he should have addressed. Looking at how the Republicans have governed the last four years, one understands why the liberal Hollywood activist felt so comfortable addressing the 2004 GOP convention.

The Republican Party's big tent is large enough for a longtime liberal activist. Is there still room for small-government libertarians, Catholic conservatives, and right-wing Constitutionalists?

30 / August
30 / August
A Tale of Two Olympic Gate Crashers

There's a right way and a wrong way to make a fool out of yourself at a sporting event. Examples of the former include Randall Simon clobbering one of the sausage racers, Englishman Mark Roberts attaining "the holy grail of streaking" at the Super Bowl, and Lt. Frank Drebin umpiring the Angels-Mariners game. Examples of the latter include Fan Man, Rosie Ruiz, and the father-son duo who attacked Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa.

The Olympic Games offers an example from the stupid gate-crasher camp and the fun gate-crasher camp. Grown man Ron Bensonhom dressed up in a tutu and jumped from the high dive into the pool during a lull in the synchronized diving competion. For entertainment value, Bensonhom deserves the Gold. His act was certainly no sillier than the idea of synchronized diving as an Olympic event. A defrocked Irish priest, on the other hand, physically attacked Vanderlei de Lima, who was leading the Marathon in its final miles. De Lima recovered from being tackled, only to lose his lead and earn the bronze medal. Amazingly, Bensonhom, who disrupted absolutely nothing, was sentenced to five months in prison. The psychopath Irishman, who nearly killed himself last year when he ran towards racing autos during a Grand Prix event, received a suspended sentence today.

Scarcity of Conservative Speakers Isn't The Real Problem for GOP

The Republicans open their convention in New York City today. "There aren't really that many moderates or real liberals left in the Republican Party," political scientist Larry Sabato observed. "The party today is composed almost entirely of conservatives." Then why are Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain, and other moderates dominating the convention? A Democrat, Georgia Senator Zell Miller, will even deliver the keynote address.

Why do conservatives complain about the exclusion of conservative speakers at the Republican National Convention, but stay silent when the party governs liberally? Let's review President Bush's policies over the last four years: the prescription drug plan, support for affirmative action in the Michigan Law School case, funding for stem-cell research, McCain-Feingold's assault on free speech, the Farm Bill, No Child Left Behind's further nationalization of education, nation building in Iraq, reauthorization of the assault weapons ban, increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, AIDS, and a mission to Mars, and the plan of amnesty for illegal aliens. Is it any wonder government will have expanded more than 30 percent on his watch?

Why would someone who has consistently rejected conservative policies turn his convention over to opponents of big government?

MTV Killed the Music Video Star

Did you see the MTV Video Music Awards last night? Me neither. It's not exactly analogous to ESPN hosting the Oscars, but why should MTV give out awards for music videos? Perhaps if they had an awards show about the best television program on gaudy celebrity homes or the best television program on transforming a piece-of-junk car into a hot rod, it would seem more natural. But since they hardly play music videos anymore, why go through the motions as if do?

Why Wasn't Larry Franklin Fired?

The espionage allegations against Defense Department official Larry Franklin have given rise to more questions than answers. One question stands out: Why wasn't Franklin fired last year when he undermined U.S. policy by holding unauthorized secret meetings with an expatriate Iranian?

Last August, a strange story emerged of Larry Franklin and another Defense Department official meeting with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar of Iran-Contra fame. One upset U.S. official believed the purpose of the meetings was to "antagonise Iran so that they get frustrated and then by their reactions harden U.S. policy against them." Secretary of State Colin Powell complained directly to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the White House reportedly instructed Rumsfeld to put a stop to meetings that go against official policy.

I've never worked in government, but my understanding is that it's unusual for Pentagon staffers to conduct their own foreign policy without the knowledge, and against the interests, of their superiors. The freelancing by underlings of Douglas Feith, according to one senior Department of Defense official, was the accidental result of an "unplanned, unscheduled encounter." Isn't it a bit strange for an Iran wonk to meet by chance with a famous Iranian dissident--in France and Italy no less?

The meeting was set up by Michael Ledeen, whose writings exhibit a not so mild obsession over Iran. "I'm not going to comment on any private meetings with any private people," Ledeen commented at the time. "It's nobody's business." Private people? These are government officials. It is our business.

Whether Larry Franklin was working for his own or some other party's objectives with these sub rosa meetings is unclear. What is clear is that he wasn't working towards the objectives of the government that employs him. We don't know if the allegations of espionage against Larry Franklin are true. We do know that he should have been fired more than a year ago.

The Boston Globe Remembers Gregory MacDonald

The Boston Globe has a nice article on my late friend and fellow Marine Gregory MacDonald. Greg died in Iraq more than a year ago when his Light Armored Vehicle overturned while travelling to aid Americans under fire.

At 29, Greg is depicted in the piece as "the old man of his unit." I don't remember ever thinking of him that way. Perhaps that is because we were the same age. Proximity in years was one thing that drew me to MacDonald. The fact that we both grew up outside of Boston, and found ourselves living in Washington, DC and serving in the same Frederick, Maryland Marine unit was another. Like myself and a lot of Marines, Lance Corporal MacDonald was deeply interested in politics. Because his views often differed from many of his fellow Marines, he found himself in debate after debate. Greg was a bit of a stammerer, but thankfully this didn't prevent him from conversing with just about anyone on just about anything. He was the most talkative stutterer that I've ever met. His name really fit him.

It didn't surprise me to learn after Greg's death that he had spoken out against the war in Iraq. Greg had studied and researched Middle Eastern affairs, and hoped to find policy work that would help bring peace to the embattled region. It also didn't surprise me that Greg went to Iraq. I suspect he probably recognized that as a Marine his job was to carry out policy, not make it. Reservists are citizen-soldiers. Greg did his job as a citizen, and then did his job as a Marine.

From the Globe article and from hearing from those close to him, my understanding is that Greg came to believe that the Marines were doing a lot of good in Iraq. "Doubts about the existence of Saddam Hussein's stockpile of weapons, so central to his initial opposition to the war, seemed secondary after his unit uncovered a mass grave," the piece notes.

Some might view the notion of the peacemaker Marine as an oxymoron. Greg's life proves otherwise. His funeral really brought that point home to me. A couple dozen Marines in dress blues juxtaposed with peace activists wearing anti-war buttons demonstrated how many different, and I mean different, people Greg affected. He is in a better place now.

''There are 976 of them now," Greg's still grieving father points out. ''Who will remember the names?" I certainly will remember one name and one Marine. How could anyone who came into contact with Gregory MacDonald ever forget him?

29 / August
29 / August
It Takes All Kinds

Earlier this year, police pulled over Andre Gainey in his "pimped up" Mercedes for watching a porno movie called Chocolate Foam that was visible to passing motorists. This week, Gainey was sentenced to three weekends in jail for public display of sexual material. The Dave Matthews Band claims to support green causes, but the hundred gallons of liquid dumped from its tour bus from atop a bridge onto boat passengers was described as "brownish, yellow." In rural Cambodia, hundreds of pilgrims are descending on a farmer's cow pasture to experience the curative powers of a supernatural bovine creature. Be forewarned: the owner of the cow charges thirteen cents for four strokes from the healing beast's tongue. The farmer notes, "the cow won't lick people who won't put in their money." On Thursday, the NYPD arrested about a dozen AIDS activists who protested outside the site of the Republican National Convention sans clothes. Isn't protesting AIDS by stripping naked a bit like protesting lung cancer by smoking five packs of Lucky Strikes? In Canada, exotic dancers seeking to emigrate to the country are now required to submit a fully nude photo of themselves to government officials. Ostensibly, the policy is designed to curb immigration fraud.

28 / August
28 / August
Bush Pulls Ahead

George W. Bush is not only beating John Kerry in national opinion polls, but he defeats Kerry in the more important state-by-state electoral college polls as well. Bush leads in the battleground states of Florida, Missouri, and Ohio.

This has been a really, really bad few weeks for the Kerry campaign. I haven't seen a beat down this brutal since the Riffs exacted revenge on Luther, the real killer of Cyrus. You remember: Coney Island, '79? The Warriors? The classic '70s multiracial gang flick? ("It wasn't us. It was them--The Warriors. They killed Cyrus."). If you never saw The Warriors, think Sean Penn wielding a pillow case of coke cans in Bad Boys, or Robert DeNiro swinging a baseball bat at the banquet table in The Untouchables. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's campaign has been that devastating for Kerry.

George W. Bush is a weak president tethered by the Iraq war, an economy that loitered in the starting gates for too long, and his own general ineptness. That John Kerry trails W just a few short weeks after his Boston convention demonstrates how utterly horrible a candidate Kerry is, and how out to lunch the Democratic Party is for nominating a Massachusetts liberal. They deserve to lose.

27 / August
27 / August
Campaign 2004's Vietnam Paradox

I'm a bit dumbstruck by how the whole Vietnam issue has played out. George W. Bush sat out the war. John Kerry killed and bled in the jungles of Vietnam. Yet it is Bush who benefits from the issue his opponent introduced. Avoidance of the war didn't kill the electoral chances of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, or Dan Quayle. Ironically, the one candidate for national office who actually spent time fighting in Vietnam has suffered from the issue.

Why?

First, John Kerry has crassly played the hero card. Bob Dole downplayed his World War II heroism in 1996. When candidate John F. Kennedy was asked in 1959 how he became a war hero, that junior senator from Massachusetts quipped: "It was easy--they sank my boat." Former Navy man Kerry, on the other hand, arrives at the Democratic convention via boat from Boston Harbor, smartly salutes, and announces that he's "reporting for duty." No one likes a braggart, particularly one who seems to have embellished his record.

Second, we know George W. Bush got out of military service in Vietnam. Invoking this issue more than four years after it was first raised won't change a single vote. One month ago, America knew John Kerry as a war hero. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have exposed a side of Kerry that has tarnished that image. Kerry didn't tell the truth about being in Cambodia on Christmas, and there are serious allegations that Kerry exaggerated wounds and distorted events to leave Vietnam early. The John Kerry we know in August isn't the John Kerry we met in July.

Third, Kerry's conduct after the war is more damning than anything he did or didn't do in Vietnam. He accused his fellow swift boat veterans of "butchering a lot of innocent people," repeated hearsay regarding rapes, beheadings, mutilations, and other atrocities as if they were commonplace, and penned a radical book with an upside down American flag on its cover.

Finally, Vietnam is a loser for liberals. It always has been. In 1968, three candidates--Humphrey, Nixon, and Wallace--ran for president. All three supported the war. Four years later, the voters were given a real choice between a hawk (Richard Nixon) and a dove (George McGovern). Nixon won every state save Massachusetts. Liberals mistake their own certitude in the war's immorality for a similar certainty in the public at large. This parochial mindset that projects one's own opinions on the majority of society afflicts liberals on many issues, but on none more than the Vietnam War.

That a war concluding roughly thirty years ago would play such a central role in presidential politics is almost unprecedented. What's occuring now would be the equivalent of the Civil War dominating the 1896 election between William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley, or the Korean War looming large over Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter's 1980 contest. With the possible exception of the Revolution--a hero of that war occupied the Oval Office an astounding 54 years after it ended--no war has cast so long a shadow on presidential politics as the Vietnam War has.

26 / August
26 / August
Somebody Call My Lawyer

When Al Gore lost the 2000 election, he tried to sue his way into the White House. Four years later, John Kerry is getting battered and bloodied by opposition attacks and he, predictably, calls in the lawyers. The Kerry-Edwards ticket has failed to effectively parry or counterpunch the blows dealt by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Democrats have asked the attorney general to investigate links between the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Bush campaign, based on a lawyer who worked for both groups. This latest bit of feigned indignation comes from a party that shares a lawyer with Moveon.org. While the Democrats are at it, why don't they ask John Ashcroft to investigate them too.

Iraq War Billboard

A liberal group has posted a giant billboard in Times Square calculating the up-to-the-second cost of the Iraq war. It started at $134 billion and runs at $7.4 million an hour. The economic costs are staggering. But the sign is a bit crass. Does anyone believe these are the real costs of the war? We are approaching the thousandth American serviceman killed in Iraq. Many more of America's best young men and women have been wounded or maimed. This investment of blood and treasure may be good for Iraqis, but, like a lot of my fellow countrymen, I fail to see how all of this served America's interests.

Hot Off the Presses

Hardback copies of Intellectual Morons finally arrived early Wednesday morning. I've been waiting for this since I launched the project about five years ago. Early on, I received rejection letter after rejection letter. I never got a "Dear John" letter at Parris Island, but I surmise that the feeling is somewhat similar. One editor with a prominent publisher even told me that I would never get such a book published at a manstream New York publishing house. What's worse, I believed him.

Times have changed. What happened? Mainly, Ann Coulter happened. The success of her book Slander opened up doors to conservative authors who didn't have the promotional mechanism of a daily radio show or nightly cable news program. Coulter proved that there was a market not being served: conservative readers. Conservative authors whose primary endeavor was writing now had greater prospects than ever to have major book companies publish their work. Steve Ross responded to this change in the market by launching Crown Forum, which is both my publisher and Ann Coulter's. Upon embarking on the venture, Ross observed: "publishers inhabit a very culturally sheltered island called Manhattan. But until we declare ourselves a sovereign state, I think we should publish for the whole country." This attitude serves both the business needs of Random House, Crown Forum's parent company, and the reading desires of the market.

It's been a long journey, but Intellectual Morons has finally arrived--at least at my condo. It arrives in bookstores on September 21. And if you like what you read at FlynnFiles, I hope you will go out and buy the book when it's available in stores.

U2 Album November 23

After four years, numerous producers, and delays induced by a globe-trotting do-gooder of a lead singer, U2 is finally ready to release its follow-up to All That You Can't Leave Behind (buy it here). This is the longest gap between albums in the group's history.

The album will be released in North America on November 23. Expect a single called Vertigo to hit radio in late September. Vertigo has also been rumored to be the album title, but another contender has emerged: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Prior to their last CD, U2 were the kings of short album titles: Boy, October, War, Zooropa, Pop--half of their studio albums (click the links to purchase) bear just one word titles. They may be going in a different direction with a lengthy album title, but U2's music is apparently returning to its straight rock roots. Steve Lillywhite, who produced U2's first three albums, produced the band's forthcoming effort.

25 / August
25 / August
Kerry Criticized Their War Records First

John Kerry, Michael Novak writes in National Review Online, "took away the honor of his Swift Boat brothers, who were then as young as he was, and mostly still in harm's way. He said they and others like them had killed, burned, raped, and acted like the barbarian armies of Genghis Khan. He broadcast this message all around the world, until it echoed in the jungles and the prison camps and down the rivers of Vietnam--and these young men in uniform had no way to defend themselves."

John Kerry made his name bashing other Vietnam veterans. By making the case that war crimes were standard practice among Americans in Vietnam, Kerry helped foster a negative, and false, image of vets returning home.

If criticizing other veterans a generation ago was alright for John Kerry, why is it somehow untoward for the men he criticized to question his war record now? After all, they were just anonymous young men. He's running for president.

Foxphobia and Other Liberal Pathologies

The passion of liberals and Bush haters--the two often go hand in hand--is extreme and often irrational. Two recent anecdotes have highlighted for me this unchecked passion of the president's adversaries.

As I prepared my last set of bench, another member of the local Gold's gym began swearing and raving. Initially, I thought there might be a fight. As he approached, his voice became more audible and it was clear he was angry about a George W. Bush advertisement airing on the Gold's gym internal television network. His female companion, disgusted with what she saw on the television, announced that she was going to complain to management.

My younger brother tends bar in Boston, and during the Democratic National Convention a few conventioneers entered his barroom and made a strange request. They asked that he turn the station from Kerry's convention speech. My brother refused, noting that the other patrons were interested in watching Kerry's speech and nothing else. The patrons then informed him that they too wanted to watch Kerry's speech. They just didn't want to watch it on the Fox News Channel. Confused, my brother informed them that all of the other channels carried the same feed and it made no difference what channel it aired on. They persisited, but my brother refused on the grounds that the audio for all of the bar was set to the Fox News Channel and that changing the channel on the big screen would make the sound slightly off from the visual. The anti-Fox patrons toughed it out.

Since when did the sight of a political advertisement become grounds for a profane tirade in a public place? Since when did it make a difference on what channel you watched an uninterrupted political speech? We are living in politicized times.

Is What Matters Whose Ox Gets Gored Over Vietnam?

One campaign in the presidential election has consistently questioned the military service of the opposing candidate. The attack dog on this issue, up until very recently, has been the Kerry camp. Throughout the spring, the Democrats harped on Bush's avoidance of fighting in Vietnam. It's a legitimate question. Now, Kerry's former comrades in arms are taking issue with the Democratic candidate's war record. The questions brought up by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (buy the book here), too, are legitimate.

We are picking the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet, after all. The public deserves to know if one candidate used connections to duck out of service, just as it has the right to know if the other exagerated his war record and invented stories of fighting in Cambodia.

In case anyone has forgotten, Michael Moore, Moveon.org, and even the Kerry campaign itself spent much of the spring and early summer attacking Bush's military service. The Kerry campaign even outlined more than a dozen "Key Unanswered Questions" about "Bush's Record in the National Guard."

Now that the tables have turned and increasing numbers of people are questioning Kerry's account of his time in Vietnam as well as his conduct after his return home, the Kerry campaign and his Fourth Estate camp followers are crying foul. Kerry decries the ad campaign against him as "fear and smear," and seeks to get television stations to block the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements.

Is it wrong to question a candidate's military record, or is it just wrong to question John Kerry's military record?

24 / August
24 / August
Camera Shy

I try my best to avoid press coverage of the trial of Scottpetersonmichaeljacksonkobebryant. The onslaught on the cases has made them all a blur, melding the defendents into one person. After a few years, they'll join Tonyahardingmonicalewinskyojsimpson to make one giant composite human being. While I'd rather watch the Office Max rubber-band-man commercial on a 24-hour loop than the media circus, something did catch my attention on tabloid legal matters when I flipped through the channels tonight.

Gloria Allred is a glutton for media attention. Allred serves as Amber Frey's attorney. Why does Frey need a defense attorney? Well, she doesn't. She's a witness in the murder trial of Scott Peterson. She's not actually a witness to the murder but a witness, and a participant, in Mr. Peterson's adultery. Frey doesn't really need an attorney. But Allred needs a client. And not just any client, but Allred needs a client in the Scottpetersonmichaeljacksonkobebryant case. Allred's like no lawyer I've ever met. She takes no coin for her services. Her payment is publicity.

Outside of court today, Allred held a press conference. During the event, the feminist attorney engaged in a base publicity stunt that involved refering to the defense team's "garbage" and then throwing some item relating to the case into the garbage. She then made the obligatory appearance on MSNBC.

Unlike Mr. Geragos, whose free service to Mr. Peterson might be a financial boon for his practice if his client is acquitted, Allred's involvement with Frey won't raise her practice's stature. It will just get her face on television.

Freedom, Not Government, Solves Campaign Finance Shadiness

If campaign finance laws didn't so severely limit the amount of money an individual could give a candidate, then 527s would hold but a fraction of their current influence. These 527s that so many people, including the president, have called to ban are in many ways a creation of the current campaign finance structure. Allow donors to give whatever to whomever they please, and 527s would mostly evaporate.

Take George Soros, an unpopular fool who wants to see John Kerry elected president. Because the campaign finance laws restrict what he can give Kerry directly to a few thousand dollars, he gives copious amounts to pro-Kerry 527s--nearly $13,000,000 to be a bit more precise. In this way, the campaign finance laws encourage shadiness. Soros is able to aid Kerry in such a way that doesn't directly reflect on Kerry's campaign. If Soros weren't restricted in the amount he could directly give to Kerry, we would know more clearly what monied interests stand behind the candidate. Under the current system, both Soros and Kerry can claim only a tenuous connection with the other. The current campaign finance structure makes things murky, when everything should be transparent to voters.

Don't like the influence 527s play in politics? Banning them outright is the government solution. Allowing unlimited giving to candidates and causes is the free market solution.

Bush Has No Right To Restrict Political Speech

In response to the controversy over the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, President Bush came out againt the whole idea of 527 political groups. "I don't think we ought to have 527s," Bush remarked.

The Democrat and Republican parties, along with the major media, shouldn't have a monopoly on political discourse. This is a free country. The Club for Growth, MoveOn, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and any other group of individuals has the right to say anything they want. It's lamentable that the President of the United States--last time I checked, we still have a First Amendment--would call to ban 527s from participating in the process. "I think they're bad for the system," Bush argued yesterday. What system? Isn't our system of electing federal office holders largely outlined in the Constitution?

My only possible qualm with 527s is that they are tax-exempt. But if political parties don't pay taxes on their incoming donations, why should they? While both parties use 527s to their advantage, neither party really likes them because they ultimately don't control their message.

We have too many election laws, not too few. It's a topsy-turvy system that encourages government subsidization of campaigns, but restricts private support of candidates and issues. McCain-Feingold, signed into law by President Bush after he opposed it on the campaign trail, restricts freedom. It bans issue ads by non-party groups sixty days before elections--the time when voters pay the closest attention. As Justice Scalia noted in his dissent in McConnell v. FEC, "This litigation is about preventing criticism of the government." So is a ban on 527s.

Reader Contest

FlynnFiles will shortly be launching its very own CafePress store, complete with hats, mugs, t-shirts, and other essential FlynnFiles gear. I've been tasked with coming up with a slogan to accompany the FlynnFiles name and logo on the merchandise. Perusing the comments section of FlynnFiles, it's become clear that many of the site's readers possess a lot more creativity than the site's editor. In fact, the creativity a few of you possess might have been mistaken for a mild form of insanity in less enlightened times. I'd like to channel that creative energy into coming up with a catchy slogan to adorn the site's merchandise. So I'm issuing a challenge to FlynnFiles readers: come up with the short phrase that appears on the site's Cafe Press products, and you'll win a free t-shirt plus bragging rights. Brian, DB, Mike Boyle, Le Gadfly, Sponge Daddy, and other five-star posters, let's hear from you. The same goes for our many newcomers. Take a break from debating Venezuela, Chomsky, and Bush v. Kerry, and focus on this more important task at hand.

A Tale of Two Campaign Workers

Moveon.org is a 527 political group that ran ads on their Internet site comparing George W. Bush to Hitler. John Kerry's campaign hired the organizing director of Moveon.org as its director of online communications and online fundraising. A former prisoner of war in Vietnam volunteered for President Bush's campaign. The man also appears in a Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (buy the book here) ad against Kerry.

The Bush campaign won't allow the Vietnam War POW to volunteer on its campaign anymore. The Kerry campaign refuses to fire the Moveon.org operative it hired for its election bid. Despite the very different roles the two men occupied in each campaign (one a volunteer, the other a top level staffer), and the very different responses by each campaign (the first got fired, the latter remains), the liberal punditry is preoccupied with using Ken Cordier's work for the President's reelection effort to allege the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are a Bush front group, but mute about Zach Exley's role in the Kerry campaign.

23 / August
23 / August
Time Magazine Article--Part One

I'm featured in an article on campus conservatives in the current issue of Time Magazine. Despite expressing my doubts (based on past such articles) that the campus Right would be treated even-handedly, I think John Cloud wrote a fair and interesting report.

In interacting with the piece's author, one of my worries was that he didn't take the whole idea of campus censorship seriously. In response to his specific doubts regarding my lecture being shouted down at Berkeley, I sent him copious amounts of evidence--photographic, audio, news articles, eyewitnesses, etc. Thankfully, Cloud took the time to review the material. "In a notorious example of left-wing intimidation," he writes, "the Leadership Institute's Flynn spoke at a 2000 forum at the University of California, Berkeley, about his 38-page pamphlet Cop Killer: How Mumia Abu-Jamal Conned Millions into Believing He Was Framed.... [the event] erupted in virulent protest. According to an article in Berkeley's student paper, some of the demonstrators actually burned copies of Flynn's booklet. The disruption got national news coverage, and an embarrassed student senate had to pass a bill declaring that Berkeley, home of the free-speech movement, still opposes book burning." I'm also quoted elsewhere in the piece.

It's a bit strange to see yourself, and so many people you know, discussed in America's leading news magazine. My old boss Ron Robinson and my new boss Morton Blackwell feature prominently in the piece, as do Roger Custer, Charles Mitchell, Clayton Henson, and Steve Hinkle--leaders of campus groups that have hosted my lectures. One of my favorite speakers from my Accuracy in Academia days, Reginald Jones, is referenced right at the outset. Young America's Foundation's Pat Coyle, someone who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote conservative ideas, gets some long-deserved national recognition. Pat's effectiveness, as the piece demonstrates, has not gone unnoticed by the Left. One website has printed his home address and telephone number, explaining: "Pat is the one working diligently to divert your tuition and public tax money toward the radical, racist, right-wing club."

There are a few really cool things about the article. First, although Cloud describes a number of provocative conservative poster slogans and activist tactics, one can't help but come away from reading these portions of the article recognizing that campus conservatives have a lot of fun. Second, however tempting it might have been for a journalist to feign discovering some new anthropological find--i.e., campus conservatives--Cloud conveys that the conservative movement on campus dates back at least a half century. Finally, Cloud realizes that the young Right aren't a bunch of Republican droids. The formula for these articles is to portray the college conservatives as Bush lackeys. Reality is far more nuanced. One of the first lines of the piece rejects this notion: "Many of [the conservative students] think the President has betrayed them by signing bills fattening Medicare and the Department of Education."

John Cloud got it.

Time Magazine Article--Part Two

At least as interesting as John Cloud's discussion of the youthful campus Right, is his look at the aging campus Left.

"Just look at the academy's political donations: according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, 72% of university employees' $16.7 million in contributions during this election cycle has gone to the Democratic Party," Cloud writes. I'm surprised it's that low. My guess is that the 28% going to the Republicans comes mainly from non-administrative, non-faculty workers, community college employees, and instructors in the hard sciences. Cloud continues: "The figure for Harvard is 97%, and every penny of the $156,000 from the College of William and Mary has gone to the Democrats. Employees of the University of California have given more money to John Kerry's presidential campaign than have workers at any other business or institution; Harvard employees are No. 2." By way of comparison, employees at no college or university even making President Bush's list of top twenty contributors.

Several of the liberal professors interviewed clearly revealed themselves as out to lunch. "Our strength is our ability to offer our students alternative perspectives," remarked a defensive Ithaca College professor to charges of bias. Cloud appropriately observes, "Alternative in this case means liberal."

Perhaps the line of the article came from Assistant Professor Charles Venator Santiago of Ithaca College, who teaches a class called "Ideas and Ideologies." When Cloud asked him whether he taught any conservative thinkers, the academic responded: "I am teaching Hitler." That ignorant mentality, in a nut-shell, is what many conservative students face from professors from orientation to graduation day. I know I did.

New Job

The Leadership Institute recently named me director of its Campus Leadership Program. I have worked as LI's director of schools for the last six months, but I've had a much longer association with CLP. Beginning in the late '90s, CLP sent me on speaking tours of various campuses. The infamous Berkeley book burning, for instance, occurred in protest of a CLP organized event. Other CLP organized lectures were almost as exciting. Administrators banned me from speaking at one school, while one of the directors of a building complex threatened me with arrest if I took the podium at another. For more than a decade, I've been working to bring balance to the campuses. I started with my efforts on a student newspaper at UMass-Amherst, went on to work for Young America's Foundation in the mid-1990s, then served as the executive director of Accuracy in Academia from 1997 to 2002, took a year off to speak on fifty or so campuses, and finally joined LI in February of this year. With the book set for release on September 21 and students returning to campus within the coming days, it should be a busy fall for me.

No Republicans Need Apply

Al Gore, George Stephanopoulos, Leon Panetta, and Donna Shalala are a few of the numerous Clinton administration figures who found jobs in academia after they left office. Accuracy in Academia has just reviewed the post-political lives of cabinet-level appointees in the Carter, Reagan, Bush (41), and Clinton administrations and found that 21 Democrats landed jobs in higher education after their government service, while just six Republicans did. Mal Kline writes: "nearly half of the officials President Clinton appointed to his cabinet left the lame duck administration for jobs in academia. Less than one-tenth of all of President Reagan’s appointees left public office for college payrolls."

22 / August
22 / August
Attention Deficit Disorder Sports Report

The Dream Team of Bird, Magic, Jordan, and friends has become a nightmare assortment of individuals who, ironically, most fans can't name. Don't pick Jim Zorn for your fantasy team, as he's retired and wasn't that good when he played. The same goes for Napoleon McCallum. Iraqis play soccer better than they fight wars. The Red Sox are just six-and-a-half games out of first place. If you ever run out of pot, just call Ricky Williams. Joe Mesi, the latest (and most entertaining) great white hope, will end his boxing career undefeated due to a brain injury. Blown-up middleweight James "Lights Out" Toney is now a fat, blown-up heavyweight. Riddick Bowe, who was recently released from the penitentiary, incredibly now weighs less than Toney. But Nevada Inmate No. 71979 is the most dangerous man soon to be let loose on the heavyweight division. I, Max is the worst sports show. Ever. Carly Patterson's face will most certainly appear on a Wheaties box real soon.

21 / August
21 / August
Time Magazine Feature Forthcoming

Time magazine is featuring an article on campus conservatives. Apparently, I'm included in it. John Cloud, the piece's author, informs me that it will appear in this week's issue.

I spoke at length with the article's author about a month ago at Young America's Foundation's summer conference, and have electronically corresponded and talked with him a few times since. Although John Cloud is an award-winning journalist, something seemed more than a bit shifty in his demeanor when we spoke. An attendee of the YAF conference informed me that Time's reporter felt compelled to blurt out that I was a "f---ing nut job" during my speech. I also heard reports from students that Cloud had crudely attempted to bait them into making extremist statements against gays. I neither witnessed nor experienced this, though, in my conversations with Cloud.

Cloud seemed preoccupied with my reference in the Q&A section of my conference talk to how I was shouted down at Berkeley, and how my writings were subjected to a book burning there. Despite providing him audio of my getting shouted down, he remained a skeptic. He also seemed to have a tough time accepting that something so vile as a book burning could have happened at the home of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. I sent him a photo of the book burning, the audio of the event, articles on the occurence, contact info for a left-wing witness, etc. He expressed satisfaction that I had proved my case. The abundance of material that I provided might have seemed like overkill, but I know better.

Campus conservatives haven't fared too well with the larger media outlets. Instances of the Left attempting to censor campus conservatives are routinely ignored by the media, and when attention is paid it's often of a mocking variety. For instance, the New York Times recently depicted young conservatives as zombies controlled by George W. Bush on the cover of its Sunday magazine.

In our initial conversation, I recounted to Cloud an instance nearly a decade ago when I spoke to a reporter at a conservative conference writing a similar story. That writer penned a piece describing young conservative conference goers engaging in public sex acts, snorting cocaine, and downing hotel liquor bottles. Having both attended the conference and conversed with the writer, I was shocked at what I read. I was less shocked when I discovered that the piece was entirely fabricated. That article appeared in the New Republic, and its author was Stephen Glass. Hollywood later made a movie about him, Shattered Glass, that chronicled how he passed fiction off for fact for more than two years while writing for the New Republic.

Past performence, as they say, doesn't guarantee future results. I will judge Cloud's Time magazine article when I read it. But since observation and experience has so lowered my expectations on such articles, it would take something incredibly deceitful to disapoint me. I doubt John Cloud could, or would, outdo Stephen Glass in the dishonesty department. I doubt anyone could.

20 / August
20 / August
Debating the No-Fly List and Passenger Ted on CNN

I appeared on CNN this afternoon to discuss Ted Kennedy's name appearing on a no-fly list. I have long supported efforts to put the senator on a no-drive list, but even as steadfast an opponent of the Massachusetts liberal as myself has no problem with him flying--so long as he's just a passenger. My debating partner was, of all people, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr (buy his new book here). A couple years back the congressman argued on my side when I appeared opposite Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins on Phil Donahue's ill-fated MSNBC show. We differed, however, in our approach to airport security.

Basically, my position on the Kennedy controversy is that there's no real controversy. Kennedy got hassled by security at an airport like millions of other Americans. Ted, welcome to the real world. Despite talk of his name appearing on a no-fly list, in no instance did the Transportation Security Agency prevent Senator Kennedy from flying.

I'm still a bit unclear whether Bob Barr objected to the whole idea of no-fly lists, or just this no-fly list. Barr argued that it's three years after 9/11 and the government still hasn't gotten its act together. There are instances in which this criticism seems fair. The big picture, however, is that it's three years after 9/11 and al Qaeda still has not been able to mount another major act of terrorism within our borders. This is not because the terrorists have stopped trying or had a change of heart about America. This is because more stringent security measures, including this imperfect no-fly list, have made it harder for the terrorists to execute their plans.

Mosque Foxholes

Iraqi police have reportedly taken control of the Imam Ali Mosque, which fighters loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr have been using as a giant foxhole. Seventy-seven Iraqis were killed in the overnight battle to gain control of the mosque.

"The Imam Ali Mosque shrine complex is a very sensitive site for all concerned and we are working very closely with the Iraqi security forces to ensure that we have the right people going into the shrine and ensure that the least amount of damage is done to that site," declared U.S. Army Lt. Col. Myles Miyamasu.

Why? The shrine complex is sacred, but so are human lives. Insurgents were using that holy site as a sanctuary. If the U.S. Army used that mosque as a barracks, do you think the Islamic extremists would hesitate to bomb it? What the insurgents were doing in the Imam Ali Mosque violates the laws of war. If the place got leveled it would be the responsibility of those using it for warfare inside, not those responding to the attack on the outside.

The example of the Imam Ali Mosque illustrates the level of civilization exhibited by both sides in this conflict. By using a mosque as a hiding place, the Shiite insurgents count on the civilization of their foes to ensure their safety. By not leveling the mosque, the Americans show greater concern for the Shiite holy site than the Shiites themselves.

Election 2004: Dead Heat

The CBS News poll has John Kerry clinging to a one-point lead over George W. Bush. Kerry's current 46-45 advantage comes less than a month after his post-convention numbers, which witnessed a more comfortable 48-43 Kerry lead. By including Nader in the mix for all poll respondents, the survey perhaps underestimates Kerry's lead since most voters will not have an option to vote for Nader on their ballots in November. Still, Bush's momentum is undeniable.

A few reasons stand out for Bush's surge. First, Kerry's remark that he would fight a more "sensitive" war on terror may have won him votes in Berkeley, Amherst, and Madison, but almost nowhere else. Second, Bush has adeptly exploited Kerry's ambiguity on the war in Iraq, particularly his clumsy explanation that he would still support the war knowing what he knows now--which seemed to conflict with some of his campaign rhetoric. Most important, the campaign of John O'Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (buy the book here) has clearly damaged Kerry. After Kerry made his Vietnam service the centerpiece of the convention (remember his corny line "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty"?), the two candidates were deadlocked among veterans at 46-46. Now Bush leads decisively among vets, 55-37. In other words, the entire message of the Democratic National Convention has been negated in a matter of weeks.

The People's Republic of Venezuela

If liberals applied the same standards to Venezuela today that they applied to Florida four years ago, then Michael Moore would be leading protests to invade the South American nation.

"A 61-year-old grandmother was shot in the back as she ran for cover," Thor Halvorssen writes in the Wall Street Journal. "The bullet ripped through her aorta, kidney and stomach. She later bled to death in the emergency room. An opposition congressman was shot in the shoulder and remains in critical care. Eight others suffered severe gunshot wounds. Hilda Mendoza Denham, a British subject visiting Caracas for her mother's 80th birthday, was shot at close range with hollow-point bullets from a high-caliber pistol. She now lies sedated in a hospital bed after a long and complicated operation. She is my mother."

If only George W. Bush had goons shoot a bunch of people after the Florida recount controversy, some Republicans must be thinking, then maybe liberals would have declared him the legitimate president. Well, not really. Bush is a Republican and Hugo Chávez is a Communist. When you're a Communist, you get to rig elections, further loot your impoverished country, and allow goons to open-fire on crowds--and liberals will look the other way. When you're a Republican, discounting felons' ballots or counting absentee votes from overseas servicemen is enough to provoke cries of "fraud" and "illegitimate."

Halvorssen reports election officials moving one opposition voter's polling station hundreds of miles away and erasing others from the voting rolls. Worse still, the Chávez regime bought into a company that supplies computerized ballot boxes and then awarded the company the contract to tally the votes in Venezuela.

Halvorssen writes: "Smartmatic Corp., a Florida company that has never before supplied election machinery, is owned by two Venezuelans. The software came from Bizta Software, owned by the same two people. The Miami Herald recently revealed that the Chávez regime spent $200,000 last year to purchase 28% of Bizta and put a government official and longtime Chávez ally on the board. After the story broke, Bizta bought back the government-held shares and the official resigned from the board. But not until after the two companies were granted a significant part of the $91 million contract for the referendum."

Had George W. Bush's lackeys owned the company responsible for tallying votes in the controversial 2000 election, how do you suppose Jimmy Carter and the other liberals vouching for the fairness of the Venezuelan recall loss would have reacted?

19 / August
19 / August
Republican Second Thoughts on Iraq

A Republican congressman has reversed his position on Iraq as a result of the faulty intelligence, financial costs, and the loss of life. "I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action, especially without a broad and engaged international coalition," Rep. Doug Bereuter told his constituents. "The cost in casualties is already large and growing, and the immediate and long-term financial costs are incredible."

FlynnFiles Changes

You've probably noticed some changes to FlynnFiles; more are on the way. Mike Krempasky, who is one of the guys who runs RedState, designed FlynnFiles and has placed a number of cash-generating features within the site that aren't aesthetically displeasing or intrusive. The Google ads that you see at the bottom of the site is an example of this. Another is the recommended reading list--soon to be joined by DVDs and CDs. If you see an item you like, please purchase it through FlynnFiles. You don't pay any more than you normally would through Amazon, and a cut of the money you send to Jeff Bezos goes to defer the costs associated with FlynnFiles. So check out the items linked within posts, as well as the items featured on the right side of the page. If you haven't read The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, you should most certainly do so. And, don't forget: buy it here.

The 'P' Stands for President

P. Diddy just appeared on The Late Show wearing a "Vote or Die!" t-shirt. I vote, but I hate to break it to you Mr. Diddy: more than 100 million Americans eligible to vote will stay home come the first Tuesday in November--and they'll still be alive the next day. Their lives won't be fundamentally different no matter who wins. This is because there are just two credible candidates, and as a result both fight for the votes of the mushy middle. Both support big government at home and abroad. You have choices when you go to the supermarket, turn on the television, and go to college. You get A or B when you step into the voting booth. Anyhow, on David Letterman's show Mr. Diddy read his top ten list of reasons why Americans should vote--which, I must say, was more compelling than the threatening slogan on his shirt. The best of P. Diddy's reasons (if publicized, it will certainly result in a record turnout) was number four: "Anyone who doesn't register to vote will receive nude photos of Ralph Nader." See you at the polls.

18 / August
18 / August
Who's Your Dentist?

One leads a shagadelic lifestyle filled with sex and mind-altering drugs. The other reads the Koran all day long. One wears ruffled shirts and colorful velvet jackets. The other's wardrobe knows one color: black. Despite their differences, Austin Powers and Muqtada al-Sadr have something in common: they both use Fun Dip instead of Crest to brush their teeth.

Chomsky Is Still an Idiot

LewRockwell.com posted an article yesterday that praises Noam Chomsky for "speaking truth to power." Rather than make anyone reassess Chomsky, the piece is likely to compel the site's readers--I count myself as one--to reassess the judgment of Lew Rockwell. Noam Chomsky served as an apologist for the Khmer Rouge, imagined a post-WWII conspiracy between Nazis and the US State Department, and conjured up the idea of millions of deaths resulting from America's military campaign against the Taliban. Chomsky's errors always seem to cast America in a more negative light, which makes them more self-delusion than error. The MIT professor's penchant for falling for ridiculous conspiracy theories and parroting anti-American propaganda are among the reasons why he is included as one of the intellectual morons I discuss in my forthcoming book.

The fawning LewRockwell.com piece maintains, "contrary to what you may read elsewhere, Chomsky does not hate America." What I have read elsewhere does indeed indicate that Chomsky hates America. What I have read elsewhere that indicates this is Noam Chomsky himself.

McGreevey Picked Cipel Over Former FBI Director

Disgraced governor Jim McGreevey could have had Louis Freeh as the coordinator of New Jersey's counter-terrorism efforts. Freeh even offered his services at no charge. McGreevey balked. Instead, he gave his alleged lover, Golan Cipel, the job at $110,000 a year. Freeh had more qualifications for the job than just about anyone in America. Cipel had less qualifications for the job than just about everyone in America. While McGreevey's sexual conduct is despicable, it's not what is at the heart of this scandal--no matter how hard he tries to make it so.

17 / August
17 / August
Time for Europe to Defend Itself

World War II ended almost sixty years ago. The Cold War has been over for more than a decade. The question regarding our military presence in Europe has shifted from why are we left defending these people, to who are we defending these people from. That latter question dawned on George W. Bush, as did the correct answer. The president has decided to bring 70,000 U.S. troops home from abroad over the course of the next decade. The focus has shifted, properly, to defending America. Additionally, it's doubtful that several of our NATO allies would lift a finger to defend us. Why should we spend our treasure, dislocate our soldiers, and promise the lives of our countrymen to defend them?

His Fabulousness and the Sailor-Poet

"It doesn't bother me that it is said I am gay, but I really am not," Golan Cipel told the New York Post. The man at the center of the scandal that brought down New Jersey's governor insists, "I'm straight."

Golan Cipel might not be gay, but his boyfriend sure is. Remember Governor Jim McGreevey's proud declaration? "I am a gay American," His Fabulousness proclaimed. From Exit 16W to the Pine Barrens, Garden State voters were shocked, shocked. Now the scandal has taken another bizarre turn, with Cipel claiming that he's straight and that his boss--the governor of New Jersey--repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances on him.

Explains Cipel: "Think about how scary it is when we are talking about a powerful man like the governor of the state of New Jersey." Yeah, that is really scary; or, if you're into gay master/slave scenarios, a fantasy. But since Cipel is 100 percent heterosexual, it was more frightening than Halloween. No, really it was.

But what if Golan Cipel is telling the truth? That might explain why he often failed to show up for work. It would also do a lot to shed light on McGreevey's bizarre word choice in explaining his "adult consensual affair with another man" during his press-conference confession. The word "consensual" struck me as a bit too legalistic and defensive, almost as if the governor were lobbing a preemptive strike on some anticipated charge.

As it stands, McGreevey's poll numbers haven't even declined. If Golan Cipel can prove his allegations, though, don't count on McGreevey's constituents naming a rest stop along the Jersey Turnpike in the governor's honor anytime soon.

Party Hard

"When it's time to party," Andrew WK famously declared, "we will always party hard." Where do they party the hardest? According to the Princeton Review, the answer is the University of New York at Albany. Other schools that made the top ten list were Washington and Lee, the University of Wisconsin, West Virginia University, Ohio University, Florida State University, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Georgia, the University of Colorado, and the University of Mississippi.

I've spent a short period of time on a few of these campuses. The party scene at the University of Texas and the University of West Virginia struck me as more of a bar scene. I spoke at Ohio University last semester. On the way to the lecture hall, we passed by some off-campus houses that boasted fully-stocked backyard bars. Students were drinking in the daylight hours. It was a Wednesday. As much as I love speaking, the lecture hall seemed a lot less inviting than the many outdoor parties that lined the route to the event. Ohio University appeared to have earned its reputation as a party school. What's more, the university in Athens, Ohio seemed a fun party school rather than an incoherently drunk party school. To put it in Andrew WK terminology, it was more "Long Live the Party" than "Party 'Til You Puke."

16 / August
16 / August
Iraqs as Far as the Eye Can See

"If we do not quickly expose the vulnerability of mullahs and empower the Iranian people," Michael Ledeen writes in today's National Review Online. "I believe the next few months in Iraq will, if Tehran has its way, be bloodier than anything we have seen to date. Not to mention the planned attacks against us here at home."

Since when is it the American military's job to "empower" whole nations of people? Ledeen's "empower" rhetoric makes it sound as if the U.S. military is one giant motivational speaker or a welfare to work program. And if Ledeen has evidence that Iran is planning attacks on American soil, please share it with the rest of us. Like a lot of people, I'm afraid I'd like to see the actual evidence this time around before going to war.

Iran is a greater state-sponsor of terrorism than Iraq, and they should be stopped before creating a nuclear weapon. But the danger of taking on Iraq after Afghanistan is that it necessarily eroded support for future campaigns--no matter how much more desirable. The American people have a tolerance level for wars of aggression, and I'm happy to report we've met our limit with Iraq. Iranian state-sponsorship of future acts of terrorism against the U.S. can and will change things. For one, it will make a war of choice into perhaps a war of necessity. But to simply invade a country in order to remake it in our image is a utopian delusion destined to fail. Transforming nations overnight is what many war hawks fantasize about regarding Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, and despotisms beyond. They want Iraqs as far as the eye can see. Michael Ledeen's fantasy is our nightmare.

Iraqi Soccer Jubilation

Iran's neighbors to the west are having a much better public relations go of it at the Olympics. Remarkably, Iraq's soccer team defeated Portugal--a powerhouse squad--and Costa Rica to advance to round two. So great was the enthusiasm that numerous spectators stormed the field after each Iraq goal versus Costa Rica, with one fan draping the Iraqi flag on the opposition's goal. Might their success at the Olympic Games help turn things around in Iraq?

Don't underestimate the power of sport to rally a nation. In 1980, America was emerging from a decade of defeat in Vietnam, stagflation, Watergate, and humiliation at the hands of Iranian kidnappers. The moment when things turned around wasn't Reagan's election or when the economy starting picking up steam in late '82. It was the rag-tag Team USA's hockey victory over the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics, and their subsequent win in the gold-medal game over Finland. Let's hope that by seeing their nation's success in Athens, everyday Iraqis will rally to make their nation a better place. Certainly the on-field success can't hurt.

Wrestling With Jews

Iranian judo champion Arash Miresmaeili balked at taking on Israeli Ehud Vaks at the Olympics on Sunday. Are Jews that intimidating? I don't recall Alan Dershowitz, Woody Allen, or Pauly Shore ever frightening me. Of course, Jews--or Christians or Zoroastrians for that matter--don't really scare Arash Miresmaeili either. It's likely that the black-clad bearded dudes running his government scare him a great deal more, which is why he chickened-out of fighting Mr. Vaks. After all, what reaction might have awaited Miresmaeili in Tehran had he lost to his Israeli opponent?

"On behalf of all institutions and Iran's embassy in Greece, I congratulate you on your courageous move to refuse to compete with a judoka from the Zionist regime," Iran's ambassador to Greece declared after Miresmaeili's refusal to fight. "Certainly, the Iranian nation considers Miresmaeili as the real champion of the 2004 Olympic Games." Champion of what? Being an idiot? A coward? A political tool?

While this slight doesn't rank with what Miresmaeili's co-religionists did at the Munich games in 1972, it does demonstrate the anti-Semitism that various Muslim governments mandate in their populaces.

Da Ali G Show: Episode 11

HBO's Da Ali G Show continues to be must-see TV. White rapper Ali G interviewed Gore Vidal on Sunday night's show, Kazakhstan state-run TV journalist Borat attempted to purchase a home, and the flamboyant Bruno asked a Southern gun enthusiast about the size of his weapon. This line of questioning provoked an angry response in which the interviewee felt compelled to declare his heterosexuality several times. The highlight of Sunday night's installment was Ali G's interrogation of a pervy sex educator in which he asked if it were okay to use a Doritos bag if you couldn't afford a condom.

15 / August
15 / August
Venezuela Recall Vote

Venezuelans go to the polls today to decide whether Castro lackey Hugo Chavez will remain president of the oil-rich country. If there's a ballot-box victory over Chavez, it will likely prove pyrrhic. Chavez doesn't believe in freedom. He believes in Communism. If Chavez wins today, he stays in office. If Chavez loses today, he stays in office.

14 / August
14 / August
McGreevey's Jedi Mind Trick

From the grave, Richard Nixon is lamenting that he didn't think of the "I am a gay American" defense. Bill Clinton may have avoided impeachment had he only been slick enough to utter, "I am a gay American." Connecticut Governor John Rowland, Oregon Senator Bob Packwood, Ohio Congressman James Traficant, and Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry all might have won the public's favor by embracing their inner-homosexual--or at least pretending to do so. Aaron Burr, Alger Hiss, and Benedict Arnold would have gone down in history as brave pioneers for sexual freedom--instead of roguish turncoats--had they possessed half the political acumen of the current governor of New Jersey. All of this ignores the ramifications of Governor McGreevey's remarks beyond politics. Certainly courts will now have to grant an equal standing to pleas of "I am a gay American" alongside the more traditional "guilty" or "innocent." Kobe Bryant, Scott Peterson, Ken Lay, Martha Stewart, Lyndie England--are you listening? Do you follow politics? There's a way out if only you follow the example of Jim McGreevey. If you find yourself in trouble with the law, your boss, the principal, or some other figure of authority, learn the words to the 1983 Weather Girls classic, buy a pair of chaps, pierce your ear (right one please), thumbtack a Judy Garland poster on your wall, and declare, proudly, "I AM A GAY AMERICAN!"

13 / August
13 / August
The 'I am a Gay American' Defense

Jim McGreevey's tearful mea culpa was masterful political theater staged to distract the public from the primary issue: he appointed his gay lover as his advisor on homeland security in New Jersey. A week after the federal government revealed an al Qaeda plot to attack financial centers in New Jersey, Garden State voters were not going to be pleased with their governor's placement of a gay poet to a post charged with helping to ensure their security.

The Israeli poet's only qualification for the job seems to be that he engaged in sex acts with the governor of the state. This was not a typical act of cronyism. McGreevey didn't just loot the taxpayers to create a phony job for a political hack. He recklessly placed an incompetent person in a job that deals with life and death issues. The guy wasn't going to be a public relations liason or the gaming commissioner. McGreevey made him his point man on homeland security in a state that 1) terrorists used as a base to conduct the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, 2) is the home to many of the families of 9/11 victims, and 3) contains financial centers that al Qaeda is targeting.

"My truth is that I am a gay American," McGreevey dramatically admitted on Thursday. But that's not the whole truth. McGreevey admitted one truth to hide another. McGreevey's press conference dictated that press coverage would focus on his homosexuality and infidelity rather than his impending legal problems and the corrupt placement of his adulterous male companion in various six-figure state jobs. Further evidence of the disingenuousness of the whole event is that McGreevey's resignation doesn't take effect until November, which ensures that he and not the people of New Jersey choose who will govern them for the next year.

Whether the job was payment for services rendered or remuneration for blackmail, we may never know. All we know is that Golan Cipen had no business overseeing New Jersey's defenses against terrorism.

Christmas in January

It appears that the memory "seared" in John Kerry's consciousness wasn't so seared after all. After the Kerry campaign's smear job against Swift Boat Veterans for Truth failed to obfuscate the truth, the Democratic Party's nominee has turned to partisan historian Douglas Brinkley to report that Kerry didn't spend "Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia," but fought on Cambodian soil a month later. Had Kerry not repeatedly and with certitude drawn on this image of Christmas in Cambodia, it's doubtful that this would even be a story. It is, however, a major story--one that has called his credibility into question, damaged his candidacy, and shot Unfit for Command (buy it here) to the top of the sales charts on Amazon.

Til Death, or a Court's Ruling, Do Us Part

The California Supreme Court voted 5-2 that the 4,000 or so homosexual couples that received wedding certificates in San Francisco earlier this year were not in fact married. In other words, they ruled (in this case, at least) that one man's whim, even if that one man is the mayor of San Francisco, doesn't supercede laws decided on by the majority of voters. We live in a republic, not a dictatorship.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's reaction to the court's ruling was rather remarkable. "I respectfully disagree with the Supreme Court's decision," the slick opportunist remarked, "but I respect the court and will respect the order."

Gavin Newsom respects the order of five judges. The will of millions of California voters, who defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman, he trampled over. Newsom's response tells us quite a bit about the current liberal mindset.

12 / August
12 / August
The Gay Bill Clinton

Not so long ago, a governor of a Southern state stood accused of cheating on his wife, improperly placing his extramarital love interests in state jobs, and sexually harassing employees. Today, a governor of a Northern state stands accused of cheating on his wife, improperly placing his extramarital love interest in a state job, and sexual harassment. Oh, and did I mention he's gay? Jim McGreevey is the Bizarro Bill Clinton.

Unfit for Command?

"I remember Christmas of 1968, sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia," John Kerry allegedly recalled in 1986. "I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there, the troops were not in Cambodia." He maintained: "I have that memory, which is seared--seared--in me."

It turns out the memory was seared in him in the way that Shirley MacLaine's remembrances of past lives are seared in her. Unfit for Command by John O'Neill, a fellow swift-boat veteran and Kerry debate foe in the '70s, is the number one book on Amazon.com. More importantly, it has sent the Kerry campaign in a tailspin with its disputations of Kerry's war record--especially the accusation surrounding Kerry's lost Christmas in Cambodia. The Kerry campaign has refrained from addressing this central charge, and their silence is being interpreted as a tacit admission of the accusation's correctness. They need to act, but if O'Neill's charge proves airtight--and it certainly looks like Kerry wasn't in Cambodia during Christmas of '68--it will open up a whole new can of worms.

This controversy is amazing for a number of reasons. First, who would have thought that the candidate who avoided serving in Vietnam would gain the advantage on the Vietnam War issue that the Kerry campaign has highlighted since the convention? Second, Kerry made his career in Massachusetts on his anti-war movement credentials. Now it appears that his ultimate career aspiration will take a hit because of them. John Kerry may not have a long memory, but John O'Neill and his cohorts do. And their memories of John Kerry and the anti-war movement are not fond ones.

The Band That Time Forgot

It is with great sadness that I report that Dave Davies of The Kinks has suffered a stroke that has left him partially paralyzed. Earlier this year, the older Davies brother, Kinks lead singer Ray, was shot. The culprit, surprisingly, was not his combative younger brother Dave but a thief in New Orleans. These guys make Noel and Liam Gallagher look like the model of brotherly love.

It's been a tough couple of years for classic rock. Beatle George Harrison and Who bassist John Entwistle have passed, Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones is in rehab, and now a stroke has sidelined Dave Davies--perhaps for good. In the next few years, we will lose more rock heroes--particularly since many of them overlooked the Atkins Diet in favor of the Acid Diet.

The Kinks are perhaps the most under-appreciated rock band. If they didn't invent the power chord or feedback, they pioneered their use along with The Who, The Yardbirds, and other second-wave British Invasion bands. "You Really Got Me" and, especially, "All Day and All of the Night" rank up there with "Satisfaction" and "My Generation" among the seminal records of the mid-1960s.

What distinguishes The Kinks from many of the early rock acts that continued past the '60s is that they never really became a "greatest hits" touring act--perhaps to their financial detriment--and stayed relevant. In the '70s, they released "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy," "Celluloid Heroes," "Lola," and a multitude of other great tracks. "Come Dancing" was a staple of early MTV, and a case can be made that the golden age of The Kinks was the early '80s. Their 1981 offering, Give the People What They Want (buy it here), is a must-own for any real rock fan.

Perhaps the reason The Kinks are no longer commonly spoken of in the same breath as Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones is that their uniquely Anglophilic vibe is not as accessible to American audiences. The love of Old England shines through on one of my favorite Kinks tracks, and one of the few where Dave Davies sings lead: "Living on a Thin Line." Davies laments: "All the stories have been told/About kings and days of old/But there's no England now." No Dave, there's not. There's just an amorphous European superstate, of which England is a part.

"Rock bands come, and rock bands go," Ray Davies informs the crowd on the live album One for the Road (buy it here). "But rock 'n' roll will last forever." Let's hope so. Get well Dave Davies.

11 / August
11 / August
Animals

One animal some animal-rights activists don't mind killing is the homo sapien. Wesley Smith discusses these disturbing folks (as the forthcoming Intellectual Morons does) in an article worth reading on National Review Online today. In addition to the animal-rights movement's obvious antipathy to experiments on animals that might lead to advances in fighting disease, some activists claim that it's morally acceptable to kill medical researchers who use lab animals in their work. On both counts, these activists mark themselves as anti-human. "I don't think you'd have to kill too many [medical researchers]," Smith quotes Dr. Jerry Vlasak. "I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives." Probably not, but conversely, how many human lives--in addition to the obvious, immediate loss of the researchers--would we doom by way of medical advances that never arrive?

Al Qaeda Assassination Plot

American intelligence officials claim that a new Osama bin Laden tape may set off a series of attacks, possibly assassinations against U.S. leaders. Evidence of such a plot was reportedly found on the laptop of captured al Qaeda operative Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan.

"There may be such a tape, but it hasn't surfaced and we haven't seen it," the source told the Washington Times about the potential of a new bin Laden message. He further explained: "The goal of the next attack is twofold: to damage the U.S. economy and to undermine the U.S. election."

Something tells me the U.S. leaders who charged that the Bush administration issued last week's terrorist warning as a political stunt are taking this latest threat more seriously.

Armstrong Stripped of Tour de France Title?

CNN is reporting that Lance Armstrong may be stripped of his sixth Tour de France title. In a random check for banned substances, three were found in Armstrong's hotel room. The substances banned by the French that were found in his hotel room were as follows:

(1) Toothpaste
(2) Deodorant
(3) Soap

The French officials also found several other items that they had never seen before, including a testicle and a backbone...

...I found this joke in my in-box today. It's too funny, and anti-French, to have been created by me.

The Big Business of Big-Business Bashing

The 2004 version of The Manchurian Candidate centers on a corporation's plot to control the executive branch of government. Following in the footsteps of The Insider, Wall Street, Erin Brockovich, and the Tim Robbins-bomb AntiTrust, The Manchurian Candidate is just the latest anti-business offering from Hollywood.

What nefarious enemies of big business produced these movies? The Communist Party? Anti-globaliztion protestors? Michael Moore? No, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Metro Goldwyn Mayer/United Artists, and Paramount respectively. Maybe The Manchurian Candidate is right after all: some corporations do engage in brainwashing!

A recent Washington Post article explored the phenomenon of cinematic odes to corporation bashing. It noted, "as many of the 20th century's evils have been dispatched--communism, Nazism, fascism--barely restrained capitalism-gone-bad has persevered as a go-to hobgoblin."

Joe Sobran finds the current Manchurian Candidate--whose 1962 version focused on a Communist, and not a corporate, plot to control the president--a bit unrealistic. A more believable script, he opines, might depict "A robotic Texan from a prominent Republican family [who] is kidnapped and brainwashed by a shadowy group of political 'progressives.' He is then set up in a political career in order to subvert the conservative movement. His mission is to keep expanding the government, while using conservative rhetoric in order to fool gullible talk-show hosts whose support he needs. When he is elected president of the United States, he is to complete the consolidation of the two parties into one huge big-government party."

Alas, this script may appear too fantastical to the makers of 2004's Manchurian Candidate.

10 / August
10 / August
Manson Murders: Night Two

Thirty-five years ago this evening, the Manson Family went on night two of its mass-murder spree. They killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, using their blood to write "Death to Pigs" on the wall of their home. The murderers carved "war" and "XXX" onto Mr. LaBianca's chest. In addition to political rationalizations for the killings, Charles Manson had a more practical motivation: to exonerate a Manson Family associate who had been charged in an earlier murder.

A few days prior to the Manson Family murder spree, Bobby Beausoleil, a friend of Charles Manson and a fellow musician, murdered Gary Hinman. According to Beausoleil, Hinman had sold him some phony mescaline that he had in turn sold to the Straight Satans motorcycle gang. Feeling that he had been had and fearing that his life was in danger from reprisals from the Straight Satans, Beausoleil confronted Hinman in his home. The confrontation ended with Beausoleil stabbing Hinman to death. To confuse the police, Beausoleil painted "Political Piggy" on the wall with Hinman's blood. Since Hinman was a Ph.D. candidate who traveled in Marxist circles, Beausoleil painted the slogan to make it seem that one of Hinman's fellow activists killed him.

"Well," inmate Beausoleil recalled in 1980 about the blood-stained graffiti, "it was my idea to do it. Susan Atkins was on that wall. The whole thing was to take the heat off the trail. Gary Hinman was into his revolutionary communism. His whole living room was a library of Communist literature. I figured I'd make it look like one of his cohorts, you know."

The police didn't fall for it, partly because Beausoleil stole the dead man's car and proceeded to use it as his personal vehicle, which had the effect of defeating his scheme. When the Manson Family embarked on their murderous rage a few days later, one objective, it seems obvious, was to spring Beausoleil from jail by committing murders that would appear too similar to the one their friend had been charged with. But again, the police didn't fall for it. Amazingly, they apparently never made a connection between the two murders.

Three murders featured political slogans involving variations of the word "pig" painted in human blood, and the police failed to draw a connection between the Hinman murder on the one hand, and the Tate-LaBianca murders on the other. Rather than helping Beausoleil beat the rap, drawing such a connection would have likely served to have fingered Beausoleil's friends in the later killings in a more timely fashion.

Theories regarding The White Album, a race war, and the Book of Revelations often cloud other, more central, inspirations for Charles Manson's blood lust. These include political motivations, a desire to exonerate a friend on murder charges, and intimidating music industry figures who spurned Manson, including Doris Day's son, producer Terry Melcher, who had previously lived in the Tate-Polanski home. If we do not know exactly why the Manson Family murdered, it is in part because they probably don't exactly know why either. All we know is that they did it.

Bush Nominates Goss

President Bush has nominated Congressman Porter Goss of Florida to be the director of Central Intelligence. A former undercover intelligence operative, Goss recognizes, "The essence of our intelligence capability is people." This is something American intelligence agencies have seemingly forgotten. In America's satellite and analysis heavy intelligence, India and Pakistan's test detonations of nuclear weapons caught us off guard. Intelligence imagined a genocide of ethnic Kosovar Albanians. It mistook a Sudanese medicine factory for a chemical weapons plant. It failed to connect the dots leading to 9/11. And the past director of Central Intelligence believed the case for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction a "slam dunk."

Collecting intelligence has always been an imperfect art. Never more so than it has been in the last decade.

An Echo, Not a Choice

In 1964, Barry Goldwater offered a choice, not an echo to President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Forty years later, John Kerry offers an echo, not a choice to President George W. Bush's Iraq war. Despite all the rhetoric about 2004 being the most important election in our lifetimes, the two major candidates offer quite similar views on the major issues facing America.

John Kerry explained on Monday that even though many of the pre-war assertions regarding Iraq have proven illusory, he still stands by his vote authorizing the president to use force in Iraq. Kerry can only amorphously offer: "I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has."

Many prospective Kerry voters are delusional. They project their own anti-war views on their candidate, ignoring the fact that he, too, backed the war in Iraq. They don't support Kerry. They oppose Bush.

While the country is divided on the war, the two major candidates are united. They both agree that we should have invaded Iraq. They just quibble about the details. Given this scenario, the candidate who stands for something trumps the candidate who stands for everything--pro-war, anti-war, pro-conducting-the-war-differently, etc.

09 / August
09 / August
Revolver Turns 38

This week also marks the anniversary of another, more uplifting event from the 1960s. On August 8, 1966, The Beatles released (in the U.S.) one of their best albums, Revolver. Signs of the group's drug influences could be found on Rubber Soul, but really came through loud and clear on Revolver. Lyrically, this is apparent on "Doctor Robert." Sonically, "She Said, She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" present a very different, drugged-out Beatles sound--with Ringo providing some of the best Beatles drumming on these two songs.

Manson Murders, 35 Years Later

Thirty-five years ago today, actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Hollywood hair-stylist Jay Sebring, eighteen-year-old Steven Parent, and Voyteck Frykowski, a Polish associate of Roman Polanski, were murdered. Victims were stabbed, beaten, hung, and/or shot, and the word "PIG" was conspicuously written in blood on a doorway in the home. The following evening Rosemary and Leo LaBianca, owners of a supermarket chain, were killed in a similar fashion.

Suspicion fell on friends of Mama Cass, Tate's husband Roman Polanski, and numerous others until nearly four months after the murders when the police arrested a diminutive career criminal and his suburbanite, younger, hippie followers. By the time Charles Manson was charged with murder, the thirty-five year old aspiring musician had spent half his life in correctional institutions. The son of teenage prostitute Kathleen Maddox, Manson was born "No Name Maddox." Shortly thereafter, according to Manson, Miss Maddox sold her son to a waitress for a pitcher of beer. While the '60s are oft portrayed as a time of liberation, for Charley Manson they were a time of confinement. He spent the entire decade in prison until 1967.

The Manson Family, for the most part, led very different lives. When Manson's murderous associates are discussed, words like "impressionable" and "brainwashed" are tossed about in a manner suggesting that the followers somehow don't have a share of ownership of the crimes equal to that of Manson's. Tex Watson was an "A" student who starred in track and football, for instance, and Leslie Van Houten was twice elected homecoming queen. Could these all-American kids really have done such things? Not on their own, much of society answered; let's blame it on the street urchin who must have put them under his spell. Of course, the discomforting reality was that Manson and his middle-class followers were all murderers.

Charlie Manson may have partially served as the human scapegoat for his fellow murderers, but drugs and insanity served as excuses too. The murders weren't random acts of insanity. They were planned out, and conducted, in part, for political reasons. Sandy Good, who was pregnant with Charles Manson's baby at the time of the murders, recalls: "there was a core of people who were very close together and who stayed true to the thought that we had for stopping the war in Vietnam and for protecting our air, our water, our trees and our animals. We were so committed to those causes that the murders more or less evolved out of our desire to change the system." The Weather Underground applauded that "desire to change the system" by adopting at one of their gatherings a spread-fingered greeting representing the fork that the Manson Family stuck into one of their victims. Like the People's Temple, the Manson murders involved a left-wing cult that in part justified their crimes with the political causes they promoted.

The 1960s were the age of The Beatles, civil rights advances, and the peace movement. They were also a time of rationalized violence, drug abuse, reckless sex, and societal upheaval. The Manson Family offers a glimpse at all of these ugly traits from the other side of the '60s.

08 / August
08 / August
No Mas II

Acelino Freitas and Diego Corrales battled for the WBO lightweight championship on Saturday evening at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. The matchup pitted two knockout artists, and all signs pointed to a slugfest.

Freitas put on a boxing clinic for the first half of the fight. Constantly moving, the Brazilian frustrated his American opponent with combinations and the occassional haymaker. Through the first six rounds, the unorthodox Freitas was up five rounds to one.

Freitas's pace, however, proved impossible to maintain. Corrales scored a vicious knockdown in the eighth. He did the same a round later, and Freitas again spat his mouthpiece out to delay the fighting. The referee wasn't having it and deducted him a point, making it a 10-7 round. I had the fight even entering the tenth round, despite the deductions suffered by the undefeated Brazilian. Corrales inflicted another knockdown, and although Freitas was quick to get up he uttered the words made famous by Roberto Duran nearly a quarter-century ago: no mas.

07 / August
07 / August
The Hero of Abu Ghraib

Aristotle said that although we love both truth and our friends, piety requires us to love truth more. It's likely that Army Sgt. Joseph Darby never came upon these words, but he lived by them in putting a stop to the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal. "These people were my friends," Darby testified on Friday. "It's a hard call to have to make the decision to put your friends in prison." It is, but for a person of character it's even harder to sit idle while your cohorts abuse other human beings for amusement.

06 / August
06 / August
Rick James, RIP

You can only pack so much living into fifty-six years. Rick James reached his capacity today.

Rick James is perhaps most famous for his 1981 ode to sex and drugs, "Superfreak." Almost a decade later, his signature song would again dominate the airwaves--at least its infectious bassline would--as MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This."

In the '60s, James ran afoul of the law by going AWOL from the Navy. In the '90s, he provoked the interest of law enforcement by participating in a three-way gone bad with his future wife and a woman they had picked up. Things got too "superfreaky," apparently, and James did time. Amazingly, James became a family man after his prison stint. He allegedly put his drug problems behind him, but a stroke in the late 1990s curtailed touring. In the last year of his life, the Buffalo native had again become a pop-culture sensation with his appearance on "Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories" on Chappelle's Show. As a result of the wildly popular segment, "Cocaine is a helluva drug" and "I'm Rick James, bitch" became catchphrases.

Over the course of his long career, James collaborated with as diverse of a cast of characters as Neil Young, The Lemonheads, Smokey Robinson, and Eddie Murphy, for whom James wrote the song "Party All the Time"--which seems an appropriate epitaph for the leader of the Stone City Band.

The Dangers of Intelligence By Proxy

General Tommy Franks told radio host Sean Hannity earlier this week that Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak told the U.S. prior to the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. "A number of other leaders in the Mideast told us he had them, too," NewsMax.com reports Franks telling Hannity, with the general adding, "If you were president of the United States, could you avoid paying attention to that?"

No, but since when did we rely on the intelligence of Egypt and Jordan, or the Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Ahmed Chalabi for that matter? Intelligence sharing among allies has always occurred, but what about the primacy of U.S. intelligence? The unfortunate reality is that American intelligence didn't have a single human source on the ground in Iraq. You can't credibly gather intelligence by satellite and desk analysts alone. When you do, you're compelled to rely on other countries for human intelligence. In other words, you rely on the unreliable. Our weak intelligence led to the debacle in Iraq, the confusing of an aspirin factory for a weapons plant in Sudan, and the belief in the hoax of a genocide of Kosovar Muslims by the Serbs.

Certainly it was not absurd to believe that Iraq might have had WMD in early 2003, that Sudan might have been manufacturing dangerous weapons in the summer of 1998, or that Milosevic was capable of genocide in 1999. But to act on these suspicions, you need confirmation--something we lacked.

If you haven't noticed, there's a pattern to the major claims made prior to the U.S. invasion to justify the Iraq war. Bush Administration officials cited Czech intelligence in promoting the phantom Muhammad Atta meeting with Iraqi agents in Prague. The President relied on British intelligence for his claim that Hussein attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. And now they're trying to share blame on the weapons of mass destruction intelligence gaffes with Middle Eastern governments.

So where are the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction? Perhaps they're buried in the mass graves of thousands in Serbia, or hidden in the chemical weapons plant disguised as an aspirin factory in Sudan. This is just a guess based on analysis, but then again isn't that what passes for intelligence within our government these days?

05 / August
05 / August
Pro-Abortion Groups Scared of Democracy

Floridians are attempting to place a ballot initiative before voters that would require parents of minors seeking abortions to be informed. If minors can't see Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle without an adult's permission, why should they be allowed to partake in an act so life-changing and serious without the consent of their parents? The ACLU and Planned Parenthood not only oppose this common-sense measure, but they're suing to prevent the citizens of Florida from voting on it. Ostensibly, they object to the measure's language. In reality, they object to the measure itself. If passed, the initiative would amend Florida's constitution in a way that would hinder the aims of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. So, before they lose at the ballot box, the groups are claiming that the ballot question is unconstitutional. This is what it has come to: liberals now claim that amending a constitution is unconstitutional. That's rigging the system, isn't it?

Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered

Are you a fan of Tucker Carlson? He's the guy with the bowtie on CNN's Crossfire. You may have also read his articles in the Weekly Standard. Along with Matt Labash, he is the only person closely associated with that magazine that I know of who has come out against the war in Iraq. He also hosts a new show on PBS called Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered. I will be appearing as a guest on the program this Friday evening. The main guest, I am told, will be Paul Krugman. After Carlson interviews Krugman, I will appear with another panelist and the host to discuss a number of issues. Be sure to check your local listings and tune in this Friday night.

Washington Judge Vindicates Missouri Voters

A day after the citizens of Missouri made marriage between a man and woman a part of the "Show Me" state's constitution, an activist judge in Washington state demonstrated why such an extraordinary measure is necessary.

Missouri already had a law banning gay marriage. But the state's citizens astutely recognized that an activist judge could come along at any time and invalidate the law by judicial whim. To leave no room for misunderstanding--deliberate or otherwise--Missouri voters made traditional marriage a part of their constitution. That way, no state judge could come along and deem their ban on gay marriage unconstitutional since the ban is now part of their constitution.

The citizens of Washington also banned gay marriage. That ban is not, however, a part of their state constitution. Today, a judge in Seattle overturned the will of the people. He deemed the traditional definition of marriage--the definition understood by both the authors of the Washington state constitution and the U.S. constitution--as unconstitutional.

Longterm solutions to the practice of legislating from the bench include impeachment, limiting the jurisdiction of the courts, and appointing honest people to the bench. The more immediate solution is to amend state constitutions. A jurist's usurpation of the lawmaking process in Washington vindicates the wisdom of such a course.

04 / August
04 / August
Murderer Wins Peace and Freedom Party Nomination

Don't count on Ralph Nader to perform the valuable service he did to Al Gore in 2000, to John Kerry in 2004. Despite addressing the delegates of the California Peace and Freedom Party, Nader failed to win the party's endorsement. Instead, the nod went to someone who didn't even bother to show up at the convention. Leonard Peltier, whose life sentence for murder prevented him from accepting the nomination in person, defeated Nader. The convicted murderer winning this nomination makes it harder for Nader to get on the ballot in certain West Coast states, and harder for any serious person to believe that the Peace and Freedom Party supports peace or freedom.

Missouri Bans Gay Marriage--Again

In Missouri, 71 percent of the voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning so-called gay marriage. State legislators had already prohibited recognition to gay marriages in Missouri, but amendment supporters say the change in the state constitution was needed to leave no room for ambiguity for activist courts. The opponents of the measure raised several hundred thousand dollars to defeat the measure, while its proponents raised a meager few thousand dollars but still won. Currently, 38 states have laws on the books that explicitly refuse to recognize gay marriage. No state, without intervention by the courts, has legalized the idea. In other words, even though we have a Republican form of government and the people overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage, we are still in danger of having it imposed on us. The gay marriage question seems to raise more questions about activist courts than it does about homosexuality.

Dreadful

Ashlee Simpson's debut release, Autobiography, is the number one album in America. Has everyone been lobotomized?

New Book Covers

If you haven't noticed, there have been some ever-so-slight changes made to the book jackets that appear to the right of the page. In the case of Intellectual Morons, Crown Forum decided to flip the title and subtitle. So now, "Intellectual Morons" appears on top, while the subtitle appears below. With regard to Why the Left Hates America, the graphic that now appears is the cover for the paperback edition that Three Rivers Press will be releasing in early September. Shortly thereafter on September 21, Crown Forum will release Intellectual Morons.

03 / August
03 / August
Unintelligent Intelligence

President Bush yesterday endorsed the creation of a new national intelligence chief. Isn't this a bit redundant? One of the main selling points of the Homeland Security Department, after all, was that it would more effectively coordinate intelligence to defend America within its borders. Additionally, we already have an intelligence director who oversees the more than a dozen intelligence gathering outfits within the government. He is called the director of Central Intelligence. Get it, Central Intelligence.

The Law

One of the shortest, and greatest, books on political ideas that I have ever read is Frederic Bastiat's The Law (buy it here). The slim volume is 154 years old, but it's more relevant to our times than most books released today. I conducted a small seminar on the The Law today with some DC-area interns, and I think what's most appealing about the book is that you really have to read just a couple of lines to understand it. Bastiat concisely outlines how one identifies theft by the state: "See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime." Any number of current government schemes fits Bastiat's definition of "legal plunder." These include foreign aid, progressive taxation, and corporate bailouts. Perhaps other examples come more readily to your mind.

Do the Village

I went into The Village with high expectations and two double Bacardi and cokes. I left the theater with expectations surpassed and two empty cups.

Part love story, part horror movie, part ’50s science-fiction theatre, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest picture looks at a late nineteenth-century community isolated from the outside world by the menacing forest that envelops them. The woods are filled with monsters—“those we do not speak of.” The elders do their best to protect their fellow villagers. They hide the “forbidden color,” prevent villagers from traveling into the monsters’ domain, and hope to satiate the sylvan beasts with offerings of animal flesh. But the woodland creatures encroach upon their living space, mutilate livestock, and appear before the simple folk in a most frightening form. When circumstances compel a villager to travel through the woods to “the towns,” the monsters beyond the village are finally confronted.

Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard’s daughter), and Adrien Brody turn in great performances, but the star of The Village is the man listed as “Writer, Director, and Producer”—who also makes another Hitchcockian cameo. As was the case with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable (buy them here on DVD), theatergoers watch one film but learn that they were actually watching a very different film. The Village’s twist ending is more thought provoking than Shyamalan’s earlier offerings, but beyond that little can be said without spoiling the movie—other than to quote Bunny from Platoon: “Do The Village.”

Old-School Video Games

For twenty bucks, you can play vintage arcade games on your television set. I recently purchased Namco TV Games, which features five old-school video games: Dig Dug, a poor man's Mr. Do; Rally X, a racing game where homicidal drivers try to crash into your car while you capture flags; Galaxian, an advanced Space Invaders or a primitive Galaga; Bosconian, a space game that never really caught on; and Pac Man, king of all video games. The machine is compact, with the joystick also serving as the game console. It plugs into your television, you don't need rolls of quarters to play, it's cheap, and the graphics are exactly as I remember them in the arcades. Best of all (for me at least), is that for purchases made through the links in this post, FlynnFiles.com gets a cut. Rather than solicit donations or burden you with harassing pop-up ads, I've decided that the best way to offset the cost of this site is through product purchases from readers like you. This is non-intrusive, and allows us both to benefit. So if you are so inclined, purchase the five-in-one video game listed above. If Ms. Pac Man, Pole Position, Galaga, and Xevious are more your speed, buy Namco TV Games II. If you have little ones, buy Sponge Bob Square Pants. I appreciate your business, which I think is a better way to pay for the site than annoying pop-up ads, public-television style fundraising drives, or my own bank account (which is currently floating the costs involved).

02 / August
02 / August
New Al Qaeda Intelligence

Tom Ridge has raised the terrorism threat level to "high" for Washington, DC, Northern New Jersey, and New York City. The targeted "Orange Alert" has led to the closing of the Holland Tunnel's inbound lanes for trucks.

The last few weeks have witnessed numerous key arrests in the war on terror. Last week, Pakistan announced that it had arrested Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a African who has been linked to the 1998 American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Around the same time on the U.S.-Mexican border, U.S. border patrol agents apprehended Farida Goolam Mahomed Ahmed, a 48-year-old South African with plans to travel to New York and four pages ripped from her passport. Perhaps the biggest prize intelligence wise has been Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a computer expert who has revealed a plethora of new information. Khan revealed that al Qaeda had been paying him $260 a month, the group communicates primarily through the Internet, and that he doesn't know Osama bin-Laden's whereabouts.

The new information lists among possible al Qaeda targets the World Bank and IMF buildings in the Capital, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Prudential building in New Jersey. "The preferred means of attack would be car or truck bombs," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said on Sunday. "That would be a primary means of attack."

The choice of the CitiBank building suggests that the terrorists are still in a 9/11 mindset of toppling buildings. The famous Manhattan structure was poorly built, and at least until it was reinforced it was thought to be susceptible to being knocked down by hurricane-force winds.

According to intelligence, Al Qaeda has cased the buildings, knowing what time of day the body count would be highest and how many people pass the buildings per hour. They have been planning these potential attacks, apparently, since before 9/11.

Where Have You Gone, Mike Tyson?

Mike Tyson suffered a fourth-round knockout at the hands of an English journeyman named Danny Williams this weekend. I didn't shell out fifty bucks to buy the fight, but several hundred thousand people did.

Like most boxing fans, I first experienced Mike Tyson on grainy highlight reels obliterating opponent after opponent in the mid-1980s. Word of his exploits in dingy boxing clubs in places like Troy, Latham, and Poughkeepsie, New York spread. The underground phenom became a mainstream sensation with a "Kid Dynamite" Sports Illustrated cover.

Yes, Mike Tyson appealed to us because he destroyed opponents. More importantly, he appealed to us because he seemed a throwback. A student of the sweet science of boxing, the mid-80s Tyson actually came across as a gentleman with an appreciation for the history of his sport. A robeless Tyson entered the ring in simple black trunks and low-cut boots. He didn't just look "bad." He was "bad"--the baddest man on the planet. Employing a peek-a-boo, bobbing, old-school style, Tyson would stalk his prey until a torrent of fury sent them to the canvass. When Tyson defeated Trevor Berbick for the heavyweight championship in 1986, for instance, that marked the thirteenth time he had fought that year. Boxers simply weren't supposed to do that anymore.

That Mike Tyson is gone. Tyson is now thirty-eight. He has five wins (and two no contests) in his last eleven fights. To put things in perspective, he has been fighting professionally for about as long as Muhammed Ali had when he was cut down by Trevor Berbick (one of two common Tyson/Ali opponents) in 1981. Unlike Ali, who could still claim to be "the greatest" when he defeated Leon Spinks to regain the title in 1978, Mike Tyson hasn't been Mike Tyson for a long time.

So when did Iron Mike become Plaster Mike? Some point to Tyson's stint in prison; others to his stunning Tokyo defeat to Buster Douglas. But it really came before all that. Following trainer Cus D'Amato's 1985 death, Tyson's co-manager Jim Jacobs succumbed to cancer in 1988. Soon after, the heavyweight champ fired manager Bill Cayton, his trainer Kevin Rooney, and other handlers. The upstate New York crew that led him to greatness would in time be replaced by the likes of Don King, Robin Givins, and some guy named Crocodile whose main purpose was to shout "guerilla warfare" at Tyson press conferences. A rudderless Tyson continued on course for a while, but inevitably the storm that he enveloped himself in would take him in the wrong direction.

The old-school pugilist disappeared. The street thug, the orphaned teenager, the Bed-Stuy project kid reemerged. Assaults, accusations of spousal abuse, two divorces, a rape conviction, biting Evander Holyfield's ear, a tattoo of Mao Zedong on his chest and a tribal design inked on his face, and a depleted bank account all demonstrated the degree to which Tyson had gone astray. Perhaps more telling were his diminishing boxing skills, which amounted to fighting in bursts without combinations.

Perhaps one of Tyson's early victims, heavyweight great Larry Holmes, knew best. "If he does happen to win the fight," Holmes opined before his defeat to Tyson, "down the line he's going to destroy himself."

So why does Tyson still inspire boxing enthusiasts to pack arenas, casual fans to spend fifty bucks for pay-per-views, and the media to cover him with such interest? We keep hoping that the guy who knocked Michael Spinks into next week will walk through the ropes. Each time he doesn't, our desire to see Iron Mike increases. Boxing fans pay to see Mike Tyson in the way that we return to high school reunions hoping to relive the past, or to vacation-spots where we once had the time of our lives. Things are never the same the second time around. Mike Tyson is proof of this.

01 / August
01 / August
August Lectures

Numerous DC-area speaking opportunities have come my way in recent weeks. Two stand out. First, I'll be leading a book discussion of Bastiat's The Law on Monday. If you haven't read The Law, I've read it for you several times. I'm reading it again this weekend. Second, I'll be addressing Young America's Foundation's annual summer conference at a banquet on Tuesday evening. It's a students/interns-only event held at George Washington Universtity. I get to preview some of the themes that constitute Intellectual Morons, which comes out on September 21. I'm excited. Students at various colleges across the country comprise the audience. Within a few years, many attendees will be working within journalism, government, academia, and other opinion-shaping institutions. They are truly very important people, even if they don't come across that way now.