Talk radio update

Lots of talk about gay marriage, of course, but while Limbaugh seemed more interested in the political angle, Mike Huckabee appeared to be in a state of deep mourning — and the case hasn’t even been decided yet.

Huckabee just really, really, really hates gay marriage. Poor guy. I almost felt sorry for me, even though I have never quite been able to figure out why he feels so strongly about it. He thinks the Bible is against it, of course, but the Bible also is against gluttony. But just try to tell Huckabee that the government ought to regulate what and how much food you can eat.   What makes gay marriage so different? I doubt that even he knows.

That liberal media

Some brave anonymous soul mailed me a copy of a column that an attached sticky note called “a good article for your biased liberal newspaper.” A note on the column itself claims that it appeared in the Washington Post, which makes its appearance “a truly amazing event and a news story in and of itself.” I am so biased that I was immediately skeptical, not because I don’t think the Post is willing to criticize Obama but because the tone of the article, by one Matt Patterson, was so shrill.

Attributing Obama’s election to “a baffling breed of mass hysteria” doesn’t sound like the Post’s brand of rhetoric.Nor does the reference to Jeremiah Wright as a “white-hating, America-loathing preacher” sound like the Post’s style. I don’t think the Post would refer to liberalism as “liberal Dom,” and I don’t think it would let stand unchallenged the assertion that “Obama was given a pass — held to a lower standard — because of the color of his skin.” He was, in fact, legally elected.

That was just in the first half of the column. I didn’t read the second half, but I did take a minute to verify that the article had not, in fact, appeared in the Post.

So maybe I am a biased liberal, Mr. Anonymous, but at least I occasionally check a fact or two. And I have never claimed that my work appears in places it doesn’t appear.

Talk radio update

Hannity was mad at Obama for canceling White House tours, which apparently cost the Secret Service some $73,000 a week. Hannity’s theory is that Obama is just trying to make budget cuts as visibly painful as possible, which may be true. But if I were in charge of the Secret Service and required to make an across-the-board cut, going after frivolous luxuries like White House tours is exactly where I would start.

It makes me wonder if Hannity doesn’t have the stomach for the cuts he claims to favor. Or perhaps his criticism was just part of the master plan: force Obama to make cuts, then attack every cut he makes. Sounds like Hannity, doesn’t it?

In other news, Michael Smerconish mentioned that he is moving to satellite radio. Apparently, the market for rational talk is too small on commercial radio. Will he be replaced by another fair-minded voice? What are the odds?

Fighting tribal coal

Down in the Talk Radio Update, I mentioned that Aaron Flint seemed to be off base in suggesting that coal development on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation is being blocked by do-gooder federal bureaucrats who think they know better than tribal members what is good for them.

As evidence that opposition to coal development there persists, and not just from bureaucrats, I offer this news release, which came Thursday:

LAME DEER — Yesterday over 170 Northern Cheyenne tribal members submitted detailed and substantive comments to the DEQ asking for a thorough, transparent and comprehensive study of the proposed Otter Creek coal mine in southeastern Montana.

 “We believe our community will bear the brunt of the negative impacts from the Otter Creek mine. Sacrificing the land, water, animal and plant life for mining and money is not worth what our ancestors fought and gave their life. Our group is worried about the crime, accidents, drugs and other social issues that come along with boomtowns that our Tribe is not equipped to handle. We are being asked to deal with this so that a transnational corporation can make billions of dollars shipping coal to Asia,” said Tom Mexican Cheyenne.

 The proposed mine’s proximity to the border of the reservation is of particular concern to Northern Cheyenne tribal members. Otter Creek valley, used for thousands of years by tribal peoples contains cultural, historic and burial sites important to the Cheyenne people and many other Plains Tribes and serves as important wildlife habitat for hundreds of wildlife species.

 “To preserve language culture and identity you must protect air, land, and water, that’s who we are.  Without language and land we are not who we say we are,” said Phillip Whiteman Jr., Northern Cheyenne Sweet Medicine Chief.

 People have watched as North Dakota reservations have experienced dramatic increases in crime, traffic accidents and cultural conflict from nearby oil development. When coupled with environmental impacts of air pollution, water pollution, decreased wildlife populations, many tribal members now are opposing the development of the mine. In addition, many young Northern Cheyenne are being trained in renewable energy.

 “A group of us are going to get certified in solar voltaic installation on Pine Ridge at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center this month and a couple of us will go on to a larger installation project in Colorado this summer. We want a different future for our children. Coal is a dead end for us,” said Vanessa Braided Hair, Northern Cheyenne wildlands firefighter.

 The Oglala Sioux Tribal President submitted a letter to DEQ yesterday in solidarity with the Northern Cheyenne citizens who submitted comments.

This is not some environmentalist fantasy. Opposition there remains genuine.


Read a book

Spring break is winding down, and I just spent a whole day off on Saturday — an event rare enough, outside of major holidays, that it always feels bloggable.

Even rarer, I spent almost the whole day reading some 250 pages of dense prose in Alan Schom’s biography, “Napoleon Bonaparte.” I just made my composition students read “Billy Budd” and “Crime and Punishment,” which both discuss revolutionary France and Napoleon quite a bit, so he has been on mind, and the book was on my shelf. Just 550 pages to go.

I have this book from Ed Kemmick, who gave it to me not because he is a kind and gentle soul (although he is a kind and gentle soul) but because he hated the book and thought perhaps it wouldn’t be wasted on a Napoleon buff like me.

It was a good guess. The book certainly has the flaws that maddened Ed, including an unusually large number of typos and mangled sentences (carefully marked by Ed) for a book from a major publisher. It also fails to adequately clarify some matters about which my knowledge of Napoleon is sketchy, such as exactly how he navigated the turbulent waters of Revolutionary France and exactly what he did at the siege of Toulon that made him so famous.

But this book has the most thorough account of Napoleon’s disastrous campaign in Egypt that I have ever read, and it says a great deal about his family and about Josephine that I didn’t know. And it was fun comparing his account of the Italian campaign against David Chandler’s magisterial account in “Campaigns of Napoleon.” Plus, I am just a sucker for Napoleon — an extraordinary, wonderful, hideous giant of a man.

One touching detail: In 1800, a couple of diplomats from the infant United States visited France to try to smooth over various concerns. The visit was a success, and when they were leaving, Napoleon offered them a bag of recently excavated Roman coins.

They talked it over, then declined the offer. They weren’t permitted to accept gifts, they said.

That’s just adorable. In turn-of-the-century France, top officials, including Napoleon and his family, were routinely skimming millions of francs worth of loot, supplies and art from the national treasury. When they were caught at it, it was ignored or covered up, for fear of stirring up the masses (Napoleon already had shut down 48 of Paris’ 60 newspapers, if memory serves). Stealing from the public was the whole point of holding public office, wasn’t it?

America really was something different. And that’s why when I hear people complain about how corrupt government is, I always think: Read a book sometime. You have no idea how lucky you are.

Talk radio update II

OK, one more post, and then I really will go and do the right thing and get drunk.

Hannity had on a guy from the Huffington Post and a guy from — apparently Hannity’s idea of an ideological cage match. They were talking about Hugo Chavez, and the guy was saying that leftists always support dictators. Look at Stalin, he said. Look at Hitler, he said.

When the Huffington Post guy objected to placing Hitler among the left’s heroes, the said something like this: “What do you mean? Hitler had ‘socialist’ right in the name of the party.”

Hitler, of course, was a fascist. That’s not even a slur: He was proud of it. He hated the left. He banned the Communist Party and went after communists even before he went after Jews in a serious way. He invaded the Soviet Union, which was, and remained, the poster child of a Marxist paradise. He vowed to eradicate Marxism from the face of the earth.

And yes, it’s true, the Nazi Party was the National Socialist Party. It’s also true that German soldiers wore the words “God with us” on their belt buckles. And it’s true that some concentration camps had the words “Work makes one free” above their entrances. Are there any other Nazi slogans that would like us to accept at face value?

For a definitive takedown on, see here.

Talk radio update

Limbaugh and Hannity were in love with Rand Paul for filibustering. Setting aside the obvious reality that they would never in a million years praise a Democrat for doing exactly the same thing to Republican president, they nevertheless had a point here. I have long been an admirer of Rand’s dad and have been looking for some reason to feel the same way about his son. Maybe now I have found something.

Still, although I admired the old-fashioned gumption of the deed, I thought he was making the wrong case at the wrong time. Many reasonable questions can be asked about the propriety and wisdom of drone attacks, but the concern he raised — about attacks on noncombatant Americans on American soil — is so improbable as to be almost pointless (not too pointless for Aaron Flint’s radio show, though, where a couple of callers seemed to be convinced that they might be only minutes away from being attacked by a drone just because they own guns and speak out against the Kenyan oppressor). And drones have nothing really to do with the appointment that was actually before the Senate.

If Huckabee mentioned drones, I missed it (always a possibility). Instead, he went on about how great George H.W. Bush was. The occasion was an interview with Andy Card that apparently had something to do with this book although I never quite figured out what the connection was. Now, I happen to agree that the elder Bush was a fine and decent fellow and a better president than he is often given credit for, even by his own party. He presided over the dismantling of the Soviet Union and had the political courage to raise taxes, which led to the only string of balanced budgets in my lifetime. His coordination of the first Iraq War was a textbook example of how to get one’s ducks in a row, then shoot the ducks. Maybe he could have done a better job of raising his kids, but raising kids is harder than being president.

Huckabee, however, is such an incredibly lame interviewer that he managed to avoid getting anything interesting at all out of Card, who seemed game for a candid talk. As a journalist, Huckabee is just a disaster.

And Aaron Flint wasn’t much better in his off-the-cuff comments about coal development on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. His take was that only federal bureaucratic do-gooders are in the way of making the Cheyenne a coal-rich people. I haven’t followed this issue closely in recent years, but at one time I did a lot of reporting on Cheyenne coal, and unless things have changed dramatically, Flint is just dead wrong about this.

When I was covering this, there was plenty of Cheyenne opposition to coal development, much of it based on the idea that it was basically sacrilegious to ravage the earth. Attitudes may have changed somewhat since then, but I will bet those opponents are still around, and still outspoken. Blaming bureaucrats totally misses the boat.


Hard times

I have written a couple of posts about letters I have been asked to translate that were written by a young German in 1933 to his American pen pal. Now comes a third letter, this one from 1949. As it turns out, he survived the war, although not in great shape: Key passage (my translation):

At the beginning of this year I was sick for a long time, and after that I was in a frame of mind that I can’t properly describe to you. I had a depression of the soul that took away from me the energy for any undertaking. The privations of recent years have taken a toll on my health, which to some extent still persist, although I can now add fat, and so on. Only with difficulty can one overcome the past. I have been steadily in a doctor’s care and am only slowly improving. … Finding the urgent necessities for my family also causes great concern. As I once wrote to you, we lost everything in the course of the war, and we are short of all things. Before the currency reform (July 1, 1948) one could buy no clothing or furniture, even when one had money, and now after the currency change the windows are full of goods and there is too little money to buy all of the most basic necessities. Through the currency reform we also lost all of our savings except for a tiny amount (I could not even buy a coat with what was left) so my family and I rely on our monthly income, which is just enough to pay for the most urgent needs of life. Goods are very expensive compared to the times before the war, but wages have remained the same, so that there is no connection between income and costs. Despite that, I believe that I will manage to get by, if I become and remain completely healthy and we suffer no more blows of fate that we lack the strength to fend off.

No more mention of Hitler’s peaceful intentions. It would be interesting to know exactly what he did during the war but that, for now, remains a mystery.