Sine Qua Non Pundit

And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good -- Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? ------ ------ ------ ------ E-mail: charlesaustin@earthlink.net

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Saturday, March 01, 2003
 

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. LXXX

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Your mission Mr. Scourge, should you choose to accept it, is to point out the foolishness of Richard Cohen’s frequent columns on the death penalty and to ridicule the mean-spiritedness he exudes towards those with whom he disagrees.

Today’s Scourge is brought to you by the globular cluster M79 and, just for Tim Blair and Damian Penny, the Lotus-Ford 79. I’m sorry, but try as I might, I cannot find a way to incorporate either of these into what follows. That is probably a good thing.

Capital punishment is the gift that keeps on giving, at least for people who enjoy reading Richard Cohen’s columns. Has it really been four months since Richard’s Axis of Execution column? It seems like only yesterday that Richard Cohen was lamenting our failure to join the ICC and give up many of the hard earned rights enshrined in our constitution just so we could get rid of the death penalty. Murderers are people too!

To people like me, there seems to be a chilling (Personally, I think “chilling” is the most overused, and unjustly used, adjective in political discourse today. So it only seems fair that it be slung back at those who see the chilling suppression of dissent in every sidewise glance that John Ashcroft makes. But I digress.) cognitive dissonance to Richard Cohen’s blasting some people for their mind-numbingly stupid opposition to the liberation of Iraq, whether they be politicians, poets, or pampered purveyors of Cold War prose, while going very far out of his way to protect and preserve murderers like John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, and traitors like Brian Patrick Regan.

But no worries, mate. With Khalid Shaikh Mohammed being extradited to the US, Richard will soon get another chance to rehash the same tired arguments with the same antagonists. He’ll need it, considering how badly he bungled the argument to revoke the United States’ License to Kill Mr. Regan in Ashcroft's Mission Unconscionable:

I have been seeing the wrong spy movies.

I thought Richard had been reading the wrong spy books!

My image of spies and traitors -- urbane fellows who know a martini from a gimlet -- has collided with the reality of Brian Patrick Regan. His movie would be titled "The Spy Who Could Not Spell."

Alternatively, it could be titled, “You Don’t Have to Be an Eccentric Oxford Don Like Kim Philby to Be a Traitor.”

In a letter to Saddam Hussein offering his services, the former Air Force intelligence analyst wrote that if he was caught committing "esponage," he would be "enprisoned," if not executed, and his wife and daughter would be "discraced and harrashed." Given all of that, he was asking Hussein for $13 million in Swiss "frans."

Clearly, for some people, The World Is Not Enough. Maybe he’s dyslexic, or he’s just an incredibly bad speller, or he’s stupid. Or maybe it’s a clever ruse for a defense if he gets caught. Who knows? Who cares?

"I am sure you will recognize this offer as a chance of a lifetime and well worth the money," Regan went on in the language of an infomercial.

It was the chance of a lifetime -- Mr. Regan’s lifetime. But wait, there's more!

It's a wonder he didn't say anything to Hussein about double his money back if somehow this espionage scheme did not prove successful.

It’s a wonder Richard Cohen toys with the self esteem of this poor, unfortunate man who can’t spell.

As sometimes happens, it did not.

Richard seems to think this is a bad thing.

This month Regan was convicted on charges of attempted espionage, for which John Ashcroft's Justice Department, properly appalled at such lousy spelling, demanded the death penalty.

Yes, that was it, lousy spelling. But that means that John Ashcroft really cares! After all, Janet Reno -- who did everything For The Children™ -- and her Justice Department burned down the ranch at Waco killing nineteen children, they killed fourteen-year old Sammy Weaver shooting him in the back, and who can ever forget the depth of caring displayed by the agent who carefully kept his finger off the trigger while rescuing Elian Gonzalez in the closet of a small house in a Miami suburb from the clutches of the fisherman who rescued him from the open ocean where his mother perished trying to escape from Castro’s worker’s paradise. Fortunately, young Elian was eventually reunited with his father (who’s now an elected official!) in the communist utopia of Cuba. You only hurt the ones you love.

But seriously, if lousy Spelling could get you the death penalty, I think Tori would have been executed a long time ago. (Note: click on the link at the peril of your eternal soul!)

Unaccountably, the jury balked, sparing Regan's life but ensuring that he will be imprisoned for a long time.

No, accountably, as is their prerogative. Had Mr. Regan been A Perfect Spy, I’m not as sure the jury wouldn’t have gone along with the Justice Department’s recommendation. I guess Mr. Regan will just have to Die Another Day.

As a spy, Regan was something of a joke.

So what? The law doesn’t say you have to be a successful spy to be a traitor. Silly Patriot Games.

His letter, purportedly from a CIA agent, surely would have perplexed the Iraqis -- except that there is no proof it was ever sent.

Gosh, I don’t know. It seems to me that Daulton Lee wasn’t exactly a brainiac, and there is little doubt that his behavior was considered strange by his handlers, but he was a traitor nonetheless. By the way, has anyone else noticed a pattern of type-casting in roles for Sean Penn?

(It was retrieved from his computer.)

(Too bad he didn’t stamp it For Your Eyes Only.)

His cash demands were unprecedented …

I guess Richard isn’t familiar with Dr. No or Dr. Evil. In fact, I wonder if he has seen any of the Austin Powers movies. (Of course, the Scourge is itself one of the Austin powers.)

… and his instructions for delivering the money -- too complicated and extensive to detail -- would have looked to the Iraqis like an effort to drive them crazy.

Too crazy for the wacky Iraqis?

This 40-year-old father of four was both deeply in debt and deeply in over his head.

Well, I don’t know about Richard Cohen’s financial situation, but…

As a spy, he was a bust.

As a spy, she had a bust.

Regan's lawyers maintained he was a man befogged by fantasy.

Why he’s a modern day Walter Mitty.

Maybe.

Well, he certainly wasn’t The Man Who Knew Too Much.

But he did write those letters and did collect secret material and he was arrested at Dulles International Airport before he could board a plane for Switzerland -- land of the "frans."

Don’t forget Hans.

He was up to something. So the government alleged and so the jury found. But the death penalty?

Yes.

For what?

Espionage. He is a traitor. Fetch yourself a copy of the US Constitution, Article 3, Section 3, and read it.

The government didn't seek death for Robert Hanssen, the former FBI agent whose treason resulted in the execution of Russian double agents.

That was a mistake, unless they lacked sufficient evidence to be assured of a conviction or unless there were other mitigating reasons why the Government did not want to go into open court with their evidence. Making one mistake does not mean we should keep making the same mistake over and over again to avoid ever admitting a mistake was made in the first place. Or is Richard Cohen arguing that we should have sought the death penalty for Robert Hanssen? No, I didn’t think so. After all, You Only Live Twice.

The CIA's Harold Nicholson also escaped execution.

Unfortunately.

Both of these men did considerable damage.

And they should have died for their transgressions.

If Regan did any, the government failed to prove it. His conviction was for attempted espionage -- a distinction that ought to make a difference.

As if Richard Cohen would have went along with the death penalty for Mr. Regan had he been successful.

After all, attempted murder is not the same as murder.

I can only wonder at the columns Richard Cohen would have written about John Ashcroft’s Justice Department had some method of profiling been used to apprehend a certain group of nineteen Arab men on September 10, 2001.

No matter.

It’s just another Richard Cohen column, after all.

Ashcroft is on an execution bender.

Interesting use of the word “bender” for a man that doesn’t drink alcohol.

He manipulated the prosecution of the accused Washington area snipers so that Lee Malvo, 17 at the time of the murders, could face execution.

In other words, John Ashcroft did what any prosecutor not willing to supplant the law with his own beliefs would have done.

In New York and Connecticut, two jurisdictions with an inexplicable reluctance to apply the death penalty...

Not really all that inexplicable considering who they elect to Congress to represent them.

-- who can explain the effete East? --

Eastern effetists?

Ashcroft has ordered local prosecutors to seek the death penalty in cases where they had decided not to.

As is his prerogative.

I am tempted to ask whatever happened to the conservative doctrine that local is best.

Me too. But I mean it.

But, with Ashcroft, I know the answer. He is determined to establish the uniform application of the death penalty -- no more of these regional discrepancies.

But, isn’t that what Richard Cohen has been calling for? The calls for the elimination of the death penalty are usually based on grounds that it is unequally applied. So, if the death penalty were fairly and equitably applied, then there wouldn’t really be anything wrong with it, would there?

Trouble is, the standard he wants is that of Texas or Virginia,…

Two fine non-“effete” states.

… where the death penalty is liberally applied,…

Now that’s a non sequitur. Or is it an oxymoron? Or both?

… and not that of New York, where, somehow, the crime rate has fallen anyway.

Non sequiturs must have been on sale Wednesday at the Op-Ed Columnists Deli.

Ashcroft, with an almost biblical bloodlust, has unfortunately become an ugly face of America abroad.

I don’t think I can top what Jay Nordlinger had to say about this earlier this week.

In all of Europe -- and much of the rest of the world -- capital punishment has been abolished.

But Mom, all the cool countries aren’t doing it!

Even some countries that retain it almost never use it anymore.

I guess they’ve adopted a Live and Let Die philosophy. I always thought it was a rite of passage that every kid was asked by his mother at one point, “If every kid at school jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” Apparently, not every kid was asked this, or at least not every kid understood what it meant.

It has become the sine qua non of a civilized nation:

Hmmm, a warm feeling of long awaited recognition is settling in.

You don't torture, you don't execute.

You don’t jaywalk, you don’t break the bones of children in front of their parents because they are dissidents. See how easy moral equivocation is when there’s a point to be made about how extreme John Ashcroft is?

Almost every day, it seems, someone walks out of prison on account of DNA testing.

Is Richard advocating the abolition of prisons until we can be perfect in our prosecutions? It seems to me that we should welcome improvements to our system, instead of seeing improvements to our system of justice merely as evidence of its imperfection. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Even in Utopia. Nay, especially in Utopia.

Yet the Bush administration -- the president himself and his attorney general -- persists in believing in the infallibility of the system, …

I hate to be redundant, but um, the perfect is the enemy of the good. But it is curious how many imperfections Richard Cohen was willing to overlook in Our Man Clint(on) and Al Gore without condemning their inability to be infallible.

… not to mention its righteousness.

And if there’s anything that all of Europe and the effete East detest more than the death penalty, it is righteousness.

In Ashcroft's case, his zeal is such that he demanded death for a hapless traitor who lacked both common sense and craft.

In other words, “Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah traitor blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.” Q.E.D.

In the movies, spies have all sorts of exotic gizmos.

Perhaps they’ve been shopping here.

Brian Patrick Regan, who faced death, didn't even have a spell-checker.

Neither did Benedict Arnold. Did that make him any less guilty?

This blog post will self destruct in ten seconds. Unless, of course, Blogspot takes it down first.

DOWNDATE: I've corrected a missing link and fixed the numbering scheme. And Addison is right. I think he was chastising RC, but the comment applies to me as well. I'm sorry I can't do better, but I try to limit the prep time for the Scourges to three hours. The more links there are, the less time there is to think and research details -- and this one was just begging for the links. But as I have noted before, I do a half-assed, off the cuff, stream of consciousness criticism of RC's columns without the benefit of a "Professional Journalist" press pass, an editor, or a team of flunkies, admins, and interns -- and I think my efforts beat Dick's.



 

Imminent Threat

I've read in many places recently that the liberation of Iraq will not be a "just war" because Iraq is not an imminent threat to the US. But I wonder, at exactly what point in time were the people on Flight 93 under an imminent threat of terrorism and death? Was it as the plane spiraled out of control and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania? Was it when Todd Beamer said, "Let's roll"? Was it when the hijackers killed the flight crew and took over the plane? Was it when the plane went wheels up? Was it when each of them boarded the plane? Was it the night before when the murderers had their last drinks and celebrated their impending martyrdom? Or was it when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his friends hatched their plot months, if not years, before?

So what I want to know from the "Iraq is not an imminent danger" crowd is exactly when, according to their definition of imminent, were the innocent passengers on Flight 93 in imminent danger? And once it became imminent, exactly what could they do about it?

I patiently await your answers.



Friday, February 28, 2003
 

I Hate Nazis

Just got back from daughter #1's North Kirkwood Middle School production of The Sound of Music. For a bunch of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, they did a damn fine job. I felt bad for the three kids who played the Nazis though. Those poor kids got booed for their curtain call.

While we were inside it started snowing again. Three inches later it is still snowing like crazy and I can't get the minivan up the three-foot incline on the driveway. Damn. Guess its time to buy an EVIL sport utility vehicle!

Oh, and I noticed Richard Cohen is feeling me. More later.



Thursday, February 27, 2003
 

The Non-Rumors of My Demise Haven't Been Greatly Exaggerated

Sorry for the light posting of late folks, but illness, work, travel, and planes with faulty landing gear have taken their toll this week. I haven't even found the time and energy to send an entry in to Dodd for this week's caption contest.

More later.



Sunday, February 23, 2003
 

Now Accepting Nominations for the Darwin Awards

A real pro:

An American pro snowboarder fell 15 meters to his death early Sunday morning after sliding down the handrail of a fourth-floor staircase at a hotel he was staying, police said. Jeffrey Lin Anderson, 23, was immediately taken to hospital but was declared dead shortly after, Iiyama police officers said. Several hours earlier, the snowboarder apparently had been drinking beer at a Saturday night party at Panorama Land Kijimadaira hotel in Nagano Prefecture, they said. Anderson, accompanied by his friends, began sliding down on the railings of the spiral staircases of the hotel shortly after 3 a.m., Sunday. After successfully sliding down the fifth-floor staircase, he lost balance on the fourth-floor handrail so he fell some 15 meters through the stairwell, smashing his head on the ground floor, the officers said.

If beer is involved, it usually starts with "Hey, watch this!"



 

I Forget

Is it Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Saudia Arabia, Venezuela? Or Iraq, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned the world to stop meddling in the domestic affairs of his troubled South American nation on Sunday, as police locked up a strike leader on "civil rebellion" charges.

Enjoy your ride caudillo. It's not going to last long.



 

O Brain, Where Art Thou?

See what happens when pretty boys and pretty girls don't have a script?

Clooney, 41, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was making a mistake to think a war against Iraq would be an easy win for the United States. "I believe he thinks this is a war that can be won, but there is no such thing anymore," said Clooney, who starred in a film about the 1991 Gulf War "Three Kings" that took a dark look at the war to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.

I liked that movie a lot, but I think it took a much dimmer view of Iraq than the US, other than perhaps the criminals in US uniforms like the character that boy George played.

"We can't beat anyone anymore," added Clooney, who has called it unfair that Americans opposed to war are being branded unpatriotic.

Well now, the Screen Actors Guild wants us to surrender. Fortunately for them, we won't.



 

MBBIV Post Mortem

Everyone survived.

Barely.

Sorry if that was a little misleading -- it was a reference to Juan Gato's impressive bared calf muscles. Thanks to everyone that attended, especially our visitors from afar, and all those that participated in our long distance connections. I'll post a more substantial writeup later when I get pictures.



 

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. LXXIX

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Short and sweet today. Let's just start with the observation that Richard Cohen's self-obsession now extends to event the titles of his columns, as demonstrated in Evan, Zora And Me

When I saw the title and read the first paragraph, I began wondering what was up. I guess it's good to know that Richard has time to watch mindless TV and then feels the need to share his thoughts about it with us. I'll admit that this probably serves some useful purpose since I didn't see a minute of Joe Millionaire. In fact, I haven't seen any prime time television programming for probably 10 years. If the safety Nazi's really want to do something good, how about banning sitcoms, illiberal political fantasies, contrived dramas that can be completely resolved in one hour -- except for those "special" episodes that leave you hanging until the can't miss next episode, faux news shows, celebrity interviews, and all the other mind-numbing rubbish that probably does as much, if not more, damage than the illiegal narcotics on our streets. But I digress.

While there's some fodder here to question how much Richard Cohen actually understood what he was watching, the whole point of this column comes down to the following paragraph near the end:

Worse, it was issued by Fox, which, just a week before, lied to everyone (including women between the ages of 18 and 34) when it suggested that what turned out to be the penultimate episode of "Joe Millionaire" would be the ultimate. A network that lies -- yes, I say, lies -- to young, innocent women would not hesitate to bounce a check on Evan and Zora. Alert the bunco squad.

The chance to slam Fox as the network that lies was just too good for Richard to pass up.

I'll just note that the lies and obfuscations that Richard Cohen correctly points out in this instance are part and parcel of what the entertainment divisions of all the major networks do. If I were an anti-war protestor, I suppose that supposition would be used as a justification for not condemning Fox, but I mean it as a blanket condemnation of all of them. However, I will also note that Richard's typical, sleazy attempt to use guilt by association to tar the Fox News organization is a little too transparent. If Richard wanted to identify the news organizations that have a little trouble with the truth -- or the Truth -- the glass houses of the usual suspects (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS) would provide Richard with suitably transparent targets.



 

O Happy Day!

Grammy stars free to sing out on war

Despite a report that CBS executives had considered blocking politically outspoken rockers, the network said last night it would not pull the plug on anyone protesting a war against Iraq.

As if I was going to watch the Grammys.



 

Because Having A Better Mousetrap Isn't Enough

The Professor asks:

How come so many companies with crappy products manage to stay in business?

Sonic Foundry, which Professor Reynolds believes makes a great product may go under. I don't have the specifics of their situation, but I can think of lots of reasons why they could fail as a company no matter how good their product is. Bad cash flow management, bad marketing, poor pricing strategies, misidentification of their market, or any of a multitude of bad management decisions. Again, I don't know if that's the problem here or not, but maybe there's just not enough of a market to justify the production costs. Or maybe the market is saturated with enough good products from other companies that potential buyers consider to be just as good, that some of the businesses are bound to fail.

I've been in situations where I had a demonstrably better mousetrap at a cheaper price for a customer, but lost out on the business anyway. Nobody ever said that capitalism is perfect, but at least people get to make free choices. I'm certain that Professor Reynolds is not advocating public subsidies for Sonic Foundry or suggesting that others be put out of business for their benefit, right?



 

Best Doesn't Mean Good

Earlier this week I left a comment on one of BIll Quick's posts that Dick Gebhardt was probably the most decent man -- sorry, person -- amongst the declared Democratic candidates. I think that's probably right, but I want to clarify what I meant. Being the best of this sorry lot, does not imply that he is a good man. After watching his 39th appearance on Meet The Press this morning, I cannot accede to calling any man good that lies so easily and obviously for personal gain. Dick's much slicker than Dennis Kucinich, and the borders would presumably be more secure, but heaven help us if he wins.



 

My Baldwin Moment

After watching Dennis Kucinich this morning on Meet The Press, I have decided that if Dennis Kucinich is ever elected President of the United States, I will leave. Dare I say that the US might be better off with Alec Baldwin than Dennis Kucinich as president?





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