The Queen of All Publicity just became yesterday's newspaper. They are wrapping fish today with Paris Hilton.
In an apparently uncoordinated PR jujitsu, Lindsay Lohan AND Britney Spears---Paris's partners in bimbo-summitry---managed to bump her into oblivion today.
Lohan was arrested in Santa Monica in the wee hours on her second DUI since Memorial Day. Like Paris, she was also driving on a suspended license. Unlike Paris, she was also charged with cocaine possession.
Spears gave an interview and did a photo shoot with OK! magazine, which apparently dissolved into a "heartbreaking" and "total meltdown." Rather than deep-six the interview and pictures, the magazine is running them. Reports of the emotional crisis have sent her ex-husband, the resourceful Kevin Federline, running to his lawyers to possibly pursue full custody of their kids. Imagine: between these two, K-Fed is the more fit parent.
It used to be that the bad, self-destructive behavior of big stars was tolerated, even excused, because of their enormous talent (Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra) or their indispensibility (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley).
These three gals have neither talent nor cultural impact, beyond showing how well rewarded craven narcissism is in this culture. Britney had a few catchy but disposable tunes, Lindsay's been in forgettable films, and Paris is famous for disrobing in a ghastly display of vulgarity. Dispensable, all of them.
At this hour, Paris Hilton watches and wrings her hands. She can't really "pull a Paris" and go drinkin' and drivin' again. She doesn't have kids, so she can't go lose them in court. What can she do to top her nemeses? She's got to get back to being famous for being famous---fast!---and she needs some serious help.
In the heart of midtown Manhattan tonight, there was a large steampipe explosion. It happened at 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, steps away from the major transportation hub of Grand Central Station---at the height of rush hour, 6:10pm on a Wednesday night.
Steam, concrete, mud, debris, and manholes shot into the air. So far, there has been one fatality and over twenty injuries. Police and firefighters raced to the scene and roped off big chunks of the center of the city. The New York Police Department were quick to say that this was just a steam explosion---a serious event, but not terrorism.
OK. Accidents happen. Sometimes, as Dr. Freud said in another context, a cigar is just a cigar. However. Terrorists can learn from a cigar. They can learn our emergency procedures. Our patterns of response: who, what, when, where, how, and how fast. How civilians react. How the electrical grid responds. How the transportation system responds. How hospitals and EMTs respond. In other words, Islamic terrorists may not have caused this explosion. But that doesn't mean they aren't paying attention and taking notes.
The good news is that the official response here was very efficient, public communication was clear, and emergency operations did their job well. Although this wasn't a major event, our quick and clear response was not lost on our terrorist enemy.
We are an open, free society, which means we are vulnerable to attack, no matter how good our security and how efficient our operations. But we also know---as we've seen today in New York---that when an attack or accident happens, nobody rises to the occasion like Americans do. It's that American resilience that the enemy constantly tries to take down. They may chip away at it---as they are in Iraq---but they can never destroy it.
Over the past week, three stories have demonstrated once again what current Islam is all about, and "peace," it isn't.
First, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Islamic militants laid siege to the central Red Mosque, using it as a base of terrorist operations. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ordered the militants to leave the mosque compound, or, he said, "you will die." When they refused, he ordered the Special Services Group commandos to remove them by force. When the battle had ended, over 100 people lay dead, including the militants' leader, pro-Taliban cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, and hundreds of weapons had been seized, including automatic firearms, mines, grenades, and booby traps.
Second, the Islamic Republic of Iran confirmed a state-sanctioned stoning. A man convicted of adultery was stoned to death two weeks ago in a village in northern Iran. He and his female companion reportedly had been imprisoned for eleven years. She was also sentenced to die by stoning, but according to USA Today, it is unclear as to whether her sentence was also carried out.
And third, Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released several new messages. In a videotape, he condemned Musharraf for moving on the militants and called on all Muslims to join a holy war to avenge the army assault. "Musharraf and his hunting dogs have rubbed your honor in the dirt in the service of the Crusaders and the Jews," he said.
He also released an audiotape, in which he threatened to retaliate against Great Britain for granting knighthood to Salman Rushdie several weeks ago. Rushdie's 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, is considered by many Muslims to be blasphemous against the prophet Mohammed, so many Muslims (including high-ranking Pakistani officials) have renewed calls for his death and retribution against the British government.
Mohammed Ali Hosseini, Iran's foreign affairs spokesman, said that the knighthood "will definitely put the British officials in confrontation with Islamic societies. This act shows that insulting Islamic sacred values is not accidental. It is planned, organized, guided and supported by some Western countries." So now it's the West's fault that one guy wrote a novel back in 1988.
This is the religion of "peace." The slightest criticism of Islam is treated like a mortal wound and the individual who inflicted it must die. Even in free societies with fully protected freedom of speech---like the United States and the United Kingdom---no one is allowed to criticize Islam, or you risk the Rushdie treatment: fatwas calling for your death, living in fear and hiding, life in ruins. Which, of course, is the essence of terrorism.
What kind of faith is so insecure as to not be able to take any criticism? When Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or any other religion is attacked, you don't see death threats. You don't see people pouring into the streets, raving like maniacs, threatening to kill people and wipe entire countries off the map, burning people in effigy, etc.
Despite headline after headline showing us that this is no religion of "peace" as we understand "peace," we aren't even close to being on the same kind of war footing they are. Islamic terrorists have a seriousness of purpose we haven't begun to fathom---despite the successful mass murder plots, repeated busted plots, their statements of intention, the beheadings and stonings, and the horror of September 11, Madrid, London, Bali, etc.
There is only one way we are ever going to win against this kind of fanatical but methodical enemy. And that is to be willing to be ruthless. It's a tough thing for democratic, life-loving societies to absorb and act upon. But without that stance, we lose---the war, our country, our lives. Musharraf is no Jeffersonian democrat, but last week he did what we should be doing full force: destroying terrorists before they can destroy us.
Word comes this afternoon of the death of Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson at the age of 94. Her husband, President Lyndon Johnson, predeceased her 34 years ago, irrevocably damaged by his flawed stewardship of the Vietnam War.
In most ways, she was a traditional first lady: she kept her official duties to beautifying Washington, DC, reading to schoolchildren, and being a gracious hostess. But behind the scenes, she was a tough Southern gentlewoman. She was her husband's most trusted confidante. The Johnson White House tapes are full of examples of the president leaning on his wife on everything from Vietnam to handling the press. He complained to her, bounced ideas off of her, asked her opinion. She was his first--and most intimate--sounding board.
The tapes also show that she was no shrinking violet when he came to offering her point of view. She often unloaded on him, sometimes unsolicited, but always in private. He was a serially unfaithful husband, but she never let show whatever hurt or betrayal she may have felt. Nor did she ever try to parlay the trials of her private life into a power play for herself.
Instead, she soldiered on with a quiet dignity, continuing long after the White House to promote causes dear to her, including the environment.
A tough Texas cookie. A classic steel magnolia. A public woman who was fiercely private, but who loved her family and her country---and always put them ahead of herself.
Today there are more holes in the ship of fools known as the Republican party. About two weeks ago, Senators Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) and George Voinovich (R(?)-Ohio) announced that they could no longer support the current troop deployment in Iraq; instead, they said, they were going to support withdrawal.
Over the past day or two, three more blind mice joined them: Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire), and Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico). They called for a "clear blueprint" and "new" strategy. (Excuse me, but isn't the troop surge a "clear blueprint" and "new" strategy? And didn't these same senators decide to give that "new" strategy a fair chance when the president announced it? Apparently, they think a few weeks is enough of a chance.)
The reason for the Republican mutiny? The 2008 election. Voinovich is a RINO, so that explains where he's coming from. But Lugar, Domenici, Alexander, and Gregg are all up for re-election next year. So they are reading the polls on Iraq and running for the hills.
The Democrats never do this. When one of their own---or one of their policies---gets into trouble, and they all rally to the defense. Democratic president getting impeached? No problem! It was only about sex and besides, his Republican opponents are crazed Inspector Javerts. Democratic Congressman found with $100,000 in cash in his freezer? No problem! It was just an unorthodox safe.
Republicans never do this. One of their own gets into trouble, and the party splinters and falls apart. They've got too much "class" to cohere around a faltering colleague. Every man for himself! Wounded man overboard---don't throw him a lifeline! Throw bait instead to bring the sharks!
At the exact moment when al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has announced that the jihad in Iraq isn't going so well, these Republican Senators want to pull the rug out from our effort there. At the exact moment when the troop surge is reaching a critical turning point, these Senators want to bolt for the tall grass. At the exact moment when Iraq itself is at a tipping point, these Senators are running.
Oh, they're running all right: for re-election. All four---Lugar, Alexander, Gregg, and Domenici---are pathetically and desperately putting their political careers ahead of success in Iraq. Good luck with your campaigns next year, guys! The left never liked you, and now the right thinks you're a bunch of sniveling sell-outs. It takes real talent to alienate the ENTIRE electorate.
As noted above, Democrats never do this. Would it kill you, GOP, to watch them and perhaps learn?
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
— John Hancock
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett
, William Whipple
, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock
, Samuel Adams
, John Adams
, Robert Treat Paine
, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins
, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman
, Samuel Huntington
, William Williams
, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd
, Philip Livingston
, Francis Lewis
, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton
, John Witherspoon
, Francis Hopkinson
, John Hart
, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris
, Benjamin Rush
, Benjamin Franklin
, John Morton
, George Clymer
, James Smith
, George Taylor
, James Wilson
, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney
, George Read
, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase
, William Paca
, Thomas Stone
, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe
, Richard Henry Lee
, Thomas Jefferson
, Benjamin Harrison
, Thomas Nelson, Jr.
, Francis Lightfoot Lee
, Carter Braxton
North Carolina: William Hooper
, Joseph Hewes
, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge
, Thomas Heyward, Jr.
, Thomas Lynch, Jr.
, Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett
, Lyman Hall
, George Walton
President Bush finally whipped out the courage I thought he had mothballed forever. In a statement of Executive Clemency, he commuted the prison sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former Chief of Staff. Libby had been convicted in March of perjury and obstruction in the investigation of who "leaked" the identity of former CIA employee Valerie Plame. In a clever political move, the President left intact Libby's $250,000 fine and two years' probation, thereby neutralizing the inevitable gnashing of teeth by the liberals in the Congress and media. For once, the President fought for his people and outmaneuvered his opponents instead of folding like a cheap suit.
Libby wasn't the actual story, of course. The real story was the concerted campaign by enemies of the administration (the CIA and Ambassador Joe Wilson first among them) to attack its aggressive approach to fighting Islamic terror and, of course, the war in Iraq. The president and vice president knew they were getting played, so they tried to get the truth out. Libby, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage and others fanned out to alert members of the media that Wilson et al. were spinning lies about the prewar intelligence and how the administration used it. And they tried to encourage the press to look into the real story---that there was no manipulation of that intelligence, no "misleading" by the president, and that those directly involved in this story (Wilson, the CIA, and others) were the ones spinning the great fabrications.
The administration's big mistake was, of course, trusting the press. They should have known better. Without the liberal mainstream media, which has relentlessly attacked the president, vice president, and their foreign policies day in and day out since January 2001, this story wouldn't have gotten very far. The media egged it on. The media became the story, and at the same time, they created the story. They created it by deliberately NOT reporting the truth about this president all along---and certainly in THIS case, failing to cover the real story because it would have been truthful about the president.
And there's another tragedy here: what happened to Libby is yet another cautionary tale for any decent, smart person who is thinking about public service. Today, politics and media are gangs, led by gladiators, fighting for money, resources, turf, and power. If you happen to be in the way of these things, your opponents and their allies will do whatever they can to discredit, marginalize, or destroy you, including lying, cheating, and stealing. It is the highest of high-stakes games---and only the hardiest and most brutal survive it. And even when you survive, chances are you have gotten beaten up and bloodied along the way. This is why so many decent, smart people don't want to get into public service----because they ARE decent and smart.
So hat's off to the president for showing a little backbone. (And Libby didn't even need Hugh Rodham!) Human justice is far from perfect (Paging, Sandy Berger!). But at least this decent and smart man got some justice before he had to go to the clink for having a faulty memory (Paging Tim Russert!). Come January, 2009, the departing president will have a stack of final paperwork on his desk. In there somewhere should be a pardon with Libby's name on it.