William Henry Harrison Gets Raw Deal

February 17, 2009

C-SPAN (for some reason) has come out with the results of its second Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, “in which a cross-section of 65 presidential historians ranked the 42 former occupants of the White House on ten attributes of leadership.”

A “cross-section” of whom would be an operative question.  But let’s for the moment assume C-SPAN isn’t a network that features every right-wing historian who’s published anything longer than his full name, and take the list seriously.

On the list of 42 presidents, Richard Nixon was 27th, and he was impeached (technically, he  quit in the process of impeachment, but still.)

George Bush is 36,  below Hoover (ok there) but 2 above Warren G Harding.  Now Harding was an adulterer with illegitimate children and a drinking problem, so he’s much easier to relate to than Bush.  Harding’s major crime was the Teapot Dome scandal, where the government sold oil leases in a sweetheart deal with big oil.  So let’s get this straight: No attacks against the country, no entanglement in two hopeless wars, no violations of the Contitution, no growth in the power of the Presidency, and no worldwide economic depression — and he’s worse than Bush?  C’mon, 8 billion dollars completely disappeared in Iraq, and that isn’t even on Bush’s list!  There are Assistant Secretaries who gave away more money to private industry than Harding’s entire administration  So that’s not fair.

And defending Harding’s position based on his ignorance, stupidity, bad management or lassitude clearly won’t cut it.

Franklin Pierce is similarly a piker.  After all, his biggest claim to shame is being a direct antecedent to George Bush’s mother.

Far worse than Harding’s position is the outrage done to William Henry Harrison.  What makes Harrison one of our worse presidents?  He died about a month into office.  What crimes did he commit?  How did he make America a worse place?

He didn’t.  He was, in fact, impactless — you would think he should be 21st president, dead center, neither positive nor negative.

We can only hope that as the depression deepens, W will have a more accurate listing, and poor Mr. Harrison will get the neutral opinion he so richly deserves.


And So It Begins

January 31, 2009

Here’s an article about protests happening throughout Russia over the sinking economy.

These protests, though small and widely scattered, are very significant, because Russia has never had a history of public protests — only repression and revolution.  We can safely assume that the price of oil will remain fairly modest for the next few years.  Russia, like Venezeula and most of the other oil powers, are monoproduct economies — oil was so profitable, developing other industries seemed like a waste of time.  So these countries have little to fall back on, little to export or provide any growth to the economy.

Instead of investing in agraculture or other products, the Russians spent it (not unlike the US) in lavish displays of wealth and foreign intervention (maybe two sides of the same coin).  Now (not unlike the US), they are deep in the whole.

However, very much unlike the US, the loyalty the public feels towards the political class is provisional, the country has no standing among foreign nations, the country has weak institutions without much of a civil society,  and as mentioned above, they have an economy with only one main product.

As this depression builds steam, expect more unrest in Russia and the other oil powers.  Even if the depression starts to rebound in 2010, by the time the recovery starts to hit the oil powers, it could already be too late for many of their leaders, their governments, even their class structures.

We have, quite simply, moved from a few centuries of revolution to perhaps a century or two of devolution, and no international structure has risen to replace colonialism to manage these failed states.

Russia, like other oil powers, finds itself with a drastic decrease in its income.


Rise of Support for US in Afganistan

December 26, 2008

The Washington Post reports the CIA has found a new way to raise support for the US occupation of the country.

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

“Take one of these. You’ll love it,” the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

Given that the country is awash in heroin, it makes perfect sense for us to fight what has become a drug war with more appropriate weapons.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills.

Given that the country is awash in heroin, and the whole experience is becoming one large drug war with everyone but the US and the Europeans in the drug business, it makes perfect sense to start fighting the battle on their terms.

My fear is that the Afghans figure out a way to grow the stuff.  Then we’re screwed.


“Sadly Mistaken” Indeed

December 14, 2008

From the NY Times, about the first conversation between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the first American head of Iraq, Jay Gardner:

The history records how Mr. Garner presented Mr. Rumsfeld with several rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq.

“What do you think that’ll cost?” Mr. Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.

“I think it’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Mr. Garner said.

“My friend,” Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”

“Sadly mistaken” indeed.  In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “It’s funny because it’s true.”


The World’s Really Becoming Unhinged

October 15, 2008

Losing wars and stock market collapses I can understand, but this is going too far:

Pictou County moose fell from chopper

Department of Natural Resources now reviewing rescue procedures

Last Updated: Friday, October 3, 2008 | 5:28 PM AT Comments87Recommend71

But on Friday,a spokesman for the department admitted the net that held the moose came loose from the cable as the helicopter took off.

The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources initially said the endangered moose likely died of a combination of drugs and stress.

It turns out the moose that died Thursday was dropped from a helicopter.

I like the fact that they intially tried to explain that a splattered moose actually died from being an anxiety-ridden dope fiend.  If you’re going to kill a moose, at least have the dignity not to pretend he deserved it.