Monthly Archives: October 2009

In Search of Czars

czar_small.jpgI’m amused by the obsessive attention Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity give to czars, on whom they hang apocalyptic intrigue. They contend that these special advisers, appointed without Senate confirmation, subvert the Constitution. I personally don’t think America is so fragile that a collection of advisers focused on specific issues will usher in Armageddon. But Glenn and Sean are entitled to their hysteria., like Politifact, freely criticizes idiocy among both Democrats and Republicans. I like those sites, because my interest is in truth and accuracy, something the drive-by motormouth pundits don’t care about. When Obama lies (which he does), I want to know it. When Republicans lie, I want to know it. I voted for Obama, but I’m not interested in blindly excusing him of whatever he says or does. Nor do I automatically believe what he says. So I appreciate FactCheck and Politifact dutifully checking into things. has now investigated the whole czar controversy. They found that for the most part, the title “czar” is a media creation; it’s not the person’s actual title, and it’s all a tad arbitrary about who Beck et al deem worthy of the designation. President Bush appointed a guy to be the point person for dealing with the Bird Flu. His actual title was Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Public Health Emergency Preparedness, but the media called him the Bird Flu Czar, which was sure a lot easier. That’s sort of how it works with most of these folks.

Every administration appoints people as special envoys, office directors, special assistants, or point persons on issues-of-the-moment. Such people are most vulnerable to getting tagged with the czar label.

Glenn Beck identifies 32 persons as Obama czars. Here’s what learned about these persons (there is some overlap):

  • 9 were actually confirmed by the Senate.
  • 8 were not appointed by Obama, but by other officials (for instance, one by the EPA, another by the Homeland Security secretary).
  • 15 were created by previous administrations (though it took Beck or Hannity or someone else to add the “czar” title.
  • Of the 32 positions Glenn Beck lists, only 8 are brand new, Obama-appointed, unconfirmed positions. They include the special representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan, two persons dealing with automotive issues, one dealing with green jobs, and others.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of political appointees in every administration. I don’t know where the anti-czar people draw the line. Wouldn’t the White House chef, about whom the Senate has no say, be the Kitchen Czar (or Czarina)? Is there a Mail Room Czar? Housekeeping Czar? At what point does a person become a Czar? This cries out for definition.

George Bush probably had more czars than Obama, though again, that term was largely a media creation. He had a Gulf Coast Reconstruction Czar, AIDS Czar, Cybersecurity Czar, War Czar, World Trade Center Health Czar, Faith Czar, Budget Czar, Cleanup Czar, Intelligence Czar, Bioethics Czar, Manufacturing Czar, Public Diplomacy Czar, Regulatory Czar, Abstinence Czar, Domestic Policy Czar, Food Safety Czar, Homelessness Czar, Reading Czar, Science Czar, Terrorism Czar, Counterterrorism Czar, and others. You could probably say Presidents George HW Bush and Clinton were both Tsunami Recovery Czars. The final one was the Bailout Czar, charged with distributing the first $700 billion.

Despite all of these nefarious Bush appointees blatantly undermining the Constitution, America muddles along. I suspect that the Founding Fathers created something durable enough to survive even Obama’s dastardly attempts to topple 230 years of capitalism and democracy.

And now, enjoy this little clip.

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The Greatest Threat to Christianity?

My pastor, Tim Hallman, wrote a very good blog posted called “What is the Greatest Threat to Christianity?” I recommend it.

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Apple Vs. Woolworth

woolies3-420x0.jpgApple is suing Woolworth, the largest retailer in Australia, saying their new logo looks too much like Apple’s logo. Woolworth says it’s a stylized W that also looks like fresh produce. Apple doesn’t want them slapping this logo onto electrical appliances–like, uh, portable music players.

I don’t know. While I am so technologically ideological that I will normally excuse anything Apple does, I think they may be a bit picky here. Yet, I can see the argument.

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Lindsey Graham Gets It

lindseygraham.jpgA few conservatives are speaking out against the madness and conspiracy-mongering of the far-right Punditocracy. Lindsey Graham is the latest to raise a sane voice.

  • “I’m here to tell you that those who think the president was born somewhere other than Hawaii are crazy. He’s not a Muslim. He’s a good man.”
  • About Glenn Beck: “Only in America can you make that much money crying. Glenn Beck is not aligned with any party as far as I can tell. He’s aligned with cynicism. And there’s always been a market for cynicism. But we became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers.”
  • “There [are] people in this country that are having a hard time reconciling the fact that we have a black president.”
  • “The people who are doing unfair and unkind things to the president says more about them than it does the Republican Party. But we have to say that’s crazy. Those who say the president was born anywhere other than Hawaii are crazy.”
  • “There is a chance here for the loyal opposition to become President Obama’s biggest political ally on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. We have plenty of differences with President Obama, but I want to do everything I can to help him contain that threat.”
  • “There are people out there saying crazy things on our side of the aisle. There were people saying crazy things about President Bush. That’s just the way it is.”
  • “If you get rewarded for being a jerk you are going to keep doing it.”
  • “Can you imagine doing D-Day with cable television? Can you imagine writing the Constitution — you know, O’Reilly says Ben Franklin’s giving in on something. Can you imagine having to do that in this environment?”
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Jordi Almighty


Jordi was sitting in the front yard, looking up the street. Two young kids, maybe 6th grade, came down the walk with three dogs on leashes–a small poodle, and two even smaller dogs. The yappy kind.

Then the two kids spotted Jordi at the same time. They quickly came to a stop.

I heard the girl say, “I thought that was a big dog.”

Then they turned around their dogs and headed back the other way. Didn’t want to risk tangling with our 17 pound boy.

Jordi is SO intimidating. Meow.

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Books: Five Novels for Vacation


When we went on vacation in mid-September, I took some books of redeeming spiritual and intellectual value…but didn’t read any of them. Instead, I stuck to the escapist track, devouring five thriller novels during our 12-day vacation. All were winners.

Fresh Disasters. This is the first Stuart Woods book I’ve read, which is pretty amazing, considering how many books he’s written in genres  I like. He has a series about a private investigator named Stone Barrington. Fresh Disasters is part of that series. I enjoyed the character, and enjoyed the plot–not hugely, but enough to want to read more. I found several more Stone Barrington novels at a used bookstore. They’re now sitting on my shelf. I’ll get to them eventually.

Rough Justice. I’ve read a number of Jack Higgins books over the years, but not in quite a while. It’s about time I got back to him, because he never disappoints. His books have some continuing characters, such as Sean Dillon, who figures in this book. In this book, Higgins creates a new fellow, Harry Moore, who joins this cast of tough-guy British spooks. This was a very good book.

The Killing Floor. This is the first of Lee Child’s novels about Jack Reacher. I’d previously read books 2-5 in the series, but not the first one. Of the books I’ve read, The Killing Floor and Echo Burning are my favorites. This one had a great plot, and plenty of action.

L.A. Outlaws. T. Jefferson Parker is a superb writer. I’ve read only a couple of his books, but they’re always good. And LA Outlaws was outstanding. The central character is a sympathetic woman bank robber, a really unique literary creation. Her parts are written in first person, everything else in third person. I loved this book.

Black Widow. I’d not read a book by Randy Wayne White. He’s a heckuva writer. Black Widow was based on a Caribbean Island. The protagonist, Doc Ford, is a former CIA agent of some kind (the book never really explains much of his background). A collection of very interesting characters populate these pages. White has written another Doc Ford book. I’ll probably need to track it down one of these days.

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