Friday, October 29, 2004

Never Again 

"Never Again." A phrase heard so often and applied to so many circumstances. For some it is a deeply sincere prayer, carrying great emotion and meaning. For others it is a more a slogan or mantra of form. For me, it captures the essence of this political campaign.

We say "Never Again" to the Jews. In your memory, never again shall we suffer a horror like the systematic genocide of millions of European Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Yet for over ten years we suffered the murder of Kurds and Shi'ia at the hands of Saddam's Ba'ath. We suffered the 800,000 dead in Rwanda. We continue to suffer over a million dead in Sudan. We suffer a rabidly anti-Israeli government in Tehran racing to learn the deadly secrets of Hiroshima. One of these had ended, thanks in large part to one candidate who, in the face of extreme opposition and scorn, persevered so that evil might be stopped. He is, I believe, the only candidate with the demonstrated resolve and determination to face down the building Iranian threat. Where this candidate had exhibited action, the other promises dialog. The same dialog that allowed the Nazis time to build the camps and the Rwandan rivers to run red.

We say "Never Again" to the people of South Vietnam. In your memory, never again shall we abandon a freedom loving people to the ravages of cruel hate and oppression. Yet we once did so to the Iraqi Shi'ia and Kurds. We shall not abandon them again. Look to your community at the Vietnamese-Americans. Learn from them the stories of fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers and even children lost to the reeducation camps, lost at sea, lost in the struggle to breath free air. Many of these deaths can be laid at the feet of an American policy that was aggressively advocated and lobbied for by one candidate. The same candidate that speaks of "stability" over "democracy" in Iraq. The same candidate that frames his discussion of the struggle in Iraq with time tables for leaving Iraq to its own design. The same candidate that has done all he can to stand in philosophical opposition to the candidate who has resolutely vowed to stand with the Iraqi people and openly speaks of the promise that liberty holds for all humans.

We say "Never Again" to the victims of 9/11. In your memory, never again shall we close our eyes to gathering threats or delude ourselves with a sense of invulnerability. Yet there are some who claim the event that forever altered the skyline of our largest city was not all that significant. Some say that we deserved this attack or that we simply need to learn to live with terrorism. Some act as if these things just happen, as if it were the mindless destruction of a typhoon or earthquake rather than a coldly calculated act of mass murder planned and perpetrated by dedicated adherents of a radical religious movement. One candidate represents these people, the same candidate who has nostalgically expressed a desire to return to the false security of 9/10. One candidate revels in and tacitly encourages those who would irresponsibly hint that the tragic events of that day were knowingly allowed to happen for the personal gains of those in power. One candidate gleefully sups with and profits from those who liken the murderers of innocent civilians to our heroic patriotic fore-fathers at Lexington and Concord. The other candidate has resolutely looked evil in the face and called its name. He looks forward to and speaks of a new age of genuine security, not accepting the easily attained placebo of "feeling" secure as we before that fateful day.

On Tuesday, we will choose one candidate over the other. I stand firm that never again shall we choose a candidate that will appease rather than confront evil. Never again shall we shirk our responsibilities to mankind and our future for the convenience of today. Never again shall we choose a candidate that can say these words without demonstrating the action and resolve to make them live. Never again. Never again.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

In Support of the Electoral College 

In light of the "popular vote vs. electoral college" vote discussions that have been rampant for the past four years, I wanted to clearly come out in support of teh electoral college. First, since the Seventeenth Ammendment to the Constitution empowered the electorate with direct vote for Senators, this is one of the few remaining vestiges of States' representation in the Federal government remaining in the Constitution. The vast majority of complaints of unfunded Federal mandates on the States can be laid at the foot of this Ammendment, since both houses of Congress answer to the gimme-gimme electorate and noone answers to the States' interests. Second, direct election of the President places too much power into a few high-density population areas. To demonstrate, let's look at the 14 most populous urban areas (NYC, LA, Chicago, DC, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, Minneapolis, Cleveland and San Diego). Together they represent 97.6M Americans, or roughly 2/3 of the US population. What this means is if a politicial can appeal to just these 14 places sufficiently to pull in 60% of teh vote he only needs to gather 45% of the 183.8M votes in the rest of the country to top the 50% mark. If he panders a little harder to these 14 cities, say maybe to the tune of 65%, it cuts his required base in the rest of the country to only 42%. Some states already experience this on a smaller scale. For example, look at the 2000 results by county for Illinois and you'll find that Bush carried almost every district except in the Chicago area. In California, LA and San Fran largely rule the State's EV (with a little opposition from more conservative San Diego). But that's OK, because it is at the State level. Direct vote for President would be just one more move away from a true Republic of united States to a large-scale Democracy with the States having no more role and significance than a county.

I had a Dream ... 

I had a very vivid dream two nights ago. The kind where you wake up physically tired from the activity within. It was a vaguely disturbing dream with both obvious symbolism and deeper substance.

In this dream I was chosen to be a participant in a socialogical experiment. I was in a room with a bunch of other men and women, just milling about. I was told that my job was to keep a group of men from kissing the women. Soon enough, a door opened and several men rushed in running and chasing and kissing women at random while us "protectors" chased them. Needless to say, not too effectively on our behalf. The "invaders" left and there was a rest period before the experiment continued. Anticipating a similar second round, I started to get the other men together to try and organize a strategy to "protect" the women. The door opened for the second time and while we were more prepared and did better, there still were quite a few kisses landed.

This cycle continued I don't know how many times. As it did, though, the "invaders" got more and more rude, high-fiving after a successful kiss, taunting the women they caught. "You know you wanted it baby!" The women became more and more upset. The experiment was less a game and more a personal afront. And try as we might we just couldn't keep the "invaders" away. In the latest assault we actually formed a solid wall of bodies around the women, but still some got through. It was at that time I devised a new tactic.

I got the men together and said if we were to have any success we had to defeat teh invaders before they came through the door. During the break period we would seek out and confront the "invaders". We organized into teams of three or four, the intention being that each team would find find an "invader" and physically convince him not to come back into the room. Yes, we were going to the bathrooms and hallways to beat up these men. For each group we appointed a leader who was specifically tasked to not be involved in the beating but to act instead to ensure the targetted "invader" was not killed or permanently injured (this was an experiment, after all). We had, as a group, decided to coldly and purposefully hunt down and one-by-one beat each "invader" into submission.

I woke up before I had the chance to see the result of the plan, but its obvious that my mind had symbolically substituted the "invaders" for the terrorists we are, today, hunting down and killing. The obvious conclusion being that to really protect our citizens here, we had to keep the "invaders" from ever entering the room. Not so obvious to me was another interpretation one of a different mind might have. Might Noam Chomskey, having the exact same dream, see us as the "invaders" and the terrorists as the men going out to individually intimidate the "invaders" to leave them alone? I'm sure he and many others would come to that conclusion, but I think that though process, like many, says more about the mind of the person than the events depicted.

In the dream it is clear that the "invaders" are the "bad guys". They are the ones causing trouble, disrupting the peace. In my mind it is natural to understand the terrorists as playing that role in the real world. They have accosted our citizens, violated their peace and celebrated the pain and destruction caused. For the Noam Chomskeys and Michael Moores, however, it is America that plays the villian in world affairs. But even if one were to feel that American intervention in the world, (economical, environmental, political, etc.) was less than noble there is still the discontinuity between the role of "invader" and those whom the terrorist are hunting to visit violence upon. In this way of thinking, the men of the dream should have sought out the wives, children, friends and neighbors of the "invaders" and beaten them up, beacause the terrorists are completely indiscriminate in the application of violence.

As I said, though, the dream was disturbing as well. The anger, frustration and pain experienced with each victory of the "invaders" was real and strongly felt. So, too, was the sadness and gravity of our decission to preemptively attack them. Questioning if this was the right thing to do while knowing it was the only thing we could do. The conscious effort taken to not sacrifice too much humanity in executing the plan by placing responsible leaders to make sure the action was effective but no more damaging than needs be. Ours was not an easy decission, but it was necessary. So to was the decission by this nation and her President to go forth into battle.

In retrospect I, too, was reminded of John Kerry's "nuisance" comment. At the beginning of the experiment in my dream we saw it as a game, a fun activity by both. As it progressed, though, we came to know the "invaders" for the pain, humiliation and fear they reveled in. A return to "nuisance" implies unlearning all we now know about terrorism and its ugly underside. While Kerry used an analogy to gambling and prostitution, I think a more accurate legal comparisson would be rape. While noone could possibly believe random rapes can be eliminated, noone would think of a low level of rape as a "nuisance." And if there were organized gangs of serial rapists it makes no sense to not agressively pursue and destroy them. It is this lack of vision that he so tellingly reveals every time he speaks openly and candidly that bothers me.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Reasons to Vote for Bush 

Jane Galt is looking for someone. Someone to vote for, that is. In hoping that I can help sway her over to Bush, I provided the following summary (Ed- summary, Hell, that's four pages or more!). As I understand from her post, some of the major assumptions upon which she is operating are:

1. The GWOT is not as “big” of a war as the Administration holds.

2. The campaign in Iraq is a disaster (or cluster f*** in her terms).

3. The most important issues that need to be addressed are financial solvency, health care progress and energy/environmental policy.

I will try and address each of these, either within the scope of these assumptions or in an attempt to modify these assumptions.

1. The Global War on Terror (GWOT). Like many considered people, while I don’t think the term is accurate in describing the struggle in which we currently find ourselves, absent another commonly used moniker I will have to rely upon GWOT. I agree with what I read to be her assessment that the major goals are to deny the WAY while addressing the WILL. I believe that America is safer from the doomsday scenario she addresses than we were on 9/10 for a number of reasons. We have taken great strides to deny terrorists a WAY to obtain such destructive means through unprecedented financial cooperation with countries around the globe. We have denied them physical facilities and infrastructure in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Philippines and other countries. We have largely placed them on the defensive, thereby denying them the leisure to plan and prepare operations at their own pace. While the country may not feel as safe as it did before 9/11, that sense of security was false, for we were in more actual danger then. I liken it to the man with high blood pressure. He was already sick, but just didn’t know it until the stroke. After he may feel worse, but since he’s being treated he may actually in a less dangerous health condition.
I also think that the potential for a catastrophic attack are very small, but the risks involved are so great that we must keep strong efforts in place. I can’t begin to imagine the financial impact and societal changes that may result from the effective removal of a major metropolitan center. Imagine half of downtown Chicago contaminated by a radiological dispersion device (i.e. "dirty bomb"). Even low-level contamination that poses no significant health effects will still effectively kill the city due to the psychological effect. Hell, one attack would kill cities across the country. After Chicago got hit how many people do you think would be on the LIE or Path going to work in NYC the next morning? While the risk is low, the potential effects are so great that we have to deal with it. While many may feel President Bush isn’t doing enough (not strengthening the borders, continuing problems at INS, container inspections), the fact that others feel he has gone too far (Gitmo, Patriot Act) just illustrates that he is conscious that while we must protect ourselves we also must do so in a way that preserves our national moral character and civil liberties. Like the President, I believe that the best way to do so is to remain offensive, denying the terrorists the time, opportunity and resources to plan the catastrophic until they are defeated.
As both Bush ("un-winnable") and Kerry ("nuisance") both ineloquently said, this victory will not be strongly marked. But I agree with Bush that victory for us, in the long haul, relies upon victory and liberty for Muslims. There will likely always be fanatics in Islam, just as there will likely always be Nazis in Germany and nationalists in Japan, but the key difference is to have a political structure and economic prosperity that marginalizes rather than empowers this extremism. John Kerry's expressed emphasis on "stability" in Iraq but not necessarily democracy as an expediency to withdraw troops forfeits the long-term victory for a short-term political goal. I am confident that Bush will keep this vision in the second term.

2. The Iraq "quagmire". I have often, in blog comments, asked a question to the "Iraq as disaster" crowd that noone has ever answered. If Iraq is such an unmitigated disaster, please provide a counter example of another operation of a similar scale and goal that is considered successful. While I would never deny the personal tragedy each death and injury represents, it defies logic to describe Iraq a failure or disaster based upon casualties alone. Likewise, the duration of hostilities, while far exceeding the attention deficit MTV standards common in America, is not excessive when compared against historical examples. I am assuming in this, of course, that Jane does not subscribe hook-line-and-sinker to the Doom and Gloom reporting of the likes of the Guardian, but recognize that there is also progress. Relying upon this, the only reasonable basis for one to conclude the Iraqi campaign is a disaster is if one feels the campaign itself was unnecessary. I will assume this is the meaning behind her reference to it as a "boondoggle." While I have written on this before, I will try again to present my reasons in support of the Iraqi campaign in a concise, clear manner.
If one believes that Islamic terrorism must be confronted, then it is logical to assume that such confrontation will largely happen in the Middle East. Some cite Saudi Arabia as the source of Wahabbism and, therefore, the most important target of our efforts (not necessarily military, but potentially so). Others look to Iran, their strong track record of terrorist support, anti-American regime and nuclear ambitions. And then, there’s Iraq. Did we have to go in, or did we choose to? Hopefully I will show that, eventually, we would have had to go in and that, rather than wait for circumstances to dictate to us we chose the timing to best suit our needs. The invasion of Iraq was executed with the following four goals:

2.a. Deny terrorists material and resources. I will not insult Jane by listing the reasons "Bush lied" is, itself, an untruth. With the international assessment that WMD and/or materials were available to Saddam the only way to guarantee they would not be passed to a third party to conduct a surrogate attack against the US was to capture the weapons by removing Saddam. The only other potential set of events that may have had the same result were revolution or military coup, both of which had been tried before and neither of which were remotely successful. As the Duelfer Report illustrated, even absent WMD Saddam was committed to retaining the knowledge and capability for future applications. Also, while not demonstrably complicit in 9/11, Saddam ties to and support of terrorists was clear and undeniable. Given his vindictive nature and historically poor judgement, id ther any doubt that if he felt he had plausible deniability he would have provided WMD assistance to other enemies of the US? In fact, according to President Putin, such warnings were detected by Russian intelligence several times in the run-up to the Iraqi campaign. As we said earlier, the short-term key to the GWOT is denying terrorists support and material. As long as Saddam remained in power that was impossible.

2.b. Demonstrate US resolve. A key motivation in the 9/11 attacks was the perception that America was a "paper tiger" and, if struck hard, would fold. In Saddam’s Iraq we had an enemy of the US in power, thumbing his nose at us and gaining power, support and stature from the same. In pursuit of the previous goal we had obtained repeated UN resolutions that were consistently ignored or subverted. Failure to act in this circumstance would only have reinforced the image that precipitated Al Queda’s action. On the other hand, aggressively following through on the stated goals of regime change set a clear example for other hostile nations that in the GWOT rhetoric would not rule.

2.c. Establish a solid presence in the region. While not advertised as such, I am sure this was a critical aspect of the decision. If one presupposes that the option of executing military action in the Middle East will be required to effectively fight terrorism, one must ask from where would military action be staged? While we established a presence in Afghanistan, it is not particularly suitable for this purpose due to its remote location. At the time of the Iraqi campaign we had a presence in Saudi Arabia, but not only was this presence cited as a motivation in the 9/11 attacks, but if KSA were to be a potential hotbed of activity it made no sense to position a small force there that largely relied upon the host nation for protection. Access to Iraq provides us a central location that borders not only KSA but also Iran and Syria, the three main sources of support for international terrorism. Presence in Iraq provides us exactly the position and staging needed to maintain our options in the region. Besides, if action becomes necessary against Iran, evaluate for yourself the potential military advantages of launching such action from Iraq rather than relying almost entirely upon sea-based power projection with an avowed enemy (Saddam’s Iraq) on your flank. As for KSA, imagine staging an action against them without a suitable alternative supply of petroleum. You may have noticed I consistently refer to the Iraqi "campaign" and not "war." This is because I believe our action in Iraq are as integral to overall victory in the GWOT as the North African or Italian Campaigns were to victory in Europe in WWII.

2.d. Building Islamic and Arab and allies. In the end, Kerry is right when he says that the long-term success of the GWOT will rely upon our allies. He is wrong, however, to assume these pivotal allies to be European. The most important allies we have in Iraq are the Iraqis. That is why I felt his snub and dismissal of Prime Minister Allawi to have been particularly egregious. In a free society the basest elements still exist, but are much less likely to collect and metastasize into the level of threat that exists today. Success against radical Islamic fascists can only be accomplished by either killing them all or changing Islamic society. Any rational person would prefer the latter, and only in partnership with freedom and peace-loving Muslims will it happen. Dismissing Iraqi allies as "puppets," being associated with those who refer to terrorists killing Iraqi children and disrupting Iraqi life as "freedom fighters," ignoring the sacrifice of patriotic Iraqis by repeatedly saying Americans are doing "90% of the dying" is not the way to win hearts and minds.

John Kerry, despite his flavor of the week quote, does not believe in the mission in Iraq, and, therefore, cannot succeed. Even if he is pressured into remaining in Iraq his support of the goals will be half-hearted and everyone knows it, especially the bad guys. In his campaign John Kerry kept subconsciously inviting comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. I fear that under John Kerry that comparison will be more evident.

3. Financial health and responsibility. I, too, would have liked to see less of a drunken sailor attitude toward domestic spending from this Administration. I understand the "pay me now or pay me later" argument for funding Medicare prescription drugs in the hope of curtailing future more expensive treatments, but also know that obtaining an impartial evaluation of the financial risk/benefit is near impossible. I also wish Bush could have moved on Social Security a bit harder, but I am confident he will in the second term. First, as a lame duck he can be more aggressive with his agenda. Second, Social Security reform is the only domestic agenda issue from the 2000 campaign he hasn’t acted on, and I think this was not for a lack of desire but because of practical reasons mandated by the unexpected advent of the GWOT. The bottom line is that Social Security is a ponzi scheme and if action is not taken to instill some reasonable financial model into it collapse cannot be avoided. Kerry has not a single plan to save Social Security other than more of the same.

4. Health care progress. The promise of free, available, high quality health care for everyone sounds good, but is not logically possible. Treated like a commodity, health care is a finite resource. Without a financial incentive to self-regulate access either service quality will suffer or rationing will be necessitated. Neither offers a long-term positive vision of health care in America. Despite Kerry's frequent insistences during the second debate that he was not proposing a "Government Health Care Program," at the minimum it sounded like "Government Health Insurance Program." Considering this pretty much is what Medicare is, who could convincingly present that idea as a solution to high costs? If this is a concern, I fail to see how one could not choose Bush.

5. Energy and environmental policy. Jane credits Kerry in this regard, but I wonder if some of this might be based upon the presumed Democrat ascendency in this area. This is not my forte, but a big red flag always goes off in my head whenever any politician proposes radical reform or action based upon the assumption that the Global Warming theory is proven science. Yes, the potential for harmful environmental effects from emissions needs to be looked into, but basing policy on unfounded claims or emotion never bodes well. If I had my druthers, we’d overhaul nuclear power regulation to make it an industry that can be profitable while remaining safe and tap into ANWR to supplement until we get some new plants online.

6. Character and integrity. Finally, as Jane herself said, Kerry changes his position too much. I understand changing one's mind, but I also think many of his supposed "flip-flops" seem too politically convenient at the time they happen. The county's motivated and on the march so I'll vote to authorize the war. Howard Dean is polling well with an anti-war position so I'll vote against the supplemental authorization. Despite his warts, bumps and malapropisms, Bush is Bush. If he says, "give up your weapons or we'll come take them," he means it (Kerry actually said he voted to give the President authorization to threaten force, not to use it). Libya, too, seems to believe President Bush. Perhaps part of it is my military background, but I cannot trust a man who will lie and demonize others for his own political purposes and then, 30 years later, claim his moral superiority based upon the exact same service he denigrated in others. In rough waters a ship with no rudder will be blown wherever the wind goes.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

News Flash: The Democrats Won 

Many, of late, have spoken of the disintegration and desperation of the Democrat party. Democrats such as Zel Miller look and ask, "Where has my party gone?" The party increasingly reveals itself as an embattled coalition of dogmatic single-issue focused groups practicing gender politics, racial politics, sexual-orientation politics and defining themselves along whatever narrow lines allow themselves to claim a sufficient modicum of victim hood to guarantee their bona fides. How has the party of Jackson, FDR and JFK come to this point, where open partnership with the most crass of propagandists and collaboration with avowed enemies of the state are seen as legitimate paths to power? It may, at first blush, sound a paradox, but the Democrats have found themselves at this point by a simple path. They won.

Let's turn the situation around, and posit a typical Republican contemporary of Eisenhower or Roosevelt (the Teddy variety) peering into his crystal ball at 2004. It is they, I believe, who would cry, "Where has my party gone?" After almost a half-century of control, the social conscience and ideals of men such as FDR have become so universally and subconciously accepted by successive generations that these once "Democratic" ideas are now common in both parties. That a Republican majority would not debate how to remove the government dependency created by Medicare but, rather, to only debate how much the benefits will be increased is all that needs be said. Some might attribute this sentiment to crass pandering by politicians to their constituency, but these ideals are honestly deep in the heart and soul of many a Republican. So, Democrats, in the dawn of the 21st century, have a real party, because your victory over the Republicans is confirmed. And, if this were a movie, this would be the triumphant celebration at the end. Little dancing Democrat Ewoks singing their obnoxious little song as the patriarchs of the Democrat Force, Jackson, FDR and JFK, look on approvingly.

The problem, though, is that unlike a film life goes on. And so, unfortunately, do the Democrats, rapidly becoming an anachronism that, having won the major battles and war of ideas now find themselves, instead, more like the apocryphal stranded Imperial Japanese soldier, unaware the War is over, left fighting their own isolated insignificant battles. As evidence, look only to those individual groups mentioned earlier and evaluate the "vitally important" work they are doing today. At the turn of the last century, the NAACP had to do all it could just to guarantee that a man of color could exercise his right to vote without ending up dead the next morning. They fought the scourge of violent racism embodied by the KKK. In the '50s and '60s they marched in the face of dogs, fire hoses and hostile police to say, "I AM A MAN!" Today they trouble themselves about a silly flag and insensitive language. In the 1900s women even trying to vote were harassed, often beaten and jailed. Some died. In WWII women, as a group, began to gain the respect as people that society, as a whole, had long denied them. Today, feminist groups emphasize latent sexism in a patriarchal society and push to change words like "councilman." The Democrats have been too successful for their own good.

The conversion of what are called "neo-cons" is not so much a winning of Democrats by the conservative argument as it is a logical political realignment of Democrats to the "new-Democrat" party. People who used to identify themselves as Democrats but now call themselves Republicans echo the same thought over and over again. "I didn't leave the Party, the Party left me." As I said, life goes on. Since the life of the Democrat Party relies upon fighting the Republicans, as the Republicans move more left so, too, must the Democrats. But, while there are still true believers, more and more rank and file Democrats find themselves looking at the Party's "important" issues and end up just shaking their heads.

I'm not a political scientist, but I'll go out on a limb here and say that this year's election, like the past two in 2000 and 2002, will end up shocking the Democrat Party. They will see a big win for a President they envision as the embodiment of evil itself (at least that brand of evil that doesn't actually jail, kill, torture or otherwise ruin its opponents' lives). They will see a significant minority vote for the Republicans (I'll go on a limb and call it >20% based upon nothing other than anal extraction). They will see Republican gains in both houses of Congress. And they will pull out their hair and rend their clothes and cry to the heavens "why?" never realizing what it really means. Because in the defeat of today's Party, the ghosts of the Democrat Jedi masters of the past will celebrate their victory.

Fun with Statistics 

Andrew Sullivan linked to a seemingly ironic story noting that "after steady declines under Clinton, abortion rates have been increasing under Bush." The author, Dr. Glen Harold Stassen, who claims to have been trained in statistical analysis, acknowledges that piecing the data together is difficult, but sees a marked increase in abortion rates between 2000 and 2003, in some cases double digits. He attributes this to women's economic fears, lack of a stable mate (via unemployment) and health care fears, all tied in, of course, to Democrat talking points. Now, I am not trained in statistical analysis, but have very strong mathematical skills and have performed quite a bit of statistical analysis in the course of my professional career and believe there may be another contributing factor that Dr. Stassen is ignoring.

One thing that always raises flags for me whenever someone starts spouting percentages without providing an indication of the sample population is the problem of statistical noise. Too many times I have read alarming headlines of a 25% increase or decrease in something only to find out that the initial sample population was only 4. Now, I know the abortion rate in America is greater than four, but within a stochastic model there is a minimum sample population below which predictability rapidly drops. This is called the fiducial level, and below this level of sample meaningful trends cannot be detected nor evaluated. Additionally, while data acquisition problems are noted, the potential effects of non-standard collection methodologies and inherent data errors does nothing but compound the problem of statistical noise. As Dr. Stassen notes, data collection and metrics are singularly inconsistent and lacking in the area of abortion, and while some cite privacy concerns other claim this paucity of reliable data is intentional. Regardless of why, the fact is that in many cases there simply is not sufficient data of sufficient quality to render meaningful analysis. Especially not when considering year-to-year trends and citing only two or three data points of questionable value, such as Dr. Stassen has.

Perhaps it is more revealing of my biases, but I would be much more inclined to consider a coldly impartial statistical analysis that included clear information on sampling population, data variance and discarded low quality samples. The certainty with which Dr. Stassen speaks, citing data that has been massaged into position to neatly match the exact same economic talking points Democrats have been using this election just seems a bit too contrived for me to accept whole cloth. Especially when it appears in an on-line publication that also includes two anti-Israel items, one article that describes the United States as "becoming a 'rouge nation'" that is "making the world a more dangerous place" (that also conveniently mentions the Israel-Palestinian issue as having been "stone-walled...literally"), and a rejoinder for Catholics to vote based upon "the full range of issues" because "Life Does Not End at Birth." I do not begrudge their right to advocate their positions or beliefs, but to try and act, as Andrew has, that this data instinctively passes an impartial scientific standard is flawed. It has generally been my experience that when analysis and policy are as closely tied as they are in this article it is usually to the detriment of both.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Of Motes and Beams 

I never intended to write a "God-blog" and find myself somewhat surprised that the topics of religion, faith and morality have come up so often, but I think, in great part, it is a reflection of the times and the prevalence of this topic in mainstream campaign reporting. For example, a recent article in the NYT Magazine went into great depth discussing President Bush's Christian faith and opining on his self-appointed messianic role in current events.

Like many similar critical articles on the topic, though, this one seems to speak more about what others believe the President feels or thinks than what he himself has said. This general pattern was brought home in stark terms last night as I listened to Michael Savage in the car while running errands. He had asked why white Christian males are so generally disliked and, in response, was speaking to a Jewish lady who was uncomfortable that Bush described himself as a "God-fearing Christian". She revealed how her mother had exhibited a mistrust of Goyim, attributing it to the result of years of pogroms experienced. She, however, claimed no such bias and attested that she had never personally suffered any discrimination from Christians as a result of being Jewish. In spite of this, she still repeatedly said that it would have been OK to just say "God-fearing" but that she was uncomfortable with him using the word "Christian." When pressed why, she said it just didn’t seem right to her. It never occurred to her that perhaps the problem was not in Bush making a simple declaration of his faith but rather her discomfort came from a faulty perception that the profession was more than what it was.

Let me put this in another way. A young Black man is walking toward you. He has his baggy pants, an over-sized jersey from a professional sports team, a knit cap, headphones on with loud hip-hop paying, walking with a bit of swagger. In this case, if one made the assumption that the young man is a gangster and a danger he would be immediately branded with the perhaps justified charge of racism. How, then, is this much different than hearing the President say "I am a Christian" and interpreting that to mean that he thinks he's better or that you're less or that you should be Christian, too, or else? Why do so many on the political left seem to accept this response to open declaration of one's faith as natural or normal?

Perhaps it is the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty in the face of surety. People are often uncomfortable at the doctor's office not because of what they know, but because of what they don't. I don't understand why my body is doing this, but the doctor comes in all sure and my lack of knowledge and understanding makes me uncomfortable. If this happens in cases where hard physical evidence can often be cited for one belief over the other, how much more uncomfortable it becomes when faced with a matter of faith. Neither can prove their point, and so it just comes down to you and him and the strength of your beliefs. And, in the face of your own uncertainty you can’t help but ask “how can he be so sure?”

I don't say this in a condescending way, but out of understanding. Sometimes I have wondered if I am too logical for my own happiness. I sometimes look in envy at those who have such strong and complete faith, wishing I, too, had something so strong in my life to believe. It is similar to feeling I had in Japan, surrounded by an ancient culture with such a strong and unique identity. I felt a certain admiration of the Japanese, to be able to have and share such a clear sense of who you are. But I also believe that unlike the elitist left, most Americans (including the elistst right, like myself 8^D) intuitively understand the difference between a Christian of strong faith professing his beliefs and the Bible-thumping, holy-roller street preacher standing on the corner extolling the evils of AL-KEE-HOL and the sins of pre-marital kissing. And I will always see an inability to recognize the difference as a problem with the observer and not the observed.

Amazing Response 

Never underestimate the power of networking. Thanks to INDC and Hugh Hewitt I practically doubled my total visitors in a single day. I a appreciate all who chose to visit and hope they found something interesting rather just more of the same. I try and present my views in a clear, logical fashion and just hope my guests will return from time-to-time to see if there’s anything new.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Defining the Presidential Choice 

(Submitted as part of Hugh Hewitt's week-long symposium)
The President’s primary Constitutional responsibilities are as the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief. As such, foreign policy and relations and military operations are most relevant in choosing a President, especially in times of war.

So, let’s review the choices:

President Bush
Senator Kerry, on the other hand,
Make your choice.

Hype the Vote 

Bill at INDC has been on Rock the Vote's case about a dummy "draft card" on their front page that, until yesterday, bore the signature of Donald Rumsfeld. They replaced it with Charlie Rangel, but still give the "draft issue" front page treatment. I poked about a bit, noting that they link to Alliance For Security for Debunking the Myths, a site that still spoke of both the House and Senate bills, even though the House Bill was shot down recently. But, oh, wait, they did notice that and didn't like it because "As a result, the draft issue will not receive the extended discussion and debate it deserves."

So, let me get this straight, they don't want a draft, but when Congress overwhelmingly votes to put the issue down they're not happy because it wasn't extensively discussed and debated. In their whine, they reveal that it isn't so much the draft per se in which they are interested, but rather in having "a real debate about the policies that have stretched the military so thin that the draft has again become a grave concern for our youth and their parents." Oh, so, once again, the spectre of a draft is just a mechanism to use to force discussion on military policy. I just hope the people aren't as dumb as these folks are counting on them being.

(Welcome INDC readers. Please feel free to look around)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Stolen Valor III - Bride of the Crazy Veteran 

(Part 2 in an, unfortunately, continuing series)

Well, they're at it again. Last night's episode of Crossing Jordan included an Iraqi vet driven crazy by a Dear John letter. Kicked out on a "section 8," he returns to Boston where he becomes homeless, gets in a confrontation with his ex's fiancé and kills himself by falling off a parking garage onto a barbed wire fence that slices open his throat, but not before he gets a chance to build and plant a bomb in the fiancé's Mustang's trunk. This was accompanied by snips of the soldier's video diary, including tearful questioning of what they were doing, why they were there, how pointless it was, the killing of little children, and anything else that would make a great wet dream for Michael Moore. Being two weeks before the election had no bearing at all upon the airing of this program, of course. I wrote NBC a letter and will update if they respond.

Friday, October 15, 2004

A Paradox of Faith 

In both of the last two debates questions turned to the matter of religion and faith. While important to most Americans, these two words, in a political context, often make some uncomfortable. I think I am not alone when I say that President Bush, a man of open and acknowleged faith, was more comfortable and at ease addressing this personal matter then Senator Kerry was. I do not imply by this that Kerry himself is in any way uncomfortable about his religious beliefs, but rather that Bush is almost certainly more comfortable talking about his. I did, however, note what could be called almost a Paradox of Faith inherent in Kerry's comments, a paradox that often is manifested as an accepted discontinuity in the Left's perception of American politics.

When addressing the issue of abortion in St. Louis, Kerry made a point of saying that he could not legislate what, for him, was a matter of faith. This is a position and belief frequently expressed, not only in the matter of abortion but concerning other topics as well, and is most often accepted whole cloth as an aknowledged truth. It is most often assumed to be required by the establishment clause of the Constitution or is evoked as part of the (perenially misattributed) ideal of "separation of Church and State." Seemingly at odds with this position, though, was his later statement in Arizona that he had been taught to "love your neighbor" and that his legislative philosophy was deeply informed by this. If, on the one hand, the definition of life is a matter of faith how could this latter sentiment, one that is quoted almost verbatim from the Bible, be considered less? And why, then, is legislation based upon one less valid or acceptable than the other?

The way clear past this apparent paradox is in recognizing that the two positions seemingly at odds are founded upon two separate and distinct assumptions. I hold that the assumption that is used to support Kerry's position concerning the role of faith in legislating abortion is flawed, while the assumption employed in his second standard is more consistent with both historical precedent and logic. In clearly evaluating both assumptions inherent and identifying where the first falls apart we may begin to reach a more consistant understanding of what may be called "faith-based legislation."

There are a few other unstated assumptions in John Kerry's answer to the question on abortion. For example, assuming that a woman's "right to choose" is guaranteed by the Constitution. Even the most ardent abortion-rights advocate, if they are honest, will not try and argue that the Constitution explicitly addresses anybody's "right to choose" anything other than their elected representatives. As such, the presumed "right to choose" must either be an implicit right or one derived from explicit rights but is, therefore, entirely up to the discretion of the Courts. Another assumption that makes this presumed "right" stronger is the assumption that the unborn child either has no rights or no status with concern to the Constitution. This is a strong reason that abortion-rights groups regularly oppose legislative efforts to infer rights (such as laws protecting unborn children from abuse or murder), as this may open the door to Constitutional recognition of status. The main assumption, though, and one that reaches far beyond the specific topic of abortion, is that the presumption of personhood and, therefore, recognition under the Constitution on behalf of the unborn is solely a religious belief and is therefore unsuitable for legislation.

But, this completely ignores the very valid question of if that belief is a matter of religion or a matter of faith. At first blush, the two terms may seem analogous, but this is not necessarilly so. For example, although I have never been there I have full faith that at certain times of the year the sun never sets in Pt. Barrow, Alaska. I base this faith upon scientific knowledge of the tilt of the Earth's axis and the effect of this tilt as the Earth revolves about the sun. I have no doubt, though, that if not today at least in the past there were natives living in the area who had faith in the exact same thing. Without the same scientific knowledge their faith was based either upon personal experience or a belief that some god or the other was pleased or displeased, but they still believed the same thing that I do. The fact that we came to the same conclusion by different paths does not, however, make the native's article of faith any less true than my own. They are the same and, therefore, both equally right. In the specific case of abortion, scientific knowledge that the union of egg and sperm, given its natural course, will yield a child is sufficient for some to sustain a faith that the unborn child is a person. For others, personal experience from carrying a child or viewing ultrasound photography or from the volumes of neonatal development literature serves this purpose. This faith is neither more nor less "right" than the exact same faith arrived at by Christian, Jewish, Moslem or any other relious-based teachings. Contrast this, for example, with the faith that Jesus is the Son of God or that there but one God and Mohammed is his prophet. There is a fundamental difference between beliefs that can only be reached as a result of specific relevent religious doctrine and moral judgements that are not so narrowly defined.

Let us look, now, at Kerry's second article of faith, so to speak. Although the Golden Rule is specifically derived from the New Testament, a document of faith unique to Christians, the sentiment expressed is common and shared not only by many religions but even among non-believers. The expressed willingness to use this teaching as a guide to legislating is consistent with much of our existing law. For example, although the Old Testament says "thou shalt not kill" and "thou shalt not steal" one would be hard-pressed to find anyone so bold as to make the argument that laws prohibiting murder and robbery are based in religion and therefore violate the establishment clause. Basically put, the fact that a particular belief or moral standard is supported or taught by a specific religion does not relexively mean that the belief is, itself, a religions article of faith. It it completely indefensible to and illogical to contend that "separation of Church and State" requires no law be based upon the faith and morality of the legislators. If we understand and recognize that beliefs an individual holds upon their religious teachings are not necessarilly "tainted" solely based upon the source of the belief, one must wonder why some topics, such as abortion, are often treated as is it were.

Returning to the St. Louis question, Sen. Kerry seems to say that he believes life begins at conception (assuming his beliefs conform to Catholic doctrine), yet that it is wrong to legislate on that belief because is is derived from religion. What he ignores, however, is that millions of people from thousands of religious teachings and from just about as many non-religious paths come to the same or a substantially similar conclusion concerning the beginning of life. How, then, can the fact that he or any other individual happened to reach that conclusion by the path of Catholic teachings render it an exclusively religious belief? There is no dount that it is a moral issue of faith, but, like laws against murder or robbery, seems to pose a grave threat to neither the establishment clause nor to the concept of Church/State separation. It is too bad that Kerry and others of like political mind fail to recognize the paradox inherent in his two answers. Without this honesty of the real issues at hand the potential for constructive communication is severely compromised.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Nuisance of Semantics 

I have always felt that a more accurate nomenclature for the GWOT should be something along the lines of "Jihadi War", as that is the moniker by which our declared enemies identify themselves. That, of course, is not suitable as the term "jihad" is also a legitimate word used to describe the personal struggle of faith all Muslims engage in daily and the potential for the war to be misunderstood or intentionally mischaracterized would be even greater. I agree with many of the ankle-biting detractors that "terrorism" is not so much an ideology as it is a chosen tactic of Jihadism, or Islamic Fascism as it is more often called. Regardless of what you call it, I feel it is the central issue of our time and that it will continue to demand our attention until it is resolved one way or the other.

Much has been made of John Kerry’s expressed desire to return to a time when terrorism was a "nuisance" by both the Bush campaign and the right-leaning blogocracy. Others have compared this sentiment with Bush's well-publicized "admission" that the GWOT is "not winnable." In all fairness, there is a similarity in the desired end state expressed, in that each has stated their belief that terrorism, like other forms of evil that men do, can never truly be completely eliminated, especially not in a society that loves and values personal freedom, but that the final resolution at which we will eventually find ourselves is one in which the potential and nature of the threat from "terrorism" is at a par with the other dangers one faces in normal life. The real gulf, then, lies in what the candidates' perceptions are as to where we are, where we have been and how we get to where we want to be.

I see President Bush's view as being that we have basically been asleep at the wheel. Global threats and dangers gathered and metastasized while we deluded ourselves as to our relative invulnerability, omnipotence and stature. Despite several warnings, including very direct, pointed warnings from the terrorists themselves, we felt that they could never move against us here, and if they tried we'd know about it. That illusion came crashing down three years ago in chaos, fire and rock as we found ourselves stung by the blindworms of the earth*. We must now not relent but continue to pursue and press them, removing all resources and avenues for support. We may not be able to simultaneously press at all points, but we must continue to do so where we can and to steadily chip away at their tools and reach until, like the racist violence of the KKK and Nazism in the 20th century, the troubles seen from Jihadism will largely be issues for domestic law enforcement.

Senator Kerry's position on Global Terrorism seems to be entirely consistent with his foreign policy throughout his time in government and can be summed up in two words: Peaceful Coexistence. In his eyes we were wrong to go into Vietnam, and once there the best thing was for us to leave. He did not believe in confronting the USSR, but, rather, in détente and getting along. His Nuclear Freeze pedigree speaks volumes on this, including his current antipathy towards current US weapons research and development vis-à-vis the "nuclear bunker-buster." I think there is no question by now that he supported a policy of containment in the case of Saddam, waiting for something to happen but with no aggressive action on our behalf.

But more disturbing, he seems to wax nostalgic for the "good old days" when our head was in the sand and we had a false sense of security. When we went whistling down the street, good-time Charlie, never knowing about the four goons in the alley waiting to jump us. When he expresses what he sees as the end-goal of the GWOT he sees a world in which we coexist with terrorism like we coexist with prostitution and gambling. I will take my cheap shot here and evoke his word "nuisance." And how to get to this wonderful vision? By coming together with our pals in Europe to learn what they know about dealing with terrorism.

The candidate's wife has also referred to Europe, how we need to learn to deal with terrorism like they have. A good friend of mine, stranded in Prague as a result of 9/11, heard this same sentiment expressed by Europeans. "Too bad, really terrible, but you just need to learn to live with it like we do." At this point I drag out George Bernard Shaw's famous quote "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts the surrounding conditions to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man." I, for one, believe the world must be adapted and molded into the future vision of the President's than returning to a deluded status quo and changing our perceptions in order to "deal with it."

So, in my eyes there is a clear choice before the electorate. Do we cede our prerogatives and freedom to the Jihadists, opting for a "peaceful" coexistence that is an illusion of slowly eroding freedom, safety and security or do we dare to try and change the world, declaring organized global terrorism as universally despised and shunned as colonialism and the slave trade are today? Do we choose to coexist with murderous thugs who co-opt and pervert a term of significant personal religious meaning for millions, letting them forever taint the meaning much the same way that Nazi appropriation of the swastika virtually eliminated the use of an ancient and previously respected symbol? I say no, that we instead fight, knowing that with us many Muslims, in the course of finding their way past the heresy of the fascists and embracing a life of freedom in the modern world, are more actively engaged in traditional jihad than the terrorists never intended. Perhaps even to the extent that, in time, history will look back upon what we today call the GWOT and recognize it as the Global Jihad it truly is.

(* As much as I'd like to, I cannot claim credit for these phrases. They are from part of a monologue I remember from way back in High School. I can't remember the playwrite or the title, but it was basically in free verse and included the passage "This world came tumbling down from chaos, fire and rock and bred up worms; blindworms that sting each other here in the dark.")

Friday, October 08, 2004

A Question of World View and Character 

When Hugh Hewitt posed the question asking "What do Kerry's answers to [Thursday]'s press inquiries tell us about Kerry's world view and character?", he was referring to answers that in the press have been highlighted as including a proven false assertion that Bush fired Gen. Shinseki (presumably for having the "wrong" answer on required troop levels) and Kerry's likening of Iraq to Lebanon (but only "figuratively speaking"). I'll be gracious and assume the bogus allegation of firing was not an intentional false statement but just a toss-off of a talking point he'd either heard or been briefed on before. The Lebanon reference is either more dramatics, evoking the image of sectarian violence that plagued Lebanon or a complete disregard for the fact that much of Lebanon's violence was initiated on behalf of the occupying force, Syria. In fact, the only valid similarity between Iraq and Lebanon is that much of the terrorist violence in both countries has been directed by Damascus.

I will, then, concentrate on the exchange much of the press has chosen to ignore. I will try to be fair and summarize Kerry's basic position on Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the following way: "We had him under wraps and we could have kept the sanctions in place. Although I agreed he was a bad guy and needed to go, there was no compelling reason to force him to go at that time." I think this a fair paraphrase of the statements he has made and more consistently matches with most things he's said on the topic.

I will give him a partial pass on the sanction issue because with our veto power in the Security Council we technically could have kept them in place indefinitely, regardless of the propriety of doing so. I would, however, in return like him to explain how joining with England against France/Russia/China when we wanted the UN to go (back) to war and enforce its resolutions is different from siding with England against France/Russia/China when they would have wanted the UN to lift Iraqi sanctions, because everybody knew that day was coming. Especially in light of the Duelfer report that clearly shows that Saddam was investing a lot of time and capital to reach that day as soon as possible. I also characterize this as a partial pass because I have graciously not brought up that the sanctions we could have kept in place were not, in light of the abuses of the OFF program, producing the desired effect. So while we possibly could have prevented him from starting more overt WMD programs with sanctions in place it realistically did nothing to promote regime change or weaken the Ba'ath party.

The second part of Kerry's "Iraq/Saddam position" was presented with the caveat that he "voted for the authorization, because [Saddam] presented a threat", but that the authorization was used in the "wrong way." He, perhaps unknowingly, reveals what he felt was the right way when he later says "If I'd been president, I'd have wanted the same threat of force." He didn't say he have wanted the same authorization or option or choice, but the same threat. Despite all his rhetoric on "restoring credibility" he completely fails to grasp that a big reason we had to invade Iraq was to preserve the credibility of any future threat of force. For twelve years we, through the UN, had threatened Saddam. The Duelfer report clearly shows he didn't believe the credibility of that threat even up to the invasion itself. After we proved to Saddam and the world that our threat was credible, however, Libya did not wait to be threatened. There comes a time when words have failed and nothing but action will suffice to communicate. I will not try and second guess Kerry, and so must assume that he fails to recognize that we had reached that point. Such misjudgment in future confrontations could have deadly consequences.

While this is the "meat" of his Iraq position (and, in his own way, he has been consistent in the position I described above), there is so much additional information in his response with which to evaluate the candidate. He references the 60 countries with known Al Queda cells and "35 to 40 countries [that] had ... more ... capability of creating weapons, nuclear weapons" than Iraq so quickly and with so much passion that one wonders if he ever took the time to consider that most of the countries he is talking about are either our allies or working with us. For example, yes, there is Al Queda in England, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Australia, and on and on, and we are actively working with law enforcement in all these countries to find and eliminate the threat posed. Why would we invade them? Using John Kerry's logic we would have to be poised to invade ourselves, as there are certainly active Al Queda cells in the US. In his list of "evil" weapon manufacturers I'm sure we could find all our major allies in addition to his specific references to Russia and China. I wonder if he is being dramatic or sincere when he questions why we would invade Iraq and not Russia or China. I feel almost silly writing it down, as the reasons are intuitively obvious, but since he asked here are a few off the top of my head:

1. Russia and China, while often adversaries to one degree or another, are not openly avowed "enemies" of the US. Once upon a time a little-known organization called Al Queda declared war on us and we ignored it at our peril. Should we have repeated the pattern with Iraq?
2. Russia and China do not exist as totalitarian regimes to be exclusively used by a single megalomaniac (although Russia is dangerously veering in that direction)
3. Even if we wanted to, invasion of Russia or China would be logistically and militarily impossible. If you've got a forest to chop down why not start with the trees you can reach.

Overall, though, this equating of Saddam and Iraq with every country that has Al Queda or produces weapons is the most telling indicator of his pervasive liberal moral equivalence. It's not Saddam or his friends or intents that were of concern to him, but those evil weapons. At his core, John Kerry still believes in arms controls. If we can just sit down and negotiate with them and show our good intentions we can get them to stop building those evil weapons. Well, I've got a news flash: it didn't work for Carter with the USSR and it didn't work for Clinton with the DRPK and it didn't work in 1922 with the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty. It's OK for us to have nuclear weapons because we are a free, just, moral country. It's OK for the UK to have nuclear weapons for the same reasons. Personally speaking, if Australia or Italy or Poland announced tomorrow that they, for some reason, decided they wanted nuclear weapons I wouldn't loose a night's sleep. That's because I don't fear the technology, but rather the way in which individuals may want to use it. I never thought of it before, but the liberal nuclear-freeze, no nukes, anti-genetically enhanced foods, gun-control mentality is really just a form of neo-Luditism. Take me back to the Farm, Comrade.

Mickey Kaus Confuses AMT and Tax Reform 

In a recent Kausfile, Mickey Kaus discusses the role AMT could play in reforming the tax code. He challenges the conventional wisdom that the unintended application of AMT to middle-class taxpayers that has resulted from inflation and wage growth in the middle-class needs to be countered. His contention is that if reform of tax code to a simpler (and, by inferrence, more fair) calculation is desired the mechanism for such a change already exists in the AMT and that rather than reducing the number of taxpayers affected by AMT we should allow it to expand in applicability until tax code reform is a fait acomplit. While it is an interesting idea, and one I could likely support, he cuts it down at the knees by rolling out the following non-sensical evaluation:

 "They just pay the simplified tax, which is maybe a little bit higher than the old complicated tax. (You want simplicity, you pay a bit more!)"

Mickey asks "What am I missing here?" What you're missing is that it is not only immoral but counterintuitive to ask the taxpayers to pay more for less service. A key goal of tax reform is not just to more fairly balance the burden, but to reduce the cost of paying and collecting taxes. Taking Mickey's suggestion to an extreme, if everyone payed the AMT there wouldn't be much work for the IRS to do, now would there? As such, isn't it reasonable to expect to lay less for simplicity that ultimately benefits the government and reduces their costs? A better way would be to rework the AMT such that it is a slightly better deal than most taxpayers with standard deductions will get. By offering a lower-cost alternative that will be attractive to most taxpayers it allows the IRS to concentrate their auditing capacity on a smaller number of complex filings. This plan, like the 1040EZ, is a win/win that simplifies the filing process for more Americans, reduces the required overhead of an already over-sized government agency and allows that agency to more effectively and efficiently focus its operations on cases that really require scrutiny.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Misunderstanding Big Brother - a Doublespeak Primer 

I have a confession to make. I never read Moby Dick in High School. I was supposed to, and while I made a token stab at it, it was so big and rambling with so much seemingly superflous material that has nothing to do with hunting that whale that I eventually just slacked off. I read the Cliff Notes and faked my way through a paper, the fundamental thesis of which I can't even remember, and passed that segment of the class, but have always felt uncomfortable whenever someone else spoke of teh book and I could not honestly add to the conversation. A few years ago, perhaps from guilt or just curiosity, I made a commitment to myself to atone for my bad study habits and to actively pursue the clalsics of literature, including the dreaded Moby Dick. While I could easilly see, in retrospect, just what a monumental task it was to ask any High Schooler to really digest and understand this tome, it rapidly became one of my favorite books and I discovered it a truly phenomenal work to savor.

I have another confession to make. For years I invoked the ghost of Orwell and 1984 having only read summaries and seen the films. I corrected that recently and, upon doing so, have come to realize just how many others, even those in national publications, seemingly do the same sort of posing that I was guilty of. They try to compare everything they dislike about a particular government or group with Big Brother's Ingsoc (English Socialism). Big Brother and the telescreens become the perfect metaphor for the Patriot Act. Bloggers coming down on CBS for knowingly using falsified documents are somehow called "Orwellian". This, in particular, exposes the posers as given that the forgeries were a blatant attempt to interject new "historical" documents into the public record to discredit one out of favor it seems that CBS is more like Winston in the Ministry of Truth then anu blogger.

The real horror in the book was not the constant surveilance or innundation with lies as much as it was the effects upon the person of these affronts to human decency. To live in such an environment necessitated the practice of doublespeak. Briefly, doublespeak is the ability to simultaneously hold two completely contradictory ideas in one's mind and to completely believe both. The practice of doublespeak goes beyond simply recognizing that the two different concepts exist and making a conscious choice to act as if you believe both or to ignore one in favor of the other. In doublespeak one has forfeited his own humanity in order to truly believe both "facts" simultaneously and see them as two parts of the same truth. At the end of 1984 it is this internal victory of Winston over his own mind that he celebrates and that we lament.

In today's political campaign, one side is asking us to practice doublespeak in support of their candidate. Their part faithful seem to fervently believe all of the following:

  • The CIA intelligence reports on Iraqi WMD were obviously flawed and President Bush should have known they were wrong.

  • The CIA intelligence reports on the possibility of expanding violence and civil war in Iraq are absolutely correct and must be taken as an exact picture of the situation we face today (even if it was written three months ago and based upon five-month old data).
  • The allegations of Bush shirking his TANG duties must be investigated because the documents showing satisfactory drill point capture and pay records can’t be relied upon.

  • The allegations of Kerry gaming the system and exaggerating his actions in Vietnam must be discounted because the after-action reports (which he wrote) and award citations all support Kerry’s claims.
  • The 131 countries providing manpower and materiel support to our efforts in Iraq do not count as a "legitimate coalition" since it does not include full support of the UN. They were bribed and coerced into helping.

  • Kerry will obtain significant support from nations that not only opposed us in the UN and were funded by Iraq but have also publicly stated their intent to not join us in Iraq. He will gain this support by ensuring the countries have a "financial stake" in Iraqi success (but this is not a "bribe").
  • The DPRK tricked the Clinton administration by being duplicitous in its nuclear fuel/weapons negotiations, and Bush has only made it worse by not engaging in one-on-one talks with Kim Il Sung.
  • The best way to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to provide them with tools, assistance and fuel for their civilian nuclear power efforts, similar to the deal made with the DPRK in the '90s.
  • The Vietnam War was morally repugnant and replete with savage American servicemen committing the most heinous atrocities. It was a pointless endeavor that had nothing to do with our national security.
  • John Kerry exhibited his patriotism by going to war in Vietnam and defending America. His awards demonstrate his bravery under fire and are a great honor and credit to him.

Now, tell me again, which party is channeling Big Brother's ideals of Ingsoc?

What Constitutes "Credibility"? 

The Kerry/Edwards team has been trying to trade its "Global Test" for something they call "Credibility". Kerry says he will return "credibility" to the Presidency, and Edwards says the main point of the "Global Test" is for the President to be credible with the rest of the world. While I agree that credibility is essential in the Presidency, especially in the conduct of the GWOT, I will defer to my friend Inigo Montoya when he says "You keep saying that word, but I don't think it means what you think it means."

Credibility, to my way of thinking, means that one has the confidence and belief that the other is committed to their expressed beliefs and intents. It does not mean that one has confidence the other is factually correct at all times and in all matters. After 9/11 President Bush gave his "you are with us or you are with the terrorists" speech and, I am sure, some people around the world said "sure, nice saber rattling." Then he told the Taliban "give us Bin Laden and kick out Al Queda or you're gone." When they refused, what happened? He did exactly what he said he would. In 2002 Bush said Iraq had gone on long enough violating and trying to deceive the UN and got a SC resolution saying, basically, "enough is enough; come clean or suffer the consequences." In no uncertain terms Bush let it be known the consequences were to be kicked out. The UNSC blinked, but Bush refused to. He gave Saddam 48 hours to leave town. When Saddam refused, what happened? Bush did exactly what he said he would.

I've read others wishing we would talk tougher with Iran or DPRK. There is a very good reason Bush hasn't: he takes his words very seriously and does not idly bandy about threats. If Bush won the election and, on Nov 3, told Iran they have 30 days to abandon their weapons programs and open their facilities for inspection or be deposed, do you think it would be seen as just saber rattling or as a serious statement of intent? This is what credibility means. It was this credibility that opened the doors to Libya. It is this credibility that gives confidence to the Iraqis that when Bush says "we will stay and help you secure your country" that he really means it. It is this credibility that, I believe, has in the last three years deterred a state sponsored terrorist attack upon the US.

When one considers Kerry, I honestly don't understand how anyone can see credibility in either his rhetoric or record. By voting to authorize the use of force he implied a commitment to support the action, a commitment he failed by voting against the additional funds needed. He expresses a commitment to national security and military strength, yet both his record in the Senate and his previous speeches betray an inclination to pawn the guns to buy more butter. He says he wants to win in Iraq, but has alternately defined winning as a "stable" Iraq rather than a free and democratic country while simultaneously decrying the entire endeavor as a lost cause. By his own definition, one might say he helped "win" Vietnam, as the country was definitely more stable after the Communists took Saigon and "re-educated" the dissidents following US withdrawal. By his record and rhetoric, I see John Kerry as a man to be tested. I would just rather not experience the "Global Test" that he may be subjected to.

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