November 14, 2003

THE PHILADEPHIA EXPERIMENT

Earthly Passions uses lessons from American history to try and pin down the proper course to peace and democracy in Iraq.

The Constitution from Philadelphia 1787 was the second government enacted after the first confederacy, chosen during the Revolutionary War, was determined flawed. Even then it took delegates over a year to find compromises that they hoped they could stomach. Still, the Constitution of 1787 was far from perfect and could not patch over the significant differences that ultimately led to the Civil War eighty-five years later.

At stake was the issue of individual state sovereignty and state rights. Each colony-state viewed its own issues and its own choices differently than its neighboring colony-state. Would South Carolina, for example, submit to the slavery views of Massachusetts? For eight decades a delicate balance was maintained with each side adding states that agreed with its own position. Eventually that delicate balance could not be maintained and resulted in the bloodiest war Americans have ever fought.

What makes us think that the many factions in Iraq are any different? Iraq is not one unique people today. If anything, it is more diverse politically and culturally than the Americans of 1787. Certainly the Sunnis in the south do not see eye to eye with the Kurds in the north. Thereís not even the common ground of democracy of any form.

Say it with me, with feeling--read the whole thing.

Posted by B. Preston at 04:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

FRUSTRATION WITH PUBLIC RELATIONS

Read the comments to this post and you'll quickly see a pattern--Bush supporters are fed up. Not with the war, which we support, or its progress, which we understand will include setbacks and nips and difficulties, but with the White House's apparently inability to keep the public abreast of events in a way that helps us make sense of it all. The relative silence leads to impressions that the White House may in fact not know what it's doing in Iraq, and is grasping around for something, anything, that will work.

Which may be true. I don't know. I hope and believe it isn't, but since the Bushies have lost their ability, or maybe their will, to tell us all what in the world is going on beyond screaming headlines about Iron Hammer, I know I sometimes get the creeping chill that we may in fact not have figured out how to grapple with and destroy our enemies in Iraq.

But two things come to mind that assuage my concerns. The first is a video I recently saw. I was at an undisclosed location (not Cheney's undisclosed location--another one, and mostly undisclosed because I just don't feel like disclosing it), and happened to watch a video. It was produced by USAID, the organization most responsible (other than DoD) for rebuilding Iraq. It was only a few minutes long, but showed several scenes from post-Saddam Iraq. In the first, a group of Iraqi men were laying cinderblock walls, rebuilding one of Baghdad's internet hub sites. They were working outside, laughing and talking and generally acting like a typical construction crew. Via translation, they talked about how many times the hub had been destroyed during Saddam's rein (several) and about how it would probably fare better once things settled down. But the point is, they were working outside in shirt sleeves, to all appearances like Baghdad was the safest city on earth.

The next scene showed an Iraqi hospital, recently re-opened thanks to US assistance. It was a fairly mundane sequence, except in the fact that the hospital in question had been barely operational before the war but is currenly operating at near full capability. Thanks to US assistance, post Saddam.

Another scene showed crews working in one of Baghdad's major power generators. The foreman, via translators, went on at some length about how Saddam used to manipulate the grid to penalize groups that annoyed him and favor groups that supported him. The power grid was just one more tool of the police state, but now the foreman reports that it operates on the basis of equality of access, and that that's a good thing.

And the last scene dealt with Iraq's future--wireless communications. Baghdad will soon get its first wireless phone service, thanks to US oversight and assistance. Soon the average Baghdadi will be able to pay for overpriced, lousy cell phone service just like we can. They can experience bad cells and double billing just like we can. It goes without saying that Saddam's police state didn't allow mass access to anything as potentially subversive as cell phones.

The second thing that comes to mind is that war is simply a difficult undertaking, that the US has undertaken them and prevailed in them before, and based on our history we should prevail in this one too. But we have to keep it together in order to win, and on that we are thus far failing miserably. Some Americans simply will never support this or any war; we can ignore them. Some will actively work for our defeat; we must confront and out-argue them. But many are on the fence, and their support is critical. We must persuade them that the cause is still just and victory is still attainable. I think the Bush White House has fallen down on the job in this area, but there's still hope they can turn it around.

Posted by B. Preston at 04:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

INSURGENTS' STRATEGY

Hmmm. This makes sense:

The attack on Italian forces Wednesday in southern Iraq is part of a guerrilla strategy to isolate the United States as it attempts to win international support for rebuilding the country, military analysts say.

The attack, which killed at least 26 people, is the latest in a string of bombings that have targeted U.S. allies or international agencies, such as the United Nations and Red Cross.

If that's their strategy, it's already showing signs of succeeding: Japan has postponed deployment of its promised 3,000 troops until sometime next year, fearing casualties could bring down the Koizumi government.

The resistance started out small and ineffective after Baghdad fell April 9. Small groups attacked U.S. soldiers with rifles and grenades. Usually, the attackers were killed. Pentagon officials initially described the attacks as doomed efforts of ''dead-enders'' from the former regime.

More recently, guerrillas have used mortars and improvised explosives detonated by remote control, which have allowed insurgents to attack soldiers from a distance and survive.

Suicide bombers and more sophisticated weaponry have increased the death toll. At least 37 U.S. soldiers have died in hostile action in Iraq this month, including 22 killed in two attacks on U.S. helicopters. American officers say the insurgency is an alliance of Saddam Hussein loyalists and foreign fighters.

Guerrillas are now regularly targeting international aid groups, American allies, U.S. soldiers and Iraqis who cooperate with coalition forces.

And the press and Democrats, wittingly or otherwise, are playing right into the insurgents/terrorists' hands when they carp about anything and everything having anything to do with the war. They just convince our enemies that given enough time the drip drip drip of American and allied blood can erode enough cracks to bring us down.

Posted by B. Preston at 03:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NOW I GET IT...

So this is how Allah has been making those crazy "memorial mosque" signs...

Posted by B. Preston at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

AL QAEDA'S URANIUM

Well, well, well. A whole lot of liberals may soon eat a hearty helping of crow. Al Qaeda's "news" network Al Jazeera, reports that al Qaeda not only sought uranium in Africa as per President Bush's maligned SOTU address--the terrorists actually bought some African uranium in March, 2000 (can't blame that on Bush either, since it happened before he took office):

An al-Qaida representative bought enriched uranium capable of being used in a so-called dirty bomb from the Congolese opposition in 2000, according to a French newspaper report.

In sworn testimony an unnamed former soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has told investigators looking into the murders of two Congolese opposition figures in France in December 2000 that he attended a meeting earlier that year at which the uranium was sold, the Lyon-based Le Progres reported.

If true, this is dire news indeed. The terrorists that Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich et al seem to see as a law enforcement issue may have gotten their hands on uranium, which could of course be used to create a nuclear or radiological bomb.

The man "described a meeting which took place on 3 March in (the German city of) Hamburg between some Congolese men and an Egyptian by the name of Ibrahim Abd," the newspaper said.

It quoted the man as saying, "I realised it was al-Qaida."

According to Le Progres, the Egyptian was able to acquire two bars of enriched uranium 138.

The Hamburg cell--that's the cell most directly responsible for 9-11.

So if this guy's story is correct, the 16 words were not only true--they understated what actually took place (probably because Bush's speechwriters had no knowledge of the transaction at the time). And it means recent terror threats to kill 100,000 Americans are no longer far-fetched.

UPDATE: According to a comment posted here, there is no such thing as Uranium 138, which is what the terrorists are alleged to have bought. That rings true to me now that I think about it. It's probably a typo, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

HOWARD DEAN'S HUMANISM

Bigwig skewers Chucklehead Dean, using Teddy Roosevelt and a Dean-inspired revised Declaration of Independence--and photos--to do it.

As a Christian, I'm sort of glad humanism as it came to be defined in the latter 20th Century is dead. In its worst forms, humanism sought to displace faith in anything other than corrupt humanity, and to eventually exterminate belief in anything else via coercion, humiliation, the rule of the courts, and so forth. So ding-dong for the death of humanism. But unfortunately, the Dems have yet to replace it with anything better, and thus seem to have only one guiding principle--anything they do is good, anything anyone else does is bad, unless it makes them look good or makes Republicans look bad, in which case it's good. And high taxes for the purpose of redistributing wealth is always good.

Not that Republicans are perfect. But at least the GOP actually tolerates dissent within its ranks, and allows different viewpoints an airing. On a range of issues, dissent within Democrat ranks is stifled.

(thanks to Cut on the Bias)

Posted by B. Preston at 10:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WUSS NATION

What to make of the latest trend--hyphenating surnames when a couple marries?

In the latest departure from traditional marriage (search) procedure, some American men are beginning to take their wivesí last names, either using the woman's name in addition to their own or nixing their given names completely.

ďIíve definitely heard more about both the husband and wife hyphenating," said New Jersey-based wedding expert Sharon Naylor (search). "Itís really picked up in the past few years, although it's still a very small number."

How does one get to be a "marriage expert," anyway? Is there a masters course from the University of Phoenix or something? Or do you just have to marry lots of people?

Imagine a few years from now, when Kelly and Jon Shubert-Coleman's son marries Jennifer and Jerry Price-Johnson's daughter (or son, I guess, given the way things are going). What in world does the couple call themselves--Steve and Mary Shubert-Coleman-Price-Johnson?

We're not only becoming a nation of wusses where men essentially have become "metrosexuals" (ick) and are just abandoning their traditional roles as much as possible, but of idiots as well. Doesn't anyone spend more than two seconds thinking about the effect the seemingly innocuous changes that we introduce will have on following generations? If anyone keeps them, these little hyphenated surnames are likely to wreak havoc in a generation or two.

MORE: And how could I rant against the Wuss Nation without mentioning what's been going on in the Educational Quagmire lately? I'm sure you've heard the stories, neatly summarized by John Hawkins in a tastefully violent work of art: Kids are getting into trouble for drawings depicting Marines offing Taliban scum, etc. Our "educators" seem bent on beating the last dying ember of creativity from our kids.

(Old man voice) Back in my day (end old man voice), we kiddos didn't shoot up schools. But we did draw and create violent things. On the cover of my Music Class folder (yes, Music Class), I once drew a scene of a US pilot downing a Japanese Zero over the Pacific. It was a lousy drawing; I was a terrible artist. At the time, it was so unremarkable that it never even got so much as a look askance from the teacher. Today, I'd be in counselling, my parents subject to visits from social workers, and probably amped down on Ritalin before it was overwith.

Fast forward to high school. One of my best friends was an aspiring film director. He bought a little Super 8 film camera, and we proceeded to make a series of films. He made one claymation flick on his own that was quite good, actually, though it did end in the horrible death of one of his main characters. But together, he and I worked on a couple of films that we just referred to as our "RV stuff," "RV" standing for Random Violence. They were claymation, two-character slugfests, in which we animated toothpick spears flying about and, well, spearing the characters. We did another one that was a chalk drawing animation that depicted pretty much the same thing--random, senseless violence.

Were we bad kids? No. Honors students, actually, known mostly for our good citizenship and top grades (ok, dorks--but clever dorks). Given the time all this happened (a while ago) and the location (Texas, where boys are still for the most part allowed to be boys), none of what we did was remarkable. To the extent that our parents knew what we were doing, they were appropriately untroubled by it. My friend's dad actually helped out at bit--a mild-mannered insurance salesman participating in the decapitation of clay characters. He seemed to get a kick out of it.

Today, I have little doubt that if I did such thing in Maryland, I'd be death-penalty eligible. It would take Johnny Cochran and F. Lee Bailey to get me off. And I'd definitely end up in a foster home somewhere.

I've more deep, dark secrets like this--like the other friend I had who had the habit of milling black powder to turn into rocket engines. Do you know what happens when you make the nozzle on a rocket engine just a wee bit too small? Pressure builds in the body, eventually forcing its way out in a catastrophic structural failure--the engine becomes a bomb, in other words. The R&D phase of rocket engine building is a noisy process, as my friend's neighbors can attest. I'm sure there's still aluminum schrapnel lodged in the trees in his parents' yard. Today, he's contributing to the war effort by having designed and is now piloting one of those cool drone aircraft used to such great effect in Afghanistan and Iraq. If he was a rocket-designing kid today, he wouldn't have gotten past the first explosion before someone yanked him from his home, doped him up on behavior-modifying chemicals and squirreled him away in a cell somewhere.

We are a wuss nation. We're beating the creativity right out of our kids in the name of snaring the tiny percentage who are actually true menaces, while we fail to raise our kids with the basic discipline they need to become functioning adults.

Posted by B. Preston at 09:03 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 13, 2003

TERRORISTS PROMISE TO KILL 100,000 AMERICANS

Treasonous Ted Rall must be overjoyed--his terrorist buddies got the message to fight on. They're promising a horrific strike against us:

In regard to rumors about a large-scale attack against the U.S. during the month of Ramadan, Al-Hijazi said that "a huge and very courageous strike" will take place and that the number of infidels expected to be killed in this attack, according to primary estimates, exceeds 100,000. He added that he "anticipates, but will not swear, that the attack will happen during Ramadan." He further stated that the attack will be carried out in a way that will "amaze the world and turn Al-Qai'da into [an organization that] horrifies the world until the law of Allah is implemented, actually implemented, and not just in words, on His land... You wait and see that the balance of power between Al-Qai'da and its rivals will change, all of a sudden, Allah willing."

Well, I don't think they'll find Allah willing. They are, as usual, full of it--though they may be inspired by a couple of eclipses that happen to occur during ramadan this year. But it is interesting that these cretins believe they need to horrify the world before it will accept their rule. Their god isn't a loving one; he's a mean bastage.

Posted by B. Preston at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THE KERRY CAMPAIGN PURGES ON

Sen. John F. Kerry (I bet you didn't know this, but he served in Vietnam) may have finally made the right decision to put him past Chucklehead Dean.

Posted by B. Preston at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

JUDICIAL QUAGMIRE

The Senate's talkfest continues--sound and fury, signifying the breakdown of basic Constitutional procedure at the hands of the Democrats. The judicial impasse is so bad it deserves the "q" word:

Raymond Flynn, a Democrat who served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under President Clinton, has accused Democratic senators of religious intolerance and anti-Catholic bigotry in filibustering federal judicial nominees. "The process for placing qualified judges on the federal bench has descended into a quagmire that has gone beyond ideological differences," Mr. Flynn said in a memo yesterday to senators. "It has become focused on the nominees' personal values and beliefs, which has created a disturbing tone of antireligious and, in some cases, anti-Catholic bigotry," he said. (emphasis mine)

Yup. Anti-Catholic, or more broadly, anti-Christian bigotry, is at the root of this unprecedented quagmire. The Dems are either bigots or are beholden to bigots that fund them and keep them viable, take your pick. Flynn continues:

"For example, the refusal to permit a full and fair vote on the Senate floor for Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, as well as other well-suited nominees, goes against everything we stand for as public servants. The only strike against Mr. Pryor seems to be that he is a man of devout religious faith. Intolerance of people of faith by certain members of the Senate is a stain on our nation," said Mr. Flynn, president of Your Catholic Voice, which he described as the nation's largest grass-roots Catholic organization.

The past few years have been ugly ones for the country. In the midst of a war begun with a terrible attack on our own soil, we have seen the grim spectre of anti-Semitism (Rep. Cynthia McKinney, soft money sugar daddy George Soros), anti-Southern bigotry (Howard Dean, and the response he got from his competitors) and anti-Christian bigotry (the Senate's judicial quagmire). All on the left, home to a radical fringe that openly cheers for US defeat in Iraq and around the world--a fringe fueling the surging presidential candidacy of Howard Dean.

Zell Miller understated things when he said that his party sees one-third of a nation and tells it go to hell. Today's Democrats see one-third of a nation, adherents to the nation's majority faith, and adherents to another of the world's three great monotheistic faiths--and tell all of us to go to hell.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:47 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 12, 2003

HAPPY VETERANS DAY FROM TED RALL

If you're in the US military, he hopes the Iraqi/Arab terrorists kill you, and return their country to another dark age of tyranny. It is not parody, or irony, or some kind of writing from character--it's truly writing only a Hamas mastermind or a Stalinist thug could love.

The man is vermin. Why isn't he being investigated for lending aid and comfort to the enemy? And what is the matter with Universal Press Syndicate and Yahoo for running his garbage? Both outfits should hear from everyone offended by Rall's apalling pro-terrorist column.

If there's any justice...no, I'm not going to finish that sentence. Suffice it to say that Rall would only write filth like that from the relative safety of New York.

UPDATE: Universal Press Syndicate thinks Rall is a "moderate." Address relevant correspondence to Kathie Kerr (800/255-6734, ext. 6945) kkerr@amuniversal.com.

UPDATE: Game, set and match--InstaPundit. Lefties will carp that Rall is fringe. He isn't. Neither is ANSWER. Lots of people want us to lose this war, and many of those people live right here in the US of A.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:37 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

GOODNIGHT TOM, PETER AND DAN?

Jeff Alan, writing in Television Weekly magazine (article not online), argues that the era of the big-time anchor is over, or will be soon:

When I read that more television viewers watched the coverage of 9-11 on the 24-hour cable news channels than the big three networks, it became apparent that this was the dawn of a new day. When Tom, Peter and Dan retire it will be the end of an era. Let's face it, in the early 80s when these three anchors took their respective chairs, CNN was less than a year old, few TVs came with remotes and the internet was just beginning. Tens of millions of people watched the nightly news.

Today there is a new generation of news consumers with different values. People are getting their news from the 24-hour news channels, the Internet and even on their cell phones. Nightly network news viewer-ship is way down. A recent Pew study showed for the first time more viewers watched the cable networks than the evening news on CBS, NBC or ABC. A closer look at the ratings tells an even more remarkable story. The 55+ demographic group- those born before the baby boom-are watching more television today between 4:30pm and 7:30pm, the "news hours," than the corresponding 55+ group was in 1979. The catastrophic drop-off is in viewers born after 1945. In fact, an in-depth look at the ratings suggests that the popularity of the major anchors and of the evening news format is not something that was ever meant to carry over to the Baby Boomers (and the younger generations now entering their prime news-consumption years). The startling conclusion may well be that the evening news was only a transitory phenomenon that had more to do with the particular needs and outlook of the generations born between 1900 and 1945 than anything else.

It's more than just a generational thing, though that's probably a significant factor. It's an immediacy thing--the net outguns the network newscasts for sheer speed and comprehensive coverage, and cable nets offer the convenience of repeating stories every few minutes--and it's also a trust and values thing. I stopped feining trust in network news when I saw ABC's Sam Donaldson in action at a Dukakis rally in 1988--he simply pretended that there was no sizable opposition to Dukakis, while my own eyes told me different. I stopped watching CNN on a regular basis when their Tailwind fiasco exposed their anchors to legitimate charges of talentless hackery and their producers to charges (proven, alas) of fabrication and deception. I stopped caring what Dan and Peter and Tom reported when it just became obvious, long before I ever saw Fox News or any of its infobabes, that they just had no problem ignoring stories they didn't like and playing up stories they did like. Dan Rather's ambush of George H. W. Bush over Iran-Contra was a case in point--though Bush won that exchange handily.

Now with Fox and blogs and Google, the big anchors have a laughable hold on the official truth. When they go, I think it will be the end of what's left of the big media monopoly. We'll know for sure soon enough:

The first test may well come in 2004, when Tom Brokaw hands over the reins to Brian Williams. All eyes will be on the ratings to see whether the viewers are Brokaw loyal or network loyal.

Who is the next great anchor? Will there be one? Are Jennings, Brokaw, and Rather the temporary occupants of an enduring throne, or are they the last emperors? It will be the new technologies and lifestyles that become the deciding factors.

So? Goodnight Tom?Goodnight Dan?Goodnight Peter. You've each been magnificent and you deserve all the accolades a fellow journalist can bestow upon you, but when you're gone it will be a new day and the end of the evening news as we have known it.

Yup. Say goodnight, Tom, Peter and Dan. It's been real.

Posted by B. Preston at 02:37 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

TOM TOMORROW, TWIT

Blogburst on this Tom Tomorrow cartoon, mocking warbloggers.

Citizen Smash got Tommie Boy on record, not quite justifying and not quite disavowing his cartoon. Tom says he's not attacking bloggers who actually went to war, just bloggers who supported going to war.

Whatever.

Since Tom is being somewhat vague about which warbloggers he's actually criticizing, I'll assume he's criticizing me (not directly, just among other warbloggers). Thing is, I was in the military prior to the war, but got out long before the war started and didn't get back in once 9-11 happened. So I suppose in Tom's world that makes me a "chickenhawk."

Coming from a guy who in all likelihood never even bothered to wear a uniform beyond one of those McJob paper hats, whatever. Coming from a liberal whose free speech rights are made secure every day by people he otherwise doesn't get and doesn't want to get, whatever. You always have to consider the source when you're criticized, and since the "chickenhawk" label is coming from the likes of Tom Tomorrow, all I can do is shrug indifferently. I don't really expect better criticism from Tom Tomorrow, so I'm neither surprised nor disappointed by his little scribble.

But the "chickenhawk" label has been a persistent plague in this war. Anyone who supported war but didn't rush down to the recruiter to sign on has been slapped with it by liberal pundits and bloggers and generally by the anti-war crowd. It's obviously nothing more than one of many canards the anti-war crowd has tossed up to try and squelch the pro-war side of the debate--they figure calling us names or calling out our courage quotient will make us think twice about publicly opining in favor of a war we're not actually fighting in. The shameless hope to shame the rest of us into silence.

What. Ev. Er.

I served my country for a little over four years, 1993 to 1997. During that time we almost went to war with North Korea. China threatened Taiwan, and we sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to dissuade the ChiComs from aggression. We suffered the humiliation of Somalia. We suffered the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. We bombed Saddam every other weekend, and whenever subpoenas threatened Bill Clinton's access to interns. During all of these events, I was stationed in Japan, site of a terrorist sarin gas attack in 1995, and potential front line in any second Korean war or conflict in Taiwan. After exiting the Air Force in 1997, I remained in the inactive reserved until 2000. Today I'm a free man, but I'm no less involved in the war than I would be if I were still in uniform, for one simple reason: Our streets are the front line. Everywhere is the front line--9-11 proved that beyond reasonable doubt. On 9-11, terrorist-controlled planes crashed to my south, northwest and north in New York. The Pentagon is less than a two-hour drive from my home.

Since establishing this blog, I've been involved in all sorts of little anti-terror actions, from finding and exposing terror-supporting web sites and referring them to the FBI, to simply arguing the case for various responses to the terrorist threat. None of these efforts are enough, and in fact probably don't add up to much in the grand scheme of things, and I am always looking at ways to get more involved. But there is one simple reason I have yet to re-enlist in the military on active duty: I have a son. That changed everything, at least for me.

When I entered the military in 1993, I was single and unattached. I could do anything, go anywhere I pleased. I chose the military. I later met my wife, left active duty and in 1999 we had our son. By the time 9-11 hit we were firmly established in our post-military life. I cannot see uprooting everything and going back to active duty when my Air Force specialty--loosely defined as "command information," meaning low-level "news" and entertainment programming--seems superfluous to the cause. If I had been a combat pilot, my attitude would probably be very different, but perhaps not, since my responsibilities to my wife and especially son are priorities for me. And had 9-11 occurred while I was still on active duty, I would have stayed on for at least another tour of duty, family or no family.

Like most Americans, 9-11 and its aftermath prompted some soul-searching on my part. I felt like I had to do something, but didn't know what. I assumed the vast majority of Americans, indeed humans, saw the need to destroy al Qaeda, the Taliban and anyone and anything aligned with them. I soon discovered blogs, having tired quickly of the ill-informed garbage the media spooned out, and found something I could do. I could blog, try and offer some perspective on events, try and counter the anti-war and anti-American spinners that rose up to try and thwart everything that had to be done. I knew it wasn't much, but it was something.

In spite of the fact that the JYB will be two years old in a few weeks, and in spite of the fact that I have probably published hundreds of thousands of words here and reached tens of thousands of readers both here and in published work, and in spite of the fact that the JYB nudges more imporant things to the edges of my life sometimes, I still feel like blogging isn't enough. I don't know what would be enough. Given my age, I have roughly 18 months to decide whether or not to give the military another try in some capacity. And I'm thinking about it.

Whatever I decide, I'm no chickenhawk. I live on the front lines as it is. And so do you. That is what Tom Tomorrow and his ilk still don't get, and apparently never will.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TOBACCO BAIT AND SWITCH

Remember waaay back in 1998, when the various states of the Union settled their massive multi-billion dollar lawsuits with the eeevil tobacco industry? The states solemnly pledged to use the massive windfall on The Children. The states said they would use the money to fund smoking cessation programs, and tobacco education programs, and generally use it to keep The Children from ever contemplating lighting up.

Lots of people, mostly conservatives, said the states would not live up to their word. We said the states would take the money and run, using it to fund all sorts of things completely unrelated to smoking or The Children.

According to a new study (there's always a new study on these things), the skeptics were right: State governments have behaved badly with tobacco settlement money:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Five years after reaching $246 billion in legal settlements against the tobacco industry, most states have failed to keep their promise to spend a significant portion of the money on programs to protect kids from tobacco and help those already addicted to quit, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations. The report also finds that the limited restrictions on tobacco marketing contained in the November 1998 multi-state settlement have failed to curtail the tobacco industry's ability to aggressively market its products, including in ways that appeal to children.

Four states did what they said they would do, the others have spent the tobacco money on all sorts of other things, and several have actually cut anti-tobacco spending since extorting wads of cash from the tobacco industry. Of course, that's all according to the study, which was put together by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association. All of these organizations have some axe to grind on the tobacco issue, so while I generally trust the results some skepticism of their findings is in order. It's just a generally responsible thing to be skeptical when any advocacy group or group of advocacy groups releases a study that can form the basis of a political argument for or against something. I'd like to see some disinterested party parse the numbers just to double-check.

I bring that angle up because, (adopting crotchety old man voice) back in my days as a radio news hound, I'd get scads of press releases from various groups proffering numbers from this or that study to buttress some point that they were organized to promote (end old man voice). Most often these groups funded the study themselves. I heard this story on the radio this morning, and I immediately thought about how the story made its way to air--it probably showed up late yesterday or early this morning as a press release at radio and TV stations all around the country. The blurb I heard today expressed no skeptism of the study, and did not clearly identify the story's source. It did not mention any press release, which was most likely the source. In fact, the story I linked is in all likelihood the press release itself, and US Newswire is just carrying it because they are a paid news outlet.

None of which means the study itself is tainted or that the story is wrong--I expected the states to embezzle the tobacco settlement money, and the study gives us the wholly unsurprising result that the states have done so. But it's important, I think, to know where news comes from. Far more often than most newsies will ever admit, the news you get from local outlets comes straight from some PR outfit. The local newsies often don't even bother to re-write the press release--they will just truncate it to fit their newscasts.

That's often how local news works--straight from the PR firm to your home, unfiltered by healthy skepticism or balance.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2003

GORE AND CIVIL LIBERTIES

"It is important to remember that throughout history, the loss of civil liberties by individuals and the aggregation of too much unchecked power in the executive go hand in hand," Gore said. "They are two sides of the same coin." --Al Gore, Nov 9, 2003

Al Gore, Vice President during the 1993 raid on the Branch Dividians in Waco, TX which resulted in the deaths of over 100 men, women and children--and Al Gore, Vice President at a time when federal agents stormed the home of Cuban exiles at dawn in order to seize a little boy and return him to Fidel Castro's Cuba, has some nerve taking anyone to task on civil liberties. His administration attacked and killed more American citizens than Islamist terrorists--and he lectures Bush about civil liberties lost after 9-11.

That's rich.

What's even richer is that he is also lambasting the Bush administration for the Patriot Act, a law passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support that contains many reforms that Gore himself suggested nearly a decade before 9-11.

In 1993, Vice President Al Gore worked on a series of reforms called the Partnership for Reinventing Government. Among the emergent proposals was something called the Directorate of Centralized Law Enforcement. Keep in mind that Osama bin Laden hadn't reared his tick-ridden head yet, and thus there was no pressing need such as a war against terrorism to spur on such a Bolshevik-sounding "reform" of law enforcement to cope with new threats. Gore's DLE ideas included the following:

The DLE should reinvent federal law enforcement to ensure activities are coordinated and critical resources are shared.

Supposing Scripps-Howard got the story right, they reported in 1993 that Gore "drafted a proposal to transfer all federal law enforcement activities to the Justice Department. The new 'Directorate of Central Law Enforcement,' headed by the attorney general, would oversee the FBI, the DEA, Secret Service, Customs Service, Internal Revenue Service, Postal Service and BATF." How Patriotic.

The devil is in the details, I guess, because the DLE recommendation became part of the Patriot Act, and is part of the raison d'etre for the Department of Homeland Security--streamline and share law enforcement resources. But in more limited form than Gore apparently proposed in 1993--I could be wrong, but I don't think the Patriot Act put the Secret Service and most of those other agencies under the attorney general's command.

And Gore is somewhat of a split personality case on the alleged evils of the USA Patriot Act.

The administration has still failed to address the fundamental disorganization and rivalries of our law enforcement, intelligence and investigative agencies. In particular, the critical FBI-CIA coordination, while finally improved at the top, still remains dysfunctional in the trenches.

In other words, Patriot is so bad that we need more of it.

He also lambasted the Bush administration for abuses that neither he nor anyone else can verify have even occurred. In his Nov 9 speech before a crowd at MoveOn.org, Gore offers not one single documented abuse of civil liberties resulting from Patriot. He bemoans the treatment of "enemy combatants," but offers no suggestion for how we should treat non-uniformed non-citizens captured in the course of war against the Taliban or caught plotting terror attacks in the US. Gore paints a picture of widespread abuse, but to date the only US citizen being held as a "enemy combatant" is Jose Padilla, the man allegedly caught scouting an al Qaeda dirty bomb plot on US soil. Padilla's case is troubling for a whole range of reasons, but Gore failed to mention him, and failed to address how we should treat him and any other citizen caught in similar circumstances. He just carped, as usual.

Here's another fun one:

Or, to take another change -- and thanks to the librarians, more people know about this one -- the FBI now has the right to go into any library and ask for the records of everybody who has used the library and get a list of who is reading what.

Has this happened? Has the FBI actually used this authority in any way?

Pressed to answer this very question on Meet the Press this weekend, Sen. John Edwards could not point to a single verified case in the two years Patriot, which he supported and voted for, has been on the books. Here's the exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: Some Democrats have a different view: ďJoe Biden of Delaware called criticism of the Patriot Act. Dianne Feinstein, (Democrat, California), mounted a strong defense of the Patriot Act, saying she believes that there is substantial uncertainty and perhaps some ignorance about what this bill actually does do and how itís employed. ...I have never had a single abuse of the Patriot Act reported to me.Ē Have you? SEN. EDWARDS: To me, personally? No. But the independent inspector general in the Justice Department has found 34 credible complaints under the Patriot Act. I think in the firstóif Iíve got the timing right, the first six months of this year, I think itís a serious issue. I respect Joe Biden and Dianne very much, but I think we know that there have been abuses, and the inspector generalís findings would show that.

Actually, no--the inspector general's findings show 34 complaints, not any actual abuse. And note that the 34 complaints are not specific to the library issue, or to any other specific Democrat complaint about Patriot--they're just unnamed complaints, and could cover anything. Edwards is playing a shell game in even mentioning them in connection with a discussion on the library book issue--they may have nothing to do with snooping in libraries. And that number--34--actually seems low to me, given the scope of Patriot and the time it has been law and the number of people it could potentially effect (all of us). Statistically, I'd expect a higher number of credible complaints than 34--I've gotten as many complaints from some blog posts I've written, and most of them were credible. And surely a trial lawyer like Edwards knows the difference between a complaint and actual verfied abuse? If he doesn't, I suggest a class in basic English. And Al Gore should join him.

While he's studying English, Gore might benefit from a class in logic:

I want to challenge the Bush Administrationís implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists.

Because it is simply not true.

In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden.

Google all you want--I promise you you will never, ever find a single instance of anyone in the Bush administration arguing that we must attack Iraq in order to "get at" Osama bin Laden. Nor have they argued that we must launch an assault on our civil liberties in order to "get at" terrorists. What the Bush administration has argued is that Saddam Hussein posed a threat for a variety of reasons and should be removed from power in Iraq, and it has argued here and there that strengthening some laws and generally streamlining law enforcement and reorganizing the federal government would help us catch terrorists before they strike. That does not translate into an "implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists." These are both arguable positions--that Saddam was a threat and that we should streamline law enforcement and reorganize government--but they are actual positions, unlike the straw men Gore set up in his Nov 9 MoveOn speech. That those lines in Gore's speech elicited raucous applause underscores the fact that many Americans could also benefit from some logic training--they were nonsensical lines based on phony reasoning, demagoguery at work.

The rest of the Gore speech is just as much blather and nonsense, so I won't go into a full Fisking. Read it for yourself--is a leaked Democrat memo pledging to politicize the very way the Senate handles intelligence-related issues and investigations really a "trivial political dispute?" And wonder--why is the same Al Gore who proposed in 1993 much of what became the Patriot Act in 2001 criticizing the implementation of that set of laws in 2003, as being at the same time too heavy and yet not heavy enough? And ask yourself--is anyone even remotely responsible for Waco while ignoring the growing terrorist threat even qualified to judge any other administration's handling of civil liberties and the rights of US citizens?

(thanks to reader Brent H.)

Posted by B. Preston at 03:18 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

DEMOCRATS.COM PROMOTES MOONBATS

Barking, raving moonbats who can't put a coherent sentence together get Dems.com's approval, as long as they can state one thing clearly: their hatred for George W. Bush. From a page highlighting what the site calls growing Republican dissatisfaction with President Bush:

Democrats.com Note: We are receiving an increasing number of letters from disgruntled Republicans and ex-Republicans who will vote for Democrats in 2004 because they are outraged by Bush and the right-wing Republicans.

Naturally, NONE of this is being reported in the Republican-controlled media, but it is clearly reflected in polls which show many Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents planning to vote against Bush.

If you know of other anti-Bush Republicans, please encourage them to tell us why they plan to vote against Bush by writing us at http://democrats.com/contact

Note that not a single actual poll is cited, not a single link backing up Dems.com's assertions is offered. Just noise. In support of this alleged anti-Bush Republican juggernaut, Dems.com offers but a single letter:

__Georgia Republican Vows to Vote 'Straight Democratic Ticket'

Carol Harris of Georgia writes, "I have always voted straight Republican ticket
until this last election. I would NOT vote for Bush, because he's not what he
presents himself to be. I'd rather vote for the devil! I will vote straight
Democratic [to be] sure we don't elect any of Bush's 'friends'! I do not agree
with PROCHOICE! I am against all abortions. It's being used as a form of birth
control, and I still believe it is murder. However, that's just a small thing as
far as I'm concerned, because people are going to do what they want to do
anyway. Bush only 'says' he's prolife to get people's eyes on that issue and off
of what he's really doing. Just like the war issue, it's a smoke screen! His own
wife is a murderer, and why protect unborn babies if you're going to send their
parents out to be killed in some ridiculous war? He's leaving a path of broken
families and parentless children across this country, and it doesn't make any
difference to him... I literally hate that man!"

As the overrated Josh Marshall would say, let's unpack this.

Democrats.com publishes a poorly-written letter from someone claiming to have been lifelong Republican, but who is now going to punch all her chads for the Democrats in order to remove Bush and his "friends" from power. It's a screed unworthy of a sixth-grade slacker, but it's good enough for Dems.com.

As to substance, the letter writer wishes readers to know the following: That the same George W. Bush who just signed into law the ban on partial birth abortions is not in fact pro-life--his pro-life stance is meant to distract everyone from something else. I happen to be capable of holding more than one thought in my head at any one time, thus the potential distracting influence of signing a law I support on paying attention to some unnamed presumably evil Bush scheme is nil. I suspect the vast majority of Americans of all political persuasions can also hold two thoughts in mind at the same time, and are thus just as unlikely to have one issue distract them from another. But the editors at Democrats.com apparently think otherwise, and offer this letter for our consideration. To the extent that the editors at Dems.com agree with Ms. Harris, that you and I are so easily distracted by a multiplicity of issues, they hold you and I in contempt. They think we are dumb.

And, if the writer is correct, then President Bush would be secretly pro-choice. What does that say about the power of the abortion issue in America? That a man must lie--claim to be pro-life when he is in fact pro-choice--to get himself elected? It seems to me that Dems.com is conceding considerable ground here on the viability of pro-choice positioning as a winning electoral tactic. Given the fact that the vast majority of Dems.com's readers are pro-choice, is exposing Bush's alleged secret abortion stance really a wise thing to do? It might actually soften some of the opposition to him in pro-choice circles. Pro-lifers, who for the most part do not read rants posted at Democrats.com, are still none the wiser about Bush's secret, and are thus still supportive of him as a pro-life President. Heads, Bush wins. Tails, Bush's opposition loses.

The writer asserts that she would rather vote for the devil than George W. Bush next fall. In that, she has veered into yellow-dog Democrat territory. She'll be right at home with her equally open-minded new political fellow travelers. They can have one another.

She also asserts that, like abortion, the war itself is just a distraction, a way for Bush to keep our eyes off some other scheme in operation. But the writer fails to offer any details, or even a sketch, of what that scheme actually is. But following that, we get a hint:

His own wife is a murderer

Laura Bush, renegade from the law? Bush's pro-life stance, and um, the war, are meant to distract us from an upcoming episode of Cops showing a pixellated Laura's arrest on the steps of a large and impressive home in Washington? That, to say the least, is a stretch. At least the Vince Foster conspiracy theorists had an actual body to point to--Ms. Harris' murder is vaporware, a figment of a fertile if verbally challenged imagination.

But Dems.com thinks her letter is worthy to print. Because in their opinion, it gets one thing right: hatred of President Bush. Or because it was the only one they had available. Take your pick.

In their world, and in fact across much of the left, that one shared opinion is enough to cover nearly any sin, and is enough to win you brownie points with formerly reasonable people. You see it in the "Anyone But Bush" bumper stickers. Do Democrats really think anyone would be better than Bush? Anyone? John Wayne Gacy? Pol Pot? Joseph Stalin? Saddam Hussein? Anyone but Bush? You hear it in the speeches Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich deliver before crowds gathered by International ANSWER on the National Mall--ANSWER being a Stalinist outfit dedicated to overthrowing the government that meets at one end of that Mall. And you see it in irrational screeds such as the one above, and in Clinton-connected web sites that print them.

Because they all agree on one thing: They hate President Bush. Such hatred is irrational, illogical and unreasonable--but it's a fact.

Democrats.com and Carol Harris of Georgia are a perfect match: A raving loon finds a vehicle to propagate her ill-formed conspiracy theories. And the link between them is the same link that unites much of the anti-war, anti-Bush left: pure, unfiltered hate. At least Harris has the honesty to admit it.

And if Harris' letter is the best one Dems.com can find (or invent?) to argue that Republicans are ready to vote against Bush en masse next year, I suspect Bush has very little worry about. Contrary to the hopes of Democrats.com, Bush's base is secure.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:29 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

YOU'RE FREE

If you're an American, a Canadian, an Englishman, a Frenchman, a German, a Japanese, a South Korean, a Mexican, an Irishman, a Scot, a Pole or a Swede or a Jew or an Iraqi, etc--you're free. That's because, somewhere, at some time, someone put themselves in harm's way for you. Many of them gave the ultimate sacrifice; many of them even fought alongside your countrymen, and many fought against your own government, but you are nonetheless free.

You may not have been born yet. Your protector probably had no idea that you, or anyone connected with you, even existed. You and your protector may not have even shared the same century, spoken the same language or believed in the same God.

But you're free.

And veterans of the armed forces of the United States of America, living and dead, are responsible.

Never forget that.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack