Monday, November 29, 2004

Marcland revisited

For the last few weeks I have been troubled by the sudden disappearance of the ninja blog dojo known as Marcland. Well, Marc is back. And this time, it's personal.

All I can say is: Watch your back, Storm Shadow.


PS - I have no proof that Marc is involved in this atrocity, but I don't have proof of his non-involvement, either.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Georgia on my mind

The blogosphere has noticed that something is going on in Ukraine. As it turns out, I have been studying Ukrainian ethnic politics for the last couple of years, so I have been following this very closely. From what I can tell, it appears that the regional/ethnic political divide which I have been writing about has played a very important part in the election. The tide seems to have turned against the Russians, and the Ukrainians seem to have passed the tipping point. Kuchma will not be able to pass the torch to Yanukovich without substantial help from Moscow. And it looks to me that Putin is not willing to plunge over the brink.

I was at a conference on Ukraine a month ago in Ottawa and there was a panel discussion about possible election outcomes. Everyone assumed that Kuchma would use as much influence as possible to sway the populace away from voting for Yushchenko, but that this would not be enough and in the end he would have to falsify the election results in order to declare Yanukovich the winner. In this they appear to have been right on the money.

People differed on what would happen next. First there was the question of whether the fraudulent results would be close enough to convince the populace that they could make a difference by hitting the streets and protesting. They seem to have been close enough, because people are turning out in huge numbers.

This being the case, there were predictions that Kiev would be closed from the west and flooded with folks from the East, in order to suppress popular demonstrations in the capital. This has happened.

There were disagreements on how much Russia would intervene. So far, Putin has congratulated Yanukovich as the winner and then recanted and said that he only offered him congratulations based on early returns and that he is waiting to see who is officially declared the winner. There are also very credible reports of Russian spetznats troops in Ukrainian military uniforms deployed in the capital to protect Kuchma, but so far to my knowledge there has not been any shooting. Russian intervention is still an open question, but it appears that Putin is playing it cautious.

There was also disagreement at the conference about the way that the Ukrainian military would respond. The consensus was that Kuchma had carefully selected which units would be allowed to mobilize, on the basis of their supposed loyalty to him. Some predicted massacres of protestors, but this has not happened yet. So far, protestors have replayed scenes from the US in the sixties, pinning orange flags (for Yushchenko) and flowers on the soldiers and their guns. The defense minister has been playing it cool and has said that there would be no mass mobilization to maintain order. Given this reaction, I would suppose that the opposition has been talking to the defense minister, as Yeltsin and his people talked to important officers during the hardliner coup. I would have thought the Russians would be aware of such dangers, but perhaps the defense minister is more firmly in Kuchma's corner than he appears to be at the moment. And, in a move that I did not hear predicted at the conference, some Ukrainian militia units have been swearing loyalty oaths to Yushchenko. It is not clear how widespread this phenomenon is, but I naturally suppose that it is most prominent in the west. If this is so (and I see no reason to believe otherwise), this could mean civil war if people start shooting.

Another event I did not see predicted at the conference is that the Greek Catholic church has declared Yushchenko the winner. To my knowledge, other churches have not taken sides. It will be interesting if they do.

My prediction? I think we will see a Georgia-style popular revolution with little violence. The real question is whether Putin's support will embolden Kuchma (and to a lesser extent, Yanukovich), but for the moment at least Putin seems to be wary of throwing Russia's full weight behind their boys in Ukraine. Without such support, the spark for conflict would have to come from the west, which I think is less likely.

But I guess we will see.


PS - To my imaginary readers: My apologies for the lack of links. Work schedule permitting, I will put more in later.

PPS - To my professors who thought that my conclusions were too strong: How ya like me now?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Mr. Personality

Pictures of Kim Jong-Il are disappearing in Pyongyang. In one of the few remaining cult-of-personality states in the world, can this be anything other than a good sign?


UPDATE 11/18: It's been interesting to see the meltdown of the Democrats here in the US, who bet all their political capital on a losing horse. I have wondered if perhaps there aren't politicians in foreign parts who likewise bet wrong and are suffering the political consequences. I'll admit, I thought it would be folks like Chirac and Schroeder, and not Kim Jong-il. But maybe that's what's happening.
Flappy Bird

Holy crap! I'm a Flappy Bird! Thanks, everyone!


Monday, November 15, 2004

Cabinet changes

It seems that four more department heads will be announcing their departures from President Bush's cabinet. The four Secretaries are: Colin Powell (State), Rod Paige (Education), Ann Veneman (Agriculture), and Spencer Abraham (Energy). John Ashcroft (Justice) and Don Evans (Commerce) have already submitted their resignations, which means a total of six new faces in the cabinet next year.

In comparison, President Clinton's cabinet had seven changes immediately after Clinton's reelection in 1996. Here's a chart (sort of) for comparison:


DEPT. 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
STATE WMC-------------------MA----------------
TREAS LB--------RER-------------------LS------
DEF LA-----WJP------------WSC---------------
JUSTC JR--------------------------------------
INTER BB--------------------------------------
AGRIC ME----------DG--------------------------
COM RB---------------MK---WMD------------NM-
LABOR RBR-------------------AH----------------
HHS DES-------------------------------------
HUD HGC-------------------AMC---------------
TRANS FFP-------------------RS----------------
ENRGY HRO-------------------FFP--BR-----------
ED RWR-------------------------------------
VA JB-------------------------TDW----------


DEPT. 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
STATE CLP------------------CR--
TREAS PHO-------JS-------------
DEF DHR----------------------
JUSTC JA-------------------AG--
INTER GAN----------------------
AGRIC AMV------------------XX--
COM DLE------------------XX--
LABOR ELC----------------------
HHS TGT----------------------
HUD MRM---------AJ-----------
TRANS NYM----------------------
ENRGY SA-------------------XX--
ED RRP------------------XX--
VA AP-----------------------
HS TR-------------

More complete information on the cabinets can be found here. It is important to note that this list includes only heads of executive branch departments, and not other cabinet-level officials. The White House considers six other officials to be cabinet-rank: the VP, the President's chief of staff, the USTR, the drug czar, and the heads of the OMB and EPA.

Of these, I am not aware of any announced changes, although concerns about Cheney's health have sparked speculation that he might retire. (If he does, I know who I want to replace him.)

How many more changes are in store? The CIA just got a new boss in September, but Bill Mueller has been head of FBI since 2001, so a change is not out of the question. Other important members of the president's foreign policy team are departing as well.

Anyway, I don't know that there is a point to this post. I just think the turnover is interesting. If any of my imaginary readers would like to speculate about who else might leave, or who might get a new job as a cabinet secretary, leave a comment.


UPDATE: Sorry those "charts" are ugly. I can't seem to make regular html tables work in blogspot for some reason. Suggestions?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Dept. of Rich Widows Advisory System

A spokesman for Sen. John F. Kerry confirmed today that events in the Middle East have raised the Rich Widow Alert from ELEVATED (What can I say about Teresa?) to HIGH (Trial separation). Experts warn that the alert level may rise again to EXTREME (Filing for annulment).

With friends like these

Bob Jones recently congratulated President Bush on his electoral victory. (Hat tip: INDC Journal.) Sometimes I think that the best argument for supporting Bush is the list of those who call themselves his enemies. Anything that Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, and Ted Rall oppose is probably a good thing for me to support.

On the other hand, there are plenty of despicable people who call themselves Bush's friends. This includes Bob Jones, who certainly is no friend to me and mine. And of course there's that idiot Pat Robertson. And that fat buffoon Jerry Falwell.

Maybe I shouldn't judge my Democratic friends too harshly. As the Bible says: Let he who is without horrible cretins in his party cast the first stone...

Blog Empire

The Commissar has once again mapped the blogosphere. The map, as usual, looks great. All it needs is a little link back to this blog. I suggest "Paynemont" where the Piedmont is now. But beggars, as they say, are filthy and smelly.

I know I am.


UPDATE: Hooray! I got added!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Who's your daddy?

You do know who your daddy is, don't you?

A little less Karl Rove? Are you kidding me?

(Tip of the hat to our good friends the Llamas.)


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

No more red and blue

If you or anyone you know has used the phrase "red states" or "blue states" in the past month, I have three suggestions. First, never utter those words again. Second, read this article and study the accompanying map. Third, never utter those words again. Thank you.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Thank you, paranoid potheads

In 2000, fifty million people voted for George W. Bush. This year, although the results are still being added up, it appears that fifty-eight or fifty-nine million people voted for George W. Bush.

Thank you, Michael Moore, and all your wild-eyed, unwashed hippie friends. Four years of crazy talk and whining have convinced eight or nine million Americans to vote Republican. Now, please move to France, as you have promised you would.

Thanks again, and good night.


(UPDATE 11/29: It now appears that George W. Bush got almost sixty-one million votes. So the Democrats managed to convince not eight, not nine, but more than ten million Americans to vote Republican. Thanks, guys! You're the best!)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A last-minute plea

Good morning, imaginary readers. Before you go to the polls today (and you darn well better go), please do me one small favor and watch this campaign ad. I think it speaks for itself. Thank you.

(Hat tip: Dean.)


Monday, November 01, 2004

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

UPDATE: Not true. I don't know what happened this morning, but when I looked at my blog, my trackbacks had disappeared. I'm not sure why. I fiddled with HaloScan and got the feature back, but all the old trackbacks previously associated with past posts are still gone. Too bad.
The final countdown

In thirty-six hours, the apocalypse.

I'll be in my specially prepared shack in the hills, going over my checklist. Leather jacket and shotgun? Check. Knife? Check. Rations? Check. Teddy bear? Check. Eyepatch? Check. Angst-ridden robot girlfriend? Check. 1973 Ford XB GT Hardtop? Check. Bicycle? Check. Roller skates? Super-awesome sailboat? Check.

Hey, you can't be too careful.


UPDATE: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Book of the month

T is for Terrible, by Peter McCarty

I have already confessed that I am a huge nerd. So I hope you will believe me when I say that I have read a lot of books.

This one is the Best Book Ever.

I was walking through Porter Square a month or so ago and saw this new bookstore. It looked like just another hippie store, and so I wasn't too interested in staying, but my mom was visiting and she wanted to look around a bit. So I went to the children's book section and poked around. As soon as I saw the cover, I was sold.

I can not help that I am so terrible.

I thumbed through it and began to giggle uncontrollably. I bought it immediately, with the thought that I would give it to my niece or one of my nephews. But when I got home and read it again, I decided to keep it for myself. Imaginary readers, believe me when I tell you that this is the apex of English literature. Shakespeare, Milton, Eliot-- all of them steps toward this, the pinnacle.

When I was born, I came out of an egg.

This is a great book. My friend Max, who is getting an English PhD at Harvard, agrees with me. So does everyone else I have shown this book to. During the ALCS and the world series, every time David Ortiz stepped up to the plate we would recite passages from the book. He cannot help that he is so enormous, and so enormously hungry. He cannot help that the ground shakes when he runs.

And look at the pictures!

David Ortiz is sad that the Cardinals don't want to play with him.

I guess what I am saying is, buy this book. Buy one for each small child that you love. Because denying them this book is like denying them shoes, or milk. It's a crime.

And next time a big fat hungry dinosaur chases you, take a moment to remember that he can not help that he is so terrible, and so terribly hungry. But he is, so don't stop and try to make friends.


Saturday, October 30, 2004

War crimes watch

Gilly has the goods on the real terrorist. You know who I mean.


P.S. Last night in Harvard Square there was a big choir of LaRouchies singing a requiem or something. Very baroque-sounding. They all had signs either condeming Bush and/or Cheney or endorsing Kerry. I didn't see any signs about Edwards; I'm not sure what that means. But what an incredible collection of wild-eyed nuts. Is it just Halloween, or are these people scary all year round? Whatever. I can't wait for this election to be over. Just let whoever wins, win decisively, so that these moonbats will shut their crazy-holes. Anything, even four years of Kerry, is better than this parade of insanity.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Thanks, Red Sox

(I thought posted this earlier, but it seems that Blogger ate it. So, a repost.)

I am not a native New Englander or a lifelong Sox fan, so my own happiness at seeing the Red Sox win the world series pales in comparison to the elation felt by many, many others. But I think this headline says it all: Take that curse and shove it. Thanks, idiots.

Iraqi civilian deaths

I haven't had time to read the full report yet, but this summary gives me plenty to think about. To summarize the summary, in the eighteen months since the American invasion of Iraq, civilian death rates appear to be 1.5 times higher than they were in the last year or so of Saddam's rule. (This does not include data from Fallujah. With the Fallujah data, the rate is nearly 2.5 times higher.)

It is important to note that this study is examining all civilian deaths, and that 70-90% of them are from things like heart attacks. So pay no attention to anti-warriors who say this means American GIs have killed a hundred thousand Iraqis.

That said, it is troubling to note that the civilian death rate is higher now than under Saddam. To be specific, the report says that one hundred thousand more Iraqis died this year than would have died under Saddam. That is hard to believe. UNICEF and other opponents of the UN-mandated sanctions claimed that about sixty thousand infants and children were dying each year as a result of the sanctions. So I think there's something hinky about these numbers. As I said, though, I haven't read the full report yet, much less broken it down and figured it out.

But if any of my imaginary readers have some insight into this report, please enlighten me by leaving a comment.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush tells American people not to elect him

Since I pointed out Senator Kerry's detour into self-parody, I am legally obligated to point out this statement by President Bush:

"...a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief."

Well, then...

(Sorry, imaginary readers. I love Bush, too. But this one red-lines the irony-meter.)


(UPDATE: I know Bush would dispute that he jumped to conclusions without knowing the facts vis-a-vis Iraq. For the record, I would dispute that, too. But Kerry would likewise dispute my characterization of his efforts in Vietnam. But both of them, or more accurately, both of their speechwriters, would have done well to anticipate how these statements would sound to the opposition.)

(UPDATE 10/28: Copycat.)
President Bush, please stop calling me

Greetings, imaginary readers. No attempts at insight today. Just whining.

This morning, I got another call from Republican fundraisers, wanting to get money out of me for the final, critical days of the election. (Perhaps they also want money for the recount-- we didn't get that far in the call.) I donated fifty bucks to the Bush campaign late in the spring, but I think it's safe to say that they have spent more than fifty bucks trying to get me to give them more money. I hope Bush wins, but I don't have any more money to give him. I'm not just broke-- I'm in debt. This summer I was selling old textbooks to pay my rent. I'm poor.

And now, I wish I had given that fifty dollars to someone who would have spent it on something besides trying to get more donations. If I had a time machine, I would go back and tell me to give the money to Operation Give, or Spirit of America, or Truth About Iraq. Those organizations could all have used the money, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have wasted it on telemarketing.

In fact, I would say that my experience has discouraged me from donating to political campaigns in the future. From my point of view, Bush's campaign squandered the money I donated, and I don't like that. I also don't like getting hassled for money.

I like the federal do not call list. My name is on it. Maybe future campaigns should have a "do not call" option, too.


Monday, October 25, 2004

Kerry vows to bail out of War on Terror after four months

"With the same energy ... I put into going after the Viet Cong and trying to win for our country, I pledge to you I will hunt down and capture or kill the terrorists before they harm us," Kerry said. "And we will wage a war on terror that makes America proud and brings the world to our side."

Coming from a man who seems to have spent much more energy trying to get himself out of Vietnam than getting a victory in Vietnam, this statement does little to persuade me that Kerry will be stalwart in the fight against Islamo-fascists. If only he had pledged to devote the same energy that he has put into talking about going after the Viet Cong, I could feel better about a Kerry victory.


(UPDATE, 7:14 PM: I'm not the only one who's worried about this.)
Show trial

Check out the link-fest over at the Politburo Diktat. Of particular interest to me are Rusty's observations on life in the academy, and Superhawk's apprehensions about Saudi attempts to influence the election through manipulation of oil prices, which I wrote about several months ago. What is particularly interesting about this story is that it conflicts with the idea that Bush is a puppet of the Saudi royal family. Anyway, enough blogging. Back to work.


A note to those who believe in a vast, right-wing blogger conspiracy, obediently parroting carefully orchestrated leaks: This is what a coordinated assault looks like. And you know what? As Ace says, it's "not even close to decimating."

Believing that all the blogger attacks on Kerry come from a single source is a convenient fantasy. Myself, I am convinced that you do not need a conspiracy to get an assault that looks coordinated. All you need is a group of tenacious, inquisitive skeptics who are all interested in the same thing and are determined to keep pushing and prodding until they find what they are looking for.

Left-leaning reporters are more skeptical of the Republicans and so they are more dogged in their pursuit of stories that discredit Bush. Right-leaning bloggers are more skeptical of the Democrats and so they are more dogged in their pursuit of stories that discredit Kerry. Of course, professional journalists usually believe themselves to be unbiased reporters of objective fact, whereas bloggers usually are happy to admit that they are spouting their opinions. (This is not to say that blogs are without checks and balances, but that is a discussion for another day.) And of course, right-leaning bloggers are perhaps half of the blogosphere, whereas left-leaning reporters are a dominant majority.

But to return to the point, the whole point of the blogosphere is that it is a place where a thousand flowers bloom, like it or not. I would say that organizing a blogger attack is like herding cats, but that's not really true. Because anyone who reads blogs knows that bloggers tend to move in herds. But blog stampedes are self-organized and self-organizing.

It's like the invisible hand. Capitalism does not require a conspiracy. People want to buy, people want to sell. Letting them hook up with each other usually makes for greater efficiency than trying to manage or command economic development. Same story with the blogosphere. I won't say that there are never attempts to herd bloggers-- obviously there are. But it's less efficient. The real piranha blog frenzies don't require leaders. They just happen, believe it or not. Fast and furious? That's the blogosphere.

(Oh, for those of my imaginary readers who are sick of all the meta-story discussion, here's the actual story that today's post is about.)


Friday, October 22, 2004

Blogroll update

Howdy, imaginary readers. Just updating the old blogroll.

Let's start out with a couple of guys who I have been reading since forever, and probably so have you. First, Citizen Smash, a protest warrior and soldier whose military insights I find invaluable. Second, Frank J., whose In My World episodes allow me to dispense violent justice to unwashed hippies vicariously.

And now some terrific reference sites. Friends of Saddam is a blog dedicated to following the ongoing investigation into corruption in the UN administration of the Iraqi Oil-For-Food program. The Iraq Blog Count is your one-stop shop for Iraqi blogs. If someone over there is blathering on the net, IBC has the link.

I also want to link to a few friends of friends. The Llamas introduced me to Cake Eater Chronicles and the Hatemonger's Quarterly, and I have come to love both. Ditto Son of Nixon, who I found via the Ace of Spades.

Next, two blogs who have linked to my previous post. Thanks, Cartago Delenda Est and Esoteric Diatribe! Last, I don't remember where I found these, but they're both pretty cool: Airborne Combat Engineer and CyberPirate.

I ought to write more about all these folks, but it's time for me to quit messing about on the computer and get back to work.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Poisoning the well

(Apologies to my imaginary readers for ranting without linking. I will have to add hyperlinks to this later, but right now I just need to write this out. UPDATE 10/22 9:17 AM: Links added. If you can think of more I should add, put them in the comments.)

Good post from Powerline today about the international effects of this presidential campaign. Long story short, the viciousness of this campaign is hurting us abroad. I've noticed this, too, and I wanted to comment on it.

One of the things that many Democrats mention when they talk about Kerry is the terrible reputation that America has acquired during the Bush administration. Everybody hates us, nobody takes us seriously. (Remember Nikki's question, to which Kerry returned on several occasions, in the town hall debate?)

One factor that contributes to this deterioration is the way Democrats have talked about Bush, and about life in America under Bush. Europeans and others believe ridiculous things about Bush and about America because that's what they hear.

How ridiculous? In the Arab world, it is widely believed that thousands of Jews did not report to work in the World Trade Center before the September 11th attacks. Many Iraqis believe that soldiers' mirrored sunglasses allow them to see through clothing. A book claiming that the Pentagon was attacked not by hijackers but by the US government was a runaway bestseller in France in 2001 and 2002. And on the evening news in Germany it was recently reported as fact, not as paranoid internet rumor, that President Bush was being fed his answers in the debates via a device worn on his back under his jacket. Ridiculous.

One more example. I read a few months ago-- don't remember where-- about a Democrat in Scotland commenting to a bookstore clerk that everyone ought to see F9/11. The clerk replied bitterly that it was too bad Americans wouldn't be able to see it because of censorship.

Where do people like this Scottish clerk get ideas like this? Well, because a few loudmouths (mostly) in the US have complained about the "chill wind" of censorship. What they are usually talking about when they say censorship is this: private citizens choosing not to give money to the anti-Bush entertainers. I also hear talking heads on TV talk about the stifling of debate or dissent. By debate, the critics mean everyone agreeing with them. Since there are people in the US who do not agree that "BUSH LIED! PEOPLE DIED!" debate has been stifled.

Foreigners who hear this talk, though, do not know that Ashcroft has not censored Tim Robbins. They do not know that there is plenty of debate here about Bush's policies. Not seeing through the hyperbole, they believe that the Bush administration is practicing censorship for real.

(It would, of course, be nice if Bush-haters everywhere would be able to see the terrible, crushing irony in claiming to know that dissent has been stifled because that's what the dissenters are always saying on CNN, etc. But perhaps this is too much to expect.)

I've seen a similar phenomenon in religious families. Sometimes parents criticize church leaders or fellow congregants. The parents have faith that is deep-rooted enough that they remain religious despite their complaints. But the children hear the criticisms, and lacking the foundation that their parents have, become disillusioned and drop out.

Michael Moore, likewise, claims to love his country. But when he talks about it, he mostly says bad things. His foreign audiences start without Moore's alleged patriotism and admiration of America, etc.-- should we not expect that they will be even more critical of this country than he is? Further, many governments in this world are very, very nasty. Consider what a Russian or an Egyptian accepts as standard state behavior and then ask yourself what this person will think when they hear hyperbolic claims about the Bush administration's 'assault on civil rights.'

Even European governments, which are very nice by international standard, have nothing like the first amendment. A German colleague of mine today was complaining about negative campaign ads, and remarked that such advertising was illegal back home. In the US, such government limitation of private speech would not be countenanced, but it raises no eyebrows in Europe. If such censorship is normal in Europe, what must Europeans be thinking when they hear Americans complain about censorship? Should we not expect that they will imagine something quite dreadful?

One other thing to consider. We have heard of Kerry's substantial advantage among Americans who hold passports. I think it is reasonable to suppose that Kerry's lead is even larger among the expatriate community (as well as the ever-growing community of aspiring expatriates). Democrats Abroad have big parties, fundraisers, etc.-- not so for Republicans. From this, I infer that ordinary Americans abroad are spreading the same type of misinformation as more prominent critics. And judging from the number of Americans I know who claim to be Canadian when abroad in order to avoid confrontation, I would guess that there are not many Americans out there who are working against the propaganda.

Not all of this is new, of course. Noam Chomsky has been a vocal critic of American society and American politics for decades, and for decades he has been popular throughout the world, and especially in Europe. (Thanks Noam!)

But a lot of this I think can be chalked up to the effects of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Sensible, patriotic Americans are saying stupid things, and foreigners are listening and learning. And the legacy of this poisonous speech will be felt for years to come. If Kerry is elected, he will have to deal with it. If not him, perhaps Hillary in 2008. Sooner or later, some Democratic president is going to have to drink from this poisoned well.


[UPDATE, 10/21 5:31 PM: Thanks to Deacon and the rest of the guys at Powerline for the link! And as I said at the top of this post, I'm going to be putting more hyperlinks in, now that I've got all my thoughts down on paper, so to speak.]
No joy in Mudville

Two quotes. One:

"I was talking to (veteran hurler) Terry Mulholland (in 1993), and he said the awesome thing about being a starting pitcher is you have the ability to make 55,000 people shut up when you're on the road," Schilling said yesterday.

"I'm not sure of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 people from New York shut up," he added with a laugh.


Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,

but there is no joy in Mudville --
mighty Casey has struck out.

Thanks, Sox.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

We, the government

Former Vice-President Al Gore gave a speech last night at Georgetown University. In it, he made a statement that I think is very revealing:

Truly, President Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what rightfully belongs to the American people and give as much of it as possible to the already wealthy and privileged.

Hindrocket from Powerline says he can't figure out what in the world Gore is talking about; I think he's talking about the tax cuts. I wish I could find the whole speech somewhere so I could see this quote in its full context. But from the bits and pieces that I can find on the web, this is the only sensible way I can find to interpret his remarks.

Now, if Gore is talking about the tax cuts when he says that Bush has tried to "take what rightfully belongs to the American people and give as much of it as possible to the already wealthy and privileged," then what does he mean by 'the American people'? How is a tax cut TAKING what belongs to the American people? Isn't it GIVING BACK to the American people? That doesn't fit. But from the meager context available to us, it sure seems like he is talking about the tax cuts.

So we have to parse the statement more closely. Perhaps the communication breakdown is caused by Gore defining terms differently than I do. So, let's try this: Who exactly is getting their money taken away? And who is getting money given to them? Hmm... How about this:

the American people = the government

the already wealthy and privileged = taxpayers

Now the quote makes perfect sense! From this point of view, when I get less money because of taxes it's not because the IRS takes my money and gives it to pathologically counterproductive bureaucraticies. No, because it's not my money. That money belongs to the American people, and they should keep it. As a DNC fundraiser once told Lileks: “Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”

Well, Mr. Gore, as a certain Texan is fond of saying, "We have a fundamental difference of opinion."


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Ask a stupid question

Since John Kerry and John Edwards are trying to open up a national dialogue on homosexuality in America, I have a few questions. Why is it that gay people support Kerry/Edwards even though they state that their position on gay marriage is exactly the same as the Bush/Cheney position?

Is there some other gay issue in this election that I'm not aware of? I wonder why Bush doesn't get more credit for putting out more money to fight AIDS than all other American presidents put together. Then again, Kerry says it's not enough and that he'll do more. All right.

I wonder why Bush doesn't get more credit for overthrowing a regime (Taliban) that executed many, many people for committing homosexual acts. I wonder why Bush doesn't get more credit for creating (or trying to create) two new democratic regimes in which Islamic values are tempered with western respect for human rights-- and consequently homosexuality is not a capital offense.

What is it about Bush that gay people don't like? Is it that he's an evangelical Christian? Is it that his administration includes evangelical Christians like John Ashcroft? Is it that he is supported by evangelical Christians like Pat Robertson? Does that scare them? Do they feel threatened? I've learned from liberals that when straight people feel threatened by homosexuals, this means that way deep down they really are homosexuals. So doesn't this Robertson-phobia reveal the hidden shameful truth that gay people secretly really ARE evangelical Christians? Or worse, Republicans?

Anybody care to enlighten me?


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Player Haters Ball

Thanks to Kerry Haters for linking to my previous post. Welcome to the House of Payne. While you're here, feel free to look around. For the curious, here are a couple of posts that you might find interesting:

Great crossover potential - If Michael Moore is right about Republicans, then John Kerry is an even worse candidate than we thought.

The flaming tire of patriotism - Dan Rather used to be a patriot first, and a reporter second. But that was when a Democrat was in the White House.

Not justified - Does the American occupation of Iraq justify the beheading of civilians?

Good old UN - Why I am glad John Kerry's favorite international institution is not more involved in Iraq.

Republicans in Soth Georgia - My response to a far-out leftist who can't understand why I would vote for George W. Bush.

Thanks again for visiting!

War of choice

Last night Gwenn Ifill asked Sen. John Edwards a very important question, and I'm glad she did.

IFILL: You and Senator Kerry have said that the war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. Does that mean that if you had been president and vice president that Saddam Hussein would still be in power?

Good question. In fact, I think this is one of the most crucial questions of the campaign, as well as one of the most interesting and one of the most difficult for Kerry/Edwards to answer.

Would hypothetical President Kerry have left Saddam in power? The Bush campaign made this charge, which the Kerry campaign angrily sort of denied.

With her question, Ifill gave Sen. Edwards the chance to explicitly refute the charge. Here is his complete response:

EDWARDS: Here's what it means: It means that Saddam Hussein needed to be confronted. John Kerry and I have consistently said that. That's why we voted for the resolution. But it also means it needed to be done the right way.

And doing it the right way meant that we were prepared; that we gave the weapons inspectors time to find out what we now know, that in fact there were no weapons of mass destruction; that we didn't take our eye off the ball, which are Al Qaida, Osama bin Laden, the people who attacked us on September the 11th. Now, remember, we went into Afghanistan, which, by the way, was the right thing to do. That was the right decision. And our military performed terrifically there.

But we had Osama bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora. We had the 10th Mountain Division up in Uzbekistan available. We had the finest military in the world on the ground. And what did we do?

We turned -- this is the man who masterminded the greatest mass murder and terrorist attack in American history. And what did the administration decide to do?

They gave the responsibility of capturing and/or killing Saddam -- I mean Osama bin Laden to Afghan warlords who, just a few weeks before, had been working with Osama bin Laden.

Our point in this is not complicated: We were attacked by Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.

And these connections -- I want the American people to hear this very clearly. Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th -- period.

The 9/11 Commission has said that's true. Colin Powell has said it's true. But the vice president keeps suggesting that there is. There is not. And, in fact, any connection with Al Qaida is tenuous at best.

Let me get this straight. If Kerry had been president, he would have confronted Saddam, but he would not have rushed into war like Bush did. And further, the pre-war global testing would have taken enough time for us to figure out that Iraq had no WMD.

So that's the answer, isn't it? No WMD, and no connection to Al Qaeda, according to Edwards. So no reason to invade, right? So, in other words: Yes, if Kerry and Edwards had been president and vice president 2000-2004, then Saddam Hussein would still be in power today. No elections for you, Iraqis.

Is there another way to read this?


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Condoms and consequences

My internet ninja brother points to a great post from Hog on Ice about sexually-transmitted disease.

It's a pretty controversial post, to say the least. Here's one of the more inflammatory claims: "[C]ondoms don't work. They stop some diseases pretty well, but there are other diseases that go right around them."

I agree that a condom is not a "magical" shield against the consequences of sex. However, some folks, many of them well-meaning Christians, believe that a condom is nearly useless. One of my brothers told me once that encouraging Africans to use condoms would only further the spread of AIDS because condoms don't prevent the transmission of HIV. That's not true. Condoms are something like 95 or 99% effective at preventing HIV transmission.

Let's tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. Condoms protect you from some, but not all, of the consequences of sex. And condoms are certainly not 100% effective at preventing anything. Abstinence is. A condom is better than nothing. But monogamy is better than a condom.

Metro journalists

There's been a bit of diablog about Fox News (briefly) posting a Kerry story with a bunch of joke quotes on their website. Joshua Micah Marshall of TPM thinks that this compares to CBS using phony memos on a story about Bush's national guard duty, and that the reporter responsible (Carl Cameron) should be taken off the Kerry campaign beat. That sounds pretty reasonable to me, mostly because I wonder how this guy is supposed to get his job done after this. I don't think I would talk to Cameron if I were a Kerry staffer.

Anyway, Ace of Spades thinks that the Cameron microscandal is better compared to a Washington Post reporter's sarcastic reporting of a Bush meeting on the Hill. (Sample: " The big news of the day was made when our protagonist spoke about education. He declared that education is 'a passion for me.' In addition to this startling revelation, he made a case for free trade and his faith-based initiative. .")

I do not think that Milbank's snide commentary is as bad as Cameron's made-up joke quotes. Lots of journalists do what Milbank did, although it's usually a little more subtle. And I think if Cameron had merely commented snidely about Kerry's manicure without making up funny quotes, he would have been fine.

But what Cameron did was suitable for the Onion, or Scrappleface. (Well, it wasn't quite funny enough, but you get the idea.) So I find it understandable that Joshua Micah Marshall would get upset about Cameron and not about Milbank.

Anyway, the important thing about the Cameron teapot-tempest is that Fox discovered the screw-up quickly, took down the offending material, put up an apology, and disciplined the offender. All this within hours of its posting. Marshall can complain that he doesn't know if Cameron has been punished enough, but all of us know that Dan Rather hasn't been punished at all. And CBS, unlike Fox News, still maintains that what they gave us was fake, but accurate.

Now, for my money, quoting John Kerry showing off his manicure... THAT is fake, but accurate.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Kiss of death

When discussing the fall of Governor Howard Dean, most people talk about The Scream-- but this was a result of his decline, not a cause. Dean's meltdown happened in a pep rally with his supporters on the night of his Iowa defeat. The scream, though it got lots of play on cable news shows afterwards, does not explain how Dean went from first place in Iowa to third in the course of a few short weeks.

So what caused it? I remember right after Gore endorsed Dean as the Democratic candidate and told the other hopefuls to be good party soldiers and get in line, Mickey Kaus (I think) jokingly suggested that this endorsement would be the kiss of death for Dean. And if I remember correctly, the week of Gore's endorsement was Dean's high-water mark, poll-wise. From that point on, he sank steadily downward, and became a loser, a joke.

Was it Gore? Now that Gore is in Senator Kerry's corner, will Kerry go down, Dean-like, to a humiliating defeat? Los Carniceros de Llamas dicen: Sí.


PS - One way or another, I find it interesting that so many of the Democrat party heroes are people famous for losing, like Gore and Max Cleland. Then again, Bob Dole recently resumed his role as a Republican party hatchet-man, so maybe this is bipartisan phenomenon.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Texas Air National Fnord

Now that it is clear that the new documents brought forward by CBS as proof of President Bush shirking his Guard duty were forged, I have only one question. Who will be the first lefty to say, "These documents were such obvious frauds that they must have been planted by the Republicans in order to discredit the Democrats." First paranoid to say it gets an ice cream sundae, my treat. (Disclaimer: The sundae will be purchased with filthy imperialist blood-for-oil money.)

UPDATE (10:48 AM): Too late! Should have got up out of bed last night and posted this when I thought of it. Apparently, Chris Lehane is already the winner. Congratulations, Chris! Next time you're in the Davis Square area, look me up for your free sundae.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Was blind but now I see

A quick post before dinner. For the Llamas.

Since Zell Miller's fiery speech at the Republican National Convention, he has attracted the ire of Democrat-and-allied bloggers not just for what he said at the convention but because of his allegedly racist past. Nobody raised this issue in 1992 when he gave a keynote address for the Democrats, but we all know Republicans are racist, so I guess it's relevant now.

Ridiculous. I will say the same about Senator Miller as I said about Senator Byrd. Words and deeds from forty years ago would only serve as evidence that he WAS a racist, not that he IS a racist. And there is nothing wrong with being an EX-racist. In fact, we can go further and say that being an EX-racist is right and good. Turning your back on evil is a virtue to be lauded.

So, if the sin has been repented of, stop bringing it up. And if the sin hasn't been repented of, then find some new evidence. Stop talking about what the man said in 1964.


PS - For the Kerry fans among my imaginary readers, remember that it is only a virtue if you forsake the sin. I would not care what John Kerry said in 1971 if he later recanted. But he hasn't. In fact, his post-war/anti-war activities were the ways that John Kerry repented of the sin of his military service. This is why I find it hard to understand his current stance: proud to have served, and proud to have been ashamed to have served.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Conventional wisdom

My apologies for the title. I frequently make fun of journalists for throwing lame not-quite-puns into their coverage for no good reason. And now I start off a post with a title like that. What a slave to convention I am.

Okay, I'm done.

Anyway, I have two thoughts about the convention that I would share with my roommates, except that the one who works is already in bed and the one who goes to school is still out.

Thought one: Zell Miller would intimidate the devil himself. And when I say "the devil," I mean the junior senator from Massachusetts. Tonight Zell Miller showed me the fires of hell, and I have seen the light. Hallelujah! Deliver me from Kerry!

Zell Miller also intimidated Chris Matthews. I will let other people make the obvious points about declining respect for mainstream media, etc. Me, I just want to see the tape again, because that was crazy. Jeff Goldstein on little red pills crazy.

Thought two: I have never paid a lot of attention to conventions before, but I can not imagine that so much time has been spent sucking up to the US military ever before. The Democrats certainly spent an enormous amount of time talking about how much they love soldiers (so much that they want to bring them home so they are always be within hugging distance). An unbelievable amount of time. I thought at the time that if Republicans were to spend so much time talking about how they love soldiers, people would think that they were bloodthirsty warmongers, or hypernationalistic hawks, or wacko gun nuts, or something.

But watching the convention tonight I wondered how it would be different if the only people voting were soldiers and vets. Not much different, I think. And that worries me.

I realize that we're in a war and everything, but defense is not the only issue out there. It's okay to talk about other things. And even when we're talking about defense issues, soldiers are not always right. Soldiers deferring to civilians makes for a healthy democracy. Civilians deferring to soldiers makes for trouble.

I miss Eisenhower. Not literally. Before my time, Ike. But he certainly didn't defer to the Defense Department. No. He surveyed the international threat environment and examined the nation's finances. And he chose a grand strategy that would address the threats without breaking the bank. And the military did not like the changes that his strategy required of them. But what could they do? He beat Hitler.

There is no one in the United States today who could do that. The generals have acquired too much expertise in bureaucratic infighting. (See: Powell, Colin.) And the politicians have lost the expertise in military affairs. When a politician tells a general to cowboy up, the general calls a press conference and talks about how some politicians just don't realize the importance of national defense, etc. And so the pork keeps getting barrelled up and shipped out.

I am tired of hearing about how President Bush is going to give our boys everything they need to win the war. I'm not worried about that. I have faith that our boys will win the war, even with crummy equipment. (See: Sherman tank.) What they need to win the war is leadership, not servility.

Kerry's worse. The other JFK would have told the DoD what he told everyone else: "Ask not what your country can do for you..." He was not afraid to tell them to do things they thought were foolish, but which he believed were necessary to defeat the America's enemies. (See: Green Berets; Special Warfare School.)

It's nothing, I know. We're not going to have a coup and be ruled by a junta. But Eisenhower was right about the military-industrial complex. And Washington and the rest were right about standing armies. The defense budget is now almost half a trillion dollars right now if you count everything. And lots of that money is going to things that have nothing to do with the war on terror because no one in this country has the standing to challenge the military, like Ike did. Bush doesn't. Rumsfeld doesn't. Kerry sure doesn't. Good grief. If there's one thing I've learned from the Swift Boat Vets it's that Kerry can not stand up to the military-- He's not Nixon enough to take that trip to China.

Perhaps Senator McCain has the right stuff. He's an enemy to waste and pork, and his patriotism and his defense credentials are unimpeachable. And he sure seems to be scratching Bush's back right now. Maybe he will get the SecDef post if Bush wins. And maybe he can take his medals

Hope is on the way!


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Great Crossover Potential

According to Michael Moore, less than thirty percent of Americans are Republicans in name and most of them are Republicans in name only. (Thanks, Allah, for pointing to the article.) If Moore is right (and he usually isn't), then only ten or twelve percent of Americans have beliefs that match with the Real Scary Conservative Republicans,

On a somewhat related note, the Kerry campaign is apparently in full panic mode, with Senator Kerry clearly behind in the nationwide polls after enduring a steady decline for much of August. This despite the fact that ninety percent of Americans agree with Kerry on the issues, according to Moore.

Gee, that's some great candidate you got there, Mike.


Monday, August 30, 2004


The New York Times has an article detailing the struggle over the term "African-American." Long story short, some black people in the US do not want recent immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, etc., to describe themselves as "African-American." Why not? Well, because the two groups arguably do not share a common heritage, and so maybe they do not deserve to be lumped together in the same catch-all ethnic category. There are also differences between recent immigrants and native American blacks in education, socio-economic mobility, etc., and these differences have political ramifications, of course.

But as Instapundit points out, if an American citizen who emigrated from Nigeria can not be described as an African-American, then what is she supposed to call herself?

Leaving aside this discussion for a moment, I see two other problems with the term African-American. First, as Baldilocks has noted, the term is frequently used to refer to non-Americans. I believe this type of use is often unconscious. Last night my roommate's girlfriend (a third-generation American of Japanese descent) called the members of a Jamaican women's relay team African-Americans. We usually don't call Jamaicans Americans, so why would black Jamaicans be called African-Americans?

Another example: when I was an undergrad at BYU, I touched off an angry debate in an English class by correcting someone who spoke of Othello as an African-American. (I think this term is especially inappropriate for him since he was a Moor, and thus perhaps not of sub-Saharan African descent.)

So the first problem is the (common) use of the term to describe those (non-US citizens) who are by definition, excluded. A second problem, pointed out by a white South African during the discussion in my English class, is that the term includes, by definition, people like himself. And nobody means Boers when they say African-American, even Boers who have become naturalized US citizens.

So African-American has definitional problems. And for years I thought that this was why I preferred the term black. But black has very similar problems, definitionally. Colin Powell is "Black," even though he is, at best, tan. Sri Lankans are not "Black," even the ones who are quite black.

I guess I just like the sound of black better. Maybe it's because I can't imagine James Brown singing, "Say it loud / I'm African-American and I'm proud." (Although if anyone could make that sound good, it would be the Hardest Working Man in the Show Business.) Or maybe it's because I agree with Orwell: "Never us a long word where a short one will do."

Then again, I much prefer "Mormon" to "LDS," even though the former started out as a slur and the latter (heh) is just an abbreviation of the church's official name. Since there have been plenty of people who have asked me which term prefer, so as not to offend, the least I can do is to politely inquire and respect the wishes of my black or African-American brothers and sisters.


Friday, August 27, 2004

Ninja morality test

Ether-friend and fellow ninja Marc (of Marcland) recommends taking the Morality test. I tried taking it, but couldn't get past the first few questions.

"Without God [do] morals still apply"? I don't know. I have difficulty imagining a world without God.

"Is most human behavior due to genetics or environment?' Uh... how about neither. How about human behavior being due to the decisions of individual people? What about human beings as moral agents-- capable of choice and responsible for the consequences of their choices?

I'll tell you what, you ask a ninja whether his actions are determined by his environment or his genes, and the only answer you're likely to get is a swift kick to the head. Or worse. Ka-pow! Now that's morality for you.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Soth will rise again

Hello again, beloved imaginary readers. Once again I am avoiding school work in order to shout into the ether. My previous post was a response to some comments left by a gentleman from Georgia who shares my name. He apparently read my post, and had some other thoughts. Following are his reply and mine:

Hello John: I still cannot see how Israel can dislodge another 1M Palestinians when the entire world except for the US and its minions are against it and the World Court has declared the wall to be illegal. If the Israelis had built the wall on their own territory, it would be a means of protection. By building where they have, it is just another move to expropriate land from the Paleastinians.

The lies that Bush told have caused the death of over 900 men now. I was able to use the internet beginning in the summer of 2002 to find the information that contradicted wha

[message abruptly ends]

John F.,

Thanks for responding, although I think part of your response was inadvertently cut off. I would be interested in seeing what you had to say next, so please feel free to re-post.

Here are my thoughts on what you wrote.

1. You seem to believe that Israel is in the process of dislodging an additional one million Palestinians. I can only assume you believe the cause to be the construction of Israel’s new security wall. I find this hard to believe, since there are only perhaps four million people living in the areas nominally governed by the Palestinian Authority.


Are a quarter of all Palestinians going to be made homeless by the wall? Here are some maps of the wall:

To me it appears that not much territory formerly under the Palestinian Authority is now on the Israeli side of the wall. Some is, but not much. Not enough to dislodge one million Palestinians. So after careful consideration, the one million homeless figure seems to be a Chomsky-style wild exaggeration.

2. You find it hard to understand how Israel can pursue policies which are opposed by many other countries, and which have been declared illegal by the World Court. This is very easy for me to understand, because when faced with a choice between security and international popularity, states usually choose security. The wall may be unpopular, but it has reduced the number of suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian terrorists. I’m sure some Israelis have been persuaded that the wall is bad because of the World Court’s decision, but my guess is that this number is dwarfed by the number of Israelis who have been convinced that the court itself is bad.

3. You worry that the wall allows Israel to expropriate property from the Palestinian Authority. I agree that this might happen. But we already know that the wall has reduced the number of people killed and wounded in the conflict. That’s a fact, and it holds true for Palestinians as well as Israelis. I think that outweighs the worries about possible future land annexes.

Further, the reason the wall is being built is because the Palestinian Authority rejected peaceful negotiation as the way to settle the conflict. They didn’t like the border that they were offered by the Israelis. They decided to return to fighting, hoping that they would be able to make some gains t

Why did the Israelis put up the wall? Because of Palestinian suicide bombing. Why did the Palestinian Authority support suicide bombings? Because they did not like what they were being offered as a result of peaceful negotiation, and they hoped that terrorism would make the Israelis back down and offer them a better deal.

So, if some time in the future the security wall ends up being the border between Israel and an independent Palestinian state, the Palestinians have only themselves to blame. The Palestinian Authority was offered more expansive borders in negotiations, and they rejected them because they thought they could get better by fighting for it. Well, they fought, and they lost, and future Palestinians will have to live with the consequences of Arafat’s choice. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

4. You say that Bush lied, and that nine hundred men are dead because of it. I assume you are referring to the (roughly) nine hundred American soldiers who have died in Iraq. Again, I would like you to be specific: what lies has President Bush told? To be fair, you seemed to be heading in this direction when your letter cut off, so you must have a few particular lies in mind. Please write me again and tell me what they are.

But think about this first. John Kerry and George W. Bush had access to the same intelligence on Iraq, more or less. The two of them said more or less the same things about Iraq, its weapons, and the threats it posed. And John Kerry voted for the resolution authorizing George W. Bush to go to war in Iraq. Yet the people who say that Bush lied do not say that Kerry lied. Why not? He said the same allegedly false things about Iraq as President Bush. Then again, Senator Kerry believed those things were true when he said them, so it should not count as a lie. That sounds reasonable to me, but the same standard must apply to President Bush. He only lied if he knew what he was saying was false.

Simply put, both Bush and Kerry relied on the same information, and both men said the same things, so either both men acted in good faith or both men were liars. Which is it?

I look forward to your reply.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Republicans in soth Georgia

Greetings, imaginary readers. Had to respond to this comment from a gentleman from Georgia who shares my name:

John: We nearly have the same name. I was born in 1936. It was also interesting that you father was teaching at Sam Houston State in Texas. I was born in Tennessee and am kin To Sam Houston.
Your politics seem to fit with the Republicans in soth Georgia. I would have hoped that Chomsky would have have indoctrinated you by now. The US and Israel cannot treat the Arabs with total disregard for Arab life. As a Pol Sci major or Ph D candidate I would have expected you to realize that there will be no peace until we treat Arabs as we treat Jews.
At present the Republican party in the South is composed of the big R's- the rdenecks, the rich , the relious right, and the racists.
Dubya should have been impeached for the lies he has told to get us into a war that should never have been started. As a Vietnam vet with over 9 years in the service before being retired, I agree with John Kerry. Having seved in Can Tho, I could not believe the couage of the guys in Kerry's group. These guys were nuts to risk their lives every day. I just wish I had a rich Daddy to get me into the National Guard. I went to Yale on scholarship, not as a legacy. I was in debt when I graduated. I had to suceed as I did not have my family and the bin Laden family to bale me out everytime iI drilled a dry hoe.
Please rethink your positions. I voted for Dole in 1996. I believe I was right then. The young Bush is not only learning disabled, but he is psychotic. John Payne, Thomasville, GA


You are perceptive enough to figure out my politics (even if only to lump me in with “the rdenecks [sic] ... and the racists”). So you can hardly be surprised that Noam Chomsky has so far failed to indoctrinate me. Chomsky is a professor at MIT, but he teaches linguistics, not political science. I have not read enough of his theories on language to comment intelligently on them, but I have read enough of his political writings to know that he is either an exceptionally poor researcher or a deliberate deceiver.

In his long career Chomsky has continually apologized for totalitarian Communist regimes while continually attacking this great country I love. The fall of the Soviet Union has not changed his tune. I attended one of his sermons as the war in Afghanistan was beginning. He not only predicted that millions would be killed (by starvation), but asserted that this was the true purpose of the American intervention. Anyone who can say such things is a great fool, or simply twisted. Either way, he is no friend of mine.

On the Palestinian question, I agree that the US and Israel can not behave with total disregard for Arab life. What would such behavior look like? Let us imagine. If Israel had no regard for the lives of Arabs, they would simply kill or expel all Arabs from the occupied territories, and from Israel itself. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs would die, and millions would be evicted from lands now controlled by the Palestinian Authority. As it is, the Israelis have put a wall between terrorists and their targets. This and other Israeli actions have succeeded in reducing the numbers not only of dead Jews, but dead Arabs. Are you incapable of seeing the difference between the hypothetical strategy outlined above and the actual strategy pursued by Sharon’s government?

Obviously I disagree with you about impeaching the president. I supported Clinton’s impeachment because he perjured (as is admitted in his autobiography) and obstructed justice. Bush has committed no crime of which I am aware. I do not believe that he knowingly told lies to get us into war. (If you have an example, I would like to hear it.) And I am glad we threw out Saddam Hussein and his goon squad. That man was a real psychotic, as were many of his thugs. Are you sorry they are gone?

For your service in Viet Nam, I thank you. Likewise, I thank Senator Kerry. President Bush’s service in the National Guard was less glamorous and less heroic, but no less honorable. Like those who were exempted from the draft through marriage or education, he has nothing to be ashamed of.

Good for you for finding success on your own. My grandfather started out as a shepherd and ended up as a college professor, thanks to his own hard work and to Providence. As you noted, Bush succeeded in large part thanks to his family. This is a less inspiring achievement, but neither major-party candidate in this election could be called a self-made man.

Please rethink your positions. I voted for Bush in 2000. I believe I was right then. I believe I am right now to support him again.

PS - Noam Chomsky is not only intellectually dishonest, but he is a nihilist, a Communist and an vicious anti-semite. And his slavish cult of dope-smoking, self-loathing teenage conspiracy theorists carries with it the oh-so-proletarian smell of unwashed feet.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Greetings, imaginary readers. As you may have noticed, I haven't been blogging much lately. Lots of reasons for that, I suppose, but the most obvious one is school. My professors informed me a few weeks ago that I have a lot more work to do on a particular project that I had believed to be complete. I'm going to be working on it all summer, curse their hides. Blogging may be sparse, or it may start up again as I get into a good groove with my school work. My apologies.


Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Honest Blogger Quiz

I really ought to write down all the interesting thoughts I've been having since the conference I attended two weeks ago. But instead, here's a silly web meme.

1. Which political party do you typically agree with?


2. Which political party do you typically vote for?


3. List the last five presidents that you voted for.

2000 - Bush
1996 - Dole
1992 - in high school

4. Which party do you think is smarter about the economy?

Neither one seems able to resist the temptation to meddle with the economy. Likewise, neither seem able to resist the temptation to spend like crazy whenever they're in power. To my mind, the beginning of economic wisdom is restraint, which quality seems in desperately short supply these days.

5. Which party do you think is smarter about domestic affairs?

GOP. But I'm really more of a foreign affairs kind of guy.

6. Do you think we should keep our troops in Iraq or pull them out?

We stay until the job is done. Period.

7. Who, or what country, do you think is most responsible for 9/11?

Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda carried it out. The money came from lots of wealthy sheikhs, including Bin Laden himself. But the operatives were the product of a poisonous cultural climate cultivated by (1) the Wahabbis and other Islamist sects (Osama is a Salafi, not a Wahabbi, and (2) corrupt Middle Eastern states who made Israel and America bogymen to distract their impoverished, oppressed, and angry citizens. Authoritarian politics and extremist religion came together perfectly in Iran in 1979, and psychos like Osama and Mullah Omar have been trying to duplicate the combination ever since. Western statesmen have been slow to recognize and respond to the danger, but I do not blame them for not seeing it coming. I do blame those who want to run and hide now that we know what the danger is.

8. Do you think we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

The Iraq Survey Group has already found a (very) few such weapons, although certainly not in the quantities which anyone expected, or even close. Will we find more than this? Yes, including weapons which were spirited out of Iraq before we were able to start searching in earnest. But we will not find stockpiles (in Iraq or out) on the scale that we anticipated prior to the intervention.

9. Yes or no, should the U.S. legalize marijuana?

No way. (Sorry, dudes.)

10. Do you think the Republicans stole the last presidential election?

The election was too close to call. I admit that I would have been mad if the positions of Gore and Bush had been reversed and Gore had won after a decision from the Supreme Court. But recounting does not necessarily mean more accurate counting. The Gore campaign wanted to keep counting until one of the counts showed Gore as the winner, and then not stopping. The Bush campaign naturally thought that the counts that showed Bush as the winner should be the final counts. If the Supreme Court had not stepped in and declared one party or the other a winner, the recount would have gone on forever. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't theft.

11. Do you think Bill Clinton should have been impeached because of what he did with Monica Lewinski?

He was rightly impeached for breaking the law in order to cover up personal immorality. No one should be above the law, and those who execute the law have a special responsiblity to abide by it faithfully.

12. Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?

Perhaps. It depends on what is meant by a 'good' president. She's certainly smart and determined, she knows what she wants, and she's got a lot of political support. And she seems to be doing a pretty good job in the Senate, much to my surprise. But I don't like her politics, and you can count her scruples on one thumb. I wouldn't vote for her, but this country has had worse presidents.

13. Name a current Democrat who would make a great president.

I wish Tony Blair were an American and a Democrat, because he would be my first choice. Joe Leiberman shows a willingness to continue the fight against Islamist terror, which I like. Sam Nunn is also a serious thinker on foreign policy issues. And there are a few younger Democrats who appeal to me, although I am not sure that they are presidential material yet, including Evan Bayh, John Edwards, Jim Turner, and Jim Matheson.

14. Name a current Republican who would make a great president.

Dr. Condoleeza Rice! Also, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, and Mitt Romney. I also think Bobby Jindal is someone to watch for the future.

15. Do you think that women should have the right to have an abortion?

In a very few cases (the child was conceived through rape, the mother would likely die in childbirth, etc.), I think it should be an option. Otherwise, no. Most abortions in this country are not because of extreme and extenuating circumstances. They happen either because (1) the parents did not use contraceptives, or (2) the contraceptives failed. If they did not want a child and did not use contraceptives, they are both fools. But everyone who has sex should know that no contraceptive is 100% effective; all heterosexual sex carries the risk of pregnancy. That's the chance you take. If you can't afford to lose, don't gamble.

It's true that it is a hardship to raise an unplanned child, especially if the father does not help. And it's an inconvenience to experience pregnancy and go through the process necessary to give a child up for adoption. But I know plenty of people who were conceived accidentally, and I know lots of people who were raised by single mothers. I'm glad they're alive. And I bet their mothers are, too.

16. What religion are you?


17. Have you read the Bible all the way through?

I have read each of the books through at least once and most of them several times. I don't know that I have ever read the entire thing straight through from Genesis to Revelation.

18. What's your favorite book?

The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber. Pick this up and read it. Out loud. I read it whenever I need to rekindle my love of the English language.

19. Who is your favorite band?

I like a lot of bands.

20. Who do you think you'll vote for president in the next election?

Bush. I've already donated to his campaign.

21. What website did you see this on first?

Llama Butchers.

And now we're done!


Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Good old UN

Bummed out about Abu Ghraib and all that jazz? Well, buddy, have I ever got an idea for you! Let's get the UN to run Iraq! They'll do a great job! It'll be awesome!

A book by three current and former U.N. employees about peacekeeping operations portrays wild parties with alcohol and drugs, and convicts and mental-asylum inmates passing as soldiers.
In another section, the authors say the "peacekeeping troops" sent to Cambodia by Bulgaria were not really soldiers.
They write that the Bulgarian government, starved for hard currency, actually cut a deal with inmates, offering them pardons if they accepted the U.N. assignment. Bulgaria, in turn, received financial compensation from the United Nations for its troops.
"The Bulgarians wanted the money, but didn't want to send their best-trained troops. So ... they offered inmates in the prisons and psychiatric wards a deal: Put on a uniform and go to Cambodia for six months, you're free on return," the book says.
Scores of criminals accepted the offer, were given uniforms and became U.N. peacekeepers, the authors say.
Mr. Cain describes the Bulgarians as "a battalion of criminal lunatics [who] arrive in a lawless land. They're drunk as sailors, rape vulnerable Cambodian women and crash their U.N. Land Cruisers with remarkable frequency."
Without going into the merits of the accusations in the book, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard conceded that the United Nations does not have a system to "verify" the credentials of troops offered for peacekeeping.
"When it comes to formed military units, we rely on the donor country to give us professional soldiers. ... There is not a quality-control test, and units vary in the degree of their training from country to country, even from unit to unit," he said.

Wait. Wait a second. Did I say 'awesome'? I meant 'horrible.'


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Hooray for Mayor Daley!

On the road still. I am in Texas with my parents and my youngest brother, who is leaving in a few days to be a missionary. I won't see him again for two years, so I am spending some time with him to say farewell. I love being home except that they only have dial-up. Stupid dial-up. How did I ever tolerate it?

Anyway, just a quick note because I could not read this without taking a minute to pass it along.

Mayor Daley scolded Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry Tuesday for making a wisecrack about the bicycle accident that scraped the face, hands and knees of President Bush.

...Daley, who ripped the skin off his kneecap during a bicycle accident a few years ago, said the joke was disrespectful. "When someone falls . . . you should not wish ill upon anyone. It's not right. . . . You just don't do that. Let's have some respect for one another."

To Daley, Kerry's remark symbolized a hate-filled brand of politics the mayor has long despised.

"The thing I worry about in politics is all of these people hating one another [saying], 'I hate Kerry', 'I hate Bush.' I wish the former presidents -- Carter and Ford and Clinton and Bush -- would all get up and tell people, 'You may support candidates, but don't hate the other candidate.'

"You see too much hate. And I'll tell you one thing -- hate will turn on people. . . . When hate gets in politics, it's a very, very dangerous aspect."

(Thanks to Just One Minute for pointing this out.)


Sunday, May 23, 2004

Second-hand news from the Sandbox

One of the women at the conference is married to a soldier ("Dave") who just returned two days ago from thirteen months in Iraq. Saturday night I spent quite a long time talking to this gentleman, and I thought it would be a good idea for me to record what he said. Of course, I cannot say that the things I have written here are correct beyond a shadow of doubt.

These are my secondhand recollections of this good man's opinions, so some error may have crept in either through either filter (him or me). All the same, I thought that there might be some among my imaginary readers who would find this information helpful in some way, and so I share.

1. We are not going to find a huge cache of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Dave was in the Iraq Survey Group, whose job it is to look for WMDs. This is also the group who dealt with the recently discovered artillery shell filled with GB (aka Sarin). The shell had been rigged as an improvised explosive device (IED) in a manner which, in Dave's opinion, meant that those who rigged it didn't know what was in the shell. This was why the agent failed to disperse properly. Combined with the age of the shell (and the agent) explains why the EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) crew who were first called in to deal with the shell were not seriously harmed. Dave does not blame President Bush but thinks that he, along with every other leader and intelligence agency in the western world, was deceived by Iraqi exiles who sold us a story that we wanted to believe. This goes to show that the media are not the only folks who sometimes fail to be adequately skeptical of "facts" that we want to believe are true.

2. Soldiers are not happy that they are being asked to stay in Iraq past the dates when they were originally told they were going to be home. They are dealing with it and doing their jobs, but many of them are beginning to wonder if they are ever going home.

3. We need more Civil Affairs people (and MPs) in the military. And the military needs to leave them alone and let them do their jobs. Right now the administration wants zero casualties, and so the CA guys are hampered by excessive security details. They would be more effective if they didn't have to take Bradleys wherever they went, but a few of them would probably get killed.

4. Garner's people loved him and thought he got screwed. Bremer doesn't pay as much attention to the military, and Dave does not expect that the move to two commands in Iraq will increase the coordination.

5. Iraqis and people in the region more generally don't care that much about Abu Ghraib. To Westerners, they complain, and loudly. Among themselves, however, it is not such a big deal. They know that standard treatment for prisoners in the region is often worse than the mistreatment alleged to have occurred in Abu Ghraib.

6. Almost all Iraqis are aiding the Coalition forces, either passively or actively. If it were not so, we would be losing fifty men every day. Insurgent attacks are often thwarted thanks to timely information from friendly locals. Example 1: A boy who plays soccer with the guards to a Coalition base goes home early one afternoon, explaining to the soldiers that his mother wants him home because there is going to be an attack later that day. Example 2: A soldier riding in a humvee on a patrol hears urgent shouts in Arabic. He looks for the source of the shouting and sees people yelling at him and pointing to three insurgents who are preparing to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at his vehicle. He quickly fires, killing one of them and injuring another. He escapes harm, as do the other soldiers in the humvee.

7. The insurgency is a few thousand guys whipped into a frenzy by a few extremist clerics. Quite a few of them are unemployed ex-Iraqi soldiers, which leads Dave to think that we should not have disbanded the Iraqi military.

8. There are thousands of civilian contractors doing soldiering stuff (if you don't count security as soldiering, the number is much lower). And they're not restrained by anything but the desire to stay employed by the Coalition. They're also not protected by the Geneva Convention. Also they get to grow beards, wear non-standard clothes and use non-standard guns, which makes regular soldiers envious.

9. Press people in Iraq think they're immune to harm because they're doing something important. It's a wonder more of them don't get their heads blown off.

There. It's a pretty random information dump, but that's everything I could remember. Hope someone finds this useful.