October 31, 2004

Buddenbrooks Dynamics -- Teresa's Son

A story here quotes the offspring of Heinz and Teresa (now Kerry)'s snotty observations about the campaign:
"October 31, 2004 -- THIS campaign is ending just in time before someone gets hurt. John Kerry's stepson, Chris Heinz, 31, displayed his mother Teresa's famous lack of rhetorical restraint at a recent campaign event with a group of Wharton students. Philadelphia magazine reports: 'Heinz accused Kerry's opponents - 'our enemies' - of making the race dirty. 'We didn't start out with negative ads calling George Bush a cokehead,' he said, before adding, 'I'll do it now.' Asked later about it, Heinz said, 'I have no evidence. He never sold me anything.'' Heinz also reminded writer Sasha Issenberg of Pat Buchanan by saying, 'One of the things I've noticed is the Israel lobby - the treatment of Israel as the 51st state, sort of a swing state.' Buchanan was blasted as an anti-Semite years ago when he cited Israel's 'amen corner' in Congress."

it seems these people think that money immunizes them from having any common sense, let alone political horse sense.

The Buddenbrooks in the title refers to a novel by Thomas Mann about a successful family in which each generation shows a decline from the pinnacle of success and status. It's a common pattern -- an inheritance can ruin children easily, and especially if you send them to Ivy League colleges, they will very likely lose interest in whatever made the family successful in the first place. It may just be regression to the mean, but this Chris Heinz appears to be a callow creep who lacks the sense and political discipline to keep his callowness to himself until the election is over.

Our Israel policy deserves to be debated, but it's hard to do that without anti-Jewish (as opposed to U.S. national interest) motives, or accusations of anti-Semitism (or in the case of Jewish critics, "self-hating") poisoning the discussion.

John Kerry, sincerely or otherwise, has signalled that he doesn't want to open up this issue, and has instead tried to eliminate all daylight between himself and Bush on the matter. If his stepson is a campaign spokesman, he should have followed the party line or kept his mouth shut.

Hat tip to INDC Journal.

October 30, 2004

Parting Thoughts on the Election

I've just returned from New York City, where Bush voters are as scares as hen's teeth. I managed to keep peace in the family, by not embarking on the futile task of trying to convince Bush-haters that Kerry would be a disaster.

I remain convinced, however. I could write a book about what Bush & Co. have done wrong (e.g., no concern over the deficit, corporate welfare, no message of sacrifice on the war, an expensive and ill-thought-out prescription drug program), but I think Kerry's caught in the fundamental contradiction of having to be the anti-war candidate with a wink and a nod to the party activist left, while trying not to seem so to the swing voters, who won't support a McGovern anti-war campaign. Howard Dean, though he didn't start out so left on many domestic issues, had a clarity of position on Iraq that might have turned out to be effective in the fall campaign.

So Kerry seemed inconsistent and torn because he needs to cobble together a base from groups that disagree. Moreover, separate and apart from these contradictions, he really is an opportunist. He also has an unpleasant personality, a singular lack of achievement in the Senate, and mouths the usual Democratic "tax and tax and tax, elect and elect and elect" social programs. There are too many snouts in the public trough as it is. We don't need more.

Bush was vulnerable to an attack on the conduct of the war, but coupled with a "maybe yes, maybe no" position on whether we should be there in the first place, Kerry couldn't make the case. Even less could he make the case that he and his party are, any longer, capable of leading the country in a time of danger. For me, that's the bottom line.

In hindsight, another error was selecting Edwards as his running mate. Although engaging, the man is not ready for prime time. Kerry should have picked Gephardt. He might have then carried Missouri, but more importantly, like him or not (and I don't, particularly), he's experienced and has enough gravitas for one to picture him as President.

How will it turn out? Nobody knows, least of all I. Bush is still ahead in most national polls, and is poised to take Florida. He can make up for Ohio, if he loses it, with Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Hugh Hewitt continues to predict a Bush blowout, but he's a partisan and likely to project pre-election optimism no matter what. It's more likely to be close. There are enough nightmare scenarios about post-election litigation and stalemates. I don't need to add to them.

If I had to guess, at this point, I'd say Bush 49-48, and in the EC, 281-257. That's close. The GOP will pick up a few Senate seats, enough so that Lincoln Chaffee can't be the next Jeffords, and a net gain in the House.

There. I put it out there. My face won't be red if I'm wrong, and I say a pickle for the mockery of the knowing ones.

October 24, 2004

Is the Campaign All a Sham?

Edward Luttwak thinks that if Kerry is elected, he may behave very much like Bush, and maybe more so. See his thoughts here:
"Of course many people support John Kerry for the next president of the United States for a variety of reasons - he is credible when he promises to cut the Federal deficit, for example. But to support him in the hope that he would make American military policy more doveish is absurd. All the evidence is that he will do the exact opposite."

In short, Luttwak thinks Kerry, like Wilson and Roosevelt before him, is a Democrat who promises to keep us out of war but will break his promises almost at once.

Indeed, one could argue that Bush will be less able, say, to act against Iran if it's about to go nuclear than Kerry, because of the pounding Bush has taken on the Iraq intervention. (I'm not saying we should act against Iran. Haven't analyzed it).

So we shouldn't worry so much about Kerry being a peacenik wuss, because he's lying to his base about where he really stands, and he's really a fighter by temperament.

Now there certainly is a historic bellicosity among some big-government Democrats, and until the Cold War, the conservative Republicans were anti-interventionist. As Taki argues, the 20th Century might have turned out better if Wilson had really kept us out of World War I -- and although Taki's often off-putting, he's got a point.

So if Luttwak is to be believed, this election really won't make a difference in foreign policy.

I'd like to believe him, because I think Kerry's "global test"-UN-worshipping rhetoric and the wishful-thinking namby-pambyism among his Kumbaya-singing supporters is more dangerous even than the questionable competence, indiffference to the budget, trade deficits, and government expansion among the Bushies.

I still think Nuance is more likely than not to lose, so we'll never know whether he's really somewhat sound on the war against Islamicism. Luttwak's thought, ironically, is somewhat comforting in the event Kerry wins -- he's really an inveterate liar and will fool the whole world.

I still think my ineffective vote for Bush (in dark-blue California) was the right thing to do.

October 22, 2004

Longing for Mud

Gerald's latest on the Kerry platform as reflecting a rejection of American culture and an urge to American self-destruction, uses the term nostalgie pour le boue. I've always heard nostalgie de la boue, but in any case the literal translation of this French phrase is "longing for mud."

It's metaphorical, of course, not a Parisian version of

Mud, Mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood!
So follow me, follow
Down to the hollow
And there let us wallow
In glorious mud.

by Flanders & Swann. (When the French get into lumbering beasts they prefer this sort of thing, anyway.)

Having recently googled la nostalgie de la boue and found this definition by the anthropologist Esther Pasztory,

"ascribing higher spiritual values to people and cultures considered 'lower' than oneself, the romanticization of the faraway primitive which is also the equivalent of the lower class close to home."

I was intrigued, as Gerald's definition appears closer to the one stuck in my head from years ago--"a compulsion that comes over people when they have, for complex reasons, a need to immerse themselves in self-degradation."

This definition reeks of absinthe, the demi-monde, "Apache" dancing, and sexual license. Perhaps these concepts meet somewhere near the horizon line, where nostalgics conceive of both the "primitive" and the lower classes as closer to Rousseau's concept of man having been born free, but being everywhere in chains.

This dilletantish "mud" is mostly a creation of the imaginations of the leisured and bored. Whether drumming in the woods, cultivating a fabricated American Indian "spirituality," or traveling around the country emulating hobos like the Beats, or around Central Asia in search of hashish and liberation, we moderns have sought our own "mud" in many ways.

Meanwhile, of course, the "primitives" seek televisions, tube wells, green cards, and Christianity.

If you, gentle reader, know more about the origins and development of this muddy nostalgia, let me know. Meanwhile, I'll see what I can discover.

October 21, 2004

A Beery Swine?

There is a saying that there are only 50 actors in England. One could say equally well that there are only 50 intellectuals of any particular variety, including philosophers. One difference between a continental nation such as ours and one that shares a middling island with two others is that any profession becomes a very small community.

In 1946, two philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper, both Austrian Jewish émigrés, had a legendary encounter during a meeting at Cambridge University. During this encounter, Wittgenstein either gestured with or threatened Popper, the speaker, with a fireplace poker, and stormed out of the room.

This incident is the unlikely subject of a book, Wittgenstein’s Poker, which I recently read.

Wittgenstein, born super-rich and turned ascetic, was a forceful personality and either an enfant terrible or a self-absorbed boor. In any event, he acquired a reputation as an iconoclastic genius and the promoter of linguistic philosophy, which posited that many of the traditional philosophical problems are meaningless, and reduced philosophy to so many linguistic puzzles.

Popper, on the other hand, was a bourgeois type who made contributions on more traditional philosophical issues. He was the author of The Open Society and Its Enemies, an anti-totalitarian work, and developed the concept of falsifiability, which holds that meaningful scientific propositions are those capable of being shown to be wrong by empirical observation or experiment.

David Edmonds and John Eidinow, the authors, have created a well-crafted and engaging book out of a series of riffs on the poker incident, Wittgenstein, Popper, their backgrounds, the world of Cambridge. It might seem that the subject would be like the famous book that told the schoolboy more than he wanted to know about penguins, but much of the book fascinates as much as any account of a human milieu in some ways like our own and in others quite different.

Today’s world of grants, junkets, and the academic system of field marshals and grunts is recognizably related to the world in which Wittgenstein and Popper lived, but it has changed. This book includes biography, history – notably of pre-World-War-II Vienna, and a portrait of an era. If you are of a certain perhaps uncommon bent, this book is a good read. And the clever cover of the paperback edition alone makes the book worth picking of the shelf at a bookstore.

October 20, 2004

Let the Children Cavort!

We needed it, and boy have we got it. The unofficial fault-line between fire season and flood season out here in the Southwest. Given the possibly long-term drought we're in, this rain affords welcome relief. Soon the hills will be green, and rodents and snakes will multiply to feed our hungry hawks and coyotes.

Puts a crimp in my cycling though. The first rains float up all the months' acccumulation of grease, and wash all sorts of things from the trees and elsewhere, and on to the streets. As a would-be randonneur even dreaming of (horrors!) France, I should be tougher, I know.

At our local Middle School, the children started to run and play in the rain, to the consternation of Authority. Although I suspect it gave up on Propriety long ago, no doubt worried about slips, falls, the myth that getting cold or wet causes colds, and hungry lawyers, Authority harrumphed and tried to drag their charges indoors.

That's one reason why I could never be a school principal. Let the tykes and striplings cavort. This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. I told my 11-year-old I hoped she would still play in the rain when she is 80.

Nothing personal about the principal, whom I like and admire. But the magic hat she's wearing turns the wearer into a stuck-up sticky-beak.

Cavort, children, while you can. Algebra can wait.

October 19, 2004

50 Reasons Why To Vote For Bush

I'm really not a shill for American Digest, even though I've been linking to it a lot, but once again Gerald has created a telling and superbly moving piece. You can see it here.

HT, of course, to Hugh.

October 18, 2004

Why Bush and Not Kerry? A Response to Hugh Hewitt

There is one overarching reason to vote for Bush.

We are at war, attacked by a widespread and fanatical enemy. Bush understands this reality and has the determination to win. Notwithstanding failings and errors, Bush is a war leader. Kerry lacks both understanding and determination, and so in time of war is a danger to the nation.

Kerry has attempted to straddle the contradiction between the Deaniac core of his party, that wants no part of the war and includes true defeatists, and the patriotic centrists he needs to cobble together a majority. He has used bluster and an exaggerated version of his Vietnam service to straddle between these two groups. Unfortunately for Kerry, his Vietnam days are far less relevant than what he did on his return and his consistently anti-defense, uncritically pro-UN, and just plain goofy record since then.

Second, without getting into details of domestic policy, Bush draws his support from the core of American strength: intact families, parents, small businesspeople, those who work with numbers and their hands, the church-going. Kerry draws his support from elsewhere: word- and human-service-workers, mis-educated elitists, the militantly secular. His party's money comes from billionaires like George Soros, trial lawyers, and unions of mostly public employees.

Bush will look to the heartland, and will fight. Kerry will look to Europe and the word-drunk bicoastals, and will waver.

We must set aside our doubts and criticisms, and support Bush. Our lives and those of our children depend upon it.

October 17, 2004

Homo Homini Lupus

This moving essay inspired by a Pietà-like photograph of a Beslan mother and her dead child, ends with a question. Referring to his 10-year-old stepson, Gerald asks:
I am willing to do anything, anything at all, no matter what it may be, to keep him out of that photograph. That's my answer to what I saw. My question is, "Are you?"

HOMO HOMINI LUPUS. Man is the wolf of man.

  • Tibet

  • Cambodia

  • Kurdistan

  • Rwanda

  • Bosnia

  • The Congo

  • Darfur

  • Beslan

Are we willing? Are we ready?

HOMO HOMINI LUPUS. Man is the wolf of man.

God grant us the discernment to know how to protect the children, and the courage to act.

The Suspense and Waiting is Over at Last: New York Times Endorses Kerry

My fellow-blogger, poet and graphics whiz, who sits atop the next hill over, notes here the surprise story of the month:
"One of the most suspenseful moments in modern journalism came to an end today, when The New York Times, after months of coy beating around the bush, came out for Senator Kerry."

His White House source was shocked:

"Asked if the Times endorsement was costly, the source replied candidly, 'Why yes. We were really counting on the Times to deliver their numberless hoard of readers who have been enslaved to the paper so long that they do the Sunday Crossword in ink.'"

I commented:

Surely you can't be satirizing America's Newspaper of Record. Tsk, tsk!

Perhaps they had before them a penetrating biographical piece on Kerry. By a brilliant young African-American journalist, Jayson Blair.

In the tradition of Walter Duranty.

This reminds me of an old story my father used to tell:

A young Irish lad goes off from his village to university. Upon his return for vacation, the lad tells the local priest he's become an atheist. "I'm certain," said the father, "that when the news reaches the Holy Father in Rome, he'll be mightily distressed."

When Karl Rove hears the news about the Times endorsement of Kerry, I'm certain he'll have at least five seconds of heartburn.

October 16, 2004

Post on School Security

I have posted a note on the need to beef up school security after Beslan and word that plans of U.S. schools were located in Iraq.

Mobile Phones and Hinky Polls

With the polls so close -- within the margin of errors, some have suggested that the number of potential voters who don't have land lines and have adoped mobile phones, and never get pollster calls -- is big enough to skew the polls substantially. A discussion by Mystery Pollster suggests the answer may be "not yet."

Here's a list of possible error factors in political polling this year:

  1. Unreached mobile phone users.
  2. People with caller ID who screen their calls.
  3. People who won't talk to pollsters -- a growing number, I'll bet.
  4. Unlikely voters who may unexpectedly show up this year:
    • Karl Rove's 4 million evangelicals.
    • Everybody else who votes because of the great interest of this watershed campaign.
  5. Possibly depressed turnout:
    • Among blacks because Kerry hasn't connected with them.
    • Among a rainbow of Floridians who are who knows where because of the hurricanes.

Bottom line: likely cliffhanger. Bring on the litigators!

October 15, 2004

A Nod's As Good as a Wink to a Blind Bat, So They Say--Know What I Mean? Nudge Nudge

The indispensable Hugh Hewitt has set as this weekend's symposium topic the following:

How deep a hole have John Kerry, Mary Beth Cahill and the Edwards dug for themselves?  How lasting the damage?

Read literally, this title calls for a "horse race" analysis -- will it hurt Kerry-Edwards? Good question, but first let's think about the ethics and taste of the allusion.

Hugh suggests that the candidate's children are always off limits. In general, he's right. This principle is strongest when the child is young and when the child doesn't have a public political role in association with the candidate parent. Ronald Reagan the politician should not have been judged by Ron Reagan the ballet dancer or Patty Reagan the bohemian. The first George Bush should not have been judged by the S&L affairs of his son Neal, nor should Jeb Bush or George McGovern be held politically responsible for the substance abuse problems of their adult children, who did not choose to be public figures.

It's a little different when the candidate and the child become associated with public politics, and the child acts as a public advocate for the parent. At that point, the public life of the child may become relevant.

Perhaps an example will help. Years ago, I ran against and defeated Ruth Goldway, a radical, publicity-seeking Mayor of Santa Monica. Ruth's husband, Derek Shearer, was her political sidekick and campaign manager, and was appointed to the Planning Commission. When in running against Ruth, I attacked Derek, and was accused of "sexism" for tagging the wife for her husband's positions. I rejected the charge, because they were in fact a public political team who acted in concert. Were Derek a private citizen, he would not be fair game in a campaign against his wife.

This case is in-between. Mary Cheney is to a degree a public political person, and one could imagine a scenario when mentioning her would be appropriate--if, for example, Cheney had taken the position (which he hasn't) that homosexuals should be shunned, but didn't distance himself from his daughter.

What happened here, however, was nothing of the kind. Edwards and Kerry figured they wouldn't antagonize their homosexual or pro-gay-agenda supporters by mentioning the fact, but might cause some religious conservatives to question voting for Bush-Cheney if they learned for the first time that Cheney had a lesbian daughter. The mention of Mary Cheney was non-responsive to the question (stupid though it was) of whether homosexuality was a "choice" or innate. No one knows her history, or whether she follows her way of life because of her deep inward nature, or for other reasons. Nor is one's approval, indifference, or condemnation of homosexuality necessarily relevant to one's views on gay marriage or the proposed constitutional amendment. Kerry-Edwards's mention of Mary was thus nonresponsive to the question, gratuitous, and probably calculated "wedge" politics.

Now to answer Hugh's question in literal terms. The effect is likely to be different in different quarters. Gay movement folks will still vote for Kerry-Edwards, first because they don't think mentioning the sexual orientation of someone who is "out" should be a big deal, and second, because they know Kerry will tacitly, if not openly, acquiesce in their agenda, and Bush won't.

Likewise, few "social issue" conservatives will change their mind. Christians (even those who condemn homosexual conduct as un-Biblical) understand the "love the sinner, hate the sin" concept as intelligently discussed at length here, and know we are all sinners. And they know the Democrats are the party of secularism and the ACLU, and the GOP is not.

Where this is likely to play is among women, and some fathers, who are fiercely protective of their own children, and will viscerally react to the remark, and Kerry's refusal to say "I made a boo-boo in the heat of the debate, and I'm sorry." There's a segment of the population that doesn't love Bush, and is looking for reasons to vote for Kerry-Edwards, but questions their merits and character. This smacks of demagogy and political calculation, and to a parent, will resonate. Gratuitiously bringing up Mary and pretending it's praise of the Cheney family doesn't pass the smell test. It will cause some of the waverers and weak Kerry folks to waver and hesitate to vote for them. If a few of these folks decide not to vote or to vote Bush, it could be significant in swing states.

October 13, 2004

Grade for the Final Debate








W finally exceeds the "Gentleman's C" in something.

The third debate was mostly recycled claptrap, except for a few revealing moments:

  • Bush finally tags Kerry as a Massachusetts liberal and a do-nothing

  • Bush radiates sincerity on the faith and wife questions while Kerry can't bring himself to say anything nice about Terezinha. In fact, the question puts him in mind of his mother's deathbed. Guess who's sleeping in the garage tonight.

  • Bush was programmed to answer jobs question by talking about education.

  • Listening to Kerry is like listening to a neighbor child practice the tuba, pace Roger Bobo. Bush, on the other hand, has adopted the persona of a cracker Alfred E Newman by way of Andover, Yale, and Harvard B-School.

As for the rest of this gabfest, been there, done that.

October 12, 2004

I'm Live Blogging Debate No. 3





1. Will our children live in a world as safe as the one we grew up in?We can be safe if we stay on offense and spread freedom and liberty. 75% of Al Qaeda brought to justice. Held to account a terrorist regime We have a comprehensive plan. Goes to Kerry nuisance thing. Rebuttal-exaggeration. Use every asset at our disposal.Yes. We must be. Pres. rushed us into war, pushed away allies. US bearing burden. Host of options like inspecting ports, cargo hold not xrayed, not enough fire and police. I can be smarter and more effective, hunt and kill terrorists. Do it like FDR, Reagan, Kennedy, with allies and better intelligence. Rebut. Outsorced Osama hunting to Afghan warlords. Bush- not concerned about Osama. Bush could've had him. Weak answer.
2. Flu vaccine?Relied on an English co., contaminated. Working with Canada in hope they'll help produce vaccine needed. Don't get flu shot if you're healthy and young. Goes to litigation ans deterrent to vaccine production. Rebut: plan not a litany of complaints. Have to pay for it. Cost would be $5 trillion over 10 years. Bait and switch--empty promise.Underscores problems of health care system. Not working for family. 5 million lost health insurance. Statistics. I HAVE A PLAN to let all Americans buy in to insurance. Rebut: Bush did this on seniors. No response to Bush. Bush got him.
3. Kerry-- you promised not to raise taxes on people with incomes below $200K. Won't this screw up debt.Rhetoric doesn't match record. Colleague of Kennedy. You pay, he goes ahead and spends. 2 trillion in new spending, new tax raises 600-800M. Middle class will pay. We need progrowth policies and fiscal sanity.I can do it. Pay as you go system. Have to show how to pay for programs. Roll back Bush tax cuts. Use McCain Kerry Comm. plan. Favors to oil and importers. Fight for American worker. I show how. Pres. never vetoed a bill.Kerry weak and wishy washy. Bush strong and got in some left jabs.
4. How grow economy?Support education. Best way to keep jobs here is to make sure education system works. I saw problem in education. Shuffling kids through system. Let's raise standards now. Reward teachers in school districts that work. Pell grants.Notice how Bush shifted from jobs to education. Let's talk about fiscal responsibilty. Like Tony Soprano talking about law and order. We have deficits all over. Prices up, etc. Wages going down. New jobs are less well-paying. Cut Pell grants, cut college loans, didn't extend unemployment and health care. I'm going to help workers to transition.Kerry gets him. Bush evaded question.
5. Is it fair to blame admin for job loss?Whoof! Litany of misstatements. Pell grants increased by 1 M students. More money in pocket due to tax cuts. Child credit, reduced marriage penalty, 10% bracket. Your money. We're spending your money. Gov't should not tell citizens how to live. Record of Kerry in Senate does not match rhetoric. 277 budget busters, 98 raisers. Bush -- no one is playing with vote. Mainstream in US politics -- you sit on far left bank.Not entirely. Outsourcing is going to happen. I've told union stewards I can't stop outsourcing. Make playing field fair. Don't subsidize going overseas through tax deferral. Shut loophole in nanosecond and lower all corp. taxes, manufacturing jobs credit. Fair trade playing field: Boeing vs. Airbus, (Bush grinning). We have to fight for fair trade for US worker. Fiscal discipline. Can play with votes, 600 votes for tax cuts. Pell grants go up in numbers because they have less money.Bush effective. Kerry too detailed
6. Is homosexuality a choice?Dunno. Be tolerant and let adults live as they choose. But don't change basic views on sanctity of marriage. Worried that activist judges redefining marriage. Amendment will protect. People will participate: judges not citizens are deciding. Kerry against Defense of Marraige Act. Concerned judges will overturn it.Cheney's daughter is being who she was. Not a choice. I know people who struggle with this for years. Respect that. We share belief marriage is bet. a man and a woman. Also believe because we are US and have rights, can't discriminate in workplace and rights. States can manage.Each shored up base. Each tried to look tolerant.
7. What about bishops on stem cell and abortion?Society should be one where everyone matters, every child is protected. Differences on the issue, but reasonable people can get law to reduce abortions in place. Partial birth abortion ban. Overwhelming vote of both parties, but Kerry out of mainstream, voted against law. Culture of life. Work together to reduce abortions, promote adoptions, fund maternity homes.Disagrees with bishops. Can't legislate my own articles of faith. Choice is a woman's choice -- woman, God, and MD. Won't allow change in Roe v. Wade. Bush wants to do that. I was an altar boy. Quotes JFK -- I happen to be Catholic. Faith without works is dead. Everything guided by faith, but don't transfer to others. Poverty, Equality, Environment. Kerry wishy washy. Bush shored up base again but didn't sound like bigot. Good point on partial birth abortion.
8. Health care costs and litigation.Consumers not involved. No market forces invovled. I like health savings accounts. Make sure people make their own health decisions. Lawsuits causing costs to rise. Defensive practice of medicine. Need more high tech in health care to reduce costs. Generic drugs. Kerry has no record on reform of health care. No leadership. Passed only 5 bills. I led on prescription drugs.H.C. costs higher because administration stood in way. Drug importation from Canada. Pres. blocked. Medicare should negotiate bulk purchase. $138 million windfall to drug cos. Gotta have health care for all. Has passed 56 bills, but more importantly, helped write early childhood health care.Bush got him on record. Details are MEGO (My Eyes Glazed Over).
9. Kerry -- you can pay for health care how?Not so sure it credible to quote leading news organizations. Lewin report says Kerry plan costs 1.2 trillion bucks. 20 million more in government controlled health care. Medicaid increase reduces incentive to business to provide insurance. Fundamental difference. Govt. health will be poor, lead to rationing, more controls. Look at other countries with govt. health care. Very poor systems. Rebuttal-- we've increased VA funding. Meeting obligations to veterans. My health care plan, America, doesn't require you to do anything. You're free to keep what you have. No compulsion. Take over Medicaid children from states, and states can cover individuals up to 300 p.c of poverty. Broader competition to buy into congressional type plan. Allow buy in to medicare early. Give small business a tax credit to cover employees. Same money by early diagnosis. Rebuttal: VA not funded, medicare not adequately funded, but I'm not proposing a government program.Bush did pretty well. Kerry full of details.
10. Social Security -- cost of private accounts. Where get money? Increase deficit?Reassure seniors -- you won't lose your checks. A real problem for the young. Will cost trillions. Need a different strategy. Studied issue by commission. Came up with a bunch of ideas. Young workers should be able to invest some of their own money. This will increase solvency. Vital issue. Willing to take on--unite both parties. Cost of doing nothing is more than cost of reform.Private accounts is invitation to disaster. 2 trillion dollar hole in SS, because today's workers pay for today's retirees. Would lead to 25-40% cuts in benefits. Nothing he's done is paid for. I fought for fiscal responsibility. Balanced budget. Paid down debt. Protect SS. Won't cut benefits.Advantage Bush, I think, but could scare pensioners.
11. Greenspan says no way we can pay retirees what we've promised them. If we have no change, will this be a problem for our children?Kerry voted to tax benefits. I didn't hear a plan. Tax cuts went to low and middle income Americans. Taxes are fair. All opposed by Kerry. Idea to spur consumption and investment to get us out of recession. Stock decline before I took office, then a recession, and an attack. We acted. Passed tax relief. Economy's growing. More work to do. Increasing govt and taxes is not way to grow economy.We solved problem in past. Onto tax cut for rich. We're going to grow to cut deficit. Later on, we'll pull together experts, and make adjustment. First, create jobs. No one lost jobs the way Bush does. I HAVE A PLANBush was good and strong. Kerry obscure.
12. Finally! What about immigration. Lots of email on this.Security, economic, and human rights issue. We increased Border Patrol and equipment, and we'll continue to do. I was a border governor. Economic issue. Should be a temporary worker card, if American not there to to the job. Period of time attached to card. Won't have to sneak. Focus on BP doing job. No amnesty. No reward for illegal behavior. Kerry supported amnesty for illegals. We ARE protecting borders.Back to middle class family not making it -- another nonresponse. More statistics on inequality. tBorders not protected as they should be. We need to be tougher. Crack down on illegal hiring. Earned legalization program -- out of the shadows. 4000 a day cross border, including people from Middle East. Not enough technology. Borders not secure and I'll make them secure.Both poor answers. Bush did OK.
13. Minimum wage. I supported McConnell's bill. Education=jobs. Back to no child left behind. Measure -- show if child is learning. Close minority achievement gap. Don't quit on children. Need to raise minimum. Hold on to equal pay. Bush doesn't value families. We will raise women's pay. GOP doesn't enforce this stuff. Raising minimum would increase consumption. Fight tooth and nail to raise min. wage.Bush segues to education instead of jobs. Doesn't critique concept of min. wage as job killer. Second time he did it.
14. Overturn Roe?No litmus test. Very short answer. Kerry has litmus test -- liberal Sen. from Mass. would attack us for not spending enough.Won't appoint a judge who will undo constitutional right. Racial inequality segue. Bush wouldn't fund programs. 500K kids lost afterschool programs on budget, so wealthiest could get tax cut. Neither hits the judge issue. Embarassing. Bush could have hit him on judges. Missed opportunity.
15. Back door draft of guard? What would you do?Way to relieve pressure is to succeed in Iraq. I met guard. They were serving their country and they knew it. Back to "global test." I work with allies, will do so, but never turn over our national security to leaders of other countries. Kerry voted against use of force in 1991 when we had an alliance.Expand forces. Bush mismanaged war. Didn't choose war as last resort. We're spending too much. Took eye off Osama. Rebut--never said I'd turn security over to other nations. But we ought to pass a "truth standard" to gain legitimacy with countrymen and the world. Bush got it--vote on Gulf War--he's b.s.ing. That was the zinger.
16. Assault weapons ban.I supported it but both parties opposed it. Thing to do is prosecute gun crime.Law enforcement was for ban. Bush didn't fight for it. I'd have gone out to the country.Each plays to base. Kerry more eloquent.
17. Affirmative action.Has met with Black Cong. Caucus. Don't agree about quotas. Aggressive effort to make sure people are educated, Pell Grants, 10 million families. Best way to help businesses is through loans and unbundule government contracts. Minority owned businesses are up. Ownership society. More minorities own homes than ever before.Long way to go. Affirmative action not just for blacks -- women and so on. Oppose quotas. Mend it, don't end it. Distance to travel on racism. This president wouldn't meet with NAACP or black congressional caucus. Doesn't reach out. Bush started weak on Black Caucus, finished strong on ownership.
18. What place does religion play in your policy?I pray a lot. But we're free to do it or not. This is a free country. Faith sustains me. My decisions based upon principle. Faith based initiative. God wants everyone to be free. Afghan freedom is gft from Almighty. Religion a party of me.Respect what President has said. Everything is a gift from the Almighty. Cites all kinds of scriptures. Two greatest commandments --love God and neighbor-- have more loving of neighbor to do here and abroad. Unequal school systems. Difference of opinion on how we live out faith. More work to do. Respect religious freedoms.Kerry hits multicultural note. Bush cements base again, yet emphasizes freedom.
19. How bring people together? Biggest disappointment was not bringing folks together. We did at the start. Lots of special interests. I'm going to keep trying. We've been divided for a long time. McCain is for me for President, because of Iraq.Bush did good job after 9/11. I've worked with both sides. No secret meetings. Genuine efffort to bring people together. More campaign finance reform.
20. What did you learn from wives?Listen. Don't scowl. Very personal talk about her. Love a first sight.Lucky people who married up. Some would say me more than others. I can take it. Talks about his late Mother. Integrity, integrity, integritWeird segue away from wife. Didn't say he loved wife or she's special. People could see that
Close.Painting of a Mt. scene. Live on sunrise side, to see day that's coming. Love optimism. That's how I feel about America. Been through a lot, recession, attack, etc. Reformed schools. Achievement gap closing. Work on health care, compassion, optimistic about War on Terror; requires resolve and clear purpose. Never waver, and as we pursue, spread freedom and liberty. Faith in ability of liberty to transform societies. Look for America as prosperous and safer. Ask for vote. God bless.No veto over security. Faith in God. We can do better. Greatest dreams and possibilities are ahead. Embark with me. Ask for help and trust. Most of all, be safer. God Bless.

October 11, 2004

Lileks Said It Better

Lileks hits it out of the park on this statement by Sen. Nuance, in the New York Times:
When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. 'We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,' Kerry said. 'As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.'

Here's Lileks's analysis:

Tony Soprano doesn’t take over schools and shoot kids in the back. The doxies of the Bunny Ranch don’t train at flight schools to ram brothels into skyscrapers.

A nuisance?

A nuisance? I don’t want the definition of success of terrorism to be “it isn’t on the rise.” I want the definition of success to be “free democratic states in the Middle East and the cessation of support of those governments and fascist states we haven’t gotten around to kicking in the ass yet.” I want the definition of success to mean a free Lebanon and free Iran and a Saudi Arabia that realizes there’s no point in funding the fundies. An Egypt that stops pouring out the Jew-hatred as a form of political novacaine to keep the citizens from turning their ire on their own government. I want the definition of success to mean that Europe takes a stand against the Islamicist radicals in their midst before the Wahabbi poison is the only acceptable strain on the continent. Mosquito bites are a nuisance. Cable outages are a nuisance. Someone shooting up a school in Montana or California or Maine on behalf of the brave martyrs of Fallujah isn't a nuisance. It's war.

But that's not the key phrase. This matters: We have to get back to the place we were.

But when we were there we were blind. When we were there we losing. When we were there we died. We have to get back to the place we were. We have to get back to 9/10? We have to get back to the place we were. So we can go through it all again? We have to get back to the place we were. And forget all we’ve learned and done? We have to get back to the place we were. No. I don’t want to go back there. Planes into towers. That changed the terms. I am remarkably disinterested in returning to a place where such things are unimaginable. Where our nighmares are their dreams.

We have to get back to the place we were.

No. We have to go the place where they are.

October 10, 2004

Liberalism and Gnosticism

A Seattle doctor offers a thought-provoking analogy between liberalism and gnosticism, the ancient (and recently revived) belief in secret knowledge as the key to spiritual salvation, combined with a view that the material world itself is corrupt.

HT to Sue Bob's Diary.

Send Your Kids to Trucking School

Some parents in my home town start to worry about college admissions when their kids turn 11.

For years, I've thought it makes more economic sense to send your kids to trucking school when they turn 18. It takes a few weeks. Then co-sign for a Peterbilt tractor. It's all a matter of opportunity cost.

The tads can start earning right away. So if college costs $50K a year, the college-bound will cost $200K in four years (and it often takes longer). Meanwhile, the truckers will be earning, say $50K a year. At the end of four years, your trucker kids will be $400K ahead. And at the end of four years, most college kids will either be (a) going into occupations with mediocre pay, like teaching; (b) going to graduate school; or (c) going into rehab.

So, is "liberal education" worth it from an intellectual or spiritual perspective? Given the biases and dominant schools of thought on campuses today, I'm not so sure.

Of course, if your kid really wants to learn about raku, the banjo, or telemetry, by all means they should do so, and if you can, you should help them do it.

But if you're motivated by economics or just a general idea that college is a "good thing," trucking school is an option worth considering.

Update: here.

October 9, 2004

Kerry's "Lebanon" Remark

Hugh Hewitt's second blogger symposium asks
Lebanon?  What does Kerry Mean by Lebanon?" which is on the subject of John Kerry's exchange with the press on Thursday, a transcript of which appears here, with a press release from the RNC on the allegation by Kerry that General Shinseki was "fired" interjected. The symposium question: "What do Kerry's answers to today's press inquiries tell us about Kerry's worldview and character?"

The Lebanon remark follows:

Q. "If you are elected, given Paul Bremer's remarks, and deteriorating conditions as you have judged them, would you be prepared to commit more troops."

A.  "I will do what the generals believe we need to do without having any chilling effect, as the president put in place by firing General Shinseki, and I'll have to wait until January 20th. I don't know what I am going to find on January 20th, the way the president is going. If the president just does more of the same every day, and it continues to deteriorate, I may be handed Lebanon, figuratively speaking. Now, I just don't know.  I can't tell you.  What I'll tell you is, I have a plan. I have laid out my plan to America, and I know that my plan has a better chance of working.  And in the next days I am going to say more about exactly how we are going to do what has been available to this Administration that it has chosen not to do.  But I will make certain that our troops are protected.  I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, and I will make sure that we are successful, and I know exactly what I am going to do and how to do it."

It does seem hard for him to "have a plan" and at the same time have no idea what he would be handed (God forbid!) on January 20th.

What "Lebanon" does he fear being handed? It could be one of at least three:

  • Most probably, he's referring to the Lebanon of the civil war in the '80s, into which Israel (unsuccessfully) and Syria (successfully, so far) intervened -- a multitude of sects and parties, once carefully balanced in an intricate political system that left the Christian Maronites and Sunnis on top and the U.S. Marines were there for a time, too, until Hezbollah blew up a barracks and Reagan cut his losses and withdrew.

  • He could also be referring to the Eisenhower intervention in Lebanon that occurred when the Hashemite king of Iraq was deposed, his body dragged through the street in a jeep, and Lebanon and Jordan were both threatened by Nasserite rebellion.

  • Or more remotely, he could be referring to the current situation, where Syrian troops and intelligence maintain overall control of the political system, and the US and even the UN asks the Syrians to leave.

Kerry is almost certainly be referring to the Lebanese civil war of the '80s, and the condition he fears in Iraq is one in which the ethnic and religious groups in Iraq began to struggle with one another militarily and not just politically. This is not an irrational fear. The Kurds don't trust us or the other Iraqis, in both cases with some justice. The Shi'a, now that Muqtada as-Sadr has been quelled for the moment, will wait for elections on the theory that they will end up dominating. The Sunni are mostly unhappy and some in open rebellion, because they foresee a loss of their former dominance. The Turkmen are waiting watchfully, with some support from Turkey. Long story short, most of the groups are watching and waiting, but a descent into active warfare is possible.

It's more likely that most will wait to see what happens with the planned Iraqi elections.

If the civil war scenario were to come to pass, it could pose major problems for the U.S. forces and for U.S. policy. But Kerry's invocation of this scenario is not thought-out, but what my children call "random" -- that is, arbitrary and unmotivated. It's typical Kerry, a reference designed to make him seem knowledgeable and Bush misguided, but devoid of any real content. It's not, "if we can't prevent a Civil War we might (a) need to invoke a regional negotiated solution; (b) send more troops; (c) evacuate," but "I have a plan, but I can't tell you what I will do, because after all, it might become . . . LEBANON! And you should elect me, because I can say Lebanon in English and in French."

In short, the reference to Lebanon reaffirms Kerry as a pompous, "pampered cipher," as Mark Steyn calls him.

From the perspective of US interests, the biggest fear (next to an Al Qaeda takeover, which even Kerry might resist with overwhelming force) is that a chaotic Iraq would invite intervention by a regional power, just as a chaotic Iraq invited intervention by Syria. The candidate power for intervention in Iran, which would be unacceptable as long as the mullahs rule. The mullahs won't intervene as long as Bush is in power, because they know his determination. If Neville . . I mean, Kerry, is elected, Iranian intervention would be a great danger, because his response would very likely be akin to Carter's feckless response to the Iranian hostage crisis. For all we know, Kerry would have a summit conference with Chiraq, Putin, Mubarak and the Iranians, and acquiesce in their intervention as long as there was an international fig-leaf for it, as there was in the beginning for Syria's intervention in Lebanon.

My views are more akin to Mark Helprin's realistic hawkishness, but Kerry, almost certainly, would be a feckless, hand-wringing internationalist -- or worse.

On Political Guidance From Artists and Performers

My Texas art-teacher daughter expressed the view on our family blog that we should listen to the voices of the creative people in deciding political questions (hyperlinks by me):

I am a Democrat because I love Susan Sarandon, alfalfa sprouts, French existentialism, Big Bird, contemporary art, and punk rock. Listen to the voices of creative people and vote with the artists, musicians, writers, interior designers, freaks, vegans, and beret wearing mimes. (Yes, I'm certain Big Bird is voting for Kerry this year. He voted for a third party candidate last election.. and he won't make that mistake again!)
I would find it difficult to listen to music that is meaningful to me and then practice politics that contradict that world view.
I believe that the things that make life worth living, such as painting, music, literature, are not just window dressing. The arts are the best building blocks of human culture and a worthy source of political inspiration.

Love my daughter madly and respect both her art and her brain. But I got to thinking and put down some thoughts on the family blog, which I've edited for this public one, adding a bunch of hyperlinks.

I'm not so sure about taking political guidance from artists and performers, even if I'm no Laura Ingraham. My barber, Lonnie, cuts my hair beautifully, but I wouldn't ask his advice about nutrition, immigration reform, or gardening.

(a) When it comes to artists (in the broad sense, musicians, actors, and mimes included), I'm dubious indeed. Ever since François Villon, at least, there have been artists who were vagabonds, drop-outs, high-livers, voluntarily poor (maybe the last two are a contradiction), and generally self-created outsiders. (This history is truncated and simplified, but it'll do for now). So one species of artist is the garret-dwelling or wandering rebel and outsider.

These folks are great as mockers of social convention and often quite creative. But most of them never met a payroll, and wouldn't want to, either. They also never conducted a fair trial, worked out a budget, or negotiated a compromise between competing interest groups. And fer sure most never defended a country under military threat. Doesn't mean they aren't good at their craft.

(b) The artist as political mentor idea doesn't test well, either, it seems to me. Picasso, certainly an innovator and creator of great works, was a Stalinist even when the deliberate starvation of the Ukraine and the purges were known (My sister says he was a misogynist, too). Guérnica still a great work even if there was a log in Stalin's eye as well as that of the Germans in the Spanish Civil War. Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is a fine (maybe not great) choral work, and Leni Riefenstahl was a highly talented film maker and later photographer, though both were on the Nazi side. Dennis Miller and Janeane Garofalo don't have the same political views, but they're both funny in their way.

(c)She's on to something, though, with the grouped cultural references (Humvees and Blockbuster, Babdists and Pat Boone, etc.) The marketers do identify different subgroups of the population around clusters of preferences both for consumer goods and values -- it's pscyhographic segmentation in B-school jargon. So single, childless females are more likely to vote Dem., married women with children GOP, Pentecostalist deer hunters GOP, Thomas Frank, who wrote What's the Matter With Kansas? laments the tendency of culturally conservative Middle-Western blue-collar family types to vote against what he conceives to be their economic interests.

I don't know whether I'm a latte-swigging, bicoastal, NPR-listening, artsy-fartsy secular, or a middle-aged, middle-class, property-owning white father, or both, let alone how that all affects my voting, tho' the pros seem to think it's relevant. I do know I'm a skeptic and I think my current preference is mostly based upon my belief that even though I could write a book (or a long think-piece, anyway) about what the Bushies have done wrong on the issue, I don't trust the Democrats to defend the country against Islamofascism, and everything else takes second place. (That's not intended as a poltiical argument, just self-analysis). I like "White Wedding" and giant vinyl burgers, but I'm not about to ask Billy Idol (cool site!) or Claes Oldenburg how to vote.

Australia Is No Spain

Australian Prime Minister Howard won a historic fourth-in-a-row victory in elections today.

This notwithstanding Australian participation in the Iraq war and several terrorist attacks directed at Aussies in Indonesia.

Guess they're not part of the "coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

October 8, 2004

Presidential Debate No. 2 -- Grades








Bush was on his game tonight.

Kerry has good delivery -- less pompous than he usually seems -- but has little substance. He was afraid to say what he really believes, though he toyed with it, on the Supreme Court, for example.

Still no questions about immigration.

Confession: I hear the phrase "health care" and MEGO -- My Eyes Glaze Over.

October 7, 2004

The Cowbird Strategy

Male and Female Cowbirds
Originally uploaded by octopod.
Went to court in Compton a few days ago. Compton's a majority-minority town in LA County famous for its indicted elected officials and schools so horrible the state took them over.

After I'd finished my appearance, I was waiting for the elevator. A middle-aged lady wandered in, saying to herself in a loud voice "Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!" I don't know what the thanks were for. Perhaps a relative got probation.

Then a short, young-looking fellow came in, dressed in jeans whose legs would clothe an elephant's foot, grousing about having to pay child support. He announced that he was going to buy something or other and sell it for cash, because if he got a job, they'd garnish his wages for the $400 a month he would otherwise have to pay in back child support.

Then he remarked that anyway, he had another baby to support.

So, no doubt, we taxpayers are paying to raise this squirrely little sperm-donor's expanding progeny, who will be raised alone by a young uneducated mother with a crop of half-siblings, and a father who at best shows up every now and then for a hug, a meal, a loan, or a poke.

From a moral perspective, this behavior is disgusting. Parenthood carries with it responsibilities. "Multiply and replenish the earth" means more than "find her, feel her, f*** her and forget her."

From an evolutionary perspective, this behavior resembles that of the cowbird, which lays its eggs in strange nests for other, dumber birds to raise.

From a policy perspective, we should not provide incentives for this kind of conduct. "Snip, snip" on the sperm ducts would seem appropriate, except for the "slippery slope" danger.

There is a buried racial issue here. Let's un-bury it. This kind of behavior is stereotypically associated with the black commuinity, but is by no means confined to it. There are plenty of young white slackers who spead their sperm around with no thought of caring for the result.

The question of marriage is part of this issue. It used to be that young couples whose dalliances resulted in pregnancy were encouraged to marry, the "shotgun wedding." Then the high divorce rate among those who married very young and the availability of AFDC ("welfare") let to an increasing acceptance of single motherhood even among mothers with no education and no private means of support. Proposition: if you have kids, you are obliged to provide for them not merely with money, but with time, love, and attention. It's a corollary of "Multiply, and replenish the earth," and indeed, for the scripturally challenged, of natural moral law.

It may take a village to raise a child, but first it takes parents.

Moreover, to do it right, it takes parents of both sexes. I know a number of divorced women who have found it in their sons' best interest to have them live with their fathers during adolescence.

This is not to say that single parents are doomed to fail in raising children, or should be denied the right to adopt. Plenty of single parents (including me) have done all right. But two responsible parents is ideal.

The little notch-carving slacker sperm-donor in the courthouse hallway is really far from ideal. We are people, and we don't need cowbirds laying their eggs in our nests.

Oh, and thanks to Cornell's fine ornithology site for the bird picture. If you go there you can hear the sounds the birds make, and as much as (or more than) you may want to know about any North American bird species.

From the Nation That Educated Pol Pot

The Dhimmi-in-Chief announced in Hanoi that American cultural influence is baleful.

Didn't this pack of singes capitulards* educate the mass murderer Pol Pot, not to speak of Uncle Ho and his minions?

I could rant some more, but 'nuff said. HT to Allah.


*Surrender monkeys.

October 6, 2004

A Must-Read

Read this.

A bunch of medieval fanatics want to kill us. They've struck already. We must hunt them down and kill them before they kill us.

Bush, whatever his limitations, knows this.

Kerry, at best, is not sure, and prefers the UN and other nostrums.

We need the guy who understands.

All the rest, my friends, is commentary.

Hat tip to Hugh.

VP Debate Report Card

Have parents sign and return tomorrow:








Gwen Ifill's questons were mostly good, at times incisive, and she was pleasant and professional.

Big missing question: Immigration.

October 5, 2004

Random Thoughts on Cheney's Win

Since he came to national prominence, I've always thought Dick Cheney was a national treasure. The very gruff, laconic, knowledgeable approach that makes him a bit "dark" on TV, I find reassuring. He's the kind of guy I imagine I'd want as a commander in war -- he'd do what he has to do to win, and do his best to keep you safe, without mincing words.

Edwards was well-prepared, expressive, knows some good courtroom techniques. He seems likeable, but he also seemed a lightweight. He didn't answer the questions, and avoided doing so in a very obvious way. A low-key demagogue.

Gwen Ifill asked some good, hard questions. I was surprised. Of course, she didn't ask about the big univited guest at the national table -- immigration. I'd like to see somebody do it, but I'm not counting on it.

Best Cheney lines:

  • I preside over the Senate, and this is the first time we've met.
  • If you can't stand up to Howard Dean, how are you going to stand up to Osama Bin Laden?
  • Thanking Edwards for his kind remarks about his family, and then shutting up about gay marriage

Most important thing: Kerry's record is now out in the open and up for grabs and "global test" was reinforced as a GOP mantra.

With the playoffs on, the male audience, who Cheney might appeal to, was probably low. In fact it was probably low except for political junkies such as I.

Demo Signs That Make Sense

Anti-anti-war Protestors
Originally uploaded by octopod.
Couldn't resist posting this. It's from a demonstration in Austrilia.

HT: KJL at The Corner.

Risk Perception and Radiation

Evangelical Outpost has an interesting piece that argues that the popular conception of the dangers of radiation, incuding thehealth dangers of radiation from nuclear bombs and radiological weapons, is overblown.

Most people don't estimate risk based on a rational risk calculus.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

First, most people are functionally innumerate-- they don't understand numbers beyond making change.

Second, a subfield of social psychology that studies perception of risk, as here, shows that certain characteristics of risks lead people to overestimate them. For example, an unfamiliar risk tends to be overestimated, as are risks over which people feel no control.

Radiation, invisible, mysterious, and out of individual control, is an exemplar of a real risk that is widely overblown.

The existence of political movements with a state in exaggerating these risks adds to the fear. Do a Google search on "Alar," for example, and you'll get dozens of sites such as this that still argue that the pesticide, used on apples until banned, really was terribly dangerous. A contrary view is expressed here. Few of these sites have real data, mind you. For that, you'll have to dig deeper and perhaps go to a (shudder!) library.

Years ago, Congress passed something called the Delaney Amendment that sought to ban anything in food and cosmetics that presents any risk of cancer at all.

The emotionally freighted issue of the alleged health risks of electrical and magnetic fields (EMF) is another example of a risk overblown by a combination of psychological and political factors.

Hence the receptivity in some circles to Sen. Kerry's tirade about "bunker buster" bombs.

Demonstrating the cogency, no doubt, of H. L. Mencken's remark that "No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."

Of course, the "What, me worry?" approach also has its political backers, although usually less shrill

One moral of the story is that in this damn'd business of politics, one needs one's brains all the time. That is a risk to which many, perhaps most, are especially averse.

October 4, 2004

Profound New Post

One John from San Francisco starts out his blog with a very wise post on Kerry's digs at our allies and on duty.

His willingness to talk morally without sanctimony is refreshing.

October 3, 2004

Honor Among Thieves?

Tom Brokaw made an ass of himself at a panel with Dan Rather and Peter Jennings:
"Brokaw blasted what he called an attempt to 'demonize' CBS and Rather on the Internet, where complaints about the report first surfaced. He said the criticism 'goes well beyond any factual information.'

"'What I think is highly inappropriate is what going on across the Internet, a kind of political jihad ... that is quite outrageous,' the NBC anchor said at a panel on which all three men spoke."

Their audience is disappearing. How much can you make on Depends commercials?

Brokaw has proven to be as much of a clown as Rather.

Jihad? How many heads have we US bloggers cut off this week?

HT to Jonah Goldberg at The Corner.

Sorry, I Couldn't Resist

Originally uploaded by octopod.

Kerry passes the "global test" on the Left Bank.

HT to Right Thinking on the Left Coast

Just War Analysis and Bunker Busters

Here is a well-thought-out discussion of "just war" analysis as applied to Kerry's "bunker buster" outburst. First, the blog quotes C.S. Lewis:
War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face as if you were ashamed of it.

Robust English common sense, the like of which we still see nowadays, but less often. Then, a piece that includes this challenging paradox:

"Like many Christians, I believe that the use of force against evil is in keeping with God’s ethical mandate and can be even be a positive act of love. For this to be true, however, the use of military force must be justifiable under the parameters of “just war theory” including the requirements for a jus ad bellum (circumstances for using force) and jus in bello (just means in using force). The issues of when and how nuclear weapons should be used fall under this category of “just means” and should be examined it that light.

"Unfortunately, the emotional baggage we bring to the topic makes it nearly impossible to rationally discuss the use of nuclear weapons. The threat of global annihilation has so colored the debate that for many people it is considered an axiomatic truth that the use of such weaponry can never be justified. While we should empathize with the anxiety that leads to this conclusion we cannot condone such a morally repugnant stance."

Whew! It's the mindless disarmers who are immoral. An unconventional view.

He's right, of course.

HT to Hugh Hewitt, of course.

October 2, 2004

The Perfect Storm Part Four

VDH's The Perfect Storm Part Four takes apart the cultural malaise he thinks underlies the Bush-hating and anti-American ambiance of the contemporary left. Here's an excerpt:
"The current war is a touchstone by which received postmodern wisdom is open and on display. The stealthy nature of our enemy, the dirty type of war we must fight, globally televised battlefields far away in the volatile Middle East or unknown here at home, the ability to punish our enemies without further endangerment of or much sacrifice from most Americans, Christian versus Muslim, West against East, strong opposed to weak, white in antithesis to brown—all these realities of this war in an almost uncanny way invite critique from the postmodern Left.

"In contrast, should the United States fight a moral, defensive war against amoral aggressive terrorists and autocrats, seek democracy and social justice in place of fascism, promote religious and gender tolerance where prejudice was endemic, find that American military force, not UN discourse, saved lives, then what in the world would the deductive Left do other than stage plays and skits about assassinating George Bush, trash capitalism through the largess of a currency speculator, cite historically high gasoline prices at home as proof of American petroleum theft abroad, or claim that American military police are the new Baathist henchmen?"

The whole series is worth reading

Bunker Busters -- Comments for Hugh

Hugh invites participation in a symposium about Kerry's impassioned denunciation of "bunker buster" weapons in the dangerous hands of us Yanks.

Since dictionary.com includes the following definition of "symposium":

A convivial meeting for drinking, music, and intellectual discussion among the ancient Greeks.

[Latin, drinking party, from Greek sumposion : sun-, syn- + posis, drinking; see p(i)- in Indo-European Roots.]

we must ask, "Is Hugh buying?"

That said, and getting over the initial visceral reaction, "Who's this jamoke that wants us to disarm unilaterally when we're at war with a bunch of medieval maniacs?", let's think.

What are the reasons for opposing U.S. development of bunker-busters?

Here are a few:

  1. Nuclear weapons are sui generis and uniquely dangerous. Any attempt on our part to obtain a lead in nuclear technology will inspire an equal and opposite reaction in our opponents, and so, rather than making us safer, will increase the overall danger of an intentional or accidental nuclear exchange.

  2. The nuclear option has only been used once, and now that we don't have a monopoly of such weapons, we don't want to break the taboo. The smaller and more tactical such weapons get, the more likely they are to be used, something we don't want the world to become accustomed to, because once the powers are inured to such weapons, a catastrophic nuclear exchange becomes more likely.

    A variant of this argument is that because of the taboo on nuclear weapons, they are unlikely to have a practical use. Therefore, r & d on these weapons is a waste of resources.

  3. Because of the potential for world destruction, such weapons are inherently immoral.

Now let's deal with these arguments one-by-one.

  1. The "tit-for-tat" argument had more force when we had a more-or-less symmetrical nuclear rivalry with the USSR. Those days are gone. Although the mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals is still ongoing, it's not so likely that the development of a slightly different variety of tactical nukes is going to complicate that process.

    The newer nuclear powers -- India, Pakistan, Israel -- have developed nukes for their own reasons, which won't be affected by what we do with bunker busters, but by their own military and political circumstances.

    An aside: The claim that would-be nuclear adversaries will be stimulated to redouble their efforts because of bunker-busters ignores a taboo subject -- our winking at and maybe assisting Israeli nuclear development. The Iranians, with some justice, point to the absence of U.S. or international pressure against Israeli nuclear development, as compared to the reaction to "Muslim" nukes. That's a much more important rationale for new proliferators, at least in the Middle East, than our development of bunker-busters. It's also an issue neither Republicans nor Democrats will touch. One could argue that the Israelis (unlike Libya or Iran) can be trusted only to use their nuclear arms as a last resort, but given Israel's precarious geographic and demographic circumstances and the number of kooks on the Israeli right, can we be certain?

  2. The "taboo" argument has some logic to it. Unless the "bunker buster" is uniquely advantageous compared with non-nuclear alternatives, the latter are likely to be more useful, just because the threshold for using nukes of any kind is (and should be) high.

    On the other hand, a terrorist or Iranian subterranean nuclear HQ would very likely justify using a "bunker buster." Can we afford not to have a few on hand? Are they so much more useful than non-nuclear alternatives that having them would be important? I don't have enough information to be certain.

    Kerry, though, appears not to be making a rational calculation based on US-oriented military consideratons, but to be reacting viscerally to the very concept of nuclear r & d, and against the concept of US military superiority.

  3. There's some logic to the "morality" argument, but ultimately this boils down to the "just war" argument, more particularly to the "just means" aspect. A nuclear "bunker buster" used against a military target when its success is likely and steps have been taken to limit damage to non-combatants, could be justly used. The "breaking the taboo" issue would have to be considered in any such case -- would a first use increase the likelihood of a massively destructive nuclear exchange -- but "bunker busters" don't seem to me to be inherently immoral.

Bottom line: There's a lot to consider before we decide it's prudent to develop or deploy nuclear bunker-busters, but Kerry's visceral reaction to them is not based on prudential considerations where the US national interest is paramount, but on sappy crackpot internationalism and nuclear-freeze-ism. It's those attitudes of Kerry's -- ignoring the fact that we are in a long-term, global war, and our survival depends on US understanding of the situation and determination to prevail -- that makes him and his party so dangerous.

A great war leader could come down on either side of this issue for practical reasons, but a great war leader doesn't worry about whether Jacques Chirac or Kofi Annan thinks we've passed the "global test." At the risk of overusing a cliché, we've known some great war leaders, and Senator Kerry, you're not a great war leader.

Not even close.

October 1, 2004

This Sums It Up

A reader at The Kerry Spot on National Review Online sums up the debate succintly:
"While John Kerry showed poise and looked presidential, I think he is still flip-flopping on Iraq and the war on terror. To summarize his comments: It's the wrong war at the wrong time, but I'm committed to winning it; We're spending too much on Iraq ($200 billion), but I'd send more troops and equipment; I'll bring in more nations to help Iraq, but the other nations currently in Iraq were coerced and do not provide much assistance; Saddam and Iraq were a grave threat, but Osama is the only terrorist worth pursuing; Terrorists are pourng into Iraq, but Iraq is a distraction to the war on terror. I still have no idea what he would do as President to fight this war on terrorism."

Hat tip to The Volokh Conspiracy.

VDH Dissects Leftist Plutocrats

Victor Hanson's third piece in a series ponders the predilection of the privileged to affect leftism. Here's an exceprt:

"The common cultural tie that binds the screeching Howard Dean, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, or John Kerry is not personal knowledge of the cruelty and misery inflicted by Dick Cheney’s corporate America, but precisely its dividends of prep school and lots of family money. The attack dog of Enron Terry McAuliff is $20 million richer only as a result of questionable mega-stock transactions during the eleventh-hour collapse of Global Crossing. The epitomes of American hypercapitalism—a Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, or Bill Gates—are welcomed into the Democratic crusade against George Bush’s betrayal of average America.

"Limousine liberals are not new. But the hyper-rich’s support for candidates who decry the unfairness of corporate capitalism is. Equally strange are the angry liberals at the forefront of the Democratic Party who are the elite beneficiates of capitalism—whether we see the Kerrys flying on a private Gulfstream to environmental conferences, a Barbra Streisand faxing position papers to the Democratic leadership from Malibu, or the Heinz corporation’s multinational wealth subsidizing lectures on the evils of outsourcing jobs abroad."

Hanson's a national treasure.

The Debate: My Obligatory Comment

The debate was too long -- a snooze. Lehrer's questions were largely inane. If I were running, I wouldn't want the press guys involved. I'd want a traditional one-on-one debate.

Substance. That said, on substance, Kerry really had nothing to say. He's still trying to straddle -- feeding the left the "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" line, while implying for the center that he'll be tougher than Bush, and saying he has "a Plan." What plan? A summit! With whom? Chirac and Schroder? Fat chance they will help us.

Of course, I'm old enough to remember Eisenhower's "I will go to Korea" bit, which was a meaningless promise that nevertheless helped him at the time.

W. was simplistic and missed chances to knock it out of the park, but he's not a nuclear-freeze, "global test," UN guy, either. Key point, and the voters know it anyway.

Both candidates made too much of the corrupt cartel of tyrants, the UN.

Delivery and demeanor. That said, Kerry helped himself on delivery, if only because he was articulate and showed gravitas without being quite so much a stiff as he usually seems. Although on policy grounds it's a nightmare, based on last night's performance, one could imagine him as (God forbid!) President.

Bush was repetitive and seemed tired and a bit lost. But I'm bicoastal enough to have consistently underestimated the man, whose quirks annoy me. I haven't got a feel for how this played in Peoria -- or more importantly, Toledo and Tampa. W. did stay on message, and unlike Kerry did show genuine feeling, for example, when he talked about his encounter with the war widow. Not as good at "feeling your pain" as Clinton, but genuine and effective. The seculars won't get the bit about his praying with her, but they're tone-deaf to religion in a way that most Americans are not.

Effect. The journalistic consensus seems to be that Kerry won on points, but it won't help him much. However, considering he's down 5-6 percentage points in the polls, a little boost will place him within the margin of error. At that point, events and chance could change things. Probably not, but it's possible.

Usually, in Presidential elections, my view is that neither of the candidates is very good, but either way, the Republic will survive. I'm not there in this one. Bush has major problems, but Kerry and his party are a menace to our very survival. Hence my prayer that the debate will pass as no more than a blip, and Americans just won't be able to stomach electing a Massachusetts liberal.








What we don't know is how much this oral quiz will be worth toward the final grade.