Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bin Laden, States-Rightist?

The indispensible Middle East Media Research Institute has its own translation of the bin Laden video (at least the part of it that was aired). Since they are in the business of translating Arabic media, I trust them to be more accurate in this than the U.S. networks (despite the typo in the 6th paragraph).

This version has an interesting reading of the final paragraph, which is at variance from most of the ones I've read in the Western media:

Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al-Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands, and any (US) state that does not belittle our security automatically guarantees its own security.

Emphasis added, because apparently the Arabic term in question, “ay wilaya” has been misinterpreted in the West as “country” or “nation,” meaning a nation other than the U.S.

Elsewhere, MEMRI comments:

The Islamist website Al-Qal’a explained what this sentence meant: “This message was a warning to every U.S. state separately. When he [Osama Bin Laden] said, ‘Every state will be determining its own security, and will be responsible for its choice,’ it means that any U.S. state that will choose to vote for the white thug Bush as president has chosen to fight us, and we will consider it our enemy, and any state that will vote against Bush has chosen to make peace with us, and we will not characterize it as an enemy. By this characterization, Sheikh Osama wants to drive a wedge in the American body, to weaken it, and he wants to divide the American people itself between enemies of Islam and the Muslims, and those who fight for us, so that he doesn’t treat all American people as if they’re the same. This letter will have great implications inside the American society, part of which are connected to the American elections, and part of which are connected to what will come after the elections.”

It seems as though Osama is taking these polling maps literally and seeing red and blue states as a genuine rift. I can't put my finger on the reference right now, but I'm sure I've read of an earlier bin Laden statement predicting the break-up of the United States.

As an aside, this is yet another Michael Moore echo. His notorious reaction to Sept. 11 was that the victims did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him!


TEHRAN, Iran - To shouts of "Death to America," Iran's parliament unanimously approved the outline of a bill Sunday that would require the government to resume uranium enrichment, legislation likely to deepen an international dispute over Iran's nuclear activities.

But of course, they only want the nukes for peaceful purposes. One wonders if Europe would be so eager to give them what they want if every time the hard-line parliament in Tehran ratcheted up the stakes, they broke out in chants of "Death to France."

What They Want to Hear on Tuesday

What old Europeans want us to say is, "Everything we've done since 9-11 was basically a big mistake done by that monster Bush and his friends, and we wholly repudiate it, and admit we should have obeyed France and Germany all along."

What the U.N. wants us to say is, "We'll come crawling back to you on our knees if you pretend to solve the problem in Iraq the way you pretend to be solving it in Sudan and pretended to in Bosnia and Rwanda. That way people will like us again, except those who are being killed because we're doing nothing, but they won't matter as soon as they stop breathing."

What the Islamists want us to say is, "We wanted to fight you, but you were just too tough, and now we give up trying to fight you; we'll go back to pretending you don't really exist, and that will let you sneak up on us again."

What the Russians and Chinese want us to say is, "America is so shaken by its recent foray into aggressive action that it will not dare do that again for a generation. America once again sent its military into action, then backed out on it, betrayed it, called it a pack of baby-killers, thus demoralizing the U.S. armed forces. So you have a free hand to re-adjust the nations around you and their borders to suit yourselves."

What the Iranians want us to say is, "We are tired of supporting democracy in the Middle East. We find it much more convenient to elect someone who pretends to trust your theocracy and who will make deals with you that only we will keep."

What the people want to hear in Britain and Bulgaria, and Poland, and Italy, and Australia who are battling to unseat their current leaders because those leaders stood beside America when it made a tough call want to hear is, "Never mind, allies. You risked your people's lives for us, but we weren't really serious about this, deep down. Thanks for the help, but we miss our 'other' allies more than we appreciate you. Spain was right."

We know what you want to hear. We know why something like 82 percent of non-Americans want Bush to lose. Do you think that makes it easier for an American to pull the lever for Kerry?

Or, as Gerard Baker, U.S. editor of "The Times" of London, put it:

[A]bove all, in this oppositional sort of age, when it is often easier to be defined by what one is against rather than what one is for, I have to say it is his enemies who most justify Mr Bush’s re-election. The list of those whose world could be truly rocked on Tuesday is just too long and too rich to be ignored. If you think for a moment about those who would really be upset by a second Bush term, it becomes a lot easier to stomach.... Go on America. Make Their Day.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Who Ya Voting For?

I'm voting for Anyone But "Anyone But Bush."

At this moment in history, it's absurd to vote for a man who's more angry about my $300 tax refund than about 3,000 dead Americans from terrorism. For a man who doesn't have a single good word to say for millions of Iraqis looking to America to guide them out of political squalor, and for hundreds of thousands of Americans who are risking their lives to do it, because they believe in the cause.

So, it'll be Anyone But "Anyone But Bush."

That only gives me one choice? Not my first choice? Fine. I'll take it.

The Bin Laden Tape

First thought: "Damn, he's alive."

Second thought (after finding a transcript): "He's alive, and he's seen 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' "

He's smart, for sure. He knows nothing about America and Americans, but he has a nose for weakness, and he has discovered something by watching us. This was much different than anything he's given us before. (Sure it was larded with lies: I don't believe for a minute that 1982 Beiruit was when he got the passion and the inspiration for bringing down the WTC.) And it was effective. In my newsroom last night, I could see the wheels turning as the editors read the words he spoke:

He talks just like Michael Moore. ... And I believe and approve everything Michael Moore says. ... So ... that means ...

Before the night was over I even heard someone say, "Gee, I never thought I'd agree with Osama bin Laden." But then, anyone who hates Bush can't be a bad guy, right?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

"Guardian" Wasn't the Worst of It

Daniel Pipes calls attention (reluctantly) to, a Norwegian Web site devoted to hiring an assassin to kill the American president.

The site's text, translated:

KILLHIM.NU is a cross political, non-religious movement working for the collection of money for a reward for shooting George W. Bush. The Bush family has done enough damage to the people of the world. The people of the world have clearly stated what we think of how the Bush family is running the world for its own benefit. When Bush refuses to listen to the opinion of the world, Bush has got to go!

"But the Big Story ..."

My newsroom is in an abolute tizzy right now over the "cloned soldiers" revelation. It seems the Bush campaign, in the course of making a TV ad, wanted a generic shot of a crowd of soldiers, to serve as the background for a chunk of text. So they fond a shot of Bush speaking, with soldiers ranked behind him, they plucked out Bush and the podium, and they cloned some of the soldiers to cover the hole. Daily Kos or one of those sites discovered this, and posted it up. The big media jumped on it at once. There are now two photos and two graphics on the wire as well as a full story.

What's the big deal? It would be unethical as journalism, but this is a frigging campaign ad. Advertisers do such things all the time. It's not like Bush himself made this decision. And they took their candidate out of the picture. It's not a Zelig event. But now we're talking about tearing out the back page of tomorrow's newspaper, and re-plating it to get this "story" in prominently.

By the Numbers

A statistical study of New York Times coverage explores the way the news agenda shifts based on administrations. Guess what it found?

I analyze a dataset of news from the New York Times, from 1946 to 1994. Controlling for the incumbent President's activity across issues, I find that during the presidential campaign the New York Times gives more emphasis to topics that are owned by the Democratic party (civil rights, health care, labour and social welfare), when the incumbent president is a Republican. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the New York Times has a Democratic partisanship, with some watchdog aspects, in that it gives more emphasis to issues over which the (Republican) incumbent is weak. Moreover, out of the presidential campaign, there are more stories about Democratic topics when the incumbent president is a Democrat.

Bild has Balls

Kudos for courage. Courtesy of David, Germany's "Bild" newspaper, which has the widest circulation of any newspaper in Europe, bucks the flood of contempt and endorses Bush. It lists 10 reasons:

1. Bush has clear priorities. He sees the inhuman Islamic fundamentalism and the murderous mullahs as the largest danger for the Western world.

2. Bush has learned the lessons of history. Military strength, not pleasant talk, is the only thing that helps against violent fanatics. And with Bush -- unlike with Kerry -- there is no doubt about this.

3. Under Bush, the US, as a superpower, will continue to bear the financial, military and casualty burden in the fight against terrorism in a "holy war" which Islamic fanatics unilaterally declared.

4. Along with fighting terror and the terrorists, a re-elected Bush will do everything he can to prevent nuclear proliferation. That is especially true with regard to the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

5. Bush has learned that America can defeat every country in war, but needs allies in peace. Thus, his second term will be characterized by cooperation with international partners. But he will not depend on how Syria or Libya vote at the UN.

6. Bush knows that Europe and Germany don’t have the military at their disposal to become involved in any further foreign military engagements. Therefore he won't ask them for help. Kerry will do exactly that – and will further burden already damaged German-American relations.

7. Under Bush, America will remain a reliable partner for Israel in its fight for survival. That must especially be in our German interest.

8. Republicans have always been stronger supporters of free trade than Democrats. That is also true of Bush when compared to Kerry. And that is good for Germany as an export nation.

9. Every new American administration makes mistakes. Bush has already made his. Kerry, on the other hand, has of yet held no (executive) position in the government. He would be worse prepared than most Presidents preceding him.

10. With Bush, we know what to expect. With Kerry, nobody knows what he stands for and where he wants to lead America – and the world.

A degree of wishful thinking there (but probably not as great as that in any hawkish endorsement of Kerry). And some memories of Reagan, I'll bet. I'm simply impressed, given the European climate, that anyone can see his way clear to think this through, then have the courage to put it in print.


Voting as a World Citizen

I'm casting my vote this year both as an American, and as a citizen of the world. I'm swayed by the aspirations of millions of decent human beings who are not Americans, who cannot vote, but who have as much stake in this election as I do.

That's why I'm probably going to vote for Bush. I'm not swayed by the supercilious leftist intellectuals the "Guardian" lined up. I'm swayed by real people of courage who are working and fighting for freedom in Iraq, and across the Middle East, holding Americans to our own high standards, often at risk of their lives.

Such as Humalia Akrawy

What would you do if you were a 22 year old Kurdish Muslim woman in March of 2003, when an army drawn from several countries invaded your homeland?

If you were Humalia Akrawy you would remember your brother, killed under Saddam -- and remember how they sent back just one leg and part of an arm to demonstrate his death and their power to your family. You would look at your father, who no longer has full use of his hands after being tortured by Saddam.

And then, despite the disapproval of many but with the blessing and support of your family, on 23 March you would volunteer to become a translator for the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

But what would you do when Ba'athists and jihadists ambushed your car, injuring your brother and trying to kill you, and when they later killed your 24 year old sister thinking she was you -- pumping 60 AK47 bullets into her body? Or when you received a letter saying, "We know we missed killing you, but we will be back" and then your home was blown up, injuring another brother and killing the Iraqi policeman guarding it?

If you were the remarkable Ms. Akrawy you would help your remaining family members move to a safe area in the far north of the country and then return to your job. And this time, instead of insisting on a lower profile role, you would eagerly agree to become the translator for Lieutenant General Petraeus himself, the commander of the 101st - despite all the media exposure that entailed - and you would proudly do that job in the face of continued death threats against you.

I had the humbling experience of meeting this courageous, intelligent and outspoken 23 year old woman today. Here are some of my notes, capturing her own words as much as I was able to do so, and posted here with her enthusiastic permission.

John Kerry doesn't have a good word to say for her. As I've written before, it would be possible for him to criticize George Bush's decision to go to war, and his handling of the war, and still praise the Iraqis working for democracy and freedom in their own country, as well as the Americans risking their lives to give it to them.

He hasn't done so. He's failed them, all of them. Instead, Michael Moore, with his vision of Saddam's Iraq as a children's paradise, sits at Kerry's convention in the place of honor beside the elder statesman of the party.

Not one word for the Iraqis. Not one. Their emerging secular, democratic leadership is dismissed as "puppets." He mocks the notion of building fire stations in Baghdad. Freedom there is "wrong."

The American right, embodied in the Republican Party, has its dangerous tendencies. When it goes off the rails, we know well what that looks like, and we who participate in politics on that side, are alert for its signs. We are constantly checking for the "compassion" in the "conservatives."

It seems to me the American left is in danger of going to its own extreme, which would be a depressing mix of the "spit on a veteran" spirit of Vietnam and the really brutish mutation of the British left:

The British anti-war movement is falling apart, but for a reason that the most cynical observer of the left in the 20th century could never have imagined. The left, or at least that section of it which always manages to get the whip hand, has swerved to the right - to the far right, in fact - and is actively supporting theocrats and fascists: the oppressors of racial minorities, secularists, women, gays and trade unionists.


Naturally, no criticisms of Saddam Hussein and no alliances with his victims could be permitted. George Galloway, who had saluted the tyrant's "courage, strength and indefatigability", became the movement's leader. Since then, we have had gay rights campaigners being surrounded by howling Trots and radical vicars when they tried to speak up for persecuted Palestinian homosexuals, and the former left-winger Ken Livingstone embracing a far-right Islamic cleric who has supported wife- beating, queer-bashing and the murder of Jewish civilians.

When you go into your voting booth, don't thinkof George Bush's smirk or John Edwards' hair. Think of Humalia Akrawy, and people like her. They have a lot more at stake in this election than the British chattering class, or the French kleptocracy.

Back to Ohio

OK, coin toss (Ohio state quarter) ... heads for GOP. Ohio goes for Bush. Kerry still wins by a hair.

Meanwhile, here's a plausible scenario for an exact tie.

"Guardian" Devils

By now, you've probably heard about the "Guardian" election preview column that solicited the assassination of President Bush. I can't link you to it anymore, because they've pulled it, but this was the offending final graph:

"On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?"

Hinckley, of course, didn't finish the job. Typical British socialist: no incentive to succeed; you make the A-team of U.S. assassins simply for showing up at the office and filling out the form.

And even the legendarily stupid GWB knows that if the president is assassinated, the vice president takes over. Something I'm sure this over-educated European failed to consider.

But there actually was a line I liked in the column, further up, before they pulled it. Describing John Kerry's appearance in the debates, the writer said he "looked like a haunted tree."

Meanwhile, Mark Steyn offers his take on the flap, which includes an excursion into why the Europeans who are avoiding the Iraq War aren't worth the effort to bring on board, in practical military terms:

Now suppose Belgium took the opposite position and decided it wholeheartedly supported the Iraq war and stood 100 per cent shoulder to shoulder with its American friends in the battle for freedom: in that case, they'd have dispatched a rusting frigate to, oh, the eastern Mediterranean or maybe 30 of their elderly infantrymen to help run the canteen in Qatar. That, too, would have been an empty gesture.

That's why, whoever's president, the September 10 international system can't be put back together. The Cold War required deterrence, which is about as suited to a passivist European culture as can be devised, and even then there were plenty of wobbly moments.

I have heard that many people in power in France actually were looking forward to joining the U.S. on this excursion, before their diplomats made that impossible. The French still have an interest in being a fighting force. And to do that in the modern world, you have to know how to interface with U.S. military equipment, and you have to have some experience in joint maneuvers with U.S. troops.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Election Prediction

First, the ones almost everyone agrees on:

For Bush: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming.

For Kerry: California, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington.

Of the nine states up in the air, I see Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nevada going for Bush.

I think Colorado, New Mexico, Hawaii and Florida will end up in Kerry's column.

Ohio I can't even pretend to predict at this point, but if the rest of this holds up, it won't matter. Kerry has 273 votes.

I was predicting a Kerry win about a week ago. I haven't changed that forecast. Of course, a major October surprise (including chaos following the death of Arafat) could change my guess. But I'm penciling in Kerry.

After computing this, I checked out blog-friend MDL, who has cast his own prediction, and found out that, though we differed on a couple of states, he has Kerry with a 274-electoral-vote win. He grants himself multiple guesses, however, and comes down on several sides of an answer. Is that what they mean by multilateralism? Or is that de rigueur on the global test?

Still Important

An update on the relative importance of certain world figures, as weighted by their prominence in the AP news cycle (the figure is the number of photos of them currently in the leaf desk):

Ariel Sharon ..... 71
Vladimir Putin ..... 51
Colin Powell ..... 51
Michael Moore ..... 38
Ayad Allawi ..... 29
Kofi Annan ..... 28
Rudy Giuliani ..... 16
Alan Greenspan ..... 7
Zell Miller ..... 5
Nancy Pelosi ..... 2
Rush Limbaugh ..... 0
Hugo Chavez ..... 0

Well, Big Mike had a bad week in the news cycle, thanks to some ink-hogging by Sharon and Powell. My Newsroom's favorite filmmaker drops from second place to fourth. But take heart, Moore-ites! He's still more newsworthy, as measured by the AP's choice of photographs, than the Secretary General of the U.N. and the leader of Iraq!

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Energy Crisis

I've been trying to put together a post on energy, which is the most important, and least-well-addressed, issue of our times. Meanwhile, Winds of Change has a good round-up.

Save the Scottish Regiments

The Importance of Getting It

Lileks responds to Andrew Sullivan's hawkish endorsement of Kerry. Go read the whole thing, and forgive me for giving away the ending:

Our enemies gain when America aligns itself with the nations and institutions disinclined to see America win. They don't want us to lose, necessarily, but our clear triumphs are so damnably inconvenient. In any case, it’s not Bush’s war if he wins the election, is it? And if the French and moo-lahs and disaffected café-sitters in Cairo still think it’s Bush’s war after he wins 40 states, who gives a tin merde? Kerry can buy five minutes of good will by putting the screws to Israel, and reap the accolades of those who cannot wait for the inevitable flowering of liberal democracy in Arafat’s Instant Sea-Monkey Paradise (just add statehood!) but once those five minutes are up, and the Arab press starts pointing out Kerry’s Jewish roots, and the bombs go off again in Tel Aviv, does anyone think France will petition the Security Council to bomb Hezbollah camps in Syria?

I admit. I have a fantasy. Kerry wins. He’s having a summit with Tony Blair. In the middle of the conversation, Chirac calls up; Kerry excuses himself and has a brief chat about a new resolution to let French oil companies bid on reconstruction projects, and they have an amiable conversation in French. Kerry hangs up.

“Your predecessor,” Blair says, “spoke to him in English.”

“I know,” says President Kerry. “He couldn’t speak French.”

“He didn’t have to,” Blair notes. He gives a tight smile. And sighs. And gets down to explaining what now must be done.

If Tony B. ran against Kerry in this country, I wonder who'd win? I'd vote for him. Everything else aside, he gets it. He always has.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The "Don't Blame Me" Vote

Heads explode all over the blogosphere, as pundits ponder the polls. Eighty or 90 percent of voters are locked in to a candidate, but what's with that other 10 percent or so that keeps sloshing around like a bowl of soup in a storm-bound sailing ship?

Here's my guess. They're the "Don't Blame Me" vote. They sense that whoever wins this one is likely to do plenty of bone-headed things the next four years. What they're hoping for, whether they know it or not, is to vote for the guy who finishes second. That way, come what may, they can drive around with one of those "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For _____" bumper stickers.

[Voting for Nader is not an option. As we learned four years ago, in a close election it's a one-way ticket to Contemptville, and the goal of the "Don't Blame Me" voter is to say he did his civic duty yet had no hand in making the current mess.]

Who are these people? They watched starry-eyed liberals buy into Bill Clinton's hope for a better America, and watched as the same people of high principles had to grit their teeth and defend him as his presidency degenerated into a vaudeville act.

They watched committed conservatives rally for Bush, only to see them grit their teeth and pronounce their continued loyalty to him as he shattered one cherished conservative ideal after another.

They know that Kerry is going to have to mightily piss off half his supporters to fight a muscular war on terror; they know he's going to go to Europe looking for help and get his sorry ass laughed at. And they know that, even if Bush does something they agree with, he's going to do in an Inspector Clouseau style that will make them sorry they asked for it.

This theory dovetails with the one that says whoever is leading in the polls this week actually has a disadvantage come Tuesday, because people don't like either candidate and the one who is getting the most attention will also be, unintentionally, broadcasting the things people don't like about him.

Jewish Democrats

Why do Jews keep voting Democratic? The party is all but openly anti-Israel, and important segments of it are literally anti-Semitic. You'd think Jews, in full remembrance of how the Holocaust evolved out of a democratic political system in Germany, would be sensitive to this sort of wind-shifting. But, no.

Joel Engel take a shot at explaining it.

In their worldview, words are more important than outcomes, especially when those words are uttered by Democrats. Thus, Bill Clinton's can't-we-all-just-get-along peacemaking that relied on the exaltation of Arafat is far preferable to George W. Bush's support for the terror-reducing fence and insistence on new Palestinian leadership--though the former caused the deaths of a thousand innocent Israelis, and the latter has saved innocents on both sides and brought closer the possibility of Palestinians giving up terrorism entirely--which will, of course, bring peace. Instead, Jews circulate angry emails about the lack of Jews in the president's cabinet, as if Clinton's Jewish Agriculture secretary somehow canceled out the shame of Yasser Arafat's permanent White House parking space.

To borrow longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer's phrase, Jewish Democrats are "true believers"--every bit as unquestioning of their faith as evangelicals are. (A year after the Six-Day War, Hoffer had a premonition: "As it goes with Israel," he said, "so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us.") And yet they fear evangelicals' unshakeable support for Israel on the grounds that it's biblically based, which is the equivalent of refusing to accept your dog back from the guy who found him after he admits doing it only for the reward. "I fear this presidency," claimed a Jewish man I know, "more than I fear any Arab, Muslim, or al Qaeda terrorist." (This was the same man who emailed me his outrage at there being no Jews in Bush's cabinet.)


Mark Espiner, "world music critic and theatre director," takes a look at rap in Israel in "The Guardian."

Hip-hop on the frontline, has the subhead "Globalised rap music may have lost its bite, but in the Middle East it's giving voice to both sides in the conflict."

Key phrase is "both sides."

The rap form allows a powerful voice for political invective, and is being used on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

But that's about as much "balance" as you'll get from the "Guardian" writing about an Israel it despises.

The appeal of hip-hop has found a voice in the alienated Arab-Israeli/Palestinian communities within Israel, dominated by the Jewish majority and identifying with the sentiments of US rappers in their struggle against discrimination.

Emphasis added, of course. Espiner then goes on to write about Tamer Nafer, "an Israeli-Arab rapper from the suburbs of Tel Aviv," and offers a sample of his lyrics:

"You buried the parents under the stones of their own homes
and now you call me a terrorist
Who is a terrorist?
You are a terrorist."

I wonder if he does it in a Saddam voice. "I am not the terrorist; you are the terrorist!" OK, so we've all heard this kind of apologetics for Palestinian terrorism before. I find it repulsive, but then I find a lot of U.S. rap repulsive, too.

Now compare how Espiner writes about an Israeli rapper:

But countering this alienated voice, rather disturbingly, is the voice of rightwing Zionism in rap. Subliminal, otherwise known as Kobi Shimoni, makes no bones about his stance. His rallying cry to the crowd at a concert is to ask them to wave their Israeli army dog tags in the air. One of his albums, The Light and the Shadow, has a muddy fist - that looks like a bloody one - on the cover, clutching a medallion Star of David.

Please; mud is mud, blood is blood. What's "disturbing" about this whole scene, I fail to see. But then I fail to see how waving dog tags is "disturbing" and how apologizing for bus bombers isn't. But then I'm not "Guardian" material.

Dubbed the Israeli Eminem, the former soldier's shock is not in suggesting Michael Jackson is a paedophile or swearing a great deal, it is in song titles such as Divide and Conquer or lyrics such as "the country is dangling like a cigarette in Arafat's mouth" or "to think that an olive branch symbolises peace / Sorry it doesn't live here anymore. It's been kidnapped or murdered / There was peace my friend / Handshakes, fake smile. Treaties signed in blood." Forget Eminem, this is more like hip-hop's Sharon.

Shocking! He actually says that the peace initiatives of a generation of Israeli leaders have been undermined by the murderous actions of Hamas and Al Aqsa! How dare he! Much more "disturbing" than a Palestinian denying that terrorists are terrorists.

Here the music of alienation is in danger of becoming one of aggression and oppression.

Uh-huh. And "you are the terrorist" is in no such danger at all. What a fool. Espiner concludes with the suggestion that Subliminal is "sinisterly" twisting hip-hop's message into, "you're not from here, get out."

Well, here's some things he doesn't know, or doesn't feel like telling you. Kobi Shimoni is not "countering" Tamer Nafer. Tamer Nafer was a protege of Kobi Shimoni. They had a friendship that eventually broke apart under political pressures, despite the efforts of the two young men to hold on to common ground and their shared love for a music style. The complex relationship was chronicled in an award-winning documentary titled Channels of Rage.

In one scene from the documentary, people in the audience of a Subliminal concert yell, "Death to the Arabs!" He shouts back at them: "Cut it out, you natives! Not death to the Arabs, but life to the Jews!"

"Disturbing," isn't it?

"As the final credits [of 'Channels of Rage'] roll, the two are heard arguing with each other, debating their people's points of view – but actually reaching agreement on some issues."

What a fascinating story that would be; especially compared to the "Guardian's" slithery anti-Israel tripe masquerading in a cheap "both sides" gown.

Some other surprises: Tamer Nafer is hardly "alienated" from Israel. He and Palestinian rappers like him make concert tours of Israeli cities, performing before large crowds of Arabs and Jews. But as a resident of Israel he is regarded as a traitor by Palestinians outside it, and is unable to arrange a tour of Egypt and Jordan. The only place he's truly "alienated" is in the Arab world.


"The Enemy ... is Surging"

Blackfive has an update from the ground in Iraq:

The enemy, as we expected, is surging as we approach the U.S. and Iraqi election period and enter Ramadan. Enemy activity in this AO has picked up, to the enemy's detriment. They are not very smart, and when they decide to come out and fight are easily killed. His patterns remain the same as we saw in April: move 50-150 terrorists into a city or community, use terror and intimidation to assume control, kill and maim local citizens, get his picture taken with is RPG and AK-47, then wait to see himself on the evening news. Interesting side note to ask how often you see pictures of these guys posturing and how often you see pictures of them fighting. Then compare that to how often you see pictures of U.S. servicemen fighting and how often you see pictures of them posturing. Provides a good metric for who is winning this thing: the enemy postures when the cameraman is present, but when it comes to fighting he is the most base of cowards. You don't see many images of these guys fighting because they're too busy hiding or running once the fighting starts. They're much more comfortable beheading innocents. Side note also demonstrates how, with the best of intentions and within the rightful bounds of our constitution, the press becomes unwitting collaborators in the enemy's information operations campaign. This is a fight for the will of the American and the Iraqi people. He targets the Iraqis through murder and intimidation; he targets you through the images.

Anyway...we have fought him well in a number of engagements over the past week or so. TF 1/23, 1/8 and 2d Force Recon Co performed magnificently in an operation in the city of Hit that killed 30 or so terrorists without harming an innocent Iraqi and restored both security and governance to a city taken over by the bastards for a 72 hour period last week. Of greater significance, the 503d Iraqi National Guard Bn fought as the RCT-7 main effort, were the first ones into the city, and remain there today providing security for the community. The enemy chased out of Hit moved into the city of Rawah about 50 miles west, TF 1/8 and an Iraqi Army Unit hunted them down there, killed 10-15 more and restored that community to its citizens.

Blood For Oil?

Yes, as a matter of fact. William F. Buckley makes a case:

If you are willing to die in order to protect your local hospital, then you must be willing to die for oil, because without electricity, your hospital won't take you beyond a surgeon's scalpel, and a surgeon is helpless without illumination, which is provided (in many places) by oil.

To say that we must not fight for oil is utter cant. To fight for oil is to fight in order to maintain such sovereignty as we exercise over the natural world. Socialism plus electricity, Lenin said at the outset of the Soviet revolution, would usher in the ideal state. He was wrong about socialism but not about electricity. Electricity gives us whatever leverage we have over nature.

October Surprise

Red State has a good look at the Al Qaqaa missing explosives story from the New York Times, and the doubts about it raised by NBC News and others. Doubts and questions abound.

But that doesn't stop Scripps Howard News Service columnist Martin Schram from plowing ahead and calling it "a news scoop so stunning and troubling that nobody could have predicted it and nobody can take comfort from it," proof that "U.S. government blunders half a world away have made us all less safe at home than we needed to be. Less safe than we can afford to be."

"Here's what we know for sure: A huge arsenal of powerful explosives has vanished in Iraq — including some powerful enough to detonate a nuclear bomb." Scary! Except it really doesn't take much in the way of explosives to set off a nuclear bomb. You can do it with a decent plastic explosive compound that can be made in your basement. That's not the hard part. The hard part is getting the material to put IN the bomb, and setting it up right to kick off the chain-reaction.

Belmont Club points out that the explosives (if they were there) likely disappeared during the Coalition liberation, in the chaotic conditions caused by the success of the attack and the absence of the 4ID, which was supposed to secure the north of the country via Turkey, which required the other units to keep pushing north rather than securing sites around Baghdad.

Roger L. Simon wonders if the NYT will name its sources on this one:

If the reports that Mohammed El Baradei or someone close to him is behind the leak of the putative documents that caused the new NYTrogate Scandal regarding missing explosive in Irag, the implications are staggering.

Consider this: That means a high official of the United Nations... and not just an ordinary high official but one empowered with preventing nuclear weapons proliferation... is trying to influence a US election. And we thought we had seen everything with the Oil-for-Food scandal!

Constrained by Reality

Andrew Sullivan finally makes it official and comes out for Kerry. I usually agreed with Sullivan on matters of the Iraq War, but ultimately I found his vacillation on it tiresome. Frankly, if I was a gay man, I'd have a hell of a time endorsing Bush after what's been said and done. But Sullivan bravely labors to push his Kerry endorsement into line with his own strong pro-Iraq beliefs.

[Kerry] has said quite clearly that he will not "cut and run" in Iraq. And the truth is: He cannot. There is no alternative to seeing the war through in Iraq. And Kerry's new mandate and fresh administration will increase the options available to us for winning. He has every incentive to be tough enough but far more leeway to be flexible than the incumbent.

So it's the familiar "constrained by realities" argument. It's one I've made, not in endorsing Kerry, but in reconciling myself to his likely election. Megan McArdle, however, is having none of it.

The idea that we should trust Kerry, even if we think his previous foriegn policy instincts have all been bad, because he has nothing to gain from failing to pursue Al Qaeda, makes little sense. Surely George Bush had nothing to gain from failing to suppress the insurgency in Iraq, and yet his administration still hasn't done so. This argument seems to fall into the partisan assumption that if Kerry fails it will be out of malice. But most people who think that Kerry isn't the right man for the job think he will fail not because he wants to, but because he's fundamentally wrong in some way in his national security strategy.

Similarly, it doesn't strike me as very logical to imply that Democrats have abandoned national security issues, and then suggest electing them anyway as a way to force them to "take responsibility" for national security, any more than I would employ a drug addict in a pharmacy on the theory that this would force him to "take responsibility" for enforcing our nation's drug laws.

As Instapundit would say, "ouch."

Monday, October 25, 2004

Seems About the Same to Me

Our local columnist tomorrow, introducing a piece on the shabby state of election machinery here, makes the ultimate equivalency argument:

The destruction of the World Trade Center was just as horrifying, traumatic, shocking and grievous as Bush's victory in 2000.

If I see a photo of the Twin Towers erupting in flames, even three years after the Sept. 11 attacks, I feel it in my gut.

I'm sure I'm not alone. The horror of that day traumatized America. For many, feelings of insecurity and anxiety remain palpable.

Only an insensitive lout would dare say, "Get over it."

Likewise, for many Americans, the coming election evokes negative emotions — anger, mistrust — because of what happened in the disputed election of 2000.

Those of us who supported Al Gore can't easily forget the shock we felt when George W. Bush lost the popular vote but was handed the presidency after a 5-4 decision by an aggressively right-wing U.S. Supreme Court halted a recount in Florida.

Those memories remain fresh and grievous, resonating with us just as strongly as images from 9-11.

We don't take kindly having a Bush partisan tell us, "Get over it," as one said to me recently.

The columnist concludes his piece by imagining a Kerry victory this year, under similar circumstances to 2000, and writes about how appealing he'd find it to tell Republicans in that case to "get over it." Nothing like calling yourself an "insensitive lout" in print. But the confession, in this case, is redundant.

A Little Complexity With Your Venom?

One of the most tiresome cliches of the left is that Bush and his supporters live in a simplistic black-and-white world, while those who hate him do so in defense of a world of shades, nuances, and pluralities.

Bullshit. Just listen to British MP George Galloway ranting about Iraq.

Imperialism is getting a bloody good hiding in Iraq between the hammer of the Iraqi resistance and the anvil of the global anti-war movement.

He preaches "solidarity with the Iraqi resistance." He defended Saddam, before the war. Yet despite being elected from a party that identifies itself with trade unions and the working class, he has joined the Stop the War Coalition and other British leftist groups in savagely attacking Iraqi trade unionists because they are more interested in building up their country than in attacking America.

The real dangerous, simplistic dualism in the world today, it seems to me, is that which sees anything originating from America as bad, and anything that kills Americans as good.

Abdullah Muhsin, foreign representative for the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions and no supporter of America or its policies in Iraq, takes Gallway and the others to task for this lack of complexity.

Some in the west have argued wrongly that the chaos in Iraq represents a national liberation struggle. They risk perpetuating a historical myth about our country. There is always a risk of cultural imperialism when people speak for others in the name of national liberation.

... Today Iraq is on fire. Those in Britain who love human rights and freedoms have two options: to add petrol to the flames and fuel the violence, which will certainly lead to the end of Iraq's territorial integrity, to its dismemberment and Balkanisation; or to offer solidarity and support to Iraqi democrats, socialists and trade unionists.

The emerging signs of vibrant civil society, such as organisations of women, trade unionists and students, present a real political opportunity to end the occupation and isolate the forces promoting sectarian, communal and religious violence.

... Iraq is not another Vietnam; the so-called resistance are no maquis. The resistance offers at best another dictatorship modelled on Saddam's regime, at worst an al-Zarqawi-inspired mediaeval theocracy using Iraq, rather than Afghanistan, as a base for its war against the US and Arab regimes. These forces offer only hell to Iraqis and harbour some of the world's most dangerous ideas. They have no open social or political programme and no popular base, and are feared by most Iraqis.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Another Hawk for Kerry

David, at Oxblog, calls attention to a "New Republic" (subscription only) endorsement of Kerry, which at the same time makes a pithy criticism of him from exactly the liberal point of view I seem to have about him:

Building "firehouses in Baghdad" -- a notion Kerry has repeatedly mocked -- is not only something we owe the Iraqi people, it stems from the fundamentally liberal premise that social development can help defeat fanaticism. Abandoning that principle under pressure from Howard Dean is the most disturbing thing Kerry has done in this campaign.

Yes. What's at risk in the war against Islamist fundamentalism is not American conservatism. That will carry on, no matter what. But global liberalism, which I had formerly assumed was something U.S. Democrats cherished, is in the crosshairs. And Kerry seems not to notice this. As David wrote a few days before:

[M]y most profound concern about Kerry is his naivete with regard to multilateral diplomacy. Rather, it is his total resistance to making about any positive statement about the importance of ensuring a democratic outcome in Iraq. Even though things are not going well on the ground, I believe that a true opportunity for democratization still exists. But that opportunity will amount to nothing in the absence of an all-out American effort to take advantage of it.

The trio at Oxblog are supporters of the cause of freedom in the Middle East and the War on Islamist Terror. They posted almost at the same time I did, endorsing the same cause (Spirit of America's Iraq Democracy Project). Yet Josh, one of the Oxbloggers, says he's decided to vote for Kerry. Even after agreeing that his own vision of the world hews more closely to Bush's.

I find it discouraging that, in his speech accepting the nomination, Kerry did not once use the word "democracy" in the context of Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Middle East. I don't think he shares my view of the transformative power of liberty and democracy, and I worry about how that would affect his administration's policies. I worry that he would tip the scales too much towards creating order and not enough towards creating democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. I worry, in short, that he doesn't understand that illiberal despotism is both a humanitarian issue and a security issue. What's more, I think Bush does share that strategic vision. I think he is legitimately devoted to promoting democracy around the world, and I think he understands that this is intimately connected to national security.

So why Kerry? Because once he's forced to actually govern from the White House, instead of rhetorically opposing Bush and Dean, Kerry will have to confront the hard choices, and he'll undoubtedly come to see things in the world essentially the way Bush, and Josh, and I do. And he'll be better able to act on those impulses than Bush has been lately. If the terrorists attack us, he will responde with force. Kerry will stay the course in Iraq. He will realize that, having whetted the Arab/Islamic public's appetite for democracy and freedom, we will have to continue the difficulty work of actually helping them achieve it. The traditional Democratic devotion to civic institutions and grassroots empowerment could actually be a boon here that Bush lacks.

In other words, now that the Arab world is talking about democracy -- the kind of talk that will grow and feed on itself and ultimately cannot be silenced -- we can help by having a President who (a) is not reviled in the region, and (b) is a bit less incompetent at actually promoting our foreign policy objectives than the current administration has been. Yes, (a) means that some sort of "global test" is factoring into my vote. I'm not thrilled about that, but when the major issue in the campaign is foreign policy, it would, I think, be self-defeating not to take into account how the rest of the world views the candidates and whether the rest of the world will be willing to work well with the candidate. And (b), of course, is speculative. Perhaps Kerry wouldn't be better than Bush. But any election must largely be a referendum on the incumbent, and I am increasingly convinced that Bush has mismanaged too many important aspects of our foreign policy to be given my trust again.

I can see the logic of that. The difference between my position and his isn't great. Probably he sees it as 51 percent likely that Kerry will do what Bush is trying to do, and do it better; I see it as 49 percent likely he'll manage that. That's why I'm not planning to vote for him, but won't be crushed when Kerry ultimately wins (as I think he ultimately will, around Dec. 18, after the recounts in Florida, Ohio, New Jersey and New Mexico, and the Supreme Court intervention).

Neither Bush's moral clarity and unswerving certainty, nor Kerry's constraint and "path dependence" (Josh's term) are always right or always wrong in government. There's a time for each, and, as Mickey Kaus suggested in coming out for Kerry, this may be time for "rebranding" America.

I read another intriguing reason for supporting a Kerry win, by "Cicero" at Winds of Change.

If there's solace to be taken from a Kerry victory, it will be the possibility that liberalism will be truly taken to task by historical forces, like conservativism has been. This time around, a liberal president will not have the political advantages afforded by the power vacuum at the end of the Cold War, concurrent with a miracle tech economy that kept eyes planted on the NASDAQ and not the Cole disaster. This time, a liberal president has the unenviable job of showing that the French can be reformed, that the UN is not utterly dysfunctional and that Carterism has workable limits. Let the sobering begin.

President Bush, who ran on a near-isolationist platform in 2000, redefined conservatism in 2001 because the world changed. That's why he's got my vote. Mr. Kerry, so far, seems reluctant to redefine liberalism in the context of the modern world. His heels are firmly planted on a mountain floating on magma. As president, liberalism, as we know it, will either be redefined or it will perish.

Four more years of Bush will only prolong liberalism's promenade with fantasy; four years of Kerry will either return a functional balance within our system or consummate its disequilibrium, at the risk of chaos. It is a vote of fate.

This class of hawkish-liberal Kerry supporters are also crossing their fingers with one hand as they pull the ballot lever with the other. They're hoping for the kind of transformation Oliver Kamm wrote about recently, in a British context:

Labour came to office in 1945 believing that it was well-placed to cultivate good relations with the Soviet Union - “Left can talk to Left,” as the new Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin put it. Bevin was wrong, and it was to his enormous credit that he realised this almost immediately. Soviet Communism was irrevocably hostile to the institutions of liberal democracy, and especially to parties of the democratic Left. Labour – which was the strongest such party in Europe at the time - gave historically-vital support to other social democratic parties and free trade unions on both sides of the Iron Curtain to resist Communist infiltration and expansionism. (It’s worth recording that the author of this policy was Bevin’s protégé Denis Healey – not yet an MP but International Secretary of the Labour Party.) It was a natural development of that policy for Labour to be instrumental in the founding of Nato in 1949 – a voluntary alliance establishing collective security and deterrence, which 40 years later, with the collapse of Communism is Eastern Europe, became the most successful liberation movement in history.

Having publicly cast his lot with Kerry, however, Josh can't seem to resist circling back to all the doubts about him. What if his notion of Kerry is wrong?

The obvious counterpoint to this argument is that John Kerry's Clinton-esque obsession with processing ever more information results in exactly the sort of paralysis that the United States cannot afford in the midst of its War on Terror.

My preferred counterpoint to this argument is that John Kerry's inconsistent approach to critical issues such as the war in Iraq reflects a lack of firm principles much more than it does an inability to make decisions. Kerry has made decisions -- he simply made them in response to the pressure generated by Howard Dean and then remade them in response to the pressure generated George W. Bush rather than focusing all along on the pressure generated by the situation on the ground in Iraq.

While this sort of inconsistency is an obvious source of concern, my wager on Kerry reflects my belief that it would be in Kerry's own self-interest as President to "finish the job" in Iraq.

And then goes on to say, "But that's not what I wanted to write about (again)." But it does raise another question (one that has been raised elsewhere on the bloggosphere). If Kerry wins, and becomes this more competent vision of Bush that people like Cicero and Josh (and Andrew Sullivan) hope for, what will that do to the Democratic Party? As it toughens under the realities of governance, the Democrats will have to lose their spare tire of Michael Moore-ism. And if you think that group (statistically something like 40 percent of Kerry supporters want instant, unconditional, total U.S. withdrawal from Iraq) will go quietly into the night, think again. How long before the rallies gather across from the White House and chant "hey, hey, J.F.K., how many Iraqis did you kill today?"

Meanwhile, to balance that, here's another liberal hawk coming out for Bush.

And Solomonia makes an unapologetic case for Bush that resonates with me.

When Aznar lost the Spanish election, it was seen as a repudiation of his closeness with the United States and our activities in Iraq. The terrorists won. Spin it however you want, and many did. Some tried to say that had the Spanish intending to vote for the opposition changed their votes, then THAT would have been a terrorist victory. There may be some truth to that. But the simple fact is that the international press trumpeted that vote as a repudiation of the Iraq War and the American approach the War on Terror. The terrorists themselves certainly took it as a great victory. Mission Accomplished.

That is exactly what will happen should John Kerry triumph in November. Kerry and his party have excoriated the current Administration at every turn for marginalizing the UN, for "going it alone," for pursuing a strategic war on terror - including the invasion of Iraq. A Kerry victory can only be cast as granting a mandate to reverse this trend - to cozy back up to the UN, an organization that cannot even unequivocally condemn terror, to scrape for the approval of European Nations whose interests and alignments no longer mirror ours (nor should they), and to return to a time when states could harbor and support terrorists with no fear of real action by the United States. Instead, they'll be free to hide behind their friends in the UN once again, knowing that John "Multilateral" Kerry will never touch them.

I may not care for a lot of things about GWB, but I would hate to hang Tony Blair out to dry. Or John Howard. Or the Poles, Italians, Danes, Dutch, Bulgarians, and others who accepted our invitation to help in Iraq. I would have to think we had changed course and turned the wolves lose, if not on ourselves, on all the brave Iraqis who have cast their lot with us.

Not only will the terrorists have won, smirking Jacques Chirac will have won. The reporters at "The Guardian" and their Stupid Fat Racist Americans jokes will have won. All the culturally self-loathing Hollywood dingbats will have won. My co-workers will have won. [shudder]

Why Pennsylvania?

Bush was in the area last night. He'll be back again in a day or two. Why is he spending so much time in a state that, though close, is clearly leaning toward Kerry, and firming up in the "blue" category with each poll?

Bush, when he comes here, rarely strays from his safe base counties. He energizes the troops, but he doesn't pull in undecideds.

Here's a theory suggested by someone here who knows a bit about national politics: Every time Bush puts in an appearance here, Kerry has to respond. That keeps the Democrats' big guns focused on Pennsylvania, and means less time they can spend in Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, etc. The Republicans, with more of a travel budget, can get around to other spots more easily, while the Democrats have to devote precious money and time to keeping Pennsylvania on their side.

Bush won't win Pennsylvania, and he probably knows it. But his repeated forays here may be a strategic, draw-off of Democratic electoral energy.

Spirit of America

Spirit of America, my favorite charity, is featured today in Daniel Henninger's "Wonder Land" column in the Wall Street Journal.

The column details Spirit of America's newest effort, which will protect and promote democracy in Iraq during the upcoming election there. Once again, this seems to be one of those no-brainers: whether you love Bush or hate him, whether you support the war or oppose it, democracy in Iraq is better for everyone in the world than civil war and medieval fundamentalism and thugocracy. The recent model of Afghanistan offers hope. Henninger concludes:

From day one, Jim Hake has tried to run a nonpartisan organization, but I will ask an unavoidable, partisan question: What happens to these courageous Iraqi democrats if John Kerry wins, having called Iraq a "colossal mistake"? One way to dispel any confusion would be if Mr. Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry themselves made a contribution to Friends of Democracy.

You can read more about the democracy project here.

Another SoA project I've donated to recently is providing sewing machines for the women of Ramadi.

But perhaps the effort that moved me most is the tools for tradesmen project.

My grandfather was a tool-and-die maker. Actually, before he was that, he was a juvenile delinquent in turn-of-the-century Philadelphia. Around 1911, a judge who got tired of seeing my grandfather and his older brother in his court sent the boys to the St. Joseph's Home for Industrious Homeless Boys, which stood in the 700 block of Pine Street. He used to tell us tales of being sent to a bakery nearby to pick up day-old bread for the meals in the home, and having to run a gauntlet of hungry bums who wanted the food. But he got a high school education and some professional training in the home.

Thanks to his training, he got jobs in industrial shops -- moulder's helper at the Cox Stove Foundry, drill press operator for the Philadelphia Lawnmower Co., lathe operator for Parson & Son tool & die company. Then the First World War broke out, and he and his brother got jobs in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, riding the Broad Street trolley to work. There he was apprenticed to a master tool and die maker.

The work continued after the war; each one a little higher up the ladder: Otis Elevator Co., Standard Pressed Steel Co., Fuller Machine Co., J.F. Johnson Tool & Die Co., Tucker Tool & Die Co., M.J. Brown Machine Co., Electric Service Supply Co., John Board Tool & Die Co., Atlantic Manufacturing Co. I know all the names, because he kept a careful record of each place he worked, up to his retirement. He was proud of his career of hard work. He was a hard man in many ways, competitive and brusque, though he loved his grandchildren. He knew he came from scratch, a half-Jewish, half-Irish kid from the slums of the city, and he knew what got him out of there.

He got married and had a couple of children. Then in August 1926 he fell sick with tuberculosis, the disease which had already cut a swath through his siblings, and he spent a year and seven months in a sanitarium in Hamburg, Pa., emerging in March 1928, weakened, but alive. His wife went to work as a switchboard operator in Philadelphia to feed the family.

The family moved out of the city, and after he got his health back, my grandfather found work at Hunter Pressed Steel Co. in Lansdale on Feb. 7, 1929. He was named foreman tool maker in 1930. They moved into a new house in 1932. He rode out the Great Depression there, and sent a son and a son-in-law off to fight World War II. He retired in 1962 and they moved to Florida, where he lived out his declining years happily fishing off the piers.

After he died, we found the box of his worn old hand tools, along with the account of his employment and some books of tables and charts and design patterns. There was a note in among them, a personal farewell: "Good-bye old tools. Without you I never could have clawed my way to the top."

When I see those scruffy kids on the streets of the Iraqi cities, and think how easily their lives could tilt one way or another, when I see the crowds of young men with idle hands and families to feed, I think of him.

[Say the] voices of the unemployed…
No man has hired us
With pocketed hands
And lowered faces
We stand about in open places
And shiver in unlit rooms…

[T.S. Eliot, “Choruses from the Rock”]


My friend José, Spanish-born and living in the U.S., pointed me to Iberian Notes, a blog by a U.S. expat living in Spain. IN has some bitingly good take-downs.

This one caught my eye:

If anybody ever comes up to you with that ridiculous argument about how the rest of the world should be allowed to vote in the American elections since America rules the world, try this string of arguments on him: 1) America doesn't rule the world in the first place 2) why should you jokers vote on issues that only concern us anyway--what do the Belgians know about water issues in the Far West 3) we'll let you vote in our elections if you let us vote in yours--if you have them, that is 4) you can't have representation without taxation, so when y'all start kicking in to the US treasury that's when you get to vote 5) if you want the vote in US elections, you must agree to live under US constitutional law, or else what's the point?

I was thinking about this idea of the U.S. as "the world's police." OK, I admit it, that train of thought was inspired by "Team America." But I was looking at our local police. They're answerable to the citizens. They can be sued, fired, jailed if they do their jobs in a way that the people find objectionable. They operate under rules and guidelines that they don't establish, and enforce laws that they don't make and may not even agree with, personally.

And then I look at them: they get paid a salary that my taxes help sustain. They don't buy their own uniforms or guns or bicycles. They have insurance coverage and legal representation provided by those they protect and serve.

If there's an image of America's military and its role in the modern world, it's not a local police force. More like a private security service for a big building in a dicey neighborhood. Sometimes the interest of the security force and the rest of the community converge, sometimes they don't.

Often the interests converge. For instance, the dominance of the U.S. Navy, paid for entirely by U.S. taxpayers, protects the United States and advances its interests. But it also keeps world piracy at bay and limited to intra-national waters in places like the Philippines and Indonesia, and allows worldwide trade among all nations to proceed relatively unimpeded, at no cost to them. The British Navy before us provided much the same function.

Sometimes the security guards can take down a neighborhood bad guy, but they're not required to, and it's not especially their mission. Yet the overall health of the whole block has an impact on that building and the people who work in it and protect it.

And so forth. Crude, but all such metaphors are after a while. If the role of the U.S. in the world is to change, then that will require a re-thinking on the part of more than just the Americans.

Some People I'd Rather Be Voting For

John McCain
Tony Blair
Joe Lieberman
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jeb Bush
Colin Powell
Rudi Giuliani
Zell Miller
Bill Clinton

Good Terror, Bad Terror

The United Nations condemns terrorism, but at the same time the U.N. admits that it is unable to agree on a definition of terrorism that will satisfy its membership. And unlike Potter Stewart, Kofi and Company don't even seem to know the thing when they see it.

For eight years now, a UN committee has labored to draft a "comprehensive convention on international terrorism." It has been stalled since day one on the issue of "defining" terrorism. But what is the mystery? At bottom everyone understands what terrorism is: the deliberate targeting of civilians. The Islamic Conference, however, has insisted that terrorism must be defined not by the nature of the act but by its purpose. In this view, any act done in the cause of "national liberation," no matter how bestial or how random or defenseless the victims, cannot be considered terrorism. This boils down to saying that terrorism on behalf of bad causes is bad, but terrorism on behalf of good causes is good. Obviously, anyone who takes such a position is not against terrorism at all-but only against bad causes.

As Belmont Club points out, "Under the stated criteria, acts such as the recent Israeli missile strike against Hamas second-in-command Adnan al-Ghoul, and his aide, Imad Abbas in Gaza could could come under condemnation just as easily as the massacre of schoolchildren in Beslan," and, "the beheading of British hostage Kenneth Bigley is a legitimate act of resistance against occupation."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Down, Periscope

I'm reading the latest "Newsweek" over dinner. Down inside, next to the story about a CIA executive caught shoplifting, is a USAToday-sized story titled "Oil-for-Food Fiasco?"

If you've got your MSM decoder ring on, it should be flashing red now, because the question mark headline usually means "we want to say something but we can't just come out and say it, so we're only going to suggest it."

And that piques my curiosity, because it seems pretty clear to me that the Duelfer report was just the latest confirmation that the Oil for Food scandal was a major fiasco, and certainly criminal on some level.

So why the question mark? Well, here's the lede:

"Revelations by U.S. WMD sleuth Charles Duelfer about corruption in the U.N.-run Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq could further complicate Bush-administration foreign policy." [emphasis added]

Holy Hell, talk about turning a story totally on its head! Here's George Dubya Bush, Mister Unilateral, who dissed France and marginalized the U.N. (according to his detractors), now up against a potential President Kerry who talks about global tests and weeps for our abandoned allies, and yet the fact that the French and the U.N. are up to their necks in shit over Oil-for-Food is a problem for ... Bush?

Kerry isn't even mentioned in the article. Instead, the writers go on to hint that "Washington" is pushing for an indictment of Kofi Annan's son sometime between now and Election Day. Whether that's a smeary rumor or not, it doesn't seem like the Bush Administration regards this scandal as a "complication" of its re-election mission.

So what else could it be? The last leg of the story is a graph that begins: "Law enforcement sources say Americans who participated in alleged oil-for-food scams also may face further investigation." And it goes on to tell us that the CIA blacked out the names of those Americans from the Duelfer report! But that enterprising "Newsweek" reporters obtained an uncensored copy!

Here comes the trouble for Bush, right?

Sure enough, "Newsweek" reveals, in this order, that:

1. "Houston oil mogul Oscar Wyatt got oil allocations from Saddam which could have earned him and Coastal Corp. -- a company he founded and ran until 2000 -- profits of more than $22 million."

2. "Wyatt and his wife Lynn are major donors to political causes: since 1989 they have given nearly $700,000 in contributions ...."

And then, with a cough and a mumble and a dangling subordinate clause, "of which more than $500,000 went to Democrats."

A sentence of Wyatt self-justification, then it's "30," end of story, over and out.

What are the chances? One big Texas oilman gets tripped up in the Oil-for-Food scandal -- and he's a backer of Democrats. How many Texas oilmen in the Bush era are Democrat-supporters? Is it a coincidence that the only one that's come to my attention is alleged to have dangled in Saddam's spiderweb? Who knows? Who cares? Not "Newsweek."

You gotta figure the "15 percenters" were angling for something better than this. I imagine they wouldn't have had that voting booth story on the cover this week if they could have said "Texas oilman and major GOP donor took bribes from Saddam!" As it is, they had to settle for a shady story in the "Periscope" section, under a question-mark head -- and illustrated, incongruously, by a picture of a burning oil pipeline in Iraq. What's with that, anyhow?

The "periscope" only works if the submarine captain knows which way is up.

Sinclair's "Stolen Honor"

New York Times film reviewer Alessandra Stanley dares to stare into "the film John Kerry doesn't want you to see." She comes away from "Stolen Honor" twisted and shriveled into an evil twin of a good NYT reporter (at least I suppose that's how her piece must look if you're a Democrat).

But she makes a good point: forget the Kerry business. This is a documentary that it's time for America to see, to confront the experiences of Vietnam POWs, and to spark a national discussion of whether, or how, they were betrayed. Before it's too late and the last one sinks into senility in a VA home.

What is most enlightening about this film is not the depiction of Mr. Kerry as a traitor; it is the testimony of the former P.O.W.'s describing the torture they endured in captivity and the shock they felt when celebrities like Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden visited their prisons in North Vietnam and sided with the enemy.

The former prisoners - now old and graying - are not just talking about their sense of betrayal by fellow Americans. They also seize the Kerry candidacy as a chance to recall their experiences: the kinds of torture they endured and the ruses they invented like tap-code communication between cells to boost morale. Illustrated with black-and-white film clips of prisoners in the "Hanoi Hilton" and sepia-toned re-enactments of starving men being led through dank, dark prison corridors, those recollections resemble the slow-paced, detailed documentaries that fill the History Channel.

But the History Channel tends to focus on the heroic moments of World Wars I and II. The Vietnam War is almost always revisited through its moral and strategic ambiguities and its effect on American society in the 1960's and 70's.

This film is payback time, a chance to punish one of the most famous antiwar activists, Mr. Kerry, the one who got credit for serving with distinction in combat, then, through the eyes of the veterans in this film, went home to discredit the men left behind. The film begins with dirgelike music and a scary black-and-white montage of stark images of soldiers and prisoners as a deep voice sorrowfully intones, "In other wars, when captured soldiers were subjected to the hell of enemy prisons, they were considered heroes." The narrator adds, "In Vietnam they were betrayed."

... One former P.O.W., John Warner, lashes out at Mr. Kerry for having coaxed Mr. Warner's mother to testify at the Winter Soldier Investigation, where disgruntled veterans testified to war crimes they committed. Calling it a "contemptible act," Mr. Warner, who spent more than five years as a prisoner, tells the camera that Mr. Kerry was the kind of man who preyed on a mother's grief "purely for the promotion of your own political agenda."

In the end, she finds, the anti-Kerry element of the film is a distraction, and not a very effective one, from what really shines through as "the real subject of the film: the veterans' unheeded feelings of betrayal and neglect."

POW-MIA flags are ubiquitous; one flies beneath the U.S. flag at the courthouse here. But a lot of the prominence given to that issue in the 1990s was based on running down vague, and likely false, stories of men still held in captivity. It almost seemed like a displacement, like the veteran POWs, stonewalled by their inability to communicate the awfulness of what they felt to a country that, guiltily, didn't want to hear it, shifted to a mythical crusade.

The entire program can be seen on the Internet on a pay-for-view basis (it costs less than $5) at


As for the matter of Sinclair, I think their initial move was foolishly partisan, and their back-down position is contemptible. On the other hand, I see no reason for continuing federal control of the "fairness" of a TV media that has become incredibly diverse and fragmented since the days of three big networks that reached into every home in America.

Most people who are still media consumers in America are aware of the "biases" of the various outlets they scan. I know where I stand in relation to Dan Rather, the editors of the Philly "Inquirer," the columnists in the "Wall Street Journal," CNN News, Little Green Footballs weblog, etc. Why pretend they are impartial and balanced? The British run an open political process with a blatantly biased press. We can handle it, too. Let the cat out of the cellophane bag. Let Sinclair run "Stolen Honor" and let ABC run "Fahrenheit 9/11" and let them both pay the price in advertisement loss and public contempt.

Good War, Bad War

The other day, talk in the newsroom turned to those supple tools of Satan, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. (I have no trouble couching that in terms of religious moralism, even though these are secular liberal folks, because I've heard the word "evil" far more often from Bush-haters than I have from Bush himself.)

The topic of the harrangue was what John Kerry did, or didn't do, to earn his medal in Vietnam. My co-worker was pumping up the fact that, yes, in fact, Lieut. Kerry was a gung-ho soldier, fighting the good fight against the Viet Cong, shot up a whole village, and killed one of their big bad men, not just some wimpy teenager (as SBVT say). He got quite agitated about the questioning of Kerry's battle heroics, and how dare anyone say otherwise, and why didn't Ted Koppel expose their lies?

The odd part is, the person doing the ranting is someone whose stock of stories, until this election season, largely hinged on his activities as an anti-war protester during the Vietnam era, all the big marches and disruptions he participated in, and how proud he was of everything he had done to stop that unjust and illegal war.

Duck, Duck ...

From the current New York Times budget, on the wire:

UNITED STATES — Politics ("p" code)

KERRY (Dateline TK) — Sen. John Kerry began his morning duck-hunting, providing a swing state with images of him and friends in camouflage uniform, gun in hand.

... and providing readers who know a duck from a goose an image of the Grey Lady not knowing her ass from her elbow.

Big Mike Makes His Move!

An update on the relative importance of certain world figures, as weighted by their prominence in the AP news cycle (the figure is the number of photos of them currently in the leaf desk):

Vladimir Putin ..... 46
Michael Moore ..... 44
Colin Powell ..... 36
Ariel Sharon ..... 34
Kofi Annan ..... 32
Ayad Allawi ..... 31
Alan Greenspan ..... 22
Rudy Giuliani ..... 8
Nancy Pelosi ..... 2
Rush Limbaugh ..... 2
Hugo Chavez ..... 1
Zell Miller ..... 0

From third place to second in less than a week! Hip-checking the Secretary of State right out of his ranking. Watch out, Putin. MM's shadow is bigger than Chechnya's. At least in the world of the MSM.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

No Longer a Choice

Belmont Club has Bedlam by the Euphrates, which begins to address some of the points raised here.

Some have seriously suggested that if America pulled into a tight perimeter around its borders such men could not reach inward to hurt children; could not "IED" American travelers en route to Thailand or Germany; could not "mortar" the homeland with aircraft attacks like they mortar some military bases or the northern towns of Israel; could not infiltrate "sleepers" into the 8 million American Muslims the way they have infiltrated the Green Zone. Could not act abroad as they act at home. These solutions have been advocated by men of goodwill, experience and intelligence, but will they work?

The neoconservative assumption that Middle Eastern societies were transformable has been described as the product of excessive hope when it is really the counsel of despair. It is the remainder which 'however improbable, is all that is left after all the impossibles have been eliminated'. The fact that America, without resorting to mass murder, has kept such a fractious country intact, that many Iraqis daily risk their lives in the effort to beat back this darkness, is testimony to a quality of work which deserves better than the scorn that has been heaped upon it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Pagan America

Around the corner from my house stands a Southern Baptist church, across the street from the Garden Court housing projects. It's not my church, not my tradition at all, but my ex-girlfriend Lis and Luke and I went down there sometimes, dressed in our best, and sat up in the back, and heard beautiful, intense, moving musical performances. All for the cost of fanning yourself on a hot summer night and slipping a fin into the collection plate, I heard gospel music acts that put to shame any of the rock club and arena shows I've seen.

And in the same neighborhood, I lie in bed at night sometimes and hear the Amish buggies rumble down the street late on Sundays, or early on market days. I buy my apples and celery from Amish market stands, and flirt with the young girls in the bonnets (who flirt right back, because they know it's safe). They do sing, strangely and in Pennsylvania German and through their noses, but dirt and soil are their acts of faith. They don't raise voices, they raise vegetables.

And this is Christianity in America, and that is Christianity in America, and they are as unlike from one another as each is from the clean, spare, silent Quaker meetings I attended in Chester County or the snake-handling cults I could find driving down I-81 into Eastern Tennessee. The Amish sell corn to the black Baptists. They recognize each other as co-religionists. They think they ultimately speak to the same god. Spiritually, they have nothing else in common.

America is a Christian nation. I used to resist that, but now I accept it. Yet it's no more unified in its religion than ancient Rome was in its faiths. Or modern India. They are a collective tradition of individualist faiths. And so is America, a polytheistic religious culture under the very elastic tent of "Judeo-Christian monotheism."

Most modern polytheists don't worship all the gods at once, and I suspect most ancient ones didn't either. They respected them all, they felt close to one or two. Just so in America, a person can be raised Catholic, can attend Unitarian services in college, can be an agnostic in his 30s, can marry and join his wife in a Presbyterian pew, and can find himself in a Quaker meeting in old age. Religion in America can be a journey through faith, not a one-note symphony.

In the polytheistic religion each individual worshiper has a chosen deity (ista-devata) and does not usually worship other gods in the same way as his own, as the one he feels nearer to himself. Yet he acknowledges other gods. The Hindu, whether he be a worshiper of the Pervader (Visnu), the Destroyer (Siva), Energy (Sakti), or the Sun (Surya), is always ready to acknowledge the equivalence of these deities as the manifestations of distinct powers springing from an unknown 'Immensity.' ... During the pilgrimage of life he goes from one temple to another, adopts different forms of ritual, different modes of living, and various means of self-development. He is constantly aware of the coexistence of different approaches to divinity, suitable for people at stages of realization different from his own. [Alain Danielou, "Hindu Polytheism," 1964]

That quality in America is not an accident; it (and the British reformation that set it up) are the reason America can be what it is. The founders knew that they could set religion free of all government cognizance, because the multiplicity of sects in the nation would be checked by each other, and all would make concessions for their mutual benefit. Madison put it perfectly in "The Federalist":

"A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source."

Or, as Voltaire said of the Mother Country; "If only one religion were allowed in England, the government would very possibly become arbitrary. If there were but two, the people would cut one another's throats. But as there are such a multitude, they all live happy and in peace."

In reading Gertrude Himmelfarb's "The Roads to Modernity, I'm reminded how lucky we were to avoid the fate of France.

"In France, the essence of the Enlightenment -- literally, its raison d'être -- was reason. "Reason is to the philosophe," the Encyclopédie declared, "what Grace is to the Christian." ... The idea of reason defined and permeated the Enlightenment as no other idea did. In a sense, the French Enlightenment was a belated Reformation, a Reformation fought in the cause not of a higher or purer religion but of a still higher and purer authority, reason. It was in the name of reason that Voltaire issued his famous declaration of war against the church, "Ecrasez l'infâme," and that Diderot proposed to "strangle the last king with the entrails of the last priest."

The "fundamentalist secularism" of modern Europe was born then. Edward Gibbon is considered an arch-Christian-basher by many today. I adore his notorious 24th chapter for its body-slamming of early Christianity back into its proper historical context. Yet visiting Paris in 1763, he noted the "intollerant zeal" of the philosophes, who "preached the tenets of atheism with the bigotry of dogmatists, and damned all believers with ridicule and contempt."

Even Hume, another of my agnostic heroes, did not shout "Ecrasez l'infâme." "[Hume] displayed in his writings a tolerance toward religion and a benign view of it typical of most of his colleagues, If he did not make of religion the source of morality, he did regard it as a natural ally of the morality inherent in man. Reason and religion had equal but separate functions, reason providing the general rules of right and wrong, and religion reinforcing those rules by the commands and laws of the deity."

That's who we are; we give lip service to our fundamentalism, and the people who dislike America on principle will gladly stop there. But if you lift the lid on this culture of faith, which so appalls the modern Europeans, you find a rich pagan stew simmering happily inside.

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Is It Too Late for Another Debate?

Glenn Reynolds has some of the sharpest readers on the Web. One, by the name of Barbara Grogan, e-mailed him with four matters that Bush ought to explain, but evidently can't, and that his Internet supports have not yet sufficiently articulated to cover his failure to do so. Glenn basically blows her off and says he's not working for any one candidate. But I think her points were right on:

If the election is lost, the pro-war Blogosphere will deserve some blame. You have not been filling in the spaces left by the weak rhetorical style of President Bush. What are these spaces?

[1] the role of Iran as Middle East terrorist puppet master since 1979;

[2] the consequences of Kerry's pacifying of elites rather than pushing forward with new Middle East democracies;

[3] the enfranchisement of the European laissez-faire attitude toward terrorism as the approach least suited to combating it;

[4] the consequences of being liked in the world, rather than feared or respected.

Oil-For-Food Again

This editorial makes a forceful case for the connection between oil-for-food and the Iraq War. People who think they know the Duelfer report based on what the Democrats and the MSM have said about it ought to take the time to read the whole thing (it's 20 minutes well-worth spending).

John Kerry and Edwards obstinately keep spouting their flawed views on Iraq despite massive evidence to the contrary. John Kerry insists that the president’s “two main rationales – weapons of mass destruction and the al-Qaeda/Sept.11 connection, have been proved false.” Kerry adds, “The president of the United States and the vice president of the United States may well be the last two people on the planet who won’t face the truth about Iraq.” But it is Kerry and Edwards who have deliberately turned a blind eye and deviously “misled” millions concerning the real circumstances surrounding our decision to invade Iraq. It is despicable and unpatriotic that they would feign ignorance of such critical information while the country is at war. Is he still trying to defend his foolish notion that the UN Security Council Members can be trusted?

John Kerry and Edwards are exploiting the hard struggle in Iraq just to score political points in challenging President Bush’s judgment. They are callously undermining the morale of our soldiers and emboldening the enemy. Their cheap partisan tactics are costing us precious lives in the streets of Baghdad. John Kerry and Edwards think attacking the decision to invade Iraq will resonate with a majority of voters, but all they are demonstrating is their lack of understanding and a treacherous disregard for our national security.

John Kerry’s insisting that the decision to dismantle a terrorist state was based solely on the probable existence of WMD’s is as alarmingly simplistic as saying that the entire war against terror is about one man, the unseen and perhaps no longer viable Osama bin Ladin. Charles Duelfer’s expose’ of the Oil-for-Food program not only confirms that Saddam was a serious growing threat, but corruption within the UN dictated the use of force by a “coalition of the willing” led by the bold and independent American president. It was a “last resort” for the United States to go to war to free the Iraq people and it was also a necessary measure to liberate our traditional “allies” from their own greed.

People of Importance

Checking the Associated Press photo leaf desk, which holds all the pictures the AP has moved during the past two weeks or so, gives you an idea of who the important people are in the world. Since my co-workers insist that the media doesn't overplay Michael Moore, I thought I'd rank him against some people who I do consider important in the world, and against one conservative commentator whom my co-workers hold up as Moore's equivalent, in terms of the number of pictures of or about him on the wire (including DVD covers, book covers, etc., which in Moore's case always seem to be pictures of him, for some reason):

Vladimir Putin ..... 45
Colin Powell ..... 41
Michael Moore ..... 40
Ariel Sharon ..... 38
Ayad Allawi ..... 36
Kofi Annan ..... 34
Alan Greenspan ..... 32
Rudy Giuliani ..... 11
Hugo Chavez ..... 2
Nancy Pelosi ..... 2
Rush Limbaugh ..... 2
Zell Miller ..... 0

Monday, October 18, 2004

A Case for Kerry

MDL, an insightful blog-friend, called my attention to Kevin Drum's foreign policy-based justification of a vote for John Kerry. The pitch was made to a professedly "undecided" Dan Drezner whose politics seem sufficiently like mine. Let's see if it worked.

"So: we should look primarily at John Kerry after 9/11, not before."

OK, fair enough. I don't have a problem with that, in fact I've said that all along about both candidates. Though John Kerry seemed to spend most of the summer turning the spotlight on his past.

"We should look at the people likely to be the top foreign policy advisors in a Kerry administration."

Which is a bit of a guessing game. And there's no way, even if you discover who is going to sit in the cabinet, to know how the power structure would play out. After all, if you were told that Colin Powell was going to hold the key foreign policy position in the Bush administration, you wouldn't expect what we've been getting.

"And we should look at his concretely expressed views about how best to fight and win the war on terror."

Hell, yes, but I can't find them! I can't look at them till I look for them. Drum's post is primarily an extensive citation from a "New Republic" article, which attempts to construct a Kerry foreign policy -- and which contains only two short quotes from Kerry himself, from a speech he made in February.

Most of the quotes are from Beers and Biden, who may or may not end up being on Kerry's foreign policy team. With the inarticulate Bush, I can understand basing a policy overview on Rice and Rumsfeld. But Kerry? This is the best we can do?

And look at the quotes: "We must support human rights groups, independent media, and labor unions dedicated to building a democratic culture from the grassroots up." Bravo! So where is his support for those things as they are now strugging into life in Iraq? Instead, he dismisses the nascent democracy there as "puppets," and offers verbal aid and comfort to the enemies who want to kill them before they take root. Not very promising.

"We need an international effort to compete with radical madrassas." Yes, we do, and I don't think anyone in the Bush White House would disagree with that. But where's the plan, John? That's like telling me "Kerry has a cure for cancer" because Kerry says "cancer should be cured."

Biden's tough talk on the Saudis is something I can get behind. But I was disturbed by a piece he wrote for the "Wall Street Journal" about a month ago in which he outlined a Kerry foreign policy program that did not make a single mention of Iraq, except as an example of a war that never ought to have happened. The next administration, whether red or blue, is going to have Iraq on its front burner, like it or not. The Bushies know this. I'm not sure the Kerrys want to accept that.

Beers: "What Al Qaeda did during its Afghan period was to create a jihadist movement on a global basis." I'd say they inspired it, as much as created it. Kerry's repeated (and more recent than February) comments about Bin Laden and Tora Bora and "outsourcing" tell me 1. he's too fixated on al Qaida, not the broader picture, in spite of what Beers says, 2. He has insufficient appreciation for the military realities of fighting on someone else's turf.

"Kerry has endorsed the 9/11 Commission's plans for intelligence reform ..."

He endorsed them within hours of the report being released. Did he even know what it was before he endorsed it? Did he think through all the consequences? That's the kind of thing that's easy to say on the campaign trail.

"... and has proposed enlarging the regular Army by 40,000 soldiers and doubling the Army's Special Forces capacity."

All the while playing scare-the-public with the specter of the big bad DRAFT. And telling Americans that the spectacular military effort in Iraq was a failure and a waste of life. Can't have that one both ways.

"Presently, Army Special Forces units — which include agile and innovative forces best trained and equipped to operate deep behind enemy lines and in nontraditional combat situations — total about 26,000 active and reserve personnel, or only 2 percent of the entire Army."

In fact, the military already is expanding Special Forces, and it can and should be done. But Special Forces are "special" in part because they are elite. Sixty percent of the active duty military who aspire to be Special Forces don't make it.

"It combines a serious, realistic view of global terror with a willingness to adapt to events that's sadly lacking in George Bush's worldview."

I see plenty of adapting on the part of Bush & Co. Gods know they've made enough mistakes. But after all that, they've come to an approach to Iraq that seems to make sense for where we are now. I don't know that Kerry could sensibly change very much about it. What I see on the Kerry side is a lack of even a proposal to do things differently in Iraq, but only a promise to do so. And a deep-seated wish that that whole war never had happened.

But I appreciate Kevin Drum's bid to persuade an undecided voter with sane rhetoric. For the other kind, all I had to do was turn to his "comments" file off this post. It's like a great big quote roll from my co-workers:

I take exception to the notion that how Bush saw the world before 9/11 should not affect our view of him now. THE WHOLE REASON 9/11 HAPPENED was dear W's "worldview" or whatever you choose to call it.

Of course the wingnuts will never agree, but had Gore or Kerry been president starting 2001, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that 9/11 would never have happened.

Those who are 'uncomfortable' with Kerry are so because they have bought the GOP propaganda about the Democratic candidate.

The premise that 9/11 "changed the world" may be the problem in assessing candidates -or understanding the world. The world did not change; the United States simply felt, however briefly, what many parts of the world endure much of the time. This apocalyptic view, combined with a belief that there are military solutions to socio-economic problems, seems to be shared by both parties. Only a few, such as Dennis Kucinich, have articulated a more mature approach.

NOTHING COULD BE WORSE THAN BUSH. What's to think about?

How can ANYONE vote for Bush. Either they have to be senile, or greedy. Are 50% of Americans really that stupid?

Yeah, rationally seen, 9-11 was equivalent to about 3 weeks worth of traffic deaths in the US.

Let's keep sight of the fact that there are other threats in the world besides terrorism. Full scale nuclear war, climate change, economic collapse (I might survive but plenty of people would not!), epidemic disease, whatnot.

Want lies? Want wars forever? Want to lose civil rights? Want limited, expensive healthcare? Want pollution?

Osama has already won. He has turned us into a nation more and more in his image. Before 9-11, we fought only defensive wars. War as an instrument of national policy was something out of the past, something the Romans and the huns and the moguls did. (Grenada and Panama aren't big enough to qualify.) Then along came macho monkey George Bush. Brandishing his old time religion of good vs. evil, an eye for an eye, the one true faith against the infidels, and hoping to reprise the Republicans' forty years of success in running against national bogeymen, Bush has dragged us back to the middle ages. The Muslims, Christians and Jews are at each other's throats again and they all seem quite happy about it because it suits each group's purposes.