Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kerry at College

“The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards.”
Sir William Butler

John Kerry seems to think otherwise. If he had made the statement in isolation, it could be considered a singular gaffe in an otherwise mediocre political career.

Study Hard Video

Certainly the statement can be interpreted in more than one way. Superficially he seems to be indicating that smart people don’t fight for their country. Smart people find ways to avoid wars and patriotism and honor and inconvenience. Get educated, work hard, marry well and you can be comfortable while the less gifted intellectually go and do your heavy lifting for you. That’s the way some could take his statement. If taken that way, he has insulted the American fighting men and women once again.

Or maybe he’s just the world’s worst stand-up comic. Things that he thinks are going to be charming and funny aren’t really. If that were the case it would be easy for him to simply say, “gosh folks, I misjudged the impact of my remarks and I really didn’t mean to offend you all because you know I’m a great supporter of our fighting men and women.” That wouldn’t be all that hard. John McCain, whose courage and commitment to the military can’t be questioned, suggested that an apology might be in order. He spoke softly and slowly so as to insure that it didn’t become some sort of heated campaign rhetoric. But Senator Kerry has been adamant in refusing to apologize.

Maybe there’s more to it. We might recall his Senate testimony so many years ago when he accused as all, each and every military man serving his country in an unpopular war, of being war criminals—murderers, thugs, rapists, sadists, criminals. I certainly recall it. Every Vietnam veteran should remember it.

Or possibly we could replay his more recent comments in which he again characterized American soldiers, in harm’s way, of being murderers, terrorists and rapists. If he said it once, albeit in a very public forum, it might be excused as the emotional outburst of someone deeply troubled about the morality of war. But he said it again, thirty years later, now as a US Senator in describing our troops in Iraq. It could only be because he feels very deeply about the assertion. It could only be because he believes it and wants everyone else to believe it as well. If so, he is seriously deluded and his efforts could be considered distinctly treasonous.

Certainly he has recently seemed eager to don the mantle of combat veteran and war hero. He jumps at any opportunity to point out lack of service in those who speak out against his positions.

How Many Strikes Does He Get?

Or, he could be slamming the administration and once again alluding to some level of intellectual superiority over the President. It’s a horse that the Democrats seem all too eager to ride. Recall the alleged intellectual superiority of Al Gore, divinity school drop-out. And Kerry’s own regular flaunting of his education. But now his home town newspaper provides this insight into the Senator’s comparative performance. It appears that two students in the same Ivy League university had similar academic achievements. In fact, it appears to this observer that the President even edged out the Senator in terms of scores across the board.

Learning From Experience?

What does it mean? To me it means that John Kerry still holds the military in exceptionally low esteem. He still views himself as somewhat superior to the masses. He still wants us to think he’s a hero, but he simultaneously wants to paint all of the other folks who serve unstintingly in the far and dangerous reaches of this world as some sort of Neanderthal criminals.

I’ve known for a long time what kind of man John Kerry is. I know many of the folks who risked a lot to be public figures in support of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. I know that American troops are well trained, honorable, courageous and most emphatically not lacking in intellectual capacity. I know that increasingly I detest John Kerry for having the audacity to do and say the things that he does. And, I fear for the Republic if his like should be in control of the reins of our government.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws

Less than three weeks from election day and both parties are trying to outdo each other in terms of promoting a massive realignment of the legislature. We all are assured regularly that the mass media are not biased to one side or the other of the political spectrum. We accept that as truth as surely as we have confidence that the beachfront property we’ve been offered in Florida will be a great home site and the bridge we are being sold over the Hudson in NYC is actually for sale. The press has told us that the voters are “mad as hell and aren’t going to take it any longer.” They’ve got the proof in the polls and the Dems are eager to agree with that view. What’s really surprising is the parallel eagerness of the Republicans to forecast defeat as well.

What ever happened to optimism, confidence and that “bright city on the hill”? It looks as though Karl Rove, the Wizard behind the curtain, is the only one who seems willing to predict victory.

Voters Dissatisfied

Time Looks Left

Rove Upbeat

The question you’ve got to ask yourself is, “do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?”

I’ve been a pessimist about democracy as a means of governing for a long time. There’s too much evidence of blatant apathy and ignorance among the masses. They don’t know and they don’t care about issues. They do respond with some drooling and lip-smacking to Pavlovian stimulation with some scandals. And, if you aggressively keep repeating catchy sound-bites they will be able to repeat them on signal.

Let’s take a look at what an intelligent voter might consider in making election choices this cycle. It is about the issues, isn’t it? Remember the George Carville mantra from the 1992 election that gave us Bill Clinton? “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Well, how’s the economy doing? Man on the street has been conditioned to reply something about rich getting richer, poor getting poorer, tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent and jobs being outsourced. What do we see in hard facts? Well, the Dow-Jones has skyrocketed into new territory over 12,000. That, despite the incredible impact on the economy immediately after the 9/11 attacks. So, the market is good.

Interest rates have been steady for consumers. Sure the fed rate has been adjusted upward regularly to keep a throttle on inflation, but anyone would have to confess that quarter of a point interest was not a realistic long-term strategy. For Joe Bagadonutz in the street, the mortgage rate is fairly constant around 6%; bank interest has been creeping steadily upward—I saw some CD rates recently for reasonably short terms in the mid-fives; and cars are still being sold for no-interest loans. Monetarists will have to feel comfortable. Oh, and increases in cost-of-living indices are remarkably low. In other words, the economy is booming. Housing starts are up. Unemployment is down. Consumer confidence is up. Productivity is up. And, how about the price of gasoline?

So, is there a problem reflected in what the current administration is doing economy-wise? Doesn’t seem so, but then do the voters know all of this?

What about security? Do you feel less secure now than before 9/11? Of course you do! Who wouldn’t feel less secure after that day that made us all painfully aware of our vulnerability? We woke up and now we know that there are people who wish to kill us for simply being Americans. What would a change in administration do on that front?

We know what the current administration has been doing. They’ve been killing terrorists and attempting to build democracy in the volatile Middle East. They are the ones who recognized and warned us about an “Axis of Evil”. Well, duh! How has that evolved? Apparently the administration had pretty good info that the nuts in Iran, N. Korea and Iraq were pretty well committed to doing us harm. Has this been demonstrated satisfactorily for the man in the street? One would think so, but somehow the message gets convoluted and the conclusion seems to be that we should make nice with Kim and Osama and Ahmadenijad. Don’t you have to be a bit off-center to honestly believe that resisting these people is the right course of action? Would withdrawal from Iraq leave the world a better place? How long would it take before Tel Aviv became a green glass glowing parking lot?

So, we know that the current administration sees evil and seeks to take firm action to minimize the danger to America. We know that the opposition seeks to withdraw from Iraq, negotiate with Kim and pacify Ahmadenijad with nuclear power plants. That, they assure us will make the rest of the world love us again. Bad assumption—they didn’t love us in the first place.

Are taxes your problem? The folks seeking to replace the Republicans keep telling you about tax cuts for the wealthy. The problem is that in America, it is the wealthy that pay taxes. If you don’t pay tax, you can’t get much of a cut. They want you to believe that we’ve got to restore those taxes that were cut a few years ago so that we can raise revenue. The problem here again is that facts don’t support that premise. The tax cuts have fueled the economy and given us higher revenues, more jobs, and a better business climate.

Maybe it’s the scandals. Yes, that’s got to be it. The corruption is cause for change. Yet, we don’t see a monopoly on corruption. While Mark Foley is the disgusting poster boy du jour for deviance, we’ve got the mourning for Gerry Studds who is lionized for his flamboyant lifestyle. Cunningham is in prison (deservedly so) and DeLay is out of office while Congressman William Jefferson is still serving after his freezer full of marked money was discovered by a federal search warrant and Sen. Harry Reid is handing out campaign contributions as tips to his residence staff at the Ritz-Carlton. Seems like corruption should be abhorred, but it isn’t exclusive to either party and really shouldn’t be extended to paint other candidates.

What about the timely (coincidence?) release of the smoking gun books of Bob Woodward and Frank Rich? If one needed to refute the arguments that there is no left-wing bias in the major print media, it would be hard to avoid throwing these tomes on the table. They cater to the lowest forms of political debate tending more toward vitriol and villianization than rationale, well-reasoned argument. More importantly, they seldom get read by voters who merely absorb the occasional sound-bite or reviewer nugget as a synthesis of the entire work.

It is devilishly difficult to predict what is going to happen on election night. I’d like to think that the knee-jerk liberals who don’t delve very deeply into the issues will not follow through on their rhetorical assurances of voting. I’d like to believe that those who do vote will ask themselves what is important in their life for government to accomplish. I’d like folks to consider what they’ve heard regarding positive policy alternatives from each of the parties rather than the name-calling and mud-slinging. If that were to happen, the outcome of the election would be satisfactory to me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ooops, I Did It Again

Oh, Kim, did you really want congratulations? Wouldn’t some sympathy be in order? You want so much to play with the big kids and be respected and have them look up to you outside of your own neighborhood and all be happy to call you “Great Leader.” But, your toys don’t seem to be all that impressive. Should we look harder behind the curtain to see if the great wizard can reach all of the controls?

NYT Says Small Pop

When you tell the world you are about to misbehave, you can be sure they will be watching and ready to punish you when you do. When you want to put on a big show and thumb your nose at them you have to be sure you’ve got it all together. If the show relates to nuclear weapons, you could have read the books and learned that the technology is pretty darn good in terms of analyzing and determining if you really pulled it off. When no less a journal than the New York Times, which is probably as sympathetic a main-stream rag as you could find in the US, suggests that your boom was a bust there is a pretty strong probability that it was.

Big Bomb Bombs Big

The Times of NYC isn’t alone either. The Washington Times thinks you’ve muffed it as well. This failure, following the summer demonstration of your Taepodong-2 which didn’t make it much further downrange than a modern artillery shell, pretty much disrupts your bid for greatness. Worst of all, your chutzpah diplomacy has now resulted in unanimous condemnation from the UN. You got no sympathy at all and the fall-out (if you’ll excuse the nuclear pun) will probably mean more economic isolation and more hardship for your people.

Typically you might consider the UN to be a hollow organization with little power to really harm your efforts at rising to international infamy, but this is the week in which effete little Kofi Annan is being replaced by a new Secretary-General. By this time next week, Kofi will be packing up the office and Ban Ki-Moon will be taking the reins. You might recognize him as one of the leaders of your friends to the immediate south. He’s got little reason to be cooperative or feel any obligation toward lessening your chastisement for failing to play nice with the rest of the world. Yes, I think this little adventure is going to cost you dearly.

Let’s make no mistake here. N. Korea definitely has a nuclear program. It is definitely weapons oriented. This event was definitely a weapons test and it is serious business. If it failed to generate the expected yield that is good news, but it simply means that the technology which the NKs possess is very close to production. Next week, next month, at the latest, next year, Kim will have a workable, high-yield bomb. Next year he may also have a workable Taepodong-2 missile to carry it. It if all works as advertised, that will be scary for the world. If it works, but is erratic, that can be scarier still. If Kim fails to learn from this experience with world condemnation because the UN is reluctant to impose strong punitive sanctions then that will be the scariest part of all.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Absolutely Disgusting

I’ve made a practice of arguing against the concept of moral absolutes. I’ve heard the clich├ęs of the uber-conservatives about the essential truth of absolutism and I can’t accept it. The space from the moral absolute defined by Jerry Falwell or James Dobson is just a step or two down the slippery slope to the absolutes of Muqtada al-Sadr and Osama Bin Laden. Fundamentalists thrive on absolutism. There is no room for nuance or compromise or consensus building or discretion when dealing with absolutes. The world is reduced to black or white without shades of gray. That satisfies the simple mind, but doesn’t work for me.

The argument usually revolves around common absolutes. Things like not killing other human beings. But, we clearly do so and we do it with the authority bestowed by the law and society. We kill in war and we kill for crimes committed against the body politic. We kill in varying degrees from negligent homicide to manslaughter to levels of murder. We kill justifiably and we kill pre-meditatedly. So, there is no absolute regarding killing.

We lie. Truth is immutable, we are told. But discretion comes into play in responding to the common query, “does this dress make me look fat?” We don’t tell our children the truth in response to every question and we sometimes glorify the lie with editorial hyperbole as in “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” So, there is no absolute in honesty.

But, this week I find myself facing an absolute truth in what I believe is ethical and moral standards of behavior. And, ex-Congressman Mark Foley has brought me to this absolutism. It isn’t simply his disgusting behavior with teen-aged Congressional pages that supposedly were entrusted to the oversight of our nation’s finest leaders for their development. It goes well beyond that to the entire spectrum of behavior that has been displayed in the entire scandal.

The actions of Foley are base and vile. Think the worst sort of sniveling, pandering, adolescent, just-discovering-sex, conversations. Then have them between a 52-year old Congressman and a teen-aged boy. Locker room, scatological, immature and you’ve got the picture. You don’t have to go to ABC news to read the nine pages of transcript of the IM sequence of just one of these dialogues. Save yourself a dose of disgust.

Then follow up with the admission and resignation. Fine. He did what he needed to do. But then get further disgusted by the newly au courant method of dodging responsibility. He acknowledges that he is an alcoholic and checking into rehab. Forgive me for noting that drinking doesn’t make you a pedophile anymore than it make you an anti-Semite, Mr. Gibson notwithstanding. Drinking makes you stupid at times, but not deviant. So, no free pass for your problem there Mr. Foley.

Now check the lawyer for Foley with his pathetic ploy to gain sympathy. He announces that Foley is gay. So what? Gay does not equate with pedophile despite many folks’ ill-founded misconception that it does. Gay is not socially accepted behavior, but it is not preying upon adolescents for whom you have responsibility for guidance and mentoring. And gay does not justify the hypocrisy of being chairman of a committee that is dedicated to legislating for protection of children while simultaneously soliciting them. Is this supposed to be an example of “catch-a-thief” logic to get quality laws against predation of children by adults?

Oh, and by the way, the attorney goes on. Mr. Foley was abused by a “clergyman” when he was a teenager. Can’t the lawyer say priest? Regardless, while childhood abuse might be traumatic, it doesn’t turn someone gay. It doesn’t make them an alcoholic. And it doesn’t make them a pedophile. On the contrary, it should make them more sensitive to the vulnerability of the young.

Go further than beating up the deserving Mr. Foley. What about the spinning and posturing we now get from the partisans of the political scene. Some accuse ABC of being in collusion with the Democrats and releasing this on election eve for political impact. So what? Disgusting behavior is timeless. That’s an absolute. Whenever found, it should be released to the public when it concerns a public figure such as a congressman.

Some wonder who knew what and when. It is apparent that many knew lots and for a long time. That is unconscionable behavior by those in authority. They should have acted aggressively to correct the situation. They failed. They have demonstrated a lack of the moral fiber expected of our leaders. That is an absolute. Hastert was told. He knew. He should be gone.

There are contrasts to Gerry Studds and Barney Frank and even to Bill Clinton. The fact that others from the other side of the aisle have transgressed is not justification for the failures on this side of the political aisle. What others have done is their business and how it was dealt with may be their failing. What is done by conservatives and moral absolutists is our business. We should demand more of our leaders. We should expect behavior consistent with public pronouncements. We should require that those who violate our trust should be punished severely. We have earned the right to impose this upon those who would represent us and present themselves as morally superior. If they fail, they should expect severe consequences.

Three weeks ago, I felt strongly that the predictions of a Republican catastrophe in this coming election were exaggerated and media driven. The facts were too strong to be overcome by the sound bites and spin cycle of the left. Now, we’ve seen one more slip in the foul slime that appears to cover the floor of Congress and it might mean the loss of a lot of Congressional seats. They could have prevented this by simply acting the way they said they knew they should.