August 31, 2004

Request for Help

[Note: I've set things up so that this post "rides" on top for awhile, so new posts will tuck in below it. Be sure to check beneath this post for new contributions.]

I've been wrestling with whether or not to make this plea openly on my blog, because I rarely use this medium to post personal items. But the fact is that I'm in something of a predicament, and need help. Although I have an affiliate fellowship at a university, it's essentially unpaid. The fellowship allows me the use of the university's research resources, but doesn't provide an income. Over the past few years I've been surviving as a junior partner in a research/consulting collaboration with a former member of the Coleman Commission. We've been operating as consultants for a law firm representing a number of State governments in "Educational Adequacy" cases. These are lawsuits in which the relationship between school resources and student achievement is central. I have just been informed that we're out of work for the foreseeable future, so the end of that gig has arrived. We've won nearly all our cases, but we've also probably frightened off new plaintiffs, basically putting ourselves out of work. The consulting work has been the well that's kept me solvent during the employment drought, and the fact that the hole is now dry places me in acute economic difficulty. Hence the decision to override my uncomfortable modesty.

Eventually I'd like to join at least a medium-tier "think tank," but those kinds of opportunities often take time to develop, and in the mean time I need to keep beans on the table and a roof over my head. I've considered becoming a gigolo as a last resort, but I'd need a whole new wardrobe and not many wealthy women are attracted to chubby intellectuals with a taste for "warehouse chic" interior design.

Anyway, my theory is that nothing happens unless you put yourself on the line, so here I am, open to whatever opportunities, advice, and support my readers may have to offer.

I have a very broad and eclectic background, and what I don't know I can usually pick up quickly. I began my academic career rather late in life, after a long period as an activist, and mostly as a result of what I've learned I no longer believe in that set of principles that animated my former progressive activism. I've burnt those bridges. So, possibly because of my ideological or chronological "maturity," I'm not particularly competitive for a University position. Nonetheless I've pretty much always been an "A" student, and have picked up expertise in a number of quantitative and qualitative research methods used in the public policy arena. I even have some experience in Operations Research, but my primary background has been devoted to using large databases to conduct statistical analyses of various kinds, mostly multivariate regression. I have also developed what I think are good political instincts, as a result of working with one of the best political minds: Seymour Martin Lipset. Most of my work with Marty involved constructing and/or analyzing opinion polls and surveys. One of my long term goals is to employ these skills and methods in the "war on terror," and to that end I've begun learning Arabic.

At this point I'm not choosey about the status aspect of employment. Although I have a doctorate I'm not above doing more junior, basic or temporary work until a permanent position becomes available, or until I prove myself in a new field or my career takes an unexpected turn. It isn't, after all, what one does that demonstrates one's value, but how one does it.

I'm also fairly good at cobbling together short term projects, so no project is too brief or small, as long as it requires some sort of qualitative or quantitative acumen that I can bring to bear. As I said, I have a very broad and eclectic background, and what I don't know I can usually pick up quickly.

My circumstances are not such that I will turn into a pumpkin immediately, but I also don't have a long grace period before I need to put something in the pipeline. I've been unable to save much, mostly due to an enormous debt incurred funding my over-education. Anyway, if the reader happens across some opportunity that might help me bridge the gap, or something more permanent, or would like more information or a C.V., send an email to: freewheeling-at-verizon-dot-net. In addition, I'm interested in good advice as well as words of kindness or support. You can even, if you feel so moved, click on one of my tip jars to leave a contribution.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:21 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The American Street

Mike Barnacle, blue collar "man's man" columnist for the Boston Globe, who has been staunchly in Kerry's corner until now (from my perspective, anyway), said on MSNBC tonight that the emotion on the street outside the convention during John McCain's and Rudy Giuliani's speeches was incredible. He told of a woman who was weeping as she related to the crowd that her youngest son had just shipped out to Iraq. At first I thought he was going to adopt the "George Bush is sending your kids to die for no reason," Michael Moore schtick... But then he observed rather matter-of-factly that Kerry has "a lot of work to do to come back now." And, he said, "they knocked the pins from under him tonight."

Kerry is in deep trouble. I've been predicting a vote margin of 20 points in November, which seems almost impossible at the moment... and feels more than a little risky to me. But a 20 point margin is actually just a 10 point vote shift, and if Bush can marshall half the eloquence of Rudy's crash course on the reasons for the war we're fighting, it's doable. That is, if Kerry ever comes out of hiding long enough to remind people of just how much they don't like him.

And there's still the outstanding matter of the 180s that Kerry refuses to sign to release his records. I can see Bush saying something like the following in the first debate: "I've decided to sign the release so that my military history is out in the open. Why don't you do the same, John? I'm sure you have nothing to hide, right?"


(Jane has some thoughts on the Guiliani speech as well.)

Posted by Demosophist at 02:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 30, 2004

Goodbye Steven

I'm pretty sad to see Steven Den Beste cash it in, because I think the kind of analysis he presents comes closest to what I'd consider "Demosophia." To me if a problem has been around for longer than a century it's probably too complex to be captured adequately by a popular ideological construct. Since civilization has been around for about 5,000 years most of the easy problems have been solved. It really isn't possible for a single individual to grasp every aspect of the complexity of these outstanding problems, since "expertise" is local and constrained by personal experience.

Bucky Fuller, one of the true founders of Design Science as a cross-disciplinary enterprise, used to call the universe "a non-unitarily conceptual and partially overlapping event scenario." In other words, it's not a "thing," so in a true sense it can't be "fixed." Sometimes I think people like Den Beste, who attempts to grab as big a chunk of the these BIG problems as possible, by expressing "pure patterns" rather than "answers" are inevitably hounded by "fixers" who simply don't see that their experience only partially overlaps that of anyone elses.

It is true that recognizing broad patterns doesn't solve problems by itself, but the capacity or aptitude of grasping larger patterns in greater dimensionalty tends to create a more effective problem-resolving effort. And I look at what Den Beste does as a contribution to the development of that human capacity that has been under-developed in this impatient and self-promotional civilization. It's the big "what's next," that has been misidentified by the left as 'socialism.' It's as though, lacking the self esteem to pursue wisdom, we chose instead to simply pursue agreement and cooperation. One can see this reflected in the nearly universal accession to the notion of "multilateralism," which is really just a writ-large version of the "hermeneutic circle." As Victor Davis Hanson observed recently, Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union was the most "multilateral" invasion force in history, arrayed against a unilateral defender. But Winnie and FDR had no trouble determining which side we ought to be on.

Someday I'd like to continue the discusson with Den Beste over the "three-way war" notion, but it's probably not necessary to work out all the details and trim all the edges in order for it to be a valuable concept.

Well, here's a little advice to Steven, that's probably only minimally helpful. If he chooses to set his words in ink rather than the more unstable medium of electron flows he might receive fewer demands for revision. People tend to recognize that once the metal presses ink to paper such demands are futile. Anyway, it was always fun to read his stuff... and the archive is still there to spark new thoughts, and inspire more breadth and dimensionality as we grope slowly toward wisdom.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2004

So, Has Neil Reiff Resigned from

I initially missed this post from NZ about a lawyer named Neil Reiff working simultaneously for the DNC and Money quote:

At this point, the Kerry campaign's belief that they can hold their opponents to one set of standards while blissfully ignoring the fact that their own partisans trample upon those same standards has passed being stupid, and is now becoming downright insulting. Did they really think that nobody would bother to check if the Democrats were similarly sharing lawyers with 527's?

That kind of carelessness might have cut it a few years ago, when somnolent Big Media hacks were satisfied to define reporting as getting quotes from both party's spokesmen. But times have changed, friends: there isn't just one new sheriff in town, there's thousands of us. We will fact-check your ass, and we will do it thoroughly and properly, with links and primary sources that let our readers decide where the truth lies. So straighten up and fly right, because we are watching --- and we do this crap for fun.

Posted by Demosophist at 09:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 27, 2004

Sadr's Kangaroo Court: A Test of Legitimacy

It appears that Sadr's militia have been holding court and issuing sentences (up to, and including death sentences) in the "holy city" of Najaf. According to an AP source:

Al-Sadr's office in Najaf had set up the court, which ordered arrests and meted out punishments outside of religious and legal authorities. Local Iraqi officials have in the past demanded it be shut down and all its prisoners freed.
Police said the bodies belonged to the victims of the court. But a court official, who identified himself only as Hashim, said the corpses belonged to militants killed in the recent fighting in the city.

The two-story courthouse is made up of 15 rooms filled with desks, computers and books. The bodies were located in an open air area within the courthouse compound.

Half the skull of one of the dead men was missing and another man appeared to have suffered massive wounds to his stomach. None of the bodies was dismembered, save one, which had been beheaded, though it was unclear how.

During the fighting, the militants had set up their own informal health clinics and morgues. The U.S. military has said it killed hundreds of militants in the fighting, though the militants say their casualty figure was far lower.

The courts have arrested and interrogated hundreds of people on charges including selling alcohol and peddling music deemed immoral. Punishments included flagellation.(Hat tip: My Pet Jawa)

Regardless of whether the bodies represent executions it's clear that Sadr, like the Nazis prior to the overthrow of the Weimar, have set up their own "shadow government" competing with the Allawi regime. If one needs a precursor indication, or "early warning," of the success of failure of the new Iraqi government here is a prime example, for the legitimacy of a regime rests on a monopoly of force to punish infractions of law, and no government can tolerate vigilante justice, especially by a powerful political actor. Somehow the new regime must bring the people responsible for this court to justice, and must punish therm according to the laws of the state. If they can't do that then you can expect further erosions of the legitimacy (right to rule) of the Allawi interim government, and ulitamely the failure of the democratic experiment in the Arab Middle East. Reference, for comparison, the "Whisky Rebellion" and the "Alien and Sedition Acts" which were the first tests of the legitimacy of the (at the time) new experiment in democracy, in America. We can get an inkling of the future by looking at the present.

In the case of the Whiskey Rebellion the challenge was direct, and required a monopoly of force to quell the rebellion and establish the right to rule. Four years later the Alien and Sedition Acts were inaugurated to quell what was thought to be a threat from within allied to an external threat (France). In the latter case the resolution came in the form of an electoral contest and a peaceful transition of power, with pardons. Of the two the Whiskey Rebellion is probably the closer analogy to the Najaf situation, although to some extent Sadr can be seen as an Iranian proxy. I suspect the resolution must be a combination of "force and choice" and it'll be a difficult balancing act for the interim government, to say the least.

Posted by Demosophist at 05:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Blog Buddies

I'm plumb tuckered, after a long day grappling with the vagaries of the job search. But my blog buddies Bravo Romeo Delta on Anticipatory Retaliation and Rusty Shackleford on My Pet Jawa have some interesting posts up.
BRD has a two part think piece on race that's well worth the time investment: part 1 and part 2. A sample graph:

I still encourage respondents to read this article. For the more significant problem is that race has turned into a societal Cold War. For all the same hideous and problems associated with peacekeeping have found their distant cousins in the language of political correctness and race-based this, that, and the other thing. All these efforts to be inclusive and diverse have simply stopped the melting pot from mixing and preserved segregation in new and inventive forms. These notions of creating a Potemkin reservation of ethnic identity in the US are, at worst, a recipe for Balkanization, and at best, Jim Crow segregation with new paint.

Rusty has a post up demonstrating that Italy is no Philippines and a fascinating account of prisoner abuse resulting from John Kerry's 1971 "Winter Soldier" testimony, from an upcoming documentary.

Jane has a post on an issue I'd have said something about, if I were a bit more animated. It concerns the chanting that attempted to stop the 200 meter finals in the Olympics, motivated by an anti-American Greek press that has been sewing conspiracy theories about their doped up lickety-splitter, Cantinflas. (Well, it was something like that anyway. Close enough.) The US response to the insult was to sweep all three medals.

Posted by Demosophist at 02:04 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 25, 2004

It's Not the Medals

In response to this alleged listing of what's in Kerry's "Official Records" a friend that I've known for 30 years posted the following message to me. By agreement with him I can't discuss his rank or the particulars of his service, other than what you can deduce from the words themselves:

The only record I actually see referenced [regarding Kerry's defense of his Vietnam service] is his medical record, which I question highly. Medical records are extremely hard to get released, even if you want them to be.

The data presented [concerning specific wounds] would be mentioned on the award citation and/or the "letter" that accompanies it. Those items are not "official," by the way. To be official, it has to be actually in his service record....... and it IS a matter of record that Kerry has refused to sign the release.

Again, don't take what I've said as a condemnation of Kerry's service. I'm in no position to do so. I AM in a position to strongly condemn him for his post-war activities that left a wound in the backs of his comrades. Accusing your comrades of common "mass atrocities" is the lowest of the low. Especially when it is a lie....... and it was a lie according to every authoritative source. Winter Soldier was an absolute and outright lie! The people quoted didn't even exist, much less were they "interviewed" by Kerry. The results of his "investigation" were used to vilify every person that ever served in Viet Nam........ YEAH, I hold him responsible for that..... yes I do!

Please read this in the spirit it is intended: I said I wouldn't say anything more about the color and medal count, but forgive me for just a moment and let me tell a funny story. Hopefully, you'll get the humor and it does have a point. As I said, I was "decorated." Actually, one of the favorite things my guys would do to a newbie when they reported was to introduce me to the new guy and point to my chest. Yeah..... there was some hardware there and it would be false modesty to say there wasn't. When they would do that, one of them would say, "look at the bottom of the medals and you'll see a sign that says "see other side"........ Everyone would laugh, I would give my "jokers" a very stern look and all would be well. Actually, I told them repeatedly to stop that, but they never would, even after I had assigned them "extra duty" for their efforts at humor. Actually, it was funny......... but I hated being pointed out that way. My GUYS are the ones that earned those, even though I was the recipient. I knew it and I hope they do/did, too.

The point of the above is this: medal count or no, honorable service is just that. Service you can be proud of is what counts. I saved a few lives and received medals for that......... I was just doing my job. For Pete's sake, I was doing what anyone under those circumstances would do. So what if it was in combat? Lots of men and women save lots of lives in combat and otherwise..... some get medals and some don't (most don't, I think). Why? Don't ask me. Why should I get a medal for doing what I said that I would do? To me, the real "award" was being promoted. I was "expected" to be "superior" in my demeanor and in the way I did my job. My "job" WAS to be superior (as in, a good example for others to follow)...... that was my JOB! Yes, it is in the job description, even. SO what makes "my" superior better than your superior? So why am I getting decorated for that? Because I do what I promised I would do?

That is the reason that most decorated vets would rather not discuss it. They were doing what they promised they would do...... nothing more and nothing less. The promise I made was a big one! I kept it the best I could. Not perfectly, mind you, but the best I could. I faltered, just like everyone else and I succeeded, just like most everyone else. So why should I make a big deal about that?

Moreover, and if you have gotten this far without being bored to tears, I sure don't throw that part of my career in people's faces....... nobody's face. I was loathe to bring it up in the context of this conversation, quite frankly. I don't want anyone to think that I'm any more special that those folks over in Iraq......... they are the special ones..... I'm a has-been, at the very best. I'm one that got to retirement.

But, and this is huge, I have not, nor will I ever, stab my comrades in the back! Never! I will never embarrass my country or its citizens by my post-service conduct! Never! I will not denigrate the service of another, even if I despise the politics of that person! Never! They gave their due and they deserve my respect for giving what was asked of them (often times, much more than what was expected). But, please forgive me if I find the post-service commentary of Kerry to be ultimately offensive. I won't say whether his service was good or not..... I assume good because I am not in a position to say or think otherwise. Not only that, I would prefer to think that everyone that says they will serve their country actually will do so faithfully and without exception.

There is one caveat, as I've mentioned before. I was made very aware when I was a young military person, that I am and always will be in the military 24/7. My conduct will always and forever be a reflection of my service, past, present and future. To confirm this, think about the last time a Vietnam vet committed a crime. What is the very first thing that the "news media" say....... "Mr. Jackboot, a Vietnam vet, is accused of ..... blah blah blah". So what in the heck has that got to do with anything? Why was it considered important to bring that person's service to the fore? It doesn't matter......... you were, are and always will be a service member and your conduct will be scrutinized as such forever more.

This is the thing that I think Mr. Kerry forgot. I can and do bang him for that! The color and number of medals is meaningless, especially if, at the first opportunity, you use them to political advantage by LYING about your comrades....... you remember, Mr. Kerry, the ones that REALLY earned those precious pieces of metal. YOU, my dear senator, were an officer..... the MEN were the ones that REALLY bled and you've forgotten that completely!

And after obtaining permission to post the above words my friend had a few more things to say, along the same lines. Take them for what they're worth:

I'd rather have Clinton back as commander-in-chief than a guy who would stab his own comrades in the back. Remember, he did that AFTER he saved those lives, not before. He turned "south" after his participation in that war, not before. I won't use the "T..." word, but I don't know what else to call it. It's just a bit more than a simple "bad decision" in my book. He traded his MEN for a political career...... and as an officer, ALL of those MEN were his men! Every last one of them, no matter the branch of service. If an airman calls me "sir," then he is mine, no less than those that report to me directly. Even an ensign knows that! Kerry apparently forgot that!
Posted by Demosophist at 05:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's Mountain is of Kerry's Making

As part of the second of three installments, so far, in his campaign to become the den mother of the political culture Jeff Jarvis says:

If I were going to talk character as an issue -- and I won't -- I'd be more concerned about a candidate who allowed or condoned dirty campaigning in the present tense than about these particular supposed sins -- by either candidate -- in the past tense.

Well if I were going to talk about suspicious double standards--and I will--I'd probably observe...

that when Moore's propagandumentary was released the issue was the right of a morbidly obese serial prevaricator to present "his truth" while receiving celebrity billing at the official presentation of Kerry's Vietnam extravaganza. Yet when the Swiftvets (whose bonafides are every bit as impressive as the mini-JFK's) present their 30 second ad spot and their public defense against an onslaught of ad hominems it's "dirty campaigning," and the issue suddenly shifts to wearing out the public's thin veneer of patience or over-burdening their rugrat-like attention span (as opposed to, say, the truth of the allegations). I mean, it's not as though Kerry ever brought up an entirely fictionalized account of his past to make the case against a current US policy or anything.

And having said that, I'd add that the next issue raised by the Swiftvets and others ought to be Kerry's refusal to release his "official records," since that's the keystone of the false moral equivalence between the Bush and Kerry campaigns at the moment, and the red flag on Kerry's molehill-versus-mountain ethical double standard. So far not a peep about it in the "mainstream media," though.

I've been trying to figure out what sort of strategy Kerry is currently using, and why. I heard some Democratic pundit the other day say that Kerry has generally relished attacks on his Vietnam record, so that he could base his campaign on the counter-attack. The details of that counter-attack are now clear: that the President is (illegally according to delegated bulldog Howard Dean) behind the Swiftvet campaign, and that he (as opposed to Kerry) is engaging in "dirty politics." I can see how such a strategy might work well, were the US a writ-large version of Massachusetts, and also why the argument might get a big ovation on the John Stewart Show (where Kerry's refusal to answer whether he was ever in Cambodia met with nervous laughter). However, I strongly suspect that as a national campaign strategy it's just not going to cut the mustard.

Kerry has an obstacle, and his attempts to deflect attention from it are simply going to call attention to it. As Glenn Reynolds observed, it could have been a molehill to an alternate Kerry, but for this Kerry it's a mountain, and there won't be any easy detour around it.

Posted by Demosophist at 11:47 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Janet Jackson's Theory of Presidential Politics

According to the Drudge Report Janet Jackson believes that the Bush Administration used her nipple to distract the public's attention from the War in Iraq. As though the public's attention couldn't fall prey to just about any shiny object or tinkling bell. A dangled article could be enough to change the course of history, as suggested by this ancient piece of Scottish wisdom:

"It's not the tilt of the kilt that matters, but the angle of the dangle."

Posted by Demosophist at 02:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

The First Global Reformation?

In another elegant essay that goes right to the heart of the matter the Belmont Club discusses the flap over Kerry's Vietnam record (not so much the medals as the whole thing, including his after-service statements and the Christmas-in-Cambodia-Magic-Hat story) in terms of an "undercard" conflict between powers and institutions that will ultimately constitute our "unelected government." The penultimate and final graphs:

So when the Swiftvets story shouldered its way into the public consciousness despite the best efforts of the "gatekeepers" to consign it to oblivion, it posed an existential challenge to the news foundries. For where one could come, more would follow. The Mainstream Media responded to accusations by Swiftvets that Kerry had misrepresented his combat record in Vietnam by creating their own alternative news object, whose methods were restricted to OutrageAgainstBush( ) and SympathyForKerry( ), with read only properties Responsible and Respectable. They could no longer block the data, but they could still transform it.

Yet for good or ill, the genie is out of the bottle. Before the Gutenberg printing press men knew the contents of the Bible solely through the prism of the professional clergy, who could alone afford the expensively hand copied books and who exclusively interpreted it. But when technology made books widely available, men could read the sacred texts for themselves and form their own opinions. And the world was never the same again.

One must hope that if the Civil Society of the first world, and therefore of Liberalism 2.x, is undergoing a genuine Reformation of the sort that Wretchard suggests the same will reach into the heart of God 3.0's realm and somehow manage to transform it into God 3.1, with room for Liberalism and no room for the latest bastard offspring of unreformed religion and under-examined counter-enlightenment philosophy.

Update: And WaPo finally gets the story right: it's not about the medals.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2004

A Stark Comparison

John Cole documents through open sources that of the top-10-funded 527 groups, nine are openly pro-Kerry, anti-Bush. Their funding comes to $195,186,845. SBVT's funding as of Aug. 15 was $158,750. (Hat tip: One Hand Clapping)

I just don't think this needs much embellishment. If the outrageous hypocrisy of the double standard applied by the Kerry Campaign (and their big media hot date) to a group of men the majority of whom have service records and combat time exceeding Kerry's own, isn't obvious to a voter then they probably don't have the objectivity or mental acuity to distinguish an enemy of America from an ally. They aren't reachable.

Update: Captain Ed references numerous sources with evidence of links between 527 organizations and the DNC and Kerry Campaign, acknowledged in writing by the DNC. Oops!

Posted by Demosophist at 10:35 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 21, 2004

Is This Kerry's "Saddam Moment?"

Oh heck, never mind. I either misheard an announcer on cable news interpreting "complaint" as "lawsuit" or some announcer got it wrong. Apparently Kerry has filed a complaint with the FEC, not a lawsuit.

Never mind.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VDH on CSPAN Saturday

The inimitable Victor Davis Hanson is on BookTV at 4:00PM EST on CSPAN2. Or, if you're disinclined to wait, the show was taped in March and is available here.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 20, 2004

The Demosophist Party

I had a discussion some time ago with Martin Lipset in which I suggested to him that FDR had turned the term "liberal" on its head for slightly nefarious political reasons. He didn't agree, but I didn't find his argument particularly convincing. Thinking it over later, however, I came to the conclusion that FDR had earned the term "liberal" because, by adopting "workfare" during the Depression, rather than "the dole" which was adopted in Germany and Austria (that opened the door to the Nazis) FDR provided a social and cultural context for the unemployed worker that was neglected in Europe. This gave unemployed workers an alternative to the "Politics of Unreason." In other words FDR "saved liberalism."

There were lots of American fascist organizations in the '30s, like the "Silver Shirts" and Father Coughlin, and even Huey Long, but none ever achieved critical mass. In "old Europe" they did. In fact, Paul Lazarsfeld in his classic Marienthal Studies actually documents the process by which it happened in a small town in Austria. It's not pretty. Lazarsfeld documents the increasing isolation of the unemployed worker to the point that people caught in this web eventually had no awareness of or interest in what went on beyond their own backyard, and in extreme cases beyond their front window. Such isolation is crushing, and anyone caught in it, for whatever reason, will seek any sort of social context as an escape, even if it's the social pathology of Naziism. According to Lazarsfeld this was the essential difference between Germanic Europe and the US in the 1930s.

Here's what I do to keep things straight. To my rather uncomplicated mind you're conservative if your tendency when confronted with uncertainty is to cast anchor. You're liberal if your tendency when confronted with uncertainty is the weigh anchor. The only complication in that methodology concerns what constitutes an "anchor," and it's that small wrinkle that introduces all the irony.

The anchor is usually some aspect of the foundational values for a culture, which is usually religion or ethnicity in the case of Europe and many other places. In the US it's something else. It's partly religion... but mostly it's classical liberalism or "whiggism," which was the ideology that dominated the founding of the nation. Thus the dilemma... which I think is both both ironic and healthy. Uncertainty provokes conservative Americans to catch at anti-statist, sectarian, and individualist values (Americanism). The only thing that's left, if you happen to be "liberal" in the sense of weighing anchor and setting sail before whatever fickle wind happens to be blowing, is to oppose what the other side does. And sometimes, when these folks aren't careful, "liberalism" leads them in a reactionary direction. Competing for the title of "liberal" leads them to adopt some strange illiberal postions.

They don't just weigh anchor in other words, they start ripping the ship apart... just because it appalls the conservatives. It has the advantage of "proving" how liberal they are too... which is especially useful when sincerity is the highest virtue to which a politically aware person can aspire. It's crazy, totalitarian, and illiberal, but it's sincere.

It seems to me that the tenets of a Demosophist or Demosophistic movement would involve arriving at the appropriate balance between conflicting conservative and liberal values, or freedom vs. purchase. It's reasonable to argue that the appropriate response to threat is to weigh anchor so that you can maneuver, but it's also important to maintain the option of "staying in place." Such a position preserves the greatest degree of freedom, and to that extent it probably deserves to be called "liberal" in the larger sense.

Thus, I feel comfortable equating Liberalism 3.x with Demosophia. It's the optimization of the greatest degree of freedom within the constraints imposed by maintaining effective social bonds. The economist Ralf Dahrendorf has an excellent discussion of the practical ramifications of these tradeoffs in Life Chances. It's really about "networking."

Posted by Demosophist at 07:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Final Thoughts on the Matthews/Malkin Flap

Here's the core exchange in the Malkin intervew. It's what the Kerry supporters have decided to hang their hat on:

MATTHEWS: I‘m asking a simple question. Are you saying that he shot himself on purpose.

MALKIN: Have you tried to ask—have you tried ask John Kerry these questions?

MATTHEWS: If he shot himself on purpose. No. I have not asked him that.

MALKIN: Don‘t you wonder?

Now, assuming the transcript hasn't been doctored, as happens sometimes with Matthews, that's a pretty dumb response on the part of Malkin. A rather plausible interpretation of the exchange is that she was intent on making her point about a moral equivalence between gaming a minor wound and "shooting himself," and simply chose to ignore the option of a simple response. I think it's pretty clear that Malkin was gaming a bit. But Malkin's use of the phrase "self-inflicted" was an obvious reference to the shrapnel wound comment made by Brown. I'm not saying Malkin is blameless in this, but I also think the reason Matthews repeatedly interrupted her was that he simply didn't want her to make her point about moral equivalence, because to do so he'd have to get into the controversy over his depth. Now that I think of it, that was probably deliberate. Both were stubborn, but the conclusion that she was talking literally about Kerry "shooting himself" as opposed to a moral equivalence to that is simply wrong.

It's fair to say she was a stubborn jerk for not giving a straight answer (which doesn't relieve Matthews of his responsibility, btw), but let's at least acknowledge what the real controversy is about. There isn't a single swiftvet who claims that Kerry shot himself, and there never has been. They may very well make the case that what Kerry did is the moral equivalent of that, and its up to the public to draw their own conclusions. Personally I don't think they are morally equivalent. It's entirely acceptable to me that Kerry took advantage of a technicality to get out of service. BFD.

The core issue here is, as Armed Liberal has stated with some eloquence, whether Kerry was "gaming." I think it's fairly obvious that he was, and that's what I really derive from the swiftvet's testimony. But I don't want to impose my views on the public. I'd be content to have the facts laid out dispassionately and objectively and allow the public to draw it's own inferences.

Why does this strike such fear into the hearts of the Kerry supporters though? That's rhetorical, btw. I know the answer. It's because a human Kerry isn't "good enough." And a human George W. Bush isn't "bad enough." And that's one of the chief reasons I'm probably not going to vote for Kerry, even though I've been a Democrat all my life. I just think you guys are silly, and I'm not willing to hand you the keys to the Executive. It's like you're all still in Junior High, or something.

Posted by Demosophist at 04:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Chris Matthews Creates a Story

Everyone's all hot and bothered, because Chris is all hot and bothered, about some new trumped up allegation from the evil right-wing conspiracy that Kerry wounded himself deliberately in order to get out of Vietnam. I have to tell you, if Matthews came after me as relentlessly as he came after Malkin I might get flustered enough to forget my own name, and somehow Chris managed to get Malkin so flustered that he made an issue appear where there was none.

Malkin distinctly asked him, in reference to the "self-inflicted wound" if he'd read the book. There's no accusation in the book that Kerry shot himself to get sent home. The "self inflicted wound" she's talking about concerns the allegation that Kerry was wounded during an engagement by shrapnel from a grenade he threw at the enemy, and I'm not even sure Kerry contests that.

Well, come to think of it he probably does, because one of the requirements for getting the "three wounds and you're out" is that you have to be wounded by the enemy (or perhaps in an engagement against the enemy). Now that's sort of a silly rule, because it's warfare, and Stonewall Jackson was killed accidentally by his own men, so a wound is a wound as far as I'm concerned. But that's what Malkin was talking about, and Matthews wasn't up on the controversy enough to know it. I'd call that bad reporting, wouldn't you?

Now, there are quite a few swiftvets who think that the wound Kerry received on that day wasn't sufficiently damaging to warrant being counted in the "three wounds and you're out," since the size of the piece of shrapnel was supposed to be about the dimension of a grain of rice, and was removed with tweezers. And with all the talk about Kerry's heroic wounding on various occasions it is kind of interesting that he never had so much as a sick day in Nam.

So who are we kidding here? He probably gamed the system a bit. (God forbid!) Having lived through that era, and having once been an admirer of Kerry, I don't really find fault with that. Vietnam was a messy damn war, and lots of tish happened. But, frankly, I have serious doubts that Kerry was any Audie Murphy, so enough with the "war hero" stuff already. As far as heroism goes I know lots of guys who did more than Kerry (including my brother-in-law who was in a Special Forces Medivac Unit) and they aren't running for President. Either way, it's not much of a Presidential qualification. I love my brother-in-law, but I'll be damned if I think he'd make a good President.

Matthews is protesting way too much. The simple fact is that he got the story wrong by goading an interviewee that he simply doesn't like. (Or perhaps she's a lousy interviewee, I don't know.) But this is not about Kerry self-inflicting a wound in order to get out of combat. At most, it's about Kerry taking advantage of circumstances in order to get out of the fighting (as opposed to dressing like a woman and wearing high heels or something, like that hero in MASH that we all loved: Klinger?).

Gosh, this election stuff is fun, huh? But a little rational discourse without all the posturing would make it even more fun.

Update 1: Commenter Jimbob notes that Army Regulation 600-8-22 sets the conditions for the purple heart under fratricide as (paraphrasing) "in the heat of battle with intent to harm the enemy." And one assumes this includes self-inflicted wounds from grenade shrapnel. As I recall, the issue isn't whether the wounds were in the heat of battle, but whether they were serious enough to warrant the purple heart.

Update 2: Malkin herself notes (by way of Ed's place), and a check of the video confirms, that her "self inflicted wound" comment was a response to Willie Brown's raising the issue of grenade shrapnel, so she was clearly not talking about Kerry deliberately shooting himself to get out of service. Taking the charitable track, Matthews couldn't even be bothered to maintain awareness of what his guests were actually saying. Taking the uncharitable track, he ramped up the level of animosity deliberately by creating a false controversy as a cover-up.

Posted by Demosophist at 02:51 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

August 16, 2004

What's the "Alston Thing" All About?

Captain Ed Morrisey has been doing a great job of defoliating the jungle around the curious case of Rev. David Alston, former swiftboat colleague of John F. Kerry. (Just start at the above link and then scroll to get caught up.) But for those who want to cut to the chase, without all the detail, what it's about is this:

Speaking before the South Carolina Democratic faithful in a dreary ballroom last month, Kerry introduced his former boatmate David Alston:

He sat up in a turret above my head in the pilot house--firing twin fifty-calibers to suppress enemy fire from ambushes. We were extremely exposed--always shot at first.... On one occasion in an ambush his turret was riddled with almost one hundred bullets penetrating the aluminum skin. This gunman kept firing even though he was wounded--one bullet going through his helmet, grazing his head and another hitting his arm....

Apart from McCain, no other possible presidential candidate can tell a story like that. Nor will they be able to air campaign ads like the rough Kerry biography video I saw, which shows vivid footage of PT boats speeding through Vietnamese jungle rivers, as a narrator recounts tales of Kerry's heroism. The words "courage and character," which sound like a slogan we'll be hearing more of, were repeated several times.

Except that Kerry appears to have simply appropriated the combat record of Lt. Ted Peck, for it was under Peck and not Kerry that Alston received his wounds. As Peck, himself, maintains (and is borne out by virtually all of the relevant combat records):

On the Kerry website, the report of the combat on that day on the 94 boat is posted as occurring during Kerry's time as skipper of the boat. Peck said Kerry replaced him after the Jan. 29, 1969, event.

"Those are definitely mine," Peck said, referring to the combat reports that the Kerry campaign posted as representing Kerry's action. "There is no doubt about it."

Now, why the hell would Kerry do this? Here's a theory posted by an anonymous blogger on Captain Ed's. In the heat of the campaign Kerry had just gotten a big bounce from his appearances with Rassmann in Iowa, and he wanted to build on that in the next primary state, which was Alston's home state South Carolina. One can imagine the conversation going something like:

Kerry: David, I'd like to have your endorsement as one of the men who served in my crew in Vietnam.

Alston: Well you have my vote, and I'll do whatever I can to support you, but of course I never actually served under you, so I can't really represent myself as being a crewmate.

Kerry: Yes, but we don't really have to mention that distinction to anyone. We can just say that we served "on the same boat," and people will make the logical leap that we were crewmates.

And then once they got on the campaign, and the adrenaline was flowing, and since Kerry was used to embellishing his record anyway, they just waded in too far... and having done so couldn't get back out.

That's what I think happened, or something like it. Having served on a number of campaigns, as an organizer, the scenario seems plausible to me. In the heat of a campaign the temptation is to cut corners, because you're usually tired, excited, overworked, and if you're the candidate you're living in a kind of fantasy world that revolves around you. Unless there's an "adult" on the campaign staff willing to rein things in, it's sometimes easy to just rationalize actions that you'd never undertake in the cold light of a normal day. I once worked for a candidate who, when he was hungry, just popped a can of chili into the oven. It blew the door off the oven and sprayed highly spiced bean and beef shrapnel all over two rooms. Never entered the fellow's head that the physical laws of the universe wouldn't let him get away with that sort of thing.

Now the issue concerns what the press does about John Kerry's "excellent adventure." The information is out there, but so far the press has a nearly absolute blackout on the "Christmas in Cambodia" thing, and has apparently decided to just "take a bullet" for Kerry... because they really really want him to win. Meanwhile, there are a few people like Evan Thomas (in statement on "Inside Washington" TV show, July 10 admitting media bias) who are starting to feel a bit queasy about the whole thing.

Can you imagine what'll happen to the press if we elect a President, largely on the strength of his war record, who has systematically lied about that war record (and who may actually be a pathological liar) and the press knew, and ignored the story? What would that do to US morale? It'd be as though we couldn't trust our own eyes and ears.

The thought just scares the hell out of me so much that I really hope Kerry isn't lying, at least about the Alston thing. Maybe he has an explanation? If so, let's hear it. In fact, lets see all of those military records that document a career that sits right at the heart of his candidacy.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2004

Ed Drives the Penultimate Nail in the Coffin

Or it would be the penultimate nail if the press ever gets around to reporting it. What he has uncovered is the fact that one of the Swiftboat veterans who appeared with Kerry on stage during the Democratic Convention as a former member of his crew, simply never served under Kerry. He couldn't have, since he was in the hospital during Kerry's entire tenure as skipper of that boat. It's true that they served on the same boat, but not at the same time.

So, at best, this fellow (David Alston) is in the same category as the Swiftvets who wrote Unfit for Command. That's certainly bad enough, because it says that Kerry will accept you as having served with him only if you support his presidential campaign. But the final nail would come if the members of Kerry's crew knowingly passed Alston off as one of them. If there's evidence that they did so, then this says that they've taken a pact to misrepresent the truth for the sake of the campaign, and the jig is up.

Well, it's up if the media reports it. And if they don't, the jig will eventually be up for the media... which almost makes the short term injustice worth the long term reckoning. Almost.

Posted by Demosophist at 06:08 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 13, 2004

Vanguard vs. Vanguard: Phase I

A friend asked me recently to explain a passage from Michael J. Totten's extraordinary travelogue in TCS:

I felt more welcome traveling in Tunisia than anywhere else I've ever been in my life. Partly this is no more than the legendary Arab hospitality, which I'm happy to report is alive, well, and understated. Even so, I'm more convinced now than before that the Terror War is strictly ideological. It has little or nothing to do with any clash of civilizations.

Serendipitously, I just happened to see something last night that kind of opened my eyes a bit to the world that Michael's article begins to reveal. On the edge of the Sahara, Duoz, Tunisia is far enough away from "authority" that the people are less intimidated than many current Muslims, so I think it provides a glimpse into a future only dimly viewed right now.

The event I saw didn't change my views so much as refine them. It was a lecture, simulcast on CSPAN and the Heritage Foundation website by a "Jihadist" expert from Yale named Mary Hadek. Right now she's about 7/8ths finished with her book on the topic, but I think she has produced a number of articles, and the reader can view a streaming video of the Heritage lecture here. The transcript of the lecture will probably be available in a few days on the Heritage website here, but it probably takes awhile to transcribe.

What Hadek did was to lay out the Jihadist ideology in relatively simple and straightforward terms that explain not only what they're doing or probably will do, but why they're doing it. To deal with Totten's statement directly, however, she said that about 20-30% of the Muslim population is what she'd call "fundamentalist" or "Islamist." The Jihadists, or the folks who interpret things in a way that demands violence and terrorism amount to only about 1% (one percent) of the Islamist population. Counting on my fingers this is something like 0.2% (two-tenths of a percent) of the population of the Muslim world, although probably a higher percentage in the Arab Middle East. Now, much of the 20 to 30% will give moral, and sometimes even material, support to the 0.2 to 0.3%, but they won't get directly involved.

According to the majority of the Islamic world the way that the "Jihadists" interpret terms like "jihad" and "the method of Muhammad" is sacrilege, and is (as one fellow in the audience at the Heritage lecture put it) "as uncharacteristic of Islam as the ideology of Goldberg, who assassinated Rabin, is of Judaism."

But the primary problem is that the repudiation of the Jihadists, or what Hadek calls the "normative evaluation of Jihadism," while it is sometimes voiced, is still pretty low key. That's partly due to fear, and partly due to the fact that most of the region lives under autocracy, with little hope of exit. (More on this later.)

So that takes care of the, as yet, diminutive size of the Jihadists movement (which doesn't mean that, unattended, it wouldn't grow, or that its impact is minimal). She also indicated that there are relatively simple schisms, not only between mainstream Islam, Islamism, and Jihadism, that we could exploit if we understood them, but she also talked briefly about the effect of the Iraq War.

First of all, there are three strategic divisions within the Jihadist movement (who think of themselves as the "Vanguard" that surrounded Muhammad in the early days) over the precise meaning of "the method of Muhammad." The divisions are related to the order of the attack, and which enemy must be destroyed first. They are:

1. First destroy the "near enemy" and then the "far enemy."
2. First destroy the "greater unbelief" and then the "lesser unbelief."
3. First destroy the "apostates" and then the "unbelievers." (The apostates generally include all Shia, by the way.)

Who are the "near enemy?" These are the kufr that occupy all "Muslim lands." Do you know, for instance, that not only was the attack in Spain planned at least a year before the invasion of Iraq, but that in spite of the "truce" there was a second attack planned for April 2, that was foiled? It would seem that this makes no sense to our way of thinking, because it would have radicalized the Spaniards. But Spain is considered "Muslim land" (al Andaluse) and the plan was to create a general uprising of Muslims within Spain and N. Africa to take back Muslim lands.

Bin Laden belongs to group #2, and actually began talking about the "Greater Kufr" as the US as long ago as the 1980s. Sayyid Qutb identified the US as the Great Evil as long ago as 1948, long before we were a serious "imperial power" in Arabia or the Middle East. He did this because of the "habits of unbelief" that he saw when he was here, and because of the influence of US culture that he could see elsewhere.

So, has Iraq galvanized and expanded the ranks of Jihadists?

1. She says that it undoubtedly has. There isn't much sense in arguing to the contrary. At the very least it has merged group 1 with group 2 because it has moved the US from the category of "far enemy" to "near enemy." But it's also true that US policy has been utilized as a recruitment tool, to some effect. However,

2. The US has also acted "as a huge beacon" within the Arab world, for those Muslims who yearn for a better life. It has given them hope that there's not only sanctuary and protection from the Jihadists and from the Islamist rhetoric, but from the autocrats that dominate their lives. "Help is on the way," not merely from the US, but from the liberal regimes and empowered Muslims that the US is helping to create with its "little project." And most Iraqis also are pretty happy with the way things are going, too. They hate the disorder and violence, but they're generally appreciative of the opportunity they have now, to create a "different society" in the Middle East. And they often despise those who stood in the way, which includes not only France and Germany, but the Left in general... and the UN, of course.

And that's what the rest of the statement is about, and why Americans are singled out for hospitality in Tunisia. It's a different kind of "Vanguard" that, in all modestly, I knew about before we had even contemplated going into Afghanistan.

And I should also say that although Hadek thinks that Iraq has given the Jihadists ammo for recruitment, she doesn't think the numbers are huge. At most they amount to 10,000 or so, and probably less. And some of these are beginning to get demoralized and have doubts, as the "method of Muhammad" begins to run into trouble. She subscribes to the "flypaper" theory. We've attracted them to a theater of operations where we have the advantage, and can bring our warrior element fully to bear on their warrior cultic version of Islam.

Hadek has allowed me to refine my "counter-wave" theory about what we're doing in the Middle East. It's really far more focused, and depends on the principle of leverage. We need not actually enter as a counter-wave to Islamism ourselves, because as yet we are still doing battle with the "vanguard." And to start the "counter-wave" we need only help to create a "counter-vanguard," within the Muslim world that is deeply committed to a reformed, and prosperous, democratic Islam. I think it's happening.

The issue that Hadek really didn't raise concerns the role played in the West by the group I call the "Marxisant Left," which includes a fringe element in the US Democratic party, but also the European Social Forum, etc. The are the legacy of the Fauristes in France prior to the Nazi invasion. So far the schisms within the Jihadist movement seem to line up favorably (in their terms at least) with the major schism in the West, and allows them to deploy various localized political tactics, such as the influence on the recent Spanish election, and the intimidation of the Philippines. But from the Jihadist's point of view this isn't so much a "strategy" as the exploitation of a tactic, in the larger strategy. It is less a comprehensive determination to manipulate Western politics than a tactical windfall. I'm almost certain that they probably attribute their "success" in this realm less to rational calculation than to their idiosyncratic adherence to the "method of Muhammad." And the success has far less to do with their planning expertise, than our ignorance of their weaknesses and schisms.

Posted by Demosophist at 02:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chris Matthews/John O'Neal Interview (Updated)

Last night I watched the Chris Matthews Hardball interview of John Hurley, one of John Kerry's supporters, and John O'Neal, coauthor of the anti-Kerry book Unfit for Command. Toward the latter part of the interview John O'Neal complained that Matthews was asking him questions without giving him an opportunity to answer completely or explain why he believed that starting from the position that all of Kerry's Vietnam medals are valid, and that Kerry never misrepresented his service, was wrong. At that point Matthews got quite angry saying (from memory): "All you guys come on here and after talking for 20 minutes you complain I haven't given you any time. I'm willing to clock the time I'm giving you, John, and put this to the test. This is a common tactic of you conservatives."

(Several times during the interview Matthews refered to O'Neal as a "Republican" or a "conservative," even though O'Neal explained rather patiently that he was an independent who frequently supports Democrats, and had voted for Gore in 2000. He also asked why his partisanship should even be relevant to a discussion about the facts of Kerry's service. Why indeed.)

So I decided to get out my two timepieces, that I use to clock my workouts, and actually put Matthews to the test.

I timed the overall time of the interview, excluding commercial breaks, and I also clocked the amount of time O'Neal was allowed to defend his position.

I did not clock Hurley's time separately, because by and large Matthews was more than willing to adopt and aggressively defend Hurley's position, and I didn't have three stopwatches, or three hands. And bear in mind that O'Neal is being treated as a "hostile witness" even though he was frequently smiling patiently and employed absolutely no aggressive mannerisms or voice modulation, as both Hurley and Matthews frequently did.

Out of a total of 21 minutes John O'Neal talked about 7.5 minutes, or about 36% of the time. During much of that period he was aggressively interrupted, and on a number of occasions Matthews aggressively changed the subject without allowing O'Neal to complete his thought or a defense of a claim. He was just simply cut off and ignored.

I heard no substancial claims from Hurley that refuted anything O'Neal said. He frequently referred to statements made by the Swiftvets and other detractors of Kerry's Vietnam record as "lies," without responding substantively. At one point O'Neal reminded Hurley that at least one of those "liars" served as second in command of the Judge Advocate Corps.

At any rate I leave it to the reader to decide whether 36% of the time alloted for discussion is fair. It wasn't terrible. I felt that O'Neal was pretty effective, and used the time he was given about as well as one could expect. But on the other hand if you're going to denigrate what someone says, you have to at least allow him to say something. A better measure might have been the number of times Matthews interrupted or cut O'Neal off, or even seemed to simply ignore or slight him.

Anyway, I don't think the Kerry people have really dealt with or answered any of this stuff. They've basically just been complaining that it's unfair to even question Kerry's record, which was also the approach that Matthews adopted.

Update 1: A reader, Hurshel Ervin, makes the following profound comment about the consequences of Kerry's acknowledgement of "war crimes" by troops in Vietnam, including himself:

If our Vietnam prisoners of war thought it was difficult having a low ranking officer declare he and our military were war criminals, just wait until our President and Commander in chief is an admitted war criminal and is on record declaring our military to be war criminals.... Our enemy will use this to justify treating our prisoners of war as war criminals.

Of course they will.

Update 2: Another reader, James Williams, took the initiative to do a textual analysis of the Hardball program in which O'Neill appeared. I've been too distracted to post it until now, so apologize to James.

He found, rather unsurprisingly, that Matthews dominated the conversation, with 42% of the words uttered, and 49% of the "at bat" sequences. The combination of Hurley and Matthews accounted for 68% of the words uttered and 62% of the "at bat" sequences, leaving O'Neill with 32% of the words and 38% of the "at bats" to get his point across. During the course of the interview O'Neill was interrupted 16 times, mostly by Matthews, while O'Neill interrupted others only 7 times. Clearly it was a rather one-sided exchange, but with all of that O'Neill was able to make most of his points, and scored several major "hits."

By comparison, during an interview with Wolfe Blitzer and another of the Kerry Swifties (Crowe), O'Neill uttered 42% of the words, had 37% of the "at bats," and was interrupted only twice (by Crowe).

Thanks again, James, for the stats. The smaller percentage of words vs. time, for O'Neill is probably due to the fact that Matthews is a "speed talker."

Posted by Demosophist at 05:43 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

August 12, 2004

Bonnie Prince Charlie

My sister and niece, and their families, live in Key West and are due to be hit by Tropical Storm Bonnie some time tomorrow morning. Everyone has gathered in one house to combine resources and wait it out. This will be their first major storm, and the're quite anxious about it. They plan to be without power for a considerable period of time, but don't plan to evacuate.

Hurricane Charlie is scheduled to hit the mainland around the same time, so it's not clear where they could evacuate to even if they decided to go that route. Orlando may be relatively safe, I guess. This is the problem with locales where the bad weather isn't averaged out over the year, but piles up in an abnormal distribution. Manic-depressive or schizophrenic weather.

Looks like the family escaped the 9 foot snow falls of Eastern Washington for the 90 foot storm surges and 200+ mph winds of the diagonally opposing region.

Posted by Demosophist at 05:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Iraq Wins 4-2 Over Portugal!

After suprising everyone by actually qualifying for the Olympics in soccer Iraq has just won its first match, against Portugal, 4 to 2. The game was 3 to 2 at the end of regulation and Iraq scored the final goal during 4 minutes of time added for injuries and penalties. Portugal was heavily favored to win. Well, Iraq now has something to celebrate as a nation. It may actually help the political situation to some extent.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 11, 2004

Crazy John: "The horror! The horror!"

Here's the text of an interview with John Kerry in which he likens himself to the Martin Sheen character in Apocalypse Now, excerpted from an article in the Boston Herald (documented by Instapundit):

On more than one occasion, I, like Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now," took my patrol boat into Cambodia

In fact, I remember spending Christmas Day of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese Allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real. But nowhere in "Apocalypse Now" did I sense that kind of absurdity.

It's not the only place he makes reference to this event, but it's the creepiest one because of the parallels he drew between himself and the Sheen character, and by inference to the lead character in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. And what's creepiest about it is that the event is a total hallucination. In fact, Nixon wasn't even President in 1968, but that's far from the only reason we know it never happened. In actuality the appropriate parallel here probably isn't with Apocalypse Now but with Crazy Dick, the borderline psychotic U.S. President.

Let's not elect this guy, please. Please! OK?

Posted by Demosophist at 04:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

John Kerry's Lucky Hat

OK, it's apparently not "news" that the man running for the most powerful office on the planet made up an obvious and instrumental lie about his military service, apparently developed amnesia about the lie and told the truth for awhile (without acknowledging there was an earlier "version of the truth"), and then in the heat of a Presidential campaign seems to have developed amnesia about the truth, and opted for the instrumental lie again. Not news. He just makes stuff up. Anyone have a problem with that? No Sir. Not me. Uh-uh. No way. But apparently Lileks does.

It has to do with Christmas in Cambodia – the only aspect of the SwiftVets story I care to comment on, for reasons I think I stated before. If Kerry’s story is a lie, it’s significant, but not because we have a gotcha moment – gee, a politician reworked the truth to his advantage, big surprise. This is much larger than that. This is like Bush insisting that he flew an intercept mission with the Texas Air National Guard to repel Soviet bombers based in Cuba, and later stating that this event was “seared in his memory – seared” because it taught him the necessity of standing up against evil governments, such as the ones we face today. In other words, it would not only be a lie, but one that eroded the political persona he was relying upon in the election....

If the secret illegal mission was the origin of the Lucky Hat, it’s a new revelation.

Maybe this is just the hat "big media" needs to hang their hook on?

Posted by Demosophist at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 10, 2004

Little Giants

I've been watching some of the games on ESPN leading up to the Little League World Series. Yesterday there was a game between Kansas and Indiana, and the Kansas team had a devastating pitcher who simply shut down Indiana. I really enjoy the Little League games when they come around every year. The play isn't as good as the Big Leagues, although sometimes it's very good. But in Little League the losing team cries.

It's not that I like to see kids cry, mind you. It's that the stakes are all out in the open for everyone to see and experience, and there's no money involved in those stakes. It's all a matter of the honor of winning for your team. The kids are stoic as all get out during the game, but when it's over they frequently break down and sob. It just brings the whole thing right into your heart. I'm pretty sure the best Big League players probably wish they could cry when they lose, but at least the money's some solace.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Kerry Mystique

I'm getting dizzy. According this recent statement Kerry now endorses the Iraq War, but simply says that he'd have done a much better job of making the peace. I said over a year ago that this is what a Democratic Presidential candidate ought to do. But frankly, he's doing it far too late in the game for me to believe him. All it does at this point is convince me that Kerry will say anything that he thinks might get him elected, even if it directly contradicts what he said a week ago. It's that basic "I voted for it before I voted against it" silliness.

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Monday he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would be found. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

I thought he already said that we should only fight wars that are "necessary?" I guess that means he thinks the Iraq War was a necessary war even though there were no WMD. I wonder how the Deaniacs and the Mooreons feel about them apples?

Sometimes I wish George W. were a bit more flexible, but at least the guy's not a rank opportunist. Kerry reminds me of that old joke about Oregon weather: if you don't like it just wait awhile and it'll change.

Update: By the way, Glenn has a great deal more on the "Christmas in Cambodia" issue, including some comments that it could have been a "manufactured memory." In reference to that, doesn't it sound like one of the scenes from Apocalypse Now, where the Sheen character pulls into a devastated USO Christmas party, and then travels upriver to consort with tragically sad French expatriates. Is it possible that watching this movie Kerry combined some of it with his own memories to create a new memory, his own journey into the "heart of darkness?"

This isn't someone I want running the country, frankly. It'd be like having Richard Nixon at the helm again, but with a lower IQ.

Posted by Demosophist at 02:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2004

The Swiftboat Testimony: Is This Really Beyond the Pale?

There's a good deal of controversy about a really brutal new TV ad that features a number of swiftboat commanders who "served with" John Kerry. Their contention is that Kerry did not deserve the medals he was awarded. I heard one MSNBC announcer make the observation that the "only sense in which these men served with Kerry is that they fought in the same war." That is, in fact, the claim that the Kerry Campaign is making, as it threatens to sue stations that air the ad.

But, one of Glenn's readers notes that the men featured in the ad were in the same unit. Furthermore, at least one of them (Larry Thurlow) was present on the day and time when Kerry is aledged to have rescued Jim Rassman, earning him a silver star. Judy Woodruff interviewed both men on her CNN show Inside Politics, a transcript of which is located here. Since the transcript includes interviews and discussions of a number of other issues I have extracted the relevant portion below, followed by more commentary.

Extracted from a transcript of Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics which aired on CNN August 5, 2004 - 15:30 ET

WOODRUFF: We've been reporting on the debate between Vietnam veterans for and against John Kerry. With me now, two central figures in this debate. Larry Thurlow, he's with me here in Washington. Like John Kerry, he commanded a swift boat in Vietnam. He appears in that anti-Kerry television ad that we showed you a little earlier.

In Eugene, Oregon, is Jim Rassmann. He served under John Kerry's command and he credits Kerry with saving his life. Rassmann, you may remember, spoke at last week's Democratic convention.

Larry Thurlow, I want to -- I want to begin with you. You essentially, as I understand it, you, too, won a Bronze Star, like John Kerry did. The incident in which John Kerry pulled Jim Rassmann out of -- out of the river...

LARRY THURLOW, APPEARS IN ANTI-KERRY AD: Yes? WOODRUFF: ... in Vietnam, Kerry says that this happened under enemy fire, that Rassmann had been knocked in the water, he went back and was the first to get to Rassmann and pulled him out of the water. You essentially said that's not what happened. What are you saying?

THURLOW: My recollection of that day is still pretty vivid after all these years. And what I remember, Judy, is that the incident involving Mr. Rassmann, five boats had come out of the river after running an operation up in the canal earlier that day. Three boats were going through a fishing weir on the left side of the river that had put in place between the time we entered and when we were leaving.

I'm the third boat in that column left. In the column right, there are two boats. The lead boat is John Kerry's.

He's going through a rather small opening on the right bank that (ph) had been left in his boat. The boat leading our column, as it goes through that small opening almost simultaneously, is blasted completely out of the water by a command detonated mine.

WOODRUFF: This is another boat?

THURLOW: This is a 3-boat (ph) -- this is on the opposite side of the river of John Kerry's boat. At this point, John Kerry speeds out of the area, I assume to clear the kill zone. The rest of the boats, however, went to the aid of the 3-boat (ph), which was completely disabled. Two members of that crew are in the water, the rest are badly wounded and basically incapacitated on board that boat.

WOODRUFF: You're basically saying he fled when there was...


THURLOW: I am saying he fled the area on the explosion under the 3-boat (ph).

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, before -- and let me ask Jim Rassmann about that part of the story before we ask what happened to him.

Jim Rassmann, what -- what do you say happened that day in March, 1969?

JIM RASSMANN, KERRY SUPPORTER: Well, first, I was not part of John Kerry's command. I was a Special Forces officer who happened to be on his boat at that time.

Mr. Thurlow's recollection of what occurred is not accurate. We had the boat hit the mine to our left. And John immediately had his driver, Del Sandusky (ph), turn to the left and head towards it.

And it was at that time that our gunner on the bow got his gun knocked out and he started screaming for another weapon. I ran another weapon up to me, and we hit something or something hit us. There was an explosion, and I was blown off the boat to the right.

WOODRUFF: And you ended up in the water how?

RASSMANN: I was blown into the water, and I had boats coming up behind me. So, I went to the bottom of the river.

WOODRUFF: Now, as I understand it, Larry Thurlow, you have a different version of how Jim Rassmann was in the water.

THURLOW: Yes, I do. My thought is that since no mine was detected on the other side of the river, no blast was seen, no noise heard, there's two things that are inconsistent with my memory.

Our boats immediately put automatic weapons fire on to the left bank just in case there was an ambush in conjunction with the mine. It soon became apparent there was no ambush.

The rescue efforts began on the 3-boat (ph). And at this time, the second boat in line, mine being the third boat on the left bank, began to do this.

Now, two members in this boat, keep in mind, are in the river at that time. They're picked up. The boat that picks them up starts toward Lieutenant Rassmann at this time, that's the 23-boat (ph). But before they get there, John does return and pick him up. But I distinctly remember we were under no fire from either bank.

WOODRUFF: Jim Rassmann, what about that? You hear Mr. Thurlow saying there was no enemy fire at that point.

RASSMANN: Mr. Thurlow is being disingenuous. I don't know what his motivation is, but I was receiving fire in the water every time I came up for air. I don't recall anybody being in the area around us until I came up maybe five or six times for air and Kerry came back to pick me up out of the water.

WOODRUFF: Disingenuous. He says you are being disingenuous in not recalling what happened.

THURLOW: Let me ask Mr. Rassmann this question: I also ended up in the water that day during the rescue efforts on the 3-boat (ph). And my boat, the 51-boat (ph), came up, picked me up, business as usual. I got back on board, went about the business at hand.

I received no fire. But the thing I would like to ask is, we have five boats now, John's returning, and four boats basically dead in the water, working on the 3-boat (ph). If we were receiving fire off the bank, how come not one single boat received one bullet hole, nobody was hit, no sign of any rounds hitting the water while I was in it?

WOODRUFF: What about that, Jim Rassmann, quickly?

RASSMANN: There were definitely rounds hitting the water around me. If Mr. Thurlow feels that what his story is purported to be was the case, he had ample opportunity 35 years ago to deal with it. He never did, nor did anyone else. John Kerry did not tell this story. I told this story when I put him in for a Silver Star for coming back to rescue me. The Navy saw fit to reduce it to a Bronze Star for valor.

That's OK with me. But If Mr. Furlow had a problem with that, he should have dealt with it long, long ago. To bring it up now, I think, is very disingenuous. I think that this is partisan motivation on his part and for the part of his whole organization.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Thurlow, why didn't you bring this up earlier?

THURLOW: For one thing, I did not know that John had been put in for a Bronze Star, a Silver Star or, for that matter, a Purple Heart on that day. I did not see the after-action report, which, in fact, was written by John. And as the years went by, John was not running for the highest office in the free world.

WOODRUFF: What about Mr. Rassmann's point that he thinks you're doing this for partisan purposes?

THURLOW: Well, this is not true because, the fact of the matter is, I have not been active in any political party since I got out of the service. In fact, I basically turned my back on politics because of my experience in the service.

WOODRUFF: But this -- you feel strongly enough about this to be out?

THURLOW: I certainly do. My point is, is that John Kerry, because of the actions he's taken, and then the fantastic stories he made up about this, when many people beside myself know this not to be true, negates him being the leader he claims to be. And I would hate to have him be the commander-in-chief over my grandchildren.

WOODRUFF: Jim Rassmann, you want to respond to that?

RASSMANN: I sure do. I have two wonderful kids. They're very bright, they're compassionate people. I'm here today not just because John Kerry pulled me out of that water. I'm here today because if those two kids of mine were in the military, I would want John Kerry to be the commander-in-chief, not George Bush.

I think that Mr. Thurlow has a very unusual recollection of the events. I think that it's important to note that even today John McCain has come out and called this ad that they have produced dishonest and dishonorable. And I think I would have to agree with him.

WOODRUFF: Well, gentlemen, we are going to have to leave it there. Mr. Jim Rassmann, we thank you for joining us from Eugene, Oregon.

Larry Thurlow, we thank you for joining us here in Washington. We know you're from Kansas. We appreciate it.

And I have a sense we're going to continue to hear more about this story in the days and the weeks to come. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

THURLOW: You're welcome.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Well, even though John McCain has condemned the ad, at first blush it seems to me that Thurlow is making a plausible case. Moreover, I was not aware that it was Kerry himself who filed the after-action report that led to his own medal. It's clearly a "he said she said" argument between these two men, neither of whom were crewmates of Kerry, but with Rassmann in and under the water during much of the period when the critical events were supposed to have transpired, it's possible that he missed Kerry's evacuation of the kill zone, and was only aware of his return.

The Kerry folks are protesting a great deal. Perhaps too much. As readers on Instatpundit make clear, Kerry is throwing out a lot of chaff, but the accusations aren't far fetched. A number of political pundits, including Dick Morris, the Clintons' pollster and advisor, think this is dangerous territory for the Bush Campaign. I suppose, from the perspective of pure political expediency, getting too close to this story could backfire on Bush. But quite apart from those political questions we voters have some interest in the truth, even if the candidates and campaigns prefer to steer clear. After all we're the ones who must make the decision about who leads us during this critical period of history, not them. And given the central role of Kerry's Vietnam war record in the campaign I'd like to see a bit more about this before deciding, once and for all, to leave it behind.

Of course, I only have one vote.

Update: The ad that's the center of the controversy can be viewed here, and a chapter from the Unfit for Command book is located here. (Hat tip: Dr. Rusty, who has additional commentary as well as a plethora of links to discussion and information.)

Posted by Demosophist at 12:04 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 03, 2004

Advice to Moonbats: More Drink, Etc.

I've recently been debating a fellow about Michael Moore's latest "infomentary" and I can't make much sense out of what he says. I'm fairly sure the problem isn't me, for reasons that will become obvious. So I'm considering the possibility that what he needs is a coupla beers rather than another dose of my pearly wisdom. It occurred to me that he may not be drinking enough. Apparently recent research has determined that drinking a half bottle of wine a day helps a great deal to clear your thinking, although as little as one glass a week at least helps. Guinness probably helps too, though I imagine you'd have to tip a couple of pints just to keep abreast of the wine drinkers.

By the way, strenuous exercise for about an hour a day is also supposed to help clear your head, and combining the two just has to be a "force multiplier" of some sort. Just has to be. Right? Now, if one takes some additional advice along the same lines, and listens to a few tunes while you're weaving down the bikepath on your Trek Carbon Fiber 2300 one could conceivably lurch ones way into an exponential growth curve for "manifested individual IQ." And if not, it's at least some good clean high risk fun.

(Note to fellow bloggers: Good advice, but you might want to stick with the indoor exercycle, just to preserve that intellectual edge.)

"I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." -- Winston Churchill (Hat tip: Instapundit)

Posted by Demosophist at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2004

Latest CNN/Gallup Poll

From The Polling Report, and the first poll released after the Democratic National Convention:

"Now, suppose that the presidential election were being held today, and it included John Kerry and John Edwards as the Democratic candidates, and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as the Republican candidates. Would you vote for John Kerry and John Edwards, the Democrats, or George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the Republicans?" If undecided: "As of today, do you lean more toward Kerry and Edwards, the Democrats, or Bush and Cheney, the Republicans?"



% % % % %


50 47 1 - 2


47 49 2 - 2


46 50 2 - 2

Not much of a "bounce" is it? My theory is that the false nature of the suppression of real feelings and positions as well as the notion that military service can be a stand in for Presidential competency (George McGovern was a decorated combat pilot) simply insulted the intelligence of many Americans. It's only a theory, but it's rather odd that the best poll results George Bush has seen in quite awhile follow on the heels of the Democrats' big media extravaganza. Ouch!

Posted by Demosophist at 07:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack