October 31, 2004

Brinkley/O'Neill on CSPAN

Well, it was billed as a show featuring Douglas Brinkley, the author of Tour of Duty, and John O'Neill, the author of Unfit for Command. I figured it'd be great to see the two of them get together and debate the facts so that I could make a more informed judgment from their presentations in a point/counterpoint format. But alas, it wasn't a point/counterpoint, but a 75 minute interview with Douglas Brinkley followed by a 15 minute speech by O'Neill given not in rebuttal, but taped some months earlier. I felt suckered.

For Brinkley's part, he responded to questions posed by the moderator entirely by slandering the Swiftvets, calling them "the right of the right" and "racists" as well as war criminals. At one point he said that to ignore the atrocities in Vietnam would be the moral equivalent of ignoring the Holocaust. But not once did he present a single fact or reference a single document to disprove or counter an allegation made in Unfit for Command. I can be objective and open minded. Why wasn't I, the viewer, given the benefit of the doubt?

Now, I still don't know what to think about the allegations that were made in Unfit for Command, but I have noticed this extremely consistent pattern among the Kerry supporters (of whom Brinkley is clearly one) that they respond to argumentation about facts with character assassination, of the most vile sort. For all I know, the accusations Brinkley levels at Admiral Hoffman and Jerome Corsi are true... but surely their motives aren't the only thing that's important? And what facts does Brinkley provide upon which to hang his accusations about their motives and character? Well none, actually. He just intimates darkly that such evidence exists in abundance. If the accusation is important enough to make, isn't it important enough to prove?

I want to be open-minded, and I'd like to think the best of John Kerry, but just how do I do that when his defenders are so... non-empirical and unconvincing? Ironically, at one point in the interview Brinkley states that in his work as an historian the rule he follows is to recount the acts of men, rather than attempt to glean their intent. Perhaps he does that in his books, but he certainly didn't do that in this interview.

At the very end of the interview he expressed dismay at the pattern of character assassination taking place over this controversy. I simply had to regard such a statement as ironic, under the circumstances.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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Iraqi Endorsement Roundup

In all this hubub, one set of voices I think needs a bit more exposure - the selfsame Iraqis who have borne the brunt of America's foreign policy choices over the last 18 months or so. We've all heard approximately 9.4 million reasons to vote one way or the other, so another 2 or 3 won't stop the election in its tracks. But hearing these (quite often eloquent) voices, from a different culture, who have seen, up front and personal, the outcomes of the decisions being made, is an enlightening experience. Regardless of whether or not you agree with their arguments, hearing new and fundamentally different arguments is refreshing with less than 96 hours to the election of the President of the United States of America.

Perhaps two of the best ways to see what the situation on the inside is like is with this 2003 film, About Baghdad (which I highly recommend - I was going to link to the trailer, but the trailer is a biased travesty and doesn't give any insight into the true range of complex messages that can be drawn from the film itself) and this recent project, Voices of Iraq (trailer), which I haven't yet seen, but hope to quite soon.

But for those of you unable to view the films prior to the elections, nearly as good a glimpse can be garnered through a review of the Iraqi voices we now hear from the blogosphere. So without further ado...

Alaa, of the Mesopotamian writes a post and a post-script containing this gem:

My apology to the half of America who may disagree; and I address them with respect and fondness, but with pain in the heart. Do you really want to give satisfaction to the be-headers, kidnappers and child murderers; and the perpetrators of 9/11? Do you want to hear their savage shouts of victory? This is no reflection on the merit of your man. He may indeed be a paragon of virtue, but that does not change one little bit anything about the situation.

The Messopotamian's longer post is here:

Thus, regardless of all the arguments of both candidates the main problem is that President Bush now represents a symbol of defiance against the terrorists and it is a fact, that all the enemies of America, with the terrorists foremost, are hoping for him to be deposed in the upcoming elections. That is not to say that they like the democrats, but that they will take such an outcome as retreat by the American people, and will consequently be greatly encouraged to intensify their assault. The outcome here on the ground in Iraq seems to be almost obvious. In case President Bush loses the election there would be a massive upsurge of violence, in the belief, rightly or wrongly, by the enemy, that the new leadership is more likely to “cut and run” to use the phrase frequently used by some of my readers. And they would try to inflict as heavy casualties as possible on the American forces to bring about a retreat and withdrawal. It is crucial for them to remove this insurmountable obstacle which stands in their way.

We then move to Iraq the Model, a group blog by a bunch of medical professionals in Iraq. One of the bloggers, Omar, provides a translation from the BBC Arabic Forum on the upcoming American election. Interesting insights and a heck of a glimpse of the "Arab Street." Too many quotes to provide here, but here is a representative item:

“Bush is a better choice than Kerry. Regardless of the reasons behind the war in Iraq, I’m hearing news about Iraqis happy with the liberation and frankly speaking, some of the Arab media are very hypocritic when it comes to the situation in Iraq and they exaggerate things greatly. We-the Arabs-are getting to understand many new subjects”-- Mohammed Kerim Al Sabti - Oman.

Although not an Iraqi blogger, we do have the Egyptian over at the Big Pharoah blog, with this post:

If Bush lost then all what America had done over the past 3 and half years will be in vain. The liberating war of Iraq will look as if it was all a huge fiasco and all those who sacrificed their lives to plant a decent country within the Middle East sacrificed it for nothing. How do I know that? I knew that by listening to how John Kerry heinously played with Iraq just to reach the White House. Mr. Kerry had a lot to play with: taxes, health care, gay rights, stem cell research, and even the Bush administration post war planning. Yet he chose to raise doubts about going to Iraq after watching the perceived mess there and seeing how Howard Dean capitalized on that during the primaries.

The blog, Iraq and Iraqis has this post relating to the upcoming election:

For all that, either you thought this or that, you should think you are obligated to continue helping us. I say that to those American who are willing to vote for the person who are planning to give up the war against terrorism and stay home waiting for them to come after him and act at then.

A Kurdish blogger has this classic, which, regardless of one's politics, is just too funny to pass up (and we've all had conversations like this with our grandparents at one time or another Feel free to insert your own Clinton joke at the end:

ME: This is about the US elections.
Old Man: So, we will stay the same. No changes for us.
ME: Yeah true.. but still..it is fun to see who wins.
Old Man: I Know BOSH (Bush), who is his opponent ?
ME: KERRY (In Kurdish sounds KIRI (means "his d*ck")
Old Man: Akkkkk dawsheyt basha... KIRI ke ? (shame on you) who's KIR ?
ME: NO NO NO....Kerry u Bush (Kerry & Bush).
Old Man: Bosh's one ?
ME: NO NO that is a name KERRY.
Old Man: KIRI is a name ? It is the end of the world.
ME: Why ? He is American not Kurdish.
Old Man: Oh whatever. I will vote for BOSH.
ME: You can't vote. You are not American.
Old Man: Next time I see an American I tell him/her to vote for BOSH.
ME: Why?
OLD MAN: I don't want my face to go red every time I say the name of the US president.

The Iraqi Spirit blog is pretty ambivalent, and, interestingly, not directly at odds with the other Iraqi bloggers - the distinction seems to be one of what items deserve more emphasis, rather than the nature of the concerns themselves:

Both candidates seem to be adopting the same kind of politics when it comes to Iraq, the only difference is that Kerry has promised to pull back in 4 years time. I’m all for that, give back responsibility to the Iraqis to manage their own affairs. I would slightly lean towards Kerry because of that, but I’m not expecting much.

Next we have Loser's Blog, with his endorsement of Bush:

For me I Prefer Bush for many reasons, one of them that he was fighting in the past four years and took one of most boldness decisions, it's not fair that some one else inherit the success that might be achieved later, I know the situation here is foggy and hard, it's as if someone one want Iraq to remain as a battle for ever, but I have the feeling that's it's going to end in a moment or another…

Riverbend, who I gather has been unrelenting in her protest of the war and unstinting in her desire for the days of Saddam, has endorsed Kerry by way of Anybody But Bush:

So is Kerry going to be much better? I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s going to fix things or if he’s going to pull out the troops, or bring more in. I have my doubts about how he will handle the current catastrophe in Iraq. I do know this: nothing can be worse than Bush. No one can be worse than Bush. It will hardly be fair to any president after Bush in any case- it's like assigning a new captain to a drowning ship. All I know is that Bush made the hole and let the water in, I want him thrown overboard.

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Anticipatory Retaliation and Le Report du Jawa)

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Trick or Terror? (Or Just Tinfoil)

Just food for thought - when the Madrid bombings, and the subsequent defeat of Aznar occurred, I was telling friends and family that the decision of the Spanish made it a near certainty that more Americans would die before 11/2.

I then recalled that the Madrid bombings were three days before their election. Three days before 11/2 is 10/31. The odd coincidence is that, if you recall, after 9/11, there was a concern that Al Qaeda would attack the US that Halloween (which were later debunked).

I know this is fever swamp territory. Let me rephrase that... let's just say that I hope it really is tinfoil-hat grade reasoning.

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Anticipatory Retaliation and The Report About Jawas)

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We're Still All Americans

I have to first apologize to anyone who reads Anticipatory Retaliation for the absolute lack of posting. Blah, blah, blah, busy, busy, busy. I know you've all heard it before, but consider that I'm taking a break from my research to write a post at sometime after 1 am on a bloody Saturday. Yes - it's been that kind of busy.

So, at any rate, as some of my readers may know, I regard Fred Kaplan as being something between phenomenally clueless and a shameless partisan hack for most of his reporting at Slate. Here's one of his and my response to it, back when I cared enough to fisk him in detail. Here are a few other massively disingenuous and wholly clueless bits that are sorely in need of point by point demolition. Now, to be fair, once in a while, he hits a relatively sane note. But then again, so can Chomsky.

But, in the lead up to this bitterly contested election, I, much to my pleasant surprise, found this article by Mr. Kaplan, which is well worth reading.

Well, to be absolutely honest, I wasn't pleasantly surprised, so much as euphorically gobsmacked. Now, before we get to the substance itself, consider the incredible tone that has dominated political discourse in the days leading up to the election. With folks making noises of the sort we've heard over the last couple of weeks, civility is a breath of fresh air.

So, enter Mr. Kaplan's latest offering. As you may have heard, the British journal, the Lancet, has recently stained its pages with an unbelievable, incredible bit of garbage asserting that the Iraq War has resulted in 100,000 civilian deaths. Being so saturated with the business of debunking nonsense, I opted to let this one slide. So not only was I grateful that of all people, Mr. Kaplan put aside the chance to take opportunistic potshots at President Bush, but that he did so in a very solid, reasonable manner. This isn't to say that I agree with everything in his article, but this is a lot closer to liking everything about a dinner, except for the coffee that went with dessert. Key paragraph:

This isn't an estimate. It's a dart board. Imagine reading a poll reporting that George W. Bush will win somewhere between 4 percent and 96 percent of the votes in this Tuesday's election. You would say that this is a useless poll and that something must have gone terribly wrong with the sampling. The same is true of the Lancet article: It's a useless study; something went terribly wrong with the sampling.

Now, towards the end he does go off to cite the Iraq Body Count page, which you may or may not be familiar with. Essentially, these folks compile data based on press reports of civilian casualties. Being somebody who has measurable experience with open source intelligence gathering, I can tell you that their methodology is questionable at best. Oliver Kamm nicely dissects these folks in the bottom half of this post.

But all of this back and forth about the methodology of the Iraq Body Count site misses the essential point, which is this. No matter how much I may believe a Kerry Administration would not best serve the interests of this country, and no matter how many people feel the same about a second term for President Bush, people still do, on occasion, put the fact that we're all Americans ahead of their political leanings. Hearing this report, I expected Mr. Kaplan to use this as a departure point for explaining how the administration had blood on its hands for this - and yet Mr. Kaplan had the journalistic integrity to call a spade a spade.

Doesn't mean I like the guy, or anything, but hey - when credit is due (and here it most certainly is), point it out. So, in other words, things like this give me hope that we'll still realize that we're all on the same team, come November 3rd, or December 2nd, or any other time in the next four years.

(Simultaneously beamed by Bravo Romeo Delta to Anticipatory Retaliation)

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Fallujah: It's Not the Election.

But it may be at least as important. Wretchard uses direct communication from commanders on the line to lay out the order of battle in Fallujah and Ramadi.

"The upcoming offensive is getting more and more press, more and more frequently. My initial focus was on Fallujah, but now on second thought I think it a certainty that Ramadi is going to be hit too. Look for 5th Marines to hit Ramadi, 1st Marines to assault Fallujah, and 7th Marines to continue guarding the Syrian border in the West, and possibly act as an operational reserve. They've probably shifted a good bit of the armor that is normally a part of 7th Marines (like 1st Tank Battalion) over to either 1st or 5th. Bet on it."

Read the whole thing. The magnitude is impressive. Around 10,000 men, on the allies' side. You aren't going to see this in the mainstream media. If Zarqawi is within the cordon now, he's not getting out.

"Fallujah watchers will have noticed that the Marines are closing out a last round of negotiations for surrender while they have been progressively shutting down insurgent checkpoints within the city by hitting them with smart munitions. My own speculation is that the negotiations were launched, not in the expectation of getting Zarqawi to lay down his arms, but in order to negotiate a separate peace with the different factions in town. The impending assault has been used as a negotiating lever to create gaps in the enemy ranks. This process is calculated to blind the enemy by shutting down his pickets and poison his intelligence channels -- not to mention introducing mutual suspicion and internecine fighting.

The main event next week will doubtless be the Presidential elections but for Marines in Anbar, their minds may well be on matters closer at hand."

The significant difference between this war, and Vietnam, is that there's a direct conduit between the fighting men on the line, and the "people." The press is superfluious. Unnecessary. We're not only in a different war, we're in a different age.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 30, 2004

Beware the Bunnies

Yah see? What'd I tell yah?

Big Jerk Jerk in Bunny Suit

It's Kerry with a fake beard.

"The upcoming offensive is getting more and more press, more and more frequently. My initial focus was on Fallujah, but now on second thought I think it a certainty that Ramadi is going to be hit too. Look for 5th Marines to hit Ramadi, 1st Marines to assault Fallujah, and 7th Marines to continue guarding the Syrian border in the West, and possibly act as an operational reserve. They've probably shifted a good bit of the armor that is normally a part of 7th Marines (like 1st Tank Battalion) over to either 1st or 5th. Bet on it."

Read the whole thing. The magnitude is impressive. Around 10,000 men, on the allies' side. You aren't going to see this in the mainstream media. If Zarqawi is within the cordon now, he's not getting out.

"Fallujah watchers will have noticed that the Marines are closing out a last round of negotiations for surrender while they have been progressively shutting down insurgent checkpoints within the city by hitting them with smart munitions. My own speculation is that the negotiations were launched, not in the expectation of getting Zarqawi to lay down his arms, but in order to negotiate a separate peace with the different factions in town. The impending assault has been used as a negotiating lever to create gaps in the enemy ranks. This process is calculated to blind the enemy by shutting down his pickets and poison his intelligence channels -- not to mention introducing mutual suspicion and internecine fighting.

The main event next week will doubtless be the Presidential elections but for Marines in Anbar, their minds may well be on matters closer at hand."

The significant difference between this war, and Vietnam, is that there's a direct conduit between the fighting men on the line, and the "people." The press is superfluious. Unnecessary. We're not only in a different war, we're in a different age.

Posted by Demosophist at 09:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 29, 2004

Bin Laden is Pro-Bush

Not really, but he seems as dumb as a bag of rocks to try to play the Madrid game with Americans. There are LOTS of blue collar Democrats who will vote for Bush now simply to get the vicarious and perverse pleasure of confounding what appears to be Bin Laden's attempted manipulation. Well, not just blue collar types. Lots of Americans who don't feel strongly about supporting Kerry will have that impulse. So, you'd think UBL would know that right? Which would be an argument for that "reverse psychology" hall of mirrors referenced in the title.

Except for a couple of things:

1. Totalitarians really are that ignorant about the way free people think, and what motivates them... especially Americans, and

2. It probably doesn't make that much difference to him who wins, since he's confident he has the "method of Muhammed" and can't lose. Which means:

3. There is all up side and no down side, for UBL, to put out this tape. It's pure rational opportunism. In the unlikely event that Kerry does win Bin Laden can now claim to have influenced even the mighty Americans... which gives him enormous prestige where it counts: in the Arab world. True that scenario isn't very likely, but the payoff is huge and the risk is small (from his in-the-hand-of-Allah perspective).

Vote for Bush. It's the right thing to do. There's nothing wrong with the impulse of those blue collar voters. They're totally dialed in.

Update: Josh Marshall thinks otherwise (naturally), but proposes no rationale.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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Problems with the KSTP Video

Hindrocket, at Powerline, is all over the KSTP Channel 5 video story. Powerline is highly skeptical of the claims made in this morning's NYT piece that: "... the videotape and some of the agency's photographs of the HMX stockpiles "were such good matches it looked like they were taken by the same camera on the same day."" According to a munitions expert who contacted Powerline, the material depicted in the video could hardly have been RDX or HMX:

As a retired Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer I have some problems with the Channel 5 story. It appears to me that they are in a bunker filled with blasting agents (slower detonation rates for moving rock, see link below on detonation rates) . First we see boosters, (they would commonly be inserted into a bag of ANFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil) or nitro starch for blasting. Then we see what is described as dynamite but is more likely TNT or wrapped nitro starch (see GI story below) and lastly those big cardboard barrels which appear to be a white powder. Note the number beside the 1.1D placard on the barrel, it says 239. Now 239 may very well be the U. N. number system for ammunition and explosives (see first link below). The U. S. does not utilize the U. N. system nor does the former USSR or its satellites. When I was in Bosnia we put the Bosnians on the UN system to get some organization established for safety purposes. Please note the first site below from Australia and we can see they are most probably on the UN system: (239 NITROSTARCH, dry or wetted with less than 20% water, by mass). Common sense to me would be that HMX, one of the most powerful and expensive explosives WOULD NOT BE PACKAGED IN CARDBOARD BARRELS! Furthermore one of the barrels is already open as we see. The two "experts" certainly did not add ANYTHING to this story.

In other words, this isn't the missing high explosives. Rather, it's conventional blasting agent commonly used for construction and demolition.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 04:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Kerry Anti-Logic: The Timing Doesn't Matter

As though the public would regard as seamless a shift in rhetoric as monumental as the Great African Rift, the Kerry team now holds that the actual date at which the Qaqaa explosives went missing is of no importance whatever. Which, of course, is like saying that the US was responsible for Saddam's weapons (all of them, not just WMD) before it wasn't responsible for them.

What could dramatize the essential temporal and scale confusion of John Kerry, and the left in general, any more clearly than to now say that the case it has insisted upon for five days, against all logic and evidence, doesn't matter?

Kerry now claims that the essential failing isn't that the US lost the explosives after it had secured the country (because it now appears that they were in Syria by that time), but that the weapons facility was left unguarded at any time. So, reduced to its particulars, the Kerry argument is now that we ought to have used troops already thinned by Turkey's refusal to pass the 4th ID, to guard an empty chicken coop.

This is a campaign whose central feature is the absence of thought and the avoidance of coherence. Of course they don't have a plan. The Kerry Campaign is The Anti-Plan.

Meanwhile it illogically claims that it is not casting aspersion on the military itself, in a 2004 rerun of Winter Soldier. For unless you believe that it's the President's job to micromanage every wrench and screwdriver in the war, the notion that the Kerry campaign could isolate responsibility to the President alone, is like my five-year-old nephew claiming that his hand was in the cookie jar because he was checking the availability of cookies for the rest of the family.

The question is, is anyone actually buying this nonsense? A quick straw poll of Fox's Dayside program yesterday suggests the whole Kerry onslaught over Qaqaa smells like caca. Of course the audience could be biased, but the polls should start pulling the rug from beneath Kerry's feet by the end of the weekend, and after the Sunday Talks it'll be a completely different race. Stay tuned.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 11:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2004

Bottom Line on Al Qaqaa

Although neither the 3rd ID nor the 101st Airborne found evidence that the 308 tons of explosives were intact when they conducted their searches of al Qaqaa, it is also a fact that they weren't looking for it. It's not entirely clear, either, that all of the material was there when the IAEA made its final inspection before the war, because they didn't actually check the containers, and just assumed that the seals they had placed earlier were sufficient evidence that the material had not been tampered with. I don't know how "safe" this assumption was, but for the purpose of analyzing the credibility of the Kerry attack, that doesn't matter.

What we know is that since the items were found to be missing in May, by the Iraq Survey Group, the material must have been taken out prior to that date. And according to the defense department it would have been nearly impossible to remove the material once US forces arrived on the scene, because within a short span of time all of the available roads were choked with US transport traffic, and heavily monitored.

So it really doesn't matter whether the 3rd ID or the 101st can specifically verify that the explosives were no longer at the site, because they could not have been moved during the period between their inspections (however brief) and the Survey Group's findings in May. The volume is just too large not to have been noticed.

So, how to explain the Kerry campaign's continued harping on the issue, as well as Josh Marshall and others? (Kos' intransigence doesn't really require an explanation.) It has to be the case that they see defeat looming, and they have no alternative. It has come down to this.

The bottom line: This is the opportunity granted George Bush on a silver platter not to merely win, but to obtain a mandate. He can win BIG by riding this counter-attack all the way to Nov. 2. Basically, he can close Kerry down.

Update: Well, I don't know. I just listened to a Bush campaign advisor who was on Hardball (Richard Falkenrath, I think) specifically to respond to charges about al Qaqaa, and he nearly put me to sleep. In a monotone delivery he simply refused to respond to Reuben's outrageous charges that the looting after the fact had virtually been proved. (It now appears that the Russians, along with Iraqi Intelligence, may have moved the stuff. (hat tip: Ramblings Journal))

Instead of getting with it he simply kept saying, with nauseating repetitiveness, "we don't know what happened and it's irresponsible to say we do." Yeah Dick, it's real irresponsible... but you're not a moralist, your a political operative. So tell us why Rueben is full of crap. We all know, so why don't you?

So these geniuses have settled on a line, and they're not only not going to counter-attack effectively, but are apparently going to lay back and rest on their laurels.

Hell, they're so politically incompetent it almost convinces me to vote for Kerry... except that he's the one who opened himself in the first place. So we have two fighters, one who habitually drops his guard as he lashes out blindly and recklessly, while spending most of his time hiding in the corner, and the other who also likes the opposite corner, and who refuses to take the opening to counter-punch when he has the golden opportunity. How the hell did we end up with these sorry losers? I really don't know what's going to happen... and I'm close to not caring. I'm really not sure Bush has what it takes to be President. He talks tough, but he plays like Fauntleroy.

There's no reason this even needs to be close!

Man, I'm gonna need medication by Tuesday.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 06:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Exploitation of Child Labor Employed for Kerry in Wisconsin

Apparently schools in Milwaukee and Madison have, in concert with Wisconsin Citizen Action, initiated a program to have children canvass low income and minority neighborhoods in an effort to get out the vote. This is utterly reprehensible, since the effort is highly partisan. Now, in a past life I was a Citizen Action canvasser, so you can believe me when I tell you that they are not "non-partisan," as they claim. The organization was founded with seed money from Ralph Nader, and is based on precepts laid down by Saul Alinsky. I have nothing against it as a representative of its constituency, but to claim that it is non-partisan isn't even remotely credible.

Futhermore, I was also involved in a lawsuit between big city school districts and state agencies in Minnesota over school funding, where the cities claimed that they were entitled to additional funds even if it had to deprive rural children of resources. Presumably Wisconsin has some of the same issues, and in that light to employ these same "deprived" children in an effort with highly dubious educational benefits, makes Glenn's objection even more relevant:

I firmly believe that once the state compels young people to attend school, deprives them of their freedom, it owes the highest duty to them to use their time only in ways that benefit them. To see them as a source of free labor or to exploit them for any purpose that is not itself a good reason for depriving the young of their freedom is a great wrong.


(NOT cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 01:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Qaqaa Turning Point

It is not yet clear how much energy George Bush is going to invest in this counter-attack, but I submit that he has little to lose and much to gain. It offers a devastating segway into a discussion of the perfidy and incompetence demonstrated by the UN, the possibility that during the long wrangling and last chance inspection effort Saddam exported his WMD program, or secreted it somewhere. More importantly it bolsters the thesis that John Kerry is unfit for command, because he's willing to employ bad information and even falsehood in order to win an election, even if it undermines the US war effort. This could be the opportunity that leads to an essential and decisive Bush victory.

(NOT cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 01:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The woes of being an internet blog pimp (Rusty Shackleford)

So you're a blogger. You think you have all your bases covered. You save drafts of all your posts. You even have a backup site. But what is a blog pimp to do when his site goes down the same day his backup site goes down? I mean, there's more to the internet than just blogs, right? Sure, I mean, there's porn and stockquotes.

Yes the entire mu.nu domain is down. Yes .blogspot seems to be down too.

(Not cross-posted at The Jawa Report or Anticipatory Retaliation!!)

Posted by Dr. Rusty Shackleford at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Turning Point for the President? (Updated)

I debated with myself about whether or not to post this for quite awhile. I have to confess that I'm at a complete loss as to why the President didn't respond to the al Qaqaa accusations yesterday. We're now entering the third day that this is the top news story, and clearly it has only grown and gained momentum because the candidate himself hasn't spoken. Captain Ed documents further evidence, contained ironically in a CBS report, that the explosive material was not at the site by the time the 3rd ID arrived and conducted a thorough search, which was, according to Glenn, a week before the 101st Airborne got there with embeds from NBC. Not only that, but the site may well have had chemical WMD that disappeared during the same period!

Now, I'm satisfied that this is, or would be, a nonstory but the candidate has to say so, because he's the target of the disinformaition. What's more, it would be better that Bush launched a counter-attack than merely answering the charges to dismiss them because they say something about WMD and about the character of his opponent. I just don't know why this President isn't at the top of his game at this point in the campaign, but it has been a pattern throughout his Presidency. He allows false charges to build momentum and become established in the minds of voters (and research says that they are established within 24 hours regardless of their merit) before he ever bothers to address them. He appears to believe he's above the fray. I have news for you George, you are the fray! And it's high time you got out of bed fighting your political opponents, who are illegitimately stealing a march! It's now a leadership issue.

Update 1: Apparently Glenn Reynolds has had some of the same thoughts:

Or if he [Kerry] doesn't [drop the al Qaqaa story], assuming it's true that the loss pre-dates the invasion, Bush ought to fight back and accuse Kerry of relying on bad information. Yet the fact that we aren't seeing Bush lash back with an accusation like this makes me suspect that the loss either did not pre-date the war or that it isn't clear whether it did or not. [Emphasis added.]

Update 2: Apparently Duelfer now holds that the only reason the high explosives at Qaqaa weren't destroyed in 1995 is that the UN gave them a pass. He also says that he believes the only reason the stuff existed was that it was part of Saddam's plans to restart a nuclear weapons program. If the President doesn't use this to counter-attack Kerry, he's either on drugs or he's lost his mind.

Update 3: As Rusty points out below, apparently the President has finally responded with a counter-attack. (Big sigh.)

Note: The MT server at mu.nu seems to be down at the moment, so I haven't yet cross-posted this message to Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report.

Posted by Demosophist at 09:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

D'Souza's Advice to John Edwards: Vote for Bush

Great group interview with Dinesh D'Souza in the Washington Post. He gets the prize for most compassionate campaign advice:

Florida: What advice would you give the Bush-Cheney campaign in the waning days of the election?

Dinesh D'Souza: The Democrats think the terrorist threat is confined to Al Qaeda and "the guys who did 9/11." Reminder to John Edwards: the guys who did 9/11 are dead. If you understand that the battle is much broader, if you understand that the problem of terrorism is partly in the bad regimes (Syria, Iran, Saddam's Iraq) that dominate the Muslim world, if you understand that terrorism arises out of the dysfunctional societies of the Middle East, if you see the importance of establishing a democratic example in the Arab world--then vote for Bush.

OK, so he probably didn't hear the question, and I'm taking a few liberties interpreting the response. It's still a good answer. Read the whole thing.

(Simultaneously beamed by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)
href="http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/04/politics_dsouza_102604.htm">Washington Post. He gets the prize for most compassionate campaign advice:

Florida: What advice would you give the Bush-Cheney campaign in the waning days of the election?

Dinesh D'Souza: The Democrats think the terrorist threat is confined to Al Qaeda and "the guys who did 9/11." Reminder to John Edwards: the guys who did 9/11 are dead. If you understand that the battle is much broader, if you understand that the problem of terrorism is partly in the bad regimes (Syria, Iran, Saddam's Iraq) that dominate the Muslim world, if you understand that terrorism arises out of the dysfunctional societies of the Middle East, if you see the importance of establishing a democratic example in the Arab world--then vote for Bush.

OK, so he probably didn't hear the question, and I'm taking comic liberties interpreting the response. It's still a good answer. Read the whole thing.

(Simultaneously beamed by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 01:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 26, 2004

Al Qaqaa in Perspective (Updated)

Josh Marshall presents a case that supposedly refutes NBC's story that the explosives thought to have disappeared from al Qaqaa were, in fact not there when the first US forces arrived. The trouble with Josh's case is that there's just not much to it. Besides the claim that the NBC team and others who support their version of things simply weren't sufficiently expert to have known what was or wasn't there, his primary argument is that the sheer volume of explosives could not have been moved without being noticed. The flaw in this argument is conceptual. It presumes 380 tons were moved against a placid background of inactivity, mirroring the conditions of our present fixation. It confuses time and circumstance in the classic self parody of the left's argumentative style. It unconsciously assumes that 40 trucks we retrospectively consider important would have been easily noticed, in the midst of 64,000 trucks frenetically transporting similar material of equal or greater importance all over the country of Iraq, during the fog of war.

First, it's important to note that Josh's case assumes two facts he doesn't bother to document. The first is that UN inspectors found the explosives in question on their last visit to al Qaqaa on March 8, 2003. If true that would have left a little less than a month for the 380 tons to have been removed, during a week prior to the invasion and three weeks after. Josh doesn't link or cite anything that supports this claim, but let's assume it for the sake of argument. The second is the claim that "skies were positively crawling with American aerial and satellite reconnaissance," especially during the week or so leading up to the invasion. I think we can assume that there was a good deal of recon going on, but the question is what were they looking for, and with how many eyes? "Positively crawling," isn't a quantitative term... and that's the central problem with Josh's scenario. It's not very sensitive to scale or magnitude.

Wretchard's War Plan Orange scenario presents a devastating obstacle to Josh's argument. Namely, it's that the sheer volume of the total tonnage moved in the period preceding, and shortly after, the invasion was about 1600 times as large as the small amount of high explosives that currently have us fixated. Josh is making the classic "Monday morning quarterback" mistake, that what is obvious now would have been obvious then. To quote Wretchard:

...the loss of 380 tons of RDX is similar to worrying about a toothache after being diagnosed with AIDS and Ebola. Some 600,000 tons of explosive are said to have been dispersed throughout Iraq prior to the conclusion of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In other words, the biggest problem with Josh's imagined scenario is that he presumes that the transport of the explosives would have taken place in high relief. But the fact is that it would have taken place in the midst of an environment so inundated with similar activity that it would simply have disappeared. To spot the transport of a mere 380 tons, in the midst of 600,000 tons of similar activity, would have literally been like finding a needle in a haystack.

One might say that this sort of cognative flaw pervades the arguments of the left. With impressive alacrity they mistake hindsight for foresight and confuse large with small. And we're supposed to have confidence that this provides evidence of competence during wartime. It's not unlike the notion that a professional dissenter is qualified to become Commander in Chief.

Update 1: Josh has posted a follow-up which relates an interview with NBC's embed to the effect that the "search" by the 101st Airborne was really just a 'pit stop" and that the US forces had previously verified the presence of the explosives in a prior visit, anyway. I would note that the latter claim is based not on any direct assessment of the contents of the site, but on the observation that certain cannisters of the right dimension had been obverved during the earlier "search" (which was also, undoubtedly no more than a pit stop). The upshot of all this is that giving Josh's latest argument the most liberal possible interpretation, we simply can't be sure whether the high explosives were there at the time, or not.

But one thing is certain: Compared to the total loss of material during the prolonged runup to the war, the loss of such a small amount of high explosive is just not momentous. And if Josh is wrong about the timeline and the benchmarks he has contrived, which isn't an unreasonable conjecture given the temporal confusion that pervades much of this rhetoric, the loss of this RDX "provides indirect confirmation of the preemptive dispersal of war materiel by the Saddam regime while the US was trying to negotiate UN permission to topple him for six months, compounded by Turkey's refusal to allow the 4ID to attack south into the Sunni Triangle" (Wretchard). This is hardly a case that Iraq was "the wrong war at the wrong time," except in the sense that it didn't take place soon enough.

Update 2: A Fox News reporter, Dana Lewis, was also embedded with the 101st Airborne, and backs up NBC's contention that the exlposives were gone by the time the US forces arrived. Lewis says that there was no sign of high explosives or of the IAEA tags that would have indicated their presence.

Update 3: Wretchard recounts further evidence that the missing explosives were already gone when US forces arrived. He goes further, however:

The accusation that America failed in its custodial duties has now been categorically denied, at least by some quarters. What plausibly remains to the critics is the charge that America "could have done more" to reach explosives magazines, which brings us right back to the missing 4ID and the bitter irony that the agency which did the most to prevent this powerful unit from reaching the scene, namely the UN, should now extend the finger of accusation for the absence which they caused.

(Simultaneously cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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October 25, 2004

Bingo Moment

In case you missed it, Beldar has a pretty good rationale for arguing that the story about Kerry's recent exaggerations concerning his imaginary consultations with the UN Security Council will have some impact on the election. The thing is, I've seen nothing about this on major media. Not even Fox. Had I not heard of it on the blogosphere, I'd never have known. Is there a will to put some mass on this story?

(Simultaneously cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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Separated At Birth???

By Bravo Romeo Delta

Separated at Birth?

peterson 1.jpgpiven.jpg

Scott Peterson and Jeremy Piven

We report... you decide.

(Cross-posted at Anticipatory Retaliation and Ye Olde Jawa Report)

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The Hitch in Getalong

Christopher Hitchens' final article in The Nation: "Why I'm (Slightly) for Bush." Key passage:

In Kabul recently, I interviewed Dr. Masuda Jalal, a brave Afghan physician who was now able to run for the presidency. I asked her about her support for the intervention in Iraq. "For us," she said, "the battle against terrorism and against dictatorship are the same thing." I dare you to snicker at simple-mindedness like that.

Back in the Age of Reagan I was a "progressive activist" whose roommate had once been a chief organizer for ACORN. I've raised tens of thousands of dollars in small increments of $10 to $50 donations going door to door for these "progressive" causes. During that time it never even occurred to me that these people would adopt a position that betrayed their anti-authoritarian ideals as thoroughly as they have done since Noam Chomsky wrote his infamous indictment of America as the "real" cause of the 9-11 attack, becoming a traitor not only to the nation that give him the latitude to secure his illustrious career, but to the very ideals that he and others claim define their virtuous identities.

And I remained a Democrat, even while disagreeing with my former "progressive" friends about Afghanistan and later Iraq, until the Left universally excused Dan Rather's perfidy on Sixty Minutes on the grounds that "there was a deeper truth beneath the forgeries." Like hell there was. That "truth" was as naked as God's children in the Garden.

(Simultaneously cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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October 24, 2004

Bush/Kerry IQ Comparison

Steve Sailer has an exhaustive analysis of standardized tests taken by the two candidates, including SATs and officer candidate aptitude tests, to conclude that, if anything, George Bush is probably a little smarter than John Kerry. The article wanders a great deal, and never quite gets down to claiming a direct comparison, but if I read it right the conclusion is that both men have IQs of 120 or higher, and that Bush's is probably in the range 125-130. In other words both are above the 90th percentile in IQ, but Kerry's is probably in the low 90s and Bush's in the mid 90s. Sailer also draws some conclusions about the differences between how the men are likely to use their gifts: " The subtle difference between Bush and Kerry in two words: Bush is competitive and Kerry is ambitious." Read the whole thing.

(Cross-posted to Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report.)

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October 23, 2004

O'Donnell vs. O'Neill

MSNBC's Scarborough Country was co-hosted tonight by Pat Buchanan and Larry O'Donnell, and their guest was Swiftvet John O'Neill. I just came in toward the latter part of the interview, but was treated to quite a show. Instead of allowing O'Neill to make a point O'Donnell deliberately yelled over him: "Don't let him talk! He's a liar. Everything in his book is a lie, and it's all been disproved! Liar, liar, liar, liar, etc., etc." It was quite awe-inspiring to see someone who supposedly has press legitimacy, and whose face most people identify as at least superficially objective simply doing his best to prevent a guest from making a point by drowning him out. During the exchange O'Neill calmly, and politely, asked if he was going to be allowed to finish his statement, and finally, after an intervention by Buchanan, made his point about evidence that Kerry was the author of his own (unsigned) "after action reports."

The effect of the exchange really went far beyond the claims and statements about Kerry themselves, however, because O'Donnell (as one might expect) did nothing to back up his accusations against O'Neill and the other Swiftvets, as though the volume of his voice alone were enough proof. It was, perhaps, one of the strangest and most extraordinary displays of incivility by a "news person" that I have ever seen. Right off the scale.

I'd suggest that the Swiftvets run part of the sequence in one of their ads to demonstrate the real quality of their opposition. Many of these men earned medals more impressive than Kerry's (including one Medal of Honor winner), and most served far longer in harm's way. This sort of treatment is simply disgraceful. There's no excuse for it.

Update: Daily Recycler has a video excerpt. (Hat tip: Cap'n Ed)

(Cross-posted at Anticipatory Retaliation and the Jawa Report)

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October 21, 2004

Calling Munuvians

I've recently been nominated and seconded for citizenship in Munuvia, so if you're currently a citizen and feel this blog is deserving of some support please give me a "yay" at Ellis Island.

By the way, I wonder why I haven't been able to open any sites in the mu.nu domain all day, from Windows XP. I just updated with the new service pack yesterday, and wonder if that might have something to do with it. No problem opening sites under Linux.

I noticed that Glenn Reynolds has been tracking some attempts to block certain blogs, and wonder if there's a concerted attempt block mu.nu sites.

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October 20, 2004

Getting Together

As some might hove noticed I've begon to cross-post on Anticipatory Retaliation, and will soon extend into Jawaland as well. Doc Rusty, BRD and I have been discussing a merge for a long time but haven't settled on a format, so we just decided to cross-post for the time being. Because the version of Typepad that I use won't allow multiple authors my plan is to either upgrade, or migrate to a different server, and thus accomodate the cross posts of my collaborators.

I'm not sure exactly what we're doing, and it's probably enormously inefficient to go through this slow-motion indecisive merge, but creativity isn't necessarily "efficient" in that sense, is it? Perhaps through interaction we'll arrive at a common theme and ultimately a single group blog with multiple voices. And it's probably fitting that we get this together, now that we seem to have reached a decisive turning point in the War on Totalitarianism. The new version of the ancient enemy will now have a new version of Liberalism to outflank and outmaneuver it, and ultimately to render it's place at the top of the ash heap.

America, f**k yeah!

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Pivot Point

Gerard's on a roll about John Stewart, Bill Maher and the rest of the self-absorbed media who've decided that their jobs are just a stepping stone to cultural immortality. If you're entertaining then it's easy to conclude that you're also powerful and wise. (Didn't Plato warn us about the silly hubris of entertainers?) When things come together like this, it's the silver lining to the otherwise dreary pall that sometimes seems to hang over us:

Here they've given their boys a 15 point edge and they're still lagging, and lagging seriously. It's like betting on a shaggy nag in a horse race because you can put the fix in and then standing there and seeing your "sure-thing" horse come out the far turn and into the home stretch with only one leg. That while the cowboy on the Pinto is way out in front and opening up the distance with every stride. Not only is that no way to run a fixed-horse race, but it also seems that there's going to be a price to pay for fixing the race to begin with.

I wouldn't have thought so... but I'll be darned if the public hasn't gone and sussed this out, with a little help from the pajama people. This will be the first time that the illusion of the media following events in a collaborative partnership with the public has been broken. In fact, it has been smashed. The public in the US (if not yet in the status-starved-first-world-elsewhere) just isn't cooperating, and the tricks the magician used to play are suddenly as visible as the strings that worked the puppets in Team America. Liberalism 3.x is here.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

Approaching the Reality

"The theory that the United States could leave the Islamic world alone may be as wishful as the proposition that you can leave a bomb to tick in peace." -- (Wretchard of "The Belmont Club")

One might object to the anonymity of a writer who posts under the name of a cartoon cat, but the Founders once wrote under assumed names in The Federalist Papers, so the tradition has an honorable history. The darned cat continues:

"The neoconservative assumption that Middle Eastern societies were transformable has been described as the product of excessive hope when it is really the counsel of despair. It is the remainder which 'however improbable, is all that is left after all the impossibles have been eliminated'. The fact that America, without resorting to mass murder, has kept such a fractious country intact, that many Iraqis daily risk their lives in the effort to beat back this darkness, is testimony to a quality of work which deserves better than the scorn that has been heaped upon it."
Posted by Demosophist at 08:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 18, 2004

This Is Your Brain, On Wishes

Sully posts a clueless review of Team America. It's like he saw a different movie than I did:

Sanity against the moronic ra-ra pro-Americanism of many in the Bush camp, who seem blind to any empirical evidence, prudence, or skepticism in their attempt to protect us from Jihadist terror; and sanity against the moronic Sontagian left that fails to see any danger in the first place (except that from president Bush, of course).

Well, the Sontagians all got killed defending the terrorists and the "moronic ra-ra pro-Americans" kicked the hell out of both the terrorists and the Sontagians. Not much nuance there. To me, the point was that the job of taking on totalitarianism just isn't for professional skeptics, and a winning strategy doesn't rest on prudence. The wishful-thinking virus seems to have infected Sullivan awhile back by way of his Achilles heel, and he can't even interpret a satirical comedy correctly any longer. It's sort of sad to see this happen to someone, but there it is.

One of the pitfalls of satire is that, inebbitubrry, lots of people just don't "get it." I think Andrew Sullivan took a wild swing, and missed by a mile. Of course they're also satirizing the US itself, but in a sympathetic way. Most of the heros in their movies and South Park episodes are iconoclasts, so the notion that the US demolishes sacred images is less a criticism than a kind of admiration of our single-mindedness. The idea they're demolishing in the movie is that the Louvre really matters that much in the scheme of things... given that the enemy wants to destroy a great deal more than the Louvre. Obsessing about the details is, at best, an advisory capacity, not a direction-defining function.

Anyway, there are three kinds of people in the world. Double heh.

Update: I just wanted to add, in relation to Roger L. Simon's comment about Roger Ebert's increasingly politicized reviews, that I went to high school with Gene Siskel (Culver Military Academy, class of '63) and I think Gene would have loved this movie. He had a "full bodied" sense of humor. Pity you're not still around, Gene.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 16, 2004

Brooks Decelerates

What do you call a spin with 0 mph winds? Brooksian Motion.

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October 15, 2004


Cap'n Ed has posted an account of Nightline's recent episode on the Swiftvet claims about John Kerry's Silver Star incident. The left blogohemisphere (see Josh Marshall, for instance) is currently gloating about what they bill as an incontrovertible expose of the Swiftvets as "hacks, liars, [and] puppets." The Swiftvets claim that Kerry shot a lone fleeing Vietcong in the back, an action that they feel (while not cowardly) was undeserving of the Silver Star. In case you missed the episode ABC traveled to the area in Vietnam where the incident happened and took testimony that the action involved a large number of Vietcong, a version of events that directly contradicts that of the Swiftvets.

However what the left blogohemisphere omits, and John O'Neill observed on Nightline, (and others have verified with triangulated accounts since), is that the Vietnam villagers' version of events apparently doesn't agree with other pro-Kerry accounts, including his own autobiographical version, on the critical detail of whether more than one enemy combatant was involved. Kerry's own account holds that the Vietcong fighter was, in fact, alone. Thus John O'Neill's statement to Koppel that "you've been had" is beyond plausible.

Upon first hearing about the Nightline episode from the left what struck me was how readily ABC had swallowed the notion that these villagers seemed to have command of a wealth of detail, including the name of the dead VC, 36 years on. I suppose it's possible, but does that justify accepting the Vietnamese version without any further checking... either for internal consistency or conformity with other pro-Kerry versions of the same incident? It appears that ABC, like CBS, was all too eager to believe what they wanted to believe and have been caught out in another episode of biased investigative reporting. The villagers, in spite of ABC's naive claim that they had no dog in the hunt, had every incentive to "tell a whopper" in order to enhance the reputation of a benefactor known by most Vietnamese, and especially by those old enough and proximate enough to have been around the delta during the war.

And as anyone who has ever lived in a small town knows, whoppers aren't really that hard to come by. Just drop by the corner tavern, or the barber shop.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sinclair Group Strategy

There's a massive effort on the part of the left to intimidate companies who advertise with the Sinclair group to drop their advertising if Sinclair shows Stolen Honor. The list of firms who advertise with Sinclair is located here, and you can find out whether you're in a Sinclair market by looking here. (I'm not, apparently.) I'm not sure what to suggest, but perhaps call a local company and express your support for airing the show? Tell them you'll continue to do business if Sinclair shows Stolen Honor?

I've wondered why they don't just take the offer to present their rebuttal, rather than try to "crush dissent," but on second thought Michael Moore doesn't stack up very well against a Medal of Honor winner.

Posted by Demosophist at 09:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 14, 2004

"We, the Un-British"

Operation Guardian

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Children of a Lesser Reason

Bravo Romeo Delta, at Anticipatory Retaliation has an absolutely stunning post about the invective leveled at the US for seeking "an alternative justification" for the War in Iraq that it failed to present to the UN or Americans in the initial instance. A key graf:

No, as much as it pains me to say it, America doesn’t always intervene when it should. But it pains me even more that the folks who complain about such hypocrisy themselves indulge in a much more cynical exercise in self-delusion. For not only do they decry America’s failure to protect people around the world, they actively hinder the US when it does try.
Posted by Demosophist at 06:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Inagaddadavida. We'll Always Be True.

According to Sully all four MSM resources (CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC) have decided that Kerry won the third debate, and did it without the help of a crooked French judge! Well actually he did it with the help of four.

The dynamic is surely transparent, isn't it? It's not as though the major media were going to pick anyone other than Kerry--not when there was the slightest fig leaf to conceal their naked preference. "The woman gave it me, and I did eat." Sure, Dan.

This is turning into something more than a Presidential election. It's a referendum on the media's headlong design to swing an election. My solace is that there's a deep philosophical and empirical foundation that has been laid for the support of this President's strategy of destroying Totalitarianism while sewing Civil Society. He's Johnny Appleseed, with a big stick. It's not that complicated, and it's clearly working... but there are other agendas. I'd like to believe that the depth of this message will prevail "in the long run," though.

I think the problem with Kerry's position is that the public recognizes, and generally agrees with, the proposition that it's better to fight the enemy "over there" than over here. And that's why Kerry's poll numbers just haven't clapped and barked as expected, to mainstream media's tune. The blemishes are visible through the makeup.

On the debate itself Bill Kristol observes that, in his opinion at least, Kerry didn't win a single question decisively, and was beaten decisively on all but a half dozen. That's pretty much my take as well, plus the fact that on both the question about religion and the final statement the President looked genuine and sincere, while Kerry looked calculating. And if one is attracted to what seems a reflection, perhaps that explains the choices of French skating judges, and network pundits.

I'm thinking the media has become so openly partisan because they sense that their fundamental social status is at stake. If Kerry loses, he only loses an election. If they lose, it's the end of the ancien regime. The two events are tied, because if Kerry loses they'll have to acknowledge that even with most of their weight thrown behind their candidate, the public simply went a different way. And I'm sure they blame whatever slippage they've been able to acknowledge to themselves not on their own mistakes, but on the upstart rabble who just refuse to eat cake, no matter how much of it is shoved down their throat. If Kerry loses, the rabble wins.

But if all that righteous indignation over the misuse of media power doesn't provide you sufficient solace, there's always the fact that John Kerry bears not the slightest resemblance to the Great Mr. Doody.

Update: Is it that we see ourselves in the cowboy marionette's image? Is Howdy a prophet?

Posted by Demosophist at 03:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 13, 2004

Kerry Way Ahead!

In the newspaper editor endorsement race, which is just causing Kos and his readers to hug themselves and levitate like Doggie Daddy with a new biscuit. The endorsement list is here. If this isn't a poignant example of the difference between the wishful-thinking left and the reality-checking right, I don't know what is. All the left needs to do is get the endorsement of the shepherds and the sheep will follow. It's a simple paradigm, so for them the fact that the media are in Kerry's corner almost obviates the need to actually hold an election. It's over, pretty much.

There's something about the naiveté of this orientation that's charming. It reminds me of a Russian roommate I had a few years ago. I taped an interview with him for a class project in order to document his views on the environment, and it was quite an eye-opener. For instance, when I asked him what ought to be done about water pollution he said that the problem had already been solved. He seemed quite dismissive of the idea, so I asked what he meant. He told me that he saw drinking fountains everywhere at the local Junior College and in our apartment building, and had concluded that they had all been fitted with filters to remove contaminants. No one had told him this was the case, and he hadn't actually seen any filters, but because the idea had occurred to him he was sure it must also have occurred to the authorities. And since that was the case they had undoubtedly already implemented his idea. The notion that the government was no smarter, and quite possibly dumber, than he was, just hadn't entered his head. When I told him that there probably weren't any filters in the drinking fountains he was crestfallen. You could almost see the house of cards start to tumble.

And like my Muscovite roommate some statist types, especially of the reality-challenged Kos persuasion, seem to assume that their task is merely to convince a few media pundits and all else will follow, as the world turns. One wonders why we bother with the electoral college. Just let Cronkite decide. But I'd like to see some studies indicating that endorsements from daily newspapers translate into votes, before I advise the President to start his concession speech. I'm sure that once-upon-a-time newspaper endorsements changed minds, but I doubt if it was recently. And it's not even as though all daily editors endorse Kerry. It's more like 60%, or something. That's a lot of faith placed in the omnipotence of a few artful dodgers at the margin. Anyway Kerry must surely be feeling pretty confident, so don't anyone mention that the credibility of MSM isn't exactly surging. Perhaps Kerry will enter tomorrow's debate secure in the false impression that the serfs have finally been put in their place.

Let's hype it.

Seriously, act like it matters. We may need every edge we can get.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 09, 2004

Bush/Kerry Debate #2

The following contains my notes and thoughts on the Second Bush/Kerry debate, as I watched it last night and as I reflected on it today. I'm posting it here, because I think I've made at least one important observation that no one else seems to have noticed. The observation is that Kerry lacks a certain competence as well as a "killer instinct," and that the lack of these attributes makes him less fit to be President, regardless of how right or wrong he happens to be. Also, I think both candidates are living in their heads more than their hearts, and this is reflected in their debate performances.

Overall I give Bush a slight edge in terms of the debate scoring, but there's an even more important issue raised here. I think Kerry had an opportunity to take the initiative and run all the way to the finish, but was insufficiently cognizant of his own surroundings to even recognize that he'd missed a critical opportunity. I don't think Kerry will get a second chance, either. The fact that the debate was close to a tie is simply an artifact of the pattern that led to a turning point, but it may be more important to score the debate in terms of who won the prelims versus who won the finals. After all, neither an election nor a debate is scored by averaging the performance over the whole contest. What's important is who manages to break at critical stages, and ultimately who gets to the finish line first.

Stage One

Debate opens with a question to Kerry about being too "wishy/washy." He responds with a comment about "Weapons of Mass Deception." Cute, but obviously hyperbolic. He follows this with a series of comments about the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind (underfunded, he says), loss of 1.6M jobs, taxcuts. Sounds kind of knowledgeable.

Bush responds with comment about vote on $87M, Kerry sending confusing signals, how Saddam was a "grave threat" and that Kerry himself changed positions on regime change.

A question for Bush about WMD. Bush raises the topic of the Duelfer report. Argues that Saddam had gone to great lengths to preserve "knowledge and means" and clearly had the intent to reformulate a WMD as soon as feasible. Stresses that these could have been given to terrorists (Al Qaeda?). Finally mentions Oil-for-Food, and the fact that Saddam was gaming "for a reason."

OK, but this argument, presented without annotation, asks a great deal of the pubic. Still, it's a start. More please...

Kerry outlines his mirror-plan, presenting it as new and innovative. Maybe some people will be reassured by this... or would be if his credibility on this issue weren't so low.

He believes "Saddam was a threat, BUT..." But what, Senator? If he was a threat, shouldn't he have been dealt with? But, well "we rushed to war." Yep, only took us 12 years and 14 broken resolutions... while the guy managed to corrupt the humanitarian mission of the UN to help him fund is dreams of grandiosity and conquest in the biggest and most cynical sellout of ideals and good intentions in the history of the world. His basic appeal here isn't to logic, but to the wishful fantasy that diplomacy works... and his evidence for this is that Saddam "had no WMD." Well, not yet... but he still had the knowledge and nothing but a growing means, so did diplomacy remove the intent through some sort of Gallic magic? If so, let's bottle that stuff.

Oh, and he'd get the training done faster. As though the man we have on that now, David Petreaus, isn't the best there is. But Kerry saluted "old glory" and he's ready for duty.

Bush responds. To me, he sounds a little desperate. Sort of disappointing, but maybe it's exasperation at how Kerry manages to put over such a dud with such apparent panache. That'd bug anyone. So far Bush hasn't hurt himself, though. Hasn't earned any real demerits.

Stubborn? He points out that people denigrated Reagan for some of the same reasons they denigrate and second-guess him. Fair point. But Bush just sounds insufficiently humble, even to my ears. And his voice has a monotonous quality. No inflection. "I did this. I did that. I'm yelling at you, don't you get it?" The delivery conveys an anticipation of defeat. It's very discouraging.

Kerry, on the other hand, is more conversational. Even though his message is the same old same old, it sounds well thought out. Broken promises, not enough forces in Iraq, if we'd only let Blix do his job, etc., etc. Well...


"The President's job is to win the Peace." Damn good slogan. Sounds clever as hell. We have generals to win wars, and Presidents to win peace. Now wait a minute... Didn't FDR, Kennedy and Reagan devote most of their presidencies to winning a war? And shouldn't winning the war be slightly higher on the triage list than winning the peace. Is winning the peace the job of the Commander in Chief. But boy, it sure sounds good!


Kerry continues: The threat has grown. Let the inspectors do their job. While we fret about yellow-cake N. Korea moves toward nukes.

Bush finally responds. It's pretty much a non-response. I have visions of Kerry pouncing like a mountain lion. He has Bush on the ropes. The precipice looms...

Then Kerry fails to capitalize. He says something about how Missouri would be the third largest force in Iraq after US and UK, as though it wouldn't also be ahead of France, even if France were involved. But the point is...


Brief Sidebar

For me this is the critical point in the debate. I had conceived of Kerry as wrong, but competent. I was concerned that he'd bring that competence to bear on a President who was rhetorically and intellectually over-matched, and thereby win unjustly. It just had not occurred to me that Kerry was actually incompetent, because in my kind-hearted naiveté I believed that having one strike against you in the great cosmic battle (being empirically and philosophically wrong) is about as unfair as the universe gets. Surely he'd have been compensated by some sort of strategic brilliance, just to keep the contest interesting. But... NO! Kerry doesn't even have the killer instinct. He's like a contract killer that can't bring himself to dispatch the target, though he can bring himself right up to the point where he cocks the firearm. This is a complex and even an interesting creature, but he's not Presidential material.

Now, I have no doubt that Kerry can be mean... as he has been with other debaters in the past. But his objective in doing that is so self centered that he just can't bring himself to be mean for the cause. Well, it's not as though he wouldn't have done it. It's that the instinct just didn't have him poised for the kill when the time arrived. He didn't see the opening. Ultimately this point in the second debate may well be where the Presidential election slipped away from John Kerry. This was the point where history tested him, and then passed him by.

Also, by this point in the debate the audience is getting used to Bush's style, and aren't as irritated about being yelled at. It's just the way the guy talks.

Kerry, however, knows all the answers, save one. He doesn't see that the train just left him standing at the station.

Stage Two

Now we enter a stage of the debate where domestic policy is addressed, and where conventional wisdom holds that Kerry has a decided advantage. But in reality it's like that point in a life or death struggle where you felt you were about to be annihilated, and you realize your opponent is mortal. You find yourself inexplicably alive, and that inspires you to seize the advantage.

Kerry says he'd roll back the Bush tax cut. Bush responds that Kerry is the most liberal Senator, which we've all heard before... but somehow it sounds new. Bush points out that Kerry could have voted for liability reform, but chose not to, so his claims of being pro-reform are suspect. He points out that tort liability has ramifications far beyond the direct cost. It compels physicians to practice "defensive medicine." (It's almost as though he relates to this personally, and recently.) He points out that government sponsorship of health care would lead to rationing (something most Americans believe, whether it's true or not). Bush makes one good point after another, and does it without yelling!

Kerry, on the other hand, fails to answer the question about tort, and starts mumbling about his own plan.

Kerry talks, with some credibility I think, about the fact that Bush hasn't asked very much of Americans. He mentions that Bush has never vetoed a spending bill. Bush responds that we're at war, and we need to pay the troops. He's doing well now... but I fear that he'll start to coast, as he always does when he feels he's gaining. But this time it's Kerry who coasts, on an adequate but by no means stellar answer. He proposes a tax cut, but in the next breath ranks the President for cutting taxes during a war. Say, what?

Now, everyone knows that we've reached a turning point in the debate. It's quite palpable. The real turning point was a ways back, but it's now a felt reality.

Kerry proposes a "pay as you go" approach. During a war? How do you do that, and why would you even contemplate it? He's befuddled, or something. Pay as you go? Huh? And he caps off the befuddlement with the enormously ironic and lame slogan/phrase: "You gotta stand up and fight somewhere folks." Yeah thanks John. I'll write that down.

Bush counters that Kerry raises taxes at the drop of a butterfly antenna, so the whole "balanced budget/pay as you go" thing isn't credible. No one believes it is. I mean no one. It's just one of those things politicians say, that voters allow.

The President makes a lengthy and surprisingly detailed statement on the environment, outlining an initiative to develop a hydrogen automobile. Off road diesel engines. Clear Skies Initiative. Wildlife setasides. Healthy Forest Bill. Clean Coal. "Good steward of natural environment."

Kerry is non-plussed. He rambles incoherently that "labels don't mean anything?" What's he talking about? "The labels don't fit." What labels? "We're going backwards." Well somebody is, that's for sure. The one good point he makes, and it's a pretty good one, is that the EPA head (Whitman?) resigned the Bush Administration in protest. Fair enough, as far as it goes. But he doesn't capitalize on the point. He doesn't have the "will to kill." He's just regurgitating a bullet list, without any clear idea about how it fits into the debate.

The President counters by observing that all you need to do to be popular in the halls of Europe is to sign a treaty. But the Kyoto Treaty would have cost jobs, hurt the economy, etc. "Yeah, but you didn't even try to fix it," Kerry whines.

BY THIS TIME KERRY'S ACTUALLY LOSING THE DEBATE! Not by a lot mind you, but by enough that you can actually see the gap slowly starting to widen.

Bush pounces. He senses the kill. About the economy he mentions small business healthcare pools, an energy plan, healthcare savings accounts, ethanol, subchapter S corps. He knows his stuff! Agree with him or not, he stands somewhere. He's a conservative! There are no blurred lines here.

Bush responds to a question about the Patriot Act defensively, which might have hurt him had Kerry's position on the Patriot Act been halfway coherent. But Kerry whines about the fact that Racicot acknowledged it "needed changes" (which Racicot later corrects on ABC), and about the intrusions of "sneak & peak searchers," all of which are undermined by the fact that Kerry voted for the Patriot Act. The impression is, again, that Kerry will say any darned thing to win a vote or two.

The stem cell discussion was similar to the Patriot Act except that here Kerry's position was even more incoherent. Kerry is actually stumbling over the answer to a question that has been one of the centerpieces of his campaign, all while the President appears to be growing visibly more assured and relaxed.

Well, relaxed enough to talk about Dred Scott and slavery as though anyone cared about it nowadays. I have to confess I don't know what either candidate was talking about here, other than that they'd both appoint highly partisan people if they could, but they'd have to be able to make a case that the appointment was unbiased. Normal political stuff, in other words. The sort of thing that voters understand, but allow.

One point here. On several occasions during the exchange on the Supreme Court Kerry seemed to convey the impression that he thought certain liberal platform values amounted to "constitutional rights." Among these new rights were "equal pay for women," and some constitutional right to have an abortion. I have no clue what this was about. Is he panicking? Where does the Constitution mention either of these?

Back to foreign policy. Bush loses his luster, suddenly and inexplicably. (More on this later.) Kerry says that he'd "never allow another country to give a veto to America's defense, BUT... lead strong alliances, kill the terrorists, train Iraqi forces, blah, blah, blah."

In Conclusion

Bush seems animated and vital when discussing domestic policy, and lackluster when discussing foreign policy, even though he's definitely considered a foreign policy President. I've thought about this apparent paradox a good deal, and I have to conclude that the role Bush is playing as the harbinger of liberal democracy must be one he's not entirely comfortable with. He's a paleocon in neocon clothing, to some degree. It isn't that I doubt his sincerity, but the deep conviction about the instrumentality of expanding the democratic franchise doesn't come naturally to him, for one reason or another. It may be his patrician/Phillips Academy background, but I don't think he's internalized the perspective to the point that it's second nature to him (as it is with many of us). As a result he simply can't defend it without help. He probably never will be able to. It just isn't in him. A string of platitudes delivered with intense sincerity is about all he can muster. Is that good enough? I guess it'll have to be, won't it?

Posted by Demosophist at 02:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 06, 2004

A House Divided

Urthshu has some commentary on the dustup at Fox News over a comment by Susan Estrich, and the partisan salting of some online polls. The whole thing got me thinking about how we came to a place in our evolution as an ideologically-rooted nation where a candidate adopting positions on all sides of every issue can seem plausible, and where Democrats can, with a straight face, argue that Edwards won the Veep debate last night. There's apparently no penalty for being patently ridiculous. In fact there doesn't seem to be a penalty with or without a patent.

Such a thing would not be possible were the nation more familiar with itself.

I think it's quite possible that the reason there's such political polarization in the country is that the classically liberal (whig) perspective has been all but erased from three institutional realms: mainstream news media, the entertainment industry and academia. As a result, people are no longer familiar with the values upon which the nation was founded, and assume them to be suspect when they hear them expressed. This is an invitation to radicalization.

If it's rational for the political spectrum to involve some sort of complementary functionality, but one side has been systematically deleted, then the result will be something like a house built entirely out of nails, with no lumber, drywall, etc. (Ultimately there'll be no plumbing, either.) It isn't so much that we don't need nails, but that nails alone just don't do the trick. The result is an incoherent mess, and a big donnybrooke whenever we attempt to get down on all fours with a vital issue and work our way through it.

What do we need to do? Well, we may be doing it already. We need some sort of infusion of the founding values back into those three institutional realms, so that they again have the legitimacy they deserve. It shouldn't be possible for someone like Gary Hart to argue that the founding principles, and therefore the guiding principle of foreign policy, ought to be something like values neutrality when dealing with national cultures based on ethnic identity and led by autocrats. We aren't some neutral observer, and values neutrality really has no serious claim on us. What's more, it was never part of the lexicon of any of the founders.

I've heard recently that even in Hollywood a sizable minority of those under 40 are "conservative." The news media seems at least amenable to the influence of a new internet watchdog, although they resent the imposition on their previously unfettered prerogatives. Academia probably has the farthest to go, because of the role of tenure, but things are changing even there. An attempt by mid-level administration at George Mason University to book a paid appearance by Michael Moore was blocked by a combination of public outrage and faculty intervention. Moore can still speak, but he'll have to do it for free.

It's intriguing to consider what sort of house we might get around to builiding once we have a firmer grasp on who we are, and where we're going. The era of aimlessness may be drawing to a close.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Well, I took the challenge to take a swig of wine every time Edwards mentioned Halliburton, so I've a nasty headache this morning. I just have a few things to add to BRD's post on the controversy over who won the darned thing, and then I'll put my hands back to the sides of my head to keep it from exploding.

To my mind Cheney won on every topic but health care, which Edwards took by a mile. (He even had a formula for getting rid of frivolous law suits.) I've done a bit of factor analysis of various surveys, and health care is usually "highly loaded" on a general liberal/conservative factor that includes most of the items in a typical survey. The loading is so stong that you could probably predict liberal/conservative ranking based on the answer to that question alone. So it's not surprising, really, that a lot of liberals think Edwards won that debate... even though he really only won that single issue. It's a little like that map of the nation that used to appear on the cover of New Yorker, which was nine-tenths Manhattan. It's a matter of perspective.

I also noticed that Cheney passed up the opportunity to respond to the Edwards accusation that he voted to end many of the weapons systems that Kerry voted against. Cheney could have observed that he sought to end them after the Cold War had been won, while Kerry voted against them before the end of the Cold War. I guess he didn't feel he had to make that point though. No one really believes Cheney's a peacenik, and the contention doesn't quite match the anti-Cheney rhetoric that he's a war monger, so why bother countering it?

Posted by Demosophist at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2004

Blogroll Reciprocity

If you have this site on your blogroll, but don't see your site on mine, leave a comment with a link and I'll correct. And sorry if I've dropped the ball on this. I'll do a check of links on N.Z. Bear later this week to make sure I haven't omitted anyone.

Posted by Demosophist at 02:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tooth Fairy Diplomacy

The end result of the national trauma over Vietnam, in which Kerry played a vital role, was that the anti-American left not only won a huge victory, but institutionalized its own pathologies into the corpus of the nation while managing to bury the direct expression of founding values. Ultimately this produced a backlash that brought the Reagan administration to power, but the institutionalized framework of anti-Americanism wasn't ever undone.

It's unlikely that we'll go through the same trauma again, because the nation has been attacked directly, but if Kerry can convince the country that we're at war only with a minor warrior cult instead of a more general confrontation with a new generation of religious totalitarianism, the disconnect with 9-11 may doom us to repeat history. This penchant for believing that reality is convenient has its origins in an aspect of the human condition that isn't unrelated to totalitarianism itself.

I just heard Richard Holbrooke defend Kerry's N. Korea policy on the Fox News Channel, that we ought to supplement the six-way talks with the N. Koreans with bilateral talks. The interviewer rightly observed that Kerry opposes what he calls "bilateralism" in Iraq, but favors it in N. Korea, to which Holbrooke responded that Kerry favors both. Well, how magnanimous of him. Favor everything. Have your cake, and eat it too. How could anyone disagree with that?

But although it seems that Kerry inherently grasps the fact that "bilateralism" (really multilateralism of the willing) in Iraq automatically excludes multilateralism (of a coalition with Germany, France and Russia) he doesn't grasp the same common sense when it applies to N. Korea. Kerry simply isn't as smart as he looks. The President ought to start referring to this sort of artful dodge as what it is: "Tooth Fairy Diplomacy." It's the conviction that you can ignore the role of military power and national interest, and if you simply put together the right magic diplomatic formula that manages to convince everyone they can have cake, peace will miraculously appear under your pillow. Or perhaps we could call it the "Wish Upon A Star" school of foreign policy? The realities of dealing with national self interest are such a bore, why don't we just pretend they don't exist? Peter Pan for President!

I'm just scared to death that the old sickness is again raising it's hoary head. And by old, I mean the same malady that almost defeated the nation and extended slavery during the Civil War, and that did defeat it in Vietnam, leading to the killing fields of Southeast Asia. When are we going to recognize that totalitarianism has an ally on the inside? It's that age-old conviction that distasteful reality is the fault of adults.

Posted by Demosophist at 10:30 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 01, 2004

The Debate: Advanced Mathematical Logic

I'm pretty sure that I heard Kerry say at one point that it was a mistake to enter Iraq because Saddam wasn't a threat. In fact he waxed rather eloquent about his certainty that Saddam had been, and would have remained, contained. His rhetoric seemed to soar at the mere thought, in fact. And though I was rather disappointed that Bush didn't respond by mentioning UNSCAM as an example of the effectiveness of containment, I understand why he might not want to piss off the UN right now.

But I'm also pretty sure that Kerry acknowledged that he had been right to say that Saddam was a threat when he said that, in a land far far away. So, if Saddam was so well contained (presumably without the realistic expectation of invasion by the US)... but was still enough of a threat that he felt obliged to authorize the President to go to war without UN approval, if necessary... Dammit, sometimes Kerry makes me feel the way I used to feel in math class when they explained the square root of negative numbers... Huh?

He says he has maintained one single consistent unwavering position on Iraq throughout his career, and I have no doubt that's true. Unfortunately it's a postion that lies partly in imaginary space.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack