Friday, September 27, 2002

How Can We Get Our Freedom Back?

The ACLU has a page up showcasing how the Bush administration has nibbled away at the freedoms guaranteed to us by the U.S.Constitution. (Link provided by Massive Braincase) and the ACLU site also has a scorecard on the freedoms that have been eroded since 9-11-01.

I note that, as appellate review and the legislative process continue to make the sausage of freedom, some of these erosions, such as the TIPS program, have themselves been eroded. I also note that, as the democratic process has protected us from some of the more egregious violations that the Ashcrofts of the world have attempted to promulgate, the ACLU's scorecard refuses to add to the score realized by the people. They have it as 24 to 0, while I have it as 19 to 5, based on their own data.

Zero Base Thinkers do not take sides. Single interest groups, however, are not thinkers, they are advocates. The politics of power are in effect equally for Lyndon LaRouche as the ACLU, the Sierra Club as well as the Nazi Party, the ACLU vs. the Republican National Committee. We thinkers can decry the erosion of our freedoms at the same time that we note that the system is working, in some small measure, to protect us. We can love Bush when he does something right, and hate him when he acts as the power mad pol that he is as well.

As Shakespeare put it, it is easier to whisper words of advice from cover, than to risk all at the point of attack. Bush is doing the best that he can, and I submit to you that that isn't half-bad. I cringe when I consider what would have taken place if Gore had been president on 9-11. No doubt more speeches about "cowardly criminals" instead of moral clarity referring to "an act of war," would have been in evidence, but I challenge Bush to take what political capital he has left and strike a blow for freedom before the nay-sayers and the diversity-weenies win the day. It seems that Bush, by unremitting delay and confusion, has lost the momentum needed to commence a pre-emptive war against Iraq. We shall see what he can accomplish before his lack of direction loses him the Congress in the mid-term elections, now only a little over a month away. Nice words can get one only so far, now is the time for action. And if action will not ensure that we are all safer from the Islamofascists, how can we get our freedoms back? Or was Ben Franklin right, when he said that those who will give up their freedoms for safety, deserve neither freedom nor safety?

Smallpox Vaccine, At Last

At last, the Federals have decided to allow us to purchase smallpox vaccine.... wait, I thought for a moment that a Republican administration was calling the shots here. My bad. The Bush administration has decided to allow us to be provided vaccine on a centrally decided and controlled schedule, to each according to his needs. How foolish of me to believe that this government would allow American citizens to decide anything as important as which risks to take in order to provide for our own safety.

Significantly, the only medical doctor in the senate, republican Bill Frist, is inb favor of allowing us to make our own decision in this matter. Why Bush and Co. demand a socialist approach is a mystery. The arguments against an approach to this problem based on freedom of choice are even weaker than the arguments against allowing us to decide to take prophylactic Cipro during the Anthrax scare, and those were specious, but at least were the subject of public debate back then. The argument in favor of allowing us to decide whether to vaccinate for Smallpox is overpowering.

But then this is the same government that arrests terminal cancer patients who are found to be filling prescriptions for marijuana that are written in accordance with state law in eight states. I may not understand the logic, but at least they are consistent.

I admit that I am stumped by this one. Thomas Jefferson and I both believe that prescription laws in general are a particularly insidious form of mind and body control that a free nation has no business propounding. But then, I am stumped by the laws that apply to the prohibition of any other drugs as well. But maybe the free market can be induced to work. I have, after all, two small children to care for and protect. If any of my readers get a line on a few doses of Smallpox vaccine, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Taking Control?

Al Gore has begun a campaign to take center stage of the democrat party. Gore is gambling that his latest statements opposing Bush's Iraq policy can make him the center of conversation for a while. By contradicting the recent moves by his party leadership to avoid any argument with the GOP about war until the election Gore hopes to appear to be leading the Donks. If he is successful, his unerring political sense will have catapulted him to the forefront of an even more moribund Democrat party.

Isn't it amazing that these men, who contend for great power, don't even seem to feel the need to pretend to have deep feelings and beliefs on the great issues of the time? Gore has been on every side of this debate, and now feels that the time is right to turn against his previous stand on this issue. He clearly believes that the American electorate is too stupid to check, or care, about the facts.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Air Marshal Protection?

Now that more than two weeks have elapsed, I thought that the time had come for the incident on flight 442 of 9-1-02 to be reexamined. This is the episode where a passenger was behaving erratically, therefore he had been taken into custody by the two Air Marshals who happened to be on the plane. The incident is a little old for bloggage but I thought, with a fresh eyewitness report coming out today, the story was ripe enough for a recapitulation.

The first thing I noticed about this incident as I searched for something new in the eyewitness accounts and the "expert" opinion was that there has been no new official news that I can find; this seems to be the old stonewall, as has become usual for the feds. Still, we have several eyewitness accounts, so we can reconstruct a timeline of events.

A passenger, whose name is still a mystery, was noticed by some passengers either looking into some other passenger's carry on bags, or otherwise drawing attention to himself. According CNN:
James Lineberger, a passenger and Philadelphia judge, spoke Monday to CNN's Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: Where were you sitting in relation to the man who was considered unruly?

LINEBERGER: I was in seat 31, and he was across the aisle in seat 30.

HEMMER: So he was just a few feet away from you. And then what happened? Apparently he got out of his seat and went toward the front of the plane. That is my understanding.

LINEBERGER: That's correct. He got out of the seat, went ... in the direction of the front of the plane and then turned around and came back down the aisle beyond me ... toward the back of the plane.

Something happened that triggered the air marshal[sic] to respond to his activity. So they rushed back and apprehended him, carried him back to the first-class section, where they restrained him. And a few minutes later, they then drew their weapons, semiautomatic weapons, and leveled them on those of us who were passengers in the vehicle and held us that way for about 25 or 30 minutes.
FOX News had this:
David and Susan Johnson of Mobile, Ala., said they hadn't been aware of any disturbance when the sky marshals took the man first to the back of the plane and then to the first-class section.

"It never made sense," said Susan Johnson, 51, a social worker. "This guy was not any physical threat that we could see. Maybe he said some things to them that made them concerned. He just appeared to us unstable, emotionally."
the Philadelphia Inquirer had this:
Those on the plane said the incident began about a half-hour from Philadelphia International Airport when the man - who was not identified by officials but described by others on the plane as fortyish and disheveled - made inappropriate comments to a female passenger a few rows behind him.

The woman became upset and soon two air marshals, who were dressed casually, were rushing toward the back of the plane, their badges flashing, said passenger Jim Allen, of Mobile, Ala.

The man was removed from his seat and walked up the aisle to first class, his arms behind his back, passengers said. There, some travelers were asked to move to other first-class seats to accommodate the marshals. The curtain was drawn.

Five minutes later, though, one of the marshals reappeared, standing at the front of coach class in a defensive posture, his gun out and pointed toward passengers at the back of the plane. He remained in that position for the rest of the flight.

Passengers ducked their heads and prepared for the worst.

"I assumed there was going to be a gun battle, that some terrorist was ready to fire from the back of the plane," said Lineberger, who added that no one else was taken into custody.

"They were yelling at passengers to keep their heads and hands out of the aisle," Lineberger said. "I couldn't believe they would do such a thing."
All of these statements were taken on the day of the flight. Today had a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer (dated 9-19-02) built around the statement given them by a second passenger who was arrested on the flight, apparently for the crime of curiosity, coupled with the crime of Flying While Hindu. They introduce him thus:
The event, however, didn't end there. Unknown to most passengers on the Atlanta-to-Philadelphia flight, the marshals upon landing also seized an Indian passenger from first class and silently whisked him away in handcuffs.

Far from being a terror suspect, the second detainee turned out to be a former U.S. Army major and military doctor from Lake Worth, Fla., where he has had a family practice for two decades. Both detainees later were released without charge, and the physician's angry account of his ordeal offers a glimpse at the dark side of America's war on terrorism.

Yesterday, suggesting that the line between security and civil-rights violations is blurring, the physician, Bob Rajcoomar, filed notice in U.S. District Court that he may sue the U.S. government for illegal detention and emotional distress. His wife had been left to wander the Philadelphia airport for three hours during his detention, never told of his whereabouts.

So what has been the explanation from the new, improved, USTSA in their own defense? Eighteen days later, the Inquirer has unearthed the following statement from them:
David Steigman, a spokesmen for the newly created U.S. Transportation Safety Administration, which oversees the air marshals, gave few details about the detentions or the marshals' actions and declined to discuss the potential lawsuit. Atlanta-based Delta did not comment on the legal action.

Rajcoomar, "to the best of our knowledge, had been observing too closely. When the aircraft landed, the airline declined to press charges" against either man, Steigman said.
They go on:
"Air marshals issued a series of warnings to passengers to stay in their seats. The unruly gentleman didn't stay in his seat, so they took action to restrain him," Steigman said.

Rajcoomar, sitting in window seat 1-D, reading a book and sipping a beer, said he knew nothing until the marshals showed up and began pushing the unruly man into seat 1-C, adjacent to his.

Alarmed, Rajcoomar said he stood up and asked to be moved. A flight attendant told him to take one of the first-class seats vacated by the marshals.

"One [marshal] sat on the guy in the first seat; he was groaning, and the more he groaned, the more they twisted the handcuffs," Rajcoomar said.

Then, in coach class, a woman rose to switch seats with her child, who was sitting in an aisle seat, according to Rajcoomar's wife, Dorothy, who was sitting in coach class because the couple could not get seats together.

"That's when they started hollering," Dorothy Rajcoomar said of the marshals. One of them rushed to the divider between the first-class and coach sections and leveled his pistol at the coach-class passengers.

"He took control as if he was a terrorist himself," said Bob Rajcoomar, who was then sitting in a first-class aisle seat directly in front of the marshal. "He says, 'Nobody move, nobody look down the aisle, nobody take pictures or you will go to jail, nobody do anything.' He basically hijacked everybody."

One passenger, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge James Lineberger, said marshals "were yelling at passengers to keep their heads and hands out of the aisle... . I couldn't believe they would do such a thing."
and this:
About 30 minutes later, the plane landed and Philadelphia police officers came aboard to help take away the unruly man. Thinking the incident was over, passengers began standing up, Rajcoomar said.

"Then out of nowhere, hell broke loose," Rajcoomar said. "One of these marshals came down to me and said, 'Head down, hands over your head!' They pushed my head down, told me to bend down... . I just couldn't believe it. I was speechless, in shock."
and finally this:
During detention, Rajcoomar said, he was never asked anything except his name, address and Social Security number. He asked why he was being held.

"One of the marshals said something like, 'We didn't like the way you looked,' " Rajcoomar recalled. "They also said something like, 'We didn't like the way you looked at us.' "

Finally, after about three hours, Rajcoomar was released without explanation.

What are we to make of these reports? First, the two air marshals were sitting in first class. very nice and comfy for them but does it make sense for them to be in the front of the plane? It is possible that one of the two could be positioned at the (new, improved, terrorist resistant and bulletproof) door to the cockpit, but the rear of the plane is clearly the place for a lawman to be, if he wants freedom of action and an advantage over any possible hijackers. The events after that show panic or, at least, overreaction by the marshals. Pointing a gun at unarmed passengers, in a situation where the marshals were the only armed persons on the flight, is inappropriate at best, and dangerous to boot. According to ABCNews:
The air marshal program was turned over from the Federal Aviation Administration to the newly created Transportation Security Administration in February.

Before the shift, there were fewer marshals and they were trained to avoid showing weapons and stay out of passenger disputes, said Joseph Gutheinz, a former FAA investigator.

Gutheinz, now a University of Phoenix criminal justice professor researching airline security, said he doesn't see the reason for the apparent change in policy.

"Under the old system, you just didn't pull out a weapon," he said.

There are too many dangers involved in bringing out weapons, including the danger that bullets could hit the plane or that the guns could be turned on the marshals by hijackers, Gutheinz said.
So there it is, clear as day. Is it only me, or is this story really about arrogance? Two armed lawmen take first class seats, panic, point guns at terrified passengers, and add nothing to the safety of the flight (made clear by the fact that there were no arrests), all adds up to an all too typical story of how, while we are spending much more money, any safety benefits this money should be buying us, and the claims by the government that things are getting better, are illusory. If we have so few marshals, why fly two at a time? Why were they in the front of the plane, instead of the tactically superior rear section? And, most important, why is there no explanation from the authorities, let alone any public debate. All we have is the statement by FAA spokesman Jim Peters, who said the agency no longer has control over the marshals and declined to discuss the actions of what he called a "gun-happy air marshal." Why is there no statement from the federal agency that is responsible?

Until I saw this story, I had actually believed that we were safer since 9/11, simply because airline passengers had been freed by the story of flight 93 to take care of their own safety ("let's roll"), and that this change had made us all more secure. Now I fear that air marshals would hinder, rather than help, any passengers who would take action to stop a terror attack. Read these stories, and tell me that I am wrong about this. Please.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Race in Rwanda

There is in Sunday's New York Times (Registration Required) an eye-opening article concerning the attempted genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda. You have to love the Times: while the Tutsi women were being subjected to mass rape and Tutsi men to mass murder, the Times had little to say, now that the situation is over, Liberal guilt drives them to wallow in what happened.

I must say that I have never understood this bleeding heart thing. My mother was one, and I never could understand why one would feel so much for the downtrodden while respecting them so little. My mother's Upper East Side Manhattan Democrats of the 1950s and 1960s were some piece of work. One of my memories of these paragons of virtue was the day when they were organizing a rally for the presidential candidate, Jack Kennedy, and I listened in amazement when my mother's fellow district leader female from a district a little uptown of us said to her: "you bring the food, I'll bring the niggers." That's democrat egalitarianism at work. Thank God that my mother's soul was saved by her attendance at the Chicago democrat convention of 1968. She realized that she was on the wrong side, and she transformed herself from a Stevenson Democrat into a Reagan Republican. This week one could tune in the United Nations speech given by Bush and see the top national security officials this Republican white guy from Texas appointed flanking our Ambassador, and both of them are Black. That's Republican egalitarianism at work.

But, while our republicans and democrats were arguing about weighty issues like whether to raise taxes or lower them, and Clinton's blow jobs, and the Hutus were slaughtering the Tutsis using methods that would have shocked Dr. Mengele, they, WE, sat on our butts and did nothing. The article goes into details, the queasy stomach crowd better pass on it but a little context is provided by the following:
Around the turn of the 20th century, however, German and Belgian colonists used dubious racialist logic -- namely, that Tutsis had a more "Caucasian" appearance -- to designate the minority Tutsi the ruling class, empowering them as their social and governing proxy.

In the 1930's, the Belgians, deciding to limit administrative posts and higher education to the Tutsi, needed to decide exactly who was who in Rwanda. The most efficient procedure was simply to register everyone and require them to carry cards identifying them as one or the other. Eighty-four percent of the population declared themselves Hutu and 15 percent Tutsi. Considering the degree of intermarriage in Rwandan history, this accounting was hardly scientific. What's more, Rwandans sometimes switched ethnic identities, the wealthy relabeling themselves as Tutsis and the poor as Hutus.

"Identity became based on what you could get away with," said Alison Des Forges, a senior adviser to the African Division of Human Rights Watch who has studied Rwanda for 30 years. "Half of the people are not clearly distinguishable. There was significant intermarriage. Women who fit the Tutsi stereotype -- taller, lighter, with more Caucasian-like features -- became desirable. But it didn't necessarily mean that the women were one or the other."

With desire comes its emotional alter ego, resentment. A revolution in 1959 brought the majority Hutus to power. As tensions increased around 1990, politicians began disseminating propaganda denouncing Tutsi females as temptresses, whores and sexual deviants. Before the 1994 genocide began, Hutu newspapers ran cartoon after cartoon depicting Tutsi women as lascivious seducers.

Unlike the Nazis, who were fueled by myths of Aryan superiority, the Hutus were driven by an accumulated rage over their lower status and by resentment of supposed Tutsi beauty and arrogance. "The propaganda made Tutsi women powerful, desirable -- and therefore something to be destroyed."
and then this
''This behavior lies just under the surface of any of us,'' Des Forges said. "The simplified accounts of genocide allow distance between us and the perpetrators of genocide. They are so evil we couldn't ever see ourselves doing the same thing. But if you consider the terrible pressure under which people were operating, then you automatically reassert their humanity -- and that becomes alarming. You are forced to look at these situations and say, 'What would I have done?' Sometimes the answer is not encouraging."
So, it's our fault, and we would have done the same. And not a word in the piece about our lack of interest or involvement, in an eight page article! This is moral relativism at its worst. Since we would have done the same thing, there was no reason for us to interfere. Especially since the million who died were Black.

And now the current attempted genocide. The only difference is that this time the intended victim is us. And the Times wants us to stand by again while a racially defined group is murdered. And after the Arabs push the Jews into the sea, the Jihadis want to convert the rest of Christendom into lighter colored versions of themselves. At some points in human events, action is required. Not weeping from the sidelines. Muslim voices have declared the women of Israel the property of Islam. The Arab states, most of which supported Hitler, want to finish the job he started.

Why does the left hide from this fight? We are all on the front lines now. A historic clash of civilizations is taking place right now. We can wait, and suffer "the death of a thousand cuts" (another great tradition from the Middle East) or we can move on those who would do us harm. There is no third choice. In the military, it has been shown over and over that you must assault an ambush, or die. Attackers lose fewer men than cringing cowards. Once you know that, you can rush the guns. Putting one's head in the sand makes one a better target. Shame on those who would disarm us or impede us. They are our enemies, irrespective of their nation of origin. Or, even worse, they are cringing cowards who, if we listen to them, will bring our whole civilization down.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Tech Stuff

Part of the attraction of blogging, for me, is the fact that doesn't cost anything. Well, I spend plenty on books and periodicals that I wouldn't necessarily need if I didn't blog, but I have a little rule of blogging; that it should not involve money. Since I won't ask for money, I feel that it is fair that I shouldn't have to spend any. Neither the hosting nor the tools need to cost a penny (so long as you already have a computer and a broadband connection, that is). Being the geek that I am I have tried out quite a few tools, and dealt with the many situations that blogging puts one into. Lately I have settled into a suite of freeware tools that make my blogging life much easier than it was in the beginning. So what do I use?

Blogging creates three challenges that must be overcome before one can effectively blog. They are: 1) the need to read a ton of stuff online, every day, 2) the composition and uploading of posts, and 3) email.

1) Every day since I found the blog space (ok Bill, the blogosphere) I read so much that I still can't believe it. After reading the morning papers I start with the blogs on my recommended reading list at left, but from a bookmark file that is much longer. (I read plenty of stuff that I wouldn't recommend) Most blogs will lead one to click on articles, other blogs, and other items if interest. That's a lot of reading. Then there is the need to establish new bookmarks as a result of interesting items found, so a great bookmark manager is required, along with an industrial strength browser. Even with a broadband connection, there are downloading delays, and I hate to wait. My browser of choice therefore is Mozilla. For the more traditional, Netscape v 7 is the same thing, with some AOL functionality added. The bookmark handling tools included within this browser are remarkably complete and easy to use, but the tabbed browsing inteface is great too. The ability to click one bookmark and simultaneously load six or seven pages makes navigating through multiple websites, blogs, etc. much easier and faster, and one can drag a link to another tab so that it will load in the background while one reads on in the blog that sent you to the link in the first place. The browser can kill most popups for you while leaving most sites fully functional. Add in the security problems related to Microsoft's browser and you don't have a choice. Download Mozilla today.

Research, and understanding what you run into during a day in the blogosphere, is important, too. I recommend that you download Atomica immediately, and you will never again have to wonder over the usage or nuances of a word, or struggle to look up any people, places, or things. With Atomica, just alt/rightclick on any word, anywhere, and you get a pop up window with the appropriate answer, whether from a dictionary, encyclopedia, or thesaurus. I haven't stumped it yet. It doesn't destabilize my system in the least, either.

For finding instances of a word or words I use a little utility called Hilitext. It works fast, is very flexible, and beats the pants off of any other wordfinder I have ever used. The downside to it is that Windows crashed twice while I had it loaded, so now I don't leave it running. After using this nifty little utility, I always unload it, just to be safe.

2) To blog, you need software and a host. These are both available for free from Blogger. There are others, but I haven't tried them. Using Blogger, two problems arise: the need to use HTML, and the flaky interface, which has a nasty propensity to eat your posts. Both of these problems can be ameliorated by using Note Tab Lite. It plugs in all of the HTML you will need to blog, and performs the absolutely necessary task of saving your posts before you post them. While all of the tools I mention here are optional, the one thing that is absolutely mandatory is that you MUST save your posts before you post them to Blogger. A word, to the wise, should be sufficient.

3) Email. One thing about the blogosphere is that you will wind up leaving your email address around here and there, as well as on your blog, with the result that the spammers WILL find you. They find me at least 100 times a day. I deal with this in two ways. First, get a "public" email account at Yahoo. This keeps your business and family email accounts from getting polluted by this onslaught. Then download a copy of Mail Washer. With this tool, after the first week of teaching the program your preferences, you can delete the dross without wasting too mush time and you won't clutter up your hard drive, and you can preview questionable items in a mileu that will not allow any malicious code to execute. Then you can download your email to your hard drive in comparative safety. It may be that Yahoo requires some payment for the functionality that Mail Washer requires. Email is used for more than blogging, however, so that would not violate my rule about free tools. However, if you need to stick to the rule, other free emails, like Hotmail, can be used by Mail Washer, according to their site.

This has run a little long, but I thought that it needed to be said. Most people are a little overwhelmed by techie stuff, and could use a little advice. If that's you, or you have any questions, email me.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Scott Ridder

On Fox News today David Asman conducted an exellent interview of Scott Ridder, the former Marine Officer and head of the missile inspection teams for UNSCOM in Iraq. Not only was Asman's interview exemplary, but Ridder's performance was outstanding. Last month I would have said that he was a sellout, a seeming traitor to his country. Stories of Iraqi cash and high placed Iraqi friends were on the web and in the papers. Today he explained himself. And his explanation fits what we know of the facts. If he's telling the truth, he's a patriot of the highest order.

The problem with a rational approach to social problems is that sometimes the facts and rational logic go against what one feels. Where I sit is with Israel, and an American victory in Iraq is the best hope for the future of my people. But where do I stand, when the subject matter is the prospect of a preemptive attack, open warfare against a nation because we believe that their leader will share his weapons technology with terrorists?

I've been studying this question a lot lately, reading books like Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, and Bernard Lewis' towering history The Middle East. Pondering and searching for the answer to the two questions that are the most important: do we have the right to attack, and what would be the result of a victory over Iraq.

I can find no instance of preemptive warfare in the histories, except for two cases. One is where the party attacked was clearly getting ready to start its own war, and cases of blatant expansionist imperialism. Nations have usually waited for, instigated, or falsified a triggering event. The Gulf of Tonkin incident comes easily to mind. Whether or not those North Vietnamese gunships fired or not, that was our story, and we stuck to it. Last year we could have invaded Iraq instead of Afghanistan and we would have had at least the thinnest veneer of justification. But do we have one now?

I know some who say that we need not have to explain ourselves, that the "World's last (or only) superpower" can do whatever it pleases, as long as our motives are pure. The Iraqi people deserve this, or even welcome it. Hogwash. The Iraqi people would obviously welcome freedom, but I am just as sure that they won't welcome warfare in the streets of Baghdad.

And what would victory look like? Would we be safer? Richer? Not in the least. There will always be whackos who will kill innocents. Skim almost any page in Rohan Gunaratna's Inside al Qaeda and read about nests of these lunatics in practically every corner of the globe. The killing will not stop when we liberate Iraq. Huntington speaks of a "pig in the Python" demographic bulge in Islamic countries that will feed the killing machine until "the third decade of the 21st century."

Well, now that I've laid out why we shouldn't attack Iraq, I'll tell you why we must. Because this Islamic Jihadist movement is a recurring, cyclic theme of Middle Eastern history. Because the only thing they respect if force and blood. Ours or theirs. Blood must be spilled. We are lucky that we have the chance to strike first. 9-11 is all the excuse we need. What should we do, wait until a nuke goes off in Washington or New York? And so what if Iraq is not implicated in 9-11? They were involved in many other attacks. The fact that Saddam decided to play it cool a few years ago should not rob us of our vengeance, nor our opportunity to show the world, in no uncertain terms, that American lives may not be taken. That Israeli lives have value as well. That the Jihadi ideal of world domination and theocracy shall not be realized in this lifetime. And they will never understand that we really mean no harm, that we will withdraw from all liberated countries once we have emplaced liberal democratic regimes in their homelands, until we do so.

So there. I can brag on zero base thinking all I want, but in a pinch, where you stand accounts almost entirely for where you sit. Logically, this one's a toss up. They may just hate us more for the war. Oil might go over $50. We could even lose. But what is the sense of being so powerful if we can't get our way on the world stage? And more important, are we a declining civilization, or is the world going to become a better place through American leadership? I'll bet on Bush's Unilateralism, rather than Clintonian Internationalism, any day.

911 Victims Compensation

I got the following email. I can't be sure that it is really Rush, but I like it anyway.
By Rush Limbaugh, March 11, 2002 I think the vast differences in compensation between the victims of the September 11 casualty and those who die serving the country in uniform are profound.

No one is really talking about it either, because you just don't criticize anything having to do with September 11.

Well, I just can't let the numbers pass by because it says something really disturbing about the entitlement mentality of this country.

If you lost a family member in the September 11 attack, you're going to get an average of $1,185,000. The range is a minimum guarantee of $250,000, all the way up to $4.7 million.

If you are a surviving family member of an American soldier killed in action, the first check you get is a $6,000 direct death benefit, half of which is taxable.

Next, you get $1,750 for burial costs.
If you are the surviving spouse, you get $833 a month until you remarry.

And there's a payment of $211 per month for each child under 18. When the child hits 18, those payments come to a screeching halt.

Keep in mind that some of the people who are getting an average of $1.185 million up to $4.7 million are complaining that it's not enough.

We also learned over the weekend that some of the victims from the Oklahoma City bombing have started an organization asking for the same deal that the September 11 families are getting.

In addition to that, some of the families of those bombed in the embassies are now asking for compensation as well.

You see where this is going, don't you?

Folks, this is part and parcel of over
50 years of entitlement politics in this country.

It's just really sad.

"Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime." -Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

Every time a pay raise comes up for the military, they usually receive next to nothing of a raise.

Now the green machine is in combat in the Middle East while their families have to survive on food stamps and live in low-rent housing.

However, our own U.S. Congress just voted themselves a raise, and many of you don't know that they only have to be in Congress one time to receive a pension that is more than $15,000 per month, and most are now equal to being millionaires plus.

They also do not receive Social Security on retirement because they didn't have to pay into the system.

If some of the military people stay in for
20 years and get out as an E-7, you may receive a pension of $1,000 per month, and the very people who placed you in harm's way receive a pension of $15,000 per month.

I would like to see our elected officials pick up a weapon and join ranks before they start cutting out benefits and lowering pay for our sons and daughters who are now fighting.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Arafat's Cabinet Quits

On Wednesday, Arafat's cabinet was forced to resign. It seems that they could not pass muster in the palestinian legislature.
Just moments before lawmakers were to hold the vote Wednesday afternoon, cabinet ministers submitted their resignations to Arafat. The Palestinian leader accepted the resignation, making a vote unnecessary. A majority of legislators speaking Wednesday said they would not approve the cabinet.

Arafat has to present a new cabinet within two weeks, said Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia.

There has been widespread dissatisfaction with the cabinet, with many ministers considered either corrupt or incompetent.

Arafat responded to the criticism in June when he added five new ministers, widely considered hard-working and honest, as part of what he billed as major internal reforms. However, the changes were seen by many as largely cosmetic.

Hours beforehand, Arafat sought to avert a crisis and keep himself in power by setting a January 20 date for new elections.

But the gambit appeared to fail when parliament's legal committee decided to force a vote on the entire cabinet, which Arafat hoped to avoid.
It seems as if Bush is making headway shaking up the Palestinian government. Maybe he's serious about Iraq as well....

Florida, Again

So the geniuses have blown another election. As of this moment, they don't even know the winner in the Janet Reno race. Voters were barred from voting. Reno may be the second of Clinton's proteges to contest an election in Florida.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Why Stipulate Now?

So now al Qaeda, by way of al Jazeera, stipulates that bin Laden was, indeed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. It seems that the big-wigs at al Qaida central now want us to know that they did it, without doubt. A quick glippse at the calendar reveals that, if tradition holds, we can expect another attack any day now.

Make no mistake, these are sophisticated, media savvy handlers the terrorists have hired. Note near the end of the news story that they have their own studio, cameras and the like even now, post-Afghan collapse.
It's easy to dismiss the Arabs as semi-illiterate nontechnological buffoons, but the truth is that some of them are highly accomplished and educated. The number two guy, al Zawahri, is a medical doctor as well as a homicidal maniac. At least three of the four pilots on 9/11 were competent pilots. I have an old copy of Flight Simulator, and can tell you that hitting the WTC is not as easy as it looks. So when al Qaida makes a decision, don't assume that it is a mistake... Taking your opponent lightly is always a bad idea.

So one has to wonder what their calculus is. Why do they feel the need to take credit for the attacks, especially when the Arab Street is ready to declare them innocent. I submit that it is to that very Arab Street that the current confession is directed. They actually want to be known as mass murderers.

It is too easy to dismiss the culture of our enemy as a barbarian entity. That would be a mistake. In historical terms, it is we who are the barbarians. Until recently, say, the last two hundred years, it was the Muslim world that was the pinnacle of human civilization as white Europeans were the more brutish, violent, anti-education, dirty neighbors. A large part of our problem with Islam is their desire to recapture that position of honor. They believe that they deserve to be the world's leading power again, to recapture lost territories and conquer new ones. But their position has declined to the point where they are using barbarity to achieve it.

Their own holy book, which is truly just a book of rules, clearly and unambiguously condemns actions against innocents, military action undertaken in secret, and the killing, even by accident, of their co-religionists. But they feel desperate, in my opinion. They see their "civilization" crumbling, before an assault upon it by weapons of mass information, so they counter with weapons of mass destruction.

Friday, September 06, 2002

What If The Law Is Stupid?

Have you ever . . .

. . . thought that there are simply too many laws these days?
. . . asked yourself, "How do we get rid of bad laws?
. . . served as a member of a jury in a criminal case?
. . . wanted to help improve the criminal justice system?
. . . thought that there are too many harmless people in prison?
. . . wanted to help improve the criminal justice system?

If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, the Common Sense Justice Amendment is for you!

Thus a web site devoted to the passage of Amendment A begins. Common Sense Justice for South Dakotans is a group that supports the passage of Amendment A, an amendment to the South Dakota constitution that would give criminal defendants the right to argue that the law which they are accused of violating is stupid. That's a paraphrase. To quote: "The right to argue that the law itself is flawed, or that the law is being misapplied in the case at hand, or that the proposed sentence for violating the law is too harsh for the harm done." There. I couldn't have said it better myself.

This amendment was proposed in response to the State's drug laws, which are demonstrably stupid, if not downright evil. No less of a light than Thomas Jefferson famously compared a pending law in France, in fact the first legislation anywhere that called for a doctor's prescription to be necessary for citizens to purchase medicines, as "tantamount to mind control" and "infamous."

The government may have the right to prevent citizens from hurting themselves, but where in our beloved constitution can the authority be found to allow our government to imprison any citizen who grows and/or smokes hemp?

I don't intend to fight the drug war right now. For further reading on Amendment A, as well as a great resource on the War on (some) Drugs, click on this.

Chicken Hawks?

Today's Washington Post has a piece mirroring my "War Monger" post three days ago about the military service of many of the hawks in todays political scene. Terry M. Neal, a staff writer covers the subject matter better than I did. Boy, could I use one of those Lexis-Nexis accounts! Neal manages to cover the issue without taking a stand, which is a little unusual for the WaPo. Rather than a piece on the issue, the column is more of a starting point for anyone who wants to read more about it.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Gay to a Fault

I have been a reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog since I discovered the blogspace. I owe him something, since he served as my introduction to this space, where I spend, lately, several hours every day. His was the first site on my blogroll when I finally took the plunge and started to share my view of the universe with y'all. Yesterday I unrolled him, and today, I figure that I owe you (and him) an explanation.

It would be misleading, but true, to say that the trigger from his divestiture from my blogroll was a statement by Camille Paglia (his late-summer stand-in) that she had voted for Bill Clinton twice. That pissed me off. Not only do I question the intelligence of anyone who voted for such an obvious fraud, but I believe that it is a betrayal of one's audience to substitute opinion of a different bent, in an opinion site that is shaded in a conservative mode. I have enjoyed Camille's appearances on television, but her writing is something that I'd rather pass on. It's not that I don't read liberal thought - I do, a lot. It's just that her style is not to my liking. But when I banned Andrew's site out of pique against Camille, I realized that my some of my reasons for eschewing Paglia's writings are equally true of Sullivan's: These people are hung up on their sexuality. I add here that one of my best and longest friends is also a gay man. And for the same reason I find him to be a pain in the ass from time to time. But he's my friend, so I take him the way he is, and don't judge his mishegass. But neither Andy nor Camille would put anything on the line for me, ergo, I owe them nothing.

My problem is with the obsession with sex that these, and many other homosexuals display. I have heard some of them defend this tendency of theirs, but I don't buy the logic. The simple fact is that I have no interest in the who, what, or how of their sexual activities. It adds nothing whatever to any discussion that I wish to be a party to. I certainly don't expect them to listen to my own sexual problems, joys, or what have you. I don't wish to put it in their face. But they feel the right, maybe even the need, to put their's in mine. I don't choose to view the world through a sexual filter. They certainly have the right to talk about sex or any other damn thing that they want. And if they feel the need to put their observations on sexual practices in a political blog, that's great. But my disinclination to follow this particular conversation doesn't make me a homophobe.

You know, I have a sex life too. A good one, by my estimation. But I don't share it with my readers. I don't figure that anyone is interested. And if anyone is interested, then that is someone with whom I probably don't want to share these details. In my world, sexual activity is simply not a subject for public discussion. But many gays believe that it is. Maybe they believe that they are defined by their sexuality. That may be their hangup. It is not mine. In fact, they are far more disconcerted by discussion of straight sex than I am by discussion of homo sex. If I allocated a part of my time writing this blog to an examination of the various elements of the sex act that I find fulfilling, it would change my readership. I would pay a penalty for an obsession with matters sexual. It would taint everyone's perception of where I was at. I would expect that. So I don't feel that there should be a different handling of my objection to Andy and Camille's sexual obsession.

Bottom line: I provide a blogroll for the convenience and elucidation of passing fellow travellers in the blog world. I recommend the sites presented there to my readers. I focus on politics and world events. No sites, where a significant part of the subject matter is sexual activity, can be found there. My eight year old boy is a regular reader of my blog. Sorry, Andy and Camille, but your political discourse is just a little too provocative for him.... And for me.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Who Are The War Mongers?

There's a lot of war talk around these days. Every day we are served a feast of opinion in the media related to war; when will we attack, how will we attack, even who we will attack. Have you ever wondered why the most aggressive talk comes from life-long civilians and the more moderate opinion comes from current and former military personnel?

The most prominent voice for restraint before committing to combat is Colin Powell. He has acquired a reputation as a wimp in some circles as a result. His stand in favor of the "100 hour cease-fire" is also usually mentioned. Meanwhile, most draft-dodgers and former National Guardsmen favor a major preemptive attack on Iraq at the soonest possible time.

I like to think of myself as a rationalist. But there is no logic without context. As Ben Franklin famously said, where you stand depends upon where you sit. From where I sit, military action is the last option. But logic tells me that the Islamofascist movement will not yield to anything less than massive carnage and defeat. Then I think of my two pre-teen sons. So my absolutely last option is to have a shooting war, and a draft, ongoing in eight to ten years. Naturally my logical analysis will redound to finishing the bastards off in the next few years. But I shudder to think where this war will take us. Will the U.S.A. become the world's policeman? Will it be American boys who will have to fight, and possibly die, to squelch the military potential of the enemies of freedom around the world?

Meanwhile, the inevitability of war becomes ever more real. Jordanian troops taking over Palestinian Police commands and Assad of Syria telling its radicals to steer clear of Arafat (see this week's Debka File) points to an American attack in the region more clearly than any conversation you will see on Meet the Press.
The arrival of the Jordanian-Palestinian contingent brings to fruition the DEBKAfile July 22, 2002 disclosure of a dramatic process initiated in Washington for the phased transfer of security-intelligence control over West Bank Palestinians from Arafat’s Palestinian Authority to the Kingdom of Jordan, a transition to be coordinated closely with Israel.
Assad’s rationale is not entirely clear. DEBKAfile’s sources put forward some alternative explanations:
A. Tensed for the approaching US attack on Baghdad, he may estimate that the Saddam regime’s overthrow will lead to Arafat’s downfall and is preparing to take advantage of the upheaval of war to wrest control of the Palestinian camp.
B. It may emanate from the secret exchanges he is conducting with the United States in the run-up to the US offensive against Iraq.
So all of the talk may be academic. But I still believe that just as much can be accomplished by the belief in an impending war, as a war itself could do. At least in this instance. But that belief would have to be total. To inspire such total belief, we have to be absolutely committed to an attack. If Arafat and Saddam Hussein would just go away, would the warmongers tone down their rhetoric? Or would they just pick on another target to assuage their blood-lust?

Above all, when I listen to and read the opinions expressed on this subject, I always think about where the opinion maker sits. Rambo could accomplish a lot, but a lot can be learned about the texture of conflict when your buddy's blood and gray matter gets all over your uniform. No one wants to enter combat less than someone who has been there. That does not necessarily make him a wimp.