Tuesday, July 29, 2003

PFC Lynch: Survivor

I have been reading the US Army Official Report on 507th Maintenance Co.: An Nasiriyah, Iraq [.pdf] This report describes, in narrative form, the attack on an element of the U.S. Army 507th Maintenance Company by Iraqi military forces and irregulars in the city of An Nasiriyah on 23 March 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. That is, the "lessons learned" document from which our military planners decide what we did right, what we did wrong, and what to do differently next time. Focusing on the "activities" of our newest "hero," as the President has decreed we label PFC Jessica Lynch, it is easy to see why she survived and others died. Her formula for survival? Sit in the back seat of a HumVee, with a soldier on each side, and do nothing. One of her compatriots, PFC Patrick Miller, did exactly the opposite: refuse to surrender, shoot at the enemy, and travel 16 miles through enemy territory, killing the enemy as you go. Even though he got the Silver Star, I had never heard his name before, while "Jessie" the "hero" gets a movie and book deal. No wonder she can't remember what happened. Nothing did happen. She sat in a dark HummVee until it crashed, and then she woke up in a hospital.

Life may not be fair, but calling any captured soldier a hero, while we forget the actions of the real thing, makes me sick. Other things in the report are pretty strange as well, such as the fact that almost all of the weapoms the troops had with them failed, and the poor leadership shown by Captain Troy King. But a true hero has emerged from this action. PFC Patrick Miller, I salute you.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Conservatives for Bush?

Any reader on this page knows that I have little respect for the President's handling of domestic policy, and have argued hard against his reelection. Yet, the election is still a far piece away. In the pursuit of zero base thinking, however, I always read other points of view, and consider them. Today I read the most cogent reason to support the man:
But on the war front, he should not compromise an iota. He must do what he judges to be in the national interest, whatever the electoral effect. Not that he needs my advice on that point. He is a patriot and would gladly sacrifice his career, and even his life, on behalf of his nation's safety. That is why, as a conservative, I will vote for him, no matter what. We are damned lucky to have this man at the helm in these perilous times.
Tony Blankley makes the case well, without pulling any punches. It is hard to support a man who believes that the federal government must endlessly expand, who is setting up the greatest new entitlement since Nixon, pushes the war against (some) drugs, and can't find it in either his heart or his soul to veto anything, but a zero base thinker just has to wonder and ponder all sides of an equation, before making a final choice, on election day. There is a lot of truth to the statement, and it bears repeating, "We are damned lucky to have this man at the helm in these perilous times."

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Democrats Have New Ally

At last Democrat party leaders have a new strong ally in their fight to make the American electorate believe that Bush lied: Saddam Hussein. It must be comforting to them to see that their thinking has such an important international supporter.

The whole "Bush Lied" meme has more than a little of the sound of irrelevance about it, and now the Clown of Iraq is singing the same song.
"What will the two liars Bush and Blair say to their people and to humanity? What will they tell the world? What they said was wrong and baseless," said the voice, which could not be independently confirmed as Hussein's. In an apparent reference to increasing questions about whether Bush and Blair accurately portrayed intelligence presented to them about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the voice on the tape said the two leaders have tried to "picture the situation differently and lay responsibility on others."
This heartening confirmation of the truth of their allegations puts the allies squarely in the same boat. It may be irrelevant, but it is all they think they have. Much like Whitewater, the donks hate Bush and want an issue. They have seized upon this, and are riding it for all it is worth. And like Whitewater, it is not strong enough to deter Bush voters, and will probably turn other voters in Bush's favor. Luckily for the Bush camp, they are not following more of the Clinton gameplan. Like, "It's the economy, stupid."

Monday, July 14, 2003

Same Sex Marriage

What's all the fuss about? All over the (Western) world, and soon to come to these shores, governments are allowing their civil laws covering the state of matrimony to apply to members of the same sex. Most recently, in Canada, the Ontario Appeals Court made a decision that, in combination with the federal government's refusal to challenge it, made "same-sex marriage" a fait accompli in Canada. And or course, our own Supreme Court refuses to allow legislation that regulates private sexual behavior (although they have not legalized prostitution or bigamy, and don't look like they are likely to). So the social conservatives are steaming hot over the "abandonment" by our governments of the most basic foundation of civilization, the institution of marriage. And again I ask: "What's all the fuss about?"

Marriage is a contract between two people. It has been enshrined in religious ceremony and license. It is only quite recently that governments decided to legislate the institution. In the way of governments and the nature of laws, these enactments were mostly intended to prohibit certain behaviors, but more recently, after bigamy and polyandry were prohibited, the thrust of matrimonial legislation and license was made to ensure the transfer of certain rights between the partners. Rights like the right to receive part of a pension or Social Security payments, the right to make certain medical decisions regarding the health of one's partner in times of dire need, the right to receive some of the assets and income or the other in divorce, and the right (and obligation) to participate in the lives of the offspring.

But, over time, these rights have blurred. Many, but not all, of these rights have become available to non-married people either through changing rules of society, or specifically contracted agreements between people. But not everyone executes a pre-nup, or antenuptial agreement, and not every pension plan allows marital payouts to be assigned by contract. And hospitals are wary of contractual agreements; a doctor friend of mine claims that even living wills are frequently ignored. But they will always listen to the wishes of the spouse. And that may be the most heartbreaking part of the problem. My wife could have the hospital pull the plug on me, should the need arise, but if I were gay, my partner could only watch me suffer, until the insurance money ran out.

My marriage is a legally standard one, but it really is a deal between me and my wife, with a side order of kids. I can not imagine that, after the novelty wears off, that many gays will want the same deal. But if they do, I can't see a logically compelling reason to deny them the legal protection that we enjoy. And if they can find or establish a church that will bless their union, God bless them as well.

(You can check out the opposite view, at davidwarrenonline.com - Essays On Our Times.)

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Ridge Goes After Porn

Tom Ridge, Director of the Department of Homeland Security, has announced that he will use "all means possible" to prosecute pornographers, especially child porn vendors. Now, I have no love for those who pursue child pornography. But I hope that I won't be alone with this "I told you so." We establish this new uber-agency to go after terrorists, give them new powers and a new budget, almost unlimited resources, and they target Pornography?

I don't dispute that ensuring that those aliens who finish their sentences are actually deported is a valuable law enforcement function for the immigration authorities, but every other process that Ridge announced for this new initiative is already covered by an existing program. Their new database of pornography, which they are building with an eye to "rescuing the children" is already an initiative of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the FBI has been involved in the crusade against pornigraphers for decades, with such great prosecutions as those against Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt, and Harry Reems already to their credit. It seems to me that the reason that the FBI was kept out of the Department of Homeland Security in the first place was so that the Department could keep its focus. It didn't take them long to revert to type.

I watched a fair amount of the debate in Congress over the formation of the Department, and read quite a lot. Ensuring their focus was a paramount concern for many, before they were granted these new powers. But it is the nature of bureaucracies to expand their area of operations and increase their budgets. And I can hardly fault Ridge for picking kiddie porn as his first target... it is simply a brilliant choice. Who, after all, is not against Kiddie porn? As with violence against women and drunk driving, bureaucrats always pick issues where there is no opposition when they seek to maneuver an end-around the Congress or the Constitution. Do not be fooled. Just as with the Violence Against Women Act and drunk driving checkpoints, you don't need to be in favor of the criminals to see the creation of a bad law or precedent-setting court decision. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking usually puts you in the minority.

On this one, we shall see soon enough whether there is an outcry or not, since this news just broke. We shall see.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Michael Savage Fired

Shock jock Michael Savage went one stupid rant too far and has been fired by his bosses at MSNBC. From where I sit, the folks who run MSNBC hate his politics, but hired him anyway after Donohue was such a flop. Rather than hiring a thoughtful Conservative, they dug up thus sorry excuse for a political thinker, and got what they deserved. I think perhaps that this is exactly what some of the leftie execs at the network wanted in the first place.

This is no idle surmise. In my real life, I promote television shows, and have been spotted in MSNBCland more than a few times. Many of the execs there suffer from a particularly rabid form of leftie thinking, so, when Savage was hired, I wondered about the choice. That they picked the single person most likely to say something that would offend SOME protected group was clearly obvious at the time. Now that he has been fired, I think I know what they were thinking. They WANTED him to fail.

Don't be surprised if the network goes back to their usual tricks, now that the programming department has PROVED that these Conservatives are no good. Meanwhile, in the real world, most, if not ALL, thoughtful conservatives and libertarians hated Savage and his vile pronouncements at least as much as the lefties did. His TV show was an abomination, and I for one will not miss it. I am sure that I am in good company.

On the other hand, this debacle shows that the nets, or at least this one, really don't get it. With the explosion of outlets for programming, in a world where a half million viewers make for a SMASHING success, niche programming like the Savage Nation is exactly what is called for. I believe that Savage got almost that on his best day. Watch and see - that slot will NEVER see so many viewers again. Erik Sorenson, MSNBC President, should realize that it is all about ratings, not content. In a world where a 0.2 rating is considered to be acceptable and a 1.0 is a world-beating hit, there is no need for mainstream content, dumbed down like the offerings on the broadcast nets, where they need to see REAL numbers. In fairness to Savage, he claims that he thought the caller had been cut from the air, and that he was making private comments to the fellow, who he regarded as a plant from "a competitive talk show."

Sorry Mike, it's too late for an apology. They were waiting for you to slip up from the start. And maybe for you, just like for Rush Limbaugh, television may not be your best medium. Stick to radio, where you are a big success, and the bosses understand that insulting members of fringe groups is an acceptable route to attain that success.

Thursday, July 03, 2003


I confess. I've been a smoker for almost forty years. While it's not very cool anymore, and not very wise, it is a pleasure that I won't (or can't) give up. While this pleasure may be becoming unfashionable, smoking puts me in the mainstream of human behavior. Tobacco use has been a popular pastime everywhere on this planet, when it has been available for human consumption. And even though health authorities have claimed that it is dangerous, even deadly, for over four hundred years, it continues as a popular human activity even today. No less a personage than King James of England, in 1604, declared in his treatise A Counterblaste to Tobacco:
Smoking is a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.
In his treatise, James also noted that autopsies found smokers' "inward parts" were "infected with an oily kind of soot." James also said if he ever had the Devil to dinner, he'd offer him a pipe. With regards to second-hand smoke, James said, "The wife must either take up smoking or resolve to live in a perpetual stinking torment." As early as 1586, in Germany "De plantis epitome utilissima" offers one of the first cautions to the use of tobacco, calling it a "violent herb". And of course, since 1950 our own AMA has held that tobacco smoking was dangerous, since they found that cigarette smokers were twice as likely to get lung cancer than were non-smokers.

So, why do I smoke? Is it the pleasure, or the addiction? There is no doubt that I am addicted to the weed, but that can not completely explain why I smoke it. My addiction may explain why I smoke an entire pack of cigarettes right after I buy it, but does not explain why I buy a pack in the first place. So, understanding, as I do, that almost anything, done in moderation, is OK to do, how does one feed the pleasure while keeping the addiction at bay?

While pondering this question, it struck me that the biggest part of the problem was the 19 cigarettes left in the pack after I had smoked the first one... The one that had spurred me to buy the pack in the first place. There are not, in this country at least, packs of less than 20 available. In other countries I have seen 10-packs and 4-packs, and singles are available here and there, but not in my neighborhood. Then I discovered the modern roll-your-own movement. They reside online at Roll Your Own Magazine. The tobacco industry, aside from being the inventor of modern advertising, is ingenious in the enterprise of fulfilling demand for tobacco products. There are available today supplies that render a person such as myself able to fashion an (almost) perfect, filtered cigarette, light or full-flavor, from raw materials. After smoking this way for a few weeks, I have come to believe that it is possible that my problem has been solved.

With my little rolling device, a filter tube, and some tobacco I can, in a minute or two, fashion a cigarette that is satisfying in every way, without presenting me with a pack of nineteen cigarettes all begging to be smoked. In Confucian fashion I get to appreciate each tiny filament of tobacco, to feel and smell it, to pack it into the little rolling block, and finally to insert the tobacco into the filter tube. After a bit of tamping, the filter cigarette is ready to smoke. I have never enjoyed a cigarette as much as I do now. They taste better, and smell better. They should, as they are made from the finest, freshest tobacco. As a bonus, they cost less than a third of their previous price. But best of all, there are no extra cigarettes lying there, begging to be smoked. Each smoke is a little experience; a ritual of appreciation that I truly enjoy. I suppose that I could roll nineteen more if I felt like it, but so far, I haven't felt like it.

So now I smoke about five cigarettes a day, instead of twenty. I spend less than a half a dollar instead of five dollars. I might even live a little longer, since I smoke so much less. But, best of all, I do not have to give up one of life's little pleasures. Instead, it has become even more of a pleasure than it once was. And, with the money I am saving, I can put my sons through college.