Time Out: I'll be gone for the rest of the year. Enjoy the holidays, and I'll start my ranting again in 2005!
Time Out: I'll be gone for the rest of the year. Enjoy the holidays, and I'll start my ranting again in 2005!
Disturbing: I'm doing a lot of my Christmas shopping online (yes, on company time). My 8-year-old niece wants this Hair Beader, which evidently puts beads in your hair (Bo Derek style). Anyhow, I first tried Amazon.com, and they were sold out. So I did a search for other toy stores to see if they had any. But just about every toy store that advertises it tells me to go to Amazon.com to buy it. I was unaware, but did Amazon.com buy up every freakin' store already? Or are all small stores just giving up and voluntarily pointing you to the Amazon.com behemoth?
Well, I finally found it on eBay -- for more than twice as much as it would cost on Amazon.com were it not sold out. 'Tis the season ...
Bay Area Blues: San Francisco wants to be the next on a short list of cities that bans the ownership of handguns (via Insta). This is a disturbing trend of government trying to crack down gun rights. And that's not just because of the fact that other cities that have banned guns, such as Chicago and Washington, DC, have the highest crime rates in the country.
Now, because I live in Virginia, y'all might wonder why I care about what's going on in some Blue State. I could go on at length about how nobody should have their rights taken away, especially ones guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. I could even include the quote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
But I also have personal reasons. My girlfriend is originally from California, specifically Los Angeles. And if things keep going the way they're going, I'll probably end up moving there with her (commence *whipping* sounds now). The problem is these "reforms" tend to move through cities like some contagious disease.
It has already come to my attention that a shotgun I currently own, legally bought and paid for in Virginia, is illegal in California. It's a Saiga 12 -- a Russian-made, semi-automatic 12-gauge with a five-round magazine. I would not even be allowed to keep this gun in my home, were I a California resident. This gun's only "crime" is that it is similar in design to the AK-47, which is no more deadly than most other rifles, but people who don't know any better believe this is the quintessential killing machine.
To point out how absurd this ban is, you should know that I also have a Remington 870 Wingmaster -- an American-made, pump-action 12-gauge with a three-round capacity (including one in the chamber). This shotgun is perfectly legal in California and most other places.
The funny thing is, these guns fire the exact same ammunition the exact same way and, as a result, are just as deadly as each other. While the Saiga is semiautomatic, the Remington pump can be fired just as quickly. And although the Saiga does have a slightly larger capacity, the Remington can be fed ammo continuously while I would have to remove and reload magazines to continue firing the Saiga.
Unfortunately, the people who make the most restrictive laws regarding firearms seem to be the people who know the least about them. Liberals blaming crime on guns makes as much sense as conservatives blaming crime on rap music. Nothing should be outlawed in America without compelling reason. And prohibiting citizens from owning handguns only leaves them in danger of being hurt or killed by criminals who (surprise, surprise) don't obey the law.
Connectivity: The FCC is looking to bring high-speed wireless Internet accessibility to airplanes, and is toying with the ideas of allowing passengers to talk on their cell phones during flights.
The wireless Internet is obviously popular, but so far I have heard mostly negative comments about the cell phones. People really hate to hear other people gabbing on the phone, it seems.
But why? I've never understood this. I don't talk on my cell phone much, but it doesn't bother me to hear someone else's conversation. And it's not like there's no talking allowed on the plane. If this goes through, it would be similar to listening to two passengers talking to each other. Except, with the cell phones, you would only hear half the conversation.
Enhancements: I've added a link to an RSS Feed. You can find it permanently in the side column, just underneath the "About" section.
In addition, I also tinkered with some of the fonts. I never liked the Blogger default. I hope you like this new version. If not, too bad. I'm not trying to cop an attitude or anything. It's just that I fiddled with the fonts so much that I wouldn't even know how to get it back to the old version.
Anyhow, back to work.
??? George "Slam Dunk" Tenet won the Presidential Medal of Freedom? I wonder how tempted Bush was at this moment to strangle his former CIA director. The fact that Bush is giving Tenet this award leads me to believe that he was not forced out of the CIA, that he retired on his own. And now he's being honored despite his role in two of the biggest intelligence failures in the history of the United States.
You may say I'm a dreamer: Mahmoud Abbas, the likely successor to Yasser Arafat's position as Palestinian leader, has denounced the armed conflict against Israel. Even if he is elected, he'll be hard pressed to control the autonomous terrorist cells that have waged war against Israel for decades. But it would be nice to finally see an end to the Palestinian Authority's giving active support to the terrorists.
Working the Clutch: Most major shifts in party philosophy usually come when one political party is out of power for an extended time. We may be seeing the makings of such a shift with the Democratic Party moving to Bush's right when it comes to immigration policy. President Bush has been proposing everything just short of amnesty for illegal immigrants, likely to court the growing Hispanic vote. Sen. Hillary Clinton has openly criticized Bush for being too lenient on immigration, which should appeal to many heartland conservatives who are wary of open borders.
Granted, this doesn't signify a substantive change just yet. But if the Democrats can gain traction in the Red States on the immigration issue, they may be open to shifting on other issues. Of course, the party's biggest liability is still its weakness on the War on Terrorism. So you can expect the immigration issue to be framed at least partly as a national security issue.
Oddball: I don't know how I get on these guys' mailing lists, but I'm receiving press releases from the ReDefeatBush organization.
ReDefeatBush Protests Fraudulent Election Saturday at LaFayette Park in Front of the White HouseUnfortunately, I was not able to attend the protest. But I have a funny feeling that I'll have plenty more chances to observe such genuine delusional behavior as long as I keep an interest in politics.
The Committee to ReDefeat the President, a federal political action committee, is calling upon its members and other citizens to demonstrate against the growing evidence that fraud and deception were used to secure Bush's re-election. The demonstration, from noon to 2:00 PM in LaFayette Park in front of the White House, will be the third organized by ReDefeatBush in this location since election day.
Breaking the News: If you want to keep something a secret, don't send the information through an e-mail. I'm almost suspicious that the Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter wanted everybody to know that he was the one who prompted that soldier to ask his now famous question to Rumsfeld about the lack of armor for military vehicles in Iraq.
Nevertheless, some people are criticizing the reporter for involving himself in a news story. Perhaps the reporter could have handled the situation differently, but he didn't do anything wrong.
So long as the reporter didn't try to buy off the soldier -- with money, favorable coverage, etc. -- it doesn't matter so much that a little coaxing was involved. The soldier could have declined to do it. So it was obviously a concern of the soldier's, and it seems to be a concern of all the troops who cheered loudly at the question -- and I'll bet the reporter had nothing to do with that.
It was, perhaps, dishonest for the reporter not to mention in his story that he talked the soldier into asking the question. He simply could have mentioned that Rumsfeld wasn't taking questions from reporters, but a soldier agreed to relay one reporter's question on an issue that has been on the minds of many of the troops in Iraq.
I always tell my sources, Don't get mad at the questions, just answer them. This was a legitimate question. And given the attention the question and Rumsfeld's response have received, it seems also to be a serious issue that, I'm guessing, now may actually be resolved.
Stuck in the Middle: Iraq's new government has already started to take a hard line against Iran, giving a stern neighborly warning to stop interfering with the upcoming elections through its support for radically religious candidates with money and a flood of new voters. As we know, Iran has already been a key sponsor to the Iraqi insurgents and their terrorist activities.
At the same time, U.S. officials are finding that Syria is still sending support to the terrorist insurgents in Iraq as well. It seems that two of the worst regimes in the Middle East are doing everything they can to make sure Iraq's new found freedom and democracy don't succeed.
This battle is and always has been a fight against terrorism and its sponsors in the Middle East. And that is why we have to be in it in the long haul to win.
Cemetery Gates: A gunman killed metal guitarist Dimebag Darrell at an Ohio concert last night. The shooter continued to fire into the crowd and kill three other people before a police officer arrived and shot the gunman, killing him.
For those of you who aren't metal fans, Dimebag Darrell was one of the most talented rock guitarists out there. He first made it big with the band Pantera. After that band broke up, Darrell and his brother/bandmate formed a new band, Damageplan, whose concert was where the attack took place.
The members of Pantera hail from Dallas -- my neck of the woods -- and some friends and I even had the privilege of drinking with Darrell and talking to him briefly outside a bar. He was a cool guy who didn't talk down to his fans. Even when one of my friends accidentally dropped and broke the bottle of whiskey we were sharing, Darrell just laughed and joked, "Oops! Party's over."
Thank God a police officer was able to respond quickly and kill the shooter before more people were hurt. But the music world has lost a truly gifted and talented artist. Darrell will be missed.
Intelligence Design: Congress is set to pass a bill that will bring our many intelligence agencies under one czar who will oversee their personnel and finance. This will possibly bring about greater coordination among our intelligence agencies, but I wouldn't expect any dramatic improvements to spring up from this piece of legislation.
Although it has taken three years since the 9/11 attacks to revamp our intelligence network, I still get the feeling that this was a quick fix that was rushed through the system. The 9/11 Commission made the recommendation that one guy needed to control all of our intelligence gathering, and politicians on both sides of the aisle latched onto the suggestion wholesale without much regard to what actual benefit would come of it. We didn't have hardly any substantive discussion during the election. And now a lame-duck Congress is trying to hurry this bill through before both houses adjourn.
The 9/11 attacks and the Iraqi WMD "slam dunk" were two of the biggest intelligence lapses in American history. Part of the problem was that our agencies latched on to certain assumptions early on and didn't adequately question their own beliefs. We needed more voices, a diversity of opinions, new perspectives, and different interpretations of the evidence. How is making all our intelligence gathering the responsibility of one guy going to accomplish that?
Everybody agrees that we need to overhaul our intelligence agencies and that the CIA needs a good house cleaning. Some people wanted an immediate overhaul. I can see, during the uncertainty right after 9/11, that we didn't want to make any panicked decisions. It's better to contemplate real change than to rush something for the sake of doing anything.
Now more than enough time has passed, but nothing real is being done. Despite the failures, only one major figure, George Tenet, has lost his job (and nobody knows for certain whether he was really forced out or he just got bored and left). And even though Bush's new CIA appointee is cleaning house, some opponents are crying foul -- although there are some legitimate questions as to whether Bush is stacking the agency with loyal worker bees.
Bureaucratic shifts may look good to the public, but I don't expect any substantive results from the reorganization. The only way we can safeguard against future failures and catastrophic attacks is to improve the intelligence gathering on the ground. We need more spies inside the terrorist groups and among the hostile regimes. Doing so will take years to do. And I hope that such actions are quietly underway.
Left Wing Nuts: Environmentalists apparently torched more than 40 houses under construction in Maryland in opposition to urban sprawl. This will do nothing to prevent the housing development from being completed. But the fires itself created all kinds of pollution. And it was also a waste of resources, culminating in the need to chop down more trees to rebuild the houses.
For some reason, ultra-liberal environmentalists have taken to torching things as a form of protest. Nonlethal terrorists, such as the Earth Liberation Front, have burned resorts and SUVs, causing many times more environmental damage than if they had decided to stay at home and do something productive.
Update: New evidence suggests this might not be the case in this particular incident.
Right Wing Nuts: In light of reports that the FCC has been deluged with complaints about indecency on television, the truth is 99.8 percent of the grievances were submitted by one conservative group called the Parents Television Council.
An advocate of artists made the comment that one small group was trying to dictate what the rest of America could watch on television. "It means that really a tiny minority with a very focused political agenda is trying to censor American television and radio," said Jonathan Rintels, president and executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, an artists’ advocacy group.
The PTC's response was utterly amazing. "I wish we had that much power," said Lara Mahaney, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based group. Indeed, these people want the power to censor what everybody else watches. Short of that, they'll just fondle the political system to get what they want.
Changing Their Tune: Despite the high profile whining by Metallica's Lars Ulrich and the RIAA, most musicians don't mind if people download their music for free, according a study. It seems eternal song swapping online does little to affect the bottom line for musicians, and most are happy that their work is getting circulated.
The recording industry, and now the movie industry, is still going to fight online file sharing tooth and nail. But they're going to lose. The technology is out there for everybody to trade music, so it's best that they accept the change and learn how to make it work for them.
Besides, trading songs online is no different than making a copy of an album onto a blank tape, which people have done for decades. People can hear anything they want for free on the radio already. The Internet is just a new medium.
And like the first VCR, the creative industries will scream and shout that they'll go bankrupt if new technology is allowed to exist. The movie industry tried to shut down the Betamax VCR, even fighting all the way to the Supreme Court. But the Court, in its wisdom, ruled against the movie industry, allowing a revolution of watching movies at home. And now the movie industry makes more money from VHS and DVD sales than box office tickets. It's time for them to find a way to do the same thing with online technology.
UNSCAM: The United Nations has been very critical of Bush over the war in Iraq, missing WMD, and prisoner abuse scandal. Bush, for the most part, has been forthcoming in answering those critics, even if they haven't been satisfied with the results. Now it's time to turn the tables.
Bush is calling for the United Nations to answer why it and its member countries accepted bribes from Saddam Hussein so he could use the oil-for-food program to buy weapons. What was supposed to be a humanitarian program became rife with corruption and dishonesty.
With President Bush demanding answers, he brings much needed attention to a scandal that the world media has largely overlooked. While some Republicans are already calling for Kofi Annan's ouster, Bush has decided to take a diplomatic approach by holding off on such drastic measures -- for now.
More Strength: The number one concern of the war in Iraq has always been whether we have enough troops there. The Pentagon finally relented and plans to increase the troop strength in the coming months. Now we'll just see if it will be enough.
The number of troops will increase from 138,000 to about 150,000 -- which is the highest number since the war began. But press reports indicate that some officers would like several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq.
It's obvious by now that the post-war occupation of Iraq has not gone as planned. While we easily toppled Saddam Hussein and his military, the urban guerilla battle with terrorists has grown worse than we feared.
This is a new type of war, one that we're not used to fighting. We made some mistakes, such as disbanding the Iraqi army and not leveling Fallujah earlier. At the time, those seemed like the right moves, but Monday-morning quarterbacks have acted like they knew what to do all along that they were setbacks. Honestly, though, I can't think of a single war in which everything went exactly to plan.
The terrorists are going to increase their activities in the run up to the Iraqi elections. It will be a tough time, especially because the terrorists' aim is to get the American people to turn against the war. But bringing democracy to the heart of the Middle East will have long-term benefits in the region that diminish the threat of Islamic terrorism over the years. We'll have to see it through.
Diversity: Normally politicians publicly express their support for affirmative action, but never get around to practicing it. Now we have a president who publicly condemns affirmative action, but has done a great job putting it into practice.
I guess Bush really does support using race as a factor in hiring decisions, only he can't say so publicly because that would upset ultra-conservatives who have an allergic reaction to the idea. But in the end, Bush proves that affirmative action can work for conservatives as well as liberals.
Retro Russia: The Cold War may be over, but Russia's recent actions are still chilling. President Vladimir Putin has retracted many democratic measures in the country by tightening his control of the Duma, replacing popularly elected governors with ones appointed by the Kremlin, and restricting the media. Now it appears Putin's government might have had a hand in rigging the elections in the Ukraine.
The U.S., along with the European Union, has condemned the Ukranian vote results, and it looks like popular activism and political pressure may result in a new election. However, it's still a shaky situation, and it may get worse before it gets better.
That's why we need President Bush to take a strong stance against Putin's strong-arm tactics, both within Russia's government and its meddling with Ukraine's.
Unfortunately, I don't foresee Bush making much of a public stink about what's going on with our old Cold War adversary. Although Russia opposed the U.S. liberation of Iraq, Putin has been a strong supporter of our aggressive fight against terrorism. Putin even endorsed Bush against Kerry in the last election, a completely inappropriate move for a foreign leader.
It appears that Putin is supporting our aggressive fight against the terrorists to justify his own war against the Chechens, especially after those terrorists committed the atrocious attack on hundreds of school children. But he has also used the attacks as an excuse to curtail democratic reforms in the country.
During the Cold War, we would often support hostile, autocratic, oppressive governments when it helped us oppose the Soviet Union. Those decisions in part led to the problems we have now with Islamic terrorism. And now we are now in danger of making the exact same mistake, only in reverse.
God Bless: I'm out until Monday. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
With Sugar on Top: "Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted ... He lived happily ever after."
That quote is from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. But some conservatives are a little wary of fairy tales. Evan Coyne Maloney and The New York Post are worried that unchecked Republican power could produce the same arrogance and corruption that led to the government revolution we saw in 1994, only this time in reverse.
We've already seen it with Republicans tossing aside ethics rules. Tom DeLay could have lambasted Ronnie Earle and his political tactics while temporarily giving up his leadership position in the House, were he to be indicted, out of principle. Now it seems unlikely that DeLay will even be indicted, but the Republicans have already made it loud and clear that principle yields to power.
The Bush administration is famous for rewarding loyalty ahead of competence. And because of the loyalty oaths Bush's advisors must adhere to, there is little debate and discussion when it comes to major decisions. That's why military officers in Iraq are still waiting for more troops.
The problem is, power corrupts. That's just a fact of governance and humanity. Generally, the tug-o-war of power in a democratic society prevents corruption from getting out of hand. But every so often, power goes unchecked, and corruption grows like a flesh-eating bacterial infection -- as we saw with the Nixon administration and the Democrats' 50-year monopoly over Congress.
That's why it's all the more important for the Democratic Party to get their act together. Either the Republicans are going to screw up or something bad is going to happen that the public will blame on the Republicans. If the face of the Democratic Party is still the anti-war Left, then that faction could get be unduly promoted, or the public will continue to reject them, leaving the corruption in the Republican Party to continue to fester unimpeded.
Clueless: John Kerry blames his loss on Osama Bin Laden's releasing a video days before the election. Kerry believes the visual of Bin Laden scared Americans into supporting their commander in chief. I guess that's what "moral values" means today. At least he's not so dense as to blame gay marriage like some of his peers.
The Bin Laden tape didn't scare anyone. I saw a weakened terrorist who was more conciliatory now that his ranks have been decimated. Instead of launching an attack before the election, which many of us expected him to do, he videotaped a monologue. The only indictments he could lay on our nation and its leaders are bits he pulled from a Michael Moore movie (and it's sickening that the filmmaker was proud that Osama Bin Laden was quoting his work). Bin Laden is still a threat, and he will carry out more attacks against us. Our decision to fight back isn't based on fear. It's resolve.
There still seems to be a lot of misunderstandings between the Reds and the Blues. If you haven't seen this, you should read this open letter from a Red State resident to the Democratic Party. There are also two excellent essays, here and here, written by centrists (hat tip, Centerfield) explaining that we're not so different after all.
Delay Tactics: The Republicans are hypocrites for getting rid of a rule now that it no longer suits them. While they looked all high and mighty when they were the minority party by preventing indicted House members from taking leadership roles -- to show up the Democrats -- now such shackles of "reform" are deemed inconvenient.
That being said, I do feel for Tom DeLay for being the latest target of Ronnie Earle's political crusades. I'm no fan of DeLay, not by a long shot. But this isn't the first time Ronnie Earle has made headlines for himself through a widely publicized investigation.
For those who don't know, Ronnie Earle is the District Attorney for Travis County, Texas. Travis County is, of course, home to the city of Austin, which is a liberal bastion in a conservative state -- a bright Blue Dot in a deep Red State, if you will. It's also one of my favorite places on Earth.
There is a quirk in Texas law that puts all of the states elected officials, for both state and federal offices, under the investigative power of the Travis County District Attorney (because Austin is the state capital). Ronnie Earle has made a career delighting his constituents by dragging politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, through the mud.
Each of the investigations, which rarely it seems produces a conviction, have always been deemed political in nature. This one is probably no different, considering DeLay's controversial involvement in redistricting congressional seats in Texas. I'm betting that DeLay won't be convicted for any of the fundraising funny business he's been accused of. I could be wrong, considering I don't know all the facts in the case, but that's just a hunch.
Am I upset that The Hammer might get knocked off his high horse, if not criminally then at least politically? Not at all. But it's hard to support the tactics of Ronnie Earle. Then again, it's equally hard to stomach watching the Republicans adopt one ethics policy as a minority party in order to gain power, only to cast it aside after they have secured control. Election after election, it remains politics as usual.
Update: The GOP finally changed course on this.
The Birth of a Moderate: Some people are pushing for Mark Warner, the Democratic governor of Virginia, to run for president in 2008 (doncha hate these 2008 speculation stories?). There's even a blog dedicated to recruiting him. I'm a Virginia resident and a pretty big fan of Gov. Warner. In fact, he's the reason I started calling myself a "staunch moderate".
I was driving in my car listening to the news a few years ago, when a report summarized what the Gov. Warner had done in the past week. I'm still fuzzy on the details of exactly what action he took, but I believe the governor had vetoed a bill that would have made it much more difficult for women to get an abortion if they needed one (good move). Then, the report said, in order to take a moderate stance and not upset conservatives, he also vetoed a bill that would have further restricted the use of guns in the state (another good move).
The reporter used the term "moderate" to make it sound like Gov. Warner was being wishy-washy, trying to appeal to both sides, not making any strong decisions by trying to make liberals happy then turning around and trying to make to make conservatives happy. But I thought, those were two good decisions. That's MY governor!
So he may very well be a good candidate for president. It's, obviously too soon to tell. I don't know where exactly he stands on the war, and we have no idea where the war will be in four years.
Plus, Mark Warner doesn't seem to have a lot of charisma, at least from what I've seen. So he might not be able to attract much interest outside his home state.
But it's good to see the Democrats speculating about strong moderates like Warner. Even if he's just a loud voice in the primaries, he may do the party a lot of good.
Scare Tactics: In a switch, conservatives are playing the PC card and are accusing liberals of racism. Why? Because lefties have the gall to mock and criticize the nominee for Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
In a series of political cartoons, Ms. Rice is depicted in an unflattering and critical light. But so is everyone else who appears in political cartoons. The only difference is she is a black woman. But that shouldn't keep her immune from criticism.
Conservatives would argue that if the tables were turned, liberals would be screaming racism. Well, then the liberals would be wrong, too. Conservatives used to be the ideology that shunned political correctness. Now they're using it as a political weapon.
There is a line that shouldn't be crossed, but nobody agrees where that line should be. In the past, liberals such as Harry Belafonte referred to Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as President Bush's "house slaves". That, in my opinion, is racist (even coming from a fellow African American). But Ms. Rice had a great reply, "If Harry Belafonte wants to disagree with my political views, that's fine. But I don't need Harry Belafonte to tell me what it means to be black."
Now, it seems, anytime a person of color is raked over the coals, for legitimate or overblown reasons, that person's race becomes an issue. But it's incredibly dangerous to dismiss all criticism against a person as racist, as it's akin to the Red Scare or a witch-hunt.
Flagrant accusations are effective at suppressing opposition speech, but that's the last thing we want in a society that promotes open discourse. And the accusation itself, in some respects, is racist, because it implies that just because the person is a racial minority, that he or she can't take the heat.
We broke a lot of ground during this administration in placing people of color in powerful government positions. That should be reason enough to stop discussing race and to keep the arguments focused on policy.
Off to a Great Start: Republicans are already heading the wrong direction. Instead of using this time right after the election to cut spending, they raised the debt ceiling again. This would be an ideal opportunity to rein in excess appropriations, considering that anybody they upset in the process will have calmed down by the next election. If the GOP keeps this up, the Democrats will soon grab the mantle of fiscal responsibility.
But so far the Democrats don't know how to react. In his first appearance since losing the presidential election, Sen. Kerry was stuck in campaign mode, blaming Bush for turning budget surpluses into deficits. This is such an inane argument, because everybody knows we lost the surpluses because of the recession, not because of what Bush did. Instead of looking backwards, the Democrats should be the party that looks into the future and say that, despite the past budget problems, we have no excuse now but to balance our budget. Otherwise we could find ourselves in serious financial trouble in the years to come.
The Real World, Fallujah: Unfortunately, war was not made for TV. While the Pentagon has reaped the benefits of positive coverage by embedding journalists with U.S. troops, officials there also have to grapple with negative perceptions from time to time.
The latest one stems from the NBC video showing a Marine shooting what appears to be an unarmed injured Iraqi insurgent. Some observers are claiming that the killing was a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.
But in the world of warfare, not everything is so cut and dry. I've never served in the military or seen real combat, but the situation seems more complicated than some are letting on.
Our enemies in Iraq are committing war crimes every day. They're booby-trapping dead bodies. They're faking surrender, then attacking our troops. They're faking death, then attacking our troops.
In addition to that, they don't wear uniforms. They are hiding among civilian populations. They kidnap and torture prisoners. And they video tape the torturing and killing of the prisoners. All these actions are illegal.
That doesn't give our troops the right to disregard the laws of warfare. But it does put their actions in a different context. Apparently, a Marine in the same unit as the one in the video had been killed tending to a dead Iraqi who had been booby-trapped. The Marines didn't want to take such a risk again that could cost them they're lives.
In the video, the Iraqi appeared to be dead, but the Marines believed he was faking. So that leaves two possible outcomes: Either the man really was dead, and the Marine wasted ammo by firing into a carcass. Or the man was alive but pretending to be dead, which means he was trying to trick the Marines for some reason. And that leads me to believe that the Marines were acting in self-defense.
Let's have an investigation. Let's make sure nothing went wrong so we can put the issue to rest. But let's not assume we know better from the comfort of our living room couches. In war, you can't presume innocent until proven guilty. These troops are facing realities that many of us could never imagine.
Backfire: I had never heard of Theo Van Gogh. I had never seen any of his films. I didn't know anything about what he stood for.
The terrorists always fail to grasp the fact that whenever they attack something or someone, they inadvertently elevate what they are trying to destroy. It's beautiful irony that, after his murder, Theo Van Gogh has become larger than life.
State of Nature: When scorpions lack a common enemy or prey, they sometimes attack each other in an act of cannibalism. Now the Republican Party seems intent on doing the same thing.
Lacking any adequate political adversary, conservatives are turning their sights on the moderates within the party. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania made the mistake of publicly doubting the ability of the Senate to confirm new Supreme Court justices who seek to overturn Roe v. Wade, and he became an enemy of the American Family -- or at least some Association that claims to represent them.
These conservatives want to prevent Specter from becoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for which he is next in line, to limit his influence on approving federal judges nominated by President Bush. If the far-right has its way, they will lose Specter's support and as a result will weaken the power of the Republican Party.
Republicans may be the top dog in town now. But they can't let their power get to their heads. I know hard-core conservatives who would rather the Republican Party play smart and take a moderate approach to running the government than to let the extremists run the asylum at the risk of losing national political support. The decision Republicans make with Specter could be an indication as to whether the party has the brains to stay in charge for awhile.
P.S. The American Family Association is also targeting Proctor & Gamble for actively recruiting "individuals who practice the abnormal and destructive homosexual lifestyle to come to work for the company." In response, the association wants people to boycott P&G products. In case you don't know what the company produces, here's a list. I guess right-wing homophobes and nutty animal-rights groups have a common enemy. I encourage them to boycott P&G products such as soap, laundry detergent, and toothpaste. That way we can smell them coming ahead of time.
Running Out of Firsts: Condoleezza Rice appears to be next in line to become Secretary of State. She's the second African American to take the position. She's also the second woman. I think it's a good sign of progress that she isn't the first in either category, unless you start to combine and stretch (ie, first African American who is also a woman, first black person to replace a black cabinet officer, etc.).
Soon we'll stop making comments about how noteworthy it is that we don't have to make comments. And that will be a sign of real progress.
Progress: Within weeks after Bush's re-election, Iran has pledged to abandon its ambition of nuclear weapons. Europe has been negotiating with Iran for quite some time and won concessions from the Axis of Evil member. At the very end of a Washington Post article about this issue, we find this little nugget:
European diplomats said Bush's reelection helped the negotiations by limiting Iran's options. Had Democrat John F. Kerry won, Iran might have tried to play for time or probe what policy shifts a new administration was considering, they said.Bush actually isn't happy with the final results, reports indicate. He wanted to take a tougher stance and concede less to Iran. But as a result, this really puts him in the best situation. He has a promise from Iran to stop seeking nuclear weapons. But if Iran strays from the agreement even a little, Bush can still act forcefully against that country, because the U.S. was never officially party to the agreement.
The situation is far from settled, and we have a lot of problems to overcome. But this shows that the United States can take a hard line against nations that support terrorism and still won't lose the help from our European allies.
More: Michael Moore plans to release a sequel to his latest movie in two to three years. He plans to call it Fahrenheit 9-11 1/2.
The organization, though, that helped distribute the original is called the Fellowship Adventure Group. With an acronym like that, I guess the movie Team America was more spot on than I originally thought.
RIP: The only terrorist mastermind who managed to win the Nobel Peace Prize is dead and buried. That's one obstacle to peace in the Middle East that has been removed. But there are still plenty others.
Baby Steps: I hadn't realized this, but it looks like the Democrats are going with Harry Reid of Nevada as the Senate Minority leader after Daschle's fall. Reid was the heir apparent, having previously served as the Minority Whip.
But some Democrats were concerned about selecting someone from a Red State, saying such a leader would be vulnerable in future elections. Many of them wanted a devout liberal from a Blue State.
Now Nevada is more pink than red, but Senator Reid seems to be a strong moderate lawmaker. We'll see what happens when he actually starts using his power, but so far it seems like this is a good step for the Democrats.
Half the Battle: It's very disconcerting to me that I know so much about the military endeavors in Iraq. I knew weeks ahead of time that Coalition forces were planning to retake Fallujah. I knew that the purpose of this mission was to round up terrorists and to disrupt their base of operations.
If I could find out all that information on WashingtonPost.com, just think of how much the terrorists know.
Now Coalition forces have almost completed the mission, as most of Fallujah is under our control. But Zarqawi and most of the terrorists are nowhere to be found. For some reason they booked early and decided to conduct operations elsewhere.
I'm all for openness in our government and its actions. But during a war, there are some things I expect not to know. When it comes to military action, please, surprise me, and take the terrorists by surprise as well.
This Just In! From the White House:
The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.Those are the words from U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, in his letter of resignation.
I'm not going to get into any evaluation of Mr. Ashcroft's performance, for the time being. But I had no idea that we had already solved the issue of crime and terrorism. Hell, I might as well take the rest of the day off from blogging.
Taxing Sanity: Republicans were re-elected to win the War on Terrorism, and now they're talking about overhauling the tax code. That's fine, we can discuss it. But I don't imagine anything beneficial will come from this.
Conservatives talk about getting rid of the IRS and instituting a flat tax. But why would we do that? A flat tax would mean no tax deductions for charitable contributions, mortgages, education costs, medical costs, and a host of other targeted tax breaks. We have those tax breaks now because they're popular, and people need them.
If you think the tax code is too complicated, don't make any deductions, or don't ask for a refund. It's simple, and accomplishes the same as a flat tax. (The same can be said for all you people who don't like Bush's tax cuts. You're more than welcome to offer more of your money to the federal government. Go ahead.)
Another proposal is for a national sales tax. But that could easily become a national nightmare. Consumption taxes, such a sales tax, are notoriously regressive, meaning they hurt the poor harder than the rich. Poor people spend a greater percentage of their income than rich people do. (A person making $30,000 per year will likely spend at least $29,000, or 96-percent, to live. Whereas a person making $400,000 per year would likely only spend $300,000, or 75-percent, to live.) That would also dissuade rich people from buying things, which hurts the economy. You'll never be able to stop people from wanting to make more money, but it's easy to give them second thoughts about wanting to spend it.
And in practical terms, I would dread a national sales tax. It's frustrating enough while shopping to calculate in your head what an additional 5- or 8-percent tax will bring the final cost to. I don't want to figure out 15- or 18-percent tax. I became a writer for a reason -- I hate math. Now, if stores would include the tax when listing prices, that would make things easier. In fact, why don't they?
Anyhow, we can have a discussion about this. But with so many competing interests out there, don't expect to see any substantive changes.
The Moo Vote: I'm really tired of conservatives touting these color-coded maps showing how many counties Bush won in the United States. USA Today shows that Bush got about 3-million square miles opposed to Kerry's half million. And somehow righties translate this into a greater mandate for the president.
See those blue dots on the map? Those make up most of the largest population centers of the United States. Yes, large groups of people tend to live in bunches here. It's a curious habit of humans, but that's just the way it is.
There isn't much in most of those Red Counties. That map really doesn't tell me anything, other than that if cows could vote, Republicans would have it made.
Blind Rage: I don't know why I still pay attention to this stuff. I'm not actively looking for it, but I happen to run across it during my surfing of political sites.
Just when I think I've seen it all, I find something else that absolutely takes my breath away.
Moral Outrage: In many of the post-mortems, a lot of liberals seem to be blaming the same-sex marriage issue for Kerry's defeat. Their evidence, a plurality of Republican voters saying "moral values" was the top reason for voting for Bush.
While it's a shame that many people in this country aren't yet comfortable with the idea of homosexuality, let's not blow the gay issue out of proportion. Not everybody who voted for Bush is a blue-balled red neck.
The term "moral values" is too ambiguous. It's a catchall phrase used to say someone has good character. Do some people believe homosexuality is a moral issue? Sure. But many of the same people also believe sticking to your word shows moral character, as does fighting fascism.
For some reason, many people on the Left are trying to downplay the importance of the War on Terrorism in this election. That may help you feel better, but it doesn't necessarily follow the facts. Exit polls indicate that among the people who voted, 23 percent cited "moral values" as their most important issue, 20 percent said "economy/jobs", 19 percent said "terrorism", and 15 percent said "Iraq".
For one thing, the percentages are pretty close. And another, many people -- not all, but many -- consider the War on Terrorism to include both "terrorism" and "Iraq". Considering that, you can't argue that the War on Terrorism was second to gay marriage.
Luckily some lefties are trying to kill that idea before it solidifies to become conventional wisdom. Because if it does, the Democrats will completely miss the important lesson of this election and will end up in worse shape than they already are. And right now we need a strong opposition to keep the ruling party in check.
What's Next? I just got this e-mail from a reader:
So I've been reading your blogs for awhile now, and I have no one to blame but myself about how I voted this year. I don't have my own party, and I'm sick of it.I wish I had an easy answer, but I don't think anybody knows how to break the two-party oligopoly at this point. It's been tried, but it is rarely successful. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying.
How does one start a political party? I know several people who don't fit in with Dems or Reps.
I think the time to do this is post-haste.
Thanks for any advice.
Historically, successful new parties have centered around a popular individual that attracts national attention (Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party) or sprung from a popular issue and later evolve (stopping the spread of slavery and the Republican Party).
While there are many of us centrists, moderates, and independents, the hard part will be finding enough central issues for us to agree upon in order to form a cohesive party. Recently, it seems, whenever new parties are formed, people from all walks of life latch on, initially thinking that this is the one that finally matches their views. Unfortunately, that usually isn't the case.
You then end up with what happened to the Reform Party. It gets started by a fiscal-conservative/social-moderate like Ross Perot. Then a fiscal-moderate/social-libertarian like Jesse Ventura becomes its most successful candidate. Finally, a social-conservative nutjob like Patrick Buchanan takes control of the party and crashes it into the ground.
While the decks are stacked against us, it's not an impossible undertaking. Hopefully we can get something going that, at the very least, will reform both major parties so they won't stay so extreme.
Update: Once again, Centerfield is on top of the issue. Apparently membership at the Centrist Coalition has shot up since the election ended. Perhaps as more people decided to participate in the election this year, they're realizing more than ever that neither party adequately represents their views.
Blue State Blues: I voted for Bush, but as I've said, I'm sure Kerry would have made a fine president. However, it still amazes me how much both sides vilify the other. Some people really believe four more years of Bush means the end of the world.
Centerfield has found a couple NYT articles featuring lefties on the Blue Coasts venting and crying about impending Armageddon. Here are a few quotables:
"I'm saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country -- the heartland," Dr. Joseph said. "This kind of redneck, shoot-from-the-hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion is prevalent in Bush country -- in the heartland."Even newspaper columnists describe Bush's victory as "a jihad in America" and compare Christians in this country to Al Qaeda. Instapundit has pictures of San Francisco protesters with signs such as, "I'm ashamed to be an American". I guess that makes sense, because America is ashamed of people like him as well.
"New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realize we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what's going to injure masses of people is not good for us," he said.
His friend, Ms. Cohn, a native of Wisconsin who deals in art, contended that New Yorkers were not as fooled by Mr. Bush's statements as other Americans might be. "New Yorkers are savvy," she said. "We have street smarts. Whereas people in the Midwest are more influenced by what their friends say."
[and on the West side]
"I am prepared to keep my head down, possibly for the rest of my life, under a totalitarian regime," Mr. Conklin said.
"It just made me cry," Terry Mitchell, 54, an audiologist in Oakland, said of Mr. Bush's re-election. "I am sad that America is asleep at the wheel."
"I am depressed, but I am also just really angry at the rest of the country's ignorance," Ms. Sloan said.
I have to admit, if that's the way some of these people really think, then their misery brings a smile to my face.
I do know that these are just the extreme cases, and that the Right has more than their fair share of extremists as well. I'd like to think that this election will be a wake-up call that hate has no place in politics, that it only leads to defeat. But I'm not so confident about that just yet.
Update: Who are these people? And why are they given a forum to preach their hate?
Backwards: One of the casualties associated with Bush's win is the further attack on gay rights. This election, 11 states amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage, some going so far as to also ban civil unions. This is not just a coincidence, as the Bush campaign used gay marriage as a "values" issue to get conservatives to the polls.
It's a shame that so many states tainted their constitutions with such homophobia. The progress of gay rights is inevitable, as soon as people realize there's nothing wrong with two individuals loving each other even if they are both men. Unfortunately it will take some time, just like it did with the Civil Rights movement.
These amendments will be a deep scar on many state constitutions for some time. Just like previous bans on inter-racial marriage, these states are eventually going to realize that they must erase the bigotry from their laws. Hopefully they'll realize this as soon as possible.
Red Faced: As you know, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle lost his seat to John Thune. The South Dakota senator couldn't maintain his blue streak in a Red State.
Daschle is a likable guy, but I get the feeling that justice was served with his ouster. The Democratic leader was Bush's biggest roadblock during the past four years, obstructing much of Bush's agenda in the Senate.
That's all fine and good, except that Daschle became two-faced about it when he ran for re-election. During all of Bush's first term, Daschle was pictured almost daily in The Washington Post as Bush's loyal opposition, especially concerning the decision to invade Iraq and about how the war was carried out. Then when Daschle ran for re-election, he would be reported in small newspapers telling his constituents that he supports Bush's foray into Iraq and believes that the war is going quite well.
He could have leveled with the people of South Dakota and said, "Yes, I know you support Bush's agenda. But right now Republicans control all three branches of government. We need a strong voice challenging the president. Only if we have some honest opposition will the government make smarter choices. And we will all be better off for it."
But instead he tried to have it both ways. And I lose respect for him for doing that. I suspect that the people of South Dakota gave up a senator with so much clout as Daschle because they wanted someone who would be honest with them.
Now Democrats are looking for a new minority leader. Among the criteria, some partisans are calling for someone from a Blue State so that person won't be vulnerable like Daschle was.
A Blue-Stater is fine. But there's nothing wrong with someone from a Red State. The new leader would just have to be a bit more moderate as a result. And, who knows, such a person might help the Democratic Party gain some traction they so desperately need in the fly-over country.
Indivisible: I would like to have a word with the two Americas. And, if you don't mind, I would like to speak to each of you separately. Please disregard the paragraph that's not addressed to you.
Conservatives -- You earned a solid victory, but this was a close election among a bitterly divided population. Despite the fact that your candidate at one point garnered a 90-percent approval rating, his re-election still came as a surprise to many. This, to say the least, is not a Carte Blanche mandate. While Bush has done some good things as president, he has also alienated half of this country and much of the world. Now this is not irreparable damage. Bush can continue his vision, but he must do it in a humble manner that brings back the disaffected. He needs to show that he's learned something from this election.
Liberals -- You lost. This is the second time you lost when it came to deciding how to defend this country. The 2002 midterm elections strengthened the Republican hold in Congress. This year, we just requested four more years of President Bush, based heavily on his war record. It's time for you to give up on the anti-war factions and join us in fighting aggressively for this country. If you do that, then you'll be able to gain enough power to push liberal social issues and prevent the far right from controlling the agenda. But the people in this country want to take a hard line against terrorists and Middle Eastern dictators. Please join us in the fight.
Despite our continued differences, we have to rally in support of our president. This does not mean we're not allowed to criticize him, far from it, but we can do without the hate. However, we have to understand that he reflects the will of the majority of the people. We need to hold him accountable and help him reach the right goals that help America.
In the next four years, Bush needs to make these accomplishments:
Make Iraq succeed. Not only do we need to quell the insurgency and capture or kill Zarqawi, but we must also make legitimate elections work and help prosperity take root. The violence needs to subside quickly. Then we can foster a culture of freedom in that country over the next few years.While I can sense the bitterness of the Kerry supporters, not all is lost. This campaign has shed light on major shortcomings of the Bush administration. The first presidential debate brought up important issues that Bush won't be able to ignore. We're still divided, but I think this election can actually make us stronger. A good fight can toughen both sides. And we'll be a smarter and stronger country if we choose to pull together.
Handle Iran. That country sponsors terrorism, not only abroad but also within Iraq. It is developing WMD, including nuclear weapons. While military conflict is not yet likely there, we can't afford to let that country continue what it's doing unchecked. Iran is a major front in the War on Terrorism, and we must take a tough stand.
Fix the deficit. Re-election is over. There's no need to pander to the electorate by buying them off. This administration needs to practice its fiscal conservatism and show some budgetary responsibility.
Improve healthcare. Too many people in this country do not have health insurance or access to quality health coverage. It should become one of the government's priorities to fix that.
Capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. I know he's more of a spiritual leader than a mastermind, and defeating him won't have much real effect in preventing terrorism. But he is a terrorist icon that needs to be snubbed. I don't want to see any more of his stupid videos.
Continue to destroy Al Qaeda. Their cells are becoming more autonomous as they scatter around the world. They are elusive. But they have to be stopped.
Protect this country. I was wrong about there being a terrorist attack before the election. That says a lot about how well this administration has been able to maintain security. But we're still not safe. Terrorists will redouble their efforts to attack us, and they will succeed. While a successful terrorist attack is not a sign of failure, we can't lose the momentum in this fight.
It's Over: Although technically Ohio is still in contention, the fact is that George W. Bush has won re-election as President of the United States. It was a closely divided election, but Bush won solidly, earning an impressive win. This is the first time that a presidential candidate has garnered more than 50 percent of the popular vote since the 1980s. Even Clinton never accomplished that.
Of course, it's only the Electoral College that matters. And that's still divided among pretty much the same Red States and Blue States as in the 2000 election. However, Bush has earned the requisite 270 electoral votes needed to win, possibly garnering a total of 286.
I understand that Senator Kerry doesn't want to give up prematurely only to find out that he had a reasonable expectation to win. But it appears that it's all but impossible for him to pull this one out. For the sake of the country, he needs to come to that conclusion soon and concede. Otherwise, desperation among some of his supporters might kick in, and rumors of stolen elections and fraud will start to seep out, even though there is no evidence of that.
There's a lot we have to learn from this election. But before we can pay attention to the lessons, we have to put this campaign behind us. It's time to move forward.
Update: Kerry has conceded. The senator is a class act, and I hope he continues to be a strong and loyal opposition to President Bush during the next four years.
Crunch Time: I can't say I've gotten much work done today. So I'm going to head out and meet with some friends to watch the results come in. I've got a bottle of scotch I'm going to enjoy while I make fun of news anchors and their small talk.
While searching for news, I found this pledge from BuzzMachine about putting country ahead of party. I agree to follow it, and I think we all should.
After the election results are in, I promise to:I'll see y'all tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have a decision by then. God Bless.
: Support the President, even if I didn't vote for him.
: Criticize the President, even if I did vote for him.
: Uphold standards of civilized discourse in blogs and in media while pushing both to be better.
: Unite as a nation, putting country over party, even as we work together to make America better.
Dah! I can't believe The Washington Post. That paper has apparently already forgotten what contributed a large portion of the Florida fiasco of 2000. In the last election, news agencies around the country called the state at 7 p.m. Eastern Time for Al Gore, even though polls in the Florida panhandle (which goes by Central Time) were open for an hour later. Reports indicate that voters in that largely conservative area left before voting when they heard the state tally was over.
Now The Post is listing Florida polls as closing at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. ABC correctly lists Florida's polls as closing at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Hopefully other news organizations aren't making the same mistake. And hopefully none of them will prematurely call Florida or any other teetering state one way or the other. But for some reason now it wouldn't surprise me if they did.
Elsewhere: France is reportedly tougher on nabbed terrorist suspects than we are here, including the ones we've got locked up at Gitmo. Maybe we aren't so different after all.
Wild Cards: CapitalWeather.com says most of the nation is experiencing pleasant weather, which analysts predict will help the Democrats. The only exception is Ohio, which may see some heavy rain, and that could affect voter turnout in favor of the Republicans. And of course, Ohio is one of the big ones teetering helplessly, ready to fall in either direction.
Plus, keep an eye on a brand new resource, BlogTheVote.org, which is tracking all the voter complaints about polling irregularities. After the Florida debacle of 2000, polling officials are no doubt being more careful to make sure nothing goes wrong. But I'm sure there are also more people than ever before vigilantly sniffing out problems. This may become very entertaining, or ugly, depending on your vantagepoint.
Kiss Me, I Voted: Election Day is finally here. And all of us as Americans can agree that it's about damn time we get this thing over with.
It took me about an hour and a half to get through the voting line at my precinct this morning. During the wait, three people directly in front of me eventually gave up and left. I don't know if apathy suddenly struck them, but I hope they don't think they'll be able to vote after work. I'm guessing that many people who wait until the end of the day are going to get shut out when the polls close while they're still in line.
There were at least five camera crews from various foreign news networks milling about. The German station interviewed me, even though I told them that I couldn't publicly reveal my vote because I work for a newspaper. The reporter didn't seem to care and continued to ask me questions, such as, Why do people believe this election is more important than ones in the past? (Well, I reckon it's got something to do with this here war.)
Hopefully I didn't embarrass myself for the German viewers with my 7 a.m. interview. It's up to the translator now to make me look good.
All I can say is that the tension is high. Everybody is worried that their guy is going to lose. Just remember, we're choosing between two white, male, wealthy, Yale-educated, Skull-and-Crossbones belongin' cousins (ninth cousins, twice removed). Just relax, and enjoy the show.
??? Is it me, or did all the fonts on my blog just change out of nowhere? I have to say, I'm getting fed up with Blogger.
UPDATE: It appears to be back to normal. Someday I'm gonna learn how to work these here computer thingamajigs.
Hatred: When they say all politics is personal, I don't think they mean politics should be taken so personally. But some people can't help it. They get so emotionally involved that they become insulted if somebody doesn't agree with them.
This hate emanates from both sides. So many people are voting against a candidate rather than for anyone this election. And if you ask them why, you're usually answered not with words but with a series of grunts (ie, "He's just so -- ugh."), often accompanied by a shudder or a gag reflex. The policies and issues are largely a side note compared to the visceral reaction people have to certain candidates.
I know that politics has been nasty since the beginning of time, but the hatred seems to get worse every year. The Republicans took it to a new level a few years ago by impeaching a sitting president on trumped up charges. The fact that "that man" was in the White House was cause for consternation among conservatives.
Now the Left has decided to sink to the same level, and sometimes lower. Folks like Michael Moore get away with practically making up absurd allegations against the president -- and millions of people pay to see his trash, and worse, they believe it. MoveOn.org posts ads on their Web site that compare Bush to Hitler (then claim that because they didn't give the ads a prize, they weren't really sponsoring them).
Celebrities are losing fans because they're campaigning for the wrong guy. Of course, the fact that they're campaigning at all is a little silly. These people are actors/actresses, singers/songwriters, and professional athletes. They have no government experience or expertise. But they do have a deep-seated hatred for a candidate, and they have a big microphone. That means we are forced to listen to every damn word they have to say.
The Left and Right are so intent on attacking each other that they often lose sight of our real enemies. People actually believe Bush is more dangerous than Saddam Hussein was. Mass murder, real widespread oppression, and support for terrorism is one thing, but don't get them started on the Patriot Act.
Most people can't stay awake through a high-school government course, but they may have an anxiety attack if the wrong guy wins tomorrow. Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I don't think that even a horrible president could hurt this country too badly. Americans are too strong to let a bad politician screw things up. We survived a power-hungry villain like Nixon. We also survived an impotent weakling like Carter.
This election, we have two men running who love this country so much that they have endured the unforgiving spotlight and trash compactor that is American politics just so they have the chance to be the scapegoat for whatever goes wrong during the next four years. While I would give my left eye for two better candidates, I will feel safe and satisfied with either one of them as my president.
My Prediction: I never understood why political types make predictions. If you're right, nobody cares. If you're wrong, people hold it over your head forever.
That being said, I spent some time procrastinating at work compiling what I think the final Electoral College tally will be. So, I thought I'd share. All predictions wrong, or your money back (apologies to Gregg Easterbrook).
Final Tally: Bush 276 and Kerry 262
State by State Breakdown, in order of percentage of the popular vote won, from Bush to Kerry. (Electoral vote count for each state in parentheses):
Wyoming (3) Bush
Utah (5) Bush
Idaho (4) Bush
Texas (34) Bush
Oklahoma (7) Bush
Kansas (6) Bush
Nebraska (5) Bush
North Dakota (3) Bush
South Dakota (3) Bush
Montana (3) Bush
Alaska (3) Bush
Alabama (9) Bush
Georgia (15) Bush
South Carolina (8) Bush
Indiana (11) Bush
Kentucky (8) Bush
Mississippi (6) Bush
North Carolina (15) Bush
Louisiana (9) Bush
Tennessee (11) Bush
Arizona (10) Bush
Virginia (13) Bush
Arkansas (6) Bush
Missouri (11) Bush -- (208 definite votes for Bush)
New Mexico (5) Bush
Nevada (5) Bush
West Virginia (5) Bush
Colorado (9) Bush*
Florida (27) Bush
Iowa (7) Bush
Wisconsin (10) Bush -- (68 iffy votes for Bush)
Ohio (20) Kerry
Pennsylvania (21) Kerry
Michigan (17) Kerry
New Hampshire (4) Kerry
Minnesota (10) Kerry -- (72 iffy votes for Kerry)
New Jersey (15) Kerry
Hawaii (4) Kerry
Delaware (3) Kerry
Maine (4) Kerry
Oregon (7) Kerry
Washington (11) Kerry
California (55) Kerry
Connecticut (7) Kerry
Maryland (10) Kerry
New York (31) Kerry
Vermont (3) Kerry
Rhode Island (4) Kerry
Illinois (21) Kerry
Massachusetts (12) Kerry
District of Columbia (3) Kerry -- (190 definite votes for Kerry)
*There is that item on the Colorado ballot to change the state's electoral vote winnings from a winner-take-all standard to a proportional distribution, effective this election. If that passes, then Bush would most likely get 5 and Kerry would get 4, changing the final outcome to Bush 272 and Kerry 266.
Now for Something Completely Different: A trained dog saves a woman's life by dialing 911 and barking for help. The Rottweiler used its nose to hit the speed-dial button, then removed the handset and barked continuously in the receiver. The dog also unlocked the door for the police. Money quote:
"I sensed there was a problem on the other end of the 911 call," said dispatcher Jenny Buchanan. "The dog was too persistent in barking directly into the phone receiver. I knew she was trying to tell me something."I'm assuming the dispatcher must have grown up watching Lassie reruns. I wonder if the police were originally dispatched for a young boy trapped in a well on a farm, or something.
Please Disregard: According to Drudge, ABC News soon will be showing a terrorist video threatening massive attacks that dwarf the destruction of 9/11 -- as punishment for electing Bush as president.
I appreciate that the terrorists are reminding everybody that we have an evil enemy in need of being destroyed. However, we should not kowtow to their demands, either by voting for Kerry in fear or voting for Bush out of spite. Every American should disregard any "advice" from terrorists and continue to vote as already planned.
As I've said before, the reason terrorists want to help Kerry win isn't because they think he would go easy on them. They simply want to influence the American elections, like they did in Spain, as a demonstration of power. Both Bush and Kerry have pledged to destroy the terrorist networks. And I have confidence that both men will stand by their word.
On a side note, it is interesting that terrorists have released this video, giving a vague threat instead of carrying out an attack. It almost seems like they don't have the capability to follow through with an actual attack, so they sent out a vid instead. Still, I do expect some sort of attack to occur within the next few days. I hope I'm wrong.
Stay Out: The Russian and Italian presidents have openly endorsed Bush. The Spanish and Venezuelan chief executives are openly supporting Kerry. All around the world, an unprecedented number of foreign leaders are offering their two cents worth in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
With all do respect, foreign leaders should keep their mouths shut. It is diplomatically inappropriate for national leaders to try to meddle with any other country's election, even through a simple endorsement.
This election is going down to the wire. We truly don't know whether Bush or Kerry will be taking the oath of office in January. While I'm sure foreign leaders have strong opinions on the matter, they should maintain the public appearance that they are just as willing to work with one man as president as the other.
Cursed Worst: Now more than ever, it's gotta suck to be a Cubs fan.
Way to go, Red Sox! Hopefully this will keep you quiet for the next 85 years. :)
Endorsement: I'm breaking new ground this Election Day. For the first time ever I'm going to vote for a major-party candidate for president. Last time I chose Nader, not because I agree with his views but because I was hoping to help him reach 5-percent so maybe we could grow some viable third parties. Before that I chose Perot for the same reason.
This time, though, too much is on the line. First of all, I probably contributed to the election fiasco of 2000 by wimping out and not making a real decision. And now that we're at war, we need to pick a commander-in-chief who will best fight that war. That's why I'm going to vote for George W. Bush for a second term as president.
For regular readers of this blog (both of you) this doesn't come a big surprise. While I won't try to defend everything Bush stands for or has done while in office, I do believe he's done a great job as president.
Since 9/11, Bush has put our team on offense and put the terrorists on the run. We turned Afghanistan from a Taliban stronghold controlled by Osama Bin Laden to a free country that just held its first democratic elections. Terrorists are hiding in caves on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, unable to find a home to coordinate their global terrorist attacks effectively.
Now that our spies and allies (and we still have many, despite what others try to say) are helping us continue to round up Al Qaeda and other terrorists, we decided to finish the job in Iraq by removing Saddam Hussein from power and planting the seed of democracy there to help change the culture of the Middle East. This is an endeavor that won't spring immediate results, but it will make our country and indeed the world safer in the long run.
Bush has been able to conduct operations that lead to immediate tactical victories while also setting the wheels in motion for long-term change. Bush has a vision about how we can wage this war and make the world a safer place, and I'm impressed by what he is accomplishing.
I do disagree with Bush on many issues, including his opposition to same-sex marriage and stem-cell research. But right now the war is the most important issue facing us. The Federal Marriage Amendment will not pass, so I can rationalize that away. Stem-cell research will continue without federal support. And Bush simply will not be able to harm other liberal causes, such as abortion rights.
I would be open to removing Bush for a viable opponent. But I just don't see that in John Kerry. I want my president to be resolute and firm. It's not so much that Kerry flip-flops, it's that he never really takes a strong stand. He always chooses his positions in such a way so that he has a quick exit strategy from his own beliefs. His evolution from advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction to claiming that the Iraq war was a distraction is a textbook example of political pandering. When the war became unpopular, he echoed that sentiment on cue, despite his past beliefs.
Yes, I wish that the war had gone better. I wish that we had made no mistakes. But no war ever goes perfectly.
What I can't stand the most is the hatred coming from Bush's opponents. The "Anybody But Bush" crowd really believes that our president is an evil man who is recklessly blowing up people for oil and wants to bring about some sort of fascist state in this country. I can't trust the irrational hatred of those people, and I don't want to put them in charge.
This was not a war of choice. We were attacked, and we will be attacked again, no matter how successful we are. Our enemies want to create a world-wide Islamofascist state, to remove women from schools and public life by hiding them in burqas, to prevent people from having the choice to read and do what they please, and to destroy any wealth and prosperity that others enjoy. These are barbarians who want to bring down our society. I don't think they'll be successful. But I want to make sure by keeping Bush in charge so we can defeat them.
P.S. No, this doesn't make me a Republican, a conservative, or any other predetermined status. This makes me a single-issue voter. I'm still a staunch moderate, for the reasons outlined in the "about" section. And I pledge that whoever wins on November 2 will get my unwavering support as well as my scrupulous critiques.
Flip-Flop? During this campaign, I've become a big fan of Christopher Hitchens and his articles. He is a liberal who has been able to articulate a hawkish stance with powerful evidence and rhetoric. So, like many others, I was curious to see which candidate he would endorse.
Apparently he embodies the national mood right now, because he can't seem to make a decision.
He wrote an article for The Nation entitled "Why I'm (Slightly) for Bush". Then in Slate, he joined other contributors in offering a couple paragraphs explaining how he plans to vote. And there he chose Kerry.
The funny thing about both contributions, if you read the text without reading the headline, you wouldn't know for sure who he supports. Maybe he's being purposely ambiguous. Maybe he can't make up his mind. Or maybe we could just use two better candidates.
Dismissive: We don't expect many newspapers' opinion sections to endorse Bush over Kerry this year, considering that most editorial writers lean left. But I don't think you can just dismiss them all either.
Dick Cheney tried to do that when asked on the "Today" show about The Washington Post's endorsement of Kerry. Cheney responded, "I don't deem The Post a friendly paper."
Normally that could fly, but The Post has been a strong ally of the administration, from news reporters breaking stories about Rathergate to the opinion section supporting Bush's invasion of Iraq. While the charge of liberal bias is sometimes true, you can't use that response against all your critics, because some of them were your friends.
Info: This Web page, MyPollingSite.com, not only tells how to find your polling place, it also lets you easily find out what all is going to be on your ballot. Newspapers don't usually publish that until the Sunday before Election Day, forcing you to quickly cram information about a possible state constitutional amendment you didn't even know existed. Looks like a good resource.
Nightmare Election: This race is gearing to be as close as in 2000, but with one little twist -- both sides believe that if the wrong guy wins, the world will essentially come to an end.
Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post calls it Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder. People are literally losing sleep, waking from nightmares, and having trouble focussing at work [You sometimes let your political blogging interfere with your work. -ed --That's true, but ... Hey! This blog doesn't have an editor. Who the hell are you?] Ahem. Some people are close to losing their minds over this election.
It's true that we're at war and we have run into some difficulty not only executing the ground war but also gathering credible intelligence to protect ourselves. But both candidates have vowed to fight the terrorists. And both candidates have indicated that they have no plans to launch any more pre-emptive strikes against any countries. The difference is mostly over tactics and priorities. While we should pay close attention to the candidates' proposed tactics and decide which we support, we don't need to blow the differences out of proportion.
Still, that doesn't prevent hand wringing on both sides. Liberals are concerned that four more years of President Bush will bring the collapse of freedom in the United States, or worse. We've already seen what four years of Bush will bring. In the face of terrible crises, things have gone surprisingly well. If you're not satisfied, then vote for Kerry, but don't invent some terrible dooms-day scenario if Bush takes the oath of office again.
On the other hand, conservatives fear that Kerry will try to appease the terrorists and turn all our foreign policy decisions to France. Not only would Kerry not do that, but also he wouldn't have that power as president. While I do question some of his priorities, I will never question his dedication to wanting to protect this country from others.
In past elections, apathy has always been the main concern. Now the opposite is true. It's true that only half of eligible voters plan to actually visit the polling booth next Tuesday. But that half seems to worry disproportionately about the results.
Remember, apathy is a good thing. Apathy is usually a sign that life is stable and that things are moving along just fine. And apathy also is crucial to a democracy. In a 50-50 country, people need to care little enough so they don't try to stage a revolt if their guy loses. So I encourage everyone to vote, but then head to the bars for a drink, and remember that no matter who wins, we're going to be just fine. [You almost sound like you're trying to convince yourself. -ed --Get out of here. You're fired.]
Chosen People: While most of the world would vote for a Kerry presidency if they could, Bush does have at least one ally left -- Israel. An opinion poll found that most Israelis strongly support Bush for a second term. Conversely, Palestinians back Kerry.
While Bush has backed up his vocal support for Israel with strong actions, some people have openly questioned Kerry's commitment to the Jewish state. Much of this is unfounded Republican accusation, but even The Washington Post ran a column (thanks Centerfield) saying Israel may be a President Kerry's bargaining chip to get more allies involved in Iraq. The column comes across as wildly speculative, and Kerry has consistently says he supports Israel.
But it's a reminder that no matter what we do, good or bad, a large segment of the Middle East will hate us because of our sponsorship of Israel's right to exist. Of course, that's not Israel's fault, that's the fault of our enemies and their anti-Semitism. While it's a difficult balance to address the concerns of Arab leaders without neglecting Israel, that country is a stronger ally than a liability. It's also the most successful democracy in the Middle East at a time when we need freedom to flourish there in order to defeat terrorism.
Swingin': It's fun to travel to swing states so close to Election Day. I finally get to see in person what I've been reading in the news, the barrage of attack ads by both Kerry and Bush. But what interested me most were not the ads for national elections, but for the local ones here in Colorado.
On Monday, between the time that the Red Sox-Yankees game ended and Fox Sports put on the remainder of the Astros-Cardinals game, I must have seen six political ads and one Kia ad. The ads against Pete Coors actually say, "His beer is great, but his views are hard to swallow." And after viewing one particular ad, I feel compelled to vote against Amendment 34. Apparently the amendment is meant to help this one lawyer get rich by allowing him to file a whole bunch of lawsuits that will hurt the poor and needy -- at least that's what the commercial says.
And on the national scene, I had never heard this before, but now CNN is advertising that it is number one among undecided voters. Why would you ever brag about that?
Well, it's been busy as hell here, and I'm still on East Coast time. Time for bed.
Evil Empire: Hardly anyone likes the Yankees. Even here in Denver, the crowd in the bar lit up when the Red Sox won the game, tying the series after rallying from three games behind. You can bet that most of the nation is behind them this year.
Remote Location: I'll be traveling for a conference this week. Blogging may be light, but I'll try to pop in now and again.
Back in Action: At least seven former detainees of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that the U.S. released from prison have again joined the terrorists who threaten us and our troops.
If you wonder why we still have foreign prisoners at Gitmo, it's because this War on Terrorism is far from being over.
Let Dogs Lie: The latest bickering in this election seems to be over which campaign is lying more. Some people have tried to quantify both the number and severity of the lies. I'm not going to try to tip the scales in either direction. I do, however, want to point out that both campaigns are getting called liars even when they are making legitimate political points.
For example, people say President Bush is lying when he charges that Senator Kerry's "global test" amounts to giving other countries a veto over our security. Critics rightfully point out that Kerry has said loud and clear that he won't give any other country such a veto.
But that's not where the story ends. Kerry has also said that he wants to form a "legitimate coalition" for Iraq and other endeavors. Yet he has not adequately explained at what point he would draw the line between "going it alone" and waiting for others. He criticizes Bush for rushing to war in Iraq, even though the president spent months pleading with France, Russia, and the rest of the U.N. to commit to force. When it was obvious that they would not come along, we went to war with a small coalition that supported us.
Kerry needs to make it clear what he would have done differently. If he would have spent years and years negotiating with the U.N., that's essentially giving other countries a veto over our military. If he would have waited a couple months longer and gone on without the U.N., then his position is essentially no different than Bush's. Kerry can't have it both ways.
On the other side, political observers have called Kerry a liar, too, because he repeats the refrain that Bush wants to bring back the draft. Bush has said time and time again that we will keep an all-volunteer military. But we are at war. The attack on this country on 9/11 cost more lives and destruction than what happened at Pearl Harbor. And there was a draft for World War II (enacted shortly before we entered the war). It's perfectly plausible to think that we may need one again to protect this country from Islamofascists. It may not be apparent now, but Kerry is right to warn us that it could happen later.
There are other examples, too -- from Bush claiming that Kerry will raise everybody's taxes while Kerry denies it, and Kerry claiming that Bush will privatize Social Security while Bush denies it. It's true that politicians often lie about their opponents' positions. But don't forget that politicians also lie and exaggerate about their own positions as well. And both candidates are right to call out the other when they think it happens.
In the Homestretch: Head to head, there's no competition this year. The presidential debate knocked out the most anticipated rematch between classic rivals duking it out in baseball's American League playoffs.
I don't know how this compares to previous contests, but 51.2-million viewers tuned in to watch politicians make semi-coherent jokes about their wives, and only 15.2-million chose to watch the Red Sox take on the Yankees to see who goes to the World Series.
There are also reports that cities are being flooded with voter registration requests by people who generally don't vote. Some of these requests are even legitimate.
The war, the emotion, and the closeness in the polls are setting this election apart from most others. And because of all the new voters coming in, pollsters may not be able to accurately determine who is a likely voter, since they generally gauge that by voting patterns in the past. With all these wildcards, I wonder if it's possible to predict the outcome ahead of time.
I don't know about you, but I plan on finding one of those bipartisan bars here in DC on election night and watch the show as the returns come in. It's turning out to be one hell of a game.
Politics as Usual: That debate was dull, uneventful, uninspiring, and largely unimportant. Moderator Bob Schieffer kept asking questions about problems the President of the United States can do little to nothing to solve: cost of health care, job creation, flu shots, economic growth, etc. One of the few issues brought up that the president can make a difference is Social Security, and both candidates ducked that one.
The most important domestic issue that the president can control is federal spending. And at this point, we don't have any reason to trust either one of them to balance the budget. For voters, the debate will largely come down to which candidate made the best self-depreciating joke regarding his wife.
It was still strange how often foreign affairs came up in a debate that was supposed to focus solely on domestic issues. But the two are inextricably tied. Our success in foreign affairs determines our security at home.
And the Bush campaign wasn't too happy that Kerry kept emphasizing that Dick Cheney has a (cue Jon Stewart's voice) GAY DAUGHTER! I guess the Democrats hoping some Republican bigots will be so shocked that they'll stay home on Election Day.
As for the candidate's arguments, I'm still tired of Kerry comparing today's economic situation to that of the 1990s. That period of rapid economic growth was an anomaly caused by a hyperactive technology sector. When that cooled, before President Bush took office, we went into a recession. Yet Kerry says it's Bush's fault that we went from a deficit to a surplus that same year, even though Bush wasn't even president when the economy took a downturn.
Now Kerry says growing the economy again like in the 90s will save Social Security. Alan Murray, the "Raging Moderate" at The Wall Street Journal, says that's like planning your family budget by expecting to win the lottery.
However, Kerry was right to nail Bush on his plan to let today's workers take money out of Social Security for private investments. That would destroy the program and drive up the debt by trillions of dollars in order to pay for the current beneficiaries.
On the minimum wage issue, Kerry clearly won. The senator laid out a case arguing that the real value of the minimum wage is too low. Bush countered that he supported a minimum wage increase, but said nothing as to why it didn't pass while he was president. Then he started talking about No Child Left Behind.
While Bush seemed a little quick to change subjects to education, he's right to link job opportunity with education opportunity. The more educated and productive people here are, the more jobs will come here from overseas. Right now we're insourcing more jobs than we're outsourcing, and we can keep doing that if we make education more accessible to everybody.
It's strange that Bush ducked the affirmative action issue by talking about Pell Grants. Bush has a solid record of supporting affirmative action with his own policies (take a look at his Cabinet). But it's not popular among Republicans, so Bush changed the subject.
So that's the end of that. Kerry seems to be getting a lot of momentum in the polls from the debates. And time's running out.
Still, I have a feeling that something is still going to happen, perhaps a terrorist attack here at home, that could render all this moot. We'll just see how the voters react to it.