Archive for the ‘Justification for Invasion’ Category

Tony Blair States the Obvious, Critics Cannot Handle It

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Go, Tony:

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he would have found a justification for invading Iraq even without the now-discredited evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to produce weapons of mass destruction.

“I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean, obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat,” Blair told the BBC in an interview to be broadcast this morning.

It was a startling admission from the onetime British leader, who was President Bush’s staunchest ally in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Blair’s comments were immediately denounced by critics who accused him of using false pretenses to drag Britain into an unpopular war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of allied troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

What you’re seeing — on the other side of this little dust-up — is nothing less than the most successful propaganda drive since Roman times. “An unpopular war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of allied troops and thousands of blah blah blah blah blah.” The logic is absurd. You’d never in a million years say “Oh dear if only Saddam was still in charge things would be so much better and so many dead people would now still be alive.” Why is it so absurd, when “we all” have bought it and gobbled it up so fast? Because it was sold to us. Taking Saddam down, equals war and death. Leaving Saddam standing, equals peace, love and life. This is stupid. Lunatic and mind-blisteringly stupid.

Saul Alinsky tactics all the way. To merely acknowledge the brutality of Saddam and his two psychotic sons, has been frozen-and-personalized. It is extremist and partisan…even though it is nothing more than a simple observation.

I’ve actually spoken to leftists — not extreme leftists, at least they didn’t think of themselves that way, although they were certainly dedicated — who acknowledge Saddam was trying to build a nuclear weapon but the right thing to do would’ve been to leave him alone.

We let these people vote why? I’m quite serious. If you can’t see what’s dangerous about this, maybe you shouldn’t be voting either.

Call it a pre-crime if you want. That asshole needed to go.

And what’s up with this word “discredit”? Why is it being so selectively applied. I seem to recall Ted Danson said in 1988 that if we didn’t all go hardcore environmentalist right then & there, the oceans would disappear in ten years. So is all the global-warming alarmist rhetoric “discredited” as of 1998? What about To Big To Fail, is that discredited too? How about stimulus spending? Shouldn’t that be discredited?

Whatever, Los Angeles Times. You call it “discredited,” I call it a success. Mission Accomplished. Saddam Hussein was there, and now he isn’t. This is where all members of the human race with a working brain say “thank you.”

But I guess people who write for newspapers aren’t part of that.

Barack Hussein Bush

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Barack Hussein BushMan, I’ll bet the anti-war zealots are really pissed.

I’m talking about Barry’s Nobel speech. Blogger friend Buck sent me an offline, curious about my thoughts, noting that Sarah Palin liked it more-or-less just fine. (We are, newcomers can tell from the artwork, decidedly in her camp; our New Mexico friend sees something wrong with the safety net, and at this late hour is opting to remain in the burning building.) “Caribou Barbie” includes, it should be noted, a caveat in her positive remarks:

But while blowing a kiss, Palin also took a jab, suggesting Obama study the actions of his predecessor as he navigates two wars abroad. “By the way, I’d like to see President Obama follow more closely in the footsteps of George Bush and his passion for keeping the homeland safe,” she said.

So naturally Buck wanted to know my reaction. Well, I played a round of Obama Speech Bingo with it last night. I didn’t count the word “my” as a “me,” and mostly because of this, by the time I made it to the end we were seven squares away from a total blackout. Pretty good speech. Bingo here, bingo there, bingo everywhere…

And by the time we were done — as is subtly indicated by iOwnTheWorld (hat tip to American Digest), as well as by Tundra Princess, it reads an awful lot like something the Crawford Village Idiot would say. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

I wonder how this happens?

Well as a general rule, when a committed politician starts talking common sense it’s only because he’s been backed into a corner and is left with no other alternative. Michael Moore didn’t like Obama’s decision on Afghanistan…that logic used by the filmmaker is the logic used by an eight-year-old, wanting to get something and not getting it…”It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around.” Bit it signals big trouble for the O-man. A quote attributed apocryphally to LBJ is “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” If Obama’s losing Moore, He’s losing all the tie-dyed anti-war Haight-Ashbury crackpots.

Why is He backed into a corner? Because He’s got a real job now, one that demands real decisions. The unicorns will have to leave the Oval Office now, and head on out to the marshmallow sparkly pastures where they belong so real-world decisions can be made.

For those who don’t understand what I’m talking about, the President’s speech provides most of what’s missing. Palin, once again, is right: It truly is a good speech — if He means what He says.

More trouble for Sort-of-God: Blogger friend Rick brings us a report that more people than ever would prefer to go back and undo the 2008 revolution:

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama’s declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they’d rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that’s somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country’s difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited. The closeness in the Obama/Bush numbers also has implications for the 2010 elections. Using the Bush card may not be particularly effective for Democrats anymore…

BarracudaWhich means the whole “Obama will take us in the right direction again” was never anything more than a brain fart…a “I’m just tired of real-world decision-making”…an “I wanna vacation.” And since we live in a three-dimensional universe of cause-and-effect, the appeal of the dalliance has come-n-gone. Time to wake up. Time to do some real-world living.

Except in the meantime, during our slumber we seem to have sworn the sandman into our nation’s highest office. Oopsie.

Real life continues to play out like the finest Palin-in-2012 commercial money could possibly buy. The contest, still three years off, is being set up rather neatly and I think this is a healthy thing. Workhorses versus unicorns. Understanding and stating what needs to be done, versus dissembling and equivocating. A woman with all the right enemies versus a guy with all the wrong friends. Wife and mother, versus false prophet. A governor who left ‘em wanting more, versus a President who’s gonna hang around three more years like a bad smell whether we want Him or not. “You betcha” versus “uh, uh, um, er, uh.”

Even Buck is seeing some redeeming qualities in the Barracuda:

Comment of the Day…
… over at Lex’s place, on the subject of Miss Alaska, her recent editorial in the WaPo, and Leftie reax to same:

OldT6Flyer
December 9th, 2009 at 3:19 pm · Reply

The best thing about Sarah Palin is the every time she speaks the reaction from the left is so over the top that any rational person has to say: “What could possibly be that interesting?” and proceeds to tune into the Sarah Palin channel which, even if she’s not totally your cup of tea, comes across as a reasonable sort, especially in comparison to her tormentors, who are found writhing in the corner, foaming at the mouth, and generally making asses of themselves. As a bonus the so called “women’s movement” groups get exposed as, not all that interested in promoting women at all seeing how their silence at the obvious attacks on a leading WOMAN go strangely unanswered.

So no matter what you might think of Sarah Palin you’ve just got to love the apoplexy she causes on the left. If she didn’t exist somebody would need to invent her for the cause.

Yup. What Ol’ T-6 Flyer said. It’s well-known in certain circles that I’m a Palin skeptic even though I haven’t posted a whole helluva lot on the subject here in the home space. Which is by way of saying I’ve engaged a lot on the subject of La Palin in comments on other folks’ blogs. I’ve yet to drink the Arctic Princess’ Kool-Aid and I truly believe it’s way too damned early to be talking about 2012 presidential candidates. But… two things: (a) I simply LOVE the way she makes the Lefties go completely bonkers and (b) I totally enjoy crossing swords with zealots of any persuasion. And who knows? I might jump on the Palin bandwagon if she keeps on making sense and causing coronaries on the Left. Especially the latter.

What’s it all mean? Nothing more or less than what I’ve been saying for years.

People — call this liberalism, or call it something else — live in “Candyland,” where no tough decisions are ever necessary, when they feel like they can afford to live there. When all their food is slaughtered or grown and harvested and cleaned and sanitized and inspected and shrink-wrapped and delivered to their doorsteps.

Someone still has to grow that food. Which means truck in some fertilizer, the necessity of which might not be appreciated by those who merely consume the food. Shoot some predators, poison some predators, round up the predator-bodies, plow, irrigate, clean and maintain the farming equipment, clean and maintain the equipment that cleans & maintains the farming equipment…

Just because our daily wants and needs are met without too much fuss & bother from us, doesn’t mean we live in a snow globe. Things have to get done in order to make our lofty, comfortable existence possible. It doesn’t matter one bit whether we understand this necessity or not.

Twits like Michael Moore are like images in paintings, passing judgment on the brush strokes being used to bring them into “existence.” It’s all fine and good that he’s got opinions about stuff. But your mere dependence on these things is not a qualification for you to speak about the necessity of doing them, or lack of necessity. It’s something of a disqualification, if anything. If your existence depends on things getting done, and you yourself can’t see past these links-in-the-chain so you understand how these things are important, it means you’re spoiled and you can’t be relied-on to take inventory of all the staples required for your day-to-day being.

Image Credit: Mike Ely.

Nine/Twelve Mentality

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

We know precisely what a nine/ten mentality is. Precisely. Let anyone forget, Senator Kerry in the week just past was kind enough to remind us. As James Taranto observed in his Best of the Web online column, the headline said it all:

Kerry Marks Eve of 9/11 Anniversary With Push for Climate Legislation

The nine/eleven mentality would be one of the family-comedy cold-war-era movies; you know the type. Earth is threatened by an environmental catastrophe or by murderous little green men with laser cannons, and overnight the United States and the Soviet Union forget their differences. Republicans and democrats joining hands, singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the capitol building. Put aside our differences! Come together! Hope and change!

The nine/twelve mentality opposes both of those. It pays attention and a decent inimical respect to both the malevolent entity that labors to do us harm, and the lazy doves among us who wish to ignore the viper in hopes it’ll slither away. And it is named not for any date in 2001, but rather for President George W. Bush’s speech in front of the United Nations on September 12, 2002:

Events can turn in one of two ways.

If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully, dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.

If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.

Neither of these outcomes is certain. Both have been set before us. We must choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security, and for the permanent rights and hopes of mankind. By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. Delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand as well. [emphasis mine]

Deep down, we’re really all nine/twelve people. The real difference is about political efforts: Is it permissible to acknowledge the simple reality that motivated enemies exist, only when one is running a campaign for a political office? Must one take the “ostrich approach” toward all who would do him harm, in all other walks of life? That’s the real divide.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

George W. Bush’s Legacy

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Jon Swift is predicting George W. Bush will be remembered by history as one of our great Presidents.

Me? I don’t think there’s any question about it.

Although the White House has sent around its own talking points highlighting the President’s accomplishments, I don’t think they go far enough. So I have put together my own list of talking points, which should convince anyone why George W. Bush belongs on Mount Rushmore, along with Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and the other guy.

I’ve been watching old Boston Legal episodes lately — pretty much everyone who knows me, and has seen it, has sworn up and down that I’d get hooked on it. They’re right, to a point, but there is one thing that bugs me.

Reports that you’d never in a million years know it was written by a lefty, I’m afraid, are mistaken. I can tell a lefty wrote it. I can tell this quite easily. Oh, the lefty lawyer says what lefties would say, that’s realistic enough. How his good bud the tighty-righty lawyer responds…some authenticity there, too. It’s what passes by without comment.

No, it isn’t the stuff about George W. Bush being an idiot. I know lots of conservatives who think Bush is an idiot. This I find realistic enough. It’s the little things. The things that pass by uncommented-upon. Here, I’ll give you an example —

The beady-eyed liberal lawyer thinks Guantanamo should be shut down. The entire episode degenerates into a debate about “this administration has kept us safe” versus “people disappearing in the dead-o-night being tortured.” Yeah, real people do argue that way, too.

Here’s the problem: The show makes the mistake of trying to address both the “Should the United States torture people” conundrum, and the thing about “Does the Constitution apply to non-citizens.” Now, the latter was decided at the Supreme Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Wrongly, actually. And no I’m not saying that to address my own opinions, or what the old-n-pudgy Captain Kirk character should be saying — I’m saying what a strict-constructionist conclusion would have been. Hamdi was not a reasoned decision; it was not supposed to be. It was an “I like this and I don’t like that” decision.

But this lefty argument was presented not so much as a conclusion of the Hamdi decision, which wasn’t mentioned at all — it was presented parallel to that. So here’s the argument that was presented: Yeah, Guantanamo may or may not have to exist in order to continue to keep our country safe from terrorist attacks — but the Constitution forbids what we’re doing, like it or not. This is where the argument falls down. If it’s all about championing the death of common sense for the sake of the written law, well…the Constitution doesn’t apply to these detainees, like it or not. (At least, in the way it was described in this episode.) The left-wing argument was one of adhering to the sensibilities of nameless-faceless-strangers with regard to this legal matter over here, and then ignoring the sensibilities of nameless-faceless-strangers to uphold written statute over common sense with regard to that legal matter over there. And both of these whiplash-pretzel motions were necessary to preserve the desired conclusion of the argument, that we needed to shut Gitmo down.

All of this could be a legitimate argument, one suitably legitimate to discuss over scotch and cigars on the balcony of a law office. But it’s rather silly for that pretzel-reasoning to pass by without comment or challenge between two ideologically-opposed good-buddies. The old-n-pudgy Captain Kirk guy’s comments, instead, were used to further define what an adorably silly curmudgeon his character was…his lines had something to do with how a lot of other tyrants needed to be taken out, “and not because they’re brown people.” That’s the trouble with Manhattan humor. It’s only good when it’s potent as a tool to change real elections, and it’s only potent as a tool to change real elections when it asserts things that are not true.

But getting back to George Bush’s legacy. Quick: Name me a President that is a bad President, because he was a do-er. There are none. Presidents are bad Presidents because they’re awash in scandals, because they let things happen, because they were ineffectual, because they appointed their moral reprobate friends to high, influential and powerful positions.

Do-ers are remembered fondly, as our very best Presidents. They’re remembered even more fondly, if & when some among his contemporaries despised what he was doing. And when there were a whole lot of such contemporaries who despised what he was doing, he’s remembered by history even more fondly still…even if some of the objections to what he was doing, were in fact quite reasonable. Read some of the arguments against what Lincoln was doing. Read some of the comments against what Jefferson was doing. Read what the critics of Teddy Roosevelt had to say. Very good, morally upstanding, sturdy, reasoned arguments…far more respectable and durable than “BUSH KNEW!!1!”

Mind you, I disagree with Swift about Bush’s face being carved into a mountain. Won’t happen. But, those other gentlemen did make it up there. And this would have been quite a silly prospect to some of the folks who lived at the same time, and had things to say against what those guys were doing.

Viewed in that light, George Bush’s legacy is not only much rosier than what you usually hear of it, but in all likelihood, it’s more secure than most.

President Gore Would’ve Invaded Too?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Some Canuck white-coat pocket-protector propeller-beanie-head with a bunch of letters after his name has looked into this “what-if” scenario, specifically, whether President Gore would have proceeded with the invasion of Iraq. His surprising answer: Definitely.

Notwithstanding its widespread appeal, the ‘Bush-necon-war’ thesis remains an unsubstantiated assertion, a ‘theory’ without theoretical content, an argument devoid of logic or perspective. In essence, the most common explanation for the war is based on an historical account that overlooks almost all of the relevant historical facts.

In sum, a widely accepted explanation for one of the most important wars in decades has not yet been subjected to a careful, rigorous evaluation. The objective of the following report is to reveal significant logical, factual and historical errors consistently overlooked by its advocates.

It’s good to see overly-repeated and unscrutinized memes subjected to some challenge, even if the challenge is belated. It’s what science is supposed to do.

You can watch the FARK kids go nuts about it over here (subscription required).

Gonzo Has Blood on His Hands?

Friday, December 19th, 2008

That’s what you’re about to hear, thanks to this dispatch from the AP. Yes, we really do have to read and listen to this all…over…AGAIN.

Former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales misled Congress when he claimed the CIA in 2002 approved information that ended up in the 2003 State of the Union speech about Iraq’s alleged effort to buy uranium for its nuclear weapons program, a House Democrat said Thursday.

In a memo to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which he chairs, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., also expressed skepticism about assertions by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that she was unaware of the CIA’s doubts about the claim before President George W. Bush’s speech.

Yup, it’s Henry “Daddy Porked a Pig” Waxman. Yeah, I’m making fun of his looks. If he stops making himself look foolish without my help, then on that day I’ll consider feeling guilty.

Sorry if you don’t like it. Face it. The guy’s a buffoon. I’ll qualify that below.

Meanwhile –

The committee’s Republicans do not endorse Waxman’s report, said Frederick Hill, press secretary for Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the committee’s top Republican.

And…

On the Net:

Waxman’s memo: http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20081218120632.pdf

(This version [that] CORRECTS the report is by the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Report Committee, not the full committee.) [emphasis mine]

You know what that’s all about? Hmmmm?

It’s about this

499. We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:

The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought
significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

was well-founded. [emphasis mine]

That’s from the Butler Review. Linked above.

The formal assessment by Her Majesty’s Government about why they, our friends across the pond, thought they knew the things they knew, and when they thought they knew them.

After the Uranium claim turned out to be a poke-in-the-eye. After.

Which, by the way, it never should’ve. Saddam Hussein was a dangerous asshole who was trying to get hold of weapons all the time…except when he couldn’t afford to…either because someone was breathing down his neck or because he didn’t have the connections and/or money. Any other time, as far as the information that’s been made available can determine — he was all too willing to lay his hands on any weapons he could possibly reel in. He was the very picture of a tinpot dictator dickhead who needed to be taken down. One of many.

So this whole thing is a colossal bunny trail. Enough already.

D’JEver Notice? XII

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

It’s tough to remember right now with all this talk of bailouts and subprimes and economy this and jobs that…but killing terrorists is still the most important issue of this election. The more the better.

Now, they’re telling me, in that authoritative way “they” tell me things when there are no real faces or reputations or identities behind the “they”…that history’s verdict is in on Bush. We don’t like ‘im, and while a lot of folks didn’t like him from the get-go, the big hairpin turn by which “all” of us decided “we” don’t like him, was when he invaded Saddam Hussein’s turf.

“They” tell me “we” hate George Bush because he lied to us to make it happen.

Because he didn’t have “proof” Saddam Hussein was developing or storing WMDs.

Because he didn’t have a more legally sturdy delegation of authority from Congress with an actual declaration of war.

Because if we knew the facts, we wouldn’t have supported the invasion of Iraq.

Because the U.N. didn’t bless it.

Question: Are these, like, either-or things? It’s an important question. Our country’s going to have to know the answer to that next time this has to be handled.

If the next ne’er-do-well around the world is caught engaging in his skulduggery and hijinks, what’s President Obama or McCain or Palin supposed to do, exactly? Get the approval of the electorate? Of Congress? Prove the shenanigans beyond the shadow of any doubt? Get the approval of the United Nations Security Council?

All of those? One of those? Two of those?

This is the trouble with that nameless faceless “they.” “They” are great at stating an argument or a case, but not in such a way that it makes sense. Is our lesson for future events that you can’t invade a nation until you P-R-O-V-E that you have to…and then…get U.N. approval? Why? What if you prove it, irrefutably, and then one deliberative body approves it and another one doesn’t?

Shouldn’t someone be debating that somewhere? Preferrably, out in the open with some high profile and visibility? Like before November 4th? I mean…”they” tell me “everybody” is really concerned about this. Seems like the question should’ve come up before now.

Sitting Down With Iran

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Hey — if you believe Obama’s position (as expressed by Obama) is the right way to go, it should already be raising an enormous red flag with you that we’re engaging in such an incredible volume of talking about the talks…and saying nothing, zero, zilch, nada, bubkes about what would actually be said in the talks.

That should raise a red flag with you, before that other red flag. The one where once we take the idea seriously, the running-mate starts lying his ass off, backpedaling. That’s your second red flag. But the first one is important too.

Recalling my own comments about sitting down to talk about things, last month:

Archie: Discuss…why wit’ you everything’s always gotta be like a meetin’?

Meathead: Because in a meeting, people sit down together and exchange ideas.

Archie: Oh, okay. Okay. Sit down, huh? (Meathead sits down.) (Archie Sits down.) Now. Let me hear your idea again.

Meathead: Okay. I want us to watch Jack Lemmon and a group of famous scientists discuss pollution and ecology on channel thirteen.

Archie: Good. And I want to watch football highlights on channel two. (Poignant pause, locks eyes on Meathead.) Now, guess what’s going to happen? (Cue laugh track.)

Meathead: (Pause.) You’re going to watch football highlights on channel two.

Archie: Meeting adjourned. (Gets up.) Hey Edith, lemmee have some beer in here, okay?

This Obama/Ahmadinejad would go different — oops, wait, I guess Biden says there wouldn’t be any such thing, but it looks like maybe Biden’s wrong — anyway, I’m to believe that meeting would go different from this one…why?

City Councils Voting on Wars

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

BellinghamMy Dad tipped me off to the fact that the City Council in the fair city of Bellingham, where I spent my childhood, has unanimously approved a resolution in opposition to any proposed military intervention in Iran. The argument in favor is summarized here by a couple of peace activists up in the college hippy-town that is my old stomping ground:

On June 23, Bellingham City Councilperson Terry Bornemann introduced a resolution urging a diplomatic surge toward Iran and opposing military intervention in that country without Congressional approval. Why should the Bellingham City Council divert its attention away from important local matters to address yet another foreign policy issue? Didn’t it take enough flack for the Troops Home Now! Resolution in 2006?

Could it be the same reason that our National Guard is being diverted from its intended role in state emergency response? Perhaps it is the same reason that school administrators are diverting their time away from teacher development and curriculum improvement. Could it be the same reason governors are diverting their attention away from crumbling infrastructure to ward off financial ruin?

It doesn’t take a four star general to see the common denominator underlying these quandaries.

Our occupation of Iraq continues unabated, with a taxpayer price tag of $270 million a day. It has already cost the City of Bellingham $98 million. And the human costs to the United States are staggering with over 40,000 casualties, including 4,100 troops killed. Bellingham is home to some of these families.

So why, you ask, is the city council stepping in once again to consider another resolution, this time opposing U.S. military intervention in Iran?

Simple. If our local elected officials won’t, then who will?

What a fascinating rhetorical question!

But therein lies the problem. Rhetorical questions are not considered to be intended for, nor capable of inspiring, coherent answers. That is how they make the point, by arousing a stupefied failure to figure out how to answer them.

If only it applied here. This blogger was struck by a borderline jealousy toward his old man to realize the senior Freeberg’s letter aroused no less than 25 responses since midnight. That seems more impressive than it is — although it still is — because I noticed one commenter expertly named “headupyerass” commented three times and will no doubt return to comment some more. He has to. I know this type; his objective is to get the last word, and there are lots of other folks pointing out the error of his logic.

But which side prevails in this open-thread on the humble backwoods newspaper, is not the point I wish to inspect here. What I wish to inspect is this: This guy with his head up his ass, has an Internet connection, a keyboard, a screen, and all the other equipment that is required to make himself heard.

He has drive. He knows how to put a sentence together that describes his sentiments. He does so, repeatedly, which goes to show he can.

There are millions of others just like him. All of them with their heads up their asses…can’t avoid ‘em…off they go, blah blah blah blah blah.

Does this not address the “if the officials won’t, who will?” question just about as satisfactorily as can possibly be imagined?

So with that in mind, the ball bounces back to the side of the court wherein we reconsider what the municipal-level authority’s dog-in-the-hunt is — exactly. Because I’m still unclear on it. Just a smidgen. If the citizens find nobody is speaking for them, they can write. It’s proven. So how ’bout the homeless people moving in, harassing downtown shoppers, and the threadbare parking facilities and the skateboarders and the traffic light switching patterns that encourage motorists to drive twenty miles over the speed limit? Every city can use a little bit more attention on issues like those, and many more.

But here’s another interesting question, one that is not asked. The Bellingham City Council vote was unanimous. It is being hailed as a “grassroots victory” of some kind, which implies that this is a way to manifest the thinking of the man-in-the-street. Remember what Ayn Rand said — the smallest minority is the individual; therefore, whoever oppresses or fails to support the individual cannot pretend to be advancing the rights of any minorities. Does Joe Six-Pack unanimously oppose military action against Iran, for any reason? Would a hundred-outta-a-hundred persons all across the fruited plane approve of the wording in the resolution?

Hell’s bells, you can just read the thread I linked above, to figure out that’s not the case.

But the resolution is unanimous. Something, therefore, is busted & gunnybags. It brings to mind something Bill (“wch”) said this morning about journalism…

A lot of journalists and politicians (metaphorically) stand in a room of people who are doing nothing but asking them for stuff. They believe it is their job to “answer” them, with news or legislation or favors.

They (for whatever reason) think that the people in the room represent the people NOT in the room. A wise person would ask where all of the other people (not in the room) are; and do they share the sentiments of the people in the room.

This is the conservatives’ largest problem: they’re not in the room, they’re too busy to stand in the room. They just know that if they were, they’d shout out “Hell no, we don’t want that!” That’s why they’re called the silent majority.

Bingo. We are facing a recession or depletion of a certain human quality. I think the word that would most accurately describe this quality would be “maturity,” but I intend to use something far more descriptive than that. I’m talking about a specific aspect — the readiness, willingness and ability to defend one’s mindset against the fallacy of false consensus.

To say to oneself, when all assembled in immediate proximity are found to approve of something (or to not care), “I wonder if there is anyone who would dissent, and if so, what their reasoning might be?” Not so much to bring everything to a screeching halt and pugnaciously ask it; the far less intrusive variation — to merely be ready to entertain it.

We’re missing that. It seems to be a vanishing, and non-renewable, resource. I believe it starts early on, in about the second or third grade. Teacher says “How many of you…let’s see a show of hands…” and before the hands go shooting up, there’s two dozen little toe-heads swiveling around, first left, then right, to see what everybody else is doing. It starts out cute. But we tend to forget, too many among us never stop doing that, and years later when they serve on city councils or on editorial panels get this “gut feel” that because everyone in the room thinks something, everyone everyplace else must be on the same page.

It just ain’t so. Sorry.

Looks Like I Got salvage To Shut Up

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

We’ve been having a back-and-forth over at Rick’s place Brutally Honest, in which our resident gadfly regularly chirps off (read that adverb as: often as he needs to, in order to always have the last word). His comments make no sense. He is not there to change any minds. He’s said so. He may speak for some Americans, in fact many Americans, but he isn’t even positioned properly to do that because he’s just another bossy finger-waggling Canadian.

His most egregious sin in the intellectual realm is to skip back and forth — almost athletically — between “I must be right because most people agree with me” and “it just goes to show how stupid people are because most people agree with you.” He possesses an enviable encyclopedic and fully up-to-date knowledge of what the polls say at any given instant, coupled with a self-stultifying vacillating weakness about what to do with this knowledge.

Serious doubts have been raised about whether he is real, and whether he is sane.

But whoever or whatever he is, he always has to have the last word.

Until yesterday morning, when I said

You’re a cop, I’m on parole, I’m not allowed to carry a gun, you think I have a revolver in my pocket. So you say “I think Morgan has a revolver in his pocket and I want him frisked.”

Sig Sauer P220I get frisked, and you find I have a Sig Sauer P220. Which is not a revolver.

Morgan the parolee must have been a harmless teddy bear then, right? Just like Saddam Hussein?

I wish liberals like you had as much antipathy and acrimony for these deadly terrorists as you have for conservatives. I wish you questioned Saddam Hussein’s legitimate use of this deadly material, as passionately as you question the God-given right of law-abiding (non-parolee) private citizens to defend their families with Sig Sauer P220′s.

Perhaps this is the analogy that effectively conveys the truth, even to those who will put so much effort into staying ignorant with regard to it. The holy grail. When we confront danger, are we playing some sort of game like professional playing pool, in which you have to call the shot. One-ball in the corner pocket is all fine & good, but if what you called was six in the side you must lose your turn.

Would anyone use that protocol with everyday situations in their personal lives.

You find a nest of black widows under the see saw or swing set on which your kids play every day; fine and good, but what you said was “I think there might be a scorpion under there” — so you have to leave the black widows alone? What kind of sick asshole would think that’s the right way to go?

Sorry, that just cheeses me off. I know this was a cooperative agreement in which President Bush sought approval from Congress and the United Nations, and had to sell ‘em on it. Whether that was a constitutional requirement (in the case of Congress) is a dubious proposition; the presidency, arguably, exists to sidestep bureaucratic committee-style inefficiency, especially with regard to military activities. And so in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in Spring of ’03, he became a war salesman, putting great effort into convincing mostly nameless & faceless authorities that Saddam was a dangerous dude.

Black WidowI’m from Planet Earth and have red blood in my veins. So where I come from, the real scandal — what was really “unjust and illegal” — was that this was put up for debate in the first place.

Now to be serious about it, I doubt the revolver/trenchcoat/P220 analogy is the “holy grail” that will shut these people up. I do think if anything would do that, this is a great candidate…but I labor under no delusions this has taken place. salvage‘s episodes of presence & absence occur in coarse, generously-sized chunks of time; as if his mommy decided he was spending too much time arguing on the innernets with those Damn Yankees down south, and laid down the law that he had to cut the grass in order to keep living in her basement.

Well, these people have a right to free speech. But down on this side of the border, I seriously, seriously do believe they shouldn’t be voting. If there is no legal way to deprive them of the vote, we need to create one and create one fast. I’m heart-attack serious. These are the people who say, if you find black widows under that play equipment, you gotta leave ‘em where they are if you called “scorpion” or “snake.” They should not be choosing anything. Forget voting; they shouldn’t be allowed out of the house.

Sacrifice!

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Carl at Simply Left Behind (which is a lefty blog) is opining on what’s wrong with us nowadays and sounding…very conservative

You get hit by a car. You sue the other driver. He hires a lawyer and sues you back to try to prove that, indeed, it was your fault for stepping in front of his car.
:
You see a woman in an emergency room collapse. She lays there for 24 hours and dies. No one does a thing. Why? Because someone else should have handled it.

You walk down a street and a piece of newspaper blows across and wraps around your ankle. You stand next to a garbage can, yet rather than reach down, pluck the paper and toss it in the bin, you shake your foot and off it flies to litter again. Serial litter, I like to call this.

We fight a war in a far-off land, and the only sacrifice we’re asked to make is to load up on debt and shop some more. Arguably, given what has happened, this might turn into the ultimate sacrifice for many of us, but that’s a different story.

And I would add to that, the story of Sergio Casian Aguiar curb-stomping his own son to death for a full seven minutes. While bystanders watched.

A spectacle that shocked and horrified conservatives, while liberals made excuses:

“I would not condemn these people,” said John Darley, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University who has studied how bystanders react in emergency situations. “Ordinary people aren’t going to tackle a psychotic.

“What we have here,” Darley said, “is a group of family and friends who are not pre-organized to deal with this stuff. They don’t know who should do what. … If you had five volunteer firefighters pull up, you would expect them to have planned responses and a division of labor. But that’s not what we had here.”

Carl’s cognitive dissonance on the virtue of sacrifice is a source of endless fascination to me, in part because he represents so many millions besides himself. And while parts of his thesis make sense, together as a whole it is a baffling tangled mess of contradictions.

When the newspaper attaches itself to your ankle you’re supposed to bend down, pick it up, and throw it away!

Okay, with Saddam Hussein that is exactly what we did. Carl doesn’t like that…

But it makes sense! Because there was no sacrifice!

Yeah, well, we sacrificed plenty. That’s the point of all these war protests…supposedly we’re drafting our innocent doe-eyed children, boxing ‘em up, hauling ‘em to Iraq where they get blown up by the thousands. And that’s wrong! But that’s a sacrifice if ever there was one. So…your point?

It’s only the sacrifice of a few! It doesn’t affect everyone, so it doesn’t count!

We-ell, as I pointed out in my comment, in a lot of other areas a financial sacrifice is supposed to count, and supposedly, the Iraq war is responsible for crude oil that costs $149 a barrel. When we pull in to a gas station and have to part with $50 to fill a twelve-gallon tank, that seems to me to be a sacrifice, especially when by Tuesday of next week we’ll have to do it again.

Unless financial sacrifices don’t count, in which case Carl just nullified every speech made by every tax-and-spend liberal who ever wanted to “roll back the Bush tax cuts” for the virtue of sacrifice.

I think liberals like Carl are confused on the concept of sacrifice. There are two definitions to it: There is the outcome-based sacrifice, in which the “sacrifice” itself is just a negligible and unpleasant side effect in the process of upholding what truly matters. The narrower definition, in which the pain is the point, is what John Galt was talking about in that monstrously long speech of his:

Sacrifice is the surrender of value — of a higher value to a lower one, or of the good to the evil.

The code is impossible to practice because it would lead to death, and thus moral perfection is impossible to man.

The Doctrine of Sacrifice cannot provide man with an interest in being good.

Since man is in fact an indivisible unity of matter and consciousness, the sacrifice of “merely” material values necessarily means the sacrifice of spiritual ones.

The self is the mind, and the most selfish act is the exercise of one’s independent judgment. In attacking selfishness, the Doctrine of Sacrifice seeks to make you surrender your mind.

The Doctrine of Sacrifice commands that you act for the good of others but provides no standard of the good. And it requires only that you intend to benefit others, not that you succeed.

The Doctrine of Sacrifice makes you the servant and others your masters –and adds insult to injury by saying you should find happiness through sacrifice.

Somewhere in there Galt made a mention of the mother who went without eating so that her infant could eat; that would not be a sacrifice, according to Galt who was using the pain-based definition of “sacrifice.” That mother would be upholding an ideal important to her system of values, simply paying a price necessary to acquire it. Sacrifice, Galt said, would have been giving up her child for the sake of something not important to her. (Update: It actually had to do with sacrificing the child for a nice hat. See below. My memory managed to “sacrifice” the finer details to retain the overall picture; cut me some slack, it’s a freakin’ thirty-five thousand word speech.) That is what is meant by surrender “of a higher value to a lower one.” It entails a net loss, because the pain is the point of the exercise.

My thinking is, the people who agree with Carl, also agree with John Galt. Sacrifice is not about principles. Sacrifice is identifying what is important to you, and then getting rid of it.

Our liberals do not feel the conflict of this dissonance when they talk about raising taxes on rich people. Money is supposed to be important to rich people, right? And so we force them to get rid of it through higher taxes. When we talk about meeting the objectives, we already begin the process of losing the interest of our liberals; their eyes glaze over, and they yearn to spend their precious moments on a rerun of The Daily Show or watching another one of Keith Olbermann’s recycled rants. But we complete that process of alienating them when we talk about meeting the objectives through private charities.

This is because in the more specific, liberal-and-Galt definition of “sacrifice,” private charities don’t meet the criteria. They are voluntary. The donors are exchanging an inferior value, which is the cash that is donated, for a greater one which is the beneficial effect of the charity. They choose this. In so doing, they are upholding their own systems of belief and therefore are not “sacrificing.”

I suspect that is the real reason why so many of our liberals can hold their protests about the latest handy round body-count in our “illegal and unjust war,” on the one hand — and on the other, decry the lack of “sacrifice” that has been made in the war. Real people like you and me who have red blood in our veins and are from Planet Earth, look at that and say “how can you protest both?” The answer to that is easy.

Liberals are like the girlfriend who is unhappy with her engagement ring if the prospective groom still has money left after he bought it — the size of the ring isn’t the point, how good it looks isn’t the point, how much did it cost isn’t really the point; the point is, did it cost enough that it hurt him.

This is why their ideas are unfit for implementation in the real world. Out here, if you have a job to do, and you get it done but it didn’t cause you pain, that’s a success. If it was such a painful experience that it injured you, it’s still a failure if you didn’t meet the stated objectives. Reality says it’s all about getting the job done, not what you give up to do it. Our liberals don’t agree. They think, if you’re suitably diminished that you can’t do anything else, and your intentions were noble, then that’s all that matters. Whether the job got done, is just a side bunny-trail to them.

This is provable. Saddam Hussein is that newspaper flying about the ankles if ever there was one. One President kicked him aside to be blown further down the sidewalk, and another President picked him up and stuck him in the trash bin. Our liberals are furious at the President who chucked him in the trash bin. They won’t say why.

Update: John Galt’s comments on sacrifice, whittled down to the bare bone, heavily edited from the state in which they exist starting on p. 940:

The word that has destroyed you is ‘sacrifice.’ Use the last of your strength to understand its meaning. You’re still alive. You have a chance.

‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. ‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil. ‘Sacrifice’ is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t.
:
If you give money to help a friend, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to a worthless stranger, it is. If you give your friend a sum you can afford, it is not a sacrifice; if you give him money at the cost of your own discomfort, it is only a partial virtue, according to this sort of moral standard; if you give him money at the cost of disaster to yourself – that is the virtue of sacrifice in full.
:
A sacrifice is the surrender of a value. Full sacrifice is full surrender of all values. If you start, however, as a passionless blank, as a vegetable seeking to be eaten, with no values to reject and no wishes to renounce, you will not win the crown of sacrifice. It is not a sacrifice to renounce the unwanted
:
If you wish to save the last of your dignity, do not call your best actions a ‘sacrifice’: that term brands you as immoral. If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of mother whose higher value is the hat, who would prefer her child to starve and feeds him only from a sense of duty.
:
Sacrifice could be proper only for those who have nothing to sacrifice – no values, no standards, no judgment – those whose desires are irrational whims, blindly conceived and lightly surrendered. For a man of moral stature, whose desires are born of rational values, sacrifice is the surrender of the right to the wrong, of the good to the evil.

The creed of sacrifice is a morality for the immoral – a morality that declares its won bankruptcy by confessing that it can’t impart to men any personal stake in virtues or values, and that their souls are sewers of depravity, which they must be taught to sacrifice. By its own confession, it is impotent to teach men to be good and can only subject them to constant punishment. [emphasis mine]

Now, I have not heard a single lefty-leaning Bush-bashing blue-blooder — not once! — seek to assert that the war in Iraq, oh dear if only it entailed “sacrifice” from us all the way that noble effort by FDR that was World War II demanded rationing of rubber, steel, wood, et al…why, then the War On Terror would be an equally heroic deed and then they’d be able to get behind it. I have not heard ‘em say that one single time.

But I’ve heard ‘em, many-a-time, throw out some platitudes designed to bully the casual thinker into believing that’s where they were coming from. That glittery, glistening heroic sheen of “sacrifice,” yesiree! That’s what Bush’s unjust and immoral war is missing. We aren’t sacrificing enough!

But John Galt’s words put that into a whole different light, don’t they. ‘Sacrifice’ is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t. It is therefore morality for the immoral; it is a moral code for those who cannot appreciate having one.

Not that asphalt rationing would bring any of these nattering nabobs on board. It wouldn’t. If you parse Carl’s words very carefully, and listen to the other nattering nabobs very carefully, you’ll see they are promising no such thing. The universality of our sacrifices has nothing to do with it — the country is engaged in an intensive effort, there’s still a Republican in the White House, and that is all it takes to inspire their impassioned opposition to what we’re doing.

All the bitching about “sacrifice” is just a red herring — and that’s the best part about it.

The Phony “Bush Lied” Line

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Anchoress

What a long, strange trip it’s been, and here, some years later, we finally get someone in the press to tell it straight: Bush did not lie.

That someone is Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, who writes…

Search the Internet for “Bush Lied” products, and you will find sites that offer more than a thousand designs. The basic “Bush Lied, People Died” bumper sticker is only the beginning.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, set out to provide the official foundation for what has become not only a thriving business but, more important, an article of faith among millions of Americans. And in releasing a committee report Thursday, he claimed to have accomplished his mission, though he did not use the L-word.

“In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even nonexistent,” he said.

But dive into Rockefeller’s report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.

On Iraq’s nuclear weapons program? The president’s statements “were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates.”

On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president’s statements “were substantiated by intelligence information.”

On chemical weapons, then? “Substantiated by intelligence information.”
:
In the report’s final section, the committee takes issue with Bush’s statements about Saddam Hussein’s intentions and what the future might have held. But was that really a question of misrepresenting intelligence, or was it a question of judgment that politicians are expected to make?

I’ll get to that in a second. But first let’s zoom in on what inspired Anchoress to say “Pinch me, I’m dreaming. Say it with me.”

But the phony “Bush lied” story line distracts from the biggest prewar failure: the fact that so much of the intelligence upon which Bush and Rockefeller and everyone else relied turned out to be tragically, catastrophically wrong.

Yes, how far we’ve come. If you could go back to 1991, nobody there would believe you when you told them we had a new President, who took down Saddam Hussein and got a litany of crap for doing it, weapons-o-mass-destruction or no. And, if you could go back to 2004 and tell ‘em our mainstream press used the phrase “phony ‘Bush lied’ story line,” that wouldn’t be believed either.

Hell. That much wouldn’t have been believed last year. It’s kind of a bombshell now.

Fred Hiatt continues:

And it trivializes a double dilemma that President Bill Clinton faced before Bush and that President Obama or McCain may well face after: when to act on a threat in the inevitable absence of perfect intelligence and how to mobilize popular support for such action, if deemed essential for national security, in a democracy that will always, and rightly, be reluctant.

See, this is what I think people are missing. We haven’t put too much thought into why, really, it comes so easily to people to accept that “Bush lied.” There are the defects in integrity and character that wedge them into absurd anti-war dogma, in extreme situations wherein perhaps, as Phil says, “sometimes war IS the answer.” People can go through things, and some of these things make it look like a good idea to oppose war, unconditionally, all the time, and forever. One of those things is — war. Veterans can go through combat, and come away thinking war is so awful, that there must be a better way — always. Understandable, I suppose. But that’s feeling, not thinking. Engaging in it at such a critical decision-juncture is, simply, a mistake. Other people want to look good…and have secrets and other inner demons that persuade them toward the idea that they won’t look that way, until they do something grandiose, costless and perpetual. Like engage in silly war protests. Maybe it’s to convince those around them that they’re good people when they themselves know otherwise…form your own opinion about that.

Other folks engage in the twenty-seventh item among the things I know about people, minus what I was told when a child:

27. People who make a conscious decision not to offer help or defense to someone who needs it, don’t want anyone else to help or defend that person either.

Apart from all that, of course, the timeless cliche is still true: War protests are great places to meet chicks.

These are all reasons why people become stridently anti-war; it isn’t all about being pacifist and cuddly and sweet. But there are less personal reasons. Reasons that have to do with money and not character defects.

The United States is a superpower. Those other countries out there, be they belligerent or no, have their own economies; and all economies thrive in certainty and wither in uncertainty. Our weapons are under lock and key, but our political resolve to use them is not. We can be de-fanged, easily, with our arsenal remaining completely intact.

So Hiatt has hit on the agenda behind the “Phony ‘Bush lied’ line” in which we’ve been buried for these last five or six years, without trying to, perhaps without realizing it. What is a sign-off item of concern to him, has been the primary sense of purpose to others from the very beginning. It is to escalate the political cost paid by future Presidents, now and forevermore, for even thinking about engaging in military aggression. Even for the most entirely valid, sustainable, defensive and non-preemptive reasons.

Being the “big guys,” we are not to do it. We are not to even think about it.

Is the artificial aggravation of such political exigencies…treason? Well, I wonder what the Founding Fathers would have to say about it. Reading over the founding documents, including the Federalist papers (starting with 2 through 5, but there are others), Washington’s Farewell Address, and the Constitution itself, you can’t help but pick up on the concerns they had about anything — anything — discouraging the executive from showing well-placed hostility at the right time and place, so long as it served the national defense. Apparently, they were big fans of Phil.

Those who mold, shape, and direct the anti-war movement draw on anti-war passions; that does not mean they are guided by those passions. They are guided by strategy. They have reasons for gelding America into such a grotesque national and international political status that she never fights, no matter what.

Until all contemplations of war by our legislature, and our executive, look like this…

In this chapter with Iraq, the objective has been to scandalize the preemptive strike.

If that’s been successful, the new doctrine in place is that we can’t raise a hand against the other guy, until we’ve courteously allowed him to get his licks in. I’m sure that looks noble to some, but that doesn’t mean that it is. And it certainly doesn’t serve our nation’s interests.

In fact, it gets us most of the way there, to the “don’t fight ever, no matter what” doctrine. About eighty or ninety percent, give-or-take.

Well, we know now, it wasn’t based on truth, and for the most part wasn’t even based on an attempt to be honest. I wonder if it’s succeeded. Time will tell.

The Three Points

Monday, May 12th, 2008

From I Love Jet Noise

During WWII, the Japanese were searching for a way to demoralize the American forces that they faced. The Japanese psychological warfare experts came up with a message that they thought would work well. They gave the script to their famous broadcaster “Tokyo Rose” and everyday she would broadcast this same message packaged in various ways hoping to have an impact on American GI morale. What was the message? It had three main points:

1. Your President is lying to you.

2. This war is wrong and illegal.

3. You cannot win the war.

Sound familiar? Maybe it’s because the U.S. mainstream media and the Democrat Party has picked up the same message and is broadcasting it to our troops. The only difference is that they claim to support our troops before they demoralize them.

Yes, it does sound familiar.

On the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Statement from President Bill Clinton on October 31, 1998 on signing the Iraq Liberation Act.

Today I am signing into law H.R. 4655, the “Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.” This Act makes clear that it is the sense of the Congress that the United States should support those elements of the Iraqi opposition that advocate a very different future for Iraq than the bitter reality of internal repression and external aggression that the current regime in Baghdad now offers.

Let me be clear on what the U.S. objectives are:

The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law-abiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region.

The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq’s history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else.

The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life.

My Administration has pursued, and will continue to pursue, these objectives through active application of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The evidence is overwhelming that such changes will not happen under the current Iraq leadership.

In the meantime, while the United States continues to look to the Security Council’s efforts to keep the current regime’s behavior in check, we look forward to new leadership in Iraq that has the support of the Iraqi people. The United States is providing support to opposition groups from all sectors of the Iraqi community that could lead to a popularly supported government.

Clinton talked. Bush did.

The Second Most Important Issue IV

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

As I’ve stated repeatedly, the most important issue of the elections next year, by far, is which candidate is going to bring me the biggest pile of crispy fried dirty dead terrorists each month of their administration if elected. There really is no more important issue than that. However you feel about — for example — abortion…if you think the candidate who agrees with you about that, will bring us 500 dead terrorists each month, and the candidate that disagrees with you on that issue will bring a thousand, you really do have a moral obligation to drop your favorite pet peeve in favor of killing more terrorists.

Because we’re talking about bringing the fight to people who want to destroy us. How much is your peeve really worth?

And the second most important issue is a question…it is made important because of the fact that, although a lot of people won’t admit it, many of us are wondering if democrats are simply ignorant & easily fooled…or full blown knock-down drag-out wombat-rabies bollywonkers crazy. I think even the voters who sympathize with the silly donks — even if the silly donks don’t carry away the White House when it’s all said and done — would like to know this. To whom did their votes go? An imbecile, or a freakin’ whack-job?

All of us who have the means to do so, really should be gathering whatever evidence can be gathered in order to figure this out. This is a long-lived issue. Regardless of how the elections go next year, it is relevant to the future of our country to get an answer to that question. Unless we can send the donk party the way of the Whig party…which, although hope springs eternal, may not happen for a decade or two.

The latest exhibit, courtesy of Hot Air, is here. This has profound implications upon the first issue as well as the second one: None of these guys sound ready to bring us any crispy fried dirty dead terrorist bodies anytime soon.

This clip is further proof of what we already know, although fewer and fewer of us have the plain old-fashioned balls to admit it. Real life presents us with one scenario after another, in which the willingness to wage war equals life — and a stubborn reluctance to do so equals death. And “peace” is a word often synonymous with oppression.

If this comes as a huge shock to you, the muse that is History is wondering if you’ve got peanut butter packed in your ears or something. Woodstock is over, hippy. Come home.

So You Build Keyboards, Do You

Friday, September 21st, 2007

I’ve been lurking in some of the fool-threads, watching fools from both sides go at it. And it has lately become clear to me that, contrary to my expectations, here in late 2007 the wildly unrealistic and irresponsible “Why Aren’t You There?” argument is still among us.

Back when I provided an answer to it, I had already started to see this repudiated by my most hardcore left-wing friends and I thought it was on the DailyKOS trash heap, or headed there. To the credit of The Left, that is what they do with some of their silliest arguments. They’re like…candy wrappers. Or condoms. Useful for a designated time, for a designated purpose, and once that purpose is fulfilled all you want to do is get rid of it.

Well if the “Why Aren’t You There?” argument is a candy wrapper, it has yet to be crumpled up; the yummy residue of what was inside has yet to be completely dumped out. Bad on them, because this shows the silliest arguments can be imbued with Yoda-like life-expectancies within the otherworldly, surreal existence of The Left. Or, at least, can be. That’s a shame. If the elections next year are about anything, they’re about whether the line tethering The Left to what’s reasonable and real has been badly frayed, or severed altogether.

And since the country needs to have that answered, we should inspect exactly what would be needed for “Why Aren’t You There?” argument to make some sense. Let’s start with the punchline itself, and what’s implied by it. You’re an anti-war lefty; you encounter, stateside, someone who thinks we should be fighting the war when you don’t think we should be. At this point, that could mean a lot of things. Many among us think it was a mistake to go into Iraq, but now that we’re there we shouldn’t leave yet. A dwindling minority of grown-ups among us resemble me, recognizing that our decision was to go in or not go in…and for a number of good reasons, not-going-in was just plain unacceptable. We say this was the right decision — the most ardent supporters, myself included, insist it was overdue — doing it over, we’d do things the same way.

Still others think we should leave Iraq, but it’s appropriate to leave the decision about when, up to the President and to Congress. That isn’t pro-war, but it’s not consistent with the “all anarchy, all the time” passion of the DailyKOS crowd. And so, of course, it goes without saying that the KOS kids hate it.

So the KOSsacks “win” the argument, in their own eyes at least, with four words: Why aren’t you there? Oh my, check my chest cavity, a pound of flesh is missing. For it has now been revealed: I don’t support the troops after all. Why, if I were, I’d be there.

Obviously, this is supposed to impress somebody — somebody who isn’t me. It doesn’t mesh with logic and common sense; not very well, and not at all. If I’m to be smeared as someone who only pretends to support the troops, but doesn’t really, it’s a bit like a wrestling match with the proverbial pig isn’t it? It’s a tad difficult to assert someone supports the troops when he’s running around stateside, grouchily making his peevish rhetorical inquiries into why so-and-so isn’t there, arguing that since so-and-so isn’t there nobody else should be. So I’ve always looked at people who say “why aren’t you there” as saying “I don’t support them, or what they’re doing, and neither should you.” I don’t see how that could mean anything else.

They tell me this is an insinuation I shouldn’t dare make. Well, okay…if I can’t say it out loud, I’ll just have to think it in silence, for I can think nothing else. It just doesn’t seem like a very supportive question to be asking, to me.

But let’s inspect the logic that goes into this. You ask “Why Aren’t You There?” and in response, I go homina-homina-homina…the conclusion to be drawn, is that I’m only pretending there’s a good reason for anybody to be there, by deep down I know there isn’t one because if there was, I’d be there myself.

Okay. So…when people recognize there’s even so much as a peripheral reason for something to be done, they do it themselves.

No exceptions. None.

This is incredible. Consider the ramifications. How many things are there that people do, that I personally don’t do and have not done. I’m not a schoolteacher, I’m not a fireman, I’m not a construction worker. I don’t pick coffee beans or roast them or package them or transport them or sell them; so I can’t drink coffee. Logically, my butt need not fit into the chair in which I’m sitting as I type this, since I don’t build chairs — and I shouldn’t have need to type this, since I don’t build keyboards.

A great rejoinder to this would be “Are you a gynecologist or a cop?” Very few would be able to answer to one of those; by their logic, if they’re gynecologists, we must not need the police, and if they’re police, we must not need gynecologists.

It’s been presumed by some that the typical KOSKid lives in his parents’ basement and doesn’t do anything. I’ve found the crudest and simplest stereotypes are the ones that are lacking in merit, and have settled into a habit of dismissing this one. But the “Why Aren’t You There?” argument tempts me to reconsider it. It seems to me to be an argument acceptable to someone who doesn’t do anything and hasn’t done anything. I’ve met, personally, some folks who have managed to channel vast amounts of energy into coming up with reasons not to do things, enough to convince me this is a modern epidemic — this might be the cause, or perhaps, the ultimate effect.

Maybe the plague of the twenty-first century is not cancer, or AIDs, but sloth. A conviction that, if it is to be admitted that anything is important or worthwhile or beneficial to anyone, some boogeyman might come along and invite the person so admitting, to climb aboard and contribute in some way. I’m gathering that some folks find this horrifying, for the simple reason that a meaningful contribution would be antithetical to the way they’ve lived their lives up until now. It would be an unwelcome paradigm shift.

This is something I already know to be true, about some people. Thing I Know #92. Useful people have a fear of becoming useless that is exceeded in intensity only by the fear useless people have of someday being useful.

So I presume when people say “Why Aren’t You There?,” what they’re saying is they’ve managed to live out their lives without contributing anything whatsoever to anyone whatsoever, and don’t want to change.

That is their right. But it impresses me a lot — and by that, I mean down to the marrow of my bones. We have people serving in Iraq, losing parts of their bodies…coming back stateside, getting patched up, learning how to use their prosthetics, and then asking to go back there again. And then we have other people who have made a sort of religion out of not doing anything that might be helpful to someone, and calling into question whether anyone else should help someone, or even say kind things about those who do.

To put it more elegantly, some among us have a phobia about giving away some of their sweat, while others have no compunctions whatsoever about giving away their blood.

And the bulk of both groups reside in the same narrow age bracket. A five-year window somewhere around the half the age I am now.

I see times of deep, irreconcilable conflict in the years ahead. Something like what we’ve already had for the last forty years or so. But much, much deeper and darker.

As for my answer, it remains unchanged. To oppose YOU. Anyone who asks “Why Aren’t You There?” is, all the bullshit peeled aside, a nihilist. Nihilists are having a fairly good time of it right now; they’re injecting a nihilist marinade into everything we do in public policy lately; and, by nature, don’t support the troops or much of anything else. Someone with principle and brains has to be stateside, to make sure they are opposed.

They are trying to make a lot of decisions for everybody else, after all. Those decisions are not wise. They are not harmless.

They have to be opposed.

Thank a Liberal

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

As I’ve said before, I disapprove of the practice that has come to be known as “fisking.” I think it gives the appearance of fostering a positive atmosphere for productive deliberation and debate, while in actuality accomplishing exactly the opposite. And it’s time-consuming to read, with a modest payoff, to say nothing of the time-expense involved in putting it together.

Some things are just built to be fisked, though. Like this…which out on FARK, even the liberals are referencing in less-than-flattering ways.

If you have ever breathed clean air or drank clean water, thank a liberal.
:
If you’ve ever driven on an interstate highway, thank a liberal.
:
If your workplace is safe and you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights without being lynched, thank a liberal.
:
If your children go to school instead of working in coal mines, thank a liberal.

If someone else wants to take a crack at fisking it, I wouldn’t mind poring through that for a chuckle or two. I think the fisking would practically write itself.

I will take on this one myself though, because it made me do a double-take:

If you are glad that the Nazis don’t control half the world (conservatives opposed joining World War 2 until it was forced on them) thank a liberal.

I’m not in a good position to chastise someone else for having an obsessive-compulsive list-making complex, but Good Lord. If ever there was an example of this habit getting someone into some real intellectual trouble. Granting the utterly simplistic notion that liberals were in favor of joining the War in Europe and conservatives were opposed until Pearl Harbor — just skip over the logical step where we argue that, and give it to ‘em — stop and think what this means.

Liberals insist in 1939 we have got to do something to stop that madman. We should have listened to them. We also should have listened to them in late 2002 and early 2003, when they were asserting precisely the opposite. And so throughout the generations madmen will pop up, and our liberals will tell us to go after some and not others. Sometimes they’re isolationists, sometimes they’re not, but through it all they have the answer that will be “correct.”

In 2007, the “wrong” answer has something to do with servicemen dying. Our liberals have pontificated at length about what exactly is wrong with the war in Iraq, and it seems a primary singularity has emerged from all the answers given, something to do with troop deaths. From 1941 to 1945, we had troop deaths, did we not? Alright, so what makes something wrong in the 21st century, fails to make something wrong in the 20th.

The correct answer changes. What makes it correct, likewise, changes. The position of the liberal changes. Only the marriage between liberals, and correctness, endures. Are our liberals magical oracles into what is correct, or is correctness redefined according to expediency?

The reader may form his or her own opinion about the answer to that. I’ve formed mine.

Gore Lied, People Died

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

I’ve long ago given up trying to figure out how they get away with it.

I’m talking about politicians changing their minds about things — on a philosophical level. Now granted, I got some things I do differently than the way I did’em fifteen years ago. But I got other things I do the same way. And I’m not a loudmouth politician giving an entire country migraines until it does things the way I want them done.

Contrasted with that, we have all these so-called “leaders” who are supposed to be leaders because they’ve got vision and integrity, not because they’ve got gift-of-gab. And the leaders change their minds. Rather shamelessly, in my view. Everybody, with the capacity to win an intellect-based competition against a rotten turnip, understands these faux-leaders change their positions because of political exigencies, not because of new information, new life-lessons, or because a given course of action was lately found to contradict with some enshrined and revered principle.

Everybody gets this…I think.

But our politicians get called out on it only when they have something besides the letter “D” after their names. For example, President Bush and his comment about “nation-building.” With Iraq ‘n everything, you might see how there’s been a problem with that.

And President Bush has been criticized for it. In response to which, he and his defenders point to September 11, 2001, which “changed everything.”

It’s a stale argument. But it’s a legitimate one.

Contrasted with which…recent events have provided necessities contradictory to Mr. Gore’s change-of-tack. His rather embarrassing about-face, which I discovered on YouTube via blogger buddy JohnJ at RightLinx, is…well…I’m pretty sure that, aside from “right-wing” blogs, you’re not going to find out about this.

Would you be prepared to write a thousand-word essay arguing that this is somehow irrelevant? I hope so. Because a lot of television and newspaper editors are ready to hand down a decision saying exactly that. And I honestly don’t know why.

Imus Puts Liberals In Their Place

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

I feel sorry for our liberals, really I do. They’ve achieved a sense of cohesion across the American landscape, about something they oppose…but all they can do with that cohesion is barely touch it, they can never quite grasp it. They certainly can’t translate it into something they support.

In fact, how many words can they get out about this thing they oppose, and why they oppose it, and how they oppose it, before the cohesion slips away from them like a slippery fish? About…four or five, tops.

Don Imus nails them to the wall about it.

In the final analysis, they’ve managed to champion this American ideal, and none other: Being at war sucks, and we don’t like it. That’s it. That’s all.

The minute they embark on anything else, like “…and we wouldn’t be in this one if George W. Bush didn’t lie to us,” they’ve lost whatever audience they’ve had.

This Is Good XXXV

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

There is much to admire in Best of the Web by James Taranto, but I thought yesterday’s slicing-and-dicing was particularly artful. I’ll go back and update when there’s a permalink this afternoon, but here’s the item in full:

On Sunday Sen. Barack Obama, speaking at Iowa State University, made this jaw-dropping statement:

We ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged, and to which we now have spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.

Wasted! Hard to believe anyone would say such a thing, but there it is on video.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Obama quickly fired up the nuance machine:

Obama, in an interview with the Des Moines Register right afterward, told the paper, ”I was actually upset with myself when I said that, because I never use that term,” he said. ”Their sacrifices are never wasted. . . . What I meant to say was those sacrifices have not been honored by the same attention to strategy, diplomacy and honesty on the part of civilian leadership that would give them a clear mission.”

Aha, so this is what he meant to say:

We ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged, and to which we now have spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans that have not been honored by the same attention to strategy, diplomacy and honesty on the part of civilian leadership that would give them a clear mission.

But instead of those last 27 words (which don’t entirely make sense–e.g., “the same attention” as what?), what came out of his mouth was “wasted.” Just a wee slip of the tongue!

The Sun-Times notes that Obama is sorry you took what he said the wrong way, which is to say, the way he actually said it:

By Monday, reporters covering Obama making his first visit as a presidential candidate in New Hampshire, asked Obama, campaigning in a Nashua home, if military families deserved an apology.

“Well as I said, it is not at all what I intended to say, and I would absolutely apologize if any of them felt that in some ways it had diminished the enormous courage and sacrifice that they’d shown. You know, and if you look at all the other speeches that I’ve made, that is always the starting point in my view of this war.”

Me again. Now then class, how did Barack Obama get into trouble here? The same way so many of us get into trouble…all the time. We’re called upon to deliver a few words about what to do about some present situation, and instead, we huff and puff and pontificate instead about what is going on, and whether or not it meets our approval.

But…real life, and the tough decisions therein, seldom gives a shit about whether things meet our approval.

It’s just like liver and desert. There’s something we gotta get done…there’s something else that’s fun to do. It’s a human failing to do the thing that’s fun to do, instead of the thing that we know we need to get done — form a plan.

I’ve often heard it said that it’s a “conservative Republican canard” that Democrats have not yet formed a plan to deal with Iraq — that they have, they have, they have, and those poor oppressed Democrats, nobody’s talking about their plan. Well, how can we? They won’t talk about their plan. They just like to talk about how much they disapprove of the things that are going on…dessert before peas.

Is this plan they’ve cooked up, really what they’re all about, when they don’t want to talk about it? It would splinter up their base somewhat, but at least we’d know what they want to do. And how committed they are to it. Contrasted with that…how many bowls of ice cream have the Democrats had without nibbling at their dinner? How many times have we heard how they don’t like us being in Iraq? We get it. And even a swimsuit thunderstud media sensation like Obama, lacks the rhetorical skill to state it coherently.

I like this thing, I don’t like that other thing over there…it’s yummy, and fun to dish out. But it lacks nutritional value. And not only that, but there’s a point of diminishing returns involved. Having listened to the Democrats give us our instructions that we shouldn’t think highly of the operations in Iraq for four years solid now, I’d say we’re all past that point.

Thing I Know #112. Strong leadership is a dialog: That which is led, states the problem, the leader provides the solution. It’s a weak brand of leadership that addresses a problem by directing people to ignore the problem.

Update 2/20/07: The hyperlink promised above is here.

Time Machine Lunacy

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

It occurs to me that if one wants to be committed to a looney-bin, without lying about anything or deceiving anyone in any way, a time machine set to the right year will do the trick. The right year, and a carefully-selected tidbit of factual disclosure.

Hello good people of 2006! I’m from the future. Democrats are going to take over Congress, and one of the first things they’ll do is ask for direction from those whackjobs at DailyKOS. You think I kid! I’m as serious as a heart attack.

See what I mean? Off you go, and here’s your straightjacket. And yet…here we are.

Hello good people of 2005! I’m from the future. Democrats are blaming George Bush for hurricanes. Yes. They really, truly are.
Hello 2004! George Bush is thought by many to be the most “hated” President ever, and it looks like he is, even though he’s won more popular votes than any President in history.

It’s just awfully tough for me to believe we would be allowed to keep our freedom as responsible, sane people, after uttering such drivel. It all makes sense now; in fact, in some quarters you’ll be subjected to some form of verbal assault if you don’t go along with it. But we wouldn’t be able to explain it to the people of yesteryear. We’re like the frog sitting in a pot of water, raised to a rolling boil degree-by-degree.

Hello 2003! We have captured Saddam Hussein and he’s been executed; we’re having a lively debate about whether this makes the world any safer. The folks who think it was a bad move, have pretty much won the debate, even though they are never — ever — called upon to say what should have been done differently.
Hello 2002! Evidence has been produced that the people in the U.N. voting against an invasion of Iraq, are on Saddam Hussein’s payroll through the oil-for-food program. To the tune of billions of dollars. What are we doing to bring them to justice? Nothing. Actually, hardly anyone ever talks about it.
Hello 2001! I dunno what to say to you…just hug your kids. And may God be with you.
Hello 2000! If you give Republicans control of all three branches of government, Democrats will try their very best to win you back by…calling you a bunch of fucking goddamned idiots and hoping that will change your mind. Ultimately, it will.
Hello 1999! Don’t worry about President Clinton’s legacy. He’s doing more to try to hide it, than anyone.
Hello 1998! Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California.
Hello 1997! Little kids are going to start performing oral sex on each other because the President said it wasn’t really sex. He’s going to stay just as popular as he is now, if not moreso.
Hello 1996! We’re debating about whether Saddam Hussein was ever a dangerous fucknozzle; the people who insist he was a harmless misunderstood old teddy-bear, are winning.
Hello 1995! We got a “Pelosi Revolution” that’s just like your “Gingrich Revolution.” It involved between a quarter and a third as many House seats changing hands, as what you just went through…but our media tells us it means far, far more. And you wouldn’t believe how differently they’re treating it. It’s working, too.
Hello 1994! Your “co-President” is going to get her husband’s ass handed to him in the upcoming mid-terms with her socialized-medicine scheme. It’s going to make history — and yet, twelve years later, she’s going to start pushing the same product all over again, running for President “in her own right.”
Hello 1993! I’m from the future. Your brand-new President is going to lie to you. About a marital affair. On television. Waggling his finger at the cameras…and I mean that literally. And then he’s going to get caught by his own spunk, spurted all over a blue dress. DNA tests and everything. He won’t be run out of town on a rail, in fact, there will be a cult following devoted to him and how he “got away with it.”
Hello 1992! James Bond is gone for awhile, but eventually he’s going to come back. But while you’re settling into this era of political-correctness and female-friendliness, I can’t begin to describe what you’re about to do to the White House.
Hello 1991! Saddam Hussein’s going to be left in charge. This will be proven to be the wrong decision. The United Nations will make every single mistake about him they possibly can, including — get this — taking billions of dollars in bribes from Saddam himself, to veto enforcement of Resolutions 678 and 687. And yet, I daresay, there is no one in my time who is opposed to the U.N., who isn’t also opposed to it in yours. Not a soul, so far as I know.
Hello 1990! In about five years, it will become highly fashionable for mens’ pants to slip WAY down so their butt cracks stick out. You won’t be able to get away from it, and it will remain highly fashionable for about a dozen years.

These things make some measure of sense to us because we’ve been acclimated to them slowly. They would make sense in no other time.

Long Drop

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, half-brother of Saddam Hussein, was executed by hanging Monday. He shared an inglorious fate with legendary cowboy/outlaw Tom Ketchum, in that his rope was too long and as a result his head was snapped from his body.

There’s some stuff Barzan did to end up at the end of a long rope, though. Among other things, he Irreversibled a guy. Yeah, if I’m going to try to rabble-rouse people into some frothy panic about “oh, that is SUCH a barbaric way to execute somebody, I’m oh so outraged blah blah blah,” that’s a detail I’m going to leave out. In fact I’m not even going to say what it means to Irreversible someone. Rent the movie and fast-forward to ten, fifteen minutes into it. Listen to the crunching sound of someone’s sinus cavity. You’ll get it.

You can get the lowdown on what all those skull-fuckingly screwed-up guys did over there, here.

Why The Hatred

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Not Going To Hell After AllPresident Bush is hated. I think it’s fair to say President Bush is the most hated persona to occupy that high office, probably since the office has been there. The time has come to ask why this is. In nearly four years following the invasion of Iraq, and six years after he took office, none of the explanations make any sense whatsoever. I have been repeatedly preached and scolded and counseled and upbraided and reproached, that I must do certain things and vote certain ways because this emotion exists. I think deep down, everyone agrees it’s unwise to do things because of emotions even when emotions are understood easily. The more I learn of this emotion, the more convinced I am that I don’t understand it, and I don’t think anyone else does either…even the people who advertise that they have it. A lot of people stand to gain an awful lot if they can get people like me to understand what’s going on here. And after all those years, no explanation has been forthcoming, satisfactory or otherwise.

Oh yeah, why I’m supposed to join the ranks of those who hate him — people tell me that. They have a catalog of reasons. They add to it whenever they think of something, and they seem to think there’s something wrong with reciting just a piece of it. The whole list must be rattled off. And replication must be instantaneous; if one Bush-hater thinks of something new, all the other haters must add it to their own catalogs. So I hear these items fairly often. But the thing I want, continues to be left out. It’s like an itch I can’t scratch. Why George W. Bush is a walking superlative in the history of hated-people…such a rich history that is…no one’s given any justification for this.

I’m going to try to do it here.

He got 3,000 American troops killed, they tell me. The notion that these deaths are really his fault, is subject to reasonable debate. The notion that, if he has some blame for these casualties, he’s going to have to share it with others — is something that can only be subject to unreasonable debate. A lot of people could have done a lot of different things, and those dead troops would be smiling and eating and laughing and joking and burping and farting like you and me. But allowing for all this anyway — we’ve had other Presidents who got many more troops killed. Many, many more troops. This is according to the same logic. They weren’t nearly as hated. So that’s not it.

He “waged an illegal and unjust war.” That’s a matter of opinion…but allowing for that, again, going by the same logic, we’ve had other Presidents wage illegal and unjust wars. In the minds of some, anyway. They weren’t so hated.

He’s pro-life. We’ve had other Presidents who were pro-life.

He’s from Texas. We’ve had other Presidents from Texas.

He is thought by some to have shirked his military duty. We’ve had other Presidents thought, by some, to have shirked their military duty.

He swaggers. We’ve had other Presidents who have swaggered. One of them was in a wheelchair.

He spies on people, in the process, alienating them from the rights to which they are guaranteed by the Constitution. That’s what I’m told. Is anybody going to advance the assertion that this is unprecedented? When President Bush is said to “wipe his ass with the Constitution,” this is a figure of speech…invariably, it is pronounced without a citation from the U.S. Constitution in mind that is being violated. Other Presidents BLATANTLY violated specific amendments and/or articles/sections. Unapologetically, and without precedent. That includes the wheelchair-guy by the way. They weren’t so hated.

The economy is lackluster. In America, the economy has been quite a few measurable notches below lackluster, and we’ve had sitting Presidents who were decidedly at fault for some terrible economies. We’ve had Presidents who actually wrecked the economy with their bad policies — economies that would certainly have done better if something different were done. We’ve had Presidents who were still in office when the chickens came home to roost and there was broad agreement about the link between the poor policies and the sputtering economies. President Bush is hated more than those Presidents were…so…we continue looking for the underlying reason. It’s clear we have not yet found it.

A lot of people say he’s a dimwit. That seems, at first blush, to be the answer; I rarely hear anyone confess their hatred of President Bush, without throwing in the apparently-essential scolding that he’s anti-intellectual and stupid. But there are problems with this. Throughout recorded history, if the human equation has shown one consistent sentiment toward simpletons wielding real power, that sentiment would be tolerance. Tolerance to a fault, actually. We can adapt to dimwit bosses, and as a species we have done so many times before America came along. Based on the information I’ve reviewed, if President Bush has managed to arouse bumptious demands for his removal from office based on his addle-mindedness, with all other motivations for the acrimony being decidedly subordinate, he’s made history. Human history. It’s really hard to make that kind of history. I don’t think that’s it.

He’s inarticulate. So was Lincoln, according to some contemporaries. Benjamin Harrison was characterized as speaking in an annoying, high-pitched squeaky voice. Grant was shy. Coolidge didn’t say much.

None of these Presidents were quite so hated.

I think, what it is, is he took a bad guy down. We’ve had Presidents do that before, too…but President Bush did it in the modern age, when good & evil are supposed to be matters open to individual interpretation. In an age where evil is supposed to be a subjective viewpoint…he targeted someone. He’s an unwelcome paradigm shift, and the shift is in an direction that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Once you go down the road of insisting there is no such thing as “absolute” evil, you can stay there as long as you choose to…until someone else comes along, defines evil as being really evil, and does something about it. This makes the nihilist/anarchist crowd look bad.

It hurts their P.R. You stand there “helplessly” watching a house burn, you look okay. Someone else grabs a hose while you sit there on your ass watching…now, you’re embarrassed. If the other guy didn’t happen along, the house would have burned to the ground. But you’d look good. Nothing else really counts, right?

It’s like the guy watching a woman being mugged and raped, making a calculated, brazen decision to allow the attack to commence uninterrupted because it’s “not my concern.” Inaction resulting from purely pacifist interests. He looks all right…until someone else gets involved. And then the pacifist looks bad. And silly. And cowardly. And impotent. And then the pacifist begins to harbor some decidedly un-pacifist feelings, toward the other fellow who made a decision to help out.

Come to think of it, the anger these leftists have toward President Bush, is not at all unlike the anger felt toward a masculine, self-assertive, virile interloper, from a cuckold, whose lonely and bored wife has finally been reminded what a real man can do. It’s not unlike that kind of anger at all.

One exception, though. In our society, we do not value the idea of strong, effective men stealing women from weaker men. We do not raise our sons to sleep with other mens’ wives. We do raise our boys to stand up for what’s right; to get involved, to lend assistance if evil is sure to triumph for lack of that assistance. That is what President Bush did. I’m glad it was done, and history will be glad for it too.

To those who insist on hating him and continuing to build that reasons-for-hate catalog, I say, go ahead. Hate him if you want; hate him all you want. I think it would be good for your own mental well-being to identify, in your own mind, WHY it is you hate him. If you come up with the reason, and are too ashamed to admit to anybody else what it really is, you’re still better off than the guy who hates President Bush but won’t put the effort in to figuring out why.

It Didn’t Start Five Years Ago

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

This one goes into the “required viewing” file. Just click and watch. Make sure the sound is turned on or your headphones are plugged in.

And there’s some quality video-blogging going on below. I can’t endorse every single word because it’s a critique of a movie I’ve not seen, but I like Jimmy’s use of rhetorical questions and skeptical thinking.

Healthy cynicism, folks. It’s not just something to throw in Halliburton’s direction. Save some for the Hollywood “Peace Love Rock-n-Roll” types.

On Heavy Words…Like “Justice”

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Let me begin with a crass generalization. Parents are like hostages, and soldiers in foxholes: They believe in God. All of them. If they are atheists, they have real doubts about their atheism that purebred died-in-the-wool atheists do not have. And if they say this is not the case, they’re lying. Certain situations, certain perspectives, give one cause to absorb the news that life hands us day-to-day, and seriously ponder whether a Supreme Intelligence is making itself evident.

HusseinAnd that’s the thing I can’t help but wonder, as I see Amnesty International turn the notion of “justice” on its head just as 2006 is coming to a close. In the protest they released against Saddam Hussein’s death sentence Thursday, they’ve managed to turn the concept of justice around a hundred and eighty degrees.

“The trial of Saddam Hussein and his seven co-accused before the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) was deeply flawed and unfair, due to political interference which undermined the independence of the court and other serious failings,” sad Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme. “The Appeals Court should have addressed these deficiencies and ordered a fair re-trial, not simply confirmed the sentences as if all was satisfactory at the trial stage.”

“It was absolutely right that Saddam Hussein should be held to account for the massive violations of human rights committed by his regime, but justice requires a fair process and this, sadly, was far from that, “said Malcolm Smart.”The trial should have been a landmark in the establishment of the rule of law in Iraq after the decades of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. It was an opportunity missed.”

Okay, let’s start with the points of agreement, between AI and myself: Massive violations of human rights. Justice demands a fair process. Mr. Smart and myself are in agreement here: Justice is the administration of a fair verdict and sentence, in the aftermath of violations.

Now somewhere after this common ground has passed underfoot, something has happened which has made Mr. Smart upset, something he regards as unfair. I do not know what it is. Mr. Smart doesn’t want to tell me what it is, and if he does, Amnesty International has whittled his comments down to size because apparently they do not want me to know what it is. It could be this highly meaningful assertion is based, entirely, on the concluding paragraph, which is the only text in the AI press release I can find that even approaches justification for the above:

The trial before the SICT, which began in October 2005 and concluded with the imposition of sentences on 5 November, was widely criticised due to political interference and the court’s failure to ensure the safety of witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were murdered during the course of the proceedings, and for failing to establish an effective case against the accused.

I really do hope they got something better than that. “Failure to ensure the safety of witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were murdered during the course of the proceedings” simply means that justice is a sufficiently serious concern that people are willing to put their lives on the line to get it. The defense is to be commended for this…as is the prosecution, officers of the court, and everyone else involved. “Failing to establish an effective case against the accused” is nothing but a practical contradiction of the second paragraph quoted above. The dude did his stuff, or else he didn’t. Looks like he did; the court said so, and the facts say so. Moving on.

Thanks to Captain’s Quarters it was brought to our attention Friday that — surprise — the New York Times is none to fond of Saddam’s death sentence, either. And I cannot help noticing the Paper of Record, well-known as our nation’s journalistic flagship, picked up this mostly-unexplained and mostly-unexplored concept of “missed opportunity” and passed it on down, unskeptically, uncritically. In some passages, on a word-for-word basis. History demands it will then be echoed and re-echoed, like everything else that comes out of the Times. Such-and-such Tribune, So-and-so Herald, Mayberry Gazette, on and on and on…their editors read it in the Times, so it must be so.

What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from [Saddam Hussein's] death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness…It could have, but it didn’t. After a flawed, politicized and divisive trial, Mr. Hussein was handed his sentence: death by hanging. This week, in a cursory 15-minute proceeding, an appeals court upheld that sentence and ordered that it be carried out posthaste…What might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity. After nearly four years of war and thousands of American and Iraqi deaths, it is ever harder to be sure whether anything fundamental has changed for the better in Iraq.

And ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. Poor ol’ 2006 is destined to spin its bones in its grave as it’s retirement is marked by a renewed demonstration of how what’s reported becomes the polar opposite of what’s really happening. Some cranky international activist group like Amnesty International says something was amiss, the Old Gray Lady repeats it, and then from sea to shining sea we’re going to be sold on the proposition that there’s no elephant in the room and no man behind the curtain.

That’s the spin. What does the evidence say, meanwhile? Saddam was guilty of violations and deserved to die — undisputed. He got what he had comin’ to him — measurable.

And here’s where I start to think The Lord works in mysterious ways. It is the eve of a new year; a time when we’re inspired to reflect on the way we’ve been doing things, and find ways to do them better, while keeping an open mind about perhaps doing entirely new things.

And AI, and the Old Gray Lady, make their intentions a little too clear about the word “justice.” They seek to re-define it to something beyond what it really is. Time we had some sort of symposium on what the J-word means. Here in the U.S., it’s a little overdue. Call me a hick, call me a NASCAR hillbilly if you want. Call me white trash. But I do believe the Good Lord wants us to put a little more thought into what justice is. I think He’s a little cheesed-off at the way we’ve been throwing the word around for the last generation plus. I think He put the itch between the ears of our Armani-suited anarchists, so they would sound off RIGHT now, as a way to inspire us to call out their bullshit.

Again: Let us start with the area of agreement. “Justice” means to get what’s comin’ to ya. It is, ultimately, a subjective thing that exists in the mind of the observer, which sometimes can present some problems. In the case of Saddam Hussein, it does not present a problem. He was a bad guy. Nobody with a reputation worth protecting, seeks to assert anything different. So when we look up “justice” in the dictionary, we find

1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.
4. conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
5. the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
6. the maintenance or administration of what is just by law, as by judicial or other proceedings: a court of justice.
7. judgment of persons or causes by judicial process: to administer justice in a community.
8. a judicial officer; a judge or magistrate.

And I’m thinking definitions #4, #5 and #7 are closest to what we’re pondering here. Note that in all cases, even clear-cut ones like Mr. Hussein’s, this is a matter of opinion. Other cases are not so clear-cut. I go out and get a pet ferret, pet ferrets are illegal where I live, you might say I deserve to spend a year in jail. Other people might say the ferret law is stupid, and I don’t deserve any penalty at all. Someone else, yet, might think the ferret law is so unjust that I deserve a reward for opposing it. These are all legitimate opinions; what makes them so, assuming nothing else does, is that there are no known facts that directly contradict those opinions.

But it’s worth pointing out again: Such opinions are not represented in Saddam Hussein’s situation. It is agreed that he is guilty of wretched human violations. That he deserves death is agreed ipso facto. This would be a great time to make a stand against the death penalty, if one is inclined to do so — Amnesty Internatonal is not known for hawkish attitudes where the ultimate punishment is concerned — and in the situation at hand, nobody bothers to lift a finger. Their efforts to confuse the issue, exuberant and enthusiastic as they are, are confined to way the sentence was handed down and do not touch on the sentence itself. Well, that certainly says something.

With that observation, let’s venture forward into the area where we disagree. Those who seek to incite in me some kind of frustration with the way Saddam’s trial was executed (or denied a re-trial), have adhered to a trend of stopping with the argument right after defining this as their stated intent. They define this as the purpose and — right away! — it’s time to whip up the emotions. No logic involved at all. I have been instructed to believe the process is flawed. The particulars of the flaw, are left unmentioned. That says something too; I’ve read all the way through AI’s condemnation, and the Times’ as well. Every word of both of ‘em. Not lengthy epistles by any means, but I would expect that in this exercise I would trip across some foundation. All I got was a snarky observation at the end of Amnesty International’s little tome, to the effect that being involved in the trial was a deadly and dangerous thing.

That’s all I got out of both opinion pieces.

And you know what that tells me? Justice triumphed — where politically motivated people on both sides of the issue sought to thwart it, were willing to kill to confound it. Justice was attacked, and emerged victorious. Hey, champagne all around.

And yet, it seems safe to infer this brightened no one’s day at Amnesty International, or on the editorial board of the New York Times. These folks remain peeved about something…they’ve availed themselves no shortage of opportunity to say what it is…they will not say what it is. Personally, I doubt they want anyone to know what it is. But the better-late-than-never symposium on what justice means — awaits. So let’s give them the full benefit of the doubt, every smidgen of it. Let’s say Saddam Hussein’s trial was flawed and unfair, to such an odious extent that “what might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity,” even though those who say this is so, refuse to say why this is. Let’s just go with that anyway.

Is that not justice? You do something awful, and “just desserts” come to you, while the process by which they are delivered, is flawed? It’s still justice, isn’t it? Therein lies the question we’ve been needing to resolve for nearly half a century. So let’s take a look.

Well, move the question-at-hand to some other situation to take the emotion out of it. A hypothetical. I swindle some old widow out of her life savings, which is decidedly a bad thing to do. I invest my ill-gotten gains in the futures market on some kind of “sure thing” — my broker somehow screws up the order. Wrong delivery date on the commodity, or wrong commodity. I lose everything. Stupid broker! What a flawed process. He’s just asking to be sued…but of course, I can’t bring much of a suit now because I have no money. Unjust? Really? Who would say so?

Ever seen “Trading Places” with Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy? The one where Jamie Lee Curtis…yowza. Well, I digress, so let me wipe the drool out of the keyboard and continue onward. Remember the ending? What happened to Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche? Flawed process. The characters played by Akroyd and Murphy, it would seem, are guilty of several felonies — assuming they got caught, or failed to deliver on the orange juice contracts, neither one of which really happened. Badly flawed process. Unjust? Or, were Bellamy and Ameche’s characters “held accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future?” Hey, if anyone thought not, it wouldn’t have been funny.

How about acts of violence? How about if I shoot you from some distance for no reason…but since I’m a lousy shot, the bullet misses you, bounces off something, and nails me right between the eyes? Hey, that’s a pretty thoughtless process! I don’t get an appeal for my sentencing! Darn it, someone should do something. It doesn’t nurture my hopes for a better future at all! But what of it? I think everyone would agree there’s “justice” involved in that. Even most people opposed to the death penalty would be on board with that.

So the question I have for Amnesty International and the New York Times — and all of us, as we begin a new year — is this: How come we’re supposed to re-define “justice” from what we all know it really is…just because a human process is involved? What’s different, other than the potential for abuse of the retrial process in artificial proceedings? Mr. Smart, unlike the editorial board of our nation’s most prestigious newspaper, at least as the balls to say what he’d like to have done differently. If he had his way, the retrial would be granted. How this fixes any of whatever issues he had with the first trial, of course, goes unanswered…since there’s no good answer. And what those issues were, exactly, I don’t think I have a good understanding of it even though he’s gone out of his way to try to explain it to me. I know what decision was made, that he doesn’t like; I don’t know anything else about his beef.

Meanwhile, the asshole Saddam’s dead. Now, throughout the year I’ve been talking with some folks about Mr. Hussein’s death sentence. It impresses me that even people who are opposed to the death penalty, in several cases, “would grant an exception” for Iraq’s former despot. So…although justice can be a subjective thing, it seems acceptable to a broad cross section of us that this was just. Saddam Hussein did not deserve to live, and in politics as well as in tactics, his continued survival endangered others. With few, meaningless exceptions, the agreement on this is universal.

The debate before us, therefore, is whether the ends justify the means. That’s assuming I’m willing to grant that this trial was somehow unfair — a concession I make, here, only to pursue the argument. It hasn’t been substantiated very well, even by those who are obviously very passionate about substantiating it.

We must define what justice is. Is it the delivery of what’s deserved, or the process by which it is delivered? You know what? It seems to be the delivery itself. The end does justify the means. The process is secondary.

The process does remain somewhat important because it has the potential to change what is deserved. This observation has no bearing at all in the case of Saddam Hussein. So some of our more pacifist types seek to make the process of delivery a primary consideration, simply for the sake of protesting things. That is their fatal flaw, for the process is not primary at all. It is decidedly subordinate, especially when you talk about “landmark[s] in the establishment of the rule of law.” Corrupting that, is done far more effectively by denying the guilty what they got comin’, than by delivering what they got comin’ through a trial that some peevish activist group happens to dislike in some nebulous way. Saddam Hussein got what was deserved, and justice was done. The New York Times says the trial “could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness” — and based on the information I’ve been able to find, it has achieved exactly that.

Next problem?

Memo For File XXXV

Friday, December 8th, 2006

I’ve never been a frequent sufferer of what we commonly call “nightmares”; the few that I’ve had over the years, have lately given way to something else. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m becoming an old man. Things that distress me in sleep, are sufficiently based on real problems, that they continue to bother me while I’m lying there waiting to get up and start my day. My subconsciousness might invent a fictitious and frightening scenario, and rather than snapping awake to realize it’s not true…I snap awake to discover it isn’t true yet. And so I lie there and fret about it, until I realize the best I can do is to wait for an opportunity to present itself to mitigate the problem, hoping such an opportunity will arise since it assuredly has not yet. What do we call these. Morning-mares?

Always, the future is involved. Wednesday morning I had a bruiser. Again, I was a sad old man who had stumbled on through the decades, watching his ominous foreboding about the world proven correct again and again and again, while people around him listened to his other dark prophecies less and less and less. I was broken, quiet, and empty shell of the man I am today, resolved to keep my opinion to myself until such time as it was solicited…and of course it never was. I was visiting my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. The situation was happy, in all the ways that matter to most. We all had our health. My son’s business was doing very well. And I had luxuries most old men crave, but about which most only dream; my son continued the gratitude that he has today, that I taught him the priceless lesson of differentiating between a fact and an opinion, and that this practice is the mother’s milk of any thinking man’s ability to know anything worth knowing. He had used this abstract concept to gain material success in the world, no easy feat, and for this I was exceptionally proud.

But if he was thankful for the ability to do this, the rest of the world was not, and I was frequently bothered by residual questions about whether I’d injured his capacity to conform. The world had changed. The problems we have today, had all metastasized into real conundrums, far worse. The United States had left Iraq. “Civil war” did not endure there, after all; terrorists moved in, and who could blame them? Good heavens, what utterly stupid and ineffectual terrorists it would have taken to allow such opportunity to pass. And so the government of Iraq was left in charge for just a small stretch of time, and crumbled when it failed to meet the challenge. The world took no notice of that, it simply blamed George Bush and moved on. Who expected anything different?

It wasn’t any kind of country at all, it was just one huge terrorist “building.” Of course, nobody gave a thought to doing anything with it, as far as military operations, weapons inspections, or anything of the like. It was just a place terrorists went, and we left them alone, resigned to wait for the next attack and tough it out. And so, with training camps and weapons labs on every yard of earth from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, Syria to Iran, September 11 attacks became routine. We stopped coming up with names for them after Number Twenty or so. They were only numbers. We were watching the news about Number Thirty-Eight…once again, everybody we knew, was spared. Again, we were lucky.

Ah…the news. Fact, and opinion. Did I mention the patriarchal concerns I had about how my son failed to fit into the world, as he differentiated between fact and opinion? I should elaborate. News was a different thing in my vision. Today, news does not differentiate even though it seems to understand it ought to. It editorializes under labels like “Analysis” so the editorials can be tossed in where everyone knows they don’t belong. Nouns are joined by verbs in such a way that the observation sounds factual, but only cosmetically so. Challenges loom. Dangers await. That’s now. In my vision, the blending problem is gone…because the facts are gone. News is pure opinion. Nobody takes the time to notice this; if they pay attention to the “news” at all, they show how “informed” they are by repeating things that sound exactly like it. As a broken old man, fortunate enough to have the gratitude of my progeny for all my tedious lectures about fact and opinion, I resolved to dispense only what people wanted. My opinions were secret until someone specifically requested they not be. I was thankful. I had the gratitude of my heirs, for having taught them things. Occasionally, they would ask me about history…asking for facts. That makes two precious gifts to an old man. Opinions I would keep to myself. Opinions they would get from the news.

And so the news droned on about Number Thirty-Eight. Nothing about death tolls or what kind of weapon was used or how the attack was carried out. In fact, the news was nothing but a warning about things we might learn somewhere else. The news didn’t even tell us there was a Number Thirty-Eight; it simply portended that we were going to be told about it, perhaps, and we should disregard anything we hear about this, that, or some other thing. As far as what happened, very little information was forthcoming. We were learning nothing. This was typical.

Number Thirty-Eight, from what I could gather, seemed to have something to do with what is called “Chicago.”

My grandson was watching the “news,” and paying close attention to the instructions about what he should ignore. Not because he wanted to, but because it was a homework assignment. He was “debating” in school. He was very skilled at this, and we were all very proud of him, but I made a point of not following the action too closely. Nobody analyzed anything in high school debates, or any other debates for that matter; nobody proved or provided evidence for anything, nobody refuted anything, and nobody represented themselves as trying to. Of course, simply noticing that would be expressing an opinion, and so I kept my silence on this. But it was so bad, that participants in high school debates were “scored” on a percentage of how closely their comments resembled the “news.” My grandson was sure to take first place in the last debate, but he took second. The other kid’s comments were found to resemble the news 93% of the time, and my family’s champion was scored at 88% or 90% or something. Clearly, he needed to study up and make sure his opinions were brought in line. That’s right, excellence was defined as…resembling other things. I’ve always had an opinion about that too (Thing I Know #145) — but I kept quiet about it. How could I not? My grandson was winning trophies and was bursting at the seams with pride. No grandfather would put a damper on that.

But this week he had been topped. And so, three generations of us sat around. Watching “news.” About an attack that wasn’t an attack, so far as we knew. You had to kind of read between the lines, but that is the way it was with everything.

And my grandson turned to me and asked me a horrible question. I don’t remember what it was, but somehow in answering it I had let it slip that the Dark Place that had no name, from which terrorists repeatedly prepared their next attack, the place to which nobody went, which nobody understood, the Lord Valdemort of geographic locations — was Iraq. A hush fell over the living room. Nobody was angry with grandpa, but I would almost have been happier if they were. No, they were eager to learn more. I had let the cat out of the bag; I had forgotten that young people didn’t understand this. Oh, they were encouraged to believe President Bush “messed up Iraq” some thirty years before. They were encouraged to believe that the reason we couldn’t do anything about terrorist attacks, was because it was absolutely forbidden and unthinkable to go to the Dark Place. But they didn’t understand that the Dark Place was what Iraq became.

And it opened a huge can of worms. It revealed that the United States once had a military presence there, a little morsel of information that was carefully concealed from young people and more-distracted young adults. Older people like me, had made a practice of speaking as if these were two different regions. It worked, most of the time, because geography was something you just didn’t learn in school and you didn’t expect to learn it. So Iraq went away…from out of somewhere, came the Dark Place. Connecting the two as one mass of land, although this was factually correct, was simply not done because it might lead to more questions. Questions upon which, now two full generations were left without the tools to explore. So what was the point?

The questions flew toward me. What was it like when we were there? Well, of course it was messy, I said. And so we talked about “insurgents” and I.E.D.’s. I told them some 3700 American soldiers lost their lives as Iraq became the Dark Place. And every answer I gave…led to more confusion. As I cleared up the confusion as best I could, I started to find reasons why the confusion took place. For example, that we were pushed out of Iraq in a single afternoon. That was not correct. It took years. Where did we get the idea it took just a few hours? Oh that’s right…the 3700. The place is filled with terrorists and we are forced to leave, if such a thing goes on for any length of time it seems the toll should be higher. Much higher.

You think about it, it makes sense. Thirty-Four, six months previous, hit Atlanta with a loss of some two million; Twenty-Nine struck in Los Angeles a year before that, with a toll more than double. Death expressed in aggregate, no longer packed a wallop for this new generation. How could it? And so they hear about 3700 soldiers dying over an undefined amount of time — the last thing they’d think is that this took five years. Sounds more like five hours.

Well, I had to re-think and re-think again on the words as they came out of my mouth, because I was trying to repress any opinion. I wished I was boring everybody; I’d be just one more tedious old man, shutting up when nobody listens to him anymore. That would be easy. But my granddaughter and daughter-in-law had gathered around, and I was surrounded in this horseshoe arrangement as I recounted this history nobody heard before. To answer my grandchildrens’ questions, it was difficult to stay neutral, because now I had to explain how wars are lost not tactically, but through lack of political will. And that this lack of political will, while everyone wishes it comes from independent thinking…well, the facts don’t support this. It comes from “news.” But “news” that isn’t really news. And so there I was explaining how Iraq, we had been told decades before on the “news,” was degenerating into a “civil war.” This struck everyone as rather odd. A civil war is all about who’s going to be in charge; if Iraq is the same spot as the Dark Place, then it was a place where, as I was speaking, nobody was “in charge” except terrorists. Civil war? Here we were finding out something dreadful had happened in Chicago. Nobody we knew had been injured…nobody we knew of, quite yet. And this was the thirty-eighth attack. For this generation to learn that we once had control of the Dark Place, and gave it up willingly — well, they were having a lot of trouble grasping this.

And again, who could blame them? And so I had to explain the news…not so much as a bunch of opinion masquerading as fact…but as an interest. They’d already picked up on the leitmotif that when America does something militarily, the effort put in by the “news” is to try to get America to stop doing it. This was puzzling to them. We could have stopped terrorists; terrorists want us to live under Sharia law; the prognosis for a free press under Sharia law, is not terribly good; what’s the interest of the news people, to stop America from stopping the terrorists? Here, my opinion was being directly solicited. The trouble was, I had none to give.

And then, my granddaughter wanted to know when they all began. The thirty-eight. How long has this been going on? What about Number One?

The conversation was going to a place I didn’t want it to go, but I had never held secrets from my grandchildren and wasn’t about to start. The question was direct and she was owed an answer. The moment of the dream that shattered my slumber, and left me lying there thinking through what I had just been dreaming, was an explosive epiphany blossoming from my own remark. As if it came from another person, I heard my own raspy voice grind out, “We would not call it ‘Number One’ for a very long time…” Someone gasped. “We called it the September Eleven attacks, Nine Eleven for short.” Something jumped through my brain, and in a heartbeat it became impossible to go on. I was struck by the ramifications of what I had just said. Thirty-Nine was coming and Forty was coming and Forty-One…what would they be like? Another Fourteen, detonating in the midwest where the population was most spread-out, snuffing out just a few hundred of us? Or, that awful, unforgettable Twenty-Two, still unmentioned in polite company? Something in between? And nobody could do anything about any of it. No one had any vision for it; nobody, anywhere. Control over destiny was thought to be an evil thing, and we were told on a daily basis that it was far more noble to simply await the inevitable, lest “world opinion” be agitated against us again. In the final analysis, the human race became just like a bunch of ants, or something even lower still, waiting to be squished.

My mind churned as I tried to put together the words to explain what Nine One One was all about. From where did the three numbers come. About telephones, about how this was an emergency number and how that all worked…how “9-1-1″ stood for a fundamental meaning, now lost forever, something nobody understood. “Something terrible has happened and we gotta do something.” I was trying to figure out how to explain this to a girl who was a stranger to such a thought from infancy, and had ever met anyone who had entertained such a thought. In her time, life, for however long it lasted, was a simple affair. Be happy. Don’t make mistakes. Think the right thoughts. Don’t disagree with people. You may be dead tomorrow, so the point isn’t to try to avoid it, the point is to make sure you’re remembered in a positive way. She was happy, and her friends were all happy; they’d be ostracized if they were caught being something else, since any dreaded challenge to the status quo must arise from evil, wretched dissatisfaction. Happiness and contentment, all around. Ignore what the “news” tells you to ignore. To someone living in a whole world like that, how do you explain what 911 means?

I made a few false starts, interrupted myself, my voice broke. My tired old eyes became thick and wet — and then I woke up.