30 November, 2005

National Denial

Dr. Sanity is exceptional in this long post about denial - personal, collective and national. Read it. Save it. Think about it. And then read it again. We could all use a regular dose, and not only at the political level. Any further commentary would be superfluous.

...denial can be a strategy not only of individuals, but of groups; organizations; and entire nations...Denial can make otherwise intelligent individuals/groups/nations behave in a stupid or clueless manner, because they are too threatened by the Truth and are unable to process what is perfectly apparent to everyone. People who live in this Wonderful World go through their daily lives secure in the knowledge that their self-image is protected against any information, feelings, or awareness that might make them have to change their view of the world...

Nothing--and I mean NOTHING--not facts, not observable behavior; not the use of reason or logic; or their own senses will make an individual in denial reevaluate that world view. All events will simply be reinterpreted to fit into the belief system of that world--no matter how ridiculous, how distorted, or how psychotic that reinterpretation appears to others. Consistency, common sense, reality, and objective truth are unimportant and are easily discarded--as long as the world view remains intact.

Certainly denial can be used by anyone; and both sides of the political spectrum engage in it-- Democrats or Republicans; Left or Right. But the most recent example, and the one with the most serious implications is the continued denial of reality on the part of Democrats and the Left regarding Iraq.

The examples of their unwillingness to face reality are everywhere. They pretend they didn't vote for military action. They distort what was actually said and even when confronted with audiotapes and transcripts of what was said; they continue to deny that they meant any such thing. When confronted with what Bush or Cheney actually said about the reasons for going to war; they will insistently adhere to an interpretation that fits their template.

Their denial is complete on this issue. It is simply not possible for them to admit that Bush was correct and they were wrong. This is unacceptable knowledge. Bush must be wrong, and America must fail for them to maintain not only their self-esteem, but also their worldview...

The proponents of doom and gloom would maintain that it is Bush who is in denial (or people like me). How does one tell who is correct when both are claiming the other side is in denial?
Hat tip: The Anchoress, who has a bunch more good stuff here.

Dr. Sanity uses Joe Lieberman's editorial as part of her argument. My take on it yesterday is here.

29 November, 2005

Politics Upside Down

Except for the occasional tactical one-day registration in order to vote in a party primary, I've remained an Independent for most of my adult life. It seems to cut down on the mailings and the phone calls around election time. I'm affirmed in that decision by two editorials in today's Wall Street Journal. One by Joe Lieberman (D, CT) and the other by Dick Armey (former Republican House Majority Leader from Texas.)

See if you can guess which one is which...

Politician number one:

[Iraq] is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority... I cannot say enough about the U.S. Army and Marines who are carrying most of the fight for us in Iraq. They are courageous, smart, effective, innovative, very honorable and very proud.
Politician number two:
Today, with Republicans controlling both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, there is a widening credibility gap between their political rhetoric and their public policies... President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress are presiding over the largest expansion of government since LBJ's Great Society... we have embarrassing spectacles like the 2005 highway bill. Costing $295 billion, it is 35% larger than the last transportation bill, fueled by 6,371 earmarks doled out to favored political constituencies. By comparison, the 1987 highway bill was vetoed by Ronald Reagan for containing relatively few (152) earmarks. Overall, even excluding defense and homeland security spending, the growth rate of discretionary spending adjusted for inflation is at a 40-year high... President Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill. The House leadership refuses to reign in appropriators, claiming, as one of them preposterously put it, that "there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget."
Someone emerging from say, a 20-50 year time capsule would be excused for not having a clue what's going on here. That political world is completely upside down. Yes, the first quote is Lieberman "Our Troops Must Stay" (free on OpinionJournal and well worth reading.) If he runs, and doesn't get stupid by running alongside Hillary (on either part of the ticket), he'll be a force to be reckoned with in '08... if he can get past the Moonbat Michael Moore wing of the party in the primaries - which he probably can't.

The second is Armey, "It's My Party..." (subscription required.) He has the luxury out of office of telling the emperor and his court that - on fiscal responsibility at least - they not only have no clothes but that they've been engaging in a virtual orgy. Two choice quips from Armey (he calls them 'Axioms'): On working with liberal Democrats to pass huge spending bills: "Make a deal with the devil and you're the junior partner." On political strategy: "When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose."

Armey vs. Lieberman in '08? The soul of Reagan Republicanism versus the soul of long-forgotten JFK Democratic resolve overseas? Now that would be truly interesting. It all regresses to the mean. (Which is NOT to be confused with the "middle" as many liberals would like to define it today - a "middle" that would make any Democrat prior to LBJ blush.) Which is why I'm staying flexible. I've got better places to give money this year.

U.S. Report Urges Unilateral Nuke Disarmament by Israel

In the category of you've got to be kidding, a study "commissioned and partially funded by the Pentagon" recommends that Israel get rid of its nuclear weapons in hopes that "wipe them off the map" Iran will place nice and decide to follow their example. (Hat tip: Mover Mike)

Hello! Are we talking about the same Iran? Did we learn anything from the Jimmy Carter era? What sort of naive wacko thinks that the kind of strategy that didn't work in the Soviet face-off (when we could count on at least some level of rational Western thought entering into the heads of our opponents) that it would work in the Middle East for crying out loud?

This is the same Iran that was emboldened by the power of a bunch of ragtag students to hold dozens of U.S. citizens hostage for over a year against a gutless U.S. president who they knew wouldn't do a darned thing. We should not think for a moment that their current nuclear ambitions are not part and parcel of the psychology that was begun with that incident. Boys with blindfolds and handcuffs who aren't disciplined grow up to be boys running nations with nukes, clear targets they can publicly declare, dispersed deep weapons development bunkers in populated areas and nobody to stop them... including the most powerful nation on earth.

It seems that the report's recommendation is a last-ditch grasp at something - anything - that could be done short of an extremely costly, highly unlikely military action that probably wouldn't be terribly effective anyway. It essentially says that Iran will get nukes and we have to deal with that, so lets sacrifice Israel and then maybe they'll be happy and won't come after us. Which in addition to being a darned scary idea is not the kind of thing we elect/hire leaders to tell us. At least they get points for thinking about taboo subjects...

But really... is our last best tactic, (the product of the best thinking out of the Pentagon and elsewhere) that a staunch ally - or at the very least a sympathetically co-terrorized bastion of Western Civilization, i.e., Israel - should simply lay down its arms and hope for the best?

Biblically speaking, I get it - sort of. On that completely different analytical wavelength, I have sensed for some time a kind of cosmic inevitability about the troubling signs coming out of Iran. I've been thoroughly wrong about making specific date-driven predictions, but the general shape of things is starting to look awfully familiar.

But go tell that to a few million Israelis who are living at ground zero for Iranian nukes. Does anyone seriously believe that Iran would use its first nuke on say... the Czech Republic? Five years from now (if we get there), Iraq is going to look like a picnic - and not because of anything we've done recently. This really started in 1979... or arguably a few thousand years earlier.

28 November, 2005

Stop Children, What's THAT Sound?

I was just commenting on a post over at ZenPundit ("Music and War") to the effect that if I have to listen one more time to Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" on my favorite classics station I'm going to puke.

Great song. Worn-out lyrics. The not-so-subtle message from radio programmers on such stations seems to be: if we make it sound like Vietnam, maybe it will become Vietnam.

Not so fast.

Into that fray steps... The Right Brothers. I'm sure this is old news to many, and I'm a bit chagrined to say I found the link on Andrew Sullivan. But they rock. Check it out (MP3 snippet of "Bush Was Right").

Here We Go Again: Russia, Iran and the IAEA

Great (if scary) editorial in this morning's WSJ on Iranian nuclear negotiations (free at OpinionJournal):

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported last week that Iran possesses detailed drawings showing ways to "cast and machine enriched natural and depleted uranium into hemispherical forms," which is another way of saying the inner core of a nuclear bomb.

So what is the IAEA's Governing Board, including the U.S., doing about it? It has decided not to refer Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council, agreeing instead to allow another round of negotiations, this time with Russia, to run its course. If the mullahs weren't laughing at the IAEA's fecklessness, we'd be tempted to laugh at it ourselves.
Tell me if you've heard this one before:
  • Highly credible, internationally-gathered evidence mounts that a rogue/extremist Mideast nation ('REMN' for short) is amassing a weapons-grade nuclear capability with malice aforethought.
  • U.S. reads treaties the way they were written (i.e., NPT and IAEA rules that require automatic referral to the UN Security Council); takes tough line.
  • Euros say "not so fast - let's be reasonable"; they step in to see what they can do.
  • U.S. acquiesces to Euro soft touch, aided and abetted by the liberal media, thereby giving rogue/extremist Mideast nation (REMN) more of exactly what it needs: time.
  • Euros' negotiations predictably fail when it becomes clear that the REMN was never negotiating in good faith; they were playing a game.
  • Russia steps in, says "don't worry; we'll make it all OK" (cue sound of cash register)
  • The feckless Eloi (er, I mean Euros) acquiesce, allowing them to go on living blissfully ignorant lives and re-focus their worry back on global warming and the sanctity of their long vacations and not have to face the awful truth that a radical Islamic nation governed by men who have baldly stated that they not only wish to wipe Israel off the map but the whole of Western Civilization along with it finally has THE BOMB, along with the missile capability to deliver it to pretty much everywhere in Europe except maybe Belfast or Lapland and make Molotov-cocktail throwing teenagers in Paris look like barely the warm-up act.
  • As the only nation with the credible power to do anything after others have frittered away precious time, the U.S. is forced to step in "unilaterally" to avert total disaster for their European "allies"
  • U.S. president is blamed for being a "cowboy" and acting rashly; secondary blame (whispered behind closed doors) is placed on Jewish influence in White House power circles because we all know this is about protecting those nasty Israelis, right?
  • Russia acts surprised but unbowed when it is found to have been cashing in all along.
For rhetorical purposes let me reach out to my left-wing friends for a moment and concede that Iraq has been difficult and a little tragic - even if I continue to believe that it was essential and that we're winning. But at the same time let me ask them to concede (for a moment, for rhetorical purposes) that Saddam was a bad guy and that he really did have WMD. (I know this will be a stretch guys and gals, but let's try to stay focused on facts for a moment. Or if not that then at least what Democrats were saying in 1998.)

Then with all of that on the table, wouldn't it be nice if the world community didn't learn a thing or two from the experience and maybe deal with the next REMN (that would be "Rogue/Extremist Mideast Nation" for those who skipped the bullet points) in a swifter and more effective fashion than the last time - rather than kicking the can down the street until it's someone else's problem and it has to be dealt with now 'cause Jerusalem and Paris are great big smoking holes in the ground with mushroom clouds above them? Just asking...

Thanks for Coming; Gotta Go; Make Yourselves Comfortable

With a big self-congratulatory and oh-so-earnest global warming confab set to kick off in Canada this week, it looks like Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and his minority government are finally about to get the political kick in the teeth they've had coming for some time.

Thousands of environmentalists and government officials from around the world have descended on Montreal to brainstorm on how to slow the effects of greenhouses gases and global warming. In the process they will probably witness the collapse of the Canadian government.

In a nightmarish turn of events for Environment Minister Stephane Dion, the House of Commons was set to topple Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government on Monday, the same day Canada opens the 10-day U.N. Climate Control Conference.

The opposition has enough votes to bring down Martin's Liberal government - seizing on a corruption scandal within his party - which means Dion and other Cabinet ministers could be forced to forego the conference and instead hit Canada's short campaign trail for national elections in January.
In a refusal to cave in to mere facts that would make Bill Clinton blush, Martin has held on for months amidst a major scandal (as I wrote about back in May after a visit there). The scandal is hardly just a "corruption scandal within his party". It's a gross misuse of public funds that calls into question everything about the Prime Minister's character and "leadership".

The AP article goes on to editorialize about why global warming is a really big deal and why George Bush is a really bad guy for not ratifying Kyoto (as if it were entirely up to him - which of course its not: the Senate chose not to ratify it, and wisely so; and as if it were the only recent multi-national environmental treaty out there - which it's not. I could go on but I won't. That's another post.) The juxtaposition of the two stories this week is rich beyond belief. As I wrote in May:
Directly pointing out that the emperor has no clothes... can have surprisingly little effect when the prevailing story - however fictitious - reflects positively on the listener (aka, citizen.) The same works in reverse. That's part of the reason why Reagan (and to some extent President Bush) won easily. They painted a positive vision of the future while their rivals heaped scorn, derision and gloom on the very voters they sought to court.

The Canadian situation may also be partly if perversely explained by a 'conservative' preference (hardly worthy of the name) among Canadians that's better characterized as 'don't rock the boat' - even if, or rather especially if it's stalled and sinking. This post is already overloaded with metaphor, but if I'm allowed one more, the impulse is like a deer in the headlights - resisting change precisely when change is most clearly called for.

Nobody wants to feel bad about himself. To listen to the critic in such an extreme case is to accept blame for oneself and take responsibility for one's previous blindness. (A similar impulse is at work in the derision poured on John Bolton by the left precisely when his world view is most needed - and the UN's most suspect.) Changing worldviews is hard. It's painful. Better to dismiss the truth-teller than to accept the truth - in this case the apparent truth that Canada's Liberal government and its prime minister, Paul Martin were involved in the deliberate and gross misuse of public funds.
Absent that last sentence, I could have been writing about global warming. The psychology is virtually the same.

UPDATE I: Wretchard over at Belmont Club has more on Canada's environmental record, as well as a report on another "well-intentioned" event that's flopping badly (EU conference on developing and democratizing the Middle East - hmm... where have we heard that idea before?)
The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the UN Climate Change Secretariat shows that "Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto. Mr. Bramley said the United States is 'actually ahead of Canada in just about every area' of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states 'is far ahead of any province in Canada.'" In fact, if increases in greenhouses gases since 1990 are used as a measure, Canada performed nearly twice as badly as the United States. Interestingly enough, the one time world levels of greenhouses gases fell dramatically was when Ronald Reagan took a hand. [emphasis added]

...The term "soft power" sounds like it might be better than "hard power". Countries which don't sign up to the Kyoto climate agreement are presumably rogue states intent on polluting the planet. Greedy, money-grubbing capitalist countries are presumably less environmentally friendly than gentle Socialist countries.

UPDATE II: "This is not just the end of a tired, directionless, scandal-plagued government. It's the start of a bright new future for this country."
- Stephen Harper, Canadian Conservative Party leader and future Prime Minister, after a vote of no confidence in Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and his government Monday night.

26 November, 2005

Climate Change, Terrorism and China

Stuart Berman over at 'My kids' Dad' (new addition to the blogroll) wrote a double book review yesterday including thumbs up for Harm de Blij's book (released in June): "Why Geography Matters". One of Blij's primary topics (alongside global terrorism and China) is climate change, but not of the recently fashionable kind. Blij addresses what used to be de rigeur twenty years ago when I studied this stuff full time: global cooling. Off to library I go...

A nice summary of a talk by de Blij earlier this month at the National Geographic Society can be found at tdaxp. It seems that Blij is an odd mix: supporting Kyoto, but at the same time not buying the standard hand-wringing liberal line on global warming either. So why impose a multi-trillion dollar global government framework that's already being circumvented if the data is in doubt? Good question.

Which Is It? Massachusetts' Religious Schizophrenia

The lunacy of my home state never ceases to amuse. We're reluctant to call a Christmas tree what it is because that would be too religious, yet the very same week, we vigorously enforce 400-year-old laws designed to ensure that everyone observes the Sabbath. How's that again?

What these two bone-headed moves have in common is an impulse on the part of state government here to reduce individual freedom whenever it suits them. That those supporting such measures see a siege on freedom originating in the Oval Office is not only blind but ignorant.

Irony, Eh? Canada, UFOs and the North American Missile Shield

In light of Canada's withdrawal from the North American missile shield last February, it's more than a little ironic that a former Canadian Defence Minister fears war with extraterrestrials more than say, a missile lobbed over by the North Koreans, or the terrestrial terrorist variety routinely filtering through Canada on their way to targets in the U.S.

"I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something." (Paul Hellyer, 9-25-05)
Either the poor man is senile or Canada has even less collective common sense than I imagined. (I didn't credit them with much.)

Christianity and Gender - Brilliant Contradiction

One of the things I love about Thanksgiving weekend is the feeling of stepping out of routine just long enough to rejuvenate but not so long as to fall into total vacation laziness. Taking time to follow several blog bunny-trails this morning, I ran across a timeless thought piece by 'tdaxp' entitled "Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat" in which he tackles biblical contradictions around gender roles in the context of Tom Barnett's and others' thinking on military specialization. Impossible to summarize. Read it. Tdaxp is a unique blogger. E.g., he frequently uses diagrams to illustrate his points. I'm happy to add him to my blogroll.

Surowiecki on European Leisure - Culture or Economics?

James Surowiecki (author of The Wisdom of Crowds), offers this excellent short piece in the Nov. 28th issue of the New Yorker, neatly and holistically explaining differences in work opportunity, unemployment and leisure time between the U.S. and Europe (particularly France).

His basic equation: differences in culture don't do it. They may have motivated different institutional choices in the past and in turn been exacerbated by them, but they do not fully explain what we see today.

Instead, mandatory vacations and other restrictions on work hours imposed by government and labor unions in Europe in the wake of the oil 'crisis' of the '70's have created an environment in which voluntarily working more is virtually impossible. With smaller paychecks and more free time, workers expend significantly less in France on the services (e.g., child care and food service) that have traditionally provided a step up for young people, immigrants and women. The U.S. is awash in such step-up opportunities. He concludes:

In the American model, then, you work more hours and use the money you make to pay for the things you can’t do because you’re working, and this creates a demand for service jobs that wouldn’t otherwise exist. In Europe, those jobs don’t exist in anything like the same numbers; employment in services in Europe is fifteen per cent below what it is in the U.S. Service jobs are precisely the jobs that young people and women (two categories of Europeans who are severely underemployed) find it easiest to get, the jobs that immigrants here thrive on but that are often not available to immigrants in France. There are many explanations for the estimated forty-per-cent unemployment rate in the banlieues that have been the site of recent riots, but part of the problem is that voluntary leisure for some Europeans has helped lead to involuntary leisure for others. The less work that gets done, the less work there is to do. Helping some people get off the labor treadmill can keep many people from ever getting on the treadmill at all. [emphasis added]
All of which helps make clearer why Islamofascism and 'kinder/softer' more well-intentioned fascist tendencies in Europe are sympathetic to one another in their arrogant over-handling of peoples' lives and choices. I.e., the low to nonexistent value they place on individual freedom. The Islamofascists at least have the courtesy to declare their repressive aims from the get-go.

24 November, 2005

Good News - For a Change

Two encouraging signs in the Middle East in the last few days:

#1 - John Bolton makes his presence felt at the UN

#2 - Mark Steyn sees signs of weakness from Zarqawi in the Jordanian wedding bombing:

"Zarqawi," shouted 200,000 Jordanians, "from Amman we say to you, you are a coward!... the enemy of Allah"... I don't know what Islamist Suicide-Bombing For Dummies defines as a "soft target" but a Jordanian-Palestinian wedding in the public area of an hotel in a Muslim country with no infidel troops must come pretty close to the softest target of all time. Even more revealing, look at who Zarqawi dispatched to blow up his brother Muslims: why would he send Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, one of his most trusted lieutenants, to die in an operation requiring practically no skill?

Well, by definition it's hard to get suicide bombers with experience. But Mr Shamari's presence suggests at the very least that the "insurgency" is having a hard time meeting its recruitment targets... Sending a surviving member of your rapidly dwindling inner circle to blow up a Palestinian wedding is not a sign of strength.

True, he did manage to kill a couple of dozen Muslims. But what's the strategic value of that? Presumably, it's an old-fashioned mob heavy's way of keeping the locals in line. And that worked out well, didn't it? Hundreds of thousands of Zarqawi's fellow Jordanians fill the streets to demand his death.

Did they show that on the BBC? Or are demonstrations only news when they're anti-Bush and anti-Blair? And look at it this way: if the "occupation" is so unpopular in Iraq, where are the mass demonstrations against that? I'm not talking 200,000, or even 100 or 50,000. But, if there were just 1,500 folks shouting "Great Satan, go home!" in Baghdad or Mosul, it would be large enough for the media to do that little trick where they film the demo close up so it looks like the place is packed. Yet no such demonstrations take place. [emphassis added]
Which is all to say: We're winning, despite what the New York Times may tell us. And if that's true (and I firmly believe that it is), then what Steyn asks, is the cost of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?
In war, there are usually only two exit strategies: victory or defeat. The latter's easier. Just say, whoa, we're the world's pre-eminent power but we can't handle an unprecedently low level of casualties, so if you don't mind we'd just as soon get off at the next stop.

Demonstrating the will to lose as clearly as America did in Vietnam wasn't such a smart move, but since the media can't seem to get beyond this ancient jungle war it may be worth underlining the principal difference: Osama is not Ho Chi Minh, and al-Qa'eda are not the Viet Cong. If you exit, they'll follow. And Americans will die - in foreign embassies, barracks, warships, as they did through the Nineties, and eventually on the streets of US cities, too. [emphasis added]
Steyn's last point seems like a familiar one but the new twist is important: there will be no truce with this enemy. Not because some (or even many) on our side might not wish to call such a truce, declare victory, leave, retreat, grow weary and lose interest or whatever fig-leaf words you'd like to use, but because the enemy has clearly declared their intentions over and over again - the eradication of the 'infidels' (that would be us) from the face of the earth.

No doubt, a head-in-the-sand pacifist president could conceivably preside over several years of 'peace' under an isolationist banner. But like Chamberlain in the 1930's it would be a false peace - a ticking time bomb. The Zarqawis of the world will regroup if we let them. They will come after us. They will be emboldened by our weakness. That's just what sociopaths and bullies do. Like it or not, such people exist in the world. They will not be reformed and they will not be persuaded, no matter how eloquent or generous or enlightened we attempt to be in our own minds.

George Orwell's outlook is instructive here. In the autumn of 1942, he wrote:
"We believe half-instinctively that evil always defeats itself in the long run. Pacifism is founded largely on this belief. Don't resist evil, and it will somehow destroy itself. But why should it? What evidence is there that it does... unless conquered from the outside by military force?"
Orwell was a man 'of the left'. Among other things, he voluntarily journeyed to Spain in the 1930's to fight the fascists on the front lines. He knew the horrors of war up-close and personal. And yet, three years into WWII, after the allies had suffered dozens if not hundreds of times more casualties than we've suffered in roughly the same timeframe, he looked naive pacifism in the eye and concluded that evil must be forcefully opposed. Must we learn the same lesson again the hard way?

23 November, 2005

Consistency Was Never Their Strong Suit: The NYT on Iraq

Busy day here, so blogging will be light. Without having had a chance to digest it all though, I had to share a great find by Zenpundit. He highlights a just-started, detailed series: "The New York Times on Iraq: 1993 to 2005", by blogger Marc Schulman at The American Future.

Baghdad forfeits the protection of the U.N. cease-fire resolution every time it violates the cease-fire terms. [January 21, 1993 editorial]

This page remains persuaded of the vital need to disarm Iraq. But it is a process that should go through the United Nations. [March 17, 2003 editorial]

A war can be lost because public opinion turns against its continued prosecution. The New York Times – the self-described “newspaper of record” – is among the world’s most influential opinion leaders. As shown by the cited quotations, the newspaper’s stance on Iraq underwent a complete transformation during the decade separating 1993 and 2003. While its editors never lost their fear of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their prescription for countering the threat posed by the weapons was altered beyond recognition. In 1993, by arguing that cease-fire violations nullified U.N. protection, the Times affirmed the right of a victorious party to resume hostilities at its sole discretion if the party it defeated did not abide by the terms of the agreement to which it affixed its signature. Ten years later, the Times reversed its stance, asserting that the United States should not go to war without the approval of the United Nations. In so doing, the Times implicitly argued that going to war with the approval of a multilateral institution took precedence over the use of military force to expeditiously eliminate the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD.
After a quick scan, I'm inclined to concur with Zenpundit's assessment: "This is an example of blogging at its best, not just citizen-journalism but citizen-history..." The NYT can be the paper of record, holding firm to principles it (and we) hold to be true, or it can be a partisan tool - changing those principles to serve partisan ends. It cannot be both.

22 November, 2005

Unintended Consequences: Biofuels and Rainforest Preservation

It never ceases to amaze me how surprised top-down liberal technocrats can be at the unintended consequences of their grand schemes. That's particularly true when the consequences spring from the natural response of disadvantaged third world peoples to inevitable market forces/distortions. Bad science, ill-placed faith and the long-shadow of a clueless former president, plus the impossibility of engineering human behavior can lead to some amusing outcomes:

The drive for "green energy" in the developed world is having the perverse effect of encouraging the destruction of tropical rainforests. From the orang-utan reserves of Borneo to the Brazilian Amazon, virgin forest is being razed to grow palm oil and soybeans to fuel cars and power stations in Europe and North America. And surging prices are likely to accelerate the destruction

The rush to make energy from vegetable oils is being driven in part by European Union laws requiring conventional fuels to be blended with biofuels, and by subsidies equivalent to 20 pence a litre. Last week, the British government announced a target for biofuels to make up 5 per cent of transport fuels by 2010. The aim is to help meet Kyoto protocol targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
One can almost imagine the debate going on right now at Ben & Jerry's: Do we fuel the trucks carrying Rainforest Crunch with Palm Oil or should we have the ambassador from Vermont lodge a complaint with the UN? Why is leveling thousands of square miles of rainforest for a product that very few individuals actually want preferable to using a few acres of the ANWR for drilling good old crude oil? Can somebody please tell the eco-radicals how to spell "trade-off"?

Imagine No Religion... It Isn't Hard to Do

Andrew Klavan writes a great double review in the most recent Claremont Review of Books that neatly packages current intellectual battles over the rise of faith and the fall of atheism. One reason it caught my eye is for Klavan's brilliant take-down of John Lennon's seemingly harmless, idealistic song 'Imagine'.

It's a take-down I've been meaning to write for a long time - a beautiful popular song covering over a virtual mine-field of ill-advised, atheistic, Marxist ideas. Klavan does it better than I ever could. (Read his review and then listen and think carefully about the lyrics to Imagine - all the lyrics - without letting Lennon's stature or the nice melody get in the way. It's harder than you might think but with a few listenings, you'll see what I mean.) Klavan:

Of all the silly pop songs ever written, perhaps the silliest is John Lennon's "Imagine." "A wop bop a loo ram a lop bam boom" has more philosophical depth as a lyric—and indeed contributes more to the happiness of human society—than Lennon's thudding inanities, which are rendered truly inspiring only by being reduced to a one-word poster on a teenager's wall. Lennon, you'll no doubt remember, asks us to imagine humanity without faith, countries, or possessions. With nothing to kill or die for, he promises, "the world will live as one."

Now you may call me a dreamer, but it seems to me just such a world was imagined long before, in the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There, aliens begin to transform the human race into Lennon's world: a soulless army of automatons living as one without any of those bothersome passions that give rise to religions, nations, or private property. "Love, desire, ambition, faith," one of the aliens intones, perfectly prefiguring Lennon, "without them, life is so simple."

Of course, what the horror film considers, which the utopian song ignores, is the nature of the human beast. The dark side of our humanity—the killing, the greed, the injustice—is exactly that: the dark side of our humanity—our love, our yearning, our loyalty—everything that makes us what we are. You can have a perfect world, or you can have people to live in it—you can't have both. [emphasis added]

Still, in any time of war or fear or trouble—that is to say, in every time—it's natural to wish we could somehow be human without being all too human. And in a time of war and fear and trouble brought on by a maniac faith that seeks to use the weapons of modernity against modernity itself, it may be likewise natural to ask whether we can continue to survive without eradicating, if no other passion, at least this persistent desire we seem to have to believe in God.

As a single year of this war has produced both a book called The Twilight of Atheism and another called The End of Faith, the answer may seem uncertain. But really, I think, these works are two parts of a single piece. The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World, by prolific Oxford theologian Alister McGrath, is simply an extended observation of a historical phenomenon. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris, currently working on his doctorate in neuroscience, is a high, wild, and somewhat babbling cry from a man caught on the losing side of that phenomenon. A screed against tolerance in matters of religion, The End of Faith is, in some ways, "Imagine" militant, "Imagine" writ large, with the consequent advantage that the true results of such imaginings are made painfully clear. As an argument, it's a clay pigeon, easily shot down as it travels through its predictable arc. As an artifact of a worldview currently in retreat, however, it has a certain fascination.
Many gems sprinkled throughout. Read it all.

21 November, 2005

What This Blog is NOT

For the record: he's no relation.

Takeru Kobayashi swallowed 67 Krystal's hamburgers in eight minutes to retain his title of Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Champion and win $10,000.
We now take you back to our regular programming.

Double Standard Alert

In the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction it's now OK to teach - and in fact require students to recite - Islamic and Wiccan prayers in the classroom. The content of the course is not this. Yet we're living in a 'theocracy' because the president is open about his Christian beliefs? Can you say: "hypocrisy"?

UPDATE: They're teaching something different in Iran.

The Devil Consumes His Own

ShrinkWrapped makes some comparisons between the latest Harry Potter movie and Iraq. Without spoiling it too much for those who haven't seen the film yet, there is a scene in which a rejuvenated Voldemort summarily kills several of his own henchmen... which got me thinking further about the parallels with the psychopaths like Zarqawi whom we're facing in the Middle East. Captain Ed has more:

Zarqawi wants Muslims to believe that sending two "agents" into a ballroom obviously occupied by a wedding reception, positioning themselves to maximize the damage, and then exploding themselves to kill as many as possible amounts to some kind of unforeseen error. All he proves is that he isn't terribly bright or reliable when it comes to picking his targets. Nor would he care if the end result destabilized Jordan enough for King Abdullah to either flee or agree to ally with Zarqawi. Like most sociopathic monsters, he's only sorry to the degree that his crime backfired on him, and only apologizes to the extent that he's sorry that others cannot recognize his overall genius.

Muslims have finally started asking themselves why Zarqawi keeps blowing up civilians and other Muslims instead of Americans and Israelis. The reason? Americans and Israelis now shoot back, and the kill ratio mostly favors the West. The limited resources of the terrorists force them to slaughter the unarmed instead...
Some may be tempted to the point of jubilation at the fact that some of the violence is now being directed at "them" instead of "us". They should not be. The only good that seems likely to emerge from this is a higher and even more irrefutable mountain of evidence for the utterly evil intentions and actions of those arrayed against us. (Rational minds needed far less than this.) When innocents are slaughtered, nobody should be celebrating.

WMD, Iraq, Syria and the Search for Truth

I've been spending more time in the gym lately (my own, in the basement.) So it was that I happened to catch Richard Miniter yesterday on C-SPAN2, talking about his new book: 'Disinformation'. (Also see Miniter's impressive bio and blog.) He came across as highly credible and rational, having spent time on the ground in Iraq. And despite his talk having been recorded at the Heritage Foundation, he seems to have no qualms about going where the facts lead him - even if it bursts some conservative bubbles. (E.g., racial profiling won't work, and Canada poses a far bigger threat for terrorist entry into the U.S. than does Mexico.)

Amazon's synopsis of 'Disinformation' seems reasonable in isolation, but fails to feature some of the most important facts Miniter uncovered. Among those that he assembled from Pentagon reports that the press thought unworthy of publishing (among other sources), is the following list items found in Iraq since March, 2003:

• 1.77 metric tons of enriched uranium
• 1,500 gallons of chemical weapons
• Roadside bomb loaded with sarin gas
• 1,000 radioactive materials--ideal for radioactive dirty bombs
• 17 chemical warheads--some containing cyclosarin, a nerve agent five times more powerful than sarin
No, you won't find these on the front page of the New York Times... or even the back page. As far as the MSM is concerned, this is simply not a story. "Wrong template" as The Anchoress notes in her excellent post: 'WMD Smuggled out of Iraq?', in which she focuses on the Syria connection. It has always been strongly suspected. What's new is widespread recognition and proof of what common sense has said all along: that there is a connection. Hmm, let's see: terrorist state, closer to Israel, open border, plenty of time to prepare. Yeah, we should have given sanctions more time to "work". Riiiight.

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson has more in his Friday post.
...the U.S. Senate voted to authorize the removal of Saddam Hussein for 22 reasons other than just his possession of dangerous weapons. We seem to have forgotten that entirely. If the Bush administration erred in privileging the dangers of Iraqi WMDs, then the Congress in its wisdom used a far broader approach (as Sen. Robert Byrd complained at the time), and went well beyond George Bush in making a more far-reaching case for war — genocide, violation of U.N. agreements, breaking of the 1991 armistice accords, attempts to kill a former U.S. president, and firing on American aerial patrols. It was the U.S. Senate — a majority of Democrats included — not Paul Wolfowitz, that legislated a war to reform and restore the wider Middle East: "...whereas it is in the national security of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region". So read the senators' October 2002 resolution. [emphasis added]
UPDATE II: RealClearPolitics carries an excellent two part essay by Miniter that runs the Vietnam-Iraq equivalency meme through the intellectual-factual shredder: Part One, Part Two. Hat tip: Austin Bay As an unexpected bonus, he confirms something I've suspected all along: that George Lucas (of Star Wars fame) is deeply immersed in the Vietnam-equivalency world view.

18 November, 2005

Observations on Church-State Boundaries

Last night I drove through Cambridge (MA) with my wife and almost had a coronary when I noted a "Hill and Bill, 2008" bumper sticker on a car in front of us - shudder. (Yeah, I know - what should I expect in enemy territory - what's known locally as "The Peoples' Republic of Cambridge"?) As we pulled up to the curb a few minutes later, I noticed a more common one (common around here at least): "The last time we mixed politics and religion, people were burned at the stake."

Catchy little slogan. Utterly false... but catchy. Which got me thinking...

1) What happens when church and state are so separate that the state doesn't even bother to enforce the law to protect church property?

2) Why aren't these same clever bumper-sticker-wielding Cambridge-dwellers concerned about places in which religious persecution is far more real, immediate and deeply institutionalized - and aimed at Christians?

The Wall Street Journal carries this op-ed this morning (subscription required). Excerpt: "...the [Egyptian] Hamayonic Decree... requires no less than a presidential permit for the building, renovation -- or even the minor repair -- of churches. Of course, no such restrictions exist on the building of mosques. This decree, the remnants of an Ottoman law and the most oppressive of any discriminatory law, is expressly intended to restrict the ability of Copts [Coptic Christians] to practice their faith. It is a monument to the Copts' lowly status in Egyptian society."

No outrage about that. It's overseas. And in the Cambridge world view, Christians - like men, or those of European heritage - cannot by definition be persecuted, ergo the problem does not exist. It's the same selfish view of human rights that leads American feminism not to care a whit about the plight of women in Congo, Afghanistan or much of anywhere else outside our borders. Liberals used to care about such stuff. What happened? (Rhetorical question.)

3) What happened to historical literacy (or at the very least, an open-minded reading of historical evidence)? E.g., why is a single letter from Thomas Jefferson about separation of church and state taken out of context and then held high as the rationale for creating a state that's on the verge of enshrining secularism (thereby anointing itself and whomever happens to be in power as the highest possible power)? Now that is a scary Nero-esque notion. Why is a quote from John Adams ignored, forgotten dismissed and/or reviled? ("We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.")

4) Why is it that Patrick Kennedy (D, RI) not looked at oddly when he mumbles "...one nation, under law, indivisible..." while leading the Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor last Tuesday at Noon? (I happened to catch it live on C-SPAN.) This is the progeny of a Catholic family that once stood proudly for their faith against a bigoted Southern political bloc that didn't want a 'Papist' in the White House. Their faith was something to be fought for and worn proudly.

Of course he (and the rest of us) are free to speak - or not speak - our consciences (ironically, giving the lie to the bumper sticker that started this rant.) So was Peter. ("You will disown me...") But it's more than a little sad and pathetic that a U.S. Congressman on the public stage, arguably in a leadership position feels that the law is the absolute top of the pyramid, deriving its authority from... nothing in particular. Not millennia of Judeo-Christian tradition. Just Patrick Kennedy and his education and a bunch of stuff written in books. I'm all for rule of law, but failing to recognize its origins is simply ignorant. That is the enthronement of man and his creations above all creation. And that is truly scary.

UPDATE: Yet another place in the world where church-state separation is a real not an imaginary problem.

17 November, 2005

Afghan Women Triumph... To Deafening Silence at the NY Times

Dr. Sanity notes an extraordinary piece of news, which those who publish "All the News That's Fit to Print" saw fit to not only ignore but to obfuscate. The UK Telegraph on Tuesday noted:

Female candidates have triumphed in Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, with one bidding to become the new parliament's speaker. After a delay in counting of more than a month, official results show women secured seats ahead of male candidates in a quarter of the 34 provinces, while in one a woman was outright winner. Before September's parliamentary vote, the first for 30 years, there had been widespread predictions that, due to the conservatism of Afghan society, women would only gain seats through a quota system which automatically reserved 25 per cent of seats for them under the country's new constitution. But women won seats in their own right and will take up 68 of the 249 in the lower house when it convenes later this month.
New York Times readers by contrast, were treated to none of this. Nothing about women today in the NYT section permanently dubbed "Iraq, Afghanistan & The Reach of War" (which itself speaks volumes.) In fact the only article the NYT has published in the last week that talks about Afghan elections and mentions women was on Sunday under the headline: "Conservatives to Dominate in Afghanistan". Since conservatives are baaaad, Afghanistan must be a failure. And that failure of course, means that it's all Bush's fault. Again. Same story, different backdrop. People pay for this paper? Women are only mentioned in the context of the seats being set aside for them. Victims. Nothing at all about 27% of them winning seats in their own right. Incredible. Absolutely incredible.

Never mind the fact that there was an election at all, that women got to vote in it and that female candidates exceeded all expectations. Never mind that four years ago the country was a misogynist nightmare hellhole of the first order. Nope. That's not fit to print. And people wonder why feminism the way it's practiced in the U.S. isn't attracting the younger generation and why NYT circulation is stagnating.

Wall Street Journal 'Strafed' by CPB Innuendo

Seems I was not alone in my take earlier this week on the recent report (pdf) by Inspector General of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Wall Street Journal weighs in (free link at OpinionJournal) relating their firsthand view of dealings with PBS over "The Journal Editorial Report" on PBS :

We have low expectations for government, and they're usually met. But even we were surprised this week to find ourselves sideswiped by an overlord of public broadcasting for producing a program that PBS asked us--no, all but begged us--to create. Serves us right, we suppose, for assuming that PBS actually wants intellectual balance on the airwaves.

That's the meaning of this week's report by Kenneth Konz, the inspector general of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), on the alleged political interference with public television. After a media flap this year over former CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson, Mr. Konz was tasked by John Dingell and David Obey, two House Democrats whom these columns have criticized going back 20 years, to investigate.

Mr. Konz has now done his politicized duty and strafed Mr. Tomlinson with drive-by accusations of--egad!--trying to influence the programming of PBS. As producers of "The Journal Editorial Report" on PBS since September 2004, we got hit with some of Mr. Konz's stray innuendo...

...If there ever was a need for PBS, there isn't now in a world of hundreds of TV channels. But as long as PBS exists, we don't see any reason that its prime time public-affairs programming should be a satrapy of Bill Moyers and a single point of view. If Mr. Tomlinson made a mistake, it was in believing that "public broadcasting" is supposed to represent all of the public. [emphasis added]
Read the whole thing. Some of it may seem arcanely specific to the WSJ-PBS-CPB spat but it has much larger implications as an almost perfect case study in media bias, government bureaucracy and the nasty ways in which partisan political punishment is meted out.

16 November, 2005

Four Women and a President, Part II

Someone asked about my post yesterday on the president's circle being rumored to have narrowed to four women. Here are a few random thoughts on that after letting it stew overnight:

Power invites betrayal and deceit. (Don't anyone dare quote that out of context, btw.) Thus it is not surprising that many would fall away and betray a president - any president - to the lure of personal agendas. Dissent is another thing. I'm talking solely about leaks to the press and political opponents. That does not mean that power always becomes corrupt, just that the temptations of power are large and most people are weak. For a variety of reasons, I see this president as relatively strong (of character - moral, religious, etc.) and thus choose to give him the benefit of the doubt. Part of that conclusion stems from his having not lusted for the office in the first place - something that cannot be said of John Kerry or Bill Clinton who made it known that they'd done so virtually since childhood.

I've never been one to presuppose that diversity of genitalia automatically equals diversity of thought and perspective (any more than say, skin color). The existence of say, Nancy Pelosi and Margaret Thatcher prove the point nicely. So while its tempting to say "ooh, he's listening to women!" and conclude that that's a good thing, I see at as merely different (i.e., from previous presidents who also surrounded themselves with women, but for wholly different purposes.) One could go off on a Dan Brown/Mary Magdalene tangent here, but that would be overdoing it - troll fodder in the extreme... but it did occur to me. Random thoughts...

From what I've seen of Karen Hughes (a speech on C-SPAN the other day while riding my stationary bike), I'm delighted that she's reported to be in the president's inner circle: smart, humble and centered. I've always been a huge Condi fan - though that doesn't necessarily mean that she'd make a great president. I'll reserve judgment on that.

I suspect too, given the source (Drudge via Insight magazine) that the headline's implied conclusion (that the president is becoming Gollum-like under pressure) begs questions about the state of the president's trust in, and relationships with other cabinet members. Such things are never absolutely black and white - but painting it as such sells magazines. To say that he talks to these four people daily does not necessarily mean that he distrusts others with whom he has contact only every few days or in a more formal setting. We just don't know.

This president has been accused of being overly loyal compared to most who have occupied that office (e.g., Reagan) - slow to clear out aides that had outlived their usefulness, inspiration or trustworthiness. If it's true that he's now pushing some aides aside for just such reasons (or preparing to do so), that would tend to counter the accusation of over-loyalty and that's also a good thing. I also don't find it in the least bit surprising (as I expressed in my Carter piece yesterday) that he is "on the outs" with his father. Such splits are not uncommon even when father and son are not leaders of the most powerful nation on earth.

Finally, I suspect that the Insight magazine piece might be aimed at subtly painting Bush as the classic embattled war president - increasingly isolated and friendless, eaten up inside like Johnson or increasingly paranoid like Nixon... or a little of both. And while there may be some truth to that, it seems no more likely than any of the other possibilities, e.g., that someone was on deadline, needed an angle, had a bit of an agenda and decided to paint Mr. Bush in that way.

Human beings are always more complicated than the templates we like to apply to them and even this dyed-in-the-wool Bush supporter will acknowledge that presidents are all too human. Fortunately, many look beyond humanity for guidance. And that is a really good thing.

NPR Gets its Man: Tomlinson Publicly Flogged

The report of the Office of the Inspector General for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is finally out (original pdf here). Predictably, it flogs former CPB chairman (and, gasp! - Republican) Ken Tomlinson for (among other things) the crime of actually trying to achieve what CPB board resolutions said was important twelve years ago: evaluating and pursuing greater objectivity and balance. (See my post from when Tomlinson was pushed out here.)

The report comes off as an attempt to protect the status-quo of a media empire that - to all eyes and ears outside the beltway - has been a grossly biased, government-funded homogeneous liberal media paradise virtually since its inception. In Tomlinson's "get-it-done" bureaucracy-busting style, the report finds a convenient headline-grabbing scapegoat to distract attention from the fact that left-of-Ralph Nader folks like Bill Moyers pretty much have the run of the place.

The governance environment at CPB is portrayed as a longstanding mess (gosh, wonder how that happened in an ill-conceived government agency...) and yet Tomlinson is set up for the fall - accused of violating federal law without even the hint of an indictment, much less a grand jury investigation. It reveals a level of ineffectual bureaucratic hand-wringing and incompetence spanning decades that would put the most cynical Soviet-style Amtrak bureaucrats to shame. From the "Objectivity and Balance" section of the report: [emphasis mine]

On January 26, 1993, the Board adopted a resolution to address implementation of the Public Telecommunications Act of 1992, but it did not specifically address how objectivity and balance could be evaluated. The memorandum attached to the resolution, dated January 23, 1993, stated that CPB would conduct a general review of national programming for quality, diversity, creativity, excellence, and innovation, but it also did not specifically address the review of objectivity and balance.

In a November 19, 2002 resolution, the Board reaffirmed its commitment to objectivity and balance [yeah, right]. The resolution indicated that the PBA recognizes the need to treat subjects of a controversial nature in a fair and balanced way. The resolution stated:
That CPB Management must ensure that programming CPB funds comports with this statutory mandate [for objectivity and balance]. Management also must continue to work with the system to collectively ensure that all programming is produced in a manner consistent with the high editorial standards that the public expects of public broadcasting.
In reviewing both policy statements, neither resolution specifically addressed how CPB would conduct periodic reviews of national programs for objectivity and balance. Our review disclosed that the contract to evaluate “NOW with Bill Moyers” and three other programs was the first time an attempt was made to evaluate multiple episodes of a program and compare different programs’ content for objectivity and balance. A prior attempt to conduct a content analysis of public broadcasting programs in 1986 created a furor within the community, the Congress, and the media. The project was abandoned after considerable discussion and CPB research because:
  • "The research findings would not be what is expected;
  • "The findings would at best illustrate, and not substantially help to resolve, divergent or conflicting views; and
  • "Many people have tried, but no one has yet determined how to measure objectivity and balance properly."
Their research concluded that while most people would agree that objectivity and balance are desirable norms, they would not agree on the terms’ meaning. Without broad consensus on the meaning of objectivity and balance, it is impossible to measure whether it was being achieved.
So if I've got this right, the whole thing basically boils down to CPB mandarins saying:
  • We have to keep saying that objectivity and balance are important in order to keep getting funded from taxpayer dollars (since half of those dollars are almost by definition opposed to our across-the-board editorial slant).
  • Nobody actually did anything about looking into the issue of objectivity and balance for twelve years after we said it was important.
  • Seven years before we said it was important, we knew it was impossible to assess objectivity and balance. (And just in case it was possible, we asserted that it wasn't.)
  • This poor sucker (Tomlinson) came along and broke these unstated rules that had ensured quiet gridlock for decades. And for that we're going to punish him.
The rest of the media world was released from government mandates to 'balance' their programming years ago. From that sprang the wildly successful Fox. That fact alone should have been enough to indicate clearly which viewpoints had been suppressed by the previous policy. (By the same logic, Air America's failure can be partly explained by NPR's strong, established franchise among liberal listeners.) The CPB (and specifically NPR's and PBS' news programming) can be seen as relics that old impossible policy of 'balance'.

One could almost argue that it made sense to attempt it back in the days when most folks got only 3 or 4 stations over the air on television. That justification no longer exists. If objectivity and balance are impossible to assess much less achieve in a media institution - and the CPB and Congress seem to have concluded that this was true in 1986(!), then it follows that the government should not be funding media institutions at all. Full stop.

I've said it before but I'll say it again: in a media environment with as many choices and outlets as exist today (internet, cable, radio, satellite radio, over-the-air TV, blogs, etc.) why is the government in the media business at all? Only because they were thirty years ago when such options did not exist. Let outlets like NPR and PBS fund themselves. They've already forfeited their claim to cleanliness and purity by taking what are ads in all but name. If they float, great. Let George Soros buy NPR and try to make a go of it. More power to 'em. At least the bias would be more plain and we wouldn't have to fund mealy-mouthed reports that say it can't be evaluated. The public purse would get a few hundred million.

Until then, I'm sick and tired of funding the political opposition via my tax dollars just because that's the way it's always been done - or maybe because uber-liberal Bill Moyers was a Johnson administration flunkie back when it all got set up.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Commies: Questions for the President

Longtime readers of this blog might be forgiven for asking if there's any issue on which the president deserves significant criticism. The answer is yes; but it took some looking - for this highly focused, well-researched and perfectly timed piece by one Michael Scroccaro in the Epoch Times: "Seven Questions for President Bush on his Visit to China". Two of the best:

1) Mr. President, it has been announced that, during your trip to China, you will be publicly calling on the Chinese government to crack down on the theft of American pop music and Hollywood movie discs. Will you also be publicly calling on China to stop stealing U.S. military secrets, such as electromagnetic pulse weapon schematics, details about American attack submarines, and Aegis battle management systems?... [link added]

5) Mr. President, in describing the war on terrorism on November 11, 2005 you said; “Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims…they have banned books, and desecrated historical monuments…They seek to end dissent in every form, to control every aspect of life, to rule the soul itself.” If behaving like communist dictators is justification for war in other countries, then how can you dine with China’s communist leaders, the world’s most longstanding practitioner of such behavior?
Read them all.

15 November, 2005

Four Women and a President

If true, this is rather interesting - from multiple perspectives.

President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, Insight Magazine claims in a new report... Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes.

Loose Cannon on the Deck! Carter's Irresponsible Broadside

Jimmy Carter is a former Navy man. (For the record, we're grateful for his service there.) As such, he should know a thing or two about loose cannons. Sadly, he's become one.

Carter's over-the-top approach to flogging his new book might seem like an utterly irrelevant story now that he's twenty five years out of power. It's not. He has every right to say what he wants (ironically disproving his fears about civil liberties), but that does not mean it is not foolish and irresponsible. I'm going to tell you why.

Mr. Carter is hardly the first ex-president to watch one of his predecessors lead the country in directions he does not agree with. Rumors abound that George Bush the Elder ('GBI') may be enduring regret, frustration and anger, combined with the almost inevitable feelings of superior wisdom as he watches his son at the helm. To GBI's credit, these things remain largely confined to the realm of rumor. No doubt presidents of the opposing party suffer more in the way of tongues bitten to the point of bleeding.

Mr. Carter is also not the first ex-president to watch one of his predecessors go to war. In fact, that has been the norm since the founding of the republic. This listing of presidential death dates, plus a rudimentary knowledge of U.S. history provides the basic outlines.

Herbert Hoover watched as Truman delivered an unprecedented (but wise and studied) nuclear coup de grace to Japan. Hoover continued to watch as Truman went into Korea, losing several times as many men in a day as we've lost in two and a half years in Iraq. By Carter's strict standards, the U.S. had not been attacked and thus should have stood by and watched as millions were swept up into a North Korean hell-on-earth that has lasted decades longer than anyone ever imagined. Instead, South Korea is peaceful, free and prosperous.

Eisenhower, Truman and Hoover watched as Kennedy entered and then escalated a conflict in Vietnam that also did not directly threaten U.S. borders. One can argue the wisdom of that conflict - and many have. That is not my purpose here (though the existence of a peaceful, free and prosperous Thailand certainly makes one think about alternative ripple-effect scenarios had the U.S. completely 'rolled' to the Communists in Vietnam in 1961). The point is that three ex-presidents kept largely silent on the matter - continuing to do so as Johnson escalated much further.

Eisenhower, Truman and Johnson watched as Nixon bounced that Southeast Asian ball along, finally taking measures to end the conflict there. These and other ex-presidents observed a similar level of decorum during significant conflicts during every subsequent administration - except Carter's. And that's what's notable here. Jimmy Carter seems to think that his soapbox is somehow unique by virtue of his not having initiated or extended (or even for that matter, been handed) a 'hot' war beyond U.S. borders. Instead, he was handed the more serious Cold War, which he managed to extend and escalate without even appreciating that he was doing it.

That kind of deliberate ignorance is bemusing when we hear it from the left-wing fringe after the fall of Soviet Communism - holding banners and candles and purporting to be wise about matters of human nature, trust, military conflict and foreign policy. (Oh, of course the Soviets would have gone along with unilateral disarmament eventually. It was just the right thing to do!) That same naivete is not in the least bemusing coming from an ex-president and keeper-of-the-keys to a glorious democratic experiment that's been a beacon to immigrants from around the world since its founding.

That that kumbaya delusion continues to this day in a person once saluted as Commander in Chief is utterly frightening in hindsight. He would have had to make a split second decision had Russian tanks rolled into Germany and Belgium. Ohmygosh.... Think what could have happened. We let him drive? What were we thinking?

I think of Carter as a kind of real-life Mr. Magoo who's always doing stupid, dangerous things but managing to get out of it all somehow, never knowing how close he came to total annihilation. Only this Mr. Magoo held the lives of hundreds of millions of people in his hands. Or more concretely, he held the lives of several dozen Americans in his hands and dithered as they were held captive by Islamofascists for over a year in Iran. Over a year. It is partly due to Mr. Carter's behavior in that situation that the Iranian crisis has metastasized further.

But back to the book, its author, his delusions and its carefully calculated political objectives. The gist of it is captured in Carter's op-ed in yesterday's LA Times. For those playing catch-up, Q&O has an excellent fisking. I'm going to take a slightly different angle. Here's how Carter began his piece:

In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican. These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights. Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility. At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements...
"All previous administrations" This is laughable on its face. Carter is inventing a fantastical political consensus spanning 216 years that in truth has existed in one form only: The Constitution (and arguably, the Declaration of Independence.) He mention neither. This is the foundation of his argument. It is rubble. What he builds on that foundation falls apart by his second sentence. Not only are his criticisms invalid (e.g., Is the environment cleaner or less clean than when he was president? Are there specific civil liberties that he or other American citizens have lost that they enjoyed when Carter rationed gas? Is the average American - heck, even the poorest American - better off today than in 1979?), but he leaves out principles that have been far more universal and well documented across history and deep political division e.g., freedom, opportunity and a common defense. It's clever of him to assert these more recent liberal buzzwords in place of the consensus documents of this nation, but in doing so he becomes a hypocrite for simultaneously claiming to be apolitical.

"providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy..." Again, a fantastical invention that testifies only to Carter's vivid imagination. (I simply can't credit him with Machiavellian cleverness, though others have.) The American experiment has always been contentious. We take up words against one another rather than arms. That is almost unprecedented in the history of the world. With God's grace it will remain so. In speaking of truth, Carter overlooks things such as the Freedom of Information Act (initiated under Reagan!), the unfettered lies perpetuated by a grossly biased media, and the distinction between small truths (Did I or did I not put cream in my coffee this morning?) and larger Truth (Is Islamofascism a threat to Western Civilization? Were the Soviets basically trustworthy and peaceful or murderous, deceitful and aggressively expansionist?)

It is uniquely the role of presidents to see and communicate the urgency of these larger truths before others can see them as clearly. That's leadership. This is not (see below). It is passive-aggressive: a petty dictator eager to impose his will with absolute authority, who didn't know what he thought until he asked people what they thought and who confused the role of congress (representing the people) with the role of the president (leading the people, based on a mandate assumed in his election). From Carter's malaise speech:
I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem? It's clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper -- deeper than gasoline lines of energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession. And I realize more than ever that as President I need your help. So, I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America. I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment of our society... Beginning this moment, this Nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never... I'm announcing tonight that for 1979 and 1980, I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow.
Back to the LAT op-ed...
"...our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements" Q&O handles this one well but there's one other point that deserves mention. Again, Carter is more concerned about international agreements (which as Q&O points out have not really been abrogated at all), than about our own founding documents. Like Bill Clinton, Carter seems to be running for president of some global world government - not surprising really once you've climbed the biggest political mountain around and then been blown off the top by a violent storm of electoral discontent.

So why did this deserve another long rant? Because Carter is deeply deeply misguided about the principles on which this nation was founded. Because Carter seeks to lead others astray. Because we are at war and Carter is actively giving aide and comfort to our enemies. Like Bill Clinton, he is using the authority of his former office to create an impression abroad - intentionally or not, and motivation really doesn't enter into this - that we are a nation weak and divided. That is the primary reason that ex-presidents have generally been quiet.

Make no mistake, this is a political book. No ex-president can claim to be non-partisan any more than can George Soros. Jimmy Carter is well aware of the reputation capital he has built up in his retirement and he's attempting to use it all. I suppose he'd regard that as selfless. I would not be in the least surprised if links are turned up by some clever blogger between Carter, his book, Democratic funding sources and an exhausted, cynical Democratic party 'leadership' clawing desperately for and a lungful of air and traction on the side of a deflating political lifeboat - another lease on political life - even as they sink further under the waves, flailing and using what little credibility they have left.

This book and its cleverly strategic rollout (straddling Veterans' Day, on the anniversary of a close election, filling a media hole as Congress moves into recess next week, spreading a dread malaise over a quintessential American holiday, setting the stage for a Congressional election year) are engineered for one purpose: taking down a sitting president and his party or at least rendering them ineffective. That these are all Carter's sincere views is irrelevant. Yes, he has the right to espouse them and a kind of bully-pulpit-for-life from which to do so, but with that power goes responsibility. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I doubt that Carter has thought for even a second about how his words will play to the ears of those crushed under the boots of the Iranian mullahs, Castro's repression, Chavez's despotism or Kim Jong-il's utter insanity - not to mention those recovering from years of Saddam's reign. That he does not think about such things is selfish and irresponsible in the extreme.

This book and its tour can be seen too as a last desperate gasp of a Democratic party in its death throes. It's a kind of Hail Mary pass for a peculiar brand of despotic, passive-aggressive 'liberalism' -- over the heads of a generation not familiar with gas lines and stagflation and malaise and embassy hostages and a re-emboldened Soviet empire. Let us hope and trust that it is intercepted and run back. Whatever one might say about the political agnosticism or liberalism of those too young to have experienced Carter's self-declared malaise firsthand, I trust that none - once they truly examine it - would ever want to 'go there'. Whatever Carter may say about the U.S., it is my observation and belief that freedom and opportunity have blossomed far too much in the intervening years to make that sad small world possible again. Nonetheless, we must be vigilant. And that is the reason for this post.

UPDATE I: Hold that thought on a Democratic party in decline until you read this (including comments). Joe Lieberman/Zell Miller in '08?

13 November, 2005

Sincerely Misguided - Jimmy Carter and the Loony Left

When Jimmy Carter lost the presidency to Ronald Reagan in 1980, I was sad and angry. I had just turned seventeen. Not having any money to speak of at the time, inflation was something I understood only as it related to record albums and movie tickets. Not having a full-time job, unemployment was something I understood in concept only. Adults around me understood both things just a little more viscerally. Some of them were angry with Jimmy Carter. I couldn't understand why. He was a nice man. He ran 10K's in his spare time. Who cared if he got tired and collapsed on TV, or got attacked by a bunny while fishing?

The news media (which way back then used to occasionally say bad things about Democrats as well as Republicans) said that both inflation and unemployment were "rampant"... on par with some two-bit Central American dictatorships. They called it "stagflation". They blamed it on Nixon and Ford. I believed them. I thought Mr. Carter was so very smart and brave to go on television and tell it like it was... to say that there was a 'malaise' in the country and that we could all do our part by wearing sweaters and shivering more.

After he left office, I thought it terribly rude of the Iranians to insult this lovable, earnest man from Georgia by waiting to release the hostages until just after he'd gone. It didn't occur to me that the Iranians released the hostages they'd held for over a year because they knew that under Reagan, keeping them another day would be dangerous to their health... and maybe their borders as well. They knew they could get away with it indefinitely under Carter.

Flash ahead a few years... Carter gets the Nobel Prize. That seemed like an important and respectable thing at the time - sort of like a secular canonization. That is, until Harold Pinter and Yassir Arafat also received it and it started to look a little silly and maybe even a little dirty. But Carter was building houses for poor people and that was (and remains) a good thing no matter what one's politics: a nice way to sail off into the sunset and revive a little of his thoroughly battered reputation as a well-meaning but incompetent commander in chief.

Then a few weeks ago, Mr. Carter showed the same lack of sense with regards to his legacy that served to ruin it in the first place: he published a book. And not just any book, but a book with a rather intricate and clever political strategy rolled up in its publicity strategy.

Stage one: launch and draw fire from the cranks to gain momentum
Stage two: do a head-fake in order to split and temporarily confuse conservatives
Stage three: throw tradition and decorum to the dogs and 'go nuclear' on a sitting president

Stage three began Friday in Kansas City at a book signing. The Guardian, The WaPo and Pravda are lapping it up. Oh the irony of that last one...

"In the last 5 years there's been a dramatic and disturbing and radical change in the values of this country," Carter said. For example, he says peace is an American value, not pre-emptive war: "we don't wait until our country is threatened," Carter said, "we publicly announced our new policy is to attack a county, invade a country, bomb a county." He says another American value is human rights. For decades the US has supported the Geneva convention saying we won't torture prisoners, but he says now "our senators are voting to keep torture. It's inconceivable this would happen in the United States of America." Carter also says American politics is being infused with what he calls "fundamentalist" religion. Carter, who is a born again Christian, says blurring the line between church and state is dangerous. Carter says he's not in politics anymore, and his new book is not partisan.
This ball of deception is wound so tight it needs to be unraveled piece by piece:

"In the last five years..." Hmm. Remember, this is not a partisan book? Yet one wonders: why not six years? Or four? Five is a pretty specific number. And isn't it just a little bit coincidental that this month marks the five year anniversary of the Sore-Loserman ticket doing their darndest to take down the republic despite exhaustive evidence that they'd lost fair and square? Nope. Not partisan at all. Carter is out of politics. Just buildin' houses... and writin' books. What Carter conveniently ignores is this little thing called 9-11. That was four years ago. An important milestone? An important explanation for why the policies of this nation have had to change? Not in Carter's world view. Are we surprised?

"...dramatic and disturbing and radical change in the values of this country." What, one adjective wasn't enough? Why stop at three? Why not go for broke and call it a shift to the Dark Side? Someone please get Mr. Carter a paper bag and stop the hyperventilating. The Democrats lost an election. Then they lost another one. No question, they're on the ropes. But this is not a 'dramatic', much less a 'disturbing' or 'radical' shift - except to Carter. What values is Carter so concerned about anyway? His own? His radical leftie buddies? God's? He doesn't really say. They're supposed to be self-evident.

How about the values enshrined in... The Constitution? Interesting idea. Carter doesn't exactly make the case for it having been abandoned. In fact, he doesn't really mention it at all. What we have instead is Jimmy Carter's expression of a sad, tired, and increasingly turned around set of liberal ideals that his more cynical party companions stopped believing long ago. What's deeply ironic about all of this is that there has been a shift in values - and a radical one at that - but it's taken place over forty years. It reached adolescence with the KC and the Sunshine Band, Lady Marmalade, disco-cocaine 'me-me-me' culture that absolutely thrived during Carter's term in office. It's blossomed into a rootless, consumerist narcissism that Carter scarcely hints at. No, the values he's concerned about are resident in one man: George Bush. All things bad sprang from there. Yep, it's his fault. All of it.

...peace is an American value, not pre-emptive war... Nice thought, but where does it come from? And what exactly does it mean? Just as he did so disastrously during his presidency, Carter confuses peace as an objective with non-violence as a tactic. Thank goodness this guy isn't in office anymore. If peace were an absolute "American value" guiding our foreign policy we would never have existed as a nation. "Oh, we can't take up arms against those British, that wouldn't be... peaceful." Or Hitler. If the only trigger to the use of U.S. military force is the invasion of one country by another then it pretty much puts Carter's human rights ideas on the back burner.

One is also hard pressed to find peace enshrined in the Constitution or its Amendments as anything other than an assumed objective - or as a trivial mention. The word shows up precisely four times across both documents: in Article I, Section 6, talking about how senators and congressmen are to be free from arrest while in session except in a case of "breach of the peace", in Article I, section 10, clause 3 talking about how states won't keep troops during time of peace, in the First Amendment, talking about "the right of the people peaceably to assemble", and in the Third Amendment concerning homeowners not having to put up troops in times of peace without consent. Not exactly a tight stricture on how a nation is supposed to act.

And in any case, if it has suddenly stopped being an "American value", then what to make of the policies of at least half the presidents of the last century? Peace is a worthy objective, no doubt. But worthy for other people too, including those in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East who have had little of it these past sixty years. Carter - once the loud defender of human rights abroad - seems now to have morphed into the isoloationist, calling 'pre-emptive' the finale to a twelve year war of aggression by Iraq and the action backing up the words of pretty much the entire world community... at least those not taking massive bribes via the UN.

If what Carter is hinting at is the tactic of non-violence, then he's even more mixed up. At the risk of inciting certain prolific commenters on this blog, I'll venture that non-violence has been an effective tactic of oppressed peoples against governments whose constitutional documents and cultures seemed to support rights but denied them in practice to some groups (e.g., slaves, native Indians, women, etc.) Absent those documents or that kind of culture, non-violence is mostly suicide - as the Kurds know all too well. It is also irrelevant to states vis a vis other states. Need a current example? Ask peacable citizens of Paris about how smart it is to walk through certain rioting neighborhoods without police protection. Absent some organized force to make the meaning of law real in practice, evil tends to run amok. Anything else is simply naive.

"we don't wait until our country is threatened," If the last bit was naive, this part is simply deranged. It hardly deserves fisking, but I'll do it anyway. It's just too juicy. Read that phrase again. Carter is not only asking his audience to take as self evident the wisdom (both moral and otherwise) of a leader waiting for his country to be attacked before acting, but simultaneously dispensing with the fact of what happened on 9-11 and denying the well-established links between Islamic terror (including 9-11 principals) and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Think about that. Just eight words to convey an entire misguided world view. Not bad. I hope his ghost writer got paid well. That's real talent.

"we publicly announced our new policy is to attack a county, invade a country, bomb a county." Yes, we publicly announced it. Along with 48 other nations and the UN and a reasonably hefty bipartisan swath of a Congress chock full of the peoples' duly elected representatives. That's the way our system works. Would he have preferred a sneak attack? Or maybe a denial that that was our policy? One gets the sense that it's the doing not the saying that disturbs Carter. He doesn't say. Would Carter be as disturbed with the policies of say, Teddy Roosevelt? Or John Kennedy? Or Harry Truman? Or Franklin Roosevelt? Or Lyndon Johnson? Or Woodrow Wilson? All of them did precisely what Mr. Carter seems so disturbed about - what he says is new and different and uniquely obscene about this administration. And arguably many of the aforementioned chief executives were more ham-handed in going about it. It all reminds me of how shocked those folks driving Volvos with "Free Tibet" bumper stickers would be were they to one day wake up to see Vice President Cheney on CNN: "We've sent in the 82nd airborne. The Chinese are gone. The Dalai Lama is on a flight to Shangri-La right now. Tibet is free."

But Carter's logic gets even more convoluted when one reflects on another recent president who attacked and/or bombed and/or 'invaded' several countries. That guy who stained that gal's dress. What was his name? Anyway... Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan... all with hazy authorization at best. One wonders where Carter has been... or whether he's studied basic American history. Apparently it's not the attacking or bombing that disturbs him, so much as the consistency of it - the success of it, and maybe just maybe the party of the guy doing it.

It's hardly even worth rehashing the old Carter argument that it's all about human rights. Where did he stand on human rights under Saddam? Has he ever read Christopher Hitchens? Did he understand Hitchens' scathing critiques from the left? Meekly sending one helicopter into Iran to get firebombed in an attempt to rescue hostages? That's fair play in Carter's world. Sending in an effective force to free millions from bitter tyranny? Baad! Bush's fault. Big crisis.

"our senators are voting to keep torture..." No Mr. Carter. Our senators are voting to read the Geneva Convention as it was written, not as some imaginary UN-Hague-EU lefty wet-dream world government might hope it should be. The Geneva convention is a document between countries designed to incent the observance of certain behavioral norms on the part of combatants. Among its tenets are not deliberately targeting civilians, not hiding combatants in civilian clothing and a host of other things that our enemies specifically do and about which in the main we have been rather scrupulous, if not obsessive about avoiding. Witness the prosecutions of our own troops for what in any other conflict would have been the accepted if ugly realities of war.

By voting to go into Iraq, the senators Carter decries (and more particularly Mr. Bush) have had the cojones to actually do something about torture and human rights rather than just talk about it as Carter did. As the saying goes: Conditions at Abu Ghraib prison have improved markedly in the last three years... and behind the Iron Curtain since Carter left office.

American politics is being infused with what he calls "fundamentalist" religion...Oh give me a break. Go look at any inauguration speech of any president. Any one. Nearly all of them mention God. Prominently. Except Carter [correction: one mention]. It's only been since our author in question lost his cushy Washington job that the left started wringing it's hands about fundamentalism. People elect presidents. Presidents nominate judges. That's the way our system works. If the president thinks the Pope (or at least a U.S. Cardinal) should be on the Supreme Court, that's his prerogative. Last I checked, nobody was threatening me if I went to church - as happens routinely in the Middle East... and parts of France. Or go look at the currency.

This 'fundamentalist' streak in American culture and politics is not a new thing. What's new is a hyper-sensitive deference to non-religion and specifically to non-Christian religion. Which is fine. It's what we're supposed to be. Pluralistic. That means the literalists get to do their thing too. Last I checked we hadn't become Iran - or even England. But if people want to elect those kinds of folks, that's the way it works. I'm not exactly concerned though. This country is bending over backwards to give a huge benefit of a doubt to muslims when the gut instinct of many says that the radical fringe of that faith - and possibly their core documents - are at the root of a global slaughter of innocents that's become almost routine in the headlines these days. Mr. Carter is just as free as he has always been to worship as he wishes and say what he wishes.

It's sad really, to see a man who had gained a measure of sincere respect among many - including those who opposed his policies as president - for his work in building houses (if not his freelance diplomacy) diving headfirst into the worst kind of political mud-pit alongside the looniest of the loony left while claiming (and maybe even thinking) that he's clean and unbiased. As they say, a man's got to know his limitations. Sadly, Jimmy Carter has rediscovered his.

UPDATE I: Newsbuster has more.

UPDATE II: Welcome Dr. Sanity readers! For those who came from somewhere else, check out her excellent post on Carter. [link fixed]
Jimmy Carter is a very very dangerous human being. He is the very worse sort of pacifist; the kind that gives people who truly desire peace an extremely bad taste in their mouth. Because the foundation of his pacifism is a determined and incalculably cruel passivity and tolerance toward genuine evil in all its manifestations.

His is that deluded brand of pacifism that not only does not actually advance the cause of peace; but encourages, advocates, and even legitimizes the very leaders and thugs who are responsible for the oppression and enslavemust of millions of people all around the globe.
Go read it all. [link fixed]

UPDATE III: Carter cranks it up several notches today with this op ed in the LA Times, pushing out past the radical Democratic party fringe and putting him in contention almost overnight for the "Cindy Sheehan Public Embarassment Award". Q&O fisks it nicely. (H/T Dr. Sanity.)

UPDATE IV: Interesting last quote from Carter in the LAT op-ed. If one turns the "shoulds" into present tense, it could be a speech by the current president. And it would be credible!
I.e., "As the world's only superpower, America [is] the unswerving champion of peace, freedom and human rights. Our country [is] the focal point around which other nations... gather to combat threats to international security and to enhance the quality of our common environment. We [are] in the forefront of providing human assistance to people in need [e.g. after the tsunami]..."
Carter has always seen America not just as a glass half empty but as one completely drained. His op ed is simply a retread to his infamous 'malaise' speech, which if you've got a stiff drink in hand is worth reading just to see how far this nation has come and to imagine how far it could have slid.

UPDATE V: I've continued the argument against Carter in a new post here ('Loose Cannon on the Deck! Carter's Irresponsible Broadside')