Friday, May 28, 2004

Memorial Day

I'm off for the weekend. Amidst the barbecues and festivities, please do remember why we have this 3-day weekend. Here's a story to help you. God Bless America and those who fight for her.

South County Hears the Other Side


Two months ago, I posted on how South Kingstown High hosted a lecture by radical left historian Howard Zinn. Many parents, led by Rod Driver, were outraged at the High School slipping in such a biased speaker under the radar. A compromise was agreed upon, and the school promised to schedule another historian to counter Zinn's anti-American vituperation.

That day finally came, and Stephen Thernstrom, a history professor from Harvard University gave a talk to the school. According to Thernstrom, many historians portray American society as unjust, imperfect and hypocritical. These historians believe that, "The American story is basically a story of noble ideas that are rarely lived up to," Thernstrom said. Further (to quote from the ProJo article):

The social history professor then proceeded to debunk that notion as simplistic. He retold textbook examples from what he claimed were lesser heard perspectives.

Take the suffrage movement, he said. That story is often told in the context of America holding women back, denying them their voting rights for years. In fact, he said, the United States led the world in developing a more emancipated view of women.

Immigration is commonly discussed in terms of restrictive policies meant to limit the influx of newcomers into the United States, he said. The fact is that, despite those restrictions, millions still braved dangers for a chance at America's promise.

"The ships ran both ways. They didn't [leave America]," Thernstrom said. "That tells us something about our society that isn't emphasized today."

He also addressed Zinn directly:
In his March 2 talk, Zinn criticized American leaders' motivations in invading Iraq: "Oil has been at the heart of American foreign policy in the Middle East for years."

Tingle denounced Zinn's message as "poisonous venom."

Thernstrom began by saying he would not deliver a "political sermon" nor would he debate the words of Zinn, who is a political science professor emeritus at Boston University.

He did, however, dismiss Zinn's book A People's History of the United States as "a very long political pamphlet." (Note the site to which I linked for Zinn's book). He admitted he had not fully read the book, but compared its historical perspective to an Oliver Stone movie. Others agree, including at least a few also on the left.

Thernstrom was challenged on some of his views, for instance:
Douglas Carr, chairman of the social studies department, prodded Thernstrom to talk about affirmative action. Thernstrom and his wife Abigail co-authored a book about education reform, No Excuses: Closing the Gap in Learning (Here's a positive review and here are a slew of other, mostly positive, reviews).

He argued that affirmative action policies can defeat their intended purpose by placing people in academic settings beyond their qualifications.

"Predictably, you're going to be struggling just to get through school," he said.

And a few students waded into the fray as well:
Thernstrom gamely sparred with senior Dan Levin and junior Justine Stroble about America's dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Levin asked if Thernstrom was implying that the lives of American soldiers were somehow more valuable than those of Japanese.

Thernstrom replied that valuing American lives above the enemy was simply standard, and good, military policy.

"When the other side is killing people, you want to kill as many people as you can," Thernstrom said.

Stroble pointed out that had the United States invaded Japan, American soldiers' lives would probably have been lost. Dropping the bomb targeted civilians, women, and children, she said.

That, said Thernstrom, is "a troubling fact of modern warfare."
Here, Thernstrom may have been better served to cite the few studies that have indicated that even Japanese civilian lives were saved in the long run by dropping the bomb. (Here is a good explanation about these kind of second-guess questions). This is a deeply complicated topic still open to debate (here's a good summary of the debate). In short, had the U.S. invaded the Japan home islands, the Japanese people would have undoubtedly intensified their total war policy and vastly more women and children would have been killed by conventional weapons than were by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One doesn't have to look too far for proof, Dresden, Germany is a perfect example, as were firebombings of other Japanes cities, of the damage that conventional firebombing could do. Besides, is there any doubt that if the Japanese had developed the bomb first that they wouldn't have used it on the United States?

It is interesting, that a similar recap of the Zinn talk revealed only one challenge, from a student. The reason these speakers were ostensibly brought in was to create such a dialogue. It appears as if Thernstrom did so, with both educators and students. For some reason, Zinn was not similarly challenged by a single faculty member. To me, this is most troubling. Finally, Thernstrom spoke about more contemporary events:
It is still unclear how the current war will play out, said Thernstrom, who recalled protesting the Vietnam War on a soapbox in Boston.

The United States, he said, is divided into 9/11 people, and 9/10 people. He and President Bush are 9/11 people, he said.

"The world changed after 9/11," he said.

This is something it appears many have forgotten. Hopefully, Thernstrom succeeded in convincing some students to look at things with a bit more contextual background. Mostly, I hope he showed that is indeed all right to love their country, warts and all.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Who said this?

"We have identified some 29 weak points for attacks in the U.S. and in the West, we intend to explode some 6,000 American atomic warheads, we have shared our intelligence with other guerilla groups and we shall utilize them as well. We have set up a department to cover England and we have had discussions regarding them[;] we have contacted the Mexicans and the Argentineans and will work with anyone who has an axe to grind with America."

Al Queda? Sadr? Hussein? Qadafi? France?
Nope.
An Iranian government official. Perhaps we should pull out of Iraq . . . and into Iran. More Here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Historical Fiction - Colonial House on PBS


I watched the just completed (at least the first airing) PBS "reality" series Colonial House. A very interesting project, though fraught with inconsistencies and innacuracies. This review at Slate does a good job summing up some of the problems. (For a good discussion of the various personalities and issues throughout the course of the show, go here.)

Basically, the main conflict was about the role of religion. Some of the "actors" were atheist and had a problem attending church services. This prompted many to ask, "What exactly did you expect in recreating a colony in 1628?" The Voorhees family, especially the wife, Michelle, were the most agregious violators. This religious controversy was portrayed in the show, and Michelle Voorhees correctly came off as being a bit sanctimonious in sticking to her "principles." However, what wasn't portrayed, and probably should have been, was the fact that the church services themselves weren't historically accurate. Apparently, concessions were made to 21st century religious practices in that modern songs and format were often followed. In particular, at least according to Craig Tuminaro, the Wyers (the Governor and his family; they had to leave the show for personal reasons) and Verdecia families were the beneficiaries of a bit of religious pandering (links to a RealVideo testimony by Tuminaro). I was critical of some of the colonists for not fully embracing the concept and refusing to attend the sabbath service and I must say that I am just as critical of this revelation. The services should have been more reflective of the time, simple as that.

There were also other problems. There was absolutely no hunting shown and fishing was a disaster. This is partially attributable to the relative lack of wildlife now compared to 1628 and the producers of the show should have made some concessions by providing game and fish. (More insight provided at this discussion board). Also, one of the colonists "came out" as a gay man, something that would have not been tolerated. I actually thought this was handled well by all, considering the different 21st century perspectives of the colonists, but still have one question. Was a gay man specifically cast in hope of creating some sort of conflict? If so, thumbs down.

Additionally, and probably inescapably, the "colonists" couldn't help but apply modern sensibilities to encounters with Native Americans. Despite this, the encounter with the local Pasamaquoddy tribesmen was probably pretty close: the same cannot be said of the encounter with the Wampanoags.

In my opinion, the Wampanoags brought too much of their own agenda into the show. For obvious, understandable, and mostly correct reasons, they were antagonistic towards the whole colonial idea. They confronted the colonists about how the colonies presence made them feel. They pointed out how this type of colony was "how it all started" and that while the concept may be exciting and adventurous to the colonists, to the Native Americans, it signifies a reenactment of the beginning of the end of their culture. All of this is true. However, there are two sides to every coin. We in this country have glossed over the injustices done to Native Americans, though we are aware that they have been done wrong. However, the Wampanoags were a bit too self-righteous for my taste, though I understand why they feel the way they do. I have some familiarity with this period, and it is historical fact that Native Americans practiced tribal warfare against each other as well as whites. It was not "The Colonists" vs. some monolithic "Native American" group. The tribes competed against each other and often allied with the European settlers against other tribes. The Wampanoags, Narragansetts and others were the loser's of King Phillip's War and the victorious English colonists were aided by Pequots, Mohegans and Eastern Niantic. We were wrong to make the White=Good/Indian=Bad analogy in our past, it is just as wrong to reverse this analogy. The truth lies in the middle. I intend no ill will towards Native Americans (I have Huron many generations back in my own family tree), I just ask that the entire story be told, not just the part that indicts the "white man."

As far as some more aesthetic factors, I think that the Heinzes came off as classic know-it-all liberals. They were ostensibly the lay preacher and his wife and were very "open-minded" until they became governor (when the Wyers left). I purposedly say "they" because Mrs. Heinz clearly relished her new role as Governor's wife. In short, she was the most irritating person on the show. It was their indentured servant, Jonathon Allen, who came out as a gay man. He was worried about how the Heinzes would receive the revelation, but they basically said "no big deal," which was perfectly fine. Jonathon began to look upon them as sort of surrogate parents, which was a mistake. When they became governor, they instantly instructed Jonathon to move out so they could have more room. I guess the feelings of an indentured servant didn't mean quite as much to a governor. Jonathon was predictably hurt and Carolyn Heinz said at one point he wouldn't be moving back into the house if he kept moping about. Gee, what compassion. Ironically, I think it was historically accurate, but it does provide a bit of instruction on the mindset of some liberals, no? On the positive side, I think Don Wood and John Voorhees came across very well (though I may be biased because they are demographically similar to me), as did Julia Friese, whose online testimonials I encourage you to view as they show some insight into a young woman who truly used the experience to learn more about herself. Amy-Kristina Herbert left halfway through the project (it was planned that way) and made an interesting point about the dichotomy of being African-American and playing the part of a colonial. The first governor, Jeff Wyers, also did an admirable job, but the religious controversy took its toll and he threw his hands up in the air and gave up trying to enforce the rules due to pragmatic reasons. Finally, Jack Lecza arrived late and played the role of the Company Treasurer and was charged to get the colony's economic engine running. He was perfect for the role and it was fun to watch the Heinzes pray for this obvious real-world capitalist to fail only to be confronted by his success. In short, this guy should have been cast as the governor in the first place.

If historical accuracy was the ideal, the series fell short. As Dennis Cass wrote in his aforementioned review at Slate:
"Colonial House is by no means a bad show. On the contrary: It's painstakingly researched, beautifully photographed, and it effectively debunks myths about the colonists as a bunch of dour, buckle-shoed squares. The viewer comes away with a good sense of how arduous life was for early settlers, and somewhere in there is buried a message about the challenges of balancing individual freedom with the individual's responsibility to his or her community. But whether Colonial House provides a true flavor of life in early America, I can't be sure. "


Frankly, parts of it were better than others. It was an interesting experiment in anthropology and history. I think that with some tweeking, it could be done again. I would recommend watching it if it re-airs, but try to take everything with a grain of salt. I won't ruin the end by telling what the final evaluation of the success of the colony was, but remember, it is PBS and we wouldn't want to hurt anybody, would we?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

In God, and the GOP, They Trust


David Klinghoffer's piece in the LA Times today may provide further insight into something Justin Katz and I have been lightly going on about. He outlines how the more religious tend to be Republican and how a belief in God goes hand and hand with a sense of individual responsibility. On the other hand, those who don't attend church are overwhelmingly Liberal/Democrat and tend to believe in a government-knows-best attitude:
"Generally speaking, liberalism distrusts the individual, while conservatism trusts him enough to give him a chance to make the right, or the wrong, decision. If he makes the wrong one, he will have to answer to his own conscience, or to his God.

Looked at this way, it becomes apparent why religious Americans gravitate to conservatism. By far the majority of them are Christians and their biblical religion is premised on the idea of individual moral responsibility. Traditionally, religious faith presumes that God commands us to act in certain ways, which in turn presumes moral freedom. Otherwise, how could God hold us responsible if we refuse to obey?"

Purple America


Ilya Shapiro is Stuck in Purple America and thinks there are a lot of us with him. I believe I may be one. What is Purple America?
From my experience writing for and reading TCS, I gather that I am not alone in sensing a certain
disconnect between my cultural and political affinities. That is, I am a cosmopolitan conservative,
residing in that nebulous region distrusted by both coastal elites and the populist sages of the heartland, Purple America.


Personally, I'm in that region, too. I'm pretty conservative, but I appreciate some of those "fancier" or "high-falutin'", sometimes a bit pretentious things usually associated with the PBS-watching, effete Left. To Shapiro:
Purple America is not so much a place as an idea, or more precisely a confluence of values from Red America with tastes from Blue America. It believes in personal responsibility, discipline, civil society, spontaneous order, ordered liberty, and that the best thing government can do is not get in the way. Yet it craves independent films, fine cigars, Belgian ales, and South American fĂștbol -- along with a good baseball game (preferably without the designated hitter).

Well, I'm not quite as Purple (I like domestic craft beers and actually like the desgnated hitter...who wants to see a pitcher hit?) as Shapiro, but close, as this blog can attest. Further:
Purple America gets a tear in its eye during small-town 4th of July parades, but also a smirk on its face when the Star Spangled Banner plays down the Champs-Elysées after Lance wins another Tour. It couldn't care less who sleeps with whom where, just that its tax dollars aren't used to subsidize or photograph the event. And it welcomes diversity, so long as that term is not used as a euphemism for judging people on anything but the content of their character -- though not that false diversity of multi-colored liberals.
Also, Shapiro wants to be clear that Purple America is not comprised of "metrosexuals":
But do not be confused: We Purple Americans are decidedly not metrosexuals. I couldn't imagine getting a manicure, waxing my chest, or using skin products, and while I want to look good, I hate the shopping that you have to do to get there. I may like my Perrier, but I'll drink it with my Monday Night Football, thank you very much. I read the Economist and Atlantic Monthly, but also Sports Illustrated and Maxim.


Shapiro thinks he has found the answer by moving to Washington, D.C., "a place where the only gauche political stand is not to have one, the city with northern charm and southern efficiency." Good luck to him, but I'll stay where I am, for now. Where does that leave me? According to Shapiro:
Those physically located in Red America can reside in the imagined communities of the blogosphere and the alternative media, keeping busy and interested via constant travel and immersion in work. Those in Blue America can take a virtual leap into Galt's Gulch, divorcing themselves from all cocktail party discussions of political philosophy and public policy (as in Ayn Rand's world, this is easier to do if you care about nothing beyond your own immediate interests).

I'm pretty confident that Shapiro is a Libertarian, and that is what he means by being not RED or BLUE but PURPLE. A mix of both, the classic fiscal conservative, social liberal, but not a moderate. I'm sure we differ on various issues, but the larger point is that those of us who like our "culture" sometimes risk a bit of harassment from those who share our fundamental political beliefs, which in turn cause fits of near-apoplectic disbelief among our colleagues in academia or "society." I think being part of Purple America is fun, myself. It's fun not being easily pigeonholed, after all.




Monday, May 24, 2004

Justin Katz on the Gatekeeper/Watchmaker God

Justin Katz has eloquently amplified my previous point about how our Deist Founding Fathers never intended the modern interpretation of 'separation of church and state.' (Read the original for more details). As Justin elaborated:
"...it has seemed to me that secularists cut out the half of the American deists' beliefs that is more directly relevant to our society today. Whatever their beliefs about God's involvement in this world, they largely seemed to believe in judgment and in soul, from whence derived morality and the presumption of an ethical foundation on which to place freedom.

In a sense, God was not just a watch maker, but also a gatekeeper. What modern secularists have done is to add to the idea that God doesn't meddle in our affairs the completely distinct and insidious notion that He doesn't care what we do."


While I'm not sure the notion is as fully formed in the minds of many of those who are more secular in their philosophy of life, a large number of them do seem to believe so. As such, they essentially pay lip service to God and religion. They acknowledge a higher power, but choose to approach the Bible and other religious works "a la carte", picking what they want or can reconcile with their own more earthly concerns, be they due to personal history, preference or politics. This goes hand in hand with a lessening of the authoritative moral power of God and, as Justin so cogently pointed out, has led to summary dismisal of potential consequences for less-than-moral acts.

"Pew Survey Finds Moderates, Liberals Dominate News Outlets "

What a surprise, huh?

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Gematriculator

It's Friday, my brain is fried. Time for another useless blog rating device. The Gematriculator rates whether a site, or portions thereof, are good or evil, or at least to what extent. If you were wondering:

This site is certified 66% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Wow, I've got some praying to do!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Belmont Club analyzes the "Wedding Party" massacre but speaks to a larger issue.

The Belmont Club is emerging as a favorite of mine. It has tackled how the story of the wedding massacre has shifted substantially from the initial reports of the "wedding massacre" and makes a few interesting points about the particular instance. However, to me, the more important portion of the post is this excerpt:

"One of the challenges facing intellectuals at a time when the political and cultural dimensions of war have grown in relation to the purely military is how to make sense of information acquired through the public intelligence system: the news media. Because modern American warfare now involves only a very small percentage of the population it has become a kind of spectator sport where the plays are actually called from the stands. One would hope on good information. Yet a news industry whose techniques were adequate to cover traffic accidents, murders or cumbrous wars in which armies moved a few hundred yards a day must now must cover events whose complexion can alter in hours. The difference is that this time there is no low-tech acetate overlay, maps, or timeline in battalion notebook. Battlefield events are still reported like isolated traffic accidents, conveying no sense of spatial location, temporal development or continuity. To the extent that any symbols are plotted on the public mental map, they remain there, hours or days after the information has been updated. Long after it became clear that the attack may not have been an attack on a wedding party at all, the original accusation soldiered on. On May 20, 2004 at 09:30 Zulu, after the last entry in the table above, the International Committee of the Red Cross 'condemned Thursday an 'excessive' use of force by the US military.' The story went on to say that 'US troops faced further embarrassment amid claims they killed dozens of people at a wedding celebration in a remote western Iraqi town, at a time when the occupation forces are already reeling from a prison abuse scandal.' A reaction based on old news had taken twelve hours to work its way through the Red Cross and emerged to spawn further accusations on its own power."

This, along with Ralph Peter's below mentioned column on how media coverage has necessitated a tactical combat change merge together. In short, we must be wary of instant media and the assumptions made by those who report. Regardless of whether the story eventually gets more completely fleshed out, the initial reports set in the deepest. Given this, the inherent biases of the media are even more devastating, aren't they? Further, this bias against America in general and Bush in particular may necessitate a wholesale change in ground combat, both strategically and tactically, so that battles can be won before the media can report that they are being lost, so to speak. The power of the press indeed.

Ralph Peters on how media coverage of war necessitates a change in combat tactics

Ralph Peters starts his latest with:

"IN Iraq last month, I learned a great deal about the future of combat. By watching TV.
During the initial fighting in Fallujah, I tuned in al-Jazeera and the BBC. At the same time, I was getting insider reports from the battlefield, from a U.S. military source on the scene and through Kurdish intelligence. I saw two different battles.

The media weren't reporting. They were taking sides. With our enemies. And our enemies won. Because, under media assault, we lost our will to fight on.

During the combat operations, al-Jazeera constantly aired trumped-up footage and insisted that U.S. Marines were destroying Fallujah and purposely targeting women and children, causing hundreds of innocent casualties as part of an American crusade against Arabs.

It was entirely untrue. But the truth didn't matter. Al-Jazeera told a receptive audience what it wanted to believe. Oh, and the "Arab CNN" immediately followed the Fallujah clips with video of Israeli "atrocities." Connecting the dots was easy for those nurtured on hatred.

The Marines in Fallujah weren't beaten by the terrorists and insurgents, who were being eliminated effectively and accurately. They were beaten by al-Jazeera. By lies.

Get used to it."

In short, the media is truly attempting to create another Vietnam. It's their template, and their sticking to it, the truth be damned. Peter's solution is that we must learn to fight on the ground, in an urban setting much faster:

"Our military must rise to its responsibility to reduce the pressure on the National Command Authority — in essence, the president — by rapidly and effectively executing orders to root out enemy resistance or nests of terrorists.

To do so, we must develop the capabilities to fight within the "media cycle," before journalists sympathetic to terrorists and murderers can twist the facts and portray us as the villains. Before the combat encounter is politicized globally. Before allied leaders panic. And before such reporting exacerbates bureaucratic rivalries within our own system."





Iraqi Sovereignty

Great column by Andrew Peyton Thomas on National Review Online. Like any good essay, his conclusion explains the most cogent point:

"The Iraqi people, fully sovereign, will make this decision in the coming months, and if Iraqis do wish to throw away this epochal opportunity for self-government, we cannot force them to be free. If a majority of Iraqis consciously reject democratic traditions, there will be nothing left for us to do but leave them to their own devices and confine our efforts there to our own national self-protection. But rare is the nation that has rejected democracy when given a legitimate chance to opt in. In the meantime, as the inevitable chorus of 'give peace a chance' grows louder on the antiwar left, these activists should rather see the unique and historic power-sharing arrangement we have brought to Iraq as suggesting the far better imperative of giving democracy a chance."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Church/State redux inspired by new book

There is a new book out (read a review here) called Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism , by Susan Jacoby, which deals with the role of religion in the founding of our nation. It's a topic I wrote about a while back (see here). From the aforementioned review by Scott McLemee:

For the past few years a friend of mine in the Midwest has been engaged in a war of words in the columns of a local newspaper. Every so often someone writes a letter to the editor claiming that the United States is a Christian nation and that, as the formula goes, "freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion." In response, my friend writes a letter pointing out that the Founding Fathers tended to be deists, not Christians. They saw God as, essentially, a watchmaker. He created the universe, wound it up and then stood back to let it run. If Franklin, Washington, Jefferson and Paine had a religion, it was a faith in reason, not in the Bible.

It was a pretty avant-garde notion for the 18th century. And even, it seems, for the 21st, at least in certain regions of the world (some of them within our own borders). It hardly matters that my friend, a history professor, knows what he is talking about. Fundamentalist groups circulate leaflets containing stock responses to such arguments -- including quotations that, torn from context, "prove" that the separation of church and state was never a basic American value. (After all, even the least orthodox of the Founding Fathers occasionally said something nice about Jesus.)


This is pretty much right on, though from my reading on the subject, even deists acknowledged a God and recognized that a higher power was necessary to have gotten the ball rolling, so to speak. But while he is accurate in saying that Fundamentalist groups take some quotes out of context, the fact remains that the separation of church and state has still been confused from the original meaning, notwithstanding the assertions of the the book's author or the reviewer. Rational religion was an outgrowth of the Enlightenment. As I said in my earlier blog about this:

". . . the effect that the exposure of religion to the rationalism of the Enlightenment was a growth of rational religion and the idea of freedom of religion as a natural right. This led to changes in religious orthodoxies and traditions of churches throughout the American Colonies and a further splintering of religious sects. When it came time to unite against England, it became obvious that no single religious sect would prevail over the others and they all essentially agreed to disagree. This evolved into a realization that no one church could dominate a new nation, which resulted in the separation of church and state. This right of religious freedom, along with the difficulty of sustaining orthodox thought in the midst of splintered religious sects, led to guarantees of religious freedom in the constitutions of many states and the Bill of Rights.

However, it is notable that the God who grants equality in the Declaration of Independence is the deist version, not the God worshipped in the majority of the traditional churches of the colonies at the time. The Enlightenment's impact on religion influenced many of the leaders of the American Revolution. Jefferson and Franklin both spent time in France and were exposed to the French Enlightenment, which tended to be more antagonistic to religion than did the English version. This point is not intended to denigrate Jefferson and Franklin. They believed what they believed and recognized that it was important to allow all Americans to worship (or not worship) freely, without being dictated by the government the form their religious observances were to take.

Thus, the true intent of the 'separation of church and state' was to permit citizens to practice their religion freely without fear of governmental prosecution. Implicit in this is the right to not practice any form of religion. The effort to divorce ourselves from the importance of religion to our national heritage may indeed point to the secularization of our society. . . Our Founding Fathers, whether they be Deists, Congregationalists or Catholics, would have never imagined that the clause 'separation of church and state' would have been perverted in such a way. Not in their wildest dreams."

Friday, May 14, 2004

It's been a little slow lately...

I know it's been a little slow lately as I've been suffering from "academic fatigue" lately and a bit of burnout after finals. I'll try to pick it up again after the weekend.

The Berg Video

I found the Nick Berg video, downloaded it, but then deleted it after some thought. Some things don't need to be seen. However, if you feel the need, instapundit can get you there in a roundabout way. You just have to be a good ferret. I feel I don't need to see it to "get it." I get it, I think most do. I think it should be made available, but I also think not wanting to see it (especially if you're able to contextualize "prison photos" compared to "barbaric murder") speaks to a certain level of civility and ability to conceptualize without having to visualize, so to speak. I also don't begrudge those who have watched it. I just urge all to do some real soul searching as to personal motivation for seeing the images before doing so. Are your reasons altruistic or do you feel you need a wake up call? Or are you skirting along the razor's edge of a form of sadistic voyeurism? Each person will have to decide for themselves. I chose peace of mind fortified by textual, not graphical, knowledge. I know our cause is just and that Al-Queda are barbarians, I don't need to go to the videotape to be convinced.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Tom Coyne: R.I.: A welfare magnet destroying itself

Good, concise column in the ProJo today by Tom Coyne on what the workers of Rhode Island are faced with.

More from Hanson

Longish column by VDH on how Jimmy Carter and academic multiculturalists helped bring us Sept. 11. No time to comment, just read it.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Swift Boat Vets : Link to Video

Justin Katz did some digging on the CSPAN site and has found the direct link to the video for the Swift Boat Vets for Truth press conference I mentioned a couple days ago. Justin also mentioned that Brent Bozell's Media Research Center has covered how the press has dealt with the topic. Thanks to Justin for the additional info.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Bush pauses to comfort teen

This picture and accompanying story gets to the heart of why I will vote for George Bush in November. I don't agree on every policy, I wish he was a better speaker and sometimes I think he doesn't use the bully pulpit enough, but he is genuine. Agree or disagree with him, President Bush has a core of beliefs and a vision for the future. He has basic ideals and principles. He doesn't change his mind for political expediency. Senator Kerry has no such record or reputation. It really isn't all about politics, and maybe I shouldn't link this genuinely touching story with a political campaign, but it truly is why I admire George Bush. He knows who and what he is, he is genuine and honest, and he doesn't sway when times get tough.

Perspective on the Abu Ghraib "atrocities"

This Wall Street Journal editorial attempts to provide some much needed context, and a timeline, for the events at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Much has been said elswhere about the coverage, but this is pertinent for all to remember (or learn):

For a sense of proportion, let's rehearse the timeline here. While some accusations of abuse go back to 2002 in Afghanistan, the incidents at Abu Ghraib that triggered this week's news occurred last autumn. They came to light through the chain of command in Iraq on January 13. An Army criminal probe began a day later. Two days after that, the U.S. Central Command disclosed in a press release that "an investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility." By March 20, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was able to announce in Baghdad that criminal charges had been brought against six soldiers in the probe.
By the end of January, meanwhile, Major General Antonio Taguba was appointed to conduct his separate "administrative" probe of procedures at Abu Ghraib. It is his report, complete with its incriminating photos, that is the basis for the past week's news reports. The press didn't break this story based on months of sleuthing but was served up the results of the Army's own investigation.

By February, the Secretary of the Army had ordered the service's inspector general to assess the doctrine and training for detention operations within all of CentCom. A month after that, another probe began into Army Reserve training, especially military police and intelligence. Those reports will presumably also be leaked and reported on, or at least they will be if they reach negative conclusions.

This is a cover-up? Unlike the Catholic bishops, some corporate boards and the editors of the New York Times or USA Today, the military brass did not dismiss early allegations of bad behavior. Instead, it established reviews and procedures that have uncovered the very details that are now used by critics to indict the Pentagon "system." It has done so, moreover, amid a war against a deadly insurgency in which interrogation to gain good intelligence is critical to victory--and to saving American lives.


Look, the bottom line is that a few in the U.S. military took things way too far. They are being dealt with. The same could not be said under Saddam. And it is certainly not the situation in the majority of other Arab/Muslim countries. Their indignation is hollow. Our self-flagellation has now become obscene. But it really isn't about the prison now, is it? The Democrats and their friends in the press have an election to win, after all.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Swift Boat Veterans Condemn Kerry as Unfit to Command

I took a brief break last night and got caught up in CSPAN2 coverage of the press conference by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at the National Press Club. A good summary was done over at Newsmax. I've already heard the Kerry camp try to cast aspersions on the group because of links to supposed "dirty tricks" merchants. I don't care though, because what I saw with my own eyes was one after another of these individuals, some near tears, decrying comments Kerry has made in the past. While much has been and will be made of their challenge as to the veracity of Kerry's medals, their real problem with Kerry is that they feel he is a hypocrite. He came back from Vietnam and told the world that he and they committed war crimes. Now he is trying to run on his ribbons and medals as a war hero. He is trying to have it both ways, implying that he was a hero for fighting in the war and a hero for fighting against it when he got out. The most amazing thing to me was that all of the veterans gathered could not recall any other individual who served only four months in country. Most left in body bags, severely wounded or after their 12 month tour.

The Press, of course, took a skeptical tone when asking questions, some of which show that they just don't understand the military. One of the key skepticisms held by the press seems to be the fact that only one of the men who actually served on Kerry's boat has come forward against him. The fact is that these swift boats usually operated in groups of 2 to 4, often with 30-50 feet of each other. But, again, the media obviously felt that the most damning fact was that the Swifties were being helped by supposed Bush dirty tricks surrogates. That was all they had. So, before you let the Democrat spin machine sway you into thinking this is just another right-wing smear campaign, try to see these men, these real Vietnam hero's at this press conference if it airs again. Regardless of who sponsored what, I have no doubt that they feel that John Kerry is not worthy of being Commander and Chief. Neither do I.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Quick excerpt from Victor Davis Hanson's latest

Still busy with work and school, but the latest from Victor Davis Hanson is good. A snippett:
Our critics ask, have we made mistakes in this terrible war so far? Of course. We can all argue and parry over the lack of our preparedness on September 11, the number and nature of our troops that should be committed to the reconstruction of Iraq, and the degree to which our knowledge of weapons of mass destruction comprised a long- or short-term threat to the United States. I welcome that discussion, for it is only from audit and self-critique that liberal societies such as our own profit from their errors and press on to victory.

Yet at some point, we of diverse views and opinions — Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative — must transcend our own points of departure to unite in marshalling the will to finish the task in Iraq and to ensure that the Middle East is no longer a sanctuary from which to launch deadly attacks on the United States and its interests — but rather one that offers employment, stability, and justice to its deserving citizens.