Sunday, October 31, 2004

Historians endorse President Bush

Believe it or not, there are a few professional historians who have dared to publicly endorse President Bush for re-election. To the surprise of none who have actually read here quite regularly, I will start off with one of my personal favorites, Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson essential argument is:
This election marks a similar crossroads in our history. We are presented with two radically different candidates with profound disagreements about how to conduct a historic worldwide war. We should remember that all our victorious past presidents were, at the moments of their crises, deeply unpopular precisely because they chose the difficult, long-term sacrifice for victory over the expedient and convenient pleas for accommodation (if not outright capitulation). We are faced with just such an option today: a choice between a president whose call for patience and sacrifice promises victory, and a pessimist stirring the people with the assurances that we should not have fought, and now cannot win, the present war in Iraq.

Our terrorist enemy has no uniforms or aircraft, but nevertheless struck at the very heart of our financial and political capitals in a fashion unimaginable by Nazi Germany, Tojo's Japan, or the Soviet Union. The Islamic fascists' creed is Hitlerian, their methodology primeval. Their aim is not mere territory: They want nothing less than the destruction of Western freedom, through the takeover of the Middle East and the use of its petroleum wealth to craft a nuclear, global caliphate, Dark Aged in its values, 21st-century in its lethality.

This war against Islamic fascism is now a quarter-century old, and began with the Iranian seizure of the American embassy in 1979; the apex of this escalating assault — owing to past American neglect and appeasement — was September 11. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry — so unlike their Democratic predecessors FDR, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy — have seen the struggle not as one for national survival, but at best as the lamentable dividend of inequality or poverty, and at worst as the felonious behavior of a few miscreants who seem to eat, sleep, and bank in the upper air rather than in the houses and streets of real countries. Thus arose John Kerry's revealing use of "sensitive" and "nuisance" to suggest that we need to return either to writs and indictments or the occasional cruise missile — i.e., the status quo before the world changed on 9/11.

The reaction of George W. Bush could not be more different. He accepts the conflict as a global war of ideas against states that harbor terrorists. He recognizes it as a struggle that involves millions in the Middle East, people who will reluctantly join bullying fascists should they have any premonitions of American inaction (much less defeat or Madrid-style capitulation). Bush's aim is not merely to defeat the terrorists today, but to eradicate them and isolate their supporters through a bold tripartite strategy. It is as breathtakingly simple as it is logical: kill or capture the al-Qaeda purveyors of death; end renegade regimes, such as the Taliban or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, that have a long history of subsidizing terrorists; and promote democratic reform in the Middle East. The push for such liberalization rests on the theory that democracies rarely go to war against their own kind — and, more important, that democracies marginalize religious extremists internally by free discussion over, and collective responsibility for, solving national problems.

By any historical standard, the Bush doctrine is working. In just over three years, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have been eradicated. Consensual societies are starting to emerge in their place. Syria and Iran are jittery, fearing new global scrutiny over their longstanding, but heretofore excused, terrorist sympathies. Libya and Pakistan have flipped, renouncing much of their past villainy. Saudi Arabia and the other autocracies of the Gulf region feel the new pressure of American idealism. For all their vocal resentment, strategically critical sheikdoms are inching toward political reform and terrorist-hunting.
According to Hanson, President Bush has three problems this election year:
First, this is an election year in the postmodern age. Two- and three-minute media streams from the battlefield are delivered with amateurish editorializing in real time to American living rooms, and are then recycled as political soundbites. Given both the wealth and security of American society, and the spectacular ability of our military to defeat enemies at minimal costs, Americans have come to claim as their birthright automatic victory without casualties....Second, the president's forte is direct action and singular resolve, not Churchillian oratory. Yet because of the stealthy nature of our enemy — and owing to decades of multiculturalism, utopian pacifism, and moral equivalence in our schools and popular culture — the American people are confused about the nature of the enemy. Are we really threatened with another 9/11? Cannot allies and aid preclude our further military action? Are we overreacting, captive to religious, racial, or cultural chauvinism? Does war ever solve problems? Bush must remind Americans almost daily that the threat is real, that we are winning a necessary war, and that the outlook is bright. And he must do so in such a fashion as to drown out far more glib legions of political junkies, National Public Radio "experts," the New York Times, and most of Hollywood.

Third, after the meteoric rise of Howard Dean's boutique antiwar campaign in the Democratic primary season, both John Kerry and John Edwards retracted their prior Trumanesque bipartisan support of the war. Instead they sensed political capital in equating daily images of Americans killed with everything from alleged Halliburton profiteering to tax cuts for the wealthy. Their efforts have been energized by millions of dollars in third-party contributions, and sensationalized by the American elite in the arts, universities, and media, who are as culturally influential as they are politically weak and envious.
As far as Kerry, Hanson believes that electing him as President would be "an unmitigated disaster." (Read his piece for why).

Another historian who has endorsed President Bush is Paul Johnson. Johnson believes President Bush was the right man at the right time.
There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to “try men’s souls,” as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory. There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding: “Let us see who can pound the hardest.” Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” However, something persuades me that Bush— with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue—is the president America needs at this difficult time.

He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.

This impression is abundantly confirmed, indeed made overwhelming, when we look at the alternative. Senator Kerry has not made much of an impression in Europe, or indeed, I gather, in America. Many on the Continent support him, because they hate Bush, not because of any positive qualities Kerry possesses. Indeed we know of none, and there are six good reasons that he should be mistrusted.(Read the rest to find out.)
Johnson is an Englishman, and offers insight into the world-wide cause of Bush-hating.
I don’t recall any occasion, certainly not since the age of FDR, when so much partisan election material has been produced by intellectuals of the Left, not only in the United States but in Europe, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. These intellectuals—many of them with long and lugubrious records of supporting lost left-wing causes, from the Soviet empire to Castro’s aggressive adventures in Africa, and who have in their time backed Mengistu in Ethiopia, Qaddafi in Libya, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua—seem to have a personal hatred of Bush that defies rational analysis.

Behind this front line of articulate Bushicides (one left-wing columnist in Britain actually offered a large sum of money to anyone who would assassinate the president) there is the usual cast of Continental suspects, led by Chirac in France and the superbureaucrats of Brussels. As one who regularly reads Le Monde, I find it hard to convey the intensity of the desire of official France to replace Bush with Kerry. Anti- Americanism has seldom been stronger in Continental Europe, and Bush seems to personify in his simple, uncomplicated self all the things these people most hate about America—precisely because he is so American. Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, is not, of course, a rational reflex. It is, rather, a mental disease, and the Continentals are currently suffering from a virulent spasm of the infection, as always happens when America exerts strong and unbending leadership.

Behind this second line of adversaries there is a far more sinister third. All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory. The mullahs and the imams, the gunmen and their arms suppliers and paymasters, all those who stand to profit—politically, financially, and emotionally—from the total breakdown of order, the eclipse of democracy, and the defeat of the rule of law, want to see Bush replaced. His defeat on November 2 will be greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed and their occupants been exterminated.

I cannot recall any election when the enemies of America all over the world have been so unanimous in hoping for the victory of one candidate. That is the overwhelming reason that John Kerry must be defeated, heavily and comprehensively.

Indeed, the old axiom that said you could determine a man's character by the nature of his friends seems entirely correct in this case.

Daniel Pipes is another historian endorsing the President and he makes the argument that John Kerry is a "9/10" person despite his ofttimes hawkish rhetoric. (This endorsement is no surprise as Pipes was selected by President to serve on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace.)

I'll keep my eyes pealed out for more. It tells you the dire situation the History field is in when I can only find three, huh?
UPDATE: I've done some more digging and found another historian that supports President Bush, Thomas C. Reeves. (I also suspect that Gertrude Himmelfarb may be a Bush supporter, but have no proof.)

Friday, October 29, 2004

Election Endorsements

The blogger IMAO offers this Presidential Endorsement. No need to guess who I endorse, though I guess for the record I should put it in writing: George W. Bush. That accomplished, let me move on the political questions we are being asked here in Rhode Island. In general, vote Republican. That's about it as far as office-holders go. Seriously though, I live in the 2nd RI Congressional District, so I have a choice between Jim Langevin and unknown Republican challenger Chuck Barton (and a couple fringe candidates). I'll be voting for Barton, though Langevin vs. Barton = Snowball vs. Hell. I wish I lived in the 1st RI Congressional District, then I would enthusiastically vote for Dave Rodgers over Patrick Kennedy. Ah well. As far as my local elections in Warwick, well, my State Representative and State Senator, both Democrats, are running unopposed. I guess I'll write myself in. For Mayor of Warwick, I support incumbent Scott Avedesian. Someone has to keep the overwhelmingly Democrat City Council in check. For Warwick School Board, a non-partisan position, I'll be voting for the incumbent, Joyce Andrade and newcomer Gordon C. Mulligan.

I guess it is time to repeat what I said only half-jokingly before: If you have a choice on the local level to pick between a Democrat and a Republican, all things being equal, I urge you to fill in the Republican arrow. We need to shake up the political hierarchy in this state. If you haven't figured it out by now, one-party rule doesn't work, folks. Which leads me to the
Referendum questions (link is to the official RI Referendum Handbook, in .pdf format).

To start,
Question 1: Separation of Powers, and Question 2: Constitutional Convention, are no brainers. Vote YES on both and let's start the real political reform in the Ocean State.

Now for the spending bills. I will be voting for some, with my nose plugged, but with the view that they are downpayments for economic development and state savings later. That is my philosophy as I look at these questions.

Question 3: Transportation - YES, with massive reservations, but if we don't do it now, we'll supposedly be without ANY upgrade for 2 years. Plus there is the fact that the Federal Government will provide extensive matching funds. These issues simply stink, but they need to be done.

Question 4: Vocational Education Investment - YES. I'm a strong believer in skills and trades as extremely viable economic alternatives, especially for young people. A person that learns how to program CNC machines or electro-hydraulic system technologies in 2 years is much more prepared to join the work force than someone who gets the English degree in 5 years. Not to denigrate English or History majors, remember, I am one of the latter, but students with no direction are much better served going into the trades than wasting time and money on a 5 year college plan.

Question 5: Dorms at URI and RIC - NO. Sorry, not this year. I just think that we'll have to let the URI students continue to carry the burden on the renovations. Given that, this is simply not the time for RIC to come asking the state for a new housing facility. Sorry guys.

Question 6: Renovation of the Cranston Street Armory - YES, with reservations. The logic is sound: renovate an existing building to use for government office space and reduce the amount of rent the state pays for state offices. The fact that Governor Carcieri supports the plan gives me a little hope. Just enough hope to override my ingrained reluctance to support and spending by the Democrats on Federal Hill. Barely Enough.

Question 7: Water Supply - NO. Just seems like this can wait. In a record year for proposed referendum spending, it seems like this can wait.

Question 8: Preserving Open Spaces - YES. One of these has never failed in Rhode Island and there will also be Federal matching funds. I live near Conimicut Point in Warwick. This spring my family took a walk along the beach and the kids wanted to play in the water. The "white floaties" prevented that. I'm generally not a big "green" guy, but the "quality of life" issue is an important one. My real problem with this is its "omnibus" nature. I wish some of it, like some of the money targeted for the sometimes over-zealous Save the Bay crowd, could be parsed out.

Question 9: URI Undersea Center - NO. Robert Ballard's baby. Visions of Rhode Island as the oceanic research center of the United States (as Houston has NASA), seems far-fetched as well as a bad analogy. At a time when we are moving toward commercial space flight, couldn't the argument be made that commercial interests could just as easily be persuaded to "invest" in this venture? Perhaps in other years I'd support this concept, but not when so much money is already being spent.

Question 10: URI Athletic Facility Rehab - NO. Another case of bad timing. Too much money being spent this year. And didn't they just get done the Ryan Center? Face it guys, URI is not going to be a major football power any time soon.

Queston 11: Historic Preservation - YES. A purely self-interested vote, I admit. Of all the questions, it's the smallest (only $3 million) and will provide money for historic preservation across the state, all of which will contribute to "quality of life."

Question 12: Pastore Center Renovation - YES, another reluctant affirmative. See my explanation for Question 6, above.

Question 13 - URI Biotech Center - YES. I believe something tangible can be generated by trying to set URI up as a Biotech education leader. AMGEN has already pledged support. In some sense, this is similar to the URI Undersea Center, which I was against. I guess, to me, it seems that this is more likely to generate more immediate economic benefits than the Undersea Center.
Question 14 - Quonset Point Development - YES. This IS NOT about a container port, it's about modernizing and developing the site for current and future economic development. Full Disclosure: My employer currently has a facility here. Through this modernization, hopefully more businesses will be attracted.

There you have it. I think every referendum question but the Historical Preservation will pass. Rhode Islanders love to vote for the big stuff and then show "fiscal restraint" by axing the smallest one. It happens every time.

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UPDATE: Justin Katz has kindly mentioned my brief "voter guide" and has made a couple worthy points. First, he notes that Chuck Barton is hardly a "Conservative" with his pro-Choice and wishy-washy Gay Marriage stances. I am aware of this, and should have pointed it out, as well as the fact that Langevin is pro-life, as am I. Nonetheless, I guess I am a victim of rank partisanship on this one. Nearly every other position that Langevin stands for is opposite of mine. I've never been a single-issue voter. Though important, I can't be one now. In the past, I have voted for someone with whom I was in disagreement with over the abortion issue: Lincoln Chafee. I have since discovered there is much more that I disagree with him over. I won't be voting for the Senator from Northern Virginia, er, Rhode Island again. (Sorry for that gratuitous swipe. Well, not really).

Second, he notes that he tends to vote NO on every spending proposal because he basically wants to starve the beast that is our State Government. This is a point to which I'm VERY sympathetic. However, I also realize that these are bonds, not direct taxes, that we are being asked to approve. I understand the debt service and the budget deficits, etc., but when good ideas are proposed that include paying now for a promising future of economic development, I think it is worth taking the chance. Now, I completely understand if people have different priorities, but in general, I would ask everyone to ask themselves the same questions that the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council's policy director Peter Marino recommended that taxpayers should consider:
  • Which projects will result in investments that strengthen the state's economy?
  • What opportunities might be lost if the project doesn't go forward.
  • What impact will the new projects have on the future cost of running state government.

Again, our priorities may be different, but we should acknowledge that, despite our distaste for the rampant government spending in the Ocean State, some of it is beneficial. These referendum questions offer us the rare opportunity to keep the babies while throwing out the bathwater.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Red Sox Nation Redeemed

John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, likened the new lands in America to a shining city on a hill that offered hope for he and his religiously oppressed brethren. Thus, from it's very founding, New England was deeply inculcated with a dogged belief in having faith and reaping the rewards for such righteous belief. These rewards did not come naturally though, and there were setbacks. Yankee hard-work and stubborness also evolved from these roots and, combined with their bedrock faith, they enabled New Englanders to believe that through persistance good things could come.

In 1918, the Red Sox won the World Series. They didn't win it again until last night. During this span, generations of New Englanders have endured chants of "1918" from arch-rival Yankees' fans, have been inundated over the last decade and a half with tales of a supposed "Curse" (which never "existed" until a book by Dan Shaugnessy posited the theory, by the way), and have come so close so many times, only to have their hearts broken by Game 7 failure after Game 7 failure. Last night, that all ended.

I was born in Vermont, but my first real, fully-formed memories were generated in Massachusetts. I don't remember the 1975 World Series; not Fisk's home run, not Tiant, not the eventual loss in game 7. I'm sure my father talked about the Sox, but for me, the Red Sox permanently entered my consciousness through Topps baseball cards. I can still smell that cardboard-stale-bubblegum smell that assailed my nostrils whenever I ripped open a new pack. I eagerly looked for Red Sox players (and cursed the seemingly endless amounts of Seattle Mariner players in every pack!) and always regarded it a good day when a Fisk, Rice, Lynn, Burleson, Hobson or Yaz card appeared. I never managed to collect the entire Red Sox roster, but through my collecting I learned of the Red Sox, new their stats and came to identify them as MY team. I shared them with my buddies and with my family. I didn't know of the history. I was blissfully unaware. That would change.

In 1978, I moved to Maine, the new kid in a new school, but the Red Sox were still there, in the background. In the late summer of '78, I was aware that they had played well, but I didn't know that they were swooning and that the Yankees were charging. And then one fall day, I vividly recall that I knew that I had to get home from school to watch the Red Sox and Yankees in a playoff game. I knew that the winner would keep playing and would probably win the World Series. I ran through the door and turned on the TV and saw that the Red Sox were winning. Cool! And then I saw some skinny, little guy get up to bat. And he hit a home run. His name was what? Bucky Dent? The game blurred. The Red Sox, the best team I had ever seen, the one that I thought could never lose, the one that I had come to love, had lost...to the Yankees. A hatred was born. Shortly thereafter, some of the players I loved the most, specifically Freddy Lynn (my first baseball glove was a Fred Lynn signatured Wilson) and Pudge Fisk, left the team. But I perservered. The Red Sox, not any particular player, were the objects of my devotion and loyalty. They would sorely test that in the years to come.

By 1986, I was a full-fledged devotee of the Red Sox. I saw Clemens pitch his first 20 strike-out game. I watched them come back against the Angels in the '86 ALCS. Hendu and Spike and Maaahhty Barrett took their place in my Sox pantheon next to Rice and Dewey. And they came close. They were up 2-0 on the Mets. A complete unknown had emerged, Calvin Schiraldi. And an old vet, Buckner, had contributed. Then they faltered, then came game 6, and a 10th inning lead, and it's evaporation, and Mookie and the ball between the legs. And my heart was crushed. I don't even remember Game 7.

The late '80's/early 90's were a tough time for me to follow the Sox. I was in New York (aak!) going to college and cheered the Sox from afar. I got info from the box scores and hung on during the debacles that were the playoff series against the Oakland A's juggernaut. After graduation, I went to sea in the Merchant Marine. It was even tougher to follow my beloved Sox, but they didn't accomplish much in those years anyway. When I stopped sailing for good in 1994, the team had started building again. Nomar was an emerging star, Mo Vaughn was in his prime and the Sox seemed to face the Indians in the playoffs every year. (I, reality, I think it was only a couple times). By 1999, Pedro Martinez, the best pitcher in baseball, was on the Sox and an old rivalry had finally begun anew.

From 1999 until now, the Red Sox have been negatively defined by their rivalry with the Yankees. Always coming up just short, never able to climb the mountain. Last year, Aaron Boone's home-run was but one more excruciating example. To be 5 outs away...My wife sat next to me and watched Boone's ball disappear. She came to understand the depths of frustration. I asked myself, How could I possibly put myself through this again? Then came this off-season with the Manny waiver move, the Courtship of A-Rod and the Schilling signing. I had doubts. I predicted that they wouldn't make the playoffs because it just seemed like, on paper, they were too good. And wasn't that exactly when the Sox seemed to let us down? When everything seemed to be in place? But I still cheered. How could I not, they are part of me, part of my sports identity. I had come too far to give up now. I even took the crucial step of introducing my kids to the Red Sox when I took them to Fenway for their first time. I had officially passed on the birthright. Would this next generation ever see the Sox win it all? Was this a cruel joke to play on my kids?

It is a rite of spring to watch the Sox come out blazing, only to be eclipsed by the Yankees by May, and to pray that somehow, some way, they make the playoffs. And that is exactly the script that they followed again. They swept the Angels and looked good. The inevitable showdown with the Yankees loomed and it looked like it would be one for the ages. Then Schilling's ankle failed. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, the Sox were down 2-0 to the hated Yankees. But they were going back to Fenway and, though it would be tough, they could still easily make this a series. Then came game 3. A slaughter. I blanched, I loved them too much, I turned off the TV and stopped watching. By Sunday, like an addict, I reluctantly turned on the TV, vowing that if they were going to go down, I may as well witness it. But they didn't go down. They came back. They slayed the Yankee dragon with the bats of Big Papi and the previously struggling Mark Bellhorn and Johnny "Baseball Jesus" Damon. It was possible, after all! Faith and belief could be rewarded! But there was one more step to go.

The Cardinals were a seemingly imposing foe, but they had an Achilles heal: their pitching. And that proved the difference. The Sox bats never let up and their pitching was relentless. The Cardinals were introduced to East Coast baseball. The Red Sox and Yankees had battled, and the winner had emerged hardened. In retrospect, whichever National League team found their way to the World Series would have been outmatched by either the Bronx Bombers or the "Idiots." The Yankees and Red Sox fed off each other all year. This time, for the first time in my memory, the Red Sox had emerged victorious. They came back from an 0-3 deficit and used the momentum to dispatch the Cardinals with relative ease.

How did they finally do it? The Red Sox had luck and they had skill, but most of all they had faith. Faith in themselves and their teammates. They dragged New England along and, by beating the Yankess, they showed us that our faith could be rewarded. We finally believed they would win it all. It was finally going to happen. Last night it did: they won the World Series.

As I look at it now, my loyalty and devotion to the Red Sox are a metaphor for my larger outlook on life. I don't believe in abandoning a cause, a belief, or a person because it would be easier or convenient. I'm stubborn and believe that persistance will be rewarded. I've experienced such in my personal life. The ironic thing up until today has been that one of my earliest strains of loyalty, that to the Red Sox, has been the one that has endured the longest without being so rewarded. Yet, I didn't maintain my loyalty in the hopes of being rewarded. Nor did I do it out of some perverse pleasure taken from cheering on a perpetual "loser." I didn't relish the pain, I endured it. Catastrophic failure inured me against the little failures by putting them into perspective. Yet, most importantly, I was loyal because it was the right thing to do.

Now, if I close my eyes I can imagine a city on a hill. Flying over the city is a flag, a white banner that folds and straightens with the October wind. When it straightens I can see two off-set red socks, beckoning the faithful onward. The city is Boston, the Hub of New England, and many will come from Maine and New Hampshire and Vermont and Massachusetts and Connecticut and Rhode Island and from further afield on a pilgramage to celebrate a long sought victory. We have done our penance. We have walked through the shadows and emerged to see that shining city on the hill. Our suffering is over. We have kept the faith and have been redeemed. The Boston Red Sox are Champions again. All is right, Red Sox Nation.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Brainlock

Sorry for the lack of posting, my mind has been otherwise occupied with visions of Red Sox and Patriots dancing in my head. (Lack of sleep affects clear reasoning anyway). As a sports fan, this time right now is like mana from heaven. Decades of suffering and I followed them through it. This is why...for moments like this. When will normalcy return? By next week, I would say, though there is some election going on...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

1/2 Way There

Sox Win!....and I'm spent. Time to gear up for the World Series. This is certainly the best way I can think of to sidetrack me during the immediate run-up to the "most important election of our lifetime." And no, I don't subscribe to any of those if the Red Sox win-Kerry wins theories. Just junk. Heck , Red Sox=Red State. See? You can go any direction with that stuff. Tonight? Sleep.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Polls Polls Polls

They're everywhere. RealClearPolitics has everything you need, though the Kerry Spot wisely advises that all polls should be viewed with caution. The most interesting to me so far are the kid's polls. According to Scholastic Classroom Magazines' poll, kids picked Bush over Gore (52%-47%) while Nickelodeon's poll had Kerry over Bush (57%-43%). What to make of these widely divergent numbers? Simple. Kids who read and go to school pick Bush, kids who watch too much TV pick Kerry. ;)

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Sprint is on

Well, between pitches of Sox/Yanks game 2 ('nuff said on that, btw), I took in most of the last debate. Simply put, I thought the President won (whereas I thought he narrowly lost the first and tied or did a bit better than Kerry in the second). I thought the President did a fine job of explaining that the 90-Minute-Debate-Kerry is not the same as the 20-Year-Senator-Kerry. Additionally, it just appeared to me that President Bush is plainly the more "human" candidate. I acknowledge my inherent bias, however, and took the instant polls with a grain of salt. I realize that the critical "swing" voter may be looking for something different than I. Initially, it looked as if the President was viewed as a loser, but that was mostly from the spin of the MSM. Now, on Friday, it seems that my first inclinations may have been correct, as the Zogby tracking poll has the President up 4 points post debate (it had him up 1 point pre-debate). Nonetheless, polls still must be viewed cautiously.

So why the shift? I suspect three things, all having nothing to do with policy and having everything to do with depths to which the Democratic ticket will plumb to gain any scintilla of political advantage.

First, upon the death of Christopher Reeve, was the claim by John Edwards (in his best evangelical style) that, under a Kerry Presidency in which all aborted babies will be made available for that panacea known as fetal stem cell research, Christopher Reeve would have been able to walk. To this, Charles Krauthammer, himself a quadriplegic, has offered the best rebuke.

Second were the cynical attempts made by Edwards and Kerry, respectively, to insert the Vice-President's daughter into the debate. It can be argued that now is a fine time for conservatives to get indignant about a lesbian being used for political gain when they have either wanted to push things of this nature under the rug or, worse, have themselves used the gay marriage debate as a "wedge issue." That point can be argued, it may even be fair, but it is not really germane. One cannot be indignant about conservative, Republican, or even the Cheney's reaction, without acknowledging the cynical nature of the mention by Kerry and Edwards: It was an obvious attempt to use the VP's daughter as a wedge of their own. Additionally, how can one ignore the disgraceful comment by Mrs. Edwards that implied that the Mrs. Cheney was ashamed of her own daughter? Simply put, the Democrats crossed the line on this one, too.

Finally, the reports of Democrat Party plan to launch a "pre-emptive" strike by charging voter disenfranchisement whether or not it exists. If they can't win at the ballot box, then they will win in the courts. Haven't we seen this before? Yet, the effort at the ballot box has not been forgotten. Instances of voter fraud are cropping up nationally, including such phenomena as counties having more newly registered voters than residents, or some people registering more than once, as well as other shenanigans. Most are being done by Democrat sympathizers, such as ACORN, a left wing voter registration outfit (though they claim to be non-partisan).

I believe that all of these events have brought about the small uptick for President Bush. The American people value fair play above all else. They like winners, but they like fair winners. Right now, the Democrats look like cheaters.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Progress on the Root Cause

In Monday's Washington Post, columnist Jackson Diehl noted that there was progress being made by Arab democrats. While many career bureaucrats, both domestic and international, have taken cast jaded eyes toward any prospect of a democratic middle-east (remember how elections in Afghanistan would never happen?), it seems that the U.S. and the other G-8 countries have been making progress.
"A voice is beginning to emerge that wasn't there before," says Carl Gershman, the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, who attended a meeting of Western and Middle Eastern civil society groups alongside the recent foreign ministers' gathering. "Most of these people are unknown, they are faceless, but there are a surprising number of them, and the number is growing. They see that they have an opening, and they want to take advantage of it."
A 'civil society dialogue' was explicitly built into the Forum for the Future process agreed to by the G-8 and Muslim governments, along with a forum for private business. Acting under that cover, more than 40 representatives of civil society groups from across the Middle East as well as from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey gathered in Beirut early last month to consider goals and strategy. They chose 10 representatives to travel to New York and deliver a statement to the foreign ministers' meeting; along with the businessmen, they will have their own tent at the upcoming Morocco event. The New York group included activists from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan and Yemen.
Their statement, read aloud to Secretary of State Colin Powell and two dozen other foreign ministers by Noha Mikawi, an Egyptian woman, was wonderfully bold -- and energized a previously skeptical Powell. "We are here as individuals," Mikawi said, "women and men who believe in the rule of law, an independent judiciary to protect it, an active and freely elected parliament to enact laws, an accountable, freely elected government to carry them through, and in meaningful human rights, including foremost the freedom of expression."

"We do not claim to represent our societies: only a free vote will," the statement said. "What we can confidently claim to represent is a pressing voice in our societies that calls for a profound, nonviolent change at all levels." Each state, it said, should have "set goals and clear milestones for reform within a foreseeable time plan." As for their own mission, the activists said, "what civil society can provide . . . is the power to pressure reluctant governments (and reluctant fellow citizens), keeping a watchful eye on the processes of and progress towards reform."

Such empowering grass-roots rhetoric has never before been heard in the Arab Middle East. If the United States fails in Iraq, it may well be snuffed out. But for now, for those who are listening, it offers reason for hope.
It sure does, and of course it doesn't mean that this will be easy. Perspective, that seemingly lost characteristic of too many in government, is needed. Though the President may be ridiculed for talking about the "hard work," he is entirely correct. These things take time. Cliches such as "Rome wasn't built in a day" may sound trite, but they are still true. Democracy in the middle-east is a worthy goal for two reasons. One is the obvious benefits to those in the region, but the other, and perhaps more important, is that the United States will eventually be removed as the prime reason for all of the ills in Arab society. Democracy will enable Arab society, so accustomed to blaming the "great Satan" (the West) for everything, to turn its eyes inward and to realize that solutions to their problems lay within their own grasp, and, ultimately, that they have the means to determine their own fate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Yes, there are Conservative Sox Fans

Shannen Coffin wrote at NRO last month about being a Sox fan and a Republican. The concluding paragraph encapsulates my feelings, too:
My baseball defenses have been eroded by a team that's finally begun to play up to its potential, just as my confidence in President Bush's ability to seal the electoral deal in November has swung back to the positive side of the dial....Let me now address those you of you who will say that my twisted logic holds no water. That John Kerry is supposedly the Red Sox fan (albeit one who once described his favorite Sox player as Eddie Yost, who spent the greater part of his career with the Washington Senators but never played for the Red Sox), so as goes his faltering campaign, so should go the Sawx. That the Sox are owned by Hollywood libs who date the likes of Katie Couric. That it is Sox fans - the voters of Massachusetts - who gave John Kerry the national platform in the first place. That angry Sox fans are a perfect analog to the angry disaffected liberals filling the streets of New York this week. That, as Rudy claimed Monday night, the GOP is the N.Y. Yankees of American politics. To you I say this: butt out. To quote recent political philosopher Jim McGreevey, "At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is." My truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that I am a conservative Red Sox fan. And for now, all is right in my world.

Here's hoping October (and November 2) go well!

Here we go again...Sox/Yanks, ALCS, part deux

I got my first revision of my MA Thesis done in time to "enjoy" this week of baseball. Thinking along those lines, I've been reading the pre-game hype articles and ran across this column about Game 2 of the Angels/Sox Divsion Series from Bill Simmons, a great sports writer on ESPN Page 2. He closed with this correct summation of Red Sox fans, the curse, etc.
One of my ESPN bosses pulled the "This is the year" routine with me on the phone this morning, then asked what would happen to me (and every Red Sox fan) if we won the World Series. You know, the whole "Wouldn't you lose your identity?" thing. I've gotten this from time to time over the years, and I always thought it was so ludicrous that it didn't even warrant its own column. But since people keep bringing it up, I'll explain it to you once and for all:

Red Sox fans don't define themselves by the fact that the team hasn't won the World Series since World War I. We're defined by the fact that the team hasn't won the World Series since World War I. There's a difference. We hate hearing about the (rhymes with 'schmurse'), we bristle at every '19*8' reference ... we just want to reach a point where nobody brings this stuff up anymore. It amazes me how many people don't understand that. All we ever wanted was to be 'Just Another Team That Won the World Series Recently.'


That's it, that's all we want, and since many of us are also Pats fans, we have tasted winning it all recently and can only imagine the joy if our beloved "Sawx" manage to win it all. That doesn't mean we'll be content and never follow them again, it just means that we will finally not have to hear about 19-f*****g-18 from pretentious Yankees fans, and others, again. In the words of Simmons, "Nine wins to go. And that's that."

Friday, October 08, 2004

I've added a few more blogs to the Morning Roundup to the right. Most important, I think, is the Mesopotamian, an Iraqi blog. I'm tired of filtered news from the MSM, it's time to routinely see what's really going on "on the ground" in Iraq. The other added blogs are InDC Journal, Powerline, Mudville Gazette, and the Belmont Club. (Their links are to the right). We'll give 'em all a spin for a while and see if they stick around. (BTW, this is probably a good idea...blog test drives. Pick a few and see if they intrigue you enough to keep coming back.)

Iraq's WMD

The Iraq WMD subject is a central point in the Bush/War debate. I urge everyone to take a look at it. Yeah, it's weighty, but you can also just read the key findings (it's a pdf file) and get the gist of it all. Bottom line: Iraq was playing a waiting game, undermining the sanctions via a corrupt oil for food program with the help of governments and businesses from France, Russia, China and others. Saddam figured that he could wait them out, then restart his programs with the infrastructure that he had managed to keep around. For blurbs and analysis, go here, here, or here. (At least as a start!).

Monday, October 04, 2004

The difference between Iraq and Darfur

Theodore Gatchel wrote a good column in yesterday's Sunday ProJo asking what the difference is between Darfur and Iraq. First, in Darfur,
Bands of marauding Arabs called Janjaweed have been systematically terrorizing the black population of Darfur by raiding their villages, killing the men and boys, raping the women, and stealing the livestock. Many observers assert that the Janjaweed are carrying out their attacks with the support of the Sudanese government, a charge that the government denies. As a result of these attacks, an estimated 50,000 people have been killed and more than a million displaced from their homes.

Although the United Nations has been quick to condemn the atrocities, it has been slow to take meaningful action. Only the United States has been willing to label the actions of the Janjaweed as genocide. The rest of the world has been content to appoint commissions to study the problem and to debate what to call the atrocities.

At the same time, critics of U.S. policy suggest that the United States should intervene militarily in Sudan -- unilaterally if necessary -- to stop the killing. As far back as June 18, a New York Times editorial called for "strong action" and stated, "Washington can act on its own and with more enlightened partners such as the European Union."

The British magazine The Economist took an even stronger position. A July 31 piece entitled "Sudan Can't Wait" discussed the reasons that some nations might oppose the use of force in Sudan, but argued that if those nations vetoed such a proposal in the U.N. Security Council, "A coalition of the willing should go ahead, regardless."


He then spelled out the situation in Iraq and correctly asked why there was no similar outrage agains Saddam. The result is an obvious case of hypocrisy, something that Ron Silver, the actor, speaks about quite often. John Kerry is one of the hypocrites:
Few dispute that the regime of Saddam Hussein routinely committed rape, mutilation, other torture, and mass murder as a matter of policy. Foes of the Iraq war nevertheless argue that such a record did not justify armed intervention without the specific approval of the U.N. Security Council. On the campaign trail, for example, Sen. John Kerry recently said, "Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in Hell. But that was not -- that was not, in and of itself -- a reason to go to war."

In contrast to that position, Kerry criticized President Bush for sponsoring a "toothless" U.N. resolution on Sudan and urged him to take steps to "ensure the immediate deployment of an effective international force to disarm militia, protect civilians, and facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance in Darfur."

I suspect that people who agree with Kerry on Iraq but support the use of force in Darfur would argue that sending the military to Darfur for humanitarian purposes would not be considered "war." Unfortunately, however, such distinctions have little if any meaning today. The U.S. military went to Somalia with the United Nations' blessing to solve a humanitarian crisis, but nonetheless ended up in a shooting war with warlords' militias.
Actually this is not surprising. This is but one more example of how John Kerry is governed less by core values and more by political opportunism.