The Command Post
February 24, 2005
Tom Ridge and... home improvement?

[Former DHS Secretary Tom] Ridge to join Home Depot board:

…”We are honored to have [Ridge] join our board, where we expect that his unique global experience and perspective will make a profound contribution to our company and our shareholders,” said Home Depot Chief Executive Bob Nardelli…

As covered at The Lonewacko Blog in the past (1 2 3 4 5…), Ridge was not exactly a good friend to those who believe that the U.S. has borders.

For its part, Home Depot has helped create several day laborer centers near its locations and, of course, many or most of those day laborers are illegal aliens.

Here’s just one example:

The Home Depot contacted Catholic Charities and other social service nonprofits, the local police department, and city leaders, asking them to work together to create a solution that each part of the community felt good about and that included getting services to people who needed work. As a result, the group worked together to plan a new day laborer center, to be operated by Catholic Charities in conjunction with several social service and employment agencies. The store donated land across the street for the center and helped provide start-up funding. The city helped put up fencing and spread leaflets to day laborers throughout the area. The company, nonprofit, and city worked together to create a win-win solution for everyone…

Now, maybe this is not a payoff for his support of wide-open borders. Perhaps, as the first article discusses, it has something to do with the run on duct tape that Ridge caused…

February 23, 2005
The U.N.'s Scandals of Omission May Be Its Worst

In a this column in today’s Wall Street Journal, Claudia Rosett, the journalist who did more than any other to expose oil-for-food, writes that North Korea could prove to be the most enduringly damning of all the U.N. scandals in the news today.

Such would-be refugees have been dying faceless, nameless and scarcely even remarked upon by the world community. But these were human beings. They had faces and names. From what we know of conditions in North Korean detention centers, it’s a good bet they were freezing, famished and quite possibly tortured in the hours before they were then murdered in public due to the combined and systematic state policies of China and North Korea.

Where is the U.N. in all this? Under the U.N. Refugee Convention—which Beijing has signed and the UNHCR, with its $1.1 billion budget, is supposed to administer—these North Koreans refugees had rights. The convention promised them not a return to their deaths, but at least safe transit through China to a place of asylum.

One hopes that the departure of Ruud Lubbers, a man apparently preoccupied with lower diversions, could effect some positive change. Two million North Koreans have already starved while their government barred aid workers from the hungriest regions of North Korea and squandered the nation’s budget on arms and luxuries for its elite. While China pitched thousands of North Korean refugees back into this furnace, Mr. Libbers and his U.N. High Commission for Refugees did nothing>/a>. The same syndrome was in evidence in the U.N.’s anemic response to Darfur.

What unites these nations? What function does their union of the unaccountable serve, beyond displacing those who would act on the principles it once espoused? There may indeed be a need for a body of nations that act collectively in defense of the world’s shared values. The lesson of the U.N. experiment is that no such body can be effective in their defense unless it holds its members to standards of conduct that reflect those values.

February 22, 2005
Our Enemies, Our Allies

Cross-posted from AEBrain, the blog.

Nicholson CartoonNot so long ago, the Iraqi nation was at war with Australia. But the pinacle of military achievement (pace Sun Tsu*) is not to win without fighting, it’s to convert an Enemy into an Ally.

As mentioned over at The Command Post and elsewhere, Australian PM John Howard has just boosted Australia’s military commitment to Iraq by about 50%. Why? Well, here’s one reason :

“Unless additional security could be provided to replace the Dutch, then there was a real possibility the Japanese could no longer remain there and that would be a serious blow to the coalition effort,” Mr Howard said.

It’s to help out a friend. No, not the USA, nor even the Iraqis (though I’ll get to them later), it’s to help out the Japanese, and in particular, the current interventionist Japanese Government, who have come under severe criticism at home for being far too Anti-Fascist. It’s a favour to a mate. A mate who (quite un-coincidentally) happens to run a farnarckling huge trade deficit with us, just as we run an equally huge deficit with the USA. And a mate who, like us, is deeply concerned about the Mad Regime of Pyongyang, but unlike us may actually be in range of some of their Nukes.

But it goes beyond that. Again, to quote Johnny Howard :

“The Government believes that Iraq is very much at a tilting point and it’s very important that the opportunity of democracy, not only in Iraq but also in other parts of the Middle East, be seized and consolidated,” he said.

You Break it, you Buy it. We helped break the National Socialist Dictatorship in Iraq, just as we helped break the Theocratic Fascist regime that had dominated Japan since the early 30’s, and the National Socialist Dictatorship of Germany of the same era. It therefore is our ethical responsibility to help install a new system. The Iraqis, by their magnificent performance during the election (and at considerable personal risk to themselves) have done their part, and we owe them big time to help as much as is feasible.

The circumstances have changed and it is now four-and-a-half-weeks since the Iraq election and we have to respond to those changed circumstances,” he said.

“Self-evidently we would have liked the major combat to have gone differently … [but] coalition withdrawal or defeat is unimaginable.”
“It will take time and if we were to see a crumbling of coalition commitment, I think the likelihood of Iraq completing the transition to democracy would be absolutely non-existent,” he said.

The point is, the attacks on the Iraqi Government, and in fact, the Iraqi populace in general, haven’t abaited. It looks like the Nazis Ba’athists have decided that it if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and now see their only chance of getting even a few crumbs of the political cake is to co-operate, and become just another political party. Frankly, I think they’re having themselves on. We’re in no mood to accept anything other than “Unconditional surrender”, and more to the point, neither are the Iraqis.

Yet the suicide bombings, the mortar attacks and so on continue. Why? Well, the opposition to the occupation of Iraq consists of 4 different and rather mutually antagonistic forces.

The first are Iraqi Nationalists of all political stripes, who quite understandably object to their country being occupied, no matter what the circumstances.

The second are the Sunni tribes, fearful of Shiite revenge for all the past oppression they’ve been subject to at Sunni hands, and in fear for their lives. It’s not so much a religious as a tribal thing - Iraqis in general don’t consider themselves primarily “Sunni” or “Shiite”, they consider themselves Iraqis, much as Americans consider themselves Americans first, rather than Catholic or Protestant, Mormon or Jew.

The third group are the Ba’athists, former top dogs who are desperately trying to regain their lost power. Thoroughly entangled with the second group, but still a small subset of them.

The last are mainly foreign Jihadis, who just want to Kill the Heretics, Apostates, Unbelievers, and in general, everyone on the planet who doesn’t share their eccentric beliefs, and see Iraq as being a good place to die. Or kill. It’s all the same to them. It also includes the various Iranian and Syrian Spooks sent in as the first line of defence against any US-led “regime change” in their respective countries.

The first group - with the usual few fanatical exceptions - have seen that their popular support is weak, and dwindling. They don’t represent the views of the Iraqi People as a whole, just a segment of them, and this became obvious at the time of the election. It’s they, the true “Resistance”, who are being spoken to now.

The Americans should be good at this - because a substantial minority of Americans, would be likely to do the same in their shoes**. Even that perenially clue-free zone, Michael Moore, glimpsed this truth when he said this about the Iraqi resistance

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “The Enemy.” They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win!

Of course, like all of Michael Moore’s work, there’s a grain of truth buried in copious quantities of great, fragrant, steaming piles of bovine excrement.

The second group now have a mountain of evidence that a Bloodbath against the Sunni tribes just isn’t going to happen. Despite repeated and extreme provocation, the Shiites have conducted no anti-Sunni pogroms. Not merely that, but the Moqtada Al-Sadr Bad Boys got their clocks cleaned by the US of A, and are now a spent force, militarily, morally, and at the ballot box, with only 2 representatives elected out of 270-odd in the governing council. These Sunni tribes - and at the risk of being repetitious, it’s a tribal thing, rather than a religious one - are fighting simply because they don’t know what else to do, they’re desperate. The Shiite forebearance is lessening the sense of desperation, and therefore removing the reason to fight.

These two groups are the people that we are trying to get to participate in a peaceful manner in the new Iraqi government. Participation of the second group is essential in the long term, and everyone now knows it, the Shiites included.

As for the third group, the Ba’athists - their attacks are using the IRA/Sinn Fein technique of fighting while negotiating. The more obnoxious they are, the more concessions they can wring at the bargaining table by promising to cease fighting. This is a classic strategy, and usually works. It worked for people as disparate as the Irgun and Hagganah against the British in post-war Palestine, it worked for the IRA in Northern Ireland, for a time it even worked for Arafat and Co. But it doesn’t work against people whose blood is up (as Sinn Fein is just finding out). The Kurds (for one) think that the only Good Ba’athist is a Dead Ba’athist, and the odds of National Socialist Ba’ath party ever being legalised and brought into the mainstream of Iraqi political life, even as a small splinter group, are probably even slimmer than a resurgent NSDAP getting a seat in the Bundestag in Germany.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

Even if the rest of the Coalition went for it, the Iraqis aren’t going to stand for it. And at the election, they earned the right for their wishes to be paramount. Not “listened to” or “consulted with”. To be obeyed, without demur.

The real trick is going to be to separate the Ba’athists from the Sunni Tribes. Tricky, as the leaders of one are often the leaders of the other. This again is no doubt the subject of current negotiations - how many designated scapegoats will be enough to satisfy the Kurds? Those so designated are unlikely to go quietly, the Sunni tribes may have to give up the bodies, rather than live war criminals.

The last group, mainly Al-Qaeda-by-any-other-name, well, considering their public “No Surrender!” attitude, rather a lot of their senior hierarchy have been surrendering recently. It’s only the small fry that fight to the death, become suicide bombers (and sometimes assisted-suicide bombers). Although they’re sometimes useful because of their intelligence value, frankly, they’re an embarressment to everybody. In the war against Al Qaeda, we don’t want them to surrender, nor to become friends and allies (unless they cease being what they are - see below). We just require them to die. It’s their children and grandchildren that we may have a hope of salvaging.

Yemen may have the right idea. After two or three years of patient theological disputation, they have a high conversion rate from Fanatical Heretical Killer to Decent Islamic Human Being. But it’s a gamble, and Westerners such as myself could be forgiven for thinking that such “redemption” is probably temporary. Personally, I’d like to see how they go with small numbers over a period of 10 years before using it more widely, but maybe I’m too cynical. It’s certainly supremely ironic that such an archetypically forgiving Christian approach should be used by rather orthodox Muslims. If they can pull it off, then they will have attained the most difficult, but worthwhile goal - that of converting Liabilities into Assets, Enemies into Friends, Monsters into Human Beings, and a Sow’s ear into a Silk Purse. I wish them the Best of British Luck.***

So,as John Howard said, the situation has changed. The “resistance” hasn’t evaporated as completely as it has in, say Afghanistan. But it has lessened so much that Australia can realistically commit over 10% of its effective ground forces in -theatre, something it was unable to promise and guarantee to deliver before. The additional troops won’t be there for some “token” or “symbolic” reason, nor to sway any election one way or another, they’ll be there for purely practical reasons. They can do good, and at relatively small risk. Australia just does not have the resources to commit to significant “peacekeeping” in Iraq, as well as the Eastern Solomons, Bougainville, Timor Leste, relief operations continuing in Aceh, and all the other commitments we have. Our total armed forces, Army, Navy, and Air Force combined number less than 50,000, and we have only 8 regular battalions. But this much we can do. We can provide local security in a small number of areas, and we can provide training. All in the cause of converting a former enemy, Iraq, into a future friend.

To see how well that can work, remember who we’re guarding, the nation whose engineers we’ll be protecting as they go about constructing bridges and rail-lines. There are still some Australians living with personal experience of Japanese construction projects. Ones where tens of thousands of prisoners were worked to death, or beheaded at a whim. There are also people like my in-laws whose brothers, fiances, husbands or sons were taken prisoner and used as “food-on-the-hoof” by starving Japanese soldiers in New Guinea - not something that’s often mentioned in history books.

These Jihadis do not have the faintest idea of the type of people they’re up against, nor the nine kinds of hell the ANZACS and USMC in particular went through in the Pacific theatre. Suicide attacks and beheadings don’t impress us overmuch, and compared with the Japanese in the 1940’s, Al Qaeda is really second-rate.

But now the sons and duaghters, grandsons and grand-daughters of the people who screamed “Tenno Banzai!” are on our side. They’re building bridges, in more ways than one, and not casually slaughtering anyone in their way. We’ve been here before.

Finally - and as something of an afterthought, I’m afraid, we’ll be supporting our mate, the USA. We’re sending in troops for our own purely selfish reasons of course, out of a sense of responsibility and for practical geopolitical considerations “in our own national interest”. But we’re not averse to receiving the many expressions of gratitude that have already come from people in the USA. Expressions that no doubt will come in handy one of these days, maybe the next time the US agribusiness lobby tries to do something that will hurt us. We might even have made a few new friends and allies in rural America, people who otherwise might not have seen things our way.

Sometimes you can do well while doing good.

* Sun Tsu’s “Art of War” Chapter 3, Para 2 :

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

** For example, Stephen Decatur. I myself prefer G.K.Chesterton’s take on the subject.

*** UK readers will know what I mean. For others, it’s traditionally said when someone is attempting something next-to or actually impossible. “I’m building a Moon Rocket in my backyard.” - “And the Best of British Luck!”.

Cartoon courtesy of Nicholson of “The Australian” newspaper: and used with permission

Today is Free Mojtaba and Arash Day

Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad are two Iranian bloggers who have been arrested and jailed for blogging.

Sigarchi was arrested on January 17, after responding to a summons from the intelligence ministry in the northern city of Rashat. He has been held at Rashat’s Lakan Prison where he has been denied the right to see a lawyer and bail has been set at 200 million rials (about $25,000 U.S.). The authorities have put pressure on his mother to deny that her son has been arrested.

His weblog had been banned by authorities in Iran for speaking out against recent arrests of cyberjournalists and bloggers (see below) and is inaccessible within the country. In addition to his blog, he is the editor of the daily Gylan Emroz. A few days before his arrest he was interviewed by two foreign radio stations, the BBC World Service and Radio Farda.

Saminejad was arrested and later freed, but still faces charges:

Mojtaba Saminejad was released on 27 January after almost three months in detention. He has been charged by the Tehran prosecutor’s office and is due to be tried soon. It is uncertain what crime has been alleged and what bail, if any, he has had to pay.

There is more info here on how you can help, including sending letters and emails to Iranian representatives.

You can sign a petition here.

February 15, 2005
The Last Warrior Standing

This Op/Ed was submitted by readers Mike Cohen & Elliot Chodoff.

~ Alan


An historic picture emanated from Sharm e-Sheikh this past week. For the first time in history, an Israeli leader sat down together with Arab leaders at an official, public and televised conference with no international mediators in sight, official or otherwise.

Everyone in the room, everyone in the picture, was a native of the region, a full-fledged resident of the Middle East. No Americans - although Sec. of State Condaleeza Rice was in the region yesterday, she wisely decided to absent herself from the meeting - no Europeans, no Russians and most importantly, no United Nations envoys attended or were invited. No one but the assorted plaintiffs was at the table, no external advocates or judges. The “bilateralism” David Ben Gurion dreamed of has finally arrived - if only for a day.

Left to their own devices the participants ventured into various renditions of the period to come. All the talk was of peace and hope, none of the past and nothing about recriminations. But more than talk there were quite a few historic images that are worthy of mention and note, above all the image of Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, sitting at an official Arab League table not only as an equal, not only as a messenger, but as a victor - The Last Warrior Standing - alone, with no recognizable faces behind him, save his lawyer and advisor Dov Weissglass.

Ben Gurion, Dayan, Golda, Begin - all gone. Peres and Shamir, alive but very noticeably (especially Peres) absent. No current, past or future colleagues or coalition partners anywhere in sight.

On the Arab side – all the kings, presidents and chairmen of yesteryear were gone. Hussein, Sadat, Assad, Nasser, and most importantly Yasser - all gone.

During a quick look around the room one could note that everyone was wearing a western style suit and tie. No leaders in uniform, no leaders with guns.

The entire road from the Sharm e-Sheikh airport to the resort hotel where the “Middle East Quartet” summit was being held was lined with the flags of the four nations, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

The black, red and white of the regional Arabs flags mixed and provided sharp contrast to the bright blue and white Star of David, this had never happened before. The Israeli flag was noticeably absent from all previous events on Arab land, most notably on the streets of Aqaba during the U.S. sponsored summit there in June 2003 - the birthplace of “the roadmap.”

In the room itself, fittingly the same room that traditionally hosts the Arab Summit, the Israeli blue and white stood side by side with the banners of the three Arab participants, five flags of each stood proudly behind the host Mubarak, five flags each that added a sense of grandeur, of color and of historic accent to the event.

But the starkest image of all was still that of Ariel Sharon.

Ariel Sharon fought in every Israeli-Arab war, dating back to the 1948 War of Independence, and was a significant participant in the development of the Israeli Defense Forces as a commander and warrior.

Sharon was injured at Latrun in the battle over the road to Jerusalem in 1948. He led the battle against the Gaza-based Fedayeen terrorists in the 1950’s. Sharon was the commander who crossed the Suez Canal and arguably won the Sinai battle in 1973. Sharon directed the IDF in battle as minister of defense during the early 1980’s and was globally and domestically reviled and shunned for decades as the “butcher of Beirut.”

He was all but written off as a possible national leader until the fighting began in the fall of 2000, and Israeli political pundits have been prophesying his imminent fall from power since the day he took office in March 2001. Yet, there he was, quite literally The Last Warrior Standing.

Regardless of one’s political orientation and personal feelings about Sharon; no matter what hopes or dangers we each foresee coming out of the Summit’s proceedings; in fact no matter what happens tomorrow; if the old adage that the last man standing wins, Ariel Sharon is the last warrior standing and, at least for the day, he has emerged the big winner.


Mike Cohen, a native of Houston, Texas, is a veteran political & military strategist. He is the editor of “Where There Is No Vision, People Die,” (Proverbs 29:18), and “By Omission or Commission” a two-volume Middle-East Road-Map Primer for the 21st Century. Elliot Chodoff is a political and military analyst specializing in the Middle East conflict and the global war on terror. He has presented and published papers on the subjects of Deterrence and US Military Manpower Policy, Cultural Relativism and Nuclear Deterrence in the Middle East. His paper on Combat Motivation in Infantry Units is on the recommended reading list of the US Army War College. Both Cohen & Chodoff are currently based in Israel.

Posted By Alan at 09:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Soldier Effigy In Sacramento Torn Down Again; Move America Forward To Protest Tonight Outside Home

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein. effigy_2.jpg

Once again the effigy of a hanging soldier has been torn down from a Berkeley couples second home up here in Sacramento. The effigy which read "Bush Lied, I Died" was ripped down by a 30-year-old man. I reported on the first effigy that was torn down here and here. The person who ripped the first effigy down turned himself in to police and was released after questioning -- he faces misdemeanor vandalism charges.

A candlelight vigil is being planned for tonight by Move America Forward, a group that supports the troops and the war on terror. For more information on the vigil visit their press release.

Steve and Virginia Pearcy, who life to talk, were unavailable for comment.


"The Pearcys are going to do this, they ought to be here and not cower and run back to Berkeley", said one resident. People in the neighborhood are once again forced into the spotlight. Because today, someone again tore down and ripped off the controversial effigy portraying a U.S. soldier stapled to Steve and Virginia Pearcy's home. A sign on the display read "Bush lied... I died." The Pearcy's own the home, but don't live there.

One resident said "How else are they going to get their voices heard? They could write their congressman. That would never be read."

One man who witnessed today's vandalism said a man in his 30's went across the lawn, climbed a tree, stepped on the gutter, stretched his body along the peak of the roof, tore down the display and took it with him. It's the same thing that happened last week, when a man ripped down the effigy in front of a FOX40 News camera. That man has been interviewed by Sacramento police, who have turned the case over to the District Attorney's Office.

Another resident said "It makes the situation worse because it makes the Pearcys look like victims, which they are not. The victims are anyone who puts on a uniform and goes to war for this country, and neighbors who have to put up with this garbage."

But another countered: "I feel when you opress people, you take away their rights and this is exactly what people are trying to do." The protest, displayed or not, is creating a circus-like atmosphere for those who live here. And it's not over. Tomorrow night, the group "Move America Forward" plans a candlelight vigil here on Marty Way.

Originally posted at Diggers Realm

Tale of Two Mosques

Please examine these two ledes and then tell me the difference:

THIRTEEN people were killed and 23 wounded today … [in a] mosque in the town of Balad Ruz, north-east of Baghdad

The death toll in a … Tehran mosque has risen to 59, a police official said Monday night

The difference, of course, is the first story resulted from a terrorist car bombing while the second resulted from a fire. I ask, though, which received greater press exposure? At a certain level, both were preventable events, therefore making the greater distinction that of 13 dead, 29 wounded against 59 dead, 250 wounded.

Now, this commentary may be mistaken as being dismissive of the terrorists, a Pollyannish panglos of the dangers that yet stalk the Iraqi people. Rather, I hope it will be read as just an expression of exasperation that events in Iraq are so often presented as if they happen a vacuum, that Iraq is all death and gloom while the rest of the world, untroubled by American intervention, lives in peaceful idylic bliss. Long after the terrorists’ teeth in Iraq have been pulled I’m sure mosques will be burning down because of unsafe heating practices.

Yes, it’s important to accurately communicate problems and challenges in Iraq, but it is only responsible to present them with perspective and understanding their true relative importance.

February 09, 2005

Get Ready to Bend Over, Palefaces

I am giving you all fair warning. From now on, I will be blogging a lot of Native American issues. Because I, like my hero Ward Churchill, am now a Native American.

Ward got his Indian creds by asking some tribe or other for an honorary membership. I think he offered to clean up cups and doughnut boxes after one of their meetings, and they showed their appreciation by sending him a membership card. Turns out Bill Clinton has one, too. Actual Indians say Ward’s claim is about as reliable as a treaty written on a cocktail napkin, but who are they to judge?

I can top Ward. My grandfather was a Cherokee. Now, I grant you, he wasn’t my BLOOD grandfather. And he wasn’t a full Cherokee. But he had dark hair and he tanned like nobody’s business. And like all true Native Americans, he was a professional dry cleaner.

Also, on both sides of my family, there were horny old guys who left their wives for Indian women. I can understand that. My ancestors were mostly Celts, and after a while, the sight of all that pasty, freckled, dough-like flesh can drive you mad. My idiot sister likes to run around claiming that this makes us Indians, but the problem is, the family is pretty sure the Indian ladies came along after these gentlemen sired our forebears by fat, dumpy Scots-Irish broads.

Lame, I know, but compared to Ward, I might as well be Geronimo.

Okay, so the first order of business is to ream out you WHITEYS for keeping me down. You knocked down our teepees, you ate all our buffalo, and in return, you gave us swampland and poisoned whiskey. You better believe I am pissed.

I want white guilt and handouts, NOW. I want my damn land back. I’ll let you keep most of it. I want Manhattan and Vegas. I know, you claim you bought Manhattan for twenty-four dollars. Okay, smart ass, where’s your receipt? Right. That’s what I thought.

I’m turning Vegas and Manhattan into the United States of Steve. I’m going to be President for Life. My Vice President will be Wayne Newton. All you palefaces can get the hell out, except for hot white chicks and people who provide essential services. Like craps croupiers, bartenders, and pizza bakers.

I paid $80,000 in law school tuition. Obviously, I should have had a minority scholarship, so cut me a check. Also, I have paid like $70 for fishing licenses over the years. I should not have to pay good money to catch my own fish, which you Caucasian bastards stole from me. Aside from that, any anthropologist can tell you that before you jerks got here, we Native Americans used to go out in the Gulf Stream on forty-plus-foot fiberglass sportfishermen and celebrate our manhood and the summer solstice and whatnot by getting incredibly faced and clubbing school dolphin to death. By charging me for a fishing license, you are infringing my right to paint myself up like Pam Anderson and practice silly heathen religions.

That brings me to another important point. I want five grand to cover the money I’ve spent on liquor taxes. And no wisecracks about how we love our whiskey. Bigots. How would you like a nice flaming arrow through the front door of your condo?

Speaking of liquor, I got tanked last night, passed out in the yard, and went on a Vision Quest. As I lay under the gentle spray of the automatic sprinklers, my spirit guide appeared to me once again.

GEORGE HAMILTON: [wearing the familiar fuchsia Izod caftan with the blue alligator on the tit] Steve! It is I, your spirit guide.

ME: George! Could you roll me over? Driveway gravel is embedded in my face.

GEORGE HAMILTON: [waving his magic Martini] Steve, I am here to reveal your destiny. You will be a great chief. You will lead your people to victory over the White Man and build a chain of drive-thru casinos in partnership with the folks at Sonic.

ME: My secret dream! Topless showgirls, Keno, and Cheez Tots!

GEORGE HAMILTON: Your mailbox will overflow with government wampum! You will hunt out of season, using automatic weapons! Your sons and daughters will receive affirmative action at Yale and Harvard, where they will get A’s in puff majors like Ethnic Studies and Applied Lesbianism!

ME: Truly, I am not worthy. Well, yes I am.

GEORGE HAMILTON: The great Gitchee Manitou will rain blessings upon you even as the neighbor’s Weimaraner now rains tinkle on your inebriated forehead.

ME: [singing] Gitchee gitchee ya ya da da…Creole Lady Marmalade…

GEORGE HAMILTON: I must go now, as Liz Taylor and I are booked to share a tanning bed.

ME: As-salaam aleikum, my brother.


Okay, whiteys, time to pony up the jack. In return, I will spare you come the revolution, and I will honor you by deflowering your daughters. The hot ones with big tasty boobs, I mean. The rest will be put to work tanning my pelts and vacuuming my lodge.

And no turning Indian and horning in on my action! I thought of it first.

February 08, 2005
Once is Happenstance....

Cross-posted from AEBrain, the blog.

All Things Come to He Who Waits.

Hmmmm. I’m not sure that’s always true.

But in one case, maybe it is. And maybe not. The case is that of CNN Chief News Executive Eason Jordan.

An absolute age ago in Internet time (about a fortnight), Mr Jordan was unwise enough as to forget who his audience was at the World Economic Forum. Not a cosy coterie of the chattering classes, but people who represent a broad spectrum of opinion. People who wouldn’t take his words as Gospel, but would fact-check his posterior.

From WorldNetDaily (not exactly an unopinionated or CNN-supportive site) :

In the “late edition” of the New York Times on April 11, 2003, Jordan was confessing on the editorial pages as to how he had been irresponsible and dishonest in his attempts to cover the news all the years that CNN had been the only “news” bureau allowed into Baghdad under the post-Gulf War Saddam era.

If you read the article (that’s why I gave the hyperlink - so you could check for yourself), you’ll see that the precis is objectively true. But that’s old news. What’s interesting is what Mr Jordan had to say more recently.

Here’s how one eyewitness recorded the account at last week’s World Economic Forum:
During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-U.S. crowd) and cause great strain on others.

Other eyewitness accounts confirm the facts of the matter.

This story has been all over the blogosphere since immediately after the events described above. Yet if all you rely on is mainstream media for your news, you almost certainly won’t have heard about it.

I regularly contribute to The Command Post, a news blog about Iraq (and other matters) with a fairly large readership.

Here’s a quote of the rules about posting on it :

2. All items must have a professional news source and, when possible, a link.
3. Do not post information from other blogs unless you link that blog and they cited a credible media source. Cite and link both: “Instapundit reports that CNN is saying…”

So, after seeing the initial reports, I waited for such a blockbusting story to break in a credible news source - other than a blog. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually, may patience was rewarded. Two pieces, one in an editorial in Toledo, Ohio, another in an Editorial in the Washington Times.

Interesting that editorials could be written about events that hadn’t actually been reported in the news section.

But it now appears that Mainstraem Media’s voluntary Vow of Silence over the matter may be about to break, big time.

CNN went to the extent of e-mailing various bloggers shortly after the event :

Many blogs have taken Mr. Jordan’s remarks out of context. Eason Jordan does not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists. Mr. Jordan simply pointed out the facts: While the majority of journalists killed in Iraq have been slain at the hands of insurgents, the Pentagon has also noted that the U.S. military on occasion has killed people who turned out to be journalists. The Pentagon has apologized for those actions. Mr. Jordan was responding to an assertion by Cong. Frank that all 63 journalist victims had been the result of “collateral damage.”

Why not a press release? Because how could they make a press release about something that they weren’t reporting?

Meanwhile the assertions by CNN have both been partly supported and challenged by various eye-witnesses. I won’t include URLs : the links above should be enough to get you to the various eyewitness accounts.

The whole thing was video-taped. Yet the tape isn’t being released, because everything was “off the record”. Off the record, yet very obviously being recorded. And there’s this little gem :

…many of us at Davos believed the session was on the record because it was conducted in a room called Sanada 1&2. Here are the official guidelines issued to media and potential bloggers before Davos began:
“On and Off the Record” Policy for AM 2005

All plenary sessions are fully “on” the record.

All sessions that are broadcast or webcast are “on the record” (for 2005 that means all sessions in the Congress Hall or Sanada 1 and 2)

Every other session is only “on the record” in terms of content. That is to say what was said can be reported : but it must not be attributed to any individual. However, should the journalist get the agreement of any participant to be quoted that is of course acceptable.

Naturally, all private meetings are off the record.

This policy is clear and simple and allows greater transparency. It can also be very simply and effectively enforced. Any transgression will lead to immediate withdrawal of badge and any future access to World Economic Forum events.

Clear enough? Except there was this response by Mark Adams, from the WEF :

My understanding was that since this session was not webcast or broadcast it was ‘off the record’

Certainly, no announcement was made at the begining of the session - as far as I remember - that it would be on the record.

In any case - a session summary is available on our website and we will not be trying to get a transcript of the session.

The session summary doesn’t mention anything about the US Army targetting journalists. Nada. Zip. As for the tape record? For internal use only, to help improve things next time. Such recordings are quite normal for many meetings, though none that I’m aware of where the Chatham House Rule is in force. But they could be telling the truth here.

Of course, if all you read is in the Australian Media, you probably haven’t heard how the CBS network used forged papers dating from the 70’s, but provably generated using a post-2000 version of Microsoft Word, to try to swing the US election Kerry’s way (Rathergate). Nor that they’re still saying that the documents “can’t be authenticated”, not that they’re obvious fakes. So don’t expect a report about CNN’s News editor (allegedly) uttering demonstrably false anti-US propaganda to get reported either.

They’re far too busy reporting more important stuff - like this.

UPDATE : Storm in a teacup, perhaps? Well, in breaking news, there’s this, from the New York Sun :

This is not the first time that Mr. Jordan has spoken critically of the American military’s conduct toward journalists. In November, he reportedly told a gathering of global news executives in Portugal called News Xchange that he believed journalists had been arrested and tortured by American forces.

And in October 2002, at a News Xchange conference, he accused the Israeli military of deliberately targeting CNN personnel “on numerous occasions.”

Mr. Jordan’s remarks might have shocked the American attendees, but they certainly played well among some in the audience. The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, who covered the panel for his paper, told the Sun that after the panel concluded, Mr. Jordan was surrounded by European and Middle Eastern attendees who warmly congratulated him for his alleged “bravery and candor” in discussing the matter.

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is Enemy Action.” as Ian Fleming’s Arch-Villain Auric Goldfinger once said.

February 07, 2005
The Rhetoric of Ronald Reagan

Yesterday was Ronald Reagan’s birthday. My views on Reagan are, well, complex (and probably a bit conflicted). But his birthday reminded me of a post I wrote on my old and now dormant blog, Avocare, around the time of his death. I repost it here for those who admired the power of Reagan’s words.



When I was 17 or so, I was ranting about some piece of US foreign policy when my father looked at me with level eyes and said, “Buddy, if you’re not a liberal when you’re 18 you got no heart, and if you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 28 you got no brain.”

Reagan was president then, and I was not a big fan. Now that I’m well into my mid-30s (“middle aged,” my wife says), I’ve come to appreciate and admire Reagan. He was the essential optimist at a time in which America desperately needed optimism. At a time when Jimmy Carter was telling us we should be confident, Reagan gave us reasons to be confident, and led the way through his own confidence and optimism. Many presidents have spoken of the shining city on the hill; Reagan truly believed in it.

I’ve also come to admire Reagan for his fundamental belief in the power of rhetoric … rhetoric in the classical sense, not the current and bastardized sense of double talk by evasive politicians. Reagan understood and respected the power of his words, and he understood better than anyone since FDR (yes, better than Kennedy) the power of presidential discourse in making great things possible.

Reagan has six speeches listed in American Rhetoric’s list of the 100 most significant American political speeches of the 20th century (the list was complied by two professors of Rhetoric and Communication, who asked 137 leading scholars of American public address to recommend speeches on the basis of social and political impact, and rhetorical artistry):

Only FDR and JFK have as many on the list. Some people, though, try to taint Reagan’s oratory as less substantive than some of his predecessors. These people remember him as the Actor President, noting with a curled lip that Reagan was all sizzle and no steak. But they forget that his most noted speeches were policy speeches wrapped in soaring oratory, and not soaring oratory alone.

Let’s take them one at a time.

The Time for Choosing speech, a campaign address in support of Barry Goldwater during the 1964 campaign, is actually in speech in which Reagan outlines what would become the Republican agenda 20 years later: the importance of small government over large, of empowering individuals to pursue their own interests, and of preserving America as “the last best hope for man on Earth” through winning the Cold War. He said that day:

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin—just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ‘round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it’s a simple answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” There is a point beyond which they must not advance. This is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said that “the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits—not animals.” And he said, “There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

The “Putting America Back to Work” speech is remembered first as an eloquent and vital inaugural address, but in it Reagan declared his intentions to reduce the size of the federal government, return power to the states, reduce taxes, strengthen the country’s ties with its allies, and act with force in the world if required. This speech also closes with these lines, some of the greatest presidential rhetoric ever spoken:

This is the first time in our history that this ceremony has been held, as you’ve been told, on this West Front of the Capitol.

Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man. George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Beyond those moments, monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom.

Each on of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam. Under such a marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division.

There, on the Western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy fire.

We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge,” he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”

The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together with God’s help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.

And after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.

Compare those words to these from Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech …

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path — the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.

Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.

The answer to America’s crisis of confidence is … energy policy? Compare these two speeches and the difference between telling Americans to be confident and giving them a reason for confidence should be clear.

I vividly remember the Evil Empire speech, and in particular I remember thinking “this maniac is trying to get us all killed.” But what Reagan was doing in this speech before evangelical Christians was sending a message to the Soviets that the policy of the United States would not be one of a nuclear freeze … that to do so would reward the USSR for its military buildup. Reagan knew the Soviets supported a freeze because it would freeze their military advantage, and more important, would free their economy from an arms race they could not afford. In this speech he was letting the Soviets know he knew, and that he wasn’t going to fall for it.

We will never give away our freedom. We will never abandon our belief in God. And we will never stop searching for a genuine peace. But we can assure none of these things America stands for through the so-called nuclear freeze solutions proposed by some.

The truth is that a freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength.

I would agree to a freeze if only we could freeze the Soviets’ global desires. A freeze at current levels of weapons would remove any incentive for the Soviets to negotiate seriously in Geneva and virtually end our chances to achieve the major arms reductions which we have proposed. Instead, they would achieve their objectives through the freeze.

A freeze would reward the Soviet Union for its enormous and unparalleled military buildup. It would prevent the essential and long overdue modernization of United States and allied defenses and would leave our aging forces increasingly vulnerable. And an honest freeze would require extensive prior negotiations on the systems and numbers to be limited and on the measures to ensure effective verification and compliance. And the kind of a freeze that has been suggested would be virtually impossible to verify. Such a major effort would divert us completely from our current negotiations on achieving substantial reductions.

He was also letting his allies and enemies know the gravity he attached to the Cold War: that he saw it not simply as an imperial arms race, but as a battle of philosophy regarding the freedom and potential of man. He was saying to his peers worldwide: “Liberty=Good, Totalitarianism=Bad, and I’m never going to forget it, so don’t ever expect me to let up on the pressure.”

The “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” speech, which Reagan gave 20 years ago today at the 40th D-Day anniversary in 1984, is one of his most eloquent. But this too was a policy speech. After showering appropriate praise upon the Rangers who climbed those cliffs 60 years ago, Reagan let the USSR and western Europe know that the policy of the United States would be to welcome improved relations with the Soviets, but that they must first change their ways. As he said then:

It’s fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II: 20 million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

It was then that he articulated the second point of policy: than until that change came, the US would actively strengthen the NATO alliance.

The “Space Shuttle Challenger” address was poetry, not policy, but it demonstrated the power of the president to salve our wounds during times of national grief … perhaps the most eloquent such example since Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Even here, though, he offered vision and outlined our direction as a nation:

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s take-off. I know it’s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program. And what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute.

We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.

Finally, the “Tear Down This Wall” speech, delivered in 1987. This speech represents the third element of what, along with the Evil Empire and Pointe du Hoc speeches, became a triumvirate of Cold War policy addresses by Reagan. That day he said:

We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control. Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace , if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

In Europe, only one nation and those it controls refuse to join the community of freedom. Yet, in this age of redoubled economic growth, of information and innovation, the Soviet Union faces a choice: It must make fundamental changes, or it will become obsolete. Today thus represents a moment of hope. We in the West stand ready to cooperate with the East to promote true openness, to break down barriers that separate people, to create a safer, freer world.

In this speech he completes his Cold War storyline: from we believe totalitarianism is evil and a threat we’re not afraid to fight (Evil Empire) to we’ll welcome you into the fold but you have to give up the fight (Pointe du Hoc) to the conclusion—now is the time; join us in creating a better world for people everywhere, and use Berlin as a symbol of your good intentions. And we now know that the storyline he offered is precisely, and not coincidentally, how history eventually unfolded: from standoff to cautious engagement to reconciliation and partnership.

Ronald Reagan believed words were important … that they meant something and should always be taken seriously. He believed that presidential discourse was more than political discourse, it was a means of getting things done: of shaping America, of articulating vision and charting direction, and of pressurizing the social and political system to achieve grand outcomes.

He knew that once a president of the United States says something, the toothpaste is out of the tube. Rather than fear that finality, he used his oratory with courage and conviction, making declarations that gave us reason to feel better about being Americans, that initiated paths of policy that led toward outcomes he desired, and that ultimately led us closer to that shining city on the hill.

In 1995, Ronald Reagan wrote a letter to the American people announcing he had contracted Alzheimer’s disease:

My fellow Americans, I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

Upon learning this news, Nancy and I had to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way.

In the past, Nancy suffered from breast cancer and I had cancer surgeries. We found through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness. We were happy that as a result many more people underwent testing. They were treated in early stages and able to return to normal, healthy lives.

So now we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clear understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.

At the moment, I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life’s journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with my friends and supporters.

Unfortunately, as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.

In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

Thank you, my friends.

Though never spoken, this text was the ultimate entry in Reagan’s oral history. And even in the end … indeed, in his very last line of public address … he reminded us of his confidence in us and our future. Here’s hoping he rests in peace and sunshine.

Posted By Alan at 07:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
February 05, 2005
Why The Dems Need A Strategic Message

As a follow up to this post and this post, today I see purplerpose at Small Precautions:

When I started this blog back in November, one of my first posts concerned the need for the Democrats to create an effective elevator pitch. That is, I called on the Democrats to develop (perhaps only for internal purposes) a statement that would capture the emotional core of why people identify (or would like to identify) with the Party. In other words, I called for a simple statement of principle that (1) the vast majority of Democrats could happily sign up for, (2) would appeal to many swing voters and independents, but (3) would cause hard-core Republicans to feel unvarnished revulsion.

Well, recently we spent a little time with reader RWM to formulate a draft of what such a Democratic Party elevator pitch might look like. As a template, we considered Josh Marshall’s suggested that the Republican elevator pitch consisted of the claim that, “They’re for lowering taxes in exchange for giving up whatever it is the government pretends to do for us, (at a minimum) riding the brakes on the ongoing transformation of American culture, and kicking ass abroad.”

For the Democrats, this is what we came up with:

The Democrats are for promoting fairness and the rule of law at home and abroad, for keeping government out of the morality business, and for ensuring equal access to economic opportunity and political power.

Does that work?

Interesting. Frankly, I think the casting of the Republican message is too complex. Most Red Staters … just my view here … think of the Republican philosophy in much more simple and clear terms, and not in terms of the trade off noted above. As I wrote before, I think it’s much more along the lines of:

We’ll let you keep more of your money, we’ll keep you safe internationally through strength, and we’ll keep government off your back.

I’ll put on my communication consultant hat for a few minutes. (Ohhh … blurring the line between work and blog!!)

These kinds of messages … let’s call them “strategic messages,” messages that speak to a philosophy while also providing a sense of direction … must have several characteristics to work.

  • They must be universal: There can’t be anyone who hears the message and says “that has nothing to do with me.”
  • They must be simple: If my Grandma May couldn’t get the message, it’s not sufficiently simple. This doesn’t mean you dumb the message down, it means you put it in language everyone can understand.
  • They must be appropriately broad: Ambiguity is a good thing with strategic messages. If they’re too specific they can’t be used to explain everything—in this case, policy decisions—you might need to explain. At the same time, they can’t be so broad that they lose meaning (which is why “thousand points of light” left everyone scratching their heads … nice metaphor, but too ambiguous).
  • They must offer a sense of what and why: Saying “here’s what we’re gonna do” doesn’t’ cut it; the message has to speak to the underlying values or philosophy as well. Why these choices as opposed to others?
  • They must be actionable: People in the system, in this case, other Democrats, have to be able to look at the message and say “Ok, I know what kind of stuff I can do to move this forward.” (Again, another reason why just stating a vision … “We believe in a great America” doesn’t cut it. What do I do with that if I’m a city council member trying to support the party agenda?)
  • They must be relevant: They have to be meaningful to people … hit them where they live and apply to their lives.

The Republican message is so well understood by so many people because it has met these characteristics since Reagan first articulated it in his 1964 “Time of Choosing” speech. The Dem strategic message needs to be equally simple, broad, universal, actionable, relevant, etc.

The day after the election I described one such possible message:

We believe in this land no man is a loser … that everyone has potential. And if times get tough, which they will, we’ll be there to give you a hand up, but never a hand out. Oh … and we’ll keep you safe, too.

I’d change that some now, and make it even more clear:

We’ll make sure you have a fair shot at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; we’ll give you a hand up but not a hand out if times get tough; and we’ll keep you safe internationally through strength.

Note that this is what I think the message SHOULD be, not what it currently is. Frankly, I don’t KNOW what it currently is, which simply reflects the problem. Let’s admit it … until the international war on terror resolves in some fashion, the Dems have to co-opt the Republican national security argument, and Clinton showed quite well how the Democratic agenda could succeed by speaking to a value of personal responsibility (a hand up, not a hand out) … frankly, they’re both themes that are highly relevant to large numbers of folks from both sides of the isle.

That message passes my tests, at least for me. I could use protection of liberties and opportunity, a caring but fair government, and security to explain just about any policy while still speaking to Dem values, couldn’t I?

Just my two cents.

No charge, Democrats. But now I have to find a chance to offer some free counsel to the Republicans as well (equal time, after all).

February 03, 2005
Some Affirmation

William Voegeli, today:

Ruy Teixeira says that after 2004, “the bigger question is: What do the Democrats stand for?” Here’s a better and bigger question still: What do the Democrats stand against? Tell us, if indeed it’s true, that Democrats don’t want to do for America what social democrats have done for France or Sweden. Tell us that the stacking of one government program on top of the other is going to stop, if indeed it will, well short of a public sector that absorbs half the nation’s income and extensively regulates what we do with the other half. Explain how the spirit of live-and-let-live applies, if indeed it does, to everyone equally—to people who take family, piety and patriotism seriously, not merely to people whose lives and outlooks are predicated on regarding them ironically.

Until those questions are answered, until Americans have confidence about the limits liberalism will establish and observe, it’s hard to see when the Democratic narrative will again have a happy ending.

Me, the day after the election:

The Democrats can find their way back, but they first must craft the compelling narrative … the political philosophy that will be relevant to Rotary members all across this land: We believe in this land no man is a loser … that everyone has potential. And if times get tough, which they will, we’ll be there to give you a hand up, but never a hand out. Oh … and we’ll keep you safe, too might be a start. Clinton had that narrative nailed … but when he left office, the narrative left with him.

Before the DNC I heard Mark Shields note that Reagan said his inspiration was FDR, and that the next great Democratic leader will say his inspiration was Ronald Reagan. He’s right. The Democrats are never going to get America to come to them; they must go to America … an America that has changed from when it considered the Democratic Party the party of the “average” man, as it did in 1964. They must articulate a clear and compelling political philosophy and narrative … here’s what we stand for! … and must then leave their ivory tower and go to the field … spreading that compelling narrative one school board race … one Rotary Club … at a time.

Nice to have a little affirmation, if the spin is a bit different. Grass roots, Democrats, grass roots. Not the special interest brand, like environmentalism and the pro-choice effort, but the school board kind. The county commissioner kind. One office, one Rotary club, at a time.

Otherwise … well, it’s cold in the wilderness.

Posted By Alan at 08:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
State of the Union Quick Thoughts, 2005

Here’s the link to the transcript & video. Once upon a time, I’d have gone out and done a blog reaction round-up. Don’t have the energy or the enthusiasm these days - someone use the comments section to point me at a good one, let’s just link to that.

Thought I’d throw out a few stream of consciousness comments here…

  • Overall, this was good. Surprisingly good.
  • No question what the defining moment was for this speech. I thought it was the looong standing ovation given to Safia Taleb al-Suhail and all of the Iraqi people - until Ms. al-Suhail stepped forward to hug Mr. and Mrs. Norwood, and brought the house down.
  • W. isn’t a speaker. Tony Blair is a speaker, often more lethal on his feet than he with a prepared text. W. needs to craft and practice, or he’s in trouble. But then, that ain’t his archetype. The cowboy lives by deeds, standing tall and then giving his gun a little twirl at the end. Now think of the megaphone at Ground Zero. The aircraft carrier landing. Dropping in on a warring and dangerous Baghdad to serve turkey to the troops. Ms. al-Suhail and the Norwoods. Bush communicates best in deeds, in tableaux that speak incredibly loudly. I’m trying to recall another politician who could match that particular style and gift. I can’t. It’s W’s saving political grace and potential disaster point, all in one.

Read the Rest…

February 01, 2005
CBS Unable to Authenticate Soldier's Kidnapping

Here’s the AP Headline :

Claims of GI Hostage in Iraq Raises Doubt

A line from the story :

If proven a fake, Tuesday’s posting would not be the first hoax associated with kidnappings in Iraq…

And here’s the associated pictures :


Dan Rather is hoping for an interview with the family soon. See also TCP Iraq Article.

Denial or Forced Perspective?

(Cross-posted at submandave)

Evaluating the success of the elections in Iraq have created a boom market in punditry on all sides of the political equation. I fall into the camp that can’t see past Sunday’s performance as anything other than a resounding success and another step foward for the Iraqi people in their desire for freedom, for the American people in their mission to secure a future free from terrorist threat and for the people of the world who, in many cases in spite of themselves, stand to reap the benefits of a more free and secure planet. At possibly the other extreme you can find the rationl minds at Democratic Underground bemoaning those poor Iraqis who were fooled by the “Chimperor” into voting. What then of a more moderate, dare I say centric response?

Mark Brown bravely asks “What if Bush was right about Iraq?” The Washington Post asks “Who Gets Credit in Iraq?” which logically seems to imply an acknowledgement that something for which one would want credit actually happened. But even while both of these seem to imply some degree of common perception with us Bush supporters, a read of the contents leaves me not so sure.

Mr. Brown’s article contains many poisoned gems, such as (all emphasis added):

  • characterizing the Iraqi enthusiasm for the election as the “first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people
  • musing on “this brave new world we are forcing on [the Iraqis]
  • the obligatory question if “Bush is willing to allow the Iraqis to install a government that is free to kick us out
I should long ago have shed any sense of surprise at the racist condensention of the left, but something this strident still flabbergasts me. Why, in God’s name, wouldn’t freedom mean something to Iraqis? Why should they have to proove to you or anyone else they don’t want to live under a totalitarian regime? How does a phrase like that not only get formed in the mind but committed to paper by an accomplished writer like this?

The Washington Post’s piece is even more fun filled. After being forced to recognize the significance of the elections and acknowledge that many view it as a vindication of Bush’s policies, they unquestioningly jump to the other aisle with the following claim:

The more common view is that the election vindicated the political vision of Ayatollah Ali Sistani” (emphasis added)

“More common” among whom? I’m not the final authority, but I’ve not seem this idea put forward anywhere else. For a “common view” it certainly is keeping covert. Oh, a reporter from the UK opined that “[t]he reason there was a poll [Sunday] was that the U.S., facing an increasingly intensive war against the five million Sunnis, dared not provoke revolt by the 15 to 16 million Shia.” In that case it must be not only the most common but also the most accurate assesment. Never mind that Bush has not only stated from the beginning that our goal was to hold elections as soon as feasible and that he adamently opposed any delay once the schedule had been set.

Are we again seeing the ascendancy of the Democrats’ well-developed defense by denial? One might easilly look to theabove examples as the political left yet again denying the obvious when it rebuts their position. I believe, however, we are seeing instead more evidence of the forced perspective they impose upon themselves. Let’s review the base assumptions upon which the above commentary is built:

  • the United States is wrongfully imposing its will upon the Iraqi people
  • the Iraqi campaign was always fated to fail and America woul dhave to retreat in shame
  • the President (and his croneys) never really intended to give Iraqis their freedom from the start
  • the vast majority of Iraqis want nothing more than for the US to go away and leave them alone
Where have I heard this before? Oh, right, these are bin Ladin’s talking points, almost item by item. Not to imply the left as a whole supports bin Ladin, but, rather, to offer that they find him more honest, accurate and reliable than the current Administration. Now, would a reasonable person see this as more indicative of a problem with the Administration or a problem with its critics’ perception and perspective?

Mark Brown is still wondering “about a timetable for [Bush’s] exit strategy,” never grasping that the only acceptable “exit strategy” is tied not to a timetable but to an event: victory. The Post says that Bush’s adversaries “believe that Iraqi voters have seized the elections as the best means of thwarting U.S. domination of the country.” Despite Mark Brown’s consiliatory lede, both articles still rely upon their old assumptions that are rooted in the other assumption that Bush is bad and he can do no good. Perhaps denial is at the root, but the real symptom evidenced is a complete unwillingness to even question the wisdom and validity of their own assumptions. If this is denial or monumental arrogence, it still has the same effect.

Among the pundits, though, I think the most accurate prediction was actually made by Jon Stewart, when he said

What if Bush, the president, ours, has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may … implode.

I don’t think he’ll be alone.

(hat tip: link meister Glenn Reynolds)