Along the Tracks

Friday, March 29, 2002

Terrorizing Jews

As I sit in The Leader office, looking out the big picture window onto Montpelier and the wider world, a darkening sky and rain harken back to another Friday after Passover long ago. Tension, confusion, cruelty and violence were the order of the day in Israel. Some things just refuse to change.

The comments I’ve read from most “world leaders” and some commentators in our own country on both the Right and the Left are calling on for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to the “peace process.” They are, of course, all directly aiming their statements at Israel, not Arafat and the Palestinians. They see Israel’s tanks rolling into Ramallah, yet somehow they missed the 22 civilians killed at a Passover Seder, the several settlers stabbed and killed on the West Bank, and the two shoppers blown to bits by another suicide bomber in Jerusalem - this all in the course of under 48 hours. What possibly could be the cause of this moral blindness?

The reaction of Arabs and the larger Islamic world is at least understandable: They are blatantly anti-Semitic. They teach it in their schools, run it in their newspapers, broadcast it on their television stations and sing about it in their pop songs. They hate Jews, simple as that.

The motivations of our “friends” is more difficult to discern. They live in an “enlightened” world, where crass stereotyping and scapegoating are supposed to be safely locked in the past. They are not beholden to religious directives by superiors that claim hatred as a matter of faith. Indeed, a large number would proudly claim the title of “bleeding-heart” (minus those like Pat Buchanan on the far Right, of course). So why does the same group which cries out for a cessation of bombing during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan stare straight past a direct attack on Jews during one of their most sacred ceremonies?

There can only be two possibilities. The first is a belief in “peace and stability at all costs.” For most in the anti-Israel crowd, this is probably the best description of their mindset. This “principle” bears some explanation.

For starters, “peace” does not mean a lack of violence, but merely a lack of state-initiated military action. By this definition, terrorism does not “disrupt the peace.” Thus, Israel is the problem at present.

“Stability” merely means an environment which does not interfere with trade. Suicide bombs can go off until kingdom come as long as the Middle East oil keeps flowing and France can keep helping Islamic theocracies with their nuclear reactors. It won’t affect the “stability” of the region - unless Israel does something crazy like blockade the territories and upset the oil cartel. Once again, a loss of “stability” would be Israel’s fault.

The real clincher is the “at all costs” part. The anti-Israel cabal hates to see innocent Israelis die - or for that matter, innocent Iraqis, girls in Saudi Arabia, Christians in the Sudan, etc. - but it is a sacrifice they are willing to make in the cause of “peace” and “stability.” “All costs” fall on those outside of the anti-Israel party and the dictators and thugs with whom they do business. Therefore the costs are bearable.

There are, however, a few for whom this first possibility does not hold water. They are not necessarily against military actions per se, are not economically entwined in the status quo and are inclined to support the downtrodden in other parts of the world. What of this small but present group?

Evil has a way of lurking. It doesn’t disappear, cannot be eliminated. It must constantly be chopped back, uprooted and burned. Among the worst expressions of human evil is racism, and perhaps the most robust form of racism is anti-Semitism. Despite the direct witness of the revolting horror of anti-Semitic hatred less than 60 years behind us, there are some who continue to be tempted by its power to unify the many against the few. They may not speak it directly but they send out the code words and feelers which draw together an unholy alliance which offers the opportunity to make a grab for political power. If not exposed, they will continue to build a coalition of evil right in our midst, aided by those duped into believing money comes before morality - the first group of which I spoke. We have seen what happens when the anti-Semites succeed: Sorrow, pain, blood and death for Jews, yes, but also for all other good and moral people on the planet. People of conscience must stand up to the stupidity of those who put faith in mammon and the evil of those who would fuel their rise to power on the blood of scapegoats.

Jesus was killed by the Romans to terrorize Jews who wished for independence (even if it was a spiritual independence that many, including the Romans, did not understand). Today, Jews continue to be killed for the exact same reason.

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With us or against us

Do we need any more evidence than this? The Arab countries support terrorism, duplicitously, almost across the board. They support Saddam Hussein, who can't wait to attack us with WMDs, across the board explicitly. It's time for America - and the rest of the civilized world, which I'm sure will be slow to follow - to accept these countries for what they are begin to systematically eliminate their tyrannical governments. This really is going to be a long, difficult war, very much comparable to World War II, before all is said and done. The key is completing the task before one of them gets a nuke or develops the capability to send a missile full of nerve gas down onto Tel Aviv, London or New York City.

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Thursday, March 28, 2002

The shock! The horror! The scandal!

The Bush Administration spoke with energy experts in formulating energy policy? Scandalous. All the usual suspects are crying foul, saying the resulting document is “unbalanced” and results in special advantages for energy producers. My question: What exactly do these groups think an “energy policy” is? And why would some of the complaining groups expect to benefit from it?
Let’s look at this from a different angle, for the sake of fair play, shall we?
Who did the Clinton Administration talk to - oh, that’s right, there was no Clinton energy policy. Okay, they were big on the environment, right? Well, who did they talk to in setting environmental policy. Environmental groups? Scandalous! And just think, there were those ergonomic rules, Kyoto Accords, the mass public land grab at the end of the Clinton years - all a sure sign of influence by the most extreme environmental groups. There should have been a major investigation into whether these actions were precipitated by the “undo influence” of these one-sided groups!
Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. Of course environmental groups wielded great influence on Clinton’s proposals. That’s because his party is heavily influenced by groups on the left, including the more extreme environmental groups. And you know what? That’s just fine - after all, we elected Clinton. We knew what we were getting.
The same holds for Bush (and don’t start with another election controversy rehash - we’re a nation of law, and the law was followed, even if some didn’t like the results). Bush laid out the basics of his energy policy prior to his election, and everyone knew it would favor energy producers based on the outline. It is not a scandal to do precisely what you always said you’d do, what your party has always stood for. The Left is forced to portray the lack of environmentalist input as a “scandal” because in an open debate of legitimate plans and ideas, they would lose the battle for public opinion.
This “politicization” of debates is occurring across a wide range of topics this spring: Enron, the economy, energy policy, even the war. It indicates two things: The Left has no positive plan for America, and damaging Bush’s approval ratings is seen as the only hope for success in this fall’s elections. It is a sad state of affairs for a once vibrant liberal base.

Whatever happened to liberalism?

They say you become more conservative as you grow older, and in my case this is probably true - but with some caveats.
“Neo-conservatism,” the ideological camp I find myself closest to these days, is said to be the refuge of disillusioned liberals. That definition certainly fits this writer - I still proudly consider myself an idealist, but tempered with the jaundiced eye of realism.
Idealism draws the energy and interests of politically-enlightened youth. Yet the past 30 years have seen traditional liberal idealism devolve into a grab-bag of “right thinking” on almost any subject, without clear (and energizing) goals which these directives are meant to achieve. What is the ultimate goal of the civil rights movement today? Is there a goal? How about labor? Does the AFL-CIO have a vision of American society which it is trying to achieve? What is it? What about the gun control lobby? Environmentalists? Health care reformists?
At least when many on the Left were powered by socialism or Marxism, they had ultimate goals in mind; they sought a utopia which, if fanciful and unrealistic, was at least admirable as a premise. The abject failure of communism and the less extravagant shortcomings of many socialist programs have resulted in a void of ideology. If a magic wand could be waived and society recreated in the ultimate vision of the Left today, what would it look like? Does anyone know?
This lack of vision has resulted in splinters and frays of self-interest. Frankly, many groups on the Left are mirror images of the close-minded circles on the Right which are regularly denounced as “radical” and “fringe.” Are the “anti-globalization” protesters very different from the black helicopter crowd? How exactly was Ted Kaczynski, of “Unabomber” fame, different from Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber?
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, liberalism tied its goals to the power of the group in an effort to effect change. This momentous decision resulted in vast, important transformations in societies around the world. In America, civil rights, collective bargaining and Social Security all owe their successes to liberal ideals coupled with group action. But since the 1960s, the structure of this alliance has been reversed. Today, the group comes before the ideal. This upside-down organization of the Left results in political actions meant to perpetuate the group, rather than effect meaningful change. The dignity of the individual is lost in the sea of group grievances.
Is there a path out of this quandary for liberalism? A return to roots would seem to be in order. The Progressive movement of late 19th century America sought to guarantee civil rights, opportunity and dignity to the individual through government action. That is a noble goal too often missing from the arguments offered by liberals today. In fact, it is close to the argument made by many on the Right today.
The debate among conservatives primarily concerns how much - or more precisely, how little - the government should be involved in the effort. But there are those who feel the government does have a proactive role to play in guaranteeing the promise of the Declaration of Independence: The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These action-oriented “conservatives” may in fact provide the impetus, ideological underpinning and, perhaps, even the individuals to reignite the proud tradition of liberalism in America and around the world.
Honest, intelligent political discourse provides America great strength, and it is needed today more than at any time in 30 years. A reinvigorated liberalism is necessary to provide that debate, and the moral clarity and purpose which will arise from it.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Crimes of the past

An activist has initiated a lawsuit against Aetna, Fleet Bank and CSX Rail, demanding $1.4 trillion (not million, not billion, TRILLION) for activities of those corporations or their progenitors which capitalized off slavery in the United States. The lawsuit will most likely be dismissed, and should be, for the following reasons:
1. There are no claimants. People who have been injured physically or financially have the right of redress in the court. That can include not only the injured party, but also the family, business partners, etc. However, there are limitations. Descendants who have experienced no personal injury from the other party are simply not considered legitimate claimants. If I discover that a company once stole thousands of dollars from my long-deceased great-grandfather and was never held accountable by the courts, I could sue - we can all sue for anything - but the case would be dismissed unless I could show how that company’s theft injured me. That would require a real stretch, something a clever lawyer might wish to try, but which would be unlikely to gain any traction before a judge.
2. The corporate actions were legal at the time. It is a sad truth, but slavery was legal in the United States until after the ratification of the 13th Amendment on Dec. 6, 1865. Slaves were considered property, their production was therefore the property of their owners. As property, they could also be insured - one specific injury cited in the suit. All of this is disgusting and evil; yet, it was legal, and the courts are charged with interpreting and upholding the law. Therefore, a lawsuit would seem to be the wrong venue for redressing this grievance.
3. The corporations have long since changed their activities, their leadership and their ownership. This, in my opinion, is the weakest argument, but still holds some weight. Consider that, even if personal claims against the corporations were weak, a court might decide a punitive award was necessary to punish past transgressions. Yet, as noted, these companies have completely changed face in the past 150 years; indeed, CSX is a recently created entity which happens to hold assets once belonging to railroad companies of the 1850s. None are charged with continuing any of the past practices listed in the suit; none have the same corporate leadership (obviously); all are publicly traded and therefore have no continuity in primary ownership. How would the “offending parties” be chastised by a punitive award when they no longer exist?
The lawyers involved in this lawsuit understand and could explain all these legal arguments better than I. The success of the suit itself is not their goal. The purpose is really twofold - to raise the profile of the reparations movement itself and, with a little luck, to force a settlement by the named companies. Why would they settle? Bad publicity. “Supporter of slavery” is hardly a statement anyone doing business in America wants associated with their firm. Jesse Jackson has made a career out of accusing company after company of racism, then gladly collecting cash in exchange for shutting up. This lawsuit opens up a whole new realm of potential extortion - a model company in terms of integration and fair play can now be put squarely in the crosshairs if it, any of its subsidiaries or any of the companies whose assets it purchased at any time made money while slavery was legal.
There are still real problems with race relations and discrimination today, problems which require a variety of solutions, including determined law enforcement, enlightened incentive approaches and, where need arises, redress in civil courts. No one needs to look back 150 years to find evil lurking; it can still be found right here in 2002. But evil now is on the defensive, being beaten back, overcome and, slowly but surely, eliminated. Unfortunately, rather than continuing the lower profile struggle against the remnants of racism today, a few choose to seek greater publicity and profit by punishing those who are associated in name only with the evils which once occurred in our country. Such tactics hinder progress and healing and, ultimately, the success of the very group they are intended to help.

As for the point, often stated, that America has never paid for the sin of slavery: America has paid dearly; 620,000 died in the Civil War, ending involuntary servitude.

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Friday, March 22, 2002

One more gets it

I think Richard Cohen finally gets it. Maybe others on the anti-war and anti-Bush left will soon also understand the predicament in which we find ourselves. There’s always hope.

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Thursday, March 21, 2002

Is it just me, or is country music making an early comeback?

I’ll start by admitting that I’m a long-time country music fan. I was weaned on Waylon and Willie - I’ve still got several 8-tracks to prove it. I remember as a kid, sitting in the basement with an old record player, spinning my mom and dad’s collection of 45s including Buck Owens, Ray Price, Merle Haggard and Linda Ronstadt. So, as you can see, country’s always been part of the music scene for me.

On the national pop scene, however, country is “rediscovered” in cycles. Those “crossover” periods usually start with a new or fairly new artist being accepted by certain pop radio stations. Listeners to these stations enjoy the music, begin to demand more country, and soon you’ve got half a dozen country songs from several artists showing up on the pop charts. Record producers start “adjusting” the songs of some artists to make them more palatable to the pop market. That, in turn, makes them less desirable to country stations. The songs start getting less airplay there, don’t show up high on the country chart, and therefore don’t attract the attention of the pop stations. Country disappears from the charts for another cycle. These cycles vary in length from as little as about four years to as many as nine or 10.

Right now, country is in a “down” cycle, as far as the pop world is concerned. Artists like Lee Ann Womack, Faith Hill and Shania Twain, female stars of the last “up” cycle, are between albums. Artists which went “too pop” last time (that’s you, Diamond Rio and Lonestar), have disappeared from the country charts as well, at least for the time being. “New” artists like Trick Pony, Montgomery Gentry (both appeared here in Montpelier last September!) and Keith Urban are still in the “catching on” stage and probably won’t get pop airplay for another year or two.

Despite all that background, and history working against it, country music seems to be charging toward another peak in popularity, less than two years after its last flirtation with pop fans. The difference this time? The fans are way ahead of radio. The strongest argument for this is the incredible success of the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. It won the Grammy for Album of the Year over radio favorite Alicia Keys, soul sensation india.arie, and everything band U2. It has sold over five million copies and hung around among the top 10 albums for months. People who think country is “uncool” call that album “roots music,” but don’t let them fool you - it’s country.

People who don’t give a hoot what others think is cool have been buying a few other country albums in huge numbers as well. Garth Brooks has received a limited embrace by country radio this time around, yet his new album is doing well. Alan Jackson penned THE SONG when it comes to musical reflections on September 11th - “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” - and his calm, reassuring style has rocketed his album to the top of the pop charts. Toss in impressive sales by Tim McGraw, Allison Krauss and Brooks & Dunn, and you start to see just how popular “uncool” country really is.

All this may force the “rediscovery” of country music by pop radio. Which means, don’t be surprised if you hear some fiddle after that rap song is over. And as far as the industry is concerned, this may be a turning point for the acceptance of country in the mainstream. Radio may very well start looking for country songs to play even when the hot names don’t have anything out.

Will the cycle now be broken?

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Wednesday, March 20, 2002

The mind of a killer, part 2 -

Russell’s responsibility

The actions of Andrea Yates killed her five children, and she rightly is being held responsible for those actions. But few such crimes take place in a vacuum. And this is wear Andrea’s mental illness should be considered.

By all accounts, Andrea was sick for a long time. She suffered from post-partem depression after giving birth to her children. She had attempted suicide. She had seen mental health experts and doctors in reference to her illness. She took medication.

According to Russell Yates, Andrea’s husband, she was not capable of caring for the children. She often needed assistance in completing even rather simple tasks.

It is this backdrop which fills in the scene of this horrible crime. And when this complete picture is viewed, it is hard to deny a large burden of responsibility to the person most able to have averted the crime: Russell Yates.

Russell claims Andrea was incapable of watching their five children, due to her illness. Yet he allowed this woman to be the only adult in the house while he went to the grocery. At a minimum, he was criminally negligent to his own children.

The full picture actually cries out for a more severe judgment of Russell. His wife’s problems were well known before most of the children were born. Each birth brought with it a rising tide of crippling depression. Yet he convinced (brainwashed?) Andrea time and again to become pregnant. His cruelty to his children, leaving them alone with Andrea that day they were murdered, was preceded by years of cruelty to his deeply-troubled wife. Those seeds of pain he so selfishly planted yielded a harvest of death.

Now Russell rides the talk-show circuit. His own evil and neglect have helped make him a star. Just as it was right for Andrea to be convicted of the murders, Russell should be prosecuted for his abuse and his negligence. His next victims remain at risk while he walks the streets.

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The mind of a killer

[Note: Sorry about the blank Tuesday file. Tuesday’s just get that way sometimes - also, I’m doing the Bryan Times website this week, so it takes up a little extra time (if you see any mistakes on the BT site, blame me!)]

The Andrea Yates case was, and is, interesting, not because of the specifics of the crime. There was no question who killed the five Yates children. Neither was the question of mental illness the concept which made this case stand out, although that angle received the most media attention. However, that obsession by the media shines a light on what was interesting in the Andrea Yates murder case.

First, consider the scenario where all the specifics of the crime were the same, except it was the father who had killed the children. It was he who had claimed this world is too evil and dangerous for his children, so he did what he felt he had to do. Would the insanity plea have seemed plausible in that case? I hope you don’t think it would, because the situation is, unfortunately, played out with numbing regularity across the country. A father kills his children, sometimes also kills his wife, because he has lost hope in their future. Often, the father then turns the gun on himself. That is where some of those murders diverge from the Yates case.

But not all, perhaps not even most. After offing the family, the father disappears with cash and credit cards to “start over.” A manhunt ensues, and the murderer is tracked down, tried, and either sent to prison for life or put on death row.

Does anyone doubt those men are crazy? Only someone mentally unstable would commit such a horrible crime. Yet very rarely are they declared insane, placed in an institution, and given their freedom after being “cured.” The very thought of such an outcome is frightening - and offensive - on its face.

Yet that was the outcome we were expected to buy for Andrea Yates. She was mentally ill, her defenders (not just her lawyers, but many from “enlightened” organizations and the media) argued. We should be ashamed for even considering punishing her for the crime. She needs help, not prison.

The first rule of the criminal justice system should be to protect the general public from those who have been found by the system to be guilty of violent acts. The question of whether the criminals could, potentially, became contributing members of society once again, either through rehabilitation or psychiatric therapy, is important but secondary. Once the public is safe, we can work on turning the convicted into positive contributors. For lesser crimes (assault, robbery, drug trafficking) the protective period can be shorter, and the rehabilitative period may very well last beyond actual incarceration, through counseling, therapy, education and other means. But for some of the most heinous acts (murder, rape and repetitive sexual abuse come to mind), an assurance of protection for the public may very well require permanent incarceration. With effort and good fortune, those convicts might also be rehabilitated or cured of their mental problems. They would then have to make their positive contributions from confinement.

The idea Andrea Yates’ defenders tried to pass off was that it would be wrong for us to hold her responsible for her actions. Perhaps, in a few years, she would come to grips with her mental illness and would then be able to return to a normal life. That idea is not only myopic, it is frightening. Thank goodness the jury agreed.

Later, we’ll look at the person who was sickest - and maybe even most responsible for the children’s deaths - in the Yates household.

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Monday, March 18, 2002

Peace Plans

Sorry about my long weekend. Extra duty called. But I'm back and rarin' to go, so ....

Middle East peace plans seem to be all the rage. I decided, in my infinite humility, to offer my own. So, pulled from under the desk-corner pile of old correspondence I'm not quite willing to toss in the trash, doodled notebook paper which includes cryptic name and number references which I'm sure I'll remember soon, and assorted other items of questionable interest, here is the Miller Peace Proposal:

1. A resolution shall be introduced into the United Nations Security Council declaring the Palestinian Authority to be an illegitimate and unrecognized ruling authority, and placing the West Bank and Gaza Strip under the command of a council created by the UN, represented by neighboring countries (Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria), Great Britain and the United States. The United States shall have sole veto power in this council.
2. A second resolution will authorize the U.S., with the assistance of Britain, to place armed forces inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip to hunt down and destroy all terrorist organizations and their materials, including the Palestinian Authority.
3. A third resolution which would set up plans, once the terrorists are killed or captured, for free and fair elections within the terrorities six months after a positive vote by the council. A democratic government would be installed later based on a constitution first created by the council then ratified by the aforementioned election.
4. At the date of the election, all Arab/Islamic countries would be expected by the United States, perhaps under pressure from another U.N. resolution, to normalize relations with both Israel and Palestine.They would also be expected to fund economic development in Palestine.
5. The U.N. would maintain troops in Palestine and would be permanently responsible for Palestine's national security.

This is not an easy or cheap endeavor, but could be one of the keys to a successful conclusion to the War on Terrorism.

If you've got another idea or comments on mine, send them along.

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Friday, March 15, 2002


Rosie O’Donnell was the feature of a prime time interview last evening. No, I do not wish to comment on the concept of gay adoption - to me, that’s a personal issue tied to your religious beliefs. Each person must weigh it in their own hearts and decide where they stand for themselves.

Setting aside the “gay” issue entirely, I want to say I believe Rosie to be an exemplar of Christian charity. This woman takes time on a regular basis to interact with foster children who have suffered horrible sexual abuse and have lost their faith in adults. She visits their group therapy sessions, talks with them, plays with them, shows them unconditional love. She helps them take those first few steps toward renewed trust.

While being a strong public advocate for foster children, she has never, to my knowledge, promoted her own charity efforts or how she personally works with these children. Such compassion opens one to heart-wrenching pain. According to Rosie, the rewards are well worth the price.

What would Jesus do? “As you have done for the least of my brethren, so also you have done for Me.”

I’ve never been a fan of Rosie the entertainer (just ask my wife Jeanne!), but I’m a huge fan of Rosie the person.

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Posture posturing

The big hoo-hah getting batted around right now is, of course, the Pentagon’s classified Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was leaked to the media. Normally sound and circumspect minds sometimes get hot and bothered when nukes are the topic; those already out in left field go apoplectic. It’s hard to believe the defenders and detractors of the NPR are talking about the same document. See for yourself by checking out Mackubin Thomas Owens compared to Mary McGrory. I see Molly Ivins fired off a few spitballs of her own in Thursday’s syndicated column in the Bryan Times. Frankly, I think it’s good we plan for the unthinkable. In case Ivins, McGrory or anybody else missed it, something unthinkable just happened six months ago. Fortunately, George Tenet and the CIA had the basis of a response plan in place. We executed it well, and now Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist sanctuary (if not yet entirely cleansed of terrorists).

I also believe the Bush Administration deliberately leaked the NPR. Sure, they knew they’d catch a manure-spreader load of cow cookies over its content, but they get that on one subject or another everyday anyway. The real purpose of the leak was to let the Axis of Evil know we not only don’t want them using weapons of mass destruction, we have a plan in place to hit them hard if they should try. That is called deterrence.

Also, the suggestion that our nuclear arsenal should include smaller, more targeted “bunker busters” is intelligent policy for the world in which we live. As things stand today, if an Axis country were to use a weapon of mass destruction against the United States, we would have an all or nothing choice: Either nuke the offending nation, killing hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of innocent civilians while probably allowing the real culprits to escape; or absorb our losses and invite further attack. A better plan would allow the U.S. to strike the stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons with small nukes, limiting the collateral damage and the aftereffects of radiation. A secondary but important benefit would be the ability to hit the bunkers of the leaders themselves, assuring their destruction as well. Once again, our capabilities would add to the deterrent effect.

Despite what the howlers claim, the Bush Administration does not want to use nuclear weapons, and by thinking through what situations could result in their use - and letting the Axis know - the president reduces the likelihood we will ever need to use them.

Evil growing

My very first blog on this Web column concerned questions why North Korea was included in Bush’s “Axis of Evil.” I said North Korea may very well be the most immediate threat to the American homeland after terrorism. Indications are they have enough fissile material for two nukes; we just aren’t sure if they know how to make a bomb. Today, again at National Review Online, Rich Lowry writes on a Monday congressional briefing where an intelligence expert suggested North Korea has two fully-functional nukes, and has had them since the mid-1990s (thanks again, Slick Willy). North Korea is also very close to perfecting a missile capable of hitting the continental U.S. Once they’ve reached that point, the scenario I mentioned in my first blog - blackmailing America to allow their takeover of South Korea - has an opportunity to come into play. By including them in the Axis, Bush served notice that we will see this coming and will not allow it, providing some hope of a diplomatic solution before we are under the nuclear gun.

According to Lowry, the congressional briefing also included the disturbing possibility that Iraq and Iran might be within as little as three years of possessing intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could deliver chemical or biological weapons as deadly as a nuke.

This is serious business, and it is at least in a small way comforting to know our president takes it serious, and intends to do something about it.

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Thursday, March 14, 2002

Scary thoughts,
or Washington Left in a Pile of Byrd Droppings

An arcane piece of Capitol protocol has been weighing heavily on my mind, and the minds of many others, since that eye-opening Tuesday six months ago. I speak of the tradition in which the oldest member of the Senate’s majority party is voted the position of “president pro tem.”

According to Congressional statue authorized by the Constitution, the line of succession for the presidency goes vice president, then speaker of the House of Representatives, then president pro tem of the Senate. Being third in line for the presidency would seem to be rather far removed; indeed, never has anyone other than the vice president advanced to the top position due to death or incapacitation of the president. However, with the threats now faced by the United States, what was once unthinkable is now rather easily considered.

Let’s go back to September 11th. A fortunate bit of scheduling had placed President Bush in Florida. But suppose he had been in the White House. Congress was also in session, just down Pennsylvania Avenue. Let’s also suppose the hijackers had been successful in their original plans. Then rather than striking the Pentagon, that plane would have hit the White House, potentially killing Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Had the passengers and crew of Flight 93 been unsuccessful in overcoming the hijackers and sending their jet into the Pennsylvania countryside, that plane would most likely have struck the Capitol, potentially killing hundreds of legislators. You don’t have to do much more supposing to realize that, if the plane had hit the House Chamber, Speaker Dennis Hastert could have been killed, leaving the Senate’s president pro tem next in line of succession.

Presently, the pro tem of the Senate is Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Byrd is 84 years old. He is also commonly refered to as a maverick, a euphemism used by the press to avoid calling him a corrupt, pork-barrel opportunist and former Ku Klux Klan member (a Republican of similar credentials would not be afforded such a moniker as “maverick,” of course - but that’s a whole ‘nother column).

On the other hand, if the Republicans were in control of the Senate, then by tradition 98-year-old Strom Thurmond would be the pro tem. Either way, the thought is not comforting - it is horror-inducing.

Pressure to amend the presidential succession plan is growing. Clearly, the majority leader of whichever party controls the Senate should be the person next in line after the House speaker. The majority leader at least commands the loyalty and respect of over half the democratically-elected Senate. The present president pro tem position is nothing more than the winner of a congressional version of “Survivor.”

These are serious times, and we need to provide serious answers to the dangers we face. Not being dead yet is not a good enough reason to be handed the presidency.

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Power outage update

I just heard from Montpelier Village Manager John Bitler. He told me the electricity problem yesterday was not due to Toledo Edison, as originally thought, but was caused by a resistor blowing out at the Airport Road substation. The trouble may have been a delayed reaction to Saturday's storms, which apparently had some lightning tossed in with the gale-force winds. Anyway, all's better now. I asked John if this morning's outage in the country might somehow be related, but he didn't think so. I'll see what I can find out and let you know.

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Life without the lights

Did I miss something? Did Williams County just get annexed to California or something? Yesterday, half the county lost power for an hour and a half. This morning, I woke up to total darkness - we lost power around 5:30 a.m., and didn’t get it back until about 7:30. With all these brown outs, you’d think Gray Davis was running our grid or something.

Nevertheless, I’ve muddled through, making coffee with boiled water and the filter cup off my Mr. Coffee - it works, but next time I’ll pull up a chair.

Seriously, though, sometimes you need to lose something before you realize how badly you need it. Even 15 years ago, a power outage was just an annoying inconvenience; today, it’s near the point of being a crippling problem. Computers are ubiquitous - and they all need electricity. Even my propane furnace lights electrically. My two little puddle-jumpers are nothing short of baffled by an outage: Clair started pouting when her bedroom light wouldn’t turn on (“Daddy, can’t you fix my light?”) and The Boy kept pushing the “on” button on the TV, as if he thought he just wasn’t hitting it right.

Our teen-queen Holly had the best take on the situation - no alarm, no get up.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Out getting a tan

Reports of my apparent vacation have been greatly exaggerated. Tuesday is “finish the paper” day here at The Leader, and I was knee-deep in copy and photos (you’ll see - if you subscribe, otherwise, call 419-485-3113 or e-mail and get started, would ya!?) all day, never getting the opportunity to update my beloved blog. I know, wah, wah, wah. Anyway, the weather is going to pull me out of the office numerous times over the course of this week, you know, er-uh, looking for photos, that sort of thing. Even so, I’ll not let the web column lag, cross my heart.


Montpelier Village Council and the Downtown Revitalization Committee are working on plans to spruce up the downtown as part of the street resurfacing and sidewalks project. It appears work won’t begin until next year, so it may seem like there is plenty of time. But council’s goal is to have the whole project rolled together and bid out by the Ohio Department of Transportation, and their fiscal year starts July 1. So a coherent plan and specifications will be needed, probably well before that date.

I thought it might be interesting to do an article considering some ideas you, the reader, have offered. If there’s something you might like to see discussed, e-mail a note to me at

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Monday, March 11, 2002

The Reckoning

I, like many of you, watched the documentary 9/11 last evening. It was raw yet tasteful, never focusing on the carnage we already know was everywhere that horrible day; rather, it helped us to understand the heroes. On the surface, they were just “regular guys,” but as their stories unfolded on screen, it became clear they are not regular at all. Men and women who dedicate themselves to uniformed service - firemen, EMTs, law enforcement personnel, the military - make two important decisions upon entering their field: They decide to forego material gain and use their labor to save the lives of others; and they accept that the cost may very well be their own lives. Their choices make them anything but “regular” - “heroes in waiting” would be more accurate.

In his six-month observance speech this morning, President Bush called the war on terrorism “a reckoning.” The word choice was precise - and perfect. The concept of a “reckoning” comes from biblical tradition; a final judgment of rights and wrongs, the end of one time and the start of another. That is exactly what this must be - end game.

In the movie Tombstone, Wyatt Earp asks Doc Holliday why one particularly diabolical Wild West villain he was about to face, named Johnny Ringo, was driven to such evil. “A man like that has a great hole in his heart,” said Holliday, paraphrasing a bit, “and he can never steal enough or hurt enough or kill enough to fill it.”

“Does he want justice?” asks Earp.

“He isn’t looking for justice,” says Holliday, “but a reckoning.”

Pop philosophy, perhaps, but it seems particularly well stated and relevant to what we face today.

In a way, by fighting this war, we are giving the terrorists what they want - a reckoning. If we turned away, it might be delayed, but sooner or later, the reckoning they seek would still come. Facing the reckoning now brings us closer to the end game, and the righteousness of our cause coupled with the strength of our present resolve presents the opportunity to bring real safety for ourselves and freedom and new hope to those still oppressed in the world.

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Sunday, March 10, 2002

Full Chain!

A few years ago, I read about a Dakota wind gauge: Sink an eight-foot post four feet in the ground, then connect a log chain to the top. You judge the wind speed by the angle of the chain blowing in the wind. Well, when we bought our little farm out here southeast of town, I decided it might be fun to put a Dakota wind gauge up.

On Saturday, it was useful. That was a 90-degree chain lifter that blew through here.

Just kidding, but in all seriousness, that was the strongest wind I can remember outside of a thunderstorm in many a moon. And as luck would have it, I had just gotten into the van to buckle Clair and The Boy into their car seats when the first real big blast hit. Branches flew everywhere, the trash can blew over, and for a minute there, I thought I'd better buckle myself down too, as the van rocked to and fro hard enough to make me think it might be on its side in another minute.

We survived the big blow pretty well here (minus a couple good-sized branches that had been weakened by the ice storm a few weeks ago), but I know some other folks weren't so lucky. Damage was pretty widespread, but fortunately no serious injuries were reported.

I did hear a report of a barn fire over in Henry County on the Ridge. In those winds, I doubt it stood for long. Like I said, thank goodness most people escaped the wind with life and limb intact. Things could have been a lot worse - as demonstrated by the poor soul who lost his life in Columbus when a tree fell into his house.

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Friday, March 08, 2002

PBS Kids?

On National Public Radio this morning (I told you I like to listen to all points of view!), the announcer mentioned that on tonight’s PBS program, “Now,” Bill Moyers will focus on the Enron scandal. She also mentioned one of his guests will be, in her words, “oil tycoon T-Bone Pickens.” T-Bone, eh? I think she may be confusing “Now” with another PBS program, “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” This is completely understandable. Both feature short morality plays, develop fictional storylines and offer characters whose shadings on the spectrum are plain for all to see.

“Clifford,” however, is the only one which is honest and entertaining - clearly the better program.

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I’m now willing to officially declare Spring “sprung.” Yes, yes, we are supposed to get another cold blast this weekend, but Nature doesn’t lie: This morning, The Boy and I saw three robins, two cowbirds and a bluebird. Clearly, they know something we don’t.

I’m glad to see it, too, not just ‘cause I can’t wait for nice go-outdoors-type weather, but also because, as of yesterday, I’m letting the hen duck keep her eggs - I’m hoping for little fuzzballs around late April.

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Thursday, March 07, 2002

Missing the story

In the process of working on a story for a future issue of The Leader about children and mental health issues, I ran across some information (second-hand through which is in the Bernard Goldberg book, “Bias.” This info has been given very little play - the book’s more confrontational aspects between Goldberg and network news executives are apparently much more fun. But Goldberg lists several statistics indicating just how hard life is for children today, and rightly wonders why the issue has not dominated television journalism.

Wait, you say, the media is constantly reporting on school-yard shootouts, lack of adequate day care and health care, and all those heartbreaking crime victims like Danielle van Dam and Jon-Benet Ramsey. Those issues, while emotionally compelling, are not the ones to which Goldberg points. Rather, he notes the meteoric rise in teen suicide, drug use, emotional problems, sexual promiscuity and sexually-transmitted diseases, and the connections these troubling facts have with today’s trend of absentee parentism.

Goldberg offers a reason for the media’s myopia: Network execs are beholden to the feminist movement. The feminists, in turn, oppose the discussion of any social problems which might be tied to their agenda, i.e., to “liberate” women from their role as mothers.

Now, let me say, the specifics of this issue involve men and women. There is no reason men cannot be the “home parents” while their wives support the family. I have a cousin who is a stay-at-home dad while his wife pursues a very successful career in the automotive world.

The story here is not that moms need to stay home; the story is that kids do much better when at least one parent stays at home with them. Unfortunately, that very important story is one the mainstream media will not tell.

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Parallels to another past war

Wow, must be “politically incorrect” day at The Leader office (by the way, if you don’t already get The Leader weekly, subscriptions are just $20 a year here in Williams County, Ohio, and just $23 in places like Archbold, Ohio; Angola, Ind.; New York, N.Y.; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Teheran, Iran. E-mail me or call 419-485-3113 to start this week. There, my plug is done). Once again, inspiration has led me to a topic many may not like to consider. Even so ....

One of the most heartbreaking and morally indefensible chapters in American history concerned the Indian Wars. I’m a bit of a history buff, particularly American Indian history, and I look at that shameful period as an example of a time when America failed its own values. The treatment of the native tribes, through the reservation system and government bureaucracy, has continued to be a dismal failure for the past 125-plus years.

That being said, during the Indian Wars, the military had to employ strategies and tactics to win against an outnumbered and outgunned but determined foe that was close to the terrain and knew how to use it. After some fits and starts and several massacres (what the military called it when they lost a battle to the Indians), a successful strategy finally brought the northern tribes to their knees: Winter campaigns. The Indians would gather into small villages in the mountain valleys during the winter and early spring, relying on stockpiles of food while they awaited the thaw. They felt safe in these remote areas, believing the army was incapable of reaching the valleys with artillery and large numbers of troops requiring food and supplies themselves. But under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman, field commanders put together huge, plodding wagon trains to supply troops and carry the big guns deep into the Rocky Mountain wilderness, taking the battle to the Indians when they were at their weakest and least mobile. It was only a couple of years after the ignominious defeat at Little Big Horn that the U.S. Army had broken the back of the northern tribes and forced them off the war path and onto reservations.

Though they probably wouldn’t publicly admit it, the U.S. military is employing the same strategy right now in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda, after running to the hills to escape the onslaught of America and her Afghan allies last fall, has gathered into encampments in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, waiting for the weather to break so they can sneak out of the area and cause more havoc. The United States, however, isn’t playing that game. We’ve focused our support and transportation capabilities into an assault at the very time al Qaeda is least able to fight back effectively and least likely to escape. I wouldn’t be surprised if similar operations in other mountain hideouts get underway in the next few weeks.

Al Qaeda is worldwide, so this won’t necessarily “break their backs.” But it will hasten the end of their ability to fight head-on with U.S. or allied troops inside Afghanistan. And that is an important step toward victory.

There are many ways you can learn from past mistakes. Military planners have apparently set aside the moral questions from the Indian Wars to rediscover a valuable strategy that can be highly successful in this struggle.

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’Whites of their eyes’

Our boys are doing us proud in the mountains of Afghanistan this week, systematically eliminating hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists. Yes, we’ve lost some fine young men, and all our hearts go out to their families. Those families are to be honored for the sacrifice of those fallen heroes, and all the families of our troops fighting this war should be thanked for the emotional storm they willingly ride while their loved ones prosecute the battle for all of us. Most of all thanks to the men and women, all volunteers, of the armed forces for their decision to place country above self.

This may be the most politically incorrect thing I’ve said in a long time, but honestly, as you hear stories of our boys fighting up close and personal - “face to face” one commander said - with those killers, don’t you have just a little touch of envy, wishing you could be the one avenging those we lost on September 11? Kind of Old-Testament-ish of me, but what can I say, it’s how I feel.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2002

‘Creation’ evolves into a science?

I don’t tread into this arena lightly. The last time I wrote a column on the creationism-in-schools debate, I received dozens of letters to the editor, was the subject of sermons across the county where I worked at the time, and was called everything but The Devil Incarnate - oh wait, I was called that, too.

Even so, the subject has reared its ugly head in Ohio once again, and I cannot in good conscience, as a Christian and as a person who accepts the scientific method and its results, let the proposal go unchallenged.

I won’t go into all the details here; any one can look at a fossil or consider the breeds of dogs or read about the latest animal cloned and understand that biology, for all its wonders, falls well within the bounds of science. Rather, it seems the confusion usually concerns the reason creationism is NOT science, and what that conclusion means.

Creationism (or intelligent design or any other euphemisms used for the concept that life was made by a higher power) cannot be proven false. By contrast, evolution could be proven false tomorrow if an anatomically modern human skeleton was found inside the stomach cavity of a Tyrannosaurus rex; that is, if fossils showed that life has not changed over time, i.e., “evolved.”

But the fossil record clearly shows life has changed over time. That’s what evolution is. Natural selection, Charles Darwin’s theory of how those changes occurred, is the best explanation of what the fossil record demonstrates. But that theory could also be overturned if evidence indicated some other method was at work causing life to evolve over time.

Creationism, by contrast, could never be proven false. Fossils show change over time? Well, that’s the way God did things. Dinosaurs found with feathers? It doesn’t indicate a relation to birds, God just made them that way. The same genetic code used by all living beings? God’s basic design was perfect for all.

Let’s suppose that scientists discovered some kind of rabbit living in the mountains of Nepal that had a genetic code completely different than any other living thing on earth. The find would shake all of evolutionary-based biology to its core. What would it do to creationism? Well, God felt those rabbits needed a special system due to their circumstances, so that’s why their genetic code is different. Creationism moves on intact.

Now, all this is not meant to disprove anyone’s belief in creation by God. Rather, it is meant to point out the fact that this is a BELIEF. Just as God’s existence cannot be proven by science, so the things God has done cannot be proven by science. God and all His actions belong in the realm of faith. Unfortunately, faith is exactly what must be set aside to scientifically investigate and understand the mechanics of the physical world in which we live.

To force creationism into a science classroom not only blurs the principles upon which scientific inquiry is based, it cheapens the spiritual beliefs of the young minds it is supposedly meant to help. It tells young people, “Faith isn’t good enough.” What a dark and depressing path to espouse.

A favorite philosopher (one I share with George W., by the way) once said:
“You believe because you have seen. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe.”

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Oops, I did it

Well I'll be ... I wandered aimlessly into the HTML and came out of the wilderness alive - and actually got the e-mail link where I wanted it. I guess even the Ol' Diesetter can learn a new trick or two now and then.

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Still Learning

I'm still trying to figure out how to play around with my template here, in particular, to add in a link for my e-mail address. Any suggestions, let me know. In the meantime, don't be surprised if you check out this site tonight and see something strange like all caps or my name repeated 10,000 times.

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Media Bias

As a member of the journalism community, I want to tell you something: The media is biased. Now, you knew that already, I understand, but the point is that I, as a journalist, admitted it.
More to the point, I myself am biased. Just as you are biased, your uncle in Kunkle is biased and your dear sweet Aunt Emily, the one who makes the wonderful oatmeal-raisin cookies, is biased.
All human beings carry within themselves the sum total of their experiences. Those experiences bias their outlook on everything from toilet paper brands to favorite books to - politics.
Journalism, however, is a field dedicated to seeking the truth, wherever the story may lead. Its ideal is (as they say on Fox News) “fair and balanced” reporting. However, it is not, and can never be, “unbiased” - at least until robots take all our jobs. And even then, I’m not so sure.
The key difference between “fair and balanced” and “unbiased” is that the former admits its humanity, allowing the consumer to consider that factor with the reporting involved, while the latter does not, depriving the consumer the context of the reporting. This is deceptive, and the antithesis of what journalists should be striving to achieve.
In a small-town paper like The Leader, it’s easy for readers to know where I’m coming from. Read my columns and you’ll see I’m a politically independent conservative with some libertarian tendencies. You can also tell by the stories I, as editor, choose to run and the angles at which they study particular issues. That, in particular, is where my own bias must be offset by fair and balanced reporting. With the help of a great staff and observant readers, I hope to achieve that ideal. But if I were to claim my reporting is “unbiased,” not only would it be deceptive to the very people upon whom I rely for my living, it would fail the standards of journalism all in the industry claim to revere.
That is why it is so jarring, and disappointing, to hear members of the media claim there is no “bias” in their coverage. It displays a callous attitude toward what the mainstream media considers an unenlightened and easily duped public. However, polls, the success of books critical of media bias and the meteoric rise of new media suggest the public sees through the “unbiased” claim rather clearly. The mainstream media’s refusal to do any self-evaluation in response to the criticism only assures its rapid descent.
One other thing: Contrary to what many people say, I feel it is a good thing that most journalists have a liberal slant. Let’s face it, there are plenty of problems in the world, and exposure of these problems is the stock and trade of liberal journalism. That is a wonderful, necessary service: Knowing our challenges is the first step in overcoming them.

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Tuesday, March 05, 2002

The Anti-Polyannas

Is it just me, or does it seem like the war whiners have an innate, God-given ability to make “criticisms” at the precise moment before their words are proven false or irrelevant. In Greek mythology, Polyanna was the woman who could predict the future 100% accurately, but no one would believe her. These “critics” predict the future 100% inaccurately, yet the media keeps coming back for more.

A short (and admittedly incomplete) timeline may help:
Early November - The critics insist the air war is a failure and must be stopped for Ramadan and/or thousands of U.S. ground troops must be sent in; over the next few days, the Northern Alliance drives the shell of what’s left of the Taliban out of 90% of Afghanistan.
Early December - The critics say the battle for Kandahar is likely to be a drawn-out, bloody battle requiring, you guessed it, thousands of U.S. ground troops and will take weeks to months. It took days to a week, and required almost no U.S. troops.
Early March - Some Democrats come out full bore calling for an “exit strategy” and wonder aloud why Bush hasn’t consulted them on the “next phases” of the war. Almost simultaneously, the largest U.S. ground operation of the entire Afghan campaign commences, with American troops and their Afghan allies cornering a few hundred desperate al Qaeda willing to fight to the death.

These “criticisms” all looked to damage the Bush team’s credibility without actually offering anything to debate. Just as the advantage they seek through the statements is political, so too their own danger: If events do not follow their dire warnings, these whiners look both incompetent and partisan. The Dems don’t understand why they keep sinking across the board in the polls, but it sure seems clear to me: They are bogged down in a quagmire of negative, destructive politics, and can’t seem to find their way out. Politically speaking, this mind set is the Democrats’ Vietnam.

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Monday, March 04, 2002

Questioning the war

More of a full column here than a blog. Sorry, but when it flows, it flows.
I said it before and I’ll say it again, there are some very legitimate questions to be asked concerning the “next phase” in the war on terrorism. Even I, a full-hearted supporter of the war and all its stated goals, would like to see these concerns addressed. It sharpens the thinking, the planning and the implementation, and that can only be to America’s benefit. So, while some leading Democrats and liberal pundits in the media focus on politicizing the debate, trying to seem critical and supportive at the same time without asking any question that could actually be answered, I have decided to step in with some concerns of my own.
1. Will the “phases” of this war be consecutive or concurrent? That is, will we be sending special forces into several countries to root out al Qaeda, then considering bigger operations (regime change) in Iraq (or elsewhere), or are we planning to march to Baghdad while at the same time operating in several other countries with smaller forces? The answer to this question has real implications for our ability to supply and support field troops - the military “tail” issue.
2. Even though it is obvious we don’t want to occupy Afghanistan or, once it is taken, Iraq long-term, do we have a contingency to stabilize those countries with large numbers of our own troops or with the help of allies? Of course, we hope, perhaps even believe, that local allies with the support of some international peacekeepers will be enough to keep things relatively calm over the next few years as more amiable governments solidify in those countries. But we can’t be sure that will be the case, and a degeneration into anarchy would both invite a return presence by al Qaeda and would destabilize regional situations (i.e., Pakistan-India, Israel-Palestine, Iran, Chechnya), making future problems more likely.
3. How can we best utilize the assistance of key allies, and strengthen relationships with other countries who have similar international goals? Despite what you may hear, Britain and the rest of Europe are 100% behind this war. Even Russia is siding with us more times than not. However, individuals in several governments overseas (and those pesky pundits) have been much sharper in their criticism, largely because America’s plans seem unclear. The huge technology and power gap between America’s military and that of any other country make this America’s war to fight, whether we like it or not. Actually, more to the point, we like it that way - they do not. It’s not that we don’t want help from our allies; they simply are unable to provide much battlefield support to today’s American soldier. Therefore, we prefer not to have our allies “get in the way” and risk greater casualties or loss of strategic superiority for the sake of “multilateralism.” On the other hand, our allies, though not seeking bloodshed, do wish to see themselves as an integral part to the enforcement of the world’s moral values.
Look at it this way. In 1991 - just 11 years ago - dozens of nations joined our coalition in troop numbers large and small to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Even then, American soldiers were better equipped and prepared for battle, but by and large, troops from other countries could march on the same battlefield as Americans and contribute directly to the application of force.
Today, only Britain, Australia, Canada, France and Germany have ANY combat forces which can be used in conjunction with America’s military, and those only in small numbers. Communication is the key to the modern battlefield, and the troops of other nations are a generation behind America’s soldier. Along with all the other things Afghanistan has taught us, it is clear that the communication gap makes friendly-fire accidents - American forces firing on ill-equipped allied troops unable to communicate their identity - a deadly reality. Therefore, until they catch up, it may be safer for allies to fight only in their own zones of combat than to join us in our intricate maneuvers.
That, however, leaves allies feeling powerless to shape the direction of the war. They are, after all, sovereign nations, and would like to be considered equals. The “consultation” and “multilateralism” disputes would be irrelevant if they were on the same battlefield with us, making decisions, offering relevant military advice and placing their men and women in harms way. But they are not, and so they find themselves on the sidelines as the West - their West - faces its largest threat since the Cold War.
This is an important issue, not just for diplomatic reasons, but for the obvious fact that, the song not withstanding, this is not a small world. The aid of our allies, old and new, will be critical to keeping heels on the throats of terrorists. That aid will also be critical in encouraging democracy, human rights and free markets where they do not exist - the surest way to create a peaceful world. That’s not a job for the military, that is a job for all democracies. The key is to build in our allies a feeling of ownership in that goal.

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It was soooooo cold this morning:
- The red-winged blackbirds were playing a recorded version of their songs.
- The turkeys at Ace Corners were begging to be roasted.
- A small group of highly intelligent raccoons successfully used flint to start a fire.
- My hen duck deposited an egg that was frozen before she layed it.
- The lion was cuddled up to the lamb.
Alright, I admit, that’s exaggerating a bit. But hey, when it isn’t until MARCH 4 that the temperature gauge at National Bank of Montpelier reads “0-degrees,” I think I have a right to stretch things a little.

By the way, I’m typing this one-handed ... the other is still frozen to the Dodge’s steering wheel.

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Saturday, March 02, 2002
Hey, how about that! I finally look at my blog on my home computer (a PC), and SHAZZAM! There's a hypertext link button right there for me to use! Now, I know that was not there on my work Mac's screen. I'm tellin' ya, Macs would be known as the poor guy's computer if they didn't cost TWICE AS MUCH! What a big, heapin', steamin' pile o' ....

Sorry about the little rant. Anyway, hey look, it's snowing outside! I thought it was supposed to be rain here in Montpelier. Oops, I spoke too soon. It's starting to change to rain, even as I write. Oh well, like I said in Along the Tracks, I'm ready for spring anyway. By the way, I saw half a dozen wild turkeys at Ace Corners again yesterday. I think it must be one of their knew hangouts. If any of you have some interesting wildlife sightings you'd like to pass along, send 'em my way,

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Friday, March 01, 2002
Wow! I’ve tried to post this blurb TWICE now, and both times it’s been lost. Lesson learned - from now on, I’m typing my post separately and then pasting it in later. I don’t know for certain, but considering all the other problems we have around here, I’m suspecting my computer. I really hate Macs.

Anyway, I recently finished this piece ( - sorry, I haven’t figured out how to do links) on The Nation website by Jordan Moss. The article’s focus is the latest stars in the anti-war movement, family members (a few, anyway) of the victims of Sept. 11. Moss wraps up the piece by noting “reasonable conservative” callers to O’Reilly voiced support for, if not agreement with, the leader of the anti-war group which appeared on “The Factor.” Imagine that? Polite conservatives who listened to a policy discussion and gave credit to a guest with whom they did not necessarily agree. What media liberals like Moss don’t seem to understand is that almost all real policy discussion between war and anti-war proponents has occurred on conservative outlets. Indeed, there are some conservatives who are against the war. The liberals’ brethren in the media shamelessly focus on political mudslinging, passionately avoiding any real policy discussion. And the liberal mags and websites don’t really debate, they just preach.

Until liberal commentators actually investigate the policy arguments which favor military action, they will be unable to offer any reasonable alternatives. And when they are shocked to find conservatives are “reasonable,” it merely shows they have no intention of actually listening to conservatives on a regular basis to discover the logical arguments they espouse.

Maybe Moss’s little admission is a sign that things are changing - but I doubt it.

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Senator Tom Daschle has decided it’s time to show his leadership ability and start tearing down the president in the midst of a war:
"I don't think it would do anybody any good to second-guess what has been done to date," Senator Daschle, the majority leader, told reporters Thursday. "I think it has been successful. I've said that on many, many occasions. But I think the jury's still out about future success."
"I think there is expansion without at least a clear direction," he added.

Let’s dissect this foggy attack on current U.S. policy, shall we?

“I don't think it would do anybody any good to second-guess what has been done to date.”
Insincere. It would do a great deal of good for Republicans if Daschle had the audacity to “second-guess” our response in Afghanistan and efforts on the intelligence, financial and law-enforcement fronts. After all, the Taliban is gone, al Qaeda is running scared and, most importantly, there have been no new terrorist attacks on Americans. Indeed, several planned attacks have been foiled and their perpetrators brought to justice. What Daschle meant to say is it would do him no good, politically, to second-guess the president.

“I think it has been successful. I’ve said that on many, many occasions.”
Daschle says here that it is his analysis that things have gone well so far. His analysis could be wrong, because mean old George W. hasn’t kept him instantly updated on everything. So if things start looking a little shaky, his analysis can - and will - change. “By the way,” Daschle adds defensively, “you pesterers in the press need to stop asking me what I think about our success. That just forces me to admit Bush has been doing a good job. Not helpful at all.”

“But I think the jury’s still out about our future success.”
Here, the good senator goes out on a limb and ventures into metaphysics: Our “future success” has not already been decided. Thank you, philosopher-king, for that nugget of knowledge. The president’s strategy is failing because we don’t already know how and when we are going to win this war. Very insightful.

“I think there is expansion without at least a clear direction.”
On September 20, 2001, George W. Bush said we would fight this war on multiple fronts, sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes with big military actions, sometimes with small, quick hits. Daschle stood, applauded, and after the speech, hugged the president. Did he not listen, not understand or just conveniently forget what he so ardently agreed with less than six months ago?

Look, it’s easy to discern the difference between a sincere policy disagreement and a bald-faced political attack: Look for specifics. Policy disagreements are based on specifics. Things like, “We shouldn’t be in the Philippines because Abu Sayyef is not a terrorist group, but just a band of local thugs” or “We shouldn’t attack Iraq until we’ve used the resources of the coalition to their fullest in tracking down and dismantling al Qaeda.” A political attack uses shadowy differences and truisms to tear down the other side without offering any serious alternatives. Things like, “Our strategy seems unclear” or “We don’t know what the future holds.”

Policy disagreements add value to the debate by forcing each side to defend its position with facts and logic. Political attacks subtract from real debate by forcing responses to vague criticisms for which there really are no answers. Political back-and-forth then develops a life of its own, never offering clarity for the exercise.

How can George W. answer Daschle’s “criticism?” Let me try.

“I don't think it would do anybody any good to second-guess what has been done to date.”
Bush: “I strongly encourage Senator Daschle to offer a prime time speech, certain to be picked up by the networks, second-guessing the war to date.”

“I think it has been successful. I’ve said that on many, many occasions.”
Bush: “Could you repeat that for the folks at home? Again? Again?”

“But I think the jury’s still out about our future success.”
Bush: “Actually, I’ve contacted three phone-psychics, two Vegas oddsmakers and some guy from Armenia that reads the entrails of goats. Don’t worry. We’re good.”

“I think there is expansion without at least a clear direction.”
Bush: “Here is a map of the world. All those little red dots are known or suspected terrorist strongholds. Those arrows aimed at the biggest concentrations of dots point the direction we are going. Comprende?”

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