Along the Tracks

Friday, November 29, 2002

Times ‘independence’

The New York Times’ argument that Kissinger isn’t “independent” enough to lead the 9/11 investigation is real hoot, considering what “independent” has come to mean in Rainesian terms.

Setting aside the Times’ complaint, which centers on the administration’s reluctance to establish such a commission in the first place, I think there is something else going on with Bush’s management of this whole process. I believe he and his advisers wanted to get a thorough classified congressional investigation first, a nuts-and-bolts effort that actually would find where problems existed and suggest remedies - all without the drip-drip-drip of revelations in the media. The effort wasn’t entirely successful, as certain leaked memos attest, but basically did the job. Now, with an independent investigation, the media can have its little circus, but with emotional temperatures cooled by time.

Also, I think the administration really was trying to “hide” something, or at least delay its release: the malfeasance of the Clinton administration. Bush didn’t want to get into partisan finger-pointing in the year after September 11. He wanted to maintain unity on the war and have an opportunity to focus the mid-term elections on “directional” issues like the war, homeland security, taxes - agenda items that are part of his overall vision for America, rather than the “whose fault” arguments inevitably to arise from an open, independent investigation.

Now, he has named a respected hand known for his realism and willingness to criticize the present administration (as last summer’s Kissinger op-ed proposing limitations on the Iraq policy attests). Kissinger and team (which already includes former Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell) will dig up a lot of bones. They have just nine months worth of burials in the Bush administration's yard. They’ve got eight years of bodies in Clinton’s.

P.S. - As a little proof on this theory of mine, look at the recent revelation that the FBI halted an investigation of Saudi royals funding al Qaeda. What is almost never mentioned is when the investigation was stopped: Late in 2000, when Bill Clinton was president. There will be a lot more of such dereliction found, I’ll bet.

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United with us

The Washington Post story on the terrorist attacks against Israelis in Kenya yesterday featured an important quote (way down in the story, unfortunately) that shows much of what I and others have been saying about residents of the Third World is true: They love America for what it stands for, appreciate the investment - and determined grit - of Israel, and want to become closer to the West, not wallow in squalor forced upon them by corrupt leadership, or worse, move antagonistically further from the ideals the West espouses, through domination by Islamic fanatics.

The reporter was interviewing villagers at the town where the Israelis thought they were enjoying a respite from the constant threat of terror in their own country. During the discussion, a group of them started shouting, "We love America. Go away al Qaeda."

Are the leftists - who defend the Islamic murderers overpowering these innocent men and women caught in the middle - listening?

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Another sad surrender

After daily grovelling by Nigeria’s This Day newspaper in an effort to halt the murderous Islamic rioters, triggered by that paper’s “offensive” article defending the Miss World pageant’s choice of Nigeria as host, the organizers have stood up publically and blamed the riots on ... the newspaper!

Meanwhile, one of Nigeria’s Islamist-dominated state governments has issued a fatwa ordering the death of the journalist who wrote the offending story.

I prefer the realm of debate, the “marketplace of ideas,” if you will, but I simply cannot fathom the defense the Left continues to give to these murderers and their absolutely horrid ideology. It really gets down to the basics of human decency: If a verbal affront warrants a rampage of bloodshed by some “offended other,” what is taboo? And if nothing is taboo (as indeed seems to be the case), why should there be any limits on our own actions? Why not bomb them all to hell now?

Ultimately, relativism must degenerate into a free-for-all at its conclusion. Is that the world the Left would see born?

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Beauties with blood on their hands

At least that's the Guardian's take on the Nigerian riots which, some estimates now say, killed as many as 500 people.

According to the Guardian, the Miss World organizers and contestants displayed insensitivity to the Islamists who stone raped women for sex out of wedlock and beat girls who wear slacks in public. The trigger, of course, was the newspaper article which directed humor at the humorless, saying Mohammed himself might have chosen a wife from among the contestants. This, the Guardian says, shows just how out of touch culturally the Western world has become. Small problem: The newspaper is Nigerian, and its writers have had to deal with Muslims, Christians and animists for their entire existence, not just in their writing, but in their daily lives. The newspaper is "Western" only in the sense that freedom of the press and speech are Western ideals. This however, is precisely the Guardian's point:

"Those rioting on the streets of Kaduna were not members of al-Qaida but they had no hesitation in attacking what they see as western values.
In such a world we should think carefully about what values we want to parade."

The principle of relativism in operation - appeasement - could not be stated more clearly.

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Monday, November 18, 2002

Philosophical cleaning

Everywhere these days, it seems, I find reference to the “dustbin of history.” This or that will be swept or tossed (sometimes, “relegated” - relegated?) into the “dustbin of history.” Where is this dustbin? I have some philosophical cleaning to do, and I was wondering wear to put my sweepings and other refuse.

Anyway, is a dustbin much different than a plain-old waste basket? Is there a limit to the size of things you put in a dustbin? Must they be biodegradable - are pop cans and plastics a no-no? If so, are there philosophical parallels? “You can’t toss liberalism into the dustbin of history! It will always be around!” Is there a special bin for “recycled” philosophies - you know, like fascism recycled into Islamism?

And what happens when the dustbin is full? Out in rural America, we have these old metal drums we call “burn barrels.” We empty our wastebaskets (and dustbins, I suppose) full of “burnables” into our burn barrels and light ‘em up, condensing our trash into handy little piles of ash. Can one do the same thing with the “dustbin of history,” once it’s full - just toss it all into “history’s burn barrel”?

Hey, when history’s burn barrel is full, can I just dump it onto the “ashheap of history”?

Just wondering. Sorry, it’s a Monday.

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Shoring up the left’s arguments

Saturday on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition,” commentator Daniel Shores offered a new theory on the connection between Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein: Whereas there was no original relationship, Bush’s aggressive rhetoric has driven them together.

So, according to Shores, Bush’s bellicosity has created a danger where none existed before. If Bush would simply have kept quiet about the dangers of mass destruction weapons in the hands of terrorists, and ignored Saddam’s development of such weapons, everything would be fine and dandy. The dangers we now face are all Bush’s fault.

They’d have never thought of it themselves, Shores implies - and now, if something terrible involving NBC weapons does happen, the libs can pin it on Bush.

Thank goodness, the American public is smarter than that - as proven November 5.

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Choices of our choosing

Liberals are “pro-choice,” right? Well, that depends on the what’s being chosen.

In today’s “Washington Talk,” New York Times writer David Rosenbaum comes up with a remarkable equation: allowing parents choice in their children’s education is the same as outlawing a woman’s choice to end her pregnancy. And according to Rosenbaum, it’s only arcane Senate rules which might stop the evil Republicans from avoiding a Democratic filibuster and implementing both of the above.

In a piece apparently meant to be a “news analysis,” (although that’s not explicitly stated) about Democratic fears that the filibuster may be inneffective in stopping Republican Senate initiatives, thanks to “reconciliation bills,” the Rosenbaum explains:

“The main constraint to putting the kitchen sink — say, allowing school vouchers or outlawing abortion — into a reconciliation bill is the Byrd Rule, named after the Senate's chief parliamentary scold, Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia.”

So, let me get this straight. There should be absolute choice in abortion, and absolute lack of choice in education. Very consistent.

Very liberal.

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Friday, November 15, 2002

Liberal hate on display, literally

More liberal hate, link courtesy of Drudge.

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The low drone of Daschle

Hey, what's that noise? A horsefly? No, no, too cold for that. A yellowjacket? Possibly, but it seems less threatening, more whining. A gnat? Maybe.

Wait! I know, it's Tom Daschle talking about the "failure" of the war on terrorism. Let me think ... the last time I heard that sound, a major offensive was just getting underway, and news reports were about a day behind the action - making Daschle look like a fool. Oh, and we lost 14 soldiers right about at the time Daschle was droning on "Meet the Press" that sad and difficult Sunday. Right, now I remember.

If Daschle is still wondering why his Democrats were pummeled last week, all he needs to do is look at his own quotes. There is a big difference between constructive, if harsh, criticism, and bellyaching for the sake of hearing one's own voice. Daschle needs to learn how to distinguish - or better yet, not learn and be forced off the political stage by braver men and women willing to take real stands and offer real alternatives.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Still waiting ...

Tonight, it will be three weeks since the arrest of the accused Washington snipers, John Allen Mohammad and John Malvo. My question: Why do we still know so little about them? Sure, we know a few things - they were homeless, Malvo is a quiet kid and a Jamaican immigrant, Malvo may have been the shooter in several deaths, Mohammad is a Gulf War vet who has been credited with some anti-American statements, he has made a number of international trips despite his supposed poverty. Still, why have the national media largely ignored this story - the accused snipers' background? Why no scoops on Malvo's previous life in Jamaica? Why no stories from fellow soldiers on Muhammad's army service? Why nothing on all those international trips? Why no investigation of apparent anti-Semitic views, since they are accused of shooting into a synogogue?

I hate to say it, but it seems like the national media is intentionally finding and presenting nothing more because of one big thing we do know: Mohammad, in some way at least (note the name), was Muslim. There are apparently certain journalistic paths no one dares follow in deferrence to PC ideals of courtesy to non-Judeo-Christian beliefs. That, I fear, is why we are in the dark.

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Friday, November 08, 2002


After two months of intense negotiating, aka backroom deal-making, the UN Security Council has voted 15-0 in favor of a resolution setting a new inspections regime for Iraq with tight deadlines, and stating any non-compliance is a "material breach" of the resolution, setting the stage for military action.

So, three days after getting what he wanted from American voters, George W. Bush has gotten what he wanted from the United Nations, answering in full all the critics of his "unilateralist" Iraq policy.

A good week, I'd say.

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Thursday, November 07, 2002

A little help for the Democrats

A special preview of Saturday's column in the Bryan Times:

Voters provided Democrats a harsh critique in last week’s elections. Will the party learn? And will it change?
The early returns on these questions are not encouraging.

Scapegoating is always the favorite pastime of losers, but in this instance, there are a few goats that do need to go. First and foremost, the party of “campaign finance reform” and “corporate accountability” must cut off its titular head, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe, placed in the post by Bill Clinton, is a fundraising dynamo not above skirting regs and digging loopholes, and has the added bonus of being the beneficiary of millions of dollars in stock largesse through the now-bankrupt Global Crossing - oh yes, he sold his stock in the nick of time. It’s hard to be the party of reform while being led by someone who so desperately needs reform.

Congressional heads should roll, and are rolling, as well. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is perhaps the most sensible Democrat in a position of leadership; nonetheless he has wisely chosen to step aside, his struggle to maintain cohesion on the Hill having crippled his desire to provide vision outside the Beltway.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is a far more woeful figure. Under his “leadership,” only two items of popular consequence (the previously-mentioned campaign finance and corporate accountability bills) were enacted by the Senate - but the bipartisan nature of passage (along with the questionable ethics of high-profile Democrats - also see above) denied the Dems any identification with the issues, while also preventing use of the topics on the campaign trail. Beyond that, Daschle’s Senate Democrats appeared to be the party of stalemate or evasion on issue after issue: homeland security, prescription drugs, court appointments, defense spending, the budget, economic stimulus, Iraq, pre-emption - the list could go even further into the minutia of governance, but the point is clear. For the Senate Democrats to have a new image, they need a new face.

Tuesday’s results were not only a repudiation of those presently in power. Fritz Mondale’s loss in Minnesota was a stunner; and note, in almost every locale where Bill Clinton and Al Gore campaigned, the Democrats lost. With minor exceptions, former Clintonites - at least the few that got past primary challenges - were soundly defeated. The call for change is clear.
What is not so clear is how that change should be shaped.

The Democratic Leadership Council, birthplace of the Third Way and Clinton’s tactical governing methods, calls for more centrism. It is hard to see how this formula can win; “centrism” is, almost by definition, valueless and poll driven. The center is where one moves in order to compromise and develop consensus on initiatives; it is no place from which to start. Indeed, Clinton’s political successes came not from proposing centrist initiatives, but through a willingness to move to the center to advance popular proposals. George W. Bush has employed the same policy, but from the right. Still, for the tactic to work, their must be a higher strategy which sets priorities and contains a larger vision for America. The DLC provides a toolbox, but no car.

The left-wing, self-proclaimed “progressives,” are at least honest in offering a principled vision. Unfortunately for the Democrats, it is the vision of ‘60s radicalism. The left can’t accept its successes or its failures. It offers but one rallying cry: “More!” More government, more entitlements, more income redistribution, more limits to American power abroad - these are the themes of the 2002 “progressive.” Yet they are all decidedly regressive - a 1972 Ford LTD on blocks, nostalgic, perhaps, but not pretty and going nowhere.

So where should the Democrats go? Well, this conservative would humbly offer the following suggestions:

1. Reform. This is a timeless populist theme. Abuses of power will inevitably occur in any human enterprise; the Democrats must re-establish themselves as the party of fair play. This does, of course, include further action on corporate governance and financial markets, as well as political fundraising, but must also be consistent in areas where the Democrats have slipped badly, such as election law reform, welfare reform, tax reform, Social Security and Medicare reform, and other entitlement (including farm policy) reform. A consistent move toward establishing individual accountability and a level playing field would go a long way toward drawing moderates and perhaps even some conservatives back into the Democratic fold, while attracting liberals with the deeper principles.

2. Health care. This issue is bubbling under the surface again, as a weaker economy and the renewed growth in health care costs have combined to pinch the middle class and completely shut out lower-income families. If the Democrats can learn from the debacle of socialized “Hillary-care” and develop a comprehensive plan which maintains individual patient rights and responsibilities while reducing family costs and guaranteeing some coverage for the poor, they will have a winning issue by 2004.

3. Foreign policy. The framing of the Iraq debate was enlightening; the Democratic “yes”-Senators seemed to hang onto George W. less like a fine coat and more like leeches. Nibbling and nit-picking does not a policy make. The lesson many Democrats seem loath to learn is this: Americans do not like to be slaughtered in their own streets. A bold foreign policy does not have to mean acquiescence to pre-emption, but it does mean a willingness to exert American power to protect her interests, regardless of world opinion. FDR, Truman, Kennedy, even Johnson, were unafraid to wield the sword in the cause of right; until Democrats are clearly willing to do the same today, the American people will not trust them in times of danger.

If the Democratic Party coalesces around the above themes, with strong new voices to proclaim them, even this voter might be tempted to rejoin the party of Jefferson.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2002

On those predictions ...

I know, I know - poor math on my part, where the Senate race is concerned. I was tired. It was Monday. WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

Ah, well, the gist of it was correct: Talent and Coleman won, the GOP gained in the House and took the Senate (although four GOP pickups minus two losses would yield a 51-48-1 balance - I used my computer's calculator today :-) ), and most importantly, the Montpelier levy passed. My numbers were "hedgy" - I guess I didn't want any potential voters to be overconfident. A 3-1 margin is spectacular. Montpelier is now poised for growth in the next decade - what a great feeling!

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More from the ‘religion of peace’

What papers does this guy read? Anytime an abortion doctor is shot, headlines scream “Christian fundamentalist guns down doctor.” And - assuming the person who shoots is actually a Christian fundamentalist - the media is perfectly correct in doing so. The motive behind a crime is a key part of the story. If that motive is based on religious belief, people have a right to know that.

Ebrahim Moosa, the author of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece, asks why Muslims need to “apologize” when Muslims kill us. Note to Ebrahim: Nobody is asking you or any other Muslim to apologize; we know you didn’t do the killing and maiming and bombing, and we don’t blame you for it. But what we do expect you to do is use your influence within your own community by speaking out against the use of Islam as a defense for barbarity.

When an abortion provider is shot, fifty microphones appear before the faces of Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson. What do they say? That killing - all killing - is sinful and an abomination; and that no cause, no matter how well founded in Christian beliefs, justifies cold-blooded murder.

How many people have been wounded or killed by anti-abortion nuts? A couple dozen, maybe. And Christian fundamentalists and their leaders have been forced to respond to every one - rightly so. By my count, Islamic leaders need to face the same questions a couple thousand more times, and keep facing them with every new atrocity.

The ‘hijacked religion’ fallacy

President Bush, way back in the hours after the September 11 attacks, decided to accept a false premise in an effort to avoid stirring anti-Muslim sentiment: The terrorists and their masters had “hijacked” a noble, peaceful faith. Look at what the leaders in the Muslim world say - about infidels, about Jews, about America - and you can see this “hijack” theory is simply not true. Or, maybe a better way to put it, the theory is too restrictive in defining who has “hijacked” Islam. As I write in my upcoming Leader column, the real “hijackers” are the Wahabbist imams and radical Shi’a clerics in Iran and people like hate-monger Louis Farrakhan. The terrorists and their sympathizers are merely the enforcers keeping the passengers - the majority of Muslims - in their seats while they fly to destruction.

It will take a passenger revolt, a la Flight 93, to overcome the religion’s hijackers and put Islam back on a safe trajectory, true to its internal values and history.

Mr. Moosa, it’s high time for you and fellow members of your faith to answer the call, “Let’s roll.”

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The Face of the Democrats

Did you see Sen. Tom Daschle, Democrat and majority, er, make that minority, leader on ABC’s “Good Morning America”? Charlie Gibson couldn’t stop saying how bad poor Tom looked - if Daschle had been in the same room (rather than by telelink), I think ol’ Charlie would have poked him with a stick to be sure he was alive.

I’ve seen disappointment before, but that was quite a display. You almost expected to hear the ABC Sports theme sound and Jim McKay start talking about “the thrill of victory ... and the agony of defeat.”

Remember, this was an election you lost, Tom, not a battle with space aliens bent on eating human livers. Things are still close in Congress, so the switch isn’t that momentous, and besides, in another two years, you can go out there and make another go at it. Use Tuesday’s results as a learning experience for your party. The lessen? STAND FOR SOMETHING.

The Times explains the election

The lead editorial in today’s New York Times is chicken soup for the left’s soul: Don’t worry, voters didn’t back Republican policies or plans or even candidates. They just blindly followed a popular president. Your message is still good; don’t worry your pretty little heads a bit.

The piece is loaded down with horse-hockey, but my favorite chunk flung at the wall was this:

“The president’s party denied Senate Democrats the chance to pass popular bills on prescription drugs for the elderly and the establishment of a Department of Homeland Security by adding political poison pills the Democrats couldn't swallow.”

Those mean, nasty Republicans pissed directly in our cornflakes!

Never mind that the Senate was controlled by Democrats, who could have passed anything they wanted (if they had been united themselves) and invited conference gridlock or a mean-spirited presidential veto.

P.S. - Another sticky meadow muffin in the editorial came in a close second to the above:

“New Jersey, where the 78-year-old former senator Frank Lautenberg jumped into the race and saved a seat that was in the process of being lost by Senator Robert Torricelli, was a victory for the Senate ethics law, which Mr. Lautenberg had helped write and Mr. Torricelli had flouted.”

The extra-legal maneuver of the year was a “victory” for ethics? Puh-leeeeze!

P.S.S - I just can’t end this without mentioning the last paragraph, talking about voters resenting they were “cut out” of crucial decisions, and that the victors better remember all those people who voted against them. Somehow, I don’t recall seeing any similar sentiments when Jim Jeffords jumped parties a year and a half ago, handing Senate power to the minority Democrats.

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I'm Mr. Lonely

On the day after Election 2002, the loneliest man in America is ... Jim Jeffords.

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Monday, November 04, 2002

Prediction time

A fair number of people have asked for my prediction on the election ... as one so opinionated, I guess I can't weasel out of it. So here goes:

The BIG ONE: Montpelier's school bond issue PASSES by a 55-45 count, a little close for my taste, but a win for the town nonetheless.

Other items of interest ( :-) : The U.S. House of Representatives not only stays in Republican hands, but the GOP gains seats, now holding a 224-211 majority. The U.S. Senate switches to the Republicans, with the GOP holding a 52-47-1 advantage when the dust settles Wednesday morning - including the instant bonanza of BOTH Jim Talent (Mo.) and Norm Coleman (Minn.) getting sworn in immediately. Overall, GOP wins four Dem seats but loses two of its own for the above final.

Unfortunately, we do face another four years of the dismal Taft administration in Ohio. But hang on conservatives, your time will come - for then it's Blackwell! Blackwell! Blackwell!

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Friday, November 01, 2002

Internal/external world

John Derbyshire’s column on National Review Online covers a lot of territory, and well, but what caught my eye was this reference to an A. E. Housman poem which uses art to explore the meaning of reality. To wit, is the outside world of buildings and trees and people which we contact through our senses “real” and “unending,” or is it really the internal world which continues on past death?

This subject is among the many I feel the need to explore with the recent suicide of a friend and relative - not so much to understand my own thoughts on the subject (both worlds are equally “real,” in my estimation), but rather, to understand his. Was he really trying to end his existence, or end the existence of an outside world he no longer wanted to be included in (as suggested by the poem), knowing full well he would continue on? Or was it both?

I don’t have any answer here, but the poem offered me a different way to look at this. Thanks, Mr. Housman. And thanks, Derb.

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