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    Friday, October 22, 2004

    Blogs, blogs, blogs 

    If, like me, you're becoming a bit of a blogoholic, check out the site I found a link to on the blog of mystery writer Roger L. Simon. It's like a table of contents for many popular blogs, which contains, in a very pleasing format, the highlights of the blogs' recent postings. I just bookmarked it.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 9:02 PM

    Free Iraq 

    I know this is pointless, trying to get people so caught up in the "Iraq is a quagmire" echo chamber to stop and consider the other side occasionally. Some people in Iraq actually want to be free and are glad we seem committed to that, too. And there are even Iraqi bloggers who are trying to get the word out.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 8:40 PM

    See John read 

    And I wouldn't be so smug about Bush and reading, either. Kerry isn't the gooodest speaker in the world, as it turns out.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 8:40 PM

    Who's the smartest? 

    Carol, I know your side gets a lot of yucks out of the way Dubya mangles the language, which gives you some credibility when you say he's dumb as a rock (or, as you suggest, doesn't even read). But you might want to check out this site that compares all the available test scores for Kerry and Bush (SATs, military exams, etc.) and tries go guage their intelligence. The whole thing is fascinating reading, but, bottom line: Probable Kerry IQ, 120. Probable Bush IQ, somewhere between 120 and 125. That puts them both in the 90th-percentile range, but Bush a little higher. (Just so you won't dismiss this as partisan ranting, Al Gore comes in in the high 130s, somewhere around the 99th percentile. Guess being smart isn't always helpful.)

    posted by Leo Morris at # 8:23 PM

    Take a gander 

    Best line about Kerry's Ohio photo op, from blogger Hugh Hewitt: "How do you ask a goose to be the last goose to die for a campaign stunt?"

    posted by Leo Morris at # 8:09 PM

    The kids are all right 

    Bad news for all of you banking on the youth vote going Kerry's way. Channel One, the in-school education network, just released the results of a nationwide poll it conducted of 1.4 million high school students. Bush got 393 electoral votes and 55 percent of the total. Kerry carried only nine states and the District of Columbia. All these kids will be voting soon, in fact about 2008, when Hillary Clinton will take on Rudy Giulianai (you saw it here first!). Start courting them now, Rudy.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 7:49 PM

    A real job 

    Tersa Heinz Kerry made a very dumb remark about Laura Bush never having had a real job, because she forgot about her time as a librarian and teacher. Teresa then apologized, which was classy, and Laura then said the apology wasn't necessary, which was even more gracious. The entire exchange was probably observed with more than a little chagrin by millions of stay-at-home moms, who, once upon a time were considered to have "real jobs" that were more than a little important. Many women who went into corporate suites have discovered it's difficult to really have it all and are returning to home and hearth. I wonder how they'll be voting? One trend that never really caught on was the "stay at home dad." I only know a couple, and at one point I supposed there would be a lot more. Men can't have it all, either; too many seem to make the wrong choice.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 7:37 PM

    Deeper and Deeper 

    Last week, David Chasteen of (a nonpartisan website run by Iraq war veterans) appeared on Air America Radio.

    One thing he said jumped out at me: Before the war, CIA types referred to a possible invasion of Iraq "elective surgery." That is, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and would be better removed, but the operation wasn't necessary to save life.

    I thought of that when I read two stories in today's New York Times.

    The first, on page 1, says that American officials now believe that, in Iraq, there are "significantly more (insurgency) fighters with greater financial resources than had been estimated.

    "When foreign fighters and the network of a Jordanian militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are counted with home-grown insurgents, the hard-core resistance numbers between 8,000 and 12,000 people, a tally that swells to more than 20,000 when active sympathizers or covert accomplices are included, according to the American officials.

    "These estimates contrast sharply with earlier intelligence reports, in which the number of insurgents has varied from as few as 2,000 to a maximum of 7,000 . . . .

    "In recent interviews, military and other tovernment officials in Iraq and Washington said the core of the Iraqi insurgency now consisted of as many as 50 militant cells that draw on 'unlimited money' from an underground financial network run by former Baath Party leaders and Saddam Hussein's relatives.

    "Their financing is supplemented in great part by wealthy Saudi donors and Islamic charities that funnel large sums of cash through Syria, according to these officials, who have access to detailed intelligence reports.

    And then there was Bob Herbert's column. In it, Herbert quotes a doctor in Germany who treats the wounded from Iraq:

    "As a neurosurgeon I mostly dealt with injuries to the brain, the spinal cord, or the spine itself. The injuries were all fairly horrific, anywhere from the loss of extremities, multiple extremities, to severe burns. It just goes on and on and on. ... As a doctor myself who has seen trauma throughout his career, I've never seen it to this degree. The numbers, the degree of injuries. It really kind of caught me off guard."

    And also in Herbert's column, a reference to a study from an Israeli think tank:

    "During the past year Iraq has become a major distraction from the global war on terrorism. Iraq has now become a convenient arena for jihad, which has helped Al Qaeda to recover (added emphasis) from the setback it suffered as a result of the war in Afghanistan. With the growing phenomenon of suicide bombing, the U.S. presence in Iraq now demands more and more assets that might have otherwise been deployed against various dimensions of the global terrorist threat."

    Not only was Iraq elective surgery, the American people did not give informed consent. If you were the patient, wouldn't you think of suing? (No wonder Bush is so hot to establish caps on damages.)

    But hey, in Bush's world, freedom's on the march, elections are in January, things are going great.

    Here at Reality Base, it looks like we're waist deep in the big muddy and -- the big fool says to push on.

    posted by Carol Towarnicky at # 6:33 PM

    Who's coming to Dinner?  

    Leo writes of his frustration at both campaigns attempts to frame their candidates as "regular guys."

    It reminded me of the Philadelphia Daily News' endorsement of Al Gore in 2000, in which we were compelled to write:

    "Gore should be running away with this election, but he isn't.

    "Why? If you ask the so-called 'swing' voters, it's because Bush is more 'likeable' than Gore. He's nicer, cuter, less annoying by far.

    "We know what they mean. There have been times - like Gore 's incomprehensible pander on the Elian Gonzalez case or his sneering, sighing performance in the first debate - when we would have reached into our TV set and shaken him hard.

    "But compared to what's at stake in this election, those faults just aren't important.

    "It is highly unlikely that any of you will ever have to have Gore over for dinner. It is likely that the skills and priorities of the man who is elected will have a direct impact on your life - when he commits U.S. troops to armed conflict; when he vetoes attempts to limit abortion rights or undo protections for the air you breathe and the water you drink; when he sets the direction of agencies that are supposed to protect citizens against unfair labor practices and against unsafe workplaces, food and consumer products."

    It's heartbreaking to read this now, especially the part about " . . . when he commits U.S. troops to armed conflict . . . ."

    But even in the "Sept. 12" world, too much is based on candidates being regular guys -- and, frankly, Bush usually wins.

    While I personally can't understand the attraction of socializing with someone like Bush who is proudly unread, incurious about the world and -- even worse -- thinks he's messenger of God, I guess others might.

    The Kerry camouflage and shotgun was mostly photo op, I agree -- although maybe it helped reduce the irrational fear that Democrats will outlaw hunting.

    But Kerry's devotion to the RED SOX, that's genuine. I mean, NOBODY in New England missed those games. Talk about a Massachusetts miracle.

    posted by Carol Towarnicky at # 5:53 PM

    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Regular Guys 

    I almost feel sorry for John Kerry, trudging through the damp, chill Ohio morning in his goofy camouflage jacket, looking for waterfowl and conservative voters, trying to convince us at this late date that he is just a Regular Guy with a .12-gauge and a dream of duck for dinner. And of course he had trouble working that trip in, since he’s had to devote so much time to rabidly rooting on his beloved Boston Red Sox ("Teresa! More nachos for my buds!"). I’m so glad to hear he will take his faith to the White House and let it guide him. ("Dear God, thank you for the United Nations, and may I always have its blessing.")

    As Election Day nears and both candidates get desperate for those last few undecided voters, I have visions of them finding even me, chasing me down at one of my Regular Guy diversions. Perhaps George Bush will want to sit in on one of my poker games. Those Texans never back down; they play the weak hands the same way they do the strong ones. I think I could lay back and play it cool, then bluff his socks off. And maybe Kerry would like to come bowling with me. I can help him quit leaving the 7-10 split (hint: quite hooking so much to the left), and we can bond during the white-wine frame.

    Or maybe they can hang out with me and learn ALL the Regular Guy stuff. They can help me rake the leaves from the lawn, then climb up to clear out the ones that landed in the gutter. Then they can help me rush the cat to the vet after he swallows the plastic wrapped around the newspaper. We can scrape the car windshield one frosty morning, then try to find a towing service open on Sunday after we run over a nail and find the spare is flat, too. They can hang out with me and argue the merits of economic policy and the environment while I do my laundry and write out checks to my creditors.

    You know what? I don’t WANT a Regular Guy for president. I’ve been up to my armpits in Regular Guys my whole life. I sat behind them in school and stood in line next to them in the military and went to their weddings and their funerals and flirted with their girlfriends and went out to drink with them when their wives left them and listened to their stupid hunting stories and bluffed them out of their socks at the poker table. Regular Guys have Ordinary Lives, just like mine, and predictable hurts and safe dreams.

    I want someone Extraordinary for president. I want someone on a mission. I want someone I can trust with my safety and the future of my children. I want someone who understands that the world is a dangerous place. I want someone who can persuade someone he can’t stand to support something he can’t live without. I want someone who kick Iran’s ass.

    I want a leader, in other words. Regular Guys follow.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 10:10 PM

    Good Guys v. Bad Guys 

    Leo writes: “We have Abu Ghraib; the other side flies planes into buildings. If you call Abu Ghraib 'torture,' what word do you possibly have left to describe beheadings?”

    This comment took me aback.

    We’re the good guys, remember? The bad guys are bad because they do bad things, like fly planes into buildings. We don’t do stuff like that, no matter what the provocation. Otherwise, we become LIKE THEM. Our hearts may be in the right place, but the proof is not in what we feel but in what we do. Didn't someone once say, "By your deeds shall you know them"?

    Besides, the people who were tortured at Abu Ghraib – and that’s what it was, no matter that beheadings also are monstrous – were most definitely NOT the people who flew the planes into our buildings. (A great number of them weren’t even part of any Iraqi insurgency, but had been arrested in wide sweeps of the streets).

    And, as the American Prospect points out, Republicans in Congress are working to make it possible for the United States to continue to outsource torture to other countries – and offers examples of how it’s already been done. (Here’s the link:

    The pictures from Abu Ghraib, and most discussions of it, have disappeared from American media – but it surely hasn’t faded from the media overseas. By allowing ourselves to be compared to Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers, our own soldiers are more at risk should they be captured. Abu Ghraib has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists -- and it undercuts the support of Muslims who want to be America’s friends.

    Most professionals maintain that torture simply doesn’t work, if the object is to extricate credible information from prisoners. Even if it did work, I think – I hope – that the overwhelming majority of Americans would assert, “Not in my name.”

    posted by Carol Towarnicky at # 7:14 PM

    Flu Vaccine and Lawsuits 

    It turns out that lawsuits are even less of a factor in the shortage of flu vaccine: As the AP reported today, Congress voted to add flu vaccine to a 1986 federal compensation law for childhood vaccines. The bill awaits President Bush's signature. There are ways to protect drug making companies for difficulties with vaccine without limiting everyone's ability to sue for real negligence.

    From the story: "A federal compensation fund largely shields manufacturers from liability for injuries from childhood vaccines. Congress voted this year to add flu vaccines to the program, inserting this provision into a larger bill that Bush plans to sign.

    "In any case, liability is only a very small part of the problem, said Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health and a chief Thompson adviser. More significant, he said, are the low-profit margin vaccines provide, unpredictable demand and the complexity of the manufacturing process."
    Here's a link to the AP story:

    posted by Carol Towarnicky at # 2:25 PM

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    Gut check 

    Jeff Schult of Connecticut writes:

    "Leo asks readers at Free-Fire Zone to read Sarah Baxter's 'I'm a Democrat for Bush' and then goes on to ask how voters can possibly vote for Kerry. I'll take him at his word that he's genuinely curious, at least for the sake of discussion.

    "I'm 48 and have been a registered Independent for most of my adult life. I was a Democrat in the 1970s, turning 18 in the year that Richard Nixon was forced from office. I was disillusioned by the Carter presidency, though, with hindsight, I see little that a Ford administration might have done to change the course of domestic or international events from 1976 to 1980 more in the country's favor.

    "I have remained an Independent in a family of Independents and Republicans. I did not think, in 2000, that there was a lot of difference between the 'compassionate conservatism' of George W. Bush and the wishy-washy New Democratic liberalism of Al Gore. I voted for Nader. I didn't like Bush but was willing to give him a chance, across the board. I consider myself liberal/libertarian on social issues; fiscally, I am a conservative. I trust neither government nor an unfettered marketplace to set policy to my liking. I can make a better than adequate case that gridlock and the resultant compromises in government have been good for the country domestically.

    "Since 2000, the Bush administration has not steered a middle course on any broad domestic issues. It has catered nearly exclusively to what has come to be called its base. I might have been willing to forgive much of that had I seen some signs of old-fashioned Republican fiscal prudence in return. There has been none.

    "All of this, Ms. Baxter points out. Where we disagree, in the end, is on the issue on which the president stakes his claim to another four years – that he has made mostly the right decisions on fighting terrorism and in fighting Iraq. I had grave misgivings about the war from the start, as my Republican friends and family know. I feared the administration was utterly deluded on the consequences of either success or failure, however either was defined. Still, I rooted for them to be right.

    "They were so far wrong as to have become cartoonish over time, in my opinion. I take no satisfaction in having foreseen any of this. This is not an 'I told you so' letter.

    "I think that you probably know the arguments on both sides as well as any other reasonably informed citizen; I think that I do, as well. And I think that Ms. Baxter does.

    "I can understand, I think, how someone can vote for Bush. 'Stay the course' has a powerful appeal.

    "But I cannot live with reducing the election to a gut-check on terrorism. I have neither seen nor heard any statements from either candidate that would suggest to me that the country would be less safe under Kerry. There is nothing to that other than bald and fatuous assertion.

    "I am not thrilled with John Kerry. I wish he had somehow crafted a more compelling set of sound bites, earlier. I wish he had found a way, over the last year, to bring more people to the realization that we have been saddled with a very bad government over the past four years.

    "I will vote for John Kerry because I think he will make far more reasoned and rational choices in the interests of this country than has George Bush; and I will feel safer with Kerry in the White House than I do with Bush there. The Bush administration's ideology promotes fear and division, at home and throughout the world. It has failed. The other guy has shown he will do better.

    "I changed my registration to Democrat the other day. No matter what happens, there will be a lot of work to do after the election. I know which side I'm on, at least for the next four years."

    Jeff, it seems that you and Baxter and I agree that the war on terror is the issue that matters most, so we don’t have to dwell overly on the domestic agenda. I would like to take exception, however, to your claim that Bush has never steered a middle course. No Child Left Behind and the prescription-drug entitlement program surely were not aimed at his base; they were two of the biggest domestic-policy advances in history. I dislike them for that reason, in fact. If only domestic policy mattered, this election would be much tougher for me to call. I'd still pick Bush, however, because it seems to me that any reasonable assessment of Kerry and Bush proposals shows that Kerry's would cost a lot more. (By the way, how can you be a fiscal conservative and have voted for Ralph Nader, of all people?)

    Now, to terror.

    You say you cannot live with reducing the election to "a gut-check on terrorism." But of course you are doing a gut check – yours just tells you to pick a different candidate. You say that arguing that the country would be less safe under Kerry is nothing but "bald and fatuous assertion." But when you say you "will feel safer with Kerry in the White House," you offer nothing specific. I'd call that nothing but a bald assertion. The fact is, we're all going to have to do a gut-check. With Bush, we have a record. With Kerry, we have to infer what he would do from what he has said.

    I wish I could tell you unequivocally that Bush has always made the right decisions. Clearly, he hasn't. We've never had enough troops in Iraq, as one example. And we weren't prepared for the chaos that would follow a victory that came too quickly and easily. But we are in a war for our lives – I hate to sound dramatic, but the fate of civilization is at stake. For all the mistakes he has made, Bush clearly understands this. By being aggressive, not only going quickly into Afghanistan (let's talk about the remarkable success of free elections there, by the way), but also by making a stand in Iraq, he has sent a clear and unmistakable message that the last superpower on earth, which does represent the best hope of the free world, will do whatever it takes to win this struggle.

    Now, you either believe that or you don't – that this is the most important battle the modern world has faced or ever will face. If you do, I just cannot fathom how you can believe John Kerry is the person to lead it. Everything in his life – from his childhood in the household of a diplomat father, to his "let's get out of Vietnam now" youth, to his failure to back the first Gulf war (despite the fact that it met every single test he says the current war does not), to his going back to the failed policy of "negotiating" with Iran and North Korea while they get crazier and more dangerous – screams out his lack of understanding.

    He denigrates the allies we have – Poland, Australia, England – while bragging he will make allies of the French and Germans who say plainly they will never join us in Iraq, and why should they, since they won't have any more oil-for-food scams to exploit? Kerry is, in his bones, a dove. That is not always a bad thing. But we are at war, and we simply cannot have a dove as commander-in-chief.

    You say Bush's ideology promotes fear and division. As to the division, it's certainly there; but when the country is split down the middle, it seems silly to blame it on one man. And fear? Damn right. There's a lot to be afraid of.

    I could go on and on and on in this vein. But as you said, we all know the arguments on both sides. You make your gut check, and I make mine. It's not a matter of knowing which side we’re on for the next four years. It's a question of where the world is headed in the next century and beyond.

    I want to take you at your word that you tried give Bush the benefit of the doubt and really aren't saying "I told you so." But I can't help noticing that when you say you aren't crazy about Kerry, the only thing you fault him for is not making a stronger case that George W. Bush is the diaster you always knew he was. Let me ask you to do another gut check. Are you really that sure Kerry is the man to lead us in this volatile world, or do you just hate Bush so much that any alternative is preferable? If Kerry wins, how far will "he's not Bush" take you in your quest to feel safer?

    posted by Leo Morris at # 9:48 PM


    It is true that the crisis in flu vaccine availability -- the fact that there are only TWO companies licensed to make flu vaccine for the United States -- started long before George W. Bush became president. This is for a number of reasons, the most important of which is not lawsuits but the fact that there's not a lot of profit in it: The vaccine making process takes months, the price is too low and, if the demand doesn't match supply, the makers have to dump the vaccine (since it lasts only for a year).

    But it's also true that the Bush administration received warnings that all was not well with Chiron's Liverpool plant -- last year and then again this past summer. When Britain got this news, it started making contingency plans. When the U.S. got the news, it listened to the rosy scenarios of Chiron and apparently was caught flatfooted when all the vaccine turned out to be contaminated.

    What John Kerry is talking about, though, is that the U.S. never should have been in the position that the failure of one plant would wipe out half the vaccine necessary. Long before now, Bush (and maybe Clinton before him, but Bush has been the president for four years so he's accountable) should have found ways to increase the number of vaccine suppliers. This likely would include government subsidies and guarantees to drug companies so they would have less financial risk. Ah, but that would have been a "government-controlled" medicine. Wouldn't want that.

    Over the past three years, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences has warned in two reports of problems with the vaccine supply and offered possible solutions, including requiring insurance companies to provide vaccine (with government reimbursement), vouchers for the uninsured and a guarantee to buy back vaccines. Nobody but a few editorial writers listened.

    Now that the crisis is here, we have Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson saying it's no big deal. Bush is angry, per usual, that his administration might be held responsible for what happened on his watch.

    What's needed is a plan going forward to make sure this doesn't happen again. John Kerry has one. Bush doesn't.

    posted by Carol Towarnicky at # 1:24 PM

    Tuesday, October 19, 2004

    War and civil liberties 

    Carol chooses not to address what I think is a central point: The threats to civil liberties from the Patriot Act are written into the act, not a result of Bush and Co. misinterpreting the act, and Kerry voted for the act. Blaming everything on an evil right-wing cabal is to ignore a fundamental fact of history. Rights are always at risk in a time of war. Always have been, always will be.

    My intent in comparing the present situation to "past denials of rights in time of war" and urging that it be considered "in light of the absolute necessity of prevailing over the monsters we now confront" was to provide a little perspective. What is going on today is fairly tame compared to the restrictions the government has tried to impose in the past -- the Alien and Sedition acts, suspension of habeus corpus, establishment of a censorship office, etc., etc., etc. And the war we're involved in today is surely the most serious the world has ever faced; civilization itself hangs in the balance. If there is some correlation between the threat we face and the rights we risk, yes, there is a reason to be concerned, but not to become hysterical.

    Certainly we should never excuse the abuse of rights or tolerate the erosion of liberties. We just have to acknowledge that war is among the ugliest of human endeavors and demand that we always try to do better. I'd suggest that we have. Just consider the excesses many have accused the administration of engaging in, and how they were stopped by the courts. Seems to me the system has been working exactly as it is supposed to.

    Let's never forget all that system involves: checks and balances, diffusion of power, majority whims check by minority rights, toleration of dissent, the rule of law, and on and on and on. Those who are inclined to always blame America should remember that we've been trying to spread a few of the rights we take for granted to the enslaved corners of the world that have never had them.

    We haven't always gotten it right, but our heart has usually been in the right place. All our disagreements must start and end with the premise that we have, far more often than not, been on the side of the angels. We had detention camps for Japanese Americans, then apologized to them and made reparations; the other side had gas chambers in death camps. We have Abu Ghraib; the other side flies planes into buildings. If you call Abu Ghraib "torture," what word do you possibly have left to describe beheadings?

    posted by Leo Morris at # 11:05 PM

    Here and there 

    For a little sane consideration of the deficit "crisis," check out this bit of wisdom from Jack Kemp.

    And this just in: John Kerry said lots of foreign leaders wanted him to win. Here's one of them. Sure make's me feel good about his leadership potential.

    And Tommy Franks sets Kerry straight on Tora Bora.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 10:17 PM

    One flu over the cuckoo's nest 

    Tonight's special election topic is health care. We're in the stinkin' middle of World War IV (the Cold War having been World War III), with the future of the nation and the fate of the civilized world hanging in the balance, and John Kerry is out on the campaign trail accusing George Bush of ... causing the flu vaccine shortage. Hey, I hear winters in Minneapolis have been getting colder since Bush took office; let's open a congressional inquiry.

    What's caused the vaccine shortage? Kevin Drum lists seven possible reasons, narrows it down to the two most likely -- huge awards in lability lawsuits and unreasonable FDA regulations -- and settles on the FDA. No, says William Tucker; it's the trial lawyers. I think a case could be made that they're both right.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 9:58 PM

    First they came for the Muslims 

    Leo writes of civil liberties: "But nothing I've heard or read convinces me that the Bush administration (i.e. the Devil Incarnate John Ashcroft) has gone overboard in prosecuting the provisions of the (Patriot) act, especially considering past denials of rights in time of war and in light of the absolute necessity of prevailing over the monsters we now confront."

    It's so much more than the Patriot Act that has Americans, both liberals and conservatives, worried about preserving our Constitutional rights. It's the assertion -- until debunked by the U.S. Supreme Court in June -- that the United States, because it is "at war," has the right to detain immigrants and American citizens incommunicado, without charges or trial.

    It's the Justice Department advice given to President Bush that, since we are "at war," the Geneva Conventions or any other inconvenient law are inoperative. This led, directly or indirectly, to the torture at Abu Ghraib. When John Ashcroft was asked by Congress to provide copies of this advice, he refused. Why? "We are at war."

    It's the prosecutorial misconduct revealed in what the Bush administration had said was a major victory in the war on terrorism, the conviction of three men arrested in Detroit after the Sept. 11 attacks and charged as a sleeper cell. According to an article in the National Law Journal, the prosecutor "concealed from the defendants exculpatory and impeachment evidence; repeatedly flaunted (sic) the trial judges orders to disclose relevant materials to the court; misled the court, jury and defense as to the nature and complexion of critical evidence; allowed a key witness to give false and misleading testimony; and prejudiced the jury with a dishonest and inflammatory summation."

    I'm troubled by Leo's apparent suggestion, contained in these words: ... "especially considering past denials of rights in time of war and in light of the absolute necessity of prevailing over the monsters we now confront".

    I'm hoping he doesn't meant that, since we detained the Japanese during World War II and suspended the writ of habeus corpus in the Civil War, that the fact that we are again "at war" against "monsters" justifies similar abuse of power.

    In the first place, as Georgetown law professor David Cole writes, it doesn't help us "prevail."

    "Of the more than 5,000 foreign nationals subject to preventive detention, for example, none has been charged with being associated with al Qaeda or with complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks. Only three have been charged with any terrorist crime at all, and two of them were acquitted of the terrorism charges at trial ...

    "The most extensive campaign of ethnic profiling in this country since World War II has thus far failed to disclose a single terrorist ... While these measures have yielded no security gains, they have alienated the very communities whose cooperation the government needs the most to find the al Qaeda supporters among us. That makes it less likely that we'll get the cooperation we need and more likely that the terrorists will find willing recruits."

    And we shouldn't console ourselves that these actions will be limited to foreigners.
    "History suggests," Cole writes, "that what the the U.S. government does to foreigners in the name of national security, eventually it will do to its citizens as well. As Anthony Lewis once paraphrased Pastor Niemoller, "First they came for the Muslims ... "

    posted by Carol Towarnicky at # 8:43 PM

    14 days and counting 

    For the benefit of those dwindling few undecideds, here are a couple of essays that might offer some guidance. Gregory Djerejian reports on everything George Bush has done wrong, then goes on to explain why he's endorsing him. Daniel W. Drezner details all of John Kerry's weaknesses, then announces that he will most likely vote for him. Though both articles are thought-provoking and offer much to ponder (be sure to follow all the links in each), it's clear that Djerejian makes the better case. But don't take my word for it. Read this Democrat for Bush and tell me how you could possibly vote for Kerry.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 1:21 AM

    Monday, October 18, 2004

    Civil rights and gay rights 

    Rachel Campbell quotes my post that Kerry "is willing to say anything, and you can never tell from his actions whether he really means it or not. If that's the kind of uncertainty you want in the White House, go ahead on and vote for it" and comments: "I'll take the POSSIBILITY of keeping my rights over the certainty of their removal any day."

    I'm guessing she's talking about the Patriot Act. I agree that we have to be careful of our civil liberties in time of war. But nothing I've heard or read convinces me that the Bush administration (i.e. the Devil Incarnate John Ashcroft) has gone overboard in prosecuting the provisions of the act, especially considering past denials of rights in time of war and in light of the absolute necessity of prevailing over the monsters we now confront. There ARE some troubling Patriot Act concerns – such as the sneak-and-peek provision, the CIA and grand jury testimony, etc. -- but they are IN THE ACT ITSELF, not a result of interpretations of the act.

    John Kerry voted for the act, and I presume he read it; unlike many federal enactments, it's not all that long. So when Kerry says he's in favor of the Patriot Act but doesn't approve of the way it's been implemented, I'm not sure what he means. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. I am not persuaded that George Bush and John Ashcroft greeted 9/11 with glee because they had just been looking for an excuse to start finding out what library books people have been checking out.

    Leslee Covington of Colleyville, Texas, writes: One question I keep asking myself ... about the gay marriage issue: When "they" ... talk about "preserving the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman," I wonder what the opposers think would happen to marriage if gays were allowed to marry. Do they think heterosexual people will stop marrying? Do they think everyone will all of a sudden throw up their hands and say, "At last! Now I don't have to marry one of those people of the opposite sex!?" I fail to see how allowing ANYONE to marry ANYONE else harms others. If people talk about "preserving the sanctity of marriage," they should focus on ending spousal and child abuse. Now THERE'S something we should all worry about."

    Carol (see her full post below) responds by noting that "there are 1,138 differences between the rights guaranteed by marriage and so-called civil unions," that Republicans want to deny gays and lesbians even the rights of civil unions, never mind marriage, and that these gay-and-lesbian-headed families do exist and, "The question is, will they be subjected to continued discrimination?"

    Leslee and Carol raise interesting and legitimate questions. Count me among the people who haven't quite made up their minds on the question of gay marriage. It's an issue on which my libertarian and conservative instincts are at war. Part of me wonders why the federal government has any vested interest in such intensely personal decisions, especially since it entangles the government in religion in an extraordinary way. But another part of me worries about tossing aside something that has been a fundamental part of most societies in all of recorded history.

    Marriage is not just a personal contract between two people; it is part of a larger social contract central to the way we define ourselves. If it's been seen by most people for most of history as "one man and one woman," it seems a little presumptuous to start demonizing people who want to still see it that way instead of the way a minority of people have been pushing us to redefine it for the last few years. If there are more than 1,000 differences between the rights guaranteed by marriage and a civil union (itself a very new concept), don't you think there might be a reason? Never in the history of this country -– NEVER -– has a legislative body, either federal or state, passed ANY law with the intent of recognizing marriage between two people of the same sex. But now there is every indication that such a redefintion is under way, being pushed by judges and interest groups rather than by legislatures listening to the people, who in poll after poll register their discomfort with the idea that marriage is anything other than "one man and one woman." This discomfort is also felt by President George Bush and – no matter how you try to spin it – John Kerry.

    Leslee asks what do we suppose would happen if gay mariages were recognized. I dunno. After Massachusetts approved gay marriages, many companies there that had been providing "domestic partner" benefits to any couples living together -- gay, straight or otherwise -- suddenly decided that that might not be what they wanted to do, and many straight (and living together "in sin") couples suddenly wondered what they might have to start facing. That's the kind of unintended consequence you might encounter when you try to upend something in a few years that had been settled for all of recorded history. How many more might there be? I certainly don't know. Do you? Is it fair for you to label all of us who worry about such things as
    mindless robots taking our marching orders from the right-wing Christian soldiers of the heartless Republican fascists?

    posted by Leo Morris at # 11:39 PM

    Gay Rights 

    This isn't about Mary Cheney. I'll bet that John Kerry now wishes he had used some other lesbian to make his "cheap and tawdry" point in the third debate that we are all God's children.

    It is true, as Leo points out, that both Bush and Kerry maintain that marriage is "between a man and a woman." But while Bush and Kerry may believe the same thing about marriage, they surely do not believe the same thing about civil rights as they relate to gays and lesbians. (Not sure where the idea that the word lesbian is "politically incorrect" came from.)

    That's what the gay marriage amendment issue is really about.

    As this story from reports, the anti-gay marriage ballot resolution in Ohio, which surely will pass, could be used to deny gays and lesbians the health insurance they may have through their partners' employers. Even more significantly, it could be used to deny the children of gays and lesbians the security of having two parents -- as it could eliminate the right to custody for the non-biological parent.

    There are 1,138 differences, logged by the Government Accountability Office between the rights guaranteed by marriage and so-called civil unions. They include: the right to Social Security, disability and veterans' benefits; the ability to file joint tax returns; to get joint auto insurance and homeowners' coverage; to claim family leave to care for a sick partner.

    Many of the protections related to marriage are really protections for children -- like liability for child support. Isn't supporting one's children a family value? Fact is, no matter what the laws, these families exist and will continue to exist. The question is, will they be subjected to continued discrimination?

    The Republican platform is super clear in its intention to deny gays and lesbians -- and their children -- not only the protections that come with marriage, but the lesser protections of civil unions. And that's a real difference between Kerry and Bush.

    From Leslee Covington, Colleyville, TX: One question I keep asking myself (and anyone else who happens to be around) about the gay marriage issue: When "they" (i.e. whoever happens to be answering the question at the time) talk about "preserving the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman," I wonder what the opposers think would happen to marriage if gays were allowed to marry? Do they think heterosexual people will stop marrying? Do they think everyone will all of the sudden throw up their hands and say, "At last! Now I don't have to marry one of those people of the opposite sex!?" I fail to see how allowing ANYONE to marry ANYONE else harms others. If people talk about "preserving the sanctity of marriage" they should focus on ending spousal and child abuse. Now THERE'S something we should all worry about ...

    posted by Carol Towarnicky at # 4:32 PM

    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    Dutch and Dubya. 

    Carol: I'm glad even a diehard liberal like you was able to see what a disaster Jimmy Carter's presidency was. Your confession about John Anderson compels me to make one of my own. I voted for Libertarian Ed Clark that year, one of almost 1 million who did so; I think the Libertarians' share of the vote peaked in 1980. Of course I voted enthusiastically for Ronald Reagan's second term. My experiment with the extremes of my philosophy was over, and I came back to the mainstream. Ha, ha, ha.

    I think I'm justified in being a little skeptical when people who admit they never liked Reagan and surely do not remember him fondly invoke him to make a point in support of something he would have found unpalatable, e.g. the notion that someone like John Kerry could be a credible commander-in-chief. So let me share a few thoughts about Dutch.

    To this day, Reagan's detractors insist on portraying him as an amiable dunce, out of his depth. But if you take the trouble to actually read the things he wrote, especially the scripts for his radio shows and his personal correspondence (he was a remarkable letter writer, sharing thoughts with thousands of people), you'll discover he had complex, nuanced positions on every complicated issue of his day. And he had a clear vision and a specific plan for dealing with the threat of communism long before he even ran for the presidency. If you read the comments of people such as Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev, you'll realize that the (thank God!) premature collapse of the Soviet Union and all that followed was not an accident of history. It was, more than anything else, the result of one man's unshakable conviction that he could push the Soviets into an arms race their economic system would not possible enable them to win.

    I came to appreciate, intellectually, mostly in retrospective study, that singular focus of Reagan's, but I never quite understood the power it had to affect people on an emotional level. I began to understand that on the Friday night of Reagan's memorial service this year, while I was watching it on TV in my favorite restaurant (known affectionately to me and a few others as the Midwest headquarters of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy). I was sitting with Sam, the co-owner, and he asked me if I had my video camera (we are fellow amateur film-makers). I said yes, and he asked if I could tape the customers in his restaurant watching the memorial service. I did, and later presented him with a videotape of the evening. I had known that Sam's family came to Fort Wayne from Greece, escaping from the misery the communists were inflicting on that nation. I had not known, until that Friday night, how important it was for people like Sam to hear Ronald Reagan speak and connect with his passionate belief that there was, indeed, an evil empire with a foothold in the world that it was trying to dominate. Sam did not just agree with Ronald Reagan, or appreciate him, or support him. He revered the man.

    Perhaps it is a trifle premature to say it now, but I think history will make the same judgment about George W. Bush and his approach to radical Islamic terorism that my friend Sam did about Reagan's singleminded focus on communism. Bush recognizes the nature of the evil we face, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to hunt it down and destroy it.

    Compare that to the approach of John Kerry. Read (please, carefully) his 1971 testimony to the U.S. Senate. While he was disparaging his fellow Vietnam comrades as village burners and baby killers, the same ones he would later claim as his band of brothers, he testified that our "mystical" attempts to eradicate communism weren't worth a single American life. Much later, after the communists in Camodia had put 1 million in the graveyards of the killing fields, after thousands of Vietnamese drowned in their attemtps to escapte the monsters we gave up on freeing them from, he could never bring himself to admit he was wrong, except to say that his remarks might have been just a little "over the top." Even Jane Fonda went further in apologizing for her help in creating this nation's Vietnam wounds that Kerry ever has.

    And consider his views on the current threat of terrorism, which he hopes we can reduce to a "nuisance" on the order of prostitution and illegal gambling. Or remember the first Gulf War -- a world coalition, just like Kerry says we must have; as clear a threat as imaginable, with a madman invading another nation and trying to control the world's supply of oil -- which Kerry could not bring himself to support.

    Whatever else might be said about John Kerry, it simply is not possible to claim that he is focused on and passionate about and committed to anything. The fact that he can never find such singlemindness when there is a clear and present danger should give pause to anyone considering making him commander-in-chief. Mentioning him and Reagan and George W. Bush in the same breath when it comes to the U.S. need for strong leadership is, in a word, absurd.

    The three debates did show one thing Kerry can point to from his 20-year Senate record -- mastering the art of debate. Presumably if he had a record of legislation to be proud of, or even a single sterling accomplishment, he would have been pointing that out. Debating is not the same thing as leading. Endlessly massaging nuance will not suffice when decisive action is required.

    It would require a lengthy, separate post to explore it, but, by the way, Reagan had a clear vision on the economy and domestic issues as well. Try as they might, his critics cannot find the factual evidence to dispute his supply-side contention that the right kind of tax cuts can actually dramatically increase government revenues. Reagan was not the first with this insight; he was merely following in the footsteps of JFK, who unleashed the explosive growth of the 60s with his tax cuts, and Coolidge and Harding, who did the same thing for the 20s. Bush isn't quite the visonary Reagan was in this area (as he demonstrably is in the foreign-policy arena), but his tax cuts at least compete quite well with John Kerry's tiresome and effete "punish the rich" class-warfare nonsense.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 11:30 PM


    On the left: Carol Towarnicky, chief editorial writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, from a liberal point of view.

    On the right: Leo Morris, editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel, from a conservative point of view.

     Latest posts
       •  What Now?
       •  Looking back
       •  Carol's Closing Argument
       •  Leo's closing argument
       •  Carol's Response
       •  Leo's rebuttal
       •  For Kerry, and a Kerry administration
       •  A vote for Bush
       •  Mortality, Part 2
       •  Mortality, Part 1

       •  09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004
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