Saturday, December 11, 2004

Here are some funny bumper stickers. Many of them have religious overtones (since it is the Xmas Season):

Jesus Saves Sinners...And redeems them for valuable coupons!

Jesus saves but Moses invests

My Wife Thinks I'm at PromiseKeepers

God told me to hate you

I'd rather be dead, than Red. [picture of blue/red America]

"A working class person who votes Republican is like a chicken who votes for Colonel Sanders."

"My Karma Ran Over My Dogma."

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups

Mean people suck, but nice people swallow

"No, YOU suck -- sincerely, the Mean People"

"Visualize Parking."

"One nation under surveillance"

"Protect the Constitution- Vote Democratic"

"Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup."

Will you be a Weaver of the fabric of our Democracy, or will you be a Moth?

In the event of the Rapture, can I have your car?

You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.

Democrats: We believe in fiscal, economic, social, civic, personal, and moral responsibility. Republicans: We take risks with your future.

"The problems of today will not be solved by the same thinking that produced the problems in the first place" - Albert Einstein

Get out of your damn SUV and join the Army! That's how you can support the troops.

Truth - Equity - Peace - That's what I've learned from The Original Liberal - Christ

"Your Honor Student Will Be Paying for Bush's Tax Cut"

"How fortunate for leaders that men do not think"-- Adolf Hitler

My Child Was Student of the Month at Skipworth Correctional Facility

I drive this huge truck to compensate for my little penis

God was my co-pilot, but then we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat Him

Dyslexics of the World, Untie!!!

Please feel free to add more!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Are the troops properly equipped?

I noticed something today that I hope is not typical. In an Army Times photo a Marine from A 1/3rd Marine Regt is using an AK instead of a US weapon.

Why?

Despite redneck talk of how great the AK is, compared to the M16A2 or M4 it is a piece of shit. Inaccurate, too loud, and not able to take scopes and NVGs. Most importantly - inaccurate. And it is NOT more reliable than an A2 or M4, despite myths of firing thousands of rounds after being buried in mud. And when it does malfunction it has a nasty habit of blowing apart in the user's hands (well, not that nasty if the enemy is using it at the time.) It also, depending on the quality of the ammo, tends to overfeed and jam (and my guess is the enemy in Iraq has some old-ass ammo). And did I mention less accurate?

So while armchair commandos think it is normal for US troops to use AKs, to me it shows something wrong. Did his weapon malfunction, and the supply chain couldn't get him a replacement fast enough? Are they low on ammo so that he is burning up enemy stuff and conserving US rounds? Is he so poorly trained that he prefers looking "cool" with an AK instead of using his own, better, weapon? Does he have an outstripped weapon that hasn't been replaced, so the AK is actually better than his worn-out rifle? What the F? None of these scenarios are good.

Then I noticed something else.

None of the Marines in A 1/3 Marine Regt. had scopes. They didn't have day scopes, NVDs, AN-PAQ-4 designators, nothing. Just iron sights. All they had were plain vanilla M16A2s, with no "goodies." And those "goodies" help, especially at night. A designator, for instance, sends out a beam, like a laser sight, that you can put on the enemy and, if you are properly zeroed, that is where the round will go. So you put the "dot" on the enemy's forehead or center mass and send him to Paradise. The enemy, unless he is wearing NVGs, can't see the beam. And if he isn't wearing NVGs then he can't even see you, and that is why the US Army owns the night. Plus, in well-trained units, the use of designators helps you to stay in your sector of fire and avoid two soldiers engaging the same target. And day scopes are handy even when not firing - you can see farther and pick your next position, or see what is going on, and communicate farther with hand and arm signals.

So why doesn't A 1/3 have them? Are they standard in the USMC, or do the Marines do without? The US Army has them. The M4 has the rail system designed to take the "goodies," and most pictures of US soldiers show them equipped with sights and night vision and designators. Pictures of Marines aren't showing this. If you are a Marine don't give me the "we are better trained and don't need them" line of bullshit. The Marines are awesome, but not better than the US Army. And you don't go to combat without ALL the advantages you can get. So I want to know why some American kids are over there without the proper equipment, especially since other American kids have it.

They also don't show the helmet-mounts for NVDs. Soldiers operate at night almost as well as in the daytime because of our huge investment in night vision. Not that night vision doesn't suck to use - it is like walking looking through a paper towel tube. But it is better than being blind. And with the helmet mounts you can use them even when flares are constantly going off and illuminating the scene bright as day. Pop - flare goes off, you flip up the NVD. Flare burns out and you flip them down. You are never blind.

So where are the NODs for the Marines? And why the F is one of them shown using a piece of crap AK? They have the rest of the equipment they need, from what I can see. I've seen them with shotguns, and with lots of frags, and I saw some use a pre-prepared demo charge to blow a hole in a wall. So why not NODS and scopes?

This bothers me. Can somebody tell me why the Marines aren't as well-equipped as the Army? And are they as well supplied as they should be?


A quick explanation for civilians, but veterans and those already familiar with the US military can skip this:

NOD- night observation device, a "night scope." The green picture you sometimes see when news networks are showing night battles is taken with a NOD.
NVD - night vision device, same as a NOD.
M4- the shorter version of the M16A2 that the US Army has adopted, with adjustable stock and a rail above the barrel and reciever to take NODS and other things, like flashlights, etc.
Designator - a "laser sight" kind of device that shoots a beam visible only to those wearing NODS. The beam is aligned with the sights. You put the beam on the target. You know why.
Zeroing: adjusting your sights so that when your sight is center mass on a target the round is too.
AK - most will already know this. The standard assault rifle of the former Soviet Union, and pretty much the entire third world, with a distinctive very-curved magazine. Usually fires 7.62mm rounds in the AK-47 version. It has been updated to fire 5.54mm ammo in the AK-74 version, which is very common nowadays. The 5.54 mm high-velocity round is even smaller than the 5.56 NATO round of the US military. Smaller is not necessarily less effective: since force = mass times acceleration, the round is smaller but moves much, much faster, causing more impact and damage than a larger, slower bullet. It is cheaply made, fairly reliable, and not very accurate. It is cheap and simple to use and maintain, which makes it the weapon of choice for conscript armies that don't have the time or money or motivation to train their soldiers to a high standard. The M16-series in the US military is actually a much, much better assault rifle, but more expensive and more complicated to use. It is thus preferred by professionals, but not by mass conscription armies. The AK fires in the semi-automatic mode (single-shot each time you pull the trigger) or full automatic mode (empties out when you hold down the trigger). The M16-A2 and M4 fire on semi or 3-round burst mode. Full auto is usually the equivalent of saying "I can't shoot accurately, watch me waste up all my ammo before a well-trained enemy ends my misery." US troops like it when they face enemies that use full auto - it means the enemy can't shoot straight and is very poorly trained.)


Saturday, November 20, 2004

YES!!!!!!!!

Just what California desperately needs - another lawyer!

I PASSED THE BAR!

yeah, baby.

Turns out everybody I know from my school has passed. My school is always near the top or at the top in bar passage rates, often #1. Usually around 90% of my school's graduates pass. However, the bar passage rate statewide is very low, so we are still terrified of failing. It was 3 days long, but it wasn't as bad as I had feared - which does NOT mean it was not the most intense testing period I have ever had. It was.

Last July's examination had a pass rate of 49%. When those retaking the test are excluded, first-time test takers had a pass rate of 63%. Thus anytime you hear somebody disparaging somebody who didn't pass, you can know they are an ass. 37% of law school graduates failed it, and usually the person disparaging the failure isn't a law school graduate themselves - so they can stuff it. Somebody who fails the bar can still be twice as smart and five times the lawyer of somebody else who passes.

Problem is, if you fail it the first time the odds of passing drop drastically.

Not for the reasons you might think - a lack of ability. If you are a repeater of COURSE you have a lower chance of passing compared to first-timers. Not necessarily because those who failed it aren't just as smart, but because preparing for the bar is a full-time job, and most people take bar prep courses that are 6 days a week for 6 or 8 weeks. How many people can afford to spend two months not working - TWICE? Thus repeaters usually are studying on their own and trying to squeeze it into their lives, plus they are nervous as hell because of the crushing news that they failed the first time. In July 2003 the repeaters had a pass rate of only 18% - 88% of them failed it again.

In February 2004 (normally the first retest for those who fail it in July) the pass rate was overall was 46% (thus 54% failed). For repeaters the pass rate was higher than in July though, at 30%. Still, more than half of the first-timers failed, and 2/3rds of retakers failed.

And all were law school graduates. That is NOT an easy test.

To everybody who passed, congratulations. To the very large % of those who did not pass, my sympathies, and NO SHAME. It was F'ing hard. And anybody who looks down on you is an ass. Congratulations on graduating law school, and good luck on your retest. Unfortunately, you will need it.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Don't rush to judgment on injured Iraqi "prisoner" shooting

The news is abuzz with the "execution" (in the words of the British press) of an "unarmed" Iraqi insurgent "prisoner" by a US Marine.

And the news is NOT reporting the facts as they happened. I know this for sure.

How? Because the pictures, which most civilians will assume show a "crime" clearly being committed, actually support an opposite conclusion.

Now, I am not one of those knuckleheaded Fox news morons who will say stuff like "he was under stress" or "they aren't playing by the rules either" or "kill 'em all." The same idiots that excuse Abu Ghraib as "pranks" and "justified" when that behavior was inexcusable and pisses off real warriors who understand the meaning of the words "honor" and "dishonor." If a prisoner is executed under any circumstances by a member of the US military then the executioner should go to jail, no excuses, no "he was under stress" talk. Imagine: EVERYBODY IN COMBAT IS UNDER STRESS. Everybody in combat is angry at the enemy. By allowing such excuses we simply dismiss the Geneva Conventions - which are US law and which nobody, not even the President, has the power to do, despite his best attempts and Guantanamo's shame.

BUT, but, but - that is NOT what happened here. Note how the press is saying a Marine shot an "unarmed Iraqi prisoner." We don't know for sure he was Iraqi, but it is likely. We don't know for sure if he was unarmed - chances are neither did the Marine. But we know one thing for sure: he was NOT a prisoner. He was still a combatant. And the Marine did the right thing. I would have shot him too.

The reason we know this is because the pictures show Marines with weapons in the ready position, moving through an objective they had apparently just taken. They were in the process of securing that objective - the fight was NOT over. And one thing you NEVER do, if you are well-trained and want to live, is turn your back on the enemy - even a "dead" enemy, until you know for sure he is dead or "hors de combat."

Combat soldiers can tell you that they have been trained to "double-tap" on the objective. That is, they shoot every enemy soldier twice in the head as they sweep the objective - dead or not, because countless times in every war the enemy feigns death and tosses a grenade or opens fire as soon as your back is turned. The only exception is for those clearly out of combat - obvious grievious, incapacitating wounds, or hands in the air surrender, or in the judgment of the soldier the bad guy is clearly no longer a threat. This "double-tap" drill is not against any of the Geneva Conventions - nor is it immoral. It is common sense. Until the objective is secure you are in the fight, and killing the enemy. Once the objective is secure you can then secure prisoners - but they are not prisoners until then. They are people that are trying to kill you, and you are trying to kill them, and you don't turn your back on somebody that is trying to kill you unless you know for sure he is dead.

So imagine which is the greater threat - somebody with obvious grievous injuries, who appears unconcious, or somebody that is wounded and looking right at you with no weapon in his hand, watching you, or somebody that looks slightly injured and appears to be playing dead - you can see he is breathing but he is acting dead?

It is clearly the guy who is playing dead - he is planning on killing you as soon as you turn your back. The terribly injured guy is "hors de combat" - out of the fight even if he wanted to continue. The guy looking right at you is not faking - he has no weapon, is concious, and isn't trying to hide anything. The guy who might be playing dead? His intent to deceive is for one reason only - to fool you so that he can kill you. So you shoot him in the head, twice, just as you are trained. Maybe you are wrong. Maybe the guy was no threat - the guy who was just doing his best to kill you and your buddies, maybe is no threat now. But would you chance it? I wouldn't - and I wouldn't let my soldiers chance it either, I would ORDER them to finish off the threat. Because when you become a combatant you take your chances that I might miss the exact moment when you change into a non-combatant. I would rather make the mistake that kills YOU, instead of the one that kills ME. And this is NOT a war crime. This Marine, from what I can see, did everything correctly, even to the point of firing only twice - double-tap - in the head.

In the video the words "He's playing dead" are heard, followed by "bang bang" and "He's dead now." And in the same mosque, same battle, same marines, exact same time, living Iraqis are seen, and they are NOT executed. Not an example of an out-of-control incident, but an example of EXACTLY what well-trained troops should do in such a situation.

And when it is captured on film it turns into an "execution" of an "unarmed" "prisoner." No. Not what happened. And the squeamish who wonder how anybody could do such a terrible thing should go to hell, because that is where these soldiers and Marines are right now - hell - and the rules are different when killing is not murder but your job. There are still rules, but they are sensible rules - despite rednecks who claim otherwise - and they won't get you killed. You can follow all of the Geneva Conventions and never put yourself or your troops or your mission at any more risk than if you didn't. Actually, when you follow them you are reducing your risk - the enemy is more likely to surrender, less likely to fight to the death, you are more likely to gain living prisoners and the intelligence they have, you are less likely (but by no means guaranteed) to have your soldiers survive when captured, and it will be easier to restore order and a just peace after the end of hostilities. It will be easier to end hostilities. The laws of war are sensible, just, and wise. And they were decidely NOT violated here.

But we will see if any of the coverage - both in support of and against this Marine - actually understands what took place here. Those who want him punished will see an unarmed prisoner executed in cold blood. Those who wish to defend him will try and explain that it was okay to execute this unarmed prisoner because it wasn't in cold blood. But the facts given are false, as I have explained. There was no prisoner to execute, there was only an enemy soldier, and it was the job of the Marine to kill him before he could be himself killed.

Good job Marine. You make this soldier proud of the Corps, even if others don't understand that you did no wrong.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Revolutionary?

New topic:

Not many people know this, but during our revolution the patriots were NOT in the majority. About 1/3rd of the colonists supported independence, about 1/3rd supported the crown, and about 1//3rd were "undecided."

Many "tories" who supported the crown did so out of loyalty to their nation - Great Britain - and despised the radicals who dared to suggest a civilized nation could be ruled without a king.

So here is my question: if George W. Bush were alive in 1775 and living in America, would he be a Tory and support the crown, or a revolutionary? And why do you choose one or the other? there is also the "undecided" option here.

And what about Kerry? Clinton? Bush sr? Reagan? Carter? Ford? Nixon? Throw in what you want and leave out what you want. we'll see if this is a topic people want to discuss.

My take:

Bush: Tory - because he has never been progressive, always been conservative, and believes exactly what he learned in West Texas as a youth and has never questioned those beliefs - or bothered to learn about the world around him. That sounds like a tory to me. This is NOT a dig at Bush. And he would NOT sit it out like he did Vietnam, but would probably fight for the Crown against those rag-tag patriots. He would believe he was doing it for crown and country - and he would be, becasue the tories in our revolution weren't traitors, but loyalists. They were loyal to the form of government they grew up with and were willing to take up arms to defend it, and unlike the South when it seceded, I don't see anything dishonorable about tory behavior during our revolution. I am just glad they lost. And at the end of the war Bush would have refused to accept the loss of his king and moved to England to remain loyal to his beliefs. Some of the tories lost everything but their lives in our revolution, and some lost that as well - and they did it becasue they believed they were on the side of right. Bush would have been such a true believer.

Kerry? I think he would have joined the patriots. From an early age he questioned authority and the world around him, and served in Vietnam for all the right reasons. He volunteered, and his anti-war activities when he returned shows that he was willing to stand up and fight for what he believed in, but would come to his own conclusions what it is he believed. Rational, independent thinkers joined the revolution because they dared to think that men could govern themselves, and he is certainly rational and independent.

Clinton? I honestly think he would be undecided. Unlike the "flip-flop" BS thrown at Kerry, I think Kerry has been willing to take a stand, even unpopular ones, many many times. He could have been Joe Lieberman and been enthusiastic about invading Iraq, but he wasn't. He could have been Kean and been anti-war all the way. He wasn't. Kerry was rational and willing to wage war, but only as a last resort. That made his campaign harder, not easier, and he knew it. He knew the "flip-flop" charges would come, but he still did what he believed to be right, and even said he would cast his vote the same way again if a president asked for such authority - knowing that Bush would twist it and call it more flip-flopping. Strangely enough, the "flip-flop" charge came about because Kerry was willing to take a stand - for war when necessary, against it when not. That was apparently beyond most people's understand and beyond a 30-second sound bite. It sounds wishy-washy even though it isn't. Clinton? He would have waited it out and then enthusiastically supported whomever won, and then probably convince people he had always been on their side. I call him undecided.

Bush sr? Revolutionary patriot all the way.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

My response

From Bush's speech today:

Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans, so today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust.

A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America. (Cheers, applause.)

MY RESPONSE:

The marriage amendment cast in hatred of those different from you, calling those who dissent from your misguided and foolish policies traitors, implying that criticizing you weakens our nation, and the slimy campaign you ran don't bring us together.

Mr. President, fuck you and the horse you rode in on. You are still a fool. Being popular doesn't make you right. It makes you popular. You are the worst president our nation has ever suffered under. And history will remember you that way.

Vote Hillary in '08!

Lessons learned from this election

Looks like Bush has been re-elected. Damn. While it is not officially over due to the provisional ballots, it looks like a very long shot that Kerry can overcome the amount of votes he is behind right now. Given that it is 51% to 49% in Ohio the odds of the provisional ballots being 75% in Kerry's favor is not likely.

So what can the democrats learn from this election?

  1. Dirty tricks work: the most lop-sided and "dirty" effort to elect Kerry was Fahrenheit 9/11. It gained a lot of attention, but was disowned by the party. There was also the "Hitler/Bush" moveon.org spot that was on the website briefly before being disowned by the party and removed. Meanwhile the Swiftboat liars hammered Kerry's military record with lies and distortions, the VP continued to claim Iraq-Al Quaeda ties and to tell the people that a vote for Kerry would be a terrorist victory, and the gay marriage amendment successfully energized evangelical Christians to cast their "family values" vote. Lesson we should learn? Fight fire with fire. More Michael Moores, not less. Next campaign whomever the right-wing candidate is we should accuse of ties to the KKK, of ties to the Mafia, of drug problems, we should have a 527 organization play the most negative and deceptive ads we can think of. So what if they aren't true. Neither was the Swiftvets or Cheney's claims, but it worked. Fight dirty, as dirty as we can. We need a Karl Rove to plant false stories with plausible deniability. We can't depend, as this election shows, on voters seeking the truth. Instead we need to muddy the waters on any issue that might make the radical right look good, and truth be damned. Just as with the Swiftvets and Kerry's heroism. It doesn't have to be true, it just has to be sensational. NO more disowning ads like the Hitler/Bush ads. When our candidate is asked if they approve, don't say they disapprove, just say "all negative ads are bad, such as" - and then mention a right-wing attack ad, and ask the right wing to stop. Did you hear that Dennis Hastert has been seen at Nazi rallies and giving the Hitler salute? No? Well, I heard that rumor. I don't know if it is true of course. Did you hear that the far-right has plans to re-instate debtor's prisons for those who fall behind on credit-card payments? I heard a rumor. I don't know if it is true. Did you hear that the neo-conservatives want to end all taxes on the wealthy elitists but raise taxes on the middle-class through such tricks as a flat-tax or a national sales tax? See, even if only one neo-conservative lawmaker suggests that (or even just a slightly-well known radical right pundit or think-tank suggests it) we need to immediately characterize it as the position of the entire far-right (far-right = all non-democrats.) And when they deny it simply say "It is good that the neo-conservative elitists have abandoned that plan, because the democratic pragmatists would never permit such an attack upon the middle class. We applaud their change of heart and hope they continue to move closer to the American mainstream."
  2. Appeal to our base: the gay marriage and other "family values" issues energized the right-wing base. We tried to get undecideds. The undecideds didn't show. Neither did minorities in Florida, or in Cleveland - that was the difference in victory. Our majority stayed home. The snake-handlers voted. Next election we need to energize our base. Howard Dean, not a middle of the roader like Kerry. We need to give up on the overwhelmingly red states and start referring to ourselves proudly as liberals, and change it from a dirty word. The generals who supported Kerry need to be identified as liberals. We should use the term again and again and again and take out the negative connotations, just as Clinton did in '92 and '96. We need to stop letting the right-wing set our agenda and start setting our own. Have Hillary run in '08, and don't give a damn that people who hate her might be offended - why worry about hostility from already hostile voters?
  3. Characterize the opposition and hammer our position home again and again: Bush labeled Kerry as weak and a flip-flopper from the start, and never let up. The left was labeled as hippies and cream-puffs, and we didn't recover. We should start, now, referring to conservatives as "extreme right-wingers" and "far-right neofascists" and "radical republicans." We should never use the word "conservative" again. It suggests safety and a lack of change and appeals to the "good old days." And that is not what the Bush presidency is at all. Use the term "neo-conservative." The words "far right" and "radical" and "extreme" and "neo-" should be used by all democratic leaders whenever they refer to the opposition. We should seek to make it unpopular to be identified as a radical, just as we were labeled radicals this election when in fact Kerry was the centrist and Bush was far, far right. Never use the word "right-winger" without the addition of the word "far" or "radical." We can also start using words such as war-monger, profiteer, oppressor, etc.
  4. Class warfare is ok: We lost the "culture war." Every time the radical neo-fascist tax cuts (see, I'm using #3 already) were criticized the far-right wingers accused the liberal pragmatists (our new title) of inciting class warfare. The tax cuts ARE a war against the middle class and the poor, but we were on the defense. Fuck that, no more. ENGAGE in inciting class warfare, but don't use the word "poor." Americans don't like to think of themselves as poor, and the poor don't vote Republican anyway. Use the word "middle-class" and make it a democratic appellation. Point out the inequities between the middle-class and the country-club set. Hammer on the unfairness, any time we speak of a radical republican (all republican leaders should now fit that description) we should point out how he hurts the middle-class. Notice how I didn't say he fails to "help" the middle-class. Americans don't like to think they need help even when they do. But they don't like being hurt. So anything that doesn't HELP those not rich should be an attack by the radical right upon the middle-class. And when we are accused of inciting class warfare we should agree proudly and state that we will continue to defend the middle-class against the country-club radicals who seek to harm them. Oh, and all neo-conservatives are "elitists" and "luxury suite silver spooners." I don't care if they were born in a log cabin and have $8 to their name, and worked at a non-profit all their life. They are now to be described only as elitists. Wal-Mart shoppers (and workers) voted Republican, even though the Democratic party is the party of the common man and the radical extremists are the party of the inherited wealth country-club elitists. So call a silver-spooner a spoiled silver-spooner, and ask him why he thinks middle-class Americans should be his servants.
  5. Any negative news that voters don't like should simply be denied: Is the economy bad with the first president to preside over a net job loss since Hoover? Claim a strengthening economy, just like the neo-conservative radical right has done this election. A military conflict going wrong due to idiotic missteps? Declare victory. The truth might be obvious to you and me, but in the "heartland" most voters simply assume the truth is in the middle. So we were clearly telling the truth and the neo-conservatives were far, far right. Voters simply assumed the truth was in the middle - meaning it was to the right of center. No more. Truth doesn't work, just as this election shows.
  6. Attack the patriotism of the radical neo-conservatives: We should have had more attacks on Bush's NG service, not less. We should have asked again and again "Why didn't you serve your country? National Guard members today are doing so, why didn't you?" Lather rinse repeat.
  7. Titles: Democratic legislators should start putting forward any bill they want regardless of its chance of success. The quality of the legislation isn't as important as the title. Have an act that takes away civil rights? Call it the Patriot Act. See? And if your bill doesn't pass attack the radical rightists for not supporting the "Defense of the Middle-class Justice for All" tax bill, even if they actually pass bigger tax cuts. "Why didn't you help defend the middle class?" "Uhh, I did, I voted to pass bigger tax cuts." "First you say you did, yet you voted against the Defense of the Middle-class Justice for All bill? Why don't you support justice for all and not just justice for your fellow elite country-clubbers? Don't you know that not everybody can lounge by the pool all day and be served drinks, that some people have to work for a living?" The "American Strength" bill, the "Defense of Children" act, the "Support for Working Mothers and Stay-at-home Moms" bill, the "Freedom" bill, the "Independence and Liberty" bill, the "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" bill. Be sure and have a popular issue that everybody wants (a military pay-raise for instance) and combine it with 500 things you know the radicals won't agree to, such as a national motor-voter bill, or a ban on certain pork-barrel bills in the districts of powerful extreme-right wingers. Or a tax on oil company windfall profits that will be used to lower the price of gas for the middle class. The "Honor and Respect the Warrior" bill will lose, and then endlessly repeat that the elitists Washington insiders voted against the Honor and Respect the Warrior bill. Have a veteran democratic pragmatist lawmaker do this while naming the elitist silver-spooners who didn't serve in the military who voted against the bill. Whenever the radicals sponser such a bill simply try and add a rider increasing the amount and also including a proviso you know they won't go for - increasing the power and staff of the SEC and including a new law that they right will hate - such as a law forbidding CEOs to cash out stock options until they have been out of the position for five years, etc. When this fails let every reporter know that the right-wing elitists voted against a larger raise for the military (you don't even need to get it out of committee - just suggest it and when it fails you raise hell).
  8. While we are doing all this make constant calls for more bi-partisanship and decry the lack of cooperation from the radical right who are out of touch with the middle-class backbone of America. While we plant stories of millions spent on parties for elitist politicians (we are always "lawmakers" and "public servants," they are always "politicians" and "right-wing Washington insiders) we should at the same time ask the radical republicans to stop their negative attacks. And be sure to note their "elitist hypocrisy" when we do so. Such as "Our middle-class pragmatist lawmakers want to defend the American family. Negative and misleading attacks that sling mud don't help America. We ask that the radical extremists cease their attacks. We don't like it when they hurt America and our freedom. And the fact that they accuse us of such deplorable tactics shows how hypocritical and out-of-touch the far-right neo-conservative Washington insiders really are. We demand that they cease such destructive and negative campaigns now and campaign as the American people want - honest, clean, and morally straight. We are tired of politicians attacking instead of helping Americans. We need to come together and do what is right for America." Ignore any twinges of guilt, as this election shows a conscience won't help us win.
  9. Start campaigning for 2008 NOW - by pledging support and loyalty to the president and then blaming the radical republicans for everything. Anytime anything bad happens we should be sure and point out that the extreme right-wing controls the House, Senate, and the White House. Even if it isn't related. "Floods in Ohio." "Well, the radical right controls the House, Senate, the White House, and the judiciary, yet they did nothing to prevent this and aren't helping the middle class like they should. Elite neo-conservatives living in a luxury suite don't know what it is like when a middle-class American loses a home or a business, and we call on the far right politicans to support the "Ohio Recovery and Protection" act granting Ohio more federal assistance." NOTE: the bill can be anything, such as stuff totally unrelated to the flood that was already going to Florida, such as homeland security money - simply do something like have the bill dispense the already-allocated funds 30 days earlier than planned, stuff like that. Or better, if you know the radical right will support the bill make sure you "thank them" and "encourage them" in their "change of heart." Stuff like "we are glad that the extreme right-wing has decided to put the needs of the nation above the desires of their party and will now support the "Honesty and Fairness for the Middle Class" act. We applaud their brave stance and hope that they continue to move closer to the American mainstream and help us defend the middle class and encourage them to also support the "Strengthen America" act as well." The Strengthen America act doesn't have to be remotely related to the other bill, and it is even better if it is a bill that the extremists won't support.
  10. Reduce everything to a 30-second sound bite, or even better, a 10-word statement. Twist the words of the extremists, just as the "global test" cudgel used by the elitist radical Bush was the exact opposite of what Kerry actually said.
  11. Again, start now. Take our country back and end this national nightmare.

Of course I will support whomever is elected by the American people. I call on the far-right wing to do the same and cease their negative campaigning and efforts to prevent middle-class Americans from having their votes counted.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Predictions?

Give me your best guess - as we use to say in the infantry, "SWAG" it. (Scientific "Wild-Ass" Guess).

You can use %'s or electoral votes.

Remember, the magic number of electoral votes needed is 270 (1 more than half of the 538 electoral vote total).

A candidate can win the % of the popular vote and lose the electoral college - as happened in 2000 when half a million more Americans voted for Gore than for Bush. So if you use %'s indicate the winner as well. Such as "Kerry 48.1 %, Bush 48.0 %, Nader 3.9 % - Bush."

Here is my guess, and I will repeat Vrangel's as well:

My guess:

Kerry 306 electoral votes, 48.9%, Bush 232 electoral votes, 48.4%, Nader 0 electoral votes, 2.5%, others .1% (including a write-in for Lefty cancelled out by a write-in for Ala71).

Vrangel says Bush 52%, Kerry 48%, Nader a fraction, Bush elected.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Bush Supporters' Misperceptions

Found at http://volokh.com/:

Bush Supporters' Misperceptions:

I just ran across a poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland (a group that calls itself nonpartisan, that apparently is regarded as nonpartisan, and whose board contains both Republicans and Democrats). I find its results stunning. Rather than summarize them, I'll just quote from their press release. The full study (which is fascinating) is available at
http://pipa.org/OnlineReports/Pres_Election_04/Report10_21_04.pdf.

Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, "One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them. Interestingly, this is one point on which Bush and Kerry supporters agree." Eighty-two percent of Bush supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or that Iraq had a major WMD program (19%). Likewise, 75% say that the Bush administration is saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda. Equally large majorities of Kerry supporters hear the Bush administration expressing these views--73% say the Bush administration is saying Iraq had WMD (11% a major program) and 74% that Iraq was substantially supporting al Qaeda.

Steven Kull adds, "Another reason that Bush supporters may hold to these beliefs is that they have not accepted the idea that it does not matter whether Iraq had WMD or supported al Qaeda. Here too they are in agreement with Kerry supporters." Asked whether the US should have gone to war with Iraq if US intelligence had concluded that Iraq was not making WMD or providing support to al Qaeda, 58% of Bush supporters said the US should not have, and 61% assume that in this case the President would not have. Kull continues, "To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance, and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about prewar Iraq."

This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to other realms as well. Despite an abundance of evidence--including polls conducted by Gallup International in 38 countries, and more recently by a consortium of leading newspapers in 10 major countries--only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq. Forty-two percent assume that views are evenly divided, and 26% assume that the majority approves. Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority of the world is opposed.

Similarly, 57% of Bush supporters assume that the majority of people in the world would favor Bush's reelection; 33% assumed that views are evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred. A recent poll by GlobeScan and PIPA of 35 of the major countries around the world found that in 30, a majority or plurality favored Kerry, while in just 3 Bush was favored. On average, Kerry was preferred more than two to one.

Bush supporters also have numerous misperceptions about Bush's international policy positions. Majorities incorrectly assume that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues--the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%)--and for addressing the problem of global warming: 51% incorrectly assume he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty. After he denounced the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he favored it dropped from 66%, but still 53% continue to believe that he favors it. An overwhelming 74% incorrectly assumes that he favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. In all these cases, majorities of Bush supporters favor the positions they impute to Bush. Kerry supporters are much more accurate in their perceptions of his positions on these issues.

Hold aside for a moment the implications of this poll for the Bush administration. Isn't it disappointing for so many supporters of any presidential candidate to have such misperceptions on issues as central as these?

Friday, October 22, 2004

We are NOT safer - but we could have been

Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide

By Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post Staff Writers

In the second half of March 2002, as the Bush administration mapped its next steps against al Qaeda, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin brought an unexpected message to the White House Situation Room. According to two people with firsthand knowledge, he told senior members of the president's national security team that the CIA was scaling back operations in Afghanistan.

That announcement marked a year-long drawdown of specialized military and intelligence resources from the geographic center of combat with Osama bin Laden. As jihadist enemies reorganized, slipping back and forth from Pakistan and Iran, the CIA closed forward bases in the cities of Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar. The agency put off an $80 million plan to train and equip a friendly intelligence service for the new U.S.-installed Afghan government. Replacements did not keep pace with departures as case officers finished six-week tours. And Task Force 5 -- a covert commando team that led the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants in the border region -- lost more than two-thirds of its fighting strength.
The commandos, their high-tech surveillance equipment and other assets would instead surge toward Iraq through 2002 and early 2003, as President Bush prepared for the March invasion that would extend the field of battle in the nation's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Bush has shaped his presidency, and his reelection campaign, around the threat that announced itself in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Five days after the attacks, he made it clear that he conceived a broader war. Impromptu remarks on the White House South Lawn were the first in which he named "this war on terrorism," and he cast it as a struggle with "a new kind of evil." Under that banner he toppled two governments, eased traditional restraints on intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and reshaped the landscape of the federal government.

As the war on terrorism enters its fourth year, its results are sufficiently diffuse -- and obscured in secrecy -- to resist easy measure. Interpretations of the public record are also polarized by the claims and counterclaims of the presidential campaign. Bush has staked his reelection on an argument that defense of the U.S. homeland requires unyielding resolve to take the fight to the terrorists. His opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry, portrays the Bush strategy as based on false assumptions and poor choices, particularly when it came to Iraq.

The contention that the Iraq invasion was an unwise diversion in confronting terrorism has been central to Kerry's critique of Bush's performance. But this account -- drawn largely from interviews with those who have helped manage Bush's offensive -- shows how the debate over that question has echoed within the ranks of the administration as well, even among those who support much of the president's agenda.
Interviews with those advisers also highlight an internal debate over Bush's strategy against al Qaeda and allied jihadists, which has stressed the "decapitation" of the network by capturing or killing leaders, but which has had less success in thwarting recruitment of new militants.

At the core of Bush's approach is an offensive strategy abroad that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said complements the defensive efforts he oversees at home. In an interview, Ridge said Bush's priority is to "play as hard and strong an offense as possible," most of it "offshore, overseas."

Published and classified documents and interviews with officials at many levels portray a war plan that scored major victories in its first months. Notable among them were the destruction of al Qaeda's Afghan sanctuary, the death or capture of leading jihadists, and effective U.S. demands for action by reluctant foreign governments.

But at least a dozen current and former officials who have held key positions in conducting the war now say they see diminishing returns in Bush's decapitation strategy. Current and former leaders of that effort, three of whom departed in frustration from the top White House terrorism post, said the manhunt is important but cannot defeat the threat of jihadist terrorism. Classified government tallies, moreover, suggest that Bush and Vice President Cheney have inflated the manhunt's success in their reelection bid.

Bush's focus on the instruments of force, the officials said, has been slow to adapt to a swiftly changing enemy. Al Qaeda, they said, no longer exerts centralized control over a network of operational cells. It has rather become the inspirational hub of a global movement, fomenting terrorism that it neither funds nor directs. Internal government assessments describe this change with a disquieting metaphor: They say jihadist terrorism is "metastasizing."

The war has sometimes taken unexpected turns, one of which brought the Bush administration into hesitant contact with Iran. For a time the two governments made tentative common cause, and Iran delivered hundreds of low-level al Qaeda figures to U.S. allies. Participants in Washington and overseas said Bush's deadlocked advisers -- unable to transmit instructions -- closed that channel before testing Iran's willingness to take more substantial steps. Some of al Qaeda's most wanted leaders now live in Iran under ambiguous conditions of house arrest.

Twenty months after the invasion of Iraq, the question of whether Americans are safer from terrorism because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power hinges on subjective judgment about might-have-beens. What is not in dispute, among scores of career national security officials and political appointees interviewed periodically since 2002, is that Bush's choice had opportunity costs -- first in postwar Afghanistan, then elsewhere. Iraq, they said, became a voracious consumer of time, money, personnel and diplomatic capital -- as well as the scarce tools of covert force on which Bush prefers to rely -- that until then were engaged against al Qaeda and its sources of direct support.'What Does It Mean to Be Safer?'
Bush conducts the war on terrorism above all as a global hunt for a cast of evil men he knows by name and photograph. He tracks progress in daily half-hour meetings that Richard A. Falkenrath, who sometimes attended them before departing recently as deputy homeland security adviser, described as "extremely granular, about individual guys." Frances Fragos Townsend, who took the post of White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser in May, said in an interview that Bush's strategy -- now, as in the war's first days -- is to "decapitate the beast."

The president is also focused on states that sponsor terrorism. The danger he sees is a "great nexus," thus far hypothetical, in which an enemy nation might hand terrorists a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon. That danger is what Bush said drove him to war in Iraq.

Bush emphasizes force of will -- determination to prosecute the enemy, and equally to stand up to allies who disapprove. Bush and his aides most often deflect questions about recent global polls that have found sharply rising anti-U.S. sentiment in Arab and Muslim countries and in Europe, but one of them addressed it in a recent interview. Speaking for the president by White House arrangement, but declining to be identified, a high-ranking national security official said of the hostility detected in surveys: "I don't think it matters. It's about keeping the country safe, and I don't think that matters."

That view is at odds with the view of many career military and intelligence officials, who spoke with increasing alarm about al Qaeda's success in winning recruits to its cause and defining its struggle with the United States.

Retired Army Gen. Wayne A. Downing, who was summoned to lead the White House Office for Combating Terrorism a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, said the war has been least successful where it has the highest stakes: slowing the growth of jihadist sympathies in populations that can provide the terrorists with money, concealment and recruits. Bin Laden has worked effectively to "convince the Islamic world the U.S. is the common enemy," Downing said. He added, "We have done little or nothing. That is the big failure."

Townsend, who inherited Downing's duties this spring, said the best evidence of Bush's success "is every day that goes by that America doesn't suffer another attack."

"By any measure, to me, we're winning, they're losing," she said. "We know for a fact that it's very difficult for them to raise money and move money around. We've made it increasingly difficult to communicate. It is harder for them to travel without risk. . . . Is there something that they absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed, can't do? I'm not going to say that. The point is we have degraded their capability to act across the board."

John A. Gordon, Townsend's immediate predecessor, said in his first interview since leaving government in June that those measures of tactical success are no longer enough.

"People in the business would say, 'We've done all this stuff, we know we've pushed back some attacks,' but what does it mean to be safer?" he asked. "You decrease the probability of a major attack, but you haven't pushed it to anywhere near zero. If it happens, nobody's going to care whether we 'significantly affected' [the threat] or not."

'A Manageable Problem'

Two years ago, Gordon thought better of the strategy. He helped direct it.
Born in Jefferson City, Mo., Gordon spent a career in the Cold War Air Force, rising to four-star general in the missile and bomber force. Bush tapped him in June 2002 as chief of the Office for Combating Terrorism, with a rank just below that of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

From his vantage in Room 313 of the Old Executive Office Building, Gordon saw a colossal mismatch of strength between the global superpower and its stateless enemy. He sat down for an interview, after six months on the job, in a cautiously optimistic frame of mind.
With al Qaeda's Afghan training camps demolished and its troops dispersed, he said in 2002, the network's deadliest capabilities relied on "fewer than three dozen" uniquely dangerous men. "Where we're focusing is on the manhunt," he said. "That's still job number one, to break down and capture and kill . . . the inner core of Osama and his very, very closest advisers."

At the CIA's Counterterrorist Center in Langley, which then as now maintained wall-size charts of al Qaeda's global network, the approximately 30 names at the top were known as "high-value targets." At the time, a year into the manhunt, many of Gordon's peers agreed that "leadership targets," in the argot of U.S. military and intelligence agencies, were a "center of gravity" for al Qaeda -- a singular source of strength without which the enemy could be brought to collapse.

Hunting al Qaeda's leaders cut them off from their followers, Gordon said then, and "layers of interdiction" stood between would-be attackers and their targets. Some could be stopped in their country of origin, others as they crossed the U.S. border, and still others as they neared the point of attack. Each defensive measure, in theory, created U.S. opportunities to strike.

"If I can cut him in half every time he comes through," he said, "now I can give the FBI and local law enforcement a manageable problem."

'The Same People, Over and Over'

That did not happen. On its own terms -- as a manhunt, measured in "high-value" captures and kills -- the president's strategy produced its peak results the first year.

Classified tallies made available to The Washington Post have identified 28 of the approximately 30 names on the unpublished HVT List. Half -- 14 -- are known to be dead or in custody. Those at large include three of the five men on the highest echelon: bin Laden, his deputy Ayman Zawahiri and operational planner Saif al-Adel.

More significant than the bottom line, government analysts said, is the trend. Of the al Qaeda leaders accounted for, eight were killed or captured by the end of 2002. Five followed in 2003 -- notably Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the principal planner of the Sept. 11 attack. This year only one more name -- Hassan Ghul, a senior courier captured infiltrating Iraq -- could be crossed off.

"I'll be pretty frank," Gordon said this fall after leaving the administration. "Obviously we would have liked to pick up more of the high-value targets than have been done. There have been strong initiatives. They just haven't all panned out."

As the manhunt results declined, the Bush administration has portrayed growing success. Early last year, the president's top advisers generally said in public that more than one-third of those most wanted had been found. Late this year it became a staple of presidential campaign rhetoric that, as Bush put it in the Sept. 30 debate with Kerry, "75 percent of known al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice."

Although some of the administration's assertions are too broadly stated to measure, some are not. Townsend, Bush's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, said "three-quarters" of "the known al Qaeda leaders on 9/11" were dead or in custody. Asked to elaborate, she said she would have to consult a list. White House spokeswoman Erin Healy referred follow-up questions to the FBI. Spokesmen for the FBI, the National Security Council and the CIA did not respond to multiple telephone calls and e-mails.

Whatever its results, the manhunt remains at the center of Bush's war. He mentions little else, save the Taliban's expulsion from power, when describing progress against al Qaeda. According to people who have briefed him, Bush still marks changes by hand on a copy of the HVT list.

"This is a conversation he's been having every day, more or less, with his senior advisers since September 11th," Falkenrath said. It covers "the same people, over and over again."

When Townsend was asked to describe the most important milestones of the war, she cited individual captures and kills. She named Khalid Sheik Mohammed; Abu Issa al Hindi, accused of surveying U.S. financial targets for al Qaeda in 2000 and 2001; Riduan Isamuddin, the alleged Southeast Asia coordinator; Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of an al Qaeda affiliate in Indonesia; and Yazid Sufaat of Malaysia, who led efforts to develop a biological weapon.

Each of those men had significance "in a greater sense than just the individual," Townsend said, because they had "unique expertise, experience or access." Al Qaeda may replace them, "but does that person have the same strength and leadership and capability? The answer is no. Maybe he acquires it on the job, but maybe not."

Unlikely Allies

Days after Bush declared an "axis of evil," one of its members dispatched an envoy to New York. Javad Zarif, Iran's deputy foreign minister, arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the first week of February 2002 with a thick sheaf of papers. According to sources involved in the transaction, Zarif passed the papers to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who passed them in turn to Washington.

Neatly arranged inside were photos of 290 men and copies of their travel documents. Iran said they were al Qaeda members, arrested as they tried to cross the rugged border from Afghanistan. Most were Saudi, a fact that two officials said Saudi Arabia's government asked Iran to conceal. All had been expelled to their home countries.

"They did not coordinate with us, but as long as the bad guys were going -- fine," a senior U.S. national security official said.

Diplomats from Tehran and Washington had been meeting quietly all winter in New York and Bonn. They found common interests against the Taliban, Iran's bitter enemy. Iranian envoys notified their U.S. counterparts about the 290 arrests and proposed to cooperate against al Qaeda as well. The U.S. delegation sought instructions from Washington.

The delegation's room to maneuver, however, was limited by a policy guideline set shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In late November 2001, the State Department's policy planning staff wrote a paper arguing that "we have a real opportunity here" to work more closely with Iran in fighting al Qaeda, according to Flynt Leverett, a career CIA analyst then assigned to State, who is now at the Brookings Institution and has provided advice to Kerry's campaign. Participants in the ensuing interagency debate said the CIA joined the proposal to exchange information and coordinate border sweeps against al Qaeda. Some of the most elusive high-value targets were living in or transiting Iran, including bin Laden's son Saad, al-Adel and Abu Hafs the Mauritanian.

Representatives of Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fought back. Any engagement, they argued, would legitimate Iran and other historic state sponsors of terrorism such as Syria. In the last weeks of 2001, the Deputies Committee adopted what came to be called "Hadley Rules," after deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, who chaired the meeting. The document said the United States would accept tactical information about terrorists from countries on the "state sponsors" list but offer nothing in return. Bush's State of the Union speech the next month linked Iran to Iraq and North Korea as "terrorist allies."

Twice in the coming year, Washington passed requests for Tehran to deliver al Qaeda suspects to the Afghan government. Iran transferred two of the suspects and sought more information about others.

Iran, in turn, asked the United States, among other things, to question four Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. They were suspects in the 1998 slayings of nine Iranian diplomats in Kabul.

Participants said Bush's divided national security team was unable to agree on an answer. Some believe important opportunities were lost.

"I sided with the Langley guys on that," Downing said. "I was willing to make a deal with the devil if we could clip somebody important off or stop an attack."

Back to Afghanistan

Two months ago, a team of soldiers from a highly classified special operations squadron arrived in the southeastern mountains of Afghanistan, along the Pakistani border. They were back to hunt bin Laden, many of them after a two-year gap.

"We finally settled in at our 'permanent' location 8 days ago after moving twice in three weeks," one team member wrote to a friend. "New territory, right at the border, up in the mountains. Interesting place. We need to start from scratch, nothing operational in place. Guess we'll spend our whole time developing a basic structure for our ops."

At the peak of the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants, in early 2002, about 150 commandos operated along Afghanistan's borders with Pakistan and Iran in a top-secret team known as Task Force 5. The task force included a few CIA paramilitaries, but most of its personnel came from military "special mission units," or SMUs, whose existence is not officially acknowledged. One is the Army squadron once known as Delta Force. The other -- specializing in human and technical intelligence operations -- has not been described before in public. Its capabilities include close-in electronic surveillance and, uniquely in the U.S. military, the conduct of "low-level source operations" -- recruiting and managing spies.

These elite forces, along with the battlefield intelligence technology of Predator and Global Hawk drone aircraft, were the scarcest tools of the hunt for jihadists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. With Bush's shift of focus to Iraq, the special mission units called most of their troops home to prepare for a new set of high-value targets in Baghdad.

"There is a direct consequence for us having taken these guys out prematurely," said Leverett, who then worked as senior director for Middle Eastern affairs on Bush's NSC staff. "There were people on the staff level raising questions about what that meant for getting al Qaeda, for creating an Afghan security and intelligence service [to help combat jihadists]. Those questions didn't get above staff level, because clearly there had been a strategic decision taken."

Task Force 5 dropped in strength at times to as few as 30 men. Its counterpart in Iraq, by early 2003, burgeoned to more than 200 as an insurgency grew and Hussein proved difficult to find. Late last year, the Defense Department merged the two commando teams and headquartered the reflagged Task Force 121 under Rear Adm. William H. McRaven in Baghdad.

"I support the decision to go into Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein's regime," said Downing, a former U.S. Special Operations Command chief. "But in fact it was a gamble of sorts because Iraq did take focus and energy away from the Afghanistan campaign."

"It's been extraordinarily painful, very frustrating," said a member of one elite military unit who watched what he considered the main enemy slip away. Even now, with a modest resurgence in U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, the task force "is not getting as much attention from the home office as Iraq."

Much the same drawdown took place in the CIA.

With the closing of forward bases, the remaining case officers formed mobile teams of four or five, traveling in SUVs with translators, a medic and tribal allies they recruited. In some posts with former full-time presence, according to an operations officer who served there, they left empty safe houses for "almost a circuit riding thing -- just bring your communications equipment in" for each visit. Others shut down altogether.
In 2002, the CIA transferred its station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, to lead the new Iraq Issue Group. At least 30 case officers, a knowledgeable official said, joined the parallel Iraq Operations Task Force by mid-2002. By the time war came in Iraq nearly 150 case officers filled the task force and issue group on the "A Corridor" of Langley's top management. The Baghdad station became the largest since the Vietnam War, with more than 300.
Early this year, the CIA's then-station chief in Kabul reported a resurgence of Taliban and al Qaeda forces in three border provinces. He proposed a spring intelligence offensive in South Waziristan and in and around Kunar province farther north. The chief, whose first name is Peter, estimated he would need 25 case officers in the field and an additional five for the station. A national security official who tracked the proposal said CIA headquarters replied that it did not have the resources to make the surge. Peter finished his year as station chief in June.

'A Lot of Little Cancers'

Townsend, the White House terrorism and homeland security adviser, gives two framed courtroom sketches from a former life a place of honor on her West Wing wall. The color portraits, from 1990, depict her as lead prosecutor in a case against New York's Gambino crime family. When she took her White House job in May, she told the Associated Press that the transition from organized crime to terrorism "actually turns out not to be that big a leap." She added, "Really in many ways you're talking about a group with a command-and-control structure."

Jihadist terrorism has always posed what strategists call an "asymmetric threat," capable of inflicting catastrophic harm against a much stronger foe. But the way it operates, they said, is changing. Students of al Qaeda used to speak of it as a network with "key nodes" that could be attacked. More recently they have described the growth of "franchises." Gordon and Falkenrath pioneered an analogy, before leaving government, with an even less encouraging prognosis.

Jihadists "metastasized into a lot of little cancers in a lot of different countries," Gordon said recently. They formed "groups, operating under the terms of a movement, who don't have to rely on al Qaeda itself for funding, for training or for authority. [They operate] at a level that doesn't require as many people, doesn't require them to be as well-trained, and it's going to be damned hard to get in front of that."

Bruce Hoffman of the government-funded Rand Corp., who consults with participants in the war in classified forums, said U.S. analysts see clearly that "you can only have an effective top-down strategy if you're also drying up recruitment and sources of support."

Marc Sageman, a psychologist and former CIA case officer who studies the formation of jihadist cells, said the inspirational power of the Sept. 11 attacks -- and rage in the Islamic world against U.S. steps taken since -- has created a new phenomenon. Groups of young men gather in common outrage, he said, and a violent plan takes form without the need for an outside leader to identify, persuade or train those who carry it out.

The brutal challenge for U.S. intelligence, Sageman said, is that "you don't know who's going to be a terrorist" anymore. Citing the 15 men who killed 190 passengers on March 11 in synchronized bombings of the Spanish rail system, he said "if you had gone to those guys in Madrid six months prior, they'd say 'We're not terrorists,' and they weren't. Madrid took like five weeks from inception."

Much the same pattern, officials said, preceded deadly attacks in Indonesia, Turkey, Kenya, Morocco and elsewhere. There is no reason to believe, they said, that the phenomenon will remain overseas.

Such attacks do not rely on leaders as the Bush administration strategy has conceived them. New jihadists can acquire much of the know-how they need, Sageman and his counterparts still in government said, in al Qaeda's Saudi-published magazines, Al Baatar and the Voice of Jihad, available online.

Townsend acknowledged in an interview this month that "as you put more pressure on the center" of al Qaeda, "it pushes power out." That does not change the strategy, she said: "While you want to decapitate the beast, you also want to be able to cut the tentacles off. . . . Do we find there are others who emerge on the screen as leaders of their operational cadre? Of course. We capture and kill them, too."

'Test of Wills'

Downing, Bush's first counterterrorism adviser after Sept. 11, said in a 2002 interview that hunting down al Qaeda leaders could do no more than "buy time" for longer-term efforts to stem the jihadist tide. This month he said, "Time is not on our side."

"This is not a war," he said. "What we're faced with is an Islamic insurgency that is spreading throughout the world, not just the Islamic world." Because it is "a political struggle," he said, "the military is not the key factor. The military has to be coordinated with the other elements of national power."

Many of Downing's peers -- and strong majorities of several dozen officers and officials who were interviewed -- agree. They cite a long list of proposals to address terrorism at its roots that have not been carried out.

Among them was a plan by Wendy Chamberlin, then ambassador to Pakistan, to offer President Pervez Musharraf a substitute for Saudi funding of a radical network of Islamist schools known as madrasas. Downing backed Chamberlin in the interagency debate, describing education as "the root of many of the recruits for the Islamist movement." Bush promised such support to Musharraf in a meeting soon after Sept. 11, said an official who accompanied him, but the $300 million plan did not survive the White House budget request.

The formal White House strategy for combating terrorism says that the United States will "use every instrument of national power -- diplomatic, economic, law enforcement, financial, information, intelligence, and military" to triumph. A central criticism in the Sept. 11 commission's report is that the efforts at nonmilitary suasion overseas lack funding, energy from top leaders and what the commission's executive director, Philip D. Zelikow, called "gravitas."

Most officials interviewed said Bush has not devised an answer to a problem then-CIA Director George J. Tenet identified publicly on Feb. 11, 2003 -- "the numbers of societies and peoples excluded from the benefits of an expanding global economy, where the daily lot is hunger, disease, and displacement -- and that produce large populations of disaffected youth who are prime recruits for our extremist foes."

The president and his most influential advisers, many officials said, do not see those factors -- or U.S. policy overseas -- as primary contributors to the terrorism threat. Bush's explanation, in private and public, is that terrorists hate America for its freedom.

Sageman, who supports some of Bush's approach, said that analysis is "nonsense, complete nonsense. They obviously haven't looked at any surveys." The central findings of polling by the Pew Charitable Trust and others, he said, is that large majorities in much of the world "view us as a hypocritical huge beast throwing our weight around in the Middle East."
When Bush speaks of al Qaeda's supporters, he refers to the leaders, not the citizens, of foreign nations. In a May 2003 speech about the Middle East, he said the "hateful ideology of terrorism is shaped and nurtured and protected by oppressive regimes." His approach centers not on winning support for U.S. values and policy, but on confronting evil without flinching.

Citing two governments he toppled by force and promising to "confront governments that support terrorists," Bush said in a speech on Oct. 6: "America is always more secure when freedom is on the march, and freedom is on the march in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere."
Thomas W. O'Connell, who is assistant defense secretary in charge of special operations and low-intensity conflict, said Rumsfeld sometimes gathers Pentagon leaders to discuss the nature of the threat. After one such discussion recently, O'Connell concluded that "battle of ideas" is a poor term for the conflict underway.

"Perhaps the term 'test of wills,' " he said, "is more like what we're up against." Battles, he said, are "short, sharp events" against an external enemy. A test is "something that's internal" and "more reflective of a long, drawn-out ordeal."

Staff writer Craig Whitlock and researchers Robert Thomason and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

the false choice

This is from a quiz that purports to show people which candidate they agree with the most, found at http://www.selectsmart.com/president/

It is a pretty cool quiz, but like most of the nation it gets the choices wrong on National Security. Here is #6:

6. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Check any and all statements with which you agree)
a)It is appropriate for the US to take unilateral military action against enemy nations--for example Iraq.
b)It is appropriate for the US to support the formation of a Palestinian state.
c)It is appropriate for the US to maintain a non-interventionist foreign policy.
d)It is bad policy for the US to attack an enemy nation pre-emptively.

Of all of these I find "a" to be the one nearest to how I feel - but I think, no, I KNOW that invading Iraq was world-class stupid. I guess Kerry and I are both "flip-floppers," right?

Wrong. It is the false choice of the right-wing. The "for us or against us" dichotomy that ignores reality.

Here is how I (and Kerry) would word our choice: "It is sometimes necessary and appropriate for the US to take unilateral pre-emptive military action. When not necessary and inappropriate that course of action harms our national security and benefits those who seek to do us harm."

This means I would do anything to protect our republic from harm, including taking the time to learn about foreign policy so that I can make intelligent choices that enhance our security rather than going with my "gut" and doing what a bunch of rednecks drinking beer would go with, such as "bomb 'em" without caring much who "'em" is, or worrying about whether there are other courses of action that might help improve our national security and avoid committing our most precious national resource - our youth - to battle.

Too bad the president would rather be a redneck and "bomb 'em." And the spin machine is so pervasive that it seems the only choices are agree with him on Iraq, or agree that we can not invade pre-emptively and unilateraly when confronted with a clear and present danger. Of course this is false - I think we have the right to protect ourselves, including pre-emptive unilateral warfare if necessary. But this was not the case in Iraq. We weren't confronted with a clear and present danger, but an already-existing, steadily diminishing, successfully-contained threat. Invasion harmed our national security.

But making that case takes "nuance" and an understanding of the world beyond those who learn by "watching" their news. Which means it is easier to frame it as a choice of "invade or appease" and cast Kerry as weak and a flip-flopper. It explains why Bush seized on the "global test" canard and turned it into the opposite of what Kerry said. It explains why Bush can say "first he voted for the war and then he turned against it" even though the vote was for the authority to wage war, at a time Bush said war was not inevitable. This authority Kerry even today believes a president sometimes needs to show our enemies we are serious - but authority that, when misused, harms us.

And it explains why so many Americans will cast their vote for Bush thinking that to vote for his opponent is a vote of weakness, that so many believe he is a flip-flopper when his position has been consistent all along.

So it all comes down to this: we will get the government we deserve. If a majority of us choose to be deluded, easily misled, deliberately ignorant, to believe a man who foisted an unnecessary war of choice on us that has weakened our nation - then, well, we deserve what we will get. Just as those Americans who chose to secede from the Union in 1861 ended up getting what they deserve. They didn't think they had a choice either, and they despised the do-gooder, weak, too-tall Yankee lawyer who would dare to try and lead them. After all, they knew any Southern man could whip ten Yankees. Some tried to reason with them, but they were shouted down. The fire-breathers in the South preferred to see the world as they wished it, and not as it was.

Somehow the "blue" states persevered, and that too-tall lawyer weakling found the strength to be our greatest president.

Which side will you be on this time? The side of right, or the side that merely thinks they are right and deliberately ignores reality in favor of what they want to see?

Endorsement

Senator John Kerry goes toward the election with a base that is built more on opposition to George W. Bush than loyalty to his own candidacy. But over the last year we have come to know Mr. Kerry as more than just an alternative to the status quo. We like what we've seen. He has qualities that could be the basis for a great chief executive, not just a modest improvement on the incumbent.

We have been impressed with Mr. Kerry's wide knowledge and clear thinking - something that became more apparent once he was reined in by that two-minute debate light. He is blessedly willing to re-evaluate decisions when conditions change. And while Mr. Kerry's service in Vietnam was first over-promoted and then over-pilloried, his entire life has been devoted to public service, from the war to a series of elected offices. He strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.



There is no denying that this race is mainly about Mr. Bush's disastrous tenure. Nearly four years ago, after the Supreme Court awarded him the presidency, Mr. Bush came into office amid popular expectation that he would acknowledge his lack of a mandate by sticking close to the center. Instead, he turned the government over to the radical right.

Mr. Bush installed John Ashcroft, a favorite of the far right with a history of insensitivity to civil liberties, as attorney general. He sent the Senate one ideological, activist judicial nominee after another. He moved quickly to implement a far-reaching anti-choice agenda including censorship of government Web sites and a clampdown on embryonic stem cell research. He threw the government's weight against efforts by the University of Michigan to give minority students an edge in admission, as it did for students from rural areas or the offspring of alumni.

When the nation fell into recession, the president remained fixated not on generating jobs but rather on fighting the right wing's war against taxing the wealthy. As a result, money that could have been used to strengthen Social Security evaporated, as did the chance to provide adequate funding for programs the president himself had backed. No Child Left Behind, his signature domestic program, imposed higher standards on local school systems without providing enough money to meet them.

If Mr. Bush had wanted to make a mark on an issue on which Republicans and Democrats have long made common cause, he could have picked the environment. Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor chosen to run the Environmental Protection Agency, came from that bipartisan tradition. Yet she left after three years of futile struggle against the ideologues and industry lobbyists Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had installed in every other important environmental post. The result has been a systematic weakening of regulatory safeguards across the entire spectrum of environmental issues, from clean air to wilderness protection.



The president who lost the popular vote got a real mandate on Sept. 11, 2001. With the grieving country united behind him, Mr. Bush had an unparalleled opportunity to ask for almost any shared sacrifice. The only limit was his imagination.

He asked for another tax cut and the war against Iraq.

The president's refusal to drop his tax-cutting agenda when the nation was gearing up for war is perhaps the most shocking example of his inability to change his priorities in the face of drastically altered circumstances. Mr. Bush did not just starve the government of the money it needed for his own education initiative or the Medicare drug bill. He also made tax cuts a higher priority than doing what was needed for America's security; 90 percent of the cargo unloaded every day in the nation's ports still goes uninspected.

Along with the invasion of Afghanistan, which had near unanimous international and domestic support, Mr. Bush and his attorney general put in place a strategy for a domestic antiterror war that had all the hallmarks of the administration's normal method of doing business: a Nixonian obsession with secrecy, disrespect for civil liberties and inept management.

American citizens were detained for long periods without access to lawyers or family members. Immigrants were rounded up and forced to languish in what the Justice Department's own inspector general found were often "unduly harsh" conditions. Men captured in the Afghan war were held incommunicado with no right to challenge their confinement. The Justice Department became a cheerleader for skirting decades-old international laws and treaties forbidding the brutal treatment of prisoners taken during wartime.

Mr. Ashcroft appeared on TV time and again to announce sensational arrests of people who turned out to be either innocent, harmless braggarts or extremely low-level sympathizers of Osama bin Laden who, while perhaps wishing to do something terrible, lacked the means. The Justice Department cannot claim one major successful terrorism prosecution, and has squandered much of the trust and patience the American people freely gave in 2001. Other nations, perceiving that the vast bulk of the prisoners held for so long at Guantánamo Bay came from the same line of ineffectual incompetents or unlucky innocents, and seeing the awful photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, were shocked that the nation that was supposed to be setting the world standard for human rights could behave that way.



Like the tax cuts, Mr. Bush's obsession with Saddam Hussein seemed closer to zealotry than mere policy. He sold the war to the American people, and to Congress, as an antiterrorist campaign even though Iraq had no known working relationship with Al Qaeda. His most frightening allegation was that Saddam Hussein was close to getting nuclear weapons. It was based on two pieces of evidence. One was a story about attempts to purchase critical materials from Niger, and it was the product of rumor and forgery. The other evidence, the purchase of aluminum tubes that the administration said were meant for a nuclear centrifuge, was concocted by one low-level analyst and had been thoroughly debunked by administration investigators and international vetting. Top members of the administration knew this, but the selling went on anyway. None of the president's chief advisers have ever been held accountable for their misrepresentations to the American people or for their mismanagement of the war that followed.

The international outrage over the American invasion is now joined by a sense of disdain for the incompetence of the effort. Moderate Arab leaders who have attempted to introduce a modicum of democracy are tainted by their connection to an administration that is now radioactive in the Muslim world. Heads of rogue states, including Iran and North Korea, have been taught decisively that the best protection against a pre-emptive American strike is to acquire nuclear weapons themselves.



We have specific fears about what would happen in a second Bush term, particularly regarding the Supreme Court. The record so far gives us plenty of cause for worry. Thanks to Mr. Bush, Jay Bybee, the author of an infamous Justice Department memo justifying the use of torture as an interrogation technique, is now a federal appeals court judge. Another Bush selection, J. Leon Holmes, a federal judge in Arkansas, has written that wives must be subordinate to their husbands and compared abortion rights activists to Nazis.

Mr. Bush remains enamored of tax cuts but he has never stopped Republican lawmakers from passing massive spending, even for projects he dislikes, like increased farm aid.

If he wins re-election, domestic and foreign financial markets will know the fiscal recklessness will continue. Along with record trade imbalances, that increases the chances of a financial crisis, like an uncontrolled decline of the dollar, and higher long-term interest rates.

The Bush White House has always given us the worst aspects of the American right without any of the advantages. We get the radical goals but not the efficient management. The Department of Education's handling of the No Child Left Behind Act has been heavily politicized and inept. The Department of Homeland Security is famous for its useless alerts and its inability to distribute antiterrorism aid according to actual threats. Without providing enough troops to properly secure Iraq, the administration has managed to so strain the resources of our armed forces that the nation is unprepared to respond to a crisis anywhere else in the world.



Mr. Kerry has the capacity to do far, far better. He has a willingness - sorely missing in Washington these days - to reach across the aisle. We are relieved that he is a strong defender of civil rights, that he would remove unnecessary restrictions on stem cell research and that he understands the concept of separation of church and state. We appreciate his sensible plan to provide health coverage for most of the people who currently do without.

Mr. Kerry has an aggressive and in some cases innovative package of ideas about energy, aimed at addressing global warming and oil dependency. He is a longtime advocate of deficit reduction. In the Senate, he worked with John McCain in restoring relations between the United States and Vietnam, and led investigations of the way the international financial system has been gamed to permit the laundering of drug and terror money. He has always understood that America's appropriate role in world affairs is as leader of a willing community of nations, not in my-way-or-the-highway domination.

We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better.

Voting for president is a leap of faith. A candidate can explain his positions in minute detail and wind up governing with a hostile Congress that refuses to let him deliver. A disaster can upend the best-laid plans. All citizens can do is mix guesswork and hope, examining what the candidates have done in the past, their apparent priorities and their general character. It's on those three grounds that we enthusiastically endorse John Kerry for president.

From today's New York Times

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Partisan bickering returns

Ok, back to argument - the fun part of blogging.

I say that the war on drugs has harmed our nation. It has done so by:
1.increasing drug profits for organized criminal organizations,
2.wasting billions of taxpayer dollars,
3. taking law enforcement away from better, more suitable tasks,
4. harming civil rights,
5. harming rather than helping drug abusers (and destroying the lives of recreational users who have been arrested when they could have remained productive members of society),
6. encouraging rather than discouraging kids from using drugs, and has
7. prevented the government from gaining millions, perhaps billions, in taxable revenue if legalisation were permitted and recreational drugs were taxed.

Certain habit-forming or dangerous drugs should remain illegal without a prescription or illegal, period (heroin, cocaine, crystal, etc) because the risks outweigh the rewards, and the cost to society is higher than the benefits to the individual - since in those cases there is no benefit for the individual either.

But many now-illegal drugs should be legalized (marijuana, XTC, mescaline (I think - I don't know much about mescaline)) because there would be little cost to society by allowing individuals to take such drugs.

And notice how the dynamic of our traditional freedom-based society has changed when it comes to drugs. Instead of the government proving that individuals shouldn't take drugs before the government is allowed to forbid it, individuals have to prove they should be allowed to take drugs before the government lets them. I think when it comes to my decisions about my body and what I do with it the government should stay out of it unless there is a real good argument for making me do something I don't want to do, or preventing me from doing something I wish to do. Such as stopping for traffic lights - I might not want to stop, I do lose freedom when laws make me stop when I don't want to, but the case for it is obvious - we are all better off for such laws (including the person who didn't want to stop). How is that true for smoking dope? If I want to light up, how are you harmed? Or society in general? One way is through the illegal drug trade - it is a violent and destructive business that is paid for by individual smokers across the nation. But that is a harm created by making it illegal, not from the use of the drug itself. It isn't an argument for keeping the drug illegal because legalizing it would take it away from the illegal drug trade.

Just as prohibition was Al Capone's worst nightmare, legalisation is the pusher's worst nightmare.

Thoughts?

And if you haven't done it already, if you love your country, read this: http://buggieboy.blogspot.com/2004/10/if-you-love-your-country-read-this.html

Five things we have in common

We have all been focusing on our differences (real and "global test" imagined) during this campaign, which of course makes total sense.

But I think that, with the election less than a month away, we should not forget what we have in common. Regardless of who wins we will all be proud citizens of the United States of America on Nov. 3rd, the day after the election, and on January 21st, the day after the inaguaration. So here are five things the Republicans and Democrats have in common:

1. We all love America. Uniquely in the world, the United States is bound together not by ethnicity, geography, religion, or race. We are bound together by an idea - that all men (and women) are created equal, they they have rights, and that power flows from the people to the government, not the other way around. We are bound by the idea that we can govern ourselves. Given the long history of civilization we should not forget how few humans in history have enjoyed such a form of government, nor how few enjoy it today. We are the exception to the rule. Which is why I believe in American exceptionalism - not jingoism, not nationalism, but an understanding that our system is different than most of the systems existing today or throughout all of human history. Say what you will about Kerry or Bush, they both have to beg for our votes and stand before us to be judged. As it should be. And we all love and support our form of government as the best humanity has ever created.

2. We all want to fight and win the war on the terrorists who seek to destroy us. Now there is a huge difference of opinion on how that should be done, or even if the Democrats really want to fight it. That is a lie. All of us were attacked on 9/11. And all of us united to fight the evil that attacked us. And that remains true today. We will win this war. The question of how to fight it is different. We disagree on that. But we agree that we must win. And we will win this war. We've faced bleaker days in the past, faced more dangerous threats, and triumphed. We will win because of number one above. In the fall of 1942 we faced the Third Reich and the Japanese Empire, and they were winning. Yet we knew then we would triumph, and so we will triumph against this much lesser threat. The only way for the terrorists to win is for us to renounce number one. No way.

3. We believe in capitalism. Sure there are disagreements about details. The left says the right wants a fascist state controlled by evil corporations, and the right says the left is really a bunch of commies and socialists who want to destroy business. That is empty rhetoric and we all know it. We believe in capitalism because it harnesses greed for social good. Because market forces recognize reality and human nature. Communism, if you really take the time to study it apart from the knee-jerk "communism is evil" reaction that has been conditioned into us, is really a noble idea. It says that everyone will be equal and that everyone will work for the good of all. That justice will triumph and fairness will reign. That is a great goal. The only problem is that it doesn't and never can work. It ignores reality, ignores what motivates people, and always has to resort to the use of force in order to drive people to produce. Communism works in heaven, where everyone is pure and good and selfless. It doesn't work here on earth. The closest our society comes is in the military, where people serve not for money but for an ideal. Yet sergeants get paid more than privates, and generals more than lieutenants. And our military is the greatest in world history because of capitalism - we can fund our forces because we produce more than any other nation. What does work is capitalism - the idea that people take risks, that some win and some lose, that instead of worrying about dividing the pie equally we should bake more pies. We might disagree about how to do that - some want to leave market forces alone completely, some want to invest in training more cooks and build more kitchens - but we agree that our system should create wealth and opportunity, not just redistribute what already exists. Instead of dividing wealth we should create it. We should foster competition. Regardless of who wins the election we will remain proudly capitalistic, with the highest gross national product of any nation in the world.

4. We believe in limited government. What, a liberal saying that? Yes. Of course. Our Constitution and our Bill of Rights says that government has only the power we give it, and NO MORE. It is limited. We may disagree on details - the right supports the Patriot Act, while the left says it is a danger to the Bill of Rights. The left says this while many on the left want to pretend the 2nd Amendment really doesn't mean what it says. We argue about which side is more loyal and true toward the Constitution. But if I went up to Ashcroft and said "we can capture all of the terrorists tomorrow, but it will mean the end of the 1st Amendment forever" I know he would say "No way. We will win another way." And if he didn't the Republican party would revolt and demand his removal - because they love the Constitution too. We argue about where we draw the line between liberty and security, but both sides agree that we should draw that line. Other systems don't even think about it, the powers of the government over the people are supreme. Don't forget that. Both sides support the Constitution and our way of life.

5. We believe in democracy. Sounds obvious, but hearing the rhetoric you might think the republicans want to "steal" the election, that they want to disenfranchise blacks, that they want to use voting machines to manipulate the vote, that they want their candidate in office even if they really lost. The debacle in 2000 had a lot to do with this. But while some might be willing to cheat democracy in order to win, that is a minority in both parties. And the election in 2000 was not "stolen." I don't like the Supreme Court's ruling in Bush v. Gore, but that is the way our system works - sometimes we don't get our way. Even when we think we did. Democrats didn't criticize the electoral college prior to the election, and thus had no right to criticize the results of the electoral college even though more citizens voted for Gore. Whether Florida conducted a fair ballot was up to the people of Florida, and if the system was "manipulated" in that state we would have heard. What we have heard since was information that was known before (the felon-scrubbing that removed innocents who were likely to vote for Gore, the intimidation, etc) and yet no stink was made until afterwards - and thus complaining looks a little suspect. So the democrats could have complained, but expected to coast to victory. Instead it was a very close race, perhaps too close to call, and so our system has other mechanisms to decide the winner. We can send it to Congress or we can send it to the Supreme Court. Both parties chose the Supreme Court. They decided. End of discussion. We (all of us) will accept the results on Nov. 2nd because, unique to our system, the opposition is "loyal" to the government. Because getting your way is not considered more important than getting the support of the people. It is easy to think the "other side" wants to "steal" the election and ignore the will of the people. But Face facts. Any side that really tried such a thing would be the enemy of all of us. How do I know that? Because it happened already.

In the Nixon administration it came out that Nixon "cheated." Now this was a president that legitimately won the 1972 election. He won fair and square. He would have won even without cheating. What happened? He was forced to resign anyway - because his party, the Republican party, told him to get the F out - knowing that they would probably get creamed at the next election. And they did. Guess what? Democrats would have done the same. Now before some lefties bring up Clinton's impeachment, I have two words: The Constitution.

Maybe you didn't agree with the effort to impeach Clinton, thinking it was a blatant disregard for the will of the people to remove an elected president for such a minor crime. I tend to think that. Others think his crime wasn't so minor. But he did commit a crime, and the Constitution is famously vague on impeachment standards. Thus Congress gets to decide what standard to use - and Congress did. We the People gave Congress that power, and Congress used that power. If you don't like the system, if you want to take that power away, then amend the Constitution. If you can't do that because not enough of your fellow citizens support that idea, well, then accept it. I don't like what Congress did in impeaching Clinton, but all Congressmen that supported impeachment did so knowing they would face the will of the people at the next election. And that is ok. If anything, the impeachment served as a reminder that we don't have an imperial presidency - that if enough of the People's representatives disagree with a president, away he goes. The system worked. Both parties believe in democracy. The right is not some "evil" group working to destroy democracy from within. Neither is the left.

So we can argue and tear each other down and claim one side loves America more than the other, but it isn't true. We disagree on the details, but the overall framework, the sacred idea of democracy, unites us. The latin root of the word "republic" is "res publica." Res means "business" or "organization." Publica means "the people. Res publica - the people's business. All people - even those that disagree with me about who should be president - will decide. And I support that system, even if it means I don't get my way. And I know they support it too, even if they don't get their way.

Don't consider your political opponents your enemies. They are your fellow Americans, who are dedicated to doing what they think is best for this nation. Respect that.

E Pluribus Unum.