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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Politicians' secrets: Ryan versus Kerry

As teased on Thursday, this post begins with glamor photographs of two beautiful women.  Bear with me, though — I have a serious point to make here, one that I've actually been pondering for a couple of months.

Morgan FairchildJeri Ryan

After divorcing Julia Thorne, Sen. John Kerry famously dated Morgan Fairchild — pictured above on the left — as well as movie and TV celebrities Michelle Phillips, Catherine Oxenberg, and Dana Delany.

Former Illinois Republican senate nominee Jack Ryan used to be married to TV celebrity Jeri Ryan — pictured above on the right.  As CNN reported on June 22nd,

Several Chicago media organizations had sued for release of documents relating to the Ryans' divorce, saying the public interest outweighed their concerns about privacy and the possible effect on their now 9-year-old son. Friday, a judge in Los Angeles, where their divorce was litigated, agreed to unseal portions of more than 360 pages of documents, although large parts remained blacked out.

The unsealed court documents included allegations made by Ms. Ryan during their divorce — denied by her ex-husband — "that [while married,] he took her to sex clubs and asked her to engage in sexual activity in front of other patrons."  Mr. Ryan promptly withdrew from the Illinois senate race.

Last August, one of my readers emailed me with this damned good question:

What I was wondering is if the media could pry open sealed divorce records then why can't they force open the undisclosed military records of John Kerry?  Is there a particular legal difference that allows for the one and not the other or is it just lazyness/bias on the media's part?

As a lawyer, I have a good answer to this question.  As a citizen, I don't.


My lawyerly answer:

Ms. Ryan's allegations were made as part of, and filed under seal among the court papers in, her and her ex-husband's divorce and child custody proceedings.  There's normally a strong presumption that all court proceedings, including the paperwork on which they're based, should be open to public view.  That presumption is oftentimes overcome, however, in intensely personal family court proceedings.  In sealing the portions of the court file that included Ms. Ryan's allegations, the California family court judge quite properly, in my opinion, concluded that the certain embarrassment not only of the divorce litigants, but of their minor son, amply overcame that presumption.  But what a trial court can do, it often can later undo — and that's what happened here, when the family court granted the media's request to unseal the records.

Sen. Kerry's military records, by contrast, are private not by virtue of a court order, but by dictate of various federal privacy statutes.  There is no beginning presumption that individuals' military records ought to be part of the public record.  Moreover, there is no general procedure — comparable to the application made by the sensation-hungry media in the Ryan matter — that puts into the hands of a single decisionmaker, like the California judge, the power to make a subjective weighing of the "public's right to know" against the individual's right to privacy.  The statutes that give the public, including the media, their rights in some circumstances to secure the release of government-held information — chief among them the Freedom of Information Act — contain broad exceptions that mandate government nondisclosure of military records like Sen. Kerry's, notwithstanding the fact that he's voluntarily thrust himself into the public eye.

Again speaking not just as a lawyer, but also as a divorced father, I'm frankly appalled by the California judge's decision in the Ryan matter — which came over the opposition of both of the divorced spouses.  I wish that they'd appealed the order.  But although I think the judge made the wrong decision, there's no doubt, as a legal matter, that it was a question which was within his power to decide (subject to appellate review).


My answer as a citizen:

The only difference between these two situations is that the mainstream media — perhaps reflecting their perceptions of raw public appetite, or perhaps reflecting political bias, or both — have shown absolutely no serious interest in pressuring Sen. Kerry to release his own secret records.  While it's true that the law offers no parallel procedure to that used by the media to secure the release of the Ryan divorce records, as a practical matter of real-world politics, there can be no doubt that if the mainstream media had seriously tried to do so, it could have created sufficient pressure to compel Sen. Kerry to sign Standard Form 180 and thereby waive his statutory privacy rights.

One can argue, I suppose, about whether Jack Ryan's private marital relationship with his ex-wife was a legitimate matter of public interest, given his candidacy for public office.  I think it was not, no more than the details of John Kerry's break-up with Julia Thorne are particularly material to his fitness to be President — and the mainstream media, and even the overwhelming bulk of "new media" (cable, bloggers, talk radio hosts) have appropriately given Sen. Kerry a complete pass on that subject. 

But no one can seriously argue that Sen. Kerry's military record — including the mysterious circumstances of his discharge — are insufficiently related to his fitness to be Commander in Chief.  Sen. Kerry himself acknowledged the public's legitimate interest in his military record by posting carefully selected documents on his website.  But he's brazenly stonewalled efforts by the SwiftVets and others from outside the mainstream media to pressure him into releasing all of his records.  And the mainstream media have not only let him get away with that, they've allowed it to go largely uncommented upon.


Sex sells newspapers and attracts TV viewers; indeed, with deliberate cynicism, I began this post with eyecatching pictures of two beautiful women to catch your attention, gentle readers.  And perhaps if Sen. Kerry had taken Morgan Fairchild with him to meet with Viet Cong representative Madame Binh in Paris, the mainstream media would have done its job.  But in this election cycle, they very clearly have not. 

Digging into Jack and Jeri Ryan's marital sex life ought to embarrass the mainstream media.  But failing to dig into John Kerry's military records ought to embarrass them more.  If John Kerry is elected, he will take office with unplumbed secrets that directly relate to his fitness to be President, and that the mainstream media have willfully and consistently ignored.  And that pernicious conspiracy of silence, friends and neighbors, is a long-term threat to our democracy that won't be eliminated or even much affected by Tuesday's poll results.  It's a problem that in fact we can't reasonably expect our elected officials to solve.  It can only be solved by an outraged American public — one that's mad as hell at the mainstream media, and that won't put up with it anymore.


Update (Sun Oct 31 @ 9:00pm):  Pajama Journal and Captain's Quarters have noted that NBC News is engaging in selective editing to conceal Sen. Kerry's flustered admission on Thursday that not all of his records are public.  Nacht und nebel — the embarrassing admission is just "disappeared."


Update (Sun Oct 31 @ 9:24pm):  A reader emails me to point out, correctly, that I've overgeneralized, or perhaps implicitly used an overly narrow definition of "mainstream media" without making that clear.  There are indeed newspaper and TV reporters who've done their best to dig into Sen. Kerry's military records, and others who've highlighted his refusal to release them all, and I commend them for their efforts.  My broadside criticism is directed at the top of the MSM pyramid, whose efforts have been fitful at best, and well short of the sort of persistent efforts that would put any real pressure on Sen. Kerry to end his stonewall.


Update (Sun Oct 31 @ 10:08pm):  Hindrocket at Power Line argues that NBC's editing out Kerry's admission was likely innocent, but that the mainstream media's real cover-up of Sen. Kerry's military record was "by never — ever — asking him the basic question: 'Why won't you make all of your military records public?'"  I certainly agree with the latter conclusion.


Update (Mon Nov 1 @ 12:20am):  This new post is an expansion on my 9:24pm update from earlier tonight.  Please share your own nominations to the "Swimming against the mainstream" honor roll for mainstream media reporters!

Posted by Beldar at 05:27 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (47)

PA Gov. Ed Rendell suffers psychotic delusions on Fox News

This is a perfect example of the foolish argument that was the subject of my post yesterday entitled "An argument with which I have no patience, from fools I will not suffer gladly: 'We're making more terrorists!'" — except it's worse, because it takes the argument one step further to assert that it's specifically George W. Bush who's responsible for terrorism:

A new videotape message from terror mastermind Osama bin Laden was meant to help President Bush win re-election, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Sunday.

"It's obvious to me that bin Laden is trying to help George Bush, because George Bush is the best recruiter that al-Qaida has," Rendell told "Fox News Sunday."

"George Bush is so disliked in the Arab world that we're creating terrorists every single day — more terrorists than we can even come close to killing," the Democrat said.

"More terrorists than we can even come close to killing"?  The last I heard, despite Sen. Kerry's vote against the $87 billion appropriation, our troops haven't run short of ammunition. 

Governor Rendell, your worldview may be divided into two portions — pro-Bush and anti-Bush — but that ain't what's motivating the radical Islamic extremists.  They're genuinely omnipartisan in their hatred of all things American. 

Fox News host Chris Wallace should have whipped out a Nerf bat and whacked Gov. Rendell in the ear.  But of course, he couldn't do that.  Mr. Wallace had to pretend that Gov. Rendell isn't a barking-mad moonbat; Mr. Wallace's job requires him to suffer fools graciously, if not gladly.  Gov. Rendell, after all, is a respected leader of the Democratic Party and a key advisor to its presidential nominee.

Can anyone imagine a prominent Republican governor and Dewey adviser saying on Halloween 1944,  with utter seriousness, "Franklin Roosevelt is the best recruiter that the Nazis have"?  I can't.  That would have been political suicide; such a hypothetical governor in 1944 would have been run out of office within hours, his political career ended. 

But I'm delighted to see from Google News that Gov. Rendell's statement, as quoted above by AP, is being picked up and widely republished in Pennsylvania's newspaper and TV station websites.  American voters — in Pennsylvania and elsewhere — aren't obliged to suffer fools gladly, or at all.

Posted by Beldar at 03:31 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (10)

Begging for a snarky caption

Reuters' caption: 'U.S. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry reacts to the crowd at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, October 30, 2004.'

You are getting sleepy.  You are getting very, very sleepy.

But you can probably still come up with a better caption than either Reuters or I have, cantcha?

Posted by Beldar at 11:45 AM in Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (36)

Musings on the significance of ailing despots elsewhere to the American election

The small town where I grew up — Lamesa, population around 12,000, situated half-way between Lubbock and Midland in the flat cotton-farming country of west Texas — had a single high school.  For its size, Lamesa High School had a pretty good band (my own main extracurricular activity — yes, I was a band geek, a trumpet player) and choir, a pretty good football team (state quarterfinals my junior year) and baseball team, and a fine basketball team (state champs my senior year).  But we had no debate team at all until, during the fall of my junior year in 1973, one of my classmates and his year-older girlfriend (who later went to Harvard Law) decided to start one, pretty much as a lark.  They talked me into attending one competition with them, in the even smaller Texas panhandle town of Dimmitt, and signed me up for some sort of extemporaneous speaking event in which I was to make a short speech based on an assigned-on-the-spot topic of current public interest.

As it turned out, my topic was a person I'd never heard of before — some guy named "Yasser Arafat."  It would be an understatement to say that in Lamesa, most of us weren't well tuned in to the chronic problems of the Middle East.  Although we had a mix of white, black, and latino students, I think there may have been, at most, maybe two or three Jewish families in the town (none with high school aged kids), and we had absolutely nobody from any Middle Eastern ethnicity.  My geopolitical consciousness  expanded abruptly a couple of years later when I hit UT-Austin — where my first three dorm suitemates were two Jewish kids from San Antonio and a devout Muslim from Algeria (all three of whom could at least agree that I was the hick among them).  But in high school, I was only vaguely aware that Israel had just fought a couple of wars against its Arab enemies; I couldn't have found Syria or Jordan on a map; and I hadn't a clue what a "Palestinian" was, beyond the fact that "Palestine" was a country I vaguely remembered hearing about in Sunday school.  And there I was, given about a fifteen minute head start to come up with a speech about some guy, whose name I wasn't sure how to pronounce, who was the head of something called the "Palestinian Liberation Organization."

But I had a file box full of recent Newsweeks and U.S. News & World Reports, so I cobbled together some sort of talk — I think I titled it "Yasser Arafat — Man in the Middle of the Action" (or that may have been the specified topic title, I can't recall) — and to my own immense surprise and that of my friends and more experienced competitors, I ended up winning that event at the competition.  This small accident of personal history then, as it turned out, sensitized me to the name "Yasser Arafat," and caused me to pay somewhat more attention to the man over the following years than I otherwise likely would have.

Arafat's story, of course, turned out to be every bit as violent as his terrorist background would have suggested, but also became marked by greed and cowardice and pettiness.  And now, on the cusp of an American presidential election, Arafat is ailing and marginalized.  The long-stalled Middle East peace process, such as it is, frankly waits for him to die.


The likelihood that Arafat will survive the next American President's term is poor.  Fidel Castro, another tin-pot despot outrun by history around him, is another whose failing health bodes well for freedom in a country whose size, population, and geographical proximity and historical ties to the US make it impossible for us to ignore.  The odds seem pretty good that our next President will have exceptional opportunities — triggered not by a CIA-inspired coup but by the slow hand of nature's grim reaper — to promote democracy in a new Palestinian state, Cuba, and perhaps other places besides Afghanistan and Iraq.  One hopes that this can be done without needing to use military force; but as always in matters diplomatic, our influence will be stronger than otherwise by virtue of our military might and the perception that we are not paralyzed against using it when we deem it appropriate.

There is a profound worldwide trend toward democracy — in fits and starts, and not without setbacks, but profound nonetheless.  Since 9/11, most Americans understand intuitively — and Pres. Bush has made the case logically and plainly — that our own long-term security depends on promoting democracy and assisting this trend.  And in places like the Middle East and Cuba, there may be sudden new opportunities — not of our own direct making, but of the grim reaper's — that will require a confident and bold and steady American involvement.

With that in mind, friends and neighbors, I ask you to look again at Sen. John Kerry's consistent record throughout his adult life.  I submit that you'll find no evidence there that he views America as a model to be emulated or a force for constructive change.  Instead, you'll find timidity, reflexive self-doubt, and the sort of extreme moral relativism that permits despots to pursue their bloody, repressive ways without much fear of political or economic consequences, and no fear whatsoever of military consequences.  Oh, sure, if we can "pass the global test," if we can get unanimous concurrence from NATO or the U.N., if his much beloved "summit conferences" produce action rather than stalemate, then a President Kerry might engage America.  (Or he might not — viz, the Gulf War.)  But how likely is that to happen?  And what historic opportunities — like those arising from the deaths-by-natural-causes of an Arafat or a Castro — will he squander?

No guts, no glory.  Dubya has guts, and he recognizes — as Kerry doesn't — that our own security requires us to take risks and to refuse to be bound by fuming vetoes cast by other interested nations whose interests may differ quite sharply from America's.  No one in the world — friend, foe, or in between — will mistake an America led by George W. Bush for a paper tiger; and no one in the world will doubt that an America led by John F. Kerry is exactly that.

Posted by Beldar at 09:29 AM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

NYT's margin of permissible untruthfulness

TO: N.Z. Bear
FROM: The New York Times
DATE: Friday, October 29, 2004 1:38 PM

You're right that we screwed up in citing your website for the proposition that the hard-left website known as dKos receives a half-million separate individual viewers daily.  And you're right, of course, that the real number of separate individuals is certainly way, way less than that.  But we're the New York Times, and this fits our agenda.  So to hell with the truth and anyone like you who cares about it — we're not gonna print a correction.  We can get away with telling this much of a baldfaced lie, and there's nothing you can do about it.  Because we're the New York Times, and you — you're just a bear, probably in pajamas.  Nyah-nyah-nyah!


No, that's not quite a direct quote.  But it's pretty close.  Follow the link to Mr. Bear's website to get the details.  I know that each and every one of my own million separate readers will agree with me that this is outrageous — and that Kos won't.  (Hat-tip InstaPundit.)

Posted by Beldar at 10:48 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (7)

BeldarBlog hits one million Sitemeter page views

Woohoo!  A few minutes ago I took this screencap from my Sitemeter stats:

(The 67,485 pre-March 10, 2004 — when I installed the Sitemeter tracking software into my blog pages — is from my hosting service TypePad's own statistics screen, which measures hits in some slightly different way than Sitemeter's "page views" and "visits.")

This is certainly an appropriate occasion to again thank the various bloggers and (much more rare) mainstream media writers who've seen fit to link and discuss my posts on BeldarBlog; the Blogad advertisers (both of them!) and supporters who've thrown a buck or two into my Tip Jar (mostly symbolic but nevertheless much appreciated and highly motivational); and most of all, those of you who've visited to read my longwinded rants and musings.  [Insert heartfelt and gushing Sally Fields-at-the-Oscars impression here.]

I quite expect my traffic to crater after the election, and I'm reconciled to that prospect.  (Heavens forbid a long legal battle over the election results — which would probably be great for my blog traffic, but severely taxing on my mental health!)  But I'm still thrilled to pass this milestone today.  I think it's time for me to find a good bottle of California champagne to celebrate!  Any recommendations?

Posted by Beldar at 03:40 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (22)

An argument with which I have no patience, from fools I will not suffer gladly: "We're making more terrorists!"

In my practice of law, it often pays me to suffer fools gladly.  Sometimes they're my clients — fools quite often find themselves in an astonishingly urgent need of good legal help, as it turns out —  and it literally pays me to suffer them patiently, and I'm certainly glad to be paid for it. 

But in politics, however, I'm not so motivated.  And I find myself set off into a short rant this fine fall afternoon by the stupidest argument I've seen floating around lately — one which, to my absolute amazement, I've heard advanced by a few normally very intelligent people as seriously as "scientists" once argued that decaying food spontaneously transmutes itself into flies, or that liver cancer is a sign of excessive quantities of bilious humors in the host's body.

"By invading Iraq," they say, "President Bush has caused more terrorists."  For example, I just saw a  blogad pimping a new book with a blurb from a WaPo review by Richard Clarke that gushes, "[Jonathan] Randal makes a convincing case that the U.S. war on Iraq has needlessly extended the lifetime and ferocity of this generation of terrorists as never before."  I haven't read Mr. Randal's book, and neither do I plan to waste the time or money to do so, because I already understand his "convincing case," and I know what it amounts to:

Rubbish and balderdash. 

Radical Islamic extremists are not like poison ivy — "don't scratch it, it'll only get worse!"  The necessary premise of this argument is, "If we'd only — (choose one or more) — (a) let them alone, (b) treat them with due respect, (c) allow them to drive Israel into the sea, then they wouldn't keep flying airplanes into our buildings, blowing up school busses, kidnapping and beheading civilians, etc."

These folks won't be happy until my two daughters are in burqas and they and I together are under the watchful eyes of thought-and-conduct police who'll correct any deviation from their approved path.  They won't be happy until our civilization is destroyed and replaced with one that they've dictated.

Does it make them angrier when we thwart their plans by liberating and bringing democracy to places like Afghanistan and Iraq?  You're damn right it does.  Does it make them so angry that they stream into enclaves of their fellow terrorists there to fight our military forces?  Damn straight, and bully for that!  That most definitely doesn't "[extend] the lifetime and ferocity of this generation of terrorists" — it puts them directly into the sights of the most effective and lethal military forces on the planet.  As remarked by one of our soldiers of the fayhadeen irregulars who were charging our M1-A1s and Bradleys while firing off light machine guns from the tops of Toyota pickup trucks during the brief toppling of Saddam's armies last year — with inevitable and spectacular failure as the result — "It's the perfect war, because they want to die, and we're glad to give them their wish."

If what we were doing in Iraq was the forcible conversion of Muslims to Christianity and the extinguishment of their own culture, then yes, we could be "breeding more terrorists," just as if we deliberately salted rotting meat with fly eggs we'd be breeding maggots and flies.  But I categorically reject — as racist and bigoted and shortsighted and wrong — the necessary presumption of the "we're making more terrorists" arguers that establishing democracy and freedom equate to that.  If a radical, democracy- and liberty-hating man is capable of being energized into action — into killing and terrorizing — by our spread of democracy and liberty, then by all means let's give him the impetus to pick up his AK-47 and put himself onto the active battleground of our choice, and then let's kill him there.

Are there some numbers of "potential terrorists" who will, through propaganda and hate-filled rhetoric, be persuaded that our establishment of democracy and liberty in Afghanistan and Iraq are instead anti-Islamic?  Yes, certainly — just as there were Japanese soldiers in World War II who sincerely believed they were fighting to thwart Western attempts to unseat their emperor (instead of Western attempts to interfere with their establishment of a brutal, repressive, and exploitative "Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere"); if they survived the war, they eventually revised their views, which is why the American embassy in Tokyo isn't beseiged by Japanese fanatics blowing themselves up while shouting "Long live the Emperor!"  That our enemies can use our actions in the meantime — any actions, for even our most passive course of promoting liberty and democracy will not satisfy them — to make converts of the gullible is unfortunate, but fundamentally (pun intended) beyond our control. 

And by far the most effective way of minimizing and, ultimately, eliminating (in one way or the other) the sincere-but-confused terrorist converts will be to finish the jobs that we started in those countries when we toppled their governing regimes.  Cutting and running will do the opposite — it will not only betray the less gullible and freedom- and liberty-loving Muslims (and others) in those countries, but encourage our enemies into believing that we are weak and easily defeated, and worse, lend credence to the deliberately misleading arguments of our enemies that our real motivations were to promote Christianity or serve the Jews of Israel or steal their oil wealth (or whatever).

So if you're all worked up into making this particular argument in my presence, don't be surprised if I snort derisively and wander off to do something more productive — say, clipping my fingernails or cleaning my toilets — instead of debating it with you at length.  You're a fool, and unless you're also a client (and I don't argue politics with my clients anyway), I have no obligation to suffer your foolishness gladly.

Posted by Beldar at 03:20 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (29)

Osama bin Laden's invitation to Pres. Kerry to negotiate a truce

O American people, I am speaking to tell you about the ideal way to avoid another Manhattan, about war and its causes and results....

Your security is not in the hands of [Democratic presidential candidate John F.] Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands, and each state that does not harm our security will remain safe.

So says Osama bin Laden to the American public.  The very perceptive and eloquent Wretchard of Belmont Club has this to say about bin Laden's tape (boldface in original):

It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out.

I agree.  But I respectfully disagree, in part, with Wretchard that "[t]he American answer to Osama's proposal will be given on Election Day."  Yes, if Pres. Bush is re-elected, bin Laden will have his answer.  But I don't think that bin Laden's tape is primarily an attempt to influence the course of the American election next Tuesday.  Rather, I think it's a very clear attempt to begin negotiations with a Kerry administration for a "cease-fire" in the Global War on Terror.

Of course, I don't believe for an instant that bin Laden's sincere.  Only a blithering fool would trust him.  But only a blithering fool would —

  • have listened to the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong's "seven-point peace plan" during the Vietnam War, and have taken it at face value and endorsed it as the course that America should follow. 

  • have believed Daniel Ortega's promises to reform his communist government in Nicaragua if only America would stop funding the contras. 

  • have believed that a nuclear freeze and sharp cutbacks in America's military and intellligence programs would placate the Soviet Union and win the Cold War. 

  • have believed that diplomacy would have gotten Saddam out of Kuwait in the last decade, or out of power in his own country in this one.   

  • believe that North Korea will respond more favorably to unilateral negotiations with  the United States than to combined pressure in six-way talks that also involve South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia.

One such blithering fool may be elected President of the United States on Tuesday.  And Osama bin Laden — like Madame Binh, Daniel Ortega, a succession of Soviet dictators, Saddam, and Kim Jong Il before him — has already begun his sly attempts to manipulate that candidate.  So it is that this blithering fool's personal history of enthusiastically swallowing just this kind of bait, hook, line, and sinker — and then trying to base America's course upon it — scares me far more than anything Osama bin Laden could ever say.

Posted by Beldar at 02:40 AM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (18)

Friday, October 29, 2004

Rumor mill buzzing on Kerry's discharge status

Update (Sat Oct. 30 @ 12:50am): This rumor hasn't yet panned out, as acknowledged by its original source, and may or may not ever pan out; see Update #3 below if you want the details.  I'm leaving the original text of this post in the extended entry/archive version, marked with strikethroughs.

If the rumor is not true, of course, it could be definitively proved so were Sen. Kerry to sign Standard Form 180.  That probably isn't going to happen, at least not before the election.  One remains free to draw whatever inferences one thinks are justified based on Sen. Kerry's refusal, but they are, at best, only inferences — in this context, guesses.  — Beldar

-----[original post and numbered updates follow]-----

My email inbox is brimming. 

Yes, I'm aware that there are rumors buzzing about a breaking big story on Sen. Kerry's Navy discharge, about which I last wrote in a post entitled "Was Kerry's original discharge less than honorable?" on October 13th.  My conclusion then was that records analyzed by reporter Thomas Lipscomb in a New York Sun article could support the hypothesis that Sen. Kerry received something other than a full-fledged honorable discharge.  But as you'll see if you read my comments thread, there were lots of contrary arguments as well.  And as I recognized in my last update to that post, there was at least one other plausible contrary inference from the records — equally speculative — that could have explained what seemed to be an odd statutory reference in a page from Kerry's records displayed on his campaign website.

The immediate source of the rumors is a [since-pulled —  see updates below] post by "NavyChief" on the SwiftVets site (but their server is likely to be overwhelmed shortly):

Okay, folks.

We got it finally. We have the Former Secretary of the Navy who stated, "Yes, Kerry did receive an Other Than Honorable Discharge".

Stay tuned for more...


Go my brothers and sisters -- spread the news to everyone!!!!

- Chief

PoliPundit, Power Line, and Redstate all have threads up, plus check the Trackback link from Power Line and also the Trackbacks to my post here.

I have no inside info at this point, although I would not be surprised if, as PoliPundit's post suggests, this rumor may refer to something about to be published by Mr. Lipscomb.  I know he's been continuing to work on the story, but I don't know any details. 

I repeat that these are, at this stage, rumors, and I humbly request that anyone linking this post make clear that such is my present opinion. 

Based on my past experience with him and reading of his work, though, like many others, I've found NavyChief — a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer and father of five named Troy Jenkins from San Antonio, who's included (at about the 3-minute, 55-second mark) in the fourth of the SwiftVets' "mini-documentaries" released yesterday, entitled "No Man Left Behind (Pt. 1)" — to be a diligent, bright, and knowledgeable fellow.  Like all of us, he's human, and he's occasionally stumbled in his digging through Kerry's records, but when he's done so, he's acknowledged it quickly.  His new post on the SwiftVets site certainly indicates, however, that this is more than an inference drawn from records — and instead a former Navy Secretary, speaking, one would presume, from personal knowledge.  (See also this very provocative post, from a blogger I'm unacquainted with and hence cannot vouch for even by reputation.)

As they say ... "developing."  If this falls through, I'll be among the first to concede that point.  If it pans out, I admit that I'll be tickled pink.


Update #1 (Fri Oct 29 @ 2:35pm):  The original thread on the SwiftVets forum has been pulled.  Make of that what you will; I don't know what to make of it, but it would seem to be equally consistent with either (1) a glitch in the story that casts doubt upon it or (2) a desire to release the story in a less haphazard fashion.


Update #2 (Fri Oct 29 @ 2:52pm):  This thread suggests that NavyChief's post was pulled because it represented his personal statement rather than something that the SwiftVets organization is yet ready to be identified with:

We have been advised that material was recently posted to this forum referencing the nature of John Kerry's discharge from the military service. That material has been deleted from this forum.

Please be advised that posts made to this forum express the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Swift Vets and POWs for Truth.

That strikes me as prudent at this point, regardless of whether the rumor turns out to be well-founded or not.  This is still just a rumor.


Update #3 (Sat Oct 30 @ 12:50am):  From a post on the SwiftVets forums from NavyChief:

New information has developed on Kerry's Discharge. We have been proven correct in our assertions, however without the proper folks coming forward this will not be public until after the elections.

- Chief


Update #4 (Sat Oct 30 @ 3:18am):  D'oh!  A sharp-eyed reader emailed me to note that the link just above is a very old one going back to Thursday, Oct. 28th.  Mea culpa maxima.  I'm not sure what the current status of efforts/research is, but we still seem to be somewhere in the rumors stage.

Posted by Beldar at 02:21 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (81)

Lessons from Afghanistan already forgotten

One factor working against Pres. Bush's reelection is the American public's notoriously short attention span and lack of historical perspective.  But Charles Krauthammer hasn't forgotten Afghanistan:

Within days of Sept. 11, the clueless airhead president that inhabits Michael Moore's films and Tina Brown's dinner parties had done this: forced Pakistan into alliance with us, isolated the Taliban, secured military cooperation from Afghanistan's northern neighbors, and authorized a radical war plan involving just a handful of Americans on the ground, using high technology and local militias to utterly rout the Taliban.

President Bush put in place a military campaign that did in two months what everyone had said was impossible: defeat an entrenched, fanatical, ruthless regime in a territory that had forced the great British and Soviet empires into ignominious retreat. Bush followed that by creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land that had no history of democratic culture and was just emerging from 25 years of civil war.

Bush could have rested on his laurels, left Saddam "in his box," and probably cruised to reelection — if he was motivated by polls and personal gain.  If he'd done so, Sen. Kerry doubtless would be carping now that the Bush administration was ignoring the grave and gathering threat in Iraq.  But what conclusions can we draw about their relative fitness to lead the Global War on Terrorism just from Afghanistan?  Concludes Mr. Krauthammer,

This election comes down to a choice between one man's evolution and the other man's resolution. With his endlessly repeated Tora Bora charges, Kerry has made Afghanistan a major campaign issue. So be it. Whom do you want as president? The man who conceived the Afghan campaign, carried it through without flinching when it was being called a "quagmire" during its second week and has seen it through to Afghanistan's transition to democracy? Or the retroactive genius, who always knows what needs to be done after it has already happened — who would have done "everything" differently in Iraq, yet in Afghanistan would have replicated Bush's every correct, courageous, radical and risky decision — except one. Which, of course, he would have done differently. He says. Now.

John Kerry, neatly summed up in three words, nine letters, two punctuation marks:  "He says.  Now."

Posted by Beldar at 08:44 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (4)

France vs. U.S. military

I don't usually blog about polls — I think they're all basically witchcraft and they have a pernicious effect on politics, the quantum mechanics principle that "observation changes a system" writ large and ugly.  But I'm bemused to find that members of the French public supposedly support Sen. Kerry by almost the same margin by which American military personnel support Pres. Bush.  (Hat-tip John J. Miller on The Corner.)

I'm also amused by the banner ad running atop Gerald Baker's provocative London Times essay that's republished in the Weekly Standard, entitled "Bush's Enemies: They are the reason he deserves reelection."  The ad?  "Become fluent ... in French! German! Italian! Spanish! ... with Champs-Elysées Audiomagazines!"

Posted by Beldar at 08:29 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Best title I've read in a while

I think the scenario he paints is extremely improbable, but I'm hugely amused by Mark Moller's essay in Slate entitled "I Know What You Did Last Recess." 

Posted by Beldar at 01:38 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (5)


I'm watching Nicole Kidman on "The Charlie Rose Show" promoting her upcoming new movie, Birth.  I'm fairly infatuated with her anyway, and the movie looks like lotsa fun (although there's apparently a very controversial bath scene).  Plus the movie has Lauren Bacall — I adore her.  Seeing Ms. Kidman in the movie clips with short, short hair is kind of shocking, but she's still hot.  And oooooh — I love hearing her responding to Charlie's questions in her native Australian accent (which she so effectively suppresses in her movies to be "in character," but which I find absolutely compelling).

Posted by Beldar at 12:06 AM in Film/TV/Stage | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tommy Franks on the missing Iraq explosives

I haven't blogged about the missing explosives in Iraq because I don't have any particular expertise on the topic and because others have done a fine job of sorting through the wildly varying press accounts.  But here's something on topic from someone who does have some expertise — Gen. Tommy Franks, at a Bush campaign rally today in Westlake, Ohio:

George W. Bush is a leader who knew that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world and to the United States of America, and removed him from power. (Applause.) George W. Bush is a leader who knows that our troops, as of right now, have cleared 10,000 ammunition and weapons sites in Iraq. He knows that they have destroyed 240,000 tons of munitions in Iraq. He knows that they have under control — (applause) — he knows that they have under control another 162,000 tons of munitions in Iraq. We're talking about George W. Bush who knows, who understands that we do not yet have all the facts about 380 tons of munitions in Iraq. And he is a President who will look at you and say, we don't yet have the facts, but we will get the facts. George W. Bush. (Applause.)

In George W. Bush, you're talking about a leader who does not step out every day of his life and make more wild accusations. You're talking about a leader who actually cares about our troops, about their families, and about our veterans. You're talking about a leader who actually respects all those who serve our country with dignity and with honor. You're talking about George W. Bush. (Applause.)

Sen. Kerry has the luxury of not actually being the President and therefore not having to worry about his wild speculations and accusations directly affecting international affairs in the way that comments from a sitting President might.  However, he is responsible for the effect his comments and advertisements and spin may have on military morale — and voters can and should take that into account next Tuesday.

Here's Sen. Kerry responding to questioning tonight on the topic from Tom Brokaw (elipses in original):

Brokaw: This week you've been very critical of the president because of the missing explosives in Iraq.The fact is, senator, we still don't know what happened to those explosives. How many for sure that were there. Who might have gotten away with them? Is it unfair to the president, just as you believe he's been unfair to you, to blame him for that?

Kerry: No. It's not unfair. Because what we do know, from the commanders on the ground, is that they went there, as they marched to Baghdad. We even read stories today that they broke locks off of the doors, took photographs of materials in there. There were materials. And they left.

Brokaw: The flip side of that is that if you had been president, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Because you...

Kerry: Not necessarily at all.

Brokaw: But you have said you wouldn't go to war against him...

Kerry: That's not true. Because under the inspection process, Saddam Hussein was required to destroy those kinds of materials and weapons.

Brokaw: But he wasn't destroying them...

Kerry: But that's what you have inspectors for. And that's why I voted for the threat of force. Because he only does things when you have a legitimate threat of force. It's absolutely impossible and irresponsible to suggest that if I were president, he wouldn't necessarily be gone. He might be gone. Because if he hadn't complied, we might have had to go to war. And we might have gone to war. But if we did, I'll tell you this, Tom. We'd have gone to war with allies in a way that the American people weren't carrying the burden. And the entire world would have understood why we were doing it.

Brokaw had the poise not to snicker and say "Yeah, right."  He lacked the integrity, though, to ask, "So how many more years of violating the U.N. resolutions, how many more resolutions without effect would you have required, and name one country that would have joined us with boots on the ground after another two years and ten more resolutions?"  In the meantime, I'm still waiting for Sen. Kerry (or any of my targeted lefty bloggers) to respond to my post entitled "How would Saddam 'not necessarily be in power' if Kerry'd been President?"  Not even my Kerry-supporting readers had the temerity to posit a plausible scenario in which a President Kerry would have accomplished an Iraqi regime change during the last four years.

The whole Brokaw interview is pretty interesting (don't miss Sen. Kerry defending his comment about the Veep's daughter by gratutously invading the familial privacy of another one of his former opponents), but I especially liked this snarly bit on a different topic than the missing munitions (boldface added):

Brokaw: Someone has analyzed the President's military aptitude tests and yours, and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do.

Kerry: That's great. More power. I don't know how they've done it, because my record is not public. So I don't know where you're getting that from.

"My record is not public": another exaggeration.  We know your Senate record, Senator.  We know your public statements.  We just don't know your secrets, due to the effectiveness of your stonewalling — and boy, do you have a lot of them.  (About which, more later — maybe tomorrow.)

Bravo to Brokaw for having the stones to ask Kerry about his IQ.  But jeers for missing the world's biggest opportunity, at the best time in history, to ask Kerry:  "Why won't you sign Standard Form 180, Senator?"

Posted by Beldar at 11:28 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (15)

Mackris/O'Reilly et al. litigation settles with a whisper, not a bang

This is a very interesting and cryptic press release from counsel for Bill O'Reilly, Fox, and their codefendants, about which several of my readers have already emailed to ask for my interpretation:

Statement from Ronald Green, Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.
Thursday October 28, 6:41 pm ET

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 28, 2004--The Parties regret that this matter has caused tremendous pain, and they have agreed to settle. All cases and claims have been withdrawn and all Parties have agreed that there was no wrongdoing whatsoever by Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Mackris, or Ms. Mackris' counsel, Benedict P. Morelli & Associates. We now withdraw any assertion that any extortion by Ms. Mackris, Mr. Morelli, or Morelli & Associates occurred. Out of respect for their families and privacy, all Parties and their representatives have agreed that all information relating to the cases shall remain confidential.

The Associated Press reports tonight that

O'Reilly, who's married, is host of the top-rated prime-time cable news program — and he's seen his ratings go up by 30 percent since the case was filed....

Mackris' lawyer did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

The New York Daily News had reported on Saturday, October 23rd, that unidentified "[s]ources say Fox has made it clear that any payments to Mackris would come solely from O'Reilly."  On the same day, WaPo's Howard Kurtz had reported, also without identifying his source, that "[t]he [on-going settlement] discussions involve payments to Mackris of more than $2 million."

So both the preemptive extortion lawsuit and Ms. Mackris' sexual harassment lawsuits have been settled, and the parties have contractually agreed to keep the details under their respective hats. 

But I'll hazard some guesses, reading between the lines as a trial lawyer who's handled both sides of sexual harassment cases. 

Bill O'Reilly, no longer a sexual harassment lawsuit defendantLawyers for Mr. O'Reilly and Fox et al. had initiated pretrial discovery proceedings to require Ms. Mackris' lawyers to turn over any and all tape recordings.  My strong hunch from the beginning of this case was that such tapes must exist, based on the specificity of the alleged quotes contained in Ms. Mackris' complaint.  My further strong hunch is that Ms. Mackris' lawyers indeed did turn over copies of the tapes, and that's what led the parties to begin serious settlement discussions.

The press release announcing the settlement undoubtedly was closely negotiated — note the use of what's apparently a defined term from the settlement document in the opening words — "The parties regret ...."  In all probability, another negotiated term of the settlement was who would make the announcement — in this case, Mr. O'Reilly's and Fox's lawyers, rather than Ms. Mackris' lawyers.  And I seriously doubt that it's mere happenstance that Ms. Mackris' lawyer didn't put out a simultaneous press release or return AP's inquiring telephone call.  Rather, it's highly likely that for the privilege of announcing the deal and controlling the spin thereon, Mr. O'Reilly and/or Fox et al. effectively paid an additional cash premium.

And there's almost no doubt that it was they, and not Ms. Mackris, who paid.  Indeed, Mr. O'Reilly's and Fox et al.'s lawyers had been arguing in the press that Ms. Mackris is broke as part of their media spin.  But the powerful implicit proof is in what else the statement says — and doesn't say.  First, focus on this extraordinary statement:

We [that is, counsel for Mr. O'Reilly and Fox et al.] now withdraw any assertion that any extortion by Ms. Mackris, Mr. Morelli, or Morelli & Associates occurred.

That, my friends, is eating crow bigtime.  That, my friends, is a settlement-mandated mitigation of damages that otherwise might continue to accrue for a defamation claim on Ms. Mackris' behalf.  Accusing someone of commiting a crime like extortion, if untrue, may be defamatory "per se" — meaning that an accusation that someone's a criminal is conclusively presumed to be injurious to his or her reputation; it may not necessarily be defamatory if, for example, it's true, but there's no dispute that it would cause members of the public to think less of the accusee.  While there's a privilege for making such accusations in court filings, that privilege may not extend to accusations that are republished by the accusers outside the courtroom.  There's no way that O'Reilly's and Fox et al.'s lawyers would have made the admission that the extortion claim was unfounded unless they were simultaneously receiving a release from Ms. Mackris that would cover her potential defamation claims as part of the overall package; and it's something they'd only give up grudgingly.  My hunch is that Ms. Mackris' counsel painted his demand for such an admission as a "deal-killer point" in the negotiations; their side might have gotten more money if they'd dropped that demand, but they were unwilling to do so.

What's also missing from the press release that one would normally expect to see is a statement to the effect that by agreeing to settle all claims of all parties, no party was admitting any liability and no party was admitting that any other party's factual allegations or claims had any validity.  That's probably exactly what the settlement documents themselves say, and it's usually something that a defendant insists on being able to say publicly.  But in the press release, there's only a weaker statement that "there was no wrongdoing whatsoever by Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Mackris, or Ms. Mackris' counsel."  Again, my strong hunch is that Ms. Mackris and her counsel objected to any broader statement than this one, knowing that it would have been spun by Mr. O'Reilly's and Fox et al.'s lawyers as part of a "these claims were bogus but would've been expensive to litigate, blah blah" meme.

Is Kurtz' source right in speculating that Mr. O'Reilly will write the entire check, however much it is for?  I suspect he is.  As I've pointed out in my previous posts, if Fox's lawyers were correct in their claims that it has an aggressive anti-harassment policy in place and that Ms. Mackris hadn't ever complained or attempted to make use of that policy, then Mr. O'Reilly's potential liability was much, much greater than that of his codefendants.  Indeed, there was an enormous potential conflict of interest between him and all of the other defendants; it's not uncommon in such cases for the employer to initially back its employee, pending investigation, and then later to flip and essentially join the plaintiff in painting the employee as an errant rogue (while continuing to insist that the employer neither knew nor should have known of his misconduct).  It strikes me as quite likely that Fox et al. not only insisted that Mr. O'Reilly write the settlement check out of his own ample bank account, but that they insisted that he settle now, before the tapes (if they exist) hit the court files or were otherwise leaked.

As for the amount:  In my opinion, $600 million or $60 million were ridiculous figures, absent proof of physical contact.  If Kurtz' source is right and the settlement price was in the $2 million to $3 million range, however, that wouldn't surprise me.  Incredible as that amount of money is when compared, say, to Ms. Mackris' annual salary (or yours or mine), it's an amount that Mr. O'Reilly could certainly afford to pay — not "nuisance value" (because you can buy a lot of high-powered lawyer time for that kind of change), but not something that's going to put any crimps into his lifestyle.  Just think of it as history's highest-priced phone sex.

Andrea Mackris, no longer a sexual harassment lawsuit plaintiffIn an absolute sense, is it fair that Ms. Mackris get that kind of money for listening to her boss talk dirty — especially if she did little to discourage him, or possibly even set him up?  Naw, of course not.  I continue to think that there's a substantial probability that she'd have done much, much worse with a jury, even as against Mr. O'Reilly.  But in the real world in which we live — as opposed to a hypothetical, perfectly just world — the settlement value of her case was inflated by Mr. O'Reilly's identity and particular self-created vulnerability, as well as his wealth.  And Mr. O'Reilly, by settling, was buying more than just the elimination of his risks before a jury.  He bought his peace, and Ms. Mackris' silence in the future. 

And presumably he bought every existing copy of some very, very expensive tapes.  It wouldn't surprise me, in fact, if there's a penalty clause that's triggered if the tapes are ever leaked — and/or very possibly even a delayed/escrowed future partial payment contingent upon the tapes not being leaked.  That's what I'd insist upon if I were representing Mr. O'Reilly.

Even if Ms. Mackris is a gold-digger, even if she set him up, nevertheless, if Mr. O'Reilly said what he's alleged to have said and was a big enough sucker to let himself get set up that way, I have little sympathy for him.  And his temporary ratings surge notwithstanding, I'm pretty sure that he ended up paying more than he would have had to otherwise in order to settle the case because of the stupid preemptive extortion lawsuit.  Those crow feathers can't taste very good going down.


Update (Thu Oct 28 @ 9:35pm):  Here's Mr. O'Reilly's statement about the settlement from his show tonight, as reproduced on his website (the wording of which probably was also carefully negotiated and stipulated in the settlement documents):

Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly, thanks for watching us tonight. Before we get to the talking points memo I have something very important to tell you.

All litigation has ceased in that case that has made me the object of media scorn from coast to coast.

Today lawyers issued a statement saying there was no wrongdoing in the case what-so-ever by anyone. Obviously the words "no wrongdoing" are the key.

On a personal note, this matter has caused enormous pain; but I had to protect my family and I did. Some of the media hammered me relentlessly because, as you know, I am a huge target as is FOX News. All I can say to you is please do not believe everything you hear and read.

The good news is that Factor viewers and listeners seem to have given me the benefit of any doubt when some in the media did not. You guys looked out for me and I will never forget it.

This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again.

Especially on the telephone, I'll bet.


Update (Fri Oct 29 @ 1:50am): WaPo's Howard Kurtz's report on the settlement says "Fox believed Mackris had tape recordings of the long, highly detailed conversations alleged in the suit, but Morelli never confirmed that, saying only that they had concrete evidence." 

Although I have a high opinion of Mr. Kurtz and, of course, he has access to sources that I don't, I still don't buy this suggestion at all.  It would be incredibly foolish for Mr. O'Reilly and Fox et al. to settle without absolutely, positively pinning down that subject and obtaining both whatever tapes exist and iron-clad representations that there weren't others.  Lawyer Morelli may never have confirmed publicly whether or not there were tapes, but I'd bet a hefty sum that he's done so — in meticulous detail — as part of the settlement discussions and documentation.  Indeed, part of what Mr. O'Reilly presumably bought as part of the settlement was Mr. Morelli's and his client's future silence even as to the existence of any tapes.

The New York Post has a fine headline:  "Now, $hut Up!"  It also reports:

The settlement statement did not mention the Fox News Channel, which had filed suit with O'Reilly against Mackris and was named as a defendant with O'Reilly by Mackris. That means the network was likely not involved in the deal. A spokeswoman for Fox declined comment.

I suspect that's wrong, and that the settlement documents define "the Parties" to include Fox.  Note too the closing line of the press release, which refers to "all Parties."  It's conceivable that the use of a term defined elsewhere, in fact, was a deliberate (very subtle) way to distance Fox from the PR about the settlement and keep the spotlight, so to speak, on Mr. O'Reilly.  Fox's own website republishes an updated AP story describing the press release as "saying the cases and claims had been withdrawn and all parties [note the lower-case "p"] agreed there was no wrongdoing by O'Reilly, Mackris or Mackris' lawyer Benedict Morelli."

Searching for other news accounts about the settlement, I was briefly confused by this one, headlined "O'Reilly scores twice, including OT winner."

Posted by Beldar at 08:04 PM in Law (2006 & earlier), Mainstream Media | Permalink | Comments (45)

SwiftVets release five powerful new "must-view!" videos

This, obviously, isn't the post I teased about below; I'm still working on that one.  But wow.  Wow x 5!  And this won't wait.

You may think you're "SwiftVetted out."  You may have made up your mind one way or the other — you believe 'em, you disbelieve 'em, you think it doesn't make a damn one way or the other.

But if you have any opinion whatever on the SwiftVets and the allegations they've made about Sen. John Kerry's war record, you need to spend the few minutes it takes to watch each of the five short video clips — "mini-documentaries" — that you can access here.

John O'Neill, as he has throughout, serves as spokesman and narrator.  But most of the videos are composed of extended statements by eyewitnesses to each of the events being discussed (which O'Neill concededly is not, and has never claimed to be).  I'm tremendously impressed with all five. 

The first one, entitled "The Sampan Coverup," covers the least well-known of the incidents — a night encounter on 20Jan69 with a sampan that Kerry, who wasn't paying attention to his Swift Boat's radar, had allowed to approach too close without warning his crewmen.  When Kerry's crew noticed the sampan and lit it up with a spotlight, Gunners Mate Steve Gardner, manning the twin .50-caliber machine guns in the gun tub atop the Swift Boat, saw a man aboard the sampan run over to grab an AK-47.  Gardner explains in the video that he opened fire, killing the man and causing damage to the sampan that would result in it sinking within seconds.  But the crewmen then saw, to their collective horror, that in addition to the man who'd been going for the AK-47, Gardner's shots had killed a young boy around 10 years of age.  The crew rescued a woman and her small baby before the sampan sank.  Gardner says in the video — his voice thick with emotion, in what must have been an incredibly difficult statement for him to make — "There was only two people killed in the boat, and I killed both of them, and I'll take that to my grave with me."  But the child's death might not have happened had Kerry been paying attention to the radar.  Regardless of that, it was a tragedy that should have been reported.  Instead, Kerry falsely wrote the event up as a great victory — two VC captured in action, and five (!) killed. 

The second video, "Christmas in Cambodia," covers territory (so to speak) that's now familiar to anyone who's been following the controversy, but like a "Greatest Hits" reprise, it's still entertaining.  The third, entitled "John Kerry's first Purple Heart," is likewise familiar, but worth watching especially for the eyewitness statements of Skip Hibbard and Louis Letson about how they'd refused Kerry's request for the medal.  Captain Charley Plumley is presented as "speaking for" Adm. Bill Schachte; I wish they could have persuaded Adm. Schachte to speak out again in person, although what Plumley relates is exactly the same as what Schachte himself reported to Lisa Myers and Bill Novak.

The stars of the quintet, though, to my mind, are the fourth and fifth videos, both covering the Bay Hap River action that resulted in Kerry's Bronze Star and third Purple Heart.  (Kerry's Silver Star isn't covered by any of these five.)  And oh! Calm thyself, Beldar's heart!  For whether prompted by my suggestion back on September 6th or not, these clips include animated graphics that exactly match the multiple eyewitnesses' telling of the sequence of events and the locations and actions of the various boats.  In particular, the "5000 meters of enemy fire" claim is exposed to be completely ridiculous.  And another point that suddenly became clear to me for the first time while watching these videos was that the whole group of boats was traveling down-river, and continued moving down-river after the first mine explosion while the rescue of PCF 3 and its crew took place.

The production values on all five videos are okay — neither flashy nor crude enough to be noticeable.  There's a sad trumpet and snare-drum background score, with occasional intercuts of blow-ups from documents and some generic stock footage of Swift Boats zooming down-river or peasants in sampans, just to break up what would otherwise be nonstop "talking heads." 

But with the exception of the extremely helpful (and therefore powerfully persuasive) graphics mentioned above, these videos are mostly indeed about the personal stories of the men telling them.  Their credibility is on the line, and it's important that you get a fair chance to size them up — to hear them speak in the way real humans tell what's happened (instead of like actors or, God forbid, politicians).   As someone who sizes up witnesses and the truthfulness of their testimony for a living, I continue to be impressed by the dignity and inherent credibility of these men when they're allowed to simply tell what they know, without interruption and without some maniac shouting "Creepy liar!" to drown them out.

Remember when the SwiftVets' controversy first broke back in August, and there were threats of defamation litigation from the Kerry camp?  That was all bluff, of course, as I said at the time.  But watching these clips, I continue to ache for the opportunity for someone — some reasonably competent trial lawyers — to develop these controversies in the methodical fashion we use in courtrooms.  Could a seasoned Kerry advocate land some blows if he were allowed to cross-examine the men you see in these videos?  Yes, of course.  But in very vivid contrast to the men from Kerry's "band of brothers, these guys speak out at length, in detail, and without falling back on stock "talking points."  I think they'd eagerly agree to be grilled under oath and in a public spotlight, provided that their counterparts from the Kerry campaign were similarly subject to close questioning.  I've got a pretty good idea whose fleet of witnesses would end up shredded by skilled cross-examination, and whose would still be steaming proudly.

Update (Fri Oct 29 @ 3:30pm):  I neglected to note that the entire "Stolen Honor" documentary can also now be viewed for free, in multiple streaming video formats, from their website.

Posted by Beldar at 06:00 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (33)


Sorry for the light blogging the last two days.  Trying to avoid a case of HCB.  But I may risk it later tonight — I think a long-percolating idea is about to bubble up.  It involves (safe-for-work) pictures of two hot women, but it's really about the men in their lives.

Posted by Beldar at 03:52 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Kerry as Chamberlain

How much do John Kerry and Neville Chamberlain have in common?

Arthur Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), was a patriot.  A longtime Conservative Party member of Parliment and British Prime Minister (from May 1937-May 1940), Neville Chamberlain was thoughtful, intelligent, and well-educated.  He was also sensitive, flexible, and nuanced.  During the pre-war period in which America still looked mostly inward, Neville Chamberlain was the de facto leader of the Free World in its struggle against the forces that conspired to tear down our civilization. John Forbes Kerry (1943- ), at least by his own lights and in his own mind, is a patriot. A long-time Democratic senator (from January 1985-present), John Kerry is thoughtful, intelligent, and well-educated.  He is also sensitive, flexible, and nuanced.  During a period in which America can no longer look mostly inward, John Kerry aspires to be the de facto leader of the Free World in its struggle against the forces that conspire to tear down our civilization.
Neville Chamberlain believed in diplomacy and international coalition-building, but he insisted that he was not for "peace at any price" — and indeed, he led Britain into declaring war on Germany, marking the beginning of World War II, over substantial domestic and international opposition, when Germany attacked Poland in on September 1, 1939. For a substantial portion of World War II, relying on his promises to fight and win the war, his countrymen entrusted to Neville Chamberlain their own and the world's fate. John Kerry believes in diplomacy and international coaltion-building, but he insists that he is not for "peace at any price" — and indeed, he voted to give President Bush authority to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, over substantial domestic and international opposition, after terrorists attacked American on September 11, 2001.  In the ongoing Global War on Terrorism, relying on his promises to fight and win the war, his countrymen may entrust to John Kerry their own and the world's fate.
But before Poland, during his own administration and that of the Stanley Baldwin cabinet (of which he was part), Neville Chamberlain — despite his many excellent qualities and despite his subjective and well-intentioned patriotism — had repeatedly let the enemies of civilization fool him and use him:  First in the reoccupation of the Rhineland and the proxy war in Spain; then with the German annexation of Austria; and then with the German occupation of the Sudetenland, and finally all of Czechoslovakia. But before 9/11, during his time as an antiwar activist and a senator, John Kerry — despite his many excellent qualities and despite his subjective and well-intentioned patriotism — has repeatedly let the enemies of civilization fool him and use him:  First as a co-propagandist for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong "peace plan"; then when Daniel Ortega persuaded Kerry and Sen. Tom Harkin to successfully lobby Congress to cut off support for the Nicaraguan contras, weeks before Ortega appeared in Moscow to collect $200 million from his Soviet puppet-masters; again when he opposed President Reagan's defense buildup and supported a nuclear freeze; and again when he opposed the Gulf War to undo Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, despite U.N. support and the most remarkably broad international coalition of modern history.

In the near-unanimous judgment of history, as leader of the Free World, Neville Chamberlain was more responsible than anyone else for failing to prevent the unfathomable carnage that became World War II.  He could have fought, and stopped, Hitler when the price that would have had to be paid to do so was fearsome, but comparatively cheap.

What will be the eventual judgment of history if John Kerry now accedes to the position Neville Chamberlain held in 1937-1939, as leader of the Free World?  Will he, as he promises, fight and stop the terrorists now, when the price to do so is fearsome, but comparatively cheap?  Or will he, like Neville Chamberlain, allow himself to continually be fooled and used by the enemies of civilization, potentially leading to a level of carnage unseen since World War II?

Today's articles by Thomas Lipscomb in the New York Sun and Art Moore on World Net Daily point us to two recently uncovered documents (here and here; duplicates available via the Texas Tech University "Vietnam Virtual Archive" as items numbered 2150901039b and 2150901041 respectively) that don't reference Sen. Kerry by name, but that do reconfirm the Vietnamese Communists' knowledge of and cooperation with the antiwar activities of groups like Vietnam Veterans Against the War, in which Sen. Kerry was a prominent leader.  They don't show Kerry consciously tying marionette strings to his own limbs, but they certainly show that our country's enemies believed they had such strings to jerk, and that they did so enthusiastically and, ultimately, successfully.

When Neville Chamberlain returned from the Munich Conference on September 30, 1938, proclaiming that his agreement with Hitler had secured "an honourable peace" and "peace for our time," his personal history up to that point — as compared to John Kerry's now — gave comparatively little proof that he was a fool and a dupe of the enemies of civilization.  If John Kerry is elected, however, and turns out to be the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st Century — if his presidency is consistent with his actual record, rather than his current rhetoric —  then given what the American public already knew of his personal history as of November 2004, there will be one clear word with which history will describe both him and ourselves:


Posted by Beldar at 03:40 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (47)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Political bingo

Meandering musings tonight.

As it happens, I've done more research into, and reading about, the respective backgrounds of Sen. John F. Kerry and Pres. George W. Bush during the past few months than I'd done in all past presidential elections combined — and I've been voting since 1976.  I've known since at least 9/11 that I'd be voting for Dubya again this year, so I can't claim to have ever been an "undecided voter."  Of course, that's colored everything I've learned as I've learned it, and affected my selection of sources.  The pre-existing biases in my blogging are obvious to anyone who skims my sidebar or reads any two or three of my posts on politics at random.

This troubles me not at all.  I've been justly accused of many things, but being indecisive isn't one of them.  And as a trial lawyer picking juries, one of the first things I learned — long before I got my license, in fact — was that it's absolutely impossible to assemble an "unbiased jury."  The best one can ever hope for is to assemble a jury whose pre-existing biases won't blind them to the evidence, the arguments of counsel, and the court's instructions, and whose members will do their best to follow their solemn oaths to try to decide the case on the basis of those things, instead of on the basis of their biases.  This is something I've talked about during jury selection in every case I've tried over the last 24 years.  There are many apt parallels between the jury system and our system of republican representative democracy, and although I've seen both run amok on occasions, I nevertheless honor and trust in both systems.

Which brings me in round-about fashion to today's news report (about which I blogged briefly last night) of Sen. Kerry's latest credibility problems — his repeated, and now demonstratedly false, claims that he'd met with the entire U.N. Security Council before casting his vote to authorize the Iraq War. 

The report was absolutely unsurprising to me — I've long since pegged Sen. Kerry as, to put it most kindly, a compulsive serial exaggerator.  And I thought when I first heard those specific claims about meeting with the U.N. Security Council that he was almost certainly exaggerating them then.  As it happens, my own vote had already been cast in early balloting before this story broke, but it would have had absolutely no impact on my decision-making process; in my judgment, that cake already has an 8-foot-thick layer of icing on it.

Whether they've spent hours reading candidates' biographies and news accounts, their websites and their military records, their speeches and their campaign papers and their debates — or not — by now most American voters, or prospective voters, have likewise probably long since made up their minds about this election.  A few minds that were previously "made up" have probably changed during the last few weeks; quite a few minds that were undecided have certainly dropped out of that category and landed on one side of the fence or the other.  So how big a deal can a story like this one be?

The answer came to me this morning in the shower, and the answer is:  Bingo!

Metaphorically speaking, we each of us construct tables or matrices whose entries are bits of information, with plus or minus variables, about candidates and campaign issues.  A single issue voter — one who is so adamantly "pro-choice" or "pro-life," for example, that a candidate's position on abortion trumps all other concerns — has a 1x1 matrix.  But most of us have larger matrices, of varying sizes, with the data points given varying weights in the mental spreadsheet that cranks through them and produces an ultimate voting decision.  And patterns in those matrices matter, just like the mathematical formulae that can be defined for different cells in computer spreadsheets.

For some number of undecided voters, or wavering voters, the breaking news story that Sen. Kerry repeatedly exaggerated his claim to have met with U.N. Security Council representatives (including the German ones — Germany not being a permanent member, nor for some time even a temporary member) — will fill in a previously empty space.  And, hypothetically, reading across that row of data points, or down the column, or diagonally or whatever, some number of voters will say to themselves: 

Christmas in Cambodia ... 1st Purple Heart ... American soldiers committing atrocities as "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" ... in Safwan when the Gulf War ceasefire was signed ... met with all the members of the U.N. Security Council before Iraq War — BINGO!

That's the point at which they'll have completed a row or a column in their mental table and have then concluded, "Yup, what this man says can't be trusted."

Is the U.N. Securitiy Council story a "Bingo moment" for very many voters?  I don't know.  Every voter not only sets up, but scores, his or her own bingo card, and they all look different.  But my guess is that for some percentage of the undecided or swayable voters, it was or will be.  And even if it's not, it's another data point — another square filled in — on their cards.

I called "Bingo!" months ago, and cast my vote accordingly two nights ago.  Now, like the rest of America, I'm just waiting to see the results of the big contest.

Posted by Beldar at 06:44 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (25)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Kerry's claim to have held pre-Iraq War "meeting" with foreign leaders disputed by them

Tomorrow's Washington Times reports (hat-tip Redstate.com; boldface added):

U.N. ambassadors from several nations are disputing assertions by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he met for hours with all members of the U.N. Security Council just a week before voting in October 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq. An investigation by The Washington Times reveals that while the candidate did talk for an unspecified period to at least a few members of the panel, no such meeting, as described by Mr. Kerry on a number of occasions over the past year, ever occurred.

At the second presidential debate earlier this month, Mr. Kerry said he was more attuned to international concerns on Iraq than President Bush, citing his meeting with the entire Security Council.

"This president hasn't listened. I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I went to New York. I talked to all of them, to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable," Mr. Kerry said of the Iraqi dictator.

Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in December 2003, Mr. Kerry explained that he understood the "real readiness" of the United Nations to "take this seriously" because he met "with the entire Security Council, and we spent a couple of hours talking about what they saw as the path to a united front in order to be able to deal with Saddam Hussein."

But of the five ambassadors on the Security Council in 2002 who were reached directly for comment, four said they had never met Mr. Kerry. The four also said that no one who worked for their countries' U.N. missions had met with Mr. Kerry either.

Read the whole thing, including the Kerry campaign's exceptionally feeble response:

When reached for comment last week, an official with the Kerry campaign stood by the candidate's previous claims that he had met with the entire Security Council.

But after being told late yesterday of the results of The Times investigation, the Kerry campaign issued a statement that read in part, "It was a closed meeting and a private discussion."

A Kerry aide refused to identify who participated in the meeting.

The statement did not repeat Mr. Kerry's claims of a lengthy meeting with the entire 15-member Security Council, instead saying the candidate "met with a group of representatives of countries sitting on the Security Council."

Asked whether the international body had any records of Mr. Kerry sitting down with the whole council, a U.N. spokesman said that "our office does not have any record of this meeting."

Integrity.  Integrity.  Integrity.  (Pocketa-pocketa-pocketa!)

Posted by Beldar at 10:36 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (36)

How would Saddam "not necessarily be in power" if Kerry'd been President?

From the transcript of the second debate (boldface added):

BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a risk to our country, ma'am. And he was a risk that — and this is where we just have a difference of opinion.

The truth of that matter is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power if he were the president of the United States, "And [according to Sen. Kerry] the world would be a lot better off."

GIBSON: And, Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.

KERRY: Not necessarily be in power, but here's what I'll say about the $87 billion....

Sen. Kerry never finished his "not necessarily" point.  So here's a challenge, then, to those of my thoughtful and articulate readers in general, and to selected bloggers, who support Sen. Kerry: 

Please offer a plausible, reasonably detailed scenario for how, if Sen. Kerry had been the President instead of Dubya, Saddam would not still be in power as of November 2, 2004.


Please be sure to point out in your scenario not only what you believe Sen. Kerry would have done to effect regime change in Iraq that would have been different than what Dubya's done, but also what Sen. Kerry would have done to effect regime change in Iraq that Bill Clinton didn't do.  This isn't a question about what a hypothetical Pres. Kerry would have done better to "win the peace."  Nor is it a question about whether it would have been acceptible to "keep Saddam in his box," short of deposing him and his government.  It's specifically about regime change.

Note to skeptics:  Feel free to comment upon this subject and any Kerry supporters' hypothetical scenarios, but let's be on very best behavior, please, and give the Kerry folks a fair chance to make their arguments.

cc (via email):

Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly
Andrew Sullivan of AndrewSullivan.com
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo
Oliver Willis of OliverWillis.com
Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff
Bryon L. of Burnt Orange Report

Posted by Beldar at 01:02 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (44)

What are the prospects for bipartisanship in the next President's term?

Despite the political leanings of the greater Houston metropolitan area in which it's sold and from which it draws its advertisers, it wasn't a certainty that the Houston Chronicle would again endorse George W. Bush for President, as it did in 2000.  But it has.  I rarely pay serious attention to newspaper endorsements, at least for top-of-the-ticket candidates.  (I do more often pay attention to them on contested down-ballot races, propositions, amendments, etc. — at least for the purpose of alerting me to issues or controversies that I might otherwise have missed.)  But the Chron's endorsement of Dubya has a paragraph near the end that intrigues me:

The Chronicle believes Bush, if granted a second term and freed of the need to appeal to the extreme factions of his party, will regain his bipartisan effectiveness at solving problems. That is not an idle hope but rests on the experience of an earlier Texan who occupied the White House, Lyndon B. Johnson. As long as he was a U.S. representative and senator elected by Texans, he never strayed far from the conventional wisdom of his constituents. In the White House, Johnson remained true to his populist roots but, freed from the common prejudice of that era, became one of the nation's foremost champions of civil rights and opportunity for all.

I very much hope this prediction comes true, but unfortunately, I'm afraid I'm not convinced by the Chronicle's reasoning.  Yet I have hopes of somewhat similar results, for other reasons. 


Probably the single best book on politics and political history that I've ever read is the third volume of Robert A. Caro's LBJ biography, Master of the Senate — which, while part of a fine (and still incomplete) series on LBJ (whom I find fascinating of his own accord), also makes a great stand-alone read for anyone interested in how the Senate, Congress, and entire government did work and could work.  Caro vividly reveals how during his legislative career, LBJ had been as actively involved in blocking civil rights legislation as in promoting it — sometimes on the same day and in the same Senate cloakroom doorway. 

It's true enough that once he was no longer dependent solely on Texas votes to maintain his political position, LBJ had less reason to worry about backlash from championing civil rights.  But the major social legislation that LBJ rammed through Congress during his unelected partial term from November 1963 through January 1965, and even moreso during the first part of his elected term beginning in January 1965, had been gathering bipartisan steam and momentum for a long time; and the South was changing due to factors that had nothing to do with LBJ.  Johnson's compelling political sledgehammer in these fights was to portray himself as upholding the martyred John Kennedy's legacy (never mind that JFK's own civil rights record and commitment were not terribly consistent or heroic).  And finally, in terms of effectively stroking and twisting and caressing and jerking the levers of congressional politics and politicians, LBJ was a political genius, a cowboy-executive savant, of the sort Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, or even Bill Clinton could only dream of being.


A re-elected Dubya will be freed from some of the pressures that probably resulted in first-term miscues.  I don't expect, for example, to see a second Bush administration wobble off the free-trade course the way the first one did with steel tariffs.  And I'm hopeful that presidential vetoes in a second term, or threats thereof, will bring more restraint to the Congressional pork factory.  (I'll agree that, as with those who believe John Kerry will be tough on terrorists and support our military, my belief here must be largely a matter of faith, not something based on recent past performance.)

But bipartisanship is a tango that requires two.  When he was the governor of Texas, Dubya had willing dance partners from the left side of the Legislative aisle, including powerful and self-confident Democrats like then-Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, who weren't hypnotized by or beholden to hard-left interests.  Alas, I see no such leaders among the current crop of prominent national Democrats.  Perhaps some would emerge from the smoking ashes of a Kerry loss.  The most obvious candidate — much as it pains me to type these words — is Hillary Clinton, but there may be others.


Nevertheless, although not for the reasons the Chronicle postulates, I do see hope for bipartisan progress during a second Bush term in two key areas:

  • First, and most important, is on foreign policy/domestic security matters.  I expect Democrats to continue to carp and criticize on Iraq.  But once the campaign rhetoric on that topic — the retrospective "Bush lied!"/"No WMDs" memes — have faded, and focus shifts more definitively to  forward-looking "What's the best way to finish the job?" substantive issues, there ought to be room for bipartisan compromise.  Where there's not, one hopes that the partisanship will take the form of genuinely constructive criticism of forward-looking proposals.  One thing Dubya showed as governor was a willingness to coopt creative ideas that arose from the other side of the aisle; it could happen again.  And if freed from the need to take an opposite position to create political campaign separation — the need to scream "Anybody but Bush!" and "I'm against it because he's for it and I'd do everything differently than Dubya!" — then perhaps some Democratic leaders will see fit to actually consider, for example, whether it makes good sense to continue to insist on the six-way talks with North Korea.  Perhaps we can ratchet up the international pressure on Iran and Syria without having roughly half the Congress in effect urging our allies and our enemies not to cooperate with us.
  • Second, just as Clinton coopted and made political hay with originally-Republican domestic themes like welfare reform, I have some modest hopes that some Democrats may get on board with at least parts of Dubya's genuinely revolutionary "ownership society" initiatives.  Social Security may still be the third rail.  But there is vast potential for reform of, and controlling costs in, our bloated and incentive-confused health care system.  Ownership stakes in the medical decisions and consequences can introduce market rationality and cost-effectiveness considerations that are completely missing now; and if excessive tests and procedures are to be curtailed through consumer economic choices, there must be tort law reforms that reapportion responsibility between patients and their potential malpractice targets.  A Democrat willing to embrace individual choice, personal responsibility, and market capitalism ought to be able to find common ground with Republicans here — and those ought not be disqualifying themes for neo-New Democrats to run on in two or four years.  Immigration reform is another area in which there could conceivably be room for creative bipartisanship.  Radical tax simplification and reform?  Goliath lurks there; but damn, he needs to be slain, and the same Dubya who took the outrageous political risk of invading Iraq may indeed have the courage to take him on.  If so, there's risk and glory enough for ambitious Dems to share, if they will.


There will be some bipartisanship if there's a second Bush term.  On some issues, Bush will be able to continue to peel off enough "conservative Democrats" to fashion filibuster-proof majorities.  But whether there will be genuinely broad bipartisan coalitions after a Kerry loss depends, frankly, more on what the Democratic Party's leaders do to reform their party, and/or whether new leaders step forward,  than on anything Dubya can do.

There will likewise be some bipartisan agreement if Kerry wins, if Kerry's not just paying lip service about fighting the Global War on Terror.  But such agreements are likely to be few and far between.  And they'd require a President Kerry to stand firm against the Michael Moore wing of his party.  Color me skeptical; in fact, photoshop me and ramp up the color saturation until your monitor resembles a steel furnace at full blast.


Update (Sun Oct 24 @ 1:20pm):  The Austin American-Statesman — hometown paper for what many of us UT alums fondly refer to as "Sodom on the Colorado" or "Berkeley East," and unquestionably the basion of Texas liberalism and populism — has also endorsed Dubya.  Amazing first three and last two paragraphs:

A country so deeply divided over such an array of issues should pause a moment and take a serious, sober look around.

Americans should ask themselves whether they really believe that European nations critical of the war effort will intervene in Iraq if Sen. John F. Kerry is elected president. They won't.

Further, we should ask whether they really believe that anything less than a fundamental change in the way Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs are funded is adequate to meet future demands....

This president is not a conservative in either foreign or fiscal policy. In some ways, he is radically changing the course of government — and that might be just what we need to face foreign threats and a rapidly changing global economy. We certainly hope so.

We do not make this endorsement lightly or without reservation, and we ask that the president return our faith by acknowledging his failures and acting to correct them.

Knock me over with a feather!

Posted by Beldar at 03:35 AM in Books, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (13)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Beldar's ballot

Another thing cheered me up tonight.  Before going to see my daughter's play, I stopped by an early voting location and cast my ballot for the November 2nd election.

I'm glad I allowed plenty of time, because even around 6:00 pm on a Saturday night after a brief rainstorm, there was a fifteen minute line.  The early voting location was fully staffed — same computerized voting system we've been using for a while now in Harris County, and there were no glitches with either the equipment or the staff, there were just lots of people out voting!

I saw nothing remotely resembling any intimidation from either major party or supporters of any candidate.  I saw voters of all ages, races, and apparent social classes — Houston's an incredibly diverse city, and you could see it at this polling place. 

Texas isn't on anyone's list of swing states, of course, and there weren't even that many contested down-ballot races, nor any real blockbuster ballot propositions or amendments.  I think the folks who were there were mostly there to send a message — whether that message be pro- or anti-Dubya, pro- or anti-Kerry — about the top of the ticket, even from a state whose electoral votes are as close to "in the bag" as either candidate can count upon.  This is a good thing — and I'll continue to believe it's a good thing even if my preferred candidate loses.

Dubya has my vote, and I feel good about that.

Posted by Beldar at 11:15 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (7)

Sarah's play

As predicted, I'm in a much better mood after watching my oldest daughter, Sarah (age 13), in her middle school drama class play tonight.

The play was "The Great Ghost Chase" — book by Tim Kelly, music & lyrics by Bill Francoer.  It's a "Ghostbusters Visit the Funny Farm"-type spoof — perfect for a school production because there are lots of speaking parts.  Anyway, here's Sarah (in the yellow tee and black leotard, if you can't guess from the proud-pappa photo composition):

I'm a lucky and very, very proud father.

Posted by Beldar at 10:17 PM in Family | Permalink | Comments (3)

Technical blegs

For some reason that I can't figure out, I can never access James Lileks' excellent weblog, The Bleat, from my home PCs. 

I always get "The page cannot be displayed.  The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings." I don't seem to have that problem with any other URLs.  I don't have any website blocking software on my PCs, and although the DSL router that I use to network my two PCs has the ability to block designated URLs, I haven't designated any.  A half-hour spent on the phone with my ISP's technical assistance folks was completely unproductive (ending up, predictably, with "perhaps you need to reinstall your operating system").  I can access Lileks' URL if I go through anonymizer.com, but that's a pain.  I'm using Internet Explorer 6.0 and Windows ME (yucky, I know). Any hints from my more technically gifted readers on how I might fix this?

One of my readers also emailed me some time ago to say my RSS feed isn't working.  I have that option turned on via TypePad, but don't use an aggregator myself, and I'm not even sure how to see whether this is working or not.  Can anyone confirm whether this is a problem or not, and if so, suggest how to fix it?

Update (Sun Oct 24 @ 1:30am):   I figured some of y'all would be able to shed light on the subject!  Much thanks to those who've confirmed that my RSS feed is working, and to all those who've made suggestions in emails or comments below about the Lileks problem.  I've tried several of the proposed solutions with no success; and (I shoulda thought of this myself ) I've tried pinging and trace-routing to his server from a DOS window, but timed out.  So I think it's an ISP issue, rather than something unique to my home PCs or DSL router or browser, and I've emailed Lileks' ISP with an inquiry.  I'll update here when and if I get a reply.  (I don't intend to trouble Lileks himself about it — it'd probably generate another one of those service calls he's always writing about, and I'd rather he focus his attention on his upcoming Senate campaign.)

Update (Sun Oct 24 @ 1:35pm):  Impressive response time from EV1.net's tech support guy — two emails in twelve hours on a weekend.  From the first:

The IP range 70.241.70.x/xx is not blocked in our network. Please provide the following so that we may investigate this issue further.

1. A trace route from your IP to the server you cannot reach
2. A trace route from your IP to a neighboring IP on the same subnet as the server you cannot reach
3. A trace route from your IP to mail.ev1.net

From the second, after I'd complied:

The last hop in your trace is the switch that this server is operating on. This would indicate that you are probably being blocked by the server. Please contact the webmaster of the site you are trying to reach for more information.

Since I've never bombarded Lileks with emails, nor written anti-Hummel screeds, I'm reluctant to believe that he's blocked my IP address on purpose.  Alas, though, it seems I've no choice but to trouble the candidate himself.

Posted by Beldar at 05:24 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (22)

Frustrations of blogging

Yesterday and this morning have been frustrating.

  • For pointing out that Sen. Kerry was trivializing the ethical and moral issues inherent in human embryo stem cell research (by comparing Dubya's opposition to federal funding of such research that would destroy additional embryos to him opposing research on cars or electricity), I was pulled into a debate with a 21-year-old hard-left blogger over whether I'm a likely fertility clinic bomber.
  • For republishing a Reuters photograph of a little girl appearing at a campaign rally with Sen. Kerry, I've been accused of "encouraging others to take jabs at an innocent little girl."  (I've encouraged no such thing, nor have my commenters done so.  And I certainly agree that she's an adorable little girl, and I neither fault her nor her mom for permitting her picture to be taken at the rally.  Michaela rools, even if I don't think her candidate of choice does.)
  • Folks over at the Democratic Underground are speculating that my September 28th post entitled "John Kerry: Lapsed lawyer of little legal luster" is somehow the basis for a rumored breaking story in Monday's WaTimes on Sen. Kerry.  (I'd be very surprised if this were true.  Kerry's career as a lawyer is awfully unimpressive, and in particular he's consistently exaggerated his extremely thin credentials as a former prosecutor, but I don't think this is an "October Surprise" by anyone's account.)
  • And my dog Weiss' latest online photo album, after being linked by Jonah Goldberg's dog Cosmo on The Corner, got about 20k more page views yesterday than my blog.  Weiss insists that this is because she has better manners and is smarter; perhaps she's right.  But congrats, Weiss, on your Corner-launch!  (Current projected bandwidth usage for my blog and photo albums for October is 1231.72% over my quota — but bless their hearts, TypePad still isn't charging for bandwidth overages.)

Eventually every blogger has days like that.  One learns to shrug it off.  Tonight I'm off to watch my oldest daughter in her middle school drama class musical, which I'm pretty sure will restore my good humor and perspective.

Posted by Beldar at 03:45 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (11)

Friday, October 22, 2004

The real dirt on John Kerry and his family

People just don't understand the moral danger we're in from this election.  You need to know the real dirt about John Kerry and his family, before you vote.  I've got the links to back up each of these allegations, or at least to point you in the right direction.

Did you know, for instance, that while aboard his Swift Boat, with the American flag streaming from its stern, Kerry regularly engaged in piscatory activities with several of his crewmen — at the same time?  In fact, Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty (at page 200) reveals that Kerry regularly permitted such activities to be conducted with exploding grenades!  And they followed these activities with repeated gustatory rituals involving hot coals burned in a small grill.  They actually bragged about this to crews from other boats.

This from a self-described former altar boy — who, it's rumored, enthusiastically engaged in proselytism of homo sapiens, both while on and off of church grounds. And there are credible rumors that as a boy he took advantage of his family's foreign travels to become a practicing philatelist, too.  I suppose that made his parents proud, do you think?

Boston College law student John Kerry sits shamelessly among BC Law graduates in 1976 -- smiling among the very women he matriculated with three years earlier!Why, did you know at Boston College Law School, John Kerry openly matriculated with each and every one of the young women students who began classes there at the same time he did?  He did so publicly, apparently without any shame, and without getting their permission first or apologizing afterwards — even though he was already married himself, and some of them were too!

Unfortunately, this runs through the whole Kerry family.  Remember that "integrity, integrity, integrity" line from the debate?  What would you think if you knew that John Kerry's mother was hospitalized at the time from complications related to her diagnosed status as a sexagenarian?

What's more, his daughter Alex is a self-admitted practicing thespian, and has even accepted money for public performances of such acts!  Indeed, you can purchase videos of her public exhibitions of thespianism on certain internet websites, which modesty forbids me to link.

Shockingly, Kerry and his wife regularly permit, even encourage, their male and female children to masticate in each other's presence at the dinner table!  Some of the mastication is rumored to involve Heinz Ketchup, believe it or not.  Apparently, Sen. Kerry and Ms. Heinz-Kerry think these practices are "safe" and "normal" so long as the children use condiments

Finally, the entire family have been shamelessly taking part together in hortatory activities, all over the campaign trail!  In fact, if you look closely at film clips from the campaign, you can see that Sen. Kerry engaged in what has presumably been consensual osculation with not only his wife, but also his adult daughters, repeatedly and on a public stage. He makes this a regular part of his campaign appearances, and the audiences all cheer!  Whether Sen. Kerry's cheeky display of osculation with First Lady Laura Bush's most accessible integumentary organ after each of the debates was consensual or not, I suppose we'd have to ask her.  At least, unlike Al Gore's activities with his own wife in the 2000 campaign, Sen. Kerry hasn't been observed in lingual osculation involving his own wife's, or any other woman's, sulcus terminalis or oropharynx.  But who's to say that won't happen the next time they're on stage?

Sen. Kerry's campaign has yet to deny any of these shocking allegations.  This is, as we say in the blogosphere, developing ....

(Hat-tip to my reader Steve T. and to Bill Garvin, with apologies to George Smathers.)

Posted by Beldar at 01:59 PM in Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (21)

Kurtz on the THK kurfluffles

WaPo's Howard Kurtz has a funny, link-filled article on Theresa Heinz-Kerry's (or does she prefer the unhyphenated version?) comments about First Lady Laura Bush, in which he reports that NPR has video footage of the gaffe, and then muses:

We don't really vote for first lady. She kind of comes with the package. But if the candidates are going to have their wives out there campaigning for them, I guess they have to take their lumps when the spouse goes off message.

Well, yes.  So it has been back to FDR's days and well beyond.  Mr. Kurtz wonders whether "this more important than, oh, I don't know, American soldiers dying in Iraq?"  Well, no; of course not.  But there's bandwidth and column space and airtime enough to discuss all of these things, and more; Mr. Kurtz found space in his WaPo article to mention Sen. Kerry's geese, for instance, just as there was time at the DNC for Licorice the Unlucky Hamster and at the RNC for the Bush twins' riff on growing up with Dubya.

And certainly we all need some comic relief, some distraction from more weighty issues.  In fact, I'd one-up TRN's Noam Scheiber, as linked from Mr. Kurtz's article, and suggest that the most attractive Kerry counterspin (to be made by suitably distanced proxies, and leaked only to Judith Miller-types who'd go to jail before breaching their promises of confidentiality) would be to argue that Ms. Heinz-Kerry would be a formidable asset in a Kerry presidency precisely because of the comic relief she'd offer for the next four years.  Alas, from the look on Ms. Heinz-Kerry's face after her husband's debate joke at her expense about marrying up, I suspect Judith Miller would end up preferring a jail cell to facing THK's prolonged wrath, and Sen. Kerry's probably too tall to fit comfortably on any of the couches in the White House anyway.

Posted by Beldar at 10:08 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (4)

NYT review of "Stolen Honor"

Like many others (e.g., InstaPundit, Just One Minute, Smash, and PrestoPundit), I was surprised to see this generally sympathetic review of "Stolen Honor" in the NYT — especially this beginning statement:

"Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," the highly contested anti-Kerry documentary, should not be shown by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. It should be shown in its entirety on all the networks, cable stations and on public television.

I'm less surprised after pondering it a bit, however.  The rebound risks from attacking ex-POWs are frankly higher than from attacking the Swiftees who've joined the SwiftVets' campaign, and the folks who've tried — with comments to the effect of, "Well, those POWs weren't really tortured all that much" or "there really were atrocities committed by the American military in Vietnam" — have done Sen. Kerry's campaign no favors.  This NYT review is consistent with the smarter pro-Kerry strategy of saying, in effect, "Well sure the ex-POWs are miffed, and they have understandable hard feelings about the way the American public treated them upon their return,  but that's an old grudge that really doesn't have much to do with Kerry's current fitness to be President."

I'm still miffed, however, that after finally admitting its repeated errors in describing Kerry as having met with "both sides" in Paris, the NYT continues to repeat its separate mistake about whether his trip was secret:

The imagery is crude, but powerful: each mention of Mr. Kerry's early 1970's meeting with North Vietnamese government officials in Paris is illustrated with an old black-and-white still shot of the Arc de Triomphe, an image that to many viewers evokes the Nazi occupation of Paris. The Eiffel Tower would have been more neutral, but the film is not: it insists that Mr. Kerry "met secretly in an undisclosed location with a top enemy diplomat." Actually, Mr. Kerry, a leading antiwar activist at the time, mentioned it in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.

The clear inference here is that Kerry was forthright about revealing the details of his Paris trip.  Yet   he's been anything but.  As I've previously written, Kerry's first trip to Paris to meet with the enemy was in May 1970, immediately after his marriage.  His Fulbright Committee testimony didn't come until almost a year later, in April 1971.  If there's any record of Kerry revealing that trip to Paris to the public prior to his Fulbright Committee testimony, I haven't seen it. 

Rather, as far as I can tell — and I'd welcome any further or contrary information, with links, from any of my readers — the May 1970 trip was a secret at the time it was made and for almost a year afterwards; and later, it was pointedly left out of both Brinkley's biography and the Kranish et al. biography, as well as Kerry's campaign website.  By April 1971, Kerry and the VVAW certainly knew they were under investigation by the FBI, according to rabidly pro-Kerry and pro-protest movement historian Gerald Nicosia.  My strong hunch is that Kerry mentioned it in his Fulbright Committee testimony because he expected details to be leaked by the Nixon administration to try to discredit him, and decided — to use a trial lawyer metaphor — to pull the teeth on this monster himself, before it bit him.

And of course, the NYT still ignores Nicosia's claim (based on FBI records released on the basis of Nicosia's Freedom of Information Act request) that Kerry made at least one other trip to Paris to meet with the enemy.  The dates and details of that trip, if Nicosia's right, continue to be secret — which I continue to find outrageous.

Posted by Beldar at 02:58 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (41)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Love ya 'Stros!

First things first:  Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals — a classy, gutsy team with first-rate fans and management that certainly deserves to represent the NL in the Series, based both on its season-long and playoff series performances.  They've proved themselves a better team, if by a razor-thin margin, than the very fine team the Astros had turned into by season's end.  And as a devoted National League guy, I'll be rootin' for St. Louis over the BoSox.

But now my main point:  Damn, I'm proud of my hometown team!  Proud fit ta bust, yessir. 

You've provided entertainment.  You've provided thrills.  You've been great role models as sportsmen for hundreds of thousands of kids — four of whom are mine.  No fan has the right to expect a world championship, ever, but everything which any fan could legitimately expect short of that, you've given the City of Houston, and your fans elsewhere in Texas and beyond, this year.

Rocket:  I've been watching you since you were at UT.  You're a genuine sports hero for the ages, and such a Texan.  Whether you hang it up or come back, we Houstonians, we Longhorns, we fellow Texans are and will always be grateful that you came out of retirement for this season.  Hook 'em!

To Phil Garner and every other man jack on the team and in the organization, from the batboys up to Drayton:  There's no shame in this loss.  Nobody doubts that you guys were entitled to be there in Game 7.  And nobody doubts that the Astros will in due course play in the Series, but we'll be with you through thick and thin until then.

Posted by Beldar at 10:30 PM in Sports | Permalink | Comments (9)

No word whether the goose was in a loincloth

John Kerry went hunting.  "Now here's where the story gets strange, as only a John Kerry story can get," explains Radio Blogger, and he's right.

Posted by Beldar at 10:12 PM in Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (10)

Embryos and buggy whips

Here's Sen. Kerry today (hat-tip to K-Lo from The Corner):

Kerry, appearing with Dana Reeve, widow of the "Superman" actor, portrayed the Republican president as out of touch. He suggested Bush would have sided "with the candle lobby against electricity, the buggy makers against the cars and the typewriter companies against computers."

But let's pick a more apt analogy.  Dubya would have sided with the Gypsies, the mentally retarded, and the Jews against Hitler's sterilization and genocide.  Whatever one thinks of abortion, whenever one thinks meaningful human life begins, it's ugly — outrageous — to compare human embryos to typewriters and buggy whips.


Update (Fri Oct 22 @ 2:00am):  Since he didn't bother to send a trackback ping, I'll note here that Jesse Taylor of Pandagon (BA in Religion from Swarthmore, per his bio) saw fit to link this post with one entitled "The Hollow Echo of Jackboots."  I think I'm supposed to be the one in jackboots; or maybe it's Alan Keyes, it's kind of hard to tell.  We're apparently both part of "these people" who are ready to start bombing fertility clinics.

In addition to Charles Krauthammer's recent WaPo op-ed (discussed and linked below in a fine comment from Va Jim), folks interested in the science and politics of this would be well served to read James Kelly's article on NRO.

Update (Fri Oct 22 @ 3:20am): Prompted by a civil email from one of the commenters on the Pandagon post, I should make clear that I'm not arguing that Sen. Kerry, or anyone else who supports human embryonic stem cell research, is a Nazi or comparable to that hated regime.  That's a label that I apply rarely if ever.  Rather, people of good faith and decency can and do have differing moral and ethical perspectives on these issues.  Some of those with strongly held, sincere positions believe that large-scale destruction of human embryos for purposes of this research would be tantamount to genocide.  I frankly don't intend to get into a lengthy debate about my own views on that subject, and I'm not trying to persuade anyone else to take one side or the other.  Rather, my objection is to Sen. Kerry mocking President Bush's position for partisan gain, and trivializing the issue by ignoring the moral and ethical dimensions of this topic. 

Update (Fri Oct 22 @ 8:50am):  Commenter Sid the Fish on Pandagon (whose own blog post on the subject is linked in a trackback below) provides this link to the prepared text of Sen. Kerry's speech from his website, which I will concede, as he argues, discusses much more than human embryonic stem cell research.  As printed there, I will also concede that the buggy/electricity analogy is far less offensive (if of equally questionable factual validity, since it there appears to claim that Pres. Bush is against any and all scientific progress in practically any field). 

Moreover, one might legitimately wonder if the text of the speech as printed on the Kerry campaign's website actually corresponded to the speech as given.  Perhaps Reuters, or the similar NPR report on Sen. Kerry's speech that I heard this morning, which also discussed only stem cell research, are spinning Sen. Kerry's spoken words to make him look bad.  But Sen. Kerry's been known to expand and wander from his printed text on occasion, and in fact seems to do so more often than not.

Finally, Mr. Taylor has edited his original post to say that he only fears fertility clinic bombings by those with a "slightly more extreme version of [the] view" he attributes to me and Mr. Keyes.  (I actually have no clue what Mr. Keyes' views are.)  In an update to the post, however, he continues to argue that my original post here and comments on Pandagon represent the "utter height of irresponsibility and demagoguery," which makes me wonder what the "slightly more extreme version" might be.  Ah, well — the moral I take from the exchange is, once again, not to bother arguing with such folks on their own turf.

Posted by Beldar at 07:04 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (37)

A response to Josh Chafetz' essay justifying his intended vote for Sen. Kerry

Josh Chafetz, writing in Oxblog, explains why he intends to vote for Sen. Kerry.  The whole post is well written and argued, and I commend it to you in its entirety.   Here's the first key paragraph on foreign policy/domestic security (italics in original):

First, I think that Kerry's foreign policy will be constrained in good ways. Path dependence is a very important political force. I'm not at all worried about Kerry's response to another attack -- no president could resist striking back hard, and I see no reason to think that Kerry would even want to resist striking back hard. Moreover, Kerry will not, I think, be able to pull out of Iraq any time soon. He will not, I think, be able to cut funding for programs designed to foster Arab civil society. (Indeed, Spencer Ackerman makes a good case that Kerry would be more devoted to civil society issues than Bush has been.) More importantly, I think the Bush Administration has been very good about getting the Arab world talking about liberal, democratic values. Now, I think, it would be good to have a President who is better able to put into place the concrete policies that will reinforce the broad foreign policy goals that, I think, the Bush Administration has done a good job of locking in. In other words, now that the Arab world is talking about democracy — the kind of talk that will grow and feed on itself and ultimately cannot be silenced — we can help by having a President who (a) is not reviled in the region, and (b) is a bit less incompetent at actually promoting our foreign policy objectives than the current administration has been. Yes, (a) means that some sort of "global test" is factoring into my vote. I'm not thrilled about that, but when the major issue in the campaign is foreign policy, it would, I think, be self-defeating not to take into account how the rest of the world views the candidates and whether the rest of the world will be willing to work well with the candidate. And (b), of course, is speculative. Perhaps Kerry wouldn't be better than Bush. But any election must largely be a referendum on the incumbent, and I am increasingly convinced that Bush has mismanaged too many important aspects of our foreign policy to be given my trust again.

I cannot but admire the eloquence here, but I'm unpersuaded.  Working backwards through the paragraph: 

  • This is not a recall election, nor, with due respect, "largely" a referendum on the incumbent.  It is entirely a binary choice between two very different candidates, their respective political parties, and their worldviews.  (In fairness, Mr. Chafetz recognizes this fact at the conclusion of his post.)
  • There's certainly anecdotal evidence that leaders and populaces in France, Germany, and Belgium prefer Sen. Kerry's "style," and find Dubya's off-putting.  But there's also anecdotal evidence that Sen. Kerry's insensitivity toward the allies who have stood by America is also off-putting, and Mr. Chafetz' argument seems to altogether ignore this — despite, for example, the recent election returns from Australia (charter member of the so-called phony coalition of the bought, bribed, coerced, and extorted).  Not everyone abroad "likes" Kerry better.
  • Whether "style" is a net plus for either candidate, however, it's not what's most important.  Mr. Chafetz and his co-bloggers at Oxblog have normally been quite clear-eyed in their writings in recognizing that global alliances, at bottom, aren't about warm fuzzies, but instead about self-perceived national interests.  When national interests are considered, there's no reason to suspect — much less empirical evidence to support the premise that — any allies are likely to behave more positively on any substantive matter (i.e., perceive their own national interests differently) if Sen. Kerry's at the American helm.
  • Finally, much of this paragraph, and the ones that precede it, give Dubya credit where due.  Even if Mr. Chafetz has fault to find in the Bush administration's performance in some respects, he ought also factor in that Dubya is a known quantity on fighting the war against terrorists aggressively.  By contrast, for every Kerry quote rattling a saber against terrorists, I can produce two or three that scream "wimp" and another that's in the mushy middle.  Quotes aside, Sen. Kerry's actions and votes throughout his adult history have been consistently, reflexively against the significant use of American force (with the bizarre, inexplicable exception of supporting Clinton in the Balkins).  Mr. Chafetz doesn't appear to have factored into his calculus any risk that "Kerry the Anti-Terrorist Hawk" is a campaign fiction; however one assesses that risk, it certainly isn't zero. 

Mr. Chafetz' next paragraph is also eloquent, with an argument I don't think I've previously seen made quite this concisely (italics in original):

I can envision a situation in which I think the United States ought to take military action and in which President Bush would agree, whereas President Kerry, because of his inordinate faith in the legitimizing power of international institutions, might not. But, first, let me note that, in any situation in which military force is clearly called for (e.g., another attack, leading to another Afghanistan), I have complete confidence that Kerry will make the right call. But what about another close call where I think we ought to send troops? It's true, Kerry might not make my preferred decision. But I am also convinced that Bush — even a reelected Bush — would lack the political capital to send American troops into battle again in a close call. In other words, in the primary situation in which Bush's advantage in grand strategy would be an issue, I don't think Bush would be able to put his preferred policy in place, anyway.

I agree that a second-term Dubya doesn't presently have the political capital to, say, invade Syria or Iran or North Korea.  Nor have diplomatic efforts yet been exhausted with respect to those state actors; nor does any of them have quite yet the decade of defiance of UN sanctions and international opinion that Saddam's Iraq had, or the decade-long daily history of shooting at American and British aircraft.  I don't understand Mr. Chafetz to be arguing that we should promptly go to war with any of those countries.  So looking at present levels of political capital, I submit, isn't relevant.  Instead, I'd submit that four different factors — all hypothetical and forward-looking — are what's presently relevant:

  • Based on the perceptions of these potential future state-actor adversaries, which candidate's current credibility — in terms of perceived willingness to use military force when appropriate — is likely to influence, moderate, and restrain those states?  There's a compelling one-word proof that the answer to that question is Dubya, I think:  Libya.
  • Which candidate, if elected, could rebuild the necessary domestic and international political capital, when and if circumstances change to the point at which Mr. Chafetz and I would agree, by a "close call," that military force is appropriate?  Again, my assumption is that in the international arena, decisionmakers will be motivated by their own perceived self-interests; but that perception includes, certainly, their subjective predictions as to whether the then-sitting American President has the courage, despite substantial domestic and international opposition, to stay the course once embarking on a military option.  Tony Blair and John Howard, for instance, have had their own struggles to maintain domestic support for their governments' support of America; but they haven't had to worry about Dubya going wobbly and sawing off the limbs they've advanced onto.  And domestically, the question is, who is more likely to be able to assemble and maintain a working majority to support the military option?  That question practically answers itself, as I think Mr. Chafetz would admit.
  • I agree with Mr. Chafetz that if there is another 9/11-scale attack on America, a President Kerry would acquire the necessary domestic and international support to retaliate on a state actor that's as clearly tied to the attack as was Afghanistan's Taliban to 9/11.  But by definition, we're talking here about the "close calls."  What if there's another incident directed by a rogue state-actor at a crucial American ally — another event comparable to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait?  For example, Syria has a long history of military clashes with Israel.  Suppose it attempts to seize the Golan Heights and simultaneously decapitates the Israeli leadership through proxies' terrorist attacks?  Suppose North Korea stays on its side of the DMV, but decides to institute a 30-minute artillery barrage on Seoul one day each week?  Or what if there's an urgent need for American military action against nonstate actors being sheltered by a rogue state, or just a grumpy one?  Iran bears Israel no love, and could quite conceivably create a major international crisis there through terrorists it supports.  Or what if diplomacy and sanctions have failed, and based on the best and most credible intelligence available, it's go or no-go time on a pre-emptive military strike to take out Iran's nascent nuclear capabilities?  In any of these situations — whether you think they're improbable or not — are our options not broadened if there's a credible threat of American intervention, if necessary including ground troops?  I think they are — and I think there will be no such credible threat from a Kerry administration for any event short of another 9/11-scale attack directly on the US.  What would be "close calls" for a second-term Bush adminstration would become not at all close under a President Kerry, but default instead to American inaction and impotency.
  • The last factor is probably the least important, but not insignificant.  It blinks reality to ignore the faith that our military forces have in their present Commander in Chief, and their disdain for Sen. Kerry as his prospective successor.  The reason I say this is the least important factor is that I have enormous confidence that those forces would, quite professionally, strive to overcome that disdain, as they did in the Clinton years.  But among the professional warrior caste, there is a fairly clear preference for whom they'd like to see lead them in our future conflicts, and it ought not count for nothing.

Kevin Drum, analyzing Mr. Chafetz' post, concludes:

For hawks, the best argument in favor of Kerry is that the Iraq war is a done deal, and there isn't likely to be a followup. So even if Bush was the right bull in a china shop for the past four years, is he also the best guy to put the china shop back together over the next four? Probably not.

With due respect to Mr. Drum, that's a silly metaphor.  The world over the next four years isn't going to be a china shop, and there are likely to be new and even more serious challenges than putting broken china back together (I assume he's talking about reconstructing Afghanistan and Iraq).  Mr. Drum seems blind to those possibilities; I regret to say that his anybody-but-Bush instincts have completely overwhelmed him.  He's not susceptible to rational argument on foreign policy/security issues any more.

But Mr. Chafetz is probably the sort of thoughtful, non-moonbat center-left patriot to whom my "Can John Kerry do what LBJ couldn't?" post earlier this week was directed.  Indeed, his co-blogger David Adesnik, who's also voting for Sen. Kerry, was kind enough to link and comment on that post.  Mr. Chafetz and Mr. Adesnik clearly recognize the risks that a Kerry Presidency would mean a less effective America in the worldwide fight against terrorists and terrorism.  I think, however, that they've used their formidable rhetorical skills to talk themselves into taking that risk, and they've unwittingly blinded themselves to their own heavy thumbs on their intellectual scales.

If Sen. Kerry wins, I'll join Mr. Chafetz and Mr. Adesnik in hoping that their gamble pays off.  Unfortunately, I think a President Kerry would badly need a coalition of folks like us, on one side or the other of the center, because the Kevin Drums-and-leftwards-of-him folks from his own party will never, ever support the use, or even a credible threat of the use, of military force in any situation less dramatic than another 9/11-scale attack.  I think it's a bad gamble.  There will be crises in the next four years; a hand on the American helm that's even perceived as unsteady will encourage such crises, in much the same way that a preceivedly wishy-washy John Kennedy, post-Bay of Pigs, encouraged Soviet adventurism that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And truth be told, I think a President Kerry is more likely to end up somewhere to even Kevin Drum's left — based on the man's history, which so conflicts with his current campaign words.  In that case, the question of a working coalition from the center-left working rightward is going to be a moot question.  I'd say that a Kerry administration will be Carter redux — except that comparison is unfair, I think, to Carter.  I'm afraid that I'd find myself longing for the comparatively steadfast and  aggressive foreign policy of Bill Clinton — who could, at least, wag the dog vigorously, albeit largely ineffectively, on occasion.

Posted by Beldar at 06:15 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (30)

Best line I've heard today

But the Yankees, who won the first three games in the series before going to lose four straight, had more runs in the series (45-41), which means the Sox may have a pennant, but they lack a mandate.

— James Taranto, writing, one presumes, from New York, in today's Best of the Web.

Congrats to the BoSox on an incredibly gutsy performance.  Here's hoping for a Sox-'Stros Series.

Posted by Beldar at 03:53 PM in Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier), Sports | Permalink | Comments (4)

Second thoughts

Had a couple of pix of Sen. Kerry up on this post originally that I thought looked strange in comparison to one another.  On second thought, I think I'd rather not post 'em at all — "taste" issues.  My thanks to the first few folks who commented, and apologies for dropping your comments along with the post.

Posted by Beldar at 02:58 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink

Begging for a snarky caption

I'll bet my readers can do better than Reuters' original caption for this picture, which reads "Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry reads a note given to him by five-year-old Michaela Fishback (L) at a campaign rally in Waterloo, Iowa October 19, 2004. The note said 'John Kerry Rools.'"

Reuters' caption: 'Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry reads a note given to him by five-year-old Michaela Fishback (L) at a campaign rally in Waterloo, Iowa October 19, 2004. The note said 'John Kerry Rools.''

What does Michaela know now that she didn't know when she wrote her note?

Posted by Beldar at 02:44 AM in Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (29)

Jobless Laura Bush shows empathy for loose cannon heiress

This, amazingly enough, appears in Thursday's WaPo at the conclusion of an essay by staff writer Hanna Rosin, commenting on Theresa Heinz-Kerry's gaffe (since apologized for, ineptly) in characterizing First Lady Laura Bush as not ever having "had a real job" (boldface added):

Republicans have gotten sophisticated about feminism. Laura Bush does not stand up at "W Stands for Women" rallies and hand out her cookie recipes. She talks about how, in her husband's administration, "there are more women in senior positions than in any other presidential administration in history." She talks about how "across America, millions of women are raising families, working full time, going to college, starting their own businesses."

If you are in the audience in your business suit, she's speaking to you. If you're pushing the stroller, she's speaking to you. She's not Jackie O, and she's not Hillary. She's just a reflection of you.

So it's no surprise that yesterday she played the role of Melanie to Heinz Kerry's Scarlett.

"Mrs. Bush knows that some days are more difficult than others when your husband is running for president," said her spokesman Gordon Johndroe, "and she has a lot of empathy for her."

I'm not sure I buy the Scarlett O'Hara comparison — it's positively unfair to Scarlett, I think — but the part I've bolded above Heinz Kerry: 'I think what the American people really want is to make sure the companion to the president supports him.' [Photo] By Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP  absolutely sings to me (although presumably Ms. Rosin was writing about, and for, other women). 

As does Mrs. Bush's comment — made through a spokesman, but I'm sure with explicit advance directions and approval.  Laura Bush is far too classy to point the finger at THK and then turn to an audience to ask, "Do you want this loose cannon firing at random from the White House for the next four years?"  But then again, she doesn't need to point that out, does she?

What actually struck me as weird from the USA Today article in which THK's gaffe first appeared was the quotation in the caption for her picture there:

Heinz Kerry: 'I think what the American people really want is to make sure the companion to the president supports him.'

"Companion to the President"?  What, are we expecting Morgan Fairchild to show up at the White House to pick back up with her old fling?  Fer pete's sake, what's wrong with the word "wife"?  If she's going to be that politically correct, shouldn't she have said "spouse," and also said "him or her" instead of just "him" in referring to the President (assuming she was including all hypothetical future ones)?  I'm imagining the Marine Band during a Kerry Presidency, striking up "Ruffles and Flourishes" as the announcer solemnly intones, "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States and his POSSLQ."

Posted by Beldar at 01:44 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (10)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Thanks and apologies

I continue to be amazed at the traffic my blog has generated in August, September, and October, and simply want to thank those of you who've stopped by — including those who have expressed disagreeing opinions in my comments sections.  Thanks, too, to the bloggers who've linked to various of my posts!

Finally, my apologies to folks whose emails and comments I haven't replied to individually.  I'm whacking at the stack of unread emails, and promise to give each email and comment at least a skim, but I genuinely regret that I probably won't be able to answer all of them.

Posted by Beldar at 11:54 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3)

How thin is the fringe on the Left?

In the comments to my post yesterday — entitled "Beldar asks his non-moonbat Democratic friends: Can John Kerry do what LBJ couldn't?" — most of those who disagreed argued, basically, that there's not really a split in the Democratic Party, and that the Michael Moore/DU Democrats really are a marginal fringe, and that the Dean Democrats will all stay in line with the Lieberman Democrats behind John Kerry as he fights a smarter, more effective war on terrorists and skillfully extracts America from Iraq (even if that takes many, many months or even years).   Basically, they pooh-poohed my suggestion that a President Kerry, if elected, would immediately face the same conflict within his own party and supporters that LBJ didn't face until 1968 or so.

I almost bought that argument.  Maybe they're right, I thought.

Then today, I learned (hat-tip Such Little Things) of Blogpac.org, which includes on its advisory board "Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD, Duncan Black of Atrios, Jeralyn Merritt of Talk Left, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, Matt Stoller of BOP News, [and] Anna of Annatopia."  Among Blogpac's first projects is a website called Enjoy the Draft.com.  Here's its banner headline graphic:

Among the (I presume mock) comments featured from readers of "Enjoy the Draft.com" are these:

"Michael Moore might feature my grieving mother in his next movie!"
-Joe in Flint

"I thought I'd miss my boyfriend when he went to Iraq. How ironic that I got drafted and killed!"
-Missie in Miami

"I look hot in a black body bag, and I don't even work out."
-John in Madison

The site includes lots of other neat graphics for you to download to your own blogs and websites, friends and neighbors, including this one:

When her post about the new website and its advertisements drew some critical comments, TalkLeft's host, attorney Jeralyn E. Merritt, responded:

No one said it [referring to the "ads" on the "Enjoy the Draft.com" website] was meant to be funny. So don't bother going there. Those who say things like "I don't see the humor" or who attack the ad's creators as if the creators intended them to be "funny" are falsely depicting both the ads and their purpose.

Such reckless and deliberately false accusations have no place here.

And in a subsequent comment:

Tunesmith, the ad was not meant to be funny, nor was it making fun of soldiers. It is meant to get attention from those who would be most affected by the draft, the young.

Humor and satire are not the same thing. I didn't mean to offend you, but the posters on the right were picking up your "humor" ball and running with it.

The ad is clever and provacative [sic], but funny? I don't think so. I think it drives the point home.

Meanwhile, today's Village Voice promotes its lead article with this graphic (hat-tip Roger L. Simon, and his commenter ras, who pointed me to the Such Little Things link above):

My hope is that the center-Left Democrats — those whom I referred to by shorthand as "non-moonbats" — see these kinds of things and manage a kind of chuckling frown.  "Sure, that's over the top," they'd say, I guess, "But nobody really believes this stuff."

I'm sorry, but I'm not buying that.  I don't know how deep the moonbat fringe goes; I don't know how Kerry's core breaks down between, say, Michael Moore/DU extremists, Deaniacs, and those closer to the center.  But I adhere to my premise:  If he's elected, John Kerry's supporters will begin to fracture, badly, by November 3.  By next July, there will be a metaphorical, but very active and very serious, war going on within the Democratic Party.  There will be folks marching outside the White House chanting "Hey, hey, JFK, how many kids did you kill today?"  (Note:  It's not that I think that Iraq is comparable to Vietnam, it's that they do.)

Anyone who thinks a President Kerry could ignore these folks is dreaming.  Anyone who thinks it won't adversely affect his prosecution (yes, I know that's a term with mixed and unfortunate meanings) of the fight against the terrorists is delusional.  Anyone who thinks he'll be able to fight the terrorists effectively anyway is ... well, more optimistic than I am.

Posted by Beldar at 10:52 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (35)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Kerry to troops: Your life is worthless unless UN blesses the fight

From a front-page story in tomorrow's WaPo (boldface added):

NATO and the United Nations appear to be touchstones for the Democratic nominee, not just the troublesome hurdles that they appear to be to President Bush. In speeches over the years, Kerry repeatedly has denounced unilateral action.

Kerry's belief in working with allies runs so deep that he has maintained that the loss of American life can be better justified if it occurs in the course of a mission with international support. In 1994, discussing the possibility of U.S. troops being killed in Bosnia, he said, "If you mean dying in the course of the United Nations effort, yes, it is worth that. If you mean dying American troops unilaterally going in with some false presumption that we can affect the outcome, the answer is unequivocally no."

The simplest reading of this weird statement is that the cause an American soldier fights and dies for is worthwhile if — but only if — it's been duly blessed by the United Nations.  One presumes he means the Security Council — meaning we'd only have to get unanimous approval from the Brits,  French, Russians, and Chinese to convert our solders' sacrifices from worthless to worthwhile.

Is there "nuance" here that I'm missing?  I frankly can't make any sense of the phrase "false presumption that we can affect the outcome."  In John Kerry's lifetime, there hasn't been a fight where the American military couldn't "affect the outcome," whether acting unilaterally or not. 

The Vietnam War-era Kerry said American troops should only be deployed at UN direction.  The 1994-era Kerry said whether American deaths are worthless depends on UN approval.  The 2004-era Kerry said there's a "global test" and "we ought to pass a sort of truth standard."  This seems pretty consistent to me.

Consistently wrong.

Posted by Beldar at 10:49 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (24)

Beldar asks his non-moonbat Democratic friends: Can John Kerry do what LBJ couldn't?

Let's say you're a yellow dog Democrat, a patriot, a thoughtful person for whom the world changed on 9/11. Zell Miller's impassioned rant at the RNC didn't strike any responsive chords for you. You supported the war in Afghanistan and you're cautiously optimistic at having seen the successful elections that just took place there. You don't like the Republican positions on social issues, but you do recognize that this election is, and ought to be, first and foremost about foreign policy and domestic security issues. You aren't an appeaser; you know and appreciate quite a bit of history; you're not reflexively against any and all use of America's military power. You're deeply troubled, though, about Iraq; you think it is a big deal that we didn't find stockpiles of WMDs there; and something about George W. Bush just flat rubs you the wrong way. You think all the SwiftVets' stuff is irrelevant ancient history; you think there's not much difference between Kerry misspeaking about the "global test" and Bush misspeaking about the war on terror not being winnable; and besides, you take it as an article of faith that all politicians lie during campaigns. John Kerry, you're thinking, couldn't do much worse in prosecuting the Global War on Terror (or maybe you reject that characterization, in which case, let's just call it "fighting the terrorists.") You're inclined to take him at face value when he says he'll hunt down and kill the terrorists, and that he'll fight a smarter, more effective war fight. You're giving him the benefit of the doubt on the "character" issue. My question to you, my thoughtful, principled friend of the center-left, is this: How is John Kerry going to be able to resolve his fundamental dilemma if he's elected?
"What fundamental dilemma?" you ask. Well, look at your fellow Kerry voters. Look at the Democratic Party; look at its congressmen and senators; look at its policy wonks and think-tankers and fundraisers and likely appointees to key posts, on both domestic and foreign/military policy positions. We've established already that you're not a barking moonbat yourself. Surely, though, you can see them around you in the Kerry queue, can't you? Then in your best-case scenario, my friend, you'll be electing another man who'll be immediately thrust into the position Lyndon Johnson was in as of January 1968 — a man who from the first day of his presidency will be faced by incredible pressures from within his own party, from many of his own advisers and fundraisers and legislators, to do exactly the opposite of what you are counting on Kerry to do. If John Kerry keeps his promises to "fight for this country" — if he keeps his promise not to cut and run in Iraq, for instance — then he's going to seriously piss off, indeed to completely alienate, somewhere between a quarter and half of the people who've voted for him, and probably a much larger percentage of his intelligensia, fundraisers, and activists. If we're not out of Iraq come next July, there's going to be a boom market in "Dean '08" bumper stickers. Because just like you're working on the assumption that when elected, Kerry will indeed take the fight to the enemy, they're working on the assumption that when elected, Kerry's going to get us out of the "wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time." You and the moonbats can't both be right about what Kerry will do. Can we agree on that much, surely? Can we agree that the straddle that might succeed in getting Kerry into the White House can't last once he's there? Johnson's dilemma, of course, ended up never being efffectively resolved. Instead, it crippled his presidency and destroyed him as a leader — as a world leader, a national leader, even as a leader in his own party. It led him to withdraw from the 1968 presidential race three years after winning a historic landslide. It put Richard Nixon in the White House (a memory that still makes you shudder convulsively). That was before Bill Clinton perfected the idea of the "perpetual campaign," when newly elected leaders actually hoped to govern and lead based on their mandate from the last election for a while before beginning the compromises necessary for the next one. And LBJ had a solidly Democratic Congress, and demonstrated, unparalleled skills in manipulating it, which a President Kerry certainly won't have. For John Kerry to fulfill your vision for his presidency — for him to run a "smarter, more effective" fight against the terrorists — he's not only going to have to fade the heat from the Howard Dean wing of the Democratic Party, he's going to have to line up and make effective use of Republican allies. He's going to have to be slicker than Bill Clinton ever dreamed of being, and he's going to have to dance not with them what brung him, but with them what his former dance partners (who'll be screaming "backstabber!") believe to be devils incarnate. He'll need more votes than just John McCain's — you know that, don't you? I know plenty of smart people who, on domestic matters, would be delighted to see our country return to the days of divided government. Arguably that creates a tension that keeps all but the middle-of-the-road legislation from getting through; stuff either has to be genuinely bipartisan, or else have veto-proof support to get passed. Arguably, divided government leads to Clintonesque triangulation, which some folks near the political center, from only slightly to one side or the other, think is an okay thing. But stalemate is not an okay thing in foreign policy matters and security matters. You know this in your heart, don't you? You know that a conflicted warrior, a half-hearted warrior, a timid warrior, is really no warrior at all.
I respect your position, my friend. I wish there were more of you in your party, and that if Sen. Kerry is elected, that he could count on you and those like you, plus sympathetic (non-wingnut) Republicans, to give him an effective working coalition to continue prosecuting the fight against the terrorists. But I ask you — before you pull the lever (or touch the button, whatever) that will be your part to play in deciding how America fights the terrorists for the next four years — do you think John Kerry is up to the task that Lyndon Johnson failed at so miserably? Are you being realistic when you think that President Kerry is going to defeat the terrorists and the peace-at-any-price wing of the Democratic Party? And are you willing to accept the consequences for our country if your hopes, and Kerry's presidency, are frustrated? I know you're profoundly ill at ease with the way things have been going. As a Democrat, you would have to hold your nose and grit your teeth to pull the lever for Bush, and you don't want to do it. You want to feel like you're voting for someone. You want to feel like your vote is an expression of hope, and for whatever reasons, Dubya doesn't make you feel hopeful. But let's not kid each other. You are clear-eyed enough to know that if Dubya's re-elected, he is going to do his damnedest — perhaps without the finesse you'd like to see, perhaps with what you think are some huge blunders along the way — to win the fight against the terrorists. Dubya is a known quantity. Are you willing to gamble that you're right, and the moonbats are wrong, about Kerry's core convictions, and that he'll be a more effective leader than LBJ when he disappoints those moonbats? You, my friend, understand the stakes. I'll respect your decision if you take the gamble; I won't question your patriotism if it doesn't pay off. In fact, if your gamble doesn't pay off, your harshest critic in hindsight won't be me — it'll be yourself. Update (Thu Oct 21 @ 12:30am): Several folks have emailed to ask if I meant January 1964 instead of 1968 in reference to LBJ. No, I didn't. Yes, I know LBJ entered the White House in November 1963 and was first elected in his own right in November 1964 (see reference above to the landslide). But Vietnam, while looming as an issue, wasn't something that crippled his presidency until the 1968 election began to approach. By January 1968, the fracture in the Democratic Party was open, obvious, and growing increasingly bitter; the Tet Offensive started at the end of January 1968; Bobby Kennedy announced his candidacy in mid-March 1968; and LBJ withdrew from the 1968 presidential election race at the end of March. My point was, and is, that a President Kerry would face the same kind of dissension within his party (the left-most fringe of which was screaming "Vietnam!" before American troops entered Baghdad) that LBJ didn't face until he'd already been in the White House for several years.

Posted by Beldar at 04:54 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (99)

Patterico seeks your feedback

My friend Patterico — a state-court prosecutor who knows whereof he speaks and writes — is soliciting the blogosphere's help in sharpening a post that he hopes to submit as a newspaper op-ed.  His subject is a proposed revision, called "Proposition 66," to California's "three strikes" law.

If you don't live in California, you may think this is something that doesn't affect, and hence won't interest, you.  Think twice, though.  Our state with the largest population exports ideas in many ways besides through movies and television.  Sharp logic, supported by facts, can indeed have an impact on its voters.  And even if your conclusion is (as mine was) that Patterico's essay is already a nicely polished gem, it's worth your while to watch this debate play out.  And who knows — you may have a unique reaction that prompts a comment that prompts a revision that ends up swinging a few votes.  How cool would that be?

Posted by Beldar at 04:07 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Historical perspectives on wartime elections

Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant, United States Army, reporting from Quarles' Mills, Virginia, to Major-General Henry W. Halleck in Washington, as quoted in Grant's Personal Memoirs  (at pages 447-48 note *; italics in original):

Lee's army is really whipped.  The prisoners we now take show it, and the action of his army shows it unmistakably.  A battle with them outside of intrenchments cannot be had.  Our men feel that they have gained the morale over the enemy, and attack him with confidence.  I may be mistaken, but I feel that our success over Lee's army is already assured.  The promptness and rapidity with which you have forwarded reinforcements has contributed largely to the feeling of confidence inspired in our men, and to break down that of the enemy.

The date of this dispatch?  May 26, 1864, just after the Battle of Spotsylvania.  Days later, Grant lost over 7000 men in 20 minutes at Cold Harbor.  In July, Confederate forces under Gen. Jubal Early were, briefly, within five miles of Washington itself, and the national capital was in a panic.  And of course, there were hundreds of thousands of further casualties on both sides before Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

In hindsight, of course, Grant was right — by late May 1864, his ultimate success over Lee's army was already assured, at least in strictly military terms.  But the war was far from over when he wrote this letter, and he may have been overly optimistic in his reporting back to Washington in part because of his concerns that his Commander in Chief would be voted out of office that November, depriving his armies of their ultimate victory that would preserve and restore the Union.  Yet the perspective of history leaves Grant and his Commander in Chief in a decidedly favorable light.

I respectfully submit that Grant's letter to Halleck, and the electoral and military history that followed it, is relevant today when one tries to decide whether General Tommy Franks was premature in urging President George W. Bush to commend — on May 2, 2003, from the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln — the American forces who'd just toppled Saddam's evil government in Iraq.  Lincoln kept faith with his commanders and his armed forces, and the public kept faith with him.  As much as I mistrust polls and surveys in general, if one believes the latest ones, the soldiers of today support Bush by comparable margins to those by which the soldiers of 1864 supported Lincoln's re-election.  And I remain hopeful and optimistic that the American public of today will similarly keep faith with the Commander in Chief of today's soldiers.

Posted by Beldar at 11:39 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (2)

How 'bout them Astros?

Woohoo!  What a game!

Brandon Backe making a pitch en route to a one-hit 3-0 shutout victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, which the Astros now lead three games to two.  Jeff Kent won the game with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

Posted by Beldar at 10:28 PM in Sports | Permalink | Comments (9)

Best line I've heard tonight

I do, in fact, support the reelection of George W. Bush. While I'm not overjoyed with Bush, I think that electing John F. Kerry at this juncture would be like electing the ugly bastard child of Jimmy Carter and Millard Fillmore — in 1940.

InstaPundit, who allows in an update that this comparison is probably unfair to Millard Fillmore. 

What scares me is that the reference also may even be unfair, believe it or not, to Jimmy Carter, who without question was the most feckless, ineffective president of my own lifetime.  After all, even the debacle that became known as Desert One wouldn't have passed the "global test."

The burned out wreckage of one of the RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters was discovered and photographed the next morning by the Iranian military. An intact RH-53 sits in the background. It was decided during the evacuation from Desert One not to destroy the remaining helicopters for fear of damaging the C-130s, the force’s ride out of Iran. 'The accident was a calamity heaped on despair. It was devastating,' wrote retired Col. James Kyle in his book, 'The Guts to Try.' He was the on-scene commander at Desert One.

The Iranian mullahs had sized up Jimmy Carter exactly right, and played him like a fiddle.  Do you doubt that their fingers are twitching today, watching John Kerry's quest for the White House, and that they're humming the tunes they believe they can induce him to play?   Oh, I'm not suggesting Sen. Kerry, if elected, will let them play him on purpose.  But then, neither did Carter — and yet play him they did. 

Some people, in this 2004 election season, are talking about American prestige around the world being at a historical low point.  I'm sorry, folks, but that's only the kind of thing someone too young to remember the Iranian hostage crisis, or someone stupid enough to have forgotten it, could say with a straight face.  President Carter informing the nation of the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages held in Iran America was the laughing-stock of the world, and Jimmy Carter was Gulliver, the sleeping, pitiful giant bound by a thousand Lilliputian strings. 

There's not a government on the face of the earth, friendly or unfriendly, that has any doubt about whether Dubya would respond to something like the Iranian hostage crisis in the way that Carter did.  And that, friends and neighbors, makes the world a safer place.  Not a "safe place" — there are nonstate actors yet to contend with, and state actors who'd never dare try something like seizing 66 hostages in an American embassy and holding them for 444 days, but might still try lesser mischief.  But we've broken the strings of the Lilliputians, and as Gregory Djerejian persuasively writes, that's in and of itself a damn good reason to return George W. Bush for another four years. 

Update (Tue Oct 19 @ 12:30am): A quick clarification:  I do credit Carter for finally trying something bold to rescue the American hostages held in Iran, and of course I salute the American military personnel who made the attempt with the best of intentions.  I'm not at all sure that a President Kerry would have that much gumption, which is why I began by saying that the comparison of him to Carter may be unfair to the latter.

Posted by Beldar at 09:12 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (12)

SCOTUS decision today on Texas redistricting case is no big deal

In a two-sentence order released today, the United States Supreme Court vacated the January 6, 2004, decision of the special three-judge Voting Rights Act panel from last January, pending before it under the name Jackson v. Perry, that had rejected challenges to the Texas Legislature's 2003 congressional redistricting.  The Supreme Court returned the Perry case to that same special three-judge panel "for further consideration in light of Vieth v. Jubelirer," the Supreme Court's own April 2004 decision in a redistricting case from Pennsylvania.

In an earlier ruling on January 16, 2004, the Supreme Court had refused to block the use of the 2003 map for the 2004 congressional elections, so today's decision cannot directly affect the upcoming election.

So what's this mean?  The Associated Press story on today's ruling, as republished in the online version of the Houston Chronicle (beware, the Chron has a nasty tendancy to edit, replace, or simply make content disappear at the same URL), spins this as if it were a big win for the Dems:

The Supreme Court handed Democrats a victory today, ordering a lower court to reconsider a Texas redistricting plan that could give Republicans six more seats and a firmer hold on their majority in the House.

I suppose from the standpoint of the Democratic plaintiffs, today's ruling is slightly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  But it's a shallow, technical, procedural, and — in all probability — a purely temporary victory for the Dems that at best gives them one more bite at an apple they've already gone hungry on before.

As I've written many times before (for example, here, here, and here), appeals from rulings of special three-judge Voting Rights Act panels are unusual creatures.  By statute, they skip the normal first level of appellate review in the United States Courts of Appeals, and shoot up directly to the Supreme Court.  Even more oddly, unlike most of the cases that come before the Supreme Court for consideration on a so-called "application for a writ of certiorari," the Supreme Court has no discretion to refuse to hear Voting Rights Act appeals.  That doesn't mean that the Supreme Court always holds oral argument and issues a full written opinion on those appeals — and in fact, usually it doesn't.  But its ultimate rulings on appeals in Voting Rights Act cases are "on the merits," rather than nonprecedential refusals to review the case (which is the correct characterization of the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari in the normal, non-Voting Rights Act cases).

Today's ruling, though, was not the Supreme Court's ultimate decision on the merits of the Texas case, but merely an intermediate and procedural one.  What's more, it was an entirely predictable one that, in and of itself, contains no signals as to what the Supreme Court might ultimately, someday, do with the case.

Instead, the Supreme Court's decision today is an absolutely routine recognition that when the three-judge panel made its decision in the Perry case on January 6, 2004, it did so without the benefit of the Supreme Court's later written opinion from the Pennsylvania case, Vieth.  It is absolutely commonplace — and an efficient use of the Supreme Court's limited time and resources — for it to refuse to make a ruling on the merits when the lower court's decision was written without benefit of an intervening Supreme Court decision.

Unfortunately for the Dems, there's absolutely nothing in the Supreme Court's multiple and fractured opinions from Vieth — none of which commanded a five-Justice majority of the Supreme Court — which makes it at all likely that the Perry three-judge panel will come to any different result than it did last January.  It's unlikely that the three-judge panel will hear more evidence; rather, it will probably simply revise its lengthy opinion to make appropriate references to the various plurality and dissenting opinions from Vieth and then, again, refuse to declare the Texas map illegal. 

At that point, the Dem plaintiffs can be expected to again appeal back to the Supreme Court — and again, that will be an "appeal as of right" that the Supreme Court will, by statute, have to consider on its merits.  But in all probability, unless there's an intervening change in the composition of the Supreme Court or a major change of heart by one of its members who voted in Vieth, the Supreme Court will simply affirm the three-judge panel's decision with a one-sentence order — most likely without hearing oral arguments and most likely without a full written opinion.  Having failed in Vieth to clarify or improve on the dog's breakfast of prior Supreme Court precedents on the permissible extent of partisan gerrymandering, there's absolutely no reason to think that the Supreme Court will try again, a mere year later, unless there's a new face on the Court.  Election law specialist Rick Hasen, whom I regard very highly, is quoted in the AP report with this statement:

"I see this as the Supreme Court punting right before the national election," said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School. "It buys the Supreme Court another term before it has to rethink the issue. Maybe by then we'll have a new justice or two."

Professor Hasen's more extended analysis is on his blog (hat-tip How Appealing, which also has more links to other press accounts):

What is the lower court to do? The lower court Justices [sic — Prof. Hasen clearly means the judges of the three-judge panel] already pleaded with the Justices the first time around to come up with a workable partisan gerrymandering standard. Vieth has given them nothing really to work with.

It's possible, I suppose, that the three-judge panel will sit on the remanded case for several months, pushing the next appeal back to the Supreme Court into the October 2005 term — by which time it's also conceivable that one of the present Justices might have retired and that a hypothetical President Kerry might have named and gotten confirmed a successor that would be more sympathetic to the Dems' views, or that (as Prof. Hasen speculates) Justice Kennedy might have changed his mind since Vieth.  But I frankly doubt that scenario, even if Kerry wins the presidential election.  I expect that the three-judge panel will ask for briefing in short order, and then issue its revised decision before the end of 2004 — in which case it will likely be calendared and decided on its merits in the Supreme Court before the end of the current term, by the same Justices who are now sitting.

Predictably — and reprehensibly — the AP report continues to misrepresent the basic facts of the Texas redistricting case:

States must redraw boundaries every 10 years to reflect population shifts found during the census. Five appeals over the Texas boundary-drawing pose an interesting question: Can political leaders of a Legislature force district drawing more frequently than once a decade, to make more seats winnable for members of their party?

This is nonsense.  There has only been one successful congressional redistricting done by the Texas Legislature since the 2000 Census, and that's the redistricting map passed in 2003.  The Dems, and their either ignorant or complicit spinners in the mainstream media, continue to shout the "multiple redistrictings in one decade" meme because it's a great way to villify Tom DeLay and all Texas Republicans — but it's completely bogus.

Bottom line:  Anyone who tries to tell you that today's Supreme Court ruling is surprising and important good news for the Dems doesn't know what they're talking about.  Personally, I'd give far better odds on the Red Sox winning this year's World Series.

Update (Mon Oct 18 @ 3:00pm):  Writing on NRO's The Corner, Jonathan H. Adler's take is very similar to mine (although much pithier).  His bottom line is "much ado about nothing."

A small nit:  Today's order doesn't actually direct "reconsideration," which might imply a need to make changes, but "further consideration."  I'm not sure whether SCOTUS always says "further consideration," but I seem to have a vague recollection that they do, in fact, sometimes say "reconsideration."

Update (Mon Oct 18 @ 3:45pm):  The relentless, counterfactual spin continues, as per the latest AP story, which recites that "Democrats hailed the ruling, calling it proof that the map is unfair to Texas voters":

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting said the ruling should be at the forefront of voters' minds as they cast their ballots in the coming days.

"When the most radical Supreme Court in the nation's history rules that Tom DeLay and his co-conspirator Craddick went too far in their corrupt and ultra-partisan overreach, it is truly breathtaking," Soechting said. "DeLay and Craddick have created the most divided and partisan state government in history. It is time to restore integrity and balance in Austin."

Shame on you, Mr. Soechting!  You're a lawyer, and from what I've heard of you, a good one.  You know what today's ruling means, and what it doesn't mean, and you know today's ruling bears zero resemblance to your characterization of it.  Call Republicans names; characterize the politics of the Supreme Court as you like.  But don't flat-out lie to the public about whether today's ruling was on the merits or not!

Update (Wed Oct 20 @ 11:20pm): The Sox' odds of winning the World Series are getting lots better.  Unfortunately for the Dem plaintiffs in Perry, though, I think the team of nine on the Supreme Court are somewhat more predictable than any team of nine on a baseball diamond.

Posted by Beldar at 01:08 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), Texas Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (15)

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Begging for snarky captions

A Sunday two-fer, for your captioning pleasure:

Reuters' caption: 'Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry holds up the pumpkin he chose at the Garringer Family Pumpkin Patch in Jeffersonville, Ohio October 16, 2004, part of a day-long campaign bus trip through Ohio'

Reuters' caption: 'Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry heads a soccer ball during a visit to a youth soccer clinic in Brown Deer, Wisconsin October 15, 2004 as part of a daylong three-city campaign trip through Wisconsin.'

Is it my imagination or is Sen. Kerry looking a bit puffy-faced this weekend?

Posted by Beldar at 03:42 PM in Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (42)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

One picture worth 1000 words about two leaders who've given their word to each other and the world

(Hat-tip Tim Blair; photo lifted from Kilabe's Hive.)

Posted by Beldar at 09:25 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Eleventh Circuit protects your right to be blown to hell and back by terrorists

Orin Kerr of The Volokh Conspiracy — who even while a blogger, in or out of pajamas, is also an associate professor who teaches criminal law at George Washington University Law School and a former clerk for Justice Kennedy — points us all to the Eleventh Circuit's decision yesterday in Bourgeois v. Peters, which Prof. Kerr correctly describes as holding "that a city police policy requiring everyone attending a November 2002 protest against the 'School of the Americas' to pass through a metal detector violated the Fourth and First Amendments."  An Associated Press story on the decision appears here (hat-tip How Appealing.)

Beldar predicts that the en banc Eleventh Circuit will promptly agree to rehear this decision and, after oral argument before the full court, will reverse it.

The "School of the Americas" is now formally known as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation"; housed at Fort Benning, Georgia, it's run by the U.S. Army to "train military leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere in combat and various counterinsurgency techniques."  The plaintiff-appellants had unsuccessfully sought a preliminary and permanent injunction from the federal district court to bar the City of Columbus, Georgia, from requiring them and other protesters to pass through a magnetometer en route to the protest site outside Fort Benning's gates.  The Eleventh Circuit reversed and directed the district court to grant the requested injunction.


The Eleventh Circuit panel comprised (former Chief) Judge Gerald B. Tjoflat and Judge Stanley F. Birch, Jr. of the Eleventh Circuit, along with Senior (and former Chief) Judge Alfred T. Goodwin of the Ninth Circuit, sitting "by designation" (essentially as a volunteer) — appointees of Presidents Ford, Bush-41, and Nixon respectively.  This is a distinguished panel, and it would be a mistake to presume, for example, that Judge Goodwin is a bomb-throwing liberal just because he's from the Ninth Circuit.  I'm unfamiliar with Judge Birch, but Judge Tjoflat was on the "old Fifth Circuit" when I clerked for Judge King during the final year before the "old Fifth" was split into the current Fifth and Eleventh Circuits, and one of my law school classmates clerked for Judge Goodwin on the Ninth; they're both solid and seasoned professionals, each of whom has doubtless decided thousands of Fourth Amendment cases over their long careers, and I'm sure they still draw very competent law clerks from top-ranked law schools. 

However, the composition of this panel is likely to work somewhat in favor of the Eleventh Circuit granting rehearing en banc:  Only active judges of the Eleventh Circuit sit on the en banc court, so Judge Goodwin will not have a vote.  The panel opinion will thus have to be "defended" before the en banc court by only Judges Tjoflat and Birch, and will start off with only their votes presumptively against rehearing en banc, as opposed to the usual three judges who'd presumably be doing so in the case of a unanimous circuit court panel opinion.

I'd expect the Justice Department to seek leave to file an amicus brief in support of the city defendant-appellees' certain motion for rehearing en banc, and I'm confident such a request would be granted.  The ramifications of this precedent are enormous on local, state, and national levels.  In fact, the three-judge panel might have been well served to have invited such an amicus brief on its own motion before deciding the case.

I'm by no means a specialist in either Fourth or First Amendment law — I know my readers must be tired of such disclaimers, and are wondering what the heck I am a specialist in! — and I'm unconstrained by the compulsion to write carefully, with reference to supporting Supreme Court precedents, that probably afflicts scholars and educators like Prof. Kerr.  So what follows are my reactions as "just one lawyer" and a former circuit court clerk who, once-upon-a-time, helped draft opinions like this one.  Citations to my legal commentary, after all, aren't in the form "2 BeldarBlog L. Rev. 1016 (2004)"; any old hyperlink will do, but my top-of-the-head views aren't likely to be impressive to any court or legal scholar.


To begin with, this opinion looks to me like a good piece of research and writing, probably drafted in the first instance by one of Judge Tjoflat's law clerks, that may have suffered from a briefing imbalance.  I don't mean to slight the lawyers for the City of Columbus; I don't know whether the city defendants were represented by staff counsel or outside retained counsel; and I haven't read their brief, nor the district court's opinion, nor the briefing of the plaintiff-appellants.  But the opinion is replete with "gotchas" — points the defendant-appellees failed to introduce evidence for, and in some cases failed to raise altogether, before the district court, for example.  There are also hints, to my cynical eye, of a bright, very civil-rights-minded law clerk behind this opinion who's strayed a bit too far into the position of an advocate for the result he or she wanted to reach.  For example, the panel opinion states (at page 15 of the .pdf file) that "[t]he City's position would effectively eviscerate the Fourth Amendment."  That's the kind of rhetorical overkill that one sees all the time in briefs, but it's frankly over the top for a circuit court opinion.  Until yesterday, in fact, the district court's opinion was good and binding precedent throughout the Middle District of Georgia, and I don't recall reading of any gnashing of teeth and wailing that the Fourth Amendment had been effectively revoked across-the-board there.

And the panel opinion, while internally coherent, is light on its handling of crucial, possibly outcome-determinative threshold issues.  Is passing through a magnetometer en route to a public demonstration site, for instance, a "search" for purposes of the Fourth Amendment?  The panel opinion assumes that it is, and at least as characterized by the panel opinion, the city defendant-appellees' briefing appear to have conceded that characterization.  Maybe there's a Supreme Court precedent directly on point that so holds — I haven't cracked a book or made so much as a keystroke to do any independent research on the point, and it's been many years since I've handled a case with Fourth Amendment issues — but I'd expect to see that critical foundation for all the panel opinion's subsequent analysis to be firmly nailed down, whether raised by the parties in their briefing or not.

Similarly, there's no doubt but that the plaintiff-appellants were seeking to engage in speech and assembly that were directly expressing political protest, and that they were and are entitled to First Amendment protections to do so.  (It's speech that I don't personally agree with and assembly for a purpose I wouldn't care to participate in, but that's quite probably also true of the three judges on the panel, and it's quite beside the point.)  Yet the panel opinion treats the passage through a magnetometer en route to that protest, however, as tantamount to an absolute, unconditional denial of the protesters' rights to assemble and speak.  It's obviously not — and in fact, the protest actually did take place in both 2002 and 2003 despite the district court's refusal to enjoin against the use of the magnetometer.


As Prof. Kerr's post points out, the panel opinion seemed to emphatically reject — curtly, in an almost offended manner — the suggestion by the district court and the city defendant-appellees that the case could be decided just by an invocation of 9/11.  Perhaps the manifest urgencies of our current national situation caused the city defendant-appellees and the district court to take some shortcuts in logic, citation of precedent, and development of a factual record.  But frankly, the panel opinion strikes me as a decision that would be just as wrong in peacetime or as of 9/10/01.  I don't disagree with this statement in the panel opinion (at page 16 of the .pdf file):

We cannot simply suspend or restrict civil liberties until the War on Terror is over, because the War on Terror is unlikely ever to be truly over.  September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country.

But neither should a litigant's or a district court's shorthand and possibly sloppy reliance on "9/11" — as a catch-all justification for government safety measures designed to protect the public — justify sloppy and overbroad reasoning and writing by a circuit court of appeals panel. 

With due, and genuine, respect to the distinguished judges on this particular panel, I think that's what they're guilty of, and I expect the full Eleventh Circuit, sitting en banc, to promptly correct their well-intentioned mistake.

Update (Sun Oct 17 @ 9:32am):  Howard Bashman has helpfully pointed out to me via email that I erred in this post, as it was originally written, in describing Judge Tjoflat as a senior-status judge, when in fact he's still active-status and would therefore participate in en banc proceedings of the Eleventh Circuit.  I've revised the text above accordingly, with my thanks to Mr. Bashman for the catch.  As a practical matter, when the author of a challenged panel opinion is able to be involved in internal court discussions over whether to grant rehearing en banc, it effectively lowers the chance of rehearing en banc being granted.  I still think this one will be reheard, however.

There's one other possibility that I didn't mention in the original post — that the city defendant-appellees might seek, and get, rehearing before the three-judge panel itself.  One strategy for seeking such a rehearing, particularly with respect to the First Amendment portions of the panel opinion, would be to focus on the scope of the relief granted.  The panel opinion was concerned by the lack of objective standards for law enforcement officials to use in deciding whether or not to require clearance through metal detectors.  If the defendant-appellees succeeded in persuading the panel (or for that matter, the en banc court) that the panel opinion's Fourth Amendment analysis is wrong, it could argue that the injunction should be granted only provisionally, subject to reconsideration by the district court when and if such objective standards are drafted and applied.  That would considerably reduce the sweeping precedential effect of this opinion.

Update (Mon Oct 18 @ 3:10pm):  Prof. Volokh notes that the panel opinion cites and relies upon "Wikipedia, a free online collaborative encyclopedia, for information on the Department of Homeland Security Advisory System."  He thinks Wikipedia's pretty neat, but not a good source for judicial precedents to be based upon.  This strikes me as another indicator, frankly, that the result in this case was affected by a law clerk who's trying hard but using poor judgment.

Posted by Beldar at 08:15 PM in Global War on Terror, Law (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (7)

Bribed, bought, coerced, or extorted?

Related news article here.  Reuters' caption for this photo: 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (L) pins a bronze star medal onto Macedonian Staff Sgt. Stojance Patarovski during a ceremony at the Macedonian Ministry of Defense in Skopje, Macedonia, October 11, 2004. Rumsfeld presented three Macedonian troops with medals for their service in Iraq. Patarovski was cited for his actions on June 19, 2003 that prevented enemy reinforcement that saved American lives.

So if it's your American son or daughter whose life has been saved by this warrior — a warrior whose flag you almost surely wouldn't recognize, and whose country you may not even be able to point to on the map, but who likely grew up amidst the terror of government sponsored ethnic cleansing — would this be a "so-called, phony" hero?  After all, he's now wearing a medal just like the one for which John Kerry threw his corresponding service ribbon over the Capitol fence in 1971.  Does he look bought?  Is that medal a bribe? 

Or is it instead something that his wife will bring out of a cherished place show to their grandchildren someday?  Is it something that she'll explain was a sacred symbol of appreciation from the powerful country whose soldiers their granddaddy fought beside, whose very mortal sons and daughters he risked his life to save?  Will she explain how their granddaddy fought for civilization, against barbarism, and for the honor of their new country as it sought to take a place among the world's peaceful and responsible civilized nations?

We can but guess, of course.  Maybe at the moment this picture was snapped, Stojance Patarovski was thinking, "Wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time."  Maybe he was thinking, "I'm glad nobody asked me to be the last man to die for a mistake."  Maybe he was thinking, "Those guys who were shooting at me sure were a nuisance."

Or maybe he's thinking about his grandsons and granddaughters yet to be born, and what still must be done to build a world in which they can grow up safely.  What do you think?  If you think Sen. Kerry's right about this man, would you have the guts to tell Stojance Patarovski that to his face?

And how about this man:

Reuters' caption:

Captain Lim Ho-jin, a member of the South Korean Air Force to be sent to Iraq, meets his son during a send-off ceremony at the Seoul air base, October 11, 2004. About 150 members of the air force with C-130H transport planes will be deployed in Kuwait to help the reconstruction of Iraq.

What would you tell Captain Lim Ho-jin's son — that his daddy has been bribed, bought, coerced, or extorted?  Or that his daddy is a hero?

Posted by Beldar at 03:16 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink | Comments (6)