Thursday, September 30, 2004

I Promised!

I can keep my promises because I'm not a politician. I did not watch the debate tonight. At least, not all of it. I did catch two sound bites while flipping through channels, hoping against hope to find something more riveting than "Good Eats" on the Food Channel.

By the same token, I love reading follow-ups by bloggers around the Sphere. Many good ones to choose from tonight. Great live blogging by Capt. Ed. Interesting diversity even among conservatives as to who pulled it off tonight. However...

What I was hoping for appears in Hewitt's blog tonight. Terrific side-by-side comparison, point by point. He grades the responses, giving Bush the win on points, and slamming Lehrer for his obviously biased leads to Kerry, especially in the early going. Still, terrific analysis by Hugh, and much appreciated.

Hugh mentions that Kerry's biggest failing, and one point that well could nullify his attempt at running the country, is his talk of the "global test." I heartily agree. I've quoted numerous times the words Jefferson uttered in his 1801 inaugural: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none." Kerry (who really does represent the liberal leftist view on this point) doesn't get that. How dare we make a move without the full faith and support of the entire world, generally via the United Nations? We dare because the rest of the world does not now, nor has it ever, had the best interests of the citizens of the United States at heart. You cannot appease the French because they've never respected the fact that we made our revolution work. You cannot appease the Belgians because no one ever could. Brits (aside from Blair) are still pouting that we decided over two hundred years ago to go it alone. Even the EU is still fighting with itself to keep its financially created ubergovernment afloat. Must we say "Mother may I?" before we can ever move to ensure the safety of American citizens whether here or abroad?

I think not.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn't really expect this debate to "change" anyone's mind, except a few wafflers out there who still haven't made up their minds yet. And those who are still undecided probably won't decide until the final debate is in the bag. I myself see no reason to change my support for Bush in this election, and Way Off Bass Cam knows why. (See the comments after the post)

On to November!

Update: Lileks chimes in this morning with his views on "summits" and "allies." Sound familiar? ;-)

Ah. Baseball in Washington. Terrific.

Turns out Michelle Malkin and I are more or less on the same page where sports and tax money are concerned. I realize this will set me at odds with many, many bloggers, even the conservative ones, but I have to say it again:

Professional sports athletes, particularly those playing either baseball, hockey, basketball, or football, are nothing more than (charter) members of the Whining Millionaires Club and their owners are members of the Billionaire Opportunists Club.

Michelle rightly points out that any effort by government at any level to sponsor these teams is nothing more than taking your hard-earned money and converting it into so much government pork. Or, put another way, I get to pay tax money to have a team I can't afford to watch in person represent my city so that my elected officials can point with pride to them as a status symbol. The Washington Expos (or whatever they end up being called) will become "America's Team." The president will throw out their first pitch every season. Think of the symbolism. The leader of the mightiest nation on earth will pitch the ball to a catcher who probably makes a minimum of five times the president's salary. Funny, no?

Now, to set myself even farther apart from most other male animals: The smartest thing Los Angeles ever did was whatever it took to get rid of first the Rams, then the Raiders.

Sports fanatics don't get this. The tradition of sport, according to them, is a noble one. The honing of the human body to someone's idea of physical perfection, and the mastering of a complex physical art can, indeed, be noble. The idea of competition is certainly a time-honored one. Even our political process is nothing more than a competition, with supposedly higher ideals. When done properly, even athletic competition carries with it the idea of "sportsmanship" which states that the game is the thing, not whether one wins or loses, and that athletes are just as gracious in defeat as they might be in victory.


In professional sports, "sportsmanship" is just another word for "loser." The athlete who is guilty of "sportsmanship" is the athlete who will be on the club's farm team for the next seven years trying to prove that he has what it takes to play with the big boys again, and make the serious salary. "Graciousness" is another word for "weakness," as in, "Sam Doe was gracious in his fifth loss in six games." This translates to: "Sam Doe will take a 20% salary reduction next year and can only hope to keep his endorsement contract with Baggy Pants, Inc. to avoid bankruptcy court." Sam's agent will continue to receive his 20%. May have to shop for another client, though. Can't be seen to represent a loser, er, sportsman.

Professional athletes are above the law. They define their own social responsibilities. Or lack thereof. They took the "in your face" attitude to a level that makes it more desirable than "turn the other cheek," or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In their world, if we did unto them like they do unto us, they'd have us in civil litigation faster than you could blink. And they'd win.

Now, before you unleash the nasty letters informing me that I have no clue what I'm talking about, and comparing my ancestry to any given terrorist, let me assure you: There are exceptions to my rule. There are a few shining athletes who seem to be above reproach, and who really like to share their wealth with the communities to which they're attached. They seem to epitomize the rules of fair play, and, yes, even graciousness.

But they are the exceptions. They are token nice guys in the world of sport. The rest bow to the union gods which decree that they shall be guaranteed a salary that most of this country can never hope to achieve in their lifetimes. They keep the phrase "vanity clause" in our vernacular. They become franchises unto themselves. They can send an entire nation into impassioned frenzies by threatening to walk out or strike. Sports reporters have introduced "Athlete Arrest of the Week" features into their stories. College athletes are learning fast, and finding ever more creative ways of working around the rules to get noticed by the pros even faster. Even the once-venerable Olympics have the taint of "doping" and endorsement contracts to deal with. Listening to the coverage this past summer, you'd have thought that, yeah, it's nice to win that gold medal, but we'll see this guy/gal on a Wheaties box before the end of the year! Now that's the definition of success, ladies and gentlemen!

Did you know that this year, nearly as many people watched the Super Bowl to see the commercials as to watch the game? It's been trending in that direction for years now, and speculation as to who will advertise captures as much print as analyses of the game itself. No one, of course, watches to see the half time show, even if they know in advance that Janet Jackson will have a "wardrobe malfunction." Wardrobes can malfunction? Who knew?

The game is nearly meaningless in itself, except that the winner, of course, gets to suffer through the next season as "the Super Bowl Champion So-and-Sos," as in, "the Super Bowl Champion So-and-Sos are struggling this year at 1 and 15." Also they get to wear rings. And get endorsement contracts. The cycle of life continues.

This year, of course, fans of hockey are in a dither because of the lock-out just imposed by the owners. Remembering that I live in Southern California where we boast both the LA Kings and the Mighty Ducks, my personal response to this tragedy was, "Hey! SpaceShipOne is gonna try for the Ansari X Prize next week! Go, Burt!"

That about sums it up for me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

CBS Acts Rather Stupidly... Again

Courtesy of Ace of Spades: is cutting the already disgraced anchor and his Tin-fany Network absolutely no slack. Nor will the rest of the PJ Junta, for that matter.

This time, by way of human interest, the ever-vigilant Richard Schlesinger grabs hold of one Mom's fear that her two sons may well be drafted, as early as summer of next year. The only quoted source for this fear is another Urban Legend email making the rounds indicating that the draft will be reinstated by July 15 of 2005.

Setting aside for the moment the fact that Mrs. Cocco (the Worried Mom) is, in fact, a chapter president of an organization that opposes the draft, we can see that this would be a legitimate fear. No mom of my acquaintance would want her son or daughter to be called up and sent into harm's way. There may be moms and dads out there who, out of a sense of patriotism, would be proud to have their children serve their nation that way, but for most I'd daresay it would be a nightmare come true.

The problem here, as it was for MemoGate (of Rather recent memory), is the source. Once again, the network relies on something other than primary source material for its attempt to scare us out of voting for a Republican president.

As a professional techie, I see hundreds of these emails make the rounds every year. In fact, one of the first red flags I see in these emails is any phrase containing the words "thought you should know..." It's a sure sign that someone, somewhere, is trying to call attention to something that probably isn't true. It's similar in scope to that email that resurfaces every few years stating that a terminally ill child would like to be entered in Guinness' Book of World Records for most postcards received. The hospital then has to issue press releases asking everyone for heaven's sake to stop sending postcards to the hospital. The kid involved (this story was true - once) had long since been discharged, and there was no such record to be listed anyway.

The idea here is to get people to react in a kneejerk way. Oh no! They're gonna start the draft again! My kid'll be next!

Only, Bush, Rumsfeld, and everyone else who currently has a say in the draft have all denied that such a thing is in the works. Schlesinger even goes so far as to get this beauty of a soundbite out of the man in charge of the Selective Service: [JACK MARTIN (Selective Service System)]: "I think we could do it in less than six months if we got the call."

Well, of course he could. That's his job, darn it. It's always been his job, and yet he's never been called upon to do it. Ever. In over 30 years, no one who has registered with Selective Service has ever been drafted. Rumsfeld even goes so far as to say that in a country as rich as this one, we shouldn't have to.

There you have it! Proof positive that the draft will begin by next July! Thank you, Mr. Schlesinger, for your professional CBS-like analysis!

Look, my daughter once wanted to join the Army, over my own Rather biased objections. She got as far as the physical exam, where she was (thankfully) rejected for a problem that I don't even recall today. As scared as I was then, I was also proud of her for wanting to serve. She has since married a man who joined the Air Force. Even though he isn't a flyer, he has been "deployed" to a hospital in Connecticut once already, and is even now stationed at Walter Reed. That's as close to the war as I care for my children (or children-in-law) to be. It would scare me to death if he was deployed to Iraq, and my greatest fear would be for my daughter and granddaughter. But, no matter where he serves, I'll always be proud of him for serving and being willing to follow those orders, even if it meant the ultimate sacrifice.

I understand the fear, folks. But please, let's make sure it's warranted.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Autumn in an Election Year

This is my very favorite part of the election cycle. The days leading up to the national debates are wonderful, aren't they? Gives everyone a chance to wind down a bit. Except, of course, for the candidates.

This is the part I love. I get to relax at home every night, while some poor slob of a staffer is standing at a podium, trying hard as can be to make their boss look intelligent. This can be a trick if your candidate has no discernible position on any given issue yet. It can also be a trick if your candidate uses enough down-home Texas metaphors to fill a George Will column without having said anything substantive.

I suspect that handlers on both sides have specific goals to accomplish before Thursday night. Here's what I imagine is happening:

Bush Campaign

Mr. President is currently in relatively good shape in the polls, and quite a large chunk of the voting public is still scratching its head trying to figure out what Kerry really stands for. This is bad for the President. He's likely to get over-confident and start referring to Kerry as "that varmint," rather than "my esteemed opponent." The staffers know that Kerry will harp about Bush's handling of the war, and so far Bush has done a credible job of defending himself in his stump speeches. The problem is: Kerry is former Yale debater. This means that, no matter what his own position may be on a given issue, he has the ability in a one-on-one exchange to make his opponent look as though he has the credibility of a Congressional pay raise.

Strategy: Bush needs to tone-down the Texas Good-Ole-Boy tenor, and tune up the Senior Statesman approach. "Been there, done that," but with panache.

Kerry Campaign

Kerry presents just as much head-shaking among his staffers as among the public. We still don't know where he really stands on Iraq, and whether he has any kind of cogent plan for handling the war on terror assuming he takes the oath on January 21. The same is true of most of his domestic agenda, although raising taxes is a given. I'm sure that's sitting well with everyone earning over $200,000 a year right now, and certainly makes those of us earning less feel very smug and comfortable that we'll be safe for the next four years (note: heavy sarcasm here). No, the Kerry staff need to get their candidate to pick one position and stick with it throughout the entire debate process. Otherwise, the PJ Junta will be all over them like stink on a Kerry speech. Can you say "Rathergate?" I thought you could.

Strategy: Kerry needs to keep harping on Bush's handling of Iraq no matter what the question is. "How will you make health care more affordable for lower income families?" "This president has had no plan for peace in Iraq, and that directly affects the price of health care in this country today!"

Good answer.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Go, Team!

Gee whiz, folks. Relax! There's plenty of news, and news audience to go around.

The whole idea of "Us vs. Them," or, more precisely, "Bloggers vs. Mainstream Media" is just another one of those growing pains that we experience in this world every few decades (give or take). Take, for example, Michelle Malkin's missive regarding the fear and even hatred of any given conservative voice within the so-called MSM:

"Blethen and his ilk claim to support diversity of opinion, but they have shown little inclination to support the airing of conservative voices such as those featured on KVI, KTTH, Clear Channel, and my employer, Fox News. For those who truly value diversity of opinion, these media conglomerates have turned out to be a blessing."

A blessing, indeed. Many years ago, before I really cared about such things, Bruce Herschenson was a political reporter for our local ABC affiliate on radio and TV. He had previously been an advisor to both Nixon and Reagan and later failed in an attempt to run for United States Senator in California (to Barbara Boxer, of all people!). Shortly after leaving KABC, Bruce was paired up with notoriously liberal reporter Bill Plant to offer a point-counterpoint analysis of current political affairs. As I remember it (Google didn't help me this time) Bruce was labelled "conservative." Bill wasn't labelled at all. Funny how a fair and balanced political show would have to label the conservative. "Here, in its natural habitat, we see the increasingly rare 'Conservative Commentator.' Remember not to feed it."


But back to my point. Bloggers occasionally seem to struggle with this idea that they, like Dangerfield, can't get no respect from the legacy media types. In my opinion, this just strengthens their relative position in the world of news and communication today.

Ask serious blog surfers why they read blogs, even the specialized ones that have little if anything to do with reality, and you're likely to get this response: They tell me what I want to know faster than the big guys. Poliblog surfers have it even worse. They're likely to throw in a few facts about how much deeper analysis they're likely to find regarding any given topic of the day. At least, the hotter topics. I've yet to see a good, in-depth analysis of either candidate's health care plan that doesn't confuse me into a hopeless slumber. Still, neither have I seen such an analysis from, say, PBS.

Wanna know why I love blogs? Precisely because they aren't the big guys. Right around the time Cronkite, Reasoner, Brinkley and others began to retire from the ring, I started to see major news anchors for what they are. Stuffed shirts with looks groomed to depict hard-nosed yet sensitive reporters. One of them even goes so far as to call himself "This Reporter." The ultimate empirical reflexive adjective. When Dave Barry, on the other hand, talks about "this blog," I just keep reading to see how soon he gets a rebuttal from his "stealth bloggerette" (answer: pretty darn'd quick!).

Blogs don't have to be stuffed shirts to have a following. They can often sell it on personality before the casual reader finally sees that they have a serious side as well. Take Politburo Diktat as an example. Does anyone who first comes across this blog say, "Hey. Here's a deep piece of political analysis. Better pay attention." Or, as it happened in my case, do they first say, "What's with the deader'n'a doornail Soviet schtick? This guy is nutty as a fruitcake. I'll check on him again tomorrow!"

Myself? I'm pretty much unnoticeable except to my family and a few friends. This is as it should be. I don't provide a lot of heavy political analysis because I don't have the head for it. I have as much analysis as I need to keep myself and my family informed. I do, of course, have opinions about a broad range of topics, and I certainly consider myself to be conservative in my personal political spectrum. But worry about competing with the Big Guys?

No worries, Mate.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

What We Did on Vacation

So we're driving on the most desolate stretch of freeway in California, unless you enjoy the noxious bovine excrement fumes that break the monotony. I have passed this same convoy of trucks, what, five times now? The trick is having young daughters. Young daughters with bladders the size of chick peas. "I hafta go potty!" is the battle cry of the day. Captain Daddy must heed the call or perish in battle.

We pull off at the first rest stop/gas station/fast food place we come to and let folks out to take care of business. Daddy stretches his legs (or, admittedly, visits the restroom) and waits for the girls. Then back on the road to pass the same convoy for probably the sixth time.

You guessed it: It's vacation time! This is our last day on the road, which means it's the longest road day on the schedule. We're doing just over six hundred miles today, or, mathmatically, approximately seventy five miles between potty stops. Sometimes, through a miracle of planning, we can even squeeze in a food stop during the potty break.

We have been visiting some of the prettiest country God ever created. The Trinity area of northern California contains the mountains of the Shasta area, with lakes and rivers that take the breath away, and all the tall timber anyone but a conservationist could ever want. We did note with concern, however, that venerable Shasta Lake is at its lowest point in many decades. Proof that California is in the throes of a serious drought. In fact, there was one point where it appeared that a small portion of the lake had been cut off from the main lake as we crossed a bridge. Sad, indeed.

The mornings and evenings were brisk. Dry mountain air with temps down in the forties. The days were pleasantly warm. Sweater weather at times, but beautiful sunshine all around. In fact, the only rain we've encountered was during driving times. Visits to old logging towns reminded us of the delicate balance between man and nature - a balance not very well maintained. The trees are still losing. But one wonders. How exactly do people sustain a living in an area such as this? It's a mystery that probably will not be answered to my satisfaction anytime soon.

We have visited waterfalls that, although not very large, are still beautiful to see. One must beware of internet brochures, though. "An easy 20 minute hike from the Lower Falls to the Middle Falls that children can do." What the internet failed to mention is that this is not a one way hike where you can be picked up by car at the other end, UNLESS you're also willing to hike UP the switchbacks for another 20 minutes to get to the vista point 500 hundred feet above you. The internet also failed to mention that the 20 minutes they quote are for an Olympic distance runner in prime condition. Since I'm more of an armchair bowling type than an Olympic athlete, this hike took closer to two hours. Fortunately, we ignored the internet brochure and started from the Middle Falls, going DOWN the switchbacks, then hiking to the Lower Falls. The girls loved the hike, although my older daughter was a bit pre-occupied with the idea that our walkie talkies weren't working. We had personal radios (two mile range - strictly line of sight) to communicate with Mommy who waited for us at the end of the trail. It wasn't until we were within, oh, three quarters of a mile before we could actually talk to Mommy, and this caused my seven year old considerable stress. Also, my four year old got VERY tired toward the end of the journey. Still made it, though. Quite a trooper!

So, today we find ourselves driving from beautiful tall timber country to smoggy, grimey Los Angeles, and thence on to Ventura County for one last overnighter. Aside from the innumerable potty stops, the girls really are terrific travellers. They've entertained themselves admirably until sundown. Now they're snoozing. Mommy and I just got excited when we saw the Los Angeles County marker on the freeway. That means we've conquered the infamous Grapevine, and there will be no further leapfrogging trucks to bar our way.

Fortunately, I'm not going straight back to work after this vacation. At least, I'm not reporting to the office right away. Work you can't avoid. Mom-in-Law is visiting now, and tomorrow we begin the arduous task of putting our home "office" in order. This is the extra room in our home that we long ago designated as "Mommy's Office." It's supposed to be her command center from which she administers our home school, and will contain her scrapbooking materials. In reality, it has become our over-stuffed garage. We moved from a townhouse to a manufactured home three years ago, and we've never really recovered from losing a garage in the deal. We have a shed, and it's loaded to capacity. So, the extra room has taken the load. Wish me well. If we get this done in a few days, I can still have a couple of relaxation days. In the meantime, Mom-in-Law is champing at the bit to get started. She's the ant visiting a house full of grasshoppers. Winter is coming.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Truth In Advertising

CBS used to stand for Columbia Broadcasting System. Shouldn't that now read "Counterfeit Broadcasting System?" Just asking.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Gore-d to Death

Al Gore has assumed his place in this election as the Democrats' hired gun. He carries with him the perceived charm of the jilted lover - the man who should have been president, had he not been cheated and left at the altar. His emotional outbursts now make him look like a guest on the next Springer show. In some ways, the ultimate irony is that while he delivers attacks on the President's public affirmations of faith, Gore himself looks for all the world just like your average televangelist. The kind that tells you what your relative position in heaven will be if you don't immediately send him a hundred bucks.

For a guy like me, a guy like Gore is embarrassing. His speeches have taken on the near-spittle-emitting hysteria of a crazed dictator as he tries to fire up his crowds. He gives the kind of performance that makes me want to leave the theater and not even bother to ask for my money back. I'll be in that big of a hurry to get out of the parking lot.

Still, it's his attacks on public expressions of faith that bother me most.

I can live with the rest of it. I understand his positions on domestic and foreign policy, even if I don't agree with a word of it. I agree to disagree with Gore (and most of the rest of Democratic party) on most such issues.

But faith? Brother, if ever something was needed in this country, and especially in this government, it's faith.

It has always amazed me that those who most loudly claim to be protectors of the Constitution have so little understanding of the men who framed it. How did the phrase "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" become an absolute separation between religion and government?

Interesting question: Who said: "I am Catholic and have personally always believed life begins at conception, but I have never believed that that is something that should be translated as a matter of faith, an article of faith, into everybody else’s behavior for those who don’t share that faith ..." Sen. John Kerry, Campaign Event, Des Moines, IA, 1/9/04. (Hat tip: Kerry Wrong For Catholics.) I guess that pretty much means the entire Constitution of the United States should never have been made a matter of public policy, since the Founders all injected their faith into that document and the policy of the day. Why should that faith be any less valid in our day?

The founders understood, even if Gore liberals don't, that even if the United States can never say "the entire nation shall worship the god of the Church of England (or the Catholics, or even the Mormons)," there's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't publish the Ten Commandments in a courthouse. I would think that liberals, of all people, would love to see the phrase "Thou shalt not kill" inscribed in such a public place. But wait! To do so might offend some poor athiest who might otherwise vote for me in the next election! Horrors! (One of my favorite lines from 1776: John Adams utters, "This is a revolution, damn it! We're going to have to offend someone!")

But Gore carries it even farther than that. He now declares that any public expression of faith is tantamount to Islamic extremism. Yes, I believe in a merciful God (a God who is, nevertheless, angry with this country), and that makes me an extremist. If that's true, I hope there's no cure for it.

I do hope, however, that there's a cure for Gore. He's really starting to get under my skin.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Ah... Perspective!

In a week's time, I will be enjoying the fruits of my labor by indulging in that most capitalist of pleasures: Vacation.

From that perspective, things like RatherGate suddenly seem terribly unimportant. As I mentioned elsewhere, Dan will likely still have his job when I get back, and will in fact be rehearsing his Election Night Coverage lines.

"We can now safely project, with 1.2% of all precincts reporting, that CBS News will once again misstate who the next President of the United States will be, thanks in large part to electronic voting. More from our man in the field, Bill Burkett."

I'm also keeping an eye on Hurricane Ivan, even though most computer tracks don't project Ivan to be anywhere near northern California where I will be vacationing. However, my Boss is, even now, on a Disney Cruise right smack where Ivan is currently horsing around, so I'm not sure whether or not he may wander into the office sometime this week, looking somewhat water-logged.

Starting tomorrow afternoon, my every waking moment will be focused completely on a futile attempt to prepare this family to "move out," so to speak. I won't have much time except during lunches to catch up on the blogosphere, and I'm beginning to suspect that a form of withdrawal will ensue. Not a big one, mind, but a withdrawal nonetheless. My Chief of Operations has informed me that the laptop will NOT be accompanying us on this trip, so even if a hotel has WiFi, I'm SOL ("Sorta Outta Luck," if you must know).

Upon my return to civilization, the campaign will have five weeks of fury remaining. Not counting, of course, the innumerable recounts of fraudulent votes tabulated by Florida's soggy touch-screens.

Soon the debates will take place. Debates that will not swing one single vote in either direction. Unless they're going for the "disenfranchised voter with the IQ of pudding" demographic. Because that's all the substance they're going to get for their money. I will not be among the viewers. My IQ is at least the level of ice cream, or maybe even (yum!) Jamba Juice©®™! Therefore, my vote cannot be swung. Swang? Swinged? Ok, maybe ice cream was generous...

All of this, I guess, by way of saying that my posts for the next two to three weeks may be light, or non-existent. But I'll return, probably in better shape than either candidate, or any major news organization.


Saturday, September 11, 2004

For Poets Who Don't Know It

Check out the Rightists' Poet Laureate.

This is, of course, my brother. Waaaaay back when we were still legally kids (as opposed to now), one of our favorite activities was dubbing silly dialogue for every Godzilla movie known to mankind. We watched 'em all. We had a wonderful range of voice characterizations that were every bit as good (or better!) than the ones used by the Japanese.

In a tip of the hat to Darwinism, see the ways we each have evolved. Cam becomes a Shakespeare wannabe, and I pretend to be a cross between George Will and Dave Barry. I guess evolution of lower species is still a viable option, eh, Cam?

Anyway, I highly recommend Cam's poetry. His more serious attempts are worthy of publication, and I suppose I should start egging him on to submit. His satirical stuff is worthy of a classier version of MST3K. Without pictures.

MSM and 9/11

This is a somber day. Perhaps it's somber because of the headache with which I awoke, or perhaps the memory of the day caused the headache. No telling. In either case, the day is hot, humid, and sunny, and my mood is not.

I work for a defense contractor. Despite what most of the left believes, many (if not most) of us really do focus on "defense." We pride ourselves that we build tools that help keep this country safe from those who wish us harm. We recognize that, with or without provocation, there will always be those who wish us harm. No amount of neutrality, education, or goodwill will ever convince Islamic fundamentalists that we are not satanic infidels, and therefore worthy of complete destruction. We will always be targets.

And so I continue to work for a defense contractor. I continue to feel some pride in what we build, even while I pray we never have to use it. My Dad was a good example of this. In the politically charged atmosphere of the Cold War, he worked for this same contractor (or, more accurately, a former company that has since been swallowed by the current company) working on propulsion systems that have been used in most of our space exploration work for decades. Then, one day, he came home with a more grim look on his face than was usual. This would be in the late 70's.

"What's up, Dad?" I ventured.

He fixed me with a piercing look (he was good at that) and decided I was old enough to at least partly understand. "I've just been assigned to a new project that scares me to death," was his reply.

He said the entire project was top secret, but that it was called "Missile X." Something straight out of 50's science fiction, sounded like to me. He just couldn't give me any further information, of course, without violating his clearances. Later, when I joined the company myself, and the entire world knew about the project, I learned that he had referred to the MX missile, or "Peacekeeper." Of course, it was nowhere near as deadly as it might have been once Congress got through with their poison pens. Still, it was a powerful deterrent. Thank goodness we've never yet had to use one in anger.

Which brings me to 9/11.

Occasionally - perhaps as a consequence of working for the people who build them - I feel a need to use them. I am fully aware that this is an irrational emotion, but I am a human bean, and subject to such emotion. I confess that when I saw not one (accident!) but two (deliberate!) aircraft plow into the World Trade Center towers, my very first thought was "Terrorists!" My second thought was "Kill them all!"

This is a very un-Christian thought, but well within the range of human.

As the day wore on, with reports of the Pentagon and western Pennsylvania hot off the press, my feelings roller-coastered through all the steps of grief. I have little doubt that President Bush went through those same steps.

Many have criticized - and just as many have supported - the President for continuing to read to those elementary kids in the immediate aftermath of the Trade Center. Count me as a supporter. First of all, there would be the stunned disbelief of those reports. All the thoughts that I had, and probably more, would have flooded him as he was being given the report. What else could he do at that moment but say "carry on and let me know when you have some answers." Then, go back, put on a brave parent face to the kids, finish the story, and excuse himself.

I doubt seriously that I would have handled it any better than the President.

The mainstream media have crowed for decades about how they nearly single-handedly shrunk the world. From the advent of the telegraph, news gathering has rapidly accelerated. It was a natural progression. The printing press brought more rapid knowledge to the elite first, then the masses. The telegraph and, later, the telephone did the same. Then came cinema with "MovieTone" clips bringing images of newsworthy events to the public. Finally, television. Now news is fed to us nearly instantaneously. Add sattelites and computers, and the cycle is complete. How, then, can news coverage improve without reporting it before it actually happens?

The internet.

The internet is mainstream news' worst nightmare. The internet enables anyone with a computer and halfway decent hookup to glean reports of happenings a world away nearly the instant they occur. A local Los Angeles area radio stations' tag is, "Give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world!" Guess what? Twenty two minutes doesn't cut it anymore.

That's not to say there's not still a market for twenty-two minutes' worth of sound bites. Heavens, no! There's still plenty of people who are simply too lazy to go get the news, and would rather have it handed to them on a TV tray. But Dan Rather and "the Boys" just don't get it. They don't understand that they only cater to the TV tray demographic. They somehow still believe that they ARE the news. And we are fools if we don't swallow it in their sound bite-sized chunks.

My epiphany? A report last fall on homeschoolers that implied that all homeschoolers abuse their children. A hugely irresponsible piece of smear journalism that neatly fit Rather's political leanings. It was then that I first became aware of the Blogosphere, and especially I wasn't yet ready to embrace them, but I knew they were on to something.

It can't be too much longer before the MSMers begin to see the writing on the net. They must understand that they either become part of the pattern, or be unceremoniously run over by it.

My story is not atypical. I stopped relying on primary press years ago. It began with the obvious biases in my local newspapers. First the Ventura County Star, then the Los Angeles Times, and now the Orange County Register. All subscribed and UNsubscribed to in short order. Then it was the network news. Not so much for their bias (although evident) as for the vapid and vaccuous nature of the reporting. Heck, I only tuned into that CBS report last year because our homeschool group, ever alert for possible media abuse, told us about it and encouraged us to tune in. I did, and was outraged.

Mainstream media serves one, and only one, useful purpose. They can get camera coverage of an event far faster than anyone else can. So far. I in fact did tune in to network coverage of the 9/11 disaster for about two days. But once I'd had my fill of the imagery, I went back to the internet. As a means of reporting or, especially, analyzing the news for my benefit, the media has long outlived its usefulness.

May we never forget.

Friday, September 10, 2004

I Was Close!

According to various reports, Political Dan played his hand tonight. According to my post from yesterday, this came closest to Rather Angry, although he did not trot out the "this reporter" perjorative as I assumed he would. Perhaps that will come in one of his radio spots this week.

Still, Dan has drawn his line in the sand and pretty much dared the Blogosphere to cross it.

Like we needed the invite.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Rather Will Survive

Open note for those pundit-types crowing about Rather's inevitable downfall: TOO SOON, GUYS.

Anyone who has followed this left-leaning anchor (you know - the kind we'd prefer to drop in the ocean) for any length of time will state unequivocally that Rather is first and foremost a politician. His journalism is nothing more than his personal podium from which he fancies himself directing the intricate ballet of American politics. He has shown himself capable of incredible petulance even as he snowballs the over-eager public with his perceived deep-thinking and probing analyses of the issues facing the country. He has stormed out of interviews, insulted anyone who stood in his way, maligned by association those who dare to live independent of the government's interference in their personal lives, and in general made a mockery of what used to be (on it's surface, anyway) a noble profession.

Having said that: Even if it proves to be true that some of the documents CBS floated in support of their special report are, in fact, forgeries, Dan Rather will suffer little, if any, fallout from the incident. We've seen this guy in action before, and we can predict one of two scenarios that will come into play.

1. Rather Angry. This is the coolly outraged, indignant Rather. This Rather will take prime time in a coming report to proclaim his personal integrity, and defend himself against the scurrilous slander of his detractors. He will raise the banner of "this reporter" as he has done on so many occasions. CBS, like any responsible news organization, of course consulted with multiple experts. Each one indicated that the documents were "likely genuine." He will continue: "Never, in this reporter's long career, has an individual's personal integrity been so maligned." Unless he's doing the maligning, of course.

I can almost write his entire statement.

2. Rather Penitent. Less likely, but not outside the realm of possibility, is the repentant Rather. Penitent Rather will "come clean" and indicate that in his report he used the phrase "we are told." This, he will say, shows that any given report is only as good as the information available when the report is written. This was the Rather trying desperately trying to back-pedal from having announced Al Gore as the projected winner of the 2000 general election. "Were there mistakes? Certainly. Should we accept responsibility for them? We should and we do."

And there it will end. Mea culpa, ladies and gentlemen. And now we continue with our unbiased and in-depth analysis that will show, incontrovertibly, that all Republicans are liars and cheats. (Next up: a visit with the Sage of the Prairies - Garrison Keillor)

Bloggers can still (and certainly should) be justifiably proud of their efforts to get the truth in front of as many people as will accept it. But don't crow too loudly about ol' Dan Rather just yet.

He still has a few (political) tricks up his expensively-tailored sleeve.

UPDATE: The spin begins: the weekly Standard asks whether CBS was the "vicim of a hoax." Ah, of course. Poor CBS. Victimized once again. No doubt by those scurvy Republican privateers.

He's Two - Two - Two Candidates in One!

Ann Coulter is quickly becoming one of my favorite columnists. She has a wonderfully biting wit that cuts through the copious amounts of dreck in the arena, and gets straight to the point. In this case, she neatly encapsulates the search for the real John Kerry. Quoted in part:

Speaking to an Arab group in Michigan in October 2003, Kerry called Israel's erection of a wall between Israeli and Palestinian areas "another barrier to peace."

But a few months later, Kerry got on the fence on the subject of the wall. Adding clarity to the subject, his campaign issued a memo in February, saying Kerry took the precise opposite position of his earlier position. The memo said: "John Kerry supports the construction of Israel's security fence to stop terrorists from entering Israel. The security fence is a legitimate act of self-defense ..."

So the wall was either (1) a barrier to peace or (2) a legitimate act of self-defense. The campaign then said Kerry had meant to say the real barrier to peace was Pink Floyd's "The Wall."
I guess the only territory left to explore is whether Kerry had cosmetic dental work done to get those teeth. No, wait. No one would want teeth like that...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

They Could. They Would. But Mine Won't.

Powerline continues the discussion of "They'd Never Try It Here, Would They?"

Hindrocket points out that plans to that effect have already come to light once in this country with the arrest of Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi in Minnesota two months ago. This, however, is only part of the equation. One website lists "Recent Worldwide School Shootings" dating back to 1996, including, of course, the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The list has shootings both here in the United States, as well as several in other parts of the world.

It matters little whether such shootings were the machinations of "Islamofascist" terrorists, or the deranged vengeance of homocidal teens. We can never again assume the safety of our children in a public setting. It has become painfully obvious that we now live in a world that is arguably more violent than at any time in its past. The means for exacting that violence are readily available for a price, and any hoodlum bent on mischief can now buy a gun or make a bomb.

I take a little heat (friendly fire, if you will) from family and friends who have taken note of my old-fogeyness. Since divorcing my first wife, I have become decidedly more settled in my ways, and much more conservative than I ever was in my philosophy. Finding and marrying my sweetheart, and being blessed with our two sweet girls has sharpened my focus, and softened my tastes. No longer can I watch movies that espouse or glorify wanton, gratuitous violence, or the current attitudes that Hollywood seems to peddle as being "normal" today. Nor will I subject my children to these influences. I see no reason to help them develop the "disrespect everything and everyone - and do it sarcastically" mindset so prevalent in today's culture.

(I really don't mean to pick on Hollywood exclusively in this case. It's just not fair. Much of what comes out of Hollywood is good and truly entertaining. But not enough of it is. So, since they have the most visible face, they get the slam. Sorry, but not very.)

I want my kids to be safe. I may not be able to guarantee their safety in all cases. But I can and will do everything in my power to make sure they don't become the sort of "disenfranchised" personalities that would be capable of perpetrating such a crime against others. No matter how angry they may feel.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

War and Disney

From the Elder at Fraters Libertas comes this gem. He links to an article by Mark Yost describing the life of Col. Billy Mitchell, war hero and victim of a short-sighted government's fear of change.

There's nothing I can add to the wealth of knowledge surrounding Mitchell's life and career. That he died in a disgrace he never deserved is tragic. Such pioneering thinkers have always, it seems, had to fight against overwhelming prejudice of any idea that takes people out of their comfort zones. The peace-time military of Mitchell's day just couldn't justify this man's challenge of their century-long military doctrine.

Still, there were those who listened. By the time World War II raged in Europe, many began to openly question why we weren't pushing aircraft to the forefront of the fight. Some of these individuals carried impressive credentials, both military and civilian. One individual in particular was Major Alexandar P. de Seversky. Maj. de Seversky was a naturalized Russian with an extensive and impressive background in aeronautics. He had written a book titled "Victory Through Air Power" which, among other things, boldly declared that the United States should consolidate its military aircraft under a single air force - a heresy according to then-military thinking.

One man who had read the book and appreciated its significance was Walt Disney. Disney, who was already under contract to the Government for training and motivational films and short subjects, decided to do a film version of de Seversky's book, with de Seversky's enthusiastic support and participation.

The studio just recently released one of its "Walt Disney Treasures" series of DVD specials entitled "Walt Disney Treasures - Walt Disney on the Front Lines." As an amateur historian (strictly amateur, mind!), this release is a true treasure. Many of the shorts, training films, and even the feature "Victory Through Air Power" have not been released since the war. Many of them were considered too politically insensitive in the wake of reconstruction and renewed relations with Japan and other former enemies. Also, as pointed out in the several explanations and interviews, many of the films have also just recently been declassified. Makes one wonder if there might still be any pieces that have yet to be declassified. An intriguing thought.

In any case, this collection is well worth the price. I watched the entire thing on my laptop DVD player so as not to interrupt the kids' viewing pleasure during the holiday. I was spellbound. Leonard Maltin does a terrific job as one of Disney's unofficial ambassadors in providing us with tidbits of historical background, and his interviews of old Disney participants in the war effort are respectfully done. For me, however, the real treasure is (of course) the body of work that Disney churned out to support the war. The shorts, taken in historical context, are fun, but thought-provoking. Maltin correctly points out that Disney (and most of Hollywood in those days) needed to demonize the enemy in order to make such things as rationing, black-out policies, and even paying taxes on time become more important to the audience.

Included in this collection is the hilarious "Der Fuerher's Face," which is built around the original song later recorded by Spike Jones. You are also treated to numerous Disney-designed posters, military insignia designs, and other bonus features that nicely round out the set.

I plan on introducing this material to my youngsters only when they're old enough to appreciate and understand what war is and the role it plays in their young lives. Such exposure needs to be carefully engaged, and I want to make sure they get the proper context. For myself, it's been a potent reminder that the key to any victory is maintaining the proper attitude in the face of conflict. If you want to call that patriotism, I won't quibble.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Helplessness Does Not (Necessarily) Equal Hopelessness

I won't post any links to the Russian school tragedy. Anyone with the ability to get to this blog already has more than enough skill to find all the stories and gut-wrenching images that I've seen myself. I've had my fill and will look no further.

As one who grew up during the Cold War, the demarcation seemed pretty clear. The "bad guys" wore bland clothes, spoke with eastern European accents, used a lot of red in their flags and symbolism, and were decidedly Communist. Terrorists were fringe. They were confined to arabian deserts, or parts of Ireland (I could never remember whether it was north or south). They were relatively easy to dismiss as lunatics. They wouldn't be a problem so long as I never travelled to those parts of the world. I was more concerned about the Commies.

The 1972 Olympic games in Munich arrived. The Israeli team was taken hostage. The end was not pretty. For several days I, along with the rest of the civilized world, watched in stunned disbelief as the terrorists made a statement. We may be lunatics, the statement read, but we're closer than you think. And suddenly I didn't feel quite as safe anymore.

Then came adulthood and all the distractions of establishing myself and my family. Much too busy to do more than try to keep up with the mainstream media and the 12-second sound bite journalists. I rejoiced with everyone else when the Berlin wall was torn down, but was still only marginally aware of the terrorists' imminent threat.

Finally, as a father, world dangers gradually came into sharper focus. I began to be aware that there were risks to my children's lives all around us. My own neighborhood may well have harbored people who would do my children harm, and I began to trust fewer souls. Gangs followed me from Los Angeles to the Mojave Desert and threatened to turn us into another slum. Public schools teemed with immaturity, drugs, guns, and sex. Explosive combinations to which I was supposed to subject my sweet children.

Suddenly, terrorists took center stage in my consciousness. No longer merely fringe players, they took on the traits of sentient, calculating beings, capable of death and destruction in varying degrees. Still, I reasoned, I was relatively safe living in the United States. True, working for a major defense contractor meant that any nut with a nuke and a missile might make my workplace a target, but what were the chances of that?

Enter 9/11. Suddenly, the very thing I had been led to believe would never happen, happened. We were attacked on our own shores by the terrorists. Terrorists that we, in our naivete, had supported when once upon a time they fought against our "common" enemies. We really didn't understand then about their motivations, abilities, and copious amounts of patience. They could afford to wait.

There are those who say we should have seen it coming long before it happened. Probably true. They also say that we brought it on ourselves. At least partly true. Our patriotic arrogance had blinded us to the realities of the dangers of the terrorists, and our over-confidence in our military might gave us an inflated sense of security.


Nothing justifies what these animals have shown themselves capable of doing. Nothing. Critics who say that the United States and her allies made the terrorists who they are need to study their history. Maybe even read their bibles. Terrorists have a much longer history than we do as a nation, and their aims have never wavered. They're just better equipped now. They have the ability, and the willingness, to use our own technologies against us. They have the motivation that combines their warped interpretations of their religion with a fanaticism bred into them through generations long past. Where we grew up believing that violence should be a last resort, they grew up believing that violence was the only way, and that a glorious future awaited those who perished in the cause.

You cannot reason with such people.

The obvious answer is painful. It will never be universally acceptable because there are so many pacifists among us. Even with such a preponderance of evidence, they will never accept that such people cannot be reasoned with, or "rehabilitated." Terrorists will never modify or abdicate any part of their goal, because Allah would never forgive them for doing so. They would far rather die than compromise. And they have done so repeatedly.

It is also unacceptable to blame this merely on "religion," as some would have us do. Many terrorists have no religious affiliation. I happen to consider gangs in this country to be a form of terrorist. For those terrorists who claim to adhere to a religion, they represent one or more extreme factions of that religion. As a religion to be studied, Islam has many fine qualities. So do Irish Catholics and Protestants, for that matter. Regardless of their motivation, terrorists must be dealt with. Severely.

The pacifists of the world seem not to accept that innocent people are always part of the terrorists' planned victims. Those innocent victims will always include children. Your children. My children. It makes no difference to the terrorists, because they even use their own children. And kill them. In the name of Allah. Or whomever they worship.

As I say, the obvious answer is painful and probably not politic. But I will ultimately support it, if ever it becomes the answer of this government. We do seem to be leaning in that direction.

God help us all.

Friday, September 03, 2004

#30 - One of Those Cosmic Thoughts...

I like round numbers, and the fact that this is my thirtieth post just sounds nice. But since it is my thirtieth post (a sort of milestone for me, truth to tell), I just thought I would tell you I know how to fix our political system. Really.

From a personal perspective, I've been writing (mostly for myself) for most of my life. This idea of blogging (which seems somehow related to bragging) takes some getting used to. For the longest time I would do an annual birthday essay meant to show how I felt about turning whatever age I was hitting that year. Usually pretty upbeat, but it's also interesting to read them years later and see patterns in my life.

This deep kind of thinking - well, deep for me, anyway - can and often does lead to related issues that have nagged at me for years. Take the idea of blogging as an example. Everyone seems to agree that the blog has changed the face of modern politics. No agreement, of course, as to whether it's for the better or worse, but all agree it's changed.

The blog can take the form of a journal, reflecting the thoughts, ideas and wishes of the writer. Or, for the activists among us, the blog becomes the propoganda tool of choice. The instrument by which the writer wages his or her personal political crusade. Many bloggers see themselves as the "new media," the neo-information engine of the technology age. Their duty it is to supplant the obvious shortcomings of the mainstream media.

It's not enough.

As an electorate (warning: painting with VERY broad strokes here!), we fall far short of what the first American politicians saw as our sacred duty. John Adams wrote of mastering the "science of politics" so that his children would be free to study whatever they chose to improve themselves. Still, his fondest hope was that future generations of politicians would dedicate themselves to a noble study of politics so that future generations of voters would feel safe in being represented by such public servants.

Given the obvious lack of "noble politicians" in the last one hundred years, how can I then claim that we, the voters, fall short?

Because we've let them get away with it, that's how.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the sins of our fathers (down to whatever generation we need to impugn) created an atmosphere of political morass that each successive generation worsens. For more than one hundred years now we, as citizens, have abdicated more and more of our political accountability to those who claim to be the only ones who understand that accountability and are more than willing to take it off our hands.

The pace of life has quickened exponentially with each passing administration. The American public demands better, faster, cheaper. We want everthing on our plates cut up into bite sized chunks because we simply don't have the time to do the deep analysis ourselves. We have encouraged sound-bite electioneering. It's our own fault that we will not elect someone who does not look good (relatively speaking, of course) on television. This is why politicians are loathe to say anything of substance, because they know it's going to be broken down to the lowest form that will fit the media's space and time requirements anyway.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

If we accept that there is no deep idealism left in modern politics, than we must also accept that all modern politicians - yes, even George W. Bush for whom I will vote again this year - cannot act without a script. When they do, they lose elections.

The real test will come when the candidates meet for their debates. No matter what questions are ultimately asked, listen to (or, for that matter, read) the analyses that follow. The vast majority of them will attempt to grade the candidate on presentation, and use that grade to determine who the real winner may have been. So, rather than take their word for it, try something different. Completely ignoring the opposition, ask yourself these questions:

1. Did your candidate appear to give scripted answers to the questions?

2. Did those answers elicit from you a rational response, or was your response emotional?

3. Did you learn anything of substance relating to the issue being discussed?

4. Do you really think it's possible to learn everything there is to know about (pick: abortion, health care, undocumented workers, the war on terror, traditional marriage, aid for OB-GYNs, etc.) in a five minute response with follow-ups?

I don't for a moment believe that any candidate can be an all-inclusive expert on every issue facing the American population. That's why they have advisors. I have no problem with that. For that same reason, however, I believe it's completely pointless to put two such people on a dais and expect them to sound like experts on all issues during a scripted one hour "debate."

Want real discourse during an election? Change the federal campaigning laws to require that all announced candidates submit written essays no later than one year before the election of not less than 3000 words for each of twenty issues. The issues to be discussed will be selected in a national poll by the voters who will select them from a list, or be allowed to write in their priorities if necessary. The top twenty get discussed in the essays. If, at any point in the campaign, the candidate varies from his or her stated position, they must automatically withdraw from the campaign.

Even when we've winnowed the field down to two main candidates, voters must wade through over 120,000 words in order to decide for whom they will cast their precious vote in November. They'll have that candidate's (hopefully) substantive discussion on most of the issues, which can be enlarged upon in a real debate where one very important issue becomes the topic, and each candidate leads off with a thirty minute dissertation, followed by point-counterpoint follow-ups.

Once elected, the candidate can be easily adjudicated because his or her campaign ideas will already be published in written form. The only conflict remaining will be interpretations of those writings by the left or right, depending on who won.

While we're at it, I think a similar format should be imposed in the form of an exit interview for outgoing presidents. Let them account for their written pledges and how well they executed their plans while in office.

Now, before I get nasty letters or comments from those who disagree with this idea, let me just say that I already know it wouldn't work. Here are the reasons:

1. The voters' patience would never support it.
2. The politicians would never agree to it, especially those who would have to change those campaign laws.
3. ACLU attorneys would just love to point out how many disadvantaged voters would never be able to read all that discussion, mostly because they are forced to attend inner-city public schools. Poor disenfranchised things.
4. The mainstream media (and many new media) powers that be will never sell it.

So, I guess my revolution lives and dies with this post.

But I can dream.

Democrat, Republican, or Ree-publican?

A friend of mine - southern, I must add - sent me this in an email this morning. If you've not seen this elseblog, enjoy. If you have, kindly ignore and check more substantive blogs:

Question: How do you tell the difference between Democrats, Republicans and Southern Republicans?

The answer can be found by posing the following question:

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, a dangerous looking man with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, raises the knife, and charges. You are carrying a Glock 0.40, and you have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family.

What do you do?

Democrat's Answer:

#1- Well, that's not enough information to answer the question! Does the man look poor or oppressed?
#2 - Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?
#3 - Could we run away?
#4 - What does my wife think? What about the kids?
#5 - Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?
#6 - What does the law say about this situation?
#7 - Does the Glock have an appropriate safety built into it?
#8 - Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?
#9 - Is it possible he'd be happy with just killing me?
#10 - Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?
#11 - If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?
#12 - Should I call 9-1-1?
#13 - Why is this street so deserted?
#14 - We need to raise taxes, have a paint and weed day and make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior. This is all so confusing! I need to debate this with some friends for a few days and try to come to a consensus.

Republican's Answer:


Southern Republican's Answer:
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! click.....(sounds of reloading).

Daughter: "Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester SilverTips??"