Friday, April 14, 2006

Batiste, Eaton, Newbold, Riggs, Swannack, Trainor, Zinni: Aren't We Glad They're Gone?

It happens rarely, but at last there's an issue both supporters of the global war on terror and supporters of the anti-war movement can agree on. It is that we are better off that six mid-level generals and one upper level general have retired from military leadership.

Recently seven retired generals have publicly criticized Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. General Anthony Zinni; Lt. Generals Gregory Newbold and Bernard Trainor; and Maj. Generals John Batiste, Paul Eaton, John Riggs and Charles Swannack Jr. have boo-hooed that their advice was ignored and that Secretary Rumsfeld is too tough. In the words of Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor:

Secretary Rumsfeld is a tough hombre to deal with, and he has a management technique that wears you down. Constantly asks questions and diverts you from the position that you’re trying to establish by attacking you from a different direction. Just wears you down. Having said that, I’d say that the U.S. military did not shine in, in pushing back against Rumsfeld more effectively. They, in effect, gave up and did everything that he pretty, pretty much wanted to do.

War critics can well say, "Where were these guys while the debate on the war was raging and before we had 2,270 casualties?"

War supporters can well say, "If these guys really believed this, how could they send their troops into harm's way and not have the backbone to stand up for them? Could the real problem be that their poorly voiced strong opposition to the plan made it difficult for them to competently carry it out?"

Our military forces need better leadership than these guys. They were not competent in pressing their case for how the war should be fought nor did they have the courage of their convictions to press forward and risk firing (as General Douglas MacArthur did).


Correction: General Zinni had already retired before the war started and before Donald Rumsfeld was appointed Secretary of Defense. He served under President Clinton. So his critique is not as an insider.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Another Home Run by Mark Steyn

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
George Orwell

Mark Steyn's Chicago Sun-Times column this week, No easy answers on immigration conundrum, is another home run. It's on immigration and how people who follow the rules are given a hard time at the same time that the system winks at millions who violate the rules.

All developed countries have immigration issues, but few conduct the entire debate as disingenuously as America does: The president himself has contributed a whole barrelful of weaselly platitudes, beginning with his line that "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande." True. They don't stop at the 49th parallel either. Or the Atlantic shore. Or the Pacific. So where do family values stop? At the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you're an American and you marry a Canadian or Belgian or Fijian, the U.S. government can take years to process what's supposed to be a non-discretionary immigration application, in the course of which your spouse will be dependent on various transitional-status forms like "advance parole" that leave her vulnerable to the whims of the many eccentric interpreters of U.S. immigration law at the nation's airports and land borders.

Here's another place where family values stops: The rubble of the World Trade Center. Deena Gilbey is a British subject whose late husband worked on the 84th floor: On the morning of Sept. 11, instead of fleeing, he returned to the building to help evacuate his co-workers. A few days later, Mrs. Gilbey receives a letter from the INS noting that as she's now widowed her immigration status has changed and she's obliged to leave the country along with her two children (both U.S. citizens). Think about that: Having legally admitted to the country the terrorists who killed her husband, the U.S. government's first act on having facilitated his murder is to add insult to grievous injury by serving his widow with a deportation order. Why should illegal Mexicans be the unique beneficiaries of a sentimental blather about "family values" to which U.S. immigration is otherwise notoriously antipathetic?

The major problem in the immigration issue is that current US policy treats people wildly unequally and unjustly. If illegal aliens are not deported, why should anyone be deported? Our policy now is the "whim" policy of banana republics. The guy in charge likes you, okay. If not, you're outta here. Of course, that's only for legal immigrants. If you're illegal, we haven't got time or personnel to do deportations.

State governments, like my own state of Oregon, do even worse. They don't allow checking of documents to see if they're bona fide--unless, of course, you are a legal resident or corporate entity. Then you are subject to the full rigor of the law for fraud.

My personal opinion is that we should open up immigration and allow lots more people to legally come to the US. For a number of years I lived in a country where many people want to immigrate to the US and want to live out the American dream. I'm for those people--and millions like them around the world.

I also believe that part of our nation's greatness comes from the great decades of immigration in the middle and late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century*. These immigrants added much to our nation by their hard work ethic and moral character.

But whether we open up the system to allow lots more immigrants or not, we should follow a legal process that is fair to all--not just to those who provide corporate profit (cheap labor) and political profit (votes).
*though modern immigration numbers are higher, the percentage is lower compared to the population as a whole

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Michael Ramirez - Great Political Cartoons!

Just thought I'd mention that I've put a link under Opinion on my sidebar to Michael Ramirez's cartoons at I first saw him online at Jewish World Review. You might want to take a look every so often.

Here are a few recent cartoons:

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The city that isn't quite working

The city that isn't quite working is a thought provoking piece in yesterday's Oregonian.

Even though I think this City Council has strayed farther from good government than past Councils, the first thing that struck me was how much of this article was written as an opinion piece--right from the opening sentence.

Watching the headlines the past few months, it's getting hard to escape the notion that Portland city government is a ship with five different captains -- each sailing in a separate direction.

That's how columns and editorials usually begin--not news reports.

The article goes on to list recent problems showing Portland's poor city government:

The list of public failures, embarrassments and squabbles is long and growing: The mayor's plan to save the public schools with a citywide income tax bombed, then he apologized to the Portland police after incorrectly suggesting race was behind the traffic stop of a Somali man. The City Council nearly let construction of the budget-busting $57 million aerial tram slam to a stop.

Various commissioners have waged rhetorical war with Oregon Health & Science University, Schumacher Furs, Portland General Electric and the Portland Business Alliance.

Add in the latest shocker -- allegations that Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth sexually harassed a department desk clerk -- and it's no wonder pollsters say that public mistrust of local government is rising faster than the mayor's blood pressure.

All of these are real problems. But are they the result of Lone Ranger government by the commissioners and mayor?

How about the Mayor's income tax proposal? Weren't the real problems there that a) there was not enough public support for the proposal and b) schools are not one of the Mayor's or the City Council's responsibilities?

Mayor Potter's assumption that his police officers were racist and his poor handling of the Foxworth allegations are not a product of five-headed leadership. Those are failings of judgment.

Small decisions, such as not obeying stop signs on his ride with Critical Mass, have shown a streak of arrogance in the Mayor. "I'm important so I'm above the law that I expect all you other Portland citizens to obey" shows a lack of humility and/or common sense. This is just a small example of an arrogance that has too often played out in the bigger decisions.

Two examples from 2005 stand out to me where there should have been major handwringing and changes made by the City Council. But there were none.

The first is the horrible environmental record the City has in negligent dumping of sewage in public waterways. More than 1.1 million gallons of sewage went into the Willamette and Fanno Creek in September and October alone. What was the City's response? Not assuming responsibility and doing everything possible to correct the problem. No, the City appealed the DEQ fines.

Then there is the utterly inadequate police force that can only respond to the worst public safety cases (e.g., one in 8,500 pleas for follow up on domestic violence get help).* Any response to fix this? No. The Police budget just keeps getting cut.

Those daily living failures in good government bother me much more than ineptness with the tram and the hobby horse desire to run PGE (despite the City's poor record with the major water utility they already run).

I'm glad The Oregonian is expressing concern about City Council ineptness in governing. I know that the paper has felt pressure to do more articles questioning national government leadership. I'm assuming this article is a response in terms of local government. There's also the increasing trend in wire service reports and reprints from other national newspapers to include more and more opinon journalism.

It's hard to buck the national trend. But, I hope The Oregonian will find a way to include more and more investigative journalism in the news section, but keep opinion/analysis journalism in the editiorial section.
*cited in SHERIFF LENDS EXTRA HELP TO 'CLOSE FRIEND', page C1, The Oregonian, July 27, 2005 (article no longer on line)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Page One News Flashes for the Oregonian

Here are two front page news flashes I pass on to The Oregonian* for whatever use they might be:

1. Earliest gospel fragment backs traditional Judas account

A papyrus fragment, currently in the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, dates a copy of the Gospel of John to the first half of the 2nd century. The original is thought to have been written in the first century, about 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion.

The fragment from the Gospel of John was copied about a century and a half before the 4th century copy of the Gospel of Judas found in the late 1970's and recently reconstructed with help from the National Geographic Society.

In the much earlier Gospel of John, Jesus did indeed ask Judas to do his work of betrayal--but clearly said Judas was doing it as an enemy not a friend.

John 13: 21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."

25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"

26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

"What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, 28but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.
[emphasis mine]

Jesus did tell Judas to act quickly, but according to the 1st century account, Jesus described the act as hostile rather than done out of friendship.

2. Gospel of Judas Causes New Reflection on Nuremberg Trials

A newly restored 4th century copy of the 3rd century Gospel of Judas has raised some questions on the traditional view of Nuremberg defendants like Hermann Goering, Julius Streicher, and Wilhelm Frick.

Judas has not been traditionally credited with the possibility that his act of betrayal was really intended to help Jesus find spiritual liberation through crucifixion. The National Geographic report puts the issue as follows:

In the key passage Jesus tells Judas, "'you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.'"

Kasser, the translation-project leader, offers an interpretation: "Jesus says it is necessary for someone to free him finally from his human body, and he prefers that this liberation be done by a friend rather than by an enemy.

"So he asks Judas, who is his friend, to sell him out, to betray him. It's treason to the general public, but between Jesus and Judas it's not treachery."
This new understanding of Judas has some wondering whether leading Nazi activists should also have their actions re-evaluated. The Gospel of Judas clearly implies that helping send someone to a horrible death may actually be done out of friendship.
*unfortunately this link will only be good for a week because The Oregonian doesn't link to specific front pages

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Mark Steyn on the Bad News for Europe

Mark Steyn has an insightful (and chilling) review of books dealing with the decline of Europe in MACLEANS.CA.

Steyn points out that the chief problems for Europe are:

1. Low birth rate

The difference between "anti-Americanism" and "anti-Europeanism" is obvious. In, say, 2025, America will be much as it is today -- big, powerful, albeit (to sophisticated Continentals) absurdly vulgar and provincial. But in 20 years' time Europe will be an economically moribund demographic basket case: 17 Continental nations have what's known as "lowest-low" fertility -- below 1.3 live births per woman -- from which no population has ever recovered.

2. Pampered youth, the future elite, who care not a wit about problems of the nation or the "lower class"
The trap the French political class are caught in is summed up by the twin pincers of the fall and spring riot seasons. The fall 2005 rioters were "youths" (i.e. Muslims from the suburbs), supposedly alienated by lack of economic opportunity. The spring 2006 rioters are "youths" (i.e. pampered Sorbonne deadbeats), protesting a new law that would enable employers to terminate the contracts of employees under the age of 26 in their first jobs, after two years.

To which the response of most North Americans is: you mean, you can't right now? No, you can't. If you hire a 20-year-old and take a dislike to his work three months in, tough: chances are you're stuck with him till mid-century. In France's immobilized economy, it's all but impossible to get fired. Which is why it's all but impossible to get hired. Especially if you belong to that first category of "youths" from the Muslim ghettos, where unemployment is around 40 to 50 per cent. The second group of "youths" -- the Sorbonne set -- protesting the proposed new, more flexible labour law ought to be able to understand that it's both necessary to the nation and, indeed, in their own self-interest: they are after all their nation's elite. Yet they're like lemmings striking over the right to a steeper cliff.

3. A welfare state that is causing intellectual and moral bankruptcy along with economic bankruptcy

However, if, like Clive Davis, you find Bawer and Berlinski too shrill, try Charles Murray's new book, In Our Hands. This is a fairly technical economic plan to replace the U.S. welfare system, but, in the course of it, he observes that in the rush to the waterfall the European canoe is well ahead of America's. Murray stops crunching the numbers and makes the point that, even if it were affordable, the European social democratic state would still be fatal. "Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor," he writes. "When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant." If Bawer's book is a wake-up call, Murray reminds us that western Europe long ago threw away the alarm clock and decided to sleep in.
[emphasis mine]

Rumsfeld on Truman

On March 2nd Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech praising President Harry Truman's greatness in leading the nation in the first years of the Cold War. Rumsfeld compared the War on Terror to the Cold War. The speech had humor, wisdom, and the sense of perspective which were hallmarks of Harry Truman's presidency. Here are some excerpts from Secretary Rumsfeld's talk:

He [Truman] was humble. Upon the death of President Roosevelt I'm told that he said, "I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me, and I pray to God that I can measure up to the task."

I guess he'd been Vice President for less than three months when he was called on to replace a man who was really a giant in everyone's life during that period.

I was 12, living in Coronado, California when President Roosevelt died. My father was out on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II. They announced over the school system that President Roosevelt had died. And millions of people across this country and the world cried because he was so big a figure in everyone's life. And the free world suddenly found it's trust placed in, as they said then, a former haberdasher. But he was also a former soldier from Independence, Missouri, and the world wondered, and indeed President Truman wondered if he was up to the task.

. . .
After some prodding I'm told that Mrs. Truman agreed to hold a press conference of her own for the first time. Then she canceled it. She did, however, apparently eventually agree to answer reporters' questions. She had the following ground rules. The questions had to be written and submitted in advance. Her responses would be in writing. She reserved the right to respond with short, one-syllable answers, and frequently, no comment. She was onto something. [Laughter]. She had it figured out pretty well, I like that.

Of course there are many reasons to pay tribute and remember President and Mrs. Truman, but what brought me here in particular is to reflect on President Truman's leadership in the early days of the Cold War and to consider what lessons might apply to another and in many ways very different struggle that could occupy our country for a good many years ahead.

. . . .
Now with the perspective of history the many new institutions and programs of the Truman years can seem, I suppose to many people, as part of a carefully crafted, broadly supported strategy that led to what now almost seems like an inevitable victory in the Cold War.

But of course things didn't unfold that way. That isn't the way it was in history. They never unfold quite that way.

Our country was tired after the 2nd World War. Strong strains of isolationism still persisted. Many Americans were not in the mood for a global involvement on the part of the United States. And particularly against something as ill defined as the Communist menace at the time. It wasn't as though they were engaged in a battle and you needed to respond. It was different than World war II. It was something that you couldn't quite put your hand on, you couldn't quite show a movie about it as readily.

It was a time of heated disagreements. You think back now, it seems like anyone with any sense would have recognized the importance of the Cold War and of pursuing our values and our interests as a country.

I don't think it would surprise anyone to hear that Mr. Truman was a proud and enthusiastic partisan. He used to say, "Whenever a fellow tells me he's bipartisan, I know he's going to vote against me." [Laughter].

He wasn't shy about expressing his views to those who did. Yet together, leaders of both political parties tended to get the big things right, and they did get the big things right. They understood that war had been declared on our country, on the free world, whether we liked it or not, that we had to steel ourselves against an expansionist enemy, the Soviet Union, that was determined to destroy our way of life.

A small but perhaps telling moment in the history of the Cold War took place on one of President Truman's first days in office. During his second week as President he met with Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov. President Truman had what was described as a tough conversation during which he told Molotov that the Soviets were not carrying out their agreements on Poland. Molotov responded, we are. President Truman, as he put it, he said I then explained to him words of one syllable exactly why they were not.

After the President's typically frank reply and undiplomatic response, Molotov apparently said to President Truman, "I've never been talked to like that in my life." Truman replied, "Carry out your agreements and you won't be talked to like that again." [Laughter]. Sounds reasonable to me.

In a sense that quintessentially American candor would prove to be a valuable attribute in winning the struggles against the Soviet Union. We knew that our free system of government was vastly preferable to their dictatorship. That when given a real choice the natural desire of men and women is to be free, and that the task of free people was to hold firm, to defend ourselves over many long decades, and trust that the truth would eventually win out.

That, I would submit, is our task today in the global war on terror. The struggle against violent extremists. These two eras have many many differences, I understand that. The enemy today is not an empire, but a shadowy movement of terrorist cells. The threats today are not conventional, they're unconventional and al-Qaida and other terrorists have no territories to defend, no nations, no diplomats to sign agreements and no hesitance to kill innocent men, women and children.

But these two eras have something important and instructive by way of similarities. Both required our nation to gird for a long, sustained struggle, punctuated by periods of military conflict. Both required the use of all elements of national power to defeat the enemy. Both required a transition from arrangements that were successful in the previous war to arrangements that were much better suited for this new and different era. And above all, both required perseverance by the American people and by their leadership to be sure.

. . . .
But President Truman's final words to the nation as President in 1953 I think ought to offer some comfort to those with question about the struggle we face today. He said in part, "Some of you may ask when and how will the Cold War end." This is 1953. "When and how will the Cold war end."

"I think I can answer that simply. The Communist world has great resources and it looks strong, but there is a fatal flaw in their society. Theirs is a system of slavery. There is no freedom, no consent. I have a deep and abiding faith in the destiny of free men. With patience and courage we shall some day move on into a new era."

And we did. But it wasn't in that year or ten years later or twenty years later or thirty years later. It was forty years later. He was right.

The man from Independence whose final resting place is so few steps from here deserves enormous credit for that and he deserves our nation's undying appreciation.

You can read the whole speech at:

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Steyn on demonstrations and rhetoric

Mark Steyn is the closest modern equivalent to G. K. Chesterton. He looks at the world with his head cocked and views it with insight and humor.

From his latest column (Don't deny that some Muslims are hot for jihad):

But, while Charlie Sheen is undoubtedly a valiant leader, you couldn't help noticing it was followers the anti-war crowd seemed to be short of on the third anniversary. The next weekend half a million illegal immigrants -- whoops, sorry, half a million fine upstanding members of the Undocumented-American community-- took to the streets, and you suddenly realized what a big-time demonstration is supposed to look like. These guys aren't even meant to be in the country and they can organize a better public protest movement than an anti-war crowd that's promoted 24/7 by the media and Hollywood.

Well, OK, half the anti-war crowd aren't meant to be in the country either, if they'd kept their promise to move to Canada after the last election. But my point is there's no mass anti-war movement. Some commentators claimed to be puzzled by the low turnout at a time when the polls show Iraq increasingly unpopular. But there are two kinds of persons objecting to the war: There's a shriveled Sheehan-Sheen left that's in effect urging on American failure in Iraq, and there's a potentially far larger group to their right that's increasingly wary of the official conception of the war. The latter don't want America to lose, they want to win -- decisively. And on the day's headlines -- on everything from the Danish cartoon jihad to the Afghan facing death for apostasy -- the fainthearted response of "public diplomacy" is in danger of sounding only marginally less nutty than Charlie Sheen.
[emphasis mine]

While poking fun at anti-war ineptness, Steyn points out a greater ineptness on the part of major political leaders who support the war effort:

Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, gave a typical Western government official's speech the other day explaining that "a large number of Muslims in this country were -- understandably -- upset by those cartoons being reprinted across Europe and at their deeply held beliefs being insulted. They expressed their hurt and outrage but did so in a way which epitomized the learned, peaceful religion of Islam."

"The learned, peaceful religion of Islam"? And that would be the guys marching through London with placards reading "BEHEAD THE ENEMIES OF ISLAM" and "FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS WESTERN TERRORISM" and promising to rain down a new Holocaust on Europe? This is geopolitics as the Aretha Franklin Doctrine: The more the world professes its R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the more the Islamists sock it to us.

At a basic level the foreign secretary's rhetoric does not match reality. Government leaders are essentially telling their citizens: Who ya gonna believe -- my platitudinous speechwriters or your lyin' eyes?

To win a war, you don't spin a war. Millions of ordinary citizens are not going to stick with a "long war" (as the administration now calls it) if they feel they're being dissembled to about its nature. One reason we regard Churchill as a great man is that his speeches about the nature of the enemy don't require unspinning or detriangulating.

It's one thing to defuse mob hatred which easily breaks out in war time. Germans were the targeted in WWI and WWII; the Japanese were victims in WWII.

It's quite another to ignore the link between jihadists, Islam and the terrorism which is not only a very real threat, but killed more Americans in a single attack than the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor.

Steyn is right that words matter.

If our leaders avoiding talking about the major problem facing Islam today (Is jihad directed towards their neighbors right or wrong?), they will not be able to convince the public that there is a threat worthy of a war effort or anti-insurgency effort. Especially one that does not have a clear end in sight.

My worry is that the official platitudes in this new war are the equivalent of the Cold War chit-chat in its 1970s detente phase --when Willy Brandt and Pierre Trudeau and Jimmy Carter pretended the enemy was not what it was. Then came Ronald Reagan: It wasn't just the evil-empire stuff, his jokes were on the money, too. In their own depraved way, the Islamists are a lot goofier than the commies and a few gags wouldn't come amiss. If this is a "long war," it needs a rhetoric that can go the distance. And the present line fails that test.