Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

The Prince of Peace has come to bring peace in men's hearts. The Prince of Peace will come again to bring peace to the world. Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6)

Monday, December 11, 2006

An Oregonian Vendetta

The Oregonian has its claws out again. One of its arch-enemies, Bill Sizemore, has won a court ruling, and the Oregonian just can’t stand it. Grabbing for any weapon at hand it compares Sizemore to O. J. Simpson.

In 1997 a California jury found O.J. Simpson liable in the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife and a man she was with, but Simpson got out of paying the $33.5 million civil judgment.

If that was a victory for him, it was a perverse one. And that's pretty much how Oregonians ought to look at the courtroom victory claimed by initiative peddler Bill Sizemore last week.

You know people have lost their rational balance when they rate a murderer who has stabbed two people to death and an “initiative peddler” not indicted or convicted of a criminal offense as somehow equivalent.

Here’s how the Oregonian describes Sizemore’s heinous acts in comparison to O.J.’s:

Let the man have his victory lap, but don't forget what he and his sham operation did. A Multnomah County civil jury concluded that they had forged petition signatures and falsified financial statements that are required from political action committees.
[emphasis mine]

Mind you this is a civil verdict. Sizemore hasn’t been convicted of criminal activity--which says something about the nature of the evidence since forging and falsifying are criminal acts. But, to the Oregonian, Sizemore is Oregon’s O. J., worthy of a vendetta, and to be hounded to his dying breath whether he wins a judicial verdict or dares to sponsor a measure.

The Oregonian had a tough time this last election because “initiative peddler” Sizemore introduced one of only two measures the Oregonian supported (Measure 42). And the Oregonian ground its teeth and searched high and low for anyone--anyone--it could praise for the measure rather than Sizemore. It finally found an organization that didn’t even go to the trouble of plunking down a measly $500 for a statement of support in the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet, but did, in principle, support that sort of thing.

Just another reason to take Oregonian fulminating with a grain of salt--or a big dose of antacid.

Friday, December 08, 2006

President Carter’s Woes

Poor former President Jimmy Carter. His one term presidency and low marks for presidential accomplishments have been an albatross for decades.

He wasn’t listened to in the Reagan or Bush Sr. years because people still clearly remembered his ineptness in national (energy crisis/inflation/high interest rates) and foreign policy (Iran hostages). He wasn’t listened to in the Clinton years because President Clinton was a Democrat and popular within the party and with the American people.

So during those years, Carter worked on his image with projects like habitat for humanity, helping to monitor foreign elections, and peace missions. And his personal stature rose.

But, the temptation to leave a positive political legacy to overshadow his poor presidential legacy was too powerful to resist. Contrary to the tradition of former presidents, Carter began speaking out more and more on political issues--made easier when a Republican president took office in 2000.

However, after years of being listened to with rapt attention by a mostly adoring press, Carter now sees “troubling” blocks--especially by Jews--to his access to readers and listeners:

Although I have spent only a week or so on a book tour so far, it is already possible to judge public and media reaction. Sales are brisk, and I have had interesting interviews on TV, including "Larry King Live," "Hardball," "Meet the Press," "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," the "Charlie Rose" show, C-SPAN and others. But I have seen few news stories in major newspapers about what I have written.

Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by representatives of Jewish organizations who would be unlikely to visit the occupied territories, and their primary criticism is that the book is anti-Israel. Two members of Congress have been publicly critical. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for instance, issued a statement (before the book was published) saying that "he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel." Some reviews posted on call me "anti-Semitic," and others accuse the book of "lies" and "distortions." A former Carter Center fellow has taken issue with it, and Alan Dershowitz called the book's title "indecent."
. . .
My most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on university campuses with high Jewish enrollment and to answer questions from students and professors.

[emphasis mine]

Worse yet, his current book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, is drawing fire--and not from partisans on the other side. This time criticism is coming from key Clinton figures, Democratic and black leaders, and even former supporters of Carter. They are not only critical of Carter's ideas, but of how he manipulates and distorts facts.

A long-time friend, former aide and collaborator on Middle East affairs, Kenneth Stein, professor of Middle Eastern history at Emory University, went so far as to resign his position as a fellow at the Carter Center. In stark terms he described his dismay at Carter’s lack of integrity in a number of areas.

President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments.

Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book.

Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade.

Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins.

It’s sad to see former President Carter damage his integrity and reputation crafted through decades of work. And now all that work and acclaim whirling down the drain.

There’s a saying that it’s best not to give advice when it’s not asked for. Maybe that’s why former presidents have a long tradition of staying away from political pronouncements. When you ignore the path that your predecessors have blazed, it’s easy to fall in the mud. Even worse is to blame critics, Jews and newspapers for your predicament. Poor President Carter.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Portland--Not Elderly or Handicap Friendly

Steve Duin's column yesterday ended with an interesting observation.

Schumacher is loath to admit the protesters wore him down and are driving him out of town. I don't think it's a victory worth savoring, but I know it's not a major defeat for the downtown's retail reputation. The aging generation that draped itself in fox and mink may be souring on the city center, but their sons and daughters are finding plenty of other downtown diversions.
[emphasis mine]

I speak from personal experience of parents who are elderly and a brother with multiple handicaps. Portland is not a friendly city to people who have physical weaknesses--irrespective of whether they buy spendy garments, jewelry, cars or the like. And my family doesn't.

My parents will not go downtown. Duin makes fun of Gregg Schumacher's observation that Portland is not safe for people to shop in because of "musicians on the street".

The musicians on the street?

You mean, when the Santa Claus at Southwest 10th Avenue and Morrison Street pointed a trumpet at me, the damn thing was loaded? With something more than a melody as crisp as the November morning?

You mean something other than the cold explained the blood on the callused fingertips of Jesse Brandon, the 24-year-old whalin' on his Kona guitar beneath the eaves of the downtown Nordstrom store?

Duin looks fairly robust in his photo. I'm assuming he doesn't have trouble walking, or even running. Which is probably why he doesn't think about the people who do have trouble with mobility around obstacles. Impediments on the sidewalk are a real danger to some elderly and handicapped people--even if the impediment plays a musical instrument.

I've always enjoyed street musicians. I can walk around them rapidly and easily. Steve Duin apparently can too. But if Portland is a city only the vigorous and strong feel comfortable in, it's not much of a city. The real test of a city is how it treats its weakest members.

Portland is real friendly to the quick and the strong. You gotta have good reflexes to even drive downtown--with bicyclists and pedestrians ignoring traffic laws. I don't mind. I've lived in and driven in a major world city where Formula 1 drivers have honed their skills as young drivers. But, people with regular driving skills have to be on super-alert in downtown Portland.

It's even worse for pedestrians. Not only impediments on the sidewalks, like street musicians, but aggressive panhandlers and not-so peaceful demonstrators are tolerated without a second thought. The old adage "Your free speech ends where my nose begins" doesn't apply to the aged or handicapped in Portland.

Portland has had poor marks on this for a number of years. The Schumacher incident just underlines the point. And my parents have gotten the point. They avoid downtown Portland like the plague. It is a real, physical danger to them. And apparently the Mayor, City Councilmen and Steve Duin aren't that concerned. They don't have much trouble in downtown Portland, so why worry about those who do? After all,

Nor were there any complaints from Wendy Fouts and Betsy Jones at Binyon's Eye World, just to the west of Schumacher's. The two women love working downtown and the more cosmopolitan customers who shop there, none of whom, they said, has ever complained about the anti-fur demonstrations or safety concerns.

Are they on their guard while waiting for the bus at night? Of course they are. That's life in the big city.
[emphasis mine]

If that's the kind of big city you allow, that's the kind of big city you will have. New York decided it wanted to reverse that trend (obviously a worse situation there, but a much bigger city too).

When will Portland's leaders decide they want to reverse the trend here so that the elderly and handicapped will once again feel welcomed in downtown Portland?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why Not Stay Home?

An AP story tells of Senator-elect Jim Webb's desire to avoid the President in a White House reception for new Congress members.

Democratic Sen.-elect Jim Webb avoided the receiving line during a recent White House reception for new members of Congress and had a chilly exchange with President Bush over the Iraq war and his Marine son.

"How's your boy?" Webb, in an interview Wednesday, recalled Bush asking during the reception two weeks ago.

"I told him I'd like to get them out of Iraq," Webb said.

"That's not what I asked. How's your boy?" the president replied, according to Webb.

At that point, Webb said, Bush got a response similar to what reporters and others who had asked Webb about Lance Cpl. Jimmy Webb, 24, have received since the young man left for Iraq around Labor Day: "I told him that was between my boy and me."

Webb, a leading critic of the Iraq war, said that he had avoided the receiving line and photo op with Bush, but that the president found him.

It was a White House reception for crying out loud. Who did Webb expect to meet there? And why act offended when the host seeks you out and asks a question any normal, caring person would ask? Maybe the President should have acted like he didn't know Webb from a hill of beans or that Webb's son was serving in Iraq. Of course, then the story would have been that President Bush doesn't care enough about the troops to know that a freshman Democrat Senator has a son serving.

Webb was Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan. He obviously didn't learn anything from Reagan about the importance of civility and treating leaders of the other party, not to mention the President, with respect.

Hopefully, in the next six years he'll learn some manners he missed during his time serving under President Reagan.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Democracy Win or Lose

In his November 19th column, Mark Steyn makes the case for the Bush push for democracy in Iraq--even if it fails.

1. Just because it's right for the US to promote and support democracy wherever it sprouts.

However, I support the Bush Doctrine on two grounds -- first, for "utopian" reasons: If the Middle East becomes a region of free states, it will have been the right thing to do and the option most consistent with American values (unlike the stability fetishists' preference for sticking with Mubarak, the House of Saud and the other thugs and autocrats).
[emphasis mine]

2. Because it is the only ideology that has a chance to stand against the totalitarian islamism now being imposed on the Middle East.

But, second, it also makes sense from a cynical realpolitik perspective: Promoting liberty and democracy, even if they ultimately fail, is still a good way of messing with the thugs' heads. It's one of the few real points of pressure America and its allies can bring to bear against rogue nations, and in the case of Iran, the one with the clearest shot at being effective. In other words, even if it ultimately flops, seriously promoting liberty and democracy could cause all kinds of headaches for the mullahs, Assad, Mubarak and the rest of the gang. However it turns out, it's the "realist" option.
[emphasis mine]

But, why, oh why, does the President state the case so poorly? Not with the eloquence of Prime Minister Tony Blair nor with the clear-headed analysis of Mark Steyn. Is the problem that President Bush is basing his calculations on a false assumption? While we do hold it as self-evident that

all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . .

The salient point is that they are "endowed by their Creator" with rights. Which is different than saying that those rights are the highest value for the individual. Steyn points to the problem in how President Bush explains the issue.

The president doesn't frame it like that, alas. Instead, he says stuff like: "Freedom is the desire of every human heart." Really? It's unclear whether that's the case in Gaza and the Sunni Triangle. But it's absolutely certain that it's not the case in Berlin and Paris, Stockholm and London, Toronto and New Orleans. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government "security," large numbers of people vote to dump freedom -- the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, seat belts and a ton of other stuff. I would welcome the president using "Freedom is the desire of every human heart" in Chicago and Dallas, and, if it catches on there, then applying it to Ramadi and Tikrit.
[emphasis mine]

If you assume that people will rush for freedom even against great odds, you will make policy choices differently than if you assume that there has to be some real chance of success for people to risk their lives to choose freedom and democracy over authoritarian government.

Perhaps this false assumption that the deck is overwhelmingly stacked in favor of democracy is why every so often it comes out that we are handicapping ourselves to play fair even when the other side never plays fair.

When the other side doesn't play fair, you have to toughen the response.

We have recognized this in our laws in dealing with organized crime and drug cartels.

We recognized this in World War II. The rate of taking prisoners-of-war was much higher in the European theater than in the Pacific theater because the enemy's rules of engagement was decidedly different in each theater. German prisoners-of-war didn't try to kill medics and those who tried to help them. Japanese prisoners-of-war did.

Along with Mark Steyn, I believe the current policy is the best one on the table. But, the implementation of it needs to be re-worked to conform with the realities of dealing with a brutal enemy that values neither freedom nor human life.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Helping Orphans in Afghanistan Criticized

I picked up the Wednesday Oregonian and to my surprise there was a front page story with two, count 'em two, photos on Oregon Guard members serving in Afghanistan. Not only that there were two more short stories about Oregon Guard aid projects inside.

Wow! After complaining about the lack of Oregonian coverage of Oregonians serving in Iraq, I would have been pleased to take it all back for coverage of Oregonians serving in Afghanistan.

The story started out great. It noted how the Oregon Guard is training Afghans to protect themselves and helping the Afghan people via projects that aid orphans and build clinics, roads, and schools.

Suicide bombers are emerging, winter is coming, and Americans are in no mood for more war. Can Afghanistan be saved?

From his plywood office in Kabul where he commands 4,565 soldiers, Oregon's Brig. Gen. Douglas Pritt says yes -- because the Afghans want better lives.

Despite daily frustrations in what they say is "the forgotten war," Oregon National Guard soldiers say they are teaching the Afghan National Army to fire heavy artillery. They are clothing orphans and dicing $2 million into as many clinics and roads as possible "to touch as many lives as possible," said Pritt.

"We just built a school," Pritt said. "The whole town turned out and began singing to us like it was a parade."

Apparently reporter Julie Sullivan got her information from a distance, via telephone calls and e-mails, but, hey, that's a start.

In telephone calls and e-mails, Pritt and his staff describe a role much like the Guard's role at home: turning ordinary guys into an army, showing up in a crisis, rendering relief to those in need.

But in a nation staggering from poverty and new waves of violence, reality is far more complicated. Five task force members, including Staff Sgt. Brad Lindsey of Troutdale and an Afghan interpreter, have died from roadside bombs and enemy fire. Although some soldiers move safely in many areas, others in the southern region around Kandahar and the Pakistan border face all-out combat. In all, 289 soldiers have been killed.

However, embedded in the story is a criticism of the help the Guard is giving.

But even delivering such aid has unintended consequences. Humanitarian experts say that when aid is delivered by an army -- and linked to political, diplomatic, economic or religious goals -- it jeopardizes the security of civilian aid workers who rely on the local population's trust that they are there only to provide aid. Experts say plenty of nongovernmental organizations and United Nations organizations could distribute that assistance.

I hate to break it to "humanitarian experts" but being a foreigner in itself is cause for the population to distrust those who distribute help. And in Islamic countries, being non-Muslim, is also cause for distrust.

If "humanitarian experts" really wanted to be effective, they would pump all their aid and resources through Afghan Islamic charities and hire only Afghan Islamic doctors and workers to do it. But, that would cut the channels of aid down to a trickle--not to mention deprive aid agencies of taking credit for aid given.

Beside the fact that the UN has shown a talent for siphoning off big chunks of aid (Food for Oil) to enrich people all along the UN/diplomat pipeline, it's interesting that no one is keeping the UN or NGO's out of Afghanistan. The International Red Cross has a lot of aid projects going on there. I guess Julie Sullivan didn't telephone or e-mail them.

The reason more NGO's are not giving aid like the Oregon Guard is because it's dangerous.

"I do not want to question the generosity of individuals; I know the soldiers on the ground, at the individual level, are really moved by very sincere convictions and generosity," Fabien Dubuet, an international law specialist and the U.N. representative for Doctors without Borders, said in an interview. "But in the war on terror . . ., in Iraq and Darfur, humanitarian work is more and more perceived as part of the Western agenda."

In June 2004, five staff members of the international medical humanitarian organization were shot to death in northwest Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders withdrew from the country where it had worked for 24 years and has not returned in large part because no one has been convicted of the crime.

It's a not so hidden secret that NGO's, though doing much good in low level crisis areas, are ineffective in high crisis areas--and war zones. Say, in Rwanda. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. They tend to pull out when it gets too unstable and dangerous--like in Darfur where Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has also withdrawn even though no US, Coalition or UN troops are there "destabilizing" the aid situation. But, Western, UN and African leaders are talking about intervening in Darfur, and MSF has blasted them and Western advocacy groups for contemplating intervention in Darfur and causing the ruckus that is shutting MSF out.

The question here is if MSF isn't willing to go in until it's safe, who is going to give aid to the people? Or is the answer that the poor and suffering will just have to wait until MSF feels safe before they get any aid? It's almost a dog-in-the-manger attitude. We won't do it. Therefore, no one else should either.

The Oregonian did report on Oregon Guard members in a war zone who are helping poor and suffering Afghans as well as training Afghan troops to fight Taliban terrorists. But, it managed to find a dark side to troops giving aid to widows, orphans and the poor.

How sad that the Oregonian and "humanitarian experts" care more about who gives aid to those in dire need rather than that it is given.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Reflections on the Election

As it looks now, Democrats control the Senate with 51 senators to the Republicans’ 49 senators. The House is divided with 231 Democrats, 197 Republicans and 7 seats are still undecided.

What might be the result?

1. Gridlock. If the Republicans play the filibuster card as the Democrats did, there will probably be enough votes to get basic issues passed like funding the military and ongoing programs. But, not much new legislation will be coming out. Overall less government action is a plus.

2. Nominees. Except for Robert Gates (because Demos hate Rumsfeld so much), nominees will have a tough time getting through. So what’s new? After four years of having the majority in both houses and the presidency, the Republicans never figured out how to confirm crucial conservative nominees except on Roberts, Alito and a few other cases.

3. Expectations. Republicans have failed pretty miserably in terms of conservative expectations. Now the Democrats have a load of expectations put on them by their leftist base. But most of those issues do not resonate with the American electorate. So it will be tricky to pull out a win with the base and a win with the electorate at the same time.

4. Conservative Democrats. Though still an extreme minority in the party congressional caucus, conservative Democrats have been strengthened in this election. (A clear indication that the American electorate leans to the right.) This could result in forging an alliance between conservative Republicans and conservatives Democrats, since both are now in the minority (the Republicans at large and the Democrats within their party). Any cooperation between the two groups is a plus for the nation. And any strengthening of conservative principles within the Democrat party is a plus for the party which has too long been veering toward the leftist fringe.

5. Election 2008. Republicans will have a clear target to shoot at. Democrats won’t have the leisure to run on a mere anti-Bush platform (though undoubtedly they will try that again). Already the pass that they have been getting on having a plan for victory in Iraq is evaporating. Mixing tax cuts with a strategy to balance the budget and add new social programs will be pretty much impossible. Two major campaign issues used against Republicans in 2004 and 2006 will be difficult to sustain.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Friday, November 10, 2006

You Won't Read This in the Oregonian

Here are excerpts from a few of news stories you won't read in the Oregonian.

Iraqi tipping point – toward unity, security, prosperity
Thursday, 09 November 2006
By Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV
. . . More than 100 U.S. service members and three times more Iraqi Security Forces were killed during October; in addition to scores of civilians.

A couple of weeks ago, I was widely quoted saying that this violence was disheartening. [You might have read about Gen. Caldwell's remarks on being disheartened. Chances are you'll never find this follow up in any of the media outlets that published Gen. Caldwell's previous statement.]
. . .
However, what is encouraging is how hard the Government of Iraq is working — through Iraq’s political, religious and tribal leaders — to unite all factions of Iraqi society.
. . .
Also promising are indicators showing most Iraqis support unity efforts.

In July, a poll by the nonprofit International Republican Institute found 94 percent of Iraqis said they support a “unity” government. Seventy-eight percent opposed Iraq being segregated by religion or ethnicity. Even in Baghdad, where sectarian violence is heightened, 76 percent opposed ethnic separation. According to a September poll, 97 percent of Iraqis said they “strongly disapprove” of attacks against Iraqi civilians, and 96 percent of Iraqis disapproved of attacks on Iraqi Security Forces. And in a State Department poll released Oct. 5, large majorities of Iraqi youth in six regions surveyed agreed “It is essential that Iraq remains one nation.” These findings confirm that Iraqis want to live in a unified, multi-ethnic country.

Military efforts can only set the conditions for a political solution for the reconciliation needed to reduce violence. But if Iraqi leaders are rejecting violence and the vast majority of Iraqis seek unity, what gives? What will it take to reduce the violence?

First, the Iraqi people must reach a tipping point where they actively — not just passively — renounce the extremists creating violence and work with security forces in getting rid of those extremists. For this to happen, Iraqis must trust their security forces. So secondly, the government must deal with the serious problem of militias, which undermine Iraq’s police and military. Further, the government must continue to train those police and military forces and rein in rogue elements within these forces that contribute to violence.
. . .
[emphasis mine]

Or how about:

Nov. 8, 2006

BAGHDAD, IRAQ – Coalition Forces killed ten al-Qaeda terrorists associated with foreign fighter organizations today near Muqdadiyah and rescued a kidnapped Iraqi Policeman.

Acting upon numerous credible intelligence sources, Coalition Forces launched an operation to detain individuals running a known terrorist cell. At the objective, Coalition Forces made contact with and killed 10 terrorists carrying AK-47s, a rocket propelled grenade launcher, and a machine gun.

Once inside the building, Coalition Forces found a hostage blindfolded and shackled to the floor. The hostage revealed he was an Iraqi Policeman that was taken hostage six days before with two other Iraqi Policemen and was being held ransom to raise money for the terrorist cell. He said the two other policemen had been ransomed earlier by the terrorists.

Coalition Forces also found a 60 mm mortar system with ammunition, a sniper rifle, numerous IED components, a significant amount of ammunition and other terror related material.
. . .


Nov. 8, 2006
BAGHDAD IA, MND-B Soldiers detain 17 terrorists

Multi-National Division – Baghdad PAOBAGHDAD – Iraqi Army and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained 17 terrorists at approximately 9 p.m. Monday in central Baghdad.

The Soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, and MND-B’s 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, conducted a combined cordon and search in the Karkh neighborhood of central Baghdad to capture members of a suspected death squad.

The Soldiers apprehended 17 suspects, all of whom were identified by witnesses as members of a death squad operating in central Baghdad.

There were no reported injuries to IA or MND-B personnel or damage to their equipment.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rumsfeld's Legacy

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reminds me a lot of President Harry Truman. They both spoke the truth. They both spoke directly. And they often spoke with humor. That wasn't always popular in the 1940's and early 1950's, and it hasn't been popular in the first decade of the 21st century.

Some humor from Rumsfeld's speech at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, March 2, 2006:

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.
. . .
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].
. . .
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.

Though in the context of a smaller war front, like President Truman with the decision to drop the atomic bomb, Rumsfeld has been villified by those who do not understand the stakes in the probable loss of human life, and American life, if hard decisions are not made.

Secretary Rumsfeld's changes to the US military are impressive.

Here's part of Mario Loyola's assessment:

The transformation of a nation's military is the rarest of historical accomplishments — vested interests almost always win, leading the nation into the great danger of increasing vulnerability. As Rumsfeld likes to say, "weakness is provocative," and as the Russians learned in World War I and the French in World War II, an untransformed military can look good on paper and prove worthless on the field of battle. In this case, the vested interests are angry at Rumsfeld because they have lost so many battles in their effort to cling to a military capable of defeating a Soviet Union that no longer exists. Rumsfeld understands what his critics don't—as Charles de Gaulle said, no institution lasts unless it is constantly renewed.
. . .
What Rumsfeld has created is a fully modular, rotational "total force" that achieves division-size effects with brigade-size formations, is vastly more lethal, agile, and integrated than what we had before, and has spread its capabilities across a spectrum of possible challenges. That's how Rumsfeld has helped the country prepare for a future of unknown unknowns. We saw the results in the rapidity with which the U.S. military responded to the Indian Ocean tsunami, orchestrating almost over night one of the largest humanitarian relief operations in history. This saved countless tens of thousands from thirst, disease, and starvation in the critical early weeks after the disaster. It was totally unexpected — but we were ready.

Victor Davis Hanson had this to say about Rumsfeld's strategy in Iraq:

So we are down to his supposed responsibility for the later effort to stop the 3-year plus insurgency, whose denouement is not yet known. Rumsfeld's supposed error that drew such ire was troop levels, i.e., that he did not wish to repeat a huge presence in the manner of Vietnam, but sought to skip the 1964-1971 era morass, and go directly to the 1972-5 Vietnamization strategy of training troops, providing aid, and using air power.

I think he was right, and that most troops in Iraq today would agree. I was just talking to a Marine Lt. back from Haditha and Hit; his chief worry was not too few Americans, but rather Iraqi Security Forces insidiously expecting Americans to do their own security patrolling. Since sending in tens of thousands to do a Grozny-like smash-up is both politically impossible and antithetical to American policy, I don't see the advantage of more troops at all, especially when we will soon near 400,000 Iraqis in arms, which, together with coalition forces of ca. 150,000, would in theory provide 555,000—or more than the "peacetime" army of Saddam's. As a rule in history, it is not just the size, but the nature, rules of engagement, and mission, of armies that matter.

For the future, neither precipitous withdrawal nor a big build-up are the right solutions, the former will leave chaos, the latter will only ensure perpetual Iraqi dependency. As it is, there are too many support troops over in Iraq in compounds, who are not out with Iraqis themselves; more troops will only ensure an even bigger footprint and more USA-like enclaves. Abezaid, Casey, Petraeus, McMaster, etc. understand counter-insurgency and the need for a long-term commitment that marries political autonomy for the Iraqis with American aid, commandos, and air support. Rumsfeld supported them all.

A crucial key to victory is the belief that it is possible to succeed and then find a way to do that. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has helped the US prepare for the challenges of the 21st century. That's a legacy that deserves the nation's gratitude. It has mine.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Polls Show Fall of the Democratic Lead in the USA

That's a lead headline in the world press.

Sub-headline of O Estado de S. Paulo which serves one of the largest cities in the world (population 19 million or so in the metro area):

Encouraged, Republicans Head in to the Final Campaign of the Legislative Election.

Will we see the same election results as we did in 2002 and 2004 where the Democrats lost their early advantage in the polls? Major news outlets in international press seem to think it likely.

The only poll that counts is today. I've voted. Have you?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Metro Population Grows, But Oregonian Loses Readers

The Portland Business Journal reports that the Oregonian’s circulation figures keep decreasing.

Circulation in one year dropped:

weekday - 310,803 (down 6.8% from 333,515 in 2005--a loss of 22,700 subscribers)
Saturday - 297,303 (down 7.8% from 320,863 in 2005--a loss of 23,500 subscribers)
Sunday - 375,757 (down 4.8% from 394,992 in 2005--a loss of 19,200 subscribers)

Even though I often take the Oregonian to task for its bias, this is bad news. Especially since the Metro area is growing in population. From 1990 to 2003, Portland’s population went up 25%. Growth in the next four years is expected to average about 1.8% a year. If population grew last year by 1.8% that means the Oregonian lost more than 6.8% of its share of readers. Weekday readership should have gone up 6,000 instead of decreasing 22,700. So, in one year readership really dropped the equivalent of 8.5%.

The Oregonian, along with all old print media, is swimming against the tide of sound bites and video coverage.

It’s also going against the tide of the internet which allows people interested in more coverage on a story to go directly to original sources or to get alternative views of what happened and what it means. AP, NYT, Reuters, LA Times, Hearst are no longer the last word. Neither is the Oregonian. In fact, its dependence on the above news services, whose stories are often published on the internet the day before the Oregonian publishes them, makes it all too often a déjà vu source. Strike one.

The Oregonian is also losing young readership who, if they are interested in political and social affairs, are more likely to find their news on the internet (most of it free), in blogs or via podcasting. Strike two.

To survive the Oregonian needs to win a majority of what is left of the serious reading audience. That audience spans the political, not to mention the social and religious, spectrum.

But, the Oregonian is also losing traditional newspaper readers. Conservative readership. Military readership. Traditional religious values readership (Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons). For these readers the question is why pay to read a source that bashes or ignores your views rather than seeking to report on what is important to you. Strike three?

I’m not sure what the answer is. Perhaps affirmative action hiring to bring the percentage of reporters with conservative or traditional values up to near the equivalent percentage of conservative and traditional value people in society at large.

Perhaps bringing in commentary from liberal and conservative, secular and traditional value sources in such a way that news stories are frequently illuminated by different perspectives. As Fox News does.

Whatever the answer, the Oregonian has not found it and continues to lose readership even as the metro population grows. Not a good prognosis for its future.

Helping the Oregonian

Since the Oregonian has a hard time finding things on the internet, I thought I should help by publishing the great news photo of the response of some of our troops in Iraq to the John Kerry study-hard-or-you'll-get-stuck-in-Iraq story. These troops are bright and funny as well as being courageous. Don't we wish they were doing our political ads this season?

Yesterday the Oregonian buried the story on the last page, last column, last item, in small type in the first section. It was so hard to find that two people I talked to who take the Oregonian didn't think there was anything in the paper on the story.

Today it was upgraded to page A7, given a third of a page in regular type with a reasonable headline and two rather dull, stock photo, head shots of Sen. Kerry and Pres. Bush. This Iraq troop photo is head and shoulders above their stock photos.

The Oregonian continues to be stodgy in news reporting and in graphics. It also continues to ignore what Oregonian troops are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder if any of the troops in the photo had a Pacific Northwest connection. We'll never know because old media like the Oregonian could care less.

Hat Tip: Drudge Report (new media)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kerry Belittles U.S. Troops

American Legion to Sen. Kerry: Apologize Now

INDIANAPOLIS, October 31, 2006 - The National Commander of The American Legion called on Sen. John Kerry to apologize for suggesting that American troops in Iraq are uneducated.

“As a constituent of Senator Kerry’s I am disappointed. As leader of The American Legion, I am outraged,” said National Commander Paul A. Morin. “A generation ago, Sen. Kerry slandered his comrades in Vietnam by saying that they were rapists and murderers. It wasn’t true then and his warped view of today’s heroes isn’t true now.”

While addressing a group of college students at a campaign rally in Pasadena, CA., Monday, Kerry suggested that they receive an education or “if you don’t, you’ll get stuck in Iraq.”
“While The American Legion shares the senator’s appreciation for education, the troops in Iraq represent the most sophisticated, technologically superior military that the world has ever seen,” Morin said. “I think there is a thing or two that they could teach most college professors and campus elitists about the way the world works.

“And while we are on the topic of education, why doesn’t the senator and his comrades in Congress improve the GI Bill so all of today’s military members – reserves and guard included – can achieve the educational aspirations that the senator so highly values?” Morin said. “The senator’s false and outrageous attack was over-the-top and he should apologize now.”

The 2.7-million member American Legion,, is the nation’s largest veterans organization.

Hat Tip: Drudge Report (new media)

Monday, October 30, 2006

How's This for Fair?

Steve Mayes of the Oregonian wrote an article on the race between Rep. Darlene Hooley and challenger Mike Erickson. Here's his assessment of the Erickson campaign:

Erickson got some help a few weeks ago from the conservative Economic Freedom Fund, bankrolled by Texas homebuilder Bob Perry. The group, known for its "Swift boat" attack ads in 2004 that distorted John Kerry's military record, started running a pair of powerful anti-Hooley television commercials and mailing several negative fliers. It's unclear how much the effort, which distorts Hooley's positions on national defense and immigration, will sway voters. Those who follow politics closely see Erickson as a strong competitor who might come close but won't beat Hooley.
(emphasis mine)

Not a word of proof from Mayes backing up his “this is a fact” assertion that Erickson’s ads distort. Mayes says it, and it’s so. For him the fact that the ads were made by a group who made anti-Kerry ads in 2004 and is bankrolled by a conservative is sufficient.

Also, not a word from Mayes that Hooley’s ads might also distort.

I noted one distortion just from watching two of the ads. Erickson’s ad said Hooley missed lots of committee meetings. Hooley’s follow up ad said Erickson was lying about her because she attended almost all of her House votes. What she did was smart politicking in changing the issue to one she had a good record on, but it was a distortion of what Erickson's ad said. Apparently Mayes didn’t pick up on that or thought it wasn’t really a distortion of Erickson's criticism of Hooley.

I’m not even going to get into the personal attacks in Hooley’s ads on Erickson’s character. I admit that I have not seen all of Erickson’s ads, but I don’t remember one that attacked Hooley’s personal character--just her positions and congressional job performance.

What's unfortunate is that Mayes obviously thinks he doesn't have to give any proof that Erickson is distorting Hooley's positions. The distortions are so clear to him from his political viewpoint, he thinks its clear to his readers.

This kind of reporting based on personal opinion rather than investigation is part of why the mainstream press has a bad name. It is opinion commentary--not reporting. Masquerading it as reporting is just another indication of why Oregonian subscription rates keep slipping. If you want real news with real evidence, there are better sources.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Michael J. Embryo

Here's another YouTube standout. Thanks to ScrappleFace.

Hat Tip: George at Alamo Nation.
Poster Girl

Here's the Aussie response to the Dixie Chicks. Beccy Cole wrote this after some of her fans were unhappy when she visited and entertained Australian troops (Diggers) serving in Iraq.

Hat Tip: SaveLiberty's comment at Alamo Nation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What Are Oregonians Doing?

I have some old issues of the Oregonian from World War II. The Oregonian actually printed a servicemen’s edition which was miniaturized to be more easily sent to servicemen. That edition carried news of the war effort (which often was the front page headline story), the editorial page, some national and local news, sports news, and, of course, the comics.

A servicemen’s edition wouldn’t even be considered today. A main feature of the WWII edition was news of what US and allied troops were doing. But one rarely hears from today's Oregonian what US and allied troops, not to mention Oregon troops, are actually doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. From the news coverage one assumes they are doing, well, nothing--except to die now and again.

Journalists didn't cover WWII, as opposed to Iraq and Afghanistan, because it was safe. In fact the WWII issue that I highlight in the photo reports on the death of war correspondent William Makin, who “died Tuesday of wounds suffered while reporting United States army attacks in the Cherbourg peninsula.”

If there are modern “war correspondents”, none of them seems to write well enough to get a story published very often on "United States army attacks" in Iraq and Afghanistan. It looks like war correspondent covering US troops is no longer the place where the media puts ace reporters. If you want a quick trip to oblivion, sign up for that job.

The place for quick advancement is to be embedded, not with US troops, but with terrorists and insurgents. When they capture and kill, it gets headlines. When our troops capture and kill, it doesn’t even merit a yawn.

Except to the folks back home. I have yet to talk to an Oregonian who says they would not be interested to hear what Oregon servicemen and women are encountering and accomplishing. I bet none of those interested Oregonians would be turned off if the reports were published in a daily section on the front page.

To the Oregonian: How many of the enemy have our troops captured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan today?

It looks like the people not interested in US (and Oregon) troops are reporters and editors. What a sad commentary.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Elegant Plan to Leave Iraq

Jonah Goldberg’s recent column gives an elegant, face saving plan for retreat in Iraq.

If that’s what you are aiming for.

Goldberg's plan:

. . . I think we should ask the Iraqis to vote on whether U.S. troops should stay.

Polling suggests that they want us to go. But polling absent consequences is a form of protest. With accountability, minds may change and appreciation for the U.S. presence might grow.

If Iraqis voted “stay,” we’d have a mandate to do what’s necessary to win, and our ideals would be reaffirmed. If they voted “go,” our values would also be reaffirmed, and we could leave with honor. And pretty much everyone would have to accept democracy as the only legitimate expression of national will.

If we do use the Goldberg plan, give it a little while, and we can recycle it for an elegant, face saving plan to leave Afghanistan--and any other area where terrorists cause violence (like the Europe of Spain and Britain).

Goldberg and some other conservatives seem to forget the reason we are in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

Do you remember? Afghanistan had Al Qaeda training camps. President Bush said not only would we go after Al Qaeda but after anyone who harbored Al Qaeda. We were going to take the fight to the places where Al Qaeda (and others like them) were--not just wait until they attacked before we responded.

So, is Goldberg saying that the effort to take out their bases before they strike in the US is not a good plan?

To be fair Goldberg gives an out. If the Iraqi people vote that they want us to stay, we will stay. It will be a publicity coup. Though how that will change even publicity for other than the few months any poll is good for he doesn’t say.

Goldberg assumes that we are in Iraq primarily for the benefit of Iraqis. So, of course, if they don’t think the present plan is good, we should leave.

But, aren’t we there primarily for our benefit?

Like occupying Japan after WWII. We did try to benefit Japan. We helped them frame a democratic form of government and get their society and economy started again. But, we weren’t there primarily to help the Japanese. That’s why we didn’t run a plebiscite in Japan on whether they wanted us to stay or not. We were there to help them restructure so that they wouldn’t be a threat to us (or to the rest of Asia). It has worked for six decades and looks like it may go a bit longer.

Worked in Germany too.

Granted it may not work in Iraq. Or Afghanistan. We may have to resort to the Derbyshire model of “smack and run”. But does the price we have paid so far in dead and wounded Americans show that we have made the wrong choice?

In World War II we lost over 400,000 military (mostly men) who never got the chance to live a post-war life, not to mention the 670,000 wounded. That’s over a million casualties.

Why were Americans, both average citizens and leaders, willing to pay that high price? Because Japan and Germany were imminent threats to take over the U.S.? No, it was because they were long term threats.

The WWII generation believed that immense sacrifice against those able to carry out even a relatively small long distance hit (more died in 9/11 than at Pearl Harbor) was worth the price of more than a million men dead or wounded--not to mention the massive disruption of society by the draft, rationing and turning industrial output from domestic products to war materials. In WWII everything in U.S. society was focused on winning the war at whatever cost.

Jonah Goldberg believes the cost in Iraq has been too high:

The failure to find weapons of mass destruction is a side issue. The WMD fiasco was a global intelligence failure, but calling Saddam Hussein’s bluff after 9/11 was the right thing to do. Washington’s more important intelligence failure lay in underestimating what would be required to rebuild and restore post-Hussein Iraq. The White House did not anticipate a low-intensity civil war in Iraq, never planned for it and would not have deemed it in the U.S. interest to pay this high a price in prestige, treasure and, of course, lives.

If 2,700 military deaths in Iraq are enough to make us blink (the last time it was a bit under 60,000 for Viet Nam), our problem will not be the high price of security. It will be the lack of vision on the part of political leaders, the media and pundits like Jonah Goldberg about how important it is to avert a terrorist threat.

Fortress America was passé even in the 1940's. It’s insanity in the nuclear age.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Where Do They Find These Silly Commentaries?

The Oregonian ran an opinion piece by a guy who says he's a conservative--Paul Mulshine--who writes an opinion column for a New Jersey newspaper.

Maybe he is a conservative, but he doesn’t write like one in this column. For one thing he claims to be able to tell who is and is not a conservative by whether they work in sales or not. A strange claim on the face of it and one that belongs more to the “I’m king of the world” club rather than to conservatives.

Mulshine's column trashes Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. Not for any of their positions but because Hannity and O’Reilly do commercials on their radio talk shows and Fox News doesn’t see a problem with that.

But that Freudian slip got me thinking about why, as a conservative, I am appalled by the conduct of the people at Fox. It's not that their reporting fails to meet the "fair and balanced" standard to which the network claims to aspire. Truth is, nobody meets that standard. That's fine with me. A smart reader can weigh one point of view against the other and come up with a close approximation of the truth.

No, what bothers me about Fox News is its ethics code. It doesn't seem to have one. Consider the two stars of the Fox News TV lineup, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Both do something that is so far outside the ethical boundaries for journalists that it isn't even listed in most ethics codes: They do commercials.

Hmm. I think I remember William F. Buckley, Jr., saying how he would be willing to have his recommendation used in an ad (“shill” in Mr. Mulshine’s vocab) for a typewriter company and a peanut butter company because he liked their products so much. So much for his ethics! And an obvious painting of himself outside the conservative circle by being willing to do a commercial.

What does doing commercials have to do with being or not being conservative?

But after dinner when I turn on my TV there is that same pitchman posing as a journalist. Sean Hannity is not a conservative. He just plays one on TV. The same goes for Bill O'Reilly. The man who claims to work in a "no-spin zone" in the evenings spends his afternoon not just spinning but pitching.

None of this would bother me if these characters didn't purport to be conservatives. We conservatives have principles. We don't say things because people pay us to say them. We say things because we believe in them.
[emphasis mine]

Oh, really. Doesn't Mr. Mulshine accept pay for writing his column? Using the above definition all those who get paid for what they write or say aren’t true conservatives.

Mr. Mulshine may be a conservative, but he can’t think his way through a fruit loop.

My preferred conservative commentators are Mark Steyn (new line) and William F. Buckley, Jr. (old line) rather than Hannity or O'Reilly, but it’s crazy to criticize a political talk show host for doing commercials. Commercial sales and journalism are intimately wed.

Does Mr. Mulshine ever watch TV news or read magazines or even his own New Jersey newspaper? They are chuck full of commercials and ads--which pay the salaries of their journalists. Without commercials and ads there would be no forum for Mulshine’s fulminations--unless he wrote for free like bloggers.

Hmm. Apparently bloggers are the only true conservatives writing.

Where does the Oregonian find these silly commentaries?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Political Demonizing Bites the Oregonian

The Oregonian supports passage of Measure 42 prohibiting the use of credit scores as a basis of setting insurance rates. But it can't conjure up even a single word of praise for the Measure's chief sponsor (Bill Sizemore) and chief funder (Loren Parks). Actually Parks doesn't even rate a mention.

The best the big O can do is call Sizemore a "controversial activist".

Insurers have poured almost $4 million into the campaign to defeat Measure 42, which would forbid them from using a customer's credit score to set rates. They cite many reasons for opposing the measure, but their favorite two words seem to be "Bill Sizemore," the controversial activist who wrote the initiative.

Though the editorial notes that Sizemore has few public allies in the campaign, there's not a word about his good sense, courage or hard work on Measure 42. Instead a minor player who seems to have had no part in getting the measure on the ballot, the Consumers Union, gets the credit for raising "legitimate questions" and doing "meticulous research".

In the lonely campaign in favor of 42, Sizemore is joined by the Consumers Union, which raises legitimate questions about the accuracy, lack of transparency and apparent unfairness of using credit scores as a tool to set insurance prices. The nonprofit organization's meticulous research points to a troubling problem with credit scores: They appear to disproportionately penalize ethnic minorities and underprivileged people.

The Consumers Union may be an ally, but there is nothing from them in the Voters’ Pamphlet or in any high profile campaign. Have they even contributed any money?

Actually the only other public ally filing in the Voters’ Pamphlet is, eek!, Loren Parks.

Can any good thing come from Bill Sizemore and Loren Parks? Actually, yes. But, the demonizing of political opponents has a real impact.

The Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, in their bid to bring Sizemore down, may be responsible for bringing Measure 42 down. In fact, if they had their way, the Measure wouldn’t even be on the ballot because Sizemore shouldn’t have the right to participate in the initiative process. Loren Parks is also on their “bad guy” list.

In 2002, an Oregon jury found Bill Sizemore guilty of racketeering related to petition fraud. His current Measure 41 Tax Scam campaign is managed by the Oregon chapter of FreedomWorks, and almost entirely funded by Loren Parks. FreedomWorks is a national special interest group funded by oil companies and Big Tobacco. Loren Parks is a Nevada businessman and professed hypnotist. It’s hard to see how this trio of Sizemore, FreedomWorks, and Loren Parks has the best interests of Oregon at heart.

The Oregonian also has its share in this. That's why its editors can't bring themselves to praise the two people most responsible for a ballot measure they support.

It’s time to stop demonizing people and just agree or disagree with ideas and specific issues. The Measure 42 campaign is a case in point about how poisoning the atmosphere of political discourse victimizes good ideas.

Measure 42 is similar to legislation passed in Oregon in 2003 for existing policy holders, who are the vast majority of policy holders. Did your insurance rates rocket through the ceiling? Mine didn’t.

Will adding new policy holders or those who change insurance companies to the mass of policy holders already shielded cause any significant change in rates? Not likely.

I agree with “lonely” Bill Sizemore, Loren Parks and the Oregonian. Vote yes on Measure 42.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Is Democracy too Dicey?

Steven K. Green’s argument against initiative petitions in today’s Oregonian presents a number of troubling electoral standards.

Green is a specialist (law professor and director of the Willamette Center for Law and Government at Willamette University College of Law). He thinks specialists are the people who should make laws. Why?

Well, “choices can be confusing”.

The choices can be confusing, and most voters have limited access to information and time to study the proposed laws. Although the state Voters' Pamphlet will contain statements by proponents and opponents of the various measures, they usually offer more heat than light. Studies indicate that most voters make up their minds about initiatives at the last minute and often base their decisions on gut-level reactions to key words or concepts associated with particular initiatives, not on the language itself.

Of course, that’s an argument against democracy itself. Most voters don’t have a lot of information on candidates either. Gut-level reactions to candidates are, with few exceptions, more important than candidate positions on issues.

As to “heat” vs. “light” in the Voters’ Pamphlet, initiative petition arguments are light years ahead of candidate arguments. You gotta be really good to figure out even a candidate’s general political philosophy in the Voters’ Pamphlet, let alone a specific position on even the most major of issues. If we used Prof. Green’s standards, we would avoid the confusing process of actually electing public officials. That could be better done by a committee of specialists.

Green has another concern--these laws are drafted without “popular input”.

The problem with all initiatives, whether written locally or elsewhere, is that they are drafted without the transparency or popular input that we demand as a prerequisite for all of our other laws. The language is presented as a fait accompli -- take it or leave it.

Uh, I hate to tell Prof. Green this, but laws passed by government agencies come to the public without even that much choice. It’s always “take it”--never even a chance to “leave it”. Except, if the public can use another great tool of modern democracy: the referendum. But, one assumes that Green would have the same problems with referendum as he does with initiative petition. The voter cannot be trusted to understand budgetary, policy or legal implications.

The greater concern with lawmaking by initiative, however, is the law of unintended consequences. Oregon voters may be pretty bright and understand what a particular measure truly says. But that doesn't mean we necessarily appreciate the budgetary or policy implications for a measure or how it affects existing law.

Prof. Green believes a better way to discover the possible implications of a law is by “research and public hearings”.

It's the job of legislators to uncover the intended and unintended impact of a proposed law through research and public hearings and then, we hope, to refine the proposal's language to reduce the negative impact. This process is bypassed through the initiative system.

Elections are “public hearings”. The difference between election public hearings and the ones held by the legislature is that only an infinitesimal fraction of citizens are consulted when the legislature writes a law. And most of the citizens heard are from organized special interest groups.

When’s the last time someone in charge of a legislative hearing asked you how a proposed law would affect you? By contrast, 1.8 million citizens were directly consulted on initiative petition legislation in 2004. Sure, it was a yes or no question. But, yes or no is better than not being asked at all.

Oregon voters may not understand budgetary implications, but they can understand the implications of a law on their day-to-day lives. That’s something each voter knows better than even specialists like Prof. Green. Which is why the initiative petition and referendum processes were adopted by Oregon voters in 1902. They also voted in:

. . . Direct Primary Law (1904), extension of initiative and referendum to local laws, city home rule, indictment by grand jury, taxes on telephone, telegraph, and railroad companies (all 1906), a recall amendment to the State Constitution, the Corrupt Practices Act (both 1908), three-fourths verdict in civil cases, employers' liability act (both 1910), women's suffrage, prohibition on private employment of convict labor, eight-hour day on public works (all 1912), presidential preference primary (1913), prohibition, and an eight-hour day and room ventilation for women workers (both 1914). Other laws abolished capital punishment, the infamous Oregon Boot, a heavy manacle attached to legs of prisoners, and required publication of the Oregon Blue Book.

Not a bad list of achievements for non-specialist voters who didn’t “necessarily appreciate the budgetary or policy implications for a measure or how it affects existing law.”

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Where Is Investigative Reporting?

Two bloggers have managed to track down a source that none of the national media could find. Apparently no professional news reporter had any questions about the identity of the ABC source for Rep. Foley's IM's and whether that person, like Monica Lewinsky, was legally an adult. Or, if they did, they couldn't muster the savvy or resources that two bloggers did.

Blogger William Kerr at Passionate America and Ms. Underestimated cracked a story using internet investigation and native intelligence.

Kudos to them for investigative reporting that no one else did.

Where's ABC's professionalism? Do they research their sources before broadcasting a story? One wonders how ABC got the information. At this point it doesn't look like ABC tried to find or interview Jordan Edmund, the young man who received the IM's.

It's an ill wind that blows no one any good. At the least this scandal may result in a system that better protects young people like pages and interns. A system that interviews them periodically and monitors those who have access to them would be a good start.

But, the question is raised about the lack of journalistic competency in the mass media. The blogosphere keeps showing that the mass media emperorers have no clothes.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jack Higgins Backdated to WWII

Political cartoonist Jack Higgins of the Chicago Sun-Times recently shared his view of the high price in US military casualties in Iraq.

If Jack Higgins had been doing political cartoons during WWII, he might have done a cartoon about its 291,000 US military deaths like this:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

TV Critics and Snoozeramas

Do you ever wonder about TV/film critics? Every once in awhile they seem to like something regular people like, but often they seem to delight in being contrary.

One thinks of famous errors in judgment. Like critics of the day panning Buster Keaton’s masterpiece, The General. (Film goers of the day also failed to appreciate it fully.)

The San Jose Mercury-Herald's critic, Josephine Hughston, dismissed the new film, writing that "it falls far below some of Keaton's other productions. . . .There is a feeble plot of a sort and considerable rather pointless comedy, although some of it is really funny."

I remember seeing a tv newscast with a review of one of Steve Martin’s movies. The reviewer ended by saying that the movie was too strong a dose of Martin and wasn’t funny. Then they played a clip from the film. It was funny, and you could hear people on the set laughing in the background as it ended. The reviewer sheepishly said something like, “Well, parts are funny, but a whole movie of it is not."

A review like the two above was recently published by Chicago Sun-Times TV critic, Doug Elfman, on The Path to 9/11. Here’s his opening:

I once sat in a car forever waiting for my mom to come out of a grocery store. I thought that was the definition of "interminable." I had no idea "The Path to 9/11" was in my future.

This is what happens during 4 1/2 lonnnng hours of "Path." Terrorists talk about killing Americans for Allah. FBI and other security officials try to track them but fail. 9/11 happens.

You don't say.

This is the most anticlimactic, tension-free movie in the history of terrorist TV.

Though other people found The Path to 9/11 "riveting", one wonders what sort of historical piece might keep Elfman’s attention. Probably nothing about a historical event that he happens to know the outcome of. One can imagine his reaction to a movie about D-Day.

Germans talk about killing Americans for Der Fuehrer. Soldiers land. Lots get killed. D-Day happens.

You don’t say.

Or his reaction to a movie about the Civil War.

Southern generals talk about killing Yankees. Battles take place. Yanks and Rebs get killed. Appomattox happens.

You don’t say.

I wouldn’t compare The Path to 9/11 to Keaton’s The General. But, I would compare Doug Elfman’s lapse in critical judgment to Josephine Hughston’s. Apparently ABC won it’s time slot on the two hour conclusion of The Path to 9/11. So, it wasn’t the snoozerama for most viewers that it was for Elfman.

It's one thing to point out flaws in the presentation, facts or logic of the docudrama. But, Elfman's need to claim it was 4-1/2 hours of boredom is not supported by millions of Americans who tuned in and kept watching for 2-1/2 hours one night and 2 hours the next night. Elfman's complaint of being bored says more about him than about The Path to 9/11.

Maybe he needs to deal with the scar he carries from waiting for his mom to come out of the grocery store.

Hat Tip: Always Right Usually Correct

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Path to 9/11 Update

Update: After watching both parts of The Path to 9/11, I still think it gave a good understanding of the Islamic terrorist threat facing the US and the world. It was also riveting entertainment.

But, its treatment of women was questionable. Though it showed border agent Diana Dean as very smart and competent, and insinuated that a woman policeman in the Philippines was the brains behind getting Yousef's computer (I can't find any factual evidence to corroborate that), it painted women at high levels in U.S. government as bull-headed and unable to understand wider issues (Madeline Albright), spiteful and arrogant (Ambassador Bodine), and looking to a man to make clear judgments and act in time of crisis (Condoleezza Rice). Whatever one thinks of the political views of these women, they are not the incompetents they were presented as being in this docudrama.

Judgment not strong suit for more than a few

I don’t usually comment on Steve Duin’s Oregonian column because he tends to present more of an emotional side to issues. But, his latest column raises important issues about sitting Oregon judges and judicial candidates.

I should explain that until reading the column I had no knowledge of either candidate. My reaction is to the thinking of Duin and three Oregon judges he quotes.

Duin faults Leslie Roberts, candidate for circuit judge, for pointing out to the Elections Division that her opponent, Youlee Yim You, did not meet the statutory residency requirements for the position.

As a result, only one candidate remains for that seat on the bench, a woman who filed to run at the Aug. 29 deadline because she alone was privy to You's residency dilemma:

Leslie Roberts.

It's hard to know which is more troublesome, Roberts' decision to rat out her neighbor and gain the advantage in an unobstructed run to the bench, or her brusque lack of remorse.

"It's a competitive process. Everyone has to play by the rules," she said.

As cloak and dagger as Duin makes it sound, Roberts wasn't the only person "privy to You's residency dilemma". Duin admits that Roberts raised the residency issue with the governor’s office months prior.

Because they are neighbors, Roberts knew You wasn't living in Oregon in August 2003, moving back to the state only in early 2004. She said she tried to warn Gov. Ted Kulongoski's staff last spring when both she and You were interviewed as potential replacements after Judge Jan Wyers retired.

Since You was appointed rather than Roberts, Duin thinks is unseemly that Roberts considered a run for the position in an actual election.

But You, not Roberts, won the gubernatorial appointment, to considerable applause, leaving Roberts to plot her rev . . . uh, next move.

Is Duin for real? Isn’t politics, even judicial politics, about pointing out how you are best qualified for an office? And, if your opponent has a major disqualifier, why is it wrong to point that out? I guess Duin believes if you lose an appointment (or an election), you should never consider running for that office again. Otherwise it’s “revenge”. So much for Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

What about the competency of the governor’s office? Not only do they not vet candidates they appoint, they don’t bother to worry about statutory requirements even when they’re advised. All that matters is that at the time of appointment lots of people applaud the appointee.

Duin is also upset by the fact that Roberts filed for You’s seat (rather than another seat with nine candidates) just after receiving solid proof that You did not meet residency requirements.

On Aug. 28, the day before the filing deadline, Roberts called elections officials in Los Angeles County and secured her "smoking gun": Youlee You voted in California's October 2003 elections, meaning You was still a resident of California at the time.

Roberts promptly filed for You's seat at the deadline, then challenged her opponent's qualifications in a 12-page complaint to the Elections Division.

In her earnest pursuit of a judicial position, Roberts could easily have filed for the open Circuit Court seat, as nine other candidates have. But she cheerfully admits, "If she (You) was unqualified, there was one seat for which no qualified candidate had filed, and a seat for which a great number of people had filed. That's a decision anyone would make the same way."

Apparently if a candidate points out a political opponent's flaws the least the candidate can do is be stupid about it and make sure to run against people other than the person who blundered.

Duin's recommendations seem to be that Roberts should either:

1. have gone public and filed a formal Elections Complaint before she had hard evidence in hand (not the best way to show either good judicial character or understanding) so that other candidates could have got in on the easy race too or

2. not have filed and just left an open seat with no candidate. (If a candidate believes that no one filling the position they seek is a better option than they, the candidate probably should not seek public office).

Duin also believes that a judge who can’t find, understand and apply an Oregon statute on a fairly simple issue (residency requirements) is better qualified to be a judge than someone who finds and understands what the law says.

Roberts apparently understood the rules -- particularly the rules of punctuation -- and the details of You's living arrangements better than her neighbor, the governor's office, and state and county elections' officials.

Residency requirements for candidates in Oregon vary widely depending on the office they're seeking. The statute for Circuit Court judges is clumsily worded and open to debate, but a key comma dictates the candidate must have maintained residence in the state for the three years "immediately prior" to filing for election.

If Judge You really had trouble finding and understanding the residency requirement for her position, it doesn’t give much hope for poor schmucks who find themselves in her court pleading a really complex case.

Duin noted the response to You’s forced resignation:

On Monday, You announced her resignation and said, "I am overwhelmed by the support I've received from colleagues, attorneys, judges and complete strangers," she said. "My phone is ringing off the hook."

Duin quotes Circuit Judge Jean Maurer, Judge Keith Meisenheimer, and Judge Michael McShane as being “appalled”, finding “character issues”, and “cruelty” in Roberts’ action.

One doesn’t necessarily expect clarity of thought from a newspaper columnist, but when sitting judges find presenting the truth (whether evidence is found on the final day of filing or not) and applying the law “appalling” and “cruel”, it’s pretty clear that judgment is not their strong suit. Boy are we in trouble if they are representative of the kind of judges sitting on Oregon benches.

Monday, September 11, 2006

ABC's The Path to 9/11

ABC’s The Path to 9/11 is a brilliant dramatization that blends documentary aspects with the kind of storytelling that makes complex events and movements understandable.

How does one tie together diverse attacks and events into an understanding of the 9/11 terrorist attack? The Path to 9/11 does it through the use of visual imagery, action and amazingly sparse dialogue to represent well known events and complicated issues underlying those events.

One sees brilliance and courageous dedication on the part of ordinary people.

Some like Ishtiak, the Pakistani informant who helped the CIA capture terrorist mastermind Ramzi Yousef, risk life and family because they believe that terrorist targeting of innocents is neither true to Islam or to Jihad. The divisions and struggle within Islam about whether moderates or terrorists best represent Islam is touched upon here.

Other "ordinary people" show insight and initiative just doing their job--like border patrol agent Diana Dean who spotted Ahmed Ressem on his way to blow up LAX.

One sees the dedication, courage and determination of many FBI, CIA and other security/police agents in tracking down terrorists and foiling their plans. FBI agent John O'Neill and Philippine police (who find Yousef's laptop) are representative.

One also sees the wavering at high levels of government by officials concerned both to protect civil liberties and to avoid costly political mistakes. Madeline Albright is shown explaining why Pakistani officials were tipped off on an attempt to take out Bin Laden in Afghanistan by the use of missile attack. The Clinton administration didn’t want Pakistan to think the missiles were coming from India and provoke a military response against India. The fallout was that someone in Pakistan tipped Bin Laden off, and he got away before the missiles hit.

Janet Reno’s Waco fiasco provoked a conservative response at high government levels to avoid risk taking in dealing with violent groups. President Clinton faced domestic criticism and foreign outrage for the bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan.

The lesson that high government officials learned was that action should only come when there was certainty--which all too often meant either not to act or to act too late.

The Path to 9/11 raises an immensely important political issue. If we only support those who make no mistakes, how will we ever encourage and sustain a generation of leaders who can take on and win the kinds of global challenges that the WWII generation faced and won or the Cold War generations faced and won?

The rise of unrelenting criticism and hatred of the other party’s leadership when they make mistakes is an infection in the body politic that will destroy initiative and intelligence in government service. Not to mention democracy itself as innovative thinking that does not immediately succeed is politically punished and snuffed out.

Thomas Anthony Casoria--Hero

Thomas Anthony Casoria was killed by Al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001.

Tommy was only 29. He was a firefighter with the New York Fire Department, Engine Company 22. He lived his life in direct opposition to the values of the terrorists. He died trying to save lives.

Tommy responded to the call for help in Tower One of the World Trade Center. Here's what one of his cousins, Jo-Ann Casoria, wrote:

Tommy absolutely loved his job and he loved sharing stories of his workdays with his older brother, Carlo, also a firefighter.


Tommy radioed in his location twice after Tower Two fell. He and two of his "brothers," Vinny Kane and Mike Elferis, were carrying a paraplegic down the stairwell, when a call came in that another firefighter needed aid. Tommy answered that call, as he did many others.

Tommy was engaged to be married. Though he never got the chance to spend those happy honeymoon years with his fiancee, Terri, or raise a family, he left a legacy of love and friendship along with his heroism.

One of Tommy's friends, Richard Vitale, wrote:

Let me tell you about Tommy. This man was the funniest guy I ever worked with. It was always a blast. Tommy could simulate anyone's voice with great detail. I never worked with anyone like him. What a great guy! Tommy knew what was right and what was wrong. He never crackled under peer pressure. Even when he tried to work for me for Thanksgiving. He stood strong. That was some reaction we got from the Truck, wasnt it, Tom. Maguire got red as a tomato. I remember when he told me he was going to get married. He was so happy and in Love. What a big smile he had on his face. I teased him about "dont do it", however,I thought what a lucky man to be in love this much. Tommy was respected and loved by everyone.

The loss of Thomas Anthony Casoria is not only felt by his fiancee, family, friends and co-workers, but by his country. His heroism and willingness to sacrifice his life for others is an inspiration.

To honor other heros and victims go to we will never forget--2996: honoring the 9/11 victims.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Oops! My Bad. New info on vegetative state.

Scientists who assured us of the ethics of making life and death judgments on patients in a vegetative state are now not quite so sure.

AP starts out:

Advanced brain scanning uncovered startling signs of awareness in a woman in a vegetative state, British scientists reported Thursday - a finding that complicates one of medicine's ethical minefields.

It's an ethical minefield because lots of people in vegetative states have been treated as subhuman not capable of understanding or of feeling pain.

Slavery was an ethical minefield for those who thought the enslaved (barbarians, blacks, native populations) were not fully human.

Treatment of animals is an ethical minefield for those who believe animals don't feel pain in the same way as humans so it isn't real pain.

It's an ethical minefield for those who sat back and watched Terri Schiavo die of dehydration.

It's the first step towards an "Oops! My Bad." for those who are certain she and others like her are no longer there and feel no pain physically or emotionally.

A new study, using new techniques, has found that a woman in a vegetative state responds like you and me when given a task of imagining doing something.

Owen and colleagues contend their fMRI experiment showed the car-crash victim had some preserved conscious awareness despite her vegetative state.

How could they tell? First, they checked that she could process speech. Upon being told "there was milk and sugar in the coffee," the fMRI showed brain regions reacting the same in the woman and in healthy volunteers.

Then came the big test. Owen told the woman to perform a mental task - to imagine herself playing tennis and walking through her house. Motor-control regions of her brain lit up like they did in the healthy people he compared with her.

"There is no other explanation for this than that she has intentionally decided to involve herself in the study and do what we asked when we asked," Owen said in an interview.

But, until there is irrefutable evidence that all vegetative state patients respond in a similar way, some scientists don't want to give the benefit of the doubt to patients.

Other scientists say that's not clear-cut.

The results are "not totally convincing of consciousness," neuroscientist Lionel Naccache of INSERM, France's national science institute, wrote in a review in Science. He cautioned that the woman's injuries weren't as massive as those of most vegetative-state patients.

One wonders why Mr. Naccache is looking for "totally convincing" evidence. Maybe it's a scientist thing.

But one hopes that doctors, legislators (like our own Sen. Wyden who didn't take seriously the position of handicapped rights groups in the Terri Schiavo case) and judges (maybe even the Supreme Court) will take note. And maybe have the character to at least say, "Oops! My bad." for wrong decisions in the past.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Or would you rather be a shrew?

Sometimes sensitivity training has its funny moments. Take the Oregonian's editorial yesterday approving changing the name of Squaw Creek to the more "graceful" Sru Creek--pronounced "Shrew" Creek.

"Squaw," for instance, found on hundreds of streams, buttes, hills, meadows and other geographical features throughout the West (including, at one time, 89 creeks in Oregon) is one of those names that doesn't live up to contemporary standards of courtesy. Many Native American women see it as disrespectful, the equivalent of a stinging slap wherever it is found on the map.

We've argued for years that this derogatory word has to go, even at a cost of inconveniencing or disorienting many Oregonians. And, in 2001, the Oregon Legislature agreed it shouldn't be used in public place names. The U.S. Forest Service has worked painstakingly with tribes to find a range of graceful substitutes. After considerable back and forth, the Oregon Geographic Names Board recommended a host of changes to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

Recently, the national board approved the re-naming of Squaw Creek, two of its tributaries and Squaw Lake in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. These will now be known as Sru Creek and Sru Lake, meaning "grandmother" in one Native American language. Even though the word is usually pronounced "shrew," which could give this switch a different cast in English, this appears to be a good fit.

If popular meaning of a pronunciation doesn't matter, why not change the name to Skuah Creek--a possible graceful variation on the name for the beautiful arctic bird?

I think it's fine to change a name that is offensive, but it's laughable to change it to a name that's sure to be taken as more offensive than the original. I mean would you rather be called a shrew or a squaw?

The Oregonian not only thinks sru/shrew graceful, but a "good fit".

Most times one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry at the contortions in reasoning the editorial staff goes through to get to the desired end. This time it's just clearer which to do.

Along the same line: Ken at Upper Left Coast recently published a good post on Oregonian contortions bemoaning partisanship in state decisions (especially by Democrat Bill Bradbury), but pedestaling judges as a bastian of nonpartisanship.