A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

October! ....and the Unplumbable Depth of Grief

Although I am a friend to anyone who wishes it, I am no one's son, no one's brother, no one's husband, no one's father, and no one's uncle. Since the 20th century, and the death of my parents, I have been stripped entirely of all the most obvious social and familial relations. It's still a strange feeling to be merely me, and nothing else--rather like dropping in to visit from Mars.

I used to love October. The first day with cool crisp, dry air, unfathomably clear blue skys, and blazing hot sunshine has always been, as my stars incline, a summons to new adventure. So many hopeful changes, all of which were fun, but none permanent, began for me in October. So many adventures and journeys started with that crisp dry air. And so many gipsy days, owning little and travelling fast, took place under those clear skys.

That first crisp, cool-aired day came today--a day early. But now it is the first messenger of a vivid grief that matured when the leaves were golden six years ago, just before they fell. The grief of officially identifying my father's body, with the deep bruises of the unsuccessful reviving shocks still livid on his chest, for the funeral director.

What I said, as I recall it, was, "That, indeed, is William Marshall." No more. And me and my iron willed mother moved on to the room with the tufted leather chairs, the elaborate smell of floral perfume, and the faint organ music in the background where we signed all the dreary papers necessary for the disposal of the body.

We went to buy the niche for their ashes the same day, in the old city cemetary glorious with fall hues and within eyeshot of the Emergency Room where my father died, and the nursing home and hospice where so many of my parents' friends passed through on their way to graves in that very same cemetary.

Thirteen months later, the first of the strokes felled my mother and tossed her down the basement stairs. I still walk down them, once a week, to do laundry.

She was alone. By main force of will she dragged herself up to the living room chair, where I found her, groggy, the next morning. I had not planned to come over, but stopped on impulse.

She and I went through the agonizing routine from the hospital to the nursing home and back again. She endured stroke after stroke, losing more function at every turn, until her final days, six weeks later, in the hospice.

She was terrified of the coming New Millenium, of all the stories that the computers were going to crash and foul up the entire world. And she finally died somewhere between the last hour of 1999 and the first hour of 2000, as the hoopla and firecrackers and music stuttered out of the ever running television in the hospice room.

And then I had to go through the whole process again: identifying the body, signing the papers in the same funeral home, and consigning her ashes to the same niche within eyeshot of all the scenes of the drama.

I am still the student of fine spiritual teachers. You can read about them here, here, and here. But I see them generally only once or twice a year, and one of them, the most important, I haven't seen for a number of lifetimes (which I DON'T, by the way, remember at all--to forstall needless questions) and am looking forward to renewing the connection which I presume was once there.

He is an extraordinary young fellow who was escaping from Tibet to India as my mother died. Word that he had turned up on the Dalai Lama's doorstep came on the evening of my mother's funeral.

Just thinking about all my fine teachers, and particularly His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, uplifts me and eases the burden of grief that I, and all of us, will carry until the development of our insight erases the causes of all griefs for good.

But until that glorious conclusion in whatever lifetime in the future, October will still tease and haunt and taunt me.

Om Mani Padme Hung! Karmapa khyen-no!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Low and Slow and Under the Radar: The Future of American Politics

Once upon a time, there was a man called Dick Nixon who, after a devastating defeat as Republican candidate for the Governor of California in 1962, vowed that the Press wasn't going to have him to kick around any more.

But politics was his life, and for six solid years he ate rubber chicken from sea to shining sea, fundraising, speechmaking, glad-handing, and schmoozing with the Faithful in little Republican enclaves everywhere from Portland to Dubuque to San Diego.

Two years after Dick's political career was obliterated, his party lost in an avalanche of rejection by voters of the notion that "extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice." But old Dick soldiered on, pressing the flesh, praising the footsoliders in Republican candidacy everywhere, and picking up political IOU after political IOU.

And--lo and behold!--by 1968 Nixon Was The One!.....The President of the United States.

I received the following e-mail yesterday from Howard Dean's organization, Democracy For America:

"Dear Joseph,

"Lots of people think the Finance Director only raises money. But part of my job here at DFA is to give it away, too. This Thursday we will file an end-of-quarter report with the Federal Election Commission--but I wanted to report to you first. This is your organization, your vehicle for change--and here is a brief recap of what you have accomplished.

"By Thursday we will have:

-- Written checks totaling more than half a million dollars directly to over 350 fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidates who stand up for what they believe in

-- Channeled over a million dollars in contributions to candidates like John Kerry, Tom Daschle and Joe Hoeffel by asking you to contribute directly to them

-- Trained over 2,000 organizers in 22 sessions held around the country

-- Sent Governor Dean to nearly every state in the union where he has given hundreds of speeches on behalf of good candidates running for every level of office

"Against the odds and with a lot of insiders counting you out, you have created the biggest leadership PAC in American politics. And as you can see, we are throwing our weight around.

"Now, a challenge: we can still write checks to candidates for another $200,000 before Thursday. This money will make a difference in crucial races across the country. But we need another $100,000 to do it.
That could be more than $200,000 this week alone--please consider a last-minute contribution of whatever you can afford right now:


"Every dollar will make a difference, and every dollar will go directly to candidates. Those who contribute for this deadline drive will receive a special update just after the deadline passes. What we've done together in these short months has been unprecedented. We will be doing even more in the weeks ahead. Thank you for making all this possible.

Lindsay Lewis
National Finance Director
Democracy for America"

It really wouldn't surprise me if they raised that $100, 000 by tomorrow. One of the most compelling, though largely unnoticed, moments of this year's Democratic Convention was the overwhelming ovation given to Howard Dean by the entire hall the moment he stepped on the platform. No one in the Democratic Party is better or more widely liked, and, as you can see above, he still has the charisma to lead the people who appreciate him most to achieve extraordinary things.

You don't see the Clintons, the Gores, the Liebermans, the Gephardts, the Kusinichs, and the Sharptons doing anything of the kind these days. Nor collecting the IOU's from the Heartland that come with them.

Once upon a time there was a defeated Presidential candidate named Howard Dean....

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Belmont Club's "Good News" Follow-up: Iran

The invaluable Wretchard over at Belmont Club has an excellent discussion going about the issues raised in my "Good News" post below:

"The Closing Door

"Caroline Glick argues in the Sept 23 edition of the "Jerusalem Post" that the sole remaining hope of preventing the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is to put the ball in the air and hope for a miracle basket, an act of desperation that would rank with Jerry West's 60-foot buzzer beater in the 1970 NBA playoffs."....

"President Bush, in an interview on Fox News on Sept 27, reiterated his determination to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the most uninformative manner possible.

"My hope is that we can solve this diplomatically," Bush tells Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" in the first part of a three-part interview to begin airing tonight. "All options are on the table, of course, in any situation," Bush said. "But diplomacy is the first option."

"What President Bush will do with the clock running out is anyone's guess. But it's three points down and five seconds to go."

Joseph Marshall:

I would agree with you here, Wretchard, but you should add that, as of now, the other guys have the ball.

"any strike would make it logically necessary to subsequently topple the Teheran regime by any means necessary."

This is also, I think, correct, and the fundamental reason why we continue to, effectively, do nothing. We simply don't have the muscle for this follow-through. I do not think our position in the Middle East at the moment is one where we could seriously consider invading Iran, let alone Iran and Syria together, whether or not anybody throws a lot of JADM's around there.

We cannot commit significantly more combat troop numbers, as far as I can see. And I notice that all the people who think we CAN do this are as clueless about the need to plan an occupation of Iran and Syria, (assuming they would even fall to invasion as quickly as an already half-decimated Iraq did) as George and the boys were about occupying Iraq. Bellicosity is an attitude which simply refuses to learn from experience, I suppose.

Let's consider it abstractly, and factor in a generous increase in our troops, say to 250,000. I don't think we could field this number on short notice, but let's assume it. Let's also assume that "shock and awe" and JDAM's give us a "catastrophic success", just like Iraq. Best case scenario, right? What then?

Well, we are then faced with trying to police everything from the Mediteranian Sea to the Hindu Kush Mountains with a mere 250,000 men! A sort of a cinemascope and ultra-panovision version (showing my age here, I know) of our problems in Iraq! Not just pacifying and rebuilding TWO large inhospitible countries and turning them into "showplaces of democracy and free enterprise", but doing it for about 2/3s of the entire Middle East! With just 250,000 men! Breathtaking prospect, isn't it?

I just don't believe this is going to happen any time soon. So I don't think we are going to have anything but a nuclear Iran. I've been ranting on my own blog about the boneheaded "leadership" that has led to this, so I won't do it here.

I would point out, however, for all those of the "containment" and MAD school of thought, that the real danger of a nuclear Iran is not that it will throw nukes around, or even that it will give nukes to terrorists. The real danger is that it will become what Afghanistan was, the functional center of Muslim terrorist training and organization, but this time a center which will be untouchable by anything short of nuclear war.

Nice outcome for a "war on terror", isn't it?

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Why the "Good News" From Iraq is Irrelevant and the Good News Bearers Muddleheaded

This is a little exchange between myself and Joe Katzman over at Winds of Change which puts the matter in a nutshell:

"Joseph Marshall:

"More generally, this is NOT a matter of "half empty, half full". You can find places where things are better? Well you darn well OUGHT to be able to, given the billions of dollars that have been poured into the region. So two cheers for our fledgling democracy.

"The serious question is whether the place is secure enough to allow the 80% of our combat troops rotating through it to do anything else BUT chase Iraqi insurgents. Like dealing with Iran, for example. This is a binary question. It is either secure enough or it isn't.

"It isn't secure enough. It doesn't look like its going to get secure enough any time soon. And it looks very strongly like the only way it is going to get secure enough is to commit more troops which may soon be needed elsewhere.

"This is a problem for which the "progress" and "reconstruction" of ordinary Iraqi life is an irrelevant issue.

"Joe Katzman:


"You are correct in pointing out the potential problem. You are incorrect in that the issue is not irrelevant.
The potential problem you note describes a potential cost. The progress made describes some of the gains.

"Then you have to fit it into a larger regional/strategic framework to see what a war is really getting you on a particular front. Even with the inevitable trade-offs, maintaining or even reinforcing a front is often worth the sacrifices.

"There's a flip side too, of course, which asks about the costs of actions designed to "solve" the problem - whether that means reinforcements, abandoning the front, whatever. Again, this is an inevitable question in war, which always forces one to make trade-offs.

"Finally, if you're in retrospective mode rather than looking ahead to solve the problem of the now, one still must ask what difference not opening a particular front would have allowed one to make in other areas of interest.

"Sometimes, the resources and strategies required are so different that the answer is: "very little."

"Sometimes, it truly is a missed opportunity, or a poor war strategy.

"Sometimes, one thing must be done to properly position oneself for doing another (the implied risk is obvious if task #1 is delayed, but there is still little alternative).

"So, what you have isn't THE question, but the first part of a larger set of questions that must be asked in any war.

"Joseph Marshall:

"Then you have to fit it into a larger regional/strategic framework to see what a war is really getting you on a particular front."

"Exactly. We have an Iranian nuke time bomb which is ticking. Clearly, one of the long term goals in Iraq was to have strategic bases to replace the ones we gave up in Saudi and use them to influence events in Iran.

"There was a window of one year while the carriers got back into shape from fighting one too many wars in close succession. Nothing serious could be done about Iran until they were back on line to provide the close air support for permanently based troops in Iraq.

"They're back. But still nothing can be done because of the massive strategic blunders since the "mission" was "accomplished". Blunders like disbanding Saddam's army and letting those military skills melt back tracelessly into the civilian population and not securing Saddam's vast store of small arms from looting while obsessing over stores of non-existent Weapons Of Mass Destruction.

"The strategic result? The Bush Doctrine is a great big flag reading "Get Nuclear Weapons BEFORE the Americans Can Get To You!" The Iranians are so confident now that they talk of refining yellowcake openly, and we don't even need "better intelligence" to divine their capabilities and intentions.

"Not that we even yet have any "intelligence" in both senses of that word. This result was a perfectly plain strategic possibility from the moment Iraq was invaded. It was a glaringly obvious danger from the day we toppled Saddam's statue and had to send all those carriers (we went down to ONE on the entire world ocean for months, by the way) back to drydock.

"But, somehow, it never seemed to penetrate to the people running our show.

"On many political blogs I read, it hasn't penetrated yet."

Daily Link: "Beltway Traffic Jam"

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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Yahoo! Somebody In The MSM Finally Got a Political Clue.

They finally figured it out at the New York Times. We have been putting the voters in Democratic districts on the rolls in record numbers and it just "might make the difference". Check out my earlier post on it here.

The numbers in Ohio:

Franklin County (Columbus): Over 800,000 total voters, up from 650,000 in 2000 and very close to total voting population registration. (!)

103 solidly Republican Ohio ZIP codes, mostly rural and suburban: 35,000 new registrations, up from 28,000 new registrations in 2000.

63 solidly Democratic Ohio ZIP codes, in Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, and Youngstown: 63,000 new registrations, up from 17,000 in 2000.

And down in Florida:

150 solidly Republican ZIP codes: 96,000 up from 86,000 in 2000.

110 solidly Democratic ZIP codes: 125,000 up from 77,000 in 2000.

There is also now a sensible description, beyond stale press releases, of what the corresponding Republican strategy consists of:

"A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Christine Iverson, declined to comment on The Times's findings and said she did not believe Republicans were lagging in the registration battle. "We're very confident that we have a ground game that's as good as the Democrats', and better," she said....

"But Republican officials say they remain confident that their voters will prove easier to get to the polls. "It would scare me if we weren't doing our own thing," said Joanne Davidson, the regional chairwoman of the Bush campaign in four Midwestern states including Ohio, of the wave of new Democrats. "We know how to turn out voters."....

"It's not easy work, but we go door to door in strong Republican precincts, making sure everyone is registered," said Chris McNulty, the state party chairman....

"But intensive voter contact and turnout are exactly what the Republicans believe they do best. Their plan calls for the same kind of sophisticated targeting, and a last-minute push for turnout called a 72-hour strategy, the plan Republicans used in 2002 to overwhelm incumbent Democrats like former Senator Max Cleland in Georgia."

The Bottom Line:

"The analysis by The New York Times of county-by-county data shows that in Democratic areas of Ohio - primarily low-income and minority neighborhoods - new registrations since January have risen 250 percent over the same period in 2000. In comparison, new registrations have increased just 25 percent in Republican areas. A similar pattern is apparent in Florida: in the strongest Democratic areas, the pace of new registration is 60 percent higher than in 2000, while it has risen just 12 percent in the heaviest Republican areas."

So. The Republicans are going to wait until 72 hours before the election to call all the voters in their favored districts to win this election.

I see.

UPDATE: Linked to James Joyner's "Beltway Traffic Jam". Other good news on this topic is at Gropinator, New Donkey, and progressive muslim thoughts. And bad news on the Republican response is on Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Eschaton, Past Peak, Fables of the Reconstruction, Tina's Shark Tank.

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"Benumbed By Beheadings?"

I'm a bit of an e-penpal with Dick Meyer, the editor of cbsnews.com. "Benumbed By Beheadings?" is the title of his new online editorial where he questions why the ugly killings of single hostages in Iraq has ceased to be front page news, since the acts are so gruesome to those of us who mourn every lost American.

It seems to me that my reply to his column deserves broader distribution, because of the moral issues it delves into, so I reproduce it here:

"Perhaps a way into this issue is to ask a hypothetical question: How much less "evil" would these killings be if they were done as they are in our prisons: privately, by invitation only, with hospital gurneys and IV's?

"My answer, as a Buddhist, is not a jot less. But why, then, do we feel such personal nausea at beheading? My answer, as a Buddhist, is because of our own private illusion (which is not true) that our "self" and our body are identical.

"Thus a death by violence which excessively maims the body appears to us "cruel and unusual", as our Constitution puts it. This is an illusion of cruelty, sustained by the fact that beheading is now truly "unusual" even among the most penally bloodthirsty of peoples: the Chinese or the Texans, for example.

"Real cruelty is something like crucifixion, drawing and quartering, or immolation by fire--all the forms of killing where causing pain and suffering prior to death is the punitive point. It is also things such as the lovely Japanese practice of not setting a definite date for your execution, so you wake up every morning listening for the footsteps because today might be the day. These are more evil than mere death.

"Beheading is not more evil, save for the grief and shame it causes in those who mourn, and the mental suffering in those who anticipate it. But since this mental suffering among we who oppose them is why the terrorist insurgents do it, our turning away, our refusing to suffer, is a functional, if ugly, response.

"For we may, in the end, be constrained to do far more evil--exponentially multiplying suffering to the perpetrators as well as multiplying force against them--than they have done to us, simply to get them to stop. For such evil we will need to be unfeeling and dehumanized.

"It is a choice I hope we do not face, for the consequences of it will be more horrible for us in the long term than it will be for them in the short term. But we may yet face it, and may not have the moral strength to reject it."

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Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Poll and The Pollsters to Look At Seriously

We are as awash in conflicting polling results from the Presidential campaign as Florida is in hurricane storm surges. A new poll released a few days ago by American Research Group, however, holds promise of being a more accurate predictor of the final outcome than many more famous national polls.

There are polls which indicate a strong Bush lead, and polls which, conversely, generally indicate a dead heat with a slight Bush lead well within the margin of error. Two explanations for this discrepancy have been put forward which I find credible, even though they are by strongly Democratic analysts.

In their view, the strong Bush polls are suddenly oversampling Republicans due to cultural changes such as diminished use of land line telephones and due to skewed "likely voter" criteria.

A more telling thing, in my view, is the fact that these national polls sample only about 500 to 1500 people nationwide. ARG, on the other hand, conducts statewide polls of 600 people each for a total sample of about 30,000 nationwide. The fact that their total sample shows a result similar to the other "dead heat" polls suggests strongly to me that the criticisms of the "strong Bush" polls are valid.

Moreover, in a Presidential election, the fact that the standard sample size is applied to state size populations gives a much clearer picture of how the actual preferences might play out in the state voting counts.

ARG is not only very slick at polling, they have interesting things to say about campaign advertising too, which I quote at length:

"Leahy's Law states that if a thing is done wrong often enough, it becomes right, and as a result, volume becomes a defense to error.

"When political advertising fails to sway voters, most campaigns follow Leahy's Law by increasing the frequency of the advertising hoping that more of what is not working with voters will somehow work when voters are subjected to more of the same.

"Use the following 10 simple rules to evaluate the advertising you encounter this political year. You may be disappointed, but don't be surprised when you discover that most advertising fails to follow any of the rules.

"1. Does the ad tell a simple story, not just convey information?
2. Does the ad make the desired call to action a part of the story?
3. Does the ad use basic emotional appeals?
4. Does the ad use easy arguments?
5. Does the ad show, and not tell?
6. Does the ad use symbolic language and images that relate to the senses?
7. Does the ad match what viewers see with what they hear?
8. Does the ad stay with a scene long enough for impact?
9. Does the ad let powerful video speak for itself?
10. Does the ad use identifiable music?"

In the view of ARG, these ten perameters strongly influence the factors in our judgment which are below our conscious thinking processes and shape the narrative of our opinions in the direction of our needs and expectations.

These pollsters, I think, are someone to watch and take seriously.

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Joe Claus in the Hospital

The next post or two you see up the blog roll will have been a little late. While mowing the yard Thursday afternoon, I started developing heaviness in the chest and shortness of breath. My companion, the effervescent "Mrs. Claus" convinced me to call my G.P.

You probably remember the commericals, a few months back where, "My doctor said, Viagra!" Well, my doctor said, "Angina!" and "Get to the Emergency Room, immediately!"

Two days, one stress test, and one echocardiogram later, I have no significant sign of heart trouble. Thank heavens! But my thyroid problem is more out of whack, my weight has risen sharply, and the two together with the extra exercise apparently caused my problem. And, hopefully, doubling my dose of synthetic thyroid hormone will get me back on track.

Now, back to the fun.

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Vote Viacom in 2004!

You want to know what's really wrong with this country and the people who are currently running it? Here's the story in a nutshell. Summer Redstone, CEO of Viacom, parent company to CBS, has endorsed George W. Bush.

In the past, Mr. Redstone was co-chairman of Edmund Muskie's presidential campaign. He's also a close friend of the other Massachusetts senator, Ted Kennedy. He had given $50,000 to the Democratic Party and also donated the maximum $2,000 to the Kerry campaign, after supporting Al Gore in 2000.

The most telling thing about the whole story is this little quote from Mr. Redstone:

"I look at the election from what's good for Viacom. I vote for what's good for Viacom. I vote, today, Viacom."

Not for the good of the American people, but for the good of Viacom. Or the good of Halliburton. Or the good of Enron. Or, and, or, and, or....

The second most telling thing was what was on Mr. Redstone's mind when he made his decision: not terrorism, not "spreading democracy", not homeland security, not "the economy" as you or I experience it, not abortion, not gay marriage, not "Christian values", not anything, really, that ordinary voters care about.

"I don't want to denigrate Kerry," he went on, "but from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on."

The third most telling thing is where Mr. Redstone announced it: in Hong Kong, which, as we all know, is a part of the People's Republic of China.

I presume he's over there for the good of Viacom, too. After all, the Chinese growth rates are irresistable....

Thanks for the tip to The Queen of All Evil and for Linkfest space in Outside The Beltway.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Welcome To Joe Claus' Blogroll

"You know its a good blog if, the more you disagree with it, the more you enjoy it." --Joe Claus

I've found a few new ones that fit the bill. Welcome:

Begging To Differ
Global Guerrillas
LaShawn Barber

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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Cause and Effect in Bush Foreign Policy

"Today I have outlined a broad agenda to advance human dignity, and enhance the security of all of us. The defeat of terror ... the protection of human rights ... the spread of prosperity ... the advance of democracy ... these causes, these ideals, call us to great work in the world. Each of us alone can only do so much. Together we can accomplish so much more."
--George W. Bush, Speech to the UN, September 2004

Here is the cause:

Bush's Flip Flops
The Nation
written by Robert Scheer.

"If they were true to their principles, moderate Republicans and consistent conservatives would be supporting John Kerry. Instead, their acquiescence to the reckless whims of George W. Bush marks a descent into that political abyss of opportunism where partisanship is everything and principle nothing.

"How else to explain their cynical support for this shallow adventurer, a phony lightweight who has bled the Treasury dry while incompetently squandering the lives of young Americans in a needless imperial campaign?

"If Al Gore had been knighted President by the Supreme Court and overseen this mess instead of Dubya, the rational remnant of the Republican Party would be rightly calling for his head....

"But don't take my word for it: That the occupation of Iraq is a festering disaster was finally acknowledged by some Republican senators on Sunday's talk shows in the wake of the latest depressing prognostications of U.S. intelligence agencies.....

"This is why in 2000, candidate Bush, pretending to be conservative, said he was against "nation-building." Now, led by radical ideologues way outside the conservative mainstream, he's got us trying to build two nations -- and failing -- with many in his Administration hoping to take on a few more in a second term."

And here is the effect:

The Words Unsaid
National Review Online
written by David Frum.

"Lovely speech by the president to the U.N. -- but a question. What happened to the Iran paragraph? Just three days ago, the Iranian government formally defied the International Atomic Energy Authority. Breaking promises made as recently as October 2003, Iran will continue to move to enrich uranium -- a process that can only be intended for weapons.

"By its own rules, the IAEA is now bound to lay the problem before the Security Council..... So shouldn’t President Bush have said something about it? Given some public indication of the stance the U.S. will take -- and of its expectations of the world community? The president touched on many subjects of interest to the United States, but the looming threat of nuclearization in Iran and the very horrible likelihood that North Korea has already nuclearized surely top the list?"

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Good Advice, Mr. President

"The way to prevail, the way toward successful conclusion that we all want, the way to secure Iraq and bring our troops home as quickly as possible is not to wilt or waver or send mixed signals to the enemy. You cannot lead the war against terror if you wilt or waver when things get tough."
--George W. Bush, King Of Prussia, PA, September 22, 2004

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) Wednesday, September 22, 2004 Posted: 9:03 PM EDT -- Conflicting accounts about the possible release of Iraqi detainees -- among them the woman known as "Dr. Germ" -- were issued by the U.S. and Iraqi governments Wednesday.

"Iraq's interim national security adviser, Kasim Daoud, told reporters that three detainees -- including Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha al-Azawi and her husband, the country's former oil minister -- would be released soon because no charges were being brought against them. Daoud denied their release was linked to the demand by the Unification and Jihad group to release Iraqi women being held prisoner.

"The group, led by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claims it has killed two American hostages and says it will kill a British civil engineer it holds unless the demand is met.

"Daoud's statement about the detainees was contradicted by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session. Allawi told The Associated Press that he has the final say on the release of detainees and he had not made a decision. Allawi also stressed that his government will not negotiate with terrorists on the release of detainees.

"In Baghdad, U.S. Embassy spokesman Alberto Fernandez said two female "high value detainees" -- one of whom is Taha -- are under the legal and physical custody of U.S. troops and their release is not imminent. The second female detainee in U.S. custody is Dr. Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a former senior Baath party official who Pentagon sources called "Mrs. Anthrax."....

"U.S. officials said no women are being held at prisons in Iraq. One official said 45 women were once held in Abu Ghraib prison but all have been released. The U.S. military said Taha and Ammash are detained elsewhere....

"Earlier, a spokesman for the deputy commander for detainee operations in Iraq said Taha's status was still under review. "Any decision would need to be a joint decision between the multinational forces and the Iraqi government," said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson. Daoud said the multinational forces have no say in the release of the detainees. A U.S. military official in Baghdad said, however, that the ultimate decision rests with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.....

"The timing of the case going to the Iraqi government and the kidnappings of the three Westerners was "totally coincidental," the official said."

No mixed signals there, right?

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On Being Liberal and Religious--Part 2

A few days back I did another reprise, on the blog Majikthise, of a type of posted comment which I have made often on many blogs which are predominantly secular.

In this instance, because of the rhetorical overload which religious issues carry in our politics, it will be helpful to think of "secular" as a point of view which asserts that religious questions are wholly separate from political ones.

This may mean that an individual who is "secular" has an explicit disbelief of religious answers, is agnostic about such answers, or thinks such answers are irrelevant to public questions and a matter for private belief only.

From the vantage point of religion, these views are quite distinct from one another. But from the vantage of politics they make for virtually the same secular tone in the political writings--so that James Joyner, say, sounds as secular as Daniel W. Drezner, Matthew Yglesais, or Juan Cole. And it is not possible to tell immediately which of those three distinct religious attitudes any of them may favor.

By looking at "secular" in this way, we can take a controversy like that over the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of allegiance and shed more light on it. The legal defense the Government commonly makes for the phrase is secular, NOT religious. Constitutionally, it is plain that no religious defense of the phrase would be permissible, for it would "establish" the religious views used in the defense. Hence the legal defense itself amounts to saying that the words "under God" have no specific religious reference.

This is not exactly what the Texas Republican Party meant, I think, when they added a plank in their platform this year stating that "the United States is a Christian nation." And it seems to me that any religiously minded Christian or Jew should seriously consider whether the secular legal defense of "under God" amounts to an admission that the usage in the Pledge is a violation of the Third Commandment.

In any event, as a Buddhist, it seems to me that the Pledge, as it stands, amounts to "establishment" of religious views which I explicitly do not hold. But, then, as a Buddhist, I take the expression of any religious view in public life seriously, and I do wonder if those of the secular persuasion ever do. I also suspect strongly that many members of the Texas Republican Party take it as seriously as I do.

The substance of the challenging comment I posted was as follows: In politics, as in everything else, all of us make categorical moral assertions of right and wrong. But how do we justify such assertions? How can we argue that the world itself is moral? And if the world is not moral, why should we be?

As a religious individual I have a clear and simple basis for justifying the moral assertions I make in the religious texts I follow. And as an educated Buddhist, I know that these assertions require me to assume certain things about the world--principally rebirth in past and future lives--that I cannot directly prove.

But when I read the moral assertions of the secular, the only real justification I can see for them would be either, "Because I happen to think so," or "Because people I trust and admire happen to think so," and I see little effort made to intellectually examine the hidden assumptions behind such assertions. Indeed when I do bring up such questions on blogs like these, using my own moral views as a counter example, all I seem to create is the desire to refute my views rather than an examination of the views I am contrasting them with.

So this, then, is the religious question which separates me, apparently radically and irredeemably, from both the Secular Liberal and the Secular Libertarian:

What is the true moral nature of the world, and why should we conform to it?

And it does seem to me that the question inevitably is as political as it is religious. Whatever answers we give to it must be the same answers for our religion, or lack of one, as for our politics.

To Be Concluded....

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A Horrible Thing Has Happened In My Town

A wounded soldier returning from Iraq was beaten because he was a soldier.

This must be stopped. Now. When 9/11 happened our Mayor Michael Coleman immediately stated that political reprisals against people would not be tolerated. I'm sure the incident is being investigated, but if you wish to express your concern, you may do so here and here.

Columbus is a fine town. People do not want this sort of political hooliganism here. Your voice will be heard and attended to at the above links if you want it to be.

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What Planet Is This Man Living On?

"Even after the setbacks and frustrations of recent months, good will and hard effort can achieve the promise of the roadmap to peace. Those who would lead a new Palestinian state should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people, and create the reformed institutions of a stable democracy. Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel. Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations. And world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause." --George W. Bush, Speech to the UN, September 2004

Yes, yes, yes--and we should all brush our teeth three times a day, floss after brushing, change our motor oil every 3000 miles, ect., ect.

Now let's get back to reality:

Israel's Sharon: Arafat Will 'Get What He Deserves'
Wed Sep 22, 2004 08:20 AM ET

"JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday renewed his threat to remove Yasser Arafat, saying the Palestinian president would "get what he deserves."

"Sharon told Israel Radio his government would take action against Arafat at a time of its choosing as it did in assassinating two Hamas leaders this year in the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials have made threats against Arafat before, but political sources say such a move is unlikely as long as the United States, Israel's close ally, strongly opposes it.

"Sharon, a former general, suggested in an Israeli newspaper interview last week that Israel might either assassinate Arafat or expel him from the Palestinian territories. Sharon's new threat comes as he struggles to soften resistance from right-wingers in his coalition to his plan to evacuate Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, a territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

"We acted against the heads of Hamas ... in a way we found right at the right time when it was convenient for us," Sharon said on Wednesday. "When the issue of dealing with Arafat comes up, we will act again in this fashion."

Israel Kills 10 People, Says Not Following Roadmap
Wed Sep 15, 2004 03:22 PM ET
By Wael al-Ahmad

"JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) - Raiding Israeli forces killed six Palestinian militants and four civilians on Wednesday, the highest single-day Palestinian death toll in the West Bank for more than two years, witnesses and medics said.

"Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon added to pessimism about peace prospects, declaring that Israel was not following the U.S.-backed "road map" plan and could stay in the occupied West Bank for a long time after a planned pullout from Gaza in 2005. Sharon spelled out what various Israeli officials have been suggesting for months. The "road map" was derailed some time ago amid persistent violence and recrimination on both sides....

"His remarks in a Jewish new year interview with Yedioth Ahronoth were his clearest yet on the status of the road map, which his cabinet had accepted only under U.S. pressure....

"However, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said he did not think that accounts of Sharon's comments accurately reflected the prime minister's views. "Prime Minister Sharon has reaffirmed his commitment to moving forward on his bold proposal to move out of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank," McClellan said. "That is a proposal that can help get us jump-started again on the road map which is the path toward the president's two-state solution," he said. "I think that's what the prime minister was talking about -- moving forward on his disengagement plan."

By far the most destructive mistake made by the Bush Administration in its foreign policy was the unilateral endorsement of the "two state" solution in Palestine, a move which the President made on his own that took the entire world, and even his own foreign policy advisors, by surprise. Endorsement of a Palestinian state was the single and sole bargaining chip the United States had with BOTH sides when Bush took office in 2001.

Without that bargaining chip, the Palestinians had no incentive to negotiate seriously, since Bush had already conceded what they were seeking from the U.S. Without that bargaining chip, all it took was sufficient bombings to force Ariel Sharon into building the wall which will permanently give the Palestinians all the "sovereignty" of a self-ruled prison camp, while they sink ever deeper into degradation and poverty.

No, this is no victory for Israel either, though keeping the Palestinians in a pen where the Israeli army can easily blow away whom they like certainly makes them more "secure" (the drop in bombings is quite real). Palestine as a permanent open sore will prevent the full integration of Israel into the rest of the world for the duration.

I, at least, am of the opinion that all this was preventable. All it would have taken was a little less "unilateral" and ill-advised action by the President of the United States.

But what else is new?

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Did you say Democracy, Mr. President?

"Because we believe in human dignity, peaceful nations must stand for the advance of democracy. No other system of government has done more to protect minorities, to secure the rights of labor, to raise the status of women, or to channel human energy to the pursuits of peace. We have witnessed the rise of democratic governments in predominantly Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian cultures. Democratic institutions have taken root in modern societies, and in traditional societies. When it comes to the desire for liberty and justice, there is no clash of civilizations. People everywhere are capable of freedom, and worthy of freedom. " --George W. Bush, Speech to the United Nations, September 21, 2004

Let's listen to a few emminently reasonable voices, representative of the breadth of the political spectrum on these blogs on the Bush Administration's real commitment to these high ideals:

First Daniel W. Drezner:

The neocon split over George W. Bush

"Substantively, realists argue that regime type doesn't matter, and that since Russia and Pakistan are vital allies in the war on terrorism, we should look the other way for these countries. I've alread said why I think this is the wrong move most of the time. Last week, [Robert] Kagan said why this is wrong with regard to Russia:

"'With Russians confronting vicious terrorists, Putin is consolidating his own power. How, exactly, does that help us win the war on terrorism? In fact, it will hurt. Failure to take sides with democratic forces in Russia will cast doubt on Bush's commitment to worldwide democracy. A White House official commented to the New York Times that Putin's actions are "a domestic matter for the Russian people." Really? If so, then the same holds for all other peoples whose rights are taken away by tyrants.' ...."

Then Juan Cole:

Bush Taunts Kerry

"Iraq, however, does not have a democracy, and cannot possibly have a democracy any time soon because of events such as those described below (and they are only 24 hours' worth)-- that is, because of a failed state and a hot guerrilla war.

"Moreover, if Mr. Bush abhors dictatorships so much, why hasn't he overthrown that in China? North Korea? Zimbabwe? Or, say, Egypt? There are enormous numbers of dictatorships in the world. Is the US to overthrow them all? Putin's decision to appoint provincial governors rather than allowing them to be elected (as though Bush should appoint the governors of US states) is a step toward dictatorship. Shall we have a war with Russia over it?....

"I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place."

And Wretchard of Belmont Club:


"The last few posts have not been written to provide an 'optimistic' view of Iraq nor to debunk the theories of anyone. They were written as an attempt to discover whether the charge that Iraq has become a disaster was true; and if so in what aspect and to what degree. It is a complex question which I have not answered to my own satisfaction.....

"One can say that US Forces are killing a lot of bad guys without being able to answer, at least with the data on hand, whether the enemy are regenerating faster than they are being destroyed. I cast about in vain for some way to estimate whether the level of corruption in the Iraqi government, which is a proxy for efficiency and just governance, was increasing or decreasing. It is the one area for which I truly fear, not in the least because few Americans have any idea what a distorting gravitational force normal levels of American prosperity and largesse have in a Third World country. The sheer capability of America can create a dependency even in richer societies. One wonders whether the new Iraqi Army will have any concept of operations constrained by their true resources, without implicitly assuming American support. "

UPDATE: Linked to Daily Linkfest at Outside the Beltway.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

On Being Liberal and Religious--Part 1

There is a great personal cleavage in me, and I am certain that it also exists in others. When I read the tea leaves among those of us who are politically grounded I find there are actually three major groups, not two, and that I belong to none of them.

For convenience, we can give them the following names: Secular Liberals, Secular Libertarians, and Religious Conservatives. Each of these, it seems to me, congregates around a hard ideological core of separate ideas and views about American life and none of these ideologies is a place where I feel intellectually and emotionally comfortable. I frankly find myself a stranger in all three.

This is not the place to elaborately outline their ideological differences and, in one sense, these differences matter less than differences of temper and tone. I have tried in my blogroll to offer samples of all three types, and skimming that roll for an hour or so gives you more direct insight, actually, into these distinct ideologies than longwinded explanations. One Hand Clapping and Winds of Change are clearly not in the same intellectual universe as Majikthise and Matthew Yglesias nor is it precisely the same place as Outside the Beltway or A Small Victory.

Again, the understanding of this cannot be fully articulated in any particular doctrine for it extends beyond doctrine to attitude, to feeling, to the intuition above, below, or beyond intellect. The key to the religious life, it seems to me, is not so much religious answers as religious questions. These questions bedevil us all, even when we don't accept religious answers for them, or when we view those religious answers as something somehow separate from our public life and politics.

But those of us who do give religious answers to religious questions as well as see our religion as permeating our entire lives, whether Liberal or Conservative, have a ground for dialog which we share with neither of the other two secular tribes in our politics.

A while back in the comment section of One Hand Clapping, Reverend Donald Sensing and I had a little conversation that started when the good Reverend posted one of many responses to the Swift Boat stories where he raised doubts about John Kerry's service to the country in war and his fitness to serve as President. It is the epitome of the common ground the religious share, whether Liberal or Conservative, or even whether Buddhist or Christian. I reproduce it here:

"Joseph Marshall: Reverend, I'd like you to stop for a minute and think about something. If you were John Kerry's spiritual confidant and advisor, what would you say to him?

"Reverend Sensing: Joseph, why do you want me to stop and think about that? Furthermore, I do not know what a "spiritual advisor" is, except I think it's a kind of New Age thing. I certainly am not a "spiritual advisor" now, and it's even more certain that Jesus was not one, either. So I think your question just doesn't scan, Joseph. Or maybe I don't get your point.

"Joseph Marshall: Well, I suppose I mean that if you had a personal relation with the real man, the human being in the blue suit, as pastor and parishioner, what would you say to him to ease the obvious human suffering inherent in what he has had to endure for the past few weeks.

"My "point" is that there is a real human being there, in as tormenting a trial as any of us are ever likely to endure. And its a good thing, spiritually, to remind ourselves of that fact.

"Reverend Sensing: It would be a good thing, spiritually, for Kerry to start telling the truth about his Vietnam service, ie, Cambodia. It would be a good thing for us, spiritually, for Kerry to sign the form 180 to release all his naval records. It would be a good thing for millions of veterans, spiritually, for Kerry to admit his vicious lies about them in the VVAW and beg their forgiveness. But are you, a Kerry supporter, suggesting that he should now be an object of pity?

"Joseph Marshall: Whatever his failings, of which I honestly know of only by report, he has human shape and deserves human doubt. This does not mean anyone needs to think him capable enough to be President, or to vote for him.

"But what it does mean is that he will face his future as we all face ours, a future that leads at the least to the same doorway, wherever we may travel beyond it. And we should ask ourselves whether, were it us in his position, our public credit, our reputation, and our self-esteem would survive vast amounts of private funds--and the no-holds-barred quest for partisan advantage--searching to magnify to its largest size any possible personal weakness we may have displayed over sixty years.

"Nothing is to be lost by asking ourselves that question. Nobody's vote is going to be swayed by it. But our own, individual, long term future may be very influenced by it. Or at least I've always been told so.

"Reverend Sensing: Joseph, seriously, please wake up. Your strongly implicit claim that all the purity of this race is on Kerry's side, all the rancor and evil on Bush's, really makes me think - pastorally, please understand - that you simply do not understand what's going on. Allowing that everything you say is true, where were your protests when MoveOn and other Dem-backed groups - and Democrat politicians themselves - were savaging Bush, as they have since 2000? Kerry hasn't received a tenth of the beating that Bush has gotten.I'd give credit to your comments if they weren't so partisan in their object. You are weeping from only one eye.

"Joseph Marshall: I sincerely think that anyone in public life is squandering a huge amount of what I would call "good karma" for very little reward, and for tremendous suffering, both now and in the future. And I have no hesitation in saying that the candidate whom I supported first, Howard Dean, is by far the luckiest person of any of the people who sought the office this year.

I have a direct, explicit, religious obligation to cultivate compassion for ALL suffering. And, to the extent my own personal failings permit, I do so. I have, on many occasions, thought about the humanity of George W. Bush and the burdens that his time in office will leave him with.

And, speaking personally, I am inclined to think that the next luckiest man to Howard Dean will be the one who loses this election."

It still remains an open religious question, I think. Modern media bring us closer to the candidate--whether Howard Dean, George Bush, or John Kerry--as a human being than we have ever been in this country. What then do we do to ourselves if we ignore that humanity in our haste to combat the ideology? I'll leave the question open. I have a religious answer to it, myself. But, as I said before, posing the question is much more important than having the answer.

To Be Continued...

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UPDATED: "Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat."

"This President was in denial. He hitched his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military. The result is a long litany of misjudgments with terrible consequences.

"The administration told us we’d be greeted as liberators. They were wrong.

"They told us not to worry about looting or the sorry state of Iraq’s infrastructure. They were wrong.

"They told us we had enough troops to provide security and stability, defeat the insurgents, guard the borders and secure the arms depots. They were wrong.

"They told us we could rely on exiles like Ahmed Chalabi to build political legitimacy. They were wrong.

"They told us we would quickly restore an Iraqi civil service to run the country and a police force and army to secure it. They were wrong.

"In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and under-performed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence. And the President has held no one accountable, including himself.

"In fact, the only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq were the ones who told the truth.

"General Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. He was retired.

"Economic adviser Larry Lindsey said that Iraq would cost as much as $200 billion. He was fired.

"After the successful entry into Baghdad, George Bush was offered help from the UN -- and he rejected it. He even prohibited any nation from participating in reconstruction efforts that wasn’t part of the original coalition – pushing reluctant countries even farther away.

"As we continue to fight this war almost alone, it is hard to estimate how costly that arrogant decision was. Can anyone seriously say this President has handled Iraq in a way that makes us stronger in the war on terrorism?"

No. And thank you Senator Kerry for telling us so. I hope by now someone is listening.

UPDATE #1: Senate Republicans join in the chorus of criticism:

Republicans Criticize Bush 'Mistakes' on Iraq
By Randall Mikkelsen Reuters

Sunday 19 September 2004

"Washington - Leading members of President Bush's Republican Party on Sunday criticized mistakes and "incompetence" in his Iraq policy and called for an urgent ground offensive to retake insurgent sanctuaries.
In appearances on news talk shows, Republican senators also urged Bush to be more open with the American public after the disclosure of a classified CIA report that gave a gloomy outlook for Iraq and raised the possibility of civil war.

"The fact is, we're in deep trouble in Iraq ... and I think we're going to have to look at some recalibration of policy," Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"We made serious mistakes," said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who has campaigned at Bush's side this year after patching up a bitter rivalry.

"McCain, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," cited as mistakes the toleration of looting after the successful U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and failures to secure Iraq's borders or prevent insurgents from establishing strongholds within the country.

"He said a ground offensive was urgently needed to retake areas held by insurgents, but a leading Democrat accused the administration of stalling for fear of hurting Bush's reelection chances.

"The criticisms came as Bush prepared this week to host Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and focus strongly on Iraq after stepped up attacks from Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry."

UPDATE #2: The President goes to the United Nations and replies:

"Today, the Iraqi and Afghan people are on the path to democracy and freedom. The governments that are rising will pose no threat to others. Instead of harboring terrorists, they are fighting terrorist groups. And this progress is good for the long term security of us all. The Afghan people are showing extraordinary courage under difficult conditions. They are fighting to defend their nation from Taliban hold-outs, and helping to strike against terrorist killers.....

"Today, in this hall, the Prime Minister of Iraq and his delegation represent a country that has rejoined the community of nations.....A democratic Iraq has ruthless enemies - because terrorists know the stakes in that country. They know that a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a decisive blow against their ambitions for that region. So a terrorist group associated with al-Qaida is now one of the main groups killing the innocent in Iraq today - conducting a campaign of bombings against civilians, and the beheadings of bound men. Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting the terrorists and foreign fighters, so peaceful nations around the world will never have to face them within our own borders."

You pays your money, you takes your choice, I guess.

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Hey Guys! It's John Kerry Running For President, Not Dan Rather

And he has some important things to say about the way George Bush has been running things in Iraq:

"The President has said that he “miscalculated” in Iraq and that it was a “catastrophic success.” In fact, the President has made a series of catastrophic decisions … from the beginning … in Iraq. At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

"The first and most fundamental mistake was the President’s failure to tell the truth to the American people.

"He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war. And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens.

"By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales – weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection – have been proved false… by the President’s own weapons inspectors… and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.

"The President also failed to level with the American people about what it would take to prevail in Iraq.

"He didn’t tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for years, not months. He didn’t tell us that he wouldn’t take the time to assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies. He didn’t tell us that the cost would exceed $200 billion. He didn’t tell us that even after paying such a heavy price, success was far from assured.

"And America will pay an even heavier price for the President’s lack of candor. At home, the American people are less likely to trust this administration if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing threats to our security.

"Abroad, other countries will be reluctant to follow America when we seek to rally them against a common menace -- as they are today. Our credibility in the world has plummeted.

"In the dark days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Europe to build support. Acheson explained the situation to French President de Gaulle. Then he offered to show him highly classified satellite photos, as proof. De Gaulle waved the photos away, saying: “The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me.”

"How many world leaders have that same trust in America’s president, today?"

Think about it. Think about it very hard.

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Monday, September 20, 2004

All the Chuckles Joe Claus Has to Give

My most tireless commenter, Chuck Pelto, operates 24/7 over on a blog called Colorado Mensa. Chuck is a Christian, a soldier and strategist, and an IT owl. I know many of you have been looking for all Chuckles, all the time--so welcome Colorado Mensa to my blogroll and go check out what he has to say when he isn't counterpunching.

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Teenaged Pundit

Thanks to Joe Gandleman of The Moderate Voice for showcasing a young man with a sharp mind and an amazingly well formed style, Andrew Quinn of the new blog, Teenage Pundit. Check him out. You won't be disasppointed.

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A Graceful but Sad Withdrawal

The Reverend Donald Sensing has announced that he will cease posting, except for Sunday Sermons, for at least 6-8 weeks, perhaps longer. He has written an immense amount of very thoughtful and worthwhile material so I will continue to list One Hand Clapping on my Blogroll, but will add Sunday Sermons as a separate entry and will link to them from time to time.

My best to you, sir, all of your fans in the virtual world will miss you.

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Recipe Time!

I am a Type II diabetic, who tries to control his blood sugar level through diet alone. So far, I have been able to, since I was diagnosed early. This process has altered the direction of both my cooking and eating, since the essential method of control is a sharp reduction in all starches (breads, tubers, grains, noodles), the elimination of all sweetened drinks (including juices), and the elimination of foods containing significant amounts of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Starches are the hardest to substitute for and I typically try to take up the slack with beans and vegetables. In the process, I have created several very good dishes. James Beard was correct, a restricted diet is not a sentence to dullness. It is actually an adventure in discovering new flavors. Here is one of my favorites:

(a dish of all work)

One 28 oz can La Preferida Black Beans (Look for this brand in Mexican Foods--it is superior.)

One 16 oz can Yellow Hominy

One 16 oz can Medium Salsa (Try different brands! My favorite so far is Pace Fire Roasted Pepper Style.)

Optional Additions: 1 TBS Lime or Lemon Juice or 1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro.

Combine all ingredients. Chill.

This is keeps well and is worth making in quantity. You can eat it cold as a bean salad. You can slow cook pork in it (4-6 hours in a crock pot or a slow to medium oven). You can spread it over a plate of tortilla chips or a flour tortilla, top it with sharp cheddar cheese, and run it under the broiler or zap it in the microwave.

Or you can think up some new, fun thing to do with it on your own.

Viva La Raza!

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

Something Very Strange Is NOT Happening in Ohio

There was a new want-ad in my local suburban newspaper on Thursday that caught my eye--one I had never seen there before. The Republican National Committee wants 50 neighborhood canvassers to register voters, and the pay is $9.00 hr + bonuses. They don't want just anybody for this job. You have to have good communication skills, professional appearance, and your own transportation. So all those bums you see down at the Unemployment Office (oh, I'm sorry, the Opportunity Center), need not apply.

Ohio is a battleground state. There are only 18 DAYS left to register. America Coming Together (one of those totally dreadful Democratic 527's!) has been on the ground here in Columbus, registering voters since last winter. The Democratic National Committee has been ringing my doorbell or my telephone, and filling my mailbox, since John Kerry wrapped up the nomination. Democracy for America got us Howard Dean for a day to stump for John Kerry and promote the local Dean Dozen candidates. The John Kerry bumper stickers and lawn signs are running about 8 to 1 over the opposition. There are groups in the nicer suburbs who are printing their OWN signs (Upper Arlington for John Kerry), at their own expense.

And the Republicans are just getting around to hiring 50 canvassers???

Moreover, at one o'clock this Saturday I called the toll-free number. I got a recording from a law office telling me to give my name, my state, and my number and "someone will get back to you as soon as possible." I wonder how long the interviews will take.

I found this startling. So I went onto the RNC website to see just what was shaking with what they are calling the "greatest grass roots effort ever" in the history of the Party.

I linked down until I reached my own county's website--Franklin County. The main RNC site is not overly user friendly and I really had to dig for it.

Until the Republicans got back from New York, this site has been "under construction"(!). Now it is a one page no-brainer with a couple of bad glitches in it, one link to a PDF of a Party voter registration form with the pictures upside down, and an e-mail address to contact for further information. That's it.

Climbing back up the links to the Ohio GOP site, I looked at the events page. There are 88 counties in Ohio. There were 10 events in 10 counties. One was a GOP picnic and the other nine were one day a week phone bank opportunities. (ACT, by the way, is a 7-day operation) They were exactly the same phone banks, in the same counties, that were on the site before the Republican Convention. Only the dates had changed and were current. And only about half of the counties listed have any major cities in them.

Virtually the entire substantive content of the Ohio site is devoted to the Bush/Cheney campaign, most of that is cotton candy, and nothing of substance appears about ANY of the other Republican candidates running in Ohio, except pictures and contact addresses, and NO campaign information about the lesser races whatever.

Finally, I returned to the national website. According to the RNC Chair, Ed Gillespie, they have met their goal of registering 3 million new voters country-wide. Divided by 50 that would mean about 60,000 here in Ohio. My city is the largest in Ohio, my six county metro area is about 1 million people, and the whole state is about 11.5 million people.

I also took a look at the Outstanding Team Leader page. On that page were the eleven people whom the RNC wished to feature as the best of the Republican best. Funny thing, though, none of them were from Ohio. As far as I could see, none of them were from any of the "battleground" states. I looked over their biographies, but I found them a little puzzling. The only truly "outstanding" accomplishment listed for any of them was a nice lady in Tennessee who "recruited 300 new team leaders".

Almost like perpetual motion, isn't it?

Maybe this election will be won by character assassination. Maybe it will be won by slick television ads. Maybe it will be won by "cultural issues". Maybe it will be won by polling scare "momentum". Maybe it will be won by crucifying errant newscasters. Maybe it will be won by polling place shenanigans.

But, if it's won by political fundamentals, we're going to take this state for John Kerry.

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The Comment Round-up Pings

I spend a lot of time posting comments on other political blogs, particularly the conservative ones. It primes my pump for writing here. So, from time to time, I'll be posting the trackback pings I leave over there when I comment. It's a good way to point to the interesting stuff I can't squeeze in here.

A good discussion is hard to find. This is one:

Spot On: The Funniest Thing I've Heard in a While.

Winds of Change: Bang a Drum: The CBS Fallout.

The Queen of All Evil: Dumbest Idea Ever.

A Small Victory: Knox Knox.Who's There?Kinkos.Kinkos Who?Uh...It's Actually Bill Burkett.

Tutakai: Proud Purples.

Majikthise: Liberalism and Moral Relativism.

Winds of Change: Rosh Hashanah: The Barber of Sayvel.

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Iraq-Nam.


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Thursday, September 16, 2004

John Kerry Cuts To The Chase

James Joyner has done a marvelous summary of how bad things are in Iraq, Juan Cole has two solid days worth of well blogged detail, and John Kerry, speaking to the National Guard, puts the blame right where it belongs:

"President Bush came before you and you received him well, as you should. But I believe he failed the fundamental test of leadership. He failed to tell you the truth. You deserve better. The Commander in Chief must level with the troops and the nation. And as president, I will always be straight with you – on the good days, and the bad days.

"Two days ago, the President stood right where I’m standing and did not even acknowledge that more than 1,000 men and women have lost their lives in Iraq. He did not tell you that with each passing day, we’re seeing more chaos, more violence, more indiscriminate killings. He did not tell you that with each passing week, our enemies are getting bolder – that Pentagon officials report that entire regions of Iraq are now in the hands of terrorists and extremists. He did not tell you that with each passing month, stability and security seem farther and farther away.

"He did not tell you any of this, even though – as the country learned today in the New York Times – his own intelligence officials have warned him for weeks that the mission in Iraq is in serious trouble. But that is the truth – hard as it is to hear. You deserve a president who will not play politics with national security, who will not ignore his own intelligence, while living in a fantasy world of spin, and who will give the American people the truth about the challenge our brave men and women face on the front lines."

Go, Johnny, go, go, go.

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Who is the Incumbent George Bush is Running Against?

The latest Harris Poll in the Wall Street Journal shows Bush vs. Kerry dead even, with 51% opining that Bush should not be re-elected. Now is the time when the voters begin to think seriously, even the undecided ones.

George W. Bush has a record. He's signed tax cuts, proclaimed a foreign policy "doctrine", started wars with the doctrine, attempted to abridge certain individuals' civil liberties, acted covertly against Islamic terrorism, tried to remake two foreign nations, refrained from serious intervention in the U.S. economy, and borrowed a record amount of money to do all of it.

He has also chosen, by and large, not to run on that record, but, rather, to promise to do a large number of things in the next four years which he didn't get around to doing in the last four years. He has further chosen to appeal essentially to one issue only, his "steadfastness" as a leader protecting us from harm, and he has chosen to assert, either directly or by proxy, that his opponent is incapable of such steadfastness. That's it. That's all there is to George W. Bush. So go ahead and vote for him.

Stated this way, and stripped of the Convention rhetoric, this is good reason for anyone to be skeptical of Bush. I certainly am, of course, but I'm highly partisan. Still, when you run away from your record, as Bush is doing, you are all but soliciting buyer's remorse. He, and his people, as far as I can see, are doing little or nothing to sell Bush as a President, but only as a candidate with big talk and unfulfilled future promises. John Kerry, of course, is doing the same thing. But, then, John Kerry is not the incumbent. He has, by definition, no presidential record to run on.

So did we really have a President of the United States for the past four years whose record these two challengers are running against? If so, who was he? Al Gore? Bill Clinton? Dick Cheney? Donald Rumsfeld? Condoleeza Rice? Colin Powell? Tony Blair?

If so, could we possibly speak to him so he can defend his record and truly campaign?

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Legal Eagles Lose Grip: Bushquotes 2, Facts 7

"Americans serving in the FBI and CIA are performing their daily work with professionalism, while we reform those agencies to see the dangers around the next corner. Our country is grateful to all our fellow citizens who watch for the enemy, and answer the alarms, and guard America by their vigilance." --George W. Bush, September 11, 2004

U.S. Seeks to Dismiss Terror Convictions

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a dramatic reversal, the Justice Department acknowledges its original prosecution of a suspected terror cell in Detroit was filled with a "pattern of mistakes and oversights" that warrant the dismissal of the convictions.....

In a June 2003 jury verdict hailed by the administration as the breakup of a terror cell, Koubriti, 26, and Elmardoudi, 38, were convicted on terrorism and fraud charges and Ahmed Hannan, 36, was convicted of fraud. A fourth defendant, Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 24, was acquitted.

Probe Eyes Faulty FBI Arrest of Lawyer
Sep 13, 5:37 PM (ET)By CURT ANDERSON

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department's watchdog office is investigating whether the anti-terror Patriot Act was used improperly to arrest an Oregon lawyer in connection with terror bombings in Spain based on faulty FBI fingerprint analysis.

The case of Brandon Mayfield is among three new investigations by the department's inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, into potential civil rights or civil liberties violations by the Justice Department. The cases involve acts against Muslims, Arabs or other groups considered vulnerable to backlash in the war on terror.

Mayfield, a Muslim convert, was arrested May 6 on a material witness warrant after an FBI analysis concluded his fingerprint matched one found on a bag containing detonators like those used in March attacks on trains in Madrid that killed nearly 200 people and wounded 2,000.

A few weeks later, Mayfield was released after the FBI admitted it had made a mistake, and the fingerprint did not match Mayfield's.

Case Against NY Terror Suspects May Be Lost in Translation
August 25, 2004 By John Caher

ALBANY -- The Justice Department's misinterpretation of a Kurdish word has led a federal judge to reverse a prior decision and set bail for two Muslims accused of laundering terrorism money.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David R. Homer, who previously said the proof against the men was "less than overwhelming," yesterday said that the government's translation error further weakens its case.

Saudi Student Cleared of Terror Charges in Idaho,
June 10, 2004 BOISE, Idaho –

A Saudi graduate student was acquitted Thursday of charges that he used his computer expertise to foster terrorism.

The case against Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, 34, was seen as an important test of a provision of the Patriot Act that makes it a crime to provide expert advice or assistance to terrorists. First Amendment advocates called the verdict a victory for free speech.

Al-Hussayen, a computer science student at the University of Idaho, set up and ran Web sites that prosecutors say were used to recruit terrorists, raise money and disseminate inflammatory rhetoric....

Al-Hussayen's attorneys have argued that he had little to do with the creation of the material posted. They say the material was protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression and was not designed to raise money or recruit militants.

Government Concedes Scalia Erasure Wrong
Sep 14, 7:48 PM (ET)By RON HARRIST

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The government has conceded that the U.S. Marshals Service violated federal law when a marshal ordered reporters with The Associated Press and the Hattiesburg American to erase their recordings of a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Justice Department also said the reporters and their employers are each entitled to $1,000 in damages and reasonable attorneys' fees, which had been sought by the media organizations.

The government's concessions were contained in court papers filed Friday in response to a lawsuit by the news organizations.

While agreeing the federal Privacy Protection Act forbids the seizure of the work product of a journalist, the government said the plaintiffs were not entitled to an injunction that would bar the Marshals Service from a repeat of the incident.

Judge Orders U.S. to Open Iraq Records

NEW YORK (AP) - Suggesting the government was acting as if it had something to hide, a federal judge Wednesday gave Washington one month to release records related to the treatment of prisoners in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein chastised officials for moving at a "glacial pace" in responding to nearly year-old Freedom of Information Act requests from the American Civil Liberties Union and four other watchdog organizations.

"If the documents are more of an embarrassment than a secret, the public should know of our government's treatment of individuals captured and held abroad," Hellerstein wrote. "We are a nation that strives to value the dignity of all humanity."

The groups brought a lawsuit in June, saying they wanted to expose the treatment of detainees.

Hellerstein said though the government had raised "important issues" of national security as a reason for the delays, "merely raising national security concerns cannot justify unlimited delay."

A reprimand, no apology for chaplain
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff, 3/23/2004

WASHINGTON -- Army Captain James "Yousef" Yee asked for an apology but received a reprimand yesterday, as the strange legal saga of the Muslim chaplain once suspected of the grand crime of spying at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp reached a whimper of a conclusion over sex offenses.

Outgoing Guantanamo commander Major General Geoffrey Miller, who dismissed all criminal charges against Yee last week, decided during an administrative hearing yesterday to place a reprimand in his permanent service record over charges that Yee downloaded porn onto his government-owned laptop and had an extramarital affair last summer.

The sex-related offenses, discovered during the course of the investigation into more serious national security fears, were all that remained of a case that began explosively in September, when Yee was arrested in Jacksonville upon the suspicion of being a spy in the war on terrorism.

He spent 76 days in solitary confinement at a South Carolina brig, some of it in leg irons, while government officials speaking anonymously told reporters he was suspected of treason. In fact, no such evidence was produced.

Oh, yes, and here's the GOOD news:

Stewart Asks to Serve Sentence Soon
Sep 15, 6:43 PM (ET)By ERIN McCLAM

NEW YORK (AP) - Even at a wrenching moment of surrender, Martha Stewart was - as always - under impeccable control.

Her announcement Wednesday that she would report to prison as soon as possible came in a light-bathed studio, before a brilliant backdrop of color swatches, perfectly choreographed for television. She lamented that she would miss her beloved pets - cats, dogs, horses, canaries and chickens - and hoped to be free in time for her cherished spring gardening.

Partial Government Win in Moussaoui Appeal
United Press International

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled terror suspect Zacharias Moussaoui could not have direct access to suspects held overseas.

The ruling is a partial victory for the Justice Department. The appeals court upheld a federal judge's ruling the overseas suspects could be helpful to Moussaoui's case, and said the judge could access enemy combatants overseas if they are in U.S. custody.

But the appeals court also said appropriate substitutions are available in place of the enemy combatant testimony at trial, such as a government proposal to summarize the relevant parts of terror suspect debriefings.

Well, hey, it's just like Dick Cheney says, they've gotten beyond regarding terrorism as merely "criminal acts". Maybe that's why they can't prosecute anybody straight.

For past confrontations of Bushquotes with the Facts, you can go here and here.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Hey, All You States' Rights Advocates Out There!

Check out this little bit of creative Hamiltonian Federalism:

"In January 2004, the previously obscure and little-noticed Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), part of the U.S. Treasury Department, asserted itself with two new regulatory rules. The rules give it and it alone sole legal authority to enact and enforce all consumer protection regulations applicable to both national banks (any bank with national or N.A. in its name) and even their state-licensed operating subsidiaries such as mortgage companies.

"The OCC's newly self-imposed authority even negates state banking laws where no federal law exists. This decision eliminates longstanding state legislative authority to enact laws and prevents state attorneys general and financial regulators from enforcing violations of virtually any state law.

"The OCC took these actions without Congressional approval, but the courts have unfortunately sided with recent efforts by the OCC and national banks to override, or preempt, state consumer laws, such as PIRG-backed ordinances banning ATM surcharges in San Francisco and Santa Monica, PIRG-backed anti-predatory lending laws in several states and a PIRG-backed credit card disclosure law in California.

"So, the best solution is to pass a "Congressional Motion of Disapproval," also known as a legislative veto. State legislatures, attorneys general and governors have joined consumer, community and civil rights groups to fight back. If the OCC action is not overturned by Congress, predatory mortgage lending will increase, more banks will get involved in shabby payday loan-like "bounce protection" scams, credit card companies will intensify their unfair practices and bank fees will rise even more astronomically.

"You can find out more about the OCC at PIRG's special OCC Watch website."

Where are the Sons of Liberty when you really need them?

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John Kerry Takes the Gloves Off

Well! Things are finally getting back on track:

"George Bush’s record speaks for itself. 1.6 million lost jobs. The first president in 72 years to actually lose jobs on his watch. 8 million Americans are now looking for work. 45 million have no health insurance – 5 million more than the day he took office. 4.3 million Americans have slipped into poverty over the last four years – 1.3 million are children. The average family saw their income fall $1,500, while they saw the cost of health care, child care, gasoline, and tuition rise faster than ever before. 220,000 more Americans did not attend college last year for the simple reason that they could not afford it. This President turned a $5.6 trillion surplus into trillions of debt for our children.....

"At that convention in New York the other week, President Bush talked about his ownership society. Well Mr. President, when it comes to your record, we agree – you own it.

"Of course, the President would have us believe that his record is the result of bad luck, not bad decisions. That he’s faced the wrong circumstances, not made the wrong choices. In fact, this President has created more excuses than jobs. His is the Excuse Presidency: Never wrong, Never Responsible, Never to Blame. President Bush’s desk isn’t where the buck stops – it’s where the blame begins. He’s blamed just about everyone but himself and his administration for America’s economic problems. And if he’s missed you, don’t worry – he’s still got 48 days left until the election.

"He sure has a lot of excuses, but you know what? Of the last eleven presidents – many who faced war and recession – George Bush is the only one to actually lose jobs on his watch.

"We know the truth. George Bush’s failed record is the result of George Bush’s failed policies."

Couldn't have said it better myself, Senator. Thank you and keep up the good work.

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What I Think a Majority of Us Really Want

Yes, "what a majority of us really want" is what I really want, but it's obviously not ALL I really want. We'll save the rest of what I really want for later.

A majority of us really want to defeat Islamic based terrorism and effectively protect ourselves from ANY terrorism. And a majority of us want to keep our freedoms doing it.

(As both a liberal and a Democrat, by the way, I think the constant assertion or insinuation that we do NOT want terrorism defeated by members of the Other Party is a scabrous piece of personally insulting partisan Buncombe.)

A majority of us really want a level economic playing field where EVERYBODY can do better for themselves, if they wish to do better, or at least maintain themselves if they are not interested in doing better, or not able to do better.

A majority of us also believe that this level playing field does NOT happen by magic and that it is the responsibility of Government to make it level and keep it level.

A majority of us really wish to make war ONLY when needed, for reasons which do not prove to be a bunch of hot air, and for reasons which reasonable people everywhere recognize as morally just.

A majority of us really wish to make war EFFECTIVELY, when we must make war, and do not wish to be fed pablum that "things are going well" when they are really not going very well at all.

A majority of us, thank heavens, really think that war must be waged morally, no matter who the enemy is and that immoral actions by our enemies do not justify immoral actions by ourselves.

A majority of us really wish to take proper care of those who have sacrificed for us by being soldiers, not making them extend that sacrifice beyond the battlefield, when the war has come to an end for them, nor making that sacrifice extend to their families while the war is being fought--our Veterans deserve our best not our neglect.

A majority of us really wish the world to choose our values voluntarily, rather than through our coercion, because freedom under law and voluntary choice within the law are the POINT of our values.

So how do we stand in this election year on achieving what a majority of us really want?

I have started to document here and here how George W. Bush has consistently failed to do these very things. I will continue to do so. So stay tuned.

It is also clear that John Kerry may succeed in doing some of these things, but ONLY if he really works at it, really keeps his mind on it, really succeeds in governing with the cooperation of the intelligent and responsible members of both parties, and cultivates the goodwill of our international friends.

Yes, we do have some of both.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

This is WHY we need Universal Health Insurance

Asia Faces Bird Flu Crisis of Unprecedented Scale

Tue Sep 14, 2004 07:01 AM ET

"SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Asia faces an outbreak of unprecedented proportions as it grapples with avian influenza, which the World Health Organization warns could develop into a pandemic unless detection and prevention methods are improved.

"Health officials from across the region raised alarm bells Tuesday over bird flu, which WHO officials said had claimed 28 lives in the region. They argued that increased collaboration between countries and more study was needed to combat the virus, which resurfaced in July in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and China and dampened Asian demand for grain.

"This outbreak is historically unprecedented. Its infectious agents don't respect international boundaries," Shigeru Omi, regional director for the WHO's Western Pacific Region, told member-state delegates gathered in Shanghai."

Precisely. There is absolutely no reason why it could not show up on the next flight into LAX. We have 45 MILLION people in this country who have no health insurance, or about 1 out of 6 of us.

When you have no health insurance, you delay care. When you are contagious and delay care you pass your disease to far more people. When you are uninsured, contagous, delay care, and are at death's door you go to the local emergency room. When you are the local emergency room, you cannot possibly handle 1 in every 6 people in your community. So an Asian flu pandemic puts the entire health care system in danger of collapse.

There it is. All in simple declarative sentences. Why do so many of my fellow Americans fail to comprehend them?

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