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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

THE MESSAGE

General Patraeus
When General Patraeus took command of the troops in Iraq, he gave a speech, which you probably haven't heard or seen. Here's the text, for your perusal.
To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Civilians of Multi-National Force-Iraq:

We serve in iraq at a critical time. The war here will soon enter its fifth year. A decisive moment approaches. Shoulder-to-shoulder with our Iraqi comrades, we will conduct a pivotal campaign to improve security for the Iraqi people. The stakes could not be higher.

Our task is crucial. Security is essential for Iraq to build its future. Only with security can the Iraqi government come to grips with the tough issues it confronts and develop the capacity to serve its citizens. The hopes of the Iraqi people and the coalition countries are with us.

The enemies of Iraq will shrink at no act, however barbaric. They will do all that they can to shake the confidence of the people and to convince the world that this effort is doomed. We must not underestimate them.

Together with our Iraqi partners, we must defeat those who oppose the new Iraq. We cannot allow mass murderers to hold the initiative. We must strike them relentlessly. We and our Iraqi partners must set the terms of the struggle, not our enemies. And together we must prevail.

The way ahead will not be easy. There will be difficult times in the months to come. But hard is not hopeless, and we must remain steadfast in our effort to help improve security for the Iraqi people. I am confident that each of you will fight with skill and courage, and that you will remain loyal to your comrades-in-arms and to the values our nations hold so dear.

In the end, Iraqis will decide the outcome of this struggle. Our task is to help them gain the time they need to save their country. To do that, many of us will live and fight alongside them. Together we will face down the terrorists, insurgents, and criminals who slaughter the innocent. Success will require discipline, fortitude, and initiative — qualities that you have in abundance.

I appreciate your sacrifices and those of your families. Now, more than ever, your commitment to service and your skill can make the difference between victory and defeat in a very tough mission.

It is an honor to soldier again with the members of the Multi-National Force-Iraq. I know that wherever you serve in this undertaking you will give your all. In turn, I pledge my commitment to our mission and every effort to achieve success as we help the Iraqis chart a course to a brighter future.

Godspeed to each of you and to our Iraqi comrades in this crucial endeavor.

David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army
Commanding
This strikes me as realistic, uplifting, and proper - if only we had more of this attitude at home like there is by the men at the front.

YOU'RE SPECIAL!

HELEN: Everyone's special, Dash.

DASH: Which is another way of saying no one is.
(The Incredibles)

There was a fundamental shift in education that happened a generation ago. Instead of being primarily interested in producing children who were well educated, the focus became a concern that children were well-adjusted and had the proper viewpoint on life. This change from education to psychology has had some sad effects on test scores and learning, but it has also made children increasingly narcissistic. The Los Angeles times examines this effect:
In the study being released today, researchers warn that a rising ego rush could cause personal and social problems for the Millennial Generation, also called Gen Y. People with an inflated sense of self tend to have less interest in emotionally intimate bonds and can lash out when rejected or insulted.

"That makes me very, very worried," said Jean Twenge, a San Diego State associate professor and lead author of the report. "I'm concerned we are heading to a society where people are going to treat each other badly, either on the street or in relationships."

She and four other researchers from the University of Michigan, University of Georgia and University of South Alabama looked at the results of psychological surveys taken by more than 16,000 college students across the country over more than 25 years.

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory asks students to react to such statements as: "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I like to be the center of attention."

The study found that almost two-thirds of recent college students had narcissism scores that were above the average 1982 score. Thirty percent more college students showed elevated narcissism in 2006 than in 1982.
Young people tend naturally to view the world as rotating around them - it is a lesson learned as a child when parents tend to project that viewpoint by their attention and concern. The truth that you're nothing special and the world could really care less about you is somewhat shocking when it is learned (this is part of the cause of teenage angst), but it is a lesson we all need to face. Making this lesson more difficult to understand is the culture we live in and the deliberate attempts by educators to build "positive self esteem" in students. They've been successful, when the world's students are tested, Americans tend to test in the bottom 10% on actual ability, but top 10% on how they feel they did. The Times goes on:
Some of the increase in narcissistic attitudes was probably caused by the self-esteem programs that many elementary schools adopted 20 years ago, the study suggests. It notes that nursery schools began to have children sing songs that proclaim: "I am special, I am special. Look at me."
Joanne Jacobs picked this story up and considered it:
Also blamed were “permissive parenting, increased materialism and the fascination with celebrities and reality TV shows.”

My daughter went through school at the height of the self-esteem frenzy. Every year, there were “I am Special” or “Student of the Week” or “Star Student” activities. She quickly figured out that being “special” wasn’t all that special. She does think that if she ruled the world it would be a better place. In her case, she’s right.
I suspect most every parent thinks that and sadly almost all of them are wrong. Commenters discussed this trend:
Instilling kids with self-esteem - it’s the worst thing to do, except for all the other ways you could raise your kids.

My dad’s guidance counselor said he would never graduate from high school. He ended up being an economist. And this is a story that repeated itself thousands of times. As they’re growing up, kids encounter so many miserable people who’ve failed in their own lives and want to rain on everyone else’s parade. Self-esteem keeps these negative influences at bay.

This is the most-successful and competitive generation ever (UCLA took my mom out-of-state despite a C in Physics - think that would happen now?). Let’s give them a little credit.
-by Gabe


Gabe,
Did your dad’s academic performance dramatically increase between the guidance counselors comments and when he went to college? Also I bet if your mother’s physics class was graded on todays scale her grade would be a B+. People need truthful feedback to make choices about their lives.
-by Ben


This reminds me of my favorite line in the Incredibles…mom tells Dash, “Everyone’s special, Dash.” and he replies with, “That’s just another way of saying no one is.”

I think the problem isn’t so much on telling kids they are special, but in eliminating anything that really develops a sense of purpose and accomplishment. There are no wrong answers, no games with losers, etc. Children scarcely have a chance to truly develop their natural talents and inclinations, but are told they are special when they just stay in the “herd.”
-by Dana


Well, there’s a difference in having self-WORTH (feeling you are fit to walk the surface of the earth, which everyone should feel) and self-CONFIDENCE (knowing you are good at something because you have objective outside proof).

I don’t even like the word self-esteem any more; it has become so confounded and confused that it means virtually nothing.

I have no problem with people taking pride in doing something well. The problem comes when people are told that every effluvium they produce is WONDERFUL and SPECIAL and is worthy of praise. We need to use a little discernment here - kids can see through it, or if they don’t, they turn into dangerous narcissists who are agonizingly hard to work with.

There’s nothing wrong in praising kids for good work. But they also need to learn that in most adult careers, you don’t get praised for good work - you only hear it if your work is bad.
-by ricki


Keep in mind that the definition of Narcissism is a false belief in one’s self-worth. Narcissists are usually the least self-confident. That is the result of always being told you’re great when you know it isn’t true.
-by GradSchoolMom
In a culture where MySpace is a top-end website, YouTube is another, and personalized web page shopping is the biggest marketing trend, the world is not exactly opposing this "I'm special" viewpoint. Here let me help: you aren't special. I'm not special. One person out of a hundred million is actually special and important, you're just one of us, the regular folks. You aren't going to save the world, your generation is not going to be the one that makes everything better, you aren't going to be a world leader. You're going to be just like almost everyone else on the planet, a regular person doing regular things.

And that's fine, you don't have to be special. Being the guy that works the job every day and brings home a paycheck is good enough. Being a regular worker, a regular mom, a regular student is perfectly fine. Be the best regular person you can, but don't consider yourself because you're not. The problem is we've gotten into the mindset that in order to combat feelings of inadequacy and misery in life we have to artificially pump up self worth. That if you aren't something better than the average person then something is wrong with you.

That's a lie, and its a pernicious one. You not only set people up for an inevitable fall when they realize that's not true, but you are not preparing them for the world. Like ricki said, in the adult world, people tend to ignore your accomplishment (if they don't take credit for them or run you down) and focus on your failures. If you are brought up in a plastic bubble of constant praise and reinforcement you will be utterly unable to face this world. Kids are miserable enough without being told things they know deep down aren't true about themselves.

This trend started with the self-absorbed "we're going to change the world" delusions of the boomers. It's only gotten worse by the constant refrain of self esteem for children and worries that little Johnny might feel bad if his team doesn't win at softball. So everyone wins, everyone gets a prize. There's another scene in The Incredibles that tackled this concept, where Bob doesn't want to go to Dash's "graduation." He points out that Dash is merely moving from the 4th to the 5th grade, that constant celebrations of mediocrity are insane. Celebration of every mundane event doesn't make the mundane special. It makes celebration meaningless.
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CHERRYPICKING COMMENTS

"When will the first lib (moonbat) accuse John of cherry picking DU quotes? I give it about an hour."

Suicide Bomber
Over the weekend, Vice President Cheney was the target of a suicide bomber, one that failed. The explosion killed 23 people (one of which was the moron with the bomb) and wounded 20. Cheney was asked if he thought the Taliban was trying to target him directly and he responded:
"I think they clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government."

"Striking at Bagram with a suicide bomber, I suppose, is one way to do that," he said. "But it shouldn't affect our behavior at all."
VP CheneyHow the Taliban knew about Cheney's presence is somewhat of a concern, as this is not the first time a supposedly secret presence of someone has been acted on by the terrorists:
In January 2006, a militant blew himself up in Uruzgan province during a supposedly secret visit by the U.S. ambassador, killing 10 Afghans.
In response to this attack on the United States, most people were outraged and upset. Others, less so. At the Huffington Post, there was a blog entry about the event, and it was literally flooded with comments by the fans. The comments section has been closed and locked away, but there is a pdf file of the comments out there, and here are some samples:
If at first you don't succeed...
-by Tented


Better luck next time!
-by TDB


DrEvil escapes again... damn!
-by truthtopower01
Over at Democratic Underground, the response varied. One was even glad that Cheney hadn't been harmed:
Thank God Cheney was fine. I couldn’t deal with it if that man was made a martyr.

In fact I wish that the black hearted thug would stick around for the next 50 years so that he can see what the history books say about him, but that ain’t gonna happen.
-by LeviathanCrumbling


Cheney Unhurt, World Disappointed
-by TheWatcher
Some at the Democratic Underground even theorized that Vice President Cheney had become a liability and was targeted for execution, but the Bush team was so incompetent they failed the attempt. At the Daily Kos, the "sorry he lived" theme continued:
for viewers benefit that Cheney was NOT injured! Also had info that attack had as its goal Darth himself! Couldn't happen to a nicer guy! (snark!!)
-Dolphin777


damn, they missed!
-by Dancewater


A protest bombing versus real attempt on Cheney's life. Sad world when "protest bombing" makes some sort of sense.
-by John Boy


I'm glad the sick old sod survived; I couldn't stomach having to memorialize him against the backdrops of his numerous and abysmal failures.

I'm sure any of our troops there would have gladly put themselves in harms way to protect him. If I were in their shoes, I would too.
-by Kimberley


Good Point
I want him to rot in jail not die in a way that could in any way be construed as bravery, honor or decency.
-by Panda
Note that many of the comments in these sections were about sadness for the Afghanis that died, some even showed some concern for a friend who is overseas in Afghanistan. Not one single post showed the slightest outrage that a Vice President of the United States was targeted by terrorists for murder. None.

I was afraid Ronald Reagan was going to destroy the world, I considered him wrong and evil and dangerous when I was young and he was President. When he was shot, I was confused by how angry I felt and how much it hurt and frightened me for the president to be targeted, regardless of who he was. I wanted him to live, I hoped he was OK when I first heard about the assassination attempt. Apparently these folks do not share that ideology.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Right Wing News will semi-regularly post comments from the Democratic Underground or other leftist websites, outrageous quotes by commenters and diarists, bloggers and rabble rousers. The refrain constantly state when John Hawkins does such a post is "you're cherry picking comments, you're just finding the worst, this doesn't represent the left!" When this event happened, the biggest leftwing blogs on the internet were flooded with the kinds of comments I listed above, particularly the Huffington Post (where twice now blog writers have fantasized about Vice President Cheney's death) - things got so bad there that the comment threat was locked away and hidden.

The response from the left is again the same thing, "you're cherry picking comments, this doesn't represent the left, liberals aren't like that." Is that fair, are they right?

CLINTON MADNESS
I recall in the 1990s getting random emails about how President Clinton had secret drug-smuggling airstrips built in Arkansas and lists of all the people who "mysteriously died" around him. Rumors of how Ron Brown died from a gunshot to the back of the head before the plane crashed emerged. Theories of how Vincent Foster really died and why were brought up, questions were asked whether President Clinton would even step down from office. I remember the bitter rage many on the right felt that such a man was in the highest office of the land, that he was commander in chief.

Not everyone was a crank, but there were those who talked about wishing President Clinton would be assassinated, wishing he'd die choking on a french fry. I recall discussions of the ways the military would have to step in if the president refused to leave office. The rhetoric and the anger was always under the surface of the mainstream, because the right doesn't control the media and entertainment industries in America. It was, however, out there and to some degree still is.

The causes of this were frustration, fear, and anger. People were so upset that this man who they felt was so utterly undeserving of office, so patently corrupt, so sleazy and who had such terrible ideas for government would be president. The divide in the nation was very strong and very stark at the time. It just didn't get publicity or official sanction because it wasn't felt by the news anchors, pundits, comedians, and actors. To them, everything was going along just fine, and why would anyone not like this guy?

BUSH DERANGEMENT
Although the plain facts of the case tell the tale of Florida 2000, many on the left were horrified in what they thought was the theft of the election from Vice President Gore. Granted, almost to a man they all admitted they were glad Gore wasn't the president on 9/11, but that was quickly forgotten as the events on that day were excised from memory lest some patriotism or anti-terrorist fervor catch hold. Then President Bush demonstrated his desire to govern as a social conservative, to fight a strong war against terrorism, to dare to ignore them as he made decisions.

President Bush chose judges that would be resistant to liberal activism, banned funding to Embryonic Stem Cell research, blocked the use of foreign military bases for abortions given to locals. He cut taxes while implementing the very programs the left always had called for. Worst of all, he was popular, successful, and Republican at the same time. The bitter frustration, anger, and fear crept deeper and deeper into the hearts of the left. Without knowing the facts in most cases, they were told lies about the man and his actions. Rejecting any contrary position as a right wing conspiracy, the fear built on fear.

CHERRYPICKING?
Does the left really want Vice President Cheney to die? I think the bulk of them deep down would not want that VP of the United States to be murdered by terrorists, they would consider it an attack on them and a brutal evil, as far as they are willing to admit the existence of such a thing. That said, I believe most of them, even the ones crying "cherry picking!" today would cheer this event at least in part, simply because of that fear and frustration. It would vindicate their anger, it would express their bitter hate for the man who is so competent, capable, and has such profound presence.

The animosity toward Vice President Cheney is even stronger than President Bush, if that is imaginable, because he seems so capable, strong, and threatening. Cheney has one of those faces that is sort of scary to kids, he has an enormous presence that comes across even over television. He has a booming, deep voice, an attitude of confidence and unconcern, and a competence that is unnerving. If something were to happen to President Bush, Dick Cheney would take over and some even theorize that he's really in power anyway, with the hapless idiot chimp George Bush as a puppet. In a childish way, because Vice President Cheney looks and feels sort of scary he is considered to be by the radical left. He looks like a bad guy, so he must be. Besides, he owned oil companies.

RELATIVISM
I believe that this isn't so much cherry picking as exaggerating. I believe that the majority of the radical left - the ones with the loudest voices and greatest influence today on the Democratic party - really deep down do want Vice President Cheney to die. That they would celebrate such a thing, while at the same time being opposed to murder. These are the same people who considered Glenn Reynolds a barbaric thug for suggesting that Iranian nuclear scientists be assassinated. The thing is, the irony doesn't reach them - irony requires an absolute understanding of truth and ethics, and if you reject those concepts, you can hold contradictory positions gleefully and knowingly.

This is how they can state truthfully that they support the troops - as far as it goes - yet take every single position and action that plainly demonstrates contempt for and opposition to these men and women and everything they are trying to accomplish. Not only are most of them generally ignorant about the military, but they are willing to hold two contradictory positions at the same time because it shows how nuanced they are.

Are these comments being cherry picked? In this case no, they were the majority opinion with almost no opposition or contradiction. Are they truly representative of the left in America? Sort of, yes. Should we all be better than this? Yes, but how can we be, if our attitude is that political power is the end all and be all of our lives? If we think that this life is all there is and nothing exists beyond what can be measured by our senses and science, what else is there other than power? The fruits of relativism and naturalistic philosophy are bitter indeed.
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Quote of the Day

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.”
-Drew Cary
*Hat tip to Pupster for this quote. Not Galactically Stupid as I posted earlier in an ironic demonstration of the blog's name.
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

SHAMEFUL

"Why should they have to come back from losing their legs, or an arm, or their sight, and have to navigate this red tape jungle?"

Old Military Hospital
It has been standard for centuries for nations to call upon soldiers to save them from foes, praising and cheering them as they march to victory and fight the enemy... then when the war is over, forget them. Mangled, crippled soldiers and sailors were reduced to begging in the streets in the past, hoping someone patriotic or who was in the war might be willing to give them work, or at least some food.

In the past, the system was to call up soldiers for a war, then after the war was over, to disband the military except for the professionals (knights, generals, etc) and forget them. No pay, no pension, no hospitals. Fend for yourselves, if you can. Today the system is a bit more protective, a soldier who fights in a war has veteran's benefits, often a pension, and at least some education paid for. Yet still the protection and care of our veterans is shameful.

Recently, the Washington Post did a series of articles regarding the poor care of our soldiers in military hospitals such as Walter Reed. This is not a new development, it's been a problem for centuries around the world. Movies in the past have depicted this shameful situation, articles have detailed the poor care and cheap tricks played on wounded and hospitalized soldiers both in America and in other countries.

The American Princess writes about a more recent article in the Army Times (not military affiliated, it is a USA Today paper). As she puts it:
This isn't a new story. This sort of treatment goes back to the Civil War. It's shameful, and we really should've learned our lesson by now. How do we expect people to fight for our freedom, sacrifice themselves, if they aren't going to be taken care of when they come home? It's called keeping faith. The Pentagon should remember that.
She relates the tale of a man trying to get disability benefits, and the red tape he had to fight through to get what doctors unanimously declared he was qualified for. Why the red tape, why the problems? Commenters at The American Princess explain:
This sort of thing makes me wonder why you libs want us all to get our health care from the government. Clearly they've never been able to manage veterans' health care to everyone's standards, and Medicare and Medicaid are both expensive monuments to government inefficiency.

So, so hypocritical.
-by Rob


Yeah, honestly, I've been to the DMV and the post office. I think of that kind of service in the context of health care, and it makes me a little queasy. The government's foremost concern would certainly not be my "health" so much as it might be "whatever the government's current primary concern is."

Paperwork is not the only type of government ineffeciency. Look at Canada's health care system. Under it, people wait weeks for things that they can pay for in the US and get almost immediately. Clinton would be dead, waiting for a bypass surgery. Someone like me, who suffers from a variety of physical ailments would be laboring pretty long on waiting lists. They've created a tiered system, even a backdoor system, that costs thousands more for quality health care, which you only get if you can afford it. If you accept the government health care, its substandard to US health care, if you don't, its outrageously expensive.

You can lower the cost of health care other ways. Tort reform, for example. Health courts. I don't know how effective they are, but I can honestly say, confronted with the prospect of the government managing my health when it can barely get my packages to my house on time, it seems preferable. Add on to that the idea that capitalism improves technology and that America is one of the few nations who are really making strides in medical and pharmaceutical technology, you have a lot of arguments in favor of the current system over universal health care. I'll pay a little more for my drugs for my various ailments if it means that I'll continue to get better and more effective treatments.
-by E. M.


I saw an interesting piece the other day on government-sponsored healthcare.

Don't forget to visit Tyler Cowen's original post on this.

All people who prescribe government-sponsored healthcare as a cure-all should be required to sit in very long gas lines for one year (a la Jimmy Carter) just to remind them that price controls are usually bad.
-by WC

What's the problem? Well its twofold. First, it is a government program which means it is nearly unaccountable. They can offer lousy care and there's nobody to appeal to, no place to turn for repair. You can't ask the government to look into it - they are the government. The second is what ails all healthcare right now: greed and cost cutting. The desire to trim costs and keep the expense down leads these places to do the absolute minimum and fight every single expense to the last penny.

Walter Reed and other government-run institutions are a good glimpse into why a national health care system is such a bad idea, as if looking at Britain and Canada isn't enough. This is a cautionary tale as well as a call for better care: don't walk this path because we see where it leads, and let's do better for our soldiers. We owe them a debt of honor and thanks for their sacrifice.

Shame on congress and shame on President Bush for not doing more, shame most of all on the bureaucrats, drones, and administrators who run these places. Let's not be part of that shame.
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FEAR THE ASSAULT RIFLES!

"I don’t quite get it, but what part of “Shall not be infringed” is lost on these people?"

Mini-14
Quick, is this the picture of an assault weapon? It is according to the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Here's where definitions become interesting, the then Democrat-controlled Congress banned assault weapons which is distinct from assault rifles. Here's the definition of an assault rifle:
  • Is a carbine sized individual weapon with provision to be fired from a shouldered position.
  • Is capable of selective fire.
  • Fires from a locked breech.
  • Utilizes an intermediate powered-cartridge.
  • Ammunition is supplied from a large capacity detachable box magazine.
This is a weapon like the AK-47 and M-16, an automatic weapon that fire rifle bullets. The Congressional law defined assault weapons a bit more loosely:
Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Conspicuous pistol grip
  • Bayonet mount
  • Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
  • Grenade launcher
Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
  • Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
  • Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or silencer
  • Barrel shroud that can be used as a hand-hold
  • Unloaded weight of 50 oz or more
  • A semi-automatic version of an automatic firearm
Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:
  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Pistol grip
  • Fixed capacity of more than 5 rounds
  • Detachable magazine
Basically, any weapon that looks like or could look like an assault rifle, even non automatic guns. Any gun that looks scary, to put it another way. The Ruger M-14 I listed above fits this definition (because of the scary looking flash suppressor at the end of the barrel), as does any magazine-fed or clip-fed hunting rifle. This ban wasn't of weapons particularly dangerous or useless for hunting or sport. It was anything that looked like it might be that, most of the provisions are cosmetic rather than functional. This law ran out in 2004, although Dianne Feinstein attempted to extend the bill ten more years - which was voted down 8-90.

Now the new Democratic Congress is trying to reinstate this law. Free Republic has the text of the bill, and this time it is even worse. Rather than requiring two features of the given list, only one is necessary. It specifically bans a list of guns by name. It prohibits ownership of a conversion kit and any gun that can be converted. I prohibits any rifle with a pistol grip. In other words, it takes the original bill and makes it significantly more inclusive, trying to stop up any loopholes in which some citizen somewhere was able to own a weapon that looks scary.

There's more: Say Uncle notes how the ban is intended to be retroactive:
Seems the ban on transfer provision is there to prevent people like my from going out and stocking up on evil black rifles. This happened quite extensively prior to passage of the 1994 ban. Manufacturers cranked out weapons that look like assault weapons and regular capacity magazines in droves. People bought them up and some turned a profit. I personally sold an Oly Arms AR for $1,300 after spending $700 on it two months before.
Commenters responded:
Why Rugy Giuliani is not a good choice. He favors gun control
-by Smitty


The bill has no co-sponsers and is not likely to make it out of commitee.

I would wager it will die quite quickly. I’m watching it to see where it goes, but I’m not getting all worked up yet. For one thing I think it would be political suicide for the Dems since a number of their new members were elected on the basis of at least no new anti-2A legislation.

That said, it does need watching just in case. Of course, all bets are off if the dems take all in 2008.
-by Earl Harding


Earl, I agree. While I initially fretted over the new Senate enacting new gun laws, a commenter made a pretty decent case that it is too pro-gun to pass even an identical “assault” weapons ban to the 1994 one, which an earlier “Republican” Senate narrowly voted to renew in ‘04. Basically, we lost one good guy (Jim Talent) to one very bad non-guy (Claire “but the fake gun groups endorse me!” McCaskill), but the rest of the Senate losses were either a pro-gun Democrat replacing a pro-gun Republican, or an anti-gun Democrat replacing an anti-gun RINO. That said, vigilance is always called for.

No, Smacks, I said vigilance, not vigilantism. They’re different.
-by XRLQ


Good News: Rep McCarthy has NEVER sponsored a bill that became legislation.
She is just a knee jerk Long Guyland liberal, (I can say that, I was BORN AND RAISED THERE) she just takes up space and wastes O2.
-by Ken Zimms


Sadly, she is way more than that. She is a woman whose husband and son were gunned down by a nut job on the LIRR - from whence came her fame and therefore electability. As such she can tap a vast reservoir of combined sympathy and hostility inside and outside of Congress, and can shame/guilt folks into voting her way (obviously with the complicity of all major media). In NY she has Chuck Schumer in her camp as Public Enemy #1 in the Senate for gun owners, and Hillary “I’d sell my soul for your primary vote” will quickly get in line. Will Jim Webb and others stick to their principles? Will the supposed ‘conservative-like’ House freshmen abandon their campaign promises? Do you really take their promises seriously, and do you think they do?

I am afraid we can’t even necessarily count on the current White House to stop this train, never mind if a Dem gets elected in ‘08.

I think there is real danger here. My next several paychecks will be heavily invested in ’stocking up’ activities, that is, if you folks have not bought everything already.
-by Aaron

How that translates into gutting the 2nd amendment as President is beyond me. Also, it is one issue that Congress would have to agree with, and send him a bill.
Two words.
Executive order.

“Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.”
–Clinton presidential aide Paul Begala, July 1998

OK. So that was more than two. Point is, there is a lot that a President Giuliani could do to gut the 2A without any assistance from Congress.
-by David

Aren’t all grips pistol grips? That one line will basically cover every gun ever made.
Because “gun control” laws are crafted by hoplophobic idiots. I thought we already went over this. ;-)

The beauty of this is that then government agencies like the BATF(e) tobacco ninjas get to “clarify” the ambiguous law. Therefore they can declare springs and strings to be “machine guns” and crappy self-loading shotguns as being “destructive devices”. They can do that without due process, by merely publishing the regulations. They do not need to get congress to vote on the new “laws”, nor does the president need to sign or veto those “laws”. Then all of our “friends” in congress with the NRA grades of A or B can point to the BATF(e) and say “it’s them, not me, I’m a strong supporter of your rights”.
-by Standard Mischief


The part they will never understand is that the 2nd amendment is NOT about hunting. The guns are to protect us from THEM (among other things…). If you are smart, you will buy all your guns at gun shows and not fill out any paperwork so the government won’t have a trail to follow to you when it all goes down. Think it won’t happen? Look at Australia, Canada, Great Britain…
-by Circa Bellum
As a commenter named Captain Holly points out, the ban as broad as it is still is wierdly inconsistent. Basically the shape of the gun is what is banned, not its characteristics. Let me show you two examples:


BANNEDNOT BANNED
HiPoint 9mmRuger PC-9
What's the difference? Well the 9mm on the left has a pistol grip. The one of the right does not. Thus it's banned while the other is fine. Why? Because it looks scary, and the other looks like ahunting rifle (the grip-looking thing in front of the trigger is a magazine).

I've written on the meaning and history of the second amendment in the past, so I won't go into much detail here, but the entire concept seems to be lost on people who may very well be well-meaning and genuinely concerned about guns. Citizens of the US are to be able to own and use weapons because it's good for the nation and bad for tyranny. Attempts to strip down weapons like this might be for good intentions but are bad for the nation and liberty: a government that fears its citizens governs most conscientiously.
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LORD HAW HAW RETURNS

"Germany calling, Germany calling"

News Leaflet
In World War 1 and 2, there was a concerted effort on all sides to convince the enemy soldiers to give up, or at least to harm morale. Leaflets were dropped, rumors spread, and displays of martial might given all along these lines. Germans had leaflets and pamphlets telling the allies that they were being lied to by their government, that Roosevelt was a fat cat conspiring with big business to get rich while they died. That the Germans were merely fighting for their freedom, that America had no business being here and besides they were going to die on foreign soil and be forgotten - for what? There were warnings of economic disaster from the profligate spending of the president, that vets faced miserable health care and would suffer at home. News taken from various media and quoted in pamphlets that were

In World War 2, radio broadcasts by characters such as Lord Haw Haw, Tokyo Rose, and Axis Sally were all done daily to attempt to sway soldiers to give up their cause. These broadcasts were mixed with popular music and the soldiers listened to them for the tunes because there wasn't anything else they could pick up or enjoy. Lord Haw Haw broadcast to England primarily, telling the British that the Germans were only fighting in self defense, wanted peace, but if they had to fight, they'd destroy England.

These broadcasts lied about actual events, exaggerated failures, ignored triumphs, and portrayed every single event and person in the worst light possible. Roosevelt and Churchill were liars, puppets of the international Jewish conspiracy, the soldiers were committing atrocities against the people of France. Each of these propagandists worked from the enemy countries, their identities hidden. They broadcast with an assumed name, but were often members of the countries they targeted.

Today, this has changed considerably. The propagandists are still busy, there are still those who claim to be on the side of the allies working to undermine morale and the war effort, true. The difference is they are operating openly, in allied countries, and to the open support and praise of some. Instead of Joyce posing as Lord Haw Haw, we have Robert Fisk posting as himself. Tim Blair points this out:
Pro-Taliban, anti-British propaganda from Robert Fisk:

Hands up any soldiers who know that another of Britain’s great military defeats took place in the very sands in which your colleagues are now fighting the Taliban. Yes, the Battle of Maiwand - on 27 July, 1880 - destroyed an entire British brigade, overrun by thousands of armed Afghan tribesmen, some of whom the official enquiry into the disaster would later describe as “Talibs”. The Brits had been trying to secure Helmand province. Sound familiar?
Nazi LeafletWell, yes Robert, that does sound familiar. It's much like the reminders by propagandist of the many war dead from WW1: just give up, no reason for that to happen again, let us win. "Hands up."

If you want to hear Lord Haw Haw's final broadcast, its on the net here.
So now the British are to reinforce Afghanistan yet again. Flying by Chinook to Kandahar will not take as long as General Roberts’s 20 days. British soldiers are unlikely even to enter Kandahar’s central square. But if they do, they might care to look at the few ancient cannon on the main roundabout: all that is left of General Roberts’s artillery.
Fisk’s next column: “While you’re away fighting the Taliban, your wives back home are sleeping with Americans!
Tim Blair is referring to a series of propaganda fliers put out by the Germans depicting British soldiers sleeping with French women, then later Americans sleeping with British women. The attempt was to divide the alliance and set soldiers against one another. A different approach was to warn soldiers that while they were here fighting their wives were whoring it up back home, their sweethearts needed them back home to keep in line!

Commenters at Tim Blair's site responded:
"Tommy, just tie a handkerchief to your rifle and walk slowly to Taliban lines. You will be treated well and get hot chow. Why you fight and die just so rich Jew can have sex with your best girl?”
-by Dave S.


Of course, Fisk’s spew completely ignores the fact that the primary reason British troops are heading into Afghanistan is that the other NATO allies won’t fight at all. Had those soldiers done their job, British troops wouldn’t be needed.

This makes me wonder if Fisk is asking the local Al Quaeda recruiter if there’s an age limit for terrorists.
-by The_Real_JeffS


OMG, the invincible Afghan warrior.

Wonder why military expert Fiskie doesn’t regale his audience with the tale of the Battle of Kandahar?
-by Crispytoast


Yes, yes. And at the start of last fall all the MSM here (and abroad) were crowing about how the “resurgent Taliban” was going to kick the shit out of Coalition forces and our Afghan allies. Well, we all know how that turned out, don’t we? With a casualty “exchange rate” of about 1 NATO soldier, and 12 Afghans dead to 100-150 dead or captured Taliban and al Qaeda. But this time, I’m sure that the newly-resurgent Taliban’s spring offensive is really going to win this time. Run, guys, run!

BTW, more on Maiwand here
And be sure to click on the Battle of Kandahar link that tells the rest of the story that Fiskie dowdifies for some strange reason.

And re. the 1842 defeat, the British “army” (he typed sarcastically, using scare quotes) was a single, 4,500-strong brigade of one white battalion of the 44th Foot and several East India Company battalions of (mainly) Indians with a single regiment of cavalry and a horse artillery battery. (I think that the French and Germans have more troops in Afghanistan today than that to give you an idea.)
-by AndyCanuck


More to the point, the British “army” was a single, 4,500-strong brigade including 690 Europeans, and 12,000 wives, children and civilian servants against an indeterminate number of Ghilzai tribesmen, possibly as many as 30,000.
-by Electronpower


Hm.

If they’re talking about something we won, they bellow about how THINGS CHANGE.

If they’re talking about something we lost, they bellow about how HISTORY ALWAYS REPEATS.

Don’t forget, the Brutal Afghan Winter of 2001-2002 was confidently predicted to annihilate US forces and kill a few million Afghans. When will Fisk announce the inevitable repeat of that military disaster? Disaster for his side, I mean.
-by Don't Bogart That Midget Comrade!


That quisling son-of-a-bitch is walking proof that our boys, with superhuman restraint, don’t intentionally target “journalists.” What a shameless traitor.
-by DrZin


I remember Fisky gushing over osama’s “fierce warriors, forged in the furnace of the desert”, and that feeble westerners would be no match for these magnificent stallions.

While we’re on Fisk, has he explained his conversations with non-existent Aus army generals yet?
-by Tex


Unfortunately AGAIN for Fisk’s idiotic ideas about history, the British garrison in question had actually surrendered and was retreating under a guarantee of safety back to India.

So, Fisk has unwittingly (but he goes through his entire life like that) provided a wonderful example of why we shouldn’t pull out of Afghanistan. a) you can’t trust what islamists tell you; and b) accommodations with them only buy death.
-by Mr Hackenbacker
Fisk is the kind of guy who, as Ace puts it:
If anyone doesn't know, that's the picture of tyrant toady/terrorist bootlicker Robert Fisk after he'd been beaten half to death by a crowd of Afghans -- and then of course apologized to them for striking their fists and feet with his head.
Nazi LeafletIn the past, propagandists have had different motivations. Tokyo Rose was loyal to the Japanese and hated Americans. Lord Haw Haw saw everything through the lens of communist Jew bankers. Robert Fisk is a different breed, the relativist post modern white-guilt monger, who thinks we deserve to lose to the Muslims because we've been so evil to them. In WW2 he would have thought Germany should take all those nations because of the Treaty of Versailles, and besides the Jews were behind the treaty and the humiliation of Germany anyway. Who are we to question the use of skin for lampshades and hair for mattress stuffing? We bombed Dresden!

What happens to a society where the enemy is allowed to walk freely and openly propagandize against us in our midst? What has happened to a people when we allow it? Where is the respect, the support for the troops in this kind of behavior?

I'll close some Rudyard Kipling, a passage that Tim Blair commenter Jerry H quoted:
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy how’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
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Quote of the Day

"I mean, you've got a conservative and right-wing press presence with really nothing on the other end of the political spectrum."
-Hillary Clinton
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Monday, February 26, 2007

BIRTH PAINS

"Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime"
-the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq

Tim Blair took a look at a column by Tracee Hudson about former Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett who is now a hapless politician. The article is mocked heavily, but Tim Blair pointed out something I found fascinating: a graph of world conflicts in the last 50 years. It starts at the end of World War 2 and ends in 2005, tracking four kinds of military conflict around the world.
This chart came from the CSP website (the Center for Systemic Peace - loads AOL slow) which includes many other such graphs detailing economic ability, and one I thought was interesting, the trend of democracy over autocracy, which reverses about in 1987. In fact, all of the trends tend to get better around 1990 or so, as if something momentous happened at the end of the 80's, some vast event that benefited the world and all its inhabitants. Even in Muslim countries the armed conflict has dropped since that time period.

Commenters at Tim Blair looked this over:
That graph is stunning. The collapse of the Soviet Union seems to have been the greatest single event in bringing peace to the world.

Funny, that.
-by Rob Crawford

That graph is stunning. The collapse of the Soviet Union seems to have been the greatest single event in bringing peace to the world.

Funny, that.
Indeed. Especially since, according to Leftard Logic™, it should be going in the opposite direction: allegedly, it is “unchecked American power” since the fall of the Soviet Union that has led to a massive increase in regional and global conflict...
-by Spiny Norman

The collapse of the Soviet Union seems to have been the greatest single event in bringing peace to the world.

One event in a larger trend, anyway. ;-)

-by Goy


Rob, you beat me to it. Seems the “peace at all costs” radical egalitarian Left has a lot more to answer for than “just” the hundred million of their own they killed. I wonder who we see about that?
-by Vanguard of the Commentariat


The other amazing thing about the graph is the almost linear increase after the little dip when WW-II finished.
-by duncanm
Yes, that time period was the fall of the Soviet Empire, the end of the Soviet Union and the freedom gained by all its satellite states and the various parts of the Union its self. The Evil Empire's end was a great boon for world peace, freedom, and prosperity. one almost gets the impression that Ronald Reagan knew what he was talking about.

The more liberty and democracy the world enjoys, the less conflict it suffers. Sometimes it takes conflict to get to that point, and during that time it is difficult and painful... but the result is a safer, more prosperous world. Consider that when you look at the news, births are never pretty and always painful.
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PAINFUL TRUTH

If this were gonna be a @#(*ing cake walk, do you think they would call the @#(*ing Marines?"

Don't let this be true about you

I found this courtesy Instapundit at the OpFor blog. It apparently ran in the Kansas City Star, and it is painfully true about far too many. Commenters there responded:
Amen. Until this changes, we will not win.
-by Joel


The democrats, (and some republicans), still don't get it. I am not saying that our president is infallable, but attempting to pull out before the job is done is only inviting disaster on our shores.
-by Michael Lewis


We're all tired of war. We just want to finish our job so we can get the hell out of here. Im an Army soldier, my best-friend is a Marine. Get this right " All Infantry is at war" not only Marines. America does not appreciate what soldiers do... They dont care... America when you see us give us at least a hi....
-by Javier


I for one along with many here in the states praise the job our military is doing. It seems to me the news media is turning this into another Vietnam. Though we never lost a battle in Vietnam we didn't win the war. As with Vietnam it seems they are reporting any thing and everything they can to undermine your efforts and our Commander-In-Chief but nothing is ever reported that would have a postive effect on the war on terror.

It is a shame that the news media will cover the trial of Anna Nicole Smith live and not give an accurate account of the accomplishments that our service men and women make for the safety and freedom of this nation. Hopefully someday one of the networks will wake up and let the people of this nation know what a wonderful job our military is doing. Hang in there be proud of who you are. Don't let the news media drag you down. I for one know in the area I live in that you have their support and are in their thoughts and prayers everyday. We thank you for you service and keeping us free of the evil and terror that going on in this world today.

I know you have the knowledge, ability and drive to win in Iraq just as we did in Vietnam. But (I feel along with many others) CBS News in 1968 when good ole Walter Cronkite reported on the Tet was the turning point of us winning that war. Just hold your head high. You can and will win without politics and the news media gets in your way which they are trying to do now.

Again thanks for protecting our freedom and way of life.
-by Keith


Americans, for the most part only recieve thier news from the long time established media which for some reason hates America and her institutions. Being a former Marine most of my friends are either active duty or veterans and are very proud of our military. yes, I have family members serving but consider all military personnel family. My wife, kids and myself thank God for you and your families each day. Through a friend whom I served with I hear that his son is currently in the Corps over there and the news he shares with us is completely different the what ABC, NBC, CBS or CNN reports. Thank you for taking the fight to the enemy so that we are safe. I am eternally greatful.
-by Fred Raines


The public DOES care. You know how many groups are sending cookies and candy and crap like that? You know how many times I got stopped on the street by total strangers and thanked at home on leave in my uniform? Don't confuse some sensationalist, even defeatist news propaganda with the feelings of literally millions of Americans. I've been reading about how this was a losing effort since before the invasion. So what if a few thousand protestors wave some signs and chant some offensive slogans? You think there weren't any peace protests during WWII? The American people can have any opinion they want, we gaurantee them that, and they not only know it, they appreciate it. Screw the media, you know they're in it to make a buck with a headline.
-by noseeum


You guys have it totally wrong! As a civilian, almost everyone I know respects and admires our military. We are grateful for your service to our country. We hold you in the highest regard and we DO support what you are doing. It's our political leaders that we have a problem with...they prioritize political correctness over winning the war! And, Americans aren't just going to the Mall. I have an anesthesiology colleague, a Canadian turned American citizen, that recently joined the Guard and is being sent to Iraq. I know another anesthesiologist doing the same. They did it because they wanted to contribute. We are trying to help out in other ways too. We are contributing money to military causes, trying to help military families, volunteering at military facilities, praying for your welfare, etc. It's the best we can do...remember, we are not all cut out to be soldiers. And yes, you are fighting the liberal media. They will always show the antiwar psychos on television...it's their mission since the days of Vietnam. But they don't represent the vast majority of us. What is really disturbing about this whole thread is that if you military guys really feel this way, then we are more divided than I thought...and that surely will hurt the cause.
-by Tom


I understand the picture's point. If you look back at World War II, the US citizens helped with by buying war bonds, growing their own food and rationing supplies. The US citizens of our war think it's enough to merely speak or type their support for soldiers. A military cannot win a war when the entire citizen sector has a negative attitude to the war. And our citizens do. The often quoted line, "I support the troops but not the war" is a way for people to say they are against the war without getting negative feedback. So, quit trying to play both sides of the fence and find a better way to either support you country's war or foil it.
-by Jack


Let me shed some light on the "progress" question.
Just yesterday afternoon, my company received a lecture on the "progress" that the ISF and IP's are making in different towns. Lima Co. is going to be the main effort in Ramadi when we deploy later on. This guy is an Iraqi and works as a translater for us and the MIT teams that are there training the ISF and IP forces. The actual numbers from the last two battallions there, including mine last time, is that 60% of the "presence" patrols are being done by Iraqis and of that 60%, only 2% of that is supervised with Marines. (sorry, dont know about the army stats.) Many of the Imams are coming to the commanders and asking for advice (tactical) on how their IP's should handle different situations. This means that the religious leaders are taking back control of their neighborhoods and rooting out the bad elements. Ramadi's actual AO had dwindled down to 30% of what it was this time last year when my battallion was there. Thats a very significant reduction in insurgents!
Furthermore, daily needs (ie schools, water, phones, electricity) are being turned on and left on more steadily now than have ever been. No more broken promises. The boots on the ground are making good on the beaurocrats empty promises. This leads to people telling us the info we need to get the job done and get home! HumInt is the most powerful tool we have. Not bullets.

Unfortunately, the enemy is winning the media war. At least at my level, there is no plan ahead on how to combat this on a broad scale. Inside our ops, we're working with our intel cells to drop pamphlets, etc. citing the good and bad things that are going on with the responsible people for each action. Furthermore, we're spot lighting the work that the Iraqis do for themselves. It helps us help them while "working" them for info.

Hope this sheds some light on the situation.
-by LCPL John Stewart
Too many people are trying to pretend 9/11 never happened, terrorists aren't out there, we are under no threat and the war on terror isn't really a war. They want to pull the security blanket over their head and pretend the world isn't out there. We are at war, we have been for over a decade, and only under President Bush did we finally start to fight back. Let's stop acting like everything is business as usual.
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Quote of the Day

"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds"
-Mark Laythorpe
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DIGGING WIKIALITY

"Dressed in stripes and tatters
In a gulag left to die
All because comrade Stalin was scared that
We’d become too westernized!"
-The Waterboys (Red Army Blues)

TTLB Logo
I am signed up on The Truth Laid Bear ecosystem, a little project that TTLB blog started in 2003. What this did was keep track of how many other sites a blog was linked by, and rank them based on a series of increasingly complex creatures from the lowly microbe to the lofty higher being. I moved from microbe to large mammal in a few months and stayed there, as it was a difficult rank to move past without huge traffic. Over the weeks I noticed something: the ecosystem had not updated for a while. In fact, it had not updated since January 6th of this year.

I don't know what happened, many people have speculated on this, but I can't get hold of Bear to see what is up with him - his blog has not been updated for weeks, either. Some say he got tired of the effort, some say perhaps something happened to him, and I hope neither is true. I wonder if it wasn't the emergence of programs like Digg and Del.icio.us that made him decide it wasn't worth the time and work.

Digg, for example, is a ranking and listing system that relies on people clicking on the digg this! button by a story or blog entry to decide how popular it is. The more people who choose a story, the higher it ranks. Digg showed up in 2004 as a simple system designed to let readers choose what they found more interesting and worthy of attention.

By 2006 the 3rd version of the site had been released, and became very popular. It was easy for sites to add the digg button to their site to make linking easier, and digg showed up on many websites, often replacing old fashioned trackbacks. As this kind of ranking system grew, did Truth Laid Bear decide he wasn't needed any more? It's hard to say.

The problem is, digg isn't turning out exactly how the owners had in mind, there are many problems with the site. One problem that digg has is that an inaccurate or misleading story can receive a great deal of attention and high ranking simply out of interest by readers, something true of the internet in general. Here's some examples of other problems in the past courtesy Answers.com:
  • When one user posted a story about the business practices of an online camera store, some Digg users responded by placing simultaneous phone calls to the store and crapflooding its website, impairing the company's ability to function.[7] Many users encouraged this activity and some posted comments instructing others how to participate in such an attack.
  • Digg users reacted when copycat site Shoutwire launched in late 2005. A battle between the users of both sites ensued, resulting in both sites adding each other to their respective banned URL submission filters.
  • Digg was seen as an important generator of traffic and interest in the website Stolensidekick.com, which described how a girl had stolen a T-Mobile Sidekick and refused to return it. After the post on Digg, the girl was identified. Consequently, she was harassed on her MySpace page and in real life. [8]
  • On April 15, 2006 a company trading as BlueHippo was allegedly DDoS attacked by Digg users after it was revealed that the company was selling cheap computers at high-end prices to unsuspecting low-income neighborhoods. CBS Marketwatch referred to the company and its products as "Stupid Investment of the Week"[9].
  • When Netscape redesigned its portal site to a style similar to that of digg, a digg user used a flaw in the site's coding to put a pro-Digg pop-up message on the site and redirected the visitor to the digg homepage [10]
Digg LogoThese problems and many others plague the site, which is one of the dangers of user-controlled content. The more you open your site to individuals on the internet, the more likely it is to be plagued by griefers, spammers, and other troublemakers. The Digg system is designed in such a way that a dedicated, united minority can control content in a significant manner. In July of 2006 it was reported that 56% of front page content was controlled by the top 100 Digg users. In fact, a niche group of just twenty individuals apparently monopolize 20% of the frontpage content.

Forever Geek pointed out that the editors and controllers of digg have banned and promoted certain sites based on personal politics and ideology, and this ideology has a very leftist tilt. Some of this is direct editorial decision, some is simply bumping exactly the same sites as certain people on digg.

In other cases, the main group of users on digg control content by banning what they don't care for. For example, every post from Michelle Malkin's blog has been entirely banned from digg in the past by being labeled spam. Other stories that the left-leaning members who most control the site don't like are buried and excised. Little Green Footballs points out how this works.

Case in point, our post today about the ACLU’s newest attempt to get Islamist spokesman Tariq Ramadan into the US: Digg - ACLU: US Can’t Bar Terrorism Supporters.

As soon as this post was “made popular” (received enough votes to get listed on the front page), leftist Digg readers swarmed all over it, clicking the “bury” button like busy little progressive beavers. They also voted against almost every supporting comment, so that they disappeared from the list.

One easy way to control content is to flag a post as 'inaccurate' which bans the article from the front page automatically. This kind of approach to information and ideology that one doesn't care for is the antithesis of what the internet is about, and it has been a problem on Wikipedia for some time now.

Wikipedia's origin and concept was noble enough: let people write articles about what they know and are interested in and compile a gigantic data bank, a free encyclopedia. What happened? People began to edit posts and write them with a heavy slant. Articles on any hot political issue became a constant war of editing, people injecting what they wanted others to hear or thought was true instead of what the history and reality dictates. Steven Colbert invented a word on the Colbert Report to describe this effect: "Wikiality," and invited viewers to edit an article on elephants with various humorous changes. So many people responded to this suggestion the servers crashed. At Overlawyered, Ted Frank pointed out a few examples of ideological editing:
Articles on Fred Baron, ATLA, and John Edwards's legal career have been sanitized into hagiographies; articles on medical malpractice and tort reform have been rewritten to emphasize the anti-reform position, deleting pro-reform statistics, arguments, and evidence.
Wikiality is the faux reality invented by writers on Wikipedia in an attempt to force the world to fit what they want it to be like. This online encyclopedia can be edited to say anything and I demonstrated this to a commenter once by putting a definition of his name under something very embarrassing. There it stood... until he edited it to not be part of the article any more. Which more or less made my point: you can't trust this site as an authoritative source.

Digg's political leanings have made it less than entirely useful for it's intent: hot stories people are interested in. Because of a dedicated group of limited users, any story they find politically incorrect is buried to keep people from being infected by impure ideological ideas. Stalin had the same approach after WW2: soldiers from Russia who had been in too much contact with the west were sent to Siberia instead. They had become corrupted by improper political thought and had to be reeducated. George Orwell's 1984 had the Ministry of Truth that spent every day rewriting old news stories, school books, and histories to fit the latest revision by the government.

Ace of Spades suggests Pajamas Media come up with an alternative to digg that is not so hostile to conservative viewpoints, but perhaps the answer is simply to ignore digg and move on to something else. If all the conservatives and all the honest moderates and liberals with integrity abandon it, they won't have much of an audience or business left. You cannot survive as a business on the Democratic Underground crowd.

This attempt to force reality to fit one's ideology is a sad, pathetic effort, like trying to make the world rotate the other direction by pushing on a wall. You might topple the wall, but you've done nothing ultimately but pull a muscle, waste time, and wreck a wall. That wall in this instance is digg and Wikipedia, but reality won't budge no matter how desperately you command it to.

The problem is that an entirely open, consequence-free internet combined with moral relativism and decay does not function well on the honor system. You simply cannot trust everyone to do what is right, and in a system like digg, all it takes are a few dedicated trouble makers to ruin it for everyone. After all, who will stop them, and how? If there is no punishment, someone without an absolute ethical compass has no reason not to misbehave.
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Saturday, February 24, 2007

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: FLORIDA 2000

"...and third I want a recount. No matter how it turns out, I want my old job back!" -Ron Miller (Robocop)


The 2000 United States presidential election was the most controversial and bizarre in American history. Books have been written about it by radical partisans trying to push their version of events, and when it was all over, most Americans just wanted to forget the whole thing and go on with their lives - particularly Floridians who were shown in an especially embarrassing light.

Around the world, people I have spoken to are a bit unclear on what exactly happened, most having heard only bits and pieces from local news or read books such as Fahrenheit 9/11 for their information. In America, there are some who cling to the certainty that President Bush stole the election using the courts. Given the level of confusion and misinformation about the events, I would like to offer some straightforward, basic information about what really happened and in what order.

THE CHOICES
The 2000 election elected many state-level politicians as well as federal, such as governors, legislators, and congressmen. Every four years, there is a scheduled US federal election for president, and since 1951, the 22nd amendment of the United States Constitution limits the president to two terms of office. President Clinton was finishing up his second term, and thus the field was wide open. By summer of 1999, the two main candidates were nominated for the upcoming election: Vice President Albert Gore, jr and Governor George W. Bush of Texas.

Most Americans were less than enthused with the two options, seeing it as a choice between third best and even worse. Still, we need a president and sometimes the less impressive ends up being quite capable and worthy of office. The campaign was fiercely fought and very closely matched all the way up to election day.

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
In the United States, the general election for president does not directly elect the president. The voters are picking which electors they will send to the electoral college, reputable and capable men and women that are elected to choose the president. Each state has a number of electors based on that state's population, equal to the total number of congressmen of that state. This system seems odd to people outside the United States, and to some who live here, but there are some very good reasons for it.

First, voting directly by population would give certain very large cities enormous control over who was elected president and remove vast portions of the population from significance altogether. A presidential candidate would only have to win New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia to win, ignoring the rest of the country entirely. This would not only tilt the country heavily in favor of urban areas and their ideology (which tends to be more left-leaning) it would essentially negate democracy entirely for 45 states. The Electoral College reduces this effect, presidential candidates cannot ignore as many states, and must campaign in more than just the biggest population centers.

Second, the states are represented as a whole rather than ignoring states and treating individual voters as separate entities. This may seem reasonable until you understand the entire concept and foundation of the United States. The United States are named that because each state is viewed as largely independent and sovereign over it's own territory in the Constitution and in the ideals of the founding fathers. For them, the states were separate entities that the federal government acted as an oversight committee dealing with disputes and issues between states. When a candidate wins New Mexico, for example, it doesn't matter if he wins by .05% or 60%, he wins the state and the state sends the electors to vote. In essence, it is like each individual state is a separate country who votes for a candidate, then all these "mini-countries" send electors to the main body and vote for the overall winner.

Playoff bracketsThink of the Electoral College votes as being scores in a playoff system for a sport. Each separate game can be won by a variety of different scores, but the scores merely tell who won, they aren't added up to find out the final winner. Let's say there's a seven-game playoff between the Manfred Phoons and the Zalawi M'tahs. The scores look like this:

Game 1: Phoons 3, M'Tahs 4
Game 2: Phoons 11, M'Tahs 4
Game 3: Phoons 2, M'Tahs 7
Game 4: Phoons 3, M'Tahs 2
Game 5: Phoons 5, M'Tahs 10
Game 6: Phoons 16, M'Tahs 4
Game 7: Phoons 1, M'Tahs 4

Overall, the M'Tahs won the series, because they won four of the seven games. But if you add up the total scores in all games, the Phoons won 41-34. They won two game by more than 1o runs each, making those game very lopsided, but in the overall series the better team won out. In the same way, the electoral college looks at the whole picture rather than the "runs" or individual votes of each candidate. Wild swings and popularity in one state or another are evened out for the nation as a whole.

Both candidates - Al Gore and George Bush the younger (his father was president in 1989-1992) - understood this system and tried to win their election to president based on it. They chose the states with the most electoral votes, and targeted the ones that they would have the hardest time winning to campaign hardest, trying to persuade the voters there to elect them. Al Gore admitted this during the campaign, following the same strategy Bill Clinton had four years earlier.

THE MESS BEGINS
When the final vote totals were tallied on election night, Al Gore had actually won more popular votes than George Bush - but he'd lost the electoral college totals, with Florida being the final, deciding state, giving George Bush its 25 electors. Al Gore readied his concession speech and headed in a motorcade to the Nashville War Memorial, and the television news broadcasts announced George Bush as the winner. There is even credible reporting that Al Gore even had called George Bush, offered his congratulations and conceded the election.

Then Al Gore got word that the election was very, very close: at the time he was told that there was only a 6,000 vote difference in favor of George Bush, although eventually it was found to be just over 500. So instead of the concession speech, here's what the crowd heard at the War Memorial:
Without being certain of the results in Florida, we simply cannot be certain of the results of this national election. Let me add that Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman are fully prepared to concede and to support Governor Bush if and when he is officially elected president. But this race is simply too close to call, and until the results -- the recount is concluded and the results of Florida become official, our campaign continues.
Now, New Mexico also was close, even closer than Florida ended up being, just 363 votes of difference between candidates. But New Mexico has a small population, and thus not enough electoral college votes to make the difference in the election so it went uncontested by Al Gore. Al Gore called George Bush back and recanted his concession, a call that was less than pleasant on both sides by all accounts.

A recount is not unreasonable at even 6,000 votes. Florida has a state law that requires a recount if the margin is small enough and by the time the numbers were more carefully tabulated then the effort by TV news, it was about 2,000 votes that separated the winner from the loser. So by law an automatic recount was started. The law permitted a candidate to request that ballots be counted by hand, so the Gore team selected four counties in Florida that were most heavily Democratic and asked for the votes in only those to be hand-counted.

Examining ChadsThis process is meticulous and slow, and the deadline as set by the Florida state legislature was fast approaching. By US Constitutional law, all state elections are set and defined by the individual state lawmakers. They alone have the power and legal right to decide when counts are cut off, when the elections are held, how the counts are done, and so on. Al Gore's legal team went to the Florida Courts in Palm Beach Canvassing Board v. Katherine Harris which asked for the deadline to be extended and further for the criteria used to count be changed to more subjective standards.

The official standard held that any ballot that had not clearly marked who the person voted for by punching out the chad or small piece of paper next to the appropriate candidate's name would be disqualified and not counted. The Gore team wanted dimpled and hanging chads to be counted, contrary to the state law of elections as constitutionally laid out by the state legislature.

A dimpled chad is on in which the voting machine appears to have dented the chad next to the name, but did not punch through. The thought being "well they were too weak to pull the lever or it was malfunctioning, or they changed their minds, but this was their choice initially."

A hanging chad is one which has not been punched all the way out. The state law allowed vote counters to count chads that were still connected but punched all the way out, hanging by a thread, as it were. Gore's legal team wanted the criteria to include chads that were partially punched out, by any separation whatsoever.

Florida BallotThese terms became something of a national joke as news broadcaster after pundit used them over and over to try to explain what was happening. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party called a telemarketing company in Texas called Telequest which hired people to call the network news and different congressmen, complaining about how difficult the ballot had been to read and how they had voted for the wrong guy. This theme was picked up by the news and became a running joke in the country as well about Florida Voters and their difficulty in reading a ballot, particularly the Palm Beach county ballot.

Eventually, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the deadline should be extended until the entire process was completed. While this is questionable based on the constitution's directives for electoral law, it is reasonable based on the rights of voters and the concept of democracy. Slowness of the process should not rob people of their vote.

The Bush legal team appealed to the United States Supreme Court based on the constitutional issue I related above. The Supreme Court asked the Florida Supreme Court to restate the reasons for their 4-3 decision, citing "considerable uncertainty" about why they'd made that call. While the Supreme Court deliberated over Bush v Gore, the Florida Supreme Court issued a clarification.

Al Gore lost the first recount, and Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified the election results according to Florida law. Remember the Gore team's words:
"...and until the results -- the recount is concluded and the results of Florida become official, our campaign continues."
Al Gore's legal team went back to the Florida Supreme Court and requested a second recount, requesting that undervotes be recounted, and the court agreed. An Undervote is the term to describe when people vote in an election but skip certain portions of it to vote on other parts. In the Florida election, there was a notable number of people who voted, but did not vote for a Presidential candidate. Another oddity were overvotes in which the voter picked more than one candidate, thus negating their choice entirely by election law. The Gore legal team wanted these to be interpreted based on how each chad was poked through: the more complete chad ejection being the winner of the two choices. The results of this recount were to be added to the election totals.

The Supreme Court of the United States then announced their decision, calling an end to the recounts at the point they had reached. The courts also ordered the Florida Supreme Court to vacate their previous decisions, scolding the lesser court for overstepping its legal and constitutional boundaries by ordering things that it had no legal power to order. When a decision is vacated, it is a repudiation of that decision by a higher court - and further, it removes that decision from case law and precedent. It is akin to a spanking by a higher court to have a decision be vacated. The SCOTUS further declared the different counting and ballot approval standards in each of the four counties to be a violation of the 14th amendment, which requires all people to be judged by the same laws.

At this point Al Gore gave his concession speech "for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy." These words rung hollow in many peoples' ears after the antics of the last month of constant legal battles and recounts.

NOT OVER YET
At this point, the president had been finally elected and the system ran its course. That did not mean the battles were over, though. To this day, various accusations and themes are repeated by bitter and angry opponents of President Bush. They claim he was selected by the Supreme Court, that the vote counts were rigged, that the Secretary of State (Katherine Harris) overruled the people's votes, that she threw out valid voters to stack the election for George Bush when she purged the voter rolls. The alleged that blacks were disenfranchised, that fraud was rampant, that the ballots were difficult to read and deliberately designed to puzzle voters. Further, many people voted in heavily Democrat areas of Florida for alternate candidates such as Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader, which the Gore team argued was because of a confusing ballot.

Several popular books allege these very things, as does the Michael Moore agitprop film Fahrenheit 9/11. This was the beginning of the cries of electoral manipulation of Diebold voting machines, which carried on right up to the day of the November 2006 election. So what really happened? Was there fraud, was there manipulation of votes, were people thrown off the voting rolls that should not have been?

VOTER PURGE
First, lets look at the purge of voting records. Most states before a major election will by law purge the voting records. This is done for a variety of reasons, with the overall intent to make sure only people who are properly registered and eligible to vote do so. For example, people who die may still be on the voting records, people who have moved out of state, been convicted and jailed for a felony all can still be eligible to vote until the rolls are purged. Further, people who move within the state, especially new college students, often end up on the rolls twice or more. This would allow them to vote in more than one location and be counted more than once. People who register as a different party affiliation may end up more than once in the rolls.

The purpose of purging the voter totals is to make sure the election is clean: one vote per person, and only people who are eligible to vote can do so. To fail to do so would result in significant fraud potential and mess the entire system up. Florida state law required Katherine Harris to purge the voter rolls before the 2000 election in Florida, and she did so.

The reason this new cleanup was mandated by law is that the previous election was notoriously bedeviled with fraud. In Miami and Dade counties especially there were numerous counts of deceased people voting, sometimes more than once. There were non-citizens voting, felons voting, out of state people voting, people from outside the country voting. Florida has a peculiar problem where many people who are quite wealthy have homes in both Florida and New York City, and often end up able to vote in both places. The Federal government in essence told Florida "clean up your act or we will." So they set about doing so.

When DBS Systems, a private database company, took over the purge of the voter rolls, they were aghast. Some precincts had not done so since the 1960s during Jim Crow. DBS tried to clean up these problems, disqualifying felons and non-citizens, eliminating those who were no longer living in a given county or even the state or US entirely. They tried to make sure the election process was clear, and in the process, mistakes were made.

In heavily Democratic, minority areas, the mistakes tended to be Democrats and minorities. In heavily Republican, white areas the mistakes tended to be white and Republican. As the majority of voters were white in Florida, the majority of mistakes were actually whites, but by a smaller margin than would be expected. One problem is that of false positives from name similarities. John Doe the felon may have exactly the same name as John Doe the upstanding citizen, and if you clean both out, then the citizen loses his right to vote.

Such votes are placed in a category called "provisional" ballots, which can be counted later if the person in question can prove they are eligible to vote. In Florida, the bulk of criminals put in prison are Hispanic or other minorities, like in most states. Thus, the bulk of this kind of mistake were of minorities. However, DBS tried to avoid this problem by contacting names that were taken off the voter rolls that they couldn't be sure of. For every suchname that was purged, several cards were sent out to the person in question saying "we have a discrepancy with your voting records. Please contact us."

THE BALLOT
Butterfly BallotOne of the complaints that comes up is that the "butterfly ballot" used in several counties such as Palm Beach was difficult to understand and vote on. Never mind that this was designed by the Democrat controlled legislature and all parties approved the layout. Never mind these sort of ballots had been used in dozens of elections around the country in the past without problems. It was confusing, people said. Take a look at the picture accompanying this paragraph and you can decide how confusing it was.

Bland ChoicesThe presumption is that no way would all these heavily Democrat areas vote for President Bush or especially a third party candidate such as Buchanan instead of Al Gore, so it must be a problem with the ballot. The truth is, like I said above, many people really did not like either candidate and a third party guy looked like a good protest vote at the very least. Further, if you look at the overall regional effect, Al Gore lost every single southern state in the US including his home state of Tennessee. The fact that people might vote for someone other than him in Florida is not unthinkable. It is likely, given the circumstances.

MILITARY BALLOTS
During the 2000 election like the elections of the past, members of the United States military overseas get to vote as well. They are mailed absentee ballots and send those back to be counted in their home states. These votes are added to the totals, and thus men and women serving their country away from their homes get to vote as well. In the 2000 election, there were several delays in getting ballots out to the soldiers, irregularities in the military mailing system, and as a result many military voters did not get their ballots back in time even though they were postmarked before the election was held.

The policy of Florida and all other states was to count these ballots even though they were late because they were postmarked by the proper election time: the attempt was made to vote on time, the postal system delayed their arrival. Like I said above, slowness of the process should not rob people of their vote. Like previous elections, Florida even counted ballots that lacked postmarks or were marked after the election date because of a desire for soldiers to have their vote counted.

The idea of the Democrat-controlled legislature and Democrat-controlled voting precincts was that people serving in the armed forces deserve to vote at least as much as people at home, and being out of the country should not hinder this. Especially those on ships have a difficult time getting mail to them and mailed out if they are out of contact with the land for weeks at a time.

RECOUNTS
There were actually several recounts done by private agencies after the election was finally called and finalized. Bush won them all. The Miami Herald, a heavily Democrat paper that is again no friend of President Bush said this after the recount they sponsored was final:
Republican George W. Bush's victory in Florida, which gave him the White House, certainly would have endured even if a recount stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court had been allowed to go forward.
The Times - no friend of George Bush - even said this after a count by a coalition of eight media groups was finished:
Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote

A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.
There have been in all eight recounts of the election which President Bush won. In total there have been thirteen recounts, and the only ones Gore wins in are the ones that include dimpled and overcounts in Gore's favor. Even these excessive standards give Gore a tiny margin of victory.

The fact is, Floridians actually did vote for President Bush over Al Gore. The electoral college actually did choose him for President, exactly according to the system laid out by the United States Constitution over 200 years ago and followed in every single election.

OTHER ELECTIONS
This is not the first time an electoral college winner did not get the majority of the popular vote. It has happened twice in the past: 1876 (Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilton) and 1888 (Benjamin Harrison over Grover Cleveland). In fact, in 1824, John Quincy Adams did not win a majority of either the popular vote or the electoral college, and was appointed president by congress.

Close elections are not new in the United States (or elsewhere) either. George Will points this out in a column in 2004:
If today's election produces vast consequences from slender margins, relax. This is not unusual. In 1916 a switch of 1,771 votes in California would have enabled Charles Evans Hughes to rescue the nation from President Wilson. In 1948 a switch of 30,262 votes in California, Illinois, Ohio and Nevada would have replaced President Harry Truman with Tom Dewey. In 1968 a switch of 53,034 votes in New Jersey, New Hampshire and Missouri would have denied Richard Nixon an electoral vote majority and, because George Wallace won 46 electoral votes, the House probably would have awarded the presidency to Hubert Humphrey. In 1976 a switch of 9,246 votes in Ohio and Hawaii would have enabled President Gerald Ford to beat Jimmy Carter with 270 electoral votes — but 1.5 million fewer popular votes than Carter had.
The bottom line is this: President George W. Bush won the 2000 election by a very slim margin. That's simply the facts of the case, and facts, not hype and emotion should rule how we judge events. No matter what attempts are used to rewrite history, the election turned out how it was supposed to have. The only surprising thing to me is that Gore hasn't turned into a household word for the worst sort of sore loser. Recount until I win, was his position - one that actually worked in the 2004 election of Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire.

CONCLUSION
CheatiesWhy does it matter? There are several reasons. The United States suffered so much esteem worldwide that foreign countries sent in "election watchers" to the US in greater numbers than ever before to oversee the election of 2004. Many people worldwide think Al Gore won and President Bush used the courts to get the presidency, they honestly believe this even though it was Al Gore who was attempting to do that very thing. The US became a mockery to the world as they watched us struggle over the petulance of a candidate who refused to admit loss and dragged the process on and on with lawyers and courts. Granted, every nation has had its problems with elections, from England's corrupt boroughs to Venezuela's faux elections. But the United States has set the standard for liberty and democracy for over 200 years.

Further, the antics of Al Gore actually gave precedent to attempts like Governor Gregoire in Washington State to do the same thing until they win. Just recount over and over until you find the votes you need (literally in her case). It erodes all voter confidence - why vote if your ballot is going to be used in a power struggle to cheat until the other side concedes or the courts rule in your favor? Fraud is damaging to democracies, as soon as voters lose all trust in the voting process, the democracy is dead.

Finally, in the light of the events of 2001 when President Bush took office, the delay of any power transfer and preparing for running the country that these events caused might have had lethal repercussions. President Bush took office with a plan to fight terror, to strengthen the efforts of the United States to crack down on it nationally and world wide. He did not get that plan in place until August, and the next month we all know what happened. Would it have made a difference if he could have had the usual time and focus to prepare for office? We'll never know - but it certainly didn't help matters to have the distraction of legal battles and uncertainty how it would turn out.

The screams of Diebold manipulation, "selected rather than elected" and voter fraud by the left and echoed in the media does not help this country out. It makes us look poor overseas, it makes the country more divided than it ought to be, and it hurts the next election. The 2006 election is proof positive that these cries were sour grapes: I didn't win so I'm going to cry foul, but if I win hey, it all worked out perfectly. Note the stunning lack of such cries by the Republicans after the 2006 election: the GOP is a miserable pack of politicians, but at least they don't stoop that low. Let's not have a repeat of this nonsense, ever again.

You have the record set straight for you here. It's up to you whether you want to face the facts or not - but for the sake of the nation and your own peace of mind, at least spend some time thinking about it. If your guy loses, don't be a Gore.