Sunday, October 31, 2004

Observations from Vienna
What I still want to say is that, aside from the essay I just posted, the Austrian media has stayed pretty clear of judging either candidate, at least from what I have noticed in the past days. What is being reported on are the missing ballots in Florida, Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigning with Bush, and Michael Moore planning on keeping an eye on things at the polls on Tuesday. Oh, and the Bin Laden tape. The newspapers I have been checking out are reporting equally from both campaign trails, have bios and slideshows of both Bush and Kerry up on their websites.
However, this does not mean that the sentiment out on the streets is the same. The majority is clearly rooting for Kerry, and one unfortunately does not hear much sensible debating or discussing going on anywhere. So I am extremely curious about the reaction here following Tuesday. I literally live around the corner of the American embassy and have witnessed not just a few demonstrations marching on by my window or chanting for hours. So will the chanting resume should Bush win? And if so, I would love to ask them what their point is. Regardless of who I am personally voting for, I would not see any point in goings on of the sorts.
"USA in the hands of a radical sect"
This is what Hans Rauscher has to say in yesterday's "Der Standard:"
(I am sorry if anything sounds a bit odd due to my translation.)

"[...] This is not a choice between a more conservative and a more liberal candidate; this is not a choice between two varieties of American democracy.
It is not even a choice between two personalities, as different as their character, their socialization and their world-view may be and actually are.
In essence, this is a choice between a normal American type of politician (Kerry) and an ideologically radical sect that aims to force its unbelievably narrow and bullheaded ideal upon the entire world.
Some of the American media have overcome their submissiveness after 9/11 and are reporting the almost unbelievable supported by researched facts: George W. Bush believes he has been sent by God, his politics are agreeable to God and lead by God.
At the age of 40, Bush was the useless son of a rich and famous father, an alcoholic who was saved from slipping away into a completely messed up life by an Evangelist preacher.
Ever since, he believes to have been put on the right path by God himself. One can probably consider this to be the most successful psychotherapy in history.
An aimless, rich roamer became a president with a radical agenda, which has significantly changed the world and the USA and will still change them more.
As any sect leader, Bush impresses with his inner conviction and own logic. This leaves an impression, at least in the USA, and that is why he still has the better chances of winning.
Of course, his agenda has partly been fed by right-wing cynics surrounding him (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.).
But only he has the messianic belief to lead a war under false pretences, which is not meant to lead to anything more than the already damned bare-footed of this world fearing the USA more and willingly complying; or to follow through with an economic agenda that undermines the financial basis and especially social security through huge deficits - in order to make the institutions of a welfare state ripe for the attack of total privatization.
These are the two things at the core of his agenda: military solutions for all problems of the planet (especially the "war against terrorism") and the radical dismantling of the state.
This agenda has already partially failed (Iraq is lost; Islamic terrorists metastatize; there is not enough military power left for Iran or North Korea) and he will also fail in his economic ideals.
However, this will lead to immense damage for everyone. But Bush marches on, oblivious of reality (and his own incompetence). That is why, in the end, this election is about answering the question of whether or not the only super power will remain in the hands of a radical sect."
Funny Halloween Costumes
Hope you have a sense of humor when it comes to politics......

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Anatomy of a Sexual "Predation."

50% of infants born to mothers 15-17 years old are sired by males over 20. Males over 25 are implicated in twice as many teenage births as are males under 18 (The Oregonian, May 11, 2004). Why did the Oregonian deem this tidbit newsworthy?

I feel I must admit my personal interest in this matter: my father is seventeen years older than my mother, yet no one in our family greeted my conception with outrage, nor did anyone call 9-1-1 to rat my dad out as a statutory rapist. Indeed, the matter was never even mentioned during my childhood. My parents' age difference was taken completely in stride by a family whose members' general behavior has been described by objective observers as suffocatingly conventional. Admittedly, my parents met when mom was 40 and dad was 57.

Hence, a nagging question presents itself to my mind: At what age does it become socially respectable for a self-respecting woman to copulate with an older man?

After much deliberation and significant consultation with experts in the field, I have determined that there is no definitive answer to this crucial anthropolical and/or sociological inquiry. Surprisingly enough, with respect to any given pairing, the answer to the respectability question posed above appears to vary significantly on the basis of a number of factors, including the following: (1) age of the male, (2) yearly income of the male, (3) the male's likelihood of gifting the female with small samples of the carbon allotrope commonly known as "diamond"; (4) strength of the male for his spawn to attend an educational institution more prestigious than that attended by the female's father; (5) the female's father's occupation, if any; (6) the female's independent means, if any; (7)

In Austria, George Bush would not stand a chance
This is what "Die Kronen Zeitung" (not the most respected, but the most widely read newspaper in Austria...go figure) has to say:

"If the Austrians had their way in the upcoming US presidential elections, George W. Bush would not stand the slightest chance against John F. Kerry. However, Austrians know that the spirit in the States is a different one - and they expect a suspenseful decision, with a small advantage for the current president. [...]
Kerry is supported the most by young Austrians, more educated citizens and the Austrian Green Party supporters.
What seems to speak for Kerry are not so much his specific qualities, but more the prevention of a second Bush administration: Sable-rattling and very little concern for the environment are not well received in a country of neutrality and waste separation, particle filters and reduction of harmful substances. [...]
However, who does become the next commander in chief of the US has very little meaning for Austria, according to the Austrians themselves. The relative majority even assumes moderate or no meaning at all."

And some poll results from "Der Standard:"

Who would you vote for?

82.1% (1441 people) - Kerry
9.9% (174 people) - Neither
8% (140 people) - Bush

Who will the Americans vote for?

51.5% - Kerry
48.5% - Bush
Reporting from Austria
Hi everyone, I am a friend of Elliots, born and raised in Washington, DC and now live in Vienna, Austria. Elliot asked me to write a little bit about the American elections from the point of view of the Austrian media and people, as an example of how they are perceived in Europe. Please remember that what I will write are not necessarily my personal opinions, but simply what I have read in the paper, heard on TV or was told by a friend of mine. Just consider me the messenger.

I will start with something a little on the lighter side:
This is a small bit from today's edition of the Austrian newspaper "Der Standard."
The retired Mrs. S. has never mistaken when it comes to Austrian politics. Whoever she votes for wins the election. This has been going on for many years.
Who would she give her "winning" vote to if she were able to vote in the United States? John Kerry. "Kerry leans more towards Europe." Her second reasoning: "Bush's laughter is not sincere, but malicious." The newspaper counters: Kerry barely laughs at all. Mrs. S. simply says: "Well, there is not much reason to laugh." - And there she has a point.

More later...
Bin Laden Tape
Well, at least we know he's alive. If you want a transcript of what the tape says, click here. Belmont Club, who provides it, additionally provides an interesting point of the tape - that what is striking about it is what is MISSING FROM IT. I suggest you read the linked post.
Missing Explosives Confusion
You know how I said that this was debunked? Well, I take that back. I can only say now that I am rather confused as to what is going on with the issue. If you want a nice round-up of the current state of this debate, click here.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Remember Afghanistan
From the WaPo
President Bush put in place a military campaign that did in two months what everyone had said was impossible: defeat an entrenched, fanatical, ruthless regime in a territory that had forced the great British and Soviet empires into ignominious retreat. Bush followed that by creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land that had no history of democratic culture and was just emerging from 25 years of civil war.

This is all barely remembered and barely noted. Most amazing of all, John Kerry has managed to transform our Afghan venture into a failure -- a botched operation in which Bush let Osama bin Laden get away because he "outsourced" bin Laden's capture to "warlords" in the battle of Tora Bora.

Outsourced? The entire Afghan war was outsourced. How does Kerry think we won it? How did Mazar-e Sharif, Kabul and Kandahar fall? Stormed by thousands of American GIs? They fell to the "warlords" we had enlisted, supported and directed. It was their militias that overran the Taliban.

"Outsourcing" is a demagogue's way of saying "using allies." (Isn't Kerry's Iraq solution to "outsource" the problem to the "allies" and the United Nations?) And in Afghanistan it meant the very best allies: locals who had a far better chance of knowing which cave to storm without getting blown up.

Read the whole thing (registration required).
My Thoughts Exactly
I often read Bush or Kerry endorsements in a disgusted fashion. They usually are written trying to sell me something as opposed to explaining their thought process. This one is different. I suggest you read it. Plus, I of course agree with just about everythign that is said, positives and negatives about both campaigns.
Kerry - Harder on Drugs than Terrorists
Frequent reader and commentator of the Blog, Clint Taylor, has the goods at NRO.
If Only We Had Clinton Back
Or not. Jayson takes a look at the (lack of) differences between the economy when Clinton was getting reelected to the economy of today.
Kerry and the Draft
Lorie at Polipundit posts the comments of a reader who thinks that a draft would be more likely under Kerry than under Bush. Here is a point for consideration. If Bush tried to institute a draft, his name and party would be mud for decades. Why? He promised, repeatedly on the record that he would not do so, and he cannot blame the source of the need for a draft (the war on terror) convincingly on a past President.

Kerry, on the other hand, does not have this last constraint. Yes, Kerry has said he would not reinstitute the draft, but Kerry is not exactly known as a man of his word. If the "nuance" of greater casualties or apparent inability to do the basic mission would be able to be blamed on not having enough troops, Kerry could "reluctantly" change his mind because "he is incorporating new information" into his decision making process as an excuse.

More importantly, Kerry would be able to blame the need for the draft on the past administration, to keep from bearing the heat personally. "If it were not for the disastrous policies of my predecessor" he would say "this step would not have been necessary. However, now that we are involved in the Iraq war due to the rush to judgment of the previous president, new developments and our national security demand that I ask Congress for permission to take the step of reinstituting the draft." Who do you think his base will blame after such a move - Kerry or the Republicans? Who do you think swing voters will blame? It seems pretty clear that Kerry could get a free pass with such a move.

But is that a good thing? Personally I am deadset against the draft for a number of reasons that I do not want to get into now, so this is one of the big strikes that I have against Kerry. On the other hand, there quite a few grizzled oldies out there who think that a draft would stop the "moral decline and selfish nature" of our younger ones, spread the cost of military action around, help prevent future wars, and most importantly, give us the necessary tools to win the war in Iraq. If you hold one of those beliefs, although I would passionately disagree with you, the freedom Kerry would have compared to Bush to reinstitute the draft would have to be a plus in your book.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Saddam's Id
The Wall Street Journal has a brilliant piece on how to look at the Iraq war now that some of the dust has settled:

Now, let's step back and put this all in context--the context offered by Mr. Duelfer's report. The news there isn't that there appear to have been no large stockpiles of WMD in Iraq at the time of the March 2003 invasion. That's been clear for more than a year. Rather, the news is that we now know straight from Saddam himself, his scientists, and his fellow high-level detainees that Saddam intended to restart his weapons program the second U.N. sanctions were lifted. And we now know that he would never have unambiguously come clean on his WMD programs because he wanted his enemies (especially the U.S. and Iran) to believe he had them.

In other words, had the weapons inspections been allowed to continue, as Mr. Kerry says he wanted, a U.S. President would have eventually faced the same uncertainties and the same agonizing choice that Mr. Bush did when he decided to commit the U.S. to war. Remember, too, that the final round of inspections was won only with a build-up of U.S. troops in the Gulf, and that a decision to accept as satisfactory the desultory cooperation that Saddam gave these inspectors would have meant overwhelming international pressure for immediate lifting of all sanctions.

Read the whole thing - there is a bonus. You get to see some of who was getting bribed by Saddam!
About Those Missing Explosives...... looks like a key member of the international community could perhaps be able to shed some light on where they went......
Ohio Federal Judge Blocks Voter Eligibility Hearings
A new development in the debate over whether there is fraudulent registration. I don't think we have heard the last of this.
A Withering Attack on Bush
I have frequently said that Bush is the lessor evil when compared to Kerry on this blog. But what does that mean, the lessor evil? It means that he still screws up massively. For those who are die-hard Bush supporters out there, you still have to deal with these valid conclusions of Andrew Sullivan when evaluating how successful the Bush presidency has been:

The reason the story of missing munitions at al Qa Qaa is an important one is not that, in and of itself, it's a huge deal. As Bill Kristol points out in one of the weakest defenses of the administration yet, the NYT story "didn't put it into context how important 380 tons are when there are tens of thousands of explosives in the country." Yes, that's right. Compared to all the other munitions sites that were looted during and after the invasion, al Qa Qaa is not that devastating. But what about all the other sites? What about the fact that a war begun as a means to restrain Saddam's weaponry actually helped disperse it? That's the real issue. And as the facts emerge, I've become convinced of one astounding thing: the Bush administration didn't care very much about the dangers from Saddam's alleged WMDs, or conventional munitions. Safeguarding those sites, keeping those weapons out of the hands of terrorists, was not a major priority.

Remember, I'm not a Kerry supporter. This would not have swayed my vote due to Kerry's other numerous flaws. But it is damning not the same, especially when you read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Kerry Has Positioned Himself to Benefit From a Terrorist Attack
My fear has been that if a pre-election bombing occurs it will most likely be in the Republican section of a swing state. Say the counties around Milauwakee in Minnesota. Or the Panhandle of Florida. Or the Suburbs of Cincinnatti in Ohio. A bombing there, on election day, would disrupt the polls, causing the democrats to lose less votes than the republicans. The danger with this for a terrorist was the backfire danger - it would possibly encourage voters to vote for Bush, diminishing the chance of an attack. That danger has been significantly reduced now because of the demagoguery of Kerry on the missing explosives issue, which in the event of one of these bombings, ecourage voters to wrongly blame Bush AND suppress the Republican vote in a swing state.

Lorie at Polipundit has this to say:
For the past year or so, many have feared that the October Surprise would be a terrrorist attack on U.S. soil. So far, we have been fortunate that one has not occurred. I, however, won’t breathe easy until the day after the election. A Polipundit reader, who chooses to remain anonymous, sent me an email raising a frightening possibility found in several comments posted by Moonzoo at Belmont Club. These posts led the reader to speculate:

…that NYTrogate is a set up so that if a Madrid-style attack occurs before the election, Kedwards will have positioned themselves perfectly to lay the blame on the administration’s incompetence. Moonzoo goes so far as to say that if you look closely at what Kedwards have been saying, they seem to be INVITING jihadists to attack.

I don’t know how much to make of this or to overly alarm anyone. But I worry that Bush supporters and all of us in the nation might have to brace ourselves for a lot more than the latest inane MSM propaganda.

Go and read the posts she links to.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Missing Explosives
As expected, it appears there is more (and much less)to this story than the NYTimes would have had you believe. Check at PoliPundit for the goods.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Decision on My Vote
I decided yesterday to vote for Bush in the state of Ohio. Coincidentally, a lifelong Republican friend has suddenly decided to vote for Badarnik in California.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Report from Bush's Speech Canton, Ohio
So I went with my mom (who was in the mood to see a spectacle) to the speech at the Palace theater today. Did I go inside and listen? Of course not! I've heard his canned speech a thousand times, and I saw him speak in 2000 anyway. No, the real action is outside at the protest, and the protestors were out in force. No, I have not decided between Badarnik and Bush yet, but I don't want to get into that now.

So I approached with my Bush-Cheney '04 Yard Sign (it has the two prongs, which I used to hold by each hand in the air) over to the opposite corner where the Kerry supporters were organizing. Immediatly the jeers started. Expected. What was unexpected was that quite a few of those jeering were yelling in accents that weren't quite from this area - and those were the people yelling the loudest. More unexpected was a group of these people who seemed bused in surrounded me, and grabbed the plastic portion of my sign from me. To the cheers, applause, and laughter of the crowd.

I was pissed. I ran at the 6'2 300 pound guy and demanded my sign back. Bare in mind that I'm 5 foot 7 inches, and 150 pounds. Not a fair fight, and the guy was on the verge of slugging me as he pushed me aside. I went back and demanded the sign again. He said "Fuck you, your guy is a jerk." I responded that may be his ignorant view, but we live in a country where I am entitled to my own view - and its ironic when the supporters of a candidate (Kerry) who claims to support civil liberties go around acting like fascist goons. He pushed me away again, but I saw him put my sign in his back pocket (remember, it's printed on a plastic bag). So I pickpocketed him and started fighting with the guy for it. At which point some men from the Kerry Campaign, to their credit, asked him to give it back to me.

With my sign back, the Kerry people then did next best thing to theft - they started to put their signs in front of mine. So I danced around them, trying to keep my sign in view. At which point my mom arrived, who was accosted by a large woman who started ejecting spittle at my moms face as she demanded that my mom put her son to rights. My mom just laughed and told her to get her chest out of her face.

At this point the protest moved to the outside of the theater itself. We followed. On the way steel workers demanded to know why Bush cost them their jobs. I asked why Bush should reward special interests such as them. That caught them off guard, but they then just reverted to other slogans. Such as "Outsource Bush! Outsource Bush!" Of course, I can yell louder than most, so I said with a grin "Get a creative slogan! Get a creative slogan!" Surprisingly, people started laughing - I had reached the palace theater and there were now people with Bush signs (one of the more creative ones had a butchered drawing of Kerry with the line Scary Kerry). I was no longer outnumbered 100 to 2 - now it was more like 250 to 50!

I spent a long time working up the crowd that supported Bush. I pointed to my sign, which was tattered but in one piece - "Does what happened to this sign look like the work of those who are in favor of civil liberties?" - I asked to a chorus of "No!" It got caught on TV Camera. Reporters asked me what happened, and choosing my words carefully, I told them. I doubt anything will come of it.

Soon a small crowd of the Kerry supporters surrounded me and wanted to grill me on Bush. Having grilled Bush myself mentally on a daily basis, I knew the arguments, and have quite a few original counters of my own. The crowd grew larger until it was about 1/4 of the protest. Arguments on why Bush is greatest possible disaster of all time were flowing two, three, four at a time. One frequent question was why wasn't I in Iraq if I was against Kerry? Shouldn't I enlist, or wasn't I a coward? I responded with the following argument that even Sasha Volokh liked in the past, and which I posted here before - if only those who can support a war are those who bare the cost (i.e. fight in it) then it stands to reason that only those that pay the majority of taxes (i.e. the rich) should be able to vote on them as well. Clearly we don't have such a policy.

Other questions dealt with Bush's Iraq war. My response to that was it is not a question of whether knowing what we know now if Bush made the right decision - rather the question is if Bush made the right decision knowing what he knew at the time it was made. Of course the "tax cut for the rich" came up, and I pointed out that government revenue would most likely be maximized with a tax that was more flat, and to arrive there, cutting the taxes for the rich is a necessary first step. Others wanted to end steel production overseas an outsourcing, but I pointed to them that this would serve to raise the price of that product, costing jobs in industries that rely on it, hurt the consumers who purchase it, and will result in retaliatory tariffs that will hurt the country much more than jobs lost to imported steel ever would. I pleaded with them that even if Bush was in their minds a bad president, Kerry could not help but be worse.

He will appoint judges that believe in a "living constitution" - the idea advocated by Bruce Ackerman that you can ammend the constitution not just through traditional means, but by a popular reinterpretation of the document. He will raise spending signficantly more than bush - his programs come in at over $2 trillion on paper. If you use the old rule of thumb that you multiply a government program's stated initial cost by three to get its eventual cost, you end up $6 trillion - of which he can find, AT BEST $800 billion (more likely much less) to pay for them. His diplomatic policy towards North Korea is dangerous (he wants to remove China from the bargaining table, which is the only country that has any real leverage). Along with his stated belief of a need for meeting a "global test" before international action, there is little evidence that he will take an internationally unpopular action that is in our nation's best interest when the two diverge. Add his increase on demogouery over Bush on issues dealing with international trade, and we will have a disaster on our hands.

The arguments went on and on. Many have not been put in this post, but I can't remember them at this time. The crowd grew larger and more calm as they heard my answers, but then new angry people would come in, demand answers to the same or similiar questions, and then start fighting with those that had heard my answers as they wanted more. In the end I don't know how many, if any minds I changed today. But I do know that one kid told my mother he learned more from listening to me in one day than he had by reading the BBC, the NYTimes, and other publications in the past year. Another high school teacher told my mom that she was going to make my blog required reading for her class so they could be better informed. So maybe I made a small difference after all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Another Voice
Famous blogger Lorie of Polipundit joins most of my immediate family (ironically, recently converted by me to the Republican cause) in trying to convince me to vote Republican in this election:

Oh, Elliot, go ahead and vote for Bush. I can tell that even though you disagree with him on some issues, that you want to vote Bush, and besides, I disagree with you – every vote DOES count.

If I didn't have any desire to vote for Bush or Badarnik I would have already made up my mind. Besides it is more than "some issues" that I disagree with Bush on. Bush sold us down the river by (a) Supporting Affirmative Action (b) Instituing Steel Tariffs (c) Passing an egregious farm subsidy bill (d) Passing the biggest entitlement in recent history - the prescription drug bill at a cost of over $500 billion and counting (and lying to the Republican House about the true cost of the bill, which he claimed to be at $300 billion) (e) Presiding over the largest growth in domestic spending since Carter (no defense/homeland security spending does not account for all of it). Additionally, I personally disagree with Bush on (a) His attempts to pass the Federal Marriage Ammendment (b) His continuance of the War on Drugs (c) His efforts to federalize education (d) His limitations on Stem Cell Research. So it isn't a few issues that I disagree with Bush on. Its a lot - I just happen to hammer the democrats more because I think they are far worse.

Anyway, I have changed my decision several times in the past day. As I stated before, it will come down to who will I enjoy voting for more - Bush or Badarnik? Additionally, while I agree with Lorie that my vote "counts" towards the final result, it will not be the vote that swings the election - so if my goal is to elect Bush or Kerry, voting is not the way to success (Bush will win or lose regardless of my vote). Thus, as I said earlier, I have to base my vote on some other category - such as which I will enjoy voting for more.

Either way, I will be volunteering for the Bush Campaign off and on until the end of the election.
Off to Volunteer
Hey, if nobody at Stanford can debate me, why shouldn't I put my skills to use in Stark County, Ohio, while I'm in town? I'm off to volunteer for the Bush campaign for the day. No, this does not mean I am voting for him (I'm leaning heavily Badarnik). But I support the President over Kerry, and I'm willing to put my time that I should be using for studying to help him swing the county that swings the state that will swing the election.
Crack Cocaine for Votes in Ohio
And who ever said voter registration efforts were "non partisan?" Anyway, enjoy the read. And no Clint, this will not affect my decision whether to vote. I've made up my mind - I just want to rest on it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

My Response to Clint Taylor
The question for me is not whether I prefer Bush to Kerry. I already know that I do, for many (although not all) of the reasons that you outlined. Rather, the question is would I rather SAY and THINK TO MYSELF that I voted for Bush or that I voted for Badarnik.

Why is the last question the way I choose to look at it? Because I am incredibly certain that my vote WILL NOT SWAY THE ELECTION and if it did, it would be tossed out in a recount. Single votes do not matter - groups of votes do - and my voting third party will not affect enough other people to make a noticeable difference in this election - even in a state as close as Ohio.

Additionally - my voting third party has an added bonus in that I am more likely to succeed at convincing Kerry Ohio voters to not vote for their candidate and switch to Bush, because I will be more likely to portray myself as a neutral relatively unbiased observor. I have already used this tact to switch quite a few votes from Kerry to Bush.

Now, going to the second question - which would I rather SAY I voted for after the election. I will not outline my issues in not voting for Bush - you already know them (war on drugs, increase in government spending/entitlements, protectionism, stance on gay marriage). However, there are additional reasons that we have not mentioned that could sway my vote either way. First, Badarnik is a little too isolationist for my tastes. Second, I want to give the president "moral support" for many foreign policy stances that I find courageous. Finally, saying that I voted for Bush has much more comedic effect on those whose opinions I find simplistic than saying I voted third party. On the other hand, there is something to be said about voting for somebody who you agree with on almost all the issues (Badarnik). Also, if Bush ends up losing, I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that I least cast my vote for a candidate that I believe in. Finally, it is very important to me to vote for at least one libertarian an election cycle - it just so happens that in this election, the only liberterian on the ballot is running for president.

I have not made up my mind yet on how I'll vote, but I'll make a decision tonight after seeing Team America for inspiration.

All the Best,
Clint Taylor: "Elliot - you better vote Bush"
Here is an email Clint Taylor sent me yesterday. As many of you know, I'm torn between voting Bush and Badarnik (Liberterian Party).


You’re not shy about your conflict over whom you will vote for. Will you vote for Bush, or withhold your vote and assent to Kerry’s leadership? Bush has expanded government! He’s not for abortion rights! He’ll empower a shadowy Christian theocracy!

Well, Hamlet, do you expect the supporters of the various candidates to come to your dorm and give you a power point to resolve your political identity crisis?

Because I will, if that’s what it takes. I’ll do anything legal and ethical that might help convince you George Bush deserves your vote in Ohio. It’s that important.

This is about more than the two candidates that are running and their records (or their lack thereof.) It’s about the judges they will appoint, the advisers they will heed, the message they will send to the rest of the world.

You could get tied up in intellectual knots computing the lesser evil. You could assign weighted balances to various issues and run regressions on their departure from your positions. Or you could step back and look at the big picture:

This election is a referendum on the relationship of America to the rest of the world. Bush stands for the proposition that it is all right for America to go on offense to protect our security. Like we did in Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Kerry says he believes that, but he hasn’t really projected that image well. He could do so if he wanted to; but even while he swears he’ll hunt down terrorists and kill them he sounds like he’s trying to convince himself. With good reason: he voted against Iraq I. He voted for Iraq II but then switched his position. He militated against anti-communist activities in Central America because (according to the Boston Globe) they reminded him of Vietnam. He served admirably but then returned and castigated U.S. involvement there even as he slandered American troops as butchers, renegades, and rapists. I think the only war he was for was part of the drug war, when he voted for the invasion of Panama in 1989.

Kerry’s slogan is “safer at home, more respected abroad”. The two are, sadly, mutually exclusive. Before September 11 we were somewhat more respected abroad, or at least marginally less detested, even as the hijackers planned our destruction. If we are less respected now, we are also safer at home thanks to the elimination of the Taliban, the capture of Saddam, and the disarming of Libya.

A side effect of our offensive operations has been the extension of democracy and human freedom where it hasn’t ever taken root before. Women vote in Afghanistan. Iraq is a mess but they’re having elections; the mass graves have been opened, and Uday’s rape rooms are closed. The Iranian mullahs are desperate and walking a nuclear tightrope that I suspect will be neatly snipped soon after the election. Bashar Assad is showing a little perestroika. Aristide is out of Haiti; Charles Taylor—a repugnant cannibal—is out of power in Liberia. These aren’t accidents: because tyrants are America’s natural enemies, we are sowing the seeds of democracy on their graves. Which has never been a popular thing to do.

Kerry, meanwhile, needs to review Machiavelli’s dictum that it is better to be feared than loved. He proposes truckling to the Iranian mullahs and offering to give them nuclear fuel, and “calling their bluff”. Why? Does this man seriously doubt the Iranian mullahs are bluffing when they say they want a peaceful reactor? Is he that credulous? Now this isn’t like giving them a ready-made bomb; he might argue; if they try to turn this into highly enriched uranium the inspectors will catch them.

He’s crafty, this John Kerry. I’ll bet when he was a prosecutor, he would evaluate whether a suspect was a murderer by handing them a pistol and seeing whether he shot anybody with it. This was the logic that motivated the 1994 agreed Framework with North Korea. That worked brilliantly, until North Korea just threw out the inspectors, turned off the cameras, and opened up Bombs R’ Us.

Kerry’s logic on Iran will have us repeat that performance. And Iran, unlike North Korea, has already been tied to terrorism. The one I remember most vividly is the car bomb at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994. Killed 85 people, and scared the living crap out of my girlfriend who was studying abroad not too far away. That was the second bombing in Buenos Aires; they blew up the Israeli embassy a couple of years earlier. (Here’s a link: As I married that girl and she is now the mother of my daughter, I have a selfish interest in making sure that Iran will not repeat that stunt with a nuclear weapon. I want Iran armed with spitballs, not our own troops. I don’t need to call their bluff. They’re not bluffing.

If Kerry is for calling bluffs, then he ought to have supported the invasion of Iraq. If Saddam had in fact secretly, illegally destroyed or given away his weapons to preserve their power as a deterrent, then that was a bluff. And like John Wayne in True Grit, twirling his Winchester and shouting “FILL YOUR HAND, YOU SON OF A BITCH!”, Bush called his bluff.

But I’m leading up to something here. You’re a libertarian, Elliot, and I’m more of a conservative and I certainly don’t take your support of a conservative candidate for granted. And even though you might like the expansion of liberty abroad, you’re probably worried about the state of it at home.

You should. Because Bush’s offensive strategy against terrorists is better for our liberties than Kerry’s defensive, consensual strategy. We need to defend the borders better. But to defend the borders without addressing the source of the problem means that we’re just buying time and we’re living in fear. Kerry has said he’d like to see terrorism reduced to a nuisance like gambling or prostitution. But that’s silly; we don’t quake in fear, worrying that we will be propositioned by some busty jihadi in fishnets. Conversely, the Indians that run our casinos might host the Syrian Wayne Newton, but they’re not going to blow up a Jewish Community Center. Terrorism, by definition, cannot be a nuisance, and nuisances do not inspire terror. They inspire indignation, maybe even outrage, but not terror.

Terror is the intended result of terrorism, however, and it is a very corrosive product. It eats away at our liberties. It rots our civility and it numbs us to the many awful things done to fight it. McCarthy exploited terror about communism (much of which was justified.) Putin is using it to consolidate power in Russia. Some say Bush is using it to consolidate power here. Of course, “some” are wrong.

Nine-Eleven’s terror had one salutary effect in that it dissolved a little of the crusted lime that held our anti-terror bureaucracy in place. We were free to ask questions and re-configure things. And the guys who wrote the Patriot Act noticed that we weren’t able to fight terrorism even as efficiently as we fought drug traffickers. They looked around and saw a number of walls and inefficiencies hobbling our law-enforcement and intelligence services, many of them put there by Americans who simply did not trust America to defend herself. And everyone, even drug warriors like me, agreed that we at least ought to be able to use the same tools and strategies to fight terrorists that we were able to use to fight drug traffickers.

Everyone but John Kerry, I should add—but that’s another article in pre-publication right now. And of course, it’s not that the drug war has worked out so great, rather, that if the CIA wants to talk about intelligence with the FBI to stop a terrorist, they should get to. If they want to get a FISA warrant from a judge to wiretap a suspect, they can. There’s no documented abuse of Patriot Act powers; the library search provision hasn’t even been used. It’s hardly a power grab.

All the same it’s regrettable that we’ve had to make some of those changes in evidentiary standards. It’s regrettable we need to talk about stuff like “moderate physical pressure” and “unarmed combatants” and “racial profiling” the ugly neologism of “homeland security”. But we do need to talk about it, because we are at war, and we are on the defensive. But we are on the offensive, too—we are undermine radical Islam where it grows. We’re not managing it. We’re ending it. Slowly but surely, across the world, we’re suffocating it like we did Communism. And someday radical, fundamentalist Islam will be remembered like the only like the extinguished Thuggee murder-cult in India ( ). Can you name a single Thuggee martyr who was crushed under the boot of British colonialism? Nope. Just the generic word “thug” brings them to mind now and then. (And by the way, Hinduism, the larger religion of which the Thuggees were a perversion, is doing quite well without them, last time I checked. There were Muslim Thuggees as well, but not anymore.)

This is not some Orwellian perpetual war. We beat Nazism by going on the offensive. We beat Communism by a hundred ugly proxy wars and rebellions around the globe. We will vanquish radical Islamism and perhaps leave some lasting democracies in its wake. And we will still be America when we finish.

A vote for Bush is a vote for a winnable, finite war on terror.

Contrast this to Kerry’s cosmopolitan approach to this war. He demands compromise, and burden sharing, and a defensive posture. He wants to manage the problem. He wants to regulate it. It’s “primarily a law enforcement problem”.

Like gambling. Like prostitution. Like the war on drugs, except that Kerry actually advocated... ahh, there I go again. Anyway, a daily event. No biggie. An “acceptable level of violence” as was decreed in Northern Ireland in the ‘80’s. A nuisance. A government program like poverty, a fake, platitudinous war, not a real one. Like the weird dystopia in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, with bombs going off in shopping centers and a horrendous totalitarian mechanism torturing people to catch the anarchists.

I won’t have that here. I’ll make some compromises while I have to, with the understanding that this is temporary, while we fight the war over where it belongs. And I will only make those few compromises because we are willing to fight the war where it belongs. But not forever. Not that sort of perpetual management of terror. Not in America.

Now when we do fight, Senator Kerry insists we will bring our respectful partners along. We will compromise and deal. That’s necessary, to a point. But did you hear John Kerry say in the first debate that:

If the president had shown the patience to go through another round of resolution, to sit down with those leaders, say, "What do you need, what do you need now, how much more will it take to get you to join us?" we'd be in a stronger place today.

What if he’d said that? Those leaders would have realized “Wow, this guy’s desperate!” What would they have said then? How about, “We need you to join the International Criminal Court!”

Or, what if they had said, “Rejoin Kyoto!”
Or “Ratify the Law of the Sea!”
Or “Give us MFN trade status—as you overlook our own protectionism”
Or “Let us install international observers at your next election.”
Or “Ease up the visa scrutiny on our (Yemeni, Egyptian, Arabian, etc.) applicants!”
Or “Double your foreign aid to us!”
Or “Please enact some sensible gun control policy!”
Or “You know, if UNESCO just had another twenty billion dollars…”
Or “Give us some of that sweet nuclear fuel you’re passing out like Halloween candy!”
Or “Apologize for (Allende, Mossadegh, Crazy Horse, Noriega)!”
Or “Give up YOUR nuclear arsenal!”
Or “Grant a general amnesty for every illegal Mexican in your borders!”
Or “End the death penalty!”
Or “Leave (Chavez, Mugabe, Arafat, Castro) alone.”

We would not be in a stronger place today.

Saddam would.

This litany of potential demands just shows how terrible a Kerry foreign policy would be for American liberty. For if these things were asked, he would consider them. If he refused, as I hope he would, we would really be no better off than we are under Bush. But if he said yes…

And he would.

I don’t trust John Kerry at the negotiating table. I don’t trust him because he basically is campaigning on begging for world approval, and gives us no clue of how far he is willing to bend to accommodate foreign leaders. Today the anti-Semitic former Prime Minister of Malaysia endorsed Kerry, and so did the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister. What will their payoff be if Kerry wins? What could they possibly want that we ought to give them?
The sad thing is it isn’t even necessary. Bush has done a fine job managing an alliance. Consider this, from his speech in New Jersey today:
“America is safer today because Afghanistan and Iraq are fighting terrorists instead of harboring them.”
We are safer today and we are freer because of that. And so are Afghanistan and Iraq.

I understand why you don’t like Bush. But Kerry wants to manage the war indefinitely. That’s bad for our liberties. And “global test” or no, he will beg for an alliance when we need to exercise our power abroad. How much of our liberty will this need for affirmation cost us? He’ll leave us no freer, I guarantee that.

Bush wants to win. His vision of the war is sweeping, true, but ultimately, it’s finite. After a long slog, fundamentalist Islamic terrorism can go the way of the Thuggees if President Bush is allowed to keep the pressure up.

Please help him do so, Elliot. Our lives and our freedom might just depend on it.


Monday, October 18, 2004

The Case for Bush
Required Reading. I'll make up mind in the next day or two whether I'll vote for him or Badarnik (liberterian party). One thing is certain - I will not vote for Kerry in this election.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debate in Paradise
Today’s blogging post is a debate that I helped setup in my position as Speaker’s Chair for Federalist Society with my counterpart, Danielle Goldstein of the American Constitution Society. I’ll try my best to get the pertinent arguments down, but no promises. And if I misquoted one of the speakers, my apologies.

The topic is law executive power and national security. The moderator is Prof. Tino Cuellar. The debaters are Prof. John Yoo of Boalt Law School at Berkeley (famous for writing the Bybee memo that argued that torture was legit under the law under certain circumstances) and Prof. George Harris of McGeorge Law School, partner of Morrison Forrestor (MoFo) (famous for being counsel to John Walker Lynn)

Prof. Yoo frames the question of whether non-state actors such as Al-Queda should receive the benefit of our criminal Justice System.
Prof. Harris argues that the question is whether our civil liberties are capable of
accommodating the war on terror.

Tino Cuellar will now ask the first question. One side will answer, then the other side will respond.
Legend – C= Cuellar, H=Harris, Y=Yoo

C: Prof. Harris – are there any circumstances in which you think the president can detain a citizen as an enemy combatant without a hearing?

H: Yes, if we had a sufficiently large crisis, and were willing to put enough confidence in the executive. The difficulty here is that the crisis is not of a defined period of time, but rather is potentially a perpetual war. Here, finding the enemy is determining their guilt. It is circular. While this is possible theoretically, we are not there now. If we follow the administration’s policy, we are carving out an area of civil liberties

C: Suspension is critical in your account (of habeas course)…

H: I don’t think the president has the power to detain somebody without any review (hamdi)

Y: We agree on the following – there is a rule under the “war system” of detention. I disagree with him under the use of the word guilt. That is a criminal law concept. Guilt is a retrospective concept. Military system is different – it is designed to prevent FUTURE harms. It is not a question of guilt/innocence. Under the military system you can detain enemy combatants until the end of the conflict (not necessary to know when it ends under Hamdi). Court made clear that the executive is able to detain until the conflict is over – not relevant now to define when.
Hamdi also made clear that this rule applied it to U.S. citizens. However, the supreme court’s cases are clear – citizens who are enemy candidates get hearings (harris was correct here). But in enemy combatant cases the question is all about WHAT THE STANDARD OF REVIEW do the federal courts use to review the executive branch’s citizens. Court wouldn’t pick a std. of rev. in Hamdi. More clear to focus on what the hard choices are.
C: Speaking of the std. of rev., at some level there is a dispute at how much power the fed. Gov. should have in detaining somebody. One justice said that “the very core of liberty secured by the anglo-saxon … [is freedom from detainment]”

Y: This is an example of Scalia’s use of overly vivid language. Let’s be frank – there is nothing in the Habeas Corpus body of statutes (?) that suggests how Habeas proceedings are to run, and there is no incentive for the legislature to pass such a statute.
The gov’t proposed standard was drawn from immigration law. There the std. Of rev. is the “some evidence review” – if the exec. Branch provides “some evidence” it gets some deference from the reviewing court for its decisions.

H: First, on this point of what the gov’t’s position is, it evolved. He goes on talking about how the gov’t provided only a three page hearsay memo to the reviewing court in Hamdi and said that was all it needs.
Yes, Hamdi did not give all the answers by any means. Yes, it said that the gov’t had the power to detain enemy combatants in time of war. What the court doesn’t answer (question presented by pedilla) is can we apply this (sorry, somebody whispered to me, so I lost that ) – if American detained, what is the std.? Some evidence?

C: What is your explanation of what meets “some evidence”? Does the three page Memo meet it?

Y: Yes, it was a summation of all evidence. You could call every soldier who had contact with hamdi, every official who dealt with issue. Old WWII case where captured german soldiers wanted De Novo hearing. Court deferred in interfering with military proceedings. Answers your question of why you would want a deferential standard. Cases like Milligan (old civil war case I think) took place AFTER war over. This is first habeas case that took place while still in heat of war (right?). In Hamdi and Lynn defendants wanted all Al Queda operatives in custody to come to court. We can’t do that in the middle of a war [my notes – would compromise security]. So we can’t have De Novo review.

C: Some sources have admitted that US uses moderate physical pressure to obtain crucial information. Should international law step in?

H: Yes, if the techniques are cruel and inhumane (I think he said that). State dep’t once said this about torture: Prohibite, categorically denounced, no official may use it or tolerate it, the law contains no provisions that permits it on grounds of exigent circumstances, etc. That was our pre 9/11 position. When we are looking for international support in the war on terror and we saying that doesn’t apply now, that is dangerous.
Suppose though that there is a ticking time (nuclear) bomb and we have somebody who knows. Well there, everybody knows what happens (You torture the bastard). And afterwards, maybe the torturer will have a necessity defense for prosecution. But this isn’t when torture has been being used.

Y: I don’t think it is the policy of the gov’t to engage in torture. Second, abu gharib (sp?) pictures does not mean that it was authorized or legal. Schelessinger report referred to by Harris does not find any authorization by higher ups. Also, what is it that you can do to interrogate people that isn’t in violation of torture ban. Shouldn’t we at least ask those questions? Isn’t it irresponsible to not ask the question.
So the torture convention which we ratified in ’92. There is torture and cruel/inhumane treatment. There is no statute that makes it a criminal act to engage in cruel/inhumane. Also lots of docs at time of adoption that state that because the cruel/inhumane standard so amorphous, no means of figuring out if in violation, so the admin at time of adoption didn’t want to fully get behind the standard by instiuting criminal punishment for doing it. Example - Is denying an attorney cruel/inhumane? Maybe.
In the war on terrorism, the most important commodity is information, which is the only way to stop them. As such, in this sort of conflict, by the circumstances we are placed in, we have heightened need to gain information.

C: Why can’t OLC share the legal justification for doing what it does on torture [prof. cuellar sends this - The question about keeping OLC memos secret wasn't primarily about the torture memos (though these were also kept secret) but about memos involving the authority of state and local law enforcement to get involved in civil immigration enforcement.]

Y: I know the opinion exists, but I have to admit I never read it. One possibility is classified information – but that is unlikely. Second is the attorney-client privilige – yes it is debatable whether such a thing exists for the government, but both the Clintons and the Bushes felt that when their admin went to the OLC, they were the client seeking legal advice, and they don’t want that advice shared.

H: You raise an interesting question about the duties of a government lawyer in those circumstances, but I do think to find the client we have to look at the whole executive, and not just the white house. One problem we have had due to this client policy is that we have been having policies determined in secret – where the white house knows, but the rest of the executive may not. Yes we have to protect information, but there is also a need to have some of these debates public debates. Schlessinger report speaks of isolation, use of stress positions, sleep/light deprivation, fear of dogs used and that is where you end up when you don’t set clear stds.

Y: I think there is a difference btwn. Law and policy. The Geneva conventions apply to nation states that have signed the treaty. Al Queda is not a nation, has not signed it, and has showed no desire to obey them. Now we can have a policy debate about whether we should give Geneva status to al queda members, but the government had that debate and made its decision. For that reason, the Geneva convention clearly apply in iraq, but Afghanistan was a tougher question. Afghanistan was a signatory nation, but by the taliban’s conduct’s they lost POW protections. It is up to the President to determine how this treaty apply (I think he said this)

C: Last question: No gov’t interest more compelling than the security of the nation. What exactly is the argument that the COURT has the experience/authority to arbiter claims on security against the executive. Why a judge?

H: I think it is particularly the place of a court to determine under what conditions we can imprison somebody. Its one thing to say that it is something that courts shouldn’t get into to determine prosecution of a war. But it is another thing to arrest people in Chicago, put people in the brig for three years, and then have the court accept an answer that they have no need to inquire.

Y: I have no comment on that point.

That brings up audience questions, but as I am getting close to carpal tunnel syndrome of the night, I will not be blogging that.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Debate Reaction
Was it just me, or did Kerry look very haggard? He appeared pale, eyes sunken, the perfect picture of exaustion. Bush on the other hand, seemed like a teenage class clown with his expressions.

Anyway, on the substantive issues, I thought Bush cleaned Kerry's clock. Lines that allude to Kerry's desire of short-term popularity over security on the international stage hit home and went unanswered. And on the domestic side, Bush just let Kerry go on and on about all his promises that the president wouldn't match him on - and then Bush called him out on being for a rough form of socialized medicine.

I'm wondering if this will stop the bleeding - I think so.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

VP Debates
I'll be up front - I missed the last thirty minutes of the debate. But from what I saw, Cheney cleaned up. He landed blow after blow on Edwards. Edwards only hit Cheney on two points - jobs and Cheney's senate record (voted against department of education, meals on wheels, head start, and urging the freeing of Nelson Mandela). Besides that it was all Cheney. Especially damning was when he nailed the Kerry-Edwards campaign for using the incorrect 90% of the cost 90% of the casualty statistics. But his faulting of Kerry's international Policy left Edwards stammering. As did his attack on Edward's non-presence in the Senate. Oh, and his line about being able to refute Halibuturn if given the time being shot down (the moderator wouldn't give him an extension) because it made Cheney appear willing, if given the chance, to squash a seeming smear.

A final note - did anybody else notice Cheney refusing to attack Edwards position on Homosexual Marriage? Perhaps a sign of conflict for him between what he believes in and what his duty is to advocate. But I wasn't paying that close attention by that point in the debate anyway.