Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Intermission

Folks, I'm taking the rest of the month off.

And possibly a chunk of December as well.

I know, I know, millions of spambots will be crushed to hear of this since they must spend literally hours each day posting comment spam. But I'm sure they will survive.

Rest assured that I will not be sitting back idly during this break. I've got some plans for this place, some renovations in mind, including a site wide redesign.

Check back and I'll let y'all know when I'll be back in business.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Fallujah

The assault to take Fallujah away from the terrorists is underway. My prayers are with our troops and their Iraqi allies.

A while back, Michael Moore asked Bill O'Reilly if he was willing to sacrifice his children in Iraq. Bill couldn't answer the question, mostly because it was the wrong question. The families of the soldiers and marines who died in combat didn't sacrifice their children any more than I would sacrifice mine. We have an all volunteer military which means that each and every man and woman over there has chosen to be there. The decision, and the sacrifice, is theirs.

It is up to us to make sure that their sacrifices are not wasted, and it is on this point that good people can disagree vehemently. Do we have a national interest in Iraq? Does our national security rest on having a stable democracy in Iraq? I won't rehash the arguments for and against because anyone reading this page is sufficiently interested in current affairs to already know them. The simple fact is that many of us, a majority as indicated by the election, believe that the operations in Iraq are in our national interests, and a necessary for our continued security. Having made that determination, it now becomes incumbent on the Commander in Chief to use the amount of force needed to achieve our objectives quickly, and with minimal loss of American lives, while striving to minimize collateral damage and non-combatant casualties. However, also demonstrated by the election, a sizeable minority disagrees with that determination, and want to bring our boys back home. This creates a situation where well meaning protests may result in higher casualties for both sides.

Here's the problem. Let's say the President and his SecDef and the Joint Chiefs have drawn up a battle plan that meets the objectives outlined above. And let's say that the battle plan will involve significant American casualties, as it more than likely will. If the President presses ahead with this plan, despite the objections of those who want us out of Iraq, he risks being called stubborn, inflexible, imperialistic, etc. If, on the other hand, he modifies the plan, say pausing the offensive for negotiations to show compromise with those citizens opposed to military force, he risks failing to reach the objectives, or achieving the objectives at a cost of higher casualties. Between going in full strength or not going in at all, the worst choice is to go in half heartedly. I can remember the story of a bar fight my dad got into. (One of many in his life. He got into a fight in nearly every bar in Knoxville, including the Gathering Place at the Regas.) His brother in law was trying to keep him out of the fight, and grabbed him, pinning his arms at his sides. You can guess how well that worked out. He wound up with a beer stein imprinted on the bridge of his nose. A somewhat more relevant example would be when our embassy in Iran was overtaken,and the hostages taken. At the time, the marine guards were carrying unloaded rifles in an attempt to appear less aggressive and to reduce the chances for an incident.

So, when you write your posts about the battle and the men who die in it, when you talk to your neighbor James, or Doris at the coffee shop, when you take to the streets in protest, just remember that if your protests have any effect, it will almost certainly result in additional casualties, for our side and theirs. No matter how well intentioned and sincere your protests are, they can have the effect of pinning our soldiers' arms at their sides just when they need them most.

MOst of those who are against the war say they support our troops; please show that support by letting them do the job they're there to do as quickly and safely as possible.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, November 08, 2004

So, What’s Next?

OK, the election is almost a week old, and I've had a chance to digest the results a bit, and try and figure out where we're going next. My usual optimism is at war with my knowledge of history, so it's been difficult to discern the difference when making my predictions. In the end, I think I'm letting optimism win out over knowledge, but that's a mistake I'm willing to make. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst, and all that.

  • First, with any luck, we can begin to heal.

    While this may not have been the most bitter election in our history, it certainly ranks up there. In the course of the campaign, I learned something emotionally that I'd known intellectually; hatred and anger are contagious. Over the past couple of years, I've run into folks who hate me simply because I believe different things than they do. I ignored the hatred for quite some time, either ignoring the source, or responding thoughtfully and rationally. But as my exposure continued, I began to respond differently. Not in kind, I didn't return the hatred, but I began to get angry, and I came to believe that I had to answer every charge, every accusation that these folks laid at my feet. I was offended by the lies and slander, and charged in to refute them whenever possible.

    It was a task worthy of Don Quixote, and I met with similar success. I very much doubt I changed a single mind, not because my facts were wrong, or my arguments flawed, but because their beliefs spring from something other than logic. These folks share a heartfelt belief that their point of view is the only valid one, so anyone who disagrees obviously must be stupid or corrupt. The intensity of their belief approaches religious zealotry, which explains their anger and bitterness over the election results.

    As I said, as my attempts to defend my beliefs were met with anger, hatred, scorn, and ridicule, I began to get angry, and ever more eager to "bring the light of reason into the darkness." (Yeah. Pretty egotistical of me. No big surprise though. You have to have some kind of ego to think that your words are important enough that they should be cast out upon the bitstream of the internet for everyone to read.) I was headed towards becoming every bit as inflexible as my opponents, and would have gotten there eventually, except for a lucky break.

    A few weeks before the election, I was lucky enough to meet a group of people who reminded me that there were people who could disagree with me without hating me. We watched the debate together, and while we disagreed on many points, I never felt the ugliness I'd grown accustomed to on the net. It was a wake-up call, a reminder that most folks are able to disagree with a person's politics without seeing them as less of a person.

    And so I've left the haters behind. There's nothing more for me to learn from them anyway. Now, I'm looking to continue those contacts with real liberals, those who see the world through different eyes than mine, and are capable of letting me see it their way, even as I try to show them my way. That's what it will take to bridge the gap between us. I think we all see the same problems; where we disagree is on the causes and the solutions. The facts will lead us to the correct causes; surely then we can find solutions satisfactory to both sides.

    On the National level, healing has been made possible not just because of President Bush's clear majority, but because of Senator John Kerry's ability to put the best interests of the nation ahead of his own. In so doing, he acted like a true patriot, and I respect him for that. In fact, I would say that John Kerry did more in service of his country on November 3 than he has in his entire career. His concession speech also insured that he will remain a major factor in American politics despite his loss. On the other hand, John Edwards is done.

  • The need for that healing is stronger now than ever.

    The Republican victory, while overwhelming in breadth, with gains in the Senate and the House, is actually fairly shallow. Despite Republican spin that Bush got more votes than any Presidential candidate ever, (Duh. So did Kerry. Population inflation alone played a big part in that.) Democrats picked up seats in State legislatures, and increased the number of governors. Since President Bush was able to pick up 4 million voters even though
    1. We're in a very difficult and complex war;
    2. Our economy is recovering, but is a long way from robust;
    3. Employment is still down from 4 years ago, although again, it's improving;
    4. We are carrying large deficits, and the budget seems almost out of control;

    it seems clear that he does have something of a mandate, but the simple fact that he got a lot of votes based on the war against terrorism, not his domestic agenda, combined with the Dem gains in the state houses indicates that the mandate is almost as shallow as his popular vote victory. He will need the support of moderate Democrats in order to move forward with his agenda.

    This is a good thing as it will force him to moderate his agenda to one that is acceptable to moderates. I expect the faith based initiatives to die quietly, along with the definition of marriage amendment, although the latter will be much noisier. We'll see some reform of Social Security, including a trial plan allowing some private investment, but not the sweeping changes he envisioned. The revamping of the tax code will be an interesting effort, since virtually any change will be opposed by one group or another. Building a coalition on this one will be the biggest domestic challenge of his administration. His appointments to the Supreme Court will be conservative, but they will have to be acceptible to moderates, since he will need 5 Democrats to break ranks to bust the filibuster certain to be mounted by the Democrats.

  • The Democratic Party will split in two.

    As I noted above, many on the left wing of the Democratic Party (read Democratic Underground or any of the usual suspects to see what I mean) see the election results and conclude that Americans are lazy, or corrupt. Here's one example from a commentor at Washington Monthly.
    Kerry lost because more Americans indisputably like, trust, and feel more comfortable and safer with Bush than with Kerry.

    Why? The unavoidably obvious explanation is that Americans are by-and-large morons. Simpleminded, uninformed and undereducated, intellectually lazy and proud in their ignorance to boot, self-important and self-righteous, arrogant and benighted idiots.

    Folks like this one are unable to see another alternative; that many people see these problems as a result not of President Bush's policies, but of natural business cycles combined with a devastating attack, and the resulting war effort. Further, these people have evaluated the President's policies, along with our successes in the war against terrorists and the recovering economy, and have decided that his policies are working well enough that he should be given another term to carry them out.

    That evaluation jibes with my experience far better than does the "America is Stupid" meme, and it is one that more moderate liberals can also agree with.

    Since it is clear that President Bush will need the support of moderate liberals to move forward on his agenda, it makes sense that he will court them, and make some concessions in order to get that support. In my experience, the only folks the rabid left hate more than conservatives is moderates from their own party. If in exchange for concessions, they decide to support the President's plans, whther it be on taxation, SCOTUS nominations, or Social Security reform, the extremists in the party will turn on them. The division will be just as bitter as the left/right divide during the election, if not worse. The only real question is once the split occurs, whether the moderate majority will take control of the Democratic Party, forcing the radicals to splinter, or whether it will be the other way around. My guess is that the latter is more likely, since the radicals are the ones that are apt to be the most energized.

  • The religious right are going to be disappointed.

    President Bush is a social conservative, but the country as a whole is not. His majority victory was due more to the war than to his domestic agenda, which means he will face an uphill battle when trying to pass the faith based initiative legislation and the marriage amendment, particularly since he'll need the support of the moderate left for other, more important agenda items, most notably the SCOTUS nominations and Social Security reformation.

    These disappointments might lead to a schizm in the Republican party similar to that I predict in the Democratic Party, as conservative Christians feel abandoned, which leads to my riskiest prediction.

  • In 2008, a true third party will form.

    Moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans will either be abandoned by their party or abandon their party to form a moderate third party, socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and committed to a strong defense. There are simply too many voters these days who don't fit comfortably into either party.
    • They are pro-gun and pro-choice.
    • They support a small government and a social safety net.
    • They support gay rights and fiscal responsibility.
    • They support environmental conservation and free markets.


    They don't fit within either party, and so the natural trend, accelerated by increasing stridency on both extremes, will drive them into a loose coalition that eventually will congeal into a new party.

    The election in 2008 will highlight these changes, as the Republicans nominate Giuliani/Rice, running against Clinton/Nadar for the Dems, with McCain/Powell running as the third party candidates. I have no idea who would win in this matchup, but the campaign would be a lively one.

  • There will not be a draft.

    Our military is no longer organized to fight a meatgrinder war, nor would that tactic be sound in our current fight. We rely on superior firepower, weaponry, tactics, and training, rather than the WWII approach of throwing more men into the fight than our opponent. Thrusting reluctant, untrained soldiers into that battlefield would hurt more than help.


So there are my guesses about our political future over the next 4 years. Take them for what they're worth, which is exactly what you paid for them...

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

4:00AM and It’s Not Deja Vu!

Significant differences:
  • President Bush has won a majority of the popular vote by ~4 million votes. No president since his father has done that.
  • Despite efforts by the Kerry campaign to cast Ohio as this election's Florida, as of right now with 99% of precincts reporting, President Bush holds a 145,000 vote lead. Ohio Sec of State has stated that there are about 110,000 provisional ballots, not the 250,000 claimed by the Kerry camp. As it stands right now, even if there were 250,000 ballots, and all of them were valid, Kerry would need 80% of them to even come close to catching up.

    Instead of a few hundred votes, as we had in Florida, this time we're dealing with an unassailable margin. Ohio is Bush country.
  • ABC has called Nevada for Bush, and it looks like Iowa will be called soon, adding to the President's lead. As for Florida, the President has a 374,000 vote margin, solidifying his hold on that state.
  • The country, while still narrowly divided, has made it's will clear by increasing Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, including unseating Tom Daschle.
  • This time around, President Bush is the incumbent, not a challenger, which gives him a tremendous advantage. There's no cloud hanging over him if the process plays out over the next couple of days. He can go on about the country's business without having to worry about being seen as presumptuous.


The clock is running against Kerry; he needs to come up with a convincing attack quickly, or risk being seen as a sore loser. Even worse for Democrats, he could drag the entire party down with him if he continues to fight a losing battle.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Waiting for the Returns

Does anybody have a USDA nutritional label for fingernails?

I am counting carbs, after all.

I sat down and calmly explained to my kids that Daddy was going to be very involved in watching the returns, and that, unless a child or the house was on fire, it probably would be wisest not to ask about which pair of shoes to wear for school tomorrow.

I can tell you this much; tomorrow morning, or the week after, or whenever this whole thing is settled, I plan on taking a long break from politics.

Yeah, right. I'm like every other junkie.

"Oh yeah. I can quit anytime! I just don't want to..."

The ironic thing is, as I've written before, I believe we are in the last, great days of America. It doesn't really matter in the long run which man we elect. One candidate will prolong our slide a little bit longer, perhaps even reverse it for a time, while the other will accelerate it, which might even be a mercy.

Unless there's a renewal of the American Spirit, where we looked to government not as a caretaker, but an enabler, we'll continue our slide into history. As long as most Americans believe that they are entitled to the basic necessities, then we'll never approach the greatness that's in our past.

As I flip back and forth between writing this entry and checking the latest poll results, I wonder why I care so much, since I'm convinced we're circling the drain anyway. (OK, it isn't quite that bad; we've got a couple of good decades left in us.)

We now fully expect that our candidates will say anything to get elected, regardless of whether it is true, or reflects their actual positions. Many times, we're not even sure what their positions are, as they campaign to appeal to the widest possible spread of voters. John Kerry is the ultimate 20th century politician. He approaches every issue from every side, telling each group what he thinks they want to hear. I don't fault him for this because as an election strategy, it's proven very effective.

In this election, we face a choice between the son of a former President, who really had nothing remarkable in his political resume other than his father's name, and a 20 year Senator who's chief claim to fame was 4 months service in Viet Nam. Is this really the best our process has to offer? (Granted, after 9/11, President Bush did surprise us all by rising to the occasion, determining an appropriate course of action, and carried it out with an unshakeable resolve. He was clearly the right man at the right time. But we really didn't know it then. We got lucky.)

Our electoral process itself has been under attack this cycle, and I'm not certain it can survive the damage it has sustained. It's almost certain that this election, like the preceding one, will go to the courts, further straining people's confidence in our system.

Talking to my brother over the past few days, I listened as he expressed his frustrations with the system, from the possibility for faithless electors to vote fraud. "Why should I vote?" he asked. "It really doesn't matter anyway."

I didn't have a good answer for him, since I understood how he felt, albeit for different reasons.

Why vote if it doesn't really matter who wins?

For the same reason that Horatio stood before the bridge and held off the Etruscan army single handedly.

For the same reason Leonidas and the 300 stood at Thermopylae.

For the same reason the Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Colonel William Travis and 200 volunteers held the Alamo against Santa Anna's army.

Because no matter how bad the odds, or bleak the outlook, no matter how high the price, as long as there are people willing to stand up for what they believe in, there's always hope.

I don't know that America can defy history, and emerge from this slide into dependency. It's very seductive, and difficult to resist. After all, it sounds so wonderful. "Yes, let's make sure everyone has a place to live and food to eat, and a good job and medical care. Let's make sure that everyone has their basic needs met. What better job could there be for our government than that?"

The problem is simple. Long term dependence breeds resentment. We've all had the experience of helping someone only to be cursed instead of kissed. It's embarrassing to have to admit that you can't take care of yourself, and taking charity forces you to admit that every time you cash the check. A government set up to take care of us will eventually create the same resentment. Of course, you can work to change the culture to eradicate that sense of shame, but in so doing you also remove the drive to succeed that made us great. The two are different sides of the same coin; you can't erase one without erasing the other.

It's like the difference between a wolf, and a dog. Genetically, they are the same yet their spirits couldn't be more different. Dogs have been tamed; they traded their freedom for security. They are regularly fed, well cared for, and lead pampered lives for the most part. And all they had to give up for this life of comparative luxury is their freedom; they must call man master.

Are we to be dogs as well? Are we to call our government master, that we may have food, and shelter, and medicine? Are we willing to trade our pride, our self reliance, our freedom for security? Are we going to be tamed?

God, I hope not.

And that's why I vote, and why I'll continue to vote each and every chance I get. That's why I'll continue to write here. That's why I'll keep hustling to build my business, and if it fails, to get another job. That's why I'll keep teaching my children that they must be able to rely on themselves first; that while there's no shame in needing an occasional hand, they shouldn't come to rely on that help, since it might not be there, or might carry too high a price.

I'm raising them to be wolves.

Posted by Rich
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Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote

Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote

To my Democrat friends this does not mean vote as often as I wrote the word.

Just making sure.

Everybody get out and vote today.

My sincerest wish is for a clean and clear victory for either candidate. We can't afford the debacle of 2000; ot would send the wrong message to our enemies. SO while I opbviously would prefer that Bush get the clean and clear victory, if Kerry gets it, that's better than a contested mess, with the planned suits, riots, demonstrations etc.

Posted by Rich
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Texas Politics

From my email

A Letter From Texas:

[Please note that Texas is the only state with a legal right to secede from the Union. (Reference the Texas-American Annexation Treaty of 1848.)
We Texans love y'all, but we'll have to take action if Kerry wins over Bush. We'll miss you too. Texas has given all those complainers plenty of time to get used to the results of the last election. After seeing the whiners along the campaign route, the folks from Texas are considering taking matters into their own hands. Here is what will happen:
  1. If John Kerry becomes President of the United States, Texas will immediately secede from the Union.
  2. George W. Bush will become the President of the Republic of Texas.


So what does Texas have to do to survive as a Republic?
  1. . NASA is just south of Houston, Texas. We will control the space industry.
  2. We refine over 85% of the gasoline in the United States.
  3. Defense Industry-we have over 65% of it. The term "Don't mess with Texas," will take on a whole new meaning.
  4. Oil - we can supply all the oil that the Republic of Texas will need for the next 300 years. Yankee states? Sorry about that.
  5. Natural Gas - again we have all we need and it's too bad about those northern states. John Kerry will figure out a way to keep them warm...
  6. Computer Industry - we currently lead the nation in producing computer chips and communications-small places like Texas Instruments, Dell Computer, EDS, Raytheon, National Semiconductor, Motorola, Intel, AMD, Atmel, Applied Materials, Ball Semiconductor, Dallas Semiconductor, Delphi, Nortel, Alcatel, etc, etc. The list goes on and on.
  7. Medical Care - We have the largest research centers for cancer research, the best burn centers and the top trauma units in the world, as well as other large health centers. Dallas has some of the best hospitals in the United States.
  8. We have enough colleges to keep us going: University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Rice, SMU, University of Houston, Baylor, UNT (University of North Texas), Texas Women's University, etc. Ivy grows better in the South anyway
  9. We have a ready supply of workers. We could just open the border when we need some more.
  10. We have essential control of the paper industry, plastics, insurance, etc.
  11. In case of a foreign invasion, we have the Texas National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. We don't have an Army, but since everybody down here has at least six rifles and a pile of ammo, we can raise an Army in 24 hours if we need one. If the situation really gets bad, we can always call the Department of Public Safety and ask them to send over Chuck Norris and a couple of Texas Rangers.
  12. We are totally self-sufficient in beef, poultry, hogs, and several types of grain, fruit and vegetables, and let's not forget seafood from the Gulf. Also, everybody down here knows how to cook them so that they taste good. Don't need any food.


This just names a few of the items that will keep the Republic of Texas in good shape. There isn't a thing out there that we need and don't have.
Now to the rest of the United States under President Kerry:
Since you won't have the refineries to get gas for your cars, only President Kerry will be able to drive around in his big 9 mpg SUV. The rest of the United States will have to walk or ride bikes.
You won't have any TV as the Space Center in Houston will cut off satellite communications.
You won't have any natural gas to heat your homes, but since Mr. Kerry has predicted global warming, you will not need the gas.


Signed, The People of Texas
P.S. This is not a threatening letter - just a note to give you something to think about...BEFORE YOU VOTE TODAY.

SLEEP WELL TONIGHT

Posted by Rich
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