Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Are Iraqi Insurgents/terrorists/SOBs evil?

Interesting moral question posed here. They are not soldiers, nor are they warriors. Both of those groups understand taht the application of violence must be controlled, deliberate and carefully directed. This is not to deny that mistakes do happen. But there is a difference between dropping a bomb on the wrong house while trying to target killers, and deliberately killing innocent people, just to sway American public opinion.
The interesting thing for me about the anti-war effort, is the lack of acknolwedgment that the terrorists are attacking solciers and civilians, but they are really targeting us. They know they cannot win on the battlefield, or at the ballot box. They can only win if we leave before the job is done. I really don't see how that is a more just moral position.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Democrats and the 21st Century

An interesting confluence of ideas have come before me in the last 24 hours. First George Will poses some of the problems for the loudest voices of the Democrats. Essentially, he argues that they are starting to become the equivalent of the John Birch Society in their rabid desire to avoid intelligent thinking. Relying instead on accusations of treason, greed, avarice, and, well, just about all of the seven deadly sins.
When you think about it, who in the Democratic Party is getting all of the press at the moment? Think Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, MoveOn, Howard Dean, and Chuck Schumer. Where are the Harold Fords, Obama Baraks, and Evan Bayhs of the Party? Kos seems to be doing his part to rope in all of the moderate voices of the Democratic Party, and he is not alone.
Which brings me to the other branch of the confluence, heretofore referenced previously. (Sometimes, when I feel like a jerk, I write like a lawyer.) Dave and Matt seem to be using the same page, although I think that Matt really is going somewhere that Dave is not, and Matt seems a might confused as to why Dave isn't following.
Conservatism, as a political theory is often labeled racist, anti-woman, anti-poor, etc., but that is not the true definition of conservatism, any more than liberals are all anti-American, -white male, -business, etc. If you consider the original theories of these two necessary positions, you might find that they are not incompatible. We need liberals to provide the motive force to change society. And we need conservatism to keep the forces from being taken too far in the wrong direction.
In the letters to the editor in our advertising supplement called the Missoulian, someone is saying that Conservatives were the ones who opposed the Equal Rights Act. True, but I think that the letter writer is conflating conservatives with Republicans. After all, the majority of people who opposed that Acts passage were Democrats, and the majority who supported it were Republicans. So, you can't say that all Democrats are liberal nor that all Republicans are conservative. And while I'm on it, can someone explain to me how liberal is supposed to mean that you are tolerant of other views, except Republicans, Libertarians, white males, etc.? I have listened to Air America on occasion for my much oft stated reason that we should consider all opinions. Randi Rhodes seems to be the equivalent of a broadcasting Brown Shirt. Al Franken and Janine Garofolo are the headliners, and seem to be conducting some sort of marathon for stutterers, they are so angry.
This is not to excuse the Pat Roberts et al. who are on the right. But if you argue that the Frankens, Kos and Air America are just a reaction to those on the Right, you are agreeing that you are no different from them, if anything, less artful.
I quit going to horror movies after Exorcist 2. Mostly because I realized that the moviemaker was manipulating me especially through the use of music, to try and keep me frightened. Ever since then, I have resented anyone trying to manipulate me through fear. For me, political parties are just like the movie makers. I suppose that like any marketing campaign, you always need new and improved attention getters to keep the public buying your products.
The future is going to belong to the group who realize that the person they are promoting is more important than the party. Whoever selects intelligent, thoughtful people as their candidates, (Those who can say 'I disagree with you, but can understand the basis for your opinion') will be the party of the future.
With the greater access to information from cable and the Internet, individuals will have more power, and organized group think collectives will lose it.
Give me a man or woman of principles and character, and not just some telegenic sock puppet, and even if I don't agree with all of their positions, I will probably vote for them because I am sure that they will make the right choices for the greater good. Don't tell me that Democrats or Republicans have my best interests at heart, because I am cynical to that line of reasoning. My experience has taught me that they are only interested in their own power, not that of me, my community or my country.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hiroshima and the First Weapon of Mass Destruction

I just finished watching the Discovery channel show about the first use of Atomic weapons. I am always interested that the numbers of casualties are promoted to show the immoral use of the weapons that ended WWII. It seems to be only rarely mentioned that more people died in the firebombings of Tokyo or for that matter Dresdem.
I supposed the reason why atomic weapons are considered so horriffic is that their effects are accomplished by only one plane and one bomb. Makes it easy to form the mental picture I suppose, than trying to imagine 1000 B-29s at the same time. But, are the causalties of Hiroshima and Nagasaki really due more consideration im memoriam than the victims of the Tokyo raids which were done by a 1000 plane raid?
I did learn something interesting, that the Japanese military considered their use to not be as significant as the civilian leadership.
Maybe, it's because nuclear weapons are really political weapons, with very little real military value. Generally speaking, military use of nukes is only justifiable as a last resort; because you were unable to stop your enemy in a conventional maner.
It probably doesn't fit into our cultural image (Think Dr. Strangelove) that the military is hot to use the weapons given to them. Although I think that they would if ordered, I would be surprised if they thought it would accomplish much.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Kerry, Democrats and Directions

The first step to solving a problem, is to correctly identify what the problem is. Otherwise you spend all of your time trying to solve something that is not the problem.
I know that after 2002 and 2004, the Democrats felt that they were not getting their message out to the public. Always ask the question: What else could it be? And the answer could be that their message did get out, but was rejected.
Part of the problem for the Democrats is that they are not really a cohesive and easily indentifiable group. In fact, many of the core constituents of the Democratic party are in direct opposition to each other. When Howard Dean ranted about the Republicans being a party of white men and Christians, he may have been onto something. Under his view, gender, race and income are predeterminates for how you will vote. Therefore, there is no reason to persuade them, because they are unpersuadeable.
For instance, Democrats are the party that champions the poor, and protects the environment. Well, if you are poor, one of the problems is that you can't afford housing. Why? because the cost of lumber is so high. (Although, it has been dropping recently) Why is the cost of lumber high? Because it is difficult to get into the woods to cut it, thanks to law suits, environmental regulations, etc., thereby also depriving poor lumber cutters and mill workers with jobs.
How about the cost of food? Environmental groups want to end subsidies for ranchers on public land. If you do, does that not drive up the costs of doing business, and therefore, the cost of food? An example of this conflict, was the opening of ANWR. Democratic environmentalists were opposed, but the trade unions were in favor because of the jobs that would be created.
Another example, African Americans give their support to the Democrats at almost 90%. Yet most are also heavily involved in the religious aspects of their lives. How does that comport with the Democrat's position on abortion?
I could go on and on, but I hope you get my point.
So, what are the Democrats to do in light of these conflicts. I think that the first thing they have to do is to wake to the fact that it is now the 21st Century, and we are no longer living in Dickensonian England, with Bob Cratchitt slaving for the evil Republican Scrooge.
In the next 20 years, the Baby Boom population is going to be retiring. When they do, there will be a shortage of workers. When you have a shortage of workers, their pay offers will go up, along with their choices for employment. The future for the American worker is not going to be a union job at a major manufacturing plant. It is instead going to be self employed independent contractors, who will be able to bid for jobs based on their own rational perceived self interest. And when they have that first good year as an independent contractor, they will bump smack dab into the realities of the tax system. My wife, the good Democrat, becomes Republican around April 15th of every year because she is an independent contractor as a paralegal.
Democrats and Republicans have the opportunity to help these people, but neither at the moment seems to even be aware of this coming issue. Whoever can support these future entreprenuers are going to be the victors in future political struggles. It is not enough for Democrats to rely on past achievements. They need to answer the question that these younger workers are going to ask: What have you done for me lately?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lunatics against the war

I'm not sure what to make of this. Okay, Kidder was running around in what could only politely be called a "psychotic state." and now wants to continue in opposition to the war.
With friends like this . . .

My ideal Candidate for Public Office


Okay, most people don't even remember who he was, plus, he's dead, which is probably a disqualifier, and he was Roman, which is a definite disqualifier, since he doesn't live in the district.
In case you forgot, Cinncinatus was the man called from his plow to lead Rome with autocratic powers until the danger had passed. Afterwards, he returned power to the Senate, and went home to his plow.
Thomas Jefferson once said that "any man who would seek public office is not worthy of it." This from a guy who really wanted to be President, and eventually did become only the third one in our history.
Today, politicians seem to feel the need to work their way up through the ranks. First a school board, then a city councilman, then a state representative, then statewide office followed by national service as either a congressman or a senator.
The first person asked "What are your qualifications?" who can answer, "I am above the minimum age, I reside in the legislative district that I am running from, and I have no legal restrictions that would keep me from serving," has got my vote.
For some reason, we always assume that only people who have worked their way through the system are eligible to serve. Why do we not select those people that have succeeded in life, either professionally, or personally, who assume the duty of serving their fellow citizens, and would gladly go back to their own lives after their service is over?
I know that the argument for a professional class of politicians is that they have knowledge in how to make the system work. However, it has always been my experience that I have gotten more done when I did not know that I couldn't do something. Reminds me of when I was 12 and in the Boy Scouts. Up to that time, I could easily draw two cards to fill an inside straight. It was only after I read a book on the statistical improbablility of that happening, that I was never able to do it again.
Every political entity has a staff that has been in residence for quite a while. They can assist the politician, but they are hindered in their approach to new and creative ideas.
A profesional politician is suspect in my mind, because their own election or reelection becomes more important than the service to their fellow citizens. I would like to support a politician who if elected could say, "Okay, but just for a little while." Or, if they lost, could say "thank God, now I can go back to my life."
I always wanted to run for governor on the platform that if I was elected, I would not go anywhere near Helena. Unfortunately, it is the law that the Governor has to reside in Helena. Helena. Have you ever been there? Why on earth would anyone voluntarily live there? Okay, maybe if you had a pre-release center, the convicts wouldn't have a choice, but to voluntarily want to go there? Right off the bat, you are suspect in your sanity, in my mind anyway.
Washington is even worse. If you ever spent anytime in the DC area, you understand why Congress takes August off. The crowds, the lack of open space, and the egomaniacs who reside there do not make it any kind of place that I would want to live in.
When I was in the Army, you could always tell the General Staff bastards that came from the Pentagon. They had an attitude that just reeked of condecension, even though we were on the front lines, and they were safely ensconced in their protective cocoons of self importance.
I saw it in the politicians that were sent to Washington as well. There were so many toadies who were only too willing to bow and scrape before someone because they had Congressman or Senator in front of their father's name. The worst thing was that the politicians seemed to assume that it was their inherent right to have these toadies. Someone who has already succeeded in life is less lilely to think that they are more than they know that they are.
So, let's hear it for the common man or woman, who would serve if necessary, but has already had a full life, and doesn't need the headache if they aren't selected.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Terror and Airlines

At last, the TSA is maybe coming to their senses. I won't believe it until I see it though. The problem with the TSA is they are trying to close the barn door after the horse has left. The possibility of any terrorist reenacting 9-11 is less than 10%. Why? Because we as passengers were always taught to cooperate with the terrorists until we landed in the Middle East, where one member of the passenger list would be singled out for death, then we would all be let go, and the terrorists released to become hailed as heroes in their hometowns.
The change actually began on 9-11. Remember Paul Beemer? He was the one who said "Let's roll" during the hijack over Pennsylvania. They already realized that cooperation was fatal, and weren't going to go along with them anymore.
How about the shoe bomber, he was stopped first by the passenger seated beside him. All of us are aware that the rules have changed. We are no longer going to acquiesce in these type of situations.
It reminds me of when the Red Army Faction was active in Germany. After each attack, we would go through enhanced security for about 6 months, then when we were fully relaxed, there would be another attack. The advantage was always with the terrorists.
If you wanted, I could list about a hundred ways to attack cities and other areas of concentrated people, but I won't because there is no reason to give an idea that did not exist in their minds to begin with. In our society, we are inherently vulnerable. We cannot stop attacks here at home from a determined enemy. What we need is an ability to develop intelligence about their activities and thus the ability to thwart them.
In the meantime, be sure to take off your shoes, and suffer the fact that you are next on the list to be inspected, even though you are just ahead of a guy wearing a Khaffiya.

How to lose the War in Iraq

Peters puts it in better terms than I have ever been able to. The whole point of the terrorist/insurgent/patriot/dirty rottesn SOBs is to get the home front to capitulate. If you want metrics to measure success, the opinion polls show that they are succeeding in their objectives.
On a side note, I met Peters during Desrt Storm. He was on special attachment to the General Staff, because of whatever book he had just written. Like most tankers, he was on the small side, big guys tend to have less time to react to the bump and grind that goes with cross country travel in a 70 ton taxi. I found it odd though, that he was not a very impressive charachter. Seems it is easier to create heroes in fiction than make real people seem that way.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lying Democrats and Stupid Republicans

Pretty good opinion piece here, although I disagree with his conclusion about Condi Rice (Coming clean, I would vote for her in a heartbeat if she ran for President).
I think that more than anything, it shows the reasons for the decline in party affiliation by the general public. We, the vast majority, are nothing more than the tools to get to power for both sides. They no longer attempt to inspire, or provide hope or leadership. (Okay, I do believe that Bush is providing leadership, since his poll numbers are so low, but on the other hand, he doesn't have to run again, and can do what he damned well pleases).
And politicians wonder why we are becoming so disconnected from the national parties.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Good evaluation of the moral questions of Iraq

I have always admired Christopher Hitchens for his intellect and moral clarity. Especially when I find out that he agrees with my positions.
I will admit, that I thought our intervention into the Balkans was a mistake. To my understanding, it was a civil war, and they have all the logic of a bitter divorce (I hate you so much, but I never want you to forget me, so I will make your life a living hell).
But, I think that the point of Hitchen's piece was that supposed moral opposition to the war is based on partisan politics. Take Ms. Sheehan, who is camped outside of Crawford Texas, demanding to meet with the President so she can chew him out. Disregard that she had already met with him, or that her story seems to have been changed by her new found friends. Suppose for a minute, that the mother in question wanted to praise President Bush for trying to bring democracy to Iraq. Would that get any coverage? I don't think so, because it has happened.
This brings me to one of the trite comments so often said by the anti-war crowd. "If you believe in the war, why aren't you over there fighting it?" Seems to me that the proper retort is, "If you believe that homelessness is a problem in this country, why aren't you taking homeless people into your house?"
Both questions are designed to hurt the opponent, rather than to raise legitimate issues.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Interesting Arab take on Iraq

Very interesting article, (although a caveat, because it is written in English, it has a different audience targeted, than if it was in Arabic).

For all the Bush and Clinton haters

Former President Bill Clinton recently explained that he too agrees that withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake. "Eighteen-hundred Americans have given their lives. Thousands of Iraqis have died trying to give their country a future.

"So where we are now, it's important to try to continue this effort to train the security forces and the military forces, which the administration and our military have undertaken. We have to try to make this work," Clinton said, according to Agence France Presse.

Maybe, we are in a mess, although I don't think so. Just seems to me that Clinton is acting more statesmanlike, than many others are in this country.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Murder vs. Killing

Matt of Left in the West posed an interesting philosophical question that quickly became hijacked. The question is: Are all killings murder?
Suppose for a moment, that someone says that they are coming to kill me, and they arrive at my door with a rifle, and shoot and miss me. If I fire back and kill them, is that murder? Obviously no, since it would be in self defense. But what if they haven't shot yet? If I still suffer from apprehension, is that not still self defense?
What if they say they are going to kill me, and I think that they have a weapon, but they take no active steps in the furtherance thereof, and I see them on the street and shoot them because they said they were going to kill me. Ah, there's the rub.
Another question, suppose that police officers have received a report of a child abduction and are in hot pursuit. The offender runs a red light, with the officers directly behind them, who, unfortunately, collide with a minivan, killing the mother and three children inside. Is that murder?
Part of the problem stems from the misinterpretation of the biblical prohibition of thou shall not kill. This is incorrect, since it really says thou shall not commit murder. There were plenty of situations where killing was authorized, homosexuality, adultery, sassing your parents, just to name a few, so that killing was okay, in response to another wrong. (Okay, I am not justifying this sort of action, merely reporting.)
This leads into the hijacking of Matt's thread. If you are a soldier in Iraq, and receiving fire from a building, and you fire back and accidently strike an innocent bystander, is that murder? I think not, since it is much like the police chase above. Murder requires the deliberate intention to unjustifiably kill. Accidental deaths are no less traumatic for the victims and their families, but it is a different motive from intentionally killing innocents for the soldier.
Many of the comments seem to focus on the thought that we in the US do not consider it murder if people of a darker skin color are killed. This sems to be a veiled implication that we are racist. I think that the evidence would go the other way. For instance, the failed operation in Somalia began as a humanitarian mission and changed when the Somalis who were trained by Al Quaeda began attacking UN troops.
As I have said before, we tend to overlook murder by people of another skin color, so long as they are only killing people of the same color. Think Rwanda, Darfur for example.
I knew a pacifist once, who said that if someone was going to kill her and her family, her belief required her to not resist, thereby showing the moral courage of her actions (or lack of actions). This is fine, so long as the killers have any sort of conscience. But if they don't, what good does dying really do?
Is it murder to protect yourself? I do not think so, and rely on the old dictum, that the right to self defense is never denied.
Oh well, drifting here, so I need to go to work.