dislogue

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September 30, 2004

Anatomy of a Flip-Flop

I had a half written post on this a few days ago, then I ditched it because I thought it was just too obvious. The point of the post was that we aren't clear on the meaning of the term "flip-flop." Then I read this on The Corner just now:

FLIP-FLOPPING [Jonah Goldberg]

Interesting point from a reader:

Sir:
You and Kerry both miss the point of the flip-flopping charge. Changing one's opinion isn't a problem. It's changing one's opinion (the flip), then changing BACK to the original opinion (the flop). THAT is what Kerry keeps doing, and Bush doesn't.

Posted at 12:45 PM

Maybe it isn't so obvious, so let me make a stab at reconstructing what I wrote.

"Flip-flop" is in the dictionary and has several definitions, one of which is the sandal. But it's the political definitions that we care about when we call Kerry a practitioner of the low art of the flip-flop, not some choice in esoteric orange footwear. Let's get the dictionary definitions out in the open first, this from American Heritage:

flip-flop
n.
The movement or sound of repeated flapping.
A backward somersault or handspring.
Informal. A reversal, as of a stand or position: a foreign policy flip-flop.
A backless, often foam rubber sandal held to the foot at the big toe by means of a thong.
Electronics. An electronic circuit or mechanical device capable of assuming either of two stable states, especially a computer circuit used to store a single bit of information.
It's interesting that in the online listing at dictionary.com, there is no entry for a verb (yet). Maybe that's just waiting for this post (except my title employs it as a noun!)

As the email writer above sent to The Corner, the way that we're using the term to describe John Kerry really isn't the way the dictionary defines the noun. There the closest definition is summed up as "a reversal." What we're saying, however, is what the ads run by the Bush campaign (and others) make pretty clear: John Kerry tacks back and forth on issues in the same fashion that he does while he's windsurfing into the wind. To use language closer to the metaphor implicit in the term, Kerry is showing one side much as would a fish laying on a dock, he flips over to show the other side, and that amounts to the equivalent of the reversal as defined above. But then he goes one side further and flops back to the original side. He may do this repeatedly, as he has on Iraq.

By this new usage we're claiming, his famous statement that "I voted for the war before I voted against the war" does not comprise a complete flip-flop on the war when taken in isolation. That is a flip. (Or maybe a flop, depending on what he said before this isolated statement, but it's not both when take by itself.) It's his complete record of positions on the Iraq war that comprises his flip-flopping.

This distinction is important because of the Democratic accusations that Bush has flip-flopped on issues:

The flip-flopper, Democrats say, is President Bush. Over the past four years, he abandoned positions on issues such as how to regulate air pollution or whether states should be allowed to sanction same-sex marriage. He changed his mind about the merits of creating the Homeland Security Department, and made a major exception to his stance on free trade by agreeing to tariffs on steel. After resisting, the president yielded to pressure in supporting an independent commission to study policy failures preceding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Bush did the same with questions about whether he would allow his national security adviser to testify, or whether he would answer commissioners' questions for only an hour, or for as long they needed.
--MSNBC, Sept. 23, 2004
They offered above a series of flips, not what we are calling flip-flops. Bush was against the idea of a Department of Homeland Security at first, but he changed his mind and supported it after some debate. No one with a lick of sense will find anything wrong with someone changing his mind after hearing argument, seeing new evidence and giving the matter more thought. That is called rational behavior.

The problem with Kerry is that he has changed his mind so often, and with no real explanation that he has changed his position or that he has changed his reasoning, on so many positions, that we can't keep track of where he stands at any given moment. I'm not at all convinced that he can either. As when he's out there on his windsurfing rig, he seems to feel the local winds of public opinion shift and adjust accordingly, rather than basing his course and stance on any internal combustion engine of policy, belief or conscience. A politician that does this really well can be very good at his job as a representative of his voters, but it's not at all clear that such a politician makes a good leader. A good leader leads based upon internal energy and drive, not on how he's pushed about by externals.

While the Democrats may find and point to an instance where Bush has flip-flopped in the past, it's not going to be as easy a task as it is to point to instances where Kerry has. And this difference is what leads us to perceive Kerry as a flip-flopper when compared to Bush. In an election what we must do is compare and contrast, not measure against some absolute standard. A man who has routinely flip-flopped in the past can be expected to continue doing so. It's become a habit of mind. A man who does so uncommonly has formed the opposite habit of mind. We know to expect him to stand by a position, and only change it when new evidence, or new thinking, leads to rational reasons to shift.

Right now it is in our best interest, as a country at war, to present to the rest of the world a solid image of resolve. That is, we must if what we plan to do is win this war.

re·solve

n.
Firmness of purpose; resolution.
Not John Kerry.

Posted by dan at 01:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

Tools for Democracy

I am on the mailing list for Spirit of America and got an email today on one of their success stories:

The Iraqi Construction Apprenticeship Program (ICAP) and Spirit of America's donation of tools to the Iraqi graduates. ICAP is a SeaBees/Marines effort to rebuild Iraq, create jobs and provide tangible improvements in the lives "ordinary" Iraqis.

ICAP Tool Kit

The tool kits they present to the graduates of the program go for $150 and Federal Express donates the shipping. Check out the site and the other programs too. There are many organizations such as Spirit of America doing good work in Iraq, I just happened to latch onto this one early on.

Back some time ago I wrote a post about my concerns with whether Iraq was ready for democracy, whether there were enough citizens with the will to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that blood (and sweat) that is needed to fertilize the roots of the Tree of Liberty was available ("Does Iraq Deserve to be Free?"). I now believe that there are. What began convincing me was reading Iraqi blogs, especially Iraq the Model. The expressed willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice, if necessary, despite real fear, was a strong sign to me of hope. Reading (not in the major media usually, sad to say) of the thousands signing up to serve in the police forces, despite the very real and very immediate threats to their lives did more. And in the case of this particular program:

The Iraqi men participating in ICAP are risking their lives to build a better future for themselves and for Iraq. When I was in Iraq in June these men were getting death threats from terrorists opposed to progress and a free Iraq. With good reason the Marines were concerned that the apprentices would never show up for classes. Now they're graduating and appearing on CNN. These men, like our troops, are at the front line of the struggle for progress in Iraq and they deserve our support.

ICAP Grad

CNN ran a recent story on this program. You can see the video on the Spirit of America site.

Spirit of America is a 501c3 organization, so your gifts to support democracy are tax deductible. This is a win-win-win situation: you get back a bit of what you give in tax savings, you do a truly charitable deed, and you support the creation of democracy in what has been a desert.

There's that old Chinese saying that everyone knows: Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. In this case we can help the Seabees and Marines teach these men a skill, we can provide them with the tools to practice that skill, and then they can make a living to feed their families, and contribute to their society in a meaningful way. It especially meaningful in that it promotes individual responsibility for their own fates, and it serves as a bootstrap in an economic process that, when combined with the historical industry of the Iraqi peoples, can fuel a feedback economic loop resulting in prosperity.

What I especially like about Spirit of America and similar programs is that they operate on the principle of the doable. In this case they're looking for 400 tool kits. I also wrote a post chiding Teresa Heinz Kerry about putting her money where her mouth is just a few days ago. That sort of applies to me too. While Teresa could easily cover the whole amount with the saving on taxes resulting from the Bush tax cuts, that wouldn't leave us the chance to be virtuous in this.

399 kits to go. Your turn.

Just do it.

Right now.

It's an investment in our future.

Posted by dan at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2004

The Mystic Power of the Left (updated)

Johann Hari writes in "In enemy territory? An interview with Christopher Hitchens:"

This encapsulates how many of Hitchens' old allies - a roll-call of the left's most distinguished intellectuals, from Edward Said to Noam Chomsky - now view him.
This was written yesterday, September 23, 2004. I knew the left was powerful and wielded tremendous influence in high places, but this leaps far beyond what I expected. On September 25, 2003, New York Times said Edward Said was dead. I suppose the above means he is actually above and looking down on Hitchens. Or maybe it's just that leftists and facts do not cohere; where you find one the other is invariably absent? Or maybe the New York Times got its facts wrong. Again. No, I checked, there's a consensus that Said is dead.

Okay, I'm being snarky. But it's entirely appropriate to the tone of Hari's post, which while not quite snarky, does have a certain wry irony in the opening. The article is worth reading. I came to it by way of "Hitch 'n' Hari" at Daimnation!, via
someone, when I figure out whom I'll add the link.

The Independant's version is "Christopher Hitchens: In Enemy Territory."

In the article Hari interview's Hitchens about his conversion experience. To Hitch the burning towers and Pentagon wing provided the light to allow him to see:

"The United States was attacked by theocratic fascists who represents all the most reactionary elements on earth. They stand for liquidating everything the left has fought for: women's rights, democracy? And how did much of the left respond? By affecting a kind of neutrality between America and the theocratic fascists."
But when the goal of the attacker is to consume the world, there is no room for neutrality. That same light also permitted greater depth perception. The surface similarities often pointed to by the moral relativists shrank to insignificance when the full depth of the picture became visible:
"However bad the American Empire has been, it is not as bad as this. It is not the Taliban, and anybody - any movement - that cannot see the difference has lost all moral bearings."

Hitchens - who has just returned from Afghanistan - says, "The world these [al-Quadea and Taliban] fascists want to create is one of constant submission and servility. The individual only has value to them if they enter into a life of constant reaffirmation and prayer. It is pure totalitarianism, and one of the ugliest totalitarianisms we've seen. It's the irrational combined with the idea of a completely closed society. To stand equidistant between that and a war to remove it is?" He shakes his head. I have never seen Hitch grasping for words before.

Hitch goes on, and it really requires no commentary. This is as clear and lucid as analysis gets:
Some people on the left tried to understand the origins of al-Quadea as really being about inequalities in wealth, or Israel's brutality towards the Palestinians, or other legitimate grievances. "Look: inequalities in wealth had nothing to do with Beslan or Bali or Madrid," Hitchens says. "The case for redistributing wealth is either good or it isn't - I think it is - but it's a different argument. If you care about wealth distribution, please understand, the Taliban and the al Quaeda murderers have less to say on this than even the most cold-hearted person on Wall Street. These jihadists actually prefer people to live in utter, dire poverty because they say it is purifying. Nor is it anti-imperialist: they explictly want to recreate the lost Caliphate, which was an Empire itself."

He continues, "I just reject the whole mentality that says, we need to consider this phenomenon in light of current grievances. It's an insult to the people who care about the real grievances of the Palestinians and the Chechens and all the others. It's not just the wrong interpretation of those causes; it's their negation." And this goes for the grievances of the Palestinians, who he has dedicated a great deal of energy to documenting and supporting. "Does anybody really think that if every Jew was driven from Palestine, these guys would go back to their caves? Nobody is blowing themselves up for a two-state solution. They openly say, ?We want a Jew-free Palestine, and a Christian-free Palestine.' And that would very quickly become, ?Don't be a Shia Muslim around here, baby.'" He supports a two-state solution - but he doesn't think it will solve the jihadist problem at all.

And it just keeps coming:
He is appalled that some people on the left are prepared to do almost nothing to defeat Islamofascism. "When I see some people who claim to be on the left abusing that tradition, making excuses for the most reactionary force in the world, I do feel pain that a great tradition is being defamed. So in that sense I still consider myself to be on the left." A few months ago, when Bush went to Ireland for the G8 meeting, Hitchens was on a TV debate with the leader of a small socialist party in the Irish dail. "He said these Islamic fascists are doing this because they have deep-seated grievances. And I said, 'Ah yes, they have many grievances. They are aggrieved when they see unveiled woman. And they are aggrieved that we tolerate homosexuals and Jews and free speech and the reading of literature.'"

"And this man - who had presumably never met a jihadist in his life - said, ?No, it's about their economic grievances.' Well, of course, because the Taliban provided great healthcare and redistribution of wealth, didn't they? After the debate was over, I said, ?If James Connolly [the Irish socialist leader of the Easter Risings] could hear you defending these theocratic fascist barbarians, you would know you had been in a fight. Do you know what you are saying? Do you know who you are pissing on?"

Hari proceeds to question whether Hitchens can't support the war without supporting Bush. He cannot. Hitch explains how he came to find himself aligned with the neo-Conservatives he had thought he abhorred. From there he moved to his current position, which Hari describes as:

He has replaced a belief in Marxist revolution with a belief in spreading the American revolution. Thomas Jefferson has displaced Karl Marx.
Hitch goes on to distinguish between a Cheney camp and a Wolfowitz camp in the adminitration. The latter are what he considers the pure strain of neo-Conservativism:
"The thing that would most surprise people about Wolfowitz if they met him is that he's a real bleeding heart. He's from a Polish-Jewish immigrant family. You know the drill - Kennedy Democrats, some of the family got out of Poland in time and some didn't make it, civil rights marchers? He impressed me when he was speaking at a pro-Israel rally in Washington a few years ago and he made a point of talking about Palestinian suffering. He didn't have to do it - at all - and he was booed. He knew he would be booed, and he got it."

Hari ends it with a plea, "Come home, Hitch - we need you." But Hitch believes that he is home. What we need is for Hari and other rational thinkers on the left to learn to feel at home in the same place.

Read it all.

Hari has also added "Late thoughts on the Hitchens interview."
In this Hari sets out all the other issues that matter to him beyond the "single issue" that now drives Hitchens:

Like Hitch, I believe that Islamic fundamentalism is a depraved threat to human rights, on a par both morally and intellectually with fascism.
What's interesting is that I agree with about half of Hari's positions on the issues, and disagree vehemently with him on the other half. He also believes that the current administration is on the wrong side of every one of these additional issues except that of ending tyranny. He exaggerates. Bush is on the opposing side of many, but not as many as he believes. I suspect the issue is the manner in which Bush aims to address those issues, not any disagreement that they must be addressed.

But it is an interesting and considered list of issues that matter to the left. Hari makes the point of segregating the first two "because unless they are dealt with, there might not be any human beings left to deal with all the other issues." Those two are:

- The fight against climate change
- The fight against the continuing existence and potential use of nuclear weapons
Hitchens clearly considers his "single issue" to be superior to both or, at least, intertwined with the latter. Hari doesn't see the irony in saying those two stand apart, while apparently not seeing the Hitch feels the same way about the threat of Islamofacism. Everything else comes second to that.

Posted by dan at 01:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2004

Allawi's Command Performance

Ayad Allawi sure talks oddly for a puppet. One expects puppets to stick to the party line, not deviating or criticizing, to jerk their knees in the correct directions as dictated by the tyrannical strings tugged by their master.

But when Allawi took questions from the Washington Post editors and reporters, he wasn't shy about criticizing agents of the Bush administration. It was nuanced in that he never said Bush's name, he stuck to the acronym "CPA," but the provional authority was authority derived from Preisdent Bush's administration. When answering questions on the situation in the troublespot of Fallujah, he said:

No, no. They formed this militia, it's a militia like in Fallujah a brigade, in Fallujah to take over Fallujah. And we advised against it. I was the head of the so-called then the governing council, the security committee, and I said to the CPA I said oh what are you doing? What ? this brigade? This is going to backfire. You can't get ex, some of them were ex-officers in Saddam's inner circles, special Republican Guards and so forth. What are you doing?

So that's what went wrong in Fallujah.

I can't say I disagree with his analysis either. I had the same reaction to the CPA's decision.

That's not to say, by any means, that all he did was criticize. In fact, he mostly talked about what his interim government was doing, what are its strategies, not about what the U.S. did or plans to do. His answers to their questions focused mainly on Iraq and the situation there. He spoke of successes and remaining challenges. And he mentioned some failures of the recent past. He sounded to me like a pragmatic national leader.

I was not immediately impressed with Allawi, and I still have some reservations. I don't think the handling of Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress was all that deft. That said, I can't say that Allawi was behind it, though he has permitted it to persist longer than it should have. Also in the news today we hear that the Judge has dropped the conterfeiting charges that can only be described as trumped up. That suggests the judicial system isn't badly broken. Politics is probably still exerting more influence than it should in judicial matters, but the trend is in the right direction if that's any indication. Chalabi returned to Iraq and faced his accusers and they admitted they had no case, rather than insisting their evidence was true, even if it was fabricated.

But seeing Allawi handle what cannot be described as a friendly press has raised him several notches in my esteem. I'd judge there's a thread of exasperation in his replies, but it never overwhelmes the obvious consideration he gives to making his points. His less-than-perfect English adds some ambiguity, but if one reads for context, rather than isolating clauses where he misspeaks slighty, there isn't left reasonable doubt as to his meaning.

Early on he was prodded about whether his trip now wasn't just to serve a political purpose for the Bush campaign. He made it very clear that he had decided when to come. He said he was invited to come two months ago, but he decided to wait until now based partly on the need to meet with local regional leaders first, then come to visit London and D.C. to give his thanks to each country for our aid to his, and at the same time to catch the U.N. General Assembly in session. Part of his reason was to avoid going too far from Baghdad at what he saw as a critical time. The Sadr episode was still in progress then also.

You know, frankly let me tell you, I was asked, invited to come here and to go to London by Prime Minister Blair and others about two months ago. But I frankly suggested to them that I would rather prefer to visit the region as a first step and then come to see you and to thank you for whatever you have done for Iraq.

My first trip was really to the region, to meet the Arab leaders of the Arab states, and to explain to them that what happened in Iraq and to get Iraq back into the fold of the Arab world and the Muslim nations.

It so happened that the General Assembly is being held now of the United Nations and I thought it is a good time to come to London and Washington and see how their leaders who really have stood and helped Iraq and liberated Iraq and to thank the people of the United States and the president for their attitude and helping Iraq both before liberation, during liberation and after liberation. And this is why I am here. Unfortunately, it seems it coincided with the heat of the elections here and I don't want to be dragged into internal politics of the United States.

The Wapo follks also prodded him a lot about the upcoming Iraqi elections, whether they would indeed happen on schedule and whether the whole country would vote, or whether certain troubled areas would be excluded. This was one set of questions that sparked that hint of exasperation when he replied.
No, no, no I'm not suggesting that, no. You are saying that there are parts based on the statement of the Secretary of Defense, that there would be probably parts of Iraq who are not going to be part of the elections. Isn't that what your question?

I don't want to comment on theoretical issues, that may be or maybe not. What I am saying is that we will have the elections, all Iraqis eligible to be part of the elections, will be part of the elections. The elections should take place in all the country. I don't want to really go into theories whether a village in Basra is not able to cast their votes or a village, I don't know, these are all theories.

The plan is to hold the elections in January. Allawi refuses to play prediction games about exactly how that will unfold. Doesn't WaPo understand that this is a puppet, not a prophet, they're questioning? Since he's a puppet he's going to hold to the Bush administration line, right? That means agreeing with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Wait, he didn't do that. Well, maybe the questioner misquoted Rummy and he really is agreeing with Rummy. That must be it.

Then there was the everpresent question of exactly who it is that's causing all the trouble in Iraq. Allawi maintains that many are foreigners. In fact:

The day I left Iraq, as I was boarding the plane, we had big operation the night before which lasted till dawn and our section of Baghdad called Haifa Street and they arrested and killed I don't know how much but they arrested 60 or 62 people. The 62 people were not Iraqis and they were caught red handed in their houses a lot of explosives in their safe houses, Syrians, Yemenis, Saudis, Palestinians, mostly were Palestinians. Maybe 50 percent were Palestinians.
Aside from the report of a successful anti-terrorist op by the Iraqis themselves, what's interesting here is all the peaceful Palestinians that somehow got mixed up in the net. Such a high percentage of Palestinians started me wondering if this is because of the wall the Israelis built. Perhaps these budding young lovers (of death and mythical virgins) have decided their chances of successful self-immolation in a manner consistent with martyrdom are higher in Iraq than in ramming against an Israeli wall. Or maybe I have that backwards. Maybe Iraq is a more enticing honey for these swarming bombjackets. But that doesn't seem right. Pass up the chance to kill Jews for one to kill Iraqis or Americans? That seems out of character.

Or maybe the situation in Iraq poses, in their perception, a greater threat to the longterm success of their mission. Considering their mission seems most often to be martydom, that doesn't make sense either. I think I've gotten off track trying to make sense of the motives of Islamic terrorists. That's a rathole for a reasoning person if there ever was one.

If there's an equivalent western rathole it is trying to understand the reason why the Western major media so often appears complicit with those terrorists. This too has Allawi expressing disbelief:

It's unbelievable. We are fighting and yet we see in the media you are this, you are that, you are not having elections. This is a time when really everybody they need to help, need to be part of fighting these evil forces. Even the media. You should not give them oxygen, you should not give them the luxury of presenting their case in the press, we should be hard on them, as hard as we can, all of us whether we are in the media, whether we are in running countries, whether we are in the armies -- because they are ultimately, it's not fair, they are not only after us, they know that once they are through with Iraq, they'll come after you here in Washington and New York and Cairo and everywhere.
If this man is a puppet of the Bush administration, I'm impressed. The puppeteer is amazingly adroit, for this is a very believable performance. If I hadn't been told by the Kerry campaign that this was a puppet, I'd have thought it was a tough, pragmatic politician who's doing his best to wrestle his country through a delicate and difficult time. He may not be Abraham Lincoln, but he finds himself in a place and time where Old Abe would be rolling up his sleeves and getting down to some serious work.

If he wasn't a puppet, I'd be wishing him luck and hoping for him and his newly liberated country all the best.

But since Joe Lockhart says that Allawi is a puppet, I just don't see why Joe and company don't go fishing or do something else productive. Do they think they stand a guppy's chance in a school of piranha facing a puppetmaster the likes of the one behind Allawi?

Best of luck, Prime Minister Allawi, to you and to all of Iraq. I pray that you succeed in achieving a fair and just system of government, and that the Iraqi people learn to live together in peace.


Allah has a brief post that put me onto this article. There's a hint of exasperation there too.

A lot of people have commented on the Kerry campaign reaction to Allawi's visit, including Joe Lockhart's statement on Allawi being a puppet of the Bush administration:

"The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips," said Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry adviser."

See the following for more:
Instapundit: FROM THE I-THOUGHT-KERRY-WAS-A-DIPLOMAT DEPARTMENT
Charles Krauthammer: The Art Of Losing Friends
The Belgravia Dispatch: Allawi's Speech
Roger L. Simon: September 24, 2004: Profiles in Courage - The Sequel
In DC Journal: Surprising Takes on Allawi
Kerry Haters: Kerry Campaign Scum Lockhart

and don't miss Ali at Iraq the Model on Allawi's speech: Who's Lying?


Posted by dan at 08:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 26, 2004

The Fictional Mainstream Media

I can't read fiction in the same fashion that I did when I spent days cocooned in books in my room ignoring the thunderous roar of tropical rain on our aluminum roof. Back then I disappeared into books, tuning out everything else. Books became my world. All of existence was inside those books. It wasn't an exercise of imagination to me, it was a step into life.

Books remain a way of stepping apart, but now they act more as alternate windows into life. Rather than escape, they provide new angles of view, new perspectives. Often it's an exercise in contrast. Sometimes what's there in the book is plain wrong, but error can illuminate truth in the same way that a dark background makes a light image more visible. In other cases a slightly difference perspective acts to solidify things. What was two-dimensional and flat, becomes three-dimensional and gains depth and heft.

So while there has been tremendous hullaballoo on the blogs I read about the Rathergate sequence of events, I've mostly played observer. I've been more involved in the Swift Veterans for Truth campaign to give the American public a different view of Kerry's status as Vietnam war hero. And I've been reading fiction. And while I read that fiction I can't help but cross-compare. The world in which I live impinges upon the world inside those books, unlike many years ago in those downpours.

While reading John Sandford's Rules of Prey, I came across this bit of dialog about handling the media:

"We should talk to the publishers and station managers or the station owners," Lucas said after a moment's reflection. "They can order the heat turned down."
"Think they'll do it?"
Lucas considered for another moment. "If we do it right. Media people are generally despised, but they're like anybody else: they want to be loved. Give them a chance to show that they're really good guys, they'll lick your shoes. But it's got to come from you. Like, top guy to top guy. And maybe you ought to take the deputy chiefs with you. Maybe the mayor. That'll flatter them, show them that you respect them. They're going to ask some stuff like, "You want us to censor ourselves?" You've got to say, "No, we don't. We just want to apprise you of the dangers of public panic; we want you to be sensitive to it."
"Do I have to share those thoughs with them?" Daniel asked sarcastically.
Lucas pointed a finger at him. "Quit that," he said harshly. "No humor. You're dealing with the press. And yeah, say share. They talk like that. 'Let me share this with you.'"
While I found this not devoid of insight, I don't think it describes well the state of things today. In Sandford's defense, he must have written that around 1989 since the book was published in 1990.

Or maybe my problem with that is that Lucas is perceiving the major media as one-dimensional here. The character of Lucas is smarter and more perceptive than that. That he, as an underling, is the one counseling the Chief of Police and the Mayor in the book on how to handle the media shows that Sandford intends him to understand the media well.

But the underlying assumption is that the media, collectively, wants to do the right thing. That is, they want to do what people of goodwill generally perceive as being the right thing. In Sandford's book, that holds generally true.

But I think a large number of us question whether in this case art mirrors nature. Part of the reason for that question, which has become even more central since the scandal of CBS errupted, is that the media, collectively does not obvious hold to the same values as the majority (though I will not say "vast majority") of American citizens. If this is true, then the media, collectively, might still be trying to show that they're really good guys, but defining "good guys" in a manner that is outside the norm. If that is indeed the case, and many argue it is so, the majority of the American public must understand that the major media will not act in what the American public sees as the public's best interest. The major media will act in what the major media sees to be the major media's best interest, which it also believes to be the American public's best interest, through projection.

Put another way, to hope that major media will come around and do for us what is right (according to the standards of the majority of Americans) because they are good guys, is simply not rational. The rational thing for major media to do is to do what major media believes to be right for America, assuming the major media sees itself as good guys. If the major media doesn't see itself as good guys, all bets are off.

Reading Tom Clancy's Red Rabbit provoked some thought on exactly this. He's talking about the early Reagan era Soviet politboro, not the American major media, but the insight pertains. Here Jack and Cathy Ryan are speaking, Cathy, who is a doctor, is leading:

"Yeah, it's hard to look inside somebody's brain. And you know what?"
"What's that?"
"It's harder with the sane ones than the crazy ones. People can think rationally and still do crazy things."
"Because of their perceptions?"
She nodded. "Partially that, but partially because they've chosen to believe totally false things--for entirely rational reasons, but the things they believe in are still false."
The point here is that the Soviets made some very wrong assumptions, and this led them to do some things that appeared to us to be irrational, but that follow rationally from their base, but wrong, assumptions. This is the situation the major media is in today. Clancy recognizes this:
"We can't even leak what we know about that to the media--"
"And if we did the media still wouldn't print it," Moore observed. After all, the media didn't like nuclear weapons either, though it was willing to tolerate Soviet weapons because they, for one reason or another, were not destabilizing. What Ritter really wanted to do, he feared, was see if the Soviets had influence on the American mass media. But even if it did, such an investigation would bear only poisoned fruit. The media held on to their vision of its integrity and balance as a miser held his hoard.
In this passage is a short laundry list of media wrong assumptions. The media assumes nuclear weapons are destabilizing in the case of the United States, and not so in the case of the Soviets. It's difficult to understand the logic of that unless one operates under some other assumptions. The key ones are that the United States is imperialist in intent and that the Soviet Union was not. To a nation bent only on defending itself, weapons are a shield. Defenses stabilize. To a nation bent on aggression, weapons are a sword. Offenses destabilize. Those are my assumptions. They appear grounded pretty well based upon history. City walls created stability; cannons destroyed the city walls and the stability (though later new stability emerged). It's not clear that major media agrees with even these last two assumptions; but they certainly see the U.S. as imperialistic, and for decades argued that the Soviet Union was not, even in the face of overwhelmingly contrary evidence in events, not to mention in the very "sacred works" of communism itself.

As long as the major media holds these assumptions, there is great danger that any conclusions they draw rationally will be very wrong, perhaps exactly opposite to what is right. When you start from a basis of black is light and white is dark, you are going to end up with some very wrong color combinations when you try to mix those with blue, yellow and red. Your light blue is going to look more like a night sky than a day sky.

Likewise, if you start with the assumption that America is at its very core imperialistic, every single action that the United States takes must be viewed 180 degrees differently from the way that those of us who believe the opposite, that American is fundmentally not interested in taking over other countries, or the world, will view them. The problem is not that major media is stupid, though they like to believe the rest of us are, the problem is that they base all their reasoning on things that contain too many wrong "facts." That's the generous conclusion.

Of course, if they listened too well in school, they may believe there is no such thing as a "fact," that there are only observations by discrete observers, and all else is a political battle to determine whose view will rule. If that is the case, all bets are off. The media are the bad guys. You cannot believe that there is no good and there is no evil, only different views, and be good guys. That concept cannot even exist within a frame of reference where there is no good or evil, and thus there are no good or bad guys. There are only those in power, and those out of power. Those in power are those who control the perceptions of the rest.

Does that sound a little familiar?

Thank God, that isn't the case, much as some wish it were so. If we're careful about from whom we accept our facts, if we seek to verify those facts (as Reagan put it, "trust but verify," the Apostle Thomas shared that sentiment) ourselves as best we can, and if we are conscious of our own assumptions, and consider how our positions might shift if those assumptions are wrong, we can control our own views of reality.

And that's what is really terrifying the mainstream media at the moment. Collectively, they really have come to consider themselves "the fourth estate," an unelected branch of our government. They are not. They are a pack of elitists who seek to exert influence from outside government. They really believe they know better than the rest of us. There's nothing inherently wrong in that. I admit to a certain knee-jerk elitism myself (I'm writing this, after all). It becomes a problem when we allow them more power than this system our forefathers designed allows for. If they can act like a fourth branch, they destroy the delicate balance of a three-branch equilibrum. A fourth estate is a threat to American democracy.

A bunch of private citizens exercising their right, and responsibility, to free speech on matters political, religious or anything else, is not. That's what our system is intended to encourage and protect.

We've allowed the self-proclaimed "fourth estate" to garner too much power because the cost of entry to mass communications was so high. It takes a fortune to start and run a newspaper, a radio network or television network. But those have provided real benefits to us in collecting, sorting, selecting and spreading news (information, facts, opinions) rapidly and widely. In order to encourage the technology, we granted limited monopolies to some who would take the risks of creating the businesses to perform the needed function. But some saw opportunity in the power granted by that process. Over time there has resulted a real usurpation of power. The major media was able to, did, and has become accustomed to "shaping public opinion."

That was not its intended function. It was meant to broadcast information, and hopefully facts and truth. It has gone beyond to attempt to define what is fact and ultimately truth, and in doing so control the shape of American government. The intent was to provide information so that the public could make informed decisions. The reality is that major media carefully selects data such that any rational person who receives information mostly from that media will arrive at the conclusions that media has determined to be desireable.

But that day is passing. The cost of entry to mass communications has fallen lower than the cost of owning a car. The result will be millions of competing voices that provide information that, we, the consumers, must wade into, select from, and use to form our own views on the world.

The paradigm has shifted. No more is the process of staying abreast of current events one of allowing the chef to present his meal. The process already resembles better a smorgasborg, where we consumers belly up to a buffet that extends out of sight. We pick and choose the order and timing of our courses. We eat as much or as little at a time was we choose. And if we choose dessert first, there is none to slap our wrists.

The communication of information has traditionally been very linear. That has changed. Control of the flow of information, and thus of the conclusions formed by a rational mind, depends upon controlling the content and the sequence of the information. The new media removes most or all of these controls. Determining the content of the infomeal is now the responsibility of the infoconsumer. If we are wise, we will struggle to prevent such controls from returning.

Communism, and other forms of tyranny, depend upon the control of information to keep their populations compliant. Democracy depends upon the lack of controls on information to keep our governments compliant. The major media is a control on information. For a time the tradeoff was necessary, it no longer is. It's fighting to retain its power; we must not let it win.

That is not to say the media must be destroyed. What must be destroyed is its role of control over opinion-making. No more must we allow the "shaping of opinion" by elites who wish to do so by controlling our access to information. The way to prevent that control is to encourage alternate flows of information. In a free market that means one thing: consume widely. Do not allow yourself to become dependent on a limited set of information channels.

Unlike CBS, verify, only then trust.

Posted by dan at 02:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 25, 2004

A Trophy Fish

Tuna

Stanley Fish is an extremely intelligent and marvelously articulate man. I remember fondly a debate I saw between him and William F. Buckley, Jr. some years ago (wish I had that on video). While I agreed nearly down the line with Buckley, listening to Fish's argument was both wonderfully entertaining and educational. The result of observing the friction of two minds of this quality rubbing against the hardness of the issue was that I understood my own beliefs, and the reasons supporting them, better, while at the same time gaining a better understanding of how others could, due to different underlying assumptions, believe that positions near opposite to mine could be true.

So it was with interest, and not a little eagerness, I followed the link from The Buck Stops Here to Fish's article in the New York Times. "The Candidates, Seen From the Classroom" is, shock of all shocks, an article which praises the speechmaking skills of President Bush, while at the same time delivering a devastating criticque of John Kerry's. It is very important to note that this is not an endorsement by Fish or his class of the politics of Bush or an attack upon the politics of Kerry. As Fish says immediately in his opening:

My students were not voting on the candidates' ideas. They were voting on the skill (or lack of skill) displayed in the presentation of those ideas.
And by an overwhelming vote of 14 to 2 (including Fish himself, who gives Bush the smile), they award Bush the laurel of rhetorician.

Amusing are their findings, and how the black of the major media's positions on this subject end up being the white of the class's, and vice versa. Where it's commonplace to hear criticism of Bush along the lines of "he is too simple and direct," here he is praised for being exactly that. Kerry, in contrast, is criticized for being too complicated and nuanced. It's very hard to keep track of what Kerry is saying. This consensus delivered the one belly laugh that exceeded the numerous smiles the article evoked. It was Fish's favorite too:

"he's kind of 'skippy,' all over the place."
That could be the caption to a certain ad the Bush campaign as been running recently.

Fish's conclusion is devastating to Kerry (emphasis mine):

And - this is a common refrain among Kerry supporters - doesn't Mr. Bush's directness and simplicity of presentation reflect a simplicity of mind and an incapacity for nuance, while Mr. Kerry's ideas are just too complicated for the rhythms of publicly accessible prose?

Sorry, but that's dead wrong. If you can't explain an idea or a policy plainly in one or two sentences, it's not yours; and if it's not yours, no one you speak to will be persuaded of it, or even know what it is, or (and this is the real point) know what you are. Words are not just the cosmetic clothing of some underlying integrity; they are the operational vehicles of that integrity, the visible manifestation of the character to which others respond. And if the words you use fall apart, ring hollow, trail off and sound as if they came from nowhere or anywhere (these are the same thing), the suspicion will grow that what they lack is what you lack, and no one will follow you.

It's amazing how well this describes Kerry's problems and Bush's successes. While this is already enough to put a smile on the face of Bush supporters everywhere, and have us nodding in satisfaction, Fish isn't quite finished undermining the overly-crenellated walls of Kerry-supporters' hopes:
Nervous Democrats who see their candidate slipping in the polls console themselves by saying, "Just wait, the debates are coming.'' As someone who will vote for John Kerry even though I voted against him in my class, that's just what I'm worried about
You must read it all. Though I've quoted large parts, it deserves reading as an organic whole. Fish is a superlative thinker and writer. Too bad he's wrong about politics.

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September 24, 2004

Hadleyville, Iraq, 2004

It's been a long time since I watched High Noon, but now it seems especially appropriate. I'm not sure Hollywood could make a film like this today. To make my point for me, here's the description of the film from the first site I checked for a cast list:

The story of a man who was too proud to run.
High Noon

I beg to differ.

It's the story of a man who isn't afraid to make a unilateral stand, even in the face of universal pacifism. It's the story of a man who knows you can't run in the face of terror; terror will follow you. It's the story of a pragmatic and wise man, who does fear his enemy, but knows the enemy must be faced now, at a time and place of his own, not the enemy's, choosing.

Against him stands even his wife of one hour, who is a Quaker, and who threatens to leave him if he won't leave with her and leave the town to the returning terrorist. For that's what Frank Miller is, a terrorist. As one lady puts it in church, a decent woman couldn't walk on the street even in daylight, and no one wanted to raise kids in the town.

But Marshall Kane had put together a coalition of townfolk who worked together to put Frank Miller behind bars, at least until some authority far away in Texas saw fit to pardon Miller. That's the problem with trying to stop terror with law and order tactics. Terror knows no limit and and does "correct" itself. And leaving terrorists alive is asking for some idiot who doesn't feel threatened to let the terrorists go, most likely to once against practice their beloved terror.

Now, Frank Miller is arriving on the noon train. He's sworn to kill Kane, and the townfolk, in one manner or another, think everything will be okay if Kane will just leave town. They don't imagine it could go back to the way it used to be. They believe that they can appease Miller if Kane will just stop trying to confront him. Frank Miller knows: as long as Kane is alive he is a threat. Men that stand in the face of terror are those who end terror. Terror must first eliminate those, before it can go back to its lovely practice of casual terror.

Kane had, in fact, turned in his badge and ridden out of town with his new bride, before he realized he couldn't run. Miller would come after him. If he ran now, he'd always be running. He'd become just another terrorized victim, and there would be none to end the terror. The time to face down the common (though many townfolk considered themselves the friends of Frank Miller) enemy was now. That would be best not only for him, but for his wife, and for the town, even if he didn't articulate it fully in exactly this way.

When he took up his badge and gun again, and sought men to form a posse to defend the town, one man offered his help. A boy of 14 offered also. In the end the Marshall turned them both away, the boy because he really didn't understand and would be little help, the one good man because it was obvious he was afraid when he found out it would be two against the gang.

Kane's deputy tried to impose demands on his aid. He resigned when Kane refused his demands. In the end he tried to prevent Kane from facing Miller by attacking him with the intent of sending him unconscious out of town. The Marshall was forced to beat down what should have been his ally before he could even face the real enemy.

When the Marshall seeks even in the town church for help, saying flatly, "I need help," after much discussion, the pastor, Dr. Mahin, says:

The commandments say 'Thou shalt not kill,' but we hire men to go out and do it for us. The right and the wrong seem pretty clear here. But if you're asking me to tell my people to go out and kill and maybe get themselves killed, I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I'm sorry.
And while they all appreciate what the Marshall has done for the town, how's he's been the best Marshall they've had, and may well be the best Marshall they'll ever have, they will not stand at his side. The wise thing, they say, is for him to leave town. His presence is what creates the danger. Frank Miller is coming to town because of him.

When Mrs. Kane asks why the Marshall won't go, Helen Ramirez answers, "If you don't know, I cannot tell you." There is the defiition of duty. The Marshall must do what needs doing beause he's the one who knows the need, he's the one who can perhaps fulfill that need, and he's the one who cannot live with knowing the need remains unfulfilled. He can try to explain it, but those who don't themselves see the need viscerally just can't understand. If they don't know, they cannot be told.

"I don't care who's right or wrong, there's got to be a better way to live," the new Mrs. Kane insists. But there can only be a better way to live if someone faces and deals with terror. In the end she herself discovers this truth. She both confronts terror, and is terrorized. Miller uses her as hostage to force Kane into the open. Of course, the promise to let her go if Kane comes out into the street is not kept. Mrs. Kane only escapes Miller's clutches by joining Kane in further action, she claws his face and uses that to pull away far enough that Kane has a clear shot.

Then the grateful townfolk abashedly emerge. The boy pulls up a wagon for them. Marshall Kane hands his wife up onto the seat, then slips off his badge and drops it in the dirt.

I don't think I need to draw the parallels to our current situation too closely. I suggest you watch again, if you have seen it, with the current issues facing our country (and indeed the world) in mind. If you haven't seen it, you must.

Do we want to live in a "town" where decent women can't walk the streets in daylight, like in areas of France with high populations of Muslims, or in towns where it isn't safe to bring up kids, like in Beslan?

Watch it, then think about who would make the better Marshall, and who is playing the ambitious, but not dutiful, deputy.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing."
--Edmund Burke

Posted by dan at 11:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Case of the Missing Reverend Alston

David Alston exploded onto the national consciousness at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, July 26, 2004. Of the speeches that evening, his probably drew the most attention.

As other bloggers have noted, we are actually a bit lost in the funhouse when it comes to how all this is being displayed to the world. But a few people I've talked to have said that David Alston's speech received unbelievable praise...
--"The Reverend David Alston," The Stakeholder, Democratic National Campaign Comittee Weblog

Alston was awesome. We need that man on the campaign trail.

I heard Alston on C-Span radio this evening, driving home. He rained down thunder from the sky! I hope the Kerry campaign knows what a treasure it has here...

Rev. Alston was magnificent!
--comments on TalkLeft.com, July 26-27, 2004

Another inspirational moment for me was listening to the Reverend David Alston, who served under Lieutenant John Kerry. He recalled how Lieutenant John Kerry was a brave, caring and decisive leader when he was the captain of his swift boat in Vietnam. He painted a picture of a leader who can be trusted and one who made the right decisions under chaotic circumstances.
--Senator Boxer's Democratic Convention Diary, Monday July 26, 2004

Over the next couple of days there were scattered comments, mostly very positive, then he vanished with scarcely a ripple. How is it that such a clearly effective speaker and a strong supporter of John Kerry is allowed to slip quietly beneath the media waves?

The Democratic National Convention, while Alston's first national spotlight, was not the first occasion he came to the attention of the public in this election cycle.
The John Kerry-Campaign Organization, South Carolina website, which shows as its earliest copyright date 2003, lists Reverend David Alston as a supporter. It's unclear from this when his name was added, but we do know that Kerry was in contact with Alston in 1996, when the Boston Globe ran an article accusing Kerry of being a war criminal.

In early February of 2004, Kerry ran a compaign ad in South Carolina featuring Alston in his role as a Swift Boat Veteran who served with Kerry in Vietnam:

Kerry has blanketed the state with a commercial in which the Rev. David Alston, a black military veteran from Columbia, describes Kerry's cool when the Viet Cong fired on their patrol boat.
--"Edwards bids for S.C. blacks' votes," The News & Observer, February 1, 2004.

Kerry's campaign also has been running a dramatic television commercial in which an African-American former crewmate in Vietnam, the Rev. David Alston, extols Kerry's leadership.
--"Campaign 2004: Black voters play lead role in South Carolina," Post-Gazette, February 3, 2004.

The emphasis in this last story on the black vote is probably key to understanding Alston's intended role in the campaign. A look at the photos chosen for Kerry's "Band of Brothers" on the campaign website makes the point in black and white:
Kerry with other Swift Boat personnel in Vietnam

Kerry's Band of Brothers at DNC

Kerry's 'Band of Brothers,' presented as his crew at the DNC

Alston was meant to play the role of Kerry's close friend and supporter inside the black community. Further support for this is evident in Kerry's Martin Luther King Day speech on January 30, 2003:

I believe we need to reclaim the kind of citizenship. It's a citizenship seared into me 30 years ago when I served with a band of brothers in Vietnam. We were all living together, working together, taking care of each other, kids from Arkansas, Iowa, California, Massachusetts, and a young African American gunner by the name of David Alston, from South Carolina. Color, religion, background, all of it just melted away into an understanding that we were 'Americans.' It shouldn't have to take a war to remind us understand that we're all in this together.
A press release went out on BlackPRWire, "COLEMAN, ALSTON: KERRY/EDWARDS LIFETIME OF STRENGTH AND SERVICE CONNECTS WITH AFRICAN AMERICAN VOTERS," on July 27, 2004 citing Alston:
Reverend David Alston said today during a roundtable discussion at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

“I have had the honor to serve in combat with John Kerry and I am proud to call him my friend,” said Reverend David Alston. “He has proven his ability to lead under the toughest condition and I am confident he will be a strong Commander-In-Chief.”

And Alston made a very brief cameo appearance on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" that same night:
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Here with David Alston, who this group heard from earlier, better known perhaps as John Kerry‘s swift boat gunner.

Well, Reverend, first of all, your reaction to President Clinton, his use of scripture, be not afraid.

REV. DAVID ALSTON, KERRY CREW MATE IN VIETNAM: Well, after—following the war in Vietnam, we learned not to be afraid.

John Kerry was a very brave young man at that time and still is today, and we love him. We‘re here today because of the decisive decisions that he made in combat. He‘s a warrior. And we would go back to war with him any day.

WILLIAMS: So that‘s what you would take away from how you got to know this kid from Massachusetts and how it applies to the job of president?

ALSTON: Brian, I just can‘t say enough about John.

John treated us five guys with the utmost respect. We were young, all of us, at that time, very hazardous duty. But he was a loving, caring young man. And he always sought to bring us through the terrible things that we were facing. And I believe today that John Kerry would make the greatest president the United States ever had.

WILLIAMS: Reverend, thank you very much for being with us. It‘s a pleasure to meet you.

ALSTON: Thank you.

I haven't found anything further in the way of campaign appearances so far.

This gap remains open. It's both amusing and amazing that a candidate for the party that has depended on and taken for granted the black vote could only offer Alston, and has allowed him to vanish without finding a replacement. I say "could only offer Alston" because of what followed his national appearance on that DNC stage.

The problem was, what Alston so effectively said on the DNC stage was at least partly fabrication. While Alston may have served under Kerry for about a week, he was not present in Kerry's crew in the incident he described, the one which resulted in Kerry's Silver Star award. Riverrat, Captain Ed and others have covered this extensively, compiling timelines from released Navy documents, biographies and media articles and transcripts. They began making their findings public around August 13th, two weeks after the convention, but the launch of the first Swift Veterans for Truth ad on August 4, 2004 probably sounded the dive alarm for Alston and the Kerry campaign. They had to know that the story as told at the DNC, and as had been told in other appearances going back to 2002, as Captain Ed shows in "The Alston Story Goes Back Farther Than First Thought," would not stand up to focused scrutiny.

One of the things that has intrigued me about this story is that Alston was touted as "a minister from Columbia, South Carolina" in most of the stories, but any mention of a specific denomination, or even religion, or a church with which he's affiliated, were missing. Perhaps that is the new norm for Democrats. It's interesting that there is some sort of claim to authority in pointing out someone is a minister, as was the case here, but there is a vagueness in details to avoid offending the sensibilities of others. It took some digging to find reference to more details of Alston's ministry. I finally came across a Charlotte Observer article by Anna Griffin, "Crewmate knew 'great things' in store for Kerry," (which was published on July 27, 2004, of course) that got a bit more specific:

Alston returned to Rock Hill, married and had two sons. He moved to Columbia in 1978 and today works at the Westinghouse nuclear fuel plant in Columbia. He became an ordained Baptist minister five years ago.

"Being down in Vietnam and going through the rivers, I asked God to deliver me. I prayed constantly, `Lord, if you bring me back, I will serve you faithfully,' " Alston said. "I didn't do that. I got into alcohol, and I had some problems. But the good Lord didn't give up on me, and finally he called me to serve."

Alston stayed in sporadic contact with Kerry after the war. Kerry invited him to his first wedding, to Julia Thorne in 1970, and sent Christmas cards to Alston's parents' house. Kerry aides contacted Alston in 1996, after a story in a Boston paper "accusing him of being a killer," Alston said.

"That was just false, and I was happy to tell people that," Alston said. "In Vietnam, killing an enemy soldier meant saving men's lives. It was something that had to be done."

It's amazing to me that a Baptist minister could be party to such a twisting of the truth. But it shouldn't be. All men are sinners, even those saved by grace.

But Reverend Alston should mind his own words: "That was just false, and I was happy to tell people that." When he stood up for John Kerry, and defended him against accusations that he was a war criminal (despite Kerry's own testimony before the U.S. Senate which sure suggested that Kerry himself thought he was), he claims he did so because the accusation was false. Considering what we now know, that Alston went on to join Kerry in a joint lie that they had participated in specific actions together, when in fact they had not, and to imply a much longer record of service together than the documented facts show could have been possible, we have reason to question Alston's motives.

It doesn't seem that falsehood makes him so uncomfortable that he didn't spend a couple of years spinning lies with Kerry.

If Reverend Alston is indeed the Christian that he claims to be, he should be suffering severe pains in the area of his conscience. I will grant that there is a small possibility that there is a truthful explanation for the apparent conflict between his (and Kerry's) story of these events and the facts, but if he is indeed seeking to serve God, speaking truth and not abiding falsehood is part of that service. Reverend Alston should not allow us to continue in our doubts of what is truth when he has the ability to eliminate that doubt. He can confess his own error, if such was the case. Or he can assist us in illuminating the truth by explaining as best as he can, and by signing a release that will open his U.S. Navy records, adding more documentary evidence to what is currently available.

It's also interesting that Kerry thought he could get away with this deception. He had to know that someone would note that Alston could not have been present in the engagement where he was awarded the Silver Star, or that Kerry himself could not have be present in an angagement that took place before he was given command of PCF-94. Clearly, however, Kerry felt that any such notice would come to nothing. The only reasonable explanation for believing the truth would not out is that he believed the major media outlets would shield him. In light of the recent Rathergate events, I can't see how that was an unreasonable assumption.

Where he failed in his calculation was in assuming that the major media would retain its iron grip on the dissemination of information and thus could shield him. He didn't spot the rust on those fingers, nor see the specs of light glimmering through what had become a paper-thin lattice. And so, rather than just sailing bravely in the face of a light blow of conflicting facts, Kerry found himself in a veritable typhoon. As he did at least once in Vietnam, finding heavy seas, he turned tail and hid from the worst. He himself became very difficult to question or interview, and Reverend Alston has effectively disappeared from the public eye.

Oh, Kerry does have enough friends in what remains major media that reporters hungry for a story aren't dogging Alston's steps, but the truth is out here. And far more people than Kerry ever expected have discovered that with a little effort that truth can be found.

It may not be exactly what Fox Mulder meant when he said, "the truth is out there," but with enough voters out here, come November 2, Kerry will be just another folder in the X-Files.

Posted by dan at 05:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

A Dislogue for Teresa

Speaking at a fundraiser in Arizona, last night, Teresa Heinz Kerry criticized the President for his tax cuts, which became "permanent" today:

She said she was embarrassed to receive tax cuts advocated by Bush and supports her husband's efforts to roll them back for higher incomes and use those funds for education, health care and deficit reduction.
--The Business Journal
Someone needs to sit Teresa down and have a little, friendly chat with her along these lines, I think:

Teresa, I know you weren't born and raised here, and I know you probably don't understand all the ins and outs of American living. I mean, you may know of them, but that's not the same. But just in case you aren't aware, you can give money to the IRS. We really wouldn't want you to feel embarrassed about accepting the tax cuts, and we know you can probably afford to pass them up without making John give up next year's new bicycle, so why don't you calculate your recalculate your taxes for 2001-2004 based on pre-2001 rates and remit the difference?

This would accomplish several good things. First, it would decrease the deficit. I know you worry a lot about that too. I've heard your husband, John, complaining that it's gone up a lot because of those tax cuts. Second, it would show voters that you really do care. And, of course, it would also alleviate that nasty embarrassment.

Teresa, we have a saying there in America that applies pretty well here: "put your money where your mouth is." Now, that isn't too be taken literally. Even as amusing as the thought is of seeing you stuff your mouth with wads of $100 bills, that isn't what I'm suggesting. What it means is, well, to use another saying: "don't just talk the talk, walk the walk." Actions speak louder than words. If you're going to preach something, live it.

Break out those tax returns and a spreadsheet. Wait, you don't do those things. Okay, grab your secretary and have him call your tax attorney and he can have it done. And while you're at it, would you please release copies of your tax returns for the last few years so the American voters can understand better exactly what John Kerry is offering us in this package deal he's proposing on November 2?

Posted by dan at 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2004

Kerry's Top Secret

Beldar has a long brief up on the material covered by the sixth Swift Veterans for Truth ad: "SwiftVets' sixth ad focuses on Kerry's Paris meeting (or meetings) with America's enemies — Did he "betray his country"?" This one addresses Kerry's trips to Paris to meet with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese while yet an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and while his country remained in a state of war with those parties. I've mentioned these events several times, before, but Beldar's brief is a well-considered look at the actual evidence (Kerry's own on-the-record statements, mostly) and the applicable laws. His conclusion is that while there is not enough evidence available to actually conclude that Kerry betrayed his country, there is enough to show that his judgment was very poor in the matter:

I have no hesitation, however, in agreeing that even in what Sen. Kerry has admitted, his actions in meeting even once with our nation's enemies during wartime, while the uniform of a Naval Reserve officer still hung in his closet, showed a profound foolishness — not a casual or trivial mistake in judgment by a callow youth, but a reprehensible misjudgment by a young man then already in his late 20s who ought to have known far better.
Kerry and his team haven't said much, if anything, about these meetings. Considering how he has touted his anti-war activities in other ways, it would seem strange that this has been quietly ignored were it not so obvious that it's a real problem. I've already mentioned how these meetings are not mentioned, much less analysed, in Tour of Duty.

But one angle on this that I haven't seen mentioned, and that just occurred to me as I read Beldar's brief, is that Kerry held a Top Secret clearance. I'm uncertain of the regulation in the early 1970s, but I believe that under current regulations all holders of clearances are prohibited from unauthorized communications or contact with enemies of the U.S., and if any such occur the holder of the clearance is required to report such contacts as soon as possible to his security officer.

I'm uncertain that Kerry's clearance was active once he transferred into the Reserve. It's possible it had lapsed. But I haven't seen any discussion of this topic. That he held a Top Secret clearance, however, demonstrates that he was not ignorant of regulations surrounding trusted citizens (and, in this case, officers) of the United States and their contacts with foreign nationals, and most especially with enemy agents. He knew, from the time he received his first security training, that meetings of the sort he was party to in Paris are inappropriate and possibly worse. Even if his clearance was not active, that he had held a clearance, and thus was fully apprised the regulations concerning contacts with enemies of our nation, shows just how bad was, and probably still is, his judgment.

What has he done since to demonstrate his judgment has significantly improved?

To put this episode in proper context, John O'Neill said this of these meetings:

It would be like an American today meeting with the heads of al Qaeda.
The Kerry Spot's take on this quote is:
Team Kerry better have a good defense to refute that talking point, because if that one sentence comparison breaks through the media static and gets into voter's heads, Kerry will make Walter Mondale look like Bill Clinton.

Posted by dan at 09:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 21, 2004

Parlock, Revisited

Michelle Malkin has connections:

Just received a call from the IUPAT, which has now identified the union member who grabbed the Bush/Cheney sign from Phil Parlock's daughter and threw the pieces at the family as they left the event. "We are taking steps to deal with the individual," the union told me.
My earlier coverage on this is below.

I question Phil Parlock's judgment in taking Sophia to Democratic campaign events to hold up Republican signs when he knows this sort of reception is likely. But I condemn any person on any side that feels making this sort of assault on one expressing an opposing political view is permissible.

Posted by dan at 07:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Navy Looking Into Kerry's Silver Star Citation?

NewsMax claims that the U.S. Navy has launched a "new probe" into John Kerry's Silver Star citation. "Navy Launches Second Kerry Medal Probe," datelined today, cites Monday's New York Post as its source, but I can't find any reference to that article at the moment.

The U.S. Navy has launched a new probe into Sen. John Kerry's Silver Star citation after the Navy secretary whose signature appears on the document said he never signed the award.

"It is a total mystery to me," former Navy Secretary John Lehman told the Chicago Sun-Times in August.

"I never saw it. I never signed it. I never approved it. And the additional language it contains was not written by me," he complained.
The Lehman document is the last of three versions of Kerry's Silver Star citation that have been posted on Kerry's campaign Web site.

On Friday, Navy Inspector General Adm. R.A. Route closed out a superficial probe into the circumstances of Kerry's war decorations, one that verified only that appropriate procedures were followed when the commendations were issued.

For those who aren't aware of the issue, there are three different Silver Star citations for John Kerry's medal. Each is signed by a different person, and each time the language is adjusted to be more flattering to Kerry. Idexer has a very nice chart that compares them.

Posted by dan at 04:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2004

Rope-a-dope

In the CNN transcript of the Wolf Blitzer discussion with Jeff Greenfield (hat tip: The Kerry Spot), we read this (bolding mine):

BLITZER: I hope you are right, that optimist in Jeff Greenfield. But let's talk a little bit about that. CBS news itself is suggesting they were warned by some experts they consulted before they went to press, before they went to air, with their "60 Minutes" report, they were warned, you know what, you've got a problem with these documents, and the day after, you're going to be swamped with criticism. Yet they went to air with it, nevertheless, because the White House did not say to them supposedly the next day when their White House correspondent interviewed Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, he did not raise questions about the authenticity of the documents.

The argument you hear from a lot of conservatives and critics of CBS News is that they were so anxious to report this, they so wanted to embarrass and hurt this Republican president, they didn't care about the warnings that they were getting from their own experts going into the report. A lot of people believe that out there. They just had a mind set, they wanted to rush to press.

This point that the White House did not raise questions about the authenticity of the memos has been much discussed. CBS wanted us to believe that it was somehow the White House's responsibility to prove the memos to be fakes. Critics of CBS pointed out that it's CBS's responsibility to authenticate its facts, as they now admit they failed to do.

But that does leave open the question of why the White House did not question the authenticity of the memos when they must have had someone who had the same reaction that many others had at first glance: "Hmmm, this doesn't look right." I admit to a certain niggling suspicion that the White House has again been misunderestimatedTM. If the memos were so obviously fake that within hours of release the alarms were sounding all over the "blogosphere," what purpose would it serve the White House to proclaim them fake? If anything that might be counterproductive, pulling the White House into a partisan war about something that pertained to events 30 years ago. Proclaiming them fake might become an equivalent moment to Kerry's "Reporting for duty!"

On the other hand, not raising questions under the circumstances (and in hindsight) was a very interesting tactic. There was no need to proclaim them fakes since they were so obviously fake that the truth would out on its own. By remaining silent until the rest of the world (with a very few exceptions that had very vested interests) had solidified around the opinion that they were forgeries, the White House managed to both make an annoying subject much riskier to approach for other critics, and at the same time allowed CBS to prominently blacken its not-so-open eye by ramming it against this story one too many times and too eagerly. Perhaps the concussion this time will serve fatal.

Saying nothing is saying something, just as doing nothing is doing something, when it comes to politics. What isn't always clear is what's being said by the silence, or done by the inaction. Sometimes, waiting is the smart thing.

Posted by dan at 02:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bloggers, all left feet?

Hindrocket of Powerline notes the upcoming Time issue will carry extensive coverage of the CBS Rathergate story. Powerline, of course, played a central role in compiling all the bits and pieces into a "goto" file. If the preview continues on through the process to become the newstand issue, the Powerline guys will feature on the cover. Well, some of them will. Hindrocket says it will be Trunk's back and his own left foot. There should be a better picture inside, but Hindrocket seems satisfied:

But, hey, I can't complain. From now on, I'll be able to say that my left foot made the cover of Time.
My question is, should he be? Why the left foot? Isn't there something sinister about putting the left foot of a prominent member of the great right-wing conspiracy, along with, I must add, the "behind" of his blog-partner, Trunk? What exactly is Time suggesting?

Maybe I'm overreading. Maybe it's just one more sign that Time cannot help but show its own leftist bias. Or maybe it's actually the GRWC in action! Maybe the Powerline guys are running their own cryptic flag up the pole:

Time, left behind.

Posted by dan at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Can we see a pattern yet?

For those who haven't been following the controversy over John Kerry's service in Vietnam, John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson of Powerline and Ed Morrissey of Captains Quarters have collaborated on two New York Post articles which summarize the basics pretty well. In "The Mysteries of John Kerry's War Record" they examine the unraveling of a couple of Kerry's tall tales, his Christmas in Cambodia myth and his adoption of Alston as one of his "band of brothers." Both of these falsehoods have been exposed, and as a result the campaign has backed away from them.

The "Christmas in Cambodia" has become "he was in Cambodia sometime in January on a mission," though zero evidence of even that has been put forth. Alston has disappeared from the campaign, after analysis of the timeline from Navy records on the Kerry site and other supporting documentation, including Brinkley's puff bio (see much more below) and Boston Globe's articles, showed that Kerry and Alston could not have been together on the missions they jointly claimed. One of those missions was actually a mission led by Lt. Tedd Peck, who Kerry replaced as PCF-94 commander. In fact, Kerry replaced Peck because Peck was seriously wounded on that mission. Kerry has stopped claiming credit for Peck's mission, and little or nothing has been said about Alston since this story broke.

"Kerry the Antiwar Activist" looks at Kerry's post-war activities. These have been less covered so far in the major media and even here online. Partly this is due to the focus of the Swift Veterans for Truth on Kerry's time in Vietnam, where they have personal knowledge of his actions. This shorter article mentions Kerry's Senate testimony following the "Winter Soldier hearings" in Detroit where purported veterans of Vietnam described what they claimed to have seen or participated in first hand. Many of these testimonies have since been discredited. Some of those claiming Vietnam veteran status never set foot in Vietnam, fo example. The statement Kerry made before the Senate was based on these testimonies. While Kerry has never apologised for false testimony, he has backed away from it somewhat, saying that he may have overstated the case in the heat of the moment.

The article also mentions the Kansas City meeting of the VVAW at which the assassination of pro-war senators was discussed and voted upon. Kerry had long claimed to have resigned before that meeting and that he was not present. Following the release of FBI files under a FOIA request, it was proven that he was there, and he has backed off from his claim to not have attended.

Can we see a pattern yet?

The major piece missing (there are a lot of minor details that could also be "fisked" in Kerry's "record") is the post-war meetings Kerry had with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong in Paris on at least two occasions. There he reported he discussed how to end the war and the repatriation of prisoners of war. For many years Kerry claimed he only met them once, in an opportunistic meeting while he happened to be in Paris on his honeymoon. (It's interesting that I don't recall Brinkley mentioning Kerry was in Paris on his honeymoon. He does mention a loaned house on a Carribean island... Jamaica?) When the FOIA request resulted the release of Kerry's FBI files, he had to back away from that position. Kerry himself is quoted in a newspaper article speaking of a second trip to Paris to talk to the Vietnamese enemy. Both of these trips happened while Kerry remained a Lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve. U.S. Navy records on Kerry's campaign site (as of now, but they too might disappear, if history is any indicator) prove this conclusively, despite his campaign's spin to make it appear he was either "honorably discharged" before this period, or in the standby reserve ("inactive"), not the ready reserve.

All of this would be clearer if the parties involved released their full records. Kerry has refused repeated requests that he sign a Form 180 which would grant full access to his U.S. Navy files. Some things are exempt from FOIA requests that are pertinent in this case. Likewise, Alston has refused to sign the form. Actually seeing Alston's records would establish if he ever served under John Kerry, as both have claimed, or if it's just one more Kerry fabrication.

I pray that American's have enough sense to wonder why Kerry has so consistently lied about his past. I pray that we will wonder why he's so reluctant to release his full records. Remember, John Kerry has admitted to the fabrications listed above.

The pattern is clear to any who will look.

Posted by dan at 10:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 18, 2004

DSL went out on me for a large part of the day, so just catching up on my online reading. I wasn't entirely offline, I did have my slower wireless connection, but that laptop is SWG central, and too slow to support both a game session and any real browsing.

I hope to have something up tomorrow of a little more substance.

Posted by dan at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2004

Creative Research Concepts

Several of the blogs instrumental in driving the CBS exposure (namely: Allahpundit, Little Green Footballs, Powerline, Wizbang, Instapundit and InDCJournal) have noted an article in PRWeek where Creative Research Concepts appears to claim credit for their activities. I thought I'd poke around a little and see what more I could discover about the company, since it's Virginia based, and I'm in Arlington. I found their website easily. It showed a list of clients that include very large companies and others that are smaller, but important to conservative causes. It struck me as odd that a company that claims to represent Media Research Center, for example, would make the claims in the article.

So I checked the press room, and found this:

Regarding PR Week's article of 9/17, (http://www.prweek.com/news/news_story_free.cfm?ID=222586&site=3)

CRC President Greg Mueller released the following statement:

"Please understand, we never meant to imply that the blogosphere is something we did, or even could, control or direct. No one controls the bloggers. The extraordinary depth and breadth of their talent and resources only breeds one thing: a fierce independence much needed in the country. They are a force the PR industry and news media need to pay greater attention to.

"In the interview with PR Week, we tried to communicate that the bloggers, and then CNS www.cnsnews.com, were moving this story, which we then began pushing to conservative media, news websites and "mainstream" press.

"If anything, we're just proud that our client, CNS News, provided some hard news reporting to add some gasoline to the already rampant wildfire that the bloggers had started. Do we deserve credit for that? Not nearly as much as the guys at PowerLine, Instapundit, LittleGreenFootballs, INDCJournal, Allahpundit, and so many others deserve."

Fair enough. It's unclear if CRC overstated its role initially, or if their statement was embellished, but they have moved pretty quickly to set the record straight.

That matters. The speed with which they corrected the record when compared to CBS is almost the speed of blogs. Wait, that's not fair, CBS hasn't corrected the record yet, so CRC is infinitely faster than CBS as of now.

Posted by dan at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Crying Girl or Crying Wolf?

Rather than continue putting updates in the earlier post, I'm going to start a new one to deal with the questions surrounding the picture below. I will leave a pointer there with a note that there is more up-to-date information here.

These are the newpaper accounts of the event I've located so far:
Democrats accused of ripping Bush signs, The Washington Times, September 17, 2004.
Edwards greets supporters at airport, The Herald-Dispatch, September 17, 2004.

Rising Hegemon's The Bogus Assault -- Father Freeper of the Year (should buckhead not be able to serve) suggests that this picture is not what it's presented as being. No, it's not apparently a forgery, the picture is a real AP picture, but it may be political "theatre." In other words, what the picture portrays may be a posed scene that misrepresents actual events. If this is shown to be the case, this man is really no different from Dan Rather. Both deserve the excoriation of honest people everywhere.

When I searched the online Charlestion (WV) Daily Mail archives for articles on Phil Parlock I initially came up empty. My fault. I was searching the current online edition, not the archives as I thought. The area for that was off the bottom of my screen when I clicked on the "Search Archives" button. Once I noticed that, I did get the two summaries to the articles cited in the blog entry mentioned above:

SIGNS FOR BUSH TAKEN AT RALLY, FATHER, SON SAY

Page: P1A Headline: SIGNS FOR BUSH TAKEN AT RALLY, FATHER, SON SAY Byline: SAM TRANUM DAILY MAIL STAFF Phil Parlock didn't expect to need all 12 of the Bush-Cheney signs he and his son Louis smuggled in their socks and pockets into...
Published: October 28, 2000
Words: 952

DOLE SUPPORTERS FIND IT ROUGH AT CLINTON RALLY

"We always try to give them a warm Republican welcome,' said Painter, a recent graduate of Marshall University. Phil Parlock's experience was less calm. The Huntington man said he was knocked to the ground by a Clinton supporter when...
Published: August 27, 1996
Words: 347


Google also turns up mention of Phil Parlock, though not in the reported context:
Five vie for two Cabell BOE seats
BOE candidates weigh in
Lynch may affect perception of women in combat

Rising Hegemon makes in interesting observation about the photo also. The young man in the backwards baseball hat, who many have taken to be a union goon who ripped up the Bush-Cheney sign, looks a lot like Phil Parlock. Check out the family picture posted there and compare. Rising Hegemon says, "This guy is a serial disrupter with pretty much the same story every time." I am unwilling to accept that conclusion based on the evidence presented, though it is a possibility.

First: Since when is holding up an opposition sign, especially if it's away from the main group of the opponents as it's described here, "a disruption?" That's very clearly within the bounds of acceptable political behavior.

Second: While there is a pattern here, it is not clear what is the significance of this pattern. What we know (from the news report archives) is that similar events have happened twice before. The explanation that Rising Hegemon offers is plausible. It is not the only plausible explanation.

If Phil Parlock regularly attends this sort of political event, especially as a "counter-demonstrator," the odds of some sort of incident involving him rises. As long as it's just turning up and standing off to one side holding up an opponent's sign, it can't really be called "disruption," but it could become annoying to the hardcore Democrats who may have come to recognise him. If this is the case, and I don't really have enough information to judge, it's not that unlikely that he might have signs torn away and ripped up or trampled. If you doubt this, you aren't reading the news.

I submit that while I don't have evidence to stake my hat on this latter interpretation, Rising Hegemon is on equally shaky grounds. If he has more evidence, he hasn't offered it.

What we know is Phil Parlock shows up at Democratic events and counter-demonstrates. To all accounts I've seen, he does this peacefully, though sometimes perhaps intrustively. There is mention of smuggling in the signs. He didn't this last time insert himself and his family into the Democrats' crowd as the VVAW and Kerry supporters tried to do at the Vietnam Veterans for Truth rally did this weekend, for one example. But it isn't clear that he didn't do that in the 2000 incident where the smuggling of signs is mentioned. He has done this at least three times in eight years. I'd guess that he has been at more events, but that is a guess. If these are the only events he has attended, this would, in my opinion, support Rising Hegemon's conclusion. If he has been at, say, ten times this number over eight years, I'd say Rising Hegemon's conclusion is on very shaky ground.

The other articles that I found suggest a possible motive that would support Rising Hegemon's conclusion. Phil Parlock may be seeking publicity to help in his attempts at entering local politics (he seems to need all the help he can get, from the election returns for the BOE position he sought). Of course, his motive could simply be that he wishes to see Republican candidates elected, and he's just running his own family campaign to promote those candidates. Another motive is his expressed desire to educate his children on the excesses to be expected from the Democrats' supporters.

So, I don't see that Rising Hegemon's conclusion is sufficiently supported by the facts he has supplied to date. I do agree, however, that this incident is not clearly what the caption of the picture describes it to be.

If Phil Parlock is attending events and counter-demonstrating and having his signs taken away and ripped up, that is still bad behavior on the part of those supporting the opponent candidate. The proper response is the one I saw this weekend. Those who noted the Kerry-Edwards supporters insinuating themselves in the crowd simply pointed them out to the local police presence. Those potential disruptors (and one was disruptive, chanting during a speech) were approached by the police, warned as to the limits of acceptable behavior, and, if appropriate, escorted to an area outside the main crowd. From the description in the Washington Times article, Phil did not try to insinuate himself in the crowd.

If Phil Parlock is attending these events and faking these attacks, that's terribly dishonest and possibly illegal. And if he can be prosecuted under some pertinent law, he should be.

We need more evidence. I hear Phil was on the Glenn Beck show this morning. Maybe a transcript from that will provide more information. I can't listen to the audios at the moment, but they are here:
Listen to Glenn Beck interveiw Phil Parlock on his show:
Glenn Beck Interveiws Phil Parlock - Free Audio
Glenn Beck Follow-Up Interview with Phil Parlock - Free Audio

Here are a few posts on this:
3 year old Sophia Parlock crying at protest, was it FAKED? at Passionate America.
Coinkydinks at Eschaton.
Kerry/Edwards Supporters Assault 3-Year-Old Girl (UPDATE: Scam??) at Captains' Quarters.

I posted a tongue-in-cheek comment elsewhere about the timing on the DU post, but it was 4:22am, well after this broke. Kudos to Rezmutt for noticing something odd about the story, whether or not he nailed the right conclusion.

Update: After reading one of the old articles closely, I can see Phil does go to events with the expectation of having his signs taken away. From experiences documents (on video!) elsewhere, that's a resonable expectation. I'm not sure that I think he's entirely wise for taking his 3-year-old daughter to this event, when he had reason from experience to believe he might face violence (if relatively minor), but what's the real problem here is that that sort of violence is to be expected.

The tone of the article is questioning whether he's reporting facts, or embellishing, but he sounds pretty reasonable, and a sense of humor even seems to come through the slightly sceptical reporting.

One question that needs to be asked, based upon this statement: Does Phil Parlock know Sandy Berger?

He and Louis brought a supply of Bush-Cheney signs and smuggled them into the rally. They stuffed plastic ones in their socks and pockets and folded paper ones inside Gore-Lieberman signs.

As of this moment I partially accept Rising Hegemon's conclusion. Phil Parlock is deliberately placing himself in a position where he knows he may be attacked for holding up opposition signs. I think it's unwise to bring very young children along, but I also think it's a crying shame that a father needs to worry about the safety of a young child at a political gathering. But I don't believe the assertions that the signs are being destroyed by Phil and his family themselves. There is no evidence of that, and recent history shows that signs opposing Democratic candidates have been destroyed rather often. Should any such evidence be put forward, I stand by my earlier assertion that he then should be prosecuted if possible. Let a jury decide.

I categorically reject any suggestion that attacks upon him are justified. The proper course of action is to ask that the police place him away from the crowd if he attempts to insinuate himself with it. In the case of an event with rules about signs, as the one described in the 2000 incident was, they should ask the police to eject him, not take matters into their own hands (and his signs into theirs in order to destroy them). Anyone who is not a proper authority who takes signs from a peaceful protester and destroys them is at best a vigilante, at worst a thug and a thief.

Update: The union involved has issued an apology (hat tip: Captain's Quarters), which makes clear that the union itself, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, believes that a member did participate in the incident in a less than proper manner:

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades believes in the fundamental right for civil discourse, freedom of speech and activism to support our candidates and issues.

What happened in Huntington, West Virginia yesterday is an affront to everything we, as a union, pride ourselves to represent. We extend our apologies to the Parlock family, especially Sophia, for the distress one of our overzealous members caused them.

I have personally taken steps to address this issue internally, and will take immediate disciplinary action to the fullest extent allowed under U.S. Department of Labor regulations and the constitution of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

It is my hope that this incident reminds all of our members that every last citizen in this country has the right to express his or herself freely. Not one single one of us has the right to tell them otherwise.

General President James A. Williams
The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades

And Michelle Malkin adds more: THE LEFT IS DESPERATE FOR A HOAX

A commentor adds:

This afternoon, I called the Union headquarters. According to the general president's staff, the union is still investigating the incident and has NOT identified the man in the picture. I was informed that the apology was issued in the possible event of the jackass in the photo being a union member. Claims that the union believes him to be a member are incorrect. They are investigating. That is all for now.
That's fair enough. But that the union is doing so speaks to my point that we do have a problem: the sort of behavior the union is looking into is not unexpected. Were it, the union would say "we are looking into the possibilility that a member might be involved, but we don't really believe that's the case." I will add, I do appreciate their quick response. They could be pulling a Rather and denying everything.

I've listened the the Glenn Beck interviews now. Phil says he's done this other times without violence of any sort resulting. That adds to my earlier statement that this result may not be the norm, as Rising Hegemon assumes. But I do think his is a family of unofficial "protest warriors." That's fine. They should not be assaulted. But if they are sneaking in where the rules say they should not be with signs, they should also be removed by proper authorities.

I see that Michelle Malkin has updated her entry too, and pointed my way (thanks, Michelle).

And let me state for the record: If the union or I or anyone else finds out that this was staged, I will be the loudest to condemn Parlock and will send an apology and a dozen roses to Attaturk at Rising Hegemon.
I agree with her sentiment here (as I've stated above a couple times), but I won't send Attaturk roses.

Update: (hat tip: Blogs for Bush) USNews.com has this by Paul Bedard:

If the picture of little 3-year-old Sophia Parlock crying after some Kerry-Edwards supporters tore up her Bush-Cheney poster got to you, well, you weren't the only one. President Bush and even first pup Barney were dismayed too, we hear. It happened at a West Virginia rally last week for Democratic running mate Sen. John Edwards, to which Phil Parlock brought his daughter. After seeing the picture of the tearful Sophia on her dad's shoulders, aides said the president was sending her a little note Friday along with a signed campaign poster and an autographed photo of the prez and his dog. "Dear Sophia," Bush penned, "Thank you for supporting my campaign. I understand someone tore up your sign. So I am sending you a new sign and a signed picture. Please give my best to your family. Sincerely, George W. Bush." And on the picture, he inked: "To Sophia, Best wishes from me and Barney." Phil Parlock tells us it really wasn't necessary. "He already said 'Thank you' when he hugged her" at a previous Bush rally they attended, he says. "She bragged for days."

Also, I've read comments on the picture posted below questioning whether it's authentic (not my version, but the original as posted elsewhere). Look at the pictures in the articles at the top of this post and you'll see a slightly different shot, with the same elements present. Also, remember that tweaking the size of jpgs results in artifacts. If you do it more than once, as is apt to be the case where blogs are borrowing from each other, these artifacts proliferate.

Update: Media Matters, the left's media watchdog, has a post up on this that adds a little new information. The photographer, listed as an AP photographer on the article photos, is not an AP photographer according to Media Matters:

Snyder is not an Associated Press photographer; he is listed as "chief photographer" on the masthead of The Herald-Dispatch, which bills itself as "the online news authority for Huntington, West Virginia, Southern Ohio and Eastern Kentucky.
I'm no expert on how AP works, but I suspect this is shaving a point pretty finely. Most syndicates, like AP, work with stringers whose work is listed under the "brand" of the syndicate. The spin in the post is clearly aimed at insinuating some sort of conspiracy, but there is nothing more than circumstantial evidence offered. And that is also consistent with my conclusion, that the Parlock family are informal "protest warriors" who make a point of showing the intolerance of Democratic supporters. How useful this is is an open question. It is certainly not illegal on its face. Unlike the response they provoke.

Posted by dan at 12:09 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

September 16, 2004

Contrast and Compare: Compassion in Action

For some reason the combination of two pictures released today made me think of a third. This first one I saw first over at Pat Curley's site:
Girl whose sign was torn up by Kerry/Edwards supporters
It's captioned: Three-year-old Sophia Parlock cries while seated on the shoulders of her father, Phil Parlock, after having their Bush-Cheney sign torn up by Kerry-Edwards supporters on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004, at the Tri-State Airport in Huntington, W.Va.

Update: Democrats accused of ripping Bush signs in The Washington Times, September 17, 2004. The Herald-Dispatch's story on the event, that mentions this incident, is here.

These fine human beings surrounding the young lady and her dad are, of course, members of "the compassionate party."

Update 2: See the post above for more on this picture. All may not be as it seems. I'll put all further updates upstream, rather than continue changing this one.

Then we have this fine shot of the leader of their ticket showing his warmth and compassion:
Kerry hugging stuffed bear
I don't know the story behind this one, but Allah has it up on his site.

And finally we come to this snap of Bush-Hilter, as the party of compassion likes to call him, hugging Ashley Faulkner, who lost her mom in the South Tower on 9/11. You can read the story on the Snopes site.
president Bush hugging Ashley Faulkner

Posted by dan at 11:27 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Poems for the Dan I'd Rather not be

I thought of this one, on reading more of the continuing raging of Rather Dan against the "dying of the light" (in his view). The dark forces of the new media are casting long shadows over his bed, and it's time to say good night. (Dare I suggest that a villanelle is somehow appropriate too? French form, obsessive repetition...)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
--Dylan Thomas

But then it occurred to me that a poem I like far more fits also. This one I hope fits only metaphorically, when it comes to the ending, not literally. And I hope Dan stays away from outer windows in skyscrapers too.

Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went downtown
We people on the pavement looked at him
He was a gentleman from sole to crown
Clean favoured, and imperally slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed
And he was always human when he talked
But still he fluttered pulses when he said
"Good Morning," and he glistened when he walked.

And he was rich -- yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread.
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head
--Edwin Arlington Robinson

Hmm, don't know about that "imperially slim," though.

Posted by dan at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2004

Sorting Out More CBS 'Facts'

I was poking around the CBS site and came across a timeline for Kerry's military service. It's very abbreviated, and very wrong on some points. I suppose that's hardly surprising. CBS doesn't have a stellar reputation for recognizing facts from fiction (or forgeries). But I thought it worth making the point just how pervasive is the sloppy behavior of CBS.

Here's the appropriate section to the CBS timeline, followed by the similar section on the Kerry campaign website:
CBS Kerry Service Timeline Excerpt

Excerpt from CBS's Timeline of Kerry's Military Service
(Click Their War Years, then Kerry Timleine)

Kerry Campaign Timeline Excerpt
Excerpt from Timeline on Kerry Campaign Site

Both of these are incorrect. I base this statement on the U.S. Navy records archived as pdf files on the Kerry campaign site itself. Pertinent sections are clipped from those and displayed below, but you can go check the pdfs for yourself (unless they disappear from the Kerry site, as things have before). The March 1, 1970 date on the Kerry Campaign website is clearly the result of reading the military date notation civilian style. Whoever did that one read "03 01 1970" in month-day-year order, rather than day-month-year. Refering to other documents confirms the January 3, 1970 date. The use of the same date for Kerr's request for early discharge from active duty may come from Brinkley's book. He gets it wrong there, and the campaign site cites him as one source.

The CBS dates mystify me. I suppose whoever did that one misreads a discharge from active duty, in this case a transfer from active duty to reserve duty, as an honorable discharge, but that's a pretty bad mistake since the honorable discharge itself is available. I haven't found what they are referring to with the December date. Why would Kerry apply for an early discharge form active duty, then extend active duty for six months a couple of weeks later (and I haven't found any record that he did), then accept the early discharge in the form of a transfer to the reserves a couple more weeks later? Even for Kerry this seems an odd flip-flop.

For comparison I'll make a dislogue timeline (Okay, okay, I just copied from the service record below. How hard was that?):

    dislogue Timeline

November 29, 1969

Kerry's letter requesting early release from active duty

January 1, 1970

Promotion to Lieutenant

January 3, 1970

Transfer from active duty to U.S. Naval Reserve effective

July 1, 1972

Transfer to Standby Reserve - inactive

February 16, 1978

Honorable discharge from U.S. Naval Reserve


Below are excerpts from Kerry's U.S. Navy records as archived on the Kerry campaign site:

Excerpt from Kerry's Separation from Active Duty letter

Excerpt from Excerpt from Kerry's Separation from Active Duty letter

CBS Kerry Service Timeline Excerpt

Excerpt from Kerry's Honorable Discharge letter

Excerpt from Kerry's Service Record

Excerpt from Excerpt from Kerry's Service Record

Posted by dan at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

Torture of Duty XII: Dogs That Didn't Bark in the Night

I finally finished the book around 1:30am last night, dozing off every other page. It ended in an attempt at a rhapsodic crescendo worthy of a classical symphony. But the flat notes overwhelmed the effect. The epilog shifted from the early 1970s to near present, with only a brief aside or two about Kerry's involvement in normalizing relations with North Vietnam in the 1990s.

What's instructive is what's missing from this, things pertaining to the subject of John Kerry and Vietnam. At the November 1971 VVAW meeting in Kansas City, which Kerry has long denied attending, there was discussion of, and a vote against, the assassination of pro-Vietnam War senators. Kerry argued against the assassinations, but he also did not report the incident to proper authorities as any good citizen would do. FBI files recently obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request and available at wintersoldier.com in pdf form provided evidence that he was there and argued against the assassinations. It's possible that there is no evidence of this event in Kerry's journals or other private papers, but he is described as one who keeps everything. It would be odd if Kerry didn't at least obliquely record something. Brinkley's description of the meeting is very vague, which may reflect that, or it might also reflect a deliberate decision to obscure the meeting's hot topic in order to shield Kerry from criticism. Without actually examining Kerry's archives it would be difficult to determine if Brinkley knew more than he recounts in his book.

Understand, Kerry did speak against and vote against the assassinations. He deserves that much credit. He did not perform what most of us would consider the proper duty of a good citizen; he did not report a potential criminal consipiracy to assassinate government officials. This is certainly grounds for criticism.

There is also no mention of any meetings with the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong at the Paris Peace Talks. Kerry has long admitted he met with them as a private citizen (and perhaps as a representative of VVAW) in Paris, though he also claimed he only made one trip there to do so. The FBI files show a second trip was made. When presented with the evidence in the FBI files, Kerry admitted to the second trip.

That Kerry, as a private citizen, met with enemies of the United States while those enemies were in a state of war with the United States is problematic, to say the least. That he did so while serving as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve presents additional problems. Then there is the possibility those trips contravened orders to report any absense from the U.S. for more than 30 days (see below). That he lied about how many trips suggests, again, there was a deliberate intent to conceal the numbers of trips and meetings. One possible reason for this is that he appears to be guilty of violating federal law and perhaps the regulations of the U.S. Navy concerning the comportment of its officers. John Boyle wrote a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe that went unpublished that covers this well. In that he says:

Kerry's problem is not that he may have violated an esoteric prohibition against negotiating with foreign powers (18 U.S.C. 953). What he did was collaborate with enemy combatants during the war, "adhering to them and giving them aid." The evidence for this is in his own words. That is covered by another law, The Constitution of the United States, Article III, Section 3.
It is these events, even more than his other activities in protesting the war, that lead many to call John Kerry "traitor." At the recent Vietnam Veterans for Truth/Kerry Lied rally in D.C. many veterans, aware of the above, certainly did call him a traitor. It is an arguable position that has not been tested in any court. Treason is notoriously hard to prove under U.S. law.

But I think the absence of mention of any meetings in Paris in Brinkley's book reflects the concern of both Kerry and Brinkley about this topic. Both of them know that it is explosive. Brinkley cannot argue that it is not pertinent to the scope of his book when he includes passages about Kerry's later meetings, acting under the authority of the Clinton administration, with the North Vietnamese to normalize relations. He claimed no, and had no, governmental authority for those earlier Paris meetings he conducted on his own.

Posted by dan at 07:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2004

Torture of Duty XI: Peddling Influence

Scenario: Young officer on active duty wants out early. This officer happens to know people in high places. He consults with them. They point out that he can pitch his request thus: "I need to be out of the service so that I can participate in the civilian political process."

Sound familiar? No, not George W. Bush!

Kerry's wife, Julia Thorne, had connections, as did Kerry himself. Brinkley says this of her family:

Many families have genealogical charts with anscestors of merit, but Julia Thorne's was chock-full of some of the most distinguished founders in America. The whole history of early New England, in fact, was populated with Thornes and Sticktons. Among her maternal grandmother's forebears was William Bradford, who served as President George Washington's attorney general and ended the Whiskey Rebellion. Julia's great-great uncle was Henry L. Stimson, President Herbert Hoover's secretary of state and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary of war... Between the two of them, John Kerry and Julia Thorne constituted a virtual storehouse of America's most productive and distinguished bloodlines.
--Tour of Duty, p49.

With those forebears and connections, one does not even have to ask for favors in the circles in which Admirals move. One just makes sure that people know who one is. Maybe this line will ring a bell: "Do you know who I am?"

But in Kerry's case "joining" [the anti-war movement] was not that simple. He was still enlisted, wearing a naval uniform, and working in Brooklyn at the behest of Admiral Schlech. He had, however, a plan. Quietly, with the help of Julia, he had evaluated the possibility of running for Congress from Massachusetts.
--p338.

He decided to petition Admiral Schlech, to tell his boss that his conscience dictated that he protest the war, that he wanted out of the Navy immediately so he could run for Congress. Admiral Schlech consented to his request and on January 3, 1970, the U.S. officially issued an honorable discharge. "It was suprisingly easy," Kerry recalled. "I went and saw the admiral and told him my conscience was bothering me, that I had to speak out against the war. He was a great man. He simply said 'I understand.'
--pp338-339.

How easy would it have been for a Lieutenant from West Podunk, Arkansas to get an early release from active duty? One wonders.

Posted by dan at 06:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Torture of Duty X: Not Dates for Destiny

I'm almost finished with Tour of Duty (finally!) and while I can say that in some ways Brinkley has succeeded in inspiring a limited admiration for Kerry's courage, that has been at the price of any admiration for Brinkley's craft as historian. He's plain sloppy.

In earlier posts I deconstructed the text in a semi tongue-in-cheek fashion, using close reading skills from my underused English Language and Literature M.A. (have to keep those muscles toned!). My thesis was that the book was mythologizing with the intent of creating a sense of destiny for a Kerry presidency. I would not rate this book as successful, if that is the indeed the intent. Much of the reason for its failing is that Brinkley is sloppy. But he isn't alone in his sloppiness; the Kerry campaign too has an affinity for casual employment of facts. It seems to be a magnet for those who put results ahead of integrity. All means, even being mean and miscalculating the mean, are justified in the end by the end, if that end is achieved.

I can demonstrate the sloppiness of both Brinkley and the Kerry campaign with a simple comparison of some dates cited in each, and a comparison of those dates to the dates cited on official U.S. Navy documents posted on the Kerry campaign web site in pdf form. You can duplicate this exercise at home. Please don't blame me for any accidental injury to innocent beliefs in the reliability of things either printed in books or stated on the Kerry campaign site.

To accomplish this in a form as clear and simple as possible, I'll employ a table. I'll discuss the significance below. Because the Kerry campaign site has things added, modified and deleted without explanation or "leaving tracks," I will also include a screenshot of the pertinent section below.

U.S. Navy Document

U.S. Navy Document says:

Timeline on Kerry Campaign Web Site

David Brinkley
Tour of Duty

Letter from Lieutenant (jg) John F. Kerry

21 Nov 1969

Subj: Early Release from Active Duty, request for

 

 

Letter:

Release from Active Duty

Detached 2 January 1970

Effective 3 January 1970 (one day travel time to Groton, MA)

 

 

Form DD214

EFFECTIVE DATE

03 01 70

(January 3, 1970)

13b - MP DISCHARGE CERTIFICATE ISSUED AT THE TIME OF SEPARATION

January 3, 1970

Kerry requests discharge

Admiral Schlech consented to his request and on January 3, 1970, the U.S. officially issued an honorable discharge. (pp338-339)

January 3, 1970, "Requests an early discharge from active duty, which is granted."(ToD timeline, p462)

 

 

March 1, 1970

Kerry’s date of separation from Active Duty

 

 

 

April 29, 1970

Kerry listed as Registrant who has completed service

 

Letter:
Honorable Discharge From the U.S. Naval Reserve

Feb 16, 1978

 

February 16, 1978 Kerry is honorably discharged from the U.S. Naval Reserve. (ToD timeline, p463)

I find it amusing that the campaign site lists the following as source for the timeline: "[Source: Boston Globe, “John Kerry, the Making of a Candidate”, 6/15/03-6/21/03; Tour of Duty by Douglas Brinkley, Published by William Morrow 2003; Selective Service System, National Headquarter]."

Kerry Campaign Timeline Excerpt
Excerpt from Timeline on Kerry Campaign Site

First, the craft of the historian aims to nail down as well as possible the facts of the past. Often it simply isn't possible to arrive at one single definitive conclusion. Thus the careful historian will present the material from as many sources as can be judged to be reasonably reliable, mention caveats on that reliability, and then advance his best judgment as which interpretation is most likely true. In cases where one or more are of relatively equal likelihood, all may be offered with explanations.

That does not describe Brinkley's work as demonstrated in the table above. He appears to have described the events surrounding Kerry's release from active duty incorrectly when compared to the official documents. If he, for some reason, considers those documents to be in error, he should in any case cite them and explain why he considers that his dates and descriptions are more correct. Further, he does not state specifically the sources for what he chooses to present as truth. He gives general information on sources; he does not tie that information to specific sources so that it can be verified by others. Social sciences are often called "soft sciences," true, but this does not rise to that designation; it's more in the class of, well, journalists, or even politicians. Take the dates on the campaign timeline, for example.

Further, Brinkley is sloppy in that he calls this "separation from active duty" an "honorable discharge" here in the main text (see quote below). Later in the timeline Brinkley places in the back matter he describes it more correctly as an "early discharge from active duty," but gets the date wrong. Kerry did not apply on January 3, 1970, he applied on November 21, 1969. The discharge was in fact granted on January 2, 1970. The January 3, 1970 date is the date the discharge was effective, allowing Kerry one day to get home from Brooklyn to Groton, his home of record.

Second, one has to wonder when seeing variance in facts, such as these, whether it's simple sloppiness or whether there is a deliberate intent to communicate something other than the facts. There is at least one potential reason why Brinkley and the campaign might wish to suggest that Kerry ended his military obligations to the U.S. Navy far earlier than February 16, 1978, when Kerry was formally discharged from the U.S. Naval Reserve (according to the U.S. Navy). When speaking of Kerry's desire to join the anti-war movement, Brinkley says:

But in Kerry's case "joining" was not that simple. He was still enlisted, wearing a naval uniform, and working in Brooklyn at the behest of Admiral Schlech. He had, however, a plan. Quietly, with the help of Julia, he had evaluated the possibility of running for Congress from Massachusetts.
--p338.

He decided to petition Admiral Schlech, to tell his boss that his conscience dictated that he protest the war, that he wanted out of the Navy immediately so he could run for Congress. Admiral Schlech consented to his request and on January 3, 1970, the U.S. officially issued an honorable discharge. "It was suprisingly easy," Kerry recalled. "I went and saw the admiral and told him my conscience was bothering me, that I had to speak out against the war. He was a great man. He simply said 'I understand.'
--pp338-339.
I am uncertain of the legal implications of Kerry's participation in the anti-war movement, especially as an on-camera spokesman and leader of VVFW, while a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve. I leave that determination to the military lawyers. But I believe that active duty officers are expected to refrain from attacking their Commander in Chief. As a civilian, I assume that applies also to reserve officers. I could be wrong. But that I make that assumption shows that there is an issue of appearances. It is likely that others make the same assumption. Brinkley lists Kerry as joining VVAW shortly after his marriage in May of 1970, several months after his "honorable discharge." The April 29, 1970 date on the campaign timeline also conveniently precedes that.

The problem is greater when considering Kerry's later actions in meeting privately with the North Vietnamese on several occasions in Paris.

According to the FBI files, Kerry met with representatives from the North Vietnamese government in Paris in 1971 in an effort to secure the release of captured American prisoners of war. Kerry has previously acknowledged meeting "both delegations" of Vietnamese communists in Paris in 1970, but has said nothing of the 1971 meeting.
--FBI Files Show Kerry Met With Communists More Than Once
By Marc Morano
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
June 04, 2004
These meetings, even more than the VVAW activities in this country, are what I suspect drive the variance from fact of the Kerry campaign timeline. There is no mention of these meetings in Brinkley's timeline.

If any of these Paris trips exceeded 30 days, it's possible that Kerry violated orders in his separation letter. Item 7 on the letter "Release From Active Duty" stipulates the following:

In the event that you plan travel or residence in foreign countries for a period in excess of 30 days, notice of intent will be submitted to the command having custody of your service record. Such notice should include destination, expected duration of travel or residency, and forwarding address.
I found no sign of such notice in the files on the Kerry site, but we know that does not include all his records. I also do not know the exact dates of Kerry's Paris trips.

If this is indeed an attempt to sweep Kerry's very questionable post-war activities out of sight, they are farcical in their competence. They remind me of, well, certain memos being touted still by CBS News as authentic.

Posted by dan at 02:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 13, 2004

Rather Lie Than Speak Truth?

Red, a commentor on the post on the Vietnam Vets for Truth rally, left this that I felt deserved more attention than it may get there. She appears to be pretty well informed on Dan Rather's past exploits with manufacturing witnesses, and ties it nicely to Kerry's good work in this area at the Winter Soldier hearings. For more on that, see Steve Pitkin's affidavit and article. Steve spoke at the rally and asked for the forgiveness of the other Veterans. He was granted that by acclamation. (I forgot to get this into my post last night, apologies, it was a fine moment as things were close to ending, but I plum forgot to get 'round to it while trying to get the post up.)

Check out Red's blog, The American Gazette, too, she's got some post up on Islamic Terrorism that look interesting. I aim to spend some time there later. Here's Red's comment:

You noted you needed to look up the information on Dan Rather. I have that information handy, as well as on CBS.

On Dan Rather's military time. Some cut and paste if you will.

Dan Rather has described himself as a Marine. In the book "Bias" he is quoted as having enlisted in the Marines twice. Of course ultimately, that quote becomes Rather's word against the author's, but please note that Rather does describe himself as a Marine.

From a book review of "Semper Fi"
Great Reviews for Semper Fi "This reporter has seen Marines leading the way from Danang to Kuwait and every dateline in-between: I’ve also seen ex-Marines leading the way in offices and boardrooms across America. Semper Fi tells it like it is, with a point-by-point analysis of what makes a Marine a leader—in and out of the Corps. This is NOT one of those mumbo-jumbo, pseudo-philosophical books on leadership that try to make blue look like orange, and are of no use to anybody but their authors’ accountants. Semper Fi is a book you will actually USE, read, and refer to again and again. Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh remind me that I might actually have made something out of myself if my own Marine career (brief, undistinguished) had lasted longer."—Dan Rather

Brief and undistinguished is a bit of an understatement. The reality is this.

Dan Rather joined the Army Reserves during the Korean War, when he finished college. He stayed in the Reserves until the Korean War was over, effectively sheltering him from a draft to Korea. To hear Dan Rather now and in the past, doing guard duty in time of war is akin to being a draft dodger. After he left the Army Reserves he went back to school and then joined the Marines. HOWEVER, he did not complete basic training. As a child he had Rheumatic fever, weakening the heart, and he could not complete the rigorous basic training Marines go through.

This sets up a couple scenes for me.
1. He prefers to call himself a Marine because Marines are looked at as the toughest of the tough, an image Marines I think can rightly claim. But do you get to call yourself a Marine if you didn't get through basic?
2. He doesn't refer to himself as Army because it would bring attention to the fact he went into the guards during wartime to shield himself from possibly going to the combat theatre of Korea. If he called attention to this it would make it a bit more difficult to paint say, George Bush, with the same brush wouldn't it?


Now about Dan Rather and his smearing of Vietnam Vets. This was done in a show called "The Wall Within"

The highly hyped 1988 CBS program, "The Wall Within," purporting to tackle the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a perfect example of the lies and distortions about Vietnam that have been fed to three generations of Americans. The program profiled six "Vets" who it claimed were "representative" of those who served in Vietnam. It claimed that the symptoms suffered by these men were shared by hundreds of thousands of other veterans. The Dan Rather "documentary" became part of the CBS video history series on Vietnam and is graced with a formal introduction by Walter Cronkite.
This is how Dan Rather introduced his TV audience to one of his prize victims: "At age 16, Steve was a Navy SEAL, trained to assassinate. For almost two years, he operated behind enemy lines, then he broke. He came home in a straightjacket, addicted to alcohol and drugs."

According to the CBS propaganda piece, "Steve" had been trained to massacre and mutilate Vietnamese civilians and then blame the atrocities on the Communists. "You’re telling me that you went into the village, killed people, burned part of the village, then made it appear that the other side had done this?" Rather asked. "Yeah," Steve responded. "For propaganda purposes at home," Rather added. "That’s correct," Steve confirmed.

Terry Bradley, another supposed Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, told a grisly tale of having, on one occasion, skinned alive up to 50 Vietnamese men, women and children. He told of cutting out hearts and eyeballs, of mangling and stacking their bloody bodies. The CBS program showed the mentally tormented vet at night in a dark forest howling at the sky.

Another PTSD victim, George Greul, told the CBS team that he had been traumatized by witnessing his friend’s gruesome death on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier while the ship was on a "secret mission" off the coast of Vietnam. He had seen his buddy accidentally walk into a spinning propeller blade and had been spattered with his blood.

The critically acclaimed "Wall Within" was a colossal fraud. The man identified as "Steve" turned out to be one Steve Southards, and through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Burkett obtained his military records. The truth, he found, was that "Southards was not a SEAL, nor had he taken any SEAL training.... In reality, Southards was an ‘internal communications repairman,’ assigned to rear area bases and had no combat decorations. His only special training was a ‘motion picture operation course (16mm),’ at Subic Bay in the Philippines." What’s more, he had spent time in the brig for going AWOL six times. According to Burkett’s research, "Little that Southards had told Rather was true except that he had been in the Navy, and that his first name was Steve."

Terry Bradley was not a "fighting sergeant," as Dan Rather had described him, but another storytelling misfit who had spent 300 days either AWOL or in the stockade. No evidence was provided by CBS, and Burkett could find none either, from official sources or otherwise, to verify Bradley’s tales of mass atrocities.

George Greul’s carrier, the Ticonderoga, was deployed on a training mission off the coast of California, not a "secret mission" off the coast of Vietnam, when the fatal propeller accident he referred to took place. But Greul was not present when the accident happened; he was merely repeating what he had heard. However, his story had convinced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that he had been sufficiently traumatized to receive a couple thousand.


It seems to me that right now, and the issues raised in the current Presidental Campaign, the time is right to note not only the issues with CBS and Dan Rather are now, but what they were in the past. It all ties together, particularly the myths of atrocities told by those who WERE NOT VIETNAM VETS, but whose stories were nonetheless given legitimacy by Guess who? John Kerry in his 1971 Senate Testimony, and by, that's right boys and girls, Dan Rather. Interesting how they both seem to come together again? And right in the middle of the same issues so many years later.

Things that make you go-HHMMMM.

Recalling from the book "Stolen Valor" 5 of the 6 vsts profiled on "The Wall Within" were frauds, and no CBS did not retract the story. Ever.

Then there is this as well, again a CBS blunder.

The story of Joe Yandle is a case in point. Yandle had admitted to being the getaway driver during a 1972 liquor-store holdup in Medford, Mass., that resulted in the murder of the store manager. Under Massachusetts law, even though Yandle did not pull the trigger, he was as complicit as the gunman. Convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison without parole, Yandle never claimed to be innocent, but contended that Vietnam had driven him to drugs and crime. 60 Minutes did a segment in which Mike Wallace told viewers that Yandle did two tours in Vietnam, and survived the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh; and that he then "came home with a Bronze Star for valor, two Purple Hearts, and something else — a heroin habit." The 60 Minutes report was instrumental in convincing then-governor William Weld to commute Yandle's life sentence to time served — 23 years. But Burkett discovered that although Yandle had indeed served in the Marines and had been honorably discharged, he had never set foot in Vietnam at all.

Thanks to Burkett's work, Yandle is now back in prison. But what is striking about his case is the predisposition of journalists to accept uncritically the claim that service in Vietnam is an explanation for criminal activity at home. How could the hard-nosed Mike Wallace and others like him be so easily taken in? Burkett's answer to this question stands as a rebuke to American journalism. It is also a rebuke to John Kerry.

The information on all of this is in "Stolen Valor"

The above, and the manufacturing of witness at the Winter Soldier hearings, set a disturbing background to some of the revelations surrounding some of those Kerry had on stage with him at the Democratic National Convention too. They were all presented there, and have been argued by the Democratic supporters since, as having special authority for serving on swift boats under Kerry's personal command. Yet there is reasonable question whether at least one of them, Alston, actually did. In light of the history of the anti-war movement, and Kerry's involvement in it, it's even more reasonable to question the authenticity of any witness he brings forward.

Likewise, we must question the authenticity of evidence, such as the now discredited CBS memos. And remember not so long ago it was yellowcake documents.

Spin is one thing; forgery and purgury is another.

Posted by dan at 09:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 12, 2004

Vietnam Veterans Against Kerry

It was a pretty day. Not too sunny since we had scattered clouds, but pretty humid. Fortunately the site had big oaks on either side, so most people congregated to the sides in the shade. I got there right at 2pm, the scheduled start time, and someone (never did get his name) was singing a patriotic folk-style song which was probably written for this occasion. It took a few jabs at Kerry, as I recall.

Vietnam Vets for Truth Rally

I was juggling Tour of Duty (I go nowhere without a book!), my new Canon A75, and a tiny notepad for notes. I wandered around a lot, checking out the crowd, looking for good pictures, while I listened to the speakers. There were about ten. Ex-SEAL Captain Larry Bailey (spellings are all guesses at this point) was master of ceremonies. Included in the lineup were ex-POW Jim Warner, Swiftie John O'Neill, B.G. Burkett, author of Stolen Valor, CIA vet Rodrigo Diaz, Captain in the Army Nurse Corps Donna Roe, and Steve Pitkin, the Vietnam Veteran who was strongarmed into lying at the Winter Soldier hearings. Some of these folks are truly great speakers. Those of us following the Swift Veterans for Truth know that John O'Neill is. Donna Roe was great too. And Larry Bailey takes a back seat to no one. All of them were good.

The stories they told ranged from Warner's story of how John Kerry's VVAW activities affected him directly while he was in a Hanoi POW camp, through the experiences of the daughter of "Black Bart," Major Roger Bartholomew of the 2/20th ARA Battalion, whose name is etched into the black wall, to The Kathleen Story, told by Donna Roe. They all shared a couple of things. First was their pride that they or their loved ones served in Vietnam in what they know to have been a worthy cause. As it was put in one speech, we lost that battle, but it was just one battle in the Cold War. We won the war.

The also shared disgust at the actions of John Kerry. While there were a few remarks about his medals, there were signs about "real Silver Stars" and listing much longer lists of medals, and chests heavy with medals, what inspired the boos and scattered shouts of "traitor" were the descriptions of Kerry's post-war activities. And those did not only include VVAW activities. They covered his voting record against support for the troops and his activities involving Nicaragua and Iraq.

As I was walking the several blocks form Union Station to the rally spot in front of the Capitol, I saw some Kerry/Edwards placards and a group lining up. That was the opforce. My general impression was that they were fairly young, and fairly few. I doubt there were one hundred. They marched a circuit all the way around the rally, but the Washington Police, who were very present, would not let them into the area itself. As the rally began, they passed behind the stage and there were some diffuse "Bush Lied" shouts. Those were drowned out with chants of "Kerry Lied!" and "Good men died!" whenever they occurred. The protesters just didn't have a chance. Aside from one or two stragglers, they were gone within the first half hour.

But before they left they did create a great laugh. Captain Bailey was opening with a list of things that the rally was not about. He said it was not about medals. It was not about voting records. It was not about politics. Then he asked, "So what is it about?" One of the protesters yelled "Lies!" And Bailey fired back, "You're right!" Several people shouted "Kerry's lies!" The place broke up. Then he went on, "For once these people are right! It's about lies! And it's about Truth. It's about coming together. No one gave us a parade, so we're giving ourselves a parade--paved with John Kerry." That brought cheers.

The crowd was mostly veterans or their loved ones. Most were Vietnam-era, but there were some others. Those of us who were plain-old Americans who lived thankfully on their service were the clear minority. That was expected since this was billed as an event for veterans, but it was a shame too. I wish more people would have come just to show these guys the support they rarely have gotten over the years. I'd say the crowd was around 2000, maybe a few more at peak. People were wandering in and out to some degree. It was hard to judge the crowd because of the way people spread out to take advantage of the shade. The area in front of the stand was in the sun, but it stayed pretty packed even so, since a lot of us were jockeying in and out for pictures of speakers.

A couple of things struck me about the crowd. A couple of the first guys I saw were wearing Harley leathers and looked downright tough, if older than I am. But the bulk were casually dressed in shorts or slacks, many wearing some form of anti-Kerry sign, button or badge. A lot of them had signs, some printed, others handmade.

Vietnam Vets for Truth Rally Sign

None of the material was vulgar. While some called Kerry a traitor, they gave cause, and that cause was his talks with the North Vietnamese during the war. It was not irrational. There were the typical plays on Fonda, "Not Fonda John," etc. When the crowd booed, there was anger, but it was cool, not hot. If there was hatred present it was not obvious. Three vets chanted "Girlie man" occasionally. They clearly meant it as an insult, but it had no heat. The behavior of the crowd was exemplary. The contrast to the Protest Warrior videos of their treatment by the anti-Bush crazies could not be more stark.

When a young Kerry/Edwards-sign-carrying guy slipped into the crowd, one of the vets walked calmly over and informed a Policemen. A short while later the cop returned with the Kerryite in tow, telling him he was welcome to stay, but he had to put the sign down. He could listen, but if he shouted anything disrupting that would be a problem for him. Or he could stand on the sidewalk, about 50 yards away, and hold up his sign and shout, if he liked. He left. It was obvious that he wasn't going to get a rise out of this crowd. He should be glad they were so very in control, unlike what he's probably used to. These men have experienced real confrontation.

I got a few looks because I wasn't wearing any vet paraphenalia. The looks were curious, not hostile. My pad, more than my camera, drew them. I think some wondered if I was a reporter. I guess I was, an amateur, new-media reporter. But what struck me was that these were real people. Real in that sense where I knew I could sit down with any of them over a meal and just talk. There would be no posing or posturing. What they cared about was obvious from their presence, not just from the speeches from the podium: family, neighbors, country, honor, duty.

I jotted lines from the speeches that struck me as significant. Some were applause lines, some were just notable. I'll list them here. If I know who was speaking, I'll credit them.

The wounds Kerry inflicted are more serious. They are to the heart and soul. Those wounds never go away.

Shame is the word he [Kerry] focused on. Now we're focusing it back on him for having provided aid and comfort to the enemy.

This speaker spoke about the cover of The New Soldier, John Kerry's anti-war book, and how that greatly offended them. The cover photo is of a paraody of the Iwo Jima memorial; several anti-war demonstrators are raising an upside-down U.S. flag. This book was brought on stage as a prop later, by John O'Neill, who held it up to punctuate his talk. As is so often the case, John Kerry's own words are his greatest enemies.

B.G. Burkett talked to the false credentials of so many in the anti-war left. One prominent name was that of Dan Rather. I could not take notes fast enough, so that bears some research. As I recall, Rather claimed to have served in the Marines, I think two tours. It seems he served for 4 months and was kicked out. I expect Stolen Valor has details. He tied this to the dispatch with which Kerry got himself out of Vietnam. Many of these people see Kerry's departure after three Purple Hearts for very minor wounds as a form of legal abandonment of his crew and fellow Swifties. It was not wrong, legally, but it broke the code of duty, honor, country.

He wants us to stand up and be loyal to him? Hell no! He doesn't know the meaning of loyalty! Now we're going to take the war to him!
--B.G. Burkett

We were the sons and daughters of the greatest generation.
--Donna Roe

I even saw them save babies.
--Donna Roe

And here she inserted the wonderful story of the Montagnard baby girl, saved from a village the Viet Cong had wiped out. The baby she herself named "Kathleen" when the baby girl arrived at Roe's hospital and they fought to save her life. That Kathleen was adopted and now has her own family here in the U.S. The story is told in In the Shadow of the Blade.
I'm proud to be a Vietnam Vet that served a whole twelve months!
--Donna Roe
Jim Warner spoke of this experiences as a POW for five years. He mentioned that they had been tortured, but gave no details, as is the norm for these true heros. The anecdote he spoke of was how he was interrogated and presented with a cardboard storyboard on which a magazine article had been posted. It spoke of Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit, and his mother was quoted saying normal concerned mother things. She had not heard from him. She only knew he was a prisoner. As he put it, the North Vietnamese "hadn't gotten around to letting me write a letter." In four years. They showed him another storyboard and this one contained testimony by a Lieutenant JG John Kerry, who said they were all guilty of committing atrocities, they were all war criminals. Warner didn't know what would result. His captors told him with that as evidence they could try him and find him guilty of war crimes. As he put it, communist courts are not American courts. They don't have the same standards.

He pointed out that John Kerry had been through SERE training, that he was trained to know what the POW experience might mean. Yet he endangered his fellow servicemen who were in captivity by telling his lies. Warner also pounded on the theme that after the overwhelming defeat of the communists at Tet, the communists were lost. That is, they would have been except Ho Chi Mihn saw their salvation in the budding anti-war movement. The battlefield moved from Vietnam to America and Paris. All they needed was a holding action in Vietnam; the real fight would be led by others, including John Kerry.

The first thing you need [in war] is a commander with sound judgment and steadfast character. This is something I'd like you to go away from here with seared seared into your memory. You'll know he has sound judgment if he know the best way to stop a war against an evil enemy is to win it!
--Jim Warner

Leave John Kerry in command of the largest vessel he has ever competently handled--his surfboard.
--John O'Neill

We need a leader, not a weathervane.
--John O'Neill

It was interesting that the ABB crowd does have a counterpart here. This was an ABK crowd. I don't think I heard Bush's name once from the speakers, nor from the crowd. Many in the crowd had W pins, or wore Bush 04 on something, but they were a minority. The emphasis was very much on making plain that John Kerry was not a suitable leader for the United States military. It is summed up well thus: our young men and women fighting now in Afghanistan and Iraq deserve our best commander. That would not be John Kerry.

(I'll tuck the other pictures onto another archive page to save loading them everytime someone hits the front page.)

Update: Instapundit just happened to have a link to the info on Dan Rather's inflation of his military record. Newmax had an article on it based on Stolen Valor and Bernard Goldberg's Bias. I've read the latter and now that I see this do remember reading something about it there.

Update: Here's what the, erm, competition says about the rally. This is from AP (with a hat tip to kerryhaters).

Update: Powerline has a post on the speech by "Black Bart's" daughter, Laura Bartholomew Armstrong. I couldn't take notes fast enough (I was trying to get a picture at the same time). I do remember the line about attacking the war without attacking the warriors that deacon at Powerline mentions. She also told a great story about a man whose life her dad saved. That man, Rick Rescorla, went on to work in the towers as security chief for Morgan Stanley. He was there on September 11, 2001 and was responsible for the evacuation of over 3000 people. He was still trying for a few more when the one he was in collapsed. (Big Trunk has a post on this too.) The point of her story was that by her dad's actions way back in Vietnam, people were saved here three years ago. I'd add: and by John Kerry's actions, more than 3 million died when Vietnam dominoed Laos and Cambodia. An article of hers published WSJ is also available here.

Update: Ohoh, my first Instalanche. Hope my bandwidth can handle it! Welcome, everyone!

Update: One of the commentors asked about reruns. I can't answer that, but mention was made of making a video of the event available. A lot of interest was expressed by addendees, so I suggest watching KerryLied.com for details.

Posted by dan at 06:25 PM | Comments (55) | TrackBack

Vietnam Veterans for Truth on the Mall

I am off to the Capitol to attend this, with camera:

John Kerry told the world we were war criminals who raped, tortured and murdered in Vietnam. Now, thirty-three years later, we will tell America the truth. Join us at the rally we call:

KERRY LIED . . . while good men died
A gathering of Vietnam veterans from across America

Where: Upper Senate Park, Washington, D.C. It is easy to get to, shady and pretty, with a great view of the Capitol dome in back of the speaker's platform. THIS IS A NEW LOCATION AS OF 7/17/04

When: Sunday, Sept 12, 2004 2:00-4:00 PM (EDT)

Why: To tell the truth about Vietnam veterans.
To counter the lies told about Vietnam veterans by John Kerry

All Vietnam veterans and their families and supporters are asked to attend.Other veterans are invited as honored guests.


Hope to post some pictures and comments later (if I avoid any stray BDS sorts).

Update: Home. Great rally. Will post thoughts and applause lines once I cool off and upload this pictures.

Posted by dan at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2004

Never Again

9/11 Plaque in Ballston, VA

We have come far. We have farther to go. Let us remember and show that we had the wisdom to learn.

I wrote of that day a year ago:
On That Morning
I also wrote of another plane that went down:
Another Plane
The good news is that the Peruvian government did come through with the promised payment for the plane shot down in error. A.B.W.E. will replace it in service, saving lives and helping missionaries work to save souls.

Posted by dan at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2004

Jaw Dislocated

So I'm not posting on the Rathergate subject. (that title above is to be taken figuratively!)

I'm playing consumer on this one. Powerline, Beldar, Allah, LGF and many others are doing great work covering it (see blogroll for links). I'm reading their work between dips into Tour of Duty. The only jaw-dropped there is that Brinkley actually came out with a defense of the U.S. actions in Vietnam way back on page 270. If he'd opened with that, he'd have made Kerry and everyone else look a lot better. Interesting.

Posted by dan at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2004

Torture of Duty IX: A.W.O.L. in Saigon

Kerry asked the tactical operations man if there were any waterway restrictions on traffic to Saigon. Every night on patrol he gazed longingly upon the bright lights of the big city just seven miles away, as seductive as the City of Oz or Las Vegas glimmering beyond the horizon. Saigon had boutiques, bars, black market deals, nightclubs, brothels, and fifty-six thousand registered prostitutes (plus who knows how many freelancers). There were some river-travel restrictions, the officer informed him, but then he confided that there were also a few loopholes too. On the spot, Kerry decided to exploit those. The key was to have a plausible excuse at the ready should his boat be stopped on its way into the city. "We knew that while we were cruising up and down the river at night, someone was sitting at the bar of the Majestic Hotel in the center of the city, drinking, probably with a girl at his side," Kerry explained. "It seemed wrong. We were jealous at any rate and wanted to share it. So instead of turning right as we left Nha Be after being relieved, we went left, up the Long Tau, and into the heart of the city. We didn't have permission from the division or anyone else, but we felt that we deserved an irresponsible, personal moment, so we did it anyway."

"..."one U.S. Navy Swift boat parading gallantly through the middle of the city where she had no business being. We didn't stay long. We didn't even go ashore. I chickened out."
--p205, Tour of Duty

To give Kerry some credit, he "chickened out" before going ashore. He decided the risk of being reported overweighed their desire to sample to forbidden delights of Saigon. But, I believe, he was technically Away With Out Leave from the moment he turned (appropriately) left with the intention of visiting Saigon. He admits he had no permission to go there, and from his conversation with the tactical operations officer, it's clear that he also knew that he wasn't supposed to go there without permission.

As usual, Kerry's own words make the case. Brinkley quotes this, so it's either from an interview or one of Kerry's period journals (Brinkley says that the second quote is from a journal). This is a significant admission in light of the accusations from the Kerry supporters that George W. Bush was A.W.O.L. from the Texas Air National Guard.

Posted by dan at 01:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Torture of Duty VIII: Lesson Learned

On the Metro this morning I stumbled over this quote. Brinkley is citing Kerry apparently from one of his many period journals where he records a conversation with one of the South Vietnamese soldiers on his attitude towards the war:

"Why should I chase the VC? He doesn't bother me and I doesn't bother him. It's okay like that. When he comes after me, I fight--okay?"
Why, then, care about being a good soldier in an unwinnable war fought to help a people who didn't give a damn themselves?
--p187, Tour of Duty
The way in which this quote is used here, suggests that it's an attitude that Kerry considers wrong. Here, and elsewhere, he makes clear that he thinks the Vietnamese should fight their own battles, and that the United States should not be doing their fighting for them. But it's also arguable that he doesn't believe that they should fight in any case, as my earlier posts demonstrate.

What's interesting is that Kerry seems to have adopted the attitude that he quotes censoriously here. These are quotes from his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston:

As President, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war.

And as President, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.

Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response.
Maybe I'm tone deaf to nuance, but I see a lot of similarity in these two positions on fighting enemies.

Kerry is right in his implication in his journal that what the Vietnamese soldier says does not make good sense. He should either stop fighting, or take the fight to his enemy, not let someone else fight his battles for him. But Kerry, himself, is not the picture of consistency on this issue either. This passage suggests that it is not America's responsibility to protect itself irregardless of what others do:

We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers.
He's advocating that we do exactly what he condemned the South Vietnamese for in 1969, arrange to get others to come help us fight our battles. Why should others come fight with us if we are reluctant to fight on our own, if we don't believe so strongly in the cause that we say "Liberty or death?"
He goes on to insert,
And we need to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us.
This is inconsistent with his statement that "any attack will be met with a swift and certain response." How can we "get the terrorists before they get us" if we're responding to their attacks, not attacking them before they can attack us?

When Kerry says, "I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war," we need to ask ourselves what lessons he learned in war. In this case he appears to have learned from the South Vietnamese that liberty isn't worth defending aggressively, that defending it by responding after being attacked is the proper plan. If course, this ignores the real lesson of Vietnam, that following Keryr's plan results in defeat, tryanny, oppression and death.

Posted by dan at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

Torture of Duty VII: Deja Vu All Over Again

Wow! This is breathtaking for several reasons (emphasis mine):

To Bernique, the Sealords river raids were merely a logical extension of American military's overall Vietnam policy. "Goddamnit, John," he once asked his fellow Swift officer, "don't you see how if we were to leave here the whole of Southeast Asia would fall?"
Kerry replied, "No, I don't, and even if that did happen--so what? Nobody has been able to tell me why we have to do what we're doing here. Nobody can really explain in terms that make sense why it is [that] the United States has to be the one to lose its men and spend its money for a supposed threat, which few people can define. Besides, I don't see how what we're doing is helping the Vietnamese anyway."
"But it's not the Vietnamese that we're really trying to help anyway," Bernique shot back. "It's ourselves--by beating the Communists' advance. You have to draw the line somewhere. This is where we have to make the stand."
This strong-minded pair liked to argue about why the United States had to make a stand in South Vietnam, about the reality of the Communist threat, about Americans' paranoia regarding communism. Kerry, for example, considered the domino theory--that if one country in Southeast Asia turned Communist, other nations in the region would follow--ludicrous.
--p182, Tour of Duty
The first thing to note is Brinkley's agreement with Kerry here. The tipoff in this passage, to my eye, is that he chose to use the word "paranoia." If Americans were paranoid about Communist intent, it was a well-justified paranoia as volumes and volumes of evidence have proven since. And, still, some, such as Brinkley, willfully ignore that evidence. Kerry also ignored it later when he refused to recognise that, in fact, that domino theory was proven laregely true. Shortly after the fall of South Vietnam, the communists moved on into Laos and Cambodia. Later Kerry was to make similar arguments against U.S. intervention in Nicaragua when the communists began attempting to make inroads into Central America. Despite the falling of dominos in the wake of the fall of Vietnam, Kerry could not see that pattern continuing in Central America and elsewhere, such as Africa.

But it's stunning to see this discussion in this book. Either Brinkley is assuming no one will see the obvious, that Kerry was blatantly wrong here, and Bernique very right, or Brinkley still does not see that Kerry was wrong. Or he actually does see, and wants to be sure that we readers do, though that would make that "paranoia" sans scare quotes out of place. And what's worse, it's clear from this discussion and comparison with Kerry speeches in 1971 and 2004, that he still thinks the same way. He did not see the parallels in Central America (or he did not care about them or consider them dangerous), and, now, he does not see the obvious parallels with the spread of Islamic fascism that is driving international terrorism. He still seems to believe in a hands-off approach (though depending on the weather, on some days he decides we should do something, if the U.N. agrees).

Another shocking bit is that "so what?" Leading up to this passage there was a lot of "sensitive Yale man" observation of how crude, callous and outright vicious were the vets he met. Most of this came via anecdotes he was told, not direct observation, since at this point in the book his only real "action" was the skimmer episode that resulted, somehow (and after his C.O. turned it down), in Kerry's first Purple Heart for a "rose thorn" scratch. And Kerry also is portrayed as sensitive to the plight of the poor Vietnamese who were so mistreated by American forces. Yet, here he says "so what if South Vietnam falls?" One possible explanation is all of that buildup was a pose, that he really didn't feel for the plight of the Vietnamese. One alternative is that he did, but that he didn't believe that the Communists would be all that bad. Or it could be both. I tend towards the latter for reasons soon evident.

For what's even more stunning is that Kerry is now echoing this in his recent speeches regarding Iraq where he's emphasizing that the United States is bearing 90% of the costs of the war. This is from "The Kerry-Edwards Plan for American's Future" on the compaign site, and similar language has appeared in recent stump speeches:

Shattered Relations With Allies: Go-it-alone approach has left the U.S. shouldering the burden in Iraq, providing nearly 90 percent of troops and the vast majority of the money, nearly $120 billion.
The clear implication here is that America is paying more than its share, and that that is wrong. He's also, of course, claimed that Iraq was not a real threat (before and after he claimed that it was a real threat, and a few other less defined positions).

This position, that America is pulling more than its own weight in the international community is interesting for a man who idolizes John Kennedy on the one hand, and worships at the altar of the U.N. and international law on the other. Brinkley even credits him with concern for international law in the same period as the quote above:

To Kerry, it seemed that a like absurdity had gotten into the brown water navy in Vietnam, where breaking orders and international law had become a Swift lieutenant's surest way to a serious decoration.
--p179.
If we place Kennedy's famous quote, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" into an internationalist context, would it not be "ask not what your world can do for your country, ask what your country can do for your world?" That would seem to be the melding of Kennedy's philosophy of service with an internationalist political view, yet Kerry does not appear to hold to that.

As Bernique maintains, we're really trying to help ourselves. We aren't doing this by making others love us, but by encouraging and defending democracy, because democracies tend to be more peaceful than other forms of government. Our attempts to do this in Vietnam failed for various reasons, a major one of which was the recognition by the North Vietnamese that if they could just hang on and let Kerry and his friends do their work for them, they wouldn't have to actually defeat the U.S. in battle. If they could just avoid losing long enough, we'd give up and leave them to do as they please. In this case that meant kill or imprison in re-education camps hundreds of thousands, and drive out as many more as refugees. That was followed by the communist's dominoing of Cambodia, where millions died in the killing fields.

From his defense of the rights of communists to spread their deadly system in other countries, despite the results of the Vietnam experience, it's reasonable to assume that Kerry does not believe that democracy is superior to communism. In 1969 he did not believe that the Vietnamese would be worse off under communism. In the 1980s he did not believe that the Nicaraguans would be worse off under communism.

By extension, we have to wonder if Kerry believes that democracy is better than Sharia. He doesn't seem to mind that peoples in other countries live under Sharia law. One would expect that a man with his sensitivity to the plight of other peoples would be greatly concerned about the plight of children, women and minorities in those countries yoked under Sharia.

For that matter he doesn't seem to care about the plight of those chained by out-and-out fascist dictators either. Kerry is now calling the War in Iraq "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," despite the toppling of Saddam, a truly evil despot who most certainly did support Islamic terrorism: he supported Palestinian terror attacks on Israel by paying the families of the "martyrs" a grant to live on, for one.

This new enemy of democracy and freedom, Islamic fascism, breeds terrorists as its main weapon. Not only is the system a threat in the long term if allowed to grow unchecked, but its weapons, the terrorists, are a clear and present danger to the citizens of the United States. But Kerry seems not to understand this. He still appears to hold to his position of 35 years ago, that if we just leave them alone, they will leave us alone. It's too late for that position, even if history hadn't already proven it false. They won't leave any of us alone. Ask the parents in Beslan, Bali, Israel, Spain, or Iraq, if you won't take the words of your fellow Americans in Washington or New York City.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Kerry isn't young. If he hasn't changed his underlying position (as opposed to his speeches) in nearly four decades, how can we expect him to now?

Fellow Americans, this is one dog that won't hunt. And even if Brinkley thinks we're paranoid, the terrorists really are out to get us. We need not only a dog that will hunt, we need a dog that will fight to the bloody death before letting those terrorists past to get to our children. That would be a bear dog. I'm partial to Airdales.

Posted by dan at 01:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2004

Torture of Duty VI: Deconstructing Kerry's River to Cambodia

In addition to the continued reinforcement of the sense of prophecy and destiny, mentioned in earlier posts, there is another emerging pattern in Tour of Duty, one that is puzzling in light of the much written about Christmas in Cambodia story and its less specific variations (Powerline's excellent synopsis. For more, check the latest Google search here.) According to those stories, and most strongly in the Christmas in Cambodia story Kerry related on March 27, 1986 on the Senate floor in debate over U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, Kerry experienced a "road to Damascus" episode while in Cambodia that resulted his in re-evaluation of his support for the war in Vietnam:

"I remember Christmas of 1968, sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and having the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there."
For those unread in the New Testament, the "road to Damascus" event is shorthand for the conversion experience of he whom we now know as the Apostle Paul. Saul, the name by which he was called before the event, was a great persecutor of Christians. He was, in fact, on the road to Damascus to organize further persecution and stonings when he was struck down by a light fom the heavens, and heard a voice asking "Saul, Saul, why doest thou persecute me?" (Acts 9:4) He converted on the spot, becoming one of the most important early Christian evangelists.

Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia story parallels this in many ways. Kerry's position is that while he was operating under legal authority, under orders by the U.S. government, he was breaking what he considers to be a higher law, "international law" as codified in the Geneva Convention. Likewise, Saul was operating under the authority of the Jewish temple heirarchy. Christ was condemned as a heretic by that authority. Christians were heretics also, and could legally be persecuted and even put to death. The voice on the road convinced him of the existence of a higher power than the religious authorities he'd been obeying. It's interesting that Kerry's "voice from the heavens" was a radio broadcast, in which the President stated that there were no U.S. forces in Cambodia. Rather than hearing a Voice of Geneva, Kerry hears the leader of the authorizing agency under whose orders he claims to be acting, contradicting what he claims to have been his orders. Thus, instead of Saul's revelation of truth, Kerry's revelation is one of falsehood. The voice from the heavens makes a statement to him that he considers to be provably false. In both cases the recipient of this enlightenment does a spiritual 180. Saul becomes Paul, and instead of persecuting Christians, begins his work to make new Christians. Kerry, as a result of the incident, claims to have converted from support of the war, to opposing it. He shortly thereafter got his third Purple Heart, requested reassignment out of Vietnam, served as an admiral's aide, and requested an early dischage so that he could run for Congress. Then he set about making converts to the anti-war cause, with VVAW as his fellow diciples.

Kerry's story is clearly meant as a "conversion moment." A significant divergent detail in the above is that Kerry's revelation was negative. Saul heard a voice speaking truth. Kerry, appropriately, heard a voice speaking lies. Of course, Kerry was not in Cambodia on that Christmas. He has admitted that. The then current President made no such speech. The story was a falsehood in itself. But it was made to illustrate Kerry's own conversion from supporting the war to opposing it. He felt need to dramatize the event and to make it into a moment when he had a sudden flash of enlightenment.

With that as context, Brinkley's book is interesting. Brinkley never mentions the story, which suggests that he knew that it was not true. But it would have made an interesting inclusion. It is dramatic, and it could have been retold in such a way to make plain that Brinkley knew that it was Kerry's fabrication. There was no way to retell it without making plain that it was a stretcher, however, because the story runs directly counter to documented events and also to statements made by Kerry and others in the book. Brinkley did not choose the "flash of enlightenment" path, he chose instead to employ careful billboards of foreshadowing to demonstrate Kerry's shift from accepting at least as reasonable the U.S. involvement in Vietnam to vigorously and harshly attacking it. The move is one from a youthful questioning of his country's leaders' judgment, to disillusionment (as opposed to enlightenment), to adamant criticism. The move, as Brinkley retells it, is not a flip-flop; it's a gradual firming up of an uneasiness with the war to a full-blown feeling that the war is wrong in all respects.

The following quotes will show the general progression as Brinkley relates it:

Vietnam was only partially on the minds of John Kerry and David Thorne when they traveled around Europe during the summer of 1965, the months when President Lyndon johnson ordered the deployment of 50,000 additional U.S. troops to Southeast Asia, with a commitment for 50,000 more to follow.
--p57.

Certainly the greatest honor accorded John Kerry in his four years at Yale came at the end of his time there, when he was chosen to deliver his class oration on Sunday, June 12, 1966...it came as something of a surprise when Kerry, towering over all the professors and university officials on the stage, took the microphone and offered a critical analysis of the Johnson administration's foreign policy. "What was an excess of isolationism has become and excess of interventionalism," Kerry proclaimed, drawing on lessons learned in Gaddis Smith's history class. "And this Vietnam War has found our policymakers forcing Americans into a strange corner...that if victory escapes us, it would not be the fault of those who led, but of the doubters who stabbed them in the back--notions all too typical of an America that had to find Americans to blame for the takeover of China by the Communists, and then for the takeover of Cuba."

"We have not really lost the desire to serve," Kerry pronounced. "We question the very roots of which we are serving."

"The United States must, I think, bring itself to understand," Kerry avowed, "that the policy of intervention that was right for Western Europe does not and cannot find the same application to the rest of the world
--p61-62.

As gung ho as he was in that sense, however, he also could not stop worrying that the Johnson administration was failoing in its effort to defeat the Viet Cong and Ho Chi Minh. When Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara resigned in November 1967, Kerry saw the writing on the wall and it read, "No light at the end of the tunnel."
--p75.

He had serious questions about the conflict, was increasingly certain that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was a terrible mistake, yet never doubted that his duty lay in serving his country. This, of course, left him with a moral conundrum. "I have been thinking a lot about Vietnam and the reasoning of the uncommitted soldiers," Kerry averred. "How can one oppose the war and still fight it."
--p79

They had killed his friend, and he was ready to kill them if he had to. For the time being, however, as the Gridley headed to Guam, he would keep following orders and try to be the best U.S. Navy officer he could. And that meant keeping his emerging antiwar thoughts to himself or consigned to paper, not out where they might jar the morale of his shipmates.
--p84.

At Coronado, Kerry and Barker enjoyed discussing politics, but in a couple of months, they would be in-country Navy officers in charge of their own Swift boats. Complaining about LBJ's post-Tet policy was hardly good preparation for instilling confidence in one's men.
--p108.

This reads more like the tale of a doubting Thomas than the conversion of Saul. All of this comes from the period before that supposed flash of enlightenment in Cambodia. Someone with this degree of doubt hardly needs a bolt from the blue to slide over into overt opposition to the war.

The problem with Brinkley's thesis is that it conflicts with the subject's apparent perception of his own history. I say "apparent" because it's difficult to know. We do know that Kerry is willing to use stretchers to accomplish his goals. The Christmas in Cambodia story proves that. It was not told as a barbershop pass-the-time tale, where all concerned (except the young boy who's pretending he's reading that old Life magazine) have merry twinkles in their eyes. It was told in a formal hearing on the United States Senate floor to establish special authority for the speaker's opinion. It was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the political process with out-and-out falsehood. Not that that is terribly unusual in politics, but most of us would prefer that our leaders avoid that sort of behavior.

Brinkley's careful tracking of Kerry's growing anti-war sentiment contradicts the idea that Kerry suddenly saw the light. But it leaves open the question of whether Kerry ever supported the war in any real sense. That he chose to serve his country cannot be questioned. What remains unanswered definitively is why. Kerry's attempts to portray a revelation that converted him suggests that he wishes us to believe be started as a naive and blindly trusting supporter of the war; Brinkley's chronology dispells that notion. What we can't know is whether Kerry decided to enlist to do his duty to his country, right or wrong, or whether he decided to enlist in the Navy simply to avoid worse possibilities, such as serving time as did Cassius Clay in prison as a conscienscious objector, or being drafted into the Army.

Posted by dan at 12:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 07, 2004

Torture of Duty V: Manufacturing Destiny

I didn't read a lot of Tour of Duty over the weekend, but I did make some progress. I'm up to chapter 5, where Kerry is on his way to Coronado for training in small boats. Brinkley is currently creating some context for riverine units, so Kerry isn't present. He's off having a reunion with Julia Thorne, which gives us time to consider.

One thing I've noted is the regularity of mention of Kerry's ambition to become president. It comes every ten pages or so, if not more, with additional oblique references to his constant desire for public service (the first two I cited in an earlier post):

Usually Kerry [John’s father] never editorialized in his log: just the no-nonsense facts. But on this last flight he made an exception, writing something personal: “Flight over Mt. Vernon with Johnny.” The flight lasted for only a brief forty minutes. But forty years later he sent the logbook and wings to his son with a note on his law firm stationary: “Is this last entry prophetic?” Richard Kerry was probably referring to his son’s passion for flying, but the flight over Mt. Vernon may inadvertently [have] touched a different prophecy.
Even when he was an eleven-year-old boy, there was a feeling that John Forbes Kerry was touched with destiny.
--pp18-19.

Richard Kerry believed his boys could accomplish anything in America, even following in the oversized footsteps of George Washington, making it all the way to the White House. --p 19.
Earlier, in the Prologue, Brinkley cites Nixon who remarks about how Kerry stands out from the other VVAW members:
Even President Nixon, who had tried to shut down the VVAW march, couldn't help but be inpressed by this bright young troublemaker with the impeccable credentials. In an Oval Office meeting the next day, the President notd Kerry's distinctivenes from the other "bearded weirdos." He had been the "real star" of the hearing, Nixon told his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger. --p14.
The matter of Kerry's credentials is an echo of page 13, where we see the following from his Senate testimony:

The senators just looked at one another and smiled. They knew a political star had been born. The let the applause continue to rumble on, according the impassioned young officer his moment in the limelight. Finally, Senator Symington, who had served as the first secretary of the Air Force, asked the witness a question: "You have a Silver Star?"

"Yes, sir," replied Kerry, who was wearing the Navy's thrid-highest award for combat at the top of his three rows of campaign ribbons.

"You have a Purple Heart with two clusters?"

"Yes, sir," came the answer.

"I have no further questions," concluded the Missouri senator, having established for the record the caliber of the witness.

"Credentials are something we always think about," Senator Javits chimed in. "Your credentials counld't be higher." --p12-13.

Then there are the Kennedy meetings:
"But there's this guy standing there peering out a window at the bay. He turns around and it's the President of the United States. He walks over to me and I said, 'Hi, I'm John Kerry.' I was so unsavvy, so unschooled. I didn't know what you called him, 'Mr. President' or 'sir' or 'Mr. Kennedy' or whatever."--p37.
A few weeks later, Janet Auchincloss again invited again invited Kerry to Hammersmith Farm, this time to watch the America's Cup race from the U.S.S. Joseph P. Kennedy along with President and Mrs. Kennedy...Later that day, Kerry had a brief private conversation with the President.--p37.
These two meetings took place before Kerry entered Yale as a freshman, and I'm sure that Brinkley is right when he adds, "spending those few hours on two different occasions with President Kennedy was the highlight of his summer." These meetings were important to Kerry, and they are certainly relevant to understanding him, but it's interesting to observe the arrangement. Two Presidents have come to know Kerry before he even gets to college, at least as things are arranged here. Brinkley's choice to open with Kerry's 1971 testimony, allows him to place some very complimentary (and carefully chosen, as there certainly are opposing views to Kerry's conduct in that testimony that are not examined here) material ahead of context. More follows. On page 40, while still at Yale, Kerry tours the White House, including the Oval Office, with his friend, Harvey Bundy whose uncle, McGeorge Bundy, worked there as national security advisor. On page 59 Kerry joins Skull and Bones, "another step in what he had come to see as a natural progression." Whether that progression is natural or not, it's certainly being presented as that here.

On a side note, there is quite a lot of mention of Kerry's father in the early chapters, of his role as bureaucrat working with the United Nations. Kerry's apparent belief that the U.N.can function as a positive force in world politics probably stems from this early exposure. But what is more interesting is the dog that didn't bark: there is little mention of Kerry's mother. She is mentioned in the context of Richard Kerry's courtship and marriage, after which there are very brief mentions in the context of "parents" or "mother and father." This strikes me as odd. One can't help but wonder if her lack of presence in the book mirrors her presence in Kerry's early life. But this could simply be choice on Brinkley's part.

Another interesting note is Brinkley's two references, one right after another, to the times when Kerry, as a young man touring in Europe with Harvey Bundy, ditched the planned agenda and chose to wing it.

The pair next headed to Zurich, arriving at midnight. Everything proved tidily Swiss manicured. sedate, boring and closed. So Kerry came up with an inspired plan. "His brainstorm was: Let's go to Austria. This is typical Kerry--I mean, you're in Zurich, so let's go to Austria; it's only a five-hour drive," Bundy continued. "There was a ski village that he loved and he wanted to look up his old ski instructor, so we took off from Switzerland across Lichtenstein, where we woke up the border guards so they would stamp our passports. They were not happy with that [but] we wanted to show people that we had been to Lichtenstein. Eventually we arrived on the outskirts of this little Alpine village in Austria where John used to ski. It was about five in the morning. We both agreed that it was way too early to look up his ski instructor. There was a mountain outside of town, and John says, 'Let's climb it.' Typical. Classic John."
--pp45-46
This sequence caught my eye because they contrasted with the carefully built up sense of destiny and the building sense that Kerry himself planned from a very early age to aim for and achieve the office of the presidency. Also, Bundy makes it sound as if this is John Kerry's normal mode: "this is typical Kerry," and "Typical. Classic John."

I suspect the intent here is to paint Kerry with the exhuberant brush of youth, to show that he has his "wild and crazy guy" side. But what it did for me was make me wonder just how impulsive he is. It's one thing to ditch the plan if conditions show that continuing with it is foolhardy; it's another entirely to ditch the plan because you feel like it. The recounting of these events reinforces the image Kerry has earned for himself for flip-flipping when doing so suits him. It fits patterns he's created since his youth better than do the claims that Brinkley appears to be building that Kerry planned all along, and is carrying through, his master plan to move into the White House.

But it's possible Kerry can be both of these. He may be flip-flopping purely to strive for the one driving goal he's lived towards. That said, these events stand out as somehow breaking, or at least weakening, the pattern.

Posted by dan at 09:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 05, 2004

Too Little Too Late, or Just in Time?

Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, general manager of Al- Arabiya news channel, wrote an article entitled, "Innocent religion is now a message of hate" in the September 4, 2004 pan-Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. It is a strong statement that there is a worm at the core of the Islamic world, and its rot is terrorism. He opened thus:

It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.
This sort of recognition by a Muslim who speaks publically and loudly is a first step towards excising the worm and cutting away the rot. But is it too little and too late?

While we can hold up the page on which this is printed and point to it, the questions remain:

Where was this voice one year ago? Three years ago? Ten years ago?

Where are the other voices that should be shouting in harmony?

Where is the chorus that should be loudly chanting "Yes, yes! The terrorists are not true Muslims and they do not speak for us! And we will root them out?"

He concludes:

We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists, murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as related to us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify their criminal deeds. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image.
Here, I fear, I must disagree. They can tolerate in their midst those terrorists, for they have. It would be better stated, "We must not tolerate in our midst" those elements, for if we non-Muslims are stung badly enough by those, we will in the end burn the whole hornet's nest. It is not only the lives of non-Muslims you must protect by refusing tolerance to terrorists, it is your own.

We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women.

We cannot redeem our extremist youths, who commit all these heinous crimes, without confronting the Sheikhs who thought it ennobling to re-invent themselves as revolutionary ideologues, sending other people's sons and daughters to certain death, while sending their own children to European and American schools and colleges

Clearing your names and redeeming your youths are the least of your concerns now. Already you have singed the feathers of the eagle and smoked the great slumbering bear from its hibernation with your failure to kick sand over these loose embers. You must now extinguish the fires, not worry about how this will look in the morning's light. If you allow the fires to continue burning while your beat your breasts, there may be no morning for you.

Only mourning.

Update: And if you need an example of the problem, here you are:

Cleric Supports Targetting Children

Omar Bakri Mohammed, the spiritual leader of the extremist sect al-Muhajiroun, said that holding women and children hostage would be a reasonable course of action for a Muslim who has suffered under British rule.
Posted by dan at 04:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Following the Money

One subject that has not been dealt with extensively is what effect the source of John Kerry's income might exert on his role as president. With some past candidates or presidents this would be less of an issue because they are not conditioned to a life of conspicuous consumption as is Kerry. Even a friendly media has chided him on this, mentioning a $8000 Serotta Ottrott bicycle, the $700,000 "Scaramouche," a 45-foot powerboat, the $35 million "Flying Squirrel," his private jet, the four multiple-million dollar (each) homes, and even the $1000 haircut. The "Kerryopoly" game has some fun with this, and has a handy quick reference chart of the above and more examples of Kerry's houshold spending, with sources.

Kerry manages all of this on his six-figure Senate income (in 2003 it amounted to $147,818, according to Byron York's research cited in "John Kerry's Bright Financial Picture"), with a little help from his billionaire heiress wife, Teresa. Following his examination of Kerry's 2003 income, York concludes:

Kerry's 2003 return illustrates the extent to which Kerry's lifestyle is subsidized by his wife. Apart from the income from the painting, Kerry's Senate salary would not be enough to pay the property taxes on the several residences they own.
John Kerry is not a low-maintenance husband.

That Teresa Heinz Kerry controls the household purse strings of necessity gives her a not insignificant power over John Kerry. That is not to say that we know that she actively employs that power, but we cannot ignore its existence when it applies to the man who would control the most powerful country in the world. A similar dynamic has not existed in the White House in recent history. While a lot was made of Hill & Bill, and Hillary certainly is a powerful woman whose influence was felt, this money dynamic was not an obvious issue in the Clinton White House.

It is an axiom of politics that the controller of the purse strings controls the ultimate power. Were Kerry to be elected as president, this suggests the possibility that he might be controlled by Teresa due to her control over his supply of money. The pay increase for the presidential job is not sufficiently higher to make up the rather large gap between the outlay which Kerry is accustomed to making to support his lifestyle and his own income. I think it is a fair assumption that his outlay will increase, which will at a minimum offset part of his increase in personal income, and probably exceed it, putting him even more dependent on Teresa's financial support.

Granted that Teresa, as controller of the Kerry household purse strings, might exert a significant degree of control over Kerry, what form might that control be expected to take? She has not released her tax returns, so we cannot examine all of the other uses to which she puts the Heinz fortune that she inherited upon the death of Senator Heinz, but we can see enough to detect a pattern. World Net Daily reported on February 23, 2004 [emphasis mine]:

One of heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry's favorite charities is the Tides Foundation, a 28-year-old grant-making institution that funds to the tune of hundreds of millions radical groups that, among other things, protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq, demand open U.S. borders, provide the legal defense of suspected terrorists and promote the spread of Islamist ideology in the U.S.
FrontPage Magazine offered an even more in depth examination of Teresa's contributions to Tides, and the causes to which the Tides group of organizations makes grants on February 13, 2004, in Ben Johnson's article, "Teresa Heinz Kerry: Bag Lady for the Radical Left" [emphasis mine]:
Teresa Heinz Kerry has financed the secretive Tides Foundation to the tune of more than $4 million over the years. The Tides Foundation, a “charity” established in 1976 by antiwar leftist activist Drummond Pike, distributes millions of dollars in grants every year to political organizations advocating far-Left causes. The Tides Foundation and its closely allied Tides Center, which was spun off from the Foundation in 1996 but run by Drummond Pike, distributed nearly $66 million in grants in 2002 alone. In all, Tides has distributed more than $300 million for the Left. These funds went to rabid antiwar demonstrators, anti-trade demonstrators, domestic Islamist organizations, pro-terrorists legal groups, environmentalists, abortion partisans, extremist homosexual activists and open borders advocates.
The article examines in great depth known grants by Tides to organizations with documented links to Islamic terorism, the remnants of global communism, and even the support of dictators such as Slobodan Milosevic and Kim Jong-Il.

The question voters must ask themselves is this: would Teresa, with this history of support for many causes that most of us believe represent clear anti-American movements, exert her power of the purse strings to control Kerry's decisionmaking in the same direction as her contributions? She is supporting hard left and extremist Islamic causes now with her money, is it a large step for her to continue doing so if she moves into the White House? Such a move would give her the potential for far more direct influence of national policy, is this what the American voters want?

I don't believe that most Americans want national policy to follow the money trail that Teresa has laid down with her contributions. We need to make that very plain in November.

Posted by dan at 01:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 04, 2004

Beating the Dead Camel

Ralph Peters in the New York Post's "When the Killers Come for the Kids," says today:

If Muslim religious leaders around the world will not publicly condemn the taking of children as hostages and their subsequent slaughter — if those "men of faith" will not issue a condemnation without reservations or caveats — then no one need pretend any longer that all religions are equally sound and moral
Yesterday, Muslim terrorists killed or maimed hundreds of children in a Russian school. That Peters even writes this today because there is not yet a wide Muslim outcry against what "violates a universal human taboo" says all that needs to be said.

Posted by dan at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

Testing Kerry's Mettle and Medals

On Thursday, Sept 2, 2004, Judicial Watch issued a press release stating that the Pentagon Inspector General has informed the Secretary of the Navy of Judicial Watch's formal request that John Kerry's medals be examined for violations under chapter 47 of title 10 (Uniform Code of Military Justice). If violations are found, especially regarding the Vietnam Service Medals or the "V" on the Silver Star, as appears likely based on recent reports, what might this mean to John Kerry and his campaign for the Presidency? To answer that question we need to examine context. (More details on some of the issues surrounding the medlas can be found in this Chicago Sun-Times article of August 27, 2004, "Plot thickens after checking records.")

On May 15, 1996, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jeremy Boorda, shot himself. His action followed a controversy over whether he had worn decorations to which he was not entitled. According to the CNN story of May 16, 1996,

According to Newsweek editor Maynard Parker, the news magazine was working on a story that called into question two medals Boorda received during the Vietnam war.
According to Navy sources, the magazine claimed to have uncovered evidence that Boorda had for more than 20 years inappropriately displayed "V" for valor on the medals.

CNN has learned from Pentagon sources that Boorda wrote two letters before he died, one to his family and one addressed to sailors.
Sources said that in the typewritten note to the sailors, Boorda explained that he took his life because of the questions raised about his wearing of "V" for valor medals on his combat ribbon from Vietnam.

While the Admiral's reaction was extreme, it is important for several reasons. First, it shows just how seriously the military takes this matter of decorations. In a subculture where "honor" remains more than a word, where it remains something worth dying, even taking one's own life for, claiming honors not due to oneself is a grave dishonor.

Should Kerry be found guilty of claiming decorations for which he is not entitled, how would this affect his standing with the military of which he aims to become Commander in Chief?

Second, there is the matter of Kerry's own reaction to this situation in Admiral Boorda's case. He went on the record following Boorda's suicide with statements which included the following:

"Is it wrong? Yes, it is very wrong. Sufficient to question his leadership position? The answer is yes, which he clearly understood," said Sen. John Kerry, a Navy combat veteran who served in Vietnam.
-- Boston Herald, May 18, 1996.

"The military is a rigorous culture that places a high premium on battlefield accomplishment," said Sen. John F. Kerry, who received numerous decorations, including a Bronze Star with a "V" pin, as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam.
"In a sense, there's nothing that says more about your career than when you fought, where you fought and how you fought," Kerry said.
"If you wind up being less than what you're pretending to be, there is a major confrontation with value and self-esteem and your sense of how others view you."
Of Boorda and his apparent violation, Kerry said: "When you are the chief of them all, it has to weigh even more heavily."
-- Boston Globe, May 18, 1996.

Kerry is on the record agreeing that not only is it wrong to claim medals to which one is not entitled, it is "very wrong." And "when you are the chief of them all, it has to weigh even more heavily." In other words, the higher your position, the graver the "wrong." Admiral Boorda felt himself disqualified to continue in the position of Chief of Naval Operations, the highest position in the Navy. In the line of command of the U.S. military, there are only a few other positions. Of course, the top position is Commander in Chief, the position John Kerry is presently seeking.

Kerry has already agreed such a wrong is greater in higher positions, and he tacitly agreed that Boorda was right to feel disqualified from his position as a result of his wrong, even if he (and most of us) would agree that suicide was not the appropriate response. Will Kerry hold himself to the same standard? If he is found to have committed this great wrong which he spoke against in another, will his conscience allow him to continue seeking the post for which he disqualified himself in advance?

Should the situation arise (the chief issue is whether the slow wheels of bureaucracy can make a determination quickly enough), I hope he surprises me. But Kerry is known for his flip-flops.

Posted by dan at 01:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2004

Profiles in Failure

A major problem for the Kerry Campaign is that Democrats and their allies have mostly forgotten how to profile. They've been checkmated in the corner created by their dependence on politically-correct ideology. This is gimping them politically in much the same fashion as it is gimping homeland security work.

We see them seeking to discredit opposing voices by pouncing on single "facts" and holding those items up as some sort of proof that discredits the speaker. They don't understand that in order to discredit a source they need to attack the underpinnings of the source, not arbitrary and convenient items with no real bearing on the point. In order to attack the underpinnings, they need to understand the profile of the source. Let me illustrate.

In the aftermath of the Zell Miller speech we heard talking heads, feeding off of each other, pointing out that Dick Cheney voted against some of the same weapons systems that Kerry was accused of voting against.

Yet Democrats said the weapons systems ticked off by Mr. Miller were not voted on individually but in large legislative measures that Mr. Kerry and others opposed partially on deficit reduction grounds. And they say that Mr. Cheney, when he was defense secretary in the first Bush administration, sought to kill some of the same Pentagon programs.
--New York Times, 9/3/2004
In their minds this shows there there was nothing wrong with Kerry's votes, or that if there was, there was something equally wrong with Cheney's. Aside from the fact that they're tying their own candidate into a guilt by association relationship with Cheney, who they've done their utmost to demonize, they are failing to recognize that what Zell did was not criticize Kerry for this vote or that vote in isolation. What Zell did was fit Kerry into the profile of an anti-defense peacenik who would rather sacrifice the family members of others than comprise his own personal ideological (or expedient political) beliefs that war and preparing for war are great evils. This was done by placing many of Kerry's votes, all against defense systems, into context over the span of his career, alluding to his anti-war activism, and tying in his opposition to Reagan's efforts that resulted in the fall of the Soviet Union and a free democracy in Nicaragua.

The way to counteract that careful indictment of Kerry's record is not to point at two or three votes and say "but, Cheney voted the same way!" This country does not need all of the defense systems that are proposed, nor can we afford to fund all of them. They must be evaluated, the least efficient culled and the best improved. Along the way any Senator actively involved in the process will vote against some systems. But only one who does not understand the importance, the necessity, and the wisdom of a strong defense votes against a long series of systems that history has proven to have been very effective in winning wars. And if those votes fit neatly into a profile that includes highly-profiled anti-war activism, consistent anti-war voting in the Senate, and luke-warm-to-cold-to-hot support of the current war, it is futile to point at someone else's vote as if that has some significance.

Even if they were to show that Cheney fit the same anti-war profile (which would be an interesting task considering their spin to date), it's questionable what they might accomplish. Cheney isn't running on the head of the opposing ticket.

But because Democrats, as a whole, are convinced that profiling is a bad thing, they have forgotten how to deal with the profiles employed against them. Their normal reaction is to whine that profiling is unfair and evil and should not be done. What they need to do is prove that the assertions are either false or irrelevant. The former will be rather difficult, in this specific case, considering the evidence available to any interested voter. The latter is more possible; all they need to do is convince the majority of the American voters that defense is an issue which merits far less attention than Zell asserts that it does, or that their families aren't worth worrying about.

To further compound their problems, the Democrats have failed to use profiling in putting forward their own candidate. A four-month term of service in Vietnam three decades ago is not the profile of a successful candidate. A successful profile includes all of the things done since, all of the important legislation proposed and passed in the Senate, all of the foreign-relations, economic, domestic policy proposals offered, all of the management and executive experience, all of the things that somehow the Democratic campaign has lost in their focus on attacking specific items that they perceive as the weaknesses of the Republican candidates.

Thus we see them arguing that draft deferments, which are entirely legal (unlike skipping across the border), somehow preclude one from becoming a useful high-level government functionary. Or that service in the National Guard is sufficiently inferior to in the regular services as to render the individual who so served unfit for the Presidency. Aside from the point that they're picking at a single nit that in isolation is insignificant, they are ignoring the historical fact that individuals with inferior records of service have served, and well, in the Presidency. Again, they have failed to profile properly.

I don't for a moment think this is a conscious decision on their part, this ignoring of the virtues of profiling in politics. But I do wonder if their politically-correct ideology isn't subtlely warping their powers of reason so that they're missing, what to many, is obvious. What's sad, though, is that this over-extension of civil rights is affecting our security as a whole. We are insistently told that any profiling is bad, a violation of civil rights, as if all profiling is in fact more like the sort of exercise the Democrats are performing in this election. If that were the case, they would be right.

But one attribute does not make a profile. It takes a whole collection of datapoints to create anything resembling a profile. Were our homeland security services to profile in the real, sophisticated fashion, building a composite of elements that are always, or usually, present in those against which we need to protect ourselves, if we did not undermine efforts to develop technologies to do this well due to the attitude resulting from carrying "civil rights" to a reductio ad absurdem, we would all be safer and less inconvenienced than we are at present.

We will not reach that state until we allow ourselves to openly consider how it might be achieved. Until "profiling" becomes the complex and sophisticated tool that it should be, rather than a simplistic boogieman, we will continue to insist that our security services protect us while wearing blindfolds.

Likewise, the Democrats will not regain the Presidency until they learn what is the profile of a President and how to fit their candidate into into that profile.

Posted by dan at 04:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'm honored

The Council at Watcher of Weasels has stamped The Big Lie: Still Going! with their electronic stamper of approval, they tell me. Maybe I should quote them, since I admit I am still a little confused as to the implications of this:

Hi...

I thought you might want to know that one of your posts was voted best post of the week by members of the Watcher's Council:
http://www.watcherofweasels.com/archives/001308.html

Best regards,
The Watcher

Is there a check involved? No? Darn. I guess I'll go back to checking my mailbox for the sweepstakes reply.

More seriously, I am honored. I looked at a past competition, and at some of the current posts nominated, and I'm really not sure mine deserves this much credit. But it is gratifying. (See, Mom, someone does read this!)

Posted by dan at 01:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2004

Torture of Duty IV: More on Mythmaking

I asked myself, I admit, if I wasn’t hammering too fine the wiring in the front matter and Author’s Note of Tour of Duty. I may have been, and I may still be, but I find more indications that I am indeed onto something that the text supports. I’m only most of the way through chapter 1, and already I have little lines drawn in the margins everywhere to remind me of passages of interest. Some of those sections appear in the two posts below.

First, the tone of the text supports my thesis that Brinkley is embarked on an authorial voyage the destination of which is the land of myth. Historians have a tendency towards the stark and the dry. Admittedly, there is a trend in modern history to liven things up, to make history read more like a novel. My observation is that the slope of this trend is close to the inverse of the slope of the trend of rigor of historical works. Histories don’t have to be boring; any time I see a history laced with modifiers, chosen to heighten the emotion I wonder at the objectivity of the author. Brinkley likes adjectives a lot. VVAW members are “green-fatigued.” Kerry is “long-jawed” often enough that I noticed the repetition and wondered if it’s a deliberate attempt to imitate The Odyssey. In that work “the grey-eyed Athena” and “the wine-dark sea” are commonplace. Take this passage, for example:

He was long-jawed and patrician-featured beneath his dark Beatle mop. His lean six-foot-four-inch frame was clad in neatly pressed military fatigues with rows of colorful ribbons festooning his shirtfront. When he began, it was in a low clear voice, calm and unhesitating. He often looked up from his notes and straight ahead at the five senators on the committee.
--Tour of Duty, pp 6-7.
It makes me feel as if Brinkley was there. Except he wasn’t. His reconstruction of the scene is probably from film or tapes of the testimony, news reports, the Congressional Record and other texts. This isn’t quite out of line, but the tone is a bit subjective. It is not unique.

A bit above this on page 6, Brinkley writes:

As Oliphant sidled to a spot against the wall, Kerry strode toward the witness table. His wife, Julia, was already there, in the back, while his sister was anxiously awaiting his arrival in one of the front rows. The solidarity that Kerry felt toward the veterans in the chamber—“brothers,” as he called them—was palpable.
I wonder how much of this is supported by evidence, and how much is reconstruction performed within Brinkley’s mind. I suppose Kerry’s sister may have told Brinkley she was “anxiously awaiting” Kerry’s arrival. And it’s possible that Kerry’s noted somewhere, or reported in an interview, that he felt a solidarity that was palpable. But there are a lot of cases of this, and it seems doubtful to me that everyone involved so consistently reported how they felt at the time. It just feels wrong to me. But maybe I’m a stoic who’s uncomfortable with the feelings of others. Which is why I never read fiction or poetry.

No, what’s bothering me is constant emphasis on what is being felt, as opposed to what is being thought. This book is clearly trying to steer the feeling of the readers, not their thinking.

Which bring me back to the topic of mythmaking. I asserted in that first post on the book below, that the quotes are significant and demonstrate to an intent to equate Kerry with those quoted, thus the juxtaposition of his passage with theirs. There is evidence already in the first chapter to support this (emphasis mine).

Usually Kerry [John’s father] never editorialized in his log: just the no-nonsense facts. But on this last flight he made an exception, writing something personal: “Flight over Mt. Vernon with Johnny.” The flight lasted for only a brief forty minutes. But forty years later he sent the logbook and wings to his son with a note on his law firm stationary: “Is this last entry prophetic?” Richard Kerry was probably referring to his son’s passion for flying, but the flight over Mt. Vernon may inadvertently [have] touched a different prophecy.
Even when he was an eleven-year-old boy, there was a feeling that John Forbes Kerry was touched with destiny.
--pp18-19.
Mt. Vernon is clearly associated with George Washington. I was gratified to tumble over that. Not terribly surprised. I admit I was surprised at the talk of prophecy and destiny, and the way in which it was managed. I connect these allusions to the quote from Psalms, more specifically to the importance of choosing a quote by David. And there is more:
Richard Kerry believed his boys could accomplish anything in America, even following in the oversized footsteps of George Washington, making it all the way to the White House.
--p 19.
While I wonder at the source of this assertion (the notes are vague, and there is no footnoting within the text itself), that it was selected for inclusion is in itself significant. It states explicitly what was only hinted at before. Brinkley has now established that there is prophecy that John Kerry will inhabit the White House. Kerry is touched with destiny. This is, of course, a common device in myth.

Of further interest, in connection with the quotes, is the revelation on page 20 that Kerry had Jewish grandparents. Kerry was not aware of this until 2003, so it certainly had no affect on his development. He was brought up Yankee and Catholic. The inclusion is probably for political purposes, and, perhaps, to add a bit more poetic substance to the mythmaking. David was king of the Jews. Prophecy was written concerning David and his descendants. As a mere boy, David was an important warrior for the Jewish people, toppling Goliath, the giant. He was first beloved of Saul, Israel’s first king, then as he matured, Saul became envious because the people loved David. David was also beloved of God. Eventually David replaced Saul, becoming Israel’s second and far more important king.

Not many readers will note the parallel in the basic structure of the story of David, and the story Kerry aims to finish writing, the one Brinkley suggests here, but the suggestion may work on a subliminal level to make Kerry feel more right to the reader as a potential President.

Posted by dan at 10:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Torture of Duty III: Tears

This would be a cheap shot were it not that I share experiences with John Kerry that are not common to the typical American. I too attended boarding schools, and I did so at a young age. My boarding schools were also in foreign countries. I thus feel competent to remark on this quote of Kerry regarding his first experience with being left at boarding school in Switzerland:

"The first school I went to I was plunked down," the long-jawed Kerry recalled. "I remember arriving in Europe and my mom and dad just dropped me off. It was in the fall of 1954, we left in the late summer. Suddenly we just left Washington, D.C., went over to Europe and boom, I was in a Swiss boarding school. It was a place called Zug, right near Zurich. Our school was up on a hill, right up on a mountain. I didn't know where the hell I was and it was strange as hell. I'll never forget the empty, sinking feeling when we said good-bye. I've always been bad at good-byes, all my life, probably ever since because I learned to hate them. That feeling of going back to school, ending vacation, whatever."
--Tour of Duty, pp 27-28.
While my experience does not perfectly mirror this, I can relate to most of it. That "sinking feeling" is one I experienced, and I too don't like good-byes. We moved every year for much of my early life, and that isn't including boarding schools.

But what comes next is what surprises and appalls me. Kerry is of the generation before me (he's got about thirteen years on me), yet, he goes on:

But I remember my parents getting into that car and driving off, and boy, I tell you I think I cried for about three weeks. I was one homesick puppy."
He claims to have cried for about three weeks, and he says it with a sort of obtuse pride. "I was one homesick puppy." My generation, even at the age of 11, considered it embarassing and unmanly to cry at something like separation. Oh, I know the modern metrosexual feels compelled to experience the feeling and share it, but this isn't exactly the norm for Northeasterners of Kerry's generation. They are known for stoicism.

It wouldn't bother me much if he said he shed a few tears, but he "cried for about three weeks." Get over it. man! The world has not ended.

It's possible, of course, that he's exagerrating to show he's the modern sensitive male. But the admission that he cried for three weeks may give us insight into how quickly he accepted and even demanded Purple Hearts for wounds that many other servicemen laughed off. He takes pride in being a victim.

He's the picture of a perfect model of a modern Democrat, as Gilbert and Sullivan might put it.

Posted by dan at 10:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Torture of Duty II: Small Error, Smaller Twinge of Conscience

I wanted to find these numbers regarding the aftermath of the withdrawal fromVietnam, and reading Hugh Hewitt’s blog just now, there they were (the links are mostly Hugh’s also, I added one for Pol Pot):

”…there were at least 160,000 South Vietnamese who fled by boat --not 2,000 or 3,000-- and more than 500,000 southeast Asians became refugees. Between two and three million were murdered by Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia, and hundreds of thousands went into prison camps, and the regime's human rights record remains terrible.”
I wanted to juxtapose them with this:
”As a man who fought in the war, I know this policy has no chance of bringing peace if it arms people of another country and tells them to go on fighting. It would be criminal if the fighting continued and if large numbers of South Vietnamese tried to stand up for something they can’t. [It] would place all of their lives on our conscience, along with all the others.
--Tour of Duty, p13, quoting Kerry’s testimony before the U.S. Senate.
Kerry is answering, here, a question regarding his opinion on the policy of Vietnamization. He’s already stated that the United States should pull out of Vietnam, now he’s adding that we should withdraw all support to South Vietnam in their effort to prevent communist takeover. In his estimation, all we can accomplish is more deaths. He believes the course that will save lives it to pull out and stop support.
So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America.
As Zell Miller, Democratic Senator from Georgia, said in his speech of last night, “And, no pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.” Both were wrong on this issue. Orders of magnitude more died and were displaced than the numbers predicted by Kerry:
Mr. Kerry: Well, I think if we were to replace the Thieu-Ky-Khiem regime and offer these men sanctuary somewhere, which I think this Government has an obligation to do since we created that government and supported it all along. I think there would not be any problems. The number two man at the Saigon talks to Ambassador Lam was asked by the Concerned Laymen, who visited with them in Paris last month, how long they felt they could survive if the United States would pull out and his answer was 1 week. So I think clearly we do have to face his question. But I think, having done what we have done to that country, we have an obligation to offer sanctuary to the perhaps 2,000, 3,000 people who might face, and obviously they would, we understand that, might face political assassination or something else. But my feeling is that those 3,000 who may have to leave that country-
Compare Kerry’s estimate to the number of Vietnamese boat people alone: 3000 versus 160,000. Hundreds of thousands more went into “re-education camps.”

My question is, doesn’t Kerry feel a twinge of conscience at the results of his error? He has never even admitted error, much less begged forgiveness for contributing to this huge human pain and suffering.

Were this the only error, it might be downplayed. But he was on the wrong side all the way through the Cold War. His speeches regarding the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua placed him again on the side of communists, but this time better sense prevailed. We did not pull out. Nicaragua has held free elections since that time.

I noted before in my first comments on Brinkley’s book the irony of that first quote by George Washington:

Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.
Kerry’s behavior suggests he has failed dismally in his labors to keep his conscience alive. Conscience is a sort of quiet internal self judgment. His conscience appears to mirror perfectly his judgment as applied to the outer world: Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and still wrong.

Posted by dan at 09:54 PM | Comments (3)

September 01, 2004

Zelling it Like it Is

The hair on the back of my neck remains standing. Were I to try to shave, I would cut myself. Thank you, Lord, for a polar opposite to Jimmy Carter. They have a party in common, that's all I can vouch for.

Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And, our soldiers don't just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home.

For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.

It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.

No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home.

I didn't have the pleasure of hearing his speech (so far) since I have no television, but I just read the transcript, and my reaction, strong as it is, is based on the sheer power of his words as text. There is nothing fancy there. It's plain talk. Truth has a way of laying its own tracks and barreling down them like a freight train loaded with raw steel.

Twenty years of votes can tell you much more about a man than twenty weeks of campaign rhetoric.

Campaign talk tells people who you want them to think you are. How you vote tells people who you really are deep inside.

Zell, you make me proud to call myself Georgian! Okay, I wasn't born there, but living there most of the last 25 years has to count for something.

Read it all.

Wow! And then he was interviewed by Chris Matthews, who was up to his normal trick of asking a question and not letting his interviewee answer. This resulted:

Zell: Get out of my face! If you’re going to ask me a question, then step back, and let me answer! I wish we lived in a day where you can challenge a person to a duel. Now that would be pretty good.

Don’t pull that stuff on me like you did that young lady when you had her brow beaten to death. I’m not her! I’m not her! You get in my face I’m going to get back in your face.

Matthews pulled this stunt extensively on Michelle Malkin before summarily booting her from his show during an intermission. First he ambushed her, changing the topic from her book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror to Unfit for Command, then when he clearly had not read the book and she called him on it, he lost it. Best guess is that it's this episode to which Zell refers here. You can read her inside account of the experience on her blog: Ambush Journalism...Or My Evening with Caveman Chris Matthews.

Posted by dan at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Torture of Duty: Myth versus Truth

I started reading the introduction to Douglas Brinkley’s Tour of Duty on the way in to the office this morning. I understand already Beldar's reaction. This will be hard to read knowing what I've already learned from the quotes, other sources, and what's been blogged. But it's not an unusual exercise. And it's a reaction I know well from working on my M.A. and reading critics with whom I violently disagreed. There's nothing like reading contrary or tangental opinions to help clarify your own. Or so I keep telling myself as I think of the sheer pleasure I'm missing by not reading any one of the stack of paperbacks waiting their turn. I can still read fiction without being too critical. Usually.

That said, I haven’t gotten far. The first thing to irritate (and amuse) me were the quotes in the front matter. That first quote is pure irony.

Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience. --George Washington

It is, of course, a noble sentiment. Some of us might question whether its use here is an homage to or an indictment of John Kerry. Or perhaps Brinkley defines "conscience" differently from The American Heritage Dictionary:

The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one's conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong: Let your conscience be your guide.

How a man with a functioning conscience can testify under oath before the United States Senate to personally witnessing war crimes which he never reported as required by the Uniform Code of Military Justice is beyond me. If he did witness them, he violated UCMJ when he did not report them as soon as possible and he became complicit in the war crimes he witnessed. If he did not witness them, he perjured himself and he defamed innocent American servicemen. Neither of these evidences much preference of right over wrong.

Or perhaps the quote is meant as an exhortation, a reminder to do better going forward. I do hope that's the intent, but I wonder whether it isn't a bit late to teach this old dog the trick of minding his conscience. Consciences atrophy if not minded properly, eventually fading into a voiceless whine easily confused with a mosquito and even more easily slapped into a small smudge. It takes some sort of conversion, a reversal of path, to restore a conscience to operation. There is no sign of any such experience on Kerry's part. He's refused to even apologise for either letting war crimes go unreported and unpunished, or defaming his country and its servicemen through his perjury.

The quotes that follow on that page inspired in me varying degrees to similar reaction, the Lowell the least, perhaps because its allusion to the subject matter is most obscure. Its form is a parallel. “Life, hope, they conquer death, generally always” is set against “and if the steamroller goes over the flower, the flower dies.” If this is parallel logic, life and hope equate to the steamroller, and death to the flower. The steamroller, life and hope, generally always conquers the flower, death? The modernists are not known for their adherence to form or tradition.

Perhaps the aim is the opposite of parallel. Perhaps that “and” stands in for an ironic “but,” and the hint that this is the case lies in the “generally” which subverts the “always.” If we read it this way, we have a contrast of a questioned traditional or spiritual aphorism that life and hope conquer death set against a modern “equivalent.” This modern version is bluntly realistic and at the same time nihilistic: the flower cannot stand before the steamroller. It has no hope.

But even with this reading, we’re left guessing at what is the steamroller and what the flower. Are the flower children steamrollered by the state? Is the Vietnamese flower steamrollered by the U.S. military? The question here isn’t so much the intent of the poet, Lowell, as the intent of the one who selected these quotes. I must assume that person was the book’s author, since in the “Author’s Note” he says that Kerry “exerted no editorial control on the manuscript.” What tone is Brinkley seeking to establish through the use of these quotes? Or what theme is he foreshadowing?

Then comes the quote from Psalms:

I will set my ear to catch the morale of the story and tell on the harp how I read the riddle.
--Psalm 49

The clear suggestion here is that there is more to this story than lies on the surface. The suggestion is that the reader should look beyond the mere words and their obvious denotation. And thus I do so. Again, however, there is irony here. Along with the suggestion of depth beyond the surface is the hint that the truth lies beyond, thus what is here, this veneer, must not be truth.

This quote must be read in conjunction with the “Author’s Note” also. Brinkley there says of the book, “it is not meant to be a biography of John Kerry or an authoritative history of the era.” If it is not these, if we are to look beyond what’s here for the real truth, then what exactly is this work?

The choice of men to quote is interesting. All beg comparison, though I suspect the intent is equation of some sort, principally the equation of the last to the other three.

George Washington was father of the United States, first President, great hero and general, a military and political leader in a time of war and the formative period following that war. He was a rebel against the established order, though we don't think of him in that fashion, because he was a successful rebel. He became the established order. He rewrote history with his acts.

Robert Lowell, born in Boston as son of a former U.S. Navy officer, was conscripted into the Army during World War II after being initially rejected when he volunteered, due to poor eyesight. In the interim, the Allies had firebombed Dresden and he had a change of heart and declared himself a conscientious objector. He served several sentences in jail for his stance as conscientious objector. He went on to become an important poet; he won a 1947 Pullitzer for Lord Weary's Castle. Still later in the 1970s he became involved in the protests against the Vietnam War.

Then there's King David, the author of Psalms. We immediately think of the boy, David, facing the giant, Goliath, and bringing him down with a stone from his sling when we hear the reference. He too, like Lowell, is a famed poet. He was also, however, a famous warrior in his day. He was not the first King of Israel, that was Saul, but he was the one beloved of God and the one through whose line later came Jesus. In his day he was a rebel against the first king, Saul. He thus combines the attributes of the first two who are cited, and adds in an element of religion and a prophecy of salvation through his line.

Do we detect a theme in the choices of men to quote here yet?

And then there's the quote from John F. Kerry himself, which is longer than all of the proceeding combined. It combines talk of war with a reach for poetry. Yet, despite the name of the book, “Tour of Duty,” the quote concludes, “you can feel all the emotions of young men and women who in the end were fighting as much for their love of each other as for the love of country that brought them there in the first place.” Somehow, their love for each other trumps their duty to their nation.

This quote appears to fit with the first and third in the sense that they postulate something greater or truer beyond the immediate part or parts. The little spark is part of a larger celestial fire; the story is a mere part of the moral and the answer to the riddle lies beyond the reach of the mere words used to tell it. Kerry says that “Vietnam” is more than seven letters, more than a word, more than a country or a war, it’s a historic era. This parallelism suggests that Brinkley is saying that while the events herein may not seem historic on their own, they really are. It’s a sort of advanced apology that some of the events recorded may appear a bit trivial, but if the reader hangs in there and follows all the way through, and assembles the pieces, the reward will be a historic truth greater than the sum of the parts.

The first sentence of the “Author’s Note” confirms this impression: “This book tells the story of one young American’s Vietnam War odyssey.” First, “story” is reiterated. The obvious alternative is “history,” but the author goes on to tell us he’s not writing an “authoritative history of the era,” suggesting it isn’t a history at all. He also says plainly it’s not a biography. “Everybody who fought in Southeast Asia has his or her own highly personalized story to tell,” he adds. This has echoes of the recent statement of the resigning Governor McGreevey of New Jersey, “my truth is that I am a gay American.” What matters is a highly personalized story; that is my truth. But Brinkley has enough integrity (enough of the little spark of celestial fire still) to avoid claiming this book is the truth. He goes on to cite sources, most of which are documents produced by the hand of Kerry himself, but he has made clear he is passing no judgment. What then is he doing (besides selling books, in itself a reasonable motive)?

The answer lies in the choice of the word “odyssey.” The Odyssey is that great “historical” work of Homer. We now consider it to be myth. But it is based on historical fact. Troy existed. The Greeks attacked it. How much beyond that is actual historical fact I don’t know. I’m not even certain of that second statement, now that I consider it. Archeological digs at Troy show signs it was destroyed as a result of war, but do we know for sure it was a Greek confederacy that made that war?

But The Odyssey is the story, the saga, of Odysseus, who left his home of Ithaca to join the combined Greek force to lay siege to Troy. After its fall, he had a long trip home, to a home where his reception was (or could have been) a bit hostile. Penelope’s suitors might have tried to disappear him if he hadn’t taken preemptive action. Along the way he lost all his crew.

Now, I could draw some parallels to the story of John Kerry. I’m not sure that Brinkley is suggesting that here, though there is a case to be made. Kerry made a long trip, but his didn’t last two decades. He fought in a war at the far end of the trip. He commanded his own boat and crew for at least part of the time he was away. A dog, VC, enters into the story, though he wasn’t one at home who waited all those long years for his master to return as did Odysseus’s Argus. Kerry too was separated from his crew, but in his case it was by choice; he willingly left them behind as soon as possible. Kerry had no hostile homecoming, however. Instead, he created a hostile homecoming for his former crew. A case can be made that Kerry joined forces with the suitors of his faithful wife, those who strove to entice her from her virtue. Perhaps Brinkley would make the opposite case, that the virtuous wife was something other than the American public or the country itself.

But what I believe to be more significant is Brinkley’s choice of couching his statement of purpose in mythological terms. If he isn’t writing biography and he isn’t writing an authoritative history, he certainly is mythmaking. And what is myth but a story, based loosely on facts, that purports to hold greater meaning? But the myth here is not the end. Normally the myth follows the man; in this case the aim is for the man to follow the myth. If Brinkley can succeed in making this myth, then the man, John Kerry, might be elected President, and as a result move into a position to make history: his story.

Thus the choice of the first quote from George Washington, who did become President and who made history, and around whom we do find myth.

The question that is now being answered, however, is, “Can this story, this attempt at myth, bear close reading?” The early returns, following the efforts of Swift Veterans for Truth and the bloggers, suggest that it cannot. Myth depends upon being the only account for its success. Unfortunately for Brinkley, and for Kerry, Kerry lived too much in the eye of the public and as a result the hands of many scribes have recorded his words and deeds. Those accounts too often dispel the magic of this attempt at myth.

Posted by dan at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)