Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seven Lessons of Leadership

David Gergen's 2000 book, "Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton", describes his inside knowledge of how the four presidents who he worked for operated and used presidential power. The book is not a memoir, but rather it attempts to compare and contrast the leadership styles of these four presidents. In the last chapter, Gergen then summarizes his findings in a list of seven core principles which he deems important.

The bulk of the book is rather dull, and frankly, I think a personal memoir wold have been more interesting. However, the last chapter gives this book lasting value. I will list his 7 principles.

1. Leadership starts from within. Gergen says that "the inner soul of a president flows into every aspect of his leadership far more than is generally recognized". Personal integrity is the most important quality for a president to have.

2. A central, compelling purpose. The great presidents all had this, and poor ones have often lacked it. When talking about the great ones, we can usually say in a single sentence what each presidency was all about. And it is apparent that this is Obama's greatest failing as a leader, in that he has not articulated a clear, central purpose for his presidency.

Gergen goes on to say that a president's central purpose must be rooted in the nation's core values. He quotes Chesterton as observing that "America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed." The great presidents have always operated with our founding documents uppermost in mind, and based their central purposes on these documents.

3. A capacity to persuade.

4. An ability to work within the system.

5. A sure, quick start.

6. Strong, prudent advisers.

7. Inspiring others to carry on the mission.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Supreme Court and Eyewitness Testimony

Study after study has demonstrated beyond any doubt that eyewitness identification of strangers is inherently unreliable. In light of that, it was particularly distressing to me to learn that the Supreme Court this week was completely hostile to an advocate who was pressing for a rule limiting the use of this unreliable evidence. Accounts of oral arguments in the case of Perry v. New Hampshire show that every Justice, liberal and conservative, seemed hostile to the idea.

There is ample language in past Supreme Court decisions about how unreliable such testimony is. But the current Court seems to think that it would be too much of a burden to impose on the judicial system to establish a new evidentiary standard. One Justice spoke of having a "trial within a trial", as if this does not happen already. I have two examples of this from my limited criminal trial experience. A young boy was examined to determine whether he could testify, i.e., whether he knew the difference between a lie and the truth. When it was determined he did not, then the statute giving an exception to the hearsay rule kicked in and the jury was allowed to hear his statement to his mother about what had allegedly happened to him while she was gone.

Another case involved the DA's attempt to use evidence of prior similar crimes. The Judge, who was pretty dim, disallowed it. Then during the trial the detective testified that when he heard the report of the burglary, he dispatched a unit to the defendant's house, so closely did the MO match that of his prior acts. I suppose the DA should have brought that out during the "trial within a trial", but the defendant got convicted anyway.

The court system continues to deny admissibility of polygraph evidence while allowing fallible eyewitness testimony in, even though the former is many times more reliable than the latter. I just wonder how many innocent defendants have to be convicted, and, in many instances sent to death row, before the justice system wakes up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Class Warfare

The right wing seems to take such delight in carelessly throwing around this term, that I have to share this from Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell them".

"In her book 'A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century', Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after 10 or 12 peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her husband and then killed her. *That* is class warfare. Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top 1% is not."

Sexual Harassment and Herman Cain

It seems that sexual harassment, like beauty and obscenity, often lies in the eye of the beholder. I will elaborate on this.

20 years ago we had the spectacle of the Anita Hill allegations against Clarence Thomas. These allegations seemed to be specious, as illustrated by an attorney I knew who said, incredulously, that "He never even touched her." The allegations involved silly comments, the one most often repeated being when Thomas supposedly said that "somebody put a public hair in my Coke".

Hill obviously has an "eggshell personality", and is not suited for any high-powered job. The most intelligent thing I have heard on this whole fiasco is from the actress Angie Dickinson, who said that "Clarence Thomas has to be able to say to Anita Hill, 'Hey Anita, nice boobs', and Anita Hill has to be able to say 'You'll never know' and walk away."

A guy I knew in my later law practice years, who did some para-legal work for me, had been a bank officer, and near the end of his career was working for the FDIC in its role of taking over failed banks and trying to convert the assets to cash. He says he lost a quarter of a million dollars because of something he said while he and a group of his fellow employees were going out to lunch together. Walking behind some women ahead of him, he noticed one had a run in her stocking and told her that. He was accused of sexual harassment, had to go to sensitivity training, and lost bonuses and promotions he would otherwise have been in line for, and ultimately was forced to take early retirement.

And now we have Herman Cain. Hopefully we will find out more of what this man was accused of doing. His reactions to the whole mess have been hopelessly inept, and shows his incompetence to lead the country. But if it was, as he states, that he made a comment in an elevator about a woman's height, it seems similar to my friend's case.

Like I said initially, these examples show that it all comes down to the eye of the beholder in these kinds of situations. I am not, of course, referring to true sexual harassment, just to comments that some might construe as innocent, but others who are overly sensitive react to with uneasiness.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Letter to George Will

You are usually quite perceptive, but you really dropped the ball on your recent Electoral College column.

It is true that there are plans afoot which would subvert the intent of the Founders with respect to the Electoral College, but the Pa. plan is not one of them. The Pa. plan allocates the EC votes on a winner-take-all basis by Congressional District; hence, it is quite in line with the intent of the Founders. Bear in mind that the population of the average Congressional District today is larger than any state was in 1790, except for Virginia.

Please re-think this and comment more intelligently. Thank you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Amanda Knox Case and the Search for Truth

In the Amanda Knox case in Italy, two things stand out about the recent acquittal. First, the court appointed its own experts to analyze the questionable DNA evidence which was used to convict her on the first go-round. This seems an idea the US should use more. Certainly there are instances in which a court will appoint what is called a "special master", who is someone assigned to look into the facts and report back to the court on his or her findings. But in the context of a criminal trial, it is unheard of as far as I'm aware.

Second, the appeal saw a jury seated and evidence presented, just as in the original trial. In the US the appellate court would never be allowed to examine the facts and reach a different conclusion, as was done in the Knox case. Rather, the appellate court would have to rely on the trial court's factfinding, and limit itself to determining whether any questions of law were wrongly decided in the lower court.

It seems that in certain situations, where there is genuine doubt about the fact-finding in the lower court, that an appellate court *should* be free to conduct a full-scale re-examination of the facts, in order to reach a just result.

Probably many Americans are bashing the Italian justice system about now, but let's remember that in the end they got it right and achieved justice. Given the sorry performance of US courts in recent death penalty cases, we might learn something from the Italians.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Assume vs. presume

I always have to stop and think about which of these is the best word to use in a particular context. While the respective meanings of these words do overlap somewhat, there is, I think, still an important distinction to recognize.

The meaning of "assume" can best be kept in mind with the phrase, "assuming for the sake of argument." We make an assumption, and proceed from there with what flows from that assumption. When studying the proof of math theorems years ago I would often encounter the phrase, "It is intuitively obvious that" such-and-such is true. What the writer is saying here is that he is not going to be bothered with proving something that seems evident, but rather he is going to assume it is true and then go on from there. The rest of the proof depends on the truth of that assumption.

"Presume" is a little harder to nail down. One thinks of the "presumption of innocence" in a criminal trial. This doesn't mean we think the defendant is actually innocent, but it means we presume he is until it is shown otherwise. My hunch is that people don't use "presume" as often as they should, and the reasons are understandable. It sounds a bit pretentious, and the related adjective, "presumptuous", has quite a negative connotation attached to it.

The inimitable Bill Bryson comments: "Assume, in the sense of 'to suppose', normally means to put forth a realistic hypothesis, something that can be taken as probable...Presume has more of an air of sticking one's neck out, of making an assertion that may be arguable or wrong."

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Lessons of "Hardball"

1. It's not who you know, it's who you get to know.

2. All politics is local.

3. It's better to receive than to give.

My favorite story from this chapter is when Tip O/Neill was still in college and ran for the Cambridge City Council. On the day of the election, he ran into a neighbor who said she was going to vote for him even though he hadn't asked her to. O'Neill was flabbergasted, saying "I've lived across the street from you for 18 years, I shovel your walk in the winter and mow your grass in the summer. I didn't think I had to ask you for your vote." The neighbor responded, "Tom I want you to know something: people like to be asked." The lesson here is that people don't mind being used; what they mind is being taken for granted.

Matthews quotes the sage advice from the sage himself, Ben Franklin: "If you want to make a friend, let someone do you a favor."

4. Dance with the one that brung ya

5. Keep your enemies in front of you

6. Don't get mad, don't get even, get ahead

7. Leave no shot unanswered.

The big example here is the inept campaign of Michael Dukakis in 1988. He let Bush paint him as a liberal who was out of touch with mainstream America, and refused to respond to the scurrilous attacks.

Four years later Bill Clinton took the exact opposite approach. His campaign had a "war room" whose job it was to immediately respond to any attacks. The results were spectacular. Clinton had way more negatives (draft-dodging, womanizing, etc.) than Dukakis ever had, but he was able to neutralize them with his skillful responses.

There is a principle of evidence in the law called "admission by silence". When someone says something negative about you in your presence and you remain silent, this can be taken as an admission that what was said about you is true. In other words, "leave no shot unanswered.

8. Only talk when it improves the silence

9. Always concede on principle

This one seems counter-intuitive, but Matthews explains it with detailed examples. He quotes Edward Bulwer-Lytton as saying, "Yield to a man's tastes, and he will yield to your interests". Reagan's support of the MX missile is given as the major example. Reagan deftly acknowledged all the flaws in his proposal, and thereby got Congress and the country to go along with a plan that had seemed dead.

An example some of us may be more familiar with is Reagan's support of the Contras in Nicaragua. After the hard sell failed miserably in the spring of 1986, he went to the soft-sell. He acknowledged the concerns, and said he shared them. These included: the sorry history of the U.S. in the region, the brutality by the rebels, the need to end the Somoza connection, and that his critics were patriotic. Matthews concludes by observing that the smart politicians focus on the objective, and not on the principle.

10. Hang a lantern on your problem

The idea here is that it is always better to be the bearer of your own bad news. One example is after the first debate in the 1984 presidential campaign, Reagan seemed to be showing his age in that debate and talk abounded of his poor performance. He squelched all of it with one great line in the second debate; when asked about his age, he said, "I will not make my age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Mathews says that with this one line, the election was over.

Mathews says the principle holds in one-on-one settings as well. For example, if you've done something your boss isn't going to like, tell him youself before he has to find it out from third parties.

Teddy Kennedy ran into a line in a debate during his 1962 Massachusetts race for the Senate, when his
opponent claimed Teddy had "never worked a day in his life". The next morning, or so the story goes, Kennedy met an old worker at the factory gates who asked, "Hey Kennedy, are you the one they said last night never worked a day in his life?" When told he was, the old guy said "Well let me tell you something young man, you haven't missed a thing." Kennedy told this story repeatedly and won handily.

Some people may forget that Bill Clinton's first foray into natinal politics was an unmitigated disasster, when he droned on and on at the 1988 Democratic Convention. The only applause he got was when he said "In conclusion". Clinton hung a lantern on his problem by wangling an appearance the following week on the Tonight Show, where he played the saxaphone and poked fun at himself. Now he is remembered as a two-term president, not the boring orator of 1988.

11. Spin

12. The press is the enemy

13. The reputation of power

The idea here is that leaders in a democracy rarely have any real power. Rather, they have to create the illusion that they have power. Mathews discusses a number of techniques politicians use to do this: play your strengths, lowballing, sandbagging, creating new commandments, passing the buck, and Inchon landings.

14. Positioning

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Palestinian Statehood

I am a strong supporter of Israel, as my previous post of 5/24/11 makes clear. However, this business of Obama putting the US out front by vetoing Palestine's application for statehood in the UN is completely out of line.

Anybody who has analyzed the history of terrorism can readily see that terrorism is a tactic used by those who feel so powerless, so helpless, so oppressed, that they see no other avenue to make their grievances heard. If Palestine is granted statehood, it stands to reason that the Palestinian people will have less need to resort to terrorism because they are more likely to feel that they finally have a voice, and are no longer completely powerless.

Obama risks being isolated in the realm of public opinion. Already the Republican candidates on the right are assailing him for not being supportive enough of Israel. And if he exercises the veto as he is threatening to do, he will subject the US to additional hatred and isolation in the realm of world opinion, which of course means additional terrorist attracks. Obama is again showing his lack of leadership here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How Sick Is Our Politics?

Audience reactions at the last two Republican debates gives insight into just how sick our politics has become. Four instances stand out.

First, Brian Williams prefaced a question to Rick Perry by saying "Texas has executed 234 death row inmates while you were governor". The audience started applauding at the mention of this.

Second, Ron Paul attempted to answer a question about 9/11 by saying the terrorists did this because they didn't like our policies. He got booed, even though he spoke the truth.

Third, Ron Paul was asked whether someone without health insurance who had been badly injured should just be left outside of the hospital to die. Several in the audience yelled out "yes".

Fourth, Rick Perry attempted to defend his policy in Texas of offering in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants, and got roundly booed.

One could look at all this as showing how far right the Republican party has become, and see it as a hopeful sign for success next year for the Democratic candidate. However, a more realistic view is that it represents the coarsening of our politics, and a trend towards a genuine lack of compassion in our country, and, quite honestly, a rejection of Christian values.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rick Perry and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party

Rick Perry has jumped into the race for the Republican nomination and promptly shot to the top in the Gallup Poll of likely voters, beating Mitt Romney by a tidy margin. This sets up yet another battle between the moderate and right wings of the party.

It is fascinating to consider the history of these battles. It all started 100 years ago, when Teddy Roosevelt challenged WH Taft for the nomination in 1912. TR was favored by most Republicans, but the convention machinery was stacked against him. The Rules Committee was dominated by Taft people, and the disputed delegates in several states all went to Taft. When it came to a floor vote challenging the Rules Committee decision, the disputed delegates chosen by the Rules Committee were allowed to vote on their own cases, causing the Taft delegates to be seated, and he then got the nomination. The irony of all this is that the machinery which caused TR to lose the nomination was put in place for years earlier by TR himself, to ensure the nomination of his hand-picked successor, Taft!

Now fast-forward 40 years to 1952, and we had the exact same scenario unfolding, with the conservative Robert Taft (WH's son) challenging the mdoerate Eisenhower for the nomination. Again, several states had disputed sets of delegates, and the convention was called upon to vote on which delegates were to be seated. But this time, the delegates whose seats were in dispute were *not* allowed to vote on their own cases, and the Eisenhower delegates got seated, giving him the nomination in a close vote.

The 1964 race saw another interesting battle. Goldwater was the clear frontrunner, and when the liberal Nelson Rockefeller faded, moderate forces made a last-minute effort to draft the moderate PA governor, William Scranton. Scranton finally allowed his name to be put into the race (on 6-12-64, an unheard-of late entry by today's standards, when multi-year campaigns are the rule), but the conservative Goldwater prevailed.

1976 saw the conservative Reagan challenging the unelected incumbent, Jerry Ford, for the GOP nomination. In fact, it was so even that the result was in doubt until the actual balloting, the last time this has happened in US convention history. Despite being weakened by Reagan's strong challenge, Ford almost prevailed in the general election against Carter.

In 1980 Reagan became the frontrunner after his famous "I paid for this microphone" comment. George H.W. Bush represented the moderate challenger, but lost out to the Gipper. The other moderate challenger was John Anderson, who ran in the general election as an independent after finishing third to Bush and Reagan for the GOP nomination.

The point of all this is to show that the battle between these two wings of the party has been an ongoing struggle over these past 100 years. The problem for the moderate wing, which has often been based in the Northeast, is that the New England Republicans have almost all disappeared. Some have changed parties, as did Vermont senator Jim Jeffords, who famously stated, "I didn't leave my party; my party left me." Others have been defeated by conservative primary challengers. Only the two Maine senators remain of the many New England moderate Republicans.

Another problem for the moderate wing is the growth of Republicanism in the south. The south used to be solidly Democratic, but in the past 50 years has grown to be just as solidly Republican. Hence, the South now has the largest say in who the nominee will be, which does not bode well for Mitt Romney.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Risk of Terrorism

A great article came to my attention, discussing what constitutes "acceptable" and "unacceptable" risks. It is found at http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66186/john-mueller-and-mark-g-stewart/hardly-existential?page=show

Professor Mueller surveys the regulatory practices of developed countries and finds there is general agreement on what constitutes an unacceptable risk. A death rate of 1 in 10,000 per year is generally considered unacceptable, as in a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the death rate from workers inhaling gasoline vapors was deemed to be unacceptable at 1 in 40,000.

Similarly, a death rate of less than 1 in a million is considered acceptable.

The risk from terrorism is way lower than what is considered in other areas as acceptable, so obviously the vast funds spent are out of line. Mueller states: "Compared with dying at the hands of a terrorist, Americans are twice as likely to perish in a natural disaster and nearly a thousand times more likely to be killed in some type of accident."

To get up to the upper border of what is unacceptable, which is 1 in 100,00 deaths, even after accepting the dubious DHS proposition that lives lost to terrorism are twice as valuable as lives lost otherwise, Mueller states that "the number of fatalities from terrorist attacks in the United States and Canada would have to increase 35-fold; in Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland), more than 50-fold; and in Australia, more than 70-fold. For the United States, this would mean experiencing attacks on the scale of 9/11 at least once a year, or 18 Oklahoma City bombings every year."

Monday, August 22, 2011

"We don't need more people with guns telling us what to do."

Tom Brokaw, who surely is one of the most credible commentators around these days, following in the footsteps of Cronkite and then Brinkley as elder statesmen of the media, related recently on "Morning Joe" an experience he had with an army unit in Afghanistan. The unit was working on gaining control of a particular area of the countryside, and Brokaw managed to break away and ask a local merchant what he thought of the operation. The merchant said, "We don't need more people with guns telling us what to do."

A succinct commentary on the folly of the US operation in Afghanistan, and in any other sovereign country where we try to impose our will by force. It well illustrates that the myth of redemptive violence is just that, a myth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Michelle Bachmann

My conservative friends are all excited about Bachmann, who I will admit has done a great job so far in her campaign. (OK, in the interests of full disclosure I will admit that I have just one "conservative friend", but he is real smart and articulate, and so is as good as several would be.)

A review of the 43 men who have served as president shows that we have never elected anybody with as little executive experience as Bachmann. If you take out those in just 3 categories--state governors, secretaries of state, and army generals, you are left with only 14. And if you eliminate the 4 of those 14 who became president only because they were VP's when the Prez either died or resigned, that leaves only 10. Now take out Taft, Bush 1 and Hoover, all of whom had substantial executive experience though not one of the 3 positions stated, and you have only 7. If you count being Pres. of a major university, then Wilson goes out too. That leaves only Adams, Lincoln, Harding, JFK, Nixon, and Obama. Hardly an endorsement for the idea of electing somebody with no executive experience.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How the News Media Caters to Dummies

Three stories yesterday got me aroused about the media. The first was the story that the guy who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit was gong to have to pay taxes on what he had received in exchange for the ball. MSNBC acted like this was an outrage, and invited comment, in an obvious attempt to stir up controversy where no real controversy existed.

Since when is it news that we have an income tax in this country? The 16th amendment has been around almost 100 years, and surely is no longer news! And any dummy surely knows that you cannot legally avoid income tax by taking payment in goods and services rather than in money. Shame on MSNBC, specifically Tamron Hall on Newsnation, for stirring up this non-issue.

No sooner had I got back from going to the library to respond to this issue, then I saw Cafferty on CNN bring up a news item about a restaurant banning kids under 6. Again, he asked for comment and seemed to be stirring up an issue where no real issue existed. CNN could have taken the opportunity to educate viewers about the difference between legal and non-legal discrimination, but instead they took the low road. Any restaurant has an absolute right to do this, there is no issue here.

On the third issue the media did better. There was a news item yesterday about obese children being taken away from their parents. On the face of it this sounds like it might be worthy of discussion, but the news report I saw did a commendable job in enlightening viewers that it was only extremely obese children whose lives were in danger that were involved, and the foster care was temporary, with no permanent severance of parental rights taking place.

But with millions of dollars being paid these high-priced anchors, many of whom have law degrees, one out of three is not good enough!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Casey Anthony Verdict

After saturation coverage of the Casey Anthony trial for the past several months, the verdict came down yesterday, after less than 11 hours of deliberations. Several aspects of this case merit commentary.

First, it was announced 35 minutes ahead of time that a verdict was forthcoming, and I knew immediately that such a quick verdict meant it must be not guilty. Why, then, did all the commentators overlook this obvious fact? The rule of thumb is that a quick verdict is good for the prosecution. However, that is in a case, which most are, that is strong for the prosecution. Lack of prolonged deliberations indicates no juror had problems, hence a quick verdict results. However, this case was just the opposite. Here the prosecution had a laughably weak case, so here a quick verdict had to mean the prosecution's case was summarily rejected. All the so-called expert commentators seemed to be surprised at the verdict; nobody seemed to realize what was obvious to me. Amazing.

Another point worth mentioning is Casey's defense attorney, Jose Baez, who took a lot of verbal abuse for his perceived ineptness in handling the case. Jose showed that in the end it is the facts that determine the outcome, not the skill of the lawyers, as the general public so often mistakenly believes. Jose worked his butt off and can justifiably be proud of the job he did. Jose, you gave your all. Well done!

Another point is the use of what has been called "junk science". Barry Scheck and his colleagues at the Innocence Project have written a great book, "Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right", in which they document the various reasons innocent people get convicted. One of those reasons is the use of what he calls "junk science". These are people who purport to be "experts" and testify about something which is not accepted in the scientific community as valid. In the Anthony case, the junk science was taking a sample of air from the trunk of the Anthony car, and supposedly analyzing it and coming to the conclusion that a dead body had been in there. This, if you'll pardon the pun, doesn't pass the smell test. It is ludicrous on the face of it. The defense expert refuted this, but it is hard for a jury to sort out this contradictory testimony, and the Anthony jury is to be praised for having the guts to do it. This type of testimony had never before been used in a criminal trial, and shouldn't have been allowed here.

Another example of junk science from American history is the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case. In his book, "The Airman and the Carpenter: The Lindbergh Kidnapping and the Framing of Richard Hauptmann", the author discussed the so-called expert who testified that the wood from the ladder used to take the baby was made from wood taken from the attic of Hauptmann's house. That anybody would make a ladder from wood in his attic, dismantling beams in the attic to do so, is ludicrous on the face of it, and the analysis purporting to establish this has been shown to be completely bogus. Yet, this "expert" was allowed to testify and Hauptmann went to the electric chair as a result.

As a side note, Hauptmann had the chance to save his life by confessing, which he steadfastly refused to do. I think this sort of situation explains why so many innocent people get convicted and put onto death row. The guilty tend to accept plea bargains to save their lives, while the not guilty tend to refuse to plea bargain, and and as a result they often receive a  death sentence.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Famous Cover-ups

Ever since Watergate, it has become commonplace to see situations in which the cover-up gets people in worse trouble than the original transgression. Two recent situations come to mind. The first is OSU football coach Jim Tressel. All of the ESPN commentators agree that had he reported it like he should have when he first learned that his players were violating NCAA rules, he could have kept his job. But instead he did nothing (except alert Terrell Pryor's mentor and consult an FBI agent friend), and then when the NCAA eventually got wind of it and investigated, he lied to the NCAA investigator. That put him in an untenable situation, and he did the only honorable thing possible at that point and resigned.

Now we have the pathetic case of Anthony Wiener. Wiener spent a week denying he had sent the lurid picture of himself to a female internet friend, claiming he had been hacked or punked, whatever term you want to use here. When asked if it was a picture of him, he said he could not deny that it was, because pictures can be doctored and "who knows what all is out there". This convoluted gobbledygook of an answer made it obvious he wasn't coming clean, and Monday he called a press conference and said he had indeed sent the original photo, and he apologized repeatedly and profusely. In the three days since then, more photos have emerged, and some of the Twitter interactions between himself and his female "friends" have come to light; in one, he coached her on how to deny if asked. In others, he uses sexually explicit language in every tweet, like when the woman says she saw him on a TV show yesterday, and he asks if she was watching naked, stuff like that.

Wiener could have saved himself (and his wife) a lot of grief had he come clean from the beginning, but, as he says, he was too embarrassed.

Politicians and others in the public eye should follow the example of Grover Cleveland during the 1884 presidential campaign. In the biography of Cleveland by Henry F. Graff, the author describes how the headline on July 21st blared out: "A TERRIBLE TALE, A Dark Chapter in a Public man's History, The Pitiful Story of Maria Halpin and Grover Cleveland's Son". The story alleged that Cleveland had seduced Halpin and then forced her to commit the baby to an orphan asylum. The author says that the actual facts were vastly different; he asserts that it was possibly Halpin who had seduced Cleveland, and that after the birth she began drinking heavily and neglecting the baby, which caused a concerned Cleveland to ask a judge friend of his to look into it, leading to the woman being committed for treatment and the baby going to the orphan asylum.

The original report was largely ignored, because it was published by a paper known as a scandal sheet. But then a respected Boston paper sent a reporter to Buffalo to check the story out, and this follow-up story quoted a Buffalo pastor as saying Cleveland was a "noted whoremonger", and made other accusations against Cleveland. Cleveland's response when asked how the campaign should respond to the allegations was simple and to the point: he said "tell the truth".

As we know, Cleveland got elected twice despite these scurrilous allegations against him. The author says that Cleveland never returned to Buffalo for the rest of his life, except for three ceremonial events which he could not avoid. Cleveland's forthright response helped to cement the reputation for honesty and integrity that he had for the rest of his life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Israel-Palestine Issues

Obama comes out and says a peace between the two must involve Israel returning to its pre-1967 borders. PM Netanyahu meets with Obama and in the ending part shown on TV, he seems to lecture Obama, as Obama sits stone-faced staring at him. I thought it was an extraordinarily clear and precise explanation of the problems the old borders posed for Israel. However, others say he was being rude to the president by appearing to lecture him.

I say, if your ideas are so simple-minded as to be of first-grade caliber, then you deserve to be lectured like a first-grader. Netanyahu clearly explained why Israel can never go back to the pre-1967 borders, because at one point the country would be only 9 miles wide! I looked on a map and see what he was talking about. These borders would clearly be indefensible, as Netanyahu states.

It should be noted that giving back the West Bank is a wholly different proposition than giving back the Sinai. If you look at a map the difference is obvious. Giving up the Sinai did not compromise Israel's borders; in fact, it in essence gave Israel a nice buffer zone between itself and Egypt proper. However, having an indefensible border with Palestine would be unthinkable. It is the Palestinaians who refused to accept the partition in 1948 and vowed to "drive the Jews into the sea". Their actions since then have been in keeping with this solemn vow they made years ago.

Some may argue that it is not proper to assess "collective responsibility" to the Palestinians, a phrase I first heard from a Bethel professor years ago. After giving this considerable thought, I say it *is* proper to assign such responsibility. After all, these people revere the suicide bombers as martyrs, take care of their families, and put their pictures up in the town square as heroes. Their twisted concept of "family honor" requires that each family have a "martyr" in the family to maintain the family honor. It is sick, sick, sick, and those who ignore this do so at their peril.

And don't even get me started on this idiotic "right of return" the Palestinians keep whining about. Most people are sensible and mature enough to go with life instead of living in the past, as Mennonites have done over the centuries when driven from one land to another. And, come to think of it, as the Jews themselves have had to do over the years. Get over it and get a life already!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Hall of Shame

I hope to collect in this thread examples of hypocrites or other moral failings or character flaws on the part of famous people. Just to clarify, I am not talking about failings or flaws by themselves, because we all have those. I am looking for flaws or failings *coupled* with gross hypocrisy and/or lame excuses. (Thus, Arnold does not qualify, because he has taken full responsibility for his actions and makes no excuses.)

I first nominate Newt Gingrich, who espouses "family values" but has been married three times, and once demanded that his first wife sign divorce papers while she was in the hospital being treated for cancer. To make it worse, he recently blamed his personal failings in the women area on caring too much about his country!

After he announced for the Presidency and appeared on Meet the Press, a firestorm of protest erupted because he dared to criticize Paul Ryan's budget plan. The hypocrite Newt blamed David Gregory, who is as middle-of-the-road with his questions as a journalist could ever get. He further said that any candidate who uses his own words against him in an ad will be "guilty of a falsehood"!

Newt was also asked about a $500,000 bill he had run up at Tiffany's. He refused to answer, as if we the voters are not entitled to know what kind of person we are being asked to vote for. Here is Newt, passing himself off as a fiscal conservative, who cannot keep his own spending under control and buys luxury items he cannot afford. Boooo.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Political Correctness Run Amok

LeBron James got in trouble for saying under his breath "that's retarded" to his teammate who had been asked a stupid question. The headline said he was in trouble, and my first thought was that he was in trouble for bad-mouthing the reporter. Then upon reading the story, I find out that he is in trouble for supposedly insulting retarded people (oops, I mean "mentally challenged").

I hope in this thread to collect examples of similarly ridiculous examples of p.c. run amok.

Immigration Policy

CNN had a story yesterday on the new Georgia law, apparently styled after the infamous Arizona law. The anchor interviewed a representative of the Georgia restaurant association, who said restaurants were unable to find people to work as dishwashers without hiring illegals. She refused to back off even under the hostile questioning of the skeptical anchor.

The governor used the same rhetoric about people breaking the law. You know the routine, about how we all have to follow rules. But here is what occurs to me. The parenting class I took stressed that kids do not obey a rule simply because you make one. They immediately break it to see what will happen, because that is how they find out if it is really a rule or not. If consequences get consistently imposed for breaking it, then it is a rule.

But with immigration, consequences do not get regularly or consistently applied, so it is not really a rule. If we protected our borders properly, then we could stem the immigration tide. But we are too busy policing the world to police our own borders.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Impressions of Grand Rapids

1. Gerald Ford Museum. Nice chronological account of Ford's life. The Hayes museum wasn't so chronologically ordered, IIRC.

2. Big river flowing right past downtown, just like in Wichita and Portland. Ford museum is right on the river, and along the river are bike paths and boardwalks.

3. Decaying downtown. Some new, mod-looking buildings downtown, but the overall impression is one of extreme decay.

4. Memorials honoring the war dead dominate the courthouse area. Every war dead is mentioned by name, like in the Vietnam Wall, and there is a special memorial park for civil war dead, including detailed biographies of significant civil war figures from the area. Seems odd that people in the north were so enthusiastic to support Lincoln's war on the south. Also is curious that, while in the north the civil war is celebrated, southern states get chastised whenever they try to memorialize their civil war heritage. Just yesterday there was an article in USA Today about states being prevented from using the confederate flag on license plates or elsewhere.

5. Very little parking. I had to pay a quarter per 15 minutes downtown, and a dollar per half-hour to visit the Ford Museum. To the extent this reflects an emphasis on other than private motorized transportation, I suppose it's a good thing. But a bad thing for the out-of-town visitor trying to get around in a car.

6. History of furniture manufacturing. One figure I saw said that at one time there were 70 furniture manufacturing companies here! A little park by the river described the strike in 1911 in which workers all struck. It was resolved peacefully when strike money from national unions ran out and the strikers returned to work, but the owners took the lesson to heart and raised wages, and the voters took the lessons to heart and elected more progressive leaders.

7. Calvin College. A huge private college, Christian Reformed, and plaque describes how this denomination was formed in Michigan by Dutch immigrants in 1857. Nice nature preserve on the huge campus. Great library hours, 7:30 A.M. to 2 P.M.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Was Slavery the Cause of the Civil War?

Controversy has been brewing on this issue on the editorial pages of The Lima News. It started a month ago when we had two columns on the same day, commemorating the upcoming 150th anniversary of the war's start. The columns were long and will not be reproduced here, as the titles tell the story. Leonard Pitts had the column "Civil War was about slavery, nothing more", while Tom Lucente's column was "Power the cause of American Civil War".

My response, published only in part because of its length, was:

"I am writing on the 150th anniversary of the American Civil war. This is not an event to be celebrated, but it certainly should be remembered and learned from, and in that vein I was glad to see two columns on this topic in Sunday's Lima News. One of those columns accurately described the issues causing the war, while the other was abysmally inaccurate and needs to be corrected.

Leonard Pitts ascribes the causes of the Civil War to slavery, which is totally false. Lincoln made this quite clear in his first inaugural address, saying: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Then in July, when he submitted his message to Congress in support of his request for appropriations to fund the war, he never mentioned slavery at all!

Rather than being about slavery, Lincoln's war on the southern states was fueled by his belief that they had no right to secede, and that it was therefore his duty to keep the union intact. Lincoln repeatedly characterized the secession movement as a "rebellion", his purpose being to cast Southerners as traitors. How an action designed to peacefully separate yourself from a partnership is a "rebellion" is a bit of over-the-top sophistry which Lincoln could never justify.

Lincoln never did offer any decent legal analysis to support his view that secession was illegal, an amazing fact in light of his supposed competence as a lawyer. Study of the Constitution reveals that it says nothing one way or the other on the issue of whether a state has a right to secede. However, when read as a whole, it is obvious the intent of the founders was to delegate only certain limited powers to the federal government, with all other powers reserved to the states and/or the people. By implication, therefore, Lincoln was wrong in his view. Why people in the North blindly followed him, instead of challenging him on this, is hard to fathom.

The extreme irony here is that our country was founded by an act of secession. Further, during the Civil War the western counties of Virginia were allowed to secede from that state and form their own separate state.

In his Sunday column, Thomas Lucente correctly described the cause of the Civil War as being a dispute over the distribution of power in our federalist system. It is regrettable that American history books do not analyze the Civil War properly; however, what is really inexplicable is the fact that historians, who should know better, continue to rank Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents. If more people like Mr. Lucente speak out, perhaps a more accurate evaluation will eventually be made. "

Then this guest clumn from one Bob Brenneman"

"As I enter the final months of my 35 years spent teaching social studies at St. Marys Memorial High School, I found the opposing April 10 viewpoints of columnists Leonard Pitts Jr. and Thomas J. Lucente Jr. concerning the origins of the American Civil War quite interesting.

While I do not teach the Civil War, I did some checking to see which arguments had the most validity. In an age where people deny the Holocaust and the state board of education in Texas voted to remove the term “slave trade” from all its textbooks last year, it is important to know what actually happened before we begin to give our interpretations.

After a little checking, I would give Pitts an A and Lucente an F in terms of historical accuracy.

In Pitts' column (“Civil War was about slavery”), nothing more, he refers to the Declaration of Causes of Secession of the state of South Carolina. As each state seceded, it drew up a statement explaining why it was leaving the union. These make for some very interesting reading and would provide anyone honestly seeking the causes of the Civil War the best primary source available. I would suggest Lucente consult them before he pretends to speak on behalf of the seceding Southerners again (“Power the cause of American Civil War”).

Here is what they actually said when they spoke for themselves. Mississippi began its articles with the following paragraph:

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching consummation. There was no choice left us by submission to the mandates of abolition, or dissolution of the union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”

Texas strikes a similar chord referring to the North having developed “an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irresponsive of race or color — a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law.”

If one reads these any of these articles with an open mind, it is difficult to find anything that does not directly or indirectly point to slavery as the reason for secession. No Southern state in 1861 was the least bit apologetic about fighting a war to maintain slavery. The way to deal with this fact is not to pretend that it does not exist.

Pitts speaks wisely when he encourages us to “listen to the hard things the past has to say-and learn from them."

Then a letter from one Drew Cady:

"Jerry Weaver said in a recent letter that columnist Thomas J. Lucente Jr. was right describing the cause of the Civil War as being a dispute over the distribution of power in our federalist system, and Leonard Pitts Jr. was wrong to ascribe the causes to slavery.

Weaver cited Abraham Lincoln's words and actions to preserve the union and not directly attempt to end slavery at the beginning of his presidency as proof. Weaver further said historians who rank Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents should know better.

I believe Lincoln's choice of words, actions and timing were what led our nation toward reunification and the end of legalized slavery in the U.S. For this alone, he deserves to be recognized as one of our greatest presidents.

As for slavery, I would suggest readers access the “Declaration of Causes of Secession” given by the leaders of the Southern states. A reading of these justifies both Lucente and Pitts in their statements regarding the causes of the Civil War."

My response to the column, submitted yesterday:

"Guest columnist Brice Brenneman recently wrote that slavery was indeed the cause of the Civil War. However, all he establishes is that slavery was the cause of the secession of the southern states, a proposition which is not in question.

The issue being discussed is not the cause for secession, but rather the cause of the Civil War. This cause was clearly Lincoln's decision to make war on the southern states, rather than allow them to go in peace.
Almost immediately after taking office, Lincoln faced the crucial decision of whether to re-provision Fort Sumter. He chose to do so, against the almost unanimous advice of his Cabinet members, and knowing it would most likely lead to war. His reasons for going to war are well-documented, and did not involve slavery. Rather, he went to war because he was convinced that the south had no right to secede, and had to be stopped at all costs. As we know, the cost was horrendous, including 620,000 Americans killed."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Changing of the Seasons

We had an extra cold and snowy winter, followed by one of the rainiest Aprils on record. As a result, blossoms were quite late in getting here. Only now are trees beginning to get leaves in any great number. We have had magnolia blossoms for a couple of weeks, pretty pale purple blossoms. And pear blossoms have been around for most of this time also, nice white blossoms with the five petals.

But we are still waiting for real spring weather. It has been rainy almost every day, and no really bright sunny days have come yet. Once the sun comes out for a few days, things should really start to grow.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Problem of Violence

I am going to present an exchange of letters between myself and two right-wing nuts in northwestern Ohio. The appeared in recent months in The Bluffton News.

The letters deal with the problem of violence on a personal level, but as I pondered this issue it struck me that the problem of violence is essentially the same on a national and international level as it is on a personal level. This therefore ties together several issues I have been interested in in recent times.

Relevant here is the groundbreaking research done by Robert Axelrod on the problem of the Prisoner's Dilemma. Axelrod set up a simple game illustrating the Prisoner's Dilemma paradox, and invited people to submit computer programs to play it on an iterated basis. He got many varied programs submitted, but when the tournament was over the clear winner was a very simple program, called "Tit for Tat", which offered cooperation the first time, and then every time after that it did whatever the other player had done the round before (i.e., either cooperate or defect).

This is much like our interactions in real life; when we meet someone, or encounter any sort of new situation, we initially offer cooperation, assuming the other will cooperate also. If he or she "defects" instead, then we modify our own behavior accordingly. The whole Cold War came about because the Truman administration failed to offer cooperation initially to the Soviet Union. Instead, it "defected", by assuming the worst and proceeding accordingly. Information that has become available more recently has verified that the Truman assumptions were wrong, in that the goals of the Soviet Union were political and not military. This makes sense when you consider how horribly the two world wars impacted Russia. The last thing they wanted was another war. But once the US defected the Soviets felt they had to follow suit and we had the horrible arms race. Both sides would have been better off spending all that money on making a better life for its people, but it went the other way. Axelrod's book "The Evolution of Cooperation" explores the issues involved with cooperation in society, and his follow-up books elaborate on his original 1984 work.

With that introduction, here is the first letter, from someone calling himself "Pastor Bob Wood":

“No guns allowed,” is a sign you often see or a symbol you observe on the doors of various establishments. I wish people would stop to think about what this says to the individual who is about to use a weapon to commit a crime, to kill someone, or to terrorize a group of people..... This sign says this: “NOTICE TO THE CRIMINAL ELEMENTS OF OUR SOCIETY....This establishment wants you to know that it's safe for you to go ahead and commit your crime of passion. We're guaranteeing your safety by letting you know that all of the law-abiding citizens who have taken and passed a course and been certified as capable of responsibly owning and using a fire-arm, and then have been finger-printed, gone through a background check and been carefully scrutinized by our local sheriff and the F.B.I. …. all of these people have now left their firearm locked up at home or in their vehicle, and you don't have to worry about any retaliatory action on their part. Just go right ahead and kill, rob, or shoot. You're safe in our establishment. The worst thing you can expect is that some law-abiding citizen will use his cell phone to call 9-1-1, and you'll have plenty of time to escape.”

Now, if the above possible scenario makes you a bit ill, it really bothers me too. It disgusts me that the liberal element of our society begins to push for greater gun control laws almost before the crazed idiot in Tucson has been handcuffed and put in the police cruiser. I have just a couple of questions to ask: “Does anyone think that if hand-guns were outlawed and/or confiscated, that the criminal element would turn theirs in?” “Does anyone really believe that it would become impossible for the wrong people to obtain fire-arms if 'gun shows' and 'gun shops' were made illegal and shut down?” "Does anyone really think that the worst elements of our society would pay the least bit of attention to any gun control changes?" "Are we so naive that we think that tougher laws would really cut down on such "crimes of passion?" I remember seeing a large sign, years ago, that said, “When guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns.” There is so much truth in that statement that a liberal can't even understand what it means. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has proposed to ban possession of firearms within 1,000 feet of the President, Vice President, Members of Congress or federal judges. Does anyone really think that a person intending to harm a government official would stop and say, “Well, you know, it's against the law to have a gun within 1,000 feet of this person. I'd better take my tape-measure with me, for I certainly wouldn't want to break the law while I'm attempting to assassinate this person.” If I sound a “bit” sarcastic, please forgive me. This is just how ridiculous most of these gun law proposals are. The Bill of Rights gives us the right to “keep and bear arms.” Please, let's not tamper with one of our most basic rights. Let's not put ourselves in the position of other countries who have been taken over by whatever dictators or political systems because the citizenry was unarmed. Let's treasure our 2nd Amendment rights. While I agree that there are places where guns should not be allowed (such as in the presence of high-ranking government officials, etc) I still understand that we can never guarantee that warped and/or crazed individuals won't try to harm others. Let's not throw away our rights and freedoms in a useless attempt to do the impossible."

My response:

A recent letter-writer spouted a bunch of right-wing rhetoric on the issue of gun control.

Unfortunately for the writer, his rhetoric does not stand up to careful analysis. The writer talks about the issue of personal safety, and also the advantage he supposes dictators have when the citizenry is unarmed. Let us examine these propositions in turn.

Regarding personal safety, I simply ask this question: would you feel safer in a room full of people if everybody was carrying a firearm, or if nobody was? I submit that the answer to this question is obvious.

Looking at it on a national level, I point to the following list of successful nonviolent revolutions which have occurred in my lifetime: 1947 Satyagraha movement in India, 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal, 1986 People Power revolution in the Philippines, Singing Revolution in the late ‘80’s in the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, 1990 Golaniad Revolution in Romania, 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, 2005 Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, and of course the recent nonviolent revolutions which toppled the governments of Tunisia and Egypt. Anyone examining what happened in these revolutions cannot help but conclude that guns and violence are not the key to political reform, as the writer intimates.

Rather than heaping scorn on those who seek to limit guns and violence in our society, we should be asking ourselves why the homicide rate in this country is several times higher than that of every other developed country in the world. I submit that part of the solution has to be ending our love affair with guns.

A response from Bob Amstutz:

I would like to offer some common sense advice to the “Letter to the Editor” sent to the Bluffton News, March 17, 2011. Mr. Weaver seems to think that the second Amendment the United States Constitution means nothing. The left wing progressives are implying that their ideas are sound and better than what our forefathers put in our great United States Constitution. They seem to think they know what is good for everybody else. If we would honor are Constitution we would not be in the trouble we are in today.

The answer to Mr. Weaver’s question is not obvious. His question was, “Would you feel safer in a room full of people if everyone was carrying a firearm, or if nobody was?” That is a terrible question. How would it be if you were in a room full of people and one nut case had a firearm? How would you know that no one else had a firearm? When you enter a public place that has a no firearm sign on the door, you can be almost sure there are no legal firearms. Most people that have been schooled on concealed weapons obey the law. That is why they went to the trouble of obtaining a permit. What you don’t know is that there could be any number of illegal weapons.

Mr. Weaver’s analysis does not stand up to common sense. The purpose of a concealed weapon permit is to prevent the problem. If the nut case knows that no one else has a weapon he has no fear. If he thinks one person may be carrying a concealed weapon he would not be so intent on causing harm. It is the person that is carrying a concealed firearm that has not been through the training, may be unbalanced, have a felony record, which would have restricted him or her from having the permit to carry. I would feel very safe in a room full of people with concealed weapons permits and each having a firearm. I would feel unsafe in a room with a nut concealing a firearm, but then, I would not know would I?

To answer Mr. Weaver’s so called non-violent revolutions abroad; this is one to think about. During the war years, the NRA magazine, The Rifleman, regularly included pleas for American sportsmen to "send a gun to defend a British home”. {American Rifleman, Nov. 1940} British civilians, faced with the threat of invasion, desperately need arms for the defense of their homes." Indeed, the New York Times carried the same solicitations. After two decades of gun control, British citizens now desperately needed rifles and pistols in their homes, and they received the gifts with great appreciation. Organized into the Home Guard, armed citizens were now ready to resist the expected Nazi onslaught.

Meanwhile Hitler unleashed killing squads called the Einsatzgruppen in Eastern Europe and Russia. As Raul Hilberg observes, "The killers were well armed . . . . The victims were unarmed."{Raul Hilberg, {The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Homes and Meir, 1985), 341, 318, 297}.The Einsatzgruppen executed two million people between fall 1939 and summer 1942. Their tasks included arrest of the politically unreliable, confiscation of weapons, and extermination. {Yitzhak Arad et al. eds., The Einsatzgruppen Reports (New York: Holocaust Library, 1989), ii.}

It is easy to look at our way of life in America because we do have our Constitution and we do not worry so much that our Government will take us over by anarchy. We will be safe from that as long as our Constitution is adhered to. The progressives, note I did not say democrats, in our country, are working hard to weaken the greatest country in the world by weakening the greatest Constitution. I apologize to no one for being an American.

I have one more observation; if a restrictive gun law would become law, it is naiv—Ď to think that everyone would register or turn in their weapons. A law like that would let the Mafia and others make millions of dollars by selling guns on the black market as they now do drugs and did booze during prohibition. Criminals will always find a way to steal or buy guns. Law abiding Americans would be defenseless and would not able to hunt or participate in other shooting sports.

And finally, my response:

I feel compelled to respond to the letter from Bob Amstutz in the March 24 issue. Mr. Amstutz presupposes a black-and-white world in which everyone is either law-abiding or a criminal. Unfortunately for his simplistic analysis, the world comes to us more often in shades of gray, not in black and white. Most of us are not entirely law-abiding or law-breaking, but rather we area combination of the two. And most of us are subject to getting angry, losing our temper and doing things which we regret later.

Is Mr. Amstutz proposing we all carry loaded firearms around with us every day of our lives because of the infinitesimal change that we will find ourselves in the same vicinity as some nut case who undertakes to shoot innocent victims? If so, this is a pretty pathetic way to live.

As to the idea advanced by the writer that those with concealed carry permits are law-abiding and not to be feared, I suggest that he look the families of Cameron Justus and William Stiltner in the eye and tell them that concealed carry permit holders are not dangerous. Mr. Justus and Mr. Stiltner are the two Virginia Sheriff’s Deputies who were killed in March of this year by a concealed carry permit holder. They are the 10th and 11th law enforcement officers killed since May of 2007 by concealed carry permit holders, and the total of police and civilians killed by concealed carry holders since then now stand at 194.

I agree with Mr. Amstutz that America is a great place. And I think we are at our greatest when we eschew violence and adhere to good, strong Christian values.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Analysis of Terrorism

Pat Buchanan's 2004 book "Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency" contains a wonderful analysis of the history and causes of terrorism.

Buchanan makes a general assertion that the neocons were originally "Cold War liberals" who became disaffected with the Democratic party when McGovern was nominated in 1972, and gravitated to the Republican party. I see no specifics in his book supporting this assertion, but otherwise the book is, as usual for Buchanan, very well researched and documented. He describes how conservatives in the '70's came to see "detente" as a dirty word, and began disregarding George Washington's sage advice to stay out of foreign entanglements. Buchanan says that "Intervention, wars for democracy, and a passionate attachment to Israel are what neoconservatism is all about."

Buchanan examines how the neocons captured the presidency. Bush 2 was particularly vulnerable since he knew nothing about foreign policy and really had no interest in it when he assumed the presidency in 2001.In his campaign he was skeptical of nation-building and seemed to have the instincts of a true conservative. However, once he put his foreign policy team together after being appointed president by the Supreme Court, he peopled it with the likes of Paul Wolfowitz Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and others. Buchanan documents how all of these had been beating the drums for intervention in Iraq for ten years prior to 9/11, ever since Bush 1 failed to get rid of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War.

Buchanan documents how Bush's rhetoric changed after his election. In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil", and issued threats against these countries. Buchanan says that "the Bush threat of war upon nations that had not attacked us was unprecedented". He goes on to say that "Bush had no authority to issue those threats. The Constitution does not empower the president to launch preventive wars."

Buchanan then discusses a speech Bush made in June at West Point, in which Bush "rejected as obsolete the doctrines of containment and deterrence that had won the Cold War". Buchanan notes that "in dealing with nations, containment and deterrence had never failed us". The Bush concept that we will never brook any rival, and that the future is one of permanent American hegemony, is decried as ludicrous. Buchanan notes that "Prudence is the mark of the conservative. Where was the prudence in the president's address at West Point?"

In analyzing the feelings in the Arab world, Buchanan observes that "Interventionism is not the solution to America's problems in the Middle East. Interventionism is the problem. America's huge footprint on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia led straight to 9/11. The terrorists were over here because we were over there. Terrorism is the price of empire. If you do not wish to pay the price, you must give up the empire."

Buchanan undertakes an account of the history of terrorism, introduced by the quote that "Terrorism is the war of the poor and War is the terrorism of the rich." He quotes Thomas Walkom as saying that "History demonstrates two dirty little secrets about terrorism, neither of which governments are anxious to admit. The first is that terrorism is almost impossible to prevent--unless its root causes are seriously and systematically addressed. The second is that, quite often, terrorists get what they want."

Buchanan's account of the history of terrorism starts with the French revolution, goes into czarist Russia, and then really becomes powerful when he writes of the 1916 Irish rebellion against Britain. He writes that 15 of the Irish rebels were executed, and by creating these 15 martyrs Britain sealed its doom in Ireland. The cause was successful when in the early 1920's Irish independence was achieved. Buchanan says that "This would be the pattern for wars of liberation in the 20th century." He later says that "Terrorism often succeeded in the 20th century, and when it did, the ex-terrorists achieved power, glory, and immortality, with streets, towns, and cities named for them. And America today recognized every regime to come out of these wars where terrorism was a common tactic."

Buchanan's forthright conclusion is that "We must give up the empire, bring the troops home, let lapse the old treaty commitments dating to a Cold War ended 15 years ago. As the greatest republic in history, America has never been and can never be an isolationist nation. But we must cease to be a compulsively interventionist one." While Buchanan's observations on domestic policy are somewhat dubious, and frankly weaken the overall quality of his book, his foreign policy judgments are right on, and the U.S. must heed them if it is to remain a strong country.

5/4/11 update.  The assassination of Osama bin Laden presents a number of issues. I was watching the Phillies-Mets Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN, and the chant of "USA" went up in the stands. The players were baffled, as they had no cell phone access in the dugout or on the playing field. Celebrating the death of another human being seems odd for Christians to do.

It also seems odd to call it justice". It certainly is not justice in any normal sense of the word. I have no problem with the Navy Seals shooting him after he resisted arrest, as this is standard procedure, but to call it "justice" is a stretch.

To go into Pakistan without informing the Pakistanis speaks volumes about our lack of trust of this country which is supposed to be an important ally of the US in the region. It is questionable whether we should continue to pour in the massive amounts of foreign aid to this uncooperative country.

But now we get to the heart of the matter. Using Buchanan's analysis, it is apparent that killing one individual will have no effect on the problem of terrorism. As Buchanan states, "the terrorists are over here because we are over there". The solution to the problem of terrorism is clear; in Buchanan's terms, it means giving up your empire, because "terrorism is the price of empire".

Early Take on the 2012 Election

News recently is full of Donald Trump, who is full of himself every time he opens his mouth. He kept harping on the long-form birth certificate "issue" for Obama, who released it yesterday. Trump of course claimed huge credit for getting him to "do what he should have done a long time ago". Now Trump is talking of bullying other countries of the world to get our way. Biggest examples he talks about are China and Libya (he says that if we go in, we should seize their oil for ourselves).

The question is how could a nut case like this be at the top of the polls for the Republican nomination? A column by Thomas Sewell provides the answer. Sewell says that "What Trump has that so many other Republicans are so painfully lacking is the ability and the willingness to articulate his positions clearly, forcefully and in plain English". It doesn't seem to matter that he is so often wrong, like last night being interviewed by CNN's John King, when Trump said a CNN poll had him in a dead-heat with Obama, and King countered that CNN had never done such a poll. Trump never got back to King on this, because CNN checked and confirmed that no such poll existed.

It seems people relate to someone, like Palin in the last election, who speaks clearly and unequivocally. People do not relate to someone who, like Breslin said of Dukakis in 1988, talks like a "busted computer". Romney is the Dukakis of 2011, talking in a carefully programmed, pre-packaged way that people have trouble relating to.

The Republican field contains many flawed candidates. I still say that someone like Tim Pawlenty will have to end up getting the nomination, as nobody else can overcome their negatives. Or Gary Johnson, a recent entry who is a strong libertarian. Ron Paul is also a strong candidate based on his clear and principled positions, but lacks a broad enough base. The libertarians really need to have their own party, as the Republican Party has gotten so far away from true conservative principles that a true conservative has no chance anymore. Paul talks more than anybody else in either party about getting away from this fixation on militarism, and bringing our troops home. He and Johnson are probably the only principled candidates in the race.

The same analysis can explain the troubles Obama has in connecting with voters. An insightful piece in the Christian Science Monitor of 1-24-12 explains this. The thesis for the piece is that "no matter how you feel about Obama, his lack of clear philosophical principles is not only a political problem for Democrats but a moral problem for America". His "principles" of change, bipartisanship, pragmatism, etc., are not really principles at all, as they are "so general that they provide little analytical or moral traction." Again, the author states that "there is no well of enduring principle upon which he seems to draw".

The conclusion is that "a nation built on common principle, not common blood, requires its leaders to have a coherent political theory". An article in The New Yorker of 3-15-10 similarly discusses Obama's failure to connect with the average voter, because nobody knows where he stands on anything of importance.

5/13/11 update.  Latest news is the entry of Newt Gingrich into the race. It is impossible to look at this guy without thinking, "slimeball". And when you find out about his background, this impression is only reinforced. He cheated on both of his first two wives, including pressuring his first wife to sign divorce papers while she was in the hospital with a serious illness. His lame explanation is that he was too involved with his country's problems, which in no way justifies his despicable personal behavior. It is reminiscent of Henry Hyde's lame explanation of "youthful indiscretions", to try to explain what he did in his '40's! Do these Republicans have no shame?

5/15/11 update.  Ron Paul is in, Huckabee is staying out. Paul is the most principled candidate by far, as he espouses true libertarian principles, and stresses staying out of foreign conflicts.

Huckabee has some attractive aspects to him, but has damaged himself with right-wing comments on his TV show. Otherwise, he would be an appealing candidate as he stresses Christian compassion, not just dictating to others how to live.

The candidate who will get the nomination has not surfaced yet, IMO. Ones prominent now all have too many negatives. Look for Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, or the guy from New Mexico to make progress.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Letter to Tom Usher

Two points about your column. First, part of the Hall's entrance requirements involve sportsmanship and respecting the game. It is not just about numbers. Seen in that light, Manny should not expect induction, regardless of any steroid issues.

Second, how in the world can you mention Manny, Barry, Mark, Rafael and Sammy without mentioning Roger Clemens?? Clemens is right near the top of the list of no-good SOB's who should be denied despite their numbers.

4/23/11 update.  Mr. Usher's gracious response: "I totally agree with you on Clemens. He is also a bum and a cheater.

I was just thinking of the hitters when I made my list. I didn't mean to leave him off. That's my bad for not putting him on there.

He is a complete and utter cheater. The next time I write about these clowns, Ill be sure to list him.
You are right. I have no respect for Clemens.

Thanks for reminding me."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The NFL Labor Impasse

My first impulse is to enjoy the NFL labor impasse, because I have heard so many people complain about the baseball strike, and how they were not going to follow baseball anymore because of it. In point of fact, the other major sports have all had labor disputes at least as serious as the baseball one, yet nobody ever complains about them. Let these fair-weather fans now eschew football!

The dispute has been characterized as how to divide up a $9.3 billion pie, for that is the yearly revenue generated by football. This is basically an accurate characterization, as the other issues are minor. Thus, it is like a divorce case in which the only issue is division of property. I had one like that (which still required over 70 hours of my time to resolve), but most divorces are much more complicated, involving division of debts, spousal support, child support, and child custody issues in addition to the relatively simple division of property issue.

With division of this huge pie being the only issue, one would think a resolution could be had, but both sides have dug in their heels for a fight. As with any labor stoppage, both sides will sacrifice huge sums of money due to their intransigence. But it is hard to feel sorry for either side, as it is billionaires fighting against millionaires.

That football is so popular is a sad commentary on the American culture, for it is a game of violence. Besides that, it is unwatchable, unlike baseball and most other sports. One simply cannot follow 22 players moving in 22 different directions for a few seconds. At least with baseball the actions come linearly, one after another, and you can actually watch it and enjoy it. My conclusion is that the country would be better off without football. Let us put our efforts into non-violent pursuits, and forget football. My hope is that the labor dispute is never settled.

4/26/11 update.  Analyzing the Judge's decision issued yesterday lifting the lockout, the Judge reviewed the history of the NFL litigation, starting with the 1976 Mackey case, in which the Rozelle Rule (regulating free agency) was found to be an anti-trust violation.

The Court then reviewed other litigation to date, and then went through a boring discussion of procedural issues, before finally concluding it had jurisdiction. On page 68 of the 89-page decision, it finally got to the merits.

The Court noted the test for granting preliminary relief is irreparable harm and chances of success on the merits in the underlying lawsuit. The irreparable harm test is easily met because of the shortness of the average career of an NFL player. The Judge then concluded the players had established "a fair chance of success on the merits". Hence the injunction gets issued.

4/29/11 update.  Another sports anti-trust issue was presented recently when MLB took control of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This raises the question of whether MLB is a single entity for business purposes, and if so, when is it going to lose its antiquated exemption from anti-trust laws? If the Commissioner can forcibly take control of an owner's property from him, how can it be said that each club is a separate legal entity? It seems to me that baseball is skating on thin ice here.

Football is also skating on thin ice, as the NFL looks like a single legal entity when it sets rules and employment conditions collectively, instead of team by team. The American Needle case saw the Supreme Court ruling 9-0 that each NFL club is a separate legal entity, but when the NFL insists on operating as one entity, as it does when dealing with the players, it really starts to look like it is running afoul of anti-trust laws.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MLB Predictions for 2011

Once again it's time for the annual predictions.

AL East. Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays.

Red Sox are improved over last year, while the Yanks struck out, for a change, in the free agent market. An easy choice for first place. Idiosyncratic pick here for the O's over the Jays, as I'm banking on Showalter getting the O's in shape to play much better.

AL Central. Twins, Tigers, White Sox, Indians, Royals.

I decided last year that it was folly to pick against the Twins, as they always exceed expectations. One of my favorite cities, in one of my favorite ballparks, with one of my favorite managers. I was tempted to go with the improved Tigers, but in the end I decided to stick with my Twins. Sox and Indians also improved, but they rate only 3rd and 4th. Royals need to move to a more supportive part of the country--census data shows the trend continues towards the Southwest.

AL West. Rangers, Angels, A's, Mariners.

Usually I expect a team to drop back after a season like the Rangers had last year. But they got to the WS, which has to be considered. Angels are one of my favorite teams, but I'm going with only 2nd for them.

NL East. Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals.

Phillies are a lock with their 4 great starters. Even if one goes down, they should win the World Series, and I am picking them over the Red Sox in the WS. Marlins are still young and hungry, so they rate the nod over the Mets for 3rd place. Mets are old and breaking down and over-paid.

NL Central. Brewers, Reds, Cards, Cubs, Astros, Pirates.

Card are another one of those teams, like the Twins and Angels, that I hate to ever pick against, because they always seem to defy expectations. But with Wainwright going down, and the Brewers being so improved, I can't put the Cards higher than 3rd. The loveable Cubs will extend their 102-year losing streak. Pirates, like the Royals, need to relocate.

NL West. Giants, Rockies, Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks.

Dodgers are another team I always like to go with, but I can't go against the defending champs here.

3/28/16 update.  The Red Sox did indeed have a good year with 90 wins, but it was only good for 3rd place in the AL East. The Orioles finished last with only 69 wins.  The Twins sunk to last in the AL Central, with only 63 wins. I was perfect in the AL West.

In the NL East, I had the Marlins and Nationals flip-flopped, other teams were correct. In the Central, the Cards and Reds were flip-flopped, and the Pirates finished ahead of the Cubs and Astros. In the West, the D-Backs surprised with a first-place finish, with the other teams in their predicted order.

The statistical analysis is that I was exactly right on 9 teams, 1 off on 12 teams, 2 off on 6 teams, and 4 off on 3 teams (Twins, Cubs and D-Backs).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Westboro Case

Mitch Albom had a great column the other day entitled "Westboro case sounds right but feels wrong".

Albom is absolutely right. How are we to reconcile the fact the case sounds legally right but morally wrong? To do this one must understand that the Westboro protesters were in compliance with all local laws when they picketed the funeral of the plaintiff's son. Therefore, the issue was not really joined in this case. When local governments enact more restrictive laws against picketing funerals, as I think they should, and the Westboro folks violate those laws and are charged with a crime, then the issue will be truly joined.

Free speech, like all other rights, has never been absolute. Reasonable restrictions are always in place. Certainly a family has the right to bury a child without being subjected to these despicable protests. The Westboro loonies can get their message out without invading the privacy of a grieving family.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An Analysis of U.S. Wars

Here is my letter to The Lima News, which precipitated my investigation of the above topic:

"Your Monday editorial, "Jordan, friends off to a good start" correctly concludes that in order to address the deficit problem in any meaningful way, all spending needs to be "on the table".

However, buried within the editorial is a misuse of language which is the kind of thing that makes intelligent discussion of this issue so difficult. You define discretionary spending as "anything other than defense and entitlement programs".

Why in the world is defense spending any less "discretionary" than any other items in the federal budget? The fact is, it is highly discretionary, and we could save many billions of dollars each year by closing our bases on foreign soil and bringing our troops home to this country, where they belong. Only then will the Department of "Defense" no longer be a misnomer."

**********************
I propose to expand on this last sentence. Until 1947 the U.S. used the term "Department of War" to refer to the military. The name change to the current "Department of Defense" was completed in 1949. What is strikingly ironic is the prevalence of "wars of choice" since this name change, a change which implied that we were going to use our military only for defensive purposes from then on. I will attempt an analysis of our country's wars, both before and after the name change.

Barbary War. In the early 1800's our shipping was being regularly attacked by Barbary pirates, and Jefferson had every right and the duty, even, to do what he could to put an end to this barbaric practice.

War of 1812. The British were guilty of impressment of our sailors into their navy. This is a relatively innocuous-sounding term, but a more accurate description would be that the British were forcibly kidnapping our citizens and forcing them into involuntary service on their navy ships. This is obviously intolerable for any sovereign country, and the U.S. was justified into going to war, though Madison's handling of it is highly questionable and showed a singular lack of leadership.

Mexican-American War. This one is a little trickier. I think a fair examination of the historical record shows that Polk provoked the Mexicans into attacking our troops, by sending them onto land he knew was being claimed by Mexico. Mexico viewed the border as the Nueces River, not the Rio Grande, and a glance at a map shows that the Nueces boundary would have made a lot more sense geographically. As it is, the south end of Texas juts into Mexico, and the triangle of land that does this is logically more a part of Mexico than the U.S.

Pat Buchanan, in "How the Right Went Wrong", says that preventive wars are alien to the American tradition, which is a central theme in many of his post-9/11 writings. Buchanan says that "Polk waited until the Mexican army shed 'American blood on American soil' before asking Congress to declare war." This is an atypically weak point by Buchanan, whose recent books are otherwise well-researched and argued. A better analysis is to recognize that yes, Polk did make that argument for going to war, but the rest of the story is that Polk deliberately provoked this, knowing that that was the only way to convince Congress to satisfy his demand for war. And many in Congress were still unconvinced and did not support Polk's war, including a Congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln who demanded that Polk "show me the spot" where such blood had allegedly been shed.

Polk's war had widespread opposition in the U.S., and certainly the invasion of Mexico was not necessary or legitimate. Polk got his territory, but at the price of tarnishing the American reputation.

Civil War. Another unnecessary war. What is so incredible about this whole fiasco in American history is that Lincoln assumed the South had no right to secede, without ever offering any rationale that would stand up to analysis. Yet, people from the North followed him like lemmings over the cliff. Amazing, and so sad.

Let us analyze the legal issues which Lincoln refused to discuss. One must first understand that the Constitution sets out a limited set of powers granted to the federal government by the states and the people. Among these was *not* the right to prevent a state from seceding, and certainly not the right to use military force to do so.

The next step is to recognize that the Constitution says nothing one way or the other about the right of a state to secede. It doesn't say it is permissible, and neither does it prohibit it. One must thus read the document as a whole to infer what the legalities of secession are.

The most relevant portions for this analysis are the 9th and 1oth amendments. The 9th says "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage other retained by the people." The 10th says "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Also pertinent is the 2nd amendment, which gives citizens the right to bear arms, one obvious purpose of which is to protect the people against the tyranny of an overbearing federal government.

Although Lincoln himself didn't stress this, some have made much of the Preamble, which starts "We, the People of the United States..." This could be read as emphasizing the larger union, to the detriment of the individual states. However, this argument fails when one understands that the wording is an accident. The original wording was "That the people of the States of New Hampshire...." (naming all 13 original states). The naming of the states was taken out because the constitutional convention could not tell in advance which states would ratify the new constitution. Only 9 were needed for ratification, so there would have been as many as 4 left out. Thus, the constitution really was a compact among the several states, with federal powers limited to those specifically granted under the document.

Lincoln, supposedly a great lawyer, would have flunked had this been a final exam. He offered nothing convincing to support his assumption that secession was illegal, and in fact he engaged in despicable sophistry in his insistence on calling it a "rebellion", so as to bring it under the definition of treason and therefore justify his violent reaction to it. In fact, it was not a rebellion in any normal sense of the word, but rather it was an attempt to peaceably secede. Lincoln should have let them go in peace.

One of the most despicable things Lincoln did was suspend habeas corpus and imprison 13,000 people without trial, simply because they were suspected of being "Southern sympathizers." If one travels through southern Indiana or southern Ohio and talks to the people, it is apparent that many folks in these areas consider themselves southerners. Surely they can't be blamed for having some sympathy for their brothers and cousins and aunts and uncles in the South, yet these are the people Lincoln threw into jail for the duration of the war!

In "The Book of America", authors Neal R. Peirce and Jerry Hagstrom give a wonderful account of the political, cultural and economic dynamics at work in each of the 50 states. Writing about Indiana, they say that "Indiana had its own Mason-Dixon line, dividing the state--and its politics and accents--roughly in half along the course of the old National Road, now U.S. 40 (paralleled by Interstate 70). These people who live between rote 40 and the Ohio River are more southern than midwestern in outlook, and yet Lincoln unlawfully imprisoned 13,000 of them for having this outlook. It is so ironic that today we castigate regimes around the world which imprison their political opponents, and yet we continue to idolize Lincoln for doing exactly the same thing! Historians, wake up and smell the coffee!

In making war on the South, Lincoln went against the advice of almost his entire Cabinet. In her award-winning book, "Team of Rivals", Doris Kearns Goodwin writes about how Lincoln was confronted with the issue of whether to re-provision For Sumter on his very first day in office. On his desk was a letter from Major Anderson at Fort Sumter, quoting General Scott as saying "I see no alternative but a surrender".

Lincoln then put the issue to his Cabinet. Kearns Goodwin details the responses, and then concludes, "In the end, five cabinet members strongly opposed the resupply and reinforcement of Fort Sumter; one remained ambiguous; one was in favor." Despite having the advantage of all of these voices of reason, Lincoln pondered the issue for two weeks and then made the fateful decision to reprovision the fort. Alarmed and angered by this decision, Lincoln's Secretary of State, Seward, wrote a scathing letter to Lincoln expressing his concerns, and telling Lincoln that the administration was "without a policy, either domestic or foreign". At least George W. Bush has the excuse that his advisers led him astray. Lincoln has no such excuse.

It should be noted that the union likely would have lost only the original 7 states which seceded. The other 4--Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia--joined only after Lincoln started his unjust war, and those states were then faced with the prospect of their young men being drafted into Lincoln's army to fight against their brothers and cousins in the South. Rather than endure that, they joined the Confederacy.
It is interesting to ponder how things might have been different had the 7 states been allowed to go in peace. One small example: in the 2004 presidential election, Bush beat Kerry by 286-251 in the electoral college. Take away those 7 right-wing states and Kerry wins 251-178! Just think how much better off this country would be without the right-wing dominance caused by Lincoln's misguided attempts to hold all the states together.

Spanish-American War. Recent analysis has verified that the Maine was not blown up by the Spanish. McKinley went to war based on yellow journalists arousing the populace and he was wrong to do so.

World War I. It has been suggested that Wilson's war was an unnecessary one, but I don't agree. The historical record hows that Wilson made every attempt to mediate a peace in the European war prior to 1917, but the parties just would not cooperate. We got involved only after the Germans started sinking our ships, doing so to the tune of 5 in the single month of March, 1917.

World War II. FDR actually is more blameworthy than Wilson for getting us into war. The record shows that he was pushing the country to war well before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. His propaganda machine was working full-time to prepare the country for war and to "sell" the idea to the populace. He provided U.S. escorts to British shipping, apparently hoping that the Germans would attack our ships so that he could enter the war as he wanted to. Once into the war, his incarceration of Japanese-Americans was despicable, and a diligent inquiry would reveal, I submit, many other atrocities that FDR was willing to, and did, engage in. Nevertheless, one must conclude that as between war of choice and war of necessity (i.e., response to being attacked), this was the latter.

Korean War. Here is where it really gets dicey. The whole post-WW2 scenario leading up to the Cold War is problematic. In George Kennan's memoirs, he recounts how he strenuously objected to the proposed speech by Pres. Truman laying out the Truman doctrine. Kennan, our #1 expert at the time on Russia/Soviet Union, believed the Soviet goal was not war and/or military conquest, but rather was political and economic in nature. Yet, as usual, we ignored our experts and plunged ahead with no moral or factual compass. Truman in fact promulgated his Truman Doctrine, announcing to the world that the Soviets intended military domination, a blatantly false allegation, as documents which have come to light since the fall of the Soviet Union have verified, and the Cold War ensued.

The Korean War was a result of this faulty world view by the Truman administration. Certainly the U.S. was not attacked, and we shed American blood for no good reason, and certainly not on American soil!

Kennan explains in his memoirs why he took exception to Pres. Truman's speech announcing the Truman Policy of aid to Greece and Turkey. He cites the overly-broad pronouncement of Truman that "I believe it must be the policy of the U.S. to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Kennan states that "This passage, and others as well, placed our aid to Greece in the framework of a universal policy rather than in that of a specific decision addressed to a specific set of circumstances. It implied that what we had decided to do in the case of Greece was something we would be prepared to do in the case of any other country..."

Kennan goes on to state that "I would also take exception to the repeated suggestions, in the text of that message, that what we were concerned to defend in Greece was the democratic quality of the country's institutions." Kennan concludes that "I have been struck by the congenital aversion of Americans to taking specific decisions on specific problems, and by their persistent urge to seek universal formulae or doctrines in which to clothe and justify particular actions."

Certainly this overly-broad rendition of American policy has been repeated many times since Truman's time, but blame Truman for starting it. Since then we had the outrageous statement in JFK's inauguration speech that we would "pay any price" to defend freedom around the world, and then after 9/11, Bush's enunciation of his policy to the same effect. Kennan states clearly that "it was important, in my view, that the Soviet threat be recognized for what it was--primarily a political one and not a threat of military attack." Truman was wrong not to listen to his Russian expert, a man who had spent his whole adult life learning about Russia and faithfully serving the U.S. as a diplomat in Russian affairs.

By misrepresenting the Soviet threat as a military one, rather than a political one, Truman started the ball rolling toward the Cold War, and committed the U.S. to military adventures all around the world. All a country had to do was cry "Communist infiltrators", and we were there with our aid. The fact that most of these regimes with their hands out were hardly democratic didn't seem to bother anybody, despite the pronouncement of our supposed goals of promoting democracy. We face the same dilemma today in Egypt, as any more democratic government will surely be more hostile to the U.S. than the old one was.

The whole mentality started by Truman can be seen in the accusation that Truman "lost China" when it went Communist. As if we owned China, and it was ours to "lose"! This was the mentality of the Cold War, an ugly time created by Truman and his staff and totally unnecessary. This same "domino" mentality got us into the Korean War, and shame on Truman for doing so.

Vietnam War. Johnson was similarly in the grip of the Cold War hysteria, which as we have seen was false and detrimental to our national interests and well-being. Again, we were not attacked and Johnson had ample time to reverse course, including advice from his VP Humphrey, which he ignored. Shame on him.

Gulf War. Again, we were not attacked. The whole lie involved in these wars of choice is that "American interests" are involved, hence we must go to war. If the applicable dept. is the "Dept. of Defense", not the "Dept. of Offense", then why are we undertaking these costly adventures all around the world?

Iraq War. Again, George W. Bush involves us in an unnecessary war based on false intelligence. But let us look at his rationale beyond the question of faulty intelligence. This is what has caused Pat Buchanan to adopt our misguided foreign policy as his #1 issue, and he has written incessantly about this since then, in both his books and his columns.

In his book "Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency", Buchanan analyzes the speeches of President Bush and explains how wrongheaded he was in his worldview. 9 days after 9/11, Bush couched the battle in either/or terms, with no nuance at all allowed into his thinking. Buchanan says the rhetoric hearkened back to Christ ("He who is not with me is against me") when Bush said, "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists". Bush began to describe the war on terror in moral terms, calling our enemies "evildoers" and saying "This war is a struggle between good and evil".

Then came Bush's State of the Union address, with his infamous "axis of evil" statement. He was clearly threatening war against Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, none of which had anything to do with 9/11. Buchanan says that "the Bush threat of war upon nations that had not attacked us was unprecedented". He goes on to say that "President Bush had no authority to issue those threats. The constitution does not empower the president to launch preventive wars."


Next comes Bush's speech at West Point on June 2nd, 2002. In analyzing this speech, Buchanan says that "Bush now rejected as obsolete the doctrines of containment and deterrence that had won the Cold War, and advocated anew an American policy of preemptive wars." Bush's ideological confusion here is that he applied principles for dealing with individuals to his dealing with what he termed "rogue nations". Buchanan says that Bush was right in his approach to dealing with individual terrorists, but that "in dealing with nations, containment and deterrence had never failed us."


Buchanan says that "This Bush declaration--that we will brook no rival, ever again, that the future is one of permanent American hegemony--is a gauntlet thrown down to every rival and would-be world power and a challenge to lesser powers to unite against us." Buchanan asks the question, "What support is there in history for the view that by meddling in the internal politics of foreign nations we advance our security?" He concludes with the observation that "Terrorism is the price of empire. If you do not wish to pay the price, you must give up the empire."


Rather than meddling in the affairs of other countries, we should bring our troops home to our own soil. However, Bush's approach is just the opposite of this, and, if not corrected by future presidents, will result in America's prestige around the world continuing to decline and America sinking into the trash heap of history.

Afghanistan War. This goes on Obama's doorstep. Bush's action was in response to an occasion on which we actually *were* attacked. Obama widened the war to engage in a futile venture of nation-building which is doomed to failure, as any mediocre student of history can easily see.

So, the scorecard turns out to be: 3 wars of choice prior to 1949, and 5 since. A sorry record indeed. "Dept. of War" turns out to be a better title than "Dept. of Defense", which truly is a misnomer.