29 September 2007

Free Speech and Columbia

It’s been about a week now, and I suppose I’ve let enough time pass to think a little more clearly about the recent invitation of Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University.

Constitutionally protected free speech is, in my opinion, only guaranteed to US citizens. Extending rights to others is a dangerous place to go and invites selectively allowing other legal standards to take precedence over the Constitution. Ahmadinejad has no more right to come to the United States and participate in free speech than anyone else. In my opinion, there must be an invitation extended and, theoretically, vetted by the State Department. There’s probably some fine legal point that I’m missing here, but it seems to me that there should be some standard applied here. Perhaps it might help if Iran is designated as a terrorist harboring country or an element of the Iranian structure is considered, legally, a terrorist organization.

In any event, Ahmadinejad did come and speak at Columbia, and was promptly knee-capped by Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia. I know it sounds needlessly courteous, but there should have been a different situation set up.

Surely Columbia could have set up a situation in which Ahmadinejad would have to answer pointed, legitimate, hard-hitting questions by serious critical thinkers. Certainly there are one or two of those laying around the halls of Columbia. These men and women could have taken Ahmadinejad to task over his statements about the Holocaust, Israel, the Iranian nuclear program, and human rights.

It’s not my feel that this happened. Ahmadinejad was allowed to grandstand, and perhaps it says something more about the ideological pigeon-holing of critical thought at Columbia and other universities. I’m obviously not one to seriously criticize the entire university system, or parts of it for that matter. But it seems quite obvious that the apparatus there did not seriously consider what a visit from a foreign thug would stir up. I guess Bolliger’s exit strategy was to do a verbal drive-by during his introduction. It was a shallow reaction to a bad decision.

And then there’s the deeper question of whether or not a guy like Ahmadinejad ought to be able to propagate his twisted point of view in an American institution. I feel is that he ought not. And if he is, he should be confronted verbally by those who are up to the task of dismantling the strange, warped arguments the man makes.

26 September 2007

Bill Wirtz, 1929 - 2007

When most news arrives, it is instantly good or bad. Some news, though, causes a flood of mixed feelings, even some feelings that shouldn’t really be had. The news of the passing this morning of Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz caused mixed emotions for many ardent Blackhawks fans.

My family was no exception. It has been a family tradition to not like Mr. Wirtz, going back to my grandfather who never forgave him for not keeping Bobby Hull. He swore that he’d never go to a game again until the “old man” was dead. My grandfather died long ago.

I attended my first Blackhawks game when I was in high school, when the ‘Hawks still played in the Stadium. I thought, once, about not going back to the rink until “the old man died,” too. But I never did see a hockey game with my grandfather or with my father, both men who loved the Blackhawks. Thankfully, I have seen a hockey game with my mom and my sister and her family. And we all love the Blackhawks, though we’ve never cared for the team’s ownership.

Bill Wirtz was such a divisive figure that many openly mused about his death and how they might celebrate. What great possibilities might befall the beleaguered Blackhawks if the “old man” were no longer in charge? Might we watch Blackhawks home games on television in Chicago? Might we keep players after they become great? Might someone drive a hard bargain other than Wirtz? Might the Blackhawks win a Cup, something they haven’t done since 1961?

But this morning, as I read the news on the official Blackhawks message board, most of the posts were from fans who, while they simply detested Mr. Wirtz, realized that his death meant a serious, grievous loss to some, to his family. And for the most part, the level of dislike for him (and dislike for anything tends to be amplified online) was pulled back, and folks expressed condolences for his family. As well we shall.

So a goodbye to Mr. Wirtz is in order. I didn’t know the man, and what I knew about him I didn’t really like. But that’s no reason to wish him or his ill. I hope that there are brighter days ahead for my favorite hockey team. I hope that the Wirtz family is able to find comfort during this difficult time. And I hope that Mr. Wirtz is resting peacefully. It’s something we each deserve when our time here is closed.

Out Sick

Sorry I've not posted in the last few days. Getting over my "beginning of the school year" cold. I'll be back soon.

22 September 2007

Plain Speaking About MoveOn, Democrats

Never mind that President Bush said the following to a reporter's question about his reaction to the recent ad by MoveOn and the vote in Congress to condemn that ad. What is more important than who said it is that it is actually accurate.
"I thought that the ad was disgusting. I felt like the ad was an attack, not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad. That leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org -- are more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military."
Indeed. According to MoveOn, they have "bought and paid for" the Democrats. This was reflected in those who did not vote for the Senate resolution against the ad (which, however, was not specified by name in the resolution): Senators Clinton, Dodd and Reid. Senator Obama continued a long-standing trend of his to simply not vote (or vote present) on the matter.

21 September 2007

Response to "Prove What?"

An interesting point was made in a comment to "Prove What?": "...how is a law mandating health insurance different from a law mandating car insurance?" Good question. I think the answer is fairly simple.

The kind of auto insurance that is required by most states is liability insurance. That insurance is not bought to protect the buyer, it is required to protect the other guy. So, if person A causes an accident, person B doesn't get socked with any (or all) costs from the accident. If person A only has liability insurance, he has no recourse to his insurance company or person B. Thus, mandatory auto insurance doesn't protect the driver who buys it, it protects others from the effects of his poor driving (assuming an accident, of course). If a person wants to protect himself, he must buy comprehensive and/or collision insurance. A person's lender may require these types of insurance, but government agencies, to my knowledge, don't.

Mandatory health care, "universal" health care, or whatever folks call it, essentially attempts to protect a person from himself, his body. And while this may seem quite reasonable at the outset, there is a very slippery slope here. In fact, Senator Clinton and Mr. Edwards have already spoken of it. It comes in the form of punitive measures and mandatory actions (preventative care). Do them, or else.

But I think that the mandatory, "universal" health care issue gets to a deeper point, and one that we might be uncomfortable with. Liberty is a fundamental aspect of our society. We are allowed to do things which are not good for us as long as it doesn't infringe on the liberty of others. I believe that mandatory auto insurance is a good example of protecting others from our stupidity. Secondary smoke - not so much, yet government agencies around the world are busy mandating who can smoke where. (Just so I'm not misread, I would gladly choose a smoke-free establishment if given the choice.)

Given the premise of government controlled (and it will be, make no mistake) health care, I believe it is a sure bet that poor self-choices will be, shall we say, "regulated." Eating habits, mandatory preventative care, weight monitoring, smoking, drinking, etc. - all of these things and more would conceivably fall under the "universal health" umbrella. And it won't be to save your skin or my skin, but rather to save the government money. The $110 billion price tag for Senator Clinton's plan is low-ball. Remember, we were told that prescription drug assistance would only cost so much.

18 September 2007

Prove What?

Just read the beginning of an AP article from Yahoo about Senator Clinton and her "new" version of, or vision of, "universal health care." Here are a few snippets that really stand out. First, the opening sentence:
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that a mandate requiring every
American to purchase health insurance was the only way to achieve universal
health care but she rejected the notion of punitive measures to force
individuals into the health care system.

So, no punitive measures, but a mandate? What good is a mandate without punitive measures? What are laws without consequences for breaking them? This opening sentence is a non-statement. If there is a mandate, bet on there being a punitive measure. Otherwise the law is hollow and will be flouted.

But wait. Now that I think about it "universal health care" in this fashion would be much like immigration law at the moment. For the most part, immigration laws are hollow and unenforced, and all for the "humane betterment" of those who are - just to state the obvious - in the US illegally. So Senator Clinton could raise taxes, "mandate" universal health care, take money from private citizens and businesses alike (to the tune of $110 billion a year...and that's low-ball), and then not bother to enforce the mandate. A clever way to get $110 billion a year? Perhaps.

Point two:
She said she could envision a day when "you have to show proof to your employer
that you're insured as a part of the job interview — like when your kid goes to
school and has to show proof of vaccination..."

And I just have to scream in my own mind, "What?" I have to do some serious mental gymnastics here, and I'll try to take you, the reader, along. Senator Clinton wants to mandate universal health care. She says that there would not be punitive measures to force people to take health care - contradiction number one (or hollow ring number one, depending on how you read it). She then says that people might have to prove they are insured to get a job or go to school. Sure, there's an "eventually" factor there, but this is a serious contradiction of her previous point, which is a contradiction within itself.

So where is all this going? Your guess is as good as mine. If the US ends up with another President Clinton, I would bet that we will all be "cared for" regardless of our individual druthers. We will be forced to pay for health care, we will be compelled into paying for it.

Ah, liberty. Where will you be in 2009?

16 September 2007

MoveOn and Not Moving On

In what many consider a seriously flawed – and possibly treasonous – effort to gain attention for its views, MoveOn, a far-left political organization, placed an ad in the New York Times calling General Petraeus a traitor. MoveOn has a long history of bashing what President Bush and his administration says and does.

One thing that has always bothered me about this organization is that it has so completely abandoned the premise from which it came. The name MoveOn stems directly from the birth of the group; it was formed primarily to end what the founders saw as the waste of impeachment proceedings against then President Clinton. Thus they wanted, according to their website, to "Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation." While I don’t agree with the point of view, I can see some merit in it. The desire to get an ugly scene behind the nation and move to more important things, whatever they might be, is not without some merit.

Since then, and particularly since 9/11, there seems to be a pit bull type mentality in MoveOn, again especially with regards to the Bush Administration and any military actions. It started with a petition on 9/12 and hasn’t stopped since. The ads and articles have been particularly nasty, some of which are chronicled in the Wikipedia site. I won’t take the time to review them here, but they contain the now standard “Bush is Hitler,” insert administration/Republican person’s name here “lied” and the like. Six years of this.

So I have to ask if MoveOn move on itself? The organization calls itself “progressive,” a troublesome term for a group that has spent the last 6 years tenaciously hammering one issue, one person. It’s fine for people to think that we should get out of Iraq, that we should become in isolationist country, that we should just let others be. I have no qualm with those points of view, though I do not advocate them. Indeed, it would be refreshing if the Left and Right in this country could discuss issues, stay on topic and not resort to invective or dig up skeleton after skeleton and instead move forward with the best interests of the United States in mind. When groups like MoveOn resort to less than savory tactics, they degrade the debate – indeed, they stifle it.

A quick surf of their website shows that there are more issues on the plate of MoveOn than just the war in Iraq. But where MoveOn’s voice is heard most loudly and shrilly is on the war and Bush. So it is no wonder that they are judged by this one issue – it’s where they draw the most attention. MoveOn stirs up emotions in people not necessarily to induce action but to reduce thought. “Get angry – you should be!” What follows is partisan “grass-roots” activism at its lowest, and it’s something that we would all be better off without.

13 September 2007

What Divides

It's not often that I ask anyone who reads this to simply go read another article.

Please have a good read of this article by Owen West.

As he states, the political infighting of our representatives, mostly in Congress, will do more to tear down this country than what our enemy is doing in Iraq. And we, the electorate, are riding along on Congress's "I'm right, you're wrong" roller coaster with little honest discussion about what is best for us, for our country, for our soldiers, or for Iraqis.

12 September 2007

From Congressman to General

And I mean the above title as a transformation, not as a direction of communication, though that is a more accurate statement of the factual events. The headline on Brietbart.com paints the picture quite clearly: "Surge a failure, Democrats tell general."

As some have pointed out, one of the oft trumpeted failings of Washington during Vietnam was how the war was run by politicians and not the generals. Fast forwards thirty-odd years, and we magically have Senators Biden, Boxer and Dodd attempting to tell a four-star general what the reality of his theater of war is, as if he doesn't know. One wonders just how they've gained such keen insight into the situation on the ground in Iraq. It's not as clearly based on reality. Maybe it's just a gut feeling...they know.

What I gather is that after years of the wrong strategy being applied in Iraq, this one is working. Give it all the time it needs. If it fails, if we fail, at least we failed while doing our best, doing what is right. The Demo-Generals simply want to run...and what's more, they want that because they promised the left-wing "net-roots" that they would (as long as a euphemistic term gets slapped on it, like "redeployment," which even some Republicans use now). Again, their desire is not based on reality.

10 September 2007

Where Authoritarianism Lurks

I thought it might be appropriate to jot down a few thoughts about where authoritarianism lurks, where Big Brother hides in our great country – and I’m not talking about the television show.

Some would have us believe that Big Brother manifests himself in things like the Patriot Act, those laws that place, figuratively at least, Orwellian television monitors on our walls which observe our every move in the form of call monitoring and satellite tracking. The logic is that people are not free to act as they choose because, through the Patriot Act (and other surveillance activities), Big Brother will find out. What is devious and hideous here is not the discovery of a plot but rather the means Big Brother would use to find out information. The theoretical “invasion of privacy” stirs images of Big Brother on the tele-screen giving orders and Room 101.

The tricky thing here and what evades people who take this view is that in the US there is still the rule of law and checks and balances. There is not – despite what some folks may think – an authoritarian government in place. No one dictates what people may think or feel, and there is not constant monitoring of every member the populace. Those who suggest that these things are true do not inhabit reality.

But there is a seed of authoritarianism out there, I believe. It lies in comprehensive schemes to manage individual citizens’ lives. Every new and expanded government plan which is sold to somehow help, empower, enfranchise, or otherwise enhance the daily life of a citizen is a drain on liberty. Take ideas for “universal health care.” Just trust the government, people are told, and health care will never be a worry, never a burden. Of course, more money will be taken from the citizenry to fund this behemoth, and already there are noises about “mandatory preventative care” (thanks, Mr. Edwards). But it’s a small price to pay so that we the people no longer worry about our individual health care.

Which begs a simple question: do you worry about retirement? There is, you know, a government program to cover that. So why worry?

The more the government manages individual lives through “well-meaning” plans and programs, the less liberty individuals have. The most immediate symptoms will be, in the case of “universal health care” if it comes to pass, less money in the average Joe’s pocket and much longer lines at the doctor’s office. Then of course will come (and this is just a guess) another bureaucracy to manage the managed health care.

And there, I think, is where authoritarianism lurks. The government promises to take care of the citizen in exchange for something (money and liberty), the citizen is lured by promises and agrees, and the next time the cycle comes more easily to both. It is in this way, not through lawful monitoring of suspected criminals, that citizens lose liberty.

09 September 2007

More Than Productivity

From Real Clear Politics comes an article by John Tammy concerning birth rates and economic growth. The title states Tammy’s point of view quite succinctly: “Don’t Sweat Low Birthrates.” His point is that even though birthrates in “wealthy nations” are falling, it is nothing for us to concern ourselves over. The reason: higher individual productivity will ensure that wealthy nations continue to prosper despite dropping populations.

I don’t see the picture as simplistically as that, and I say that Mr. Tammy’s view is simplistic only because it seems to be one dimensional – individual productivity is everything. It also assumes, it seems, that individual productivity will continue to rise, or at least that wealthy nations will continue to find ways to make it rise.

But Mr. Tammy should re-read his quote from Robert Mundell – “the only closed economy is the world economy.” Taken with a broader perspective, the world is interconnected in more ways than just its economy. Belief systems, identity, history and demographics have cross-border connections just like economies do. And while poorer countries with higher birthrates may not be on the verge of economic boom times, or far from them for that matter, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be players in extra-economic ways.

When those who don’t have and can’t create see something they want, there is a temptation to take. That’s why I believe the much more developed viewpoint comes from Mark Steyn. In America Alone, Mr. Steyn considers many factors in the demographic shift that the world is in at the moment. Man cannot live, cannot plan, by economics alone. While Mr. Tammy’s point about productivity is well taken, that productivity may in the future be taken by an angry many who want what they cannot create for themselves. Higher individual productivity will not protect from that angry many.

08 September 2007

Thoughts on What Comes From the Cake-Hole of the Enemy

My thoughts on bin Laden’s little message for us. As always, a disclaimer: I’m not an expert, I’ve not watched any video of this, and I am open to reasoned debate on these points.

First, bin Laden takes pride in the fact that we, as Americans, refer to what happened on 9/11 when we discuss our current situation, when we discuss the world we live in, as if he has branded America in some indelible way with his mark. He chooses to believe that he has defined America through this single attack. What he does not understand – or at least does not admit – is that the 9/11 attack became a turning point for many Americans, not a mark of shame.

Bin Laden’s ramble on the path of the war in Iraq is only important in that it solidifies the fact that Iraq is a central battlefield in the war against Islamofascism. His comments are simply his point of view from the other side of the battlefield. They may be important to someone, but not to me.

Next comes some ramble about incinerating people of other faiths (meaning other than “mine”) and how Christians perpetrated the Holocaust, the Inquisition and Nagasaki/Hiroshima. My first thought on this ramble is, “Thanks for the brief history ‘lesson.’ Your point is not made. Please don’t try again.” Anyone who thinks that terrorism fueled by radical Islam can be excused because of past atrocities by any group is practicing wildly flawed thinking. Under that banner, any and all behavior is excusable. It is simply an argument that must be rejected out of hand.

Two random points: 1) Bin Laden buys into conspiracy theories concerning the assassination of JFK. Birds of a delusional feather flock to ideas together. 2) If bin Laden thinks that we do not now value the lives of those outside of the US, what would he think if we really took the gloves off militarily, completely loosened the rules of engagement?

Noam Chomsky is the voice of rational thought in America? Can the far-left wing in American be so close to the ideology of Islamofacism? I doubt it. It is just that the message, the core beliefs of those like Chomsky play into the hand of bin Laden. Accommodate, celebrate and tolerate the viewpoint of the enemy and then the enemy will be kind to us. Never mind that this war was started by the enemy. The left plays to the tune, “America, Mea Maxima Culpa of All Time.” Thus Islamofacists support their point of view so that the West might be torn from within by its own.

And that’s why bin Laden is so sad that the current Democratic majority has failed him in bringing an end to the war in Iraq. That was supposed to be their job. The left supported it, and bin Laden hoped for it as well. But what the enemy did not think through, though they claim to understand it, is the inherent need (or greed) for power that permeates many US politicians these days. When Democrats realized that they would be held accountable for what happens after a “cut and run,” they changed their tune somewhat. They grumble and complain and stomp their feet, but they refuse to withdraw funding for the troops – the surest way to end the war. In that way, they failed both the hardcore left in America and bin Laden.

The central point, I think (and thanks to my wife for point this out), of bin Laden’s ramble comes in his refutation of democracy as a form of government. He claims that democracy has failed and that we, as Americans, must reject it so that we may have peace. But our rejection of democracy would really mean a capitulation to Islamofacism. That seems obvious.

What else seems obvious is that bin Laden appears to be speaking from a position of relative weakness. General Petreaus will report in just a few days and it appears that, at least militarily, there is real progress in Iraq. There seems to be a decision, at least at the local level, that fighting foreign terrorists is more important, more of a way forward, than fighting America. That’s a huge problem for bin Laden. And what’s more, if local leaders decide to work together, through compromise and understanding, then perhaps, over time, that kind of political climate can raise to the top levels of the Iraqi government.

And in my opinion, it seems more appropriate, rational and stable that the bottom-up approach be given time. The top-down approach that many in the media and in politics demand would smell more of dictatorial government than democracy. The bottom-up evolution of political cooperation and institutions seems to me to have a greater chance at being stable and effective if for no other reason than that it will have, over time, become the product of a greater portion of the population, not a power structure of a few highly placed politicians.

And so, in conclusion, I feel that bin Laden speaks from a position of weakness. I also think that, troublingly, he echoes the sentiments of the left. By sharing the left’s talking points, bin Laden hopes to boost the idea that the left has the proper view of the world and America’s (wicked) role in it. But I submit that if one among us seems to have his words used by the enemy, his exact sentiments used against us, should we trust that one among us? I think not.

06 September 2007

Getting Ready for Another Anniversary

Tuesday will be the sixth anniversary of 9/11, and there's already talk about the "what ifs" of that date. The story running on FoxNews has the headline: Bin Laden to Address Americans on Sept. 11. Drudge is running: bin Laden Plans News Video for 9/11. Every news site on the web has the story up, I'm sure.

Here's what I think - for what it's worth. Islamofascists will attack whenever they get the chance. If they have a good plan, have an opportunity, see a weakness and have the means, then they'll take a shot. I don't think anniversaries mean much when it comes right down to it. It's more a way to, especially on a date like 9/11, to yank the chain of us Yanks. It's an opportunity to get everyone all wound up, nervous, and hyper-alert...but not necessarily for any good reason.

That being said, I hope I'm right.

03 September 2007

Australian Communist Protestors Say the Darnedest Things

In the run-up to the APEC conference in Sydney later this week, New South Wales security folks set up a barrier around parts of the business district in the city. In response to these security measures, Peter Symon, a spokesperson for the Communist Party of Australia, is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as follows:

"The Great Wall of Sydney is a wall of shame and a testament to the disastrous and anti-people policies of the capitalist leaders of APEC," Mr Symon said in a statement today.

"The anti-democratic laws, the violent water cannon, the open threats against protesters and the imposition of restricted zones have robbed the people of Sydney of their city.

"These abuses of our civil liberties must be resisted."

The article also states, “he [Symon] has called on all Australians to "stand up to the intimidation of protesters by the NSW and Federal governments".

Now I admit to having no idea what that last quote is supposed to mean. Stand up to whom? Why? Who is being intimidated? But back to the other quotes, I just have to laugh when someone from any communist party claims that the laws of representative democratic countries are somehow “anti-democratic.” It’s even more laughable when coupled with the claim that capitalistic policies are “anti-people.” Never mind the quite real “anti-people” and “anti-democratic” histories of the two largest communist nations in history – China and the USSR.

John Howard got much closer to the truth of the matter here, as he tends to do when he speaks plainly, by clearly stating that the wall and security was required not because of who was visiting but because of who was protesting – and more importantly, how. Economic conferences all around the world are magnets for violent protestors…all claiming, of course, to want very badly to save the world from the real devils out there – the capitalists.

Here’s a hint for all those folks who can’t seem to convince anything approaching 51% of their local populace that real representative governance and capitalism are not, overall, forces for the betterment of people: move to a communist country. And I mean one that doesn’t dabble in the evils of capitalism at all (or its bourgeois appetites), which counts China and Russia out. North Korea, perhaps. Oh, wait, that would be a solution, and there’s nothing these wacky protesters want less than a real solution.

02 September 2007

3 Days Over Iran?

I just read a blurb on FoxNews (encapsulating an article from the Times of London) that the Pentagon is reportedly putting together a 3-day plan to destroy Iran's military. That's a pretty tall order in my mind. And all done with air power. No need for ground troops - and it's a good thing because I'm not sure the military is up to holding the swath of varied terrain between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

So I have to ask myself, do we need to eliminate the Iranian military at this point? I don't have enough information to make a good call on that, but I think it's a valid question. Here are a few other questions before action:
- What happens if airstrikes don't annihilate the Iranian military?
- What happens if airstrikes do annihilate the Iranian military?
- What happens if Iran descends into civil war?
- What happens if ground forces are required (or viewed as "prudent") after the airstrikes?
- What will be the coordinated response of the State and Defense Departments after such attack...or before for that matter?
- How many other countries can be called upon to provide "logistical support" (and thereby tacit approval)?

Iran is no small bite to take in any way, shape or form. Not many people realize that the US and Brit air forces spent from December 1999 (Desert Fox) to prepare the battlefield in northern and southern Iraq. We already controlled much of Iraq from the air. Afghanistan under the Taliban didn't stand a chance against the US led forces.

Now I'm not saying that the US (or to put an inclusive, multilateral stamp on it, the "international community") should not do something about Iran. Sanctions, gas embargoes, public and private divestment of companies that do business in Iran...all of these things take time. If we have the time then we should let them work and press them harder all along. If we don't, then it's another story.

But beware the three-day diet. I hear the yo-yo effect is a real bummer.

01 September 2007

In Class and Temporarily Off the Web

Apologies to the folks who read my humble blog from time to time. This past week saw the re-starting of my teaching career - and all of the joyous headaches that come with the first week of having students in the seats. To boot, our internet connection died on the 29th of August. The diagnosis is an "external line problem" that has knocked about a 4 square block around our place offline. Hopefully it will be corrected before the long weekend runs its course.

Anyway, thanks for reading when you can. Enjoy the long weekend, and I'll be digging into Obama and Romney and what they've written soon.


John Edwards' Words

To say that my impression of John Edwards is low would not capture my true feelings. I’m continually shocked that he is considered a top-tier candidate for the Democrats when I read anything about him, let alone by him. After reading his essay in Foreign Affairs, I’m stricken with the sense that it doesn’t take a mastery of the English language to be a trial lawyer. His essay was poorly written, without focus and – as a piece designed, I assume, to inform the electorate on his point of view – telling of what his presidency might be like.

Mr. Edwards uses one word and one phrase continually throughout the essay. They are “reengage” and “moral leadership”. He also falls back on creating plans or programs which are “universal”. All of these are troublesome, as they must be as confused in his mind as they are in the essay.

The first thing that Mr. Edwards would have the reader believe is that there has been nearly universal (to borrow a term) disengagement by the Bush administration. This is evidenced by the eleven instances of the term “reengage” in the essay, not counting title lines. Mr. Edwards believes that we must, or more to the point, he would, reengage with the following: the world, “our tradition of moral leadership,” our history, our allies, the American people, the people of the world, and our military. His sometimes explicit claim coupled with reengagement is that President Bush has disengaged from all of these things. This attempts to paint the overall picture that an Edwards administration would lead the presidency out of the cave of self-absorbed do-nothingness in which it has been hidden for an unknown period of time (presumably since 9-11).

Obviously I believe that these “disengagements” that Mr. Edwards refers to are fictitious. They are his attempt to provide continuity to an essay which lacks substance and, indeed, focus. But his attempt to use President Bush as a vehicle to carry his essay falls well short because his reengagement statements aren’t convincing or even clear, for that matter.

For instance, Mr. Edwards says that we must reengage “with the world’s major powers.” He says that we must “get China to commit to the rules that govern the conduct of nations,” even though it has a “unique political system…with both authoritarian and free-market elements.” He glibly suggests that human rights is an issue (which ranks third behind trade and climate change), but authoritarianism is just fine. The reason: China is “heavily invested in our Treasury bonds.” In the very next paragraph, Mr. Edwards says that Russia is a “very different challenge” simply because it is reverting to more authoritarian rule. One wonders if Mr. Edwards would change his tune if Russia suddenly started buying T-bonds. Moral leadership?

And speaking of which, here’s a juxtaposition of ideas which are again just lines apart from each other. Mr. Edwards writes that we must turn away from “pursuing discredited ideological agendas” such as those which got us involved in Iraq (though he neglects to mention the nearly 13 years of direct involvement prior to 2003). Part of that “discredited ideology” is to build a functioning democracy in Iraq, as stated, if I remember correctly, many times before the formal invasion of Iraq in 2003. In the very next paragraph, though within a new section of the essay, Mr. Edwards claims that “we will face continuing challenges to our efforts to promote democracy.” Discredited ideology or moral leadership – it just depends on who is doing the leading.

As a random switch – for me, not Mr. Edwards – immediately after this previous quote I used, Mr. Edwards claims that, “a host of twenty-first-century developments from climate change to pandemics will likely impose additional stresses,” presumably to America’s moral leadership. These are not, in any way, twenty-first-century developments. Pandemics have come and gone throughout history. The climate did not begin to change with the advent of “global warming” (or “climate change” as it is now referred to). He says that we, America, must “act aggressively against this threat” of climate change…and then in the next sentence that “We should begin our reengagement with the world by bringing an end to the Iraq war.” Just to make sure that I don’t mislead anyone, he wants to withdraw almost all US troops, not win.

And now I realize that perhaps some of what I dislike about Mr. Edward’s essay is rubbing off on me. I’m beginning to ramble. So just one more note and things “universal.” “Global primary education” – Mr. Edwards wants it and wants to fund it. And he doesn’t mean within the US. He means global, literally. Never mind what countries would think about the US sticking its nose into classrooms around the world and what that would do to our image…it’s for the children, so everyone would understand. (Or we would fund without verification of how the money is used. “This Wahhabi madrassa brought to you by the US taxpayer.”) “Universal access to preventative drugs and treatment” for diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Again, Mr. Edwards means global – and aren’t there already agencies that hope to accomplish this? Does the federal government need to tackle this issue? What are all of those UN sub-projects and agencies (and the money they soak up) for? There are more instances, but the idea is that if there is a global, universal or comprehensive plan for a perceived problem then it must be the best solution, without question. Unintended consequences be damned!

Perhaps that’s enough on Mr. Edwards. I could go on and on, but I doubt it would have much effect. Those who support him, I believe, have imbibed of the kool-aid and see the light in his words. I haven’t, and it all reads like disjointed, uninspired sticky-notes of sound bites. No substance. It is, in that way, a reflection of Mr. Edwards himself.