08 August 2011

A Public Service Announcement from Michael Moore

When the going gets tough, the clueless and frustrated get authoritarian.  That’s the message from a Washington Times article about Michael Moore and his Tweets.  Apparently, Mr. Moore thinks that President Obama should “arrest the CEO of Standard & Poors” because, in part, S&P downgraded the United States’ credit rating on 5 August.  Like a good, budding authoritarian, Mr. Moore linked S&P to former president Bush – the scapegoat for virtually everything that has gone wrong during the past three years.

So, that’s the medicine put forth by Mr. Moore, darling pseudo-documentarian of the Left.  Given his adoration of Cuba, Venezuela, Castro and Chavez, there’s no wondering where he picked up his professed, preferred method of dealing with entities he finds counterproductive.  Hopefully President Obama does not subscribe to Mr. Moore’s prescription for dealing with “this big, messy, tough democracy.”

04 August 2011

Change, Really...Just Not Quite Yet

Yesterday, President Obama said, among other things, "When I said 'change we can believe in' I didn't say 'change we can believe in tomorrow.' Not change we can believe in next week. We knew this was going to take time because we've got this big, messy, tough democracy."  But that's not really the case.

When he was touting his "change we can believe in" mantra, he pushed it with words that indicated the "change" would begin immediately.  Evidence this famous - for lack of a more polite term - statement, made in June of 2008:  "...generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth."

Yet it has not taken generations for us to be able to look back and realize that the summer of 2008 was not the low point, the valley from which statist policies would lead us to greater heights.  Our government has gotten much larger - even after President G.W. Bush bloated it; the sick have had legislation enacted so as to make them words of the state; unemployment and longer term unemployment are much higher; we've added a war of sorts in Lybia to go along with Iraq and Afghanistan.  I can't speak to the earth healing or slowing ocean rise (however odd that sounds) - but it doesn't seem that installing fixes for those were within the purview or power of the US government.

So Mr. Obama now wants to push that change is coming...just wait for it.  Really.  But we have seen the change that comes with statist policies - and it's not good for the bulk of us.  Sadly, Mr. Obama may be right; the "real" change may still be yet to come.  And that would prove to be a very scary prospect, indeed.

29 July 2011

Encounters with Functional Illiteracy – The Burger Joint

Once is an instance.  Twice is a coincidence.  Last night, my lovely wife planted the idea in my head to go get a burger from a non-fast-food burger joint.  After about fifteen minutes of thought, I decided it was indeed a good idea.  The young lady, who, much like the young man at the butcher counter must have been about 18 years old, was working the register.  Like him, she was probably not far removed from a time where basic arithmetic in various classes should have been a common activity.

She took my order; the total was $7.52.  I handed her $8.  She took my money, hit a button on her register, and paused.  She reached below the counter and her hand emerged holding a calculator.  I got curious.  Why the need for a calculator?  She said that she hit the “exact change” button on the register - and implied by grabbing the calculator that she was unable to figure out in her head that the change due was 48 cents.

The young lady punched a few numbers into the calculator and then said, “Eight, right?”  I informed her that I did indeed give her eight dollars.  She replied that she means eight cents; that I am due eight cents in change.  I don’t know what my face said, but my mouth said, “Sure.”  I put the three pennies and one nickel in the tip jar, which was where the 48 cents would have ended up anyway, and walked away a bit bewildered and more than a little sad.

I don’t think that I’m noticing these instances because I’m looking for them.  They just occur and I happen to be there.  And I fear they’re far from anomalies.

26 July 2011

Encounters with Functional Illiteracy – The Butcher’s Counter

This morning, I stopped by a local grocery store in order to pick up the basics for dinner for the next two nights.  That amounts to meat to put on the grill and frozen vegetables.  I was greeted by a young man working the butcher’s counter; he was perhaps 18 years old, maybe a bit younger.  In any case, he was certainly young enough that his high school level mathematics should have been still tucked somewhere near his recent experience at the grocery store and his common sense.

I chose two steaks.  The young man put them on a standard foam tray, the kind ubiquitously found in meat and poultry departments everywhere, and placed them on the electronic scale.  The steaks weighed in at a pound and a half.  I glanced down and noticed the price: $11.99 a pound.  So, $18 in rough numbers.

When the electronic scale spit out $3.25 at the young man, he simply hit a button, wrapped the steaks in clear wrapping, carefully set the printed price tag on the wrapping and handed me the steaks while kindly asking if I would like anything else.  I said no, took the steaks, and walked away.  I made it three feet before my conscious and curiosity (thankfully) got the better of me.

I returned to the counter – I was the only one there – informed the young man that I thought he had made a mistake and asked him if he was sure he put the correct price on the steaks.  He looked confused; he asked how much I wanted to pay.  I informed him that the steaks were supposed to be $11.99 per pound.  He took the steaks, put them back on the scale, punched in some numbers, and magically came up with another amount, which was again far less than the $18 I expected.  I verbally prodded him to do a little “math in public.”  $11.99 per pound, 1.5 pounds.  He looked at me confusedly and asked again how much I would like to pay.  I informed him that $18 was close to the correct price.  Somehow, he managed to punch the correct numbers into the scale to produce a total close to that.  I thanked him and walked away.

What I find sad is that this young man appeared to be functionally illiterate when it comes to numbers and simultaneously unable to detect errors that, due to their magnitude, should immediately make one question things.  Yet he plodded along, punching numbers into a computer, accepting whatever numbers the all-knowing computer returned to him, and pleasantly going along with his job – oblivious to what the numbers mean and unable to reach a correct answer without the “expert” knowledge of an electronic aid.

Sadly, this young man’s situation is not isolated.  I wonder how he was taught math in grade school; I wonder if he was required to memorize multiplication tables, write simple arithmetic equations in endless repetition.  Probably not.  Doing so would be to use outdated methods in a modern time, or so some would have us believe.  Yet “repetition is the mother of pedagogy;” those foundational elements learned by heart are not easily forgotten.  The young man in this case, and many others besides, would have greatly benefitted from such outdated methods, methods which allow for greater, deeper, more reliable building of knowledge as one grows older.

23 April 2011

Technology and Underpants Gnomes

A rather funny (and not too offensive) episode of South Park involves a pack of gnomes who "collect" underpants at night.  Their motive is profit.  The problem is that there is no bridge between the two; "phase two" is missing.  I bring this up because it seemed particularly fitting of a conversation about using technology in high school classrooms.  In some (and probably in many) states, there is a legal requirement for teachers to use technology in the classroom, the assumed end being that doing so will result in better educated students.  What "phase two" is, what it consists of, no one can say for sure.  But there is it: the means and the dreamt-of end.  One thing the underpants gnomes have over administrative and state education officials is that their "phase one" (underpants) are tangible.  In many districts, it would be a stretch to say that there is enough technology (largely measured by numbers of computers) to even pretend to meet mandates.

But to be locked into that conversation - how much technology must be used - means ignoring another, more fundamental question: what purpose does a bit of technology - be it a computer, internet access, a "smart" board, etc. - serve the classroom it is in?  For instance, is it more effective for a student to read an article, a short story, or a novel on a computer screen or on low-tech paper?  I would argue that paper is far superior.  Reading from a CRT monitor is hard on the eyes, flat panels a bit less so but more expensive (unless we're building from zero).  Paper is easy on the eyes.  Paper is also portable.  Students can write on paper.  Put those two together - students can write on and take their studies with them.  That sounds like a great combination for teaching and learning.

Of course, low-tech generally means low cost, and low "wow" factor.  A video of, say, a classroom full of kids discussing a story and referencing notes taken on their own copies of the story doesn't make for a scintillating presentation if the audience has already determined that technology is "phase one" for better educated students.

Both options, paper and various technologies, are rather parts of "phase two" techniques.  They are methods of delivery, of communication, and each has advantages and drawbacks.  If the goal is to teach grade school kids fundamental math, what would be the point of mandating the use of technology?  Do mouse clicks help young students memorize their multiplication tables?  If the goal is to teach high school students geography, where might technology be of use and where might it be a hindrance?  But if the goal is to teach students to use technology - and this seems to be the only plausible educational goal of technology mandates - then technology becomes the subject, the class, the focus.  Using other classes to primarily teach technology is to substitute a goal with a means, and that is a mistake.

14 April 2011

Better Health Through Coercion

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Mark Bittman attempts to show how $1 trillion might be saved by the federal government by "preventing disease instead of treating it."  He cites alarming statistics about how many Americans have largely preventable health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.  He then relates each of these to dollars spent - "more than one seventh of our GDP" - to cure them.  His point is that it would cost far less if preventative measures were pursued, like improving diet and increasing exercise at an individual level.  A valid point, indeed, especially as it appears to be a result of individual choice and improvement; the money saved is the result of changes by individuals.

However, that is not the case.  In Mr. Bittman's view, the individual is the thing to be managed, the cog to be turned by coercive forces so as to benefit the whole, and the whole will pay in the form of higher taxes so that the individual can be coerced.

The first indication that Mr. Bittman prefers, whether he recognizes it or not, coercive methods to pursue better, healthier eating occurs when he claims that money can be saved "if an alliance of insurers, government, individuals - maybe even Big Food, if it's pushed  hard enough - moves us toward better eating."  First there is the obvious reference to pushing Big Food to do what Mr. Bittman surely feels it ought to do, the connotation that any "Big" industry not only needs coercion but deserves it as well.  No, the more subtle portion of his statement is also more telling of just how far he feels the state should go toward enforcing better health habits.  Mr. Bittman wants government and other entities to "move us" to do what is deemed to be the right thing.  He does not use a more gentle term, like entice or encourage.   The use of "move" implies actions upon the individual; the individual needs to be moved.  So Mr. Bittman really means that his "alliance  of insurers, government, [and] individuals" (individuals who we may assume include folks like him) must coerce the Big Individual into doing the right thing, that is eating as the "alliance" sees fit.  No individual liberty or personal accountability to be found there.

But this coercion doesn't come on the cheap.  That, however, is not an issue when the coercive power of government is brought to bear.  Mr. Bittman quite simply states that the "investment" - forcing people to ear healthy diets - is one for which "you must spend money to make or save money.  (Yes, taxes will go up, but whose taxes?)"  When only about half of American households don't pay federal income taxes, it's an easy bet that only half of the population will pay into this "investment" in coercive behavior.  Big Food and Big Whateverelse will also get the bill.  But it's an "investment" in people's health that will save money - so what's the worry?

In order to get away from the question of actually paying for coercing individuals into taking proper care of themselves, Mr. Bittman uses a now-common false comparison which is meant to evoke both nostalgia and a sense of self-loathing.  He claims, "if we can put a man on the moon, we can create an environment in which an apple is a better and more accessible choice than a Pop-Tart."  Of course, the Apollo Project has absolutely nothing to do with proper diet and exercise, but that's of no consequence for Mr. Bittman.  What is more important for the reader is the level of stupidity he expects of you.  How does he figure that apples are rare finds in supermarkets?  Does he think that his readers, or Americans in general, do their grocery shopping primarily or exclusively at locations which cater in boxed food that is grabbed on the go, like gas stations?  What's more is that he thinks there is a need to "create an environment in which an apple is a better...choice" than a boxed, sugary pastry.  Mr. Bittman insults everyone's intelligence if he really thinks that the average human being needs to be told that an apple is a better bit of food than a frosted pastry.  Yet, he would use the coercive force of government to drive this and other healthy points home.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and Mr. Bittman has good intentions.  No decent human being would want others to suffer from diabetes or heart disease.  But where Mr. Bittman makes his downward turn is in his belief that the answer rests in government "investment" in coercing individuals to practice healthier living.

What I believe Mr. Bittman either refuses or is unable (due to his statist leaning) to recognize is that the coercive power of government has limitations - indeed, many folks may argue that it can do no social good.   The taking from some in order to "help" others who are somehow unwilling to help themselves is a path of folly.  For the vast majority of people, a decent diet and a modicum of exercise are well within their grasp.  What must not be allowed into the conversation are excuses which are groundless - No one told me that honey bun was bad for me; I live just down the street from a fast food joint and I'm "addicted" - I'm too tired / sore / fat / unmotivated to exercise.  If individuals are relieved of the responsibility for their own health - their own care and feeding - then they will have truly become children of the state.  And we will all pay the price, higher taxes being most certainly the least consequential.  For a society in which individuals who are supposed to be adults turn to the government for direction on what to eat is a society which has no soul, no will, and no hope.

02 April 2011

Ignore the Man from Florida

It is said - and I believe it is true - that I order to be offended, one has to choose to be offended.  Or, to put it another way, if a person chooses to not find offense, he doesn't.  However, some things are quite hard to ignore and exactly what those things are vary from person to person, from culture to culture.  Many Americans find it offensive when someone burns their flag  As part of that group, I understand why: the burning is a statement of contempt bordering on belligerence.  But upon further analysis, if burning a flag or any other symbol is the limit - in a practical sense - of action, then it is essentially an empty final act where the symbol becomes more important to the one destroying it than to the one intended to be offended by the action.

I write this as a backdrop for consideration of two days of what have been variously called protests and riots in Afghanistan which have left about 20 people dead and many dozens injured.  These protests, deaths (including two beheadings), and injuries are in response to a stupidly foolish man in Florida - half a world away - burning a Koran.  Never mind that this Florida man (whom I refuse to name - he deserves not recognition but rather our collective deepest apathy) and his stupid act are impotent.  Many Afghanis are offended; enough, it seems, to kill those around them and behead UN workers.

Take a step back from both the Florida man and the rioting Afghanis, and one wonders why the two pay any attention to each other.  The Florida man is either incapable or unwilling to make his mark by reading, analyzing, and arguing against the book he burned, and so the strongest statement he is able to conjure in his head is to burn it.  His act may be symbolic, but it is also empty.  The ideas and beliefs he feels he is destroying - however symbolically - are not touched.  If he were worth his salt, he would pen numerous criticisms of the book he finds so repulsive and then perhaps he might accomplish something meaningful.  But I suspect nothing will come of the Florida man other than his vacuous act.

News agencies, and people in the West by extension, will pay attention to the rioting Afghanis because people are being injured and killed.  But it seems to me that their acts are just as impotent and empty as the Florida man's.  And what's more, the Afghani's acts seem more self-destructive; one might expect most of the injuries (if not most of the deaths) have been inflicted on Afghanis by Afghanis.  And for what?

At the risk of injecting a Christian verse, "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven."  And this would seem a season for Afghanis and all Muslims to join Americans in ignoring a stupid, impotent man from Florida.

01 April 2011

Powerful While Sleeping

I can be a stickler regarding word usage.  There are some commercials that get under my skin because they make no sense, yet one would assume someone professionally edited the language in them.  The most common abuse of language in commercials seems to be comparisons to nothing: tools that promise to accomplish something in "up to half the time;" fuels that burn "40% cleaner."  Compared to what, you ask?  Indeed.

More and more, though, I find laziness regarding language in straight news reporting (and by that, I mean to segregate news from opinion).  It's been a week since I read an astounding claim in the first sentence of a story reported in the Seattle Times.  Perhaps some who read this post might recall the controller referenced in the sentence; he had the unfortunate (and strangely fortunate - lots of big things going on in the world) fate of having fifteen minutes of news cycle spotlight on him.  According to the Seattle Times, he deserved much more.  Perhaps even a scientific study.
An air traffic control supervisor who fell asleep during a midnight shift and forced two planes to land without assistance at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport this week was suspended Thursday. 
That's one powerful air traffic controller.

This sort of laziness with language is all around us, and it's not unique to our times.  But consider how many messages we get every day and the length of those messages.  News sound bytes are perhaps five to fifteen seconds.  A really long sound byte might be just under a minute.  Posts on Twitter, called tweets, have a 140-character limit.  Text messages are generally fairly short, many times no longer than a tweet.  If I only have 140 characters (or fewer) to fully make a point, I would want to use very precise language.  It is curious, then, that as our utterances become shorter and shorter our language seems to become sloppier. 

Instead, we get all sorts of contradictions, convolutions and inaccuracies.  We get an air traffic controller capable of forcing airplanes to land while he sleeps unassisted.  Or maybe I'm just too critical.

29 March 2011

Thoughts on Entitlement

Recently, my aunt, who belongs to a writing group called Spin Class, asked me to read a piece she had written about entitlement.  And because I could not resist, I thought I'd write a bit on that subject as well.  Call it subject coattail riding.

Because definitions are important, the third definition of entitlement on dictionary.com seems appropriate:  the right to guaranteed benefits under a government program.  I say appropriate because, under presidents on Congresses of both political parties, benefits have expanded and mutated to the point where a claim may be put on just about anything.  A partial list of entitlements might include the following: health care, health insurance, an education, a college education, a job, a house, homeownership, food, and broadband internet.  Where all of those entitlements come from, I have no idea.  I can't find them in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence - unless under some twisted, living-breathing twist on "pursuit of happiness".  After all, how can one achieve happiness without broadband internet delivered to his own home?  Generations have suffered.  We owe it to ourselves.

But a look back at that definition reveals something about our use of language.  The following three words are, for better or worse, equated: entitlement, right, benefit.  I would say the equivalency of those three words is to our detriment.

A common understanding of what rights are and their origin comes from the afore mentioned Declaration of Independence:  "that [all men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights".  But through applying the word "right" to so many things, some important aspects have been stripped away, most importantly the originator of our unalienable rights - the Creator.  Instead, rights have become whatever is legislated, they have become things of man, and yet are still somehow considered unalienable, things which cannot be refused once enacted (or, one might use the word granted).

And so the idea of a right begins to shift into an entitlement, granted by government.  But such things must also, and to a greater degree, be given rather than earned for many.  Entitlements as a form of government giving have a veneer of compassion for the individual.  They are for the benefit of the downtrodden, the suffering, and that is a good thing - except that the entitlement tends to be without end.  Would anyone say that dependence on government giving, government compassion, is a beneficial way for an individual to live?  Does it help the individual in his pursuit of happiness?

I would argue that it does not.  Entitlements, and more importantly, a sense of entitlement in individuals is a corrosive force in our society.  Dennis Prager famously said, "The bigger the government, the smaller the individual."  Entitlements have the consequence, intended or not, of growing government at the expense of the governed.  Yet the governed can feel comforted, cushioned, protected.  It only costs individual liberty.  And it may be that many, many people would rather feel a sense of protection under the dome of entitlement than the uncertainty and freedom of individual liberty.  How and why that balance shifts will say a great deal about our national character.

23 March 2011

My "Missing Tile" Moment

Recently, I ran a 10k race.  I primarily ran for the fun of it; for me, running is an enjoyable activity and being in a race is a good way for me to get some variety and friendly competition into the mix.  For this most recent run, I had not planned on any specific goal, mostly because I had signed up for it about a week before the race date - not a great deal of time to train specifically for that race.

But running - or rather, racing - without a goal is somewhat counterintuitive, so I set the modest goal of running about the same time as my previous 10k.  But as the race progressed, I noticed that my pace was a bit quicker than my last 10k, so I switched goals mid-race.  I decided I would better my previous time.  As I was past the halfway point at that time, it was a fairly modest goal.  Further on, as I was going into the last mile or so, a race worker made a comment about a group of us "still being able to make" a certain time.  I didn't quite set that time as my goal, but still pushed hard in an attempt to make it.  As I crossed the finish line, I knew that I had missed that last goal, or almost goal, but not by much.  I was very happy with my race.  I didn't know my exact time because I had inadvertently stopped my watch one point in the race, so I had to wait until scores posted - a forty-five minute wait.

As I waited, I chatted with some other runners about the course, the hills, our times.  And then my missing tile moment came.

One of my favorite thinkers, Dennis Prager, describes the missing tile syndrome in this way:  If you stand in a room and there is only one ceiling tile missing, you will focus on that spot.  If a ceiling isn't missing any tiles...no one notices.  It's "perfect".  We, being human, do the same things with ourselves and others.  If there is one thing we do not like about ourselves (our missing tile), then it seems to us that everyone else has that "tile".  Mr. Prager's example is a bald man who, when out in public, sees that everyone around him has hair.  And unlike a ceiling, we can never be perfect; we will always have missing tiles.

Some of these tiles are momentary; and my missing tile moment didn't last long, but that may only be because I recognized it for what it was (thankfully).  When my time came up, I found out that I was seconds short from placing in my age group.  And for about a minute, all I thought about was my missing tile, which consisted of seconds I could have made up at various points on the run.  But thankfully, this feeling didn't last long.  Shortly, I remembered the two goals that I did make, and the third that I almost made.  And lastly, I realized that if I were running to place, I'd be racing others and not myself or the course, which for me is less enjoyable.  So I gladly let that missing tile stay missing (as if I could do anything else) and soon enough, I didn't notice it.  I only pray that all of my future missing tile moments will be as brief, as I know I'll have many more.

20 March 2011

Practical Utility in War

In anticipation of hours and hours - perhaps days - of cable news comparisons of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya, it is important to discuss the idea of practical utility when it comes to war. By practical utility, I do not mean lofty goals and end-state proclamations; no "to secure democracy" or "to defend civilians" squishiness, however easy and comfortable it may be to limit discussions to those types of statements while iron is falling in some far-off place. Practical utility tends to shun such squishiness and relies more on language which may offend espousers of the squishy.

As an aside, I do not suppose my thoughts that follow are original; they have all been said in various forms and forums many times. But as a new war starts, it is instructive to take a critical look at our recent past.

In 2002, faced with an ugly place to fight anyone let alone a loosely organized pack of true believers, the US went through the necessary steps to expand the war to Iraq. In March of 2003, the Iraq theater was opened. The practical utility of expanding the war to Iraq has far less to do with weapons of mass destruction, human rights, or bringing democracy to the Middle East - though all of those sound like perfectly good reasons. The practical utility has to do with choosing the battle space. If Afghanistan is a nearly impossible place to fight, with mountains so high that aircraft can be shot at from above by men, then Iraq is preferable, even given the urban setting where (according to news reports) much of the ugly fighting happened. Add that the Iraq battle space had been "prepared" - a military euphemism of sorts - by bombing both the northern and southern no-fly zones regularly as follow-on to Operation Desert Fox in December of 1998. Regardless of all of the miscues, mistakes, and misfortunes which followed, the practical utility of fighting jihadists in Iraq instead of Afghanistan is clear: it was easier for us to kill more of them in Iraq as opposed to the other way around in Afghanistan.

That may be an ugly truth that folks do not want to hear, but it is important to hear it nevertheless. Every jihadist who came to Iraq was one who didn't have to be fought in another place, most notably Afghanistan. In the end, the invasion of Iraq probably - and I believe certainly - saved US and coalition lives and hastened the demise of many of the enemy.

As we begin another war, it would be very, very helpful to be clear about the practical utility of fighting in Libya. So far, I have been unable to discern one.

19 March 2011

Words of War - Odyssey Dawn

As Operation Odyssey Dawn - a title with its own interesting connotations - were about to kick off, Secretary of State Clinton used some interesting words. What I mean by that is the words she used, her diction, seemed rather odd for what has turned into a barrage of more than one hundred cruise missiles. According to the Washington Post:

Questioned on whether the mission was aimed at ensuring the safety of civilians or at pushing Gaddafi from power, she said, “It is to protect civilians and provide access for humanitarian assistance.”
I don't want to seem like I'm picking apart her words, but she is the lead diplomat for the United States and diplomatic words are meant to be picked apart. First, her words are in my opinion not meant necessarily for a foreign audience, which may seem odd at first. They are meant for folks in the US who are understandably very, very leery of hopping into another foreign adventure, especially one as apparently disconnected from US interests as a civil war in a North African country of 6.4 million. After all, if supporting rebels against dictators were a cause for war, the US would be actively engaging in many more countries in the region at the moment.

So Secretary Clinton instead mentions "protecting civilians" - a euphemism. After all, if one protects, then one guards, one stands watch; to protect has a defensive connotation. This is a much more palatable and perhaps even laudable perception of Odyssey Dawn. Unfortunately, the euphemism is a thin cover. One side in Libya is made up of Gaddafi's military; the other is made of up civilians who have taken up arms. "Protecting" these civilians means, in actuality, taking a side against Gaddafi. Not that doing so is a bad thing.

But what the government is selling, through its words, is not a war, regardless of how many munitions actually get fired into and dropped on Libya. What the government is selling is a defensive action of civilians only and providing a route for humanitarian assistance.

To paraphrase President Obama, make no mistake - America is engaged in a war in Libya. It may be short, it may be long. We may be limited players in a coalition. We may only send in cruise missiles and keep our fighters and bombers above the reach of any Libyan arms. But we are at war. The least the administration can do is not euphemize on the subject, but perhaps they don't think highly enough of either the goal in Libya or the American electorate to say it straight.