Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:

 

Conservative:

Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.

 

Liberal:

Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.

 

Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.

 

Reactionary:

Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.

 

Radical:

Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.

 

The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.

 

The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.

 

Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income

 

Capitalism:

Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

 

Socialism:

Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

 

Communism:

Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.

 

Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.

 

Democracy:

Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.

 

Republic:

Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.

 

Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President

 

Fascism:

Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

 
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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Madrid-style Terrorism Spreads

CNN reports today that Madrid-style bomb attacks have been foiled in several nations this week. More are sure to come. Blackmailers never stop, usually either the crooks or the victims end up dead.

Manila foils Madrid-style attack.

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says security forces have foiled a plan to bomb civilian targets in Manila, a terror strike she says that was on the scale of the attacks in Madrid earlier this month.

"We have pre-empted a Madrid-level attack on the metropolis by capturing an explosive cache of 80 pounds -- or 36 kilograms -- of TNT which was intended to be used for bombing malls and trains in metro manila," she told national television on Tuesday.

One of the suspects arrested claimed responsibility for a February 27 blast and fire aboard a passenger ferry that killed more than 100 people, Ermita said.

National elections are scheduled for May 10th, 2004.

UK foils Madrid-style attack.

Eight men remain in custody on Wednesday, one day after 700 British police officers raided several sites in one of the country's biggest anti-terror operations.

All are British nationals aged between 17 and 32 and reportedly of Pakistani origin

Police also said they seized half a ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the same explosive ingredient used in terror attacks in Bali, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Africa and the U.S.

Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes told reporters in Madrid that one of the suspects may have a link and police are investigating.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met European counterparts in Brussels to discuss anti-terrorist measures, and security experts from the five largest European nations conferred in Madrid.

Thai bomb supplies stolen.

A group of about 10 men broke into a rock quarrying factory in Yala province on Tuesday, tied up two security guards and took the explosives away in a truck.

66 bags, each weighing 50 kilograms (110 pounds), of ammonium nitrate, 58 sticks of dynamite, 170 fuses and other objects were missing.

Lt. Gen. Thani Twibsri, the deputy commander of the regional police, said the theft was the work of terrorist groups "who must be planning a major attack and were running short of stock."

Sean: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 [+] |
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Tuesday, March 30, 2004
The Myth Of Sovereignty

During the lead up to the war in Iraq many anti-war activists claimed that the US had no right to violate "Iraqi sovereignty". What these people might not have realized was how flimsy this defense really was and how a-moral their position could be.

Webster’s identifies the word sovereignty as coming from the Old French "soverain". It refers to the highest authority within a given territory. And usually it refers to a state or more specifically to the ruler of such a state.

Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy further explains that the sovereign “derives authority from some mutually acknowledged source of legitimacy -- natural law, a divine mandate, hereditary law, a constitution, even international law”.

In The King’s Two Bodies (1957), Ernst Kantorowicz identifies the early religious footings of sovereignty. He explains that the concept of the dual nature of Christ – with a single physical manifestation and another more complex spiritual being – was transferred to the king. Sovereignty is then a mystical concept.

This divine authority has allowed monarchs to act on personal prejudice, whim, and religious fervor. The Spanish monarchs ethnically cleansed Spain of Moors and Jews up to and following the re-conquest in 1492. More than 300 Protestants were burned at the stake during the 16th century by “Bloody Mary” of England in her (failed) desire to remake England Catholic. And in the 19th century French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte nearly conquered all of Europe just to prove that he could.

But absolute power has never really been absolute; kings had to contend with other princes, their own nobles, and even their subjects. In 1215 the English barons won the Magna Carta and set limits on the domestic activity of the crown. In 1648 the Peace of Westphalia set up an international treaty system that limited monarchs’ activities abroad. In 1776 the American colonies finally replaced the sovereignty of kings with government of, by, and for the people. And the ideal of unilateral sovereignty has been taking a beating ever since.

After WWII most states signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1948 the Genocide Convention committed states to refrain from and punish genocide. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was formed in 1950. And in the mid-1960’s the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights legally bound most of the world’s states to respecting the human rights of their people.

The idea of sovereignty that the anti-war crowd refers to is a myth. Neighboring states have always interfered in the governance of their neighbors. They have judged each other and waged wars or made alliances based upon shared values, the personal vendettas of leaders, or even racial intolerance. Occasionally nations have even invaded their neighbors for humanitarian reasons.

In the 1990’s the United Nations, NATO, and the US initiated or approved a series of interventions across the globe. These episodes involved military operations to remedy injustice within the boundaries of a state without the consent of the government of the target state. They occurred in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, Cambodia, Liberia, and elsewhere.

This steady erosion of sovereignty is a good thing. Daniel Philpott, political science professor at Notre Dame, notes that sovereignty has served “as a carapace behind which rulers carry out cruelties and injustices free from legitimate outside scrutiny.” As the world becomes a “global village” (and it is and will whether we want it to or not) we have no excuse to allow other states to become train wrecks.

Those who complained that an Allied invasion of Iraq violated Iraqi sovereignty were really arguing for the rights of Saddam Hussein. These rights allowed this one man to hold 30 million people in thrall, to steal the wealth of the nation to build palaces and buy weapons, and to use those weapons against his own people. There is no reason, and no excuse, to respect the sovereignty of a tyrant.

Sean: Tuesday, March 30, 2004 [+] |
...
Monday, March 29, 2004
Marriage Bigotry

Andrew Sullivan calls Mike Barnicle on denigrating an inter-racial marriage.

...read what Boston Herald columnist, Mike Barnicle, just said about the marriage between former Defense secretary Bill Cohen and African-American Janet Langhart. It's 2004 and we're still obsessed with "Mandingo"? The deeper point is that inter-racial marriages are often sexualized to a degree others are not. All the complexities, banalities, duties and responsibilities that marriage entails are reduced to a sex fantasy between a black woman and a white man. Reducing people's relationships to mere sex is a subtle way of dehumanizing them.


Good catch. I think it is true that our perception of inter-racial marriages is still impacted by acres of social baggage. And Mike Barnicle isn't a rarity in this case

I don't have any objections to inter-racial relationships. But the rarity of this pair up in my neck of the woods (Portland is over 90% white) causes me notice them. And sometimes I can't help thinking about the political ramifications of these couples.

I read that some black women still have a cultural bias against pairing up with "whitey". Meanwhile some black men still see hooking up with a white woman as "social justice". And based upon the history of Slavery I can't exactly blame them.

Other races share the taboo. Many Korean families still forbid dating the Japanese. And I know one Chinese man who saw dating a white man (he only dated men stateside, back home he dated Asian women only) as a political statement.

And that's one analogy between the deep animus toward inter-racial love and that toward same-sex love that rings as true today as ever.


Andrew has connected racial bigotry and the gay marriage issue before. I know that many people think it is overblown. But I am willing to keep an eye tuned to the issue as Andrew keeps us all up to date.

Sean: Monday, March 29, 2004 [+] |
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Friday, March 26, 2004
Training Day

Someone I know just spent some time in jail. He agreed that prison seems to offer little to the inmates in the way of remediation. Instead inmates enter a training camp that turns out buff parolees with advanced degrees in criminal skills.

A recent bill in Congress (Violent Criminal Incarceration Act of 1995 - Passed by the House) banned the upkeep and purchase of weight training equipment. So eventually the inmates will be left doing yoga. Meanwhile they don't get even the minimal re-education that we gave to Nazi and Japanese POW's during WWII.

Supposedly they can pursue a diploma if they can pay for the classes and the books. And some states allow religious studies for certain convicts. But mainly they just get warehoused until their time is up and then released back "into the wild".

A recent article on the website of 24 Hour Fitness probed this issue. Some of the comments offered first hand perspectives that changed my mind on the issue. You can read some of the comments here.

My perspective is that of a police officer who has worked for seven years in law enforcement in a large city. I'm all for exercise for these guys, but not in the form of mass muscle building, that can be used as a tool or weapon to intimidate others. Additionally, these muscled parolees pose a serious safety issue for law enforcement officers. [And] the lower income, non-criminal, upstanding citizens who have to share their neighborhoods with these thugs, just might feel a little safer in their own comminutes.


I am an ex-con who was incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for eight years. Anyone who lifts weights knows it takes dedication, focus and drive to complete any goals that you set for yourself [including rehabilitation]. Many naive people believe convicts train to become 'bigger, stronger, more violent criminals'. [However] a very small percentage of violent crimes are committed without some sort of weapon. How much iron do you have to pump to be able to lift a .357 magnum? When was the last time a bank was robbed at hand-point?


Perhaps both sides are right in this case. Inmates do need [maybe even more] physical release and exercise. But they don’t need to be "pumping iron" or working on their hot-wiring skills.

These inmates need civics training, not strength training. But this is admittedly much more difficult than simply dumping a pile of iron in the yard. It will probably take more creative thinking and more money.

Meanwhile, on the outside, many of us have also forgotten our basic civic duties. We "revolt" against taxes and under-fund schools and prisons. Maybe we all need a "training day" or two?

Sean: Friday, March 26, 2004 [+] |
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Thursday, March 25, 2004
Little Big Men

A recent episode of cops showed police responding to a "shots fired" call in Los Angeles. The complainant said that three men were shooting machine guns into the night sky. Perhaps they were celebrating a wedding Afghan style?

Inside the cops found an ak-47, several hunting rifles, and more hand guns. They even found a .357 magnum, "the most powerful handgun in the world", and a crossbow - for that innovative gangster.

And the key prize of the night was a table set with garbage bags of marijuana, bits of crack cocaine, a scale, and beeper: "drug paraphernalia" or to be more exact, "drug dealing paraphernalia".

There were no photos, posters, or art on the walls. The carpet was threadbare. The furniture including the folding table and chair in the kitchen and a futon in one bedroom.

The building reminded me of a terrorist "safe house". A building that is not used for living in so much as for storage... of terrorists and their "paraphernalia".

Robert Wright talks about the evolution of human culture in his book " Non-Zero". Near the bottom of the cultural ladder are "chiefdoms" and "big-man" clans. And near the top are modern states such as our own democracy.

Although Robert describes cultural evolution as a one-way path it appears that the older models of tribal culture still flourish in the inner cities and rural outback.

These people follow their own moral code... don’t rat a buddy. But they disregard the laws of society as a whole... that's the man trying to keep you down. And often they cycle between prison and a shack house on the outside.

In prison they get buff, make connections, elevate their status, and learn tricks of the trade. On the outside they do what simple cultures always do, shuck and jive, looking for status and sex (insert drugs anywhere in between).

How long will it be before one of these "little big men" try out Madrid-style political intimidation? Perhaps we are breeding our own “fifth column” and will face more homegrown violence with out the help of Islamic radicals?

Sean: Thursday, March 25, 2004 [+] |
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Half-Life, Counterstrike mod, Ad-on has arrived, finally

And it aint worth it. Seriously, vote with your feet and get a copy of:

Unreal Tournament 2004

Now these people really worked on a new game (although, it too kinda feels like an add on to UT2003, but that's because 2003 was so good).

A quick comparison, CS:CZ comes on two disks, UT2004 comes on six!

Sean: Wednesday, March 24, 2004 [+] |
...
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
France: Rogue Nation

Joe Katzman at Winds Of Change posts this editorial by "Gabriel Gonzalez" (Paris, France):

After reading Kenneth Timmerman's condemnation of France's $100 billion profiteering from Saddam's cruel regime (The French War For Oil), and my own recent article (From Madrid to Paris), some commentators expressed the view that France is just an ordinary country defending its interests and is no different than any other country, including the U.S. Indeed, for some in the anti-war camp France is even assumed to be necessarily a morally superior nation.

This view is so thoroughly ignorant of French foreign policy realities that it should really be put to rest once and for all.

Timmerman points out France's irresponsible dealings with Iraq, which included conditional oil contracts, huge infrastructure deals (construction, roads, utilities, etc.), as well as illegal weapons sales and perhaps even bribes under the UN oil-for-food regime.

I think France took a strategic gamble that it would oppose U.S. policy on control of WMD, proliferation, and fighting the War on Terror, by aligning itself with third world dictatorships, the Arab world and the transnational third world/alter-globalization movements. The payoff would come in the form of more defense, commercial and infrastructure contracts with third world countries and enhanced geopolitical prestige gained, it was hoped, at the expense of the U.S.

I can see why the average American would have trouble accepting this view, precisely because the U.S. could not pursue its interests in this manner without major condemnation by the rest of the world and by its own citizenry. Still, before dismissing this view out of hand, consider what France has accomplished in the last twelve months (a list by no means exhaustive):

1) In the months following the Iraq war, France spent much time courting much of the Arab/Muslim world (Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco), in order to improve its diplomatic and commercial relations by presenting itself as an alternative pole for opposing U.S. strategic interests. (Just Google de Villepin's itinerary over that period and this will become clear.)

2) Those interests now clearly extend to opposing U.S. policy for self-determination, liberalization and human rights in the Arab/Muslim world. Chirac has recently officialized, including at a recent joint appearance with [the African dictator] H. Mubarek, French opposition to U.S. policy of encouraging liberalization, denouncing this as "interference" and favoring an "alternative" model of political development from within.

Just as France's "alternative" model for "combating" terrorism by opposing U.S. "militarism" is based on nothing of substance, it's "alternative" model for political development in the Middle East would also appear to be little more than a front for promoting French commercial and strategic interests in the region, with the complicity of authoritarian regimes perfectly willing to agree to this "alter" political model.

3) France's noisy condemnation of U.S. Iraq policy was reported to have spurred residents of Arab countries to name their newborn children "Chirac" and Chirac's 63% favorability rating in Morocco in the most recent Pew survey of Middle East attitudes, an incredibly high figure for a former colony not ordinarily well disposed to the French Republic, is part of the pay-off for its "alternative" "third worldism".

4) Through its policies, France has recently won defense contracts throughout the Middle East (which are routinely procured through bribery), including for sales of Leclerc tanks to the Emirates and Saudi Arabia (at a loss, I might add).

5) France has recently announced a new initiative to renew arms sales to China and, just a couple of days ago, conducted joint naval exercises off the China coast ahead of Taiwan's elections. This was strongly protested by Taiwan, with whom France is embroiled in a dispute over French bribery of Taiwanese officials in connection with the sale of naval vessels.

(The contract included a French warranty of no bribery and indemnification of Taiwan for the full amount of any bribery discovered, all to the great embarrassment of the French state.) As the U.S. is the guarantor of stability in Asia and protection of the democratic government of Taiwan, the French military exercises conducted with China were directed as much at the U.S. as at Taiwan.

What allows France to engage in such conduct much more freely than the U.S. is:

1) A thoroughly corrupt business culture and state bureacracy (that has a paranoid view of itself as being in a fierce Machiavellian competition with a U.S. business establishment presumed to be equally or more ruthless),

2) The demonization of an imperialist United States as a distraction, and

3) The passive support of its citizenry.

This last point - the passive support of the citizenry - is very important to understand: unlike the U.S., France has effectively no political or citizen control over its foreign policy, which is a purely executive function. This stems from the relationship of the citizen to the State: whereas state power is perceived as inherently dangerous by Americans in our historical tradition of scepticism towards official power, the French centralized state is glorified by its citizenry as the ultimate protector of citizen interests, rather than as a danger to them. As a result, the citizenry has little interest in the details, substance or moral dimension of foreign policy, which are fully delegated and blindly entrusted to this Collective Protector.

The U.S. and most of its allies respect certain bounds of mutually shared collective interest that, I think it is clear, France will freely overstep in ways that put it closer to the Soviet Union and Pakistan than to the U.S. or Great Britain. This might be arms sales to highly questionable regimes. France stands alone in having sold nuclear weapons capable technology to two Middle East regimes: Israel and Iraq.

I am not sure that "evil" is the right word, but France is, among Western powers, the closest one can get to a "rogue" state.


Read the whole thing... he's pretty much hitting the nail in the head.

Sean: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 [+] |
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Eternal Sunshine

Just watched the film The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and I liked it. It can be abit difficult to follow if you are on cold medicine, but otherwise you should be fine. Jim Carrey gives a surprising serious performance. Of course, I'm going to have to stop calling them surprising soon enough. Kate Winslet was awesome as an annoying woman you love to be annoyed by. And Kristin Dunst was cute as a button and surprisingly emotive. Oh, and a hobbit works his way into the storyline too. But the star of the show is definitely the photography, the effects, etc. The dreamlike state is enough to make you somnambulant yourself. Again, you might want to lay off the cold medicine before the show. Anyway... go, be moved and enjoy the eye candy.

Sean: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 [+] |
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Monday, March 22, 2004
Blind Sheikh Yassin Assassinated

CNN reports that Israel killed the leader of the Arab terrorist group Hamas:

Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an airstrike by Israeli forces Monday morning as he was leaving a mosque.

Israel says the operations are meant to target terrorists preparing to take part in attacks on Israelis.

Thousands of angry Palestinians had gathered around Yassin minutes after the attack. Hamas gunmen fired weapons into the air, promising revenge against Israel.

Yassin founded Hamas in 1987, during the Palestinian intifada. Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist organization whose military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has carried out attacks on Israeli civilian and military targets.

Last week, twin suicide bombings jointly claimed by Hamas and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades killed 10 people in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.

I know Israel sees its war against terror as a mirror of ours. But this may turn out to be a big mistake. The sheikh was not Osama. He was probably not doing much in the way of planning, funding, or carrying out attacks. But this will certainly fuel the fires of out-of-work, frustrated young Arabs throughout the territories. Expect more attacks on Israel, not less.

Sean: Monday, March 22, 2004 [+] |
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Friday, March 19, 2004
Rape In Africa

The BBC is reporting that the Sudan is once again the scene of horrible atrocities.

Speaking to the BBC, the United Nations co-ordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, said the conflict had created the worst humanitarian situation in the world.

More than 100 women have been raped in a single attack carried out by Arab militias in Darfur in western Sudan.

"All houses as well as a market and a health centre were completely looted and the market burnt. Over 100 women were raped, six in front of their fathers who were later killed," he said.

A further 150 women and 200 children were abducted.

This attack a fortnight ago is one of many across the arid territory.

Village after village is being razed to the ground by the militias, he said.

He said more than one million people were affected by "ethnic cleansing".

He said the fighting was characterized by a scorched-earth policy and was comparable in character, if not in scale, to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

"It is more than just a conflict. It is an organized attempt to do away with a group of people," he said.

Arab militias, backed by the government, have driven hundreds of thousands from their homes, in retaliation for a rebellion launched a year ago by two armed groups.

They accused the Arab-dominated government of ignoring the black African inhabitants of Darfur.

More than 100,000 people have fled across the border into Chad, but have continued to face cross-border raids.

"I was present in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, and I've seen many other situations around the world and I am totally shocked at what is going on in Darfur," he told the BBC Radio 4's Today program.

"This is ethnic cleansing, this is the world's greatest humanitarian crisis, and I don't know why the world isn't doing more about it."

The fighting in the west of Sudan has intensified as government peace talks to resolve the 20-year war with southern rebels are nearing an end.

But the UN is concerned that this conflict could undermine the peace talks in Kenya.

Did you hear that? The UN is concerned that all the butchering might upset their little peace talks. Did you notice that this conflict has been going on for more than 20 years? How can any sane person ask the US to sit on its hands and let the UN resolve... anything?


Sean: Friday, March 19, 2004 [+] |
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Thursday, March 18, 2004
Taiwan Election Too Close To Call

"Opinion polls put either side's lead within the margin of error, and we have 20% of voters undecided, so it could be as close as last time," said political analyst Yu-shan Wu.

But a bigger factor is the way Mr Chen and his DPP have shifted the election's focus onto the controversial subject of Taiwan's relations with China, and how these impact on a growing sense of Taiwanese identity.

Almost all Taiwan's 23 million people - or their ancestors - emigrated from China. But most did so hundreds of years ago, and an increasing number now say they are Taiwanese not Chinese - a marked change from even a decade ago.

"People have gradually shifted from thinking of themselves as Chinese to Taiwanese. It's not just ethnicity, it's tied up with their frustration at Taiwan's international isolation. Mr Chen has been very skilful at exploiting this," Mr Wu said.

Mr Chen's DPP favours the island's eventual independence.


We should keep in mind that independence for Taiwan may well mean war for the United States and China. Then again, if Taiwan elects an anti-independence candidate it would be appeasement of the Chinese dragon. Lose, lose.

UN Flees Kosovo, nothing new there

Trouble first erupted in the divided city of Mitrovica after the drowning deaths of two Albanian children, blamed on members of the province's small ethnic Serbian community.

Albanians set fire to churches in Mitrovica and the town of Obilic, west Pristina, where about 100 local Serbs had to be evacuated.

Nato troops had to use tear gas against Albanian protesters seeking to march on the village of Caglavica, south of Pristina, for the second day on Thursday.

As attacks multiplied, angry demonstrators over the border in Serbia itself responded by burning several mosques.

UN staff have been pulled out of the flashpoint town of Mitrovica in Kosovo where two days of inter-ethnic clashes have left 31 dead.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the decision had been taken in view of the worsening security situation.

Serbia has accused both the UN and Nato of failing to protect Kosovo's Serbs.


The Un responds to the slightest security threat by fleeing town, never mind actually carrying out its mandate to keep the peace. And we want to hand over Iraq to these jokers?

Terrorists Cornered In Pakistan

Pakistani troops say they have surrounded a senior al-Qaeda leader close to the Afghan border and are preparing to move in within hours.

Military officials saying they believe it to be al-Qaeda's Egyptian number two, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Egyptian in origin, Mr Zawahri is believed to serve as Bin Laden's spiritual adviser and doctor. He is also the architect of the al-Qaeda ideology.

Mr Zawahri has appeared alongside Bin Laden in al-Qaeda videotapes released since the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

He has been indicted in the US for his role in the 1998 American embassy bombings in Africa, and was sentenced to death in Egypt in absentia for his activities with the Islamic Jihad group in the 1990s.

If Mr Zawahri was captured it would be a major blow to the militant network founded by Osama Bin Laden.


Good news, and bad news. It is extremely likely that Al Qaeda will respond to Zawahri's capture or death with dreadful attacks around the world.

Sean: Thursday, March 18, 2004 [+] |
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Spanish Lessons

I have an article up on Suicide Girls website...

Some like to think Islam is a religion of peace. They say that the problems in the Middle East are due to American involvement in Arab internal affairs. They say that if they just ignore Islamic fascism it will leave them alone.

On Friday Al Qaeda bombed several commuter trains during rush hour in Spain's capital of Madrid. National elections for Parliament were set for that weekend. By Sunday the entire national political tenor had changed and the Socialist Party was swept into power.

Following the logic of appeasement the new Spanish PM immediately promised to bring their troops home from an invasion and occupation of Iraq that a majority of Iraqis say they actually support... With a success like this under their belt Al Qaeda is likely to bomb other European allies of the US. And if they respond in a Spanish fashion, the War On Terror will be left to just the Americans.

What if the US also followed the Spanish model? Why not call the Marines home and just leave the Middle East to the Arabs? Let's imagine what would happen if the pacifist Left won the war for public opinion.

The Taliban would likely come back to Kabul and an Islamic cleric could seize power in Baghdad. Meanwhile Pakistan already has nukes, the Saudis have enough cash to buy them from China, and the Iranians are on their last installment payment. It is easy to draw the conclusion that the Middle East would become the haven of nuclear-armed tyrants and mobs.

Most of us know that Islam means "submission" in Arabic. But did you know that in Islamic discourse converting to Islam is referred to as "reverting" rather than "converting", because all humans are born into Islam (a state of submission to God). And anyone who turns away from Islam, or converts to another faith like Christianity, is an "apostate" who is immediately sentenced to death.

Upon this logic Muslims divide the world into two "houses," Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. That is, the House of Islam (submission) and the House of War. Any part of the world formerly ruled by Muslims is a nation of apostates, deserving of bloody reconquest. And any part of the world that has not yet submitted is perpetually at war with the Muslim faithful.

What would a nuclear-armed Arab world do in its first year in power? Would they threaten Spain if it fails to "revert"? Could it resist calls from the zealous to nuke Israel or India (would these nuclear-armed targets let them get that far)? Or would they simply mind their own business and continue to supply Europe with 98% of its oil?

Maybe the Bushies misspoke when they claimed that Saddam was a few years away from developing nukes. But the problem is actually far worse than they described. And appeasement of the Spanish variety is feeding the crocodiles.


UPDATE: In case there was any doubt as to Spain's new "relationship" with terror...

Sean: Wednesday, March 17, 2004 [+] |
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Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Why Dont You Ask An Iraqi?

The BBC probably had a hernia reporting on this survey... but it looks like most Iraqis approved of the US and UK led invasion of their country last year and have more satisfaction and hope today than under Saddam.

The survey shows 70% of people said that things were going well or quite well in their lives, while only 29% felt things were bad.

The public overwhelming disapproves of recent [terrorist] violence, especially of attacks on the Iraqi police but also on American and other coalition forces.

About 15% say foreign forces should leave Iraq now, but many more say they should stay until an Iraqi government is in place or security is restored.

Looking back, more Iraqis think the invasion was right than wrong, although 41% felt that the invasion "humiliated Iraq".

Meanwhile, an ICM poll of British attitudes about the Iraq war for BBC Newsnight's special programme, One Year On - Iraq, reveals that 48% of those questioned thought taking military action was the right thing to do; 43% thought it was not


Like pulling teeth, eh Beeb?


Sean: Tuesday, March 16, 2004 [+] |
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Monday, March 15, 2004
Eunuchs!


On Thursday night the ruling Popular Party, which backed Bush's invasion of Iraq, was projected to easily win the Spanish elections. On Friday morning Al Qaeda blew up some trains and said "that's what you get for siding with Bush". And on Sunday Spain swept the Socialists, the anti-Bush and anti-Iraq-war party, into power.

To make it absolutely clear to Al Queda that Spain surrenders the new PM held a press conference on Monday.

"I think Spain's participation in the war has been a total error," said prime minister elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and says he plans to pull 1,300 Spanish troops out of Iraq in June.


It gets even better...

Zapatero pledged at the news conference to develop better ties with Morocco, even though three of the five men in custody as suspects in last week's bombings in Madrid are Moroccan, and investigators suspect that one of them, Jamal Zougam, has ties to the ringleader of Al Qaeda in Spain.


How do you respond to a nation that sends terrorists to your shores? You get in bed with them, of course! Looks like the Spanish are taking lessons from the French.

Reminder: blackmailers never quit, not till one of you is dead. The rest of Europe ought to be pissed at Spain because now that Al Qaeda knows how to get what they want...

And now the Brits convert...

Reconquista 1492

Re-Reconquista 2004

UPDATE: Poland gets it...

"Poland is standing firm: "Revising our positions on Iraq after terrorists attacks would be to admit that terrorists are stronger and that they are right (to pursue attacks)," Prime Minister Leszek Miller told a news conference in the Polish town of Tarnow."

Hat tip: Roger Simon

Sean: Monday, March 15, 2004 [+] |
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Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Democratic Tolerance

Carroll Andrew Morse eviscerates the international order in her latest Tech Central article.


In spite of their disagreement over goals, international leaders across a diverse spectrum of foreign policy philosophies do agree that military intervention in Haiti is a legitimate course of action. This consensus about Haiti stands in sharp contrast to the lack of international consensus about Iraq. Why has intervention been widely embraced in one situation, but not the other?

Reports say that about 100 people have been killed since the rebellion against Aristide began in early February. [But] the death toll does not compare to the hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq. If stopping killing was an international priority the United Nations Security Council would have supported intervention in Iraq as well as in Haiti.

The essential difference between Haiti and Iraq concerns continuity of leadership. In the case of Haiti, continuity of leadership was destroyed by internal forces; Aristide lost control of the country, and the identity of a successor who could restore order was not obvious. In the case of Iraq, continuity of leadership was never internally threatened.

Aristide's mistake was a failure to keep the people of Haiti frightened into maintaining civil order. He did not go far enough in rigging elections and using street gangs to intimidate opponents. Had he been more brutally totalitarian, had he done a better job of killing the leaders of any potential rebellion while simultaneously glad-handing the diplomatic circuit, he could -- like a Fidel Castro, [Hugo Chavez], or Robert Mugabe -- still be in power today.

This is a perverse message for the democracies of the world to send to the dictators of the world.


A common retort from Lefties discussing the Iraq war was "What about all the other dictators in the world?" To which I say, to borrow a phrase from Bush The Younger, "Bring 'em on!". It is high time that the US stop coddling dictators, "elected" at one time or another or no.

Another common argument was that invading Iraq would cause "instability in the region", a region of dictators and oligarchies. To which I would say "Exactly". The status quo, "sovereignty", and anti-imperialism are not necessarily good things. Certainly not when they are used as excuses for madmen to rule with an iron fist.

Democracies should be intolerant of oppression, local and parochial or no. We should not have returned the Shaw and we should not have returned Aristide. We should support popular uprisings and palace coups against Yasser Arafat; Robert Mugabe; Kim Il; Hugo Chavez, etc. etc. Viva la revolution!

Hat tip to Michael Totten.

Sean: Wednesday, March 10, 2004 [+] |
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Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Voting Nader

Today NPR carried an open letter from a so-called "nader lover". She avowed that she understood and completely agreed with Nader that we have only a so-called "two party system". And that is why she voted for Nader in 2000. But that this year she was forced to "get serious" and vote for the anti-bush. She ended by begging Ralph Nader not to run as a candidate, anymore, ever.

She is a phony.

If you truly agree that the GOP and DNC are two shades of the same color, (filthy lucre green), then you would vote for Nader as much this year as any other.

If you truly agree that a vote for Nader is a lost DNC vote, (actually he drew nearly as much from the GOP and the GOP itself drew more votes from the DNC than Nader), then you would certainly not vote for Nader this year, just as you wouldn't have in 2000.

Is that clear enough?

If you truly believe in multi-party democracy (and there really is no other kind), then you shouldn't worry your head if "pro-business and sorta-pro-war" Bush (he was against foreign entanglement, nation building, etc before 9-11) wins or "pro-business and sorta-anti-war" Kerry (he voted for Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq) wins. The difference will be as subtle as decaf vs. regular coffee.

If you truly believe that we all deserve to vote for the candidate that we truly support, rather than the lesser-of-two-evils, or the party assigned to you at birth, then vote your conscience. Vote for any candidate other than Bush/Kerry.

I so distrust "both-sides-of-the-fence" Kerry that I might otherwise vote for Bush... but voting Nader sticks to my principles so much better. This year "a vote for Nader is a vote for Kerry". That ought to balance things out. No?

Sean: Tuesday, March 09, 2004 [+] |
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Monday, March 08, 2004
Carnival Of Germany

Can anyone tell who these characters are?

Sean: Monday, March 08, 2004 [+] |
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Saturday, March 06, 2004
The Kerry Difference

The Friday Oregonian helped us all to catalog the major differences ahead in the Kerry vs. Bush campaign:

Social Security

Bush: would support allowing younger workers to "opt-out" of Social Security and put some of their money into private retirement vehicles.

Kerry: against "privatization" of Social security; and would require companies doing so to allow younger workers to "opt-in" to traditional retirement vehicles.

Environment and Energy

Bush: would limit emissions of mercury, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide. Would cap power plant emissions to reduce pollution drifting across state lines.

Kerry: No drilling in AWR, support tougher fuel efficiency standards, would work towards 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, get us off Middle East oil in 10 years, and would toughen standards for companies operating on public land.

Health Care

Bush: Won prescription benefits for elderly. Would encourage private companies to offer coverage for the elderly willing to opt out of Medicare. New tax-free medical savings accounts for those under 65 that meet certain criteria.

Kerry: Would expand existing federal employee medical plan to cover non-governmental workers that meet certain criteria. Would give tax credit to unemployed. Would reimburse employers who pay into employee catastrophic medical coverage.

Budget

Bush: Plans to cut budget deficit by half in 5 years. Proposes that Congress limit discretionary spending in programs outside of defense and homeland security to a 0.5% increase next year.

Kerry: Plans to cut deficit in half within 4 years. Proposes repealing some of the Bush tax cuts.

Economy and Taxes

Bush: Wants to set aside $3,000 each to help unemployed find new jobs. Wants to make tax cuts permanent. Wants to ease business regulations and pursue more free trade deals. Promises to increase domestic energy production. Wants to limit class action lawsuits and medical malpractice suits.

Kerry: Would roll back tax cuts for the rich and keep those for the middle and lower classes. Would spend money on highways and school construction, pollution cleanup, and energy projects. Supports more free trade deals.

Education

Bush: would spend 43% more on pell grants, poor students, and school vouchers.

Kerry: would set aside $3.2 billion for public service in exchange for school loans and opposes school vouchers.

Gay Rights

Bush: against "gay marriage" but would continue to support "don't ask, don't tell" in the military.

Kerry: against "gay marriage" but would accept "civil unions" and would continue to support "don't ask, don't tell".

Death Penalty

Bush: supports.

Kerry: supports for terrorism and treason only.

Abortion

Bush: Supported partial birth abortion ban, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the mother is at risk.

(Signed Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 10/21/2003)

Kerry: Supported partial birth abortion ban, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the mother is at risk.

(Kerry voted for Partial-Birth Abortion Ban 05/20/1997, 10/21/1999 and 10/21/2003 )

Immigration

Bush: would grant illegal Mexicans "legal status" immediately.

Kerry: would grant illegal Mexicans citizenship "quickly".

Trade

Bush: supports free trade agreements, especially for Western Hemisphere.

Kerry: voted for NAFTA and to elevate China's trade status regardless of their human rights record.

Iraq War

Bush: supported it, called for it, led it.

Kerry: voted to authorize it, but now says that he was fooled by the Bushies warnings of Saddam's weapons capacity.

The debates next fall should be real soporifics.

Sean: Saturday, March 06, 2004 [+] |
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Thursday, March 04, 2004
Kerry's American History X

Jennifer Anne Perez in the UAHC journal and Franklin Foer of The New Republic explain the Kerry family lore.

Frederick Kerry

Benedikt and Mathilde Kohn lived in the Czech town of Horni Benesov. On May 10, 1873 they had a son they named Fritz.

Like his father, Fritz became a brewer. However, it was very difficult for German Jews to succeed in an area dominated by German-speaking Catholics.

On March 17, 1902, shortly before his 30th birthday, Fritz took his wife Ida and infant son Erich to a government office in Vienna and changed his name to Frederick Kerry.

In May of 1905 Ellis Island records note the arrival of the Kerry family in NY. Kerry identified his family as Germans from Austria and their former place of residence as Vienna.

The Kerrys settled in Chicago. By 1908 Fred was listed in a business directory with an office on Dearborn Street in Chicago's famous Loop. In 1910 he had made it into the Chicago Blue Book, a catalogue of notable city residents.

Kerry assisted in the reorganization of Sears Roebuck, and by the following year he was promoting himself as a "business counselor" under the title "Frederick A. Kerry & Staff."

Kerry soon left Chicago and settled in Brookline, Massachusetts. There, in 1915, Ida gave birth to their third child, Richard, the future father of Senator John Kerry.

Frederick would continue the merchant life, now working in the shoe business and achieving enough success to hire a live-in German domestic worker, who appears on the 1920 census records of the Kerry household.

On census records Fred and his wife listed their native tongues as German--although the first language of Czech Jews of that era who were born near the Polish border would almost certainly have been Yiddish. By this time the Kerry's had been practicing Catholics for over 20 years.

On November 21, 1921 at the age of 48, Frederick Kerry walked into the lobby washroom of Boston's posh Copley Plaza Hotel, put a loaded revolver to his head, and pulled the trigger. He left behind $25 in cash, $200 in stocks, and a Cadillac.


Richard Kerry

Richard Kerry graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School. There he met and married Rosemary Forbes, a descendant of two wealthy Massachusetts families, the Forbes and the Winthrops.

After college he volunteered for the Army Air Corps as a test pilot during World War II. He was eventually grounded and sent to hospital in Colorado for Tuberculosis. Their son John Kerry was born in Denver on December 11, 1943.

The family returned to Massachusetts following the war. Richard eventually became an assistant district attorney for the southeastern district of Massachusetts. In 1949, Kerry moved to Washington, D.C., to work in the office of the General Counsel for the Navy Department.

He joined the State Department two years later, where he served in the Bureau of United Nations Affairs and the Office of Legal Advisor. He was later a legal advisor to the U.S. High Commissioner of Germany, James B. Conant, as well as U.S. Attorney for Berlin.

In 1956 he joined the Foreign Service and was assigned as executive assistant to Sen. Walter F. George, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He taught at the NATO Defense College in Paris in 1958 before being named Chief of the Political Section of the American Embassy there.

When he returned to the United States, he moved to Groton and resumed his legal career. In 1990, he published "The Star-Spangled Mirror," an analysis of American political culture and foreign policy that reflected his experiences abroad.


John Kerry
John Kerry also graduated from Yale University. John entered the Navy after graduation, becoming a Swift Boat officer, serving on a gunboat in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. He received a Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, and three awards of the Purple Heart for his service in combat, mainly for pulling his men out of an ambush.

The military reported that Kerry's patrol boat came under rocket attack from the shore. Lieutenant Kerry drove his boat directly into the enemy's beach position and landed. A wounded enemy soldier then fled with a rocket launcher. And Lieutenant Kerry leapt ashore, pursued the man behind a hut and killed him - capturing a B-40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber.

However, by the time Kerry returned from Vietnam he was a committed anti-war activist. He co-founded Vietnam Veterans of America and became a spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

In April 1971, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he asked the question of his fellow citizens, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?". A day later he led a group of veterans that hurled their war medals onto the Capitol steps to protest the war.

Kerry graduated from Boston College Law School in 1976. He then served as prosecutor in Middlesex County and was credited with putting the no. 2 crime boss behind bars and with reforming the prosecutor's office - including the addition of a rape crisis crime unit. In private practice Kerry earned renown working to prove the innocence of a man wrongly given a life sentence for a murder he did not commit.

Kerry was appointed Lieutenant Governor in 1982. And in 1984 Kerry was elected to the United States Senate. Kerry was re-elected in 1990, in 1996, and again in 2002.

John Kerry is married to Teresa Heinz "Ketchup" Kerry (tomato sauce heiress). He has two daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa. Teresa has three sons, John, Andre, and Christopher. Senator Kerry lives in Boston.


More on Richard Kerry here.

Sean: Thursday, March 04, 2004 [+] |
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Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The Military Voting Record Of John Kerry

Mar. 15, 1988
Kerry voted to require the President to notify Congress of all covert operations.

May 11, 1988
Kerry voted in favor of limiting the U.S. missile arsenal to the equivalent arsenal of the Soviet Union, even though the SALT II treaty that set those limits had not yet been ratified.

May 11, 1988
Kerry voted in favor of reducing funding for SDI (the Strategic Defense Initiative)/missile defense program from $4.5 billion to $3.8 billion for 1989.

Sep. 9, 1988
Kerry voted against the deployment of an effective missile defense system by the United States “as soon as possible”.

August 1, 1991
Kerry voted in favor of killing the B-2 Bomber.

July 31, 1991
Kerry voted in favor of allowing women in combat pilot positions in the military.

April 9, 1992
Kerry voted to reduce defense spending on small weapons systems by $8.8 billion in 1993.

September 17, 1992
Kerry voted against approving $5.4 billion for SDI (missile defense) for 1993. He then voted to further reduce the budget from $4.3 billion to $3.3 billion.

September 18, 1992
Kerry voted to cut $2.7 billion from the bill for production of B-2 Bombers in 1993, thus cutting production from 20 to 15 planes.

September 9, 1993
Kerry voted to cut funding for the Ballistic Missile Defense program from $3.4 to $3 billion in 1994.

October 14, 1993
Kerry voted in favor of leaving American troops in Somalia.

November 10, 1993
Kerry voted in favor of making all intelligence spending and (spying) activities public.

July 1, 1994
Kerry supported cutting $150 million in funding for additional B-2 stealth bombers.

August 10, 1994
Kerry supported eliminating funding for the Trident II submarine-fired (nuclear capable) missile program.

August 3, 1995
Kerry supported against wording in the defense budget that would have stated that it is U.S. policy to deploy a multi-site missile defense.

August 4, 1995
Kerry supported eliminating $50 million allocated for low-level hydro-nuclear testing.

August 10, 1995
Kerry supported eliminating $70 million in funding for space-based laser development.

February 2, 1996
Kerry's authored a bill to slash Defense Department spending by $6.5 billion, but it never came to a vote.

May 15, 1996
Kerry supported reducing the budget authorization on defense by $8.3 billion for 1997.

June 4, 1996
Kerry voted against the development of a national missile defense system by 2003.

June 19, 1996
Kerry voted to reduced appropriation for the national missile defense program by $300 million to $508 million.

September 10, 1996
Kerry voted against allocating $265.6 billion for defense spending for 1997.

1998
Kerry voted in favor of transferring $329 million from defense appropriations to the Veterans Affairs Department for veteran's health care.

June 7, 2000
Kerry voted to allow President Clinton to reduce the nation’s nuclear weapons even before completion of the Defense Department's review in December of 2001.

October 10, 2002
Kerry voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq, although Kerry now claims that he was “duped” by the White House into giving his approval.

Kerry has apparently voted for more budget cuts and program cuts than any other Senator that I know of, while simultaneously voting more often in favor of military action than most. Weird huh?

Sean: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 [+] |
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Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Lessons of War

A recent Frontline documentary on the invasion of Iraq put me in mind of the film The Fog Of War and the lessons of Robert McNamara. As US troops enter yet another theatre in Haiti, for yet another nation building/military intervention/police action, it seems appropriate to stop and add up the lessons from Iraq.


Lesson 1: Precision Weapons. It is nice to be able to tell the world how "smart" your bombs are. But this also creates the expectation that you never miss. Then when you do miss people will take it personally. When our bombs and bullets hit civilian areas, which was unavoidable, the people on the ground assumed that we were aiming for them. This puts a real dampener on your reception by the locals.

Lesson 2: Surgical Strikes. We tried to take out leadership targets in Iraq and batted 0 for 50. The ensuing "collateral damage" earned us a lot of ill will. And the leadership targets began to realize that we had neither the intel nor the aim that they once assumed. Although our intentions were good, to end the conflict ASAP, the results were really negative.

Lesson 3: Collateral Damage. Attempting to minimize the length and severity of the war, for the sake of civilians, emboldened the holdouts to carry on the fight. Ultimately this has led to more civilian deaths "after the war" than we might have risked by more soundly defeating the enemy combatants "during the war".

Lesson 4: Boots On The Ground. We tried to minimize the political risks of a large deployment. While our superior firepower and tactics secured us the initial victory in Baghdad, we had insufficient troops to create an impressive "presence" on the ground. Our soldiers were not capable of stopping looting anymore than they were capable of rounding up WMD, we barely had enough soldiers to watch each other's backs.

Lesson 5: Nation Building or You Break It, You Buy It. Evil regimes do not stick around to help you run the country. Bring all the engineers that you can and secure all the infrastructure that you can right away. Unemployment during and following a war is usually very high. So do not disband local fighters or empty prisons. As these people will be out of work, armed, and will soon become interested in criminal or military activities. In fact, co-opt all the armed forces, government or rebels, and the business community ASAP.


The over riding message that I got watching Frontline was that our efforts to be "nice" only made things worse. Rather than tell the civilians what good shots you are, emphasize that your weapons are DEADLY and that they should stay the heck off the streets and out of your way. It is far better to come in with overwhelming firepower and manpower and try to kill as many enemy combatants as you can while they are still in uniform. Before you can wind the hearts and minds of the good guys you first have to defeat the bad guys.

Sean: Tuesday, March 02, 2004 [+] |
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Monday, March 01, 2004
Fields Of Jihad

Timothy J. Burger, Bruce Crumley, and Helen Gibson report some good news from Iraq in the Feb 23rd 2004, issue of Time:


When Hassan Ghul, one of the key al-Qaeda operatives still on the run, was stopped at a Kurdish checkpoint near Kalar, officials made an intriguing discovery in his travel bag: two CDs and a computer flash disc the size of a cigarette lighter.

The satchel was at least as important as the suspect. On one of Ghul's discs was a 17-page progress report and future plan of action in Iraq written to "You, noble brothers, leaders of Jihad. " The author, U.S. military officials have concluded, was Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, whom U.S. intelligence believes is al-Qaeda's top operative in Iraq.

The files captured with Ghul were first reported on by the New York Times. They suggest a long-term strategy to turn occupied Iraq into the front line of the global jihad. But expresses frustration that the fight in Iraq has not been more successful as well as concern that it will soon fail.

The author complains of various obstacles: that the U.S. won't leave Iraq "no matter how many wounds it sustains," that Iraqis offer hospitality but "will not allow you to make their homes a base for operations or a safe house," that "our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases." He laments, "By God, this is suffocation!"

The writer argues that the resistance has only a limited time in which to act—until the U.S. confers sovereignty on a new Iraqi government, a turnover planned for June. "We are racing against "time,” he says. Once democracy is in place, "we will have no pretexts," he argues. "If, God forbid, the [new Iraqi] government is successful and takes control of the country, we will just have to pack up and go somewhere else again."


Yeah, how about ya go ta hell?

Sean: Monday, March 01, 2004 [+] |
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