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Saturday, July 31, 2004
 
MoreSpeakers

Santorum is on the list, which is good. But put him up front and center, not Pataki.

As for the other choices, here are some comments:

Bill Frist - Zzzzzzz
Elizabeth Dole - Is she still a Senator? Will she do the Oprah impression again? I hope not. Dull...nodding off.
Santorum - Hooray, a real live conservative!
Brownback - Sure, why not, but I'm not tuning in.
Hastert - Only if he shows up in his wrestling gear and challenges Pelosi to a cage match.

And most importantly:
Erika Harold - Miss America 2002 - I hate when they do this. But she will probably be hot.

Some better suggestions for non-politicos:

Michael Reagan - we will win the dueling battle of the Reagan sons! Ron Jr.'s speech was one of the worst of all time, whatever you think of stem cell research.

Tom Selleck - C'mon. Wouldn't that be great?

Michael Moore - Seriously. Let's give this lunatic some more face time. It can only help us.

Anthony Michael Hall - I'm just wondering what he is up to. A short speech might help clear that up.

More political suggestions:

Rep. Tom Reynolds (NY) - Chairman of the NRCC and a boisterous speaker -- lots of energy. You think he is going to explode like one of them dudes from scanners.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth (AZ) - Another entertaining speaker.

former Rep. John Kasich (OH) - He would be great. Swing state too.



 
RNC Convention Speakers

My impressions on the RNC line up.
1. Monday - Bloomberg welcomes everyone. Can't help that. Giuliani and McCain -- a great first night. Huge, assuming McCain the Republican shows up and not his evil twin.

2. Tuesday - Laura Bush and Rod Paige, followed by Arnold. Kind of a weak night, but I bet Arnold's speech gets more viewers than any other night of either convention. It will be interesting to watch.

3. Wednesday - Dick Cheney and Zell Miller. Red meat night. Scary that the most right wing guy on the agenda is a Democrat!

4. Thursday - George Pataki introduces the President. Ugh. Who in their right mind chose Pataki? A terrible pick. He can't speak. His state is a disaster. He comes from a state that is already decided for Kerry. Why?

I think this stands up well against the Dems fiasco, which, other than Bill Clinton's speech, was sort of a dud. Giuliani, McCain, Zell Miller and Arnold are all A+ picks.

What this convention needs:
1. Condi! Condi! Condi! In prime time.
2. Tom Ridge. PA Swing state.
3. Rick Santorum. Again. PA.
4. Jeb! Again Swing State. Complicated, I know. But he makes up for it by performance.
5. Powell -- good for swing voters.




Friday, July 30, 2004
 
Ace in the Hole

I think that the protestors in NYC are going to have a huge impact on this election -- just not the kind of impact they intend. Look, these guys hate Bush right? Well, it is a pretty good bet (75/25?) that things are going to get out of hand in NYC. This played very poorly for the Dems back in 1968 in Chicago. Why? Because the Republicans were the law and order party and the Democrats were viewed as sympathetic to the anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-capitalist, anti-bathing mobs.

If anyone can handle it just fine, it is the NYC police. They will have very little tolerance for lawbreakers. But if the anti-Bush protests turn ugly - and I think that is more likely than not - it is only going to help the President.

For the SCG'rs headed to NYC -- Make sure to give a big thumbs up to all the ACTUP! Move.On, PETA, ELF and A.N.S.W.E.R. protestors -- for all they are doing to reveal to America what they are all about!



 
Good


 
Tereeezzza…

Is it just me or isn't she like a wrinkled and mean Zsa Zsa Gabor?

Tereza Gabor?

And come on, isn’t there something just a little unseemly about the way Tereeezzza spends so much money earned by a staunch Republican on these extreme leftist causes? Not the way you’d think a widow would choose to honor her husband’s legacy.



 
Kerry’s big night…

First of all, Kerry’s positive message?

I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States.

Yes sir, John Kerry reporting for duty. (hehe, he said doody)

Second, I believe Kerry gave the only convention acceptance speech that I have ever seen – and I think I’ve probably seen everyone since 1980 – in which the candidate clearly states he plans to raise taxes.

And those taxes by the way? You can’t say in one sentence that you’re going to lower taxes for small business owners, and in the next sentence say you’re going to raise taxes for those earning over 200K a year. A lot of those folks are the same people.

As for the new and improved “strong commander and chief” persona he put on last night, he’s really asking us for a leap of faith isn’t he?

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

Really? I mean this was the take home message last night. Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam. Me combat veteran, he not. We’ve clearly been asked to overlook everything that he has done since. Maybe he was a true war hero – I don’t know, and I’m certainly not willing to disparage his service. However, everything he has done, since the moment he came back, has been counter-productive and in outright opposition of the best interests of our national security. Who said it first? – he has a long and well documented record, and every major position he’s taken has been on the wrong side of history.

Hey, I guess he made a decent speech. Not enough in there to really scare anyone, and still enough to keep the base happy. Still, I sure wouldn’t call it a homerun.

See you all in New York.


Thursday, July 29, 2004
 
Dear Rafael:

I won’t go through your entire painful post, as you’re pretty much saying the same things over and over again and TJ slapped you pretty hard yesterday anyway. Just a few quick points for you to consider:

>>> “All previous American presidents, the majority of American diplomats, CIA analysts and other foreign service people of both parties vehemently disagree with you - and with the President.” This just isn’t true. You’re either out of touch with reality and looking at the situation only through your rolled-up Village Voice, or you do indeed know better and you’re just lying.

>>> “The nation gave reluctant support for this war based on assurances of strong evidence of WMD which could be launched against us in 45 minutes.” More revisionist BS. The oft-described three main tenets for removing the old Iraqi regime from power were: (1) To disarm the Iraqi government in accordance with the UN 1441 and the dozen or so resolutions that preceded it. Saddam refused to comply with these resolutions in that he would not account for weapons and materials that had been visually verified and documented previously be UN weapons inspectors – As has been said so many times before, should we have just trusted him?; (2) Based on his known and well documented support for terrorist groups, including but not limited to Al Queda, Hamas and Hezbollah, to prevent him from passing any banned or other dangerous weapons to said terrorist groups; and (3) to liberate the Iraqi people from a brutal and genocidal dictator. These were the three reasons elucidated prior to the war. All the “imminent threat” BS since is revisionist history (and the 45-minute speech was made by Tony Blair, not President Bush, and even then you’re taking it out of context).

>>> “I'm active in my own town to raise local taxes to pay for the school that my kids go to.” I’m active in my town as well - to improve the schools my kids go to and what’s being taught there. I haven’t seen a need to raise taxes in order to do that – guess I’m lucky I live in my town and not yours.

>>> “Maybe we should start a WTO action against nationalized health care…” Damn right. The fact is, it’s the free market economies that support the low drug prices for the socialist health care systems. Drug prices are cheaper in Canada because the government controls the prices. Not to worry though, once we start allowing drug re-importation, Big Pharma will simply stop selling drugs in Canada. That’ll level the playing field.

>>> “Recent polls in Europe show the US to be at the top of the list of countries who are the greatest threat to world peace and security. The top two countries for this dubious honor are the US and Israel…” That is just such tiring crap. Did you actually have to type that, or did you just hit your F10 key on your keyboard? A rational human being can’t possibly conclude this. The US does more each day – and has for the past 100 years – to promote peace and security throughout the world then the rest of the world combined. It’s become a conservative cliché to say the American Secretary of Defense should win the Nobel peace prize every year, but it’s a cliché rooted in truth. As for Israel, it’s nearly as remarkable that a democratic country that is attacked almost daily by terrorists and about every ten years by one or more of it’s Islamo-facist neighbors can be held with the level of disdain to which they are. We should be doing joint military maneuvers with the IDF. Impractical maybe, but I’d love to see Israeli forces on the ground in Iraq and US troops in Israel. In fact it should be that way, but we too must pacify and coddle the hate filled leaders of the Middle East and their Euro apologists.

Everything else is just more of the same – we address your absurd musings with rationale arguments, and you retort with “Bush the lesser” and “I tire of this. Your views on foreign policy are irretrivably retarded. America is challenged by big issues, large powerful interests around the world. You refuse to see the proper challenges like billions of Chinese getting rich, technologically sophisticated and militarily powerful and insist that fighting with countries that barely qualify as third world is somehow an interest so vital its worth billion dollars and 2 or 3 soldiers per day.

No rationale argument is going to suddenly cleanse you of these fanciful rationalizations. In the end, demeaning someone you disagree with as “feebleminded” is easier than honest debate. Indeed, it is far more easy to say the issues are “too big, too complex” – so much the easier to describe decisive action as “simplistic” and “lacking nuance.” So be it, here’s to another simplistic and nuance-free four years.



 
Rafael’s reply (sorry to those who were wishing this would die a quicker death)…

TJ: "What you have created is a rule of debate in a democratic society in which pacifists, isolationists and appeasers have a de facto “veto” over those who favor military action."

Rafael: You're right. Just because an issue has two sides does not mean that in an argument the terms of debate are necessarily even. This is standard in almost all forums of discussion. In court the greater burden is on the prosecution. In congress the greater burden is on those who propose changes in the law. In policy debates about war I believe that the greater burden should in fact be on the proponents of war. I still further believe that advocating for war which one would not personally be willing to engage in is immoral. You can make honorable excuses later about why one can't actually fight - but if you are for sending someone else to fight and die for something you are encouraging - you should be willing to do that yourself.

TJ: "I think Bush made the right decision – to attempt to change the course of the Middle East by removing two of the worst regimes on the planet and providing 50 million Arabs in those countries with a chance at Democracy."

Rafael: All previous American presidents, the majority of American diplomats, CIA analysts and other foreign service people of both parties vehemently disagree with you - and with the President. So far all evidence shows that this current policy is a disaster. The result of which is going to be that we will have re-united Persia. For sure this will be good for Persia. It is not so good for us. My argument against Bush's foreign policy is not primarily one of ideology - its just practical - he is screwing up in every way imaginable. They apparently can do nothing right. Its like giving someone the keys to your car - even if you agree with where they are going - if they ram the car into every telephone pole on the road at some point you just don't want the driving any more.

TJ: "In fact, if your standards were intact, we might still have slavery. There were, after all, draft riots throughout the North during the Civil War. The American military allowed people to pay others to take their place in the union army. In other cases, immigrants were taken off boats and immediately conscripted into the army. The south was not, after all, an imminent threat (they wanted to be left alone to continue the southern slave way of life). People were pushing their responsibilities onto others. Many hundreds of thousands were conscripted to join the union army against their will."

Rafael: An American in civil war days could honorably be against war. I think he could also honorably for the civil war if he were willing to fight. I think it would be dishonorable to support the war, and then as you say go pay someone else to be conscripted instead of you. I see nothing wrong also with being for war, being willing to join yourself and being for conscription of others. Its wrong to be for conscription for others and not yourself. I see nothing wrong with civilians expecting others to be career soldiers who keep the military running, guarding things, developing weapong, making small scale military interventions as part of being career soldiers. But if we as citizens sign them up for a long term combat deployment we should be willing to go ourselves.

TJ: "These two countries will serve as shining cities on a hill for the rest of the Arab world. An alternative to the oppression, deprivation and despotism they live under now."

Rafael: You must drink a lot of cool-aid. Besides this is irrelevant. The nation gave reluctant support for this war based on assurances of strong evidence of WMD which could be launched against us in 45 minutes. Now we have to endure ridiculous diatribes on the goodness of our intentions. The nation deserves an apology - they were wrong about the WMDs they should be men and say so - and not come to us with this cock and bull romance and try to tell us this reason is just as good as the one they gave us before the war. Its not.

I'm getting tired of this military question. I think we've both been as clear on this topic as we can be. On to the economic questions:

On education: I agree with you. I'm for school choice, for vouchers, against the teachers unions, for private schools. We all agree here. Maybe you're a radical libertarian who believes that the government should not be funding education at all. There we part ways. I'm for public financing of schools. I think the money should be raised and spent as locally as possible. I'm active in my own town to raise local taxes to pay for the school that my kids go to. I would make my life easier if I could lower my federal taxes to help pay for this.

On health care:

TJ: "Your “competitors” in Canada, Europe, China and Japan certainly do have to pay the costs of health care in their countries, as do the workers in their plants. It comes in the form of higher taxes that they have to pay. The money has to come from somewhere. No free lunch, right?"

Rafael: You catch on fast. Exactly right. Notice the key words you used in that quote "they have to pay". I like hearing that much better than "I have to pay".

Look at it another way - nationalized health care is basically a government subsidy to business. Other countries are subsidising their domestic industry by paying their health care costs. Worse it more like a direct subsidy to labor. Making foreign labor cheaper for American companies than domestic labor. This is one reason why every job possible is being exported. Maybe we should start a WTO action against nationalized health care - in the mean time - I've got a business to run - and these costs kill me. They stop many many people from starting their own business.

Just as a mental exercise, pretend you're going to start a small business - a restaurant or an auto repair place. Figure out all your costs - salaries, rent, supplies. When you hit part of your spreadsheet with the benefits - you'll be floored. $1500 per month per
person, rising 10-15% per year kills many many business plans. And many of those plans can then be revived by saying, what if you have corporate HQ here in the US, but outsource most of the jobs to Canada. Sure the Canadians may be paying through the nose for health care- but we as business owners are not.

On recent lack of Goodwill toward America:

TJ: "Face it, the international goodwill towards Americans has been a fiction. PJ O’Rourke wrote... "

Rafael: There is all kind of sour grapes revisionism from those who would like to minimize the appearance of damage. There is no lack for pro-bush commentators who would like to say, "its not us, it was always like this". Thats simply not true. Recent polls in Europe show the US to be at the top of the list of countries who are the greatest threat to world peace and security. The top two countries for this dubious honor are the US and Israel, followed by North Korea and Iran normally. You don't find it scary that 4 years ago, and for all previous years going back to 1945 it was American Presidents who were meeting with the leaders major European countries. Since Bush was elected I see an awful lot of pictures of Putin hanging out with the leaders of Europe. Remember when Americans could safely vacation on tropical islands all over the pacific - like in Indonesia and the Philipines? A lot more allies showed up to help with the first Gulf war, or with Bosnia, than showed up this time. How about that slap in the face from long time ally Turkey who refused to let us stage troops there or even fly over Turkey - even when we offered them a massive bribe. The examples are too numerous to mention. We were riding a wave of goodwill since saving the world in WWII - Bush has killed it. We have three reliable allies now - UK, Australia and Israel. And I'm not sure we should count Israel (they never do anything we ask them - and we have to pay them extortionate foreign aid).

TJ: "So far, you have supported some form of national health care and increased educational spending. No offense, Raffi, but you are not exactly Barry Goldwater."

Rafael: You may not think my presciptions are "Goldwater" enough for you - but so far you have not been able to assail their foundations - based as they are on conservative economic ideas which I believe we share.

On cutting Federal spending:

TJ: "Again, your instincts are liberal. The reality is that it was ECONOMIC GROWTH that led us out of deficits in the 1990s. Yet, you want to throw a wet blanket on growth by raising taxes."

Rafael: Our debt burden is too high. Half of the federal budget currently goes to supporting this massive debt load. Its extremely dangerous. A lot of that debt is held by foreign companies and governments because our debt is the gold standard for security. But it has a problem - as our currency devalues against world currencies our debt becomes increasingly unattractive. If foreigners stop buying our debt - then as the notes mature and we have to refinance them we may need to finance at a higher rate. We are playing a very dangerous game - so long as confidence in our
debt is high, and if our currency stops devaluing we should be ok. But the current situation makes us dangerously dependent on the economic policy of foriegn countries. Consider China - their currency is pegged to the dollar and its value is purposely suppressed by the Chinese government so they can keep their exports cheap. As China modernizes their ability and willingness to do this will decrease. When that massive revaluation happens our currency may devalue sigificantly. Another threat to our currency stability is that the world oil markets are currently denominated in dollars. If it starts being denominated in Euro as looks increasingly likely this would also have a deleterious effect on our currency.

A currency devaluation can start a vicious cycle where the cost of our debt may rise significantly. How secure would you feel personally if you had and Adjustable Rate Mortgage, with no cap on how fast the interest rate could rise, and your interest payments alone already consume half your income. Adding to this debt is very irresponsible.

I'll say it again - our current president does not have his eye on the proper issues - like the economic issues between us and China, Russia, Europe and Japan.

Lowering debt is a traditional Republican issue. At least it was when the Republicans were the party of responsible budgets. This is why I like McCain and I hate Bush. You can't call me a liberal on this issue without saying that McCain, and a long tradition of Republicans are also liberal on it. And you can't be serious about reducing federal spending without addressing it.

TJ: “You are four for four. Cut military spending/pull out of Iraq. Raise taxes. National health care (for catastrophic coverage) and increased education spending. I am waiting for all this promised conservatism."

Rafael: Raising or lowering taxes is not an issue governemnts can really control. Taxes are a symptom of spending. If you raise spending you are raising taxes. If you raise spending, and force the taxes lower, you are just rasing them more later. I advocate changes to Social Security and you say:
TJ: “Finally! But, of course, you leave yourself an out. How can we do it if big financial firms will make money! Well, you can’t. "

Rafael: I'm not against financial services companies making money. Our current president has a strong record of corporate giveaways. I would trust this better under a more honest president.

TJ: "I think the Airline industry bailout post 9/11 was probably needed given the circumstances."

Rafael: The old line airlines need to go out of business. The new world is airlines like JetBlue, SouthWest and Virgin Airways. You didn't see them begging for money after 9/11.

TJ: “Did you skip the cuts to Medicaid and other welfare programs? That's usually a big conservative thing."

Rafael: I'm all for ending subsidies to the poor if they encourage people not to work and be self sufficient. This is an issue of basic fairness, and I agree with you they should be reformed - but I don't think these are proper budget issues. They just don't cost that much compared to the big budget items - debt, military, social security.

TJ: ““Bush the lesser” – this is classic MoveOn type rhetoric."

Rafael: Oh my god TJ! You read MoveOn.org?! Don't you know that if you read their web page you might become contaminated with Liberalism?! Look anti-Bush jabs like "Bush the Lesser" are used by everyone who thinks - rightly - that Bush is the worst President in modern times. I have to go all the way back to Howard Taft before I find a more feebleminded president. In fact "Bush the Lesser" is more of a Republican jab at Bush because it similtaneously gives credit to a better President Bush.

TJ: "I am 100% behind dramatic cuts to the federal budget in all non-military areas. It isn’t a question of whether we can “afford” tax cuts. It isn’t the governments money. Cut the spending. Cut the spending. Cut the spending."

Rafael: You're just not serious about cutting taxes. If we eliminated all non-military Federal spending the budget would decrease by 25%. Thats it. If you simulteously support war - then even cutting everything else, you would end up increasing the budget. If you want to cut federal spending there are really only two issues that matter - debt and military spending - and they are off the table for you apparently. You're like a guy who goes on a diet by eating at McDonalds and removing the lettuce from his BicMac.

TJ: “Sure, it’s a flat tax, except the people making over 70k (what, 10% of the country?) pay 100% of the tax."

Rafael: You misunderstand me - you would pay 30% of the amount over 70k. Also the rich should pay more taxes than the poor.

I tire of this. Your views on foreign policy are irretrivably retarded. America is challenged by big issues, large powerful interests around the world. You refuse to see the proper challenges like billions of Chinese getting rich, technologically sophisticated and militarily powerful and insist that fighting with countries that barely qualify as third world is somehow an interest so vital its worth billion dollars and 2 or 3 soldiers per day.

Check out this page. http://ppoopp.host.sk/war/index.htm Its pictures of our expensive military hardware, and our troops being chewed up so we can chase teenagers with AK-47s around some god forsaken desert. I don't see how anyone can see that and not conclude our President is an idiot.

I do have to clarify one issue: “I'm conservative on the issues - not because I like Reagan's Cowboy hat.”

The two propositions are orthogonal. For the record - the hat looks smashing. Reagan has always cut a fine figure, I only wish to be as handsome and winsome in my old age. I would still be a conservative even if Reagan looked as dorky as Walter Mondale. My beliefs might be shaken if Reagan looked like Mike Dukakis.



 
Reader to Reader: John R - Rafael

***Raffi: About being an international pariah - I guess you don't read foreign newspapers much. Give it a try - you may be surprised. Hey no one is lining up to send troops to Iraq. Remember when we were kids that Americans could travel all over the world and count on the goodwill of the people in almost every nation? Boy that was a happy memory. Thanks George!***

Me: I seem to recall that in 1986, I was scheduled to go to Europe after the end of my junior year with a group of other kids the same age. That was cancelled because we were afraid Gadhafi (sp?) would blow our plane out of the sky. Thanks Ronald!

I am, of course, making light of the point, not really blaming Gadhafi’s (sp?) homicidal madness on Ronald Reagan, the way you seem to be tying the terrorists’ homicidal madness to George W. Bush.

Did I hear recently about Gadhafi (sp?) voluntarily suspending his WMD programs and vowing to allow inspections to find any existing WMD’s Libya might have? That, by chance, wouldn’t have been a result of President Bush’s international show of strength and resolve? Well, I think it was. Thanks George! (I actually mean that sincerely)

John R



 
MMark on “the hat”

I like the hat, and that's my official vote. it's a great picture, and Ronald Regan was a great president. He was in one of the biggest stare downs in our countries history, and he didn't blink first. So I'm sure that everyone agrees that not only is ketchup a vegetable as the late President stated, but he should not be messed with, as his ghost could surely kick any of our asses.


 
I set myself up for that one.  I should have said 'college guys' or something, but that's still setting myself up too.   I'm not a night-owl like you TJ - I can't think straight at 11:00 pm.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004
 
Yes, that's right, Sip just said that he flips over to the Dem channels, "mostly to watch the young guys." Interesting.


 
Quick Hits

1.  Raffi - Jason was correct that I was too kind in my initial response...but you were a first timer to the site, and I'm a gracious host.  And I'm not going to add anything to Mack's comments (how can I??).  However, lighten up (Francis)!  TJ is correct in pointing out your anger.  On this site we have spirited (sometimes passionate) debate, poke some good natured fun at times, and occasionally get smart-alecky (look for the Greek jokes).  Again, thanks for writing in, and continue to do so if you wish.

2.  Okay - I will add one comment.  If you are a Conservative and dislike Bush that much, I'd find it more consistent if you chose not to vote than to automatically support Kerry.  I can't see any consistency in being a Conservative and voting for Kerry.  Check your mailbox - your Liberal Party membership card may have arrived.

2.  MSNBC - In watching FOX, I sometimes flip over to one of the several Dem channels - mostly to watch the young guys with the 'Bush-Cheney 2004' signs behind Matthews.  I like their style.



 
More meaningless polls…

I realize that the stupid, unworthy, not-quite-third-world populations of places like Iraq and Afghanistan are unfit for freedom and democracy, and are not to be trusted when they answer these poling questions. However, much like the various surveys in Iraq have shown, the people in Afghanistan are cautiously optimistic about their future. A recent poll described today in the New York Post states:

…the survey of 804 randomly selected male and female Afghan citizens, commissioned by the Asia Foundation notes that:

* 64 percent say the country is heading in the right direction.

* 81 percent say that they plan to vote in the October election.

* 77 percent say they believe the elections will "make a difference."

* 64 percent say they rarely or never worry about their personal safety, while under the Taliban only 36 percent felt that way.

* 62 percent rate President Hamid Karzai's performance as either good or excellent.



 
Dude, Where’s My Logic?

If America has always been structured such that the military exists under civilian control, and anyone supporting a war effort must join the military, then all civilians will therefore oppose the war effort – thus those in opposition to a war effort will always maintain control over those that support it.

Ladies and Gentleman I give you an end to war.


 
TJ -

Thank you for responding. I concur and will refrain from adding ANY additional comments or barbs simply because I'm tired of this string.



 
The Debate Continues

I think this is easier to follow point by point.

Should those without military service keep quiet on issues of war and peace? Under what circumstances can someone who has never served in the military advocate war?

Raffi: It is not dishonorable for those who are against war (to) say so without joining the military. I believe that it is dishonorable for those who are for war, and are physically able to go, to not go, especially if the war is controversial and they their wish to start a war.

TJ: This is the crux of the problem, Raffi. What you have created is a rule of debate in a democratic society in which pacifists, isolationists and appeasers have a de facto “veto” over those who favor military action.

Your new demand for a one sided debate with only one answer (Peace at all costs!) raises a lot of questions – what, for instance, would qualify as a “controversial” war? Is it required that there be no significant public protests? Well, Afghanistan wouldn’t qualify. Is it bipartisan support? Well, take a look at the roll call vote giving our President authorization for war in Iraq. Is it majority support in the opinion polls? Again, at the time of the conflict, there was wide but not universal support (somewhere in the 60% range as I recall).

A further consequence of your logic is that those without military experience and no intention of joining the military should refrain from taking part in any public debate on the military. If there is only one answer they could “honorably” conclude, then why bother participating in the debate at all. The answer is already a given. How many people would that exclude from questions of war and peace? Has to be in the high tens of millions. You do the math, I ain’t so good at that thing with all the numbers.

Also, I have to imagine your logic would have to apply to other elements of public life. If you support aggressive police action to target gangs and drug dealers in the inner city, and you are physically able, it would certainly be “dishonorable” to allow someone else to do the dirty work. To be honorable, you would have to advocate a lax police policy, unless of course, you proved yourself willing to give up your present career and join the police force.

Name calling is a desperate tactic that is intended to shut down debate rather than address real points. Now, if you want to say – hey, let’s consider the costs of war really carefully. That’s fine. But don’t impugn people’s patriotism. If we were 25 year old single guys, you would have a bit more ground. We are all between the ages of 34 and 36, we all have kids, and we all have a long history of strong support for men and women in uniform, and respect for the work they do.

Raffi: You can bet that if some foreign country was invading the US or if the Nazis were taking over the world again, that I would be an advocate of war, and I would go and enlist. I suppose there are some who in those conditions would hide in their basement and hope someone else would do the fighting.

TJ: Ok, Raffi, you got me. When the Islamic hordes hit the American beaches, I will be hiding in my basement wishing we had never confronted Islamic terror at its roots. Meanwhile, you and the MoveOn.org legions will be repelling the invaders with copies of Michael Moore’s book and precision guided open toed shoes.

Raffi: You and your friends have the luxury of being able to debate the pros and cons of war with each other when none of you have any intention of putting your lives at risk. But you don't mind at all risking Mark's life, or the lives of thousands of servicemen like him. Because - hey thats the career they signed up for right? They are paid to fight at your whim aren't they? Newsflash: they are not. Americans enlist in the military with the full expectation that they won't have to fight unecessary elective wars.

TJ: Exactly where in the recruiting brochure did you see that promise? Maybe military mark can shed some light on this, but was he given the assurance that he will not be called to serve in any “unnecessary, elective wars”? I would think that anyone who joins the military would have the clear understanding that if the commander in chief deems it necessary, it ‘aint elective.

Raffi: I'm sure you think of yourselves as being part of some higher value while collar class that should not be expected to dirty your hands with the actual fighting.

TJ: Actually, no. I come from the lower middle class, Rafi-mon. I considered a career in the military. I applied to West Point and, as clear evidence of the military’s clear thinking, denied. I scored a 99th percentile on the AFSAB and sat down on a number of occasions with the Marine Corps recruiters. But I, like many, many others, chose a different path. I don’t look down at the men and women who serve in the military – I look up to them, precisely because I respect what they do and what they sacrifice. Not just in war. One of our colleagues from college is a career army officer, and is married to a woman who is also an army officer. They have one child. He is stationed in Colorado, she is stationed in Washington state. Don’t imply we don’t respect that sacrifice. We do. Again, I don’t agree that we are doing as much as the guys in the military to win the war. Those guys are sacrificing far more. But I am not going to stay quiet about issues that I think are critical to the future security of this country because you are going to accuse me of being unpatriotic.

Raffi: And yes, I do find it kind of disgusting to see strong, able bodied men say that the current war is necessary and is addressing a real imminent devastating threat - and then push off the responsibility for fighting it on someone else. If I believed as you apparently do that this war is necessary - I would volunteer. The bar for going to war should be set that high.

TJ: You have obviously spent too much time looking at our photos at the white house. I appreciate the acknowledgment of our “able-bodied-ness”. We do try to watch our figures.

I assume that you think that having a military is necessary, right? So, even if you don’t support the war, you are pushing the responsibility of protecting our country on to someone else, right? You are setting the bar awfully high. In fact, if your standards were intact, we might still have slavery. There were, after all, draft riots throughout the North during the Civil War. The American military allowed people to pay others to take their place in the union army. In other cases, immigrants were taken off boats and immediately conscripted into the army. The south was not, after all, an imminent threat (they wanted to be left alone to continue the southern slave way of life). People were pushing their responsibilities onto others. Many hundreds of thousands were conscripted to join the union army against their will. Sounds like your definition of an elective, un-necessary war to me. Perhaps Lincoln should have just let well enough alone.

At the time, many wars seem “elective” and “un-necessary” to at least some of the people. We only know in hindsight. We stayed out of an “elective” and “Un-necessary” conflict in Europe until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and brought us into the war. Yet, we would have been far better off to have defeated Hitler in 1938 or 1939, when there was no clear consensus for action in the United States. We would have also been far better off to have prepared for a war that was clearly coming. That’s what leadership is about. FDR failed the test. He redeemed himself, but he failed the initial test. Korea was certainly elective and you can debate whether it was necessary. At the time, I think it was more controversial than it is today. On the other hand, there is a consensus (which I don’t agree with) that we should have stayed out of Vietnam and should not have gotten involved in that “un-necessary conflict”.

I think Bush made the right decision – to attempt to change the course of the Middle East by removing two of the worst regimes on the planet and providing 50 million Arabs in those countries with a chance at Democracy.

The Democrats say that Iraq was all about September 11th. They are right, in a sense. September 11th made it clear that we cannot live with the status quo of anti-American dictatorships in the Middle East. Afghanistan alone does not change the middle east – with all the forces of the Arab world lined up to prevent its success, it was an experiment doomed to failure. Now, we have expanded the playing field and, if we are successful (a risky proposition, I admit), these two countries will serve as shining cities on a hill for the rest of the Arab world. An alternative to the oppression, deprivation and despotism they live under now.

WMD’s is a part of the calculation, but the broader calculation is about the future of the middle east. We can’t just live with the status quo in the Middle East, because it has one and only one endgame – a nuclear device exploding in a major American city. Bush understands that, and that, ultimately, is why the Iraq war was necessary.

2. Do you really know Military Mark? You seem like an odd pair.

Raffi: How kind of you to inquire. I have known Mark and his family since childhood. The only reason I'm posting on this web site is that Mark wanted me to read your shockingly craven replies to his post about how if you are for the war you should enlist. The editorial level of this web site is not high enough to attract me for any other reason.

TJ: Again with the name calling. You seem very angry. Perhaps you should take some time off and watch the soothing sounds of the Democratic National Convention. We don’t apologize for the editorial level of the web site. It exists to entertain us, not you.

3. Why do you feel compelled to cloak your opposition to Bush in conservative rhetoric you don’t really believe? (How do we know you aren’t a conservative - - well, for one, you didn’t like the picture of Reagan in the Cowboy hat and that’s a tell tale sign. Two, you rhetoric is somewhat to the left of Michael Moore and your talking points cribbed off of Democrats.com; Three, you criticize Bush for not spending enough on education; and you suggest we should follow the (socialized) health care models of the “rest of the industrialized world” in order to fix the problems with our own system. Fourth, you lose sleep over our fictional status as an “international pariah”. Conservative? Give us a break, Raffi. For bonus credit, what does it tell us about the state of your ideology that you aren't even willing to admit you are a liberal, even on the web?

Raffi: Let me address now your many sub questions:

a. As a conservative, I still think that the nation needs to invest in education. I don't think it should be the federal government doing it. We should return all the federal education money back to the states. Block grants would be a start. Lowering federal taxes and such that states can raise their taxes so that the money is raised and used locally for education would be better. The fact is that it is very scary how far our educational system (up until college - our mostly private secondary educational system is still the best in the world) is falling behind the rest of the world. This is a serious threat to our economy which already manifests itself - and will only get worse until we fix it. It doesn't make you a liberal to be for investment in public education. This has been basic US domestic policy for 300 years.


TJ: Yet, this basic US domestic policy is, by your lights, failing. Curiously, the failure seems to have accelerated right around the time that the United States local, state and federal governments were making massive “investments” into education. I agree with you that the system is a mess, but I think that more “investment” is largely wasted. We need to implement school choice and bring competition into the system. Not more money. The fact is, immigrant nuns with 12th grade educations are able to teach kids to read and write better than all the high paid public school teachers with Education MA's equipped with the latest technological gizmos and the latest “research” from academia.

b. Nationalized health care is very inefficient - like most things administered by the government. But right now the current health care system is horribly broken. I've been a corporate manager for a number of years, and I'm now running my own business. Providing health benefits is the biggest financial problem I face. It costs more than $1500 per month per person to provide it. This is almost an additional salary per person. My competitors in Canada, Europe, China and Japan don't have to pay this. Its a huge cost advantage for them. They can hire more people than I can. This impacts my business - it slows me down. In fact it has caused me to hire a number of Canadian contractors. This is one of the major reasons that jobs are being outsourced to other nations. I bet you are comfortably ensconced in a salaried job with benefits, blissfully unaware of how difficult it is for your employer to provide benefits. It will come as a big surprise when they lay you off and ship your job abroad to somewhere with nationalized medicine.

TJ: Well, I disagree, at least partly. Your “competitors” in Canada, Europe, China and Japan certainly do have to pay the costs of health care in their countries, as do the workers in their plants. It comes in the form of higher taxes that they have to pay. The money has to come from somewhere. No free lunch, right? I don’t know your individual business, so I can’t really comment on whether or not this is accurate or not – I’ll take you at your word. But don’t be fooled into thinking that national health care will make your business more competitive – again, the money is going to come from somewhere and, as a business owner, you should take a long look in the mirror.

Exactly what makes sense for the government to provide is a long discussion. I think a federal benefit that covers only catastrophic health problems (cancer, diabetes, aids etc.) would go a long way to solving this problem. People should pay out of pocket for day to day health maintenance.

TJ: A partially nationalized health care system.


c. About being an international pariah - I guess you don't read foreign newspapers much. Give it a try - you may be surprised. Hey no one is lining up to send troops to Iraq. Remember when we were kids that Americans could travel all over the world and count on the goodwill of the people in almost every nation? Boy that was a happy memory. Thanks George!


TJ: I like the Sun. They have a very interesting column on Page 3.

When was that time? Was it raining gumdrops? Was it during the Reagan administration? I doubt it. The Europeans hated us. As I remember, a number of US nightclubs were firebombed. I would have hated to travel in Iran in the late 1970s- - we weren’t too popular there either. Was it during the Bush 41 administration? I don’t remember my fellow SU students feeling a lot of “international goodwill” when their plane was blown up over Scotland.

Face it, the international goodwill towards Americans has been a fiction. PJ O’Rourke wrote about the anti-American attitudes among European elites and people in the Arab world at least as far back as 1987. Was there a wave of sympathy for the US after 9/11 – sure, we had experienced a tragedy. But that sympathy was shallow and meaningless. The very article that declared “we are all Americans now” included the useful reminder that America bore some of the blame for the cowardly attack.

As for the Iraq war, the French, the Germans, the Russians were on Saadam’s payroll! The UN Oil for Food scandal clearly shows that these guys were hip deep in Baathist blood money. International goodwill. Sorry, I don’t feel so bad for you international globetrotters – if you aren’t willing to stand up to the European elites during your next trip overseas, then you can just tell them how much you appreciated Michael Moore’s movie and I am sure you will get a warm reception.

Raffi: Anyway I laid the challenge down - I'll take any of you on, on any issue I've mentioned, and I'll argue it without challenging the basics of traditional "conservative" economic theory - which apparently unlike you I actually understand and believe. I laid them out in broad strokes for you in two posts already. In your looking glass world my belief in these conservative ideas somehow makes me a liberal.

So far, you have supported some form of national health care and increased educational spending. No offense, Raffi, but you are not exactly Barry Goldwater.


4. Please tell me which federal programs you would cut?


Raffi: Oh boy.... lets not spend out time trimming around the edges shall we? If we're going to cut federal spending we need to get serious - and address them in order of size. About half the budget goes to finance the debt. We can't afford to cut taxes without reducing debt. We were on the right track for few years on the debt issue. Not any more... Thanks for that too George.

TJ: Again, your instincts are liberal. The reality is that it was ECONOMIC GROWTH that led us out of deficits in the 1990s. Yet, you want to throw a wet blanket on growth by raising taxes.

Raffi: The other issue is the amount we spend on the military. We could start by not spending a billion dollars a day in Iraq. We could continue be not allowing no-bid contracts that give impossibly good deals to certain well connected firm. This is just robbery and we should put a stop to it. We could continue by being more efficient about how we procure military hardware. Like how about buying instread or renting those new bombers. Or how about not developing programs like the Crusader artillery program till just about completion - and then killing it at the end. etc. etc. We need a strong military for sure - but you can't be serious about reducing the federal budget without addressing waste in military spending.

TJ: You are four for four. Cut military spending/pull out of Iraq. Raise taxes. National health care (for catastrophic coverage) and increased education spending. I am waiting for all this promised conservatism.

Raffi: We could continue by eliminating social security and replacing it with some kind of properly structured investment account based retirement program. So long as its not another giveaway to the big finanacial firms.

TJ: Finally! But, of course, you leave yourself an out. How can we do it if big financial firms will make money! Well, you can’t. Of course, who is the only candidate pushing to make part of social security a personal retirement account? Uh… Bush.

Raffi: We could continue again by repealing the insane medicare drug benefit that locks in outrageously high drug prices. (Remind me again - you guys think Bush is a conservative right?) Btw, why are drug prices lower in Canada? It couldn't be because their health care system is more efficient than ours or is it because their government didn't sell them down the river to the drug companies.

TJ: I’ll let Jason handle this one. It’s his area.

Raffi: We could continue further by returning all the education money back to the states. And I'd remove federal subsidies to local law enforcement too. Like education it should be paid for locally. I'm for raising state and local taxes to meet the needs. We could remove all the federal subsidies to big agricultural companies. Or the bail outs of the Airlines. Or bail out of banks. If you screw up your business you should be out of business.

TJ: You are a federalist. Good for you. But who is the candidate who will fight for more local control over money? Bush. Again you support increased taxes. Even at the local leve, that's not a good sign of conservatism. Agriculture subsidies bad. Sure. I agree. Pair it with an end to subsidies for big city transit and we can work something out. I agree on the bailouts, although I think the Airline industry bailout post 9/11 was probably needed given the circumstances.

Raffi: The list goes on of course but then we start getting into the smaller budget items - while some of them might be outrageous - like Nasa - they really don't amount to a significant amount of federal money.

TJ: Did you skip the cuts to Medicaid and other welfare programs? That's usually a big conservative thing. I guess it goes without saying for all us conservatives, right?

5. Did you support the Bush tax cuts?

Raffi: I want federal taxes cut - but the Bush tax cuts are of course to any right thinking conservative - insane. If you raise spending, then tax cuts just add further insult. You are not only spending more - but by delaying payment you are increasing the cost of your purchases. Its irresponsible. It used to be that proper "John Wayne" conservatives didn't much like debt. Of course the Republican party is now occupied by Bush the Lesser. Always was an irresponsible wastrel his whole life - we shouldn't be surprised how he runs the country.

TJ: “Bush the lesser” – this is classic MoveOn type rhetoric. I don’t like the debt either and I am 100% behind dramatic cuts to the federal budget in all non-military areas. It isn’t a question of whether we can “afford” tax cuts. It isn’t the governments money. Cut the spending. Cut the spending. Cut the spending. Also, you should look into counseling for your anger issues.

Raffi: Assuming we cut spending and could afford tax cuts, my preference would be to simplify the tax code. A flat tax, no deductions, around 30% for all the income above say 70k. If you earn less than 70k, you pay no tax. The rate stays the same, the cutoff moves up and down depending on the needs of the treasury.

TJ: Sure, it’s a flat tax, except the people making over 70k (what, 10% of the country?) pay 100% of the tax. Sounds more progressive than our current system. Given that the current top rate is near 30% already (is it 28%?) you would bankrupt the country with this plan. I would support a true flat tax – around 15% -- with a small personal exemption for those living below the poverty line. We are all about shared sacrifice here on the right, aren't we Raffi?

6. How is it that you believe it simultaneously to be true that (a) Iraq and Afghanistan were meager, irrelevant and militarily powerless nations and, at the same time, that (b) Iran is very pleased that the US military (and not, presumably, the pitiful Iraqi and Afghan armies) is situated on their borders? I would think that Iran would prefer the weak pushover nations you described to the might of the US military. Please explain.

Raffi: Afghanistan, and Iraq together - with US financial and military support - are a good match for Iran - not for us. This was the policy of previous smarter presidents going back to Nixon. Thanks for blowing that beautiful setup George. (I've learned my lesson. I will never again vote for an idiot.) The US being tied up fighting insurgents in Iraq makes us less threatening to Iran - not more. This is why they now have no fears and have accelerated their nuclear program. We don't have the means to do anything to them without resorting to things (like the draft) that they and we know we don't have the resolve to do. I'm sure it is a comfort to them by the way to hear about how Americans like you encourage the nation to war, but would never enlist personally.

TJ: This is entirely ass-backwards. I don't even know where to start. Why should I bother? If you really think this is the case, you are either deluded or insane. You neglect to mention the US sanctions which kept Saadam in a nice tight box for the Iranians -- my guess is that they would prefer that to an Iraqi democracy spoiling for another democratic ally next door and backed by the US military.

Again with the assault on our patriotism. Again with the insults to the President. All those “smart” presidents (and I include Reagan on this score) allowed anti-American islamofascism to fester for 30 years.

7. How is it that you believe it simultaneously to be true that (a) it is a travesty that those who have volunteered for service (national guard members), were trained for service, and paid for that training, are now expected to go to fulfill their duty when the President calls on them and (b) civilian supporters of the war who have established jobs and families and chose for various reasons not to join the military, are unpatriotic for not rushing out to the recruiting station?

Raffi: Thanks for confirming that you think that men like Mark are your personal army to send out on oil gathering errands so you can drive your SUV to get "Big Gulps" down at the service station. Just because they have enlisted does not mean we have the right to put them in harms way unless there is no other choice.

TJ: I do not believe that we should put servicemen in harms way for no reason. But when there is a good reason – and I think changing the face of the middle east to help secure a safer future for our country – I am going to support it. I just don’t share your view that members of our armed forces are victims. They are heroes. They are doing great work and accomplishing great and difficult things.

As for the National Guard, I sympathize with people being activated – but I just don’t agree with the mentality that the military is some sort of work-fare program that provides a nice little stipend and tuition benefits. It is not AmeriCorps. Joining the military is a serious commitment – with real consequences. My point is that I don’t think it makes any sense for you to expect untrained 35 year olds to make a contribution to the war but think that the trained national guard units who have been preparing for this duty should stay home. Of course, you don’t really expect us to make a contribution, but it is hard to call us “dishonorable” without that canard.

For what it is worth, if they were my personal army, our flag would be flying over a liberated Tehran. I don't expect them to follow my every whim (as you suggested earlier), but when the commander in chief calls, I expect them to do their duty (and I know that they will). In contrast, you would recommend, what? They refuse to go? They call for a special conservatives only draft of 35 year old married men with kids? Please. I think the anti SUV language is a nice touch. Very very conservative.

Raffi: The president's "bring it on" comment speaks volumes about what kind of president we've got now. About the only thing he guarded back in the Texas Air National Guard was bar stools all over Texas. Well all over the south when he was AWOL. I'm voting for Kerry because I can't bring myself to vote idiot. If I had my proper choice I'd be voting McCain.

TJ: Again with the anger and namecalling. It really undermines your credibility. I guess if you can’t win an argument, you can always offend people into staying away from you. I'm sure you joined me in voting for McCain in the GOP primary, right?

Raffi: I'm conservative on the issues - not because I like Reagan's Cowboy hat.

TJ: Let’s graph this out:

If C = I’m conservative, and H = I like the hat.

Your argument is as follows:

C and ~(H therefore C)

You cannot conclude “H” from this statement, since you are saying you are conservative for other reasons. You could be a conservative because you think it strengthens your liberal arguments (for who?) and at the same time, really hate the hat.

This issue really needs to be clarified before you can be fully accredited as a conservative.

Thanks again for playing. Sorry we aren't more entertaining.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004
 
I'll post later today, but I want to point out that Raffi never really says specifically whether he likes the hat. It could be read both ways, but on that issue, I think absolute clarity is needed.


 
Wow. Well, please enjoy this latest effort from our new friend Rafael…

My head hurts just from posting it.


TJ,

Thank you so much for your insightful questions. It is indeed encouraging and refreshing to see someone seeking enlightenment so eagerly. Let me take your questions in turn,

1. It is not dishonorable for those who are against war say so without joining the military. I believe that it is dishonorable for those who are for war, and are physically able to go,to not go, expecially if the war is contraversial and they their wish to start a war. You can bet that if some foreign country was invading the US or if the Nazis were taking over the world again, that I would be an advocate of war, and I would go and enlist. I suppose there are some who in those conditions would hide in their basement and hope someone else would do the fighting.

You and your friends have the luxury of being able to debate the pros and cons of war with each other when none of you have any intention of putting your lives at risk. But you don't mind at all risking Mark's life, or the lives of thousands of servicemen like him. Because - hey thats the career they signed up for right? They are paid to fight at your whim aren't they? Newsflash: they are not. Americans enlist in the military with the full expectation that they won't have to fight unecessary elective wars.

I'm sure you think of yourselves as being part of some higher value while collar class that should not be expected to dirty your hands with the actual fighting.

And yes, I do find it kind of disgusting to see strong, able bodied men say that the current war is necessary and is addressing a real imminent devastating threat - and then push off the responsibility for fighting it on someone else. If I believed as you apparently do that this war is neccessary - I would volunteer. The bar for going to war should be set that high.

2. How kind of you to inquire. I have known Mark and his family since childhood. The only reason I'm posting on this web site is that Mark wanted me to read your shockingly craven replies to his post about how if you are for the war you should enlist. The editorial level of this web site is not high enough to attract me for any other reason.

3. The current administration is so incompetent that the Democrat's criticisms are valid even from a conservative perspective. Its very sad.

Let me address now your many sub questions:

a. As a conservative, I still think that the nation needs to invest in education. I don't think it should be the federal government doing it. We should return all the federal education money back to the states. Block grants would be a start. Lowering federal taxes and such that states can raise their taxes so that the money is raised and used locally for education would be better. The fact is that it is very scary how far our educational system (up until college - our mostly private secondary educational system is still the best in the world) is falling behind the rest of the world. This is a serious threat to our economy which already manifests itself - and will only get worse until we fix it. It doesn't make you a liberal to be for investment in public education. This has been basic US domestic policy for 300 years.

b. Nationalized health care is very inefficient - like most things administered by the government. But right now the current health care system is horribly broken. I've been a corporate manager for a number of years, and I'm now running my own business. Providing health benefits is the biggest financial problem I face. It costs more than $1500 per month per person to provide it. This is almost an additional salary per person. My competitors in Canada, Europe, China and Japan don't have to pay this. Its a huge cost advantage for them. They can hire more people than I can. This impacts my business - it slows me down. In fact it has caused me to hire a number of Canadian contractors. This is one of the major reasons that jobs are being outsourced to other nations. I bet you are comfortably ensconced in a salaried job with benefits, blissfully unaware of how difficult it is for your employer to provide benefits. It will come as a big surprise when they lay you off and ship your job abroad to somewhere with nationalized medicine.

Exactly what makes sense for the government to provide is a long discussion. I think a federal benefit that covers only catastrophic health problems (cancer, diabetes, aids etc.) would go a long way to solving this problem. People should pay out of pocket for day to day health maintenance.

c. About being an international pariah - I guess you don't read foreign newspapers much. Give it a try - you may be surprised. Hey no one is lining up to send troops to Iraq. Remember when we were kids that Americans could travel all over the world and count on the goodwill of the people in almost every nation? Boy that was a happy memory. Thanks George!

Anyway I laid the challenge down - I'll take any of you on, on any issue I've mentioned, and I'll argue it without challenging the basics of traditional "conservative" economic theory - which apparently unlike you I actually understand and believe. I laid them out in broad strokes for you in two posts already. In your looking glass world my belief in these conservative ideas somehow makes me a liberal.

4. Oh boy.... lets not spend out time trimming around the edges shall we? If we're going to cut federal spending we need to get serious - and address them in order of size. About half the budget goes to finance the debt. We can't afford to cut taxes without reducing debt. We were on the right track for few years on the debt issue. Not any more... Thanks for that too George.

The other issue is the amount we spend on the military. We could start by not spending a billion dollars a day in Iraq. We could continue be not allowing no-bid contracts that give impossibly good deals to certain well connected firm. This is just robbery and we should put a stop to it. We could continue by being more efficient about how we procure military hardware. Like how about buying instread or renting those new bombers. Or how about not developing programs like the Crusader artillery program till just about completion - and then killing it at the end. etc. etc. We need a strong military for sure - but you can't be serious about reducing the federal budget without addressing waste in military spending.

We could continue by eliminating social security and replacing it with some kind of properly structured investment account based retirement program. So long as its not another giveaway to the big finanacial firms.

We could continue again by repealing the insane medicare drug benefit that locks in outrageously high drug prices. (Remind me again - you guys think Bush is a conservative right?) Btw, why are drug prices lower in Canada? It couldn't be because their health care system is more efficient than ours or is it because their government didn't sell them down the river to the drug companies.

We could continue further by returning all the education money back to the states. And I'd remove federal subsidies to local law enforcement too. Like education it should be paid for locally. I'm for raising state and local taxes to meet the needs. We could remove all the federal subsidies to big agricultural companies. Or the bail outs of the Airlines. Or bail out of banks. If you screw up your business you should be out of business.

The list goes on of course but then we start getting into the smaller budget items - while some of them might be outrageous - like Nasa - they really don't amount to a significant amount of federal money.

5. I want federal taxes cut - but the Bush tax cuts are of course to any right thinking conservative - insane. If you raise spending, then tax cuts just add further insult. You are not only spending more - but by delaying payment you are increasing the cost of your purchases. Its irresponsible. It used to be that proper "John Wayne" conservatives didn't much like debt. Of course the Republican party is now occupied by Bush the Lesser. Always was an irresponsible wastrel his whole life - we shouldn't be surprised how he runs the country.

Assuming we cut spending and could afford tax cuts, my preference would be to simplify the tax code. A flat tax, no deductions, around 30% for all the income above say 70k. If you earn less than 70k, you pay no tax. The rate stays the same, the cutoff moves up and down depending on the needs of the treasury.

6. Afghanistan, and Iraq together - with US financial and military support - are a good match for Iran - not for us. This was the policy of previous smarter presidents going back to Nixon. Thanks for blowing that beautiful setup George. (I've learned my lesson. I will never again vote for an idiot.) The US being tied up fighting insurgents in Iraq makes us less threatening to Iran - not more. This is why they now have no fears and have accelerated their nuclear program. We don't have the means to do anything to them without resorting to things (like the draft) that they and we know we don't have the resolve to do. I'm sure it is a comfort to them by the way to hear about how Americans like you encourage the nation to war, but would never enlist personally.

7. Thanks for confirming that you think that men like Mark are your personal army to send out on oil gathering errands so you can drive your SUV to get "Big Gulps" down at the service station. Just because they have enlisted does not mean we have the right to put them in harms way unless there is no other choice.

The president's "bring it on" comment speaks volumes about what kind of president we've got now. About the only thing he guarded back in the Texas Air National Guard was bar stools all over Texas. Well all over the south when he was AWOL. I'm voting for Kerry because I can't bring myself to vote idiot. If I had my proper choice I'd be voting McCain.

I'm conservative on the issues - not because I like Reagan's Cowboy hat.



 
Clinton’s World…

From former President Clinton’s speech last night:

The president had a great opportunity to bring us together under his slogan of compassionate conservatism and to unite the world in common cause against terror. Instead, he and his congressional allies made a very different choice: to use the moment of unity to push America too far to the right and to walk away from our allies, not only in attacking Iraq before the weapons inspectors finished their jobs, but in withdrawing American support for the Climate Change Treaty, the International Court for war criminals, the ABM treaty, and even the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.


He really is special, isn’t he?

… not only in attacking Iraq before the weapons inspectors finished their jobs…

Not too many jobs out there take twelve years to not finish.

…but in withdrawing American support for the Climate Change Treaty…

He means the one that the Senate in a rare display of sanity defeated 95-0, right?

… the International Court for war criminals …

A treaty he had the “guts” to sign on to about 20 minutes before he left office, leaving President Bush to do the responsible thing and protect our soldiers.

… the ABM treaty …

An outdated treaty between the US and an entity that no longer exists (thanks to that guy in the Cowboy hat).

… and even the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty …

Yes, even the treaty this dangerous and fatally flawed, impossible to verify agreement that would undercut and undermine US national security.

This was all part of his “positive” message by the way. It is nice to say though, isn’t it - former President Clinton?



 
MMark’s Convention Observations…

So I, like most near unstable Americans, have been watching the convention on the cable news networks when others haven't busied the T.V. with such things as ed, edd, and eddy or perhaps the French outcry to yet another American victory in the Tour De Lance. I know that the SCG's take much needed vacations to the Republican Convention, but as I have never been I decided to keep an open mind on the whole bizarreness of the events, and tried to find things that might be fun about them...here is what I have narrowed it down to:

1. Paper hats, if it were up to me everyone would wear them.
2. Booze, and lots and lots of it. Native Americans stay away.
3. You get to leave the wife at home.
4. All the girls that are there like politics.
5. Lots of free useless stuff that will sell for hundreds in 50 years on ebay.
6. Breakfast at 1400 (that's two o'clock to you chicken hawks).
7. Lots and lots of free, pre-made signs.
8. Laughing at all the caged protesters (at least I would).
9. Laughing even harder at the un-caged protester getting beat up.
10. Spec ops troops pretending that they’re homeless guys.

I'm sure I missed some of the other entertaining activities at the conventions, but this was just a shot in the dark.



 
Question One: Should those without military service keep quiet on issues of war and peace? Under what circumstances can someone who has never served in the military advocate war?

Raffi: It is not dishonorable for those who are against war (to) say so without joining the military. I believe that it is dishonorable for those who are for war, and are physically able to go, to not go, especially if the war is controversial and they their wish to start a war.

TJ: This is the crux of the problem, Raffi. What you have created is a rule of debate in a democratic society in which pacifists, isolationists and appeasers have a de facto “veto” over those who favor military action.

Your new demand for a one sided debate with only one answer (Peace at all costs!) raises a lot of questions – what, for instance, would qualify as a “controversial” war? Is it required that there be no significant public protests? Well, Afghanistan wouldn’t qualify. Is it bipartisan support? Well, take a look at the roll call vote giving our President authorization for war in Iraq. Is it majority support in the opinion polls? Again, at the time of the conflict, there was wide but not universal support (somewhere in the 60% range as I recall).

A further consequence of your logic is that those without military experience and no intention of joining the military should refrain from taking part in any public debate on the military. If there is only one answer they could “honorably” conclude, then why bother participating in the debate at all. The answer is already a given. How many people would that exclude from questions of war and peace? Has to be in the high tens of millions. You do the math, I ain’t so good at that thing with all the numbers.

Also, I have to imagine your logic would have to apply to other elements of public life. If you support aggressive police action to target gangs and drug dealers in the inner city, and you are physically able, it would certainly be “dishonorable” to allow someone else to do the dirty work. To be honorable, you would have to advocate a lax police policy, unless of course, you proved yourself willing to give up your present career and join the police force.

Name calling is a desperate tactic that is intended to shut down debate rather than address real points. Now, if you want to say – hey, let’s consider the costs of war really carefully. That’s fine. But don’t impugn people’s patriotism. If we were 25 year old single guys, you would have a bit more ground. We are all between the ages of 34 and 36, we all have kids, and we all have a long history of strong support for men and women in uniform, and respect for the work they do.

Raffi: You can bet that if some foreign country was invading the US or if the Nazis were taking over the world again, that I would be an advocate of war, and I would go and enlist. I suppose there are some who in those conditions would hide in their basement and hope someone else would do the fighting.

TJ: Ok, Raffi, you got me. When the Islamic hordes hit the American beaches, I will be hiding in my basement wishing we had never confronted Islamic terror at its roots. Meanwhile, you and the MoveOn.org legions will be repelling the invaders with copies of Michael Moore’s book and precision guided open toed shoes.

Raffi: You and your friends have the luxury of being able to debate the pros and cons of war with each other when none of you have any intention of putting your lives at risk. But you don't mind at all risking Mark's life, or the lives of thousands of servicemen like him. Because - hey thats the career they signed up for right? They are paid to fight at your whim aren't they? Newsflash: they are not. Americans enlist in the military with the full expectation that they won't have to fight unecessary elective wars.

TJ: Exactly where in the recruiting brochure did you see that promise? Maybe military mark can shed some light on this, but was he given the assurance that he will not be called to serve in any “unnecessary, elective wars”? I would think that anyone who joins the military would have the clear understanding that if the commander in chief deems it necessary, it ‘aint elective.

I do not believe that we should put servicemen in harms way for no reason. But when there is a good reason – and I think changing the face of the middle east to help secure a safer future for our country – I am going to support it. I just don’t share your view that members of our armed forces are victims. They are heroes. They are doing great work and accomplishing great and difficult things.

As for the National Guard, I sympathize with people being activated – but I just don’t agree with the mentality that the military is some sort of work-fare program that provides a nice little stipend and tuition benefits. It is not AmeriCorps. Joining the military is a serious commitment – with real consequences. My point is that I don’t think it makes any sense for you to expect untrained 35 year olds to make a contribution to the war but think that the trained national guard units who have been preparing for this duty should stay home. Of course, you don’t really expect us to make a contribution, but it is hard to call us “dishonorable” without that canard.

Raffi: I'm sure you think of yourselves as being part of some higher value while collar class that should not be expected to dirty your hands with the actual fighting.

Actually, no. I come from the lower middle class, Rafi-mon. I considered a career in the military. I applied to West Point and, as clear evidence of the military’s clear thinking, was not accepted. I scored a 99th percentile on the AFSAB and sat down on a number of occasions with the Marine Corps recruiters. But I, like many, many others, chose a different path. I don’t look down at the men and women who serve in the military – I look up to them, precisely because I respect what they do and what they sacrifice. Not just in war. One of our colleagues from college is a career army officer, and is married to a woman who is also an army officer. They have one child. He is stationed in Colorado, she is stationed in Washington state. Don’t imply we don’t respect that sacrifice. We do. Again, I don’t agree that we six conservative guys are doing as much as the guys in the military to win the war. Those guys are sacrificing far more. But I am not going to stay quiet about issues that I think are critical to the future security of this country because you are going to accuse me of being unpatriotic. My guess is, most guys in the military appreciate the support they get from civilians for all they are doing and I think most of them understand that their role as members of the armed forces is to kill Americas enemies and not to provide the UN with a very expensive meals on wheels program.

Raffi: And yes, I do find it kind of disgusting to see strong, able bodied men say that the current war is necessary and is addressing a real imminent devastating threat - and then push off the responsibility for fighting it on someone else. If I believed as you apparently do that this war is necessary - I would volunteer. The bar for going to war should be set that high.

TJ: Three points. First, you have obviously spent too much time looking at our photos at the white house. I appreciate the acknowledgment of our “able-bodied-ness”. We do try to watch our figures.

Second, I assume that you think that having a military is necessary, right? So, even if you don’t support the war, you are pushing the responsibility of protecting our country on to someone else, right? Why is it only war that compels service? Also, given the deterrence that the military provides (preventing war, peace through strength) shouldn't we have compulsory military service?

Third, You say the bar for war should be set high (see above under "unnecessary and elective". But, in fact, if your standards were intact, we might still have slavery. There were, after all, draft riots throughout the North during the Civil War. The American military allowed people to pay others to take their place in the union army. In other cases, immigrants were taken off boats and immediately conscripted into the army. The south was not, after all, an imminent threat (they wanted to be left alone to continue the southern slave way of life). People were pushing their responsibilities onto others. Many hundreds of thousands were conscripted to join the union army against their will. Sounds like your definition of an elective, un-necessary war to me. Perhaps Lincoln should have just let well enough alone.

Fourth and most importantly, many wars seem “elective” and “un-necessary” to at least some of the people. In most cases, we only reach a consensus in hindsight, and even then we really don't know for certain. Consider that we stayed out of an “elective” and “Un-necessary” conflict in Europe until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and brought us into the war. Yet, we would have been far better off to have defeated Hitler in 1938 or 1939, when there was no clear consensus for action in the United States. We would have also been far better off to have prepared for a war that was clearly coming. That’s what leadership is about. FDR failed the test. He redeemed himself, but he failed the initial test. Korea was certainly elective and you can debate whether it was necessary. At the time, I think it was more controversial than it is today. On the other hand, there is a consensus (which I don’t agree with) that we should have stayed out of Vietnam and should not have gotten involved in that “un-necessary conflict”.

I think Bush made the right decision – to attempt to change the course of the Middle East by removing two of the worst regimes on the planet and providing 50 million Arabs in those countries with a chance at Democracy. The Democrats say that Iraq was all about September 11th. They are right, in a sense. September 11th made it clear that we cannot live with the status quo of anti-American dictatorships in the Middle East. Afghanistan alone does not change the middle east – with all the forces of the Arab world lined up to prevent its success, it was an experiment doomed to failure. Now, we have expanded the playing field and, if we are successful (a risky proposition, I admit), these two countries will serve as shining cities on a hill for the rest of the Arab world. An alternative to the oppression, deprivation and despotism they live under now.

WMD’s is a part of the calculation, but the broader and more important calculation is about the future of the middle east in an era of WMD's. We can’t just live with the status quo in the Middle East, because it has one and only one endgame – a nuclear device exploding in a major American city. Bush understands that, and that, ultimately, is why he was right that the Iraq war was necessary and justified.


 
Some questions for Raffi –

1. Should those without military service keep quiet on issues of war and peace? Under what circumstances can someone who has never served in the military advocate war?

2. Do you really know Military Mark? You seem like an odd pair.

3. Why do you feel compelled to cloak your opposition to Bush in conservative rhetoric you don’t really believe? (How do we know you aren’t a conservative - - well, for one, you didn’t like the picture of Reagan in the Cowboy hat and that’s a tell tale sign. Two, you rhetoric is somewhat to the left of Michael Moore and your talking points cribbed off of Democrats.com; Three, you criticize Bush for not spending enough on education; and you suggest we should follow the (socialized) health care models of the “rest of the industrialized world” in order to fix the problems with our own system. Fourth, you lose sleep over our fictional status as an “international pariah”. Conservative? Give us a break, Raffi. For bonus credit, what does it tell us about the state of your ideology that you aren't even willing to admit you are a liberal, even on the web?

4. Please tell me which federal programs you would cut?

5. Did you support the Bush tax cuts?

6. How is it that you believe it simultaneously to be true that (a) Iraq and Afghanistan were meager, irrelevant and militarily powerless nations and, at the same time, that (b) Iran is very pleased that the US military (and not, presumably, the pitiful Iraqi and Afghan armies) is situated on their borders? I would think that Iran would prefer the weak pushover nations you described to the might of the US military. Please explain.

7. How is it that you believe it simultaneously to be true that (a) it is a travesty that those who have volunteered for service (national guard members), were trained for service, and paid for that training, are now expected to go to fulfill their duty when the President calls on them and (b) civilian supporters of the war who have established jobs and families and chose for various reasons not to join the military, are unpatriotic for not rushing out to the recruiting station?

For the record, I don't agree entirely with the idea that I am doing more for the war effort here in the private sector. But this isn't like World War II, with massive mobilization necessary. If things change, we need to rethink what we are doing.

Now... On to Tehran!

Convention

1. A very good speech for Clinton, I thought. Shameless, but well written and delivered. Contrast that with Hillary's screeching and Granholm's terrible speech.

2. How I yearn for the days when Bill Clinton and Sandy Berger were on the job hunting down Al Queda and fighting islamic terror. What? That didn't happen? The Islamists tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 and we didn't do anything? Well surely we did something after the Millenium plot? The plot to blow up 12 airplanes over the ocean simultaneously? The USS Cole bombing? Khobar Towers? Gosh. I guess it is too bad that we have that presidential term limit. Bill could have used another four years to finish the job he never started.

3. Next to Jimmy Carter, I kinda like Clinton. I can't think of anyone who has been more wrong in his public positions or done more in support of oppressive anti-american dictators and terrorists over the years than Jimmy Carter. Ok, maybe Ramsey Clark. But still.



Monday, July 26, 2004
 
Easy on the Bush Bashing?

As first reported here on Drudge, and now in most of today’s papers, DNC chair Terry McAuliffe has told DNC staffers to be on the lookout for "unreasonable" Bush bashing signs held by delegates on the convention floor which could be highlighted on television. Stories appear in most major newspapers today saying the DNC will try and avoid overdoing it on the “Bush Bashing.”

So my question is, why?

Why curtail the one thing that seems to unite Democrats above all else? We’ve been saying for months, all Kerry really has to offer is “I’m not Bush.” Why fight it?


 
Rafael seems a little upset…

Reader Rafael chimes in to respond to my last post (editorial note: I’ve broken up his post into sections so I can respond to each one without having to repeat things):

Jason,

You must be some kind of Republican fan boy. It seems like, it doesn't matter what they stand for, it must be that elephant icon that attracts you. Or maybe it’s just the image if Ronald Reagan wearing a cowboy hat that makes you say - "that’s me - a Republican". Conservative issues like - low taxes, a balanced budget, small government, and privacy rights don't seem to matter much to you. I mean, if low taxes and a balanced budget mattered then maybe you would be a little uncomfortable supporting a President who has increased Federal spending by a larger amount than any president since LBJ. Who has increased spending more than Bush: LBJ and FDR. Bush would be the number 3 big spender. But that’s ok because he's brand 'R'.


Jason here; not quite. First of all you mention two things here, low taxes and a balanced budget, but then you talk about neither in trying to make your point. So I will. First, lower taxes. My taxes are lower. Your taxes are lower. You know how I know that? Because every taxpayer’s tax burden has been lowered over the past four years. Second, a balanced budget. Actually I’m not sure that a balanced budget is always necessary. There are times when deficit spending is required and even desirable. I understand and appreciate the theory behind a balanced budget requirement, but it has to be tempered by the realities of a dynamic and global economy. Now what you did say was that President Bush is “the number 3 big spender” after FDR and LBJ. This is not exactly accurate, as the only measurement of spending that is meaningful is spending as a percentage of GDP, and in that sense President Bush is 5th (source here - warning: link is a pdf download), at least over the last 100 years. Behind Nixon, Hoover, Eisenhower and Truman. However, that’s not really your point, your saying shouldn’t it trouble me, this out of control spending. It does. Take a few moments to read some of the past posts here on spending during the current administration – we ain’t thrilled. I find it pure fantasy however, to think it would be better under a President Kerry.


If privacy rights mattered to you then you might be concerned with the erosion of our rights by the ironically named Patriot act - which undoes exactly the rights the framers of the constitution so carefully constructed, and which have served us well for a 250 years.

Yes well, while we’re all patiently waiting for the hundreds of documented atrocities that have taken place since the enacting of the Patriot Act by the overwhelming majority in congress, I’ll simply say that we live in an unfortunately difficult time and that I am willing to forego a few rights of convenience if it means greater security for me and my family. I believe the majority of Americans feel the same way.


When it was Clinton doing "nation building" in Haiti - I'm sure you were crowing along with the rest that this is a waste of money and time. And you would have been right. But now that its Bush the lesser who has us waist deep in nation-building quagmire - its not a problem any more. A smarter Bush knew that invading Iraq was a pointless waste of money and power. It took the feebleminded son to show us the wisdom of the
father.


The two cases are very different. I believe the anti-terrorism and national and world security benefits of implementing a free and democratic government in the heart of the Middle East justify the expenditures at this time. If that makes me a necon so be it.


Afghanistan and Iraq seem to you like well-matched enemies. These great and powerful nations seem to you like the kind of mortal threats to our nation that we should have our military strength stretched to such limits that they are calling out the national guard, and scraping so hard for manpower that we must put in stop loss orders as if this were WWII. Lets consider these great threats. Afghanistan and Iraq together have 50 million impoverished citizens - about one-tenth our population. The combined GDP of both of these countries is 0.57% of the GDP of the United States. (50% of Afghanistan's GDP comes from selling heroin to the west. How nice - our own festering inner city drug problems fund insurgencies against us abroad.) We had Iraq contained under a sanctions regime which was perfect. They could police their people for us, sell us their oil, but we had military control of their borders and airspace. Not so now. Now it is we who have to patrol their hostile streets with our soldiers at phenomenal cost. Meanwhile more legitimate military threats like Russia, and China (which we had our eye on under smarter presidents) are free to grow in power and influence unchecked.

The whole idea of invading Iraq was so insane, that when the government said we had to do it- I thought - "Boy those Iraqi's really must have some kind of advanced nuke program. They must have bought missiles from Russia with nukes ready to go. Our spies must have found something so horrible over there that there is no choice but for us to rub our noses in the shit and root those weapons out." Because it’s plain to see that invading and then policing Iraq is going to be a long, expensive and thankless job. And then we find - no WMD's. No big advanced Nuke program, no moderately scary bioweapons program. Not even a few shells artillery with Sarin past its due date. Nothing. So we are left to have to decide is our government run by idiots? or liars? I can't tell. I like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are liars - but that’s just a gut feeling. You could be right - they might just be idiots.

What kind of Pollyanna do you have to be to still think this war was a good idea? Just what vital interest is being served by this? I mean the only rational argument left is that maybe they went into Iraq just to secure the oil. When you add up the numbers it doesn't make sense (the value of the oil is less than what we are spending to secure it), but it’s the only argument I can see that doesn't conclude with "our government is being run by idiots."


Whew. Well, I will say this: I buy into the original post 9/11 Bush Doctrine. We will make no distinction between terrorists and those nations who support and harbor them. This needs to be repeated over and over and over again. As difficult as the “post conflict” periods have been in both countries, I believe we are better off for our efforts – and certainly the people of Afghanistan and Iraq are as well. The errors in our pre-war intelligence as far as Iraq are concerned are now well documented. What is equally well documented is that it is the same intelligence that everyone had from the White House to Congress to Europe to the UN - and all believed it. Given what we thought we knew, I believe the action we took was the only reasonable course we could take and I’ll say again as I did about seventeen posts down from here, if all those things were believed to be true, wouldn’t it have been irresponsible, damn near negligent, if President Bush hadn’t sought to remove Saddam and neutralize the threat that everyone believed he posed? As an added long-term bonus, we just may get to see a real societal change in the Middle East.

By the way, I would think the “benefit of the doubt” option would be to think them idiots, not liars, but maybe that’s just me.


You know things are looking mighty comfortable in Iran right now. Bush has been one big Christmas present to Tehran. We have eliminated their two great enemies, Afghanistan to the east, and Iraq to the west. There is now a power vacuum on both sides. The peace is barely being held together by our troops. When we leave, which we eventually will, Iran will be there to take over both places. I believe that we have at great expense re-united ancient Persia - which the British intelligently split into 3 at great expense when they were the global empire. And with the US tied up in Iraq, Iran and North Korea are free to build up their nuclear arsenal and long range ballistic missiles. And have no doubt that our true international military competitors - China, and Russia - have every interest in seeing us tied up in Iraq forever. It wont be a surprise if once in awhile we don't see some Chinese or Russian made weapons show up in Iraq. I'm sure the Iraqi insurgents will never lack for money or weapons.

Hey, you might be right Rafael. I highly doubt it, but only time will tell. I think you have to look at each individual threat and implement individual plans of action. I think the correct paths were chosen for Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran? I agree a power vacuum would be an enormous risk, and probably require us to go in again. All the more reason to stay the course and see this through to a successful conclusion – a free, strong and democratic Iraq. That is Iran’s worst nightmare, indeed it’s the worst nightmare of all the Islamofacist regimes in the neighborhood. As for Russia and China, I think both warrant considerable attention, but I think capitalism has taken hold in Russia, and the primary real danger there is in the trafficking in old Soviet weapons – at least we’re working to try and take out the customers for such items, and I think we leave the rest to the spooks. China too I believe will eventually collapse under the weight of it’s own capitalistic success. As they continue to loosen the controls over individual economic freedoms, people will demand more freedom in other areas. It is the natural progression of society. In the end, it’s like I said, you may be right (probably not, but maybe). But even if you are, you really think John Kerry is the guy to address the situation?


And lets thank Bush also for making the limitations of US military power painfully clear to our proper competitors. You can bet that military colleges in China and Russia study every engagement we have in Iraq. I'm sure that Russian designers are probably working on better RPGs this very day.

Well sh*t Rafael, than why ever use them? Better to keep ‘em guessin’ right?


Tell you what, you name the issue and I'll engage you on the facts - and starting with conservative values. We'll take it for granted that the whole conservative cannon is correct - small government, low taxes, low regulation, the gamut. Because on the facts, this president is by far the worst and most incompetent president in modern times. How anyone can claim to adhere to traditional Republican party ideas and support Bush is literally incomprehensible to me.

Well as noted above, I very much disagree with you Rafael. Just answer me this though champ – if we do indeed take the whole conservative cannon as correct, how do you come away with the theory that Kerry will be better?

Jason (Chicken Hawk, Pollyanna and Republican fan boy)