Wednesday, October 27, 2004

After Words

Today is Wednesday, November 3rd, so the elections are over~ or are they? You see, for me, it is actually Wednesday, October 27th and the elections have not happened yet. I do not know who won and I suspect you don’t yet either, though I hope that is not the case. It is my guess that there is quite a bit of contention and I feel comfortable guessing that there some people complaining.

One of the most common complaints in American elections is the electoral college. A perennial gripe and, like disenfranchisement, often demogogued. On November 20, 2000, fresh from the Bush/Gore Florida debacle, Hillary Clinton did just that saying, “We are a very different country than we were 200 years ago...I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me, that means it's time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president." But it just is not as simple as that.

Some background: the Electoral College is found in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and traces it’s framework back to the Republic of Rome. A direct popular election would give the Presidency to the largest population centers without serious consideration for smaller states like Vermont. The Electoral College forces the focus on a candidate’s ability to govern without the prejudice of state-based favoritism. Despite warnings by men like George Washington, political parties developed with the support of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others. It did not take long for party loyalty to eclipse state loyalty as people began to identify more as Americans than as citizens of respective states. The 1800 election of Thomas Jefferson was more controversial than the 2000 election of George W. Bush. Both Jefferson and his opponent, Aaron Burr, were from the same party and tied the Electoral vote! It took 36 votes in the House of Representatives along with shady deals to settle the election. Before the next election, the 12th Amendment was passed in 1804, fine-tuning the Electoral College to prevent a repeat of 1800. In the 200 years since then, it has worked efficiently. There have been several strange and hot elections, but the system has worked well to handle them.

One criticism of the Electoral College is the “faithless Elector” which draws on the fear that an Elector can thwart the will of the voters by “voting his conscience” rather than the electorate’s wishes. In the last century, this has happened only seven times and in each instance the outcome of the election was never affected. Most recently in 1988, an elector from West Virginia flipped his ticket, giving the presidency to Lloyd Benson and the second seat to Michael Dukakis. The faithless elector makes a statement rather than tries to alter the results. The appropriate response for this is to eliminate the physical electors and simply count the block of electoral votes for the state.

More often, the College is criticized for not “reflecting the national popular will,” by which they mean that rural people are given more weight than they should (a point that plays well in urban areas) or that the popular vote winner gets all the electors from the state (a sore spot for third party candidates). In essence this is true. The Electoral College ensures that more rural states are represented in elections and does play into a two party system. Third parties generally form around narrow or regional issues rather than larger national themes and, though impassioned, are really too transitory to be able to govern. The Electoral College system forces the two main parties to stand on central positions while also incorporating fringe and third party issues without being overwhelmed by their sometimes radical drives.

Most often, as Hillary Clinton did, critics complain that the Electoral College allows a candidate to win the presidency without winning the popular vote. Again, this is also true, but begs the question, “so what?” Sometimes an alarming claim is really an alarmist claim. Many Presidents did not win the popular vote, including JFK in 1960, Nixon in ‘68, both elections of Bill Clinton, and of course Bush in 2000. The issue here is not that “Al Gore won the popular vote”, but rather having a system that works. In the case of a tie, the Electoral College has very specific and easy steps to decide the issue. In a popular vote, there is only one recourse to a tie and that is a run-off election. Take a moment to imagine the madness of a national run-off. Furthermore, the direct election of a President would remove smaller, less populated states from the equation. Also, the critic’s rhetoric often forgets to mention the impact on minorites - be they racial, gender, or special interests. In a popular election only the votes of the popular majority count.

Hillary claims to “believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me, that means it's time to do away with the Electoral College.” Does she really? We elect 2 Senators per state and that just doesn’t fairly represent the population. By Hillary’s logic we need to “do away with” the Senate. The number of Congressmen in the House of Representatives is determined by arbitrary districting, but proportional representation is not truly popular democractic representation so, by Hillary’s logic, we need to restructure the House of Representatives, too. By Hillary’s logic, she and her husband would have been sent packing back to Arkansas twice!

The House of Representatives provides popular representation in the Legislative branch. The Senate provides equal representation in the Legislative branch. The Executive branch is the one that oversees the Legislative by either signing or not signing legislation. In other words, the Presidency defends ‘we the people’ and therefore must represent all the people. The beauty of the Electoral College system is that it protects the vote of each and every person and provides a stable framework for electing that one person who should represent us all. The President must have the support of the people to govern, but that support must also be from the widest cross-section of the population to have legitimacy. Hillary’s popular election will not provide that, but the Electoral College does.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Unprecedented behavior

Tuesday Night, October 19th, the Democratic Party hosted a video at the Springfield Town Library. The notice in the Springfield Reporter said, "Join Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and statewide and local candidates for political conversation, refreshments and a showing of the film ‘Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.’" Deb Markowitz was there, but only Democratic candidates were invited. The movie was shown and there were refreshments. Unfortunately, there was no discussion, which I had expected would be the case, but hope springs eternal. Though I had not seen it, I was familiar with the film and had learned that it was a Michael Moore-style hit piece full of inaccuracies and exceptional editing. The film touched on the felon purge list, racially-discriminatory disenfranchisement, and the "illegitemacy" of the Supreme Court’s involvement. It’s sources were the usual suspects: NAACP representatives including Kwesi Infume, the radical editorialist Greg Palast, Alan Dershowitz, Florida county election officials, but not one person given a fair chance to represent the other side - which, of course, is why I showed up. Following is only some of what the film left out.

"The report does not find that the highest officials of the state conspired to disenfranchise voters. Moreover, even if it was foreseeable that certain actions by officials led to voter disenfranchisement, this alone does not mean that intentional discrimination occurred." (Executive Summary of the US Commission on Civil Rights: Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election) The dissenting report from the Commission casts serious doubt on the integrity of the data and analysis of the main report noting that Dr. Allan Lichtman, who did the statistical and analytical work, was a consultant to Al Gore and told the New York Times, before being hired to work for the Commission, that he believed the Voter Rights Act had been violated in Florida.

The US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had this to say, "The vast majority of Floridians were not denied their right to vote during the 2000 Presidential elections, and the few problems that did exist could not have affected George W. Bush’s victory." On May 21, 2002 Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division sent a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in which he wrote, "The Civil Rights Division’s investigation identified only a limited number of Floridians who were unable to vote,...experienced difficulty while voting..[or] ..confusion and delay in certain counties, often resulting from lack of language assistance."
Disenfranchisement was a big part of the film. It is a fact that in Florida felons and ex-felons are not allowed to vote. There is one segment where a county election official explains that she decided not to use the "purge list" because she could plainly see that it had many false positives. The film never takes the time to explain that the this lady was exactly right and doing her job - the list was made to be extensive to get all the felons purged. The lady also mentions the process of sending a notification letter to the ‘purged’ voter which the film breezes over. All purged voters were notified and could be re-listed and many were, as was reported in the Miami Herald. Though I never got to ask her, I am sure that Deb Markowitz would not countenance allowing illegal voters to vote, though the movie she promotes suggests we should.
Early in the film a particularly ugly assertion is presented as fact. The film blatantly states that Florida instituted the felon disenfranchisement laws to keep blacks from voting. This is a flat-out lie according to Alexander Keyssar, Harvard Professor and author of The Right To Vote: "The history of felon disenfranchisement...had little or nothing to do with race...[and] were enacted [by] Republican governments that supported black voting rights. By 1900 [such] laws were in place in a majority of states...(including even Vermont)." It should also be noted, "In 2000, Massachusetts and New Hampshire disenfranchised inmates. In 1999, Oregon disenfranchised federal inmates, in 1997 Colorado disenfranchised federal inmates and parolees and in 1998 Utah disenfranchised all inmates." (Summary of State Felony Disenfranchisement Laws 1860 - 2003)

There was a lengthy segment on the dimpled chad, the recounts and Katherine Harris. What was left unsaid was that Harris would have violated the law if she had not done as she did. "A vote for a candidate or ballot measure shall be counted if there is a clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice." (Florida Statues Section 102.166(5)(a)) It doesn’t get much plainer than that folks. The Democrats in Florida (and elsewhere) want that to read rather broadly, but it says what it says and the legislature made it pretty specific, despite how the courts wanted to read it. The movie makes mention of the court case that required Katherine Harris to accept late returns. I have read that case and I suggest you do too - Judge Terry P. Lewis bends the law as far as he can but never requires her to accept late returns, rather he suggests that she could if she wanted to. However, Florida Statutes Section 102.111 has this to say, "If the county returns are not received by the Department of State by 5 p.m. on the 7th day following an election, all missing counties shall be ignored, and the results shown by the returns on file shall be certified." Maybe I am just too dim to see it, but where’s the wiggle room there? The Florida legislature carefully crafted these statutes to avoid just the sort of behavior that occurred when Al Gore asked for more time and the county elections officers wanted to see if daylight could shine through a hanging chad.

A point was made both in the film and by an audience member that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV, but I do know how to read. Todd F. Graziano, who served in the US Dept of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel for Reagan, Bush, Sr, and Clinton, testified before Congress: "Some lawyers who should know better are continuing their effort to mislead the public...activist lawyers are joined by others who have a partisan motive..." He went on to explain that the issues raised in Florida were "important issues of federal constitutional and statutory law," specifically that "all the hand recounts were illegal under Florida statutes and that Article II of the Constitution required the federal courts to enforce that state Legislature’s mandate." The film said this ruling was 5 to 4, when in fact it was 7 to 2. What is most illuminating is what the film did not say, which is that the two dissenting judges, Stevens and Ginsburg, the most liberal ideologues, were forced to reverse positions they previously held to dissent in this case!

The first lawsuit filed favored Al Gore and was thrown out, but the film states that Bush filed the first action. The film completely mischaracterizes a study conducted for CNN and a bevy of other news agencies by the National Opinion Research Center. CNN reported, "Florida recount study: Bush still wins" and explains that only by extreme, and illegal, measures could the recounts have found a Gore win. I didn’t make that up, it’s the truth. Mrs. Markowitz spent some time promoting the Help America Vote Act, which I am sure is a wonderful thing, but (like the Motor Voter Act) HAVA is causing major problems with its provisional voting ballots. Contrary to Mrs. Markowitz’s portrayal, provisional voting is a perfect vehicle for election fraud. She mentioned the Portland canvasser that destroyed dozens of registration forms he got for Democrats because he was a Republican. She missed another Republican in Las Vegas doing the same thing. Somehow, she also neglected to mention ACORN, a liberal activist group, participating in Get Out The Vote, which is under investigation for thousands of fraudulent registrations in Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Minnesota, Florida, and Ohio.
Also in Ohio, just last week, was Chad Staton, working on behalf of the NAACP (one of the sources for this film), who was arrested for filing over 100 false registrations, including Mary Poppins. Chad was paid for his work with crack cocaine. I wish I could make up stuff like this.
My favorite part of the film was when they showed it and explained how confusing the "butterfly ballot" was. I had to laugh when they interviewed two or three people who claimed they had miscast their votes with it. You see, I happen to have a photocopy of the infamous "butterfly ballot" and the night before, while preparing my information for the discussion period, my five year old daughter overheard my wife and I talking about the ballot. She insisted on having a turn to vote, so I handed her the page, asked her to find Bush’s name, and press his button. She is only five, so you’ll understand that it was child’s play for her to succeed. I then had her do the same for Gore, Harris, and Phillips. She did just fine, without coaching, on each vote. I am so often amazed that my five year old is capable of doing with ease what many Democrats seem to find so difficult.

What we need is an honest and balanced presentation of all the information available. Miscast and illegal votes should not be counted and those who cast them are not disenfranchised. This particular issue is an urban myth and it is reprehensible for State officers and candidates to propagate such a lie. Those who do are just not qualified to hold office. As a Secretary of State, I’d have expected Deborah Markowitz to be more responsible. Yes, I think it is irresponsible to present seriously flawed testimony and I think, as a lawyer, Mrs. Markowitz should think so, too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

NY Times Op-Ed

War Of Words


President Bush and Senator John Kerry have very different views of the war on terrorism, and those differences ought to be debated in this presidential campaign. But the debate should focus on facts, not distortions of history.

On more than one occasion, Senator Kerry has referred to the fight at Tora Bora in Afghanistan during late 2001 as a missed opportunity for America. He claims that our forces had Osama bin Laden cornered and allowed him to escape. How did it happen? According to Mr. Kerry, we "outsourced" the job to Afghan warlords. As commander of the allied forces in the Middle East, I was responsible for the operation at Tora Bora, and I can tell you that the senator's understanding of events doesn't square with reality.

First, take Mr. Kerry's contention that we "had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden" and that "we had him surrounded." We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. Some intelligence sources said he was; others indicated he was in Pakistan at the time; still others suggested he was in Kashmir. Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and Qaeda operatives, many of whom were killed or captured, but Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp.

Second, we did not "outsource" military action. We did rely heavily on Afghans because they knew Tora Bora, a mountainous, geographically difficult region on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is where Afghan mujahedeen holed up for years, keeping alive their resistance to the Soviet Union. Killing and capturing Taliban and Qaeda fighters was best done by the Afghan fighters who already knew the caves and tunnels.

Third, the Afghans weren't left to do the job alone. Special forces from the United States and several other countries were there, providing tactical leadership and calling in air strikes. Pakistani troops also provided significant help - as many as 100,000 sealed the border and rounded up hundreds of Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Contrary to Senator Kerry, President Bush never "took his eye off the ball" when it came to Osama bin Laden. The war on terrorism has a global focus. It cannot be divided into separate and unrelated wars, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. Both are part of the same effort to capture and kill terrorists before they are able to strike America again, potentially with weapons of mass destruction. Terrorist cells are operating in some 60 countries, and the United States, in coordination with dozens of allies, is waging this war on many fronts.

As we planned for potential military action in Iraq and conducted counterterrorist operations in several other countries in the region, Afghanistan remained a center of focus. Neither attention nor manpower was diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq. When we started Operation Iraqi Freedom we had about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, and by the time we finished major combat operations in Iraq last May we had more than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.

We are committed to winning this war on all fronts, and we are making impressive gains. Afghanistan has held the first free elections in its history. Iraq is led by a free government made up of its own citizens. By the end of this year, NATO and American forces will have trained 125,000 Iraqis to enforce the law, fight insurgents and secure the borders. This is in addition to the great humanitarian progress already achieved in Iraq.

Many hurdles remain, of course. But the gravest danger would result from the withdrawal of American troops before we finish our work. Today we are asking our servicemen and women to do more, in more places, than we have in decades. They deserve honest, consistent, no-spin leadership that respects them, their families and their sacrifices. The war against terrorism is the right war at the right time for the right reasons. And Iraq is one of the places that war must be fought and won. George W. Bush has his eye on that ball and Senator John Kerry does not.

Tommy Franks, a retired general and former commander in chief of the Central Command, is the author of "American Soldier." He is a member of Veterans for Bush.

Monday, October 18, 2004

I got this email the other day

I received this email a little over a week ago. Following is my reply. I have hotlinked his email if anyone cares to offer their own reply.

Mr. Stettner:

You asked for facts, so here they are. But first, please tell me how are we "safer" now that we have invaded Iraq? Bush and his supporters repeatedly say we are "safer", but they never say how. Perhaps this is because we are not safer now, the world is a far more dangerous place than it was two years ago.

Here are some of the facts, most of which undermine Bush's rationale for the Iraq war:
(I have inserted his "Facts" into my response for easier reading)

Jim Kraft
Springfield, VT

My reply

Dear Mr. Kraft,
I was pleased to receive your email. I have been trying to engage people, to goad them into some sort of response, to get people to, at the very least, consider their positions. I have to admit some disappointment at the ability or ambivalence of people to answer me. Like you, those who try to respond never provide reference material to document their positions. Thankfully, you do not try to bolster your points with partisan propaganda sources, as many try to.

It has taken me some time to reply to you not out of reluctance or even dismissal, but rather that I have taken a serious amount of time to consider your statement. The night I received your email, I immediately set to preparing an answer, collecting source material, and addressing each of your eighteen ‘facts’. After I had outlined my responses to your ‘facts’ and began to review them, I started to realize that what you really presented me with were 3 or 4 facts, a few statements or questions, and a bevy of opinions. Opinions are not facts, they are conclusions one draws from facts and can be more or less accurate.

The most telling fact in your email is not listed. It is the fact that you have selectively ignored many aspects of reality and latched onto partisan rhetoric to bolster your world view. I have been following the history of terrorism for almost two decades. The world is no more dangerous now than it has ever been. Have you forgotten the 1972 Munich Olympics? The logic of the claim that we are safer now than we were is simple. Again, you allow your politics to inform you rather than your intellect. The terrorists are more focused in their backyards than in ours. It truly is that simple. Bush’s critics claim that we are not safer, but they never say how. They often claim that the world is a far more dangerous place than it was two years ago, but they never say how. Those are your own words - reversed. How about you answer the same charges? Nuclear, biological, and chemical materials are no more available now than they were. The focus on those vectors is far sharper today than it was before. Only via conspiracy theory can your claims be rationalized. In point of fact, the preponderance of real evidence shows a blatant disregard for the trafficking of these materials and the realities of international terrorist activity under the Clinton Administration and on the "left side of the aisle". Many of your ‘facts’ display an attitude that is frighteningly at odds with reality in much the same way that Clinton, Gore, Albright, Holbrook, Kerry, and Edwards (et al) embrace.

This country is safer and the proof of that claim, quite clearly, is that there have been numerous attempts and they have been thwarted. Terror cells and individuals are being aggressively hunted in this country in a way that they were not before. Without question, there is still much work to be done and areas that need to be tightened. There will be more successful attacks staged here because there is simply no way to completely defend against terrorism. It is insidious and even finds root in citizens of this country who appear to have no propensity or predilection for it, yet they are drawn to it like moths to a flame. On the global scene, while it may seem more dangerous to the uninformed, it is not. The Spaniards had a suspect (Eta) even before they considered Al Qaeda. Did Bush and his supporters invent Eta? Ireland has been rocked by the terror tactics of the IRA for decades. Did the PLO spring into existence only recently? Do you recall the Achille Lauro?

I prepared answers to each of your points, as I said earlier, but as I sit here now and consider the overwhelming evidence that you must be ignoring to hold your position, I really am loathe to address them. However, it is not in my nature to not rise to a challenge. So, with heavy heart and tired fingers, I begin:

Fact: We were attacked by Osama BinLaden, not Saddam Hussein. Bush actually acknowledges this fact, though he refuses to explain why he attacked Iraq instead of continuing to go after AlQaida.

1. This actually is a fact, but is not really relevant to anything. We were attacked by Japan and not Germany in WWII, but that did not stop us from fighting on two fronts. Bush has never refused to explain anything. Al Qaeda has been is on the run. It’s leadership is in hiding. It would be irresponsible and ineffectual to use the entire military force to hunt through the mountains to find him. That is, IF he is still even alive, which is a question those with better intelligence than you or I have hold grave doubts about.

Fact: Osama Bin Laden, our real enemy, has not been captured, and his death has not been confirmed.

2. This is also a fact, but see #1.

Fact: Bush never committed the troops or aid needed to secure and rebuild
Afghanistan or to carry out an effective search there for Bin Laden. Now much of that country is under the control of warlords, the returning Taliban, and has reverted to growing opium as a major crop.

3. I don’t know you, so perhaps your background qualifies you to hold this opinion. However, I choose to side with the opinion of Five-Star General Tommy Franks who led the war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He and his staff believed they had the right stuff and I’ll take their word for it. Afghanistan has just held elections, is not in the grip of warlords though there are some, and is not facing a return of the Taliban. Opium has always been a major crop there, that is nothing new or even recent.

Fact: Terror attacks and threats of attacks increased in 2003, after Saddam was removed from power, compared to 2002, per state department figures released this spring.

4. I am unfamiliar with your source in the State Dept., but for the sake of argument I will concede that there has been an increase in terrorist activity in 2003. What’s your point? Attacks during a war should surprise no one and don’t really mean anything other than attacks happen during a war.

Fact: Neither the death of Saddam's sons, Saddam's capture or the handover of sovereignty to the new Iraqi government has reduced the attacks on our troops. Nearly a year after Saddam's capture, attacks on and deaths of both Americans and Iraqis continue to increase each month.

5. Another fact! It does not support your position, but it is nevertheless a fact. What intrigues me is that you use this fact to try to bolster your position when it clearly supports Bush’s position. The battles in Iraq are being fought with foreign terrorists committed to keeping Iraq from becoming free and democratic rather than with Iraqi’s bent on resisting American occupation.

Fact: Much of Iraq, including several major cities, and parts of Baghdad, are under the control of insurgents, be they Saddam loyalists, Islamic radicals, or terrorists from other countries most of whom weren't in Iraq before the war.

6. Much of Iraq is NOT suffering unrest. This is just not at all true. There is great violence in very specific areas of the country, but the vast majority is living peacefully. It is telling that you describe the insurgents as Saddam Loyalists and distinguish between Islamic radicals and foreign terrorists. Give me the name of one Saddam Loyalist leading an insurgency. I am assuming you refer to Sadr as an Islamic radical ignoring the fact that he violated Islam by using the Temple as a fortress, defiled the temple with blood, trash, liquor and drugs - the man is a political opportunist attempting to gain power by force because he can not earn it at the polls, in other words he is a terrorist.

Fact: No evidence exists to prove that Saddam supported Al Qaida in any significant way. Secular Saddam and ultra religious Bin Laden had an adversarial relationship, not a cooperative one.

7. This point is not only not factual it is completely fatuous. Present your evidence, source material, and explain how their relationship is adversarial. While you are gathering your info I’ll ask you to speak to Adbul Rahman, the Sudanese Intelligence Service, Farouk Hijazi, Salah Suleiman, Yusuf Galan, Abu Mohammed, Abbas al-Janabi, Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, Mohammed Ibrahim Makwai/Saif al-Adel, Mohammad Atef, Abu Adbullah al-Iraqi, Mohamed Mansour Shahab, the Allied Democratic Forces, Mullah Melan, Krekar of Ansar al-Islam. I could list more sources.

Fact: 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis, not Iraqis.

8. Fact, but non sequitur.

Fact: A substantial number of Americans have been misled to believe that Iraq supported Al Qaida, that Iraq was behind the 9-11attacks, and that the terrorists were Iraqis. Bush and Cheney have done nothing to correct these mistaken beliefs. Cheney now denies that he said there was a connection between Iraq and 9-11 though he said a year ago that there was. He was lying then and he is lying now.

9. Opinion and bumpersticker mentality. Al-Qaeda operative Yusuf Galan was indicted by a Spanish Court, based on his own documents, as being "directly involved with the preparation and planning" of 9/11. This same man was officially invited to a party at the Iraqi embassy in Madrid. It is too soon to say for sure that there is no connection. The resources of the participants have not been plumbed yet. Unless, of course, one has already decided.

Fact: No WMDs were found by the inspectors in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, but Bush attacked anyway. Little or no evidence of WMDs has been found since.

10. Another non sequitur. You are either intentionally misquoting Bush or blindly toeing the party line. Do your own research. Do not accept what your leaders tell you.

Fact: Saddam didn't even control much of his own country, let alone present a threat to us or to his neighbors. He had not attacked anybody in the 12 years between the Iraq wars. Due to the sanctions imposed after the 1991 war, he was limited in his ability to rebuild his military.

11. Uninformed opinion combined with select facts. I direct you to the Duefler report, the IAEA, and any number of world leaders. Saddam Hussein was a growing threat using the Oil-For-Food Scam to rearm, resupply, and renew his various WMD programs. That no WMDs have been found does not ipso facto mean they were not there. Halabja happened. The precursors for weapons-grade biologics were found in the home of a scientist in the employ of the Iraqi military. Most telling of all is the following transcript of a conversation on November 26, 2002, between a colonel and a brigadier general of the Republican Guard a day before the resumed inspections:

Col ...We just have a small question
Gen Yeah
Col About this committee that is coming...
Gen Yeah, yeah..
Col ...with Mohamed El Baradei..
Gen Yeah?
Col We have this modified vehicle..
Gen Yeah
Col What do we say if one of them sees it?
Gen You didn’t get a modified...You don’t have a modified...
Col By God, I have one.
Gen Which? From the workshop...?
Col From the al-Kindi Company.
Gen What?
Col From al-Kindi.
Gen Yeah, yeah. I’ll come to you in the morning. I have some comments.
I’m worried you all have something left.
Col We can evacuated everything. We don’t have anything left.
Gen I will come to you tomorrow.
Col Okay

[FYI al-Kindi was a company involved with illegal weapons systems (i.e. biological
and chemical). I don’t make this stuff up - I couldn’t even if I wanted to.]

Fact: The terrorist training camp that may have been associated with Al Qaida was in Kurdish territory not under Saddam's control. There are plenty of terrorists in Iraq now, because Bush invited them in by creating a power vacuum, then issuing his reckless "Bring them on" comment.

12. Incorrect Fact and opinion. The Khurds live in northern Iraq and while there may have been a base there the entire country was under the control of Hussein which is why we had to enforce a no fly zone. Furthermore, you can not claim that Salman Pak was in Khurdish territory. Southeast of Baghdad, Salman Pak was a training facility with the fuselage of a Boeing 707 used to stage hijackings with knives. Abu Mohammed, a Colonel in the Fedayeen, served there. Major Ali Hawas told Mohammed that a group there was Osama bin Laden’s. I think using Matt Lauer and the Today show as sources for your opinions might be a tad ‘reckless’ - someone might notice.

Fact: We supported Saddam 20 years ago when he invaded Iran. We helped him gas Iranian troops.

13. International relations can be an ugly business. Sometimes you dance with the devil, you support one bad government against one that is worse. The United States NEVER provided ‘gas’ to Iraq for use against Iran or anyone else. This is a particularly vicious piece of propaganda and I think you should provide your source for it.

Fact: We returned the Shah of Iran to power in 1953, and supported him for years afterward. Now we wonder why Iran hates us?

14. Please see #13. No one wonders why Iran hates us and I suggest it has more to do with government propaganda posing as news than any historical event 50+ years ago.

Fact: Bush has angered and alienated our allies and made our enemies hate us more than ever. Having traveled to Europe, I know some of this from personal experience. Every time we kill, wound or mistreat an Iraqi citizen, we fuel the fires of terrorism. Invading Iraq has made the terror problem worse, not better, because it lacks the legitimacy of the Afghan war and lacks the support of most of the rest of the world.

15. Opinion and secondhand opinion. Who are the allies Bush has angered and alienated? Please don’t name France, German, Russia, and China. Kerry repeatedly refers to the coalition as the "coerced and bribed" and we now know for a fact that these ‘allies’ we’ve been so worried about offending are the "coerced and bribed" - coerced by the threats of terrorists and bribed by Hussein himself, of course some of us recognized this over a year ago. Your travels in Europe only goes to show that you travel in circles of people who believe as you do. Sen. Joe Kennedy thought we should work with Hitler - didn’t make it the right thing to do. Many people think that the Holocaust never happened - doesn’t make it true. Your claims just don’t have legitimacy no matter how loud or often you make them. Please don’t speak for the majority of the world.

Fact: There are many other evil dictators and oppressive governments, some worse than Saddam's regime, including Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea, China, Iran. Why Iraq?

16. Question not fact. "First, some ask why Iraq is different from other countries or regimes...while there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone - because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people. This same tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbor, has struck other nations without warning, and hold and unrelenting hostility toward the United States." (George W. Bush, Cincinnati Museum Center, Oct. 7, 2002)
What is so eloquent about this one short paragraph from his longer speech is that he sums up so much of the argument. I understand that you don’t agree with him, but his position is informed by internation intelligence and events. You will mischaracterize his WMD statement, but he doesn’t say Hussein holds this or that weapon (except for chemical weapons), rather he leaves the issue open to encompass the weapons programs as a whole.

Fact: Other countries, including North Korea, China, Russia, former Soviet republics, India, Pakistan, Iran, probably Israel, have or are developing
nuclear weapons. While Bush was distracted by Iraq, Pakistan has sold nuclear secrets, Iran and North Korea have advanced their nuclear programs, and nukes in the former Soviet republics are not secure and could fall into the hands of terrorists. So Bush attacked Iraq because he thought Saddam might be trying to develop nukes?

17. Opinion, supposition, facts not in evidence. See above. Saddam was trying to develop nuclear weapons, even the IAEA says so. "Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy it’s weapons of mass destruction, to cease development of such weapons, and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations." (Ibid.) Further, Iraq thumbed it’s nose at 12 years of UN Resolutions and the US used the authority of the Iraqi Freedom Resolution of the US Congress as signed by President William Jefferson Clinton and UN Resolution 1441. You don’t have to like it, but please do not confuse your personal animus for George W. Bush with legitimacy or legality.

Fact: Terrorists are in many countries, and are supported by some of those countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Chechnya, Indonesia, the Philippines, Somolia, Kosovo, and Sudan. Why Iraq?

18. Comedy. It is comedic how Bush critics claim that terrorists are everywhere but in Iraq. See #16.

Fact: Money and manpower that was wasted in Iraq could have been used for other purposes that could have reduced the terrorist threat instead of increasing it.

19. Uninformed opinion. Where do you get your information? See #3.

Now, I have answered all your points with documentation. Please provide yours and do not fall back on the partisan sources which include the liberal media. Just because Dan Rather says something doesn’t make it true. I’ll leave you with two last quotes that I hope will shock you into not accepting what you are told.

"I have a confession. I have at times, as the war has unfolded, secretly wish for things to go wrong. Wished for the Iraqis to be more nationalistic, to resist longer. Wished for the Arab World to rise up in rage. Wished for all the things we feared would happen." (April 10, 2003. Executive Director of Salon, Gary Kamiya)

"We are very interested in American deaths in Iraq...We will never admit it, [but] every American soldier killed in Iraq causes, if not happiness, at least a certain satisfaction." (French Journalist, Mathieu Lindon)

Friday, October 15, 2004

First line of offense

You know the old adage, ‘the best offense, is the first defense’. Hmmm... that didn’t come out right, but it fits. The first clarion call in recent electoral cycles is always for more decency and sensitivity - can’t we all just get along? People wring their hands every four years and their eyes well with pent-up emotion as they beseech candidates to avoid the ‘invective’and curb the ‘ire’. I take offense at this codswallop, I do not accept the premise, and I object to the tactic of dismissing reasoned argumentation and factual evidence that one does not like by labeling it ‘un-civil.’

Maybe I am just not as ‘nuanced’ as most of the Democratic candidates for President in recent history. Each of them, in turn, has been presented to us as ‘the most intelligent man of our time’ and being ‘intellectually so far above the common voter that their ideas are just hard for them to express in terms we’ll understand’. John Kerry doesn’t dodge questions, his answers are just too complicated for us to fathom. Al Gore wasn’t wooden, he was so sharp we missed it. Bill Clinton wasn’t glib and slick, he was more clever than we were. Michael Dukakis wasn’t out of touch, he was so smart we couldn’t keep up with him. Yikes...there I go being un-civil again. It annoys me when people say I’m too dumb to recognize when someone is concealing things from me, or knowingly taking money from foreigners at an illegal fund-raising event, or sliding along on a media blackout of his character, or completely disassociated from the life of regular people.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if politics were nicer? I guess I’d have to say no. Politics is not about being nice; it’s about governance, about who has the strength of character to lead through a crisis. We will not learn about that aspect of his character without seeing some confrontation, so I say ‘bring it on’. It is a shame that as soon as some one brought it on, John Kerry cried foul and threatened to use the courts to gag them and anyone who spoke for them. When the stories about his service were raised, George W. Bush released his records and went on about his business, paying scant attention to the critics. I think how one deals with criticism says something about a person: George addresses it once and moves on, John runs to the media and attacks the critics.

Maybe I’m just a political neophyte or neanderthal and I’m bringing political civility to new lows. I guess I’d have to again say no. Look at some history on the topic: “Even the version of the story that often seems conventional, that people were general civil in social life and politics until the 1960s, when it all took a downward turn, is inadequate....scholarly research on political history offers a different picture of civility from that offered by the civilitarians. This may be because those concerned with civility tend to focus narrowly on organizational activities of the sort also emphasized in current debates about ‘civic renewal,’ the ‘new citizenship’ and ‘social capital’...political action...from the 17th century to the middle of the 19th was fractious, noisy, rude, obnoxious, and often physically dangerous. It is no wonder so many elites were worried about mobocracy if ‘the people’ were to gain more power.” (Virginia Sapiro’s Considering Political Civility Historically) There simply is no basis in fact for the rosy picture of the ‘genteel politics of yore’.

Which brings us back to today. Both Kerry and Edwards in the debates referenced Cheney’s lesbian daughter. A Kerry campaign manager described her as “a major figure in the campaign” - she is one of many directors of the campaign, since when did that qualify as a major figure? In both cases, the comments were really unrelated to the question asked. Neither of them know her personally. They do know Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), though using him doesn’t quite make the same impact as she does. Is this is an example of civility? Mary Cheney is not ‘in the closet’, but she is not running for anything and using her in this fashion is despicable. Even Paul Begala thought it was over-the-top.

When Ronald Reagan died, people across the country took time to mourn his passing. Even many Democrats acknowledged his accomplishments. However, having Ron Reagan, Jr. speak about stem cell research (which his father opposed) suggesting that it held a cure for his father’s disease was crass and untrue. That pales to Mel Carnahan’s memorial service, which the DNC turned into a political rally - don’t take my word for it, check it out. Paul Wellstone died during his campaign too. Walter Mondale stepped in less than 48 hours later while Wellstone’s opponent (and friend) Norm Coleman put his campaign on hold out of respect. At Wellstone’s memorial service Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) exhorted the mourners to “stand up to” a litany of implied Republican vices and Rick Kahn, Wellstone campaigner, urged incumbent Republicans to not even run for re-election out of respect for the deceased. On August 21, 2003, Sally Baron’s obituary included a request that "Memorials in her honor can be made to any organization working for the removal of President Bush." The families of Gertrude Jones and Helen Kiok thought that was a great idea and in January three other families also followed suit. John Edwards, who channeled the spirit of an unborn cerebral-palsied infant begging for a Caesarian section to win a court case with junk science, stood before an audience and actually proclaimed that if John Kerry were President, Christopher Reeve would have been cured and walked again.

I can hear some saying, “Dick Cheney ‘dissed’ Patrick Leahy on the floor of Congress!”~ that is true. Less widely reported was that Leahy and many Congressional Democrats had recently flayed Cheney for his relationship to Halliburton. They knew the charges were false, but they needed payback for the ‘anti-Catholic’ remarks some conservatives made during the Pryor confirmation hearings. When Leahy came looking for a photo-op, he and Cheney got into words and ended up swearing at each other. Cheney went on with his day and Leahy went for the nearest camera. CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called Democratic lawmakers “girlie men”. In the Pennsylvania Senate, Sen. Vincent C. Fumo (D) launched on Sen. Robert C. Jubelirer (R) calling him a four times. The pathetic element of this is that Fumo later said he is “especially sorry about using the term because it is not the way I feel in my heart toward gays.” This is so reminiscent of “everyone lies about sex” which, of course, we all know isn’t true - I don’t, do you?

Teresa Heinz Kerry told Colin McNickle to “shove it” when he caught her in a lie. In August she told Ladies Home Journal that many Americans “...are not very educated.” Last month, she described her husband’s critics “scumbags” and “idiots.” John Kerry falls on the ski slope and blames it on “that son of a ” Secret Service Agent (who’s there to step in front of a bullet for him). Cedric Brown asked John Kerry a question he didn’t like and was told, “that’s none of your business, it’s mine.” Kerry then encouraged the crowd to chant against this 52 year old man. John Kerry used the same language Dick Cheney did in a Rolling Stone interview but that was largely ignored and nobody seemed to mind - I guess it was ‘in context’. Howard Dean claimed Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened and did nothing to stop it. Dennis Kucinich said Bush was targeting Iraqi citizens for assassinations. Al Gore brayed, “he betrayed this country!”

It should come as no surprise that their followers behave in kind. On Oct 1st and 11th, Washington state Bush campaign offices were burglarized (as they were in 2000) and computers were stolen. The office in Canton, Ohio was also broken into. In Florida, Tennessee, and Minnesota Republican offices were the targets of coordinated attacks by Democratic supporters who intimidated campaign workers and trashed the offices. In Orlando, Florida a Bush volunteer suffered a broken arm. Republican offices in West Virginia have been sprayed with gunfire. In New York City, Ruth Spitz (aged 86) assaulted Linda Fuda (62) with her cane and ripped Fuda’s Bush sign. Spitz is a retired college professor who is unwilling to tell who she’ll vote for, but clearly states, “I’m not a Bush supporter.” Right, pull the other one. In Telluride, Colorado, T.J. VanderHeiden was vacationing with his family and sported mean-spirited Bush bumper stickers “Viva Bush” and “W’04" on his car. That car was vandalized with permanent black marker to read “F*** Bush & f*** you” next to a swastika. VanderHeiden later had the temerity to wear a Bush T-shirt and was harassed by a waiter who then refused to serve his family. In West Virginia, Sophia Parlock was accosted by a member of the Painter’s union, IUPAI. She was holding a Bush/Cheney placard at an Edwards rally. The burly painter snatched her placard, shredded it, and laughed at her. Sophia is three years old. She was there with her father and brother.

Then there is the Bumper Sticker dialogue. ‘Defend America/Defeat Bush’ (which I’ve seen edited to read ‘end America/eat Bush’). ‘Bush:Wanted Dead or Alive’ with ‘Alive’ x-ed out. ‘Christian Fascism.’ ‘As*es of Evil’ (with photos of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld). ‘Bush Misleads/America Bleeds.’ ‘ BU_ _ SH _ _ !.’ ‘A Ranch In Texas Is Missing It’s Idiot.’ I don’t mind a pithy swipe, but many of these and others simply go over the line. This “vehemence”, “vitriol”, and “invective” borders on hate speech. You may not have seen them, but I put a few choice questions on my van that sent my neighbors and other drivers into fits (both good and bad), but I had to paint mine on because I couldn’t find too many that had quite the bite that the other side had. The other side can just go to (those same guys that gave us the Bush morphing into Hitler ads - but that’s not mean-spirited).

I do not yearn for the days of political civility, they never existed. I yearn for an election cycle where the news honestly reports both sides. I want to see an election where the candidates’ records are trumpeted....on BOTH sides. Imagine a newshour where Dan Rather examines the votes and positions of both candidates rather than giving us “lie after lie after lie” or Ted Koppel grills the candidate on his war record as well as the ex-serviceman who criticizes it. My idea of a debate is tossing all the candidates onto a platform with no rules. Let them tell their own story, blast their opponents, and display exactly who they are without spin, without handlers, without make-up, let the chips fall where they may. Civility in politics is a chimaera. It never was, never is, and likely never will be. I am thankful for that. The politician who asks his opponents “why can’t we all just get along” is very likely hiding something, and we’d better find out what it is before that candidate is making decisions about the rest of our lives.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Kerry, Edwards, & Peter Pan

If you believe enough, anything can come true. “All you need is a little pixie dust.”

Most adults can suspend their disbelief, like when we watch movies. My five-year-old seems to be the embodiment of the willing suspension of disbelief. Most Democrats are like that, perhaps that is why they prefer a nanny-state - at heart the really are so child-like. Republicans, unfortunately, are not like that - they suffer from these pesky things we call facts.

A Democrat neighbor told me, “well...there’s your facts and then there’s my facts.” How silly of me: I’ve always labored under the foolish presumption that there were facts and then there were interpretations of the facts. I have become so disheartened this campaign season by the selective use of facts, the use of ‘my facts instead of yours’, and mostly by the willing suspension of disbelief. I readily admit that my party has misrepresented some facts in defining John Kerry’s record, but nowhere near the amount of pixie dust the DNC has tossed around.

Consider the issue of jobs. Kerry talks about Bush and the loss of manufacturing jobs, but neglects to mention that the decline of that sector started 3 years before Bush took office and ignores the offsetting gains in industries such as health care, construction, government, business management and internet technologies. Kerry never mentions the fact that unemployment is at a lower level than Bill Clinton’s best year. He claims that the new jobs are lower paying “burger flipping jobs”, but the fact is the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the exact opposite. BLS shows that “employment has recently increased by more than 1 million in categories that on average paid above the median earnings of $541 per week, while employment was virtually unchanged in categories paying below the median.”

Kerry wants to focus on manufacturing jobs that have been “outsourced”. You should know that George W. Bush has never, ever, ever said “sending jobs overseas makes sense for America.” That claim comes from The Economic Report of the President and the Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisers, neither of which are signed by Bush, but rather by the economists working for him. Furthermore, despite what Kerry wants you to think, outsourcing is pixie dust. Charles Schultze, a Democratic economist working for the Brookings Institution, who was budget director for President Lyndon Johnson and chairman of President Jimmy Carter’s Council of Economic Advisers, stated “there is nothing in the data to suggest that large increases in...offshoring could have played a major role in explaining America’s job performance in recent years.” He goes on to say, “in the short run, an increase in offshoring reduces U.S. job growth...but in the long run it improves the standard of living, increases real wages, and increases the country’s economic growth.” The Chairman of Princeton University’s department of economics and a Federal Reserve governor estimates that the total jobs lost to outsourcing is about one percent. Kerry’s plan for outsourcing would “end job-killing tax loopholes” and claims Bush is a corporate puppet for protecting “tax breaks favoring corporations that move their headquarters overseas.” Pamela Olson is an expert on tax policy for the Treasury Department and explains how Kerry’s plan will harm US employment by encouraging multi-nationals to not do business in the US. You see, the corporate tax rate of China is 11.3%, Britain’s is 18.2%, 15.1% in Mexico, and only 0.2% in Indonesia, while in the US in 2002 the rate was over 30%. Kerry has a pixie dust plan which even Democratic economists say will not change outsourcing, be difficult to enforce, and would increase the competitive edge non-American companies already have.

Kerry has also sprinkled pixie dust on the recent overtime initiative. Kerry cites the labor-funded Economic Policy Institute study rather than using the Department of Labor statistics. The chiefs of several major labor unions sit on the EPI’s board of directors. On January 20, 2004, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao testified in the Senate: “1.3 million workers will gain overtime” while the EPI claims 8 million will lose it. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Passage of the initiative will mean labor bosses, union leaders, managers, and those who have the discretionary power to either choose to work overtime or force another to do so will become ineligible for OT benefits.

I’m sure you’ve heard that Bush has given us “the largest deficit in history”. John Kerry said so on February 26th. He’d be right if he weren’t oversimplifying a complex issue. Kerry is talking deficit in dollars not as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product, which is the way economists test deficit. When stated without pixie dust, the greatest deficit in history was in 1943 at 30% of GDP. Recently, under Reagan and Bush, Sr. we saw higher deficits six times ranging from 4.5 to 6 % of GDP. The deficit for 2004 under George W. Bush is 4.5% of GDP and it was considerably lower in the previous two years. Moreover, most economists believe the deficit is remarkably good considering the events of those three years.

Kerry can not even speak on traditional Democratic territory without having to resort to pixie dust. Education funding under George W. Bush is higher than it was under Bill Clinton. It is a fact. By 2004 the Department of Ed’s budget grew by 58% with another 5% planned for 2005. Bush “cuts key education programs” by increasing programs for special ed by 5.9% and low-income children by 9.8%? Bush “slashes jobs training by 24%” by moving $250 million from high school shop classes to technical and career training at community colleges. Only pixie dust could make one believe that high school shop prepares one for the modern job market.

It is a strain, even for pixie dust, to cloud the issue of health care in the US, but that will not stop John Kerry. We do have uninsured people here, but that is not the salient fact. The Census Bureau found 45 million without health insurance. BlueCross/BlueShield further analyzed the Bureau’s raw data. Of the uninsured, 16% earn over $75,000 a year, 33% earn over $50,000 a year, another 33% qualify for Medicaid or other government-sponsored coverage but do not enroll (often because they do not want to do the paperwork), another 6 million have coverage that lapses for a few months each year. The few million remaining are the working poor who simply can not afford it. The government spends 35 billion annually to cover the ‘uncovered’, but the bulk funds emergency care rather than insurance! In the 1990s, politicians regulated the equitability of health insurance by dictating what and who must be covered and for how much. A Ferrarri could be leased in New Jersey for less than the cost of family coverage there. Bush’s tax credit doesn’t provide enough to get good coverage and gives money to those who already have it. Kerry’s ‘Rube Goldberg’ plan involves more regulations and less choice for the patient.

In a rare pixie-dust moment, John Kerry explained that “there is no question that abuses of our legal system have hurt companies and individuals who are acting responsibly....lawsuits should be the last, not the first, line of defense.” Kerry believes he and Edwards share a credibility with the litigation lobby which they can leverage into “medical-liability reform and meaningful and enactable malpractice-suit relief.” On July 15th alone, in Philadelphia, trial lawyers shelled out $250,000 at one fundraising Kerry event. They believe in Kerry’s plan which includes (among other things) certificates of merit, ruling out punitive damages, and a ‘three strikes’ provision. Pennsylvania uses certificates of merit and suffers one of the worst malpractice crises. John Edwards stated such certificates “would not make much difference” in 1995. Malpractice suits, unlike product liability, are not greatly impacted by punitive damages. The strike out for frivolous claims is by far the best. The pixie-dust court definition of “frivolous” is so narrow that any threat from it is simply frivolous.

All John Kerry needs to do battle with the evil conservative George W. Bush is the courage to stand up and speak out, the Lost Boys of the DNC, and a little pixie dust to give his loyal followers that willing suspension of disbelief to go to the polls and ask no questions. John Kerry: “second star to the” left and straight on till November 2nd.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The 'Eduhadeen'

We have a daughter who last year turned five. That meant that this year she would start kindergarten. What that meant was that we had a very difficult decision to make. Would one of us stay home and school her ourselves, sacrificing half our income, or would we send her to a public school and supplement her education at home?

We agonized over this choice. Her best friend would be in her class. There would be many children for her to play with. But, she would be exposed to the political and social opinions of her teacher and the rest of the 'Eduhadeen'. It came right down to the wire and three days before school started we finally filed homeschool papers with the State of Vermont.

It's been just a month now and we are very happy with our choice. I am the stay-at-home-educator. My approach is my own and I'm not using pre-packaged course material. I've arranged a series of units. September was the Ice Age. October will be 'Myth and Mysticism' focusing on Greek Mythology and the superstitions of the world culminating with Halloween. In November we'll learn about explorers and early colonization finishing at Jamestown and Plymouth just in time for Thanksgiving. The following months we will explore music while learning about orchestras, instruments, and different musical styles like jazz, classical, pop, and folk. Ultimately, we'll wrap up with 1776 and the American Revolution for the 4th of July.

I have worked in the school system for many years in various supportive roles. I took education courses in college. I've been a teacher's aide, a student's aide, a substitute, a special ed assistant, a tutor, and I worked several summers with an Upward Bound program. I draw upon that experience when I consider the issues involving education in this country today. I am of the opinion that the education system needs to be completely rebuilt from the ground up - scrap everything we currently have and start over, or more accurately, return to what we had before the 'Eduhadeen' hijacked the system to engage in social programming.

They teach social studies instead of history - is it any wonder a recent high school graduate explained to me that the Nazis ended the Holocaust? California is trying to pass a resolution to expand lunch into an accredited class! Teachers have explained that obesity in children is related to the hours they spend sitting doing homework so we should give less homework. Children can't read or write, but, we are told, grammar and spelling aren't really critical because computerized spell-checkers will do it for us (and, some teachers complain, grammar is boring).

In the Bronx, New York at Public School 186X four students, three 10 yr olds and one 11 yr old, "were forced to endure a humiliating strip search" by an aide. In April the kids were pulled from a gym class, stripped to their skivvies, frisked, then made to jump up and down. All because a teacher's ring went missing. The aide was reassigned to administrative duties, but fear not - he's being "closely supervised" and an "investigation will determine whether disciplinary action is necessary." Uhm... folks, you missed the boat.

In Houston, Texas, a first grade teacher sent a child home with a note. The six year old boy had, what my daughter euphemistically calls, a poop accident. Apparently, some got on the floor. The teacher, in an effort to "make the parents aware", packaged the poop and sent it, with the letter, home in the child's backpack. This teacher is on paid administrative leave. Hmm... seems the boat never got here.

In Monmouth, New Jersey, a grade school teacher had a poster pinned to the wall. The poster listed the photos and names of several Presidents of the United States. At an open house, 3 parents approached the teacher and told her that she should remove the poster or add John Kerry's photo. The teacher unsuccessfully tried to explain to them that Kerry was not a President and George W. Bush was. The parents didn't get it. Her principal didn't get it either and forced her to leave school premises when she refused to take the poster down. Err... boat? What boat?

In Rutland, Vermont a school principal had a front-page story in the local paper last weekend explaining how important the race for Governor is in this state. The state and the country, he explains, faces grave issues in regards to education. His job, he tells us, is very difficult and made more so with "school funding tied to property taxes, No Child Left Behind, and School Choice". The fact that the public school system has utterly failed and that your parents got a better education than you did, their parents better than they - Abraham Lincoln went to a one-room school house and George Washington was almost self-taught.

The problem is not funding. Every year, schools ask for more money and more often than not they get it. Congress takes more of our tax money and allots ever-increasing portions of it to education initiatives. Teachers are paid a full year's salary and teach for less than half a year, not including 'in-service days'. How long does the 'Eduhadeen' expect us to pay for services not rendered? Where exactly did John Walker learn that the Taliban was better than America?

The problem is not No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The federal initiative is optional. States are not required to participate in the program. NCLB simply requires schools to perform better, for teachers to be qualified, and for them to actually teach. Teachers use the infamous 'in-service day' to 'stay current with teaching trends and skills'. Where did 'in-service days' come from, anyway? There were not as many when I went to school. Now parents are expected to take days off from work to be home with their children while teachers hone their skills with these 'in-service days'. I wonder why teachers don't use the summer months for 'in-service days'?

The problem is not School Choice, but the lack of it. In Chicago, Illinois 1/3 of all public school teachers send their children to private schools! My understanding is that this percentage is the norm across the country. When teachers unions blather on about the crumbling education infrastructure and whine that choice and home school are distractions from the issue, what they really mean is that we should give them more money, hold them less accountable, and let them, the professionals, do their job.

In Muskegon, Michigan, a recent emergency readiness exercise tested the local school's preparedness. Hundreds of people and several organizations were involved in the event. "The exercise [would] simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled. Under the scenario, a bomb is placed on [a] bus and is detonated..."

Where does the panic come from? The "Eduhadeen" would like you to believe that children who homeschool are socially stunted. "What about socialization", homeschooling parents are invariably asked. It's a canard, a red herring. In public school, children get no true socialization; they are trained to march between classes, eat in regimented order, and even playing on the playground is an exercise in social programming. Recent studies have proven that not only are homeschooled children better educated, with a firmer grasp on information, they are better socialized, being more comfortable within broader social groups.

Time Magazine recently asked "Homeschooling may turn out better students, but does it create better citizens?" The answer is illustrative. 35% of Americans believe that politics and government are difficult to understand - while registering people to vote this summer I ran into many who said so - but, of homeschooled adults, only 4% feel that way. In the last five years, of Americans aged 18 - 24, 29% voted - for homeschoolers it is 76%. 71% of homeschoolers perform community service while only 37% of public school graduates. Gee.... nice boat.

The "Eduhadeen", by which I mean most teachers and all of the NEA, don't want School Choice to become the law of the land. Would you want oversight and accountability if you didn't have to have it? I'm not saying everyone should homeschool, certainly not. Some families simply can not afford the cost, given their lifestyle and debtload. Some people are just not comfortable with teaching. However, everyone should have the control over their childrens' educational environment to ensure that they have a 'good' enough education to succeed and that they have the best education their money can buy.

Why should the 'Eduhadeen' send their children to schools that the rest of us can't?