Thursday, November 25, 2004

If it's broke, fix it

It had to happen sooner or later. You can’t be a lightning rod without lightning striking. I write to expose what I consider the truth based on documentation, resources, and factual evidence. I go out of my way to provide my sources so any reader can “look it up”. I try to maintain a respectful, if tongue-in-cheek, attitude, though at times some overwhelming display of ignorance or stupidity calls for a sledgehammer rebuke. Last week (Nov 24), Chuck Gregory went over the line. Criticize my positions, question my information, you can even insult me (I can take it, I’ve got big enough shoulders), but leave my family out of it. Mr. Gregory, my parents are both dead. My six year old will never know her wonderful grandparents. They both died young of terrible cancers and I had the displeasure of nursing them through it. Thank you ever so much for refreshing those memories at this festive time of year.

Now I don’t recall ever staking out a position on SSI Privatization. If I had, I apologize, but since I don’t think I did and, providing Chuck doesn’t come up with a piece I’ve written on it, I have to question Chuck’s motive in singling me out as his example. Chuck doesn’t know me, but I’m in the phone book, I put my email up, and I have even received a letter sent to me through the Springfield Reporter. In short, I’m not hard to reach. Chuck never bothered to talk to me before targeting me and my parents to make his argument.

Chuck criticizes me for doing a “wondrous job explaining what young Republicans are against” but not “what they are for”. Of course, this would mean that Chuck has read what I’ve written. Now, either Chuck is illiterate or he’s doing what ‘old liberals’ always do: side-swipe an issue, spew statistics and formulae, and blather with a rapacious drive to overwhelm the audience to the point that they can’t question what they’ve heard because there’s just too much of it and the emotional-spinal-tap they just got has them all at odds. Every one of my letters has stated quite plainly exactly what I stand for. Chuck’s approach, like most liberal clap-trap, reminds me of teaching my daughter about global warming. I used the Chicken Little story: that’s the one where the liberal runs around screaming that the sky is falling. Chuck seems like that to me.

Chuck seems to rely on Andrew Hacker’s book, but never mentions that Hacker is not an economist, but rather a professor of political science. Nor does Chuck tell us that his guy is at best a socialist who believes that there should be a maximum allowable income of $200,000 in the US and anything over that would be redistributed to everyone else (and, like most liberals, Hacker does not donate his income in excess of $200,000 to the government - as I am sure Chuck does, because he’s so concerned with equity). Chuck also neglects to mention that Hacker’s statistics, facts, figures, and financial model pre-dates 1997 and is probably out of date.

But let us not write Chuck off as a liberal, extremist, intolerant, insensitive, arrogant ideologue because he gives me, yet again, the opportunity to expose his side for the fear-mongering zealots they are. I am 42, I don’t consider that ‘young’, per se, but not old either; still I am quite worried about ever being able to retire at all and I don’t expect much from Social Security. I am a conservative, which means I do not think it’s ok to take from one person to give to another person. Usually that’s called theft, but when governments do it, it’s called welfare. This is the system we have developed. Fine. I live within it. If that is the system we have to have, I believe it should actually work. The Social Security system is 40+ years old and the world it was designed to serve is not the world we have today.

The History: Social Security was designed in a “pay-as-you-go” format in which workers’ payroll taxes pay the benefits of retirees. At the time, most workers did not live much beyond retirement age, so the system worked. At the time, the shared risk pool, comprised of young workers, was thought to be large enough to accept the burden. Times change. People live much longer now for a variety of reasons and the worker:retiree ratio has changed dramatically as population growth slowed. I feel duty-bound to point out the sheer short-sightedness of this program and to reflect on who instituted this Great Society-- and it wasn’t Republicans. On balance, it is true that Republicans share equal guilt with Democrats for exacerbating this problem. Both parties have shamelessly raided the SS funds and diverted the money to pet projects. The hands-off policy for the “third-rail of politics” makes both parties irresponsible for avoiding addressing the problems that have been apparent for years.

The Facts: Now, unlike Chuck, I prefer to get economic advice from economists: “Over the next 75 years, the program faces $26.4 trillion in unfunded liabilities,” noted Berna Brannon, Social Security analyst at The Cato Institute. “This translates into $4.9 trillion that must be invested today in order not to cut benefits or raise payroll taxes to pay for the promised level of benefits.” The Social Security actuaries themselves project that in 2018, SS pay-outs will exceed payroll taxes and the coffers will be empty by 2042. There is no debate about changing the system; in it’s current form it is untenable. Many countries have moved to a system very similar to the Bush plan, including Chile, UK, and Poland. Their success speaks for itself.

I don’t understand Wall Street or the Stock Exchange and, believe me, I’ve tried to figure it out. I don’t like or trust the brokerage industry, but that stems from my lack of understanding, I’m sure. I fear for my future as much as anyone else. I am not a “financial genius,” Chuck, but I do know how to read and add, so I know that the system we have is about to collapse.

I also know who I trust and who I do not. I do not trust “Chicken Littles” like Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) who said to the Senate on May 21, 2002, “It is indisputable that the Bush Social Security Commission’s privatization proposals include drastic cuts in guaranteed Social Security benefits.” In true liberal fashion, where reductions in increases of spending equal ‘drastic cuts’, Corzine lies about the Commission’s proposals, each of which will pay out more than the current system will, as documented by the Social Security actuaries.

Chuck, I have to admit, you got me on this one. I don’t have the answers you are looking for-- do you? What I can say for sure, is that what we have now is not working and needs to be changed. I can also say for sure that everywhere you look, governmental control equals mismanagement, cost overruns, layers of bureaucracy, and ever-increasing taxation. We have tried Social Security your way, Chuck, for ages. Chuck, your team promised us better education (hasn’t happened), an end to racial injustice (didn’t happen), an end to poverty (won’t happen). In fact, liberals have been promising the same promises for decades and have yet to deliver on one. Republicans promised lower taxes (we got ‘em), more jobs (5.6% unemployment - read it and weep), and a better economy (despite 9/11 and the Clinton Recession, it’s happening). Democrats talk, Republicans do. Don’t you think, Chuck, it’s time for a change?

As a footnote, I’d like to note that Chuck is a classic liberal. He projects onto me his own problem. He criticized me for not doing much to explain what I am for and yet in his entire letter he rants about what he’s so obviously against and not once mentions what he is for. Keep trying Chuck; even monkeys will write “Romeo and Juliet” if you give them enough ink, paper, and time.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Freedom Of Speech

One of the things many people love about America is it’s freedoms, especially the freedom of any Michael Moore-on to step out and speak his mind no matter how uninformed or foolish his positions may be. Last week, both Keith Stern and John W. Vorder Bruegge replied to a letter I wrote. While they are welcome to their opinions, they are not welcome to their own facts. Facts are not like shades of color. We can quibble over the hue of a color or the interpretation of a fact, but the fact itself is either true or false. In educated discussion we deal with the true facts and leave the false ones aside. The claims made by both Stern and Bruegge are so rife with falsity that it begs the question of where they get their information. I take the trouble to provide sources to bolster my opinions. Moreover, the source should be reliable, responsible, and factual. I took the time to respond point-for-point to their opinions at my web-blog; you can find them at (Bruegge) and (Stern)

My parents taught me to read-behind-the-text, to parse what a newsperson is actually saying. They also taught me to get my news from a variety of sources then merge them into a cohesive, fuller understanding of events. An excellent case in point is the recent flurry surrounding Colin Powell. Barry Schweid (AP News) wrote a piece on Nov. 19 that he titled “Powell States Preference for Diplomacy” which, in today’s parlance, reinforces the notion that he opposed war in Iraq and favored further diplomacy. That canard has been fostered and nurtured by the mass media and just couldn’t be further from the truth. In his first sentence Schweid makes his case: “Powell is acknowledging differences with others in the Bush administration and suggesting the disputes centered on his preference for diplomacy over force to resolve problems.” Please note the word “suggesting” which suggests to me that this point is an inference drawn by the reporter rather than an actual quote from Powell. A few lines down, Schwied quotes Powell more directly: “But if we can avoid the use of military force with diplomacy, through a political action, that is what we should try to do, and that is what President Bush tried to do...I have supported him in that effort.” The real story is not Powell’s preference for diplomacy, who’s not for diplomacy? The real story is that 12+ years of diplomacy failed and Powell supported the option to go to war, as he laid out in his UN address.

It’s all in how you read or listen to the news. Do you passively absorb what they give you or do you aggressively question it, masticating it till you really have a handle on it? During the election and it’s lead up we heard a lot of talk about our “allies”. That description never seemed to apply to England, Poland, Australia, Spain, and the host of other countries allied with us against Saddam Hussein’s regime. The people who whimpered about our “allies” (and still do) never enumerate them. To do so would expose the ridiculous nature of the claim. The “allies” they refer to are, of course, France, Germany, and Russia. Given the recent disclosures and discoveries, I just have to laugh at anyone still giving lip service to this claim. We know that highly-placed government officials of these countries were receiving bribes in the form of cash and oil to oppose the US. It is also clear that these same allies had been selling all manner of weapons to Iraq. The weapons were prohibited and the sales illegal which they knew because they had signed agreements that made them so. Weapons like the Roland-2 SAM made in France on May 11, 2002, sold to Iraq, and used to shoot down AF Major Jim Ewald on April 8, 2003. In addition, we know that highly-positioned functionaries within the UN, including Kofi Annan’s son (and possibly Annan himself) were also reaping profits from Oil-For-Food. So much for old friends and alliances.

Nov. 18 was the opening of the Clinton Library. That morning, I happened to be at an appointment with a lady from Switzerland who had her TV tuned to CNBC’s Chris Matthews. He and some talking heads were cooing over the “rock star” President and (taking their cue from the library’s treatment of the subject) trying to outdo each other rewriting the history of Clinton’s impeachment. The insufferable stroking prompted this otherwise gracious and stately lady to comment on how far “the current administration” has wandered and how Americans need to remember that without Europe “you wouldn’t be here, there would be no America, it wouldn’t have been discovered..” I was floored but propriety kept me from responding. This says it all to me, though. Our “allies”, the cultured and urbane of Europe (and Canada) look down on Americans. I am not one of those who proudly proclaims, “without America the Europeans would all be speaking German,” but there’s a limit. I guess I missed the part where Switzerland discovered anything. I didn’t miss the part where the Swiss provided an income to the Nazi war machine by trading in Jewish gold. Spoils the Swiss to date have still not fully admitted to nor returned. It’s just more revisionist history. Europe ‘discovered’ the ‘new world’ and what did they do with it? They raped, pillaged, robbed, and ruined it. You could ask the Aztecs or Incas, if they weren’t all dead. Lest we forget, it was Prince Henry of Portugal who modernized the African slave trade in Europe and it was Sir Francis Drake of England who delivered the first African slaves to North America. The Pilgrims were, as were many early colonists and most immigrants, escaping from Europe. The Americans cast out the Europeans when we removed their oppressive yoke.

There is an American culture that is the antithesis of European culture and the Europeans and American elitists just don’t get it. Zhu Dake, a Chinese author, wrote, “unashamedly this American government turns its back on the traditional western values of Europe.” “...the face of official America resembles that of a bureaucrat in Brezhnev’s Kremlin, lacklustre, self-righteous, unfeeling and uneducated,” writes Vladimir Sorokin of Russia. Liberation, a French newspaper, editorialized, “the Texan’s conservative values are also those of a large majority of Americans.” Le Monde printed, “...America has become more conservative, more religious and more unilateralist.” Germany’s Die Zeit, I think said it best, “The Americans have become more traditionalist, religious, moralistic, and patriotic.” And they think this is a bad thing. Of course, in Italy you have the best-selling erotic biography of the 15-year old girl who’s had more sex with more partners than most people I know combined (soon to be on sale here in the states).

America did destroy the culture of the Native Americans and we did keep blacks in slavery and deny them civil rights, but what happened here for less than 300 years doesn’t hold a candle to the mess the Europeans left us and still leave us. It is a fact that we sent our people to die twice to free them from German tyranny. Despite our faults, Americans have freed and aided more of the world’s people than all other countries combined and we did it in a tenth of the time Europe had dominance over the world.

While I was talking with the lady from Switzerland, Europe was making news. “We should not import a retarded political Islamic society to our country,” Geert Wilders of the Netherlands said. The European Union justice and interior ministers joined to press for an integration requirement for immigrants, demanding they learn the language and adopt “European values”. “It’s not like we are against immigration,” says Rita Verdonk, Dutch immigration minister. “If you want to live in the Netherlands, you have to adhere to our rules.” Franco Frattini, EU justice and home affairs commissioner, said, “We can’t imagine an immigration policy that focuses only on the prevention of illegal immigration, without considering the integration of those who want to enter a European country.” Immigration to Europe has been falling for decades and recent studies show Europe has a negative population growth. And they tell us Americans are intolerant, arrogant, and bigoted.

The most newsworthy part of the EU Immigration story is that it wasn’t a story here. It got almost no press at all. Why not? Perhaps because all those media people, intelligentsia, and elites won’t besmirch the idyllic vision we have of cultured Europe. An arrogant, intolerant and bigoted Europe doesn’t fit their profile, so they don’t tell us. There really is an US and a them. There is a reason we have religious tolerance in this country and the Europeans only talk about it. There is a reason we have a moral ethos and the Europeans have not. I am not anti-Europe, in fact, I adore European history. It is hypocrisy and ignorance that I abhor. The kind of hypocrisy that allows France to continue quietly flexing it’s military might in the Ivory Coast, it’s former colony, while decrying US imperialism elsewhere in the world. The kind of ignorance that believes Juan Williams, Mara Liason, and the rest of NPR report the news rather than present their agenda. The First Ammendment provides for the “Freedom of the Press” but implicit in it, as with all our “Freedoms”, is the requirement to use that freedom responsibly.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Reply from Bruegge

John Stettner’s letter published in the November 10, 2004 Springfield Reporter missed the mark in countless ways but at the core of his expansive prose lies the statement: “I have yet to meet or hear a single person who can make a compelling case that ‘Bush lied.’” Mr Stettner, let me introduce the “true” wartime President George W. Bush.

Bush lied about the single most defining event (to date) for this generation of Americans, and he did so with what I consider to be a calculated and politically-driven distortion. Bush lied or, at the very least, as “Commander-in-Chief” perpetuated a myth – the myth that Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 or had any meaningful link to the Al-Queda members who facilitated and/or carried out 9/11. Half of the people who voted for W. still believe this is the case, according to at least one widely reported exit poll. As I recall it, as recently as the week of Halloween, Dick Cheney was making that connection in speeches on the campaign trail. It is indisputable that it was at least politically convenient – if not also morally reprehensible – to trade on this misperception in seeking to wage war on Iraq.

Mr. Bruegge, I take great pride in my work because I strive to be correct. My younger brother often complained that I “always have to be right.” I am pleased that you consider my prose “expansive”, but I dare say you haven’t a clue where “the mark” is and thus have no frame of reference to determine if I’ve missed it. It is fortuitous that my recent letter (printed last week alongside yours) addresses your core issue, thus relieving me of the need to repeat myself. It is notable that where I provide case after case of Hussein/al-Qaeda connections, you either overlook that evidence or are purposely being ignorant of it. I put to you Mr. Bruegge, that while I have invested a significant amount of time educating myself on these issues from sources such as journalists, direct source documents, government reports, and the like, and provide documentation for my positions, you offer nothing but your own opinions which appear to be based on highly partisan, dubious, and outright fraudulent material. While I do enjoy Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Hannity-&-Colmes, I do not quote them. They are commentators, and while I do agree with much of what they say, they are mainly entertainers who comment on current events. By the same token, Jeaneane Garofolo, Al Franken, and Michael Moore are comedians and entertainers, not reliable documenters of fact or news sources. Mr. Bruegge, how about providing your source material?

Add to this the lesser lies that accompanied that propaganda, and ask yourself, did Bush lie about:
a) the necessity of protecting the sovereign security of this nation, the United States, from attack by Iraq, a nation that could hardly fire a missile 500 miles, much less attack New York, Washington or any other part of our country in any fashion approaching the destruction and horror wrought on 9/11;

Just consider for a moment the complete ignorance of this comment. A small band of terrorists (al-Qaeda) sent out an even smaller strike unit (the 9 hijackers), but Hussein with an entire country’s resources at his fingertips couldn’t have done the same thing, or worse? All it takes, Mr Bruegge, is one person with a soda bottle full of weaponized bacteria or a dirty bomb in a suitcase. The hard part of wmds is not, as you might think, the materials (though they are difficult to come by), but rather the delivery system. Louis Alvarez, of the Manhattan Project, said “terrorists, if they had such material, would have a good chance of setting off a high-yield explosion simply by dropping one half of the material onto the other’s a trivial job to set off a nuclear explosion...” In large part, it was the Clintonized-CIA (guided in part by the Gorelick directive) that gave the hijackers their opportunity, not the President. The bottom line, as Bush tried to explain, and was misquoted, no one can defend against terrorists. It is just not possible. The only genuine defense is to take the fight to them so they have to fight in their home, not in ours. Gee, that sounds like the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emption.

b) the fact that prior to 9/11, the Bush White House was obsessed, not with assuring the destruction of al-Qaeda or assuring a meaningful fight against “terrorism,” but rather with developing a missile defense shield (a k a “Star Wars”):

How do you come by this fact? It seems to me that Bob Woodward (remember him, one of the guys that ‘nailed’ Nixon?), states quite clearly in his book, Plan of Attack, that Bush was quite aware of al-Qaeda. I wonder if you derive this from the thoroughly discredited Richard Clarke book? As an aside, considering the proliferation of missile and nuclear technology to rogue states by those allies Kerry kept harping on, wouldn’t it be prudent to have a missile defense? As it happens, the US has been successfully working on ‘Star Wars’ for many years now and has had many successful tests, the most recent of which was on Nov 10 as reported by the World Tribune.

c) his true mettle as Commander-in-Chief, since W.’s first reaction to word that our nation was “under attack” was to sit in a classroom as part of a “photo-op” reading “My Pet Goat” for seven minutes (quicker action in those first seven minutes might not have meant a different outcome or a lesser loss of life, but it gives one pause to think the leader of the free world took seven minutes to do something, anything when notified we were under attack):

It would behoove you to watch less of Michael Moore and more of real journalists. Have you taken the time to learn what the teacher and principal in that school have since said? Are you aware of what other leaders did with their time? Or do you single out Bush because it serves your “calculated and politically-driven distortion”? In fact, there was no seven minute delay (except in the heavily edited Farenheit 911), President Bush, who was aware of an emerging situation, responsibly chose to not alarm the children and behave as an adult. By comparison, John Kerry, who actually was at work that day, joined others in Nancy Pelosi’s office and “didn’t know what to do for the next 45 minutes” or so until the Pentagon was hit and he was evacuated. Kerry, in his own words, told Larry King that he was just in shock and “couldn’t think”. By the way, Mr Bruegge, since you’re throwing the stones - what would you have done had you been President? And no generalities, you can’t say ‘I would have done something’, what exactly should the President have done?

d) that rather than supporting the 9/11 commission in seeking to gather all the facts and perhaps seek to improve our defenses against any future attack, W. initially opposed the 9/11 commission, then once the groundswell of support for the 9/11 Commission was nearly overwhelming he “flip-flopped” (yes, flip-flopped) and “supported” its work. But in the end, when the fruits of the commission work became legislative action, he again flip-flopped and opposed the enactment of new law to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations (To date none of the Commission’s recommendations have been enacted) and/or;

Many people saw the 9/11 Commission for the farce that it was. It will be written of in future history as a bread-and-circus to appease that “groundswell of support”. Bush opposed the commission on the grounds that it was too soon after the event to have hearings, especially while investigations were still on-going – that sounds responsible to me. The Congressional Commission framework, and especially this commission, is fatally flawed. As has always been the case (look at McCarthy or Clinton), the commission was used as a political bludgeon to harass and confound the Bush Administration. Richard ben Vineste? Please! This commission was at best window dressing and at worst the first payback for the Clinton impeachment. I watched the shabby and disrespectful treatment of Rice and Rumsfeld, as opposed to the fawning and stroking Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke got, both men pandering their new books while being completely discredited outside the commission! That Jamie Gorelick sat for the testimony of her previous boss, Janet Reno, and did not recuse herself was ridiculous, but that she was not struck from the panel and forced to testify before when her memo came to light was incomprehensible. As to the recommendations of the commission, well, as is always the case when you let politicians loose, their suggestions would have undermined the ongoing operations and likely have produced no long-term benefit. Have you actually read the 9/11 Commission report?

Additionally, in the American government, it is Congress that writes legislation for the President to sign into law. The President can not sign a law he has not gotten. If you go to

you will see that Bush approves of much of the Commission's work and is waiting for Congress to pass it up to him.

e) the countless politically-driven manipulations surrounding the Iraq War – most notably the “Mission Accomplished” photo-op, to say nothing of the camouflage of recognition and/or funerals for those killed in Iraq – a strategy designed to safeguard his political popularity, while sweeping under the rug the sacrifice required due to wrong-headed choices and execution in Iraq.

You obviously don’t take your information seriously, Mr Bruegge, or you would know the story behind the headlines and propaganda. ‘Mission Accomplished’ was not a White House deal, but rather something the military put up to give the servicemen and women a “shot in the arm” and it was accurate, which if you had served time in uniform you would know all to well. The ‘mission’ was accomplished. The objectives of that phase of the war was accomplished, but in your drive to hate Bush you allow the propaganda-machine on the left to frame the event in completely the reverse of what it was. Moreover, your casting of the funerals is more spin (“if not also morally reprehensible“), though I could be mistaken, I am not aware of any Presidents, in time of war, who attended military funerals.

I never had to go to war and feel lucky to have been protected by the honorable service of countless service men and women in my lifetime. My father took shrapnel in Korea and earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and I feel duty bound to make my community better whenever and however I can because of his sacrifice.

Ask yourself if you really believe that George W. Bush is a strong Commander-in-Chief or a callow Chickenhawk who avoided service in Vietnam, and allowed ideological and political concerns to trump action required to genuinely secure our borders and internal security. Ask if he led us to war in Iraq as a re-election strategy or in order to make us safer.

The “Chickenhawk” who learned to fly a fighter jet? The “Chickenhawk” who took the controls of the fighter jet on his way to the “Mission Accomplished” celebration? The “Chickenhawk” who flew in the unarmed, nearly indefensible, Air Force One across the globe and into a war zone on Thanksgiving to be with the troops? The “Chickenhawk” who braved the rioters in “little Beirut”? The “Chickenhawk” who time and again faces the crazies buying the two versions of ‘How to Kill President Bush’? And since you bring it up, I’ll debate Bush’s Vietnam service over Kerry’s any day - ‘bring it on’! (Yuh see, I got me some facts, places, names, and dates.) And since you’re bring it up, when and where were the attacks since 911 because we have no “internal security”? And since you bring it up, the concept of “Iraq as a re-election strategy” is the best political joke I’ve heard this year.

America already answered at the polls, but history will provide the final answer... and George W. Bush won’t get to rely on Karl Rove or Dick Cheney, or on any “lifeline,” for that matter, when history answers. I, for one, strongly believe that George W. Bush has wasted lives, global goodwill and resources in waging the “wrong” war.

You are so right, “America already answered” and you should be asking yourself, if all these other people think so differently from me, maybe they have a point. You can believe whatever you like, Mr Bruegge, but opinions don’t matter, facts do and you seem to be a little shy on them. Servicemen and women voted for Bush by over 70% - doesn’t seem like they think he wasted lives. Over 56 million Afghanis and Iraqis seem to agree with them, as do many Libyans. This “global goodwill” you are referring to, would that be France, Germany, Russia, and China (the coalition of the bribed), or North Korea, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Iran (the coalition of coercers and soon-to-be-nuclear dictatorships)? As for the resources, I’ll stand by the majority of the world that doesn’t disagree we’re better off without Saddam Hussein and you can stand with the Baathists.

Some books you might read are Treachery, by Bill Gertz, Misunderestimated, by Bill Sammon, Losing bin Laden, by Richard Miniter, and Dereliction of Duty, by Lt Col Robert Patterson. It wouldn’t hurt to read Bias and Arrogance, by Bernard Goldberg, Treason and Slander, by Ann Coulter, What’s So Great About America, by Dinesh D’Souza, Because He Could and Rewriting History, by Dick Morris, and The Handbook Of The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, by Mark W. Smith.

John W. Vorder Bruegge
Springfield, Vt

Reply from Stern

Keith Stern ran unsuccessfully as an independent for one of Vermont's US Senate seats with some very radical and politically naive, if not dangerous, ideas. He took this opportunity to respond to one of my letters and following is his response with my observations in blue.

First, I like to thank all of you who voted for me for US Senate. My goal was to show people that there are better ideas to make this country better and hopefully get people thinking about it when future elections roll around.

Secondly I want to respond to John Stettner’s letter last week. People I talked to pretty much decided who was the least offensive candidate, very few liked either choice. Considering that under W the national debt has increased to an extremely dangerous level while he gave his rich friends tax breaks and made no attempt to curb spending; pollution controls has been eased; his idea of alternative energy is to drill for oil in new places; we attacked a country unprovoked for the first time in American history while giving Saudi Arabia a pass for their involvement in 9/11; and used deception to sneak through a Medicare plan that allows for bigger profits for pharmaceutical companies, his re-election says more about the voters dislike or distrust of Sen. Kerry. It is safe to say that if Bill Clinton could have run again, he would have cleaned W’s clock.

First I think you are sadly mistaken about Bill Clinton cleaning anyone’s clock. When the Clintons rode onto the national scene decrying the economy of the eighties as the worst ever, they were flat out lying and they got a total pass from the mainstream media. They assuredly would get the same pass again, but the alternative medias that exist now would speak out loud and strong. You just haven’t been paying attention. Just about everyone Bill Clinton campaigned for lost, including John Kerry, whereas almost without exception everyone Bush campaigned for won. As to your “litany of complaints”, I have been addressing them for weeks now. The national debt is high, but it has been higher in the past and is not “dangerous” - step back from the superlative and explain how it’s so dangerous, please. Bush gave me a tax break as I am sure he gave you one. Simple question, Mr Stern: did you return your tax refund or did you keep it? Pollution controls have not been “eased” in the sense that you mean. If you did some proper research you would learn that, for example, the level of arsenic in drinking water was arbitrarily raised by the outgoing Clinton EPA Administrator, Carol Browner, to a degree that most town drinking waters would be considered hazardous. Arsenic is an important element for our health in proper amounts. The Bush EPA merely reset the level to what it had been before the change. Mercury is a similar story. In fact, the Clinton years were epitomized by an unchecked EPA and in 1997 alone it instituted air pollution rules with an annual cost exceeding $100 billion, the effect of which would have bankrupted businesses and destroyed the economy of the nation. All this with no oversight or requirement to support their analyses. The forest fires that raged out of control in the west these past few years are a direct result of the “hands-off” Clinton-Browner policy. Bush has opened some national forests for some responsible cutting, which includes clearing out the undergrowth which acts as a super-fire-conducter. As to alternative fuels, you just can’t support your claim - Bush is the first President to invest in hydrogen as an alternative to gasoline as well as several other alternative methods. The issue really is that he doesn’t support the Enviro-Movement’s pet projects: windmills and the like. I hasten to point out to you that Nazi Germany never threatened America, and Teddy Kennedy’s father, then Sen Joe Kennedy supported staying out of Europe. I don’t believe that Vietnam attacked America. I don’t recall the Indian Nations attacking the US first. I could go on, but what’s the point - you only choose the facts you like and leave out the uncomfortable ones. The health industry is a very complicated issue with many facets, so I’m not surprised to see it so often reduced to easy bumper-sticker thinking. I happened to chat with a pharmaceutical salesman during the campaign. Are you aware that out of 100 drugs those companies research and submit to the FDA only one is approved? That one has to pay for the other 99. Other countries have lower drug prices because they have price controls. Under Bill Clinton, at the suggestion of Hillary’s task force, vaccines became price controlled - to insure that all the needy got their shots. We went from 20 vaccine producers to 3 and this year the only one that produces Flu vaccine (not an American company) had a problem. Price controls, bad. Free market, good. By the way, the pharmaceutical industry does not rank even in the top thirty of Bush contributors, as is reported by the Center for Responsive Politics. The fact of the matter is that, while the Bush Medicare bill does include increased costs to seniors, the bill also expands benefits by about $400 billion, which is it’s largest expansion ever.

The two party system at the national level has failed us. Politicians are more concerned with sucking up to the wealthy, the political donor class, than representing us. Saying that one party is superior to another is akin to saying having heart disease is better than having emphysema.

The two party system has not failed us at all. What has failed is the American people to stay informed on the issues and actually vote. This country sports a smaller percentage of eligible voters voting than any other country. I am actually glad of that given how woefully informed many people are. In registering people to vote (regardless of party - I think everyone should vote) this summer, I met people who have never voted (my vote doesn’t really matter), people who wanted to know if there was a fee to register, or if they had to fill out another form to vote in the national election, I even met one high school grad who thought the Nazi’s had ended WWII by saving the Jews from the Holocaust! If politicians are not working for the people, then the people should replace them - and I mean immediately by recall, not by waiting for the next election cycle, we do have the right and power to do that. But no, we let the politicians tell us that “money in politics corrupts” so we need Campaign Finance Reform which amounts to abridging our First Amendment right to free speech and almost nobody bats an eye! Wake up! The moral relativism in your comparison may be pithy, but it is not accurate. Some things are better than other things. I think a party that places a value on human life that is higher than the joy of unprotected sex is better. I think a party that promotes personal responsibility and initiative over the redistribution of wealth is better. I think a party that believes education is about learning something rather than how a child feels is better. The best part is that I stand with the majority of the country. I think we’re on to something.

Keith Stern
North Springfield, Vt

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Think Bush didn't win by a landslide or get a mandate?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Facts Matter

My prayers go with the friend of Kurt Staudert who has been mobilized for action in Iraq. Last week Kurt gave us a glimmer of his story and my sympathies also go to Kurt who feels this sacrifice so acutely. As is so often the case, though, I disagree with Kurt’s description of Operation Iraqi Freedom as “pointless”. Of course he’s not alone, most Vermonters agree with Kurt, as do most of mainstream media and, as usual, I am bound to disagree and respond.

Amy Goodman describes 200,000 dead East Timorese as “one of the worst genocides of the late twentieth century.” US Forces in Iraq are still finding mass graves and the body count before invasion exceeded 300,000. Milosevic killed less than 50,000 and was not threatening his neighboring countries. Saddam, at one time or another, attacked or threatened all abutting countries, but of course he didn’t have wmds or ties to Al Qaeda, so the war with Iraq was a “distraction from the war on terror” and “pointless”.

Some people have an agenda, others just have a belief-set. Sometimes that agenda or belief-set is challenged by facts. When that happens some people simply ignore the facts.

On Nov. 8th, at a National Press Club discussion on the election Carole Simpson, an ABC News correspondent, was on the panel was upset that “studies show 70 percent of the people of America still think that Saddam Hussein blew up the World Trade Center...and that’s why we’re at war..” I would think that as a reporter she would consider the disparity of belief worth investigating. If she had done her job instead of expressed her agenda she would have reported, as ABC News (her employer) did on Jan. 14, 1999, that “senior Sudanese officials acting on behalf of bin Laden asked if Saddam Hussein would grant him asylum. Iraq was indeed interested. ABC News has learned that in December and Iraqi intelligence chief made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden.”

Salman Pak was a training facility southeast of Baghdad 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.

Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, a medical doctor specializing in poisons, ran an al- Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. When wounded in May 2002, he went to Baghdad for treatment and opened a training camp in northern Iraq. In Feb 2003 he met in Iran with al-Qaeda operative, Mohammed Ibrahim Makwai.

London’s Daily Telegraph reported on Iraqi Intelligence Center documents outlining the funding for a youth recruitment program for Allied Democratic Forces which is an al-Qaeda linked Ugandan terrorist organization.

Newsday reported on Mullah Melan Krekar in the custody of the Netherlands. His group Ansar al-Islam (organized specifically for suicide attacks on Americans) received $300,000 from three separate bin Laden agents and operated in northern Iraq striking against anti-Saddam Khurds. United Press International reported on Saddam’s funding for Ansar al-Islam. Krekar admits to meetings with bin Laden dating back to 1988.

The Independent of London reported on the al-Qaeda terrorist, Yusuf Galan, who was caught in Spain and charged as being “directly involved with the preparation and planning” of the attacks on Sept. 11. The Madrid Iraqi embassy invited Galan to a party using his “al Qaeda nom de guerre.”

Abbas al-Janabi defected from Iraq in 1998 and has confirmed direct Iraq-al Qaeda connections. His job in Iraq was as an aide to Uday, one of Saddam’s sons and chief Saddam lieutenant.

New Yorker magazine reported on the May 2000 arrest of Mohamed Mansour Shahab who was hired by Iraq to smuggle weapons to bin Laden.

Mohammad Atef, before his death in Afghanistan, talked to an al-Qaeda informant about the need for chemical weapons labs in Iraq, outside the Afghan war zone.

Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi recalls his “successful” relationship with the Hussein government during his trips to Iraq to buy poison gases for bin Laden between 1997 and 2000.

I could go on. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Carole Simpson noted, “of course our kids are not bright about these things because their parents aren’t...are children going to grow up stupid?” I’m trying to be nice in the wake of my guy winning, but frankly it’s Carole Simpson and people with an agenda or belief-system, like her, that are stupid. And worse than being simply stupid, these people insist that their ignorance is to be admired and become the basis for policy decisions as we see in Brattleboro.

Kyle Gilbert, a Brattleboro son, died on Aug. 6, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq. A grassroots movement moved the town government to dedicate the rebuilt Main Street Bridge in his name as the Kyle Charles Gilbert Memorial Bridge. Brattleboro is home to some of Vermont’s most radical anti-Bush and anti-war activists (and for Vermont, that’s saying quite a bit). These shamelessly ignorant people have made their minority voices heard, so his mission “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, the phrase “Freedom is not free”, and etchings of American flags and an eagle were all struck from the plaque. Critics complained that the dedication would endorse Bush and or the war. The plaque now reads, “Brattleboro remembers all the brave men and women who served our country or made the supreme sacrifice in Iraq.”

Kris McDermet had this to say, “I oppose the war, and I wouldn’t have wanted it referenced in any way on a bridge in Brattleboro,” and Ian Kiehle thinks, “it allows a person to interpret whether the supreme sacrifice was worth it.” Frank Wetherby, a Vietnam vet diagrees, “That’s the sort of thing that turns this into ‘them against us.’ Support your troops: I don’t care what your philosophy is.” Contrary to Mr. Kiehle, but the only person able to “interpret...the supreme sacrifice” of Kyle Gilbert is Kyle Gilbert. Kyle died in a war that has freed millions, removed a dictator, and is making the world safer. Mr. Kiehle’s contribution to society is selling hemp clothing.

Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, Sergeant USMC, phrased it eloquently, “ is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.”

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Reality Check

I would like to make clear that I am not a frothing-at-the-mouth monster. I like many Democrats personally, but politically I disagree with them. I have an extremely low regard for the message of the Democratic Party and complete disgust for the party leadership. I have several neighbors who are very good people and are also Democrats. I don’t check party affiliation before befriending people, nor does their being a Democrat affect my relationship with them. It is just not an issue. On the other hand, some have been surprised to learn my party affiliation and have lamented that I ‘haven’t got a clue.’ One neighbor told me he wished I “understood how Reaganomics have hurt my family”. That appalled me, because it would never occur to me to tell him I wished he understood how Carter and Clintonomics hurt his. Another neighbor was talking politics with me and when I gave him the facts that bolstered my point of view he responded, “well, I know where you get your information” as if that refuted my position or supported his. I have great respect for Zell Miller, a man who stood up to the leadership of his party knowing full well that he would be denigrated and demonized for calling attention to what he calls “the theft of the Democratic Party by extremists.” Miller realizes that the Democratic Party has problems and won’t fix them by looking outward.

I had the misfortune to park behind someone at the Springfield Recycling Center over the weekend who was grousing about the front-loaded voting machines and resurrecting the foolish notion that Bush stole the election. I noticed this fellow (and those like him) didn’t mention the 2000+ front-loaded votes for Kerry on those machines in Philadelphia, and those are only the ones we know about! Nor do they talk about the 58,000+ Republican registrations that ACORN ‘misplaced’, Milwaukee schools releasing hundreds of children from classes to canvass for new registrants, or the NAACP paying people in crack-cocaine to register the dead, Disney characters, and fake people.

Last week several Democrat groups protested the election results. They weren’t marching against disenfranchisement, because African-American support for Bush increased by 2%. Al Sharpton was quick to point out that it wasn’t the doubling Karl Rove had predicted, but failed to note that the increase was significant when balanced against the disenfranchisement-myth terror campaign the Democratic Party waged these past four years. Many protesters marched in opposition to the war in Iraq. I’ll remind you of a few things: the military in Iraq voted to re-elect Bush in excess of 73% (what do they know that we don’t?); people living in Ireland, a country all too familiar with terrorism, were polled at 94% support of Bush; and most importantly, the Iraqi people’s prayers were answered by a Bush re-election.

Tom Tomorrow wrote for that “Republicans don’t let something so inconsequential as reality get in their way - George Bush is already proclaiming a mandate”. If re-taking the Presidency with the largest popular vote margin in history (which includes the power to fill vacating seats on the Supreme Court bench), reinforcing the conservative hold on the Senate (including the first defeat of a Senate Minority Leader in fifty years), and taking control of the House, all in spite of a criminally partisan press, is not tantamount to a mandate, I really can’t imagine what would be.

Jane Smiley also wrote for Her opinion is that “the election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry.” She points to a history of “ignorance and bloodlust...especially in red states” and traces that history to before the Civil War when “red forces [were] known then as slave-power”. “Blue state citizens [think] humans are essentially good”, she notes, but Republicans “are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant [people who] have sold their souls for power.” Ms. Smiley is so divorced from reality it is scary. The Republican Party was organized just previous to the Civil War by abolitionists to fight the slave-holding Democratic Party. Smiley also overlooks the strangle-hold of the liberal NEA on our education system. It was not Republicans who replaced the study of history with the multi-culturalistic experience of Social Studies.

Some pundits think that moral issues like gay marriage and abortion decided this election. Others say it was terrorism. I put to you that the issue deciding this election was simply character as defined by honesty and integrity. I have yet to meet or hear a single person who can make a compelling case that “Bush lied”. He took the same position that most world leaders took at the time (including John Kerry), based on the best information available from a variety of independent international sources. Spin it how you like, but to arrive at a different point of view is to be swayed by a partisan drive. To oppose Bush, the Democratic Party put up a house of cards so internally conflicted it could not stand. They would have been better served by Howard Dean. Instead they settled on a lawyer, who claimed to be a hero from a war they detested, who would have gotten more traction running on his protest of that war, and paired him with an opponent who said of his running mate, “To really understand John Kerry, you have to listen to those who served with him in Vietnam.” Throughout the campaign, despite the millions of advertising dollars, Bush presented himself as himself while Kerry floundered around “re-inventing himself”. Bush spoke to people and Kerry “tried to connect”. Where Bush faced the issues, Kerry had several different faces for each issue depending on which special interest group he faced. When current events impinged on the campaign, like al-Qaqaa, Bush “waited to get all the facts” and Kerry ran to the nearest camera to denigrate our allies, question our country, castigate our troops, and malign his opponent. Character matters.

The Democratic Party seems to see it’s best chance of winning back power by running Hillary Clinton in ‘08. It matters to me not a whit who their nominee is, but it is interesting to note that her qualifications are not an issue, only her electability, and her qualifications are sketchy at best. Post-college, her every success has been tied directly to her husband and her every failure hidden in a closet like her Rose Law Firm files. The frightening thing about a Hillary For President campaign is that it will be more favorably covered than the parade the press gave Kerry (and if you don’t believe in liberal media bias or that Kerry got a pass on everything, check out Evan Thomas’ recent expose reports).

Contrary to Ms. Smiley, Republicans are more interested in governance than power, so we rally behind someone of quality and moral integrity. It is the Democratic Party that has power as it’s sole concern. In an almost uninterrupted reign of forty-plus years, the Democratic Party has never changed their platform of liberal spending, social reform, and government solutions to the problems of everyday life. After those forty-plus years, the problems the Great Society was instituted to solve are more vexing now than they were then, even after untold trillions of tax dollars were lavished upon them. Republicans are described as reactionary, but we are not the party hanging onto a system that has failed and shows no prospect of success. Republicans do not hate the poor, we love them and pray and work to help them climb out of poverty. It is the Democratic Party that requires there to be poor for them to ‘help’!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Dysfunctional Party

The Democratic Party is simply dysfunctional. George W. Bush has a mandate and yet many Dems can not see it. An overwhelming popular vote would give a mandate, but Bush did not take one; however he did win and his coat-tails increased seats in both houses of Congress. It could also be pointed out that Bush took the Presidency at a time when a few Supreme Court seats would become open, which projects his values well into the future. Furthermore, the Democrat candidates for Vice-President and Senate Minority leader couldn’t win re-election. This is a mandate and Democrats don’t seem to get it. The protests in Vermont remind me of my five-year-old pitching a fit when she doesn’t get her way. Democrats need to recognize why they lost, why the Republicans won, consider if they have a message fit for today’s world, and, if they do, what that message might be.

On November 4th Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic Party, pointed out that his party had the largest war chest ever and was well positioned for ‘08. Also, Evan Thomas of Newsweek told Matt Lauer that the press had given Kerry a pass, never reported the mismanagement of his campaign, and Kerry’s tendency to vet each position by checking with his ‘friends’ to see what they thought . That same day Raymond Hernandez wrote in the New York Times, “the defeat of John Kerry has left Hillary Rodham Clinton as one of the most powerful elected officials in the national Democratic Party”.

Is this what you really want your party to represent and stand for? Money, deception, polling. If that’s what you want then Hillary would be your candidate. I hope the media will give us a true and fair look at Hillary, but I seriously doubt they will. If the past is any indication, they wont.

Hillary is as dishonest as the day is long. The stand-by-your-man woman who by her own admission knew about Bill’s promiscuity even back in Arkansas yet spoke directly to the American people and lied through her teeth. The “smartest woman in the world” who hitched her wagon to her husband’s star, parlaying his success into her own. He became Attorney General in Arkansas and she ‘landed’ a job with the Rose Law Firm. He became Governor and she got partnership (only after the partners sought legal advice on the potential for conflict of interest). She used his position to broker a $1000 investment into $100,000 in cattle futures. He became President and she hired Craig Livingstone as White House Chief of Security, but denied even knowing him during Filegate (which again begs the question of her complicity in Filegate). Anybody remember Billy Dale? Hillary had him fired, investigated, and tried for embezzling Travel Office funds (which the Grand Jury acquitted him of in less than 90 minutes). This is the woman who, faced with the fact of her husband’s infidelities, created “the vast right-wing conspiracy” out of whole-cloth rather than tell the truth.

Consider for a moment who the Democratic party puts forward as leaders: Robert KKK Byrd, “character doesn’t matter” Clinton, “I didn’t know it was a fund-raiser” Gore, “the wheelchair-bound will walk again” Edwards, and “I threw someone else’s medals over the wall” Kerry. These men are great fund raisers. They are wonderfully charismatic. They are also spineless, conniving, hucksters. Tom Harkin ranted about Bush’s wartime service, but never mentioned how he lied about his own service. Max Cleland blithely allows his war injuries to be mis-characterized.. Tom Daschle blasted Bush repeatedly but didn’t hesitate to suggest they were pals in his campaign for re-election. Bill Clinton actually dodged the draft and Democrats insisted that was not an issue ~ until it came to Bush, who did not dodge the draft. Teddy Kennedy couldn’t come from a wealthier, more connected family, but it’s a Bush Empire. These are people totally disassociated from the truth as is their party.

Democrats see America in a way that I just can’t grasp. They are the party of multi-culturalism and globalism. They look to ‘the world’ for approval, but when this country was formed, it was in defiance of the old world. I don’t see too many Americans climbing over walls, daring the oceans on rafts, or standing in great numbers in lines to become citizens of other countries (despite the empty threats of many Democrats to do just that if Bush won). I have heard Democrats bemoan the fact that we are the sole super-power standing in the world today. It seems that what Republicans consider the strengths of this country are considered it’s weaknesses by the leadership of the Democratic party.

The Democratic Party held the reins of power in this country for forty years or more before Ronald Reagan. They came to power with their plan for the Great Society. More money for a better education system. Affirmative Action for more equal opportunities for minorities and women. The War on Poverty by redistributing wealth from the richest to the poorest. After forty years of Democratic leadership the education system was performing worse than it had been before, there was still a glass ceiling for women and minorities were still disadvantaged, and there were more impoverished people. It seems that denial is the central element of the Democratic Party. In fact, despite an alarming rate of failure, the policy of the Democratic Party is simply more of the same, more and higher taxes, more social programming, more and bigger government, price controls...and they accused Bush of refusing to admit mistakes.

I have a suggestion for you Democrats: Look in the mirror and ask if these people truly reflect your values and represent who you want to be. Pundits are claiming Bush defined Kerry, that Kerry never ‘connected’ with the people, that the ‘moral majority’ won the day, that the election was won on the issue of gay marriage. These pundits are wrong. The election of a President never involves any issue other than character. Who is believable. Who is honest. Who has conviction. In case you’re missing it, the tide has turned and the people won’t be hoodwinked by a Bill Clinton without a willing accomplice in the press. The mainstream media is still that accomplice, but now we have other voices crying in the wilderness, speaking the truth. The Democratic Party styles itself as “the party of the people” and if that’s going to continue, it behooves you to figure out exactly who the American people are, what drives them, and what they really think.