Saturday, March 01, 2003

Libertarian Party Convention

Attended the Iowa Libertarian Convention today at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. There were about 30 members in attendance and Gary Nolan (seeking the 2004 LP presidential candidacy) was the guest speaker.

Mr. Nolan, a talk radio host, was a good speaker. He spoke about keeping a campaign positive, not slipping into the Libertarian habit of being anti-everything. It was a good, effective stump speech for the party faithful.

This was my first time at an Iowa Libertarian Party function. I found the people at the convention to be warm, open and very welcoming. I passed out some cards I whipped up at home to publicize this site. If you are here because of my shameless self-marketing, welcome!

Friday, February 28, 2003

A New Low - Even for the Register

There’s a growing sense of desperation at the Des Moines Register over the upcoming war in Iraq. The anti-American drumbeat displayed on the Register Editorial page and from most of its columnists is becoming more frenetic, strident and nonsensical.

The lead editorial today, Bush’s Justification de jour (that’s French -- hmmm, coincidence? -- for “of the day” for us Midwestern simpletons), is a lame attempt to show that President Bush and his cabinet are stumbling and improvising their way into the coming war. Jeez, you just never know what that knucklehead Bush is going to say or do next!

Then there is a column by the ever oblivious mistress of appeasement, Rekha Basu. Show Saddam how democracy works: debate him. Alright, it’s a stupid idea, and Rekha knows it. The “debate” ploy is just a vehicle to go after Bush. She goes on in the piece to suggest that in a debate Saddam Hussein would garner sympathy with Americans. Yeah, that’s it… that’s why President Bush won’t debate him. Bush is afraid that, through the magic of television, Saddam will become a sympathetic figure to us.

What planet are you from Rekha? Does the Register actually pay you to write this drivel?

Rekha then uses the piece to take on the role of Saddam Hussein’s debate coach. She WANTS him to win the debate. She apparently WANTS him to stay in power. Here’s a sample:

Saddam might try to turn the tables and grill Bush on U.S. plans to install an American military government in Iraq and exploit its oil supplies.

He might bring up questions about our failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for nuclear weapons - in fact, our failure to rule out using nuclear weapons on Iraqis. He might hammer on the absence of anything linking him to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida or Sept. 11. He might actually make some Americans realize that however ruthless and unpopular, he's the president of a country, not the leader of some terrorist cell as many believe.

Rekha, why did you come back to Des Moines? Wouldn’t you and Rob have been much more at home in Paris, or… Baghdad? If you want to be Saddam’s debate coach, why not put your money where your mouth is and move to Iraq. I dare you to become an Iraqi citizen and write or even say something even vaguely critical of Saddam. That sound you hear in the middle of the night will be the clacking of hobnailed boots. The next sound you hear will be your own screams, or those of your children.

Please, if you haven’t already, read both of these pieces. They speak for themselves. They are both filled to the brim with liberal posturing, the world weary ennui (hey, check it out… I can use French words too!) of the self proclaimed post modernist elite, and the now tired litany:

Let’s not rush to war.
George Bush is not smart.
We just want their oil.
Let’s not act “preemptively”.
If we act, it will make us LESS safe from terrorists.
Trust the UN.
Anything is better than war.
We’re going to lay waste to Iraq

Rekha, you and your friends at the Register better hold on tight. America is about to change the world, for the better… again.

We did it 60 years ago in World War Two. After the war, did we take advantage of our undeniable military superiority (we were the only country with the bomb, okay). No, we helped the Japanese rebuild their society, keep the best of their culture and helped propel into a position as a global trading partner and competitor. We did it with the Marshall Plan, rebuilding Europe and providing them with an economic shield against Communist totalitarianism.

We did it by using our young men in Europe as a tripwire to show the Soviet Union that we were serious about defending Western Europe. We did it by making it clear to the Soviets that if they attacked Europe that we would consider it an attack on US soil and respond with nuclear weapons if necessary. We did this for over 40 years, holding to our beliefs while slogging through the Cold War.

Yes, we are about to do it again. Do we do this primarily for altruistic reasons? Of course not, but we Americans are not the jingoistic, imperialist trolls that Rehka and her pals believe we are. We are, however, confident. And that is something that the post modernists cannot abide.

Why do we do this? First, we will undertake this war for our own self interest and national security. That is the only prime reason for a nation to take up arms. Second, we do this to promote the light of liberal democracy throughout the world. This is also in our long-term self interest, because liberal democracy and its institutions promote prosperity and a more stable world. Here our interest coincides with that of the population of the world as a whole. Third, and this is historical serendipity, we are going to free a people who have suffered unimaginable terror and deprivation under the boot of a tyrannical thug. And here’s the beauty part, we are going to do this at incredibly low risk and cost.

The United States and its allies are in a position to take Iraq quickly and minimal loss of life. Never have such pains been taken to avoid casualties… TO ENEMY COMBATANTS! We have made it clear that we do not wish to hurt and kill Iraqi soldiers. The risk vs. gain analysis is a no-brainer. We are liberating a country that is has is rich with oil. No, we are not going to take it for ourselves. We are going to allow the Iraqi people to claim their right to their own riches and help them to use it to rebuild their society.

I can’t fathom the current mindset of the Editors at the Register on these issues. When they write about the United States and its role in the world, it’s like they are describing a country I do not even know. It’s as if they have no perspective on the last hundred years of U.S. history. It’s as if they see only the peccadilloes and errors that we committed during the Cold War and not the overwhelming integrity and restraint that the United States has shown as a rule since World War II. That is the lens through which they view our country and place in the world. This is what manifests itself on the editorial page every day. In essence, it is no different than the editorial stance of Le Monde. And this is the editorial voice of DES MOINES REGISTER!

I can only come to the conclusion that the editorialists at the Register want us to fail. They want the war to be a bloody mess. They want another Viet Nam. Why? I beginning to think that behind it all there is actually a pretty simple answer. They do not want to admit that their world view is a postmodernist, deconstructionist failure. To give this up would rob them of their status and position. And, it would force them to reevaluate positions that they most likely never subjected to any real intellectual rigor to begin with. Please, please read those two pieces and ponder the likelihood of that ever happening.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

That’s not it, Register Editorial Board

Today’s Register ran an editorial criticizing President Bush for using tax cuts to stimulate the economy entitled: That’s not it, Mr. President. The piece is short, smug, pro taxes, emotionally over charged… everything I love in a Register Edtorial.

On Monday, a survey by Manpower Inc. revealed employers are scaling back plans to hire workers. On Tuesday, the news was that investors withdrew $1 billion from stock funds last month. On Wednesday, consumer confidence was reported to have sunk to its lowest level in about a decade.

Did you get that? That’s three, count ‘em, three days of bad economic news. Where do we lay the blame? Of course… at the feet of George W. Bush. You know, when there are indications of good economic news (like the unexpected decrease in unemployment last month), the Register doesn’t praise President Bush.

Let’s ignore the fact that unemployment is still at historically low levels. Productivity is at record high levels. Inflation is certainly not a factor (except for a recent bump in oil prices…), deflation (predicted by left leaning doomsayers like Paul Krugman), hasn’t materialized. If Clinton or another Democrat were in the White House, and the economic indicators were identical, I suspect that the Register’s editorial stance would be just a bit different.

People are apparently afraid for the future - hardly an attitude that's going to get the economy going again.

Yes… because there is an overdue war still on the back burner due to our ongoing wooing of the UN… a position that you Editorial Board Members of the Register still continue to support.

The public is jittery in large part due to the looming war with Iraq.

Ya think? This is the in depth insight I’ve come to expect from the Register Editorial Page.

No one is comfortable making plans for the future when it feels as though the whole world is hanging in the balance.

Oh no… the “WHOLE WORLD” is hanging in the balance. Whoa, hold on everybody! Well, at least people FEEL that way. “Feelings, nothing more than feelings…”

Troops are being mobilized. Lives disrupted.

Oh boy… okay… Yes, reserve units are being called up. That’s what happens when the U.S. prepares for armed conflict. Yes, the reservists are having their lives and their families’ lives disrupted. We should do all that we can as individuals to help the families here in Iowa who’s breadwinners are paying the price for freedom. This is what reservists DO. I have not seen a single article on an Iowa reservist who was disgruntled about being called up. What I do see is the Register incessantly running “human interest” stories highlighting the disruption… the implication being that the coming war is not worth it.

Major nations disgruntled with the United States.

Heaven forefend, the Axis of Weasels is disgruntled with the U.S.! Hey, I hate to burst your bubble, but it looks at this point as if the UN Security Council resolution introduced this week may just pass. Russia appears not willing to veto it. We seem to have the votes. There are even indications that France is rethinking its threatened veto. Come on people, France, Germany and that French hand puppet, Belgium are opposing this war for their own national self interests. The liberation of Iraq is coming… and the sooner the better so we can get the economy off the fence and moving again.

And President Bush continues to push tax cuts as the answer.

Tax cuts ARE the only answer for government stimulation of the economy. Goosing the economy with government contracts and programs is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. We either have to borrow the money (and place the burden on our descendents), or impose more taxes on the very companies and individuals who drive our economy in the first place.

We should radically cut taxes AND reduce federal spending.

He doesn't get it.

With this I agree, but presumably not for the reasons the Register Editorial Board would cite. The first 20 minutes of last month’s State of the Union Address was a cavalcade of new domestic programs. Problem -- program. Problem -- program. Problem -- program. Bush sounded more like Clinton than someone who ran on a platform of reducing the size of government. Stop, stop… this is for another piece…

What would the Register’s Editorial Board have us do? Should we have our troops stand down, go home and call off the liberation of Iraq. No. The quickest way to turn around consumer confidence and get the economy going is to get on with it. A short war, followed by a sustained, committed effort to assist the Iraqi people rebuild their society into a free, progressive and democratic nation (as we did in Japan and Germany after WWII), is the right thing to do for ourselves, the Iraqis and the world as a whole.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Ashcroft Chasing Bongs not Bombs

We’re still under a “Code Orange” terrorism alert. Tom Ridge is urging us to have emergency food, water and other supplies on hand, just in case. We’re about to (rightfully in my opinion) send our bravest and best to war to keep Islamofacists from bringing the war to us. What is the latest move by the Justice Department to keep us safe and secure? Don’t worry, the Rev. John Ashcroft has laid waste a national network of… internet head shops. Whew… I feel much safer now.

Ashcroft was quoted as saying: "Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge."

Here we go… it’s about “the children” again. Our kids are sneaking one hitters into our house and we don’t even know it. Man, if you want to get us baby boomers going, bring up “the children”. Your child is smoking pot because she can get a pipe that looks like a lipstick case over the Internet. I guess we’ll have to pull aluminum foil, aluminum cans and apples from the market next… “For the children…”.

What is it about marijuana that scares the hell out of the government? They seem terrified by it. They have, for the most part, given tacit acknowledgement that the psychotropic effects of pot are not overtly harmful in and of themselves. There have been numerous governmental scientific panels (including at least one formed by Presidential Commission) that have recommended decriminalization or legalization. Most of the negative long term risks, except for the ones related to smoking it (which can be prevented by ingestion by other means), have come up red herrings.

The overwhelming majority of individuals who smoke marijuana never move on to other, “harder” drugs. However, this old chestnut is still all the rage at the DEA. The government uses faulty statistics that support the “gateway drug theory” similar to the way professional “environmentalists” use statistics to support their claim of imminent worldwide ecological disaster. Okay, the overwhelming majority of hard drug users smoked pot before moving on to the hard stuff. Most of them also drank alcohol first… and smoked cigarettes… and drank mother’s milk or formula. Headline: “Heroin Addicts First Sucked Milk… Got Smack?”.

The war against medicinal marijuana is cruel and outrageous. If smoking a doobie helps someone on chemotherapy keep their food down, what is the great negative impact to the nation in this? What is the rational for the heavy federal hand? The stated position of the current drug Tsar that cannabis has no medicinal properties is laughable. It has been used as a medicine for millennia, in various cultures.

The current Republican administration mouths off about states’ rights on issues that it wants to see propelled by state legislatures and initiatives and then had the Justice Department spend precious time, effort and money to pound states that have passed medical marijuana laws into submission?

Judging by what I’ve seen in the anti-marijuana spots on TV, the feds now seem intent on creating or exaggerating secondary effects. If you smoke pot, you’re funding terrorism. Now, assuming that you buy this argument, what’s the answer? Well… I’ll grow my own and thereby not contribute to lawbreakers and terrorists. Oh no, you can’t do that because we’ll put you in the pen for five years. Hey, break into someone’s house and steal their stuff, you may not get ANY prison time. Grow some weed for your own consumption and you’re GONE baby. What are they so afraid of?

The latest spot I’ve seen is my current favorite. The ad leads you to believe that it’s a gritty new commercial for a home pregnancy testing kit. The potential parents are white, middle class, look to be in their late 30s and they are concerned. Maybe, they were not planning on having a child this late in life. Maybe they can’t afford another child. We see the parents looking pained as they see that the test is positive. The camera pans to a girl, presumably their daughter, (cast to look like a 15 or so year old) in the next room. The girl is sitting ashamed and humiliated on her bed. Voice over: “Marijuana can make you lose your inhibitions and lead to bad judgments. It’s not as harmless as we thought.”

Oh my God. Marijuana makes good, middle class girls go WILD and copulate like minks in heat. Smoke pot little lady, start to quiver and quake and then it bonin’ time! It’s Sexual Reefer Madness for our impressionable youth and Reefer Sadness for us poor parents.

Okay, before anyone blows a head gasket, I do not approve of anyone under the age of 18 doing any alcohol or drugs. Despite my disaproval, it happens all of the time. I did it in high school. I suspect that my sons will experiment before they are 18. However, 18 is where I draw the parental line for MY kids. If I catch them in my liquor cabinet or smoking pot, there will be swift, effective and reasonable consequences. Most of all, I will tell my kids that the legal consequences for getting caught by the authorities are HUGE. The legal and associated financial ramifications are the biggest risk that kids (and adults) face today if they choose to smoke pot.

That being said, the hypocrisy of baby boomers on this topic is mind boggling. The prevailing opinion of parents seems to be: “Sure, I did all of that stuff (and had a GREAT time, by the way), but for my kids… NO WAY!” The excuses for this hypocritical attitude seem to be: “Well, pot is much more powerful than it used to be.” or: “You’ll have sex and get AIDS.”, or the general (and meaningless): “It’s a different world today kids.”

Bullshit. What scares parents is not that things have changed. It’s that things haven’t changed and that their kids are they same as they were. They’re curious. They’re rebellious. They want to branch out, experiment, explore. And this scares the hell out of most parents.

When I went to school in the 1960s, there were anti-drug and anti-cigarette programs in place. I still remember seeing a film in the 6th grade. It was hosted by Sonny Bono and featured a guy, tripping on pot, looking in the mirror and convinced that his face was peeling off. I remember seeing pictures of the dissected lungs of smokers. The results…? I was a pack-a-day Marlboro smoker by my 16th birthday and an occasional pot smoker by my 17th.

Do I want my two boys to become addicted to cigarettes? No. Cigarettes are physically addictive (I know, I quit smoking habitually when I was 22… it was hell.) Do I want them to try pot? Only if they want to and only when they are “ready”. What do I mean by ready? How much control will I have over it? I’ll answer the second question first… precious little. All I can hope is that the work that my wife and I have done with them over the past 15+ years has taken and that they will not be pressured into trying it before they are mature enough to exercise control and self respect.

Why is the government so scared of marijuana? I do not know. But I DO know that I have not heard a rational, reasonable explanation why cannabis is illegal.

Meanwhile, back at the DOJ and DEA:

"People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different than drug dealers," said John Brown, acting DEA chief. "They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide."

Excellent, non-inflammatory analogy, Mr. Brown.

"This is a great victory for the DEA," Ashcroft said.

Yeah… okay Mr. Ashcroft… now would you please busy yourself with rounding up some more of those Al Queda sleeper cells please.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Chirac and Saddam

Here's an interesting picture of Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s in... a nuclear reactor. Chirac is stoatish looking fellow on the far right with the glasses.

Dull Day at the Register

The Op-Ed section of the Register was pretty dull today. A couple of silly letters, but I’m not going to take on Letters to the Editor in this format.

Let’s Go!

We’ve done our “Citizen of the World” duty and submitted yet another meaningless resolution to the UN Security Council. It was a bit wordy for my taste… and for Steven Den Beste’s. I agree with Mr. Den Beste that we should have made it short and sweet… yes/no… up/down.

Regardless, we have over 200,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen (airpeople?) in the area. Iraq is refusing to destroy the missiles cited by Hans Blix as a treaty violation. It’s time to say screw the UNSC and GO.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Federalism is Bad... No, Good... No, Bad... Oh Forget it.

The Des Moines Register has been sounding a shrill editorial tone in favor of the .08 alcohol blood limit. On 1/6/03 the Register ran an editorial that praised the Federal Government for their threat to withhold Federal highway funding to any state that does not pass state legislation lowering the limit to .08.

In today’s issue, the Register is bemoaning “heavy handedness” from Washington in an editorial that blasts the “No Child Left Behind” act. Well kids, it’s time to grow up… you can’t have it both ways. “Hey, man… Federal mandates are great when you agree with them but they are heavy handed when you don’t.” No, you don’t get to pick and choose. The Register's edtorial stance on these issues are on the same level as arguments my 15 year old uses on me. Strike that… that would be an insult to my son… he KNOWS that his arguments are a load of crap He’s just using 15 year old guile and sophistry to get what he wants.

Other than griping about the act itself, the piece centers on the fact that it costs more to have students in the public schools that DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH. Whew… that’s a man bites dog story. You know where this is going, don’t you? We’re… get ready… UNDERFUNDED!

How the hell did all of the Italian, Armenian, German, Slavic, etc., etc., etc., immigrants who came to this country learn our language before ESL (English as a Second Language) became entrenched in our educational culture? Simple, they were immersed in English. Do you know how we teach foreign languages to native born English speakers? We enroll them in a foreign language immersion school. There are at least two in the Minneapolis public schools that I know of, one for Spanish and one for French.

When I was in high school, I lived for three years in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When I arrived there as a 15 year old, I spoke only very basic Spanish. When I left, I was fluent… and I went to English language schools. Why…? I WANTED to learn the language. It SUCKED not understanding what was going on around me. I watched Spanish language TV, particularly the news, constantly. I read the Spanish Language newspaper every day. Many of my friends were native Spanish speakers. I asked my mom (who was Puerto Rican and a native Spanish speaker) to speak with me in Spanish. I worked hard, and by the time I was a senior in high school, I was reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude", (“Cień Años de Solidad), in Spanish Literature class.

If these kids are going home and watching Telemundo on cable and not choosing to immerse themselves in English, I’m sorry. The schools can’t do it ALL. Just like public schools cannot make up for a terrible, disabling family life, they can’t.

People, especially kids, rise up to the level you set for them. If you choose to come to this country for a better life, your biggest obsticle to success will be not speaking English.

This is another byproduct of government sponsored “multiculturalism”… Okay, I’ll stop now; this is another rant in and of itself.

Back to Federal Government heavy-handedness… below is a piece I sent to the Register the day their editorial supporting the cutoff of Federal highway funds to all states that do not pass laws lowering the blood alcohol level to .08.

Regarding your Editorial on adopting the .08 alcohol limit, I find it hard to know where to begin. First, the central premise of the piece, regardless of issue seems to be: “Blackmail is okay, if it’s for a good cause”. No… blackmail is blackmail. What if the federal government was employing the same tactic, say for limiting a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy with an abortion. I’m going to assume that the editorial stance of the Register would be a bit different and would be in a panic over heavy handedness from Washington. So let’s drop “the ends justify the means” argument, okay?

Second, let’s examine the validity of the argument for the .08 blood alcohol standard. The .08 alcohol level is a new straw man from an old source. It is really a move towards “zero tolerance”, (no blood alcohol while driving) the stated goal of the lobbying group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The last time this happened it came from the same source. MADD (gee, if mommies are for it, it’s got to be right…) bulldozed the 21 year old drinking age across the nation using the same tactic. (Don’t get me started on what a mess this created in a consensus on the age of majority in this country.) Conform, or the Feds will cut off your highway funding

I salute MADD for what they did within the realm of opinion making, changing prevailing attitudes about drinking and driving. They made practices like the Designated Driver part of our shared culture. This was done by persuasion not coercion, one person at a time. However, now these well-intentioned moms are again pushing centralized political power from an emotional basis. They have lost someone to an accident caused by a drunk driver and the problem must be SOLVED… completely. There must be more things to be done and we must do them or else my loved one has died in vain. Emotion is a horrible way to create and manage public policy.

Let’s take a reasoned look at this. About 40,000 people die on US highways every year. If we really want to cut down the number of highway fatalities, let’s try the following:

1. Raise the driving age to 18. If you don’t trust a 16 year old with a beer, why in God’s name would you have one at the helm of a 2-ton mass of steel traveling at 65 mph? Other than making parents’ lives more convenient by not requiring them to be chauffeurs, there’s no reason for it. Farm kids could be exempt, for farm chores only. Hey city kids, you won’t like me for this but, take the bus, ride a bike, ask your parents for a ride, or… heaven forbid… walk where you want to go. You don’t NEED to go anywhere but school.

2. Require a behind-the-wheel driving test every four years for every licensed driver in the state. Make the test a true evaluation of a person’s ability to control a vehicle and respond to various traffic scenarios. Do not issue licenses to those that fail. Do not make the test a joke. Make people WORRIED about passing. Test younger drivers (under 25) and older drivers (over 65) every 2 years. (By the way, a competent driver with a .08 blood alcohol level is a lot safer than an incompetent driver with a .08 blood alcohol level.) The biggest cause of highway accidents is incompetence behind the wheel. Let’s work on that. Only about 25% of traffic fatalities are the result of a person driving under the influence. Driving on the public streets is a privilege, let’s treat it like one.

3. Enact laws that make it illegal to eat, drink a beverage or talk on a cell phone while driving. Theses activities have been shown to be just as dangerous as driving while really drunk… way more dangerous than a competent operator driving with a .08 blood alcohol level.

4. Be more aggressive in taking away the licenses of drivers who have a bad driving record. If someone is a knucklehead, reckless driver, get them off the road… now.

5. Driving on a suspended license, you go to the pen for a year. See ya. When you’re released, you don’t regain your driving privileges… ever. You get caught driving again, bye-bye for 5 years.

Again, we lose close to a Vietnam War’s worth of people each year in country, due to traffic fatalities. By all means, if you feel strongly about that number, let’s do something.

On the State Rights vs. Federal Control level, this is just not an issue that’s worth Federal strong arming. This is just another feel-good “safety” issue (I just can’t wait until we have Federal OSHA laws prohibiting smoking in bars…) that should be decided on a state, local or (here’s a novel idea…) an individual level. Now, Civil Rights in the South in the early 1960’s… people required to use separate water fountains, go to separate and unequal schools and unable to vote because of skin color… THAT was an issue worth throwing Federal weight around for. .08 vs. .10… nah, I don’t think so.

Federal funding is a double-edged sword. You can take the money, but you have to do what daddy says. He might cut off your allowance. Hey, wait a minute! These are federal highway funds that were paid for by Iowans’ Federal taxes. It’s OUR money. Maybe we should pay for our own highway needs on the state level, not get the leftovers at Washington’s discretion after we subsidize New York City mass transit. Just a thought…

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Rekha’s World – The Democratic Candidates

She’s at it again. In a piece about the field of 2004 Democratic presidential candidates, Rehka slams U.S. policy on Iraq and praises and Al Sharpton.

It's barely 2003, and the race for next January's presidential caucuses is already feeling overwhelming. Three more Democrats joined the field last week. Candidates are busting through Iowa faster than a photo-op can be exploited. It's all you can do to recite their names, much less match them up with positions on war, corporate accountability, ag subsidies and taxes.
I have to admit, I've had trouble working up excitement. We could be bombing Iraq into oblivion any day. The government is instructing us to buy duct tape and plastic to ensure our very survival - then it isn't. Our kids are shipping out daily to join the fight, and much of the world sees us as the schoolyard bully.

First, we discover that Rekha is both overwhelmed and indifferent. She’s a complex one, that Rekha. She’s overwhelmed because there are so many… count ‘em, EIGHT! Uh oh, almost past fingers and then on to toes… And you know what, they're campaigning, and there’s so many of them it’s hard to line them up with their platforms. She’s indifferent because we’re about to bomb Iraq back into the stone age.

Yeah, Rekha, that’s why we’re dropping leaflets on Iraqi military positions telling them that if they stay put, WE WILL LEAVE THEM ALONE… if they mass for a counter attack, we WILL pound them.

We are NOT going to saturation bomb residential areas of Baghdad, okay. We are going to do everything we can do to minimize civilian casualties. We’re going to try to leave as much of the infrastructure intact as possible. Why, because we’re going to PAY TO REBUILD IT, YOU NINNY.

And if you think that the overwhelming majority of Americans directly and indirectly involved in the coming Iraq operation do not have great concern for innocent Iraqi noncombatants, then … I shan’t try convince you otherwise. Except to say this. Our concern for the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein is one of the prime (No, Rekha… I know, not the only one… and in your world view that taints us) reasons for going it and deposing that dictator.

After reading today’s article, I think I have an idea of who at least one of Rekha’s role models must be, Molly Ivens. Didn’t they teach you in journalism class that hyperbole is a club you take out of your bag seldom and usually only in combination with irony or sarcasm…?

She’s concerned over the duct tape thing. Yeah, that was pretty stupid; I had to agree with her on that one, but probably would not agree for the same reasons. See my Blog below on why I, as a Libertarian support the coming war on Iraq.

And then… oh no… much of the world sees us as a schoolyard bully. Much of the world has got to mean France, Germany and the nincompoops who would be at a WTO conference or PETA march. Rekha forgets to pay even lip service to the former Soviet Block states that have lined up in support. Maybe that’s because they have recently shaken the yoke of totalitarian oppression. They KNOW what the people of Iraq are living through, up close and personal. And they also know that they owe their recent freedom in no small part to that petulant, pugnacious schoolyard thug… the United States of America.

With life-or-death issues hanging in the balance, speculating about a distant election feels indulgent, irrelevant. Who can focus on what will happen nearly two years from now? I want to know what's going down this week.

Very dramatic… and who would of guessed that Rekha is short sighted…? So the campaigning is starting too early and it’s irrelevant… I get it.

Besides, when you live in the first caucus state and you're in the media, you get blase. Candidates swarm through here and we handicap them: Who has the best organizational strength, oratory, big-name supporters, money?

Yeah, she’s a veteran… she knows that political stuff.

Unfortunately, in the process, we can minimize the importance of what they stand for.

They stand for getting elected, Rekha.

This year's candidates stand for a rich diversity of agendas. Look at them and you're almost looking at America. They include two African-Americans, a Jew, a woman and a Croatian-American who grew up in a working-class Cleveland neighborhood. They range from a former presidential wannabe to a civil-rights activist who's never held elective office.

Ah… diversity. I’ve got a piece in the works on that one. And I would change the second sentence slightly to read: “Look at them and you’re almost looking at America’s special interest groups.”

At a pivotal time, these folks are coming through here and sharing insights on the major issues.

Okay, I was wrong, the campaigning is not too early, and in fact it’s timely because of current events. Jeez, it’s hard to keep up with her.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is planning a stop at the Oakridge Neighborhood. It's a rare day when someone at his level even visits that part of town. His chances for the White House may be remote. But for residents of the Des Moines public-housing project, it has to be a big deal to be courted by the man who marched with Michael Jackson, advised Abner Louima and Wednesday was a guest on "The Tonight Show."

The Rev. Al Sharpton. It should be a rare day when the Rev. Al is not in jail. Hey Rekha, I lived in New York during the entire Tawana Brawley scandal. I saw Rev. Al and his co-conspirators Alton Maddox, and lawyer C. Vernon Mason, knowingly slander the reputation of an innocent officer of the law. It’s odd that you mention the Abner Louima case and ignore the Brawley thing. And… just a little tip here… being seen with Michael Jackson may not be something that you really want to bring up to support the Rev. Al… babies dangled over balconies and all… As for appearing in a public housing project, where else in Des Moines could he more easily avoid hard question about the Brawley scandal and other issues he would get pounded for in any other venue.

On her trip last weekend, former Senator Carol Moseley-Braun was scheduled to eat breakfast with African-American women professionals and speak at an American Women Presidents event, held in just three U.S. cities. Only one non-press person turned out for the blizzard-marred event, but my mother saw the speech on national TV in New York. "Iowa is everywhere," she observed. She"d also heard Dick Gephardt has to win Iowa. "Iowa is key."

After talking about diversity (again, I’ll deal with “diversity” in another piece), she focuses only on the other black candidate, Carol Moseley-Braun. Yes, Mosley-Braun gets to speak in such “diverse” venues as meetings of “African-American Women Professionals” and “American Women Presidents” (hey, I didn’t know we had an female president…and no, Hillary doesn’t count…). Just like in her profile of the Rev. Al, Rekha neglects to talk about how Mosley-Braun was turned shown her way out of the Senate by Illinois voters in the wake of a campaign funding scandal and her alleged coddling of the late Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha.

Living here, we can forget to take advantage. Whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be, [s]he has a real chance of unseating the president. Just 45 percent of registered voters say they'll likely support George Bush for re-election, according to a recent Los Angeles Times poll; 40 percent said they'd probably back whoever the Democratic nominee is. And it's early.

Yes Rekha… I know that you’re hoping for a replay of Bush the Elder. In my best Dana Carvey, GHW Bush voice, “Nawt gonna happen.” The fact that it’s early should be the Democrats worst nightmare going into 2004. Chances are the economy will turn itself around by then… the people will think that George W. did it and we’ll have four more years. I wouldn’t mind seeing George W. gone, but again not for the same reasons as Rekha. He’s spending money on domestic discretionary programs like a drunken sailor… but again, that’s another piece.

It can also be hard for us in the heartland to feel connected to what's going on in the rest of the country and world. Sept. 11 felt as remote from here as the current threats. But we could use our pivotal role in the presidential-selection process to get a first-hand perspective on the news. John Kerry has served 18 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kucinich is one of six members of Congress to have sued the Bush administration over a war with Iraq. Gephardt until recently was House minority leader.

Rehka wants us to get perspective on the news from presidential candidates… so silly, no need to comment.

Get out and hear them talk. You don't have to be a donor or even a Democrat - just care about the future.

Just care… that’s what’s important… caring. Don’t think, don’t analyze, don’t make tough decisions… just care.