Sean's Blog

A Guide To Online
Opinion And Current Events

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Everywhere I visit online has some piece or another about Howard Dean's concession speech on Monday. The consensus seems to be that Dean is done. I wouldn't go that far, but I can't help relax just a little bit.

It was clear to me that the most anti-war left supported Dean and they, in my opinion, acted insane. There's still a large block of anti-war types that support the other candidates and that's surely a concern, but the Dean people were special.

That's the great thing about Dean's downfall. It was not so much his mad dog speeches that did him in. Instead I believe it was the sane people remaining in the Democratic party who were able to defeat Dean.

I believe many Democrats remember President Roosevelt and J.F.K. The party is not the same. It's moved to the left, yet many Democrats can't bring themselves to give up on their party. I believe a significant portion of that vote has came around and has forced a move back towards the center where a military response to another 9/11 was not ruled out.

To varying degrees the Democrats want to treat 9/11 as a law enforcement issue when it was clear to the White House and conservatives that a military response was much more appropriate. Indeed, to conservatives it was a silly argument. That's why I thought Democrats had lost their minds. They seemed all set to send Dean to the general election where he would have been defeated handily.

The thing the Deaniacs don't understand is that most Americans believed that war with Iraq was demanded by the events of 9/11/01. They supported it passionately. The people understood, and Saddam sitting in front of his TV watching those planes fly into the building, understood the possibilities.

Anyone who thinks that we should have waited for Saddam to build a nuclear weapon, give it to some terrorist to set off in America, then investigate the murder of thousands with the FBI is insane. To tell us that we must wait for a bomb to go off and that attempting to contain Saddam was better than any alternative was insane.

9/11 made a deep impression on many people and the Democrats are trying to downplay the threat to our national security because a large part of their voters are anti-war. Actually, they speak like people who want to see drastic changes take place in our country. They may say they love the U.S., but they want to change it drastically. I find that difficult to reconcile. They say they love it, but they have also sought an agenda that would transform this country into something more like Europe, Canada and even Cuba.

I'd say they are loving the U.S. but they're thinking of Europe.

Via Instapundit. Steve Sturm makes a good point:

It would be one thing if the Democrats posed alternative solutions for getting our intelligence, military and law enforcement the tools that are needed so to help prevent another terror attack here in the US - but they can't do that because that would require acknowledging the terror problem, which we know the Democrats can't do. It would be another thing if the Democrats, both on the campaign trail and elsewhere, didn't go ballistic when discussing the tools the Adminstration is using to combat the terrorists - but that again would require the Democrats to acknowledge that Bush is sincere in his belief that we are still at risk, and we know they can't do that. And, it would be nice if we didn't sense that they weren't all waiting for something bad to happen, whether to the economy or elsewhere, so they can pin the blame on Bush.

EU says Europe falling behind on economy

Well, duh.

The European Union has pledged to have the EU economy surpass the U.S. economy by 2010. That's funny (haha funny) because many European nations are socialist in tendency. Socialism is not very business-friendly because it believes that business must be tightly controlled and regulated so that it will not take advantage of the workers. Many European nations have gone too far with their labor laws so that business has little or no incentive to research, innovate, or expand.

Europe has very generous welfare benefits which are paid for by very high taxes. When Europe cuts taxes and begins to rein in the welfare payments then, and only then, will Europe begin to have a chance to overtake the U.S. economically. Otherwise, it ain't happenin' Also, the biggest European economies must do more to help European business be more competitive. By do more I mean Germany and France must reform their labor laws.

Europeans will have to undergo a radical philosophical change if they ever expect to overtake the U.S. and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Via Tim Blair. An Australian reporter assigned to New York writes about Americans and the Iraq war:

I was reading USA Today and, as I opened it to study a map of Iraq, one half of the newspaper fell into the lap of my fellow passenger. I turned to apologise, but he said: "No problem. Actually, do you mind if I have a look?"

Together we studied the picture, trying to work out how far the Americans were from seizing power. It was clear from the diagrams that troops were near Saddam's airport, and close to the centre of Baghdad. I turned to my seat mate and said: "I don't think this is going to be a long battle, after all."

It was only then that I noticed, with horror, that he had started to cry. And then I noticed something else: a photograph, wrapped in plastic, pinned to his lapel. It was a picture of his 20-year-old son, a young marine who died in the first days of the war. The man's wife was sitting across the aisle from us. She had a round bowl on her lap, filled with water and some drooping tulips. The movement of the aircraft was making the water slop around. She was trying to wipe her hands, and her tears.

The couple told me they had just been to a private meeting with Bush to discuss the loss of their son. At the time, it was already clear that Saddam didn't have any weapons of mass destruction.

"But I never thought it was about the weapons," my seat mate said. And, although I can't remember his exact words, he also said something like: "We have always stood up for freedom, in our own country, and for other people."

Any student of history knows that this is true. America saved the Western world from communism. America saved Australia and, for that matter, France from a system that would stop you from reading this newspaper.

Americans support the war in Iraq and, by extension, Bush because they see it as part of a bigger picture. Like everybody, they now know that Saddam was not the threat they thought he was (at least, not to them) but they still think it was a good idea to deal with him, before he became one.

Damn. I missed Howard Dean's outburst when he spoke after placing third in the Iowa caucuses. Apparently it was quite a display. Here's Byron York's take on the episode:

The speech didn't start badly. Although Dean appeared oddly exuberant after what was an extraordinarily disappointing finish, that might easily be attributed to a politician's desire to put a publicly positive face on bad news. "You know something?" Dean asked his fans. "If you had told us one year ago that we were going to come in third in Iowa, we would have given anything for that."

That was a perfectly reasonable gloss for a candidate to put on unfavorable election results. But Dean quickly took on a red-faced, shouting, teeth-baring, air-punching demeanor unlike any of his performances during the campaign.

"Not only are we going to New Hampshire," he said, his voice rising. "We're going to South Carolina and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York. And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we're going to Washington, D.C. to take back the White House."

Then he let out a strange, extended, yelp that seemed to come from deep within him: "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"

Dean resumed his roll of states. "We will not give up! We will not give up in New Hampshire! We will not give up in South Carolina! We will not give up in Arizona or New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan! We will not quit now or ever! We'll earn our country back for ordinary Americans!"

As the crowd began to applaud, Dean recited still more states. "And we're going to win in Massachusetts! And North Carolina! And Missouri! And Arkansas! And Connecticut! And New York! And Ohio!" — the home states of Dean's rivals for the Democratic nomination.

At times in his speech, Dean's demeanor seemed that of a man who was not aware of how he looked to outside observers. In the last days of the Iowa contest he had undergone the extreme stress of a candidate losing control of a campaign he had once dominated. His reaction to the loss in Iowa brought to mind statements Dean made on January 8, in an interview with People magazine, in which Dean discussed the emotional difficulties he has sometimes had dealing with stressful situations.

Oh yea, we want this man to be president. If he wins the Democratic nomination there are miles of video that will devastate his chances for the White House. We'll see how the rest of the primaries go.

Brilliant Mark Steyn line about Howard Dean, the bike path that drove him from the Episcopal church, and his indifference to Osama's prosecution in the U.S.:

And that's our pugnacious little Democrat. On Osama bin Laden, he's Mister Insouciant. But he gets mad about bike paths. Destroy the World Trade Center and he's languid and laconic and blasé. Obstruct plans to convert the ravaged site into a memorial bike path and he'll hunt you down wherever you are.

That's funny. This is an old piece from December. How did I miss it? Oh yea, I was working 70 hours a week.

Anyone who reads editorials from major newspapers must be familiar with Ralph Peters' work. Peters is a regular contributor to the New York Post editorial page and he has become one of my favorite writers. He is pro-war and supports President Bush's efforts in the Middle East. I guess it would be safe to say that Peters was no fan of President Bill Clinton. Now, considering all that, I have to say that Peters is now praising a speech President Clinton gave in Qatar last week. I haven't found a link to the speech, but when Peters says that he gave Clinton a standing ovation I know that an important thing has happened.

Here's the link to Peters' editorial. A sample:

As soon as he took the podium, Clinton began taking stands as brave as they were necessary. With virtuoso skill, he led the audience where they needed to go - while convincing them it was where they had wanted to end up all along. His sense not only of what required saying, but of how best to express it to that complex, contrary audience was almost supernatural.

We all know that Bill Clinton can speak persuasively, of course. But in this case the message mattered. Clinton just may have been the only American who could have reached that unforgiving crowd.

He didn't pander. He made America's case and made it well. Beginning with a sometimes-rueful look at the progress his administration had failed to make and noting that the wars that plague the world are begun by men his own age or older, but paid for in blood by the young, he refused to direct one syllable of blame at the Bush administration. Accepted as a citizen of the world, he spoke as a convinced American.

Asked by an eager-to-Bush-bash delegate if he, Bill Clinton, would have behaved differently after 9/11, our former president said he would have followed an identical course, pursuing our enemies into Afghanistan and beyond. Queried about his position on Iraq, he stated that any disagreements he might have would be most appropriately expressed at home in the U.S., not before a foreign audience.

This is an extraordinary turn of events that shouldn't be underestimated in it's importance. Peters is indicating that Clinton has matured and is now ready to serve his country in a most unexpected way.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Mark Steyn is one of my favorite writers.

Unlike Iowans and the rest of the country, Granite State Democrats know Howard Dean well, and they're voting for the dull, centrist Vermont Governor they have known for a decade, not the crazy guy who has been on the loose the last year.


The Sweet Sounds of Really Bad Singing

Yes, most of today's music sucks and I never really understood why. This New York Times piece hits it on the head. The reason contemporary music sucks the big one is because many of the most popular singers are untalented lyricists and vocal flyweights. But, says the Times, that's is the appeal.

Sure. Whatever.

I almost got a job with Wal-Mart once and I'm very glad they didn't hire me.

The interview was more of an interrogation than anything else. They rephrased the same questions over and over again to see if I was consistent in my responses. That strategy wasn't unusual; I've taken written tests that were similar. The difference with Wal-Mart was that these questions were by a person and it actually did feel like an attempt to get me to crack. The pressure was palpable although the two ladies who interviewed me were smiling, those smiles belied a much more cold and calculating task. The lead interviewer was a nice enough lady, but I sensed a desire on her part for that "gotcha!" moment where she could pick apart any inconsistency.

One question in particular made her pry deep. The question was about employee theft and I have no doubt that Wal-Mart is a victim of "shrinkage." But the lady wanted to know if a person who had been caught stealing should be publicly humiliated. When I said that the employee should definitely be fired for stealing, but that public humiliation was a bit over the top, especially if the company didn't prosecute the person, she zeroed in and began a semi-debate with me about the repercussions for the company of employee theft. She wanted to know why I was, in effect, going easy on criminals. I was being backed into a corner and I felt my face turning red. I wasn't defending criminals, but Wal-Mart was being overly zealous. If they didn't plan on prosecuting the person what did they intend to do to publicly humiliate the thief? Were they going to buy ad space in a local newspaper and announce that John Smith was a thief and that he had been fired from Wal-Mart for stealing? What did they mean by publicly humiliate?

I somehow gave the interviewer an answer that caused her to let it drop, but I knew that the damage had been done. Still, as I left, I felt like I might still get hired. Thankfully, they never called me for a job. I've since learned more about Wal-Mart and I am very thankful they didn't hire me. The above linked to piece in The New York Times seemed just like the Wal-Mart I know. I am not surprised by anything I read in that article.

I try not to shop at Wal-Mart because I see them as a bully behemoth. Yes, Wal-Mart is great for the consumer, but I feel like I am feeding that beast each time I shop there. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but since my interview and subsequent interviews with Wal-Mart suppliers I am left with a nagging feeling about Wal-Mart. I'm not sure what it is. Let's just say that the word "Wal-Mart" leaves me with feelings of suspicion and mistrust. I guess it's the way one would feel like towards an evil presence without fully understanding why they felt the way they did. It's just a gut feeling and I always listen to my gut.