"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States


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Saturday, October 09, 2004
  Thoughts on Last Night's Debate
Last night's debate was an interesting turn of events. George W. Bush did a 180 degrree turn around from the poor performance in his first debate. Except for a few occasions, he was much more commanding and confident. Kerry seemed to keep his poise as well in this debate as he did in the first one. He was calm, self-assured and unthreatened by anything the president said.

Overall I'd grade this debate as a draw. Each side had strong points in its favor, with no clear cut winner. Both sides evaded answering certain questions. Bush showed that he was more than last Thursday night, and Kerry showed that he was the same man we saw last Thursday night.

What's interesting to me about Bush is that he really doesn't seem to believe that he did anything wrong during his four years as president. When asked that question by a voter, he basically said history would judge some of the things he did harshly, but he implied that they were simply concrete actions, while on principle he had always been right. Sorry, but the fact that Iraq wasn't an imminent threat (big surprise) is all the more reason why we should have invested our military resources elsewhere (say, Teheran, for example).

One thing that interests me about Kerry is that he has shown himself to be a consumate politician. This is best exemplified by his answer to the woman who asked what he would say to voters who believed abortion is murder - would he federally fund abortions? Kerry evaded the question while trying to compliment the woman on her beliefs. He is not a zealot, he's a Bill Clinton, who will do things for political reasons. Translated into english, this means that there is less to fear from him than from a zealot like Bush, who will push his religious beliefs ahead regardless of public reaction. At least Kerry will be cowed by fear of what Americans will say and do.
  The "Big" Lie
Robert P. George in the National Review Online writes about the Big Lie that John Kerry told in the second presidential debate:
Every reporter covering the election should, after the second presidential debate in St. Louis, be demanding of Kerry an answer to the following question: Who are the scientists who told you that "we have the option" of curing Parkinson's, diabetes, spinal-cord injuries, or any other disease using embryonic stem cells? If they won't ask him, the Bush campaign should defy him to name the names. He won't be able to do it. No scientists ? even those most pro-Kerry and aggressively in favor of the federal funding of embryo-destructive research ? ever told Kerry any such thing.

What Kerry has done here is told the big lie about embryonic stem cells. The claim that "we have the option" of curing Parkinson's disease, diabetes, etc. with embryonic stem cells is outrageous. No one knows when ? or even whether or not ? human embryonic stem cells will be therapeutically useful in treating any major disease or injury. There are profound ? perhaps insuperable ? problems with the therapeutic use of these cells. So, despite the fact that there is no federal ban on embryonic-stem-cell research, and that such research can be funded with state money and is being publicly funded in various places abroad, no embryonic-stem-cell-based therapy is even in clinical trials.

Mr. George is referring to John Kerry's answer to a question posed by a woman in the audience. "Thousands of people have already been cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells or umbilical-cord stem cells. However, no one has been cured by using embryonic stem cells. Wouldn't it be wise to use stem cells obtained without the destruction of an embryo?"

Now on the face of it, this seems to be a reasonable question; one technique has proven promising and actually works, while the other has no proven benefit. However, let's flesh out the real meaning behind the question. This woman (and every one who opposes embryonic stem cell research) is not saying that she knows embryonic stem cell research is a dead end; if that were the case, she would be entirely justified. What she and the religious zealots are saying is, "Should we not investigate or pursue this line of inquiry, because it destroys an embryo?"

Now the only rational rejoinder to this question is, what's wrong with destroying an embryo? And thus we arrive at the crux of the issue. These people believe, on faith (which means without any evidence and indeed regardless of any evidence to the contrary), that an embryo is essentially the same thing as you or I, because it possesses a soul. So here is there argument, stated honestly: We shouldn't do embryonic stem cell research because we believe that destroying a small clump of tissue is no different than murdering a human being. We have no argument as to why this is true - God said it, and we choose to believe it. Therefore we shouldn't do embryonic stem cell research.

Now, whether or not embryonic stem cell research is viable is a scientific question that I can't answer. But morally, any avenue of scientific research that is open to improving the life of human beings that doesn't violate the rights of other human beings is completely moral and should not be stopped. This means testing on animals and even embryos and fetuses if appropriate. It is irrational and immoral to oppose any increase in knowledge because of a dogma, religious or otherwise. To do so when considering something that could possible improve human life is all the more irrational, and unwarranted. Every private effort should be allowed to pursue this field, and to capitalize on it in the event that it is practical. It would be wonderful if we could have an embryo "farm" that would produce remedies for all kinds of debilitating diseases that ruin so many people's lives. Maybe embryonic stem cells won't yield any practical developments, but to write it off before it's attempted is completely foolish and dangerous. This is the true face of religion, which outlawed herisies in the early days of the church, tortured and imprisoned Galileo, and burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for refusing to submit.

As to the issue of public money, I agree with the zealots, but for different reasons. Public money should not fund any type of research, religious, scientific or whatever. The zealots (with a few exceptions) have no problem with public funding of religious initiatives, which is just as immoral and unjustified.
Friday, October 08, 2004
  Scary Prospects...
The AP is reporting that a month ago a CD was found in Iraq containing floor plans and crisis-planning information on six schools in the US. While I've always wondered when the US would be attacked by suicide bombers, it's scary to think that our schools are just a mouse click away from being taken over.
The downloaded data found by the U.S. military in July — all publicly available on the Internet — included an Education Department report guiding schools on how to prepare and respond to a crisis, said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The officials said it was unclear who downloaded the information and stressed there is no evidence of any specific threats involving the schools.

Read on...
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
  Bush's Iranian Failure
John Edwards criticized the Bush administration's failure to curb Iran's nuclear development, and he was spot on. Iran continues to flagrantly develop its nuclear program without a care for the world. And why shouldn't it, when the Bush administration's threat is, "If they continue in the direction they are going we will have to look at what additional action may need to be taken, including looking to the U.N. Security Council". Ooooh, please don't tell the U.N. security council.

I think it's inconsistent and completely irresolute for Bush to have made a big deal about Saddam's possible collection of weapons, and then completely ignore the threat of Iran when it is incrementally developing weapons in the open! What a joke. For the latest on their weapons program, read the following from the AP.
  Just to be Fair...
While I have stressed Edward's virtues in the debate, I want to be fair and give Cheney his due as well. From Gary Andres of the National Review:
  • If you can't stand up to Howard Dean, who can you stand up to Al Qaeda."

  • "I'm the president of the Senate and first time I met you was tonight."

  • "I can think of many words to describe Senator Kerry's position on Iraq — consistent isn't one of them."
  I'm Not Alone
T.J. Walker at National Review agrees in part with my assessment of Cheney and Edward's performance last night:
But by every traditional measure of good public speaking, Cheney is a truly wretched communicator. His sins include the following: staring down constantly, cocking his head awkwardly, placing his chin on his hands, speaking in a monotone voice, saying "ah" incessantly, and using weird clutter phrases like "if you will."

It is difficult to critique Senator Edwards's communication skills because he is consistently a technically flawless communicator. Edwards comes across as comfortable, likeable, knowledgeable, and friendly. Specifically, Edwards moves his head, hands, and body in a totally natural manner. His voice is soothing, conversational, and energetic. And you can make fun of good hair all you want, but it didn't seem to hurt Reagan or Clinton.
  Nordlinger on VP Debate
Jay Nordlinger from National Reveiw Online has an objective piece comparing Cheney and Edwards performance and effectiveness in last night's debate. Well worth looking into.
  Thoughts on Cheney vs. Edwards
After watching the vice presidential debate last night, I was left feeling kind of empty. Neither candidate was superb; instead, they seemed more evenly matched. Andrew Sullivan sees the debate as a clear win for Edwards; I would agree, but only because I think he won by default.

While Cheney demonstrated brilliantly his command of the issues and of the facts, he failed to inspire. He reminded me of my first computer programming professor; he was brilliant, knew the answers to every question I ever had. But his computer displayed more emotion than he did. I thought for sure he would crush Edwards, but I didn't see it happen (his best point was the criticism of having never met Edwards before the debate because Edwards is never at congress).

In contrast to President Bush who was basically all emotion without any intelligence, Cheney was totally intelligent but had no passion. His voice had little presence; he seemed to be talking "low", and the subject seemed to lack any meaning to him. If you're the republican incumbent, fighting against a candidate who you believe is going to wreck your country, you need to fight vigorously. You need to communicate passionately that this is a fight that America can't afford to get wrong, that the wrong choice at this juncture could have repercussions that would threaten the US and American lives. Yet Cheney debated as if he was merely engaged in an intellectual game of chess.

Edwards by contrast, came off as young, effervescent and full of passion. He continuously lambasted Cheney and the Bush administration, at one point saying that he didn't think America could take "four more years" of Bush. Cheney should have been the one denouncing Kerry and Edwards as incapable of defending this country.

P.S. One thing that I found amusing from some of the blogs I've read is that they attacked Edwards for mentioning Cheney's daughter! This is funny because if you think about it fundamentally, all Edwards did was call attention to complete disregard the Republican party holds for homosexuals. While Edwards own position isn't good (he's against gay marriage too), he at least supports civil unions. That Republican's oppose even civil unions shows that this issue is not about marriage, but instead about hatred of homosexuality. For Christians, homosexuals are an abomination, really on the level of pedophiles (alright, maybe one rung above them). I feel sympathetic for Cheney's daughter - she loves her dad and wants to support him, but he works with and for people who regard her as less than human. And instead of displaying class or tact, I think Cheney's lack of response (he had 90 seconds to rebut Edwards) gave credence to Edwards claim that Bush is pushing the marriage amendment for political (i.e., theocratic) reasons.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
  Cox and Forkum - Spoilers
  Hawk for Kerry
Great new article at Capitalism Magazine by author/lecturer Craig Biddle on the 2004 election. His position - Capitalist Hawk for Kerry. Here's a brief selection from the article:
With Bush in the White House, the debate is between his half-battle, with which the Right is content—and something less, which is what the Left would prefer. With Kerry in the White House, the debate would be between his half-battle, which is the least that America would let him get away with—and something more, which is what the Right would demand no matter what Kerry were to do. In other words, whereas Bush is willing to wage only a half-battle and will never be pressured to do more, Kerry would have to wage at least a half-battle and would constantly be pressured to do more. And regardless of what Kerry were to do—even if he somehow were to get away with doing less than Bush has done or nothing at all—at least his actions or non-actions would not be called hawkish.
  Ten Commandments Case
The Supreme Court finished off ex-Judge Roy Moore's attempt to remove a brick from the "wall" separating church and state. From the AP:
The three-year legal battle over ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his Ten Commandments monument ended quietly Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Moore's final appeal.
While it isn't a "big" victory against the growing threat of Christian theocracy, every little step is encouraging. Besides, I'd be lying if I said I didn't derive pleasure and amusement from the folly and failure of theocracy.
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