Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Niwot Soccer

There is a new web site in the world as of today. Check out Niwot Soccer.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Tiger Hoops in Laramie

Mark your calendars. November 22. Princeton @ Laramie. Time TBD.


Sunday, August 29, 2004

Have you heard, it's in the stars...

...next July we collide with Mars...

Just finished watching High Society. Great flick. I'm sure Bob will agree.

Friday, August 27, 2004

O'Neill in Cambodia?

Hmm, this article from Media Matters seems to indicate that John O'Neill admitted to Richard Nixon back in 1971 that he was in fact "in Cambodia" on a Swift Boat, or at least on the border (in a Swift Boat).
O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.
This certainly brings up a credibility issue with Mr. O'Neill, who earlier said that Swift Boats were never withing 55 miles of the border. The guy's a lying scumbag, and he is a pissed off lying scumbag, and I hope that Bob stops giving any credibility to this group of people who are taking a page from an old Lee Atwater play book. Pathetic.

Survey, Quiz

I tend to get a different score every time I do these sorts of things, but on this political survey this time I scored +0.3357 (+.0202) on the Left/Right axis, and +4.8274 (+0.2906) on the Pragmatism/Idealsm axis.

On the Estimation Quiz I scored a very disappointing 35%. Pathetic.

Your results may differ.

Rhoads' responseI got -3.2724 (-0.1970) on the left/right. I lost the page before I wrote down the pragmatic one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Why Credibility Matters

I admit that the Center for American Progress is a very liberal source. That means that Bob will generally dismiss them like I tend to dismiss most of the ulra conservative blogs that he links to regularly. However, I think this article bears reading anyway. It explains one of the big problems I have with President Bush-- he host lost credibility both at home and in the world. This quote sums it up:
Why is credibility so important?  The conventional wisdom focuses on credibility for credibility's sake, but misses the real point: the war on terrorism cannot be won if the rest of the world mistrusts the United States.  
Now I know that Bob will continue to point at John Kerry's credibility - or what Bob sees as a lack thereof. However, I also believe that information will come out that both John Kerry and John O'Neill were involved in covert operations in Cambodia. And to deny that there ever were such covert operations is putting your head in the sand. There is plenty of evidence in the Nixon Archives that such operations were happening.

Bob's reply: No time to go read the link, but there's no need. No, not because I don't trust the source. The source is liberal, but I've found a few things on their site that I agree with. From Rhoads description this is another. Well, not totally. I think any blanket statements about "the rest of the world" are not meaningful. But the basic point that the Bush Administration has credibility issues is legitimate. I have big problems with President Bush and the Bush Administration, too. That's why I keep, hysterically, griping about the nominee of the Democratic Party. Why did they nominate THIS GUY at this time? It just seems like such a big mistake to me. At the time the story was his electability. Argh. Senators have trouble winning presidential elections. Liberals from northeastern, liberal states have trouble winning presidential elections. Anti-war activists have trouble winning elections. What made the Democratic Party think John Kerry was so electable? Polls?

Regarding credibility and the Swifties. I take nothing they say at face value. I realize they have an axe to grind and they'd like to grind it in Kerry's skull. However, I am eager to check out the things they say. Rhoads may be surprised to learn this, but the main source for their criticisms is Douglas Brinkley's book on Kerry, Tour of Duty. The inconsistencies between stories in that book, stories told elsewhere, and the written records from Kerry's time in Vietnam led them (along with an intense hatred of the man's betrayal of them when he came back to the U.S.) to come forward to challenge Kerry's account of his service, a service that he unwisely made the centerpiece of his campaign.

Rhoads, there is ample evidence that covert operations were going on in Cambodia. Contrary what appears to be what you think, there is also documentation of said operations. Many people admit to having participated in said covert operations. They've described them in detail. None of what they've said supports Kerry's claim. He wasn't running the sort of boat (when they used boats on very rare occasions) that were inserted into Cambodia.

The evidence, screw the Swifties, just does not support Kerry's claim to have been in Cambodia, ever, much less when "the president said I wasn't there" as he claimed on the floor of the US Senate. Do you or any of your sources know of a time when Nixon or Johnson claimed no soldiers were in Cambodia at a time when Kerry was in the region? I don't know of such a source. I'd like to know of one. It may exist, but I haven't seen it yet.

The whole Cambodia tale appears to be a fraud from the very beginning. It looks like Kerry doesn't even support his claims any more. Cling to some changing version of Kerry's story if you want to.

It looks like the Kerry Campaign may be admitting that his first PH was self-inflicted and that there may not have been enemy fire that day. Kerry's own journal is certainly ambiguous on that score.

Further evidence, which I've posted below, casts doubt on whether Kerry and Rassman were under enemy fire when Kerry rescued him from the water after the mine blew Rassman's boat from the water. There was shooting, as Rassman says, but the shooting came from, among other places, Kerry's own gun which jammed. What we don't know is if shooting came from the shore, from enemies. If it did, they missed their targets with every shot. Odd.

Likewise the evidence indicates that Kerry and Rood did not turn into an enemy position that was superior in strength as thought when the Silver Star was issued.

Kerry opened the door to this stuff by using his service in his campaign. He kicked the door wide open in Boston when he saluted and said "Reporting for duty." The Swift Vets walked through that door. Now Kerry wants the door shut again. Too late.
Rhoads' reponseWell, Bob, you told me about the Swift Boat Vets long before Senator Kerry said anything about "Reporting for duty." And I think that they are the ones making this the centerpiece of his campaign. He is just defending himself against some unscrupulous attacks from them. But, it is something that he is most well known for until now - his record of speaking out against the Vietnam War - and so it is understandable.

Bob's reply. I first heard of the Swift Boat Vets back in April, I think. The CwR archives show when I first heard of them. I mentioned them here. [I went and looked: May 5th] Kerry used "his service in his campaign" long before he "reported for duty" in Boston. Remember the debates during the primary season? Kerry incessantly referred to his Vietnam service. He was using his service in the campaign then and it was a mistake. He then kicked the door open in Boston with his performance (arriving via boat with his "band of brothers"), ridiculous salute, and speech boosting his war record.

I recall the Deaniacs, Kucinich supporters (I saw a bumper sticker yesterday in my neighborhood), protectionists and union people pushing Gephart, even some hints of Clintonite support for Wes Clark last fall. Trial lawyers put their money behind John Edwards. So-called moderates, that is conservative Democrats (who by their candidate's showing don't appear strong in the Democratic primary process) supported Lieberman. I don't recall the passionate Kerry supporters. Yet, somehow Kerry's the Democratic nominee.

Now it appears Kerry is going off a cliff. Fairly soon the party will blame him for being a bad candidate. Sure, he's been a bad candidate. The whole Kerry campaign has had a horrendous August. But the true blame for the electoral beating Kerry will take (despite an incumbant ripe for the beating) lies with the Democratic primary voters who chose Kerry.

To be fair, though, what choice did they have? My guess is Dean may have been worse. Kucinich was never a realistic choice. Clark turned out to be a dud so probably would have been a bad choice, too. Gephart's message was too pessimistic to win a general election. Edwards may have had a chance of overcoming the Senate thing because he was only in for one term and is from the South. Of course that lack of experience would have hurt him in the general like it did in the primaries. Lieberman may have been able to overcome the Senate thing with his "moderate" positions, positions that have been fairly consistent if you forgive him going in the tank for Gore in 2000.

I think the cast of characters auditioning for the presidency was lean for the Dems in 2004. They got stuck with a bad choice. Sound familiar? Remember Bob Dole? Senator Dole? Bad Republican candidate from a bad primary field in 1996. Heck, Bush Sr was a bad candidate in 1980, a relatively bad president, and a bad candidate in 1992. Clinton (Southern governor), Reagan (Western governor), and Carter (Southern governor) were the only solid opposition-party winners in presidential elections since...? You've got to go back to Ike, a non-political pick, back in 1952 beating Princeton's own Adlai Stevenson to find an election where the opposition party won comfortably without a governor atop the ticket.

One-term Senator Kennedy narrowly beat sitting VP Nixon in 1960. Former VP Nixon narrowly beat sitting VP Humphrey in 1968. Governor George W. Bush managed to win, barely, in 2000 over VP Gore. Unless the opposition party can find a governor who is reasonably attractive to the swing voters in the middle, they don't have a very good record in presidential elections in modern times. Picking a senator, especially a long-serving, liberal one from a northern state, has spelled doom.

That doesn't mean Kerry can't or won't win. Perhaps this year will be different. But don't bet more than a couple of quarters on it. Save your betting for Poker Stars.

P.S. I finally got a minute to read the piece on credibility that started this post. The authors again trot out the unique definition of alone when they say we're going it alone in Iraq. To their credit they acknowledge the PRI, but complain that only 11 nations have signed on. Those 11 sign-ons are significant strategically: adjacent to N. Korea and on the Black Sea near Iran (excluding the European participants). More signatories would be nice, but complaining about the 11 minimizes the significance of this "multi-lateral" success by the Bush Administration.

I did enjoy the piece, though. I thought it was substantive. Unfortunately, like most of what I read, it manages to avoid how John Kerry would improve the situation. Kerry's not mentioned in the article. Judging by how Kerry's handled legitimate questions about his service in Vietnam (smearing the questioners), I wonder just how diplomatically successful he would be as a president. Surely our enemies worldwide are tougher opponents than the honorably discharged and in some cases decorated veterans challenging his accounts of his Vietnam service.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Rhoads: Auto mechanic

So the reverse lights in Kim's 1991 Jeep Cherokee haven't worked for some time. Last time I had it in the shop. they told me that some switch underneath had gone bad, and that it would be a few hundred bucks to replace it. They suggested that perhaps I could go to a junk yard and get one cheaper. Last night I decided to use Google to see what I could find, and low and behold I found these instructions for cleaning my "Neutral Safety Switch." So tonight I bought a $2 can of Carb Cleaner, and followed the instructions. Lo and behold, the reverse lights now work. Bring your cars over anytime, Bob!!

A Talk with Ralph Peters

This Ralph Peters piece in the New York Post bears reading. Here's the opening paragraph:
John Kerry went to Vietnam. Voluntarily. Given that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and every chicken-hawk in the coop did all they could to avoid getting the mud of Indochina on their loafers, his service should make Kerry the election-year choice of those who serve, or once served, in our country's uniform.
Right. That's what Rhoads has been saying. Kerry served. He knows what war's like. Bush is a war-dodger who only likes wars he can send others to fight.
Instead, military men and women are overwhelmingly suspicious of Kerry. Many despise him so intensely that their emotions verge on hatred.

What went wrong?
What indeed.
There are three big problems with Kerry from the standpoint of those who are proud of their military service. And one of those reservations has been overlooked entirely by the parade of talking heads, so few of whom have served in uniform themselves.
Hey, I'm not a talking head (unless I'm behind a PA microphone), but I spout off on this stuff relentlessly and I never served. I'm ready to listen.
As far as the swift-boat controversy goes, it's likely to remain a he-said-she-said issue through Election Day. The red flag to military men and women is that so many swift-boat veterans have come out against John Kerry. Not just one. Not 10. Dozens upon dozens.
It's not a surprise to Rhoads. In contrast to the dozen or so supporting Kerry, these couple hundred Swift Boat Vets are bought and paid for by the evil genius, Karl Rove. No evidence of that, but we're talking beliefs here.
This is as rare as humility in the Hamptons. Vets stick together. Kerry likes to play up his "band of brothers" image, but if he's got a band, his opponents have a symphony. And even if the first violinist turns out to be a "Republican stooge," it's nonetheless stunning for so many vets to denounce a former comrade publicly. It just doesn't happen unless something's really wrong.
"His opponents have a symphony." Good one. Must be written by a Republican speech writer.
As for Kerry's support from his own crew, that's normal military psychology. You get the most objective view of a junior leader from his peers — the other swift-boat commanders (and their crews) who had to fear a weak link in the chain.
No. That's not right. ONLY the guys in his boat (except for William Rood) can comment on Kerry's fitness as an officer. Oh, wait. I'm not a military guy so how the heck do I get off making a comment like that? I wanna believe that, that's how.
I'm not a Vietnam vet, so I don't have as big an emotional dog in the fight as those who served so bravely and so thanklessly in Indochina. But some values are universal among those who wear or wore our country's uniform.

Yes, Kerry deserves credit for serving, whether he volunteered out of patriotism or because he had cast himself as the "next JFK," with a swift boat subbing for PT-109.

The first show-stopper problem with Kerry began after his return. He had the right to protest against the war — more than most, since he had served himself. But he had not earned the right to lie about the honorable service of millions of others.
Ralph, don't you know? Republicans lie. Democrats spin.
Kerry's lies — and they were nothing but lies — about "routine" atrocities committed by average American soldiers and sanctioned by the chain of command were sheer political opportunism. Kerry knew that none of the charges were true.
Well some of the charges were true, but Kerry embellished (pattern?).
He'd been there. He may have done some stupid things himself, but atrocities were statistically very rare. Contrary to the myths cherished by film-makers, American troops behaved remarkably well under dreadful conditions.

John Kerry lied. Without remorse. To advance his budding political career. He tarnished the reputation of his comrades when the military was out of vogue.
Now he's shocked, SHOCKED that some couple hundred of them have stepped forward to challenge him. Nice nominee.
Now, three decades later, camouflage is back in the fall fashion line-up. Suddenly, Kerry's proud of his service, portraying himself as a war hero.

But it doesn't work that way. You can't trash those who served in front of Congress and the American people, spend your senatorial career voting against our nation's security interests, then expect vets to love you when you abruptly change your tune.

Kerry might have won support had he apologized frankly for what he said in the early 1970s. But he no more disavowed his lies than he disclaimed the lies of Michael Moore.
Ralph. Democrats don't lie.
Which brings us to problems two and three.

John Kerry doesn't show a trace of integrity. Those constant flip-flops to suit the prevailing political winds are more troubling to military folks than many of the issues themselves.

Integrity matters to those in uniform. You have to be able to depend on the guy in the next foxhole — or swift boat. Trust is more important than any technology.

And John Kerry just doesn't seem trustworthy.
No big deal. Bush and Cheney must go. Get to your last point.
Finally — and this is the one the pundits have trouble grasping, given the self-promoting nature of today's culture — real heroes don't call themselves heroes. Honorable soldiers or sailors don't brag. They let their deeds speak for themselves. Some of the most off-putting words any veteran can utter are "I'm a war hero."

Real heroes (and I've been honored to know some) never portray their service in grandiose terms, telling TV cameras that they're reporting for duty. Real heroes may be proud of the sacrifices they offered, but they don't shout for attention.

This is so profoundly a part of the military code of behavior that it cannot be over-emphasized. The rule is that those who brag about being heroes usually aren't heroes at all. Bragging is for drunks at the end of the bar, not for real vets. And certainly not for anyone who wishes to trade on his service to become our commander-in-chief.
But Bush never served. Bush never served.
I wish Kerry were better. The truth is that I'm appalled by Bush's domestic policies. I believe that the Cheney-Halliburton connection stinks to high heaven. And I'm convinced that Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld & Co. have done colossal damage to our military and to our foreign policy.

But we're at war. And for all his faults, Bush has proven himself as a great wartime leader. Despite painful mistakes, he's served our security needs remarkably well. And security trumps all else in the age of terror.
Yep. It does for me, too.
Kerry says many of the right things.
Occasionally. To the right audiences. Before he changes the "nuance" to different audiences.
But I can't believe a word of it. I just can't trust John Kerry. I can't trust him to lead, I can't trust him to fight — and I can't trust him to make the right kind of peace.

I have reservations about voting for George W. Bush. But I have no reservations about voting against John Kerry. And I'm not alone.
No, Mr. Peters. You're not alone at all.

Poor Bob

He's getting hysterical again.

Presidential Character

Robert Tagorda on why Kerry's Cambodia problem matters:
I think that, by stressing how Kerry has allegedly used an inaccurate story to make policy changes, you raise the character issue to a highly relevant level. Suddenly, Christmas in Cambodia is no longer a dirty campaign ploy, which turns off moderate and independent voters, but rather a significant leadership question, which everyone should follow.
Well, everyone but the anti-Bush left. They'd rather smear the Swift Vets.

Never mind that Kerry smeared Vietnam Vets himself before Congress and on "Meet the Press" (I'm sure among many other times and places in his anti-war career). Again, in an addendum to the same post Robert Tagorda writes:
Hell, I'd be pissed off, too, if an ambitious politician charged atrocities to spark his public career, then a quarter-century later, surrounded himself with fellow veterans to bolster his foreign-policy toughness and advance his presidential campaign. It's plainly disingenuous -- and surpasses the standard white lies, policy straddles, and media spins that voters have come to tolerate from political figures.
Nice nominee.

Hah Hah Hah

Beliefs. Beliefs. Beliefs.

John Kerry on the floor of the US Senate in a plea to influence public policy:
"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."

Kerry's Lie According to Rhoads: No big deal. GIGGLE.

Swift Boat Vets: Kerry was not in Cambodia during Christmas of 1968. TRUE.

Kerry Campaign (revision): Kerry was 50 miles from Cambodia during Christmas of 1968. TRUE.

Douglas Brinkley (revision): Kerry was in Cambodia three or four times in early 1969 on secret missions. NO EVIDENCE FOR. CREWMATES CONTRADICT.

Kerry Campaign (revision): Kerry was in Cambodia once. NO EVIDENCE For. CREWMATES CONTRADICT.

Kerry's own Diary: Kerry was never in Cambodia. UNRELIABLE SOURCE

Rhoads belief that Kerry is believable: HAH

As I wrote elsewhere on Coffee With Rhoads, I won't vote for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for president. But I won't be voting for John Kerry, either.

I read Coffee with Rhoads

Bob says I don't read Coffee With Rhoads. But I do. I only posted the link to the copy of the Chicago Tribune article because I didn't want to subscribe to the Trib in order to read it. Bob also like to keep harping on the Christmas in Cambodia thing as well. Of course, he is one of the few, because I don't think it is that big a deal. And the fact that it comes from the SBVAJK makes it pretty unbelievable, because everything else they say is so totally incredible and unbelievable that that particular issue coming from them falls in the same category. Do I think John Kerry was in Cambodia on December 25, 1968? Probably not. Do I think he was ever in Cambodia on a covert mission? Yes I do. Bob can claim that I am being silly in that belief, but I don't think I am. Bob also says these guys are credible. Laughable.

Bob's reply: As I wrote in the post below:
"Muravchik's conclusion won't sway the dedicated "anybody but Bush" crowd on the left."
Rhoads, in this post, proves my judgment correct again.

Kerry's Cambodia Whopper

It seems to me that Joshua Muravchik drives a stake through Kerry's Cambodia tales in his Washington Post piece titled "Kerry's Cambodia Whopper". Muravchik's conclusion won't sway the dedicated "anybody but Bush" crowd on the left, but there aren't enough of them to elect Kerry. I suspect many Americans, those who will determine the outcome of the election, will share Muravchik's conclusion:
But Kerry has repeated his Cambodia tale throughout his adult life. He has claimed that the epiphany he had that Christmas of 1968 was about truthfulness. "One of the things that most struck me about Vietnam was how people were lied to," he explained in a subsequent interview. If -- as seems almost surely the case -- Kerry himself has lied about what he did in Vietnam, and has done so not merely to spice his biography but to influence national policy, then he is surely not the kind of man we want as our president.
Surely not. Nice nominee, Democrats.

Strengthen the Good

I should have posted this yesterday on a high traffic day, but better late than never. Please head on over to Strengthen the Good and see how you can help some victims of Hurricane Charley in Florida.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Kerry Meets the Press and the Senate

John Kerry's comments on NBC's "Meet the Press" in 1971 are reproduced here from Kerry's appearance with Tim Russert on that show April 18, 2004. Russert ran a clip of Kerry in 1971 saying this:
MR. KERRY (Vietnam Veterans Against the War):  There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones.  I conducted harassment and interdiction fire.  I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people.  I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages.  All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare.  All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down.  And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.
Is Kerry admitting to being a war criminal? He admits to actions "contrary to the laws of warfare." The best you can say is that Kerry is using the Nuremberg defense: he was ordered to do it, ordered to do it by men he describes as "by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals." That defense didn't work at Nuremberg, so I guess it won't work for Kerry.

John Kerry, as we all know, also testified before the US Senate in 1971. C-SPAN was kind enough to post the transcript of Kerry's testimony. Here's Kerry's opening:
Mr. Kerry: Thank you very much, Senator Fulbright, Senator Javits, Senator Symington, Senator Pell. I would like to say for the record, and also for the men behind me who are also wearing the uniforms and their medals, that my sitting here is really symbolic. I am not here as John Kerry. I am here as one member of the group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit at this table they would be here and have the same kind of testimony.

I would simply like to speak in very general terms. I apologize if my statement is general because I received notification yesterday you would hear me and I am afraid because of the injunction I was up most of the night and haven't had a great deal of chance to prepare.

I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.
So three paragraphs into his testimony, John Kerry has testified, second hand admittedly, to "not isolated" war crimes "committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." No names. No specifics as to places and dates. A broad condemnation of untold numbers of people who were not there to defend themselves. Accusations of war crimes committed with the "full awareness of officers at all levels of command." And now he's upset by specific charges backed up by sworn affidavits, regarding very specific incidents in his past? Gutsy. He also appears to be reliving the past by responding not with facts, but once again with smears. Those he smears now are those who felt smeared thirty years ago. John Kerry's surprised that some of those he smeared over thirty years ago have emerged to try to smear him as he uses his Vietnam experience as the centerpiece of his campaign for President of the United States, commander-in-chief of the armed forces? Is he an idiot?

Given all this baggage, why has Kerry made his four-month Vietnam experience the centerpiece of his campaign? Military experience has never correlated with presidential excellence before, wartime or peacetime. Why did the Democratic Party choose this particular guy with one particular message: "I served in Vietnam"? I'm not finding good answers to those questions.

Will Ferrell spoof

Check out this spoof by Will Ferrell. Very funny.

Bob's reply: Not as funny as this from JibJab that I linked to here.

The Will Ferrell bit was funny, though. I especially liked Will's reactions when the horse walked up behind him.

Readers of Coffee With Rhoads, again unfortunately a group that doesn't include Rhoads, are aware of the group that funded Will's spoof of George W. Bush. It's called Americans Coming Together, or ACT. It is a section 527 organization funded by Democrats to the tune of $28-plus million. I linked to a story covering such Democratic 527s here. The evil Republicans have given Swift Boat Veterans for Truth around $200,000.

Oh, you'll notice at that link that ACT isn't even the biggest of the Democratic 527s. For the web of connections to Kerry, have a look here.

Another condemnation of the SWVAJK from someone else who was there

William Rood works for the Chicago Tribune. If you don't want to subscribe to their web site, you can see his story here.

Bob's reply: Of course readers of Coffee With Rhoads, which unfortunately doesn't include Rhoads, already knew about Rood from my post here.

Another Admission of Embellishment

At Command Post we see that the Kerry Campaign has removed some documents from its web site. In those documents Kerry took implied credit for the actions of Lt. Peck. Here's the Boston Globe's account:
The Kerry campaign removed a 20-page batch of documents yesterday from its website after The Boston Globe quoted a Navy officer who said the documents wrongly portrayed Kerry’s service. Edward Peck had said he — not Kerry — was the skipper of Navy boat No. 94 at a time when the Kerry campaign website credited the senator with serving on the boat. The website had described Kerry’s boat as being hit by rockets and said a crewmate was injured in an attack. But Peck said those events happened when he was the skipper. The campaign did not respond to a request to explain why the records were removed.
If you run on stuff that happened thirty five years ago, you're bound to run afowl of the facts from time to time. Especially if you're tying to pump up four months in Vietnam as the centerpiece of your campaign.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Bronze and Silver. No, not the Olympics.

More reaction to accounts of events surrounding Kerry's Bronze Star and Silver Star from Captain's Quarters.
Rhoads response: You have to do batter than that, Bob. These guys want you to believe that Newsweek says that the Bronze Star doesn't hold water, but if you actually read the Newsweek article, it doesn't say anything like that.

Bob's reply: Captain's Quarters provided the link. I read the story. Newsweek doesn't say anything. A fellow named Sandusky, who was there, says that he wasn't sure if the shooting had stopped when Kerry pulled Rassman from the water. That matters. You get medals for turning back into enemy fire to pull a guy from the water. You don't get medals for turning back and pulling a guy from the water after the enemy has stopped firing.

Regarding the Silver Star episode, here's how Captain Ed sums up his post:
Did Kerry chase after the VC? By all accounts, yes.

Did Kerry shoot an unarmed teenager in the back? Unknown.

Did anyone but Kerry witness the shooting? No.

Did they plan on beaching the boats during an ambush? Apparently, they did, even if it was a foolish thing to do.

Were they under intense fire by a numerically superior foe, as Kerry's commendation claims? Looking at all of the evidence available, one would have to conclude not. Even I could hit the side of a 50-foot boat sitting dead on a riverbank across 100 feet of water with an automatic weapon, and I'm not terribly experienced with firearms. And yet we're to believe that large numbers of battle-hardened insurgents lined on both sides of that narrow canal completely missed two or three huge targets for several minutes while they were beached, and the men aboard them?

It doesn't add up.
That's Captain Ed's opinion. I presented the link because a reasonable critic of Kerry's seems to be providing some substantive analysis of various accounts of the Silver Star episode. Of course die-hard Kerry supporters won't care about the evidence or what Captain Ed thinks of it. But I care. It's my blog. So I linked to it. I don't have to do any better. You get what you pay for at CwR.

As I've written, the charges about Kerry's medals are the weakest of the charges made by the Swift Boat Veterans Against Kerry. But they have made serious charges, presented sworn witnesses, and described the physical evidence to support their case. As best they can, journalists need to examine the charges. Like it or not, this is beginning to happen. If the Swift Boat Vets turn out to be wrong more than they're right, then Kerry has nothing to worry about. Don't you think Kerry should authorize the release of whatever records will clear this up? Like Bush has?

Parallel Universe

Glenn Reynolds offers a news clipping from a parallel universe that looks pretty good him. It looks pretty good to me, too. I suspect it looks good to a majority of the electorate. Here's Glenn's news clipping:
EAST HAMPTON, NY (IP) -- Democratic Presidential nomineee John Kerry laughs when told that most voters don't realize that he served in Vietnam, winning three purple hearts, a bronze star, and a silver star.

"Why should they? That's several wars ago," Kerry laughs. "Old stuff. I'd much rather people be talking about my detailed plan to rebuild Iraq, using an oil trust mechanism that would give the Iraqi people a stake in reconstruction. That's why I focused on that in my acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. What was I going to do, rehash events from 35 years ago?"

Kerry's friends say that, like other veterans, he's been known to tell a few tall tales about his service over beers with others who served, but that he seldom talks about his combat experience otherwise. "He's put that behind him," says his wife Teresa. "And he thinks it would be unbecoming to make a big deal about his service when others, like [Senator] John McCain or [former P.O.W.] Paul Galanti went through so much more."

"I would have invaded Iraq regardless of the WMD issue," Kerry observes. "Saddam Hussein was a threat, and a menace to his own people. But as I said last year, the reconstruction needed more resources. That was why I voted for the $87 billion in reconstruction money, but urged the Bush Administration to ask for more, to do it right."

Kerry also takes a dim view of leftist filmmaker Michael Moore. "I think that his film 'Fahrenheit 9/11' was scurrilous and dangerous to the morale of our troops. That's why I asked that he be excluded from the Democratic Convention, despite Jimmy Carter's wishes. And that's why he wasn't seen there. In a time of war, we don't need guys like that. We can win this campaign based on our ideas, not propaganda films. That's also why I told Chris Matthews to 'stuff it' when he tried to make an issue out of President Bush's National Guard service."

Kerry's detailed plans for Iraq, and for carrying the war on terror to Al Qaeda and its backers elsewhere, seem to have left the Bush Administration floundering. Sources close to the Bush campaign say that some Bush operatives are considering an attack on Kerry's Vietnam record, but many are skeptical. "I don't think that'll work," says cyber-pundit Glenn Reynolds, who calls Kerry's Iraq plan promising. "Most voters have no idea Kerry was even in Vietnam. He never talks about it, so where's the traction? It's ancient history."

Others are even harsher. "They can't attack the message," says Matthew Yglesias of The American Prospect, a liberal publication. "So they're attacking the messenger. That's because they don't want to talk about Kerry's real accomplishments, the ones Kerry touted at the Convention, like his role in busting BCCI, the terrorists' money laundry. Kerry's talking about that, and his plans for Iraq, and they're talking about Vietnam? Who cares about that? Pathetic."
Alas the Democratic Party did not nominate the Kerry portrayed above. Nor Lieberman, nor Kerrey. Evidently they prefer the Kerry they got. I still haven't seen anyone explain why that is.

No Slack

My new tentative conclusion is that Kerry lied utterly and completely about his Cambodian adventure. I was willing to believe that he confused Tet with Christmas and that the tale he told occured in February of 1969 not Christmas of 1968. That might explain the Nixon reference. Nixon was president in February of 1969. But there's a serious problem with that version, too. Being a younger reader, I didn't know when Nixon said we had no troops in Cambodia. It was 1971.

This reply by the guys at Power Line blog to a disgusting attack by Jim Boyd of the Minneapolis Star Tribune lays out the facts:
Our younger readers may not recall this, but Nixon's statement to that effect was very famous, and very controversial. Richard Nixon said that we had no troops in Cambodia in a press conference on November 12, 1971, two and one-half years after Kerry had left Vietnam.
Q. What assurance can you give the American people that we are not sliding into another Vietnam in Cambodia?

A. ... We have made a conscious decision not to send American troops in. There are no American combat troops in Cambodia. There are no American combat advisers in Cambodia. There will be no American combat troops or advisers in Cambodia.
So Kerry didn't just make an innocent mistake. He referred to a well-known historical event, and he told a perfectly coherent story about a soldier who lost his faith in our government when President Nixon said, falsely, that we had no troops in Cambodia. But the story was a lie. There could have been a soldier who had that experience, but it wasn't John Kerry. He had left Vietnam two and one-half years earlier.

This does not look good for Kerry. No wonder he's attacking the messengers instead of addressing the message.
Rhoads's reponse: Nice try, but silly. Nixon could very easily have said that in 1968 or 1969, and in 1971 been referring to the fact that we had PULLED out of Cambodia, since we invaded Cambodia in April of 1970.

Bob's reply: Good find, Rhoads. Call my try "silly" if you want, but I'm trying to get to the bottom of this.

As I said above, I'm one of the "younger readers" who was not aware of the timeline regarding US forces in Cambodia. The quote in Nixon's press conference from 1971 clearly gave the impression that no troops were in Vietnam:
"Now let's look at Cambodia. We have made a conscious decision not to send American troops in. There are no American combat troops in Cambodia. There are no American combat advisers in Cambodia. There will be no American combat troops or advisers in Cambodia."
As you've found, that impression is not correct. He must have been saying we won't send any more troops in now that the troops we sent in have been withdrawn. Here's another link that makes it clear that Nixon authorized sending U.S. troops into Cambodia on April 30, 1970.

The question remains, when did Richard Nixon first deny the existence of ground troops in Vietnam. Maybe it was on or after Nixon's inauguration in January of 1969. That would once again make a story of Kerry confusing Tet with Christmas plausible. However, nobody with Kerry's campaign is making that case. They're now saying that he may have been in Cambodia, that he may have been inadvertently in Cambodia and so forth. Maybe Doublas Brinkley will break his very odd media silence on all this soon and explain his sources for saying Kerry made three or four runs into Cambodia. Were those runs ferrying CIA guys, SEALs, and Green Berets as Kerry said? Or was Kerry running guns to the anti-communists as Kerry said? Still no evidence of any of that.

Rhoads writes that Nixon could very easily have said we have no troops in Cambodia in 1968 (though not as president), 1969, or before April 30, 1970. For Kerry, Nixon would have had to say that before March 13, 1969. I'm still looking for evidence that he did. So far nothing and no people support Kerry's claims. We know for sure he wasn't in Cambodia during Christmas of 1968 as he repeatedly said since 1979. If anything's silly it is believing the revised editions of Kerry's Cambodia tales without any evidence.

If you had caught a child of yours in a lie, would you be so tolerant of his attempts to save the story?

Bob's UPDATE: I've sent an email to Power Line Blog alerting them to the error Rhoads pointed out. Big media rarely make corrections and when they do, they bury them. It will be interesting to see Power Line's response.

UPDATE inserted 8-26: Here is Power Line's emailed response to me in its entirety (reproduced with permission):
Bob, our post is correct. We didn't have space to recount the full history, but what happened was that President Nixon first bombed Vietcong bases in Cambodia, then ordered a brief (60-day, if I remember correctly) "incursion" into Cambodia. After the 60 days, or whatever it was, all troops were supposed to be out. It was in 1971, a year or more later, when he assured the country that there were no troops in Cambodia.

By the way, I don't know whether this was true or not. It was widely claimed that he was lying and troops were still conducting missions there, and that widespread belief is what Kerry played on in his Cambodia "reminiscences." Whether that belief was actually true, I haven't tried to find out.

Thanks for writing.

John H.

Bob FOLLOW UP to UPDATE: Power Line Blog responded. Their blog was correct. Neither Rhoads nor I seem to remember the details of the troops in Cambodia tale that Kerry has been telling. Nixon bombed Cambodia, then sent in troops on April 30, 1970 for what was supposed to be a short period of time, then assured the American people that there were no troops in Cambodia (the press conference Power Line linked to).

Given what I know today, I stand by my tentative conclusion that Kerry lied utterly and completely about ever being in Cambodia and hearing Nixon say troops were there when he himself (Kerry) was there. If Rhoads wants to provide evidence that supports Kerry's claim, I'm willing to check it out.

Rhoads continues to claim the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are not about truth and are full of @#$%. It looks like John Kerry has a truth problem in the case of his Cambodia story. To be safe, I have a proposition: I won't vote for either the Swift Boat Vets for Truth or John Kerry for president in 2004.

Kerry and MoveOn.org

Rhoads told me that John Kerry had condemned MoveOn.org's ads attacking George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. Looks like he did, then he didn't.

Oh and if you want to allege evil connections between the Bush campaign and the Swift Boat Vets, have a look at this web of connections between Kerry and the lefty 527s.

Oh and if it's the big Republican money behind the Swift Boat Vets against Kerry that bothers you, have a look at where the real 527 money is. So much for campaign finance reform.

Bob Dole Warned Kerry

Bob Dole, WWII veteran and former Senate colleague of John Kerry, says Kerry should apologize for alleging that his "band of brothers" committed attrocites in Vietnam.
Dole told CNN's "Late Edition" that he warned Kerry months ago about going "too far" and that the Democrat may have himself to blame for the current situation, in which polls show him losing support among veterans.

"One day he's saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons," Dole said. "The next day he's standing there, `I want to be president because I'm a Vietnam veteran.' Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn't the only one in Vietnam," said Dole, whose World War II wounds left him without the use of his right arm.

Dole added: "And here's, you know, a good guy, a good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out."
Three Purple Hearts and you ask to leave is more like it.

The Democratic Party was nuts for nominating a guy who's only strength (if you listen to him) seems to be that he served in Vietnam, before he came home and denounced his fellow soldiers. You're facing a relatively unpopular president, who barely won a fluke election four years ago, who got us into a relatively unpopular war in Iraq and you nominate this guy. Brutal.

Investors' Business Daily Nails It

Today's Investors' Business Daily gets to the heart of the matter regarding the Swift Boat Vets and Senator Kerry in a piece titled "We're Waiting". The piece starts with some good advice:
Campaign '04: John Kerry says he'll fight claims he lied about or exaggerated his service in Vietnam. The best way to fight such charges would be to stop calling people names and start providing some answers.
What sort of names? Republican shills, goofballs, "full of shit", the sort of thing Rhoads has stooped to on this very site. Rhoads isn't running for president so maybe his intemperance can be excused. Kerry is. He and his campaign should answer the charges, not smear the messengers.

More from IBD:
Questions about Kerry's fitness to be commander in chief won't go away if he simply stonewalls and makes baseless charges of political bias.

After all, it was Kerry himself — with the smart salute and "reporting for duty" opening of his convention speech — who made his military service the keystone of his campaign. And it is Kerry who has repeatedly compared himself favorably with President Bush on that score.

In so doing, he's all but ignored his undistinguished 20-year career in the U.S. Senate and his decade as an anti-war activist.
Ouch. But they're right. I think Kerry'd like people to avert their gazes from the last thirty years of his life and focus on 4 months in southeast Asia thirty-five years ago, and the Swift Boat Vets may just be helping. Though unless Kerry responds to their charges effectively, without ad hominem attacks, he'll wish people were looking into his Senate career.

IBD continues with the sorts of questions about Kerry's service in Vietnam that he has invited and that must now be asked and answered:
• Did Kerry commit war atrocities? This charge would seem unduly harsh to level at someone who fought in a war more than three decades ago — except for the fact that he himself made it.

In a 1971 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Kerry said: "There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed . . ."

Earlier that year, Kerry claimed his now-beloved "band of brothers" were broadly guilty of war crimes as well.

During the infamous "Winter Soldier Investigation" by anti-war activists in early 1971, Kerry and his pals described a shocking array of atrocities that U.S. troops routinely committed: arson, rape, torture, murder, burning of villages, all part of official policy.

This, more than anything, explains the still-burning ire of his former comrades in arms.

As O'Neill wrote: "Millions of Vietnam veterans will never forget Kerry's spinning of lies — lies so damaging to his comrades but so profitable to himself."

Kerry never provided evidence that such war crimes were official policy or routine. But he — and O'Neill — have raised questions about his own behavior in Vietnam.
Yep, it looks to me like Kerry is either a liar (he never committed the attrocities he said he committed) or a war criminal (he committed the atrocities he said he committed). Kerry better have a good explanation why we should elect a liar or a war criminal president.

Next question:
• Did Kerry lie about "Christmas in Cambodia"? This is a story Kerry has repeated over and over as explanation for his later metamorphosis from decorated hero into staunch anti-war activist.

"I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas," Kerry wrote in the Boston Herald in October 1979. "The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

A couple of problems. Nixon wasn't president on Christmas Eve 1968. Lyndon Johnson was. In fact, official records of his service show Kerry was never in Cambodia — as his campaign now concedes.

Subsequent "clarifications" — saying Kerry in ensuing months served as a kind of ferry master for Green Berets, CIA agents and Navy Seals into Cambodia — likewise have run afoul of the truth. There simply is no evidence for it.

Yet, on the floor of the Senate, Kerry said the experience was "seared — seared" into his memory.

Bad memory, or just a lie? People deserve an explanation.
I was willing to give Kerry the benefit of the doubt on this one, but as time goes by and his campaign fails to address this, or addresses this with stories that cast doubt on the significance of his going into Cambodia (that it was intentional, illegal, and seriously affected his views about his own country) I'm less inclined to cut him slack. No other person who ever took CIA, SEALs, or Green Berets into Cambodia, no crewmen nor other Swift boat officers nor commanding officer anywhere up the chain of command admit to such missions. This looks bad for Kerry.

IBD continues:
• Kerry's medals. Kerry returned from his 4 1/2 month stint in Vietnam with three Purple Hearts for wounds, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for gallantry.

But some of those who served with him cast doubt on how he earned his medals — and whether he deserved them. Harsh charges, to be sure. O'Neill's book, however, raises serious evidence to support the charges. Kerry must respond.

Specifically, O'Neill alleges Kerry got his first and third Purple Hearts for mishandling grenades — in one case, for setting off one too close to his boat, and in the other, throwing a grenade into a rice bin. In neither case was he seriously wounded, says O'Neill.

Questions abound, too, about his Bronze Star, received for pulling special forces Lt. Jim Rassman out of the water under hostile fire, and his Silver Star, given after Kerry beached his boat in the face of an ambush and killed an enemy soldier.

In the first case, O'Neill and others charge, Kerry was fleeing action when he picked up Rassman. In the second case, the soldier was a "skinny kid" who was wounded and running away.

We'd like to know — and suspect the American people would, too.
I think the charges regarding Kerry's medals are the weakest made by the Swift Boat Vets. Several eyewitnesses support Kerry. But rather than slandering the veterans who recall the situations differently, Kerry and his surrogates should present their case. The charges leveled by the Swifties, while their weakest and toughest to prove or disprove, are serious and substantive. Kerry must respond.

IBD concludes:
You may be wondering: Why raise these questions now, in the heat of a campaign? Sadly, the major media have all but ignored questions of Kerry's record. They've been too busy looking for scandal in Bush's past and, more recently, attacking O'Neill and anyone else who dares question Kerry's glowing accounts of his service.

The bias is pervasive. As the Media Research Center, a media watchdog, pointed out, ABC, CBS and NBC did 75 stories on charges Bush was "AWOL" from the National Guard. They did nine on claims Kerry fibbed about his war record. Biased might be too kind a description.

The major media in this country are overwhelmingly liberal and refuse to ask the questions that need to be asked. They do their viewers and readers — and Kerry for that matter — a disservice.

If Kerry thinks he's being slandered, he should answer with facts —not with insults, threats and lawsuits.

We have questions, senator. We're ready for your answers.
Well said. The Democratic big media in this country can no longer provide the cover Kerry needed, wanted, and expected. Despite a near total blackout on this story in the NYT, WaPo, LAT, CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN, the majority of Americans knew about the Swift Boat Vets' charges. Newspapers were even running political cartoons lampooning the Swift Boat Vets, even though those same newspapers had never run stories about their charges. If those newspapers, or the TV networks, were the people's only source for news, they would have been mighty confused by those cartoons. But the readers weren't confused, because they get their news from a lot of different places now.

A new day has dawned. Americans are no longer sheep getting their news from just the few big, biased news organizations. They now get their news from multiple, distributed, biased news outlets. That's a big improvement. Unless you're a mainstream "journalist" or a Democratic candidate with something to hide.

More Eyewitness Accounts of Kerry's Vietnam Service

Willam Rood tells what he remembers of the events leading to John Kerry's Siver Star and Rood's Bronze Star in today's Chicago Tribune.

Some reaction to Rood's account as it relates to the charges made by the Swift Boat Vets here.

Regarding Kerry's first Purple Heart, here is a guy who confirms that Kerry was under enemy fire on that occasion.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Failing Journalism

Dave Shearon isn't too impressed with Thomas Oliphant or the standards of his paper, the Boston Globe. Oliphant doesn't think the charges against Kerry are worth covering having not "met the 'first-grade' principle of journalism that, when making a personal attack, the burden of proof is on the accuser and 'almost conclusive isn't good enough.'" Yet the Boston Globe didn't hesitate to run with the Bush AWOL story.

Shearon, a former journalism student, wonders just what they learn in journalism school these days. In his day they learned things like news judgment:
Frankly, I cannot even imagine making an argument that substantial and detailed charges that a presidential candidate fraudulently obtained multiple medals in his military service, and that these allegations were coming from fellow officers who served with him, was NOT news. Not a chance.
The Swift Boat Vet allegations are indeed serious and material. The Kerry in Cambodia oft-told tale has been materially recanted. So the Swift Boat Vets Against Kerry's cries of Kerry's lying aren't TOTALLY baseless. Their charges concerning the medals probably can't be proven or disproven. But the "journalists" at Americas major dailies and network news divisions should be investigating these stories and providing as much background information as they can so that the voting public can decide whether the Swifties are lying, Kerry is lying, or some combination of both or neither.

Budget Update

For federal budget wonks, I've updated this post below. Bottom line is that the federal deficit in 2002 would have been virtually unaffected by excluding Social Security and Medicare from both sides of the federal income statement (receipts and outlays).

Purple Heart, Reassignment, Records, Etc

As the stories of John Kerry's Vietnam service continue to be investigated, I thought BRG should take a few minutes to clear up some factual points, followed by some commentary.

Last night Rhoads told me that once Kerry received his third Purple Heart, the rules mandated that he be reassigned. Not true.

In a generally flattering story on Kerry from 2003 in the Boston Globe, Michael Kranish reports on the matter of Kerry's reassignment:
On Friday, however, the National Archives provided the Globe with a Navy "instruction" document that formed the basis for Kerry's request. The instruction, titled 1300.39, says that a Naval officer who requires hospitalization on two separate occasions, or who receives three wounds "regardless of the nature of the wounds," can ask a superior officer to request a reassignment. The instruction makes clear the reassignment is not automatic. It says that the reassignment "will be determined after consideration of his physical classification for duty and on an individual basis." Because Kerry's wounds were not considered serious, his reassignment appears to have been made on an individual basis.

Moreover, the instruction makes clear that Kerry could have asked that any reassignment be waived.

The bottom line is that Kerry could have remained but he chose to seek an early transfer.[emphasis added]
"Kerry's wounds were not considered serious" it says above. Who considered them not serious? Well, among others John Kerry:
Asked about the severity of the wounds, Kerry said that one of them cost him about two days of service, and that the other two did not interrupt his duty. "Walking wounded," as Kerry put it.
Also yesterday, Rhoads linked to the Kerry web site's listing of John Kerry's military records and asked me to tell him what was missing. I said I'd investigate.

First, those records have been on the web site since April 2004. Apparently they do not include some information that could shed light on his medical treatment for those wounds resulting in the Purple Hearts, plus supporting documentation for his other medals according to this story in tomorrow's Washington Post:
Some of the mystery surrounding exactly what happened on the Bay Hap River in March 1969 could be resolved by the full release of all relevant records and personal diaries. Much information is available from the Web sites of the Kerry campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and the Navy archives. But both the Kerry and anti-Kerry camps continue to deny or ignore requests for other relevant documents, including Kerry's personal reminiscences (shared only with biographer Brinkley), the boat log of PCF-94 compiled by Medeiros (shared only with Brinkley) and the Chenoweth diary.

Although Kerry campaign officials insist that they have published Kerry's full military records on their Web site (with the exception of medical records shown briefly to reporters earlier this year), they have not permitted independent access to his original Navy records. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Post for Kerry's records produced six pages of information. A spokesman for the Navy Personnel Command, Mike McClellan, said he was not authorized to release the full file, which consists of at least a hundred pages.[emphasis added]
The Post article is generally favorable to Kerry, but also backs up a lot of what the Swift Vets say. Not surprisingly, neither side, according to the Post, is able to prove their version of events. The official records support Kerry's stories more often than the Swift Vets, but there remains some question (and conflicting eyewitness accounts of the actions) about who authored the after-action reports on which medals were awarded.

The circumstances of how Kerry earned his medals (three Purple Hearts, Silver Star, and Bronze Star) will be tough to confirm. I'll quote myself from Coffee With Rhoads a couple weeks ago:
Are the Swift Vets telling the truth? Has Kerry been telling the truth? My guess is both are telling the truth, both are mistaken, and both are embellishing for their own purposes. Sort of like what goes on in a court room. We're seeing an adversarial process here where both sides are trying to make their best case, presenting the opposite side in its worst light, and leaving it up to the jury to decide who's right. I think this is as it should be, well except for the embellishments which are probably inevitable but regrettable. Politics is an adversarial process.
These Swift Boat Vets are steamed at John Kerry, no doubt about it. They are steamed because they think he came back to the U.S. and betrayed them, alleging that they committed war crimes on a daily basis. Kerry then used his service and his anti-war position for political gain. Looking back on it, many of them think Kerry's service in Vietnam seems contrived.

These Swift Boat Vets probably aren't going away. There's really no telling whether they'll ultimately be helpful for Kerry or for Bush. They could help Kerry by keeping the focus on his Vietnam service rather than on his record in the Senate. Judging by Kerry's speech in Boston at the Democratic Convention, that's the way Kerry wants it. They could also help Kerry by being proven wrong on substantial charges. Nobody likes to see a man's character wrongly impugned, especially a decorated veteran like Kerry.

The Swift Vets could help Bush by now shifting public attention to Kerry's anti-war positions when he came back from Vietnam, the subject of their latest ad. I'm not sure how many people in the general public are even aware of Kerry's testimony in 1971. They'll be aware now thanks to the Swift Boat Vets. The Swifties are on the map courtesy of their controversial first ad and Kerry's response to it. That virtually guarantees a lot of play for their second ad. The images and words of John Kerry sitting before the Senate accusing his "band of brothers" of war crimes, interspersed with POWs saying how those words were used against them, will hurt Kerry with the electorate in my opinion. Against the feelings expressed in the second ad, unlike the charges lodged in the first ad, there is no defense. That could be devastating. Kerry and McCain can't say the guys in the second ad are questioning Kerry's service in Vietnam. They're questioning his actions when he came back. Actions which Kerry has not backed off from in the thirty three years since. Kerry's testimony and his meetings with the North Vietnamese are nothing for which he should apologize according to a radical fringe in this country, nor apparently to Kerry. Veterans won't be the only ones steamed by that news.

As I've repeatedly said, I can't imagine why the Democratic Party nominated John Kerry. His actions when he came back from Vietnam were controversial to say the least. This was bound to be a sore spot for a lot of Vietnam and other veterans. Anti-war candidates in general (and Kerry's war-protestor past and voting record in the Senate make it very easy to paint Kerry as anti-war) have not done well in elections. If you think military service makes an anti-war candidate more palatable to the electorate, ask George McGovern how it worked out for him. John Kerry, as I've said before, is a liberal from a liberal northeast state. The American electorate has never embraced that sort of candidate. Kerry is a US Senator, a notoriously difficult position from which to win a presidential election. Senators frequently have conflicting voting records that can and are used against them in presidential campaigns. None of these things guarantee that Kerry won't win (though I have a quarter riding on him not winning), but they combine to make him an odd nominee.

George W. Bush won a fluke election (Gore not winning Tennessee!) and is not popular with a large segment of the electorate for a lot of good and not so good reasons. For a sitting war-time president, Bush is eminently beatable. I just don't see him being beaten by John Kerry. Bob Kerrey? Sure. But he didn't run.

Wednesday Policy or Sunday Policy?

The majority of veterans are against John Kerry because he called fellow soldiers war criminals in testimony before the US Senate, met with the enemy, and voted against defense appropriations across the board during his career in the Senate. But a lot of us regular folks are creeped out by Kerry because we don't know if he knows where he stands on the issues:
THE PROBLEM with being an opportunist is that you can easily forget what you've recently said.

On Monday, during a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Bush announced that he intends to modify the configuration of American forces in both South Korea and Europe. On Wednesday, Sen. Kerry, speaking before the same audience, sharply criticized the president's decision.

Appearing on ABC's This Week on August 1, however, Sen. Kerry responded to a question by host George Stephanopoulos on Iraq. Stephanopoulos asked Kerry whether, as president, he could "promise that American troops will be home by the end of your first term?" Kerry's answer:
I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops. . . . I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, not just there but elsewhere in the world. In the Korean peninsula perhaps, in Europe perhaps. There are great possibilities open to us. But this administration has very little imagination.
Apparently, Sen. Kerry wanted to appeal to the "get-the-boys-back-home" sentiment in the country when he spoke on This Week. Yesterday, addressing a convention of veterans, Kerry was busy burnishing his credentials as a hawk by suggesting that cutting our forces in Korea "is clearly the wrong signal to send" at this time.

Who knows what Sen. Kerry believes? Does Sen. Kerry even know?
He knows what he believes. He believes he wants to win the next election. If enough people vote "against Bush" he may win. Nobody's paying any attention to Kerry.

Friday, August 20, 2004

What was that name again?

Pejman linked to this story. I click and what do I see?
DETROIT (AP) - A member of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's legal team said he'll step down after receiving a citation accusing him of soliciting a prostitute. He denied the charges.

Melvin "Butch" Hollowell, 44, was expected to appear in court Tuesday, a week after deputies saw the attorney pick up a woman near his Detroit home, authorities said.
Pejman also linked to this story in the interest of political balance. But nothing in the second story caught my attention like ol' Butch did.

Rhoads' response: Nice!! I did an extensive search of my Hollowell family database, and found no Melvin. But I will bet the $0.50 Bob will owe me on November 3 that we are related. Good old long lost cousin Butch. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to try to help out a young lady in need.

Minimum Wage

Bureau of Labor Statistics data (start here) show that 2.9% or less of the workforce (over 16 years of age) earn the minimum wage or less. Rhoads contends that many, many more work for a dime or a quarter more than that per hour. This slightly-above-minimum wage is settled on so that employers can claim that they pay more than the minimum wage. I told Rhoads that I thought such a method of arriving at a wage rate, one that would be acceptable to workers as well as to employers, seemed fanciful. Rhoads had his experience working for the State of South Carolina for just above the minimum wage to back up his labor relations theory.

Rhoads and I agreed that it might be tough to know just how many people earn just over the minimum wage, especially without a definition of "just over." Our next step was to agree that it would be good to know how many people earn between the current minimum wage and the proposed Kerry minimum wage of $7 per hour. That information is proving difficult for the staff of BRG to come up with. I have an email out to Russell Roberts to see if he can help me find out. I went to the web site where Professor Roberts got his data and found nothing to help me.

This difficulty in coming up with any data on just how many people earn less than $7 per hour got me thinking. What the heck makes Kerry or anyone else think that a nationwide minimum wage of $7 makes sense? I'm having trouble coming up with any information on how many people earn that, who they are, where they are, what industries they work in, how long they earn that sort of wage, and so forth. What has Kerry based his $7 figure on? What sort of information has led him to the judgment that the whole nation, millions and millions of employers and employees, should be bounded by this single, round figure?

I suspect this $7 figure is the result of magical thinking from a politician who sees a problem (people who work and earn little) and he imagines that he has a political solution for the problem. Magical thinking is a serious problem, one that's particularly resistant to change among politicians.

If I hear back from Professor Roberts, or if anyone else in the blogosphere comes to my aid in finding data on low-wage workers I'll report it here.


Rhoads wanted some detail on the federal budget. Kind visitors not interested in such matters should move along. We won't be offended.

My source for these numbers is the Budget of the US Government, FY 2004 (a 23.5MB pdf file available from the Office of Management and Budget here).

How close to 99% of the non-Social Security/Medicare budget is Defense spending? Let's have a look.

These figures are actual outlays from FY 2002 ($ in billions):

Social Security: $452
Medicare: $228

Total: $680 for SS and Medicare

Defense: $349
Nondefense: $385
Medicaid and SCHIP:$151
Other: $274
Net Interest: $171
Total defense: $349
Total non SS, Medicaid: $981

So of just the discretionary spending, Defense is 47.5% of the Federal Budget.

Of the non-Social Security/Medicare budget, Defense spending accounts for 26.2% of the Federal Budget.

If you include Social Security and Medicare in the budget, Defense spending accounts for 17.4% of the Federal Budget.

Rhoads' response: Thank you, Bob. Those numbers are very helpful. I tried to do that once and was having a hard time with the huge PDF file. Now, to me, the ONLY interesting number is the 26.2%. In other words, I think that when we talk federal spending, we need to take FICA out of it. We can have a seperate discussion about whether or not FICA should exist at all, and that's fine. My point is that FICA has money coming in to pay for the money going out, and should have surplus money coming in - and always has. So if we are really going to look at federal spending, it only makes sense to remove that money entirely from both sides of the equation. So MY next question is this: What is out federal deficit if FICA money is removed from BOTH sides? In other words, how much larger would the deficit be if it didn't get to steal money which is earmarked for something else?

Bob's response: Rhoads asked: "What is our federal deficit if FICA money is removed from BOTH sides?

The answer: $201 billion rather than $198 billion in FY 2002. Medicare receives a subsidy from general revenues of $78 billion while Social Security takes in $82 billion more than it spends.

Here's the section of the budget that explains it:
to pay Medicare’s bills a massive subsidy ($78 billion in 2002) must be funded out of other government taxes...Social Security’s dedicated receipts, which include both payroll taxes and income taxes levied on Social Security benefits, did exceed Social Security spending by $82 billion in 2002.
I'll help with the math. The federal budget deficit would have been $3 billion larger in 2002. That's an increase of 1.5%.

Looks to me like the politicians steal from Social Security to pay for Medicare.

I therefore do not think it makes sense, as Rhoads suggests, to take Social Security and Medicare out of federal budget discussions. The primary fiscal threat to the nation comes from the growth of Social Security and Medicare benefits. Projections are imperfect, but as of 2004 Social Security revenues are expected to lag expenses by $5 trillion. The current amount of federal debt held by the public is "only" $3.2 trillion. Medicare's unfunded liability is $13 trillion.

To put those two massive issues aside is to put the fiscal problem aside. I see no benefit in doing so.

Pejman's Thought for the Day

The kind of situation which economists are prone to consider as requiring corrective Government action is, in fact, often the result of Government action.

--Ronald H. Coase

Courtesy of Pejman Yousefzadeh

Guns and Genocide

Dave Kopel covers the Darfur genocide in Sudan.

Tagorda Survives

Robert Tagorda took his turn on Air America. He tells about it here.

O'Neill Better Be Lying

If John O'Neill is not lying in this interview, then John F. Kerry's candidacy is doomed. You can call me a goofball, a shill, a partisan Republican, a fool, whatever you want. But to me John O'Neill comes off in that interview as a credible man who knows what he's talking about and has the witnesses and physical evidence to back up what he says.

Aside from Kerry's obviously false tale of Christmas in Cambodia, I haven't paid close attention to the rest of the Swift Boat Veterans charges (I haven't read the book and didn't read the free chapter available online). Even regarding the Cambodia stuff, I said just two days ago (see the end of my reply to this post by Rhoads) that I was inclined to think Kerry mixed up the dates. After reading the Human Events interview with John O'Neill, I'm inclined to think Kerry isn't telling the truth about any of this. Though I suspect by now he has no idea the extent to which he's embellished the events of his past.

If it turns out that O'Neill and all the guys who've signed sworn affidavits are liars, then John Kerry had better sue them for slander and lible. Fast.

Live Audio from the American Legion WS!!

If you go to this link and then click on the link for Game 3, you will not only get the "live"stats window of the game (with play-by-play), but you will also be able to click on a "Live Game Audio" link on the left hand side of that window. SWEET!! Not as good as the regular voice of the Cougars, but pretty sweet nonetheless.

John Kerry's Military Records

I finally found them. You can too, here. Let me know what is missing.

Kerry and Substance

Rhoads' link to John Kerry's "Our Plan for America" has been helpful so far. I've read very little of it, but what I've read does move beyond platitude to substance. I hope to read more of it and provide comments in the near future. In the meantime, I've commented on some of it below here and here.

Minimum Wage

I really don't want to get into an argumennt about the Minimum Wage. I haven't read that part of John Kerry's plan, yet, although I might. I do undertand the problem that is trying to be solved by people who advocate raising the MW, however - the current MW does not provide enough money for a person working 40 hours/week to live in any kind of decent condition. I don't have any great ideas about how to solve that issue, but that's the issue attempting to be solved.

So giving a stat about the number of people making minimum wage or less is not all that interesting. I would assume that such a stat excludes people who make MW+$0.10, for example, and I bet that there as many people making that amount as there are people making MW. I only say that because when I was in High School, the job I had (as a computer programmer for the state of SC) made MW+$0.10. I thought it was pretty cool.

So give me a stat about the number of people making less than $7.00/hour or less, which would be the number of people that would be affected by raising the MW to that amount. Some would be affected positively, and other would see their job disappear, I know. Again, this is not about the MW. This is about which stats are meaningful in the conversation.

Bob's reply: I'll try to track those stats down for you, but the point is you can't legislate prosperity. If you don't understand that I don't see how more statistics will help you.

A question: When you were a high school kid working as a computer programmer were you having trouble living in any kind of decent condition?

The solution to the problem of poverty isn't to give a 17-year old Rhoads a legally enforced raise. You and 97% of the workforce managed to find better work for better wages without help from Congress.

A related discussion about laws mandating that rental units have hot water and so forth is commented on here by Glenn Whitman. I also recommend following Glenn's links to the original post on the topic by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution. Alex's original post is here, with follups by Alex here and here.

I appreciate the difficulty of the issue being addressed by minimum wage legislation. But just because overcoming poverty is difficult (I've addressed it a bit in this nearby post) that doesn't excuse policy makers committing simple errors. This is all some pretty basic economics, but if you don't grasp it you can come to some awfully bad social policy conclusions. But take heart, you're never too old to learn.

Deficits, Interest Rates, and Growth

The Kerry Plan for fiscal responsibility (available in pdf form here beginning on page 73) rests on the idea that public borrowing (annual deficits funded by debt) increases interest rates. Those higher interest rates increase the cost of borrowing for individuals, families, and businesses. The higher interest rates thwart growth. That's called Rubinomics, I think, since that was the belief of former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

This theory is coherent. It is logical. So logical that I made the argument myself back in the days of Ronald Reagan's annual deficits. The problem is the theory does not correspond with the facts. That is the evidence of the 1980s and 1990s does not correspond to what the theory says. Specifically regarding the idea that Bill Clinton's 1993 tax increases (intended to reduce the deficit and reduce interest rates per-Rubin) led to lower interest rates and higher rates of economic growth, the evidence does not support the theory. Here's what Steve Forbes wrote in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:
There is no correlation between budget deficits and interest rates. In fact, no sooner did Mr. Clinton sign that tax legislation than interest rates began a relentless clime. The 30-year Treasury bond went from 5.87% to more than 8% in a little over a year. The economy, which had begun a big recovery in the second half of 1992, hit the brakes. The economic growth rate for 1993 was less than it had been the previous year when President Bush senior was running for re-election and Mr. Clinton was crying, "It's the economy, stupid." It was not until 1996 that the economy surpassed the growth rates it had achieved in the latter half of 1992. (Sorry, no free link. I'm quoting from the print version.)
I agree with Kerry that the Bush Administration has been fiscally irresponsible. Bush and the Republican Congress have spent money with reckless abandon. But their spending irresponsibility would be mitigated very little if Bush had raised tax rates while he increased spending. The primary problem is the spending. The funding of the spending is secondary.

Economic growth requires capital accumulation. Once accumulated the capital needs to be put to its best use. So what's the best use? That's not knowable in advance. Putting capital to use is what capitalists do. Entrepreneurs spot opportunity and capitalists join them in capitalizing on those opportunities. Frequently they are wrong. But often enough they are right. The result of this process is the immense wealth you, dear prosperous reader of this blog, see all around you. Poverty needs no causes. It's the baseline. Wealth needs causes.

We need capital for our wealth to grow. We need productive people to make use of that capital. We need a growing economy so that more people in this country and around the world can overcome poverty. Tyler Cowen gets it:
If I had to explain, in one sentence, the reason I am not on the political left, I would cite the enormous long-run benefits of economic growth. Of course it still can be argued that various left-wing policies, properly understood, will contribute to long-term growth. But in my view, if you are not supporting growth-maximizing economic policies, you better have a pretty good reason in your pocket.
I think Kerry thinks he's supporting growth-maximizing economic policies. I just think he's wrong.

Brief Substantive Reading

The Kerry Campaign needs to do some remedial reading. I read the section Rhoads suggested on restoring fiscal responsibility in Washington. I'll comment on that shortly. But then I kept reading and found that Kerry & Co plan to increase the minimum wage to $7.00 per hour so that a family won't have to raise children in poverty.

Um. Less than 3% of the workforce earns the current minimum wage. People overcome poverty because they acquire skills that earn them more than the minimum wage in a competitive labor market. I'll let Russell Roberts explain:
When I give lectures outside of the university, I often ask my audience to guess the percentage of the work force that earns the minimum wage or less. The median answer, across a wide array of educated audiences (journalists, congressional staffers, law professors) is very stable. The median answer that I get in these surveys is between 20% and 25%. That's the median. So half of the audience thinks it's higher. A substantial number answer 50%. The actual number is about 3%.

I once asked a group of law students why America's standard of living is higher than Mexico's. A common answer was that we had a minimum wage, Mexico did not. I suspect Mexico has a minimum wage, but never mind. The real problem is that when 97% of the American work force earns more than the minimum wage, it's hard to make the case that regulations keep wages high. Competition keeps wages high. Your world view may be that employers always have the upper hand, that employees always bargain from weakness, but if that's true, it sure is hard to explain that 97% number. Why do those rapacious employers pay so much more than they have to? (As for the argument that it's labor unions, another common answer from the law students to explain our standard of living being higher than Mexico's, unions are about 10% of the private work force. That proportion has been falling steadily for decades as compensation has risen steadily. And see the previous post by Don on the issue of whether labor immobility allows workers to be exploited.)
The post by Don that Russell links to simply points out that we arm guards at our borders to keep laborers from coming to get better jobs so it's a bit of a stretch to imagine helpless, immobile workers subjected to monopsonistic employers for any length of time.

UPDATE: Mexico does indeed have a minimum wage. Probably just isn't high enough to assure the sort of prosperity we have in the U.S.

Kaus on Swifties

Mickey Kaus, Democrat and Kerry supporter, weighs in on Kerry and the Swift Vets.
Kf's Long-Overdue Push-Back! This has undoubtedly been blogged, but I couldn't help noticing that what The Note called Michael Kranish's "long-overdue, point-by-point push-back from the Kerry campaign" on the charge that he didn't take his Swift boat into Cambodia during Christmas of 1968 contained no evidence of any sort--beyond the Kerry campaign's own assertions--that Kerry was ever in Cambodia. Instead, Kranish gave us the testimony of three Swift boat crewmen.

1) One, who supports Kerry, says "they were 'very.. very close' to Cambodia" but "did not think they entered Cambodia."

2) A second, who opposes Kerry, says they were nowhere near Cambodia.

3) A third said they got close but didn't go into Cambodia and "could not recall dropping off special forces in Cambodia or going inside Cambodia with Kerry." [Emph. added.]

If this is Kerry's mighty, mighty "push-back," I'd hate to see what a Kerry retreat would look like. Yet Kranish's account was bizarrely portrayed by The Note as a pro-Kerry turning point. ...

Kaus ads a P.S. to that post regarding the credibility of the "goofballs":
Respectable big-time journalist friends who met with the anti-Kerry vets recently found them a lot more credible than expected.
Even Kerry's own rooting section finds the Swift Vets credible. So far nobody's rebutted a single charge that they've made as far as I can tell. Some may be "he said, she said" stuff that's not rebuttable. But the stuff that's rebuttable (Cambodia at Christmas) has not been rebutted.

P.S. of my own: Since Mickey Kaus is a Democrat and a Kerry supporter, Rhoads must give Kaus' opinion special weight since he's arguing against his own interests.

Jerome Corsi: Real Nice Guy

Found an interesting link about one of the co-authors of the book by the Swift Boat Veterans Against John Kerry. This guy's a real peach. Two down.

Bob's reply: Media Matters to the rescue, well, without contributing anything to the question of Kerry's service in Vietnam. The character of this guy Corsi addresses the substance of the book how? Assume Jerome Corsi is Satan himself. How does the fact that Corsi is Satan help John Kerry? What has Corsi alleged about John Kerry's service? How does Corsi's character help us determine if John Kerry has embellished, lied, misremembered, or told the truth about his service in four months in 1968-69?

Corsi is not a Swift Vet, so you're still at one. A couple hundred to go.

John Kerry's Plan for America

Bob is complaining about the lack of substance on John Kerry's website. Of course, the pages mentioned were designed for the general public, and the average member of the GP is not as intelligent as Bob (they are more like me I'm afraid) when it comes to being able to read massive volumes of information. Good news, though! There is more substance about John Kerry's plan available on the web site as a downloadable 246 page book. Granted, the pages are small, but there is still more information. I hope this helps Bob. Maybe it will even influence his vote.

Of course, the thing I think is one of the most important part is something that may be a stumbling block for Bob. It starts on page 70 of the book, and is entitled "RESTORING FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY IN WASHINGTON." I guess I will wait to hear Bob's opinion on the document as a whole and on that section in particular.

Bob's Reply: It isn't that the general public can't understand issues and isn't interested in getting good information (though that may be true in many cases, cases where people are fooled into thinking platitudes are substance). Rather it's that politicians don't want to say anything. So they don't. Frankly I'm glad Kerry's Campaign used few words to say nothing on their web site. That beats saying nothing with many words.

So recognizing the danger that I'll find nothing but more words, I'll now head to the above link. The first section I'll read will be "RESTORING FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY IN WASHINGTON." I'm for that. Perhaps Kerry will be substantive and brief by saying "I want to raise taxes on the rich to balance the budget (though Teresa and I will use trusts and such to avoid paying taxes ourselves)." Maybe he'll say, "The rich pay the majority of the income taxes in this country, and I think they should pay a lot more." Or maybe he'll say, "The payroll tax which funds Social Security and Medicare severely restricts lower and middle class workers' chances of acquiring assets over their working lifetimes. Therefore I think Social Security and Medicare benefits need to be cut. They are two programs that have far outgrown their usefulness and the burdens of funding them are hurting the vast majority of our citizens."

This all reminds me of a time in college (1984 election) when I read a pamphlet by Tim Worth (D-CO). He was running for Congress from the 2nd District. I agreed with everything in the pamphlet. But wouldn't you know, when it came to spelling out what he actually stood for in some detail I disagreed with Tim Wirth on nearly all the substance. Go figure. He'd written a pamphlet that nobody could possibly disagree with.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Campaign Platitudes

A few days ago Rhoads suggested I look at a couple of links regarding John Kerry's positions on two important issues, National Security and Homeland Security. Rhoads singled out sections titled "Launch and Lead a New Era of Alliances" and "Guard Liberty" for special appreciation.

In response I called these a waste and nonsubstantive. Rhoads took issue with my dismissal of these sources as nonsubstantive. I'm going to reproduce both highlighted sections IN THERE ENTIRETY so that Coffee With Rhoads readers who don't follow useless links can judge for themselves.

Launch And Lead A New Era Of Alliances
The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale - to utilize every available resource to get the terrorists before they can strike at us. As president, John Kerry will lead a coalition of the able - because no force on earth is more able than the United States and its allie

Guard Liberty
We must always remember that terrorists do not just target our lives - they target our way of life. John Kerry and John Edwards believe in an America that is safe and free, and they will protect our personal liberties as well as our personal security.[editorial hyperlink added by me to add substance--Bob]
That's it. Just over one hundred words. There are seven other equally detailed, substantive sections in the National Security and Homeland Security links in case you're too smart to bother clicking through.

I don't think this sort of shallowness is unique to the Kerry/Edwards Campaign or to Democrats. I've never visited the Bush/Cheney web site, but I'll bet there's no substance there either.

Rhoads is right. This is politics. But it's not my politics that lead me to conclude there's no substance there. It's the politics of the Kerry and Bush camps that lead them to post platitudes and think such nonsense will satisfy the voting public.