Saturday, December 23, 2006

Our Intellectual Overlords, Part I

This post was heavily influenced by, and much of it blatantly stolen from, this post by Ace of Spades.

One can only discuss politics when conditions are exactly right. Both parties must be capable of distinguishing between opinion and self. Both parties must have a common understanding of the facts underlying an issue. These conditions almost never exist.

If a rightwinger's opinion turns out to have been wrong, the sane on the right simply change their opinion. To them, having held a wrong opinion doesn't mean they are bad or stupid people. Their existence is not justified by their political views.

The left - including the left which is on TV, or writing columns and books, or holding political office - are generally lightly educated persons. They consider themselves, by virtue of having memorized leftist dogma, to be intellectual superiors. Given their status as intellectual superiors, they feel a duty to instruct their inferiors.

Leftists claim superiority despite having rarely done intellectually rigorous work. They often haven't earned advanced degrees, nor undergraduate degrees, nor even - one suspects, in the cases of certain Hollywood actors - high school diplomas.

A leftist needn't be an actual scientist, an actual physicist, or an actual engineer. If said leftist memorizes enough dogma, he or she is automatically a gifted intellectual. Memorizing dogma = earning an equivalency degree. Memorizing dogma is a shortcut to all the self-esteem benefits, without doing all the actual, yucky work. Memorizing dogma equates to being a gifted intellectual. It justifies your superior, enlightened existence. You may begin to take yourself very, very seriously.

I'm not on the left. My existence is not defined or justified by any political opinions I hold. I'm willing to be wrong about my political opinions, then change them.

Persons of the left take their intellectual status very, very seriously. It's who they are. It's how they define themselves. It's the core of their self-image. Their special status is all dependent on their memorized dogma being true.

This is the spot where leftists are brittle: they don't actually examine the dogma before memorizing and proselytizing it. They take it on faith. They join the club. They figure: if such large numbers of cool and smart people already believe it, well, it must be true. Mustn't it? If cool people believe the dogma, and if the dogma feels right, and if it's kind of difficult to examine the underpinnings of the dogma with intellectual rigor ... well, then, why worry? I'm in! No time to waste! I can't wait to be a gifted intellectual!

Soon enough, they've built a sort of living monument to their own genius, and are thus locked into a condition in which they cannot examine the dogma - for it is the very basis of their gifted intellectual status. If any part of the dogma which is accepted by all the cool people is untrue, then many parts of the dogma which is accepted by all the cool people might be untrue. All parts of the dogma which is accepted by all the cool people might be untrue. Scary.

These possibilities must not be considered, for upon the dogma rests the self-image. If your persona is based upon leftist dogma, you cannot allow any portion of the dogma to be challenged. It is too dangerous. It could be like a tiny leak in a dam. It could lead to a destructive flood. Your larger group of beliefs could become devastated. You could discover you are just a regular schlub of a person, instead of an enlightened, gifted intellectual. This is too horrible to consider. Your years as an intellectual would be exposed as a pretense, and a lie.

And that is the nub of the problem of political discussion. To discuss whether a leftist belief is untrue is to attack the leftist's status. He or she will feel personally attacked. You are not simply discussing an idea, you are challenging their very persona - their very self image. You are attacking them. They feel attacked.

They cannot allow such an attack to go on. Their psyche cannot bear the possibility - however remote - that such an attack might succeed. Therefore, they strangle the attack in it's infancy. They refuse to acknowledge facts which might prove to be in opposition to their beliefs.

Remember, their beliefs are unexamined. Their beliefs are based upon faith in large numbers of cool people who endorse the dogma, and upon faith in feelings and instincts. At some level, the dogma goes clunk for them. However, always remember that clunk is emotional. Our intellectual overlords know they haven't examined the facts underlying the dogma. This scares them - as it should. In an attempted discussion, not only will they refuse to acknowledge any contrary facts to you, they will refuse to acknowledge any contrary facts to themselves. To do so would threaten everything they've built themselves up to be.

When confronted by contrary facts, Leftists are thus thrust into a state of cognitive dissonance. In their carefully constructed reality, they are our intellectual superiors. Any facts which threaten that status are invisible to them. They cannot see them. They do not see them. They cannot acknowledge them. They do not acknowledge them. To do so would feel almost life-threatening. They personify denial.

You might believe you are discussing the facts of a situation with them. They feel you are attacking the very core of their being. Your perceived "facts", if they threaten leftist dogma, are very, very personal threats to them. They will refuse to acknowledge the existence of your facts. Your facts do not exist. Their perception and reaction have nothing to do with discussion of truth, and everything to do with protecting their psyche, and with protecting their carefully constructed intellectual facade.

Which is why one can only discuss politics when conditions are exactly right. Both parties must be capable of distinguishing between opinion and self. Both parties must have a common understanding of the facts underlying an issue. These conditions almost never exist.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fisking President Clinton

(Edited and bumped to top)

That America got hit with a big attack was not Bill Clinton's fault. Truly, honestly, sincerely - was not. We were going to get hit, no matter what.

That said, I can't resist fisking the amazing string of falsehoods President Clinton proferred in the interview with Chris Wallace.

I suspect President Clinton was engaging in a delusional act of psychological self-defense. An indicator of psychological self-defense occurs when a reaction is out of proportion to a provocation.

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I’ve got to say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn’t you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaida out of business when you were president?

There’s a new book out, I suspect you’ve already read, called The Looming Tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, bin Laden said, I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of U.S. troops. Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the Cole.

Greg: Chris! You're conflating two separate questions:
1. Why didn't you do more to get Bin Laden(in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000), and
2. Did the (1993) pull out from Somalia encourage the growth of Al Qaeda?
You ought to ask one question at a time, my friend...

CLINTON: OK, let’s just go through that.
WALLACE: Let me — let me — may I just finish the question, sir?And after the [Cole] attack, the book says that bin Laden separated his leaders, spread them around, because he expected an attack, and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is always 20/20…

Chris! Now you're adding a third question:
3. Did the failure to respond to the Cole attack encourage Al Qaeda?
One question at a time, Chris!

CLINTON: No, let’s talk about it.
WALLACE: … but the question is, why didn’t you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?

Whew. Finally - Chris restates the main question, and hushes up. We can see Chris wanted to throw some "dots"(Somalia, African Embassies, Cole) into his question - likely in the hope President Clinton would elaborate on his thinking about Bin Laden.

CLINTON: OK, let’s talk about it. Now, I will answer all those things on the merits, but first I want to talk about the context in which this arises.

Exactly - his entire defense is a "context" defense: forget the merits, everyone - concentrate on this: Fox News is bad. Neo-Cons are out to get me! Don't look at that(merits). Look over here(context)!

I’m being asked this on the Fox network. ABC just had a right-wing conservative run in their little Pathway to 9/11,

Pathway to 9/11 zinged everyone - right and left.

falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 Commission report,

Path to 9/11 included numerous, blatant, printed statements that it had taken dramatic license.

It's interesting that Clinton here lends credence to a 9/11 Commission Report which he will later dismiss as "politically motivated".

Also, Clinton here rips a Richard Clarke-influenced television drama (Path to 9/11), only to shower Richard Clarke with praise throughout the rest of this interview.

with three things asserted against me directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report.

I would looove to hear Pres. Clinton elaborate on what actually happened. A person can dream.

And I think it’s very interesting that all of President Bush’s neo-cons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden.

a) If conservatives in media examined Clinton's motives for his missile attack, they were only doing what opinion pundits are paid to do. It's a slur to equate examining motives with "thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden."
b) To equate some conservative pundits to "all of President Bush’s neo-cons" is a slur.
c) Further, Lexis Nexis confirms my memory: the vast majority of conservatives - whether elected, or in media - cheered for Clinton to do everything possible against Bin Laden. Newt Gingrich blast-faxed a number of conservative talk radio hosts, asking them to withhold criticism of Clinton's missile attack, and laying out reasons America needed to take action against Bin Laden.

They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office.

Condi Rice says the Bush Administration held four large, formal type of meetings with pertinent personnel. President Bush ordered a study on how to "eliminate" Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. He didn't want to continue Clinton's policy of "rolling back" Bin Laden, which Bush equated to "swatting at flies." That study was completed approx. one week before 9/11.

All the right-wingers who now say I didn’t do enough said I did too much — same people. They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in Black Hawk down,

Lexis Nexis reveals Republican sentiment for staying in Somalia and finishing the job - though I I'm confident many politicos(including Repubs) were likely running for cover.

and I refused to do it and stayed six months

Sort of. A half truth. After Blackhawk Down, the Americans did not give full effort towards completing the mission President Clinton had given them: to capture the warlord Aidid.

In Chapter 26 of Blackhawk Down, Mark Bowden wrote that CIA operative Robert Oakley met with Aidid's emissary, and delivered this message:
"America's operations against Aidid had ended, and American was going to pull out of Mogadishu.
First, however, U.S. pilot Michael Durant should be released, as a goodwill gesture on Aidid's part.
Failing that, America would have to try and rescue Durant. That effort would be bloody, and America would hold nothing back. Oakley: 'This whole part of the city will be destroyed, men, women, children, camels, cats, dogs, goats, donkeys, everything.'
Aidid agreed to release Durant."

and had an orderly transfer to the United Nations. OK, now let’s look at all the criticisms: Black Hawk down, Somalia.

President Clinton slickly (delusionally? dishonestly?) reduces multiple criticisms (Somalia, African Embassies, Cole, Why didn't you get Bin Laden?) to one thing: Black Hawk Down, 1993

There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even knew Al Qaida was a growing concern in October of ‘93.

President Clinton appears to be addressing Chris Wallace' Question #2:

2. Did the pull out from Somalia encourage the growth of Al Qaeda?

President Clinton's stated assertion is: the pullout was reasonable, based on what we knew about Bin Laden at the time - which was zip. By making this particular stated assertion, President Clinton is conceding an unstated assertion that the pullout encouraged Al Qaeda. Logically, it has to be true that President Clinton is conceding that unstated assertion. Next, we shall see that President Clinton does not feel any moral duty to be logical.

WALLACE: I understand, and I…
CLINTON: No, wait. No, wait. Don’t tell me this — you asked me why didn’t I do more to bin Laden. There was not a living soul. All the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day. You brought this up, so you’ll get an answer, but you can’t…
WALLACE: I’m perfectly happy to.
CLINTON: All right, secondly…
WALLACE: Bin Laden says…
CLINTON: Bin Laden may have said…
WALLACE: … bin Laden says that it showed the weakness of the United States.
CLINTON: But it would’ve shown the weakness if we’d left right away, but he wasn’t involved in that.

If the pullout did not show weakness (read: encourage Al Qaeda), why does Pres. Clinton carefully point out that he didn't know about Bin Laden in 1993? President Clinton's reasoning is all over the place. His conflicting arguments remind of the classic legal defense:

  • My client's dog did not bite anyone;
  • your client kicked my dog first;
  • my client doesn't own a dog.

Pres. Clinton could make this argument more credibly, if only he had a law license...

In Mogadishu, Pres. Clinton's treasured "six month pullout" was a slow walk. It was a show of force which was unaccompanied by serious offensive action. It was an effort to pretend we didn't run away. Everyone, including Osama, saw it for what it was.

Pulling out was not the worst mistake in history. Lots of Presidents might've pulled out. However, Pres. Clinton is playing games when he suggests that we didn't leave right away. For all practical purposes - for every purpose which counts in any way whatsoever - we pulled out immediately. It did show weakness. This would've been the best (and most honest) response from Pres. Clinton:

"It did show weakness. However, of several bad options available, pulling out (and showing weakness) was the best choice (due to realpolitic; long view; morality of risking soldiers for limited return; et al)."

That[what Bin Laden said]'s just a bunch of bull. That was about Mohammed Aidid, a Muslim warlord, murdering 22 Pakistani Muslim troops. We were all there on a humanitarian mission. We had no mission, none, to establish a certain kind of Somali government or to keep anybody out.He was not a religious fanatic…
WALLACE: But, Mr. President…
CLINTON: … there was no Al Qaida…
WALLACE: … with respect, if I may, instead of going through ‘93 and…

Yes! Chris is rallying! Somalia is not the most important, or the most interesting, question.

CLINTON: No, no. You asked it. You brought it up. You brought it up.

Chris did bring it up. All you journalism students: learn to ask one question at a time!

WALLACE: May I ask a general question and then you can answer?
WALLACE: The 9/11 Commission, which you’ve talk about — and this is what they did say, not what ABC pretended they said…
CLINTON: Yes, what did they say?

WALLACE: … they said about you and President Bush, and I quote, The U.S. government took the threat seriously, but not in the sense of mustering anything like the kind of effort that would be gathered to confront an enemy of the first, second or even third rank.

I wish Chris had restated the original question:

"Why didn't you do more to get Bin Laden(in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, or 2000)?"

It was the simplest, and best, question. Chris added "dots"(Somalia, African Embassies, Cole) in an apparent effort to pin Clinton into answering the original, basic question. Clinton, in turn, is using the dots to camoflage his evasion of the original question.

Chris is now asking a new question, in an attempt to get an answer to the original question. It is a typical journalistic technique - yet it is a poor action choice.

TV interviewers do not like to berate a subject by repeatedly demanding an answer to a question which has been evaded. TV interviewers say: "Viewers should be smart enough to discern when a question has been evaded."

CLINTON: First of all, that’s not true with us and bin Laden.

Wallace expects Clinton to elaborate on why he made the choices he made in the effort to get Bin Laden. But Clinton is evading. Clinton now turns the interview into a child's contest about whether or not he gave a "first, second, or even third rank" effort to get Bin Laden. The interview is now about
"Did too give good effort!"
"Did not!"
"Did too! Clarke says we gave good effort! Tenet says we gave good effort!"

WALLACE: Well, I’m telling you that’s what the 9/11 Commission says.
CLINTON: All right. Let’s look at what Richard Clarke said. Do you think Richard Clarke has a vigorous attitude about bin Laden?
WALLACE: Yes, I do.
CLINTON: You do, don’t you?
WALLACE: I think he has a variety of opinions and loyalties, but yes, he has a vigorous…
CLINTON: He has a variety of opinion and loyalties now, but let’s look at the facts: He worked for Ronald Reagan; he was loyal to him. He worked for George H. W. Bush; he was loyal to him. He worked for me, and he was loyal to me. He worked for President Bush; he was loyal to him.
They downgraded him

That Bush downgraded Clarke is an untruth. Even - in Clinton's fantasy - it were true, it would still be an irrelevant strawman - unrelated to the question of whether Clinton mustered an antiterror effort of "first, second, or even third rank." Even in a "did not/did too" argument - which he cannot lose - Clinton resorts to an untruth, plus a strawman.

and the terrorist operation.

Condi Rice responded to the accusation that Bush downgraded the terrorist operation:"We did at least as much in eight months (before 9/11, to counter Bin Laden) as [Clinton] did in eight years."

Now, look what he[Clarke] said, read his book and read his factual assertions — not opinions — assertions. He said we took vigorous action after the African embassies. We probably nearly got bin Laden.

Clinton refers to the August, 1998 bombing of Bin Laden's training compound. Bin Laden left the compound 45 minutes before cruise missiles hit it. Clinton, fearing that Pakistan would mistake cruise missiles for a nuclear attack from India, had informed Pakistan that cruise missiles were about to come across their airspace. More than one analyst has speculated that Pakistani allies likely tipped off Bin Laden about the coming attack. Clinton says: "We probably nearly got bin Laden." It's not really a lie. It's also not something a person of high character would cite in his own defense.

CLINTON: No, wait a minute.
(CROSSTALK)WALLACE: … cruise missiles.
CLINTON: No, no. I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him.

This is misleading. The CIA still had to get Clinton's okay to attempt an assassination. By one count, Clinton refused, on ten separate occasions, to give the go ahead to kill Bin Laden. Some reasons: collateral damage to women and children inside Bin Laden's desert compound; collateral damage to a Pakistani Prince inside Bin Laden's desert compound; thin intelligence linking Bin Laden to a location; Clinton's refusal to quit watching a golf tournament to come to the phone; Clinton's refusal to take such calls in general.

The CIA, which was run by George Tenet, that President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to, he said, He did a good job setting up all these counterterrorism things.

The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came there.

I love that! As if we might've previously had an anti-terror operation - but it wasn't "comprehensive!"

Now, if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: After the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden.

I consider that "drawing battle plans" equates to the minimum responsible reaction to the Cole bombing. The Pentagon has battle plans drawn up for invading a plethora of countries. I hope President Clinton actually had existing battle plans updated, and polished.

Now, amazingly, after defensively evading questions to this point, President Clinton answers why he didn't go after Bin Laden in the three months after the Cole attack:

But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would’ve had to send a few hundred Special Forces in in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do that. Now, the 9/11 Commission was a political document, too.

Note that Pres. Clinton has already cited the 9/11 Commission as an authority. But that was so five minutes ago. Now: J'accuse! They are political! During this interview, Pres. Clinton argues - passionately and vociferously - on both sides of the following issues: 1) whether the Somalia pullout encouraged Al Qaeda; 2) the legitimacy and expertise of the 9/11 Commission; 3) the expertise of Richard Clarke.

My two cents: the 9/11 Commission was a political joke. Jamie Gorelick should've been testifying in front of the Commission, instead of sitting on it as a Commissioner. Richard Ben Veniste as an impartial Commissioner? Puhleeeze.

All I’m asking is, anybody who wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.
Whereupon the blogosphere gleefully rushed to their copies of Richard Clarke's book, and began quoting all the places he ripped Clinton for being unserious about Osama Bin Laden.
WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?

Wait! Chris rallies! You can't hold him down!

CLINTON: No, because I didn’t get him.
CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.

There's a legacy: "I tried." Here, mercifully, Pres. Clinton answers the original question "Why didn't you do more to get Bin Laden?" I shall interpret:

** "I tried" = I did everything I reasonably could've done. To do more would've been unreasonable at the time.**

So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy

Condi Rice says no comprehensive anti-terror strategy was left by the Clintons. Richard Clarke says the anti-terror strategy had been around since 1998 - and had been consistently, overtly ignored. Further, under questioning from the 9/11 Commission, Clarke said this strategy "absolutely would not have prevented 9/11."

and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.

In his own book, Richard Clarke says he voluntarily left, in order to head up an Internet security project. Condi Rice, responding to Clinton's accusation, says Clarke voluntarily left after he was passed over, in favor of Tom Ridge, for Director of Homeland Security.

I remind, also and again, Richard Clarke has been critical of Clinton's response to Bin Laden - and, also and again, Richard Clarke was a major source for The Path to 9/11 drama which Clinton so detested. Clinton duplicitously insists on acting as if Richard Clarke is a big supporter of Clinton's Presidential actions.

So you did Fox’s bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me.

Out of proportion reaction. Psychological self-defense warning system activated: Red lights flashing, sirens going off...

What I want to know is…
WALLACE: Well, wait a minute, sir.
CLINTON: No, wait. No, no…
WALLACE: I want to ask a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?
CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, Why didn’t you do anything about the Cole? I want to know how many you asked, Why did you fire Dick Clarke? I want to know how many people you asked…
WALLACE: We asked — we asked…
CLINTON: I don’t…
WALLACE: Do you ever watch Fox News Sunday, sir?
CLINTON: I don’t believe you asked them that.
WALLACE: We ask plenty of questions of…
CLINTON: You didn’t ask that, did you? Tell the truth, Chris.
WALLACE: About the USS Cole?
CLINTON: Tell the truth, Chris.

Chris Wallace has asked both Rumsfeld(on June 28, 2004) and Rice about the Cole, and has asked them other hard questions. Rumsfeld and Rice have these advantages:
1) they are accustomed to answering hard questions,
2) they have actual answers. They don't have to think up spin.

WALLACE: With Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s plenty of stuff to ask.
CLINTON: Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch(the owner of Fox News)'s supporting my work on climate change.

Let's just repeat that:
"You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch’s supporting my work on climate change."

and again:
"You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch’s supporting my work on climate change."

just let it roll over you:
"You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch’s supporting my work on climate change."

one last time:
"You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch’s supporting my work on climate change."

This is the recent leader of the Democratic Party. This is their champion - the example they point to as the epitome of outstanding Democratic leadership. Is it scarier if Pres. Clinton actually believes this delusion; or if President Clinton cavalierly makes an accusation he knows to be untrue? Or, is it scarier that masses of lefties buy into this delusory accusation?

And you came here under false pretenses and said that you’d spend half the time talking about — you said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7-billion-plus in three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care.
WALLACE: But, President Clinton, if you look at the questions here, you’ll see half the questions are about that. I didn’t think this was going to set you off on such a tear.
CLINTON: You launched it — it set me off on a tear because you didn’t formulate it in an honest way and because you people ask me questions you don’t ask the other side.

Listen... can you hear the world's smallest violin? President Clinton was helpless in the face of the vicious, assaultive questions. Why, Chris Wallace virtually raped him...

WALLACE: That’s not true. Sir, that is not true.

Wallace: I am not a rapist!

CLINTON: And Richard Clarke made it clear in his testimony…
WALLACE: Would you like to talk about the Clinton Global Initiative?
CLINTON: No, I want to finish this now.
WALLACE: All right. Well, after you.
CLINTON: All I’m saying is, you falsely accused me of giving aid and comfort to bin Laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew Al Qaida existed then. And…
WALLACE: But did they know in 1996 when he declared war on the U.S.? Did they know in 1998…

Chris rallies again!

CLINTON: Absolutely, they did.
WALLACE: … when he bombed the two embassies?

Chris is gaining momentum!

CLINTON: And who talked about…
WALLACE: Did they know in 2000 when he hit the Cole?

Chris is interrupting to make a point. His name truly is Wallace!

CLINTON: What did I do? What did I do? I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since.

How does Bill Clinton know this? Does he receive current reports about special forces operations?

And if I were still president, we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him.

Note the implication that 20,000 American troops are in Afghanistan basically to kill Bin Laden, and not much else. Note the further implication that, once Bin Laden is dead, our terror problems will be largely resolved. Note that President Clinton completely ignores the international troops who are serving, and giving their lives, in Afghanistan. It is as though they do not exist.

Now, I’ve never criticized President Bush, and I don’t think this is useful.

(rolling eyes) Go on, Bill - let 'er rip...

But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq.

This is based on us having one-seventh the number of American troops in Afghanistan as in Iraq. The conflict in Iraq will be more immediately decided than the conflict in Afghanistan. The conflict in Iraq is more immediately, strategically significant than the conflict in Afghanistan. Most seem to understand this. For President Clinton, and his accolytes, I spell it out.

And you ask me about terror and Al Qaida with that sort of dismissive thing? When all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror.

Sigh. Say it, yet again, and maybe it will become true.

And you’ve got that little smirk on your face and you think you’re so clever.

Classic psychological projection!

Watch carefully what is about to happen. It is classic Bill Clinton. It is classic misdirection. It is absolutely intentional - and is Pres. Clinton's long time modus operandi. Pres. Clinton feints towards answering why he didn't do more to get Bin Laden during 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000. It's only a feint. He finishes his (non) answer by restating why he didn't get Bin Laden after the Cole incident.

In future interviews, President Clinton will claim he "fully explored, with Chris Wallace" why he didn't go after Bin Laden in the late 1990's. He will say he doesn't feel the need to go through it all again. He will say his future interviewer is a Javert who continues to pursue answers which have fully been explicated.

The ground - why Pres. Clinton didn't do more to get Bin Laden during 1996 - 2000, has not been covered. If the interviewer tries to point that out, he will be overrun by a fully steaming locomotive of ad hominem.

What is about to happen is intentional misdirection, and bunk. It is part of what the left uses to justify Bill Clinton as a brilliant politician. They reject, out of hand, the idea that truth might work better. They reject that truth might be important for moral reasons. They lovingly overlook the exaggerations: "the entire military"; "no one thought."

But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it. But I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could. The entire military was against sending Special Forces in to Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter. And no one thought we could do it otherwise, because we could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that Al Qaida was responsible while I was president.

And so, I left office. And yet, I get asked about this all the time.

Maybe he gets asked about it indirectly. Bloggers can find only one interviewer who previously asked him about it: David Letterman.

They had three times as much time to deal with it, and nobody ever asks them about it. I think that’s strange.

Best I can tell, he's talking about killing Bin Laden. He says "nobody ever asks them about it." Here, President Clinton insults the Washington press corps, as well as any Dem pol who has publicly demanded answers about why we failed to kill Bin Laden at Tora Bora. President Clinton says you are all nobodies!

WALLACE: Can I ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative?
CLINTON: You can.
WALLACE: I always intended to, sir.
CLINTON: No, you intended, though, to move your bones by doing this first, which is perfectly fine. But I don’t mind people asking me — I actually talked to the 9/11 Commission for four hours, Chris, and I told them the mistakes I thought I made. And I urged them to make those mistakes public, because I thought none of us had been perfect.But instead of anybody talking about those things, I always get these clever little political yields (ph), where they ask me one-sided questions. And the other guys notice that. And it always comes from one source. And so…
CLINTON: And so…
WALLACE: I just want to ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative, but what’s the source? I mean, you seem upset, and I…
CLINTON: I am upset because…
WALLACE: And all I can say is, I’m asking you this in good faith because it’s on people’s minds, sir. And I wasn’t…
CLINTON: Well, there’s a reason it’s on people’s minds. That’s the point I’m trying to make. There’s a reason it’s on people’s minds: Because there’s been a serious disinformation campaign to create that impression. This country only has one person who’s worked on this terror. From the terrorist incidents under Reagan to the terrorist incidents from 9/11, only one: Richard Clarke. And all I can say to anybody is, you want to know what we did wrong or right, or anybody else did? Read his book.

Sigh - like a Jew using Jesus Christ to justify Judaism.

The people on my political right who say I didn’t do enough spent the whole time I was president saying, Why is he so obsessed with bin Laden? That was wag the dog when he tried to kill him.

My Republican secretary of defense — and I think I’m the only president since World War II to have a secretary of defense of the opposite party

Actually, since this is a fisking, you are the third President since WWII: both Kennedy and Johnson used Republican Robert McNamara for their SecDef. I can't see that a SecDef from the opposite party has really been something to brag about.

Richard Clarke and all the intelligence people said that I ordered a vigorous attempt to get bin Laden and came closer, apparently, than anybody has since.

If I say it enough, maybe it will be true.

WALLACE: All right.
CLINTON: And you guys try to create the opposite impression, when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s findings and you know it’s not true. It’s just not true.

If I say it enough, maybe it will be true.

And all this business about Somalia — the same people who criticized me about Somalia were demanding I leave the next day. The same exact crowd.

If I say it enough, maybe it will be true.

WALLACE: One of the…
CLINTON: And so, if you’re going to do this, for God’s sake, follow the same standards for everybody…

There's a strong chance this is psychological defense mechanism. There's a strong chance Clinton actually believes this allegation against Chris Wallace. Wallace cannot defend himself by proving a negative. This is another "do too/do not" contest.

WALLACE: I think we do, sir.
CLINTON: … and be flat — and fair.
WALLACE: I think we do.
WALLACE: One of the main parts of the Global Initiative this year is religion and reconciliation. President Bush says that the fight against Islamic extremism is the central conflict of this century. And his answer is promoting democracy and reform.Do you think he has that right?

CLINTON: Sure. To advance — to advocate democracy and reform in the Muslim world? Absolutely.I think the question is, what’s the best way to do it? I think also the question is, how do you educate people about democracy? Democracy is about way more than majority rule. Democracy is about minority rights, individual rights, restraints on power. And there’s more than one way to advance democracy.

I assume he intends to advance democracy before Tel Aviv, London, Manhattan, and Vatican City are decimated - and before the Port of Houston is exploded with a nuke.

But do I think, on balance, that in the end, after several bouts with instability — look how long it took us to build a mature democracy. Do I think, on balance, it would be better if we had more freedom and democracy? Sure I do. And do I think specifically the president has a right to do it? Sure I do. But I don’t think that’s all we can do in the Muslim world. I think they have to see us as trying to get a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Puh-leeze. Those Jews are butchers and blood-drinkers. They voluntarily withdrew from Lebanon and Gaza only because they are impediments to "just and lasting peace." Sheesh. President Clinton is - aah - misguided in his thinking.

I think they have to see us as willing to talk to people who see the world differently than we do.

"Talk to people who see the world differently than we do" is code language for "give in to the Jihadis' demands." It is code for "maybe if we appease them, they won't try to kill us." It is code for "it is the fault of the U.S.A." President Clinton's worldview doesn't recognize the root causes of the Jihadi threat.

WALLACE: Last year at this conference, you got $2.5 billion in commitments, pledges. How’d you do this year?
CLINTON: Well, this year we had — we had $7.3 billion, as of this morning.
WALLACE: Excuse me?
CLINTON: $7.3 billion, as of this morning. But $3 billion of that is — now, this is over multi years. These are up to 10-year commitments.But $3 billion of that came from Richard Branson’s commitment to give all of his transportation profits for a decade to clean energy investments. But still, that’s — the rest is over $4 billion.And we will have another 100 commitments come in, maybe more, and we’ll probably raise another, I would say, at least another billion dollars, probably, before it’s over. We’ve got a lot of commitments still in process.
WALLACE: When you look at the $3 billion from Branson, plus the billions that Bill Gates is giving in his own program, and now Warren Buffet, what do you make of this new age of philanthropy?
CLINTON: I think that, for one thing, really rich people have always given money away. I mean, you know, they’ve endowed libraries and things like that. The unique thing about this age is, first of all, you have a lot of people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who are interested in issues at home and around the world that grow out of the nature of the 21st century and its inequalities — the income inequalities, the health-care inequalities, the education inequalities.

And you get a guy like Gates, who built Microsoft, who actually believes that he can help overcome a lot of the health disparities in the world. And that’s the first thing.The second thing that ought to be credited is that there are a lot of people with average incomes who are joining them because of the Internet. Like in the tsunami, for example, we had $1.2 billion given by Americans; 30 percent of our households gave money, over half of them over the Internet.And then the third thing is you’ve got all these — in poor countries, you’ve got all these nongovernmental groups that you can — that a guy like Gates can partner with, along with the governments.

So all these things together mean that people with real money want to give it away in ways that help people that before would’ve been seen only as the object of government grants or loans.

WALLACE: Let’s talk some politics. In that same New Yorker article, you say that you are tired of Karl Rove’s B.S., although I’m cleaning up what you said.
CLINTON: But I do like the — but I also say I’m not tired of Karl Rove. I don’t blame Karl Rove. If you’ve got a deal that works, you just keep on doing it.
WALLACE: So what is the B.S.?
CLINTON: Well, every even-numbered year, right before an election, they come up with some security issue. In 2002, our party supported them in undertaking weapons inspections in Iraq and was 100 percent for what happened in Afghanistan, and they didn’t have any way to make us look like we didn’t care about terror. And so, they decided they would be for the homeland security bill that they had opposed. And they put a poison pill in it that we wouldn’t pass, like taking the job rights away from 170,000 people, and then say that we were weak on terror if we weren’t for it. They just ran that out.

This year, I think they wanted to make the questions of prisoner treatment and intercepted communications the same sort of issues, until John Warner and John McCain and Lindsey Graham got in there. And, as it turned out, there were some Republicans that believed in the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and had some of their own ideas about how best to fight terror. The Democrats — as long as the American people believe that we take this seriously and we have our own approaches

Less than half of Americans believe that. Less than half of Martians believe that.

— and we may have differences over Iraq — I think we’ll do fine in this election.But even if they agree with us about the Iraq war, we could be hurt by Karl Rove’s new foray if we just don’t make it clear that we, too, care about the security of the country. But we want to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, which they haven’t for four years.

So, after "the 9/11 Commission was a political document", President Clinton is back to praising the 9/11 Commission! Full circle, baby!

We want to intensify our efforts in Afghanistan against bin Laden. We want to make America more energy-independent.

Implication: Those dang conservatives want to make America less energy independent!

The degree to which we become energy independent will depend on private enterprise, and on the free market profits which are available. It will not depend on government subsidy. A representative example happened a decade ago, when a businessperson convinced McDonald's they would make greater profits by moving away from styrofoam packaging for their burgers. It's about profit. Free-market entrepreneurs will lead the way to whatever energy independence our nation achieves. Mouthy liberals will accomplish exactly zero. The government will not be the solution.

And then they can all, if they differ on Iraq, they can say whatever they want on Iraq. But Rove is good. And I honor him. I mean, I will say that. I’ve always been amused about how good he is, in a way. But on the other hand, this is perfectly predictable: We’re going to win a lot of seats if the American people aren’t afraid.

The Americans who are not afraid are deluded lefties.

If they’re afraid and we get divided again, then we may only win a few seats.
WALLACE: And the White House, the Republicans want to make the American people afraid?
CLINTON: Of course they do. Of course they do. They want us to be — they want another homeland security deal.

That's a bad thing?

And they want to make it about — not about Iraq but about some other security issue, where, if we disagree with them, we are, by definition, imperiling the security of the country. And it’s a big load of hooey.

There's a logical argument about the issue.

We’ve got nine Iraq war veterans running for the House seats.

Context, people! Forget the issues - LOOK AT THE CONTEXT! You are getting verrrry sleeeeeppppyyyyyy...

We’ve got President Reagan’s secretary of the navy as the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Virginia. A three-star admiral, who was on my National Security Council staff, who also fought terror, by the way,

"by the way..." Heh. My "Heh" is about context.

is running for the seat of Kurt Weldon in Pennsylvania.We’ve got a huge military presence here in this campaign. And we just can’t let them have some rhetorical device

aka: LOGIC.

that puts us in a box we don’t belong in.

B/C we Dems are the rightful leaders of this nation! We would add: "by God" - if only we believed in God. More bad luck, that.

That’s their job. Their job is to beat us. I like that about Rove. But our job is not to let them get away with it. And if they don’t, then we’ll do fine.
WALLACE: Mr. President, thank you for one of the more unusual interviews.
CLINTON: Thanks.

Wrapup: Fisking Pres. Clinton is, at first, as fun as eating a delicious dessert. But he goes on - stringing together falsehood, after misleading statement, after falsehood. His stamina for falsehood is quite amazing. After awhile, the delicious dessert becomes too much. By the end, I had a stomach ache.

Somalia Addendum:
It was a mistake to pull out of Mogadishu without arresting or killing Aidid. However, that mistake was not the cause of 9/11.

Well before Mogadishu, Bin Laden had the conviction that America was weak and timid. If Mogadishu had not happened, Bin Laden would've still found other "proofs" of his conviction. He would've used those proofs to recruit. Bin Laden did not need Mogadishu to grow Al Qaeda.

Having said that, Clinton is mistaken in his contention that pulling out of Mog was justified by the absence of knowledge about Bin Laden. Clinton should've known the terrorists and despots of the world always watch America's actions, and they always draw conclusions. They - and not just Bin Laden - drew unhelpful conclusions after Mogadishu.

Mark Bowden believes pulling out was a mistake. Here, he writes in 1999, in the Afterword to the paperback edition of Blackhawk Down:
"In Somalia the chances of success were greater and more tangible(than in Vietnam) because the mission was so limited. There was little danger of American troops being drawn into a quagmire in Somalia. No matter what ultimate impact Aidid's arrest would've had on the U.N. goals in Somalia, it was important to see the mission through once Task Force Ranger was committed. The lesson our retreat taught the world's terrorists and despots is that killing a few American soldiers ... is enough to spook Uncle Sam."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

War. What is It Good For? This...

There was one good thing about the Israel-Hezbollah battle: it got the full IDF 1) into uniform, and 2) into close proximity to cameras! Above: sea, sand, salt air, kite, girls, beer, automatic weapon, full clip. Sigh...

Do yourself a favor, and click the link

Monday, June 19, 2006

NBA Finals: Game 5 Comment

Bennett Salvatore prevented the Mavs being in a commanding position - from which they would've enjoyed strong odds of winning the NBA Championship. It's nauseating to reflect that NBA referees never want to "decide the game" on a last second shot, and that their code is to blow a last second whistle only if the offensive player draws very obvious and obstructive contact.

I doubt very many, if any, NBA officials have it out for Mark Cuban. I've faith in their professionalism. That said, if any referee has it out for Cuban, Bennett Salvatore is a good candidate to be that ref. Salvatore is old school - old old ooooollllldddd school - East Coast, old country, Italian. EVERYTHING about Mark Cuban could easily stick in Bennett Salvatore's craw. Salvatore is a good candidate to have said to himself:

"If I see any sliver of justifiable contact here, I'm making the call. F___ Mark Cuban. It's payback time."

Did Salvatore do that? I've not one single clue, and it's useless to dwell on it. But it is kind of fun to notice it.

All that said, the Mavericks beat themselves, through sloppy offense and defense down the stretch - as well as through Dirk and Josh Howard missing 3 free throws. Bitching about an NBA call is exactly like a batter who bitches about getting bad calls on third strikes: the batter should hit the ball before two strikes are on him. Otherwise, he's setting himself up for bad things to happen. The Mavs set themselves up for bad things to happen. It was the Mavs' own fault they lost the game. They should've had a points cushion at the end.

In Dallas, they are showing the last play over and over on TV. Wade said he got hit twice on the play. He didn't get hit. Here's what actually happened:

1. In a very close play, Wade arguably touched the inbounds pass in the frontcourt, before moving into the backcourt. Personally, I say the tie goes to the catcher. I would not have called a backcourt violation.

2. Wade dribbles right. When Terry attempts to cut him off on the sideline, Wade administers a forearm shiver. Terry trips and goes down, flying out of bounds. As an NBA referee, I would've let this last-second, jostling contact go w/o a call - mostly b/c Terry partially slip/tripped. It's a close judgment, though. Wade's forearm did contribute to Terry's slip/trip, and did free him of Terry's defense, and did give Wade a competitive advantage.

3. Now, with Terry out of bounds, and laying beside the press table, Wade heads up the sideline, towards the baseline. He is doubled by Howard - closest to the baseline, and by Harris - closest to midcourt. At this moment, as Wade advances towards the corner, he is dead. He is pinned by two quick guys. He has zero chance of going around either of Howard or Harris; and can only evade through a risky attempt to dribble/split between them. Howard and Harris both have aggressive hands. Both will go for Wade's dribble if he tries to split them. If Wade attempts a corner jumper, he will be heavily pressed from the front by Howard. Harris will be coming from his side, and will be swiping at his shot from over the top. Wade is just about dead. The Mavericks are about to win.

In response - in cheating, yet brilliant response - Wade reprises Michael Jordan's championship shove against Byron what's-his-name of the old Utah Jazz - only, instead of shoving Howard, Wade grabs a gigantic fistful of Howard's shorts, and mightily slings Howard - by Howard's own shorts - towards the baseline. It was a mighty sling - but it was fast and smooth. If I was a referee, I likely would've missed it. However, it was definitely a foul, and it extricated Wade from a very difficult spot. If a ref had seen it, it deserved, w/o a doubt, to be called. In a perfectly refereed game, Howard would've been shooting free throws at the other end, with about 4 seconds on the clock.

The shove moved Howard towards the baseline a bit. What the shove really did was enable Wade to perform a world-class change of direction - as if he had been running down the street, then used a telephone pole to shove himself back in the direction he just came from. The change of direction was so severe that Wade actually passed around the mid-court side of Devin Harris - something which would've been impossible - absent using Howard as a human telephone pole. This is how Harris happened to have his left hand on Wade's right hip as Wade drove to the basket. As Wade went around him on his mid-court side, Harris spun clockwise about 250 degrees.

You saw the rest. Nowitski did an excellent job avoiding the foul, yet distracting Wade with hand and arm movements. On his own, Wade lost control of the ball as he passed Nowitski. Wade desperately fought to control the ball, and to shove it up towards the basket. Nowitski's hand and arm movements attracted Bennett Salvatore's attention. The Mavericks had the rebound in hand.

Salvatore's whistle came from directly behind Wade. Salvatore was positioned behind the play: towards midcourt, and towards press row. When the play began, Salvatore had the best angle on the inbounds pass which could've been called for a backcourt violation, yet made no call. Salvatore was nearest to Wade's forearm shove of Terry, when Terry slip-tripped under the scorer's table, yet made no call. Salvatore, positioned near press row, and looking directly down the sideline towards the baseline, had the best angle on Wade's grab and sling of Howard, yet made no call. Salvatore had absolutely no angle to call Nowitski for a foul. Salvatore was 25 feet behind Wade, and looking directly at Wade's back. Nowitski's arm slashed vertically in front of Wade, without touching him. From behind Wade's back, blind to whether Nowitski's vertically slashing arm touched the front of Wade, Salvatore made the call. Hmmm.

Well, it WAS a heck of an exciting play. World-class athletes on display. As a Mavericks' fan, I know how Utah Jazz fans felt when Michael Jordan committed an offensive foul on his game-winning shot. Byron what's-his-name should've been shooting free throws on the other end. The Jazz were ripped off.

My only consolation is that the loss was the Maverick's own fault. They should've had a points cushion at that juncture.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The 5 Year War Between the White House and the State Department

I've written before about this war, and about how the State Dept. makes constant, ongoing effort to undermine White House goals in the WOT; and about how the White House must fight the State Dept. to get White House directives carried out - even though the State Dept. is part of the Executive Branch, and is subordinate to the White House.

There was an interesting subtext to Samuel Alito's Supreme Court hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, when Senate Democrats, again and again, referenced Alito's belief in a "unitary Executive." This was referenced a dozen times - each time in an ominous tone of voice - before I finally went to the Internet to figure out what the gosh they were talking about. A "unitary Executive" means the President manages and directs the Dept's - such as State and the CIA - which are part of the Executive Branch.

It turns out many have argued, in recent years, that Dept.'s which were created to be part of the Executive should have autonomous power, and should not be subject to Presidential management and direction. The argument is that there can be Congressional oversight; and Presidential appointment and firing of Department directors; but the Department Directors ought not be managed or directed by the President. The importance is that Dept. goals and direction would not be set by the President. Democratic Senators, whose party has lost 7 of 10 Presidential elections, seem keen on the idea that the President has not had power to manage and direct Executive Branch Departments in years - and a President would have to be a power hungry madman to try to manage Executive dept's. Alito's argument (and Bush's - presumably) is that Executive Branch Dept's were expressly created for the President to manage, and whatever customs may or may not have been followed in recent years, those alleged customs do not invalidate the President's proper Constitutional authority.

The State Dept., an especially bloated and ineffective bureaucracy, which is filled with virtually unfire-able government workers, is known to be an especially left-wing enclave. There was a funny flap last year, in which State Dept. high-ups leaked their outrage that Bush and Cheney were deciding upon Iraq policies without the input of the State Dept! The outrage was not that Bush and Cheney were ignoring relevant information, but rather that Bush and Cheney had too much power! Bush and Cheney were out of control! Bush and Cheney should be listening to their careerist betters in the State Dept., and thence should follow the advice of their careerist betters (or be subjected to anonymous leak warfare in WaPo and NYT). I exaggerate not, and I kid you not. Bush and Cheney cut out the opportunities for State to wage leak warfare by exorcising State hoity-toities from the decision process. Anonymous State leakers, and the NYT, threw hissy fits.

All of which is prelude to my recommendation of this post, which includes an email from a politically conservative State employee, about doings in Baghdad's Green Zone. Read it all - it's not long. I will excerpt this part:

The PRT effort, in short, is State's effort attempt to be as good as Col. McMaster's cavalry regiment in Tal Afar. DoD has 150,000 soldiers out mingling with Iraqis every day on every street corner in Iraq. The State department, on the other hand, has 2000 employees entombed behind the green zone walls, talking to each other inside one of Saddam's former palaces. When they do talk to Iraqis, it is only the governing elite. There isn't a problem with DoD "guarding" the PRTs. The PRTs would be fully integrated with military units (or vice versa). [...]The feeling among too many State career folks is that integrating the military into these PRTs, and working on civil-military matters together with DoD, is allowing "them" into too much of "our turf." It's a turf war, which the department is more adept at fighting than a real one. Nobody will say it, but too many around here see themselves sophisticates, who don't mingle with DoD troglodytes. It's shameful. Naturally, some in the department feel that it is "not their job to talk to the masses." I actually heard someone say that yesterday. Rather, they see their position as more of a 19th century man of leisure, dining with privileged elites. I actually saw a guy last week wearing a monocle. I know it has nothing to do with any of this, but it's a funny anecdote, and funny anecdotes are all that keep from from going insane sometimes. The Secretary [Condi] is fighting a lonely battle. President Bush's State Department staff is about 30 people in total by my count. All the rest are Hillary Clinton's transition team.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Everything I Know About Batting


Ernie Banks. In Tuscon? Late 1960s? Banks' swing was effortless, perfectly balanced, and generated power.

Ernie Banks grew up in Dallas, TX.

I was fortunate to receive good instruction as a young player. Here are some of the best instructions I received:

Watch the ball meet the bat.

Hit the ball in front.

Think of hitting a pitch with a hammer in your bottom hand: you would not make contact with the hammer beside your belly button, but rather with the hammer beside your front hip. Contact with the baseball should be made right at your front hip. The angle of the bat should be square to the hip, and the bat head square to the ball [as a hammer would be square to a nail].

Swing level

This is more of a mental suggestion for swings in the upper part of the strike zone. It prevents chopping at pitches which are too high; it prevents a loopy swing.

Southern Brother and I fight it out over this instruction near the bottom of this post. He prefers: "keep your hands above the ball". I think that is an unnecessarily complicated instruction for a young child. He argues he has successfully taught it to numerous young children.

When you step in, make sure your bat can touch the outside edge of the plate.

You'll never, ever be a hitter if you swing at high pitches.

Let's talk about this one. It is the truest thing ever. Many hitters never reached their potential b/c they never stopped swinging at high pitches. Here's the cure for swinging at high pitches: swing level when swinging at the top of the strike zone. If you are swinging level, you cannot get your hands high enough to swing at a fantastically high pitch.

Teach your child to swing level at the top of a typical umpire's strike zone - then teach them to never, ever, under penalty of death, swing at anything above that. Not in batting practice. Not in softball or wiffle ball games. And I mean anything. If your child goes to a birthday party, they may not swing at the Pinata! Buy them a Pinata to hit at home, and hang it knee high! :-)

More good advice, acquired from various places:

Think with your eyes.

I heard this from Texas Rangers coach Rudy Jaramillo. I like this one. Older children need to understand how to approach an at bat. We forget how little they know. You can think between pitches, when you glance at the base coach for a signal. Form your plan for the next pitch, then take a deep breath to 1) relax yourself, and 2) turn your brain off, then step back in. Now think with your eyes. Just react.

You'd think even the smallest child would understand taking a deep breath to relax - but they do not - unless they are instructed.

I came up with this next myself, for kids who tense up and swing hard(though it also works for kids who swing wimpy):

Swing loosey-goosey, but hit it with authority.

Ernie Banks is giving a perfect demonstration at top. This is my attempt at Harvey Pennick-type perfect verbiage. Tense kids also need to be taught to hold the bat lightly, as if they were holding a bird. I dislike the instruction: "Hit the ball hard", b/c kids do not understand the physics of bat-head speed, which are somewhat related to the physics of cracking a whip. The child reasons that they must tense up, and give hard effort, in order to hit the ball hard.

Speaking of Harvey Pennick: Look for a pitch in your sweet spot.

Alternate instruction: Look for your pitch. This is the equivalent of Pennick's famous "Take dead aim," b/c it takes a player's mind off of thinking and onto his task. It forces a player to visualize a pitch coming into his sweet spot. The visualization is the key. Everyone from Jack Nicklaus, to The Inner Game of Tennis, to Bob Rotella, talks about visualization. It is a very, very big deal in hitting.

Also, kids don't watch much baseball anymore. They need to be encouraged to develop a loose pre-swing waggle. Kids typically haven't thought of such a thing. They will stand in their stances like brittle statues - unless they are instructed.

Stand in the back of the box, to get a longer look at the pitch.

I like this, for young players, for unusual reasons:

1) young players can see the plate better when it is out in front of them. Therefore, they develop a better idea of the strike zone. Think about it. If you are an inexperienced player, and the plate is always beside you, it is out of your vision, and you are just guessing about where it is. Your developing concept of the strike zone is stunted.

2) because young players have been instructed to hit the ball in front: when they hit from the back of the box, it especially reinforces this fundamental.

Walk up to the plate (to stay composed and relaxed).

If you strike out, jog back to the dugout.

The walk back, after a strike out, is a moment ripe for mischievous acting-out. Shorten that moment. Decrease acting out. Have the player jog back.

When you have two strikes, you're not looking to hit a strike - you're looking to hit anything the umpire might call a strike.

If he called it a strike, you should've hit it. Whether it was a strike is irrelevant. If the unfairness of a bad call bothers you, don't let the count go to two strikes.

When I was about 11, my Mom became frustrated with my letting good pitches go by. She began to encourage me to stay ahead in batting counts. For some reason, I had never thought of this before. The concept appealed to me. The rest of my playing seasons, I concentrated on staying ahead in counts (most of the time). This had the effect of sharpening my mental state. I had to be ready to hit from the very first pitch of each at bat. It created extra focus during each at bat, because I had to stay ahead in the count! It was a mental edge. I don't know how it would work for others, but it helped me be mentally sharp. I didn't realize that when I played, but I can look back and see it clearly.


Some slightly more advanced conversation:

I like Al Oliver's advice: if you see the ball, hit it. You see some pitches better than others. Those are the pitches to hit.

All my life, in batting practice, I swung only at strikes. As a result, my swing basically would not extend to reach a ball out of the strike zone. The swing would not cover that large of an area. Therefore, I could begin a swing at a pitch I saw very well, and would naturally stop if the swing wasn't going to be able to reach the ball. If felt very natural to stop in that circumstance. I never had to think about it, or work at it. I never reached my bat out to an area I hadn't already practiced hitting in.

Somewhere along the way, I realized the good pitchers would be throwing low fastballs. Therefore, in practice, I especially worked on becoming excellent at hitting low fastballs - and I did become excellent at that. So, in tough situations, against good pitchers, they were looking to get me with low fastballs, and I was looking for them to throw a low fastball at the top of the knees. The system worked very well. Throughout my life, I had tremendous success hitting in pressure situations, and against the very best pitching. I think this approach - looking for low fastballs - was a big part of the reason.

I've heard hitters say "I was looking for something inside that I could drive." I did that naturally, without coaching myself to do it. Especially if I had no strikes in the count, I was looking for a low fastball in my sweet spot - and my sweet spot was not low and outside. I would naturally let a low outside pitch go by, until later in the count.

Throughout my life, I believed I was an excellent hitter in tough situations. I believed my teams were lucky to have me at bat in those situations. I often believed, of everyone on the team, I had the best chance of succeeding against tough pitching in tough situations. I would often be really wanting to win, and I would think "Thank goodness I'm coming up - my coming to bat really gives us a good chance to win this game," or "My coming to bat is bad luck for those other guys," or "Those other guys have no idea how much trouble they are in with me coming to bat. I'm the last person they want up there - even if they don't know it."

Was that true? It doesn't matter if it was true or not! The important thing is to believe it - to have confidence. My father used to say "If you think you cannot, you cannot." He was right about that.

One of my brothers would get into sharpened frame of mind by personalizing his upcoming confrontation with the pitcher: I'm too good to let this guy [this pitcher] beat me! This guy is not gonna beat me! I'm gonna get this guy. He will not win! He gave me this pep talk before some of my high school at bats, and this pep talk does build confidence. I would instantly realize: Hey, I'm too good to let this guy beat me! This guy is not gonna beat me! I'm gonna get this guy!

I would come into at bats looking to see a low fastball really clearly. If I was seeing good, I might hit the first pitch. Sometimes I was seeing bad, and I would watch hittable fastballs go by - even maybe for strike two - because I just wasn't seeing them as well as I wanted to.

With two strikes, I changed approach. I learned to visualize sort of a rectangular hockey net behind me, in the position of a strike zone. I learned to wait and wait and wait on the ball, before committing to it, and to only hit it if it was about to go into my imagined hockey net. In my mind, I was defending the hockey net - like a goalie. I would imagine each two-strike pitch was going to break, and I would wait for the break before I committed to the pitch. This meant, with two strikes, I was never perceiving a fastball which turned out to be a breaking pitch. If the pitch actually was a fastball, I was still able to flick my wrists and get sweet spot on the ball. Obviously, I was not a power hitter! However, I was often surprised at how far I could hit two strike pitches with what felt - to me - like a minimalist wrist flick, and with minimal associated body movement.

Here are things which especially helped me learn to hit breaking pitches:

1) Competitive wiffle ball, with my brother throwing for blood.

2) Competitive ping pong ball baseball. This was played indoors. We hit by holding a wooden Texas Rangers' mini souvenir bat with one hand. The pitcher threw every type of breaking ball he could invent. If you could hit that wildly breaking ping pong ball with one hand on a souvenir bat, you could hit the toughest breaking ball any baseball pitcher could throw at you.

3) One day I took a jugs machine up the hill, and hit about 100 curve balls. By the end of that day, I had tremendous confidence.

A story about my son:
He could hit curves pretty well - until he faced a left hander's curve in 9th grade. He declared he had never faced a left hander's curve. A hunch: I don't think it occurred to Jake that he could hit the pitch anyway. I think he believed if he hadn't hit it in practice, he couldn't hit it in a game. Jake struck out both times he faced those curve balls. The moral, I guess, is to throw left handed curves to your kid with a wiffle ball, or a Jugs machine, or a left-handed friend - just so they get the thought in their head that they can hit the pitch.

And that's about everything I know about batting - except for a bunch of technical stuff which is partly self-taught, and partly mangled second-hand gossip, and may not even be correct! So it's best to stay away from that!


Update: Big thanks to Southern Brother for writing in with some excellent technical advice for advanced hitters. Since Southern Brother is a college baseball coach, his technical advice is cutting edge! I've always wanted this blog to be cutting edge!

Southern Brother:
1. the baseball swing is NOT level nor should you teach swinging level...what you should teach is to keep your hands ABOVE the ball. You stated to stay off high pitches, correct, the reason is because you can't keep your hands above the ball on high pitches.

Greg's note:
Southern Brother expects an advanced player to quickly process this and then to never give it another thought.

For young players, I don't like "keep your hands above the ball". What young player can understand this? Confusing. Further, I suspect the instruction tends to focus a child's attention on his hand position - and no one wants that. Southern Brother doesn't want that. A child's focus ought be: put sweet spot on the ball. On pitches at the top of the zone, I prefer "swing level". It's simpler, and there's a subtle mental distinction in favor of focusing on putting sweet spot on the ball.

Update: Southern Brother writes in and stands up for "keep your hands above the ball". He argues he has successfully taught it 9 and 10 year olds.

Also, he recounts a funny exchange with his own son over watching the spin of the seams of the ball:
Me: 'you CAN see those seams...I KNOW you can see those seams!'...Son: Uh, well, they are red.' I lost it!
and he adds a fundamental he forgot to mention: in the stance, front elbow s/b centered in middle of chest.

Back to Southern Brother:

2. Take your back hand and punch it up past your body, and to do this you have to take that back hand down to the ball and through it ... in that hammer movement Ted Williams talked about in his book Mom had for years, your back elbow has got to SLOT against your ribs to allow your hands to be thrown forward in the hammer movement. Left handed power hitters are famous for perfect slots of their back elbow, Williams, Musial, Mantle, Ruth, Maris, Reggie Jackson, Bonds, Ryan Howard.

3. Misc Modern terms you will hear given today and what they mean.

'See it BIG'

You have to read the seams: that's how you recognize pitches. You don't just look at the ball. Rather: read what the seams look like. After a pitch, can you describe what the seams looked like? To see the ball big is to recognize the pitch, when you do that the ball will look larger to the hitter.

'Let it travel'. 'Let it get deep'

Hitters get in trouble when they try to hit the ball to far in front of their body, causing them to reach, or be fooled on the pitch. When you see it big, let it travel, and let it get deep (closer to the catcher) you increase the percentage of hitting the ball hard on a line.

'Square it up'

Contact with the baseball should be made right at your front hip. The angle of the bat should be square to the hip, and the bat head square to the ball ... not inside the ball, or around the outside of the ball.

'Stay INSIDE the ball'

When the back hand drives up through the hitting zone and past the body, the hands need to stay inside the ball so you can square it up on contact. If your hands have a rounding swing, the bat head comes over the top and rounds the ball with a groundout. If your hands are on the same line of the baseball then they dip/loop and a pop up fly ball is hit. Staying inside the baseball is the best fundamental to help hitting the ball on the sweet spot.


Willie Mays said you have to go back in order to go forward. To physically torque the body to produce the most power and bat speed your weight has to be transferred to the backside before the swing begins.

The stance should be slightly wider than your shoulders and balanced. As the pitcher starts his leg kick, the hitter starts his load/weight shift to the instep of the back foot. Keeping the weight through the inside of the back foot allows for the body to stay balanced and proper physics to be applied in the swing.

Golf instructors have studied and copied the baseball weight shift with a modern swing mechanic called the peg and stem where the back leg stays straight and firm to allow the body to turn against it as a pendulum for the highest amount of tourque resulting in higher faster swing speeds and longer drives.

'Stay In'

In the stance, the front shoulder should be lower than the back shoulder. The hitter's shoulders ought be a bit closed. When the hitter loads his weight (closes his shoulders a bit), the hips should follow along with the shoulders, i.e. the hips should turn and rotate inwards at a similar angle to the shoulders.

Beware: telling a batter to keep their head in is a confusing instruction, negative, and frustrating to the hitter.

Instead, if you tell the hitter to stay in with their shoulder and hips, then their head automatically follows.

4. Keep the bat OUT of the back of the hand and thumb. Lay the bat in the fingers and align the knuckles.

5. Pitchers pitch to locations. Hitters need to look for a pitch in a location, then don't miss.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Psychological Defense Mechanisms

Been reading the best of the psyche blogs for some months. Very informative. They are gifts to anyone who reads them. From Dr. Sanity:

What are psychological defense mechanisms?

They are psychological strategies used by individuals (and by extension--groups of individuals and even entire nations at times) to cope with reality and to maintain his/her self -image intact.

A healthy person will use many different defenses throughout life. A defense mechanism becomes pathological when it is used persistently and leads to maladaptive behavior that will eventually threaten the physical and/or mental health of the individual.
Sometimes - many times - healthy people venture into fantasyland thinking. When we do, our chosen defense mechanisms generally flow from one of three places:

Denial - of reality. A second helping won't hurt me.

What you deny ... will always eventually get you. Always. Every time. Think of yourself as a deer, and of what you deny as an 18 wheel truck which is bearing down on you. That truck exists. Do something, or it will get you.

Projection - this is when you dislike some trait about yourself - such as being selfishly tight with a nickel; and you project this dislike about yourself onto someone else, as in:
"Fred is sooo selfish and cheap. I am sooo mad about the way he is."

Displacement - this is when you have strong feelings, and circumstances surrounding the object of those feelings create a psychologically jarring situation. In response, you displace those feelings away from that object, and onto a more comfortable object. Now you get to have the feelings, without facing the consequences of having those feelings about that object. You get to
"feel more safe - even though that is not the case." (1)
An example would be a devout person who is angry at God, but doesn't feel free to acknowledge that anger. Instead, the devout person displaces their anger onto a more comfortable object - such as their spouse, or a friend, or a family member.

Displacement is classically characterized by anger which is out of proportion to a circumstance.

Example: A spouse or a friend spills a drink in the car. A person who is displacing feelings may fly into a rage which is out of proportion for the offense. Their rage has actually been triggered by... anything, really. Maybe a fear of losing their job, or of losing a loved one to disease, or... whatever. The displacer, being an intelligent and adaptable human being, will rationalize a justification for their out-of-proportion anger. But the actual genesis of these feelings will have nothing to do with the spilled drink, or with any rationalized story which is concocted around the spilled drink, or around the carelessness of the person who spilled it. That person maybe was careless. But that is irrelevant, and has nothing to do with the actual genesis of these feelings. The actual genesis of these feelings has everything to do with their true, and uncomfortable, object: maybe an employer, or a client, or a friend you do not want to risk angering, or whoever. These feelings are being displaced onto the safer, more comfortable object: the person who spilled the drink.

(1) Dr. Sanity: Psychiatry 101- Defense Mechanisms
Dr. Sanity: Let's Discuss Bush Derangement Syndrome Again

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Protest Babes + Protest Cat

Samizdata has pictures from a free-speech rally at Trafalgar Square.

Past protest babes:
Cedar Revolution in Lebanon 1 2 3 4
Women's Suffrage in Kuwait 1 2
Orange Revolution in Ukraine 1 2 3

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Giorgione, Manet, Vanity Fair, titillation, duality, and pears

In this post, neo-neocon discusses how the Vanity Fair photo is a descendant of the Manet painting just below, and of the earlier Giorgione painting further below:

So, here we have an interesting trajectory: from Giorgione's allegory in which the sexuality is a subtext, although still present; through Manet's shocking modernized grouping that refers back to those earlier nudes, but shorn of any pretense of classicism except as a facile reference point. Then, on to the modern photo that is sold on newsstands and overtly meant to titillate, and which has only a vague and very hidden reference to its predecessors. But to me, all three works stand in an unbroken line, and even the last refers all the way back to the first.

The paintings and the photo remind me of the dual sensibilities of woman. In the Manet, the robed woman in the meadow reminds of Milo Kundera's account of Karel's mother, and the pears and the tanks. Kundera is the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being(also credit neo-neocon for first pointing to this Kundera passage):

One night, for example, the tanks of a huge neighboring country came and occupied their country [a reference to the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia]. The shock was so great, so terrible, that for a long time no one could think about anything else. It was August, and the pears in their garden were nearly ripe. The week before, Mother had invited the local pharmacist to come and pick them. He never came, never even apologized. The fact that Mother refused to forgive him drove Karel and Marketa crazy. Everybody's thinking about tanks, and all you can think about is pears, they yelled. And when shortly afterwards they moved away, they took the memory of her pettiness with them.

But are tanks really more important than pears? As time passed, Karel realized that the answer was not so obvious as he had once thought, and he began sympathizing secretly with Mother's perspective--a big pear in the foreground and somewhere off in the distance a tank, tiny as a ladybug, ready at any moment to take wing and disappear from sight. So Mother was right after all: tanks are mortal, pears eternal.
I intend to write about the pears and the tanks, someday. I wish I was more attracted to the "eternal" pears, but I am not. I suspect being less attracted to the pears is a form of denying reality, and of having a complaint against God. I suspect it's a rebellion against God's design. However, it is a perplexing question. Maybe men are hardwired to like the excitement of the tanks.

Update, July 2008:
I'm a different person, now, than when I wrote this in March, 2006. I am more interested in the pears than I used to be - although: world events still fascinate. I comprehend and understand world events better than I did even 5 years ago. Still: the pears are my life. I cannot control the tanks.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Don't Blame Me For What You Are

An interesting thing about the blogosphere: if you blog, and if you comment at other blogs, you will be ripped by emailers and commenters. I suspect the blogosphere must especially attract people who get a jolt from the hurt feelings of others. In real life, their acquaintances and their relatives must flee at their approach. But the blogosphere is their nirvana. The blogosphere is their crack cocaine.

What you soon enough notice, when you're commenting in a blog, is just how much some people are living in fantasy worlds. You can even recognize - because is is so obvious and blatant - some denial, projection, displacement, and narcissism; and you can observe how those things infringe upon reality.

If you're like me, you come to trust your own reasoning more and more, and your own grasp of reality more and more. It's been a growing-up experience for me. Three years ago, when I commented at a blog, I could not help desiring that other commenters would appreciate my comment, and I could not help being somewhat devastated when they did not. I still hope other commenters will appreciate my contributions, but now I am completely undevastated when they do not. In fact, I couldn't care less. When occasion arises: I'm perfectly willing to admit to illogical or uninformed thinking, then publicly change my opinion. I'm confident of my IQ and wisdom. Both are certainly surpass-able by many people, and I'm fine with that. And I truly don't care about whatever the delusional and the narcissistic and the otherwise goofy can dream up to say.

Now, that's a big deal for me, because I have cared about that stuff for almost all my life - up until about two years or so ago, when it finally dawned that I was in many instances wiser than the delusional, the overtly narcissistic, and the goofy. I'm very grateful that realization finally, honestly and truly, dawned in me. It's a big step forward. I've been thinking about that step forward a lot lately, probably because I've been noticing how the barbs coming my direction have been making absolutely zero impact. When you are confident in who you are, and in your strengths, and in your limitations, it's like a deflector shield against meaningless manure. Barbs  bounce away - maybe even faster than they came in, with no effort needed on my part to aid the bouncing.

I started commenting, about eight months ago, at a blog written and frequented mostly by Canadians. It is filled with commenters who believe the vast majority of Christians and conservatives are evil, and who believe the vast majority of Christians and conservatives have nefarious motives for their actions. The blogger is very smart, and is a decent guy, and even has some conservative leanings, but he also buys into the construct that Christians and "American-type" conservatives are evil people with nefarious motives. For the entire time I've been there, I've been the only person on that blog who disagreed with the "evil and nefarious" construct.

Lately, without having any particular plan in mind, I've steered two comment threads in the direction of discussing that construct, because it seemed relevant to the particular discussions. Some commenters responded, without any sense of irony, that I was simply too stupid to understand how evil and nefarious I truly am. Though they were smart enough to understand how evil and nefarious I am, they had to admit they were not smart enough to explain it in a way my feeble mind could understand. They assured me that was terrible luck for me, and actually for my equally evil state, region, and nation, as one and all are part of what is f___ing up the world. One commenter unleashed a week-long string of invective, which I went back and collected, then published in the comment section, because his entire oeuvre is quite entertaining. I had a vague idea someone might point out the overkill inherent in this commenter's methodology, but no one did. And, actually, overkill is part of his shtick. Anyway, here is the comment I left, complete with the week's worth of accumulated insults. I hope you find them amusing:

Dr. P,
Just for fun, and out of a sense of nostalgia, I've accumulated the names you've called me in the last week or so - a period in which I did not once resort to calling you names. I tried to stay on the points of contention which were raised. Despite your protestation to the contrary, I've yet to find where you did the same. In place of reason, you substituted the following name calling. I admit, it is a fun list to peruse. It has the entertainment value:

--head further up your ass than almost anyone I've ever encountered on the internet
--really stupid, and not just regular stupid either, you're Ann Coulter stupid.
--a loathsome worm, fit only for execution
--narrow minded
--marked by a lack in intelligence
--Like a woman who can't escape the husband who beats her
--you sound like an idiot
--religious Christians who almost without exception are the most narrow minded, rigid, people I've ever met
--How old are you? 18? Because you sound like some kinda schoolboy
--totally insane
--a goddamn anti-Semite

Picasso had his "blue" period. Near the end, you had your "stupid" period.

He responded thusly:

"Don't blame me for what you are."

I really enjoyed, and was intrigued, by that particular riposte. It has stuck with me:

Don't blame me for what you are.