Sunday, October 31, 2004

War Debts and Democracy.

We are but three days from the national elections, and one hopes three days from finality. For those who have paid very close attention to the campaign from the primaries up to this point, I can only say let no man question your endurance! Anyway, I was looking over Matt Drudge's site today -- Drudge Report -- and among other things, noticed a picture of Walter Kronkite's smiling face over the caption "CRONKITE: KARL ROVE BEHIND BIN LADEN TAPE?" If it weren't for the caption I'd have guessed that Kronkite had just experienced the relief of a bowel movement. Amazing isn't it? What kind of citizen would smile at the prospect of corruption, or find relief in it? And furthermore, do we need to ask who was Osama Bin Laden's intended audience? Cronkite appears to have an answer to the last question. Of course, Cronkite could not admit to being flattered by this attention.

I wanted to reflect for a moment on the charge against Bush concerning national debt as it pertains to the expense of war. It can be said that any question pertaining to the expense of war presupposes the question of the justice of the war in question.
And yet, I have observed in several places that the promise of future generations being tied to debt accrued today is placed in a more prominant position than the charge of an unjust war, or that the war is held to be unjust for the reason of the debt that will result from it. I am tempted to say that this is a reflection of the democratic man's attitude about debts, and the democratic man's taste for freedom which serves as a temptation to abandon or subordinate larger questions of justice. To this I'd say that a perpetual state of revolution is hardly desirable. At any rate, I think an important question is what makes it necessary for a people to accept and fulfill the obligations and debts of their predecessors? The same question formed part of the thinking on Iraq which was freed from an obvious tyrant who had incurred debts and obligations to foreign countries. The example of Iraq introduces a problem which is hardly noticeable in the example of the current war expense and debt, hardly noticable that is IF one has noticed that "our increasing war debt" has been linked in speech to "our security". What kind of man wishes to free himself from the expense of his own good? The problem inherent in the Iraq example is to what extent does necessity dictate obligations to a tyranny; or an obligation for the misdeeds and debts of a tyranny; or better yet an obligation to something understood as inferior? I suspect that for statesman the question is of vital importance as it relates to the formation of men who will be good (or useful) for their country, and not just preoccupied with what they think will be good (or useful) for themselves. The practical problems are quite real in other words existing somewhere between the weightlessness of freedom, and the burden of being tied to the misdeeds of a bad regime. Anyway, I offer this as food for thought... though I can't claim that these reflections are the result of "rigorous science."

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Return of Bin Laden

Phil has a cogent and very persuasive reading of this tape. If it does not point to an impending attack (and let's hope not!), it may represent a change in bin Laden's long term strategy:

If I were to give a completely unexpert guess, bin Laden is reaching a second stage of asymmetrical warfare. His ability to strike the US directly has become limited. Now is the time to wait the US out. Perhaps taking lessons from Ho Chi Mihn and Arafat, bin Laden realizes that the way to win his little war is by delaying actions. The best way to do that is by partially (or more) legitimizing himself with parts of the West, especially the elite portions. But his ideology makes that problematic (I doubt that many Westerners would carry a "Feminists for Burkas!" banner). But there are points he can exploit - the hatred of Israel, and the anti-Americanism that finds its most virulent expressions in the hatred of George W. Bush.

In truth, bin Laden has adopted what are by now the cliches of the American-European left, almost verbatim:

[Bush Sr.] was feeling jealous they [Arab rulers] were staying for decades in power stealing the nations finances without anybody overseeing them. So he transferred the oppression of freedom and tyranny to his son and they call it th e Patriot Law to fight terrorism. He was bright in putting his sons as governors in states and he didn't forget to transfer his experience from the rulers of our region to Florida to falsify elections to benefit from it in critical times.

No mention of mysterious police cars or disenfranchisement, but you get the point. Also no mention of Western whoredom, as Phil points out. Sure, there is the occasional expression that will sound a bit off to Western ears -- "Its known that those who hate freedom don't have dignified souls.like the 19 who were blessed." Even in a better translation, that would probably not be considered a zinger over here. But on the whole I'd say bL has been using his time shrewdly enough, studying our decadent Western ways and, rather than merely deploring them, thinking carefully how they can be exploited. Let's hope he's misjudged us yet again . . . .

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Still Time?

Phil has a great meditation on time and its horrors, which some will no doubt find depressing but which I regard as humane in the highest sense: "learning how to die". The problem as I understand it is our contingency, and the dexterity with which our mind escapes from any recognition thereof. I highly recommend it, and there is more to follow, regarding a better alternative I expect. I'm sure it will be worth the wait, as was this one.

Now if Phil keeps this up, he's going to shame me into trying to post something substantial one of these days . . . when there's time. ;)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Not to Beat a Dead Horse . . . .

After all, it aint his fault, he was probably a victim of Canadian health care! I can't resist sharing yet another tidbit of anti-socialism from Mark Steyn:

So this is no time to vote for Europhile delusions. The Continental health and welfare systems John Kerry so admires are, in fact, part of the reason those societies are dying. As for Canada, yes, under socialized health care, prescription drugs are cheaper, medical treatment's cheaper, life is cheaper. After much stonewalling, the Province of Quebec's Health Department announced this week that in the last year some 600 Quebecers had died from C. difficile, a bacterium acquired in hospital. In other words, if, say, Bill Clinton had gone for his heart bypass to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, he would have had the surgery, woken up the next day swimming in diarrhea and then died. It's a bacterium caused by inattention to hygiene -- by unionized, unsackable cleaners who don't clean properly; by harassed overstretched hospital staff who don't bother washing their hands as often as they should. So 600 people have been killed by the filthy squalor of disease-ridden government hospitals. That's the official number. Unofficially, if you're over 65, the hospitals will save face and attribute your death at their hands to "old age" or some such and then "lose" the relevant medical records. Quebec's health system is a lot less healthy than, for example, Iraq's.

Also, many thanks to the Maverick Philosopher for his kind words. I'm sure I have *more readership than I actually deserve (hint to Mr. Eaton: you gotta bail me out a litte more often!), but am much obliged all the same, especially for not having to change the title to Recto Ratio -- or would that be Verbum Vitae? I guess it all depends on the liver. Ha!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

A Few Good Blogs

Of late I've been buried in work, not necessarily unpleasant in nature (though there was the grading) but leaving me no slack nonetheless (yes, bloggers, I am sad to say it's usually my slack-time that ends up getting represented here, surprise surprise . . . ).

So let me point out a couple things in the blogosphere that I've enjoyed. For most of my readers, this means: you! But for the one or two random hits, here goes.

Check out the new fellow at Catholicism, Culture, and Politics. Of particular note are his reflections on welcoming life into the world (parts one and two) to which I will "pen" a response someday (inasmuch as they touch on Plato and original sin . . . .). He also has some great (though not happy) thoughts on the state of marriage today. Have not caught up with all of his posts, but I intend to, and would recommend the same to any of you.

Phil has a great post on the decline of the political treatise. I'm afraid this is the result of equality of social conditions, my friend. Not that the average man of yore would have been taken in by today's hackneyed banter. It's only that men used to look outside and above themselves, but no more.

Phil points to a very fascinating blog I had not noticed, The Maverick Philosopher. He has nifty things to say about the Incarnation, and the use of Anglo-Saxon, among other things. But what really floors me is the following, taken from his profile:

Vox clamantis in deserto. A recovering academician, I taught philosophy at various universities in the USA and abroad before abandoning a tenured position to live the eremitic life of the independent philosopher in the Sonoran desert. Following an ancient tradition, I entered upon a life of creative leisure, dedicated to serious pursuits under the guiding ideal of otium liberale, of cultured retirement, free of the constraints of the academic marketplace.

Before reading this, I never knew envy could transmute into awe, but what can I say? Xenophon has already said it:

[Socrates] would not, while restraining passion generally, make capital out of the one passion which attached others to himself; and by this abstinence, he believed, he was best consulting his own freedom; in so much that he stigmatised those who condescended to take wages for their society as vendors of their own persons, because they were compelled to discuss for the benefits of their paymasters. What surprised him was that any one possessing virtue should deign to ask money as its price instead of simply finding his reward in the acquisition of an honest friend, as if the new-fledged soul of honour could forget her debt of gratitude to her greatest benefactor.

There is no doubt who's taking the wiser course here. I will be checking this guy out in the future.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Apologia Pro Stupiditas

Many Americans have a message for Saddam Hussein, which it may be worth your while to ponder as well (thanks to James Taranto).

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Divine Right

Nor had I knowledge of that true inner righteousness, which doth not judge according to custom, but out of the most perfect law of God Almighty, by which the manners of places and times were adapted to those places and times--being itself the while the same always and everywhere, not one thing in one place, and another in another; according to which Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, and David, and all those commended by the mouth of God were righteous, but were judged unrighteous by foolish men, judging out of man's judgments and gauging by the petty standard of their own manners the manners of the whole human race. Like as if in an armoury, one knowing not what were adapted to the several members should put greaves on his head, or boot himself with a helmet, and then complain because they would not fit. Or as if, on some day when in the afternoon business was forbidden, one were to fume at not being allowed to sell as it was lawful to him in the forenoon. Or when in some house he sees a servant take something in his hand which the butler is not permitted to touch, or something done behind a stable which would be prohibited in the dining-room, and should be indignant that in one house, and one family, the same thing is not distributed everywhere to all. Such are they who cannot endure to hear something to have been lawful for righteous men in former times which is not so now; or that God, for certain temporal reasons, commanded them one thing, and these another, but both obeying the same righteousness; though they see, in one man, one day, and one house, different things to be fit for different members, and a thing which was formerly lawful after a time unlawful --that permitted or commanded in one corner, which done in another is justly prohibited and punished. Is justice, then, various and changeable? Nay, but the times over which she presides are not all alike, because they are times.

But men, whose days upon the earth are few, because by their own perception they cannot harmonize the causes of former ages and other nations, of which they had no experience, with these of which they have experience, though in one and the same body, day, or family, they can readily see what is suitable for each member, season, part, and person--to the one they take exception, to the other they submit.


St. Augusine, Confessions, III.13

Moral Authority

From the Adoremus bulletin:

The Vatican is conferring a papal knighthood on Julian Hunte, president of the United Nations' 58th General Assembly, a senator from Santa Lucia who in December 2003 cast the deciding vote to legalize abortion in the tiny Caribbean nation.

The award was made in recognition of Mr. Hunte's "major role" in upgrading the Vatican's status at the UN.

At a meeting with Mr. Hunte at the Vatican in February, Pope John Paul II said that the Vatican considers the United Nations a key institution in promoting international peace and development.

"You have undertaken a restructuring aimed at making the organization function more efficiently. This will not only ensure an effective superior instance for the just resolution of international problems, but also enable the United Nations to become an ever more highly respected moral authority for the international community", the pope told Mr. Hunte.


The UN a "moral authority"? Is this the Pope speaking, or am I dreaming?

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Watch the Vote

Could be some funny business once again. Phil has a very pertinent warning about this. I do not look forward to the spectacle. That's why we should listen to Hugh.

Soft Despotism, Soft Citizens, Hard Power

Mark Steyn is in top form with this article from Canada's Western Standard ("GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE IS FOR SISSIES"). The whole thing is well worth reading -- he is very good at exposing not only the ineffectuality, but far more importantly the moral deficiencies of socialism.

Here's the part I find especially compelling, both in terms of what it says about societiy and about how we as human beings ought to respond to it:

In April this year, Gérald Augustin of Rivière-des-Prairies, Quebec went to the St. André medical clinic complaining of stomach pain. He’d forgotten to bring his Medicare card, so they turned him away. He went back home, collapsed of acute appendicitis, and by the time the ambulance arrived he was dead. He was 21 years old, and he didn’t make it to 22 because he accepted the right of a government bureaucrat to refuse him medical treatment for which he and his family have been confiscatorily taxed all their lives. Clinic director Rouslene Augustin says it’s the policy to refuse all patients who don’t have their cards with them. No big deal, he wasn’t anything special, no-one in her clinic even remembers giving him the brush.

A few years back, when my little boy was a toddler, I had to rush him to Emergency at the Children’s Hospital in Montreal. They asked for his Medicare card. I didn’t have it. The missus usually has it with her, and she was out, and we don’t usually think to shuffle it back and forth between us all day. So the receptionist said we’d have to go away and come back later. In all my experience of American, British, French, Swiss, Austrian and other health care systems, I’d never heard such rubbish. I had my card. He’s my dependent. What would cause her to think he didn’t have a card or wasn’t entitled to one? And, given that the cards are generated by a computer anyway, why isn’t there a database of current card holders? Well, I kicked up a fuss, swore like Paul Martin reacting off-mike to a Gary Doer soundbite, and, after ten minutes of yelling, they agreed to see the kid. Perhaps if M Augustin had done that, he’d still be alive.


This is a small sample of the (literally) interesting anecdotes he cites in this essay. My experience with the same social phenomenon is relatively trivial -- I have had my livelihood, health care, library services, etc. obstructed by mindless and heartless bureaucratic buffoons. All the while I was in no actual danger of death (though in many instances, if misfortune had struck at the wrong moment, the arbitrary whim of clerks would have cost me life or limb) but in some instances it was abundantly clear that my very life was a matter of complete contempt next to the demands of a paper shuffling ninny.

My situation not being as dire as Steyn's, my response was not quite as extreme -- I did not resort to "ten minutes of yelling" -- yet these experiences have made me progressively quicker to resort to open contemptuousness and rude intransigence when dealing with a human being who waves his bureaucratic badge as a licence to act like a moral slug. I would not claim that this tactic yields unmitigated success -- after all, they can hang up on you, not answer your e-mails, or repeat the same crap to you over and over -- but my results so far have not been noticably worse, and perhaps have been moderately better, than when I go along with the game.

It does make me wonder if I'm lowering myself to their level. It is hard to feel either magnanimous or charitable when steaming at some two-bit keyboard clicker who is just trying to make a few bucks. And I'm sure I could benefit greatly by develping more charm. (I'm sure Mr. Steyn is not deficient in this department -- and in any case given his thick British accent his cussing itself would sound far more civilized than mine.)

But something tells me this is not quite right, that we owe it to our humanity -- to that of the clerk as well as the clerk's victim -- to get a little nasty if we have to in order to re-assert the human dimension to things. Not only when our physical health is at stake, but also, as Steyn so insightfully intimates, when our moral health is on the line. Perhaps you are doing the drone as well as yourself a favor when you throw flesh and blood reality back in his face.

Tocqueville famously refers to the administrative despotism we're living in as a soft one. Steyn says it is attaining "hard power" over us. But a soft despotism can have hard power only over soft citizens. Maybe the best thing any of us can do in this respect is to learn once again to be hard.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Proud Amebas.

I encountered this story on CNN.com: Study: One in 100 adults asexual, and was initially perplexed by it. Sure, it's not hard to fathom that some people are disinterested, but to make a cause out of it? Why is this necessary? And moreover, to refer to oneself as asexual is going too far isn't it? I can only say that it amazes me how people see themselves, and in particular how people see themselves in a democracy (note that the study was conducted in Britian). It's almost necessary today for people to pick their favorite of the lower animals to imitate... here the venerated ameba. You see, I was about to ask, what justifies this nihilism. On second thought, I think it better to ask what justifies this pride?

As paleface suggested, this cause will probably not appeal to anyone. I'd agree.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Fate of the Nation

It was certainly reassuring to see Cheney trounce Edwards like that, as he did especially on foreign policy. One moment in the debate was priceless:

CHENEY: Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies. It's their country. They're in the fight. They're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job. And for you to demean their sacrifices strikes me as...

EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not...

CHENEY: ... as beyond...

EDWARDS: I'm not demeaning...

CHENEY: It is indeed. You suggested...

EDWARDS: No, sir, I did not...

CHENEY: ... somehow they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future.


At that point, if my fuzzy TV reception did not deceive me, Edwards gave a look of pure defeat to the Vice President. He next claimed to "speak, first of all, to what the vice president just said", but completely changed the subject. I thought that was a total victory for Cheney, and made abundantly clear the difference between an administration that's willing and able to act globally and one that uses the term global as a campaign slogan.

However, I must agree with Downto that the "gay marriage" exchange was a disappointment. I thought this showed a great weakness on Cheney's part. Clearly he was not only uncomfortable with it, but downright pained by it, and anxious to get away from it. Edwards sensed this and extended the olive branch -- and Cheney accepted it with obvious relief. This put Cheney in Edwards's power, not only preventing him from calling out Kedwards's inconsistency on this subject, but also in my impression weakening Cheney for the rest of the debate. In the first half he was cutthroat; after that he was consistently more conciliatory, or halfhearted about any further attacks on Kedwards.

One could see Cheney being pulled apart by family ties, and by a sense of decency. When Ifill started asking silly questions (did anyone else think we were watching a gameshow at this point?) Cheney was obviously uncomfortable (especially with AIDS in America, not Africa; and that "talk about yourself" crap) but he made some attempt to answer her question. Edwards on the other hand blithely ignored her questions when they did not suit him. In general, he filled every space he could get (and his extra 15 seconds -- what a lark!) with whatever floated his boat, and skillfully used the time limits to throw bombs at Cheney when the latter could not respond to them. Cheney was reluctant to abuse the rules this way and ended up giving Edwards too many free shots.

This was fine in the first half when the questions themselves were good and when Cheney gave much, much worse than he got. But it looked worse as time progressed, his reticence exacerbated by the gay question.

I noted as well that the whole domestic half of this debate was downright boring. Neither candidate was saying anything significant about domestic policy. It made me wonder what the presidential domestic debate will be about. I sure hope they're saving the goods for that. Combined with Cheney's obvious lack of support for the President's gay policy, if we may call it that, I find this somewhat worrisome. Without a constitutional amendment we are headed for ruin on this issue, and as a society we are slipping in so many ways. It is not reassuring to hear so little from our Vice Presidential candidates when it comes to the home front, on which our long term fate hinges.

Cheney the Surgeon.

Looking back, Krauthammer had this to say about Cheney's speech at the RNC (Kerry the Spectator):

The Cheney speech was brilliant, a surgical dissection of John Kerry delivered with the soporific calm, the preternatural restraint of a chief pathologist's report at hospital Grand Rounds.

I think we got a similar feel for Cheney's qualities in the debate against Edwards this past evening. Here is the transcript of the debate, and more later....

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Bush's Rhetorical Deficit?

First things first, David Warren weighs in on the first Bush, Kerry debate, with an interesting suggestion that Bush would do himself a favor to be (or to speak) more like Churchill on the realities of the war in Iraq, and the need for perserverance. You may view his article here: Take no prisoners. And while I can agree with Warren that Bush "lacks the rhetorical power to communicate some of the realities he, and ultimately we, are facing": perhaps that combination of clarity of purpose and rhetorical force are rarer than we would hope for in political men. And it should be noted that even Churchill had his political ups and downs. The most important judgement from Warren had to do with the President's optimism about Iraq, which for Warren does not obviate the need to speak about the manifest difficulties. According to Warren, Americans have amassed a picture of the difficulties (the deaths) in Iraq which, over time, may exhaust their spiritedness or willingness to keep buggering on (KBO). This is how I see it: the mind when reflecting on the debate (the campaign as well) tends to get squeezed between the need to study character and politics, and the longing for one side to win over the other. Understandably, as a Kerry win would be a disaster, as Warren puts it.

Down to the Pireaus offered an interesting take on the debate. Kerry won the debate, the blogger points out, but did so in such a way as to raise the question, what did he win? There are a couple of things I'd like to say in response to the blogger's reflections. First, it shows that thinking about the debate, and what was said (here by Kerry) is probably key to a Kerry loss in November. Second, if it is easy to win a debate by avoiding statement of principle, by lieing, and by arguing that one has the 'midas touch' it is equally a reflection on Kerry's character as it is a reflection of a corrupted audience.

Finally, I have reached the point of this blog I was looking foward to most! Here is a quote from Churchill I rediscovered today, and would like to share.

Battles are the principal milestones in secular history. Modern opinion resents this uninspiring truth, and historians often treat the decisions in the field as incidents in the dramas of politics and diplomacy. But great battles, won or lost, change the entire course of events, create new standards of values, new moods, new atmospheres, in armies and in nations, to which all must conform.

I believe Bush, as Churchill was willing, is willing to confront the fundamental realities of political life. And while he may lack much of Churchill's rhetorical force (and perhaps boldness), he is conducting a war on serveral fronts including Iraq, motivated by a clear sight of the consequences of the battles being waged at this very moment -- it is perish or prevail.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Cowboy Boots or Flip-Flops?

Those are the options, as listed on a billboard I saw while visiting the Midwest this week. (I have never seen the like in my native New England.)

I caught the end of the debates from my hotel room. I have since read the transcript of the whole, but visual impressions probably count the most in assessing the impact this will have or not have on the race, and mine were based on the portion where Bush appeared to lose his steam.

If one were judging by bearing and tone only, it would have been no contest. Kerry was confident, well spoken, assertive, and nuanced in a seemingly healthy way. Bush on the other hand seemed perplexed, mangled his words, and paused for long periods at awkward moments. He looked like a man caught off guard by every question.

This, I think, is what has led many to claim he lost on style. Now, I agree with my esteemed co-blogger that such considerations may be beneath contempt. But I could not be impressed with what I saw that night. Bush's case is so far superior to Kerry's that he might have been able to treat Kerry with the disdain Mr. Eaton characterizes so beautifully and have looked all the better for it. But, if that's what he was going for, he ended up looking more perplexed, to me anyhow.

As David Warren remarked even before the event, and as Downto also notes, Kerry had the advantage of slipperiness -- Bush was obviously prepared to refute Kerry's positions of a week or so prior, and Kerry had once more reinvented himself for the sake of the debates. So Bush ended up often as not attacking Kerry for what he had said previously, and what he pointedly refused to say on camera.

For those who knew what Bush was referring to, Kerry could only be diminished, morally speaking, for putting on such a polished farce. For those not paying attention until then, however -- those Kerry must expect are quite numerous in our generally apolitical society -- it would be quite possible to think that Kerry's only major difference in regards to Iraq is that Kerry would do what Bush is doing, except more competently.

That is, I think Kerry did about as good a job as could be done to make his prevarications on the war look like a coherent position, which roughly amounts to this: I too would have tried to disarm Saddam, but with international help, with greater patience; and now that we bumbled in there I can do the best job of getting us out safely.

In order to sell this to the absent-minded, all Kerry had to do was give the impression of being knowledgeable, competent, in command -- in other words, to beat Bush on style. This has the added benefit of reinforcing the general opinion that Bush is mentally deficient. (Bush did not help by using weird expressions like "strategic beliefs"!) So that, by letting him get away with it, I think Bush exposed himself to a great risk.

Two things modify this assessment, however. One is Kerry's idiotic gaffe (or, even worse, non-gaffe!) that preemption must pass a "global test". If he doesn't realize this kind of sentiment will induce cardiac arrest in the heartland, he must be . . . well, precisely what he IS.

Additionally, the whole danger to Bush is premised on the idea that a significant number of people (who will vote) are not paying attention. Perhaps in a post-9/11 world, this is not the case, at least not when it comes to foreign policy.

As James Taranto notes,

in a postdebate Gallup poll, although a majority (53%) thought Kerry "did a better job in the debate" than Bush (37%), the results of more specific questions look better for the president:

[I have modified the table to make it legible here -- PF]

(Kerry/Bush)

Expressed himself more clearly (60%/32%)

Had a good understanding of the issues (41%/41%)

Agreed with you more on the issues you care about (46%/49%)

Was more believable (45%/50%)

Was more likable (41%/48%)

Demonstrated he is tough enough for the job (37%/54%)


Looks like discernment isn't dead after all . . .

Friday, October 01, 2004

Carthago Delenda Est.

24 hours have passed since the first election debate between Bush, and Kerry, and the opinion mills are working feverishly to declare a winner. In addition to the swamp of opinion, the post-debate polls are now coming in and being feverishly compared to the pre-debate polls, yielding a whole new breed of polls and statistics. One can only witness the spectacle, and marvel at the directedness (or direction for that matter). Surely, it is fashionable these days to ridicule the obsessive attention to polls, and to simultaneously defer to them -- such, may be said, is the character of democracy. If you haven't formed an opinion, it is almost certain you can find out what it is by referencing a poll. We have learned that raw public feeling, not deliberation over time, is the touchstone of politics.

Enough about that. My intention is to discuss a particular judgement about the debate that I've heard from several people (right and left both). The judgement goes something like this: John Kerry was correct and superior to Bush as regards style, whereas Bush was correct and superior to Kerry as regards content. I won't address those who claimed Kerry or Bush were superior in both regards, but for a reason. The reason is that those who made this judgement about Kerry's style and Bush's content believed also that Bush's repititions in speech were flaws in style (too simple, or simple sloganizing). I would disagree with this analysis. While I was watching the debate, watching Bush, I was reminded of what I had read once about the Roman citizen Cato. The same Cato it may be remembered who ended every single one of his speeches in the senate with the sentence "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" (And therefore, I conclude that Carthage must be destroyed). To understand the context, Rome had waged two wars against Carthage, and in the wake of the second war, Carthage was on the rise. We see here a citizen's fear of a foriegn threat, and the persistence of a citizen in waking his fellow citizens to that threat. His repetition was no flaw in style, it was understood to be necessary. Only a people who love novelty above all else could judge otherwise.

As an aside, I wonder how Cato would have responded to another senator's suggestion that a country or people outside Rome would need to be consulted before Rome could legitimately act against Carthage? I can only hazard a guess, but I think he would have responded with indifference to that senator. He would responded with indifference precisely because the senator who posed the question proved that he had enough contempt for himself to satisfy Cato that there was no need to offer him more!
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