Friday, December 24, 2004

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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Thaddeus McCotter

I watched the chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, Thos. Keane and Lee Hamilton, come before the House International Relations Committee this week (August 24, 2004). Lee Hamilton was brilliant. He definitely took pains to avoid partisanship and that emphasized the need for both parties to be unified in our opposition to the terrorist enemies.

But I was most impressed by Representative Thaddeus McCotter's statement. He's a Republican from southern Michigan. I thought his delivery was forceful. His statement follows:

First, thank you for your work. It's a particularly difficult year to be bi-partisan, but you managed to pull it off.

Um. Just a couple quibbles, because I'm sure that you get that all the time.

First of all, the use of the word "sanctuary" is apt, but I would have liked to also have seen emphasis on states that actively participate in the sponsorship of these terrorist organizations. I think "sanctuary" has a sort of passive connotation to it, when I think there are states that actively are involved with perpetuating terror.

Also, the "failed state" has kind of a connotation of exoneration. I don't think there's anyone who'd say that Nazi Germany was a failed state. I think it was an evil state. I think that "failed state" means there was a good, honest effort to tend to the needs of one's people, and it just didn't work out. I don't think that's the case with much of those states that we're dealing with.

Um. One of the things that I think we have to look at, and it's been touched on, is the fact that we're approaching this as if it's a solely political matter and I think that Mr. Hamilton touched on the fact that, in many ways, it's a theological matter -- that one of the reasons we're hated in the Middle East is our culture itself. We are infidels. We are not simply non-Muslims. We are people who lead good Muslims away from the true faith. In the mind of bin Laden, we are the greater danger.

That's why we are the Great Satan. It is not about what we did in Iran. It is not about what we've done in Iraq or elsewhere. It's the very fact that our existence, that our pluralism is a direct threat to their version of Islam.

That's why there is no emphasis on the nation/state that will be built if bin Laden were to be successful, or if the Islamic extremists were to be successful. They're not concerned with the nation/state. The first grave threat to them is the threat to their version of their theology. That includes our Arab allies in the Middle East.

In terms of the jurisdiction of this committee, I would just caution: Diplomacy is not a magic word; that nation/states have interests; and even amongst allies, those interests tend to collide sometimes just as much as they coincide.

And, particularly, with the French, we can look back to Richelieu to see what they're up to these days. It hasn't changed. So we can talk 'til we're blue in the face, but given our experience in the Cold War -- and again I use France because of their in and out of NATO... the DeGaulle years --- is that sometimes you can't do anything to get someone to go along -- especially if, in the past they believe that their problem is the number one problem for the United States (just like the Soviet Union was) and that a lot of American money and a lot of American blood will be spent to defeat the enemy regardless of their apathy or participation.

We've seen this before. And, in keeping with the Cold War theme, it just strikes me that we have to look at radical Islam as having arisen to fill the vacuum of the secular theology of Communism. It has a great appeal to the dispossessed.

And I think that your recommendations for "soft power" are necessary. The one thing that I would like to see (you talked about the Marshall Plan having complexities to it) is that we have to be sure that any soft money is accounted for and beneficially used. And I think it should start from a grass roots approach rather than a top-down approach that we've taken in Iraq. It has to immediately be felt at the grass roots level and have a tangible, palpable effect on these people. But we also (as Mr. Lantos pointed out) to protect the soft money and the possible impact at the grass roots, we have to have the military option to be prepared -- whether it be America's or others -- to defend those from the terrorists attacking them at the grass roots level.

In many ways, it would be akin to what Pablo Escobar used to do in Colombia in that any gains that the government would make, he would blow it up. He would terrorize people. He would threaten them with... you would either be bribed or you would get a bullet. We see this in Iraq today with the people that we're trying to recruit to defend their country, to build it. They're being targeted by terrorists.

In many ways, we have to make sure that any soft power is started at the grass roots level and is dispersed so that it makes it harder for the terrorists to aim at one particular target -- and also have the military option there to make sure that these people are a) able to defend themselves or b) that we might have to protect these gains or the ground from being taken away by the terrorists themselves.

But, all in all, I'd like to thank you for your work. I think it was a tremendous service to your country and, you know, best of luck to you in whatever you're going to do now.

Monday, August 23, 2004

John O'Neill and Nixon

I am intrigued by the attempt to link O'Neill to Nixon (as if that would somehow invalidate what he has to say -- transductive thinking at its worst, inferring a particular from a particular). Tom Oliphant has made this charge in print and on the Lehrer NewsHour. But is it true?

In fact, O'Neill was picked for the Cavett Show debate with Kerry by the Cavett Show. He paid his own way to New York.

Didn't Chuck Colson comment favorably on him? Yes, in a series of June 1971 memos, he talks of trying to recruit O'Neill for further debates with Kerry. As I understand it, O'Neill was willing but Kerry didn't want to take on O'Neill again and refused.

But note the dates: First Cavett Show [June 11, 1971] -- Meets Nixon [June 16, 1971] O'Neill inserted himself on the scene. He was not initially recruited by the White House, although clearly the White House encouraged this group (and why not?). And since Kerry refused to go head to head with O'Neill after the second Cavett show [June 30, 1971], all of Nixon/Colson's efforts came to nothing.

So, the attempt to demonize O'Neill is spurious and certainly demonstrates that Oliphant is a biased Kerry supporter, not a dispassionate journalist (the fact that his daughter is working for the Kerry campaign is an even stronger sign).

It is conventional wisdom on the left that the Vietnam War was all bad and that Nixon had no redeeming qualities as President. I think both assertions are suspect. I am no researcher, but I cannot think of anything that President Nixon did that other Presidents have not done.

Let me be clear, I do not think this excuses his actions. When people say, as they often do, "All politicians lie", I retort, "Then all politicians should be replaced. This is a democracy. We are in charge. We get to choose. We should demand honest politicians". To say the least, Nixon did not qualify as an honest politician. But neither were Kennedy, LBJ or Klinton, so gimme a break.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Bring the troops home

Can you believe that Kerry is criticizing Bush for bringing US troops home? If that's not turning the world upside down I don't know what is. How did he become famous? By demanding that we bring troops home. I guess he only wants them to come home when they actually have a job to do overseas. How the hell can this guy be ahead of Bush in the polls?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Vodkapundit - Game Plan

Vodkapundit - Game Plan: "Nobody ever knows what the peace will look like. Let's use our examples from earlier. Even as late as Appomattox, who could have predicted the KKK, Jim Crow, or Radical Reconstruction? No statesmen in 1914 knew that the war they were about to unleash would result in 20 million deaths, Russian Communism, or Nazi Germany. World War II? If you can find me the words of some prophet detailing, in 1940, the UN, the Cold War, or even the complete assimilation of western Germany into Western Europe. . . then I'll print this essay on some very heavy paper, and eat it. With aluminum foil as a garnish.

NOTE: That's what gets me about all the complaints that President Bush 'didn't have a plan' to 'win the peace' in Iraq. Oh, blow me. Nobody ever has a plan for the peace. Or if they do, it will prove useless. 'No peace plan survives the last battle' is the VodkaPundit corollary to Clausewitz's dictum that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy."

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Why abortion is wrong and why it must remain legal

I Had an Abortion by Mike Adams.

I thought that this article was moving. How important that we never stop witnessing the humanity of the unborn and grieving for those who are mindlessly discarded. I share Mike Adams' sadness at their destruction and outrage that some would boast of their abortions.

Two of my children were aborted. There was probably nothing I could have done or said that would have spared their lives (although, I will always live in doubt). You could say that I had no choice, but I did. I didn't have to have unprotected sex with those women. My mistake. I am ashamed.

I freely admit this, but with a strong sense of shame and remorse. I think it's important that I confess the fear I had when I found out I had fathered each child, and frankly, the sense of relief when the responsibility evaporated for raising the child (or, perhaps more likely, paying child support for a child I might only occasionally be allowed to visit). And yet, never would I have made the same choice those women made. Gladly, albeit with some trepidation, I would have shouldered the responsibility had either of them borne the child and let me raise him (or was it a her?). Gladly, I would have borne the child myself were it possible. I certainly had the means, the heart and the stubborn determination.

I am now married, and my wife and I just had our second daughter last week. I cannot imagine intentionally harming her in any way. Abortion? Unthinkable! I cherish my daughters, perhaps more, because I lost two to abortion.

So understand that when I say that I support legal abortion, it is not for lack of reverence for the life of unborn children. I have no doubt that most abortions are cruel and unjustified (let us leave aside discussion of those rare cases where the unborn child threatens the life of her mother or her unborn siblings). I do not support legal abortion because I believe it is a moral thing to do. It usually is not morally justifiable. Full stop.

I cannot entertain the simplistic notion that fetuses are not living human beings. Even John Kerry admits that human life begins at conception. This is scientifically provable. It is unfortunate that neither side ever really homes in on the most important question, the possibly unanswerable question: Under what circumstances shall society extend to these living human beings some of the protections most other living human beings enjoy (most importantly, the right to live)?

Let us also leave aside the questionable validity of deciding the issue via the Courts rather than through state legislature. Roe is a legal abomination as well as a moral one. I believe society should have the power to restrict this behavior. But I can also understand why some societies/states would choose to permit it.

First, this is because I recognize the limits what the law can accomplish. Certain types of even moderately popular "bad" behavior (drinking, smoking, drug use, abortion, speeding) can never be successfully prohibited and to try to do so will only make criminals of otherwise law-abiding people and empower and enrich the criminal class. This has a corrupting effect on the populace -- it rends the social fabric. Laws intended to curb such behaviors must be reasonable and reconsidered from time to time in light of their effectiveness (Alcohol prohibition and narcotic laws are perfect examples of terribly ineffective laws). Sometimes, as hard as it may seem, I believe we must let others do something bad because to try to stop it would cause something worse: a kind of breakdown of society and respect for the rule of law.

Perhaps one might argue that in order to save many unborn lives we can tolerate the slight societal lacerations that occur when women seek abortions illegally (one will never, ever stop some number of women from seeking abortions -- to believe otherwise is naive). So perhaps this alone is not reason enough to permit abortions. But it's a partial justification. We have to face the limits of the power of law.

Second, I would also argue that there is no perfect legislature, nor court system, that would properly decide those few instances when abortion is marginally, but not obviously, justifiable. What about aborting a severely defective child? How defective must the child be? What about Tay-Sachs? Is it not crueler to bring such a child into the world only to suffer terribly and die young? I hope never to need to make such a decision, but I damn sure don't want these decisions made by gov't appointees.

Again, this may not be sufficient reason to permit abortion, but it adds weight to the notion that the individuals who are most affected by the circumstance should make the decision. We have to face the inherent unfairness of our earthly system of justice (though we strive to minimize its imperfection).

There are several other such considerations, I'll only mention one more. Every birth involves some risk to the life of the mother. As of today, it is almost impossible to accurately gauge that risk. Of course it also involves pain, discomfort, inconvenience. These aspects of birth pale in comparison to the ultimate risk, still they are scary as well. I just cannot see how one justifies empowering the state to force a woman to take on this risk.

We do so when we draft men into the army. We also command soldiers, fireman and policemen, volunteers all, to go into harm's way. We punish those who fail to fulfill their duty. We are immensely grateful for those who merely risked their lives, even for a short time, in military or other service to their country or community. And to the fallen, we can never be grateful enough. Why then can we not demand of a woman the much lesser risk of bearing a child?

The important difference is that what we ask of our protectors is done in the name of collective security. We ask them to protect our lives and property and everything about our way of life, including, most dearly, our liberty. I can think of no other circumstance in which we compel someone to risk her life for one other person (or a few other people). We must take into account how extraordinary this situation is when we aim to compel a person to risk her life unwillingly for such narrow benefit (even though the risk may be negligible and the benefit great).

I do not make these arguments with any sense of certainty. In the meantime, we can agree to do all we can to make it clear just how inarguably abhorrent abortion is (in most cases) and hope to prevent abortions one heart at a time. In the end, I believe this is the only truly effective solution.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

As Easily As He Breathes

Bill Clinton deceives as easily as he breathes.  It's not clear to me why a party of patriotic Americans would sit through one of his speeches, much less cheer and idolize him. But I suppose they do because they just like what he says.  Here is a President who has brought more people to the Republican Party than any since Abraham Lincoln, and yet the Democrats idolize him.  It boggles the mind.
In his speech last night at the Democratic national convention, Clinton was in top form.  He pretended to be self-deprecating when comparing himself and, more importantly, President Bush and Vice-President Cheney to John Kerry.  Kerry served in Vietnam for four months, whereas the others stayed home.  Of course, quite a few others served in Vietnam for even longer than Senator Kerry.  If Vietnam service were an essential attribute in a President, why not run them?  On the other hand, both Presidents Clinton and Bush have demonstrated that Vietnam service is not essential (not even a "nice to have").  I have a personal preference as to which outperformed the other, but that's another discussion.
Of course, there are plenty of Vietnam vets with honorable service.  Kerry is easily outdistanced by them.  But that doesn't qualify them to be President.  It's largely irrelevant.
On the other hand, how one avoided service might be an issue.  Some avoided military service during the war by leaving the country.  President Carter offered these men amnesty and I won't argue with that decision.  There is a time for forgiveness.  Still, I would be reluctant to raise such a person to the office of Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.  It just might rankle some to be asked to risk their lives by someone unwilling to do the same.
Clinton did not dodge the draft.  He didn't have to.  It seems likely that he would have if it had been necessary.  He made plenty of preparation to avoid this service, as did many others his age, but in the end he didn't need to dodge the draft as he pulled a lucky lottery number.
The disturbing thing about Clinton and the draft is how he did his best to obscure the means by which he avoided military service.  This was the first, or one of the first, tastes we got of the Clinton modus operandi:  slowly let the truth eke out, never apologize for the lies and half-truths that preceded it.  We would later see this regarding the FBI files scandal, the White House Travel Office scandal, the campaign finance abuse scandal, and ultimately, the lies under oath that brought about his impeachment.
The ironic aspect of this is that a few of the most die-hard Bush haters, those who are quickest to give a pass to Clinton for his lack of military service and his reluctance to tell the truth about it, are the first to claim that Bush is hiding something regarding his 6 years in the Texas National Guard.
But of course, Clinton knows the subtext of the veiled criticism of himself, Bush and Cheney: "Now, I know y'all will forgive me for this, but don't let that stop you from beating Bush and Cheney with this stick all night long".  The double standard is obvious.  When Clinton ran for office, Kerry said (in a rebuke to Clinton primary rival Bob Kerrey)

I am saddened by the fact that Vietnam has yet again been inserted into the campaign, and that it has been inserted in what I feel to be the worst possible way… What saddens me most is that Democrats, above all those who shared the agonies of that generation, should now be re-fighting the many conflicts of Vietnam in order to win the current political conflict of a presidential primary.

But of George W. Bush he said

I've never made any judgments about any choice somebody made about avoiding the draft, about going to Canada, going to jail, being a conscientious objector, going into the National Guard. Those are choices people make. 

Excuse me, but some of us draw broad distinctions between avoiding the draft by going overseas or to jail, and minimally putting yourself at risk as a C.O. or joining the guard.  Some of Bush's fellow guardsmen died flying the same type of plane in which Bush logged many hours of flight.  Nonetheless, why is it Kerry considered Vietnam service taboo when used against Bill Clinton, but now that it is to his potential advantage, it bears repeating unto distraction.

Clinton knows that whatever mistake or sin he may have committed, he will be forgiven by his fellow Democrats.  His wife suggested that this is because "He showed Democrats how to win again". Perhaps.  Although, James Taranto is skeptical of just how accurate that assessment is:

Let's just say it's unproven. Of course, he was the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term as president. But when he took office, the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Within two years, the party had lost both chambers. They made some gains in subsequent elections (in the House in 1996-2000 and the Senate in 2000), but not enough to make up for the 1994 losses.
This may be why they are so quick to forgive Clinton.  I rather think the explanation is even simpler than that.  I think that Democrat politicians just don't care that much about practicing piety or adhering to principle.  Democrats do, I mean, ordinary Democratic voters do in their daily lives, but they excuse it in their political leaders.  Politicians in general, and Democratic politicians more than the rest, are never afraid to rise above principle for the sake of their party.  Clinton gave them ample opportunity to demonstrate this, or more devoutly to be wished, to prove me wrong on this.  But sadly, they did not.  Though Clinton out-Nixoned Nixon, they knew better than to let him suffer Nixon's fate, lest their party suffer what Nixon's party suffered.
Republican Senators, when faced with the misdeeds of their party leader in 1974, refused to hang tight and defend him.  Nixon probably suborned perjury and obstructed justice.  But then so did Clinton, and he explicitly perjured himself to boot.  What we learned from Clinton is that you can get away with it.  Had the Republicans hung tight and refused to vote for removal, Nixon would have finished his term.  He might even have turned survival of humiliating impeachment into a badge of honor.  Of course, Nixon did not let it come to that, and that is at least something to his credit.  For all his faults, he lacked Clinton's hubris.
And what good can we say about Clinton?  He sure gives a good speech.  He has a way of making even the most absurd things sound reasonable.  He accuses Republicans of not caring about others, of being a ruling elite devoid of compassion for their fellow men, of robbing from the poor to give to the rich.  None of this is true, mind you, and it tends to sicken and infuriate those who are accused as such.  But he says it with a smile and a wink and darn it, it's hard to stay mad at him (unless of course, you have an IQ over 100 and Alzheimer's has yet to take hold). 
Here are some examples:

The Republicans in Washington believe that America should be run by the 'right' people — their people...

So Republicans want Republicans to run the show.  What? And Democrats don't want to put Democrats in charge? a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to...
Of course, the opposite is true.  Bush sought and gained cooperation from allies  both in the Afghanistan and Iraq operations.  He didn't achieve universal consensus, but at least he tried.  Clinton did not even attempt to get either NATO or UN support before sending troops into Bosnia or bombing Serbia into submission.  But, as I said before, Clinton deceives as easily as he breathes. 

They believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their economic, political and social views...
Mind you, the tax cuts Bush championed do not take into account anyone's ideology or political affiliation.  No one was denied this or any other benefit because of their economic, political or social views, nor can Clinton point to a single law signed by Bush that does.  But why bother with facts when you can make a real spiffy point by ignoring them?

And isn't it rather disingenuous to claim that Republicans are concentrating wealth whilst the standard bearers of Clinton's party are multi-millionaires, Kerry's wife is a billionaire and both Clintons are millionaires?  What of George Soros, Michael Moore and Denise Rich? Have the Bloodworth-Thomasons drifted into the poorhouse over the last few years?  Has Terry MacAuliffe lost his Global Crossing millions?  Who exactly is doing the concentrating here?

...leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on important matters like health care and retirement security.
I have to agree with him on this last bit.  Sensible people of every stripe expect that ordinary citizens fend for themselves when it comes to health care and retirement security.  We also expect them to feed themselves, clothes themselves, make their own beds and wipe their respective hind ends.  What's wrong with this?
This is truly where Democrats and Republicans part company.  Republicans will gladly extend a helping hand to those in need, the poor, the indigent, the handicapped.  But ordinary people, well, we expect them to pull their own weight.  How could the country function otherwise?  Is Clinton suggesting that the rich should pay for the health care and retirement checks whilst all the rest, the ordinary citizens, relax and drink pina coladas?  Pardon me for noticing, but that way leads to ruin.  The accounts won't balance.

Certainly, I am disappointed with Clinton's speech, and yet I expect such baloney from him.  My greater disappointment stems from the wild and unthinking acceptance of his blarney by the Democrats in Boston and those listening across the country.  This nation needs a strong, vibrant, intelligent party to oppose the Republicans.  Absent a reasonable alternative, the Republicans would have free rein to do as they like, regardless of the wisdom or ultimate effect of their actions. 

Thursday, July 22, 2004

59 Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11

Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11

Short PDF summary

Some of these so-called "deceits" are rather innocuous errors. Others, though are clear and scrupulously annotated examples of Moore's gross distortions of documented facts.

I have heard it said that by discrediting Moore, one is merely offering an alternative version of the truth -- as if truth, since it cannot be known with certainty, has versions. The implication is that because Moore is partisan, as are those who debunk his film, then the relevant facts no longer matter -- that it has all become a partisan game.

But truth exists. One cannot doubt that truth exists and that it can be apprehended. The problem is only that we as humans are imperfect judges of truth. To use an analogy, no chemical product is 100% pure, owing to impurities in the raw materials. But it would be incorrect to say that chemicals cannot be refined into states of increasing purity -- or that such purity cannot be accurately measured. Likewise, I think one can measure truthfulness (or lack of it) with some degree of error. We know that a single controlled chemical process cannot have completely distinct results -- could not produce hydrochloric acid one day and soda pop the next. Likewise, a methodical, iterative investigation that gathers and verifies evidence cannot point to fact one day and fantasy the next.

What Dave Kopel enumerates are facts that contradict Moore with greater allegiance to documented history than Moore has ever shown. Some of these facts are evidenced by videotape of the events, others by numerous independent sources. At some point,in the mind of an objective person, the sheer weight of Moore's documented misstatements must impeach the credibility of his conclusions, wouldn't you say? It stops being a gray area, a matter of interpretation one way or the other.

At some point, even one disposed to believe Moore's story because one agrees with his partisan point of view, must conclude however reluctantly that his film doesn't succeed in proving what he hoped to prove (namely, that Bush has failed as a leader with respect to the events of 9/11). That conclusion may be valid, but one must look elsewhere for a more reliable proof.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Federal Marriage Amendment

A friend writes that he's discouraged by Bush's slightly low poll numbers, but expects Bush will pull ahead in the fall.

I agree. Bush (41) was down 17 points before trouncing Dukakis. Still, one wonders why the Bush campaign doesn't do a better job of counter-spinning the crap that Kerry sends out. Kerry has all but accused Bush of treason. Sure, you can read the counter spin on NRO and TownHall, but who reads that stuff other than the already converted?

I'm beginning to think that Bush is not going to be able to go over the heads of the media the way Reagan did, nor to effectively marginalize Kerry (who is, in my opinion, extremely vulnerable) the way Atwater did Dukakis.  And if that's the case, maybe the GOP will think twice before nominating an establishment candidate. I love my tax cuts (especially the $1000 child credit, which Oxana just doubled for us), but do you think McCain would be in this situation now?

I don't mean to sound too pessimistic, and I don't want to blame Bush's bin Laden/Al Queda burden on Bush. But I don't think McCain would have cranked up spending this way and effectively neutralized the chief differentiator between the party of Reagan and the party of LBJ.

Maybe they thought they could "triangulate", but that's a bullshitter's tactic (ie. Klinton). Did Reagan triangulate?  Reminds me of Jay Nordlinger's plea that candidates break with cynical
tradition and actually run as their real selves. E.g. Kerry: don't pretend to be tough on defense when we all know you are anti-military.

Andrew Sullivan disparaged Bush for pushing the marriage amendment, saying that it is anti-gay. I don't agree with the anti-gay part. Pro-marriage is not anti-gay. His analysis is that this is Bush/Rove's way of sewing up the base and making sure that the religious right is motivated to come out on Election Day. It might work. I saw a sign in front of an evangelical church on our way home from the hospital with our new baby urging people to call our Senators in support of the FMA. I'm fairly certain both Florida Senators Graham and Nelson, in concert with the Democratic minority, voted against cloture.

I see this as an unfortunate way of sewing up the base. Is it necessary? Won't it hand Kerry a bludgeon? OTOH, it probably gains him more votes than it loses (I'm sure that's their calculation).

I'm for the FMA (despite my liberal leanings). The way I look at it, marriage really ought to be defined as one man and one woman forever and for always. I don't begrudge gay men and women their happiness. I'll even go so far as to suggest that states permit gay unions of some kind and assign them equal parity with marriage.

Just don't call it marriage. Call it queeriage. Or larriage for women and fairyage for men, but don't call it marriage. Marriage already has a definition.  This is the computer age, it's really easy to create 3 check boxes to demarcate which category of union a couple belongs to. If the US gov't can keep track of

An accreditation body accrediting third parties who certify manufacturing systems as fastener quality assurance systems

as described in section 5402(7)(B)(iii)(US Code, ch. 80), they can keep track of three distinct types of monogamous unions, don't you think?

Anyway, I don't know as Bush really gains more voters than he loses with this.  I suppose it's a good example of standing up for something he actually believes in, so that's a good thing.