JOLSON

Toby Gottfried: ‘You can get an idea of how important – or at least how rich – Jolson was from his gravesite.’

LET THEM DO SIT-UPS

Robert A. Smith: ‘I think the Democrats are increasingly dishonest about their objectives. I think their main objective is to use my tax dollars to buy votes. Why else would Daschle insist on a $1 trillion 10-year drug plan that would pay for drugs that many people could buy on their own? And aren’t people using too many drugs rather than improving their health through diet and exercise? I would be for a much more modest drug benefit with some programs to help people improve their own health, but then I’d be considered mean-spirited by most Democrats if I asked people to do anything to help themselves. Why shouldn’t we buy food, clothing, transportation for most people if we should pay for their drugs? Where is the limit on this?

☞ Look: Is Jeb Bush, governor of Florida, mean-spirited? Certainly not. He cut the intangible property tax in half! That was a generous thing to do for those with multi-million-dollar portfolios. And he obviously cares deeply for his recently jailed daughter, Noelle, and has spared no expense to provide her with drug treatment. But he also slashed Florida’s drug-treatment budget by 85% earlier this year. Not because he’s mean-spirited; but because, I guess, he just doesn’t see the connection, or believe the social contract extends to things like this. Let families with kids in trouble pay for their own treatment – if he can, why can’t they? And if they can’t – well, where is the limit on this? Are you going to start providing medicine to the elderly just because they can’t afford to pay for it themselves? Food stamps to the parents of hungry children? An earned-income credit to the working poor? A higher minimum wage? (I know: Lift the minimum wage a dollar and everyone will drive to Mexico to buy their Big Macs and all those kids will be thrown out of work.) Where is the limit on this? You and others may feel we have already gone too far . . . (student loans for college? what’s next – some kind of crazy domestic Peace Corps? another 13-week unemployment insurance extension? universal health insurance like they have in the rest of the industrialized world?) Others of us, like Tom Daschle, think we could do a little more than we do now – that the Bush administration is working too hard to look out for their friends at the top and not hard enough to look out for everybody else.

Some believe that if their grandmother’s doctor thinks she would have a better life talking certain pills, it’s just tough luck if she hasn’t saved enough money to afford them. She should hop on the treadmill – or, if it’s too late to do that, well, whose fault is that?

I think Daschle favors adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare not to gain votes, though of course people are for it, but because he wants to help people who currently have to choose between eating, heating, and filling their prescriptions.

(As to why we should allow well-to-do seniors in on the plan . . . well, why, for that matter, allow them to receive Social Security or Medicare? Answer: they pay the most taxes; it’s always seemed fair to let them get the benefits, too.)

WAR AND PEACE

Michael Axelrod: ‘Senator Kennedy’s speech presented incomplete and somewhat misleading information regarding the Cuban missile crisis. The reason the US did not use ground troops to invade Cuba had nothing to due with “Pearl Harbor in Reverse.” The Soviet Union had given Cuba tactical nuclear weapons. These are low yield (approximately 1 kiloton) devices delivered by artillery shell. The important and critical facts are that these weapons were deployed and operational. Moreover local Soviet commanders were authorized to use these weapons without getting a direct order from Moscow. Thus a land invasion would likely have been repelled and both Kennedy and the Pentagon knew this. In short the US was deterred. An air attack on the missile sites was also deemed unadvisable because we had incomplete information as to the number and locations of missiles. Mobile launchers could retrieve and launch the surviving Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) in short order.

‘Unlike the tactical nuclear weapons, local commanders were not authorized to launch IRBMs without explicit orders from Moscow. Castro actually wanted to launch IRBMs against US cities during the crisis. Moscow deemed him a reckless and suicidal nut case, and ignored his desire to start a nuclear war between the super powers. Kennedy instead opted for a blockade to keep up the pressure on Moscow. Kennedy offered to withdraw Jupiter missiles from Turkey if Khrushchev withdrew his missiles from Cuba. A secret deal was consummated and this ended the crisis. Kennedy and McNamara then lied to the public and to Congress about this quid pro quo. American values, and international law were eclipsed by real politik. Had Castro been in command of the IRBMs, the US might very well have launched a preemptive and massive nuclear strike against Cuba because of Castro’s paranoid and suicidal behavior. In part, Kennedy caused this by constantly trying to kill him out of personal pique. Fortunately, the Soviet Union realized Castro was a nut. Nevertheless, Khrushchev was later removed from power by the Politburo for being so foolish as to put missiles in Cuba, even if they were under Soviet control.

‘We did not launch a first strike against the Soviet Union during the cold war because it was rational and capable of being deterred and because we were similarly rational. Stability. The least risky course was deterrence. This does not mean that the least risky course is always deterrence. It depends on the circumstances. This is the basic logical flaw in the Kennedy speech. I don’t know the least risky course to take with Iraq, as I don’t have enough information. It seems from the public record that it might not be subject to deterrence because it can wage unconventional war. A few words about this follow.

‘The modern waging of war through terrorist proxy groups is a new twist. Now a country can attack and avoid suffering retaliation because the victim country cannot exactly identify the attacker. We all know Ireland is behind the IRA, and that the IRA could not exist without support from Ireland. Note the IRA has a terrorist wing and a political wing. The political wing denies it can control the terror wing. In this way Ireland can wage war against Britain through a terrorist proxy and not suffer direct military retaliation. It can even negotiate using the political wing which keeps on denying it can stop the terror wing as it negotiates the terms to stop the terror attacks! This kind of war can only work against a pluralistic democracy like Britain, the US or Israel. In this sense Kennedy is part of the problem as he helps make the proxy war strategy work. His speech is exactly what the terror state needs to avoid retaliation. I am not suggesting in any way that Kennedy realizes what he is doing. I’m sure he has good intentions. He generally has an excellent staff and is an effective legislator. He is part and parcel of what you get in a pluralistic democracy. He needs to be answered and this is my answer to him. I think he is completely wrong.’

 

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