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Focal Point 1

OPINION POLLS ARE PROBABLY among the most misunderstood elements on the American political scene, and for that reason they are almost reflexively denounced by the partisans of whichever side is behind in the most up-to-date ratings. The usual accusations are that the pollsters are biased, or that the pollsters deliberately skewed their sample to obtain results pleasing to one side or another, and in either case are unfairly attempting influence the outcome of the election. But while it is true questions can be biased to produce desired responses polls by anti-Second Amendment activists are a classic example of this sort of disinformation such purposeful manipulation nevertheless renders the poll useless as a picture of reality: garbage in, garbage out. And I can't think of any instance in which opinion- poll results demonstrably changed the outcome of an election (though it is surely arguable that election-day exit-polling may do so), nor have I ever known or heard of any documented proof that even a single voter was moved to switch candidates or positions on the basis of pre-election poll results. Poll-bashing save where the polls are clearly dishonest (like those run by the down-with-self-defense looneys) is thus mostly an exercise in pointless expulsion of hot air.

What a well-constructed poll can do and this is its great utility is provide campaign managers with a kind of statistical report card on how well (or how poorly) they are doing at any given time. For this potential to be fulfilled, the pollsters have to craft their questions properly, and they have to poll a sample of the population that is not only statistically random (and therefore truly representative) but is carefully selected to include only respondents who are likely to vote. Any error in the research model the questions or in the sample itself will render the results misleading and therefore worthless, a lesson learned the hard way by more than one local political campaigner. For the layperson, probably the best way to think about pre-election polls is that they are indeed analogous to report cards. Just like those dread reports to parents schools issue after some specified grading period, polls evaluate a campaign on its deportment and scholarship, with levels of achievement (or lack thereof) measured by how a campaign's grasp of issues resonates with likely voters.

Thus President Bush's declining poll numbers are or should be increasingly a matter of concern among his campaign advisors. Support for the President has already dropped beneath the point at which any other incumbent has won re-election, and the reason is obvious: the ruinous combination of the administration's own blunders at home and abroad, and the gross magnification of these blunders by a media establishment that is more hostile to George Bush than to any other President in my lifetime and possibly in the entire history of the Republic. A third factor in this equation is the increasing aloofness many would call it arrogance of the President himself, a stance disturbingly reminiscent of his own father and the debacle of 1992. Instead of rebutting his critics, Bush ignores them precisely as if he expects to be re-elected by Divine intervention which some of his more rabid detractors have indeed already charged.

While there is little doubt the apparent resolution of the Iraqi crisis via the United Nations has deftly co-opted one of the Democrats' two issues, the other the economy remains the one upon which Bush can yet lose the election. Despite the statistical recovery that is unquestionably underway, there remain stubborn pockets of unemployment throughout the nation. Some of these hard-hit areas are key electoral-college states. All of them are afflicted by staggeringly high fuel prices, and in some my home state of Washington among them runaway fuel prices have already sent shipping costs soaring and thus triggered inflation in the price of food and other necessities. The President's decision to cut taxes and let the marketplace solve its own problems without additional federal interference was brilliant and some economists say it may have prevented a full-fledged depression. But neither the President nor his associates from have been successful in telling this story to the electorate, and the results of the poll linked here (for which thanks are due Andrew Sullivan), merely underscore that fact.

Another big reason the President is losing ground is that Second Amendment advocates have seen through the eyewash of Attorney General John Ashcroft's individual right proclamation and are increasingly disaffected by the grim reality of Bush's own stated anti-gun positions. These include support for renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, enactment of new prohibitions on private firearms sales and gun shows, and most of all, his support for the draconian NICS Improvement Act. NICS Improvement, formerly named the Our Lady of Peace Act, (Google either title) would begin the imposition of New York City-type gun controls on the entire nation by criminalizing even minor mental illness, and on that basis labeling all mentally ill persons mental defectives no matter the brevity or mildness of their condition would expand the universe of prohibited persons accordingly. This would eventually ban as many as half of all U.S. citizens from firearms ownership no exceptions, no appeals and thereby deny them forever any meaningful right to self defense.

But from the perspective of the War and America's defense against Islam's renewal of its 1300-year onslaught against civilization, the most telling aspect of Bush's opposition to the Second Amendment is how he continues to allow two anti-gunners, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, to brazenly obstruct the will of Congress that the nation's commercial airline pilots be armed just as pilots were in the years of airmail service. The obstruction is old news, so there is no doubt Bush approves of it. But in this instance, Bush's hidden anti-Second Amendment agenda is endangering the nation.

Focal Point 2

I AM PROFOUNDLY UNCOMFORTABLE with the Bush Administration's decision to involve the United Nations in the war in Iraq. But UN involvement is not the turn-about the jeering Democrats and some conservatives claim. It is instead the resumption of pre-war politics, and I am uncomfortable with it precisely because it unfortunately restores the credibility of an organization that was once literally the hope of the world but which has deteriorated into the most powerful criminal cartel on the planet a fact vividly demonstrated by the truly obscene Oil-for-Food scandal.

Involving the UN also reeks of election-year desperation, a reversion to the tried and (un)true merely because so doing will steal an issue from an opponent, rather like Bill Clinton's sudden decision to take welfare reform away from the Republicans. Even so there is no denying the tactic's effectiveness: for now when John (Neville Chamberlain) Kerry complains of the situation in Iraq, it will be a complaint against the UN one of the Left's most sacrosanct of sacred cows which means it will most likely be a complaint never uttered at all. The result will no doubt help President Bush regain some of the lost support that is so vividly reflected by recent polls at, but if he continues his stumblingly passive campaign performance, I question whether that will be sufficient to ensure his re-election, especially given the unprecedented hostility of mass media.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the UN's unanimous endorsement of post-June-30 Iraqi sovereignty, a long-range plan summarized by Paul Wolfowitz the existence of which suggests determined Defense may have used the UN gesture as cover and concealment to take back the Iraqi policy-helm from always-treacherous State.

Focal Point 3

IN A DAY OF reading tributes to President Ronald Reagan, the following are two of the very best I could find best as measured in terms of uniqueness: originality of approach and disclosure. I had hoped to discover three, but finally contented myself with these. One is by Spengler, the always-thought-provoking Asia Times columnist, who says President Reagan was the greatest commander-in-chief of the 20th Century. It is available here. The other is by Wesley Pruden, editor-in-chief of The Washington Times, and portrays the greatness of Reagan's presidency and personhood in the context of the venom spewed by his present-day enemies, here.

DIPLOMATS, SPOOKS AND THE NEW YORK TIMES: A troubling report by Joel Mowbray suggests somebody at The Times conspired with anti-Bush Administration elements at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency to discredit Ahmed Chalabi and wreck the administration's plans for postwar Iraq. The link is here.

SLEEPING MAKES US SMARTER: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have discovered that sleep allows our brain cells to integrate new information so we awake better able to use it. The report from doesn't say so, but this function of sleep is obviously analogous to what happens when you download a program and then re-boot your computer to finalize the installation. The details, already integrated.

Focal Point 4

THIS IS POSTED LATE again today, not because of any personal trauma but because I was obstructed by persistent site-access problems early this morning, their source undetermined. My apologies for any resultant inconvenience.

Other obligations including the need to get my dogs Brady and Jasmine their annual inoculations will keep me busy for most of the rest of the day, but I'll be back sometime this evening to post a couple of offerings for the weekend. Then it's have a good weekend and farewell until Monday.

I have proud memories of the war effort at home including my late father's diligently compensatory service for the War Production Board he had been in the Army in the 1930s, had shot in match-competition using the now-legendary 1903 Springfield, had made corporal in a time when promotions were rare and slow, and had demonstrated such a remarkably high level of military skill, there is little doubt he would have seen action as a sniper and probably eventual promotion to officer-grade in some marksmanship unit but much to his profound frustration, he was barred from further military service by a heart condition that was the legacy of childhood rheumatic fever. This was indeed the greatest frustration of his life, especially since the problem was not discovered until new medical standards were imposed at the end of his first enlistment, sometime in 1936 or 1937, the details unclear to me because he never talked about them or the profound and devastating blow they represented.

But I also have much more recent and deeply infuriating memories of the American home-front in another war, recollections of anti-war activists who spat upon and otherwise viciously harassed veteran soldiers returning from Vietnam. These "activists," a vast mob of infinitely selfish, morally imbecillic cowards, made no secret of the fact they despised all military veterans no matter what the war, and in many instances their "activism" included hurling human feces at men who instead should have been given ticker-tape parades and showered with rose petals. Thus because Tom Brokaw was very much a part of the so-called anti-war movement (though as far as I know he never spat on soldiers or pelted them with dung), I have always felt his greatest generation accolade was subtly condescending an especially cruel form of damnation via praise. This is particularly true since Brokaw is surely one of the members of the hate-America-first school of modern journalism though he is far from its most obnoxious perpetra(i)tor -- which has always made his suffusions of praise toward World War Two veterans seem vaguely hypocritical: the sort of thing you feel but can't really single out for proper expression.

But now comes David Gelernter refining and articulating my half-formed thoughts on the subject as perfectly as if he had read my very own subconscious mind in fact doing it far better than I could do because Gelernter makes points that would never have occurred to me all of which results in a significant and vitally thought-provoking essay.

Focal Point 5

AGAIN IN DEFENSE OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT: I am posting much later than usual because I badly wrenched my shoulder clearing brush with a tractor yesterday evening -- a tree-branch caught my canvas coat and nearly yanked me out of the saddle -- and I am still a bit muzzy from painkillers. But I want to share the following link because of its ruinous Second Amendment implications.

Remember the "Our Lady of Peace Act"? It has been renamed the "NICS Improvement Act" and remains alive in both houses of Congress. Just like its predecessor, this measure to "improve" the National Instant Check System would criminalize mental illness. Lawyers familiar with mental health law and advocates for the mentally ill all agree its enactment would condemn any and all mentally ill individuals as "mental defectives" no matter how minor or temporary their affliction. The proposal would also add the names of anyone so condemned to a national computer-maintained roster of officially declared untermenschen, and on that basis would permanently deny the right of firearms ownership and thus also the corollary right of self-defense.

These facts become profoundly significant in light of the claim that as many as half the people of the United States will at sometime in their lives suffer from diagnosable mental illness. While the 50 percent estimate is sometimes disputed, the following figures are not in dispute at all: a just-completed American Medical Association study that at least one in four U.S. residents currently admit suffering from some form of defined mental illness.

Every one of these folks would become permanently prohibited persons no exceptions, no appeals under the NICS Improvement Act. They would be forever denied their right to own guns and thus forever denied their right to defend themselves if attacked or victimized.

Bear in mind too the NICS Improvement Act is supported by a broad coalition in both houses of Congress: Democrats and Republicans, anti-gunners and the National Rifle Association with the NRA once again showing the infinite hypocrisy of its Nazi-like hostility to anyone who is mentally ill never mind the brevity or mildness of the condition, and never mind the fact that the mentally ill are statistically no more violent than any other subgroup in America (and considerably less violent than some).