I decided to write a column (posted left) on the ambivalence people, including myself, have about Wal-Mart. It seems that some Democrats are running their campaigns against Wal-Mart, saying the retailer represents everything that is wrong with this country.

Now, just who do the Democrats hope will vote for them on that score? People absolutely love Wal-Mart, especially people in lower income groups. Now, the Democrats are telling the people who should be their constituency that they shouldn't shop where they want to shop. Campaigning against people's favorite store is not smart electoral politics.

ON ANOTHER SCORE, the torture bill went through on some sort of compromise. Sounds like we'll be still allowing "coercive techniques," like forcing people to stand for days, or depriving them of sleep for a month, or whatever. Torture by any other name is still torture, as far as I am concerned.

There is real pent up demand for torture, I have decided. For years, we have been hearing tales about our system letting people off and being too easy on the bad guys. You don't have to sit in a coffee shop too long to hear things like, "you know what I'd do is start pulling their fingernails off one by one," which is the classic cafe solution to most problems.

Some people take great comfort in knowing that the CIA is doing "things we'll never hear about" to protect us. I have heard that theme since I was a kid. We don't want to know about the dirty work, just do it. If it means overthrowing a democratically elected government in Chile, Iran, Guatamala, Greece or wherever, do it and we don't want to hear about it.

Underlying such views is a complete lack of faith in open government and free institutions to be stronger than those of a closed, secretive government. It also reveals an authoritarian streak--we want the big man to take care of us. We'll elect the big man and trust him to do the right thing for us little children. To ask questions of the big man is impertinent. Just trust the big man.

Authoritarians thrive on fear. The promote fear and they live off it. Central to the pro-torture argument is the notion that we face a "new kind of enemy," one which requires "updating" the quaint rules by which we lived before.

If we could beat the Nazis while abiding by the Geneva Conventions, we can beat a few thousand terrorists. I mean, do you think the SS men we captured were nice guys? The British went about their daily business during the Blitz, knowing they were going to lose more people the next night. In the end, they lost 43,000 citizens in the Battle of Britain, but they won the war--and they never panicked and they never lost their resolve.

Would that we could have such a stiff upper lip.

We have the upper hand. We will win. Let's not lose our souls in the process.