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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|Hick and the Folly of "Inclusiveness"
I heard about this story a couple nights ago on the Gunny Bob Show on 850 KOA. The gist of it is that the mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, has ordered that next year the light above the Nativity Scene in front of the City and County Building read "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
We're trying to be more inclusive," he said.
Further, the mayor said of the entire Nativity Scene "If it hadn't been there for 85 years, I wouldn't put it out there."
So, let me see if I can follow the thin threads of logic weaving through the mayor's position. First, except for the fact of tradition, he would not want this display up at all. But, since he feels compelled to go with tradition, he wants to alter the display to be more inclusive.
Tradition, by definition, is any ritual or ceremony which an integral part of the fabric of any given occasion. It becomes such because the preponderence of persons involved in the occasion enjoy the ritual and feel compelled to duplicate it each time. In other words, the Nativity Scene is a tradition because a large proportion--dare I say "majority"?--of Denver-ites and metro-ites have come to expect its presence and look forward to its annual appearance. And this expectation is what the mayor feels necessary to duplicate.
Yet, while bowing to tradition, he simultaneously seeks to alter the tradition, and refuse to acknowledge, in a very fundamental way, the basis for the tradition. In other words, while allowing the tradition he cuts it off from the source. Over the course of time, this separation will lead to the removal of the tradition itself. Imagine, as analogy, a Thanksgiving feast with cranberry sauce; now, imagine that somebody said you could continue to have cranberry sauce on the last Thursday of November, but that you would not be having the feast any more. For how long do you suppose you would continue to have cranberry sauce on the last Thursday of November?
Furthermore, if the reason for the display is the "holidays," does this not undermine the entire purpose of the Nativity Scene? Jews do not acknowledge the significance of the creche; those who celebrate Kwaanza (which, by the way, would somebody please explain to me in what sense this is a "holiday"?) don't feel special attachments to the scne of Mary, Joseph, Jesus et al.; so how does the Nativity Scene celebrate "holidays" when there is no similar display of Judaic or African paraphernalia (I know--bad word choice, but. . .). This strikes me as a tactical rearrangement which makes the removal of the Scene altogether very much easier.
And, for another thing, in what way is the alienation of the majority more "inclusive"? This part of the left's strategy has always baffled me, and I have yet to hear a strong rebuttal to this line of logic. The expression of the majority is faulty because it does not adequately express the minority position; so, to right the situation, we're going to thwart the expression of the majority and replace it with a watered-down version that expresses nothing. So I ask: in what way is supressing a majority more "inclusive"?
|Ten Things I'm Thankful For
10. Cranberry Sauce. Seriously, this is hands-down the best part of the Thanksgiving Feast, without which the rest is a glorified deli meal. The beauty of the cranberry sauce is its versatility in mixing which makes it welcome on any part of the plate--it goes so well with all the other elements of the meal that, frankly, you could just pour it over the whole plate at the end and treat it like dressing.
9. The Internet. Without which I would be ill-informed, bored, and unable to vent my ire. From the time just a few years ago when I anxiously leafed through the morning paper hoping to get ANY information of use, to today when not only do I know where to go to get useful info, but dozens of others are out there pointing me to things I might not have found, my level of informative-ness about the world around me is strikingly upgraded.
8. The Internet, part II. This second entry because of the way this medium has created a community for me to belong to. Not only do I frequently share thoughts, opinions and debates with others through this medium, but because of it I have met some of the most intelligent, passionate and interesting people anywhere. I genuinely look forward to seeing what some of my friends are writing about, and I am genuinely challenged and moved by many of those writings. This is a very good thing.
7. The Disney Channel. What other channel on TV can you trust to amuse, entertain and inform your children on a consistent basis without ever worrying too much about a huge disconnect from the values you are trying to instill in them? We were lucky to discover this on our trip to Disneyworld five years ago, and to this day, it's the only thing on in the morning (that is, when we allow our kids to "veg" in the morning).
6. The enduring wisdom of the Founding Fathers. That which laid the groundwork for a government of this country which has been the most stable form of government in the world for over two hundred years. I am reading through a history of the Constitutional Convention right now, and I am amazed at the level of prescience imbued on those great men, and how their work has provided for the freedoms I enjoy every day.
5. The Great Baseball Movies. I know, a little out of context, but I think there are a great many lessons unique to American life to be found in the artistic study of our national pasttime. For the record, I put "The Natural", "The Rookie", and "Field of Dreams" atop the list, with nods to "Bull Durham" and "61*". By the way, "For The Love Of The Game" is a really good love story that can only be understood as a great love story if you understand baseball; if you do't get the game, you won't get the movie (my wife, for instance, doesn't care too much for the movie--not a baseball fan, either).
4. The Army, The Air Force, The Navy, The Marines, The Coast Guard, The Police Department, and the Fire Department. These are the men and women who have chosen to put themselves between us and anarchy, and I am grateful every day for their courage, their steadfastness, their loyalty to their ideals, and their heroism. By the way, if you haven't read the NYTimes account of the battle for Fallujah from Sunday, do so.
3. The Passion of the Christ. I was raised Catholic, and have never doubted the Christian underpinnings of my faith. But, after falling in love with a divorced woman, Catholicism was no longer an option, and I was pretty lax about trying to find a place to worship. Until this movie. Within a couple weeks, my wife and I found the Arvada Covenant Church, and it is a wonderful community that really ministers especially well to children, and it is a place where even the traditionalist in me finds a comfortable home. This was, singularly, the best decision I made all year, and it was due in very large part to the effect Mel Gibson's movie had on me.
2. My mother and father. This seems like a no-brainer, but it absolutely has to be said. There are so many lessons from my upbringing that are only now beginning to manifest themselves in my life that it is really hard to bring up specific occurences of my parents' hand in my life. But there is no doubt that the importance of Faith, that acting with integrity and honor, and that loyalty to a core set of values were taught in my home, and they are now the foundation of how I view the world. Not only that, but the fact that I had a stable home, that I understood that working through difficulties was the key to success in every aspect of life, and that giving anything less than your best was just cheap and weak have put me in a position to make many better decisions in my life than I otherwise would.
1. My two children and their mother. I believe that when you fall in love with your mate, you do so with resources already at your disposal. You, in some way, understand what you're getting into and what it will take. So my wife inspired me--and still inspires me--to be a better person, a better man, just to be worthy of her love. When you have children, you have to find/invent/create new resources with which to love them. The mental image I have is of having to build additions on to your heart to make room for the new and different love that a child inspires. My girls rock my world! I understand so much more, and have to be such a better person to be their father, that I almost don't recognize who I have become. I don't know exactly what God was thinking when he made me responsible for them, but they are the most amazing blessings. Actually, not true--I do know what God was thinking. He was thinking "well, I gave him his wife just make sure he couldn't mess things up too badly." Truly, I am blessed by having all of them in my life.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
|A Surprising Source of Wisdom
coming through an equally surprising filter.
Andrew Sullivan today writes about a memo circulated by, of all people, Prince Charles, decrying the culture of entitlement. Here's the graf that jumped out at me (Sullivan's writing, not Charles'):
When the skill-difference between jobs is trivial, sometimes ability can be in the eye of the beholder. Bad management can squelch the most eager and capable of drones. But Charles is right to bemoan the notion that anyone can do anything, and that if they don't, some injustice is somehow being perpetrated. That injustice is called life.
This cuts to one of my pet peeves, being a teacher of children. The one thing that really gets me going in class is when a student cries out "that's not fair!" My stock response is "There's a big difference between what's fair and what you want" which usually leads to a pointless debate over expectations and earning rewards--I say it's pointless because I may as well be speaking to this generation in Swahili for all the background they have to take this lesson to heart. Imagine what products of a European education system have as background.
But then Sullivan surprises me, and, I think unintentionally, points to faith as the genuine solution to this cultural quandary:
Is there any way out? The only answer, I think, is cultural and moral. We have to decouple the notion of virtue and worth from material success. I don't think it's an accident that we see greater emphasis on religious faith and moral values at a time when our economy is increasingly rewarding people on the brutal basis of market worth. It's a way of correcting for inequality, by reminding people that their dignity inheres in something far more profound than their paycheck or social status.
Just think back a couple weeks to the election. While much was being said about the Dem ground game, all analyses post-election have pointed to the effectiveness--the HARD WORK--of the GOP volunteer workforce, as opposed to the paid union workforce of the Dems. A force of individuals who choose to give up their time for something they believe in--from which they derive "dignity"--is far more effective than a force paid to do the same effort. Pretty simple, really.
And, by the way, not news to the red states.
|Intel Reform Hyperventilation
Much ado has been made over the last several days over the "Republicans in Congress" failing to pass the intel reform bill pushed by the 9/11 commission. For the moment, the President still seems to be enjoying the afterglow enough that this matters little, in the long run, from a political sense.
But two articles today make the case that from a policy perspective this is a very good thing. The first is from the Investor's Business Daily ; it begins thus:
The failure of the intelligence reform bill in Congress isn't a bad thing. It's the first step on the road to real reform--and that's something that's too important to be done in haste.
The second article is from Brendan Miniter in the Wall Street Journal. His piece begins in almost the exact same way:
The Founders designed the House of Representatives to be the arm of the federal government closest and most responsive to the people. This weekend, the brilliance of this design was clear when the House all but killed plans to revamp the nation's 15 intelligence agencies and create a national intelligence director. By shelving the legislation, the House broke away from the political stampede in Washington and made real reform possible in the future.
Miniter is even stronger in his assessment of the politics of this:
These and other points were deal breakers for Republican House members because what the Senate's bill reflects is not a war fighting mentality. Rather it's a call for managing terrorism with small-scale and perhaps covert operations by taking the Pentagon out of the decision-making process and leaving the task of going after terrorists largely in the hands of the intelligence czar. In other words, treating terrorism more like a law-enforcement matter than a real war in which a large number of soldiers openly do battle with the enemy.
John Kerry just ran a national campaign pushing that very agenda, and he lost. For Congress then to have enshrined that thinking into law with these intelligence reforms would have been to ignore the election's results.
Look, I'm certainly not an intelligence expert, nor have I read the actual bill to see exactly what's in the fine print. But when Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says he's concerned that the real-time satellite imagery which is guiding so many of the actions of our troops on the ground would now be subject to one more layer of bureaucracy, that strikes me as a bad thing. We all know what happened when real-time intel on Osama got turned over to lawyers during the Clinton years; can this be any better?
By the end of it's charter, I had very little faith in the 9/11 Commission. Given that, and given that so many of their recommendations have already been implemented, I see no reason to get worked up about this little bill being scuttled. Go back in January, listen to the people who have objections (including and especially those at the Pentagon) and try to design something that's going to work. Stop playing the political game of "doing something," and try implementing a real-world solution of "doing something that works."
|The Shifting Landscape
Michael Barone takes a wide-lens look at what happened three weeks ago, and it is remarkable how good things look for the GOP, and how adept the President's team was at their job:
With the absentee votes in California and Washington finally counted, it appears that overall turnout was up 12 percent. John Kerry's popular vote was also 12 percent above Al Gore's. But the popular vote for Bush was up a stunning 20 percent. Before the election, some liberal commentators were claiming that Bush would win no votes he hadn't won in 2000. Not quite: He won 10 million more.
Bush's popular vote was up 23 percent in the 13 battleground states that decided the election. Kerry's paid-worker, union-led turnout drives in central cities nearly matched that--his vote was up 21 percent over Gore's in the battlegrounds. But that wasn't enough to outdo the Bush volunteer efforts in the make-or-break states of Florida and Ohio. Elsewhere Bush had a bigger edge. His popular vote was up 21 percent in safe Bush states and 16 percent in safe Kerry states, compared with 12 and 5 percent for Kerry. The Bush organization literally reshaped the electorate. The 2000 exit poll showed an electorate that was 39 percent Democratic and 35 percent Republican. The 2004 exit poll, which was tilted toward Democrats, found a dead heat: 37 percent to 37 percent. That means that Republican turnout was up 19 percent and Democratic turnout up only 7 percent.
It remains to be seen if any candidate can inspire the same passions that this President does, with both the positive effects listed above, and the down-side effects of making Michael Moore a celebrity. But if this is the sort of lasting change that Barone hints it may be, there is absolutely no reason not to be optimistic for the near future of political life in America.
|The Drama of Human Competition
What with the election being over, and the news cycle relatively slow, I have actually had the opportunity to watch SportsCenter the last two nights. Boy, what a treat.
First we have the really bizarre footage from Detroit of Ron Artest (Indiana) climbing up into the stands to take a couple swings at a fan who had been yelling at him and, apparently, throwing things at him. He was, of course, followed by two of his teammates who were a)trying to get in the middle and keep things a little cool, or b)taking swings of their own to make things really, really bad. Of course, we all know now that the scenario played out as b), which led to a full-blown melee, a game be called on account of brawling, and just today four players (including Artest) being suspended indefinitely by the league.
Then today we get a bench-clearing brawl towards the end of the Clemson-South Carolina game. I've seen the footage a couple times, and I still don't know exactly what started this one. It looked like the end of the play was reasonably sportsmanlike, but twenty yards away something happened that the camera missed (somebody must have said "yo momma") and WHAM! Two hundred giant men on a football field throwing wild punches at some guy's helmet. Not exactly the sweet science.
And it begs the question: What the Hell is going on here? I, of course, have a theory, which, like most of my theories, is based in absolutely no scientific evidence or scholarly research. But I'll get to that in a moment.
First of all, as to the NBA. Of course, the analysts on ESPN were lauding the decision by the commissioner of the NBA to suspend these four players indefinitely. One even went so far as to suggest that the appropriate penalty for Artest would be to just let him pursue his music career that he wants while taking a year off. A year off? THAT would send a message?
I'm wondering when the Detroit PD files two counts of battery against Artest. You're talking about a gigantic man (I think 6'10") who threw punches at person who had not attempted to do him any harm, and then seconds later did the same thing to another fan who was stupid enough to wander onto the court to say something to him. Even in Colorado, the Make My Day Law does not extend to a person's place of business. Last year, in hockey, Steve Bertuzzi was charged with battery for a vicious attack on an opposing player, and a couple years back Donald Brashir suffered some major penalty for attacking another player with his stick (though, if memory serves, he avoided criminal prosecution). But these two incidents were attacks against other similarly situated persons--that is, equally large, similarly "armed", and wearing protective gear indigenous to the sport. Not so in the case of Artest et al.; the fans had no gear, were not exactly imposing physical specimens, and had no opportunity to interact with Artest in the context of the competition. A "message" would be an arrest.
A brief look at the history of Ron Artest as an NBA player reveals a career at least as notable for its fights and technical fouls as for its demonstration of skills. In any other field of endeavor--ANY OTHER (with the possible exception of hockey)--this man would not only have likely been fired for his behavior which is detrimental to the organization and the league, but very likely would have been served with a number of restraining orders and/or criminal charges. But because this man is a mutant who happens to have a distinct set of skills somewhat unique to that mutant class, he makes millions of dollars a year and is treated like royalty wherever he goes.
And it's not like Artest is the first. Remember what Latrell Sprewell did to his coach a few years back? And yet, he's on the court every night, making his millions, and is even briefly featured in advertisements for video games.
So is it any wonder that the college kids are doing the same thing? The problem in South Carolina today started before the game when a couple players wandered over to the other team's sideline and "disrespected" them. Disrespected? So, likely, what started the real melee was some continuation of that disrespect onto the field in a situation when the game was essentially over, and neither side had anything more to lose. But for the whole thing to start because of "disrespect?" Some university President ought to respect his school enough to revoke a handful of scholarships.
But will that happen? Not likely--the university has too much to lose from athletics revenue. By the way, even though it's never happened on the field in such a way, I am entirely aware that my own alma mater--dear old C.U.--has its own less-than-spotless record of citizenship. I also know that it isn't just Americans--didn't I see highlights from a soccer game in Europe this week that was played in an empty stadium because the fans got too violent last time? And I also know that this isn't brand new to sports--if I'm not mistaken, Ty Cobb once beat on an umpire with a bat for having a bad strike zone.
The point is, something needs to be done about this before more "misbehavior" leads to real tragedies. Clearly, young athletes are sent messages from a very early age that they are exempt from the rules if they are blessed in a certain way. Couple that with the training they are subjected to of controlled hostility, and you have a very explosive situation. And that situation only gets worse when officials--both athletic and civic--fail to or refuse to act in a way that discourages the criminal behavior.
The Roman Gladiators served a civic purpose by distracting the masses, and directing the hostility of the crowd in a controlled channel. And it has been said that sport in America serves a similar purpose.
The problem is, the armed savages are starting to wander out of the Coliseum, and into a neighborhood near you.
Much has been said in Colorado over the last several weeks over the stunning weakness of the state GOP. To reiterate, we lost an open Senate seat, we lost an open House seat, and we lost control of both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in decades. Nonetheless, the President won the state fairly easily, and Reps. Beauprez and Musgrave, both of whom were supposed to be in tough fights, won re-election fairly easily.
I spent many hours working the Beauprez campaign. For an incumbent campaign, I can tell you they were working as if they had zero advantage. In point of fact, the 7th CD has a slight Dem voter registration advantage, which could be a big part of why they were all working so hard. Nonetheless, you never got the impression working around that campaign that any good polling news was the end of the story, that they were at all overconfident, or that there was any sense at all of "coasting". That may explain why reelection was a double-digit event.
But the down-ticket races confuse me. Surely, someone had polling data showing that these state legislators were in trouble; surely, someone had some resources to re-direct towards those candidates, even if it just meant a campaign appearance by a popular GOP pol (gee. . .I don't know. . .maybe the GOVERNOR). I do get a little bit of a sense from what I'm hearing that there was a bit of overconfidence with regards to the state legislature.
Which brings me to my baseless speculation: Is it possible that, given the very effective targeted hit pieces on state races, that there was a sort of "reverse coat tail" effect, where a decision made on a down-ticket race had a negative effect on an up-ticket race? Is it possible that John Salazar did not ride his brother's coattails into the House, so much as both of them rode the state legislative Dems coattails into office?
How do I explain Bush/Beauprez/Musgrave in this scenario? All three of them are well-known incumbents. . .period. Beauprez did many impressive things in his first term, and worked his tail off to get 7CD again; Musgrave was very effective (marriage amendment notwithstanding) for a rookie, and is well-liked in her district, as well as running against the same guy she beat four years ago; and the President is the President-_Colorado was never going to elect Kerry.
But in the major upticket races in which the playing field was somewhat level, the Dems did very well.
So I'm just asking.
Clay has some very good thoughts on this past election and party loyalty--check him out.
|Still Out Of Tune
David Yepsen, the star political reporter in Iowa, penned a piece today that started out looking like a post-mortem on the Kerry campaign. What it turned out to be, however was a cry out to keep the faith. To excerpt:
For openers, the situation for Democrats is not bleak. Another 125,000 votes in Ohio for Kerry and you wouldn't be reading this column. In losing, Kerry got more votes than many past candidates received in winning the presidency. He came within 3.5 million votes out of 115 million cast. (Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, "close" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.)
Also, a party that loses one presidential election often comes storming back in the next. For example, in 1964 Democrat Lyndon Johnson administered a crushing defeat to Barry Goldwater and the GOP. It was so bad that no politician wanted to be called a "conservative." Four years later, Richard Nixon won the presidency in a close election.
Point by point. . . Yes, another 125,000 in Ohio; BUT another 125,000 for the President in Pennsylvania and we're all talking about a landslide this week and we'd be reading columns about that. And 3.5 million votes is, you know, not chicken feed--that's a mid size red state right there.
And a losing party often comes storming back? Really? Trying to float that one past us as we're contemplating George W Bush's SECOND election? Sure, Johnson did crush Goldwater, but that was the last time until 1996 years that the Dems managed get re-elected, while the GOP managed it twice and got a sitting Veep elected.
Still, I hope more columnists keep the pressure on the Dems to keep doing what they've been doing--it certainly has worked out well for my side.
|Thomas Sowell On The Media and Terrorism
Sowell takes his typically incisive intellectual knife right to the media and their fawning coverage of the "insurgency" in Iraq. Chris Matthews gets singled out for ridicule, after his laughable performance Tuesday night covering the mosque shooting by a Marine. Sowell dissects it thus:
Assuming that somehow you are certain that an enemy is unarmed, perhaps because you have already searched him or disarmed him, is it ever justified to kill him anyway? That question was answered more than half a century ago, when German troops wearing American uniforms and speaking English infiltrated American lines during the Battle of the Bulge.
Those German troops, when captured, were lined up against a wall and shot dead. And nobody wrung his hands about it.
The rules of war, the Geneva Convention, do not protect soldiers who are not wearing their own country's uniforms. To get the protection of rules, you have to play by the rules.
I, for one, will be outraged if the military does anything more to this Marine than to say "don't do that kind of thing when there's a camera in the room any more." No civilian, especially one as pampered as Matthews, can comprehend the sort of incessant pressure on the troops going door-to-door in Fallujah--that this sort of thing happens doesn't trouble me for a moment. What would trouble me is a soldier hesitating, allowing one of these monsters time to pull the pin on a grenade, taking out several Americans.
|Be Sure To Read This
This (admittedly rather lengthy) article is must reading for anybody interested in keeping their eye on the ball (courtesy RCP.
While there is a great deal of interesting and useful information in this Heather MacDonald piece, it can fairly be boiled down to her final graf:
For now, officials trying to protect the public risk punishment and opprobrium, while terrorists trying to invade and destroy the country enjoy politically motivated protection. That's a formula for disaster, and it must change.
Related to last night's post, Joel Mowbray assesses the task ahead of Condi Rice at the state department--not a pretty picture; and Claudia Rosette digs a little deeper at the scab that is starting to form over the final, wounded credibility of the U.N. and it's "leader," Kofi Annan.
|More Amusement at Kerry's Expense
In what I'm sure was intended to be genuine, Harold Meyerson provided me with a good chuckle over my lunch this morning.
John Kerry's career has had genuine high points -- his leadership of Vietnam vets against the war, his blowing the whistle on the Iran-contra and the Bank of Commerce and Credit International scandals, his battle against drilling for oil in Arctic wildlife areas -- but they are triumphs of opposition, of liberalism out of power thwarting abuses of power.
Let's just for a moment--a moment--assume that these are actual, genuine accomplishments. Okay, go ahead and chuckle. But then look at them: his fraud of opportunistic military bashing, followed by 14 years of nothing, then a little whistle-blowing (which frankly, I don't remember his signature role in), followed by 14 more years of nothing, and then a pitched "battle" to save cold desert from development. This is his list of accomplishments?
And we didn't take him seriously as a candidate. . .
Not that this story is especially newsworthy, but I find it endlessly amusing that John Kerry ended up NOT spending about $60 million he had raised through the election cycle.
Captain Ed's take is priceless:
Contrast that to the extensive party-building efforts of the GOP standardbearer; Kerry's selfish money handling guarantees that no one will trust him with the next nomination. His campaign rolled from one disaster to the next, and if he keeps talking about running again, four years is an awfully long time to get a Freedom of Information Act request processed for the rest of his military and FBI records.
Seriously, John--run again. Won't you, PUHLEEAZE.
|This Is The Kind Of Sourcing We Need
Read the following excerpt from a Captain's Quarters post this morning:
"(Abdul Qadeer) Khan gave Iran a quantity of HEU (highly enriched uranium) in 2001, so they already have some," Farid Soleiman, a senior spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told reporters.
"I would doubt it was given enough for a weapon," he added.
The State Department lists the NCRI, the political front for the People's Mujahideen Organization, as a terrorist organization -- think Sinn Fein and the IRA. However, Reuters reports that diplomats regard the NCRI as the best source of information on Iran's nuclear program and that the group has delivered accurate and timely information to the IAEA in the past.
So, we have information coming to us from an opposition organization in exile (sound familiar?) reported in the New York Times; said organization is on the State Department's terrorist organization list--love that State Department; and we have Reuters telling us that diplomats (read: state department officials) trust said exile organization.
Great. Isn't this the sort of thing that's gotten us into a little bit of trouble recently? So, by all means, let's jump in on this one and run with it.
|What Do All Of These Have In Common?
A very interesting confluence of commentaries have run over the wires of Real Clear Politics in the last several days. See if you can spot the trend.
Stephen Hayes opens up today with a lengthy assessment of the difficulties Porter Goss is facing as he tries to reform the CIA. To quote: After hundreds of words from the Post we still have very little idea of what, exactly, Goss is doing that has caused so much heartburn at the agency. But if he's aggressively reforming the bureaucracy, he should most certainly not stop. Next comes this from Michael Ledeen, which concludes: It was widely reported that the CIA had not a single human agent in Iraq as of Sept. 11, 2001. That alone shows the magnitude of the failure of those people now leaking and whining as they finally leave. And finally, also from today, this editorial in the Rocky Mountain News, which ends with the following zinger: If there's a legitimate criticism to be made of the White House's rump-kicking at the CIA, it is the tardiness of it. Because so much is at stake, the need has been urgent for intelligence gathering that is alert, tough-minded and analytically first-rate. That is hardly what this country has been getting.
The second set of articles deals with an entirely different organization. Start with the writings of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), referencing a letter written by Kofi Annan: It boggles the mind that a world leader could display such naivete in the face of efforts by thousands of insurgents and foreign fighters to terrorize and impose a Taliban-style rule in Fallujah, complete with summary executions. The good Senator goes on to excerpt an important rejoinder by the interim Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi: I share your strong preference for a political solution over military confrontation. But I did not find in your letter a new plan or a new strategy beyond this strong preference. Next, move to this piece from yesterday by Robert Novak; a key point: The scandal is not complicated. Money from Iraqi oil sales permitted by the Saddam Hussein regime under U.N. auspices, supposedly to provide food for Iraqis, was siphoned off to middlemen. Billions intended to purchase food wound up in Saddam's hands for the purpose of buying conventional weapons. The complicity of U.N. member states France and Russia is pointed to by the Senate investigation. The web of corruption deepened when it was revealed that Annan's son, Kojo, was on the payroll of a contractor in the oil-for-food program. This is a developing story, led with alarming (for Annan!) competence by the freshman Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. Every day his committee seems to unearth or reveal some new facet of the Oil-for-Food Scandal, like yesterday's gem that the real amount of embezzlement was $21 billion--about twice what was first thought.
And the third thread, though it has not been as widely written about (as of this writing) is the nomination of Condaleeza Rice to replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State. Of course, the surface elements of that story are ably (or not-so-ably) covered; it's the implications that are interesting to me. Replacing Powell, who is almost always mentioned with some variation of "who has not always agreed with the hard-line approach of this administration", at a department which is almost always seen as "having a somewhat adversarial relationship with this administration", with somebody who is in the inner circle of Bush advisors, and who almost certainly appreciates the use of force when necessary, strikes me as a signal to State: get on board.
So what, you may still be wondering, is the common thread?
You have a troubled, but progressing, shakeup at the CIA--the agency through which we "observe" the rest of the world. You have growing evidence of massive institutional corruption and "naivete" at the U.N.--the institution which is the forum for our dealings with the rest of the world. And you have a Bush loyalist with hawkish tendencies moving to the State Department--the agency through which we communicate with the rest of the world.
In each case, major institutions that have done their level best to maintain the global status quo are faced with an insistent call to reform. This, at a time when the volatility in the world is at a quantum moment (a moment that will define geopolitical dealings for a generation). And in every instance, President Bush and his allies are moving into positions to have maximum impact on the shape of events.
Buckle up, folks. This ride is just starting to get interesting.
|In Case You Missed This
On Friday there was a very thoughtful and, in my opinion, important op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News, written by the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver.
The money lines:
California's Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein warns cluelessly that gay marriage was pushed too fast - as if the troglodytes in the red states (and, oh yeah, in Oregon) need more time to see the light. Others point to Bush's personality, or Karl Rove's evil genius, or John Kerry's bumbling campaign team. The list of excuses is endless.
The 2004 election wasn't about "personality." It was about character - the Bob Casey, moral values kind. Democrats used to be able to tell the difference. That they no longer can is why my Democratic wife, and millions of people just like her, had no trouble at all pulling the lever for Republicans on Nov. 2.
George Will echoes many of those thoughts, but delves deeper into the root cause of that problem: arrogance.
It is passing strange. As the American public has become more educated, American intellectuals have become more disparaging of the public's intellectual incapacities and moral shortcomings. In 1940, more than half of the U.S. population had only an eighth-grade education, or less. Now that 85 percent are high-school graduates, 53 percent have some college education and 27 percent are college graduates, it is an article of faith among the progressive intelligentsia that the public is becoming increasingly obtuse, bigoted and superstitious.
There was a time—say, from the early 1930s to the mid-1960s, the period of the Democratic Party's ascendancy—when progressives thought their job was to increase the material well-being of ordinary Americans. It is not mere coincidence that the Democratic Party's strength has waned as its intellectuals' disapproval of ordinary Americans has waxed.
Of course, the post mortems on the Dems continue, and will likely for some time (including, laughingly, a "strategy session" at the opening of the Clinton Library). But until they come to grips with the fundamental fact that they hold in contempt that which more than half the population holds dear, the Dems will not re-occupy a majority position in this country.
|Don't Let The Door Hit You In The $%^^ On The Way. . .
I know it might be a distinctly un-Christian sentiment, but
Hasta la Vista, Yasser Baby!
While I think the President was appropriate in voicing a prayer for his soul and condolences for his family and so on, I, for one, am glad he's gone. The primary impediment to Middle East peace is finally removed, not to mention one of the world's most notorious and cowardly terrorists is gone.
I hope the President seizes this opportunity, and has SecState Powell on the ground in the Middle East next week, trying to get the powers that be to the table to begin working on a framework for a Palestinian state living side-by-side with a SECURE Israel.
|Veteran's Day, 2004--A First
I have been a teacher in the public schools for fourteen years; before that, I was a student in the public schools for thirteen years. And at no point in all that time had I ever participated in or been a party to a Veteran's Day Celebration. . .
until today. At one school. . .and, I think, mostly at the direction of one lady who had a son and a son-in-law in Iraq. Nonetheless, I was pleased and gratified to take part in such a celebration. . .
No matter how overdue it was.
|The Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month
Veterans Day, 1954
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Whereas it has long been our customs to commemorate November 11,
the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the
heroes of that tragic struggle and by rededicating ourselves to the cause
of peace; and
Whereas in the intervening years the United States has been
involved in two other great military conflicts, which have added millions
of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation; and
Whereas the Congress passed a concurrent resolution on June 4,
1926 (44 Stat. 1982), calling for the observance of November 11 with
appropriate ceremonies, and later provided in an act approved May 13,
1938 (52 Stat. 351) , that the eleventh of November should be a legal
holiday and should be known as Armistice Day; and
Whereas, in order to expand the significance of that
commemoration and in order that a grateful Nation might pay appropriate
homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to
the preservation of this Nation, the Congress, by an act approved
June 1, 1954 (68 Stat. 168), changed the name of the holiday to Veterans
Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the
United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to
observe Thursday, November 11, 1954, as Veterans Day. On that day let
us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly,
on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage
of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting
an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.
So. . .John, Jeff, Dad, Uncle Bill, Jose, and millions and millions of men and women who I will never have the honor or pleasure of knowing. . .
Jared Polis, tech-boom multi-millionaire who bought himself an elected seat on the Colorado State Board of Education, was one of the chief financial backers of Forward Colorado and other 527s which were credited with successfully targeting a number of state legislators last week. The campaign of these 527s resulted in both the state House and State Senate reverting to Democratic majorities for the first time in my lifetime.
Speculation has run wide that Polis is interested in the governorship in two years, so when he takes a public position on a major policy issue, it's of interest. Today, he came out questioning the accountability provisions of state schools testing with respect to Cole Middle School.
From the Rocky Mountain News:
Also Monday, State Board of Education Chairman Jared Polis said he will lobby lawmakers to give struggling schools options besides charter conversion.
"We would rather have more remedies at our disposal because different situations call for different remedies," Polis said.
Polis said he and other state board members want the law to more closely mirror the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which allows low-performing schools to choose from a menu of reforms, in addition to charter school conversion. For example, Polis said, the struggling school could create a reform plan subject to state board approval.
Is this tantamount to State BOE endorsement of No Child Left Behind? Of course not. When a school gets to design its own reform plan, it can set the bar as low as it wants to, and can weight the grade towards items not academic, such as suspension/expulsion rate and community outreach. And since it is the state board that gets final say-so on the reform plan, does anybody have any doubt that they would find a way to water down the accountaility?
What Polis is really trying to do is find a way to weaken the state's academic testing standards, and to do it under the cover of a federal program which it is completely reasonable to assume he does not support.
I'm about to use two phrases that have NEVER been put together in the history of political discourse.
Seriously, brace yourselves.
James Carville seems to be the new Democratic voice of reason.
The Washington Post reports:
"I'm not in denial. Reality hit me," Carville said. "We have to treat the disease, not the symptom," Carville said. "The purpose of a political party is to win elections, and we're not doing that."
Carville said that the party's concern about interest groups had resulted in "litanies, not a narrative."
Brit Hume carried his report further, reporting that Carville said "we have to accept that we are now an opposition party--and not a very effective one, at that."
Seriously, how bad have things gotten for the Dems that the only person on their side who has woken up to reality is Carville?
|The Specter Spectre
With regards to Arlen Specter as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I suspect that he knows better than to dither with the President's nominees. But even if he doesn't, let's look wide angle at this one.
Will a liberal Republican on the SJC have a better chance of shepherding the President's nominees through committee than a conservative? Probably not--odds are probably about equal. Would a liberal Republican have a better chance of navigating a nominee past the filibuster onto the floor? Perhaps. I think he may be the voice that Chris Mathews would go to, and that voice would be one to get the nominee to the floor. And if the nominee gets to the floor, even were Specter to vote against him or her, the GOP has the votes to get through.
Is this a faith stance? Not really--Specter has supported every Bush nominee so far, and has supported Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist in the past. Does Robert Bork matter? Yes...I suppose. But that was a long time ago, and this may be just the time for a bold move such as this.
I guess the key is this: does Specter remember that this President saved his career against a primary challenge, and, in light of that, would he be more or less likely to block replacements to the bench for Stevens, O'Connor, and Rehnquist? My gut feel for this (since I have no actual knowledge) is that if this President gets to replace these three Justices, you can count on 1 lib 1 mod and 1 cons being turned into 1 mod 1 c-right and 1 cons--a huge net gain.
And, in light of that, is there any reason to fight this fight with Sen. Specter? Not really. There are bigger fights to fight.
But just in case, let's write our Senators and encurage a 10-8 or 10-7 makeup for this committe, rather than the more conventional 9-8.
|The Big Picture
Operation Phantom Fury is underway to eliminate the "insurgent" element in Fallujah. Command Post is writing pretty frequent updates on the progress of the operation.
From my perspective--no military background, no tactical experience--it seems like this is a very smart operation so far. I like that there's a British net around the city waiting to destroy the enemy when he runs, and I like that the next nearest city (Ramadi) is also in the process of being . . . fumigated.
Does anybody, anywhere, actually think that the US Military did not learn enough from Mogadishu to eliminate these cowards and murderers in a final, complete way. . .
if they are allowed to?
It seems as if Allawi is onboard; now if we can just get Kofi Annan to shut up.
I suspect there will be a grand sort of Monty Python-esque progression: from "it's just a scratch" to "I'll bite your knees off" to "what you gonna do--bleed on me?" At some point, if they follow true to form, someone will throw up a white flag and agree to just disband and drift back into society. I hope we don't let them.
|Eating Our Young
I wrote a couple nights ago that I thought the Republicans had failed to properly counter the Dem 527s, and that's why we lost the state house. It turns out it wasn't just Dem 527s.
Schaffer lost a bid for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination last August to Pete Coors. But instead of then working to help elect the conservative Coors in November, the Schaffer-led Parents Alliance for Choice in Education trained its artillery on moderate Republican legislators like state Rep. Ramey Johnson in Jefferson County.
As Johnson was doggedly knocking on doors in her district, Schaffer's voucher lobby sent an "urgent" flyer to voters hammering the Republican candidate for "not listening to parents," bowing to "teacher's union bosses" and "refusing to put children first." (from Bob Ewegen in today's Post/News)This also squares with something I'd been hearing lately from someone with close ties to the Ramey Johnson campaign.
Sometimes I wonder that Republicans ever win anything, with our penchant for internicene battles.
During the primaries, there was a heated discussion within the Alliance about the wisdom of siding with the more moderate-seeming but inexperienced Pete Coors over the proven political abilities but flame-thrower tendencies of Bob Schaffer.
Let's just say that I feel much better tonight about siding with Coors, even though he ultimately lost. If this is how Schaffer plays the game, I'm glad he wasn't the choice to represent us.
Consider the confluence of events over the last week or so: President Bush gets reelected, as well as a strong majority in both houses expands; the jobs report for October shows more than double the expected growth; the stock market has shot up some 3% in the last 3 days; Yassar Arafat is on the brink of death; and the US military is poised for the big assault on Fallujah and Ramadi.
It is conceivable that by Christmas the insurgency in Iraq could be largely supressed, which would lead to free elections in an Arab country; there may be new leadership in Palestine and hope for peace in Israel; and the reality of a growing economy could be breaking through the news embargo and dawning on the American public. All this, combined with a sympathetic congress, could give THE PRESIDENT (I still enjoy saying that with emphasis) the momentum to drive through the ambitious agenda he has laid out. On top of that, I expect enough news to come out of the Oil-for-Food investigations to cripple the Franco-German ability to block the American international agenda.
Obviously, for everything to line up just right would take more than strategy and execution--it will require some level of Divine Providence. So, pray. But more. . .
Howard Gardner has written that there are times and circumstances in history that have quantum effects--the most recent was in the early part of the 20th century when Freud, Einstein, Stravinsky and many other very influential thinkers did their most important work--work that influenced their fields for decades. It is possible that this is just such a time.
So we should all take the President's lead, and stop thinking about Tuesday to turn our attention to the opportunity at hand to truly change the world. Nobody likes analyzing numbers and vote tallies more than I, but Tuesday is gone. The future beckons.
Prayer is not enough, though it is a necessary component. Such a critical time begs of us to redouble our efforts. Unfortunately, I'm poorly equiped to know what such efforts might look like. I welcome any thoughts along these lines, though I'll let you know what I've come up with.
First, I'm going to call/write Senator Allard to ask him to exert whatever influence he may have to assure that the Senate Republicans push for strong majorities on the Senate Judiciary, Senate Armed Forces, and Senate Foreign Relations Commitees.
Then I'll be writing letters to the editor on the subject of the Oil-for-Food Scandal and the media failure to cover it adequately.
I'll also be writing/calling Congressman Beauprez to ask him to work with the President and the House Leadership to reform the tax code.
I don't want to get carried away with this line of thought, but I also don't want to miss an opportunity. I welcome any thoughts or suggestions.
|Unfortunate Early Signs
Remember back in 2002 when the Dems lost the Senate? If memory serves, their explanation was that a) they didn't have a mouthpiece nearly as effective as conservative talk radio, and b) they had actually been TOO cooperative with the President. So their response was AirAmerica. . . I'm just waiting for the laughter to die down. . . and the policy of obstructionism in the Senate.
And this time, they lost even worse. In fact, significantly worse (by the way, if you want to have a nice moment of irony, go see some number crunching my brother did).
So one might expect a voice of reason to emerge encouraging the party to re-evaluate its message and its values.
But no. The early indictments (gleaned from tolerable exposure to AirAmerica) are of touch-screen voting machines (they stole it!) in Ohio, and those darn religious people in the red states.
At some point it's going to dawn on somebody that the Democrats message just does not resonate in the vast majority of America. It would be good for the party--and for the country--to elevate a voice of reason--a Lieberman or a Bayh--to a prominent leadership position.
Yep. I'm holding my breath, too.
|The Wide-Angle Lens
When all is said and done, note one thing: Americans, again, have had a peaceful and fair transfer/continuation of power. OBL was reduced to playing a bit part in a Michael Moore film, polling irregularities were basically nonexistent, and there have been no reports of violence or rioting in the streets.
God Bless America.
I wrote last night that one of the big losers was the Colorado Republican Party. In making my point, I wrote that Party had ne effective response to the outside monies.
Of course, the Party itself cannot coordinate with outside groups, and so that breakdown may not be completely fair to pin on the Party. But in the bigger sense, where was the Republican big money machine when we needed it? Surely Pete Coors contributing to his own campaign wasn't the only outlet for CO GOP money.
That would, indeed, be problematic.
|Other Good Predictions
The stock market is jumpin' on news of the Bush re-election. Suddenly, oil is down; the Dow is up (almost 3% in two days); the NASDAQ is at its highest point in four months and up over the 2,000 level again; and the S&P is at his highest point in 2-1/2 years.
Tommorow will bring another decent jobs report (note how little attention this has gotten in the media), and the reality of a strong economy will begin to settle in.
Just one more story that's been dampened by the media.
I expect to wrap up my analysis of the election in the next few days. I'm hoping that will include interviews with major players in the Colorado campaigns, but we'll have to wait and see what that looks like.
At any rate, sometime on Friday or early Saturday I expect to turn the computer off and not turn it on again for several days. Frankly, I'm an addict--I have had more fun in the last several weeks following the election and spouting off about it than doing anything I can remember in an awfully long time.
But my wife has turned into an "election widow." I need to shut the computer off and get my head back in balance for a little while.
However, I'll be back. And,no, I don't just say that as a threat. In point of fact, I mentioned a few days ago that I was hoping to use this platform for a new project, and I intend to follow through on that. I'm optimistic that this could turn in to something pretty substantial.
At any rate, I hope those of you out there who have been reading along have found my musings useful. I'm glad to have made many e-acquaintances over the last several months, and look forward moving ahead as a mouthpiece for the clear Republican Majority.
|Winners and Losers
This post will take some time to really flesh out, but I'm going to go ahead and put down my early impressions, and fill them in in more detail later.
1. President Bush/Karl Rove/Ken Mehlmann et al. Clearly, the plan--the VERY DISCIPLINED PLAN--worked out exactly as they would have projected. The team did a great job on GOTV and organization, the President stayed on message and made absolutely zero mistakes in the campaign, and the clarity of message resonated. One of the radio shows was asking if this was a "mandate"; I say, clearly: when you're the first Presidential candidate in 16 years to get a majority, and the first incumbent to win with coattails in 40 years, something rings true to the American people. Stay on the offense in war, get your judges confirmed, and keep working to lower the burden of government--that's the message.
2. New Media--not quite enough can possibly be said here. Given the monumental hurdles the MSM put up (more on that here and elsewhere in the RMA at later dates) for the President, it's nearly miraculous that W won. I would guess that, on a level playing field, Bush beats Kerry by close to ten points, maybe more. The only explanation is that talk radio, FoxNews, and--more importantly--the blogosphere were able to do enough to counterbalance that the contest ultimately came down to roughly the same red/blue split as last time around. The King (MSM) is Dead!! Long Live the King!!
1. Without belaboring the point right here, the mainstream media. What was up with the exit polls? you ask. Let's just call those the kitchen sink--one last, desperate attempt to swing the election. Much more on all this later.
2. McCain-Feingold. What a joke. If this is what an election looks like without the undue influence of the big money, then just open the damn thing up for a free-for-all and stop pretending. Seriously, has any major law with major Constitutional deficiencies been less effective at any point in the last 50 years? This one needs to be scrapped by the new Senate in the first 100 days.
3. (Local Interest Alert) The Colorado Republican Party. We managed to hold the state for the President and handily defeat THE REALY STUPID IDEA, but in return we lost the only two open statewide races, lost all five targeted State Senate races, and managed to lose a nine-seat majority in the State Assembly. Sure, all of this can probably be traced to the 527 group Forward Colorado, but by about September 1st we knew who those people were. The fact that the CO GOP was unable to mount an effective counter-attack is worrisome. On the other hand, Colorado has had years like this before, and we always seem to swing back the other way by the next election. Let's get busy mounting an agressive campaign right now.
|Pat Myself On The Back
Yep, I called it: 51-48. Sure, I was a bit off on my electoral prediction--I had PRESIDENT Bush picking up Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan--but still a pretty good night. I'll gladly take a 286-252 margin.
I also speculated that +4 in the Senate was the most likely scenario, though I flipped the method--I suspected a Coors victory and a Vitter runoff. Nonetheless, I feel pretty darned good about that set of predictions.
In all, of the 20 races I wanted to watch closely, 16 came out the way I was expecting, though 3 of those were closer than I wanted. Not a perfect storm for the GOP. . .
but I'd say it was somewhere around an F3 or an F4.
As we watch the little Democrats scurry for the storm shelters.
If, for some bizarre reason, either the President makes a strong, credible claim of victory tonight or Kerry concedes (yep--I'm holding my breath, too), look for the stock market to shoot through the roof tomorrow.
Also look for the long-awaited Fallujah offensive in the very near future.
Blah Blah Blah. "We're gonna fight. . ." Not again. This really shouldn't become a bit thing--automatic recount at .25% and right now the margin is 2%. Nonetheless, expect the Dems to mount a Quixote-esque court battle.
If that gets really stupid and ugly, we could see the real face of the Dems and we can hope for the final death of this generation of the Democratic Party.
|Mixed Night in Colorado
The President carried the state by seven--not quite what I was hoping for, but a clean margin.
But. . .
Salazar picked up the Senate seat; looks like the 3rd seat is also going to a Salazar, who is ahead of Greg Walcher by 12,000; and it also looks like both the state House and Senate are going to switch from GOP control to Dem control.
Odd night. Think money can't buy an election? Ask Forward Colorado, who blanketed the state with about $4 mil to defeat GOP state legislators. The GOP mounted no effective defense and. . .voila.
It's 12:21 and we still don't KNOW who the President is going to be. . .sort of. Really, we know the President is holding everything he won four years ago--including Ohio--plus we're still waiting for Michigan (not likely), Minnesota (not likely), Iowa (probable), New Mexico (probable), Nevada (possible), gives him a pretty nice little margin of victory. Assuming we don't litigate. Shyeesh.
On the plus side, we know the House picked up a few, and the Senate definitely picked up one, with three still on the table--South Dakota, Florida, and Alaska. It's beginning to look like the Senate is a net +4.
Not a bad night, all things considered. Just waiting for one of the remaining states to break.
|Violence and Elections
Bob and Clay have posted today on the rash of violence sweeping the country--targeted at GOP campaigns and workers. I'll add to their thoughts using the opposition's own arguments:
If you use the prevailing Democratic definition of "violence," a whole new range of offenses fall in this area, as well. For instance, wouldn't violence (like hacking into little pieces) against a sign be indicative of "hate" and "opression"? Not to mention the painting of swastikas on signs--imagine that that sign was hanging from the fence of a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Wouldn't that be psychological violence?
Of course the ACLU would think so, as would Jesse Jackson. The fact the the ends (Dem victory) are aided by the means (violence) justifies the latter, in their mind.
As with all things political, the Democrats, with few exceptions, have become the party of situational ethics. Not the kind of leadership you want with OBL still out there.