Monday, May 30, 2005

Koran Abuse II

I meant to publish this Friday, but I got caught up in other matters...enjoy!

The Ox Rant has this posting of the most unnecessary briefing on the "Koran abuse" matter at Guantanamo Bay. And at this point, I think we can all safely utter a collective "gimme a break!!" given that nobody's rights (actual or imagined) were even close to being violated.

People touching the Koran (as opposed to using the force?)...people putting it on a TV (probably because Roseanne was on at the time, which would have offended anyone)...standing over the Koran (is it still bad if you are on a different floor from the Koran, yet still standing "above" it?).

Taking this implied argument in the light most favorable to it (that the guards and interrogators have to perfectly manage the treatment of this book), misses a pretty significant point--we are running a prison, not a mosque.

Lest we forget, these people are terrorists who have no respect for other people in their own culture, let alone ours. One only needs to look to Taliban Afghanistan to see what I mean. Women were the pinatas of that civilization. When they are victims of rape, they are accused of being seductresses. When their burkas are above their ankles, they are punished by being spat upon if it's a good day, or being stoned or otherwise executed if the judge, jury and executioner is not in a good mood. These people are anti-civilization and misanthropic. They practice interpersonal disrespect and the use of violence as a tool to enforce cultural and religious conformity. Nevertheless, part of our dignity is that we treat people properly regardless of their history of behavior. So how seriously can we take their whining when these terrorists have no respect for others, and to a very significant degree, their own religion when they mistreat their own book in ways that would create significant trouble if done by Americans?

But the fact that this made the media in the first place shows that the terrorists are wanting to create a stir, knowing that the media-left would go into a fury. And they knew that these people would insist upon prisoner treatment commensurate with service at an exclusive resort, ignoring the fact that these terrorists are entitled to no creature comforts of any kind, as they do not fall under the Geneva convention.

So to take the arguments implied by the Newsweek faux "Koran abuse" story seriously, namely that the terrorists' most minute religious sensibilities should be carefully respected, should the Gitmo chaplains be educated in the ways of Wahabism? Should they be preaching the allegedly peaceful message of Islam, or in order to respect the beliefs of these terrorists, should they be encouraging them in pursuing a violent jihad against "infidels", namely their American captors? And should the chaplains be excused from insubordination and/or treason charges so long as they are encouraging the overthrow of their own government for the benefit of imprisoned terrorists?

It seems that had we not shown the human kindness of attempting to provide these terrorists with some comforts and in showing them gratuitous respect for their fairly harsh and disrespectful traditions, we would not have had to deal with this series of ridiculous grievances.

But if our soldiers are held to the standard of running Guantanamo Bay like a mosque, I have a very serious suggestion. Take away the Korans. Remove all trappings of religion altogether, leaving the prison as a secular place of confinement. That way there will be no sensibilities to offend.

This is a war. It's not Club Med.

"Non"

Jacques Chirac est mort. He's finished after this most politically tragic vote repudiating the new EU constitution. Now before you think that this signifies that the French have begun to gain some sense, here's a bit of perspective: the referendum was lost mainly as a result of far left and right voters who, for differing reasons, opposed the Constitution. There was significant concern that the ratification would cause the French to lose their very generous social welfare system, as well as cause an influx of folks who would lower the prevailing wage rates. Then there were those whose economic concerns were trumped by the very accurate concern that this spelled the death of French sovereignty. All valid concerns of loss.

But the big loser was Chirac who spent all of his remaining political capital to get the thing passed. This is completely devastating. A fairly accurate American parallel would have been a result in Iraq for which most of the Democrats and the mainstream media had been praying last year: the failure of the Iraq elections, an unwillingness of thje Iraqi people to take ownership of their government and security, Paul Bremer remaining viceroy over Iraq, and a powerful and credible "insurgence" by foreign terrorists. Bush would have been politically leveled.

But right now, the victim is the fairly anti-American Chirac, which now makes the passage of the constitution in the Netherlands this week all the less likely. This was Chirac's effort to turn Europe (read: "Greater France") into the economic counterweight to the U.S.

It sure doesn't look great for the future when the main booster of the document votes it down. And it raises a number of questions about the arrogance of the French government, given that a turnout of 70% rejected the biggest change in French government since Normandy.

C'est dommage.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

As Intemperate as Voinovich?

Anyone hear George Voinovich (R-OH) sniveling on the Senate floor last night about the new diplo-monster John Bolton? Jonathan Last posts this all-inclusive piece at Galley Slaves regarding Voinovich's history of having a cool and moderate head. Listen to the linked recording. Voinovich indulged in a nausea inducing plea that the Senate more critically examine John Bolton's nomination because his no-nonsense approach may somehow create disaster...and maybe work to the detriment of the senator's family, like someone violating a federal no-fly restriction because his ego demanded it.

By way of hearsay, I heard someone on Sean Hannity yesterday say that he was a staffer for then-Gov. Voinovich who witnessed a few instances where Voinovich lit up a few employees when they goofed from time to time. Nothing wrong with whipping the horses, but plenty wrong with accusing others of the very evil you commit. And for the record, I get away with the use of hearsay because Joe Biden did with his witness at Bolton's hearing.

As a final note, the Dems are trying to pull a hail Mary on him, by smearing anything they can on him. Message? Democrats (and apparently some liberal Republicans) think that only Madeline Albright trained and approved Democrats should be in the diplomatic corps.

Inches Isn't Progress...

...unless you're a slug. And neither is the current deal in the Senate, and I've rather tired of hearing about the silver linings in it from some conservatives. Certainly we got three judges through...at the price of four others. Two were thrown to the sharks in this deal and two who went home after they had endured watching their characters smeared on the national scene by certain Democrats with no room to talk. Three for seven is not a win.

And confirming judges (or failing to do so by a majority vote) was pretty routine stuff up to 2001. But given that we couldn't move on them because the Democrats raised the bar to 60 votes to confirm judges who were...well...not Democrats, anything is viewed as progress by obstruction-jaded observers.

By way of example, my ladies' high school softball team was the thing of mockery legend. They most often lost games because of the "slaughter rule", having never scored a run. A couple of points per season was a good result. Then after a coaching change, things were a bit different. Then scoring a few runs per game was considered great (despite continued slaughter due to weak fielding). But those very small and pitiful changes were welcomed as progress.

So to those who consider this a victory, remember that that is a relative measurement. We've put up with five years of Democrat bullying. This is not progress, not did we win. And if you want to see it a different way, check this.

The deal gave the Democrats real power as a result of their misbehavior, as opposed to the stripping of power as a consequence of misuse through the nuclear option.

Congrats again to the gang of seven. Tom Daschle is smiling back in South Dakota.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Podhoretz on "The Deal"

John Podhoretz left this post at The Corner about his take on the nuclear fizzle. John's theory is right on. I couldn't agree more. That's exactly the understanding with which the Senators left the meeting room.

But here's the way it will play out. William Rehnquist, as a result of continuing health problems will either retire or die. A new appointment will be made. If anyone thinks Bush will appoint anyone but a committed originalist, they're nuts. And then the Democrats will open up the same rhetoric which they did for the "extremist" judges whom they just graciously allowed to have a floor vote, as a prelude to a filibuster. The filibuster will commence, and the Republicans will declare the deal broken by the Dems and will proceed to reduce the votes needed to invoke cloture. No surprises so far.

But then the Democrats will scream in the presence of the media that it was the Republicans who broke the deal (by renewing the Constitutional Option), and the media will portray it as such, with the Republicans as the power-hungry bad guys and the Dems as the good-faith victims of Republican treachery. Putting us in a worse position than we were before this absolutely stupid deal was inked last night.

This deal depends upon the Democrats acting in good faith, but frankly, I cannot trust these Democrats, and the Republicans are stupid to do it. They'll break the agreement when it suits them and then blame the Republicans for being the dealbreakers when they seek to protect their interests.

Watch.

The Nuclear Fizzle

The Democrats scored a big win last night. They proved that obstruction with a heck of a lot of falsely righteous rhetoric forks much lighting in Washington. It's now the mantra not the law that matters.

I was ready to go into an extended rant, but I think the best wisdom on the web goes to uber-blogger Hugh Hewitt with this post. Be sure to read the links within it to other blog greats.

Hugh is not pleased with the result, but he does appropriately point out some positives in the deal. But I can't completely agree with Hugh, insofar as there are significant latent negatives. My friend Jonathan Last over at Galley Slaves offers this fairly brief and appropriate analysis of the "extraordinary circumstances" provision of the agreement, which to me means that the Democrats retain the filibuster in all cases. After all, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown were "extremists" and extraordinary if you listen to the Democrats.

Hugh does a nice job deconstructing John McCain and Chuck Hagel. I have little regard for McCain, as he has truly descended into the realm of the unreliable, but that's just his way. But Hagel will receive a special beating here. He had nothing tangible to gain by stabbing his party in the back on this issue where he has no real-world credibility. But given how close the vote was, he was able to create enough of a problem for the leadership that it made it safe for the likes of Voinovich, Specter, Murkowski and Warner, among others, to wander. Whether Hagel would have ultimately come back to vote for the Constitutional Option is irrelevant. He has been increasingly disloyal for no real purpose other than to gain some more face time with the press in order to advance his fortunes. But the Senator might have wanted to remember that he comes from the State of Nebraska, where his fairly conservative base may not be so amused at the very real problems his unprincipled on-camera wavering has caused. It may be time for him to go dark for a while and support his party's legislation. That's the only thing that will save his rear.

Chafee and Snow are essentially tossed into the Republican party wastebasket. Unreliable, quick to fear the wrath of Reid and the Democrats, and nearly never with their party on a close vote when principle is at stake, they may as well jump parties. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee had better not lend them a cent for 2006. Begone.

And then there is the turncoat, Arlen Specter. Rick Santorum and President Bush spent quite a good deal of money and political capital to save him from a very credible primary challenge last year. They would have preferred the more conservative challenger Pat Toomey, but Specter seemed the more electable. But November had not closed before Specter forgot who helped him. He indicated that he was potentially going to chart a course away from Bush, and deal with judicial nominees in a much more Leahyesque manner. And in this dispute, he has much more favored the party that opposed him in the general election than the one that saved him both there and possibly from certain death in a primary. This frankly treasonous defection is inexcusable. It's one thing to vote against the party. It's quite another, like Hagel, to put down cover to allow others to defect for a period of months. He stabbed his rescuers just as they brought him into the boat.

And Bill Frist's career is over this morning. It's one thing to fight to keep people on the reservation. It's quite another to fail to even establish the boundaries of it. Frist is a uniquely weak leader, and I concur with almost all of Hugh's reasoning here. There is no consequence for crossing him. The man has repeatedly demonstrated that he has neither spine nor guts, and but for pressure from the White House, Tom Daschle and Harry Reid would have ruled the Senate under Frist. But contrary to Hugh's assertion, I can't see this as being a recoverable loss for the Senator from Tennessee. He has repeatedly granted the Democrats undeserved courtesies despite regular mistreatment received in return. And here again, Frist refused to put down the cover that his party members needed to much more fearlessly take up the Constitutional option until it was largely too late. In any case, polling data suggested that Frist had popular support for the Constitutional option, as people don't like filibusters unless there is a real reason for them. Pulling off the legislative victories that Hugh discusses could advance the majority Leader's future fortunes, but even then, I think the guy has not the cajones to pull even that off if the Democrats put up real opposition. His graciousness to the Dems was returned with the kill shot to his political ambitions. Go back to Tennessee and mend some fences with the former Vice President.

Yes, we got some judges their floor votes, but the problem of the filibuster remains, with only subjective prohibitions on its use. And are the Republicans stupid enough to think that these Democrats wont find plenty of "extraordinary circumstances" to filibuster? Please.

The above-mentioned NRSCC will send out its regular donation requests soon. Be certain that you fill out all surveys completely, but indicate that you will be sending no funds at this time. Because you should only contribute when you believe in what the party is actually trying to do. When they are trying to do nothing, make your check out in that same amount. So I cannot in good conscience support a Republican majority that fears an increasingly noisy but politically isolated Democrat minority. Because the Dems may actually ressurect themselves at the hands of these weak Republicans.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Consequences of a Compromise

If the Senate Republicans reach a compromise on judges tonight or tomorrow morning, they will have sent a message to Democrats that unprincipled obstruction works, and that certain nominees are not entitled to proper respect.

The Senate is going to pull an all-nighter tonight. By morning, if a cloture vote is not successful, Bill Frist (R-TN) will call a vote to declare the filibuster to be a dilatory tactic, thereby reducing the amount required to confirm a judge to a simple majority.

The Democrats are, as usual, furious, not because they find these judges to be the goose-stepping extremists that they claim, (they don't) but rather because they are desperate--desperate--to hold on to power in a climate where voters are increasingly seeing Democrats as being out of touch and lacking sufficient seriousness on major issues such as national security, America's role in the world, and yes, the integrity of our legal system endangered by activist courts.

This party has, for the past twenty years, been about being in power. Their loss of it ten years ago was devastating. Their loss of the White House in 2000 was more than their collective psyches could bear, as that was the first time in fifty years that they had no hand on either house of Congress or the White House.

Their remaining hope is that the courts will legislate what the Congress will not, and approve what the President would veto.

And judicial appointees will get the message that Republicans in the Senate don't have the guts to stand up to noisy leftists, and that they will be left to twist in the wind, despite presidential support, in order to reach some "compromise" that helps the leadership sleep at night.

Republicans: Placing Our Confidence in Howard Dean

While it is likely against the rules of the DNC to have a Republican be the Chairman, having Howard Dean in that office is probably the next best thing. And Republicans thought things would never be the same after Terry McAuliffe left office.

Here's a Washington Times review of his performance with Tim Russert yesterday on Meet the Press. Between convicting Tom DeLay (but saying Osama bin Laden needs due process), mocking Rush Limbaugh's addiction to painkillers by implying that he was doing cocaine, hating Republicans (a remark which he claims was out of context), to saying that he will resurrect the Terri Schiavo matter for the 2006 elections, Dean is hitting all of the tasteless buttons he can, and taking his party to places where they desperately won't want to go.

The Rush Limbaugh thing breaches all standards of civility. Dean, however, refuses an opportunity to apologize and just dives even deeper, saying that he doesn't like to be lectured about morality by people who have their own problems. Which presumes that Howard thinks he has none or that people cannot discuss morality unless they are perfect. But in any case, one presumes that a medical doctor would not find humor in an individual's struggle with addiction. One would be wrong in Dr. Dean's case. Sure, it's hideous, but Democrats want this guy speaking for them, and it's hard to say that they disagree given that they are not doing a thing to pull the plug on him.

Of course, the DeLay/bin Laden matter has been dealt with already. I wasn't too surprised by his crude comment about DeLay going back to Texas to serve his sentence, as we all know Dean to be a blowhard, but I've never been able to write off the benefit of the lack-of-doubt which he gave bin Laden. And such things reflect a particularly intolerable weakness for America's enemies.

But the remarks about Terri Schiavo are particularly troubling, and he may wish to think very carefully about opening that Pandora's Box. His argument will be (surprise) that Republicans violated Terri's rights and those of her family by demanding that her life be extended despite clear evidence that she wanted to die. But such issues won't get too many folks out the door to vote. The issue is not so sufficiently close to their pro-choice base to energize them.

But Republicans will be ready to recall activist judges who ignored evidence and law in favor of personal political philosophy. They will show each and every Schiavo court appearance and the resulting ruling as an example of what happens when judges are free to ignore law and substitute their own subjective view of fairness. They will also be associating themselves with the truly ghoulish right-to-die movement. Want to offend Catholics in Florida when another Senate seat is up for election? Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) may have a serious re-election fight on his hands in a state that is trending Republican (Nelson remains the only statewide Democrat). Remind Floridians of what happened in their state, and remind them that these people wanted to preclude Terri from receiving communion. Remember also that there's potentially quite the Senate war brewing in the State of Washington. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) may face a backlash after the Democrats essentially stole the governor's election through the courts just as their count came only a few votes ahead of Republican, Dino Rossi.

People care more about bad judges and renegade courts than they do about the "right-to-die", and raising Terri Schiavo's name may indeed work disaster for them. Just don't tell Howard that. But then again, he's never been one to take advice that seriously.

Newsweek - Unretracted

Check this article from Newsweek which was on Drudge. It seems that Newsweek really, really believes that the U.S. military disrespects the Koran on a regular basis. So rather than report that it happened in the absence of good sourcing (which they did earlier), Newsweek essentially re-reports the same story, but this time makes very clear that all of the reports are unconfirmed. Which may conflict just a little with this expression of apology and policy change. So this is how they get around it.

But read carefully to find out what is considered "disrespect". The thing needs to be stored in special sterile cloth, can only be physically handled in certain ways, and it may never fall to the floor, etc. But the same outrage does not apply when the prisoners are desecrating their own Korans by shredding them and putting them into a toilet.

We are not about offending people and mocking others' religions, but then again, we are not responsible for satisfying every nuance the Islamists and their apologists in the media demand we observe.

But let's be clear about those with whom we are dealing. These are not respectable foreign dignitaries who wish to peaceably deal with us. These are dangerous international terrorists who want to kill us. They are imprisoned on an island so that they cannot be reached by their comrades and where they will be unable to exert any influence. Granted, deliberate damaging and destruction of their holy book is intolerable, but it is unreasonable and in fact, outrageous to waste time and ink reporting that Korans end up on floors, on top of TVs, or that "unclean" hands touch them. These people are not being tortured when such things happen, and to elevate the term "torture" to include anything to which a prisoner may take or claim to take offense on religious or cultural grounds is patently unfair, and reflective of a pro-terrorist bias. Because nobody in the media complains when a Christian kid is told that he cannot pray during free time at a public school funded by the same taxpayers who bought the Korans for the Gitmo prisoners.

Nice clean-up job Newsweek.

When the Aluminum-Foil Hat Just Isn't Good Enough

I caught this on Drudge. I think it's high time for the Syndicate to order the Trilateral Commission to come down hard on Halliburton for letting their operations come so close to public exposure! This guy is going to be furious!

Ruminations of a Star Wars Geek

I spent much of the weekend mulling over various inconsistencies within the Star Wars movies, now that the series appears to be complete, as Revenge of the Sith left a few open issues that could not be reconciled on their faces. So then I went to the deuterocanonical sources...the Star Wars novels I read back in the 1990s. And they may provide some insight.

A few issues...

The Death Star was under construction at the end of Episode III, but it appears that it may have taken about 20 years or so to build (Luke and Leia are at least 18 by then, but not much beyond that) which is when it becomes operational and a known threat in the galaxy. But there is a gap of time of about 4 years between Episodes IV and VI, after the Death Star is destroyed and the new one is under construction over Endor. Granted, Death Star II is by no means complete by Episode VI, but it is certainly operational. So how do we get from a 20 year project to one done in about a fifth of the time?

Perhaps construction technology has advanced, but more likely there is an even better answer. In the novels, all Lucas-approved, the Empire has an undiscovered outpost near Kessel (yes, the location of the infamous spice (read "drug") mines) which is located in a gap between a series of black holes in the region called "the Maw". . It's in a series called the "Jedi Academy Series" by Kevin Anderson. The Maw installation contains a fleet of Star Destroyers and at least one Death Star skeleton ready to be built, years after Episode VI. Perhaps there was simultaneous work going on for both Death Star units of Episode IV and VI, as we know that the structure of Death Star II is significantly larger that Death Star I. The skeleton may have been just dragged out for construction at Endor. The Emperor probably moved it there (rather than being in the relative safety of the Maw) so that the Rebels would find it an attractive target and thereby lure their fleet into a trap.

Of course, in his cockiness, the Emperor, like the Jedi in the first three episodes, believed what he wanted to see when saw visions of the future, and the rest is history.

But the whole "prefab" notion of the Death Star may be a decent explanation.

Another problem is Leia's memories of her mother in Return of the Jedi that do not comport with Padme's death in Revenge of the Sith. I have early memories, but I find it hard to believe that memories of birth stay with you. But remember this: Padme's funeral was of the open casket variety. Also, she still appeared pregnant, which is an obvious ruse for the benefit of Vader and the Emperor and the protection of Luke & Leia. But if that was faked, is it possible that Padme didn't die at all, but rather went to Alderaan to care for Leia, and then later dying from the broken heart which seems to be the case in Sith? She possibly would have avoided Tattooine for fear of being seen and/or the memories of Anakin's start towards the dark side after the death of Shmi Skywalker.

It's all a bunch of conjecture, of course, and I should not have to do Lucas' explaining for him, as he has had years to turn these movies into perfectly consistent works, given his plenary creative control over them. But it's an explanation anyway. Please forgive this disturbing display of useless knowledge.

Friday, May 20, 2005

On Darth Bush

Following on the previous post, I can tell you that contrary to the claims of a few chattering media morons, Revenge of the Sith is not a movie that comments on the Bush Administration, the Iraq war, or anything else to which we have parallels today. So no, it was not The Manchurian Candidate all over again.

Notwithstanding the left's desire to cast Bush as Vader, Palpatine, or whomever else, Lucas had this story in mind more than two decades before Bush became the bane of the pink.

And if they want to still argue the matter, I can just as easily argue that Palpatine with his smiling lies that the Jedi were wanting to take over the Senate and the galaxy, is much like our many Democratic Senators who call judges who are true to the law with sincere religious beliefs "extremists" who want to take over the nation and put us in a Biblical theocracy. So it could go both ways.

And I hope that those politically absorbed fools could set aside the paranoia and actually go to the movie and enjoy it for what it was, rather than looking for a message that just wasn't there.

The End of the Prequels...

I saw Revenge of the Sith last night. And I can tell you, that despite various criticisms which one may have of it, it was a gripping film, containing artistry that if contained in the other two films, would have made them excellent.

My friend Jonathan Last posts this rather heavy-handed review of the pre-logy, calling it a failure. I agree with a number of his observations. The prequels were nowhere near the phenomenon that was the original trilogy. But then again, Star Wars is nothing new today. It was unheard of in 1977. By 1999, when Episode I hit the screen, it was an established part of our culture. And and we knew roughly what to expect from the prequels. Anakin was going to be discovered and he was going to turn bad. We were preparing to watch a tragedy unfold. And the prequels for sure unveiled a tragedy.

But this misses the point of many of the criticisms of the prequels. I think that if you came to them with a laundry list of questions, you were setting yourself up for disappointment. Yes, there was reason to expect various explanations, but expecting certain character details, like Anakin being a pill from childhood or Jedi that were able to keep up with Palpatine is a bit naive. Remember, the point Lucas was making was that innocence can be corrupted, and that ambition can be the road to evil if not carefully watched. Having said that, I think the same message with nearly the same storyline could have been better effected with a different director.

Lucas can tell a good story. But, like surgeons who should never operate on family members, Lucas was too emotionally involved in his prequels. Turning over the director's chair for Empire and Jedi was wise, and allowed another to deepen Lucas's vision. Lucas did a great job with A New Hope, but the prequels needed more depth to them. They were potentially excellent stories that could have been a little less kid-friendly for their own good.

Yes, Jar-Jar and the Gungans were unnecessary. Phantom could have been immensely improved, and almost completely unaffected by deleting all of those scenes. It would have taken some work to re-write the diversion of the battle droid army, but Lucas is a more than capable writer. And Jonathan Last's suggestion that the role of Darth Maul be expanded would have raised the tension just that much more, perhaps by directly stalking young Anakin rather than harassing Qui-Gon and Obi Wan, which really got Palpatine nowhere. Conversely, Attack of the Clones could have been written and re-written in just about any configuration to bridge the gap between Episode I and III. The best configuration would have been to have Palpatine somehow arranging for the death of Shmi Skywalker, while simultaneously having us see his hand on Anakin's nightmares about her. And if Lucas's goal was to create a marvelously annoying and jerky character in Count Dooku, he succeeded. Rather than having Anakin kill him, he should have punched him. Because that's all a complete loser like Dooku was worth. Uniquely uncompelling. Political intrigue isn't scary. A hunter like Maul is. Another Sith who generated fear would have done the trick of Episode II.

But Revenge of the Sith actually worked for the most part. Of course, there's the whole thing about Leia remembering her mother who died just after her birth, but be that as it may, it was a story of final corruption and doom. I think Lucas did an excellent job with the final battle between Obi Wan and Anakin, with Obi Wan constantly warning Anakin to stop, right up until Anakin makes his final attack and is defeated, and then suffers serious burns and nears death. The idea that Anakin Skywalker died, as Obi Wan told Luke, is marvelously portrayed by his rescue by the Emperor and unholy birth juxtaposed with the bittersweet birth of Luke & Leia to Padme who appears to be dying of nothing more than a broken heart caused by Anakin's choices, making Obi-Wan's "certain point of view" comment in Jedi all the more valid. It was heartbreaking. But what was most disturbing was the new Vader's first moments.

After being fitted with his prostheses and mask, he asks in the all to familiar voice where Padme is, only to be told that it was his action that killed her. And then we see a wretched and tortured Vader broken by his own failure, and all the more steeled towards personal power, which is all he was left with.

A tragedy, but a tragedy well-told, considering.

And then it led us directly to Episode IV, A New Hope. A Death Star under construction. Two children given to adoptive parents.

I'm going to watch A New Hope this weekend to get something to cleanse myself. Because while Sith was all in all a decent movie, it left that hollow feeling of defeat and sadness...more than anything for Luke & Leia.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Extremists We Can Deal With

E.D. Hill of Fox & Friends is not someone whom I would like to have on the other side of the table. She's just too smart and she has this penchance for only asking hardballs. This morning was no exception.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was on to describe his effort, joined by approximately 12 other senators, to resolve the filibuster stalemate. After allowing him the requisite opportunity to strain his arm by patting himself on the back, E.D. asked an appropriate question. While I don't have it verbatim, she asked why Democratic senators would want to compromise on any of the nominees at issue because the Democrats had smeared all of them as extremists, racists, bigots, conservative activists and persons under the control of the Vatican or the Southern Baptist Convention. Who would want people like that on any bench? I thought it was a perfect question.

So did Reid. He couldn't formulate an answer that directly addressed the question.

Because it drove directly at the heart of the Democrats' emphatic claims that these nominees are extremists. If these judicial nominees are indeed as extreme as the sulfuric rhetoric would have us believe, the Dems have a duty never to compromise on a single one of them. But the fact that compromise seems even somewhat possible topples this house of cards. Either the Senate Democrats have no convictions despite their orations to the contrary, or they set out to slime a bunch of good people in order to keep benches stocked with leftist activist judges.

And so the veneer of a legitimate opposition vanishes like so much dust floating through the air. It boils down to a desire for unchecked power in the judiciary so that the Democrats can get an unpopular agenda established through judge-made law. It's unconstitutional. And frankly, I find that pretty extreme.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The White House as Editors

I couldn't get the Terry Moran haranguing of Scott McClellan which I discussed earlier today out of my craw. And then I remembered a time when it was just fine for the White House to go beyond asking the media to clean up its act, to actually threatening the media if they ran an unfavorable story.

Anyone recall the Juanita Broaddrick story? She alleged, at the height of the Clinton impeachment, that Clinton raped her back in the 1978 when he was Arkansas Attorney General. And NBC's Lisa Myers had interviewed her. But then, Joe Lockhart, White House spokesman at the time, personally called the networks and threatened them with unspecified trouble if they even dared to run the story.

And NBC acquiesced.

The story went beyond the widely believed rumors of presidential lechery and entered the realm of sex crimes. And because a Democrat president demanded that the press bury the story at a very critical time for him, they did.

Who's editing whom Mr. Moran?

NOTE:

I edited this because I originally described the harangue target as Joe Lockhart. Thanks to Ed Driscoll for the correction.

The Battle Is Joined

They're debating the filibustered judges in the Senate today, which means that we may have a vote on Monday or Tuesday, which will determine if the Senate Republicans pull the Constitutional Option on Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats.

Republicans don't need to fear doing this, because the majority of Americans are behind them per this Rasmussen Poll. The Dems may have finally overplayed their hand in the public eye, as people are not eager to watch the business of the nation be stalled because 44 Democrats can't get their way. Perhaps Bill Frist got lucky, because the more the Dems postured on the issue, the clearer and weaker their position appeared.

Now it comes down to several Republican Senators who fear the Dems more than voters, and several who are pure turncoats. I'll turn my attention first to John McCain (R-AZ) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). McCain has fallen in love with Democrats. The "cameo" that he had in the Jib-Jab cartoon about going both ways in D.C. said it all. But the way he most likes to go is across the aisle. I have no idea why this once reliable conservative has become such a thorn in the side of Republicans. It's clear that he's no Bush fan, but it's also clear that he's not thinking with all cylinders firing. Chafee is another story. This spineless wonder has always been unreliable, and it is possible that he prayed for a smaller Republican pickup in 2002 so that he could have more influence as a "moderate". Turning his back on his party now, in order to stay in the good graces of the Democrats, will hopefully be remembered next year when he begs the State of Rhode Island to vote for him. Because the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee may have more important fights to win, and it's possible that pickups in Washington, Florida or Maryland (Maria Cantwell (D) may suffer the backlash from the stolen gubernatorial election, Bill Nelson is the only statewide Florida Dem left in this getting-redder state, and Michael Steele (R-MD) may take Paul Sarbanes' (D-MD) seat) will more than offset his loss. 'Night Senator!

Arlen Specter (R-PA) is a different story. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and President Bush rescued Specter from a potentially fatal primary challenge by a much more conservative candidate. Since then, you'd never know that he owed his life to them. He turned leftward on judges as soon as he took the chair of the Judiciary Committee and now may vote against the Constitutional Option. But doing so may imperil Santorum who has spent quite a good deal of political capital on the judges issue and will have an even tougher reelection race next year in this slightly blue state. Skewering his very conservative rescuer will alienate Specter from his party, and will cost him the Judiciary seat. Nobody likes a turncoat.

And then there's Chuck Hagel (R-NE). Hagel is a reliable player on tax and business issues, but his successes in those areas have led him to become a self-appointed expert on everything else to get himself on camera. And he does that by checking the White House any time a defense or judicial issue arises. This really isn't that funny, because Hagel is toying with the very serious matters of national security in time of war and the integrity of our separation of powers and government of laws. And if he sticks his party to somehow remain "interesting" in D.C., it may haunt him with a primary challenge in 2008. Disloyalty on the big stuff is always remembered.

Lastly, somewhat liberal Mike DeWine of Ohio fears getting nailed in this state which almost went for Kerry in 2004. But Bush did indeed win. And a presidential race is not a Senatorial race (note Specter's victory in Kerry-won Pennsylvania). Buck up Senator. Cuyahoga County won't vote for you anyway, and nobody in Ohio cares about Harry Reid.

Norm Coleman (R-MN) has the control of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee funds. Coleman is a moderate in the true sense of the word, but he values loyalty in the important matters. And some Republicans may find out after its too late that going off the reservation isn't a very safe proposition. Because the Dems don't remember kindnesses. And Republicans won't forget slights.

Going to Print With the Media We Have

We saw it in September, and we're seeing it again. It seems that the media is circling the wagons in the wake of the Newsweek "Koran Abuse" story. Yesterday, Terry Moran, ABC's White House correspondent attacked Scott McClellan for White House statements requesting that Newsweek clean up the mess it made.

Drudge is the only one I can find making any report on this, and his is particularly good, including a Darth Vader shot and all.

Moran (check Moran, America-hater, here), asked McClellan, "With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek?" And then it all fell from there. Numerous other reporters, including who I believe to be Elisabeth Bumiller of NYT (here and here are samples of her objectivity) jumped on McClellan, furious at his suggestion that Newsweek accurately report on how the U.S. military has procedures for the handling of the Koran in order to correct the damage to the American image that their false article created.

The most amazing thing here is the arrogance displayed by these MSM members when encouraged to do the right thing. They are not concerned with the accuracy of their reporting nearly as much as their "freedom" to report whatever the heck they want. And while they are free to say what they like, this display of false righteousness by Moran and company is telling. They want to be able to communicate a particular point of view, not an accurate set of facts. And they actually bristled at the implication that they report a positive story about America and its military that was entirely true and accurate in order to correct a misperception that America was insensitive to persons of faith.

Our mainstream media is broken. They are so eager to present an anti-American viewpoint that they will omit facts and believe incorrect and uncorroborated accounts in order to make Americans believe that the Bush Administration is evil, that an America that protects its people and topples threatening dictators is bad, and that mainstream American values are quaint and plebian. But that is what you get when you have a media that is saturated with elitists from the left who are more concerned with viewpoint and territory rather than accuracy.

"Koran Abuse"

The Newsweek story that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay flushed a Koran down the toilet is now retracted. I caught this at Pardon My English, which quite appropriately slammed Newsweek for an irresponsible report with potentially forseeable consequences, and this from Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics, which places the blame for the actual physical destruction done squarely on the heads of the rioters.

But I think the words of the retraction are more revealing of the motive behind the story than anything else:


Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal
military investigation had uncovered Quran abuse at Guantanamo Bay...

Quran abuse. My question is why that even rises to the level of a story. Would it matter if it turned out that it was a prisoner at Gitmo who did that just to create a problem? Or was this an effort ont he part of Newsweek to break the next Abu Ghraib?

This means that Newsweek had several assumptions in rushing a specious story to print: 1) The allegation that a Koran was destroyed at Gitmo was immediately presumed to be the act of jackboot U.S. interrogators and could never be the act of a prisoner, 2) no damage should ever come to a copy of the Koran at the hands of a non-Muslim American, but there is nothing wrong with a Muslim prisoner using his U.S. military-provided Koran as a tool to clog his toilet in order to work mischief at the prison, 3) mistreating a copy of the Koran fits the definition of "torture", and finally, 4) the media is to a degree requiring an accounting of the Koran copies which the military provides the prisoners, and the military must guard those books with the same seriousness as they guard the prisoners because Wahabism is a preferred sect to the western media.

Newsweek ran this story with no corroboration, knowing that, true or not, it would inflame certain hypersensitive Muslim sects who already have difficulty conforming their behavior to the bounds of civility. And for that, they should be ashamed. And so should the rioters.

I heard a fascinating question Monday night on Hugh Hewitt from a caller. She asked whether a Christian, seeing a Bible and a small child in the road, with a car racing towards them both and time to save but one, should the Christian rescue the Bible at the expense of the child, or the child at the expense of the Bible? This one's a no-brainer. But, for the hopelessly morally confused, you rescue the child. Bibles can be bought, and they say the same thing from copy to copy. Then she asked the question with a Muslim and the Koran. And I began to wonder. Because the way that I hear some of the radical Islamists speak, I would assume that they would let the child go in favor of the book. And when you look at the culture in which they live, it increases the doubt in one's mind.

Islamist culture is increasingly becoming anti-civility and anti civilization. Women are treated like criminals for being women. They must wear full body covering, and for even the slightest infraction, they are spat upon and beaten. Is it just me, or does anyone else believe that such barbaric behavior is not excused by writing it off to cultural norms? "That's just their way" does not justify wanton mistreatment of fellow people. It has become a culture of profound disrespect and lawless emotionalism designed to glorify nothing and reward nobody.

And while the Newsweek story is used as an excuse for the rioting, let's be really clear--there is no excuse for civil disorder random violence and murder. Newsweek certainly has some responsibility here, but they did not control the actions of these people whom I believe were just waiting for an excuse to get mad.

Nonetheless, I leave this post where I began it. The term "Koran abuse" says a good deal more than the meanings contained in the words themselves, and reflects an unfortunate bias on behalf of Newsweek which may explain why the story ran as it did.

And it reminds me of the term "Bible beating". Bible beating, rather than being the parallel to "Koran abuse", instead is a term used by the left to describe efforts by Christians to spread their faith by explaining it to the world. It's a particularly vulgar term which implies that Christians are wrong for spreading their beliefs. But Islamism is about spreading the religion with the sword. And I've never heard the term "Koran beating" used to describe their proselytizing.

The media preference for Islamism is quickly growing old. And one would hope that Newsweek would learn from Dan Rather that simply wanting a story to be true because it coincides with your biases doesn't make it true. But this goof played a role in getting people killed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Cost of the Filibuster

Don Hawthorne has a piece over at Anchor Rising that deals with the very unfortunate personal costs which the Dems and the left in general are paying to maintain the filibuster. The short of it is that they are mortgaging their name by plowing new ground that crosses the bounds of civility.

As I've said before, the obnoxious kids of the 1960s who protested anything that moved and who rioted at the Democratic National Convention in 1968 are the same folk who are slandering people based upon their faith, applying labels (racist, liar, extremist, etc), stirring up emotion rather than reasonably debating, and refusing to offer legitimate policy alternatives based in reality. They never grew up, and it appears that they never got past ideas that were disproved across the globe throughout the late 20th Century.

But now they can't write it off as being young and stupid. They hold elective office and other positions of public responsibility. Their behavior can only be explained as the natural result of either abject stupidity or a willing disregard of moral and ethical principles. And judging by the rhetoric I've been hearing, I'd believe either.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hating Their Religion

Paul Mirengoff over at Powerline offers this fairly scary development. The abortion lobby, headed by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL Pro-Choice America, an oxymoron to be certain) to explore the financial disclosures of judicial appointees. Why? Because they want to prevent "out of touch theological activists" (meaning people who take their faiths seriously) from making the bench.

They're looking for the tithe, among other things...the sign of the true religious zealot if you ask the folks at NARAL. For those unfamiliar, many Christians, as they are financially able, donate a tenth (tithe in the old English) of their income to the church, and then various offerings as they see fit. The reason is that they view such outlays as honoring to God, whom they credit for giving them the blessings they have in the first place. Of course, they are also looking out for donations to Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, or any other politically active Christian organizations.

Essentially, they are looking for the indicia of the serious practice of faith in order to use that as ammunition to slime them as an intolerant religious hack, their premise being that people of sincere faith cannot be effective judges because they will reflexively legislate the Bible.

But NARAL is not concerned about fitness of judges anymore than it is concerned about the health of the mother after an abortion takes place. This plan is rooted in radical left's increasingly conspicuous anti-religious bigotry, and is an effort to portray people of faith as out of the mainstream nuts because they hold a set of unchanging beliefs and vocally object to the moral lawlessness of the left. Listen to their rhetoric and then replace the term "Christian" with "Jew", and the historical parallel will become clearer. NARAL's hope is that real faith, rather than being an admirable personal attribute, will become a skeleton in the closet, so that they can count on moral relativist activist judges and politicians who will maintain the abortion status quo and effectuate the social agenda of the left.

They accuse Christians of being hatemongers, but watch the behavior of these radicals carefully--they commit the very evils of which they accuse their opponents. They are discriminating based on religion. They behave as madmen. They don't argue facts, but only innuendo, prejudice and emotion, hoping that they can scare people into their viewpoint. That's not logic worth considering, nor are these people's viewpoints worth any significant degree attention.

The Level of Candor

Howard Dean rolled open the garage door to his gigantic maw on Saturday with this bit of slander, suggesting that Tom DeLay return to Texas to serve out a prison term. The only problem with that is that little technicalities like being charged or indicted have never taken place. It's just a bunch of allegations at this point. But it sounds naughty, and to the Dems, it needs to remain front page news because of the "seriousness of the charges". But Dean crossed the line. Barney Frank of all people took umbrage at Dean's remarks, noting that they were over the top, despite the fact that he is no fan of DeLay.

I say all of this to show a sort of benchmark as to how far the Dems have come (or gone...). They hate Republican policies but offer no alternatives. Social security is the current issue where they approach the table emptyhanded, but last year's election was an all-around embarrassment. They told us how horrible Bush was, but offered no alternative to Iraq (which at this stage doesn't seem to need one), opposed the Patriot Act, and proposed turning over our sovereignty to the U.N. when it came to national defense. They block progress in the Senate on judges, offering only the judges' respective faiths as bases for preventing a simple majority vote on their appointments. The only opposition they offer are personal attacks. Dean hates Republicans, and the left hates Bush. But as this last link notes, they can't tell us why.

These folks are steadily coming unglued. We knew that they were mean spirited, but when all they can offer are personal smears, it's time that we look long and hard at another vote cast for them.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Misunderstanding Episode III

I am eagerly awaiting one week from today. The opening night of Star Wars Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. So I am trying to avoid the press which will give away plot details. But we all know what ultimately happens. Anakin Skywalker, in a desire to speed up his training and to put power before wisdom, turns to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader. And after after he makes that fateful decision, he sustains a number of grievous injuries during a duel with Obi Wan Kenobi, requiring him to don the dual function intimidating and life supporting black suit by which we recognize the dark lord.

And while many folks have a list of questions they would like answered in the movie, this guy at MSNBC made my brain hurt. If Jon Bonne is the best MSNBC has to offer, I fear for the site. Read it through to the extent that you can follow it, but I find this article reflective of a profound lack of understanding not just of the movies, but of the kind of logical reasoning that has made humans the superior species on the planet. And if these are the questions he wants answered, he can save himself the price of the ticket, because the other movies do a very nice job on their own explaining these very facile questions.

Let's take his questions, such as they are, one by one.

1. Leia. She was adopted by a diplomatic family and raised as a diplomat. And given the pogroms against the Jedi, it might not have been a good thing to have her walking around with a lightsaber. In any case, her role is not diminished in the least, but rather she serves the role as the brave brains of the bunch. Her patrician demeanor aside, she isn't afraid to get her hands dirty.

2. The Skywalker family. The base issue here is actually valid, where he questions why Vader doesn't recognize his own children, especially Leia, with whom he has significant interaction in Episode IV. But he misses the point about Luke by missing facts. In Empire, the Emperor in the old version also refers to Luke as "The Son of Skywalker". Unless Vader forgot his old name, the tie is pretty darned clear in his mind. There is evidence that Vader realizes who Luke is just as he blasts R2-D2 rather than Luke's X-Wing fighter which is about to score the kill shot on the Death Star. After blowing away a number of X-Wings, Vader isn't going to miss Luke by accident. Further, he mentions that "The Force is strong with this one." Beyond that, when the probe finds the base on Hoth, Vader says "I'm sure Skywalker is with them." He hasn't forgotten his history. The remainder of this question is a series of very obvious observations. Luke and Leia were separated. If one gets knocked off, the other survives. Padme probably gave Luke to Obi Want to hide, and gave Leia to Bail Organa (please tell me that his name is not lost on any of you), whom she would have known from the Senate. Easy enough?

3. Politics. Huh? The minutiae of Star Wars politics and who gets elected it is what it is. Yes, there's corruption. We certainly don't see that in the real world. If Bonne doesn't get that, I fear for him. And if he hasn't figured out that Palpatine has the Senate on strings, Episode III will be lost to him.

4. The Sith. Where there's good, sometimes there's bad. And do the Sith need to point to grievances against the Jedi in order to mount an attack any more than terrorists need to have a logically cogent list of slights in order to attack the west? They're bad guys. They're mad that they don't have power. Is that too far fetched an explanation?

5. Vader's Ambitions. Anakin wants power because so many events in his life (slavery, death of his mother, Obi-Wan's incremental and seemingly slow training) have left him feeling powerless. He gets it through the dark side. Does Bonne think once he gets it that he'll abandon its source? He didn't set out to destroy the galaxy, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. Think, McFly.

6. Training. Fair enough. But I think it's also fair to assume that Yoda didn't have the luxury of years of training, given that his brand of the force had fallen into disfavor with the Empire. Palpatine and Vader could sense the training going on, so it is unlikely that they could have continued it for very long. Nor would the result (Luke and Vader ruling the galaxy) be much worse than the galaxy already was Palpatine running around with a Death Star. They had to go to war with the Jedi they had.

7. Jedi Shortcomings. I think Bonne answered his own question. They became a little too self-assured and ignored warning signs. Combine that with the nefarious methods of Palpatine and you get the situation the galaxy had.

8. Jedi Emotion. Someone flunked kindergarten ethics. To Bonne's question, I ask, what use are laws or personal values if you won't follow them? The tenets are only as good as we take them seriously. Anakin would not conform himself. He preferred the power of evil. Not rocket science.

9. Yoda. I'd love to know about his past too. But the reason for the Dagobah selection is in the books, which Bonne has apparently never cracked. The dark side presence on Dagobah where Luke faced the image of Vader in Empire? That's why he moved there. To hide his own presence. It's a detail, though, and doesn't warrant such hand-wringing.

10. The Force. Been explained in Episode I. The midicholorian explanation isn't a work of art, but it is what it is. As far as the disappearance at death, and the blue explosion of Palpatine, this is probably the second and last truly valid question that Bonne raises. Interesting, but a very minor issue.

MSNBC should be ashamed of itself for putting such a dilettante in charge of writing what turned out to be a truly painful misunderstanding of the saga.

Of course, the fact that I have wasted many years of my life watching the movies and reading the books says little for me, but at the very least, Bonne could have watched the movies more than once before writing this drivel.

Sloths With Tenure

Liberty Files friend Don Hawthorne at Anchor Rising put up a post that followed my post last week on the NEA and Social Security reform, and gave a very specific real-life example of how the teachers' unions' interests are sometimes adverse to the actual teaching of young minds.

Having helped some 200 inner-city students do better in a special charter school than in other public schools, Rick Landau has announced that he will step down as chief executive officer of Providence's Textron Chamber of Commerce Academy.
The reason? Teachers'-union leaders are furious at him for trying to protect his school's role as an engine of innovation. In struggling to keep together a team of excellent teachers, Mr. Landau took aim at the sacred cow of "bumping" -- a practice in which public-school teachers with seniority hold on to their jobs during a layoff through the dismissal of teachers with less seniority, even at other schools, regardless of how well they perform.

Mr. Landau asked his Textron Academy teachers to explore setting up a separate bargaining unit after it seemed that six of them -- a third of the teaching staff -- might be laid off so that teachers from other Providence schools could be shipped in. The teachers'-union leaders made it clear that they would allow no such innovation...
Mr. Landau had argued, correctly, that his school could not fulfill its mission unless it had the best teachers possible -- regardless of their status in the public-school bureaucracy...under Mr. Landau's leadership, Textron Academy established standards, raised test scores, and improved literacy.

Now all this may be at risk...


Read the whole thing, but I find it to be an inexcusable but fairly typical abuse of power. I remember when my wife was a public school teacher. Tenure was granted as a result of time in service, not quality of service. Just hold out for two years with satisfactory audits and you're in for life. But that doesn't make you a good teacher. And the further you get from accountability, the more quality blind you become.

I've always been a supporter of teachers being held to account for actually teaching their students, and for objective measurements of student performance, such as the students' ability to read, form a sentence, tackle math problems, understand history, and to understand and apply the basics of the sciences. Sure, some students will be stronger in some areas and weaker in others, but that will be expected. But the Rhode Island story above shows that the teachers' unions put the interests of teachers over the students, and put quality second to turf protection. The power that these organizations wield is great, but it will diminish the more folks talk about the real and very anti-student attitude that the NEA and local unions take towards education reform.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Downside of Scaring Granny

Take a look at this highly unusual piece in the New York Times that I caught on RealClearPolitics. It seems that the absence of Maureen Dowd has permitted the presence of liberal columnists who sort of get it. Could the NYT actually be heading into the realm of respectable dialogue? Unless Maureen's "book leave" is permanent, I doubt it, but I digress.

The writer, Matt Miller is no conservative. He's a proud liberal. But his article does much damage to the Democrats whose berserk rhetoric regarding Social Security reform is turning their party into a laughingstock. While he misses the forest for the trees on the tax issue (ignoring the fact that tax cuts, spurring economic growth will lead to an increase in GDP to the point that even a lower tax percentage of GDP means significantly more real dollars in the treasury), he nails the flagship matter, namely that Bush is proposing smaller increases in Social Security benefits, not "cuts" as the Dems are charging.

They pulled this same effort in 1995 when Republicans wanted to reduce the rate of growth of Medicare. To the Dems, those trims in growth were cast as cuts compared to then-present benefit levels. Very cute, very false. As in 1982 and 1995, they're out to scare granny in order to retain power. Unless this party has people dependent and scared, it can't keep any traction.

But Miller notes, quite correctly, that these same Dems, if they ever regain control, will very likely have to use the same methods to protect the integrity of the program. Fancy that. And while Miller says that this is not a call to join hands with Bush, it may as well be an invitation for the Dems to embrace the President with a wet kiss compared to the truly inappropriate rhetoric which they are raining down in Washington.

But I somehow doubt that, for the sake of the people and their well being, the Dems will cede credit for saving one of the biggest federal entitlements to a Republican, let alone to one who has embarrassed them in three elections in a row.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Is Bill Cosby becoming a "black leader"?

Bill Cosby doesn't seem to have been off his rocker when he made comments last year at an event celebrating Brown v. Board of Education.

I caught this from RealClearPolitics yesterday which evidences a potential shift in race politics. If you'll recall, Cosby made some remarks which were roundly unpopular with Kweisi Mfume and Julian Bond, namely that urban blacks bear significant responsibility for the condition in which they find themselves. Between parents who have no regard for moral or behavioral standards to kids who know better but don't care, Cosby let loose.

The message he offers is indeed a hard one where he tells folks who have been convinced for three generations that they will never achieve personal and economic successes that they must persevere and work past failure.

And it's very hard to say that me message will catch on, because many folks don't want to hear that they bear some responsibility for their misery. It's just so much easier to blame someone else. But there are others to blame, namely the "gentlemen" of the race industry who see reparations and government handouts as the key to urban black prosperity. But the only ones who prosper economically are these so-called black leaders, so it is in their personal financial interests to keep the abysmal status quo.

Cosby stands to take quite a beating for peddling his viewpoint. But it is a viewpoint that needs to be owned by many in the black community. Because Kweisi Mfume, Julian Bond, Charles Ogletree, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the like have done nothing but deepen the divide between blacks and whites in America. And if black poverty were drastically reduced by adoption of the kinds of values espoused by Cosby, the aforementioned individuals would have nothing left to do. And if the rest of black America were prosperous, it wouldn't bother me too much to see these gentlemen working paycheck to paycheck for the very people they failed when they claimed to lead.

Cosby is immensely successful through his own efforts. And he's someone we all can follow as a leader. Not just blacks.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Remembering the Red Army

Given the history of the 20th Century, you know that when something is called "red" and it's not a tie or a shirt, but rather an entire nation's military, it's probably not that good a thing. If you disagree with me here, please stop reading. The rest of this post will make as much sense to you as algebra does to a dog.

Vladimir Putin, former chief of the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB) seems to think that the Red Army were liberators during World War II. In a way, they certainly were. The Soviets paid an unbelievable price in terms of lives and resources to destroy the Nazis. But once they liberated Eastern Europe, they never quite left. The rest of the story is trillions of dollars spent on updating weapons systems, bloody proxy wars in Asia, Africa, and Central America, many lives quietly lost because of political activities, and reams of spy novels and movies.

Then there is this which I caught from RealClearPolitics, which just about says it all. Putin, were he forward looking, would celebrate the past, and look forward to a nation which could easily become an economic rival to the United States. But he looks back to a time, and with eerily similar rhetoric that really has no place in the mouth of a Russian leader given that nation's totalitarian past and the current environment favoring the elimination of despotic governments.

The Red Army was the source of oppression and death in Eastern Europe. It squashed freedom and formed the rods of the Iron Curtain. And Putin now stands with a choice. He can move his nation forward in a free market democracy, or perhaps he could try to engineer again what he failed to do in Ukraine during Yuschenko's Orange Revolution: he could try to keep a totalitarian state running--a mini Soviet state. At least "mini" until other nations "want" to join.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

School Administrators - One Size Fits All

Schools are clamping down on cell phone use, which is entirely appropriate. Students are not to be texting or receiving calls or messages during the school day, as it would infringe upon their attention at school.

But what happens when you need to make an exception? If you ask this kid (courtesy Drudge) the answer is nothing. No exceptions. Granted, he wanted to talk to his mom in Iraq, who called on the spur of the moment, but to the teacher who caught him and to the principal, that just didn't matter. Nor could they understand the boy's fairly predictable and justifiable emotional response to being cut off from his mother in harm's way.

One size fits all with these people, so the student was suspended for the rest of the school year and now faces summer school, as he was trying (and succeeding) at the time to bring his grades up. But at least the school held fast to the rules. Because people exist to follow rules, right?

The Loony Left - Keeping it Civil

It seems that Harry Reid is fitting quite nicely into the Daschle playbook for the Senate. He calls the President a loser (thanks to Drudge for the link). He then apologized. Save the apologies. Your words were from the heart. Same for Babs Streisand, who scratched out this must-read which, surprise, compares Bush to many things, including Herman Goering of Nazi fame and flips out because Bush takes his faith seriously.

So my question becomes what the heck has Bush done to generate such nasty press against him? In his most recent press conference, the question came up as to why Bush is generating such unusually negative press. His answer was fairly revealing. He said that he came to Washington to change the tone, and for his part, he behaved in a civil way towards political opponents. And he still does. And that's all there really was to say.

But Bush cannot be blamed for the unwillingness of members of the Democratic party, the loony left of Hollywood, and the more primped left of the mainstream media to be civil. True enough, they disagree with him and would have preferred a different man (or woman) in the White House.

And while I find the kind of rhetoric dribbled across the airwaves by Pat Leahy to which I pointed earlier in the week, to be over the top, given the fact that it is a gross and knowing mischaracterization of the President's positions on social security and judges, it's part of the political game when one side is on the ropes, and it can be lived with. But the personal attacks are just intolerable. And the president can't be blamed for failing to change these reprobate and perpetually unhappy hearts and minds.

There is nothing that will change the tone of Washington other than the left, namely the Schumers, Pelosis, Kennedys, Leahys, Boxers, Clintons, Reids, Durbins, Levins, Byrds, Rockefellers and Bidens, as well as the biased mainstream media accepting the fact that they are no longer in control and that the American people by and large fear their irreligious, statist, immoral, and in many cases unpatriotic outlook on America, which promises to further marginalize them in elections to come.

So keep up the creepy behavior. Those of us on the right are only to happy to highlight it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The NEA's Hypocrisy on Social Security

I've always enjoyed listening to the rhetoric of the NEA, especially when it comes to their consistent opposition to any education reforms which might require minimum standards for teachers. My wife is a former music teacher who was made a mandatory member of the NEA, and we had plenty of opportunity to see the truly convoluted logic of that union. I even had the pleasure of receiving their fundraising calls. Note to conservative teachers: explaining your political opposition to the NEA to these callers is the quickest and surest way to get yourself on their do not call list. It only took twice for them to stop calling us.

In any case, I heard on Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" today that the NEA has stepped outside education to oppose any privatization of the Social Security system. It would seem that the NEA has no dog in this fight. Not so.

Here are the NEA positions on privatization, among other issues. Follow the links. It's all there. And here is an explanation of the inner workings of the NEA. Read the whole thing. It's easy to follow.

The NEA opposes privatization of accounts, but the funny thing is that they have members in various states who opt-out of social security to enjoy the benefits of private retirement accounts. So, on its face, the NEA wants to deny the rest of us the very same thing that its members are permitted. hypocritical enough to be sure, but the NEA is not just about politics. Like any liberal parochial organization, it is about itself to the exclusion of its members.

The President's plan will most likely involve mandatory participation in the social security system, which means that employers, not the state, will likely be participating in making a defined contribution to their employees' retirement. That means that where the teachers have opted out of Social Security, they are back in, and thus there is less salary from which the NEA can collect member dues. But more to the point, the NEA's ability to bargain for the defined benefit plans for teachers' retirements--a happy source of revenue--would be gone.

The NEA seems to get that. Check this from their site:

Mandatory coverage of public employees would increase the tax burden on
public-sector employers. Ultimately, these increased tax obligations would lead
to difficult choices, including reducing the number of new hires, limiting
employee wage increases
, reducing cost-of-living increases for retirees,
and reducing other benefits such as health care. (emphasis mine)


Ignoring the granny-scaring for a moment, the bottom line is that the NEA is concerned that there will be fewer members for them, or in any case, less salary for them to prey upon.

The NEA is in this because member benefits affect their bottom line. Whereas requiring teachers to be more knowledgeable than their students on the matters which they teach them was a problem for the NEA, so too will be reforming a retirement system which currently benefits them. But this union needs to be seen for what it is--an organization that exists for itself, not for the advancement of students, nor even for the future financial security of teachers.

Coming Unglued

Scott Johnson over at Powerline has two must-read posts here and here, about recent Ann Coulter campus visits. His point is that leftist students have abandoned all appearances of civility when it comes to political debate, and are resorting to the use of unprotected forms of expression and more ominously, belligerent physical acts against conservatives. The problem is that school administrators (especially in the case of St. Thomas University where Coulter was) and other mainstream liberals are not coming out to vociferously oppose the use of violence and socially inappropriate language and other forms of expression. In the case of St. Thomas University, it was Coulter who was blamed for inciting the students with what they described as "hate speech". For those without a clue, hate speech is the new watchword for any expression of ideas with which a leftist disagrees.

I spoke about this breakdown of social discourse here last week, but I've run into a few interesting developments.

Scott Johnson links to this blogger who provides something that I had been hoping to find, which is an assessment from a psychological perspective as to where the left is going. He believes that they're headed towards the use of violence as a political tool. They are showing signs of intellectual breakdown and preparing to use that which the unintelligent use to get their points across.

But the Harper's article referenced in this NRO piece takes the cake. It refers to Christians as "Dominionists" and describes a conspiracy on the part of Christians to turn our nation into a church-state. While I cannot find a link to the actual article, and am categorically unwilling to send any money to Harper's, one can simply replace the words "Christian" and "Dominionist" with the word "Jew" to get an idea of historical parallels to this kind of hate speech. Again, the left remains silent in the face of what is essentially hate speech directed at a group of people, based solely on their religion.

The deafening silence from those on the left says quite a lot about them, the mainstream media, and the Democratic party that they will not decry this kind of behavior. And just so we're clear, in matter such as these, silence implies acquiescence. And it is frankly ominous when an article like the one in Harper's, a mainstream liberal publication, can put forth unintellectual hate propaganda rivaling the best work of Joseph Goebbels.

For the left to regain any credibility, they need to do the socially and politically responsible thing. They need to speak against this kind of behavior any time it happens. Don't expect it, though.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

We Want Your Money, Not Your Soldiers

Paul Mirengoff over at Powerline provides some interesting discussion about the case of Rumsfeld v. FAIR, wherein various law schools have refused to allow JAG recruiters to come on campus to sign up law students for military service using their law degrees. In response, the feds have cut a portion of their funding to those schools based upon the Solomon Amendment which conditions receipt of a portion of federal funds upon allowing military recruitment at universities. But therein lies the problem.

The law schools that form the group FAIR (Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights), oppose the presence of military recruiters on campus because they believe that permitting them an opportunity to speak to students about a military career violates the school's First Amendment rights not to associate with those with whom they disagree. Specifically, the schools are claiming that the military discriminates against gays and lesbians. More to the point, they argue that in order to receive the funds they want, they are being forced to throw their values out the window, and that the federal government cannot place preconditions to the receipt of funds which would induce the law schools to abandon their leftist convictions.

But this alleged harm (and that's all it is) ignores the greater point that the schools are not required to accept these funds, nor are they entitled to them.

And the Supreme Court has already spoken on the federal government's right to place conditions on the receipt of federal funds.

In South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987), the Supreme Court ruled that Congress could place conditions upon the receipt of federal funds to achieve its objectives. The case states in pertinent part:
The Constitution empowers Congress to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States." Art. I, 8, cl. 1. Incident to this power, Congress may attach conditions on the receipt of federal funds, and has repeatedly employed the power "to further broad policy objectives by conditioning receipt of federal moneys upon compliance by the recipient with federal statutory and administrative directives." The breadth of this power was made clear in United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1, 66 (1936), where the Court, resolving a longstanding debate over the scope of the Spending Clause, determined that "the power of Congress to authorize expenditure of public moneys for public purposes is not limited by the direct grants of legislative power found in the Constitution." Thus, objectives not thought to be within Article I's "enumerated legislative fields," may nevertheless be attained through the use of the spending power and the conditional grant of federal funds.

The spending power is of course not unlimited, but is instead subject to several general restrictions articulated in our cases. The first of these limitations is derived from the language of the Constitution itself: the exercise of the spending power must be in pursuit of "the general welfare." Second, we have required that if Congress desires to condition the States' receipt of federal funds, it "must do so unambiguously . . ., enable[ing] the States to exercise their choice knowingly, cognizant of the consequences of their participation." Third, our cases have suggested that conditions on federal grants might be illegitimate if they are unrelated "to the federal interest in particular national projects or programs." Finally, we have noted that other constitutional provisions may provide an independent bar to the
conditional grant of federal funds.

The Court's reasoning in upholding the federal power to place conditions on receipt of its funds is pretty clear. And the test to determine the legitimacy of the conditions being placed on the receipt of funds is equally reasonable. Recruitment of military personnel definitely provides for the general welfare. Part of having a functional country is keeping its people and institutions (even leftist law schools) safe and only a strong military that recruits young minds and bodies can do that. The second component regarding the clarity of the precondition is also properly met. There is no question that if on-campus recruiting is not permitted the checks will stop arriving, and the premise of FAIR's suit makes that clear enough. The third component is easily satisfied, since the military is likely the most significant national project in existence. But it's the fourth one where the professors and administrators hang their hats.

They claim that their First Amendment right not to associate (which their leftist ilk opposed previously when they forced unwanted associations with others in the interests of political correctness) is violated because on campus recruiting would somehow constitute an endorsement of the military's policy against service by openly gay people. But I think the Supreme Court will likely have none of it.

To agree with the schools, the Supreme Court would have to accept their viewpoint that the military is an inherently (and illegally) discriminatory organization. And in so doing, the Court would create a precedent whereby a subjective claim of political discomfort could defeat legitimate government objectives. And Mirengoff in a very well written piece notes the inconsistencies in the schools' position insofar as they abhor what they feel to be discrimination against people based upon a lifestyle, yet they are discriminating in their selection of employers who can come on campus.

My thought is that the schools are in a logically inconsistent position. The essence of their argument is that they welcome federal government's money, but not the soldiers that defend it. Remember my argument before that while the left can feign helplessness better than anyone, they are devilishly clever at getting others to pay for their problems. And as I mentioned above, they don't have to take the money, nor are they entitled to it just because the Treasury is writing checks. In a very real sense these leftist administrators are telling the government that while it cannot participate in their employment programs, the schools still have the right to demand that the government contribute to them financially.

It's really rather arrogant when you think about it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Pat Leahy - "The Dems Have No Plan"

Thanks to RealClearPolitics, I found the transcript of Fox News Sunday where Pat Leahy delivered the performance of a lifetime defending his party's opposition to Social Security reform. Unfortunately for he and his party, Leahy is not known for really stellar explanations of his party's positions (or lack thereof).

Leahy crashed and burned. Chris Wallace's rather dogged questioning of Leahy on Social Security yielded the following deduction: the Democrats have no plan for fixing Social Security, don't want Bush to try to fix it, and are willing to obstruct any efforts to reform it. Leahy kept saying that Bush threw a plan at the Dems and declared it was non-negotiable, with Wallace correcting him that same was not accurate. But Pat Leahy needs no facts to meander through the fairly nonsensical explanation he offered. Read it yourself & try to follow the logic.

Then there was the questioning on judges which led to Leahy's trapping himself into saying that filibusters and obstruction of judicial nominees in committee was bad when Clinton was president, but is somehow not so bad now that Bush is president. He also left the impression that there would never be any compromise with the Republicans on the filibuster. Wallace also helped clarify the point that while the Democrats have appointed Bush's Federal District Court appointees (trial judges), they have blocked one third of his nominees to the policy-making seats on the Circuit Courts of Appeals--the exact same percentage as the Republicans stopped for Clinton.

Leahy, the former chair, now ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is increasingly showing that he and his party really stand for nothing more than obstruction of Republican goals, to the point that they cannot be trusted to be serious even with national security.

But perhaps I've sold them a bit too short. Because their history of unprincipled obstruction indicates that they do stand for something: themselves. They believe in putting power--and plenty of it--in their own hands and making one-size-fits-all decisions for those of us who work for a living. And they believe in destroying those who stand in their way. George W. Bush has done an excellent job at extirpating their reach at the federal and state levels. And that's why they'd try to outlaw chickens if he wanted eggs for breakfast.