Thursday, July 29, 2004

First shots

This is the first of what will no doubt be a few postings about Sen. Kerry's speech tonight.  All in all, it wasn't as boring as I've come to expect from him--he definitely could've done worse.  But--of course--I'll take issue with some of the things spoken:

     --  right off the bat, he's reporting for duty, presumably to the American people.  So what on God's green earth has he been doing for the last umpty-billions of years in the Senate?

     --  He talked about how the "greatest generation" brought about 50 years of peace and prosperity.  And I'm thinking--which 50 years is that?  I mean, since WWII, we've had Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf wars and the war on terror--so much for peace--and gas rationing and stagflation that pretty much attack the idea of never-ending prosperity.  No, the greatest generation saved us from fascism, and for that we will always be in their debt--but following generations have had their own crises to deal with, and so far they have done so.  Already--and this is early in the speech--he's showing a lack of understanding of reality.  That doesn't bode well.

     --  "I ask you to judge me on my record"  Interesting--we'll do that as soon as you stay on one side of an issue for long enough for the ink to dry.

     --  So much for positive politics.  A shot at the VP (calling him essentially the lead agent in some shadow conspiracy), a shot at the SecDef saying that he should answer to his Officers, not the other way around as stated somewhere in THE CONSTITUTION, and a shot at the AG, basically calling him an enemy of the Constitution.  Of course, he ends his speech calling for civil discourse in the weeks ahead.  Easy to do when you've already fired off your best shot.  (I harken back to yesterday's posting on Edwards--PLEASE, America, reject the politics of negativity!)

     --  He looked back with fondness at all the great things we did in the 90's.  Hmm. . .I can't get past that whole Al Qaeda/bin Laden thing.  Maybe I'm a stickler, though. . .I mean, is the world really that different now than it was back then?  (short answer:  YES!!!!  Does he realize this and is just patronizing you, or is this his alternative reality again?) 

     --  he kept referring to "OUR band of brothers."  That seems to be a statement of political inclusion to me--as if the OTHER band of brothers doesn't deserve to speak about VietNam.  I thought the Dems were trying to bring an end to the politics of inclusion. . .

     --  he went back into the "facts distorted by politics" line in regards to 9/11, the commission, the ramp-up for war, etc.  And I've had just about enough--the 9/11 commission cleared the administration of any wrongdoing in dealing with the "facts" as they were presented.  Again, is this a patronizing act, or an act of ignorance?

     --  He kept referring to the soldiers in our armed services as "kids".  These "kids" are 18, can legally vote, can drink when serving overseas, and HAVE CHOSEN to serve this country.  Stop being so darn patronizing!!!

     --  He made a point of telling us he'd give our military 40,000 more troops, but NOT for Iraq.  This, after voting against more money for Iraq.  What is he saying here?  And why wouldn't you put the troops where they're needed the most?  That seems like poor management of the situation--didn't he speak out against that in his oft-ballyhooed youth?

     --  a phrase I'd never heard before--"backdoor draft".  Interesting.  Entirely false in the impression it leaves the uninformed listener, but interesting.

     --  he will fight terrorists by deploying, as well as our might, our "economy" and our "principles".  And the terrorists must be so afraid of that!  Terrorists aren't states, and therefore don't really need to worry about embargos and the such.  And our "principles" are exactly why they hate us.  I'm sure this "bold statement" is not going to cause the bad guys much lost sleep. 

     --  Why, oh why, would you talk about how 95% of the cargo ships entering our ports aren't inspected?  I mean, was that common knowledge that I just didn't know?  If so, then I apologize for my ignorance--but if not, then why would you all but tell terrorists how to attack this country again?  Gee, I'm suddenly so very comfortable with the thought of this guy leading our nation's security. . .(tongue in cheek, of course) 

     --  I like this line--something about how he believes in "family, faith, hard work, opportunity and responsibility for all"  That's great--except that he denies the core beliefs of his supposed faith, he has been the least Senator of the Senate this year, and he clearly wants to provide (rather than make people earn) opportunity while limiting the responsibility for most of the country.

     --  didn't he talk about One America towards the end?  Gee, and I thought there were two Americas.  Who to believe. . .

A lesson from youth

Supposedly, Edwards and Kerry will make us more respected abroad.  Heck, it's the theme of their entire campaign!

But remember how your parents--and just about every other authority figure--told you that to "get respect, you must give respect"?

From Sen. Edwards last night:  "American soldiers don't have to fight this war in Iraq or this war on terrorism alone."

How about showing some respect for the other countries taking a strain in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the globe in the war on terror? 


"Two" too much

Let me start by saying that I have respect for Sen. Edwards as a politician.  He is likable, intelligent, and a pretty good public speaker.  I actually was excited in anticipation of his speech last night. . .

But then something happened.  He changed, right before my eyes, from a well-oiled, well-spoken "man of the people" into a one-trick pony. 

And the last time I checked, average folks don't put much faith in talking horses.

But I digress. . .let's analyze Edwards' bread-and-butter, this claim of the "two Americas" that ought to be one.  He is comfortable speaking about this view, and it was the point in his speech last night where his oratory skills warmed to the highest levels.  Last night, it went something like this:  "there are two different Americas: one, for all of those people who have lived the American dream and don't have to worry; and another for most Americans, everybody else who struggle to make ends meet every single day. It doesn't have to be that way."  Interesting. . . 

Capitalism is an incentive-based free economy, where those that do the "best" in their trade have an opportunity to receive the greatest rewards.  The competition that exists in this type of economy works to the great benefit of the consumer, who is the real winner in this system. 

The motivation for participating in the competition, and definitely for making the sacrifices necessary to succeed in the rat-race, is entirely incentive-based.  Whether it be for an ideal like "doing better for the next generation than was done for us", or for tangible and immediate quality-of-life improvements, the reason folks compete for the golden ring is that the golden ring is worth the quest! 

But take away some of the incentives along the road--take away the better opportunities for educating your youth, or the opportunities for medical care from the best and brightest doctors and clinicians, or even the ability to keep more of your money for personal use--and you take away some of the reasons to excel at your job.  Suddenly just doing "enough" takes the place of going "that extra mile".  The lack of incentives will dull the competition. . .and that isn't good for capitalism. 

Listen, I think that the health care crisis is very serious--but I don't think universal health care is  a)  fiscally possible; or b) (and more importantly) the cure for the ailment (no pun intended).  And I am concerned about the level of education that students might be getting in the schools--but I don't think the government should establish an equilibrium for schools everywhere.  It would be dumbing down the debate, and would necessarily result in a dumbing-down of the level of education in places . 

A step backward for some in order for equitability for all is STILL a step backward for some--and that is NOT a position that the U.S. government should be advocating.  Capitalism relies on the "strongest" to constantly blaze trails in new directions, thereby improving the lives of the masses.  By "rolling back" the incentives that motivate trail-blazers, you actually stunt the entire country's growth in EVERY sector.

Kerry-Edwards might envision one America--but the question that begs to be asked is:  is it an America that you dream of?  An America where excellence is marginalized and where making an opportunity for yourself loses meaning?  An America short on invention and long on government involvement in your daily lives?  

Sen. Edwards should have used last night to show the world that he's a serious thinker and is prepared to tackle the duties of the second-highest office in the land.  Instead, he repeated a  message that, while wildly popular on the floor last night, doesn't actually provide any hope for the future of this country. 

At least he was passionate about his speech.  That's more than I expect to see tonight. 


What is on the way?

Sen. Edwards last night:  "And when your son or daughter, who is serving this country heroically in Iraq calls, you tell them: Hope is on the way".

Just "hope" they--and their leaders--don't ask about some extra money to fight the war the way it needs to be fought. 

What kind of a message of "hope" are you sending troops when you vote against the necessary funds to execute the war?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

What about security at home?

The initial take on Sen. Edwards' speech was that it was rather hawkish.  And to me it's reassuring that at least the second name on the ticket understands that we are at war. . .

But does he remember exactly where we are at war?  He spoke at length about the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even left the door open to hunt down Al Qaeda wherever they may be. . .

But what about domestic security?  That I recall--and I'm working from memory here--the only REMOTELY "domestic security" address he made was about reforming the intel services in something shorter than the three years he claims it's taken for this administration to do such.  Oh, and he pledged more something (support, money, whatever) for first responders--which isn't really a "security" issue, because by the time the responders are called into play, the security has already broken down. 

One would think from his comments--or lack of them--that the only plan his ticket has to secure our borders is to take the fight to the enemy in whatever lands they may lurk.  Odd, I thought that was (part of) the strategy that the President has chosen to follow.  Is Edwards saying that W is right on this issue?  Is this what Kerry thinks?

Either that, or Sen. Edwards doesn't think domestic security is an issue worthy of putting in his nomination speech.  And that's not super-reassuring to those that wonder if this guy can handle the second-highest office in the land.

Either way, it's not a winner for the Dems.  And to put it in Seinfeldian terms, that's an awfully big motsa ball to leave on the plate at the end of the National Convention.


He asked for it!

Two things that I urge--no, BEG--people who might care about this upcoming election to do were highlighted by, of all people, John Edwards in the first few minutes of his speech tonight.  PLEASE, do the following:

     1)  Spend 3 minutes with the men who served with John Kerry in Vietnam, so that you could get a better picture of the type of leader that he is ; and

     2)  reject hateful politics. 

I can say with little fear that if voters heeded those two calls to action, made by John Edwards himself, that they would quickly decide against the Kerry/Edwards ticket.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

when 13 is more than 16

There's been a lot of reporting lately about the Senate Intelligence Committee's report and the Butler report, both of which seemed to be "good news" for the President.  The SIC's report basically said--unanimously, I might add--that the President did not intentionally deceive the American public in his 2003 State of the Union address, and the Butler report calls the intelligence behind the famous "16 wordscredible.  As can be expected, media coverage of these reports has been less than enthusiastic. 
And friends of the President should be glad. 
Why?  Because the "new" information doesn't really shine a positive light on the administration, either. 
Some background here:  on July 9th of LAST YEAR, Ari Fleischer said these 13 words:  "we now know that the yellow cake ties to Niger were not accurate."  So important was this statement that it was almost repeated verbatim barely a minute later.
And in that instant, the "issue" became something other than "yellow cake"--not the Betty Crocker kind, of course--or whether Saddam had sought to get some of that substance from Niger.  Instead, the issue became about the President's character.  The "Bush lied" claims came into being--and they were loud.
And for an entire year, that charge went without response from the right.  And it was quite a bad year, taken in the view of the accusers:  the war that "started because of those lies" (as the party line goes) cost American lives in Iraq, and the policies of the administration for fighting the war and dealing with the aftermath were poorly conceived and even more poorly implemented.  The White House's attempts to paint a rosier picture of how the war was actually unfolding in Iraq were met with scorn from the left, who constantly used the previously-unquestioned-but-now-vulnerable-to-assault character of the President in their counter-arguments that the public shouldn't believe the "propaganda" spewing from the adminstration. 
It's just more lies, they would say dismissively.
An entire year.  That's an eternity in politics--especially with the next Presidential election fast approaching. 
So now the "proof" comes out that those 16 words may have been true. 
So what?
With the retraction already on the record, this newly-recognized truth of Saddam's queries into getting nuclear materials from Niger means little. 

It doesn't make our reasons for going to war any more valid.  For me and most proponents of the war, the case for military action in Iraq was compelling even without the presence of the 16 words.  For those opposing the war, the lack of overwhelming WMD finds in Iraq while our soldiers are in harm's way on the streets trumps whatever "news" came from the intelligence reports.
And the findings don't even let our President off the hook from attacks on this topic.  Fleischer's words--the yellow cake ties to Niger were "not accurate"--were not accurate.  So not only do you have a year of brutal credibility attacks based on a statement that was TRUE, but you also
have an administration that can't use the new information to fire back at all the "Bush lied" nonsense because their actions made it appear that Bush had in fact told a lie.  

That's a double-header of trouble for Bush supporters.  And all of this trouble comes from the serious mishandling of a good tidbit of intel that British intelligence sources--the same sources referenced in the famous 16 words--have never backed away from supporting.  So in the same week that Bush's handling of intelligence is somewhat vidicated because the intel itself was flawed, we also find that even when the intel ISN'T flawed the administration still manages to strike out--or at least did so in this instance. 

Wouldn't you agree that it was a pretty critical instance to step on your own feet?    
What's the upshot of it all?  Well, there might be people who vote based on "character" that suddenly don't look at the President as disapprovingly as they had after the yellow-cake incident.
Which turned out not to be an incident after all.
And maybe the "Bush lied" cries will die out in number and fervor in the next couple weeks.  Then again, with the Democratic Convention this weekend, that probably isn't a realistic prophecy. 
But the political maneuvering--for want of a better word--on this subject 12 months ago doesn't really testify to the competence of this White House.   
Fortunately, you have to be willing to actually read the reports to realize that the Bush administration's actions with regards to the yellow-cake information are still a losing issue for Republicans. 
And the left doesn't seem to know that those reports exist.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Grandpa, how could you. . .?

Author's note:  This is the first of what will (hopefully) be a series of postings that describe a conversation I am having with my teenage Grandson--some 40 years from now.  As soothsaying is a tricky business, please grant me some latitude with my guesses as to how the textbooks will view the early 21st century.
Curious 3rd-generation Child:  Grandpa, I'm so happy to be spending my spring break with you! 
Knowing Grandfather:   Well, Timmy, I'm darn glad to have you here.  I can't get enough of you and your siblings!
C3C:  You know, we're studying the early 21st century in my American History class.  My Dad said you might remember some of the issues of the time to provide me some background to what we've learned in class.
KG:  Well, there are things I know.  Or at least that I thought I know. . .or knew. . .or whatever.  What exactly were you looking at? 

C3C:  We were just talking in class how awful the world must have been back then, with the war going on, and the economy so poor, and the world hating what America stood for.  It must have really been tough to be an American then, huh?
KG:  Well, I think there's some re-education to be done here.  I'll leave it at this:  I'd always have much rather been an American than anything else .
C3C:  But the world hated us!  Our stubbornness brought about the end of the United Nations!  How could you think that that was a good development for civilization?
KG:  First of all, the U.N. brought about the end of the U.N.  The corruption of that organization caused it to fall onto it's own sword.  Secondly, the U.N. was not designed for the 21st century.  It takes an organization willing to take action to be relevant in a world that is at war.  The U.N. may have been a decent mechanism to prevent World War III--but it had no idea how to deal with the fluidity of an enemy to civilization that doesn't mass million-man armies on the Eastern Front, if you know what I'm saying.  The bottom line:  we--the United States--were at war, but the United Nations didn't recognize that fact. 
C3C:  Maybe the rest of the world saw it in the same eyes as the United Nations?
KG:  That's possible--but that doesn't mean we were wrong.  The attacks of 9/11, despite whatever rhetoric was used in the immediate aftermath, were an attack on the United States and the United States alone.  We had a responsibility to defend ourselves in the war that had started--pardon me, had been ongoing for several years, it just hadn't been brought to our shores before.  The U.N. had a history of not seeing "wars" for what they were--I'm thinking about the tragedies in Rwanda, Kosovo, the Sudan and Israel--and an even more disgusting trend in the recent history of decrying those who sought to defend themselves.  Waiting for the U.N. to get on board with the "reality" of the day would've taken too long and would've left us too vulnerable.    
C3C:  So you thought the war in Iraq was worthwhile?
KG:  Well-founded is a better description of what I thought before the war.  The results made it worthwhile in the end.
C3C:  But Grandpa, how could you support a war that was based on bad information--or at least at the time it was bad information?
KG:  What do you mean, "at the time"?
C3C:  Well, even Bush apologized for the use of some provacative words in his speech rallying the country for war.  I mean, without those words, he might not have made a compelling case to the people.
KG:  Well, as we know now, those words were in fact correct, right?
C3C:  But the apology for the statement made it look like a made-up story, regardless of what came out later.
KG:  I'll give you that.  That apology even befuddled me.  But despite those "questionable" words, I think Bush made a compelling argument in favor of the war.  I don't think there's any question that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed an ongoing threat to the interests of the United States.  And of course, evidence that surfaced later even showed that he had planned to attack those interests.
C3C:  You don't think North Korea was a threat too?  I mean, how could you think Saddam posed a bigger threat than nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula?
KG:  Well, it's like this:  In North Korea, you had the POTENTIAL for nuclear weapons in an area surrounded by countries that were all very much interested in keeping nuclear weapons out of there.  In Iraq, you had the CERTAINTY of illicit weapons, in the hands of an egomaniacal dictator that had flaunted the international community's effort to control his efforts to obtain greater weapons capabilities, in a geographical area where there was nobody that could oppose his will.  We had time to work with Korea's neighbors to bring about a good solution there.  We didn't, however, know how much time we had to remove the threat of Saddam. 
C3C:  Was the war about oil?
KG:  Yes, and no.  Not in the way that the arguments were made back then.  Listen, the whole world had an interest in stability throughout the Middle East--a large portion of the world economy's most important commodity came from there.  But we did not go to war to control those oil fields for ourselves.  I think that the actions to bring about an independent government in Iraq pretty much show the folly of that argument.
C3C:  Speaking of the economy, our studies talked an awful lot about the "two Americas" that existed at that time. Grandpa, how could you have provided for your family during that hopeless time?

KG:  first of all, the economy was finally chugging along again. You have to remember, the attacks of 9/11 were tragic for many reasons, the foremost of which was the loss of life. But the attacks also had a profound effect on the economy--an economy that was already starting to show signs of a slowdown. In a little over 2 years after the attacks, the economic outlook of the country had started turning upwards for the first time, and every month it seemed more "indicators" were coming out that showed the recovery was in full swing. All that in two years--which was an AMAZING accomplishment, even though at the time it didn't get a lot of press. So don't believe that the economy was as "negative" as some might have painted it to be back then.
As for that "two Americas" line, I never bought into it. To me, it was a "victim's" ideology that gave the masses a reason to blame everybody else for their misfortunes. By making the poor a "victim" of economics, you by default made the rest of us the perpetrator of some crime. And I know for a fact that I was never oppressed, and I'd like to think that I never did any oppressing. At some point in time, a person has got to be reasonably responsible for his or her own lot in life.

C3C: What about education? We know that the public schooling back then was really poor.
Grandpa, how could you send your kids to public schools?

KG:  well, call me crazy, but I never relied on the schools to teach my children anything that they would need to know. Your father was reading before he walked into his kindergarten classroom; he was frequently instructed on the proper way to speak to others and the proper use of the language; and your Grandmother and I even taught him a little bit about religion, just to name a few of the topics we introduced to him in the confines of our house. In fact, I only looked to the schools to do two things: keep him physically and mentally safe for the several hours every day that he was on the school grounds; and give him a curriculum to throw his intellectual energy into. It was our--your Grandmother and me-- our responsibility to guide his efforts to meet the minimum level of understanding of topics covered in class. But by just looking to the schools for guidance rather than all the educational support neccessary to accomplish the job, we sparked at a young age your father's interest in learning for himself. And I think that that interest has served him well through time.

C3C: Who did you vote for in 2004.

KG: Bush.
C3C: Grandpa, after all the unrest he caused in his first term in office, how could you vote for him?

KG:  because I believed in him. It was an even clearer choice for me in '04 than it was the previous election. President Bush may have made some of the electorate raving mad, but most of his policies made sense to me. And even more than that: he was a "person" I could follow. I have always held the office of President in very high regard--this is the guy who represents my country to the rest of the world! After the personal shame I felt for the antics of the previous administration, having a moral and future-focused man leading the country was just about all I could ask for. He may not have been the slickest of political operatives, but I never doubted his intentions or his methodology. And he was a brave leader--the first one in years who actually understood how great this country was. And only by understanding the country's greatness could you lead it through the challenges it faced.

C3C:  You didn't think those same things about Kerry?
KG:  Well, I don't think ANYbody could "believe in" candidate Kerry.  His campaign tried to re-invent it's message--and it's candidate--more than a few times in the months leading up to the election.  Listen, you can never plan on some of the things that will happen over the span of four years, which is why I need to know that my president has a "decision" compass that points in the right direction.  I never knew what direction Kerry was headed, or what the overriding guidance was that led him that way. 
C3C:  What about Nader?
KG:  Your history books even cover him?

Stop the Mac-ness!

This article in the Washington Times on Friday is about a change in the federal government's Medicare program that eliminates the prohibition on covering treatment for obesity.  Medicaid, the federal government's program for low-income families with children, will likely follow suit. 
Much will be written about how this new policy means potential paydays for trial lawyers, or the likelihood that State Attorney Generals,  along the same lines as the tobacco lawsuits late last decade, may seek compensation for treatments rendered to fight the condition from "negligent" food companies, whoever that may turn out to be. 
But at what cost? 
Well, if states add obesity treatments to their list of mandatory coverages, small businesses will take it in the shorts. 
And that could eventually lead to those small businesses dropping health plans altogether, which of course means their employees would be getting the raw deal. 
Individual health plans will likely see an increase in premiums, too.  And heaven forbid if you come from a big-boned family! 
And now for the big one:  since the food industry, especially the fast food industry that is already being attacked for their yet-to-be-legally-determined role in the expanding waistlines of society, will need to buffer against the onslaught of lawsuits that is going to head their way, we ALL can expect prices on their products to increase.  And it will likely not be a trivial increase.  
$6 for a Big Mac?  Maybe that's a little high. . .for now.  But just wait until the first court finds in favor of an individual plaintiff in a suit brought against a fast-food company.  (And that day is around the corner, I assure you.  The waters have been tested, and the result was not as forcefully in-favor of the fast-food industry as you might think)  The class-action suit that would follow would redefine the landscape of that industry forever--think Sahara Desert meets Stonehenge.  And imagine what kind of accompanying increase in prices such a development  would have on all other food goods vis-a-vis the law of supply and demand.  Ouch, my pocketbook is hurting already!
And the saddest irony of this whole thing?  The increasing cost of food will dictate--out of economic necessity for the "average American"--fewer and smaller meals.  Which will likely result in a decrease in caloric intake.  
Which--and correct me if I'm wrong here--was a treatment for obesity that was available BEFORE the government's announcement last week.  And it was a cheap treatment, too. 
Did we really need the government intervention to "force" us to take the steps for a healthier lifestyle?

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Big thanks to the RMA

I'd like to take just a second here to send a big Thanks to the folks of the RMA who have checked in with my blog in the last couple days.  And an extra-special thanks to brother Michael (Mr. BestDestiny) for the initial plug that probably sent you all my way.  I love what you all have added to the blogosphere, and not a day goes by that I don't visit at least a half-dozen RMAers.  Keep up the good work!!

Friday, July 16, 2004

forget "friendly"--just make them safe!

Read this.  Don't wait until after you've read the rest of my spiel--do it now.  After you're done, take a deep breath, look over at the desk where you've printed up the itinerary for your family's end-of-the-summer vacation, and ask yourself a question:  what if?
Frightening stuff, eh?  And here's the bottom line:  IF that band of Syrians were terrorists, then they succeeded in their mission.  If you don't think I'm right, ask Annie Jacobsen.  I think her writing leaves it pretty clear that she was terrorized during that flight.  Granted, the flight landed free of major incident, and MAYBE all the "terror" was dreamed up by an overactive imagination that is a product of the times we live in.  And no doubt, IF this was a "mission" that the band was assigned to do, then the higher-ups in that organization would look on its lack of completion as a failure.  But as terror is largely a psychological weapon, I think the fact that at least more than a few passengers were caused great "discomfort" during that flight chalks a small victory up for the bad guys--and leaves little doubt that air transportation is still vulnerable.
Ms. Jacobsen, early in her article, writes the following observation:  "What I experienced during that  flight has caused me to question whether the United States of America can realistically uphold the civil liberties of every individual, even non-citizens, and protect its citizens from terrorist threats."  It's an interesting observation--but one that is moot.   With the strength of the civil liberties lobby being what it is, it is unrealistic to think that the government will ever be able to pass legislation that will seriously curtail the threat posed by individuals that might be acting within U.S. borders.  Likewise, the government should not be blamed for the execution of terrorist plots within the country.  When the only weapon that the government can use without "infringing" on Constitutional rights is a color-coded warning system, the citizens of this country should expect failure every time. 
But to me, the most interesting part of the Jacobsen story is this:  despite the ongoing threat-status to air travel, and the (supposed) presence of Air Marshals on board, and the awareness of the passengers, and the fact that all the suspicious activities were supposedly briefed to the pilots--despite all that, the flight still landed in Los Angeles.  As if nothing had gone on at all, the plane lands in one of the biggest "targets" in the country, if you believe all the reports.  And if the "band" HAD been putting together a bomb, none of the passengers--even the ones who were aware of what was going on--would have survived.  Maybe even a "smoking plane" falling out of the sky would've killed some innocent folks on the streets of the city.  A lot of good "vigilant citizens" would've done then! 
To me, this article highlights the importance of airlines placing restrictions on the activities of the passengers.  Listen, you--as an air traveller--should expect some inconveniences when it comes to flying.  The aviation industry's assets have been proven to be a highly successful weapon for the terrorists, and it is only natural for involved parties to be extra-cautious to ensure that planes and people don't fall into the wrong hands again.  We already accept some inconveniences--look at the security screenings we go through now.  The new airline rule that deals with the congregation of passengers should be seen as an in-flight measure that furthers the likelihood of incident-free travel.  The rule should be briefed before every flight, as well as the fact that a violation of this rule will result in the immediate landing of the plane and the arrest of the passengers in violation of the rule.  (The immediate landing would be in order to throw a wrench into the timing of whatever plan may be afoot)  Of course, there's a warning issued to the offending parties before such a drastic action.  A nice but firm warning--you're not following our rules, either do so or we'll be forced to land.   There'd be some griping to be sure, but what law-abiding citizen wouldn't realize the gravity of the situation and then change their behavior appropriately?  And even if the offending party didn't get the seriousness of the airline's policy, and their actions forced a landing short of the destination--what's the big deal?  Oh, it would be a nightmare to deal with "all" the landings that would turn out to be for no good reason, not to mention the delays that such landings would build into the air travel schedule.  Gosh, can you imagine? . .
But now for reality:  imagine how you'll feel when you hear about another hijacking of innocent  airline passengers.  
We've taken steps to protect the cockpit, so that the threat of a terrorist flying the plane to a target is minimized.  We've taken steps to protect passengers from personal weaponry, so that the threat of a hostage situation is minimized.   Now we need to protect the plane itself -- and this is step one in the process.
The Federal government has done all it can do.  And think what you want, the reality of the situation is that once you're in a plane the influence you and your fellow passengers have on the outcome of the flight is minimal--even if you have an Air Marshal on board and everybody around you is suspicious of a "hostile" situation.
Let the airlines themselves have a link in the chain of aviation safety.
Inconveniece vs protection.  Where do you think the balance swings?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Roe v. Kerry

I love when things are spelled out in black and white. It really appeals to the (poor) mathematician in me.

The other day I was searching the 'net and found some interesting views on abortion from Sen. Kerry. He believes that "life does begin at conception. But I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist . . . who doesn't share it. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."

Legislation with regards to the issue of abortion--a.k.a. the Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade.

You know the background by now: young Miss Roe, an unmarried woman from Texas, wanted to get an abortion to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. Abortion without the presence of life-threatening conditions to the pregnant woman was illegal in Texas, and she felt that the requirement to leave the state to have the procedure done safely and legally was too burdensome. She initiated federal action against the District Attorney of Dallas County, TX, seeking to declare the anti-abortion statutes in Texas unconstitutional because they were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy.

Everyone knows the overall outcome of the court's decision: the Supreme Court found that the Texas statutes and their "type" were violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore unconstitutional. Thus began the era of legalized abortions in this great country of ours.

But what about the great question brought on by Sen. Kerry's remarks last week: did the Supreme Court address the issue of "when life begins"?

Researching my query by reading Justice Blackmun's majority opinion, two key areas jump out at me:

a) The arguments put forth by the State in support of the anti-abortion laws consistently returned to the theme that life begins at conception. Funny. . .isn't that the same opinion expressed by Kerry last week? Who'd have ever thought that Sen. Right-to-Choose would agree with the State's foremost argument for defending the constitutionality of its anti-abortion laws?

b) The Supreme Court's handling of the "life begins at conception" issue is summarized as follows: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." In other words, they sidestep addressing the issue directly. Instead, the Court places the weight of their decision around the issue of "personhood". How important is that issue? "The appellee. . .argue(s) that the fetus is a "person". . .If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's (Roe) case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (Fourteenth) Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument." The final opinion of the Court, however, is "that the word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn."

What does Kerry believe about personhood? Well, assuming he follows Catholic teachings (this interview was about his faith, after all), then he believes that "human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life." Definitely NOT the position of the Court in the Roe decision. How can a person agree with a decision based on observations that are 100% counter to personal beliefs?

(And by the way, that whole "freedom of conscience" thing--Kerry used it pretty much 180 degrees opposite of it's intention. Freedom of conscience, as described by Pope John Paul II, allows that a person may, for reasons of conscience, choose not to participate in certain activities that others in the same field/position/employment participate in.  The idea of freedom of conscience does NOT exempt a person from acting on religious beliefs because of the law of the land.  What Kerry was talking about was a freedom FROM conscience--and I assure you that such a position does not exist in Vatican II or any other Church document.)

Sen. Kerry's strong support of the pro-choice lobby is highly contradictory of his supposed "beliefs"--beliefs that place him like-minded with the State's arguments in support of anti-abortion statutes and beliefs that are at odds with the Court's observation on "personhood" that was central to the decision in the case. So either he is a man who doesn't listen to his conscience when it comes to issues of legislation or he is a man who freely states convictions that he certainly doesn't hold. Are either one of those guys somebody that you want to be the leading representative of this country in the years to come?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Enough with the War in Iraq

Ladies and Gentlemen, today I will argue against the war in Iraq. This is a new position for me, and I am sure that the reasons for my changing ideology will be of some interest to my readership. So, here it is, in all the glory that my postings normally generate:

the war in Iraq is over.

The war on terrorism, however, continues. And right now the most visible of the battlefields in this war is Iraq. The many military actions that U.S. troops perform on a daily basis in Iraq may look like a full-scale war--and it is, to be sure. But those actions are part of the war on terror now, not the long-ago completed war in Iraq.

How can I say this? Easy. The President's declaration of war on Iraq outlined these goals of the war effort: "to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger." First objective: done. The hostile, Saddam-led government of Iraq does not have at its disposal any weapons of mass destruction. Second objective: done. The oppression of the Hussein regime has been replaced, with a full democracy hopefully only a few months away. As for the third objective, one must infer that the "grave danger" that we were addressing by going to war in Iraq was the danger posed by Saddam Hussein as the leader of a state with a viable military and a NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical, not the network) program that had at some point been functional and that had not been proven to be otherwise. And so that objective, also, is done.

Yes, there is fighting still going on in Iraq. Yes, some of those taking arms against the coalition forces are Iraqis--maybe as many as 20,000 of them, if you believe the reports (said tongue-in-cheek, of course). But those Iraqis fighting against the coalition are NOT soldiers of the government of Iraq. They are "insurgents"--in other words, terrorists. They are trying to attack the government of Iraq through means other than state-declared war to further their own political ambitions in the country. The government of Iraq has actually asked for coalition help in defending itself against these threats. So, in essence, the presence of U.S. soldiers in Iraq should not be seen as any different than the presence of American soldiers among coalition troops fighting to liberate Kuwait following Saddam's invasion in the summer of 1990. And when was the last time anybody on either side of the political aisle criticized U.S. participation in that campaign?

The War in Iraq is over. (By the way, we won) The war on terror continues, and Iraq is a key battleground in that war.

Does anybody seriously think we should not be engaged in the war on terror?

when two equals one

You've heard it by now. The "Two Americas" theme espoused by Sen. Edwards in the Democratic primaries earlier this year. I won't go into the details of the contents of the speech--you can find the whole transcript in any number of places. However, I have a hard time swallowing what his mouth is saying because of the body from which the words originate.

I have no doubts that Sen. Edwards was not born into a privileged family. And I have fewer doubts that his current financial comfort is due to hard work, self-sacrifice and a keen understanding of his surroundings. But honestly, isn't his entire story, the "son-of-a-mill-worker-makes-it-big-and-does-family-proud"--isn't it all the perfect story to show America as the land of opportunity?

More compelling than his vocal implication that the government is responsible for keeping the "have-nots" stuck in their lot by not doing enough to get them moving up the economic ladder, Edwards' own life argues for the greatness of this country and it's government on the most fundamental level: that hard work, perseverence and good ol' American know-how will be rewarded, and sometimes that reward is quite handsome. Indeed, there really aren't two Americas out there, but rather just one: an America that protects and promotes your ability to make a better life for yourself and your family.

Sen. Edwards, of all people, should know that. He sees it every day when he looks in the mirror.

Monday, July 12, 2004

A week late--but so is my thought train

Last week I was doing my typical blog search when I came across an article by Peggy Noonan that talked about her "fear" that Americans may vote against GWB in 2004 simply because life was "so exciting" during this term in office. She writes, "my general sense of Americans is that we like things to be boring. Or rather we like history to be boring; we like our lives to be exciting." She continues: "No, I am not suggesting all our recent excitement is Mr. Bush's fault. History handed him what it handed him. And no, I am not saying the decisions he took were wrong or right or some degree of either. I'm saying it's all for whatever reasons been more dramatic than Americans in general like history to be." Certainly a view that one could argue for. . .

. . .in 2000. Or maybe even in August of 2001. But not today.

Why does the argument fail today? For two reasons, in my opinion: a) it shows a lack of knowledge of the threats facing--indeed acting against--this country before 9/11; and b) it ignores the fact that we are "at war", even at this moment.

While it was indeed under the Bush administration that we had to deal with the most heinous act of terrorism to strike American soil in our history, the threat of such an attack was present for years before he took office. The desire to strike at this country--even the specific targets felled on that horrible day--had come to fruition almost a decade before. The threat to American assets and interests overseas had been under attack for an even longer period of time. To think that 9/11 was an anomoly--a single attack driven by one man with one plan to take one shot to hurt America where it would feel it most--is ignorance on a dangerous level.

And here's the bottom line about the war on Terror: it has happened. Or more appropriately, it is happening. And as it is a long struggle, we are not finished yet. This means that some of the personal "targets" of the war are still free. These are people with a mindset like those who planned the 9/11 attacks, the World Trade Center bombing attack, the Embassy attacks, etc etc. And they are planning more attacks on the U.S. There's no way to seriously argue against that tidbit of information. A vote against Bush, or for Bush, or not voting at all will not do anything to eliminate this threat to our homeland. The terrorist's hatred of all things American existed before the 2000 elections, it exists today, and it will continue to exist regardless of the outcome of the 2004 elections. We, Americans, are targets--all of us.

Really, the question isn't "exciting" vs. "dull" for this upcoming election. The people who would make things "exciting" are out there, planning against us even as you read this. To me, the better question is this: who is more likely to handle this threat successfully? Personally, I could care less about the history of this time being "dull"--but I certainly do want my life to be free of the "excitement" that the terrorists would like to bring to my backyard.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

And now for something completely different

Or maybe not so different. It seems that blogs are everywhere! And the content of the millions of blogs is so. . .interesting that sometimes a response is necessary. And since I'm far too stupid to find the words that would limit my replies to a few lines, I have resorted to the ultimate praise for blogging forefathers: I'm copying their idea. About blogging, that is. . .hopefully my writings will be anything but copies of other ideas already expressed on the 'net.