Monday, January 31, 2005

About those elections in Iraq

There has been much commentary by some of the leading intellects of the free world about the elections in Iraq this weekend. For my two cents (I do not fit into that above category, by the way):

-- First and foremost, and big BRAVO to the Iraqi people. I don't know that there are many "people" out there who, having endured years of brutal dictatorship only to become the targets of an almost-equally brutal insurgency, would have the desire to hit the streets in defiance of an all-too-well publicized threat from from the leader of said insurgency. The fact that millions did so is a testament to the strength of those long-oppressed people. And then you get to the bonus material: the lines that people willingly endured, the distances that hundreds if not thousands of people marched as if on a pilgrimmage just to ring in democracy in Iraq--it's enough to make a generally heartless guy like myself well up. Truly inspirational--and I personally thank the Iraqi people who participated in the elections for being brave enough to usher in a new era in their lives--maybe even in the world. I guess time will tell. . .

-- Secondly, I do not want to trivialize the attacks of yesterday (the count I'm using is 9 attacks with 44 dead and more wounded), but I do want you to think about these ingredients: a) The leader of the insurgency said that all those who participated in the election would be targets of his movement and predicted attacks that would kill by the thousands; b) the no-kidding targets yesterday (from a strategic standpoint, the targets HAD to be the places where the people would vote) could not have been more plainly broadcast if there were spotlights, balloons and marching bands outside of each polling spot; c) from all the reports I've heard, there were lines OUTSIDE the polling spots at several locations, some lines with less-than-trivial numbers of voters in them--and let's not forget about the pilgrimmage I mentioned above, the 13-mile march in the middle of the streets--where a person who actually DID want to take the fight to the participants in the election could do some serious damage with nothing more than an automatic rifle. With those ingredients, who could have imagined that today's big story out of Iraq would be the successful election? The fact that Zarqawi's initiatives were so. . .what's the word?. . ."ineffective" means one of three things to me (or maybe all three): the leadership of the insurgents isn't all it's cracked up to be; the organization of the insurgents is virtually non-existent at this stage; or the U.S. and Iraqi-led security forces have really done some AMAZING things to further the security of the Iraqi people. Think about it: speaking strictly logically (and therefore devoid of any human emotion) here, yesterday's election could have been the chance for Zarqawi to assert total control over Iraq once and for all. I mean, how hard is it to get one of his death-seeking messengers to strap some explosives to his chest and walk into a big crowd, or to tell one of his more trusted operatives to take an AK-47 and some magazines and get a good vantage point on a polling place and wait for the line to get lengthy? Properly timed operations in the mid-morning and early afternoon would have had a good chance of dampening Iraqi spirit to participate--and sent a message to everybody watching that there was no "organized" way of opposing Zarqawi's vision of the future of Iraq. And just to reiterate, Zarqawi's "targets" could not have been more lame-duck if they were, in fact, lame ducks in the middle of a street in Baghdad. For Zarqawi's attempts to stifle the vote to have been so limited in both number and scope tells me that either he and/or his organization: did not see or prepare for yesterday in accordance with their previously-stated opposition to the election; did not act yesterday in accordance with whatever plans were in place; or were unable to fulfill their mission because they had been detained or otherwise neutralized. I don't know which of the three conclusions is correct, but I do know the following: however it happened, I'm sure glad it happened that way!

-- If you had relied on the MSM for all of your pre-election coverage, you would have never guessed that the results of the election yesterday would be so encouraging. If, on the other hand, you visited certain blogs on a weekly basis, you would have known almost a month ago that there was a huge desire of the Iraqi people to participate in the election; you would have known that security operations in Iraq in the last couple weeks have been very successful in rounding up high-level members of Zarqawi's group; and you would have known that some acts of violence were expected by EVERYBODY but that the goal of limiting the insurgent's influence on the process was fully attainable. In other words, one medium would have given you agenda while the other would have armed you with the proper information. Throw another log on the ever-increasing fire that threatens to burn down the last bits of MSM credibility.

-- I read a great article on Captain's Quarters about how "Old Europe" had taken a much more positive tone about the elections in Iraq than had leading members of the Democratic Party. I can't help but think that this is a great opportunity for someone of the Dem Party to take a "moderate" tone in advance of the national election in 4 years. Let's face it: the majority of Americans are going to read today's news out of Iraq and they are not going to say that the election was a "farce" or demand a withdrawal of forces to let the Iraqi government make it on their own. And to go further: while it may be months or years in the future, at some point it's probably a good bet that most of America is going to see Bush and Allawi's push to get the elections done yesterday as the right course, both for Iraq and for America. So far the Dem leadership has refused to accept such a mindset as a likely outcome for their constituents--a potentially deadly course for them to take! I mean, it's not like anybody has to actually say the hated words "Bush was right"--they should give credit where the greatest amount of credit is due (to the people of Iraq, followed closely by the appeal of democracy to an oppressed people) and say that they are encouraged for the future of the people there. That's it. There's not a pro-Bush sentiment that needs to be made--just stop denigrating the sacrifice of the people that made yesterday possible! I look for good ol' Sen Liebermann to be the first Dem to speak contrary to what the media-darling talking heads are saying. . .and could Hillary be far off?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Where did this lesson come from?

It's a good thing I don't watch FoxNews a lot, otherwise I'd spend all my time blogging. . .

Today, after the Inaugural luncheon in the Capitol Building, Senate Minority leader Harry Reid took a few moments to talk to Shepard Smith of Fox. Here are some of the tidbits of the interview (I only wish I had it verbatim, but believe me that I represent the content correctly):

Reid is a pro-gun, anti-abortion Democrat. When Shep asked him how he could be the leader of a party that strongly takes the opposite view on those two fairly major issues, Reid responded that his position is evidence of the "big tent" that is the Democratic party. And while that sounds all good and well, "big tent" is not how most people would describe the Democratic Party. . .although that does explain why Dean seems to have the lead towards being the next Chair of the DNC. Dean certainly wouldn't add any square-footage to the Dems' tent, so maybe their party leaders DO think that they already have a big enough tent. I guess I'll just have to wait and see on this one. . .

. . .but that wasn't my favorite part of the interview. When asked to briefly explain what went wrong back in November, Reid basically said that it wasn't the message but rather the messenger--or lack thereof. To wit, he spoke of his native Nevada, where (according to him) 91% of the state's population is in Reno and Las Vegas and supposedly Kerry "did well" in those centers--but in the other 9% of the state (the "rural areas") there was a significant majority of voters for the GOP to help Bush carry the state by 2 points. Reid chalks that up to a "lack of presence" by the Dems in the rural areas--"the message is fine" is a quote that I seem to remember--and said that the difference in voter preference in non-urban areas throughout the country is the reason for the result of the election.

So there it is: the reason for Bush victory, the reason for the increase in majorities in both the Senate and the House--it all boils down to the fact that the Dems didn't want to hit the backroads and take their message to non-populous areas of the country. It has NOTHING to do with "issues", "values" or anything like that--it's all about the laziness of the Dems.

Of course, Reid takes no guesses as to how the votes in these "rural" places would have gone had the Dems spent the time to pass their message into those areas. Apparently "ruralists" don't vote for a candidate or for issues--they just vote for the name that they recognize. Another rationalization--and yet again, more arrogance on display.

So, I take a couple things from this amazing statement originating from the mouth of the de facto leader of the Democratic Party:

1) there will not be a change in tone, message, or "reach" from the Dems in the near future--at least the next 2 years. Interesting. . .you would think a party that's found itself placed increasingly further from the main table of the nation's leadership 3 ELECTIONS IN A ROW would actually come up with something more constructive than "we didn't talk to people".

2) I don't know which bothers me more: a party with a poor message, or a party that blames defeat on their lack of interest in spreading that message to the people. EVEN IF the result can be summed up as Reid tried to do in this interview, that doesn't paint a pretty picture of the Democratic Party--"we don't need you outdoor types, you're not the kind of voters we're looking to attract" or something like that. I wonder if he realized that his claim of "all is well" came off as the most smug, arrogant and nauseating piece of spoken word possible, especially given the backdrop of the day.

3) Kerry's candidacy looks to be the most inept campaign in modern history. IF the problem was spreading the Democratic word, then Kerry's failure to spend $15 million campaign dollars is even more perplexing--and the lack of oversight from the party to ensure that the funds were properly spent again speaks volumes (in a negative sense) to the governing power of that party. And this guy is still looked to as a possible candidate in '08? I have one thing to say: PLEASE!!!

the hypocrisy of Michael Newdow

Let's start this article off with props given where props are due: to Chief Justice Rehnquist and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who put the final nail in the coffin on atheist Michael Newdow's suit seeking an injunction on Christian prayers at today's inaugural.

And then, let's get to the point of the article: Mr. Newdow sought to ban prayer from today's festivites on the basis that said prayers MIGHT be Christian in nature, which would serve to make him feel like an "outsider". (For more, read my prior post) First of all, from a logical standpoint Mr. Newdow should not have been seeking to ban "Christian" prayers, but rather ANY prayer that calls for reflection or homage paid to a supreme being--after all, an "atheist" does not deny the divinity of Jesus so much as he/she denies the existence of ANY divine being. Granted, taking such a step might have made Newdow's argument more difficult to make (he was charging that "Christian" prayers at such an event serve to "establish" (my word, not his) Chrisitianity as the de facto religion of the country--which would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment), but at least it would have been a logical suit, very similar to his earlier quest to take "Under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

And applying this "logic" to the next step: since his real beef is with a public acknowledgement of God, why is Newdow going after the POSSIBLE inclusion of Godspeak in the prayers when there is a GUARANTEED mention of a Supreme being in the major events of the day. After all the fanfare and celebration is completed, President Bush and Vice President Cheney will head to the West Portico of the Capitol and recite their Oath of Office. The Vice President's Oath culminates in the words "So Help Me God". Why isn't this Oath the object of Newdow's complaint? And while we're at it, the Oaths of Offices of every U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Supreme Court Justice and all military members include the words "so help me God"--where is the outrage over that? (Strangely enough, the President's oath does not mention God--I wonder why that is?)

But more to the point: Newdow has bought a ticket to the events of this day, KNOWING that the image of a Supreme being will be invoked--but he's using his presence at the inauguration as his "special weapon" in his suit against what MIGHT happen during the prayers. It doesn't make sense. . .

...but then again, in my opinion the 9th Circuit's decision on the Pledge was nonsense. . .

. . .but I digress. Fortunately, for other entirely legalese reasons the suit filed by Newdow was rejected, although he will have his day in court for the hearing of the full complaint (the rejections were just dealing with his sought-after injunction). I just wish I felt more comfortable with legalese meeting the standards of "common sense". I will definitely keep an eye on this one as it goes throught the judicial motions. . .

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

the "religion" of Michael Newdow

With props to my brother, who has posted about this topic before. . .

Last week, infamous atheist Michael Newdow had his lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to ban prayer from the President's inauguration rejected by the U.S. District Court of DC. The crux of Newdow's suit, in layman's terms, was that he should should be free to attend the inauguration this week without the presence of Christian prayers that he feels make him and other atheists feel like second-class citizens. In December, Newdow contacted the "organization committee" (not the actual name, but that is it's purpose) for this upcoming inauguration and discovered that there would be two prayers offered by people of a Christian background. Newdow concluded that there was a great likelihood that the prayers would speak of a God that Newdow does not believe exists, and he feared that the the prayers would show a disapproval of his non-Christianity. He sued under the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment, claiming that he has "a fundamental constitutional right to observe and participate in the Nation's official ceremonies free from governmental endorsement of religion".

And the interesting thing about all of this, to me at least, is that his suit is almost a carbon copy of the suit that he filed back in 2001 after watching President Bush's inauguration on the TV. He said then that "[t]he effect of the [clergy's] purely religious words was for Christian Americans to perceive them as an endorsement of their Christianity, and for non-Christian
Americans including plaintiff to perceive the Pledge [sic] as a disapproval of their
non-Christianity." He further asserted that the "religious activity" at the inauguration made him to feel like an "outsider"--which would have violated the "Establishment Clause", under the protection of which he filed the action. That suit was thrown out by the District Court, a decision that was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court in February of 2004, which ruled that "Newdow lacks standing to bring this action because he does not allege a sufficiently concrete and specific injury."

So after going through that whole ringamorale for 3 years and getting nowhere, what is different about this year that Newdow thinks is going to make him successful in his suit?

One little thing: he has a ticket to attend this year's inauguration.

Get that? He is VOLUNTARILY, without any threat, force, or coercion, choosing to attend an event that he knows is likely to contain "religious acts" that will "make" him feel like a "second-class citizen" (all of these quotes, by the way, are from one or the other of Newdow's arguments against Bush)--but rather than just not go to the event (thereby doing his part to avoid a sufficiently concrete and specific injury), he uses his planned attendance at the inauguration as the very reason that the courts should change the content of the festivities to something that won't make him feel like an "outsider".

Listen, Mr. Newdow, if it's really that aggravating--no, pardon me, DAMAGING--to you that during two elements of a multi-faceted celebration in this Nation's Capitol people MIGHT express beliefs that are contrary to yours, then I've got a solution for you: don't go. Regardless of whether or not this is a "national ceremony" (and by the way, your tax money is NOT going towards this inauguration, even though the courts ruled that you have some manner of standing to bring some sort of suit against the inauguration activities), your attendance at the festivities is entirely optional. If the scheduled activities do not meet with your standards for decorum, then you should choose to rid the event from your daily planner. If you actually feel that your attendance would cause a "sufficiently concrete and specific injury" as to overturn the Ninth Circuit's prior decision about all this nonsense, then doesn't common sense/social darwinism/survival instinct dictate that you avoid that event at all possible costs?

Besides, it's not like you voted for the guy anyhow.

And I am glad to say the the courts got this one right--not because they ruled against Newdow per se, but moreso because they correctly chose to not "protect" someone who was "responsible" for whatever "injuries" they incurred/might incur. I personally feel that such a determination is a good threshold for the limits of judicial activism--and we are definitely in an age where we need some limits on judicial activism!

Monday, January 10, 2005

redefining "light" posting

So I took a couple weeks off from blogging. No big deal, to be sure.

But to come back to the 'sphere with an article about the Broncos? Their goes any last vestige of "legitimacy" I can muster. . .

. . .but it must be done. You see, the B-men stunk it up big-time yesterday. And I know a lot of blame is going to be laid at the feet of Jake Plummer. And while I've been as harsh on him as anybody, he is not the reason yesterday went so bad so fast.

Remember that billion-dollar defense that had Broncos fans giddy in anticipation earlier this year? Well, they clunked--Big Time! I know that Indy's offense is very good, but to give up 35 points in the first half was beyond embarassing. It was even worse than last year's performance, the performance that brought about all these changes that were supposed to make the Broncos contenders again.

Champ Bailey? Well, all I can say about him is that he wasn't thrown to very often--but there was one play early in the game just WAITING for him to make, and he didn't. Dallas Clark made a spectacular catch, to be sure--but a million-dollar cornerback should have TAKEN that ball out of the air, making Clark's single-hand a non-factor in the play.

John Lynch? Hey, I like the guy--but he really didn't add a lot to the team's play this game, did he?

Al Wilson? If you want to lose your cool and look like a Raider, at least save it for the sidelines. On YOUR sideline were the people you really needed to get all huffy and puffy at!

And the list goes on. As a unit, they performed MISERABLY! And before you go giving the Colts too much credit, consider that just 4 weeks ago the Broncos D looked exactly this bad against the Chiefs--a Chiefs team that, for all their potential, hadn't really put up the huge numbers this year. The Broncos seemed to be the perfect remedy for them, just like they were the perfect remedy for a Colts offense that wasn't sick to begin with.

The problem? Gosh, where to begin. . .I think I'll start with our front 4. While I love the fact that the B-men are notoriously aggressive on defense, it would be nice if they didn't have to blitz just to get pressure on the QB. Against the better O lines in the game (Indy, KC, even San Diego), our front four didn't do the job. And while Pryce might have made a little difference in the unit's play, I don't think he's worth that much. We need a corner-burning DE, and that's something that you can buy--IF you understand your needs. The Broncos, desperately lacking a big-play DE for many years, have blown this call time and again.

Secondly, I'll hit our defensive coordinator. Indy throws 3 pretty good wide receivers into the defensive backfield--and one of them was constantly undressing Rock Alexander. While he may go on to a hall-of-fame career, yesterday he was not ready for the big time, but the big time is what he got. We needed to understand that before the game started, or at least make an adjustment before it got out of hand. Wayne's 150-yard first half lets you know that we failed pre-game and we failed in-game, and that falls at the feet of Larry Coyer.

And for all you Plummer-bashers out there, I've got something on the offensive side of the line, too. That was an awful game plan! For a team that knows it must keep the opposition's offense on the sidelines to keep the game respectable, their calls in the first half were the epitome of sick. If you have a problem with putting the ball in Jake's hands, then you need a different quarterback. If, however, you're going to let Plummer drive you to the dance, then you darn well better let him drive. The first half was so cautious, so careful--so "not playoff caliber", you would think the B-men were prepping for a 10-6 final score! And that 's not the first time I've had a problem with the B-men's play-calling. One of the fastest offenses in the league barely looks to go downfield. . .one of the best running offenses in the league makes horribly transparent calls on short-yardage situations. . .etc etc etc.

The good news is, of course, that nobody really expected anything from them yesterday. Last year, the day after losing to the Colts I was really bummed. This year, I was "over it" by the time the second half rolled around. I guess that can be called progress. . .although I'm not exactly sure what kind of progress it is!