Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thought For The Day

Am I the only person who believes that is Kofi Annan had been the detective in charge of the Simpson murder, he would have had the corpse of Nicole Simpson arrested for the crime?

Filling The “Delay” Seat

The Twenty-Second Congressional District in Texas, Sugarland to be specific, became an exciting race when Tom Delay, the former powerhouse representative for the Republicans, was abandoned by his party and decided to leave Congress for more hospitable climes. Virginia, to be specific.

The Democrats, in a move which seemed to be smart at the time, demanded Delay’s name be kept on the ballot. The plan was a clearly hypocritical move by the party, since in the previous election they went to court to allow themselves to replace their badly-losing candidate on a New Jersey ballot, well after the statutory deadline for such an action. The plan seemed to backfire on Democrats when Delay mused that if he could not be removed from the ballot, he might go ahead and run for his old seat; local polls showed Delay would be a strong favorite in such a case.

But Delay was made sick of politics by the collapse of support from the GOP, and the weak-willed abandonment of Delay by so many colleagues he had supported and defended convinced Tom that there was little good to be had in returning to Congress. So it is, that Delay went ahead to get his name out of the race, and to support a write-in candidate. This marked a poor condition for Republicans, since write-in candidates have almost no chance to win, especially against a known opponent, and Nick “Satan’s Not Such A Bad Guy” Lampson is well known in the area. Enter Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

Sekula-Gibbs may appear to be a relative unknown to people outside Houston, but S-G (as I will call her here for convenience) is a courageous and outspoken Republican, and quite popular among Houston conservatives. I know this as a Houston conservative. Also, unlike some politicians, S-G already lives in the necessary area and so is no outsider or interloper. It should be noted that while Lampson lives in the greater Houston area, he has moved around to suit his goals - from Beaumont where he originally won election to Congress, now to Sugarland in order to try to claim Delay’s old seat; the redistricting which corrected half a century of Democrat gerrymandering cost Lampson his seat, so like all bad movie villains or nominal Democrats, Lampson is seeking a measure of revenge by going after his nemesis’ seat.

To be blunt, the Republicans have done a poor job with regard to this issue; they owed Delay much better support than they gave him when Ronnie Earle started his latest vendetta, and they effectively forced Tom to run for a seat he no longer wanted, in order to play tactical games which did not work out. The current mess is the responsibility of the national and Texas GOP committees, and if Lampson is able to steal it away, it’s because people like Hastert and Mehlman let it happen. Fortunately, the GOP has a very good candidate in Sekula-Gibbs, and for all the obstacles they have put in her path, she can win this thing. It’s by no means going to be easy, but by selecting S-G for the candidacy, at least the GOP has finally done something right, and given the voters of District 22 a decent chance to have effective representation. It remains to be seen if the write-in obstacle will be too great an obstacle, or Lampson’s clearly deficient qualities will leave the door open for Sekula-Gibbs’ run.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Quick And Obvious Retort to ‘Newsweek’

Once again throwing subtlety, let alone objective reporting, out the window, here is what is printed on the current cover of ‘Newsweek’ magazine:


A Plot Against Airlines

Bin Laden At Large

Iraq In Flames

Five Years After 9/11, Are We Any Safer?”

Point by point, then –

The plot against airlines was foiled, which even ’Newsweek’ admits.

Bin Laden is hiding from every known responsible government and has done little but release whiny tapes, which hardly matches the ominous tone ’Newsweek’ is trying to sell. Shewt, right now Cindy Sheehan is a greater threat to the United States than Osama bin Loser.

Iraq is not in flames. The Iraqi government is fairly stable, especially by Middle East standards, and the Iraqi police and army are gaining ground across the nation. The few remaining terrorist strongholds hardly justify the breathless falsehood portrayed by ’Newsweek’, no matter how hard they try.

The common sense answer is also the obvious one – a number of plots have been devised since the 9/11 attacks, some publicized and some kept quiet, but nothing has been successfully carried out here since 9/11. As hard as ’Newsweek’ and other lying media try to pretend otherwise, President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security have actually done a pretty good job on meeting their National Security responsibilities. That ’Newsweek’ keeps trying to make this story into a scare and an attack on the Administration, instead of cheering an obvious victory against a particularly nasty plot, effectively proves where their allegiance lies.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The 2006 Hezbollah-Israel Conflict In Context

‘Nobody won’. This is the common wisdom tossed out after the UN ceasefire has been set up between the sovereign state of Israel and the infernal puppets of Hezbollah. Others go so far as to claim that Hezbollah won. Both claims are wrong.

Hezbollah is not accustomed to telling the truth, but a week into the conflict the terrorist group admitted the Israeli response and resolve was much stronger than they had expected. Israel went for the throat early, destroying known command centers and Hezbollah leadership; the vicious ones who planned the worst I mean, not the political martinets. It may be that Israel had hoped to accomplish what they publicly claimed, to eliminate Hezbollah as a significant threat, but for that they would have needed a very unlikely set of circumstances, and much better friends than they had available in 2006. I suspect, however, that Israel always understood what they could accomplish, and what was beyond their grasp, and this conflict was a new type of fight, and much more a reconnaissance than an all-out war.

For all its bluster, it was never in Hezbollah’s power to eradicate Israel. They could not even reach Tel Aviv with their missiles imported from Iran and Syria. And to be blunt, Israel’s strategy as practiced would have been extremely unlikely to have removed Hezbollah from the theater; I would go so far as to suggest that Israel did not really want Hezbollah gone entirely, since they knew the hands which were really moving the pawn.

Iran was behind this war. In simple terms, this is because President Ahmadinejad is not only an insanely paranoid religious fanatic, but also a power-mad coward who greatly prefers duping people into fighting for him, rather than manning it up and taking his own risks for his own causes. It should be understood that Hezbollah was and is a creation of the Iranian Jihad a la Ayatollah Khomeini, and these guys would not even take a leak before first asking the nearest Iranian nutjob which way they should face while doing the deed. Hezbollah was paid by Iran, trained by Iran, supplied by Iran … you get the idea, or maybe you thought ball-bearing-filled missiles could be purchased hundreds at a time at a South Beirut Wal-Mart? Mad Mahmoud wanted to see how weak Israel might have become, or perhaps a bit slow to react. Now he knows better, but unfortunately he has gained the most from the events of the past month.

The United States, it should be remembered, once had a force in Lebanon, with an eye to keeping what peace was left to be had. But the Marine Barracks bombing in 1983 ended that, and we have not been back since. And the GOP Congress is far too timid to even consider meeting that challenge now, so Lebanon belongs to the terrorists, their puppet-masters, and those few Lebanese willing to risk their lives for a future Lebanon free from such monsters. Lebanon used to be the sort of country which Americans, Democrat and Republican alike, were willing to help rid of monsters, but not these days.

Israel may still come out ahead; it’s too early to know whether the cease-fire was accepting the inevitable, a surrender or principle to expediency, or a canny move to draw out the enemy.

Hezbollah lost. They will claim otherwise, of course, but they lost the most fighters, the most material, and while they have no intention of disarming, they are utter fools if they really think Israel will ignore them and not pick up the fight when it is necessary and unavoidable again. And in the end, Hezbollah has nothing to gain; for all their bluster, they do not represent Lebanon or its common welfare. They cannot accomplish their main goal of destroying Israel, and the moment they become inconvenient to Iran, their supplies and support will dry up. Hezbollah sold its soul to the Devil a long time ago, but as often happens in these Faustian dramas, they remain very much in denial, and will even as the demons drag them into the hellfire they deserve.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

We Need Two Effective Parties In America

It’s hard for folks to imagine, but every U.S. President has been harassed by nay-sayers and overpaid poop-heads. Even George W. the First, who is the only man ever to be unanimously elected as President of the United States. During his second term as President, Washington called out the militias from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and several states to put down an armed revolt in 1794 by a large number of angry farmers. The force used was as large as the entire Continental Army of the Revolutionary War, so more than a few men suggested the response, especially to be used against citizens, was excessive, even perhaps oppressive. Thus even George Washington found his judgment and decisions questioned. From his administration to the current George W., whining and complaining has been a constant counterpoint in American political discourse.

Although Congress has always held the commanding portion of power in the American government, Americans have always considered the President to be the man who sets plans into motion and makes policy. Accordingly, entire parties have held prolonged and heated debates on the initiatives and programs of various Presidents. That has reached a ridiculous condition in the present Administration, where Democrats and Republicans these days both do their worst to malign and insult President Bush, equally falsely, but with a strange argument why they are assaulting the President.

What seems to be happening, is that the Democrats see the schism on the Right and believe it is opening a door for them, then they blow it by making statements and supporting positions that any sane person could tell them is a losing play. Republicans, for their part, were only too happy to take the gains which Dubya made happen, only to shun him the moment the MSM claimed he was not effective. It strikes me as an oddly fitting balance; George W. Bush has done more for the United States of America and its citizens, than most Republicans and the Democrats put together, so it makes a strange kind of sense that so many “Phants and ‘Donks would lie about him and attack his character as they do. But it also proves worth the effort, to consider why these turncoats and demagogues chose that course in the first place.

Over the past generation, a sea change has been taking place in the American political culture. People who, to be blunt, had bought into the lie that FDR’s leadership was continued in Democrats like LBJ and Carter, or even Mondale and Kerry, have largely come to their senses or been replaced by a generation that is more likely to test claims made by politicians. Democrats can no longer presume that they own whole demographic blocs, much less that the Left-tilted media will be able to fool enough people to win on a regular basis. Once the hysteria of discovering they are no longer in the majority, but actually in a condition which may fairly be described as a tailspin, the Democrats will have to decide if they are willing to do what it takes to survive. More on that in a moment.

The Republicans, for their part, have become a bit arrogant. Extremists declare themselves the “base” of the party, emit demands that are very much like Extortion in their character and practice, with the express intent of shutting down debate. So-called “moderates” ignore the will of their own people, because they vainly believe that their condition is immune to change or electoral loss. And the self-ordained “leaders” of the party are far more devoted to Machivellian intrigues than the welfare of their nation or party. Even when it is clear that a party may only retain its majority by allegiance to the promises which brought that majority into being, and to the President whose leadership made their post so much more secure, these narcissists see only their own design and purpose, and they wager everything they have or influence on the myth that their vanity counts as virtue.

It is a plain fact that most Americans are not especially enamoured of either major political party. Both parties are facing exceptional dangers, but also exceptional opportunities. And this country needs both parties, like it or not. It should be understood that the Republicans and Democrats of today have changed a lot from their progenitors, even from the variety which fought and won against the Nazis. The Democrats need a center of focus, to understand what really matters. The Republicans need to remember how they came to be the majority, and what represents the promise and the ideal in America. Name-calling and attacking the elected leadership is not sound governance, but symptoms of a serious malady. In the classic case, Liberals sought ways for government to serve the greater good against extant evil, while Conservatives sought to keep American ideals on top and the government aware that it reports to the people. Liberals have sought to reach future hopes, while Conservatives have protected traditional virtues. There is something of the mix of the Liberal and the Conservative in everyone, as the words originally meant to be used. The twisting of them, by enemies and by politicos who wanted to replace Accountability with slick Rhetoric, is a perversion which both Republicans and Democrats should eschew. The notion that a new veneer or package will do the trick is self-delusion, and only delays the much-needed repair.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Disquiet And Justice

Hate is insidious. Shortly after I wrote about the significant difference between most Muslims and the monsters who make up Al Qaeda and similar terror groups, I found a swarm of comments. Some ignored the main thrust of my argument, others went ahead and blamed Islam in total absence of any supporting evidence, and others evoked paranoid images with their fears in print. I found it peculiar that I also received a fair bit of mail on the article. For some reason the public comments were largely opposed to my point, while the private emails were unanimous in support. Doubtless, some of the haters may wish to adjust that balance by shooting off a hate mail or two.

One particularly interesting comment at Wizbang! was this one (writer left anonmymous out of courtesy):

“Do I think all muslims should be rounded up and interned/deported? No. Do I think that people from muslim controlled theocracies should be rounded up and interned/deported? Do I believe that we should stop allowing people from terrorist states entry into the US? ABSOLUTELY. Send them home, and lock the door on the way out.

Saudi Arabia exchange student programs? Cancel them. Iranian student
visas? Cancelled, return home.

I'd like to see some money spent on compiling the various sources of data that have recorded entry into the US by foreigners from terrorist nations. Once we have the data compiled, we should give that data to the US Marshall Service to track down, arrest, and intern/deport each and every immigration offender, known terrorist/terrorist ally, and foreign national from a terrorist state. Clean the books. Track them all down, and throw them out.”

Just a quick walk through that set of statements. The writer seems oblivious to the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who come to the United States from places like Iran and Syria, do so to flee from the tyranny of the reigning mullahs. Most Iranian immigrants fled the Ayatollah, for crying out loud. I am sure that Mahmoud “I Have A Bomb” Amahdinejad would be delighted if the United States chased down and forcibly brought those émigrés to the tender mercies of his idea of a police force. The same may be said of Syria, where the Baath Party still rules, in much the same way as Baathist former President Saddam Hussein did in Iraq. Strange, that the paranoid here have so much in common with the paranoid there.

Now as for interning or deporting legal residents of the United States, on exactly what grounds would that be done? I have always supported strong no-nonsense enforcement of our laws, which by the way already calls it illegal to enter the United States on false pretenses or from a hostile nation. We already try to track anyone who enters the country illegally. Why this does not work, and what should be done to fix the problem is under intense discussion. It’s quite a false suggestion to claim that anyone who does not have a (D) after their name is not intent on finding a solution, or that you are somehow the first person to discover there is a problem. But such people are prone to ‘bumper sticker’ slogans, in the stupid and malevolent idea that they have it all figured out, and that anyone who does not but 100% into their personal plan is necessarily wrong and must be attacked and destroyed.

And about those student visas. Not one of these geniuses seems to have considered why, exactly, the student visa project exists. Remember those student protests in Iran over the past two years? Here’s a clue, Sherlock: They did not get their ideas about political representation and universal suffrage from Teheran Tech, Bubba. There is a real and significant gain to be had from exposing foreign students to American education. While the political character of many universities is unfortunately leftist, regular interaction with American students and culture has a real value in advancing American interests in the Middle East and Asia. Yes, some go bad but many more go good. It’s unfortunate that so many people just refuse to look beyond the shouting. Or to put it another way – when those Muslim crowds marched in protest against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, how many of you Nimrods noticed that the marchers were similar in age, physical condition, and social class no matter where they went? It’s because the Jihadists put together those mobs from the unemployed and the dispossessed. What you did not see at those protests were doctors and engineers who went to American schools, or anyone whose life was not largely dependant on the power of the Jihadists.

There are smart, savvy ways to fight terrorism through careful use of the tools we have, and no one with a working brain is denying the threat of Islamofascism. But the notion of locking up people for their faith is stupid, cruel, unjust, and in every practical sense a loser. If we were, for example, to go after religious groups deemed to be a potential threat to the ‘American Way of Life’ as it is most commonly described, we would have to go after the Nation Of Islam, certain sects of Christian extremist communities, the Mormons, certain Catholic organizations, every survivalist group and a large chunk of Montana. We would soon after be forced to “protect” America by disarming veterans of souvenir weapons and deny any sort of protest by military veterans, on the basis that political dissent by any group experienced in combat would represent a threat to National Security.

Sound whacko? Once you decide that what a person believes should be outlawed, rather than responding to what is actually done, the cliff has already been jumped.

What troubles me the most in all of this, is how many of these hotheads do not personally know a single Muslim. They judge the whole issue by what they see on television or are told by a biased party. And we are all biased. Yes, it’s true that at the present time the heavy portion of international terrorist acts are committed by professed Muslims. But in my own lifetime, that has not always been the case. The IRA was not Muslim, nor was the Bahder-Meinhoff gang. The Weathermen of the 1960s were not Arabs nor Muslim. Going back a generation before that, Islam had nothing to do with the rise of Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin, or even Mao or Pol Pot. Idi Amin was not a Muslim. Jim Jackson did not teach Islam, nor did David Koresh. The Unabomber was not a Muslim, nor was Dr. King killed by a Muslim.

Please wake up, and see the difference between the monsters and the people. Those who cannot, are becoming monsters themselves.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Islam Is (Still) Not The Enemy

I received an email Saturday from Errol Phillips, regarding the necessary course for America to win the War on Global Terror. Phillips contends that “our leaders” are too “P.C.” to take what Phillips contends is the necessary action of “rounding up” Muslims for the safety of Americans. Otherwise, says Phillips, Americans “will have to take matters into our own hands and do what is necessary to protect our way of life and our families.”

I could not disagree more.

As I am a Southern Baptist in doctrine, and have long noted the disparity between what is taught by the Bible and by the Quran, I certainly do not agree with much that Islam claims, as a religion. That said, I cannot condone the collective demonization of nearly a billion people simply because of how they choose to serve God. There have been, according to a site which blames Islam for Islamofascism, 5,568 “deadly acts of terror” since the 9/11 attacks. Assuming this to be true, that works out to about one act of terror for every 197,557 Muslims. Since it is reasonable to believe that the same people commit these kinds of acts, the ratio is far closer to more than one million Muslims who have never committed a violent act for every Muslim who has committed one. Frankly, that speaks rather well of Islam.

So what’s going on? What I mean is, Islam has not exactly done a great job of defending its image as a religion of freedom and peace. Groups like CAIR, frankly, do more damage than support for their cause, as they cannot seem to understand that people do not trust groups which will not be accountable for the bad things done in their name. It should be remembered that Christianity had to split in half before the Roman Catholic Church, oh so grudgingly, came about to admit that the Inquisition and things like Simony and Indulgences were not very Christ-like. I mention this, because the overwhelming majority of Protestants today accept the Roman Catholics as real Christians and brothers in Christ, and see the late Pope John Paul II as a true saint. It should also be recalled that John Paul II was never shy to criticize authorities, whether the Soviets, the Americans, the Protestants – or the Catholics.

But getting back to the point, most Muslims should not be confused, at all, with the people who claim to speak for the faith, much less the extremists who think that God is impressed by a bloodbath. I know this, because in my garrulous habit of chatting up anyone willing to have a conversation with me, I have made acquaintance with a fair number of Muslims here in Houston. They tend to keep their privacy, for a number of reasons, but when they speak they often do so with a fervor and conviction I find straightforward. For the longest time, Muslims have addressed their own community, thinking of the world as pretty much an alien place. This allows fiends like bin Laden and Khomeini an open stage to claim the mantle of religious leadership, especially since Islam teaches that a man who claims moral authority he does not really receive from God is in dire peril of his soul. The soulless, of course, do not worry about that.

I also discovered that many Muslims are unsure of American motives. We value freedom, but that freedom protects pornography and obscenity. We have laws, but the rich seem to get away, literally, with murder. We offer products at good price all around the world, but it seems that we inject our culture into everything we touch. Muslims are not keen to have their daughters be seen as sex objects, their men judged mainly on their ability to make money, and their families mocked for practicing traditional beliefs and holding closely to their culture. When America speaks to the world, Muslims worry that we are giving orders, not making suggestions. So, most Muslims are reluctant to appear too supportive of America. Even those who agree with the American way of life worry that the Arab world would misunderstand them.

The false image of America in the Muslim world is hard enough to correct, but it can be done. Indeed, the changes in Iraq and Afghanistan are going a long way to prove the extremists liars. But it is imperative that the American people, even if they do not agree with the teachings of Islam, do not wrongly blame Islam for everything done in its name.

A Reminder About Polls

I have noticed that a lot of the media noise right now is about polls, Job Approval polls, estimates of leads in opinion polls, generic party preference polls, take your choice. I did a search under the News section of Google for “polls” and got 17,600 hits. Under “opinion polls elections” I got 1,490 hits. This is under ‘News’, and that’s no mistake – the media is regularly treating opinion polls as news events in themselves. Even the blogs do this, so every so often it is important to stop and go back to the basics, to understand the information in a proper and organized fashion.

To be blunt, there are good polls and there are bad polls, and I do not mean that a poll is good if it says what I want to hear, or vice versa. In fact, I may disagree with the stated conclusions of a poll, yet consider it a good one. This is because, as I judge them, a “good” poll is one which basically tells you how it got to the results it posts, especially noting the demographics of the respondent pool, the ‘ingredients’ which make the poll what it is. The really bad polls are the ones which either hide the internal data, which use an inconstant methodology, select demographic weighting significantly at odds with known standards, or which present a proprietary poll for a client but then attempt to present it to the public as an objective effort without financial influence from an outside party. It can be tricky, but after you learn which polls are consistent and reliable, you can get a better feel for what is going on.

Rule number one – don’t be fooled by headlines. More than a few agencies, especially national wire services, have a peculiar habit of taking one item from a poll and ignoring significant information. A case in point would be the recent claims of poor support for President Bush, without observing A – that the President, even at his lowest point, enjoyed significantly better support and approval than Congress, or either or the two major political parties, and B – that the President’s numbers have slowly but steadily been rising for several months. If you are going to consider the results of a poll, take the time to read everything, especially how the questions are phrased and in what order.

Rule number two – Look for a poll’s internal data, including demographics of the respondent pool and weighting. Some polls will claim that they need to protect their methodology from copying, but that’s simply dishonest. ANY poll which releases information to the public, owes support for its claims. No exceptions, no excuses. This is critical, because the balance of things like urban/suburban/rural, men to women, or race proportions has everything to do with the results. If I did a poll mostly on the East Coast, but claimed it was a national poll, that would hardly be a true statement, and if I overcounted minorities the results would unquestionably be skewed. If a poll will not give specifics and support its numbers, they are not being honest, no matter whether you like what it says or not.

Rule number three – reading a poll can be interesting, but never take any single poll by itself for your source of opinion. Always consider the results from at least three polls in any two-week period of time on any question, or you risk letting an anomaly throw you off.

And finally, rule number four - even if a poll is valid and accurate, and done with a conscientious application of accepted standards and practices, it is only a snapshot of the moment. Never count too much into any poll.