Saturday, August 12, 2006

Context In Elections

One thing about the election season; there’s always a lot of people willing to predict this or that, even half a year before the election. The thing is, they forget events that change the outcome, sometimes just the margin, but sometimes everything changes.

It’s too soon to know the impact that the aborted Air Bomb plot will have on the midterm elections, but it seems clear to me that there will be an effect. A candidate could goof by trying to make political gain on a crisis; people do not much like a politician pretending to be a security blanket. But a politician would be very foolish to try to pretend that there is not a real National Security issue raised by the continuing war on Terror. The plotters in England sent a clear rebuttal to the sneering condescension from Leftists who try to wish America back to sleep about the threat. Considering the difficulties caused by the new restrictions on carry-on luggage – think about a 2-hour wait and you can’t have a drink, cosmetics, or any number of other ‘comfort’ items to pass the time – and compare them to the broad acceptance of these conditions as necessary, and you will see that the unconscious behavior of Americans shows they understand the issue at a gut level, and they are on the President’s side in general. That does not mean that Republican ‘X’ will get any more support in his race just because of that, but if his Democrat opponent tries the now-familiar ‘terrorists are not an issue’ claim again, it will make a difference.

Every election in the same season is affected by national and international events, but it should also be remembered that every individual election has its own character. The ‘generic ballot’ is laughably stupid; people vote for specific people, not the least because neither the Republicans nor the Democrats enjoy the deep or broad confidence in their party to drive most people to vote just because of the party. Speaking a bit harshly about the modern media, I think that many of the fancy-hair media are just not willing to do the kind of digging and real investigation it would take to even figure out which races are really the competitive ones. Every election season has a few surprises, not least because the news crews spend more time and attention on makeup and lighting than in finding out what’s really on the public mind.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Now I Know Osama Is Dead

They know we are winning, and they are increasingly desperate.

The “they” I mean is Al Qaeda and the Jihadists. The “we” is the Coalition of nations which invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, and which has resolved to rid the world of one of the more pernicious threats to innocent people around the world. While I am aware that we still have very little specific information, and that there is still considerable danger – apparently a number of the action cells are still at large and presumably able and motivated to try to carry out their mission in some way – it occurs to me that the past two days has brought a great deal of good news on the strategic and tactical levels of this war. If things are as they appear, ‘we’ the people have made significant progress against ‘they’ the monsters. To illustrate this, since so many people have already pointed out that the terrorists wanted this to be another 9/11, I will point out some of the many differences which tell us some fascinating things about this war.

First, the tactics. I find myself wondering how true it is that we supposedly got an agent inside the terrorist planning. If we did, it appears to mean that the group which planned this was in such straits that they had to recruit people to join in on the plan. That’s a big change from the 9/11 attacks, which were held in close confidence – some of the hijackers themselves did not know their role in detail until right before the event – and whose planners were very careful to hand-pick team members. If there was no undercover agent, then the British and Americans are protecting some very special sources and methods, which is even better news, since that would mean we possess an effective intelligence weapon moving forward for future plans and operations. Incidentally, that’s something else I love about this – in the old days, the governments on both sides of the Atlantic had a bad habit of letting important details slip, so the creeps could learn and adapt. Not any more. I love that British officials understood enough that they could look straight at a reporter and explain, 'You don’t need to know that, boyo.'

And of course, there is the way things played out. It seems that all the planning was done at the theoretical level, with none of the physical rehearsal done for the 9/11 hijackings, nor does there seem to be the redundant personnel available or alternative plan for a fall back. No Khalid to plan this one out for the monsters.

Then there is the strategic perspective to this plan. War is not a game, where every action counts the same, and you win by making a big enough bang. The terrorists have lost their bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are having a bad time of it in many other places. The terrorists understand the loss in logistical terms, and are becoming very worried about what happens if this western notion of representative government and armies which serve the commonwealth instead of the loudest mullah catches on in a country near them. Worst of all, the terrorists realize that if the United States establishes self-supporting governments and stable infrastructures in Iraq and Afghanistan, then they can do that thing which is the Jihadists’ nightmare: They might remove their forces from those Middle Eastern territories, as friends with the people living there and the clear victors in those nations. The rhetorical support for the Jihad against the West takes a body blow and then some if and when that happens.

With that in mind, look at this operation from a strategic perspective. The Jihadists could only have hoped for one of two possible responses. They either hoped that the attacks would damage confidence in the leadership of PM Tony Blair and President George W. Bush, or they hoped that the attacks would spur the Brits and Yanks to some sort of reckless action for revenge. Anyone who has been paying attention in the past half-dozen years knows that neither scenario would have developed. Had the attacks succeeded, the American and British outrage would have coalesced into renewed understanding as a whole for why we have to fight this war, and would have led to a more determined, yet still controlled, campaign. We already understand these bastards target innocents and like to saw heads off people if there’s a camera rolling; this would have only confirmed that knowledge and shut up some of the more stupidly na├»ve speakers on the Left. The terrorists, of course, made the mistake of focusing on their own perspective and not correcting for bias, and they missed the results of the last several elections. To wit, they acted as if Al Gore were the President of the United States, not George W. Bush.

And then there is the cost of failure. Image is everything to a terrorist. Cutting off the head of a helpless hostage is an obscene sin in every culture, which is why the terrorists like it as a message – the greater the atrocity, they believe, the greater the effect of their message. While that is a sick and perverted concept, there is some evidence that it works in the Middle East, or at least works where your choice of government is between arrogant tyrants and intolerant religious fanatics. But the terrorists cannot abide failure. And an international plan which results only in the arrest of most of the planners and participants without even a single murder to brag about, well folks that’s just embarrassing for the terrorists. How do they figure on getting money and political protection if their biggest plans not only fail, but make the target governments look effective and responsible?

Osama bin Laden was a fiendish and evil man, whose plots have hurt countless people around the world, but he was a careful planner and he chose his operatives carefully. The results of this latest plan show me two things for sure; the planners in Al Qaeda or whomever is leading the Jihadist parade these days are of a distinctly poorer caliber of mind than the had before, and the West is more able and effective than before.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Rat By Choice

I have accepted that I will, in all likelihood, never enjoy the fame nor fortune of a Hewitt, a Limbaugh, or a Malkin. Part of this is due to the fact – seldom acknowledged – that for all their gushing about the New Media, these all established their names and lucrative ventures in the Old Media. Nothing at all wrong with making money and getting famous through newspapers or radio or television, but let’s be honest about it – the Blogosphere is not a center of High Finance or Mercantile industry, nor could it thrive if it became so. The Blogs exist for a variety of motives, but every successful blog comes into being because its author(s) sense a need to fill a void, correct a lie, or right a wrong, and so are unique and generally sacrifice size for agility. Some blogs will make money, and some will become widely popular, but many others must serve a different purpose.

In my case, I find that I am not very good at all as a glad-handing showman or salesman. That’s not to say I have not enjoyed success; sometime today my site is going to log visit number one hundred thousand, but I am reminded that there are many blogs which do as well in a week as I have in three years. Ah well, keeps me humble it does.

Not silent, though. I have long understood that I am a peculiar sort. A Republican who sees a place and a need for Democrats in American politics, a Fundamentalist Christian who nonetheless accepts that God has love and hope for every person, even if I do not understand the plan. An American who sees our place as one of duty as much as power, and our authority on loan from the Lord. So it is that I accept very little at face value, and pursue truth and the higher purpose wherever I can see it. It is also true, that as I am both Scots-Irish and a Texan, that I sometimes speak my mind in warm vernacular, though I try hard to avoid personal insults. I certainly receive such perjoratives in comments and my mail, which always tells me when I have hit a nerve.

Now about that title. In the Chinese Zodiac, people are categorized more by year than by month, and while I am not all that keen on Astrology, I am impressed with how many people I know who fit their Chinese “animal”. As for me, I was born in the “Year of the Rat”. Intelligent and talky, a big ego and fiercely loyal to family and friends. Yeah, that sounds about right. But you know what? That would pretty much be my choice, anyway. And like rats everywhere there are always more of us than you think, and we never really go away. OK sure, I do like to keep clean and neat, and I hire exterminators, I don’t hide from them, but the analogy works on the rhetorical level; I am one of those guys who doesn’t mind tweaking anyone who needs it, and even my own party could use a reminder from time to time that we have to measure up to the promise, not turn into just another flavor of the arrogant politicos we saw from Donkeytown for all those years. Sometimes that means reminding Malkin that she owes the President, and not vice versa. Sometimes that means pointing out the errors in even El Rushbo’s bluster when it happens – an acolyte or well-paid disciple cannot do that, but we rats will chew on whatever seems tasty. And since they are so crummy in their standards and behavior, count on the Left getting more than a munch from my teeth. I may never be a household name, but me and mine are never quite forgotten. Nor should we be.

The Word and The Gunny

And it came to pass that the Lord saw that Injustice and Tyranny were growing in the world. So to protect the right and defend the righteous the Lord spake, and said “Let there be Marines!!!

And it was very good.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Christian and Politics

I find myself just a bit depressed by the tone of political debate in America. The Left seems to demand the abolition of every traditional American and Christian value, including – almost especially – our right as free people to hold and express our faith as we see fit. The Party which speaks so much of ‘Tolerance’, shows none at all in practice.

But the Right has gone wrong, as well. Lately, the extremists in the Conservative Media, especially the Blogosphere, have produced a series of litmus tests for political reliability, a la the old Political Officers of the KGB – now there’s a model for you! – so that only the people saying the right things, and in the approved way, are deemed worthy of support. So it is that many who can talk the talk but never show any results, are lionized as some kind of ‘Champion of the Right’, even when their tactics and brittle ideology shuts down any chance for constructive dialog. And so it is, that many who do serious work, whose hearts and minds are devoted not to their ego but to the work they promised their constituents, are attacked and demeaned, even by their self-proclaimed “base”, for the sin of not playing puppet.

It seems to me not only that Condi Rice would make a good President of the United States, but that at this time in history we very much need someone of her character and abilities. It also seems to me, sadly, that she understands all too well what a nest of vipers inhabit the RNC and the various outlets of “Conservative” media, and that a person of true integrity and steadfast commitment to the nation will find few friends there. Consequently, Dr. Rice would rather have a series of root canals than enter that modern version of the Inquisition we call the Republican primaries.

This, by the way, is why the President has such trouble with getting his programs through Congress. The Rabies Wing of the GOP hates him because they claim he is not a real Conservative, which is debatable, and the Liberal leaders of the Democratic Party (Hypocrites since 1969) hate him because he is a Christian leader, and a very real one.

Even as I type that, I can hear the howls of outrage from those who deem themselves the gatekeepers to ‘True Christianity’. To my mind, that very outrage proves the falsity of such egos; Christ owns His kingdom and knows His servants, and no man has the right to hate a professed Christian. As an example, while I take issue with many specific instances of his personal conduct, I do not deny that Bill Clinton is a Christian. But looking closer, the real distinction is that aspect of Leadership. I believe President Clinton meant well, but he acted as a man, thinking and deciding on the course of the nation according to what he personally wanted to do. President Bush takes his commission as a Christian seriously, and so take the caution to consider his course in the light of Scripture, and with prayer ahead of the decision. If nothing else, this allegiance to God first has helped Bush maintain a vital sense of balance through a number of crises. In 2000, while Gore raged and both parties ranted, then-Governor Bush was surprisingly calm; the media did not understand that Bush had put his trust in the Lord, and would accept whatever God commanded. So also after 9/11; for all the lies thrown out that Bush wanted to ‘rush to war’, the plain fact evidenced by the record was that he was careful, deliberate, and made sure to warn America not to hate Islam for what only a few extremists had done. As for the war itself, I know that many on the Left cannot accept that God would command a Christian leader to go to war, but the Bible bears abundant testimony that the Lord is a King of War as well of Peace, and once one accepts that the Lord has plans for specific nations, the leaders of those nations owe their obedience to the Lord.

But there is a direct and personal responsibility for the Christian to accept. Some people choose not to vote, much less support a candidate in elections, because they do not accept that God has granted dominion to Man. Yet again, we are reminded many times in Scripture that until Christ returns to the Earth to begin His reign, God will appoint and select certain people to rule as regents; God alone is to be worshipped, but even Caesar is to be obeyed and honored. If pagan leaders are so to be obeyed and respected, how much more should we accept the leadership of a brother in Christ who is assigned his place by the Lord?

It is not right to love Democracy so much, that one demands God should step down, but the freedoms granted by God should not be abandoned simply because a man leads the country. So then the political duty of every Christian is to work for the election of men who serve God, to obey the law and work for any needed change through prayer but also through campaigning. And when God allows a man to take office through His wisdom, it is not fitting that a Christian should mock that man, for to do so is to mock God’s will. Better we should honor him whom God allows to hold authority, and to listen closely for the Lord’s will and desire. Especially when a man serves the Lord better than men are willing to admit.

Elections Are Not Scientific

Tom Delay runs for and wins the GOP Primary for his Congressional District in Texas, then decides he wants off the ballot, then two courts say he has to stay on the ballot in a race he no longer wishes to run.

Cynthia McKinney strikes a police officer, yet does not think this will impact her political future.

Joe Lieberman, once a major name in the Democrats' White House hopes, is pilloried for speaking his mind and showing respect for the troops, and loses his primary to an arrogant extremist in a nice suit.

At one time, all three of these individuals were considered very solid in their elected position, both in terms of support and personal influence. Yet once they ran into trouble, their friends and one-time allies ran for cover and denied any connection to them. Small wonder Colin Powell and Condi Rice have repeatedly declined to run for office, and the field for President in 2008 appears to include only the demented and the extremely arrogant.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Power, Enemies, Privilege, Target

Tom Delay deserves better. He wrestled the House Republicans into something like a united force, he provided the impetus for the redistricting in Texas to correct half a century of Democrat gerrymandering and race-baiting, and for all his work since 1984 he has received precious little thanks from the Republican Party, or support from the Conservative Movement.

Delay is under indictment from a political witchhunt directed by Travis County DA Ronnie Earl. The effect of this worthless case has been to smear Delay’s reputation and exhaust his financial resources and personal energy, in large part because most Republicans turned their back on Delay rather than stand with him against charges they knew to be false, indeed no better than a frivolous attack by a man known to have a grudge against a legion of political targets. Delay stood by the Party however, so that he ran in the primaries to protect the character of the district’s seat. But after winning the primary, Delay decided he’d had quite enough of the timid version of less-than-lukewarm support he had seen from his party, and the ephemeral memory of Conservatives for all he had done, and he retired, only to be told by a judge that he cannot be removed from the ballot. Now, Delay finds himself forced to return to Texas to defend his seat from a party which has deceitfully maligned and assaulted him, for the specific benefit of a party which has been glad to receive the benefits of Delay’s work, only to forget him the moment he is in need himself.

If you are a Republican, you owe Tom Delay a lot, starting with a sincere apology.

If you are a Democrat, you should hate Judge Sam Sparks, who could not see past his partisanship to let Delay quit the race. Because of this stunt, Delay will likely campaign hard for his seat, because Delay is nothing if not a fighter and a man of his ideals. Despite the way the GOP deserted him, Delay will not surrender his seat to a Democrat, nor let the lies and dirty tricks they have played in trying to steal this district.

Whatever happens, Tom deserves better.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fingers, Wind, and Fate: The Lieberman-Lamont Dilemma

A lot of analysts and bloggers have pointed to the Senate primary in Connecticut between incumbent Joe Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont as the bellwether for the Democratic Party’s direction, leadership focus, and future. Something about that notion bothers me.

The first problem is the state. Connecticut is not America. That is, one should not think that what happens in Connecticut represents the national trend. True, John Kerry emerged from New England, and so did Michael Dukakis, so to some extent New England is a cradle for Democratic aspirants, but considering how each candidate fared, this is not a salient indicator of political strength.

Next is the question of issues. Basically, it seems Lamont has one chord to play:“Iraq”. Considering that the 2002 and 2004 elections amounted to referendums on Iraq (and the Democrats at both times said so), it does not seem to me the wisest strategy for a general course, especially given the events in the Middle East as a whole. Americans understand that the maniacs in Syria and Iran cannot be allowed to expand their Jihad the way they plan, and Americans support Israel’s right to defend itself – they are more than willing to choose a course which the Arab world and yellow-flag Europe cannot stomach. The Democrats are clearly on the wrong side of this issue, and even if they win in Connecticut, they will find this tune hard to sell in most of America. America is a nation which loves Marines, not the timid or bitter whiners we see in the ranks of the Left.

Continuing with the issues, one wonders why Connecticut Democrats have not noticed Lamont’s weak spots with the key issues. It is not really that hard to note that Connecticut voters, like the nation as a whole, worry about their finances, their taxes, the cost of oil and gas, and the safety of our borders. It may be that the average Connecticut voter doesn’t like President Bush very much, but it’s fairly foolish to think the voter is eager to spend more on taxes, or put his family at risk just to “send a message”.

Then there is Schlesinger. Rumors are bouncing around that the Connecticut GOP wants Schlesinger to quit his race, which would open up the race for a bigger name to jump in. No, I don’t seriously think that the Democrat nominee will lose in November, but then again, how stupid do you have to be to not only whack a former VP nominee and sitting Senator, on the basis of his personal opinion on one issue, but also attack him so foully that he considers a run as an Independent. The only way a GOP candidate for the Senate could win in November, is if the Democrats made it possible for 35-38% of the vote to win. By the methods they chose to attack Lieberman, the Democrats have made that a real possibility. I cannot believe that the national Democrats would make such a suicidal strategy their overall platform.

Of course, the Will of God – or Fate if you prefer - may well be playing a part in this. It is my strictly personal opinion that we have been blessed with the leadership of the Republican Party, rather than the Democrats, especially with men like Ronald W. Reagan and George W. Bush, because God wished it so. No, that doesn’t make God a Republican. It just means the Elephants annoy Him a bit less than the Donkeys do.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Religious Thoughts

I have been reading up on the Mel Gibson scandal. Strange to me, how a few words from a man clearly not in control of his mouth are deemed more worthy of condemnation than the deliberate bombardment of civilians nation by literally thousands of missiles from a terrorist organization.

But it also reminds me, that when one discusses religious thought, reasonable discussion, especially the sort where mutual respect is observed, quickly proves beyond hope. I have noticed that some people cannot show any respect to differing beliefs, even within the same faith. What I mean is, I have been doing some reading on the Biblical book of “Revelation”. Not surprisingly, there is a wide range of thought on what that book means, but unfortunately there is also a good deal of anger and hatred on the subject. Protestants blaming Catholics and vice versa, a lot of Fundamentalist accusations against “watered-down” Christianity, any many cruel and false things said about the Fundamentalists as well. After reading some of this, and considering the sorts of things done in the name of Christ in the past two thousand years, I am not nearly surprised that the Muslims now find themselves using the Quran to try to excuse the most ungodly and monstrous acts.

I have in mind more to write about the different sects and denominations, as well as a few thoughts about the book of Revelation, but for now I would just remind every one of us in Christ, that we are brothers and sisters, and should show our love for the Father through love for each other.

Justice Or What?

Down here in Houston, the case of former TSU President Priscilla Slade is in the news. The news has all but called for tar and feathering, and I admit that for just a moment I actually bought into it. After all, the woman had a high-paying and prestigious job as President of university, she lived in a fine mansion and is accused of violating the public trust and almost bankrupting the university. I should mention here that TSU – Texas Southern University – is a mostly-black university which serves comparatively low-income students for the most part, and so financial irregularities at TSU would impact the school more severely than most other universities. In plain words, the woman is accused not only of taking university money and property for her own benefit and enjoyment, but in doing so jeopardized the education and futures of thousands of students who can ill afford such abuse.

But here in Houston, Councilman and would-be Congressman Michael Berry is questioning the possible sentence Slade might receive if found guilty. I do not totally agree with Berry’s argument – after all, just because other people have received too light a sentence, does not mean everyone should also get off. I also think that the context of an offence should be considered; far too many white-collar criminals get off easily, and yes, sometimes that means the county or the state should make an example of someone who violates a position of trust like this. Bear in mind, of course, that at this point Slade has only been indicted, not even tried, so there’s not a lot of evidence which is known, just a lot of talk.

But Berry raises a good question, and one which should make everyone cringe a bit. Whether Old-School or New Age, Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, we should all be able to recognize that the system does not always work, and even when it does it is far from perfect. Anything designed by humans will have errors, and Berry raises the key question about our Criminal Justice system – what do we want it to do, and why? I had to think again about that question, and I commend such contemplation to everyone.