Friday, April 23, 2004

NFL, U.S. officials on Tillman

Sen. John McCain: 'I am heartbroken today by the news of Pat Tillman's death. The tragic loss of this extraordinary young man will seem a heavy blow to our nation's morale, as it is surely a grievous injury to his loved ones.
'Many American families have suffered the same terrible sacrifice that Pat's family must now bear, and the patriotism that their loved ones' exemplified is as fine and compelling as Pat's. But there is in Pat Tillman's example, in his unexpected choice of duty to his country over the riches and other comforts of celebrity, and in his humility, such an inspiration to all of us to reclaim the essential public-spiritedness of Americans that many of us, in low moments, had worried was no longer our common distinguishing trait.
'When Pat made his choice to leave the NFL and became an Army Ranger, he declined requests for interviews because he viewed his decision as no more patriotic than that of his less fortunate, less renowned countrymen who loved our country enough to volunteer to defend her in a time of peril. It is that first lesson of patriotism that we should reaffirm in our own lives as we celebrate the courageous life and mourn the heroic death of this most honorable American.'

Victor Davis Hanson says the choice between myth and reality is ours once more.

Read Victor Davis Hanson's latest. The important question he asks is, "But the lingering question — one that has never been answered — was always our attention and will. The administration assumed that in occasional times of the inevitable bad news, we were now more like the generation that endured the surprise of Okinawa and Pusan rather than Tet and Mogadishu. All were bloody fights; all were similarly controversial and unexpected; all were alike proof of the fighting excellence of the American soldiers — but not all were seen as such by Americans. The former were detours on the road to victory and eventual democracy; the latter led to self-recrimination, defeat, and chaos in our wake."

Former NFL Star is killed in Afghanistan

It just broke that former Arizona Cardinals' safety Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. His death is no more tragic than the hundreds of others, but his is an example of someone who had it all, but gave it up to serve his country. He is only one example of those who fight for us.

Howard Fineman takes stock of the Prez Race

Newseek's Howard Fineman has 9 reasons Why the Race is Looking so Good for Bush. Fineman is always worth a read because he has a good sense of what is politically important, and when he is wrong, he says so. For instance, under his second reason:

Fallujah and Najaf. Politics is a game of context. And for now, this early in the campaign, the context isn’t Bush versus Kerry—it’s Bush versus the murderers and thugs. The first reaction of Americans wasn’t “what were those contractors doing in Fallujah in the first place?” It was “we must punish the beasts who killed and savagely mutilated them.” As a political analyst, my first thought was: All this video is bad for Bush, because it makes his Iraq policy look like a failure. I was wrong, of course. [He] may pay politically for Iraq at some point, but not right now. For now, it’s still rally ’round the commander-in-chief, if for no other reason than to show that we are not Spain.

The final reason Fineman gives is probably the one that won't change:
Kerry, of course. John Kerry is durable, unflappable and determined. He works to be in the right place at the right time, and often is. He has no illusions about his own star power or charisma. He is a wooden campaigner, and his 20 years in the Senate have left him unable to see that bragging about legislative maneuvers is the last thing you want to do. Kerry explained to supporters recently that he’d voted for the $87 billion before he’d voted against it. In his mind, evidently, he was merely explaining (with a mordant sense of humor) how the Senate works. But now that line is the centerpiece of a BC04 attack ad. Kerry told financial supporters in New York the other week that his objective, for now, was to “preserve my acceptability.” That’s a pretty low standard—but one he won’t meet if that is his only goal. So far, his strategy has amounted mostly to: Vote for me, I’m not Bush. That’s not enough, especially if Kerry is seen by most voters the way the BC04 ad portrays him: as a flip-flopping manipulative insider.

More state benefits where they shouldn't be

Dan Yorke of WPRO AM 630 was outraged yesterday afternoon about Edward Achorn's piece on RI school committees in yesterday's ProJo. Achorn wrote:
I was surprised -- perhaps you will be too -- to learn that members of some of the state's local school committees collect thousands of dollars in stipends, and many more thousands worth of benefits, including free health insurance, free dental plans, life insurance, legal services, even pensions and free health insurance for life.
It all seems an expression of Rhode Island's me-first culture, where everybody takes all they can from taxpayers, and few stop to think about how that affects the common good.
Just look at East Providence.
That city, like much of Rhode Island's urban core, faces serious financial problems.
Its taxpayers are confronting an extra tax hike, because its schools are spending $1.3 million more than budgeted. Some officials asked teachers to forgo part of their contracted raises of 3.6 percent this year, but they probably will not do so.
How are East Providence's schools performing? Its high school had the state's poorest rating. Its middle school is one step up from that, still six steps lower than top-performing.
Yet, East Providence has short school days. When the hours and minutes are added up, its teachers work the equivalent of 2 weeks less a year than their counterparts in Barrington, for roughly the same pay.
Who would negotiate contracts this way?
The East Providence School Committee. And one has to wonder if members negotiate the way they do, at least in part, because they're in on the taxpayer-funded spoils.
The members of the East Providence School Committee are eligible for free (to them) Blue Cross health coverage -- including the family plan, worth about $12,000 a year. Indeed, they negotiate their own health benefits, because the bargain they strike for teachers goes to them, too.

So, we have another example of Rhode Islanders taking from the till. Combine this with the recent home day care worker call for being declared unionized state workers (to get the good benefits) and a clear mindset is discernable. It seems apparent that many Rhode Islanders believe the best job is a State Job (heck, they're probably right!), and who care's who pays as long as I get mine. Luckily, a court upheld the Governor's request to stay the Labor Boards approval of the unionization move. On Monday, Gov. Carcieri applauded the stay, saying:

"Let me reiterate that our appeal has nothing to do with child care providers, or their right to unionize. I respect the important work that they do, as well as their right to organize. This case is about one thing: the labor board's breathtaking and unprecedented decision to unilaterally create 1,300 new state workers. The State Labor Relations Board does not possess the authority to make such a sweeping decision."

We can only hope that someone starts looking into these school board benefits, and those of the legislature for that matter, soon.

Thursday, April 22, 2004 :: Official Blog

Hey, two posts in one day...anyway, I figured a quick mention of the Official Bush Blog was in order. I'll be adding it to my permalinks on the right soon.

I'm still alive...just busy.

I'm still around, just real busy. Work and an academic presentation are dominating my time now. A couple weeks and things will pick up again around here. Promise.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Music to their ears: B's fans cheer Canadian national anthem

I had a feeling the B's fans would be respectful of the Canadian national anthem during last night's game. The game was a stinker, the message sent was not. When confronted by classless acts, you prove your point be rising above and showing those who committed the offense how they should act. It serves a dual purpose. It shows you're better than they, and hopefully teaches them a lesson. We'll see what happens in Montreal tomorrow night.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Anthem bashing blemish: Habs fans taint victory

Well, my ancestral home is at it again. My "cousins" north of the border have seen fit to disgrace themselves again by booing the U.S. National Anthem[Boston Herald]. Now, not all feel this way of course, one is Quebec native Martin Lapointe who registered his disgust:
"I really think it's a lack of respect. Those Americans are out their in Iraq, fighting for the United States. There's no respect there,'' the Bruins' assistant captain said following the B's 3-2 loss in Game 3. "I would encourage the fans to be better next game, because it's not the way to do it.
Am I embarrassed? Yes, I am,'' he went on. "There's no need for that. The national anthem should be respected. What they did tonight . . . I feel ashamed.''
As do I, even as far removed as I am from my "homeland." Yet, I can't help but think that there are many in this country who have let their hatred for President Bush so consume them that they secretly wish they could do the same as their "enlightened" northern neighbors.

Friday, April 09, 2004

John McCain on Iraq & Vietnam

I disagree with him on much, like the campaign finance fiasco he championed, but when it comes to matters of national defense and the military, I trust him. Check out John McCain on Iraq & Vietnam (courtesy of National Review Online).

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson Thinks we should pull out of Europe

Tangential to my below post, and something that speaks to the argument that we may not have enough "boots on the ground" in Iraq, is this piece by Victor Davis Hanson on the U.S. Military and Europe on National Review Online. It's a long piece, but its point is that we should do away with all of the entrenched arguments concerning why we need Europe, Bush is bad for our relationship, etc. etc., ad naseum. Instead, Hanson concludes: "We wish to save Europe by leaving it, to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance by altering it, and to encourage maturity and responsibility by ending dependency. Begging miffed Europeans to help in Iraq or Afghanistan in real numbers while tens of thousands of Americans are stationed in Europe is the stuff of fairy tales. The sham should end now, for the well-being of everyone involved." I suppose I may have broken a cardinal blogging rule by giving the conclusion of an above-linked piece. Ah well. I urge you to read it in full.

Don't let the Apoplectic media weaken your resolve

I endured Jay Severin and Don Imus on consecutive commutes being hypercritical of the President because of the recent troop deaths in Iraq, which resulted from the current uprisings in Baghdad, Fallujah, and other places. Both of these radio hosts were opposed to going into Iraq in the first place; they continue to be and, Severin in particular, seem to have their ego and career wrapped up in feeling they are always "right" about everything all of the time. Severin in particular likened the ugly display in Fallujah to the events depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down. Well, the author of the book that inspired the movie, Mark Bowden, has written a column (found at OpinionJournal) comparing Fallujah to the events in his book and lynchings in Marion, Georgia in 1930.

In essence, Bowden wrote that all three incidents, Marion, Mogadishu, Fallujah, were public displays of a lack of respect for the dead. All societies revere the dead and such displays serve to dehumanize and purposedly insult the memory of those so displayed. Bowden points out that, "Lynching is deliberate. It is opportunistic rather than purely spontaneous, and it has a clear intent: to insult, to challenge and to frighten the enemy, and to excite and enlist allies." The first point seems obvious, but the second is just as, if not more, important to the lynchmob. It is meant to show those that are sympathetic to them but afraid to act that action is possible. The horrific display demonstrates the commitment of the lynchmob; they wouldn't go to such great lengths if they didn't believe in the justness of their cause, after all. It also challenges those who disagree with them as the display is meant to say "Join us or we consider you our enemy." The best case is that their numbers will strengthen, the worst is that their opponents will be silenced by intimidation and fear. As Bowden wrote, "It is a mistake to conclude that those committing such acts represent a majority of the community. Just the opposite is true. Lynching is most often an effort to frighten and sway a more sensible, decent mainstream. In Marion it was the Ku Klux Klan, in Mogadishu it was Aidid loyalists, in Fallujah it is either diehard Saddamites or Islamo-fascists."

Bowden also wrote that, obviously, the worse thing the U.S. could do was back down, as we did in Somalia. We had won the day, but then we pulled out. "The U.S. did nothing, effectively abandoning the field to Aidid and his henchmen. Somalia today remains a nation struggling in anarchy, and the America-haters around the world learned what they thought was a essential truth about the United States: Kill a few Americans and the most powerful nation on Earth will run away. This, in a nutshell, is the strategy of Osama bin Laden." Finally, according to Bowden, "It's time for opponents of the war to get real. [emphasis added] Pictures like those we saw from Fallujah last week should horrify us, but they should also anger us and strengthen our resolve. The response should not be to back away from the task, but to redouble our efforts."

I also listened to Bowden interviewed this morning on the new talk show Morning in America with Bill Bennett. He was essentially a discussion (or rehash) of the above column, but a couple other cogent points were made. First, the U.S. has a strong moral commitment to people of Iraq, regardless of how we got there. To withdraw too soon would probably mean civil war and an Islamo-fascist regime, supported by Iran and Hezzbolah, led by Muqtada al-Sadr (go here for a fine article on Sadr). Additionally, Bowden believes that it doesn't matter who's President, we have to stick with it and both Kerry or Bush will. He reasoned that, since we have a commitment in Iraq and have a history of abandoning them, up until the point that we have evidence they want us out, we have an obligation to stay. He thinks Kerry would have a hard time extracting and he said he'd be "shocked" if he ordered the U.S. to pull out before the job was done. Bennett also mentioned how the allusions to Vietnam weren't helpful, but Bowden said that may be true, but the spectre of Vietnam is a legitimate fear and can make us wiser in our approach. Finally, Bowden commented that, if things in life were certain, it'd be simple, but we don't know. The effort in Iraq is worth undertaking.

Ralph Peters at the NY Post believes we didn't act fast enough in Fallujah, and says that our fundamental misunderstanding of the Arab mind has caused us lives. First, Peters is one who believes we have too few troops on the grounds. He also thinks that the Bush Administration's "notion that patience and persuasion are more effective than displays of power has made the country deadlier for our soldiers, more dangerous for Iraqis and far less likely to achieve internal peace." Further, the American penchant for compromise is viewed by our Islamic enemies in Iraq and elsewhere as a sign of weakness in that they perceive comprimise a weakness in conviction. They translate this to war and, according to Peters, the displays in Fallujah are aimed at weakening those convictions they think we hold so tenuously to begin with.

Peters points out, correctly to my mind, that "Sadr's militia should have been disarmed and disbanded in the earliest days of the occupation. Sadr himself should have been arrrested for his inflammatory preaching. But we were afraid to stir up trouble." Peters is probably right, but that is a bit of Monday Morning QBing if you ask me. Anyway, to continue, Peter's thinks that after the atrocities in Fallujah, "we made another inexcusable mistake. The Marines, who expected to control a major city with a single battalion, failed to respond immediately. The generals up above seconded the decision. The chain of command was concerned about possible ambushes and wanted to let the situation burn itself out. The generals in Baghdad proclaimed, in mild voices, that we'd respond at the time and in a manner of our choosing. In a textbook military sense, it was the correct response. On a practical level, it was the worst possible decision." This was taken as an encouraging sign of weakness by Sadr's militia. Finally, Peters, echoing a point made by Severin yesterday afternoon, wrote that, "To possess the strength to do what is necessary, but to refuse to do it, is appeasement. Since Baghdad fell, our occupation has sought to appease our enemies - while slighting our Kurdish allies. Our attempts to find a compromise with a single man - the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani - have empowered him immensely, while encouraging intransigence in others. Weakness, not strength, emboldens opponents - and creates added terrorist recruits."

What Peters wrote is all true, but it is a bit of a hindsight argument now. Severin, and possibly Peters, would argue that they knew all along that this would happen given the situation. Good for them. Severin accused President Bush of war crimes for misconduct in the war. That is a bit much, I think, but I don't intend on dwelling on either Severin or Imus. I just want to point out that these characters should be listened to warily. Don't forget that they are also in the entertainment industry. 'Nuff said on them.

My final point is centered on an interesting point about Sadr's militia uprising brought to my attention by a column by Jay Currie at Tech Central Station. (First, though, he points to another good background article at the Christian Science Monitor concerning Sadr's brand of Shiite Islam.) Curry mentioned that Steven den Beste has written about how Sadr may have miscalculated the timing of his uprising. According to den Beste, the Fallujah incident has now given the U.S. and excuse to clean up Fallujah. Also, den Beste believes since "al-Sadr and his supporters have risen in open rebellion. . . . we no longer have to put up with them. It means more hard fighting, and more casualties. The next couple of months will see the worst fighting in Iraq since the invasion. Once it's over, the situation overall will be immeasurably better." Curry summarized that, "Al Sadr's mistake is twofold. First to rise in rebellion when there is an occupying force which can take you out without any serious difficulty. Second, political timing." If al-Sadr had waited until the June 30th handover, he could have taken advantage of fought against an Iraqi provisional government which would have been reluctant to use American troops against Iraqis. "The great balancing act for the putative provisional government will be to prevent the Shi'ites from using their majority to overwhelm the various minorities in Iraq. Sending in the Americans to take out al-Sadr is the last thing a provisional government struggling to establish its legitimacy could afford to do as it would almost certainly further radicalize Shi'ites. Had al-Sadr simply been patient he might well have continued to push the moderate Shi'ite leadership away from compromise; now his rebellion clears the way for the moderates to call for peace while praying the Americans will rid them of this troublesome priest. And his militia."

We can only hope. But what we must do is stay the course. Others can accuse the President of holding to a ridiculous mantra, but they are wrong. It is the truth, it is clear. We cannot back down, we cannot pull out. Iraq must taste democracy on its own. There is nothing to be gained by abandoning it to radical Islamo-fascism. We have a state like that now, Iran, one of the biggest terror-supporting states in the world. Is that what we really want?