Yesterday was a great day for the United States of America. In case you (like this guy used to do) have been living in a cave the past few days, the al-Qaeda leader behind the 9/11 terror attacks, Osama bin Laden, has been killed. After a nearly 10-year manhunt, most Americans are joyful today. While his death will not bring about the end of terrorism, it is an important symbolic victory in the continuing (if not in name) War on Terror. From the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to the 2000 USS Cole bombing, Osama bin Laden had hit at American interests several times. 9/11 was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and we began trying to get him in earnest. I have great hopes that the intel that was gathered during the mission will enable us to complete the work of dismantling the terror network for good.
Pakistan, you’ve got some questions to answer as well. Why did it take us not telling you about an operation for it to finally work?
And, a note to my Christian friends quoting Proverbs 24:17-18…
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, 18 lest the Lord see it and be displeased,
and turn away His anger from him.
- Proverbs 24:17-18(ESV)
Is the Lord going to bring Osama bin Laden back to life? I think not. This act was an act of vengeance, I’ll not argue that point; however, it was also an act of defense. I will sleep better knowing that this person has begun meeting justice, and will be meeting it for eternity. As a Christian, I am sad that another soul has died with Christ; however, nothing I read in Scripture indicates that evil has unlimited chances to repent. In fact, the Bible says that all men are without excuse. His death will save lives long-term.
I leave you with the scene unfolding as David and the Israelite army return from battle, David having just slain Goliath.
6 As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. 7 And the women sang to one another as they celebrated…
- 1 Samuel 18:6-7a (ESV)
There is absolutely no reason that we cannot rejoice in this military victory for our nation. As a nation, we haven’t had a lot of bright spots lately, so this one is probably amplified because of that. God has delivered him into our hands - why should we not rejoice?
This is the middle post of my three-post “Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” The linked words in that title will take you to the other two posts. Here are the things that I considered bad in 2010.
Wikileaks began as a whistleblower website, where people could release information about injustices. In 2010, they made a leap into classified government documents. Purportedly stolen by PFC Bradley Manning, these documents were not only embarrassing for some government agencies, the information contained in those documents identified informants and other non-public allies in the War or Terror. While the creator of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is currently in custody (due to some somewhat-questionable sex crime charges), there is little legal enforceability on a citizen of another country disclosing secrets of another. Several US companies have severed ties with the site, and kudos to them for that; however, I believe that the net result of this will be bad.
What I’ve identified as the most ridiculous quote of 2010 (“We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it”) was spoken in reference to this bill. Going by the formal name of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (colloquially known as “Obamacare”), this bill enacted many reforms to our health care system, most notably in the area of insurance coverage. The bill mandates that all people purchase and retain health care insurance (a provision already rule unconstitutional), stipulates that insurers must cover preexisting conditions and may not drop insured people for certain conditions, and provides for the creation of a public co-op. There may be more, but at 1,300+ pages, who knows?
We are already seeing the unintended consequences of this legislation. Insurance rates are going up, with many companies raising rates 25% or more. This shouldn’t catch anyone by surprise; what is called “insurance” in the bill is more like a membership. Insurance is a bet against bad things happening, which is the entire reason preexisting conditions aren’t covered. Where’s the bet when you know the outcome? Insurance rates are not designed for this type of use. (Conspiracy theorists could speculate that those who passed the law knew this. They really wanted public control, but the people didn’t want it - instead, they passed a bill that will bankrupt the insurance companies. Then, who rides in to save the day? Liberal government!)
Insurance is but one of the problems with this bill; there are many others where the unintended consequences outweigh the intended benefits. Hopefully, the 112th Congress can undo this monstrosity before most of its provisions become effective. Until then, though, this remains on the bad list.
The FCC Implements Net Neutrality
“Net neutrality” is the concept that network service providers (ISPs, cell carriers, etc.) must treat all network traffic equally. This means that they cannot favor certain types of packets (ex. their own video streaming) while slowing down other packets (ex. competitors’ video streaming, voice over IP). While, on the surface, this sound good, it fails to take into account bandwidth considerations, and the consequences of that bandwidth being used up. A TV signal can be broadcast through the air, and whether one TV or a million TVs receive the signal, the signal is the same; however, the same signal received over the Internet must be duplicated once for each end point receiving it - it is a request-response network. It’s not as cut-and-dried of an issue as some of its more ardent supporters would like to paint it.
Congress has failed to implement net neutrality legislation, and courts have ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has no jurisdiction to implement it on its own. That didn’t stop the intrepid FCC, which issued net neutrality guidelines near the end of the year. Hopefully 2011 will find these regulations to be unenforceable; as it stands now, though, these regulations are bad, and have the potential to slow innovation around the network.
(Disclaimer: The President, as Commander in Chief, can set whatever policies he desires. Congress, as the body that creates law, can create whatever laws its members want. Nothing you may read below is targeted at any particular officeholder; it is my analysis of this policy. Furthermore, this analysis represents my personal analysis, and should not be construed to be official policy of any governmental entity. Feel free to comment; however, any comments that are derogatory to me personally or groups in general, either here or on Facebook, will be deleted without comment - stick with the issues or stay silent.)
Well, it looks like Wednesday is the day. What has passed Congress, and will be signed by the President, repeals the 1993 law mandating that homosexuals could serve in the military, provided they did not reveal their sexual orientation. This doesn’t mean that tomorrow is the military’s “coming out” day or anything; it simply means that the 1993 law is gone. It appears, though, that there is significant political pressure from the top down to somehow integrate a path to allow openly gay servicemembers in the United States military. I have a problem with this. Well, I actually have several problems with this.
1. Open shower bays must be replaced.
The reason male and female military members do not shower together is self-evident. While there are many things military members are asked to sacrifice, the indignity of showering with someone who considers you a potential sexual partner has not been one of those sacrifices. If this goes through, that changes. I would think that military spouses would be all over this for that very reason. Maybe they are, but nobody has asked them. I don’t know if female members feel this way, but I know that this male does. The way the male mind thinks about sex cannot be discounted; as one of the three major drives of humans, it cannot be ignored. Men are more forward, and are more apt to make passes at the object of their desire. Putting heterosexuals in this position is something the military should not do. It happens - I can attest from personal experience. However, I have yet to have that experience as a military member.
Open dorm bays present similar problems, but not nearly the magnitude of the showers. The entire living condition thing should be addressed, but IMO, the showers are the biggest deal.
2. Homosexuality, like it or not, is a security risk.
Part of being in the military requires a security clearance. The existence of anything over which one could be blackmailed (excessive debt, arrests, etc.) is a huge red flag. Even gays who are “out” may not be completely out - there may be people that they have refrained from telling (for whatever reason - doesn’t really matter). Even with openly homosexual military members allowed, there may be closeted gays, due to the social stigma. This is something over which they can be blackmailed. Allowing known security risks to appease a social agenda is not a choice that a nation that’s serious about it’s survival makes. (Of course, this is the same government that’s staged the largest “security theater” in history - but I digress.)
3. Homosexuals have a higher incidence of HIV than heterosexuals.
A politically-incorrect truth, but truth nonetheless. The military teaches first aid as a part of normal pre-deployment training, and it’s quite useful. In addition to all the other battlefield risks, now we would be exposing servicemembers to the potential of acquiring HIV in the course of saving their buddy’s life. Either that, or HIV becomes a non-deployable condition - and, if you’re not deployable, today’s military doesn’t want you. However, there are rules in place preventing dismissal due to medical conditions - how’s that lawsuit going to go, the first time a gay military member is discharged for contracting HIV?
4. The military is not a place for social experimentation.
Using the military for social experiments is certainly popular. To what other group of people can you give moderately-nonsensical orders, and have them do their best to carry them out? However, this argument remains, in spite of how many are tried before. It doesn’t matter to me how many other nations allow openly gay members - isn’t the United States military supposed to be better than all the other militaries in the world? Doing something just because some other military does it is ridiculous; when it doesn’t pertain to something that will actually help us win wars, it’s doubly so. I do not, for the life of me, understand the left’s fascination with Europe. We’ve kicked the butt of every European country we’ve fought! Why are we trying to emulate them?
But back to the social experiment. I am absolutely convinced that this is a back door (pardon the pun) for gay marriage. Why? Because it’s a slippery slope (and, despite those who scoff at slippery slopes, they do exist, and this is a big one). Gay servicemembers will want dependent privileges for their significant others. They can do this either by recognizing a same-sex “spouse”, or by allowing servicemembers to designate a person to receive benefits in lieu of a spouse (let’s call them ILOS). If it’s the former, there’s a whole “The military does it!” chorus; if it’s the latter, that will lead to even more expense, with uncertainty for the ILOS. Either way, it’s a losing proposition.
5. Military service is a privilege, not a right.
There are many reasons someone may be disqualified from military service - why is homosexuality different? Over 10 times the number who have been discharged for homosexuality, on average, are discharged due to weight. For non-combat positions, who cares? Obviously, the military does - you can be the best at your job, but if you can’t meet this standard, they’ll be happy to have you as a contractor. Military standards have been developed over centuries, and represent what is necessary to defend our nation. I have yet to see the warfighting case for allowing openly gay servicemembers. The military isn’t fair; fair doesn’t win wars.
6. Many people find homosexuality morally abhorrent.
I guess I’m just all kinds of politically incorrect on this one. However, I know I speak for myself and lots of other people when I say that I do not want my children around homosexual couples. Am I going to have to keep them from the bowling alley, the commissary, the exchange? Where does a military member’s right to free exercise of religion end and another’s right to free expression begin? Furthermore, I can tell you that just like I can’t make somebody a Christian by taking them to church, you will not change my mind on this, even if I’m assigned to an otherwise-gay organization. I have this quaint belief that words mean things, and when my God calls it an abomination, I’m pretty clear about what He means.
Going into this without addressing these (and other) concerns would be foolhardy at best. Even with these concerns addressed, this is simply not a priority, not important, and will not help us defend this nation. The lawsuits alone will wreak havoc on the military. The military knows what sort of people it needs to accomplish its mission, and it should be free to define those parameters without regard to whose feelings get hurt. Since when is the military supposed to care about feelings, anyway?
So where does this leave us? Remember, as I said above under #4, the military will do their best to carry out the orders and still do their job. That’s how we roll. I hope these speed bumps don’t slow our rolling too much.
Today is 9 years removed from September 11th, 2001. There is a lot going on today - fall Saturdays are typically sports days, and today is no different. There are lots of big match-ups in college football, and NASCAR wraps up its regular season tonight, locking in the drivers that will be competing for the championship over the following 10 races. There was a lot going on 9 years ago as well, although as a Tuesday, that day’s scheduled entertainment was in music, not sports; Michael W. Smith’s Worship and Enya’s A Day Without Rain were both released on that date. (It’s almost as if God knew that we were going to need them in the weeks to come.)
Of course, I’m not writing today to celebrate the 9th anniversary of Worship, though that album did revolutionize Christian music (not the first time Michael W. Smith had done that). It is remembered for the actions of a rogue band of terrorists, who turned that day into a day of great loss for our nation. It is remembered for the collapses in security that led to what is still both the worst terrorist attack on America, and the worst airline disaster in our history.
There are lots of directions that this post could go. I could talk about the absolutely horrendous idea of building a worship center for the religion under whose auspices the attacks were carried out mere blocks from the site of the attack; but, from my description, you probably can tell how I feel about that. I could also talk about the idiot in Florida who wanted to have the “Bonfire of the Qur’ans” today; but, again, I’ve probably communicated how I feel just now. I am thankful to God that he has decided against this.
But, today, in between games, cookouts, and races, all I’d like for us all to do is remember. Remember the lives of those who were simply doing their job that sunny September morning. Remember the lives of the police and fire personnel who ran into the building when others were running out. Remember those who were left with the choice of staying where they are and being burned to death, or jumping 100 stories to their death. Remember how the only thing you wanted to do was hold your family tight. Remember the over 3,000 military personnel who have lost their lives in the aftermath of this attack, in counter offenses in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember the pain. That pain reminded people just how good we have it here, and for a time, united nearly all of us around the defense of our country.
When you’re through remembering, turn to praise. Praise God that we have to go back 9 years to remember a successful large-scale terrorist attack on our soil. Praise God for leaders who made some tough decisions that have resulted in our protection. Praise God for the freedom we still have in this country. And finally, praise God that you were not among those who perished on that day, and resolve to accomplish what He left you here to do.
Note - This tribute is part of Project 2996, a blogosphere-wide effort to ensure that none of the Americans whose lives were taken on September 11, 2001 are forgotten. See the entire list at their site, linked in the previous sentence.
It is a crisp late summer morning. A couple is parting ways at an airport. While that’s not an altogether uncommon sight, for Neil and Ellen Mariani, it would be the last time they would see one another. Neil was 59 years old; 4 of those years he had spent serving his country in the United States Air Force, and many more years working for HP Hood Dairy, from where he had retired. An avid photographer, he was known for his ever-present Minolta camera - he even developed his own film!
His step-daughter was engaged to be married on September 15, 2001, and he had decided to go out to California to attend the wedding. He made this decision at the last minute, so he and Ellen had different flights; Ellen had a layover in Chicago, while Neil had the cross-country UA 175 flight. Ellen wrote a letter to her husband after the wedding, and rather than put it in my words, I’ll put in hers.
I, as your wife, have searched for sane answers to what happened on that beautiful, sunny, warm Tuesday, September 11, 2001. You, Neil, were so tanned and fit, happy to be leaving with me before dawn for Boston’s Logan Airport. You and I were traveling on separate planes to the California wedding of my daughter, Gina, your step-daughter. You decided to go out for the wedding at the very last minute, and to help pay for the ticket, we held garage sales together.
Neil, I will never forget when we said goodbye at Boston Airport. Neil, you as a gentleman were always carrying heavy items for me, and that morning, you carried inside the terminal two large boxes full of toys for our grand-kids that were to be there for the wedding as flower girl and ring bearer.
You kissed me at the curb and said goodbye. Then you kissed me again inside and said “See you, Ellen. I’ll arrive three minutes after your plane lands,” and walked away. But suddenly, you came back, gave me a third kiss and a big hug. It was then I noticed you seemed nervous. I thought it was because you were not used to flying. You then said goodbye for the third time, then left. I looked back to catch a last glance at you, Neil, but you were gone and out of sight.
Neil, you never made it to California for Gina’s wedding that September 15, 2001. I left two hours before you and had a scheduled layover in Chicago. It was there that I found out what had happened to you. Your plane, United Airlines Flight 175, had crashed into the second tower of the World Trade Center. You, my husband, were gone in a ball of fire. The September 15th wedding of Gina’s went on in defiance of what had happened on September 11th.
Now as I stood as a new widow of four days, Gina asked me to give her away to be married. I wore two yellow roses, and made a toast in remembrance of you.
Neil, you are the perfect example of the type of American that makes this country great. Thank you for being the man that you were - America is a poorer place without you here.
This is part 2 (either way you read it) in this year’s “2008 Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous” series. The bad things are things that either were bad, or will be in the future. All opinions are mine, obviously, and you are welcome to adopt them as your own. :)
Where do I begin? There was not much about this election that I liked. The campaign was way too long. The Republicans nominated the wrong guy. The outcome was bad. I’ve already covered Sarah Palin’s treatment in the “Ridiculous” entry. My biggest problem with this election was how it was spun. It’s safe to say that the majority of Obama voters didn’t know what they were voting for; how could they, when he wouldn’t get any specifics? His campaign of “hope” (who doesn’t want to have hope?) and “change” (which would have happened either way) struck me as a focus-group phrase that got way out of control.
Then you have the last few months of the campaign itself. First, there was a hurricane at the same time as the Republican convention, with people saying “How can they have a convention at a time like this?” Next came the “crisis” that had been brewing for years in the sub-prime mortgage market. McCain foolishly decided to suspend his campaign to deal with it, which gave Obama the chance to make the speech where he said “A president has to deal with more than one thing at a time” (which is very, very true). It seemed the Republicans were “darned if they did, darned if they didn’t” during this cycle! Personally, I thought that both things should have continued on schedule.
Then, there was “Joe the Plumber,” roundly ridiculed for asking a question that elicited the “spread the wealth around” response from Obama. All of a sudden, we have all these reports popping up. “His name isn’t even Joe!” (as if they’ve never heard of someone who goes by their middle name) “He doesn’t even make enough money to have to pay more!” (which didn’t matter - he one day wanted to make that much money) “He’s not even a licensed plubmer!” (but was working towards that - all part of his plan to better his life) In the end, a government worker was dismissed from her job for digging up dirt on Joe using government resources. (Speaking of government, an organization called ACORN submitted thousands of voter registrations, hundreds of which were found to be fraudulent. However, the governments continued to accept these registrations from them, and courts ruled that they could be accepted.)
Regarding the actual outcome, I’d describe myself as skeptically optimistic. Obama’s selections for his cabinet haven’t been quite what I would like, but I didn’t really expect that they would be; however, they’re not nearly as left-leaning as he could have made them. He does seem to be actually trying to govern towards the left side of the middle. I can’t help but think that maybe he outsmarted everyone in the Chicago political machine, where there’s as much corruption as there is snow off the Great Lakes. Could it be that he joined their machine to use it to get to the top, only to jettison it once he got there? We’ll see.
RIP, Tim Russert and Tony Snow
People die - that’s part of life. However, this year saw the somewhat-unexpected deaths of both Tim Russert, long-time anchor of Meet the Press, and Tony Snow, Fox News anchor and former White House spokesman. Both these men had a gift for journalism, and were not afraid to ask balanced questions of their interview subjects. I remember Tim Russert’s expert analysis in both the 2000 and 2004 election seasons, opening the 2000 election coverage saying “Florida, Florida, Florida” and the 2004 coverage with “Ohio, Ohio, Ohio” - both the eventual states that decided the election. And, I remember Tony Snow as the first anchor of Fox News Sunday, as Fox decided to get into the Sunday morning political show alongside Meet the Press on NBC and This Week on ABC. (Am I old if I remember the latter as This Week with David Brinkley?) Tony also did an excellent job as spokesman during Bush’s second term, deftly handling the questions he was asked, and clearly expressing the intents and desires of the administration. (If only GWB would communicate that clearly…)
Terrorism Reminds Us that It Isn’t Gone Yet
This was a pretty quiet year on the terrorism front - Iraq is going well, the surge seems to have stamped out the final pockets of resistance, and rival factions are now participating in the democratic process. Afghanistan has been hit-or-miss, with a bit of instability still there as this year draws to a close. However, in late November, terrorists struck in Bombay, India, killing over 100 people, citizens of several different nations. This was a stark reminder that the quiet that we have experienced did not happen by chance, and that we need to keep our nose to the grindstone to protect our nation.
Wings of Wind Crash
We’ve enjoyed the International Balloon Fiesta here in Albuquerque the past two years. On the final Friday this year, the balloon Wings of Wind crashed into some power lines, catching fire. Both pilots jumped from the balloon, fearing that the fuel tanks would explode. One survived, one did not. It was the second year in a row that there has been a fatality at the Fiesta, but this one touched our family somewhat closely, as Michelle and Jordan had spent Thursday evening set up right by that balloon, and talking with its’ pilots and crew. Then, to add insult to injury, a truck belonging to the balloon crew was stolen before they left town, causing them to lose their pictures of that week. (I hope that whoever stole that truck gets some special attention from God over the next year.) Keep the family of Stephen Lachendro, the pilot who perished, and Keith Sproul, the primary pilot and the pilot who survived, in your prayers.
So, there are some of the things that I thought were bad about this past year. What did you think was bad?
Lost amid the race vs. gender war that is the Democrat primary season and the focus on the next administration is the pure genius in the current administration. Sure, they say Bush is still the mindless dolt that somehow managed to outsmart them twice; and yes, he’s certainly given them enough anguished English ammunition to come up with quite a rotation for their “Bushism of the Day” quote machines. However, Bush has flashes of political genius, and one of them cam during his speech to the Knesset, the Israeli governing body, celebrating 60 years of Israeli independence. (The below quote is found about half-way down the page.)
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
There are no names in this. Really, it could apply to a host of people who call for diplomacy even once diplomacy has failed, or those who call for diplomacy with terrorist organizations or terrorist-supporting nations. However, as Jeff Foxworthy once said, “There’s no sense confessing to something she don’t know about yet.” (This is in response to an upset wife - do you start saying “sorry” for everything she might be mad about, or do you simply ask “What’s wrong?”)
Being all sophisticated and everything, the Democrats must not be aware of this technique, and through their responses showed us that President Bush struck a nerve. Barack Obama (D-IL) was livid, blaming the current administration for strengthening Iran. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that such words were “beneath the dignity of the office of the president.” Joe Biden (D-DE) threw the BS flag (literally), and Harry Reid (D-NV) said that Bush should explain the “inconsistency between his administration’s actions and his words today.”
So, basically, here’s how it went down:
Bush: “Appeasers are dangerous.” Obama, Pelosi, Biden, and Reid (in unison): “No we’re not!”
I know, the day after I post that I won’t be here, I find this (strong language warning) over at Rachel Lucas’s blog. This was simply too funny to not reblog.
This is a scene from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the faux-news show on Comedy Central. They took a patronizing look at the protesters in Berkeley, California, who are trying to shut down the Marine recruiting center. My favorite exchange comes starting at 3:12…
Code Pink Feather Boa’d Protester (CPFBP) - It is our responsibility, as the public, to shut this station down, to shut this recruiting station down. Another Code Pink Protester - Code Pink stands for free speech. CPFBP - It’s very important to protect free speech, and so we clearly have the right to be here. Rob Riggle, Reporter - If only there was an organization that was sworn to defend that free speech! CPFBP - Wouldn’t that be great? Rob - That would be outstanding, right?
(Update: the embedded video has been removed at the source; glad I wrote the transcript!)