“Same vocabulary, different dictionary.” This is the way Skip Heitzig described false teachers in a recent sermon on 2 Peter 2. That certainly is good to remember when it comes to theological matters; think about how many different definitions, just in evangelical circles, you have of the word “worship” and of its role in the life of the church and believer.
It works outside the realm of the directly-theological as well. Take the CIA report released last week. I’ve been seeing a lot of banter back and forth over the results of the report, but relatively few questioning its characterization. Even though pretty much everyone is against “torture,” there are competing definitions at work. If we just debate back and forth without addressing the root issue, we’re simply reinforcing the “other side”'s view of us.
Now, to be fair, it’s generally the left who like to redefine things. Racist no longer means “one race is superior”; rather, it covers a host of things, from ethnically-related comments, stereotypes, or even common insensitivity, if the object has a different ethnicity from the one who is offended. Rape is expanded to include a whole lot of things that are not really rape, including simple after-the-fact regret. Marriage means something today that it has never meant throughout millennia of history. And, somewhere along the way, freedom of speech has been replaced with freedom from offense, and freedom of association has been replaced with freedom to compel.
That being said, I’m not necessarily advocating for “the right” either - it’s not about the right, it’s about being right. We cannot flourish, either as a Christian or as a society, if we do not share a common lexicon. And, until we do, it is futile to try to defeat one person’s argument with an argument that has an entirely different meaning. All you’ve got is ships passing in the night. Same vocabulary, different dictionary.
Either way you read it, this is the middle post of the “2012 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous” series. This past year has given me no shortage of things from which to choose to compose this post.
Mass Murder x2
2012 saw two mass murders on U. S. soil. On July 20th, at a premiere of the movie The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, 12 people were killed and 58 injured by a freak who made himself look like the Joker. Then, on December 14th, a troubled young man killed his own mother, 20 children, 6 adults, and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. While the reaction made the ridiculous list this year, the murders themselves are here. They are a stark reminder that we live in a fallen world. Dr. Albert Mohler broke his less-than-a-day-old hiatus on The Briefing for a special edition, and he summed it up quite well.
Though the murders themselves were horrible and tragic, there were reports of heroes in both instances. In Colorado, men shielded others with their bodies, and ultimately gave their lives to save others In Connecticut, a teacher named Victoria Soto hid her students wherever she could, and told the gunman that the children were elsewhere. These ordinary people, stepping up to against evil, give us some hope that while we will never eliminate this sort of evil, it is far from the norm; and, there are those who will fight against it with little to no warning.
The Benghazi / Petraeus Affair
September 11th, for the past 11 years, has been a dicey day. Obviously, the one in 2001 was the worst; however, our intelligence and counter-terrorism forces have been vigilant to the point where we really had not had to deal with any actual attacks on that particular day. 2012 saw that streak come to an end, as a group of terrorists laid siege to the U. S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, kidnapping and then killing our ambassador and three others. Initially, the State Department blamed the attack on a spontaneous reaction to the film The Innocence of Muslims, a 16-minute film that made a great deal of fun over Mohammad. In the past few days (see why you write these things after the year is done?), the report has come out calling it “sloppy security.”
Conflicting reports came out about the threat level surrounding that particular embassy, and there were even conflicting reports on our reaction to the attack once we knew it was underway. Even with the report, many people still feel that the entire story is not known. Why would that be? Well, when a cover-up or misdirection is the initial response, how are the American people to know when the next answer is the right one?
But, surely, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, or the Secretary of State, could get the answers and bring them out, correct? This, too, was not to be in 2012. Thanks to a sexual harassment complaint launched in April and concluded in August, an affair between the CIA director, retired General David Petraeus, and his biographer, was revealed. This “trump card” was not played until after the election, and was used to oust Petraeus before he could give official testimony as the CIA director. At the same time, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, couldn’t testify due to scheduling conflicts, then due to the “flu.” It may be just as well; she doesn’t have a great history of having a very good memory when she’s placed under oath. Additionally, the African Command commander was relieved of his position shortly after the attack.
September 11, 2001 is generally considered a failure of intelligence. The more we learn about September 11, 2012, it looks less like a failure of intelligence and more a failure to take appropriate defensive action based on that intelligence. To put it more bluntly, we hung our own countrymen out to dry, and four of them are no longer with us.
The Fiscal Cliff
If Benghazi’s problem was inaction, then the CIA and State have learned it from the U. S. Congress. Over three years of Senate inaction have left us with a budget that is nearly 4 years old; Obamacare deferred-until-the-next-election mandates will kick in; we’re about to hit the extended-several-times debt ceiling; across-the-board cuts, called “sequestration,” a compromise from the last debt ceiling expansion, are set to kick in; and the so-called “Bush tax cuts” which were extended a few times are once again set to expire (itself a concept that probably deserves a spot on a ridiculous list at some point). Since that’s a lot to say, the term “fiscal cliff” was coined to describe these economic events all hitting at the same time.
What is required to keep the next U. S. national sport from being fiscal cliff diving? A budget. Will that be the solution presented? Probably not. As I write this (on the 1st), the Senate has passed a compromise bill, but several House members do not seem to approve. When the next congress is seated later this week, that bill will be invalid. Bills proposed by the president and the Senate have been rightly termed “unserious” by Republicans; however, their bills are not very serious either. On a family budget that’s $24,000 in the red each year, we’re cutting $360. Neither side wants to do the hard work of cutting spending where it needs to be cut.
Here’s hoping the water is deep enough at the bottom of this cliff that we don’t break our necks.
Mitt Romney Loses
I covered my incredulity at the results of the election in the ridiculous post; but here, the negative is that we do not have Mitt Romney at the helm to guide our nation away from this cliff. Not since Sarah Palin have I witnessed such a successful character assassination, where his positives became negatives, and his successes presented as disqualifications.
As a business, America is failing. The Securities and Exchange Commission wouldn’t let our stock be traded. We need someone who cares enough about our country to make hard decisions about what needs to be cut, so that a leaner America can emerge and once again regain her strength. Who better to do that than someone who ran a company that did that for businesses over and over again? And what if this someone had also donated his entire inheritance to charity, and given 2 years of his life for his religion? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
I know some of my fellow conservatives had some problems with him on social issues, or the size and scope of the state. I wasn’t 100% with him (though in an isidewith.com survey, I scored 97% Romney), but if our country is not economically viable, social and domestic policy matter little; at that point, we’ll be answering to someone else anyway.
Cross an Atlantic hurricane with a nor’easter, and it’s not good. Hurricane Sandy battered much of the U. S. east coast in late October, merging with a northern storm just before Halloween, leading many to call it “Frankenstorm.” Its wake was no laughing matter, though, with over 100 dead. New York and New Jersey sustained the hardest direct hit, and current estimates have it as the second most costly storm on record, just behind 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
Those two states provided a stark contrast in dealing with preparation and relief. New York City was particularly bad, with refugees being evicted from hotels for the “show must go on” New York Marathon, while generators were pulled from relief efforts to power the tents for the race. Mayor Bloomberg, at first a strong proponent of continuing to hold the race, changed his mind, and the organizers agreed to cancel it. Meanwhile, the Federal government has yet to vote on any special aid for Sandy relief; the Senate passed a bill, but the House won’t take up any legislation except the fiscal cliff. (And these are the people we want in charge of health care? But I digress.)
Hurricane Sandy, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sandra Fluke - 2012 was a bad year for disasters named Sandy.
Lance Armstrong Revelations
Lance Armstrong was a 7-time Tour de France champion. He did it while fighting cancer, and founding a charitable foundation. However, he had been fighting doping charges for years, and in 2012, decided to stop fighting the charges. All his wins have been vacated, Olympic medals stripped, and the Livestrong Foundation that he founded has kicked him out. His defense is that he was not taking any substance that was not banned, and that he had done nothing other than what others had done.
Even if we take him at his word - if everyone took the same enhancement, that’s still a terrible way to determine athletic prowess. Professional sports should not be about who has the best chemistry; it should be people training their bodies to perform a specific task so well that no one else can do it equally. I’m not so naïve as to think that this means that no one is going to try; even NASCAR has had its fair share of drug problems. However, anything short of pure physical ability will inevitably lead to more and more use, and more experimenting. The NFL is already dealing with players who feel they were unfairly exploited and put in harm’s way. How much worse would it be for the players who tried experimental (i.e., not-banned-yet) drugs whose side effects were unknown until much later?
There you have it. 2012 didn’t lead to the end of the world, but there was much that we will be happy to see pass into the rear-view mirror. Other issues will still be here for us in 2013, waiting to be dealt with then. May we have the fortitude to do so.
Last Friday, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, offered his resignation from that post. In that letter, he admitted to an extra-marital affair with his biographer. There are many more angles to this story than I really have time to cover and dissect, but one comment I kept hearing just struck me as not quite right. “A CIA director who is committing adultery opens themselves up to blackmail, and can compromise security. Good thing this came out before that happened.” The part with which I disagree is the second statement. I believe that, rather than a cautionary tale of “look what could have happened,” I believe it to be an illustrative tale of how it did happen.
Petraeus did a personal investigation of the 11 Sep 12 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, where four people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed. He was also scheduled to testify before Congress this week on that attack, but while he resignation does not preclude his testimony, he is reluctant to bring the media circus around. Bad timing, huh? Well, when you consider that the FBI launched the investigation in June, this timing looks less bad. The administration claims it didn’t know. Now, if the administration didn’t know, it’s more incompetent than we give it credit for (a distinct possibility); if the administration knew, what were they going to do with that information?
This timing is highly suspicious. I believe that the information against Petraeus was known, and held, until the opportunity came where its use was needed. It’s a hunch; I have no knowledge of anything in Washington, D. C., really, and it could all be happenstance. However, when there is the pattern of obfuscation, document redaction, “I forgot” as a legal defense, and “trust us, we’re the government,” this smells wrong. Petraeus erred, and it was used against him to prevent what he found from being released.
And that, my friends, is a textbook example of why adultery is a security risk.
(NOTE: None of the above should be construed as an allegation against the current administration. It is an observation that the appearance of a lack of candor displayed in this circumstance is a pattern of behavior with the current administration, and is not the way I believe government should comport itself.)
Yes, in 100 days I’ve gone from “skeptically optimistic” to hoping that 3 terms of Republicans can stem the tide from 4 years of our current administration. For all of the left’s making fun of Bush, and VP Biden’s history of gaffes, who knew that the current administration would make them look downright composed? It’s Amateur Hour at the White House, and our kids get to pay billions of dollars for us to watch!
Economics: F (only because F- isn’t technically a grade)
You would think that this would be the current administration’s strong spot, seeing that they won the election last year based on the crappy economy (or so they’d have you believe). Yes, the fiscal irresponsibility of the final year of the Bush v2 administration looks miserly compared with this stimporkulus and budgets we’re being asked to finance. The graph to the right gives an illustration of the impact of the current budget, compared to budgets under Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2. Just as the New Deal lengthened the Great Depression, these artificial attempts to “fix” the economy are actually doing it more harm. Then they label those who are against it as dangerous - but more on that later.
National Security: D-
This one was not an F due to his quick response to the Somali pirates who had captured the captain of a US ship. Regarding the F/A-22 cutbacks, these were being discussed even in the previous administration, and even so, the “cutback” still result in more airplanes being built and delivered to fill the order. I don’t really have a good feeling one way or the other. The F/A-22 has been in work a long time, and had a lot of money already. To throw that away, when we used its predecessor for over 30 years, seems foolish to me. However, with the services merging more and more operations, perhaps it’s smart to have a plane that’s built to specifications from all interested parties. Time will tell. The release of the CIA memos, though, was a bad move, which I discuss in the next subject below.
And, the release of the CIA memos has made us look even worse. We have people hyperventilating on both sides over whether waterboarding is torture. The ones who do us harm know that they don’t have to do anything for a while, because we’re doing it to ourselves. What the administration doesn’t seem to have thought through is that, though in this country, it may be easy to pin all that on the Bush administration, to the rest of the world, it’s still “America” that did it. And, if they know that we don’t have the stomach for it (would it really have been that out-of-line to put a caterpillar in a room with a terrorist?), their job is easier. The CIA agents are demoralized, and the enemy is emboldened. Call it what you will - naive, oblivious, amateur hour - it’s dangerous, and it’s made our country weaker because of it.
And, to those hyperventilating - if you’re ever captured by them, you’d better pray that waterboarding is the worst thing they do to you. Because we’re humane, we’ve come up with ways to make people think that they’re being tortured, when they’re really not. Torture has lifelong implications to your health and mobility; John McCain can’t lift his hand above his shoulder - that didn’t come from waterboarding.
(Even the decision to stick by the Iraqi withdrawal timetable couldn’t raise his grade in this subject.)
I believe I covered Obama’s revocation of the Bush executive orders regarding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. (I’ve bolded the important parts, because I’m sick and tired of the liberal “You’re opposed to science!” mantra. No, we’re not - we’re opposed to the government paying for research that destroys unborn humans, especially when it has shown no signs of finding anything, but other, similar, non-lethal-to-the-donor research has. (And, check out #1 under “Adult Stem Cell Advantages.”) What you fund, you get more of - fund more experiments on dead babies, you get more dead babies. I happen to be against dead babies, born or unborn.) When Obama rescinded that executive order, he also rescinded one that allows funding of ethical experiments. A good analysis of what that means is here.
He gets a pat on the back for supporting traditional marriage; however, I think that battle is lost. The demise of marriage came not from non-traditionalists, but from people who decided that a promise of forever can be undone by a piece of paper signed by a judge.
Well, he’s got a solid 0.2 GPA headed into day 101 - nowhere to go but up, eh?
Working with mail is a big part of my duties while I’m here. Once a day, we pull a few letters out of a tray and write down where it came from and when it was postmarked - that way, we can tell how long it took to get to us and make sure these letters are flowing. It’s interesting to look at the backs of these letters, which we see as we take one from the stack and turn it face-down onto another stack. There are, of course, the "We love you!"s, the "Happy Birthday"s, and the "Come back safe"s. Others have “SWAK” written across the back (Sealed With a Kiss). Today, I saw one that said “Go Vols!” - which I particularly liked.
Underneath that letter, the next one on the stack had printed across the bottom “Do Not Bend.” I’m sure that this wasn’t an encouragement to the troops - there were probably photos in the envelope, so they didn’t want them bent. But, on this 4th Patriot Day, 5 years after the attlacks on September 11th, 2001, I think it is fitting advice for all of us.
The enemy we face is not ourselves. There are some among us who are going too far, but as we demonstrated with Abu Ghraib, we are willing to punish those who do. There are also some among us who intend us harm; that’s for certain. However, there is a religious group that is not content to have their countries for their religious views, and live peacefully with the rest of the world. They want us dead because we do not believe the way they do. Our nation has decided (rightly, I believe) that we should take this fight to them, that we would rather fight on their soil than on ours.
I have not had access to ABC television, so I have not seen The Path to 9/11, although I have heard a lot about it. It sounds like an important film, one based on the research of the 9/11 commission, that dramatizes the failings in leadership that led up to this attack. Of course, it’s really easy to connect dots in hindsight - but the barriers that had been erected to stop information sharing did much more harm than good. Both Presidential administrations #42 and #43 are criticized for their lack of taking the issue seriously, and doing what needed to be done. Thankfully, #43 has made a nice recovery, and we are now prosecuting the war on terror as we should.
We Americans have short memories - and since, for all but a few of us, this war isn’t really impacting our daily lives, it is easy to grow lax, and forget that we were not the ones who started this war. But, we are the ones who will finish it. There has not been a major terror attack in this country in the five years since 9/11, and it is not because they haven’t been planned. Time and time again, dedicated professionals in the CIA and FBI have been uncovering these plots, and stopping them. Every terrorist killed in Afghanistan or Iraq is one fewer terrorist that will try something - and while it’s true that some cultures produce these terrorists, that’s just another reason why we must continue, we must press forward, and we must prevail.
Do not forget why we are at war. Do not think about giving up before the job is done. And, yes, as the letter writer said so unknowingly yet eloquently - do not bend.
Karl Rove – Allegations are flying about Karl Rove revealing a CIA agent’s name to a reporter. As is standard procedure for the left, facts don’t particularly matter. Rove did not reveal a name, only that Joe Wilson’s wife was an employee at the CIA. Even if he had, she is not a covert agent, so laws against naming her identity do not apply. However, none of these facts are keeping the Democrats (and their more-than-willing accomplices in the press) from mounting what can only be described as a feeding frenzy, calling for Karl Rove to be fired.
The media is behaving particularly despicably in this. Check out the transcript of a recent press briefing at the White House. This is nothing short of desperation, and they know it. If Karl Rove were guilty, they would just be quiet and wait for the indictment - the longer Rove is around, the better for them. Of course, this is the way Democrats work. Remember, when George W. Bush ® was certified as the winner of Florida’s Presidential election, it was the Supreme Court enforcing existing law; when Christine Gregoire (D) was declared governor of Washington, the Washington Supreme Court invented new law.
Iraq - If the Democrats had to donate $1 to the Federal government every time they said something like “everyone knows there’s no link between Iraq and Al-qaeda,” we wouldn’t have a budget deficit. This technique is called the “Big Lie” - repeat it often enough, and people start to believe it. However, saying it three times does not make it so (unlike certain TV shows). The Weekly Standard published an article this past week called “The Mother of All Connections,” that details the links between the administration of Saddam Hussein and the terror network of Osama bin Laden. It’s quite lengthy, but well-researched, and demonstrates conclusively that Iraq was the next stop in the war on terror, and not just for the benefits of introducing freedom to the Middle East.
"Support the Troops" - This is another fave from the anti-Bush left. Even John Kerry got in on this when he was running for president. The logic is basically summed up like this - “Support the troops - bring them home.” This sounds good, all nice and touchy-feely (once again, the left’s preference for feelings over facts is evident), but would actually be the worst possible thing to do at this point. Our nation’s troops have worked hard to get Iraq and Afghanistan free, and we’re still working to get them trained on maintaining their freedom. Pulling out now would be very disrespectful to the over 1,000 folks who have died in this war to date. (Again, why should that surprise me?) Think about it this way [ when a player on a sports team becomes injured, do they tell the other players “Hey man, we just need to quit - this is too dangerous!”? Of course not. We’ve seen, time and time again, these guys saying “You guys stay in it!” Seeing this through to its successful completion is the only way to honor and, yes, support, our troops.