I missed this in 2013, and this is not a 3-post series as usual. Instead of writing a lot about each topic, I’ll give a short reason I categorized it where I did. Please make no assumptions or conclusions about what I don’t say; the fact that people are so apt to do that should probably make the “Bad” list, but not this year. Since this is a single post, we’ll lead with…
No Terrorism at World Stage Events - 2014 saw the Winter Olympics in Russia and the World Cup in Brazil. Neither were marred by terrorism.
16 Out of 20 Ain’t Bad - Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood did not want to provide coverage for 4 of the 20 forms of “birth control” mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as they work post-conception (an “abortofacient”). The Supreme Court agreed, in a rare victory for religious freedom.
Plummeting Oil Prices - In spite of the current administration’s best efforts, our economy overcame them. The “Drill, Baby, Drill” crowd was vindicated, as an explosion in US oil production caused prices to drop substantially. Fracking has enabled this boom while preserving the environment, and the drop in prices has hit hostile-to-us oil-based economies hard. It’s a big win-win that progressives still can’t throughly grasp.
Republicans Win Control of Congress - This is a qualified “good” entry, assuming that they’ll govern as they ran. Hey, there’s a first time for everything, right?
Tennessee Football Rises - Playing an SEC schedule and non-gimme out-of-conference games with the youngest team in FBS is a recipe for a 3-9 season; the Vols made it 6-6 (and, since this is written after their bowl, 7-6) and have great momentum for 2015.
The Deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner - Neither the Brown nor Garner families had loved ones with them this Christmas that they had last Christmas. There may be speculation as to the incidents surrounding their deaths (and neither are going to trial, so we’ll likely never fully know), but even the public knowing every little detail of what happened will not bring these young men back to their families.
Colorado Going to Pot - The first year’s experiment with legalized marijuana has not gone well. Assurances that children will not be able to easily get it have evaporated, and nearly all the tax money it’s generated has gone to enforcement. Their governor caught some heat for saying that the citizens acted foolishly, but the facts certainly indicate he was correct in his assessment.
Ebola - 2014 was the year Ebola came to America. While there were some ridiculous things with how it was handled, the bad was limited, with some who contracted the disease surviving, and a new set of medical protocols helping to protect those who care for people.
ISIS - Nearly 10 years after being freed, Iraq fell back into enslavement thanks to a group coming in to make a hostile takeover, combined with an army that was not willing to fight for what it had won. Islamic law marches on, while Christians die, in a place where thousands of Americans gave their lives to win freedom.
Russian Aggression Versus Ukraine - Russia invaded and took over part of another sovereign nation. They do not appear to be done yet.
The Handling of the Death of Michael Brown / The Reaction to the Brown Grand Jury Verdict / The Reaction to the Garner Grand Jury Verdict - Ferguson and Missouri police handled the initial aftermath of Brown’s shooting about as poorly as you could. The riots once the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson were unnecessary and unhelpful (and unwanted by Michael Brown’s family), and the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” gesture would have been impactful had it been based in verified fact (which it was not). This was also the case where “unarmed teen” is supposed to imply harmless, peaceful, law-abiding child, but video showed a certain store owner who would dispute that characterization. Once the Garner verdict came out, there were die-ins all across the country, proving nothing, but inconveniencing people who had nothing to do with anything surrounding the case. Two dead New York policemen and one in Florida, at last reports, still hadn’t brought Michael Brown or Eric Garner back to their families. (If I have a chance, there will be much more on this in my MLK post.)
p.s. ALL lives matter.
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing E-mails - Under oath, and subpoena from Congress, IRS chief Lois Lerner claimed to have lost her e-mail. This was after other e-mails came out that pretty much confirmed their deliberate targeting of conservative groups leading up to the 2012 election. While those e-mails were “found” toward the end of the year, this Watergate-esque dodge was pathetic. IT does not work that way, and if it does, those people need to be fired.
Computer Security - This was a bad year for computer security. “HeartBleed,” “Shell Shock,” and “Poodle” were names given to long-existing exploits that were discovered in the software that runs much of the Internet. Target fessed up about how large their breach was, and Home Depot let a lot of customer information get away as well. Finally, targeted attacks released iCloud data from celebrities, while an (internal? North Korean? We don’t know yet…) attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment released salaries, movies, even e-mails among leaders and actors. (Maybe we should sic the Guardians of Peace on the IRS!) Hopefully some good will come of this; if nothing else, it will make people think about security before they trust a “cloud” service with their information.
Kaci Hickox - Kaci is a nurse who was exposed to Ebola. She defied quarantine, though, and created a lot of concern. While she ultimately was not found to have the disease, her foolish, selfish actions stirred up a lot of concern in her community. As a medical professional, she should have known better. But, of course, if she had, then her name wouldn’t be on some random guy’s blog in a year-in-review post, would it?
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.
Congress, addressing the Pentagon’s request to increase TRICare fees. I don’t know think that I can improve on this, so it’s presented without further comment.
…career members of the uniformed services and their families endure unique and extraordinary demands and make extraordinary sacrifices over the course of a 20- to 30-year career in protecting freedom for all Americans. … Those decades of sacrifice constitute a significant pre-paid premium for health care during a career member’s retirement that is over and above what the member pays with money.
Contraception has been in the news quite a bit recently, culminating this week in testimony before Congress and calls for Rush Limbaugh’s microphone over his response. Let’s look at the timeline and how we got here, then I’ll share my thoughts on the whole thing. (If you’re in a hurry, skip to the last 2 paragraphs; but, if you have the time, read the whole thing, as it goes deeper than I have seen most analysis go.)
This issue came to the forefront of popular discussion when the Roman Catholic church expressed their opposition to the provision of the health care reform bill (AKA “ObamaCare”) that required employers to provide health insurance that covers contraceptive care. Official church doctrine regards this as sin, and requiring their hospitals and other organizations to provide this, they claim, is a violation of their religious beliefs. The fact that Rick Santorum, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is a practicing Roman Catholic (and has lived these beliefs for years), has brought this issue even into the primary process.
Some legislators, seeing this as a legitimate complaint from the church, presented legislation that would amend this requirement, allowing an exemption for employers who have religious objections to these requirements. To help combat this, a Georgetown University student named Sandra Fluke testified to Congress about how important she held contraception, and how she felt that free contraceptive coverage was an integral part of health insurance coverage. Rush Limbaugh, long known for “illustrating absurdity by being absurd” (his term), seized this testimony and ran with over-the-top commentary, using terms to describe Ms. Fluke that have people calling for his job.
Those are the facts as they now stand. Let’s dig in, shall we?
The first thing we need to discuss is the term “contraception;” the literal definition is “against the fertilization of the egg” (contra = against, con-ception = fertilization of the egg). A popular synonym for contraception is “pregnancy prevention,” but that is a much broader term. Some feminists define contraception as “that which prevents birth,” an even broader definition than pregnancy prevention. There cannot be an agreement on contraception until we can all agree on what that means. We’ll leave abortion out of it, as the view of abortion being contraception is a minority one, and it’s not part of this mandate.
What is part of this mandate, however, are drugs that are collectively termed abortofacients; these are techniques or medicines that do not prevent the fertilization of the egg, but they prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg onto the uterine wall. RU-486, the “morning-after pill,” and certain intrauterine devices (IUDs) fall into this category. These methods of “contraception” violate not only the Roman Catholic views against contraception, but the evangelical churches’ beliefs that life begins at conception - it is equivalent to an abortion. This greatly expands the pool of those organizations which would be required to provide coverage which violates their moral beliefs.
Some would say that the argument of “it’s against my religion” has been made spuriously in the past, and they would be right. However, the prior misuse of this argument cannot be used to strip away the principle, long recognized in this country, that we generally do not create laws that force mainstream religious organizations to violate their consciences. I personally do not hold to the belief that contraception is wrong; however, I do hold to the belief that life begins with conception. This is described in Scripture, and has been validated with medical advances over the past few decades. So, I believe that this law is a bad law because, among its other many problems, it forces religious organizations to either violate their conscience or face criminal prosecution. In a nation founded on the principle of religious liberty, this is not something we should do.
Now, let’s turn our attention to Sandra Fluke and her testimony before Congress. Her testimony brought a valuable insight into the mindset of many of her generation. She said “Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.” Let’s ignore the math of that statement ($1,000/year?) for now and look at what she didn’t say. Implicit in this statement is the fact that she feels entitled to not only practice sexual activity as much as she wants, but to be free from the consequences of that activity. That is one of the lies that now permeated a second generation. They have been told that their sexuality is best expressed by using it repeatedly, and however they choose to do it, that defines who they are. The sexually “repressed” have been ridiculed or even shunned, while the sexually “liberated” are celebrated. Thanks to contraceptive methods, they can express themselves free from the traditional consequences of sexual activity.
This is a lie. “Liberated” sexuality does not empower women; rather, it strips them of their power, instinctively inherent in the human race. It is no secret that the male of the human species is inordinately preoccupied with this aspect of his life from adolescence forward; traditionally, while the female may have wanted the same thing, she would hold back, which encouraged men to make a commitment they might not otherwise make. The old adage “Why would you buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?” illustrates this principle quite vividly. 40 years out from the sexual revolution, commitment has taken a nose-dive into near non-existence. Cohabitation, hooking up, friends with benefits, and no-fault divorce now provide avenues for sexual activity that were not available to men in the past. So, rather than commit to one person, and do the hard work of changing themselves to become better mates in order to earn this gift from their brides, men can just float from one partner to another. If a partner sees something in him that, were he to change, would make him a better man, he has very little motivation to endure that change. This has led to weaker men and weaker women, and in two generations has brought us to the place where over 50% of babies born to women under 30 are now born out of wedlock.
Yes, we’re getting deep into this, but it is crucial that we do so, because this begins to get to the biggest problem with the Fluke generation (heh - I should copyright that). We can expect nothing different, because they simply haven’t been taught, and they did not see it modeled in anything but generations so old they’d never dream of mimicking them. They see no reason for people to have a problem with this. This is also why there is such a visceral reaction when these beliefs are challenged. That doesn’t absolve them of their responsibility to seek out and evaluate whether what they believe is right, but it helps to understand their thought process.
Notice also that I am not judging the character or intentions of the generation as I described it above. Even with parents teaching their children these things, and living them out in front of their children, people will make choices that are less than optimal. The above should be read as a commentary on society, not as a condemnation of its participants. Besides, assigning blame to people is counterproductive; we need to look at the decisions that were made, where they have led us, and determine what decisions we should make to get us to where we need to be. My goal is to encourage behavior that is beneficial to society.
(Wow, what a rabbit trail. OK, back to my point from 4 paragraphs ago…) Although I doubt she sees it this way, what she expressed in her testimony was a desire to choose to act however she wants, but be free from the negative consequences of her actions. This is what has provoked such a reaction from her detractors - why should I (through government-funded insurance programs) pay for your decisions, or for shielding you from the consequences of your decisions? Engaging in sexual activity is a choice; you don’t just “catch” sex. (We’re ignoring rape with this statement - but what kind of attitude do you have to have to always have contraception for fear of rape? That doesn’t apply in this argument.)
This brings us to Rush Limbaugh, who used absurdity to greatly ridicule Ms. Fluke. He said some things that he knew were over the top; that’s what he does, both to illustrate points and to garner ratings. Predictably, there have been calls for his job, and some advertisers have pulled their spots from his show. Since I started this post earlier this morning, he has apologized to her for the incendiary words that he used. (Interestingly, one of those words has been used triumphantly by feminists to describe themselves, as a celebration of their sexual freedom; if she truly is a feminist activist, one might think she would take that as a compliment. Sadly, the double-standard discussion will have to wait for another time, or this post will never wrap up.)
Just as we looked at the Fluke generation, think about the Limbaugh generation. Rush is part of the first generation that began, in large numbers, to shed the morals and values that had been with us for hundreds of years. He is now seeing the results of this, and is flabbergasted that things have gone so far so quickly. He also enjoys getting people riled up, particularly the “femi-nazis,” a group that is pretty easy to tick off. So, when we look at his statements, considering his history and background can help put his comments into their intended context. As has been proved by both the right and the left, an out-of-context sound bite can be made to say whatever one wants; however, the truth, whether exculpatory or damning, can only be determined by evaluating the statement as whole.
Are there any of you who feel that Limbaugh should have been censured, who also feel that, now that he’s apologized, all his sponsors should return to his program on Monday? Now you’re starting to see it. He may very well have to live with the negative consequences of his actions, even though he has apologized for them. Should his insurance company produce the lost revenue from these advertisers? Of course not - he would be crazy to suggest that they should. This is the exact same principle we evaluated above! Maybe seeing it turned on someone less sympathetic will help you understand the issue more clearly.
Personally, I believe that shielding people from the negative consequences of their isolated bad actions can be beneficial, particularly if they are allowed to experience part of those, and have to expend some effort in ameliorating the remainder. (I’m not talking about Limbaugh here; this is a general statement.) As the adage goes, “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from bad decisions.” People are not perfect, and they are going to make choices which bring negative consequences. Notice, though, that I started this by saying “personally.” Forgiveness is a personal virtue, not a government policy. However, even with forgiveness, it is often neither possible nor desirable to shield the person from the consequences of their actions. What people like Sandra Fluke want is for the government to spare no expense in its attempt to shield her from whatever consequences she deems undesirable. A government policy of forgiveness, paired with the equal application of the law, amounts to a tacit approval of the activity. It is not fair to forgive or shield one person and not another; some would argue that limiting it to one instance would not be fair either. It just simply does not work.
Sexual activity is certainly not the only area where we see this mindset at work. One of the major sparks behind the Occupy movement was frustration from people who got a college education, but could not parlay that education into employment. They wanted their school loans forgiven - and, with the value they were seeing from that piece of paper, who could blame them? But, again, actions have consequences. They chose to get the education in certain degrees, and at a pace that incurred debt. Their demand that others pay to shield them from the negative consequences of those decisions was met with some sympathy, but mostly derision from people who saw them as a bunch of freeloaders, protesting their poor state from their iPhones and iPads.
Let’s distill all of the above down to five main points. First, the contraception provision in ObamaCare is wrong, and inconsistent with our legal traditions; it becomes more so as the definition of the term contraception is widened. Second, the nuclear family is the most beneficial for society, and provides the greatest motivation for both man and woman to improve themselves as they grow closer to one another. Third, while people like Ms. Fluke may not see it, they are expecting others to pay to shield them from the negative consequences of their actions, and this is what many people, myself included, find distasteful. Fourth, consider the context from which both sides originate when analyzing arguments, particularly those which generate a strong reaction; it may not make their argument any more believable, but it will help reveal not just what they are saying, but what they want. Fifth, while forgiveness is a positive personal character trait, it is incompatible with government policy.
I hope my analysis has helped you evaluate this issue; it goes way deeper than sound bites can convey. At its core, this is about respecting religious convictions and accepting personal responsibility. I hope and pray that my nation chooses to do both.
This video floored me. I now understand the results of this past election. This is a series of interviews with people who voted for Obama. Most all of them thought that the Republicans were in charge of Congress leading up to the last election (it was the Democrats), they didn’t know which candidate said there were 57 states (most said Palin, but that was Obama) or which candidate said that Obama would be tested in the first six months (most were split between Palin and McCain, but that was Biden). Conversely, every one of them knew which candidate received $150k of clothing from their party (Palin), and nearly all of them said that Palin claimed she could see Russia from her house (that was an SNL parody).
My favorite person in this video is the lady with glasses in the purple sweater. I think she’s a future Republican. :) Anyway, without further ado, here’s the video - it’s around 10 minutes long (and worth every one).
Now, before you claim that these people cherry-picked the interviews, they also had Zogby conduct a poll, and the results were the same. At the link, you can see the summary, and download a PDF with the full results.
Via Neal Boortz (4th item - archive page will work tomorrow), there is a perfect example on why I write about economic theory and policy. The question to the man on the street was “Should Congress continue to fund National Public Radio?” (NPR, for those of you in Rio Linda.) The response from one person, that was selected and printed…
Congress should continue paying for it because if they don’t, the taxpayers will end up paying for it.
I so wish that was a joke, but it’s not. This person is merely indicative of a large segment of our society that does not realize that Congress has no money to spend but the taxpayer’s money.
Several things are converging at once, and I believe they’re related. Tuesday was a busy day, so I’ll explain each, and then how they could be.
First, the hard-working 101st Congress started their 4-day work-week, after taking Monday off for the BCS championship game. (They should have taken Tuesday off instead of Monday, so they could sleep in Tuesday morning after the late finish.) This is the now Democrat-controlled House and Senate - the legislative body we’ll have to deal with for the next two years.
Second, we have Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), on the heels of his joint letter with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressing opposition to increasing troop levels, announced that there will be a symbolic resolution voted on in the Senate next week opposing any escalation in the war in Iraq. (This is in the 4th paragraph under the heading “Dems considering options”.) That link also has a full story on the bill that Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy (D-MA) introduced to require Congressional approval for any troop increases in Iraq. This bill is a clear usurpation of executive power, and will not pass muster - however, its introduction and the accompanying rhetoric sends a message. (Mr. Kennedy also gave a speech at the National Press Club in which he was highly critical of the President and his Iraq policy. While I would love to give his speech the proper fisking it deserves (and may if I have the time), I’ll quote one of the more egregious portions here…)
But I do not retreat from the view that Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam. At the critical moment in the war on terrorism, the administration turned away from pursuing Osama bin Laden and made the catastrophic choice instead that has bogged down America in an endless quagmire in Iraq.
Our misguided resort to war has created much more and much more intense anti-American feeling than Osama bin Laden ever dreamed of. And the sooner we reverse that distressing trend, the better.
I am convinced that John Kerry could have worked with the international community to end that war and bring our troops home with honor.
Third, the first open fighting of the year broke out in Baghdad, where Iraqi forces went after an insurgent stronghold after the insurgents killed over 100 people. The Iraqi forces called for US backup, and together they prevailed, but not after 10-hour firefight.
Are these three things related? If they are, there are two different ways that it could be. The most likely, and the way I believe these are related, is that the militant element in Iraq is emboldened by this new leadership. They hear the rhetoric from our newly-elected leaders, and they sense that the will of the American people may be waning. They feel that if they step up their attacks, and engage in open hostilities, that they will help those in this country who want us to pull out. We’ve known for a long time that terrorists prefer Democrats - remember Osama bin Laden’s tape before the 2004 elections, threatening states that voted for President Bush? If this is what this turns out to be, I pray that we have the will to fight off this renewed zeal on the part of the terrorists.
Another option is that the Congressional Democrats are using the fighting in Iraq as a political issue. (Of course, the media goes right along with them - look at the first paragraph of this story about Sen. Tim Johnson’s emergency brain surgery.) The worse the war goes, the better the Democrats look. I think that a lot of them are not realizing what this means. The Democrats have positioned themselves on the wrong side of this issue. If America loses the war, they win - their prognostications of doom and gloom will have been proved to be true, and they can give the rest of us a big “I told you so.” However, if America wins, they lose - and they will only be madder, and more resentful; they will never admit that our nation did the right thing by going into Iraq. Of course, in a way, they’ve already gotten a small victory; at the beginning, I never would have used the term “if America wins,” it would have been “when America wins.”
Where is the truth? Are these related at all? If they’re not directly related, then they are at least mutually beneficial - which should be enough for any of us that love truth and freedom (and don’&t want the blood of our brothers in arms to have been spilt in vain) to know what side we should be on. Contrary to what Congress seems to think, the American people do not elect and seat 435 "Commander-in-Chief"s every two years - we elect one every four years. For the next two years, there is one Commander in Chief, with a new Secretary of Defense. If the Democrats have ideas for how to win the war, then let them work together with the administration so that we will prevail. If all they have is grandstanding, naysaying, and threats of treasonous proportions, then they need to sit down and shut up.
Why would a patriotic American position themselves so that they are only validated if America loses? The short answer - they wouldn’t.
Here’s part 2 of the 3-part series “2006 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” While part 1 dealt with items that are bad on a ridiculous level, there is nothing humorous about these happenings during 2006.
I covered this in depth with my post “Why the Republicans Lost” earlier in the year. Now, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are going to be in control of the legislative branch. While our nation can survive, this does signal the end of many meaningful reforms. Immigration enforcement, strict-constructionist judicial nominees, and meaningful energy reforms are all distant memories. In their place we’ll get amnesty for illegal aliens, judicial activists, and economy-crushing minimum wage increases.
The majority of Americans don’t seem to understand that the latter is a ploy by union workers, who want raises but are contractually tied to a level above minimum wage. When it goes up, their pay goes up. However, businesses only have money as they collect it from their customers - increased payroll expense will only drive prices higher, at which point the buying power of the new minimum wage is about the same as the buying power of the old. Higher minimum wage levels also reduce the number of entry-level jobs held by students and retirees - I’m really surprised that the same party who panders to seniors and says that everything they want to do is “for the children” is in favor of such a move.
The Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld established that military tribunals could not be used to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This ruling, in effect, gave unlawful combatants official status, and required that they be given access to our justice system. President Bush asked Congress to clarify rules for detainee treatment, leading to what some have dubbed the “Terrorist Bill of Rights.” During debate on this and other bills throughout the year, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and others were adamant about adding “no torture” language into bills. Techniques such as water-boarding (where a person feels like they’re drowning, but they really aren’t), which had been used to extract intelligence that prevented attacks, were now no longer allowed.
This is a trend that I hope and pray does not continue into 2007. We Americans are gracious to our enemies, sometimes to a fault. But, there comes a point when we need to realize that they are our enemies. When they take up arms against us, when they align themselves with organizations that have, as their stated goals, the destruction of our nation - if we capture you, expect to be made to talk.
Eight Marines have been charged with murder and other charges relating to an incident in the Iraqi town of Haditha. These men were part of a patrol in this city, when their patrol was attacked with an IED (improvised explosive device). After the IED went off, they were also receiving hostile fire from both sides of the street. As their training taught them, they laid down suppressive fire to remove the casualties that they had taken, then launched a counter-offensive to kill the insurgents that had inflicted this attack on them.
Once the shooting had stopped, some of the Iraqis in that town began complaining about the counter-offensive, saying that the people who had been killed were innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the attack. These stories were often contradictory, but that didn’t matter to the folks here who never miss a chance to broadcast bad news. The link above is very lengthy (and the other information it links are also lengthy), but it is a detailed analysis as to what happened that day, and how it is being prosecuted. Even an embedded CNN reporter does not believe these allegations.
This is disgraceful, and I hope that the court-martial comes out in favor of these dedicated Marines. “War is hell” isn’t just a quip - it’s reality.
With current concerns over terrorism, and nukes that Russia can’t find, two nations hostile to the United States declared their nuclear capabilities this year. North Korea has been testing missiles (although these tests were, by all accounts, an abject failure) and nuclear warheads. Iran claims that their nuclear capability is only to be used for power. Why do I not trust Iran? Let me count the ways… They are the primary supplier of personnel and weapons for the insurgency in Iraq. They teamed up with Syria to support Hezbollah in their attacks on Israel earlier this year. They hosted a holocaust denial conference. And that was all this year!
All nations have a right to defend themselves. However, when these nations have proved themselves hostile to us and friendly to our enemies, we must demand that they pursue their defense using conventional weapons.
That is certainly not all of the bad things that happened this year, but I believe they are some that will have the most enduring impression on our world and our nation. Next up - the good!
Here recently, there has been a spate of apologies. Now, I believe in owning up for your actions when you are wrong, and I am training my children to do the same. But these mass apologies to which I’m referring are nothing more than meaningless “I feel your pain” drivel.
First up is the recent Senate apology for not outlawing lynching. For starters, there is no one in the Senate today who was around then and didn’t “outlaw” lynching at the Federal level. Besides, lynching was already illegal, under assault and murder laws - whether backwoods Southern police departments prosecuted offenders is not the domain of the Senate (legislative branch - law enforcement is a task of the executive branch). The only thing this resolution does is bring up, yet again, the terrible part of Southern history that is lynching. It reminds some Americans, now in their eighties and nineties, of a time that they’ve worked hard to overcome and forget. With the Senate still dragging their feet on judicial confirmations, wasting their time on this meaningless document seems ludicrous. One pundit has an interesting take on it (although his view of whether it was “good” or not differs from mine) - he says that this resolution forced Senators to make a political choice. (I’m proud to say that one my senators, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), as well as Richard Shelby (R-AL) and both Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) did not put their names on this.)
Next up is Richard Durbin’s comments regarding the military, and his subsequent statement that he termed an “apology.” He has used the patented “if then” apology technique - if what I said offended you, then I’m sorry. It’s hard to say when this came into vogue - he’s certainly not the first to try to pass something like that off as an apology. He said what he said, and offered us a window into his soul, his beliefs. If he doesn’t have the spine to stick up for his conviction, well… that probably makes him like 70%+ of the elected officials in Washington, I suppose. ScrappleFace had a great parody on Sen. Durbin’s apology - the “first draft” is a lot closer to an apology than what he actually said!
This apologizing can really get inane and picky - a candidate for office in New York has now apologized because, in describing her civil rights work in the 1960’s, referred to a police vehicle as a “paddy wagon.” This is absolutely ridiculous. I’m glad our Founding Fathers didn’t have such thin skin as their progeny has now developed - they would have demanded an apology from Britain, and while they were standing there with their hands on their hips, the British would have killed them all.
Mass apologies, and apologies over trifiling little issues, are meaningless. The only good thing they do is make it easy to tell who is more concerned with feelings than with accomplishment. As we go through life, things happen that either offend us, hurt us, or make us mad. When faced with these circumstances, we have two choices; we can either allow it to keep us down, and focus on our own feelings, or we can use it as motivation to make our lives better. The rugged men who founded our country chose the latter, and so do I. What will you choose?
Yesterday evening, Senate Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement on judicial nominations, and the use of the filibuster, to allow most of President Bush’s nominees to receive floor votes. Lots of folks are heralding this as a good thing - but, to me, this is a failure. It is true that getting 5 judges voted on (and, most likely, in) is better than none - but this is the first President in history to have his nominations clear the Judiciary Committee (where unqualified judges are generally weeded out), but be filibustered on the floor of the full Senate. This list, culled from the Washington Times by radio host Neal Boortz, shows the percentage of nominations by post-WWII Presidents that have been approved. In prior administrations, the lowest was 77% (JFK), and there were three who were in the 80% range. President George W. Bush’s judicial confirmation rate is currently 53.1%.
There are also huge problems wording of the “Memorandum of Understanding” part II. In it, these 14 folks state categorically that this agreement means nothing (as the “extraordinary circumstances” are not defined (how ordinary is a Supreme Court nomination? not very?)) and that, in effect, the Republican leadership loses (as they agree to not support a rule change, commonly called the “nuclear option”). This is unbelievable to me - why would 7 Republican Senators go along with such a spineless decision? Former Senate Majority / Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) was defeated in the most recent election, as the people of South Dakota let the nation know how they felt about his obstructionist tactics - do these folks have that short of a memory? Republicans won a clear majority in both houses of Congress, and President Bush was reelected with a clear majority of both the electoral college (which matters) and the American people (which doesn’t).
My opinion - nuke 'em. Invoke the nuclear/Constitutional option, force these people to make a vote for obstructionism. The American people want results, and are growing weary of this unmitigated power grab by the minority party.
And, a few side notes…
Notice in the Memo, that it’s "Majority Leader Frist and “Democrat Leader Reid” - I’m pretty sure that Senator Reid’s title is not “Democrat Leader,” but “Minority Leader.” Even in a “bi-partisan” compromise, the Democrat spin machine is on high.