Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
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.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Daniel J. Summers
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 plumber!” (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?
Monday, December 29, 2008
Daniel J. Summers
This past year has been one of the most eventful years I can remember in the recent past. Continuing a now 3-year tradition, this is the first of three posts that comprise “2008 Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” I post them in reverse order, so that they make sense when reading them in the archives.
So, let's look at that the things that went beyond bad (AKA ridiculous) this past year…
Sarah Palin's Treatment
In August, John McCain announced his running mate - a virtually unknown Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. However, she was not unknown to those of us in conservative circles (even if we thought her name was pronounced PAL-inn instead of PAY-lin). In fact, I still credit Cassy Fiano with being prescient on this - she posted about her way back on June 23rd. We knew her story, her accomplishments, and her attitude. Although this was her first national campaign, she already had a nearly 20-year career in governmental leadership. With the opposing party running someone with 120-some-odd days in a legislative office, one would think that she would be dealt with on her merits.
But, as we all know, that's not how it went down. From day 1, she was called inexperienced. Remember this press release from the Obama campaign, released the day her selection was announced?
Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies - that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same.
And, it didn't stop there. The women who get attention from the media, AKA radical feminists, piled on, calling her everything but a woman. I'm not lumping the Saturday Night Live satires in with this; they spoof everyone, and they invited both McCain and Palin to be on the show (and they both did a great job). Her experience was ridiculed, her wardrobe maligned, her children jeered - and the list at this point is charitable. Rumors swirled that Gov. Palin's special-needs child was actually borne by one of her daughters, fathered by her husband; and the rumor of her daughter Bristol's pregnancy, while proved true, was played to make her look like a backwards hillbilly redneck. It was all truly despicable, which is why it leads this year's list.
Don't Taze Bail Me Out, Bro!
Government interference in the private sector came to a head this year in a bad, bad way. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, entities that helped provide “sub-prime” mortgages (a euphemism for “loans people can't really afford”), were providing these loans the same way they were in the late 1990's, at the crest of the Internet wave. I remember a scare after 9/11, when the housing market really went south - but, we didn't learn from that. Banks continued making loans they had no business making, to people who had no business seeking out such loans to begin with, for real estate that, contrary to the view of some in this country, is not an entitlement.
The bubble burst! (surprise, surprise) With the downturn in the economy (which even Bill Clinton understood - “It's a crisis of confidence”), banks were having to foreclose on these loans to get their money, and people were being evicted from their homes (technically “the bank's houses” at that point). I'm not completely heartless - losing a home stinks; but, the true heartlessness was letting them get it in the first place. Politicians demagogued the issue - how many times did you hear “Owning a home is the American dream!” - and people bought it, literally. With lots of foreclosures and slow sales, this snowballed from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Lehman Brothers and AIG, and soon we heard about impending financial collapse.
Fast-forward to November - the “big three” auto makers say “Hey, we need a bail-out too!” The CEO for GM actually apologized for their making crappy cars (in a manner of speaking). The cause in this case is related in mind-set to the mortgage problem - an entitlement mentality. The United Auto Workers union had strong-armed these companies into providing compensation packages for their employees that, given their sales and profits, were unsustainable. The UAW refused to match packages that are successful for Toyota, Hyundai, and other manufacturers outside of Detroit, and Congress refused to give them money (quite possibly the best thing this current Congress has done). The Bush Administration has opened up money design for financial loans for these companies - we'll have to see how that pans out into 2009; GM and Chrysler took it, Ford did not.
The biggest problem with all this is something I've been saying for years, which was only confirmed when I took my Microeconomics class last year. Government interference in free markets only causes problems. Oppressive regulations suppress innovation, and incentives create bubbles that cannot be sustained. So, in my opinion, the best way out of this is to let the bubble burst, clean up the mess, learn these important lessons, and move on. These packages, whether you call them “stimulus” packages or “bail-outs,” what they really are is rewarding irresponsible behavior, by taking money from those who have been more responsible.
The 2008 Olympics
No, I'm not talking about Michael Phelps' ridiculous display of athleticism. :) This is more for China and its show. The opening ceremony was certainly impressive, to the point of being creepy. Fake fireworks? Isn't this the land known for it's fireworks? Just because communist countries get Olympic games doesn't mean that I have to like it - I remember the USSR games in 1980. But, to watch the coverage of these games, you wouldn't know about China…
...except for their women's gymnastics team. Although the IOC eventually determined that all of their team members were 16 years old, I'm not buying it. However, I'm glad they tried it - it brought their “reality is what we say it is” style of heavy-handed government to the attention of many, many people.
Burma Refuses Aid after Cyclone
In the spring, a horrible cyclone hit Burma (AKA Myanmar), a nation in southwest Asia. Aid workers and aid began to pour in from all over the world, only to be rebuffed by the militaristic governmental dictatorship. Visas were held up or denied for many aid workers, and the government refused to allow aid to go directly to the people; rather, it mandated that all aid be given directly to the government, for it to distribute.
This is absolutely ridiculous. Even when nearly half a million (yes, that's 500,000) of its citizens have lost their lives, the government continues to keep a stranglehold on this country. By not allowing aid into the country, the after-effects of disease brought on by contaminated water only added to the death toll. Even today, the country is still stiff-arming offers for aid, insisting that things are back to normal. I'd rather live through 100 Obama presidencies than live one day under a government like that!
What did you think was ridiculous in 2008? (Just a note - I'll have the 2008 election in the “bad” entry…)
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Daniel J. Summers
Wow - last night's speech was the best TV I've seen all year. To quote John McCain…
Don't you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States!
Yep - you did. One reason that this allays some of my fears regarding McCain is that this gives us the first indication of the type of person he will choose to help him run his administration. Had he chosen Lieberman, or another one of the names on his “short list,” there would have been little to assure conservatives that his administration would govern and nominate conservatively.
And, just for fun, some memorable moments from the Honorable (notice how few stories use that title?) Sarah Palin's speech…
You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.
Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involved. I guess - I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.
I might add that, in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they're listening and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. No, we tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.
While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the governor's office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for. That luxury jet was over-the-top. I put it on eBay. I love to drive myself to work. And I thought we could muddle through without the governor's personal chef, although I got to admit that sometimes my kids sure miss her.
Our opponents say again and again that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems, as if we didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling, though, won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all.
We need American sources of resources. We need American energy brought to you by American ingenuity and produced by American workers.
(After that applause break, I was waiting for her to come back and say “legal American workers” - but alas, it was not to be…)
(speaking of Obama) But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the State Senate. This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word “victory,” except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot ... when that happens, what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?
America needs more energy; our opponent is against producing it. Victory in Iraq is finally in sight, and he wants to forfeit. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay; he wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he's worried that someone won't read them their rights.
Here's how I look at the choice Americans face in this election: In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers, and then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change. They are the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms, not just on buttons and banners or on self-designed presidential seals.
Harry Reid, the majority of the current do-nothing Senate, he not long ago summed up his feelings about our nominee. He said, quote, “I can't stand John McCain.” Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps no accolade we hear this week is better proof that we've chosen the right man.
My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery.
For a season, a gifted speaker can inspire with his words. But for a lifetime, John McCain has inspired with his deeds.