Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Under the Gun: California legislators are considering the creation of curriculum for K-12 students to learn basic firearms safety through school. Some people are queasy about this, citing zero-tolerance policies and the rise of gun violence in schools. They figure what students don't know can't hurt them. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. More education generally fixes problems. And so many gun deaths are the result of stupid mistakes.

For example, I picked up the Detroit Free Press on Monday and saw a front-page article about a caretaker who accidentally shot and killed an 18-month old baby with a shotgun.

The caretaker was cleaning the house and found the shotgun under a couch. She wanted to see if it was loaded, so she pumped it and accidentally pulled the trigger.

Any number of basic firearm precautions would have prevented this tragedy. For one thing, she should have been conscientious about where she was pointing the gun. Always point a gun in a safe direction (ie, the ground) until you plan to use it. There was no reason to check to see if it was loaded, and pumping a shotgun loads a round into the chamber. Don't load a gun until you plan to use it. And her finger never had to touch the trigger. She could have easily held the shotgun from the butt as she inspected it. Don't touch the trigger until you plan to use it.

Any of those three safety measures would have prevented the death, and she should have been doing all three. But the easiest way for her to have avoided the tragedy is if she simply left the gun lying on the ground. Instead she was curious, and she killed a baby.

I often hear about people getting hurt and killed from carelessness with a gun. One of the most popular excuses is that the gun went off while somebody was cleaning it. Any gun owner knows that it's impossible to clean a loaded weapon. Simple education would stop many of these mistakes.

Volokh likens the liberal opposition to firearm safety education to the conservative opposition to safe-sex education. Apparently both of them are "abstinence only" on their own issues.

On both issues, we shouldn't be withholding education. Ignorance has never cured any maladies or fixed any problems. Ignorance is simply a tool for authorities to tell you how to think. Education gives people the knowledge and confidence to make the right decisions.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Nevermind: I was in Michigan on Monday. Nice thing about leaving the Beltway and visiting a swing state is that you finally get a chance to see what's going on in the presidential campaign.

Remember all that talk about how the "I approved this message" requirement could lead to a decrease in outright negative campaign ads. It's not working. Bush's commercials follow the law and begin with his approval of the message -- then the message goes on to trash Kerry for wanting to raise taxes by $900-billion within his first 100 days as president: "And that's just the first 100 days," the ad says. No more pictures of Bush are included.

It reminds me of when I was living in Texas and Bush first ran for governor, against incumbent Ann Richards. Ann, as she was wont to do, ran a nasty, dirty campaign, trashing Bush. But Bush ran a mostly positive campaign, with his ads laying out specific policy proposals on how he would like to help the state.

When asked about Ann's nasty -- and at times deceitful -- attacks, Bush responded that the incumbent must not have anything positive to say about her own term as governor if she could only run ads targeting the upstart challenger. It was a brilliant maneuver, and he easily won that election as a result.

Now Bush is the incumbent president. He's not laying out any specific policy proposals for the next term. And he's attacking his challenger instead of highlighting the (many, I believe) positives that have come out of his four years as president.

Not a smart move. The burden of proof is on Bush, the incumbent, to show that he is not just the lesser of two evils, but to prove that he has done good things as president and to tell us what good things he wants to do with his next term.

One Step at a Time: The art of compromise is to make sure that neither side is happy with the results. That seems to what happened when the Massachusetts Legislature gave initial approval for a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage but would allow for civil unions.

Conservatives are happy to slap down what they see as a runaway state supreme court that, they say, invented the legal right for homosexuals to marry. The left has helped ensure civil rights for a group that faces blatant discrimination in the law. But neither side wanted to give up anything.

The result is not total marriage for gays, but homosexual couples will receive many of the same legal benefits that heterosexual married couples receive. The difference is semantics, and there's no reason to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

But creating a right to civil unions in the Massachusetts Constitution is a step in the right direction. The state constitution can more easily be updated later to allow gays to marry than, say, the U.S. Constitution.

And this compromise also shows that President Bush's endorsement of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage is not only unnecessary, but is also a drastic overreaction. The states can handle this issue. Let them slowly pave the way toward granting civil rights for homosexuals, then the federal government can learn to follow along.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Not Invited to the Party: Sen. Kerry is already trying to bring about some positive change. He's working to unseat my Congressman, Rep. James Moran (D-Va.).

For those who don't know about this moron, Moran is the man who blamed the "Jewish community" for the war in Iraq, accepted a questionable loan from a bank that was the subject of legislation pending in Congress, and has gotten into fist fights on occasion -- sometimes on the House floor.

His district in Northern Virginia is heavily Democratic, so there's probably no chance of a Republican defeating him in the general election. So some of Sen. Kerry's top advisors are working behind the scenes to help Alexandria lawyer Andrew Rosenberg defeat Moran in the June Democratic primary, according to The Washington Times.

I generally don't vote in primaries. But I may this year just to make sure we get rid of this guy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Verdict: The 9/11 Commission has reached the conclusion that both Bush and Clinton are to blame for the terrorist attacks. I appreciate the attempt to spread the blame to both parties, but I respectfully disagree. I think Al Qaeda is to blame for the 9/11 attacks.

The commission is paying too much attention to the finger pointing by both parties and is attempting to placate them by accusing both sides. But this country needs to stop fighting each other and to start concentrating on fighting our enemy. Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden are still threats. Wahhabis and other cults of Middle Eastern terrorists who are looking to spread international carnage need to be stopped.

When looking at past mistakes, the commission faults Clinton and Bush for not invading Afghanistan sooner. But there’s no way we could have gotten American and international support for such an endeavor, even with all the human-rights abuses the Taliban committed. And even if we had successfully nabbed Bin Laden and destroyed much of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, that wouldn’t have prevented 9/11 from happening. Instead, the public would have thought that the 9/11 attacks were a response to American military action.

Now that we are truly at war with the terrorists, it’s still difficult to get the American public to sign off on military action. Some people consider the mission in Iraq to be a waste of time. Even after 9/11, many people thought invading Afghanistan was a bad idea.

I keep hearing that we didn’t connect the dots to prevent the 9/11 attacks. That was a mistake, but we decided not to make the same mistake in Iraq. But for some reason, people are scared that we’ll make the terrorists mad.

My friends, the terrorists are already mad and have already declared war against us. After several terrorist attacks throughout the 1990’s, we held back on decisive action in favor of diplomacy. As a result, 3,000 people died on U.S. soil.

Clinton’s hands were tied. When he fired a few cruise missles at suspected sites, conservatives were screaming that this is a distraction from the Lewinsky scandal. If Clinton had declared war against the terrorists, the Republicans would have impeached him (… oh, wait).

Now Democrats are pulling the same tricks with with catcalls of “oil” and “daddy”, which hamper Bush’s response to terrorist threats. This only give strength to our enemies. And that makes this country more vulnerable.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Petty: The War on Terrorism has completely degraded into partisan bickering in this country. I don’t know whether it’s just because it’s an election year, but all this could turn out to be a huge distraction to the task at hand.

Now Richard Clarke’s accusations are bringing out the worst in both parties. Liberals are accusing Bush of lying and are calling for his impeachment. Conservatives are calling Clarke, who was appointed by Reagan, a partisan Clintonite and are trying to discredit everything he has to say.

Of course, the media is overblowing every aspect, fanning the flames of sensationalism. And Clarke is as guilty of the hype as much as the other parties. He’s trying to tar and feather Bush by painting him as obsessed with Iraq to such an extent that he ignored a clear and present danger in Al Qaeda, which allowed for the 9/11 attacks.

The battleground for these political attacks is the bipartisan 9/11 commission, which is desperately trying to figure out what has gone wrong in hopes of preventing a similar attack from occuring.

Now commission members are finding that both Bush and Clinton overlooked Al Qaeda. The verdict is, mistakes were made. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes again.

P.S. I’m covering a conference out of town for the next couple days. So I won’t be near my computer much for blog duties. And the computer I’m using doesn’t have spell check (!).

Monday, March 22, 2004

Another Small Step: A lesbian Methodist minister, who was on trial for violating church law against homosexuality, has been acquitted. While the trial's outcome is still considered controversial, it's refreshing that some traditional and conservative institutions such as a Christian church can teach people to open their minds to discussions about homosexuality.

Clarke's Bar: Unfortunately I missed Richard Clarke's appearance on 60 Minutes last night. But I've read the coverage in the newspapers and blogs. He gives an interesting interpretation of what has been going on in the Bush administration. But it really doesn't bother me.

From what I understand of the accusations, Bush was set on taking out Saddam Hussein from day one and was looking for any reason to invade. And when 9/11 happened, Bush immediately tried to find a connection, any connection, between the attacks and Iraq.

In addition, Clarke is accusing Bush of ignoring warnings from Clinton and other developing threats that Al Qaeda was going to be a major problem for the United States and needed to be confronted immediately.

Interesting stuff, but it seems overblown to me. It's been well known that Bush had been itching to invade Iraq. Whether Clarke is exaggerating this to paint Bush as obsessive is open to interpretation. The question is why Bush wanted to bring down Saddam Hussein so badly.

The cynics will immediately cry out about "daddy's war" or "oil" or mumble something about "Halliburton". I still don't buy any of that. I think Bush is justified in wanting to go take out Saddam, because at the time the dictator was stonewalling the United Nations inspectors and ignoring the cease-fire agreements after the invasion of Kuwait, and intelligence agencies were certain (with both Bush and Clinton in office) that Iraq was continuing to develop WMD.

While Bush may have had strong ambitions to go into Iraq, he never campaigned on it and never even mentioned it during his first months of office. It appears that he was looking to finish the job, but he wasn't manufacturing any excuses.

Then when 9/11 happened, it was clear that we were dealing with Middle Eastern terrorists. Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Middle Eastern terrorists. Bush badly wanted to kill two birds with one stone by linking Iraq to 9/11.

After extensive searching, no link was found. So we found the tie to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, concentrated our efforts on the zealot Taliban regime in Afghanistan that was offering protection, and we destroyed that sponsor of terrorism. The search for a link to Iraq did not interfere with the operation in Afghanistan and didn't prevent us from doing what we needed to do. The results speak for themselves: Bush's concern over Iraq was not hurting the War on Terrorism.

Eventually the Taliban was overthrown and a democracy was being built in Afghanistan. The terrorists were on the run as we hunted them down. Because this is a global War on Terrorism, we don't have the luxury of making sure everything is pristine in one hotspot before we move on our next military action. The War on Terrorism required engagement on a massive scale, with the goal of not only ending the states that support terrorism, but also transforming the culture in the Middle East that breeds terrorism.

Iraq was that next step. Yes, it was already on Bush's things-to-do list, but that's only because the dangers there were present before he took office. The War on Terrorism made it all the more crucial that we take out unstable dictators that support terrorists, and Saddam Hussein was an obvious choice. I've laid out the rationale for invading Iraq numerous times, feel free to scroll through the archives to see my reasoning.

That brings us to the second accusation by Clarke, that Bush was warned about Al Qaeda and did nothing. People have said that Clinton had briefed Bush about Osama Bin Laden and designated the terrorist leader as the number-one priority. While I'm sure Clinton stressed that Bin Laden was a very dangerous man, I don't think anybody realized how far the attacks by Al Qaeda were going to escalate.

If Clinton did pronounce Osama Bin Laden as public enemy number one during the transition, then Clinton has a lot of explaining to do.

Since 9/11, conservatives have accused Clinton of not recognizing the significance of Al Qaeda's numerous terrorist attacks (1993 World Trade Center bombing, attack on the U.S. embassies, USS Cole). Clinton even refused several offers by the Sudanese government to arrest Bin Laden and bring him to justice. And there were other opportunities that Clinton missed.

I've always defended Clinton by saying that, while the terrorist incidents were tragic, there was never any national outrage. Each terrorist attack was seen as an instance of fanatical suicide nutcases perpetrating a crime. So we used law enforcement and intelligence to track down their co-conspirators and bring them to trial. We didn't know until 9/11 that the terrorists were so determined and would become so deadly.

So I give both Clinton and Bush a pass for not recognizing the dangers. I believe our intelligence community should have figured out what was going on, but mistakes were made, and now we're going to make sure those mistakes never happen again.

Surely Richard Clarke's accusations will intensify the partisan bickering. More people may even lose confidence in Bush. But the world has changed since 9/11, and we need to learn from what we did wrong and move forward.

Good for Israel: The Israeli military's killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin is another step towards destroying terrorist structure in the Middle East. Israel is fighting a war just like the United States is, and should be considered our greatest ally. That nation suffers countless more terrorist attacks than we do and needs to protect its people.

Hamas is a terrorist organization that targets civilians, usually busloads of them. The men who run Hamas are highly effective murderers who employ suicide bombers to attack groups of people as they go about their business. The terrorists can't be stopped though any security measures, so they must be destroyed.

Unfortunately, some Europeans are condemning Israel, saying the attack will damage the peace process. It's time they understand, every time Israel enters the peace process, Palestinian terrorists take advantage of the situation to launch an attack. Most of the most deadly attacks by Hamas came as Israel and Palestinians were negotiating peace. After Hamas would blow up a busload of civilians, including women and children, Israel would target the men who organized and carried out the terrorist attacks. Hamas would then say Israel's reaction to being attacked is unfair. But Israel is simply trying to maintain peace within its own borders.

Israel's action is no different than the United States attempting to kill Osama Bin Laden. If the Palestinians can't prevent terrorists from attacking Israel, then Israel has a right to defend itself.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Appeasement: So now the terrorists are endorsing Bush. Seriously:

The statement said Abu Hafs al-Masri needs what it called Bush's "idiocy and religious fanaticism" because they would "wake up" the Islamic world.


"Actually, there is no difference between [Bush] and Kerry, but Kerry will kill our community, while it is unaware, because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish infidelity and present it to the Arab and Islamic community as civilization."
So the terrorists don't fear the might of the U.S. military, but they are worried that the Democratic Party will bring "infidelity" to the Islamic world. Are they talking about infidels, or adultery, or both?

Sounds like the terrorists are looking for a fight, nonetheless.

This brings us back to the question as to whether a terrorist strike on American soil right before the November election would benefit Bush or Kerry. While any reminder that terrorists are trying to destroy us could align voters with Bush's strong stance against terrorism, a security breakdown could be seen as the president's failure to adequately protect us.

Truth is, there will be another attack here in America. There is no way to completely secure our borders without drastically infringing on the American rights we're trying to protect. That's why we need to take the fight to the terrorists. And successfully bringing democracy and prosperity to Iraq will wake up the Islamic world and help turn it away from despotism and terrorism.

BWAHAHAHA: Jayson Blair's attempt to exploit his own wrongdoing for his own gain appears to be flopping. His book, with the racially charged title "Burning Down My Masters' House", has only sold about 1,400 copies in the nine days since the publisher printed 250,000 of them. Despite the extensive media coverage of the book, the public doesn't care to hear a liar's excuses for why he lied. And I doubt anybody's waiting for the movie.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Tricky: Last night I finally saw the fake Medicare "news" footage that the Bush administration has been doling out to small-time TV stations. The Daily Show played the clip and provided the requisite lampooning.

It's amazing that the Bushies tried to pass this off as a real news program. Their defense is that Clinton did it at one time. I've never heard of that, and I don't know that he did it during an election year.

The sad part is that the Bush administration did such a poor job. The video looks like a poorly put-together news story. It's hardly one-sided, because it doesn't even argue Bush's side effectively. Instead of presenting any facts as to why the Medicare bill is so great, it offers a bland pseudo-analysis:

The new laws, say officials, simply offers people with Medicare ways to make their health care more affordable. In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting.
Despite the constant complaints of media bias, people still rely on the news media for facts and information that is free from partisan spin. Not only is it deceitful for the Bush administration to slip these videos to small-town TV stations desperate for news copy, but the stations themselves should know better than to air them during the news broadcasts. Political ads should be played during the commercials, along with all the other ads.

It's funny, but much of the political controversy this year that major news stations have been covering involves political ads. What with Bush's ad with 9/11 footage and Kerry's ads that accuse Bush of lying, CNN and the others have had their hands full examining every clip and offering their analyses.

While I was on vacation, I saw some of the news coverage of the ads. I was sitting with my girlfriend, who thankfully isn't nearly as obsessed with politics as I am, when she got fed up with all the news spewage and said: "Since when are commercials covered in the news? Aren't they supposed to be what's played between the news programs?"

Excellent point.

Update: The Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk was able to nab an interview with Karen Ryan. She maintains that she did nothing wrong. In fact, she feels like the scapegoat -- or "political roadkill" as she calls it. It's an interesting read.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

No Difference: What's the big deal whether Kerry said "foreign leaders" or "more leaders"? In both versions, Kerry is talking about leaders in other countries, which would be foreign leaders -- more of them, in fact.

KERRY:"I've been hearing it, I'll tell ya. The news, the coverage in other countries, the news in other places. I've met more leaders who can't go out and say it all publicly, but boy they look at you and say, you gotta win this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that. So there is enormous energy out there. Tell them, wherever they can find an American abroad, they can contribute," a reference to donations, prompting laughter from the crowd.
As a journalist, it's bad to transcribe a quote incorrectly. So I understand why the correction was released. But it doesn't change the content of the message.

Unbelievable: I was having a cordial comment exchange with a liberal who was against the war in Iraq, when I said, "Saddam Hussein was known to have been working with international terrorist groups, was known to have had and used WMD ...".

He responded with the brilliant retort, "This is unsupported bullshit".

I can't believe some people in this world honestly believe Saddam Hussein never had WMD and never supported international terrorists. This has been proven time and time again, by Republicans, Democrats, the United Nations, and even France.

It is widely known that Iraq has had large quantities of chemical and biological weapons. He used them against the Kurds in the 1980s. Our troops got sick off them after the first Gulf War. President Clinton said in 1998 that Iraq had admitted having at one time a WMD arsenal 5,000 gallons of Botulinum, 2,000 gallons of Anthrax, 25 biological-filled Scud warheads, 157 aerial bombs -- much of which were unaccounted for at the time.

President Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox to destroy Iraq's WMD program.

And as for Saddam Hussein's support of international terrorism, this is common knowledge.

Yes, we've had a major intelligence failure in gathering information on Saddam's current WMD stock, and we need to find out what went wrong and fix it immediately. But don't rewrite history to say Saddam Hussein was a saint, and that anyone who suggests otherwise is purporting "unsupported bullshit". He invaded two of his neighbors, used chemical and biological weapons, and continued to support terrorists. After he was defeated in 1991, he deserved to be unseated. But we let him stay in power if, and only if, he abided by certain conditions. Among those was to prove he destroyed his WMD. He blatantly broke all of the conditions, and for that we finished the job we started in 1991.

But now people not only think that we were wrong, but that Bush made up the whole thing, and now terrorists are only mad because of the Iraq war. They cite the bombings in Spain as evidence. But Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia did not support the Iraq war, yet they are being attacked by Al Qaeda.

And lest we forget 9/11. Before that, we were pretty much leaving terrorists alone, aside from a few law enforcement activities. That day, they started a war, and we're fighting the war. We will be attacked a few more times during the war, but if we don't fight back, we will be in even more danger.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Setback: Al Qaeda planned the attacks to specifically overthrow the Spanish government. And they succeeded. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Long Day: I found disturbing news on the front page of The Wall Street Journal last night as I was waiting for the subway. Tech geniuses are already looking to market the successor to the DVD. I'm a guy who still hasn't graduated from VHS, and already the technology to replace that technology is about to be replaced.

Then the day's feature story profiled a man named Orlando Soto. The only thing remarkable about this guy is that he loved to buy things that are advertised through e-mail Spam. He spends thousands of dollars a year on miracle vitamins and other Spam novelties (the article didn't mention whether he invested in any of those penis pills). He likens finding Spam bargains as being "like a treasure hunt." Unfortunately, his treasure hunts are giving Spammers more incentive to clog the rest of our in-boxes with crap.

Getting Nasty: The Bush team, desperate to damage Kerry, is trying to ride out the senator's latest gaffe for longer than it can float.

Sen. Kerry said that some foreign leaders are secretly hoping that he will be elected U.S. president. But he didn't say which ones.

He didn't have to. We all know the leaders of France, Russia, and Germany aren't too happy about what Bush is doing. But we also know the leaders of North Korea, Al Qaeda, and a former leader of Iraq would prefer to face Kerry than Bush. I'm not trashing Kerry here, but he would go much easier on our enemies than Bush would. The debate underway is over exactly how much force we should use to confront our enemies, and that will be settled in the election.

So Kerry wanted to get some credit for being popular with some Europeans. That's fine. And he also didn't want to name the names so as not to create an international incident. That's good, but that also left him open to all the Kim Jung Il jokes.

This all came to a head when a Bush supporter began heckling Kerry at a town-hall meeting, demanding to know the names of the leaders, going so far as to calling the senator a liar. I didn't see the exchange, but I'm sure Kerry was frustrated when he blurted out "That's none of your business." Poor choice of words on Kerry's part, but he didn't owe that heckler anything. Shouting at politicians and calling them liars doesn't further political discourse, it stifles it. And Kerry was justified in blowing the guy off.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Wrong Response: It appears that Al Qaeda has successfully hijacked the Spanish electorate. According to The Washington Post, polls indicated that the ruling Popular Party was well on its way to win re-election, despite its support of the U.S. President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Then when the public found out that Al Qaeda was behind the bombing of Spanish commuter trains on Thursday as punishment for Spain's involvement in Iraq, the electorate gave into fear and voted for the Socialist Party. The newly elected government plans a quick withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, which the incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero calls a "disaster".

Al Qaeda has threatened that if Spain doesn't stop supporting the United States, then "more and more blood will flow." Now Al Qaeda got what it wanted. This victory has only emboldened the terrorists. The Spanish people have put themselves and many other people in danger by giving into the terrorists.

Italy, England, Australia, and the other participating countries -- especially the United States -- will be in grave danger of attacks, probably soon before their major elections.

I'm not saying that if people don't vote for Bush or for people who agree with Bush, then they're supporting Al Qaeda. But these terrorists are trying to affect public policy through fear and murder.

We cannot give into terrorists' demands. There's no way we can stop all terrorist attacks from occurring. Another one will happen here in the United States. But we can stop the fear from paralyzing us. We need to attack the terrorists and the countries that support them, both politically and militarily. If we offer only appeasement, we are encouraging Al Qaeda to spill more blood.

Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists have declared war on Western civilization, and they will murder as many people as possible to scare us into adopting an Islamo-fascist state. These are extremists who are killing by the hundreds and thousands. Yet some people blame Bush for this. It's not Bush's fault these attacks keep occurring. Bush wants to fight these people head on. Al Qaeda is weaker as a result, but not yet defeated. And if we begin to appease, that will only make them stronger again.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Time Out: I'm off to enjoy a couple days off in the Internet-free region of the Blue Ridge Mountains. See you Monday.

That Explains It: The New York Post gets to the bottom of issue of the 9/11 families who were supposedly outraged by Bush's inclusion of World Trade Center footage in his campaign ads. (via InstaPundit).

These families have been opposing President Bush since 9/12 and also have been campaigning for Sen. Kerry. They opposed military reaction to the terrorist attacks. Not just military action in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan.

While we share in the grief of these people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, it appears that some of them are partisans who are using their victim-status as a bullhorn to spout their political rhetoric. They have a right to say whatever they please. But it is not representative of how other victims or their families feel, and it should not be considered news.

Remember, some families of victims criticized the idea of constructing new office buildings in and around the destroyed buildings at Ground Zero. They wanted to keep it a barren landscape, claiming anything else would be "disrespectful" of their loved ones. That's why the first round of proposals to rebuild Ground Zero didn't include any skyscrapers. But finally other people spoke up and said we need to reach for the sky again.

Unfortunately, Democrats are clinging to the words of those on the fringe, and the media is characterizing all of Bush's ads as "controversial", even though they're just typical, bland, feel-good ads. Most people, including 9/11 families, don't see a problem with Bush's ads.

9/11 and the war on terrorism is the most important issue facing America today. Many other issues also need to be addressed, but the war should be front and center, and both candidates should be engaged in the discussion.

Moving Forward: Bush is trying to nail Kerry as being weak on national security. However, Bush is neglecting to show us what he plans to do to make security tighter. We've seen that the president has previously done a good job fighting this war. But it's past time for him to tell us what the next step is. He should have done it at the State of the Union. Instead, he touted a few past accomplishments and didn't explain what he wanted to do in the future.

Kerry's idea of using law enforcement and intelligence to fight terrorists is pretty weak. But as far as I can tell, Bush doesn't have any plans for what the next phase in the war will be. There are still rogue nations supporting terrorists. We should be publicly warning Syria about its ties to terrorists and WMD. And the public needs to know what's being done to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

Bush is on the defensive because Kerry is setting the agenda and Bush isn't offering any new ideas. If Bush doesn't tell us why he should be re-elected, there's no reason to let him be president for another term.

Monday, March 08, 2004

All the news that fits: I enjoy the Drudge Report and all. The website usually links to some interesting, entertaining, and important stories that other news sites bury.

But Matt Drudge doesn't impress me as a journalist. His latest attempt to smear John Kerry (after the "intern" issue fell with a silent thud) seems to focus on the Democrat's tendency to cuss. But honestly, who gives a flying fuck?

I personally respect a person who uses strong language to convey strong emotion. It's not like the man's saying it on national television. According to Drudge's account, a person would have to search on Kerry's website to find a few instances of curse words.

Drudge deserves credit for first revealing that Newsweek was sitting on the Monica Lewinsky story before it broke. By the same token, Drudge also deserves blame for publicizing that trash, which was a private matter between President Clinton and another woman, and something neither of them wanted public.

Now Drudge consistently scoops other news outlets in reporting such groundbreaking issues such as which morning shows receive the highest television ratings. Good for him. Otherwise, he should stick to linking to real journalism outlets.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Must've been some ceremony: A New Mexico lawmaker was charged with drunken driving, just hours after attending a bill-signing ceremony to enact legislation to crack down on DWI in the state.

According to the Associated Press:

He told the officer he had a little alcohol at dinner but "did not think the alcohol he drank counted due to it being consumed several hours prior to the stop," the police report said.
The legislator, a Republican named Joe Thompson who is also the House majority whip, said he will withdraw from his recently announced campaign for state Public Regulation Commission.

Phone Home: Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Now that wireless phones are putting pay phones out of business, many people are collecting them and using them as their home phones.

BellSouth has sold about 500 of the boxy antiques for about $135 each in two months. No word as to whether the company plans to make more money by continuing to charge 35 cents per call.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Yawn: The latest hubbub is over the inclusion of a couple short clips of 9/11 scenes in Bush's political ads. Democrats charge that he's "politicizing" the attacks.

This criticism seems unwarranted considering Kerry, and even at times Clark, invoked the Vietnam War over and over for campaign purposes. The only difference is, 9/11 is more relevant.

The war against terrorism is a crucial issue in this election -- and that makes it political. It would be different if Republicans and Democrats were on the same page on how to fight this war (like during World War II), and this election focused on other issues. But there are fundamental differences between the two parties in how we should take on the terrorists.

Bush was there to respond to 9/11, and that's something that he should be able to tout to his credit. The 9/11 images in Bush's commercial were faint and brief. Someone could make a similar argument saying Bush is "politicizing" the rebounding economy for the election.

But that's the problem with politics. Most of the criticisms that get any attention are pretty weak. So much ink has been spilled on Bush's aircraft carrier landing (flight suits are standard wardrobe there), the Thanksgiving Turkey (it was a real turkey, but the troops weren't eating that one; who cares?), and Bush's National Guard stint (he finished his duty, get over it), that critics lose credibility in the process.

There are so many legitimate issues with which to attack the president. He's running up massive deficits. He's not responding to lapses in our intelligence community. He's advocating a constitutional amendment to prevent homosexuals from gaining civil rights.

I'm angry at a lot of what President Bush is doing. But when Democrats conjure up weak attacks, it makes me think that they don't have any better ideas to offer.

Multilateral Action: A Zimbabwe organization aiming to bring democratic reforms to its country is doling out condoms with a pro-reform slogan on them.

The condoms come from the United States. So the Zimbabwe government believes this has the backing of the U.S. government.

Condom use is highly encouraged to stem the spread of HIV. Many of the condoms sport the slogan "Get Up Stand Up", from the Bob Marley song encouraging people to stand up for their rights. Among the many interpretations of that phrase, the Zimbabwe government fears that it may incite revolution.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Whell Ahl Bee: Slate reveals that one state already allows same-sex marriage and that two couples have already taken advantage of the law. The kicker here is that it's my home (conservative) state of Texas.

The Lone Star State doesn't allow any same-sex couples to get married. But there's a loophole in the law, because state law doesn't recognize sex-change operations. A man is still legally considered a man no mater what surgical procedure is performed. So if a man gets an operation to become a woman, then marries another woman, Texas would honor that relationship, because the transsexual is still considered a man under state law.

Funny how rabid extremism can breed unintended consequences.

Unimaginable: Try to picture losing a 10-day-old baby in a house fire. Then after years of putting your life back together and moving on, you see your "dead" child as a six-year-old attending a birthday party.

Police say that's what happened to one woman. Upon seeing some resemblance in the child, she had the presence of mind to take some strands of her hair for a DNA analysis. The tests showed that it was indeed the lost child, alive and well.

Apparently another woman kidnapped the baby in 1997, then burned the house to avoid getting caught. Police have issued a warrant for that woman's arrest.

And in other news: Nothing happened yesterday in the Senate. The upper house spent all day trying to further mangle gun laws, only to decide that it wasn't worth the trouble.

Three items were on the docket. One was a bill that would limit the liability of gun manufacturers to protect them from lawsuits implicating the industry when their products were used in crimes. Senators also tacked on an amendment to the bill that would extend the 1994 assault weapons ban, which is set to expire in September. And senators added another amendment that would require private sellers to conduct criminal background checks when they sell guns at gun shows.

The Senate eventually gave up and killed the bill 90 to 8. Frankly, it's probably unnecessary for any of these items to pass.

The amendment to close the gun show "loophole", as gun opponents call it, wouldn't serve much of a purpose. Gun shows predominantly feature licensed gun dealers, who are already required by law to conduct criminal background checks (which is a good thing) wherever they are.

If the gun-show law passed, it would mostly affect the guy who brought in his grandfather's .22-caliber rifle to see if anyone would want to buy it. If the transaction were made between neighbors, no background check would be necessary. But if the transaction took place at a gun show, under the proposed law, the guy would somehow have to investigate the background of the buyer. It wouldn't be impossible, but it would be an unnecessary burden.

Proponents of the law say it prevents private gun runners from selling to criminals. From what I've seen at gun shows, the organizations that run them don't allow private individuals set up booths with large stockpiles of weapons. If you have a few guns to sell, that's fine. If you have an arsenal, you'd better be a licensed dealer. And the easy way around the law would be for the shady characters to meet at the gun show, then get together privately later to avoid the gun-show regulations. Then Congress would be clamoring to close that "loophole", which would essentially prevent any and all private sales of firearms.

The assault weapons ban has always perplexed me. The 1994 law doesn't ban guns because they're considered more deadly or whatnot. The current law simply bans guns based on cosmetic characteristics -- ie, if they resemble something out of the military.

The popular belief is that "assault weapons" are the same as "assault rifles", another name fully automatic machine guns. That's not true. Assault weapons are semi-automatic. Fully automatic weapons have been outlawed since 1934.

The 1994 law doesn't ban all semi-automatic weapons, just those that look scary.

For example, the law bans the manufacture of semiautomatic rifles that have a detachable magazine and at least two of the following characteristics: a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor, and a grenade launcher.

Now the "grenade launcher" may sound serious, but the grenades and their respective launchers have been heavily regulated by the federal government for some time. Lawmakers just threw that one in there to scare people. The folding/telescopic stock could arguably make a weapon easier to conceal, lending credence to the theory that it would be used to commit crimes. But you can still buy guns with stubbed stocks, or you can just hack it off yourself.

Criminals have not put bayonet mounts to much use. And a flash suppressor could be useful in case a person has to fire on an intruder at night. A bright flash in a dimly lit room could temporarily interfere with the gun owner's eyesight, which would make a dangerous situation even more risky.

The truth is, an AK-47, banned under the law, is no more deadly than a semiautomatic .30.30, which is not banned and is fairly common. All the cosmetic additions don't do anything to make a gun more lethal.

To top it all off, these "assault weapons" are still legal to own or sell, as long as they were manufactured before the date of the ban.

The liability reform on gun manufacturers seems unnecessary, even if you consider how trigger happy lawyers have been becoming in suing entire industries. While lawsuits against the fast-food industry haven't gone anywhere, ridiculous lawsuits against the tobacco industry have cost companies billions of dollars (yes, Big Tobacco knew cigarettes were harmful, but so did the people who chose to smoke them).

It appears some lawyers are itching to go after gun makers because certain people use guns to commit crimes. That would be like trying to sue the auto industry because people disobey the speed limit. (And who knows, that could still happen. I can picture a lawyer arguing that because the speedometer goes up to 135 mph, the industry is baiting people to drive faster.)

While it looks like the gun industry is an unfair target, gun manufacturers don't deserve special protections that other industries don't receive. If this is deemed to be a serious problem, then broader tort reform is needed.

So the Senate called it quits. But it's funny -- I find that when Congress does absolutely nothing, that's when I'm the most happy with our government.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Kerry mops up ... just about everywhere. How was this ever considered a two-man race?

Morality Police: The mayor of a small town in the state of New York faces criminal charges for conducting weddings for same-sex couples. He could get a $500 fine and up to a year in jail.

Perhaps the state law doesn't currently allow for same-sex marriages. But that still seems to be a contentious issue to be decided by the courts. As far as I know, the mayor (who's only 26 years old) wasn't defying a specific court order to stop. He was interpreting the law in a certain way. If he's proven wrong, then the marriages would be nullified or the law could be updated. But charging the man with a crime is unnecessary and shows that this is more an emotional issue rather than a logical one.

And another thing: As a writer, I enjoy word play as much as the next guy. But this Newsday article goes over the top when it says the mayor was "solomizing" the same-sex couples by presiding over the weddings. UPDATE: Apparently Newsday corrected the article. It now says the mayor was "solemnizing", which is an actual legal term and no longer appears to be a bad word play.

Oh Dear God: Reality TV is reaching new heights. Showtime plans to run a reality series in which contestants vie to become a candidate for President of the United States. The winner will get $200,000 and a nationwide (Cable TV, I presume) appearance to kickstart his or her campaign. (Hat Tip: Centrist America)

Can't say I'm disappointed that I don't get Showtime. Who knows, this guy might have more of an impact on the election than Nader.

Among the many, many ridiculous aspects of this, what I find intriguing is that Showtime is letting anyone over the age of 18 enter the contest. The Constitution explicitly prohibits anyone under the age of 35 from becoming president. I guess the person will be campaigning for a constitutional amendment in addition to your vote.

We Found WMD! In Libya. But this is good news nonetheless.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Come to Pass: It's official. Iraq can no longer be called a quagmire, a failure, etc.

How can I say this? Because even CalPundit is (begrudgingly) conceding that good news is coming out of Iraq. He didn't give much of his own thoughts (he simply linked to another blogger), and he ended with an unhealthy amount of skepticism ("It could all still go to hell, of course. But it's still nice to hear something positive coming out of Iraq." As if this is the first time positive news has come out of Iraq). But he couldn't think of much that was disparaging to say.

Unfortunately -- despite the decreased terrorist attacks, despite the improved condition for Iraqis, despite the codification of a liberal constitution securing women's and minority's rights, despite the resumption of oil exports, despite the optimism of the people living there -- critics here are still going to talk about Iraq like it was some miserable failure, and a certain segment of the population will agree without question. Truth is, it worked out pretty well. And this all happened in less than a year.

Back to Normal: The U.S. is deploying marines to Haiti, along with the French and other troops, to restore order. The United Nations quickly passed a resolution Sunday to support the international effort to quell violence after the country's president stepped down amid rebellion.

So much for all the criticism that the war in Iraq has depleted the U.S. troops and put us on bad terms with our allies. We're still working with France and the United Nations for the common good. Just because we had one major disagreement doesn't mean we won't talk to each other any more, like some junior-high relationship.

As the war on terrorism progresses in the Middle East, our allies will still help, and we'll still work with other countries to achieve goals that are mutually beneficial. And now the world knows that the United States won't hold back from attacking our enemies. This is good, sound policy that will lead us to victory.

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