Friday, April 30, 2004

Hearts of Men: The abuse of the Iraqi prisoners by American and, now, British troops is a reminder that there are no true good guys. Each and every one of us has the capacity for evil as well as the capacity for good. We are all individually responsible for our own actions. But the environment that surrounds us influences our decisions.

America has remained a great country and has accomplished so many wonderful things because our freedom and democratic principles compel us to do good and act as a watchdog over evil and corruption. We are far from perfect, and we've made mistakes, but our contributions to this world mostly uplift people and provide help.

In places like Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, goodness is trampled by tyrants like Saddam Hussein and wannabe tyrants like Osama Bin Laden. Only by changing the culture can the good of the region smother the evil and terrorism that brews there.

Our soldiers did not act according to American ideals. Fortunately, the reaction from Bush, Kerry, and all others who have viewed the sickening display have been the same -- disgust. And I am confident that the perpetrators will be punished appropriately.

This will surely hurt our already low standing among the Arab world. But nobody said this mission was going to be easy. Overall, we're still doing the right thing, and we will succeed.

Wuv. Twue Wuv: I don't always agree with Tom Toles, but he is the best political cartoonist there is. And this cartoon is right on the money.

Great Minds: Unfortunately, we journalists are addicted to cliches and tend to overuse them. And, even more unfortunate, we tend to use the same ones over and over. Case in point, both The New York Times and The Washington Post used a version of the "If a tree falls in the forest" cliche for their coverage of Bush's secret testimony with the 9/11 commission.

Here's Alessandra Stanley's lead in The Times:

If an important meeting takes place in the Oval Office and there are no television cameras to record it, did the meeting matter?
And here's Howard Kurtz's lead in The Post:

If a sound is made behind classified closed doors, does anyone hear it?
But you won't see any of that here. I avoid cliches like the plague.

Just Say No: The man who dreamed of opening a university bearing Ronald Reagan's name just got his idea vetoed by Nancy Reagan. Terry Walker, president of the short-lived Ronald Reagan University, never bothered asking the former president's family if it were okay to use the man's name. Instead he publicly announced his intention to open the institution, only to be embarrassed by the equally public refusal.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Sigh: Now Donald Trump wants to start a talk radio show. He wants to blather about media, the entertainment world, and politics.

I don't listen to talk radio, except for NPR's Morning Edition. Conservatives took over the medium as a way to rail against the supposed "liberal media", and that's fine. Then liberals felt like they had to compete in the talk radio market -- which is strange, but no biggie.

Now Trump is feeling like we aren't paying enough attention to him, despite his constant presence on TV and news. I don't know if he has anything interesting to say, but I have no desire to find out either.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Good News: The improved economy is starting to trickle down to the states, which are now doing better financially. That will most likely start having a positive effect on the public's outlook on the economy.

Outdone: I got tired of hearing liberals dig at Bush's National Guard record overplaying supposed discrepancies. But now conservatives have done much worse by questioning whether Kerry truly deserved all three of his Purple Hearts during his service in Vietnam.

So now Kerry has a right to bring up Bush's National Guard service. Conservatives need to realize that there are more important issues to discuss and that we need to leave Vietnam out of this election.

Root of All Evil: A Florida resident who recently died was so enamored with the United States that she left 70 percent of her estate to the U.S. Treasury. The woman immigrated from Germany in 1959 and made a decent living here. When she died, at age 80, her estate totaled $98,000.

But before you think we've taken care of that whole ballooning deficit problem, the IRS has given us other problems to worry about. The government is suing a Pennsylvania cafeteria worker who received a $2.1-million tax refund after claiming to be a Hawaiian princess and heir to a billion-dollar estate. Now the IRS is trying to get that money back to make up for the mishap.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Fair and Balanced: Conservatives constantly rail about the "liberal media", and they come up with many genuine examples of biased articles that lean to the left. But they ignore the many articles that lean to the right.

Here, for example, is a Washington Post story about how Bush's tax cuts and the low interest rates have led to a booming economy in the DC area. The truth is, such government policies can influence the economy, but they cannot control it. But this article makes it seem like Bush's policies single-handedly revived the economy.

Funny, you won't see this article mentioned on any conservative media-watch-dog sites.

I encourage conservatives and liberals to continue to look for and point out biases in the media. But any conspiracy theories only undercut your credibility.

Another Reminder: We all hate fascism, but we don't agree on what fascism is. Some people believe that Bush is a fascist and that Osama Bin Laden is misunderstood. Really, it's the other way around.

Consider this New York Times article about extremist Muslims living in Britain:

They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street.
These people want to take over the world and rule over people as the Taliban ruled over Afghanistan. And the United States is in their way. That's why it's up to us to stop them.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Freudian: Condoleezza Rice apparently made an interesting verbal slip at a dinner party. A New York magazine offers this description of what Rice said:

"As I was telling my husb—" and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, "As I was telling President Bush."
Rice, who is single, is good friends with George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. The three of them have been known to spend much of their time together, including the weekends.

In fact, you may recall when Bush made his secret trip to Baghdad over Thanksgiving, Rice was one of the few people who accompanied him. During the undercover trip to the airport, Bush and Rice wore baseball caps to hide their identities. Bush had this to say about the experience:

"We looked like a normal couple," Bush later joked with reporters aboard Air Force One.
There's no scandal here. But it is interesting how close Bush and Rice have become, even if just on a professional level.

Light Blogging: I've been sick, probably from all the traveling I've been doing lately. And I've been trying to catch up at work.

But I have another reason for sparse blogging. There's nothing important going on. People are debating whether Kerry actually "owns" an SUV, how many coffins the press should be allowed to photograph, and whether Kerry should have earned two Purple Hearts or three.

I call this broccoli news (in honor of when Bush Sr. caused a furor when he said that he doesn't like broccoli). When nothing important is going on, the news media focuses on the mundane.

Of course, plenty of important stuff is occurring, what with a war and a presidential election under way. But we're on cruise control for the time being. And in the 24/7 news environment, the press can't help but overplay anything they can get their hands on.

As for me, I'm going to finish up my work and go back to my bed.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Low Point: It's an unfortunate evolution. Sexuality is reaching younger and younger ages. Now young girls are dressing like, well, sluts -- donning low-slung jeans, exposing their navels, and wearing tight shirts that sport the Playboy bunny or sparkle the word "Naughty".

Apparently some of their peers are noticing this trend and have come up with a term, that's now in common usage, to describe preteens who flaunt their body a bit too much. They're called "prostitots".

Hopefully a little peer pressure can go a long way to deter 11-year-old girls from emulating their role models -- Britney and Christina -- and to learn that it's not wise to dress like a sex toy.

Update: While I'm not a fan of slutty outfits, in no way do I endorse a state ban on such clothes. Hopefully Louisiana's proposal to do just that won't go anywhere.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

News Issues: The battle for the hearts and minds of the people in the Middle East has to be fought over Arab "news" outlets. Looks like that's going to be another long, hard slog.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Nothing's Changed: People keep citing polls that show Kerry up, then Bush up, then Kerry up, then none of the above. It really doesn't matter. We know it's going to be close, so prognostications now are premature. The election will be determined by outside factors, and those won't come into play until October and November, not April.

The two outside issues will be the war in Iraq and the next terrorist attack here in the United States. And both will center around terrorist actions here and abroad.

Terrorists have publicly proclaimed that they want Bush to win, saying that he is so divisive that he's good for terrorist recruitment. I doubt that the terrorists seriously want four more years of Bush. They hate the man, and they want to hurt him by any means possible, including politically. They have already said that they "cannot drive America out of Iraq, but we can drive Bush out of the White House." And that seems to be their goal.

What we don't know is how the American public will react to the next attacks on our homeland. Would a terrorist attack just before Election Day (a la Madrid) help Bush or hurt Bush? No doubt the terrorists are trying to figure out the same thing. And that will help determine whether there will be a terrorist attack in time for the election. I'm wagering that there will be one, but it would depend on what the terrorists believe they can gain through such an attack.

Last time we were attacked, the nation rallied around Bush. But times have changed. There is so much hatred for Bush in this country, some people will try to blame the president and his operations in Iraq for any new terrorists attacks. This, of course, is preposterous considering we didn't do anything to provoke the terrorists before 9/11 or before the many other terrorist attacks. True or not, Bush's enemies will say it nonetheless.

So we can give the pollsters a break. We don't need second by second stats on whether Bush or Kerry is leading the election. Too much is going to change between now and Election Day.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Out Again: Damn conferences. I'll be gone again for the rest of the week. I'll try to pop in occasionally.

Give 'n' Take: Free trade works, my friends. The United States is receiving more "outsourced" jobs than it's giving. That is, more countries are outsourcing to us than we're outsourcing to them. Plus, India is one of the countries giving us the jobs.

(I found the India story at the Moderate Voice, and Joe there found it at A Little More to the Right. Spread the word.)

Friday, April 09, 2004

Another Let Down: After all the hype and all the accusations, we learned nothing new from Rice's testimony. Both sides are spinning it as spinners do. But we have further confirmed that there was no warning of the 9/11 attacks ahead of time.

But that doesn't stop both parties from blaming each other. I said earlier that we shouldn't blame Bush or Clinton, we should blame Al Qaeda.

That doesn't mean we can't take a good hard look at ourselves to see what mistakes we made. But we shouldn't put all our faith in the one man who happens to occupy the office of the president at any given time. His job is only to make decisions based on information he receives.

Don't blame Bush for sitting in a classroom with kids while the World Trade Center was hit. He didn't know because the intelligence agencies failed to find out. Don't blame Bush for not finding WMD in Iraq. He didn't lie or mislead anyone. The intelligence agencies did a crappy job with the information they gathered under Bush and Clinton.

I do blame Bush for not overhauling the intelligence agencies as a result. They couldn't stop 9/11, and they messed up on the WMD issue. Even if Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD through February of 2003, we have no idea where they are now. And that is an embarrassing mistake.

I don't expect them to be omniscient. In fact, an all-knowing, all-seeing intelligence force is scarier than anything Al Qaeda can muster. But we've had two major intelligence failures, as well as others that have been overshadowed. But Bush has done nothing to fix the intelligence problems. Tenet should not still be head of the CIA. We've got a new war to fight, and we need reforms to match the new threats.

What's worse, I'm not hearing anything from Kerry about overhauling the intelligence agencies either. This would be an excellent issue for him to run on. It would resonate with people as a major problem to fix to fight the war on terror, yet it wouldn't seem so blatantly partisan, like blaming Bush for everything from 9/11 to loss in jobs.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Oh, man: A Pennsylvania church wanted to teach children that Easter is about Jesus, not the Easter Bunny. So church members performed a play depicting the torturing and crucifixion of Jesus -- except the Easter Bunny stood in the Savior's place.

Children in the congregation were in tears as they saw their favorite bunny being whipped, his eggs being smashed. Performers preached to the audience, "There is no Easter bunny."

Work in Progress: I like The New York Times blurb underneath its Web headline about Kerry promising to limit federal spending as president.

On the newspaper's Web front, the blurb said, "John Kerry said he would impose spending caps except in the areas of security, education, health care and Social Security."

Gee, is that all. Those are the most expensive areas of the federal government.

However, I'm glad Kerry is pushing fiscal responsibility, even though he hasn't figured out how to implement it. That's much better than his previous criticisms of Bush, such as the economy being in the toilet and America being out of work -- both of which are flat-out wrong. The economy is growing and the unemployment rate is 5.7 percent. Also, the president has very little control over those areas, as the business cycle generally runs its own course.

Now Kerry is harping on something that the president does have some control over and something that this president has done a horrible job managing -- the budget deficit.

Kerry wants to roll back some of Bush's tax cuts. I can support raising some taxes for the wealthiest people now that the economy is improving. But we need to make sure the tax increases don't hurt small businesses. However, the real budget responsibility starts with spending restraints.

And it's difficult to believe someone with such a liberal record like Kerry's will abide by fiscal discipline. Kerry is already promising to create new projects and expand other programs, like health care. After all, this is an election year, and much pandering will be involved.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Bitter Bile: Unfortunately, George W. Bush has to fight a two-front war. One against terrorists in the Middle East, and one against the left in this country, led in part by Ted Kennedy.

I don't know if Sen. Kennedy is trying to make Sen. Kerry look sane by comparison, but Kennedy's rant against Bush was completely irresponsible and only helped our enemies. The terrorists know they can't defeat us here or in Iraq. So they launch made-for-TV attacks that are meant to whittle away at our resolve and aim to shock the American public.

President Bush has stayed firm and strong, not only refusing to back down, but launching another military offensive. While some of the attacks against Americans in Iraq reminded observers of what happened in Mogadishu, our response hasn't been remotely similar.

The terrorists are trying to find a weakness to exploit. And they're playing Ted Kennedy like a cheap fiddle. The senator has too high a position in government to be waging war against our president in time of crisis.

It's an election year, and the execution of the war on terrorism is the most important issue under debate. Of course we can discuss it. But throwing blind insults at our president who is trying to defeat America's enemy only hurts America. Iraq is not Vietnam. That was a decade-long war against Communism in which we lost more than 50,000 troops and never made any headway. In Iraq, we've deposed an evil dictator in less than a year, are bringing democracy to the Middle East, and so far have lost 600 troops.

Unfortunately, some segments of the population are more concerned about unleashing their hatred for Bush instead of doing what's right for this country. Let's debate the right actions to take in the war on terrorism. But the hate speech by Sen. Kennedy and other leftist groups don't contribute anything.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Sad: I didn't see John Kerry speak, but this Washington Post story about his attack on Bush is just pathetic. Bush has been pounding Kerry for flip-flopping on important issues such as the war, funding the war, taxes, etc. So Kerry fires back:

"You want to talk about flips and flops?" he asked hundreds of supporters at a rally in Cincinnati. "This president said one day Condoleezza Rice is not going to testify and the next day she is going to testify."
The man was doing better when he was on vacation.

Some Republicans protested his appearance by gathering in a bunch and clapping flip-flop sandals repeatedly. That's a clever protest and all, but it appears from the article that the Republicans were doing this in such a way as to drown out Kerry's voice.

Americans have a right and a duty to protest anything they find disagreeable. That's what freedom of speech is all about. But when that protest interferes with somebody else's (such as Kerry's) speech or the crowd's ability to hear it, then that moves beyond protest and into a bullying tactic.

I can't count how many times, especially in college, I've gone to an event to listen to a controversial speaker but was unable to hear anything because protesters disagreed with that person's right to speak. You don't have to be a government goon to censor somebody. Out of the respect for public discourse, protests should be held near an event, but not so close that it interferes.

Fight Brewin': A poll of Massachusetts residents found that less than a majority, 47 percent, back the proposed amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage while keeping civil unions legal. Another 47 percent oppose the amendment, meaning there's going to be a big fight for the remaining undecideds.

In the liberal state, people didn't seem to oppose the amendment on grounds that it gave too many rights to gays and lesbians, but rather that it gave too little. The poll showed that 40 percent support gay marriage while 28 percent wanted to ban gay marriage but support civil unions. That's 68 percent of the state supporting at least some legal recognition of gay couples.

Only 17 percent of those surveyed wanted to ban gay marriage and civil unions.

The state's Supreme Judicial Court has already ruled that gays have a legal right to marriage under the current state constitution. If this compromise amendment doesn't pass, then gays will end up being better off.

Either way, the country will soon learn that there's nothing to worry about when it comes to gay marriage.

Ain't Life Grand: J-Lo's mom wins $2.4-million jackpot playing dollar slots in Atlantic City. I guess no one said life was fair.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Tough Job: Folks at Centerfield are trying to coax Kerry into talking tough against our enemies. So far we've heard very little from the Massachusetts senator as far as attempts to rally the troops. Kerry shouldn't wait any longer.

Bush has spoken loudly with his past actions. But he hasn't given us a hint as to what the next steps will be. Sure, we'll eventually nab Osama Bin Laden, who apparently lurks somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But as for major combat and intelligence operations, Bush is silent.

With the current president lacking a plan, Kerry can take the initiative and tell us how he would guide us during the next phase of the war. This would make Bush play catch up, and any subsequent Bush plan would appear to be a reaction to Kerry, giving the senator the edge.

Right now, Kerry appears too aloof to be considered a strong wartime leader. His announcement that the war would mainly be an intelligence-gathering exercise contributes to the idea that this man is weak. But if Bush has already exhausted all of our combat options, then the president only has intelligence missions at his disposal -- which is no different than what Kerry is proposing. If that's the case, there may not be much of a difference between the two candidates' plans of action.

Andrew Sullivan is already mulling over a rebranding vote. We can take advantage of Bush's past strong military maneuvers, then put Kerry in charge to mop up while giving our European allies someone they can align with and not get kicked out of office.

That's an idea. But we also need to keep in mind that we don't know what challenges the next four years will bring. Granted, terrorism will continue to be the biggest issue. But we don't know how that will break.

Bush has proven to be a decisive yet divisive leader. His strength has united half the population while and alienating the other half. And the worldview of him is in the gutter.

But he has also done a lot of good by toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan and showing the cojones to invade Iraq and destroy a threat despite the queasiness of some parts of the world. Will we need that strength again, or will Kerry suffice?

In fact, Bush may have more trouble leading us into battle again, considering how unpopular the war in Iraq has become in some circles. Kerry may have more leeway in dispatching troops since he hasn't upset major foreign leaders -- yet.

But I'm hesitant to gamble our security on Kerry's indecisiveness. That's why he's going to need to say what strong steps he would be taking right now and what actions he would take in the future. Then we can have a true debate about which road we should take.

A name you can trust: A U.S. forensics specialist who helped investigate the JFK assassination will assist Taiwan investigate the shooting of the country's recently re-elected president.

Taiwan is embroiled in conspiracy theories about whether the president was really shot, and if so, whether it was orchestrated by the president himself.

So of all the people to choose from, they hired an expert who did such a great job "settling" the JFK assassination mystery. Hell, sounds they're trying to cover something up.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Spin Cycle: The White House is finally getting their touch back in figuring out how to spin bad news into gold. After making the Richard Clarke situation 10 times worse through their panicked response, they're now putting the yawning boy on a pedestal by getting him a spot on the Letterman Show.

For those who haven't heard, David Letterman this week showed clips of a boy who could barely stand up straight behind Bush during one of the president's speeches. The 12-year-old kept yawning, looking at his watch, and shuffling from side to side as the speech went on for an hour.

The White House could have easily ignored it, and the footage would have gone away within a couple weeks. Instead, they're exploiting it. That shows good humor on the part of the president. But also, the kid is in a family made up of rabid Bush supporters. So the boy, sure enough, thinks highly of the president as well.

Now age 13, the boy will be a guest on Letterman's show tonight. We'll see how well he performs. But even as Letterman teases him, the boy will have a chance to spout off a couple lines he's memorized on how President Bush is his hero, or somesuch.

A teenage kid is getting a national stage to endorse the president. We'll see how Letterman handles this. But it sounds like this could be an entertaining and positive for the administration.

No Warning: This past week, I've noticed more police in the subways in Washington, DC. Not just beat walkers, but tough-lookin' cops in their BDUs, carrying duffel bags while they stare at the crowds shuffling past.

I wonder whether the Metro authorities are responding to a specific threat or if it finally donned on them that our trains are just as susceptible to Madrid-style backpack bombings.

Regardless, I don't see how even a military presence would deter people who are willing to take their lives to blow up innocents. Let's hope a broader plan is in the works.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Horse Dead, Continue Beating: The Washington Post has uncovered further proof that the Bush administration wasn't focussing on terrorism before 9/11. The latest evidence is a speech prepared for Condoleezza Rice, to be delivered on September 11, 2001, in which she would highlight rogue states and missile defense as the greatest national security issues.

Haven't we been through this already? Neither Bush, nor Clinton, nor Gore, nor Nader was focussing on terrorism before 9/11. All this 20/20-hindsight attempt to make Bush look negligent is getting old.

I know Richard Clarke focussed on terrorism before 9/11. But the counter-terrorism czar for the White House is supposed to focus on counter-terrorism. We had no reason before 9/11 to concentrate on terrorists. Now we do. Let's focus on what we should do next.

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