Friday, March 31, 2006

Don't Let This Happen To You: Armed robbers terrorized a Maryland family.

Fleeing a Chevy Chase home taken over by armed intruders Monday night, a 40-year-old man first sought help next door, smashing a small window in the entryway with his hand in an attempt to get someone to open up. No response.

Then he ran across the narrow street, up a slate terraced walkway, and pounded with a bloody hand on another entryway window. Still nothing.


Four or five intruders held the man, his wife and their two small children for 20 to 40 minutes in their stately, tile-roofed home in the 3700 block of Underwood Street.

One of the robbers attempted to sexually assault the woman, but police said none of the family members was seriously hurt.
I don't mean to push my way of thinking on anybody else, but that situation could have been avoided if the homeowner had a gun.

You never know when you'll be forced to protect your family from someone who wishes them harm. And the police cannot be everywhere at once. The responsibility falls on you.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Good Morning: Well, I had an interesting commute this morning. I ride my bicycle to work most days. And the route I take passes by an Arlington high school. Today there were about 100 Hispanic students skipping school and engaging in some sort of protest.

They were coaxing cars passing by to honk their horns in support of their cause. I was minding my own and waiting for traffic to clear when I heard one of the students shouting, "Ring your bell! Ring your bell!"

It finally dawned on me that he was talking to me. I guess he assumed that I had one of those bells many bicyclists attach to their handlebars. Unfortunately, I do not. So I turned his way and informed him that I had no bell with which to ring. Sorry.

That didn't seem to satisfy him or the crowd, and suddenly they all began chanting louder. Now I'm not 100 percent sure what they were saying, but it sounded exactly like, "Seize that bike! Seize that bike!"

By this time the cops were running up and the traffic cleared for me to cross the street. None of the students actually approached me to confiscate mi bicicleta. But it was a little disconcerting nonetheless.

I'm a little skeptical about the national protests that have been going on. And I'm too cynical to believe students are skipping school solely for the greater good. But overall I sympathize with the plight of immigrants. These people risk their lives to come to this country for one reason -- to work. President Bush's guest-worker plan makes some sense, although the plan is far from perfect. And I don't see the need for any sort of immigrant crackdown.

That said, these protesters need to be a little smarter. Any antagonism or vague threats will only backfire. After my experience this morning, I feel less of a need to sympathize for their cause.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

An Improvement: Democrats vow to get Osama Bin Laden if elected to Congress.

It's about time they realized that they need to talk tough about national security, not just prematurely claim defeat. Unfortunately for Dems, these are just congressional elections. The president is the commander in chief. If Bin Laden is caught before January 2009, the credit will go to Bush.

I'm not so sure about the Democratic plan of Iraqi "redeployment". Apparently the plan is to move U.S. troops out of Iraq and into another Middle East country, with understanding that they would move back into Iraq if needed. Well, they're needed there now. Making it more difficult for them to respond there won't do any good.

The Democrats are still schizophrenic about being anti-war without looking weak. They're trying to placate the extreme Left in the party while understanding that mainstream America, as well as the Righties, wants to actually win this war. Trying to satisfy both groups satisfies no one.

At least they're bringing up Bin Laden again. I know Osama is merely a spiritual leader, not necessarily the tactical planner behind Al Qaeda. And capturing him won't win the War on Terrorism. But we need to get him, and soon. We also need to capture Zarqawi. For all the talk of progress in the War on Terrorism, we need the occasional big grab to demonstrate something tangible.

Friday, March 24, 2006

That Was Fast: The Washington Post's new conservative blogger, Ben Domenech, is stepping down. He had apparently plagiarized parts of a movie review in the past, and as soon as he made it to the spotlight, that incident came back to haunt him.

The lesson here is that from now on with the Internet, any stupid mistake you make will be easily discovered and highlighted by anyone who doesn't like you. Tread softly.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Crisis of Faith: The true test of free speech is to support the right of someone to advocate something you would spend a lifetime opposing. That means despicable creatures such as Nazis, the KKK, and Carrot Top have equal right to free expression as the rest of us. (Cue Voltaire: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.")

Of course, that means someone will eventually show up who pushes that philosophy to its very limit. Along comes Fred Phelps. Eugene Volokh describes him as a "cruel parody of a Christian".

[He] has pioneered the practice of protesting people's funerals. Starting with the 1980s, he and his people picketed funerals of gays while carrying signs saying things like "God Hates Fags." Now, they picket funerals of soldiers with signs saying things like "Thank God for 9/11" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" (the theory being that God is punishing America for its toleration of homosexuality).
Is there any social benefit to protesting at funerals? How is public discourse promoted? One thing I like about Volokh, is as a good lawyer he can dissect an issue to find its legal elements, leaving out "ought" and "should", and focusing on "is" and "are".

Part of me would love to ban all protests at funerals outright. But that sets a dangerous precedent. It seems we're left with little more than boundaries, limiting protests within so many feet of an event.

If that's the case, I'm inclined to agree with one of Volokh's commenters:

Since these are military funerals and presumably involve some sort of gun salute, couldn't they just use real bullets and lower their aim point a bit?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Big Business: A few months ago, Maryland passed a law requiring every company with more than 10,000 employees to provide health insurance to all its workers. What was special about this bill is that only one company in the entire state fit the description -- Wal-Mart.

One of the Left's favorite targets was helpless to do anything. The Republican governor tried to veto the bill, but the Democratic-controlled legislature overruled that veto. This looked like a case of a bunch of little guys putting a submission hold on a big guy.

Now running to the defense of the retail behemoth are a bunch of small businesses. The National Federation of Independent Business is lending its support to a federal court challenge to the constitutionality of the bill. Their concern, that one day government will be targeting them to provide similar services, regardless of whether they can afford to do so. Once a precedent is set, it's hard to go backwards.

We have a major problem in this country in that so many people are not covered by health insurance, and that the health insurance companies themselves are often a joke. Maybe there is some way for government to either provide the health coverage itself, or to regulate how businesses do so. But the action by this group of small businesses shows there are legitimate concerns about whether government is trying to do too much.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Center Stage: Michael Stickings, a centrist writer at a blog called The Reaction, is the current featured blogger on a major political Web site supporting John Edwards. Although I don't necessarily agree with his essay, here's Michael's take on Iraq.

It's interesting though how major candidates are embracing bloggers on their Web sites. I haven't written for anyone like Michael has, but I've noticed on Technorati that a couple of these Web sites link to me. One site supports Mark Warner, who I like. Another supports Hillary Clinton, who I'm not a big fan of.

But it's good that bloggers are getting pulled into the political process. We need more independent voices speaking from prominent platforms, such as these Web sites. That way we won't get stuck listening to the same paid flaks time and time again. The infusion of bloggers should improve the political discourse in this country.

Firing Line: A couple readers sent questions to me via e-mail yesterday. Since I have nothing else to post today, I'm going to put up their questions with my answers.

And if anyone else has questions, feel free to send them to me. If, for some reason, you don't want your e-mails posted, please let me know in the e-mail. Thanks.

The first one is from Rachel:

With Iraq finally having a coalition government, some oil based trade (I heard a Norwegian oil company was interested in negotiating with Kurds), and the persistence of unity (or at least attempts) after the Samarra mosque bombing, why is the left and right suddenly saying the war is a failure and Bush is doing a bad job? Shouldn't they have been saying this in 2004?
It does seem like everyone is suddenly declaring Iraq a failure. That, I suspect, is largely because we are approaching another anniversary of the initial invasion. Anytime an anniversary comes up, people like to take a look back.

And in this case, people on both sides realize that we never expected to be fighting bloody battles there three years later. I know I didn't. Sure, I knew we'd still have a presence there. But the military is still conducting major bombing runs trying to flush out terrorists and insurgents. This war was never anticipated to be a cakewalk, but it is also dragging on longer than we would have liked.

Back in 2004, it was still too early to tell. It's still early, in comparison with many other wars. But part of the allure of punishing Iraq was to set an example for Iran, Syria, and North Korea. With the problems we've encountered in Iraq, those countries are pretty confident we won't consider military action against them as easily. That's unfortunate, because that may make military action more likely instead of less, because we've lost the ability to merely threaten.

I still believe that going into Iraq was worth it and will be better for our longterm security, especially now that our fight against Al Qaeda has been taken from American soil to the Middle East. It's just going to be a tougher fight than we anticipated.

Tom sent me this one:

What word defines: A person that goes along with popular opinion just because it is easier than either trying to convince people to change their minds or taking the time to think about an issue yourself and make up your own mind.

The people that fall into the category above tend to call themselves moderate but the KKK call themselves Christians so I don't think you can let those people define what they are.

I believe in my opinion that you and Bill O'Reilly are very principled people and do not change your opinion based on a poll.

You like to call yourself moderate and Bill uses the term independent. I have read you and listened to Bill enough to know you both have principled opinions on both the left and the right and while you and Bill do not agree on all subjects there should be a word that accurately describes you both. That word or words could be staunch moderate or fiercely independent.

But what word or words could be used to describe those people that just go along with popular opinion?
That's a tough one. It's hard not to be derogatory and just call them "sheep" or "drones". I guess I would say they are "poll fodder".

Part of the reason I threw the "staunch" in my blog name was to emphasize that even though I may be a moderate, I do have strong opinions. Other moderates don't. There's nothing wrong with that, I suppose. So long as you recognize early on that their beliefs sway with the wind, you can discount their opinions accordingly. But as a group, their opinions do mean something, at least for political reasons.

Those people are the followers. And God bless them. Because if everyone tried to be a leader, nothing would ever get done.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Give A Little Bit: The Food and Drug Administration is finally noticing that not all homosexual men have dropped dead in the past 30 years as anticipated.

So the agency is reconsidering its longtime practice of banning any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from ever donating blood. The year 1977 is significant of course because that's when AIDS was invented.

Blood banks are always hurting for blood donations, yet they are forced to discriminate against healthy men. The American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America's Blood Centers say improved screening methods should be able to prevent HIV and other viruses from reaching recipients of blood transfusions.

But even if no improvements were found, 30 years is a ridiculously long time for a safety buffer. Irrational fear doesn't help anybody if lifesaving blood is prevented from reaching someone who needs it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Naming the Nameless: The Coalition for Darfur has passed along this petition with hopes of signing up 200,000 names. That may sound like a lot of names to collect, but that number represents not even half the number of people who have likely died in the ongoing genocide in that region. Please visit.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Praise the Lord: Capsicum kills cancer. A Texas boy myself, I'm addicted to spicy food. I load up my sandwiches with jalapeños and throw habaneros into my chili. Studies now suggest that enjoying a little spice in life prevents prostate cancer.

All I can say is: No, doctor, that won't be necessary.

Wrath-of-God type stuff: Another busy day at work yesterday. But glad I could get a good laugh from Tully at Centerfield about Africa splitting in two.

"Normally changes to our geological environment take place almost imperceptibly. A life time is too short to see rivers changing course, mountains rising skywards or valleys opening up. In north-eastern Africa's Afar Triangle, though, recent months have seen hundreds of crevices splitting the desert floor and the ground has slumped by as much as 100 meters (328 feet). At the same time, scientists have observed magma rising from deep below as it begins to form what will eventually become a basalt ocean floor. Geologically speaking, it won't be long until the Red Sea floods the region. The ocean that will then be born will split Africa apart."

"We're talking Old Testament, real 'wrath of God' stuff! Seas boiling! Forty days of darkness! The dead rising from the grave! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!"--Ghostbusters
Someone please muzzle Pat Robertson before he finds out.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Buy Us: To conservatives, the idea of the "liberal media" is so well ingrained, the term itself has become redundant. Well, as a journalist myself who is a cog in the mass media behemoth, I can tell you that, actually, it's true. The news media is dominated by liberals.

Still, nearly all of my colleagues, conservative and liberal alike, do their damndest to hide their biases and report the news objectively. But when so many journalists lean to the left politically, the news coverage will skew that way more often than the other way. And conservatives routinely point out that big media mistakes, such as Rathergate, were attempts to make Republicans look bad.

Sure you can pick a bunch of examples about how the media screwed up here or there in such a way to hurt Republicans. But, rest assured, the media also screws up the other way.

Check out this CNN headline: "Dems Indicted; Clinton, Kerry Targeted" (via TPM).

Sounds like a serious piece of news, until you read the story and discover that RNC head Ken Mehlman was doing the indicting, in some speech he gave.

The news media is far from perfect. But don't worry, both sides suffer from our incompetence.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In the Nation's Best Interest: If you think about it, letting Dubai buy up those terminals at those ports is probably the best scenario for our nation's security. If Congress successfully blocks Dubai, then the public will get a sense that we dodged a bullet, that our ports will remain secure -- which is not the case. But if the Dubai deal goes through, then the public and the media will remain intent on investigating security problems, making it more likely that we will find and fix the vulnerabilities before they get exploited.

14:25 UPDATE: The Dubai deal is dead, according to The Washington Post. Looks like the White House is damn near impotent nowadays.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Surrender is a perfectly acceptable alternative: Looks like the Senate has no intention of investigating the White House's NSA surveillance program. The capitulation seems to be a direct result of pressure from President Bush for Congress to back off.

I agree with the rationale the White House offers about how we need to track potential terrorists living in the United States and communicating with Al Qaeda operatives abroad. That makes perfect sense.

But what I'm most concerned about is whether that is the extent of the program. And even if that is the case now, we need to know whether there is a potential for abuse later.

That's why the law needs to make clear what we can and cannot do. And Congress needs to have some oversight.

Let's just assume for argument's sake that officials in the Bush administration are perfect angels and would never do anything wrong (stay with me). That doesn't prevent the next administration from abusing the good program that Bush created. It sets a bad precedent to give the executive branch this much power without any oversight.

Power breeds corruption. While we may need this program now, we need to hold people accountable to make sure the power isn't abused. Only Congress can do that (if at all).

I'm itching for a divided government again.

Fight the Power: Republicans in the House are snubbing Bush and have pledged to kill the Dubai deal.

I suppose this has to do with polls. The public is very much against letting Dubai control parts of our ports, and House members are up for re-election this year.

The Dubai port deal may be no biggie, but the political ramifications of this intraparty fight could be huge. President Bush may want to begin scheduling some more overseas trips.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Irony can be so Ironic: Congress wants to investigate President Bush's NSA surveillance program to make sure nothing nefarious is going on. Bush, however, is upset, complaining that he doesn't want a branch of the federal government snooping around his executive business.


Mr. President, all I can say is that if you aren't doing anything wrong, you should have nothing to hide.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Truth About Cats and Dogs: According to, conservatives tend to own dogs, and liberals prefer cats. (via Kevin Drum) For some reason this makes perfect sense, although I can't put my finger on exactly why. But most conservatives I know love dogs and hate cats. The opposite is true for most of my liberal friends.

I'm a cat person, myself. Cats are smart, quiet, clean, quiet, low-maintenance, and much quieter than dogs. And cats have attitude. They make you earn their love.

Dogs, on the other hand, are smelly, loud, and dumb. The only type of dog I can stand is a Labrador retriever, because you can train them to stay quiet. Plus, they make good hunting dogs.

Does that make me more liberal? No, it just means that I had a cat while I was growing up, and not a dog. Funny, because my family is much more socially and politically conservative than I am. So the trend has its exceptions, but it's probably a trend for a reason.

Some of those reasons, I'm sure, are just practical. Conservatives tend to live in the suburbs and rural areas, which are great places for dogs. Liberals are often stuck in the city, and you don't want to coop up a dog in your studio apartment, so libs get house cats. But we're being too nice in our speculation. Let's have some fun with this stereotype.

  • Dogs are mindlessly obedient and develop a pack mentality without questioning authority.

  • Cats are selfish animals with a superiority complex. They can never be satisfied, no matter how much you give them.

  • Dogs eat up their own shit. And like it.

  • Cats place a dead rat on your bed and expect you to be pleased.

  • Dogs growl and bark angrily at anyone or anything that is unfamiliar.

  • Cats will never do anything for anyone else, ever.

  • Dogs bark and howl all day and all night just to hear their own voices.

  • Cats are lazy and good for nothing.

  • Dogs chase cars. I can't make this into an analogy for real-life politics, but it shows that they're not very smart.

  • Cats lick themselves to stay clean. That's kinda gross.

So, I guess it depends on what you prefer: Fierce loyalty from a dog, or the magical ability of cats to instinctively know what the litter box is for. I know my choice, but the house where I live doesn't allow pets.

Mission Accomplished: Most Americans believe that Iraq is going to deteriorate into civil war, according to a new media poll.

Really. You don't say.

I wonder what led them to believe such a thing. That's like pissing in the well then complaining that the water is undrinkable.

I don't want to join the conservative chorus calling on the media to only report good news in Iraq. But this poll is the direct result of all the media-driven alarmist stories nearly begging for a civil war to occur.

Granted, things are not going well as we would like them to in Iraq. But it is irresponsible for the media to overplay every negative incident in transparent hopes that Bush's mission in Iraq fails.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Making Waves: Ever get the feeling that the news media is just recycling old stories instead of looking for anything that's actually new? The headlines yesterday seemed to focus on Bush's response to Katrina, something blowing up in the Middle East, and a little bit of sectarian conflict.

The front page of the newspaper could have been any front page for the past few months.

Even with the Katrina video release, the story presented nothing new. All we learned was that Bush was engaged, there were some vague concerns, but they never knew how bad things were getting in New Orleans until it was too late.

There was no mention of levees being breached in the video. It just appears that the government thought they were ready and had a grasp on things, but then they found out it was more than they could handle.

Of course, that doesn't stop the Bush haters from blowing this up as some new scandal. Oh well, glad I didn't miss anything important yesterday.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Stopped Watch: I don't usually cite Newsmax, because that paper's coverage of conservative/Republican talking points can hardly be considered "news". That said, Newsmax has apparently found that, if the port deal goes through, the Dubai company would only control 9 of 300 terminals at the ports in question. That doesn't mean we can ignore the issue, but this little tidbit shows that the issue is getting a bit overblown.

Now I've got to run and catch a plane. I'll be back Friday.

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