Memorial Day Contrast

Today the workers of America are just putting in the time to get to the Memorial holiday weekend. We have picnics, BBQs, outings, get-togethers and unfortunately, landscaping planned. Colorado Springs schools let out on Thursday for the summer and teenagers are everywhere taking advantage of their new-found freedom.

Despite the busyness, today is a fine opportunity to reflect on concept that has given us this idyllic 3 day weekend. We must stand silent before the memory of those who have done the impossible and given the ultimate price to secure our freedom. To do this, I offer a contrast from current events. It is the difference between Jessie MacBeth and Paul Smith. For many months Jessie MacBeth made a name for himself slandering and defaming the American fighting man. He was a Peace Films video superstar and anti-war darling. Let me say now that while I disagree with those who believe that war is always wrong or think that the US and the world would be better served by us leaving Iraq, I understand and generally respect those who do so thoughtfully and sincerely. MacBeth gave compelling testimony about the atrocities and crimes regularly committed by him and his fellow Army Rangers. He claimed to have killed at least 200 civilians personally, and at times 30-40 a night as a unit. He related being haunted by a raid on a mosque in which a few hundred people were killed, burned and hung from the rafters.

All amazing revelations to be sure…except our friend Jessie was never in Iraq…or the Rangers…or the Army for any real period. It seems that he was kicked out after a grand total of 6 weeks for being incompetent. Like fellow faker Micah Ian Wright, MacBeth felt that the reputation of good men (and some great men) was secondary to his agenda.

Great men like Paul Smith. Men with regular names and regular backgrounds who do extraordinary things in the defense of their friends and their nation. Smith is one of two men to receive the highest citation for combat bravery, the Congressional Medal of Honor, in Iraq. Click the link on his name to read the full citation. In short, Smith was killed in a firefight as a true American hero. Against all odds, he saved multiple injured comrades while simultaneously fighting off an ambush and only after the victory had been secured did he succumb to his wounds.

I am humbled by men such as Paul Smith. I cannot repay him or his family for what he has given and I’m not sure that if he could speak to me that he would even ask me to. Unfortunately, such heroism is beyond words and words are all I have. Please take a moment this weekend and think about what it costs to have Memorial Day picnics in a great nation. The value of our freedom can only be quantified by what it cost to attain it. With this in mind I plead, not demand, that God bless America.


Congrats AC Milan

Yesterday the 2007 UEFA Champions League (that's soccer, people) came to a close for the second time in 3 years with AC Milan facing Liverpool FC. In the 2005 Final in Istanbul, Milan jumped all over the "Scousers" (derogatory term for people from Liverpool...like my Grandma) 3-0 only to lose in a shootout. This year there would be no such English miracle. Milan won 2-1, despite seeming to be perpetually on their heels, with both goals by Filippo Inzaghi. This win gave Milan vindication after being seriously implicated last year in a match-fixing scandal (Shoeless Joe, move over) and, after Italy's '06 World Cup victory, gave further credibility to the argument that despite bad hair, the Italians are tops in futbol.

I was pulling for Liverpool in this game but the pain was blunted by the above-pictured Kaka' (one-named like all Brazilians) after the game. It seems the man that is generally listed as one of the world's best frequently wears a shirt like the one he's sporting in this photo. Team (and historical) loyalty aside, I enjoy seeing an unashamed Christian succeed and give glory to their Lord.

Speaking of my Lord, I must thank Him for giving me great friends with cable so I can watch the big English Premier League games (you're the man, Slick).

I'm Back with a Bang

Sorry that I have been MIA from blogoshpere for so long but work has been nuts recently. I have been trying to get half a dozen mission teams coordinated for early summer departures to such far-flung locations as Kenya, India, Rwanda, Burundi, Guatemala and the beautiful Crimea region of Ukraine.

I am now back in the saddle and I hope to be more contemporary with my posts than in past weeks (my earlier Fairness Doctrine post was largely written almost 10 days ago and didn't hit until today). With that in mind, I must direct you to some of the best information on the legislative monstrosity that is the current immigration bill.
  • At the Heritage Foundation, they have waded through the hundreds of pages of the current bill and distilled the many weaknesses found in Title VI (the portion dealing with regularization of illegal aliens) down to the 10 most egregious. This includes the ability for most of the 12 million to sponsor their entire immediate family for entry, a clause that only requires dangerous gang members to sign a "renunciation of gang affiliation" in order to receive a visa, gives in-state tuition to non-citizens while maintaining the ability to deny it to citizens (or even currently legal foreign students), allow for taxpayer-funded legal council in arguing for a change of status, and still no assurances that anything would be done to close the border to next wave of prospective amnesty recipients.
  • Hugh Hewitt, who is fairly moderate on immigration (he's said repeatedly that he is willing to accept nearly ANYTHING in the way of amnesty so long as the border fence is built), has been collecting expert opinion from all over. His focus on San Antonio Express columnist Todd Bensman's piece on a freedom-loving Iraqi's route to illegal entry is chilling in its portrayal of the simple route Jihadis can and have utilized to get here. There is no better way to explain why any legislation on this issue must be serious about border security.

I should have more, but as I said, it's been a busy few weeks.

I am thinking of changing my format on news/current event-related items to one of providing interesting links to the applicable news or commentary source and a brief opinion on the content. All other topics of interest will still have full-length text. If I still have any readers out there, let me know what you think.

Fairness Doctrine

In recent weeks there has been increased discussion about the reinstatement of the policy labeled as the "Fairness Doctrine." In short, the Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the FCC (and at times a law) until its repeal in 1987 that required any media outlet utilizing the public airwaves to give an equal opportunity to both sides of contentious issues. The rational is that since bandwidth is finite and the broadcasters are licensed users of a public trust, there is a responsibility to present a balanced perspective for the public good. Thus, if a radio station wants to broadcast Rush Limbaugh they must also present an opposing viewpoint. Recently socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic legislators Louise Slaughter and Maurice Hinchey and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich have all public lobbied for the reintroduction of the policy. Rumors abound that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and other top Democrats are favorably disposed as well. Here are the main problems with this concept:

  1. At the time in which the original Fairness Doctrine was adopted there were very few media outlets from which to glean news. With advancements in technology since 19 it would be hard to argue - though Kucinich does - that there is a lack of information in the public sphere. Though I concede the media consolidation of recent years has lowered the number of media corporation CEOs (certainly not to pre-television levels), by itself this doesn't necessarily creates a media bias in either direction. What does cause media bias is the minimum 20-1 Democrat to Republican ratio in the news rooms of mainstream newspapers and broadcast television.
  2. A Democratic Congressional aide recently let it slip that the top 2 targets are Limbaugh and the Salem Radio Network. This clearly indicates that while the large majority of the consumers of media from the public airwaves receive information from Democratic sympathizers, the left feels the need to silence conservative talk radio - the only source for opposing commentary.
  3. The claim that Congress must regulate the "public trust" is really a non-starter. Radio, like other media, is a ratings-driven industry. If the host draws an attentive audience to their program, it becomes profitable for businesses to advertise during that program. With business interest/money comes radio stations who desire to utilize a host's popularity for their own commercial gain. Stay with me here...The public has the choice to listen or not listen to a program, which directly affects the desirability of advertising time during said program, which in turn determines how many stations are willing to syndicate this host. Simply put, the public regulates with its time and money the content of radio (or any other medium) broadcast on their own airwaves. How is this not already fair?

I listen to talk radio not because I have no desire to hear the other side of an issue. In fact, hosts like Micheal Medved, Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt specialize in spirited debate on a variety issues. I listen because unlike mainstream media outlets, conservative radio is honest about their biases. A good host dare not gloss over a difficult issue (ie Mark Foley, Bush's shortcomings, etc.) expecting their listeners will not hear about it from another source. The tops hosts take these issues head-on. I prefer to hear a conservative take on current events from a transparent source than from someone who is terrified that his/her biases might be exposed.


Soccer Boxscores

Last night was the first indoor soccer game for Aaron and I and it's important that you are all given a review of the game. Our team name is the Bullets, making us the only non-Spanish named team in our league, but you would not have known this in watching last night's match. Our team is comprised of individuals who don't know 8 other players with which they could form a team and we played the mostly American team that leads the league. Needless to say, we were beaten handily. There were, however, some bright spots.

  • After slipping a few times with my indoor flats on the soft artificial surface that really requires cleats, I got pretty comfortable and was able to get some of my touch back. I also found my fitness level to be relatively good.
  • Aaron scored 3 of our 5 team goals, all in the second half, despite also having to find his touch and being exhausted after having climbed a 14er 48 hours before.
  • Our keeper has good reactions and is solid in goal, but his hands are not the best - there we a few goals scored on rebounds after he fumbled balls he should have caught.

All things considered, we had a good time, enjoyed being back on the field and look forward to a better showing next game.


Futbol y Corriendo

I believe this is my first bilingual-titled post. I figured I ought to let my 7 readers in on my new fitness activities. I have been running pretty regularly and 6 of the last 8 days and seeing pretty good results. Unless my GPS watch is more inaccurate than I thought, I broke the 7 minute/mile pace for a 5k run this morning.

In celebration of getting within 5 minutes of my personal best, I requested that my good friend The Coach allow me to post to his Train with The Coach blog. If you are trying to get in shape, train for a race or just maintain some semblance of fitness, check in with us and let us know how it’s going. The Coach is in the process of applying to be The USAFA Coach so he is very capable of giving quality training advice.

I will also begin playing indoor soccer this Monday with Slick and will likely be celebrating victories or bemoaning defeats here on the blog. Ever since I returned to soccer (after a decade hiatus) I have wanted to play with Slicky, but the Air Force apparently had more important things for him to do in Washington, California and Hawaii. He is finally back in CO and we now have our chance. The league is comprised entirely of teams with Spanish names and the scoring leaders have such non-Anglo names as Caballero, Juracan y Gonzalez. I’m pretty excited to use my Spanish consistently for the first time since I quit landscaping.


Why I love the "Blogoshphere" (and now France?)

I have been excited to see the results of the French election in favor of the conservative and pro-American candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. Despite the rioting that has taken place (largely due to Sarko's promise to bring order to chaos that are the Paris suburbs), Sarkozy achieved a comfortable victory on his platform of turning France from a "workers paradise" into a place where the paradise doesn't get in the way of work getting done.

Below I have copied exactly a comment thread from a blog that I read by a great writer who is a self-proclaimed socialist. It follows a post about May Day (laborers holiday) on More Hockey, Less War in which the unnamed author (though I believe that I have seen him called Ben in a comment) of the site wishes all his readers a happy May Day. He makes a short but fairly persuasive case about the glories of the labor movement and bemoans its slipping prestige.

Read how this goes after he receives a criticism of his post and falls back on the socialist utopia of Jacques Chirac's France.

6 Responses to “Happy May Day!”

Comment from JustaDog: May 1st, 2007 at 9:53 am

Socialism and all its forms - including worker’s unions - eventually destroy economies. Just ask France, their having to return to private enterprise!
the idle rich - where do you get these idiotic phrases? They don’t work with people that are informed. By idle rich are you referring to the few ultra-rich that have over $100 BILLION targeted for charitable causes?
How much do you contribute?

Comment from Himself: May 1st, 2007 at 10:13 am

France has to “return to private enterprise”? I wasn’t aware they had ever departed from it. But no matter.
Ask any French worker, with their 35-hour work week and what the WHO in 2000 called “best health system in the world” (free choice of private practitioners, with 85% reimbursement by the single-payer government insurer), if they’d be willing to trade for our broken system.
The fact that the idle rich toss back a fraction of a penny for every dollar they skim from our labor doesn’t make them productive. It just helps them avoid taxes.
But thanks for playing!

Comment from Wacky Mommy: May 1st, 2007 at 11:17 am

Funny, I was thinking of the French twice this month — both times while we were making visits to the emergency room. Our medical emergencies (one for me, one for Wacky Girl) didn’t happen during the “acceptable hours” of nine to five, Monday through Friday. Damn you, unpredictable bodies! For my visit: we got there a little before five p.m. and got home at 11 p.m. We’ve paid $200 so far for that visit — and that’s with our “good” insurance. (More bills to follow, unfortunately.) For my daughter — shorter time frame — 5 p.m.-ish (this is our witching hour, apparently) and home a little after 8 p.m. Ditto: bills to follow.
A friend of mine was in France last year (for the school year) with her spouse and their three kids. Ear infection for one kid, in the middle of the night. No problem — doc came to house, diagnosed, prescribed medicine, left. Total cost was $25. And they weren’t even citizens. Damn, that rocks.

Comment from Matt: May 1st, 2007 at 11:37 am

I hadn’t planned on commenting on this one, but after the previous 2, I thought I’d take the opportunity to be a centrist (a rare thing for me).
I cannot say that I am a supporter of organized labor as it is constituted in the US today, but I do have immense respect for those who stood up against the Mafia-style ownership of industry that existed 150 years ago. Currently the union rolls are becoming increasingly dominated by public employees unions while the unions of industry, service and others are decreasing. The labor movement has served its purpose (and I DO give them credit for work-week limitation, child labor laws and weekends) as a counter-balance to management, but its increasingly left-leaning political activism is doing a disservice to those it claims to represent. I do not see how a teacher should be asked to pay dues to fund an organization that lobbies for the right to abort the very children they are expected to teach (sorry about the dreaded anti-abortion reference, but this is the example with which I am most familiar). If the UAW was only interested in doing right by its members, it wouldn’t saddle the “Big 3” with the untenable compensation packages that are crippling the auto industry. I know that right know you are either thinking or shouting, “What about the CEOs and their huge salaries and bonuses?” and I must say you’re right. However, that is business model problem, not a social issue. As Thomas Sowell states so cleverly, “If high-quality CEOs were a dime a dozen, no one would pay 11 cents a dozen for them.”
As for the French example; I am not so sure that given an opportunity, many of that utopian society’s members would not choose to come to the true land of opportunity. I would venture that many of the unemployed youth that have rioted several times in past few years would jump at a chance to come here and work 45-50 hours/week at the national average $17+/hour (more than I make at this point). They would likely find a job easier in our sub-5% unemployment-rate economy than in France where it’s closer to 10%. Plus, they would be able to keep more of what they earn with a tax rate that allows the working classes keep a much greater percentage of what they earned with this hard work. It checking these numbers I also found that France has a lower tax rate on evil corporations (and presumably the semi-evil ones) than the US while taxing their workers at a significantly higher rate. See http://www.worldwide-tax.com/index.asp#partthree.
Disagreements aside, this is a great post in its stimulation of thought and discussion.

Comment from Matt: May 1st, 2007 at 11:47 am

Oops! I referred to “the previous 2 comments” and while writing another one snuck in. I guess now it should read “the first 2 posts”. Record corrected.
Per Wacky Mommy’s sneaky comment, I will say that $25 socialist co-pays would be nice (God knows I could use them), but remember that nothing is free.
Just because I don’t celebrate the holiday myself, I can still wish you all a happy May Day!

Comment from Matt: May 7th, 2007 at 7:48 am

I’m NOT saying I told you so, but as a corollary to my previous commentary I must point out that it seems that (per the election results) not even a majority of the French are on board with French socialism. The center-right candidate Sarkozy’s victory seems to indicate that most of his nation desires a more open, capitalistic economy and possibly a less adversarial stance in regard to the US. I have no illusions that he will send troops to Iraq or grovel at the alter of Uncle Sam (he is French after all), but he has made some very un-Chirac type statements which probably led to his election.
I thought, based on the thread discussion, that this was an interesting news item. Thanks for your blog and its always well-expressed opinions.

Please note 2 things about this interchange.
  1. Ben (or whatever his name is) is one of the most thoughtful and CIVIL leftists with which I have been in contact on the net. In an earlier debate regarding Che Guevara, he was obviously annoyed with my argumentative (but good-natured) comment and yet he responded in kind.
  2. Ben makes no attempt to rebut my comments, nor has he since our first back and forth when he called me out as a "right-winger".

If you like good writing and are not prone to get angry with socialist rhetoric, I would highly recommend this site.


Defense of Partisanship, Part 3

Last month top Democratic presidential hopefuls decided en mass to snub a scheduled debate on the Fox News Channel, co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute (not a conservative organization) that was scheduled to be held in Detroit September 23. This is the second time that the Dems have run from the mighty specter of Fox. The Nevada Democratic Party canceled another Fox co-sponsored debate scheduled for August. They have used some high-profile gaffes as excuses (see the end of the above linked story), but I like my Presidents to have thicker skin. The mainstream news media has come out with a series of election-influencing stories about Republicans at very convenient (or inconvenient) moments over the past decade and yet GOP candidates continue to frequent these outlets.

As proof I offer the Republican debate last night on, not Fox, but MSNBC moderated by Chris Matthews with commentary by Keith Olbermann. Let's review who are these two "fair and balanced" newsmen.

Chris Matthews has worked for 4 Democratic politicians including Jimmy Carter and has the dubious honor of being the author of Carter's "malaise" speech which likely lost him reelection. He is a relatively moderate guy if you ignore his knee-jerk anti-war sentiments. In listening to clips of his questions for the candidates, Matthews seemed to be probing not for the differences between candidates but for answers on issues which might be utilized later during the general election.
Update: I completely forgot to include the portion that was the main impetus for this post. Matthews asked every (I believe, but didn't hear each instance) top-tier candidate whether they were friends with Karl Rove and would they employ him were they to win the election. Karl Rove!?! Who cares about Karl Rove? He pressed them to disavow a non-cabinet White House staff member? Here's a few more:

Q. “Would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?”

Q. “What do you dislike most about America?”

Q. “Will you work to protect women’s rights, as in fair wages and reproductive choice?”

Q. “Thousands of reputable scientists have concluded, with almost certainty, that human activity is responsible for the warming of the Earth. Do you believe global warming exists?”

In the realm of objectivity Keith Olbermann is a wholly different animal. Though a fantastically funny sportscaster during his ESPN days, his political commentary is beyond angry. His position as commentator is ludicrous being as he has labeled many of the candidates involved as "The Worst Person in the World" at some time or another. During the one year period from June of '05 to June of '06 he added Giuliani, McCain, Tancredo and one of Romney's head campaign advisers to the list - minus Tancredo (who has a decent underground following), this covers all three front runners. This is from a period of time in which many of the campaigners were not even in the media spotlight and thus not in the open to be criticised; I'd imagine that in the past year a few more have been named.

Let's finish up by doing a little comparison. The equivalent situation for a Democratic debate would see Peggy Noonan or Bill Bennett asking questions like, "Do you think it's a good thing that illegal immigrants pour across our border to commit crimes and utilize public services at much higher rate than their legal counterparts?" while Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity offer pre- and post-debate analysis.

What Fox offered - and had rejected - were debates (read free publicity), co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and the Nevada Democratic Party that would have been FAR more balanced than that in which Republican candidates were fighting to be included last night. The point is once again that while a candidate may be reasonable and appealing, they will still be subject to the pressure of their party and its leadership and it is those people that you will be electing. I'll take Mitch McConnell and John Boehner over Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi any day of the week.


Funny...for some of us.

I heard the following story once upon a time, but had mostly forgotten it until I was reminded this morning. It goes like this:

On the 11th of August, 1984 Ronald Reagan was preparing for a radio address from his ranch in California. For this, he needed to speak regularly to ensure that levels were correct and that the signal was broadcasting with sufficient strength. When asked to make a test statement, he jokingly obliged with the following:
My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes. (link)

Now, magically transport yourself to the other side of the planet, to a listening post in the Soviet vacation region of Crimea where a young military translator is listening to American radio traffic for intelligence. Upon hearing this intended joke, Yuri determines that this constitutes a serious situation for the U.S.S.R. and reports what he has heard up the chain of command. The threat level is raised and fighters are probably scrambled to the expected approach routes to major Soviet cities. Nothing comes of this situation beyond another witty quote for Reagan supporters, more proof of his warmongering for his opponents and the need of clean shorts for young Yuri.

I told you that story to tell you this one (you can laugh at that if you know it as a Ron White line). This morning, a slightly older and wiser Yuri - now a national director for our pastoral training program in Ukraine - spoke to us at work. As a history buff I was amazed to hear this story from the other side. He obviously did not find it as funny as those who caught the test phrase on our side. Just another example of why, despite the low pay and occasional frustration, I love working at an international missions organization. The global perspective and opportunities to hear from those whose view of the world it so different are priceless.


When Good News is Bad News

Sometimes even a cynical viewer can be amazed by the media spin regarding the war in Iraq. The breaking news out of the Middle East states that Abu Ayyub al-Masri A.K.A Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was likely killed yesterday in al-Nibayi, north of Baghdad. In and of itself this isn't a unique situation. Coalition forces killed Saddam's sons, found the former dictator himself hiding in a hole and killed al-Masri's predecessor al-Zarqawi. The real news is how he was killed. The international press stresses that he was killed during infighting between Sunni militants; read "not a U.S. victory."

So what's the straight poop? He was killed by fellow Sunnis, this much is true, but he was killed by Iraqi Sunnis. Why is this important? It is the difference between al-Qaeda IN Iraq and al-Qaeda OF Iraq. al-Masri was the head of the prior (the latter doesn't exist) and hailed from Egypt (his nom de guerre means Egyptian); al-Zarqawi was Jordanian; bin-Laden is Saudi. These are foreigners traveling to Iraq to kill indiscriminately. It has been so frustrating to see news reports of a group led by Saudis and Egyptians killing Iraqis of all stripes and having it portrayed as an American failure (or as our fault). We are striving to protect the innocent civilians of the nation - and I can admit this - that we broke (see Micheal Yon's latest).
Back to al-Masri...he was killed by coreligionists from his branch of Islam who are clearly willing to use violence to achieve their goals. Is this a sign that the situation has deteriorated beyond what the mighty Americans can handle? Quite the contrary (and for the record, I don't believe we are even close to that threshold); if the news reports I am hearing are true, this is a staggering success for the United States Armed Forces and perhaps a vindication of Bush's goal to spread democratic ideals to the Middle East.

I know this is a wild claim, but it has been reported that al-Masri died at the hands of an Iraqi Sunni militia that deeply resents the al-Qaeda foreigners fomenting civil war by killing both Sunni and Shia Iraqis. I have also heard (not confirmed) that the group has actually worked on a limited basis with coalition forces against al-Qaeda forces. I know that there are those that will contend that this amounts to U.S. sanctioned "death squads" but in a place such as Iraq (it isn't Iowa), they might be more like a neighborhood watch group prone to vigilantism (too violent, but with mostly admirable goals). I see this type of unofficial pro-Iraqi sentiment as one of many necessary steps needed to bring Iraqis together to combat their common enemies. This is what makes a nation.

This gets to the heart of the surge strategy. It is not just an increase in man-power; rather it involves de-centralizing the military base structure to create "neighborhood" COPs or combat outposts (once again, see Michael Yon). If further progress can be made to bring into the public political process groups such as the one responsible for al-Masri, there may be hope that the situation will improve within the year.