29 June 2007

Why Britain?

A quick thought on the defused bombs in Britain on the 29th of June. There will probably be a whole slew of “why would this happen now?” questioning going on over the weekend. But the why is rather simple, I think.

Gordon Brown has just taken over the reins of government from Tony Blair this week. Tony Blair was steadfast in his belief that al Qaeda and those like them must be fought vigorously. It remains to be seen if Mr. Brown will hold the same line. How better to sway this new leader, if you’re a member of al Qaeda and Associates, than to give him the “welcome gift” of a few car bombs? It worked in Spain. That’s the why.

And I don’t want to predict doom and gloom here, but I would expect the same type of thing to happen in the US in early 2009. When new leaders take the oaths of office for president and vice-president there will in all probability be an attempt by those who hate us to influence them shortly thereafter. They will probably use their favorite tool: the true believer willing to die in as big of an explosives package as possible.

The Bill May Be Dead But the Issue Remains

Originally posted on The American Thinker website.

While the defeat of S-1639, known as the immigration reform bill, in the Senate may be loudly praised by many, I hope that this is not that last that we’ll hear from our elected officials on the issue. It is too important.

As elected official after elected official proclaims time and time again, immigration is a complicated issue, which seems to imply that it requires a complicated solution – something on the level of 800 pages worth of solution. There are also claims that the solution must be “comprehensive”, meaning that every aspect of the problem and eventuality of implementing the solution must be accounted for in a single legislative stroke. That the solution concocted by the Senate was distilled behind closed doors and then forced into essentially an up or down vote belies the supposed complexity of the problem and the comprehensiveness of the solution. It was, therefore, rightly defeated.

And now there are claims by pundits that no elected official will even consider addressing the illegal immigration issue until 2009 because of its “political sensitivity”. 50 members of the Senate, 435 members of the House, 2 members of the executive, and all the American people will get this year is one “comprehensive”, take it or leave it plan? Read: take it, or else the status quo remains until we get around to feeling like taking another glance at the problem, if it makes “political sense”. This is what goes for political leadership?

Any “comprehensive” bill is a hard sell, I believe. Look at the proposed Social Security reform put forth by President Bush in 2005. It went down the tubes, and there hasn’t been a thought of addressing it since, although I know that every dollar I “contribute” into the pit that is Social Security is one that I will never, ever see again. But, again, it’s a complicated problem, demanding compromise, bipartisanship and comprehensiveness…all leading to a “solution” somewhere off in the future, really, it’ll happen, just wait.

So in an effort to do something leading to progress on issues, perhaps the federal government should drop the “comprehensive” approach and take a “baby-step” approach. Take a problem, like illegal immigration, and find something that can be done about it, something concrete and definable, like controlling the borders or tracking down and repatriating people who overstay their visas. There. Two things that can be done to address the problem of illegals in the US. Then come up with a plan (the simpler the better), fund it, implement it, and see what happens. That process is what is taught in every management course. Surely some in Congress know of it.

Will there be problems? Of course there will be. But that’s all the more reason to take the “baby-step” approach. There are always unintended consequences. Solving a problem as “complicated” as immigration reform is will take time and effort. Starting small will help to move continually in the right direction. That’s why the next step in the Senate should be the introduction of two bills: one to tighten the borders and another to tighten visa oversight and control.

Once again, our elected officials have the opportunity to show leadership. Defeating S-1639 is not the war, it’s just a small battle. Creating laws and policies which are definable, enforceable and fundable and which address the real problem in the US – illegal immigrants – is the challenge put forth to our Senators and Representatives. Let’s see if they can meet the challenge while listening to the will of the citizenry.

27 June 2007

Collier Moving Day



After 3 weeks on Nobby's beach, Newcastle, the Pasha Bulker looks to be removed over the next few high tides. That's good news for those of us that use the beach year-round.

It looks like just about everything that could be done to keep the various petroleum products from damaging the beach has been done. Hopefully they'll get her re-floated without breaking her up. But regardless of the final outcome, a lot of good work has been done to correct what appears to be an accident which was fully avoidable. Lesson learned: when warned of impending danger and given a remedy, take the remedy.

(As an obvious side note, the previous statement could be taken too far. I'll not list the various "impending dangers" which popped into my head immediately after writing it.)

But some folks feel that this was just the opportunity to highlight the dangers of the coal export. According to the Brisbane Times, "Greenpeace activists staged a protest against coal at the salvage site, beaming messages against the ship's hull including 'Coal causes climate change chaos'." What was that I said about "impending dangers"?

[Photo poorly taken by the author, 10 June 07.]

26 June 2007

E-Mailing My Senators (27 June)

The following is an e-mail I sent on this date to Senators Hutchinson and Cornyn regarding the re-introduction of the "immigration reform" bill. I encourage everyone to e-mail his or her government representatives often. Casting a vote isn't enough.

Senator,

Thank you for voting against cloture on the latest edition of the immigration reform bill (S 1639). As I’m sure you have much on your plate at the moment, I’ll keep my comments short.

I believe one of the important reasons many who favor the rule of law are against this bill is because there is a significant and justified lack of faith that our federal government with regard to this issue. Folks simply do not believe that the government will live up to its promise of doing anything meaningful to uphold the law when it comes to illegal immigrants. There is a track record here which cannot, and should not, be ignored.

And therefore, as the Senate prepares to debate amendments on this bill, one thing should be kept in mind: if the Senate embraces the “rights” of illegal immigrants and denies the will of legal US citizens, it does so at the peril of irrecoverably losing the trust of the citizenry.

Buying the Enemy Bullets

As an example of what providing funding to unsavory (read: terrorist) parties buys the American taxpayer, here’s a snippet from a Spiegel Online interview with Mahmoud Zahar – the article describes him as, “a founder of Hamas, and one of its most militant hardliners -- has called for an Islamic state in the Gaza Strip. After the Hamas takeover of the territory last week, he's also threatened Fatah with more violence in the West Bank.”

The following Q&A was featured on Fox News’ Special Report and shows exactly where foreign “aid” goes once it lands in Palestinian terrorist-politician hands.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The militant wings of Fatah and Hamas have been fully armed over the last few months. Are these weapons still in circulation?

Zahar: There are naturally very many weapons around now. Two years ago, one bullet in Gaza cost around €3.50 -- now it would cost 35 cents. The American aid money has been translated into weapons. Thank you, America!

How good is it that aid money has gone to make bullets cheap in Gaza? But could any other outcome be expected? Only the blindly foolish would think that money poured into the militant cesspool that is the Palestinian territories (Gaza and the West Bank) would go for anything other than to fund violence.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Isn't such a large number of weapons in the hands of militias -- some controllable, some not -- a huge security risk? What would happen if splinter groups started to shoot at each other?

Zahar: So far we haven't confiscated any weapons. If there are problems with splinter groups, we will disarm them and take the weapons for ourselves.

And do what with those weapons, Mr. Zahar? I’ll give readers one guess – there are two correct answers.

25 June 2007

Evasive Action

Originally posted on The American Thinker website.

Listening to Senators Lott and Feinstein talk about immigration "reform" on Fox News Sunday yesterday, I was amazed at just how much these two seem to believe that compromise and bipartisanship are more important than doing the right thing for America. Both of them have said that there are things in the immigration "reform" bill each of them does not like. Therefore there must be some compromise for there to be any movement on the issue because, presumably, there is such a difference of opinion between sides of this debate.

And yet when Chris Wallace put forth the position that among the American public there is great support for border enforcement as a single issue, both say that the immigration issue - really the illegal immigration crisis - is a more complicated issue than can be addressed with border enforcement alone.

More complicated indeed. But with Congress suffering a lower approval rating than even the much-maligned President, there can be little doubt that Americas have a diminished faith in their government. And it's not just Iraq that is lowering those numbers, as Feinstein would have the FNS viewers/listeners believe. It is the severe disconnect between the government and the governed - on ethics, on Iraq, on illegal immigration, on education, on energy, and on and on and on.

And that is why, I believe, there must be a simple, single-step approach to slowing illegal immigration. If the federal government can find the resolve to accomplish the singular task of securing the borders of the United States - a seemingly straightforward requirement of any sovereign government - then perhaps the governed will have a little more faith in the legislative and executive branches. If the federal government cannot, or chooses not to, accomplish this task, then asking for the faith of the citizens governed, American citizens, is simply out of place.

22 June 2007

The Application of Violence

Originally posted on The American Thinker website.

There is both the right application and the wrong application of violence. The media for the most part gets it wrong. From Foxnews.com, a story about violence during Juneteenth celebrations. One incident in Austin, Texas, resulting from a car accidentally hitting a girl, the driver getting out to see if she was hurt, and subsequently being attacked. The passenger got out of the car to help the driver and was beaten to death. Another incident, according to the article,
"In Milwaukee, police responded in riot gear to disperse the crowd at that city's celebration on Tuesday after a man was pulled from a car and beaten and an officer was injured trying to break up a fight."
If one does not know what Juneteenth is - and I didn't before yesterday - then one supposes there is a high probability that race has nothing to do with either of these incidents. In fact, it does. I believe that these two incidents reflect an inclination toward senseless, "respect" driven, any-reason-will-do violence. Those who perpetrate this violence are a minority group of a minority group. But to ignore their existence and their harm is to ignore reality.

On the other end of the spectrum of violence, this time violence with a purpose, the Royal Australian Navy's successful repelling of an Iranian kidnapping attempt in the Persian Gulf prior to the successful kidnapping of the British forces.

The RAN folks saved themselves from sharing the fate of the RN personnel by being prepared to use violence against an aggressor. Their appropriate use of, or threat to use, violence is under-reported in the media. Or worse, the appropriate use of violence is sometimes chided against in the media... "How could the (fill in the blank here) use such force to protect/defend (insert truly deserving entity here)?"

Through not understanding violence and the appropriate and inappropriate applications thereof, there is a high probability in today's media to justify the inappropriate and show contempt toward the appropriate. There must be a greater understanding of why, where and how appropriate violence is exercised. In defining these times, places and methods, the spotlight can then shift to the inappropriate use of violence and condemnation can fall where it should.

19 June 2007

A Good Read - Victor Davis Hanson

I don't usually like to post large excerpt of articles here. I figure that folks can find and read on their own, given a link. This morning, however, I read an article by the estimable V.D. Hanson, a classicist who also happens to write a fair bit. His articles are always well thought out and reasoned, which makes him easy to read and relevant.

The topic of this article is how "revolutionaries and insurrectionists" (in their many forms) come to undermine societies and then plead that their methods are not used upon them. I strongly urge you to read it.

Quoting the end of the article at length:
What lies behind this abject hypocrisy of first undermining civilization and then demanding that it reappear in the hour of need?

Double standards depend on demanding from United States and Europe a sort of impossible perfection. When such utopianism is not--and never can be--met, cheap accusations of racism, colonialism, and imperialism follow. Such posturing is intended to con the West into feeling guilty, and, with such self-loathing, granting political concessions, relaxing immigration, or handing over more foreign aid. Left unsaid is that such critics of the West will always ignore their own hypocrisy, and, when convenient, destroy civilized norms while expecting someone else to restore them when needed.

What, then, to do? Stop feeling guilty, apologizing, and trying to rationalize barbarity. Instead insist on the same uniform standards of humane behavior from our critics that they now demand from us.

Finally, remember that there is a reason why millions flood into Europe from the Middle East and to America from Mexico--and not vice versa. There is a reason why Democrats and Republicans don't shoot each other in the streets of Washington, or why blue-state America does not mine red-state highways. And there is a reason why a Shiite mosque in Detroit is safer in the land of the Great Satan than it would be in Muslim Saudi Arabia. It's called civilization--a precious and fragile commodity that is missed even by its destroyers the minute they've done away with it.

Sober words and well written.

And just to tag on, Mr. Hanson reminds me what it means to be educated. Education does not mean gaining a job skill; it means learning how to think, how to reason.

18 June 2007

Ban Ki-moon and Assigning Blame

Sometimes I read a headline and I think that the text below it cannot possibly support the headline. Today’s example is a headline on Breitbart.com: Climate change behind Darfur killing: UN's Ban. It’s a headline ripped from an op-ed piece by Ban in the Washington Post. In the op-ed, Ban makes leaps from higher temperatures in the Indian Ocean to disrupted monsoons to drought in sub-Saharan Africa to genocidal “conflict”. And of course, these things all have a root cause “at least in part” of human-induced climate change.

According to Ban, the solution to this “conflict” is part political dialog between groups and part sustained economic development.

But I have to wonder just where these routes will go. Economic development alone is a sink-hole for Western taxes. Years of funding the Palestinian state apparatus (from Arafat onward) did nothing to bring about change. In reality, funding this terrorist state-in-waiting gave legitimacy and longevity to an idea and vision which still calls for the destruction of a sovereign state, Israel. Economic development in oil-rich countries in the Middle East has done between nothing and very little to create politically open societies. Economic development in China and India has done more, if one buys the whole CO2 theory, to speed along the very “climate change” that Ban says has caused the conflict in Darfur. Economic development is not an answer in and of itself. Obviously, Ban is not saying that it is, but…

Peoples who are at war with each other, or in conflict to use the more gentle term, will only agree to peace when they are forced to or when both sides are weary of fighting. I do not pretend to know enough about the situation to make a judgment on this. But certainly there must be a stop to fighting and a prolonged demonstration of peaceful coexistence before any economic aid beyond subsistence aid should be given by any government. Anything other than this is simply a bribe in return for calm. And while that bribe may keep places outwardly quiet for a bit, they will, in time, explode in more violence and hate.

Without political changes supported along with basic subsistence aid, any and all money being poured into Darfur and Sudan will do worse than maintain a false air of civility. Witness the implosion of the Palestinian political structure, so long funded by the West in return for “peace” without regard to its well-publicized genocidal vision.

And I don’t buy the tie-in with “climate change” here. It smacks of directly pinning the Darfur genocide on Western industrialized nations, a point which Ban clearly alludes to in his op-ed. The audacity of this notion is astounding: it isn’t really the murderers in Darfur who are at fault; it is “at least in part” the fault of the industrialized West. Without a shot, without urging any action, the West has participated in this atrocity. What logic! What or who gets blamed next?

Damn those dinosaurs and their laying around being compressed! This is all their fault.

17 June 2007

Taking Oaths and Defending the Constitution

This past weekend, I was sitting in a coffee shop getting into a new book (new for me, anyway) called Blood and Belonging. As far as I can tell, as I’m only ten pages into it, it deals with nationalism and allegiances. In those first few pages, though, I began thinking about the times that I have taken oaths as part of my military service. If memory serves me correctly, I think I’ve taken some form of oath regarding military service six times. It may be more.

Like every other oath of office in the US, the oaths I took were based on the foundation that I would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States”. This is profoundly important for a number of reasons, some of which are:
- the Constitution is a document, not a person,
- the Constitution is, on the whole, an unchanging document,
- the Constitution, as the supreme law of the land, has no other man-made peer.

When I, as a military member, swore to defend the Constitution, I understood that was a departure from military oaths taken in the past. Not all that long ago, soldiers swore oaths to their generals, to those who were in charge of them – or more appropriately, those who paid them. As might be expected, this system did not necessarily enhance the stability of the state. Soldiers became susceptible to the whim of their commanders. But by swearing to defend a document, the supreme law of the land, military personnel give their allegiance to the lawful operation of the state as dictated by the Constitution.

As the Constitution is, by and large, an immutable document, it is not susceptible to the sudden passions of our leaders, the media or the public. While those winds may buffet the ship of state and turn it some to the right or left, the Constitution is supposed to be a large rudder, steadying the course.

As defenders of that rudder, all those who take the oath should understand that the Constitution is therefore not a “living, breathing document,” as some contest that it is. Changes to the Constitution are set out in the amendment process, which is rightly long and arduous. If it is too easy to change it, then the ship of state becomes misshapen with the additions and subtractions of the short-sighted and ill-informed. The danger of a “living, breathing” Constitution is not that one law or another will change. The real danger is that, contrary to the imagery of a “living, breathing” document, the Constitution becomes a dead, hollow document, used simply as a tool by those who have the position and will to warp the state to their own liking. And in this guise, defenders of the Constitution are really just defenders of the powerful.

The Constitution, therefore, does not truly live through change. It endures through our understanding of it as it was written and our ability to let it guide the country through decisions, easy, uncomfortable or otherwise.

Lastly, as the supreme law of the land, the Constitution must necessarily not have a peer in a legal sense. Those who wish to apply “international standards” or such on the Constitution seem to misunderstand this basic principle. There must be, at the end of the day, a trump in the deck, and for the United States, that trump is the Constitution. Just as the US Constitution is not the law of, say, Switzerland, “international standards” do not and must not override the Constitution in the US. It is by us and for us.

Maybe this is all just simple civics, but it seems important to me to get down to the basics of things. We are all susceptible to being swept up in the day-to-day machinations of the world around us, the subtle (and not so subtle) spinning of those who wish to influence us, and the distractions of entertainments which beg us to not think. But the words that we speak, the oaths that we take, the things we defend are much more important than all of these ephemeral provocations. Considering our words and oaths carefully and understanding our convictions is vital to defining ourselves and our culture. And if we continue to reflect, from time to time, about the basics of things like the Constitution, perhaps we can better resist being swept up in the chaos that is pressed upon us by those who wish to define us in their image.

16 June 2007

E-Mailing My Senators

The following is an e-mail I sent on this date to Senators Hutchinson and Cornyn regarding the re-introduction of the "immigration reform" bill.

I encourage everyone to e-mail his or her government representatives often. Casting a vote isn't enough.

Senator,

As a Texas resident living overseas, I have a bit of a different perspective on immigration. I have gone through the immigration process to work in Australia, a country which does not look kindly on immigration law breakers. The legal visa route was not particularly difficult, and since I've played by the rules, I am allowed to work and live without worry. I fully believe that this is the right way to do things: obey the law, wait for the process to move, and obtain legal status.

As the "immigration reform" issue is re-introduced in the Senate, I hope that you work hard to defeat this measure. We do not need more immigration law when current law is not enforced. Indeed, when current immigration law enforcement isn't even really attempted.

At the very least, I hope that you are able to work in strong language to accomplish the following:
- deny any visa or citizenship route to illegal immigrants who have committed a felony or three misdemeanors,
- allow time for a full background check of each visa applicant, not the 24-hour period in the current bill,
- make achievement of border security benchmarks mandatory before the issuance of a single "Z visa",
- end so-called "sanctuary cities", "catch-and-release" policies, and other practices which flagrantly break with US law.

Thank you for your time and attention.

15 June 2007

Hockey in Hamilton

In a development which is causing some stir north of the border (US border that is), there looks to be a chance that Canada may gain another NHL franchise. This would reverse a trend of Canadian teams relocating to US cities: the Quebec Nordiques to Denver in 1995 and the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix in 1996.

The possible northward movement involves the Nashville Predators moving to Hamilton, which sits roughly in the middle of a triangle formed by Toronto, Buffalo and Detroit. Just looking at this geography, it seems that Hamilton would be a much more of a hockey town than Nashville.

In anticipation of the move, or perhaps in need of a lever to get the team out of Nashville, Jim Ballsille, the potential new owner of the Predators, has started asking fans and supporters for season ticket and skybox deposits. As reported on CHML, a Hamilton radio station, “47 hundred lower bowl, 25 hundred upper bowl and 60 suites have been sold so far.” That’s good news for Hamilton and, in my opinion, for hockey.

Hockey is not a top-tier sport in the US, and it probably never will be. While hockey will always have its ardent fans and followers (just like any major sport), it just isn’t woven into the wider sports culture in the US. To the contrary, hockey is part of Canadian culture, and in a way that US sports fans really can’t appreciate. A Saturday night game in Vancouver has a very different atmosphere than one in Dallas or Chicago. The excitement is palpable, like a Texas high school football game.

That excitement can be spread, but not relocated. If NHL hockey moves back to its core support areas and re-ignites interest, I think it will be healthy for the game. I just hope, if Mr. Ballsille does get his wish that he also changes the team name. I’ve never been fond of “Predators”.

14 June 2007

Still More Imprecise Language

Just to throw one more item into the mix, why is it that "global warming" - the certain/potential catastrophe of all time - has now become "climate change"? The former is a much more precise; it is a much clearer statement. The later is not. There's a lot of wiggle-room in "climate change" from both political and scientific angles.

And therefore the change. In 2006, the year after hurricane Katrina, some predicted that there would be many powerful hurricanes. But they did not occur. So what happened to the inevitable, incontrovertible physical manifestations of "global warming"? If that can not be answered scientifically without debunking all or part of the theology of "global warming", then the name has to be changed.

And therefore the change. Now with "climate change" as the term of choice, any change can be used as evidence. Colder than normal winters - climate change. High winds off of the mountains in Colorado - climate change. Flooding in (place location here) - climate change. No lack of evidence can be supplied because the term itself is so broad, so undefined, that all things fit into it.

For a good read on the topic of global warming / climate change, its implications and underpinnings, you may want to read this article by the President of the Czech Repulic. As an economist, perhaps he's not fully qualified to talk about the particular science (but that doesn't get in the way of "gwcc" zealots), but he does provide another rational point of view, and a non-American one at that.

More Imprecise Language

From an article by Amanda Carter on 13 June:

The more than 32,000 earmarks requested in the Homeland Security spending bill have roiled the House this week, and now Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) wants the word ‘earmark’ to just go away.

In a Tuesday press conference about appropriation bills, Pelosi said, “Why don’t we leave here today forgetting the word earmark?” She said they should be called “legislative directives” instead.
Doesn’t legislation, by definition, direct some law or policy? Does the term “earmark” have multiple meaning which might confuse people? Is there some higher level of precision achieved by changing the term?

Or does Rep. Pelosi want to change the term so that what is being done this legislative year – not listing earmarks in bills for debate, supposedly because it’s just too much work this year – can be continued next year without excuse. Change the term, skip a year of following the rules, and create a new “rule” for the new term next year. All it would take is a little language shift (attempt ongoing), a few “I wish we could have” statements (done), and the expected short attention span of the public (assumption). “Earmarks” and the attention they garner then go away, and the under-cover legislative process can progress.

Maybe I’m being too cynical, but somehow I doubt it. It’s easy to be cynical about a body which has not delivered in a meaningful way for a decade, and yet attempts to continually twist language to hide its motives and faults.

12 June 2007

Defining Words and the Implications on Truth

It has been said that whoever controls language controls politics. Using language to make things more respectable, more palatable, is a common occurrence especially when considering politics and divisive issues. But there must be something said for using plain language to adhere to the truth of matters, meaning the objective truth, striped of emotion.

Take for example the following phrases:
- illegal immigrant
- undocumented immigrant
- undocumented worker
- undocumented American.

These four phrases are bandied about to describe a single group of people: those who left their home country and entered the United States illegally and who continue to live and work in the US. That is the basic truth of this classification and is clearly stated by using the term “illegal immigrant”. It is not racist or xenophobic. It is objective fact.

The second term contains a significant shift. By calling this group of people “undocumented immigrants”, there is a negation of their illegal entry into the US. If only there were documentation on these folks, the term implies, then these immigrants would be just like any other legal immigrant. It is not an act of the immigrant – their illegal entry into the US – which is the problem. It is rather a failing one someone’s part (fault to be filled in as you will) to provide them with the required paperwork. There is no crime here, and if there is, then it is not a crime committed by the “undocumented immigrant”.

The third term shifts even further. By substituting “worker” for “immigrant”, there is an underhanded denial (or refusal to recognize) that the person in question originates from somewhere outside of the US. He or she is just a worker, not someone from another country who entered the US (illegally) to find a job. How could one possibly deny “rights” to these workers?

And finally, the most recent mutation of “illegal immigrant” comes from Senator Reid: “undocumented American”. This is where the language finally and irrecoverably presupposes citizenship upon those who have entered the US illegally for whatever reason. They are, according to Reid’s language, already Americans. They simply lack the documents to prove it. Using this language, anyone on the planet could be called an undocumented American.

“Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
- George Orwell

10 June 2007

Thoughts on the "Remember Me" Video

Video Link – “Remember Me” (It's worth a watch...about 5 minutes long.)

I had to think a bit before I posted this link and my thoughts about the video at the other end of it. It’s not that I think the video is anything but touching. It raises so many emotions, many of them conflicting. And that, really, is why I debated posting it.

Very strong emotions can skew how we think about a subject, sometimes quite negatively. However, not addressing a subject simply for the reason that it evokes strong emotions is not an answer; it’s a side-step.

I think the “Remember Me” video addresses one of the fundamentals that is easily lost or overlooked in war and that is, regardless of the larger reasons of why we fight, projected end-states and such, war is a human endeavor. The men and women fighting (and providing vital support to those fighting) are brothers, sisters, etc, to folks at home. Their sacrifice is both readily acknowledged and easily overlooked by the vast majority of folks who have not been asked to sacrifice a single thing during the beginnings of this war.

It’s been nearly six years since 9-11, the economy is humming along quite nicely, unemployment remains very low, and even gas prices are fairly stable. Americans were encouraged to go about business as usual after 9-11, and remarkably, we have been able to. This is considered a battle won on the home front.

But if that battle has been won, one unintended consequence has been to alienate the population in general to the sacrifices of military personnel. By not asking Americans to sacrifice a thing in the last six years, it has become increasingly easy to hold the war at a distance, to give it an otherworldly sense, to see it as something happening to others and not a cause to be fought by the whole public.

These feelings are compounded by the shrill voices of those who blast the war, for all of their collected reasons, and who seek to divide and withdraw as they see fit. No sacrifice is worth it for them, and their voice is loud and persistent.

But truly, sacrifice is worth it. And by that, I mean personally chosen sacrifice. An important question, I think, to ask ourselves is: what we are willing to do to remain free? We cannot simply “honor” those serving, though honoring them is important. We cannot simply live without sacrifice and expect the outside world to become a safer, more secure world.

I don’t want to slip into rampant idealism, which has its own unforeseen consequences. But I do believe that learning why we fight, how we fight (militarily and by other means) and what it takes to win is a more productive activity than going about life as if nothing can touch us within our bubble. As 9-11 should have taught us, lack of vigilance can be painfully self-critiquing.

09 June 2007

Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?

An interesting article appeared today on Townhall.com by Diana West titled, “The PC End of the English-Speaking Peoples.” It’s a good read, though maybe uncomfortable for some – or most – readers.

That America and Britain are being changed forever by immigrant populations is without question. That the fabric of America is changing as a new group of people comes into the country is nothing new; it has happened again and again. What is different, I think, is the lack of assimilation of this group of immigrants. Separated by language and culture, and to some extent unwilling to adopt the language and culture of their gaining country, this group of Spainish-speaking, largely illegal, mostly Mexican immigrants has become a subset of the American population.

What will American culture be in 20 to 30 years, given this influx? The politically correct set say not to worry. America – what ever that means – will not be negatively affected by a subculture of undocumented workers separated by language living within it. It will be enriched! We ought to celebrate our diversity and welcome all into America with open arms – and no questions. American citizenship is, after all, the inalienable right of all living people on the planet.

And yet, that last statement smacks of guilt. Should I feel guilty about being born an American? Should second generation legal immigrants about their citizenship? Must we share our country with anyone who demands a piece of its prosperity? Why must America absorb any influx of illegal aliens (undocumented workers, sorry) regardless of ethnicity? Why is it considered a bigoted point of view to want to keep American culture more like what it is (or was) and demand that newcomers assimilate to it and not the other way around?


And there is something to this idea of American culture, I think, and it has nothing to do with race or gender. It has to do with opportunity, self-reliance and self-respect. It has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with demands, race-baiting or wealth-envy. It is bound up by a common language, English, and a common idea that everyone deserves a fair go at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How individuals – not groups – prosper from this cultural attitude defines America. That groups of the self-interested disparage these attitudes and advance “some animals are more equal than others” agendas is a detriment to the country and the culture.

Assimilation, as well, is not an act of a group, but rather an individual choice repeated again and again. Making that choice easier by making aspects of it mandatory, like learning English, is key. No citizen is more equal that another, and no potential citizen should be sold the American bill of goods as if they're entitled to it. It must be earned.

05 June 2007

An Example Not to Follow

Today someone read to me something astounding. It is perhaps the most astute self-explanation of pop-culture attitude ever. I simply must pass it along.

“In the future, I plan on taking more of an active role in the decisions I make.”

Whose comment is that? Paris Hilton. I wish I was still blissfully unaware of her existence. But as modern media makes it impossible to escape such “personalities”, I can at least take a few minutes to point out such amazing, hilarious and saddening statements as the one above. Why does anyone pay attention to her?

Please go back and read that statement of hers again. In some ways, it really does make sense, though only in explaining where some of the “decisions” of those like Hilton come from – nowhere sensible. They are simply the physically mature expressions of an inner child acting on impulse.

And yet this is the type of person held up by media as “someone to watch”, as if the train wreck of her life is an example of what is normal. I find it especially troubling because I believe it has the potential for greatest influence among those young enough to be molded. What’s more, if that same young person is free enough from proper adult direction, they may not recognize the Hilton example as horribly flawed. That young, impressionable person may see the example of Hilton, shown day after day, as normal adult life. Young people are the ones, indeed, who need assistance to actively decide to emulate someone other than the likes of Hilton.

04 June 2007

Perpetual Motion

For hundreds of years, attempts have been made to create perpetual motion machines – a machine which once started runs forever without additional energy being applied to it. There still isn’t one which works and there probably never will be. Energy must always be added to overcome friction and other energy drainers.

This is not only the case with machines. It is true with regard to any human endeavor.

Just because a thing, as far as one can remember, has always been does not mean that that things will always be that way. There is always a chance that change will occur, and given enough time, change is a virtual certainty. Circumstances change, perceptions change, knowledge changes. Attention must be paid and energy must be added positively and creatively for change to be constructive. No human enterprise advances of its own, not even things that we may consider to be endlessly so, like the advance of technology.

But that can be easy to forget in day-to-day life. It can be all to easy to rely on things – on structures, institutions and relationships – without paying attention to the energy which must be added to keep them moving positively, to keep regenerating them.

So as I think about this, I consider all of the things that I hope to see sustained for a long time, throughout my lifetime and indeed perpetually. The cost to me as an individual, I believe, is fairly small. But the attention, the regularity with which I must apply energy is very important. Neglected over a course of time, anything will run out of energy and deteriorate.

Perhaps there is nothing (outside of the divine) that is perpetual. But all things human can be made lasting if they are cared for, fed, in a sense. If we as individuals do not choose to care for the things in our lives and our societies which we wish to see endure we can be assured that others will feed their own desires, and those structures, institutions and relationships may very well not bring us peace and comfort.

01 June 2007

Headlines and the Police

Sometimes there is something about a headline that belies the core of the article beneath it. Just to stay away from emotionally charged topics, I'll to use a very minor, non-emotional (except, perhaps, for long-time fans) article I ran across this morning. Yahoo.news had on its front page this morning the headline "Police drummer rips band's 'lame' concert."

In the opening paragraph, the article cherry-picks one comment from the drummer, Stewart Copeland, which indicates Sting, lead singer and bassist in the band, jumps like a "petulant pansy." In the second paragraph, the article's author says that Copeland "unleashed his vitriol" on his website after the band's second show in Vancouver. One would think that the rest of the article would catalogue Copeland's rant against his band-mates.

But after reading the whole article, nothing seems further from the truth. Sure Copeland makes some critical observations of the band's show and does not attempt to hide who made what mistakes when, but that hardly seems like vitriol. Comments like the band being out of step, individuals making momentary mistakes or temporarily being on separate sheets of music do not seem, to a person who is willing to listen and comprehend, like spouting vitriol.

It seems more like an open discussion of what professional musicians would discuss after a bad show, which at least from Copeland's point of view this was. The only difference here is that in our endlessly connected world of instant media, we were given a chance to listen in on the critical exchange within a professional musical trio. That the article ends with commentary that after the show Copeland said, "The threesome fell into each other's arms laughing hysterically" runs counter to the headline and opening of the article. Those who only read the headline would miss the context of the rest of the article and would probably form incorrect impressions.

Because the article happens to discuss something which we probably don't get a huge emotional charge about, I think, allows us to think about other instances, more emotionally charged instances, where headlines might lead us astray. In a sound-byte world, it's easy to be mislead by the loudest shout, the brightest light, the most extreme story. But what's really important is the substance underneath, and I fear that too often that substance is not reflected by those bright, shinny lights that catch our attention.