Friday, December 30, 2005

Munich Schmunich

Fire of Liberty

I had a little conversation with a group of my friends about Stephen Spielberg's recent movie "Munich" and I expressed my disdain about Mr. Spielberg trying to create a film that tries to make the terrorists of Black September into everyday people. From what I've read and have seen about the movie, the genius of "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" has decided to make a film that shows the terrorists as folks who have been denied a home (I guess Gaza and the West Bank are figments of our imagination) or have the same hangups as you and me and that we should have sympathy for their plight. Well I can understand the argument if the folks being hunted down by the Israeli government were folks that they disagreed politically about but the pure and simple truth is that these folks were terrorists that had the blood of the Israeli athletes who they murder in Munich, Germany in 1972 on their hands. Now folks can drag out the whole "cycle-of-violence" canard if they want to but their not going to go far with their argument when you can clearly point out that a more proactive approach on the behalf of Israel, like the direct targeting of various terrorists leaders by the IDF and the building of a security fence/wall between Israel and the Palestinian Territories has put a severe dent in the suicide bombers business. Max Boot made the similar point in Wednesday's LA Times when he noted:
"Munich" is a more compelling film but just as specious morally. It tells the story of a Mossad hit team sent to avenge the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics by eliminating 11 Palestinian terrorists. The Israelis become tortured by their assignment. As one team member says: "“All this blood comes back to us." The movie reinforces this cycle-of-violence theme with constant references to all the terrorist attacks carried out by the PLO after the Olympics. The implication is that if the Israelis weren'’t killing PLO operatives, they would stop killing Jews.

Director Steven Spielberg has made clear that'’s his view, telling Time magazine: "“A response to a response doesn'’t really solve anything. It just creates a perpetual-motion machine... . The only thing that'’s going to solve this is rational minds, a lot of sitting down and talking until you'’re blue in the gills."

Where has Spielberg been for the last 15 years? Israel tried his "“blue in the gills"” approach in the 1990s, but the Oslo process only led to greater bloodshed. Israel defeated the second intifada not by chatting with terrorists but by fighting them. "Munich"” depicts assassinations as pointless. In reality, Israel'’s policy of targeted killings has dramatically reduced the threat from Hamas and other extremist groups.

The lesson of World War II still stands: Civilized countries must use violence to defeat barbarians. Why is that so hard for Hollywood to understand?
So if you want my opinion about the movie, I say go watch it but remember that the movie is just another example of Hollywood trying to promote their silly agenda of moral equvelancy. I can assure you that the brave olympiads who died in 1972, the Mossad agents who hunted down the terrorists and Prime Minister Golda Mier are far from being equal to the terrorists who killed 11 athletes because they were born Israeli.

A Fitting Tribute to a Grand Struggle

Fire of Liberty

Lee Edwards, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has a good piece in the Pittsburgh Tribune- Review on the current fundraising and future construction of a memorial in Washington D.C. to the victims of communism during the Cold War. Edwards also notes that the statue is also dedicated to the people of Cuba, China, and North Korea who are tolling under the jackboot of communism each and every day that these regimes stay in existence. I for one am glad that someone has finally decided to erect a monument to those who have suffered or are suffering from the evil menace of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Thankfully Lee Edwards is in charge of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation so conservative folks like me know that the memorial won't be an eyesore but will truly be a dignified tribute to the 100 million who have died at their communist masters. Here's a what Edwards wrote about the memorial that will go in a small corner of Capital Hill some two blocks from Union Station:

Our memorial will feature a 10-foot-high bronze replica of the statue of Democracy, erected by pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989 and then destroyed by Chinese Communist tanks.

On the front pedestal of the Democracy statue, modeled after our own Statue of Liberty, will be inscribed the words: "To the more than one hundred million victims of communism and to those who love liberty."

On the back pedestal will be the words, "To the freedom and independence of all captive nations and peoples." These words will remind visitors that a fifth of the world's population still lives under communism, a sad fact too often forgotten, especially by Americans.

So if anybody wants to honor the memory of the 100 million victims of communism just pay a visit to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and plop down a donation to get this fitting memorial built. As Michael Ledeen says, faster please!!!

Freedom's Champions

Well it looks like our friends in Poland have decided to allow its contingent of some 1,500 soldiers to stay in Iraq until the end of 2006 to continue their vigilant stand beside their American, British and Iraqi brothers-in-arms in their fight for freedom and democracy in the heart of the Middle East. You'll be hard pressed to find a more loyal European ally on Iraq than Poland who with due diligence has sunk some $600 million on the deployment (Some 10% of their $6 billion defense budget) and seen some 17 brave soldiers killed and 45 seriously wounded fighting for freedom. I guess the folks of Poland are more willing to expend some blood and treasure to provide a helping hand to a burgeoning democracy like Iraq due to the fact they know first hand what its like to live under the jackboot of a totalitarian system. This is truly a testament that the Lord works in mysterious ways.

I'd say that our best bet is to strengthen this partnership and ensure that they get all the military upgrades and financial help that they need. As the New York Sun rightly noted in an editorial today, maybe we need to rethink our current $1.8 billion subsidy to Egypt and send it to more deserving friends like Poland who share our same goal on freedom and democracy in the Middle East. We'll kill two birds with one stone by helping out a friend and showing the Mubarak regime that the US will not continue to pay out reams and reams of money to someone who continues to abrogate the freedoms of the peace loving parties and people of Egypt. We can also show our thanks by allowing the people of Poland the right to travel in our nation without having to apply or pay for an expensive Visa. If we just start showing the same gratitude and devotion that Poland has given our nation in Iraq and the GWOT, we'll go a long way in concreting this already strong bond.

With the most recent election of a pro-American right-of-center party and the elevation of Radoslaw Sikorski (a fellow of AEI and a strong Atlaticist) to Poland's Minister of Defense, and well as this recent agreement on extending their stay in Iraq, I can foretell a bright future ahead between the US and Poland. So on behalf of America, I'd like to offer a gracious thank you to Poland for their continued stand beside us and their great sacrifices of blood and treasure in helping install freedom and democracy in Iraq.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's Better Than You Think

Fire of Liberty

Though the MSM and various Democrats keep on running countless stories on how Sunnis in Iraq are not being marginalized and are not properly represented in parliament thus some resort to violence, they fail to point out that their are a lot of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds who are totally opposed to the terrorists and are making a difference in Iraq. One individual who is of this mold (and I suspect some 98% of Iraq as well) is Iraqi Sunni politician Mithal al-Alusia who has been recently re-elected while promoting the creation of an anti-terrorists alliance between Iraq, the US, European countries, Turkey and Israel. Even after losing two adult sons at the hands of terrorists in 2003 for advocating such ideas, al-Alusi still have a positive outlook on his country and is still not afraid to point out that the terrorists must and will lose in the fight for Iraq. In fact, I think he sums up the opinion of a large majority of Iraqis when he noted to Ilene R. Prushner of the Christian Science Monitor:
"We're not working in Iraq for personal goals. We work for something because we really believe in it," he says. "It would be stupid to let the terrorists win."
You've got to feel pretty good about the future of Iraq that al-Alusi was re-elected in a Sunni dominated region while advocating such ideas. Here's hoping for more al-Alusi's in the future. Maybe Reps. Murtha and Pelosi, Sens. Kennedy, Reid, Kerry as well as Howard Dean should look at al-Alusi before they start their "the sky is falling" antics on Iraq. Here's one to al-Alusi, may here see his dreams come true

Citizen Soldiers Fighting on the Fringes of Civilization

Fire of Liberty

If you want to read a good book on how our soldiers are winning the good fight in the far reaches of the world then I highly recommend you read Robert D. Kaplan's(Atlantic Monthly) new book Imperial Grunts. Now since you might be short funds due to Christmas our some bills pending in the upcoming weeks, you can get a sneak preview of the book's subject and the author by reading this transcript of an recent interview between Kaplan and Salem Radio's Hugh Hewitt. It's rather long but you'll thank me after reading it and hopefully you might tune in the show or just rush out to buy the book. So enjoy.

Give No Quarter To Terrorists

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good reason why you can't sit down and try to reason with terrorists of any stripe. One day folks are going to learn that it's best to hit them hard and remove the whole lot of terrorists before they kill you or the people you're sworn to protect.

The New "Labour-Right"

Fire of Liberty

Well it looks like David Cameron, the UK's Conservative party leader, is slowly but surely turning the once great party of Disraeli, William Pitt the Younger, Lord Salisbury, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher into a mere shell of itself by scrubbing away any if not all traces of a conservative philosophy. Now I know that a party that has been relegated to a "political wilderness" by enduring three straight election losses at the hands of Tony Blair and Labour is extremely hungry to take back to the House of Commons but one should never cast aside a parties political heritage and philosophy to achieve victory. This is clearly evident in the way that the Cameron folks are rebranding the Tory party as what I'd call "Labour-right," which means picking up the ideas and policies of the Labour party and stamping a made by the Tories stamp on it. Take this most recent article in the Financial Times, in which David Cameron is seeking the female vote by launching a campaign to end what he calls the "morally wrong" pay inequality between men and women in the workforce. It's rather ridiculous that a country like the UK which is facing an onslaught of problems ranging from violent street crime, radical Islamic fundametalism, the threat of terrorism, a decline in the education system, immigration out of control, excessive regulations on businesses and the people, and Lord knows what else and the Tory's new man is worried about pay inequalities between men and women. I guess Cameron has forgotten to read the countless articles and work by various UK and US think tanks that reveal that it's true that men a women have a difference in what they make but it has absolutely nothing to do with sexism or discrimination but more to do with the personal choice of the female workers.

Just think about this for a moment, when you look at human nature you've got to be crazy not to realize that the female workers of child-bearing ages or one's that have children are likely than not to take time out of work for maternity leave or spend time with their children thus they're not going to be able to break their backs like the male workers who are single or the fathers trying to support their family. (I'm aware of the single mothers supporting their families and I give them a hand but they are the rare exception). Another thing is that most soon to be mothers or current mothers are generally more willing to give up greater pay or large salaries for jobs that offer greater flexibility in their works hours which allows them to work their schedule around their children's activities, schooling, or illnesses. Even if you go beyond my layman argument on why women make less than men and focus on the academic arguments in books like Wayne State University's law professor Kingsley Browne's Biology at Work or Warren Farrell's Why Men Earn More you'll discover that they're making the same argument that I've been making, which is women earn less than men because they chose to take the jobs that were less labor intensive, were out of the elements, had flexible hours or because they wanted to spend more time with their family rather than due to some infringement or discrimination on behalf of the government or some business.

You know it's a sad day in the UK when the Tory PM is deciding the fate of the party on what the polls say is an attractive issue for a particular interest group. You'd think this up and coming star of the Tories would be more interested in strengthening the base of the party by promoting a conservative agenda that would tackle issues of increasing lawlessness in the streets, poor conditions of the NHS, out of control immigration, decline of the education system that Blair and the Labour government has failed to prevent or reduce than focusing on a small group of people who will never vote on them in the first place. From looking at the path Cameron is taking the Tory party down, one can understand why Lady Thatcher preferred Liam Fox and David Davis. I can assure you if he keeps it the current quest for new voters by deleting all traces of conservatism from the Tory banner and he'll see more folks rejecting him come poll time. So my best advice is that the Tories should be true to the party and reject this rebranding or they'll enjoy eight more years in the "wilderness."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Opening The Great Pyramid

Fire of Liberty

Well, it looks like all Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has once again irked the US with its most recent conviction of Ayman Nour to five years hard labour for supposedly forging documents in registering his political party el Ghad. In yesterday's edition of the Financial Times, William Wallis notes that the imprisonment of Egypt's most widely known liberal (in the classical liberalism model not the Liberalism of the modern day left.) party leader not only removes one more roadblock to Mubarak's complete control on Egypt (Even though the country has been in a state of emergency since the assassination of Sadat) but this silencing of Nour has also placed a strain on the future relationship between the US and Egypt. While past Presidents would have looked the other way and allowed Mubarak to continue his same games of silencing his opponents because he keeps the Muslim Brotherhood at bay, the Bush administration has decided that times have changed and before the US rewards Egypt for more bad behavior it should at least get some greater political freedoms, democratic reforms and the rule of law in return. According to John Alterman, director of the Middle East Studies at the Center for Strategic and Iternational Studies (CSIS), this failure to do so on Egypt's part will probably result in the US putting a hold on free trade negotiations with Egypt. One could also imagine that the removal of Nour from Egyptian politics will also cause a lot of folks in the White House and Congress to reassess the whole $1.8 billion subsidy in foreign and military aid that we've been sending the land of the Pharaohs since the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978. All of these talks about looking at changing policies or current arrangements with Egypt is just another example of how the White House is totally committed to the continued spread of democractic values throughout the region much like Sens. Jackson, Vanick and President Reagan did when they tied the spread of democratic freedoms in the Soviet Union to the easing of economic restrictions by the West during the Cold War.

If we want to continue to get a lot of the various countries in the world to start granting their people greater freedoms and the continued embrace of democratic reforms then we've got to hold firm and continue to deny them certain economic/political/military inducements until they show that they are ready to march down the road towards change. Now that might sound like "pie in the sky" to some folks out there but if we don't start holding regimes like that of Mubarak (and most likely his presumed heir to the throne Gamal Mubarak) responsible for their actions and refusing to reward them for bad behavior then we'll start having a real problem in demonstrating to the folks in this part of the world that we are truly serious about our push for democratic reform. From the looks of it, it seems that at least President Bush and a few others in the administration seems to be getting the point and are calling for such reforms and the release of Nour before we move forward on anything political or economic. I'd say that the Wall Street Journal's recent editorial titled "Tell ol' Pharaoh," pretty much summed up the whole argument for the release of Nour and the possible cutting off of funds to Egypt by noting:
Mr. Nour and his party also serve as a reminder that Egypt's political choices are not limited to Mr. Mubarak's brand of authoritarian nationalism and the Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidates (running as independents) took 40% of last month's parliamentary vote and 20% of the seats. Mr. Mubarak has at times ruthlessly suppressed the Brotherhood, but their political strength allows him to pose as the man the West can rely on to hold the Islamists at bay.

It is precisely because some administration officials think we're "one-man deep" in Egypt that $1.8 billion in annual American aid continues to flow into its coffers. But just as the existence of the Ghad Party indicates there is a genuine third way for Egypt's future, Mr. Nour's imprisonment tells us that the Mubarak regime deserves no comfort from this administration.
Here's hoping for the immediate release of Ayman Nour so Egypt can begin to gain greater freedoms and enjoy the movement towards a more democratic government and away from a nearly 30 year one man rule by Mubarak. If not, I can think of some more deserving countries or programs that $1.8 billion a year can go towards.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Turn out the Lights, The Party's Over!!!

Fire of Liberty

Thank you MNF for gracing our TVs with 36 wonderful years of football on ABC. ESPN's production of MNF will pale in comparison to the ratings powerhouse that Roone Alredge, Pete Rozelle, Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, Frank Gifford, Keith Jackson, Al Michaels, and the many other announcers, crew and athletes built through the years. Ya'll be missed by millions in the US, who fought sleep on a many of a school night just to say to their friends the next day that they watched all of MNF.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

Fire of Liberty

I want everybody to have a save and wonderful Merry Christmas. I'll see ya'll Monday because I'm taking a short break for Christmas as well, so see ya then.

The Christmas illustration is by my dear friend Jason Crosby who is a freelance artist living in Kansas City, KS. Check out his blog Ink Doodles.

The Gift of Giving

Fire of Liberty

With the one year anniversary of the horrific tsunami that struck Asia, one is reminded of all the folks in the UN and other world capitals calling the US government "stingy" because it didn't donate enough of its GDP to disaster aid. I guess the folks in the UN and other world governments forgot that while they sat still condemning the US and arguing over how to respond to, the US was the first government to respond to the disaster by dispatching the USS Abraham Lincoln, various support ships as well as the launching of 20 to 30 helicopters and aircraft into the zone to offer rescue support and the much needed airlift of food and medicine. Even better, the US government decided that the relief offered by the US Navy, Air Force, and Marines was much more effective than the mere donating of gobs and gobs of money into a large UN fund which would be literally wasted or pilfered away by the thugs and kleptocrats that seem to get their mits on such funds. In fact the American people tend to voice their outright opposition towards its government sending money to the UN and other world bodies by donating their money towards private charities that publicly account for their spending. The drift towards these charities and away from the opinion of anti-American elites like Jan England, UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, is clearly evident in this editorial in today's edition of the Wall Street Journal. Just take a look:
Even by U.N. standards, it was a particularly absurd anti-American slur -- although it no doubt expresses the view of many foreign elites, who have come to believe that government is the only true source of goodness and charity. In the weeks and months that followed the tsunami, American citizens dug deep into their wallets, donating some $1.78 billion to the relief effort in Asia -- dwarfing the contributions of other developed nations. Since October Americans have also contributed $78 million to assist the casualties of the Pakistan earthquake.

And lest there be any doubt that the Good Samaritan ethic is alive and well in America, consider the latest totals of charitable giving to help the New Orleans victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University announced last week that the total value of private donations in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has reached $3.12 billion, thus "setting what is believed to be a record for a single disaster and recovery effort." This tsunami of aid dollars was donated in just three and a half months.

More astounding still is that this Gulf Coast aid is only a little more than 1/100th of what Americans donate to charities and churches every year. The quarter trillion dollars a year that Americans provide to sustain the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the American Cancer Society, their local churches, universities and such is greater than the entire GDP of most countries. Bill and Melinda Gates have given more dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa than have many nations. And all of this comes on top of the $1 trillion in taxes that Americans pay each year to support government income-transfer and benefit programs.

This generosity in money and volunteerism has been a hallmark of American society since its earliest days. Some 150 years ago Alexis de Tocqueville lauded the impulse of Americans (in contrast to Europeans) to set up churches, schools, orphanages, hospitals, homeless shelters and other civic aid organizations throughout the land.

What impels Americans to engage in such kindness to strangers? We suspect that Americans give to private charities because they recognize that these initiatives work best. Bobby Jindal, the Congressman from New Orleans whose own home was badly damaged by flood waters, tells us that "by far the most effective relief efforts have come from private charitable aid organizations. FEMA and other state/local government agencies set up bureaucracies and red tape, while private businesses and charities moved in swiftly to alleviate the human suffering on the ground."
I'm cool with the US government and its people making decisions and taking actions that get the folks in the UN upset and makes them say disparaging things about the US because it shows us that we're doing something that is probably working much better than the UN could ever think about doing. So America, keep getting under Mr. England's skin, its rather fun to watch.

A Shameful Display

Fire of Liberty

The Wall Street Journal has a good editorial in Friday's paper which points out that the German government has disappointed the US once again on the War on Terror front by granting the release of terrorist Mohammed Ali Hamdia some 19 years after he was convicted to a life sentence for the 1986 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and the subsequent murder of US Naval Petty Officer Robert Dean Stethem. Even while our soldiers are diligently fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan and throughout the streets of Iraq, we have the courts and parole system in Germany releasing some of the most horrific murderers of the planet thus sending a message to the terrorists that Germany is indeed a week wing of the coalition when it comes to holding terrorists responsible for their heinous deeds. I'd say that the WSJ summed up the horrific state of affairs in Germany when it comes to terrorism when they noted:
But the word "murder" doesn't adequately describe what Hamadi and his crew did to Stethem. "They singled him out because he was American and a soldier," said one eyewitness. "They dragged him out of his seat, tied his hands and then beat him up. . . . They kicked him in the face and knee caps and kept kicking him until they had broken all his ribs. Then they tried to knock him out with the butt of a pistol -- they kept hitting him over the head but he was very strong and they couldn't knock him out. . . . Later, they dragged him away and I believe shot him."

In 1987, Hamadi was detained at Frankfurt airport when customs officials found liquid explosives in his luggage. A U.S. extradition request was denied on grounds that he was liable for the death penalty. Instead, Germany meted out its toughest sentence: Life in prison. But as one German official acknowledged to us, there is no such thing as life imprisonment in Germany. The country's Constitutional Court requires prison officers to review life cases after 15 years and seek reasons for early release, including good behavior and expressions of remorse. Whether Hamadi has expressed remorse the official could not say.

Today there is a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer named for Robbie Stethem. We salute the sailors who put their lives at risk for our liberties. As for our ally Germany, we trust that in the war on terror it has kept a clean conscience.
I just hope this is not a preview of what is to come out of Germany when it comes to fighting terrorism. When you start demonstrating time after time your softness towards terrorism, the terrorists will start taking you serious and won't be afraid to take you on in a more forceful manner like that of September 11.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Foreign Aid Reform: US Style

Fire of Liberty

Though USAID has been a good organization in providing many nations in need with foreign aid, the White House has decided to put some greater umph into the organization by introducing some much needed reforms. As a former business man and as a chief admirer of the small faith-based charities and other privately run charities, President Bush knows full well that if you allow the folks who run the show and provide the much needed aid or help you'll get things done in a much quicker and efficient way than by having too many cooks in the kitchen at one time like USAID seems to be experiencing at the moment. According to a recent interview in the Financial Times, Adrew Natsios, the outgoing USAID administrator, notes that the reforms being drawn up in the White House range from structural reforms like collecting up the varying foreign aid programs that are scattered throughout the US government and placing them under USAID's roof thus creating a more streamlined organization, allowing greater discretion in their budget, as well as allowing USAID to play a greater role in the promotion of democracy thus allowing them to get more involved in the various nation building areas like Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon as well as places like Pakistan who have been devastated by devastating earthquakes. If we can improve USAID by pushing through such reforms, we'll see a vast improvement in our image throughout the world. You only have to look at the happy faces of the people in Afghanistan and Iraq who are able to drink clean water and receive electricity due to the hard work of USAID and its platoon of foreign aid workers who braved these rough and tumbled lands to discover that USAID could be an even greater tool in delivering foreign aid if the much needed reforms being drawn up by the White House go into effect. Let's just hope that President Bush gets his wish and can add yet another sharpened sword to his armory to fight back the forces of evil in the world.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Simple Works of Charity

Fire of Liberty

Karen Woods, who is the director of the Acton Center for Effective Compassion, has a good piece over at National Review Online that notes that if you decide to give a gift of compassion to a local or national charity this Christmas, then you should make it your duty to find a charity that actually helps people who are starving, homeless or underclothed rather than one which wastes its money on paying its staff. If your a regular reader, you know that I've written extensively about how various groups like the federal government and world renowned charities actually seem to think that if they have bundles and bundles of cash in their hands they can spend the way out of the problem but when they start shelling the cash out, (after paying their staff, paying a high overhead) they discover that they end up creating larger problems within the community either by wasting their money in areas that are not germane to the problem at hand or merely creating greater sense of dependency in the minds of the folks needing help. Now when you compare them to the physically and economically smaller and more local charities, you discover that the smaller ones are providing the needed services to the real people in need. Woods clearly points this out in her piece when she points out that:
Good intentions are not enough. The most significant giving season of the year is no time to relent in our vigilance to avoid the unintended consequences of hurricane recovery (or in any other social need area either). From the smallest, personal kindness extended to an individual hurricane victim, to the most generous in-kind and cash donations of corporate America, due diligence remains important. Donors should do as much homework as they can, and use publicly available evaluation services like Charity Navigator. These services can tell you how to avoid a donation scam, or flag a charity that is less interested in helping the needy than helping themselves. Beyond balance sheets and metrics, individual donors will also want to make sure that the moral aims of a charity are in line with their own.

Look for groups that run lean. The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions has national coordinating offices in Kansas City. And when a member missions in New Orleans was wiped out and evacuees headed to Dallas and Houston and points west and north, AGRM coordinated the tremendous relief effort for the intact missions. And AGRM is taking absolutely no percentage, no cut whatsoever, for administrative costs. Every dollar donated goes to programming. Such is true for many small charities across the country.
So maybe when we think about making a contribution to charity, make sure we're very discerning in who we pick when choosing a charity. Now there's nothing wrong with giving your change or some paper money in the Salvation Army kettles whenever you can but you can do much better if you take the time to research these charities and pick out the one's that place more of their efforts and money towards delivering works to the folks in need. If we can do this, we can see a vast improvement on our ability to deliver charity in an effective and expedient manner rather. I suspect that the private, religious, small, and local charities have provided greater day to day help like food, clothing, shelter and education that what the vast bureaucracies of FEMA and the Red Cross can deliver. (The big groups do the heavy lifting but generally have too many obstacles and red tape in their way to be effective and on the spot.) So I guess that saying that all charity begins at home and in your community rings true even in the 21st Century. So donate wisely this Christmas and during the rest of the year, and have yourself a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Iron Mullahs Eliminate Songs of Freedom

Fire of Liberty

The Wall Street Journal has a great editorial today(Its locked behind a subscription firewall) on how President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his fellow mullahs are strengthening their iron noose around the necks of the Iranian people with their most recent banning of all forms of Western music. So not only does the Iranian people face persecution and violent crackdowns by the Iranian government because they have called on their government to grant them the right to G-d's given rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as well as an ability to democratically choose their own leaders and not out of a group pre-selected by the Council of Guardians, they also face the strong arm of the government because they choose to listen to The Rolling Stones, Mozart or the ever so entertaining melodies of Outkast rather than what the mullahs want them to listen to. I believe the folks over at the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board pretty much sums how this move is yet another example of how Iran is steadily returning to the virulent Islamic radicalism that emerged during the fall of the Shah in 1979. Take a look what they had to say about the current actions in Iran:
Iranians have been here before, as have other victims of dictatorship. Ayatollah Khomeini banned all forms of music after the 1979 revolution, but the rules were gradually relaxed after his death. In the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge, music was banned along with all other expressions of art and culture, and hundreds of musicians were murdered. The Nazis extolled the music of Wagner, yet they famously tore down the statue of the Jewish-born Felix Mendelssohn in front of the Leipzig Gewandhaus. The Communist regimes also had their songs, including such memorable hits as "The East Is Red."

There is a philosophical pedigree to this madness. In Plato's "Republic," Socrates notes that music holds a key to fashioning the souls of men, and therefore is a tool in the education -- and subjugation -- of citizens. There is probably something to this.

But as Vaclav Havel reminds us, music can also be a tool of liberation. Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution took much of its inspiration from the Velvet Underground. Iranians, too, may eventually find themselves taking a Walk on the Wild Side.
I can assure you that this regime has created a situation with the under 30 crowd, who make up 60% percent of the population and support real democratic reform, that will probably be the straw that will finally break the camels back. Hopefully in the near future we'll hear them singing songs of joy in the streets of Tehran as they chase the mullahs out of Iran once and for all. I look forward to that day and hope the White House is facilitating such a movement.

Merry Christmas

Fire of Liberty

If you have been watching the news, listening to the radio or living your everyday life, you've probably noticed there seems to be an onslaught on Christianity most notably on the celebration of Christmas by folks in the ACLU and popular culture in general. I can't recall all of the countless news stories on how this or that group is protesting the display of the Cross, the Ten Commandments in the public square or on our highways, like in Utah, or people going to court to erase all traces of references to G-d from our money, monuments, pledges. Even during the Christmas Holidays we see these activists rev up their motors and make it their life's work to prevent a nation that is 84% Christian from displaying a creche with baby Jesus on the city square or urging various college and public school systems to change their the name "Christmas Break" to something like "Winter Break," "Holiday Weeks," to keep from offending others (In most cases it's to assuage the sensibilities of the ACLU rather than other religions) but in reality they are establishing an enormous rot in our society that will eventually cause this great nation to fall much like past civilizations have done when they lost their way. It all good to have disagreements about religion in this country but the anti-G-d coalition need to realize that the 1st Amendment didn't say that our government or our people should be cut off from religion but said the US shouldn't establish a state religion because our founding fathers knew that if we ever established a state religion then we would see a lot of people being prevented from doing what their heart desired because they weren't a member of the state religion.

Now the ACLU/Separation of Church types will argue that their reading of the 1st Amendment is enough for them to keep religion out of the public square but our founding fathers and subsequent leaders have thrown this to the wayside with their various references to G-d throughout the years. Just take a look at the Declaration of Independence, Washington's many Thanksgiving Declarations and his farewell address, Lincoln's many writings and speeches, FDR's addresses as well as President Reagan's not to mention the 42 (Grover Cleveland re-elected in non-consecutive terms) times our leaders have said "So help me G-d" when they're sworn in.

Now getting to my point about the tearing down of these symbols of religion basically destroying our society from the inside, I think Thomas Sowell pretty much sums the whole argument up it with his most recent column "Merry You--Know-What." To fully understand this argument, just read these following paragraphs from Sowell's great column:
Those who banish the symbols of a civilization often undermine that civilization in other ways as well. People who warn us against being "Eurocentric" are often totally Eurocentric when it comes to condemning the sins of the human race as if they were peculiarities of "our society."

These are not just isolated foibles that we can laugh at. No society can survive in the long run without the allegiance of its people. Undermining a sense of the worthiness of a society undermines that allegiance -- and, without allegiance, there is no defense.

In the international jungle, made more dangerous by terrorist networks that circle the globe, anything that it is not defended is in jeopardy -- which means we are all in jeopardy, and so are our children and our children's children.

Those who wage war against the symbols of American society and Western civilization may do so for no wider purpose than moral exhibitionism or just a desire to be in step with fashionable trends. But silliness can be a prelude to tragedy.
So maybe these folks need to rethink their position before they turn our society into another Greece, Rome or other great civilizations that have been lost because folks hollowed out the granite walls that protected their society from invading hordes. I pray that people in America stand against this tide and keep the granite walls of our civilization as strong as possible.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Simple Logic

Fire of Liberty

Here's a great piece by William F. Buckley Jr. that pretty much explains the whole NSA controversial that has the feathers of the MSM all ruffled up. It's particularly loved how Mr. Buckley summed up the whole situation with the following:
What is a reasonable verdict from a conservative/libertarian on what happened?

1) The president did his job of attempting to out-maneuver the enemy.

2) The press may have overdone its interceptive curiosity, but it performed the function of a free press.

3) The legislative arm yielded to the demands of national security.

4) The courts, acknowledging a natural division of responsibilities, stayed away.
You'd think all those smart reporters in the MSM would come to the same conclusion but then again they are the MSM.

Afghanistan is Improving

Fire of Liberty

Well, things must be going pretty well in Afghanistan for the US to reduce its troop strength by some 2,500 by next year. While we will be supplementing these troops with a contingent of NATO troops, it demonstrates that the things on the ground has evolved from a war-fighting mission to one that simply requires a peace keeping force structure that our friends in NATO seem to excel in. I guess this is what can happen when you let the military do what it needs to do and remove all the silliness of timelines and withdrawals that the folks in Washington keep on screaming about in the case of Iraq. You've got to hand it to the US soldiers, our NATO and Afghan allies as well as the Afghan people who have made it possible for this once prevelant hotbed of terrorism to transform into an emerging democracy. Let's hope that our efforts in Iraq have the same result.

Planet of the Apes: Soviet Style

Fire of Liberty

Aside from starving his people, murdering millions, and simply destroying his nation in general, it seems that Stalin was also playing with the forces of G-d and Nature by advocating the creation of a half-ape/half man super warrior. According to this recent article in the Scotsman, researchers have come across recently released Soviet files which show Stalin instructing Ilya Ivanov to develop "a new invinciple human human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat." I'm sure glad that this failed as well.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Only three wore the Green Beret...

Fire of Liberty

Gordon Cucullu has a wonderful dedication to Army Lieutenant General William Yarborough (Ret.), the father of the Green Berets, who passed away at the fine age of 93. If you want to read about a decorated soldier's soldier who bravely served this nation in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam and played an important part in the development and training of our highly skilled special forces units, then this piece on Yarborough is a must.

Getting to know you...

Fire of Liberty

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer has a great piece on how the leader of Iran is pretty much convinced that the end of the world is near and Iran must make way for the return of the 12th Imam or Shiite Islam's messiah. I thought it was a good column on the what is rolling around in the head of Iran's current president but I'll let you see a brief sample of the regime's new man:
The closest we've come to a messianically inclined leader in America was a secretary of the interior who 24 years ago, when asked about his stewardship of the environment, told Congress, ``I don't know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns; whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.''

But James Watt's domain was the forest and his weapon of choice was the chainsaw. He was not in charge of nuclear weapons to be placed on missiles that are paraded through the streets with, literally, Israel's name on them. (They are adorned with banners reading ``Israel must be wiped off the map.'')

It gets worse. After his speech to the U.N. in September, Ahmadinejad was caught on videotape telling a cleric that during the speech an aura, a halo, appeared around his head right on the podium of the General Assembly. ``I felt the atmosphere suddenly change. And for those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink. ... It seemed as if a hand was holding them there, and it opened their eyes to receive the message from the Islamic Republic.''

Negotiations to deny this certifiable lunatic genocidal weapons have been going nowhere. Everyone knows they will go nowhere. And no one will do anything about it.
I'd say that maybe the US should encourage the large percentage of the Iranian community who want to be free of the mullahs and Ahmadinejad once and for all to get to cracking before their new leader brings about the end of Iran via his end-of-times delusions. And we wonder why Israel is concerned.

Iran's Expanding its Dangerous Reach

Fire of Liberty

While a lot of folks in Europe and the State Department keep on saying that we should seek more talks with the mullahs in Iran on their nuclear program, the good folks over at the Wall Street Journal Editorial board (Subscription Required) have some info that might get them to take a double take. According to an editorial in WSJ titled "Iranian 'Opinion'," it looks like the Iranians have started to work at expanding the reach of their current Shehab-3 ballistic missiles to what is deemed well beyond the range of a defensive weapon. To make matters worse, the uranium that the folks in Iran are currently deeming as part of their "domestic energy program" can easily be placed on one of these missiles and launched into Europe's various capitals or even Israel, raining death on hundreds of thousands if not billions. To truly understand how dire the threat is, just read what the WSJ Opinion editors had to say in the piece today:
Meanwhile, the Iranian government is keeping busy in other ways, according to a report that appeared Friday in the German daily, Bild. According to the newspaper, Iran has purchased technology from North Korea that will allow it to extend the range of its Shahab-3 missiles. The current range of the Shahab-3 is 1,500 kilometers; after the upgrade, it could reach as far as 3,500 kilometers.

The paper quotes a German Intelligence Service report that says, "Given that the missiles with longer ranges will be available in the future, and in view of assumed efforts to provide them with nuclear warheads, Iran will be in a position to reach the whole of Israel and part of Central Europe." "In plain language," says Bild, "this means that the 'madmen of Tehran' could reach targets in the whole of Germany."

The European Union is seeking guarantees from Iran that its nuclear program is not designed to produce nuclear weapons. Iran says not to worry. But as the Bild report indicates, that's an "opinion" it could be dangerous for Europeans to "tolerate."
When you add up the nuclear program, expansion of the Shehab-3, as well as the continued statements calling for the death or destruction of Israel, then you pretty much understand why the US and Israel are watching every move on behalf of Iran. I just hope that we can give the true democrats of Iran a helping hand and encourage them to take out the mullahs. And after the mullahs and President Ahmadinejad have been banning western music and the re-institution of the all things related to the radical Islamic revolution of 1979, I think the regime will embolden the younger people fighting for freedom and democracy. It could get pretty interesting in the near future with respect to Iran.

That Powerful Purple Finger

Fire of Liberty

Here's an illustration by my great friend Jason Crosby which pretty much shows how the Iraqi people truly want to enjoy the same G-d given rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and will brave the wrath of the terrorists to do so. By watching the events from last week, I'm pretty much satisfied the situation in turning in our favor. Even better than that the Iraqi people demonstrated that after thirty years of Saddam's hell they demonstrate by turning out in such large numbers that they foresee a brighter future, so maybe people in this country should all sit back and be a little more patient about letting our troops stay in Iraq until the cement of democracy dries and the situation is more secure. If we get it right the first time around, we want have to come back in tens years to straighten a mess out. So I offer a hearty salute to the Iraqi people and the American soldiers who have expended so much to make this enormous leap in democracy and freedom achievable. So keep it up.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Persian Mullahs on the Rise?

Fire of Liberty

Check out Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Bill Steigerwald's good Q&A with Ilan Berman on his new book Tehran Rising which provides some useful insight on Iran's nuclear program and its continued support of Islamic terrorism and lays out what the US has got to do to prevent the mullahs from merging these two dangers together in the near future. If you want to learn a little bit about Iran and the little strategic dance this regime and the US are partaking in the region, then this is a good place to start.

Prez's pushback continues

Fire of Liberty
Well it looks like President Bush has finally got his stride back and has decided that it's time to start hitting back at the media and the folks across the political aisle who have been criticizing his decisions when it comes to Iraq and the War on Terror. Today he fired back at the NY Times and the Washington Post story on the NSA, with his weekly Presidential Radio Address this morning. Take a look at what he had to say to defend his decision:
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.

The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland. During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.

The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it. Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.

This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States.
I've been waiting a little while to see President Bush get his swagger back and is willing to fight it out like he did in his first term. If he keeps up this defense then we'll see an interesting three years and I'll bet you that he'll do a whole lot better in his second term than most modern day Presidents have done in their second term. We in the heartland have got your back, so get er' done Mr. President.

And the rest of the Story...

Fire of Liberty

It seems that the story about the NSA being flashed on the NY Times front page has a lot to do with the fact that James Risen, the reporter who wrote the story, has written a book on the same subject. This pretty much shows how far the "paper of record" is willing to go to shill a book. I thought that reporters wrote news and kept their opinions out of their work, I guess these people never heard that opinion pieces go in the Op/Ed section and not the front page. No wonder the print edition of the NY Times is sinking like a dinosaur in a tar-pit.

The 59 who stood athwart the Tide because of Principle

Fire of Liberty

While a lot of people probably won't see it much this weekend, the US House of Representatives passed Resolution 648 279-109 which declared that the stated goal of the US Congress to stay in Iraq until we've achieved a total victory. Aside from demonstrating our allegiance to our soldiers the resolution also reassured the 10 million Iraqi citizens, who went out and braved the terrorists to vote in a new permanent government (for at least the next four years), that we are willing help them go down that wonderful road known as democracy. Resolution 648 also demonstrated an emerging schism within the Democratic party within the House over our commitment in Iraq. I'd say that when 59 Dems go off Pelosi's "say no to anything President Bush says or does" plantation and side with the Republicans to offer this resolution to push our troops onward to victory and to reassure the folks in Iraq that we're there with them in their quest for a democratic future, then the nation gets a better picture about how the Democrats are running themselves into the ground and a great abyss of nothingness. I just hope that the American people take notice about how the "pull up the stakes" crowd is damaging our image to the rest of the world. I guess this vote is just another demonstration of where the party has gone ever since Nancy "Miss America" Pelosi took the helm. (If you look here, you'll discover that Harold Ford Jr. who lost out to Pelosi in the leadership race with the Cal. Rep, voted for the Res. 648) So let's see who wins the issue in 2006, I'd say that the 59 Dems who voted yes on 648 know America far better than their leadership and will outlast the storm.

To show you how much I like stand up guys like the 59 Dems, I'm pledging my vote to Representative Jim Marshall come November 2006. I know that a lot of folks might fall out of their seats to read that John R. Starley Jr. has pledged his vote for a Democrat like Jim Marshall but he's got a Carl Vinson quality to him and won't back down from defending our troops and our mission when things get stirred up and polls go south. Let's hope more Dems start to fall in line with the brave 59

Friday, December 16, 2005

Patriot Act Hysterics

Fire of Liberty
The great Mark Levin, WABC radio host, author of Men in Black and lawyer extraordinaire, has a great post over at National Review Online's blog the Corner that provides a little insight into the why cover story about the NSA monitoring communications in which American contacted others outside of the US via E-Mail or Telephone. While the writers of these article in the NY Times and the Washington Post and most of the MSM are making these acts on the NSA's behalf as a major scandal, it seems that the White House and the NSA are actually going by the book. Take a look at what Levin said in his post:
Some brief background: The Foreign Intelligence Security Act permits the government to monitor foreign communications, even if they are with U.S. citizens -- 50 USC 1801, et seq. A FISA warrant is only needed if the subject communications are wholly contained in the United States and involve a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.

The reason the President probably had to sign an executive order is that the Justice Department office that processes FISA requests, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), can take over 6 months to get a standard FISA request approved. It can become extremely bureaucratic, depending on who is handling the request. His executive order is not contrary to FISA if he believed, as he clearly did, that he needed to act quickly. The president has constitutional powers, too.
It's real interesting that this little tid-bit of info was splashed in two major papers on the same day that the US Senate had a debate and vote on extending the Patriot Act. If anyone watched any of the back and forth on the Senate floor today, then you are well aware that a lot of Senators like Leahy, Kennedy, Feingold and a lot of other folks we're waving this front page around as a reason to reject extending the Patriot Act. The only problem is that the Foreign Intelligence Security Act has been in effect since 1978 thus outdating the Patriot Act.

And speaking about the Patriot Act, why are folks in the Senate so worried about roving wiretaps and allowing the feds to keep track of people's library activities. Let's start with the fact that in order for the feds to conduct either one of these actions, they've got to demonstrate to the FISA court that the folks they've looking at is have demonstrated something or done something to earn such speculation in the first place. When you hear about the Patriot Act allowing the feds to investigate one's library activity, the folks complaining fail to mention that the FBI isn't looking at what folks are reading but is merely wanting to inquire more about their activities on library computers because some of the known September 11th hijackers and terrorist in general are products of the information age and use free E-Mail accounts like Yahoo, MSN, and G-Mail to get their orders. If they've been trailing a person who they suspect to be a terrorists or known to associate with terrorists walk into a library, then simple logic tells me that they should a least be able to find out what the person they're trailing has been doing in the library. (I can assure you their not checking out art books, Che books or reading the latest issue of the New Yorker.) So while we don't know the number of suspected terrorists caught by this technique it seems to be just alarmist hyperbole to rev up the anti-Patriot Act crowd, but seems to washed away Senator Feinstein, who has a lifetime rating of 73% with the ACLU and has some differences with the Patriot Act(Ted Kennedy has a 77% rating), couldn't cite one instance where the Patriot Act was actually abused. Read what Sen Feistein noted in a July 29, 2005 press release on the passage of an extending of the Patriot Act:
As part of my effort to oversee the implementation of the USA-Patriot Act, I asked the ACLU, in a letter dated March 25, 2005, to provide an update of their October 2003 statement that they did not know of any abuses of the USA-Patriot Act.

On April 4, 2005 , the ACLU published a reply to my letter, in which they listed what they described as ‘abuses and misuses’ of the Act. I carefully reviewed each of the examples provided in the letter. I also reviewed information provided to me by the Department of Justice about each of the examples. And while I understand the concerns raised by the ACLU, it does not appear that these charges rose to the level of ‘abuse’ of the Patriot Act.

This conclusion has been borne out by numerous inquiries, hearings and briefings. Simply put, there have been no sustainable allegations of serious abuse of the Act.

That said, I believe that we can, and should, make some changes to the Patriot Act to ensure it is less likely to be abused in the future.

Furthermore, I am confident that the expiring USA-Patriot Act provisions should be retained. The sixteen sunsetted provisions are generally working well, and should be reauthorized with some of the modifications reflected in the bill we take up today.

The bottom line is that the Judiciary Committee was able to do its work, and reach appropriate compromises. This allowed the Committee to favorably report this bill by a vote of 18-0. This type of consensus and bipartisanship is welcome, and bodes well for our continued work on these critical issues.

This nation faces difficult times. We know that there are those already in our country or trying to enter our country who would do us grievous injury and harm unless we can stop them – and to stop them, we must find them first – before they act – not after they act. Therefore, this bill is necessary and prudent.
All in all, if you're not doing anything illegal or doing something connected to terrorism, you aren't going to have the FBI requesting your records from your local library. After what we went through on 9-11, I'd prefer that we err on the side of caution and allow the FBI to continue its work, which from the looks of it has worked pretty good at preventing terrorism the past four years. As for the roving wire taps, the opponents are making a mountain out of ant-hill. I don't know about you but the terrorists we face today are pretty well educated about what the FBI could and could not do with tapping their phones. In the pre-Patriot Act days, the FBI could attain a wire tap on a specific land-line phone or cell-phone but once the terrorists disconnected service or with the case with the cell he would just throw it away and get another one somewhere else thus causing the FBI to scramble back to a judge to get another wire tap which gives the terrorists some breathing and keeps the FBI in the dark. The only thing this part of the Patriot Act did was to give the FBI the same abilities to tap the terrorists phones like they already do with the mobsters. I'd say that the guy wishing to blow up another World Trade Center or subway should merit the same if not more scrutiny as the real life Tony Soprano. So we can huff and puff about the Patriot Act allowing the government unfettered access to our lives but its really just an essential tool in tracking dow bin Laden and not bin Granny.

You'd think that the folks in the Senate would be more interested in keeping us safe from terrorists then fretting about folks breaking laws that are not being broken. Maybe the should use less rhetoric and more common sense in making laws that strengthens us in out fight against terrorism. I just wished the White House was more out front in fighting for the Patriot Act and not let the Senate tie our hands behind our backs at such an important moment.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Krystal Hamburger Wear

Fire of Liberty

I was watching channel 24(local Fox affiliate) the other night and saw a Krystal hamburger commercial where some teenagers were talking about eating some 90 Krystals in their car, in fact these kids were wearing Krystal clothing thus verifying that they were indeed true Krystal fans. Well, I went over to the Krystal website today and tooled around and discovered by clicking on a hat that the home of the amazingly delicious small hamburger (Hey I love them to but preferred them when you had to travel some 30 miles away in Macon, GA to get them, now they're too prominent but still good) actually sells clothing emblazoned with Krystal's logo and name on it. So for those last minute shoppers or just plain Krystal fans, you now have a place to buy some cool stuff. Check it out.

Chronicler of Freedom's March

Fire of Liberty

While browsing through the January/February 2006 issue of The American Enterprise magazine, I came across this excellent interview with Robert Kaplan who is a writer at the Atlantic Monthly and has just recently published a new book titled Imperial Grunts. I highly recommend you read this interview because It'll give you a greater insight into what our soldiers do on a day to day basis to spread the fire of freedom and democracy throughout the world and how the MSM and our elites just can't seem to grasp. Here's a sample:
TAE: We hear much in the establishment media about morale problems in U.S. military ranks, and reporters often seek out disenchanted troops to put in front of microphones. Have you encountered widespread morale problems among American fighters in Iraq?

Kaplan: Absolutely not. I'’ve only met two kinds of soldiers in the combat arms community: Those who have served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, and those who are pulling every bureaucratic string to get deployed there.

I spent the summer of 2004 with a group of marines in Niger and sub-Saharan Africa, and every marine in that platoon was trying to get to Iraq. A few months later, one of them got lucky and ended up leading Iraqi forces into combat in the second battle of Fallujah. He was a sergeant from Georgia, and after the battle, he sent me a long e-mail flush with pride. And that'’s not just a cutesy-pie story——that's basically what I encounter all the time.

The only disenchantment is found in the Reserves and the National Guard, mainly because they signed up for a short time and end up serving many months. That'’s a system that needs reform. But generally speaking, morale is better than it'’s been in a very long time.

Keep in mind there is very little combat going on now. Most deployments feature more humanitarian missions than combat. Even in Iraq, the troops really have to search far and wide to find combat activities.

TAE: How do our soldiers understand for themselves, and explain to others, the value of the work they are doing in Iraq?

Kaplan: Soldiers are very aware of why they'’re fighting——and that awareness stems from their own practical day-to-day experience, which is not killing people. By and large, they'’re rebuilding, patrolling, and helping the Iraqi people.

Second, it'’s important to realize that most soldiers don'’t sit around discussing abstract questions like whether or not we should'’ve intervened. They do, however, take policy and command directives, break them down, and then argue, complain, and fervently discuss them.

Since the dawn of time, the most popular hobby amongst soldiers has been complaining at night in the barracks. If you don'’t hear complaints, then you know morale is bad——because that means people are silent. And I think that many journalists misconstrue this, because they don'’t understand——and they haven'’t read the history of—barracks life.
At least some folks in the media seem to at least get a little grasp around the way of our soldiers and our current mission of promoting freedom and democracy throughout the world. Maybe the MSM should read this interview as well as Kaplan's new book.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Becoming an American

Fire of Liberty
Robert P. George, who is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, has posted a pretty good argument over at First Things magazine's blog On the Square on how immigrants who come to this country go about becoming Americans. While Professor George makes a good point that most people who enter this country become Americans clearly out of the mere gratitude of just being able to enter and live in this nation in the first place, I think he makes an even bigger point by noting that the immigrants accept their new home and become fully immersed in the American culture and our way of life because they dig the whole concept of this nation being "of the people, by the people, for the people." Here's a brief sample of George's wonderful argument:
I want immigrants to become Americans. I want them to believe in American ideals and institutions. I want them to "hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I want them to believe, as I believe, in limited government, republican democracy, equality of opportunity, morally ordered liberty, private property, economic freedom, and the rule of law. I want them to believe in these ideals and principles not because they are ours, but because they are noble and good and true. They honor the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of all human beings. They call forth from us the best that we are capable of. They ennoble us.

Our efforts to live up to these truths, despite our failures and imperfections, have made us a great people, a force for freedom and justice in the world, an astonishingly prosperous nation. It is little wonder that America is, as it always has been, a magnet for people from every land who seek a better life.

But the transmission of American ideals to immigrants and, indeed, to anyone, including new generations of native born Americans, depends on the maintenance of a culture in which these ideals flourish. The maintenance of such a culture is a complicated business—one with many dimensions. I have already talked about how social welfare and other policies, if unsound, can undermine these ideals. I have also mentioned the emergence of ideologies, flourishing in elite sectors of American culture, which weaken them. These ideologies must be taken seriously and confronted. This is the great intellectual and pedagogical mission before us.

The task is thrust upon us by what can only be described as a massive loss of faith in the goodness of America and her traditional beliefs among opinion-leaders in key positions of influence. Not everything that does business under the label "multiculturalism" is bad, but much of it is. Much of it functions to discourage patriotism and national unity. Much of it fosters attitude and impedes the gratitude that we have always relied on to put immigrants on the path to becoming Americans.
I just hope people are willing to ensure that our culture remains strong so it will continue to draw more and more legal immigrants who are dying to get here to embrace everything that is special about this country. You only have to look at how the Middle East has been a literal "hell in a handbasket" since its culture fell apart or the current chaos that is emerging in Europe as its culture is slowly crumbles at its base due to a lack of its immigrants assimilating into their new nation. So in the long run, culture definitely counts for a lot in this world.

To learn more, check out Samuel Huntington's Who Are We, Bernard Lewis's What Went Wrong, Victor Davis Hanson's Mexifornia, George Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral

Islamic Revolution of Iran has Outlived its Shelf-Life

Fire of Liberty

For several months I've been reading countless stories about how Iran's new "Dictator and Chief" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been going around the country strutting like a chicken and making inflamatory statements about how Iran will reprocess as much uranium as it wants and damn the IAEA, Europe, US, and the UN, that Israel should be wiped off the map, that the holocaust ever occurred, all in an effort to stir up some more street cred with the Islamists Revolutionaries. As I've noted before, the government in Iran has got to keep playing up to his base because they have basically lost the under 30 crowd in Iran (They make up some 65 percent of the Iranian public) who have pretty much wiped their hands free of the mullahs and are more pro-American and freedom loving.

Now there's no doubt in my mind that Ahmadinejad and his higher ups would love nothing better than to erase Israel off the map but I'm thinking that he's doing this to spark the US or Israel to launch an attack on their nuclear sites to ignite a "rally-round-the-flag" moment amongst the people. While I wouldn't disagree with the Israeli military launching an attack on the Iranians based on self-defense because of it going "red-hot" with the development of nukes or because of the mullah's current support of terrorists like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, I'd think the US would caution against this because of our situation in Iraq. Though I highly doubt Israel will launch an attack on Iran ala the takedown of the Osirak reactor in 1980's Iraq, it's always good that there is a thought in the back of the minds of the mullahs that Israel would do what it has to do when its hand is forced.

I'm more inclined to say that our folks at the CIA, State, Defense, NSC and the White House, Congress and various other entities can solve a lot of problems for us in the region by doing what Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan did throughout the Cold War, which is to offer and provide the moral/political/economic support for the freedom loving and truly democratic groups within Iran. If we step up like the Cold War Triad did in the 80's, we can finally wipe away the stain of Iran that has been around since the Ayatollahs were swept into power by their fellow Islamic Revolutionaries in 1979. (You know these mullahs are pretty horrific, when they quickly killed off and imprisoned all the folks that helped them assume the laurels of power.) So our best bet is to push the people of Iran, who go to the streets almost everyday calling for freedom and democracy, forward in a democratic revolution thus removing Ahmadinejad and his fellow revolutionaries from their thrones. From the angry rebukes that Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad has gotten from Europe, he might be on his way to burning down the only bridges that have kept the mullachracy going so far. If they lose Europe then all bets are off for the current regime surviving in the near future. I'll say more on this in the near future.

Taking Out A Dragon's Fire

Fire of Liberty
Max Boot wrote a great article in the October 10, 2005 issue of the Weekly Standard that notes how the US and its Asian allies have an ever increasing concern about the rise in China's economic, strategic, and military strength in the region. While a lot of the "China hands" in the various think tanks, National Security Council as well as the State Department have been promoting China and continue to urge patience or advocate a policy in which economics and diplomatic niceties play a bigger role than calling China to the mat about its aggressive military buildup, daily threats to Taiwan, and its lack of freedom. Thankfully, Max Boot has laid out a pretty good policy that the Bush administration and its allies have got to do in order to ensure that the Chinese Dragon is one that is still a dragon but just want be breathing a deadly fire. While Boot provides a myriad of suggestions and retooling of our current "China Policy," I'd say that the following is one of the most important things we should do:
BEYOND CONTAINMENT, deterrence, and economic integration lies a strategy that the British never employed against either Germany or Japan--internal subversion. Sorry, the polite euphemisms are "democracy promotion" and "human rights protection," but these amount to the same thing: The freer China becomes, the less power the Communist oligarchy will enjoy.

The United States should aim to "Taiwanize" the mainland--to spread democracy through such steps as increased radio broadcasts and Internet postings. At the moment, Beijing does an effective job of censoring free speech with the unfortunate connivance of giant American companies, which in various ways agree not to expose Chinese consumers to such "subversive" concepts as democracy and human rights. American companies even help the security services nab people who dissent from the party line. Yahoo!, for instance, recently assisted the Chinese authorities in tracking down a journalist who dared to email information about censorship to a New York-based website. He got 10 years in prison. The U.S. Commerce Department and, if necessary, Congress should pass rules that forbid U.S. firms from facilitating human rights abuses in China.

American technology should be used to crack open, not cement, the authority of the Communist party. The United States needs to step up spending for the Chinese service of the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, the National Endowment for Democracy, and other organizations that aim to penetrate the Bamboo Curtain. China does an effective job at the moment of jamming U.S. transmissions, so we need to develop technology to get around their censors. In 2004 Congress allocated $1 million for a trial grant to the Broadcasting Board of Governors for a project to circumvent Beijing's Internet controls. That work needs to be greatly expanded. As suggested by the congressionally chartered U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, we need to create an Office of Global Internet Freedom within the executive branch that would work on undermining government controls on the web not only in China but also in dictatorships from Cuba to Syria.

In general, the U.S. government should elevate the issue of human rights in our dealings with China. The State Department wrote in its most recent human rights report that the Chinese government's "human rights record remained poor, and the Government continued to commit numerous and serious abuses." The U.S. government should do much more to publicize and denounce such abuses. We need to champion Chinese dissidents, intellectuals, and political prisoners, and help make them as famous as Andrei Sakharov, Václav Havel, and Lech Walesa. There is no point in continuing to mute our criticisms in the vain hope that, in return, China will do something tangible to help stop the North Korean nuclear program; notwithstanding the much-ballyhooed six-party deal announced in early September in Beijing, there is still no sign of Beijing's cracking down on Pyongyang.
As I've said before, G-d's given rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is a very powerful and event changing stick to wack up against a regime like the ChiComs in Beijing. Its worked everywhere else and more likely than not would be accepted by the people of China. Lets just hope we've got good thinkers like Boot somewhere at the "China desk" over at State or the NSC like we've got over at Defense.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

You've Got To Stand For Something

Fire of Liberty
To truly understand how Senator Lieberman can keep the ship of the Democratic party from crashing into the rocky shoals, just read what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal several weeks ago. (I know I'm a little late posting this but I just haven't had time to read this until now.) Here's just a small example of how Senator Lieberman is taking a principled stand and refusing to let his party turn into a worthless shell when it comes to our national defense:
In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.

None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

The leaders of Iraq's duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America's commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.
I guess Dean and company forgot to pick up this issue of the Wall Street Journal. Call me silly but I'd say that Senator Lieberman's career in the Senate will last a whole lot longer past 06 than Howard Dean's at the DNC. Any bets?

Preventing A Debacle

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good piece by Victor Davis Hanson over at National Review Online that provides a good assessment of how the Dean Squad (Reid, Kerry, Pelosi, and Murtha) is leading the Democratic party further into "the wilderness" with their continued arguments that all is going to hell in Iraq and their continued devotion to a more weakened national defense. Even when Senator Lieberman, Rep. Hoyer, Marshall and a select few are trying to save their party from complete ruin by taking a pricipled stand on continuing our mission in Iraq, it seems that the leadership is bound and determined to get out of Iraq because they distaste anything that has President Bush's stamp of approval on it. It's all well and good to have a differing of opinion on and issue like Iraq but you'd think that the "all is lost" crowd could at least come up with a better solution than just "withdrawal." Aside from offering a resonable solution to Iraq, the Democratic party has got even bigger problem which is the "weak on defense" stigma that it has developed with the American public. One of the most important things the DNC needs to do is return to the good ol' days, where giants like FDR, Truman and JFK manned the White House and folks like Carl Vinson, John Stennis, Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Sam Nunn roamed the halls of Congress fought tooth and nail to defend this nation from its enemies. Even when the opposing party was leading the nation, you still could count on these pillars of strength to stand up for this nation especially during a time of war. It's a shame that we can't say the same thing about a large majority of the current lot across the aisle. While I'm a conservative who votes Republican, I still prefer a healthy opposition party and hopefully Senators Lieberman, Biden as well as Rep. Hoyner and Marshall will hold the gap before the Dems implode.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Justice Delivered

Fire of Liberty

After some 27 years in which the families of Albert Owens, Yen-I Yang, Tsai-Shai Yang and Yee-Chen Lin will finally recieve some justice and a sense of closure when Tookie Williams walks that "long green mile" in San Quentin tonight. While folks like Snoop-Dog, Jamie Foxx and most likely Jessie Jackson will call this a travesty, their arguments become diluted when Gov Schwarzenegger denies clemency and points out in this five page argument that after nearly 30 years of appeals and subsequent denials or loses before the California Supreme Court, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the US Supreme Court, a bevy of indisputable evidence and testimony pointing Williams directly to the crime, and no apology for his crimes, he could not find a way to save the twice convicted murderer and gangster from the death chamber. Along with this response by Arnold, I also would recommend you read these two pieces by Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, here and here, on why murderers like Williams have to stand before the hangman and endure a punishment equal to their crime, which is death.

Manning the Parapets Against anti-American Screeds

Fire of Liberty

Niall Ferguson pretty much blows Harold Pinter, the recent Nobel Prize for Literature winner, and his wacko anti-American screed out of the water with this piece in The Australian. Here's a peek:
As for the allegation of a conspiracy to hush up American complicity in Cold War human rights violations, he really has to be kidding. You no longer need to rely on articles by Seymour Hersh to know about this stuff. There are easily accessible websites where you can download any number of declassified documents about all the dreaded dictatorships the CIA backed. On the basis of these and other sources, there have been at least five detailed monographs published in the past 10 years on Guatemala alone. Some cover-up.

Nobody pretends that the US came through the Cold War with clean hands. But to pretend that its crimes were equivalent to those of its communist opponents -- and that they have been wilfully hushed up -- is fatally to blur the distinction between truth and falsehood. That may be permissible on stage. I am afraid it is quite routine in diplomacy. But it is unacceptable in serious historical discussion.

So stick to plays, Harold, and stop torturing history. Even if there was a Nobel prize for it, you wouldn't stand a chance. Because in my profession, unlike yours -- and unlike Condi's, too -- there really are "hard distinctions between what is true and what is false".
I'd say that Pinter should stick more to literature and fiction than trying to venture into the world that survives on facts and facts along. Thankfully we have folks like Professor Ferguson defending the hinterland known as History from the barbarians at the outer wall.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Time is the Devil to Success

Fire of Liberty

James Joyner has a good piece over at Tech Central Station that points out that while folks in the Dean Squad and certain segments of the American public are slowly beating their drums for our withdrawal from Iraq, the American forces have actually begun to gain some ground in their counter-insurgency fight but as with past experiences, the effort will take time. Now if you ask the countless generals and soldiers in our military if they'd rather fight a neat, quick and bloodless war or achieve a complete and lasting victory over their opponent, you'll have 10 out of 10 of them agreeing for the latter. Though the carnage of our counterinsurgency fight against the Islamo-fascists in Iraq is broadcast in our homes each and every night thus pulling at the heart-strings of the American people and the people who send these fine young soldiers off to war, our soldiers still want to achieve a lasting victory and know that the only viable solution is through a long hard slog in Iraq. I'd say that Joyner pretty much summed up the desire of our soldiers to finish the job in Iraq in the following paragraphs:
Regardless of the institutional preferences to the contrary, though, the United States military has had great success fighting small wars. The Army has a long history of doing so, from the French and Indian War to the War for Independence to the Indian Wars to the Spanish-American War to Vietnam to Afghanistan. The Marines have made it their specialty. Even in Vietnam, which was both the longest war in our history and the biggest loss, the military did an excellent job of adapting to an enemy that fluctuated between conventional and guerrilla tactics. The Army's Green Berets and the Navy SEALs were specialists at this type of warfare, but the conventional Army and Marines fought it well, too.

The problem in Vietnam and Iraq is not so much that the U.S. military is bad at counterinsurgency but that insurgencies are incredibly hard to defeat. Whereas a conventional force fights in the open and can be taken on directly, an insurgency fights piecemeal and hides among the civilian population. This puts the counterinsurgency force -- especially a foreign power -- at a great disadvantage. On the one hand, they can go in full force to kill insurgents and almost certainly kill innocents, alienating the local population whose support is desperately needed. On the other, being too patient allows the insurgents to continue their reign of terror, not only killing friendly soldiers but also creating the impression that the host government and/or its foreign backers cannot keep order.

A professional military can defeat an insurgency despite these obstacles but, unfortunately, they can not do it quickly. In a society that demands fast results, that time is usually not a luxury the military has. This is even more true in an age of 24/7 television and the constant clamoring of pundits on the tube, talk radio, and blogs. Add to that an increasingly hostile partisan atmosphere and a never-ending campaign cycle, which means that politics no longer end at the water's edge, the pressure is even stronger.
I just hope someone can convince the American people about the desire of our soldiers to "finish the drill" in Iraq rather than the "cut and run," policies being advocated by Murtha, Pelosi, and Dean. From the 5 point bounce that President Bush has garnered in the NY Times/CBS, Ipso/AP and other polls, I'd say that they're getting the message.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Putting Some Moral Clarity in Foggy Bottom

Fire of Liberty

While the folks at the State Department have generally been considered a millstone on President Bush's policy of promoting political, economic, and religious freedom throughout the world. Well, according to this piece in the Financial Times, it seems that the President has finally appointed some folks over at Foggy Bottom who seem to be on the same page and are finally rapping the fingers of the folks in North Korea. One person that seems to be standing out in the crowd and demonstrating a firm grasp on moral clarity is Jay Lefkowitz, who is the US Special Envoy on Human Rights in North Korea. Though most people in the diplomatic corp are unwilling to say anything that might seem offensive to another country, Lefkowitz is one who won't mince words or offer diplo-speak on the condition of human rights in North Korea but will lay blame were blame should go. Just see for yourself:
But Mr Lefkowitz said there were increasing signs that more information was making its way into isolated North Korea. "As dark as the situation may seem today, there may be some light beginning to peer through," he said. " Once light begins to shine on authoritarian regimes, the march of democracy cannot be far behind."

In a message he addressed to North Koreans, Mr Lefkowitz said: "I want you to know that you are not forgotten. Those of you who live and languish in prison camps should know that there is a growing number of people who keep you in their thoughts and prayers."
The only thing I'd suggest is that Lefkowitz needs to follow the lead of President Reagan and start naming the folks who are being held in these prison camps to give them confidence that we know they're there and let the thugs in North Korea know that we've got our eye on them. I just wish that more folks in the State Department would step up to the plate and take up for the folks suffering at the hands of a dictator rather than shying away because they're scared to offend someone. So here's one to Jay Lefkowitz and his stand.