Kidnapped by Japan - How A Mother's Dying Wish Led To A Father's Unimaginable Loss

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Boomtown Bush - Geldof on GWB

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In Time Magazine's online presence, there is an interesting interview posted 2/28/08, Geldof and Bush: Diary From the Road in which now occasional rocker and full-time activist Bob Geldof documents his experiences on the road with President George W. Bush during the President's recent pan-Africa trip. It is interesting for more than the fact that a fading rock star should have such access to the leader of the free world but is actually worth reading for Geldof's conversations with and observations of GWB.

Geldoff, not maintaining what is the usually de rigueur Bush-is-Hitler mantra, is actually quite complimentary of the President, at least on the subject of Africa. Geldoff finds him "curious and quick" and has high praise for his African policies which he says, with no sign of squeamishness, have "saved millions of lives." Geldof paints a picture that we've seen before of Bush from most of those who've had contact with him; very much the Texan, loose in conversation but disciplined and smart, "an emotional man" possessed of a great capacity for compassion for his fellow man. This is not the image of heartless rube warmonger who launches massive military campaigns to line the already overstuffed pockets of his buddies that most on the Left imagines and try to popularize.

Aside from the interesting character observations, Geldoff does elicit some comments from the President that are worthy of deeper analysis. At one point Bush says, "See, I believe we're in an ideological struggle with extremism,"..."These people prey on the hopeless. Hopelessness breeds terrorism. That's why this trip is a mission undertaken with the deepest sense of humanity, because those other folks will just use vulnerable people for evil. Like in Iraq." Now while this particular trope has some validity, as most cliches do, there is still something troubling about it. The idea that Islamic terrorists must troll through the ranks of the poor and disaffected to find followers creates an impression that is not just wrong, but is actually helpful to those same terrorists.

The fact is many terrorists have little, if any, experience of poverty and deprivation at all. Osama Bin Laden is the scion of famously wealthy family. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were middle class or better, college educated and familiar with the West. The attack on the Glasgow. Scotland Airport in 8/07 was carried out by a PhD Engineer and a physician. The four 7/07 London suicide bombers were homegrown, middle-class Brits. What drew them all into terrorism wasn't poverty and therefore you won't won't eradicate terrorism by eradicating poverty. Modern-day terrorism is motivated by Islam. Period. To blame anything but Islam as the animating force behind it is to cut Islam a break that is counterproductive. In order to defeat terrorism we have to confront (and terrorism is just a tactic after all) it where it is born; in the teachings of Islam. Islam won't confront its own failings if we let it off the hook. We have to point out with vigor and in detail the ways that Islam is failing the world. Islam is in need of a major reformation and we do it and ourselves no favor by being bashful about pointing out that fact.

Now Bush must certainly realize this and it has to be admitted that he is confronted with a real problem in figuring out how to deal with Islam. As President, if Bush were to come out and say, "Islam is the cause of terrorism. Islam as it currently exists must be stopped" he would in effect be turning the very hostile eyes of most Americans on the Muslims living here, most quite peacefully, those who although they are Muslim don't have the violent inclinations of the more strictly devout. During WWII Roosevelt put thousands of Japanese into internment camps. It was not America's finest moment and not one most of us would like to relive.

Geldof's piece paints a generally positive picture of the President but it also reveals a man who, after all this time, is still having a difficult time getting a handle on this particular enemy.

Toward the end of his essay Geldof, apparently in an attempt to maintain at least some of his rock-buddies' respect, rips Bush for Iraq, Guantanomo, Abu-Ghraib and the usual litany of left-wing complaints. He does it without subtly or any new or particularly insightful thinking. No surprises here. The article is still worth reading however for giving a vivid picture of George Bush and, unintentionally no doubt, for highlighting how Bush is still struggling, unsuccessfully here, with the enemy we now face and will be facing for some time to come.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Died Today at 82.

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William Buckley, the father of the modern conservative movement was a man of intellect, grace and humor. Here he is hosting the Charlie Rose show on 7/5/02, displaying all the above mentioned qualities and more. He is missed already.

William F. Buckley - Farewell, Father

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His was a grand life of import and meaning. When William F. Buckley passed away today he left a legacy of ideas that don't just resonate in the mind but which have played out in the lives of millions. The Conservative movement of the last fifty years was set in motion by a single-minded Buckley using all the many tools he had at his command (and they were many); his intellect, his humor, his sense of decency and his devout commitment to God. Ronald Reagan is often looked to as the central figure of modern conservatism and no one did more than he to popularize that philosophy and put it to work in people's lives. But before Reagan acted, he read and thought and what he read and the ideas he thought were pure Buckley.

The appearance of the small circulation (15,000!) magazine that Buckley started in 1955, National Review, though appearing with no particular fanfare to the world at large has, in many ways changed that world. Buckley's achievement was to crystallize conservatism, to wipe away the fringes that tried to adhere to it and prove it to be a powerful movement, the strength and rightness of its ideas making it impossible to dismiss. He presented a thoughtful conservatism whose ideas attracted not just Reagan but generations of young people who saw the need to do what Buckley said in that first editorial in National Review, " stand athwart history yelling Stop". And while history is a dynamic thing, its drift to the Left always to be fought, no one fought it more stolidly and succeeded as well as Buckley, whose forceful anti-communism was so historically brought to life by Reagan's pushing the Soviet Union into oblivion.

But Buckley was not a humorless bulldog. Quite the contrary, he won his points and converts with not just intellectual fervor but with humor and enjoyment of the life God had given him. He was a man possessed of a breathtaking number of talents; a polemicist with an unerring command of the language, a novelist, an editor, a seaman, television host, conversationalist par excellence. And by all reports he was that rare man gifted beyond the norm but whose generosity of spirit was the equal of his talents. His friendships were many and he didn't let political differences get in the way, being close to people across the political spectrum. In today’s toxic political atmosphere it is almost shocking to see how many Men of the Left admired and liked this ultimate Man of the Right. And he was also a good and loving husband and father and, in what may be the secret of his personal kindness, he was a loyal and devout Catholic.

Those of us who feel compelled to argue and assert and write and publish and post know that we are merely following, however imperfectly, his lead. Whenever we sit down before our keyboards and try to conjure our arguments for freedom and personal liberty we know that he is the model we are all emulating. We wish we had his erudition and his sly wit. We don't but the fact that we try is an act of appreciation of him and the active inner life he unleashed in us.

His life was well lived and not short and we can take satisfaction in that as he leaves us. We will look for more like him but we are unlikely to find one to match him. Conservatism today, can legitimately said to be in something of a crisis of confidence. It will pass. Its ideas are too good not to rally and prevail. Now there are more of us than just one young man standing athwart history. We’re that young man’s children, there are millions of us and we haven’t forgotten. We’re still yelling Stop.

Good night, father and thank you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Consequences Of Vacuous Hope

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I have just come back from a very special place, a wondrous place. It is a land in which the fortunate step on the less fortunate with impunity, where old folks and young jockey for the same low wage jobs, where no people feel united with their fellows, where hope is lost. But wait: there on the horizon in this magical land is one special man who brings change and hope, who shoulders the burdens for all the rest of us, the man who has the answers. He is a man of such sure character we don't have to ask him questions, we just let him open the doors to all that can be. Our only responsibility is to close our eyes and say, "Yes we can. Yes, we can change. Yes we can."

I have just spent an hour reading Senator Barak Obama's campaign speech transcripts.

Watching Obama on TV delivering these same speeches is a very different experience from reading them. Listening to his voice rise and fall and watching him react to the crowds reacting to him, his words take on a heft and weight that they totally lack when reading them on the page. Watching him deliver such lines as, "Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future. ... as we leave this great state with a new wind at our backs and we take this journey across this great country, a country we love, with the message we carry from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire, from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast, the same message we had when we were up and when we were down, that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we will hope", one feels the excitement of the moment, of something waiting to happen. But in reading the speeches the lines take on shallowness, a lightness as they almost seem to effervesce off the page, forgotten the second your eyes move on.

The speeches, meant as they are to be performed, dramatically repeat themes, two themes really: change and hope. But while they provoke our emotions, they do not provoke our thinking, quite the opposite; they require our suspension of thought. Barak Obama already has the answers. He'll carry the load. There are people and forces standing in the way of these answers. He just wants us to stand with him as he shoves those forces out of the way and then he can pass on his received wisdom: more money from the government, more government regulations, and more money taken from those who greedily have taken what they do not deserve. And this is the kernel of the problem of Barak Obama's call for hope.

Obama is asking us to hope that someone else (Obama himself!) will take the reigns of our lives. Ask people you know who support him why they do. In most cases they'll tell you what has now become a cliché: they're for hope; they're ready for a change. Generally specifics will be in very short supply. Ronald Reagan was known for his optimism too, but Reagan's speeches were always about returning responsibility for people's lives back to the people themselves. He wanted to be the agent to give the government back to the people. Obama wants to be the agent of the government which will take responsibility for the people. Now this is typical of liberalism, it is part and parcel of its appeal but what sets Obama apart from most liberal politicians is his ability to make the man and the message one and the same. He is the answer. He is the hope.

He is a most peculiar character to have so successfully convinced so many people to unquestiongly drop their skepticism. He is the least accomplished man to offer himself up as a presidential candidate in generations. A US Senator since only 2005, he's spent much of that time running for President, having little time to accrue much in the way of a legislative record, should he have the ability to do so. Although his speeches are rife with references to bringing people together, his record indicates no special ability in doing this. And although he seems to believe he possesses the answers to almost all our problems, new answers, he is in fact a perfectly traditional far-left politician. All those "new" answers are not new at all, of course. They have been ruining economies and nations for decades. The dying husk that is modern day Europe appears to be Obama's idea factory. If you like modern-day France, you'll love Barak's America.

Obama's ability to change the subject from the consequences of his ideas to his emotional state and then his ability to transfer that state to the public is nothing short of masterful. His audacity has been in thinking that he could make what he would actually do as President less important to the electorate than the fact that he is the one doing it. So far that audacity has paid off for him. I hope it no longer will come this November.