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

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Friday, March 7, 2008

We're All Monsters Now

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They are words that strike fear in the hearts of voters: the Republican Hate Machine, the Republican Smear Machine, Swift Boating, Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. The tactics these words represent are used to play on our fears, to divide us and polarize us. They could only be the tools of the corrupt, right-wing fear mongers, war mongers who rely on the politics of fear and hate. Such people do America a disservice. They are cynical, cold. They are, in short, monsters. So it is so sad that in looking at the recent race for the Democratic presidential nomination one thing has become very clear: We are all monsters, now.

For years now Democratic politicians have been running on the bugaboo of a massive, evil, institutionalized Republican smear campaign that distorts the record of decent, selfless Democrats, spreading lies, using code words and debasing every race they're in. Democrats would never do things like that. Enter the Clinton/Obama race.

It is hard to imagine a race more pointedly personal, filled with uglier tactics than this Democrat vs. Democrat campaign. And, make no mistake, this is not some grand battle of ideologies gone off the tracks. In everything but the most minor points Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agree. They are the Chang and Eng of American politics. Give them a Rorschach test and they'd see the same butterflies and naughty bits. This is a grand battle of two giant egos. It isn't a battle for the heart of America; it is a battle of ambitions of the highest order.

The recent "off the record" ("off the record" in the middle of an on-the-record interview, by the way!) remark by high-ranking Obama campaign foreign policy advisor Samantha Power that opponent Hillary Clinton is a "monster" is just the latest personal attack in this getting-dirtier-by-the-day fight. After lecturing Republicans about the nasty races they run every election cycle, it will be hard for whichever one of these two actually gets their party's nod, to run the usual off the rack Dem campaign of railing about nasty Republicans.

The usual taunt that Republicans are trying to divide people by race is going to be especially hard to float if Hillary winds up as the nominee. Hubby Bill's playing the now notorious "race card" before the South Carolina primary damaged both himself and Hillary with Blacks in ways that are already coming back to haunt them both. His heavy handed attempt to highlight Obama's blackness lost him his coveted label as "America's first Black President" (a label so phony it is surprising someone hasn't sued for false advertising) and allowed Blacks to start to see the race as just another example of us vs. them and start to move into Obama's camp in ever larger numbers.

And despite that tactic resulting in a self inflicted wound Hillary has managed to draw blood from Obama that could well prove very damaging to him should he win the nomination. It is widely acknowledged that her now famous "3AM commercial" in which she called into question Barack's ability to handle a crisis that might arise out of nowhere in the middle of the night was very effective; so effective that should he win the nomination Republican's could practically lift it word for word and run it against him themselves. The ferocity of the campaign is at such a level that even the foot-shot of playing the race card wasn't enough to make the Clinton campaign cautious. Hillary has begun to raise Obama's connections with indicted political fundraiser, Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a risky move considering the long and lurid history of questionable connections both financial and otherwise that she and her husband have had through the years. She has also been questioning Obama's honesty, yet another example of her accusing her opponent of things for which she is more well known .

And the "monster" comment isn't the only example of the Obama camp's taking the low road, either. He recently accused her of "swift boating" him, an accusation that falls on Democrat ears the way an accusation of child abuse sounds to the rest of us. He's also accused her of scare tactic, the very same kind of tactics Dems accuse Republicans of employing in every election. For all the talk of hope and change that this campaign started off trumpeting, it has rapidly been devolving into a pay per view style wrestling smack-down.

As it stands right now this race could still go either way. Obama is currently ahead in delegates 1,567 to 1,462 and in total votes he leads by about 600,000. But there are five months to go before the Democratic convention and it is very likely neither of them will get there with the requisite number of delegates to secure the nomination.

And that raises the question of what other dirt is left to be thrown? Obama taking shots at Hillary's looks? Hints of lesbianism? New stories about her well-known habit of dropping the f-bomb on any and all who annoy her? Hillary is known for her use of private investigators to dig up dirt. What has she or will she find about Obama that she's just waiting for the right time to unleash? Affairs? Considering Bill's track record this doesn't sound like the smartest idea but we've already established logic has gone by the boards in this race.

John McCain is a candidate with a large set of problems of his own; a discontented base, running in a year when Republicans are very unpopular, a habit of beating up his allies with far more vigor than he does his enemies, a temper issue of his own, but if Clinton/Obama keeps looking like the political version of Ali/Frazier he might not have to turn on the Republican Hate Machine, call upon the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and he may not even have to Swift Boat anybody. Those monsters may not be needed as the Democrats' own monsters may just wind up scaring away enough voters that he winds up as President thanks to them.

One thing is certain here; this is one scary election season.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Flipping The Pages

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The Strange Charm Of The Obama Campaign

I have to admit something odd: I find something charming about Barack Obama's campaign. No, really. I mean all this talk about "hope" and "change" coupled with Obama's utter lack anything even resembling any real qualifications reminds me of a kid playing make-believe. He manages to strike the right stances and does a pretty good impersonation of the real thing but then, all of a sudden you realize it is time to call in the adults. His talk about invading Pakistan a while back was one instance. Senior foreign policy advisor, Susan Rice's admission on Tucker Carlson's show the other day that neither Barack nor Hillary are ready for the 3AM crisis that Hillary says she's prepared for was another such moment. Rice was, of course telling the truth while Hillary was not but the fact that she thought that she could do so and not have anybody with a brain counter with, "Well maybe he shouldn't be running for President, then" is just another example why Obama and team are not ready for prime-time.

There's A New Clinton In Town

Something very strange and troubling is happening lately. I take a backseat to no one in my distrust and dislike of Hillary Clinton. Her cackle, her shrill perorations, her lies. I. Can't. Stand. Them. But....some of her recent appearances have almost been palatable. I actually think she was kinda funny on Saturday Night Live last week. I think her appearance there, in conjunction with Obama's problems, was one of the reasons Super Tuesday II turned out so well for her. She's had a few other moments, too; the debate performance where she kiddingly said she was "hurt" comes most readily to mind. Hillary has spent the better part of two decades trying not to be incredibly, monstrously, creepily unpleasant with no luck. All of a sudden, however there seem to be flashes of almost-convincing humanity. If it keeps up some people (I mean beyond those who've already sipped the Cool Aid) might begin to believe it. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Killers And The Millionaires Who Love Them

The current, growing crisis in South America between Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and his neighbors has come as no surprise to those of us who know that if you swagger like a dictator, scream your hatred of the US from the UN General Assembly, nationalize major industries, chum it up with such swell guys as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad etc. you're probably not a nice guy. The fact that just-found documents show that, despite denials, he has been supporting the FARC, Colombian terrorist guerrillas is just par for the course for this sort of thug. Depending on how far he is willing to push the current situation, he may yet launch a war in the region.

As we watch the crisis unfold we shouldn't forget the useful idiots who have befriended Chavez, frequently standing by and extolling his many "virtues" while badmouthing the US and George W. Bush to the dictator's enormous enjoyment. In the future when we see celebrities lining up to praise some politician or other let us remember the good judgment celebrities frequently display; celebrities such as Danny Glover, above and others who have made the pilgrimage to the great man, including; supermodel Naomi Campbell, Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey and incoherent Academy Award winning actor and "serious" man, Sean Penn.

The press has reported the Venezuelan visits of these know-nothings with regularity. Now that the real nature of Chavez has been revealed I guess we're all just waiting for the press to ask them some pretty tough questions about their South American buddy. Well, maybe not.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Politics Of Unpopularity

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On the morning after the latest series of presidential primaries I was watching one of the cable news networks and saw a bunch of students at an Ohio university being interviewed about the results of the previous evening's voting; what they liked about the candidates, what they were hoping they'd do in office, etc. In amongst the by-now expected "I want change " and "He gives me hope" banalities and concerns about the war, the economy, etc., another concern was voiced a number of times: the students were upset about how the rest of the world now views the US. This distress about America not being respected or liked abroad is frequently voiced when Americans talk about what they think is wrong with the country's direction. And it got me thinking.

Being liked is something we all want I guess, but the more I thought about it the more I realized I really don't want to be liked by everybody. I mean I don't want to be liked by bad people, by people I don't respect. I don't care if cruel people, loud, uncaring people don't like me. Well exactly who is it that so many Americans are worried about not liking us? Who is it that they feel should be more favorably disposed towards us?

There is much in the press about Europe's dissatisfaction with the US. It would make sense if Americans would like them to like us, right? According to a 2007 World Public Opinion poll 57% of Britons view US world influence negatively. In France, 69% feel the same. In Russia, 59%. Hmm. I have a question, though before I'm going to get all flustered about these results. What exactly is going on in these countries, what are their policies like that their judgment of us should be so troubling to us? Are the run in such an way admirable that maybe we should be following their lead? In a word: hardly.

Although very displeased with our influence, over the last few decades Britain has allowed itself to become one of the largest staging grounds for terrorism in the world. Many of the most infamous acts of terrorism in recent years were at least partially planned in London, literally under the noses of British Intelligence. Demographically it is now in a death spiral, its marriage and birth rate pointing towards a not too distant future where there will be a Britain without Britons. Culturally it is becoming weaker and less confident with each passing year. Anti-semitism is surging. Its many immigrants are largely angry and hostile.

France, still unhappy with us although recently electing the pro-US Nikolas Sarkozy to the presidency remains a socialist mess, with a faltering economy and its own immigration nightmare where Middle Eastern immigrant youths have taken over large areas where they periodically riot and ignore French national authority. Here, too anti-semitism is flourishing.

Russia is known more for its corruption, lack of freedoms and periodically poisoning dissenters than for any moral purity.

All three of these countries and more have been implicated in the notorious UN Oil-For-Food scandal.

How about countries in the rest of the world? 71% of Indonesians think US influence in the world is negative. It is a corruption-ridden hotbed of instability. The UN had actually called the recently deceased dictator, General Suharto the most corrupt dictator in the world. North Korea? Cuba? China? Mexico? Poverty. Oppression. Corruption. Somalia. Sudan. Genocide. Civil wars. Disease. Starvation. Pakistan? Syria? Iran? Terrorist shelter. Terrorist sponsors. Human rights abusers all. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to be out in public with a man who is not their husband. It is actually a crime to do so. The punishment can be quite severe.

Well, what about the UN itself? It represents the hopes and aspirations of the world, doesn't it? We want everyone there to like us right? Sadly it is nothing more than a collection of the previously named states and more of the same. It is generally helpless to prevent or stop wars it impotently and not very convincingly decries. Deeply involved in the aforementioned Oil-For-Food scandal, Paul A. Volcker, the head of the Independent Inquiry Committee said of it, "Our assignment has been to look for mis- or mal-administration in the oil-for-food program, and for evidence of corruption within the U.N. organization and by contractors. Unhappily, we found both."

It would be great if we lived in a world of decent nations, with fair democratic laws and traditions. We don't. Much of the world is ugly and brutal and that part which isn't is often at best misguided and incompetent. It is not surprising that they should look to us with our high standard of living, rule of law and all the "advantages" we enjoy and envy us and look at their own sad conditions and blame us. It is easier to blame someone else than to shoulder responsibility yourself. The tyrants and dictators who make up much of the world's "leadership" are always in the market for a scapegoat.

Which is not to say that America is above criticism and that we should ignore it when it comes. Constructive self analysis is one of our strengths. But such criticism should be evaluated on the merits, in the full light of all the facts and in context. When we've made mistakes, we should correct them. But the fact that we're "unpopular" is no guarantee that we're wrong.

The US need allies. It needs partners in a thousand different ventures and it would be easier to deal with those potential partners if they "liked" us. But the fact that they may not does not, by itself mean that we are doing something wrong. We can and do still get things done based on our reliability and our strength. Being liked isn't everything. It may not even be a terribly important thing. So maybe those college students could find something else to worry about. The world is surely filled with better reasons to worry than that.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Brief Thoughts On Another Long Night

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  • At this hour 8:40 PM EST Obama has already taken Vermont (no big surprise) and the initial numbers are looking good for him in Texas with Ohio looking good for Hillary (way too early to call either) there don't seem to be any surprises yet. If, as appears likely Hillary was able to firm up her support over the last few days, due in large part to Obama's numerous stumbles it is very likely the Dem contest could go all the way to the convention; Obama having more delegates going in but Hillary having evil on her side. LOL This one could remain a mystery for quite some time to come.

Update: 9:10 PM EST

  • Those aforementioned Obama gaffes highlight how media bias can sometimes blow up in the media's face and in the face of their infatuation; you treat a normal person like the Second Coming and, fawning coverage or not, reality is eventually going to come knocking. Obama, bright fellow that he is, just isn't very experienced and suave will only carry you so far. When things go wrong no amount of charm can cover the fact that the suit remains empty.

  • Apparently John McCain has now surpassed the 1,191 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination. Where are the cheers? I'm not hearing cheers.

Update: 9:20 PM EST

  • It took Harold Stassen a number of elections to become that-ridiculous-guy-who-doesn't-know-when-to-quit but Mike Huckabee's in-the-nick-of-time decision to call it quits tonight has saved him from becoming the new Harold Stassen, in just this one election cycle. Congratulations to The Huck for not quite becoming Harold Stassen. Impressive.

Update: 9:50 PM EST

  • Hillary won Rhode Island. Anybody have anything interesting or clever to say about this? Yeah. Me neither.

  • Rush Limbaugh's call for Republican's to go out and vote for Hillary probably contributed to Hillary's probably having a ok night tonight. Not really having any dog in this fight his reasoning is that the longer Obama and Clinton remain at each other's throats the better. But Rush is in the same predicament many of us are in here: sure its great that the two Dems are damaging each other but considering that it will probably benefit John McCain, it is hard to get all that excited. Whatever else politics is and can be it is often fun. Not so much this year.

Update: 9:15 PM EST

  • For all the huffing and puffing about the possible results of this evening's voting it looks like the night will end with things looking pretty much the same as yesterday. Hill and Barack are still nipping away at each other and McCain is still going to be the Republican nominee. And so it goes...
  • Good night!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Actual Junk: Bush's Virtual Fence is a Real Fraud

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There is a famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indiana Jones film in which Indy is confronted by a giant, black-clad swordsman, holding an enormous scimitar that he twirls and and spins, with which he obviously means to fillet Indy in short order. The audience sits in anticipation, wondering what sort of cleverness Indiana will use to extricate himself from this particular problem. Will he use his whip to snap the sword out of mid air? What kind of trickery will he employ? Instead of doing anything fancy, Indiana, looking bored merely pulls out his gun and shoots the giant, then goes about his business. The lesson here: sometimes the easiest and most obvious answer is the best one. Which brings me to the Department of Homeland Security's virtual fence.

According to Congressional testimony last week the so-far only 28 miles of virtual fencing constructed by Homeland Security on the Mexican border meant to keep illegal aliens form slipping into the US is a bust. Despite Secretary Michael Chertoff's effusive huckstering, the $20 million fence, built by Boeing flopped because necessary software was inadequate to process data, the resolution of the needed cameras was inadequate to the task and the radar was glitchy among other problems. But instead of mothballing this modern Edsel the Administration is postponing it for another three years at a currently unknown cost. So much for fancy.

You don't have to be keenly cynical to wonder if Homeland Security (with the President's approval) just isn't very serious about border security. If they were they just might have spared us all the fancy whiz-bang stuff which many familiar with it said from the start would not work and just gone ahead and employed much simpler methods with proven track records of effectiveness. Congressman Duncan Hunter, who has been one of the realists on this issue today reports in Human Events on the very real functionality of an actual physical fence. He points out that the 14 mile San Diego Border Fence has done just what you would want it to do: "Since its construction more than 10 years ago, the smuggling of people and narcotics has dropped drastically; crime rates -- according to FBI statistics -- have been reduced by half, vehicle drug drive-throughs have been eliminated; and apprehensions have decreased due to fewer crossing attempts." In the light of such a proven track record, the Administration's dabbling in this virtual fence dead-end looks far more like playing for time, maybe time for the public to move on to other issues, than it looks like a serious effort to secure our borders.

Those, like the President, Democrats and (sadly) Senator John McCain who are (to be kind) somewhat less than concerned about illegal immigration try to block the efforts of those who think illegal immigration is a real problem for the nation, always try to complicate solutions. Therefore you see "virtual" fences and hear how deportation is "impossible" and you see all other forms of obfuscation.

The truth is that deportation is far from impossible and far from ineffective. When faced with a growing problem of illegal immigration in the '50s, President Dwight Eisenhower instituted a policy of rounding up and deporting illegals, taking them back to Mexico (and deep into Mexico, not just dumping them across the border) in buses and ships. Tens of thousands were apprehended and sent back and hundreds of thousands followed voluntarily.

There are other serious, straightforward ways to deal with the problem, too. Vigorously going after and fining companies who hire illegals is an obvious way. Eliminating the law that allows "anchor babies", babies born in the US of illegals who are automatically US citizens if they are born within our borders. Oh yeah, and get real about building the real physical fence that had been mandated by the Secure Fence Act, that law that the people forced their legislature to pass against their will. The Act called for 700 miles of double-layered fence to be built, separating the US from Mexico. Well over a year has passed since the Act passed and only 80 miles of fence has been built. This is the speed of a government dragging its feet.

While it is amusing to see what new excuses those who are opposed to enforcing the immigration laws come up with next for those of us who actually respect the rule of law, we know that Indiana Jones had it right: do it fast, do it simple and for God's sake just get it done.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Why We Cry: A Lament For What Could Have Been

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The next few days may well make certain what now seems likely, that the Democratic nominee for President this year will be Senator Barack Obama. Should such turn to out to be the case the Democrats will be running the most far-Left candidate in their very checkered history.

According the the respected National Journal's rankings which use 99 US Senate votes to detect the left-ward tilt of each US Senator, the most liberal Senator in that august body in 2007 was that self-same Barack Obama. Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John Kerry, Senator Hillary Clinton all need to take a step to their right to make way for the new kid on the block.

This is and should be good news for the Republican Party and the conservative movement and yet there is little joy to be found in Red-State America these days. Under different circumstances this year's presidential election could have been a contest of radically different ideologies, a contest in which big-government statism, its assumptions and its record could have been matched up against the assumptions and record of small-government, constitutionalist, free market conservatism . But alas, such will not be the case. As John McCain is now the presumptive Republican nominee any battle of the world-views will have to wait for another election and another time.

The story of McCain's apostasy from conservative principles is long and well known enough that the litany of issues in which he has wandered into the wilderness need not be reiterated here. But the fact remains that McCain who likes to tout his lifetime 82.3% conservative rating from the American Conservative Union when he is trying to gain Conservative support, doesn't really fair quite so well when you take into account how he's voted in more recent years, in other words when you see which way his ideological boat is drifting. According to American Thinker from 1998 to 2006 McCain's average conservative score has been 74. And in 2006 it was only 65. The good Senator is listing badly to port.

With a record like that it is obvious that McCain's decisions are not based in a consistent and certainly not a consistently conservative belief system. This is not the man who has the bona fides to wage ideological battle. And this doesn't even take into account his unpleasant penchant for gleefully attacking conservatives while seeming perfectly pacific in dealing with liberals.

It seems likely that this year's campaign is more likely to revolve around issues of competence and judgment, without any real conversation taking place about what principles form the basis of good judgment.

We will not see the kind of races that Ronald Reagan ran (yes, I know the Reagan example has become tiresome of late, but it remains compelling enough that not using is the equivalent of ignoring the 500 lb gorilla in the room) in which he explained the principles upon which his policies were based. We will not hear John McCain take apart the intellectual basis of the idea of universal health care paid for by the government. We will not hear John McCain argue that the attacks on tax cuts as "tax cuts for the rich" is a sham. And we certainly won't hear John McCain argue the principled case for putting up a fence to secure our sovereignty.

Instead we will hear the Republican nominee argue, not against the very idea of this most left wing Democratic nominee's proposals, just the way they're implemented. This is a very different kind of argument than the one for which movement conservatives are spoiling. This is not the kind of election, these are not the kind of debates that are going to move the ball down the field. The best that can be hoped for is that we don't lose ground.

We'd like to hear about the importance of capital formation for the economy's continued well being, to hear set forth a conservative approach to handling the environment that doesn't include greater government mandates and intervention. We'd like to show how conservative principles will improve peoples lives, not concede the major points and appear as nothing more than a party whose principles can best be expressed as "Me too, only a little less." This is not exactly a stirring rallying cry.

And so our job this year isn't to put our guy over the top but to put that guy over the top, all the while pushing him to be a little less like he wants to be. This is not the way we wanted it but it is the way it is. We just can't help feeling a bit wistful for the way it could have been.

Conservatives, of course are optimistic by nature so we'll use these next few years to turn this year's "could have been" to the future's promise fulfilled. Count on it.