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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Red Cross chapter addresses and phone numbers
UPDATE: The American Red Cross Chapter locater link now appears to be working. I’ve added to the list below with quite a few more chapters, as well as the latest listing of shelters in the Houston area. Locations are listed alphabetically by city, under each state.
Hurricane Katrina/Flood Aid
UPDATE: This page on the Red Cross site lists potential avenues of financial assistance and also has good suggestions about prioritizing your needs.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Mediocrity rears its ugly head
As perhaps the harshest conservative critic of Ohio’s lackluster governor, Bob Taft (a crowded field, I grant you), I can look upon his plea deal today in Franklin County court as a mere addendum to a laundry list of Taft failures. My only question is what did Taft’s supporters expect?
Perhaps the most liberal candidate I ever endorsed, Tim Hagan for governor in ’02, was the beneficiary of my complete distaste for Taft as Ohio’s leader and the Ohio Republican Party’s deal with the devil to promote mediocrity in hopes of dominating state government. Well, the GOP succeeded on both a Taft second term and another sweep of state executive offices and legislative domination, despite a very skeptical public.
The results? Higher taxes masquerading as cuts, out-of-control spending, new gimmick programs to placate interest groups, plunging employment, a business exodus worthy of the biblical name, repudiation of court-ordered education funding reform, the spineless transfer of state natural gas reserves to the dominion of Canada, a methamphetamine explosion, support for steel tariffs which saved not one steel industry job but cost thousands in the automotive parts supplier sector, tipping the scales against smaller producers in favor of megafarms, a grievancy-based investment strategy and the view of state government as a private country club.
The golf outings “scandal,” if it really merits the name, is just an extension of all the above. What is scandalous is the incompetence of Taft’s administration, which apparently can’t even fill out disclosure forms correctly.
The bright lights in the state’s Republican Party are generally restrained or directly challenged for “rocking the boat.” Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has been targeted for disapproval by the “mediocrits” dominating GOP politics for at least two election cycles, all because he’s unabashedly a small-government, Christian conservative. Free thinker Lynn Olman of Maumee was sent home to Lucas County in a Don Quixote-like quest to break up the Democratic machine running Toledo. He inherited Tom and Bernadette Noe as the local party’s figurehead sponsors.
In fact the question of “pay-to-play” in the Tom Noe scandal is really just a demonstration of how out of touch the state party and its officials are with grassroots voters on whom ultimately they rely. The Noes were big-time RIWOs - Republicans in wallet only. They were failures where it mattered, on the ground in Lucas County.
Whether or not Noe’s coin investment contract with the Bureau of Workers Compensation was gained through undue influence is an open question; it appears the BWC laid out investment options on the floor of the director’s office then played spin-the-bottle to choose winners. Yet Noe was seen by party officials as a major player, and given admission to the “country club” of GOP state government. Why would anyone be surprised to find Noe out golfing with the governor?
The Ohio Republican Party is long overdue for a house cleaning. For years now, I’ve been calling for sweeping out the mediocrity and running thoughtful, serious and creative candidates who may occasionally lose rather than the 26 flavors of bland which currently get the endorsements and therefore the money. I’ve warned the present setup is terrible for Ohio – that prophecy was easy to make and has proven true. I’ve warned the GOP’s unchallenged dominance in Columbus would rot the party from within. Clearly, the decay is well advanced. And I’ve warned the Democrats would return to power if the Republicans did not change course.
That one’s still out there, but looking better for the Dems every day.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
'Able Danger' story grows up
Hat tip: Instapundit.
UPDATE: The NY Post has a related column on the "wall of separation" and more evidence conveniently ignored by the 9/11 Commission. (Hat tip: The Corner.)
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Blackwell plays 'Let's Make a Deal'
Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, coming off a very successful fundraiser here in Williams County, is known as the “conservative’s conservative” in the three-way race for the Republican nomination for governor. He’s no moderate, and he’s not “establishment.” He’s worked hard burnishing his image as a stick-to-your-guns, tax-cutting, budget-trimming, do-what’s-right-not-what’s-popular kind of leader.
So why all of a sudden did Blackwell back down to the state’s GOP leadership and postpone, from this November’s election until November ’06, his ballot issue to limit taxes and spending?
A hint can be found in the statement of Robert Bennett, the Ohio Republican Party chairman, who praised Blackwell’s decision, then added the tax-and-budget limitation would provide a good issue for whichever candidate gets the GOP nomination for governor in 2006.
Up until, oh, about five minutes ago, the state’s GOP leadership was dead set against Blackwell’s initiative, claiming it would tie the hands of future governors and legislators (which it would – that’s the whole point!). Why the shift in rhetoric?
I think I smell a deal.
The state’s Establishment Republicans have never warmed up to Blackwell, and were already lining up behind GOP contender and state Attorney General Jim Petro. However, with blood in the water over the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation debacle and other Taft scandal accusations, the state’s GOP may be looking to unify the party earlier than usual in an effort to hang on to power. By shifting to support of a constitutional amendment limiting taxes and spending, the GOP is trying to energize conservative voters who carried George W. Bush to victory in last year’s presidential race.
Those conservatives are also Blackwell voters.
There are no guarantees here for Blackwell. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of the two other GOP candidates, Betty Montgomery and Petro, drop out of the race in the next few months – with a little urging from the guys in the smoke-filled rooms.
As an observer of Ohio politics since the mid-‘80s, I’ve noticed that the Establishment in each party likes to bestow its favors on some and withhold them from others. Blackwell has been given the short stick for at least six years while the GOP Establishment’s golden boy, Bumbling Bob Taft, has run the state into the ground. The Establishment seems to be changing course.
How’s it feel, Ken?
Sympathy for Sheehan, disgust for those using her
Saturday, August 06, 2005
I’ve been reading the biblical book of Joshua lately. It’s hard reading in our present context, as it describes a people convinced they are singled out for God’s blessing. They also find those sitting on their promised homeland utterly without value. They have no compunction about slaughtering them in the thousands, men, women and children. The narrative’s fervor for bloodshed is almost hypnotic, as battle after battle, we learn people were “slaughtered with a very great slaughter.” Invariably, the people chosen of God find they lose favor not for brutality, but for compassion.
In Joshua, the blood which washes away all sins is not of sacrificial animals or a future messiah, but that spilled from the people inhabiting Canaan.
As I said, hard reading, and hard to interpret. If one can get past the gore, and make it on through Joshua to the next book, Judges, one can begin to make sense of the moral underlying what seems to be such an amoral account. You see, after the Israelite leader Joshua dies, the people are living in the promised land as clans and tribes mixed in with many of the original people of Canaan. If Joshua is an “experiment” in a total war which failed, Judges provides the “results”: Regular bouts of warfare between Israelite tribes and those original landholders, coupled with periods of digression from the monotheistic faith of Abraham to apostasy and idol worship.
This weekend, the 60th anniversary of the first use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima is being observed. World War II, much like the Israelite conquest of Canaan told in Joshua, was a total war. All people – military, statesmen and civilians – were involved. Action could occur anywhere. All targets were justified as legitimate. Victory and defeat could only be declared unconditionally. People can sit in rooms today and debate the necessities of this or that action by the Allies; they would have found little time to do so in 1945 when parents feared for sons returning from Europe and destined for an invasion of Japan.
Certainly many at the time felt use of the atomic bomb was beyond the pale, even for a “total” war. Similar (and well-founded) criticisms were made of bombings against Dresden, Tokyo and other civilian centers. Yet, for those making the difficult decisions, it was clear as early as 1940 or ’41 that the war against the Axis was something deeper than “politics by other means.” Lines on maps, transportation lines and access to resources were mere surface decorations: The ideology underlying Italian fascism, German Nazism and Japanese militarism was one with power as ultimate good, with the weaker properly subjugated and the individual crushed in the mill of the state. The only crimes were limits to power, and righteousness found in power’s exercise.
For liberal states of the day, a loss to this ideology was indeed equivalent to the end of existence. Total war, in their eyes, was justified, not because it was necessary to defeat the Axis in battle, but because it was necessary to defeat the ideology underlying the war inside the cultures where it grew. The people of Germany, Italy and Japan, in this view, were the soil from which this apocalyptic danger grew; the thorns of Nazism and militarism must be torn up, yes, but the soil must also be sterilized.
The enemy we face in the War on Terrorism – Islamic totalitarianism is as good a description as any – is also rooted in a culture. Perhaps it is fortunate that this war has begun before the Islamists had an opportunity to solidify their control over the wider Muslim culture. Still, in many ways, the Islamic world teeters on the edge of accepting the teachings of its extremists as not only viable, but necessary.
Total wars are generally rapid wars, because each side will stop at nothing and surrender or death are the only terms. Negotiations are superfluous.
We are not fighting a total war today. We are fighting a carefully executed “pinpoint” war (even if mistakes and setbacks raise questions about that execution). A “reverse domino” strategy is playing out, and the process takes time.
All wars are bloody, and this one is no different. But considering World War II, and the Israelite conquest of Canaan 3,000 years ago, the slaughter, though heart-wrenching, has been less than “very great.”
If, however, this strategy is not followed through to its conclusion – a free, democratic moderate Islamic world - which could well take decades, then the Islamists will bounce back from their early defeats and build stronger support systems, stronger national identities and stronger attack strategies. Should the Islamists succeed in killing thousands or tens of thousands in the West again, the choice for us all – particularly for the United States as the free world’s leader – will be between total war and surrender. At that point, victory delayed – by careful air wars, one-at-a-time invasions or criminal prosecutions – will inevitably lead to victory denied.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Parrish resignation, armed bobbies and stem cells
Whereas the United States defends, within certain limits, a person’s right to bear arms and to act in self-defense, Her Majesty’s government has kept a tight grip on weapons and their use. Most folks know that London’s uniformed police force, the “bobbies,” do not carry pistols. Other special units do train for weapons use, and do carry them when the situation warrants.
London officers who most likely never have drawn their weapons in the public suddenly were called upon to shoot to kill anyone they suspected of attempting a terror attack.
American police officers, who almost universally carry guns, are heavily trained in rules of engagement for a variety of situations and have the weapon at their side during a wide range of potentially volatile incidents. Many officers with time on their respective forces have needed to draw their weapons in dangerous, fast-changing situations. A few have even had to fire.
This wealth of experience helps officers recognize times when guns are needed and times when they are not.
The British police simply do not have this fund of knowledge from which to draw.
This is not to say American cops don’t sometimes make mistakes – obviously, they do. This is also not necessarily a criticism of Britain’s tradition of the unarmed cop in a nation where firearms are strictly regulated and gun violence is fairly uncommon.
Rather, this is yet another example of how the world really has changed due to Islamic terrorism – and all of us, whether British, Spanish, French or American, need to change in order to defeat it.
Almost everyone recognizes the promise stem cell research holds for a wide range of debilitating conditions and diseases. The research which has already been completed indicates embryonic stem cells are more “pliable” than stem cells drawn from adults, and therefore more potentially useful in medical treatments. There is certainly much more to be learned – but it is difficult to learn without applying greater resources.
The hesitation for many – myself included – is based on how those stem cells are acquired.
Embryonic stem cell research takes one of these extra embryos and allows it to grow into a clump of cells which contains the “seeds” of different systems and organs: stem cells. These stem cells are then removed, a process which kills the embryo.
Frist and others with strong pro-life credentials have pointed out the embryos do not have any chance of growing into humans, since they are extras from the in vitro fertilization process which will be discarded at some point. If the American people and their government believe in vitro fertilization is a morally legitimate procedure to allow couples with fertility problems to have children, then the American people and their government must also accept the other half of that equation: Some embryos will not be implanted and instead will be discarded.
Rather than lose the unique value and essence in each of those embryos to be discarded, the argument goes, why not use those embryos to provide stem cells for research and, eventually, cures?
When one considers the above facts and argument - as well as recognizing a substantial percentage of eggs fertilized naturally never successfully implant in the uterus and are “discarded,” too, by nature – embryonic stem cell research, with proper restrictions, does seem like a legitimate use for those embryos in danger of being wasted.
The question of experimentation on human life is perhaps not as difficult to answer. Humans are already the subjects of medical experiments. Drug studies, novel procedures, “experimental” surgeries – these are all done as part of the quest for more effective treatments. Occasionally, the subjects of the experiments even die. While we are saddened by this, we do not ban such experiments. Rather, we set up standards to make certain the experiment is useful and promising, and the subject’s death, should that occur, will not be in vain.
With strict standards in place, embryonic stem cell research could similarly provide untold benefits for humanity while assuring human life – the embryo – is not allowed to die in vain.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Perspective from the front line
For a superb overview of Iraq's gradual, painful progress, with particular emphasis on the city of Mosul, visit Michael Yon's site - NOW!
Yon is publishing a four-part series which gives some historical perspective on the effort to tranquilize and rebuild Iraq. The first, originally posted in May, was republished yesterday. The final is set for the week of Aug. 8.
If you seriously want to understand Iraq and our role there - regardless on where you stand concerning the war and its justifications - you could hardly do better than this young man's view from the ground.
Hat tip: Instapundit.