Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Torture & The Democrats

Last week in a press conference President Obama let slip for the first time that an investigation into the use of "enhanced interrogation" by policy makers in the Bush administration was a possibility depending on a decision made by the Attorney General. This is a nearly unprecedented approach whereby a current administration uses its power to scrutinize the decisions made by a previous administration with the possible intent of criminal prosecution.

I believe this very well could be a disaster for the Obama presidency.

To his credit, the President seems VERY reluctant to chart this course of action knowing where such an investigation could lead and how it could impact his ability to enact legislation he seems commited to pursuing. Until recently, Obama has consistently deflected the question by repeatedly stating he was concentrating on moving forward rather than looking back and spending the time & energy needed for such an investigation to tackle the large problems currently facing our country.

A recent ABC news poll shows only 49% of Americans support his torture ban and 53% of the country supports his having released the classified CIA memos which brought this issue to the for front. In effect, its a 50 - 50 split and hardly the political numbers needed to take such a move.

So, why the sudden change by the President? The truth is that there are a number of supporters on the far left side of President Obama's base that have been pushing this issue. There is a strong desire in those circles to punish President Bush and his entourage . The image of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, and Rice riding into the sunset and not held accountable literally drives them crazy and they will have blood.

But, as the saying goes, "Careful what you wish for, you just may get it."

These angry voices need to cool their heels and take a lesson from history. It was roughly 20 years ago when another angry group of Democrats thought they had President Ronald Reagan and his entourage in their gun sights. They felt Reagan and a number of intelligence officers had circumvented the law to fund the Contras fighting the Sandanistas in Nicaragua. In the end, a number of those involved were found to have broken the law but but the accused ended up winning in the court of American public opinion. The heroic efforts of Oliver North, John Poindexter, and CIA Director William Casey were laid bare and even as they were charged on various counts, they were applauded by the American people...much to the chagrin of the Democrats.

Its with that scenario in mind that I offer a few thoughts for my Democratic friends to consider:

* Although its popular to say at dinner parties over a glass of Cabernet that "torture doesn't work" when Pandora's Box is finally opened and the memos and evidence come out, it will most likely show that lives were saved and plots were thwarted by such policies. There will be disagreements with that evidence and accusations and recriminations will fly back and forth, but there will be enough support for the policies to exonerate the actions. Both former CIA Director George Tenent as well as Former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell have released statements stating that there are people walking around alive today because of these policies. The Democrats are kidding themselves about how angry the American people are going to be when those details come to light.

* Many Democratic members of congress knew full well about the policies being implemented so when Speaker Nancy Polosi starts stating that she supports a "Truth Commission" to investigate Bush era policies, she better be ready to explain as George Will says, "how a 10 year veteran of the House Intelligence Committee is shocked and surprised about what was going on."

* Despite the Republicans minority status right now, the President is still going to need G.O.P. support for his rather ambitious social agenda. He will expend a lot of political capital to mount an investigation and will receive almost nothing in return for it save headaches and frustrations.

Although we are a nation of laws, the American people love the Rebel with A Cause. If the minority of Democrats, led by Senator Patrick Leahy, get their way and an investigation is mounted, my prediction is that more than a few "Jack Bauers" will emerge. The nameless, faceless men and women whose stories are rarely told but toil night and day to keep Americans safe will come to the surface...

...and it will drive the Dems crazy!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Miss USA Controversy

OK, I was REALLY trying to avoid writing about this issue. Not so much as it deals with homosexuality as much as I just felt there were better (and more important) things going on in the world.

But since so much news coverage has been devoted to the controversy, coupled with the fact that even my wife was pressuring me to blog on the issue, I have decided to throw my hat in the to speak!

For anyone living in a cave the last week, the Miss USA contest has been embroiled in a controversy ever since Miss California said it was her personal belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. It's interesting that a statement that would hardly raise an eyebrow in any other place in the world, let alone any time period in recorded human history, would be the reason for her loss.

I must admit, when I first saw the headline, my instant thought was that it was just sour grapes. She lost and she's looking for a reason that will stir some press. Surely you can't lose a beauty contest because you don't agree with homosexual marriage.

Ah, but you can!!

Curiosity got the better of me and I watched some of the follow up news clips. It turns out that Perez Hilton, the openly gay judge who read the question, freely admitted that her position on gay marriage was what swayed not only him, but some of the other judges. The bombastic Hilton went on to say "It was the worst answer in pageant history!" He went on then to call her a "Dumb B*&ch" and later a "C&%t".

The worst answer in pageant history? I have watched the answer a few times now on various news sites and although there may be some small room for improvement (What is opposite marriage?) she was sincere and gracious. She was aware that what she was saying on a very controversial issue was not going to agreed with by many people, including the judges, but she made it a point that her position was not meant to offend.

The same could not be said of her detractors. Besides the foul names leveled against her by Hilton, the representatives of the Miss California pageant have denounced her answer and have chosen to distance themselves from the very person they are supposed to be supporting.

It's ironic to note, and as the MSNBC clip makes a point of, that President Obama, who is embraced by many within the gay community, gave the exact same answer on the campaign trail that Carrie Prejean gave in the pageant; that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

One gets to be President of the United States and the other...?

Well, seems she's not fit to win a beauty pageant!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Now Thats What I Call Music!!!!

Google has just announced that they will be allowing FREE legal music downloads from its Google MP3 site starting this week. The Internet giant has partnered with over 140 record labels to offer an initial 350,000 songs with the promise of increasing that number to over 1,000,000. There is only one catch...

You have to live in China!

China has always seen intellectual copyright law as more of a...ehm... guideline. The record companies, all but writing off any opportunity for legitimate music sales in the country, have decided to at least recoup some money on advertising traffic through the site.

I have to admit, its been great for us. Gabriel feels carte blanche to downloading everything under the sun and I don't have any qualms now as its all legal. Living in China has usually meant being on the wrong side of internet access. Blogs, websites, and now Youtube, are routinely blocked because someone crossed a sensitive line somewhere. So it feels good to finally have the chips fall our way...cyberly speaking of course.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Obama Boycotts Racisim Conference

President Obama has just indicated that he will not be attending the "Durban 2" conference on racism scheduled to be held this week in Geneva. I think that this could be a wise decision. The first "Durban Conference on Racism" held in South Africa 8 years ago was marked by huge anti-Israel demonstrations and the conference itself seemed to spend a inordinate amount of time attempting to link Zionism with racism.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who has called for the destruction of Israel, plans to attend the conference and that in itself should give all invited countries pause for reflection on whether their presence at the conference would help or hinder the problem of racism in the world.

Already some notable Western nations have pulled out including Canada, Italy, and Australia.

However, not all are happy with the President's boycott. "This decision is inconsistent with the administration's policy of engaging with those we agree with and those we disagree with. By boycotting Durban, the US is making it more difficult for it to play a leadership role on UN Human Rights Council as it states it plans to do. This is a missed opportunity, plain and simple." said Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee who chairs the Black Caucus.

I disagree though. President Obama's absence will send a clear message that the problems between Palestinians and Israel are best handled through diplomatic negotiation and not through circus side shows. Had the Bush administration made this choice, the media would have made it a big story about how George W. was beholden to Christian evangelical ties to Israel.

Obama at this point in his presidency however, does not have baggage like that attributed to his decision. His boycott will carry powerful weight and leadership for other, particularly, Western nations.

In the end, the President may do more for ending racism by not attending.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mark "The Bird" Fydrich

I woke this morning to hear of the tragic, premature death of former Detroit Tiger Rookie of the Year Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. The 54 year old Fidrych was found dead while apparently working on his asphalt truck. The cause of death is still under investigation.

Fidrych lived a life full of excitement and tragedy. The reason you probably have not heard of "The Bird" (who was given the moniker due to his gangly "Big Bird" like manner on the pitcher's mound) was because the 1976 Rookie of the Year's career was cut tragically short due to a torn rota tor cuff that was not diagnosed until some years after he left baseball; an injury which can often times be repaired today.

Only some of us long time Tigers fans remember The Bird. I was lucky to see his first game as a 9 year old in 1976 at Tiger's Stadium. Fidrych had everyone laughing and wondering what he was doing as he seemed to be talking to the ball and dropping to the ground to manicure the mound with his hand between pitches. He went on to pitch a two hit game, start that year's All-Star Game and go on to win Rookie of the Year.

Unfortunately, his shoulder injury the next year relegated him to the "one hit wonder" category of baseball history and regretfully his league minimum $16,500 salary and eventual 3 year contract of $225,000 was not enough to retire on. In recent years he has had to rely on a road construction business for a livlihood; a livelihood that seemed to be a factor in his presumed accidental death.

So, thanks Bird, for the childhood memories you gave me, my family, and the Tiger fans in Detroit. You'll be missed!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Life On Mars: Series Finale

Last night Tammy, Gabriel and I watched the series finale of the TV show, "Life on Mars." The final 6 or 7 minutes was a mindbending, thought provoking, ending to the tragically short lived show. I won't give the ending away but encourage you to catch the series off Itunes or when its available on DVD. It will blow your mind!

I found myself thrilled and then angry. Why is it that intelligent, high concept shows get the axe while mind numbing and inane reality shows like American Idol, Wife Swap, and Super Nanny acheive such success? Do I have to remove half my brain to see what the rest of America does in these shows? Is there a place for creative and intelligent TV that doesn't get cancelled?

The TV Addict had a insightful interview with the Life on Mars producers on the difference between shows getting renewed today vs. 20 years ago. They mention that shows like Cheers, Hill Street Blues, and MASH would have been cancelled because it took them sometime to develop their audience. When asked why they they show such devotion to their fans, namely in producing their own 15 minute conclusion to their previously cancelled series, October Road as well as lobbying to conclude Life on Mars they respond, "The one thing that I really truly believe with all my heart, the one thing that all of our fans have in common is that they have impeccable, impeccable taste and they need to be rewarded for that taste!"

Anyhow, I'm going to miss my weekly trip back to 1973. The music was hipper, the cars were cooler, the politics and social mores were edgier. But, I'll always have on Itunes a wonderful 17 episode story that goes out on a high note.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Re-Tooling the GOP

A lot has been written about the future of the Republican Party after their apparent spanking in the 2006 and 2008 elections. The talking head shows have delivered a plethora of segments with numerous "pundits" advising everything from becoming a party of inclusion to "returning to the party of Ronald Reagan." OK, since I'm tired of cringing at what others say, here are some of my suggestions for bringing the GOP into the 21st Century

* Stop Invoking Ronald Reagan: Hey, I loved the Great Communicator as much as any Republican. I cast my first vote for him in 1984 and grew misty eyed when he would describe America as that "City on a Hill". He drew millions of "Reagan Democrats" across party lines much like Obama did with the Republicans in '08 BUT he was first elected President almost 30 years ago and he was old then. We have millions of new voters who predominantly voted Democrat this election and only yawn when Reagan is invoked. It only serves to re enforce the perception that the GOP is a party of the dinosaur.

* Marginalize Rush Limbaugh: In 2006 I was discussing possible Republican presidential contenders with some GOP friends. Suddenly one of them quipped, "We shouldn't discount Rush Limbaugh who would make a great candidate." On the outside I quickly changed the subject but on the inside I was reeling. Rush Limbaugh?? How could an intelligent individual even suggest such a possibility? Unfortunately, there are far to many Republicans who get their news from Rush and it has only served to to make us the party of simplicity and stupidity. The fact that now he is getting touted as the defacto head of the GOP only buries the stake further in when compared to President Obama. David Frum says it best when he writes,
On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of “responsibility,” and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.

And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence – exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word – we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.

It's time for the GOP to put Rush out to pasture somewhere.

* Retire use of the word "Socialism": because all you are scaring are some Cold War veterans. Today's voters, who have seen their 401K disappear, their stock investments crash, and their portfolio not worth the paper its printed on while at the same time watching Wall Street moguls and CEOs scrambling away with bonuses and bailouts, are much more afraid of Capitalism than Socialism. Heck, everytime they start railing about Obama's economic plan being socialism I keep expecting a follow up on the threat on America posed by the Soviet Union. STOP saying socialism with the expectation people are going to care. That doesn't mean you change your belief in a market economy, it means bring your vocabulary into the 21st Century! Which leads me to:

* Get a Universal Health Care policy: The American people want it. Figure it protest here...just do it!

* Bring Intellectual Conservatism back: I miss William F. Buckley! And love him or loathe him, Richard Nixon was arguably the most intelligent president of the 20th century. However the party and conservatism is presently being positioned by the Democrats as a back woods, hyper-religious, bunch of buffoons who are more to be pitied than argued with...and we just fuel the fire. Whether its George Bush's creative vocabulary, Gov. Bobby Jindal's childish response to the State of the Union address, or just the average Republican pundit who seems to see that the real threat comes not from a bad economy or Al-queda but from those "dang homosexuals" the GOP has been an intellectual vacuum that needs filling fast. Which leads me to:

* Higher profiles for smart Republicans : like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenergger and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Everytime they speak...well, I don't cringe and want to hide under a table somewhere...and right now for the Republicans, that says alot.

Well, I may get accused by this post of being a dreaded RINO (Republican in Name Only) but unless the GOP makes some serious changes, they will increasingly be a party in name only. I wouldn't like that. The Democrats have serious policy and worldview flaws and so the GOP needs to do what it has been telling everyone else to do for the last 30 years, "Get off your lazy butt and get to work. It's not our responsibility to take care of you. Your position as a national party is not an entitlement, you have to earn the right to be on the national stage. Now get to work and start bringing home some bacon."