Thursday, December 22, 2005

Kicking the Can Down the Road

After 9/11, the Patriot Act was put in place to tear down the walls of miscommunication between the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA. Democrats willingly signed the legislation right after 9/11 with smiles on their faces. But it didn't take long before they ran to the nearest camera to start ripping it to shreds.

For the past four plus years they have been harping about what an abuse of power the Patriot Act is. It has become a favorite liberal buzz word, like Halliburton, in their political attacks on the President and his administration. For four years they put up with it, and not once did anyone introduce legislation to fix it. Everyone knew it was due to expire at the end of this year sending us back to the days of September 10, 2001.

Last week the Democrats successfully filibustered this vital piece of legislation leaving America at risk of dropping its guard on January 1st. Fortunately, the Senate today reached a compromise on the Patriot Act that will extend it for another six months.

I don't understand why Democrats have to be dragged kicking and screaming into protecting America. Why do we have to explain to them the reason for invading Iraq three years after the fact? Why do we have to put up with them blocking legislation designed to protect America? Why do we have to beg them to let us put up a fence to secure our borders? I just don't get it. I can understand if you don't agree with the reasons for some of the things we have to do, but for goodness sakes, can't you take one for the team and be a silent objector? Is it so painful that protecting America makes George W. Bush look good?

These people scare me. They claim that they are only preventing an abuse of power. In fact they are willing to sacrifice the security of America in order to undermine a Republican president and congress so they can regain power. People who stoop to such desperate measures to gain power will stoop to even more desperate measures to retain power once they have it. It is at that time that our freedoms will truly be in jeopardy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Music to his ears...

Iran's public is now facing a new kind of suppression, as if they aren't feeling it enough. (Stifling political speech was in this past summer.) No longer will Iranians be able to listen to Western music:

Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned all Western music from Iran's state radio and TV stations an eerie reminder of the 1979 Islamic revolution when popular music was outlawed as "un-Islamic" under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Today, though, the sounds of hip-hop can be heard blaring from car radios in Tehran's streets, and Eric Clapton's "Rush" and the Eagles'"Hotel California" regularly accompany Iranian broadcasts.

No more the official IRAN Persian daily reported Monday that Ahmadinejad, as head of the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, ordered the enactment of an October ruling by the council to ban all Western music, including classical music, on state broadcast outlets.

"Blocking indecent and Western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is required," according to a statement on the council's official Web site.

...

The ban applies to state-run radio and TV. But Iranians with satellite dishes can get broadcasts originating outside the country.

Ahmadinejad won office in August on a platform of reverting to ultraconservative principles, following the eight years of reformist-led rule under Khatami.

During his presidential campaign, Ahmadinejad also promised to confront what he called the Western cultural invasion of Iran and promote Islamic values.

Since then, Ahmadinejad has jettisoned Iran's moderation in foreign policy and pursued a purge in the government, replacing pragmatic veterans with former military commanders and inexperienced religious hard-liners.

While I think this is ludicrous, context is required. Right now, the globe has never been this connected. We can talk to anyone instantly, without delay. News and ideas are disseminated almost too quickly, riots can be coordinated as if planned at a HQ (as was the case in France and Australia). The world traditions are reacting against this global world. New ways and ideas are becoming mainstream, taking the place of the "old ways."

This is not similar to the natural changes humanity always goes through when it comes into contact with other cultures. We are at a major crossroads in global society. But as the human experience has proven, freedom will always win. Fascism, in the forms of Nazism, or in today's climate, radical Islam, cannot defeat the human spirit, which both ideologies attempt to do. Communism failed to change human nature, which in the word's of Calvin Coolidge, "is about the most constant thing in the universe..."

Alas, this is another mistake Ahmadinejad is making. It is a list of mistakes that keeps on growing. He, like all fascists, will soon perish and his exiting will give Iranians a chance at freedom. I know freedom is rather cliche in today's world. It does little to comfort the unease in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. It is something former American slaves did not enjoy until 1964, since the breaking of shackles merely led to economic and political slavery. But the ability to be free is an enduring human trait. Yes, most humans follow popular trends and want acceptance from a wider body. The unique are the brave... those who relish in the ability to swim against the current, only to get discouraged when they become the tide. As we enter this brave new world, in which only freedom, in all of its forms, will win, we must attempt to create a society (a global one at that) that accepts human nature and looks for the universal moral code that can control man's darkest side.

UPDATE: A friend of mine brought to my attention his disagreement with my statement that, "... freedom, in all of its forms, will win..." He contests that it does not always win. Historically, "conservative" movements have beaten back "progress." I disagree in a larger context, since the concepts of the Declaration of Independence have been trickling throughout the world. I would consider this document the authoritative statement on human freedom. But the word "freedom" is another point of contention. He states, and I must admit I agree, most men and women do not want "freedom." They want liberty. Most want the tool of making free decisions; free from being forced into decisions and opinions. Most (or, perhaps, many?) want to have their opinion agreed upon by others. Everyone looks for guidance. Sailing with the wind is must easier than tacking. Confrontation is not man's strongest suite, as we all know through playground experiences, since bully's almost always get their way. So, yes, human "liberty" will undoubtedly triumph in the Middle East and throughout the world. I just hope that we start focusing on all of the world. I hear there are problems in Sudan... something about genocide.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Fallen Eagle

Like I've said before, sports often serve as a microcosm of life and culture here in America. Often more so in terms of racial relations than any other aspect of society. Sports have often served as some of the greatest triumphs and setbacks in the history of race relations. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in major league baseball was a defining moment in the history of this country. He was the perfect man to be the first African American to break the segregation barrier because he was able to do so with pride and class.

But each step forward is difficult. Progress is often met with resistance. Although African Americans have been playing professional football since before the second world war, as late as the 1980's there was a common belief in the NFL that black players were not smart enough to play quarterback. It wasn't until the 1987 Super Bowl when Doug Williams led the Washington Redskins to a victory over the Denver Broncos that the myth was dispelled. Since then there have been a plethora of black quarterbacks to enter and compete in the league, although Williams is still the only African American to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory as a quarterback.

In some sense, there is still a misconception out there that black athletes just aren't as smart as their white counterparts. Black quarterbacks to this day are still fighting those stereotypes. Many people believe they cannot be effective passers. Many believe they are best utilized as scramblers (quarterbacks who run a lot instead of throwing) like Michael Vick and Randal Cunningham. This week that stereotype is being debated in bloody fashion on the pages of the newspapers in Philadelphia.

When Donovan McNabb was first drafted by the Eagles he was booed because his name wasn't Ricky Williams. But it didn't take long for him to gain the faith of the City of Brotherly Love. He electrified the crowd with his ability to will his team down the field. He led the Philadelphia Eagles to four straight NFC Championship Games and ultimately made it to the Super Bowl last year where they lost to the New England Patriots. One of his greatest weapons when he was first drafted was his ability to run with the ball. But as the years went on McNabb took a beating from all those scrambles and hits. He started running less and throwing more. Over the past six years, his number of rushing attempts have decreased each year.

Since being put in as the starting quarterback, McNabb has been considered the leader of the team. He has always been the team spokesman. He's always been the guy to pick up his teammates when things looked bad. But this year has been a horrible year for McNabb. Injuries have plagued him and his team. His star wide receiver has been banned from the team. Now there are grumblings that McNabb has lost his team in the locker room.

This past weekend, J. Whyatt Mondesire, President of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), wrote a scathing article about McNabb in the Philadelphia Sun Newspaper. In the article (sorry I could not find a link), Mondesire analyzes the drop off in McNabb's rushing production and concludes that McNabb is trying to fight the stereotype of the scrambling quarterback that is too dumb to run a passing offense even though McNabb has made no such claim. Mondesire accuses McNabb of "playing the race card" and selling out "by claiming that 'everybody expects black quarterbacks to scramble' (which) not only amounts to a breach of faith but also belittles the real struggles of black athletes who've had to overcome real racial stereotype casting in addition to downright segregation." Mondesire also attacks McNabb by calling him "mediocre at best" and went on to say "And trying to disguise that fact behind some concocted reasoning that African American quarterbacks who can scramble and who can run the ball are somehow lesser field generals ... is more insulting off the field than on."

McNabb responded to these comments in the Philadelphia Inquirer saying, "Obviously if it's someone else who is not African American, it's racism. But when someone of the same race talks about you because you're selling out because you're not running the ball, it goes back to: What are we really talking about here? "If you talk about my play, that's one thing. When you talk about my race, now we've got problems. If you're trying to make a name off my name, again, I hope your closet is clean because something is going to come out about you ... I always thought the NAACP supported African Americans and didn't talk bad about them. Now you learn a little bit more."

Donny, Donny, Donny. I'm sorry you had to learn this lesson the hard way, but the NAACP does not look out for you just because you're black. Ask Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, Michael Steele, and Thomas Sowell. These are all prominent African Americans who the NAACP has either at one time opposed or refused to support. Their message is clear if you know how to read between the lines. They are not for the "Advancement of Colored People". They are for the uniformity of "colored people". You see Donny, they like to have all African Americans fit into one mold, or stereotype if you will. That way it's easier to control them. You broke that policy by starting to act more like a white quarterback in their eyes. Remember these are the same people who sanctioned an event where Oreo cookies were thrown at Michael Steele because he is a "black republican".

Normally the NAACP doesn't concern themselves with these types of issues. Normally they are too busy convincing African Americans they are disenfranchised at the polls and the white man won't let them go to college and make good money. The problem that organizations like the NAACP and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have is with each generation more and more African Americans start to achieve the American dream and the scars of slavery and segregation heal a little bit more. As African Americans become more diversified and some of them start to make it in this country, others will start to wake up and realize they can make it too. People who embrace freedom feel a sense of self-governance and responsibility. People like this are less likely to look to social crutches like the NAACP. It's time the NAACP get with the 21st Century. For goodness sakes, the title of their organization still refers to African Americans as "colored people".

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Bush lied, fingers dyed!"

That quote above is from a Tim Blair commentator when the first round of voting took place in Iraq. In Iraq today (yesterday for them), they voted again, this time for a permanent Iraqi government. This is a tremendous moment in Arab history. It is a time when either one of two things have transpired: The creation of popular government that will start a revolution within the greater Arab culture, or the placement of a Band-Aid that will not stop a reversion to despotism.

First, these events are momentous for all Iraqis and for all of the brave Americans (as well as all Coalition forces, Iraqi and others) who have fought so long and hard for events such as this. As I mentioned in another post, so much is owed to the men and women that have served in the United States military. (One look at Michael Yon's breathtaking photograph sums up this sentiment. It is the second picture in the slideshow.) It is a moral imperative that no matter what occurs in the next days and months after this election, we should all glorify the work and persons of the United States military that have given millions a chance at personal autonomy when years ago, such a thought was dubious at least, life threatening at worst.

The question before us today is what is to be made of this event in the grand scheme of things. The true implications are, unfortunately, a distant revelation. There is no denying this process is pushing toward dynamic change in the Arab culture. Iraqis are fulfilling the concept civic happiness (see here, here and here), as the American Declaration of Independence so perfectly states. The question is, will this push be victorious, or in vain?

The always insightful Lee Harris at Tech Central Station writes that there is still something missing in Iraq, and that is a "dictator":

Dictatorial is the right word for the kind of power that some single man must be given in Iraq if there is to be any chance at achieving political stability. There is no substitute for political stability, nor can anything of permanent value be done in a society that lacks it. That is why states of emergency are states of emergency: nothing else goes on during them, everything productive and useful grinds to a halt for as long as they last. That is why the only remedy for such a situation is the assumption of absolute authority on the part of someone. A state of emergency is not the time for parliamentary debates or the writing of constitutions or for the deliberation of committees; it is not the time for the sharing of power among the quarreling groups that must be compelled to unite in a common project. Nor can it be resolved by passing laws that no one obeys, or training a better security force that no one commands. A state of emergency needs a dictator.

His argument is well noted and even makes practical sense. The greatest importance to Lee Harris is "political stability" and I could not agree more. How this is best achieved is my point of contention with Mr. Harris.

He argues that the Iraqi government is not a natural, or "organic" political system. This is true in the sense that Hussein's regime was removed by outside force, then a new political process was spurred by this same force. However, the new Iraqi government is organic in the sense that popular vote has decided this current course. (In so much as elected representation is direct.) But that is certainly the crux of the matter. The new Iraqi government is only just now, in this year, becoming a government that derives its power and authority from the ground up. The revolutionary idea of the American Revolution is that government power derives from the bottom up, rather than the top down. This creates a system of trust, which was broken during the American Civil War, then restored by force. But to use this example as Lee Harris has done, the reason a dictator in the Iraqi conflict is erroneous because it cannot be implemented without the usurpation of popular government as was the case during the Civil War. Iraq has just now established popular government on this day. Therefore, dictator (or dictatorial powers) cannot be an option, as it was with the Roman Republic or during the American Civil War. It will only be a path to sustained despotism in a country that understands this power. For the Romans or Americans, dictator, or dictatorial powers were foreign to those currently living, therefore, tyranny was foreign to Cincinnatus and Lincoln. Tyranny is not foreign to any current Iraqi.

So dictator is not a logical option and immediate withdrawl is ludicrous; the course is set. The Bush strategy is the only rational option left for Iraq. Obviously, there have been failures. But this course has given Iraqis hope and many around the globe hope that a stable, democratic Iraq will emerge. Lee Harris himself has called this a "Gamble" and it is in many respects. This is the reason I used that quote as the title of this post. The Iraq war is Bush's legacy to the world. That legacy so far is the voting of millions of Iraqis... but it could also be America's biggest blunder. So as pundits and writers and partisans rush to tell us all why the terrorists are finally defeated or why the world is about to implode, let's give millions of Iraqis and thousands of soldiers a day to celebrate the most important day in Iraq's history... they deserve at least one.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Profiling for Pedophiles

About a year ago, Mark Worsley got on a Quantas flight in New Zealand. He was traveling with his two year old twin sons. He got on the plane and took his assigned seat next to an eight year old boy. Shortly after takeoff from Christchurch the flight attendant approached him and told him he needed to change seats with the woman two rows ahead of him. When he asked why he needed to change seats the flight attendant told him the airline has a policy of not seating male passengers next to unaccompanied children. Mr. Worsley obliged the flight attendant, but as he sat in his new seat and thought about the situation, he started to realize that the airline had profiled him as a pedophile. The more Mr. Worsley thought about it, the angrier he got. He didn't want to cause a scene on the flight because he was aware you just can't do that in a post 9/11 world. But since the incident Mr. Worsley has been very vocal about the fact he felt he was discriminated against and he has contacted the Nation Party Political Correctness Eradicator, Wayne Mapp* to assist him in getting Quantas and Air New Zealand, which admits to having a similar practice, to change their policies.

Is this a situation of profiling run amuck? I must admit this is a tough one for me to reconcile in my head. I can see the argument for wanting to protect children from pedophiles. While the child is on that plane, they are the legal guardians and can be held responsible for anything that happens to that child. But at the same time I can understand why this man was upset. If it were me, I would probably feel a little embarrassed and angry myself. But after pondering it for awhile, I have come to my own conclusion that the airline has gone too far in this one.

I think profiling can be a useful tool when used properly by law enforcement officials. It is a fact that most terrorists tend to be muslim males of middle eastern decent between the ages of 25 and 35. But they represent a small portion of the American population, so profiling them makes reasonable sense to me. In contrast, these airlines have instituted a policy of profiling fifty percent of the population. When you are talking about such a large portion like that, profiling loses its effectiveness.

That being said, it seems like something that is easy for the airline to do. It doesn't really require any extra resources which pass extra costs onto the consumer. As long as they don't deny access to the plane to anyone, I don't see this as discrimination. Mr. Worsley is trying to turn this into a Rosa Parks type event, but I'm just not seeing that. But there are other things the airline can do to prevent children from being seated next to a sexual predator.

Mr. Worsley was put in a situation where he was made the center of attention on the plane and some people may have perceived that to mean he was a problemed individual. That isn't right. In this day and age, we can single out child predators more effectively than just assuming every male is a potential sexual predator. The United States has set up national child predator databases. Flight passenger lists should be cross checked against those databases and in the event there is a match the suspected pedophile should be seated as far away from the child as possible and the flight crew should be discretely notified to keep the person and child on close watch. The parents of the child should be notified that there will be a convicted sexual offender on the flight with their child and give them the option of choosing another flight. In addition, unaccompanied children should be seated with a flight attendant or other airline official. Beyond that, if the airline wishes to seat unaccompanied children next to female passengers, I don't have a problem with it. But when mistakes are made, all efforts should be made to handle the situation in a discrete non-offensive manner. In the case of Mr. Worsley, that didn't happen.

(* - How cool is it that the New Zealand National Party has a Political Correctness Eradicator? How do we get one of those?)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

(Un)Civil Rights

This morning I was listening to Michael Smerconish on the way to work as I always do. I wish I could find a link to the story he was discussing, but thus far I have been unsuccessful. If I find a link, I'll be sure to post it here, but for now you can go to Mike's website which I linked above and check out his "Must Read of the Day." (Warning - Adult Content) I will try to remember the situation he discussed as best I can.

Today he was discussing an event at the University of Pennsylvania where a male student was looking out his dorm window. Across the quad or the street or whatever, he had a view of another dorm building. In one of the windows, he saw a male and female student engaged in sexual acts. From what I gathered from the discussion Mike had on the radio, the couple was clearly performing an act of exhibitionism. Anybody walking by the building would have seen them. The male onlooker took a picture of this couple from his window. Then he posted the picture on his website.

Now the University is punishing the student who took the picture for sexual harrassment. I didn't catch the punishment on the radio, but I suspect it is probably a suspension. My question to the readers is, does the student deserve to be punished for this?

I can understand if the University is punishing the student for using the university computers or servers to post pornographic material on the internet, but let's leave that out of discussion since the university says the student is being punished for sexual harrassment. Let's say the couple was looking for a thrill and willfully did what they did in front of the window with the intent of wanting to be seen. Now they are upset that their momentary act is frozen in time on the internet. Should this student be punished for giving them what they wanted? Were their civil rights violated by this kid? Let's start the discussion there and then I will add some twists to it.

Update: Here is a link to the Story.

Update #2: The university has met with the student that took the photograph and has decided to drop all charges against him.