Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why I Disagree But Respect John McCain

Now I’m the first one to admit that I blasted John McCain last week over his song, “Bomb Iran.” I don’t think that comments like that should be made in a time where there is serious debate about the Iraq war by someone who is seeking a position to lead this country.

That being said, I have to admit, I do respect McCain. Twice already the Arizona Republican presidential candidate has told those who found his singing to be off key or his recent improvised explosive device (IED) joke to Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart to “get a life.” (Yes, pictures of William Shatner telling Star Trek fans the same thing in a Saturday Night Live skit are floating in my head.)

Both the singing and the IED joke did put a smile on my face, I’ll admit that. I don’t think the IED joke to Stewart was all that bad compared to “Bomb Iran,” because it was not a direct “threat” to anyone, unlike the song. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., disagrees.

Why do I respect McCain for telling me and others to get a life? Easy, because he isn’t acting like a spineless politician, that’s why. Many politicians constantly recant their statements so they don’t offend anyone and lose voters, even over the most insignificant things. In fact, most politicians would have apologized the very next day if they sang “Bomb Iran.” Not McCain.

It’s truly a breath of fresh air to see a politician, especially a presidential candidate, not back down over something like this. If someone makes an off-color joke, they’ll apologize and seek spiritual counseling or other such nonsense to make amends and continue to get votes.

Not McCain and that’s why we need more politicians like him. He’s basically telling people to “suck it up and deal with it.” And let’s have a show of hands, how many politicians would have the stones to publicly tell someone that? None. It’s that glimmer of toughness that has served McCain so well in his political career. And he’s going to need it in the coming months.

While I may not agree with McCain’s singing career, I do respect him for telling me and others to get a life. And it certainly is a glimpse of the entertainment that is still to come.

What’s The Point Of The Timetable Bill?

I’m sorry but I just don’t get what the House and the Senate have done. As we all know, today the Senate rebelliously passed a bill calling for U.S. combat forces to withdraw from Iraq next year.

Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus and other senior defense officials went to Capital Hill on the day the House voted on the bill to tell legislators to reconsider the timetable, saying that progress is being made but it will take time. And let’s not forget what many have been saying for a long time now: A withdraw will give the insurgents enough time to regroup and wait for the pullout and then take over Iraq in a bloody battle. And let’s not forget that we will be giving al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups a victory that will inspire them to continue their bloody Jihad against the world.

And the president has already said he will veto the bill, so what is the point of acting defiant? To send a message to the president, America and the world that they want the troops home? Big hairy deal, for years now Democrats and few Republicans have called for troop withdraw. They don’t need a bill to make that point. It’s time to stop playing politics with our troops lives and the safety of this nation and others.

But the Democrats, sadly, have made a good point as to why President Bush won in the last election. They are not showing the foresight that is needed to deal with terrorists and the safety of this country. What do they expect to happen if there is a timetable that would withdraw our troops before Iraq is ready to deal with the insurgents and terrorists? How will this affect the U.S. and Iraq and the rest of the world if Iraq is taken over by people who have vowed to kill those who do not share their views?

Because they are not asking these questions or listening to the consequences that military experts are warning of, they are not showing the interests of this country or Iraq but they are showing a way for them to win the White House in 2008.

And within those four years in office, how will that Democratic president explain to America that we need to go back into Iraq and deal with a war machine bent on supporting terrorism and destroying lives? How will that president, who voted for this bill, look Americans in the eye and tell us that it will be a harder, bloodier war because the enemy had years of preparation, planning and support? And what kind of answer will this future Democratic president give when someone asks: Why didn’t you want to deal with this when it was far more manageable than it is now?

And if it doesn’t seem manageable now, wait until the insurgents take over Iraq, and they provide funds for terrorist black markets, training grounds and attacks. And while this is only speculation but a good educated guess by what has been reported on, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will get the nuclear weapons/components he is seeking, as a payback for funding the insurgents. (Let’s not forget that there is strong evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had sent his WMDs to Syria long before the war started. An insurgent-controlled Iraq in four years will certainly have them shipped back.)

It’s not a pretty picture and it’s far from being finished but it is something that supporters of the bill fail to see or consider. Is it a possible scenario? After the 9/11 attacks, we simply can’t afford to see the glass as half full when innocent lives are on the line.

Friday, April 20, 2007

McCain’s Off-Key Iran Song

It seems that John McCain is giving up his day job as presidential candidate and going into the music biz. During a campaign stop, an audience member asked him what should be done about Iran, in which the Republican senator from Arizona broke into song, parodying the Beach Boys’ song "Barbara Ann," with “Bomb Iran.”

Sure, he only sung a lyric of the no-hit wonder song and it certainly brings back memories of a former Democratic presidential candidate’s scream fest. Did McCain forget that Howard Dean’s poll numbers dropped by like 20 points before his beat-red face had a chance to cool down?

Besides giving the funny folks at JibJab something to do, McCain, and any other presidential candidate, has to watch what they say and do. You simply can’t joke about certain things and while it was clever and I have to admit, I did get a little chuckle over it, I don’t think this will hurt McCain, but it will come back to haunt him.

Plus, he is running a mud-flinging race in the hopes of being this country’s leader. Joking about bombing a country, even Iran with its shady deals, is not going to make many Americans breathe easy, especially with the daily killings by insurgents and terrorists in Iraq in the forefronts of everyone’s mind.

People already think that President Bush is half-crazy about war but doing a Brian Wilson-impersonation of bombing Iran is not going to win McCain any points.

(Editor’s Note: Turns out my prediction was right, McCain’s song will come back to haunt him. plans to run an ad denouncing McCain’s comments and plans on spending $100,000 on a TV commercial that will air in Iowa and New Hampshire, where they hold early contests in the presidential nomination process, according to the AP.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What Can Be Drawn From The Virginia Tech Shooting

It was a horrific tragedy that happened on the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech just a few short days ago, where 32 innocent lives were violently taken away, with the disturbed gunman taking his own.

As with many devastating events such as this, there is always talk about this country’s gun laws and gun culture. A day after the April 16 shooting, many politicians, gun opponents and Europeans voiced their concerns about the killings, laying blame on the availability of guns in America.

They will have knee-jerk reactions to this and damning the right to bear arms while at the same time, Europe will pat themselves on the back for their strict gun laws. However, one really needs to sit back and look at the other side of the issue and realize that strict gun control laws may not be the cure-all for violent crime in this country or any other.

A few years ago, in 2004, right before the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was about to expire during the last presidential elections, a very quiet U.S. Department of Justice report was released that showed that the ban did not do anything to stop crime. Called “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2004,” it was the third such report by the department; the other two were under the Clinton Administration.

“Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of large capacity magazines in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence,” the report stated.

This report did not get much coverage in the media, even though the ban was a hot topic among the gun community, either for opponents or supporters. (Although, a certain editor for a great news blog happened upon the report by accident while writing about the ban when working for a weekly newspaper.)

A popular myth about gun control is that less guns means less crime or that most gun owners do not actually defend themselves against criminals. Well, researchers such as Gary Kleck, Ph.D., and others show that citizens who legally own guns live in low-crime areas and they actually protect themselves.

It’s interesting how it does not get reported how honest citizens with guns actually help stop crimes, such as the Pearl, Mississippi school shooting, where an assistant principal used his own gun to subdue a teen gunman. Or how two armed Appalachian School of Law students subdued a killer with a gun. But alleged media bias is a different topic for a different day.

Getting back on topic, our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., has strict gun control laws but the crime rate is extremely high. While according to a mother of a Virginia Tech student, many students on campus are hunters and belong to gun clubs but do not bring their weapons to school.

In fact, many down South own guns yet they do not have the violent crime rate that cities like Washington, D.C. or New York have, where gun laws are strict. It’s safe to say that the South have more of an understanding and respect for guns than the North.

Many gun opponents look at Europe as a utopia because of their hard stance on bearing arms. However, the reality is criminals can still get their hands on guns from the black market or use other weapons, such as knifes. In 2003, England saw a 12-percent jump of violent crime between April and June of that year. And gun crimes also increased as well. In fact, a British burglar was interviewed about England’s gun laws and he said it made him feel safer to break into other people’s homes since they can't defend themselves. But this is something that Europe and gun opponents like to keep a silencer on, if you pardon the pun.

What is interesting is that many liberals who say that the Patriot Act takes away too many civil liberties are more than happy to take away the Second Amendment from honest citizens who either want to protect themselves and their families or they want to enjoy hunting or target shooting. You simply cannot have it both ways.

The sad reality is that bad people do bad things. Cho Seung-Hui is a good example of this. But let’s look at a man who walked into a Japanese language school with a knife and a baseball bat and beat a student. And speaking about Japan and gun laws, Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh died of gun wounds from a known criminal and this is a country known for its gun control laws.

There are two sides to every issue but extreme solutions and knee-jerk reactions (and non-objective reporting) will do more harm than good. Let this tragedy be a reminder to all of us that no one is truly safe no matter where we happen to live or the safe guards that are meant to protect us. And it is foolish to restrict our Constitutional Right to bear arms and protect ourselves and our loved ones the way we see fit.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Damaged Caused By The Duke Lie

The charges have been dropped against the Duke lacrosse players because there was not sufficient evidence, plus the alleged victim kept changing her story.

Now, I'll admit that once the story first broke, I thought they were guilty. A normal knee jerk reaction when you hear about a bunch of rich, white guys partying at an expensive school who allegedly raped a black stripper. These ingredients gave this so much coverage at first. But I had enough experience as a newspaper man to step back and say "OK, let's cool down and let's look at the evidence before final judgment can be made."

And once the evidence came in, DA Michael Nifong should have closed the case. Both the state crime laboratory and a private one, DNA Security of Burlington, showed that none of the 46 of the 47 team members tested had sex or raped the alleged victim, Crystal Gail Mangum. Interestingly enough, Nifong went to DNA Security of Burlington after he saw the results of the state crime lab.

In fact, Mangum kept changing her story so much that the only person she could ID as her attacker with 100 percent accuracy in two photo line-ups was Brad Ross, who was with his girlfriend the whole time the alleged incident took place and was not even at the party. Cell phone records and a sworn affidavit from a taxi driver that he used confirm this.

And it’s important to note that she kept changing the number of her attackers, their identities and the type of sex/rape acts done to her.

But I am glad that justice has been done: Those boys are cleared of a crime they didn't commit, the alleged victim is known as a liar (and interestingly enough, is not the first time she accused someone of raping her but failed to help in that investigation) and that Nifong is shown to be the incompetent DA that he is.

And how Nifong, whose actions are questionable and might be disbarred, allowed this case to be dragged out for so long is anyone’s guest. But it is interesting that since January of this year, that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper found these young men innocent after taking in the facts of the case in only three short months.

However, once someone is accused of such an atrocious crime, even if they are shown to be innocent, the damage is done. These people will be accused all their lives, even though there was adequate evidence from the very started that provided their innocence. There will be those small-minded or doubtful people who will still say they are guilty and nothing will change their minds, even if they hear Mangum’s own confession.

This is a painful lesson that destroyed many lives and ruined careers and hopefully, DAs and those looking to make a quick buck will think twice the next time an accusation is made. And it should be noted that Mangum damaged the credibility of real raped victims. How she is not punished is a crime in itself.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Iraqis Want U.S. Out

Many Iraqis held a peaceful march, protesting America’s stay in Iraq and chanting how they want the U.S. military out of the country.

What I found interesting is that Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had his statements read during the rally, saying that since the war, many Iraqi people are dead and wounded. At least he had the good decency to tell his followers to stop killing Iraqis. Because those who have been kidnapped, tortured and killed were victims of insurgents. The same insurgents who claim to have the people’s best interest at heart, while threatening and ending their lives.

Al-Sadr is currently in hiding because of the new Iraq crackdown but it’s nice to know he can enjoy the freedom of speech he is trying to squash.

President Bush doesn’t want our military out of Iraq until the government, voted by the people of the country, can defend itself from the insurgents. A timetable would just give the insurgents time to gather their supplies until they can take over the country once the
coalition has pulled out.

But let’s say the Iraqi government does want the U.S. out? Who would be blamed for the bloodbath that would happen? The Iraqi government and the people who are protesting, because they wanted military forces out of Iraq or the U.S. for doing what was requested of them?

It’s a no-win situation right now in Iraq. And with people marching and protesting America’s occupation, it is not helping matters any, even though American troops are putting their lives on the line when they fight or capture terrorists or insurgents bent on taking away the freedoms that the Iraqi people are now enjoying. After all, back when Saddam was leader, do you think he would allow thousands to protest him? No, he wouldn’t allow that and if insurgents take over Iraq, they won’t allow that freedom either.

If Iraq and its government truly want the U.S. out, then we should probably respect their wishes but in good conscious, can we allow that if it meant the end of the freedoms they voted for and their very lives?