Thursday, March 30, 2006

What Will the People Decide?

Okay, it seems Voter Initiative is getting people excited and a primary reason offered for supporting it is that ideas currently are being squelshed by the General Assembly will get at least a shot at the First Tuesday in November. I'm skeptical that after a few years we will find it just made things worse.

So here's your chance: tell me in the Comments Section of this post what should go on the ballot and why. No dissertations, one paragraph will do. Show me by example that VI is a good idea (or that it is just another resort of scoundrels).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Let the People Decide?

With the Voter Initiative drive, which seeks to give any group the ability to put questions to a general referendum, gaining momentum, it is becoming necessary to decide which way to go on this issue. The idea of a more direct democracy seems appealing, but a recent action by Matthew Thomas, chief sachem of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, shows how voter initiative will be corrupted by special interests. As explained in the Providence Journal today, Thomas has requested that the V.I. Alliance "announce publicly its unconditional support of a constitutional amendment to 'let the people decide' the Narragansett Indian casino."

This is precisely why voter initiative is a bad idea. Not because the voters can't make decisions about how to run the State, but because the process will be perverted from the idealism that originally fuels it. Legislatures are better ideas than kings, but can anybody really say that the RI legislature has been the epitome of good governance. If voter initiative passes it will give another avenue for the special interests to overwhelm the electorate, but now without the benefit of an established opposition ready to debate the issue. Opponents of an idea will have to scramble like mad under a severe timeline. It will be like a trick play in football; the defense simpley will have no time to prepare to stop it. There will be no way to build in sundown clauses or checks and balances. There is no guarantee that future legislation will control any crazy idea that passes. Someone once said, "there is a simple answer to every problem, an in every case it is the wrong answer."

We have a problem right now with our legislature being controlled by special interests. Why create another tool for the special interests to use against us? Let's fix the problem, not add to it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Uncivil War

Why can't we just let Iraq come to closure when it's time to come to closure? This week I was listening to Imus in the Morning. He had the Lardball Chris Matthews on whose cable TV show evidently is the fourth most watched program by Conservatives. I don't know why. The guy is a former Democrat operator who was maybe a little critical of his own party during the licentious Clinton years, but so what. He speaks for conservatives?

He was appallingly off base about Iraq, getting in line with all the others of his ilk in calling it a "Civil War."

Here's an excerpt from a very recent Weekly Standard editorial by William Kristol and Frederick W. Kagan on this subject:

Within hours of the bombing of the al-Askariya shrine in Samarra on February 22, the media were filled with warnings that Iraq was sinking into civil war. Of course, almost any insurgency is, in a sense, a civil war, and sectarian violence has marked this insurgency from the very beginning. But the fact is that we are not facing a civil war in Iraq, with large scale military formations fighting one another along ethnic and sectarian lines. Moreover, we can very likely prevent this outcome, and, even better, make real progress toward victory.

What was striking, following the mosque bombing, was the evidence of Iraq's underlying stability in the face of attempts to undermine it. The country's vital institutions seem to have grown strong enough to withstand even the provocation of the bombing of the golden mosque.

In the wake of the bombing, it is true, militias took to the streets, and widespread sectarian violence occurred, killing and wounding many Iraqis. But not a single Iraqi political leader, including the volatile Moktada al-Sadr, endorsed an expansion of the violence. On the contrary, all joined to condemn it, to support government efforts to curtail it, and called on their followers to stop it. The Iraqi army and police were sent out to enforce curfews and stop traffic in many areas. Even in this crisis, they executed their orders, and shut down the great bulk of the violence within several days. Within a fortnight, Sunni leaders who had boycotted discussions aimed at forming a government reentered negotiations, and Iraqi politics--turbulent and nerve-wracking as it is--began again. This is not the performance of a society on the brink of civil war.

The tenacity of the Iraqi army is particularly notable. Iraqi soldiers are granted leave every month to hand-carry their salaries back home, in the absence of a reliable banking system. Especially for Shiites deployed in the Sunni triangle, this is a dangerous undertaking. Yet every month almost every Iraqi soldier "re-ups" by returning to his unit. This fact speaks volumes about the commitment of those soldiers and their professionalism in the face of the current dangers. If the situation began to spiral into real civil war, these Shiite soldiers would simply start deserting in droves, some of them to join up with Shiite militias. They are not doing so.

But read the whole thing.

Why is it important that we move beyond this rhetoric that Iraq is a civil war from which we should duck and run?

Last week the Wall Street Journal listed all the things that are likely to happen if we were to leave Iraq prematurely, and they are not pretty, in the sense that they were reminiscent of the pre 9-11 days -- days when we were vulnerable to and then recipients of terrorism in our own land.

That's why Chris Matthews' views are disturbing. I know one conservative who won't watch Lardball.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Falling Man

falling man
Originally uploaded by chucknevol.
From Michelle Malkin:

His identity has not been confirmed, though many have speculated over the last 4 1/2 years. Tom Junod wrote an extraordinary piece for Eqsuire in September 2003 on "The Falling Man," offering several possibilities. His piece ended with this one:

Jonathan Briley worked at Windows on the World. Some of his coworkers, when they saw Richard Drew's photographs, thought he might be the Falling Man. He was a light-skinned black man. He was over six five. He was forty-three. He had a mustache and a goatee and close-cropped hair. He had a wife named Hillary.
Jonathan Briley's father is a preacher, a man who has devoted his whole life to serving the Lord. After September 11, he gathered his family together to ask God to tell him where his son was. No: He demanded it. He used these words: "Lord, I demand to know where my son is." For three hours straight, he prayed in his deep voice, until he spent the grace he had accumulated over a lifetime in the insistence of his appeal.

The next day, the FBI called. They'd found his son's body. It was, miraculously, intact.

The preacher's youngest son, Timothy, went to identify his brother. He recognized him by his shoes: He was wearing black high-tops. Timothy removed one of them and took it home and put it in his garage, as a kind of memorial.

Timothy knew all about the Falling Man. He is a cop in Mount Vernon, New York, and in the week after his brother died, someone had left a September 12 newspaper open in the locker room. He saw the photograph of the Falling Man and, in anger, he refused to look at it again. But he couldn't throw it away. Instead, he stuffed it in the bottom of his locker, where—like the black shoe in his garage—it became permanent.

Jonathan's sister Gwendolyn knew about the Falling Man, too. She saw the picture the day it was published. She knew that Jonathan had asthma, and in the smoke and the heat would have done anything just to breathe. . . .

The both of them, Timothy and Gwendolyn, knew what Jonathan wore to work on most days. He wore a white shirt and black pants, along with the high-top black shoes. Timothy also knew what Jonathan sometimes wore under his shirt: an orange T-shirt. Jonathan wore that orange T-shirt everywhere. He wore that shirt all the time. He wore it so often that Timothy used to make fun of him: When are you gonna get rid of that orange T-shirt, Slim?

But when Timothy identified his brother's body, none of his clothes were recognizable except the black shoes. And when Jonathan went to work on the morning of September 11, 2001, he'd left early and kissed his wife goodbye while she was still sleeping. She never saw the clothes he was wearing. After she learned that he was dead, she packed his clothes away and never inventoried what specific articles of clothing might be missing.

Is Jonathan Briley the Falling Man? He might be. But maybe he didn't jump from the window as a betrayal of love or because he lost hope. Maybe he jumped to fulfill the terms of a miracle. Maybe he jumped to come home to his family. Maybe he didn't jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God.

Oh, no. You have to fall.

Yes, Jonathan Briley might be the Falling Man. But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky—falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame—the Falling Man—became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew's photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.

Saddam's Terror Connections

As mentioned in earlier posts, we mentioned that the documents seized during the early hours of Iraq war are only now beginning to be examined. Steven Hayes at the Weekly Standard has been remarking that these documents will tell a story of how Saddam Hussein was, in fact, a major component of the world wide terrorist efforts against the West. Something which the current opponents to the war don't think exists. Now in a recent piece published in the Weekly Standard, Hayes provides some facts. An excerpt below (HT: Hugh Hewitt):

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S REGIME PROVIDED FINANCIAL support to Abu Sayyaf, the al Qaeda-linked jihadist group founded by Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law in the Philippines in the late 1990s, according to documents captured in postwar Iraq. An eight-page fax dated June 6, 2001, and sent from the Iraqi ambassador in Manila to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad, provides an update on Abu Sayyaf kidnappings and indicates that the Iraqi regime was providing the group with money to purchase weapons. The Iraqi regime suspended its support--temporarily, it seems--after high-profile kidnappings, including of Americans, focused international attention on the terrorist group.

But read the whole thing.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Chafee Backpeddles

Chafee has announced late this afternoon that the Projo reporter got it all wrong. That he is NOT, after all, refusing to rule out a censure of President Bush. Below is his statement:

"As I stated on Tuesday, I do not support Senator Russell Feingold's resolution to censure the President. In a news article, the Providence Journal reporter chose to interpret the notion that I will not rule out the censure of any President in any number of hypothetical circumstances as an endorsement of the drastic censure resolution currently being offered in the Senate. This is misleading considering my recent comments on this issue. From the first mention of this resolution, I have never expressed support for it."

This is what Projo's John Mulligan stated on the front page article in today's paper:

"However, Chafee said he does not rule out an eventual decision to back the censure resolution, introduced Monday. He also welcomed the public argument that Feingold has spurred about the surveillance program. "You just don't hear it -- any outrage, or questioning of it, or even support," Chafee said, referring to what he considers to be a dearth of debate in Rhode Island about the wiretapping. Chafee has jumped into a debate that Feingold's fellow Democrats have treated with uneasiness at a moment when polls show most Americans supporting the wiretap program -- even as they give Mr. Bush low approval ratings overall."

I guess I can understand how Mulligan might have misunderstood Chafee.

Doesn't everyone?

Chafee provides yet another reason for rank and file Republicans to oppose his re-election to the US Senate.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Broke Lego Mountain

From Jonathan Last:

The Oscars are behind us and, as a parting wave to Brokeback Mountain, which no longer appears capable of leaving behind a cultural footprint even the size of Philadelphia or The Crying Game, I give you this little gem: A website whose proprietor has recreated many of the scenes from the movie. Using Legos. I'm promising hours of enjoyment for the whole family.

Misunderstanding Free Speech at the World Baseball Classic

From the WSJ:

Last night Cuba's baseball team walloped the Netherlands nine, 11-2, at the World Baseball Classic in Puerto Rico's Hiram Bithorn stadium. But the biggest flap came in the stands, as a spectator held up a sign saying "Down with Fidel" that was visible to TV viewers, including those watching from Cuba. The sign's appearance caused Angel Iglesias, vice president of Cuba's National Institute of Sports, to rush over and confront the man; Puerto Rican police then intervened and hauled Mr. Iglesias off to a police station for a talking-to about free speech. Today Cuba's Revolutionary Sports Movement urged Cubans to demonstrate in Havana, charging that U.S. and Puerto Rican authorities were involved what it called "cynical counterrevolutionary provocations."

Cuba Libre!

Sunday, March 05, 2006


In today's Projo in print, Mark Arsenault has a piece on Chafee's elation over the Matt Brown funding fiasco. Chafee referred to Brown's temporary misfortune as schadenfreude, a German term meaning the feeling of satisfaction over someone else's misfortunes. "I have a little bit of schadenfreude with Matt Brown today," Chafee exclaimed.

Schadenfreude may also be the feeling a number of Republicans will have on Primary day when Chafee observes the results of that election; and I don't think Chafee, himself, will be among those experiencing schadenfreude.

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