Friday, January 30
I digress. Blago's gone! Though his departure was bittersweet with his successful maneuvering of his guy into the Senate seat, worse could've happened and at least he's finally OUT. AWESOME!
Saturday, January 24
Thursday, January 22
By Karl Rove
Its call sign has always been Air Force One. But on Tuesday, it was Special Air Mission 28000, as former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura returned home to Texas on a plane full of family, friends, former staff and memories of eight years in the White House.
A video tribute produced warm laughter and inevitable tears. There was no bitterness, but rather a sense of gratitude -- gratitude for the opportunity to serve, for able and loyal colleagues, and above all for our country and its people.
Yet, as Mr. Bush left Washington, in a last angry frenzy his critics again distorted his record, maligned his character and repeated untruths about his years in the Oval Office. Nothing they wrote or said changes the essential facts.
To start with, Mr. Bush was right about Iraq. The world is safer without Saddam Hussein in power. And the former president was right to change strategy and surge more U.S. troops.
A legion of critics (including President Barack Obama) claimed it couldn't work. They were wrong. Iraq is now on the mend, the war is on the path to victory, al Qaeda has been dealt a humiliating defeat, and a democracy in the heart of the Arab world is emerging. The success of Mr. Bush's surge made it possible for President Obama to warn terrorists on Tuesday "you cannot outlast us."
Mr. Bush was right to establish a doctrine that holds those who harbor, train and support terrorists as responsible as the terrorists themselves. He was right to take the war on terror abroad instead of waiting until dangers fully materialize here at home. He was right to strengthen the military and intelligence and to create the new tools to monitor the communications of terrorists, freeze their assets, foil their plots, and kill and capture their operators.
These tough decisions -- which became unpopular in certain quarters only when memories of 9/11 began to fade -- kept America safe for seven years and made it possible for Mr. Obama to tell the terrorists on Tuesday "we will defeat you."
Mr. Bush was right to be a unilateralist when it came to combating AIDS in Africa. While world leaders dithered, his President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative brought lifesaving antiretroviral drugs to millions of Africans.
At home, Mr. Bush cut income taxes for every American who pays taxes. He also cut taxes on capital, investment and savings. The result was 52 months of growth and the strongest economy of any developed country.
Mr. Bush was right to match tax cuts with spending restraint. This is a source of dispute, especially among conservatives, but the record is there to see. Bill Clinton's last budget increased domestic nonsecurity discretionary spending by 16%. Mr. Bush cut that to 6.2% growth in his first budget, 5.5% in his second, 4.3% in his third, 2.2% in his fourth, and then below inflation, on average, since. That isn't the sum total of the fiscal record, of course -- but it's a key part of it.
He was right to have modernized Medicare with prescription drug benefits provided through competition, not delivered by government. The program is costing 40% less than projected because market forces dominate and people -- not government -- are making the decisions.
Mr. Bush was right to pass No Child Left Behind (NCLB), requiring states to set up tough accountability systems that measure every child's progress at school. As a result, reading and math scores have risen more in the last five years since NCLB than in the prior 28 years.
He was right to stand for a culture of life. And he was right to appoint conservative judges who strictly interpret the Constitution.
And Mr. Bush, a man of core decency and integrity, was right not to reply in kind when Democratic leaders called him a liar and a loser. The price of trying to change the tone in Washington was to be often pummeled by lesser men.
Few presidents had as many challenges arise during their eight years, had as many tough calls to make in such a partisan-charged environment, or had to act in the face of such hostile media and elite opinion.
On board Special Air Mission 28000, I remembered the picture I carried in my pocket on my first Air Force One flight eight years ago. It was an old black-and-white snapshot with scalloped edges. It showed Lyndon Johnson in the Cabinet Room, head in hand, weeping over a Vietnam casualty report. George Christian, LBJ's press secretary, gave it to me as a reminder that the job could break anyone, no matter how big and tough.
But despite facing challenges and crises few others have, the job did not break George W. Bush. Though older and grayer, his brows more furrowed, he is the same man he was, a person of integrity who did what he believed was right. And he exits knowing he summoned all of his energy and talents to defend America and advance its ideals at home and abroad. He didn't get everything right -- no president does -- but he got the most important things right. And that is enough.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
Wednesday, January 21
0630: The Marines chosen to participate as representatives of the United States Marine Corps Reserve arrive at the unit stationed at Washington's Naval District. They have been selected from the Distribution Liaison Company, 4th Supply Battalion, 4th MLG and the 4th Civil Affairs Group, Marine Force Reserve.
0730: As Marines, preparation is everything--whether readiness for war or the celebration and honoring of a new president. This day will be spent preparing and practicing the drill movements to be used in the parade march. The primary drill movements include bringing the rifles to the left shoulder, the right shoulder, and port arms where the rifle is held in front of the Marines.
The formation is actually split into 3 platoons in columns of 3--each with their own platoon sergeants and platoon commanders, but to the viewer, it appears as a solid block of a 9-by-9, 81 Marine formation.
0930: The drilling continues throughout the morning and the ceremonial 8th and I Marines show up to practice with us. The 8th and I Marines appear in state ceremonies, Marine Corps Advertisements, and many other faces of the Corps but are perhaps best known for being responsible for the Silent Drill Platoon that performs all across the country.
1300: The preparation culminates in final practicing that lasts several hours on the parade deck. Having a chance to talk to the 8th and I Marines, we all joke around about and share our experiences in the Corps.
1800: Practice for the day is completed and square-away time is given to allow us the chance to inspect and fine-tune our uniforms for the following day.
0430: We awake early to eat some quick morning chow of eggs, sausage, and pancake squares (not quite as appealing as it sounds, trust me) then get dressed in our uniforms.
0630: We load the buses and head out with our rifles to the "dirty" site where our buses will be inspected and we will pass through Secret Service security checkpoints equipped with magnometers and K-9 units. Following security and on our way to the "clean" staging area, crowds cheered as the Marines went by and I was astounded by the hundreds of thousands of people that made a lawn over the mall--each person a mere blade of grass it seemed.
1000: We finally arrive at the tents where we will wait until our group is called to line up. As Division 2, 5th element, we will be at the front portion of the parade which carries 6 divisions with many elements in each.
1300: We line up outside where we quickly find that the cold is pervasive and ceaseless in its attempts to wear us down but we're reassured by our commanders that Marines have been through worse many times in the past and come through victoriously nonetheless.
Finally, several hours later, we make the start of the parade route after having marched several blocks already and stood in the cold much longer than anyone anticipated. I thought my feet might never thaw--fortunately they warmed up after we began marching and were saved from being frostbitten.
After marching for block after block, I could see the Presidential Viewing Stand approaching. What a rush to know that the President, Vice President, their families, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and many other would watch us as we smartly marched past. Being on the direct close edge of the formation to the President, I glanced from the corner of my eye and there they were, not 20 feet away, looking on proudly to those that they would command. It was humbling to know the power that that man wields and also gave me a lot of pride to know that we would make history together in the coming years--the new President and an ever-ready Marine Corps.
This is a timeline of what it took a single group to prepare and enter the parade route. Many groups from all over the country were on-site including bands from Delaware who followed us in the line-up. I don't doubt all groups that proudly marched in the parade practiced and prepared for many hours and equally felt the impact of the cold January day in Washington.
As a Marine, I was greatly honored to be able to participate in the celebration of our nation's 44th president. It is a rare opportunity and but as a Marine, I know the value of freedom and peaceful transitions of power which many countries around the world do not enjoy as readily as ours.
Wednesday, January 7
I've just gotten word that sketchy Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, was caught up in infidelity with the riding instructor of his older daughter. His wife and Chicago Alderman Dick Mell's oldest daughter, Patti "Pottymouth" Blagojevich, is notorious for being caught ranting on the wiretaps. Silly Blago lost the Alderman as a friend when he cheated on his daughter--I guess they don't call him 'The Rod' for nothin!
Late Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.
-- Associated Press, Dec. 27
WASHINGTON -- Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.
Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis -- 6,464 launched from Gaza in the last three years -- deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.
This has two purposes. First, counting on the moral scrupulousness of Israel, Hamas figures civilian proximity might help protect at least part of its arsenal. Second, knowing that Israelis have new precision weapons that may allow them to attack nonetheless, Hamas hopes that inevitable collateral damage -- or, if it is really fortunate, an errant Israeli bomb -- will kill large numbers of its own people for which, of course, the world will blame Israel.
For Hamas the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians. The religion of Jew-murder and self-martyrdom is ubiquitous. And deeply perverse, such as the Hamas TV children's program in which an adorable live-action Palestinian Mickey Mouse is beaten to death by an Israeli (then replaced by his more militant cousin, Nahoul the Bee, who vows to continue on Mickey's path to martyrdom).
At war today in Gaza, one combatant is committed to causing the most civilian pain and suffering on both sides. The other combatant is committed to saving as many lives as possible -- also on both sides. It's a recurring theme. Israel gave similar warnings to Southern Lebanese villagers before attacking Hezbollah in the Lebanon war of 2006. The Israelis did this knowing it would lose for them the element of surprise and cost the lives of their own soldiers.
Monday, January 5
The Western doctrine of just war, echoed in the articles of international law, moreover demands that the Israelis finish what they've started. It doesn't say "never fight," as the ignorant suppose. On the contrary, it says if you must fight, be sure to win; that victory should be achieved as promptly and humanely as possible, while observing the various formal conventions. To those who refuse to observe the conventions, it offers no quarter. Those who, for instance, fire rockets at civilian targets while themselves masquerading as non-combatants are entitled to no consideration, as prisoners of war or otherwise. Those who use civilian "shields" are responsible for their fate.
Sunday, January 4
Farming and Agriculture: Food prices are on the rise and people are still hungry. High demand, low supply.
Raw Building Materials: Despite world economic declines, developing economies are still building at mind-boggling rates and copper, iron, basically all the raw materials, are going up.
The Tech Sector: Never underestimate the tech sector in a world that is the tech sector.
As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to rage on, theres a few things to keep in mind as noted in a recent LA Times article:
Hamas is attempting to portray the Israeli invasion as a war against the Palestinian people. Television viewers are being presented with heartbreaking images of dead and injured children and supposedly indiscriminate devastation. Palestinian doctors claim that Israel has blocked the supply of vital medicines, and humanitarian organizations warn of imminent starvation. In fact, many of those claims are exaggerated.
Though civilians have, tragically, been hurt, about three-quarters of the 400 Palestinians killed so far have been gunmen -- an impressive achievement given that Hamas fires rockets from apartments, mosques and schools and uses hospitals as hide-outs.
Israel has recently allowed nearly 200 truckloads of food and medicine to enter Gaza, even under shellfire. It is in Israel's urgent interest to minimize civilian suffering and forestall international criticism. For that same reason, Hamas welcomes the suffering of Palestinian civilians. According to a BBC report on Dec. 30, dozens of ambulances were dispatched by Egypt to its border with Gaza, only to remain empty because, according to Egyptian authorities, Hamas wasn't allowing wounded Palestinians to leave.
The reality of Israel's actions and what's being portrayed doesn't always match up. I say look for the true reality with Israel--the Israelity.
Friday, January 2
The peace is tentative but the American part in the war is over. Power and control are being handed over and it's in the hands of the Iraqis. Now they live in a country where they're able to vote and not fear being thrown out if a plane for "crimes." Someone did something right it seems.
For anyone returning to Baghdad after spending time here during its darkest days two years ago, when it was paralyzed by sectarian hatred and overrun by gunmen sowing despair, the conclusion seemed inescapable.
"The war has ended," said Heidar al-Abboudi, a street merchant.The war in Iraq is indeed over, at least the conflict as it was understood during its first five years: insurgency, communal cleansing, gangland turf battles and an anarchic, often futile quest to survive.