Friday, June 30, 2006

Has Man Lost His Backbone?

This morning I was reading a column by Rich Tucker that got me thinking about man's history and future.

Ever since the beginning of recorded history, each generation has had great explorers. Men (and women) who put their lives on the line to "boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before." In the beginning, they went over mountains to see what was on the other side. They crafted wooden ships to sail vast oceans and discover distant lands. Can you imagine the courage it must have taken for Christopher Columbus to load up three ships and sail into the horizon? Everyone told him he would sail off the end of the earth. But he was willing to take the chance. And for what? To bring back some beads and blankets?

Lewis and Clark took a crew of about 30 men with a few months worth of supplies and embarked on a multi-year journey to reach the Pacific Ocean. They fought off savage Indians, disease, grizzly bears and brutal elements just to create a map of uncharted territory.

In 1961, a 27 year old Soviet Major named Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the earth. A little over three weeks later, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, and the space race had begun. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong would step foot off of the Apollo 11 lunar module and uttered the words, "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."

But these men were all in search of more than beads, blankets, maps, and moon rocks. What pushed and fueled all of these men was the human instinct to explore. To be the first to see (blank) or step foot on (blank). We are naturally curious creatures. Ever since man has walked the earth there have been brave souls willing to put their lives on the line in order to explore the unknown. But now I fear that has changed.

Ever since Neil Armstrong's famous step, man has lost the desire to push his limits. The Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw calls them, put a man on the moon. I can remember as a young child in the 1970's there was still a buzz about the space program. Talk was everywhere of putting men on mars and space stations and eventually leaving our galaxy. But then the baby boomers came of age and all that talk ended. We created a space station so our space shuttle would have someplace to go. We focused on putting up satalites so American's can get 300 television channels and commercial free radio in their car. It seems our space program became more about creating jobs and keeping congressmen in office rather than extending the reach of man into God's universe.

Americans have become afraid of risk. It's evident everywhere in our society. Nothing is worth dying for anymore. We expect our wars to be conducted with zero casualties. At the first sign of blood, half our country wants to bring our troops home. After the Columbia crash in 2003 it took NASA over two years to launch another space shuttle mission. Concerns from that mission have prevented any other missions since. NASA's budget last year was somewhere around $16 billion. We made one launch. Where is the money going? Museums?

Rich Tucker rightly points out that the problem is our government, but I think his solution of encouraging private exploration is incomplete. All of the early exploration programs I mentioned before were government funded. The truth is no private citizen is going to put his fortune on the line without guarantee of rewards. There aren't many rich guys out there that can fund a space program. And of those rich guys, there are even fewer with the cajones to launch themselves into space. The solution is a hybrid of government and private citizens. The push to explore must come from government. Government needs to set the goal but allow the private sector to innovate and reward those willing to take risks. I was pleased when President Bush set the goal to put a man on Mars by 2020. That is only fourteen years away. As Americans we should all unite and push ourselves toward reaching this goal.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Youz Want Dat Whiz Wit?


Last week a story hit the local Philadelphia news and quickly went national. Owner Joe Vento of Geno's Steaks in South Philly put a sign up at the order window saying, "This is America. When ordering speak English."

Now if you're not from Philly you're probably asking yourself, "So what?" If some street food vendor wants to put a sign up making himself look like a bigot, what's the big deal? The big deal is that Geno's is a Philadelphia icon. Every tourist that comes to Philly has four things on their to do list.
  1. See Independence Hall
  2. See Liberty Bell
  3. Run up the steps of the Art Museum, raise you hands in the air like Rocky and yell, 'Yo Adrianne!'
  4. Get a real Philly cheesesteak from Geno's Steaks

On a side note it's ironic Geno's would be requiring customers to speak English considering nobody in South Philly speaks the language well. Ordering a cheesesteak at Geno's goes something like this:

"Can I get a cheesesteak please?"

"Whiz?"

"No"

"Youz want dat wit?"

"Yes."

To explain, you just ordered a cheesesteak with provolone (not cheese whiz) and fried onions (just 'wit' for short).

When the story ran on the local news, local talk radio picked it up and everyone quickly chose sides. Many people support Joe's decision to put up the sign and say it's about time someone said something. Not surprisingly, the Libs and illegal immigrant crowd came down against Geno. Many people who sympathize with the illegal immigrants are rational about the situation. The Day Without an Immigrant Coalition is simply saying they will take their business across the street to Pat's, Geno's rival. This is the correct attitude to have. If you don't like Joe's way of doing business, don't do business at Geno's. But other groups are going too far in their outrage.

Juntos, a local Hispanic neighborhood organization began setting up a protest by sending people to Geno's to order in Spanish. They may pursue court action if refused service. They equate this sign to the days of segregation when blacks couldn't sit at the counter and had to ride the back of the bus. This is taking things a bit too far.

But the thing that really bothers me is now the city is thinking of getting involved. City Councilman Jim Kenney has asked Geno's to take the sign down. He says Geno's is "an iconic institution and business, one that is that visible for many of our residents, for the region and the world." The problem is Geno's doesn't belong to the city. It belongs to Joe Vento.

I support Joe's right to hang the sign. It's his establishment. He's trying to make a point and our Constitution gives him the right to speak his mind. I also support anyone's right to call Joe a bigot and refuse to do business at Geno's. That includes the city if they choose to no longer promote Geno's as a Philadelphia tourist attraction as they have been doing for decades. That is their right and that's what free markets are all about. But if the city tries to do anything to put Joe out of business, like pulling permits or trying to inspect him out of business, I'll be extremely upset and disappointed.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Run Abu Run!!!

Abu Musab al-Zarqaqi is dead. I guess he couldn't run fast enough in those New Balance sneakers. Upon hearing the news this morning I was struck with relief and joy. The Christian in me wants to say "May God have mercy on his soul." But today the Christian is outweighed by the sinner in me who says, "Burn in Hell you son of a bitch." Please, God, forgive me.

I'm already trying to think about how this is going to play out in politics and the media. On the Today show this morning I was pleased to see Senator Joe Biden exclaim this is "good news." But then he quickly went back to criticizing Rumsfeld and the war. I suspect the honeymoon may last until lunchtime today.

Where is Representative Murtha? I'm guessing he called in sick this morning. He has been saying for months we should pull out of Iraq immediately. If he had his way, Zarqawi would still be sneaking in the shadows. He would still be gathering support. He would still be recruiting young Muslims to attack us. He would still be seeking ways to harm America...to kill us. What say you now, Mr. Murtha? We probably won't see him on television for a month or so.

I suspect we'll see a little uptick in the President's approval rating. Maybe two points. Pundits on CNN will quickly point out this is a result of getting Zarqawi, but it is only temporary. They will downplay this event. They will point out Osama Bin Laden is still out there. Then they will go back to talking about Haditha with a little Abu Ghraib and NSA mixed in. Next week, things will go back to the way they were before the 500 ton bomb was dropped. C'est la guerre. But for today, is sure feels good.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bad News for Libs

If you read the mainstream media you would think the GOP is in shambles right now. The President's approval rating hovers around 35% in most polls. Just about every poll you can imagine says people favor the Democrats over the Republicans in Congress. Liberals are already planning their November 7 victory parties when they think they are taking back the House and Senate and finally get to impeach Bush.

But as Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend." Yesterday a House seat was up for grabs to replace the disgraced Randy "Duke" Cunningham in California. Republican Brain Bilbray defeated Democrat Francine Busby getting 50% of the vote in the process. This was supposed to be a tight race the Democrats were hoping to win and use for momentum to show the country has swung their way. But in the end, they couldn't pull off a victory in the bluest of blue states.

There's an old saying that goes, "Everyone hates Congress, but everyone loves their Congressman." If the Democrats intend to take one or both houses of Congress, they have to come up with some big ideas. And in my opinion, they aren't doing that. In 1994 the GOP swept into Congress on a platrom of new ideas called "The Contract with America." They proposed throwing out the old and starting with something new. It was a refreshing idea and they were rewarded for it. The key was it didn't appeal to one base consituency. It was a broad idea that was meant to appeal to everyone, and it worked.

The Democrats seemingly have no ideas, other than to impeach Bush. One day they vote for the war, then they are against the war. They vote for tax cuts, then they want to repeal them. They vote for No Child Left Behind, then they complain about it. They scream over gas prices, but they don't want to open up drilling in Alaska or the Gulf or relax environmental laws to allow more refineries.

Basically, their entire party platform can be summed up in three words: "We hate Bush." While most of the country may agree, it is not enough of a platform to sway voters from the GOP. People fear the unknown. They would rather vote for a guy they don't like but know where he stands rather than vote for a guy they like but can't figure out.

As the summer election season starts to heat up, I think we'll see the GOP close the gap in the polls. The GOP wins on all the issues and the Democrats know it. That's why they are "against gay marriage but opposed to an amendment." That's why they are "personally opposed to abortion, but can't let that affect their vote." That's why they "voted for the war, but not the funding for the war." That's why they think "we need to stop illegal immigration, but not build a wall or prosecute those who aid illegal immigrants."

The problem is issues aren't being debated right now. All we see are generic polls asking people which party they like best, which basically equates to an approval rating on the party in power. If a Democrat came out and said they were going to crush radical Islam, keep taxes low, appoint judges that respected and upheld the Constitution, and balance the federal deficit through budget cuts, I would vote for them. What the Democrats have to avoid is November 7 becoming a choice between the lesser of two evils. In an election like that, they will lose.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Elitism at its Best

A few weeks ago, Senator Ted Kennedy's son, Patrick Kennedy (Rep.-RI) crashed his car in the middle of the night. He narrowly avoided hitting a police car before he struck a concrete barrier. The officer noted that Kennedy staggered when he got out of the car. He immediately claimed he was a congressman and he was late for a vote trying to take advantage of the claus in the Constitution that says a congressman cannot be arrested when in route to a vote. The sad thing was congress had adjourned three hours earlier. Before he could be given a field sobriety test, a commanding officer showed up, put Kennedy in the back of the cruiser, and drove him home. He was never charged with DUI, wreckless driving, or anything.

A few days after the incident, Kennedy admitted he was addicted to drugs, and admitted himself to a drug rehab clinic for a second time. Yes, it's good to be a Kennedy.

But as if that isn't enough, today Kennedy says if he is ever charged with a crime from the incident, he wants to be treated like he's black.

In an interview, Kennedy said he is prepared "in terms of bookings, in terms of mug shots, fingerprints, whatever they might have me do. It's what anyone else would have done to them if they were an African-American in Anacostia."

Take a minute and consider this statement. Is he suggesting blacks get treated worse than whites in our criminal system? Why distinguish "African-American". Is he suggesting blacks in Anacostia are criminals? Why not say he wants to be treated like anyone else and leave it at that? The answer is he is an elitist Kennedy. Say the word "criminal" and he pictures a black person. Plain and simple.

Sadly, it's too late to treat him like any other prisoner. That ship sailed with him in the back seat of the police cruiser. If that were you or I who smashed the car in the middle of the night, we would be hauled to the hospital for a drug and alcohol test. We would spend the night in jail, and then promptly be given a court date. We would stand trial, our lawyer would tell us to plead no contest and our drivers license would be taken away. If we couldn't drive, many of us would lose our jobs because we don't have chauffers and limos to get us to work like the Kennedy's do. So spare me with your "treat me like an average joe" routine. It's too late for that, buddy.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Picking Battles

There is so much going on today in desperate need of immediate attention. Our borders are being over run with illegal immigrants. Our federal deficit is skyrocketing thanks to social programs like medicare, social security, education, and hurricane relief. We're fighting a war on terror against an enemy that seemingly gets smarter every day.

Yet the Senate picked this week of all weeks to pursue a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage. I'm convinced the leadership of the Republican party has no idea what it's doing anymore. This makes absolutely no sense to me on so many levels.

On level one let's discuss how this goes against party principles. The Republican party is supposed to be the party of small government. The party that keeps government out of our lives. What the Republican party is doing is pandering to the Christian voter. But I don't want my government dictating morality on this level. And I'm a Christian. If Adam and Steve want to live together and play hide the sausage in their bedroom, I don't care. If they want to exchange vows and promise to be monogamous, good for them. If they want to lobby the state to give them the types of benefits the state gives other married couples, fine. But leave it up to the state, through legislature enacted by the lawmakers who were elected by the people, to decide. As a Christian, I know we all will have our day in court in front of God. Let Him decide who is righteous.

On level two, the timing of this bill doesn't make any sense. Why now? Is it because Will and Grace finally ended? Do they think the country is ready for this? Every political insider will tell you this amendment has no chance of passing. The Republicans are setting themselves up for an embarassing failure. Even bigger than President Bush's failure in pushing Social Security reform.

In pushing this amendment the GOP is trying to bring back the social conservatives they have lost in the past months over their fumbling of the immigration issue. While this will make the Pat Robertson crowd happy, the rest of us conservatives feel like we're watching a train wreck about to occur. The GOP is always fighting the image of being a bunch of bigoted good old boys. This foolish initiative will not help that perception. Every Republican Senator that votes or speaks in favor of this amendment will regret it come November.

Friday, June 02, 2006

MSM Bias

The economy is booming along today, but you wouldn't know it by reading the mainstream media. Today the government announced that unemployment dropped to 4.6%. Here is how CBS News reported it. Take note at a few passages:

Job growth faltered in May, with employers boosting payrolls by just 75,000.

I thought any job growth would be a good thing. It's better than losing 75,000 jobs isn't it?

The report comes as President Bush is coping with low job-approval ratings.

Nice. Way to work that in there. Tie the President to this supposed "bad news."

Workers' average hourly earnings stood at $16.62 in May, a small 0.1 percent increase from April. That was smaller than the 0.3 percent rise economists were expecting and marked a moderation from a sharp pickup in earnings registered in April.

Last month they were worried about inflation getting out of control. Now they're complaining about wages not going up. You can't have it both ways.

Economic growth in the April-to-June quarter is expected to moderate as rising borrowing costs, lofty energy prices and a slowdown in the housing market take their toll on consumers and, to a lesser extent, businesses.

Oh my. More gloom and doom. We won't be able to afford to live. How are we going to pay our bills?

Oil prices, which hit a record high of more than $75 a barrel in late April, are now hovering above $71 a barrel. Gasoline prices have topped $3 a gallon in some areas.

I thought this was a story about job growth? Or should I say lack thereof.

The report also showed the average time that the 7 million unemployed spent searching for work in May was 17.1 weeks. That was up from 16.8 weeks in April and was the highest since February.

I always get ticked off when I hear this statistic. It implies that people are having a tough time finding work. In truth, not everyone that is unemployed is looking for work. For many people, the unemployment benefits are so good they wait until the unemployment runs out before they start looking. When my company was bought a few years ago and many of my co-workers were laid off, many of them did this. How long do unemployment benifts last? 14 weeks? And how long is it taking people to find work? 17 weeks? Hmmmmm

It's stories like this why I don't read and certainly don't trust the mainstream media for my news.