Fox News is showing footage of a BP gas station in Atlanta selling gas for $6.07 a gallon! There are huge lines at gas stations, as people rush to fill up their tanks. There are rumors of shortages, but so far, there doesn't appear to be any actual shortage. It's a perfect example of mob behavior--and how problems can be created, not by the actual circumstances, but by our responses to them. If people behave rationally, then this kind of stuff wouldn't be happening. Or course if people behaved rationally, they wouldn't be looting shoe stores and setting them on fire either.

As noted by Will Collier there is some serious price gouging going on here, and whatever relevant authority handles it should be cracking down.

And for what it's worth, when I was a kid, my dad used to tell me that if you ran out of gas, it was worth a dollar a gallon!

A Reminder

We tend to think of ourselves as invincible. After all, we're Americans. We are the greatest military and economic power in history. Next to us, the great empires of the past fade into insignificance. We think it can never happen to us. When the tsunami hit Southeast Asia, we shook our heads, gave our money, and thought tragedies were only for other people.

Today we realize the truth. All of our brilliance in engineering, technology, creativity and construction can't stand up to wind and water--the most basic of elements. We are not God... despite our arrogance and self-confidence. Today we realize the truth. But, being Americans, we'll probably forget again soon.


More Harm than Good?

24 hour news channels are a blessing to insomniacs (not really me) and news junkies (definitely me). But watching the coverage of Katrina, coupled with all the "missing persons" stories has made me wonder about their impact on society.

The pressure of being on the air all the time and having to have something to say leads to the coverage of "news" stories that are blown out all of reason and proportion. Look, these missing persons stories are tragedies. I have a daughter who just started college, so I identify with Natalee Holloway's parents. But her tragic story is not national news. Neither is the missing groom on the cruise ship, the missing blonde, the missing brunette, or even the token missing African-American girl. (More on racism in the media another time.) The stories are gripping, heart-tugging, and get ratings, which is what it's really all about. But they're not news.

Watching the empty suits blathering about Katrina with such confidence and authority, only to see the light of day give lie to almost everything they told us made me wonder if filling the full day with "news" is leading to a devaluing of truth. They're talking because they're supposed to talk, and when they don't know, they talk anyway. Once this tragedy is over, the cable news people need to take a long look at how they do business.


Internal Warfare

There's a battle raging between two prominent right-of-center websites regarding a poll of potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Only a true political junkie would care about an election that's three years away...which is why I'm writing about it.

Patrick Ruffini, who was the webmaster for the brilliant Bush-Cheney 04 Internet campaign, has been conducting periodic polls where people can vote for their favorite candidate for the next election. His most recent poll, which showed Rudy Guliani leading the pack, sparked a furious rebuttal response from D J Drummond who writes for Polipundit. Ruffini responded today with a rebuttal of his own.

Leaving aside the merits of the case (whether the poll is valid at all and whether it proves anything if so) it's striking to see such energy expending this far out from the election. There's a whole election cycle remaining before the 08 primaries start. I'd prefer to see the guns trained on the opposition rather "red on red" fire. Rather than debate which candidate is leading the (for now) hypothetical field of candidates, let's build the groundwork for winning the next election.


Fish or Cut Bait

You may have already seen or heard the rather amazing piece of reporting out of Iraq this week by Michael Yon called "Gates of Fire." In it, he relates how the unit he was accompanying, the Deuce-Four came under attack. The photos and first person account (Yon even picked up a gun at one point) are gripping, stirring, inspiring, and uplifting. As a note of caution, there is a little bit of "soldier language", but nothing really extreme.

The thing that concerned me in reading his report is that the terrorist who shot Lt. Col. Kurilla had just recently been released by the Americans! In fact, according to news reports, we just let around 1000 prisoners go, apparently as part of an effort to pacify the Sunnis to approve the Consitution. This is wrong on so many levels.

We are not going to win this war unless we take it seriously. I am extremely disturbed to find out that we're letting the bad guys go. This "catch and release" stuff must stop. I think we must stay in Iraq until we win...but if we're going to just keep letting the same guys shoot and blow up our guys over and over again...if we're not in it to win, we may as well pack up today and bring 'em all home.

UPDATE: As always, Captain Ed does an outstanding job digging behind the scenes and into the details in a brilliant post called "Releasing the Terrorists and Killing their Travel Agent." He further points out the absurdity of taking the word of these guys that they'll play nice from now on.


One Week

Well, we've survived the first week! I even managed to only write one post on the subject. I may have a career advising people on surviving trauma....or I may fall apart tonight!

I know millions of other parents have traveled this road before, but it's new to me. We spent so many years working and teaching and training, and she just ups and walks away with just a short look back. And yet, I find it to be strangely comforting (along with annoying!) that she's doing so well. I think the bottom line is that she's doing what we reared her to do, and I'm glad.

It's just that empty room down the hall...


The Situation on the Ground in Iraq

Frankly we're just not getting a very good picture of what's really happening in Iraq. When we launch an offensive and as a result casualties go up, it's reported in the media as a sign of terrorist strength--well, actually, it's reported as an increase in the insurgency because our media absolutely refuses to call things by their right names. Anyhow, back to the subject at hand.

Saw a very interesting post at The Fourth Rail today regarding claims made in the (very anti-war) British paper The Guardian about the success of the terrorists. The disconnect between reporting and reality is incredible. Suffice it to say that every media report from the region should be regarding with caution if not outright skepticism.

Even better, there was a link to a news article in one of the comments about Iraqis calling in US airstrikes on the terrorists! It seems to me that the terrorists' tactics of killing mostly Iraqis will eventually result in a lot more of this. If the people feel safe to call on the US military for help, hopefully a lot more of the bad guys will get to meet their eternal reward--which isn't exactly going to be the 72 virgins they're expecting!

Mirror Image

Investors Business Daily has a new poll out of public opinion. They issue one regularly, but this latest one had a new question designed to measure the differences in outlook based on the primary source from which people get their news. It is perhaps not too surprising to find that talk radio listeners are the most positive about how things are going, and newspaper/newsmagazine readers the most negative.

What struck me most however was the impact of party affiliation on outlook. Using 50 as a baseline (above is optimistic and below is pessimistic) and rounding to whole numbers, you get this: Republicans 64 Democrats 36. That's a perfect mirror image. The Republicans are exactly as positive as the Democrats are negative. It's no wonder people see a divide in this country. Apparently political philosophy is dictating both the source and the perception of the news people take in.

Maybe John Edwards was right after all (I can't believe I just typed those words!) and there really are Two Americas.


Finding a Voice

For the past several weeks, the White House has been put on the defensive by Cindy Sheehan. As I've already noted, I find her grief understandable, her loss immense, and her behavior reprehensible. That said, it's very difficult to say anything against her--especially for the President.

I don't know who set up the meeting in Idaho yesterday with the Pruett family, but that was a perfect counterbalance to the media circus in Crawford. The Pruetts are simply unassailable. And by publicly thanking them and speaking on their behalf (and then the inevitable round of interviews they did themselves), President Bush finally found a face for the pro-war cause.

He needs to keep doing events like that--preferrably two or three times a week. This is not a war we wanted to be in. But it's a war we cannot avoid, other than by converting to Islam and giving up the rights and freedoms we've treasured. It is a war we must win, but a war which we could lose, not on the battlefield, but here at home. The President's most important job is to lead the nation to continue fighting. It's not enough just to say we have to stay the course--he needs to be out in front, just like he was yesterday in Idaho, showing the human face of the sacrifice along with the importance of the cause.


The Case of the Missing Email

Now here's a perfect example of the difference between fathers and mothers...

I got a nice, long, newsy email from our daughter today, telling all about her classes, the teachers, what she's excited about and how things are going. Her mother got the same email. But, her mother also got a second email about this guy in the music program who she's already bumped into several times who asked her to sit with him in chapel today! Somehow I got left out of that one....I'm sure it was just an oversight!!!!


The Good Old Days????

I don't know how parents lived with their children going off to college before the days of the Internet. Yesterday we communicated with Rhonda via both email and AIM. (Not sure when she's going to do her school work, but then classes don't start till tomorrow either!) Knowing what's going on is a huge help with this transition.

I'm about as conservative a person as you're ever likely to meet. The pastor of the church we attended in Florida said he was so conservative that he only ate the right wings of the chicken at KFC. (Speaking of which, do you know what Col. Sanders said when asked why the chicken crossed the road? "What, I missed one?") I'm in that mold. But the good old days weren't so great if you were sick, alone, far from family, or even needed glasses. We live in an amazing day. The power of technology is not just astounding--it's changing into something even more amazing right before our eyes.

The downside to all of this progress is that it leads us to abandon the parts of the past that were good. In her brilliant book Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Peggy Noonan talked about the decline in religious observance among the suceeding generations of immigrants. "Who needs God when you have America?" she asked. The temptation to rely on the material rather than the eternal is great, especially in a society like ours. We are surrounded by so many amazing things that are the products of our own brains and hands that we frequently ignore the even more amazing work that produced those brains and hands in the first place.

So let's keep the wonders of modern technology--and the means of communication with our college kids--but not lose the faith and strength of character that were the hallmarks of the good old days.

Pat Robertson Is an Idiot

For a guy who's supposed to be some kind of preacher, Pat Robertson sure does know how to make a complete fool of himself. Calling (on air no less) for the US Government to assassinate the elected head of the Venezuelan government may not be the dumbest thing anybody in history has ever said in public, but it's got to be in the top five.

As a conservative Christian, it's embarrassing to be even nominally on the same side as this guy. On ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning Show, they give out a weekly "Just Shut Up" Award. Unfortunately it's limited to sports figures. I think we need one for religious/political types, and I'm nominating Robertson to win every week for the first year.

UPDATE: As usual, Dan said it much better than I did. Go check out Whirled Views and read the whole thing. Here's just a taste:

Now seventy-five years old, Pat reminds me of the crazy great uncle or the bigoted grandfather that most of us have somewhere in our family tree whom we would prefer to keep locked in our attic, but who keeps picking the lock and running through the neighborhood naked and cursing illegal immigration. We love them because we are supposed to, but seriously, it's time for them to shut up and watch some Lawrence Welk reruns.


Culture Shift

I turned 18 just a short while before the 1980 election. When I went to the poll on election day, the President of the United States was a Democrat. Both Senators from Tennessee were Democrats. My US Representative was a Democrat. The Governor was a Democrat. Both my state house and state senate representative were Democrats. The county commissioner from our district was a Democrat. The sheriff was a Democrat. There was not a single Republican elected official on any level representing me.

That was hardly a unique experience. Just 25 years ago, many states were solidly Democratic. Now they're turning red. My mother's home state of West Virginia is another prime example. She grew up in a coal mining family. Her dad and all four of her brothers spent a significant part of their lives underground (and paid the health consequences for it). They were loyal union men and the epitome of yellow dog Democrats.

The reason the Democrats are having so much trouble at the national level (and it's trickling down to the state level more and more) is not my uncles, even though a couple of them have switched too, but my cousins (and me of course). People who once would have been loyal Democratic voters for life now rarely if ever vote that way.

There are probably as many explanations for this trend as there are members of it, but I'd like to offer one in particular...Ronald Reagan. A couple of years ago, the kids took a government/civics class. We still had one of my old textbooks hanging around from the early 80s. This book, done by a conservative Christian textbook company was a huge eyeopener for my kids. It was filled with a defeatist and pessimistic worldview. My son said, "Reading this, it sounds like they thought the Communists were going to take over the world." I said, "They did. We did. We were losing the Cold War when I was growing up." That all changed with Reagan.

He gave voice to the beliefs about America that were shared across the political divide--after all he had been an FDR Democrat--and gave people hope and a vision for a freer world in which we would triumph over the "evil empire." He made it acceptable to vote Republican...and many of those who did never went back. It's taken some time for the full effects of that to permeate through the culture. But the culture shift is very real. (And by the way, the defeatist rhetoric of too many Democrats--and some Republicans too, cough Chuck Hagel cough--is not a winning strategy, either politically or in the real world. Part of the genius of Reagan was a belief that we could, should, and would win.)


John Roberts Documents

I'm participating in Hugh Hewitt's blogging analysis of the John Roberts records released by the Reagan Library. You can find the complete rundown at Radioblogger. Before I get to my box (fairly tame, even by today's hyper-partisan standards) a small word on the miracle of technology. In his incredible book To Build a Castle, Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky talked about the impact of the copy machine on the opposition. It made possible the dissemination of information that the government didn't want out. The impact of the Internet on the existing political and media power structures is going to be one of the biggest stories when the history of this decade is written.

Now on to Roberts. My "box" contained memos from August of 1985 regarding appointments and slight wording changes to a couple of existing laws. There just isn't any gruel there, even for the wildest eyed opponent. Roberts (or someone on his staff) is an excellent proofreader, catching a wrongly numbered executive order (12362 that should have been 12363) on page 39.

Nothing to see here; move along folks.


Plus One

This blog will not always be only about the wailings of a grieving father! When my heart heals (in a year or two), I'll go back to ranting about politics, religion, taxes, immigration, and whatever else pushes my hot buttons. But today...

She's moved in to the dorm. It was hot enough in Ohio today to make us feel like we were still in Arizona. And a lot more humid. But we survived the registration line, the id line, the key line, the computer line, the audition line, and the conga line (just checking to see if you were still paying attention!). She met her roommate and found out how much they had in common.

I'm fine. Really. I'm fine. Of course fine is an acronym. It stands for:

Freaked out

But it's only 61 days till she comes home for fall break!



Well, D-Day has arrived. We leave for the airport in a couple of hours. On a not completely unrelated note, posting is liable to be sporadic over the next few days. Then again, I may find the continued therapy of talking about it to be indispensable. Check and see if you dare. I'm pretty sure these feelings aren't contagious without direct contact!

One quick story. She went to music camp this summer at the college and made quite a few friends. One of the girls she met had a cousin who is also going to be in the freshman class. They talked briefly about trying to get put together as roommates, but by that time the room assignments had already been made so they let it drop. When Rhonda got her letter from the school, the cousin was her assigned roommate! (They've already done the whole get acquainted by phone routine.) As a dad, it makes it a lot easier to know that Someone else is also watching over my little girl while she's gone from home.

Going to be a whole lot of praying going on, that's for sure. More later (maybe).



It's heading toward midnight, and she's as reluctant to make her appearance as a diva offered tap water before going on stage. We've been at the hospital for most of the day--although in fairness, I'm certainly not the one doing the work! Finally the time comes, and they take us into the delivery room. After what seems like an incredibly quick process--again, I wasn't the one doing the work--the doctor is handing me scissors to cut the cord, and we have our first child.

Holding that precious newborn little girl, I had no clue what was coming...the joy, the laughter, the worry, the responsibility...the incredible desire not to screw up the most important job I'd ever have...Rhonda, I hope we did it right. You've always made us proud. And you will be missed.


The Face in the Ribbon

Those yellow ribbons that say "Support our Troops" are close to ubiquitous. It's pretty nearly impossible to make a trip of any distance without seeing one. But yesterday, I saw something I'd never seen before.

In the middle of the loop made by the ribbon was a photo of a soldier. This family was making a personal sacrifice...a husband, a father, a son, a brother...who was the face in the ribbon? He was America's best hope for the future. For as a long as "free men shall stand, between their loved homes and the war's desolation" we will be a land of liberty.

I don't know those people, and will never hear the story of the face in that ribbon. But I prayed for him yesterday...and today. And for his family, and his comrades, and his Commander-in-Chief. For we are in a war that we must win. His success and safety are directly related to mine. So stop today and give thanks for the spirit that volunteers to face danger on our behalf. Spare a moment of concern for those left behind. And pray that God gives us victory in the titanic struggle we did not choose but cannot avoid.


It's just about sunrise, and we're walking along the shore of Lake Huron on the end of Mackinac Island. As the sky lights, the geese sail in overhead to park themselves for another day of free food courtesy of the tourists (fudgies as they're locally known--based on the thousands of pounds of fudge sold every day on the island--and not shared with birds!). Just the two of us...and my thoughts then a year ago were on where I'd be today...She was already taking classes at the community college at 17, and I knew the truth...but I was in denial...or trying to be. She looked at me with that smile that's the mirror image of her mother's, and I knew the first tremors of the quake that would break my heart.

Somewhere down the road there'll be another day with music and flowers and a white dress...but I'm in enough trouble today with college. We're down to the point of hours rather than days. She can't wait to go...and I'm glad...and yet all I really want to do is turn back the hands on the clock and the pages on the calendar, and be her dad for just a little while longer.



It's about fifteen minutes before her audition for the piano faculty. She's trying to keep calm--and for some reason she doesn't seem to think my attempts at humor are helping. She's pacing...just like I used to do before a major event. She's ready, but what she's trying to do now is overcome the fear that might hold her back. I tell her she's going to make it, but I'm not sure she believes me. She walks down the hallway, keeping her head up. She turns and gives me a little wave. And forty five minutes later, she's in! Signed, sealed, delivered, etc. They even have a special T-shirt for the music department students. The professor tells her "We don't give these out--they're earned." And off we go...calling home to tell her mother the good news...wearing the shirt in front of the college sign for a picture I'll treasure forever...sleeping all the way back to the airport. And growing up even more. What an amazing young lady.



These are getting harder and harder to write...

We're at the beach in Clearwater, Florida. At four, she's fascinated by the beautiful white sand and the waves rolling in. It's nearly sunset, and the glow of the setting suns paints the water and the sky a brilliant array of red and orange. We took her out to stand in the water, letting her feel it rush around her. She loves the feel of the wet sand crunching under her toes. She points in amazement at the seagulls swooping overhead. When I find a seashell for her, she holds it up for everyone to see. She's having the time of her life, and when we're ready to go home, she doesn't want to leave.


Cindy Sheehan

I have a great deal of sympathy for Cindy Sheehan as a mother. The pain of losing a child must be one of the most intense emotions that there is. My parents lost a baby daughter at just nine days of age, and it made an impact on their lives that never fully receded. The loss of either of my kids would be second only to the loss of my wife on the scale of traumatic life events that I could experience. Her loss is deep, and I'm sure her heart remains broken. However...

I have no sympathy at all for Ciindy Sheehan as an anti-war protestor. She is dishonest, deceitful and duplicitous. She is using her loss cynically in a calculated effort to embarass President Bush. He did meet with her. And her description of that meeting, as reported in her hometown newspaper, is very different from the story she tells now. Her own family has disavowed her effort as bringing dishonor to the sacrifice of her son.

Plain and simple, George Bush didn't kill Casey Sheehan. An evil terrorist did. George Bush didn't start the war for oil. (If the Bush family only cared about oil, we'd have kept Kuwait in 91.) George Bush has laid out a clear case for why we must fight the terrorists around the world. (Disagreeing with his argument is very different from saying he hasn't made one.) In short, Cindy Sheehan is lying. I feel sorry for her...but she doesn't deserve a free pass. What she is doing is within her rights as an American citizen. And I'm within my rights to regard her posturing with contempt.

UPDATE: Came across this from Varifrank after I made the original post. The whole thing is amazing, but this part has the REAL story about Casey Sheehan.

"Cindy Sheehan has also said her son did not want to go to Iraq. She is wrong, and she knows it. Here is a bit of information you wont here on CNN about Casey Sheehan ( from Lee Kaplan – FrontPage Magazine):
“While one might dismiss some of Sheehan’s hyperbole due to grief over her son’s death, a little research about Casey Sheehan revealed that contrary to being tricked by military recruiters, Casey Sheehan had re-enlisted in the U.S. Army voluntarily when he was 24-years-old, after serving his first hitch successfully. Casey Sheehan was in fact a hero who received a Bronze Star. He was attached as a mechanic to the artillery division of the 1st U.S. Cavalry in Iraq. When a convoy of soldiers from Casey’s unit was attacked in Sadr City by insurgents, Casey volunteered to join a rapid rescue force to get them out. His commanding sergeant told him he did not have to go into combat, because he was a mechanic and not an infantryman. Casey was quoted telling his officer, “I go where my chief goes.” He was tragically killed during the rescue attempt. The source for this story?
Cindy Sheehan herself."

Puts a whole different light on things when you know what really happened.


It's high school graduation night, and she's agreed to play a piano solo for the program. They kept changing things on her, but nothing phased her a bit. When it time for her to play, she walked to the platform with complete poise and grace, sat down and filled the room with a beautiful rendition of "Faith of our Fathers." There are way too many things that I'm going to miss about her to even begin to list, but somewhere right at the top is going to be the sound of her playing the piano. It's been a constant of our lives for the last 13 years. (At least we've got the CD!)


No Way to Run an Investigation

The 9/11 Commission was charged with one of the most serious investigations in American history. Its task was to determine what had gone wrong to allow such a success to our enemies so that we could defend ourselves more effectively in the future. A lot of us had serious reservations about the makeup of the panel, and the timing in conjunction with a Presidential election seemed to lend itself to partisan mischief. They did their work and produced their report (and tried to keep themselves in business after the conclusion of their work--which seemed yet another bad sign to me).

I really had no idea it was this bad. The Commission now admits that they disregarded the military's Able Danger information because it contradicted what they already "knew" about Mohammed Atta. He couldn't possibly have gone to Prague (to meet with Iraqi intelligence agents) because everyone "knows" there are no links between Iraq and 9/11. Of course the fact that Iraq furnished the fake passport for Yousef--the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing--to get into the US doesn't ever seem to get mentioned.

Ignoring facts that contradict your worldview is a good way to end up ignorant. Unfortunately in our world today, it's also a good way to end up dead. It's time for a serious investigation of the 9/11 Commission (I'd start with Gorelick) and their slipshod, careless and potentially lethal failures in their work.


I came across a great analysis the other day by a pastor I know on the similarities between extremists of the left and right. Often we think of them as polar opposites, but they have much in common. As they say, read the whole thing at Whirled Views, but this really stood out:

"The hostility of the radical left and the growing desperation they obviously feel with each election that leaves them in the minority and every federal judgeship that comes open is very much obvious to those who observe and recognize the worst characteristics of the newly-defined “fundamentalism.” We ought not condone their outrageous excesses any longer or with any more patience than we would those who put on white-robed clan uniforms or who would beat a woman for exposing her elbow.

One of the great pillars of evangelical Christianity in general, and among Baptists in particular, is the “fundamental” belief that religious identification and commitment cannot be forced. Those who are not or will not be persuaded by the Spirit of God are not reachable by the threat of coercion or the manipulation of men.

We must resist accepting a mentality that would force its values on our culture, our nation or our families. It’s not American, it’s not Christian and it’s not right. Extremism of any flavor or wearing any moniker is a dangerous thing."

Data Mining and Civil Liberties

In the wake of the revelation that the military's "Able Danger" intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other key 9/11 terrorists in plenty of time to stop their brutal attack, the 9/11 Commission's credibility is in tatters. They failed to include the information in their report because it didn't match other information they had! For a complete rundown go read Captains Quarters. Just keep scrolling...

I want to step back from that for a second and look at the means of acquiring that information. According to published reports, the military used data mining techniques to find Atta and his co-conspirators. This is the source of considerable controversy because of concerns about civil liberties.

I'm fiercly attached to my freedoms as an American citizen. I don't want to give up my rights under our Constitution. But we're at war. And frankly I don't think most people are taking it very seriously. In wartime, things have to change. Freedom of speech and association are not unfairly abridged when known or suspected terrorists are tracked. I want the government to learn everything they can about the bad guys. Prevention is a lot better than punishment after the fact.

It's a good thing that we freed the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from brutal regimes. I think it was worth doing. But it doesn't bring back one of the people who died on 9/11. A few months ago, we stood at Ground Zero in New York City. Anything we can do to prevent a repeat of that day is worth it. Even if it takes the government looking through computer records to make connections!


She's hiding behind the hedge in front of our house in Tennessee with her brother and a fairly significant pile of snowballs. She's waiting for me to come home from work so that she can pelt me. What she doesn't know is that an enemy spy has revealed her location and that I'm sneaking up behind her with an armful of ammunition. Her first warning that her dastardly plot has failed is when the first snowball lands right between her shoulders. We exhaust our munitions and then build a snowman in the front yard. We've never done it since (not that much snowfall in Arionza!), but I'll never forget that day.


A National Disgrace

So now we find out that the 9/11 Commission, charged with investigating the underlying failures of our systems of intelligence and protection that allowed the terrorist attack to succeed not only ignored substantial evidence but lied about it. As someone who's been following politics since my mom taught me the difference between electoral and popular votes when I was six, I should be immune to shock, but this is breathtaking.

According to today's reports, the military intelligence program known as Able Danger told the Commission on three occasions about what they knew--including the identity of Mohammed Atta and his closest associates in 2000 and the fact that the Clinton administration refused to allow them to share that data with law enforcement--yet none of that information was included in the final report. When the story first broke, the Commission first denied receiving the information at all. After it became clear that wouldn't hold water, they tried to downplay its importance and reliability. Now they're revealed.

But then, why should that be a surprise? One of the chief architects of the rules prohibiting the sharing of information under the Clinton administration, Jamie Gorelick, was one of the commissioners! (No conflict of interest there.) We've been betrayed by the very people who were charged with protecting us as they instead focused on protecting themselves. The 9/11 Commission is a national disgrace. No one who served on it should ever be taken seriously as a public figure again.


She's playing third base for the Chickadees in the girl's softball league at the church we attended. At eight, the glove didn't just swallow her hand, it looked like it would swallow her entire arm. She loved the game wholeheartedly. And that night, there was a swing, and a ball fouled high into the air between third and home. Rushing forward fearlessly, she camped under, reached up into the darkness and caught the ball! If you've seen the replays of the World Series last year, or remember how high Doug Mientkiewicz jumped when he caught the ball for the last out...well, she could have given him lessons. Utter joy.

And now we're down to one week. Wow. (Do I sound like I'm having problems handling this or something?)



I'm standing in the parking lot of the office where I worked then watching a sixteen year old girl who just got her driver's license drive away solo for the first time. (On a side note, how did parents ever let their kids do that in the days before cell phones?) She was poised and confident...I was a nervous wreck. It was about eight minutes till she reached the store she was headed for and called in. I think I breathed twice. But she did survive. (I'm reminding myself of that for a reason you know!)


The Other Natalee Holloway Question

In the middle of the ad infinitum (almost ad nauseum) coverage of the tragic disappearance of Natalee Holloway, there's one question I'm just not hearing. As the father of an 18 year old who's about to start college (as you might have noticed if you've been reading along!), the story does strike a chord with me. I don't know what I'd do if my daughter disappeared like that. But here's the missing link...

Where in the world were the chaperones???? I know it was a school event, and they've said that there were six or seven (or maybe eight, can't remember now) adults along with the 140 or so kids on the trip. But what were those adults doing? Why were they letting teenagers gamble and drink the nights away? Where's the responsibility?

We went on our kids' senior trip. Course my wife has homeschooled them both all the way from kindergarten, so it's not exactly the same. But still, I would never dream of letting either of them go somewhere like that without competent adult supervision. (Please no comments on whether I qualify as that!) I expect the adults watching children--even 17 or 18 year old children--to be vigilant, aggressive, alert, on guard and suspicious. I expect those adults to be willing to be a little unpopular by drawing lines and sticking to them. I expect those adults to enforce the rules rather than turning a blind eye.

If anyone has said what those chaperones were doing, I've missed it. But based on the facts that have been presented, it looks to me like they miserably failed at their vital task.


It was her sixth grade piano recital. Wearing a beautiful white lacy dress Brenda made for her, she was on stage reheasing the Moonlight Sonata. There was such a look of intensity and concentration on her face. Her ability to focus on a task is pretty remarkable (must be from her mother's side of the family!), and she pours herself into whatever she is doing at the moment. The music was beautiful, the familiar chords falling into place just as they have around the world since Beethoven wrote it in 1801. But it's her face even more than the lovely music that her dad is thinking about on day nine.



It snowed the day her little brother was born. That doesn't happen all that often in Tennessee...at least not the kind that lasts for more than a few hours. She was nineteen months old, and the highlight of her week wasn't the new arrival, but her grandparents showing up. Grandpa took her out in the front yard and built a snowman. That picture is today's countdown to college moment. The spirit of fun she had back then has never left, and I'm glad.


All But Your Four Fastest Ships

The Princess Bride is one of the funniest and most quotable movies of all time. And it provides the perfect springboard for this post. Evil Prince Humperdink has promised Buttercup that he will send his four fastest ships out, one in each direction, to carry a message to Westley. Of course he never does, but to compound the problem, he forgets his promise. So he tells Buttercup that "every ship in my armada will escort us on our honeymoon." She says, "All but your four fastest ships." "Well, of course, not those ships," Humperdink stammers, caught in his falsehood.

Andrea Mitchell had one of those moments on the Christ Matthews Show this morning. Talking about President Bush's position on stem cell research and teaching intelligent design she said it was designed to appeal to the Republican base who "didn't turn out in sufficient numbers" in the Ohio Congressional special election last Tuesday. Then catching herself, she said, "Well they did win, but not by as much as expected." (inexact transcription from memory)

It was hilarious watching reality conflict with a reporter (yet again). They're so married to their worldview that they have a hard time processing events that don't fit their preconceptions. A narrow win is still a win--there aren't any moral victories in politics...or war. You either get the prize or you go home defeated.

Chris Matthews also asked his panel if Bush's position represented him "putting on his boots and going Southern on us." Nice slam at the red states Chris. Keep it up. Even if you insult us till you turn blue, we won't!


Melting the Pot

America used to known as a melting pot. People came here from all over the world to become Americans. They yearned for what we had here--freedom, opportunity, and hope. A few months ago, we stood where millions stood in line at Ellis Island to be cleared through immigration so that they could become something brand new. The great composer John Phillip Sousa's father came here from Italy with the last name So. He added the letters "usa" to his name in tribute to his new home.

These people wanted to be here. They wanted to be Americans. They wanted to be us.

Today I read in the Washington Times online edition that the Denver Public Library System is planning to make seven branches in the city Spanish language oriented. Any English materials will be put at the back, and all the workers will have to speak Spanish. This is wrong on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin.

It was in the library that I discovered what America had been--where my father took me when I was six years old to get a library card of my very own. It was there that I checked out "The True Book of Snakes"--the first book ever put on the record of card number 70 at the Linebaugh Public Library. But I went on from there to bigger and better things. I learned about George Washington and Patrick Henry and Paul Revere. I read Bruce Catton on the Civil War and Cornelius Ryan on World War II and William Manchester on everything he wrote about. I learned our common American culture in the library. (Yes, at home and at school and at church too, but those stacks of books held a special magic.)

America is blessed with a rich mix of ethnic heritages, cultures, cuisines, arts, and entertainment. But these have been made part of the overall American culture. Encouraging newcomers to our nation to hang on to their past language and not assimilate is a recipe for disaster. Many of the nations in our world are riven by rival tribes, fighting for prominence, preminence, or independence. We've seen genocidal struggles in the former Yugoslavia, in the Sudan, in Rwanada, and many fear a bitter civil war in Iraq lies in the future.

America has been spared that kind of strife precisely because we have been a people who come together. I'm an American whose ancestors came from Ireland (mostly). The days of the "no dogs or Irish" signs outside businesses are now long in our past. And that's a good thing. It takes a while for new groups to settle into our American culture. But it's a vitally important process. Short-circuiting that process undermines the foundations of this country.

There are now more people of Hispanic descent in America than there are people of African descent. And the demongraphic trend is accelerating. If we do not find a way for Hispanics to see themselves as Americans first and foremost, the social unrest of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s will pale in comparison to what is coming.

Spanish language libraries are a step in the wrong direction. A big step. We're encouraging people not to become part of the common culture of our nation--because if you don't share the language, you can't share the culture. I believe this is a well-intentioned effort, but a tragically misguided one.


PC Insanity

So today the NCAA issued a ruling that teams--they list 18 of them--with mascots deemed "insulting" and "offensive" (ie: Native American) nicknames and mascots will not be allowed to use their mascots during postseason tournaments. Political correctness IS going to wreck this country unless we find a way to stop it.

All you need to know about this policy is that it doesn't cover Notre Dame. It's OK to name your team the Fighting Irish, but Fighting Illini is off limits. This hyper-sensitivity to the feelings of a certain select victim groups is a bottomless pit. Where will it stop? The answer is that it won't. There is always someone else to be offended by something else. Even though Florida State University has an explicit agreement with the Seminole Indian tribe approving their usage of Chief Osceola, the NCAA still put them on the list. Yet the North Carolina Pembroke Braves can keep their name--because the school has a 20% Native American student body.

Those of us who follow college sports have long referred to the NCAA as standing for No Clue At All. Today they've confirmed it.

Four Weeks from Tomorrow

I'm trying to avoid thinking about the event that's coming up in two weeks, so I've decided to just skip the calendar ahead to September. And lo and behold, what do I see but the return of college football. Before I got married, I used to describe it as my second major religion. It's fallen to third place these days (most of the time at least--right honey?), but still, there's something about the approach of those Saturdays that rekindles some of my best memories.

We don't have the same kind of fall days in Arizona that I enjoyed growing up in Tennessee, but still...the sound of tens of thousands of crazed fans watching their team is a very strong memory for me. They say that in the West football is a diversion, and I think that's about right. The University of Arizona hired a new coach last year, and because people were excited, 5000 fans showed up for the spring game. These people thought that was a lot! Shoot, where I come from, more than that show up for band practice!

So I may be in the wrong region for my obessesion, but it still runs deep. And as September 3rd approaches, there's really only one thing left to say...



The Right to Privacy

Of course as anyone who pays the least bit of attention knows, President Bush nominated John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court not long ago. And of course, as it always seems to be, the single hottest hot button issue around is abortion, better known by its code name "the right to privacy." Roberts has not ruled on an abortion case in his two years on the Federal bench, so he has no track record (although his wife's position as VP of Feminists for Life, their two adopted children, and his membership in a conservative Catholic church might perhaps be taken as indicators) in writing on the issue. But his nomination is being challenged anyway by all the usual suspects in the pro-abortion crowd.

Today Matt Drudge broke the story that the New York Times is investigating, trying to find ways to open the sealed adoption records on the Roberts children! When it comes to Republican nominees, literally nothing is sacred or off-limits. As James Taranto of the WSJ's Best of the Web noted today, anything about Roberts' personal life is fair game, "after all, he may threaten the right of privacy!"

The utter hypocrisy of the liberal media would be breathtaking if it weren't so completely predictable.

The Tortoise and the Axe

For almost as long as I can remember, my father has had a picture on the wall of his office. It features a turtle with an axe dangling precariously over his head. The caption reads, "Behold the turtle; he makes progress only when his neck is out."

I've been thinking about that picture during the news coverage of the Discovery mission. Without Columbia, I don't know if we'd be nearly as worried about every little detail, but there have been a lot of challenges with this particular space flight. But what's the alternative? If we only do things that are safe, how will we ever make any progress?

Now I'm not saying I'm reading to take up hang-gliding, bungee jumping, or tightrope walking. I'll keep my feet firmly on the ground thank you very much. But there are risks that are worth taking...efforts without any assurance of success that still need to be attempted. You have to stick your neck out sometimes.

So come on out of your shell...just keep one eye glancing upward from time to time!


Catch and Release

I hate to keep harping on immigration, but...

According to the Christian Science Monitor last week, the US Border Patrol has a problem:

"Because OTMs, or "Other Than Mexicans" as the Border Patrol classifies them, must be returned to their country of origin, they cannot be simply sent back across the southern border, as most Mexicans are. Under US law, they must be detained (in the US) pending a deportation hearing. The problem is, immigration detention centers are packed, so most OTMs are given a court summons and told to return in three months. A full 85 percent don't.
According to the Border Patrol, some 465,000 OTMs have taken advantage of this "catch and release" policy to settle here in the US. "It's an insane policy which encourages OTMs to come into the country illegally, and we shouldn't be shocked that they are coming in record numbers," says T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents more than 9,000 agents." (7/26/05 Christian Science Monitor)

Insane falls well short of how I'd describe this policy. We're at war. Allowing the enemy to enter your country at will is suicidal. I've said it before, but the 2008 Presidential election could be swayed mightily by a candidate who was serious about this issue. There's an awful lot of red states (I live in one) that would turn blue in a heartbeat if a Democrat put forth a plan to actually deal with the problem of illegal immigration.


They All Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano

As a marketer, I spend a lot of time looking for successful ideas to promote things. One of the most successful advertising campaigns ever used the headline above to promote a piano teaching program. It was brilliant, funny, and it worked.

I thought of that line last night when I read that the Treasury Departemnt expects tax revenues for 2005 to be 14% higher than 2004! Now you probably haven't seen that piece of good news highlighted on the TV or in your local paper. But that's an astonishingly good result. In fact, it's the highest tax revenue increase since the early 1980s...

...when, by a not-so-strange coincidence, we had another major round of tax cuts pushed through by another conservative President. (For the bi-partisan types, the same thing happened in the early sixties when a very non-Republican guy named Kennedy pushed through tax cuts.)

If you're like me, you've heard all the moaning about the unwise tax cuts and how they would deprive the government of the money it needs. Well, in the first place, not having money has never stopped them from spending it before, which is how we got to a national debt of almost 8 trillion dollars! But in the second place, it's not true. Tax cuts bring in more revenue, because they promote economic growth and development.

They all laughed when George Bush sat down at the tax cut keyboard, but (to borrow a line from the Gershwins) "who's got the last laugh now?"


Bush Pulls the Trigger

Today President Bush announced the recess appointment of John Bolton to the post of United Nations Ambassador. Despite the fact that he has the votes to be confirmed, some Senate Democrats used the filibuster to prevent him coming up for a vote. The job has been vacant for six months now.

On one level, I have mixed emotions. I'm no fan of the UN, and leaving the post vacant would make a statement. But on the other hand, I'm glad that Bush went ahead with the appointment. If he allows his agenda to be held hostage by a minority in the Senate, Bush will become the lame duck so many in the opposition want him to be. By exercising his option to do a recess appointment, I think Bush is firing a shot across the bow of his opponents, letting them know that he still means business.

This has implications for the coming fight over the John Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court. Bush is staking out his ground as being willing to fight. I heard someone say that the Bolton recess appointment would make the Democrats mad and thus hurt Roberts' chances. The Democrats already disapprove of Bush and pretty much anyone he appoints. They've been using (I'd argue misusing from a historical perspective) the filibuster for years, and show no signs of stopping. I don't see that changing, unless the 2006 elections shift the balance of power in the Senate further.