I am conservative and realize that it isn’t popular for conservatives to not like Palin; however, tonight I had an experience that really stands in the way of taking her seriously. Someone wanted help reviewing an article about her farewell speech and I was forced to consider her words.

One stated reason for stepping down was to avoid becoming a lame duck. Perhaps she doesn’t understand the meaning of this term, but with 17 months remaining in her first term in office I don’t think she can claim lame duck status. One caveat here is that she can claim it if she is convinced she could never be re-elected.

She also plans to speak her mind on Twitter. While I haven’t yet used twitter, I can’t imagine any media limited to 140 character statements could be effective for political discourse of any depth. It does however seem suited to: hasty, unsupported snipes; flashy, attention-grabbing bites; or tidbits of gossip.

I wish her the best in whatever future she finds, but I can’t see voting her into high political office.

Today Roh Moo-Hyun took a historic step when he got out of his motorcade and walked across the bridge to North Korea. He is the first leader to do so. Not only did he take this symbolic step on his way to a summit between the two halves of Korea, but he made a statement of his hope for reunification.

Many people have expressed desire for reunification, but the President has never taken such a huge step. Until now, the action plan has always been to wait. From a position of propriety and human rights, I think the country should be returned to one entity; however, I have concerns about certain dangers inherent in this process.

At the end of WWII, Korea was divided into two halves to be administered by the US and by Russia. It was not divided into two countries. This was a compromise on the part of the US to placate the Soviets. After the Korean conflict, the demarcation line between the North and the South became the most heavily fortified border in the world and remains so today. This wasteful, anxious situation effectively left the world with the perception that these were two separate countries.

Reuniting the two parts into one whole would rectify a wrong that the superpowers instigated 60 years ago. The failed experiment that is the DPRK government has left people underfed, ill and poorly educated. At first, the South Koreans would take a serious financial hit, but the health and living conditions in the North are critically needed. My expectation, based on how fast South Korea developed after war, is that the economic benefits would be tremendous and sudden; creating an economy that could rival Japan.

So far, it all sounds good. The beginning of the Korean conflict involved the North (with the help of Russian and Chinese air support) pushing US and Southern forces to the tip of the peninsula. Once America redeployed from Japan, the tide shifted. Eventually, we pushed past the prior demarcation line and aimed to forcibly reunify. (This was a military decision, not a political one.) North Korea shares a border with China and Russia. This is where things got ugly.

China didn’t trust that the US would stop at their border, since we rolled past the previous line. I’m sure the fact that they were secretly supporting the conflict gave them some fear that we might retaliate for that as well. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops poured over the border and the tide shifted rapidly again. This was the motivation for the conflict ending.

Even today, the US makes China and Russia nervous. We have about 50,000 troops watching the border. North Korea has been acting as a buffer zone. So, the problem is that a reunified Korea with 50,000 US troops is not a situation that China or Russia would tolerate. I believe they would befuddle the process if this path is taken. After the UN passed trade restrictions against North Korea recently for launching missiles at Japan, Japanese TV was monitoring border traffic and found that the same number of trucks were passing from China into North Korea.

The simple way to avoid this would be to start drawing down troops now. If the next three days show any sign of promise, the draw down should be swift. How could we pass on a chance to get that many troops out?

I stayed up until about 4am watching the Iranian President speak at Columbia University. It was pretty odd. Bollinger, the Columbia administrator responsible for inviting Ahmadinejad, had been getting grief for giving him a public forum in which to speak. I think, in reaction to that pressure, his introductory speech was a harsh condemnation – full of venom and name-calling.

I thought this was poor form. It looked like a childish political attempt to generate the appearance that would earn him media points. It was a rude introduction of his guest, regardless of how we may feel about him. It burned half of the alloted time for the speech. It gave Ahmadinejad fuel for his arguments that he and Iran are victims.

Personally, I strongly disagree with Ahmadinejad’s position on pretty much everything; however, I have to give him points for presenting himself reasonably from a debate perspective.

When the Q&A session started, he failed miserably; although, public opinion may be more easily swayed than mine. He avoided answering any direct questions by demanding that the audience first answer some counterpoint question, but then never coming back to the original question. A lot of obfuscation was thrown in the way.

  1. Do you think Israel should be eliminated?
  2. Do you think the holocaust occurred?
  3. Do you plan to produce nuclear weapons?
  4. What did you want to say at Ground Zero?

These are some of the questions that were asked and got no answers. I would have been interested to learn his position on any of these, but no such luck.

My summary: no new information came to light, I should have gone to bed before the speech started.

Who Informs Us

Our news media is supposed to inform us. Today I got another example of what to expect if I rely on them. Introducing a story the announcer mentioned ‘advacy groups’.

Extending the benefit of the doubt, I continued watching on the assumption that she was speaking too quickly. Well, she was nice enough to dispel my preconception by speaking at a reasonable pace and, once again, harping on the ‘advacy groups’.

Clearly I should correct my thinking. There must be a new slang word to make it easier to say ‘advocacy groups’. This bothers me, but I guess I may be overdoing it. After all, I think it is silly that many Democrats think Bush is stupid because he says ‘nucular’.

Prime Minister Abe has stepped down. Many people were concerned about his politics being hard-line conservative or right wing, but thinly veiled. Now we won’t have a chance to know for sure. However he has elevated Secretary Aso as interim head. I find him to be frighteningly right wing (no veil). Hopefully, the new PM will be decided soon to normalize things.

Russia, China, South Korea, and North Korea all have disputes with Japan, some of which are more than 60 years old. Anything that throws uncertainty into the mix can’t help get these things settled. Transition government equals uncertainty, to be certain.

Abe has been taking a beating throughout his short tenure. One of his cabinet members referred to women as “merely baby making machines”. This happened early on and really got the trouble started. No apologies came out, the offender just told the press, “I really want to get back to working hard on my job now.”

Several financial scandals came up as well; requiring a number of resignations. And in July’s upper house elections his party lost several seats. Often, loss of political power is followed by demands that the PM step down, but Abe refused at the time.

The very liberal English language editor for Asahi Shimbun spent half of yesterday’s special edition talking about the extension of Indian Ocean refueling operations; and how this impacted his administration. Personally, I haven’t heard anyone complain about war support activities in over a year. I would guess that problems with the public pension system (which earned only one sentence) have had the greater effect.

Abe was meant to take questions from delegates yesterday, but used his resignation announcement as a way to avoid questions. Today he was rushed to the hospital, so he couldn’t answer questions. I was informed that many public figures, facing heat they don’t want to, run to the hospital as an escape mechanism. He can probably use the hospital trip through tomorrow and then lay low over the three day weekend. Come Tuesday, they can shift the press toward the new PM selection.

One of the cabinet members, who was a finalist for the last PM selection (Fukuda, I think) is part of the ruling party, but definitely has standards to guide his decisions which don’t follow party line. Particularly when answering questions about military action, where other candidates waffled or hinted at  aggressive tendencies, he stuck to constitutional privileges and a more centrist approach. He would probably make the best choice, but I won’t be surprised if Aso gets the nod.

Conservatives started complaining about a liberal bias in the news a few years back. I find it amusing that the typical response of someone opposed to this idea, is to say, “There’s a Conservative bias in the news media.” While some sources, like Fox News, clearly have an overly conservative bent, I would have to say that most widely-accessed media does not. So, why did this come onto my radar today?

I was talking to students about the strange paper sizes we use in America (foolscap, letter, legal, ledger, …) and I wanted to show them a newspaper. I printed an image of the front page of Monday’s Seattle Times. The image was reduced to fit on an A4 sheet, which left wide bands of white along the sides; greatly aiding my presentation.

Tuesday, George W. Bush, flew to Seattle to speak at a fundraiser in Bellevue. This information appeared on the front page of the paper, interwoven with times and locations for protest-related activities. A handy color map was included. In Western Washington, protesters don’t need to advertise their events, because the newspaper does it for free.

At least they had the decency not to include contact information for organizing carpools.

Today the news media was announcing Karl Rove’s departure from the White House. Sadly, the reports were lacking in any substance; however, that is no surprise since The last 6 and a half years have been marked by a less than forthcoming nature. We referred to Reagan as “The Great Communicator”. This administration is in no danger of stealing that title away.

Bush himself referred to Rove as “The Architect”. My hope is that, with Rove stepping down, we will see a shift toward letting us know what’s happening. I think many good things have happened in recent years, but we haven’t been getting the story. Also, a lack of information tends to breed a lack of trust.

If we don’t see the shift, then we can assume that other people were behind the silence, or that it has become so ingrained that change is impossible. Here’s to the future.

George Bush pulled an interesting twist in the Libby case by commuting his jail time. Unfortunately, his attempts to compromise between the extremes has left both in an unsatisfied state. Personally, I thought the move was pretty clever; it leaves Libby with a criminal record (which he earned), but spares him 30 months in the lock-up. Clinton was much more brazen in his meddling and didn’t serve any time, nor did he get a criminal record.

The part that’s really wacky is how the Democrats have jumped down his throat on this one. Perhaps they have forgotten that Clinton pardon more people in one day (140) than Bush has pardoned in six and a half years (113). Or perhaps they really aren’t interested in objectivity.

Hopefully Bush will have the integrity to ignore the whining and just move forward with more important business, like keeping Russia calm and cooperative on Iran.

Colin Powell is intelligent, honest, practical, and conservative (but not reactionary). He understands proper use of military, diplomacy, and executive powers. He has served as a cabinet member. As I have written before, he would make a better President the the field of Republicans and Democrats putting themselves forward.

I was holding out hope that he might enter the race late, if many Americans were asking him to step into the fray. I knew that he felt his relationship with his wife was more important and he didn’t want to put it through the strains of a Presidency, but I hoped he might make that big sacrifice for us. His recent comments made it pretty clear that he has no intention of running, even if asked. I believe he is a man of his word, so I won’t hold my breath; it would take something pretty extreme to get him in the race now, and I hope nothing like that is in our future.

However, I noticed that he left the possibility of serving in a cabinet right out there on the table. I think he would make a great Secretary of State for any President, regardless of party. This all came up because Obama’s people made sure we all knew that he was seeking advice from Powell.

Personally, Obama smells of politics and I think this is just another clever trick to boost polls. However, as I just said, it is quite clever.

Anyhow, I am a little sad that I can’t hold out hope for President Powell, but I am encouraged that we may see him in public office soon.

“Japan has the worst social gap in the world.”, was the battle cry of the Democratic Party of Japan (民主党) last week. This seems to be the favorite phrase for Democrats worldwide, as I am used to hearing this on American news shows; however, there it is always, “America has the worst social gap in the world.”

Not being clear on how one defines a social gap, it is hard for me to say which country is number one; however, I would bet good money against Japan or America topping an objective list. Both countries have people suffering and in need, but countries like Indonesia, China, Russia, and India, while being developed enough to have tremendously wealthy individuals, have citizens who live in squalor that does not compare to America or Japan.

It seems like another inflammatory comment to stir up the people below the middle and make them think their situation is unfair and hopeless, of which it is often neither.

American government saw a shift in power in the last election, caused by numerous failings by the Republicans (not the least of which was fiscal irresponsibility). This is a wonderful opportunity for the Democrats to seek the interests of the people; however, I think they will happily proceed as if they did something to deserve the shift.

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