Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Personal note

I am sorry that I have been unable to post more often lately. An illness requiring hospitalization earlier this month, plus preparation on Christmas, combined to diminish my ability to focus on my blog. Also, I was concerned that no one was viewing it (according to the counter I obtained), but was reassured by readers that the counter was incorrect. I shall endeavor to publicize my blog more widely, but in the meantime I appreciate those of you who have been reading it. Thank you. Merry Christmas.

Christian Pilgrims Return to Bethlehem

After a sharp decline in the number of Christians making a pilgrimage to Bethlehem during the Palestinian intifadah, as well as an exodus of Christians from the town that had been majority Christian since the time of Christ, last year marked the first increase in pilgrims. This year, all of the hotels in the area are full (There is no room at the inn!) as even more pilgrims have come to the Holy Land.

The reason for the increase is because of the relative peace in the West Bank. Most notably, there have been relatively few suicide bombings in recent years in the Holy Land. I attribute the peace to two reasons, beyond the usual level of Israeli counterterrorism. One reason is the security wall erected by the Israelis.

The other is the overthrow of Iraq's Saddam Hussein regime and the capture of the Palestinian terrorist he harbored, Abu Abbas in that country. Hussein had harbored and financed terrorists who targeted and killed Americans. Abbas had been infamous for the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, during which a disabled American was killed by being tossed overboard. Abbas had been the conduit for Hussein's stipends of $25,000 per family of each suicide bomber. One suicide bombing targeted an American restaurant, Sbarro's in Jerusalem, which caused American casualties. Another killed four U.S. servicemen in the Gaza Strip. Other suicide bombers killed and injured scores of Israelis.

In short, the Liberation of Iraq has helped to produce the indirect benefit of enabling Christians, as well as Jews and Muslims, to practice their religion through pilgrimage to the Holy Land, much as the Crusades had preserved this right. At this Christmastime, we should all be especially grateful to our U.S. soldiers.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Language for Conservatives to Avoid (continued)

"Run/s/running the country or economy" or "manage/s/managing the economy" (when referring to the federal government, especially the president)

The United States is the name of the federal government of a Union of American states that was established by the Constitution of the United States of America, wherein its responsibilities and limits are set forth. Chiefly, this federal government is responsible for protecting the rights of the people within the Union. The federal government runs itself, but neither the country, nor the states within the Union nor their economy. The closest it comes to managing the economy is through monetary policy and the regulation of interstate commerce, but these powers nonetheless do not add up to managing the economy, such as on the socialist command economy model.

"Congressmen and Senators"

This expression implies that Senators are not members of Congress. A better phrase is "Representatives and Senators."

"Constituent/s" (when referring to Senators)

The Framers of the Constitution created two chambers of the legislative branch. The members of the House of Representatives represent the people, while the members of the Senate represent the states, not the people who reside within them, but the states, as such. The erosion of this distinction has caused the Senate to become more populist and less federalist.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Another GOP Election Victory

A Republican picked up the seat of scandal-plagued Democratic U.S. Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana in an election delayed by Hurricane Gustav. The victor, who fled South Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon in 1975, is the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress. Perhaps now the Vietnamese-American community will begin to support conservative, Republican candidates in even greater numbers.

Louisiana has led the way for the Republican Party in recent years, with the GOP having won the office of governor (also won by an Asian-American, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, who is of Indian ethnicity) and now picking up a Republican congressional seat -- one of the few states trending conservative.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Political Updates

Saxby Chambliss' U.S. Senate runoff reelection victory in Georgia gives Republicans at least 41 seats in the upper chamber of Congress -- enough to maintain filibusters against particularly objectionable policies of the liberal Democratic majority. In other words, the Democrats will not have total control of Congress because 60 votes are required to break a filibuster and pass legislation. Chambliss benefited from campaign appearances from John McCain and Sara Palin, while Barak Obama cut a radio ad and allowed his voice to be used on automated phone calls for Chambliss' Democratic opponent, who tied himself to Obama, which has to be a consolation for both members of the Republican presidential ticket. The GOP victory could be a political harbinger, as a similar victory by a Republican candidate in Georgia after Bill Clinton's victory in 1992 heralded the Republican takeover of Congress two years later.

Chambliss' victory also minimizes the significance of the disputed Senate election in Minnesota, where Republican Norm Coleman is clinging to a miniscule lead over Democratic challenger Al Franken. It also makes it less likely that the Democratic Senate majority will take up Franken's election challenge and decide the issue itself.

Indeed, Obama's moderate cabinet selections reflect more continuity than change, which validates my point that the election was more about personality and a referendum on Bush than for changing everything, such as the many popular policies of the Bush Administration that even most Democrats like Obama voted for. Also, a poll commissioned by the operator of the website proves my point that many Obama voters were ignorant of issues -- and even of which party controlled Congress. Interestingly, the poll also demonstrates that Fox News viewers and talk radio listeners (i.e. people who listen to media not dominated by liberals) were the most informed voters on the issues.

Another piece of political good news is that Obama's appointment of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to his cabinet means that a Republican will take over as governor of that state. After the elections last month, the GOP was set to hold 21 gubernatorial offices, a net loss of only one, which is better than the 17 it held after Clinton's election.

Pennsylvania Update

The election results have now been certified in Pennsylvania. The McCain-Palin ticket's slate of electors (see how I worded that phrase!) received 10.1% fewer votes than the Obama-Biden ticket, which is better than the 10.4% that lists on its homepage. That usually reliable website has not updated the results because -- like many in the media -- it probably assumes that 100% precincts reporting includes all the vote, but in fact it does not include absentee and provisional ballots. Some other states tally votes like Pennsylvania. As Republican candidates tend to do better with absentee voters, the total margin of victory for Obama-Biden of 7% might actually be lower, although some states do not bother to tally absentees if the margin is not close (a point that should have been emphasized during the disputed election of 2000 when the Democrats' constant refrain was "count the votes" and that Gore had supposedly won the popular vote by hundreds of thousands of votes). Nevertheless, the Obama-Biden victory of over 600,000 votes in the Keystone State was substantial by Pennsylvania standards.

However, even though the Pennsylvania Republicans also lost one U.S. House seat and two state house seats, not all the news was bad for the Pennsylvania GOP. Republican Attorney General Tom Corbit was reelected, which means he will be able to continue his probe of public corruption in the General Assembly (Note: Republicans have won this office every time since it became an elected office). Also, Republicans picked up a state Senate seat, and will control that chamber 29-20 until a likely Republican special election victory for the seat of a posthumously-victorious Republican senator who died before his name could be removed from the ballot. His district includes part of my home county of Berks. A victory here would make the GOP margin 30-20.

The recent passing of Pennsylvania's Democratic Lieutenant Governor elevates Republican State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati to that office simultaneously. The significance politically is probably limited to control of the Board of Pardons, as tie-breaking votes will likely not be necessary in the heavily-Republican chamber. However, it made it unlikely that Democratic Governor Edward Rendell would accept any appointment to the incoming Obama Administration, lest Scarnati accede to the gubernatorial office.

I am personally proud of Lieutenant Governor Scarnati. When he ran as an independent against a corrupt Republican incumbent senator, his local Republican Party backed him, and his supporters from his district who were members of the Republican State Committee informed the committee's Central Caucus of his intention to rejoin the Republican Party if elected. As a State Committee member of that caucus at the time, I asked the Scarnati supporters if they would like the caucus -- the largest in the state -- to endorse his candidacy. They did and my motion to endorse him passed without opposition, for which they expressed their gratitude to me after the meeting.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Language for Conservatives to Avoid (continued)

This post includes two examples of such language related to presidential elections.

Presidential Election (when referring to the election for members of the Electoral College)

The quadrennial elections that are held in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the first Tuesday after the first Monday are for members of the Electoral College (electors), not for president or vice president, even though it is the names of the candidates for president and vice president that are printed on the ballot. In other words, there is no direct presidential election, only indirect ones. Note my use of the plural elections; there is no "presidential election," only 51 separate elections. This distinction between the election for electors and for president and vice president has been widely lost. Thus, many people were surprised and even disturbed that George W. Bush became president even though his ticket lost the popular vote, which contributed to a sense among Democrats that his election was illegitimate, and undermined support for keeping the Electoral College, or at least some such system that helps to prevent the larger states from dominating the smaller ones.

Similarly, we should avoid phrases like "I voted for so and so for president" or "so and so received x number of votes." It is better to refer to "the ticket" as having received these votes because that ticket's slate of candidates for elector are the ones who truly receive the votes, not the presidential and vice presidential candidates themselves. In the disputed Election of 2000, Democrats tried to bolster their case by arguing that Albert Gore had received more votes than Bush, but they both truly received an equal number of votes: zero.

President-Elect (before the Electoral College has voted)

The president and vice president are elected by the Electors on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December on those years the Electors are chosen. If the Electors fail to reach a majority for president, then the House of Representatives elects the president, and if the Electors fail to reach a majority for vice president, then they Senate elects the vice president. Although "faithless electors" are few (those who do not vote for their party's candidates), and there are sometimes disputes about their election or qualifications to hold the office of elector, the main point is to uphold the distinction between the election for electors and for president and vice president.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Language for Conservatives to Avoid

Language is important to conservative Americans because America is a land of written law. Liberals try to change the law by changing the meaning of words. Therefore, it is the duty of conservative Americans to conserve and defend our English language.

The corruption of our language has also benefited liberals more generally because incorrect or imprecise language decreases knowledge of civics. Less knowledge of civics allows for the wider acceptance of policies contrary to the intent of the Founding Fathers of the United States, as well as other bad policies.

More precision in language also improves communication and demonstrates greater knowledge. Moreover, it is always prudent to strive for accuracy and truth. Therefore, I welcome edits from readers and suggestions for language that better serves the cause of liberty.

The post will be the first of a series suggesting examples of words or phrases that should be avoided, especially by conservatives. The first two may seem innocent, but help to erode the principle of federalism established by the Framers of the Constitution of the United States of America that limited the powers of the federal government and recognized the sovereignty of the states that formed the Union:

Nation, national, nationwide (when referring to the United States of America)

A nation is a people united by birth, that is to say, their nativity and patrimony (or heritage). In other words, a nation is like an ethnic group. As Americans are comprised of many ethnic groups, the U.S. is neither a nation in the original sense of the word, nor a nation-state, which is a state based upon ethnicity. The U.S. is not even a state, which is a sovereign, independent political entity, but a union of states. Although nation has come to have a similar meaning to country, the U.S. is not a country, either, for the same reason it is not a state. The reference to the U.S. as a "nation" was as part of a beautiful metaphor in Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Alas, the term has become acceptable usage, even though it is revolutionary if taken literally. Better examples of phrases to describe the U.S. include the following: the Union, the Federal Union, the Republic, or the States, instead of the Nation; American, instead of national; and across the Union or throughout the States, instead of nationwide.

"All levels of government, federal, state and local"

The phrase implies that the relationship between the federal and state governments is the equivalent as between the state and local, that is to say, as if the states are created by the federal government, just as the local governments are created by their states. However, the relationship is not equal because although the states created the federal government, the states were not created, in turn, by their local governments. States are not like provinces, which are subordinate administrative subdivisions, as local governments are to states. The federal government and the states are not levels of government, but two sovereigns. Therefore, a more precise phrase is "both the federal government and the state and local levels."

Perhaps you can be creative in thinking up other accurate phrases that take back our language from liberals by avoiding chipping away at federalism, as well as that educate our fellow countrymen.

Thank you for your support

Thank you, dear readers, for your support, which is making my launch of this blog successful. I apologize for taking so long to post your comments, as I am still learning how to blog properly and did not notice them until now.

I should note what I intend to discuss on this blog in particular: my views that reflect my Christian, conservative American values. We all have unique perspectives, but I hope that my particular perspective as a historian, an ethnic-American and an urban resident and elected official will be especially interesting and informative to you. I believe that it is helpful to our cause of liberty to remain optimistic and upbeat and confident as best we can, despite the challenges.

I also intend to comment about language (hence the tagline "The Definitive Word"), not only because it is relevant to politics, where it can be used or misused in rhetoric, but also because it is a worthy subject in itself to increase knowledge and foster better communication. My goal is not to be overly pedantic in the process, which can be enjoyable.

I intend to blog as often as I think appropriate, depending on the news of the day, although I also wish to comment about more general issues, so please visit occasionally. I invite your participation, as I know you are thoughtful readers, many of whom are skilled writers yourselves. I cannot wait to post more thoughts to share! Again, thank you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Be Thankful, Despite the Election

Many people have asked me my opinion about the election and have sought my consolation. I have encouraged them to be of good cheer for several reasons. First of all, on this Thanksgiving we are reminded that we must always be grateful for our faith, our family, our liberty and our bounty.

As conservatives, we can take consolation that many Obama voters did not know about his radical proposals, nor necessarily agree with them even if they did. Public opinion polls, referenda, and the election victories of many conservatives suggest that the voters did not reject conservatism necessarily, even though they elected a radical liberal. A disturbingly high number of voters even mistakenly believed that the Republicans were the majority in the unpopular Congress.

Elections, like the one in 2008, often are decided by personality and chance. Obama's personal appeal and call for "change," and the voters' rejection of the Republican Party they associated with President George W. Bush, combined with the untimely slowdown of the economy that had been in prosperity for several years and is currently threatened by a bewildering financial crisis, overcame the experienced, maverick war hero, John McCain. However, the Democratic ticket did not win by a popular landslide. Indeed, a shift of just a few hundred thousand votes in some of the battleground states would have produced a victory for the McCain-Palin ticket.

The Republican Party was also victimized to some degree by its own success, having kept us free from terrorist attack for seven years, which allowed voters to focus on lesser matters.

It will be interesting to see the voters' reaction once Obama or the liberal Democratic congressional majority promote some of the unpopular items on their agenda. Already it appears that Obama may be backing away from some proposals in order to compromise and accomplish goals without sacrificing much of his popularity. In short, either Obama and the Democrats in Congress will govern as radicals, and suffer electoral defeat, or govern as center-leftists and still have a chance at electoral success.

Although the liberal Democrats will inflict some damage to the United States (especially the long-term damage from judicial appointments), our responsibility as the loyal opposition is to limit that damage by opposing what bad policies we can while promoting our conservative principles that we know are right and, in many cases, are also popular. We can compromise without giving up these principles for the good of the Republic, even if it benefits Obama and the Democrats politically, just as the Republican Congress saved Clinton from himself by limiting his damage. But this time, we should do a better job of claiming the credit for any successes.

We have been through a period of opposition before and have been able to accomplish much both in opposition, as well as afterwards once back in power. We shall do so again.


Welcome to my blog. On this Thanksgiving Day, I am both grateful and excited to have the opportunity to share my thoughts and promulgate them more widely, as I have been encouraged to do by friends and family.

Check back soon for interesting posts. God bless.