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.