AWESOME IDEA OF THE DAY: The Bailout Bill's theme song should be "Livin' on a Prayer." Because it's halfway there.

Aren't you glad you stopped by?


DEBATE?: (AP) Washington, D.C. -- Obama campaign manager David Plouffe announced Wednesday that Barack Obama would debate himself Friday after John McCain postponed his appearance at the scheduled debate to tend to business in Washington. "The American people have the right and the need to hear Barack Obama. In fact, they have the duty. If John McCain doesn't show up, we will go on without him. Senator Obama has the uncanny ability to take both sides of an issue and that ability will stand him in good stead this Friday. If a crisis occurs, Senator Obama will fax the solution to congress. It's not like they listen to him anyway."

MSNBC and CNN commentators were ecstatic over Obama's decision. "It won't make a bit of difference to me whether McCain shows or not," said Keith Olbermann. "We had only planned to show clips of Obama on my show anyway. We can have our staff of political experts speculate as to what John McCain would have said. It will be no different than speculating over what he did say."

"Trust McCain to run off to congress to do his job when there is an important debate to be televised," said Wolf Blitzer. "I knew he would weasel out. The American people have the right to see that Barack Obama is taller than John McCain. Everyone but John Kerry knows that the taller candidate always wins the debate on TV. Ask Jimmy Carter. If he had been six inches taller, we would never have had to endure Reaganomics. "

Campbell Brown reacted angrily. "That sexist McCain should let Sarah Palin off the leash and send her to debate Obama. What is the problem here? I want to know why the Governor of Alaska has never visited any foreign leader. Is she just shy? Everybody knows that state governors should be off visiting in Europe and Asia. Who cares if they have no authority to make treaties or policies for the federal government? I want to know why she doesn't want to talk to me or any other member of the press. All we want to do is ask her if she is really the mother of her child and other pertinent questions. Obama will do just fine without them."

Vice President Dick Cheney was unavailable for comment.



An Open Letter to Dr. Robert Shapiro

The Bailout Proposal has stalled and the Journal is rightly querying experts on potential success. Will it work? Dr. Robert Shapiro of the New Democrat Network (NDN) is one of those fellas and boy does his statement reek of pandering:

...Robert Shapiro, a former Clinton economic advisor and the chairman of the globalization program at NDN, a Washington think tank, said the program outlined by the administration aimed at the wrong target. Rather than buying assets, he says, the government should provide money to people facing foreclosure, which would prevent the assets from going sour in the first place.

"This crisis will continue until the housing market stabilizes and as increasing foreclosures reduce the value of more mortgage-based securities," Mr. Shapiro said.

Yes. Duh. Gotcha. As our economy continues to fail into a million little foreclosed homes, special interest "experts" can't see the forest through the trees, ahem...petrified wood.

So with all due respect, (and you did advise the Clinton White House, so that's something?) this crisis won't turn into a wee little meltdown after throwing moolah to Americans who simply can't afford their home(s).

We must ensure liquidity in the marketplace.

The Journal probably took a snippet out of context and admittedly, the congruent action is to assist struggling homeowners, but come on!

And hey, Republicans, figure out what a Mortgage-Backed Security is and pretend to patch together enough double-speak to convince us that the Hasbro Brothers don't know more about banking than you! That Iowaopoly gets me every time...



Hawkeye Republican Will Be Back

Much like the Arnold, we're making a comeback into politics. And just like the Hawkeye Republican, that made no sense.

Oh politics. Stay tuned.



The Up and Up

Those of you who know me well (and do realize that I feel sorry for each and every one of you) know that I absolutely love the rock band that is Relient K. I love Journey too, but that's another story for another time...

Surprisingly, Relient K's latest CD, 5 Score and Seven Years Ago, isn't really that good. The only great song on the CD is the same one that has pretty much described my entire last semester of college. It should've been a victory march, but instead it turned into one crushing rejection after another. The details aren't important, but I was hurting alot more than most people knew underneath all those awards.

I may never know why things turned out as badly as they did, but I suspect God had amazing reasons that will become abundantly clear in His timing.

If I was as cool as Christina, I'd add this in my "Now Listening" box.

Yesterday was not quite what it could've been.
As were most of all the days before.
But I swear today with every breath I'm breathing in.
I'll be trying to make it so much more.

Cause it seems I get so hung up on.
The history of what's gone wrong.
That the hope of a new day is sometimes hard to see.

But I'm finally catching on to it.
Yeah the past is just a conduit.
And the light there at the end is where I'll be.

Cause I'm on the up and up.I'm on the up and up.
And I haven't given up.
Given up on what.
I know I'm capable of.

Yeah I'm on the up and up.
Yeah there's nothing left to prove.
Cause I'm just trying to be
A better version of me for you.

To be prosperous would not require much of me.
You see contentment is the one thing it entails.
To be content with where I am,
And getting where I need to be.
And moving past the past where I have failed.

You never cease to supply
Me with what I need for a good life.
So when I'm down I'll hold my head up high.
Cause you're the reason why.
-Relient K



Should've Seen This Coming

Have you ever read something and thought to yourself "I really should've seen this one coming." If not, then, way to go. But if you have, then you'll understand my reaction when I read this article on CNN.com.

As a fellow commencement speaker myself (I had the bigger in-house audience, not to rub it in or anything), I feel bad for President Bush that he had to put up with those protestors at a college graduation ceremony. I'm glad I didn't have to deal with crazy people holding signs that read "Tom's a Dummy" (which, by the way, you can get on e-Bay for $5.95...they're even laminated for $1 extra!) and marching outside Hancher Auditorium on Saturday morning while I spoke.

If the President had been discussing war policy (which would've been a very bad idea, I was worried my sandcastle metaphor would be boring enough as it is), I could understand. But protestors at commencement? Gimme a break.

Secondly, how delicious is the quote from a Mr. Ronny Menzie? "I didn't finish my thesis because I didn't want my graduation with him." Really? You didn't finish your thesis because W was in town for the ceremony? You couldn't just finish your stupid paper and say "The heck with this school, I'll get my diploma in the mail 6 months from now"? Now I've heard my share of great excuses for people who want to stick around for a fifth year, and some are even legit. This isn't one of them.

And don't get me wrong, I think it's great that older students like Mr. Menzie (age 35) come back and finish their degrees. They pay attention in class, they do their homework, they tend not to end up passed out on the sidewalk outside Burge with their pants around their ankles at 2 AM on a Sunday morning. But people like him give people like them a bad name.



Oh Crap

Beer drinkers beware: a barley shortage in 2006 will raise the price of German beer this month. What's the cause of this great evil? Ethanol.

Kudos to the bloggers at Foreign Policy, a quirky journal of international relations trying its darndest to differentiate itself from the grandeur of Foreign Affairs, for bringing this story to my attention.

Lobbyists for the beer industry, who are apprently not having much success in Venezuela (see: Hawkeye Republican 04/04/2007), claim that subsidizing corn, soybeans, and rapeseed grown for alternative energy sources gives farmers an incentive to plant these crops in their fields instead of barley. As a result, the supply of barley decreases, which causes its price to increase. Since barley, an input in the brewing process, is more expensive, the price of its tasty final output is also more expensive.

In other words, from society's point of view, the only thing worse than driving to the bars in downtown Iowa City is driving a car that runs on ethanol to the bars in downtown Iowa City.

But wait, there's more to this story. The decrease in barley production could also be due to the fact that larger breweries in Germany band together and form an oligopoly in the beer market to keep barley production low. With those businesses using their market power to decrease the supply of barley and increase the price of beer, it's hard to blame ethanol subsidies alone for emptying the pockets of poor, drunk college students everywhere.

Fewer subsidies and more competition means cheaper beer. Hugo Chavez beware.



The Dark Side of the Yellow Revolution

Two posts in one day, not bad. Not bad at all.

With the yellow revolution (ethanol) underway in the West, it's appropriate every now and then to consider the incontrovertable fact that every choice implies a trade-off. In public policy, these trade-offs mean that oftentimes, the actions taken to solve one problem cause different problems down the road.

Take the goal of energy independence. By decreasing our reliance on foreign oil, we can decrease our reliance on foreign countries who produce oil, many of whom are unstable and prone to fomenting hatred of the United States and its allies.

Many, especially in this state, promote corn-based ethanol as the solution to our imported oil crisis. However, the increasing use of ethanol is not without its problems: increased demand for corn increases the price of other products that use corn as an input, such as meat. The effect of increased demand for corn may hurt the food budget of the world's poor also.

While I've seen the first effect in action at home (cattle and pork producers are paying higher prices for feed corn), the second may be overblown. Higher input prices could spur greater innovation in agricultural sectors, leading to higher yields for all crops (soybeans included). It could also cause cattle and pork producers to find new ways of feeding cows and pigs. Even better, high corn prices could also cause Washington to open US markets to sugar-based ethanol from Brazil, which is currently the world's most efficient way to produce ethanol.

In energy policy, as in all things, discretion is the best course of action.


Should This Man Be President?

The following is the text of Senator John McCain's speech at the Virginia Military Academy on Wednesday, April 11th. His perspective on the White House is neatly captured by the phrase, "For my part, I would rather lose a campaign than a war." This is the essence of statesmanship.

Special thanks to National Review Online for posting it.

"Thank you. I know that seated in the front of this hall are VMI cadets who have served in Iraq. I am grateful for your service, honored by your presence, and mindful that I speak to an audience that can discern truth from falsehood in a politician’s appraisal of the war. You know, better than most, whether our cause is just, necessary and winnable. You have risked much to make it so. Thank you. I’d also like to salute a few old comrades of mine, Orson Swindle, Jim Berger and Paul Galanti, whose example of steadfast courage helped to sustain me in a difficult time.

This institution is steeped in the ideals of service and sacrifice exemplified by the veterans here today. VMI has helped to form the character of many fine patriots, none greater than George Marshall, whose long, selfless service to our country was of inestimable value in some of the most consequential moments of the last century. As we celebrate this year the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, VMI’s Corps of Cadets should take renewed pride from their association with his good name and in knowing the lesson of his character and patriotism has been a part of your education.

I just returned from my fifth visit to Iraq. Unlike the veterans here today, I risked nothing more threatening than a hostile press corps. And my only mission was to inform my opinions with facts. We still face many difficult challenges in Iraq. That is undeniable. But we have also made, in recent weeks, measurable progress in establishing security in Baghdad and fighting al Qaeda in Anbar province. To deny the difficulties and uncertainties ahead is an egregious disservice to the public. But as General Petraeus implements his plan to correct the flawed strategy we followed in the past, and attempts to spare the United States and the world the catastrophe of an American defeat, it is an equal disservice to dismiss early signs of progress. And now we confront a choice as historically important as any we have faced in a long while. Will this nation’s elected leaders make the politically hard but strategically vital decision to give General Petraeus our full support and do what is necessary to succeed in Iraq? Or will we decide to take advantage of the public’s frustration, accept defeat, and hope that whatever the cost to our security the politics of defeat will work out better for us than our opponents? For my part, I would rather lose a campaign than a war.

However it ends, the war in Iraq will have a profound influence on the future of the Middle East, global stability, and the security of the United States, which will remain, for the foreseeable future, directly affected by events in that dangerous part of the world. The war is part of a broader struggle in the Arab and Muslim world, the struggle between violent extremists and the forces of modernity and moderation. In the early days after 9/11, our country was united in a single purpose: to find the terrorists bent on our destruction and eliminate the threat they posed to us. In the intervening years, we have learned the complexity of the struggle against radical Islamic ideology. The extremists — a tiny percentage of the hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims — are flexible, intelligent, determined and unconstrained by international borders. They wish to return the world to the 7th century, and they will use any means, no matter how inhumane, to eliminate anyone who stands in the way. But the vast majority of Muslims are trying to modernize their societies to meet the challenges of the 21st century. While al Qaeda seeks to destroy, millions of Muslims attempt to build the same elements of a good life that all of us want — security, opportunity, peace, and hope.

The war on terror, the war for the future of the Middle East, and the struggle for the soul of Islam — of which the war in Iraq constitutes a key element — are bound together. Progress in one requires progress in all. The many complex challenges we face require more than a military response. This is a contest of ideas and values as much as it is one of bullets and bombs. We must gain the active support of modernizers across the Muslim world, who want to share in the benefits of the global system and its economic success, and who aspire to the political freedom that is, I truly believe, the natural desire of the human heart. No matter how much attention their ruthless tactics receive, terrorists are not the true face of Islam. Devout Muslims in Lebanon, Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and in Iraq, aspire to progress for their societies in which basic human needs are met for more than the privileged few and basic human rights are respected.

The United States needs stronger alliances, coalitions, and partnerships worldwide to engage this long and multidimensional struggle. We need to pay careful attention to America’s image and moral credibility. And in this broad effort, the outcome of the war in Iraq will play a pivotal role.

On my trip I traveled to Baghdad, Ramadi, and Tikrit, met with Iraqi cabinet officers, our top military leadership, including Generals Petraeus and Odierno, and with embassy officials, including our new ambassador, Ryan Crocker. I also had the privilege of spending time with our soldiers, from generals to privates. Their courage and resolve in this frustrating war is an inspiration, and serves as a reminder of our obligations to avoid the expediency of easy, but empty answers or the allure of political advantage to choose the path in Iraq that best honors their sacrifices.

We’re going to need their courage more than ever. The divisions in Iraqi society are deep, and the need for greater security critical. Innocent Iraqis are still being murdered, and our soldiers are braving dangers no less threatening than in the past. Every day we read about or watch on television the latest car bombing, IED explosion or sniper attack. But something else is happening, too. There are the first glimmers of progress under General Petraeus’ political-military strategy. While these glimmers are no guarantee of success, and though they come early in the implementation of the new strategy, I believe they are cause for very cautious optimism.

For the first time in my visits to Iraq, our delegation was able to drive — not fly by helicopter— from the airport to downtown Baghdad. For the first time we met with a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar province, who is working with American and Iraqi forces to fight al Qaeda. Sixteen of the twenty-four Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar are now working with us. We visited Iraqi and American forces deployed together in Baghdad — an integral part of the new security plan — where they maintain a presence in a neighborhood cleared of militias and terrorists, and hold the ground they have retaken rather than return to base, after which the enemy returns to impose its will again on a defenseless population. The government of Prime Minister Maliki is delivering on its promise to deploy Iraqi brigades to Baghdad. A plan to share oil revenues equitably among all Iraqis has been approved by Iraqi ministers and is pending approval by the parliament. After an important visit by Prime Minister Maliki to Ramadi in Sunni dominated Anbar, he promised a new policy to allay Sunni fears that they will be excluded from sharing in the political future of the country. An important result of the new security plan is the cooperation we are receiving from the Iraqi people, who are beginning to provide us with actionable intelligence about the whereabouts and plans of the enemy. These welcome developments have occurred even though only three of our five additional brigades have arrived.

These and other indicators of progress are encouraging, but they are not determinative. I understand the damage false optimism does to public patience and support. I learned long ago to be skeptical of official reports that are long on wishful thinking and short on substance. As we make progress in some areas, the enemy strikes where we do not have as great a presence. But security in the capital is indispensable to a greater level of security throughout the country so that political and economic progress can occur. And in Baghdad we are making progress. We have a long way to go, but for the first time in four years, we have a strategy that deals with how things really are in Iraq and not how we wish them to be.

After my first visit to Iraq in 2003, I argued for more troops. I took issue with statements characterizing the insurgency as a few “dead-enders” or being in its ‘last throes.’ I criticized the search and destroy strategy and argued for a counter-insurgency approach that separated the reconcilable population from the irreconcilable. That is the course now followed by General Petraeus, and the brave Americans and coalition troops he has the honor to command.

It is the right strategy. General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counter insurgency. He is a determined, resourceful and bold commander. Our troops, many of whom have served multiple tours in Iraq, are performing with great skill and bravery. But the hour is late and, despite the developments I just described, we should have no illusion that success is certain. But having been a critic of the way this war was fought and a proponent of the very strategy now being followed, it is my obligation to encourage Americans to give it a chance to succeed. To do otherwise would be contrary to the interests of my country and dishonorable.

Many in Washington have called for an end to our involvement in Iraq. Yet they offer no opinion about the consequences of this course of action beyond a vague assurance that all will be well if the Iraqis are left to work out their differences themselves. It is obviously true that no military solution is capable of doing what the Iraqis won’t do politically. But, my friends, no political solution has a chance to succeed when al Qaeda is free to foment civil war and Iraqis remain dependent on sectarian militias to protect their children from being murdered.

America has a vital interest in preventing the emergence of Iraq as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11. By leaving Iraq before there is a stable Iraqi governing authority we risk precisely this, and the potential consequence of allowing terrorists sanctuary in Iraq is another 9/11 or worse. In Iraq today, terrorists have resorted to levels of barbarism that shock the world, and we should not be so naïve as to believe their intentions are limited solely to the borders of that country. We Americans are their primary enemy, and we Americans are their ultimate target. A power vacuum in Iraq would invite further interference from Iran at a time when Tehran already feels emboldened enough to develop nuclear weapons, threaten Israel and America, and kidnap British sailors. If the government collapses in Iraq, which it surely will if we leave prematurely, Iraq’s neighbors, from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, will feel pressure to intervene on the side of their favored factions. This uncertain swirl of events could cause the region to explode and foreclose the opportunity for millions of Muslims and their children to achieve freedom. We could face a terrible choice: watch the region burn, the price of oil escalate dramatically and our economy decline, watch the terrorists establish new base camps or send American troops back to Iraq, with the odds against our success much worse than they are today.

To enumerate the strategic interests at stake in Iraq does not address our moral obligation to a people we liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. I suspect many in this audience, and most members of Congress, look back at America’s failure to act to prevent genocide in Rwanda with shame. I know I do. And yet I fear the potential for genocide and ethnic cleansing in Iraq is even worse. The sectarian violence, the social divisions, the armaments, the weakened security apparatus of the state — all the ingredients are there. Unless we fight to prevent it, our withdrawal will be coupled with a genocide in which we are complicit. Given our security interests and our moral investment in Iraq, so long as we have a chance to prevail we must try to prevail. As General Petraeus has repeatedly stated, it will be several months or more before we know with any confidence whether we can turn this war around. Elements of the new civil-military strategy are still being drafted, almost half of the additional troops have yet to arrive, and many of the new civilians have yet to take up their posts. We are off to a good start, but significant results will take time.

What struck me upon my return from Baghdad is the enormous gulf between the harsh but hopeful realities in Iraq, where politics is for many a matter of life and death, and the fanciful and self-interested debates about Iraq that substitute for statesmanship in Washington. In Iraq, American and Iraqi soldiers risk everything to hold the country together, to prevent it from becoming a terrorist sanctuary and the region from descending into the dangerous chaos of a widening war. In Washington, where political calculation seems to trump all other considerations, Democrats in Congress and their leading candidates for President, heedless of the terrible consequences of our failure, unanimously confirmed our new commander, and then insisted he be prevented from taking the action he believes necessary to safeguard our country’s interests. In Iraq, hope is a fragile thing, but all the more admirable for the courage and sacrifice necessary to nurture it. In Washington, cynicism appears to be the quality most prized by those who accept defeat but not the responsibility for its consequences.

Before I left for Iraq, I watched with regret as the House of Representatives voted to deny our troops the support necessary to carry out their new mission. Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the last votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender? In Iraq, only our enemies were cheering. A defeat for the United States is a cause for mourning not celebrating. And determining how the United States can avert such a disaster should encourage the most sober, public-spirited reasoning among our elected leaders not the giddy anticipation of the next election. Democrats who voted to authorize this war, and criticized the failed strategy that has led us to this perilous moment, have the same responsibility I do, to offer support when that failure is recognized and the right strategy is proposed and the right commanders take the field to implement it or, at the least, to offer an alternative strategy that has some relationship to reality.

Democrats argue we should redirect American resources to the ‘real’ war on terror, of which Iraq is just a sideshow. But whether or not al Qaeda terrorists were a present danger in Iraq before the war, there is no disputing they are there now, and their leaders recognize Iraq as the main battleground in the war on terror. Today, al Qaeda terrorists are the ones preparing the car bombs, firing the Katyusha rockets, planting the IEDs. They maneuver in the midst of Iraq’s sectarian conflict, sparking and fueling the horrendous violence, destroying efforts at political reconciliation, killing innocents on both sides in the hope of creating a conflagration that will cause Americans to lose heart and leave, so they can return to their primary mission — planning and executing attacks on the United States, and destabilizing America’s allies.

It is impossible to separate sectarian violence from the war against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is following an explicit strategy to foment civil war in Iraq. The only way to reduce and finally end sectarian violence is to provide greater security to the population than we have in the past, as we are doing now in Baghdad; to encourage Iraqis to abandon their reliance on local militias, and to destroy al Qaeda and other truly irreconcilable enemies of the United States and the Iraqi people.

Our defeat in Iraq would constitute a defeat in the war against terror and extremism and would make the world a much more dangerous place. The enemies we face there harbor the same depraved indifference to human life as those who killed three thousand innocent Americans on a September morning in 2001. A couple of days before I arrived in Baghdad, a suicide car bomb destroyed a large, busy marketplace. It was a bit unusual, because new U.S. and Iraqi security measures in Baghdad have reduced the number of car bomb attacks. But this time the terrorists had a new tactic: they drove their car to a security checkpoint and were waved through because there were two small children in the back seat. The terrorists then walked away from the car, leaving the children inside it, and triggered the explosion. If the terrorists are willing to do this terrible thing to Iraqi children, what are they willing to do to our children?

Some argue the war in Iraq no longer has anything to do with us; that it is a hopelessly complicated mess of tribal warfare and sectarian conflict. The situation is complex, and very difficult. Yet from one perspective it is quite simple. We are engaged in a basic struggle: a struggle between humanity and inhumanity; between builders and destroyers. If fighting these people and preventing the export of their brand of radicalism and terror is not intrinsic to the national security and most cherished values of the United States, I don’t know what is.Consider our other strategic challenges in the region: preventing Iran from going nuclear; stabilizing Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban; the battle for the future of Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others; protecting Israel’s security; the struggle for Lebanon’s independence. Does any honest observer believe those challenges will be easier to confront and at lesser cost in American blood and treasure if the United States accepts defeat in Iraq?

We all agree a military solution alone will not solve the problems of Iraq. There must be a political agreement among Iraqis that allows all groups to participate in the building of their nation, to share in its resources and to live in peace with each other. But without greater security imposed by the United States military and the Iraqi Army, there can be no political solution. As Americans and Iraqis sacrifice to provide that security, Iraq’s leaders must do the hard work of political reconciliation. We can help them get there, but we cannot assume their responsibilities. Unless they accept their own obligations to all Iraqis, we will all fail, and America, Iraq and the world will have to live with the terrible consequences. We are giving Iraq’s leaders and people the chance to have a better future, but they must seize it.

In the many mistakes we have made in this war, a few lessons have become clear. America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, and unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success. We did not meet this responsibility initially. We are trying to do so now. Responsible political leaders — statesmen — do not add to the burdens our troops carry. That is what Democrats, intentionally or not, have done by failing to provide them with the resources necessary to succeed in their mission. Everyday that passes without the necessary funds appropriated to sustain our troops, our chances of success in Iraq dwindle and our military readiness declines further. We have sent the best Americans among us to fight in Iraq, at the least, we must give them the tools they need to do their job. When the President vetoes, as he should, the bill that refuses to support General Petraeus’ new plan, I hope Democrats in Congress will heed the advice of one of their leading candidates for President, Senator Obama, and immediately pass a new bill to provide support to our troops in Iraq without substituting their partisan interests for those of our troops and our country.

I know the pain war causes. I understand the frustration caused by our mistakes in this war. I sympathize with the fatigue of the American people. And I regret sincerely the additional sacrifices imposed on the brave Americans who defend us. But I also know the toll a lost war takes on an army and a country. We, who are willing to support this new strategy, and give General Petraeus the time and support he needs, have chosen a hard road. But it is the right road. It is necessary and just. Democrats, who deny our soldiers the means to prevent an American defeat, have chosen another road. It may appear to be the easier course of action, but it is a much more reckless one, and it does them no credit even if it gives them an advantage in the next election. This is an historic choice, with ramifications for Americans not even born yet. Let’s put aside for a moment the small politics of the day. The judgment of history should be the approval we seek, not the temporary favor of the latest public opinion poll.

We all respect the sacrifices made by our soldiers. We all mourn the losses they have suffered in this war. But let us honor them by doing all we can to ensure their sacrifices were not made in vain. Let us show an appropriate humility by recognizing that so little is asked of us compared to the burdens we imposed on them, and let us show just a small, but significant measure of their courage, resolve and patriotism by putting our country’s interests before every personal or political consideration.

In closing, I’d like to bring to your attention the gallantry and patriotism of one American who served with distinction in Iraq, a Navy SEAL, who refuses to quit his mission and let the country he loves so well suffer the terrible harm our defeat would entail. A few days ago, Petty Officer First Class Mark Robbins’ unit was ambushed outside Baghdad. During the ensuing firefight, he spotted an insurgent with an RPG, and immediately stepped out from cover and exposed himself to enemy fire to take out the terrorist before he could fire. He saved the lives of his comrades, but was gravely wounded as he did so. He was shot in the eye by another insurgent with an AK-47. The bullet exited the back of his head about three inches behind his ear. He was initially knocked unconscious but came to, continued to fight and then, despite the severity of his wound, walked to the evacuation helicopter. He was eventually taken to Landstuhl military hospital in Germany. As is the custom of Navy SEALs, he was accompanied by one of his comrades, Petty Officer Second class McLean Swink.

On our way home from Iraq, our delegation stopped in Germany for refueling and crew rest, and I had the privilege of visiting some of our wounded at Landstuhl. I briefly stopped in Mark Robbins’ room, but he was sedated and unable then to communicate. I spent a few moments there, and talked to his buddy, before I went to visit other wounded soldiers. Not too long after I had left Mark’s room, Petty Officer Swink found me and told me Mark was awake and had asked to see me. So I returned. When I entered his room and approached his bedside, he struggled with great difficulty to sit up, stiffened his body as if he were trying to stand at attention, grasped my hand tightly and wouldn’t let go. And then he whispered to me not to worry, “We can win this fight. We can win this fight.” Mark, as another person observed, looks like the “toughest kid on the high school football team.” He is tough, and brave, and very young. But more than that, he’s an inspiration to those who are only called upon to subordinate a temporary political advantage to the security of our good and great nation. Petty Officer Mark Robbins, an American hero, believes we can still win this fight. I’ll take his word for it, and accept my responsibility to help the cause he sacrificed so much to defend. Thank you.”



Why Bother?

Ah spring. When it's not pretending to snow, the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and the air is filled with excitement and anticipation as fresh-faced high school seniors begin to unwrap the college admissions letters that will change their lives forever.

Well, for some of them, anyway.

There are three reasons why I really don't have much sympathy for smart high school kids who can't get into [insert name of overpriced private institution here]:

1. I applied to four schools (Columbia, Georgetown, Brown, and Iowa) and batted a minor league .250 (I only got accepted by Iowa, who even then sent me a rejection letter before they got it right).

2. I spent last summer at a leadership program in Washington DC with many students from schools I couldn't get into straight out of high school. Needless to say, there wasn't much of a difference between me and them (except for the fact that my education for three years at Iowa cost as much as one year at an Ivy League-caliber school).

3. I got into graduate programs to study international relations at Princeton, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins after spending four wonderful years at Iowa. I wouldn't trade my days here for any other school. I wouldn't trade one Saturday afternoon in Kinnick for four years of rock star professors and the chance to room with a future President. I did always want to marry a Kennedy, but that's another story for another time...

I'll admit; I was pretty broken up April 1, 2003, when three rejection letters swamped my mailbox. But I've spent the last three years telling prospective students that you can go to Iowa and do just as well as the kids at Harvard. Where you go to school is not nearly as important as what you do once you get there. It isn't easy to succeed anywhere, but it is possible almost everywhere.



Who Got The Hooch?

Not Venezuelans, that's who: "President" Hugo Chavez prompted a public outcry this week when he restricted the sale of alcohol to decrease the deaths caused by drunk driving during Holy Week. Some of the most vociferious protests came from the delightfully-named "Margarita Island," the existence of which immediately moves Venezuela from #113 to #2 on my list of must-visit vacation spots. (#1 is still a summer Alaskan cruise. How cool would that be?)

The partial ban is particularly devastating to local commerce because, according to one bar owner, “Holy Week is the best week of the year because people don’t work, they go out and spend.” Jesus of Nazareth, the popular lush and alleged 'King of the Jews', was not available for comment.

Unsurprisingly, the ban remains largely unenforceable. Senor Chavez would have known this two weeks ago had he spent more time reading American history textbooks (see: Prohibition) and less time calling its elected leaders "the devil."

The Hawkeye Republican takes no official stance on the legal consumption of alcohol in moderate amounts, although it strongly condemns drunk driving regardless of its country of origin and all acts of criminal mischief justified by haze of drunkness.

Mostly, we just like to make fun of socialists.



Maybe, Just Maybe

Today's post is more Hawkeye, less Republican for a change: congrats to the men's basketball team for a clutch home win over the Indiana Hoosiers. Given that we were expected to finish 9th in the Big Ten before the season started, I've been relatively impressed with this year's team. More importantly, this win keeps the Hawks in contention for a spot in the NCAA tournament (quit laughing, UNI).

After today's win, the Hawks are 4th in the Big Ten with seven conference games left to play. We have a great chance of beating Northwestern, Purdue, and Illinois at home. On the road, we're also in good shape to steal victories from Minnesota and Penn State. On the downside, I won't expect to see anything spectacular in Madison on February 10th or East Lansing a week later.

So let's pretend that we finish the season strong at 5-2. That leaves us with a final record of 18-12 overall and 10-6 in the Big Ten (probably 4th or 5th place, depending on how the rest of the league shapes up) heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Assuming we don't win the tournament (which is never a safe assumption for a Steve Alford-coached team), that's the textbook definition of a bubble team.

Side note #1: Major props (I guess that's what they say in basketball) to the Hawks embattled center Seth Gorney, who outplayed Indiana's highly-regarded forward D.J. White.

Side note #2: What is a Hoosier anyway?



Good News For A Change

The front page story of the Chicago Tribune (and, surprisingly, only the Chicago Tribune) contains some mixed news from Iraq. Moqtada Sadr, the spirtual leader of one of Iraq's most troublesome private militias, has pledged not to attack US troops patrolling his strongholds.

The upside: Sadr's promise amounts to an ad hoc ceasefire that will provide the opportunity for American and Iraqi forces to develop the security apparatus necessary to end the violence in Baghdad. The ultimate solution to violence in Iraq is the final disarmamenet of all private militias, and a temporary ceasefire provides the "space" for the political compromise necessary to ensure that such an agreement can occur. The militias will only disarm when they trust that their religious enemies will not take up arms, and this development is a positive step in that direction.

On the other hand, Sadr's move is strategic. Regardless of whatever impression the New York times gives you, Sadr loses badly when he fights American forces. If his forces lay low long enough, the violence will abate. The American forces will have reason to pull out, and after we're gone, Sadr can resume his bloody rise to power.

Even still, a break in the violence in Baghdad is good news to the ears of bloggers here at the Hawkeye Republican. Had the President followed the wise men of Washington and begun plans for a drawn-down/redeployment/retreat from Baghdad in 4-6 months, it is likely that Sadr's militia would be arming itself instead at this point.



A Good First Step, But...

Historic news from the Middle East that you probably won't read in the paper: Israel appoints a Muslim Arab to its cabinet. The article doesn't specify what Galeb Magadla will actually do in government, but it certainly represents a positive development in regional relations. He would serve as a useful envoy to the broken Palestinian and Lebanese governments and a capable representative to more established, Israel-friendly Arab states like Egypt and Jordan.

One particularly promising scenario involves using him to broker peace between Israel and Syria (article available on The Economist, subscription required). Apparently Syria has made quiet diplomatic overtures to Israel, only to be rebuffed by Israel's prime minister Ehud Ohlmert for fear of upsetting the Americans. Syria has done terrible things in Iraq, but even the faint hope of peace between Syria and Israel is a great development for the war-torn region. President Bush should not waste this opportunity to help a dependable ally and create a new proxy alliance with a strategic Muslim Arab state.

Unfortunately, this action does not address the root problem of violence in the Middle East. Contrary to Jimmy Carter's fuzzy thinking, Israel is not the impediment to peace and freedom in the Middle East. The problems are poor governance and extremism. The government in Palestine cannot function, and therefore cannot be trusted to deliver on any promises made with the Israelis. It isn't Lebanon's fault their country does not function; blame Hezbollah and their cheerleaders in Iran for last summer's catastrophe. Iraq will someday function, provided America does not lose its courage in the coming storm of casaulties (which will increase substantially thanks to this change in strategy). Where countries do not work properly, terrorists reign. Where terrorists reign, entire groups of people can suffer greatly.

Isreael is far from perfect, but it is not to blame for the suffering in the Middle East.



Honor To Whom Honor Is Owed

In 26 words, the new Secretary General of the UN has restored my faith in humanity (or, at least, in its international organizations):

"The Secretary-General will call for an urgent, system wide and external inquiry into all activities done around the globe by the U.N. funds and programs."

Henceforth, friends and fellows internationalists, January 22nd shall forever be known as the day that I, your humble blogger, first felt a warm feeling in my core when the acronym "UN" and the word "reform" were used in the same sentence.

While we're in the spirit of Romans 13 (see the title), I'd also like to congratulate...myself for the role I played in bringing this scandal to light. Had it not been for the courageous stance I took in my last blogger post, would the world have known the truth about the alleged misdeeds of the UN Development Program in North Korea?

Had it not been for the hard-nosed, tireless reporting done by the Hawkeye Republican, would the world have any reason to suspect the UN of providing material and moral support to the worst dictators and most repressive regimes?

Had it not been for the decisive action taken by your humble (keep the laughter to a minimum) blogger, would the great halls of power at Turtle Bay ever be held to account?

Oh, and maybe the Wall Street Journal helped too.



An Optional Alliance

The United Nations is at it again. After losing $100 billion (give or take) to Saddam Hussein, the UN's Development Program is currently facing tough questions from the United States about its dealings in North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story in a Friday editorial, and you can read the official inquiry that prompted the editorial here (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

As the editorial makes clear, there is no evidence that any UNDP officials were bribed. But these new allegations provide weight to the thesis that the United Nations is unreliable because it lacks accountability and institutional oversight. The newly-installed Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea, should order the UNDP to cooperate fully with American investigators and, if necessary, end UNDP activities in North Korea.

There are bigger issues at stake than the competency of the UN's humanitarian arm. What if the cash that the UN handed the North Korean government (yes, you read that right) was used in his pursuit of nuclear weapons?

Ultimately, if the UN continues funding the terrifying ambitions of American's greatest enemies, American policy elites should understand that they have other diplomatic options.



What A Moron

It's good to see that some newly elected Democrats are quickly adjusting to the culture of Washington DC. According to the Oshkosh Northwestern (whereabouts of B'gosh unknown), Wisconsin Rep.-elect Steve Kagen stuck it the President, the Vice President, the First Lady, and the President's political advisor at a White House reception in November.

Kagen reportedly told Karl Rove he kicked his *** (three guesses), thanked Cheney and Bush for campaigning against him, and then, to top off the night, called Laura Bush "Barbara" because he "learned on the campaign that the meanest thing you can say to another gentlemen is, ‘he’s a fine fellow,’ and you then refer to his spouse by a different name.”

Oh boy. This could take awhile.

1. Maybe it's just me, but insulting the President's wife does not seem like the most appropriate way to introduce yourself to the sitting President of the United States. Way to go, Michael Moore.

2. Why stop with Laura Bush? Surely the President's secretary, dog, and paperboy also deserved a good licking or two for their role in shaping the President's policies.

3. Rove does a great job keeping his dignity with his response ("Congratulations") to Kagen's jack*** remark (“You’re in the White House and you think your safe, huh? You recognize me? My name’s Dr. Multimillionaire and I kicked your ***.").

4. A quote from President Kennedy's famous 1961 Inaugural Address supplies the answer to the question Kagen asked of Cheney and the high cost of the war in Iraq, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." Bush and Cheney, unlike most Democrats, are the true heirs of the foreign policy legacy left by Democratics like Kennedy.

5. When pressed, Kagen retreats from most of his story and refuses to discuss it further. Now there's a real Washington insider, insult Laura Bush, brag about it to your friends, and then forget the whole episode took place.

In the end, Messrs. Bush, Cheney, and Rove come out looking statesmen, and Kagen comes out looking like the kind of sleaze we tried to clean out of Washington this past election. It's a shame.



Libya Mourns Saddam

Tyrants often make common cause with other tyrants, so this should not surprise us. The evil of Saddam is one of the few agreements between the United States and Iran, the latter of whom suffered greatly at the hands of Saddam's biological and chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's. For Sunni Muslims to proclaim him a martyr requires them to ignore the well documented atrocities committed by his regime over the past 25 years and will further alienate them from political coalitions in the new Iraqi state.

There is so much more that could be said about this, but not on New Year's Eve. I'll come back to Iraq and the Middle East later.

In the meantime, you can celebrate 2007 with a video of Saddam's death from the Drudge Report. If that isn't enough to make it a Happy New Year, nothing is.



Merry Christmas To All, And To All, A Good Night

There are many things I have wanted to blog about this past month, but I simply have not found the time to do it. I did learn how to snowboard in Colorado, which was great for the spirit and bad for the tailbone. But since the moral of the Christmas story is that we are unfulfilled enough in life to seek purpose in the most unlikeliest of places, you get a movie review. Maybe next year.

The Nativity Story: A Missed Opportunity, But A Good Family Outing

The Nativity Story is, unsurprisingly, the story of Jesus' birth. Writer Mike Rich is very faithful to the historical account of Luke 2 and includes several meaningful snippets of Old Testament prophecy. He does a very good job capturing the disenchantment of the Jewish people in 1st century Palestine, and the script includes some clever dialogue that brings the Three Wise Men of ancient Persia to life. The cinematography is very realistic, and Keisha Castle-Hughes is well cast as the young Mary.

But it left me wanting more. The Christmas story is really a collision of three stories, momentarily drawn together to produce the second greatest miracle the world has ever seen: Herod the King's quest for power, the Wise Men's quest for knowledge, and Israel's quest for redemption. In the story, Herod the Great is thwarted by the warnings of clever Gabriel (the film's most unspectacular character) , the Wise Men are richly rewarded for their intuition and sacrifice, and Israel never entirely understands the blessing God has bestown upon her.

The film ignores the delicate balance this story requires. King Herod is there, but his character is very shallow and boring, to say nothing of his brutish son, who spends the entire film brooding over his terrible lot in life. Rich and Director Catherine Hardwicke deserve credit for the entertaining interplay among the Wise Men, and Mary's family is very prominent in the earlier scences. For the 2% of the audience unfamiliar with the story, the beginning is very confusing. The formality of each Biblical reference is dusty and oblique, draining the vitality from the characters and forcing the audience to take the time to translate their speech into common English. A modern paraphrase of the New Testament would've brought the characters to life, even if it would disenfranchise textual purists.

Given the man that inspired it, this film could've been brilliant. Instead, it is merely a nice movie for the whole family to see. Mine did, and yours probably should too. At the very least, it will give you a better appreciation for the selfless, faithful action of ordinary people that make the 25th of December, and every day thereafter, a Merry Christmas.

2 Santas out of 4

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