Monday, September 13, 2010

Did Microsoft just show Google a thing or two?

Microsoft found out that the Russian government is using the excuse of investigating software piracy to seize computers from advocacy groups and opposition newspapers. They quickly issued a change to their software licensing to protect those groups. As the New York Times states it:
The company essentially prohibited its Russian division from taking part in piracy cases against government opponents and declared that it would thwart any attempt by the authorities, in this country and elsewhere, to use such inquiries to exert political pressure.
That is a very bold, decisive move. It's not the sort of move one would necessarily associate with Microsoft, who has been quite loyal to profits as a general rule, but one I welcome. I suppose, in my jaded, calloused way, that it could have been a calculated move to take advantage of Google's bad press over bowing to political pressure, but such moves don't usually happen that quickly. Somebody high up in Microsoft had the guts to assess the situations and say "No, we won't allow this".

Good for them.

Though I can't help but wonder what Russia will do in response. This is the stuff of a Tom Clancy novel: Megacorp vs. megapower. And like a Tom Clancy novel, I suspect much of the maneuvering will be out of public sight.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bullies, Islam, and September 11

When I was in junior high school I got picked on fairly regularly by bullies. I did my best to ignore them or stay out of their way hoping that they would eventually leave me alone. It didn't work. There was one particular bully who sat behind me in one of my classes. One day as we were leaving class he got behind me and started hitting me over the head with his book. Something inside me snapped. I turned around, grabbed him by the throat, and pushed him into some desks. Without stopping to see what happened to him I turned and left the room.

The next day he challenged me to a fight. I agreed to meet him, but the anxiety got to me and ended up going home feeling sick. I had one of my friends give him a message that I'd face him the next day. Oddly enough, he never mentioned it again. And he never bothered me again. I suspect my one act of mindless violence was sufficient to shake his image of me as passive and him as tougher than me. It was no longer worth the risk of what I might do next time.

Today we have a couple of situations in the news. One is the proposed mosque not far from the site of the World Trade Center that was destroyed by Muslim extremists nine years ago. The other is a church in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Koran in protest of the aforementioned mosque. These are both fine examples of what is right vs. what is legal.

It is quite legal to build a mosque near Ground Zero. It's their property, and they should be able to do what they want with it. That's how America works. It's a good system. But that does not mean that it's right for Muslims to build there. It shows an extreme disregard for their fellow Americans. Worse, it looks for all the world like another link in the chain of Muslim mosques built on the sacred sites of their conquered enemies. It is simultaneously a deliberate poke in the eye of a people Muslims have considered enemies for decades and a test of will to see how weak that enemy is.

Unfortunately, because we are America, and because our laws ensure certain freedoms--including the right to be deliberately offensive and disrespectful--we have to allow this. It is important that we allow this, because American culture and law are the direct antithesis of Sharia law and culture. Whether we admit it or not, we are in a battle of ideals, and the world is watching. Sometimes adherence to ideals is more important than defending them.

On the other side we have Rev. Terry Jones and his plan to burn copies of the Koran to protest the Ground Zero mosque. They have come under pressure from many angles not to go through with it. Much of that has been from their fellow Americans. Now, I agree that burning copies of the Koran is not the right thing to do. But it is legal. Just as legal as building a mosque on legally obtained property. Rev. Jones--who has announced that they will not go through with it--is well within his rights as an American to burn any religious text he desires, so long as he complies with other appropriate legal statutes (ie. fire code).

What makes Jones' threat wrong is that it doesn't mesh with Christian principles. We (Christians) are supposed to be long-suffering, patient, and turn the other cheek. We are to respect others and their beliefs. We are supposed to love our neighbors, especially those who wrong us. That is what is wrong with the Koran burning, and nothing else.

But what is more disturbing is the number of people who called on Jones' church to stop their plans not because it was against Christian principles, but because they were afraid that Muslims would be inflamed to anger and hurt Americans. This is not some vague, paranoid fear, either. We know there are plenty of Muslims capable of and willing to carry out such violence. Which brings us back to my story of the bully from my youth.

Islam may be a peaceful religion, but it's the violent side of Islam--the bullies--currently in the driver seat. There are quite likely a majority of Muslims around the world who just want to leave their own lives in peace and not offend anyone. But they are keeping silent. They are doing nothing to reclaim control of their religion from the violent extremists. They are complicit through their silence. They are enabling the bully. They are the parents who turn a blind eye to their child's behavior.

Those bullies have chosen the United States and all other freedom-loving nations as their enemy. They know they are not strong enough to defeat us outright, but they are patient. They know they just have to wear us down and break our will to fight. Unlike the bully of my youth, we can't just defeat them once and expect them to go away. If we strike back they will do their best to avoid the blow and await another chance to strike.

The only way to defeat them is to consistently answer every blow with at least as much violence in return. Trying to make peace will not do it. If they were interested in peace they would have made peace long ago. They don't want peace. They want to defeat us, to subjugate us, and build more mosques on our holy sites. To do that they don't need to defeat us in combat. They merely have to beat down our will to fight back.

So that is what is so distressing about the situation with Rev. Jones' church. I'm sure there was plenty of pressure on them from Muslims not to desecrate their holy book. That is understandable and right. But for other Americans to pressure them out of fear of the consequences shows that the Islamist bullies are winning. Some Americans, it seems, would rather voluntarily give up their freedoms and rights than face a violent enemy. They continue to hope that if we don't do anything to offend the Muslims they will leave us alone.

And perhaps for the majority of Muslims that is true. But they're not in control. The bullies are. Laying low and trying not to cause offense will not work with them any more than it did for me in my youth. It's our existence they find offensive. It's our freedom that offends them. When we voluntarily give up those freedoms they are just emboldened to continue. They're making progress toward their goal, so why wouldn't they continue? The only thing they would enjoy more than conquering and subjugating us is for us to surrender, either piecemeal or wholesale.

So as much as I don't want it to be that way, I see no other option than to continue to fight back, meeting violence with violence. We can't afford to worry about the innocents caught in the middle. It's the innocents who are the key to this. Only when the silent, peaceful Muslim majority sees that those in control are only making things worse for them will they rise up and push them out. Until then they can sit on the sidelines, claiming to want to live in peace, but all the time quietly cheering the home team that made the enemy look foolish once again.

Only when Muslims come to realize there are negative consequences to the actions of those they allow to run the show will they do something to stop it. Unfortunately I see no alternative than to make sure every act of violence by the extremists is answered with violence, even if it harms the "innocent."

That is what happened in Iraq. Now that we've pulled out most of our troops the media is admitting that we succeeded in winning the hearts of the people. That could not have been possible, strange as it may seem, without having invaded Iraq in the first place. Our invasion placed extreme hardship on the Iraqi people. It put them in danger every day from other Muslims. But all the while our own troops did their best to play by the rules. They represented American ideals, and they did it well. Yes, there were terrible mistakes along the way, but we also stayed true to our ideals in punishing our soldiers who failed to live up to our ideals. Those failures taught Iraqis as much about who we are as our successes.

The Iraqi people took notice. The extremists were not the ones trying to build up their country and protect their families. It was the Americans. The Americans, they realized, weren't there to conquer, but to protect themselves and others and to leave as soon as that was no longer necessary. The extremists were just there to cause as much death and havoc as possible--to keep the Iraqi people miserable as long as possible.

But they failed. They failed because this was all being played out in their front yard with Iraqi innocents paying the price for Muslim belligerence. They saw Americans living up to their ideals and doing the job Iraqis knew they should have been doing themselves. It embarrassed them, but it also helped them get the guts to start standing up for themselves as well.

Iraq is in miniature what the War on Terror (or are we allowed to call it that now? War on Vague Unnamable Threat?) should be. The Muslim people need to be made responsible for the violence committed in their name. If they truly are a religion of peace, they need to be made to stand up for themselves and deal with the maniacs at their head. But they're not likely to do that until they themselves feel threatened.

What I am NOT advocating is for individuals to start committing violence against Muslims. I am very much against our doing anything at all to persecute Muslims living in our country and abiding by our laws. Those who break the law should be punished through the law. Those who abide by our laws should be made as welcome as possible and encouraged to prosper. That is also an effective weapon against the extremists.

When I speak of violence, I speak only of violence at the national level, instigated by the state against the states responsible for the provocation. I speak of violence as a tool of policy, where specific actions are taken in pursuit of specific goals, and not out of revenge or malice. And in every case we should make it clear we are doing it because we see no alternative, and will protect and support any and all innocents who are willing to stand up and hold their leaders accountable.

It's not a great solution. I don't like having to advocate violence. But the Muslim extremists leave little option. They are bullies, and bullies only understand one thing. Until we make the use of violence undesirable they will continue to use it. That requires violence on our part--perhaps even disproportionate violence.

Some will say that makes us no better than them. They would be naive and intellectually dishonest. We are not seeking to conquer their land or convert them to our religion or even our way of life. Quite the opposite. They are seeking to conquer us and convert us to their religion, which is a way of life. They are seeking to do so violently. We have a right to defend ourselves, both legal and moral. Who are they to not just claim their religion is superior (that's nothing new, and I feel the same way about my religion), but to enforce it through violence? That is unacceptable.

Again, I don't want it to come to more violence. I really don't. I want the peace-loving Muslims to police their own, cut off support for the extremists, and take control of their own religious identity. I want them to be able to do it bloodlessly if they can. But if they insist on sitting idly by while their religion is subverted and used to attack me and my family, I can only be patient for so long before I have to assume that their silence is assent and they are just as much the enemy as the extremists they allow to rule.

I keep hearing there are liberal, secular, and moderate Muslims out there who refuse to accept the violent aspects of Islam. I'd like to think that's true. I'd like to think that the Muslims around me are just such people--they came to America, the heart of secularism, after all. Surely that wasn't an accident. But I very much want more than to hear about them. I want to see them. I want to see them stand up and take back their religion. Soon. Please.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Those inane Facebook quizzes

I don't get into many of the little games, quizzes, or applications that pop up on Facebook, but today my curiosity got the better of me. Perhaps I was just bored--I dunno. But it came up on my wall that someone had been answering questions about me. I get those fairly regularly, but there's something about having to give away my personal info that makes me hesitate to find out just what it is someone wrote about me.

Well, today I decided to check. Just this once. It seems people have been answering a LOT of questions about me. And I admit that I'm now curious as to who some of them were. Not curious enough to play the game to earn enough credits to have the answers revealed, mind you, but curious nonetheless.

But even without knowing who gave certain answers, I have to admit it was interesting. Some samples:

Do you think that Thom Stratton can throw a football with a spiral? No
HEY!!!!!!!!!! I'm not THAT big a dork!
Do you think that Thom Stratton could shoot someone if they had to? Yes
Hmmmm... makes me sound a little...dangerous! I LIKE it!

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever been in a fist fight? No
Technically true. Fists weren't actually used.

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever fooled around at work? Yes
I'm hoping this came from one of my friends' young children who think that means "goofed off".

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever cheated on a test? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever gone to a strip club? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever lied in an interview? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever smoked? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever taken money for a bribe? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton speeds when driving? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton spends more than an hour on facebook everyday? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton would lie for you? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton would pull a fire alarm as a prank? No
I'm actually flattered. I may not sound very exciting, but I think having a reputation like this is pretty good! Besides, don't forget that people think I can shoot someone if I have to! ;-)

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever had a crush on you? Yes
There are at least a few of my FB friends for which this would be true. I admit it. I've had fine taste in crushes (not as good as my taste in a wife, mind you!). Though I still wince about how I made one instance known. I was...young and clueless. Moving right along...

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever had stitches? Yes
True. Six stitches in my finger from the rusty edge of a dump bin. Not even my most dramatic scar.

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever kissed a girl? Yes
That's a safe enough bet, as I'm married with three kids.

Do you think that Thom Stratton is cute? No
Not even when I pull my wittoh pouty-pout face?!

Do you think that Thom Stratton is dumber than Jessica Simpson? No

Do you think that Thom Stratton wants to 'come out of the closet'? No
Seriously, what kind of question is that? That could either mean I'm not gay, or that I'm gay, but not wanting to come out! Clarity here, folks!

Do you think that Thom Stratton would look good in a bikini? No
Does anyone even wants to THINK about how Thom Stratton would look in a bikini? NO!!!!!! Especially not me! Thank you SO much for putting such a horrible image in our heads!

Do you think that you can beat Thom Stratton in a fight? No

I'm going to have to guess this is one of my friends' kids again...

Do you think Thom Stratton has good taste? No
Obviously not when I picked YOU for a nyeh! ;-)

Do you think Thom Stratton is cool? Yes
Now THIS person....I like!

Have you ever had a crush on Thom Stratton? Yes
Rrrrrreeeeeeaaaallyyyyyy.......  I have to admit that if one question were to get me to earn the points to reveal who, it would have to be this one. Or two. Two people admit to having had a crush on me. Kinda...makes my day!

Is Thom Stratton's profile picture cute? Yes
In a "poor boy, he sure tries hard" sort of way, no doubt.

Would you go skinny dipping with Thom Stratton? No

And last but not least....

Do you think that Thom Stratton should pass on the chocolate cake? No
I couldn't agree more!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Soccer and world politics

Bill Plaschke, writing for the LA Times, tries to convince America that we should stop coddling our soccer team and start expecting more of them. He convinced me, at least. I, probably like most Americans, had no idea our team was as good as it is. We're always led by the media to believe that they're the perpetual underdogs, forever destined to mediocrity in the great, world-unifying sport of soccer.

In short, I think America's view of our soccer team is a reflection of our own world view. Yes, we love our football, baseball, and basketball, but those are sports of our own making. It's okay to excel at them, because they're our games, and it's understandable we would do well. Especially since we're the only ones who really play them. Other countries may play similar games, but they inevitably change the rules to suit their own fancies (and ensuring they won't have to face the expectation of being able to challenge the Americans).

Not so with soccer. Soccer is the rest  of the world's game, and America is a late-comer to the party. We should not expect too much of our team because, for all our American exuberance and enthusiasm, we're still young upstarts on the world stage (never mind that most countries in the world, as they exist today, are younger than America--it's our culture that is young and always will be). The part of America that cares at all what other countries think of us feels that we have much to apologize for, including not enthroning soccer at the center of the sports universe like so many other countries do.

Don't get me wrong. America has made our share of mistakes in our relatively short history. But being America isn't one of them. While much of the world contributed to the cause of World War II, it was America that proved to be the solution. Look up to European culture, intellect, and history all you want, but that same culture, intellect, and history is what bred the Third Reich, allowed it to grow unchecked, and then nearly succumbed to it. America, typically late to the party, pulled the rest of the world's fat out of the fire.

That same world has resented us for that, and has resented us for not allowing them to put the blinders back on again and go back to their cultured, intellectual lives. America called the spade of Communism a spade and refused to let the rest of the world ignore it. We seem to remember our lessons a bit longer than the rest of the world. Yes, we made our mistakes. Yes, we had our Vietnam. But without us, the world would have done...well, pretty much the same things they do today, with a few exceptions: drag their feet, hem, haw, and throw up a barricade of red tape to keep from having to actually stand up to the hydra heads of fascism. "Yes, we're against it in principle and all, but who are we to judge? One man's fascist is another man's liberating hero, etc. And shame on you, America, for always being about such things!"

Unfortunately, a continuous diet of anti-American sentiment and cultural criticism has taken its toll on the segment of America who believe that it is better to be liked than to be respected (or worse yet, right). They've grown increasingly embarrassed at the rest of the country's refusal to do obeisance to the world's superior culture and open-mindedness. They blanch at the continued audacity of labeling our baseball championships a world series (though really, who but the Japanese can challenge any American team? Who but the Japanese even play a version of baseball even close to what we have?). They want to crawl into a deep hole every time an American president goes all "cowboy" on a foreign fascist state. And one way they can atone for being American is to downplay our team's performance in the one, highly-visible sport we have come to share with the rest of the world.

As Plaschke rightly points out, Americans have been playing organized soccer for over 30 years now. While that's certainly not as long as other countries, it's plenty of time for a country of our population, talent pool, and monetary resources (not to mention love of just about any sport that comes along, as evidenced by the sudden interest in lacrosse) to become a world competitor. And, though most Americans probably don't know it, the American team was ranked 14th in the world coming into the World Cup. By all rights our inclusion in the final 16 teams should have been a foregone conclusion, not some amazing Miracle-on-Ice moment. The fact that our team (which has appeared in six straight World Cup tournaments) lost to Ghana (ranked 32nd, and appearing for their second time) should be cause for heads rolling when they return, not "Better luck next time" head-pats. Ghana was the underdog here, not the US!

So for Americans to get so worked up over our team's amazing World Cup run is at best ignorance, and at worse a reverse-psychology ploy by our cultural apologists to cover their embarrassment that we darn Americans are trying to excel again. By acting as if our winning a World Cup would take a miracle they send a message to the rest of the world: Pay no attention to those players on the field. They don't know better. The more enlightened of us know we aren't deserving of actually winning against our obvious superiors. This is, after all, your game, not ours, so we have no business rising to dominance. I'm sure our players will realize that eventually if you'll just be patient with them.

I don't have a problem with America not being the best in every sport. We're not, and quite frankly, I cheered for the opponents of our last Olympic "Dream Team". America should never dominate just because it's our right to. Inventing the game has nothing to do with it. We have to earn it like everyone else. But it runs both ways. If we should  ever become a world soccer powerhouse, then good for us! We shouldn't have to apologize for being better. We shouldn't have to enfeeble our team by purposely skewing or ignoring the facts.

Nor should America have to apologize for having a different moral compass than the rest of the world--or perhaps for even having one at all. For all their disdain for America's superpower status, who is the first country they look to when they decide that somebody should do something about problem X over there? They want us to play world police and clean up the world's messes, and they want to simultaneously criticize and complain about us the entire time we're doing so. It saves them having to risk their resources and troops in getting it done, and allows them deniability later on: "No, no, we didn't want America to do that to you! Didn't you hear how much we badmouthed them and tried to talk them out of it?!"

Some day their plan is going to work too well. I believe it is already starting to. Tired of being continually beat up for doing what's right, we won't be there someday when the really need us. If Russia re-conquers eastern Europe and Iran turns the middle-east into a sea of glass and cuts off the world's oil supply they'll perhaps wish they hadn't played the game so well. But they'll be able to take consolation from the fact that the Americans never won a World Cup.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How "The Empire" sealed it has an article out today about how the Star Wars franchise owes most of its success to "The Empire Strikes Back". Though Star Wars had been successful, very few sequels have measured up to the original. The success of "Empire" confirmed the franchise's staying power.
“It blew people away,” Roffman said. “It had this great integrity as a film and moved the story forward in a meaningful way. That was the birth of Yoda, the one where you realize Darth Vadar was Luke’s father, and (the film) looked like this simple black-and-white fantasy, and gave these layers of meaning and complexity.”
One of the most key pieces to the movie's success almost didn't happen. Director Irvin Kershner, who is largely credited for bringing depth to the series, was not interested in the project.

“I said I was not interested in this project,” Kershner said. “I responded that he had already done it, and I didn’t see what I could contribute. I also didn’t want to do it because none of us knew if a follow up to ‘Star Wars’ would work. It was a lot of pressure.”

Ultimately, Lucas persuaded Kershner to direct “Empire” by saying he’d put his own money into it, and would let Kershner have creative control. “George said, ‘This will be your picture, you’ll be on your own, and I won’t be looking over your shoulder,’” Kershner said. “That’s when I finally said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ And George kept his word.”
I know for myself "The Empire Strikes Back" remains my favorite of the six Star Wars movies. It was also the movie that helped me switch my idolization from Luke Skywalker to Han Solo. Han was cool in that movie. He continued his penchant for wise-cracks and brilliance under pressure, but added a new layer of sophistication. He got the girl. He had interesting friends. He had a noble side.

Yes, Luke was learning the Force and all that, but while Han's character developed, Luke's remained much the whiney, self-absorbed dork he had been in the first movie. And though his encounter with Vader changed him, we didn't really get a chance to see it until the third movie, by which point he had become the somber, brooding Jedi. Yes, he was key to the entire series, but he wasn't all that fun anymore. With Han Solo we got drama and fun!

The recent discovery of Star Wars by my children has given me a chance to go back and gain new appreciation for the newer trilogy, but the original trilogy will always remain my favorites. And "The Empire Strikes Back" will always lead the pack.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers Day thoughts

I miss my dad. He was a character and a tease, and could sometimes embarrass us, but he was also a fairly wise man. He knew quite a bit about what made people tick. I wish I could hear whatever advice he'd have for me right now. I've taken a rather unusual and bold turn in my life, and I could use his reassurance that I'm not getting in over my head.

What was one thing we could always count on with Dad. He believed in us kids. Even when he may have wanted to throttle us, he still could see our potential. When the first of us boys (not me) got brave enough to run a business on their own he was right there to cheer him on and help in whatever way he could. And he had more help to offer than we probably ever would have given him credit for.

I suspect most dads are not truly appreciated by their children--at least not until those children get children of their own. Now that I'm "grown up" and being a father myself I'm starting to see and appreciate what my father went through. Then I only saw that my dad worked most of the day and was too tired to do much when he got home. Now I realize that he wasn't doing that because he wanted to. He had an obligation to provide for his family, and he did it. He took whatever jobs he had to in order to do it.

For my Dad there was no such thing as the "ideal career path". He worked a farm, taught school, drove truck, sold vacuums and appliances, restocked stores, cleaned laundromats and churches, repaired sewing machines, and managed PE equipment. While he undoubtedly enjoyed some jobs more than others, he never took the attitude of, "I'm a _____, that's what I'm good at, and that's the only work I'll do."  If there was a job he could do, he would do it.

He volunteered a lot, too. He was PTA president for awhile. He was a scout leader. He was a scout committee chairman for a long, long time. He organized church libraries. He organized church fundraisers. He visited the elderly--something we are all often assigned to do in our church, but he took it quite seriously. I don't think he ever turned down a request to serve.

My dad was forty before I was even born. That just occurred to me. I supposed I knew that, but I just realized the significance of it. He was not exactly young anymore, and he was putting in twelve hour days before coming home to spend a few more hours fixing sewing machines. No wonder he wasn't exactly the most playful of dads. But I don't recall suffering for attention.

Anyway, I guess the bottom line is that my dad was a good man who worked hard for and loved his family. Unfortunately I took my time having a family of my own, so I didn't come to understand him very well until he was already gone. There is so much I would like to tell him now that is just going to have to wait. And I'm going to have to muddle through these changes in my life without the benefit of his wisdom, even though I'm positive he would understand exactly what I'm going through and would know just what to say.

I miss you, Dad. I love you. I'm sorry I didn't say it often enough.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Obama's brings the pitchforks and torches against BP

Jazz Shaw at Pajamas Media recently looked at the remarks by Congressman Joe Barton and had this to say:
But while the remarks could certainly qualify for some sort of MTV Music award for inept commentary, and Barton has already been forced into a mea culpa, one nagging problem remains. The Texas congressman’s statements were politically tone deaf … but he was also correct.
He goes on to explain how, while BP should by no means avoid responsibility for this mess, it is not the President's place to force them into paying damages.

We do, in fact, have laws in this country which cover precisely this type of scenario. Plaintiffs in large scale disputes such as this have a right to petition in court and have a third party arbitrate disputes, collect funds, and disperse them to the injured parties. But in each case one of two things happens; either the company does it voluntarily to improve their public image or a court directs them to take this action. There is no provision for an elected official from the executive branch to simply order such an action by fiat.

True, BP may have been under no legal constraint to follow Obama’s dictate. But given the fact that their popularity around the world right now isn’t exactly at an all time high, the president pretty much had them over a barrel of oil. And it does, as [John] Hawkins opined, carry the stench of being “lawless, creepy, and dictatorial.”
 He concludes with the following:
It would be a shame if the Gulf Coast denizens who rely on fishing and tourism for a living actually wind up waiting longer and receiving less because of President Obama’s desperate need to appear as if he’s doing something — anything! — in the face of this Deepwater Disaster film which simply refuses to go away. And even if the slush fund works perfectly and everyone is paid in a timely fashion, the day may yet come when savvy legal minds will find time to ask the president exactly where he found the constitutional authority to demand such a solution from a private company without the benefit of a court.
 I am all for BP paying for as much of this mess as they can. But they are not solely responsible in this mess. Not when we hear reports of would-be cleanup vessels being stopped due to insufficient life vests. Didn't the President just say this is a crisis? In crisis situations we don't stand on largely-irrelevant bureaucracy.

I, frankly, never thought it was appropriate to hold Bush responsible for the response to Hurricane Katrina. I do not think it's appropriate to hold Obama responsible for the Gulf Oil Spill, either. But the Democrats, in insisting on the former, have reaped the latter. What we need from the President is leadership--someone to cut through all the red tape to get the best and most resources into play to clean up the mess. A single call from Obama could have had the Coast Guard out of the way in no time. Let the courts handle who is to blame and who has to pay for it. Let BP come forward voluntarily with an offer of some initial pay-out to help those affected.

Unfortunately we have a President who does not know how to lead, but does have a habit of reaching for his bat whenever big business is involved. His need to beat up business goes beyond sticking up for the little guy. Little guys are employed by big businesses, too, after all. No, his need to bash business approaches the pathological. His need to be seen bashing big business borders on the narcissistic. Meanwhile we still have an oil slick problem, and all the leaders who could be doing something about this are wrapped up in some sort of Pyrrhic kabuki.