Friday, January 30, 2009

Chairman Steele! (Thoughts from the Hotel Lobby)

Well, Michael Steele has been elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and I am personally very pleased. I spent all day camped out in the lobby of the Capital Hilton, where the election took place, and I hoped to send you some updates. Instead, I spent a lot of time fighting the hotel's WiFi system before finally resigning myself to the fact that the stupid thing was never going to work. However, I did get the chance to chat with a lot of people, and I thought the whole experience rather interesting.

A lot of hard-core conservatives seem puzzled about how Mr. Steele (supposedly the most moderate man in the race) stormed to victory over more conservative candidates. In particular, they seem flabbergasted that Ken Blackwell (the most conservative candidate..and my personal favorite) endorsed Steele when he dropped out of the race. Personally, it makes perfect sense to me. Blackwell and Steele share a commitment to radical change in the RNC. They both want to drastically improve the way we use technology, they both want to decentralize, and they both want to make a concerted effort to fight in blue states. A lot of people in the lobby thought that Blackwell's votes, and those from third-place finisher Saul Anuzis, would go to runner-up Katon Dawson (who was supposedly more conservative than Steele). However, this line of thinking made little sense to me, as both Blackwell and Anuzis seemed more aligned with Steele when it came to strategy.

In the final analysis, I think that the voters realized that the RNC Chairmanship is not a purely ideological office - but rather an administrative one. You need a leader who has a firm grasp of conservative ideals (which Steele does), but it is arguably more important to have a chairman with a bold vision and a cohesive, winning strategy for the future. Steele had the commitment to operational reform that Republicans so desperately crave, and that is why he rightly came out the victor today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Smartest Politician in the World

With the Democrats firmly in control here in the United States, it's nice to occasionally see brilliant displays of leadership from right-wing leaders on the international scene. Hence, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is quickly becoming one of my heroes. I already had great respect for him, as he helped unite Canada's divided right into the new Conservative Party of Canada and then led that party to victory in the 2006 election. However, a dramatic turn of events earlier today cemented him as, in my mind, the smartest leader currently on the world stage.

To give a bit of background, Canada's parliament has been a mess since Harper's Conservatives won re-election in September. It was a historic victory, and a humiliation for the once-dominant Liberal Party (which suffered it's worst defeat in history), but the Conservatives fell just short of a winning a majority of the seats in Parliament. This meant that Harper could theoretically be ousted in the unlikely event that the country's three other parties banded together to form a majority. Unfortunately, the unlikely became reality in December when Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion inked a coalition agreement with the socialist New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois (a separatist party from Quebec). This development would have allowed the three parties to remove the Conservative government and make Mr. Dion the Prime Minister - even though he had been roundly rejected by the people in an election. But then Stephen Harper had a stroke of brilliance.

Making one of the most dramatic moves in Canadian political history, Harper asked Governor General Michaëlle Jean (Queen Elizabeth II's representative in Canada) to "prorogue" Parliament - meaning totally shut the place down - until late January. Such action is usually reserved for the end of a Parliamentary session, and had never been used in any other circumstances, but it ended up saving the Harper government. In the short term, it prevented Dion from forcing a no-confidence vote in Parliament. More importantly, it forced the three opposition parties to hold their shaky coalition together for a whole month before taking power...that was what made Harper a genius.

During their month-long time-out, the Liberals decided to throw out the unpopular Stéphane Dion as their leader and replace him with the more moderate Michael Ignatieff. This new leader was less amenable to the idea of overturning the will of the people, and today he pulled the Liberal Party out of the plot to take power. Of course, he left the idea on the table for the future. However, it looks unlikely. By pulling out of the coalition, Ignatieff made the socialists and the separatists so mad that they now seem to be angrier at him than they are at Prime Minister Harper - so I doubt they will be working together any time soon.

By proroguing Parliament, Stephen Harper protected the will of the people, saved a government that was all but dead, ended the career of Stéphane Dion, and set the opposition parties at each other's throats - all in one fell swoop. It was arguably the most brilliant piece of political theatre that I have ever seen in my life. The only consolation for the Liberals might be that, in giving up his chance to become Prime Minister, Michael Ignatieff may have saved his party from oblivion. The plot to oust Harper was highly unpopular, and polls showed that the Conservatives would have absolutely flattened the usurpers in the next election had they gone through with it. If Ignatieff goes on to lose the an election to Harper (which I think he will), he will have committed the ultimate act of personal political sacrifice in order to preserve the Liberal Party.

Something tells me Stephen Harper will be running Canada for a long time to come, and will likely go down in history as one of the nation's great Prime Ministers. So, in the age of Obama, it might be a good idea for U.S conservatives to look to his leadership style as a "North Star" to guide us back to power.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Gov. Sarah Palin took a big step today by launching SarahPAC, her own official Political Action Committee. For those not familiar with the term, a PAC will allow Sarah to raise a lot of money, which can then be distributed to Republican candidates around the country. This serves two primary purposes: First, it gets Sarah into the monetary side of politics, which will help her to network with other Republicans running for office - and it's a lot easier to get people to work with (or endorse) when you personally donated a big chunk of change to their campaign. Secondly, PAC formation can be the first baby step toward a future presidential campaign. It provides a fundraising operation, a rudimentary organization, and (most importantly) a war chest which can be used as seed money when someone does decide to enter a national race. Most of the candidates who entered the 2008 race had personal PACs long before they had exploratory committees. If Sarah does decide to enter the 2012 race, a fully-functional SarahPAC would be able to morph into the Committee to Elect Sarah Palin in 2012.

So, please stop by the shiny new SarahPAC website (and donate some cash if you feel so inclined.) Something tells me that, given the type of following that Gov. Palin has built, SarahPAC could become a VERY sucessful fundraising operation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kristol-Damon Smackdown - LET'S GET IT ON!!

I love it when people are forced to confront their own stupid comments, and Andrew Brietbart may be facilitating just such a situation for actor Matt Damon. Apparently, Mr. Damon referred to Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol as an "idiot" in a recent interview after Kristol claimed that we won the war in Iraq (Note to Mr. Damon: Iraq is currently a functioning democracy...that would theoretically be the definition of "winning"). Anyway, Breitbart is now offering Damon a cool $100,000 to publicly debate Kristol, and he's already confirmed that Kristol is willing to participate.

Personally, I think Damon should put his money where his mouth is and accept. If Bill Kristol is such a moron, then debating him shouldn't be a problem for someone as eloquent and intelligent as Matt Damon. Of course, there's that little thing about Kristol being one of Washington's leading commentators and Damon being a Hollywood actor...but that's probably not even worth mentioning...I'm sure Matt is more than up to the task.

We in the Palin movement are already well acquainted with Mr. Damon's astute political observations, as he was one of the first celebrities to issue an ignorant diatribe about Sarah Palin after her nomination. I was especially impressed as he described what he seems to think is the most important issue confronting America today (start the tape at the 1:20 mark...though the whole thing is pretty entertaining)

After listening to Mr. Damon's uncommonly keen insight into our current political scene, I think I may also have a good idea who might be the best moderator for the upcoming debate. In fact, I think I know an individual who shares a deep concern for Mr. Damon's issue of choice, and would be able to provide adequately intellectual questions for such an occasion:

*Apologies if this post is positively dripping with sarcasm...but this was simply too good to pass up

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good Riddance, Gen. Nkunda

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) doesn't get a lot of press, but those that follow the region know that the country is home to one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts on Earth. However, there may be a small glimmer of hope now that rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda is behind bars. This thug and his army forced a quarter-million Congolese civilians to flee their homes last year, so I am positively elated to hear that he is now rotting in a Rwandan jail cell.

Nkunda, a warlord who ran the DRC's largest and most active rebel group, had previously enjoyed the backing of the Rwandan government because he was supposedly trying to fight Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in the Eastern DRC (that is...when he wasn't terrorizing civilians or shooting at the Congolese Army). However, the Rwandans are now cooperating with the Congolese government to root out the Hutu militias, and hence have no more use for Nkunda's antics. So, when Congolese forces forced him to flee in to supposedly friendly Rwanda, Nkunda's old friends arrested him instead of sheltering him.

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that the conflict in the DRC is even close to over. Thre are still a lot of bad people running around that country, and there will still be a lot of shooting. Furthermore, I'm not a huge fan of either the Congolese or Rwandan governments - but the two countries are cooperating with each other for the first time in recent memory, so it is now less likely that another Rwandan-backed rebel movement will take hold in the Eastern DRC (Nkunda's was not the first). So, I'm at least hopeful that there will less death and destruction in the immediate future.

Friday, January 23, 2009

MSM Calls in Hit on Sen. Gillibrand

I am absolutely fascinated (and flabbergasted) by some of the media coverage of today's appointment of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Apparently, our friends at MSNBC are not longer sucking up to anyone with a Democratic Party affiliation. or a left-leaning record. Instead, they are demanding absolute ideological purity. In the video above, Chris Matthews goes a full 11 minutes without saying one nice word about New York's new Senator. Instead, he spent the whole time on the fact that Gillibrand happens to be staunchly pro-gun. He seemed genuinely angry that Gov. David Paterson had the gall to select someone who didn't to toe the left-wing line on every single issue.

I can understand why his first guest, Rep. McCarthy (D-NY), feels the way she does about Sen. Gillibrand - she has a personal stake in the gun issue. However, Matthews conduct is inexcusable for someone who fancies himself a journalist (not that this is anything new...he just doesn't usually do it to fellow liberals).

Obviously, I'm not a Gillibrand supporter, but I do think she will be interesting to watch in the Senate. First, I want to see if the media can stomach a genuine moderate, or if they decide to give her the Sarah Palin treatment. Second, I'm intrigued to see how much of a "Blue Dog" she is now that she's under a microscope.

Something tells me that Kirsten Gillibrand is either going to become our favorite Democrat in the Senate or the biggest flip-flopper in American politics. The question is whether she chooses the path of least resistance or sitcks to her principles.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Senator Gillibrand?

UPDATE: It's official, Kirsten Gillibrand will be the next U.S. Senator from New York. It's going to be interesting to see how a gun-loving Blue Dog Democrat goes over with the New York liberal establishment. Apparently, several of the state's left-leaning U.S. Representatives are hopping mad, with one even threatening a primary challenge in the 2010 election. It's also worth noting that Gillibrand's congressional district generally leans Republican, so the special election to fill her seat should be competitive.
I've been thinking that this might happen for several weeks now, but I held my tongue considering that Caroline Kennedy appeared to have locked up Hillary Clinton's old Senate seat. However, with Princess Caroline suddenly pulling out of the race, some are speculating that New York Gov. David Paterson is leaning toward the woman who I have always thought to be the biggest wild-card in the selection process.

Meet Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand from New York's 20th District. She's been placed on lists of rising Democratic stars for a while, and when Hillary was first nominated for the Obama cabinet, she appeared on many lists of potential candidates. At that point, she seemed like the best choice for several reasons: First, she was the only person on most of the lists who met one of the key concerns expressed by Gov. Paterson himself - she can win in upstate New York. Second, she's young, dynamic, and marketable in a time when the Democrats are looking to replace their aging generation of female leaders. While most of the other potential candidates are from NYC or the surrounding area, Gillibrand represents a sprawling rural district that engulfs a huge chunk of Eastern New York State. At age 42, she would be the youngest Senator, and she's one of three sitting Congresswomen that I think have the potential to become the Democratic answer to Sarah Palin (the other two being Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota).

Furthermore, Gov. Paterson strikes me as one of the most stubborn and mischievous men in American politics. It takes a lot of determination for a blind man to become Governor, let alone a blind man who refuses to learn Braille or use a cane - so I'm guessing that he resents the pressure he's feeling from the powerful Kennedy and Cuomo dynasties. He's been openly hinting that Caroline Kennedy is not the only candidate, and that he is considering wild-cards, which leads me to believe that he has a similar distaste for the idea of appointing State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (son of Mario). If my read on Paterson is correct, he is probably dead set on making his own choice and relishing the idea of surprising the nation with an underdog.

I won't go so far as to make it an official prediction. But, like I said, I've had a sneaking suspicion that Gov. Paterson has wanted to pick this lady all along. So, With Kennedy out, I'm going out on a limb and saying that I think there is a very good chance that we will soon be talking about Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sarah Returns to the Glenn Beck Program!

This may be two days old, but I wanted to comment on it and I didn't think it appropriate during the inauguration. Those Palinites who have been with the movement for a while will remember that one of Gov. Palin's first national interviews as a serious VP contender took place on CNN's Glenn Beck Program. She presented herself fantastically, Glenn loved her, and we were off to the races. Given the significance of that interview, I was thrilled to hear that Sarah would be the featured guest on the first edition of Beck's new show on Fox News.

Personally, I think this interview was almost as interesting as her first time on the program. Here's why: Sarah has practically trademarked her optimism and bubbly personality, but this was the first time I have seen her be genuinely forceful in her delivery. She's growing nicely into her role as a national figure, and if she can keep this up, I think she is well on her way to winning over many of the people who refused to take her seriously during her VP run. Of course, she needs to keep the bubbly, folksy persona that we all fell in love with - and I don't think we need to worry about that - but this attitude is a powerful new weapon in her rhetorical arsenal. She sounded confident, convincing, and perhaps even presidential.

Keep up the good work, Governor!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations, Mr. President

Well, we have a new President. It was certainly quite a spectacle to watch, but for me the most poignant was watching George W. Bush leave on Marine One (Obama's just getting acquainted with the office, whereas Bush is saying goodbye to the last eight years of his life). I actually went outside my house and saluted the helicopter as it flew to Andrews Air Force Base.

I could probably say a lot about politics right now, but that's not terribly appropriate. So, I'll simply express my thanks to President Bush and offer my congratulations to President Obama.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Daze

QUICK NOTE: Gov. Palin did a fine job on Glenn Beck tonight, thoughts on that later (hopefully with video).
Well, the circus has come to town, and I'm only blocks from the action. I'm not stupid enough to post my address online, but suffice it to say that I live in downtown DC. A lot of the locals are getting out of town, but some (namely myself) are hunkering down in our living spaces until Wednesday.

That said, I hope everybody in town for the inauguration has a good time. I went through Union Station on my way home Saturday night, and the throngs were just starting to hit town. Everybody seemed happy and bubbly, and it was nice to see that...even if I'm not half as excited about Barack Obama. I want them to have fun, because I get the feeling that the next four years aren't going to be all that fun for either of us.

Maybe it was because I was playing the role of the angry local, trying not to get trampled as I lugged my groceries through the crowded train station, but I couldn't help but think about what all of these happy people would be doing four years from now. What would the Obama presidency really represent when we are looking back on it, not forward to it? What happens when Barack Obama ceases to be the first black president and we remember that he is a fallible human bieng? When that harsh reality sets in, it could trigger the greatest crisis in race relations since the 1960s.

Like most presidents, Obama will start losing popularity once he starts making tough decisions. If his leadership is less than stellar, he will be vulnerable in 2012 - and if he does poorly, the man who set himself up as America's messiah could could be voted out in a landslide. That is how things work in a democracy, and the same formula would hold true for any leader. However, if Barack Obama is in danger of being bounced after one term, no one in the media - let alone the Democratic Party - will blame Obama's own performance. Instead, any consequences suffered by the President will be blamed on racism, and certain powerful people will be more than happy to encourage a race crisis in order to maintain power. Hence, while I think that Obama's election showed the defeat of racism in America, his time in power could fan the flames of racial tension hotter than they have been in decades.

To be honest, I feel sorry for the President-elect - nobody should be saddled with such high expectations. Unfortunately, this is the situation he has placed himself in, and thereby doomed himself to at least some level of failure. So, while I would love to see Sarah Palin run over him on her way to the White House in four years, I fear the consequences of an Obama failure just enough to hope that he doesn't fall completely on his face.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today I'm Listening To....Mira Awad and Noa

I was really having trouble getting riled up about anything today....and then I saw this. A group of radical Israeli intellectuals (both Jewish and Arab) are calling Israeli Arab singer Mira Awad to pull out of the Eurovision Song Contest. Aparently, they think Awad and her duet partner (Jewish singer Achinoam "Noa" Nini) are participating in some sort of "Propoganda machine" to convince us that Israelis do not, in fact, drink the blood of Palestinian babies on a regular basis. Here's a quick excerpt from their open letter to Miss Awad:

"What allows the international community to provide support is Israel's image as a 'democratic,' 'enlightened,' 'peace-seeking' country. Your participation in Eurovision is taking part in the activity of the Israeli propaganda machine"

Personally, I think this is ridiculous and bigoted. Both Awad and Nini seem be strong voices for peace and cooperation, and frankly I think it speaks volumes that they have been selected to represent their country in one of Europe's biggest pop-culture phonomenons (think "American Idol" mixed with the Olympics...that might give you an idea of how big Eurovision is)

ACTION ALERT: Now, if you haven't noticed, I like grassroots internet movements...and this issue has me a little hot under the collar. I know a lot of old Palin people are reading, and I'd be interested to see if y'all had any ideas on how we might be able to show our support for Mira and Noa. I'm thinking we could start by encouraging people to download their music...and maybe we could scare up some votes for them when Eurovision rolls around in March. In the meantime, here's some music to enjoy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Things I've Learned Since Launching This Blog

I thought I knew a lot of things about blogging from the "Draft Palin" Experience, but I guess there are some things you only learn by experience - consider the following:

1. If you are in the process of house hunting and/or moving, that is not a good time to launch a new blog

2. It might also be a bad idea to start a blog while changing jobs.

3. If you are going to announce a series of ten columns, make sure you've already written at least a few of them.

Oh well, I guess we all learn something every day, and I'm now in a good position to get back to regular blogging. Also, now that this thing had been up for a little while, I would definitely appreciate some honest feedback on the content. I realize that I can get a little obscure in my subject matter at times, but I'm trying to keep a good mix going. I will guarantee that, come hell or high water, The "10 Names" Series will be finished (namely because I already have the all the graphics made - and there are a few U.S. People on the list that I definitely want to talk about and think you will be interested in). That said, it might not be an everyday thing, becasue cranking out full columns every night can be hard (especially since my real job entails a good bit of writing).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Today I'm Watching...Sarracuda!

...along with everyone else on the internet. This has got to be the best Palin interview I've seen yet, and it's only excerpts. Can't wait to see the rest (not to mention the documentary film that it will be folded into).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

10 Names to Learn: Jacob Zuma

First off, apologies for not getting this up last night...I am house hunting and often away from my computer. However, I'm hoping that will be the last interruption in the "10 Names" series.
The fall of South Africa's apartheid regime was one of the greatest victories for human freedom in recent history. Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) party secured the rights of millions of oppressed people, and for that they were rewarded with massive electoral success in the post-apartheid era. However, even the best-intentioned movements have their downsides, and power has a way of revealing those weaknesses. In this particular, the ANC has become so dominant in government that, despite being a full democracy, South Africa's political power is almost totally concentrated within that party. Now that's not necessarily bad...if people didn't like the ANC, they wouldn't give them such huge majorities. And for the most part, Mandela and his successor Thabo Mbeki seemed democratically minded. However, the situation also lends itself to potential disaster should the wrong people end up in charge of the ANC - which brings us to Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, who was elected to head the ANC last year and will almost undoubtedly become his country's president in 2009.

As opposed to the smiling Mandela and the strait-laced Mbeki, Zuma's demeanor reminds one more of the "classic" African does his his personal and political history. On the political front, his base of support lies in the Left Wing factions of the already leftist ANC - in the party's Youth League, the South African Communist Party, and in the trade unions. He also has been previously charged with corruption (in 2005 - charges dismissed on procedural grounds in 2008) and tried for rape (2005-2006 - found not guilty). Now, I realize that the man was not convicted, but the fact that he has been in court so many times in the last few years seems like a red flag.

The most worrying thing, however, is probably how Zuma's supporters within the ANC have behaved since ousting his rival, President Thabo Mbeki, from the ANC Chairmanship. Rather than let Mbeki finish his presidential term in peace before ceding the ANC nomination to Zuma in 2009, the new Zuma-friendly ANC National Executive Commission voted to "recall" Mbeki from the Presidency last September . This non confidence cause Mbeki to resign and cede the last year of his term to a new caretaker president until Zuma wins election. In my opinion, the dethroning of Mbeki was low, classless, and apparently without purpose.

So, with a guy like Zuma now in charge of the ANC, South Africa faces a defining moment in it's history. Will it keep the ANC as the single major party, allowing Zuma and his successors to continue their antics, or will they continue on the path of democracy? The answer to this question will probably emerge only after Zuma takes office, as the various wings of the ANC will have to decide how long they can stomach him before they splinter off. In the meantime, we can wonder whether South Africa will continue its political development, or whether it will follow "The Strongman" as he marches toward Third World Authoritarianism.

And finally, an interesting sidenote: If elected, I believe that Mr. Zuma would be the first open polygamist to head a major modern democracy...he currently has three wives and thee fiancees according to Wikipedia (along with one ex-wife and another wife who committed suicide).
Stay tuned as we move from South Africa to Northern Europe to meet "The Enigma". And if you think this list is finished with South Africa, think's one of three countries to score multiple entries on "10 Names".

*Photo in licensed under Creative Commons on Wikipedia

Today I'm Watching...Sarah Palin on Canadian TV

Finally, a good, solid, fair interview...too bad you have to go to Canada to get some legitimate coverage.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today I'm Watching...Russian Gas

Disputes over Natural Gas supplies have been a simmering issue between Russia and Ukraine for a while, but today they finally boiled over...and the giant Russia's state-controlled gas monoply, Gazprom, totally shut off the gas supply to Ukraine. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian pipeline is also a primary route by which Russian enters Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia, Turkey, Slovakia, Hungary, etc. Now, I'm not going to get into the debate over who wronged who in the dispute, and frankly I don't care. I am, however, going to say that somebody needs to figure something out quickly...because shutting off the gas to most of Eastern Europe in the middle of winter is a very bad idea. To add insult to injury, Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas tomorrow...I'm guessing that the holiday cheer will be dampened somewhat by the fact that they are all shivering with no heat.

Monday, January 5, 2009

10 Names to Learn: Timothy Geithner

If there's one issue you won't hear about regularly on this blog, it's finance. Sorry, but dollars and cents confuse me. Still, even I couldn't help but be a little transfixed by the bailout mess that recently occurred. Specifically, I was amazed (and appalled) at the amount of power that was concentrated in the hands of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. With so much control over the economy and the banking system, Paulson has almost certainly become one of the most powerful men in America. This is interesting from a news perspective, but it is also interesting from a structural perspective in the U.S. Government. At the start of the Bush Administration, it was well established that there were the "Big Three" posts in the cabinet (Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General). With the establishment of the Homeland Security Department, it became the "Big Four", and in just the last few months, the rise of Paulson has elevated the Treasury Secretary into the "Big Five" least in my opinion.

Still, as the incoming Obama Administration took shape, I think that a good deal of the focus was still placed on the appointees to the traditional "Big Three" jobs (Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and Eric Holder). On the other hand, we've heard surprisingly little from the man who could be the most important figure in the whole cabinet - New York Federal Reserve Bank President (and Treasury Secretary-designate) Timothy Geithner. He seems unquestionably qualified for the job, having served as an undersecretary in the Clinton Administration and led the most prominent branch of the Federal Reserve, but we don't know much about him other than that he is about to become one of the most powerful men in the Free World.

Timothy Giethner makes this list not because we know what he will or won't do to shake up the U.S. economy, but simply because he will have so much power that it will be impossible for him to not make news on a consistent basis. Furthermore, with Obama throwing his support behind an auto industry bailout (and maybe more future bailouts), it is almost certain the Geithner will quickly surpass Henry Paulson as the most powerful Treasury Secretary in history. At least for the time being, Timothy Geithner is, without a doubt, the world's most powerful "Money Man".


Stay tuned tomorrow, as we shift gears (and continents) to meet the quintessential "Strongman". And for those of you keeping score at home, there will be one change to the list I provided at the beginning of this week. With all due respect to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German politician who was to be deemed "The Challenger", events within the last week have bumped him off the list to make way for another figure whose name will remain a surprise.

Rabbi Lau

I have a column for later tonight, but I just found this video and wanted to share it with those of you who aren't practitioners of Judaism.

In our comfy 21st century world, I think we tend to forget what real leadership and grit looks, in case you were wondering, this is a good example of those qualities.

Today I'm Watching...Minnesota

Yes, I'm watching Gaza too (who isn't), but frankly I am appalled by the fact that Al Franken will likely be certified the "winner" of Minnesota's Senate seat today. After the 2000 Florida fiasco, I made a decision that I would at least respect legitimate wins by Democrats and not go off on rants about "stolen" elections. However, in this case, I can find no possible way to see the Franken "win" as legitimate. It is almost impossible that Franken would have a lead without the help of several VERY creative decisions by the Minnesota Canvassing Board and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. It board dictated that Republican-leaning counties had to count ballots differently than Democratic-leaning counties (netting lots of votes for Franken), then Ritchie decided to count "improperly rejected" absentee ballots BEFORE many Republican counties had submitted them (Democratic counties had no trouble submitting the, netting 176 votes for Franken). So...I hoped I'd never have to say this in America, but this particular election is DEFINITELY being stolen.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sick Day

Colds always seem to come at the worst when you are launching a new blog. I have been convalescing all day, and have decided that you deserve a column written by a clear-headed, non-feverish blogger. Everything here should be back to normal tomorrow, including the "Ten Names to Learn in 2009" list.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

10 Names to Learn: Benjamin Netanyahu

If there's anyone on this list who might be disqualified on the basis that he is already a known world figure, it's Benjamin Netanyahu. As the hard-line Prime Minister of Israel in the 1990s, "Bibi" gained a strong reputation and the adoration of right-wing Israel supporters everywhere. Then, in a flash, the youngest Prime Minister in Israeli history was gone - pummeled in the 1999 elections by Ehud Barak of the leftist Labor Party. So, why is a well known figure from the last decade on a list of emerging world leaders? Well, don't look now, but after a decade in the political wilderness, it appears that yesterday's man will soon be back with a vengeance.

After his defeat to Barak, Netanyahu temporarily retired from politics, allowing Ariel Sharon to take over the leadership of his conservative Likud Party. However, Netanyahu would quickly return to the political melee. Sharon went on to become Prime Minister in 2001, and in 2002 he made Netanyahu as his Foreign Minister. After Sharon's 2003 re-election, Bibi moved to the Finance Ministry, where he won praise for implementing free-market reforms on Israel's economy. However, while both were having great success in government, the conservative Netanyahu and the moderate Sharon were locked in a battle for the heart and soul of the Likud Party. They fought a party leadership election in 2002 (with Sharon coming out on top), then entered a bitter feud over Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw all Israeli troops and settlements in the Gaza Strip. On August 7th, 2005 - days before the withdrawal was approved - Finance Minister Netanyahu tendered his resignation from Sharon's cabinet. Again, Bibi was totally out of power...or so it seemed.

Then Prime Minister Sharon shocked Israel by announcing that he was abandoning the Likud Party (whose supporters were largely against the Gaza pullout) to form a new moderate party called "Kadima" ("Forward"). Many of Likud's moderate legislators left with Sharon, and Kadima went on to win the 2006 elections under now-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Sharon had a massive stroke and remains in a coma to this day). However, that left Netanyahu as the leader of smaller, but more conservative Likud. Still, after being decimated by both Kadima and the Labor Party in the 2006 vote, many were more inclined to see Netanyahu and his Likud as a fading force on the Israeli scene. That was before Olmert became embroiled in a corruption scandal, and the Kadima-Labor coalition government bungled the Lebanon War in 2007. With the popularity of the government tanking, Bibi quickly ceased to be "yesterday's man" as Likud surged ahead of the Labor and Kadima in opinion polls.

With an election looming in February, Likud remains ahead in most polls, and Benajmin Netanyahu could culminate his ten-year rehabilitation by storming back into the Prime Minister's office. The delicious irony is that, in order to regain power, Netanyahu will have to stare down the two forces that marginalized him in the first place - Sharon's moderate followers in Kadima (now lead by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni) and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who engineered a political comeback of his own to win the Labor Party leadership in 2007.

Should he win the election (he's currently polling neck-and-neck with Livni) , Netanyahu will likely be leading Israel's most hard-line government in recent history. While he was known for being tough on the Palestinians in his first term as PM, this time he be leading a much different governing party. Gone are Sharon, Livni, Olmert, and the other moderates who were once power players in Likud - they're all with Kadima now. Instead, Likud is has swung solidly to the right, and Netanyahu may actually be one of the more moderate members of the party. With a reborn Likud Party behind him, don't expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to take any nonsense from Hamas, Hezbollah, or Iran. Bibi has never been hesitant to defend his country using any means necessary, which means that he will not only stand up to his enemies, but also that he will stand up to the new American president if he needs to.

Any terrorist in his right mind knows better than to make Bibi angry, and that's why he earns the title of "The Enforcer".
Stay tuned tomorrow to meet "The Money Man"

Friday, January 2, 2009

10 Names to Learn: David Cameron

This is the first in a series of ten posts profiling leaders who could blow on to the world scene in the next year - you may know some of these people already, but hopefully most of them will be new to you. You will not find Barack Obama on this list, or any other established world leader. These are the new faces, the people who are likely to emerge (or in one case, re-emerge) from the relative obscurity of their home countries to to become international figures. Some will be bigger than others, but I can almost guarantee that each of them will make headlines at least once in 2009. So, without further ado, let's meet our first contestant.
The Conservative (or "Tory") Party was once a dominant political force in Britain. It provided us with Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and a number of other Prime Ministers. One could have said it was the UK's "natural governing party". That was before Tony Blair.

After taking over the socialist-leaning Labour Party in 1994, Blair drug it kicking and screaming to the political center. It was a bold move, and it worked. "New Labour" stormed to power in the 1997 elections, humiliating Conservative Prime Minister John Major and sending the once-mighty Tories into exile for over a decade. Even though his "New Labour" philosophy eventually became yesterdays news, Blair easily won re-election twice. The Tories looked old, disorganized, out of touch, and incapable of stopping the Labour machine. That was before David Cameron.

At only 39 years of age, Cameron became leader of the Conservatives in 2005 and was immediately compared to the young Tony Blair. Like Blair, Cameron was a moderate hellbent on making his party electable again. However, unlike Blair, Cameron did not change the basic values that the Tories stood for. Instead, he figured out how to make the Conservative message marketable in the 21st Century. Where Blair forced Labour away from it's socialist roots and more toward mainstream liberalism, Cameron continues to talk about low taxes, strong families, and free enterprise - he just does it with a different focus. The old drumbeat of "taxes and national security" has been replaced by a new message based on "quality of life issues" like health care, education, and "social justice" (a left-wing term that has been hijacked as a way of talking about what we would call "family values"). In short, he set out to "modernize" the party, and he has done exactly that. As a result of his efforts, the Conservatives have won a large number of local offices (including the London Mayorship) and Cameron is expected to become Prime Minister in the next general election...and that's the rub.

By law the next general election must take place by 2010, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown could call one at any fact, he probably should have called one last year. Brown gained the PM's office when he took over the Labour Party leadership from Tony Blair, and he has not won a mandate from the British People in an election. Traditionally, such unelected PMs are expected to call an election right after taking office. However, facing probable rout at the hands of David Cameron, the unpopular Brown decided that an election would not be the best thing for his career...I mean...for the country at this time. So, there is a chance that Cameron will have to wait until 2010 to get his crack at power. Still, something tells me that, as soon as Brown's poll numbers show that he can win, he will send Brits to the polls immediately.

Fortunately, "New Labour" has become very tired, old concept - and Gordon Brown simply does not have the charisma that Tony Blair used to prop up the party. Odds are that, in the near future, the entire world will know David Cameron not as the man who brought the Conservative Party back from the brink of irrelevance, but simply as "The Right Hounourable Prime Minister".
So, you've met "The Modernizer", stay tuned tomorrow to see which up-and-coming leader wins the title of "The Enforcer".

Today I am Watching: Sri Lanka

"Today I am Watching.." will usually be a short feature, but as this is the first one, I'll do some quick explaining. I plan on posting a quick daily update (usually in the morning) tipping you off to a developing news story which I think is worth attention.
This morning, the big news is out of the island nation of Sri Lanka, where the army has captured the headquarters of one of the world's most deadly terrorist groups - the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE has been terrorizing Sri Lankans since the 1970s, and has been fighting an all-out civil war with the government since 1983. They were also among the first terrorists to perfect the art of suicide bombing. So in a small way, you can thank the LTTE for 9/11 and the frequent terror in Israel. A Sri Lankan friend tells me that this could be "the beginning of the end for the LTTE" and that there are celebrations all over Sri Lanka. This might not get a lot of coverage here in the U.S., but as somebody who knows people in that country, I'm almost tearing up at the idea that the LTTE's reign of terror might be coming to an end.

Stay tuned tonight for the start of the "Ten Names You Will Learn in 2009" series.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

3,2,1, Launch!

Welcome to The Brickyard! If you’re coming over from Draft Palin, I hope you enjoy the new site – if you’re not, welcome aboard. While there will definitely be a lot of Palin-centered content here, we are going to be talking about much more than Sarah Palin. In fact, we’re not even going to keep the discussion limited to U.S. politics. Anyone who has been to my pre-Palin blog, ConservaGlobe, will know that I am passionate about international affairs, and that I like to bring you stories that may not be making headlines here in America. So, I am hoping that we can develop this blog as a place where conservatives can talk about anything going on in the wide world of politics, regardless of whether it’s printed by USA Today, The BBC , or the Anchorage Daily News. If you’re here for the Palin updates, be prepared for some foreign affairs debates…and if you’re here for the foreign affairs, be ready for a heavy dose of our favorite Alaskan governor.

There are a few more features that I plan on debuting here soon, but I think I’ll keep those under my hat for now. In the meantime, be sure to “follow” me on Twitter, and I look forward to starting this new journey.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be kicking off with series of posts entitled “Ten Names You Will Learn in 2009”, where I will profile ten leaders who you may or may not have heard of…but who could blow onto the world scene in a big way this year. They are:

David Cameron – Great Britain – Leader of the Conservative Party
Benjamin Netanyahu – Israel - Former Prime Minister and current leader of the Likud Party
Jacob Zuma – South Africa – Presidential frontrunner
Timothy Geithner – USA - Incoming Secretary of the Treasury
Michael Ignatieff – Canada - Leader of the Liberal Party
David Miliband – Great Britain - Foreign Minister
Siv Jensen – Norway – Leader of the Progress Party
Susan Rice – USA – Incoming Ambassador to the United Nations
Helen Zille – South Africa – Mayor of Cape Town
Frank-Walter Steinmeier – Germany – Social Democratic Party candidate for Chancellor