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Introducing Shenandoah Sunshine

May 16, 2011 1 comment

UPDATE: I noticed that a number of people are landing here when searching for Shenandoah Sunshine. At the time of this post the blog wasn’t up, so no link. Of course, the blog is now rolling, and you may find it here.

During my time at the University of Virginia, I first became interested in the art of blogging. At the time, blogging was just getting established as a media platform. There’s not much to it, really–essentially, a blog is really just a website that is updated very frequently, with the newest material presented first on the front page. They’re really not all that different from the earliest websites around–in fact, some of the earliest blogs came online around 1994. What really put blogging on the map was a change in accessibility and tone.

These two changes occurred around the same time. Previously, maintaining a blog required a modicum of web design and maintenance skills, depending on what you were trying to accomplish. During the late 90s and early 00s, however, enterprising web gurus develop software and services that allowed pretty much anyone with the most basic of word processing and web surfing skills (i.e. click here to publish) to start a blog. Additionally, they even offered to host it for you, meaning there was no investment other than time. It was on par with other developments in publishing: first came hand written texts, which was limited to those with the ability and time to expend in copying them. Then there was the printing press, which suddenly made republication even easier, but still that was limited to those who could afford a press (or those who could convince there was money to be made by the owners in selling their work). Then came mechanization, Xerox, and then finally, blogging–pretty much anyone can be read by others now (though you still have to get people interested). Understandably, each of these methods was taken advantage of by those with political interests, in spreading a message about government and politics. Blogging is no exception.

Certainly there were political bloggers before 2002, but it was in that year that a blogger played a key role in forcing then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) to step down following remarks that he made regarding how the nation would have been better off had it elected then Southern Democrat Strom Thurmond during his explicitly segregationist presidential campaign in 1948. Media had been present at the event the comments were made at, but they went unreported. It was this new intrepid group of bloggers, who both had a motive but could also find an audience within the media that shamed them into making a bigger deal of the store, that kicked off a major change in the Senate’s leadership. Blogs further came of age when a group of right leaning bloggers cast light on CBS’s Dan Rather’s reporting on documents that put President Bush’s National Guard service in a dim light. Those documents were proved through blogger’s efforts to be forgeries. The controversy ultimately ended with Dan Rather stepping down from his post as anchor of CBS’s Evening News after 24 years. The message of these incidents was clear: a new generation of reporters and analysts was emerging thanks to the rise of a new form of media with very little cost to entry (both in terms of experience and monetary resources) and access that even TV and newspapers could be jealous of. More importantly, the media, even if they claimed to loathe the competition, was paying attention, and now, they were not the only ones who would decide what stories mattered.

What was there that DIDN’T appeal about blogging to a young political activist with an interest in writing, the internet, and well, making a difference/stirring up trouble (depending on your opinion of my efforts)? I started primarily writing about state politics and blogged off and on about it under both my name and pseudonyms through 2006. During my bout with cancer, I also used blogging as an outlet, though for a much more personal reason. In 2008 and 2009, my interests changed, and I ran first a blog for the Shenandoah County Republican Committee and this humble blog right here.

These efforts were meant to bring a blogging presence to Shenandoah County, but they largely failed for a number of reasons. For one, I just didn’t promote them right. Two, I never quite delivered on my promise of providing news and commentary for the County. Commentary, yeah, commentary that I frankly got some grief for. But this commentary never developed a following outside of a very small political class, and the news just wasn’t there. I wasn’t aggressive enough in either pursuing stories or just plain providing coverage. The opinion I did offer, and that seemed to draw more attention, was on state and national issues.

Still, for reasons I’ll get into below, I continue to see a real need for a new media resource for Shenandoah County and for political and public affairs coverage in the locality. My professional and personal position has changed over the last few months, and after continuing to play with the idea, I’ve finally decided to stop complaining and deliver.

It is with that background that I announce a new project of mine: The Shenandoah Sunshine Project. What is Shenandoah Sunshine? This project is intended to create a free, citizen powered resource for political and government news driven by the power of new media (including blogging, video and social networking). That, however, sounds supisciously like a simple pitch for advertisers, or a (albeit long) Twitter post. So, in that grand jouralistic tradition, I present the who, what, when, where, why and how of Shenandoah Sunshine.

So who are we? Well, for right now, you’re reading his words. Yes, at the present time, Shenandoah Sunshine is a one man band. However, because of the unique platform of new media, we hope that to be relatively short lived. We want to get other citizens involved in reporting on local politics and government. Even if you don’t have the time or interest in lugging a camera (or even pad and pen) to a local government meeting, we still want to hear what you’re interested in. Every platform we use will include some way for you to interact with us and provide us with tips, suggestions, and story ideas. Beyond that, we also hope to be a platform not only for reporting but for commentary and analysis as well–left, right, center, progressive, conservative, we want to hear from you, and provide you with a platform beyond the limitations of the letters to the editor section of the local papers in which to do it. For my part, I plan on restricting myself to a reporting role, covering meetings and reporting just the facts. If I step beyond that to offer opinion, I’ll be clear to label it as such, but I hope to control myself in that regard. But if my reporting appears to be biased, I certainly want to know that as well.

And just what are we going to provide? Well, think of us as CSPAN for Shenandoah County. We’re going to provide news and analysis about Shenandoah County Government and Politics across various social media platforms (video, twitter, facebook). Again, we are strictly limiting ourselves to just government and politics in Shenandoah County. If you’re looking for box scores, the line-up of acts for the Shenandoah County Fair, or what happened at the Relay for Life, sorry, we won’t have it–that’s not what we’re about. We are purposely focusing on the realm of public affairs within a limited geographic area. In short, we hope to be the C-SPAN of Shenandoah County. We want to provide citizens with a front row seat to government and politics in action. We will provide reporting and yes, film of town council and Board of Supervisor meetings and political events. Even CSPAN could be accused of being biased to a certain degree–even a camera angle or selection could be considered a form of bias–but we feel by providing the source material in a way others haven’t, we will be able to provide both a more comprehensive and less biased form of coverage than has ever been attempted in Shenandoah County.

When are we kicking this off? Well, that’s a bit trickier. In a sense, it starts today with the announcement. We want to hear your feedback starting now. What do you want to hear about? Where do you want us to be? Think we’re full of crap and aren’t needed at all and we should be ashamed of ourselves for even suggesting this project? Let us know….even if that won’t call us off. Again, this is all about getting citizens involved in the process, and that includes us, the media. Yet, today, we aren’t launching any stories. We’ve reserved a spot on the major platforms we’ll be using (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress), but content will roll out slowly, because, right now, we haven’t started the heart of the project. That will come soon, though. Our first target: redistricting in Shenandoah County. Look for stories and information beginning tomorrow, and full coverage of next week’s public hearing on the issue before the Board of Supervisors.

Where will we be? This is not a traditional media project. Again, we have a narrow focus, and a different platform. We conciously will not have a traditional press outlet, for several reasons. One, for the kind of coverage we’re providing, we just don’t think that our model is an economically viable one. Other projects that have had a larger community focus have folded–there’s been multiple new printed outlets through the last decade that have come and gone. We just don’t have the financial resources to try, and we don’t think its worth it. Beyond that, we think the present outlets do a good job as printed resources for the community writ large, and we don’t see competing wtih them. More to the point, we hope to do something a little different here. As we’ll outline below, we see a gap in local government and political coverage, and I feel that, frankly, county politics is not taken a s seriously as it could be. To try and change this, I hope to go to where the dialogue is–social media. If the announcement of a public official’s child being born or their engagement can draw people’s attention, why can’t coverage of important issues do so as well? I have a hunch that its because nobody’s tried hard enough, and I want to give it a whirl. It might work, it might not–but it won’t be known until its tried.

So that leads us to another question–just why am I doing this? Well, for starters, I think that, quite frankly, there’s just not enough engagement regarding politics in Shenandoah County. Too often we’ll see public hearings regarding property taxes or school spending packed to the gills, but then at the very next meeting there will be one or two people. Same thing with letters to the editor–there will be a deluge when there’s big issues at hand, but then nothing for weeks or months. Should we just live with this? After all, those are important issues–why not let people live their lives the rest of the year? Well, there’s something to that argument–but the problem with that logic is that these issues often become problems only because of decisions that were made in the past, when people weren’t really paying attention. We don’t blame the citizens directly–people often just don’t have options to hear about this stuff. But we think it matters. Too often, as a political office, I’d ask people about who they were planning to vote for in local elections and I’d get the answer, “sorry, I only vote in presidential elections, the only one that matters.” The problem there is that the vast majority of government operations that affect us in our daily lives, from police protection to public schools to, yes, even turning on the water to brush your teeth in the morning, are the function of local government. It might not be the sexiest or most compelling part of politics, but local politics matters. Right now, I just don’t feel that the local media outlets do as good a job as they good. The Hearld, despite being just focused on the county, has unfortunately curtailed in-depth coverage. The Free Press, while far more in depth, has a clear agenda, and the lines between reporting and opinion are far too often blurred in their coverage. The Northern Virginia Daily does good coverage on occasion, bu they cover Winchester and Front Royal as well and therefore have to manage their reporting and don’t get to cover every meeting as they should. We also don’t think that government itself does as good a job as it should. We want to change that. There may be some that see us “attacking the powers that be” on that front, but we don’t see this as an agenda driven effort. If we have any agenda, its on the side of government transparency and civic engagement. That’s all we care about–we hope to be a platform for political discussion, but before we do that, we want to get people talking through unprecedented political coverage.

To expand on that just for a moment–we realize that we may not have a readership that is a cross section of Shenandoah County at first. Likely, our first readers will probably be those already deeply invested in the political process to begin with. That’s ok–that’s why we’re focusing on social media. We want to start a dialogue, and we feel the quickest way to do that is to give people an easy way to disseminate information regarding local government. Again, it may work, it may not–maybe people really just don’t care, and information on redistricting will never be as popular as baby photos. Someone needs to try, though, and it might as well be the nerd who awaits census data more than word of a classmate’s newborn…..I make no apologies on that front, but as I’ve always felt–somebody’s gotta be that guy in a successful society. It might as well be me.

So how are we going to pull this off? Social media is at the core of this project. A blog, twitter, YouTube and Facebook are at the center of this project. You will find us across all three platforms, and for right now, its going to be heavy lifting on my part. But I want this–I see a real need for this sort of coverage, and I feel compelled to try. There will be more coming across the next few days, and we encourage you to stay tuned. Above all, get involved: talk to us, let us know what you want to hear about, critique us. Because this project is ultimately about you, the citizens, and we believe that we can shine new light on the often confusing but always important nature of local government.

God bless this beautiful land we call the Shenandoah Valley, and god bless America.

Regards,
Craig L. Orndorff

Editor, Shenandoah Sunshine Project

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SC Debate Liveblog

Man, that was exhausting. My MacBook struggled through, but I think an update is going to be in order once I get some money flowing in…..but that could be a while (and yes, when it happens, it may even be a PC). For now, you’ll have to settle for my C-List punditry as I can do it. But right now, I didn’t win debate coverage by any stretch

10:29–Cain and Pawlenty had really canned statements, but for some reasons, Cain’s was alot more soaring. Could be something to his gift of oratory.

10:29: Santorum just pointed to DeMint, a guy who should probably be up on the stage.

10:24–Each candidate is being asked about one other candidate. TPaw on Huck, Paul on Bachmann, Cain on Romney, Santorum on Gingrich, and well, we ran out, so Johnson on Trump.

10:18–Johnson–I’m of the belief that only Republicans can solve our current economic situation. But on all the other issues, well……

10:17–Santorum: I know how to beat Democratic incumbents. Yes, and you also know how to get beaten big.

10:17–Cain is coming off this well.

10:13–Shoot, I think I just missed the most compelling part of this debate. Did Fox News make a weed joke at Johnson’s expense?

10:08–Santorum asked about “It Takes A Family” and his views on working outside the home.

10:06–Chris Wallace pulls out an ad Pawlenty made for the Environmental Defense Fund re: cap and trade. Pawlenty says he was just studying it and the study showed it was a bad idea. Booing first, though, but Pawlenty says he’s made a mistake. He says if anyone’s perfect they should be running–gets strange reaction from crowd.

10:06–Chris Wallace pretty much just announced this is the “gotcha” round–wherein they specifically ask questions that could cause problems down the line.

10:05–Did Pawlenty really want to tout his union credentials or to get away from the creationism issue?

10:03–Paul and Cain scoring well on the Unions issue, though I’m afraid their appeal will be stuck to the managerial class.

9:59–Santorum is asked about Mitch Daniel’s call for a truce on social issues, and says any candidate who calls for that doesn’t “get” America and goes on to preach

9:58–Pawlenty says he backs adult stem cell research only.

9:56–Johnson questioned on abortion–supports abortion up to viability, gets boos, explains that he opposed partial birth abortion, supported counseling….pretty much conceded pro-life vote.

9:55–Paul started with saying that government should be out of marriage completely, then says the states should have their say. Huh?

9:39–Santorum on immigration and his opposition to path to citizenship and bilingualism. Santorum points to his own roots, saying his father never taught him his native tounge because “he was an American.” Interesting take, but is that too old school for some?

9:39: Oooo, this could be fun: Immigration. Cain vs. Paul. Another tweeter was right–crap, scratch that, Cain likes Rules of Three, but he added four this time. Still, he likes lists and “pointed plans”

9:37–I’m a few minutes behind, but highlights: Ron Paul getting EVERYTHING he stands for it one answer (nonintervention, gold standard, constitutionalism), Gary Johnson complaining about being left out, Cain defending fairtax

9:23–Going back a bit, I think the opposite of what we expected is happening. Instead of Paul and Johnson ganging up on these guys, the other three are putting baby in a corner.

9:22–I think Pawlenty and Cain are pulling off the best soundbites, but the substance, I’m afraid, may be going to Santorum. Santorum defends Medicare expansion as underbudget and driven by the private sector.

9:21–Ok, NOW is Cain’s time to shine. He gets his first applause on having a real energy independence plan. Could he take the wind out of Gingrich’s sails by being the first to hit this?

9:19–Pawlenty is going for “I’m one of you” on economics. Asked about Bush Tax Cuts and why unemployment is still up, but now he’s berating the NRLB.

9:18–Moving onto economics. Johnson asked about his ideas to remove a ton of programs. Pretty rational answer, but dry.

9:18–First bit of contention with waterboarding. Cain uses the moment to say he’d protect Americans. o….k…..still dramatic, though, and that’s what counts

9:14–Mr. Baier, don’t get flustered. You should’ve known.

9:13–First real battle between candidates–Paul asked about Pawlenty’s weakness quote, says that openness is key and we should expect for others what we would.

9:12–Santorum asked about Islam in context of the Middle Eastern Spring. I was at UVA when he drew sharp criticism for a speech he made re: radical Islam. Points that we can’t leave the ideological battle in the background.

9:08–Johnson’s up. He seems alot clearer than Paul on this, and goes back to his opposition to Iraq. Says he believed in Afghanistan at first but that our mission was pretty much done in the first six months. Also opposes Libya.

9:07–Cain asked about his lack of Plan on Afghanistan. He says the mission is not clear and that we need to ask ourselves just why we’re there and how we would win. Pushed on what winning means, he goes back to saying that the Generals would be his source of decision. Spoken like a true businessman–this highlights why businessmen make weak candidates on FoPo.

9:05–Paul is asked about his troop withdrawal policy on Afghanistan. Answers that Bin Laden wasn’t even found there and now we’re still engaged in nation building there. Big applause, despite requests to do so. Still, he didn’t really answer if he would’ve continued the mission to capture Bin Laden.

9:04–Santorum says Obama’s best FoPo decisions have simply been

9:03–Ah, the classic hand raise. Cain would NOT release photos of Obama.

9:02–Starting out with FoPo. Hitting Pawlenty with q regarding his comments that Obama was weak in light of Osama killing. Pawlenty answers with Libya.

9:01–Juan Williams, Chris Wallace, and Shannon Bream are the panel. Bret Baier is the lead.

What if you had a debate and no one came?

Tonight was supposed to be the big night: the first Republican debate of the 2012 cycle. Following the big GOP wave of 2010, it would seem that Republicans are geared up to take on the incumbent President. So who do we have lined up for this momentous occasion?

  • Herman “the Godfather (of pizza)” Cain
  • Gary “Weed-member Me?” Johnson
  • Ron “I’m baaaaack, establishment Neo-Cons!” Paul
  • Tim “not so good and” Pawlenty
  • Rick “Hey, at least I didn’t lose as big as Keyes” Santorum

Uh-huh.

Where are the big names?? Where’s the Newt? Mittens? The Huckster? The Donald?? Even that “adorable little fuzzball” (her actual words, not mine) Michele Bachmann? They all took a pass.

Well, maybe they didn’t quite take a pass, but they didn’t make any outright effort to meet Fox News’s criteria. And what a set they were!

  • Must register a presidential exploratory committee or have announced a formal campaign for president
  • Must file all necessary paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC)
  • Must file all necessary paperwork with the South Carolina Republican Party
  • Must have paid all federal and South Carolina filing fees
  • Must meet all U.S. Constitutional requirements

Some candidates haven’t met these criteria, but others have and are still staying home, namely Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. From their point of view, it really didn’t make sense, even if they are “officially” not officially in the race, to go on stage with a number of candidates who, frankly, are considered longshots at best. As Race 4 2012 points out:

Not exactly the roaring start to the primary season we have all been hoping for… on average, these five guys get around 10-12% combined in the national polls.

I would add that, heck: some of these guys aren’t even regularly included in polling on the race. Fox News and the SC GOP have managed criteria that simultaneously kept out some heavy hitters and allowed enough deep pocketed but flaky candidates to get in to make it unattractive to top tier candidates that did qualify. Personally, I think part of this was motivated by business–Fox has put money down on two potential candidates, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. If they officially announce, they’re off the air, so Fox wants them to go or get off the pot. It appears that didn’t work–or, maybe it has yet to play out. Maybe they REALLY want those two to stay, and they think continuing to stage these things without them will diminish their credibility.

Whatever the case, the low turnout was cause enough for SC GOP to blast the field–well, at least those that aren’t showing. From Fox News:

“There is an arrogance that is abounding right now with some of these candidates,” said Karen Floyd, chairwoman of the South Carolina Republican Party. “And the state of South Carolina is a perfect conduit to select someone that will go out and work hard, shake hands, meet the people and say look, this is what I stand for, this is what I’m about. Not about buying elections.”

Not about buying elections, eh? Well, then why “pay us now or you can’t come?” No matter. Even the whining from South Carolina wasn’t enough to prevent the Associated Press from declaring this a non-event both in analysis:

The one to beat in the GOP presidential field, Mitt Romney, won’t attend the first debate of the party’s 2012 nomination race. Neither will any other big-name Republicans weighing bids, like Sarah Palin, or celebrity hopefuls, like Donald Trump.And, with Osama bin Laden’s death commanding the public’s attention, the political spotlight will be turned hundreds of miles to the north as President Barack Obama visits New York’s ground zero days after American forces killed the terrorist behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

Even so, the lead-off debate of the Republican presidential race is set to go on as planned Thursday night in Greenville, S.C. With only five candidates participating, it’s poised to be a low-key affair much like the sluggish early days of the Republican contest itself.

And in coverage, due to limitations on photography at the event:

The Associated Press has decided not to cover a Republican presidential debate to protest limits placed on media coverage by its organizers.

Fox News Channel and the South Carolina Republican Party are co-sponsoring the first GOP debate of the 2012 presidential race on Thursday. But the sponsors are barring still photographers from entering the hall in Greenville, S.C., during the debate.

That is a change from past debates, when Fox permitted still photographers greater access. Both AP and Reuters photographers were permitted extensive access to the January 2008 GOP primary debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., including multiple photographers from each agency allowed in the hall during large parts of the debate, said J. David Ake, the AP’s assistant chief of bureau/photos.

That said, the one arguably top tier candidate in the debate, Tim Pawlenty, is using this as an opportunity to show he’s serious:

“Some candidates are skipping tonight’s Republican debate in South Carolina because they believe it’s ‘too soon’ to begin the presidential campaign against Barack Obama. I only hope that it’s not too late,” Pawlenty wrote. “After two and a half years of Barack Obama’s presidency, nearly one in five American workers are consistently unable to find full employment, our national debt continues to skyrocket, and inflating energy and food prices are eating away at families’ budgets.”

To anyone upset that their “guy” isn’t showing up or that they won’t get a chance to hear from the “big guys,” get real–there are PLENTY of debates left. From Race 4 2012:

June 7, 2011 CNN / NH Union Leader / WMUR-TV Debate Manchester, NH
August 11, 2011 FOX News / Iowa GOP Straw Poll Debate Ames, IA
September 7, 2011 Reagan Library / NBC News / Politico Debate Simi Valley, CA
September 12, 2011 CNN / Tea Party Express Debate Tampa, FL
September 22, 2011 FOX News / Florida GOP Debate Orlando, FL
October 11, 2011 Washington Post / Bloomberg Debate Hanover, NH
October 18, 2011 CNN / Western States Leadership Conference Debate Las Vegas, NV
December 10-11 (TBD), 2012 ABC News / Iowa GOP Debate TBD
January 30, 2012 FOX News / Iowa GOP Debate Sioux City, IA

Yeah, that’s NINE more debates between now and the first binding delegate selection event in Iowa (that is, if Florida folds and moves in after the reserved states in February). You’ll have plenty of time to assess the candidates.

That is, if you think these debates mean anything. In my view, as the field continues to firm up, these debates will only become more and more tedious, with candidates getting less and less time within the time frame of roughly 90 minutes that most networks will use for these events. Some will crowd the others out, they’ll complain, and frankly, we really won’t know much more. “Debates” these days are little more than press conferences, with questions thrown out by the media and then answered with acceptable soundbites. I would much rather see debates with one broad topic where candidates present, defend, and rip apart each others stances, but that ain’t gonna happen. That would entail really thinking and real drama–something the media is just uncomfortable with, and I would reckon some of the campaigns, given the intellectual heft of their candidates.

Yet, I will be watching tonight. For two reasons: One, I want to see Pawlenty. He has a big risk and a big chance here. The risk: sharing the stage with a bunch of third and fourth tier candidates and being, well, Tim Pawlenty. The chance: rising above the expectations and off the stage with much flashier candidates, getting to shine in front of a dedicated Republican audience, as well as a ton of wonks, pundits, and consultants.

Two, I think this will be an interesting debate despite the line-up. For starters, we have a true Tea Partier (Cain), two liberty, non-interventionist candidates (Johnson and Paul), a mainstreamer (Pawlenty), and the shining light of the social conservatives (Santorum). As I’ve pointed out before, I see this much as 1988: a very split field with a candidate for everybody–EVERYBODY–in the party.

And so, I announce, just 1 minute beforehand: LIVE BLOGGING! Dang computer. Tune in here–we’ll have news and analysis as the debate develops.

Categories: Uncategorized

The First of May: A Turning Point?

As I mentioned previously, the evening of May First is one that will be indelibly printed on the consciousness of a generation. The college students who witnessed the events of September 11th are emerging as the newest generation of leaders. The high schoolers that saw the massacre of thousands in New York are now becoming established in their chosen careers. And the middle schoolers who may have had to ask their parents why they were gripped with fear and anguish on that fateful day are now figuring out just what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Each of these groups begins this new chapter in their lives with one fact apparent: the mastermind behind those attacks is no more. So just what do we do with that?

Countless pundits and analysts (yours truly included) have pointed to Osama Bin Laden as the Hitler of our generation. Yet while these two figures share much in common, there is much to separate them as well–not the least of all having to do with the scale and witnessing of their respective atrocities. I am sorry if I offend, but Hitler is the far greater evil. He was a man who first co-opted a movement that fed off of the collective misery of an entire nation and shifted it into an ideology based on fanatical nationalism and racial supremacy. He used the movement to chip away at the democratic institutions of a nation to first build it up and then destroy it through his own prejudices and desires. He molded public opinion in his own image, to the point where an entire nation, some knowingly, some on the edges, participated in a slow but massive execution targeted at all who did not meet the image their leader envisioned for this monster he had created. An entire religion was targeted and nearly decimated through his machinations. The worst of all was that those who were called to defeat this beast were mostly not even aware of its scale until it was defeated–we can simply not process what it meant to be a young army private witnessing the horrors of Buchenwald and Auschwitz.

Osama Bin Laden, on the other hand, was undoubtedly a worshiper of death and destruction as well. He, however, was never able to manipulate an entire people into following. His was a ragtag band of “true believers” whose dedication to the principles of Islamism, though appealing to many living in third world conditions, just never caught fire as a mass movement because, frankly, it was unclear just what that would entail. Even the Taliban, which was the only government that came close, and even they never had complete control of the territory of Afghanistan. The nation was bereft with fighting between the Taliban and two former enemies that formed the Northern Alliance. Even today Afghanistan has only a barely functional government. Amidst all this chaos, however, stood a figure calling for the destruction of all that did not see the world as he did. It was never really clear what a world controlled by Bin Laden would look like–the important part was destroying all that did not meet his vision of Allah, which alternately meant Communism and the West. It is indisputable, however, that Osama was able to carry out countless acts of terror using those few fanatics that he could reach.

Read more…

We Got Him: Bin Laden Dead.

These are moments that you remember. Where you were, what time it was, the feeling, the incredible emotions. It’s been quite sometime since a President has spoken to the nation with very little notice–even the events of September 11th, 2001 had a certain timeline to them. When you hear (or in this new media age, read, showing just how things come around) that the President will announce the nation “shortly,” you sit with baited breath. And so it has happened.

I write this as we hear the first news that Osama Bin Laden, the financier and mastermind between countless Radical Islam-driven attacks, is dead, and that the body is reportedly in U.S. hands. It started first with a trickle, with the sudden announcement that the President would speak at 10:30 p.m. What could possibly be happening right now? Libya? Ghadaggi’s son is allegedly dead…

So the speculation began, some suggesting tornadoes, others Libya, but it quickly became apparent (both on the nets and Twitter) that this was indeed a national security matter, but shortly thereafter it was established that this did not have to do with the Libyan situation. Minutes passed and eventually 10:30 p.m. did, but it was first leaked on Twitter that this was Bin Laden, but not via the networks. Finally, at 10:45 p.m., the former standardbearers broke in with their bombastic orchestral themes, and we heard it: Bin Laden is dead, and we have the body.

At this point, all we know is that Bin Laden is indeed dead and we have the body. It is expected that President Obama’s speech will focus on the details of how he was finally brought to justice, but as the minutes click away, television news organizations are left with a huge story but no developments, as the President puts the finishing touches on his speech. So the speculation on just what this means.

So what does this mean? Well, I’m just one man. At the moment, one man filled with a fairly powerful mix of emotions. I feel that this goes for countless across the nation, not least of all those who have or had loved ones serving in what was called the War on Terror. Yet I can help but think about what this does mean. What does this mean? Well, at this moment, it would appear that the largest effect is symbolic. We knew from the get go, when we became involved with a fight against al Qaeda and radical Islam writ large, that we were fighting an asymmetrical, decentralized force. Just how involved was Bin Laden with the day to day operations of an organization that was spread throughout the world and whose primary financiers were pushed to some of the most remote regions of the world? That is something we may now never know. Still, Bin Laden, as NBC just pointed out, was the chief architect of the organization, and at one point its primary financial baker. But the ground troops are still out there. Indeed, we didn’t call it the War on Al Qaeda–it was the War on Terror. For perhaps the first time in military history, war was declared not on an enemy but rather on a form of warfare, or to narrow it just a bit more a form of warfare as used by an ideological yet divided, decentralized force. So I don’t think, by any stretch of the imagination, we can expect a quick return to pre-9/11 lifestyles, or the immediate return of ground troops in Afghanistan. What has happened is we have destroyed the embodiment of what the western world and even many Arabs and Islamists construed to be the embodiment of evil.

This is big not only for the United States, as we have been fighting this enemy for nearly twenty years (if you include our pre-9/11 actions against the organization), but for the Islamic world. The Islamic world has been in a schizophrenic state for sometime–as it currently stands, many states are currently throwing off the shackles of oppression, some largely secular, some steeped in Islam. At the same time, however, many resent the United States for continuing operations in the Middle East and Far East Asia. There has been some speculation that some of the Arabic rebellions could lead to a repeat of the Iranian tragedy, where a secular revolution was co-opted by hard fisted theocrats. This event shows that the U.S. and its allies will not stand for a stateless promoter of such a ruthless ideology. Will this make the Arab world safe for democracy? Perhaps, but perhaps it will enrage those already psychotic (and perhaps beyond saving) souls who insist that a form of theocracy is the only thing that will save them as a people.

So, as you can tell, I ultimately stand with just as many questions as answers. The only thing that seems to be certain is that our military bases around the world at higher alert tonight, because we simply don’t know how this will effect the overall outlook on the conflict and the motivations of those who are fighting for their perverted beliefs. I can tell you, mentally, there is some relief…..we’ve been waiting for this day since the attacks on our homeland, filled with a mix of grief and anger. As Afghanistan fell out of the hands of Taliban, which was harboring al Qaeda, the small, previously barely mentioned nation turned into an anarchist wasteland, battled over by those with fanatical ideological motivations and those driven by the baser desires of power and money. In the middle was the U.S. military, trying to keep the peace and put a democracy into power that sometimes seemed to simply not want to exist, beset by corruption. The grief and anger, though, would change focus, as people began to wonder just why we were in that small, landlocked nation. Lives were lost, including those close to our own little landlocked piece of the world here in Shenandoah County.

So what do I feel? Some relief, some satisfaction, and plenty of lingering concerns about if we went about this in just the right way. But now the deed is done. We now live in a world without Osama Bin Laden and it feels, for lack of a better term, different. But most importantly, a man of true evil who financed, backed, and likely planned countless acts of outright murder in the name of a controlling, destructive ideology is dead, and that’s a good thing.

So we’re still waiting. There’ll be plenty of ink and digital copy spilled tomorrow, and I may have some. But for right now, three parting observations on the procedural aspects of tonight.

One, Twitter, if it hadn’t before, has arrived. I waved off the initial reports, but they turned out to be spot on. They were roughly a half hour ahead of the networks. On a related note, two, there’s no such thing anymore as a confidential source. Leaks are almost unstoppable in this age of new media. Three, and perhaps paradoxically, Twitter may be falling, or we may be witnessing a decline of snark. I saw countless snarky posts tonight, hinting that Obama would be addressing Trump, some minor league outfit staying in their hometown, and various sundry bits of “humor”. While they may have seemed funny to the authors, I did not find them funny. This could have been anything. American lives are still at risk. A pathological hatred of this president is no reason to mock a possibly important announcement that goes far beyond any one man. I loathe his policies, but I strive, even if I don’t always meet my own standards, to maintain a certain respect for the presidency and our government’s institutions. I hope Twitter can grow up too.

And so the President speaks, and I shut up.