The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Aid and Violence

Condi Rice has postponed the “Mid-East Peace Conference” scheduled for November 1st because participation by key players (other than the Israelis and Palestinians) is questionable. But when the conference does occur, you can bet that a key element will be Palestinian demands for significant increases in foreign aid.

CAMERA has conducted an interesting analysis that attempts to correlate financial aid given to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (by the US, the EU, Israel via tax revenues, and others) and the number of homicides perpetrated by Hamas and Fatah in terrorist attacks and inter-group warfare. In their report, CAMERA notes:
Many commentators observing this outpouring of generosity towards the new Fatah-dominated government have expressed the need to proceed cautiously, noting the failure of prior aid to moderate Palestinian behavior, but few have provided specific information to substantiate their concern. In fact, a comparison of annual aid to the Palestinian government with the annual number of Palestinian homicides shows a worrisome correlation.

Statistics on Palestinian homicides and foreign aid to Gaza and the West Bank reveal that as aid increased to the Palestinian government, so too did the numbers of people killed by Palestinian militants.

Aid & Violence

From the summary graph, it appears that there is a direct and striking correlation between aid dollars given to the Palestinians and the number of homicides committed over the next year’s time.

CAMERA correctly notes that:
These statistics do not mean that foreign aid causes violence; but they do raise questions about the effectiveness of using foreign donations to promote moderation and combat terrorism. The graphs reveal that the increased budgetary aid to the Palestinian government after the start of the second Intifada in September 2000 was accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of Palestinian homicides in 2001 and 2002. After mid-2002, Israeli countermeasures against suicide bombers began to reduce the number of Israeli dead. By August 2003, the first portion of the security barrier was in place, leading to a rapid decline in homicides in 2003. The appointment of Salam Fayyad, a moderate technocrat, to the finance ministry in late 2002 also resulted in reduced aid as Israeli tax revenue was restored to the Palestinian government. While Israeli countermeasures reduced the number of Israeli victims, Palestinian factional violence took an ever increasing toll. When including Palestinian victims of Palestinian violence as well as Israeli victims, the correlation between aid and homicides continues beyond 2003.

In the West, we tend to believe that poverty is a catalyst for terror and violence and that if we provide aid to help eliminate poverty, the terror and violence should be reduced. That doesn’t appear to be the case, at least in the Gaza and West Bank.

Part of the problem may be that the aid doesn’t get to the people who need it. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
In an Atlantic Monthly article titled "In A Ruined Country," author David Samuels estimated that Arafat and his senior aides may have siphoned off as much as half of the $7 billion in aid to the Palestinian Authority. Samuels, citing an International Monetary Fund report, said Arafat may have personally taken $900 million just from 1995 to 2000, a figure that did not include the rake off from kickbacks and other forms of corruption.

There is relatively little evidence that things have improved significantly since Arafat's death. In fact, since the second intifada began, the economic plight of the Palestinians has degraded considerably, even though aid has increased significantly. Since Hamas was elected in Gaza, Hamas-Fatah violence has escalated dramatically.

Condi should remember that when the inevitable demands for more "humanitarian" aid begin.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


As a prelude to the long-continuing EU-led negotiations with with Iran on its continuing attempt to develop nuclear weapons, Reuters reports:
Iran will not back down in a nuclear dispute with the West and is not interested in talks with the United States, its president said on Tuesday ahead of a previously unannounced visit by Russia's foreign minister.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking hours before he was due to meet Russia's Sergei Lavrov in Tehran, dismissed U.S. offers of broader negotiations between the two foes if Tehran first halts atomic work which Washington fears is aimed at building bombs.

"This nation will not negotiate with anyone over its obvious and legal rights," Ahmadinejad told student members of the Basij religious militia, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"We are not even interested in negotiating with you (the United States) and the Iranian nation does not need America."

Many who believe in the power of diplomatic negotiation counsel “patience” when dealing with a country like Iran. It may take time, they argue, but over the long run, our overall diplomatic goals can be accomplished.

On the face of it, this is reasonable advice—but only if we are able to freeze the status quo. If Iran did nothing further to build its nuclear capability and instead embarked on long-term negotiations—3 years, 5 years, 20 years (no matter)—patience makes a lot of sense. But unfortunately, Iran has not stopped its nuclear development efforts and moves toward a nuclear weapons capability that by even the most conservative estimates is placed at no more than 5 years off.

So, the question is (there is no optimal answer): Are there limits to our patience?

“Peace activists” would argue that we must be infinitely patient, that nothing ever justifies a violent confrontation in an effort to preempt an even more violent confrontation further down the road.

“Hawks” would argue that we’ve already been far too patient and the time for preemption is upon us.

“Optimists” would argue that if we’re patient enough, the result will be the internal overthrow of the Islamofascists who run the Iranian regime by “moderates” like Hashemi Rafsanjani. By the way, that’s the same Rafsanjani who said on October 5th: “What Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe at that time was partly due to these circumstances with the Jews. They wanted to expel the Zionists from Europe because they were always a pain in the neck for governments there ... Their first goal was to save Europe from the evil of Zionism, and in this they have been relatively successful.”

Pragmatists would argue that patience is a virtue, but that it cannot be unlimited and it cannot turn a blind eye to a serious, gathering threat.

Writing in the Asia Times, By Spengler notes:
Deals with the devil simply do not work, even in the ethically challenged world of foreign policy. The devil will act according to his nature, whatever bargain one attempts to make with him.

My proposed mantra for President George W Bush, is, "There are no good options." To be precise, there are options that are considerably worse for others than for the United States. The use of force against Iran without doubt will make the Iraqi mess completely unmanageable. It will have spillover effects in Turkey, where the electoral majority that supported the Islamists in this year's elections will rise in outrage against the United States and Israel. It may reignite the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Nor should we have any illusions about Iran's terrorist capacities. Western civilians well may pay a heavy price for the excision of Iran's nuclear program in the form of terror attacks. The price may be steep, but it's worth it.

Is it, in fact, worth it? Isn’t “patience” a better strategy? Hoping against hope that the peace activists or optimists are right. Hoping that we can postpone confrontation indefinitely, allowing other events to somehow intervene to our advantage. Hoping that by not acting, we can manipulate events in a way that avoids violence. Hoping that the fascists that control Iran will somehow be deposed by the Iranian people and that Iranian “moderates” will have a different point of view. Hoping that a new U.S. President [Hillary?] will somehow conjure the silver bullet that will solve this problem.

Patience and hope. Wonderful human qualities, but like all others, they can and sometimes do lead us astray.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Unreasoned, Unjustified

I rarely comment on the op-eds written by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman because his angry-Left arguments tend to be both illogical and often, factually inaccurate. But today, I’ll make an exception.

In a recent NYT op-ed, Krugman argues that GOP presidential candidates are fear-mongering when they suggest aggressive action against al Qaeda and its supporters. He begins:
In America’s darkest hour, Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.

Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.

There’s no question that the Left and the Right perceive the threat of Islamofascism differently. To over-simplify: the left views it as a deadly nuisance that could be corrected if we properly address our own shortcomings and the grievances of those who commit terror acts; the Right sees it as an existential menace that we must defeat now at risk of much greater suffering later.

In discussing the neo-conservative point of view, Krugman states:
For one thing, there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t.

Krugman follows the angry-Left's mime perfectly. Using the mime’s daily double, he first diminishes a very real threat (without a shred of proof to support his position) by stating that it doesn’t really exist. At the same time, he conflats a broad threat of terror with our ill-fated war in Iraq. The Left itself argues that the two are only loosely related. The fact that the Iraqi campaign was ill-conceived does not mean that concern over Islamofascism is equally ill-conceived.

Islamofascism is real, and it is a threat. The fact that people with Krugman’s mindset refuse to acknowledge this reminds me of the famous rendering of the three monkeys—hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. If people like Krugman close their eyes and ears and refuse to see the threat, refuse to say the word "islamofascist," maybe it will simply disappear or become a minor criminal nuisance. If they refuse to believe that al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezballah, Hamas, and dozens of other Jihadist groups do not represent a real and growing threat, they are delusional. Worse, they truly do not comprehend what fascism really is.

Since Krugman began his piece with a quote from President Roosevelt, it might be useful to complement FDR’s words with those of Winston Churchill—Roosevelt’s counterpart when we faced another form of fascism.

At the onset of WWII, when people much like Krugman counseled that the Nazi threat was minimal and that negotiation could nicely address Germany’s many grievances Churchill said:
"One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Naming the Villain

Over the past few months, there has been a stream of Hollywood movies that have, to put it delicately, criticized our efforts to prosecute the war of terror. These movies have characterized government officials as thoughtless, evil fools, the CIA and other intelligence agencies as malevolent and intent only on violating the rights of American citizens, and the military as bloodthirsty baby killers who have neither the brains nor the discipline to fight a “just war.”

This theme is mother’s milk for the angry Left and apparently is a story line much loved by Hollywood execs, writers, directors, and talent. The fact that the story line is generally overwrought and factually incorrect is of no consequence.

But there’s something much more interesting about all of these movies—the true villain is us—never the Islamofascist terrorists. In fact, in some movies (an older example is The Sum of All Fears, the studios go out of their way to change the original Islamist villain (in this case, Islamic terrorists in the story line of Tom Clancy’s book) to (incredibly) neo-Nazi Austrians. After all, it was Neo-Nazi Austrians who were responsible for 9/11, the London and Madrid bombings and the thousands of suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Bali, Saudi Arabia, … Right?

The Hollywood elites suggest that they don’t want to demonize Islam, but nobody is suggesting that they do that. Simply look at the world objectively, define who is responsible for the vast majority of all terrorist attacks, and be honest. After all, Islamofascists brutally kill far more Moslems than Westerners. Placing them in the role of villains would help moderate Moslems to defeat them. Or am I missing something?

Michael Fumento comments:
… it’s hardly the case that Islamists don’t make believable villains, much less more believable and captivating than evil cyber-geniuses and neo-Nazis. Islamists have killed about three thousand American civilians on 9/11, killed almost 200 people in the Madrid Train Bombings, and 52 more in the London subway bombings.

Islamic terrorists routinely explode bombs in markets and launch chlorine gas attacks. They build torture chambers and make and display videos of beheadings in which the victim screams in agony as his head is sawed off with a dull knife.

An editorial in The Australian echos this sentiment when it considers our inability to name our enemy:
… we have been unable even to name our enemy. It is not terrorism as such we are fighting but Islamist terrorists. We have been unable to say so because we believe those who claim that merely by identifying our enemies as Islamists we are demonising Muslims. Yet as Sally Neighbour recently said, it is not naming our enemies that makes Muslims look bad. Terrorists who kill civilians while shouting "Allah Akhbar" make Muslims look bad.

All of this would be meaningless if the general public thought about matters critically and dismissed Hollywood’s output for what is is—Fiction. But the continuing drumbeat of anti-American cinema coming not from our enemies but from America itself, has a cumulative effect. It is, in its own way, blatant propaganda that influences public attitudes domestically and foments the hatred of Americans internationally.

Nice job, Tinseltown.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Islamofascist Awareness

During this week, a rare series of events will occur on college campuses across the US. Instead of speakers who condemn the West and apologize for Jihadism, a series of speakers (some serious such as Robert Spenser, others extreme such as Ann Coulter) will discuss “Islamofascism.” This simple exercise in free speech has elicited a firestorm of protest on the campuses in question. At its core is the use of the term: “Islamofascist.”

“Islamofascism” describes the Jihadist movement as exemplified by Osama bin Ladin’s al Qaeda. Many publications on the Left avoid the term and, in fact, rarely use the adjective "Islamic" to describe a terrorist or a terrorist-related movement. The reason, they state, is to avoid painting an entire religion as extreme.

But in emphasizing this politically correct restriction, are the MSM and other publications bending the truth? Christopher Hitchens believes they are:
Does Bin Ladenism or Salafism or [or Jihadism or Islamism] whatever we agree to call it have anything in common with fascism?

I think yes. The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. ("Death to the intellect! Long live death!" as Gen. Francisco Franco's sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined "humiliations" and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual "deviance"—and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures.

Fascism (and Nazism) also attempted to counterfeit the then-success of the socialist movement by issuing pseudo-socialist and populist appeals. It has been very interesting to observe lately the way in which al-Qaida has been striving to counterfeit and recycle the propaganda of the anti-globalist and green movements.

It’s interesting to note that the same outlets who refuse to use the term "Islamofascism" have no trouble parroting propaganda from terror-apologists such as CAIR when they call anyone who criticizes extreme elements of Islam as “Islamophobic.” If CAIR can equate legitimate criticism with Islamophobia, I and everyone else should feel very comfortable equating “a cult of murderous violence that exalts death,” a movement that is misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and much more, as “Islamofascist.”


There’s a sad story that appeared in today’s South Florida Sun Sentinel:
The wages were meager, so Guatemalan dishwasher Pedro Zapeta made thrift his motto, and it paid off. Over almost 10 years he saved $59,000, a few dollars at a time, keeping the money in a small sack.

The Zapeta work history is typical in South Florida. He rode a bicycle to work in a small restaurant, where he labored as a dishwasher for 13 – 14 hours a day earning $12K to $15K per year. He entered the USA illegally in 1996 and traveled to SoFla. He worked, he went to church, and he played in pick-up soccer games.

After 10 years of saving, he decided to go home. Again from the Sun Sentinel:
When he was ready to go home, customs agents at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport found the bills tucked into several envelopes, among music CDs and a pair of jeans. They confiscated the full amount, citing a federal regulation that requires travelers leaving the country to fill out a form if they are carrying more than $10,000 in cash.

Two years later, Zapeta, an undocumented immigrant, is still trying to get his money back.

"It was ignorance. I didn't know you can't carry money like that," said Zapeta, a 39-year-old Mayan man with four years of schooling. "I saved everything. I wanted to build a house [in Guatemala]. My family's house is rotting. The ceiling has collapsed."

What Pedro Zapeta did was wrong – he entered the US illegally and probably owed income taxes on the money he earned (although very little, given his income). He should be fined and deported, but the fine should be very small and the rest of his savings should be returned to him. If that doesn’t happen, his prosecution is both unjust and mean-spirited. Sometimes, as the saying goes, “the letter of the law is an ass,” and this is one of those times. His case is being appealed.

But the broader issue of illegal immigration will remain as long as there is an economic incentive for people to head North. The “solutions” proposed to date are questionable at best. The New York Times comments:
Let’s concede an indisputable point: people should not be in the country illegally. But forget about the border for a moment — let’s talk about the 12 million who are already here. What should be done about them?

A. Deport them all.

B. Find out who they are. Distinguish between criminals and people who just want to work. Get them on the books. Make them pay what they owe — not just the income, Social Security, sales and property taxes they already pay, but all their taxes, and a fine. Get a smooth legal flow of immigrants going, and then concentrate on catching and deporting bad people.

C. Catch the few you can, and harass and frighten the rest. Treat the entire group as a de facto class of criminals, and disrupt or shout down anyone or any plan seen as abetting their evildoing.

Forget A. Congress tried a version of B, but it was flattened by outrage.

And so here we are at C. It’s a policy that can’t work; it’s too small-bore, too petty, too narrow. And all the while it’s not working, it can only lead to the festering of hate. Americans are a practical and generous people, with a tolerant streak a mile wide. But there is a combustible strain of nativism in this country, and it takes only a handful of match tossers to ignite it.

The new demagogues are united in their zeal to uproot the illegal population. They do not discriminate between criminals and the much larger group of ambitious strivers. They champion misguided policies, like a mythically airtight border fence and a reckless campaign of home invasions. And they summon the worst of America’s past by treating a hidden group of vulnerable people as an enemy to be hated and vanquished, not as part of a problem to be managed.

The immigration problem is extremely difficult and at best, we can hope to manage it reasonably well. Solutions? Not in my lifetime.

But when we manage immigration, we have to recognize the the vast majority of immigrants are NOT gang members, terrorists, or welfare cheats. The majority simply want to work, and we (that's a bipartisan "we") have to develop a way to filter out the bad guys and allow the good guys a chance to better themselves and their families. Ignoring the problem won't solve it, but draconian "solutions" won't solve it either.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Watching the "Watchdog"

In a recent speech presented to a meeting of Military Reporters and Editors in Washington, DC, retired General Richardo Sanchez criticized Congress, political infighting, the Bush administration’s management of the Iraq war. But a prominent portion of his remarks went unreported. Why? because those remarks skewered the main stream media (MSM).

A transcript of his criticism of the MSM follows:
Given the near instantaneous ability to report actions on the ground, the responsibility to accurately and truthfully report takes on an unprecedented importance. The speculative and often uninformed initial reporting that characterizes our media appears to be rapidly becoming the standard of the industry. An Arab proverb states - "four things come not back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past, the neglected opportunity." once reported, your assessments become conventional wisdom and nearly impossible to change. Other major challenges are your willingness to be manipulated by "high level officials" who leak stories and by lawyers who use hyperbole to strengthen their arguments. Your unwillingness to accurately and prominently correct your mistakes and your agenda driven biases contribute to this corrosive environment.

All of these challenges combined create a media environment that does a tremendous disservice to America. Over the course of this war tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats for America because of the tremendous power and impact of the media and by extension you the journalist. In many cases the media has unjustly destroyed the individual reputations and careers of those involved. We realize that because of the near real time reporting environment that you face it is difficult to report accurately. In my business one of our fundamental truths is that "the first report is always wrong." unfortunately, in your business "the first report" gives Americans who rely on the snippets of CNN, if you will, their "truths" and perspectives on an issue. As a corollary to this deadline driven need to publish "initial impressions or observations" versus objective facts there is an additional challenge for us who are the subject of your reporting. When you assume that you are correct and on the moral high ground on a story because we have not respond to questions you provided is the ultimate arrogance and distortion of ethics. One of your highly respected fellow journalists once told me that there are some amongst you who "feed from a pig's trough." if that is who I am dealing with then I will never respond otherwise we will both get dirty and the pig will love it. This does not mean that your story is accurate.

I do not believe that this is what our forefathers intended. The code of ethics for the society of professional journalists states:
...public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility

The basic ethics of a journalist that calls for:

1. Seeking truth,

2. Providing fair and comprehensive account of events and issues

3. Thoroughness and honesty

All are victims of the massive agenda driven competition for economic or political supremacy. The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war.

My assessment is that your profession, to some extent, has strayed from these ethical standards and allowed external agendas to manipulate what the American public sees on TV, what they read in our newspapers and what they see on the web. For some of you, just like some of our politicians, the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your own preconceived notions, biases and agendas.

It is astounding to me when I hear the vehement disagreement with the military's forays into information operations that seek to disseminate the truth and inform the Iraqi people in order to counter our enemy's blatant propaganda. As I assess various media entities, some are unquestionably engaged in political propaganda that is uncontrolled. There is no question in my mind that the strength our democracy and our freedoms remain linked to your ability to exercise freedom of the press - I adamantly support this basic foundation of our democracy and completely supported the embedding of media into our formations up until my last day in uniform. The issue is one of maintaining professional ethics and standards from within your institution. Military leaders must accept that these injustices will happen and whether they like what you print or not they must deal with you and enable you, if you are an ethical journalist.

Finally, I will leave this subject with a question that we must ask ourselves--who is responsible for maintaining the ethical standards of the profession in order to ensure that our democracy does not continue to be threatened by this dangerous shift away from your sacred duty of public enlightenment?

Indeed. Who watches the “watchdog?” Who ensures that accuracy and unbiased reporting is the norm? Who verifies that reporters and editors do not bury the lead when the lead does not fit their political biases? Who asks whether video or pictures or quotes tell the full story or that proper context is provided when news is presented?

The short answer – almost no one.

But that’s beginning to change. It’s interesting that the MSM reacts viscerally when the “blogosphere” is mentioned. “Amateurs and incompetents” is often their dismissive view. And yet, for the first time ever, it’s the blogosphere that has begun watching the watchdog. And the MSM doesn’t like it one bit.

Give and Take

The American culture is one of optimism. We look for the best in all people and assume that under the right conditions, they will do the right thing. That’s why we sponsor “peace conferences” where one party makes tangible concessions and the other party makes ever more outrageous demands and a few empty promises.

On November 1st, Condi Rice will convene yet another Middle-East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. In the lead-up to the peace conference, Reuters reports “Rice puts pressure on Israel over document.“ Hmmm. Does this sound familiar?

John Podhoretz comments:
And so, again, here we are, with Israeli politicians leaking possible territorial concessions and Palestinian politicians loudly insisting they won't change their position - the position that Israel must give while they need only take.

And yet again, we are here, with the State Department imagining that because so-called "moderate Arab states" say some reasonable things about Israel's existence to American diplomats behind the scenes, those same principalities will come out from behind the curtain, take the Palestinians by the hand - and openly seek the cessation of hostilities between Jew and Arab.

It's Madrid in 1991 all over again. It's Camp David and Taba in 2000 all over again. It's the 1983 Shultz plan from the Reagan administration all over again. It's the 1969 Rogers plan from the Nixon administration all over again.

In broad outline: America tries to mediate between Israel and Arabs when there's absolutely no reason to think that most Arabs have any real interest in making peace with Israel.

I have an idea. Why not change the rhythm of this peace conference and insist that before it commences, the Arabs/Palestinians define one tangible concession? By tangible concession, I mean an actual act, like offering an land swap where they give something up -- much like Israel did unilaterally with the Gaza -- or suggesting the so-called “right of return” is untenable and will be abandoned. But of course, that won’t happen, because the rhythm is “Israel must give while they need only take.”

It’s difficult to see how a negotiated settlement can be achieved when there is no cohesive Palestinian entity. There are two murderous factions (both of whom want to see the destruction of Israel). The only difference is that Hamas is more public in its hatred, while Fatah is, what? Moderate?

The danger in this isn’t the talking. It’s the one-sided concessions (by Israel) that are likely to occur and the fact that broken promises (by the Palestinians) will not be punished and will have no consequences.

You gotta love diplomacy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Good on ya

I have on numerous occasions pointed out a distinctly Left-leaning (often irrational and blatantly anti-Western) tilt to the opinions of and art produced by the Hollywood glitterati.

It is therefore encouraging to hear that 84 Hollywood celebrities, including Nicole Kidman, Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton and William Hurt took out a full page ad in The LA Times that stated (reported in the Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald :
"We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organisations such as Hizbollah and Hamas," the ad reads.

"If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die.

"We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs."

It’s interesting that a report about the ad comes out of an Australian newspaper. The US MSM has remained predictably quiet. Because it doesn’t fit their narrative concerning Hamas and Hizballah - oppressed freedom fighters who will certainly make nicey-nice if the thuggish Israelis would simply make a sufficient number of concessions (read: disappear). I suspect Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn (among many others in la-la land would have no trouble with that characterization.

But apparently others in Hollywood disagree. And that's a good thing. To all 84 Hollywood signatories, I’ll use an Australian phrase – “Good on ya.”

Nobel Al

It’s likely that Al Gore will win the Nobel peace prize tomorrow. Good for him. After all, anyone who raises environmental awareness contributes to world peace, I suppose. Personally, I’d feel a little uneasy accepting a prize that the Nobel committee, in its infinite wisdom, awarded to that great statesman and peace activist, Yassar Arafat. But that’s just me.

I’m conflicted about the “Goracle.” On the one hand, I see him as a well-meaning environmentalist who has used extreme hyperbole coupled with flawed science to popularize the notion that humans are largely responsible for global warming and that global warming will lead, over time, to a “catastrophic” end for humans.

On the other hand, I sometimes think (perish the thought) that Gore is a bit more cynical. That he’s used the climate change podium to position himself for a run at the 2008 Presidency. It does seem a bit more than simple coincidence that a full-page ad just appeared in the NYT urging Al to put his hat in the ring. After all, with a Nobel around his neck and a “stolen election” in his past, he could be the one who submarines Hilary’s inevitability.

Here’s the thing. If Al Gore can accept the same prize awarded to a corrupt, murderous, thug (think about the fact that Arafat stole billions from the Palestinian people, did not have the courage to help Bill Clinton finalize the best opportunity for peace in the ME in a generation, sponsored countless terror attacks , etc., etc.), I suppose I can accept Al Gore as a presidential candidate.

I’ll dismiss the fact that his positions on geopolitical matters do not coincide with my own, that his politics are bit too far left for my taste, that his “no interest” rejection of calls for his candidacy in 2008 are laughable, I’d still give him serious consideration if he puts his policies where his purported environmentalism is.

If Al Gore commits to a 10-year, half a trillion dollar program to make the USA fully energy independent, I’d vote for him. Because the unintended consequence of such a program would make Al Gore a hard-core national security advocate. Although he’d never admit it, an Al Gore 10-year energy independence program (yeah, one that heavily taxes gasoline, risks throwing the USA into a recession, angers the oil and auto industry … that one), would gravely injure Islamofascism by cutting off enormous revenues to Islamist governments in the ME.

If Al Gore (and a Democratic majority in the House and Senate) accomplish just that, nothing more, I’ll accept the inevitable tax increases, the moronic acceleration of political correctness across our culture, the “useful discussions” and never-ending negotiations with thugocracies around the globe, and everything else that makes me uneasy, because its time to act on energy, and I’m worried that existing candidates on both the Right and the Left just won’t do it.

So … congrats on the Nobel, Al. Maybe you can parlay it into something that really will help your country. We’ll see.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Assisted Suicide

It seems to me that too many geopolitical constraints block our ability to fight an effective kinetic war against Islamofascism. For example, the Saudis are not our friends. They support and encourage Wahabbi/Jihadist thought around the world, and yet we treat them as allies. The world is a complicated place.

It also appears that our self-imposed moral constraints (e.g., no collateral damage, ever) have crippled our ability to defeat an insurgency or more generally, to root out and kill a terrorist enemy embedded in a civilian population that often supports them.

Finally, it is folly to think that we can negotiate with fanatical regimes in any meaningful way, and it is rank stupidity to expect that any agreement reached with these regimes will be honored by them.

There is, in my view, only one strategy that has any hope of burying Islamofascist regimes (no, it’s not helping them to better understand us or working hard to address their “grievances”. It is — to bury them economically, by shutting off the one source of revenue that keeps them going. The western world (and that includes most of Asia) must initiate a War against Oil (WaO).

Over the past few years, I’ve discussed the WaO in a variety of posts, but things are no better today than they were in 2005 or 2001 or 1995, or … 1973 — the date of the first oil embargo. Sure, our congress and executive leadership have given the problem of our addiction lip service, but no real action has occurred. In today’s New York Times, Thomas Friedman, cites congressional resistance to improved mileage standards for vehicles sold in the USA:
What is it about Michigan that seems to encourage assisted suicide?

That is all I can think watching Michigan congressmen and senators, led by Representative John Dingell, doing their best imitations of Jack Kevorkian and once again trying to water down efforts by Congress to legislate improved mileage standards for Detroit in the latest draft energy bill.

Look, I get pork-barrel politics. I understand senators from oil states protecting the windfall profits of oil companies. Ditto for farm subsidies. It’s an old story: Protect my winnings, and I’ll reward you with campaign contributions. I get it. I get it.

What I don’t get is empty-barrel politics — Michigan lawmakers year after year shielding Detroit from pressure to innovate on higher mileage standards, even though Detroit’s failure to sell more energy-efficient vehicles has clearly contributed to its brush with bankruptcy, its loss of market share to Toyota and Honda — whose fleets beat all U.S. automakers in fuel economy in 2007 — and its loss of jobs. G.M. today has 73,000 working U.A.W. members, compared with 225,000 a decade ago. Last year, Toyota overtook G.M. as the world’s biggest automaker.

Thank you, Michigan delegation! The people of Japan thank you as well.

Friedman goes on to note that Toyota (right, the Toyota of Prius fame) is working with the US automakers to submarine any attempt at better mileage standards. Why? So it can sell big trucks (read, high profit trucks), and in a remarkably Machiavellian move, so it can encourage US automakers not to innovate. In their rank stupidity, the executives at GM, Ford and Chrysler will do just that, even as their market share continues to drop.

But all of this isn’t really about the financial health of the US auto companies. If they’re not innovative, they disappear. I can accept that. The hard fact is that any War against Oil begins with reducing vehicular petroleum consumption, and since we seem incapable of bringing alternative energy solutions online quickly, the only real short-term option is to demand better gas mileage.

Consider this, we’ll spend well over 1 trillion dollars fighting the war in Iraq, and we may wind up spending much more deflecting Iran’s fanatic regime, Syria’s band of thugs, and other actors in the middle east. Like it or not, the reason we care so much about that region isn’t freedom for all Arabs or other platitudes. It’s oil. That’s not an indictment, it’s a simple fact. We’re so dependent on oil that we have to protect our interests. But what if we weren’t? What if oil revenues to that region began to decrease over the next 20 years … not a little, but a lot.

But many of the Right argue that it’s not so simple, that alternative energy is too “expensive” or “impractical” or, well, Unamerican. Many on the left are unwilling to compromise, demanding pure green approaches (a good idea) with no period of transition that may demand environmental concessions. The result, a governmental approach to energy policy that has been a travesty through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

To pick up on Thomas Friedman’s phrase, it appears that our country—by virtue of a ineffective energy policy and leadership that lacks the courage to change things—is participating in slow motion assisted suicide. The problem is—no one yet knows who will do the dying.