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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Israeli-Syrian Agreement?

Stratfor (paid subscription required) reports that the on-going talks between Israel and Syria may be about to lead to an agreement:
Stratfor has received an unconfirmed report that the U.S. administration is currently reviewing a peace agreement drafted by Syria and Israel. Some of the terms of the alleged deal involve Syria regaining its military, political and economic influence in Lebanon in exchange for suppressing its militant proxies — Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Syria and Israel also reportedly came up with a system to create a demilitarized zone along the Israeli-Syrian border in which Syria would pull back four miles for every one mile that Israel pulls back its forces. The Golan Heights would be returned to Syria, though Israel would likely retain full rights to the key water source in the territory.

If this information is true, it would indicate the ongoing peace negotiations between Israel have reached a critical phase. Our first clue that these were not simply talks for the sake of talks came when the negotiations broke into the public sphere a little more than a week ago. The lack of denials followed by a public acknowledgment by both the Israeli and Syrian leaderships demonstrated that something serious was going on. The deal could just as well evaporate given the complexities surrounding the issue, but if the two sides have actually crafted together a peace agreement that is now being debated among U.S. officials in Washington, then the political map of the Middle East could undergo some major changes in the near future.

Both sides have something to gain from this agreement. For Syria, it’s access to Lebanon and some measure of security for the country's thuggish regime. The MSM would have you believe that all Lebanese are against this. In fact, Christian Lebanese view Syria as a moderating influence in a country ravaged by internal warfare. It’s only Hezballah and related Islamist groups that are threatened (their power base would be weakened), and that’s nothing to shed tears over. For Israel, an agreement would least to some measure of security and would also provide a flanking move against Hezballah.

I wouldn’t be surprised in Hezballah (with encouragement from Iran) tries to precipitate an incident to submarine the deal. We’ll see.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Too Little

Although Barack Obama’s association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is what much of the MSM is talking about, the reality is that it represents poor political judgment and possibly, an inkling into the mindset of a politician who remains a cipher to many. It will pass.

What is far more important is Barack Obama’s world view. Young audiences and many progressives cheer when he states “We will change the world!” (What incredible hubris.) His campaign of hope and change appeals to emotion, not rational thinking, but that is how politicians are often elected.

Thomas Sowell, a conservative African-American writer, comments on the Obama phenomenon
Although Senator Obama has presented himself as the candidate of new things -- using the mantra of "change" endlessly -- the cold fact is that virtually everything he says about domestic policy is straight out of the 1960s and virtually everything he says about foreign policy is straight out of the 1930s.

Protecting criminals, attacking business, increasing government spending, promoting a sense of envy and grievance, raising taxes on people who are productive and subsidizing those who are not -- all this is a re-run of the 1960s.

We paid a terrible price for such 1960s notions in the years that followed, in the form of soaring crime rates, double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment. During the 1960s, ghettoes across the countries were ravaged by riots from which many have not fully recovered to this day.

The violence and destruction were concentrated not where there was the greatest poverty or injustice but where there were the most liberal politicians, promoting grievances and hamstringing the police.

Internationally, the approach that Senator Obama proposes -- including the media magic of meetings between heads of state -- was tried during the 1930s. That approach, in the name of peace, is what led to the most catastrophic war in human history.

Everything seems new to those too young to remember the old and too ignorant of history to have heard about it.

There’s a somewhat more recent history that Obama may very well recreate—the disastrous presidency of Jimmy Carter. As he alludes to his far-left positions, Obama sounds more and more like Carter—both the old Carter of the 1970s and the new Carter who has the temerity to call Israel an “apartheid state” and the stupidity to think that the thugs who lead Hamas are truly amenable to negotiation.

Could it be that the current emphasis on Jeremiah Wright’s outrageous positions is a subtle form of buyers’ remorse among many democrats and the MSM? Could be, but I suspect it’s too little and too late.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Short Test

It’s earth day and the MSM is doing what it does best—sowing fear and uncertainty by using questionable science that has been promulgated by organizations with a distinct political agenda. The most common topic is global warming.

I’m certain that many of the readers of this blog feel that global warming represents a threat that should be addressed with significant reallocation of resources, a draconian “carbon credit” economy, and many other corrective actions. But before we all go too far down that road, it might be worth it for each of us to take a scientifically-based Global Warming Test, just to better understand what the scientific reality is.

The test presents 10 questions, all addressing global warming science. Take it and see how you do.

Me? I’ve spent some time reading the scientific (in addition to the political) literature. So I’m proud to say I scored 100 percent.

Dead Heat

I rarely, if ever, discuss political polls. Part of the problem is that all polls are snapshots in time, subject to change as events change, and skewed by the manner in which MSM presents events to the public. The results of any poll can also be influenced by the wording of the polling questions, the sample size, and the bias of those who report the results. Having said all that, there are some fascinating poll results coming not from Pennsylvania, but rather from Massachuetts—a very, very, blue state that prides itself on liberal ideals.

Michael Graham of the Boston Herald reports:
Barack Obama, meet John Adams.

Adams noted during the Boston Massacre trial that “Facts are stubborn things.” And it appears that, for the moment, the facts have caught up with Obama here in Massachusetts.

How else to explain the amazing, astounding and unthinkable results of the latest SurveyUSA presidential poll: Republican John McCain is tied with Barack Obama in the Bay State.

The last Republican to win Massachusetts? Ronald Reagan. The last Republican before that? Dwight Eisenhower. Even George McGovern managed to carry Massachusetts in 1972, the one Democratic holdout in Richard Nixon’s 49-state landslide.

Replace “McGovern” with “” and you’ve seized the essence of the Obama candidacy. He’s the most liberal U.S. senator, advocating tax increases on the “wealthy” and enjoying the support of Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Ted Kennedy, The Boston Globe-Democrat and every 9/11 conspiracy kook in the People’s Republic of Cambridge. He’s got all the players in Massachusetts behind him except the ones who actually vote.

While Hillary Clinton soundly beats McCain in Massachusetts in the new SurveyUSA poll, 56 percent to 41 percent, the Obama/McCain number is 48 percent to 46 percent, well within the margin of error.

A Democrat struggling here in 2008? An unpopular war, a collapsing housing market and $4 gas - if Britney Spears were running as a Democrat, she’d pull at least 50 percent of the Massachusetts vote.

Sixty percent if she kept her clothes on.

It must be a mistake! How could Republican maverick be statistically even with St. Barack—the candidate of hope and change.

Some in Massachusetts suggest that Obama’s problems in the Bay State are due to his kindred spirit, Gov. Duvall Patrick, who ran on a hope and change platform and delivered neither. It’s a reasonable hypothesis, but Michael Graham suggests another:
Typical Americans want to know if Obama, a liberal community activist with little political or executive experience, is tough enough to face our enemies in a troubled world. Massachusetts Democrats could not care less - they just want to make sure he’s tough enough to take on McCain.

And because the answer is “probably not,” Obama is struggling among what should be his most ardent admirers. Massachusetts liberals like him as a guy, and they certainly support his politics. But they really hate losers. Especially after the last eight years.

I suspect that many of the Democratic super delegates—you know, the ones who are supposed to avoid responsibility and vote in lockstep with the “will of the people”—are asking the same thing right about now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tax Day

It’s tax day, April 15th. I’m just returning from the post office where I mailed my tax return along with a rather large check to help our government operate. Given that, it’s worth spending a few moments pondering tax fairness, political rhetoric, and the direction our government takes as a consequence. The presidential contenders, aided and abetted by a MSM that refuses to consider context or present facts that belie their most beloved narrative, suggest that “the rich” don’t pay their “fair share” of the nation’s tax burden.

Steven Malanga comments:
One of the most persistent themes in this presidential campaign is that the rich are not only getting richer, but that they are also not paying their fair share of taxes, mostly because of tax cuts that favor the wealthy. We hear this not only from the Democratic candidates, but from the media, and even from some of the rich themselves.

Last week, for instance, the Economic Scene column in The New York Times informed us that our tax code has become more favorable to high income workers--the big winners in the last boom, the column added--and asked rhetorically, “That doesn’t make sense, does it?” Meanwhile, Sen. Hillary Clinton has decried “reckless tax cuts for the rich,” which she says are adding to the middle class tax burden. Then of course there’s high financier Warren Buffett, who declared last year that taxes were too low on the wealthy. To prove it he’d done a survey in his own office and found that his tax rate was below that of many of his employees.

Reading all of this after having filed your taxes, you probably imagine that the rich are doing a nifty job of avoiding theirs, and that it’s an overburdened middle class that is mostly supporting America’s government—from the war in Iraq to our many domestic programs. And you’d be wrong. As Internal Revenue Service data demonstrate, the rich are getting wealthier, but they are also paying a steadily increasing share of the federal tax burden. Over 25 years, in fact, the percentage of the federal income tax bill paid by the wealthiest Americans has doubled, even as it has shrunk for all others. We are rapidly becoming a society in which a very few pay the greatest part of the cost of government, and everyone else enjoys the benefits. And many people, from our Democratic presidential candidates to members of Congress, want to make it even more so.

IRS data indicate that the top 1 percent of taxpayers pay 40 percent—closing in on half—of all taxes collected from individuals. And by the way, that’s up from only 19 percent during the last year of Jimmy Carter’s star-crossed presidency. And if you consider the top 10 percent of all taxpayers, the number skyrockets to 70 percent. That’s right, 1 in 10 taxpayers pay $70 out of the $100 collected in taxes. The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers pay just 3 percent of all taxes collected.

Those of us in the top 10 percent might grumble a bit, but we pay our taxes without great protest, recognizing that for all the waste, abuse, and dishonesty, many government programs and services are necessary. What offends us, quite frankly, is to listen to Hillary and Barack suggest that we’re somehow not paying our fair share. Making that statement is dishonest, and represents class warfare at it’s worst.

The problem with a country in which only a few pay the preponderance of taxes is that those who don’t, really don’t care much about how the government operates. They’re not paying, therefore, why should they? Malanga decries “corruption, pork barrel spending, and government inefficiencies” and then continues the discussion:
Yet little changes in the government…, much to the amazement of outsiders, who often wonder why voters continue to stand for it. The answer, I tell them, is that a very small percentage of voters are paying for this waste, mismanagement and bloat. The rest pay so little that they don’t really care, or they benefit from bloated government, either through jobs in the oversized public sectors, or as users of services.

And remember, Social Security and Medicare are moving toward bankruptcy and the Democratic contenders want to save these entitlements and implement “free” medical coverage for all. Laudable goals no doubt, but someone’s going to have to pay. Guess who?

The problem for those of you who are class warriors is that “the rich” are not a bottomless source of revenue. At some point, their pockets will be empty. But the 90 percent who paid relatively little for all of the unnecessary programs and services paid for by the top 10 percent will still want them. Someone else will have to pay. Now, guess who that might be?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Free Trade

There’s a dictum in politics, particularly when politicians are campaigning: “Don’t listen to their words, observe their actions.”

The democratic contenders—Hillary and Barrack—rail against “special interests” and the “politics as usual” that pervades Washington. Problem is, if you observe their actions, rather than their words, one quickly comes to the realization that neither is capable of independent thought—that is, thought that might not dovetail with one of the democratic party's “special interests.”

Both candidates have publicly condemned the proposed trade agreement with US ally Columbia—arguing that human rights violations of trade unionists in that country must be remedied first. It should be noted that a Democratic “special interest—the trade unions—vociferously oppose the agreement. Through their proxy, Speaker Nancy Pelosi—the candidates have decided to trade the benefits of a good trade agreement for the support of the trade unions.

In a editorial, the Washington Post (certainly no friend of Republicans) comments:
THE YEAR 2008 may enter history as the time when the Democratic Party lost its way on trade. Already, the party's presidential candidates have engaged in an unseemly contest to adopt the most protectionist posture, suggesting that, if elected, they might pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared her intention to change the procedural rules governing the proposed trade promotion agreement with Colombia ...

The likely result is no vote on the agreement this year. The likely result is no vote on the agreement this year. Ms. Pelosi denies that her intent is to kill the bill, insisting yesterday that Congress simply needs more time to consider it "in light of the economic uncertainty in our country." She claimed that she feared that, "if brought to the floor immediately, [the pact] would lose. And what message would that send?" But Ms. Pelosi's decision-making process also included a fair component of pure Washington pique: She accused Mr. Bush of "usurp[ing] the discretion of the speaker of the House" to schedule legislation.

That political turf-staking, and the Democrats' decreasingly credible claims of a death-squad campaign against Colombia's trade unionists, constitutes all that's left of the case against the agreement. Economically, it should be a no-brainer -- especially at a time of rising U.S. joblessness. At the moment, Colombian exports to the United States already enjoy preferences. The trade agreement would make those permanent, but it would also give U.S. firms free access to Colombia for the first time, thus creating U.S. jobs. Politically, too, the agreement is in the American interest, as a reward to a friendly, democratic government that has made tremendous strides on human rights, despite harassment from Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.

To be sure, President Bush provoked Ms. Pelosi. But he forced the issue only after months of inconclusive dickering convinced him that Democrats were determined to avoid a vote that would force them to accept accountability for opposing an agreement that is manifestly in America's interest. It turns out his suspicions were correct.

"I take this action with deep respect to the people of Colombia and will be sure that any message they receive is one of respect for their country, and the importance of the friendship between our two countries," Ms. Pelosi protested yesterday. Perhaps Colombia's government and people will understand. We don't.

Neither do I.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


In the eight months since Israel’s super-secret raid on Syria, my initial comments on the subject remain unchanged:
It is absolutely remarkable how little MSM coverage we in the USA are getting about the Israeli attack on an unspecified arms facility in Northern Syria. The UK Times Online summarizes what is known and provides some conjecture about the raid. If their report is even close to accurate, this is news that is worth knowing about.

The UK Times Online reports:
It was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidabl air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles fromthe Iraqi border was under way.

At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag [Israeli] air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.

Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.

It’s interesting that Israel has returned to its former self. Daring attacks against obvious aggressors (think: the Iraq Nuclear reactor in 1981) followed by a “no comment” And little other official information.

This morning, an unverified report in the Jerusalem Post states:
An upcoming joint US-Israel report on the September 6 IAF strike on a Syrian facility will claim that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein transferred weapons of mass destruction to the country, Channel 2 stated Monday.

In a world where few things can be kept secret, the continuing lack of information about the Israeli air raid is curious, very curious.

Could it be that the WMDs that everyone— President Clinton, Tony Blair, Madaline Albright, Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, and Jay Rockefeller, among dozens of subsequent critics—believed were there before they believed they weren’t there, were in fact there?

We’ll probably never know.

But something important did happen in Syria in September, 2007.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Questionnaire

Hillary Clinton mischaracterized the danger associated with her visit to Bosnia in 1996 and the media was all over it. Talk shows, news reports, and the ubiquitous talking heads clucked about her exaggeration. This is reasonable, given that she’s running for POTUS.

But it appears that Barack Obama has been caught in a lie concerning the contents of a 12-page questionnaire from an Illinois voter group during his state Senate campaign in 1996 -- the same year as Hillary's much-discussed overseas visit. Politico summarizes:
“Do you support … capital punishment?” one question asked.

“No,” the 1996 Obama campaign typed, without explaining his answer in the space provided.

“Do you support state legislation to … ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?” asked one of the three dozen questions.

“Yes,” was Obama’s entire answer.

Obama said he would support a single-payer health plan for Illinois “in principal” [sic], “although such a program will probably have to be instituted at a federal level; the long-term objective would be a universal care system that does not differentiate between the unemployed, the disabled, and so on.” The campaign says Obama has consistently supported single payer health care in principle.

Under single-payer health care, a government system would replace private health insurance. Obama’s campaign said he has always supported the idea in concept, but thinks it is not currently practical because of the existing health care infrastructure.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these responses. They are liberal in ideology, but so what?

The problem is that Obama’s stated positions on these issues, now that he’s running for President, have changed rather significantly. Even though comments written on the questionnaire appear to be in Obama’s own handwriting, he now asserts that the questionnaire was completed by a campaign aid and did not represent his positions on the issues at that time. He has now become more nuanced.

There’s more to this story and Politico covers it well.

My point isn’t so much whether Obama adapted his ideological positions for political expediency – most politicians do. But rather, why isn’t the MSM covering this important story – a story that any objective reporter could reasonably characterize as evidence of flip-flops on important issues. Oops, forgot, "objective reporter" is rapidly becoming an oxymoron.

Wretchard of The Belmont Club summarizes nicely when he states:
My guess is that unease which TalkLeft [a blog commenting on Obama’s responses to the questionnaire] feels about Obama isn't due to the mutability of his positions per se, so much as his apparent willingness to change his tune on the fly like a shapeshifter. That is not a judgment of his positions so much as an indication of his character. Which is exactly what to start with? And so the mystery surrounding Barack Obama's true self becomes deeper. Who is he really besides the Face?

It appears that the MSM resists any information that will help us to answer that question.