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

Friday, May 30, 2008


Ever heard of Acorn? Neither had I, until I encountered an article by Stanley Kurtz describing the group. On the surface, Acorn (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is one of many activist groups that (from its website) “is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities.”

Their goals seem innocuous enough until you begin to look at specific policies and tactics. Kurtz, referencing an article on Acorn by Sol Stern in City Journal, notes:
Acorn’s new goals are municipal “living wage” laws targeting “big-box” stores like Wal-Mart, rolling back welfare reform, and regulating banks — efforts styled as combating “predatory lending.” Unfortunately, instead of helping workers, Acorn’s living-wage campaigns drive businesses out of the very neighborhoods where jobs are needed most. Acorn’s opposition to welfare reform only threatens to worsen the self-reinforcing cycle of urban poverty and family breakdown. Perhaps most mischievously, says Stern, Acorn uses banking regulations to pressure financial institutions into massive “donations” that it uses to finance supposedly non-partisan voter turn-out drives.

According to Stern, Acorn’s radical agenda sometimes shifts toward “undisguised authoritarian socialism.” Fully aware of its living-wage campaign’s tendency to drive businesses out of cities, Acorn hopes to force companies that want to move to obtain “exit visas.” “How much longer before Acorn calls for exit visas for wealthy or middle-class individuals before they can leave a city?” asks Stern, adding, “This is the road to serfdom indeed.”

But even that is really nothing new. Many activist groups suggest ideas and programs that, upon close examination, actually hurt the very people they purport to serve. The problem with Acorn is that their tactics can be very confrontational. Again, from Kertz:
Acorn’s tactics are famously “in your face.” Just think of Code Pink’s well-known operations (threatening to occupy congressional offices, interrupting the testimony of General David Petraeus) and you’ll get the idea. Acorn protesters have disrupted Federal Reserve hearings, but mostly deploy their aggressive tactics locally. Chicago is home to one of its strongest chapters, and Acorn has burst into a closed city council meeting there. Acorn protestors in Baltimore disrupted a bankers’ dinner and sent four busloads of profanity-screaming protestors against the mayor’s home, terrifying his wife and kids. Even a Baltimore city council member who generally supports Acorn said their intimidation tactics had crossed the line.

It’s reasonable to ask why my sudden interest in Acorn?

As I’ve mentioned many times, Barack Obama’s limited experience and thin record provide little that allow us to understand the man behind the candidate. Acorn provides still another glimpse at Obama’s true ideology.
Let’s begin with Obama’s pre-law school days as a community organizer in Chicago. Few people have a clear idea of just what a “community organizer” does. A Los Angeles Times piece on Obama’s early Chicago days opens with the touching story of his efforts to build a partnership with Chicago’s “Friends of the Parks,” so that parents in a blighted neighborhood could have an inviting spot for their kids to play. This is the image of Obama’s organizing we’re supposed to hold. It’s far from the whole story, however. As the L. A. Times puts it, “Obama’s task was to help far South Side residents press for improvement” in their communities. Part of Obama’s work, it would appear, was to organize demonstrations, much in the mold of radical groups like Acorn …

Although the L. A. Times piece is generally positive, it does press Obama’s organizing tales on certain points. Some claim that Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father, exaggerates his accomplishments in spearheading an asbestos cleanup at a low-income housing project. Obama, these critics say, denies due credit to Hazel Johnson, an activist who claims she was the one who actually discovered the asbestos problem and led the efforts to resolve it. Read carefully, the L. A. Times story leans toward confirming this complaint against Obama, yet the story’s emphasis is to affirm Obama’s important role in the battle. Speaking up in defense of Obama on the asbestos issue is Madeleine Talbot, who at the time was a leader at Chicago Acorn. Talbot, we learn, was so impressed by Obama’s organizing skills that she invited him to help train her own staff.

And what exactly was Talbot’s work with Acorn? Talbot turns out to have been a key leader of that attempt by Acorn to storm the Chicago City Council (during a living-wage debate). While Sol Stern mentions this story in passing, the details are worth a look: On July 31, 1997, six people were arrested as 200 Acorn protesters tried to storm the Chicago City Council session. According to the Chicago Daily Herald, Acorn demonstrators pushed over the metal detector and table used to screen visitors, backed police against the doors to the council chamber, and blocked late-arriving aldermen and city staff from entering the session.

Reading the Herald article, you might think Acorn’s demonstrators had simply lost patience after being denied entry to the gallery at a packed meeting. Yet the full story points in a different direction. This was not an overreaction by frustrated followers who couldn’t get into a meeting (there were plenty of protestors already in the gallery), but almost certainly a deliberate bit of what radicals call “direct action,” orchestrated by Acorn’s Madeleine Talbot. As Talbot was led away handcuffed, charged with mob action and disorderly conduct, she explicitly justified her actions in storming the meeting. This was the woman who first drew Obama into his alliance with Acorn, and whose staff Obama helped train.

In and of itself, the Obama-ACORN connection wouldn’t mean much at all. But when we consider the confluence of his many connections to far-Left, anti-capitalist groups, it is cause for growing concern. Consider his political mentors, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorn (indicted for Weather Underground bombings), the infamous Rev. Wright (need anyone say more), the ranting of the Rev. Michael Pfleger (a left-leaning Chicago priest and Obama supporter who, according to USA Today, “ridiculed Hillary Rodham Clinton this week in a racially-charged speech from the pulpit of Barack Obama's church”), the list is long indeed, and I submit, it does provide more than a subtle clue about Obama’s true political ideology, even if he has recently distanced himself from each.

Finally, a postscript from Kurtz:
The shame of it is that when the L. A. Times returned to Obama’s stomping grounds, it found the park he’d helped renovate reclaimed by drug dealers and thugs. The community organizer strategy may generate feel-good moments and best-selling books, but I suspect a Wal-Mart as the seed-bed of a larger shopping complex would have done far more to save the neighborhood where Obama worked to organize in the “progressive” fashion. Unfortunately, Obama’s Acorn cronies have blocked that solution.

But to Obama, it seems that activism is an end in itself. No matter that the end result was less than optimal, because he and his many associates “spoke truth to power,” and got what they demanded. No matter that over the long term little good was achieved, it felt good and maybe that’s all that really matters.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blue Planet

Václav Klaus—an economist, the author of 20 books, and currently the President of the Czech Republic—is one of the few world leaders who has openly questioned the orthodoxy of climate alarmism. His book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles, questions whether global warming is primarily anthropogenic in origin and whether the draconian measures that have been proposed to address it (e.g., the Leiberman-Warner bill currently in front of Congress) are the best and most rational approach.

In a May 27th speech at the National Press Club, he addressed an underlying threat of the climate change debate that our MSM rarely considers. Klaus begins by noting that most of his life was spent under a communist regime which “ignored and brutally violated human freedom and wanted to command not only the people but also nature. To command "wind and rain" is one of the famous slogans I remember since my childhood.” He then goes on to state:
I do not, however, live in the past and do not see the future threats to free society coming from the old and old-fashioned communist ideology. The name of the new danger will undoubtedly be different, but its substance will be very similar. There will be the same attractive, to a great extent pathetic and at first sight quasi-noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of something above him, (of something greater than his poor self), supplemented by enormous self-confidence on the side of those who stand behind it. Like their predecessors, they will be certain that they have the right to sacrifice man and his freedom to make their idea reality. In the past it was in the name of the masses (or of the Proletariat), this time in the name of the Planet. Structurally, it is very similar.

I see the current danger in environmentalism and especially in its strongest version, climate alarmism. Feeling very strongly about it and trying to oppose it was the main reason for putting my book together, originally in Czech language, in the spring of 2007. It has also been the driving force behind my active involvement in the current Climate Change Debate and behind my being the only head of state who in September 2007 at the UN Climate Change Conference in New York City openly and explicitly challenged the undergoing global warming hysteria.

All of us are “green” to a greater or lessor degree. No one wants forests denuded, the oceans and the air polluted, rivers fouled or species indiscriminately eliminated. But environmental activists manipulate our green inclinations, suggesting that extreme solutions, economic hardship (mostly for developing nations), high costs (for all of us) are required to “save the planet.” They use unreliable and unsubstantiated 100-year models to frighten the public. These models assume a status quo—that no new technologies or alternative energy sources will be developed to combat man’s environmental impact. Ridiculous. The activists use a lazy and doctrinaire MSM that parrots poorly constructed “climate studies” and lionizes people like Al Gore without critical assessment. They use politicians who do not have the courage to buck the conventional wisdom and ask hard questions before extreme measures are undertaken. And they’re successful.

In talking about his book, Václav Klaus states:
The book was written by an economist who happens to be in a high political position. I don't deny my basic paradigm, which is the "economic way of thinking", because I consider it an advantage, not a disadvantage. By stressing that, I want to say that the Climate Change Debate in a wider and the only relevant sense should be neither about several tenths of a degree of Fahrenheit or Celsius, about the up or down movements of sea level, about the depths of ice at North and Southern Pole, nor about the variations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The real debate should be about costs and benefits of alternative human actions, about how to rationally deal with the unknown future, about what kind and size of solidarity with much wealthier future generations is justified, about the size of externalities and their eventual appropriate "internalization", about how much to trust the impersonal functioning of the markets in solving any human problem, including global warming and how much to distrust the very visible hand of very human politicians and their bureaucrats.

But as Al Gore has stated unequivocally, “the real debate is over.” Klaus quotes from a correspondence he recently received: “"We are now at the stage where mere facts, reason, and truth are powerless in the face of the global warming propaganda."

When facts, reason, and truth fall by the wayside, we’re threatened by something much larger and much more dangerous than climate change.

Four More Years

Barack Obama has a bad habit of misstating historical facts. In some cases, it can fairly be attributed to weariness from the rigors of campaigning (e.g., the recent Auschwitz “misspeak”). But in others, it appears that he rewrites history to serve his own ideological needs. Sorta like what Jimmy Carter does whenever he speaks about the Middle East. As always, the left-leaning MSM never questions such things.

As an example, in a recent speech on Latin America, the candidate of hope and change said:
Since the Bush Administration launched a misguided war in Iraq, its policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples’ lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region. No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum.

So the leftist Hugo Chavez ascendancy can be tied to George W. Bush’s incompetence, huh? A Harvard educated lawyer should take the time to learn that: (1) Chavez took office in 1999 and began dismantling Venezuela’s freedoms during the Clinton administration, and (2) Clinton remained largely silent on the matter.

Since Obama characterizes Hugo Chavez as a “demagogue,” you’d think he’d vote to help our ally and Chavez’s enemy, Columbia, with a beneficial free trade agreement. Nah, the U.S trade unions nixed the deal and like most doctrinaire democrats, Obama caved. So much for independent thought or bipartisanship. So much for a "new kind of politics" in Washington.

It's also interesting that Obama supporter and ally, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, inadvertently advocated a Chavez strategy when she stated that the US Government should nationalize the oil companies because of high gas prices. Of course, the MSM paid little attention and didn't press Obama on the issue. No need to make the chosen one feel the least bit uncomfortable.

The MSM would rather emphasize the speeches in which Obama suggests that John McCain is simply a continuation of George W. Bush. In fact, on more than one occasion Obama has suggested that the election of Senator McCain would be “George Bush’s third term.” His approach makes sense politically, even if the comparison between McCain and Bush is flawed at almost every level.

As in all things political, turnabout is fair play. In an article entitled “Jimmy Carter’s Second Term,” Paul Miller writes:
It was a cold and rainy October night when my mother and I stood outside a Skokie, Illinois Synagogue to hear and hopefully meet Georgia Governor James Earl "Jimmy" Carter. My parents and most Americans were still sickened over Watergate, President Gerald Ford's unconditional pardon of Richard Nixon and the disaster of the Vietnam War. They hungered for "change" and "new hope". Many Americans believed they found what they desperately yearned for in a peanut farmer turned politician from Georgia.

Four years later Jimmy Carter's name couldn't be uttered by my father without being proceeded by four-letter expletives. My mother cried herself to sleep believing that Carter's school-busing program was going to take me from my elementary school down the block to a school and hour away on the southside of Chicago. Supporters of Israel began to distrust him as he began showing signs of an anti-Israel bias. The economy was devastating families with double-digit inflation and the Iran hostage crisis made Americans ashamed of their President.

Today there is an eerie similarity to the election that led up to the disastrous Carter administration. All the Presidential candidates are speaking the rhetoric of "change" and "trust" in government. However, assumed Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has based his entire bid for the White House with Carter-style ideas and campaign policy advisers stemming directly from the administration and school of thought of the Carter Presidency.

I voted for Jimmy Carter for many of the same reasons as Miller’s parents. I wanted “change” and “new hope” and thought that Jimmy would deliver.

Instead he delivered catastrophic leadership, from the trivial (boycotting the Olympics) to the domestic (an economic policy that lead to high inflation and 20 percent mortgage rates—that’s right, 20 percent!) to the elevation of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and the ascension of modern day Islamofascism. When Iran invaded our embassy and took American hostages in Tehran (a clear act of war), Carter negotiated (pleaded) with the Iranian thugocracy for over 400 days and was voted out of office before the hostages were returned. His presidency was a disaster, and the results of his many failures are with us still.

Today, Barack Obama has named a number of ex-Carter advisors as his own. Does he think people like Zbigniew Brezinski and Anthony Lake are solid foreign policy gurus for the 21st century? These are the people who single-handedly mangled American foreign policy during the Carter years. To quote Miller: "why would Obama want advisors who have already demonstrated incompetence under a previous administration?" Unless he feels that there was no incompetence demonstrated.

In an earlier post, I suggested that Senator Obama may very well be Jimmy Redux. I say that, readily admitting that I voted for Jimmy Carter.

But over the years, I’ve learned a few things about “hope” and “change” and the kind of leader who understands that words alone, not matter how charismatic, can never deliver them. Experience, character, and above all, a willingness to face the harsh realities of a very dangerous world will trump rhetoric every time.

So … four more years of Jimmy Carter? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Friday, May 23, 2008


This is the 300th post for OnCenter.

When I began writing the blog in November, 2005, I argued that a centrist point of view has an important place in political discourse. I suggested that "the further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts." I still believe that to be true.

During the coming months of the 2008 Presidential campaign, we'll all have opportunity to explore conflicting visions of the future through the lens of the Left and the Right. But it will be the Center that ultimately decides who will lead us. I can only hope that those of us in the Center use common sense, coherent logic, and factual information to decide well.

We usually do.


Among the many questions that each of us must ask about the Presidential contenders is a reasonably simply one: Does this person have the experience and the humility to be President of the United States in troubled times?

Although easy to ask, the question is not always easy to answer. In recent days, Barack Obama’s suggestion that he will meet “without preconditions” with a rogue’s gallery of America’s adversaries—Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Korea’s Kim Il Jong, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and others—provides us with worthwhile insight.

Obama uses JFK’s meetings with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier in the early 1960s, as an indirect justification for his position. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Nathan Thrall and Jesse James Wilkins comment on the history of that meeting:
In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy expressed in two eloquent sentences, often invoked by Barack Obama, a policy that turned out to be one of his presidency’s — indeed one of the cold war’s — most consequential: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Kennedy’s special assistant, called those sentences “the distinctive note” of the inaugural.

They have also been a distinctive note in Senator Obama’s campaign, and were made even more prominent last week when President Bush, in a speech to Israel’s Parliament, disparaged a willingness to negotiate with America’s adversaries as appeasement. Senator Obama defended his position by again enlisting Kennedy’s legacy: “If George Bush and John McCain have a problem with direct diplomacy led by the president of the United States, then they can explain why they have a problem with John F. Kennedy, because that’s what he did with Khrushchev.”

But Kennedy’s one presidential meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, suggests that there are legitimate reasons to fear negotiating with one’s adversaries. Although Kennedy was keenly aware of some of the risks of such meetings — his Harvard thesis was titled “Appeasement at Munich” — he embarked on a summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961, a move that would be recorded as one of the more self-destructive American actions of the cold war, and one that contributed to the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age.

The meeting between the Soviet Premier and President Kennedy was a disaster. Even though he was advised not to negotiate, JFK persisted:
But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. Despite his eloquence, Kennedy was no match as a sparring partner, and offered only token resistance as Khrushchev lectured him on the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, cautioned America against supporting “old, moribund, reactionary regimes” and asserted that the United States, which had valiantly risen against the British, now stood “against other peoples following its suit.” Khrushchev used the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting to warn Kennedy that his country could not be intimidated and that it was “very unwise” for the United States to surround the Soviet Union with military bases.

How many times have you heard Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rail against “the hypocrisy of American foreign policy” and bluntly state that “his country could not be intimidated.” History has a strange way of repeating itself. And yet, Obama persists, discounting the lessons of the past.
Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was “just a disaster.” Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed “very inexperienced, even immature.” Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world.

Today, many of Obama's advocates ask the question—what harm can come from talking? It turns out — a lot of harm can come from talking.

Thrall and Wilkins continue:
A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to “throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants”: nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.

As a consequence we came frighteningly close to an all-out nuclear war.

Among the many attributes that trouble me about Barack Obama is his apparent lack of humility. Unquestionably he has charmed the American people with his rhetoric. I honestly believe that he thinks he can charm hard core adversaries in the same way.

Charles Krauthammer comments further:
As every seasoned diplomat knows, the danger of a summit is that it creates enormous pressure for results. And results require mutual concessions. That is why conditions and concessions are worked out in advance, not on the scene.

What concessions does Obama imagine Ahmadinejad will make to him on Iran's nuclear program? And what new concessions will Obama offer? To abandon Lebanon? To recognize Hamas? Or perhaps to squeeze Israel?

Having lashed himself to the ridiculous, unprecedented promise of unconditional presidential negotiations -- and then having compounded the problem by elevating it to a principle -- Obama keeps trying to explain. On Sunday, he declared in Pendleton, Ore., that by Soviet standards Iran and others "don't pose a serious threat to us." (On the contrary. Islamic Iran is dangerously apocalyptic. Soviet Russia was not.) The next day in Billings, Mont.: "I've made it clear for years that the threat from Iran is grave."

Smooth talk about “changing the world” won’t impress those who goal is our demise. If he’s not careful, an inexperienced and overly-confident President Obama might give them an inadvertent assist in that goal.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It’s Natural

A revealing op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle allows the reader to better understand the Left’s reticence to perceive evil intent in any adversary. It’s author, Barbara Slavin writes:
There is no doubt that Iran's reach has increased considerably since 2001. Toppling Hussein and the Taliban eliminated Iran's worst enemies and allowed it to build on long-standing ties with Shiite co-religionists in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran has benefited from the failure to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute to forge new ties with Hamas and to deepen its relationship with Hezbollah. After the Bush administration rejected offers to negotiate with Iran without preconditions in 2003 and 2006, Tehran accelerated a nuclear program that could give it the material to make bombs.

According to Slavin, the three decades since the invasion of the US embassy in Tehran don't count. Our problems with the Mullahs are due to the toppling of Saddam and the Taliban, and of course, our reticence to negotiate without preconditions somehow enabled Iran to accelerate it nuclear program. As usual, all negative geopolitical events are inherently our fault.

She conveniently forgets that the EU-3 has been negotiating with Iran (with our blessing) for the last four years and has accomplished – nothing. In fact, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei has indicated repeatedly that no amount of negotiation would cause Iran to give up its nuclear aspirations. It appears that Slavin is perfectly willing to discount the words of Iran’s leaders when they don’t fit the meme.

Slavin continues:
Those who fear a rising Iran tend to see a few patterns, not the whole tapestry. Thus they miss the fact that Iran's goals appear to be largely defensive: to achieve strategic depth and safeguard its system against foreign intervention, to have a major say in regional decisions and to prevent or minimize actions that might run counter to Iranian interests.

Ahhh … Iran is taking a largely defensive position. I wonder, is that why its President, Mahmoud Amadinejad, repeatedly advocates the annihilation of Israel, a country that has never attacked Iran. Is that why he implies that the first use of Iran’s nuclear capability will be against the “filthy bacteria” that is Israel. Oops, I forgot, we have to discount the words of Iran’s leaders when they don’t fit the meme.

So, according to Slavin, our concern for Iran is hyped. Their nuclear ambitions are defensive only. Their support for terrorist groups that kill our military and threaten our allies are a direct reaction to our poor diplomatic skill … nothing more. We need to negotiate without preconditions .. yeah, that’ll do it.

It may very well be true that those on the Right overstate Iran’s threat, but those on the Left try very, very hard to understate it. For example, in a recent speech Barack Obama suggested that Iran’s threat is “tiny.” Hmmm.

Caroline Glick comments on the Left’s penchant to minimize Islamist threats and focus on process (i.e., negotiating) as a positive outcome in and of itself, rather than a technique that should be used only when it is likely to product a positive outcome. She writes:
In many ways, Obama and his allies call to mind the influential American newspaperman H.L. Mencken. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Mencken was the most influential writer in the US. He was an anti-Christian and anti-Semitic agnostic, a supporter of Germany during World War I, and a fierce opponent of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. He also opposed American participation in World War II.

In his biography of Mencken, The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, Terry Teachout argues that the reason Mencken did not think it was worth fighting Hitler's Germany was because Mencken simply couldn't accept the existence of evil. He could see no moral distinction between Roosevelt, who he despised, and Adolf Hitler who he considered "a boob."

There are strong echoes of Mencken's moral blindness to Hitler's evil in the contemporary Left's refusal to understand the nature of the threat posed by Iran and its terror proxies. And Bush made this clear in his speech to the Knesset when he said, "There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong."

Barack Obama is likely a good and decent person who appears to share the Left’s penchant for process over outcome. Whenever he is confronted with the harsh realities of the adversaries we face, he counter-attacks by suggesting that statements of those harsh realities are nothing more than the “politics of fear.”

For the Democratic front-runner, it's natural, but it could be deadly wrong.


Perception drives conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom is all that really matters in politics. But what drives perception? Without doubt, it’s information delivered by the MSM, and that’s what has given the MSM such power.

Today's conventional wisdom is that Iraq is a lost cause, that nothing good has happened as a consequence of this ill-conceived venture and, as a consequence, we should get out without regard to the longer term consequences.

But is Iraq a lost cause? Ralph Peters comments:
May 20, 2008 -- Do we still have troops in Iraq? Is there still a conflict over there?

If you rely on the so-called mainstream media, you may have difficulty answering those questions these days. As Iraqi and Coalition forces pile up one success after another, Iraq has magically vanished from the headlines.

Want a real "inconvenient truth?" Progress in Iraq is powerful and accelerating.

But that fact isn't helpful to elite media commissars and cadres determined to decide the presidential race over our heads. How dare our troops win? Even worse, Iraqi troops are winning. Daily.

You won't see that above the fold in The New York Times. And forget the Obama-intoxicated news networks - they've adopted his story line that the clock stopped back in 2003.

To be fair to the quit-Iraq-and-save-the-terrorists media, they have covered a few recent stories from Iraq:

* When a rogue US soldier used a Koran for target practice, journalists pulled out all the stops to turn it into "Abu Ghraib, The Sequel."

Unforgivably, the Army handled the situation well. The "atrocity" didn't get the traction the whorespondents hoped for.

* When a battered, bleeding al Qaeda managed to set off a few bombs targeting Sunni Arabs who'd turned against terror, that, too, received delighted media play.

* As long as Baghdad-based journalists could hope that the joint US-Iraqi move into Sadr City would end disastrously, we were treated to a brief flurry of headlines.

* A few weeks back, we heard about another Iraqi company - 100 or so men - who declined to fight. The story was just delicious, as far as the media were concerned.

Then tragedy struck: As in Basra the month before, absent-without-leave (and hiding in Iran) Muqtada al Sadr quit under pressure from Iraqi and US troops. The missile and mortar attacks on the Green Zone stopped. There's peace in the streets.

Today, Iraqi soldiers, not militia thugs, patrol the lanes of Sadr City, where waste has replaced roadside bombs as the greatest danger to careless footsteps. US advisers and troops support the effort, but Iraq's government has taken another giant step forward in establishing law and order.

With hindsight, the invasion of a Iraq was a mistake. It was ill-planned and ill-considered, never projecting the unintended consequences that war always precipitates. We rushed in and for a long time paid a terrible price.

But one ill-planned and ill-considered strategic move shouldn't precipitate rapid withdrawal, another ill-planned and ill-considered move that will invariably lead to unintended consequences that may yet lead to still another terrible price.

This is particularly true when we're finally making real progress in Iraq on all fronts.

Baloney, you say, it’s all bad over there.

Sorry, but that’s the MSM mime, not the hard truth. Driven by Bush Derangement Syndrome among reporters and editors and a continuing and powerful desire to bolster their candidate (as I’ve said before, if you have to ask who the MSM candidate is, you’re out of touch with reality), the MSM emphasizes every negative and deemphasizes every positive development. Again from Peters:
Meanwhile, they've [the MSM] performed yet another amazing magic trick - making Kurdistan disappear.

Remember the Kurds? Our allies in northern Iraq? When last sighted, they were living in peace and building a robust economy with regular elections, burgeoning universities and municipal services that worked.

After Israel, the most livable, decent place in the greater Middle East is Iraqi Kurdistan. Wouldn't want that news getting out.

If the Kurds would only start slaughtering their neighbors and bombing Coalition troops, they might get some attention. Unfortunately, there are no US or allied combat units in Kurdistan for Kurds to bomb. They weren't needed. And (benighted people that they are) the Kurds are pro-American - despite the virulent anti-Kurdish prejudices prevalent in our Saudi-smooching State Department.

Developments just keep getting grimmer for the fan base in the media. Iraq's Sunni Arabs, who had supported al Qaeda and homegrown insurgents, now support their government and welcome US troops. And, in southern Iraq, the Iranians lost their bid for control to Iraq's government.

Bury those stories on Page 36.

Our troops deserve better. The Iraqis deserve better. You deserve better. The forces of freedom are winning.

Now, I admit that Peter’s claims sound preposterous—after all, they conflict with perception and therefore question conventional wisdom. But are they inconsistent with the truth, with hard facts on the ground? If you keep an open mind and dig just a bit, you’ll find that there is no conflict.

To be clear, Bush and the neo-cons made a horrendous miscalculation when they toppled Saddam. And yes, we should extricate ourselves from Iraq once the country stabilized. The irony is that the next President, regardless of who wins, will do exactly that. The difference is that one candidate is telling the truth and the other is telling his base what they want to hear.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Meeting an Imam

As Barack Obama closes in on the Democratic Presidential nomination, I think it’s very important to learn more about this man—his background, his judgment, his experience, and his politics. The problem is that Obama remains a cipher. It’s difficult to get a read on who this man really is.

Because his public record is very thin, it’s necessary to look at his current and past associations. Who were Obama’s friends and mentors during his meteoric and unprecedented political rise in Chicago politics? Who are his current advisors and what are their domestic and international views? Who does he choose to meet with today and what clues might that give us about his Presidential decision-making.

Obama has argued that these topics are off-limits—“distractions” as he calls them. But since he purposely remains ambiguous about his world-view, they are anything but.

As an example, the Detroit Free Press reports:
Imam Hassan Qazwini, head of the Islamic Center of America, said in an email that he met with Obama [privately] at Macomb Community College [on May 14, 2008]. A mosque spokesman, Eide Alawan, confirmed that the meeting took place. During the meeting, the two discussed the Presidential election, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Iraq war, according to Qazwini.

At the end of the meeting, Qazwini said he gave Obama a copy of new book, “American Crescent,” [a book that addresses why Islam is good for America] and invited Obama to visit his center.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with meeting with an Imam. Obama should be commended for his ecumenical approach. The problem is that this particular Imam has some questionable associations of his own.

Gateway Pundit reports that “Imam Hassan Qazwini has hosted Louis Farrakhan at his mosque and is close to the Hezbollah Spiritual Leader who issued the fatwa to blow up 300 U.S. Marines and embassy officials in 1983.”


I suppose it’s reasonable to assume the Obama knew nothing about this, that his staff hadn’t properly vetted the Imam and that it’s all just a mistake. Sorta like the mistake that occurred when Obama’s advisor, Robert Malley, met secretly and repeatedly with Hamas—a terrorist organization that is Hezballah's kindred spirit in Gaza. Malley was fired (for getting caught) and Obama claimed ignorance of the events.

Might be interesting for the MSM to ask Obama what he and Imam Hassan Qazwini discussed when they considered the “Arab-Israeli conflict.” Might be even more interesting to determine what commitments, if any, Obama made to the Imam. For that matter, it might be useful for the MSM to report the meeting itself—certainly a newsworthy event that shows Obama's attempts to establish a dialogue with the Islamic community. Don’t bet any national reporting on this event will happen.

After all, it's just a "distraction," isn't it?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Protesting Too Much

When I first heard the breathless charges that followed President Bush’s speech before the Israeli Knessett, I was concerned. It is, in my opinion, inappropriate for a U.S. President to present a partisan political speech in a foreign land. And as far a Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama were concerned, it was an obvious frontal attack on the Democrats. The vast majority of main stream media, defending their candidate (if you have to ask who “their candidate” is, you really have lost touch with reality), presented only a small part of the speech—one that could be interpreted as a political attack.

I decided to read Bush’s whole speech. The part that is relevant follows:
There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is--the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it.

There is nothing partisan about what Bush said, unless you feel uneasy about your position and decide to protect yourself by protesting too much. Or maybe it’s just that Obama et al have decided to play their own brand of cynical politics, recognizing that any perceived attack by Bush energizes their own base and can only benefit them. Hence, they paint a reasonable statement of fact in a very dangerous world as a partisan political episode.

But read Bush’s words again. Do Barack Obama and his surrogates disagree with what Bush has said? If they do, where is the disagreement? And if Obama has "some ingenious argument" that will cause Iran, Hamas, and Hezballah, not to mention North Korea, Syria, and other deadly adversaries, to approach the world in a less violent and more rational way, maybe they should share it with us.

Hmmm, puts the “controversy” in a different light doesn’t it.

And, oh, by the way, the “senator” who Bush noted in his speech? A little research indicates that he was William Borah of Idaho. Borah was a Republican.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Changing the World

In many of his recent speeches, Barack Obama has infused his soaring rhetoric with the phrase “we will change the world.” This phrase troubles me for two reasons.

First, the hubris of such a statement is mind-boggling. Does Obama really think that he has some as yet undiscovered formula that will pacify cultures that are antithetical to our own, precipitate peace where violence now exists, cause militias and tribes that exist to murder one another to lay down their arms, modify the behavior of corrupt dictators, make modern nations act more on moral conviction than geopolitical interests? Does he honestly believe that he and his advisors can somehow cajole very bad people to do very good things? Do the millions of Obamacans believe this? I think they do.

But the “we will change the world” trope is troubling for another reason. It is, as are most things stated by Barack Obama, ambiguous. Exactly what does he mean? He has stated that he intends to conduct high level talks with our sworn enemies (e.g., Mahmoud Amadinejad, you know, the same guy who suggests that death to America and the destruction of Israel would be good things) and has already initiated talks with terrorist groups. Obama’s foreign policy advisor, Robert Malley, a vociferous critic of Israel, was holding secret talks with Hamas – that’s the same corrupt, violent, terrorist Hamas that regularly murders innocents among their own people and gleefully murders Israeli civilians as a matter of course. The Obama campaign fired Malley (after he was caught), but one has to wonder what was discussed. Is this how Obama intends to “change the world?”

Within the context of “change,” this inexperienced left-wing, first-term senator suggests that any opponent who notes the external threats we face is engaging in “the politics of fear.”

In his best selling novel, The Good Guy, Dean Koontz comments on the “politics of fear" ( oft-used by Obama, this wording is an old Marxist phrase used by the far-Left during the Cold War):”
Contemporary Americans were so prosperous, so happily distracted by the richness of vivid entertainments, they were reluctant to acknowledge that anything existed with fangs and fierce appetites. If now and then they recognized a wolf, they threw a bone to it and convinced themselves if was a dog.

Is that how Obama intends to “change the world?” Throw bones to wolves? I suspect he will, and the result will not be good.

Obama makes much of his multi-cultural upbringing, suggesting that he is better equipped to address the world as a consequence of it. But does the “change” he suggests value all cultures equally or even worse, does he value Western culture as less equal, hegemonic, and therefore worthy of revision? I wonder. Is Obama a moral relativist? Who knows. The MSM, protecting their chosen one, refuses to probe, and Obama, takes full advantage of their journalistic dereliction of duty.

Richard Fernandez (“Wretchard”) of the Belmont Club is one of the blogosphere’s most intelligent voices. In a recent comment he writes:

All cultures are not equal. So when you get lucky and find your present culture works it is worth protecting. And to the extent that weapons preserve a society which values life weapons save lives. It is this culture which is our most priceless legacy. And it is this legacy which is precisely denigrated by mindless relativism.

So when one hears the chant, "all we are saying is give peace a chance", the unasked question is 'are we giving peace a chance by placing the most violent cultures on the planet on a pedestal'? And the scary thing is that no one has given the matter a thought. They'll just go on chanting.

Hamlet understood that it is the human heart which measures the world. Unless we value the fire within, then even the heavens "fretted with golden fire" will cast no light upon a dark world.

But Obama claims he will lead us out the dark by somehow changing the world to fit his image of it. Since we have no idea what that image is, the journey forward is rife with peril.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Jimmy - Redux

Jimmy Carter. As a president, he was an unmitigated disaster … a failure in virtually all areas of domestic and foreign policy and a key catalyst (on the geopolitical front) of the ascendancy of Islamofascism over the past 35 years. But as an elder statement, he has become … what’s the right word? Tiresome.

In an op-ed piece for the left-wing Guardian newspaper in the U.K. he spews his typical pro-islamist tripe:
The world is witnessing a terrible human rights crime in Gaza, where a million and a half human beings are being imprisoned with almost no access to the outside world. An entire population is being brutally punished.

This gross mistreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was escalated dramatically by Israel, with United States backing, after political candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament in 2006. The election was unanimously judged to be honest and fair by all international observers.

Yes, the democratic Palestinians – a people that has chosen, that’s right, chosen to be victims for their entire 60-year history. It’s very important to note that there was NO “Palestinian” people or state of Palestine prior to the UN’s creation of Israel in 1948. The “Palestinian” people were residents of Jordan, or Egypt or the region that became Israel, but there was no national entity, no king or President, no parliament … nothing.

Jimmy is so concerned about “crimes” and oh so concerned about the plight of the Palestinians but seems relatively unconcerned about the crimes perpetrated by the Palestinians. It worth noting that in a 680 word op-ed, Jimmy whines about all of Israel’s “injustices,” but spends only 48 words on the Palestinian terror attacks and the 6,000 plus rockets that Hamas has fired indiscriminately into Israel over the past two years. He conveniently forgets to mention the Palestinian charter that demands the destruction of Israel, or a Palestinian education system (if that’s an appropriate word) that makes Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda look tame, or a culture of death that lionizes children who blow themselves up in crowds of civilians. No worries, all of that is under Jimmy’s radar.

Jimmy Carter is a fool, and frankly, hardly worth the bandwidth. But his presence in today’s media might be a harbinger of things to come.

I have this awful feeling that Barack Obama is Jimmy Carter redux. Slicker and a better communicator, no doubt. Updated for the 21st century, unquestionably. But Carter, all the same.

I have little faith that the MSM will probe Obama’s positions and even less that they’ll compare them to past Democratic administrations over the past 40 years. But if they do, what they’ll find is a doctrinaire hard-Left ideologue whose lack of experience in both domestic and international matters is profound, and whose claims that "hope, bipartisanship, and change" will “change the world” are belied by a (thin) record that demonstrates none of those things.

IF Barack morphs into Jimmy, we’re in for a very rocky ride.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Losing Our Spines

The furor of Gert Wilder’s controversial film, Fitna has died down in most Moslem countries, although many continue to ban the Internet outlets that allow users to view the film. Prior to Fitna’s release, the Dutch government, the EU and the UN all condemned the work. The film juxtaposes actual acts of extreme Islamist violence and terrorism with quotes from the Koran that are, I think it’s fair to say, less than conciliatory to those who may choose not to adopt Islam as their religion.

In a lengthy commentary on Fitna entitled “Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks” Sam Harris explores the non-Islamic response to the film. It appears that like the Europeans, many in the U.S. MSM are now perfectly willing to forget freedom of the press and free speech, not to mention the bullying (or worse) of journalists who try to report accurately. Harris comments:
Wilders, like Westergaard and the other Danish cartoonists, has been widely vilified for "seeking to inflame" the Muslim community. Even if this had been his intention, this criticism represents an almost supernatural coincidence of moral blindness and political imprudence. The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way. The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.

There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn't, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn't, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for "racism" and "Islamophobia."

The reason, I think that many on the Left have lost their spines in order to save their necks is that they truly do believe that if we’re really, really nice and really, really understanding, and really, really accepting, that Islamists will somehow moderate their tone and their actions. If we work to appease every grievance, no matter how unfounded the grievance may be, Islamists will reject terror as a strategy and live with us in peace. And, as Barack Obama advocates, if we talk calmly and openly with them, they will recognize that we represent no threat, and they will join the community of peace-loving people. There is, of course, nothing in past behavior to indicate that any of this would happen, but no matter -- it's a plan.

The plan is simple enough, but there's a problem – it represents tacit acceptance of extortion.

Let’s assume for just a moment that we ban every article, cartoon, documentary, editorial, speech, blog, or other mode of communication that criticizes Islam. Let’s further assume that the MSM never reports any Islamofascist act of violence (there have been 11,039 terrorist acts< worldwide since 9/11). Would we be safer?

Some believe that the answer is “yes.” In their through-the-looking glass world, they’re perfectly willing to suppress the truth to save their necks. Problem is, with every attempt to suppress the truth, the blade comes ever closer to their necks. Their pathetic acceptance of extortion may someday doom us all.