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

Monday, December 26, 2011


Over the past 60 years, Islamic countries throughout the Arab crescent have practice judenrein—the calculated persecution and ultimate ethic cleansing of the vast majority of Jews within their population. The left-leaning media throughout the world remained silent, or worse, decided that the real villain was Israel, because it “oppressed” the Palestinians and therefore drove these events.

There’s an old saying that Jews are “the canary in the coal mine.” When an evil ideology works to exterminate them, it’s a harbinger of future attempts to exterminate others.

Over the Christmas weekend, bomb blasts in Nigerian Churches killed dozens of Christians who were attending Christmas eve and Christmas day masses. The bombings, perpetrated by an Islamist group called Boko Haram. Although these atrocities have gotten some coverage in the MSM, the stories are fleeting and under-reported. The administration and state department responses have been muted at best, and even the Vatican has remained largely silent on the events.

It’s reasonable to invert the situation and ask what the coverage would be like if a Christian majority has bombed a mosque on the first day of Ramadan? The MSM would be outraged, expressing horror at the viciousness of the attacks. Stories asking whether it might happen here would be rampant along with handwringing about “Islamophobia.” Christian leaders would immediately condemn the violence (as they should) and reach out to the Muslim community.

But in this instance the dominant sound is crickets chirping. Mark Steyn comments:
On this Christmas Eve, one of the great unreported stories throughout what we used to call Christendom is the persecution of Christians around the world. In Egypt, the “Arab Spring” is going so swimmingly that Copts are already fleeing Egypt and, for those Christians that remain, Midnight Mass has to be held in the daylight for security reasons. In Iraq, midnight services have been canceled entirely for fear of bloodshed, part of the remorseless de-Christianizing that has been going on, quite shamefully, under an American imperium.

Not merely the media but Christian leaders in the west seem to be embarrassed by behavior that doesn’t conform to their dimwitted sappiness about “Facebook Revolutions”. It took a Jew to deliver this line:
When Lord Sacks, chief rabbi in England, rose in the House of Lords to speak about the persecution of Christians, he quoted Martin Luther King, [Jr.]. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Richard Fernandez notes one country that has not been silent:
Will there be “Western” governments which will match Israel’s dispatch of medical teams to Nigeria? Or would there be more which would denounce the act as inflammatory, divisive and a slander on a great creed of peace?

There are likely to be those who will argue that Israel is sending relief for their own political ends. Doubtless it is, but it is because they perceive it as being in their own interest to help the Nigerian Christians, something which many Western politicans cannot say about themselves.

And that is a shame. For there are many nonviolent and peaceful ways in which the evil which killed people across Nigeria on Christmas Day may be fought. One of them is using words to name it. The other is sending material relief to its victims. Still another is to open the doors to those it persecutes. None of these partake of war. None of these harm a hair on the head of al-Qaeda or Boko Haram.

And the evil that invaded the Nigerian churches on Christmas eve? Our leadership in the United States, along with most leaders in the West refuse to use “words to name it.” It’s not appeasement—oh no. It’s multiculturalism run amuck, it’s fear of Islamic outrage, it’s … echos of 1938. A different time, a different place, and a different ideology, but no less—echoes.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


The ongoing debate about cell phone usage while driving an automobile often leads to a complementary debate about government intrusion into our lives. The question is this: How much control does the federal government have over our day-to-day usage on technology or devices or food or activity, and how much does a concern for “safety” trump all other aspects of our lives?

There’s little question that talking on a cell phone (or far worse, texting) will distract some drivers. But so does manipulating the car’s entertainment system, drinking your morning coffee, trying to read a billboard, or simply talking with a passenger. Where do we draw the line?

This debate goes beyond cell phone usage because if taken to the extreme, it will lead to a damping of new technologies that may have to potential to "harm" some users. Frank Fleming poses an intriguing example when he writes:
Imagine if cars hadn’t been around for a century, but instead were just invented today. Is there any way they’d be approved for individual use? It’s an era of bans on incandescent bulbs; if you suggested putting millions of internal-combustion engines out there, you’d get looks like you were Hitler proposing the Final Solution.

Even aside from pollution, the government wouldn’t allow the risks to safety.

“So you’re proposing that people speed around in tons of metal? You must mean only really smart, well-trained people?”

“No. Everyone. Even stupid people.”

“Won’t millions be killed?”

“Oh, no. Not that many. Just a little more than 40,000 a year.”

“And injuries?”

“Oh . . . millions.”

There’s no way that would get approved today.

Driving is basically a grandfathered freedom from back when people cared less about pollution and danger and valued progress and liberty over safety …

We live in an imperfect, dangerous world that regulators and activists want to make perfect and safe.

It’s hard to argue with a concern for safety, but every new regulation and law that purports to increase the "safety" of the population must be carefully weighed against the degree to which it erodes the freedom to make our own decisions and then take responsibility for those choices.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


It pretty obvious that President Obama can’t campaign on his dismal economic record, can’t brag about his jobs record, can’t tout healthcare legislation that is disliked by 60 percent of the public, and is hard-pressed to note a single foreign policy success, other than the killing of a number of terrorist leaders, most notably, Osama bin Laden. So he and his band of political advisors have decided that class warfare is a winning political strategy.

His recent speech in Osawatomie, Kansas exemplifies his divisive rhetoric. He declared, “This isn’t about class warfare.” And then proceeded to suggest that income inequality is somehow to blame for the current state of the economy. He never quite explains how, except to condemn the now infamous ‘one percent’ for not paying their “fair share.” He correctly laments the plight of the middle class, but his only solution to their plight is to tax the rich for “fairness” and to extend payroll taxes, thus reducing social security revenues (for the most part, that’s what payroll taxes are) and therefore leading to even greater instability of this enormous entitlement. His only recommendation to “create” jobs is for big government to do it via his jobs bill, even though an earlier $800 billion stimulus was a failure by any objective measure.

When the President said that he wasn’t using class warfare as a tactic, it reminded me of a well-worn aphorism—Whenever you hear someone say, “It’s not about the money,” it’s almost always about the money. Whenever you hear a politician say, “This isn’t about class warfare,” that’s exactly what it’s about.

But the President persists to the cheers of his Left-leaning supporters. He fervently believes that bigger government, more centralization, and demonization of a small, very successful segment of our society will cause the economy to improve. His euphemism for more and more government spending is “investment,” as if that somehow changes the debit on our national balance sheet.

Mark Steyn comments on all of this when he writes:
The political class looted the future to bribe the present, confident that tomorrow could be endlessly postponed. Hey, why not? “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day,” says Macbeth. “To borrow, and to borrow, and to borrow,” said the political class … and they failed to anticipate that the petty pace would accelerate and overwhelm them. On Thursday, Jon Corzine, former United States senator, former governor of New Jersey, former Goldman Sachs golden boy, and the man who embodies the malign nexus between Big Government and a financial-services sector tap-dancing on derivatives of derivatives, came to Congress to try to explain how the now-bankrupt entity he ran, MF Global, had managed to misplace $1.2 billion …

When Corzine took over the two-and-a-quarter-century-old firm, he moved it big-time into sovereign debt — because you can’t lose with sovereign debt, right? Because a nation, even one that is in any objective sense bankrupt as Mediterranean Europe basically is, is not bankrupt in the sense that a homeowner or small business is: Corzine figured, reasonably enough, that no matter the balance sheets of Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the rest, they’d somehow be propped up unto the end of time. As their credit ratings hit the express elevator to Sub-Basement Level Four, Corzine was taken down with them. The smart guy made a bet on government and lost. That’s where the rest of us are headed: The “you’re not on your own” societal model of Western Europe has run out of people to stick it to.

Barack Obama and those who support him believe that “tomorrow” will never come. Those of us who are a bit more responsible look around and see “tomorrow” arriving throughout Western Europe—a union of countries that has been only too happy to make sure their citizens were the wards of big government.

If we maintain our current trajectory, “tomorrow” will arrive for us as well. And when it dawns, it will be a dark and stormy day indeed.

Monday, December 05, 2011


In my last post, I noted that Leftist economist Paul Krugman applies his own “reality distortion field” to claim that Europe’s problems can be remedied with more spending.

Economist Paul Samuelson suggests a somewhat less delusional view about the modern European welfare state:
To flourish, the welfare state requires favorable economics and demographics: rapid economic growth to pay for social benefits and young populations to support the old. Both economics and demographics have moved adversely.

The great expansion of Europe's welfare states started in the 1950s and 1960s, when annual economic growth for its rich nations averaged 4.5 percent compared with a historical rate since 1820 of 2.1 percent, notes Eichengreen. This sort of growth, it was assumed, would continue indefinitely. Not so. From 1973 to 2000, growth settled back to 2.1 percent. More recently, it's been lower.

Demographics shifted, too. In 2000, Italy's 65-and-over population was already 18 percent of the total; in 2010, it was 21 percent, and the projection for 2050 is 34 percent. Figures for the European Union's 27 countries are 16 percent, 18 percent and 29 percent.

Until the financial crisis, the welfare state existed in a shaky equilibrium with sluggish economic growth. The crisis destroyed that equilibrium. Economic growth slowed. Debt - already high - rose. Government bonds once considered ultra-safe became risky.

The reason this argument is so threatening to American leftists is that it threatens their belief that big government can sustain itself indefinitely. A few weeks ago I noted that ironically many on the Left who believe so fervently in “sustainability” in all things, selectively reject the notion that sustainability in government is gravely threatened by their advocacy of big government. But back to Samuelson:
Switch to the United States. Broadly speaking, the story is similar. The great expansion of America's welfare state (though we avoid that term) occurred in the 1960s and 1970s with the creation of Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. In 1960, 26 percent of federal spending represented payments for individuals; in 2010, the figure was 66 percent. [emphasis mine] Economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s averaged about 4 percent; from 2000 to 2007, the average was 2.4 percent. Our elderly population was 13 percent in 2010; the 2050 estimate is 20 percent.

If, like members of the Obama administration, we turn up the intensity of the reality distortion field, all of these data are meaningless because all you really have to do is believe. But belief is running into the harsh realities of arithmetic. The numbers just don’t add up.

Samuelson writes:
The paradox is that the welfare state, designed to improve security and dampen social conflict, now looms as an engine for insecurity, conflict and disappointment. Facing the hard questions of finding a sustainable balance between individual protections and better economic growth, the Europeans have spent years dawdling. The parallel with our situation is all too obvious.

Except for those who live within the reality distortion field.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Reality Distortion Field

In his fascinating biography of Apple’s founder, Walter Isaccson writes about Steve Job’s “reality distortion field.” In essence, Job’s had the unique ability to discard the reality of a situation and to demand that co-workers and others substitute his perception of reality. In some cases, this worked well, and through sheer force of will (along with Herculean efforts by dedicated staff), his dreams became reality. But not always.

Leftist economist Paul Krugman suffers from a different kind of reality distortion field. Discarding 100 years of economic theory, centuries of history, and common sense, Krugman tries to persuade his New York Times readers that Europe is in trouble because it needs to borrow more, spend more, and otherwise expand the size, scope, and control of its already bloated governments. Let's step inside Krugman's reality distortion field:

How did things [in Europe] go so wrong? The answer you hear all the time is that the euro crisis was caused by fiscal irresponsibility. Turn on your TV and you’re very likely to find some pundit declaring that if America doesn’t slash spending we’ll end up like Greece. Greeeeeece!

But the truth is nearly the opposite. Although Europe’s leaders continue to insist that the problem is too much spending in debtor nations, the real problem is too little spending in Europe as a whole. And their efforts to fix matters by demanding ever harsher austerity have played a major role in making the situation worse.

That’s the ticket. Greece (not mention Italy, Spain and others) should jettison any attempt at (Krugman hates this word) austerity and spend, spend, spend. They should borrow so they can spend. They should tax so they can spend. They should spend to expand government benefits. They should spend to service the enormous carrying costs associated with their new debt, and plow ahead, waiting for the utopian day when all of the spending will somehow save them. No worries about running out of money, after all, there will always be a lender to provide more Euros. Won’t there?

For a moment, I'll channel Krugman's reality distortion field and propose a metaphor: Following Krugman’s arguments, a crystal meth addict should not seek treatment, but rather up his dose of crystal meth. After all, it will make him frenetic, and maybe, he’ll become more productive and happier, and then, miracle of miracles, he’ll break his meth habit. He'll do this not by the austerity of treatment, but by increasing his use of crystal meth. I’m sure most meth users would agree with that, but then again, like Krugman, their judgment is just a little impaired.

But I digress. There’s a reason for Krugman’s reality distortion field. He’s working very hard to convince his readers that the USA will not become “Greeeeeece!” He writes:
For in America, as in Europe, the economy is being dragged down by troubled debtors — in our case, mainly homeowners. And here, too, we desperately need expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to support the economy as these debtors struggle back to financial health. Yet, as in Europe, public discourse is dominated by deficit scolds and inflation obsessives.

So, almost all of us who are concerned about profligate spending to feed big government are nothing more than “deficit scolds and inflation obsessives.” After all, growing government even bigger and spending trillions more than we have is a good idea. It’ll save us! All of us “scolds and obsessives” simply have to distort reality and everything will be A-OK.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Off a Cliff

In February, 2011 the President and his supporters in the media breathlessly touted the sea change that was then underway in Egypt. Enamored with young, idealistic, Egyptian college students who used Facebook and Twitter to drive their “revolution,” the administration and the media forgot realities on the ground.

At that time, I wrote:
When I was a boy, the premier comic periodical for boys in the 12 – 18 age group was Mad Magazine. Mad’s iconic spokesperson was Alfred E. Newman, a weird little kid who graced almost every cover of the magazine. His signature quote was: "What, Me Worry?"

When asked about the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in some future Egyptian government, President Obama channeled Alfred E. Newman. He all but dismissed the worry that over some period of time, the MB would become a dominant force in Egyptian politics. Adopting a meme that has permeated his administration and its legion of media supporters, he shrugged his shoulders and suggested that the MB was a small fringe in Egyptian politics and that there is little cause to worry.

For those who might not be aware of it, here’s the operative sentence in the MB charter: “Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu akbar!”

Of course, those on the Left will find nothing troubling in this statement, insisting that it be interpreted in the “religion of peace” mold. Never mind that the MB is virulently anti-Semitic, homophobic, and misogynistic, and the progenitor of Al Qaida and other terrorist groups. Never mind that the MB advocates Sharia law, not just for Egypt, but for the entire world! Never mind that MB wants to abrogate the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, tried to assassinate Gamal Abd an-Nasser, is a backer of terrorist groups Hamas and Hezballah, and a key supporter of Chechen terrorists who just killed 30-plus people in a Moscow airport.

Our President seems convinced that the MB will either (1) sit this out and remain passive as the government changes or (2) become a reasonable and productive faction in the “new” Egyptian government. "What, Me Worry?"

This morning, USA Today reports:
CAIRO (AP) – Egypt's ultraconservative Islamist party plans to push for a stricter religious code in Egypt after claiming surprisingly strong gains in the first round of parliamentary elections, a spokesman said Friday …

Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Salafists appear to have taken a strong majority of seats in the first round of Egypt's first parliamentary vote since Hosni Mubarak's ouster, a trend that if confirmed would give the religious parties a popular mandate in the struggle to win control from the ruling military and ultimately reshape a key U.S. ally.

The Islamists took exactly one election to gain majority control. So much for the President’s naïve view that characterized the MB and other Islamists as "fringe." Andrew McCarthy comments:
It would be hard to overstate what a catastrophe the Egyptian elections are shaping into. Reports about stage one of the long process show not only that the Muslim Brotherhood may be getting over 50 percent of the vote; an even more extreme Islamist party — called “Nour” — is apparently getting between 10 and 15 percent … [USA Today reports that it may be as high as 30 percent!]

The Islamist ascendancy in Egypt, enabled by the West’s democracy fetishists [on the Right] and its Leftist allies of the MB, will have immediate disastrous consequences — in the imminent drafting of the new Egyptian constitution; in the eventual Egyptian presidential election next year; in overcoming the Egyptian military’s half-hearted attempts to stem the Islamist tide; in the deteriorating security of 8 million Coptic Christians (about 10 percent of the population); in a radically new and more threatening Islamist threat to Israel on a long border it has not had to worry about for the last 30 years; and in ensuring (in cahoots with Islamist Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, a longtime MB intimate) that the Brotherhood will take over Syria when Assad falls — probably sooner rather than later.

Egypt has every right to choose its own destiny, but it was kind of sad to see an inexperienced President and a sycophantic media hoard cheer on a group of idealistic college kids as they walked their country off a cliff.