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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Sad Day

I had a chance to view right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ 15 minute film, Fitna, before it was removed from the LiveLeak website. The site administrator notes:
Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers. This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else.

The film contains deeply disturbing images and represents ideological trends in the Netherlands and by extrapolation, throughout all of Europe that are a cause for concern. There is no doubt that Moslems will find the juxtaposition of Koranic verses with film clips and newspaper accounts of terrorist attacks to be disturbing. However, there is no direct or insulting commentary that links Islam to violence and certainly no offensive anti-Islamic statements in the film. And yet, we begin to see the first signs of “outrage” that followed the publication of the Mohammed cartoons.

Mark Steyn comments:
… a film such as Fitna might not even be necessary were the western news organizations not so absurdly deferential toward Muslim sensibilities that they go out of their way to avoid showing us anything that might cause us to link violence with Islam. Even that footage of those depraved [Palestinian] West Bankers jumping up and down in the street and passing out candy to celebrate 9/11 appears to have been walled up in the most impenetrable vault of the archives these last six years. Both CNN and the BBC could only bring themselves to show the Danish cartoons by pixelating Mohammed's face - the first time this technique has ever been applied to a drawing, as if the Prophet had entered the witness protection program. At one level, they make Wilders' point for him, but, at another, they make it less likely anyone else will step forward to try to make the point next time.

It does appear that the Western media thinks that their interpretation of political correctness (an interpretation that in recent years has been biased in favor of certain religions and against others) is far more important than freedom of the press or freedom of expression. Their hypocrisy on this matter and the contortions they go through to justify it would be comic if it weren’t so dangerous.

But something else is going on here, and Wretchard of the Belmont Club has isolated it:
In an earlier post I predicted that European leaders, "Human Rights" committees and all the assorted enforcers of politically correct speech would eventually be trapped in a whack-a-mole mode. They'll be busy fighting a cultural counter-insurgency.

If regular media outlets refuse to present materials that are mildly critical of Islam, then individuals will do so. And with the viral aspects of the Web—Fitna was viewed by more that 3 million people in just a few days—individuals may succeed is broad distribution of "anti-Islamic" content.

But at the same time, CNN, the NYT, and almost every other MSM outlet refuse to present “disturbing video” (e.g., the severing of Daniel Pearl’s head by Islamofascist terrorists in Pakistan) because, what? It might get Americans angry?

Despite protestation and outright lies by pro-terrorist mouthpieces like CAIR, acts of anti-Islamic violence in the USA have been remarkably low and do not seem to be increasing at any significant level. To our credit, Americans are remarkably restrained and respectful toward Islam.

The MSM would argue that it's all because of their suppression of facts. Maybe. But does that justify suppression of factual evidence that depicts the barbarity of enemy we face? Could another reason be that it might cause people to reconsider the canard that paints the GWoT as the “politics of fear?”

Wretchard thinks that MSM and governmental political correctness may not be able to control this information as we move forward.
The emergence of a parallel information system in the Soviet Union was a direct result of the failure by normal channels to carry information under the threat of punishment the KGB. Today's KGB of course, is Islam and the Left. But censorship is ultimately counterproductive. There is nothing particularly excellent about Wilder's film. It won't win any prizes for either hatred or dramatics. Why should such a thing become famous? The answer of course is because ordinary, even mediocre speech has been censored openly in the Western world. It's not the ordinary speech which is singular but the censorship. If Fitna had not been given such play it would have screened in a half dozen art-houses and been forgotten. As matters stand it will enter the history books.

If the threat of violence (or worse) broadens the suppression of relatively innocuous cartoons and films, the underground network of distribution will flourish, and as a consequence, the correctness police will lose control. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


One of the core problems in examining the candidacy of Barack Obama is trying to understand his true positions. He is a rhetorical master who weaves platitudes brilliantly, but remains purposely ambiguous about his true intent.

In an excellent and lengthy article in the Left-leaning American Prospect, Spencer Ackerman lays out Obama’s foreign policy position. He argues, and I agree, that the best way to intuit a candidate’s true positions is not through his speeches or his debate responses, but rather through the foreign policy team that has been assembled to guide him.

Ackerman writes:
Obama is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we've heard from a serious presidential contender in decades. It cuts to the heart of traditional Democratic timidity. "It's time to reject the counsel that says the American people would rather have someone who is strong and wrong than someone who is weak and right," Obama said in a January speech. "It's time to say that we are the party that is going to be strong and right." (The Democrat who counseled that Americans wanted someone strong and wrong, not weak and right? That was Bill Clinton in 2002.)

All well and good. There’s little question that our foreign policy, as exemplified by our State Department, has been a mess. But exactly what “sweeping liberal foreign-policy” changes do Obama (or better, his core of advisors) envision?

Ackerman has interviewed Obama’s foreign policy team and writes:
They envision a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering "democracy promotion" agenda in favor of "dignity promotion," to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root. An inextricable part of that doctrine is a relentless and thorough destruction of al-Qaeda. Is this hawkish? Is this dovish? It's both and neither -- an overhaul not just of our foreign policy but of how we think about foreign policy. And it might just be the future of American global leadership.

So … democracy promotion is “hallow” and an example of “sloganeering.” On this I have to agree. The idea sounds good in theory, is properly idealistic, and would seem to have merit, but trying to implement it in cultures that are neither ready or receptive is difficult at best and close to impossible when violent Jihadist interests work against it.

But what is one of the cornerstones of Obama’s foreign policy braintrust? It’s "dignity promotion." The idea sounds good in theory, is properly idealistic and would seem to have merit, but trying to implement it in cultures that are neither ready or receptive is difficult at best and close to impossible when violent Jihadist interest work against it.

Hmmm. I said the same thing twice, didn’t I?

Dignity promotion is a lot like the politically correct “self-esteem” movement that has gripped parents and schools in the US. Sounds good in theory. Every child should have self esteem. The problem, of course, is that self-esteem cannot be given to someone. It must be achieved through accomplishments, through good acts and through good character. We can encourage it (and should) but we can’t hand it out like candy.

If dignity promotion is to be a cornerstone of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, it represents a different variety of American hubris. We cannot fix the world, no matter who resides in the oval office. We can’t even expect others (e.g., the U.N.) to fix the world. Countries and people must fix themselves and achieve the dignity that accrues as the 'fixing' bears results.

And yet, Obama’s foreign policy team is adamant:
This ability to see the world from different perspectives informs what the Obama team hopes will replace the Iraq War mind-set: something they call dignity promotion. "I don't think anyone in the foreign-policy community has as much an appreciation of the value of dignity as Obama does," says Samantha Power, a former key aide and author of the groundbreaking study of U.S. foreign policy and genocide, A Problem From Hell. "Dignity is a way to unite a lot of different strands [of foreign-policy thinking]," she says. "If you start with that, it explains why it's not enough to spend $3 billion on refugee camps in Darfur, because the way those people are living is not the way they want to live. It's not a human way to live. It's graceless -- an affront to your sense of dignity."

Okay … how do we provide “dignity” for the beleaguered people of Darfur? One way might be to eliminate the Arab JaJaweed militias who continue to slaughter people by the thousands. But that would require military action. Would Obama take such a unilateral step? Would he go to the U.N.? If so, for what? Hard questions. No answers.

I find it interesting that Obama’s advisors excoriate President Bush’s neo-con brain trust for their hubris in the conduct of the Iraq war. They’re right to criticize. But it appears that Obama’s braintrust exhibits some hubris of their own. They argue that US can somehow impart dignity in the Sudan, in Arab states, in Iran, in North Korea, and that will change behavior significantly. Please ...

Ackerman continues by quoting Samatha Power:
"Look at why the baddies win these elections," Power says. "It's because [populations are] living in climates of fear." U.S. policy, she continues, should be "about meeting people where they're at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That's the swamp that needs draining. If we're to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we're not [providing]."

Or advisor Scott Gration:
"It's about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe," Gration says. "Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I'm concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years."

The thing that seems to escape these folks is that hundreds of billions of aid dollars have been provided in the very places that Power and Gration mention. It becomes lost in a maze of corruption and criminality that is so complex and so pervasive that it cannot be corrected from the outside. We tried it … repeatedly … we’ve failed … repeatedly. What has changed in the interim?

What both Power and Gration are saying (and what, I believe, Barack Obama believes) is as idealistic and as doomed as Bush’s “freedom agenda.”

Maybe it’s time for a dose of pragmatism. Maybe it’s time to see the world as it is, not how we’d like it to be. Maybe it’s time to recognize the USA cannot singlehandedly impart either democracy or dignity to people who are not yet ready. Maybe it’s time to recognize that starry-eyed programs to promote dignity will not defeat an Islamofascist enemy who understands the indigenous culture, has boots on the ground, and an ideology that will be difficult to crack.

Before the electorate allows Barack Obama to implement his dignity agenda, with all of the strategic moves it implies, it might be a good idea to question him on it directly and forcefully. MSM? Are you listening?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Argo Naught

Each of the three presidential candidates has detailed plans to “combat global warming.” In fact, Hillary Clinton says she’ll commit well over $100 billion in her first term. Their positions are understandable, given the conventional wisdom. After all, computer-based climate models keep telling us that the earth is warming (and that my home in Florida will be under water in 100 years). Problem is, recent real data from NOAA and NASA seem to indicate that it isn’t happening. Lorne Gunter explains:
They drift along in the worlds' oceans at a depth of 2,000 metres -- more than a mile deep -- constantly monitoring the temperature, salinity, pressure and velocity of the upper oceans.

Then, about once every 10 days, a bladder on the outside of these buoys inflates and raises them slowly to the surface gathering data about each strata of seawater they pass through. After an upward journey of nearly six hours, the Argo monitors bob on the waves while an onboard transmitter sends their information to a satellite that in turn retransmits it to several land-based research computers where it may be accessed by anyone who wishes to see it.

These 3,000 yellow sentinels --about the size and shape of a large fence post -- free-float the world's oceans, season in and season out, surfacing between 30 and 40 times a year, disgorging their findings, then submerging again for another fact-finding voyage.

It's fascinating to watch their progress online

When they were first deployed in 2003, the Argos were hailed for their ability to collect information on ocean conditions more precisely, at more places and greater depths and in more conditions than ever before. No longer would scientists have to rely on measurements mostly at the surface from older scientific buoys or inconsistent shipboard monitors.

So why are some scientists now beginning to question the buoys' findings? Because in five years, the little blighters have failed to detect any global warming. They are not reinforcing the scientific orthodoxy of the day, namely that man is causing the planet to warm dangerously. They are not proving the predetermined conclusions of their human masters. Therefore they, and not their masters' hypotheses, must be wrong.

In fact, "there has been a very slight cooling," according to a U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) interview with Josh Willis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a scientist who keeps close watch on the Argo findings.

Dr. Willis insisted the temperature drop was "not anything really significant." And I trust he's right. But can anyone imagine NASA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the UN's climate experts -- shrugging off even a "very slight" warming.

Virtually every climate model presented by Al Gore uses ocean temperature as the harbinger of overall global warming. In fact, as Gunter points out, most models “postulate that as much as 80-90% of global warming will result from the oceans warming rapidly then releasing their heat into the atmosphere.”

My. My. The oceans aren’t warming, huh? The facts and empirical data can be pesky things, particularly when they get in the way of deeply held, almost religious, dogma. And that’s what belief in global warming has become.

But what about earth temperatures. Again, some pesky real data.
Modellers are also perplexed by the findings of NASA's eight weather satellites that take more than 300,000 temperature readings daily over the entire surface of the Earth, versus approximately 7,000 random readings from Earth stations.

In nearly 30 years of operation, the satellites have discovered a warming trend of just 0.14 C per decade, less than the models and well within the natural range of temperature variation.

Ocean temperature – no increase. Earth temperature – tiny increase. Global warming – possibly, but solid science seems to indicate otherwise.

Before we let Al or Hillary or Barack of John spend our tax dollars fighting a phantom, it might be a good idea to be sure we understand the science. It would be an even better idea to keep dogma out of the discussion.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rescue Me

The debacle that is now the U.S. credit market has roiled world financial markets and driven the US economy to near recession. Democrats demand that the government save “innocent homeowners” who availed themselves of credit offers that were far too good to be true. Republicans (at least some of them) suggest that we save the major Wall Street firms who were the originators of the financial instruments that lead to cheap loans. In reality, they’re both right and they’re both wrong. Everyone involved in this debacle made bad decisions, some very, very bad. Everyone succumbed to greed. And now, the tax dollars of those of us who have been responsible borrowers will be used to bail them all out. You’re welcome!

It began with Wall Street money managers who created financial instruments that were the legal equivalent of an elaborate Ponzi scheme. Companies like Bear Stearns provided hundreds of billions of dollars of sub-prime credit to large and small mortgage lenders at rates that were unreasonably low. As a consequence, lenders, exhibiting greed of their own, fought to make mortgage loans to people who were unqualified to receive credit. And the borrowers themselves are hardly innocent. Over-extending themselves on houses they could not afford using no-down payment balloon mortgages that would come back to haunt them, many of these “innocent consumers” planned to flip properties in a bull real estate market and walk away with big profits.

James Grant comments in the WaPo:
What makes these proceedings so frightening is that not only is credit in crisis but so, too, is money. There are well-founded doubts about the promises to pay money and about the nature and integrity of the dollar itself. So it was on Friday that the Federal Reserve committed to lend undisclosed billions to bail out Bear Stearns, a top Wall Street purveyor of mortgage-backed securities and a leading lender to hedge funds. Where will the Fed find these dollars? Where it always, ultimately, does. It will have to print them, despite abundant evidence from the currency and gold markets that the world has just about all the dollar bills it cares to hold.

By the looks of things, America's surfeited creditors must make room for many billions more. The markets are in "uncharted waters," Robert Rubin, chairman of the Citigroup Executive Committee, said in a speech Friday. He urged the government to exert itself on behalf of the mortgage market and the American homeowner.

And who are these bankers who went sailing off the end of the Earth and thereby find it necessary to pass the cup to the government? The company of errant, if lavishly compensated, navigators includes none other than Rubin himself. Last fall, the former Treasury secretary confessed to Fortune magazine that until the mortgage storms broke over his head in the summer of 2007, he was unfamiliar with the kinds of complex mortgage structures with which Citi's own balance sheet was packed. Almost certainly, the gulf between competence and compensation on Wall Street has never been wider.

“Competence and compensation”—a nice turn of a phrase. The geniuses on Wall Street reward themselves with multi-million dollar year-end bonuses and then scramble to have the Fed or Treasury bail them out when everything gets upside down. The geniuses on Main Street (who purchased $500,000 properties when they could afford only a $200,000 house) forgot that balloon mortgages do exactly what their name implies, and now look to Washington to save them from their own financial incompetence. It’s as maddening as it is predictable.

“Rescue me,” each cries, and responsible taxpayers, doing what we always seem to do, respond.

Update (3/17/08):

It looks like J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is going to buy beleaguered Bear Stearns to keep it solvent. Reuters reports "Barring some unexpected boardroom generosity by JPMorgan Chase & Co, executives at Bear Stearns Cos may find that their walking away money has been crunched by the credit crisis."

No golden parachutes? How nice. Some small measure of justice.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Finally. It took months for the main stream media to begin to question the 22-year association between Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Mr. Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, now (conveniently, as of last month) “retired.” This association was not casual, it was not peripheral, and it was not incidental. It was an on-going mutual connection between two men, so close that the Rev, White married the Obamas and acted as the Senator’s “mentor” (Obama’s words) and advisor.

ABC news’ Brian Ross, aired a relatively soft critique of the Rev. White in which an excerpt from one of his sermons was aired. In the sermon, the reverend is angry about the plight of black America. In talking about young black males, he states:
The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.

Odd, that The Reverend doesn’t mention men like Senator Obama and tens of thousands of other African Americans who have taken a radically different journey through American life, gone to college, gotten good jobs, advanced through the ranks, and are living their small part of the American dream.

Odd, that Barack Obama would countenance such angry, warped view of America. Odd, that he’d sit in a church with his young children and let them absorb this blatant racial propaganda. Odd that he’d contribute to the church, year after year, without a single public comment or protest. Odd, that a man who purports to bring us together would tacitly accept speech that does nothing but separate us. Odd, very odd.

But now, of course, Obama takes a different tack. Now, Obama tries to distance himself from the Reverend. Now, he calls the Rev. Right his “old uncle" who says dumb things. Now, he tries to escape Wright's obvious anti-Semitism when he states, "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet magazine [a periodical published under the auspices of Rev. White's church] made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree." Obama forgets to mention that Rev. White praised Farrakhan unequivocally.

Obama bobs and weaves, trying hard to mask the connection. So convenient, so slick, so dishonest—it makes the skin crawl.

Twenty-two years is a very long time. How on earth could Obama listen to Reverend Wright, immediately after 9/11, suggest the this heinous attack was America’s fault? That is far-Left ideology at its worst – blame the victim, protect the “oppressed.” It is delusional and it is dangerous, and in my view, beneath the smooth exterior, it is what Barack Obama believes.

You don’t think so? Then ask yourself two simple questions—why didn’t Barack Obama choose another church, and why did he choose the Rev. White as a mentor and advisor? Why did he name his book, The Audacity of Hope after one of the Rev. White’s sermons?

Lot’s of questions and as yet, few reasonable answers.

Update (3/15/08):

Victor Davis Hansen dissects Barack Obama’s attempts to “manage” the Wright controversy. He writes:
Despite the serial profession of a new politics, there is something Nixonian about Obama's recent disclaimers over his racist pastor's diatribes. At first he tried to blame the messenger:

"Here is what happens when you just cherry-pick statements from a guy who had a 40-year career as a pastor.”

The problem is not cherries, Senator, but an entire orchard. The most egregious slurs are not from two decades past, but post 9/11 and especially in 2006.

Read the whole thing.

Update (3/15/08):

Whoa! It looks like this story is beginning to break big – even in the MSM. I take a small amount of pride in the fact that I began questioning Obama's shady associations months before the MSM deigned to discuss them. A comment from a poster named “Peter” at The Belmont Club summarizes nicely:
In language, attitude, and behavior Jeremiah Wright is a lot closer to a toxic Muslim imam than to a Christian pastor.

Wright's public honoring of the "greatness" of Louis Farrakhan, who publicly calls himself Minister while heading the Nation of Islam, and Wright's buddy trip with him to Lybia tell me that Obama is too clever by half in selecting this particular "church" and this particular "pastor" on which to hang is Christian bona fides.

You have to be an abject idiot to believe that Obama's 20+ year relationship with Wright, his donation of tens of thousands of dollars, his active participation in the most "sacred" liturgies, and his heretofore limpid denials do not mean conclusively that Obama has bought in completely to Jeremiah Wright's anti-American, anti-civilization jeremiad.

Gimme a break. That Barack Hussein Obama would be a serious contender for POTUS is an absurdity.

These words are strong, maybe too strong, but they raise a few important issues—Is Barack Obama a con man? What does he truly believe? Can we trust his judgment as POTUS, given his highly questionable close associations (e.g., Wright, Resko).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Articles of Faith

David Mamet, a well-known American author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and film director, writes an interesting piece in the Village Voice. Like most people in the arts, Mamet has been a champion of progressive causes throughout his life, and yet, he writes:
I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the f**k up. "?" she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."

This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.

But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

In an earlier post, I expressed anger at the far-Left, angry, world view expressed by Michelle Obama and wondered whether it was shared by her husband, a man whose true views are masked in eloquent, but purposely ambiguous, rhetoric. It appears that David Mamet has also begun to question the same world view. He continues:
I found not only that I didn't trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.

And I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

And I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.

Do I speak as a member of the "privileged class"? If you will—but classes in the United States are mobile, not static, which is the Marxist view. That is: Immigrants came and continue to come here penniless and can (and do) become rich; the nerd makes a trillion dollars; the single mother, penniless and ignorant of English, sends her two sons to college (my grandmother). On the other hand, the rich and the children of the rich can go belly-up; the hegemony of the railroads is appropriated by the airlines, that of the networks by the Internet; and the individual may and probably will change status more than once within his lifetime.

I think what Mamet is trying to say is that America is a flawed, but fundamentally good country, with flawed, but fundamentally good institutions, lead by flawed, but fundamentally good people who have the best intentions, if not always the best ideas. It saddens me to hear left-leaning friends vilify the “big corporations” or the Bush neocon administration, attributing evil motives to people and organizations that are flawed, certainly, but evil—No! And at the same time, I listen to these friends apply moral equivalence to justify (well, maybe not justify, but accept) Islamofascist terror attacks (think: Hezballah or Hamas) by arguing that the perpetrators are oppressed and not evil to the core. Why rejection of America's core institutions, and one moment later, acceptance of Islamists who would immediately remove every freedom and most "rights" that my friends hold dear? Strange.

Ideology is a funny thing. It warps your world view and often gets in the way of examining the world as it is. It allows you to think in absolutes, when there are none.

David Mamet concludes his piece appropriately, I think:
The right is mooing about faith, the left is mooing about change, and many are incensed about the fools on the other side—but, at the end of the day, they are the same folks we meet at the water cooler. Happy election season.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Looking Outward

In a lengthy article on “Jihad, Islamism, and the American Free Press,” Jeffrey Imm addresses a problem that is largely invisible to a significant segment of the American public. He writes:
In the war with global Jihad, words and definitions matter, and in fighting anti-freedom ideologies, the free press and media should be America's greatest ally. Yet the confused and inconsistent reporting on Islamism and Islamist terrorism is another key fault line in America's struggles with global Jihad.

Without a precise definition of the enemy by American political leadership, major segments of the American free press have made their own foreign policy decisions as to who is and is not an enemy, made their own decisions on what terms like "Islamism" and "Jihad" mean (if they use such terms at all), and provided mostly "isolated incident"-style reporting on such subjects, with the exception of the largely anti-war colored reporting on Iraq.

So instead of much of the American free press being used to largely address and confront enemy anti-freedom ideologies and their adherents, such media has been manipulated by editorial managers, publishers, and Islamist groups to focus their investigative reporting on the American government's reaction to Islamist terrorism. As much of American government actions are based on a reaction without a defined enemy, there has been plenty of source material for press critiques and for press managers to gain political points against an unpopular administration.

But as made clear last week in speeches by leaders of the Washington Post and the Associated Press, the larger issue of "Islamism" itself, its role as the root of "Islamist terrorism" (as defined in the 9/11 Commission Report), and coherent news reporting on the continuing global links between political Islamism and such Islamist terrorism is not even an objective of much of the American free press. The reactive political sniping agenda by much of the American press' reporting not only misses the larger issue, but also fails to understand that anti-freedom ideologies like Islamism are a threat to a free press itself.

Therefore, even when the threat of Islamism to a free press is unquestionable -- such as imprisoned Afghan journalist Sayed Pervez Kambakhsh on death row for "blasphemy" per Islamists in the Afghanistan government -- Islamism is not a concern to such media leaders as Washington Post's Philip Bennett or AP's Tom Curley. These American free press/media leaders' apparent obliviousness to Islamism is symptomatic of the larger problem with much of the American free press when facing Jihad -- as shown in such media shaping of terms, providing a platform for Jihadists, confusing the public on the identity of the enemy, providing opportunities for enemy infiltration, and allowing news reporting tainted by gullibility about Islamism.

The MSM works hard to avoid in-depth analysis of the threats facing not only the current administration, but the new one that will come into power in January, 2009. As a consequence, the American public sees report after report that is critical of “the American government's reaction to Islamist terrorism.” Following the Left-leaning narrative that the threat is overblown and that any attempt to address it analytically is the “politics of fear,” almost every report is critical of government action, implying that it is (1) incompetent, (2) overly excessive, or (3) discriminatory or Islamophobic.

Why is this? Why can’t the media look outward and present a more balanced examination of the growth and danger of Islamism in the US, Europe, in North Africa, throughout Indonesia and Southeast Asia, and among our supposed allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait? A look that provides in-depth information and analysis, not a cartoon caricature of masked terrorists jumping through fiery hoops and jungle gyms in the Sudanese desert?

Is it because the threat truly is overblown? That, I’m afraid, is a fantasy of those who would prefer to ignore the threat for now and then appease it when it becomes so obvious that it can’t be ignored.

Many thoughtful writers have suggested that a major strategy of Islamofascism is information warfare—the use of propaganda promulgated by media outlets to obfuscate its intent and vilify those who are trying to combat this dangerous ideology. With the help of the MSM, it looks like the strategy is working.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Sermon

In previous posts, I have questioned Barack Obama’s close association with Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Obama’s Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Obama himself has referred to Wright as his sounding board and mentor, although in the last few months he has begun to distance himself just a bit.

Ronald Kessler reports on a sermon delivered by Wright at Howard University in January, 2006, in which “Obama’s longtime minister, friend, and adviser blamed America for starting the AIDS virus, training professional killers, importing drugs, and creating a racist society that would never elect a black man as president.
Raising his voice in rage, Wright began his sermon by saying, “Fact No. 1: We’ve got more black men in prison than there are in college. Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president, no matter how hard you run Jesse [Jackson] and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body.”

Omitting fact No. 2, Wright thundered on: “Fact No. 3: America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. We invaded Grenada for no other reason than to get Maurice Bishop [a Grenada revolutionary who seized power in 1979], invaded Panama because Noriega would not dance to our tune any more. We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers. We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Qaddafi.”

Wright continued: “Fact No. 4: We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God. Fact No. 5: We supported Zionism shamelessly while ignoring the Palestinians and branding anybody who spoke out against it as being anti-semitic.”

His voice rising, Wright was on a roll: “Fact No. 6: We conducted radiation experiments on our own people. They’re just finding out about that. We care nothing about human life if the ends justifies the means. Fact No. 7: We do not care if poor black and brown children cannot read and kill each other senselessly. We abandoned the cities back in the '60s when the riots started and it really doesn’t matter what those nations do to each other; we gave up on them and public education of poor people who live in the projects . . .”

Wright went on: “Fact No. 8: We started the AIDS virus, and now that it is out of control, we still put more money in the military than in medicine; more money in hate than in humanitarian concerns. Everybody does not have access to healthcare, I don’t care what the rich white boys in the Senate say. Listen up: If you are poor, black and elderly, forget it.”

Concluding, Wright said: “Fact No. 9: We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty. And fact No. 10: We are selfish, self-centered egotists who are arrogant and ignorant and betray our church and do not try to make the kingdom that Jesus talked about a reality. And — and — and in light of these 10 facts, God has got to be sick of this s***.”

Meeting with Jewish leaders in Cleveland on Feb. 24, Obama described Wright as being like “an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with.” He rarely mentions the items of disagreement.

Obama went on to explain away Wright’s anti-Zionist statements as being rooted in his anger over the Jewish state’s support for South Africa under its previous policy of apartheid. As with a previous claim that his church gave an award to Louis Farrakhan because of his work with ex-offenders, Obama made that up out of thin air.

Wright’s statements denouncing Israel have not been qualified in any way.

As for Wright’s repeated comments blaming America for the 9/11 attacks, Obama has said it sounds as if the minister was trying to be “provocative.”

Hearing Wright’s venomous and paranoid denunciations of this country, the vast majority of Americans would walk out. Instead, Obama and his wife Michelle have presumably sat through hundreds of similar sermons.

For just a moment, consider a situation in which John McCain belonged to a church in which a white supremacist preacher ranted about topics that would make the KKK or neo-Nazis proud. Ya think the MSM would cover the issue? Ya think Obama and Hillary would demand that McCain denounce the preacher and leave the church? Ya think that the MSM would continue coverage 24/7 until the matter was resolved? Yeah, they would.

So why don’t we hear about the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.? And why is Barack Obama given a pass with regard to his close association with him.

More importantly, why hasn't Barack Obama walked out of similar sermons? Is it possible he agrees with much of it? No way to know, because no one in the MSM is investigating the matter or asking Barack Obama point blank questions on each issue.

The Door

And so, another Terrorist attack by Hamas (who took credit for it and then didn’t) or Hesballah (who is mum) or Islamic Jihad (who sort of took credit) kills eight young rabbinical students in Jerusalem. The western world clucks their collective “concern” over another barbaric terrorist attack, safe in the belief that Hamas is not the PA and that Palestinian “moderates” really do want peace. The reality, of course, is that the Arabs play a shell game, allowing one of a number of proxies (Hamas, Hezballah et al) to do their bidding, but keeping just enough distance to achieve deniability. It’s a fiction that works for every Western diplomat.

The Left accuses the Israelis of “oppression” of a people who launch rockets daily from Gaza civilian neighborhoods (think: human shields) into Israeli cities, who celebrate in the streets when a terrorist attack kills innocents, who recruit children to blow themselves to bits in order to kill civilians in a shopping mall or Pizza parlor. The Right (think: Condi Rice) continues to press for a “peace process” that is impossible to achieve but gives the appearance of doing something about an intractable problem.

The people who live in Gaza, the West Bank, and southern Lebanon operate under a simple premise. They can continue to conduct terrorist acts with relative impunity because they are protected by Israel’s humanity. They know, at their core, that Israel will try to protect civilian Arab populations, even while Israeli civilians are attacked mercilessly. They also know that the West will protect them with cries of “disproportionality” whenever Israel tries to shut down rocket launching sites or respond to acts of war. It’s the movie Ground Hog Day playing on a continuous loop.

Have you ever wondered why Hamas or Hezballah hasn’t launched a true mass-casualty attack in Israel in which thousands die in one event. Part of the reason that this hasn’t happened is the excellence of Israeli intelligence and interdiction. But part of it, I think, is the terrorist’s awareness that they can push too far, opening the door for Israel to do what it doesn’t want to do – obliterate it’s enemies.

The day may come when door will be forced open. The result will be a tragedy for all concerned.

An aside -- for those who would like a balanced history of this conflict, the video “Relentless- Struggle for Peace in the ME,” is well-worth your time.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Downright Mean

Lauren Collins writes a lengthy piece profiling Michelle Obama in The New Yorker. In it, she describes Mrs. Obama’s stump speech—“ a forty-five-minute monologue that she composed herself and delivers without notes.”

Collins describes the speech:
Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we’re a divided country, we’re a country that is “just downright mean,” we are “guided by fear,” we’re a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. “We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day,” she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. “Folks are just jammed up, and it’s gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I’m young. Forty-four!”

This dark view of America at the beginning of the 21st century is ideologically far-Left. There is no balance in Obama’s view, no indication that she thinks the country may be doing at least a few good things. No discussion of widespread charitable acts, concern for those who are disabled, a health care system that despite all it faults, is among the best in the world, no mention of our contributions to the sciences, our attempts to foster human rights across the globe, our innovation, job creation, and our stable society and vital economy—where upward mobility is available to anyone with the will and the intent.

My story in this “divided country” is typical of millions of others, people of all colors, religions, and economic circumstances. The story is almost always the same: A boy (or girl) from a lower middle class, blue collar family goes to run-down public schools in an urban area (unlike the Obamas who both attended prep schools and later Harvard), who attends a public university and working every day, pays his own way, who gets a job in a “big corporation” that teaches him enough to allow him to gain the confidence to assert his independence, who returns to graduate school and over time, builds a small business, proceeding in small steps, taking personal and financial risks, to greater and greater personal and material success. A boy who never looked to the government for assistance, but paid his taxes so that others could. And later, a man who sees his children take the same road and achieve their own independence and success.

When I hear Left-wing tripe like that spewed by Michelle Obama, it makes me angry, very angry. Sure, our country has problems. Sure our leaders make mistakes. Sure some people struggle, but their struggles are sometimes self-imposed and cannot be fixed solely by big government that all too often strips them of their self-esteem and their initiative.

What Michelle Obama is incapable of understanding is that America is not a zero-sum game. Everyone has an opportunity to succeed, even if some have to work just a bit harder. My success in no way limits another person’s success. In fact, it often facilitates it.

I don’t know how much Mrs. Obama reflects her husband’s ideological point of view. But if I were to guess, I suspect that behind the soaring rhetoric about change, Barack Obama sees the same dark images and intends to effect change to “correct” them.

The problem, of course, is that those dark images aren’t real. A country that is “just downright mean” exists only in the delusional thinking of a Left-wing Harvard grad who, it appears, is incapable of seeing the good that so many of us have experienced in our journey through American life.

Update (3/7/08):

In an interesting piece on Barack Obama's ideological upbringing, Mona Charen concludes with this comment:
Obama’s self-portrait in this book [Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance] is that of a searching, nonjudgmental young man attempting to find his rightful place after a confusing start in life. But he is attracted by the harshly ideological Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose church he joins. Wright peddles racial-grievance religion. Following 9/11, he said, “[W]hite America got a wake-up call. . . . White America and the Western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.”

Obama says he doesn’t agree with Wright about everything. Fine. And maybe he doesn’t agree with his wife when she (twice) said that she’d never been proud of her country until its people began to support her husband. But then, what did he mean when he said on March 4 that making a little girl proud to say she is an American is the “change we are calling for”?

One suspects that beneath the soothing talk, there is bitterness in the man that we’d best learn more about before voting.

100 Days

It may be that Barack Obama, defeated yesterday by Hillary Clinton in OH and TX, may yet rebound and seize the Democratic Presidential nomination. The Democrats, political idealists to the core, condemn the idea that Super Delegates might negate the “will of the people” and make a pragmatic decision about who would be the best presidential candidate. The Dems better be careful what they wish for.

It may also be that Obama’s soaring political rhetoric is just that, political rhetoric, and his actual intentions once elected would be more pragmatic. His advisors said as much when discussing NAFTA with Canadian representatives.

But what if Barack Obama means exactly what he says. Michael Gerson examines the first 100 days of a Barack Obama presidency:
As a thought experiment, consider the foreign policy achievements of Obama's first 100 days.

Redeeming his Inaugural pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden, fly any distance to meet with our enemies," Obama's first major international meeting is with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. National security adviser Samantha Power does her best to talk tough on human rights in preparation for the meeting. But, as Henry Kissinger once said, "When talks become their own objective, they are at the mercy of the party most prepared to break them off." Having made Iranian talks "without precondition" his major foreign policy goal, Obama is left with little leverage to extract concessions, and little choice but to move forward.

The New York Post runs a front-page picture of the Obama/Ahmadinejad handshake under the headline "Surrender Summit!" The story notes another of Obama's historic firsts: the first American president to meet with a Holocaust denier. The Israeli prime minister publicly asks, "Why is the American president meeting with a leader who calls us 'filthy bacteria' and threatens to wipe us 'off the map'?" Tens of thousands protest in Tel Aviv, carrying signs reading "Chamberlain Lives!"

America's moderate Arab allies in the region also feel betrayed, assuming that America is cutting a bilateral deal with Iran that accepts its nuclear ambitions, while leaving the Sunni powers out in the cold. The Egyptian press notes that President Obama's motorcade in Tehran passed near a street named in honor of Khaled Eslamboli, the assassin of President Anwar Sadat.

Shell-shocked by the criticism, the Obama administration moves its forthcoming presidential summit with Raul Castro to the Turks and Caicos, in a vain attempt to limit press scrutiny. The four-minute, Friday evening meeting -- photographers are forbidden -- still results in hundreds of thousands of Cuban protesters in Miami. Spouses of the imprisoned and tortured carry pictures of their loved ones. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praises Obama's visit as a "public apology for generations of American imperialism and militarism."

At the same time, the Obama administration is arm-twisting Mexico and Canada into a renegotiation of NAFTA. The Mexican president wonders aloud to the press: "Why is the new president courting his enemies in the hemisphere while insulting his closest friends?"

Obama's Oval Office speech to the nation on Iraq is initially more successful. As promised, he orders a phased, unconditional withdrawal of combat forces, beginning "not in six months or one year -- now." American troops will no longer be embedded in Iraqi combat units or used to combat Iranian influence (all pledges made during his campaign).

Many Americans cheer. But the next day, The Washington Post records stunned disbelief among the troops. A high-ranking officer observes, "The surest way to break the morale of the military is to undo its achievements and humiliate it on the verge of success." Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni allies react with panic at another sign of American unsteadiness and retreat from the region. Armed groups of Sunni and Shiites within Iraq begin preparing for a resumption of sectarian conflict. An intercepted al-Qaeda communication talks of "so much defeat, exhaustion and death -- and then, praise be, this unexpected victory!"

Obama's 100-day agenda would be designed, in part, to improve America's global image. But there is something worse than being unpopular in the world -- and that is being a pleading, panting joke. By simultaneously embracing appeasement, protectionism and retreat, President Obama would manage to make Jimmy Carter look like Teddy Roosevelt.

Those of us who are old enough to remember the debacle that was the Carter presidency can’t help but believe that Obama is indeed the second coming – of Jimmy Carter.

The unintended consequences of Carter’s ill-conceived approach to foreign policy are with us to this day—in fact President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is one of those unintended consequences. There’s a certain symmetry to Obama’s insistence on meeting with that little man. From Carter, the little man was spawned. Back to Carter, a President Obama intends to return. I shudder at the thought.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Israel steps up its defense as rockets rain on Ashkelon—a major Israeli city near Gaza—and the MSM screams about Palestinian casualties. The blog site Crusader Rabbit provides a summary of typical headlines:

SMH - Israel kills 60 Palestinians
The Age - Israel kills 60 Palestinians
Reuters - U.S. calls for end to Israeli-Palestinian violence
CNN - Israeli strikes in Gaza kill 20
LA Times - Israeli attacks kill 54 in Gaza - 60 killed in fierce Gaza battles
BBC - Dozens die in Israel-Gaza clashes
IHT - Israel attacks northern Gaza, killing scores
Yahoo! News - Israeli strikes kill 54 in Gaza
FOXNews - Gaza Erupts in Violence

Reading these blatantly biased headlines, you’d think that Israel wantonly attacked the poor Gazans who were simply living their peaceful lives. No mention of the Hamas’ rocket attacks that precipitated the Israeli’s defensive response. No mention that Hamas launches its rockets from within civilian areas, purposely putting its own population at risk. No matter that over the past two and a half years, Hamas has launched 3652 rockets at Israeli civilian areas (and only 1477 against military targets) [source: PT Watch. Sure, some mention of the rockets is often made toward the end of these stories. But the headlines—the things that everyone reads—speak for themselves.

Interestingly, some of the “civilian casualties” attributed to the Israelis are instead, due to Qassam rockets that fall short and land in Gaza. Buried deep in a New York Times report (17th paragraph) we find the following:
Hamas said that one girl, Malak Karfaneh, 6, died Friday night from an Israeli strike on Beit Hanun in northern Gaza, but residents said that a Palestinian rocket had fallen short and landed near the house, killing her and wounding three siblings.

Israeli officials say that up to half of Palestinian rockets — mostly crude, inaccurate Qassams — fall inside Gaza. But when Hamas broke open the border with Egypt, Israeli officials say, the militants were able to bring in more of the manufactured Katyusha-style rockets as well as antitank missiles and concrete, for building fortifications.

For a moment, just imagine the US response if Mexico had launched 3,000 plus rockets across the border, hitting U.S. schools, hospitals, houses, and small cities in the United States. Imagine if the entire population of El Paso or Brownsville, Texas had to duck and cover 3 or 4 times a day. I suspect the rocket sites in Mexico would be obliterated, and any civilians in the vicinity would suffer the consequences of proximity.

Purposely targeting civilians is what Hamas does. Where's the international outrage for this clear violation of international law? Where are the headlines? There won’t be any, because Left-leaning reporters and their editors have a story to tell, and that’s not part of the prescribed narrative.