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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Small Contribution

Assume for just a moment that an investigative reporter for say, The New York Times, uncovered a set of campaign contributions totaling $24,321.41 for John McCain from a individual loosely associated with an anti-Semitic, violent group based in Georgia. The campaign contributions are shown to be demonstrably real, listed as part of data submitted by the campaign at the Federal Elections commission website. Do you think (1) the NYT would print the story, (2) that the story would be picked up widely by broadcast media, (3) there would be questions asked of the McCain campaign, and (4) there would be demands that the money be returned? I’d say you could safely bet your life that all four things would happen.

But that isn’t the story.

Rather, Pamella Geller has exhaustively documented a set of contribnutions totaling $24,321.41 from one Monir Edwan of Rafah GA to the campaign of Barack Obama. The contribution is listed in FEC data submitted by the Obama campaign. Problem is, there is no Rafah, GA, at least in the USA. The donation originated from the Rafah “refugee camp” (actually a small city) in the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip (that’s the same anti-Semitic, violent Hamas that is listed as a terrorist group by the US, the EU, and others). The fact that personal donations are generally limited to $2,300 and more importantly, that donations from foreign nationals are expressly prohibited by FEC rules make this story quite juicy. Have you heard about it in the MSM? Didn’t think so.

Now, it’s reasonable to assume that the Obama campaign made a simple clerical error that can be easily cleared up and the money returned. But it hasn’t been, and no one in the MSM has asked Obama or his people why. It might also be telling to ask why the Obama campaign thinks residents of Hamas-controlled Gaza feel compelled to donate money to their guy in a US Presidential election. Their answer would be interesting. Guess questions on subjects like this are simply a “distraction,” at least when Barack Obama is the focal point.

Update (8/7/08)

USA Today breathlessly reports an illicit McCain campaign contribution.
WASHINGTON (AP) — John McCain's campaign began on Thursday to review donations brought in by the prominent head of a Florida oil trading company following disclosures that his business partner, a foreign citizen, also may have engaged in fundraising.

The campaign is looking into hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to make sure that they are appropriate, a spokesman said.

The campaign sent a letter spelling out legal requirements to all donors who sent their contributions through Harry Sargeant III, the finance chairman of the Florida Republican Party.

It's illegal for foreigners to contribute their own money to U.S. campaigns.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Sargeant allowed a longtime business partner, Mustafa Abu Naba'a, to bring in some $50,000 in donations in March from members of a single extended family, the Abdullahs, in California, along with several of their friends.

USA today also mentions Hillary Clinton and her relationship with Norman Hsu, who "was indicted for making contributions to various political candidates in the names of others."

But the illegal campaign contribution to the media's Chosen One noted in the body of this post. Not a mention by either USA Today or the NYT. Hmmmm.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Today, Reuters reports that the:
… government aims to have 1 million electric cars on the roads by 2014 as part of a plan to cut energy consumption and dependence on expensive imports …”

Wow, 2014, that’s only 6 years from now!

The news service also reports that a senior government executive stated:
…"Electric vehicles are the future and the driver of the industrial revolution …"

Man, that's terrific! The government is finally starting to get its act together. Oh wait, there’s a problem. The government isn’t ours. It’s Spain.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, DC, the Democratic Congress, lead by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid—more focused on making the Bush administration look bad (at any cost) and electing Barack Obama as President—does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to address the real crisis we face (no it isn’t the alleged “climate crisis”) — it's energy independence. Harry and Nancy talk about the problem, but taking a page from Obama’s playbook, offer no tangible solutions and absolutely no viable legislation to solve it.

If this is any indication of what Barack, Harry, and Nancy have planned over the next four years, ending rather poetically in 2014, be afraid, be very, very afraid. We’ll have more vacuous “hope and change” than we can stand, and Spain will have one million electric cars plying its roads.

Viva Espana.


At a recent campaign event, Barack Obama, who is against any increases in domestic drilling, stated: "We could save all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling if everybody was just inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups. You could save just as much."

The candidate of hope and change is supposed to be a really smart guy. If what he says is true, I'm surprised he hasn't figured out that if we inflate our tires and get our cars tuned and drill for oil, we would have twice the effective domestic energy increase in the short term. In the longer term, Obama has proposed no concrete plan for energy independence except "creating green jobs" and saving the planet. Maybe his "world tour" should have skipped the speech in Germany and stopped in Spain instead.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Obama and Mama (Mia)

My wife dragged me to see Mama Mia, an homage to the music of Abba and a Hollywood version (starring Meryl Streep) of the successful Broadway musical. Both of us were significantly less than impressed. But what we both found so startling was how many of our friends and acquaintances loved the movie—absolutely loved it!

After hearing yet another otherwise intelligent and worldly person rave about the movie, I looked at my wife and asked: “You mean to tell me that they honestly think casting fifty-somethings who have little musical or dancing talent made sense, or that the directing wasn’t over the top, or the choreography wasn’t amateurish, or the story line was laughably ridiculous, or …”

She raised her hand … always wise. “You’re absolutely right about the movie,” she replied, “but sometimes you simply decide to like something and discount all the reasons why you shouldn’t. Besides, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

“I suppose.” I shrugged and moved on the other things.

I recalled our conversation this morning while reading yet another media piece extolling the many virtues of Barack Obama. It’s really remarkable how many people (and reporters) love this young politician—absolutely love him!

I have, in many other posts, recounted many of the reasons why I do not. I won’t repeat them here, except to say that my astonishment about Mama Mia is analogous to my astonishment about Barack Obama. To paraphrase my comment on the movie: “You mean to tell me that they honestly think casting a one term senator who has little experience and no executive talent makes sense, or that his clarion call for hope and change that will “heal the planet” isn’t just a little over the top, or that his past and current associations aren’t cause for concern, or his lack of principled stands (he was against the Iraq war in 2002, for it in 2004, against it in 2006) or …”

There is, however, one issue that I hadn’t addressed. For all of those readers who love Obama, I’d ask that you address a question posed by Richard Cohen.
"Just tell me one thing Barack Obama has done that you admire," I asked a prominent Democrat. He paused and then said that he admired Obama's speech to the Democratic convention in 2004. I agreed. It was a hell of a speech, but it was just a speech.

On the other hand, I continued, I could cite four or five actions -- not speeches -- that John McCain has taken that elicit my admiration, even my awe. First, of course, is his decision as a Vietnam War POW to refuse freedom out of concern that he would be exploited for propaganda purposes. To paraphrase what Kipling said about Gunga Din, John McCain is a better man than most.

But I would not stop there. I would include campaign finance reform, which infuriated so many in his own party; opposition to earmarks, which won him no friends; his politically imprudent opposition to the Medicare prescription drug bill (Medicare has about $35 trillion in unfunded obligations); and, last but not least, his very early call for additional troops in Iraq. His was a lonely position, virtually suicidal for an all-but-certain presidential candidate, and no help when his campaign nearly expired last summer. In all these cases, McCain stuck to his guns.

There’s more, much more. McCain advocated immigration reform when his entire party was against it. But he stuck to his guns, even though the right wing screamed. He has criticized Congressional earmarks (often referred to a pork-barrel projects) repeatedly and has never requested one for his home state of Arizona. That’s sticking to your convictions.

Obama has criticized earmarks as well, but here’s the difference. Obama has requested almost ¾ of a billion dollars in earmarks for Illinois in his three years in the senate. He most definitely has not put your money where his mouth is.

So to return to Cohen’s question, I ask those of you who are in love: “Which of Barack’s political actions or achievements—not attributes—do you admire?” And please, spare me comments like he’s smart, eloquent, or charismatic. Those attributes can be applied to Meryl Streep, but they didn’t help her avoid being completely miscast for her role.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Better Place

I have written on a number of occasions that our national leadership's inaction in the 35 years following the oil embargo and energy shortages of 1973 has been the greatest political failure in my lifetime. It also proves that government is incapable of solving our energy woes. In fact, the Congress, as exemplified by the Democrat's current doctrinaire stance against off-shore drilling as a stop gap (but important) measure, is an impediment to energy independence, not an enabler.

Our leaders have refused to lead, and as the saying goes, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Maybe Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and their colleagues should simply get out of the way and let the adults take us toward energy independence.

And who, you might ask, are the adults? For starters, consider T. Boone Pickens , a no-nonsense businessman who is investing billions of dollars in wind power and the infrastructure required to deliver it. Or how about Shai Agassi, a former a top executive at German software giant SAP (SAP) who has created, a consortium of government (Israel and Denmark, but not the US as yet) and industry (e.g., Nissan and Renault) to develop and promote mass produced electric vehicles.

By coupling wind and solar electric power with mass produced electric vehicles, I am convinced within 10 years, we could break the oil producers stranglehold on the world economy. It would be satisfying to see Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil producers forced (by the market) to develop real economies as their oil profits plummeted. It would be sweet to see them forced to curtail their support of radical Islam and terrorist organizations and for the first time hundreds of years, grapple with their own broken culture.

That's the kind of change I can believe in.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Burning Down the Forest

I had an opportunity to see The Dark Knight—the latest Batman movie. I suspect that most readers have already seen this film (if you haven’t, so so) and recognize that The Dark Knight is more than a typical superhero action adventure story—it’s a compelling allegory about good and evil.

Batman, played by Christian Bale, is a force for justice in Gotham City, a metropolis that is racked by corruption and murder. His antagonist, The Joker, played brilliantly by the late Heath Ledger, is a psychopathic killer who is beyond reason or negotiation. The Joker’s raison d'être is chaos, a state that is relatively easy to achieve by terrorizing the populace of Gotham City.

The Joker brags that he has no rules. He’s free to kill innocents, to burn or bomb buildings, to lie, to cheat, to abrogate agreements, to do anything that will terrorize, thereby furthering his own warped anarchistic ideology.

Batman, on the other hand, lives by a set of defined rules (e.g., no killing) and throughout most of the story, the Joker has the advantage. In fact, in attempting to subdue the psychopath, Batman is criticized because the joker goes on a murder spree. If the Batman hadn’t antagonized the criminal element of Gotham, goes the trope, The Joker wouldn’t have risen to power and the populace would be safe.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it might be because it mirrors (whether intentionally or unintentionally, I don’t know) the criticism of those who lament our approach to the ill-named War on Terror. If we (the USA) hadn’t antagonized the Islamofascist element in the Middle East, goes the trope, al Qaeda wouldn’t have risen to power. Our defensive actions against psychopathic killers somehow empower them, so we should just … what? Understand their grievances?

In The Dark Knight we see that The Joker has no real grievances. That’s not what he’s about. He does terror because he’s good at it and he enjoys his work. His “no rules” approach to the game troubles Batman and stymies him repeatedly.

There is a small scene in the movie that seems incidental, but in reality, tells the whole story. Batman is troubled by The Joker’s psychopathic persona and wonders aloud what it is that The Joker wants—money or power or both. Alfred (played by Michael Caine), his confidant and butler, tells the story of his time in Burma where he was either a British soldier or intelligence operative (we’re never told which).

In Burma, there was a vicious Bandit who terrorized the populace over many months. Hiding in a vast forest, he was difficult to track down so the populace decided to bribe him to stop. He was given rubies, but the terror continued. As the authorities hunted for the bandit, they found that he threw away the valuable stones—he didn’t care about the bribes, just the ability to terrorize and steal.

A bit later in the scene, Batman asks, “Did you catch him?”

“Oh, Yes.”

Batman looks up at his droopy-eyed Butler. “How?”

In his droll delivery, Alfred replies.

“We burned down the forest.”

Sometimes, as horrific as it seems, that’s the only viable approach.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The World Tour — II

As the Obama world tour continues with the Chosen One now speaking before adoring European crowds, I’m left asking myself how an inexperienced politician with no real domestic or international legislative accomplishments and no leadership experience of any kind has achieved the adoration of European and American audiences. Bottom line, people have been overcome with emotion, maybe even love. Logic, facts, inconsistencies just don’t matter. In fact, unpleasant questions are shunted aside as if they simply don’t exist. Even professionals in the MSM are in a swoon, so interested in participated in a historic event (the election of a young, vibrant African American politician) that they have forgotten their role and become cheerleaders.

Melanie Phillips comments from the UK:
What is even more disturbing, however, is that these matters [Obama’s inexperience, lack of accomplishment and unsavory connections] are being brushed aside or ignored – because so many people want desperately to believe in him.

Such a suspension of disbelief calls to mind someone else closer to home: Princess Diana, who also inspired hysterical adoration because she, too, became an icon of idealism — challenging the established order.

A deeply attractive figure, she seemed to embody hope for a better universe by appealing to emotion rather than reason.

Love, as embodied by ‘the queen of people’s hearts’, was held to be the key to a better, kinder, gentler world. There was even a sense that her mere touch was sufficient to heal the afflicted.

It was, of course, all pure fantasy. People had fallen for a carefully spun image which bore little relation to the manipulative and unstable woman who was the real Diana, but which spoke to something deep inside them.

So it is with Obama. Americans’ natural optimism makes them want to believe that, as a black man with a Muslim background (another thing he has cleverly obfuscated), he can heal all wounds, including the U.S.’s history of racism, and bring peace to the world just by being who he is.

They see in his attractiveness a flattering reflection of themselves. He doesn’t embarrass them; he makes them feel proud.

He is not a Texas oilman who can’t string a sentence together: he has oratorical skills to die for.

He is not old, frail and nondescript like McCain, but young, vigorous and attractive. He is, in short, everything they want America — and themselves — to be.

His very incoherence over policy, the fact we don’t know what he really believes in, enables people to project onto him their hopes and desires. He is the perfect fantasy politician. He is America’s very own Princess Obama.

But, of course, the belief that a handsome prince can magic away the troubles of the world is infantile. The idea that there is a new kind of sanitised politics by which problems can be solved without having to make hard choices is a dangerous delusion.

It may be that Obama has overplayed his hand just a bit. It would seem that with all of the positive media coverage of his world tour, Obama’s polling numbers would begin the swamp McCain. They have not.

Maybe (and here I’m indulging in wishful thinking) the MSM will tire of it’s cheerleader role and begin to ask hard questions and then follow-up with even more probing questions when Obama obfuscates so that he can remain all things to all people.

But I doubt it’ll happen. Instead, a significant segment of the electorate will see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. And as a consequence, a man may be elected President based on nothing more than a cult of personality. It’s just a little creepy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The World Tour

This USA Today report from Berlin is all too typical of the fawning MSM coverage that has accompanied The Chosen One’s "World Tour" of the Middle East and Europe (keep in mind that the paragraphs that follow are intended to be a news item, not an op-ed piece):
BERLIN (AP) — Europe is about to give Barack Obama one of the grandest of stages for statesmanship.

In this city where John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all made famous speeches, Obama will find himself stepping into perhaps another iconic moment Thursday as his superstar charisma meets German adoration live in shadows of the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. He then travels to Paris and London where he can expect to be greeted with similar adulation.

It's not only Obama's youth, eloquence and energy that have stolen hearts across the Atlantic. For Europeans, there have always been two Americas: one of cynicism, big business and bullying aggression, another of freedom, fairness and nothing-is-impossible dynamism.

If President Bush has been seen as the embodiment of that first America, Obama has raised expectations of a chance for the nation to redeem itself in the role that — at various times through history — Europe has loved, respected and relied upon.

"Americans need a change — and what's good for America is good for the whole world," said Maike Smerling, a physician who was born and raised in the former East Germany.

It appears that the much of the MSM has made a conscious decision to swing the US election in favor of an inexperienced and truly untested politician. A politician who little more than 4 years ago was a lowly Illinois State Senator. A man who has never developed a piece of significant Federal legislation, has never worked across party lines on any contentious issue, has never been intimately involved in any foreign policy initiative of substance, has never held an executive or management position of any stature, never run a government agency, a military unit, or a small business. A man whose personal associations over the past 20 years are cause for concern, a “constitutional law professor” who has never written any substantive scholarly article or book (other than books about himself), a community activist whose work in Chicago created housing that was so poorly run it was shut down by the Federal government, but not before it enriched his friends and political contributors (e.g., convicted criminal, Tony Resko).

But no worries. Barack Obama is a rock star, and like squealing teenagers, the MSM network anchors and major left-leaning newspapers embarrass themselves by refusing to address any of the issues that are implied by the preceding paragraph. No hard questions and never a substantive follow-up. After all, probing meaningful issues and asking hard questions is a “distraction” to the real work of getting the Chosen One elected.



Even with the fawning coverage by network anchors and US-based editors, it appears that the Obama campaign is skittish about allowing their candidate to meet with reporters in ad hoc interviews on his "world tour." Andrea Mitchell of ABC News (certainly not a conservative voice) complained: "He didn't have reporters with him, he didn't have a press pool, he didn't do a press conference while he was on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq."

Barack Obama is very good at looking good, even better when delivering a prepared speech, but a mere mortal when answering questions in an ad hoc manner. Maybe that’s why he often answers the few hard questions that are posed to him in less than an articulate manner, often exhibiting factual errors or contradictory points of view (waffling) within the same answer.

Haven't seen any of that on the MSM? Hmmmm, I wonder why?

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Taxing Situation

Barack Obama has already stated that he’ll raise tax rates on “the rich” so that they pay “their fair share.” This position is an article of faith among those on the Left and is shared wholeheartly by Congressman Charles Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—the place where new tax law emanates. IRS data over the past 18 years indicates that there is an inverse correlation between tax rates and government income—that is, the lower the tax rate the more the government collects in tax revenue. It appears that fewer people implement tax avoidance schemes when rates are low and economic activity is stimulated when people have more money in their own pocket. But no matter, taxes are on their way up—all in the interest of fairness.

The Wall Street Journal reports data that are worth noting:
… the top 1% of taxpayers, those who earn above $388,806, paid 40% of all income taxes in 2006, the highest share in at least 40 years. The top 10% in income, those earning more than $108,904, paid 71%. Barack Obama says he's going to cut taxes for those at the bottom, but that's also going to be a challenge because Americans with an income below the median paid a record low 2.9% of all income taxes, while the top 50% paid 97.1%. Perhaps he thinks half the country should pay all the taxes to support the other half.

The counter-argument that is voiced by those on the Left is that the “rich” earn a substantial portion of earned income. In fact, the top 1 percent earned 22 percent of income. But according to IRS data, they paid almost double that percentage in taxes. It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of the “rich” are not trust fund kids. They come from middle class families and built their own wealth the old fashioned way—they earned it through hard work.

The WSJ comments:
The idea that this [lower tax rates] has been a giveaway to the rich is a figment of the left's imagination. Taxes paid by millionaire households more than doubled to $274 billion in 2006 from $136 billion in 2003. No President has ever plied more money from the rich than George W. Bush did with his 2003 tax cuts. These tax payments from the rich explain the very rapid reduction in the budget deficit to 1.9% of GDP in 2006 from 3.5% in 2003.

But no matter. The MSM and the Democratic party regularly reinforce the meme that the rich don’t pay their fair share. I wonder, what would that fair share be? Maybe the top 10 percent should pay, what, 90 percent of all taxes? Why not 95 or 100 percent? Since paying 7 of every 10 dollars collected in federal taxes isn’t fair, someone should ask Barack Obama what number he thinks is fair. I wonder how he’d answer.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


USA Today provides us with the following report from Israel:
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanded Sunday that Israel cease settlement construction and promised more money to jump-start the battered Palestinian economy.

In his first trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories as Britain's leader, Brown repeatedly stressed that economics are key to Mideast peace, and said Israel should ease travel restrictions in the West Bank that have hindered commerce.

But his strongest comments were reserved for the settlements: "I think the whole European Union is very clear on this matter: We want to see a freeze on settlements."

"Settlement expansion has made peace harder to achieve. It erodes trust, it heightens Palestinian suffering, it makes the compromises Israel needs to make for peace more difficult," Brown said at a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

So … let me see if I’ve got this straight. Building housing developments on barren land that is claimed to be Palestinian land (only because the “Palestinians” say so) makes “peace harder to achieve” and “erodes trust.” Yeah, building houses certainly increases Palestinian "suffering."

I wonder whether launching 6,000 plus rockets into existing Israeli towns erodes trust or whether murdering civilians with suicide bomb blasts makes peace harder to achieve. I wonder whether Israeli suffering at the hands of terrorist thugs matters — nah, not to the usual suspects like Gordon Brown.

For that matter, since Hamas claims the entire state of Israel to be its own, I don’t see why Gordon Brown and the Euros don’t condemn the building of any housing development in, say, Tel Aviv or Haifa—after all, Hamas' claim to Tel Aviv and Haifa is as valid as its claim to the land where housing is currently being built, isn't it?

It’s long past the time when demands for tangible concessions are made of the Palestinians, not the Israelis. Oops forgot, we make demands of the Palestinians. It’s just that no one seems to care when they don’t address the demands. In fact, it’s as if the US State department, the EU, and every human rights group on the planet suffers from selective amnesia. When the Palestinians abrogate an agreement or conduct terror activities, it’s all forgotten within days. When the Israelis build houses in violation of a "road map" that the Palestinians also agreed to but have never followed, it becomes a cause celeb that is never forgotten.

Through the looking glass—middle eastern style.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Remember November, 2006? The Democrats won a sweeping victory in Congress, ousting the Republicans and promising a new age—a time when things of importance would be accomplished. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was hailed as the first woman to head the august body, Harry Reid took over the Senate, and all of us expected good things. Well, some of us, anyway.

Two years later, Congress’ RCP average approval rating is 17.3 percent, the lowest ever recorded. President Bush, for all of his problems, has a RCP average approval rating is 28.5 percent. Hmmm.

To call this Democrat-lead congress “do nothing” is to overstate their accomplishments. It appears that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are more concerned about keeping the public mood as dark as possible so that it hurts the Republicans in the November election.

Real and very serious problems face us now, and the congress does exactly … nothing. To be fair, many of those same problems faced the earlier Republican congress, and they did exactly … nothing. But that in no way leaves the Democrats blameless.

The current congressional majority seems so consumed by Bush Derangement Syndrome that they appear to believe that anything they accomplish will somehow reflect positively on the President. And that is an absolute no-no. Bush's reign must be a complete failure, and it appears that the Democrats are doing everything possible to ensure that it is.

Among the most egregious failures of the current congress is its inability to address the energy crunch in any meaningful way. Gary Andres writes:
The House majority leadership has pulled out all the stops to block votes on measures aimed at increasing domestic supply. The entire appropriations process has virtually ground to a halt because of Democratic leadership concerns that Republicans might offer amendments aimed at expanding energy resources. The majority has canceled markups in committee and restricted the types of bills the House considers, using its considerable procedural power to exclude amendments and other legislative ideas from consideration.

All of these efforts are aimed at blocking one thing: congress working its will. Lawmakers could come together on legislative proposals aimed at more domestic production, expanding refining capacity and investing in renewable resources. But these days, the House is more likely to name a post office than pass energy legislation. It is a pattern that reinforces Americans' worst stereotypes about the institution.

House Republicans feel emboldened by their successes so far. "This is the most unified and energized I have seen our members all year," a senior Republican leadership aide told me.

The House Democratic leadership is making a common error: failing to produce legislative achievement by compromising with the minority. In today's polarized environment on Capitol Hill, party politics is a zero sum game. If Republicans develop a popular new idea, Democrats bury it. The notion of sharing political accomplishment is not in the congressional leadership's lexicon. A former Democratic senator once told me, "Party leadership now approaches legislation like the Super Bowl; there's only winners and losers." Lawmakers found a model for legislative success earlier this year with the bipartisan economic stimulus legislation. The economy needed a boost; Congress came together to do what it could. If Democrats reached out and repeated this pattern several more times - on issues such as energy, for example, voters would take notice. That would boost congressional popularity and probably solidify the Democratic majority.

I’d like to pat Nancy Pelosi on the head (why not, she often acts like a small child) and tell her, “Nancy, it’s okay to compromise when the interests of the country demand it. It’s okay to be bipartisan when the economic health of citizens across this land is in jeopardy. It’s okay, Nancy, to admit that sometimes, fanatic special interests (in this case, the environmental lobby) in your corner can’t always get what they want. It’s okay, just do the right thing.”

But she won’t, nor will Harry Reid, or the democratic majority. Hence, they may soon look back wistfully at the 17.3 approval rating.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Exchange

Israel released Samir Kuntar, a brutal Hezballah terrorist who murdered a 4-year old child by crushing her skull with a rifle butt, in exchange for the bodies of two kidnapped Israeli solders. Not surprisingly, Kuntar, along with four other released prisoners received a hero’s welcome. The Jerusalem Post reports:
Five Lebanese prisoners freed from Israeli prisons for the bodies of kidnapped IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev have flown into Beirut airport to an official welcome by the Lebanese president and his government.

Kuntar to receive hero's welcome in Lebanon.

President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and members of major political factions, including Hizbullah's rivals, were on hand to welcome them in a show of unity and opposition to Israel.

The five were flown by two army helicopters from the southern Lebanese border town of Naqoura, and stood in battle fatigues on a stand as the president addressed them as "the freed heroes."

The Jerusalem Post also reports:
President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday sent his regards to the families of Samir Kuntar and the other four Lebanese prisoners scheduled to be transferred to Hizbullah.
Abbas praised the prisoner swap and congratulated the Kuntar family.

The sad thing about this event is that it was absolutely predictable. Once barbarians, always barbarians. And to think, these are Israel’s “peace partners.”

But there’s a much more important element to this sad story. The two kidnapped Israeli IDF reservists, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were alive when they were captured, a fact verified by none other than Jesse Jackson (who tried futilely to negotiate their release) and the Red Cross. They were murdered while being held by Hezballah—a clear violation of international law and human rights.

So where’s Amnesty International and other left-wing human rights groups? Where’s the outrage? For that matter, where’s the media in reporting this story? Sure the MSM has noted that “bodies” were traded for live Hezballah thugs, but they have not mentioned that the bodies were live human beings when they were kidnapped and those human beings were murdered in captivity.

Here's how the New York Times characterized the terrorist attack:
Perhaps Israel's most reviled prisoner, Samir Kuntar, will return to a hero's welcome when he crosses into Lebanon this week, 29 years after he left its shores in a rubber dinghy to kidnap Israelis from the coastal town of Nahariya.

That raid went horribly wrong, leaving five people dead, a community terrorized and a nation traumatized. Two Israeli children and their father were among those killed.

Oh. The terrorist raid went "horribly wrong?" Crushing a little girl's skull was obviously unavoidable after things went "horribly wrong?" Executing civilians in cold blood was mandatory after things went "horribly wrong?"

It seems that whenever Islamist groups commit atrocities, the first option of left-leaning MSM is to try to avoid discussing the issue, failing that, the second is to minimize the barbarity of the act (See the NYT excerpt above), and if the first two options aren't viable, the third is to always introduce phoney causative factors for the resultant barbarism.

In a related story, left-leaning human rights activists have decried the treatment of Omar Khadr, an Al Qaeda terrorist captured in Afghanistan after killing a US soldier. Horror of horrors … the US interrogators made poor Omar cry. Psychic “torture,” no doubt. And from high atop their moral plateau, we get righteous indignation. Crying just isn’t allowed.

But murder of a captive uniformed Israeli soldier? By Hezballah? Better to look the other way. Better to mute any response. After all, from high up on the moral plateau, the only bad guys are us.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I spent an hour listening to Barack Obama’s “major foreign policy address” this morning. Although much of his commentary on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan rehashed old themes, his commentary on those three countries was reasonable, if a bit idealistic and in the case of Pakistan, just a tad provocative. In fact, he’s come so far to the center over the past few months that it’ll soon be difficult to differentiate his position from that of John McCain.

To be blunt, now that the heavy lifting has been done and the surge has worked, Obama has conveniently forgotten his opposition to the surge (his website was purged of all comments in that regard this week), and the Democratic nominee has adjusted his position accordingly.

But when he discussed Iran, his true ideology seeped through. In his speech Obama stated:
We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of nations that support terror. Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a vital national security interest of the United States.

So far, so good. There are few Americans or Europeans who would oppose that sentiment. But then:
No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table, but Senator McCain would continue a failed policy that has seen Iran strengthen its position, advance its nuclear program, and stockpile 150 kilos of low enriched uranium.

Hmmm. And what exactly is the “failed policy” that Obama is referring to? Matthew Continetti fills us in:
Obama might not admit it, but for about five years now the Bush administration has followed a course of action rather similar to his preferred policy. Bush has pursued multilateral diplomacy through international institutions (the U.N., the IAEA) and through an ad hoc coalition called the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and the United States) in order to induce Iran to suspend its enrichment activities. Obama's policy would be a tad more unilateral, because he would prefer to have direct negotiations with the Iranians and thus remove our allies from the equation altogether.

And that’s exactly what Obama proposed today:
I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, starting with aggressive, principled and direct diplomacy - diplomacy backed with strong sanctions and without preconditions.

There will be careful preparation. I commend the work of our European allies on this important matter, and we should be full partners in that effort. Ultimately the measure of any effort is whether it leads to a change in Iranian behavior. That's why we must pursue these tough negotiations in full coordination with our allies, bringing to bear our full influence - including, if it will advance our interests, my meeting with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing.

We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives. If you refuse, then we will ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions in the Security Council, and sustained action outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime. That's the diplomacy we need. And the Iranians should negotiate now; by waiting, they will only face mounting pressure.

Matthew Continetti continues:
But does any serious person believe that an offer of direct negotiations without preconditions would change the basic situation? Most reasonable advocates of such talks advocate them just so the United States can say it has "gone the extra mile" in trying to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program.

Iran has been immune to peaceful persuasion. Since 2006, the Security Council has adopted five resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its enrichment activities and comply fully with the IAEA. And because those resolutions were summarily ignored, the Security Council has also enacted four rounds of punitive sanctions directed at the Iranian regime. No change.

Meanwhile, the P5+1 has made two direct offers to the Iranians, one in June 2006 and the other in June 2008, to lift sanctions and implement security guarantees if Iran "suspends" -- not ends -- uranium enrichment. As the P5+1 foreign ministers put it in their latest appeal to their Iranian counterpart, "We are ready to work with Iran in order to find a way to address Iran's needs and the international community's concerns, and reiterate that once the confidence of the international community in the exclusively peaceful nature of your nuclear program is restored, it will be treated in the same manner as that of any Non-Nuclear Weapon State party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty." This isn't exactly what you would call provocative language.

So it appears that Obama’s foreign policy will be the same as the “failed policy” he rails against, except that it will be more naive, more time consuming and not any more effective.

It appears, that unlike Pakistan (a true nuclear power he wants to attack),Obama is much more circumspect about Iran (a wannabe nuclear power). Continetti notes:
Asked how the United States ought to respond to last week's Iranian missile tests, Barack Obama told CNN that it was important "we avoid provocation." Just as last year, Obama criticized a Senate bill designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization because it was too "provocative." This has us wondering: Is the problem with Iran that the United States seems provocative?

We should avoid provoking Iran? That’s the same Iran that is scurrying to build weapons of mass destruction, has threatened to obliterate Israel and close the Gulf of Hormus? The same Iran that is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our troops in Iraq? That Iran? And the thing we should avoid is any “provocative action.”

Yeah, that’ll work. But I suppose if your only lever is talk and more talk, sanctions and still more sanctions, the last thing you want to do is to be “provocative.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Choice

The last six years have been a renaissance for “peace activists.” Positioned atop their high moral plateau, they tell us “no more war.” As if there is anyone, save a psychopathic few, who is in favor of bloodshed. These years have also been a renaissance for “human rights activists,” positioned even higher on the plateau, who regularly condemn not the suicidal killers who routinely and purposely kill and main innocents, but rather those, who in trying to stop them, inadvertently kill an innocent or occasionally become overzealous in their treatment of these psychopaths.

On top of the moral plateau, extreme sanctimony is rarely questioned. After all, all violence is bad. Only reasoned negotiations, and failing that, “sanctions,” are morally acceptable.

Ralph Peters comments:
Billions of words have been hurled at Sudan's government. The misery in Darfur not only continues but deepens. While intellectuals wrestled with compound sentences, Darfur degenerated from selective oppression to savage anarchy.

Legions of columnists and commentators have deplored Robert Mugabe's monstrous rule in Zimbabwe. But none of the hand-wringing by American, European or even African intellectuals restrained one fist or stopped one club in midair. Guess who "won" that election.

Regiments of professors and pundits have bemoaned China's gobbling of Tibet for half a century. The result? Beijing cracked down even harder.

"Brave" columnists wrote countless columns bemoaning the suffering of the Kurds and the Shia under Saddam Hussein. Their earnest paragraphs didn't save a single life.

Only when better men acted did the surviving victims of one of the world's worst dictatorships glimpse freedom - an imperfect freedom but better than a mass grave.

Nothing positive is going to happen in Sudan or Zimbabwe (or Tibet) until rule-of-law states take action. As outraged activists scribble on, Beijing blithely continues supporting these and other rogue regimes (and our president crawls to the Olympics - it's as if FDR had rushed to the games in Berlin).

It’s easy for the activists to target representative democracies when they use violence to protect themselves or as a last resort when words fail. Collateral damage is equated with purposeful terror. After all, we should know better. Guantanamo is equated with al Queda torture chambers. After all, brutal killers deserve full habeas corpus rights, even though if released, they would happily slit the throats of the activists who support those rights.

Representative democracies are generally populated by reasonable people who would like nothing more than to resolve all matters peaceably. They want to support human rights and want to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Some of those democracies have, in fact, chosen to abandon violent confrontation at all cost but do so with the certain knowledge that other, more responsible democracies will step up when the going get tough.

Peters continues:
Pacifists mean well. But they're a dictator's best friends. The man who won't fight for justice abets the terrorist, the tyrant and the concentration-camp guard.

All decent men want peace. But wise men know that not all men are decent.

The use of the pen is an indulgence we can afford only because better men and women grip the sword on our behalf.

The danger, I believe, is when a leader of a representative democracy begins to believe that the pen or the spoken word can somehow keep evil men at bay. When talking is the only option, when understanding the grievances of psychopathic killers and fanatics is the only strategy, when a subtle slide toward moral equivalence gives the actions of psychopaths the same weight as the actions of those who try to defeat them, we are headed toward a world of more violence, not less. Because in the end, even the activist will have to choose—subjugation and death against freedom and life. And the longer the choice is delayed, the more violent the outcome when the choice is finally made.

An aside:

Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) of the Belmont Club writes:
Barack Obama has reacted to the Iranian missile tests by suggesting diplomacy and negotiations.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday that Iran’s missile tests highlight the need for direct diplomacy as well as tougher threats of economic sanctions and strong incentives to persuade Tehran to change its behavior.

Obama criticized the Bush administration for not engaging Iran in direct talks and for using bellicose language against the government while at the same time increasing exports to Iran.

Iran has been the subject of nothing but diplomacy. After the US embassy was seized, the US used diplomacy. Despite continuous attacks on American soldiers by Iranian officers and personnel, the US has used diplomacy. The entire Iranian nuclear program has been handled through diplomacy, in conjunction with European allies and the United Nations. A whole raft of Security Council Resolutions have directed at the issue of Iranian behavior. America is not at war with Iran. It doesn’t occupy a single inch of Iranian territory. It might be relevant to point out that once upon a time the US actually had diplomats in Teheran in the form of an actual embassy.

It’s a little disturbing when a major Presidential candidate’s first instincts after the Iranians test 9 long missiles are to blame his government for not engaging in direct talks. The real story here is to ask why, if Teheran has no WMD ambitions, it has any ballistic missile program at all. Does anyone actually believe these expensive missiles are going to be fitted with conventional warheads? That would be so cost ineffective as to be implausible. Any reasonable person, looking at the situation, would regard the firing of the 9 missiles with alarm. I think BHO’s reactions are almost unnatural.

And so, one candidate for President of the United States suggests that we talk and then talk some more, and continue talking until … what exactly? Until events finally force us to make a choice that doesn’t involve talking, so long delayed that our adversary has nuclear tipped missiles at the ready. A more violent outcome to be sure, because the choice was delayed.

Is that good judgment and strong leadership? Time will tell.


In the 35 years since the oil embargo of 1973, a time when we received our first warning about our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve done exactly nothing to remedy our dependence on foreign oil. In fact our oil imports have tripled in the intervening years. For those old enough to remember gas lines that stretched for miles and shortages that inconvenienced millions, you’ll also remember that every President since that time has pontificated about energy and every congress has sanctimoniously blamed big oil and done nothing of any substance. Our leadership on this issue has been abysmal.

Along comes an 80-year old oil man, T. Boone Pickens, who has proposed a workable short term strategy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 30 percent in five to ten years. He states:
How will we do it? We'll start with wind power. Wind is 100% domestic, it is 100% renewable and it is 100% clean. Did you know that the midsection of this country, that stretch of land that starts in West Texas and reaches all the way up to the border with Canada, is called the "Saudi Arabia of the Wind"? It gets that name because we have the greatest wind reserves in the world. In 2008, the Department of Energy issued a study that stated that the U.S. has the capacity to generate 20% of its electricity supply from wind by 2030. I think we can do this or even more, but we must do it quicker.

My plan calls for taking the energy generated by wind and using it to replace a significant percentage of the natural gas that is now being used to fuel our power plants. Today, natural gas accounts for about 22% of our electricity generation in the U.S. We can use new wind capacity to free up the natural gas for use as a transportation fuel. That would displace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports. Natural gas is the only domestic energy of size that can be used to replace oil used for transportation, and it is abundant in the U.S. It is cheap and it is clean. With eight million natural-gas-powered vehicles on the road world-wide, the technology already exists to rapidly build out fleets of trucks, buses and even cars using natural gas as a fuel. Of these eight million vehicles, the U.S. has a paltry 150,000 right now. We can and should do so much more to build our fleet of natural-gas-powered vehicles.

I believe this plan will be the perfect bridge to the future, affording us the time to develop new technologies and a new perspective on our energy use. In addition to the plan I have proposed, I also want to see us explore all avenues and every energy alternative, from more R&D into batteries and fuel cells to development of solar, ethanol and biomass to more conservation. Drilling in the outer continental shelf should be considered as well, as we need to look at all options, recognizing that there is no silver bullet.

As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog, we must get started now. And to accomplish anything we must neuter the influence of all special interests who’d love nothing more than sabotaging any reasonable program. Who are the special interests? Big Oil, for one. But there are others: the environmental lobby—neo-Luddites who use “lawfare” (lawsuits) to block any reasonable attempt to solve our energy problems; public utilities—who don’t want to invest in infrastructure at the rate that is necessary; citizen groups who often take a NIMBY approach to any new energy infrastructure development (e.g., a group led by Ted Kennedy, who objected to wind power off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard—after all, the windmills would interfere with their sailing), and all of the rest of us—who consume without regard to any meaningful conservation.

We face a national security crisis as well as an environmental problem, and as a consequence, true leadership would act in a bipartisan manner to neuter each of these special interests. The implication is serious compromise among both Democrats and Republicans, not Barack Obama’s vague definition of the word. We would pass legislation that would preclude lengthy lawsuits (call it a national emergency), streamline regulation and the acquisition of permits, reduce or eliminate public hearings (where politicians do nothing other than grandstand), and establish quantitative short term goals that must be met.

T. Boone Pickens does not have a background as a “community activist.” He’s never been a politician. Maybe that’s why he’s recommending something that could actually work.

What we need is not another government agency. We need a private corporation, call it Energetics Corp., that has been given special tax breaks via legislation and special powers to cut the bureaucratic red tape and get it done. Energetics would be in it for profit and would be granted great leeway as long as it attained clear, quantitative goals. Maybe T. Boone Pickens could be the CEO (yeah, I know, old people can’t lead, right?) and lead us out this mess.

As Pickens states:
We have a golden opportunity in this election year to form bipartisan support for this plan. We have the grit and fortitude to shoulder the responsibility of change when our country's future is at stake, as Americans have proven repeatedly throughout this nation's history.

We need action. Now.

Yeah, we do.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Iraq Index

In March, 2006 the Brookings Institution, a left-of-center think tank that produces thoughtful analyses on a variety of domestic and international issues, began producing the Iraq Index. Brookings describes the index (actually a reasonably lengthy report) in the following manner:
The Iraq Index is a statistical compilation of economic, public opinion, and security data. This resource will provide updated information on various criteria, including crime, telephone and water service, troop fatalities, unemployment, Iraqi security forces, oil production, and coalition troop strength.

The index is designed to quantify the rebuilding efforts and offer an objective set of criteria for benchmarking performance. It is the first in-depth, non-partisan assessment of American efforts in Iraq, and is based primarily on U.S. government information. Although measurements of progress in any nation-building effort can never be reduced to purely quantitative data, a comprehensive compilation of such information can provide a clearer picture and contribute to a healthier and better informed debate.

In essence Brookings produced a series of tabular and graphical metrics that indicate progress in Iraq. During 2006 and 2007, the metrics indicated a dismal picture of a country in chaos. At that time, Democratic leaders including Pelosi, Reid, Dodd, and of course, Barack Obama, argued that we should exit Iraq precipitously. There was, they collectively argued, no chance of success. They. Were. Wrong.

Today, the Iraq Index indicates significant, sometimes spectacular, progress in every area— crime, telephone and water service, civilian and troop fatalities, unemployment, Iraqi security forces, oil production, and coalition troop strength.

It’s not surprising that Barack Obama, in his increasingly bizarre double-speak, says his position on Iraq hasn’t changed, but also states that he’s “refining” his position, scurrying away from his commitment to pull our troops out of a “losing effort.” He is right to do that, but he was dead wrong in his assessment when times were tough.

As President, he would have done exactly the wrong thing, much as he argues President Bush did when he invaded Iraq in the first place. Following one bad decision with another bad decision is not solid leadership. In fact, it smacks of inexperience and an overly ideological mindset.

The key question for each of us to ask is this: Obama’s much vaunted “judgment” was seriously flawed in 2006. Why would any of us believe that it would be any better in 2009?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Game, Set, Match

There’s something wonderfully pure about sports. For all the complexity of the game, for all the nuance of the performance, for all the raw power and subtle response, in the end, you either win or lose.

Yesterday, these attributes were exemplified at Wimbledon. Spain's Rafael Nadal defeated the five-time champion Roger Federer (Switzerland) 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7. The match was debatably the greatest ever played.

The thing that impressed me about both Nadal and Federer was their response to adversity. Both had opportunities to win early and frittered them away. Both faced defeat and didn’t crumble. To paraphrase an old Nike slogan (yes, both Nadal and Federer are sponsored by Nike), they exhibited “No Fear.”

Down Championship Point in the fifth set, Federer hit an impossible backhand winner (well, impossible for anyone but Federer or Nadal) to continue the match. Roger Federer didn’t hit a safe shot or make a conservative error. He went for the most difficult shot possible and pulled it off. He wasn’t afraid of lose. Nadal faced 13 break points and lost only one. That’s extreme mental toughness from a 22 year old.

But in the end, Federer summed up sports in general when he said: "In tennis, unfortunately there has to be winners and losers, there’s no draws."

There are many among the intelligentsia who distain sport, opting instead for a competition of the mind, for a duel of ideas. I suspect that the binary nature of sport (“…there has to be winners and losers, there’s no draws") is what troubles them most. In the end, you are master of your own fate, no third party can mediate, negotiate, or decide.

At the entrance to Wimbledon’s center court is a Rudyard Kipling stanza:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on'

In watching both Nadal and Federer, I learned something about Will. So should we all.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Big Stick

Two events occurred over the past few days that should give pause to anyone who believes that negotiation—and negotiation alone—is the way to handle terrorist regimes and to control their actions.

For six years Columbia (under past leadership) attempted to negotiate the release of 16 hostages, including three Americans, who were kidnapped and held by FARC, a Marxist group dedicated to the overthrow of the Columbian government. Didn’t work, so the current Columbian government under President Alvaro Uribe decided to act instead of talk.

The BBCBBC reports:
It has been hailed by Colombian authorities as "an unprecedented operation that will go down in history for its audacity and effectiveness".

Gen Freddy Padilla, the army's commander-in-chief, said Colombia had managed to penetrate "the highest level" of Farc's seven-member secretariat - its most senior governing body.

Intelligence operatives had also infiltrated the cell of rebels led by the man known as "Cesar", who were holding the 15 hostages.

Operation Check - as in "checkmate" - came after months of information gathering and preparation.

An aggressive intelligence and military operation with all of its attendant risks—not negotiation— lead to the release of the hostages.

A few days ago, the Jerusalem Post reported:
Iran expressed readiness to freeze its uranium enrichment program in return for lifting the international sanctions imposed on it, Israel's Channel 2 senior analyst Ehud Ya'ari revealed

He cited unnamed Western officials as the source of the new development.

In the newly formulated deal, incentives were also reportedly discussed, including rebuilding Iran's fleet of aircraft and aiding the country with civilian nuclear technology.

According to the report, an initial six-week trial period would be implemented.

It seems interesting that Israel’s significant military exercises over the Mediterranian and the US Navy’s less than conciliatory comment that any attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz would be considered an act of war have gotten the Mad Mullahs attention. Recall that almost four years of negotiation yielded nothing, but 100 planes performing exercises over the ocean, Israeli sources suggesting that an attack was in the offing, and US commanders backing them in an indirect way seemed to accomplish what talking alone could not.

Knowing the duplicity of the Iranians, any agreement will likely fall apart, but the threat of action against them remains, and apparently it is having an effect.

Those who support Barack Obama’s contention that talking to your enemies is the solution to our problems should keep one image in mind.

You need a very big stick that sits just behind you at the conference table. You don’t necessarily have to use it, but your foe must believe in his gut that you will. Only then, can progress be made.

Will Barack Obama be willing to mount a risky military operation (like Columbia’s) after talks fail, or will he be Carteresque, looking to reduce risk to zero. Would he be frozen by inaction or worse, preside over a military debacle because he views the exercise of power as somehow inappropriate in the post-modern world? No one knows, but there’s absolutely nothing in Obama's limited experience, his thin record, or his rhetoric that would indicate that he would act in a manner similar to Columbia’s President Alvaro Uribe.

And when negotiation does occur, would Barack Obama ensure that the big stick would always sit behind the table? Don’t bet on it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


For the past year the MSM has been reporting economic news using worst case hyperbole and outright misrepresentation in an effort to establish a state of fear among American consumers. The result, I think, is that the media is an important contributor to the public’s perception that economic collapse is just around the corner.

There is no doubt that we’re in an economic rough patch—the housing market’s bubble has burst, irresponsible borrowers and lenders have created a credit crunch and a higher than average number of home foreclosures, oil prices are the highest on record. But at the same time, unemployment numbers remain quite low (by any historical standard), inflation is still well under control, interest rates are very low (by historical standards), and economic growth (as measured by GDP) is still positive (a recession requires two quarters of negative growth).

Yet, John Stossel provides a typical quote on the economy from the MSM:
"It's been described as the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. And it brings with it grave dangers for all American families ... ," said Martin Bashir on "Nightline." "Recession looms .... "

The Great Depression? The time when unemployment was 23 percent (today it’s just over 5.5 percent), when the stock market lost 75 percent of its value (today’s down market has lost just under 20 percent), when there was no employment insurance, no social insurance network of any kind? The allusion to the Great Depression is both inaccurate and inappropriate. Yet it’s common among MSM commentators.

Stossel comments:
The state of economic reporting in this country is abysmal. We might laugh at it if it didn't have bad consequences. But the more people hear such inappropriate comparisons, the more apt they are to believe them and change their behavior accordingly -- investing less and taking fewer economic risks -- thereby aggravating bad economic conditions.

No wonder, as the Associated Press reported, "U.S. consumers are the gloomiest they've been since the tail end of the last prolonged recession".

The question is: why are MSM outlets so doom and gloom? Part of it is the new media ethic that seems to believe that frightened citizens improve Nielsen ratings, so it’s very important to keep the populace frightened. And part, I think, is a distinct anti-administration bias that believes that anything that makes Bush look bad is a good thing and a boost for the MSM’s chosen candidate, Barack Obama.

The problem with such irresponsible reporting is that it’s bad for the country. It contributes to the economic downturn, perhaps even exacerbating it. But no matter, from the point of view of MSM personalities, viewer numbers, readership, and political partisanship trump accurate reporting every time.

It’s enough to put you into a depression.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Over the past six months, I’ve written a wide-ranging series of posts on Barack Obama. Admittedly, none have been complementary. The problem with Obama, I think, isn’t so much his inexperience (which is breathtaking in its lack of depth) or his ideology (which is the farthest Left of any candidate in history), or his lack of bipartisanship (not one important piece of bipartisan legislation bears his name) or his judgment (his associations with unsavory characters like Bill Ayers and Tony Resko indicate questionable judgement or worse), or his ‘adaptability’ (a.k.a., flip flops) that allow him to change position when it is politically expedient), or his disingenuousness (“I was unaware that Rev. Wright talked that way”). Rather it’s little bits of all of these things that when taken in sum amount to a lack in the key ingredient for the President of the United States—character.

Abraham Katsman discusses character when he writes:
Character matters. In a president-and particularly in a commander-in-chief, that kind of character arguably counts more than any particular political orientation or policy. From character flows leadership, as it is character which dictates morally grounded direction and engenders public trust.

Character is critical to determining how a leader will respond to crisis. Will he reach deep within himself and in the traditions that shaped him and find the courage and grace to inspire strength and greatness? Will soldiers trust the wisdom and integrity of his decision when he orders them to war? Will he truly understand the terrible toll of war, as well as the price of appeasement? Will he make decisions based on considerations greater than cheap political expediency?

I think there one other element of character that Katsman alludes to, but does not explicitly describe—the willingness to stick to your principles and deliver an opposing view to an audience that will not like or agree with the opposing view.

I’ve followed John McCain’s career over the past 20 years, and although I don’t agree with him on all things, the man does exhibit character. Whether you use Katsman’s description or my addendum, John McCain has repeated put his political life in jeopardy to stand for the principles he believes in.

I often hear those on the Left suggest that those “who support the war” should send their own sons to fight it. Although McCain never discusses it (something unique among politicians) he has done exactly that. Katsman notes:
Anyone can talk about "supporting our troops"; the McCains serve. McCain's father and grandfather were respected American admirals. Of McCain's four sons, three have gone the military route. One was a Navy pilot like his father, one enlisted in the Marines at age 17 and recently completed a tour in Iraq, and one is completing his education at the Naval Academy (raising the strong possibility that, for the first time in half a century, the United States will have a president with a son at war).

Yet, likely because of those same values, McCain maintains a strict code of silence about his sons' military service, no matter how legitimate his pride or politically useful their military status. Through 2007, McCain was the strongest Senate advocate of vastly increasing troop levels in Iraq, strongly influencing the administration's wildly successful "surge" strategy.

Yet McCain never brought up his own son's service in some of the roughest areas of Iraq. His principled refusal of political advantage from his son's Iraq service extends to refusal even to be interviewed on the subject, or to introduce his son to campaign audiences.

The MSM swoons about Barack Obama’s path toward the nomination, imparting every positive detail about his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters. They have been strangely silent about McCain’s family. Again from Katsman:
How aware is the public that McCain has raised seven children? Or that he adopted his two oldest sons as small boys (children from his wife's prior marriage)? Or that he has raised a Bangladeshi girl with severe health problems adopted from Mother Theresa's orphanage? …

So, it turns out that McCain, standard-bearer of the party constantly slandered as racist, has, without fanfare, raised as his own a Bengali daughter of color. But the character demonstrations regarding his daughter are even more impressive: during his 2000 presidential run, as he was on the verge of becoming the front-runner, rogue staffers of other candidates reportedly conducted a whisper campaign in South Carolina disparaging the McCains for having a "black baby."

Yet, with every justification to unload with both barrels for such nasty politicking, and with as great an opportunity to set the record straight and tell the world about the heroics of being an adoptive father, McCain chose to shield his child by ignoring the smear. Some analysts believe that move may have ultimately cost him the nomination. But McCain has never questioned his choice. It says a lot about the man that he would readily sacrifice the pinnacle of personal political achievement to protect his family's feelings and privacy.

That, my friends, is character. It’s hard not to admire a man who exhibits it. But sadly, character can be McCain’s undoing. There is much about Barack Obama that can be legitimately criticized, much that is cause for concern among those of us in the Center. Yet McCain appears to be reticent to take the gloves off (Obama surely isn’t) and really engage his inexperienced and ideologically extreme opponent. It’s time to begin.