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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Papers in One

When a news organization views itself as the newspaper of record, as The New York Times does, it’s particularly important to be consistent in reporting—to apply a principled analysis to the news, to … yadda, yadda …

“It’s amusing therefore to encounter what James Taranto calls “two papers in one.”
"The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."--New York Times, on the Climategate emails, Nov. 20, 2009

"The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. . . . The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."--New York Times, on the WikiLeaks documents, Nov. 29, 2010


Many of us in the Center have argued over the years that the Times gives new meaning to the word Left-wing bias. If a “leak” (or for that matter, a news story) exposes one of its pet mimes as a fraud, it rarely sees the light of day. But if a “leak” or a news story somehow bolsters one of its beloved mimes, it gets frequent, front-page coverage. So much for objectivity or journalistic ethics.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Over the past two months, President Obama put enormous pressure on Israel to stop the construction of housing units (“settlements”?) in Israel’s own capital of Jerusalem (“disputed territory”?), suggesting that Israeli “intransigence” on this issue was “an impediment to peace.” The President’s cheerleaders in the MSM dutifully reported the President's words. It seems that the President is very concerned about impediments to peace. It's odd, therefore, that he and his media cheerleaders have remained silent on recent developments out of the Middle East.

Robin Shepard reports:
Hard on the heels of a comprehensive opinion survey showing that most Palestinians support a two-state solution only as a stepping stone to a one state solution after Israel has been destroyed, and of a Palestinian Authority report denying any Jewish connection to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, we now have the third emphatic statement of Palestinian rejection of peace and its pre-requisites in under two weeks, this time from the Fatah Revolutionary Council.

Yesterday, the Council stated its implacable opposition to recognising Israel as a Jewish state, as well as to a peace agreement involving land swaps. The first issue is critical; the second important. If Palestinians will not recognise Israel as a Jewish state the conflict cannot come to an end since, as the afore mentioned opinion polls show, Palestinian society will only view any agreement as a temporary measure until the conflict can be resumed on more fabourable terms at a later date. If they reject a priori the possibility of land swaps they are effectively saying there is nothing to talk about on border questions, in which case what is the point of negotiations in the first place?

The Jerusalem Post quoted an Israeli government official as saying the following in response to the Fatah announcement: “I would ask the Palestinians the following question: If the Jewish state is fundamentally illegitimate in your eyes, what sort of peace are you offering us? “It is clear that their refusal to recognize the Jewish state’s legitimacy is the true obstacle to peace and reconciliation.”

Like the BBC in the UK (Shepard’s home), our main stream media has remained silent on these events. After all, the fact that Fatah—the “moderate” Palestinians—has stated that it will never recognize Israel as Jewish state might be just a bit more “intransigent” than, oh, building an apartment complex, and suggesting that any “peace treaty” that was signed would simply be a stepping stone to the destruction of Israel, might be just a bit more newsworthy than, oh, the last flotilla to Gaza.

But all we get from the President and the MSM is the sound of silence. In the delusional view of the Left, the Palestinians are an aggrieved party who would happily pursue peace if only the evil, oppressive Israelis would give peace a chance. Any report that the Palestinians have made three emphatic rejections of peace in two weeks time doesn’t fit that mime, so the administration and the MSM remain silent. The ironic thing is that silence on this issue isn’t news. It happens all the time.

Update (11/29/10):

The Jerusalem Post provides additional details on the Palestinians' anti-peace actions and attitudes over the past few weeks and comments on the Left-leaning media’s blackout of this news. Interesting reading.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


To its credit, The New York Times (certainly not a bastion of anti-Muslim sentiment) reports on the BBC documentary in the following manner:
LONDON — A British network of more than 40 part-time Islamic schools and clubs with 5,000 students has been teaching from a Saudi Arabian government curriculum that contains anti-Semitic and homophobic views, including a textbook that asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jews, according to a BBC documentary broadcast on Monday.

The 30-minute “Panorama” program quoted the Saudi government-supplied textbook as saying that Jews “looked like monkeys and pigs,” and that Zionists set out to achieve “world domination.” The program quoted a separate part of the curriculum — for children as young as 6 — saying that someone who is not a believer in Islam at death would be condemned to “hellfire.”

It should come as no surprise that the core of financial and logistical support for Islamist thinking emanates from Saudi Arabia. Yet, virtually every Western country, including our own, tip-toes around the problem. The reason of course, is oil—Saudi oil. We need it, they have it, and therefore citizens of this this tiny, repressive dictatorship (called a Kingdom) are allowed to sponsor hate worldwide in the name of Islam.

Apologists for the Saudis always have an excuse—always. The Saudis are always misunderstood, the work is always sponsored by Saudi elements that cannot be controlled, the Saudis have no control over curriculum, the curriculum itself is being misrepresented, the materials cited are from ancient texts that have no relevance to modern Islam, … the list goes on and on. Never mind that Saudi Arabia is a repressive regime—everything that goes on inside its borders is carefully controlled and the actions of every one of its citizens are thoroughly monitored. The Saudis—masters of spin who employ the best PR people on the planet—claim ignorance or misinterpretation and always will.

Furthermore, why is it that “Sixty Minutes,” our version of “Panorama,” isn’t taking a harder and more frequent look at Saudi sponsored Madrasses in Houston or Detroit, or Newark, or Los Angeles. Why is it that they seem to look away, rather than examining whether Saudi funded anti-Semitic, homophobic, or misogynist teachings are occurring here? Why is it that our President, our current Congressional leaders, and the vast majority our main stream media don’t comment, when they profess to be such opponents of hate speech, such champions of gay rights, such supporters of women?

Curious, isn’t it?

Friday, November 19, 2010


Today, The Jerusalem Post reports that “11 rockets were fired at western Negev, Ashkelon area in less than 24 hours; 4 mortar shells fired contained white phosphorous.”

Luckily, no injuries were reported, but that really isn’t the point.

Israel builds apartments in Jerusalem and the Obama administration castigates them for “impeding the peace process.”

Never mind that an apartment never injured anyone, or that new building improves the infrastructure and the value of an area. Our President sees it from the point of view of the Palestinians and makes public statements that all but condemn the Israelis. Okay, I suppose that’s his right.

But the White House and our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have, at least so far, been eerily quiet about the Palestinian rocket attacks. After all, the attacks directly targeted Israeli citizens, so no worries.

Let me see if I have this straight.

  • Building apartments in your Capital city = impeding the peace process

  • Launching rockets against civilian population centers = the Palestinians just being Palestinians

I suspect that the left-leaning MSM in the U.S. will eventually report this episode. But they’ll emphasize the IDF response against an Islamic Jihad training base and suggest that the Israeli defensive action was needlessly provocative and that injuries resulted to Palestinians.

After all, the incoming rockets landed harmlessly—this time. A little white phosphorous is nothing to worry about, is it?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One for 285

After Barack Obama took office, he and his attorney general sanctimoniously declared that the evil Bush administration policy of trial by military tribunal of terrorists (a.k.a. prisoners of war) housed at Guantanamo would be no more. Rather, these Islamist foreign nationals would be tried in civilian courts, protected by the Constitution of the United States—a country they wished to destroy.

It was wonderful theater—an act of moral preening that energized the Left.

However, many people in the Center and Right (and even a few on the Left) questioned the wisdom of the President’s policy, suggesting that it was naïve or even irresponsible. After all, protected by the arcane rules of criminal procedure, evidence could disallowed even though it was valid and irrefutable, and without such evidence, a jury might be forced to acquit.

No matter, our President held firm and his attorney general, with hubris that has become an administration trademark, all but guaranteed convictions.

Today, The Washington Post reports:
The first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in federal criminal court was found guilty on a single conspiracy charge Wednesday but cleared on 284 other counts. The outcome, a surprise, seriously undermines - and could doom - the Obama administration's plans to put other Guantanamo detainees on trial in U.S. civilian courts.

After deliberating for five days, a jury of six men and six women found Ahmed Ghailani, 36, guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property but acquitted him of multiple murder and attempted-murder charges for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.

The Obama administration had hoped that a conviction on most, if not all, of the charges would help clear the way for federal prosecutions of other Guantanamo detainees - including Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The administration did not want to rely exclusively on the military commissions that the George W. Bush administration had made a centerpiece of its detention policy.

The bombings killed 224 innocent people including 12 Americans. But because Ghailani, who claimed he was an innocent dupe in the plot, was detained by the CIA, most evidence against him was what defense lawyers call “the fruit of the poisoned tree.”
Analysis of the verdict is likely to focus on the decision of [trial Judge Lewis A.] Kaplan to exclude a Tanzanian whom the prosecution had described as a potentially "giant witness." The man was expected to say that he sold Ghailani explosives used in the attack.

But the judge ruled that the government learned of the witness only through the use of coercive interrogations at CIA prisons and that the participation of the witness would taint the process.

"The court has not reached this conclusion lightly," Kaplan wrote, barring the testimony. "It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world we live in. But the constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction." The prosecution did not seek to introduce any statements Ghailani made to the CIA.

As months turn into years, it becomes increasing evident that the President allows ideology to trump clear-eyed decision-making almost every time. The verdict in the Ghailani case indicates that early concerns about the President's decision were justified. Our civilian court system was never intended to address acts of terror or acts of war committed on foreign soil or against American targets at home. Civilian trials using the rules of evidence for say, a bank robber, simply cannot be relied upon to work when a mass-murdering terrorists are involved. It’s the equivalent of using a pea-shooter to down an rogue elephant.

But President Obama’s adherents will cheer his moral steadfastness in the face of cold hard logic. They’ll call the Ghailani verdict a "triumph for the rule of law." They’ll be convinced that this verdict will demonstrate the “strength of our justice system” and the overwhelming morality of our approach. They’ll suggest that the proverbial Muslim street will now "respect us."

There’s no question that our moral standing in the world has been amplified and that justice has been served. Is there?

Monday, November 15, 2010


Anyone who flies commercial has seen it happen. You’re at the TSA security checkpoint and you seen one or more TSA agents doing a pat down of an elderly man or woman. Saw it yesterday, myself.

Maybe the senior had a hip or knee replacement that set off the metal detector, or maybe they looked suspicious (huh?), but you see it all the time. As the minutes tick by (and the security line crawls forward at a glacial pace), you watch as questions are asked, arthritic arms are raised and lowered, and old legs are spread. There’s often a look of confusion in the senior’s eyes.

Yet the TSA argues that terrorists [the TSA never uses an adjective (e.g., Islamic) to describe the terrorists], might very well “use” an elderly person to transport a bomb onto a plan. Sure, I suppose that’s a possibility, but security involves risk assessment, so what, exactly, is the risk of that happening? It’s really fairly easy to develop a risk assessment for the “senior threat,” yet I’ve never seen one published. Probably classified. But let’s do a little math.

Approximately one billion people fly each year. Of those, let’s assume that 10 percent can be considered to be seniors. That’s 100 million seniors in the air each year. How many airplane-related terrorist incidents involving perpetrators who were non-Arabic seniors have occurred over the past 10 years? How many instances of a senior being found with an explosive or other threatening device have been uncovered at a security checkpoint? The answer to the first question is, I suspect, zero. The answer to the second, at least based on news accounts, is also close to zero.

So the odds against this happening, at least based on past experience, are in the neighborhood of 1 in 100 million. But regardless of the odds, the TSA dedicates one or two people for 3 or 4 minutes to some senior. The person-hours wasted on this activity add up over time, but more importantly, the resources dedicated to the senior could be better dedicated to a group that fits the terrorist profile.

But wait, profile! Can’t do that. Wouldn’t be fair, would it?

Islamists have created an environment in which efforts to thwart their terrorist colleagues inconvenience tens of millions of Americans each day. Long lines, delay, body scans, etc., etc. But rather than trying to reduce the inconvenience a bit and be considerably more effective in uncovering threats (the whole idea, I thought), we avoid the most effective of all tools—profiling. If you’re young and fit the general profile of a terrorist (e.g., nationality, travel origin), and exhibit other “tells” known to all security services, you might be worth another look.

Is that fair? No, it isn’t, but neither is body-searching a 80-year grandmother because she has a hip replacement.

Profiling will inconvenience many innocent people. But all of us are inconvenienced now, and terrorists still get through. Maybe it’s time to use a method that is demonstrably more effective than forced (artificial?) randomness. But then again, political correctness trumps reality every time.

Monday, November 08, 2010

What we’ve got here …

In the classic 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke, there’s a memorable scene described in Wikipedia:
The context of the line [of dialogue], as it is first delivered in the film, is a young prisoner, Luke, refusing to sacrifice his dignity under the instruction of the brutal prison captain. Having just been captured and returned to the chain gang after a clever and daring but all too brief escape, Luke mocks the despotic affectations of benevolence on the part of the Captain. The outraged Captain lashes out and strikes Luke, who then falls and rolls down the hill. While Luke remains slumped in the culvert beside them on the roadway, the frustrated Captain recovers his composure and delivers the line, pronouncing his summary judgment of the problem: that it can be nothing more than a matter of Luke failing to understand the one-way nature of the communication that is incumbent on his present demotion in social status. “

The Captain says:
"What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."

In examining dozens of discussions about the historic defeat of Congressional Democrats in last week’s election, there seems to be a consistent refrain among Democratic leaders. As if programmed with a single talking point, each suggests in his/her own way: "What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."

If only President Obama had done a better job of communicating the benefits of a gargantuan health care bill that is neither deficit neutral nor particularly effective at improving health care in the United States; if only Nancy Pelosi had done a better job of communicating the success of a pork barrel “stimulus” that raised the deficit without creating jobs; if only Harry Reid explained the advantages of the touted financial regulatory legislation that does almost nothing to avoid another economic debacle down the road; if only the progressives as a group could have done a better job of convincing Americans that bigger government would lead to a better life for all or that higher taxes would correct the social injustices that they purport to care so much about while at the same time creating “or saving” millions of jobs… the Dems would have suffered far, far fewer losses. Yeah, it was a failure to communicate.

On CBS’ 60 Minutes yesterday, the President reinforced the notion that communication and selling were all that were lacking. He said:
“I think that, over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that, we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation. That it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone.”

The President gave well over 400 speeches—a record for a sitting President—during his first 18 months in office. But apparently, that wasn’t good enough to “sell” his programs.

An editorial in the Pittsburg Tribune is representative of many that express dismay at the Democratic perception of the meaning of this election:
It was fright and ignorance that led the electorate to deliver the most stinging rebuke of House Democrats in 72 years, President Obama seemed to say the morning after Tuesday's historic election. Mr. Obama's only real contrition or concession or excuse was that he didn't do a good enough job of selling the sizzle of a meatless steak.

Deposed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was frighteningly worse. It's not that voters rejected the progressives' socialism; it was that voters rejected the slow pace of socialism's implementation. And, don't you know, it was that voters, stupid lot that they are, were overtly influenced by all that money that those obscene outside conservative groups spent to influence the election. Never mind that liberals spent more.

This is like Baghdad Bob, Iraq's propaganda minister, arguing in 2003 that invading coalition forces were just a figment of someone's imagination.

So … communication was the problem. That’s all.

But wait, it’s my understanding that communication is a process that normally works in two directions. President Obama and his ardent followers may have failed to communicate, but at the other end of the communication pipeline, the American people, using the November 2010 election, did not fail to communicate—in fact, they communicated just fine.

Friday, November 05, 2010


The American electorate has resoundingly repudiated the big government message of the President and a substantial percentage his party. But one glaring question remains: how do we cut spending, and over the long term, reduce the federal deficit to sustainable levels?

In his press conference immediately after the election, President Obama conceded that deficit reduction is important to the American people (sad that he didn’t realize that 18 months ago) and like all good politicians on both the Left and the Right, referred to a commission he created to make spending and deficit reduction “recommendations.”

As this so-called Federal Debt Commission plods toward its post-election report, it’s worth noting that its recommendations, however appropriate, will likely be watered down by both parties to the extent that nothing tangible will result. President Obama is not obligated to follow its recommendations nor is the new Congress.

The debt commission has taken many, many months to study the problem and come up with its recommendations. Laudable, but actually unnecessary. In reality, it’s pretty easy to define what needs to be done.

Let me be naïve (as what I’m about to recommend would never happen) and prescriptive. It’s really not that hard.

First, our President—great communicator that he is—should use his vaunted charisma to tell the American public the truth: “There will be pain, and the pain will be felt by every sector in our society.”

Now for a few specific recommendations:

  • Government employment will be cut by 10 percent across the board, with at least 40 percent of the cuts coming from the ranks of mid-level managers who make more than the mean burdened government salary of $124,000 per year.

  • The military will have its budget cut, with particular emphasis on redundant bases, weapons systems, and personnel, and must learn to fight our Islamist enemies with fewer dollars.

  • Education funding at a federal level will be reduced and any federal money remaining will returned to local control.

  • Some of those who receive government assistance will see reductions in social services (e.g., school lunch programs, food stamps, unemployment compensation. New and more rigorous tests for eligibility will be instituted.

  • Social security recipients will lose their COLA for the next five years (at least) and those who are to receive social security in the future will see the eligibility age increase and the amount provided means-tested.

  • Medicare premiums will be means-tested so that a person driving a Bentley will pay more for his insurance than a old-timer living in a trailer park.

  • Federal subsidies for agriculture will be phased out.

  • The new national health care program will be radically revised so that it truly is deficit neutral. It is currently a disaster.

  • Government employees will have their overly generous compensation frozen for five years (if they’re unhappy with that, I suspect that many in the private sector would be more than willing to take their place).

  • Government defined-benefit pensions will be eliminated for all new employees and replaced by 401Ks that are common in the private sector. Government pensions would be renegotiated for all existing employees (including military) under the age of 40, with the intent of reducing existing pension liabilities by 20 percent over 10 years.

  • Some government agencies (e.g., commerce, agriculture, state) would have radical reductions in size and budget.

  • The TSA would be restructured for efficiency and cost savings of at least an additional 10 percent.

  • The intelligence community would be restructured for efficiency and cost savings of at least an additional 10 percent.

  • The staffs of all congressional offices (that’s approximately 24,000 people) would be reduced by 20 percent. International travel budgets (including the President's would be cut by 20 percent. It wouldn’t save much money (on a Federal scale), but it’s the symbolism that matters here.

  • White House (non-security) staff would be reduced by 20 percent.

  • Foreign aid would be reevaluated with a target of a 10 percent reduction overall per year.

  • New legislation outlawing ear-marks would be instituted, and the line item veto would be proposed for the next President.

  • Over the long term (but not in the middle of this economic downturn) taxes will increase on the “rich” (and sadly, on everyone else).

  • Whenever the number of people paying no Federal income taxes rises above 30 percent (it is currently 47 percent), tax policy must be adjusted to keep those who pay nothing at or below 30 percent of all taxpayers

And that’s just for starters.

And by the way, one more small tweak. After he or she leaves office, no member of Congress can work as a local, state, or federal lobbyist for 10 years, nor can they take any other non-elective government position at the Federal level.

Will any of this happen? Of course not! Too much pain, too many core constituencies angered. Too many lobbyists working against it.

Instead, our duplicitous “leaders” will continue their profligate ways until we crash … hard … and see our country change in ways that are frightening to contemplate.

If our “leaders” tried to implement even a third of what I’ve listed, it would be an historic profile in political courage. Too bad there’s very little courage on either side of the aisle.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


On the day that Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, I made the following comment in this blog:
I did not vote for Barack Obama, but I wish him well. As a person who believes that the center of politics offers the best road forward, I will hope that his promises of bipartisanship will be kept. That his claims of good judgment will be verified as the months and years pass. That his charisma will morph into effective leadership for all Americans. If those things happen, his election will have been a good thing, maybe even (as Colin Powell remarked) a “transformative” event.

Today [November, 2008], Barack Obama remains a cipher—we have elected an image rather than a person with a lifetime of accomplishments. In the months and years ahead, we’ll know whether the image is reality or just a mirage. All we can do is hope.

Over the past 21 months, a clearer picture of Barack Obama has emerged, and after last night’s election results, it’s apparent that the electorate doesn’t like what it sees.

Polling by the non-partisan Pew Research Center indicates that a majority of Americans characterize this mid-term election as a referendum on President Obama. Of course, the mainstream media will do everything in its power to protect Barack Obama, to convince the public that, despite historical evidence and poll results to the contrary, this election was not a referendum on this President. They’ll argue that voters are angry, ill-informed, or just plan wrong. That the President’s legislative “accomplishments” have not been adequately appreciated or explained. That a few Democratic wins (Harry Reid comes to mind) somehow negate the overwhelming number of Democratic congressional defeats. Protecting Barack Obama, after all, has become the MSM’s job.

But the results are undeniable, unless you live in the through-the-looking-glass world of the far-Left. In this mid-term referendum, the electorate has decided that candidate Obama’s 2008 image was little more than a mirage.

The President came into the office with no experience, few accomplishments, and little vetting by the media that blindly adored him. Now, he is no longer a cipher. Here’s what we know about Barack Obama:

  1. His claims of a new bipartisan approach to politics were nothing more than campaign rhetoric. He has been and continues to be the most rabidly partisan President (in both words and deeds) in my lifetime. Over the weekend, Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen had this to say about the President hyperpartisan approach:
    We write in sadness as traditional liberal Democrats who believe in inclusion. Like many Americans, we had hoped that Obama would maintain the spirit in which he campaigned. Instead, since taking office, he has pitted group against group for short-term political gain that is exacerbating the divisions in our country and weakening our national identity. The culture of attack politics and demonization risks compromising our ability to address our most important issues - and the stature of our nation's highest office.

    Indeed, Obama is conducting himself in a way alarmingly reminiscent of Nixon's role in the disastrous 1970 midterm campaign.

  2. The intelligence and good judgment attributed to him during the campaign has not been reflected in good decision-making as President or as a politician. Rather than laser focusing on the crippled economy, he spent a full year crafting budget-busting health care legislation that had to be force-fed to many members of his own party and to a public that was clearly against it. He championed cap and trade legislation that was predicated on flawed science and would have been ineffective and economy-busting even if the science was accurate.

  3. His “cool and calm” demeanor in the face of the economic collapse in 2008 belied an apparent lack of understanding of the American economy. He has failed miserably to craft policies that effectively address our economic ills. His “stimulus” program wasted tens of billions and did not establish a climate that would help businesses create the jobs that are critical to our recovery. The unemployment rate has remained at or above 9.5 percent for 14 months, longer than at any other time since the 1930s. And that’s after a 700 billion dollar stimulus!

  4. His implied centrist positions during the campaign have morphed into extreme Left, big-government policies that threaten to bankrupt the nation.

  5. He has failed to lead a Congress that was overwhelmingly Democratic, and as a consequence, allowed ideological leaders in both chambers to create awful legislation. The President did absolutely nothing to stop the reckless behavior in his own party. He did not lead – he followed.

  6. His soaring campaign speeches in foreign capitals have resulted in a “soft power” foreign policy that has failed to address the pressing problems we face around the world. Worse, his apologetic rhetoric in major speeches has projected a image of weakness that does not serve him or this country well.

  7. After castigating the President Bush for miring us in a “war of choice” in Iraq, he has expanded his “war of necessity” in Afghanistan, but in this case, there is virtually no chance of a good outcome.

But worse than all of that, there’s an elitism and arrogance to the President’s approach that is very troubling.

It’s possible that this election outcome will force humility on Barack Obama, and that under supervision by an opposition Congress, the remainder of his term will better serve the American people. All we can do is hope.