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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Déjà Vu

As we watch the repressive regime of Hosni Mubarak crumble in Egypt, those of us who are old enough to remember the Iranian Revolution have an eerie feeling of déjà vu. As the Shah’s regime in Iran crumbled in the late 1970s, another progressive, idealistic president, Jimmy Carter, welcomed the change as a way to give Iran’s people freedom and a voice in their future. After all, the Shah, demonized by the western media, was a repressive dictator. His secret police killed many. But that’s only half the story. He was indisputably secular, had modernized Iran, and was unabashedly a friend of the West. But no matter, Carter welcomed a “man of peace,” the Ayatolah Komeini, and the rest, as they say, is history. Instead of freedom, Iran got a repressive, theocratic dictatorship that persists to this day, an economy that has been crippled for over 30 years, and a state that actively supports Islamist terror worldwide. Nice job, Jimmy. Your legacy persists.

Now, another progressive president. Barack Obama, is faced with an analogous situation in Egypt. So far, Obama and his advisors have been circumspect, but their tone has an indisputable similarity to the tone evidenced as the Shah’s regime toppled. The Egyptian people must assert their rights in a democratic manner, they state. Who can argue?

And when asked about the very real threat of an Islamist takeover, directed by the Muslim Brotherhood, they pooh-pooh the threat (in much the same way that Carter’s advisors and media friends refused to acknowledge the Islamist leanings of Komeini). The Brotherhood has “renounced violence,” state the Obama administration’s spokesman and its defenders in the media. Nothing to worry about there.


Andrew McCarthy provides an indepth discussion of the history and current status of the Muslim Brotherhood, the indisputable progenitor of al Qaida. He states:
One might wonder how an organization can be thought to have renounced violence when it has inspired more jihadists than any other, and when its Palestinian branch, the Islamic Resistance Movement, is probably more familiar to you by the name Hamas — a terrorist organization committed by charter to the violent destruction of Israel. Indeed, in recent years, the Brotherhood (a.k.a., the Ikhwan) has enthusiastically praised jihad and even applauded — albeit in more muted tones — Osama bin Laden.

No need to worry, we’re told, the Brotherhood will be just another party in Egypt’s diverse political landscape. Maybe. Or … it may become much more than that.

Our state department tries to put the best face on a very bad situation suggesting that the Egyptian people’s thirst for freedom must be quenched. They seem to disregard the fact that not all of Egyptian people are the young, idealist, urbanites who have taken to the streets in Cairo. They seem to believe that idealism and liberalism will overcome the Islamists who lurk just behind the crowds of young people.

Again David Warren provides a harsh, yet accurate assessment:
… History is rarely a Manichean contest between good and evil. It’s not a choice between the pro-Western shah and Iranian freedom, but between the shah and Khomeini’s ruthless Islamist revolution. It’s not a choice between the pro-Western Musharraf and Pakistani freedom, but between Musharraf and a tense alliance of kleptocratic socialists and Islamists. Back in the 1940s, it was not a choice between the British-backed monarchy and Egyptian freedom, but between the monarchy and a conglomeration of Nasserite pan-Arab socialists, Soviet Communists, and Brotherhood Islamists. And today, the choice is not between the pro-American Mubarak and Egyptian freedom; it is a question of whether to offer tepid support to a pro-American dictator or encourage swift transition to a different kind of tyranny — one certain to be a lot worse for us, for the West at large, and for our Israeli ally: the Muslim Brotherhood tempered only, if at all, by Mohamed ElBaradei, an anti-American leftist who willfully abetted Iran’s nuclear ambitions while running the International Atomic Energy Agency.

History is not a quest for freedom. This is particularly true in the Islamic ummah, where the concept of freedom is not reasoned self-determination, as in the West, but nearly the opposite: perfect submission to Allah’s representative on earth, the Islamic state. Coupled with a Western myopia that elevates democratic forms over the culture of liberty, the failure to heed this truth has, in just the past few years, put Hamas in charge of Gaza, positioned Hezbollah to topple the Lebanese government, and presented Islamists with Kosovo — an enduring sign that, where Islam is concerned, the West can be counted on to back away even from the fundamental principle that a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity is inviolable.

There are no easy answers here. In fact, our only strategy may be to step back and let history unfold. But it’s time for the administration to state clearly that there are players in Egypt’s game who we will not engage, and that those players represent a threat, not just to us, but to the entire region.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Deferring the Decision

Countries throughout the Arab world regularly castigate Israel for its “oppression” of the Palestinians and argue that a pro-Palestinian resolution (i.e., the dissolution of Israel) to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is central to "change" in the Middle east, With this in mind, it’s instructive to learn that the Arab league, meeting at their economic summit in Sharm el-Sheikh this week, has refused to provide the Palestinians with any substantial foreign aid. Elad Benari reports on the Palestinian authority’s (PA) request for well over $350 million in aid:
… as it turns out, the Arab world is in no hurry to donate money to the PA: Arab leaders have decided not to transfer any funds to the PA at the moment, and have deferred the decision on this issue to the next economic conference which will take place in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in 2013.

While the PA’s brethren refuse to provide aid, the United States has no such problem. The Congressional Research Service (pdf) reports:
Since the death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004, U.S. assistance to the Palestinians has been averaging close to $400 million a year, with funding levels spiking to more than double the average for FY2009 to address (1) humanitarian needs in Gaza during and after the December 2008-January 2009 Israel-Hamas Gaza conflict; and (2) reform, security, and development priorities in the West Bank.

After providing a minimum of $2.4 billion in aid since 2005, is the United States any more appreciated in Gaza and the West Bank? Are we any more influential? Have the Palestinians made any tangible concessions for peace? Have they even agreed to sit down and talk about it? Are they any less belligerent? Have they stopped targeting Israeli civilian population centers with rockets and mortars? Have they stopped virulently anti-Semitic curricula in their schools? Have they stopped using the aid to purchase weaponry? Have they stopped abusing their own people? Have they reduced the corruption that is rampant in within Hamas and serious within the PA?

Maybe we should follow the lead of the Arab League and postpone any further U.S. aid until at least a few of these questions can be answered with a ‘yes.’

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Heresy of Joe

As an Connecticut native, I’ve followed the career of Senator Joe Lieberman closely. Like all politicians on the national stage, he suffers from occasional hubris and is sometimes overbearing, but unlike the many ideologues who populate the two major political parties in this country, he is ideologically unpredictable, reasonably ethical, and unquestionably a man who follows his own convictions. For most of his political career, he was viewed as a liberal Democrat, until he made the fatal error (from the point of view of the Left) of supporting the war in Iraq.

As he announced his retirement commencing in 2012, I knew the ideological Left would rejoice. They did, with virtually every left-leaning pundit castigating the senator for his heresy. It seems that on the far-Left and the far-Right, no one can have a point of view that strays from ideological purity. No one.

Lieberman became persona non grata when he ran as an independent (after the Democratic party in Connecticut rejected him in 2006) in his very blue state and won. Many blue state Democrats believe fervently that the majority of this country is left of Center, and that in the blue states, virtually everyone except the troglodytes is a progressive. Lieberman’s victory reminded them that this delusional point of view is incorrect, and they never forgave him for it.

Gail Collins writes about Lieberman in the NYT. Her snarky column is representative of many pieces that have been written about the Senator over the last few days:
In his re-election campaign in 2006, Lieberman, having learned nothing whatsoever, suggested that anyone who disagreed with him about the war was endangering the country. (“We undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril.”) He lost the Democratic nomination. More shock and outrage.

When he won running as an independent, it cemented his sense of exceptionalism. However, this did not seem like a trick he could pull off twice, unless both of the major parties cooperated in 2012 by once again nominating terrible candidates. (The Republican nominee in 2006 was in trouble for, among other things, using a phony name while betting at the local casinos and failing to pay his gambling debts in New Jersey.)

However, on Wednesday, Lieberman assured everyone that he was not stepping down because the odds of his losing the next race were astronomically high but rather because he had been reading the Old Testament and decided that to everything there is a season.

He will leave behind a long list of achievements, from helping to consolidate the nation’s intelligence gathering services in a way that appears to make it more difficult to gather intelligence, to threatening to filibuster the health care reform act until it had been watered down to suit his own high principles.

You will find it all in my upcoming book, “Everything Bad Is Joe Lieberman’s Fault.”

The fact that Collins is wrong in fact and wrong in substance never deters a true believer. But her position is tame compared to that of Emily Bazelon writing in the left-leaning Slate:
Why do I loathe, loathe, loathe my 68-year-old four-term senator? My feelings are all the stronger for being fairly irrational. Lieberman's views are closer to mine than many politicians on whom I don't expend one iota of emotional energy. This, of course, is his power: He never loses his power to disappoint. Then there is the spectacle of it all: After each act of grand or petty betrayal, each time he turns on his former supporters, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration came back begging for more. Throughout the last Congress, he never let anyone forget he was the 60th vote.

At least Bazelon is honest enough to state that her feeling are irrational. Like Collins, she cannot accept any ideological impurity.

Joe Lieberman’s predictable treatment by pundits on the Left tells us more about the Left than it does about Joe Lieberman. The very people who talk endlessly about “vitriolic” political speech, who rage against “obstructionist” opponents, who demand “bi-partisanship” as long as it does not involve compromise cannot accept one of their own who has drifted away from ideological purity on a few occasions. The far-Right is just as guilty of this, but the Left continuously tells us how much more evolved they are than their opponents on the right. Doesn’t seem to be the case.

Lieberman has served his country and his state well. He deserves better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tunisia = Iran?

News of Tunisia’s micro-revolution and its impact across the Arab crescent has finally received attention in the Western media. The The New York Times reports:
TUNIS — Passions unleashed by the revolution in Tunisia resonated throughout the region on Monday as an Egyptian and a Mauritanian became the latest of six North Africans to set themselves on fire in an imitation of the self-immolation that set off the uprising here a month ago …

Taking aim for the first time at the newly formed unity government, the protesters raged against the domination of the new cabinet by members of ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s ruling party. “Citizens and martyrs, the government is still the same,” they chanted. “We will protest, we will protest, until the government collapses!”

They called for the complete eradication of the old ruling party, while complaining that outlawed parties like the once powerful Islamist groups or the Tunisian Communists — battle-scarred stalwarts of the long dissident fight against Mr. Ben Ali’s 23-year-rule — were still barred from participating.

Much of the NYT coverage of Tunisia has an eerie similarity to the Times breathless pronouncements about young Iranians who deposed the vicious Shah in the name of democracy, human rights, and "freedom" in the late 1970s. We all know how that turned out. The “revolution” in Iran (encouraged by the Carter administration) culminated with an anti-democratic, Islamist theocracy that is certainly no less brutal than the Shah’s and unquestionably more dangerous.

But the Tunisian revolution does represent an interesting potential opening for the West, as well as a threat to other authoritarian Islamic regimes throughout the Arab crescent. It is also fraught with danger. Khairi Abaza explains:
The toppling of Tunisia’s longtime dictator, Ben Ali, recalled the last days of the Shah, when riots against poor living conditions and calls for human rights quickly turned into demands for getting rid of a dictator. The Iranian revolution did not start as an “Islamist revolution,” but rather as a genuinely anti-authoritarian uprising in which liberals, communists, independents, and Islamists all took part. For a short period, the Islamists even worked with other political forces until they consolidated their power, then turning against their erstwhile allies and destroying them violently.

In Tunisia, the Islamists could try to repeat this pattern. Indeed, it would not be surprising to see them form an alliance with secular forces in the short term. This will last only until the Islamists consolidate their power, at which time they will jettison the non-Islamist elements, turning Tunisia into another Iran.

And so, just like Iran in 1979, Tunisia now finds itself at a crossroads: Will it head down the path of democracy, or will there be a takeover by Islamists? In 1979, Europe and the United States missed an opportunity to stand with liberals at the time of the Shah’s overthrow, leaving them at the mercy of the Islamists. Now, the West must avoid repeating this mistake in Tunisia by clearly identifying with the liberals, and their demands for democracy and better governance.

In its first two years in power, the Obama administration has done little to distinguish itself in the foreign policy realm. It has, at almost every turn, been less than confrontational when faced with Islamist regimes and less than forceful in promoting U.S. interests in the region.

It has remained relatively non-committal about Tunisia. I can only hope it doesn’t follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter and indirectly support an Islamist take-over in Tunisia in the name of “democracy” or “human rights.”

Monday, January 17, 2011

Health Care Debate—Round 2

I suspect that the vast majority of Americans suffer from health care debate fatigue. But round 2 begins this week and is being touted as a more "civil" discussion of these important issues—we'll see.

Democrats will argue that they’re happy to force Republicans to explain why it's a good idea to repeal health care legislation that (1) mandates health insurance for all people, (2) prohibits insurers from dropping coverage, and (3) subsidizes insurance premiums for those who can’t afford them. And then, in a thrust that is part wishful thinking, part ideological delusion, and part dishonesty, some (but not all) Democrats will then claim that Obamacare will reduce the deficit and that repeal would lead to massive new government deficits.

When Republicans assert that the opposite is true, the President’s supporters dismiss their claims as partisan rhetoric. But the Republicans have already conducted a real-life experiment proposed by then-Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, and the negative results in that laboratory support their claims. Timothy Carney comments:
In Massachusetts, these [health care] subsidies, mandates and regulations quickly caused health insurance and health care costs to spike, compelling the governor and state legislature to impose cost controls on insurers and providers while raising taxes on the state's residents and businesses.

David Bowen, former health staff director of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is one of the Obamacare authors to admit the bill could be a time-bomb.

Three months after the bill passed, and after Bowen had left Capitol Hill, he gave a briefing at the K Street offices of the lobbying firm Sidley Austin -- an event the firm billed as a "unique behind the scenes look at the development of this landmark legislation and [an opportunity] to hear an insider's view about issues that the legislation left unresolved."

Bowen compared the federal legislation to the Massachusetts legislation on the score of costs. "In Mass., there was a very conscious decision to do coverage first, knowing that that would bring on a cost battle second," the former Ted Kennedy aide explained. "We certainly made the same decision. This is a coverage bill, not a cost reduction bill. There is stuff here that will begin to address the issue of cost, but this is not a cost reduction bill with a bit of coverage on it -- it is really trying to get coverage first."

"Buy now, pay later," is how Peter Suderman at the free-market Reason magazine describes this strategy, which was deliberate on behalf of lawmakers in both Boston and Washington.

Now, it’s perfectly acceptable to argue that everyone should have coverage, but to suggest that providing that coverage would result in reduced expense to the government is blatantly dishonest. There is absolutely no evidence—none—to suggest that providing new insurance to 30 million people will reduce costs. No evidence—none—to suggest that demanding coverage of pre-existing conditions for someone who was heretofore uninsured will cause insurance rates to go down, and no evidence—none—that increased demands on a fixed number of medical care providers and hospitals will cause the accessibility to or quality of care to improve.

We are asked to accept these claims as an article of faith. Why? Because the President and his supporters tell us they’re true?

The real health care debate should focus balancing legitimate health care needs against the immediate requirement to provide economic stability, reign in government spending, and improve the efficiency of health care across the board. Obamacare will do none of those things. It should be repealed, and replaced by something that will.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


When I began developing computer graphics applications in the very early 1970s, the options were limited to monochrome vector representations. At the time, those of us working in the field dreamed of full three dimensional graphics rendered with full motion, but I submit that almost no one thought it would come this far, this fast.

“Shapeshifter” is a spectacularly beautiful triumph in computer graphics imagery developed by Charlex. It shows how far we’ve come and provides a window into where we’re going.


ShapeShifter from Charlex on Vimeo.

Blood Libel - II

I thought that by this morning, clear and compelling evidence emerging from Arizona would change the tone of media coverage with regard to the tragic shooting that left 6 people dead, many others wounded, and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, fighting for her life. But no, on both the far Left and to a lesser extent, on the far Right, claims and counter claims that the crazed gunman had some political association or was driven by external “hate speech” became the operative media meme.

Josh Kraushaar provides a useful summary of what we know:
It’s becoming increasingly clear that overheated political vitriol played virtually no role in Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting spree. His political thinking is hardly coherent, and his obsession with Giffords predated the tea party and Sarah Palin’s emergence in national politics. One of his few close friends told Mother Jones that he became fixated on the congresswoman when he asked her a question at a 2007 town hall about "the government having no meaning" and felt she didn’t answer. His killing spree wasn’t motivated by disagreement with her positions on health care or immigration.

Based on the available evidence, Loughner sounds like someone with untreated mental illness, whose grasp of reality grew ever more tenuous with time. He fits the profile of someone whose horrific shooting spree didn't have to be triggered by any provocative political rhetoric in the news.

But even with those facts out there, it didn’t stop numerous media outlets from connecting his beliefs to politics -- and isn’t stopping the continued rush to politicize this tragic event. The fervor to fit such craziness into a political matrix is regrettable, and, sadly, contributes to the overheated political environment that many in the media are condemning in the first place.

Proof is not hard to find. In a column in this morning's Slate, Jacob Weisberg writes:
… Extremist shouters didn't program Loughner, in some mechanistic way, to shoot Gabrielle Giffords. But the Tea Party movement did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react, would be able to react, and would not be prevented from reacting, in the crazy way he did.

At the core of the far right's culpability is its ongoing attack on the legitimacy of U.S. government—a venomous campaign not so different from the backdrop to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Then it was focused on "government bureaucrats" and the ATF. This time it has been more about Obama's birth certificate and health care reform. In either case, it expresses the dangerous idea that the federal government lacks valid authority. It is this, rather than violent rhetoric per se, that is the most dangerous aspect of right-wing extremism.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Weisberg erroneously conflates the Tea Party, a mainstream political movement that polls suggest is supported by between 35 – 40 percent of the American people, with a tiny fringe of far-Right extremists like Timothy McVeigh. That is blatantly dishonest, except in the fevered minds of people like Weisberg who cannot accept the notion that large numbers of Americans want the role of the Federal government to be limited.

In Weisberg’s view anyone who questions profligate Federal spending, unnecessary, fraudulent or inefficient Federal programs must be suspect. Anyone who suggests that our ever-growing deficit is ruinous is spouting vitriol. Citizens who question a big government ideology must be stopped, and the way to do that is to accuse them of a blood libel—in this case culpability in the slaughter of innocents by a deranged man.

It’s long past the time for the mainstream media to recognize that its inherent bias in reporting the news has as much or more to do with the tense political climate in this country as extremists on either the Left or the Right.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blood Libel

The main stream media just couldn’t help itself in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and many others in Tucson, Arizona. The dominant focus of the media’s concern was not the availability of deadly weapons to people who have had mental problems, but rather, “the stridency of political discourse.” Leftist Paul Krugman of The New York Times hit a new low by suggesting that the shooting was somehow motivated by a “climate of hate” that, not surprisingly, emanates only from the Right. Other Left-leaning commentators blamed Sarah Palin. But many bloggers on the Right were no better, suggesting that Left-wing websites were culpable or that the gunman was a Leftist.

This “blood libel,” coming from both ends of the political spectrum (all to score a few political points), is despicable. As Glen Reynolds states:
To be clear, if you're using this event to criticize the "rhetoric" of Mrs. Palin or others [on the Left] with whom you disagree, then you're either: (a) asserting a connection between the "rhetoric" and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you're not, in which case you're just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?

Instead of lauding the young intern who possibly saved Giffords’ life and the retired Army Colonel who helped subdue the murderer, pundits lament the stridency in political discourse as a motivator for the murderous acts of a deranged gunman. As blogger Richard Fernandez writes: “Maybe the farther you are from the gunpowder the closer your mind is to politics.”

The real question is how to limit access to firearms for those who have been diagnosed or are suspected of mental illness. The evidence to date indicates that many suspected that the gunman, Jared Loughner, was mentally unstable. There is no easy solution to this because it collides with privacy rights, the rights of the mentally ill, and second Amendment issues. But that is the core problem and that is where the debate and commentary should be focused.

Friday, January 07, 2011

100 Things

Do you know what NFC is, or how a “virtual mirror” will work, or why QR coding will become a dominant way to communicate information. If your want to stay current, you better understand these trends, because they may become very big, very soon.

JWTIntelligence (JWT Worldwide) presents a fascinating look at “100 things to Watch in 2011.”

It’s worth spending some time looking at the future.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Few would argue that the artistic community rightly loves freedom of expression. Whether its an artist in SoHo, a novelist in Vermont, or a movie director in Hollywood, the artistic community would justifiably condemn anyone who tried to limit its freedom of expression. And if it went beyond words—if one artist was physically threatened by some malevolent entity, the broader community of artists would conduct “consciousness raising events” to condemn the aggressor. They would demand action, insist on protection, and demonize those who made the threats. Unless …

STRATFOR, a non-partisan “global intelligence” organization, assesses an on-going threat to the artistic community:
Upon careful reflection, however, it is hard to find any target set that has been more of a magnet for transnational jihadist ire over the past year than the small group of cartoonists and newspapers involved in the Mohammed cartoon controversy.

STRATFOR delineates five Islamic terrorist operations uncovered during 2010 against the Danish Newspaper and the cartoonists who published the “Mohammed cartoons” in 2006. Included in the discussion is a “hit list” that encompassed filmmakers and novelists who have “insulted” Islam. Worse, STRATFOR’s projections indicate that the threat against artists is growing.

Quoting American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, STRATFOR states:
“If you have the right to slander the Messenger of Allah, we have the right to defend him. If it is part of your freedom of speech to defame Muhammad it is part of our religion to fight you.” He added: “Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islam in the name of freedom.” Al-Awlaki also referred to a 2008 lecture he gave regarding the cartoon issue titled “The Dust Will Never Settle Down” and noted that, “Today, two years later, the dust still hasn’t settled down. In fact the dust cloud is only getting bigger.”

Recognize that an Islamist’s interpretation of “defamation” is very broad. In essence, any criticism of Islam, any artistic representation that is in any way outside the Islamist’s definition of appropriate is considered defamation.

The artistic community in the West have remained remarkably quiet as bomb plots proliferate against their brethren, terrorist attacks are planned against their facilities, and freedom of expression is threatened. You’d think there would be fund raisers in Manhattan, you wouldn't be surprised if a group of activist artists held a protect in Stowe, you’d think that Sean Penn would promote a movie about an intrepid cartoonist threatened by a group of religious extremists who want to silence him, you’d think that Michael Moore might do a documentary about repressive fanatics who threaten creative people across the globe.

And yet, all we get is silence. Is it fear? Possibly. Or is it a warped sense of political correctness that somehow exempts radical Islam from criticism. The real question is: why?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

$54,084 per Second

As the spending and deficit fight (and it will be a fight) ramp up in the coming months you’re going to hear the Democratic Left demonize the centrist Democrats and Republicans who want to rein in spending. Aided by their media allies, the Left will trot out anecdotal examples of the “hardships” faced by government employees who (the horror!) have had their wages frozen or (double horror) have been laid-off to accommodate cuts in unnecessary and wasteful government programs. Before you sympathize, note that our national debt just passed through the $14 trillion mark.

A trillion is a very big number. So big, in fact, that it becomes an abstraction for most people. Andrew Malcolm tries to make it more concrete:
A trillion has so many zeroes it won't fit in your checkbook -- 12 zeros, to be exact.

Last June 1 doesn't really seem all that long ago. The Gulf oil disaster was barely half-spilled. President Obama and Pancho Biden were still promising ... amazing job growth by summer's end. The Senate was confirming Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. CIA Director Leon Panetta still wasn't sure where Osama bin Laden was. Al and Tipper, and Tiger and Elin, were still married to each other.

Here's why we mention June 1. On that day the national debt was "only" $13 trillion. It's 214 days from June 1 through last Friday, Dec. 31. That's 5,136 hours or 308,160 minutes or 18,489,600 seconds.

In those seven short months the national debt increased by $1,000,000,000,000.

That works out to be a growth in national debt of $54,084 borrowed during every single one of those 18,489,600 seconds.

No need to worry, state Left-leaning economists like Paul Krugman or Robert Reich. Keep spending—deficits don’t matter.

$54,084 per second matters. A lot.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Sad Souls

In what amounts to a recurring theme among many New York Times columnists Nicholas Kristof laments economic “inequality” in the United States. Of course, he never looks at the underlying causes, never notes that the top 10 percent of wage earners pay almost 70 percent of all income taxes collected, and has only a single implied solution—income redistribution. But nonetheless, he’s horrified:
John Steinbeck observed that “a sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”

That insight, now confirmed by epidemiological studies, is worth bearing in mind at a time of such polarizing inequality that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans possess a greater collective net worth than the bottom 90 percent.

There’s growing evidence that the toll of our stunning inequality is not just economic but also is a melancholy of the soul. The upshot appears to be high rates of violent crime, high narcotics use, high teenage birthrates and even high rates of heart disease.

Kristof suggests that “stunning levels of inequality” are “profoundly unhealthy, for us and for our nation’s soul.”

I’d be naïve to suggest that everyone has an “equal” chance at success or that economic inequality doesn’t exist, but what does that matter? Life is not fair, and no matter how much NYT columnists rail against economic inequality, life never will be fair. Like it or not, income distribution follows the hated bell curve—there will always be haves and unfortunately, the harsh reality is there will always be have-nots.

The wonder of this country is that the children of the have-nots have a good chance to better their lives. As a young person in the United States, there is no caste system, nor is there any explicit aristocracy that limits how far you can go. There are millions of children who grew up in multi-family houses in mill towns (or in economically disadvantaged rural communities), whose parents never went to college and worked blue collar jobs, who attended public schools that were over-crowded and underfunded, who had no “connections,” who worked their way through school. These kids unquestionably had a tougher life journey, but they were not excluded from achieving success in their lives. How do I know? Because, like millions of other Americans who have achieved some level of success over the past 50 years, I was one of those kids.

Nicholas Kristof believes that “inequalty” can be solved by redistributing income—increasing taxes (but only on the “rich”) and the size of government programs that purportedly help the have-nots. History indicates that some of these programs do more harm than good, creating a culture of dependency that deadens individual initiative and creates generations of (to use Steinbeck’s phrase ) “Sad souls.”

Kristof’s solution is an insult to the millions of Americans who don’t have the time to obsess about how their lot in life leads to a “sad soul.” They’re too busy doing the hard work required to change their lives for the better, to raise their own families, and on balance, become a whole lot more “equal” in the years ahead.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Going to Church

In November of 2010, 52 people were killed when Islamists took over a Bagdad church. On Christmas day, 6 people died in attacks on two churches in Nigeria. At the same time, 6 people were injured in a bomb attack on a church in the Philippines. On New Year’s eve, a bomb killed 17 people in an Egyptian church while the congregation celebrated a mass.

The perpetrators in all of these blatant religious attacks were Islamists, and yet Reuters never directly mentions this fact in their New Year’s day report. In the through-the-looking-glass world of the politically correct Left, it is forbidden to provide attribution for religiously motivated attacks, if those attacks are perpetrated by Muslims. Of course, if a mosque is inadvertently damaged as part of a military operation conducted by the U.S., NATO, or Israel, headlines scream the news, recounting every detail and demanding answers. But bomb blasts in Churches throughout the Moslem crescent just don’t seem to generate much outrage within the media.

Reuters reports:
VATICAN CITY, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, worried over increasing inter-religious violence, will host a summit of world religious leaders in Assisi in October to discuss how they can better promote peace, he announced on Saturday.

Yeah, that’ll work. I have to wonder what the Christian congregants in Bagdad, Nigeria, the Philippines, and now, Egypt might think of that idea.

It appears that there is a concerted effort to intimidate Christians in the Middle East, and more broadly, throughout many nations with Muslim majorities. In its most extreme, intimidation morphs into murder.

A small, but growing segment of Islam is perfectly willing to conduct blatant religious warfare. Worse, it appears that the governments of Muslim countries are doing little to stop it. It’s time for Western media and Christian religious leaders to confront this abomination directly and demand that Moslem countries provide concrete protections for their Christian minorities while at the same time rooting out the Islamists who are perpetrating these attacks.