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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Really Dumb Things

When supporters of the President and his many media spokespeople gushed about the so-called Egyptian “freedom revolution,” a few of us in the Center suggested that throwing pro-Western dictator Hosni Mubarak under the bus might not be such a good idea. I wrote at the time that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) would be the likely beneficiary and that counter to the prevailing media narrative at the time, the MB is anti-Western and Islamist to the core. There are no moderate members of the MB.

Sadly, the President and his team of advisors seemed unable to process this simple fact. Mubarak is now gone and MB has already won major political referenda and is the front runner to take over Egypt in September. Most of the media, like ADD childrem arer now busy thinking of reasons to support the President’s ill-conceived intervention in Libya, and have forgotten about Egypt.

The Richmond Times Dispatch is an exception. In an editorial, they write:
The Egyptian Revolution inspired hopes and summoned memories. During the heady days of protests against Hosni Mubarak's regime, Cairo's Tahrir Square seemed to resemble images from Czechoslovakia and other satellites that rose against communism in the Velvet Revolution. Reports suggested Egypt was experiencing a liberal uprising relatively free of religious fundamentalism and ideological stridency. It might have been.

During a recent visit to Egypt, The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens met with a friend he described as Muslim by birth but secular by choice. The friend and others told him that Americans have no idea of what is happening on the ground. Experts indeed remain innocents abroad. There is no progressive influence to speak of; the military and Islamist factions command the field. The Muslim Brotherhood is not the most extreme player, either.

It seems that the identical mistakes made in Egypt are being made in Libya and at the same time, countries where intervention might be warranted (e.g., Syria, Yemen) are being ignored by our strategists (I use that term very, very loosely). In Libya, it appears that at best we don’t know who the rebels really are. At worse, they have been infiltrated by Al Qaida and other extremists.

Now the President suggests that it might be necessary to provide the Libyan rebels with weapons. Wasn’t it the President’s supporters on the Left who roundly criticized U.S policy that armed the radical, Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan during the 1990s? Looks to me like Barack Obama is doing the same thing, but this time ignoring hindsight provided by recent history. And I keep being told that he’s such a smart guy.

It is true that the Middle East is in turmoil and that there are no easy answers. No question. But doing really dumb things, supporting really bad guys in their efforts to displace other really bad guys, and ignoring strategic opportunities while conducting war in the name of “humanitarianism,” is just plain dumb. It doesn’t serve the interests of the United States and does nothing to help the Middle East climb out of the cesspool that has flooded the entire Arab crescent.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kinetic Miliary Action

Tonight, the President will explain to the American people why we are at war in Libya. With teleprompters rolling and eloquent words spoken, he'll try to explain the inexplicable.

At the moment Barack Obama and his advisors have committed us to a limited war, one that is justified not based on national strategic interest, but on the fact that the “international community” has decided that Mohamar Gaddafi is creating a “humanitarian crisis” in Libya.

So we drop bombs on Libyans and launch cruise missiles (at a million dollars a pop) in an effort to defeat Gaddafi’s troops (oops, I mean avert a humanitarian crisis). And if we’re successful and the “rebels” or “freedom fighters” prevail, we have accomplished what exactly?

Increasing evidence indicates that the Libyan freedom fighters we’re protecting have strong ties to fanatical Islamist movements. Some of the “leaders” of Gaddafi’s opposition are members of the Muslim Brotherhood and others have direct and irrefutable ties to al Qaida. Of course, our broadcast MSM avoids these uncomfortable details because they might embarrass the President (a man who can do no wrong in their eyes).

But the facts remain. Our “kinetic military action” (in the words of Obama’ Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes) will assist Islamists in a takeover of Libya. It’s crazy, but it just might happen. And the reason for this is … what? The justification for it is … what? The strategic rational is … what?

Meanwhile Syria, dictator, Bashar al Assad, slaughters opponents on a wholesale level and we turn away. The irony is that intervention in Syria might actually have merit strategically. If Assad falls, Hezballah in Lebanon is weakened and as a consequence, the real strategic bad guys in the region, the Mullahs of Iran, lose influence and access to a proxy army.

But apparently, that level of strategic thinking is far too deep for the President, Hillary, and the foreign policy geniuses who populate the White House’s back offices. “Kinetic military action” (the President’s folks avoid the word “war” at all cost) can only occur to avert a humanitarian crisis, never to weaken our sworn enemy (Iran). No matter that Iran violently represses its own people and is sowing the seeds of havoc in the region. No matter that they're actively pursuing the development of WMDs.

Weakening Iran would be so imperialistic, so 20th century, so … yucky. Better to attack Libya, right?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Caroline Glick has little use for Barack Obama's Middle Eastern foreign policy. Her caustic comments are presented in an in-depth article entitled America’s Descent into Strategic Dementia . She writes:
Traditionally, states have crafted their foreign policy to expand their wealth and bolster their national security. In this context, US foreign policy in the Middle East has traditionally been directed towards advancing three goals: Guaranteeing the free flow of inexpensive petroleum products from the Middle East to global market; strengthening regimes and governments that are in a position to advance this core US goal at the expense of US enemies; and fighting against regional forces like the pan-Arabists and the jihadists that advance a political program inherently hostile to US power.

Other competing interests have periodically interfered with US Middle East policy. And these have to greater or lesser degrees impaired the US's ability to formulate and implement rational policies in the region.

These competing interests have included the desire to placate somewhat friendly Arab regimes that are stressed by or dominated by anti-US forces; a desire to foster good relations with Europe; and a desire to win the support of the US media.

Under the Obama administration, these competing interests have not merely influenced US policy in the Middle East. They have dominated it. Core American interests have been thrown to the wayside.

Nothing exemplifies strategic dementia more than Barack Obama’s approach to Libya—a country in which both sides of an internal conflict have been and will continue to be our enemy. In the name of “humanatarian concerns”, the White House—oddly supported by many neo-conservatives—has backed a group of “freedom fighters” that are far from friendly to the United States.

Glick comments on the composition of the forces that our MSM has romanticized as rebels:
One of the most astounding aspects of the US debate on Libya in recent weeks has been the scant attention paid to the nature of the rebels.

The rebels are reportedly represented by the so-called National Transitional Council led by several of Gaddafi's former ministers.

But while these men - who are themselves competing for the leadership mantle - are the face of the NTC, it is unclear who stands behind them. Only nine of the NTC's 31 members have been identified.

Unfortunately, available data suggest that the rebels championed as freedom fighters by the neoconservatives, the opportunists, the Europeans and the Western media alike are not exactly liberal democrats. Indeed, the data indicate that Gaddafi's opponents are more aligned with al-Qaida than with the US.
And then, there’s Egypt. Remember Egypt now that the media has moved on? It hasn’t gone away, and what’s happening there is not good. Again Glick helps us understand:
Under Mubarak, Egypt advanced US interests in two main ways. First, by waging war against the Muslim Brotherhood and opposing the rise of Iranian power in the region, Mubarak weakened the regional forces that most threatened US interests. Second, by managing the Suez Canal in conformance with international maritime law, Egypt facilitated the smooth transport of petroleum products to global markets and prevented Iran from operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Since Mubarak was ousted, the ruling military junta has taken actions that signal that Egypt is no longer interested in behaving in a manner that advances US interests.

Domestically, the junta has embarked on a course that all but guarantees the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in the fall.

Saturday's referendum on constitutional amendments was a huge victory for the Brotherhood on two counts. First, it cemented Islamic law as the primary source of legislation and so paved the way for the Brotherhood's transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state. Under Mubarak, that constitutional article meant nothing. Under the Brotherhood, it means everything.

Second, it set the date for parliamentary elections for September. Only the Brotherhood, and remnants of Mubarak's National Democratic Party will be ready to stand for election so soon. The liberals have no chance of mounting a coherent campaign in just six months.

In anticipation of the Brotherhood's rise to power, the military has begun realigning Egypt into the Iranian camp. This realignment is seen most openly in Egypt's new support for Hamas. Mubarak opposed Hamas because it is part of the Brotherhood.

When I listen to the President’s supporters praise his foreign policy initiatives in the Middle East, I can’t help but wonder whether they’re even paying attention. Or whether, still blinded by Barack Obama’s star power, they suffer a self-induced dementia of their own.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I have purposely delayed commenting on the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan until time had passed and better understanding of these sad events was possible. I did, however, watch in amazement as the main stream media in the United States all but abandoned the real story (the earthqualke and tsunami) and focused hysterical coverage on the “nuclear Armageddon” that occurred at the Fukushima reactors. Not surprisingly, MSM coverage was inaccurate, was presented with no context, and was overwrought and overdone. CNN and its brethren suffered their own meltdown.

It’s also interesting to note that as soon as the first bomb dropped in Libya, the MSM, like an ADD child, seemed to forget Japan and shifted its focus to the Middle East.

There is no question that the failure and partial meltdown of the Fukushima reactors is a very serious event. But there’s a difference between very serious and “OMG, everyone in Japan is going to die! all the food and water is tainted! people in California should run out and buy iodide tablets!!”

Lewis Page provides a more measured analysis of the situation as it now stands:
The Fukushima reactors actually came through the quake with flying colours despite the fact that it was five times stronger than they had been built to withstand. Only with the following tsunami – again, bigger than the design allowed for – did problems develop, and these problems seem likely to end in insignificant consequences. The Nos 1, 2 and 3 reactors at Daiichi may never produce power again – though this is not certain – but the likelihood is that Nos 4, 5 and 6 will return to service behind a bigger tsunami barrier.

The lesson to learn here is that if your country is hit by a monster earthquake and tsunami, one of the safest places to be is at the local nuclear powerplant. Other Japanese nuclear powerplants in the quake-stricken area, in fact, are sheltering homeless refugees in their buildings – which are some of the few in the region left standing at all, let alone with heating, water and other amenities.

Nothing else in the quake-stricken area has come through anything like as well as the nuclear power stations, or with so little harm to the population. All other forms of infrastructure – transport, housing, industries – have failed the people in and around them comprehensively, leading to deaths most probably in the tens of thousands. Fires, explosions and tank/pipeline ruptures all across the region will have done incalculably more environmental damage, distributed hugely greater amounts of carcinogens than Fukushima Daiichi – which has so far emitted almost nothing but radioactive steam (which becomes non-radioactive within minutes of being generated).

And yet nobody will say after this: "don't build roads; don't build towns; don't build ships or chemical plants or oil refineries or railways". That would be ridiculous, of course, even though having all those things has actually led to terrible loss of life, destruction and pollution in the quake's wake.

The events at Fukushima will be carefully and thoroughly analyzed, not by sanctimonious politicians or hysterical environmentalists, but by trained nuclear engineers who will learn from these events and work to make reactors even safer than they already are.

Unfortunately, no system is perfect, nor is any system 100 percent safe. It’s a matter of assessing risks and then weighing those risks against the benefits of a carbon-free, almost limitless power source.

The Obama administration, to it credit, has not joined in the hysteria, and so far remains committed to nuclear power as a major form of green energy for the 21st century. But voluminous regulations that drive costs through the roof and lawfare conducted by opponents make it unlikely that any new nuclear plants will come online over the next 20 years. That’s unfortunate, because try as we might, in the short and mid-term it’s unlikely that wind, solar, and other alternative sources of energy will be enough to wean us from oil.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fairy Tales

Bombs have begun to fall in Libya, and it’s reasonable to ask “why?”

To their credit, many Democrats and a few Republicans, not to mention most of us in the Center, are trying to understand how a President who no more than two weeks ago spoke publicly against an adventure in Muammar el-Qaddafi’s fiefdom is now leading an “international coalition” against only one of the many brutal thugs who terrorize their own people in the Arab crescent.

Why is it that the President’s SecDef, William Gates, spoke against any military adventure no more than 10 days ago, but is now on-board? And our Secretary of State? If we’re to believe media accounts, she was a driving force behind intervention. Why?

Does the United States have a strategic interest here? Do we even have a coherent foreign policy in the region or around the word?

Should we intervene in a civil war pitting an insane, murderous dictator against a band of “revolutionaries” with Islamist leanings and malevolent intent toward the United States? Or should we believe the fairy tale narrative of Barack Obama’s political and media defenders—that we’re trying to avert a “humanitarian crisis;” that civilian lives are in jeopardy or that human rights in a far away country trump national interests in our own?

But if that fairy tale were true, then why did we not intervene in Iran’s domestic affairs when its murderous regime attacked civilians in the public square? If the President is so concerned about “human rights” then why is his administration actively engaging the equally murderous thugs in Hezballah and providing hundreds of millions of aid dollars to Hamas—an organization that just yesterday, launched over 50 rockets targeted at civilians in Israel.

Should we accept the ridiculous assertion proposed on Sunday morning news shows that if Qaddafi remains in power (a distinct possibility) that it’s somehow a “victory” for the President? Or if Qaddafi falls, that the new leadership will be democratic and pro-Western? What utter nonsense, spewed by shills who are either cynical or ignorant of the harsh realities in the Middle East.

The Middle East is a cesspool of murderous dictators, anti-democratic movements, growing anti-Western Islamism, and tribal feuds that we cannot hope to understand fully. Fairy tale narratives about “freedom” and “democracy” are for children. But then again, it’s increasingly evident that children are setting whatever passes for the foreign policy of the United States.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Many of us in the Center feared that an unfocused $800 billion stimulus tied to unrestrained Federal spending would lead to a dangerous inflationary spiral. It appears that our fears were justified and that 70s era “stagflation” may become a reality.

Investor’s Business Daily reports:
Put simply, wholesale prices, often a trigger for consumer price rises, have taken off. In February, they rose at a 8% year-over-year rate.

Some 75% of that gain was due to surging prices for food and energy. Food prices today are the highest on record, rising at double-digit rates (see chart). Meanwhile, gasoline tests the $4-a-gallon level, the dollar is weakening and gold is near its all-time high.

At this pace, prices for the basics used by businesses will double in less than a decade, pushing millions of Americans down the economic ladder as they struggle to keep up.

Why is this happening?

It starts with a government spending way beyond its means, producing a $1.6 trillion deficit this year and $1 trillion-plus deficits through 2020. Since 2008, federal spending has surged 28% to a forecast $3.8 trillion this year. Thanks to the slow economy, tax revenues have lagged.

By buying hundreds of billions in U.S. Treasury debt, the Fed has helped the Democrat-led Congress hike spending to record levels over the past three years. It did so with a "Quantitative Easing" program under which the Fed has snapped up $1.7 trillion of government-issued debts, creating money out of thin air.

No doubt about it: The Fed has sown the seeds of inflation not just here, but around the world.

What remains truly astounding is that the President and the Democratic leadership in Congress appear unconcerned about Federal spending and deficits. Worse, they’re fighting efforts to implement even modest spending cuts and are stonewalling any attempt at making significant deficit recommendations of their own. The President’s hands-off approach to deficit reduction is a very troubling (and cynical) example of a lack of leadership.

There comes a time when strident application of a fantasy ideology becomes dangerous to the future of the nation. We’re there.

The problem is that children have trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy. It appears that we’re being lead by children, and that the few adults in the room are powerless to act aggressively to correct the impending crisis.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Remember Al Gore. No, not the ex-Vice President whose theatrical (and unscientific) claims about global warming (the oceans will rise 20 feet in this century) earned him an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. The one I’m referring to is the Al Gore, who as a Presidential candidate repeatedly referred to the social security “lockbox”—the fictional place where all the money taken from your paycheck and the money matched by your employer is “saved” for distribution to you in the future.

The Obama administration, rather than proposing politically difficult modifications to a Social Security system that is nearing insolvency, has decided to continue the “lockbox” fiction. Administration spokespeople contend that the system is solvent until 2037. Why, because the money is in the “lockbox,”, also known as the Social Security Trust Fund. And if it’s solvent, no need to do anything except kick the can down the road (something that our President is quite adept at doing).

Unfortunately, these claims are egregiously misleading. Charles Krauthammer reports:
… the Social Security trust fund contains — nothing.

Here's why. When your FICA tax is taken out of your paycheck, it does not get squirreled away in some lockbox in West Virginia where it's kept until you and your contemporaries retire. Most goes out immediately to pay current retirees, and the rest (say, $100) goes to the U.S. Treasury — and is spent. On roads, bridges, national defense, public television, whatever — spent, gone.

In return for that $100, the Treasury sends the Social Security Administration a piece of paper that says: IOU $100. There are countless such pieces of paper in the lockbox. They are called "special issue" bonds.

Special they are: They are worthless. As the OMB explained, they are nothing more than "claims on the Treasury (i.e., promises) that, when redeemed (when you retire and are awaiting your check), will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures."
It’s long past time for the White House to exhibit some courage and lead on this critical issue. The solution is, to be honest, is relatively straightforward.

  1. Raise the retirement age to 72 with application graduated depending upon the taxpayer’s current age

  2. Revise the COLA downward and means test it for all recipients

  3. Means test all social security payments so that the rich get very low payments (if any) and the true poor get a bit more
The baby boomer retirement wave has just begun. If we do not make structure changes to the system, very bad things will happen—and they’ll begin happening sooner rather than later. Can you say intergenerational warfare?

Our President needs to lead on this issue and he needs to do it now. Sadly, it appears that he has no desire to do so.