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

Sunday, May 31, 2015


As a child of the depression and a man who had to give up his dream of college to help support a single mother and 5 siblings during the great depression, my father sang the praises of FDR. He almost always voted Democratic because of FDR. Yet, he was a firm believer in personal responsibility and would never even consider accepting a handout from the State.

Throughout my life, I have voted for far more Democrats than Republicans, but like many of us in the Center, I have watched as the Democratic party under the 'leadership' of Barack Obama has veered to the extreme Left. Today, the Dems are the champions of big intrusive government (B.I.G.), uncontrolled federal spending, unremitting class warfare, divisive political rhetoric, and a foreign policy that is a cross between incompetent and isolationist.

Today, I watch in amazement as the Dems provide us with an "inevitable" presidential candidate that is clearly corrupt, stretches the letter and spirit of the law in ways that are at least unethical and more likely criminal, operates in secrecy, refuses to answer media questions about a variety of key issues (not to mention a long list of potential scandals) and was responsible for a disastrous four years of foreign policy blunders and embarrassments.

Parroting the Obama administration's approach to governance, the Democrat's "inevitable" presidential candidate gives every indication that she will be a champion of big intrusive government (B.I.G.), uncontrolled federal spending, unremitting class warfare, divisive political rhetoric, and a foreign policy that is a cross between incompetent and isolationist. It's deja vu all over again.

Peter Alberice comments:
Under Obama, divisiveness and the politics of envy overrode the unity and a sense of purpose under JFK that the party once stood for. “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” has been replaced by “You didn’t build that.”

“My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man” has become “leading from behind.”

The Democratic Party will continue to champion divisiveness through single-issue political infighting, a failed progressive economic agenda, and an almost nonexistent foreign policy. The party that once stood with our allies abroad and supported robust economic growth has been replaced by whiny radical feminism and an overwrought sense of entitlement.

Mattress Girl and Pajama Boy are the new Democratic Party; Truman and Kennedy would be embarrassed.
The Democratic party that my father supported is gone forever, replaced by a rudderless conglomeration of politicians who are excellent demagogues but pathetically incompetent leaders. The blue model that they enthusiastically support may have been created with the best of intentions, but the result is abject failure.

Worse, the failure goes unrecognized. Instead of adapting the model to new realities, it is tried over and over again, with the same negative results. The rhetoric remains the same and the results, sadly, do too. More spending, more debt, more dependency across broad segments of the population, more failed cities (think Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles), more (not less) racial division, higher (not lower) medical costs, unrelenting growth of the public sector, denigration of those who create jobs.

The Democratic Party of 2015 needs to reassess its objectives and decide whether a party that produced FDR, JFK and Harry Truman should continue to take its lead from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stupid Money

There's something particularly galling about a nationally-recognized progressive playing the class warfare card in an effort to divide citizens for political advantage. There's something even more galling about a nationally-recognized progressive criticizing the compensation of business executives (CEOs) and by extension, business owners, but never, ever suggesting that compensation for those in the arts, music or even sports is out of line with average incomes. Finally, there's something eminently galling about a nationally-recognized progressive who makes stupid money, not by actually accomplishing anything in the private sector, but by playing off the potential for influence based on past, present or future positions in the public sector. Hillary and Bill Clinton hit the trifecta in this regard.

Over the past month, Ms. Clinton has refused to grant press interviews, but she has spent time suggesting that “There’s something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the American worker.”

For just a moment, forget that this outrageous statement isn't true, except in the most limited sense of looking solely at the compensation of CEOs at the country's 350 top corporations. The other 250,000 CEOs of small, moderate and even large companies make an average of $181,000—good money, but no more than 4 times the income of an "average" worker. Given the responsibility, the hours, the risk and the experience required, that is hardly unfair.

According to their own financial disclosure statements, Hillary and Bill Clinton earned in excess of $25 million dollars giving 104 speeches since the beginning of 2014. As someone who has collected much, much, much smaller speaker's fees over my career, I can safely state that an average of $240,384 per speech is stupid money, particularly when the 'wisdom' imparted has virtually no value in any real sense.

James Taranto comments:
According to the Census Bureau, the median household income in 2009-13 was $53,046. The Clintons took in 339 times that amount in speaking fees alone. (The figure would be higher if we included other sources of income, especially Mrs. Clinton’s more than $5 million in book royalties).

Someone earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would have to work 2.48 million hours—or about 1,240 years at 40 hours a week with two weeks’ vacation—to take in gross pay of $18 million. To put it another way, a couple working 2,000 hours a year each—considerably more time than the Clintons’ speeches too—would have to earn $4,500 an hour to reach $18 million.
But wait. Hillary is a strong proponent of raising the minimum wage. Let's take the progressives favorite number—$15.00 per hour. That would help a lot, right? With the new "living wage," a worker at the lowest pay level would only have to work 1.24 million hours to earn parity with Ms. Clinton.

I'll give Hillary Clinton this—she has chutzpa. Only a liberal icon who has become filthy rich by trading on her public service would have the gall to criticize private sector executives for earning too much money.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Not True

As the weeks pass and the Iran nuclear negotiations proceed, it's increasingly likely that some agreement will be reached. The question that has existing for months remains—how can the Iranians be trusted regardless of the words written on paper?

Barack Obama, John Kerry and their Team of 2s will announce any agreement (if Iran doesn't walk) with great fanfare, and their media hamsters will trumpet "an historic agreement" regardless of the Swiss Cheese nature of any supposed enforcement mechanisms. In fact, it'll be a lot like the "victory" Obama (via Vladimir Putin) achieved in Syria. Remember when this president told us that Bashar al Assad had given up his chemical weapons, well ...

The New York Times (certainly no enemy of this president) reports:
WASHINGTON — If President Obama hoped that the danger of chemical warfare in the Middle East receded when Syria gave up tons of poison gas, mounting evidence that toxic weapons remain in the strife-torn country could once again force him to decide just how far he is willing to go to enforce his famous “red line.”

The discovery of traces of ricin and sarin in Syria, combined with the use of chlorine as a makeshift weapon in the country’s grinding civil war, undercut what Mr. Obama had viewed as a signal triumph of his foreign policy, the destruction of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical arsenal.

But Mr. Obama appears no more eager to use military force against Mr. Assad’s government today than he was in 2013 when he abruptly called off a threatened airstrike in exchange for a Russian-brokered agreement in which Syria voluntarily gave up its chemical weapons. Instead, the Obama administration responded to reports of violations this time by seeking renewed assistance from Russia and exploring a new United Nations Security Council resolution addressing Syria’s continued use of chemicals as weapons.

“You’re dealing with a regime that is not very credible on weapons of mass destruction programs,” said Robert Ford, the Obama administration’s former ambassador to Syria. “No one should be surprised the regime didn’t declare all of its facilities. But the bad news in all of this is the regime is using chemical weapons regularly — even if not sarin gas now, they’re using chlorine gas regularly and they are not deterred from doing so.”
My, oh my. Enter into an agreement with a regime that is absolutely, positively, historically and demonstrably "not very credible" and you get screwed. As horrific as the use of WMD is, it's one thing when the screwing is localized as it is with the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It's another thing entirely when the future screwing might involve Iranian nuclear weapons that would be far, far from localized.

No worries, though. Obama and his Team of 2s, along with his media hamsters, will assure us that an Iranian agreement (if one does come to pass) is airtight—until it isn't. After all, Iran is absolutely, positively, historically and demonstrably credible ... oh wait, that's absolutely, positively, historically and demonstrably not true.

We learn from Fox News (one of the few outlets that is carrying this story) that Bashar al Assad is using deadly chlorine gas, and that chlorine gas was (surprise!) not part of the chemical weapons agreement that Putin brokered for Obama. Here's a summary from Fox:
“President Obama does not appear to be drawing any more red lines with Syria’s Bashar Assad amid allegations that his regime has returned to using chemical weapons… On Thursday, Obama asserted that it has been verified that the regime already gave up its chemical weapons. However, chlorine gas – which Assad’s government is now accused of using -- was not a part of that agreement. Obama gave a nuanced response Thursday, noting that chlorine isn't an internationally banned chemical weapon. However, he said, ‘when it is used in this fashion, [it] can be considered a prohibited use of that particular chemical. And so we're working with the international community to investigate that. Last week, others in Obama’s administration called for an immediate U.N. investigation into the ‘abhorrent acts’ – without saying what, if any, punishment Assad might face if formally blamed for the string of alleged chlorine gas attacks.”
So ... if in a few years hence, Iran finds a loophole in the assuredly weak nuclear arms agreement that Obama is pushing the country into, we'll get a nuanced response from ... oh wait, Obama will no longer be president. The response will fall to Hillary Clinton (should she get the 2016 nomination and win) who, I suspect, will be even more feckless that her predecessor. Or a Republican president who will be left to clean up the mess, under the harsh criticism of the media and the Democrats.

By the way, what does Hillary have to say about the projected Iran agreement and the Middle East nuclear arms race that it will precipitate. Oops, forgot. She isn't answering any questions just yet.

Friday, May 15, 2015


The recent crash of an Amtrak train outside Philadelphia brought out the worst in some of our national politicians. Before all of the dead had been recovered, Democratic politicians indirectly blamed the GOP for the crash by suggesting that reductions in Amtrak subsidies had somehow short-changed safety. Never mind that subsidies topped $1.4 billion last year. With the current Democrat mindset, it's impossible to spend enough taxpayer money.

The Dems also implied that more spending on infrastructure (in this case business subsidies for Amtrak, which are not infrastucture improvements) would have prevented the crash. So in their view not only is the GOP far too tight with money, the current majority party is also uncaring about the safety of railroad passengers.

Within 24 hours it was learned that the train was going into a curve at 100 miles per hour (well above the recommended speed). But the din for more spending continued. Both Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, among many others, castigated Republicans for cutting Amtrak's budget.

That's an interesting position, given that Barack Obama had a chance in 2009 to make a major impact by dedicating hundreds of billions in "stimulus" spending to infrastructure improvement. Instead, he opted to fritter away hundreds of billions on his core constituencies, undoubtedly buying votes, but doing virtually nothing to improve an economy that was in free fall.

Let's take a look back at 2009. Barack Obama, along with a Democrat supermajority in Congress approved an $819 billion stimulus package. According to The Washington Post at the time, the package included $637 billion in direct spending. $278.1 billion was spent on entitlement programs (unemployment compensation for 99 weeks, family assistance, medicaid, expanded food stamp programs, etc.), $91 billion on a potpourri of other social programs, with another $79 billion of state "stabilization"  that was used to balance state budgets that were stressed by federal mandates for social programs.

Only $46.1 billion—less than 8 percent of the stimulus—was spent on infrastructure. That would be the same infrastructure that Democrats now complain doesn't have adequate governmental support. When you look at all the numbers associated with the stimulus, almost 70 percent of the money was spent on programs that resulted in the making people even more dependent on government (e.g., foodstamps, social welfare, unemployment compensation). Only 8 percent was spent on projects that would have benefited taxpayers and the economy long term (e.g., road, bridges, ports, airports, railroad lines).

Barack Obama and his Democrat supporters had a real opportunity to improve infrastructure at a time when such improvements would have resulted in high paying jobs and tangible benefit to taxpayers. Yet now, they complain that our infrastructure is a mess. They're right about that, but they had a once in a lifetime opportunity to change it six years ago, and they chose to go a different way.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Over the past six and a half years, I have criticized the Obama White House for its many flaws, its lack of accomplishment and positive results on both domestic concerns and foreign policy issues, and on its often corrupt, divisive, and secretive politics. But for all of that, possibly the worst failing of this president and those close to him is a lack of self-awareness, an inability to recognize error or failure and adapt accordingly, and an ideological fervor that precludes any thought that opposing views may have even a smidgen of merit.

Recently, this failing was exemplified, not by Barack Obama, but by first-Lady, Michelle Obama, as explained by Heather Wilhelm:
Speaking at commencement exercises at historically black Tuskegee University last Saturday, first lady Michelle Obama told a crowd of bright-eyed graduates the following: “The road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me.”

Let’s pause for a moment to remember that the speaker is an intelligent, attractive woman who went to Chicago’s prestigious Whitney Young magnet school, then to Princeton, then to Harvard, then on to a rather mysterious six-figure job at the University of Chicago, which I’m sure was totally unrelated to her husband’s political work. Next, she was off to the White House, proceeding to globe-hop to places like Cambodia, where, in March, she booked 85 hotel guest rooms at a cost of $242,500 for 33 minutes of public speaking. This was a drop in the bucket, of course, compared to the estimated $44 million in taxpayer-funded vacations she and her husband have racked up over the years.

Ahem. Moving on. “There will be times,” the first lady continued, “when you feel folks look right past you, or they see just a fraction of who you really are. … My husband and I [have] both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the ‘help’ — and all those who questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.”

Whatever you think of the first lady’s complaints — and a reasonable approach might involve acknowledging that racism exists and agreeing that we need to combat it, while questioning the strangeness of one of the most powerful, privileged, and admired women in America repeatedly obsessing over her own past “daily slights” — that last phrase is rather breathtaking. In one fell swoop, it groups “those who questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of country” together with a giant bushel of supposed racism. It also reveals a lot about the mind of Michelle Obama, who apparently assumes that the only reason you could possibly criticize her or the president is simple: You’re probably a racist.

This would certainly be news to, say, George W. Bush, a white president whose intelligence, honesty, and love of country were not only questioned, but raked over the coals with relish for years. Burned in effigy? Check! Repeatedly caricatured as a chimpanzee, The Joker, and Hitler? Check! Nationally lampooned as a total dolt? Check! Compared to Satan, the dark lord of the underworld, without a hint of irony? Check! Was that racism? Or was it just America being its usual, vociferous, half-crazy self?

Alas, among the Obamas, self-awareness is not a strong suit, and this particular deficit isn’t limited to the first lady. This week, at Georgetown University, the president bemoaned the scourge of private schools, driven by “an anti-government ideology that disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.”
This, of course, spoken by a man who sends his own children to private schools.

Many of us who went to public schools (and many more who went to private ones) do have a surprising (to Obama) ability to look at the accomplishments and failings of Big Intrusive Government (B.I.G.) and draw rather different conclusions. We have concluded that profligate spending does NOT help the average citizen, but does enrich the anointed (connected) businesses and individuals who cozy up to the political class. We notice that many politicians enrich themselves and leave office as millionaires, that incompetence, waste, and inefficiency reign, that there is no accountability, that thousands of new regulations are choking the growth of businesses, that a dependency culture (often encouraged by the Democratic party) hurts, not helps, the minority populations that Michelle Obama claims to empathize with.

As a result, many of us have come to the conclusion that government must serve a role, but that role should be significantly limited. How limited? A 10 percent across-the-board cut in federal programs would be a good start, but we couldn't have that, could we? After all, that would be taking a "meat cleaver," where we need a surgeon's scalpel, right? Any substantive cuts to actual spending is anathema to the political class. After all, they gain their power from the ability to tax and spend—nothing else matters. The more taxing and spending, the more power. It's really pretty simple, and also pretty depressing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Fire

There have been millions of words written on the thwarted Islamic terrorist attack against the Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas. A significant majority of those words come from left-leaning members of the main stream media and the left-wing commentariat who are far more angry at Pamela Geller for sponsoring this "anti-Islamic event" than they are at the Islamists who decided that an appropriate response would be to murder all who attended the event.

Peter Wehner suggests that criticism of religion is well accepted (even applauded) and rightly defended by those on the Left, unless that criticism is directed at Islam. Then, those who draw cartoons or level legitimate criticism of a religion whose (to quote Samuel Huntington), “borders are bloody and so are its innards,” are labeled Islamophobes and bigots.

Wegner comments:
Yet when it comes to Muhammad and the cartoons, we’re supposed to indulge Muslim militancy. We’re expected to take into account, and tiptoe around, the delicate sensibilities of jihadists. Easily provoked, our job is not to trigger a violent response from them. Today it’s a cartoon. Tomorrow it may be a dissertation that is critical of aspects of Muhammed’s life. The following day it may be Bill Maher’s monologue. Jihadists will come up with an endless number of reasons to be offended by us and to kill us. And at every stage and at every point, we’ll be told that we need to conform to the demands of the militants in order to prevent a “clash of civilizations.” Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

I find it rather stunning that those whose profession depends on freedom of speech are so eager to cater to those who are undermining it. The thinking of many in the political class seems to be that if cartoons are deemed offensive and off limits by jihadists, then the cartoons are offensive and off limits. Ms. Geller, however imperfect she may be, decided she wouldn’t go along with this game. She wouldn’t play by jihadi rules. If the demand by Islamists is you can’t draw cartoons of Muhammed, her response was: Oh yes we can. Certainly in America we can.

As a general matter, I’m not particularly enthralled with those who mock other people’s faith. But when people, in the name of their faith, threaten to kill you for drawing cartoons, I’m a good deal more understanding of those who will do it just to prove that intimidation tactics don’t work, that the First Amendment lives.

Winston Churchill said that he declined utterly to be impartial as between the fire brigade and the fire. And while I’m no fan of Geller, I decline utterly to be impartial as between Pamela Geller and the jihadists who want to kill her (and us). So should you
From their high moral perch, members of the Left do in fact practice the soft bigotry of low expectations. Islam (a religion counting over 1.6 billion people as adherents) is somehow "oppressed" by angry white men, and as such, virtually anything they do or espouse can be explained away under the guise of "oppression." Violence and murder, the subjugation of women and gay people, a legal code that is better suited to the 8th century than the 21st, even genocidal objectives are best left unexplored ... because if your try to explore them ... you're a bigot.

Like Winston Churchill I'm inclined to side with the fire brigade rather than the fire.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Imaginary Monsters

In an amusing, and at the same time, insightful article, Heather Wilhelm discusses the Left's concern with the threat of "intersectionality" within some future Mars colony. Specifically, the worry that racism and sexism will infect a Mars colony—never mind that any attempt at traveling to Mars is a decade away or more. Oh, and for those who don't know what "intersectionality" is, it's a feminist concept that in Wilhelm's words is "widely interpreted to document how an individual can be oppressed in multiple layers, thanks to a mix of race, class, gender, and more."

Wilhelm goes on to discuss the Left's obsession with oppression, writing:
Racism or sexism are both, quite obviously, bad things. Unfortunately, the modern left has become so obsessed with the concept of “oppression” in general—or whatever “intersectional” brew is the craze of the day—that many simply can’t see straight. In the process, they often miss the big picture, fail to discern genuine threats, and even create imaginary monsters along the way.

If our culture’s oppression obsession were limited to wacky Guardian articles or the far corners of academia, we could all have a good chortle and move on. Sadly, that’s not the case. Take, for instance, this week’s events in Garland, Texas, where a “draw Mohammed” contest inspired the creation of a whole building full of religiously offensive cartoons—which, in turn, was enough to inspire two Islamic men to attempt a mass shooting at the scene.

Amazingly, in the wake of an attempted terrorist attack on American soil, countless pundits and politicians rushed to condemn, first and foremost, not the would-be murderers, but the cartoons—and, by extension, the people who drew them. In a free society, the implications of this are fairly stunning. But when you think about it in terms with our growing cultural fixations and fears, it sort of makes sense. After all, is there a better metaphor for an oppression-based imaginary monster than an “incendiary,” “offensive” drawing in pen and ink?
Leftists would correctly rail against the notion that a woman who dresses provocatively is somehow inviting a sexual assault. Yet, in essence, that's the argument they're making by blaming the organizers of the cartoon conference for the violent attack on them. The organizers 'dressed' provocatively (by exercising their free speech rights), so many on the left suggest that they therefore precipitated the assault by Islamic terrorists. Provocative 'dress' may be in poor taste, but it never should be used to justify a violent response.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Inspirational Connections

It's interesting to observe the on-going response to the Charlie Hebdo-Almost terrorist incident in Texas. The media, true to form, demonizes anti-Islam provocateur Pam Geller who organized the Mohammed cartoon conference that was the object of the terrorists' thwarted attack. After all, she has the temerity to suggest that some in Islam respond to insults with extreme violence, and then, as MSNBC's Chris Mathews stated, she set a "mousetrap" whose cheese was the cartoons. Sure 'nuf, the event was attacked by Islamists. The story, it appears, is all about Geller. The violent Islamic terrorist attempt is merely a side issue.

Now that ISIS has suggested that it supported the local-grown terrorists, the White House, true to form, refuses to acknowledge the connection. The atmospherics would be bad.

The FBI, true to form, scurries around the terrorist's apartment looking for any "operational" connection between the men and ISIS (or other Jihadists), hoping to find a smoking gun that would indicate complicity with the group. This is necessary, but it is not sufficient.

The problem, as Richard Fernandez explains in an excellent essay, is that ISIS is thoroughly modern in its recruitment efforts and needs only provide an "inspirational" connection. The rest can be left to the fevered thinking of extremist Muslims, reinforced at extremist Mosques, and bingo, we have one or more terrorists on the loose.

No one wants to acknowledge the simple fact that extremist Mosques in the United States enable the "inspirational" appeal of ISIS and other Jihadist groups. For example, the Cambridge Mosque, religious home of the Boston Marathon bombers might deserve a look. But that's politically incorrect. Fernandez explains:
The notion that Islamic institutions can serve as recruiting depots for ISIS is very dangerous politically and for that reason is often rejected out of hand as a form of “Islamophobia” or bigotry. For example, the CNN article on the Cambridge mosque cites sources who say that no connection can be drawn between the mosque and the extraordinary number of terror suspects associated with it.
Odd, though, that certain mosques do tend to attract people who later become violent and plan or execute terrorist incidents. There's never an explanation provided for that coincidence, and maybe that's all it is, but then again, maybe not.

Fernandez goes on the consider the curious juxtaposition of Geller and the Islamic radicals who tried to kill her:
But although officials appear to discount the possibility that mosques may be dangerous, it ironically seems a well established media truth that Geller’s speech is dangerous. To them Gellers and [Girt] Wilders [an anti-Islamic politician from the Nethelands] can rouse people to seditious behavior in a way that a radical imam cannot.
I agree that it's important for the feds to look for and uncover operational connections between home-grown terrorists and the groups that comprise radical Islam. But it's equally important to examine local inspirational connections, and that's something that the feds want to avoid at all cost. One day, the cost of avoidance may be very high.

The Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City (ISGKC) is a mosque that has hosted Islamist speakers that are at least as provocative as Pam Geller. Patrick Poole reports:
As I reported at PJ Media back in September 2012, ISGKC launched an online petition calling for Barack Obama to sponsor a bill limiting the free speech of American citizens by criminalizing insults to religion (namely, Islam) following international protest of the “Innocence of Muslims” video.

The petition, which was signed by the ISGKC executive board and posted on the mosque’s website, received 348 signatures. One of the mosque board members defended the petition in an interview with the local media following our PJ Media report:
“Insulting somebody else or putting somebody down can insight violence and lead to people losing their lives. We’re trying not to give these people a chance to misbehave,” said Mohammed Kohia, who started the petition along with the executive board of the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City.
But as a local ACLU attorney explained:
Somebody’s speech is no excuse for violence, that’s right … but you can’t punish the speaker for the violence practiced by others. While I understand why they’re upset, their preposition is clearly unconstitutional.
As I noted at the time, the position of ISGKC was particularly peculiar given that the mosque had hosted internationally renowned Islamic hate speaker Khalid Yasin, whose controversial statements include calling for the death penalty for gays and describing the beliefs of Christians and Jews as “filth.”
Oh ... by the way ... the ISGKC will, according to Poole, "... hold the funeral for one of the two jihadists killed in a shootout Sunday outside a Dallas-area convention center that was hosting a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest."

I'm sure there won't be any extreme language or hate speech at this solemn event, will there?

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Charlie Hebdo—Almost

In January, 2015, Left-leaning journalists, writers, and other intelligencia were shocked, absolutely shocked (and frightened), immediately after the murder of 11 cartoonists and journalists by Islamic terrorists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. They expressed outrage and even created a Twitter hashtag (the ultimate expression of concern for this type of individual) in solidarity with the satirists at Charlie.

It only took them about 4 months to become intellectual (and literal) cowards.

Rich Lowry reports on an incident in Texas:
Terrorists assaulted a “Mohammed cartoon” event in Texas sponsored by activist Pamela Geller, and the response has been, in part, soul-searching over what’s wrong with Pamela Geller.

Geller is an attention-hungry provocateur who will never be mistaken for Bernard Lewis, the venerable scholar of Islam. Her Texas gathering to award a cash prize for the best cartoon of Mohammed — depictions of whom are considered offensive by many Muslims — was deliberately offensive, but so what?

Two armed Muslim men showed up intending to kill the participants, and were only thwarted when they were shot dead by a police officer who was part of the elaborate security arrangements.

Absent the security, we might have had a Charlie Hebdo–style massacre on these shores, in Garland, Texas, no less, a suburb of Dallas. (The world would be a safer and better place if the forces of civilization everywhere were as well-prepared and well-armed as they are in Texas.)
This morning ISIS announced that it was behind the attack (that's unverified).

Left leaning journalists, however, are far more interested in investigating Pam Geller than they are in exploring those who wanted to murder her and her fellow attendees. Others have decided that satirizing Islam is an understandable, if not justifiable, "provocation" for Muslims.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
Against this backdrop we have the extraordinary—almost comical—irony of some of America’s bien pensant intellectuals boycotting a ceremony Tuesday by the PEN American Center to confer its annual courage award for freedom of expression on Charlie Hebdo. PEN is an association of writers, and six prominent novelists—Peter Carey,Michael Ondaatje,Francine Prose,Teju Cole,Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi—have been trying to repeal the award for Charlie Hebdo.

Ms. Kusher said she was uncomfortable with the “forced secular view” and “cultural intolerance” represented by Charlie Hebdo, whose signature attacks were on organized religion. Before the boycott, Mr. Cole wrote in the New Yorker magazine questioning the praise for Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the massacre. He lamented that the concern for Charlie Hebdo’s murdered cartoonists won’t be matched by concern for the young men of military age “who will have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere.”

A separate petition signed by more than 200 PEN members complains that their organization is “not simply conveying support for freedom of expression, but also valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”
It's fascinating that the knee-jerk reaction from many on the Left is that any delineation of the violence and barbarity promoted by Islamic radicals, or for that matter, any criticism, satire or questions focused on the Muslim world are nothing more than "anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”

Apparently, the signatories at PEN haven't the intellectual capacity to explore why this tendency toward "anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments" might exist and (Oh! The horror!) whether Muslim moderates might have some responsibility for ridding Islam of the violent and barbaric elements that are defining it in small but relentless increments.

Instead, the American media investigates Geller and her colleagues, because outing an anti-Muslim "right wing" bigot is far more newsworthy and meme-worthy than exploring Islamic murderers who want to dampen or eliminate free speech and force their warped pro-Sharia worldview on all of us.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Non-Patterns and Patterns

Can you derive a pattern from the following events:
  • Planes fly into the World Trade Center, killing over 3,000 innocent people and causing property damage in the billions, al Qaeda claims responsibility;
  • Vicious attacks against public transportation targets in London and Spain with resultant deaths; Jihadist groups claim responsibility;
  • An attack on a Hotel in Mumbai; Jihadist groups claim responsibility;
  • The repeated wholesale slaughter of Christians by ISIS; 
  • The stoning women to death (in the name of Sharia Law) for alleged adultery in Afghanistan by the Taliban; 
  • The kidnapping young girls for use as sex slaves by Boko Haram, 
  • The murder of 14 soldiers at Ft. Hood by a known Jihadist military officer that political correctness protected, 
  • The murder of journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris;
  • The threat of "annihilation" of a Western democracy by Iran, who, by the way, will have unfettered, if not immediate, access to nuclear weapons if Barack Obama has his way;
  • Fatwas again anyone (e.g., Salman Rushdi, Ayann Hirsi Ali) who speak out again a religious code that has done little to police itself and less to stamp out its most violent elements.
Western leaders, their media hamsters, and most of the Left refuse to acknowledge that any pattern exists or that the events and groups noted from among hundreds of candidates are in any way representative of a particular religion or ideology. There is a non-pattern -- but of course, that's not true.

When pressed with irrefutable facts, the Left snarls a response that amounts to: (1) what good would it do to acknowledge the war; (2) anyone who wants an acknowledgement is a war monger, (3) you can't indict an entire religion or go to war against 1.6 billion people, (4) the "vast majority" of Muslims are peace loving and moderate. The problem, of course, is that those that are not part of the "vast majority" are at war with us, and as a consequence, a threat to us all. Acknowledging the threat is a good thing, calling on Islam to rid the world of the threat is the right thing, and war? No one in the West wants it, but that doesn't mean that our opponents can't wage it.

Richard Fernandez comments:
These facts [a delineation of Jihadist acts], by themselves, are unremarkable. What is truly astounding is the dogged evasiveness with which the administration and most leaders of the Western world are determined not to see them; the insistent will to maintain the atmosphere of “business as usual”. Ed Miliband, the head of the British Labor Party, wishes to criminalize “Islamophobia” and President Obama has repeatedly declared the “war on terror” is over.

All the best places chorus, “what me? Worry?” There is no war. There is no problem that a little silence, a little censorship and a little John Kerry won’t amend. Yet no one is safe.

At this point no one expects Western leadership to have answers. But the public can reasonably expect the leadership to ask questions, at the least to face the facts. No one wants war. But speaking of which, though some have been brought to an end by surrender, and others by victory, never in the annals of history has one been concluded by denial.
Based on recent events in Baltimore, the Left is not always averse to recognizing patterns. The suspicious deaths of black men at the hands of police in Ferguson, MO, New York City, and Baltimore is not only recognized as a compelling pattern, it's analyzed in excruciating detail. The conclusion is immediate and explicit—"racist cops are murdering otherwise innocent black men." There is little equivocation. Indictments are issued, federal probes are initiated, and "solutions" (no matter how bizarre or ineffective) are proposed.

But when Jihadists attack a cartoon contest in Texas, it's a non-story. When other Jihadists murder customers in a Paris deli, it's inconvenient to mention that the victims were Jews. When ISIS murders Christians, there is little analysis and even less media discussion. When Iran talks of annihilating Israel, it's merely political rhetoric targeted at the Iranian public—not be be taken seriously.

Hmmm. I think I see a pattern here.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Best of Intentions

Progressives and denizens of the Left, from Bernie Sanders to the average customer at Whole Foods, are moved deeply by income inequality and fervently believe that a "living wage" is something that should be mandated by the federal government. After all, business owners are part of the hated one percent, and they could simply take less greedy profit out of their business to make it all happen.

From high on their moral perch, progressives argue that it's "unfair" for working people to be paid anything less than [fill in the blank] and "someone" just has to come up with the money—that someone being the business owner. Moral preening works fine in the abstract, but when "living wage" ideas are applied in the real world (a place antithetical to many progressives), problems arise.

Ian Tuttle reports on two small businesses in what may be the most progressive city in the United States—San Francisco. By a 77 - 23 percent margin, San Franciscans voted to institute a $15.00/hr minimum wage by 2018, with four incremental way points leading up to that date. Tuttle writes about one of those businesses:
Brian Hibbs, owner and operator of Comix Experience, an iconic comic-book and graphic-novel shop on San Francisco’s Divisadero Street ... opened Comix Experience on April Fools’ Day, 1989, when he was just 21 years old. Over two-and-a-half decades, the store has become a must-visit location for premier comic-book artists and graphic novelists, and Hibbs has become a leading figure in the industry, serving as a judge for the prestigious Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards and as a member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s board of directors. He notes with pride that his store has turned a profit each year — no small task — since its very first year. 
But that may not last. Hibbs says that the $15-an-hour minimum wage will require a staggering $80,000 in extra revenue annually. “I was appalled!” he says. “My jaw dropped. Eighty-thousand a year! I didn’t know that. I thought we were talking a small amount of money, something I could absorb.” He runs a tight operation already, he says. Comix Experience is open ten hours a day, seven days a week, with usually just one employee at each store at a time. It’s not viable to cut hours, he says, because his slowest hours are in the middle of the day. And he can’t raise prices, because comic books and graphic novels have their retail prices printed on the cover.  
What is a small-businessman to do?
The problem is that most people who champion "living wage" proposals haven't run a business and don't understand that any wage has additional costs tied to it—social security contributions by the business, unemployment compensation paid by the business, disability insurance payments made by the business, and other city, state, and federal taxes and fees tied to wages. As wages rise, so do all of those burdened costs. But considering those costs requires some math, and unfortunately, math and moral preening don't coexist very well.

Tuttle goes on to tell the story of Borderlands Books, a science fiction bookstore, that announced:
Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in princip[le] and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.  Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.
The New Yorker picked up the story, and a crowdsourced contributions to the store will keep it going until 2016.

But is that what we want, subsidized small businesses that must rely on the donations of strangers rather than quality business practices? I'm quite certain Elizabeth Warren and her Democratic supporters would say 'yes.' But what happens when two businesses become 20 and then 200. Will there be enough crowdsourced donations to support them all? Or will an unintended consequence of the progressives moral preening be that some small profitable businesses that would thrive otherwise will fail under a coercive wage structure?

The irony is that the big corporate entities (Walmart, Target, CVS, etc.) hated by the Left can afford the wage structure and only they will remain. So in effect, the "living wage' crowd is doing its best to kill small, privately owned businesses and replace them with the very thing they hate. And before they claim that at least employees at those big corporate entities will earn a "living wage," I suggest they read a few reports (e.g., here) on the future of automation and robotics over the next decade. By artificially mandating high wages for humans, the Left is making it much, much easier to justify the cost of automation and replace the workers with robots.

But no worries. After all, it's all being done with the very best of intentions.