Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obama's Chutzpah

That Barack Obama often uses words to mislead should be clear to anyone not seduced by his smooth delivery and seemingly temperate demeanor. However, the statement he made last week is unsurpassed for its brazen and breathtaking deceit.

"But as I've said, in the long run, we can't continue to spend as if deficits don't have consequences; as if waste doesn't matter; as if the hard-earned tax dollars of the American people can be treated like Monopoly money. That's what we've seen time and time again. Washington has been more concerned about the next election than the next generation."

By this reckoning, reckless spending results from some anonymous entity called "Washington". It ignores the fact that Obama and Congressional Democrats are Washington. Excessive, irresponsible spending is what they do. What they have been doing. And they show no inclination to stop doing it.

Obama laments the wasting of taxpayers' dollars. What's next? Bernie Madoff decrying the lack of honesty and transparency among fund managers?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Refusing Lifesaving Gifts

"A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable."

Thus spoke President Obama about the failed bombing attempt of the Christmas day Amsterdam-Detroit flight. A couple of months ago he had said that he would not rest until every American who wanted a job would get one. While there's no cure for the President's insomnia over the employment issue there's a simple one for terrorism - Stop treating illegal enemy combatants like common criminals. Don't provide them with the Constitutional protections afforded ordinary American citizens. Who cares if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is convicted of a crime? Not our enemies. A guilty verdict certainly won't deter them from mounting future attacks. They laugh at our unseriousness. Instead, let's find out what the guy knows. Interrogate him. Coercively, if necessary. (I would suggest putting a Ving Rhames Pulp Fiction type character on his case and "getting medieval on his ass" but this is probably outside the current realm of consideration). Following this approach would substantially augment and accelerate Obama's "full investigation".

Failed attempts like Abdulmutallab's are gifts - opportunities to learn more about the enemy. They give us knowledge essential in saving innocent American (and non-American) lives. George W. Bush knew this and war criminals like Khalid Sheik Mohammed were treated appropriately. Information obtained from KSM has been invaluable to the war effort.

As long as the Obama administration continues to obtusely deny that Islamic terrorists are in fact soldiers in a war, there will be no rest for the weary. Since he took office, there have been innumerable reminders of how this president falls short of his predecessor. None are more striking than his approach to his most important function - ensuring national security. Despite some important policy retentions (e.g. - warrantless surveillance, rendition, restrictions on detainee rights at Bagram prison), Obama has been otherwise reckless in his attempts to portray himself as the unBush - foolishly announcing the closing of Gitmo two days into his term (and planning to send some released inmates to the terrorist haven of Yemen); calling waterboarding torture and prohibiting its use under any circumstance; using the silly terminology of overseas contingency operations (war) and man-caused disasters (terrorist attacks); citing returning Iraqi war veterans as our most serious security threat; deciding to hold civilian trials for KSM and four other 9/11 conspirators; and now treating Abdulmutallab as a common criminal instead of a potential source of lifesaving information.

Obama's distancing himself from Bush on security matters also means distancing the country from what's proved successful in keeping the homeland safe from war the past eight years. Since Obama is only about Obama, he should realize that his legacy is just one major man-caused disaster from destruction.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Something To Look Forward To

As bad as the British and Canadian health care systems are, ours will be worse under Obamacare, says Mark Steyn.

(The British) created an exciting new “Patient’s Bill of Rights,” promising every Briton the “right” to hospital treatment within 18 weeks. Believe it or not, that distant deadline shimmering woozily in the languid desert haze can be oddly reassuring if you’ve ever visited a Scottish emergency room on a holiday weekend. And, if the four-and-a-half months go by and you still haven’t been treated, you get your (tax) money back? Ah, no. But there is a free helpline you can call which will give you continuously updated estimates on which month your operation has been rescheduled for. I mention these not as a preview of the horrors to come, but because I’ve come to the bleak conclusion that U.S.-style “health” “reform” is going to be far worse.

We were told we had to do it because of the however many millions of uninsured, yet this bill will leave some 25 million Americans uninsured. On the other hand, millions of young fit healthy Americans in their first jobs who currently take the entirely reasonable view that they do not require health insurance at this stage in their lives will be forced to pay for coverage they neither want nor need. On the other other hand, those Americans who’ve done the boring responsible grown-up thing and have health plans Harry Reid determines to be excessively “generous” will be subject to punitive taxes up to 40 percent. On the other other other hand, if you’re the member of a union which enjoys privileged relations with Commissar Reid you’ll be exempt from that 40 percent shakedown. On the other other other other hand, if you’re already enjoying government health care, well, you’re 83 years old and, let’s face it, it’s hardly worth us giving you that surgery for the minimal contribution you make to society, so in the cause of extending government health care to millions of people who don’t currently get it we’re going to ration it for those currently entitled to it.
Looking at the millions of Americans it leaves uninsured, and the millions it leaves with worse treatment and reduced access, and the millions it makes pay significantly more for their current health care, one can only marvel at Harry Reid’s genius: government health care turns out to be all government and no health care. Adding up the zillions of new taxes and bureaucracies and regulations it imposes on the citizenry, one might almost think that was the only point of the exercise.

That’s why I believe America’s belated embrace of government health care is going to be far more expensive and disastrous than the Euro-Canadian models. Whatever one’s philosophical objection to the Canadian health system, it is, broadly, fair: Unless you’re a cabinet minister or a bigtime hockey player, you’ll enjoy the same equality of crappiness and universal lack of access that everybody else does. But, even before it’s up-and-running, Pelosi-Reid-Obamacare is an impenetrable thicket of contradictory boondoggles, shameless payoffs, and arbitrary shakedowns.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Obamacare And Partisanship

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaking about the process of getting the health care bill past the fillibuster threat.

There's a hundred senators here. And I don't know if there's a senator who didn't have something important to them. And if they don't have something in it (the bill) important to them then it doesn't speak well of them. That's what this legislation is all about. It's the art of compromise.

By Reid's reasoning, a senator who had the integrity to vote for or against the bill based on its merits was simply not doing his job. But praise goes to the senator who is bribed by federal taxpayer money in return for his vote, whatever his views of the bill. That's not the art of compromise. It's the art of extortion. Mary Landrieu gets $300 million of Medicaid subsidies for her state (Louisiana). Ben Nelson gets $100 million for his (Nebraska). Another Nelson (Bill) of Florida managed to finagle a grandfathering of the popular Medicare Advantage program for residents of his state. (Price- $3-5 billion). Seniors in other states aren't so fortunate. Seniors in Florida are also out of luck if they sign up after the bill takes effect. These are just a few examples of senators who have something important for them in the bill. There are many others. As Reid said, that's what the legislation is all about. Payoffs made by the Democratic Party - the present keyholders to the Treasury vault - to purchase votes. And there's more to come. House Democrats who supported the Pelosi version only because there was an anti federal funding for abortion amendment in that bill will surely be bought off too.
Remember President Obama's campaign pledge to bring to Washington a new kind of politics? What he really meant was the old kind on steroids. A new era of transparency and bipartisanship? Obama sold those lies to a large, gullible portion of the electorate. The Senate health care bill was put together behind closed doors with zero input from Republicans. This was also true of the House's health care bill, the "stimulus" package and (in the House) the cap and tax bill. Trillions of dollars worth of misguided, unpopular legislation. And with Republicans allowed no input, there has been no support for any of this legislation from Republicans. To use one of Obama's favorite words - this is unprecedented.
In contrast, other major Democratic Party initiatives - Social Security, Medicare and the Civil Rights Act received substantial Republican support. The Social Security Act was supported by Republicans, 81-15 in the House, 16-5 in the Senate. Medicare was split nearly evenly, 70-68 in the House, 13-17 in the Senate. And the Civil Rights Act, contrary to liberal mythology, was supported more strongly by Republicans than by Democrats. (see below). Reid, attempting to exploit that mythology, shamefully likened Republican opposition to the government takeover of 1/6 of the economy (health care) to their fictional opposition to Civil Rights and (even more disgracefully and deceitfully) to their support for slavery. Meanwhile former KKK bigshot and opponent of the Civil Rights Act, Robert Byrd, esteemed by Democrats, is President pro tempore of the Senate - third in the line of succession to the Presidency.

The Civil Rights Act voting numbers:

The original House version:
Democratic Party: 152-96 (61%-39%)
Republican Party: 138-34 (80%-20%)

Cloture in the Senate:
Democratic Party: 44-23 (66%-34%)
Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

The Senate version:
Democratic Party: 46-21 (69%-31%)
Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:
Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)
Republican Party: 136-35 (80%-20%)

Steve Hayes pointed out on today's Fox News panel discussion, both Social Security and Medicare are in dire straights financially. They've been able to survive (to this point) only because they were passed as bipartisan initiatives. Something so totally partisan as Obamacare stands no chance of surviving once it becomes, as it most certainly will, unsustainable. Hopefully it will die before that.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Something For Everyone

Grace-Marie Turner (NRO) sums up what twelve different constituencies have to look forward to if the current Senate health care bill is passed into law.

Seniors: Even though they are being told otherwise, seniors will pay the biggest price for reform. Half of the reason that Sen. Reid got a favorable cost estimate from CBO is because his bill cuts Medicare by $471 billion over the coming decade. An earlier report from the program’s chief actuary says cuts this deep would cause many providers to stop seeing Medicare patients or even to close their doors.

Everyone: The federal government would, for the first time, require every American to have health insurance. The government would stipulate what that mandatory insurance must cover and how much of their incomes people can afford to pay for it, and penalize them if they don’t comply. While some would be eligible for subsidies or waivers, most Americans would face tax penalties of $750 a year or 2 percent of their incomes, whichever is higher, to force compliance.

People buying their own insurance: The CBO says that families purchasing insurance in the individual market would not see a reduction, but rather an increase, in their premiums by $2,100 in the year 2016. That’s over and above the increases they already will be facing as health-insurance premiums continue to rise at about twice the rate of general inflation. A family would pay $15,200 for health insurance by 2016 if Sen. Reid’s bill passes, and $13,100 if it doesn’t. The CBO concluded that premiums in the individual market will be 10 to 13 percent higher in this market than if Congress did nothing.

People who work for small businesses: Those receiving health insurance through their employers will continue to see higher costs, with premiums for a family getting coverage though a small business increasing to $19,200 by 2016 — about the same pace as they would without reform.

People who work for large companies: The White House boasted that under the Senate bill, premiums for employees of large firms would remain mostly unchanged. But that means they would continue to go up almost as fast as they have been, reaching $20,100 for a family and $7,300 for an individual by 2016.

All employers: Companies also face an avalanche of new reporting requirements, penalties, and potential fines. Firms face fines whether or not they provide health insurance if any of their workers get taxpayer-subsidized coverage. And with subsidies available for families earning up to $80,000 a year, the exposure is significant.

Young people: Most haven’t a clue that the federal government is about to slap them with a new mandate requiring them to purchase expensive health insurance. Studies show that they would likely pay premiums two or three times the amount they would normally be charged based upon their age and expected use of health services.

Patients: A new independent board will have the power to cut Medicare benefits, and its decisions can only be overruled by another act of Congress. Private plans are likely to follow its recommendations. Congress doesn’t want to be held directly responsible for the rationing decisions the board inevitably will make, but the voters will quickly figure it out.

Doctors: Starting in March, doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and others who treat Medicare patients will face a 21 percent cut in their Medicare payments. This means doctors face a permanent lobbying campaign just to keep payments from being slashed.

Health-sector companies: While few people have sympathy for health-insurance companies and drug plans, they, too, will also face onerous new federal regulations and higher taxes — costs that can only be passed on to consumers in the form of reduced benefits or higher premium costs.

States: While about 10 states receive special favors (as in, pay-offs) in the Reid bill, the others will wind up with higher costs for their already budget-busting Medicaid programs. Another 15 million people will be added to the rolls of this program, which was originally intended for low-income people.

Budget watchers: The Reid bill would increase federal spending by $2.5 trillion in the first decade it goes into effect, but it is paid for by a combination of job-killing taxes and unrealistic cuts to Medicare. No one — including the CBO — believes these “pay-fors” are sustainable. As a result, the health overhaul bill inevitably will swell the federal budget deficit.

Health-insurance costs are likely to begin soaring right away, most of the new subsidies for insurance don’t kick in until 2014, higher taxes go into effect almost immediately, and seniors will find it harder and harder to find a doctor to see them and to get the care they need.

Ah, but the bill gives us "universal" health care.
George Will :

But what problem does it (the Senate bill) "solve" (Obama's word)? Not that of the uninsured, 23 million of whom will remain in 2019. Not that of rising health care spending. This will rise faster over the next decade.
The legislation does solve the Democrats' "problem" of figuring out how to worsen the dependency culture and the entitlement mentality that grows with it.

Last Minute Gift Suggestion

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Unions vs. Poor Minorities. Guess Who Wins.

From an editorial in today's WSJ.

Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District's Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school.

The reason? It's not because the pilot program has been unsuccessful. Quite the contrary. The editorial explains,

The program's popularity has generated long waiting lists. A federal evaluation earlier this year said the mostly black and Hispanic participants are making significant academic gains and narrowing the achievement gap. But for the teachers unions, this just can't happen. The National Education Association instructed Democratic lawmakers to kill it.

"Opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA," declared the union in a letter sent to every Democrat in the House and Senate in March. "We expect that Members of Congress who support public education, and whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend the pilot program. Actions associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress."

Poor minorities are victimized by liberals twice over. First by the enactment of vast entitlement programs creating a culture of dependency - just one indication of which is that the percentage of black children living with only one parent has risen from about 30% in 1960 (before LBJ's "Great Society" was put in place) to over 60% today. And second, by catering to that great benefactor of the Democratic Party - the teachers' unions - and denying needy families stuck in atrocious public school systems (like D.C.'s) the opportunity to choose an alternative.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Want To Improve The Environment? - Embrace Capitalism

Jonah Goldberg (NRO) bids good riddance to the just concluded Copenhagen climate conference extravaganza by quoting noted anti-capitalist environmental champions Evo Morales, Robert Mugabe, Hugo Chavez and Diane Francis. Then he points out the obvious.

The historical record is clear: Democratic free-market nations are better at protecting their environments than statist regimes for the simple reason that they can afford to. West Germany’s environment was far cleaner than East Germany’s. I’d much sooner drink the tap water in South Korea than North Korea.

Mugabe rails against capitalism as if he has a better idea of how to run things. That’s almost funny given that Mugabe has destroyed what was once a great cause for hope in Africa, in large part by abandoning capitalism and democracy. Zimbabwe now has the highest inflation rate in the world and one of the lowest life expectancies. Let’s hope nobody was taking notes when he was giving out advice.

Moreover, capitalism, and the wealth it creates, is the best means of bending down the population curve. Don’t take my word for it. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledges that “affluence is correlated with long life and small families” and that growing prosperity will cause world population to decline even further.

Want to know the best way to heal the planet? Create more rich countries. Want to know the best way to hurt the planet? Throw a wet blanket on economic growth.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Obamacare Kills

An enlightening op-ed was written for today's Wall Street Journal by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla). Coburn, who is also a practicing physician, warns that rationing provisions in the Senate health care bill, if passed, will lead to premature deaths.
He cites the specific offending sections of the bill.

For instance, the Reid bill (in sections 3403 and 2021) explicitly empowers Medicare to deny treatment based on cost. An Independent Medicare Advisory Board created by the bill—composed of permanent, unelected and, therefore, unaccountable members—will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program. Medicare, for example, has limited cancer patients' access to Epogen, a costly but vital drug that stimulates red blood cell production. It has limited the use of virtual, and safer, colonoscopies due to cost concerns. And Medicare refuses medical claims at twice the rate of the largest private insurers.

Section 6301 of the Reid bill creates new comparative effectiveness research (CER) programs. CER panels have been used as rationing commissions in other countries such as the U.K., where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year according to the National Cancer Intelligence Network. CER panels here could effectively dictate coverage options and ration care for plans that participate in the state insurance exchanges created by the bill.

Additionally, the Reid bill depends on the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in no fewer than 14 places. This task force was responsible for advising women under 50 to not undergo annual mammograms. The administration claims the task force recommendations do not carry the force of law, but the Reid bill itself contradicts them in section 2713. The bill explicitly states, on page 17, that health insurance plans "shall provide coverage for" services approved by the task force. This chilling provision represents the government stepping between doctors and patients. When the government asserts the power to provide care, it also asserts the power to deny care.

Coburn also sees problems with the accounting assumptions made by the bill's crafters.

Other unintended consequences of the Reid bill could wreak havoc on patients' lives. What happens, for instance, when savvy consumers commanded to buy insurance realize the penalty is the de facto premium? It won't take long for younger, healthier Americans to realize it's cheaper to pay a $750 tax for coverage instead of, say, $5,000 in annual premiums when coverage can't be denied if you get sick.

And Coburn uses his personal experience to illustrate in real-life terms the failings of the Senate's health care legislation.

But the most fundamental flaw of the Reid bill is best captured by the story of one my patients I'll call Sheila. When Sheila came to me at the age of 33 with a lump in her breast, traditional tests like a mammogram under the standard of care indicated she had a cyst and nothing more. Because I knew her medical history, I wasn't convinced. I aspirated the cyst and discovered she had a highly malignant form of breast cancer. Sheila fought a heroic battle against breast cancer and enjoyed 12 good years with her family before succumbing to the disease.

If I had been practicing under the Reid bill, the government would have likely told me I couldn't have done the test that discovered Sheila's cancer because it wasn't approved under CER. Under the Reid bill, Sheila may have lived another year instead of 12, and her daughters would have missed a decade with their mom.

Supporters of the bill would probably say that since Sheila died prematurely anyway it wasn't worth spending taxpayer money on the test.

Health care "reform" now making its way through Congress will provide - Government mandated insurance coverage with stringent requirements on what is covered. Rationing by third party bureaucrats whose first priority is cost control. A significant increase in the demand for health care without a corresponding increase in the supply of providers. Less choice and worse care with a substantial increase in overall cost to be paid for by patients, taxpayers and employers. The stifling of medical innovation, trillions of dollars added to the budget and slower economic growth with disincentives for employers to hire workers. Such a deal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For Once, He's Honest

From AP news today - Obama: Senate on precipice of passing health care

American Heritage Dictionary - precipice - noun - The brink of a dangerous or disastrous situation: example - on the precipice of defeat.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Homeland Insecurity"

Every Saturday the Wall Street Journal runs an essay on the front page of its Weekend Journal section. The article covers in detail a particular subject written by someone who's purportedly an expert in the area. This week's piece ("Homeland Insecurity") deals with the rising security hazard facing the U.S. from home grown terrorists. It was written by Daniel Byman of (among others) the left leaning Brookings Institution.
Much of the article sums up recent threats involving Muslim American citizens. Byman points out that these threats are becoming more serious than they had been. Previous plots uncovered by the FBI were unlikely to succeed, such as one to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge by blowtorching its huge cables. Now there's some evidence of American Muslims with al-Queda connections planning more sophisticated operations.
Byman attributes our good fortune (relative to Europe and Asia) in avoiding terrorist attacks to a number of factors. These include our aggressive actions targeting al-Qaeda, successful intelligence operations by the FBI and other organizations, foreign and domestic, our lack of geographical proximity to Muslim nations, and differences in European and American attitudes toward Muslim immigrants (surprise, surprise - we're more tolerant).

There is one statement made by Byman which I had to read several times and it still doesn't make sense. Writing about the Ft. Hood massacre,

The silver lining is that the Army believes the suspect (Major Hasan) acted alone and without any assistance from other terror groups, a view reflected in their decision to charge him with murder in a military rather than civilian court.

What Byman seems to be saying is that if Hasan acted alone, compelled by his own motives, then it's appropriate to try him in a military court. If he enlisted or accepted help from our enemies, then it becomes a civilian crime to be tried in civilian court.
The first part may be true since Hasan is a soldier and the attack took place on a military base. But if his motivation was killing American GIs as part of a plan hatched by militants waging war against our country, his crime becomes more of a military matter, not less. Indeed, it becomes an act of war. And most of the arguments that apply against AG Eric Holder's outrageous decision to try the 9/11 five in a civilian court would apply to Hasan's case. Paramount among these being the protection of intelligence sources which provided the information of Hasan's (hypothetical) terrorist connections. The only way to make sense of Byman's twisted logic is to see it as an attempted (and pathetic) justification of Holder's decision.
It should also be noted that Hasan, as an American citizen, has an infinitely greater right to a civilian trial than do the illegal enemy combatants KSM and his buddies. Yet Hasan gets a military trial, KSM a civilian trial.
For another incisive column by former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy on the irrationality of the Holder decision, see the link below.

There are other problems with Byman's arguments. He lists three approaches to deterring homegrown terrorist attacks. Here are the first two. (The third is operating outreach programs in Muslim communities in the U.S.).

First, fighting the al Qaeda core in Pakistan should remain at the center of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Having a secure haven is often a make or break issue for terrorist groups, and al Qaeda's growing strength there is a deadly danger. U.S. drone strikes, a program that accelerated near the end of the Bush administration and took off in the first months of Mr. Obama's term, keep al Qaeda off-balance, but they are not a substitute for forcing Pakistan to clean out this haven.

Second, we need to consider how American foreign policy can lead to domestic radicalization. Killing an al Qaeda leader in Somalia is a blow to the organization there, but the decision on whether to pull the trigger or not should also factor in the risk of radicalizing an already alienated immigrant group here at home, not just the operational benefit of removing one leader from the organization.

In other words - 1. Fight al-Qaeda. 2. Don't fight al-Qaeda.

And even if Byman is suggesting that the Pakistanis should carry the fight in their own country, surely he must realize that they've been reluctant and undependable allies in the past. American military support in neighboring Afghanistan and (at the very least) logistical support in Pakistan is essential to prod Islamabad to action.

Byman also doesn't provide a clear answer as to what is causing this sudden increase in viable homegrown threats. He speculates that the al-Qaeda resurgence in Pakistan is providing a base for recruiting and training. Less plausibly he cites American Muslims angered by our airstrikes against al-Qaeda targets in Somalia. We've been in Iraq for almost seven years and in Afghanistan for more than eight. During most of that time, Byman agrees that domestic based terrorism wasn't a significant worry. The evidence seems to indicate that our war making policy is a non-factor in incentivising young American Muslims to radicalize.

Must Read Journalism

Mark Steyn's latest on NRO easily takes the prize as today's most worthwhile read. I'm tempted to reproduce some of his snappier comments, but then I'd have to post nearly the entire article. Just follow the link - I don't think a subscription is necessary. It's a whole lot funnier than anything Will Ferrell ever put out and it doesn't cost twelve bucks.

While you're on NRO you might also check out the following excellent items.

Victor Davis Hanson writing on much the same theme as Steyn - Obama's fall from grace.

And Andrew McCarthy's point by point demolition of AG Eric Holder's justification for trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court. (I also linked to this on another post today - scroll up).


In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech Thursday, Obama actually recognized the existence of evil in the world (a la G. W. Bush) and he expounded on America's heavily disproportionate role in maintaining peace and security. All on foreign soil, no less. Good for him. And for us.

...make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

...the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.

(This is the second time in the past two weeks he's said this - the first was in his Afghanistan surge speech. A small caveat. I would have substituted "underwritten" for "helped underwrite" - we haven't been helping anyone. We've done it on our own).

America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that these movements — these movements of hope and history — they have us on their side.
(Reportedly, Obama went off script with this, changing "these movements have hope and history on their side" to the phrasing he used above - a significant improvement).

Of course there were also a few of Obama's trademark pompous inanities. For instance,

“I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war.”


But overall, it was a welcome speech.
Unfortunately, it was just a speech.
Obama says we have a responsibility to make clear that we are on the side of democrats. He has yet to take that responsibility.

Allow me now to interject a dubious analogy.

In an episode of "Mad Men" - I forget which season - Harry Crane, the media director at the Sterling Cooper ad agency, needed an assistant to read all of the upcoming scripts for client sponsored TV shows so there would be no embarrassing surprises when the shows aired. He temporarily enlisted the services of super secretary Joan Harris who proved to be as competent handling this assignment as she was at everything else. Soon after, however, Harry recruited from outside someone else for the position, a man. When Harry broke the news to Joan, she was understandably despondent. The new hire was a clueless incompetent and needed Joan's help to do his job. It didn't matter. The myopic thinking of the male dominated ad agency culture of the times (the early 1960s), prevented a talented woman like Joan from contributing as a full-fledged colleague. (There was a good amount of self-interest involved too, but that's a separate issue).

Harry Crane, because of his rigid view of gender roles in the workplace, was unable to see that Joan Harris was more than capable of vetting TV scripts. President Obama, because of his rigid ideology, is similarly oblivious to foreign policy solutions that show up on his doorstep. (I said the analogy was dubious).
Obama is still so intractably wedded to his policy stance regarding Iran that when an golden opportunity arises miraculously before him, he blindly ignores its significance and potential. The continued courageous resistance of the Iranian people to their oppressive regime is such an opportunity.

Regime change is the only solution to halting the Iranian regime's quest for nuclear weapons that has a favorable outcome. And it could be highly favorable. Overthrowing Iran's theocracy will end its destabilizing nuclear threat, will eliminate it as the major patron of terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, will add to the burgeoning democracy movement in the region, will provide the U.S. with another Islamic ally, and will enhance our energy security. And yet, Obama refuses to recognize the demonstrators as the true voice of Iran. He prefers instead to talk with the tyrants enslaving the country and threatening the peace of the region and the world.

What should Obama do? Military action isn't necessary. But we should provide all possible covert assistance to the demonstrators. The regime accuses us of doing it anyway. And Obama should give forceful rhetorical support much as Ronald Reagan did for Eastern Eurpeans more than two decades earlier.
The President should make a major address proclaiming that we stand with the dissenters. "Stand down, Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad!" It doesn't resonate quite like Reagan's "Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev!", but it gets the message across just as well. With his Nobel speech, maybe Obama has found his pro-American, pro-democrat voice.

Writing in Thursday's WSJ, Iranian born Amir Taheri sees the Iranian opposition getting stronger and the regime in real danger of collapse even without our help.

The pro-democracy movement is deepening and growing. Much work is under way to connect it to independent trade unions and hundreds of formal and informal associations that lead the civil society's fight against the evil of the Islamic Republic.

Iran has entered one of those hinge moments in history. What is certain is that the status quo has become untenable.

Less than a decade ago, four contiguous nations from Arabia to India's border, all with Islamic majorities, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, were all - authoritarian (if not totalitarian), oppressive, sponsors of terror, and anti-American. [Iraq was particularly noxious, having started two wars against its neighbors, having developed and used chemical weapons in its war against Iran and against its own people and was working to develop these and other WMDs for future use]. Today, it is not too outlandish to imagine that all four of these former bad actors could, in the forseeable future, be - democratic, free, non-threatening, American allies.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Save The World - Kill The People

George Will recently wrote,

Barack Obama, understanding the histrionics required in climate change debates, promises that U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels. If so, 2050 emissions will equal those in 1910, when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million in 2050, so Obama's promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.

Obama's goal is probably more unrealistic than even that. Rich Lowry (NRO) -

On a per capita basis, Steve Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute writes, emissions were probably never that low, “even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti, and Somalia.”

Yet achieving these draconian cuts in CO2 emissions are essential to preventing catastophe, we're told. Anything short of that is inadequate. And if reversing two centuries worth of humanitarian progress is required, so be it. The "green" movement in general, and the "global warming" movement in particular are anti-capitalist, anti-industry, anti-technology, anti-people. They're quite open about this too. The doomsday theorist Paul Ehrlich famously postulated in his "equation", that I = P × A × T where I = Environmental Impact, P = Population, A = Affluence, T = Technology. Greens long for a sparsely populated (P), impoverished (A) and technologically backward (T) world. Some go even further.

Bret Stephens (WSJ) -

In his 2007 best seller "The World Without Us," environmentalist Alan Weisman considers what the planet would be like without mankind, and finds it's no bad thing.

To convice normal people to follow them along the path to self-destruction, environmentalists play up fictional catastrophic scenarios like New York under water or Paris frozen over. Those being somewhat speculative, they also point to present day problems for which they blame global warming. Stephens lists some of these.

Here's a partial rundown of some of the ills seriously attributed to climate change: prostitution in the Philippines (along with greater rates of HIV infection); higher suicide rates in Italy; the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle in Somalia; an increase in strokes and heart disease in China; wars in the Middle East; a larger pool of potential recruits to terrorism; harm to indigenous peoples and "biocultural diversity."

All this, of course, on top of the Maldives sinking under the waves, millions of climate refugees, a half-dozen Katrina-type events every year and so on and on—a long parade of horrors animating the policy ambitions of the politicians, scientists, climate mandarins and entrepreneurs now gathered at a U.N. summit in Copenhagen. Never mind that none of these scenarios has any basis in some kind of observable reality (sea levels around the Maldives have been stable for decades), or that the chain of causation linking climate change to sundry disasters is usually of a meaningless six-degrees-of-separation variety.

Then there's "Please Help The World" an unintentionally parodic short film shown at the opening ceremonies of the ongoing UN Copenhagen climate change conference. Even the pro-emissions control Breakthrough Institute mocked the film. (Noted on the Weekly Standard blogsite by Mary Katherine Ham).

The film begins with the girl watching television news of climate disasters. That night, clutching her polar bear stuffed animal, she dreams a terrifying nightmare: climate apocalypse. She is hit by a flood. She runs from tornadoes. An earthquake, apparently the result of some as yet unknown climate change impact, tears the earth asunder.

The ground cracks open and her stuffy falls in. She thrusts her hand into the earth to save the polar bear. Finally, she jumps to grab a tree branch as a tsunami roars beneath her.

The girl awakens, screaming. Her father is there to offer comfort. In what is apparently an effort to calm her, he shows her, of all things, the United Nations COP15 web site. She watches speeches by U.N. grandees like Desmond Tutu and Rajendra Pachauri demanding action now. She grabs her father's video camera, leaps from her stool, and dashes to the rooftop of her apartment.

There, with an angry sky as backdrop, she does what any sensible person would do when faced with global apocalypse: she points the video camera at herself and starts talking.

It's not the climate change skeptics that are out on the fringe.



Monday, December 7, 2009

Origin Of The River Rats

Jay Nordlinger has written recently on the use of the term "teabagger" by liberals to disparage tea-partyers protesting Obama administration economic policies. One issue he raises is how conservatives should respond to the slur - challenge those using it, or, instead, take "ownership" of it. In his "Impromptus" column today on NRO, Nordlinger gives an example of one group taking ownership of an intended insult and making it its own. His segment is of special interest to me - I live in Ann Arbor and my three children graduated from Ann Arbor Huron High School where my wife taught briefly. Also, I wasn't aware of the story he tells. Nordlinger himself is an Ann Arbor native and he attended the University of Michigan there.

In my piece “Rise of an Epithet,” about the term “teabagger,” I mentioned some words that started out as slurs and then became accepted by one and all — including the original targets themselves. I listed “Methodist,” “Tory,” “Impressionist” — even “Christian.” Some people speak of “owning the insult,” which is to take an intended putdown and wear it as a badge of honor.

I was reminded, just the other day, of an example from my hometown, Ann Arbor, Mich. Once upon a time, there was just one high school: Ann Arbor High. But it became necessary to build another one, and it was built near the Huron River. This was Huron High. Apparently, there were river rats on the construction site. And the Ann Arbor High people started to refer to the split-off people — the Huron people — as “river rats.” There was a movement to adopt “River Rat” as the school nickname and symbol. Huron’s principal fought this tooth and nail, thinking it absurdly undignified. But the movement won out: and Huron High has been the home of the River Rats ever since.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Race, Gender and Hypocrisy

Does the name Rodney King ring a bell? It probably does. King, an African-American, was the victim of a brutal assault by Los Angeles police in 1991. The 1992 acquittal of the police officers charged in the beating sparked riots in Los Angeles accounting for
53 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more than 7,000 fires, damages to 3,100 businesses, and nearly $1 billion in financial losses. Smaller riots occurred in other cities such as Las Vegas and Atlanta. (Statistics from Wikipedia).

Now, does the name Kenneth Gladney register? No? Well, Gladney is an African-American, who, this past August, was allegedly beaten by a group of mostly white attackers outside a town hall meeting held by Congressman Russ Carnahan in St. Louis. Gladney, a conservative, was handing out "Don't Tread On Me" flags to attendees when the alleged attack took place.
The following account appeared on the Weekly Standard website.

...David Brown (is) a friend of Gladney's who was an eye-witness to the event. A St. Louis attorney, he plans to represent Gladney in civil action against the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) members he claims assaulted him. Brown confirms that the video above is of the fight in question. Brown has also written a letter recounting the incident, reprinted at Hot Air.

"There's three independent witnesses that don't know Ken at all that are in the police report. I'm pretty sure that they corroborate each other's stories," Brown said.

This is his description of the incident:

"He was handing out flags to anybody who wanted them...The SEIU guy came up to him and said, "Why is an n-word like you handing out these flags?"

"Kenneth didn't say anything to the guy. Before Kenneth could even say anything or act in any way shape or form, the SEIU representative punched him in the face."

"He went to the ground. Subsequently, two other SEIU representatives or members, however you want to say it, jumped on top of him, yelled racial epithets at him...kicked him, punched him."

Brown said Gladney told him he was also kicked by a woman, but Brown didn't witness that part. Gladney then went to the hospital, Brown said.

Here's a link to the complete post, which includes a video taken by a bystander.

It's been more than three months since the alleged attack occurred. The reason I'm bringing this up now is that a few days ago on the Fox News channel there was some mention of charges being brought against the alleged perpetrators. I was only half listening but something was said about the severity of the charges being less serious than a misdemeanor. (I did a cursory search of the Fox News website, but could find no reference to the story).

The King case was a gross miscarriage of justice. (Though in a subsequent federal trial, two of the four police officers involved were convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison). That said, the response to the verdict was wildly disproportionate, even taking into account the pent-up racial resentment that set it off. But well before the verdict, beginning with the release of the video of the incident, there was an immediate, widespread outpouring of intense rage and calls for swift and certain justice.
The attack on Gladney appears to have been of a less brutal nature than the one on King. The video of the latter is much more graphic than that of the former, which is inconclusive. The eyewitness evidence does seem to indicate that Gladney was assaulted by whites and at least one black. He did suffer injuries serious enough for him to be treated at a hospital.
Is there incontrovertible proof that Gladney was viciously attacked by a group of racially motivated whites? No. Does the evidence exceed the recent historical threshold for eliciting outrage in the black community and among liberals? As Sarah Palin would say, you betcha!
To cite just a few instances where that threshold was crossed - The allegations of rape (ultimately proved to be false) made by a black woman against white members of the Duke lacrosse team. The players' and their families' lives were disrupted, some permanently, and reputations were ruined as a result.
Don Imus' disparaging comments about Rutgers black women basketball players which got him fired.
And of course there was President Obama's reaction to the alleged disrespectful treatment of his friend, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates by a Cambridge, MA police officer. Gates is black, the police officer is white and Obama, though knowing nothing about the circumstances of the incident, called the police officer's actions, "stupid". Then, in an attempt to mitigate his paux pas, he arranged a photo shoot for himself, Gates, Sgt. James Crowley, the police officer involved, and VP Joe Biden. The four guys sat at a picnic table, drank beer, and pretended to discuss the country's racial divide while photographers stood fifty feet away recording the contrived scene.
In the case of Kenneth Gladney's alleged assault there's been no reconciliatory talk. No outrage. Not even an acknowledgement that he may have been attacked due to resentment that he was an African-American demonstrating for a conservative cause.
(The black conservative organization protested outside the NAACP St. Louis site for its non-response to the case).

There exists a hypocritical double standard in the progressive grievance industry. Gladney is black, but conservative. His attackers, mostly white, but union members. More to the point, Gladney was at the town hall meeting to protest the Democrats' spending frenzy and their assault on individual freedom ("Don't tread on me"). Thus the reaction from the left, which is usually hypersensitive to matters with even the faintest of racial connotations - no problem here folks. (Incidentally, in the video, notice that the white SEIU members are sloppy, scruffy, obese cigarette smokers. Liberals might call them "white trash", the derogatory, condescending term they use to describe low class right wing caucasians).

A similar double standard exists with respect to gender. Sexist verbal assaults from the left were (and continue to be) launched at the aforementioned Ms. Palin. These are justifiable since Palin, being a conservative, doesn't qualify as a woman. "Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman" - as Wendy Doniger, a columnist for Newsweek put it. (A fine periodical, that one). A recent tasteless Keith Olberman diatribe (a redundancy, I know) conducted in a falsetto, Valley Girl inflected voice, was directed at conservative columnist/blogger Michelle Malkin. The irrepressible Ms. Malkin, responding gleefully, remarked that the M in MSNBC stands for misogynist. Speaking of misogyny, there's Bill Clinton, who despite being a serial sexual harasser and accused rapist, is adored by feminists simply because he is (or was) a powerful Democrat.

Back to the Gladney episode. Reverse the situation. Say that an African-American supporter of President Obama was handing out literature and was physically attacked by a small group of mostly white anti-Obama protesters. What are the chances that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would hold vigils, rallies and demand justice? Might Attorney General Eric Holder lecture us that the incident shows again that we're "a nation of cowards living in race-protected cocoons"? Would President Obama say that the incident provides us with another "teachable moment"? Maybe Howard Dean would weigh in with a comment along the lines of, "This reminds us that racism hurts us more than a hurricane"? (As he did in the aftermath of Katrina). Or would the incident be completely ignored?

Just asking.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Subtext Of Obama's Surge

Andrew McCarthy has a strongly derisive column on NRO exposing what he sees as the blatant cynicism in President Obama's Tuesday speech. McCarthy makes the case that Obama's Afghanistan plan was put in place to accomodate his socialist agenda and has no real national security component. It's thus doomed to failure as policy but its timing eases Obama's political pressure from both the left and the right. I'm afraid that McCarthy is right about Obama's motivation but I'm optimistic that our military is good enough to beat the expectations of pundits and politicians, as it's done so often, most recently in Iraq.
One valuable feature of McCarthy's article is his detailing of Obama's misreading of recent Afghan history. Another is his examination of Obama's radical background which was somehow ignored or dismissed as irrelevant during the presidential campaign. Polls seem to show there's a growing understanding among the electorate that that background is profoundly relevant.
Here are some passages, but it's a fairly long piece and should be read whole.

First, the president is an Alinskyite, so steeped in the ideology of the seminal community organizer that he became a top instructor in Alinskyite tactics for other up-and-coming radicals. As David Horowitz explains in an essential new pamphlet, Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model, Alinksyites are fifth-column radicals. They have, in substance, the same goals as open revolutionaries: overthrowing the existing free-market republic and replacing it with a radical’s utopia. That’s why Obama could befriend such unrepentant former terrorists as Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and take inspiration from Jeremiah Wright, a black-liberation theologist. But Alinskyites are more sophisticated, patient, and practical. They bore in, hollowing out the system from within, appropriating the appearance and argot of mainstream society. Their single, animating ambition is to overthrow the capitalist social order, which they claim to see as racist, corrupt, exploitative, imperialist, etc. Apart from that goal, everything else — from the public option to Afghanistan — is negotiable: They reserve the right to take any position on any matter, to say anything at any time, based on the ebb and flow of popular opinion. That keeps them politically viable while they radically transform society. Transform it into what, they haven’t worked out in great detail — except that it will be perfect, communal, equal, and just.

It is a long march, and compromises — like surging troops in order to withdraw troops — have to be made along the way. But those compromises keep Alinskyites politically viable. As Ayers has found in his second act, as an “education reformer,” that’s a better prescription for success than blowing up the Pentagon. Explaining that he was still a “revolutionary, but just a more effective one,” Van Jones — a former avowed Communist who became Obama’s friend, fellow Alinskyite, and “green jobs czar” — put it this way in explaining why he now works within the system: “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.” As Horowitz notes, “It was the Alinsky doctrine perfectly expressed.”

The president’s seduction of the Right would be amusing if it weren’t working so well. His speech’s “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies” section led off with this whopper: “Our nation was founded in resistance to oppression.” Does anyone say, Hey, wait a second: This is the same guy who said our nation was founded as an oppressor — our “fundamentally flawed” Constitution reflective of the “deep flaws in American culture,” including racism, “the fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day”? No, no need to get into that.

This (the surge) would be preposterous if it were actually a national-security strategy. But it’s not. It’s a political strategy. It’s incoherent, but it’s working: The Right is snowed, the Left is appeased. We’re coming, but we’re leaving. We’re sending thousands of warriors, but they won’t be making war. We’re nation building in a place we’d have to occupy for a century to build a nation, but we’re not occupiers, and we’ll be calling it a wrap in 18 months. In the interim, Afghanistan can go off the radar while we socialize medicine, save the planet from the contrived heat death, and get ACORN busy on the midterms. We can deal with Afghanistan again in July 2011, when we’ll have a better read on the landscape for Obama’s 2012 reelection bid. Saul Alinsky would be proud.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Saving The Planet

A link below to a well-reasoned flogging of climate change hysteria by Conrad Black (NRO) in his typically declarative style. A few choice segments follow.

Colossal spending and regulatory programs impend, based on the Al Gore conventional hysteria that unreduced carbon emissions will destroy the earth. This will eventually be seen as one of the modern world’s most inexplicable descents into public-policy madness.

Even the IPCC admits that the upper end of its forecast would, in fact, substantially increase world food production. There is no chance of achieving stated, or even (by some countries) committed, emission-reduction targets, nor any reason to believe that the attainment of these targets would accomplish anything useful. Yet the president of the United States has been promising radical progress toward an international covenant in Copenhagen this month to spend trillions of dollars in pursuit of this unattainable, undesirable target.

Nor is this the grim “tipping point” Al Gore has made scores of millions of dollars and won a Nobel Peace Prize for decrying as the imminent Apocalypse. Gore’s scurrilous film, An Inconvenient Truth, is based on no original research and is a teeming rain forest of false and irrelevant claims, such as that the Pacific island country of Tuvalu is losing population because the sea level around it is rising under the relentless pressures of global warming on the polar ice caps; and that, for the same reason, mosquitoes have afflicted Nairobi, Kenya, with a constant epidemic of malaria.
The inconvenience of the truth falls on Gore, not his opponents. Water levels have in fact declined slightly at Tuvalu, and the country’s modest population shrinkage is due to economic migration. Malaria was much more prevalent in Nairobi a century ago, and has risen slightly in recent years only because of the ecologists’ attack on the use of insecticides. The polar ice caps aren’t melting at all; the ice sheets over the oceans are, but the ice over land is actually thickening, so water levels are not being affected.

One of the more absurd after-effects of the great Green immersion is eco-neutrality — corporate and even personal claims to expiate and atone for formerly non-soul-destroying indulgences such as jet travel, by installing solar panels or planting trees. News footage from the 1950s of families scrambling under their kitchen tables to take shelter from a Soviet nuclear attack seems the very essence of common sense compared to some current eco-posturing.

As Lord
(Nigel) Lawson wrote in his book An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, those concerned about imminent environmental catastrophe — as compared, for example, to the real danger of nuclear terrorism — “need not worry about saving this planet. They are already living on another one. . . . We appear to have entered a new age of unreason. . . . It is from this, above all, that we really need to save the planet.”

How To Create Jobs

Since President Obama is convening a jobs summit, NRO decided to hold its own. Peter Ferrara, Burton Folsom, Jr., Nicole Galinas, Rea Hederman, Jr., Reihan Salam, Stephen Spruiell, and Sam Staley weigh in with recommendations. Listed is a summary of these.

Cut taxes - income, payroll, corporate, capital gains and estate. (Most agree on this).
Allow immediate expensing for business equipment.
Set up a permanent personal-account option for that portion of payroll taxes for younger workers, with the personal accounts substituting for an equivalent portion of future retirement benefits. This would provide a continuing gusher of new savings for capital investment, resulting in more jobs and higher wages,
(paid for by) Abolishing TARP and returning the money, ending all bailouts, and repealing still unspent “stimulus” funding.
Offer low-wage employer tax credits designed to lower the cost of hiring and retaining workers.
Reduce government spending to eliminate future inflation and the drag on the economy.

Spruiell says the key to recovery is recapitalizing the banks.

Corporate- and payroll-tax cuts would be nice, and make no mistake: They would lead to more hiring in the short term. But the surest path to long-term job creation is through a stable economic recovery. That can’t happen until the Obama administration forces a true recapitalization of the banking system.
Businesses can’t create jobs without access to financing, and right now, the banks aren’t providing it. The money that the Bush and Obama administrations pumped into the banks failed to recapitalize the system adequately; it merely bailed out the banks’ creditors at taxpayer expense. A true recapitalization of the banking system would require some bond holders to swap debt for equity and leave some equity holders with nothing. Naturally, these guys would rather ride out the crisis on the taxpayers’ dime, hoping that a miracle recovery will restore asset prices to the values they attained at the height of the credit bubble.
The banks have used the bailouts as a cushion to avoid having to restructure all the bad debt that’s still clogging up the system. The Obama administration could expedite the restructuring process by requiring bailed-out banks to accelerate write-offs. It could manage the resulting insolvencies by protecting depositors and forcing stakeholders to shoulder their fair share of the losses.
Instead of coming up with a banking plan, however, the administration has changed the subject to health care and global warming; when Obama does turn his attention to the financial crisis, he treats the public to executive-compensation sideshows and pious lectures about greed. In the meantime, the banking system is still holding its breath, waiting for a recovery that will probably not occur, and job-seekers are the ones who are suffocating.

These ideas are non-starters at Obama's summit since they involve the rejection of most of his agenda. As Newt Gingrich points out on his website, Obama's jobs creation efforts are fatally hindered by three factors.

1) Ideology - wealth redistribution not wealth creation

2) Interest Groups - pandering to lawyers, unions, government employees

3) Personnel - less than 10% have private sector experience, little job creation experience

Obama's Surge Decision - The Day After

A column in the Washington Post website by Robert Kagan acknowledges President Obama's courage for his decision not to abandon Afghanistan. Kagan argues that it's the responsibility inherent in the office that compels men as different as George Bush and Barack Obama to make principled decisions that go against conventional wisdom. Congressmen and other politicians, spared the burden of that responsibility, have no disincentive to acting and speaking irresponsibly (which they do). Kagan is also optimistic about the flexibility of the arbitrary drawdown date of July, 2011, saying that declaring defeat in 18 months will not be any easier for Obama than it is now.

Not so sanguine is Eliot Cohen (WSJ) who focuses on the shortcomings of Obama's Afghan policy.

Stephen Hayes (Weekly Standard) posts this precious juxtaposition of comments from the President and Vice-President.

An End to Partisanship and Cynicism
President Obama last night:

This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue -- nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership, nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time, if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.

It's easy to forget that when this war began, we were united -- bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we -- as Americans -- can still come together behind a common purpose.

Vice President Biden, in an email to supporters tonight touting Obama's speech:

It's a clean break from the failed Afghanistan policy of the Bush administration, and a new, focused strategy that can succeed.

Yeah, why are people so cynical?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama Gets One Right - Sort Of

The decision came at least three months too late - the plans were ready this past August. It did not fully satisfy the needs of our military in Afghanistan - Generals Petraeus and McChrystal requested 40,000-60,000 troops – they’re getting 30,000. It is accompanied by a politically driven, potentially disastrous timetable - President Obama wants to start drawing down troops in July, 2011, throwing a bone to the antiwar left while signaling to our enemies that to prevail they only need to wait us out. (It also allows him to get his re-election campaign started, unencumbered by the messiness of a war). The sudden concern over fiscal responsibility is laughably hypocritical - after throwing around multi trillions of taxpayer dollars, much of it on wasteful payoffs to Democratic constituencies, a 30-60 billion dollar commitment essential to the nation’s security becomes “a concern”. Obama’s heart isn’t in it - Obama’s interest in national security, as Mark Steyn has noted, is to be able to socialize the country before an irritating distraction like a nuclear attack occurs.

Still, Obama's Afghan surge is about the best we could have hoped for from this president.

Considering his radical background, his multilateralist, internationalist ideology, his party affiliation (to Democrats, all conflicts are potential Vietnams), and his penchant for making a political calculation on every issue, it’s remarkable that he’s going as far as he is. Andrew Ferguson (Weekly Standard) pointed out that Obama is the first Democratic president to authorize a large troop deployment in 40 years. The troop level he chose is not optimal but it is far more than the defeatist wing of the party would have liked. The administration only floated Joke Biden’s minimalist approach to fighting the war so that Obama’s final decision would appear bold by comparison. Obama talked about merely stopping the Taliban’s momentum instead of crushing them, but, thinking charitably, this may be just an attempt to manage expectations. And he did use the word "defeat" as in, "Our overarching goal remains the same - to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future". Importantly, by choosing to surge in Afghanistan, Obama is implicitly suggesting that President Bush made the correct decision by surging in Iraq and that he (Obama) was wrong to oppose that move.
When this president makes a correct call, rare as it is, and especially in the face of angry criticism from his most fervent supporters, it should be celebrated.

Conservative commentary on the Obama’s decision has ranged from cautiously optimistic (Bill Kristol) to lukewarm (NR editors) to strongly negative – for not making a stronger committment (Ralph Peters). One contrarian conservative viewpoint was provided by John R. Miller (NRO). Miller argues that Iraq is strategically important and therefore worth fighting for, whereas Afghanistan is not. The flaw in this thinking should be obvious – Afghanistan wasn’t “strategically important" before 9/11 either. The parameters for deciding what constitutes strategic importance is different than it used to be. The dangers we face today are not necessarily restricted to large nations with large militaries. We should have learned this lesson by now.

As for Obama’s speech itself, the National Review editors had this to say.

The speech was by turns defensive, graceless, intellectually mushy, and annoyingly self-righteous. Most of what he said will soon be forgotten, and deserves to be. What will endure is the policy, and on that — most important — Obama made basically the right call.

The speech was typical Obama – too long, gaseous, self-referential, unfocused at times and of course, it contained a few sneaky swipes at Bush. However, it also included some noble truths, including this segment where he sounds downright Bushian.

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings
We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.
For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

Obama would do well to make these points when he goes to visit the ingrates who "haven’t always thanked us" or when he speaks to the collected oppressors infesting the UN.


NR Editors



As an aside. I noted previously (11/25) that some of my language may have been co-opted by a couple of esteemed columnists. Well, now it appears that my blog may have provided inspiration to the President of the United States. I wrote (in a separate post, also on 11/25),
"...That we provide this service (a defensive umbrella to various nations) free of charge is a fact not emphasized (to put it mildly) in the president's 'we're so sorry for being arrogant' speeches".
Obama yesterday,
"We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades..."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cool Commentary

Just some links to worthwhile reading.

In yesterday's edition of the WSJ, Fouad Ajami writes about the failure of President Obama's guilt tripping attempts to sway Arab and Muslim attitudes about America.

In the Palestinian territories, 15% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 82% have an unfavorable view. The Obama speech in Ankara didn't seem to help in Turkey, where the favorables are 14% and those unreconciled, 69%. In Egypt, a country that's reaped nearly 40 years of American aid, things stayed roughly the same: 27% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 70% do not. In Pakistan, a place of great consequence for American power, our standing has deteriorated: The unfavorables rose from 63% in 2008 to 68% this year.
Mr. Obama's election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism. That anti-Americanism is endemic to this region, an alibi and a scapegoat for nations, and their rulers, unwilling to break out of the grip of political autocracy and economic failure. It predated the presidency of George W. Bush and rages on during the Obama presidency.

In today's edition, MIT meteorology professor Dr. Richard Lindzen, (featured in the BBC production, "The Great Global Warming Swindle"), gives a concise overview of the flaws in the current "consensus" thinking about "climate change". Of all the erroneous claims made by GW advocates, Lindzen cites exaggerated consequences as the most egregious.

What does all this have to do with climate catastrophe? The answer brings us to a scandal that is, in my opinion, considerably greater than that implied in the hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit (though perhaps not as bad as their destruction of raw data): namely the suggestion that the very existence of warming or of the greenhouse effect is tantamount to catastrophe. This is the grossest of "bait and switch" scams. It is only such a scam that lends importance to the machinations in the emails designed to nudge temperatures a few tenths of a degree.

The current edition of National Review contains several notable items.

Mark Steyn takes his "Demographic Deathwatch" to Vermont of all places, where liberal taxation and regulation policies are killing the state.

Rob Long has an exclusive excerpt from Larry King's November, 2010 interview with Khalid Sheik Mohammed. KSM was giving the interview as part of his book tour after his trial was dismissed by a technicality.

Stephen Spruiell examines the failure of the "stimulus" package to stimulate the economy and explains why all similar Keynesian projects are doomed to failure.

In a separate segment Jonah Goldberg points out some of the laughable inventions (to be kind about it) that the Obama administration is using to market the bill's "success".

"Saved or created” is itself the greatest weaselly locution yet coined in the 21st century. Just for the record, I save or create 500 push-ups every morning.
According to, Arizona’s 86th congressional district received $34 million to help the Navajo people. Trouble is, Arizona has only eight districts. In fact, claims that the White House has given $6.4 billion to 440 nonexistent districts. That’s five more fake districts than there are real ones.
...There’s so much deceit, incompetence, arrogance, and outright fantasy at work, it’s like listening to a high-school kid explain how he maxed out a for-emergencies-only credit card buying a prom dress for his fictional super-hot girlfriend in Canada, even though she won’t be able to make it to the party after all.

An NR symposium looks at the subversion of liberalism by today's liberals and how conservatives can save classical liberalism.

A couple of incisive articles on the Ft. Hood massacre, its relationship to radical Islam and our reluctance to recognize the problem.

Theodore Dalrymple

Alex Alexiev

And finally there's this from the Hot Air web site. A contributor, Doctor Zero, has posted a sharply worded rebuke to all those who have fallen for the "global warming" scam - anti-capitalist progressives, politicians, corporate collaborators, and especially the media. A couple of samples follow, but there's much more to this well written piece, properly titled, "The Crime Of The Century".

It’s easiest to con someone when they want to be fooled. Global warming is like pornography for Big Government addicts. It provides the rationale for sweeping new powers. It can be used as a moral club to beat class enemies. It creates a climate of perpetual emergency that allows endless taxation and erosion of liberty. There is great power to be gained by those who act as the harbingers of a disaster that is always too far away for hard-nosed analysis, but too close for careful deliberation.

If describing the acolytes and hucksters of global warming as “criminals” seems harsh, ask yourself how this situation would be treated if the miscreants had been operating within the private sector. Imagine a group of corporations conspiring to create an imaginary crisis, using junk science and false advertising, with their original raw data safely shredded. Imagine these greedy capitalists selling fantastically expensive “solutions” to the problem they manufactured, and demanding control over scores of other industries in the bargain. Picture an advertising campaign reaching into movies, books, music, and “news” programs. Imagine corporate representatives invading schools to indoctrinate children from an early age, and absolutely saturating children’s literature and television with slogans and carefully constructed horror stories about how the world will suffer, if their parents don’t play ball and start forking over money and liberties to the conglomerate.