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Terrorism and the threat of an attack has been a Republican strong point with the voter since 9/11. I’m not sure why. The Bush Administration has dropped the ball in so many areas of Homeland Security that if the Democrats had any brains, they would attack Bush not for making terrorism a political issue but for the spectacular failures of his administration on issues such as border and port security, airport screening procedures, and improving the security around soft targets like chemical and electric plants. (Talking about the fact that the Department of Homeland Security itself is a bureaucratic mess and a disaster could take up a whole other article.)

But they cannot bring these issues up because they don’t believe there is a War on Terror – or at least not in the sense that we have anything really to worry about. The great conundrum for Democrats when dealing with the terror issue is that since the 2004 campaign they have been screaming bloody murder every time the issue of terrorism has been raised by a Republican candidate. They call it “playing the politics of fear” and denounce any effort to talk about the threats facing us.

But people want to know what Obama and Clinton are going to do to keep us safe. Hence the conundrum; Democrats must talk about the threats facing us but leave themselves wide open to charges that they too are playing the politics of fear when doing so.

It is a problem of their own making made obvious by the latest ad from Hillary Clinton that shows kids in bed asleep at 3:00 AM and a telephone ringing. A voice over asks who they want answering that phone in the White House – presumably when some crisis is confronting the country. The last scene showing Hillary picking up a phone in a darkened room is quite effective. (Ed Morrissey has the video.)

Clinton is really hearing it from the Obama camp and the blogs:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., pushed back hard against the new ad, which ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos described as “the nuclear option” on Friday’s “Good Morning America”.

Addressing a group of veterans at an American Legion post in Houston, Obama said: “We’ve seen these ads before. They’re the kind that play on peoples’ fears to scare up votes.”

The tone of the ad—which echoes the infamous Daisy Ad from the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater presidential race and the red phone ad former Vice President Walter Mondale ran against Gary Hart in their ‘84 race for the Democratic nomination—indicates that the Clinton campaign is pulling out the all the stops leading into the Ohio and Texas primaries.

Is it inevitable now that any candidate – Republican or Democrat – who wants to speak frankly to the American people about the real threats we face will be tarred with the charge that they are trying to scare people to get votes?

I see nothing inherently wrong with Hillary trying to highlight the exceptional inexperience of her opponent on national security matters. I hope McCain goes after Obama in a similar manner early and often. But the question remains; are we ever going to be able to talk about terrorism?

Not as long as an advantage accrues to one side or the other when running for office. The idea that a candidate will use the politics of fear in order to win has a long, dishonorable tradition in American politics. The Democrats have successfully demagogued social security for 50 years, scaring senior citizens into thinking that Republicans want to throw them out on the streets and make them eat dog food. Republicans have spent much of the last 30 years successfully portraying the Democrats as weak sisters on national security matters, scaring voters into believing they would surrender first to the Soviets and now to al-Qaeda.

The politics of fear is a powerful ally for any campaign. The temptation to use the tactic is overwhelming because, depending on the issue, it works extremely well. The threat of terrorism is real and immediate. And using it the way that Hillary Clinton does in her ad – as a way to place doubts in voter’s minds about Obama – should not penalize her for bringing up a legitimate issue with which the next president is going to have to deal.

This is the conundrum largely created by the Democrats to answer the GOP’s huge advantage on the issue of terrorism. Apparently, it has now come back and bit them in the ass.

By: Rick Moran at 5:16 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

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I felt we needed some cheering up today what with the Prophet Obama getting caught with his private parts hanging out all over Canada. It seems that our once and always beloved Agent of Change pulled a fast one on the voters in Ohio by telling them that he was going to get tough with Canada and Mexico on NAFTA (mostly Mexico) by giving them notice that he wanted to renegotiate the treaty and force Mexico to play by all the silly and stupid labor and environmental rules we are forced by our government to play here in the United States (Sigh…am I not allowed just a LITTLE hyperbole? Please?)

Anyway, while breathing fire in Ohio, Obama had an aide whispering sweet nothings into the Canadian government’s ear not to listen to that man saying those mean things about NAFTA in Ohio. It really isn’t Obama saying them, just some guy who is pandering for votes.

Hillary is too busy whining about not getting a fair shake from the press to exploit this marvelous opportunity Obama has handed her on a silver platter. She’d probably fumble it anyway so it doesn’t matter. Hillary is toast and watching the meltdown when she is forced to withdraw will be a scene for the ages.

So with that hanging over my head, I threw up my hands in despair and said, “Enough!” No more politics today. Which leads me into our topic today which is my favorite Doomsday scenarios of all time.

It may surprise (and worry) you that there are actually organizations who do nothing all day except think of crappy ways we can all check out together. Just Google “Doomsday” and become afraid. With all these negative vibes, you have to wonder if there isn’t a sizable segment of the population so bored with cable TV as I am that any change in our dull, dreary existence would be welcome – even if it meant getting out the marshmallows and making smores as the planet burns out of existence around us.

That said, my list will not include Global Warming. Way to slow. No, these scenarios are, for the most part, so quick that we’d barely have time to decide whether we want to reconvert to Catholicism (or whatever higher power/religion/ you might deem necessary to avoid eternal damnation). Nor will my list include nuclear annihilation. Been there, done that, too boring, and besides there’s no guarantee that all life would end.

These are for the most part rock ‘em, sock ‘em, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am blink and you’re gone scenarios for Armageddon. And I hope you enjoy them.


Least likely of all scenarios, I figured just to be on the safe side I better include it.

This is not the “rapture” scenario where 7,777 people suddenly disappear from around their kitchen tables and bodily ascend into heaven to be followed by the emergence of the anti-Christ and all that other stuff.

This is the Catholic version that used to worry me to no end when I was in about 2nd grade. This scenario envisions us humans just going about our daily tasks, not harming anyone (more than usual) when Jesus hisself comes down on a cloud and in a booming voice announces to the entire planet:

“OK People, this is it! Line up in single file and prepare to be judged. You dead people who’ve just risen from the graves on the left, please. Living people on the right. LET’S MOVE!”

And, of course, that’s it. No appeal to Big Daddy. No reprieve from the Holy Ghost. Jesus is back and he’s taking names and kickin’ butt. At least, that’s an approximation of how the nuns said it would go.

Actually, I believe that such an end would be much too good for humanity if I were God. And that’s why these other scenarios are much more likely.


So called because that’s about the only thing you’ll have time to say before your mortal coil mixes with the flotsam and jetsam from the rest of the universe.

Suppose it’s a bright sunny day and you’re out sunning yourself when all of a sudden, you notice it gets brighter. I mean really, really bright – as if someone had thrown a switch and floodlights more powerful than sunlight was streaming down. You look up and the last thing you see before your eternal spark flees for safer climes is a great big chunk of the sun bearing down on earth like a runaway train moving 2 million miles an hour.

It seems our stable and friendly sun suffered an extremely minor solar event; in effect, it hiccuped. It expanded and contracted extremely rapidly. As it expanded again, a couple of minor pieces that it didn’t need were flung out into space. One of them, about twice the size of earth, headed straight for our planet. Ideally, we’d have about 45 minutes warning but don’t bet on it. Any solar scientist worth their salt wouldn’t be able to tear themselves away from this once in a lifetime observational opportunity. Besides, do you really think anyone would tell us?


Yes, we laugh at the thought of space aliens coming to destroy us. But some smart folks think it a possibility:

As any alien race able to reach us is likely to be considerably more advanced than us, we would do well to develop a communications and diplomatic protocol to minimize any frictions caused by a first contact situation, be it friendly, unfriendly or neutral. In particular, we would discourage actions which could all too easily be misinterpreted as overtly hostile such as preemptively scrambling — let alone launching — nuclear weapons during a possible first contact. The rule when engaging in contact with an alien race is to do anything possible to avoid war since we are quite likely to lose.

This program will be devoted to developing the first contact protocol.

In addition to this protocol, we should be careful about any devices that we are told to construct via alien messages, as such devices could be unfriendly AI or other harmful devices. If such a danger is suspected, this warning must be immediately made public knowledge to discourage others from activating possible alien weapons.

Finally, we are against any efforts to on purposely provide our technological level and location to potentially hostile aliens.

So just how could an alien species extinguish life on earth? It depends what they want earth for. If they’re simply hell bent on destruction (maybe an episode of Two and a Half Men offended them) something as simple as destroying the magnetosphere that protects us from solar wind and radiation would do the trick. All these evil aliens would have to do is stop the internal heat processes of the earth that keep our core molten. That molten core spinning with the earth’s rotation creates a dynamo effect which throws a protective cordon of electromagnetic energy around the earth. Stop the dynamo, you kill the electromagnetism. Kill that and we roast pretty quickly.

I firmly believe that the “How to Serve Man” scenario is much less likely. This nightmare is courtesy of an old Twilight Zone episode where aliens come to earth to help us using the book “How to serve man” as a guide. But since we couldn’t translate what the book said we had no idea until the end that the book was actually a cookbook.


This is a one in a million scenario but we’re talking about my favorite end of the world possibilities not the most likely.

Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB’s) are caused by massive stars plunging willy nilly into a black hole. The violent death of the star is spectacular. It emits as much light and gamma rays in a few seconds than the sun does in 100,000 years.

So far, the only ones we’ve seen have been far, far away – billions of light years. But suppose – just suppose – one were to occur in our galactic neighborhood?

Research has been conducted to investigate the consequences of Earth being hit by a beam of gamma rays from a nearby (about 500 light years) gamma ray burst. This is motivated by the efforts to explain mass extinctions on Earth and estimate the probability of extraterrestrial life. A gamma ray burst at 6000 light years would result in mass extinction; a 1000 light year distant burst would be equivalent to a 100,000 megaton nuclear explosion—like standing a couple miles from Hiroshima everywhere on earth. A burst 100 light years away would blow away the atmosphere, create tidal waves, and start to melt the surface of the earth. There is a one in a million chance that there could be a gamma ray burst as near as the earth’s closest star, Alpha Centauri, in the lifetime of the earth. Such a burst, at 4.3 lightyears distant, would effectively incinerate the earth[

I knew I could make your day.


Persephone is the name given to a theoretical (fictional) dark companion to our sun orbiting our solar system very irregularly. Every 60 million years or so Persy pays a visit to the Oort cloud where a couple of tens of billions of comets are just sitting – cold and dead, orbiting the sun beyond Pluto.

Well Persephone hits the Oort Cloud like a cosmic bowling ball and scatters tens of thousands of comets causing them to start dropping toward the sun – toward the inner solar system and us unsuspecting earthlings.

Many are captured by giant Jupiter and its huge gravitational field. But there are just too many of them and earth is in the cross hairs.

This may not be as quick as some scenarios but the reason it’s one of my favorites is just think of the night sky just prior to us getting blasted. What a sight it would be.


Forget the hazards of bio terrorism. There are large swaths of the Amazon rain forest that have yet to be explored. The same could be said for a very few other remote places on earth.

Supposin’ you had a hankerin’ to do some explorin’. You bravely push your way farther and deeper into the rain forest than any man has ever gone. You come to a little clearing filled with flora that no man has ever seen. As you go to examine the strange and beautiful flowers your toe accidentally hits a small rock, turning it over for the first time in eons and exposing the underside to the air.

You think nothing of it at the time. But the underside of that rock contains fungi and the spores of that fungi are disturbed and waft up and are inhaled by our intrepid explorer. Lying in those spores is a virus with no name. And the countdown has begun.

Two weeks later you are back in civilization having exposed thousands of people in airports, airplanes, busses and trains to this new virus. It’s Captain Trips on steroids as the disease has a 100% death rate and doesn’t stop until the human race is a memory – if anyone were left alive to remember.

There are a lot of problems with this scenario not the least of which is the improbability that the epidemiology of such a disease would be so consistent as to wipe out all humans. It would have to be one smart bug to find a way to kill its host quickly while finding fresh hosts to settle in and replicate. Conversely, as the population shrank, the bug would literally have no place to go and there would be less and less of it.

But why spoil all the fun with that scientific stuff?


Wow. I mean, like wow.

Imagine we’re living in a false vacuum – the whole dang universe is just a bubble in another universe, get it?

OK. Here’s the incomprehensible explanation:

A false vacuum is a metastable sector of a quantum field theory which appears to be a perturbative vacuum but is unstable to instanton effects which tunnel to a lower energy state. This tunneling can be caused by quantum fluctuations or the creation of high energy particles. Simply put, the false vacuum is a state of a physical theory which is not the lowest energy state, but is nonetheless stable for some time. This is analogous to metastability for first order phase transitions.

“Instanton effects.” Is that like when Glenn Reynolds gives you a link?

No matter. This is way kewl. Imagine this:

The possibility that we are living in a false vacuum has never been a cheering one to contemplate. Vacuum decay is the ultimate ecological catastrophe; in the new vacuum there are new constants of nature; after vacuum decay, not only is life as we know it impossible, so is chemistry as we know it. However, one could always draw stoic comfort from the possibility that perhaps in the course of time the new vacuum would sustain, if not life as we know it, at least some structures capable of knowing joy. This possibility has now been eliminated.

I think that last bit was just a touch of geeky humor there.

The possibility that we are living in a false vacuum has been considered. If a bubble of lower energy vacuum were nucleated, it would approach at nearly the speed of light and destroy the Earth instantaneously, without any forewarning. Thus, this vacuum metastability event is a theoretical doomsday event.

I give this one an “A” for absolute geeky originality.


Beware the Robots! Or, artificial intelligence (AI) is coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Glenn Reynolds has written extensively of the coming “singularity.” Man and machine are about to merge and we are all about to enter a brave new world that could eventually make us nearly immortal beings or cause us to become extinct in a wave of robot revenge killings on a massive scale.

Computers will not only become faster and easier to use in the future, the chances are very good that by 2025 and maybe sooner, AI will be an issue we will have to deal with.

And just what are some of the issues?

Risks from AI may arise from the HCI (human-computer interaction) paradigm that takes place. Such paradigms include the following, and more than one of them might occur simultaneously.

A. The tool paradigm. In this paradigm, AI will serve humanity as a new kind of tool, unique in part due to its post-singularity power.

B. The prosthesis paradigm. Here, AI will gradually integrate with the human body, producing cyborgian “people” with qualitatively greater capabilities than regular people.

C. The competition paradigm. According to this view, robots will ultimately have their own agendas which would most likely conflict with ours.

Number 3 obviously holds the most danger to our survival (although wouldn’t you love to be an EEO lawyer in the future litigating discrimination cases against “regular people):

Risks from the competition paradigm. These risks are a perennial favorite of apocalypse-minded sci-fi authors. The robots make their move. Humans run for cover. The war is on, and it’s them or us, winner take all. Alternatively, the takeover is so successful that humans can do nothing but hang out waiting until the AIbots eventually roboform the earth to make it suitable for them but, as a side effect irrelevant to the AIbots, unable to support higher biological life (oxygen is bad for robots, so they’ll get rid of it). A third possibility is that nano-ai-robots (nanaibots?) take over, creating the nano-nightmare “gray goo” scenario in which the gooey little bots destroy not only the ecosystem but even invade human bodies for their own purposes (germbots?), besting our immune systems and possibly sending us all to another plane of existence.

This is “The Borg Run Wild” scenario with no Seven-of-Nine to save us. We could always blame Glenn Reyolds – if there was anyone left to accuse him.


Suppose one of the couple of thousand or so migrating black holes in our galaxy decided to mosey along our way? It would enter the solar system like a cat burglar and we’d never know anything about it until all matter began slowly moving in its direction. Chances are we’d be long dead before we got close to the beast because we’d be ripped out of orbit and freeze to death as the sun, also moving toward the monster but much more slowly because of its huge mass, got farther and farther away from us.

This one is really a stretch and besides, we’d miss all the fun because we’d be dead long before we hit the event horizon. But ever since I read The Whole Shebang by Timothy Ferris, I’ve always wanted to take a peek into the maw of one of these ravenous beasts.

What is really kewl is that going over the event horizon takes an infinite amount of time – to an outside observer looking at earth. We just kind of hang there for all eternity. Meanwhile, we lucky ones on earth are hurtling toward the singularity at the center of the black hole. The closer we get the more it appears that everyone on the planet has gone on a massive diet. Our atoms, subatomic particles, molecules – everything – become unglued and we start to stretch out like a string of spaghetti.

Eventually we hit the singularity – something with zero height, width, and length. It has infinite density and gravity.

Nice ride, huh. Maybe Disney will put in their French Euro-Disneyworld next year.


Are we living in a computer simulation?

Here we go supposin’ again. Just supposin’ that you live 5000 years from now in what will be known as the “post human” age. You are probably half machine and much better than us.

But let’s be supposin’ you have a hankerin’ to see how your ancient ancestors lived all the way back in the 20th and 21st centuries. You would create an enormously complicated computer program and populate it with billions of people, all having consciousness and free will.

Now let’s say that you and I are living in the simulation. How could we tell the difference?

If each advanced civilization created many Matrices of their own history, then most people like us, who live in a technologically more primitive age, would live inside Matrices rather than outside them. If this were the case, where would you most likely be?

The so-called Simulation argument, which I introduced a few years ago, makes this line of reasoning more precise and takes it to its logical conclusion. The conclusion is that there are three basic possibilities at least one of which is true. The first possibility is that the human species will almost certainly go extinct before becoming technologically mature. The second possibility is that almost no technologically mature civilization is interested in building Matrices. The third possibility is that we are almost certainly living in a Matrix. Why? Because if the first two possibilities are not the case, then there are more “people” living in Matrices than in “real worlds.” As a “person” then the chances are that you are living in a Matrix rather than in a “real world.”

The Simulation argument does not tell us which of these three possibilities obtain, only that at least one of them does. The argument employs some math and probability theory, but the basic idea can be understood without recourse to technical apparatus.

Way. Too. Kewl.

Of course, Doomsday comes when our future overlords tire of the simulation and flick the off switch on the computer or perhaps the earth is struck by a planet killing asteroid 5000 from now. Either way, we’re toast.


Well, I hope I brightened your day a little bit. Nothing like contemplating one’s total and utter destruction to get the juices flowing in the morning, right?

By: Rick Moran at 6:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)


The votes are in from this week’s Watchers Council and the winner for the second week in a row was yours truly for my post “Make Washington’s Birthday a National Holiday Again.” Finishing second was “Iraqi Political Progress Leaves Few Places For The Left To Move The Target” by Wolf Howling.

Finishing first in the Non Council category was “The Dungeon of Fallujah” by Michael J. Totten.
If you would like to participate in the weekly Watchers Vote, go here and follow instructions.

By: Rick Moran at 7:37 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)


My latest column at Pajamas Media is up and it’s a doozy.

Basically, it’s a primer for those who don’t know as much as they’d like about the relationship between Barack Obama and Tony Rezko, the Chicago “Fixer” who has been indicted on 24 counts of fraud.

It is by no means a complete history. This is a very complex relationship with many threads interwoven in the story. I had to leave out some sidebars that may or may not prove significant – such as Obama’s relationship with the former Iraqi Minister of Electricity who is being investigated for stealing perhaps some of the $2 billion in US taxpayer reconstruction funds that have gone missing. Did Obama intervene to get a contract for Rezko with the Iraqi government to train power plant workers in Illinois?

It is issues like this that continue to feed the notion that there is much more to this story than a simple transaction involving Rezko’s wife and Obama’s house. Just as Whitewater was not just about a failed real estate deal, there are aspects to this relationship that investigators and journalists are looking at as I write this that may prove to be extremely troubling.

Here’s a small sample from a very long and detailed piece:


Antoin “Tony” Rezko is a Syrian born businessman who was known in Chicago political circles as “a fixer.” Need to get a waiver of some kind of regulation to close a real estate deal? Call Tony. Want your kid to intern in the office of a United States senator? Call Tony. Are the wheels of government turning too slowly and need to have a legislator or two goose the bureaucracy? Call Tony.

Rezko had a lot of friends and associates because he collected politicians like a kid collects baseball cards. He was a fundraiser with the ability to shake the money tree for his political friends.

Entrepreneur, real estate tycoon, developer, and pal of the powerful, by all accounts Tony Rezko had his fingers in many pies.

He was also, according to Sun Times political reporter Carol Marin, a “staggeringly talented shakedown artist”:

By: Rick Moran at 12:20 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)


The passing of a great man is sometimes accompanied by the end of an historical epoch. This is usually due to the titanic effect the man had on his times as well as a recognition that with his death, the world will change and that what transpired during the time he walked the earth can never be recaptured.

So it is with the passing of William F. Buckley, Jr. who died while at work at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 82 years old.

It is impossible to exaggerate the influence of Mr. Buckley on conservatism, on politics, on political writing, on television and mass communications, and on America herself. That’s why it will be so easy to write this obituary.

The bare bones outline of his life includes his birth in 1925 to a wealthy family of ten children, educated at Yale, a stint in the army and the CIA, a 57 year marriage to a beautiful woman who gave him a son Christopher, also famous in literary circles.

A fierce Catholic, Buckley never allowed his faith and politics to mix but rather had his religious beliefs inform his character and ideology. The only book he ever wrote about religion – Nearer my God – a truly original work that defended Christianity and the Catholic faith by using arguments gleaned largely from ex-protestants who had converted to Catholicism:

Though Buckley quotes large numbers of Protestants in this book, they are mostly Protestants who ‘’poped’’ (converted to Catholicism), like Cardinal Newman, Ronald Knox, Richard John Neuhaus and Arnold Lunn, and whose ‘’poping’’ stemmed more from thoughtful consideration than any sudden access of irresistible grace. The few unconverted Protestants who seem to play a part are Bishop Butler, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King Jr., Charles Colson, Charlton Heston and Buckley’s wife, Pat. Repeating the medieval saw that ‘’nothing contrary to reason’’ is required by true religion, Buckley uses a panel of the ‘’poped’’ to examine in their own words questions Buckley thinks important. These range from the oldest and most fundamental (the existence of God, the unique historicity of Jesus) to the most current and pragmatic (divorce, priestly celibacy, the ordination of women).

Only someone supremely confident in their own beliefs could use Charlton Heston and Reinhold Niebuhr to explain the mysteries of faith.

But this only demonstrates the extraordinary suppleness and depth of Buckley’s intellect. A man fascinated with language, he would use both the spoken and written word to elevate political dialogue, devastate his political foes, inspire legions of political acolytes, and invent, nurture, expand, and explain a political movement that when he started was moribund and something of a national joke.

The chronology of the rise of conservatism in the last half of the 20th century mirrors the growth in popularity of Buckley and his ideas. There simply is no other way to put it; Bill Buckley made it respectable to be a conservative again. The dominant American left in the 1950’s couldn’t dismiss this man and the movement he was building as his writings sparked interest in classic conservative ideas on college campuses across the country.

What Buckley sought to do was unite the traditionalist conservatives with libertarians – a marriage that today is strained beyond measure largely as a result of conservatism’s flirtation with big government and a curious desire to employ moral dogma as a club to try and tell people how to run their private lives. He succeeded in this unity of strange bedfellows by the force of his own vibrant personality reflected in his writings and by inventing a logical coherence that tied together the libertarian ideals of self sufficiency and unbridled personal freedom with the conservative belief in personal responsibility and a just moral order informed by Christian theology. He added a healthy dose of American exceptionalism and beliefs based on natural law to cement the marriage.

His first book, God and Man at Yale,, shocked the literary establishment by daring to criticize the stifling conformity of thought that had captured students and faculty at Yale University. In arguing for freedom of thought on campuses, Buckley was tarred by many critics as a “crypto-fascist,” a klansman, or worse. He shrugged it off and continued his efforts.

In 1955, he, along with another great conservative thinker Frank Meyer, founded The National Review, a conservative publication whose influence always far exceeded the number of subscribers. For the next 53 years and counting, the writings in that publication shaped and animated the conservative movement. Fearless, controversial, never boring, the best conservative writers of each succeeding generation always seemed to have gotten their start at TNR. Some notable contributors over the years have included Whittaker Chambers, George Will, Gary Wills, Russell Kirk, Joan Didion, Ann Coulter, and James Burnham.

Buckley mentored and encouraged several generations of writers and philosophers who argued, explained, and illuminated what conservatism was and what it stood for. In effect, he gave “word to the flesh,” inspiring debate at bull sessions on campus, across kitchen tables in American homes, all the way to the highest councils of government.

Buckley proved that ideas can spread like the plague with a virulence that can overcome powerful opposing forces that seek to stifle or marginalize them. We forget how overwhelmingly dominant liberalism was through the 1960’s. Conservatives were considered kooks – Birchers or Kluxers at worst. Rich, stuffed shirt, Babbitts at best. Buckley’s insurgency against this conformity struck a chord with large numbers of young people who joined the campaign to nominate Barry Goldwater.

Although a disaster, the election of 1964 saw the emergence of Reagan and more importantly, blooded a new generation of conservative activists who continued to be inspired and, in a very real way led, by Buckley and his writings.

To say that Buckley was a prolific writer would be to miss the point. He breathed projects into existence with a seeming ease born of a literary flair and a quick, penetrating mind. It is said he could write one of his 3500 “On the Right” columns in 20 minutes. His more than 50 books revealed a restless intellect as he wrote not only about politics but also culture, sailing, and his always fascinating personal experiences on the stump or on television.

He didn’t preach. He rarely tried to persuade overtly. Rather his writings shone a spotlight on an issue or a cause and forced the reader to evaluate and compare his own arguments against those of a master dialectition. In the end, persuaded or not, there was always a feeling of being uplifted by the arguments themselves.

This description of Buckley comes pretty close to capturing his public personae:

Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of “Firing Line,” harpsichordist, transoceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayor’s race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review.

Yet on the platform, he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent’s discomfort with wide-eyed glee.

“I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition,” he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. “I asked myself the other day, ‘Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?’ I couldn’t think of anyone.”

In 1991, he had a falling out with long time friend and TNR contributor Joseph Sobran whose anti-Israeli columns Buckley felt crossed the line and became anti-Semitic. But Sobran never lost his affection for Buckley. This was written last year when Sobran heard the news that Buckley had been diagnosed with emphysema:

Over the years I came to know another side of Bill. When I had serious troubles, he was a generous friend who did everything he could to help me without being asked. And I wasn’t the only one. I gradually learned of many others he’d quietly rescued from adversity. He’d supported a once-noted libertarian in his destitute old age, when others had forgotten him. He’d helped two pals of mine out of financial difficulties. And on and on. Everyone seemed to have a story of Bill’s solicitude. When you told your own story to a friend, you’d hear one from him. It was as if we were all Bill Buckley’s children.

It went far beyond sharing his money. One of Bill’s best friends was Hugh Kenner, the great critic who died two years ago. Hugh was hard of hearing, and once, after a 1964 dinner with Hugh and Charlie Chaplin, Bill scolded Hugh for being too stubborn to use a hearing aid. Here were the greatest comedian of the age and the greatest student of comedy, and Hugh had missed much of the conversation! Later Hugh’s wife told me how grateful Hugh had been for that scolding. Nobody else would have dared speak to her husband that way. Only a true friend would. If Bill saw you needed a little hard truth, he’d tell you, even if it pained him to say it.

I once spent a long evening with one of Bill’s old friends from Yale, whose name I won’t mention. He told me movingly how Bill stayed with him to comfort him when his little girl died of brain cancer. If Bill was your friend, he’d share your suffering when others just couldn’t bear to. What a great heart — eager to spread joy, and ready to share grief!

Compared with all this, the political differences that finally drove us apart seem trivial now. I saw the same graciousness in his relations with everyone from presidents to menials. I learned a lot of things from Bill Buckley, but the best thing he taught me was how to be a Christian. May Jesus comfort him now.

A great light in the firmament of American letters has been dimmed today. Buckley leaves a conservative movement in turmoil, a victim largely of its own success – a success for which he was largely responsible. We must make our own way now, climbing on the shoulders of greats like William Buckley to reach ever higher, bettering ourselves and the human condition while being inspired by the irrepressible and indomitable spirit who passed into legend today.

By: Rick Moran at 3:10 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)


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By: Rick Moran at 4:26 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)


I was born with every advantage known to America in the 1950’s. I had two white parents who created a loving, nurturing environment in a happy suburban home that never saw hunger or want. The fact that both parents were bibliophiles who fostered a love of learning and a reverence for education sets me apart even further from the vast majority of kids from my generation.

But I knew a lot of kids less well off than I who far surpassed me in academic achievement and in knowledge. This was a consequence of being educated at superior schools – private, Catholic schools – where inculcating a hunger for knowledge in students was seen as a teacher’s duty.

I am not an expert in what is wrong with schools today nor do I pretend to have any answers. I just know that the ignorance of our children as revealed in this study by Common Core is not only appalling but has me fearing for the future of American democracy:

A new survey of 17-year-olds reveals that, to many, the paragraph above sounds only slightly strange. Almost 20 percent of 1,200 respondents to a national telephone survey do not know who our enemy was in World War II, and more than a quarter think Columbus sailed after 1750. Half do not know whom Sen. McCarthy investigated or what the Renaissance was.

It is easy to make light of such ignorance. In reality, however, a deep lack of knowledge is neither humorous nor trivial. What we know helps to determine how successful we are likely to be in life, and how many career paths we can choose from. It also affects our contribution as democratic citizens.

Unfortunately, too many young Americans do not possess the kind of basic knowledge they need. When asked fundamental questions about U.S. history and culture, they score a D and exhibit stunning knowledge gaps.

“Gaps” is an understatement in the knowledge of these 17 year olds:

• Nearly a quarter of those surveyedcould not identify Adolf Hitler; 10 percent think he was a munitions manufacturer

• Fewer than half can place the Civil War in the correct half-century

• Only 45 percent can identify Oedipus

• A third do not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of speech and religion

• 44 percent think that The Scarlet Letter was either about a witch trial or a piece of correspondence

Unfortunately, that’s not the half of it. It gets worse:

  • 38% knew that Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales, a poem written in Middle English and containing stories told by people on a pilgrimage.
  • 50% knew that In the Bible, Job is known for his patience in suffering.
  • 57% knew that Dickens’ novel ATale of Two Cities took place during the French Revolution.
  • 50% knew that the controversy surrounding Senator Joseph McCarthy focused on Communism.
  • Only 60% knew that the First World War was between 1900 and 1950.

There is a chasm opening up between the old and the young as far as common cultural touchstones that allow us to share national experiences as well as communicate with each other.

If a politician makes the charge that an individual is engaging in “McCarthyism,” how is someone who doesn’t have a clue who Joe McCarthy was figure out what the politician is saying? How is someone who never heard of Oedipus to to understand a host of cultural references that the rest of us acknowledge without thinking?

It isn’t just being ignorant of the Bill of Rights and Constitution that threatens the future. Our national discussions frequently use these shared touchstones as a means of communicating at a deeper level. And, of course, these cultural references are the essence of the shared values of western civilization.

How did this disastrous turn of events come about? The study has some specific causes:

Americans in almost every demographic group are reading less than they were 10 or 20 years ago. The percentage of 17- year-olds who report reading for fun daily declined from one in three in 1984 to one in five in 2004. In 2006, 15- to 24-year olds on the whole reported reading an average of seven minutes a day on weekdays and 10 minutes a day on weekends.7 Meanwhile, in the past decade, the amount of time that teens and preteens devote to television, video games, and computers has increased steadily.8 In a culture suffused by instant messaging and YouTube, leisure reading has increasingly become an anachronism— a bit like polka or bowling leagues.

Another culprit is one of those things in education that is initiated with the very best of intentions and ends up hurting more than helping; standardized testing:

Testing is important, of that we have no doubt. But tests are not the be-all and end-all of education. They are an important indicator, but they are only one indicator of educational progress. Some districts are now spending many weeks of the school year preparing their students to take high-stakes tests. This, we believe, is time that could be better spent reading and discussing exciting historical controversies, scientific discoveries, and literary works. Indeed, reading in content areas, especially if guided by a knowledge-rich, coherent curriculum, would, we expect, produce higher test scores than endless test preparation activities.

I am supporter of testing. But when schools abandon academics in favor of teaching kids how to test well rather than absorb what is being tested, something is amiss. Are so many tests necessary? Would less intrusion by the federal government improve the situation? Those are questions I would ask if I had a kid in public schools today.

Finally, the study makes an eloquent case for establishing “deep knowledge” and “rich curriculum” schools:

Testing is important, of that we have no doubt. But tests are not the be-all and end-all of education. They are an important indicator, but they are only one indicator of educational progress. Some districts are now spending many weeks of the school year preparing their students to take high-stakes tests. This, we believe, is time that could be better spent reading and discussing exciting historical controversies, scientific discoveries, and literary works. Indeed, reading in content areas, especially if guided by a knowledge-rich, coherent curriculum, would, we expect, produce higher test scores than endless test preparation activities.

Thirty years from now those 17 year olds will be in charge of the country. I wonder what it will look like? Some variation of the 26th century in Idiocracy? More likely a less colorful, more conformist society would emerge with little to connect people to a shared past.

One last interesting tidbit from the study; kids who had one parent who attended college scored much better than kids who didn’t. This points up the fact that more than ever, the role of the teacher is vital in inspiring students to move beyond the textbook, beyond the tests and realize that the most rewarding and joyful part of the educational experience is gathering knowledge for knowledge sake; learning for the sheer joy knowing. A teacher who can do that deserves a salary equal to Barry Bonds, Shaq O’Neal, and Tom Brady all rolled into one – a most valuable member of society.

By: Rick Moran at 3:48 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (38)

Neocon News linked with Daily Quick Hits 2/26/08...

Where is the wisdom of Mike Royko when you need it?

Royko was by far Chicago’s most beloved political columnist. His scathingly brilliant, uproariously funny writings on the Chicago political machine not only shone a light in the dark corners of corruption, favoritism, and mobbed up businesses of Richard J. Daley’s City Hall, he had fun doing it.

A small sample:

Several theories have arisen as to what Mayor Daley really meant a few days ago when he said:

“If they don’t like it, they can kiss my ass.”

On the surface, it appeared that the mayor was merely admonishing those who would dare question the royal favors he has bestowed upon his sons, Prince Curly, Prince Larry, and Prince Moe.

But it can be a mistake to accept the superficial meaning of anything the mayor says.

The mayor can be a subtle man. And as Earl Bush, his press secretary, once put it after the mayor was quoted correctly:

“Don’t print what he said. Print what he meant.”

So many observers believe the true meaning of the mayor’s remarkable kissing invitation may be more than skin deep.

One theory is that he would like to become sort of the Blarney Stone of Chicago.

As the stone’s legend goes, if a person kisses Ireland’s famous Blarney Stone, which actually exists, he will be endowed with the gift of oratory.

And City Hall insiders have long known that the kind of kiss Daley suggested can result in the gift of wealth.

People from all over the world visit Blarney Castle so they can kiss the chunk of old limestone and thus become glib, convincing talkers.

So, too, might people flock to Chicago in hopes that kissing “The Daley” might bring them unearned wealth. Daley, or at least his bottom, might become one of the great tourist attractions of the nation.

Royko thrived during a time when Chicago had two daily newspapers; the rather staid and conservative morning Tribune and the afternoon liberal Daily News where Royko would hold forth much to the delight of homeward bound train commuters. He was fearless, honest, and disdainful of politicians.

And he would have ripped Barack Obama to shreds over stuff like this:

A British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama’s fundraiser just weeks before an imprudent land deal that has returned to haunt the presidential contender, an investigation by The Times discloses.

The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.

A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, registered the loan to Mr Obama’s bagman Antoin “Tony” Rezko on May 23 2005. Mr Auchi says the loan, through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA, was for $3.5 million.

Three weeks later, Mr Obama bought a house on the city’s South Side while Mr Rezko’s wife bought the garden plot next door from the same seller on the same day, June 15.

Mr Obama says he never used Mrs Rezko’s still-empty lot, which could only be accessed through his property. But he admits he paid his gardener to mow the lawn.

It should be mentioned that Obama got around a $300,000 discount on the $2 million plus house. The sellers deny there was any quid pro quo with the two buyers – that there is no connection between Mrs. Rezko paying full price for the lot next door and the bargain they gave the Obamas.

That may be so but the question is, where did Mrs. Rezko get the money?

It is unclear how Mrs Rezko could have afforded the downpayment of $125,000 and a $500,000 mortgage for the original $625,000 purchase of the garden plot at 5050 South Greenwood Ave.

In a sworn statement a year later, Mrs Rezko said she got by on a salary of $37,000 and had $35,000 assets. Mr Rezko told a court he had “no income, negative cash flow, no liquid assets, no unencumbered assets [and] is significantly in arrears on many of his obligations.”

Auchi is emerging as a key figure in the corruption trial of Rezko and also played a part in one of Rezko’s attempts to exploit his relationship with Obama. Obama denies he ever did any favors for Rezko or his associates but the crooked Obama fundraiser told prosecutors that after Auchi gave him another “loan,” he asked Obama to intervene with the State Department in order to get a visa for Auchi who was being denied entry into the US:

Prosecutors say that, after Mr Auchi was unable to enter the United States in 2005, Mr Rezko approached the US State Department to get him a visa and apparently asked “certain Illinois government officials to do the same.” Mr Obama denies he was approached. Mr Auchi’s lawyer has emphasised to The Times that it would be entirely false to imply that money had been lent by GMH to Mr Rezko in return for Mr Rezko seeking to assist Mr Auchi to obtain a visa. The two men’s relationship, the lawyer stressed, was a busines s one.

Just who is this guy Auchi?

Allow me to introduce you to Nadhmi Auchi. He was charged in the 1950s with being an accomplice of Saddam Hussein, when the future tyrant was acquiring his taste for blood. He was investigated in the 1980s for his part in alleged bribes to the fabulously corrupt leaders of post-war Italy. In the 1990s, the Belgium Ambassador to Luxembourg claimed that Auchi’s bank held money Saddam and Colonel Gadaffi had stolen from their luckless peoples. In 2002, officers from the Serious Fraud Squad raided the offices of one of Auchi’s drug companies as part of an investigation of what is alleged to be the biggest swindle ever of the NHS. With allegations, albeit unproven, like these hanging over him, wouldn’t you think that British MPs would have the sense to stay away?

Perhaps you would, but I forgot to add a final fact about Mr Auchi: he is the thirteenth-richest man in Britain, and he has been able to collect British politicians the way other people collect stamps.

First of all, his business dealings make Rezko’s kickback schemes for political contributions look like the minor leagues of sleaze. Auchi had a hand in the biggest political and corporate scandal in post war Europe, the so-called “Elf Affair” where $2 billion francs up and disappeared from the French state oil company Elf.

In a fantastically complex scheme, oil company execs used the state owned company as their own piggy bank, loading up on goodies:

The Auchi case confirms that the political class is attracted to the sleaziest characters in capitalism. Auchi’s conviction was a part of the gigantic investigation into the corruption of the Elf oil company, the biggest fraud inquiry in Europe since the Second World War. Elf became a private bank for its executives who spent £200 million on political favours, mistresses, jewellery, fine art, villas and apartments. By any definition, this was news.

It was only due to the persistence of the French investigating magistrates that Auchi got to Paris. They issued an international arrest warrant in 2000. For three years, the Home Office refused to deport him. Two MPs, Vaz and an unnamed politician, made inquiries. Renaud van Ruymbeke, the French magistrate leading the investigation into the Elf scandal, all but accused Britain of sheltering fugitives. Only after his protests, and pressure from this newspaper did the Home Office relent. Then there were Auchi’s relations with Iraq which have a certain topicality.

What are those connections to Iraq? Nothing less than being an early and enthusiastic supporter of Saddam Hussein. He has admitted to taking part in the assassination attempt on former Iraqi prime minister Qasim which Saddam also took part. He must have realized the nature of Saddam because he left Iraq but kept doing business with the regime:

Auchi’s brother was among the many Baathists killed by Saddam, but the execution did not inhibit Auchi’s business dealings with Iraq which, he says, didn’t stop until the Gulf war of 1991. His first coup in the West was to broker a deal to sell Italian frigates to the Iraqi Defence Ministry, for which he received $17m in commission. Italian investigators claimed that a Panamanian company owned by Auchi was used to funnel allegedly illegal payments. Auchi denied he had done anything wrong.

In the mid-1980s he got to know Pierfrancesco Pacini Battaglia, a man whose role in directing money to politicians led Italians to call him ‘the one below God’. Saddam Hussein had ordered the construction of a pipeline from Iraq to Saudi Arabia. Battaglia and Auchi secured the contract for a Franco-Italian consortium. In a statement to New York lawyers Battaglia alleged he knew how. ‘To acquire the contract it was necessary, as is usual, especially in Middle Eastern countries, to pay commission to characters close to the Iraqi government… In this case, the international intermediary who dealt with this matter was the Iraqi, Nadhmi Auchi.’ Auchi has denied any wrong-doing.

Truly. Elegant. Sleaze.

Rezko was into Auchi for upwards of $27 million – monies that curiously never got paid back. But what Rezko had was a stake in a big land development project that he was only too happy to give Auchi a piece:

According to court documents, Mr Rezko’s lawyer said his client had “longstanding indebtedness” to Mr Auchi’s GMH. By June 2007 he owed it $27.9 million.

Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, Mr Auchi lent Mr Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as the $3.5 million transferred in April 2007.

That agreement provided for the outstanding loans to be “forgiven” in return for a stake in the 62-acre Riverside Park development.

The Obama-Rezko relationship must be understood in the context of the influence peddling, the casual corruption, the cronysm, the favoritism shown in less than open bidding – all part of a city and state political culture where the politician, the businessman, and the crook frequently rub elbows and sometimes wear each other’s hats. Obama hiring the daughter of a Rezko associate to work in his office (after Rezko had helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for his campaign) is no big deal. But this kind of “favor” done for Rezko is a different story:

The Chicago Tribune: “On June 13, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that as a state senator, Obama wrote letters to city and state officials supporting Rezko’s successful bid to get more than $14 million from taxpayers to build apartments for senior citizens. The Sun-Times said the deal included $855,000 in development fees for Rezko and his partner, Allison S. Davis, Obama’s former boss, according to records from the project, which was four blocks outside Obama’s state Senate district.

Obama now regrets his association with Rezko and has given $150,000 to charity in order to atone for his sins.

Sorry Barry but it don’t work that way.

In the course of a 17 year relationship with Rezko, it is impossible to quantify the amount in contributions funnelled to Obama by Rezko using his ill gotten gains. Nor can it be ascertained at this time if the favors done by Obama for Rezko – large and small – involve him in illegal activities. It certainly has him enmeshed with some extremely shady characters in Rezko and Auchi.

At this point, unless there is a deliberate, concerted effort by the large media outlets to allow this story to die once Rezko is convicted, I find it probable that other revelations are yet to come that will show Obama to be just another machine politician, skirting the edge of ethics and the law – perhaps even going over the line and engaging in criminal activities.

Obama is not the Agent of Change. He is a calculating politician who plays the game the same way politicians have been playing it for hundreds of years – receiving money in exchange for favors from government for his friends and cronies. And if Mike Royko were alive, one has to believe that despite agreeing with his politics, Royko would have been relentless in taking Obama down, hammering away in his own inimitable style at the influence selling, the sweetheart deals, the pay for favors, and all the rest of this sleazy mess.

No Royko today. But we have an army of bloggers who can push this story into the mainstream and force the media to expend the resources necessary to get to the bottom of the Rezko-Obama enterprise. True, like Whitewater it is a very complex story and there is very little ease in the telling. But given the stakes, an effort should be made nonetheless.

By: Rick Moran at 12:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (23)


It is almost exactly a year since I wrote a post speculating about the “assassination factor” in Obama’s candidacy. And while I may have been one of the first to weigh in on the issue, many since who have written about this potential cataclysm have highlighted aspects of the problem that never occurred to me.

For instance, this New York Times piece raises the question of whether black voters would be so worried about losing Obama that they wouldn’t vote for him:

Not long ago, his advisers worried that some black voters might not support his candidacy out of a fierce desire to protect him. It was a particular concern in South Carolina, but Mr. Obama said he believed the worry was also rooted in “a fear of failure.”

Now that he has won a string of primaries and caucuses in all corners of the country, and built a coalition of black and white voters, failure would seem to be less of an issue. The fears, however, remain.

Having had their hopes raised time and time again only to see them dashed by an assassin’s bullet, black Americans have proven themselves to be resilient enough to embrace Obama while still harboring an unease that the rest of us feel about his safety.

Is that unease justified? Obama himself doesn’t think so:

“I’ve got the best protection in the world,” Mr. Obama, of Illinois, said in an interview, reprising a line he tells supporters who raise the issue with him. “So stop worrying.”


“It’s not something that I’m spending time thinking about day to day,” said Mr. Obama, who has been given the Secret Service nickname Renegade, a way for agents to quickly identify him. “I made a decision to get into this race. I think anybody who decides to run for president recognizes that there are some risks involved, just like there are risks in anything.”

The Secret Service is probably one of the top three protection outfits in the world. Their strength is in taking pro-active steps to protect their charges. Their intelligence gathering and threat assessment departments are by far their strongest areas of protection.

It is the “face in the crowd” or the “lone nut with a gun” that could turn an Obama candidacy from a triumph of American society to an unspeakable tragedy. And as the last line of defense, Obama’s personal protection teams are ready to lay down their own lives in defense of his. Agent Tim McCarthy proved that during the attempted assassination on Reagan in 1981 when he stood directly in the line of fire from John Hinkley’s gun, arms akimbo, and then took a bullet in the gut meant for the President. Obama knows this and is satisfied that the Service is doing all that it can.

Just recently in Dallas, there was some concern raised that the Secret Service had experienced a security lapse at an Obama rally when they reportedly failed to search for weapons among attendees. Indeed, reports from the arena where the rally was held (as well as other reports from other venues across the country) indicate that as the time approached for Obama to speak, the huge crowd still waiting out side to get in were allowed into the arena without going through the metal detector.

In a statement, the Secret Service does not deny this but insist that they were sticking with a plan for the candidate’s security:

There were no security lapses at that venue,” said Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington. He added there was “no deviation” from the “comprehensive and layered” security plan, implemented in “very close cooperation with our law enforcement partners.”

Zahren rebutted suggestions by several Dallas police officers at the rally who thought the Secret Service ordered a halt to the time-consuming weapons check because long lines were moving slowly, and many seats remained empty as time neared for Obama to appear.

“It was never a part of the plan at this particular venue to have each and every person in the crowd pass through the Magnetometer,” said Zahren, referring to the device used to detect metal in clothing and bags.

He declined to give the reason for checking people for weapons at the front of the lines and letting those farther back go in without inspection.

“We would not want, by providing those details, to have people trying to derive ways in which they could defeat the security at any particular venue,” Zahren said.

I am not buying this explanation. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the campaign itself put pressure on the Secret Service to get the people moving into these venues. It would not be shocking if this were so simply because there is always this tension between the needs of the candidate/President and the needs of security. The next time Obama works a rope line, watch the 8-10 agents around him and not the candidate. Each is responsible for a particular portion of the crowd while the agents behind him are always prepared to yank him away and cover his body with theirs. If the Secret Service had their druthers, there would be no rope line at all. But the needs of the candidate to press the flesh outweigh the common sense needs of security.

And the reason they may not be checking the last several hundred people is because anyone wanting to take a shot at Obama will probably do so where he is most vulnerable – at the rope line. In order to get that close, an assassin would have to get their early enough to be one of the first one’s in. Someone several hundred feet away, unless they are a world class marksman with a pistol, would have little chance of hitting the candidate.

The Secret Service won’t say this for obvious reasons. But it is one of the tradeoffs made between security and democracy. And it makes the candidate or President that much more open for the plan of an assassin.

But perhaps we worry too much. As I point out in my post from a year ago, what has yet to occur in a likely assassination scenario is the atmosphere of hate that has been the hallmark of past tragedies:

[D]allas seemed to be the capitol city of the unhinged in America at that time. Birchers, Kluxers, radical anti-communists, race baiters, all made Dallas a place that worried many of Kennedy’s close supporters, many of whom strongly urged him not to make the trip at all.

How much of that atmosphere rubbed off on Oswald? According to Ruth Paine, who put up Oswald’s wife Marina following several brutal beatings by her husband, Lee read the News everyday. And Oswald could hardly have been unaware of the Birchers since he took at shot at General Edwin Walker, a notorious extremist just months prior to his killing the President.

But it wasn’t just the Kennedy assassination where we see this hatred explode into violence. Many have pointed to the atmosphere of hate in Memphis when Martin Luther King came to support the garbage workers in their strike for a decent wage and better working conditions. And in 1968, the recent Arab-Israeli conflict and the outrage in the Palestinian community that was felt as a consequence of American support for Israel apparently contributed to the rage of Sirhan Sirhan and his desire to strike back at America by killing Robert Kennedy.

Even John Hinckley, Ronald Reagan’s would be assassin, may have been affected by the unhinged nature of much of the criticism being directed against the President for his budget and tax proposals and most especially for his stated desire to confront the Soviet Union. I distinctly remember commenting to friends at the time that at this rate, Reagan wouldn’t survive; that some nut with a gun would get the idea they were doing the world a favor and kill the President.

So far, Obama’s candidacy has generated a lot of good feelings and none of the unhinged partisanship that marked the Clinton-Bush years. But this could change once the battle is joined during the general election. And it will almost certainly change if Obama is elected president and titanic struggles occur over Iraq, the War on Terror, and national health insurance.

Meanwhile, the candidate himself soldiers on:

That afternoon, Mr. Obama’s motorcade passed Dealey Plaza and the Texas Book Depository building, where the fatal shot was fired at President Kennedy in 1963. Several campaign aides looked out their windows, silently absorbing the scene.

Not so for Mr. Obama, who later said he had not realized he was passing the site. And no one in his car pointed it out.

“I’ve got to admit, that’s not what I was thinking about,” he said. “I was thinking about how I was starting to get a head cold and needed to make sure that I cleared up my nose before I got to the arena.”

If this studied indifference to danger is an act, it’s a good one.

By: Rick Moran at 9:15 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

CATEGORY: Politics

I am usually quite proud of being a conservative. I know in my heart that the only way to enjoying liberty under the law AND equality of justice is through the application of conservative principles to government and society. And I am usually proud of the rational, reasonable basis on which most conservatives see the world and evaluate people and events.

That’s why it embarrasses me to no end to see fellow conservatives who actually believe that Barack Obama is some kind of “Manchurian Candidate” sent by Muslims to undermine American society. Or that Obama is a closet Muslim just waiting to take power before unmasking himself. Or perhaps most bizarrely, since Obama was born to a Muslim father, he is a Muslim whether he wants to be or not and that Muslims elsewhere will not let him forget his heritage.

There are other permutations to this theme involving Obama’s middle name of Hussein which to some of my fellow conservatives is a dead giveaway that he is Muslim. And there are no end of theories, rumors, tall tales, and outright lies about Obama’s Muslim childhood spent at this madrass or that mosque which “proves” him to be a son of Islam.

Most of this idiocy takes place in comment sections of blogs and conservative boards where new Vince Foster murder theories still generate excitement. Occassionally, one of these stories goes mainstream and for a brief period, conservative are made to look like paranoid loons who believe Barack Obama is a cross between the anti-Christ and Osama bin Laden’s long lost brother.

Well, today conservative stupidity regarding Obama and his supposed ties to Islam hit paydirt – as in generating a ten on the laugh-o-meter. Evidently, the probable next president of the United States was caught in flagrante dilecto, dressed to the nines in what appears to be some kind of native garb (probably Kenyan) and with a (gasp!) turban on his head. To some of my unschooled, ignorant conservative friends, this is further proof that if we elect Obama president, there will be a department of Sharia Affairs.
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The truth as Jim Hoft (via Sweetness and Light) shows, is a little less dramatic. The costume is that of a Kenyan tribal elder.

Now Obama already has some problematic connections to Kenya including his appearances for presidential candidate Raila Odinga, a distant cousin and someone whose recent actions in fomenting violence in Kenya following a crooked presidential election are extremely troublesome. (There have also been rumors of a deal between Odinga and the small Islamist party in Kenya that he would, if elected, establish Sharia law – a dubious proposition and almost certainly a lie that has been picked up by some conservatives in this country and passed off as the truth.)

But the idea that Obama in traditional Kenyan garb proves he’s some kind of closet Muslim or Islamic sympathizer is absurd. Kenya is 70% Christian and only 10% Muslim. To extrapolate that Obama’s dress denotes anything other than acknowledging his birthright not to mention playing the gracious guest by donning the clothing of his hosts is irrational, stupid, ignorant, and totally without foundation.

But that doesn’t stop some from allowing imagination to trump rational thought:

Over at Islamica magazine, they are acknowledging what the few of us fighting the great fight have been saying all along. Hussein Obama is Islam’s candidate. They call it a wink and a nod but shhhhhh don’t let on to the fat, lazy infidels.

Expect the fantasy mongerers in the mainstream media to continue to scrub and whitewash (no pun) Hussein Obama’s Islamic bonafides. The rabid fervor by the leftarded lemmings is Hitleresque.

A former Associate Publisher of The New York Observer should know better.

While writing this post, I received a comment on my article from yesterday about Obama’s radical friends. The wildly off base nature of most of the charges made almost make me believe I’m living on a planet full of escapees from the loony bin:

Rick, check out these other Obama ‘soulmates”:

Cousin Raila Odinga, the losing Presidential Candidate in Kenya, whom Obama supposedly has almost daily conversations, has been linked to religous violence, burning of churches ( with parishioners in them), and other violence following his loss in the elections. Odinga was accused of making a secret pact with a Kenyan national muslim group to install sharia law in Kenya if he won the election. Oh by the way, check out the picture of Obama in Kenyaa tribal Muslim garb in 2006 at Sweetness and Light.

“Tony” Rezko, corrupt Syrian-Amerioan slumlord/ businessman and heavy poitical contributor to Chicago area democrats, who will be inducted this week I believe for corruption. This is the character, with a nineteen year relationship to Obama and his law firm, who put up the money for a portion of Obama’s lot so Obama could purchase his $2.1 million home. Rezko it seems also has ties to politically connected types in Syria and the former Saddam regime.

It seems that it was true that Obama was reaching out in bi-partisan way- it just was to the parties of the Islamic radicals and not to the Republicans.

This is a guy who:

• Won’t say the pledge of allegience
• Won’t wear an American flag pin.
• Whose wife has never been proud of American before her husband’s campaign.
• Who belongs to a racist anti-white church in Chicago.
• Who was enrolled as a muslim in Indoneisa’s schools and studied the Koran in afterschool clubs.
• Whose middle name is named after Ali Hussein, grandson of Mohammad and the founder of Shia d’ Islam. Incidentally, “Barrack” is awfully close to the name “Buraq”, the winged steed that Mohammad rode to heaven on.

This apostate muslim is the one who is to lead us on the War on Terror?

Pray tell, how is Barrack going to make peace between the Shia , Sunni and the Sufi, much less those other people of the Book, those infidel Jews and Chistians? The muslim Takfiri have only been waging war on the insufficiently pious muslims and infidel for over thirteen hundred years, or did’nt Barrack learn that studying the Koran as a teenager?

We as voters really need to hear from Barrack, how studying the Koran as a teenager affected and shaped his political outlook and worldview.

I receive these kinds of comments all the time and read them constantly on other blogs. What the commenter and other conservatives don’t take into account about Obama is that he is much more of a calculating man than anyone generally gives him credit for. He attends a church in Chicago whose pastor is admiring of black racist Louis Farrakahn. But I doubt whether Obama’s Christianity goes much deeper than his devotion to Islam – which is to say his religiosity is a calculated element of his political personae. His attendance at Trinity United Church Of Christ in Chicago establishes his authenticity as an African American more than fulfilling any spiritual need the candidate may have.

And that’s why I find charges that Obama is some kind of closet Muslim so absurd. The candidate may have been trained as a grass roots organizer using the playbook written by radical Saul Alinsky. And he may have been involved in radical lefist politics early in his career. But a man who has so carefully crafted a political resume by conveniently being absent for key votes or voting “Present” on controversial bills – all the better to obscure how far left his politics go or what his true politics are – it is not beyond imagining that whatever his religious beliefs, they are calculated to effortlessly merge with the rest of this image Obama is presenting to the world. There is no room for Islam in this image nor is there anything in the public record that would indicate Obama has even given his Muslim heritage – if indeed his father was a member of the Islamic faith – a second thought as an adult.

I would say to my conservative friends who continue to insist that this is a rich vein to mine that you are so off base as to be a laughingstock. Just because my middle name is David doesn’t mean I’m a Jew despite a long, illustrious connection of that name to the history and faith of the Hebrews. Hence, this nonsense about Obama’s middle name being “proof” that he is a Muslim has got to stop. There’s no evidence that name was given to him for any other reason except the given one – it was his father’s middle name as well.

Nor does Obama dressing up in local garb make him a Kenyan elder or a shadow Muslim. The fact that he is wearing a traditional headress is irrelevant to what he believes. When Calvin Coolidge was photographed wearing a Lakotan headdress, no one came out and said Coolidge was a devotee of The Great Spirit. Politicians wear all sorts of funny hats and clothes. It’s part of Americana. For Obama to be singled out for honoring his hosts by dressing in traditional garb is the height of stupidity and my conservative bretheren should be ashamed of themselves.

I really wish this meme would stop. There is so much else to criticize Obama for that to start tilting at windmills by claiming he’s a danger to our Judeo-Christian society is a waste of time, effort, and resources. I would imagine the candidate himself rather than being hurt by these accusations probably gets a good laugh out of them, so silly they are and so revealing of the stupidity that permeates a large subset of the right.

Get a grip, friends.


Good to see even most of my conservative readers agree with me – at least judging from the comments and the nearly dozen emails I’ve gotten already.

One good point made by an emailer is that even if he isn’t a Muslim, Obama may be more sympathetic to Muslims than any other candidate.

I hope so. Someone sympathetic to Muslims wouldn’t use the word “Crusade” when talking about the war in Afghanistan. That utterance by Bush did more to harm US-Muslim relations than anything except possibly the war in Iraq which most Muslims refuse to acknowledge freed 25 million of their co-religionists from one of the most brutal regimes in the world.

But would he be more accomodating of radical Islamists? Would he seek some kind of truce with al-Qaeda or other radical groups? Would he believe the Iranians if they told him face to face that they had no interest in building a nuclear bomb?

This, I don’t know. But given his past associations with radical leftists whose myopic belief in the goodness of our enemies (since it is we who are the ogres of the world) is one of their most endearing qualities, that fact might make any foriegn policy initiative possible.

Some believe it is inevitable that the west will negotiate with Bin Laden – at least about Afghanistan. God knows what these next years will bring but if there would be an American President who might consider it, I would finger Obama before McCain any day of the week.

By: Rick Moran at 8:07 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (119)

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