Right Wing Nut House

4/14/2008

ONLY A REPUBLICAN COULD BE SO STUPID…

Filed under: Decision '08, OBAMANIA!, Politics — Rick Moran @ 4:48 pm

Well, so much for any advantage relating to “elitism” the Republicans may have had with regard to Obama’s “God, guns, and racism” remarks at the San Francisco fundraiser.

Only on a planet inhabited by such ignoramuses, such geese as this GOP Congressman from Kentucky would Obama be about ready to skate on his extraordinarily arrogant and dismissive attitude toward the white middle class.

This idiot has just handed Obama the advantage:

U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, a Hebron Republican, compared Obama and his message for change similar to a “snake oil salesman.”

He said in his remarks at the GOP dinner that he also recently participated in a “highly classified, national security simulation” with Obama.

“I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button,” Davis said. “He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.”

Davis all but call’s Obama a stupid n*****.

Okay, now the elitist in me is about ready to emerge. But one look at this guy’s picture says it all. The Gomer Pyle ears, goober eatin’ grin, and something inbred around the eyes bespeaks a throwback. Put a uniform and a badge on this guy and I can see him aiming the fire hose at women and children in Selma.

This man should be censured by the House. Everybody in America knows by this time how hurtful and just plain wrong it is to refer to a black man as “boy.” It doesn’t matter if he calls white men “boys.” The connotations are entirely different and everyone knows it.

If the guy is so ignorant that he didn’t think it was wrong, then he’s too stupid to serve in the House - even for a Republican.

Needless to say over the next 24 hours the debate on the Obama gaffe will shift. It will no longer be how arrogant and dismissive of the white middle class is the Democratic candidate for president but rather how much did he get right in his little rant?

UPDATE: 4/15

There appears to be a gap in the commenters between those who see the word “boy” as a problem when applied to blacks and those who don’t.

My - what a surprise.

I learned not to call grown black men “boy” when I was about 5 years old (I am 54 years old). Maybe younger. The fact that many of the commenters to this post either didn’t learn that lesson or reject it because it is somehow “politically correct” doesn’t surprise me. The most casually racist stuff gets deleted by me on a regular basis if only because I don’t want my site polluted with such abnormality.

Look - most of what we on the right call “politically correct” deserves every criticism thrown its way. PC has become a straitjacket for free speech. Anyone who reads this site knows full well my opposition to most examples of PC and its debilitating effect on political dialougue in this country.

However…

There are some things you cannot say without revealing yourself to be a closet case. The “N” word is one of them. “Gook” is another. “Spic, greaser, wetback” and a few others are also verboten.

There might be 10 words in the English language out of 50,000 whose connotation is just too hurtful to others and should simply never, ever, ever be used. This is not “PC.” This is what we call “common courtesy” at the least or better yet, being aware of other people’s feelings and sensibilities. In other words, being compassionate.

One of those words that cannot be used without offending someone is “boy.” The Congressman recognized it. Most real conservatives recognize it. Why many of you in the comments cannot is simply beyond my comprehension and experience.

OUTSIDE FORCES WILL DETERMINE SUCCESS OR FAILURE FOR McCAIN

Filed under: Decision '08 — Rick Moran @ 1:12 pm

More than any other presidential candidate in recent years, forces beyond John McCain’s control will determine whether or not he is the next president of the United States.

With an astonishing 81% of the American people believing that the United States is on the wrong track, it seems incredible he is even in the race much less leading in some polls. With that many voters convinced that a change of direction is necessary, they usually don’t cast their ballot for the candidate representing the party of the president in power.

But thanks to a healthy assist from the Democrats who seem intent in tearing themselves apart, McCain’s lofty numbers have given the GOP hope that all is not lost and that perhaps their nominee can squeak past either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the fall.

There’s only one problem with that scenario - actually two problems - that haunt the nightmares of McCain and his staff; the fact that John McCain’s success or failure will depend on both the War in Iraq and the economy not going south between now and the election.

I can’t recall a candidate being held hostage to events to this extent. On some level, a candidate is always at the mercy of what is going on in the world. But either Democratic candidate will almost certainly have an advantage when it comes to both the state of the economy and the lack of progress in bringing our troops home from Iraq. Only dramatic improvements - not anticipated or likely - would alter that dynamic.

The economy may begin to recover in the final quarter this year if the housing crisis bottoms out and the credit crunch eases. Whether it will be noticeable enough to aid McCain is an open question. The key here is that any recession be short and mild. A spike in unemployment above 6% along with a crash in consumer confidence might doom McCain’s candidacy - as would a sudden turn for the worse in the battlefield situation in Iraq.

Iran seems to hold the whip hand in Iraq at the moment. Their militias, their “special groups,” and whatever hold they have on Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army will determine the level of violence in Iraq for the foreseeable future. If the Iranian government believes it can influence the American election by ratcheting up the violence - and is disposed to do so - then there isn’t a whole helluva lot McCain can do about it.

And that brings us to the wildcard in this campaign season - the one real unknown that no one can guess how it will play out if it comes to pass.

A pre-emptive attack by the Bush Administration on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure or on some other target relating to their interference in Iraq prior to the election will raise screams of protest from the left and no doubt force the Democratic candidate into a posture of firm opposition to such a military operation. And given McCain’s rhetoric in the past, it would conversely force him to be a strong supporter of such action.

This is a given. The question is, what would the American voter think of such an attack? Polls conducted late last year were mixed but a bare majority would support such a strike if diplomacy and sanctions failed to deter the Iranians from building a bomb. Of course, the American people will generally back the President if he decides to use force anywhere. But would that support translate into votes for McCain if Bush decides to bomb?

It is a huge unknown. Personally, I believe any threat to attack Iran before the election to be receding and is now not very likely. But circumstances may change - especially relating to Iran’s continued support for the perpetrators of violence in Iraq. If the situation becomes intolerable, a limited strike against specific targets in Iran like the Qods Force or factories manufacturing IED’s might be in the offing.

So McCain is not only beholden to news on the economic front and Iraq, he is also somewhat at the mercy of the Bush Administration and any action they may deem necessary to protect our troops from violence encouraged by the Iranian government.

This is a very weak position for a candidate to find himself despite McCain’s current robust numbers vis a vis the Democrats. We’re liable to see those poll numbers yo-yo between now and election day as the public’s perceptions whipsaw between hope and despair on the economic and war fronts.

In a rather mean-spirited article on McCain in The New Yorker, John Heilerman nevertheless correctly diagnoses some other problems for the candidate that begs the question “Is John McCain Bob Dole?”

Yet for all the hosannas being sung to him these days, and for all the waves of fear and trembling rippling through the Democratic masses, the truth is that McCain is a candidate of pronounced and glaring weaknesses. A candidate whose capacity to raise enough money to beat back the tidal wave of Democratic moola is seriously in doubt. A candidate unwilling or unable to animate the GOP base. A candidate whose operation has never recovered from the turmoil of last summer, still skeletal and ragtag and technologically antediluvian. (“Fund-raising on the Web? You don’t say. You can raise money through those tubes?”) Whose cadre of confidantes contains so many lobbyists that the Straight Talk Express often has the vibe of a rolling K Street clubhouse. Whose awkward positioning issues-wise was captured brilliantly by Pat Buchanan: “The jobs are never coming back, the illegals are never going home, but we’re going to have a lot more wars.” A candidate one senior moment—or one balky teleprompter—away from being transformed from a grizzled warrior into Grandpa Simpson. A candidate, that is, who poses an existential question for Democrats: If you can’t beat a guy like this in a year like this, with a vastly unpopular Republican war still ongoing and a Republican recession looming, what precisely is the point of you?

John McCain has many fine qualities both as a person and a candidate. There is no doubt he is as qualified to be president as either of the Democrats. He is the first Republican candidate in a long time who actually receives decent press coverage on occasion (New York Times and a few others excepted). And the Democrats are in the midst of the bloodiest primary campaign either party has seen since the Democratic contest of 1968.

But as Heilerman points out, McCain has some enormous disadvantages as well. And it doesn’t help that the Republican candidate for president is being held hostage by events over which he has no control and which may prove to be the undoing of his campaign.

4/13/2008

“THE ALLENTOWN SYNDROME”

Filed under: Decision '08, History, OBAMANIA! — Rick Moran @ 8:35 am

Well we’re living here in Allentown
And they’re closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line
Well our fathers fought the Second World War
Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore
Met our mothers in the USO
Asked them to dance
Danced with them slow
And we’re living here in Allentown

But the restlessness was handed down
And it’s getting very hard to stay
(Words and Music by Billy Joel, 1982)

Once upon a time, American industrial might was unchallenged the world over. It wasn’t necessarily because our companies were any better or because our workers were more productive. It was because in order to build an 8 million man army and all the weapons and equipment that it required to defeat two of the 20th century’s most powerful militaries in Germany and Japan, we had to build the industrial infrastructure that went along with it.

Plants sprung up like grass across what is now known as the rust belt - an arc of cities from Chicago up through the shores of Lake Erie in New York. And following World War II, when there was hardly a stick or a stone left standing in Germany, France, Great Britain, and Japan, the US enjoyed a near monopoly in industries like steel, textiles, automobiles, and rubber while being able to make for ourselves a wealth of consumer products that became the envy of the world. Household electronics, appliances, furniture, clothing, - everything was made in America because the rest of the world’s economies were prostrate as a result of the massive damage caused by the world being at war.

The post war world we helped shape was a much freer world with a big reduction in trade barriers that helped the devastated economies of Europe recover more quickly than anyone had dared hope. This was a part of the Marshall Plan that integrated the European economy so that French wheat for instance could be exchanged for German steel with little in the way of protective tariffs to stand in the way.

It was a remarkably stable system - as it was designed to be since one of the major goals of the Marshall Plan was to get Europe back on its feet economically as quickly as possible so that the various European Communist parties would not be able to get much of a toehold in the post war governments on the continent.

This ridiculously simplified thumbnail sketch of post war economic history nevertheless highlights the absolute dominance of American manufacturing at the time. The Marshall Plan was a success because we allowed it to be by virtually guaranteeing economic stability with our dollars and regional security with our military.

For more than a quarter century following the war, US industries were unchallenged. The world used American steel to build its bridges and skyscrapers. They drove American cars. They bought American textiles. They purchased American consumer goods.

The world was America’s oyster and it would always be that way, right?

Not hardly.

That same world we built from the ashes of World War II began to fall apart in the 1970’s thanks to a variety of factors largely beyond our control. The blast furnaces of Japan, Germany, and France - much newer and more efficient than the aging plants in America - were out-competing us in our own country. With the oil shocks of the mid 70’s, America discovered Japanese cars. Korean textiles flooded our markets - the same Korea we had rescued from Communism a scant two decades earlier. The world was pounding on our door wanting to sell us everything from new fangled stereos and TV’s to shoes, to appliances, to auto parts and there was little we were doing to stop them.

Could we have halted the decline of our industrial base? Tariffs no doubt would have saved some jobs - for how long is anyone’s guess. And of course, the subsequent loss of jobs as a result of retaliation by the rest of the world when they raised their tariffs would have cost a lot of jobs also.

The point is simple; the world was changing. And American business, grown fat and happy under the old system, was too slow to respond. When companies tried to adjust they invariably ran smack into furious opposition from unions - understandably so since the first thing companies tried to do was cut wages and benefits while laying off thousands. Unions are not in the business of seeing their membership diminish or standing by while their members’ wage packages were slashed. Hence, a ruinous conflict between labor and management ensued that, in the end, destroyed them all.

One by one, the Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania steel towns, so dependent on one company’s economic viability, succumbed to the overseas onslaught. It wasn’t just steel and it didn’t just happen in a few states. The textile industry in the south was also devastated. Rubber mills in Ohio, auto plants in Detroit, parts suppliers all over the Midwest, and all the satellite industries that supplied them began to disappear from the landscape.

The consequences of this catastrophe are still being felt today. But the immediate problem was in those communities that were made into ghost towns by the closing of the town’s main employer. Hopelessness descended like a black cloud over hundreds of towns and cities. It was this hopelessness that Billy Joel was writing about when he penned his anthem to the death of American industrial hegemony in “Allentown.”

Well we’re waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron and coke
And chromium steel
And we’re waiting here in Allentown
But they’ve taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away

This is the essence of Barack Obama’s critique of the American middle class. It is the betrayal by nameless, soulless corporations, unions - the “system” - and has led to bitterness and frustration.

Or has it?

What Joel is singing about is loss. It was a given in those towns that if you graduated from high school, a job would be waiting for you at the mill. And if you worked hard, put in your 35 years, you could retire on a decent pension free from want.

What was lost wasn’t jobs or a company or even the unions; it was a loss of faith, of certainty in life. Obama, as Marc Ambinder points out, was not necessarily wrong in his analysis because he recognized that in those towns that have failed to adjust in the interim by encouraging a much more diverse economic base, there is indeed a sense of things going off the rails and never being put right.

In Obama’s version, working class voters in the Midwest have been inured to promises of economic redress because both Democrats and Republicans promise to help and never do; since government is a source of distress in their lives, they organize their politics around more stable institutions, like churches or cultural practices, like hunting. The outlet for their economic duress is in lashing out, in giving voice to their grievances; In Obama’s formulation, Republicans are especially eager and willing to exploit cultural trigger points.

[snip]

The elite media and most Democrats will say… “yeah.. .So? Obama is simply describing world as we know it.” His opponents and people who are inclined to view Obama as an elitist will say, “he is dismissing the culture and religion of working class whites.”

Indeed, the responses to Obama’s words have proven (to Obama allies) a part of his argument. Conservatives are already portraying Obama as liberal, elite, out of touch with the values of ordinary Americans — exactly the type of legerdemain that Obama was pointing to.

So there’s a debate to be had about substance.

But the politics are unquestionably dangerous for a candidate whose appeal depends on him transcending traditional political adjectives like “liberal” or “elite.”

Obama’s problem is that he is applying a classic deterministic analysis to what is, at bottom, a question of faith. Indeed, see if you don’t recognize the standard liberal argument in this verse from “Allentown:”

Every child had a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got
But something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our face

Well I’m living here in Allentown
And it’s hard to keep a good man down
But I won’t be getting up today

And it’s getting very hard to stay
And we’re living here in Allentown

Obama ecapsulated, his ideas already put to song in 1982, complete with the ubiquitous “they” (conservatives? Republicans?) throwing a flag in the face of voters (cultural values like guns and God) and a bitterness that is so debilitating that it keeps them from getting up in the morning - or voting their own economic interest.

Ezra Klein, in defending Obama, inadvertently fleshes out this deterministic view of the Middle Class:

I’m not really sure what the big deal over Obama’s comments in SF is supposed to be (save that the media and Clinton and McCain are saying they will be a big deal, and thus making them a big deal), but Marc Ambinder has the least hysterical rundown I’ve seen, and does the best job separating the substance of the remarks from their expected political impact. As far as I can tell, few actually find the argument underlying Obama’s statement controversial. It’s a pretty standard thesis, and has been delivered, in various forms, by everyone from John McCain to Bill Clinton. It’s that the way Obama phrased it is politically damaging, particularly the inclusion of guns and religion (though I think the crucial ambiguity in his comments is that he’s talking about guns and religion in their role as conveyors of political identity and social unrest, rather than in their more natural roles of shooting at things and believing in God). Obama’s has fired back, but it’s one of the depressing realities of our media landscape that it is both a) totally predictable that they will devote hundreds of hours to this story in the next few days and b) utterly unimaginable that they will give the candidate 3 minutes and 44 seconds to clarify his comments. And why would they? That might kill the story!

It sounds to me as if Mr. Klein is whistling past the graveyard in his expectation of how this story will play out. He may be right but he is dead wrong when he tries to tie McCain and Hillary to Obama’s analysis - as if either had gone so far as to ascribe the closely held political and religious beliefs of ordinary Americans in such casually dismissive terms.

No one finds the remarks themselves “controversial?” There is no one that I have read on this subject who has been more articulate, more analytically spot on, or more passionate in their denunciation of the substance of Obama’s comments than Allah and Ed at Hot Air.

Allah:

What’s most offensive? The condescension displayed here by the intelligentsia’s candidate of choice? The sheer breadth of the stereotype, which would send Team Obama screaming from the rooftops if a white politician drew a similarly sweeping caricature of blacks? The crude quasi-Marxist reductionism of his analysis, which he first introduced in his speech on race vis-a-vis the root causes of whites’ “resentment” — namely, exploitation by the bourgeoisie in the form of corporations and D.C. lobbyists? Or is it the shocking inclusion of religion, of all things, in the litany of sins he recites? What on earth is that doing there, given His Holiness’s repeated invocations of the virtues of faith on the trail? Note the choice of verb, too. Why not just go the whole nine yards and call it the opiate of the masses?

Ed:

What makes this so breathtaking is the mindless, casual way in which Obama reveals his snobbishness and elitism. We saw hints of this from Michelle Obama, in her assertions about never being proud of her country until her husband ran for President. (Soren Dayton has more on this.) We had not seen it from Obama himself in such a blatant and unmistakable manner. The matter-of-fact style in which he spoke this shows the unthinking contempt he has for people he has never engaged — an acceptance of stereotypes without questioning them that shows his own bigotry, not to mention foolishness and poor judgment.

Asked and answered, Mr. Klein.

Others on the left defend Obama’s deterministic analysis by pointing to the response by the right as evidence that he is correct:

If I were advising the Obama campaign, I’d actually embrace the controversial quote. Of course folks in small towns are clinging to their guns; they’ve been led to believe the state is coming to take away their 2nd Amendment rights. Of course they cling to their faith; given the economic turmoil in their communities, they have to cling to institutions that give them strength and hope. Of course they’re bitter; while millionaires and wealthy corporations have been well represented in corridors of power for as long as they can remember, they’ve been working harder, making less, and feeling like they’ve been left behind.

That’s not an un-American sentiment. That’s not reflective of poor values. That’s not elitism. That’s reality.

I’m sorry but I must disagree. Perhaps only liberals “cling” to religion. Most people of faith I know (I’m an atheist) embrace their faith, they welcome it into their lives. It is just plain wrong - in any reality - to say that Middle Class voters are scared little puppies cowering in their economically devastated communities, being swayed by the hypnotic fear mongering of Republicans with regard to guns (no one has to be scared into believing anything when liberals themselves constantly denigrate and mercilessly mock those who exercise their right to bear arms).

And Obama’s contention that Republicans jack up fear of “the other” to get votes presupposes that the Middle Class has no strong feelings about border security - that they are being manipulated by conservatives who use the issue to gin up racist feelings and not because people are passionate about the subject. This isn’t elitist thinking? This isn’t holding people in utter contempt who disagree with you?

Spare me.

The question isn’t whether these issues spill over into the realm of politics. Of course they do. The problem is Obama and much of the left believes people are so ignorant and easily swayed by GOP appeals to their values that the reason they don’t vote Democratic is that they are fooled into voting otherwise. In other words, these bitter, frustrated voters can be had simply by “throwing a flag in their face.”

Not recognizing why this is monumentally wrong is why the Democrats have such a hard time winning elections. The GOP connect(ed)s with voters on an emotional level while the Democrats refuse to engage. It is not by ginning up fear that the GOP succeed(ed)s it is because the party doesn’t dismiss their values as some kind of mental disorder to be cured by “right thinking.” You’re a stupid yahoo if you own a gun. You’re a superstitious moron if you take religion (and its teachings on abortion and gay marriage) seriously. You’re a racist hater if you don’t allow unfettered access to America by illegal aliens.

And the left wonders why people don’t vote for them?

Even if this flap blows over for Obama (and I believe it will), I am quite confident the issue will rear its head again sometime down the road. He can’t help it. It’s who he is. And because of that, the next time Obama shows his contempt for the voters by uttering some manner of elitist nonsense, a similar blow up will occur.

Only next time, he may not be able to get out of the box he puts himself in so easily.

4/12/2008

ELITISM AND THE ELITIST ELITES WHO THINK THEY’RE THE ELITE

Filed under: Decision '08, OBAMANIA! — Rick Moran @ 11:29 am

So, Barack Obama has finally revealed himself as an elitist? This is news?

I daresay anyone who has been paying even a smidgen of attention to this presidential campaign knows that Obama’s appeal to the Democratic party is as a kind of patrician wise man whose soaring rhetoric places him on a pedestal far above the faithful, looking down on the rest of us with a benign smile on his face. The unspoken message of Obama’s candidacy is that he is better than the rest of us and that we should aspire to emulate his “post racial,” “post partisan” example.

Let me emphasize that there is nothing inherently wrong with this notion that our president is a better man than the rest of us. Hell, you couldn’t put yourself on the line and run for that office unless you had a supreme confidence in your own abilities not to mention a raging ego that kept telling you that you were the only one in America who can deal with the problems that face us.

But the question of our leaders being out of touch elitists is one that’s been debated since the beginning of the republic. The patricians who dominated the presidency for the first 36 years of our existence as a nation felt themselves entitled to make decisions for the benefit of the “mob” - the great mass of people that so terrified many of the Founders including Jefferson. The Founder’s reaction to Shay’s rebellion in 1786 - where ordinary citizens rebelled against unjust tax and debt policies - was to convene the Constitutional Convention, partly to make sure that the chaos of the mob did not threaten men with property.

The convention did not allow for direct election of the president and placed the election of senators in the hands of state legislatures because at bottom, our Founding Fathers had a profound mistrust in the ability of ordinary people to make reasoned judgements about such weighty matters as politics.

Talk about elitism.

They were very well meaning sorts, our Founders. They sincerely believed that they were serving the people by looking down on them as a bunch of morons. It was part of what historian Page Smith calls the “Classical Christian Consciousness” of many of the them. They saw man as born into mortal sin and therefore an imperfect being who couldn’t be trusted with too much power over others. Our balance of powers among the three branches of government is derived from this mindset.

Strangely enough, the Classical Christian Consciousness collided with the very beginnings of the Enlightenment in America which saw humans as perfectible creatures with the potential to perfect institutions like government - a vision eventually embraced by the Jeffersonians who took a significantly different view of people and their role in a free society.

While the Jeffersonians placed a little more trust in the masses, they were far from being supporters of pure democracy - allowing for the people’s “betters” to still make the big decisions that affected ordinary people’s lives. It wasn’t until the election of Andrew Jackson that the common man developed a political consciousness of his own and found a man they could elevate to hero status.

Elitism has a long and honorable history in the United States so the question is why come down so hard on Obama? Or other liberals for that matter. Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers is brutally honest in why liberals feel Obama’s comments are no big deal:

“It comes off very badly,” Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers said of the small-town America remarks. “They are things that I think in a liberal world sound totally normal, and outside of that world I don’t know that he appreciates how it sounds. And it just sounds very elitist, and it sounds like he’s looking down on people.”

Ann Althouse also thinks that Obama’s elitism is nothing unusual:

I must say that the original statement sounded like a typical law-school-liberal remark. I think it was quite sincere, and I’m rather sure he believed he was being admirably intellectual and raising politics to a new, higher level. Within a liberal law school environment, that statement would be heard as a thoughtful, compassionate insight. Some of your colleagues might think you were excessively, squishily tolerant of what they see as ignorant, bigoted people, but I don’t think they’d push you to be more understanding of the alien culture you were observing.”

Are liberals then the intellectual descendants of the Founding Fathers?

I’m sure they’d find the comparison somewhat flattering but they’d be offbase if they believed it. At bottom, liberalism is about control - controlling markets to make them “fairer,” controlling businesses to make sure they follow acceptable practices in labor relations, marketing, and environmental policy, and controlling ordinary citizens to make sure that their thinking is correct about anything and everything they deem important.

The Founders, on the other hand, were interested in granting as much freedom to the masses as their patrician hearts felt was safe. The Jeffersonians felt the Constitution didn’t go far enough in granting ordinary people liberty. The Federalists felt it may have gone too far. And therein lay the first divisions in American history - two sides made up of elitists arguing over how much power with which folks could be trusted. Not very edifying nor does it reflect well on our national icons. But as in most things at the beginning of the United States, our leaders meant well.

Here we are 220 years later and we’re still discussing elitism. I find it amusing that this argument has exploded across the internet - surely one of the most elitist of all American venues that such a conversation could take place. Both right and left have been known to denigrate the tens of millions of ordinary citizens who don’t read blogs, barely know the internet, and eschew the minutia of political debates in favor of following every twist and turn on American Idol. Both sides see this mass of uninformed, easily misled voters as a beast to be moved and manipulated with images, propaganda, and the white hot rhetoric of political combat.

It is not only elitist but also delusional to believe that this great amorphous mass of citizens cares a whit about the daily goings on here in blogland or the internet. What whispers might come their way is the result of these internet foo foo rahs spilling over into the mainstream media. Even then, if it doesn’t appear on Entertainment Tonight or if Jay Leno doesn’t make a joke about it, it simply doesn’t exist.

Does that sound elitist? You betchya. So what’s the difference between our putting on airs of superiority over the rest of the population and Obama’s belief that many middle class whites don’t vote their interest but their values, “clinging,” in his words, to guns, religion, and bigoted notions of immigration and the dreaded “other” in their communities?

The difference is that Obama is running for president and we are not. And no man who wishes to be president can be so ignorant, so insensitive, so denigrating of the deeply held values of the American people. Obama may not like it that ordinary people use a different criteria to decide who to vote for than he and his liberal friends use. But recognizing its legitimacy is at the very least smart politics and at most the mark of a man who can connect with the average voter at more than a superficial level.

Both John Hinderaker and Ed Morrissey believes this incident finishes Obama as an electable candidate. I would say that such talk is premature. After all, as an elitist, I believe that most people will accept the candidate’s explanation and move on because they don’t understand the egregious nature of Obama’s remarks.

I suppose come November, we’ll find out.

4/11/2008

OLYMPICS CELEBRATE BROTHERHOOD - NOT FREEDOM

Filed under: History, Olympics, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 11:54 am

Even a rabid sports fan like myself recognizes the Olympics for what they are - a plot by starry eyed one worlders, striped pants internationalists, filthy rich do-gooders, and anachronistic royalists to take over the world and force their saccharine sweet, brotherhood of man crapola on the rest of us.

I’m kidding, of course - mostly. The part about filthy rich dilettantes with nothing else to do, putting on an athletic extravaganza for their own amusement is not far from the truth. The International Olympic Committee has shown through the years that the fake European royalty, the decadent descendants of fabulously wealthy European commercial houses, and the group of genuine shady characters who are the real power in that body believe they have a gold mine and plan on milking the games for all they’re worth.

And to give the lie to the very idea of an “Olympic spirit” that the IOC and the “Olympic Movement” try to foist upon unsuspecting rubes and leftists the world over, the entire point of the games has been lost - gentleman (and gentle lady) amateurs competing in an atmosphere of competition free from politics and other mundane considerations.

The Olympic torch relay is part of the lie. Forced by the prospect of thousands of pro-Tibet protestors who might get violent, San Francisco authorities changed the route of the relay at the last minute, running the relay through streets empty of onlookers thus defeating the whole purpose of the exercise in the first place.

That didn’t stop one enterprising American athlete from ruining the day even more for the Chinese:

A New Yorker bearing the Olympic torch staged a rogue anti-China protest Wednesday even as cops took extreme measures to thwart demonstrators in San Francisco.

As she ran with the flame, Majora Carter, 41, a South Bronx environmental activist, whipped out a small Tibetan flag to condemn China’s human rights abuses in the Himalayan province.

Carter, who hid the flag in her sleeve, was quickly hustled off the route by surprised police who seized the torch.

The image of American police stifling free speech at the behest of communists made Allah’s blood boil:

[O]ne of the American cops shows her how they do it in Beijing, giving her a gratuitous shove into the crowd to keep her away from the communist propaganda pageant she was momentarily a part of. She’s wrong on the law, to be sure; her free speech rights don’t entitle her to violate the contract she signed before participating. But watching U.S. cops enforce Chinese policy is so disgusting, Newsom should have simply canceled the event lest he be forced to do it.

Free speech is one issue that makes the Olympics a cesspool of corrupted ideals. How about the idea that the athletes should compete solely for the thrill of the competition with no thought of renumeration?

The fact that almost all the western athletes who will be competing are being paid by their home grown sports federation (which usually receives its money from the nation’s Olympic Committee) means that the very meaning of the word “amateur” has been corrupted beyond recognition. And from the beginning of the revival of the games in 1896, politics has been a constant companion.

When Eastern European athletes began to outshine the west due to superior training, a drug regimen that built superior bodies, and the fact that their athletes were given make believe jobs by the state so that they could train full time, the US and other western countries decided to change the way they approached the Games.

While athletes from the west were previously struggling to combine training and making a living, most western Olympic Committees made a decision to adopt the communist model. Of course, the state didn’t give the athletes make believe jobs. It was corporations who, in return for hiring top flight athletes they could feature in commercials, paid the US Olympic Committee so that the company could become an “official sponsor” of the games.

The point being, of course, that these guys are about as amateur and pure as a hooker on Welles street in Chicago. These days, the Olympics don’t even require the fig leaf. They openly encourage professional athletes to compete. Most of the world class track and field athletes have been making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and a gold medal will set them up for life. Olympic soccer uses professional league players on the national teams. Others who participate in lesser known sports receive a healthy stipend from their sport’s governing body in order to train constantly for the big show that occurs every 4 years.

As a sports fan, I could care less if they pay the players or not. But as a former hopelessly incurable romantic, there was something to be said for an event that brought the world together for a fortnight to celebrate athletics and compete peacefully. One of the most cherished memories of my youth is watching American Dave Wottle on TV round the last turn of the track in the 800 Meter finals in Munich and with a spectacular final kick in the last 25 meters, overtake the Russian to win an improbable gold medal.

Those were the Olympics marred by the death of 11 Israeli athletes who were kidnapped and murdered at the hands of Black September. In spite of pleadings from many around the world, the crotchety head of the IOC at the time, Avery Brundage, declared that the show must go on.

And the show has gone on despite boycotts, corruption (bribe taking in connection with the 2002 Winter Games), and the discovery that the East German teams that garnered such an extraordinary number of medals featured not only blood doping and steroid use, but also taking the transgender revolution to new heights by turning women into men, feeding their female athletes steroids when they were as young as 11. Two coaches were later found guilty of giving steroids to athletes and not telling them what they were (they told them they were “vitamins”).

All of these issues with the Olympics pales in comparison to the straitjacket the IOC puts athletes in so that any expression of individual political thought is forbidden. The most famous example was at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics when two black American athletes - John Carlos and Tommie Smith - who medaled in the 200 meter dash, raised their clenched fist salute to black power during the playing of the national anthem during the medal ceremony.

One might question the gesture but to punish them by sending them home and stripping them of their medals was so foreign to our idea of freedom of speech that it raises the question of why we should participate in such a hypocritical and oppressive event.

And that goes double for the Olympics in China:

Athletes who display Tibetan flags at Olympic venues — including in their own rooms — could be expelled from this summer’s Games in Beijing under anti-propaganda rules.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that competitors were free to express their political views but faced sanctions if they indulged in propaganda.

He accompanied those comments with an admission that the Games were in “crisis” after pro-Tibet protests engulfed the Olympic torch relay.

Mr Rogge’s call for Beijing to abide by its promise to address human rights was given short shrift by Beijing, which bluntly told him to keep politics out of the Games.

Riddle me this: How is it possible that competitors are “free to express their political views” but will get kicked out for displaying the Tibetan flag? This kind of doublespeak is worthy of the communists and poor, naive, earnest Mr. Rogge - who actually believed the Chinese would improve their human rights if their Olympic bid was successful - is tying himself into an intellectual pretzel in an attempt to reconcile these two radically different notions:

Addressing concerns about free speech, Mr Rogge described the scenario of a Spanish athlete doing a lap of honour in the Olympic stadium with Spain’s national flag and his provincial flag as “perfectly legitimate”.

He said: “We have had many examples of mixed flags where the athlete is proud of that. Is there a will to demonstrate propaganda or is it a desire to demonstrate joy in his victory?”

Apparently, if your political views don’t offend anyone - most of all the host country - then you are perfectly free to express them. (I wonder what Rogge would have said if that same Spanish athlete had grabbed a Basque flag instead of a “provincial” one?)

But Rogge, the Chinese, and the rest of the whole bloody Olympic “movement” just doesn’t get it. They have no clue what “free speech” might be. The point is that any display of nationalism is by definition propaganda and that there is no difference in making a political statement about your own country or someone else’s - not to anyone who cares a tiny bit about “free speech.”

Going back to 1968, no one complained a few days after the Carlos-Smith protest when George Foreman, after winning his gold medal in boxing, grabbed a miniature American flag and walked around the ring celebrating. The fact that Foreman’s political statement was a response to a political gesture by others made Foreman equally guilty of disseminating propaganda. But it was nice propaganda, the kind that the American Olympic Committee (who pressured Brundage to seize the gold medals of Carlos and Smith while kicking them out of the Olympic village) heartily approved.

It is this kind of rank hypocrisy that makes the Olympics such degrading venue for Americans. If it were up to me, I’d pass out Tibet flags to every single athlete marching under the American flag during the opening ceremonies and force the Chinese to kick them all out. The Olympic boosters - corporations, sports federations, and especially governments - who harp on the “spirit of brotherhood” present in the games are selling a poisonous idea; that freedom is separate from the notion that we are all equal and that therefore, we should all get along in peace.

 I’m all for that. Just don’t expect me to kowtow to any government that oppresses its people and then tries to use the Olympic games as a perfume to remove the stench of their rotten human rights policies. The athletes should feel that way as well which is why perhaps we should be handing out those Tibetan flags to anyone and everyone who sides with freedom against tyranny.

Such a move might ruin the Olympic games. But it would be one helluva statement of solidarity with the oppressed peoples of the world and would usher in an era of true “brotherhood” for the Olympics.

4/10/2008

AN AMERICAN PROBLEM

Filed under: History, Politics, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 7:28 am

There are some issues that you just don’t write about if you’re a conservative blogger looking to maintain or build your site. And one of those issues is torture and this administration’s blatant violation of the law in approving interrogation techniques that are universally recognized (outside of the right in America) as illegal.

I say universally recognized because the “enhanced” techniques that were apparently a topic of conversation many times by Bush Administration aides are clear violations of the UN treaty against torture (as amended) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I won’t mention the Geneva Convention which may or may not apply as a governing instrument in this case.

But we needn’t worry. Those interrogation techniques violated US law as well - war or no war - and only by stretching the executive powers of the president farther than they have ever gone - beyond Lincoln, beyond Wilson, beyond Roosevelt - could even a fig leaf of legality be placed over this gigantic open wound that will continue to fester until we resolve to purge those who brought this evil upon us.

Bill Clinton may have sold the Lincoln bedroom for campaign contributions and used the White House for his carnal romps. But I don’t think that grand structure ever bore witness to the kinds of discussions held by Bush Administration aides as they coldly weighed the options of using various torture techniques on al-Qaeda suspects in our custody:

ABC reported that the so-called “principals” discussed interrogation details in dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House.

Then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by a select group of senior officials or their deputies, ABC said.

“Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects — whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding,” ABC reported.

In addition to Rice, the principals at the time included Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft, the report said.

Ashcroft, in an Albert Speers-like moment of moral clarity, knew perfectly well what future generations would think of those involved in these discussions:

Citing sources, ABC said Ashcroft agreed with the policy decision to allow aggressive interrogation tactics and advised that they were legal but was troubled by the discussions.

Ashcroft argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources were cited as saying.

ABC cited a top official as saying that Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”

Marc Ambinder ponders the unthinkable. He titles his post “War Crimes:”

A provocative headline, I know, perhaps needlessly so, but it remains one of those hidden secrets in Washington that a Democratic Justice Department is going to be very interested in figuring out whether there’s a case to be made that senior Bush Administration officials were guilty of war crimes. Stories like these from ABC News — Top Bush Advisors Approved ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ — will be as relevant a year from now as they are right now, perhaps even more so.

Michael Goldfarb sees only the politics of the issue:

I’d love to know who’s whispering that in Ambinder’s ear. If this is a secret among Democrats, it certainly is well kept…I’ve never heard a conservative seriously entertain the possibility. But if that’s the plan for an Obama administration, let the healing begin!

I always thought that there would be a Pinochet type move to get at Rumsfeld or Bush if they ever went to Europe after the Administration was out of office. Rumsfeld has already faced such pressure and Bush will be a marked man wherever he goes - if he ever leaves his Texas ranch after his term is ended.

But it is unlikely that any such charges will be brought. JB at Balkinization:

Remember that sections 8 and 6(b) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 effectively insulated government officials from liability for many of the violations of the War Crimes Act they might have committed during the period prior to 2006. Moreover, as Marty has pointed out, there’s a strong argument that a later Justice Department would not prosecute people who reasonably relied on legal advice from a previous Justice Department. Perhaps the Justice Department could argue that the officials’ reliance was unreasonable, but that might be difficult to show.

And putting aside the purely legal obstacles to a prosecution for war crimes, there’s also the political cost. Why would an Obama or Clinton Administration waste precious political capital early on with a politically divisive prosecution of former government officials? One can imagine the screaming of countless pundits arguing that the Democrats were trying to criminalize political disagreements about foreign policy. Such a prosecution would make politics extremely bitter and derail any chance for bipartisan cooperation on almost any significant issue. Obama or Clinton would rather get a health care bill passed, deal with the economy, or try to solve the Iraq mess, than have the first several years of their Administrations consumed by a prosecution for war crimes by officials in the Bush Administration.

JB also points out that any trials in venues like the Hague or other international criminal courts would be resisted by a Democratic Administration for the same reason and others as well.

Now certainly there is a strain of anti-Americanism at work in Europe and elsewhere overseas with regard to this issue as well as a smug, self-righteousness on the part of the European left that nauseates me.

For more than 70 years as the Communists murdered, tortured, starved, beat, and raped their way across Europe, killing upwards of 20 million - people whose only crime was that they didn’t believe they were living in a workers’ paradise, the European left gave the thugs a pass and even supported them in their efforts to cow the populations of Eastern Europe into submission while doing their damnedest to see the west defenseless against communist aggression.

How dare they. They do not have the moral standing of a jackrabbit. For them to all of a sudden get their panties in a twist over American violations of international law when they spent decades ignoring the greatest, most heartless human butchers in world history is an example of monumental hypocrisy and moral blindness that a thousand years from now will be the shame of western civilization. And for the anti-American European left to climb atop this moral high horse now speaks of a selective outrage that should sicken anyone with an ounce of historical perspective and a modicum of human decency.

No. This is an American problem. And we Americans must deal with it. Perhaps it would be worth the political war for a Democratic president to at least initiate an investigation by the Justice Department into the question of war crimes committed by the highest ranking members of the Bush Administration. The results of that investigation may conclude that the principals are innocent or just not prosecutable.

But the consequences of doing nothing are equally problematic. Somewhere along the line, a majority of Americans must be made aware of what these men have done and why what they approved is wrong. The damage is deep. But I disagree with hysterical liberals that our reputation and moral leadership is gone, never to be seen again. How we deal with what has been wrought in our name says volumes about us as a people and how determined we are to clean up our own house.

I have given up trying to convince most of my readers of the necessity in speaking out against what has transpired these last several years with regards to the approval of torture at the highest levels of our government. But I will continue to write about it because it is something about which I feel very strongly. I will not, as many liberals do, berate those of you who disagree with me. This is a matter of conscience. Each of us must examine our own beliefs, our own mind and come to our own conclusions in this matter.

Anything else would be un-American.

4/9/2008

OBAMA BELIEVES IRAQI GOVERNMENT BEHIND IRANIAN “SPECIAL GROUPS”

Filed under: Decision '08 — Rick Moran @ 11:41 am

It’s true. Obama actually said it. Here’s the exact quote:

Do we feel confident that the Iraqi government is behind the aid to these “special groups” or do we believe they are just tacitly tolerating it?

Still don’t believe me? It’s about 1:15 into this video:

THIS IS THE MAN THAT MIGHT GET ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES? A MAN WHO BELIEVES THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT IS BEHIND A GROUP BENT ON ITS DESTRUCTION?

No. Of course Obama doesn’t believe that. But if this site were named “Think Progress,” (whose motto is “When you Think Progress, think idiocy”) we could create a nice, splashy headline screaming across the page accusing Obama of having exactly one more brain cell than the morons who who write for the most easily debunked lefty website on the planet.

Not surprisingly, other lefty blogs have picked up on McCain’s brain cramp and are trumpeting the idea that the Arizona senator is some kind of dunce when it comes to foreign policy. Given their own paltry understanding of how the world works (hint: gathering in a circle with the thugs of the world and singing “Kumbya” is not a foreign policy), it is laughable that they would accuse a senator who has sat on the armed services committee for 17 years, visited more than 90 countries, met dozens of world leaders, and written on the subject for some of the most prestigious foreign policy publications around of having an inferior understanding of events compared to a former street organizer and lawyer for a slumlord.

Even with all his gaffes, Obama makes McCain look like George Fricking Marshall when it comes to knowledge of matters regarding national security. And yet, the ignoramuses at Think Progress believe every time McCain proves he’s human and his mind gets ahead of his mouth, this bespeaks someone as ignorant as they are about the world around us.

Truly remarkably, unbelievably ridiculous.

Unlike McCain, who misspoke about al-Qaeda earlier in the day (and corrected himself immediately - something that the dolts at Think Progress just couldn’t bring themselves to include in either the transcript or video of McCain’s gaffe), Obama never corrected himself with regards to his belief that the Iraqi government is behind the Iranian “special groups.”

Using a single, operating brain cell as the marmosets at Think Progress, we can only deduce from Obama’s words that he actually believes the Iraqi government is bent on its own destruction and is in charge of “special groups” of terrorists who are murdering their own citizens not to mention members of their own government.

Thankfully, most of us use considerably more brainpower than the nincompoops at Think Progress. Otherwise, the world of Idiocracy would move from the realm of fantasy to the reality of left wing Utopia.

4/8/2008

PROGRESS IN IRAQ A TOUGH SELL FOR PETREAUS

Filed under: IRAQI RECONCILIATION, Politics, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 7:59 am

It will be a media circus when General David Petreaus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker take their seats before the Senate Armed Services Committee today to give an update on progress in Iraq - from their point of view. The caveat is important because objective reality when it comes to Iraq is about as solid as a dish of warm jello. By any measurement, the place is still a mess - a hash of armed to the teeth militias, a still weak central government, an army of questionable fighting ability, a too long delayed reconciliation between the sects, and the ever present handprint of those merry mullahs in Tehran.

How all those ingredients are mixing together and what is emerging is a matter of dispute. You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs but neither can you put a pig in a prom dress and expect people to compliment you on your choice of dates.

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that no one knows what is really happening in Iraq - including the Iraqis themselves. And that goes double for the United States government and triple for the anti-war left. If anyone did have a solid understanding of the reality of what is happening there both on the ground and in the subsurface strata made up of the perceptions, opinions, fears, hopes and dreams of the Iraqi people, a way forward would have revealed itself.

Instead, we get a multiplex spinorama from all parties. Hell, even the Iranians are spinning which tells you something about their understanding of the modern media. That little dog and pony show in Iran where a “cease fire” was reached between Moqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi government is a perfect example of the learning curve of the Iranians when it comes to dealing with the western press. Mookie has the anti-war left convinced that he asked for the cease fire because he was beating up on the Iraqi army and wished to save civilians in Basra. The Iranians were very helpful in spinning this little fable as were several Iraqi politicians.

The problem, as we found out later was that Maliki agreed to no such cease fire and continued operations in Basra and has escalated his crackdown on the Mehdi Army in Baghdad:

Sharp fighting broke out in the Sadr City district of Baghdad on Sunday as American and Iraqi troops sought to control neighborhoods used by Shiite militias to fire rockets and mortars into the nearby Green Zone.

But the operation failed to stop the attacks on the heavily fortified zone, headquarters for Iraq’s central government and the American Embassy here. By day’s end, at least two American soldiers had been killed and 17 wounded in the zone, one of the worst daily tolls for the American military in the most heavily protected part of Baghdad. Altogether, at least three American soldiers were killed and 31 wounded in attacks in Baghdad on Sunday, and at least 20 Iraqis were killed, mostly in Sadr City.

The heightened violence came on the eve of Congressional testimony in Washington by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador here, to defend their strategy for political reconciliation and improved security in the country.

Mookie has made a habit over the years of unleashing his militia to engage the Americans (and this time, the Iraqi Army), getting a bloody nose (as in Najaf and Fallujah), and then grandiosely announcing that he is willing to talk peace thus raising his standing with the people as a reasonable sort of fellow who wants to play politics with Maliki.

The fact that this gambit worked beyond his wildest dreams with the US media and anti-war left when he lost 300-400 of his best fighters in Basra while fighting the Iraqi army is an astonishing testament to the myopia of the left with regards to any news coming out of Iraq. As J.D. Johannes said on my radio show last week (and has been repeated by many observers), the winner of a fight does not ask for a cease fire. The idea that Mookie requested an end to the fighting in Basra because he wanted to pull Maliki’s chestnuts out of the fire is silly, stupid, and worse, counterintuitive. What happened is a little more complicated.

According to Bill Roggio, some cowboy politicians from Maliki’s Dawa party journeyed to Iran (without authorization from the government) and asked the Iranians to get Sadr to stop fighting. Sadr released his 9 point statement demanding the government withdraw from Basra, stop targeting his forces, and release prisoners.

The left celebrated Mookie’s forbearance while completely ignoring one glaring fact; Maliki never authorized the overture in the first place and secondly, he rejected Sadr’s 9 points outright:

Just as the Iraqi security forces began to address the shortcoming in the operation and the situation in the center-south began to stabilize, Sadr decided to pull his fighters off the streets. Members of Maliki’s Dawa political party approached the leader of Iran’s Qods Force asking him to get Sadr to stop the fighting. Shortly afterward, Sadr ordered his troops to withdraw from fighting and issued a nine-point statement of demands for the Iraqi government.

By this time, the Mahdi Army took significant casualties in Basrah, Baghdad, and the greater South. “Security forces killed more than 200 gunmen, wounded 700, and arrested 300 others, since the beginning of the military operations in Basrah,” said Major General Abdul Kareem Khalaf, the director of operations for the Ministry of the Interior. The Mahdi Army suffered 173 killed in Baghdad during the six days of fighting.

Spokesmen from the Mahdi Army claimed the Maliki government agreed to Sadr’s terms, which included ending operations against the Mahdi Army, but the Iraqi government denies this. “I refuse to negotiate with the outlaws,” Maliki said on April 3. “I did not sign any deal.”

The fact that operations continue in Basra gives to the lie to the idea that Maliki agreed to anything.

Meanwhile, Maliki got busy on the political front and lined up an impressive coalition of parties, sects, factions, and personalities to demand that Sadr disarm.

The position of Hojatoleslam al-Sadr, whose fighters fought government forces to a standstill in Basra, was looking precarious. His former erstwhile ally Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia Prime Minister who personally led the Basra crackdown, saw his standing bolstered by his tough approach to the militias.

Despite the inconclusive results of his Basra offensive, Mr al-Maliki has refused to back down and this weekend stitched together a rare consensus of Kurds, Sunnis and Shias to back a law banning from future elections any party that maintains a militia.

That united stance has put the Sadrists on the back foot, and support for the militia was waning even in Sadr City itself as official forces pushed ever deeper into al-Mahdi Army territory.

No, the Iraqi Army still did not perform very well in Basra. There were defections (nowhere near 1,000 as reported), there was greenness, there was a lack of coordination, there was confusion and there was a lack of battlefield leadership. But as Roggio points out, the army did much better elsewhere in the south and is doing just fine in Baghdad (with Americans backing them up). Call it a mixed bag with causes for both concern and optimism.

Sounds like the testimony that Petreaus is going to give today.

In a reprise of their testimony last September, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker plan to tell Congress today and tomorrow that security has improved in Iraq and that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has taken steps toward political reconciliation and economic stability.

But unlike in September, when that news was fresh and the administration said a corner had been turned, even some of the war’s strongest supporters in Congress have grown impatient and frustrated. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Crocker will face many lawmakers who had expected more by now and who are wondering whether any real change will occur before the clock runs out on the Bush administration.

And that, my friends, is the problem in a nutshell. Petreaus will pretty much give a rehash of his September testimony, pointing to incremental improvements since that time, but the fact is he doesn’t know a way forward that would bring the bulk of American forces home except continuing current strategies and policies.

This may be fine and dandy for some. But the majority of the Congress - including Republicans - are finding that a bitter pill to swallow:

“I think all of us realize we’re disappointed at where we are,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said at a hearing last week. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) asked, “How do we get out of this mess?” While the cost in U.S. lives and money increases, said another senior GOP senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: “We cannot . . . just say we’re coasting through and waiting for the next president.”

Among the questions these and other lawmakers said they plan to ask Petraeus and Crocker is why the United States is still paying for Iraqi domestic needs ranging from military training to garbage pickup when the Maliki government has $30 billion in reserves — held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland — as well as $10 billion in a development fund, significant budgetary surpluses from previous years and a projected 7 percent economic growth rate for 2008.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John W. Warner (Va.), the panel’s ranking Republican, who projected that Iraqi oil income would reach $56.4 billion this year, asked the Government Accountability Office last month to investigate how much money the Iraqi government has.

“I think it’s a very significant issue that has not had sufficient exposure,” Levin said in an interview. “They’re perfectly content to watch us spend our money while they build up these huge cash reserves from oil windfalls. It’s a real stick in our eye, as far as I’m concerned.”

Despite Maliki’s recent success in pulling together society to call for Sadr’s evisceration, the effect will probably be transitory. The factions and sects are not going to break out into songs of brotherhood and sit down to hammer out the details of meaningful reconciliation. They can barely stand being in the same room together. Self-interest will eventually prevail and some kind of modus vivendi will emerge. But if anyone thinks that such a goal can be achieved in the next year or two, they are kidding themselves.

As I said at the top, no one really knows what is actually happening in Iraq. And because of that, we look at the good news about al-Sadr’s imminent demise as some kind of breakthrough moment in the history of post-Saddam Iraq. I’m sorry but history doesn’t work that way. Only the passage of time will prove out that theory.

And time is something the American people and Congress are not likely to grant the Iraqis who are struggling to re-invent their fractured society with guns and bombs still going off on a regular basis.

4/7/2008

PROTESTS EXTINGUISH OLYMPIC TORCH IN FRANCE

Filed under: Olympics, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 9:06 am

The progress of the Olympic torch which snakes its way around the world after being lit in Greece to end up in the host country and carried into the stadium at the opening ceremonies where it is used to light the Olympic flame for the duration of the games is followed with great interest by many around the world. It is a symbol of the Olympic spirit and ideally, should not be extinguished from the time it is lit to the end of the games.

Occasionally, the flame has gone out as a result of weather or some mechanical malfunction with the torch. But it has been a long time since it was extinguished as a result of protests against the host country’s political and human rights policies:


The Olympic torch relay was disrupted Monday by protesters in Paris demonstrating against the Chinese government, causing authorities to twice extinguish the flame and put the torch on a bus, according to The Associated Press.

The torch was being carried by a wheelchair athlete when it was halted and extinguished for a second time due to demonstrators shouting, according to AP. Backup flames, also lit from the birthplace of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece, are on call with the relay at all times to relight the torch.

Agencies report that the relay has now resumed.

The incidents came one day after human-rights activist demonstrators made the torch’s journey through London more like running the gauntlet than a journey of celebration, with UK police making more than two dozen arrests

This is an enormous embarrassment to the Chinese government. The progress of the torch is supposed to be triumphal. Instead, it is turning into a constant reminder of the government crackdown on the Tibetan people and their continued occupation of the tiny country.

Measures to protect the torch for the remainder of its journey through France are surreal:


Paris police have conceived a security plan to keep the torch in a safe "bubble," during its 17-mile (28 km) journey, with a multi-layered protective force to surround the torch as it moves along the route.
 
French torchbearers will be encircled by several hundred officers, some in riot police vehicles and on motorcycles, others on rollerblades and on foot. Chinese torch escorts will immediately surround the torchbearer, with Paris police on rollerblades moving around them.
 
French firefighters in jogging shoes will encircle the officers on rollerblades while motorcycle police will form the outer layer of security. The relay route in Paris is also significantly shorter than that in London Sunday.

Police rollerblading around the torchbearer is probably not the visual the Chinese government would wish to see carried around the world when reporting on the progress of the Olympic flame.

Just how is the Chinese government reacting to all this controversy swirling around the torch relay? They are basically ignoring the protests, chalking them up to "a small number of pro-Tibet" protestors:


There have been attempts made to disturb and sabotage the Torch Relay by a small number of "pro-Tibet independence" activists.

The Olympic Torch Relay embodies the Olympic spirit and represents the earnestness and excitement with which the world awaits the Olympic Games. A small number of "pro-Tibet independence" activists have attempted to sabotage the event. During the Greece leg of the relay, a few activists attempted to stop the relay by lying on the street. In London, a few protesters planned and carried out several destructive actions. One "pro-Tibet independence" activist tried to grab the torch and another attempted to extinguish the flame when well-known U.K. television presenter Konnie Huq was carrying the torch in northwest London. Their actions were stopped by local police, although Konnie Huq sustained a slight injury. During a lunch break, several "pro-Tibet independence" activists got past security in an attempt to clash with torchbearers and disturb the relay. The British police were successful in preventing these efforts.

Local people in London strongly opposed the attempt to sabotage the Torch Relay. And the behavior of "pro-Tibet independence" activists has aroused resentment and received condemnation in London.

Press reports had thousands of protestors in the streets of London and Paris while little in the way of condemnation has come their way - except from Chinese officials. But the above is what the Chinese people are seeing and reading about the torch and its torturous passage through the free countries of the world.

Up next for the torch is San Francisco. With its large ethnic Chinese population, one would think the torch would be in big trouble. But the Chinese have a friend in Mayor Gavin Newsom who has deemed any disruption of the festivities a black mark against San Francisco as much as the Chinese. Hence, he has restricted protests to areas where the cameras following the torch will not be able to record how angry people are with China’s Tibet policy:

 

Organizations that oppose China’s human-rights record said Tuesday that they’ve been denied demonstration permits at large outdoor gathering areas on April 9, the day of the torch relay.

They will instead be forced into certain areas, possibly far from the main torch route. City officials said that the restrictions are necessary to ensure security at the event but that those precautions shouldn’t limit the protesters’ rights to gather, a right guaranteed in the First Amendment. Tens of thousands of protesters are expected, organizers said.

The event will be open to everyone, said Mayor Gavin Newsom, including "those who want to see this as an opportunity to raise the flag of concern about issues of disagreement with the Chinese government. That is something that is sacrosanct to us." But that opportunity will be limited in ways uncommon for the city that hosts myriad rallies and protests.

Protesters will be restricted to "areas set up for First Amendment rights issues," according to Sgt. Neville Gittens, spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department.

Maybe they should have asked President Bush to carry the torch. You can bet Newsom and his crew would have bent over backwards to make sure there were tens of thousands of protestors following the flame then.

Indeed, one is hardpressed to think of a situation where liberal protestors in San Francisco have been restricted from making their feelings known against such targets as military recruitment, docking of Navy ships, or speeches by prominent conservatives. Apparently it only matters when they might be seen as being beastly to a murderous communist government - a curious but typical bit of intellectual legerdermain by liberals.

I would guess that a few Chinese protestors will make it to the relay route and attempt to disrupt its passage anyway. I say good on them for not allowing the French of all people to outdo Americans in a demonstration of liberty loving. And I can’t see how the Paris police will outdo any west coast cops when it comes to rollerblading. 

Our guys can outblade the French any day of the week.  

This blog post originally appears on The American Thinker

4/6/2008

HESTON ALMOST TOO BIG FOR THE BIG SCREEN

Filed under: History, Politics — Rick Moran @ 12:29 pm

I have a special column up at PJ Media on the passing of Charlton Heston:

Charlton Heston will not be remembered as one of the best actors who ever lived. But he is right up there with the greatest movie actors of all time.

If that sounds counterintuitive, forgive me. The fact is, film acting is, by and large, hugely dependent on others for the quality of an actor’s performance. It is why most Hollywood stars seek to control so many aspects of production when they finally achieve the clout to do so. A bad editing job can be death to a brilliant performance. A bad director can doom a performance from the outset. And few actors can take a bad script and make it work. Continuity, sound design, set decoration, and even the way the film is lit, shot, and filtered can spell the difference between an academy award and a critical disaster.

But Charlton Heston, who died yesterday at the age of 83, could overcome almost any of those drawbacks by the sheer force of his gigantic personality that filled up the big screen to overflowing, making his co-stars, extras and the film itself seem small by comparison. It wasn’t his intensity but it was. It wasn’t his physique, but it was. It wasn’t the tilt of his head, the granite jawed profile, the steely eyed glares he gave everyone from the Pharaoh of Egypt to a “damn dirty ape” but it was.

There are many times over the years I have seen an historical figure portrayed on film and wished they had cast Charlton Heston instead. Heston filled up the screen with his dominant personality and whenever I see George Washington on film I find the portrayal lacking in stature. Heston may have been the only American who ever lived who could do justice to Washington’s presence when in a crowd which was said to be electric and humbling. It’s a shame he never played our first president.

Heston is one of the last of the great Hollywood movie stars of the 50’s and 60’s. His passing is a reminder of what movies used to be and will probably never be again; epic journeys into the human imagination.

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