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5/13/2008
POLL: AMERICA IS A SUCKY PLACE TO LIVE RIGHT NOW

This is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen in a political poll. It beats the 90% approval rating of Bush after 9/11 and even surpasses the 60+% support Clinton enjoyed even after it was revealed he is a snivelling liar.

No less than 82% of the American people think the country is on the wrong track.

Public disgruntlement neared a record high and President Bush slipped to his career low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Eighty-two percent of Americans now say the country’s seriously off on the wrong track, up 10 points in the last year to a point from its record high in polls since 1973. And 31 percent approve of Bush’s job performance overall, while 66 percent disapprove.

The country’s mood — and the president’s ratings — are suffering from the double whammy of an unpopular war and a faltering economy. Consistently for the last year, nearly two-thirds of Americans have said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. And consumer confidence is near its lowest in weekly ABC News polls since late 1985.

Bush’s approval rating has been extraordinarily stable — before today’s 31 percent it had been 32 percent or 33 percent in nine ABC/Post polls from July through last month. In presidential approval polls by Gallup since 1934, just three presidents have gone lower: Jimmy Carter, who bottomed out at 28 percent approval in July 1979; Richard Nixon, 24 percent in July and August 1974; and Harry Truman, 22 percent in February 1952.

Don’t talk to me about the poll’s internals or bias. Are you paying attention? 82% of your fellow countrymen think that America is a sucky place to live right now.

Holy Jesus! You can’t get 82% of Americans to agree about anything. I’ll bet less than 82% of Americans like chocolate ice cream. I would wager that less than 82% of Americans like McDonalds hamburgers. And I’d bet the farm that less than 82% of Americans like old re-runs of The Carol Burnett Show even though I believe you have to be brain dead not to recognize its brilliance.

About the only thing that 82% of Americans might agree on is that they like sex. I asked Sue if she thought that was true:

ME: Hon, do you think more than 82% of Americans like sex?

SUE: (Glaring at me) What is this, a trick question?

ME: No dear, it’s just that 82% of Americans think we’re on the wrong track in this country and I was trying to think of something else 82% of Americans would agree on.

SUE:

ME: Well?

SUE: Are you talking about like, sex in general or like sex with a specific individual?

ME: Um…do I want to know the answer to that?

SUE: (Eyes Gleaming) If you got 3 minutes, I’ll tell ya…

Ouch.

Think about it for a second. There were certainly less than 82% of colonists who supported the idea of independence. And there were quite a bit fewer than 82% of citizens who thought the Constitution was a great idea. Hell, I doubt whether 82% of early Americans agreed on whether pissing in chamber pots was a good idea.

And what of George Bush’s approval ratings? It’s not that only 31% think he’s doing a swell job that concerns me. It’s the fact that 31% of my fellow countrymen think that George Bush is doing a good job and could tell a pollster that with a straight face. (As many as all that? They can’t all be watching Fox News, can they? If they did, Fox would be outperforming American Idol in the Nielsons.)

I wonder if pollsters are taking into account the “Comedian Factor” - people who get asked whether Bush is doing a good job and think the question is a joke, replying in-kind.

POLLSTER: One last question sir…Do you approve or disapprove of the way President Bush is doing his job?

VOTER: (Snickering) Oh yeah, uh-huh…um, right. Great job, Georgie - keep up the good work (breaks into peals of laughter).

POLLSTER: Oooookay…I’ll take that as a yes.

There is so much bad news for Republicans in this poll, if I were McCain I would demand to be listed on the ballot with an “M” after my name (”Maverick”) rather than an “R” which by election time people are going to think stands for “Rat.” If I were a GOP Congressman or Senator up for re-election, I just might change my party affiliation to “Wiccan.”

At least then I’d get some of the pagan vote.

All is not yet lost, however. A photo may emerge depicting Obama in some kind of a compromising situation - like saluting the flag or putting his hand over his heart while singing the national anthem. No doubt legions of lefties would drop him like yesterday’s edition of The Daily Worker thus handing the election to…Bob Barr who would then legalize marijuana and America would go on a four year stoner holiday.

The way to look at this kind of outrageously bad news if you’re a Republican and/or conservative (the two are not mutually exclusive) is either find it amusing or tragic. Once Obama is elected and the Democrats are firmly ensconced in Washington, we will have plenty of time for tragedy. For now, let us laugh at the fools, the charlatans, the incompetent boobs, the crooks, the pederasts, the scumball, grasping, conniving, two timing, philistines who have brought us to this historic level of shame.

UPDATE: THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMIN’

Did I include “inept” in my list above? I knew I was forgetting something…

Malkin:

Conservatives have spent the entire campaign season eviscerating Democrat candidates who’ve tattooed themselves with the empty “change” slogan. So what do the brain-dead strategists and p.r. market wizards of the GOP go and do?

Wrap themselves in “change.”

What about self-preservation? What about sovereignty? What about consistent adherence to constitutional principles?

Nope. We get more insipid “change.”

The crack research staff at GOP HQ somehow missed that “Change You Deserve” is the marketing slogan for Effexor, an anti-depressant.

Brilliant.

The GOP lemmings deserve everything they’re going to get in November.

By: Rick Moran at 12:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (19)

5/12/2008
OBAMA: A LAMB FOR LIONS
CATEGORY: Lebanon, Middle East

If you haven’t read Barack Obama’s mealy mouthed, pusillanimous statement on the crisis in Lebanon, I would suggest you read it with the fact uppermost in your mind that this is the man who may very well have the responsibility of preventing Iran from achieving its hegemonic aims in the Middle East.

Hezbollah’s power grab in Beirut has once more plunged that city into violence and chaos. This effort to undermine Lebanon’s elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately. It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment. We must support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions that reinforce Lebanon’s sovereignty, especially resolution 1701 banning the provision of arms to Hezbollah, which is violated by Iran and Syria. As we push for this national consensus, we should continue to support the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Siniora, strengthen the Lebanese army, and insist on the disarming of Hezbollah before it drags Lebanon into another unnecessary war. As we do this, it is vital that the United States continues to work with the international community and the private sector to rebuild Lebanon and get its economy back on its feet.

Lee Smith:

Yes, the problem with Lebanon is not the militia backed by Damascus and Tehran that who have squared off against almost every US ally in the Middle East. No, in the Obama worldview, the issue is about “the corrupt patronage system.” What is more corrupt than the issues that instigated the current crisis: Hezbollah’s efforts to, a, build a state within a state and, b, undermine the sovereignty of the Lebanese government? And what is a more unfair distribution of services than an armed party at the service of foreign parties?

Obama’s language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it’s essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! – and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level.

Noah Pollak had the exact same reaction to the part of Obanma’s statement I highlighted above; who in God’s name does he think is running those thugs from Hizbullah?

Does Obama understand that the people who “have influence with Hezbollah” happen to be the same people on whose behalf Hezbollah is rampaging through Lebanon?

Then there is the absurd prescription:

It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.

So that’s the problem in Lebanon? Economics and the electoral system?

Surely a Lebanese-American like Abu Kais would be grateful to hear such soothing words of peace and reasonableness, yes?

Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizbullah all those years with rockets, invasions of their homes and shutting down their media outlets. If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy, instead of just sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions. If only Obama had shared his wisdom with us before, back when he was rallying with some of our former friends at pro-Palestinian rallies in Chicago. How stupid we were when, instead of developing national consensus with them, we organized media campaigns against Israel on behalf of the impoverished people who voted for them.

During that time when we bought into the cause against Israel, treating resistance fighters like our brothers, we really should have been building consensus with them. Because what we did back in 1982, 1993, 1996, 2000 and 2006 – all that was plain betrayal and unnecessary antagonism, a product of a corrupt patronage system and unfair distribution of wealth.

We stand today regretting the wasted time that could have been wisely spent talking to them, to the Syrian occupiers who brought them into our system, and the Iranian revolutionary guards who trained them.

Yes, this is change we believe in. Get me a time machine.

This has been the favored gambit of the left when dealing with difficult adversaries; pretend the basis for hostility can be found in some Hegelian historical dialectic or worse, deterministic models of human behavior rather than seeing the thug right in front of you who is about to whack you in the face with a two-by-four. Smith again:

Obama’s language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it’s essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! – and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level. But the solution, says, Obama, channeling the man he fired for talking to Hamas, is diplomacy.

Indeed, that fired advisor - Robert Malley - was a favored target of my friend Ed Lasky at The American Thinker - and for good reason; Malley consistently demonstrated an anti-Israeli, pro-Syrian bias in his writings such as this piece he did for the LA Times:

Forget Pelosi: What About Syria?: where Malley calls for outreach to Syria, despite its ties to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the terrorists committing murder in Iraq; believes it is unreasonable to call for Syria to cut ties with Hezbollah, break with Hamas, or alienate Iran before negotiations; he believes a return of the Golan Heights and engagement with the West will somehow miraculously lead the Syrian regime to take these steps — after they get all they want.

“All they want” most certainly includes Lebanon - either total freedom to dominate the tiny country as they see fit using their proxies or an actual re-occupation. Given the response - or lack thereof - by the international community and specifically western countries like France and the US to Hizbullah’s current rampage, Syria should feel pretty damn comfortable in doing just about whatever they please with Lebanon.

Indeed, Reason Magazine contributor and editorial editor for the Daily Star Michael Young foresaw this series of events and the possible endgame weeks ago:

Is it really in the U.S. interest to engage Syria in this context, when its major Arab allies are in the midst of a conflict with Iran they view as vital? In fact, I’m not at all convinced that asking Arab states to change Syrian behavior through “more robust interactions and investments in the country” would work. The Arabs have repeatedly tried to change Syrian behavior through more congenial means, most prominently at the Arab League summit in Riyadh last year. The Syrians have ignored this. Why? Because they know the price for their return to the Arab fold would be to give up on a return to Lebanon. They’re not about to do that, because only such a return, one that is total, with soldiers, would give Syria the regional relevance it lost in 2005, when it was forced out of Lebanon.

It would also allow Syria, from Beirut, to undermine the Hariri tribunal, which threatens the future of the Syrian regime and which will probably begin operating next year. In this, Syria has the full support of Hezbollah, which realizes that without a Syrian comeback, the party will continue to face a majority in Lebanon that wants the party to disarm. I find it revealing that Jon failed to mention Lebanon once in his post. That’s because advocates of engaging Syria realize that the only way you can bring about an advantageous dialogue with Damascus is to give it something worthwhile. That something can only be Lebanon, the minimal price Syria would demand to offer positive concessions in return.

Young has identified the number one reason for not establishing dialogue with Syria until some minimal conditions are met such as a halt to their support for the Hizbullah thugs who terrorized Christians, Sunnis, and Druze in Lebanon these past few days. The fact is, Syria will, in the end, agree to a compromise regarding a peace deal with Israel or halting their support for Sunni terrorists and insurgents in Iraq only if their interests in Lebanon are recognized and legitimized.

This is why both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have made the pilgrimage to Damascus to sit down for a spot of tea with Gangster Assad should be royally chastised for their efforts at “personal diplomacy.” And this is why Obama is ten degrees to starboard off base when he proposes negotiations while Syrian proxy Hizbullah terrorizes Lebanon.

 If Obama and his advisors can’t see that it is Hizbullah who is solely responsible for the mayhem taking place in Lebanon or if they cannot grasp that the main obstacle to compromise among the sects with regard to everything from the presidential election to economic reform in Lebanon is Syria working through their proxies then God help us, we are about to elect a lamb who is stupidly willing to lie down with lions.

By: Rick Moran at 6:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

5/11/2008
WELCOME TO STREATOR, IL
CATEGORY: Blogging

Back in the saddle after a most uneventful move from Algonquin to Streator. Sue’s 3 year old granddaughter got sick on the trip over here and the poor kid was up most of the night. Two changes of bedding and clothing later, my Zsu-Zsu has pronounced the house “christened.”

My new office is groovy. It’s kewl. It’s like, to die for. Roomy and quiet, I have a Lazy Boy set up in the corner next to the book cases with an antique floor lamp for my reading.

I will never buy another non-wireless keyboard and mouse. They are a joy to use and recommend them to anyone who needs a new one. And my new headphones are the bomb - extraordinary sound quality plus the cord is a lot longer so that I can use them while sitting in my chair.

As for the house itself (I had not seen it decorated) all I can say is that Sue did a fine job but that some adjustments are definitely in order. Entirely too much lacy and frilly stuff like curtains and furniture coverings. I will work my manly wiles on her (essentially throwing a tantrum while acting like a 4 year old little boy) and get some of the more egregious stuff changed.

One sour note; our 50″ Viszio TV. The non-HD picture is an abomination. Joe tells me that it’s because the TV is set to display a picture in 1081 lines (1081i) but the stations are broadcasting in 480i which means the TV compensates by essentially stretching the image more than twice as far as it is meant to be.

Until all stations go digital next year, he says that our picture quality will remain an issue. Part of the problem may be solved when we call in the Geek Squad to adjust the TV. My reading about HDTV’s convinced me that getting someone to come out and fiddle with the settings so that we get the optimum picture at the number of feet we are away from the screen will be worth the $300 or so it will cost.

But the HD picture is drop dead gorgeous. Coupled with our new Bose 3-2-1-GS Series Home Theater System, it’s all one can hope for in a movie viewing experience.

Anyway, we’re here in Streator - home sweet home. Be back to regular blogging tomorrow.

By: Rick Moran at 6:39 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

5/9/2008
MOVING DAY
CATEGORY: Blogging

Sue and I are pulling up stakes today and moving from Algonquin, IL, our home of 5 years (and my home for 15 years), and moving downstate a ways to Streator, IL - a quiet town on the Vermilion River that began 130 years ago as a coal town. Streator today is a typical small town with a mix of industry and merchants - a sleepy, Midwestern rural metropolis that caters to area farmers as well townsfolk.

We will be twice as far from Chicago as we are now which is really no big deal because my trips to the big city have been infrequent lately. It just feels like its not really in the mainstream because the area around Streator is much more agricultural than Algonquin - a village that has grown from around 7500 when I first arrived to over 30,000 today. The open spaces around Algonquin are filling up very rapidly so it will be nice to get out into the country again - the reason I moved to Algonquin all those years ago.

I have many pleasant memories of Algonquin; fishing in the early morning with the sun coming up over the bluffs; boating on the lazy, meandering Fox River. It will be something of a shock to get out on the Vermilion river which features several stretches of Class II and III rapids - not that I would try that in a thousand years. Barbecues at sunset, friends who have come and gone, and, of course, meeting and falling in love with my Zsu-Zsu - the best thing that has happened to me in my 54 years on this earth.

Everything is much cheaper in Streator which will be important in these uncertain economic times. Sue and I plan to purchase a couple of bicycles and take them to 2 nearby state parks for some scenic riding. We have a full acre and a half (note to self: find some kid who likes to mow lawns.), a big fenced in back yard, with some fruit trees - peaches, pears, and plums. The house itself is a 3-bedroom ranch with an unfinished basement that we are going to turn into a family room. Not quite a dream house but a nice, comfortable place to live.

I will not be back blogging until Sunday at the earliest and probably not until Monday. I am taking the opportunity that comes with the move to retool my computer; new keyboard and mouse, new hard drive, a better sound card, and new, very expensive, very pretty headphones. We bought new furniture, a new 50″ HDTV, a Bose sound system, and a new VCR-DVD machine - all paid for in cash, I might add.

You can imagine my stress level today. But Sue is doing her usual best to keep me relatively calm and has planned the move very well - so far anyway. I’ll let you know how everything turned out later.

By: Rick Moran at 11:43 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

5/8/2008
HEZZIES ON THE RAMPAGE IN LEBANON
CATEGORY: Lebanon

The situation this morning in Lebanon is very tense. In response to actions taken by the government of Prime Minister Siniora, Hezb’allah supporters have rampaged through neighborhoods, initiated gun battles with Sunnis, and most threateningly, closed the only road to the international airport by setting up roadblocks using dirt to block the highway, and erecting a tent city similar to the one they have set up in downtown Beirut that has paralyzed the city for more than a year.

The war of words between Lebanon’s political leaders has translated into actual battles on the streets, as Wednesday’s opposition-supported labor strike quickly devolved into violent clashes and rioting. With the labor issue apparently pushed off the agenda, unrest has been stripped down to a contest between the government and Hezbollah, which the government has accused of trying to stage a coup.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah’s intractability has become the subject of increased government focus, culminating with the cabinet’s removal of Hezbollah-linked Brigadier General Wafiq Shqeir from his position as airport security chief, and the declaration that Hezbollah’s private communications network is “illegal and unconstitutional,” after a marathon cabinet session ending early Tuesday.

Hezbollah has given the Siniora government a 48-hour ultimatum to revoke the decisions. However, the government remains adamant that any retreat is out of the question.

Today, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will deliver a “historic” address, at his first press conference in two years. It is possible Nasrallah will use the podium to attempt a face-saving exit before the situation fully detonates. However, with so much at stake, it seems far more likely that Nasrallah’s words will veer in the opposite direction.

It is a virtual certainty that Hezb’allah’s “private” communications network - an extensive set up that handles wireless phone and other telecommunications protocols - is a spy network for Syria and may be used in the future to plan violence and assassinations against the March 14th government forces. Siniora and his government - standing up to Hezb’allah for the first time - has not only shut down that network and fired the pro-Syrian officer who ran it from the airport, but has all but declared Hezb’allah a “state within a state.”

A detailed look at the Hezzies “communications network:”

Hizbullah has linked its private telephone networks to the Syrian Army’s communications System as well as to Syria’s Mobile telephone network allowing Syrian Intelligence to operate freely in Lebanon and avoid Lebanese controls, al-Mustaqbal’s Faris Khashan wrote.

Internal Security Forces Commander Gen. Ashraf Rifi and Director of Military intelligence Brig. George Khoury were assigned by the government more than a month ago to discuss the issue with Hizbullah, Khashan added. However, Hizbullah’s Security chief Wafiq Safa and the party’s International relations official Nawaf Moussawi informed Rifi and Khoury that “anyone who touches the network would be treated the same way we treat the Zionist enemy,” he wrote.

Khashan labeled Hizbullah a “militia,” noting that Hizbullah is not registered with the interior ministry as a political organization operating in Lebanon. Khashan said Police Counter-terrorism expert, Maj. Wissam Eid, has been assassinated because he managed to detect the serial assassinations committed against March 14 figures to the Hizbullah telephone network.

He reported that Hizbullah sped up work on extending the network after Eid’s assassination, “which means that the killing was aimed at destroying evidence on previous assassinations, including one that appears linked to Hizbullah.” The crime also aimed at creating “safe communications criteria for further assassinations,” he added.

Today, Hezb’allah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave his first press conference in two years and threw down the gauntlet to the government, daring them to challenge Hezb’allah’s status as the “resistance” to Israeli aggression and their privileged position within the state:

I said, before Jumblatt, that any hand that reaches for the resistance and its arms will be cut off. Israel tried that in the July War, and we cut its hand off.

We do not advise you to try us.

Whoever is going to target us will be targeted by us. Whoever is going to shoot at us will be shot by us.
Let’s look into who is really harming the people and stealing their money. Unfortunately, this is the government. Jumblatt acknowledges this openly on TV.

Jumblatt is a liar and a killer. He sits up there and draws red lines, and the martyrs and people who defended Lebanon will be handed over to the courts. This is not a government, this is a gang.

Herein lies the real reason Hezb’allah has taken to the streets; Nasrallah’s complaint that “people who defended Lebanon” will be put on trial. He is referring to the Hariri Tribunal that may start as early as next month under the auspices of the United Nations. It is a dead certainty that Hezb’allah’s role in some of the political assassinations that have rocked Lebanon over the past 3 years will be revealed. Nasrallah, and his patron in Syria Bashar Assad, will do everything in their power to prevent the tribunal from sitting. If it means taking the country to the brink of a civil war, so be it.

Indeed, less than a half an hour following Nasrallah’s bombastic speech, gun battles broke out all over Beirut:

Nasrallah delivered his message in hiding via a closed circuit press conference, where he accused “Jumblatt’s government” of launching a war against Hezbollah, stressing that “this is a new era in which all red lines have collapsed.”

“We are in war and they wouldn’t be able to predict our reaction,” Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah’s hate filled press conference inspired new clashes between his followers and government supporters in Beirut districts of Msaitbeh, Ras Nabaa, Mazraa and Basta. Soon after, clashes spread to Verdun, Karakon Al-Druze, Al-Zarif, Al-Mulla and around Ain Al-Teeni.

There were also reports of Hezbollah gunmen in Hamra.

The crackle of gunfire echoed across the streets of Beirut’s western sector along with the thuds of exploding RPGs.

Nasrallah said his wire communications network is a “weapon” vital for Hizbullah’s resistance and security of the party’s leaders.

In the end, none of the parties want a civil war which makes Nasrallah’s gambit of closing the airport a risky undertaking. He is banking on the fact that all sects will do whatever is necessary to prevent the country from sliding into chaos - a good bet to make except it may get to the point where the political leaders will lose control of their followers at which point all hell will break loose.

Instead of trying to calm the situation, Nasrallah’s words have thrown gasoline on the fire. Meanwhile, citizens are cleaning and oiling their weapons and preparing for the worst.

Note: Some of this post originally appeared at The American Thinker

UPDATE

Three sites to watch for Lebanon updates:

My friend Jim Hoft has extensive coverage and photos of the fighting.

Noah Pollak at Commentary has some prescient analysis of Nasrallah’s defiant speech.

Abu Kais is watching the developing situation at From Beirut to the Beltway. Just keep scrolling.

UPDATE II

 Sickening:

Lebanese governing coalition leader Saad al-Hariri proposed a deal to end the crisis under which government decisions that infuriated Hezbollah would be considered a “misunderstanding”.

The decisions would then be referred to the Lebanese army, which has been neutral in the confrontations, giving army commander General Michel Suleiman the option to suspend their implementation.

The threat of civil war is a weapon Nasrallah will trot out again and again until Hezbullah has everything they want and Hariri and the government are either in jail or dead.

By: Rick Moran at 12:29 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

5/7/2008
ISRAEL: IRAN COULD HAVE NUKES BY ‘09
CATEGORY: Iran

Via the Jerusalem Post comes the disturbing assessment by Israeli intelligence that Iran will be able to begin enriching uranium on a “military scale” by next year:

With Iran racing forward with its nuclear program, Israel now believes the Islamic Republic will master centrifuge technology and be able to begin enriching uranium on a military scale this year, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The new assessment moves up Israel’s forecasts on Teheran’s nuclear program by almost a full year - from 2009 to the end of 2008. According to the new timeline, Iran could have a nuclear weapon by the middle of next year.

Iran, a senior defense official said on Tuesday, had encountered numerous technical obstacles on its way to enriching uranium but was now on track to master the technology needed to enrich uranium within six months.

Israel is also concerned that Teheran is developing a cruise missile that can evade interception by the Arrow, the IDF’s anti-ballistic missile defense system. Iran is suspected of having smuggled Ukrainian X-55 cruise missiles and using them as models for an independent, domestic project. A cruise missile, which flies at low altitudes to dodge radar detection and interception, could be used to carry a nuclear warhead.

Our own intelligence estimate, of course, says that Iran isn’t even trying to build a bomb. But could the Mossad’s evidence cause us to amend that NIE? This also from the J-Post quoting the London Sunday Times:

Mossad chief Meir Dagan is expected to brief Britain’s MI6 head Sir John Scarlett, who is slated to visit Israel later this month, on an intelligence breakthrough regarding the Iranian nuclear program, London’s Sunday Times reported.

Concern has been mounting in Israel that Iran’s nuclear capability may be far more advanced than was recognized by the US National Intelligence Estimate last December, which reported that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003 in response to international pressure.

A source quoted by the paper on Sunday claimed that the new information was on par with intelligence that led to the discovery and destruction of a partly constructed nuclear reactor in Syria last September.

Israeli officials believe the US will revise its analysis of Iran’s program.

“We expect the Americans to amend their report soon,” a high-ranking military officer said last week.

In the interest of fairness (and because I enjoy confusing my readers) allow me to quote extensively from a post on Arms Control Wonk in March that talked about a disturbing report from Janes Defense Weekly about what is going on behind the scenes of the Iranian nuclear program:

Documents shown exclusively to Jane’s indicate that Iran is continuing its pursuit of the advanced technologies necessary to develop a nuclear weapon, regardless of Tehran’s claims that its nuclear programme is purely peaceful. Jane’s was shown the information by a source connected to a Western intelligence service, and the documents were verified by a number of reliable independent sources in Vienna.

These documents purport to show that:

…an organisation within the Iranian MoD has actively pursued the development of a nuclear weapon system based on relatively advanced multipoint initiation (MPI) nuclear implosion detonation technology for some years, in parallel with developments within the Atomic Energy Authority of Iran.

The article further states that since 2000 Iran has tested these detonators and found them “good enough” for a nuclear weapon (it also discusses the organization of Iran’s nuclear programme but that’s for a different post).

But to show you the ambiguity inherent in even a report like that, I quote Dr. Lewis and his analysis of this news:

Well, the development of multipoint detonation systems isn’t by itself proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons (let’s skip over the question of whether it really is sensible for the international community to demand proof as opposed to good evidence of wrong doing). As this patent from the US government shows, there are legitimate (largely military) reasons for developing explosive devices which involve multiple initiators.

My guess-and I am not certain-is that a multipoint detonation system can be unambiguously associated with nuclear weapons if its “jitter time” (that is, the time spread of the detonations) is particularly small. My knowledge of the pre-1991 Iraqi programme gives us some idea how simultaneous the detonations in a nuclear weapon need to be-Iraq aimed for a jitter time of less than 1 microsecond and ended up measuring it in nanoseconds. However, I don’t know for certain whether there is a legitimate application that requires the same degree of simultaneity. Sounds like an interesting problem to tackle properly when I get some time.

As you can see, Lewis is not entirely convinced that the detonators are used for the exclusive purpose of setting off a nuclear weapon. It is this kind of uncertainty that makes any decision to go after the Iranian nuclear infrastructure so problematic.

Who or what should we believe of Iran’s nuclear program? No one doubts Iran’s desire to possess a nuclear weapon. But are they really capable of overcoming the immense technical obstacles to build a bomb and a delivery system to threaten Israel as well as our allies in the region?

We can’t just dismiss these questions and then bomb hell out of Iran. An attack on the Iranians would bring far reaching and unseen consequences to not only our own security but the security of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other states in the region.

Others, like our own State Department and intelligence establishment, may have the luxury of burying their heads in the sand and pretending the problem doesn’t exist. But Israel cannot afford to do so - not without the potential for catastrophic consequences.

We know that the Iranians are making good progress in enriching uranium to the 5% level suitable for use in a nuclear reactor. Their facility at Nantanz is gearing up to double its centrifuge capacity which would increase their ability to enrich more raw uranium at a faster rate.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (who it should be noted have yet to prevent any country who wished to build a bomb from going nuclear) is monitoring the Iranian program but still have questions about their intent.

The Europeans for the most part are siding with us - as long as we don’t bomb Iran. Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy, and Angela Merkel all agree that the Iranian program poses a very serious threat to the west and have gone along so far with the US both at the UN and rhetorically as well.

But as far as actually addressing the threat, precious little has been done besides some ineffective sanctions imposed by the Security Council and equally ineffective jawboning by IAEA chief ElBaradei. In effect, the Iranians are getting away with whatever they are doing because they are able to stonewall the international community on what their intentions are.

All of this makes bombing more likely with its concomitant consequences staring us in the face. But as long as China and Russia keep handing the Iranians matches as they run toward the gasoline dump, there is precious little the world can do except stand by and watch the endgame scenario play out.

One of us - Israel or the United States - will almost certainly be compelled to bomb the Iranian nuclear infrastructure - unless the world community, including Russia and China, make a 180 degree turn regarding the seriousness with which they take the Iranian program. It probably will not happen this year. But once Iran is capable of enriching uranium by the pound rather than the gram, expect a countdown in Tel Aviv or Washington to begin.

Which man will you want sitting in the White House when this decision has to be made?

Note: Much of this post originally appears in The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 1:47 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (16)

HILLARY: SHOULD SHE STAY OR SHOULD SHE GO?

My latest at Pajamas Media is up and let me tell you, it was a labor of love - or a labor anyway.

I had the piece finished around 10:00 PM when Hillary was comfortably ahead by 40,000 votes. Then came the incredible - and ominous - news that the precincts in Lake County, including the city of Gary which is 85% African American, had not reported much of their total. When the mayor of Gary said that the results might be a “shocker,” one began to wonder how close the crooks in Chicago’s neighboring metropolis and kindred machine could actually make the race.

I began a major re-write (still with Hillary the victor) and finished just a few minutes after Fox finally called the race shortly after midnight.

Here’s a sample:

The optimism exhibited the last few days by the Clinton campaign that they were finally making progress in convincing Democrats that she would be the better candidate to face John McCain in the fall came a cropper in Indiana. It vanished in the middle of the night when a comfortable lead disappeared amidst hints of ballot shenanigans in one of the most crooked cities in the United States: Gary, Indiana.

Chicago has nothing on its close neighbor Gary when it comes to playing fast and loose with the electoral process. In 1967, the white city machine was in a panic because African American candidate Richard Hatcher appeared headed for victory. Like any crooked machine, they resorted to the time tested methods of vote fraud, ballot box stuffing, purging voter lists, and ghost voter registrants. Hatcher called in the Feds and the courts and got the process cleansed just in time for him to sweep to victory.

In the end, it really didn’t matter if Gary tried to rig the vote for Obama. By not winning comfortably in a state she was expected to do very well, Hillary Clinton’s campaign suffered the ultimate defeat: she failed to meet expectations.

As you know by now, Hillary cancelled her morning show appearances. Originally, the campaign also cancelled all her appearances for the day but apparently were taken aback by the almost universal interpretation of that action as the end of the road so they added an event at noon today in West Virginia.

But really, how can she go on? The Democrats seem bound and determined to nominate a Jimmy Carter - worse, a Jimmy Carter with baggage. But in this, the worst potential election year for Republicans since 1974, it might be enough anyway.

It’s no accident that the GOP has been losing these special elections in previously safe Republican districts. The party’s message is uncoordinated and mushy, there is trouble raising money, and the caucus is hopelessly divided on what to do to fix it:

Shellshocked House Republicans got warnings from leaders past and present Tuesday: Your party’s message isn’t good enough to prevent disaster in November, and neither is the NRCC’s money.

The double shot of bad news had one veteran Republican House member worrying aloud that the party’s electoral woes — brought into sharp focus by Woody Jenkins’ loss to Don Cazayoux in Louisiana on Saturday — have the House Republican Conference splitting apart in “everybody for himself” mode.

“There is an attitude that, ‘I better watch out for myself, because nobody else is going to do it,’” the member said. “There are all these different factions out there, everyone is sniping at each other, and we have no real plan. We have a lot of people fighting to be the captain of the lifeboat instead of everybody pulling together.”

In a piece published in Human Events, the Republicans’ onetime captain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, warned his old colleagues that they face “real disaster” on Election Day unless they move immediately to “chart a bold course of real reform” for the country.

But even with all of these advantages, Obama could still lose to John McCain in the fall. It appears that whatever gains he made with white voters over the months have been lost - at least temporarily - by the Wright fiasco. The party knows this but still seems unwilling to cut him loose and turn to Hillary as an alternative.

For her part, Clinton really can’t drop out immediately. She is going to win in West Virginia next week and Kentucky the following week - both by big margins. My guess is that she will trundle onwards, hobbled by a lack of money and with no rational argument to take to the Superdelegates to get them to overturn what is rapidly becoming inevitable.

Allah sums it up:

Slate’s keeping an eye on RCP’s running popular-vote totals and notes that not only will Obama widen his delegate margin tonight, he’ll erase the PV gains she made in Pennsylvania. In fact, as of this moment, even if Florida and Michigan are counted RCP gives her a popular vote lead of just 3,000+ votes — a margin of less than one-tenth of one percent. And that’s assuming that the popular vote totals from the caucuses in Iowa, Washington, Maine, and Nevada (which weren’t reported) aren’t counted at all. If you estimate for those states, he ends up with a lead of more than 100,000. Which means she has nothing left to commend her to the supers except an electabilty argument unsupported by a single key metric or even circumstantial evidence that Pastorgate has done Obama grievous damage at the polls. Are they going to take the nomination from the first serious black candidate for president without any compelling data to hang their decision on? Not a chance. It’s over. Let’s move on.

There are some - Sean Hannity for one - who have been hinting that Hillary’s oppo research on Obama has come up with some extremely damaging stuff that they have been showing privately to select party leaders in hopes of enlisting their support to carry out what would amount to a coup d’etat against the certain nominee. That sounds like Hannity passing gas. Obama has somewhat inoculated himself against further Wright outrages so it would have to be something that involved the candidate personally in Wright’s diatribes to have any effect at all.

It’s not quite time to write the post mortem yet. Hillary will not go quietly into that goodnight until external forces extinguish her candidacy. But the race is over - has been over as I’ve been pointing out - for a couple of months. All that’s left for Clinton is to find the right moment to exit the stage with as much grace as she can muster.

By: Rick Moran at 10:08 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

5/6/2008
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: DECISION ‘08: NOTHIN’ COULD BE FINER THAN TO BE IN CAROLINA…

Join me from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time tonight for another edition of The Rick Moran Show - one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I’m joined by my primary night co-host Rich Baehr, Political Correspondent for The American Thinker. Blogger extraordinaire Ed Morrissey of Hot Air.Com will also join the discussion with Jazz Shaw of The Moderate Voice and Middle Earth Journal chiming in later on the results of the Indiana and North Carolina primaries.

For the best in political analysis, click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.” A podcast will be available for streaming or download around 15 minutes after the show ends.

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

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By: Rick Moran at 5:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

PARTY LIKE IT’S 1980 ALL OVER AGAIN

As the race for the White House enters its “malaise phase,” with Democratic candidates struggling to set a world record for talking out of both sides of their mouths without their lips moving while John McCain struggles just to get a word in edgewise, I have caught myself several times the last few weeks trying to shake the feeling of dread - the cold hand of history clapped around my shoulders, its icy grip reminiscent of a time when the world seemed to be spinning out of control and the American people made a conscious decision to radically alter the political landscape in Washington.

I am speaking of 1980, of course. It isn’t that the economy is suffering from out of control inflation, record high interest rates, and near double digit unemployment as was the case during Jimmy Carter’s disastrous interregnum. But the same fear about the future worries ordinary American families that afflicted us back then. And it is beginning to look to me as if the voters are eager to take out their frustrations and anger on the party who is largely responsible for the mess we find ourselves in today; the party of Bush, Cheney, Foley, Cunningham, Ney, Renzi and the whole gang of corrupt, arrogant, venal, greedy Babbitts who have turned the Republican brand into a badge of shame.

You would have to be brain dead not to see the trouble this country is in. As bad as 1980? No, but it certainly is bad enough. Our mortal enemy may not be on the march as the Soviets were in the late 70’s. But al-Qaeda is doing quite well thank you, largely the result of an over reliance on President Musharraf in Pakistan (who took us for $11 billion in military aid like a fast talking scam artist on the midway of some local carnival) and our inability to get NATO to commit combat troops to the fight in Afghanistan. Jesus, if we can’t get the Europeans to recognize what’s at stake in Afghanistan and give us a hand, then either the alliance is kaput or America’s political leadership just isn’t up to the task.

I will brook no argument about Iraq not being a disaster, at least in the near term. It may yet turn out to be a barely passable plus for our interests in the Middle East - given another several years. But what has transpired the previous 5 years has been appalling. It’s been like a 5 year Iranian hostage rescue mission - blunder after blunder committed by our elected leaders and the Pentagon.

I don’t want to hear the argument “Mistakes happen in war.” That may be true. But to carry the adage beyond reason, beyond logic, beyond belief just makes the person spouting that claim look like an idiot. Holy Christ! You would think Bushco would get something right in 5 years. I’ll grant the surge has helped but it has also created other unforeseen problems. Face it; Iraq is a mess and its our own fault. Just thank your lucky stars, I would say to my Republican friends, that the media is so shallow and stupid that unless things really go south in Iraq between now and the election, it will continue to be ignored - despite the fact that the laundry list of problems in that country is growing, not shrinking.

My analogy that Iraq is like the failed hostage rescue, I believe, is a good one. It has placed doubts in the mind of Americans about the competence of our elected leaders while underscoring the fact that our power has its limits. The difference is in the confidence our current voters should have in the military overall. Back in 1980, we saw what years of neglect had done to the military and doubts were raised about its abilities. Not so today. But the recognition that military power cannot solve what ails Iraq has been no less an eye opener for many.

Ronald Reagan famously said that he would rather other nations fear us than love us. I generally subscribe to that notion - especially as it relates to our enemies. But Bush has taken that adage beyond the realm of rhetoric and made it the basis of his foreign policy. When even your allies fear you, it should be obvious that you’ve taken the concept just a bit too far and that somebody, somewhere screwed up royally.

It is one of our glaring weaknesses that we love to be loved by other nations and can’t stand the idea of people thinking beastly things about us. The left has riffed off this meme for decades. But when even our allies give us the cold shoulder because being seen as too close to America is death to their political alliances at home, even a nincompoop realizes a change is in order.

In 1980, Carter managed a foreign policy twofer - being disrespected by our enemies and held in contempt by our friends. Our situation today isn’t the same. But when our friends are reluctant to follow our lead and our enemies feel emboldened to exploit that weakness, the differences hardly matter because the result is similar; our goals are not achieved and the world becomes more dangerous as a result.

As for the economy then and now, there really isn’t much comparison - in a technical sense. But in politics, perception is everything. Rising gas prices has the electorate spooked as do skyrocketing food prices. You can’t get much more basic than gas and food as far as what’s important to American families. And when those two items bite, well you can kiss the shopping trip to Walmart goodbye. Or if the parents do end up shopping for summer clothes for their kids, they will spend a lot less.

Inflation is not a problem yet. But with so much of what we buy dependent on the price of gasoline, how long before the cost of other things begins to creep up as well. And there is no more debilitating disease for an economy than inflation. It saps the will to produce and save when a dollar will be worth substantially less 6 months down the road.

Unemployment is still low by historical standards but that hardly matters when layoffs are starting to happen all over the economy. Who cares if the unemployment rate dipped by a tenth of a point last month? People are not cheered by news like that when they see and know people getting laid off in their town. All they can think of is “Am I next?”

Interest rates are ridiculously low but credit itself is tight because of wary lenders while people are pulling in their horns about making major purchases on their credit cards due to the uncertain future.

Taken as a whole, the economy is still relatively healthy. But “relative” doesn’t mean squat to voters whose perceptions are shaped by their own observations and a relentless drumbeat of criticism by the media and the Democrats - much more the former than the latter when you consider how often people shop for food or fill their tanks.

All of this has a logical ending; 75% of the nation believes we are on the “wrong track.” That may be the understatement of the year because what that figure is really saying is that people do not feel in control of their lives. Things are happening here and abroad that defy many people’s understanding and it has torn many Americans from their moorings and set them adrift politically. More than likely, they will end up tying themselves to the Democrats when all is said and done.

I believe John McCain realizes this which is why he is not pulling punches about how bad things are. Unlike Carter who, in 1980, tried to convince the voters that they were doing alright with inflation and unemployment at record highs while trying to scare people into thinking Reagan was a monster, McCain has judged the mood of the country correctly so far. He isn’t going after Obama nor is he soft pedalling our problems. I think that this is one reason he isn’t 10 points behind at this point (only that CBS poll has him that far behind).

As a general election strategy, I’m not so sure. Once the Democrats really begin their assault, voters will think Bush is running for a third term. Just about every commercial that features McCain for the Democrats will also have a picture of Bush - count on it. Whether the Arizona senator can successfully perform a Bushectomy and remove the most unpopular president in the history of polls from the body of his campaign remains to be seen. I doubt it. The Democrats will be rolling in 527 money thanks to Daddy Warbucks Soros and the rest of his billionaire crew.

My gut feeling - totally speculative at this point - is that the race between Obama and McCain will be close until after the debates are over - about two weeks before the campaign ends. At that point, I think voters will start to break heavily for the Democrats and it will be something of a rout. Perhaps not a 1980 style kick in the groin rejection of one party for another. But I fully expect the GOP to get slapped pretty hard by the electorate - well deserved in my view.

I really do hope I’m wrong - will gladly eat my share of crow if this analysis is off base. But I would say to my Republican friends that we better start getting used to wandering in the political wilderness. It may be a long time before we find our way back to where we were just a few short years ago.

By: Rick Moran at 11:57 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

5/5/2008
HAS THE TIDE TURNED IN COVERAGE OF OBAMA?

As if awakening from a long, languorous slumber where dreams of the perfect liberal being comfortably ensconced in the White House made it impossible for the press to get up, rub their eyes, and return to the real world, it seems that the American media has finally decided to start treating Barack Obama with a little of the curmudgeonly cynicism that has been the hallmark of political reporting in this country for much of its existence.

The press likes to think of themselves as the “Fourth Estate” - the gatekeepers who protect American democracy from the ravages of crooked pols, greedy businessmen, religious charlatans, and most especially, unqualified presidential candidates.

Of course, many of my fellow conservatives don’t think of the press as the “Fourth Estate” as much as they see the media as a “Fifth Column,” deliberately undermining American policy abroad and either ignoring or savaging conservatives at home.

But that judgment may be too harsh. Overall, the press may hold liberal positions on the issues but their real failure lies in their total insularity from views different than their own.

Bernard Goldberg:

The problem is that there is a bubble that these media elites live in. They live in it in Manhattan & Washington. It’s a very comfortable bubble and they almost never run into people inside it who have differing points of view. They can go through a whole day, a whole week, a whole month, without running into someone who has a differing view on the big social issues of our time…

If you take into consideration how consolidated the media is today and the fact that most local newspapers and TV networks depend on the big boys for national and foreign news reporting, you can see how just a handful of insulated liberals can affect the way news is reported across a wide swath of the American media landscape.

So it is not surprising that the glowing, almost worshipful coverage of the Obama campaign would have powered the Illinois senator through the primaries to a now virtual lock on the Democratic nomination.

But as Howard Kurtz points out, the dynamic of press coverage has now changed:

After more than a year of mostly glowing coverage, Barack Obama is having to defend his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his temerity in not sporting a flag pin, even his arugula-loving, bad-bowling, let-me-eat-my-waffle persona that fostered what Newsweek has branded “the Bubba Gap.”

“The media have decided to get tougher on Obama,” says St. Petersburg Times media critic Eric Deggans. “There was so much talk about him getting such an easy ride that some journalists got tired of it.”

And the catalyst for this turnabout came from a very unexpected source; a couple of skits on the old political warhorse TV show Saturday Night Live. The bits were devilishly clever, playing to the idea that the media was in the tank for Obama - something almost everyone in America was aware except the media itself.

The February 23rd show was actually mentioned by Hillary Clinton in the Cleveland debate as proof that the press was biased toward her opponent. Those skits may have been one of the most impactful political satires in decades. Not since Chevy Chase’s bumbling portrayal of President Ford has a TV bit entered the political consciousness of the country.

The press was stung to the quick and began to look for opportunities to stick it to Obama. They didn’t have long to wait when the Jeremiah Wright fiasco exploded onto the scene in mid-March. Seeming to make up for lost time, the press latched on to the Wright controversy and began to question Obama’s judgement and beliefs - long overdue according to some:

Still, says David Greenberg, a Rutgers University professor of journalism and history, the coverage could be far worse. For journalists, he says, “there has been a real infatuation with Obama that has served as almost an unconscious restraint” as many became “taken with the idea of demonstrating their tolerance and America’s tolerance by electing a black candidate.”

What loosened those restraints, Greenberg says, was the media’s conclusion that Obama had virtually wrapped up his nomination fight against Hillary Clinton. “It’s backwards — the toughest scrutiny should come while it’s still a real fight,” he says.

Obama’s image has undergone something of a transformation. In March, feeding the curiosity about his background, a Newsweek cover story focused on “When Barry Became Barack” in college, while a Time cover profiled the candidate’s mother. By last week, Newsweek’s cover piece was exploring why he seems “strange,” “exotic” and, to some, “haughty” and “a bit of an egghead.” How did Obama, cast by some journalists as the new JFK, come to be depicted as what the New Republic’s John Judis says may be “The Next McGovern”?

What does it say about a press that waits until the candidate has the nomination virtually sown up before pouncing on his vulnerabilities? I think any reasonable person can conclude that they’ve got the process back asswards. Aren’t they supposed to vet the candidate while there is still a competitive race going on? And the fact that they haven’t played their traditional role of gatekeeper with Obama (closing the gate after the horse has gotten away) is significant.

That and the fact that all of this is happening 7 months before the election in November means that Obama - a gifted and inspiring figure to many - can still recover and beat McCain in the fall. One wonders if Reverend Wright would have received this kind of coverage in October.

My guess is no, he wouldn’t have been a big issue in September or October. Nor will Tony Rezko make an appearance between the time of the Democratic convention and election day. And I doubt we’ll be hearing too much about William Ayers and his flag stomping, terrorist ways either.

All of that will rightfully be seen as old news by then - that is, unless new information surfaces that would show Obama to be a liar as far as the extent of his problem associations have been. Whether such information is out there to be reported I have little doubt. But the only place you are going to see Wright damning America come the fall campaign is in a GOP 527 ad.

In short, the press may not be as puppy-dog worshipful as they were a couple of months ago. But their basic feelings about Obama don’t show any signs of changing. Witness the panting over his March speech in Philadelphia where he denounced what Wright was saying but not the man. It was hailed as one of the greatest political speeches in history. The press was just looking for an excuse to forgive him and they found it in Obama’s post-racial vision of America.

Then just last week, the press once again praised Obama to the skies for “distancing himself” from Wright - rarely asking the obvious question of why he couldn’t have done so the previous month in “one of the greatest speeches” of all time.

Yes the press has taken a more aggressive tack in covering Obama. But at the same time, they are still bending over backwards to excuse, to explain away, or, as in the case of the William Ayers story, simply ignore Obama’s lies about how well he knew him.

For these reasons, I don’t think we can say that the press still isn’t in the bag for Barack Obama. They may like McCain as well but does anyone really believe that when the campaign narrative is developed this fall that John McCain will be seen by the press in a positive light? It will be Barack Obama to America’s rescue, riding on a black and white horse but with the head of an elephant and the tail of a donkey. He will be the post-racial, post partisan candidate just as he was always meant to be.

Just as the press wants him to be.

By: Rick Moran at 1:48 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)