Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging, General, History, Politics, conservative reform, cotton candy conservatives — Rick Moran @ 10:57 am

No less than 5 recent articles (and a spirited debate between two very smart conservatives in David Frum and David Horowitz) have taken on the question regarding the demise of intellectual conservatism and the rise of movement or “populist” conservatives.

The intellectuals go under several names, depending on which side of the divide you sit. They are “reformers,” or RINO’s, or “Elders,” or “squishes.” And to varying degrees, they have either died off, disappeared, or been marginalized by the populists.

Or not.

With such a huge divide between the two camps in even trying to define conservatism, much less agree on what the public face of conservatism should look like, it is apparent that there will not be a meeting of the minds anytime soon. Nor will the two sides be pooling their intellectual capital to fight the liberals on the battlefield of ideas where it would do the most good, rather than in the arena of soundbites and bitter, exaggerated denunciations that only makes the right look like angry kooks or worse.

I will examine each of these articles and critique them, beginning from the premise that the intellectual right is not dead, but made quiescent by the surge of the populists and their ability to dominate the discussion through the sheer brutality of their critiques which drown out the far more reasonable, and reality based analyses of - what should they be called? I guess “reformists” is as good as any moniker although it doesn’t exactly speak to the critique of movement conservatives whose whole idea of reform seems to be kicking the reformists in the teeth.

Let’s start today with an excellent defense of Glenn Beck and the populists tactics by David Horowitz, who took part in an informal “Symposium” at FrontPage.com:

There are two issues here. One is a remarkable conservative outburst against the broadcaster Glenn Beck which includes you, Mark Levin and Pete Wehner among others, and which collectively wishes for his early self-destruction. The message from the three of you is that for the good of the conservative cause he should be silent — and the sooner the better. Wehner expresses the judgment I detect in all three of your blasts in this sentence: “The role Glenn Beck is playing is harmful in its totality.”

More than anything else, it is this is that I am reacting to. I think this attitude is wrongheaded, absurd, destructive to the conservative cause and a blatant contradiction of the “big tent” philosophy which you otherwise support.


Glenn Beck is daily providing a school for millions of Americans in the nature and agendas and networks of the left – something that your fine books do not do, and Mark Levin’s fine books do not do, and Pete Wehner’s volumes of blogs and speeches and position papers – all admirable in my estimation, also do not do. How are conservatives going to meet the challenge of the left if they don’t understand what it is, how it operates and what it intends? And who else is giving courses in this subject at the moment?

Now I have to confess my own vested interest in this. Because the fact is that I have been attempting to do this from a much smaller platform than Beck’s for many years. Five years ago I put an encyclopedia of the left on the web called Discover the Networks. It details the chief groups, individuals and funders of the left and maps their agendas and networks. Since I put it up five years ago, 20 million people have visited the site, many of whom have written articles and even books from its information. So far as I can tell, this site has never been mentioned by you or Wehner or Mark Levin or National Review or the Weekly Standard or the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. But it has been read by and profoundly influenced the producers and anchors at Fox News. Among these no one has used it so systematically and relentlessly and to such great effect as Glenn Beck.

Horowitz gives David Frum what has become the standard attack on moderates and intellectual conservatives:

It seems to me you are suffering from a kind of political Stockholm syndrome. You inhabit a mental universe shaped by media like Newsweek and the New York Review of Books, in which you are a hostage of the Left. As a result you’ve absorbed some of their attitudes, and look at Palin and other non-U conservatives through their eyes, instead of your own.

Spoken like a true believer. Of this argument, I will say this; Hogwash!

Horowitz presupposes that all news media is biased and that only he and his band of intellectual dilettantes can see it. That notion, by itself, is ignorant. It rejects the idea of professionalism of any kind in the media, while insulting the intelligence of the American people who, sheeplike, are led to feed at the liberal trough without a clue that they are being “indoctrinated.”

I prefer to take my biases one reporter/writer at a time, thank you. There are good, solid, objective (as possible) correspondents and then there are biased ones - both liberal and conservative. To lump them all into a liberal universe is ridiculous - as is the notion the only good source of news is Fox or some other conservative outlet. It seems to me that people who accuse me of being held “hostage” by a liberal media are themselves in thrall to a one note, equally biased media where they get most of their information from Fox News and ranting talk show hosts.

Come back and see me when you are able to discuss an issue from all angles, thus proving to me that you have taken the time to truly understand the subtleties and nuances - the clash of interests and ideology. It is my belief that unless you can argue both sides of an issue effectively, you don’t know it and should keep reading. Those who see only black and white, good or evil, suffer from one dimensional thinking - a disease far too prevalent among Horowitz and those he is defending.

I am not an intellectual - obviously. But I think it important to rigorously examine both your own biases and predilections as well as your opponents before coming to any conclusions. Any other approach is shallow sophistry, knee jerk emotionalism which has become the hallmark of the Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs, and Sean Hannity’s of the right.

David Frum says something important about this that Horowitz doesn’t address:

It is true that I have criticized some famous conservative talkers like Rush Limbaugh and now Glenn Beck, just as I have previously criticized right-wing opponents of the war on terror like Pat Buchanan and Lew Rockwell. But my “crusade” as David Horowitz calls is not a crusade to criticize. It is a crusade to repair and modernize a very troubled conservative movement.

I agree with David’s implied point that a thriving conservative movement needs a variety of talents: politicians and academics, thinkers and activists, intellectuals and popularizers.

Both have their appropriate roles. But it seems to me that latterly the conservative intellectuals have not properly fulfilled theirs.

And the result is that the conservative intellectual movement has become subservient to the political entertainment complex – with seriously negative consequences for conservative political success. It’s very sobering to compare how much conservatives got done in the 12 years before the creation of Fox News in 1996 with how little they have achieved in the 13 years since. And the problem has only intensified since the election of 2008, with the conservative entertainment complex helping to trap conservatives in a cycle of shrillness, rage, and paranoia that radically off-putting to the centrist voters who will choose the next president and Congress.

We are still a center-right country - but with the emphasis on “center.” People may be of a mind to reject Obamacare but are in no mood to embrace the extremely ideological conservatism that posits the left as minions of Satan and that anything Obama does is not only wrong, but inimical to freedom. It justifies opposing him and the left using the most outrageously exaggerated rhetoric that, if you really believe it, marks you as a paranoid, or more often, uninformed and illogical.

It’s not just a question of “manners,” although keeping debate within the boundaries of respect for others is necessary in a democracy. It is a question of detaching rank emotionalism from reason; it’s rejecting argument by demonization and substituting logic; it’s not employing paranoid exaggeration when realistic descriptions of what the president and the left are trying to do is easily done.

In each case, the former marks one as an unthinking, shrill, unbalanced ideologue who think Americans must be frightened into agreeing with them; the latter, someone who believes that Americans are persuadable without the histrionics employed by cotton candy conservatives on talk radio and elsewhere.

One face of conservatism is off putting to the majority; the other, indicative of a movement that takes itself seriously and doesn’t listen to clowns, and deliberate provocateurs who care more about ratings and ad money than whether conservative ideas triumph. If Rush Limbaugh actually believes that his hysterical view of liberals and Obama (as well as his shallow understanding of conservatism) contributes to conservatism’s popularity and the perception that our ideas should win out over those of the left, he is only kidding himself.

His audience, while huge by radio standards, is still relatively small compared to the number of voters at large. And considering his unpopularity outside of the right, he can’t possibly believe that his rants do anything except resonate with an audience that already agrees with him. The same holds true for the other pop conservatives who, while fulfilling a vital role of “popularizing” conservatism, nevertheless end up being a net minus for the right because of their antics and extraordinarily skewed version of reality.

I am not interested in purging the popularizers. I am interested in reducing their influence - as I am interested in reducing the influence on policy in the GOP by the religious right - and the perception that their methods and views reflect a majority of those of us on the right.

If so, it will be a long road to hoe for reformists who will continue to wander in the wilderness created by the scorched earth conservatives whose excessive ideology poisons the well of ideas from which so little has been drawn in recent years.



Filed under: CHICAGO BEARS — Rick Moran @ 10:28 am

Jay Cutler: Another Tom Brady?

My Beloveds take the field in about an hour to host the still hapless Lions, who snapped a 16 game losing streak last week against the suddenly hapless Redskins.

All signs point to an easy Bears victory - which is why I am terrified that the Lions will pull it out in the end.

New Lions QB, Matt Stafford showed something last week against Washington. This kid has a chance; he’s mobile in the pocket, has a wicked strong arm, seems to have a good head for the game, and is in a system that accentuates his positives. But he’s still a rookie and is likely to make a few mistakes that My Beloveds must take advantage of if they expect to win.

The Bear’s linebacking corps - a deep group at the beginning of the season, is missing two of its three starters and is down to a third string MB - Nick Roach. On top of that, OLB Lance Briggs - Defensive Player of the Week for being a one man wrecking crew against Seattle - is also banged up with a bad foot. Expect Stafford to have a big day as Roach and Jamar Williams (replacing injured Pisa Tinoisamoa) have little experience. The cover two defense is already vulnerable to passes thrown between the safeties and the linebackers in the middle of the field and that space will probably open up to Stafford if he gets the time to throw.

That will be up to the Bears improved defensive front, who must have a huge day in pressuring and sacking Stafford. This will be a daunting task considering that the kid has shown the ability to evade the rush.

Still, I like My Beloved’s chances. Cutler and his young, but improving receiving corps should have a good game against a subpar Lion’s secondary. Also, Desmond Clark will return from injury to pair with Greg Olsen at tight end which will help Cutler immensely with the short passing game.


Bears O-line vs. Lions D-line. Will they be able to open a few holes for a struggling Matt Forte? With cold weather on the way in a few weeks, the passing game will be de-emphasized in favor of the run. As I’ve mentioned earlier, there have been plenty of Bears QB’s who looked like Hall of Famers in September, only to ice up come November. If the Bears expect to make the playoffs, they’ve got to double their current run output (a paltry 75 yards a game).

Lion’s have a couple of good rushers and Orlando Pace is beginning to show his age. A fast outside rush may give Pace more trouble than he can handle and make it a long afternoon for Cutler.

Cutler vs. Lions D-backs
. While the short passing game should be fine with the tight ends and Forte helping to move the sticks, it will be the deep outs and slants to the wide receivers that will tell the tale of offensive output. The lions D-backs have looked extremely vulnerable so if Cutler gets some time, I expect him to really light them up.

Stafford vs. Bears D-backs. My Beloveds have not been any great shakes in the defensive backfield, although run support has been superb. Peanut Tillman is still not 100% following offseason surgery and Nathan Vasher has lost his starting job to Zach Bowman who appears lost at times. Solid safety play has saved them somewhat but eventually, the corners have to prove they can cover somebody. Detroit has a good receiver in Calvin Johnson who always has big games against us. Bottom line: if Stafford is rushed, it won’t matter.

Special Teams: Will Bears speedster Johnny Knox break a big one on kickoffs? Will Hester break a punt return? I predict one of those two will break the big one.

I also predict Lions beast of a placekicker Jason Hansen will kick at least 3 field goals. Let’s hope he is sitting on the bench for the entire 4th quarter because he has broken the hearts of Bears fans several times with last minute kicks to beat us.

With so many significant injuries, I don’t expect My Beloveds to take the Lions for granted. On paper, they should dominate.

But the game ain’t played on a chalkboard. And you know the saying; “On any given Sunday…”


Filed under: Iran, Politics, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 6:10 am

Steve Hynd over at Newshoggers has a post up that tackles the question of the nature of the Iranian nuclear program.

The post should be read in its entirety but Mr. Hynd has a 12-point rebuttal to those who believe the Iranian program is on a “parallel fuel cycle” whose ultimate goal is to develop at least the capability of constructing a nuclear weapon.

Let’s restate it: Iran has enough LEU to hypothetically further enrich into HEU and build a bomb…but:

1) As soon as they begin doing so, the IAEA’s inspection regimen will notice and raise the red flag.

2) Iran couldn’t finish enriching that HEU for a bomb until 2013 at the earliest…even if it started tomorrow.

3) There’s no indication Iran has a working design for a weapon to put that hypothetical HEU in.

4) There’s no indication that the Iranians have the know-how to make that hypothetical bomb small enough to fit on a missile.

5) There’s no indication the Iranians have a missile good enough to throw that hypothetical small-enough bomb even as far as Israel.

6) It would still be only one bomb. Israel has hundreds and the Iranian leadership are not suicidal.

7) DNI Blair has stated that Iran has shown no sign it wishes to do all this in any case and is probably looking for a “virtual capacity” to build a bomb as a deterrent factor against external aggressors rather than looking to own nukes in truth.

8) The next head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, has said that he sees no sign in IAEA official documents that Iran is trying to develop a bomb.

10) Mohammed El Baradei, the current IAEA head, has said:

Nobody is sitting in Iran today developing nuclear weapons. Tehran doesn’t have an ongoing nuclear weapons program. But somehow, everyone in the West is talking about how Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest threat to the world. In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped.

11) All the documentation the U.S. has provided to the IAEA showing previous Iranian weaponization attempts is dodgy. Today, El Baradei said of that documentation:

If this information is real, there is a high probability that nuclear weaponization activities have taken place,’ he said. ‘But I should underline ‘if’ three times.’

12) The conclusion from this is that any Iranian pre-2003 experiments were all lab-scale or purely theoretical and designed to forward a strategy of possessing a “virtual deterrent” such as Japan’s - the ability to build a bomb within a fairly short time frame if and only if they are attacked first. In that case, I’m simply not worried - let Iran keep its secrets.

I responded in the comments:

You have made the case against an Iranian bomb program as well as it can be made.

However, your critique - as well as any analysis that seeks to prove the opposite - is based on reading intent. Our national technical means are not capable of doing so, hence the fog surrounding the issue.

You may not have seen the NY Times piece this morning on the tremendous internal row going on at the IAEA over Iranian intent and the evidence that they are, at the least, trying to secure the capability to construct a bomb within 6 months of withdrawing from the NPT and kicking inspectors out of the country:


Some excellent background on the internal politics of this via the wonks:


Apparently, some in the IAEA who belong to the faction who thinks Iran is wanting to build a bomb have been pressing for the release of this unfinished report because it buttresses the case that the facility at Qom is the tip of the iceberg of secret sites that give the Iranians a “parallel fuel cycle” capability:


I am no expert but when arms control and non-proliferation types are worried, I think we should at least pay attention to what they’re saying.

Specifically,as to your points above, a couple of observations:

1. Correct. As long as the LEU comes from Natanz. Your entire critique, in fact, is based on the logical notion that all major nuclear work is under inspection. I hope you’re right. But the existence of the Qom facility has set off a new search for all sorts of labs and plants (as well as additional sources of processed ore). That link above to the chance of a parallel fuel cycle posits the idea that the logic of a secret enrichment facility dictates that other secret facilities exist.

2. Heh - talk about iffy. Continuing the fuel cycle to achieve 85-90% enrichment would take a lot less than 4 years - more like 18 months if the current expansion of centrifuge capacity at Natanz continues. Of course, this presupposes the IAEA being kicked out and withdrawal by Iran from the NPT.

3. How much should be assumed of the Iranian program? We wouldn’t have a clue (unless we penetrated the Iranian program) whether they are modeling bomb designs or not. Should we assume they are? Should we assume that the close relationship they had with AQ Khan means they have a Pakistani design signed, sealed, and delivered?

4. Jackpot. They are years away from marrying any weapon with the Shahab II or III.

5. Yeah, but they are improving with every test.

6. This is true assuming there are indeed “rational actors” in Iran. All depends on this, actually - Israel’s calculations as well as the west’s. If true, then containment and deterrence can work. If not? If Israel comes to the alternate conclusion, they will bomb.In a nation the size of New Jersey, one or two nukes could literally destroy them. Yes Iran would also be destroyed - but if religious fanaticism enters into policy, all bets are off.

7. Japan has all but admitted a similar “virtual capacity” as you point out later. Question: Does that make Iran any less dangerous if true?

8-11: Read the wonks post above about the internal politics at the IAEA. ElBaradei has blown hot and cold about Iranian nukes for years - as he did with Saddam’s “WMD.” The consummate bureaucrat, he has had to deal with these factions for years. If I wanted to spend the time googling, I’m sure I could come up with a statement that contradicts the one you have above.

12.This is simply unknowable. Logic points to your conclusion being at least partly correct, but logic, while useful, cannot penetrate the hearts and minds of the Iranian leadership. I doubt we will ever see Iran conducting a nuclear test a la North Korea. But the real possibility of a parallel fuel cycle that we don’t know about with the secret infrastructure to make a bomb happen (and a fanaticism that might make logic of any kind moot) dictates that we must assume the worst and act accordingly.

I would add for those unfamiliar with my stand on military action, that I oppose bombing for the simple reason that it would involve consequences that not justify any temporary benefit that would accrue from slowing down the Iranian drive to go nuclear. In short, the probability that we would have to go back and bomb them again in a matter of months because we weren’t aware of important targets is very high - which is the same conclusion reached by our own military.


Filed under: History, Iran, Politics — Rick Moran @ 3:58 am

Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post must have read my PJ Media column where I speculated that the Obama Administration - like the Bush Administration before it - has all but accepted the fact of a nuclear Iran:

The Obama administration’s positive tone following its first diplomatic encounter with Iran covers a deep and growing gloom in Washington and European capitals. Seven hours of palaver in Geneva haven’t altered an emerging conclusion: None of the steps the West is considering to stop the Iranian nuclear program is likely to work.

Not talks. Not sanctions, even of the “crippling” variety the Obama administration has spoken of. Not military strikes. And probably not support for regime change through the still-vibrant opposition.

For obvious reasons, senior officials won’t state this broad conclusion out loud. But it’s not hard to find pessimistic public statements about three of the four options. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the prospects for diplomacy “very doubtful.” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said military action will do no more than “buy time.” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, echoing private statements I’ve heard from the Obama administration, told me last week that a strategy of backing the Iranian opposition “would take too long” and might well produce a government with the same nuclear policy.

Diehl points out that far more ruinous sanctions against Saddam Hussein, coupled with regular bombings, failed to move Iraq toward obeying UN resolutions And there are those who point out that sanctions in Iran will even be counterproductive in that support for the opposition will decline in the face of the hardships engendered by a crippling loss of fuel in any gasoline embargo. The regime will easily be able to paint anyone who opposes them as supporting those who are bringing such pain to the Iranian economy.

And regime change? We would do well to remember that even the more “moderate” Iranian clerics are anti-American and anti-Israel. And as we saw in Pakistan, the drive for nuclear weapons, and ultimate possession of them, is a matter of enormous national pride regardless of what kind of government is in power.

By the way, the recently revealed facility at Qom has non-proliferation experts extremely worried. That enrichment plant would need feeder stock for the centrifuges. But the largest known ore processing facility at Esfahan is watched constantly by inspectors. Therefore, the logic goes, a secret enrichment facility would be supplied by a secret processing facility, while that facility would be serviced by other unknown plants and labs. It makes any talks with Iran extremely problematic.

Diehl posits a likely scenario regarding talks with Iran:

In the meantime, talks about the details of inspections and the uranium shipments could easily become protracted, buying the regime valuable time. (On Friday the Associated Press quoted a member of the Iranian delegation as saying it had not, in fact, agreed to the uranium deal.) Meanwhile, Tehran’s tactical retreat has provided Russia and China with an excuse to veto new sanctions — something they would have been hard-pressed to do had Iran struck an entirely defiant tone in Geneva.

The Obama administration and its allies have said repeatedly that they will pursue diplomacy until the end of the year and then seek sanctions if diplomacy hasn’t worked. That sets up a foreseeable and very unpleasant crossroads. “If by early next year we are getting nothing through diplomacy and sanctions,” says scholar Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, “the entire policy is going to be revealed as a charade.”

What then? Pollack, a former Clinton administration official, says there is one obvious Plan B: “containment,” a policy that got its name during the Cold War. The point would be to limit Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons or exercise its influence through the region by every means possible short of war — and to be prepared to sustain the effort over years, maybe decades. It’s an option that has been lurking at the back of the debate about Iran for years. “In their heart of hearts I think the Obama administration knows that this is where this is going,” Pollack says.

The background to all this is increased interest by the Saudis and other Arab nations in acquiring nuclear technology of their own. The French have been most gracious in this regard and the US has also been involved. This is certainly part of any containment strategy; letting the Iranians know in not so subtle ways that other nations can also crack the nuclear safe and develop their own capability.

I can understand the frustration of some who think that the military option - even if bombing results in only a short bit of breathing space with regard to Iranian nukes - should not be taken off the table by the US. But the risks are so enormous to our interests and friends in the region that the only real justification for bombing, much less invasion and regime change, would be to set back the Iranian program a decade or more; just as Israel did with the Iraqi program by bombing the reactor at Osirak.

This is why I believe we are already in the process of shifting our policy to reflect the reality that, if Iran wants to build a bomb, there is precious little we can do to stop them without risking a general war in the Middle East and having our military and interests in the region suffer severe damage.



Filed under: Ethics, Government, History, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:13 am

I’ve had one of my justly famous “Whither Conservatism” posts scrambling my brains for the past three days but haven’t quite focused on it and given it the time it deserves. Perhaps tomorrow I can tie the threads together from 4-5 separate articles and essays I’ve read recently and make prime rib out of the hash.

Instead, there are a few more things that need to be said about Obama pitching the Chicago Olympics and the reaction on both right and left to both the junket itself and Obama’s failure to sway the IOC to give Chicago the nod.

First, I think the left has a point about misplaced righty triumphalism regarding Obama’s failure. It is unseemly. And regardless of whether you believe the left had similar gloats during the Bush years, this particular effort - one I criticized before Obama even left - did indeed reflect a rejection of America itself. So cheering the failure is akin to cheering a failure of America.

Now, if I were a lefty, I would be extremely careful about asking why America was rejected. Let’s play with a hypothetical; suppose there was the president of a country, newly elected, who went around the world, in venue after venue, telling anyone who would listen about the numerous faults, mistakes, missteps, and evil perpetrated by his own country. These words would fall upon ears eager to hear about that nation’s dirty laundry because it reinforces their own skewed view of what that nation is all about.

Then suppose the same newly elected president showed up at a forum where it was important that the positive about his country be emphasized to the exclusion of the negative so that a group of judges chose his country to play host to the world at an important event.

He speaks in glowing terms about his country and how the world would be welcomed in his hometown. But the judges aren’t idiots. They have heard this same president speak of his own nation’s many shortcomings for nearly a year.

In all honesty, ask yourself why those judges should choose this president’s country to host an event when they have heard so many negative things about it?

I am not saying that the president’s habit of reciting his version of American history - both recent and ancient - played the decisive role in Chicago’s rejection. But if it played any role at all - and I fail to see how it couldn’t - then the president has himself to partly blame for this failure.

I am put off by the happiness shown by the right over this personal failure by the president. And I am snickering over the left’s charges that the right “hates” America because they are gloating over it.

Excuse me, but we just spent 8 years being told that it was the right’s uncritical patriotism - love of country - that got the United States into so much trouble and fostered the notion that it was the left that actually hates America. Are we to take seriously the idea that all of a sudden, the right hates America because Obama was elected? The premise is laughable on its face. Equating Obama with the country itself is an error made by partisans and those infected with excessive ideology. The president is not America; he is a servant of the people. You can oppose or even hate the president and not be considered traitorous to the United States - unless the Constitution has been changed when I wasn’t looking.

Now it is unhealthy for the nation for a large part of the opposition to hate the president. Unhealthy, but not illegal. And I can understand the left’s eagerness to tar the right with the “unpatriotic” meme. They had to put up with it for 8 years so payback’s a bitch, isn’t it?

Allow me to say once again for the benefit of both sides; trying to quantify how much someone loves the United States is pathetic. Both liberals and Conservatives love America. They just show that love in different ways. This is how I explained it one Fourth of July a few years ago:

Herein lies the great chasm that separates liberals and conservatives when it comes to defining the word “patriotism.” The right sees patriotism as a physical, emotional connection with the past; an open acknowledgment and tribute to those who came before us and guaranteed with their blood, sweat, and tears that we, their progeny, would live in freedom. We are aware that America is not all it could be but rather than dwelling on our imperfections, we celebrate all that is good and decent in this land and its people.

The flip side of the same coin is how liberals define patriotism. They seem to intellectualize their love of country. They distrust outward displays of patriotic emotion, tending to equate fervor with patriotism’s evil twin - nationalism. Liberals see a problematic past for America and are not shy about pointing out where America has fallen short in its promises of liberty and equality.

But does this mean that liberals are less patriotic than conservatives?

Is it unpatriotic to want your country to live up to its extraordinary ideals? Is it unpatriotic to criticize what liberals see as hypocrisy in our history, where we celebrate freedom while keeping millions in bondage? Or speak glowingly of Native American culture while treating them abysmally?

It is nonsensical to have these arguments about who loves America more - or less. We are two sides of the same coin - both liberals and conservatives need each other to complete the essence of what America was, is, and should be. Our view of America and how we love her complements each other - while fostering a healthy contrast that keeps us striving to live up to the best of our ideals.

Aside from this idea that the right “hates” America because they wished Obama to fail, I am at a loss to explain where all the “good government liberals” have gone in recognizing that giving the Olympics to Chicago in the first place would have been a travesty.

Used to be that “progressive” and “good government” went hand in hand. Politicians like Hubert Humphrey, Paul Simon (former senator from IL), and William Proxmire would have been outraged that the president had gone to Denmark to plead the case for investing billions in a city as corrupt and venal as Chicago unless they had some way to make sure that the money was given to the city without it being tainted by contact with the Machine.

So where are the “good government” liberals opposing this monumental opportunity for graft that would have come Chicago’s way if the president had succeeded? At one time, these men and others were not afraid to speak up and challenge their own party when it came to corruption. Recall Connecticut’s feisty, governor Abraham Ribicoff shaming Richard Daley the elder at the podium during the 1968 convention riots in Chicago.

This kind of boondoggle would have been tailor made for good government liberals of the past. But has partisanship so infected both parties that opposition to Obama’s trip to fill the coffers of Daley cronies and friends (not to mention the surety that organized crime would have been in for a slice of the pie), was left to conservatives?

I heard a few liberals after Obama’s failure say he shouldn’t have gone to begin with - for the same reasons that John Cole evidently finds so incredible. Outside of this piece in The Nation, I can find no opposition on the left to the idea of bringing the Olympics to Chicago because of the inevitable cost overruns due to corruption.

This triumph of partisanship over what many believe is an issue of supporting good government is truly sad. It reveals how truly sick our political culture is at the moment. As for a remedy, I have none. Nor, do I suspect, does anyone else.



Filed under: PJ Media — Rick Moran @ 12:42 pm

I rushed a piece up at PJ Media after hearing the news about Chicago not getting the 2016 summer games.

A sample:

He placed the prestige of his presidency directly on the line and failed. That’s the bottom line. He gambled with the one thing no president should ever gamble with unless the stakes are much higher than his hometown getting the Olympic games.

What stakes would have justified such a gamble? Jimmy Carter gambled that he could bring Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin to Camp David and hash out a peace deal. The odds were against it. It was a huge gamble and Carter, to his credit, worked tirelessly, shuffling back and forth between the two antagonists’ cabins (they refused to meet in the same room), never letting up until he had a deal.

Ronald Reagan’s gamble in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he sought to make huge cuts in nuclear weapons while meeting with Gorbachev, did not turn out as well. When Gorbachev rejected the plan because Reagan would not give up SDI, the Gipper was rightly criticized for it.

Presidential visits are staged down to the last detail. If a treaty is to be signed, experts work for weeks prior to the president’s trip to make sure there are no last-minute hitches. Nothing is left to chance.

With Obama’s visit to Copenhagen, everything was left to chance. We didn’t know that at the time he announced it, however. There were many observers who believed the president wouldn’t make the trip unless he had been given private assurances that his presence would put Chicago over the top.

I point this out later:

There is no doubt that the criticism for this serious mistake in judgment will eventually die down. But the effect is cumulative. The president’s inability to bring health care reform to some kind of a denouement was already dragging his presidency down, along with his popularity and that of his party. The unemployment numbers out today are horrible, with jobs still being sloughed off by companies much faster than the total being created. One of the president’s biggest supporters, former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich, reminds us that for every job lost, another unemployed worker gives up looking.

The president took all of 25 minutes to meet with Afghanistan commander, General McChrystal, to discuss a situation that is deteriorating by the week. This is incomprehensible given the seriousness of the situation and McChrystal’s dissatisfaction with the administration’s dithering over how to prosecute the war.

Partisanship aside, I think it’s time to start worrying about this fellow. It’s hard to coldly analyze a president that you see as an opponent but I am also something of a student of history. This man was unprepared for the presidency - moreso than anyone before him. He had also failed to demonstrate any leadership skills prior to being elected. Perhaps then, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that he either doesn’t know how to lead or is incapable of doing so. His own party is wondering about him. We’ve got very little coming from the White House in terms of substance - it’s all glitz and glitter with Obama campaigning for his agenda rather than doing the hard, slogging scut work of actually getting in the trenches and leading the troops toward the goals he sets.

I agree it is a hard thing to gauge how well a president is leading. But even his biggest boosters have to admit not much is getting accomplished. This despite a huge advantage in numbers in Congress. If you can judge a president’s effectiveness by what he is accomplishing, so far - and it is still relatively early in his presidency - Obama is failing to measure up.

I am not one that hopes Obama suffers a failed presidency. I do not wish him well in passing much of his agenda but that should not be taken to mean I want him broken. The world is too dangerous to wish for something like that and Obama must have at least a minimum of credibility or the credibility of America suffers too.

He can probably turn it around with a victory on health care reform - something I am not rooting for unless substantial changes are made to whatever bill is finally written. But a defeat there would really make it hard for the president to regain any momentum. And the likelihood of a GOP comeback would grow substantially.


Filed under: Decision '08, Iran, Politics, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 7:08 am

Iran has graciously consented to obey international law and allow inspectors into their recently revealed nuclear enrichment facility while also agreeing to allow Russia to complete the processing of a large part of their nuclear fuel.

This is an “I told you so” moment for the left…or is it? The Daily Beast:

Who knew this whole “diplomacy” idea might actually accomplish something? Mounting pressure on Iran over its nuclear program appears to be paying dividends as the U.S. engages in multilateral and direct negotiations with Iranian officials in Geneva this week. Already Iran has agreed to let U.N. inspectors into its recently revealed uranium enrichment plant and to send most of its uranium to Russia for enrichment, which would help reassure foreign powers that it is not on the path to produce nuclear weapons. The tentative arrangement could be enough to hold off a new round of sanctions on Iran, whose economy is suffering and whose government is still containing fallout from its dispute presidential election. Of course, the deal only works if Iran follows through on its word and some observers aren’t holding their breath. “This is only a start, and we shall need to see progress through some of the practical steps we have discussed today,” European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana told The Washington Post.

This “whole diplomacy thing” has accomplished nothing. Nada. Zipedee Doo Da. Iran had already assured the IAEA that they would allow access to the new site. And as for completing the processing of their LEU in Russia - that too, is not much of a concession. That would be the enriched uranium from the facility at Natanz - a place that the IAEA has been watching very closely so that Iran could never turn that enriched uranium from the 5% level to the bomb grade 90% level.

The fact is, that stockpile was never a problem It was too closely watched for Iran to carry out any funny business. The real problem is that we don’t know what other facilities Iran has built, nor do we know what other steps they have taken to build a bomb that we would never be able to determine. The fact that they were hiding an enrichment facility that was much too small to enrich uranium for commercial purposes, and could easily been used for military purposes, is the real problem with the Iranian nuclear program; it’s what we don’t know and what the Iranians refuse to tell us that makes this situation so dangerous.

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of Arms Control Wonk - an arms control advocate - lays out the logic of this argument:

For some time, a few of us - including Josh Pollack and Andreas Persbo - have been arguing (with little success) that the public debate is misguided in its singular focus on breakout scenarios at Natanz. Is Iran 18 months away? How much LEU does it have? These were interesting questions but, to my mind, distractions. Natanz is the most watched site in the world. If the Iranians build a bomb, they will do it someplace else. Like Qom.

Josh Pollack did a wonderful job of tackling these issues in his post, Why Iran’s Clock Keeps Resetting (August 19, 2009) and over at TotalWonkerr, where he noted “One of the shortcomings of breakout lit so far may be its emphasis on on a single site. A hidden site is also a possibility…”

The real risk was always that Iran would construct a covert site other than Natanz. As long as Iran remains under the current safeguards arrangements, I wrote to a colleague this summer, we have “no confidence that Iran is not simply trucking centrifuge components to another location, buried deep under some mountain.”

For example, we would never know (without human intelligence that would have penetrated their nuke program) whether or not the mullahs have been working on a design for a bomb. Computer modeling for such a design is impossible to detect. Nor do we know what progress the Iranians have made in warhead design so that a nuke could be married to one of their improving rockets - the Shahab II and III.

To spout nonsense about diplomacy “working” at this point is truly ignorant. Not even Obama has said anything except that this is a “constructive beginning.” And WaPo’s Glenn Kessler points out that this sudden “cooperation” by the mullahs is not unexpected:

The outcome, which President Obama in Washington called a “constructive beginning,” came after 7 1/2 hours of talks in an 18th-century villa on the outskirts of Geneva that included the highest-level bilateral meeting between the two countries since relations were severed three decades ago after the Iranian revolution. But the difficulties that lie ahead were illustrated when the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, held a triumphant news conference at which he denounced “media terrorism,” insisted that Iran has always fully met its international commitments, and refused even to acknowledge a question from an Israeli reporter.

The sudden show of cooperation by Tehran reduces for now the threat of additional sanctions, which has been made repeatedly by the United States and others over the past week after the revelation of a secret Iranian nuclear facility. The United States will need to keep the pressure on Iran to avoid being dragged into a process without end.

Anyone who followed the EU3 talks that were carried out during the Bush Administration knows full well that the Iranians are experts at dragging negotiating partners “into a process without end.”

Meanwhile, no one can say if at some still undiscovered location in Iran - and indeed the evidence points to this being more than a possibility - centrifuges aren’t whirring away creating HEU that could be used to construct a nuclear weapon. That’s the bottom line and any celebratory nonsense about diplomacy “working” is simple, partisan blather.


Filed under: Ethics, Politics — Rick Moran @ 3:12 am

In case you haven’t noticed, public discourse in America has taken a decidedly loutish turn in recent years. Now there’s a fabulous English word, “lout” meaning “…an awkward, stupid person; clumsy, ill-mannered boor; oaf.” It apparently has Scandinavian or “Old Norse” origins - a Viking insult no doubt.

And it fits Alan Grayson to a “T”:

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) warned Americans that “Republicans want you to die quickly” during an after-hours House floor speech Tuesday night.

His remarks, which drew angry and immediate calls for an apology from Republicans, were highlighted by a sign reading “The Republican Health Care Plan: Die Quickly.”

Grayson won’t apologize and has taken the attitude, “In for a penny, in for a pound:”

This afternoon, Grayson came back to the House floor to say he had no intentions of backing down from his comments:

“I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America,” Grayson said.

He also referred to health care reform opponents as “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals” - almost the exact language I have used to describe some conservatives on the far right but I’m a blogger and he’s a Congressman and obviously, he should be held to a higher standard, right Speaker Pelosi?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says there’s no reason for Rep. Alan Grayson to apologize for his “Die quickly” remark, since Republicans have made statements just as outrageous as his.

“If anybody’s going apologize, everybody should apologize,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference. “We are holding Democrats to a higher standard than their own members.”

She deemed the flap over Grayson’s remarks a distraction from the healthcare debate.

“Typically, Republicans would like to use this as distraction because they have no plan,” Pelosi said.

Such courage should ordinarily be recognized; except that’s not exactly the attitude Pelosi had a few weeks ago:

A communique from the conscience of our nation, who was so troubled by Joe Wilson’s outburst that she not only made sure he was censured — after he apologized to Obama — but then proceeded to tear up publicly over the state of political discourse in America, just to let you know how much she cares.


I’d call her a hypocrite and a disgrace but, let’s face it, those ships sailed long ago. Meanwhile, here’s a snippet of Teacups on CNN last night, clearly relishing his new role as lunkheaded lightning rod. He’s all about working together, don’t you know, even though (a) according to Cantor, the GOP leadership hasn’t been invited to the White House to talk health care since May and (b) calling your opponents “neanderthals” is, at best, a mighty roundabout way of getting to the road to bipartisanship. Exit schadenfreude: As of today, his House seat’s been downgraded from “leans Democratic” to “toss up.” Keep talking, Grayson.

Is Joe Wilson calling Obama a “Liar” and Grayson calling his opponents “Neanderthals” the same thing?

Why no. No its not. That’s because Wilson called Obama a liar and Grayson called his opponents Neanderthals.

Is it the same as GOP members accusing Obamacare of eventually killing people?

Why no. No its not. Grayson called his opponents Neanderthals while the GOP said Obamacare would end up killing people.

I am on the cusp of an enormously important truth here. Trying to weight loutish behavior and language is stupid. No, not just run of the mill, dunce cap type stupid. I mean cosmically clueless. I mean stupendously simpleminded. Mindlessly moronic. Idiotically insensate.

Either you’re an ill mannered boor or, you’re not. Trying to draw equivalency, or even more imbecilically, actually believe you can place two different oafish utterances side by side and judge which is worse is gobsmackingly moronic.

There is no “special context” that one can weigh the relative lunacy of a Wilson or a Grayson insult. Whether directed at a president or the guy who swabs the floors of the washroom, it is equally wrong. The calumny is not due to what was said, or who it was directed towards, but rather the wholesale violation of one of our most precious, and important societal strictures; the empathetic give and take represented by simple, common manners.

Manners are a convention invented by civilized society to make discourse pleasant, and smooth the rough spots that naturally occur when strangers meet for the first time. Violate the convention and whether King or commoner, you are marked as a boor.

Is one ethnic or racial slur worse than another? Of course not. And trying to parse the kind of idiocy uttered by Grayson, Wilson, and any other politician from either party reveals a pathological devotion to small minded sophistry (not to mention partisan gamesmanship).

Why must everything one side says or does find some counterpart on the other? We all play the game but it is really starting to bug me. Reminds me of the lady at the candy store in my youth who used to take 10 minutes to dole out a quarter pound of jawbreakers because she would put one piece of candy on the scale at a time, trying to get the balance indicator to rest precisely in the middle, thus exactly countering the quarter pound weight she had on the other side. It was maddening. I wanted to scream “Gimme the goddamn candy and be done with it, lady!”

I’m getting to be that way over these tete a tetes which attempt to one up the other side by triumphantly proclaiming, “Your lout is more loutish than our lout, SO THERE!” Yeah, I’m guilty as charged on occasion but Jesus people, I halfway agree with Pelosi; this is a distraction. Haven’t we got anything better to do?

I’ll probably play this game again next week but right now, it sickens me. I am really going to try to be cognizant of the bottom line in these things from now on, although living in the blogosphere, it is probably unavoidable to some degree.

In the meantime, let’s agree that anyone who violates strictures against public discourse should be called out, regardless of party. This is such a simple thing, and it might improve the national conversation a little.



Filed under: Blogging, Iran, PJ Media, Politics — Rick Moran @ 5:36 am

My latest at PJ Media is up and it deals with our slowly evolving policy toward Iran, begun during the Bush administration and carried on by Obama’s team, that the US has rejected the military option entirely (or nearly so) and is working toward containment and deterrence.

A sample:

The number one unpleasant truth the UN refuses to face is that the Iranians are not going to stop their drive for developing the capability to build a nuclear weapon unless someone physically restrains them from doing so. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made this perfectly plain and there should be no reason to doubt him. He has tied the Iranian nuclear program to the issue of Iranian sovereignty and demands the same rights any other nation has to a nuclear program granted under international law.

The “P-5 + 1? talks (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) in Geneva will simply confirm what everyone already knows: no sanctions regime will prevent Iran from continuing their nuclear work. There are no enticements, no blandishments that the Iranians will accept in exchange for abandoning what they clearly see is a matter of national pride and international prestige. To think otherwise is not logical.

There have been all manner of grandiose proposals for a “grand bargain” that would establish a multinational enrichment facility on Iranian soil, or a vastly increased inspection regime by the IAEA, in exchange for inducements to Iran that consist of sponsoring Iranian membership in the WTO to increased trade with the West.

But when Iran refuses, what then? And here is where I think it fairly obvious that the United States, the West, and the rest of the world have already accepted the idea that Iran is going to eventually develop the capability to construct a nuclear bomb.

It’s easy to declare that bombing Iran will get them to see reason (how this is so is never quite revealed). But taking a hard headed look at the military option necessarily means trying to ascertain what you would gain by a strike versus what you would lose. And I think in the fall of October, 2006, the Bush administration finally reached a consensus that the military option would cause far more problems than it would solve.

The recent revelation about a previously unknown Iranian enrichment facility drives that point home. For any military action to be successful, we would have to identify the the targets that would have to be destroyed in order to set back the Iranian program several years (the relentless logic of zero sum benefits/consequences demands that we don’t have to go back and do the same thing in a matter of months). But it is likely now that Iran has been surreptitiously adding to their capability by building facilities of which we are totally unaware.

You can’t bomb what you don’t know about. And given the ruinous consequences of military action to American interests, you damn well better be sure that any such strike took out enough of the Iranian program that they could not threaten anyone for at least a couple of years. (I am not even going to address invasion and regime change. Such notions are silly.)

And what of the consequences to the innocent? No one has ever - repeat ever - deliberately bombed a nuclear enrichment facility (the Israeli strike on the Osirak reactor never hit the reactor itself, targeting the vast infrastructure that supported it). But by definition, a strike on Nantanz or the vast complex we would be hitting centrifuges and reactors full of enriched uranium:

The Persian Gulf nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran have more than half the world’s known oil reserves. The 1981 study by Fetter and Tsipis in Scientific American on “Catastrophic Releases of Radioactivity” estimated that bombing a nuclear reactor would cause 8600 square miles around the reactor to be uninhabitable, depending on which way the wind blows. Bombing the Bushehr reactor will mean half of the world’s oil is instantly inaccessible. Bombing Iran means that Americans will not be driving cars any where, any more, for a long, long time. The American Way of Life will be finished. An economic collapse unimagined by Americans will follow. Mechanized farming and food transport will be finished. Famine is a possibility. Food riots are a certainty, in the land of plenty, with the fuel gauge on empty.

By the way - we’d probably end up killing some Russians if we bombed Bushehr as they are assisting the Iranians in construction.

And Israel? Richard Clark sums up the Israeli dilemma on bombing Iran:

Well, put yourself in Israel’s shoes. The President of Iran has said repeatedly that he wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He’s repeatedly denied that the Holocaust ever took place. He talks in mystical terms about the invisible Imam and the return of the expected one, the Madi, all of which sounds like an Islamic version of the fundamentalist Christians talking about rapture and final days and if this person had the authority to throw nuclear weapons around, would he perhaps throw them at Israel without further provocation because he wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth? From the Israeli perspective, two or three nuclear weapons going off in their country is the end of their country. This is an existential issue for Israel. So, we, as Israel’s ally, have to take that into account. This is not just a question of another country getting a nuclear weapon like, say, Pakistan or India. It’s a question of a country that has actively supported terrorism, has had complete disregard for international law and talks openly about destroying Israel. So, this is a serious question for the United States and for Israel. But it doesn’t mean that because it’s a serious question that the answer is necessarily a military option.

As I point out in the PJM piece, Israel is apparently taking a wait and see attitude - at least until the end of the year. At that point, unless the world applies “crippling” (word used by the Israeli ambassador to the US) sanctions on Iran, all bets are off and the clock may strike midnight.

Israel is in a horrible position - but so are we if they strike. Iran will simply blame us anyway and the same consequences that would accrue if we ourselves bombed the Iranians would probably be visited on us anyway. Logically, this would mean that we may threaten Israel with a cutoff or a substantial reduction in aid if they choose the military option towards Iran. My guess is, they’ve already been told that which has probably delayed a strike on Tehran to this point.

If the rest of the world has already accepted the fact of Iranian nukes, this means that Israel is probably alone in their desire to start a war over the issue. Would that stay their hand in attacking? Obama would not stand still for an Israeli strike on Iran where America was blamed so in addition to all the other consequences that the Jewish state must calculate, there is the very real possibility of an actively hostile America to consider. If that becomes part of the calculation, it is very possible that Israel would not bomb Iran and would work with us to develop missile defense and other countermeasures short of war.

I fully realize that many supporters of Israel would like to see either the US or the Jewish state bomb Iran. Sometimes, a military response is necessary regardless of the consequences. But in this case, where the gain in bombing is so uncertain while the consequences of military action are stark and predictable, responsible policy makers here, and in Israel, I believe, will eventually come to the conclusion (if they haven’t already) that the second option - unsatisfying as it is - of not taking military action while working to protect our friends and deter the Iranians otherwise, is probably the wisest course.

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