Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging, Environment, General, History, Politics, UNITED NATIONS — Rick Moran @ 12:33 pm

I used to laugh at some of my fellow conservatives who believed that the United States should withdraw its membership in the United Nations. The notion belonged in the Robert Taft era when visions of Bilderbergs and Trilateral Commission conspiracies haunted the dreams of the paranoid right. (They still do but not half as bad as it used to be.)

Sure, it’s full of anti-American brutes and thugs, but you can’t go anywhere in the world without tripping over people who hate us. You have to be daffy to like the US in a lot of places on this planet — something that was true even after our Lightwalking Messiah became president.

Corruption? There was a time that I believed simple bureaucratic inefficiency at the United Nations was the price we paid to participate in a forum where at least we had the veto in the Security Council. And even with all its drawbacks, there was a time I believed that the United Nations mattered as a place where the superpowers could talk about problems in a neutral forum that contributed to stability and peace.

Yes, I was young and stupid once. Perhaps the UN was never any of those things, that it was a mirage, a convenient fantasy that was designed to cover up the world body’s fatal flaws.

Whatever the UN was, it is no longer. I wrote this a few years ago when I wondered whether it was time to withdraw from the organization:

The United Nations is not a serious place. It is a place where people pretend. It is a place where people pretend to address the serious issues of the day when they have no desire to do so nor seriously engage any process that would begin to solve them. It is a place where people pretend that what they do or say matters one whit to the gimlet eyed thugs whose murderous designs on the rest of humanity are downplayed and even rationalized. And it is a place where people pretend that all of this is so despite knowing full well that it is not.

Adults do not pretend. Adults deal with the world as it is not as they would like it to be. In this, the UN then has become a playground, a fantasyland for childish notions of “peace” and “stability.” It has become the number one enabler of genocidal maniacs, brutish aggressors, and fanatics with an eye on Armageddon. And since the consequences of facing down the evil is too painful, they pretend the evil doesn’t exist.

Add to this a breathtaking cynicism that has now made the UN not only fatally flawed, but dangerous to human liberty as well. Is it my imagination or has the United Nations gotten infinitely worse over the last two decades? Maybe it’s that I’m paying attention more but it seems to me that there have been some massive examples of personal and institutional corruption publicized in the last few years relating to the UN which prove that this is an organization that does not deserve US taxpayer monies, nor is it any longer in the interest of the United States to belong.

Oil for Food - possibly the biggest bribery case in the history of human civilization with up to $20 billion in bribes and kickbacks, also ensnaring former SG Kofi Annan and his son; the UN “peacekeeper” scandals involving selling underage girls for sex - these are just the more egregious examples of the shocking corruption that passes as business as usual for the world body.

The day to day waste is incredible. Nobody knows how much the UN Secretariat spends because it doesn’t have a budget in the real sense of the word. It is estimated at around $5 billion a year - just for the secretariat. That doesn’t include all the funding for WHO, peacekeepers, and other UN functions.

And now, the clincher.

The Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the UN office that is ramrodding the entire planet-wide effort to cut emissions, do the science, and transfer massive amounts of cash from rich countries to poor countries, has a conflict of interest so profoundly corrupting as to be beyond belief.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri is involved in dozens of companies who benefit directly from his panel’s decisions on climate change:

Although Dr Pachauri is often presented as a scientist (he was even once described by the BBC as “the world’s top climate scientist”), as a former railway engineer with a PhD in economics he has no qualifications in climate science at all.

What has also almost entirely escaped attention, however, is how Dr Pachauri has established an astonishing worldwide portfolio of business interests with bodies which have been investing billions of dollars in organisations dependent on the IPCC’s policy recommendations.

These outfits include banks, oil and energy companies and investment funds heavily involved in ‘carbon trading’ and ‘sustainable technologies’, which together make up the fastest-growing commodity market in the world, estimated soon to be worth trillions of dollars a year.

Today, in addition to his role as chairman of the IPCC, Dr Pachauri occupies more than a score of such posts, acting as director or adviser to many of the bodies which play a leading role in what has become known as the international ‘climate industry’.

A guy who has the fate of the western world’s economies pretty much in his hands has a direct, personal, financial interest to portray climate change as gruesome, terrifying, and inevitable a reality as possible?

Should it surprise us that this is, indeed, how the IPCC views climate change when the man responsible for leading the world toward a responsible future is involved with “more than a score” (20) of companies who are set to become fabulously wealthy because of his say so?

A guy who doesn’t know his ass from a climate model is overseeing the biggest cooperative international effort in history. The only thing comparable that comes to mind was the nearly successful effort by the WHO to eradicate smallpox. But the world was much smaller back in the 1970’s and no one had to gin up fear about the effects of that disease.

Are we to believe our government is unaware of these connections? Of course not. You can bet they are also fully aware of the consequences now that these connections are out in the open.

Here’s just a couple of those pies in which Dr Pachauri has dipped his fingers:

The original power base from which Dr Pachauri has built up his worldwide network of influence over the past decade is the Delhi-based Tata Energy Research Institute, of which he became director in 1981 and director-general in 2001. Now renamed The Energy Research Institute, TERI was set up in 1974 by India’s largest privately-owned business empire, the Tata Group, with interests ranging from steel, cars and energy to chemicals, telecommunications and insurance (and now best-known in the UK as the owner of Jaguar, Land Rover, Tetley Tea and Corus, Britain’s largest steel company).

Although TERI has extended its sponsorship since the name change, the two concerns are still closely linked.

In India, Tata exercises enormous political power, shown not least in the way it has managed to displace hundreds of thousands of poor tribal villagers in the eastern states of Orissa and Jarkhand to make way for large-scale iron mining and steelmaking projects.


TERI-NA is funded by a galaxy of official and corporate sponsors, including four branches of the UN bureaucracy; four US government agencies; oil giants such as Amoco; two of the leading US defence contractors; Monsanto, the world’s largest GM producer; the WWF (the environmentalist campaigning group which derives much of its own funding from the EU) and two world leaders in the international ‘carbon market’, between them managing more than $1 trillion (£620 billion) worth of assets.

All of this is doubtless useful to the interests of Tata back in India, which is heavily involved not just in bio-energy, renewables and insurance but also in ‘carbon trading’, the worldwide market in buying and selling the right to emit CO2. Much of this is administered at a profit by the UN under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) set up under the Kyoto Protocol, which the Copenhagen treaty was designed to replace with an even more lucrative successor.

Under the CDM, firms and consumers in the developed world pay for the right to exceed their ‘carbon limits’ by buying certificates from those firms in countries such as India and China which rack up ‘carbon credits’ for every renewable energy source they develop – or by showing that they have in some way reduced their own ‘carbon emissions’.

How can anyone take anything the IPCC says about climate change seriously? What kind of cynical, corrupt, power hungry organization would place this man in charge in the first place?

Look, I am not a warming denier. But Holy Mother of God people - we’re about to spend trillions of our own money and many trillions more from other industrialized countries based on this crook’s say so. And don’t bother to tell me that the IPCC isn’t affected by what Pachauri wants. It is he who shaped the IPCC statements in 2003 and 2007 that sounded such a shrill alarm about global warming. Would the warnings have been so dire without him as chairman? Don’t you think we should find that out before committing economic sepaku?

If Climategate didn’t convince reasonable people to take a second look at the science upon which global warming is based, perhaps these revelations will force even some believers to be a little more skeptical.

And this should also be the last straw as far as our participation in the United Nations. Sure, keep giving money to WHO, to the refugee commission, maybe even to the peacekeeping operations.

But our contributions to keep the United Nations secretariat functioning should be stopped and we should clear out our offices and let the kleptocrats have it. When having sex, I like to know who’s screwing me - something you can’t say about the UN.



Filed under: Science, Space — Rick Moran @ 11:29 am


We are getting so close to discovering extra-solar civilizations, you can almost taste it.

Of course, in science, this is usually the point that the ground disappears beneath your feet. But there are a couple of things about this discovery of a near earth like planet that point to some kind of breakthrough in the near future.

First, the discovery itself is one of those “gee whiz” moments that occur when something extraordinary happens in science:

It’s not exactly Earth’s twin: It’s about six times bigger, a whole lot hotter and made mostly of water. But compared to the giant gas balls that account for nearly every other extrasolar planet ever found, it’s pretty darn close. And through a fortunate happenstance of cosmic geometry, astronomers will be able to study GJ 1214b in great detail.

“If you want to describe in one sentence what this planet is, it’s a big, hot ocean,” said Harvard University astronomer David Charbonneau. “We can even study its atmosphere. This planet will occupy us for years. That’s part of what’s so exciting about it.”

Described by Charbonneau and 17 other astronomers in a paper published Wednesday in Nature, GJ 1214b is the latest of roughly 400 planets detected by earthly telescopes. Of these, 28 are considered “super-Earths” — planets with a mass roughly comparable to our own.

The super-Earths themselves are too distant to be seen. Instead, astronomers infer their presence from subtle distortions in starlight, caused when photons travel through the super-Earths’ gravitational fields. Depending on the degree of distortion, astronomers can even calculate a planet’s mass.

Unfortunately, a couple of other “super earth” discoveries can’t be examined in quite the minute detail as GJ 1214b (let’s call it “Gilligan” for the moment). In order to glean the spectrum from these giant earths, it is optimum for the object to pass in front of their star. But these transverses are not common and therefore make viewing these objects difficult.

But Gilligan is differrent:

GJ 1214b does pass in front of its sun. Separated from Earth by a distance of just 42 light years, it’s close enough to be studied. Scientists will finally get to look at another Earth-like world.

Another exciting fact about Gilligan:

The telescopes that spotted GJ 1214b were custom designed to find Earth-like planets around nearby stars, and had only operated for a few months before striking water.

If true, it may be that we’ll have to start dusting off Frank Drake’s old equations and update them for the 21st century. When I read that, a chill went up the back of my neck. Either they are incredibly lucky and have found a needle in a haystack in record time, or we are in for a huge surprise as far as the number of earth like planets out there.

Meanwhile, NASA’s Kepler telescope, launched last year, has begun its own search for extra-solar earth like objects. This is a unique mission that will focus it’s photometer on a field containing about 100,000 stars for the entire 5 year mission. It’s goal; to find earth like planets in a “habitable zone” that transit in front of their own stars:

The Kepler instrument is a specially designed 0.95-meter diameter telescope called a photometer or light meter. It has a very large field of view for an astronomical telescope — 105 square degrees, which is comparable to the area of your hand held at arm’s length. It needs that large a field in order to observe the necessary large number of stars. It stares at the same star field for the entire mission and continuously and simultaneously monitors the brightnesses of more than 100,000 stars for the life of the mission—3.5 or more years.

The photometer must be spacebased to obtain the photometric precision needed to reliably see an Earth-like transit and to avoid interruptions caused by day-night cycles, seasonal cycles and atmospheric perturbations, such as, extinction associated with ground-based observing.

Results from the Kepler mission will allow us to place our solar system within the context of planetary systems in the Galaxy.

As mentioned above, these transits, while not rare, are not present for all planets. But the advantage of Kepler is that it will be looking at a huge number of stars simultaneously and will probably be able to give us a better idea of not only the number of earth like planets, but also whether Sol like solar systems are common or something of a rarity.

On deck for NASA - the NextGen space-based telescope. Due to launch in 2014 (heh - we will see that date slip), we are going to trust the Ariane rocket supplied courtesy of the European Space Agency to launch this cargo into a unique part of space; what scientists call an “L-1″ orbit that will place the earth, the moon, and the sun where those three bodies are directly behind the telescope at all times and thus, the instrument can be shielded at all times from infrared radiation emanating from those bodies.

This is crucial because the NGST or James Webb Telescope will be able to look back to the very beginnings of star and galaxy formation, as well as being able to discern life on distant planets. It’s sensitive infrared instruments must have a total black out of all extraneous radiation for that to happen.

Are we finally on the verge of finding E.T.?

“Only rarely does a long-sought scientific frontier loom so prominently just beyond the horizon, that the next generation of instruments seems sure to reach it,” wrote Geoffrey Marcey, a University of California, Berkeley astronomer, in a commentary accompanying the findings. “They provide the most-watertight evidence so far for a planet that is something like our own Earth, outside our solar system.”

Perhaps not locating an advanced civilization. But if all the other conditions for life are right - and that discovery seems just around the corner - from what we know of how life evolves, the odds are very great that the “Are we alone” question may be answered through physical observation and not simply inferred by using our common sense.



Filed under: Decision '08, Environment, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:02 am

Hillary Clinton has apparently spurred world leaders to come to an agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Was it the power of her personality? The moral suasion of her arguments? Her good looks?

More like her promise to help raise $100 billion a year to give to developing countries - in addition to the foreign aid we already are supplying - so that they can deal with the “effects” of climate change:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has promised the United States will help raise $100 billion annually by 2020 to assist poor countries in coping with climate change as long as America’s demands for a global warming pledge are met.

Clinton’s announcement, made during a packed news conference, represents a major breakthrough in the U.N.-led talks, which had all but ground to a halt last night. But Clinton emphasized that the money is only on the table so long as fast-growing nations like China and India accept binding commitments that are open to international inspection and verification. If other countries don’t bend, she warned, the poorest countries will suffer.

“In the absence of an operational agreement that meets the requirements that I outlined, there will not be that financial agreement, at least from the United States,” Clinton warned. And, she added: “Without that accord, there won’t be the kind of joint global action from all of the major economies we all want to see, and the effects in the developing world could be catastrophic.”

The pledged amount is less than what the European Union had laid out as necessary to help the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America prepare for climate disasters and develop low-fossil-fuel economies. Clinton said the funding would come from a mix of public and private financing, including revenue raised from the auctioning of emission allowances under a possible U.S. cap-and-trade system still under development on Capitol Hill.

There seems to be some confusion in the blogosphere over this figure of $100 billion. No, the US would not be paying all of it as many are reporting. But you can bet we’ll be paying a nice chunk of it, and that was music to the ears of the developing world.

President Obama arrived Friday morning and immediately went into a meeting with several dozen heads of state to try and save the conference by coming up with at least some kind of interim deal where the details could be worked out later:

A visibly angry Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet at China and other developing nations Friday, declaring that the time has come “not to talk but to act” on climate change.

Emerging from a multinational meeting boycotted by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Obama warned delegates that U.S. offers of funding for poor nations would remain on the table “if and only if” developing nations, including China, agreed to international monitoring of their greenhouse gas emissions.

“I have to be honest, as the world watches us. … I think our ability to take collective action is in doubt and it hangs in the balance,” Obama told the COP-15 plenary session as hope faded for anything more than a vague political in agreement.

“The time for talk is over, this is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of an historic endeavor, or we can choose delay,” he said.

He added, “The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart. … We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years.”

Back home, senators critical to getting a climate bill through Congress have stressed that developing nations must submit to international monitoring — particularly if they want the U.S. to pay hundreds of billions to help combat the destructive impact of climate change.

Rumors of a deal were greatly exaggerated. Evidently, everyone is hanging back until Obama commits the US to ruinous emissions targets. Obama is holding back until he gets China to walk the plank with him by agreeing to robust, on-site “verification” procedures. China won’t do it because, obviously, they want to cheat and don’t want anyone knowing it.

China will play the global warming game when they want everyone to believe they are being a good global citizen. But when it comes right down to it, any emissions targets would be ruinous to their coal-fired economy. Hence, they have not only been pushing for nebulous targets but for weak verification as well. And the US wants to deny China any of that climate change cash that great environmentalists and human righs champions like Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe are licking their chops over.

The kleptocrats of the world who have stolen hundreds of billions from their own people, as well as taxpayers in western countries as foreign aid has largely gone down a black hole of graft and corruption, are lining up for their cut of this bounty. And if you believe that much of this trillion dollar largess is going to be spent on efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, I have a bridge over the Chicago river I would like to sell you.

The world has gone mad and our president is in lock step with them as they approach the precipice. Even if you “believe” the science - and not all climate change advocates are frauds, or evangelists for warming, or commies wanting to take over the world - the reaction of the planet’s leaders to this problem is blown titanically out of proportion. It is the Precautionary Principle run wild.

Why believe those scientists who say we must act now to avoid catastrophe? Why is their work any more believable than those who say it’s already too late or those who say we have at least another century before we have to start worrying? There may be “consensus” that the world is warming and that man is at least party responsible. But there is nothing approaching scientific agreement on how much the earth will warm, how long it will take, and - most importantly - whether reducing emissions will help alleviate the problem at all.

Is Friedman right?

When I see a problem that has even a 1 percent probability of occurring and is “irreversible” and potentially “catastrophic,” I buy insurance. That is what taking climate change seriously is all about.

If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels. We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent.

But if we don’t prepare, and climate change turns out to be real, life on this planet could become a living hell. And that’s why I’m for doing the Cheney-thing on climate — preparing for 1 percent.

Friedman’s scenario is a dream. First of all, there is nothing “gradual” about this switch. The president wants to cut our emissions 20% by 2030 and have 10% of our power output based in “renewable” sources by 2020. Currently, renewables account for around 3% - and most of that is nuclear which, as we all realize, is a no no in the environmental movement.

As far as the Precautionary Principle is concerned, Rand Simberg applies the necessary realism in his response to Friedman’s desire to “buy insurance” against his 1% probability of warming:

Well, I do that, too. But I buy insurance that has a price commensurate with the expected value (i.e., the cost of the disaster times the probability that it will occur). For instance, I’ll pay a few hundred bucks for a million-dollar policy against the small chance that I’ll kick off tomorrow. Presumably, Friedman assumes that the proposed palliatives of cap’n’tax or carbon taxes meet that criterion, but he doesn’t do the calculations for us, because he can’t. Warm mongers like him propose to spend trillions of dollars now to prevent an unknown amount of cost later, in defiance of the basic economic principle of discounting the value of future expenditures.

There is a variation on this fallacy, in fact. It goes: There is a crisis; something must be done! What we propose to do is something. Therefore, it must be done!

This invalid argument is otherwise known as false choice, of course, because the alternative to the particular something being proposed is not nothing (even if one accepts the initial premise that there is a crisis about which something must be done) — it is a variety of other somethings, some of which may be the something that is actually key to solving the problem, even if their own is not necessarily.

So in the next decade, we are going to ostensibly replace coal fired generating plants with either a massive program to put solar panels on tens of millions of structures, or simply do without power. That would mean frequent brown outs and perhaps even blackouts - you know, kind of like they have in the third world. Those coal plants will simply become too expensive to run and the electricity generated would be too expensive to buy.

Subsidy loving liberals will step in to solve the problem. Hey! Let’s give money to folks so they can make the changeover to solar! Or help the poor folks pay their massively increased electric bills! Or both!

Secondly, the massive dislocations caused by the precipitous changeover to a “green” economy are ill understood. Certainly there are millions of jobs in the coal, oil and gas, utility, and other fossil fuel industries that would be lost for good because of these goals. And to say they would be “replaced” by green jobs is idiotic. Is anyone seriously trying to make the point that a 40 year old coal miner in West Virginia could simply show up at a solar panel manufacturing plant and get a job? Or a roughneck find employment on a wind turbine farm?

Get real. Friedman will find out what a “living hell” looks like if the kinds of draconian measures being advocated in Copenhagen actually become reality. And it’s hard not to believe that literally destroying the capitalist economies of the west so that we just don’t feel sympathy for third world countries but actually become just like them isn’t part of the plan as the reaction to Hugo Chavez in Copenhagen made clear:

President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ - “our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell….let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.” He won a standing ovation.

Note to Chavez; the most polluted places on this planet are in Russia and eastern Europe; nations where socialism reined supreme for decades and where profit was a dirty word. And Communist China is the second largest emitter of CO2 on earth.

This is not about the earth warming. It is not about temperature. It is not about saving the earth.

This is about control. And if you can’t see that after what has gone on in Copenhagen this week, then you deserve the absolute worst fate that these thugs and autocrats have in store for you.



Filed under: Decision '08, General, History, Media, Politics, The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 11:28 am

We’re a month short of a year since Barack Obama took office with sky-high approval ratings and the people prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on a range of issues from the economy, to health care reform, to the environment.

I think in order to be fair, we should acknowledge that unlike George Bush, Barack Obama has tackled head on some very difficult, and divisive problems at the outset of his presidency. In contrast, looking at Bush’s situation prosaically, he got some popular legislation passed prior to 9/11 (tax cuts and No Child Left Behind) after which point his popularity rose to spectacular levels as a result of the attacks on America.

It’s easy for a president’s approval ratings to remain high if he doesn’t do anything controversial or is in office during a national security crisis. But president Obama did not have that luxury. He made a deliberate, calculated decision to tackle an economic crisis with a massive expenditure of funds, address global warming by getting the House to pass a carbon trading scheme, and tried to ram a gargantuan health care reform bill through the Congress.

We can argue the merits or demerits of what the president was attempting to do, but what is not at issue is that by addressing these controversial matters, Obama’s approval ratings were bound to drop.

But drop this far?

In December’s survey, for the first time, less than half of Americans approved of the job President Barack Obama was doing, marking a steeper first-year fall for this president than his recent predecessors.

Also for the first time this year, the electorate was split when asked which party it wanted to see in charge after the 2010 elections. For months, a clear plurality favored Democratic control.

The survey suggests that public discontent with Mr. Obama and his party is being driven by an unusually grim view of the country’s status and future prospects.

A majority of Americans believe the U.S. is in decline. And a plurality now say the U.S. will be surpassed by China in 20 years as the top power.

The president’s approval stands at 47% in this WSJ/NBC poll. That’s probably higher than it should be from the standpoint that the president is failing on a number of levels:

* The “stimulus bill,” the writing of which was outsourced to Congress, has not had the anticipated results and a majority of Americans now see it as something of a boondoggle.

* Cap and Trade/Global Warming was in trouble before Climategate with the public becoming increasingly skeptical of both the problem and the solution. Again, the president depended on his congressional lieutenants to carry the load to the point now where any action on the bill is on life support in the senate.

* Health care reform is currently in meltdown. Everybody agrees there is a problem. No one - except the president himself - likes what the process has done to the legislation. It is rare that something could get so screwed up that liberals, moderates, and conservatives can mostly agree - for different reasons - that the bill is a turkey.

It would be false to say the president hasn’t done anything right. Parts of the stim bill, like the monies for alternative energy research and development, were good and necessary expenditures of the public purse, and even parts of the health care bill address critical problems in a reasonable manner. And the president’s foreign policy record, while spotted with jaw dropping naivete in some respects, nevertheless has its good points as well.

But overall, the president simply isn’t delivering. Disaster seems to be overtaking his administration and for whatever reason, he seems powerless to halt the slide.

It could be that the issues are just too divisive, too complex to address. This would be a reflection on the current state of our politics where nuance and complexity are abandoned for sound bites and excessive partisanship. If this be the case, we are in deeper trouble than even that poll might suggest.

But I believe the president’s troubles go beyond the issues or the nasty backbiting that passes for political discourse today. I think a case can be made that the president simply isn’t demonstrating leadership. He is not convincing anyone. He is not inspiring a lot of people. His dealings with Congress are strangely docile and subdued, as if he is holding back, allowing them to take the lead.

He doesn’t appear able to use the full power of his office to get his way. And when he tries hardball - threatening Senator Nelson with the loss of Offut AFB, a key jobs generator in Nebraska for example - he overplays his hand. While he seems adequately engaged on the issues, his prescription for everything appears to be more speeches and town halls or transparent gimmicks like the “Jobs Summit.” Last weekend, he journeyed to the Hill and gave a pro-forma speech to senators - a gimmcky, useless exercise. Later in the week, he dramatically called senators to the White House only to let Rhambo read them the riot act, while the president sat by, all but disengaged from the fray.

Is this a fatal flaw in the president’s personality? We knew so little about the man before he became president that we simply couldn’t judge how his obvious leadership qualities would translate into concrete skills. Perhaps he abhors confrontation. Maybe he is getting bad advice. Whatever the cause, he better figure out a way to right the ship quickly.

With health care, the process has taken on a life of its own. Getting something, anything passed has now become the priority, and with that comes confusion and compromises. Shouldn’t the president be stepping in and drawing a line in the sand “this far and no farther?” This is what the Democratic base wants Obama to do and it is sound advice.

The process is out of control and the senate Democratic caucus is coming unglued because of it. Whether any kind of reform can get through either chamber is now up in the air with liberals taking the lead in opposing the senate bill. And with the president’s base now on the warpath, who is going to support what is clearly a flawed piece of legislation? It appears an impossible task for the president to be able to cobble together a coalition of Democrats that could make reform a reality at this point.

As the president jets off to Copenhagen - another disappointment, although the lack of any significant agreement is not his fault - he leaves behind an administration that is on the precipice of failure. Sure he has three more years to go, and he could no doubt recover enough to beat any Republican challenger in 2012.

But the high hopes and high expectations that he rode into office are fading fast, and by the time he delivers his state of the union speech, he may have to think hard about re-calibrating his priorities and perhaps even re-inventing his presidency.


Filed under: PJ Media — Rick Moran @ 9:20 am

My latest column is up at PJ Media - a tongue in cheek Welcome Wagon for Gitmo detainees who may be calling Illinois home soon.

A sample:

“Land of Lincoln”

That’s our state motto. No, Honest Abe was not born here (he was born in Kentucky). He didn’t grow up here either (he spent several years in Indiana). But since both Kentucky and Indiana were a little slow in claiming him as one of their own, he got to be ours by default.

You might also be interested to know that our state amphibian is the Eastern tiger salamander, our state insect is the monarch butterfly, and our state reptile is the painted turtle. And when the state legislature gets around to naming an official jihadist martyr, we’ll let you know.

A word about the weather; it gets cold in Illinois. Real cold. The other day while you were basking in 80 degree temperatures in Cuba, we were freezing our butts off at 7 below. And if you’ve never spent a summer along the Mississippi River, I suggest you bring a lot of mosquito repellent and a fan. You have no idea what hell is like until you experience 95 degree days and 80% relative humidity.

So there’s that to look forward to also.

Thomson, IL: Things to do

From the official village website:

We have some of the finest watermelons and produce in the country.

Thomson is at the intersection of Illinois Route 84 and Argo Fay Road nestled along the mighty Mississippi River, where Potter’s Marsh (U.S. Corps of Engineers - Thomson Causeway Public Use Area) offers some of the finest camping in Northwestern Illinois. Thomson is also known for some of the finest duck hunting, deer hunting and turkey hunting in the state of Illinois. Fishing is great!! We have a wide variety of fish on the mighty Mississippi River, Huge Catfish, Walleye, Bass, Northern Pike, Bluegills and the list goes on and on.

If you are planning on a quiet vacation or want to do some camping, come and see what Thomson has to offer. Thomson is also the site of the Illinois Department of Corrections newest maximum security prison - a $145 million facility which remains unopened.

Now, doesn’t that sound inviting? Love watermelons, and I’m sure you will too. In fact, our town nickname is “Melon Capitol of the World.” They are especially valuable for hollowing out and hiding guns, bombs, and knives. They are also an excellent way to hide messages to your friends, relatives, and fellow terrorists overseas.

In truth, this is just a god-awful move - a waste of money, and only necessary in a  political sense. The president promised his liberal base he would close Guantanamo, but found the problems in doing so a little more tangled than he realized on the campaign trail (and probably his second day in office as well when he signed the executive order to close Gitmo by year’s end).

It’s not like the president hasn’t broken other promises he made during the campaign. Why keep this one? I think the president is playing more to his foreign admirers than he is any domestic constituency. In that respect, one might legitimately ask does the European left now have a say in our national security?

I might mention that Obama’s decision also bails out Illinois Democrats who were at a loss with what to do about this turkey of a prison. Blagojevich announced the closing of Pontiac prison (about 15 miles from where I live)  apparently without realizing that Thomson wasn’t ready to take that many criminals.

(Note: Pontiac is an old facility - one of those prisons that looks exactly like a prison in old movies: forbidding, dark, gothic.)

I also take a shot in that piece at those who are overly concerned about security and the possibility of a jihadi breakout. But I save most of my ammunition for the Democrats.

Read the whole thing.



Filed under: WORLD POLITICS, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 3:26 pm

It’s a helluva war when you can’t tell who your friends are.

That goes double for Pakistan. After creating the Taliban, they appear reluctant to annihilate them.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has resisted a direct appeal from President Obama for a rapid expansion of Pakistani military operations in tribal areas and has called on the United States to speed up military assistance to Pakistani forces and to intervene more forcefully with India, its traditional adversary.

In a written response to a letter from Obama late last month, Zardari said his government was determined to take action against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and allied insurgent groups attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan from the border area inside Pakistan. But, he said, Pakistan’s efforts would be based on its own timeline and operational needs.

The message was reinforced Monday by Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, who told Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, that the United States should not expect “a major operation in North Waziristan” in the coming months, according to a senior U.S. defense official. North Waziristan, one of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border, is a sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban.

What do we get for tripling our aid to Pakistan?

In return, the United States wants Pakistan to “move on our mutual interests, which includes the Haqqani network and includes the Taliban in Pakistan,” Vice President Biden said Tuesday in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” His reference was to the North Waziristan-based faction led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Siraj, and the main Afghan Taliban organization, which are fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani counterinsurgency operations this year have primarily targeted separate but allied groups — the Pakistani Taliban based in South Waziristan and operating in the Swat Valley region — whose attacks are directed toward Pakistani government targets.

“We’re committed to this war, but we’ll fight it on our terms. . . . We will prioritize targets based on our interests. We don’t want them to be dictated to us,” a Pakistani intelligence official said. He added: “The Pakistani Taliban is the clear and present danger. They are what matters most. Once we are done with them, we will go after the Haqqani network.”

Considering the fact that for the last 7 years, they have failed to close off their own borders to Taliban incursions into Afghanistan - with enough evidence that they are if not facilitating such crossings, they are ignoring them - one might legitimately question their commitment.

And those questions include wondering whether Pakistan is being deliberately obtuse in their statements about the Afghan Taliban. After all, we are not going to be there forever. They know that now. The idea of the ISI keeping a connection to the Taliban so that they can shape a post US Afghanistan to their liking should not be ignored by the Obama administration. Bottom line: They don’t want to destroy the Taliban in Afghanistan. And they certainly don’t want to do us any favors.

And remonstrances are legitimate when it comes to the way the Pakistani government has dealt with the Taliban in Swat as well as South Waziristan in the past. From Mushrraffs Faustian bargain with them in 2006 to Zardari’s weasel deal with them earlier this year that allowed the Taliban a free hand in Swat, our urgings for the last 5 years to crack down on these thugs were met with contempt. The Pakistanis thought they could ride the tiger and not get mauled.

Recent events would seem to show them the error of their ways.

Yes, they have their hands full now in the FATA. But we have every right to question their commitment to assisting us. They will be glad to take our $7.5 billion and, when we’re not looking, spend it on killing Indians rather than terrorists. Their objection to that caveat for the military aid was so strong, the brass almost started a coup against the government.

But, we need them - desperately. There is only one major supply line to our troops in Afghanistan and it runs through Pakistan. The Iranians aren’t going to help us. And Russia has been helpful at times but not to the extent that we could rely on Putin to keep the chow line open.

If we want to stay in Afghanistan we need Pakistan’s full cooperation. That, unfortunately is the way of the world at the moment.



Filed under: The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 4:51 pm

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome technology writer Charlie Martin and my AT colleague Larrey Anderson for a look at the confusion roiling the Copenhagen climate conference as well as the latest on health care reform.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

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.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio


Filed under: Blogging, Ethics — Rick Moran @ 11:08 am

It would be so easy to write about Christmastime this year and turn it into a Scrooge-like rant about how awful things are, how America is going to the dogs, how the economy has made everyone fearful and grouchy, or how America is past its zenith and has begun a frightening decline from which she will never recover.

The truth is, I could write that post with my eyes closed. And those familiar with this site know that I don’t need the occasion of Christmas to make similar points.

Instead, maybe we should look beyond the day to day and focus in on the big picture.

What is really the most important thing in your life? The standard answer is “my family,” or “God,” or perhaps “my community.” All of those are nice, safe answers and probably true to one degree or another.

I was thinking about this question last night as Zsu-Zsu and I put up our outside decorations for Christmas. And it struck me that there is something perhaps even more fundamentally important in my life than any of those; it is “luck” or, the Greeks would call it “fate” without which the rest simply wouldn’t be very important at all.

Many would ascribe “fate” to the plans of a Supreme Being. If that gives you comfort, I will not argue with you. But being an atheist and a secularist, I think it absolutely incredible that I find myself here in America, alive in what is surely the most exciting time in the history of human civilization in what is still the greatest nation on earth, living a life that billions around the globe and many tens of millions in America can only dream of living, while being surrounded by the warmth and comfort of people that love me.

We generally refer to this as “counting our blessings.” I look at it as pure chance, the product of the random spinning of atoms, molecules, matter, and the mystical, unknowable vagaries of life influenced by the choices we make as well as simple biology.

There is something unsettling about this, which no doubt led to the belief that our lives unfold according to a divine plan. Whether it’s some kind of “God gene” or a specific place in the brain that predisposes our species to ascribe to the supernatural what is actually the result of fate, there is a natural human tendency to take comfort in believing that even with “free will,” our life path can only be made relevant by adhering to the plan some deity has laid out for us to follow.

Again, I intend no disrespect to people of faith. But when I think about where I might have ended up for my stay of three score and ten years on this planet, who I might have been, the kind of family I could have been born into, and the alternate consequences that would have befallen me if I had made different choices in my life, I feel a sublime oneness with with, for lack of a better term, the “universe.” Rather prosaic of me, I know but the point is, the very randomness that caused all of this to occur is quite humbling and makes one aware that putting forth an effort to take from this life every possible joy - which includes giving joy to others - is the best way one can be true to themselves and their concept of living a moral life.

The Greeks believed that a person’s “fate” was in the hands of three goddesses; the Moirae:

THE MOIRAI (or Moirae) were the goddesses of fate who personified the inescapable destiny of man. They assinged to every person his or her fate or share in the scheme of things. Their name means “Parts.” “Shares” or “Alottted Portions.” Zeus Moiragetes, the god of fate, was their leader,.

Klotho, whose name meant ‘Spinner’, spinned the thread of life. Lakhesis, whose name meant ‘Apportioner of Lots’–being derived from a word meaning to receive by lot–, measured the thread of life. Atropos (or Aisa), whose name meant ‘She who cannot be turned’, cut the thread of life.

At the birth of a man, the Moirai spinned out the thread of his future life, followed his steps, and directed the consequences of his actions according to the counsel of the gods. It was not an inflexible fate; Zeus, if he chose, had the power of saving even those who were already on the point of being seized by their fate. The Fates did not abruptly interfere in human affairs but availed themselves of intermediate causes, and determined the lot of mortals not absolutely, but only conditionally, even man himself, in his freedom was allowed to exercise a certain influence upon them. As man’s fate terminated at his death, the goddesses of fate become the goddesses of death, Moirai Thanatoio.

The Moirai were independent, at the helm of necessity, directed fate, and watched that the fate assigned to every being by eternal laws might take its course without obstruction; and Zeus, as well as the other gods and man, had to submit to them.

We like to think the Greeks and Romans “superstitious.” But a careful reading of the tasks set out for the Moirae’s reveals a subtly of logic that, while still dependent on the supernatural, nevertheless offers the beginnings of a humanistic response to questions of why I am here, now, and not somewhere else at some other time in history. The element of randomness is part of their belief system which is a recognition that there is some unseen force that plays a role in the affairs of man.

You might legitimately ask why this sudden interest in randomness especially at Christmastime? Despite all that has gone on in recent years that I have written about with passion, energy, and mustering whatever common sense and knowledge I have to bring to bear in illuminating the events that have roiled our nation and the world, nothing is as important as being reminded of the basic notion that I am extremely lucky to have what I have, both material and spiritual in this life. All else flows from that premise, and the concept of “fate” that is responsible for all this should engender awe at the unknowable vagaries of life that have reached out and touched who and what I am to fill me to the brim with happiness.

And isn’t that what Christmas (in the secular sense), at bottom, is all about? Spreading joy by sharing, getting close to your family, making an effort to give more than you receive - in the classical Christian sense, we do this because by recognizing our blessings, we are praising God for his gifts.

But for me, it is enough that I accept the idea that in order to be true to myself, I should celebrate my good fortune by being the best person I can be and share what I have with those close to me, as well as those who deserve better.



Filed under: Blogging, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:12 am

I know this won’t come as a shock to many of you. For months, I have been urged to prove how smart I am by abandoning conservatives to their own fate. Inspired by such luminaries as David Corn, Charles Johnson, John Cole, Andrew Sullivan, and Sylvester Stallone, I have decided to take the plunge - or walk off the cliff - and do it. From here on out, I am no longer a conservative.

My problem is, what should I call myself now? “Independent” is too much like RINO. Ditto “moderate.” Moderate what? I suppose I could swallow hard and refer to myself as a “liberal,” but frankly, I don’t think I have what it takes. I would need brain surgery to get my synapses firing the politically correct way, not to mention the alteration of brain chemistry necessary to reduce my cognitive abilities to the requisite level.

So, in desperation, I am announcing my conversion to Communism.

Being a commie is easy. No need to think hardly at all. All you have to do to become a Communist is sprinkle your conversations with a few identifying words and phrases and you’re in.

“Power to the proletariat!” is a good start. This is an all purpose phrase and is especially effective when people smarter than you (everybody) make a point in an argument you can’t refute, such as “Communism doesn’t work, ninny.”

Other words and phrases I will find that come in handy will be “religion is the opiate of the masses,” - especially effective against Christians. In fact, never ever use the term “the people” when talking about large groups. Always refer to them as “the masses.” No one will ever mistake me for anything but a redbelly, Lenin loving communist as long as I use the word “masses” to describe my fellow citizens.

And, of course, always call your friends “comrade.” If you want to impress people you’ve just met, call them “comrade” too. If someone disagrees with you, it can be an enormous amount of fun to refer to them as “capitalist, imperialist pig.” Communism is the only ideology of which I am aware where you can call someone you don’t even know a “pig” and it will sound perfectly normal.

I suppose I am going to have to get used to spouting about the “class struggle” too. This phrase is a little trickier to inject into casual conversation but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

Whatever…it sure beats thinking about stuff. And there are ancillary benefits too. Ever notice how gorgeous women are always hanging around pimple faced, straggly bearded communists? Being a commie is a babe magnet. It probably has something to do with the fact that some women are suckers for losers, or have a soft spot for lost puppy dogs. Whatever, once a chick knows your a communist, they can’t wait to jump your bones.

So there’s that to look forward too. Then there’s the fact that my job prospects will improve enormously - in some quarters. Just think about all the teaching positions that would open up if I were to become a commie? Why, there would be dozens of colleges lining up to bid for my services. I could write my own ticket at Berkeley. Ditto CUNY. And Columbia would roll out the red carpet for me - literally. Hell, I wouldn’t even have to know anything about the subjects I’d be teaching. Just read a few lines from Das Kapital or Dreams from my Father and open the class for discussion. The kids know the routine and would bulls**t their way to “A’s” and “B’s.”

I’d probably win “Teacher of the Year.”

Other opportunities besides teaching would present themselves if I declared Red, of course. Would I be setting my sights too high to try for a position at the White House? I know the competition for commies in government is something fierce these days, but I think I have a lot to offer. Like the rest of the Obama administration, I wouldn’t have a clue about what I should be doing. And I think I’d be very good at designing ruinous economic programs, writing bad legislation, and generally mucking things up.

The only drawback is that I am not a member of an oppressed minority. Perhaps once national health insurance is a reality, I can get a sex change operation paid for by the taxpayer. Or perhaps the strategic application of a little shoe polish would get me past the Gatekeepers in personnel. Maybe both.

Naturally I discussed my conversion to Communism with Zsu-Zsu. As always, she listened thoughtfully to what I had to say. Her eyes narrowed a bit when I got to the part about the young hippie chicks falling all over me but other than that, her face registered no emotion.

It wasn’t until I called her “comrade” that I got any reaction at all. It was at that point that she whopped me upside the head with a rolled up newspaper.

“Oh for God’s sake Ricky,” she said as I vigorously rubbed the knot growing on my forehead. “You’ll never make a good commie, ya dope.”

“Why not?” I asked through the pain. Zsu-Zsu knows of what she speaks, having spent the first few years of her life living in Communist Hungary.

“You hate standing in line for anything, you have no patience with bureaucrats, and you don’t say ‘comrade’ with half enough conviction.”

She’s probably right. I’d make a lousy communist. Looks like I have no alternative but to remain a conservative for the time being.



Filed under: History, Media, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:20 am

I note with some disappointment the reaction of many conservatives to the History Channel’s broadcast of The People Speak,, a project brought to us by the radical professor of political science, Howard Zinn.

Referring to Zinn as an “historian” is something of a misnomer. Rather, he uses his research into history to advance a personal, political, far left agenda. In other words, scholarship takes a back seat to politics.

Is he “anti-American?” Zinn, much more than most on the left, is dissatisfied with America not only as she has turned out, but even as she was conceived. His decidedly deterministic and Marxist interpretation of history sees the “revolution” as a gigantic trick played upon ordinary people, substituting British tyranny, for the merchant and manufacturer tyranny of the upper class that was homegrown. This makes him “anti-American” in the sense that he hates even America’s founding.

So yeah, he’s one of the few Americans that I would have little hesitation in referring to as “anti-American.”

But Zinn has also done this country - inadvertently - an enormous service. His book A People’s History of the United States popularized social history in a way that more academic social historians have never been able to do. There have been a few social histories of the United States that found favor with the public. David Hackett Fisher’s Albion Seed which told the story of the migrations to early America was a best seller. My personal favorite is a trilogy by the former Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin simply called The Americans.

But Zinn’s one volume People’s History is riveting reading and is used as a textbook in some high schools and many colleges today. Zinn gets in your face and forces you to see the underside of America that is just as real, just as compelling as any patriot’s story you are likely to read. It is full of angry people telling their stories, indicting America for its many sins against Native Americans, women, blacks, and unionists.

Yes, this is “real” history and deserves as much of an airing as any narrative history that reveals the sunny side of our past. The reason is “perception.” Good history - popular history - always has a point of view. Events are revealed according to the biases, both conscious and unconscious, of the historian. There is the danger - one that Zinn tumbles into - that the historian will become too emotionally involved with the subject matter and begin to make decisions that de-objectify the narrative. But good historians writing good history overcome this prejudice by thoughtful scholarship and not romanticizing or demonizing their subject. Conclusions are drawn carefully, and not without a bellyfull of primary source material that leads the reader to draw conclusions almost naturally, without much help from the author.

Zinn lets ordinary Americans reveal his point of view while structuring his narrative for maximum emotional impact. It is a damned effective technique although one should question how “scholarly” this approach might be.

An honest assessment then, would give these ordinary Americans directly affected by slavery, Jim Crow, second class citizenship for women, cultural genocide of Native Americans, and the government’s resistance to the formation of unions their voice and an equal place in our national storybook. Their words reflect their personal perceptions - their real life experiences - with oppression.

It is hard for some of us to acknowledge the fact that the glowing words and idealism found in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution didn’t mean squat to a very large number of our fellow Americans for a very long time. This is the way it was, and still is in some respects, which is why it is vital that we listen to what they have to say and acknowledge that we have often fallen short in making our ideals a reality for all Americans.

There is no shame in this. Indeed, I celebrate the fact that it is part of our exceptional nature that if we fight hard enough, and long enough, we can change the very nature of our society, something that is an impossibility just about anywhere else on earth. It is this revolutionary spark that is nurtured by books like A People’s History of the United States, even if its author is an anti-American, Marxist loon.

The History Channel would have done well to limit the scope of this project. It appears from their website that they have not. Wandering off into subjects that are clearly the personal pet peeves of Zinn would seem to make The People Speak almost unwatchable.

Case in point, this segment on the mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line in the winter of 1781. The narration leading up to a description by a Continental soldier named Samuel Dewee of the execution of 5 mutineers is laughable - a travesty really. The narration is read by poet Staceyann Chin and describes the officers eating well and being clothed in fine, warm uniforms while the ordinary soldier went about in rags while being paid in “worthless Continentals,” the inflated paper money. The mutiny was a protest against soldiers not having been paid since the beginning of the war and resentment against some officers was commonplace as it is in any army.

The facts are a little different. Most officers had not been paid either. If they ate better - a highly dubious proposition - it was because there were some that received their salary in coin, dispensed by the Pennsylvania state government, and were able to purchase food from the farmers in the surrounding countryside. These were usually officers who were still carried on the rolls of the state militia. Most received nothing.

And the executions? While corporal punishment was common in every army at that time, there is no official record that anyone was executed for the mutiny. It is hard to say what Dewee was describing when he told of these executions because according to histories developed from primary source materials, no one was put to death as a result of the mutiny. A few weeks after the Pennsylvanian’s protest, some New Jersey troops tried the same thing - with much different results. Washington sicced some hard eyed Connecticut men on the New Jersians and the mutiny died in a few hours. He also executed some of the ring leaders.

The question I have is why include this little vignette at all? Are we supposed to be shocked that starving, unpaid patriots would rebel against the authorities who were the cause of their intense suffering? Matt Damon was apparently so shocked that his junior high knowledge of history prevented him from imagining the bad things that have happened in America that he wanted to share with the rest of us.

And this is my major beef with this entire project. I have seen several of the segments from the series and the whole enterprise stinks of sanctimony - as if American history of this kind is locked away in a closet guarded by CIA agents 24 hours a day. All these liberal Hollywood and artsy-fartsy types have the arrogance to think that they are revealing anything that a 5th grader couldn’t discover on his own by taking a walk to a local library or even getting on line and performing some simple minded googling.

An example is Matt Damon’s melodramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. That document contains a list of grievances of the colonists, some of which may find an echo with both right and left today. I have no doubt this is Zinn’s doing, as the radical is constantly calling for revolution of the non-violent kind.

In fact, for Damon and some of the others who read the letters, diary and journal entries, speeches, and other media upon which the show is based, it appears that they approach the subject matter as if there has been some kind of plot to keep our inglorious past hidden from the American people. Simpletons who are exposed to critical pedagogy are usually floored when they realize that they don’t know everything. And upon receiving knowledge that overturns their assumptions, are almost evangelical in their desire to lecture the rest of us about what we don’t know.

Social history is a valuable adjunct to narrative history - the latter usually concentrating on the “Great Man” or “Great Ideas” view of our past. But social history without proper context is incomplete and this Howard Zinn project for the History Channel appears to fail miserably in providing any kind of structure that would enlighten anyone about the true nature of America and our past.

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