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1/29/2011
SOMETIMES THE BEST POLICY IS TO GET OUT OF THE WAY WHEN HISTORY IS ROLLING FORWARD

The administration is torn between two competing visions put forward by the foreign policy establishment in Washington of what the US should do and say about the crisis in Egypt, and as is typical, they have chosen to split the difference.

This Washington Post editorial represents what might be termed the idealistic faction:

The United States should be using all of its influence - including the more than $1 billion in aid it supplies annually to the Egyptian military - to ensure the latter [regime change] outcome. Yet, as so often has happened during the Arab uprising of the past several weeks, the Obama administration on Friday appeared to be behind events. It called for an end to the violence against demonstrators and for a lifting of the regime’s shutdown of the Internet and other communications. Encouragingly, the White House press secretary said that the administration “will review our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days.”

But U.S. statements assumed that the 30-year-long rule of the 82-year-old Mr. Mubarak would continue. After speaking to Mr. Mubarak, President Obama said Friday night that he would continue to work with the Egyptian president; he did not mention elections. Instead, in an apparent attempt to straddle the two sides, the administration suggested that the solution to the crisis would come through “engagement” between the regime and the protesters.

Representing the realists, Rep.Thaddeus McCotter issued a statement published in Human Events to the effect that we should stand behind Mubarak:

Though many will be tempted to superficially interpret the Egyptian demonstrations as an uprising for populist democracy, they must recall how such similar initial views of the 1979 Iranian Revolution were belied by the mullahs’ radical jackbooted murderers, who remain bent upon grasping regional hegemony and nuclear weaponry.

In this crisis, the American people deserve candor and action from President Obama, and President Hosni Mubarak and General Tantwai.

This is not a nostalgic “anti-colonial uprising” from within, of all places, the land of Nassar. Right now, freedom’s radicalized enemies are subverting Egypt and other our allies.

There are good arguments that can be made for both positions - with very large caveats. Standing behind Mubarak and stability might be the desired goal but is it realistic at this point? Preventing radical Islamists from ascending to power might be beneficial to the US and Israel, but at what cost? Is any cost worth what it will now take to beat down the protests?

Of course, WaPo’s suggestion invites the worst case scenario. We have the Iranian revolution as a guide in this respect and to imagine jihadists in charge of the largest Arab country in the world with the largest military - a nation that would then be at odds with Israel - would cause any president to lose a considerable amount of sleep.

It should be remembered that the situation in which we find ourselves was not created overnight. Thirty two years of backing this thug by Democratic and Republican presidents alike while giving his military tens of billions of dollars seemed a good tradeoff at the time but, as a famous scholar once opined, “the chickens have come home to roost.” It’s too late for either scenario above. We can’t pull the rug from underneath Mubarak and expect the demonstrators to love us. Nor can we continue to support the Egyptian president and not expect whatever government the mob throws up to view us with anything but contempt.

The world is about to change and the administration is unable to decide what to do to help shape the future to the benefit of US interests. Is it the nature of the crisis that this is so? Or is it that Obama and his State Department are like a deer in the headlights when it comes to proposing options?

I tend to believe the former; any response, any action we take will not materially affect events to our advantage. It may be emotionally satisfying if the president were to come out four-square in favor of “democracy” and the demonstrators. But like the Iranian uprising, to what end would the rhetoric be directed? Would it be to save Mubarak? Save lives? Save the Camp David Accords that Caroline Glick makes a good case for it being all but dead now?

And as we now see, all of its possible secular and Islamist successors either reject outright Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel or will owe their political power to the support of those who reject the peace with the Jewish state. So whether the Egyptian regime falls next week or next year or five years from now, the peace treaty is doomed.

Is this scenario overblown? Heather Hurlburt thinks so:

Some American commentators have argued that Al Jazeera is somehow fanning Islamism and anti-Americanism with its coverage. But as Marc Lynch has pointed out, Egyptian citizens, like Tunisians before them, are so—justifiably—angry at their governments that it’s hard to imagine what new provocations the station could come up with. Similarly, concern about the relative strength of the Muslim Brotherhood, which espouses a fundamentalist strain of Islam and has championed and employed violence in the past, should be balanced against three other facts: (1) The Brotherhood has renounced violence and it has been active in Egyptian politics, transformed by an internal debate about whether and how to participate, for some time now; (2) Thus far, observers on the ground report that it is young, secular Egyptians who are leading this revolt; (3) The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition organization in Egypt, is a first-rank enemy of Al Qaeda, and has been for decades. (A chapter in the recent “Self-Inflicted Wounds” from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center lays out the feud, and how it has played out in Egypt, South Asia and elsewhere, in detail. Briefly, the Brotherhood’s goals have been more political and focused on individual governments—and thus less focused on what Bin Laden refers to as the “far enemy”—the United States homeland.) Meanwhile, it is reasonable to be concerned about the future role of radical extremists where other forces are weak, but this kind of scaremongering is actually quite ignorant; it’s also disheartening and potentially damaging to the true democrats—some of whom organize around Islam, and some of whom don’t—that are doing the struggling and dying right now. Americans, like others around the world, are instinctively cheering for them. They are right to do so.

Just because “secular oriented” young Egyptians appear to be in the forefront now, what are the chances that they will be a force in the new government? That kind of muddled, idealistic thinking is not helping. Blithely ignoring the Muslim Brotherhood’s anti-Semitism while downplaying their radical agenda (Hey! They hate al-Qaeda!) is more a demonstration of myopia than thoughtful analysis. Who cares if they hate Bin Laden? Is al-Qaeda the only Islamist group who wants to damage American interests or destroy Israel? I don’t want to make this an ideological critique but this kind of nonsense appears on the left far more than on the right. We are at war with radical Islam in all its forms.

Also, Hurlburt exhibits far too much faith in the wisdom of the mob. No one knows what might happen in a free and fair election, but if history is any guide, when given the choice, it is not unknown for Middle Eastern voters to choose the Islamists voluntarily. In Egypts case, where even Hurburt admits the Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful and best organized opposition group, a victory by the Islamists, although not assured, would certainly be more than a possibility.

Hardly “scaremongering” or “ignorant” to point out he obvious.

I don’t know what the Obama administration could be doing that it isn’t doing right now. They might have tied the Vice President and gagged him. Biden’s statement about Mubarak not being a dictator was reminiscent of Carter’s New Year’s toast to the Shah, congratulating him for running a country that was an “island of stability” in the region. Within weeks, Carter was made to look like an idiot.

The State Department has ordered US diplomats out of the country. If Carter had done that, he may very well have won a second term - a counterfactual not lost on Obama. Their statements on the crisis reflect a divided establishment, which isn’t surprising given our 32 year support for Mubarak and the mix of rationalists and idealists.

Sometimes, you just have to get out of the way when history is rolling forward and pick up the pieces afterward. It is unsatisfying to contemplate doing nothing, but in this case, it may be the best way to do no further harm to our interests than has already been inflicted.

Parts of this blog post originally appeared at The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 10:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

1/27/2011
WHAT OBAMA AND THE GOP DIDN’T SAY

My latest article is up at FrontPage.com and it is about the curious disconnect both parties exhibited between reality and politics.

Neither side made much mention at all of our entitlement crisis.

And a crisis it is.

Cosmetic gambits like “spending freezes” and “doc fixes” can’t even begin to address the danger. This is political gamesmanship and it should anger us that the politicians know it but do it anyway. It’s not that the crisis is hidden, or has come upon us suddenly. We’ve known for decades where we were headed, but Washington chose the easy way: the politicians ignored the problem, kicking the can down the road, assuming they would be well into retirement — living off their extravagant congressional pensions — before history forced our hand.

The can has now been kicked into a cul de sac and there’s no way we can start kicking it back down the road. It may not be our fault, but we’re the ones who are going to have to pay for all of these promises so recklessly made by previous generations. One way or another, a solution will be found — or imposed — on us. Those are the only alternatives. Either the politicians will find the political courage (that they won’t get credit for) to start cutting and slashing at the monster or the monster will solve our problem for us by devouring us.

A few bare bones numbers are needed to prove that this is not hyperbole or political exaggeration. If we were to fulfill the promises made to every American from those born as I write this to the oldest citizen regarding Social Security and Medicare, it will cost us at least $130 trillion. Long before then, the entitlement crunch will have destroyed our economy. By 2016, 71% of the federal budget will be dedicated to paying entitlements of one form or another, the vast percentage of that being Social Security and Medicare.

There are 78 million baby boomers set to retire over the next 30 years, all expecting that monthly Social Security check for the rest of their lives. The significance of this is a matter of demographics. The number of workers paying into Social Security was 5.1 per retiree in 1960; this declined to 3.3 in 2007 and is projected to decline to 2.1 by 2035. We are currently in hock to the Social Security Trust Fund to the tune of $2.5 trillion. This number is expected to rise to $3.8 trillion by 2019. But by 2015, payments to Social Security beneficiaries will begin to exceed tax receipts. And by 2037, payments to recipients would start declining automatically – whether we wanted them to or not. The Trust Fund would be exhausted and Congress would be unable to tap any other revenue streams from the government to pay for it.

I erred in the year that Social Security’s payments to beneficiaries would exceed tax receipts. It’s not 2015. It’s this year.

Ain’t that lovely?

There are only two ways this is going to end and neither is without massive pain. The first is, we find the courage to confront the crisis and make the painful adjustments necessary to salvage our future. Or, we do nothing and get rid of the problem when the economy collapses.

Matt Welch writes that we “don’t do big things” anymore.

Here’s a reality check: We will not have high-speed rail within Segwaying distance of 80 percent of the country, ever. We will not get 80 percent of our electricity from “clean energy sources” by 2035, unless someone far outside the halls of government invents a snail that eats trash and poops hydrogen. Obama won’t veto every bill that arrives on his desk with earmarks–re-watch that part of the speech last night; no one believed him.

Why won’t these things happen? Because, as Rep. Paul Ryan rightly emphasized last night, the only real policy issue in America right now is that we are on the verge of fiscal catastrophe because cannot afford the government we’re paying for today, let alone the one we’re promising for tomorrow. And the president, though he is much more serious on this issue than a huge swath of his political party, is nonetheless not remotely serious about this issue. Vowing to cut $400 billion over 10 years (a plan that, judging by the two people clapping when he proposed it, will likely be cut to ribbons if it survives through Congress), at a moment when the deficit for this year is more than three times that, indicates that Democrats (and a helluva lot of Republicans as well) are hunkering down in our awful status quo–half-heartedly tinkering around the edges of spending, making incremental changes this way and that, then launching new moonshots and redoubling old impotent efforts. Politicians have put us on the precipice of financial ruin, and they show no indication of doing a damned thing about it.

[...]

There are more than a quarter million people working at the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce. Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security combined nearly pass the half-million mark. And at a moment of grave fiscal peril, we continue to spend half the planet’s money on defense, with Obama et al expecting thunderous applause for snipping out “tens of billions” from future defense spending growth. We continue to arrest 800,000-plus people a year for smoking or trading a plant that makes you want to eat Pop Tarts.

No, these people are not serious about the task at hand. The state of our union, as measured by the competence of people in power, is a f***ing disgrace.

It would be the biggest thing America has done since Apollo if we could attack the entitlement problem successfully. It will require the same amount of effort, despite the obvious fact that it isn’t very sexy, nor will it excite the American people.

In fact, it will have the opposite effect. In order to tackle Medicare and Social Security unfunded liabilities, no less than a drastic alteration in the way Americans think about government will have to take place. Old people will be scared and angry. Younger people might feel betrayed. The only ones who will be grateful are those yet unborn or in their infancy who will have vestiges of these programs to help them when they get older.

One big adjustment Americans are going to have to make is they are going to be paying more for their own health care. Hopefully, this will make everyone realize that there is no free lunch and that a kind of self-rationing protocol where people will only use the health care system when they truly need it will gradually take hold. The “fee for service” model will have to go and other ways to reimburse doctors and hospitals for their work will have to be found.

As for Social Security, there will probably never be a political consensus to privatize it - no matter how bad it gets. The program is much easier to deal with, however, simply by raising taxes and/or increasing the retirement age. That might buy us a few decades. Eventually, even that bandaid won’t be enough and we’ll be back to where we are today. Why some kind of means test, where those who are tapping another pension, or whose income without Social Security is above a certain level could receive less is a mystery. We have means tests for all kinds of entitlements and Social Security should be similarly administered.

Every year we delay adds a few trillion to our unfunded liabilities - now standing at $130 trillion. Here’s Bruce Bartlett on what we have to look forward to:

To summarize, we see that taxpayers are on the hook for Social Security and Medicare by these amounts: Social Security, 1.3% of GDP; Medicare part A, 2.8% of GDP; Medicare part B, 2.8% of GDP; and Medicare part D, 1.2% of GDP. This adds up to 8.1% of GDP. Thus federal income taxes for every taxpayer would have to rise by roughly 81% to pay all of the benefits promised by these programs under current law over and above the payroll tax.

Times’s up, Congress, Mr. President.

By: Rick Moran at 1:12 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

1/25/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW ALAS, LEBANON

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

Tonight, I welcome Rich Baehr of the American Thinker, Tony Badran of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, and Tom Harb of the World Council of the Cedar Revolution. We’ll discuss the Hezballah takeover of the Lebanese government and what it means for US policy and the Middle East.

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.”

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

By: Rick Moran at 5:14 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

HEZB’ALLAH NAMES NEW LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER

A handpicked candidate for prime minister by Hezb’allah will likely win parliamentary approval today. Thus ends the independence of the Lebanese state.

Even the New York Times sees the writing on the wall with their headline, “Hezbollah Chooses Lebanon’s Next Prime Minister:”

A prime minister chosen by Hezbollah and its allies won enough support on Monday to form Lebanon’s government, unleashing angry protests, realigning politics and culminating the generation-long ascent of the Shiite Muslim movement from shadowy militant group to the country’s pre-eminent political and military force.

Hezbollah’s success served as a stark measure of the shifting constellation of power in this part of the Middle East, where the influence of the United States and its Arab allies - Egypt and Saudi Arabia - is seen by politicians and diplomats as receding, while Iran and Syria have become more assertive.

American diplomats tried to forestall the triumph of Hezbollah’s candidate, Najib Miqati. Although the final votes will be cast Tuesday, Mr. Miqati won the decisive vote from a politician who said he had to deal “with the reality on the ground.”

The government that Mr. Miqati, a billionaire and former prime minister, forms may in the end look much like past cabinets in this small Mediterranean country. Indeed, Mr. Miqati struck a conciliatory tone, calling himself a consensus candidate.

Mr. Miqati is hardly a “consensus” candidate. His “Glory Movement” party has precisely 2 seats in the parliament. In contrast, fallen PM Saad Hariri’s Future party has 71 seats. He was also seen as a “consensus” choice when he assumed the prime minister’s post in the immediate aftermath of the Syrian withdrawal in the spring of 2005. The problem was the same back then; suspected of having divided loyalties. He was chosen by Syria’s Assad to fill the post of interim prime minister. It would have been impossible to choose a candidate who did not meet with the Syrian president’s approval at the time.

Daniel Larison points out Miqati’s placement on Hariri’s list of allied candidates in the 2009 elections which, I suppose, ties him to the former PM in Larison’s eyes. Miqati was running for office from a district in Tripoli - a Suinni stronghold dominated by the Future party and, at the time, was the site of unrest as clashes between Sunnis and Shias were taking place. It was political expediency that forced Miqati to run as an Hariri ally and not any kind of ideological affinity for Hariri’s politics. This is not unknown in Lebanese politics, of course. But trying to put lipstick on a pig by saying that Miqati ran on Hariri’s list and inferring that this is somehow acceptable to the bulk of Sunnis or that he is not a danger to an independent Lebanon is too much of a stretch. He will do Hezb’allah’s bidding - especially as it relates to the Special Tribunal Lebanon (STL).

The STL, a UN sponsored tribunal looking into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (as well as the dozen or so other political murders in Lebanon since that date), was the cause of the fall of Hariri’s government in the first place. Their secret indictments, handed down last week, almost certainly name prominent Hezb’allah members as the guilty parties in carrying out the crime. Hezb’allah demanded that Hariri denounce the STL and make a statement to the effect that it is a US-Israeli plot to tarnish the squeaky clean reputation of the terrorist group/political party. Hariri refused, the Hez withdrew their cabinet ministers, and have now named the next prime minister.

Miqati’s first order of business will be to cut the cord between Lebanon and the STL. That would be a minimum demand from Hezb’allah for their support. Those indictments carry no weight now, and there will be no trials of the accused in Lebanon or elsewhere.

There are some observers who see Iran ascendant in Lebanon - perhaps even able to exert some kind of control over the tiny country. That may be true to some extent with regard to Lebanon’s relations with Israel, Iran, and Syria. But it is a little more complicated than Iran telling Miqati, or even Hezb’allah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah what to do.

Nasrallah has his own agenda in Lebanon that at times, will work at cross purposes with his paymasters in Iran. It may even be true that Supreme Leader Khamenie would have preferred to see Hezb’allah remain in the background and not take such a prominent role in forming a government. It was reported that Khamenei was angry at Nasrallah for instigating the 2006 war with Israel, knowing full well that the militia could not go toe to toe with the IDF for any length of time. There was much grumbling by the Iranian people and leadership when they were forced to resupply Hezb’allah following the end of hostilities. Clearly, Nasrallah is far from being Iran’s puppet, although there are several areas where their vital interests intersect - most especially as those interests relate to Israel and its destruction.

It is Syrian president Bashar Assad who now holds the whip hand in Lebanon; not so much because he controls Nasrallah but because he has outsized influence on many prominent individuals in Nasrallah’s March 8 movement. Death threats and cash payoffs by Syria to key factions in Lebanon has cemented loyalty to Assad’s regime and means that the Syrian president has virtual control of much of the Lebanese parliament - at least enough to affect votes as they relate to Syria and their considerable economic interests in Lebanon.

What killed the Cedar Revolution? In the end, a lack of courage was March 14th’s downfall. It’s not really a criticism in that standing up to Syria, Iran, and Hezb’allah was more than likely to get you and your family killed. Few possess such otherworldly physical courage and to deride the Lebanese democrats for their failure in this regard isn’t fair unless you place yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you would act.

But it would have taken more than courage to wrest Hezb’allah’s guns from their possession, or risk civil war in order to stand up to Hezb’allah and their political blackmail. At bottom, it came down to the same formula for power it always does; those with the guns and the demonstrated ability to use them usually win out in the end.

This post originally appears on The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 7:24 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

1/18/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: THE DECLINE OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLES

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

Tonight, I welcome Fausta Wertz of Fausta’s Blog, Jeff Dunetz of Yid with a Lid, and Monica Showalter of Investors Business Daily. We’ll discuss Mark Steyn’s piece in The New Criteria about the inevitable decline of the two great English speaking nations.

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.”

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

By: Rick Moran at 5:28 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

1/17/2011
HIGH DRAMA, LOW COMEDY IN ILLINOIS TAX FOLLIES
CATEGORY: PJ Media, Politics

My latest is up at PJ Media where I give an account of the passage of the massive tax increase that was rammed through the Illinois legislature last week.

A sample:

The fact is, we treat these politicians and the whole process as if it were a religion. This breeds humorlessness among the citizenry, which leads to a decidedly unfunny political climate where we are forced to take goofballs like Joe Biden and Sarah Palin seriously. What passes for humor from both sides is the kind of ill-tempered, mean-spirited, pulling-the-wings-off-flies jocosity you grow out of when you hit puberty.

That’s why before I go to bed at night, I hit my knees and thank God I live in Illinois.

You people who live in good government states like Minnesota and Vermont really don’t know what you’re missing. You might have the occasional stray dog who wanders off the straight and narrow, dipping their greedy paws into the public purse, or perhaps being a little too generous to their friends and political supporters. Politics, like any human endeavor, has more than its share of charlatans, grave robbers, and amoral amoebas who were born with a prison number tattooed across their forehead. No matter how squeaky clean you try and make your local governments, these types always seem to make an appearance now and again just to remind us all of the moral frailty of our species.

But really, how entertaining is that kind of government? Once you start taking politicians too seriously, they start taking themselves too seriously and then you’re in trouble. A politician who takes himself too seriously actually believes they can solve the problems of the world by spending just a little bit more money that isn’t theirs. They start to believe their own campaign rhetoric about how wonderful they are and before you know it, your state is up to its eyeballs in debt.

Illinois has the most fascinating, the most colorful, the most entertaining politicians in the land, which makes following the goings on in Springfield akin to watching a combination Demolition Derby and cockroach race. Of course, we still get politicians who spend the state into penury, but at least we’re disabused of the notion that any high ideals or uplifting principles are at work. It is a rotten-to-the-core, cynical, sybaritic exercise in politics for fun and profit and it was on full display last week. A lame duck session of the Illinois legislature passed a gargantuan tax increase on individuals and businesses, while borrowing another $4 billion to seed the gold-plated retirements of unionized state workers.

I am going to start calling Illinois Governor Pat Quinn “Four-County Quinn.” In the November election, Quinn managed to win just 4 out of 102 Illinois counties. Of course, he won Cook County, the most populous county in the state, by more than 500,000 votes. This proved too much a handicap for his Republican opponent Bill Brady to overcome.

It should be obvious by now that Illinois politics will never be reformed, which is why it is so much better to see the goings on in Springfield as comedy rather than bemoan the lack of good government. Life’s too short to grant these crooks and charlatans the benefit of taking them seriously. If you do, you’ll only end up miserable like all Illinois political reformers who continue to be disappointed that their efforts don’t yield more positive results. Trying to stop a tidal wave of corruption with a spoon is not logical - but it makes the reformers fair game for humor too. King Canute had better luck stopping the tide from coming in than reformers have in trying to stem the corruption in Illinois politics.

What happens next with Illinois’ fiscal crisis? Sit back, pop some popcorn and prepare to be amazed and entertained.

By: Rick Moran at 9:56 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

1/13/2011
HIGH NOON IN LEBANON

I have a piece up this morning at FrontPage.com on the fall of the Lebanese government.

A sample:

What appeared to be the last straw was the failure of a joint Syria-Saudi Arabian initiative to broker a compromise between the two parties. Indeed, the issue is so intractable and the positions of the adversaries so set in stone, that a compromise always appeared to be out of reach. When this became obvious on Tuesday night, Hezbollah jacked up the pressure by demanding that the cabinet, which hadn’t met since December 15th of last year, meet to vote on the issue while threatening to walk if this demand was not swiftly met. The majority March 14th party refused to convene a cabinet meeting with a gun to its head, at which point it became just a matter of time before Hezbollah made good on its threat.

The opposition chose the present moment to make their move as Prime Minister Hariri was in Washington meeting with President Obama. The timing could not be coincidental as the opposition ministers announced their resignations at the same time that Hariri and Obama were holding talks. Mustapha Allouch, a senior member of Hariri’s Future Movement, told AFP that the opposition wanted “Hariri to enter the meeting with the US president as an ex-premier or as head of a caretaker government.”

Hariri cut short his visit to Washington and will return to Lebanon to consult with his coalition about what to do next, after stopping off in France for talks with French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

[...]

And so Lebanon’s descent into the Iran-Syrian orbit continues unabated as Hezbollah’s grip on the throat of the tiny country gets stronger and Syria circles around the carcass like a jackal waiting to pounce once the prey stops struggling. It’s a far cry from the heady days of the “Beirut Spring” just 5 short years ago when such high hopes were ignited by massive protests that kicked the Syrian army out of Lebanon and elections brought independent-loving democrats to power.

Now, many of those politicians are either dead, or cowed by events. And the people of Lebanon are on edge today wondering how long – or if – the peace will last.

By: Rick Moran at 11:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

1/11/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: MASSACRE BY METAPHOR

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

Tonight, I welcome Jazz Shaw of Hot Air’s Green Room, Vodkapundit Stephen Green of PJTV, and Doug Mataconis of Outside (and Below) the Beltway. We’ll examine political rhetoric and whether its excesses can lead to the kind of tragedy that occurred in Arizona last Saturday.

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.”

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

By: Rick Moran at 5:15 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

1/10/2011
DEATH BY METAPHOR

Michael Daly writing in the New York Daily News:

Palin would no doubt say that she was only speaking in metaphor, that she only meant her followers should work to unseat Giffords and 19 other Democrats who had roused her ire by voting for health care.

But anyone with any sense at all knows that violent language can incite actual violence, that metaphor can incite murder. At the very least, Palin added to a climate of violence.

Palin should have taken it as a warning of what might happen when a Tea Party hothead dropped a gun while heckling Giffords at an earlier Congress On Your Corner event, more than a year ago.

No doubt Palin is not even bothering to defend her use of metaphors because “figures of speech” are just that; a way to colorfully enhance language to make it more interesting and memorable. If I were to say, “Hang Michael Daly from the highest yardarm!” no one with a rational brain cell in their head would actually believe that I was advocating violence against Mr. Daly - despite the fact that a swift whop to the nose with a rolled up newspaper is in order for his clueless rant about metaphors inciting violence.

Similarly, as Jack Shafer points out, the use of military metaphors in politics is so pervasive as to make any criticism of it both bizarre and hypocritical:

For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I’ve listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I’ve even gotten angry, for goodness’ sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.

From what I can tell, I’m not an outlier. Only the tiniest handful of people—most of whom are already behind bars, in psychiatric institutions, or on psycho-meds—can be driven to kill by political whispers or shouts. Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer.

Indeed, at the risk of sounding crass, the only reason this brouhaha erupted was because a nutcase coincidentally got a gun and shot a congresswoman. Otherwise, Sarah Palin’s “bullseye” map had long been forgotten and dropped off the radar of our political conversation.

This begs the question of when Mr. Loughner could have been exposed to the map and why it took him many months to become inspired enough by it to act out his fantasy. Is this a slow motion incitement by metaphor? Why the delayed reaction - even if you accept the preposterous notion that Loughner saw the bullseye map in the first place. Someone on the left might want to explain this to the rest of us before they continue with the “Palin has blood on her hands” meme. Where did Loughner see the bullseye map? When? How could a mind without logic or reason, logically process the bullseye map - as in the suggestion of cause and effect being posited by many liberals - and become inspired to kill?

If you’ve read Loughner’s YouTube blather and incoherent ranting, you wonder if any such logical assumption can be made:

If I teach a mentally capable 8 year old for 20 consecutive minutes to replace an alphabet letter with a new letterand pronunciation then the mentally capable 8 year old writes and pronounces the new letter and pronunciation that’s replacing an alphabet letter in 20 consecutive minutes.

I teach a mentally capable 8 year old for 20 consecutive minutes to replace an alphabet letter with a new letter and pronunciation.

Thus, the mentally capable 8 year old writes and pronounces the new letter and pronunciation that replaces an alphabet letter in 20 consecutive minutes.

Every human who’s mentally capable is always able to be treasurer of their new currency.

If you create one new currency then you’re able to create a second new currency.

If you’re able to create second new currency then you’re able to create third new currency.

You create one new currency.

Thus, you’re able to create a third currency.

You’re a treasurer for a new currency, listener?

You create and distribute your new currency, listener?

There’s more, but if you believe that this tragically broken mind can process information the same way that you or I do then you’re as illogical as Loughner.

Note also that much of the narrative about this incident being caused by conservatives using violent language, threats, and metaphors was formed within a couple of hours of the shooting. In other words, before anything was known about the killer - even his name - the meme had been set, the narrative formed, the smears unleashed despite the fact that motive, state of mind, or even the political affiliation of the killer was published.

This appears to be another case of liberals not letting a crisis go to waste. Already, there has been a move to introduce gun control legislation in Congress. If someone can show me how this tragedy could have been prevented unless guns were banned entirely, I would love to see that fantasy.

And as a sign of the times, Democrats are already using the tragedy to raise money. On the linked page, right next to the letter asking Democrats to send well wishes to Rep. Giffords, is a great, big blue button encouraging people to donate. That link appears in an mass emailing sent by “21st Century Democrats” with this partisan appeal:

We also know that Sarah Palin and Rep. Giffords’ opponent used violent imagery last year urging her opponents to “target” her. Last spring, after she voted to expand health insurance coverage to working families and cut drug costs for senior citizens her office was violently attacked.

Members of 21st Century Democrats helped elect Rep. Giffords in 2006 and re-elect her 2010 because she wasn’t afraid to fight for working people — or listen to them at the neighborhood supermarket. She voted for health care; Wall Street reform, job creation, and much more.

She stood with us — and we need to stand with her in her toughest hours.

Makes you want to pull out your hanky, doesn’t it? Oh, and while you have your hand in your pocket, could you also take out your checkbook and give generously?

You really can’t blame them. They are only following the dictum about not letting a crisis go to waste - perfected by Rahm Emanuel and his boss, the President of the United States, who himself, once used a very colorful metaphor in giving advice to his supporters about how to “debate” the opposition:

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said in Philadelphia last night. “Because from what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.

Politics is not tiddlywinks. It is a full contact sport that oftentimes makes the MMA look like a tea party (metaphor deliberate). Efforts to curb “violent metaphors” - a matter of opinion with which reasonable, rational people recognize as accepted speech - is really about curbing speech by the opposition. Liberals don’t expect anyone to take their violent metaphors seriously when they use them. Only the tragic coincidence of a shooting spree by an individual whose reason has abandoned him has given the left a blatantly political opening of which they have shamelessly and to their great discredit, cynically taken advantage.

By: Rick Moran at 8:48 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

1/8/2011
NO BRAINS, NO SHAME
CATEGORY: Politics

The tragedy in Arizona, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and seriously wounded by an incoherent maniac has caused many leftist heads to explode in absolute, unadulterated idiocy.

First of all, congrats on once again trying to politicize a tragedy. It warms my heart to know that suffering and dying by humans brings out the worst in many on the left and that common decency doesn’t matter half as much as trying to score partisan political points using the most incredibly stupid line of attack available.

While we’re at it, I would say to my friends on the right that it is equally nauseating to try and turn the tables and place responsibility for this crime on the left. The reasons both sides are so monumentally wrong is simple; the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, wasn’t just nuttier than a fruitcake; he was so sick that he was oblivious to the world around him. He was caught up in an alternate universe to the point that trying to say that something from our reality set him off is laughable.

For instance, one of the usual suspects of leftist who make hay out of suffering and tragedy, Jane Hamsher, tries to pin the blame on the congresswoman’s opponent:

Per Puppethead in the comments, Giffords’ 2010 Congressional opponent Jesse Kelly held a June 12 gun event that was billed as follows on the Pima County Republican website:

Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly

The old Sarah Palin bullseye map of targeted Democrats is pulled out also. Curious the the exact same concept - a bullseye map of GOP targets highlighted by the DNC - seems to have been misplaced by Hamsher. No matter. The silliness - one might say the loony tunes attempt to connect a campaign event that involved taking some shots at a plain old target with the GOP candidate many months ago with today’s tragedy bespeaks a mind devoid of reason and logic. Sorry, not this time.

Mr. Lougner’s incoherent rambling in a YouTube posting entitled “My Final Thoughts” should close the case as to whether anything anyone has ever said anywhere at any time had anything to do with motivating him to go postal. Doug Ross has screen shots of the video if you’re interested in reading the missive of a stone cold maniac with absolute zero connection to reality.

Here’s the bottom line. It is the height of idiocy to posit that the motivations of humans who commit such heinous acts are as simple as many on the left make them out to be. The mind is a terribly complex organ and to try and make the gobsmackingly stupid direct connection between something anyone says or does, and the act of violence itself is giggle-worthy. This is especially true in broken and smashed minds like Mr. Loughner.

Trying to draw a line from something Hannity or Palin, or any other conservative says and a light going off in Loughner’s head demonstrates a cluelessness that proves partisan intent rather than any profound psychological truth. It also shows a laughable ignorance of how the mind works - even among those with a healthy psyche. The armchair psychologists on the left who continue to ascribe logical connections to an illogical mind can’t really be serious, can they? They have to know that it is more than likely that a voice in Loughner’s head told him to kill the congresswoman for reasons having nothing to do with politics.

We go through this exercise every time there’s violence like this. One side or the other tries to make political hay out of tragedy with no more knowledge of what drove the perpetrator to violence than my pet cat Aramas.

And at least Ari has the good sense to keep his mouth shut even if he does have a half assed theory about what caused a murderer to snap and let slip his inner demons to wreak havoc on our reality.

By: Rick Moran at 5:17 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)