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12/7/2010
QATAR: THE WRONG DESTINATION FOR WORLD CUP 2022

My latest is up at PJ Media and its about the awarding of the World Cup hosting nation to Qatar - a socially backward autocracy.

A sample:

There are the usual issues that you find in any Arab country with virulent anti-Semitism, polygamy, and an attitude toward women that fits right in with the emirate’s 14th century mode of governance. There is no elected legislature. The people are subjects, beholden to the capricious whims of a potentate with three wives and 24 children. There is a “Municipal Council” where some members are elected, but the reality is that all power is in the hands of the amir, a nice enough fellow who is apparently considered a “progressive” in the Arab world but is still an autocrat.

What really beggars belief is that FIFA failed to take into account two crucial factors in their decision: the climate and Qatar as a tourist destination for Westerners.

As for the latter, just what is there to do in Qatar? This is from the official tourist site:

Tourists can explore the natural environment of Qatar by taking an exciting desert safari, relaxing at the many beaches and pools or just enjoying their favourite sport, be it bowling alleys, tennis, snookers, billiards, golf courses, or ice skating rinks. There is something for everyone in this wonderful place.

All kidding aside, this was a horrible choice by FIFA, the world governing body of soccer and one of the most corrupt international organizations on the planet:

Why sacrifice whatever high ideals are connected with the World Cup — and there are precious few that haven’t been sullied by FIFA — by holding the tournament in a socially backward autocracy that winks at terrorists and terror financing while allowing nauseatingly hateful bigotry directed against Jews?

No doubt the British football hooligans are salivating at the thought of starting poolside fights or breaking up a bowling alley or two. There are good restaurants but alas, no drinking allowed except in exclusive hotels and clubs.

In fact, Qatar would do well to vastly expand the number of venues allowed to serve alcohol, or come 2022, soccer fans will be rioting because they won’t be able to get a beer or three. It’s going to be like tailgating at a football game where brats are outlawed. Americans wouldn’t sit still for that, and I doubt the boisterous Euro-football fanatics will be satisfied with citrus juice or iced tea.

It’s the money. Qatar has promised to spend $100 billion on infrastructure improvements - enough to whet the appetite of the dozens of giant corporations who have a very close relationship with FIFA. And in a country where the amir and his family control everything, awarding them the opportunity to host the biggest sports event in the world no doubt gets FIFA on the royal family’s good side.

By: Rick Moran at 12:09 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

11/23/2010
WALTER MITTY GOES TO WAR

One of the best short stories ever written - later made into a movie starring Danny Kaye - was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which featured a mild mannered daydreamer who put himself into heroic situations in his fantasies. Thurber’s deft touch made the character into a tragic figure, but sympathetic as well, while revealing the fate of non-conformists in a conformist society.

It appears that Walter Mitty has resurfaced in Afghanistan as a lowly shop owner from Pakistan impersonating a deadly Taliban commander in peace talks with the Afghanistan government and NATO. While there are certainly elements of comedy to the story, the idea that our military could be fooled like this is a little frightening.

Makes me want to throw my ashtray through the monitor:

A man purporting to be one of the Taliban’s most senior commanders convinced both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the NATO officials who flew him to Afghanistan’s capital for meetings, but two senior Afghan officials now believe the man was a lowly shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta.

His daring ruse has flummoxed those attempting to start a peace process with a determined Taliban adversary.

“He was a very clever man,” one of the officials said.

The man claimed to be Akthar Mohammad Mansour, the second-ranking Taliban commander after Mohammad Omar, and he met with Karzai and Afghan officials at least twice in recent months to discuss possible peace negotiations, according to the Afghan officials.

He was flown to Kabul on British military aircraft for the meetings and persuasively portrayed himself as a fighter who spoke for the movement, the officials said. But after showing photographs of the man to those who know the insurgent leader, the Afghan officials have concluded that he was an impostor.

Is this tragicomic? Seriocomic? Or a frightful glimpse into the attitudes of the highest levels of command in Afghanistan?

I see where many of my fellow conservatives are trying to make this incident into a metaphor for Obama administration incompetence and stupidity. Sorry, but that’s a stretch. Besides, there much better examples of that - including what many on the Democratic side of the Hill are calling the worst, the most incompetent congressional liaison shop in history.

This is more a reflection on the mindset of the civilian leadership and military brass in Afghanistan than any general competency issue in the administration. Sure, the administration appointed some of these guys, but this is a failure of individuals in Afghanistan, not Washington. The incident is the result of simple, blatant carelessness: Everybody thought the other guy had vetted the negotiator and all assumed he was who he said he was. The fact that he wasn’t shows a frightening breach in security. How close did this guy get to Karzai? To Petreaus?

This is pure speculation but I sense that the incident shows that the leadership prosecuting the war has either lost hope, or is infected with defeatism to the point that they don’t care as much as they should. It’s no secret the brass doesn’t like the president’s timetable for withdrawal and given the fierce opposition they are getting in Kandahar, they may feel the cause is already lost. The Taliban is in the ascendancy, the war for the hearts and minds of Afghans is going badly, and Karzai is off the reservation. Whatever progress they are making on the ground is coming at a high price in American lives, and there appears to be no guarantee that once the Americans leave, those towns and villages won’t revert to Taliban control.

The faux negotiator is a symptom of what’s wrong with our efforts in Afghanistan. And the lack of respect for our intel people demonstrated here can mean nothing but trouble:

“One would suspect that in our multibillion-dollar intel community there would be the means to differentiate between an authentic Quetta Shura emissary and a shopkeeper,” ssaid a U.S. official in Kabul who did not know about the particulars of the Mullah Mansour case. “On the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. It may have been Mullah Omar posing as a shopkeeper; I’m sure that our intel whizzes wouldn’t have known.”

While there is speculation - almost certainly done to cover the asses of the brass - that the shopkeeper was an ISI plant introduced to see how far Karzai would go in concessions, that theory seems less an attempt at rationalization and more a casting about for straws.

Frustration and defeatism; can anything be done to turn it around?

By: Rick Moran at 12:08 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

11/16/2010
THE CONSPIRACY TO MAKE AMTRAK PROFITABLE

I am not generally given to positing conspiracies of any kind but the actions of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) in their use of full body scanners and pat downs of airline passengers got me thinking.

Sherlock Holmes said, “[W]hen all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Of course, in my youth, it was a neck and neck race for supremacy between Holmes and Dick Tracy for best detective, and Tracy never said anything half as profound but was a better brawler and wore a much better looking hat. Then again, Dick Tracy wasn’t a coke addict, and had the misfortune of seeing Warren Beatty play him in the movies while the legendary Basil Rathbone was one of the original Holmesian thespians. (Robert Downey, Jr. doesn’t count because he didn’t portray Sherlock Holmes as written, as imagined, or as dreamed in Conan Doyle’s worst nightmares.)

What, then, can we deduce from the TSA’s absolute stupidity in riling up the public with their nudie scanners and “gropes?” It is my firm belief that there is more than meets the eye with this gambit. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that the scanners, the groping, the drastic slowdown for passengers going through security, the maniacal pat downs of 3 year olds, and the manner in which this has all been foisted on the traveling public leads me to believe that there is a conspiracy afoot to benefit someone or something else.

Consider the fact that these measures are not designed to make us safer. They are not used to make it less likely a plane will be hijacked or blown up in mid air. Israeli security expert Rafi Sela, the former chief security officer of the Israeli Airport Authority, says that they are, in fact, a gigantic waste of money:

“I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747,” Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.

“That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport,” Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.

There hasn’t been a hijacking that originated in Israel for almost 40 years. But what do they know?

So if the machines and groping won’t keep us safe, or lessen the likelihood of an attack, and if the machines don’t add to efficiency in getting passengers through the security checkpoint, “whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth.”

What’s left is a conspiracy to make Amtrak profitable and force the public to beg the government to build high speed rail.

All of these actions by the TSA are designed for one reason: to drive people away from flying and put them on Amtrak trains to get to their destination. And once people realize how inefficient and just plain slow Amtrak trains are, the high speed rail boondoggle will start looking mighty good to a public desperate to move faster than a 1953 East German Trabant.

Think about it. Would any sane, rational government agency open themselves up to such unrelenting, hostile criticism without an ulterior motive? I mean, really - who pats down terrified three year olds who are screaming “Don’t touch me?” This kind of thing terrifies parents and starts making Amtrak look like a damn fine option at this point.

Then there is TSA’s relentless pursuit of Mr. “Don’t touch my junk” Tyner who not only refused a nudie scan but balked at the leering TSA employee who wanted to pat down his genitals. The agency wants to talk to this guy - while making the not so subtle allusion to the idea that if you fool around with TSA, be prepared for the consequences.

After reading this, I had to look around and assure myself that I was still in the good ole USA and not some post modernist’s idea of a gulag:

Tyner, 31, was on his way to South Dakota on Saturday to go pheasant hunting. He was chosen for a full-body scan and opted out because he thought it was invasive. He was then informed that he would be subjected to a body search. He told the TSA agent, “”You touch my junk and I’m going to have you arrested.”

Tyner likened the proposed search procedure to a “sexual assault.”

When he tried to assert his rights, Tyner was told by a TSA supervisor on tape, “By buying your ticket you gave up a lot of rights.”

[...]

According to Aguilar, Tyner is under investigation for leaving the security area without permission. That’s prohibited, among other reasons, to prevent potential terrorists from entering security, gaining information, and leaving.

I wonder if Tyner’s cell phone video hadn’t gone viral if the TSA would be looking for the guy at all?

This is just more evidence that something else is going on with TSA. You can’t tell me that any government agency can be so stupidly vulgar and overbearing that they would track down the inoffensive Mr. Tyner in order to send the message that you don’t mess with the TSA’s “junk.” Nobody is that dense, right? Therefore, after eliminating all contingencies like stupidity, cluelessness, arrogance, corruption, and just plain loutishness, we must deduce that a conspiracy has been hatched in the troubled bowels of our government to redirect travelers away from airports. And logically, what other means of transportation can people use except trains? No one really wants to drive from Chicago to Orlando; trust me, I’ve done it and if you’ve got two screaming kids in the car, suicide becomes an option about the time you hit the Tennessee border.

Nope, it’s Amtrak for sure. As the most recent data for the passenger rail outfits shows, they desperately need an infusion of cash paying customers.

In 2009, 41 of 44 Amtrak routes lost money. The New Orleans to Los Angeles route - the “Sunset Limited” - was subsidized to the tune of $462 per passenger. Other routes were not so free and easy with the taxpayer’s coin but all told, Amtrak subsidies amounted to an average of $32 per passenger. Now suppose a couple of million more passengers were to hitch a ride on “The California Zephyr,” (Chicago to San Francisco) or the wistfully named “Twin Cities Hiawatha” (Chicago to Minneapolis). Suddenly, Amtrak starts turning a profit. It becomes a going concern. And most importantly, it proves that it can run the coming high speed rail system that President Obama dreams will make us all forget about airplanes anyway and ride the bullet trains to glorious energy independence and green jobs.

One problem; the ignorant galoots who currently can’t make Amtrak a profitable venture will still be in charge when high speed rail rolls around - or their equally hopeless successors. Nothing succeeds like success or fails like bad management. Amtrak has not been lacking in that department.

There may be another explanation for TSA’s curious behavior but I’m not seeing it. Given all that we know, what are you going to believe - that the TSA is terrorizing passengers, violating our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, pushing the boundaries of modesty and propriety, and acting like arrogant bullies because they don’t know any better?

“Whatever is left is the truth.” All Aboard Amtrak!

By: Rick Moran at 1:01 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

11/3/2010
NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER, NO COMPROMISE: THE NEW GOP?

My latest is up at PJ Media where I wonder about the 80 or so new GOP congressmen and whether they will posture with the “no compromise” crowd or work together to make a difference in getting the economy back on track.

A sample:

About a third of the GOP caucus that is sworn in on January 3, 2011, will never have served in Congress previously. If they organize and stay together, they could affect everything from the battle to repeal health care reform to who becomes speaker of the House. Almost all of them are as conservative as any group of first-termers who have ever been elected. The question being asked by both tea party folk and the GOP establishment is: how wedded to “principle” are the newcomers?

Similar questions were being asked by Democrats in 1974 when the Watergate class of liberal congressmen upended the Democratic establishment and forever after skewed the party to the far left. There were 72 new congressmen in that class (the Democrats gained 49 seats) and they quickly organized themselves into a powerful caucus that changed the committee and seniority system, thus altering the way the Congress did business. Their example may be followed by this new group of freshly minted conservative House members who come to Washington as a result of the GOP tidal wave.

Not all of them have bubbled up from the tea party movement, but most are in sync with its goals: fiscal responsibility and a return to some semblance of prudent government. But what does that mean? We are in a nightmarish economy with slow growth, continuing job losses, and the specter of inflation in the background due to the irresponsible policies of the Federal Reserve. We are also faced with depressing budget deficits and a truly frightening national debt.

Is there no role for government at all in fixing this mess? If there is, the Republicans are not going to be able to accomplish much on their own. They will need to work with the Democrats and the president in order to get something done about the economy and the budget. Spending and tax cuts will have to be negotiated to have any chance of being signed by the president and put into effect. Otherwise, the GOP will simply be posturing, and nothing at all will be accomplished.

By: Rick Moran at 1:16 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

9/17/2010
TEA PARTY DEFINES LOSING AS WINNING

What’s not to love about a headline like that if you’re a conservative?

Judging by the more than 100 comments that have been spewed onto the Pajamas Media site in just a few hours in response to my latest article, my guess is that I have become as popular as Christine O’Donnell at an AVN Awards Show.

Already a legend, I am become myth, the destroyer of America, the bane of tea party patriots, a traitor, a heretical gadfly that either, 1) nobody ever reads; or 2) will be solely responsible if Mouse Brain loses in Delaware.

A sample:

Jeri Thompson is telling us that Christine O’Donnell is like Sarah Palin and just needs GOP “establishment” support to win in November. She will need considerably more than that, including one of those neuralizers from Men in Black to flash the entire population of Delaware and make them forget some of the loonier things O’Donnell has said about sex, about Vince Foster, and about her own financial history about which she has lied and lied again.

O’Donnell may in fact win. By November, the Democrats might be in such bad odor with the public that a pie-eyed prostitute, much less a prevaricating lightweight, could get elected in opposition to a Democrat. But chances are O’Donnell will be slaughtered and the likelihood of a GOP takeover of the Senate — already a long shot — will go down the tubes.

Yes, but the tea party people stuck it to the establishment. They woke up the elites. They put the fear of God into McConnell. They made Boehner wet his pants.

They sent a message!

Is it a good thing that the GOP establishment got pwned? Or that a bucket of cold water was tossed on the sleeping elites? Or that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner lost control of their bodily functions and now know the real meaning of electoral fear? Sure it is. But how that relates to winning, governing, and stopping the far left schemes of Obama and the Democrats is sort of murky.

By: Rick Moran at 9:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

9/10/2010
WHY DID THE MEDIA MAKE SUCH A BIG DEAL ABOUT BURNING THE KORAN?

What is the president of the United States, the Attorney General, our top military commander, and an icon of the right doing giving their opinion on the threat to burn a Koran by a storefront preacher with 50 followers that no one had ever heard of and who will likely be forgotten once the brouhaha has passed?

As far as straight news value, this story ranks somewhere between an item on the pimply-faced high school kid who raised the 4-H winning bull and the announcement of the “Rotary Man of the Year.” The massive unimportance of this preacher and his followers is being ignored as the media flogs this story with the enthusiasm of a White House sex scandal. By doing so, they have created an international incident that threatens the safety of our troops, and possibly the political stability of some countries.

Some brainless, bigoted nut from the fringe of American politics is getting worldwide attention because he wants to burn a Koran in order to send a message to somebody — it’s not entirely clear who — that “we’re not afraid.” At least, that’s what Terry Jones, “Pastor” of the tiny Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is saying now. No one knows if he is going to go through with his book burning, but even if he doesn’t, questions remain.

He was singing a different tune about his reasons for burning the Koran in this August 26 story by CNN:

“We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it’s causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times,” Pastor Terry Jones told CNN’s Rick Sanchez earlier this week.

[...]

“I mean ask yourself, have you ever really seen a really happy Muslim? As they’re on the way to Mecca? As they gather together in the mosque on the floor? Does it look like a real religion of joy?” Jones asks in one of his YouTube posts.

“No, to me it looks like a religion of the devil.”

This is beyond fringe, entering the sublime milieu of surreal hate. America is full of these lunatics, preaching on street corners, burning crosses, marching against perceived slights or simply to show off their own rank bigotry and hate. To elevate this non-entity to international villain (or, to his equally bigoted supporters, international hero) demonstrates a disconnect that is unusual even for the American media.

Is it that he used the internet to spread his poison? One need only go to the Stormfront website (not linked here) and read equally idiotic rantings against Muslims. Is it that he has more than his fair share of supporters? At last count, the Dove Facebook page had around 2,000 “friends.” (not linked here). Neo-Nazi sites have 2 and 3 times that number of followers on Facebook and their feelings against Muslims are well known.

A pitifully small, insignificant group of Americans were planning on burning Korans on September 11 and they become front page news on newspapers across the world, and headlined stories on the cable news nets. The press yawns when an American flag is burned, or when the figure of a crucified Jesus is photographed being immersed in a beaker of urine. But when the world’s most fashionably chic religion is the target, it is, apparently, big news.

Those Muslims itching to take to the streets and riot in the name of Allah and The Prophet shouldn’t worry if Jones cancels his little bonfire. Word has come that another wacko, Fred Phelps and his gay bashing, military funeral crashing Westboro Baptist Church will oblige their outrage by burning the Koran - again. They tried it in 2008 and no one in the media paid any attention - which would have been an excellent response to Jones’ idea to light up the Islamic holy book but, as I explain below, was not to be.

A couple of reasons for this fantastic overkill by the press comes to mind. The media sees some kind of rough symmetry between Koran burning and opponents of Park 51. They don’t even have to be obvious about it, allowing their readers and viewers to draw their own parallels. Also, Jones and his supporters make perfect foils for those who wish to attack evangelical conservatives, and, by extension, conservative Republicans. Despite the fact that Dove Outreach bears as much resemblance to a mainline evangelical church as a pig resembles a prom queen, those predisposed to hate conservative Christians have lumped Jones and his book burners in with the social cons.

Then there are those media outlets who know full well that publicizing these insignificant kooks will rile Muslims the world over, and are also fully aware of the probable reaction from the fundamentalist Imams who preach hatred of the west and the US. Instigating riots may not enter their conscious thoughts, but news is news and blood sells. Surely the foreign press who are whipping Muslims into a frenzy over this issue sees this, at least partly, as a way to stick it to America.

The story had already bubbled over into an international cause celebre by the time General Petreaus offered his thoughts on how burning Korans may endanger our troops in Afghanistan. I suppose he felt it his responsibility to say something to discourage it. Of course, the very nature of his comments only raised the temperature around the world and drew criticism even from some on the right .

But why would the Attorney General Eric Holder offer his opinion (”idiotic and dangerous”)? Or President Obama (”a destructive act”)? Sure, the press asked the question but instead of taking the opportunity to demonstrate their “tolerance” for other religions and hatred of extremism, why not try and lower the temperature a bit by dismissing such idiocy out of hand?

They could have said something like, “Well, America is full of these fringe political players and it is so obviously wrong to burn any book at any time for any reason that it isn’t even worth commenting further.” Instead, we get posturing, chest thumping orations about how dedicated our leaders are to the Constitution, and syrupy calls for “tolerance.”

Meanwhile, the Religion of the Perpetually Aggrieved is already in the streets demonstrating their ignorance by protesting against something that hasn’t even happened yet. Perhaps they should set up permanent residence in the streets in order to save themselves time when the next imagined insult emanating from Christians is publicized by the media. I guarantee it won’t be too long.

There is usually a rough equivalence between how big a news story becomes and the impact on a community, a country, or the world that the subject is making. The story about a micro-pastor and his less than meager congregation burning the Muslim holy book doesn’t even come close. It appears that other motivations were at work to drive this story to the heights of worldwide notoriety and they do not reflect well on the reporters and pundits or the agenda-driven media outlets they work for.

By: Rick Moran at 9:13 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/21/2010
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH WITH THIS MOSQUE FOOLISHNESS

Alright - everybody has made their points…

SEVERAL DOZEN FREAKING TIMES!

How many ways can you call the right intolerant and bigoted? Or refer to the left as Islamofascist sympathizers? Or moan about the degeneration of religious liberty in America? Or warn about creeping Sharia law?

Build it. Don’t build it. Move it. Bah! Everyone has an opinion. That opinion has been expressed ad infinitum. No nuance has been neglected. No angle uncovered. No stupid, silly insult or smear has been left under the mossy rocks from which they sprang.

And yes - it’s time for a few quotes from the “Dead Parrot Sketch” (with apologies for altering the text):

Mr. Praline: “VOOM”?!? Mate, this mosque argument wouldn’t “voom” if you put four million volts through it! It’s bleedin’ demised!

Owner: No no! It’s pining!

Mr. Praline: it’s not pinin’! It’s passed on! This mosque argument is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed it to every blog, every newspaper, every TV broadcast, every magazine, every column by pundits both serious and unserious, it would be pushing up the daisies! It’s metabolic processes are now ‘istory! It’s off the twig! It’s kicked the bucket, it’s shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-MOSQUE ARGUMENT!!

This has not been “Recovery Summer.” It has been “The Summer of the Silly Mosque Imbroglio.” We have all weighed in on the subject several times. The debate was interesting for about 72 hours. But after that - after every conceivable argument both for and against had been made - shouldn’t we have dropped the subject and come back to reality?

That reality is certainly interesting enough without the fake wailing on both sides about loss of the “tradition” of American “tolerance” for other religions, or the threat to the “sanctified” site of Ground Zero (within eyeshot of stripper clubs).

As for the latter, the extraordinary tone deafness of the mosque builders has been exposed and the public has rendered its verdict. For the former, surely people are joking when talking about tolerance for other religions in America, right?

This would come as news to the millions of Catholics, Jews, Mormons and now Muslims who have been murdered, burned, violently attacked, and generally discriminated against in the most vicious, nauseatingly open manner throughout much of American history. I would say to my friends on the left that there is a far more colorful history of religious bigotry leading to violence in America than there is of any kind of “tolerance” for faiths other than the dominant Christian sects.

Do you think that this is something that only happened in the dim, forgettable past? In his book Making of the President 1960 - just 50 years ago - Theodore H. White relates a story about some good liberals who had gathered in an upper west side apartment in New York to discuss who they would be supporting for president. Stevenson supporters all in 1952 and 1956, these good, conscientious liberals could see that their hero was just not going to make it to the White House and they were discussing the pros and cons of backing John Kennedy.

There was a serious discussion among these Enlightened Ones about whether a Kennedy presidency would mean that the Vatican would be running the country if JFK were elected - whether a US Catholic president would have “divided loyalties.” To even ask the question is bigoted and intolerant, demonstrating a towering ignorance of the Catholicism in America (A little further removed, try reading something about the campaigns of 1924 and 1928 featuring Catholic Al Smith).

Massacres of Mormons, murdering Jews, burning witches - this pious nonsense about mosque opponents going against American “traditions” of religious tolerance is absurd. Equally nutty is the idea that the mosque represents the advance of sharia law in America, or of giving in to extremists. One conservative group has called for not only canceling this mosque project, but actually getting the government to pass a law forbidding the construction of any mosque, anywhere in the US.

One assumes they would be “tolerant” enough to allow existing mosques to remain standing.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is still jacked, business is as close to being at a standstill as possible without us falling back into recession, millions of gallons of oil is still floating around in the Gulf, Americans are livid at both parties, Iran continues to defy the world and toddle toward having the capability to build a bomb, Hezballah is threatening war with Israel, there are unprecedented, catastrophic floods in Pakistan, the heat is killing dozens in big cities, Afghanistan continues to bleed…

And - OMIGOD - the Mooslims are trying to build a mosque while the fascist right opposes the brave, tolerant, saintly left in their efforts to stand up for religious liberty, or something.

I’m not asking for people to get along. I’m demanding we get serious about what’s really happening in this country. We have a president who has taken 5 vacations this summer, leading a party that is trying to desperately hide its failures, who are opposed by another party that hasn’t had an original idea about the economy since Ronald Reagan was president. Kafka wouldn’t dare touch this fairy tale. Picasso might come up with something suitably ugly and misshapen to reflect the tragedy of this situation, but even he would be at a loss in trying to capture the utter helplessness most Americans feel right now as they watch this idiotic exercise in futility grind on and on.

As long as this story is flogged on the internet, the mainstream media will feel compelled to cover it, comment on it, and continue to whip up a frenzy about it - at the expense of highlighting the actual news of this summer of our discontent. Perhaps because of the complete collapse of the president’s policies, and the dearth of solutions offered by Republicans, partisans from both parties would prefer this idiocy to continue.

But at some point, we have to come back to earth and deal with a genuine economic crisis that is causing people to lose faith in government, faith in themselves, and faith in America.

And the building of a mosque is more important than this?

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

8/11/2010
‘You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs:’ Netanyahu

I can’t recommend this Jeff Goldberg article in The Atlantic highly enough. After several years of interviews with leaders and policy makers from Israel, Iran, America, and other Arab countries, as well as talks with military experts, Goldberg comes to this reluctant conclusion:

I have asked a simple question: what is the percentage chance that Israel will attack the Iranian nuclear program in the near future? Not everyone would answer this question, but a consensus emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July. (Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Obama administration. But I tested the consensus by speaking to multiple sources both in and out of government, and of different political parties. Citing the extraordinary sensitivity of the subject, most spoke only reluctantly, and on condition of anonymity. They were not part of some public-relations campaign.) The reasoning offered by Israeli decision makers was uncomplicated: Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability (often understood to be the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device within about three months of deciding to do so). The Iranian regime, by its own statements and actions, has made itself Israel’s most zealous foe; and the most crucial component of Israeli national-security doctrine, a tenet that dates back to the 1960s, when Israel developed its own nuclear capability as a response to the Jewish experience during the Holocaust, is that no regional adversary should be allowed to achieve nuclear parity with the reborn and still-besieged Jewish state.

Goldberg brilliantly lays out most of the dire consequences of such a strike:

When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel-regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program-they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations.

Goldberg notes that with success, the Israelis will buy time (probably putting the Iranian program back 3-5 years), earn the secret thanks of most of the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East, and will have stopped potential proliferation to terrorist groups in its tracks.

Is that worth initiating a strike that could lead to World War III?

What will the Russians do if the Israeli’s hit Bushehr? It is likely they will kill Russian technicians in such a strike since they are building the facility under contract with Tehran. Will Vladmir Putin take the death of Russian scientists and technicians lying down? What if he retaliates against Israel? What would be the American response to that?

August, 1914?

Unleashing Hezb’allah against the western world, stirring up trouble in Iraq by ordering the Shia militias into the streets, not to mention a missile campaign against Israel that could kill thousands (at which point Israel may decide that to save its people, it must expand its own bombing campaign, escalating the conflict to the next level) - this alone could ratchet up tensions causing the world to start choosing up sides.

And no America with the will or the self-confidence to step in and assist the world in standing down.

Obama’s foreign policy is not anti-American, unpatriotic, or designed to favor Muslims. It’s just weak. The president has made the conscious decision that the US is too powerful and needs to defer to supra-national organizations like the UN, or regional line ups like NATO or the Arab League when conflict is threatened. “First among equals” is not rhetoric to Obama. He means it. He has been thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that most of the world’s troubles have been caused by a too-powerful United States and hence, only deliberately eschewing the promotion of American interests can redress this sin.

This will be the first world crisis since the end of World War II where American power and prestige will not be used to intervene in order to prevent catastrophe. Obama is betting the farm that his worldview will be more conducive to defusing a crisis than the more realpolitik and pragmatic point of view that has dominated American foreign policy for 65 years.

We are shortly going to find out whether good intentions really matter in international affairs.

This blog post originally appeared on The American Thinker.
UPDATE

I’ve received  a few emails from some of my more liberal friends informing me that I misunderstand Obama’s world view and that the president’s foreign policy is as good for US interests as any other presidents

I would say that Steve Hynd captures the president’s foreign policy views accurately:

Way back in 2005, a young Adam Weinstein wrote a paper on Just War Theory that’s well worth a read, but from which two key phrases jump out at me - “the bleak fact that justice is what states make of it.” and “expanding the ‘we’”. I’d characterise those two phrases as encapsulating what I call the “Crooked Cop” problem: America needs to become the world’s “good” cop instead of a “bad” (i.e. short-termist, self-interested) cop.

Only the bad guys object to an honest, impartial and hard-working policeman for whom “protect and serve” is more than just a slogan. A good cop is an asset to his community and puts everyone else’s interests before his own, which ends up serving his own interests - respect, affection, and a mostly peaceable community to live in. But no-one likes a cop who has his own interests at heart first and foremost - who’s usually looking for a “take”, is never there when you need him and applies the law only when it suits him while looking the other way when his pals commit crimes. A bad cop should get out of the law enforcement business because he only makes his neighborhood worse.

What pisses me off about the hawks of both left and right is that their policy prescriptions too often begin as their own short-termist conception of American national interest informed by hearty helpings of militarism and American exceptionalism which are then overlain with a thin veneer of pablum about humanitarian considerations, freedom, democracy and “we’re the world’s policeman” BS to sugar-coat their origins with something more palatable to US voters. No-one in the rest of the world buys it for a second.

My own longer term conception of US national interest is that it would, indeed, be better off as a truly impartial, self-sacrificing but respected cop rather than one pretending to do the job while feathering its own nest. Acting as an honest broker pays much bigger dividends than couching self-interest in hyperbole about freedom and democracy. Like a huge number of non-Americans, I’ve no objection to America being the world’s policeman if America will be an honest cop, a “protect and serve” cop. No-one else is big enough for the job at present (although in future the US and others should look to reform the UN for the job). But better no cop at all than a cop on the take. To be a good cop, America must realize that its national interest lies exactly in not aggressively pursuing its national interest.

“America must realize that its national interest lies exactly in not aggressively pursuing its national interest….” perfectly captures the confusion, the stupidity, the utter nonsensical treacle that passes for deep thought about foreign affairs on the left.  What makes Obama extraordinarily dangerous is that he actually believes this looniness and is trying it out on the international stage. What has been the response from Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Syria, and other problem states? Barely concealed laughter (in the case of Iran and Syria, not even concealed).

I prefer hard headedness - on both sides. Real American interest lies in promoting democracy in a non-lethal manner - efforts that will, as it did in Eastern Europe - bear fruit over decades. Those who believe they can change the world in 4 or 8 years should be prevented from having anything to do with foreign policy.

In the meantime, yes we do have short term interests and we serve those at the expense of the interest of Iran, Russia, Syria, and other bad actors because not doing so harms the US. It is laughable, extraordinarily naive to pretend that long term interests of the US are served by eschewing our own interests and placing other nation’s interests ahead of ours. No one would be stupid enough to run a campaign based on that notion because, quite rightly, the American people don’t want to vote for someone who will subsume American interests to the interests of other nations. That’s utter nonsense. It depends on the supposed good will of other nations to recognize the US sacrifice and reward us with cooperation. It also presupposes a measure of rationality from our enemies that many of them have yet to demonstrate.

Mr. Hynd may not like “strategic ambiguity” and other repugnant gambits and he is right that in this case, it  won’t work. In order for strategic ambiguity to be effective - as it was when Clinton and Bush were president - there must be the tiniest sliver of doubt among our adversaries that we may end up attacking after all. When Obama says “all options are on the table” with regards to Iran, no one believes him in the slightest. In order to bomb Iran, Obama would have to abandon his entire world view. It won’t happen, everyone is aware of it, and Iran is acting accordingly.

The bullies, the psychopaths, and the despots sleep better at night with Obama as president as they never have previously. That’s the reality we live in - the result of Obama putting his worldview into practice. I’ve written previously that the hard left has been waiting 40 years to prove to the rest of us that their way in foreign policy is safer, and better for America. Now that they have someone in the White House putting their ideas into practice, let us hope that they were right and that such a Pollyannish outlook toward our potential enemies does not blow up the world in their faces.

By: Rick Moran at 10:33 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

8/6/2010
KUDOS TO KLEIN AND YGLESIAS FOR FANTASTIC POSITIVE SPIN ON SPECTACULARLY BAD JOBS NUMBERS

In baseball, there are times when no matter how good a hitter is, a pitcher paints the corner with three straight unhittable curve balls for strikes. It is at that point that the hitter tips his cap to the pitcher and walks dejectedly back to the dugout, secure in the knowledge that there was nothing he could do to beat the pitcher at that at bat.

I am in a similar mindset when reading Ezra Klein and Matthew Ygelsias this morning. The have taken spectacularly bad jobs numbers and put such a sweet spin on them that there really is nothing to do but tip your hat to the way they have made sweet potato pie out of horse manure.

Klein:

Another 143,000 census positions expired, contributing to a total public sector job loss of more than 200,000 jobs. But the private sector continued to recover, adding 71,000 jobs — its best performance since April, and its third-best number this year.

[...]

So you can look at the bottom line one of two ways: Either we lost 131,000 jobs, or if you ignore the census jobs, we gained about 10,000. The good news? The 71,000 jobs we did gain came from the right place, and the jobs we lost are job losses we can prevent if Congress finds the will and the votes.

You can also look at it as 71,000 jobs representing about half the total number of jobs that need to be created every single month just to keep pace with new people entering the work force in the private sector. The idea that the private sector is “recovering” is pure spin. If business is only creating half the jobs necessary to take up the slack in new hires, how in God’s name is it going to replace the 8 million jobs lost in this recession? The numbers show we are falling behind, that the recovery is worse than anemic, and that the policies of this president and his party are directly responsible for it.

Last year at this time - 8 months after Obama took office - discouraged workers who stopped looking for work stood at 368,000. Today, that number has climbed to 1.2 million. This did not happen on George Bush’s watch. It is a direct result of the Democrats taking their eye off the ball and pushing national health insurance at the expense of dealing with the jobs situation. While Democrats were arguing with themselves whether or not a public option was needed and how much they should screw over insurance companies, big pharma, and big medicine, the jobs picture went from bad, to worse, to catastrophic.

It was obvious by last summer that the stimulus bill - sold by the president as something that had to be passed immediately and without due consideration because it would help create jobs in the near future - was oversold and a gigantic waste of money at a time the Democratic congress was smashing every deficit record in history. Instead of dropping the health insurance chimera and turning their attention to Americans who were desperate for work, the Democrats pursued the illusion of national health insurance reform, thus condemning this nation to what the Administration is calling “Recovery Summer” - perhaps the most inapt characterization of economic conditions since Roosevelt made “Happy Days are Here Again” his party’s anthem when unemployment was at 25%.

And the idea that the $26 billion passed by the senate and awaiting action in the Democratic House will make things all better in the public sector is either ignorance on Klein’s part or disingenuousness. The 143,000 census jobs are not coming back no matter how many tens of billions you throw into the laps of Democratic interest groups.

As for the teachers, the question arises how long Uncle Sam is going to keep bailing out his nephews? It’s the same question asked of those who have already gotten 100 weeks or more of unemployment payments. There are people out there who are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet, despite being eligible for the extended unemployment benefits. They don’t want to do it. They find no pleasure in it. They would probably be incensed that I am using them as examples. The point is that there are alternatives out there besides Congress, in essence, giving some people an excuse not to take what job or jobs they can.

If Klein was brilliant in spinning the numbers, Yglesias throws up a strawman that would make Ray Bolger proud:

The losses came from the public sector. And they were foreseeable. And they were foreseen by the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate and the majority of House members and a majority of Senators. And the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate and the majority of House members and a majority of Senators voted for bills that would have prevented that. But because in the Senate a minority of members can get their way, action wasn’t taken. Consequently, we have a horrible jobs number. Which would be bad enough, but the way the American political system works, the minority party that prevented the majority from addressing the crisis will accrue massive political benefits as a result of the collapse.

Conservatives won’t admit it today, but what we’re looking at is a major breakdown of the logic of the American political system.

Of course they were foreseeable. Nearly 75% of the public sector job losses resulted from the end of the census taking process. Those jobs were not permanent, were not meant to be permanent, and were always going to end. To make the unbelievable claim that it is the GOP’s fault that the public sector lost 53,000 permanent jobs - many of which the result of state budget cuts outside of the education sector - is illogical.

Maybe Yglesias should start by repairing that “breakdown in logic” in his own head.

Both these prominent ex-members of Journolist appear not to have missed a beat in shilling for the White House.

UPDATE

Jesus Lord how did I miss this eye-popper from Benen:

For quite a while, Democrats have said the government needed to intervene to prevent the job losses we’re seeing now. Republicans refused. To be sure, the job market would need to be stronger in either case, but the GOP is entirely responsible for holding the job market’s head below water — and yet, they’re also the ones gloating. It’s maddening.

Um…no. “For quite a while” the Democrats have been saying that the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8% and that a million green jobs would be created, and that we had to save the jobs of state workers (and we have to do it again and probably again after that), and that unemployment benefits were good for the economy, and any month now, the Democrat’s policies would bear fruit and we’ll all live happily ever after.

And does Bennen realize people are laughing at him when he blames Republicans for this? With a spread of 59-41 in the senate and a 40 seat majority in the House, the problem is not GOP obstructionism but the rank incompetence of Democratic leaders who not only can’t convince one lousy RINO to jump to their side on anything, but can’t even keep their own caucus together. Reagan regularly convinced several dozen Democrats to vote for his policies. All Harry Reid has to do is to keep his hands from jumping ship and convince Olympia Snowe that the New York Times will give her favorable mention if she votes his way.

All last year we heard the same refrain from the Democrats; you have to give the stimulus time to work and then…you’ll see. Things will be right as rain. This despite the fact, as I mention above, Obama looked the American people in the eye and said the crisis was so dire that members of Congress shouldn’t have to read the bill, just vote yes on it so that jobs can be created immediately.

Now that the stim bill has proved to be a spectacular failure, the Democrats have switched their talking points, pretending they knew all along that the stim bill wasn’t enough and we need to spend more, and more again to get the economy rolling. Reminds me of Tom Wolfe’s description of a test pilot going down in The Right Stuff: “I’ve tried A! I’ve tried B! I’ve tried C! Tell me what else I can try!”

Try the truth. That would be novel.

By: Rick Moran at 11:23 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

8/2/2010
DOES THE ‘CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED’ MATTER ANYMORE?

This is the first in a series of posts that will examine issues and themes that will not be discussed in the upcoming election.

At a time when America is questioning itself more than at any point that I can recall in my life, it occurs to me that the real issues that should be debated are not even being raised by candidates. Immigration, the deficit, Obama’s “socialism,” health care, and the class warfare being waged by both sides are so much chum to be churned by liberal and conservative ideologues until the frothy, bilious, smelly mess that is our politics today overflows with hatred and hysterical denunciations.

It is ridiculous to say one side is more at fault than the other, or that one side is worse than the other, or that one side started it. In the end, who cares? The result is a fantastically dangerous game played by the powerful who take advantage of the ennui engendered by this tiresome, depressing state of affairs to impose their idea of control on American citizens.

We have made trade-offs over the past half century, giving up some individual liberty for the good of the whole. In many cases, this has resulted in a fairer, more decent, more equal America. Some conservatives may disagree but in reality, this is close to the 18th century vision of the Founders. While recognizing the enormous power of government to do harm, they also recognized that government had a role to play in protecting minorities.

At that time, minorities were political, not racial or gender, or sexually oriented. Nevertheless, the concept that, if left unchecked, some Americans would deny the minority among them fundamental rights was well understood by the Founders and they created a government that would be strong enough to protect those rights.

But somewhere along the way, we’ve gone off the rails. The power of government is being used not so much to guarantee rights as it is to effect control. Choices are limited, property expropriated, the will of one faction imposed on another - all this and more resulting in a significant loss of personal liberty; not in the name of “fairness” or “equality,” but simply because power elites have the ability to manipulate government to serve their own selfish ends. Corporations, Big Labor, organized pressure groups, - all claiming their machinations are for “the good of the people” or are necessary for a strong economy, or will save us from global warming/obesity/cancer/iron poor blood and any other societal ill that acts as a beard for someone’s idea of doing what is best for the rest of us.

We know this. We sense this is true. But we pretend we are powerless to stop it. It is this cynicism that is being used to destroy the foundations of personal liberty and turn the people into virtual serfs.

More importantly, the vision, the tradition, and the fundamental guiding principles of the republic have been subsumed by the desire of public and private  elites to milk the treasury or put the fix in on the system to advance their own personal or collective agendas, all the better to improve their own station in society at our expense.

It begs the question; are we still a nation where the consent of the governed is required for government to act? Have we ever been? It’s a trick question, in part because it is generally understood that citizens “give their consent” by voting for our representatives from the state house to the White House.  In this respect, we have a “representative democracy” based on the trust we place in our leaders to generally act in our interests when voting on legislation affecting the national or local interest.

But there is nothing in the Constitution that states the government needs our “consent” for anything. Indeed, the phrase itself is found in the Declaration of Independence - a glorious expression of American ideals without any force of law whatsoever. It is in our traditions as a republic and a foundational principle that the ideals that animated the revolution be carried over and incorporated into the governance of the country. But as far as a Constitutional construct, “consent of the governed” doesn’t exist.

Instead, we grant our consent to be governed not as a result of law, but of an implied “social contract” between the people and the government.  There is a grand philosophical tradition regarding this social contract in western political thought. Locke, Hobbes, Hume, Rousseau, and Oakshott, among others, believed that the legitimacy of government depended on keeping its end of the bargain. This could variously be defined as the notion that the people surrender some or all of their “sovereignty” in exchange for the rule of law which, ideally, will generate social order.

Implied in the American social contract is the concept of natural rights superseding, or being equal to civil rights. Again, the reliance on natural rights to help define our social contract is part of the Declaration of Independence, and only inferred in the Constitution. But tradition and the clear thinking by the Framers of the Constitution on the question of natural rights gives them a force beyond law.

So what does all this theorizing have to do with the practical political matter of citizens regaining control of their own government? The social contract is clearly inoperative. When the law is manipulated by those with the wealth and connections to twist its meanings so that it benefits only them, or a small number of elites, there is no “consent of the governed” as originally understood, nor can such be extrapolated in any way from the current state of affairs. If we understand the “rule of law” to mean equality under the law as well as the more translucent concept of equal justice under the law, those who join with political leaders to, for example, fix it so that they can loot the treasury if their financial skullduggery blows up in their faces, are complicit in an open violation of the social contract.

That which is not vouchsafed all should be allowed for none. Perhaps that’s a place to start when it comes to redefining our broken contract with the government. I frankly don’t know. I don’t pretend to have answers, only the desire to initiate debate. Whether that’s enough to save us all - right, left, liberal, conservative, moderate, or libertarian - from losing something very rare and precious and yes, exceptional, I don’t know.

Next: The Middle Class has been Disappeared

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

By: Rick Moran at 11:17 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)