Friday, February 26, 2010

I'll be baaaaaack!

I'll be back blogging in a couple of days.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rain or no rain, we have plenty of hot air.




As usual, Best of the Web has an entry that again demonstrates the bias of the media, especially when it comes to reorts on evidence of  global warming.

In June, 2007, a headline in USA Today announced that:

Dry episodes have become so persistent in the West that some scientists and water managers say drought is the "new normal" there. Reinforcing that notion are global-warming projections warning of more and deeper dry spells in the Southwest, although a report in last week's Science magazine challenges the climate models and suggests there will be more rainfall worldwide later this century.
Well, it turns out that later in the century turned out to be just two and a half years away.  In a new report last week USA Today reports:

What a difference a rain makes. The nationwide drought that had farmers, communities and entire states fighting to conserve water has reversed in the most dramatic turnaround since federal scientists began keeping records.
and

More than 92% of the country is drought-free--the nation's best showing since 1999.
and

"The lack of drought is extraordinary," said Douglas Le Comte, a meteorologist with the federal Climate Prediction Center.
and

At the worst of the USA's most recent drought--in August 2007--almost 50% of the country was involved. Currently, about 7% of the country is in a drought, according to federal scientists. The only part of the USA in "extreme" drought is a small fraction of Hawaii.

So, let us see. If USA Today reports that there is a draught than it is evidence of global warming. On the other hand, using this rationale, if USA Today reports that there is no draught anywhere in the continental U.S. shouldn't they see this as evidence of a lack of global warming?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In the news...

Israel's air force on Sunday introduced a fleet of huge pilotless planes that can remain in the air for a full day and could fly as far as the Persian Gulf, putting rival Iran within its range.

Read article

Federal agents have arrested three South Florida businessmen accused of exporting video games and other electronic products to a shopping mall in Paraguay that allegedly served as a front to finance the terrorist group Hezbollah, according to federal authorities.

Read article


Two former high-level Bush administration officials who provided legal justification for harsh interrogations of overseas terror suspects are likely to escape any formal punishment now that the Justice Department has concluded they should not be held legally responsible.

Read article

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

FOX NEWS REPORT: ObamaAppoints Controversial Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference

Obama's Islamic Envoy Quoted Defending Man Charged With Aiding Terrorists

President Obama's new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group


President Obama's new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of "politically motivated persecutions" after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian's arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it "one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world."

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter -- not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

After reporting the remarks, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs later cut them out of its article on its Web site.

The magazine declined to comment on the sanitized article, but the editor, Delinda Hanley, told Politico that the comments should have been attributed to al-Arian's daughter, Laila.

But the author of the piece, Shereen Kandil, told Fox News that she would never confuse the two people.

"If I quoted someone, it's because they said it," she said, adding that she no longer works for the magazine and was surprised to learn of the changes.

The White House also attributes the quotes to Laila al-Arian.

A White House official who talked with Hussain on Tuesday said he acknowledged attending the event to discuss civil rights in a post-9/11 world but has "no recollection" when it comes to the comments attributed to him.

Fox News' Shannon Bream contributed to this report.

Monday, February 15, 2010

In Memoriam Congressman John Murtha

Not in the news

Victor Davis Hanson on the decline of Rome, and why it matters today.

Read Article


A stoning and mass hanging in Iran show
the disregard of the Iranian regime for human rights

Claudia Rosett reports that Iran is campaigning for a seat on the U. N. Human Rights Council. The last time this happened, the Bush administration and ambassador Bolton worked hard to prevent the election of Iran. The Obama administration is silent.

Read Article

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More Vintage Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn: Getting our groupthink on

A man asks for a plastic bag at the supermarket checkout. Next thing you know, his head's slammed against the counter, and he's being cuffed by the Green Police. "You picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy," sneers the enviro-cop, as the perp is led away. Cut to more Green Police going through your trash, until they find ... a battery! "Take the house!" orders the eco-commando. And we switch to a roadblock on a backed-up interstate, with the Green Police prowling the lines of vehicles to check they're in environmental compliance.

If you watched the Super Bowl, you most likely saw this commercial. As my comrade Jonah Goldberg noted, up until this point you might have assumed it was a fun message from a libertarian think-tank warning of the barely veiled totalitarian tendencies of the eco-nanny state. Any time now, you figure, some splendidly contrarian type – perhaps Clint lui-mêmein his famous Gran Torino – will come roaring through, flipping the bird at the stormtroopers and blowing out their tires for good measure. But, instead, the Greenstapo stumble across an Audi A3 TDI. "You're good to go," they tell the driver, and, with the approval of the state enforcers, he meekly pulls out of the stalled traffic and moves off. Tagline: "Green has never felt so right."

So the message from Audi isn't "You are a free man. Don't bend to the statist bullies," but "Resistance is futile. You might as well get with the program."

Strange. Not so long ago, car ads prioritized liberty. Your vehicle opened up new horizons: Gitcha motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure ... . To sell dull automobiles to people who lived in suburban cul de sacs, manufacturers showed them roaring round hairpin bends, deep into forests, splashing through rivers, across the desert plain, invariably coming to rest on the edge of a spectacular promontory on the roof of the world offering a dizzying view of half the planet. Freedom!

But now Audi flogs you its vehicles on the basis that it's the most convenient way to submit to arbitrary state authority. Forty years ago, when they first began selling over here, it's doubtful the company would have considered this either a helpful image for a German car manufacturer or a viable pitch to the American male.

But times change. As Jonah Goldberg pointed out, all the men in the Audi ad are the usual befuddled effete new-male eunuchs that infest all the other commercials. The sort of milksop who'll buy the TDI and then, when the Green Police change their regulatory requirements six weeks later, obediently take it back to the shop and pay however many thousand bucks to have it brought it into compliance with whatever the whimsical tyrant's emissions regime requires this month.

Let's turn to an item from The Philadelphia Inquirer. A young American with a white-bread name ("Nick George") and a clean-cut mien returns from Jordan to resume his studies at Pomona College in California, and gets handcuffed and detained for five hours by U.S. Immigration and Philly police. Why? Well, he had Arabic-language flash cards in his pocket. Also, upon his return to the United States, his hair was shorter than on his Pennsylvania driver's license. "That is an indication sometimes," explained Lt. Louis Liberati, "that somebody may have gone through a radicalization." Really? As Nick George's boomer mom remarked, once upon a time long hair was a sign of radicalization. But now it's just a sign that you're an all-American spaced out doofus who'll grow up to congratulate himself for driving an Audi TDI.

At any rate, the coiffure set off a Code Red alert, and Nick George found himself being asked: "How do you feel about 9/11?"

According to the Inquirer's Daniel Rubin, "He said he hemmed and hawed a bit. 'It's a complicated question,' he told me by phone." However, young Nick ended up telling his captors, "It was bad. I am against it."

My, that's big of you.

Take it as read that the bozos at the airport called this one wrong. The problem is not that Nick George, his radical haircut notwithstanding, is a jihadist eager to self-detonate on a transatlantic flight. The problem is that he is an entirely typical American college student – one for whom 9/11 is "a complicated question." After all, to those reared in an educational system where the late Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States" (now back in the bestseller lists) is conventional wisdom, such a view is entirely unexceptional. It's hardly Nick's fault that the banal groupthink of every American campus gets you pulled over for secondary screening when you're returning from Amman.

America can survive a few psychotic Islamic terrorists flying planes into skyscrapers. Whether it can survive millions of its own citizens mired in the same insipid conformo-radicalism as Nick George is another matter.

If you think "conformo-radicalism" is a contradiction in terms, well, such is the way of the world. It was reported last week that as many as a dozen men have been killed in disputes arising from karaoke performances of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." Surely, bellowing out "I did it my way" to Frank's backing track in a karaoke bar is the very definition of not doing it your way, but it's marginally less pathetic than the song's emergence in post-Christian Britain as a favorite funeral anthem: For what is a man? What has he got? If not himself, then he has not? Nothing sums up your iconoclastic individualism than someone else's signature song, right?

That's Nick George: "9/11? I do it my way." That's the metrosexual ninny in the Audi ad: "Thinking the way everyone else thinks has never felt so cool." The good news is, as in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," there are still a few holdouts. The Washington Post ran a remarkable headline this week: "Europe Could Use Its Own Tea Party." Underneath David Ignatius went through the obligatory metropolitan condescension toward America's swampdwelling knuckledraggers before acknowledging that the Continent's problem was that there was no similar populist movement demanding fiscal sanity from the governing class.

He's right. I've been saying for months that the difference between America and Europe is that, when the global economy nosedived, everywhere from Iceland to Bulgaria mobs took to the streets and besieged Parliament, demanding to know why government didn't do more for them. This is the only country in the developed world where a mass movement took to the streets to say we can do just fine if you control-freak statists would just stay the hell out of our lives, and our pockets. You can shove your non-stimulating stimulus, your jobless jobs bill, and your multitrillion-dollar porkathons. This isn't karaoke. These guys are singing "I'll do it my way" for real.

But it's awfully late in the day. The end is near, we face the final curtain, and it's an open question whether the spirit of the tea parties can triumph over the soporific, sophomoric, self-flattering conformism of that Audi ad: Groupthink compliance has never felt so right!

©MARK STEYN

Directly From Times Magazine

World may not be warming, say scientists

The United Nations climate panel faces a new challenge with scientists casting doubt on its claim that global temperatures are rising inexorably because of human pollution.

In its last assessment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the evidence that the world was warming was “unequivocal”.

It warned that greenhouse gases had already heated the world by 0.7C and that there could be 5C-6C more warming by 2100, with devastating impacts on humanity and wildlife. However, new research, including work by British scientists, is casting doubt on such claims. Some even suggest the world may not be warming much at all.

“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.

The doubts of Christy and a number of other researchers focus on the thousands of weather stations around the world, which have been used to collect temperature data over the past 150 years.

These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site.

Christy has published research papers looking at these effects in three different regions: east Africa, and the American states of California and Alabama.

“The story is the same for each one,” he said. “The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development.”

The IPCC faces similar criticisms from Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph, Canada, who was invited by the panel to review its last report.

The experience turned him into a strong critic and he has since published a research paper questioning its methods.

“We concluded, with overwhelming statistical significance, that the IPCC’s climate data are contaminated with surface effects from industrialisation and data quality problems. These add up to a large warming bias,” he said.

Such warnings are supported by a study of US weather stations co-written by Anthony Watts, an American meteorologist and climate change sceptic.

His study, which has not been peer reviewed, is illustrated with photographs of weather stations in locations where their readings are distorted by heat-generating equipment.

Some are next to air- conditioning units or are on waste treatment plants. One of the most infamous shows a weather station next to a waste incinerator.

Watts has also found examples overseas, such as the weather station at Rome airport, which catches the hot exhaust fumes emitted by taxiing jets.

In Britain, a weather station at Manchester airport was built when the surrounding land was mainly fields but is now surrounded by heat-generating buildings.

Terry Mills, professor of applied statistics and econometrics at Loughborough University, looked at the same data as the IPCC. He found that the warming trend it reported over the past 30 years or so was just as likely to be due to random fluctuations as to the impacts of greenhouse gases. Mills’s findings are to be published in Climatic Change, an environmental journal.

“The earth has gone through warming spells like these at least twice before in the last 1,000 years,” he said.

Kevin Trenberth, a lead author of the chapter of the IPCC report that deals with the observed temperature changes, said he accepted there were problems with the global thermometer record but these had been accounted for in the final report.

“It’s not just temperature rises that tell us the world is warming,” he said. “We also have physical changes like the fact that sea levels have risen around five inches since 1972, the Arctic icecap has declined by 40% and snow cover in the northern hemisphere has declined.”

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts has recently issued a new set of global temperature readings covering the past 30 years, with thermometer readings augmented by satellite data.

Dr Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said: “This new set of data confirms the trend towards rising global temperatures and suggest that, if anything, the world is warming even more quickly than we had thought.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vancouver 2010



Last night I watched the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. What a bore!

Canada has tried for so long to be politically correct, non-USA, diverse, multicultural and sensitive that the Canadian has mutated into something totally devoid of a sense of humor.

The ceremonies included any possible “native” or aboriginal people, even if in their appearance at the ceremonies they looked Irish, Polish or Italian. The costumes they wore looked like they were actually made in China and had been rented from a supplier to Hollywood. The “musical instruments” helped produce a painful cacophony of childlike volunteers banging on plastic drums.

Looking at the entrance of the “four nations” I was expecting some interruption by PETA. After all, the natives were wearing all kind of pelts and furs. But since it was for promoting the victims of European genocide, the left is okay with the sacrifice of some foxes. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if the left actually supports killing a sacrificial fox in a primitive symbolism of the obliteration of Fox News.

The Mounties who carried the Canadian flag marched with the efficiency and coordination of Iraqi soldiers.

Canadians had looked at this event as a way of telling an inspiring story about Canada. Very nice, but the result was pedantic. Inspirational quotes and an incoherent poem by a poet who looked like he just escaped from a café in 1965 Greenwich Village, made me place the remote control as far away from my reach as possible to prevent me from channel surfing. If this was not tortuous enough, we were subjected to watching kd lang perform barefooted and wearing a white suit that screamed “I am gay.” The song, or some call it hymn, Hallelujah, was beautiful and performed to promote peace. I could see barbarians around the globe deciding to change their ways after listening to the infidel dyke sing it.

The show was basically a collection of computer coordinated projections that presented beautiful backgrounds. What was missing was the human touch. Hundred of persons on a field, totally uncoordinated does not a show make. Neither do audiences wearing white ponchos and dangling little flashlights.

Two years ago China gave as a “totalitarian” show. One that can be created only by a despotic regime requisitioning thousands of soldiers and imposing military discipline. North Korea could do the same. But Canada went to the other extreme. The show was so “human” as to become plastic. I wanted merlot, but Canada gave me diet Pepsi.

The day in Vancouver began with a needless tragic death because of a poorly designed luge track and concluded with a malfunction in the emergence of the cauldron.

Other that this, the show was as efficient as Canadian healthcare, and just as exciting.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My favorite news items of the day...

How refreshing. Newly elected Governor Christie of New Jersey has imposed a spending freeze on the state. The democrats reacted as expected decrying the negative impact the freeze will have on education and mass transportation. The typical cries of "tax the rich" can also be heard by those who have forgotten that the rich have moved out of the state in droves. The refugees from the Garden State can be found in states such as Florida and Texas.

Memo to politicians in Washington and Portugal, Ireland and Greece and Spain (also known as PIGS), emulate New Jersey.

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Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy has announced that he will not seek reelection next year. This will be the first time in 60 years that a Kennedy will not be in Washington. I for one, will not miss them.

**********

Meanwhile, in an interview with Bloomberg, Obama has announced that he is an agnostic when it comes to taxing those earning $200,000 and households earning more than $250,000.
Obama, in a Feb. 9 Oval Office interview, said that a presidential commission on the budget needs to consider all options for reducing the deficit, including tax increases and cuts in spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
Remember “Read my lips, no new taxes”?  It was a promise made by a one term president.

**********

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that Germany will not rescue Greece.

Despite a show of Franco-German unity on the crisis and the first statement from EU leaders pledging to safeguard the currency's stability, hopes on the markets of a German-led rescue plan to shore up Greece's critical public finances were dashed by Merkel, who repeatedly emphasized that Athens would need to put its own house in order and brushed aside all questions of financial support.
I am sure that in the coming days we will see Greeks overturning and burning cars. A better solution would be to eliminate the unions that have crippled the Greek economy and made Greece one of the less competitive nations in Europe.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Future Leaders of the Muslim World in Action at UCI



Muslim students tried to silence Israel's U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren when he spoke at UC Irvine's Pacific Ballroom on Monday afternoon, February 8.

Ambassador Oren had come to share his historical and personal perspective on the U.S.-Israel relationship. An author, professor of history, and diplomat, Ambassador Oren is politically centrist and regarded as an expert on many issues of vital interest today. But the Muslim students were determined to silence him, deny him the right to free speech, and deny the audience the right to have civil, intellectual discourse at UCI.

The Muslim students had carefully planned their tactics. Shortly before the event began, large numbers of them gathered for prayers outside the Ballroom. They then entered and scattered throughout the room in order to disrupt the speech from different locations. They did. After every few of Ambassador Oren's sentences, a student would stand up and scream unintelligibly at him while the other students involved raucously clapped and howled. The student whose turn it was to disturb the event would then walk proudly out of the Ballroom, escorted by police, while glaring at the understandably upset and frustrated audience of over 500 people who had come to hear the Ambassador's remarks.

After at least ten interruptions, the uncivilized demonstrators marched outside to a spot closest to the wall of the Ballroom. From there, they shouted more slogans, hoping they could continue to disrupt the event.
But they could not.

The Muslim students angered the audience and embarrassed the UCI administration. They ignored pleas and reprimands from UCI officials who took the microphone. They ignored Ambassador Oren's request that he be granted the civil hospitality due to a guest of the University. They ignored his urging that they raise their concerns during the Q and A. The good news is that Ambassador Oren refused to be silenced. He had come to UCI to share his thoughts and did not abandon his right to free speech even as dozens of students coordinated this hostile demonstration. With his elegant manner, he remained calm, and stood his ground.
He stood up for free speech.

There are lessons to be learned from this event. The University will need to identify the participating students and decide what consequences they will suffer for their uncivilized behavior. The organizers of the protest were seen coordinating the screams from their seats by text messaging on their cell phones, and the Muslim Student Union president may have been among the eleven arrested for disrupting the event. The UCI administration will need to consider sanctions for the MSU since it was clear to everyone in the audience that the MSU had orchestrated the raucous effort to prevent free speech.

Every speaker can learn from Ambassador Oren's example. Whether the speaker is a U.S. General, an academic, or a representative from another country, his or her right to free speech may very well be challenged. We have seen this pattern spread throughout the U.S., especially this past year. Just a few hours before Professor Oren's event, Israel's Senior Legal Advisor, Daniel Taub, had spoken at the UCLA Law School, and also faced a disruptive demonstration. Like Ambassador Oren, Mr. Taub responded with calm, dignity, and a sincere invitation to the demonstrators that they ask questions during the Q and A. Instead, they, too, refused to cooperate, and marched out, escorted by the police.

The main lesson from Ambassador Oren is that we must stand up with dignity and eloquence for free speech. If we do not, if speakers give up and walk off the stage, we risk sacrificing the civil dialogue essential to education and a bedrock of American values.

StandWithUs.com

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The mindset of a liberal


In an interview with Katie Couric, President Obama had this to say about Obamacare:

Couric: But did some of these special deals, Mr. President--
Obama: They didn't help.


Couric: --sort of get it passed at all costs, turn your stomach, too?


Obama: They did not help. They frustrate me. But, you know, this is a democracy. Look, I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, you know, academically approved approach to health care. And didn't have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it. And just go ahead and have that passed. But that's not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people. Many of whom have their constituents' best interests at heart.
This last paragraph gives an insight into the mindset of liberals. Obama would have liked nothing more than shoving down our throats an "academically approved approach to healthcare." Alas, democracy prevented him. Unfortunately, Congress had to do a lot a negotiations and even keep the interest of constituents in mind.

When will Americans learn that they are too ignorant to be involved in the legislative process and that all they need is an enlightened despot?
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In the meantime, as popularity numbers decrease, so changes the tone of Obama.  For example, the demonization of Wall Street has been toned down.  In an interview with Bloomberg Obama said  said that he does not begrudge the bonuses paid to executives of companies that received TARP money:

Asked about the $17 million bonus given to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the $9 million bonuses going to Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO, the president said, “I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”

“I do think that the compensation packages that we’ve seen over the last decade at least have not matched up always to performance,” the president said — a rather serene response relative to some of his previous language on the matter.
The seeming shift in tone comes at a time that Wall Street executives have been relaying to the White House that the president needs to be more encouraging of their efforts if he expects them to be part of the solution in terms of job growth. Several business executives have told the administration that attacking businesses so vociferously doesn’t exactly help create a positive business climate.
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Monopolies in Education

Child-Marriages in the Muslim World

AOL News reports that for the first time in Saudi Arabia, the government run Human Rights Commission has hired a lawyer to look into the case of a 12 year old girl who was forced to marry her father’s 80 year old cousin. The arranged marriage was opposed by the girl’s mother, who since withdrew her opposition. The father received $23,000 as bride price.

Among the Wahhabi Muslims in Saudi Arabia there is strong support for child marriages and claim that it is supported by the Koran. Mohammed himself married his third wife, Aisha, when she was 9 years old.

"It is incorrect to say that it's not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger," Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom's top cleric, said in January, according to the regional Al-Havat newspaper "A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong, and they are being unfair to her."
Human rights advocates hope that the highlight on this case will push for the introduction of legislation set the legal age for marriages between 16 and 18.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A heated debate over foreign correspondents at the NY Times

A heated debate over foreign correspondents at the NY TimesBy Tom Gross
National Review

An almighty kerfuffle has broken out at The New York Times following demands by the paper's public editor, Clark Hoyt, who is meant to be neutral, that the Times reassign its Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner, on the grounds that Bronner's wife is Israeli, which automatically makes their 20-year-old
son an Israeli citizen who is required to do compulsory army service.

Hoyt appears to be bowing to an organized email campaign from readers of the anti-Israel website, the Electronic Intifada.

Other New York Times journalists have backed up Hoyt, even though it is not Hoyt's job to recommend staff reassignments.

Their hypocrisy in singling out Bronner is startling. They have nothing to say, for example, about Anthony Shadid, who covers Iraq for the New York Times, and who is an Arab-American, or Nazila Fathi, the Times's Tehran correspondent, who was born in Iran.

Indeed, from my experience, a large number of foreign correspondents for major media around the world have some direct or family connections to the peoples they are covering, and most manage to stay broadly neutral.

Bronner, while less hostile to Israel than some of the Times's previous Jerusalem correspondents, is nevertheless a classic liberal whose sympathy for the Palestinian cause often shows through in his reporting, though clearly not enough to satisfy the Electronic Intifada.

On other occasions in his reports, Bronner has bent over backwards to be overly critical of Israel precisely because he did not want readers to think he was sympathetic to Israel because he was Jewish.

To single out Bronner smacks of discrimination. And if the Times does now decide to reassign him, it should certainly also find someone to replace its current Gaza correspondent, Taghreed El-Khodary, who sounded like a virtual Hamas propagandist when she spoke at a media conference I attended last November, as I pointed out here..

Meet the (Middle East) Press

Mathhews on Charismatic Leaders

While discussing Sara Palin, Chris Matthews warns us about the damage done by charismatic leaders to this country and the world. I wish he would have named some of the charismatic leaders that have done so much damage to this country.

Does a leader that makes you feel a tingle up your leg qualify as charismatic?

Monday, February 8, 2010

NRO Symposium: Western Civilization on Trial

As the Geert Wilders case goes into pre-trial, National Review Online asked our experts: Is there any legitimate reason he’s in court? What are the implications of such a trial being held, nevermind its outcome?


BAT YE’OR
Geert Wilders is a hero for those countless Europeans who cherish a free and democratic Europe — a Europe proud of its Judeo-Christian and humanistic values, its civilization, and its achievements in the field of human rights. But this is not today’s Europe. In today’s Europe, synagogues, Jewish schools, clubs, and cemeteries need to be guarded — as if going to a Jewish school or praying in a synagogue were a crime punishable by death as in Nazi-occupied Europe. Intellectuals, scholars, and those who protest the creeping Eurabization of culture and society are threatened, boycotted by their colleagues, thrown out of their jobs, forced to leave their families and go into hiding, or obliged to live with bodyguards. Wilders has devoted his life to freeing Europe from Eurabia’s clutches. To this titanic struggle he has sacrificed the security of his life and the joys of family. Threatened by a desert whirlwind blowing hatred upon Europe from the south, spending days and nights shielded by bodyguards, persecuted and tormented by his feckless Eurabian opponents, Geert Wilders incarnates the free soul of an unbending Europe.

Bat Ye’or is author, most recently, of Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis.


PAUL MARSHALL
The American media’s silence about the Geert Wilders trial is puzzling — the trial is explosive, much more so than most of America’s perennial “trials of the century.” Wilders, leader of the Freedom party, is arguably the Netherlands’s most popular politician, but for years he has had to live in safe houses, including on military bases. He now faces the possibility of imprisonment on charges of “group insult” and “incitement to hatred,” as defined by articles 137 (c) and (d) of the Dutch penal code, for his public speeches and op-eds criticizing Islam.

Apart from its direct and immediate threat to free speech, the trial exposes the growth of political violence and repression in the Netherlands, long lauded as the most tolerant country in Europe, if not the world. Thirty years ago, I interviewed then–prime minister Dries van Agt simply by strolling into his unguarded parliamentary office and asking his secretary if he could spare me a couple of minutes. Now it is a country where politicians and artists are targeted by vigilantes and the state.

In 2002, popular Dutch politician and gay activist Pim Fortuyn was murdered by an environmentalist who took offense at Fortuyn’s criticism of Islam. In 2004, one of the country’s leading documentarians, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered, and almost beheaded, on the streets of Amsterdam in retaliation for a film he made about Islam (Submission). In 2006, a gathering of scholars and commentators critical of Islam and Islamism led the Dutch security service to invoke an alert level just short of “national emergency.” In 2008, the prospective release of Wilders’s film Fitna led to special sessions of the Dutch cabinet. The country’s best-known member of parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for many years had to live in hiding, and even briefly fled the country. This is the situation in the heart of liberal Europe.
The media’s silence is also disturbing since it indicates their reluctance, even fear, when it comes to grappling with the West’s increasing censorship of anything that might be deemed offensive to some Muslims. So far, the effects in the U.S. are small — such as the Yale University Press’s removing the famous Danish cartoons from a book about those same cartoons — but they betray a mindset common to much of Europe: preemptive self-censorship. Media outlets that defended and lauded Salman Rushdie two decades ago, when the Ayatollah Khomeini called for him to be killed over The Satanic Verses, now cringe and shy away from those facing similar threats.

Within much of the Muslim world, political and religious debate, especially amongst Muslims, is shut down in the name of preventing anything that could “insult Islam.” Unless we strenuously defend Wilders’s right — and our own right — to speak, especially to criticize and offend, we will stumble down the same path.

Paul Marshall is senior fellow at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.


CLIFFORD D. MAY
I used to think of the Netherlands as a land of tulips, windmills, Anne Frank, and a little boy with his finger in the dike. Increasingly, I think of it as the place where Theo van Gogh was murdered in broad daylight, Aayan Hirsi Ali was betrayed, and free speech is on trial.

Pretty much all you need to know about the prosecution of the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders was summed up in a single (if run-on) sentence attributed to the “Openbaar Ministerie,” which is not, as the name might suggest, a place that serves free whiskey to pastors. It is the prosecution service of the Dutch Ministry of Justice.

In response to Wilders’s request to bring in witnesses to establish the veracity of the opinions that got him in trouble with the law, that body issued this statement on January 17: “It is irrelevant whether Wilders’s witnesses might prove Wilders’s observations to be correct, what’s relevant is that his observations are illegal.”

In other words, the prosecutors believe that the truth is not a defense in the Netherlands, nor perhaps elsewhere in Europe — a continent that appears no longer to have the will to defend its values, culture, and civilization. Very sad.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and militant Islamism.


DANIEL PIPES
Wilders is in court because the Netherlands has no First Amendment, and so endlessly tries to figure out what speech to permit and what to prohibit. Wilders is hardly the only victim of this predicament; the arrest and jailing in 2008 of a cartoonist who goes by “Gregorius Nekschot” notoriously symbolized the state’s incoherence.

U.S. media should cover the Wilders proceedings because Wilders’s career has implications beyond one man, one party, or one country. It potentially affects all of Europe as the continent works out its response to the Islamic challenge. The U.S. media does an adequate job of informing its audience about this topic, so the near-silence about Wilders comes as a bit of a surprise.

The Islamic challenge forces Europeans to take stock of themselves in an unprecedented way. Colorful examples include the British ICONS project, which features 120 “national treasures” that help define English culture; the Dutch government’s film for potential immigrants that features a topless woman on the beach and two men kissing; and the French prime minister’s decision to expel a man from France for compelling his wife to wear a burqa.

Europe’s future is in play. Wilders’s time in court affects the outcome.

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.


NINA SHEA
In 1989, Iran’s supreme leader issued a blasphemy fatwa against Salman Rushdie in London. It was the opening volley in a new Muslim push — later taken up by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference — to force the West to adopt Islamic-blasphemy strictures within its borders. Intimidated, the West has begun to comply. It does so mostly through self-censorship and by prosecuting those who do speak out under religious-hate-speech laws such as those invoked in the Netherlands against Wilders. These laws are the West’s proxy for blasphemy bans.

The danger has not been mass imprisonment — actual convictions have been few — but the creation of a general deterrent to criticism of Islam or anything Islamic. Europe’s leaders likely believe that banning religious hate speech is a small price to pay for greater security; if so, they are wrong. The premise that religion can be easily compartmentalized, relegated to an autonomous sphere separate from politics and culture, is a misconception. Europe’s present path has profound implications for scholarship, political progress, social and economic development, and national security. This chilling of speech, aggravated by Muslim violence, erodes fundamental freedoms of speech and religion and threatens the West’s very identity.

Such laws will not bring social harmony. Anti-blasphemy pushes in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, and elsewhere are often driven by implacable ideologues and political opportunists. Muslims who protest the radicals’ agenda are the first to be silenced. As Malaysia’s former finance minister observed, religious hate-speech laws all depend on the “elastic goo” of public sentiment. A nation that entertains such cases will be forced to go from issue to issue, “hostage to the brinkmanship of sensitivities.”

Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.


ROBERT SPENCER
The Geert Wilders trial ought to be an international media event; seldom has any court case anywhere had such enormous implications for the future of the free world. The case against him, which has all the legitimacy of a Stalinist-era Moscow show trial, is a manifestation of the global assault on free speech sponsored chiefly at the U.N. by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). If Wilders loses, the freedom of speech will be threatened everywhere in the West.

Even if he wins, a dangerous precedent has been set by the fact of the trial itself: It is a sad day for the freedom of speech when a man can be put on trial for causing another man offense. If offending someone were really a crime warranting prosecution by the civil authorities, the legal system would be opened up to absurdities even greater than the Wilders trial.

But of course what Dutch authorities, Muslim groups in the Netherlands, and the OIC really want to accomplish is to silence Wilders’s truth-telling about jihad and Islamic supremacism. The court’s railroading of Wilders was clear from that fact that 15 of his 18 requested witnesses were disallowed, including Mohammed Bouyeri, the Koran-inspired murderer of Theo Van Gogh who would have proven Wilders’s point immediately. As Wilders himself put it Wednesday: “This court is not interested in the truth. This court doesn’t want me to have a fair trial.” The darkness descending over Europe, as indicated by this trial, may ensure that there is no fair trial there again for a long, long time.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran.

Pilar Rahola: The Anti-Israel Hysteria

The anti-Israel hysteria

By Pilar Rahola

Pilar Rahola
I understand that you want to wipe us off the map, just don't expect us to help you attain that goal. The fact that this old sentiment - the gist of a line uttered by a caustic Golda Meir to the Palestinian leadership - is so relevant these days, gives us a sense of the scope of the tragedy the Holy Land has been suffering through for so many decades.

In fact, this same idea - the need for continued efforts to curb the intended destruction of Israel - lies behind the dramatic military decision made by the Israeli government, one that has again made it an object of wrath for so many around the world.

As Prof. Joan B. Culla said recently, there can be multiple reactions to the Israel Defense Forces' military incursion in the Gaza Strip, and some of these are justifiably critical. But, given the fact that hysterical reactions abound, lacking any semblance of calm reflection, and based strictly on Manichaeanism and prejudice, there are some questions that must be asked.

Ari Shavit wrote recently in Haaretz ("A Just but Tragic War," January 1) that "Operation Cast Lead is a just campaign" and that it is also a "tragic campaign." I disagree with the term "just," because, as Golda Meir also said, "We don't want wars, even when we win." A military incursion that causes dozens of deaths can never be considered just, even if it is aimed at the destruction of the Hamas military machine. But can it be considered inevitable?

Some intellectuals, including Amos Oz, have already warned that the Gaza incursion will lead to a significant new wave of anti-Israel sentiment. But even the Israeli left has taken a very lukewarm position about the incursion. The decision to attack Hamas was made by an Israeli society suffering from fatigue, fed up of not being able to find a way out, or reason for hope. And fed up, too, of the knowledge that the other side is working tirelessly to destroy it.

Here they are, then, the questions, directed particularly to those carrying signs proclaiming their hatred of Israel through the streets of our cities - most of them the usual suspects, from the certain ones belonging to the radical left, always ready to raise their fist against Israel, to the various sectors of Islamism. It's curious, in fact, this obscene partnership.

Those who go into the streets claim to do so in favor of the freedom of Palestine. Well, where have they been all these years, as the fundamentalist phenomena that oppressed the Palestinians were on the rise? Does Hamas have anything to do with freedom, or rather, doesn't it have everything to do with Islamism of a fascist tendency? Is freedom defended by training children to commit suicide attacks and by enslaving women? Is freedom defended by Iran, which supports Hamas financially? Does freedom belong to the terrorists of Hezbollah?

Those who protest in the streets also say they do so out of solidarity. Well, solidarity with whom? With Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, who has been less critical of the incursion than any European carrying a sign? With the Palestinians who do not agree with having the financial aid sent to their people being used to build armies and prepare bomb attacks? Do they wonder what happens to these funds? Does solidarity with the Palestinians mean defending terrorism and excusing Hamas' aggressions? Is peace defended by boosting Palestinian leaders who do not believe in it?

It is true that the intolerant left lives better by being anti-Israel. And it is also true that, in the face of complex realities, the vociferous masses prefer the simplicity of the "good" and the "bad." But, beyond prejudice, facts are stubborn. Israel withdrew from Gaza, leaving intact the economic structures it had created. Hamas destroyed them all, and took advantage of the withdrawal to prepare an army of destruction. And hundreds of missiles later, it continues its preparations.

The silence of this left, which is so loud today, has been very significant. What is happening in Gaza is tragic. But it did not start with the Israeli incursion. And to put all the blame on Israel is comfortable and simple, but useless. Because the main enemy of the Palestinian people comes from within.

Pilar Rahola is a Spanish-Catalan journalist. She writes a regular column for the Barcelona paper La Vanguardia, where this article originally appeared in Spanish.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

From Pajamas Media

“Dear Dumb Dad”

By W. W. McClintock

Ca. 1935

My father, poor misguided gent,
Wasted his life — a life misspent
By working hard and working late
From 6 A.M. till way past eight.
Poor Dad! He’d fume and fret and toil
And burn the blooming midnight oil
For nothing but a little cash
To buy the daily beans and hash.

Poor Dad! He was so mild and meek
He’d work six days in every week
And 14 hours every day
To try to keep the wolf away.
Now father, meaning well, but dumb,
Amassed a rather tidy sum
With which he planned to buy some beers
To brighten his declining years.

Then the NEW DEAL came; simple Dad!
Who worked so hard for all he had
Awoke one morn to find that he
Was now a public enemy.
A louse, a Scrooge, a national cyst!
An economic royalist!

So Dad, industrious but dumb,
Is now the source from which will come
The coin to buy the gasoline
For some poor underdog’s machine.
To bring the more abundant life
To every loafer and his wife.
From Dad will be extracted sums
For radios to ease the hells
Of all the chronic ne’er-do-wells:
For booze, so labor’s little Nell
Can tell the boss to go to hell.
Poor Dad, a faithful, trustful goon,
Was born just 30 years too soon.

L’ENVOI

A moral lurks along the hall
In all this fancy folderol,
And it is this: That any cheat
Who says you ought to work to eat,
Is simply nuts, out of his head–
Sit on your tail or stay in bed,
The government will see, by gad,
That you get yours from chumps like Dad!

Worth Reading

Dr. Siddiqui found guilty. The making of a Western Jihadist.  Phyllis Chesler again hits the nail on the head in this analysis of the radicalization of Muslims born and educated in the West.

Read Article

George Will has written a terrific column on former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels and his plan to solve our economic problems and bring entitlememnts to solvency.  Of course the plan is too simple and efficient to satisfy those redistributionists in both parties who need a tax code to satisfy every interest group in existance.  As Will writes:
Today's tax system was shaped by sadists who were trying to be nice: Every wrinkle in the code was put there to benefit this or that interest. Since the 1986 tax simplification, the code has been recomplicated more than 14,000 times — more than once a day.
Read George Will's Article

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Turkish girl 'buried alive for talking to boys'

The hole where the body was uncovered
A 16-year-old Turkish girl was buried alive by relatives as a punishment for talking to boys, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Thursday.

Police discovered the body of the girl, identified only as M.M., in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-meter-deep hole dug under a chicken pen outside her house in Kahta in the southeastern province of Adiyaman, the Turkish daily reported on its website.

An autopsy revealed dirt in the victim’s lungs, thus confirming that she was alive when her father and grandfather buried her.

The teenager's father and grandfather were arrested over the suspected 'honor killing' after police unearth the shackled body.

The usual Muslim suspects in the West will go on TV to decry this murder and every commentator will make sure to remind us that this is not reflective of Islam.

No comment was heard from the N.O.W.  I guess this is because they cannot tie the murder to white American males.

Meanwhile in the Muslim world the silence will continue to be deafening.  And honor killings will continue.

Fundamentally Transform America

Whenever I ask myself if I am being paranoid about Obama administration, I find out about another project that is being imposed by the government and that justifies my worries.

On top of last year’s $4.35 billion demanded by the administration for education reform, Obama has asked for an additional $1.53 billion for fiscal year 2011 for Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s pet project Race to the Top completion.

Sara Durand has written a well researched article on this competition and the potential that exists for converting it into an indoctrination program. Read the article and click on the links that the article provides. It is interesting to see how hidden in a myriad of governmental projects, Obama is planting seeds for his pet projects, designed, and here a I quote Obama, “to fundamentally transform this country.”

Read Article

February 6, Ronald Reagan's Birthday

Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.  Ronald Reagan

Friday, February 5, 2010

Recommended Reading


Once again Charles Krauthammer gives brilliant analysis of current Washington events. Read this column, and you need read nothing else the rest of the weekend.


Hey, did you know that if you are a Palestinian and you beat your wife, it's the fault of the Israeli occupation? Well, The Lancet, the British medical publication seems to agree with this thesis.

Read Article

Will Israel use tactical nuclear weapons to wipe out the Iranian nuclear program? Michael Goodwin of the New York Post seems to think so. Meanwhile Obama continues to demand a dialogue to solve the problem. If this fail, Obama will blame Bush.


Haiti, the country that in the best of times has had 300,000 children in orphanages and hundreds of thousands living in abject poverty in the streets, has suddenly discovered the need to protect its children. 10 Americans have been arrested and charged with abduction for attempting to get 33 children into an orphanage they had set up in the Dominican Republic without having completed the paperwork. In Creole this means not having bribed enough officials. I guess Haiti wants us to believe that the abductors were doing these because of the high demand for adoptions of black children. Give me a break.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Columbine averted in Staten Island thanks to courageous principal.

Under the zero tolerance policy implemented in New York and cities around the country, the possession of any kind of gun is prohibited, thus leading bureaucrats to implement the policy in the most ridiculous manner.

The latest example is the reprimand and near suspension that 9-year-old Patrick Timoney faced for bringing a LEGO policeman and a miniature gun to school.

Being a former supervisor in education, I am not surprised by the reaction of Principal Evelyn Matroianni. She is as spineless as most of the bureaucrats who work for the Department of Education where CYA is the modus operandi.

In 2007, a New Jersey 7-year-old was suspended when he drew a picture of gun.

Can you imagine this type of bureaucrat running the healthcare system?

When Convicted of Terrorism, Blame Israel

Proponents of civilian trials for captured terrorists keep insisting that this will impress the world and show the greatness of our system. An example of how impressed terrorists are by the American judiciary can be seen in the reaction of Pakistani terrorist Aafia Siddiqui after her conviction. The New York Times reports:

A Pakistani neuroscientist was convicted on Wednesday of attempted murder for trying to kill American soldiers and F.B.I. agents in Afghanistan.

Federal prosecutors said the neuroscientist, Aafia Siddiqui, 37, grabbed an M4 rifle in a police station in the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 18, 2008, and fired on American officers and federal agents.

After slightly more than two days of deliberations, a jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan found her guilty.

As the jurors began leaving the courtroom, Ms. Siddiqui, who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University, turned in her chair to face them.

"This is a verdict coming from Israel and not from America," she said, holding her right index finger in the air. "That's where the anger belongs. I can testify to this, and I have proof."

Ms. Siddiqui was then led out of the courtroom while the judge and lawyers for both sides discussed a sentencing date...
This is what is reported in the Muslim world, and this is what they believe: The American judiciary is in the hands of Israel. It will be a lot worst when KSM is tried.

As for world opinion, who cares?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The SEC Fights Global Warming

After a wave of financial-fraud cases, the Securities and Exchange Commission has issued guidance for companies on disclosing global-warming risks. The WSJ editorial page's James Freeman weighs in with the reason why.

The Seduction of Decline, by MARK STEYN

Mark Steyn has written another brilliant article on the decline of the West and the decline of the United States. His analyis is as insightful as it is scary. Read it and post comments. I would love to hear your opinions.

Click here to read the article in Mark Steyns website.

If you are too lazy to click on the link, here is the article:


THE SEDUCTIONS OF DECLINE
Steyn on America
Tuesday, 02 February 2010

Sometimes you do live to see it. In my book America Alone, I point out that, to a five-year old boy waving his flag as Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee procession marched down the Mall in 1897, it would have been inconceivable that by the time of his eightieth birthday the greatest empire the world had ever known would have shriveled to an economically moribund strike-bound socialist slough of despond, one in which (stop me if this sounds familiar) the government ran the hospitals, the automobile industry and much of the housing stock, and, partly as a consequence thereof, had permanent high unemployment and confiscatory tax rates that drove its best talents to seek refuge abroad.

A number of readers, disputing the relevance of this comparison, send me mocking letters pointing out, for example, Britain’s balance of payments and other deteriorating economic indicators from the early 20th century on. True. Great powers do not decline for identical reasons and one would not expect Britain’s imperial overstretch to lead to the same consequences as America’s imperial understretch. Nonetheless, my correspondents are perhaps too sophisticated and nuanced to grasp the somewhat more basic point I was making. Perched on his uncle’s shoulders that day was a young lad who grew up to become the historian Arnold Toynbee. He recalled the mood of Her Majesty’s jubilee as follows: “There is, of course, a thing called history, but history is something unpleasant that happens to other people. We are comfortably outside all of that I am sure.” The end of history, 1897 version.

Permanence is an illusion – and you would be surprised at how fast mighty nations can be entirely transformed. But, more importantly, national decline is psychological – and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline. Within two generations, for example, the German people became just as obnoxiously pacifist as they once were obnoxiously militarist, and as avowedly “European” as they once were menacingly nationalist. Well, who can blame ‘em? You’d hardly be receptive to pitches for national greatness after half-a-century of Kaiser Bill, Weimar, the Third Reich, and the Holocaust.

But what are we to make of the British? They were on the right side of all the great conflicts of the last century; and they have been, in the scales of history, a force for good in the world. Even as their colonies advanced to independence, they retained the English language, and English legal system, not to mention cricket and all kinds of other cultural ties. Even in imperial retreat, there is no rational basis for late 20th century Britain’s conclusion that it had no future other than as an outlying province of a centralized Euro nanny state dominated by nations whose political, legal and cultural traditions are entirely alien to its own. The embrace of such an alien fate is a psychological condition, not an economic one.

Is America set for decline? It’s been a grand run. The country’s been the leading economic power since it overtook Britain in the 1880s. That’s impressive. Nevertheless, over the course of that century and a quarter, Detroit went from the world’s industrial powerhouse to an urban wasteland, and the once golden state of California atrophied into a land of government run by the government for the government. What happens when the policies that brought ruin to Detroit and sclerosis to California became the basis for the nation at large? Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: Unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the American economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet. But what will ensure it is if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.

Is that so hard to imagine? Every time I retail the latest indignity imposed upon the “citizen” by some or other Continental apparatchik, I receive e-mails from the heartland pointing out, with much reference to the Second Amendment, that it couldn’t happen here because Americans aren’t Euro-weenies. But nor were Euro-weenies once upon a time. Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road To Serfdom is psychological: “There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought,” he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944. “It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.

The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, non-interference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.” Two-thirds of a century on, almost every item on the list has been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (40 per cent of people receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and authority” – the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something”, the cost to individual liberty be damned. American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government and not witness, in enough of the populace, the same descent into dependency and fatalism. As Europe demonstrates, a determined state can change the character of a people in the space of a generation or two. Look at what the Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population: That’s what happened in Britain.

But that’s to cast decline in its least favorable light, after it’s had a couple of generations to work its dark magic. As it’s happening, incremental decline is extremely seductive. Great powers aren’t Chad or Rwanda, where you’re sliding from the Dump category to the Even Crummier Dump category. Take a city like Vienna. Once upon a time it was an imperial capital. The empire bust up, but the capital still had magnificent architecture, handsome palaces, treasure houses of great art, a world-class orchestra, fabulous restaurants… Who wouldn’t enjoy such “decline”? You benefit from all the accumulated capital of the past without being troubled by any of the tedious responsibilities. Have another coffee and a piece of strudel and watch the world go by. To be sure, everything new – or, at any rate, everything new that works – is invented and made elsewhere. But genteel decline from the heights can be eminently civilized, especially to those of a leftish bent. Francophile Americans passing through bucolic villages with their charmingly state-regulated charcuteries and farmland wholly subsidized by the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy can be forgiven for wondering whether global hegemony is all it’s cracked up to be.

Whether decline will seem quite so bucolic viewed from a Jersey strip mall rather than the Dordogne remains to be seen. Yet in the geopolitical sense it can be marvelously liberating. You still go to all the best parties and have a seat at the top table – Britain and France are members of the UN Security Council and the G7 and every other group that counts – and even better, when the check comes, you’re not the one stuck with the tab. You can preen and pose on the world stage secure in the knowledge that nobody expects you to do anything about it: It’s no surprise to find the post-great powers of Europe are the noisiest promoters of every fashionable nostrum from the iniquities of the Zionist Entity to the perils of “climate change”. The European Union has attitudes rather than policies. A couple of years back, Bret Stephens, then editor of The Jerusalem Post, opened his mail to find a copy of something called "Conclusions of the European Council", a summary of the work done during the six months of Ireland’s “Euro-presidency”. A braver man than I, he read it, at least as far as Item 80:

“The European Council expresses its deep concern at the recent events in the Eastern Congo, which could jeopardise the transition process."

And that and a couple Euros will get you a café au lait. The EU is free to flaunt its “concern” – whoops, “deep concern” - over events in the Eastern Congo precisely because nobody in the Eastern Congo or anywhere else expects Europe to do a thing about it. The Continent increasingly resembles those insulated celebrities being shuttled around town from one humanitarian gala to another – like Barbra Streisand and Leonardo Di Caprio jetting in to join Barack Obama and Al Gore in bemoaning Joe Sixpack’s carbon footprint.

And when you put it like that, what’s the downside?

Okay, since you ask, here’s my prediction: American decline will not be like France’s or Austria’s. For one thing, we don’t appreciate how unusual the last transfer of power was. If you’re not quite sure when that took place, the British historian Andrew Roberts likes to pinpoint it to the middle of 1943: One month, the British had more men under arms than the Americans. The next month, the Americans had more men under arms than the British. The baton of global leadership had been passed. And, if it didn’t seem that way at the time, that’s because it was as near a seamless transition as could be devised – although it was hardly “devised” at all. Yet we live with the benefits of that transition to this day: To take a minor but not inconsequential example, one of the critical links in the Afghan campaign was the British Indian Ocean Territory. As its name would suggest, that’s a British dependency but it has a US military base – just one of many pinpricks on the map where the Royal Navy’s Pax Britannica evolved into Washington’s Pax Americana with nary a thought: From US naval bases in Bermuda to the ANZUS alliance Down Under to NORAD close to home, London’s military ties with its empire were assumed by the United States. Britain’s eclipse by its transatlantic progeny is one of the smoothest transfers of power in history – and unlikely to be repeated.

Now look beyond the anglosphere. Why did decline prove so pleasant in Europe? Because it was cushioned by American power. The United States is such a perversely non-imperial power that it garrisons not ramshackle colonies but its wealthiest “allies”, from Germany to Japan. For most of its members, “the free world” has been a free ride. And that, too, is unprecedented. Even the few Nato members that can still project meaningful force around the world have been able to arrange their affairs on the assumption of the American security umbrella: In the United Kingdom, between 1951 and 1997 the proportion of expenditure on defense fell from 24 per cent to seven, while the proportion on health and welfare rose from 22 per cent to 53. And that’s before New Labour came along to widen the gap further.

Those British numbers are a bald statement of reality: You can have Euro-sized entitlements or a global military, but not both. What’s easier to do if you’re a democratic government that’s made promises it can’t afford? Cut back on nanny-state lollipops? Or shrug off thankless military commitments for which the electorate has minimal appetite? A Continental might take the view that this is democracy’s safeguard against an old temptation. After all, declining powers frequently turned to war to arrest their own decline or another’s rise – see the Franco-Prussian, the Austro-Prussian, the Napoleonic Wars and many others. But those were the days when traditional great power rivalry was resolved on the battled. Today we have post-modern post-great power rivalry, in which America envies the way the beneficiaries of its post-war largesse have been able to opt out of the great game entirely. In reality-TV terms, the Great Satan would like to vote itself off the battlefield. On its present course, as Dennis Prager put it, America “will be a large Sweden, and just as influential as the smaller one.”

And that’s the optimistic scenario – because the only reason Sweden can be Sweden and Germany Germany and France France is because America is America. Who will cushion America’s decline as America cushioned Europe’s?

Furthermore, is “a large Sweden” even possible? Insofar as it works at all, Big Government works best in small countries, with a sufficiently homogeneous population to share common interests.

There’s a fascinating book by Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore called The Size of Nations, in which the authors note that, of the ten richest countries in the world, only four have populations above one million: America (300 million people), Switzerland (seven million), Norway (four million) and Singapore (three million). Small nations, they argue, are more cohesive and have less need for buying off ethnic and regional factions. America has been the exception that proves the rule, because it’s a highly decentralized federation. But, as Messrs Alesina and Spolaore put it, if America were as centrally governed as France, it would break up. That theory is now being tested by the Obamacare Democrats, and, as we see with the wretched Ben Nelson’s cornhusker kickback or the blank check given to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when American-style Big Government starts “buying off ethnic and regional factions” the sky’s the limit. To attempt to impose European-style centralized government on a third of a billion people from Maine to Hawaii is to invite failure on a scale unknown to history. Which is to say that, domestically, Washington’s retreat from la gloire will be of an entirely different order of business from Paris’s.

And overseas? If America becomes Europe in its domestic disposition and geopolitical decline, then who will be America? Of the many competing schools of declinism, perhaps the most gleeful are those who salivate over the rise of China. For years, Sinophiles have been penning orgasmic fantasies of mid-century when China will bestride the world and America will be consigned to the garbage heap of history. It will never happen: As I’ve been saying for years, China has profound structural problems. It will get old before it gets rich.

Russia? The demographic deformation of Tsar Putin’s new empire is even more severe than Beijing’s. Russia is a global power only to the extent of the mischief it can make on its acceleration into a death spiral.

The new Caliphate? Even if every dimestore jihadist’s dreams came true, almost by definition an Islamic imperium will be in decline from Day One.

So there’s no plausible new kid on the block? Isn’t that good news? Not exactly. Much of the timing of American decline depends on Beijing, which will make the final determination on such matters as when the dollar ceases to be the world’s reserve currency. Given that they hold at least the schedule of our fate in their hands, it would be rather reassuring if they had the capability to assume America’s role as the global order-maker. But they don’t and they never will. The most likely future is not a world under a new order but a world with no order – in which pipsqueak states go nuclear while the planet’s wealthiest nations, from New Zealand to Norway, are unable to defend their own borders and are forced to adjust to the post-American era as they can. Yet, in such a geopolitical scene, the United States will still remain the most inviting target – first, because it’s big, and secondly, because, as Britain knows, the durbar moves on but imperial resentments linger long after imperial grandeur.

One sympathizes with Americans weary of global responsibilities that they, unlike the European empires, never sought. The United States now spends more on its military than the next 40 or so nations combined. In research and development, it spends more than the rest of the planet put together. Yet in two rinky-dink no-account semi-colonial policing campaigns, it doesn’t feel like that, does it? A lot of bucks, but not much of a bang. You can understand why the entire left and an increasing chunk of the right would rather vote for a quiet life. But that’s not an option. The first victims of American retreat will be the many corners of the world that have benefitted from a unusually benign hegemon. But the consequences of retreat will come home, too. In a more dangerous world, American decline will be steeper, faster and more devastating than Britain’s – and something far closer to Rome’s.

In the modern era, the two halves of “the west” form a mirror image. “The Old World” has thousand-year old churches and medieval street plans and ancient hedgerows, but has been distressingly susceptible to every insane political fad from Communism to Fascism to European Union. “The New World” has a superficial novelty – you can have your macchiato tweeted directly to your iPod – but underneath the surface noise it has remained truer to older political ideas than “the Old World” ever has. Economic dynamism and political continuity seem far more central to America’s sense of itself than they are to most nations. Which is why it’s easier to contemplate Spain or Germany as a backwater than America. In a fundamental sense, an America in eclipse would no longer be America.

But, as Charles Krauthammer said recently, “decline is a choice.” The Democrats are offering it to the American people, and a certain proportion of them seem minded to accept. Enough to make decline inevitable? To return to the young schoolboy on his uncle’s shoulders watching the Queen-Empress’ jubilee, in the words of Arnold Toynbee: “Civilizations die from suicide, not from murder."

from National Review

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

And so it goes...


This week Newfoundland's prime minister will have heart surgery in the United States. No comment for those who keep repeating the mantra "We need health care just like Canada."

Read article

In the meantime in the good old United States, politicians who constantly remind us that we just had the "largest tax cuts in history" will continue to so despite the fact that we are about to be hit by devastating taxes. Te result will be a slowdown in the economy, which will lead to more government spending, which will lead to printing money, which will lead to inflation which will lead to high interest which will slow down the economy...

If you want to know the final outcome Google: Argentina; Economic History.

Here are some of the hikes we will be hit with when Obama lets tax cuts expire in 2010:

  • The Obama administration is looking to increase taxes for those extravagant rich who earn $250,00 or more. Did you know that in New York City a teacher married to a nurse qualify as rich?
  • By December 31 the top tier will rise from 35 to 39 percent.
  • The 25 percent tax bracket will revert back to 28 percent.
  • The 28 percent bracket will increase to 31 percent
  • The 33 percent bracket will increase to 36 percent.
  • The special 10 percent bracket is eliminated.
  • Investors will see taxes on dividends increase from 15 percent to 39.6 percent.

Yahoo Finances also reports that:

Millions of middle-class households already may be facing higher taxes in 2010 because Congress has failed to extend tax breaks that expired on January 1, most
notably a "patch" that limited the impact of the alternative minimum tax. The AMT, initially designed to prevent the very rich from avoiding income taxes, was never indexed for inflation. Now the tax is affecting millions of middle-income households, but lawmakers have been reluctant to repeal it because it has become a key source of revenue.

Without annual legislation to renew the patch this year, the AMT could affect an estimated 25 million taxpayers with incomes as low as $33,750 (or $45,000 for joint filers). Even if the patch is extended to last year's levels, the tax will hit American families that can hardly be considered wealthy -- the AMT exemption for 2009 was $46,700 for singles and $70,950 for married couples filing jointly.

Middle-class families also will find fewer tax breaks available to them in 2010 if other popular tax provisions are allowed to expire. Among them:

* Taxpayers who itemize will lose the option to deduct state sales-tax payments instead of state and local income taxes;

* The $250 teacher tax credit for classroom supplies;

* The tax deduction for up to $4,000 of college tuition and expenses;

* Individuals who don't itemize will no longer be able to increase their standard deduction by up to $1,000 for property taxes paid;

* The first $2,400 of unemployment benefits are taxable, in 2009 that amount was tax-free.

Add all these increases on top of sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, real estate taxes, telephone taxes, cell phone taxes, gasoline taxes, car and registration fees, hotel taxes, parking taxes, tolls on roads and bridges, taxes on movies, theater and other forms of entertainment, and you are paying more than half of what you earn in taxes.

At what point is enough enough?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Islamist Lawfare Defeated in Texas



by Daniel Huff

January 25, 2010

Libel suits are not normally associated with national security, but a case the Texas Supreme Court ruled on January 15 carries just such implications. The suit against internet journalist Joe Kaufman is a prime example of how libel law can be manipulated to stifle dissemination of information about terrorism and radical Islam.

It arises out of Kaufman's September 28, 2007 FrontPage Magazine article on the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which sponsored a "Muslim Family Day" at Six Flags Over Texas. Kaufman vowed to protest the event citing, among other things, ICNA's alleged "physical ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and financial ties to Hamas."

Within days, Kaufman was sued, but not by ICNA. Rather, seven Dallas area Islamist organizations, none of them named in the article, sued Kaufman for defamation arguing they were implicated by inference since they too sponsored the event. In June 2009, a Texas appellate court dismissed the case before it could go to trial because "a reasonable reader who was acquainted with [plaintiffs] would not view Kaufman's statements as 'concerning' them."” Undeterred, the seven Islamist groups asked the Texas Supreme Court for review.

In what Kaufman termed a "victory for freedom", the Court rejected their petition and let the appeals court decision stand.

This result is important for two reasons. First, plaintiffs had argued that Kaufman, as an internet journalist, was not entitled to certain procedural protections afforded traditional media defendants that make it easier for them to get libel cases dismissed before they reach the costly trial phase. In a precedential ruling, the appellate court rejected this contention finding generally that "an internet communicator may qualify as a member of the media”."

Second, the lawsuit fits a growing pattern of Islamists exploiting libel law to silence critics. They file questionable suits knowing they need not win to intimidate, demoralize, and bankrupt opponents. For example, in 2006, a Saudi banker's mere threat to sue prompted Cambridge University Press to pulp unsold copies of a book on terror financing titled Alms for Jihad, and to request American libraries to remove their copies from circulation.

That this tactic of "lawfare" may have had a role in the Kaufman case, was suggested in a May 17, 2009 broadcast of Crescent Report hosted by Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Legal Society Freedom Foundation. After personally castigating Kaufman, Bray explained, "we've got to be willing to spend our money in a court of law … and not necessarily because we're going to look for money, but … to spend our money and make you spend your money."

The appellate court found the plaintiffs could not even meet the basic requirements for proceeding. However, as a bid to use legal fees to bleed Kaufman into submission the suit was much more promising. In fact, Kaufman would almost certainly have been bankrupt well before the case was dismissed were it not for the legal and financial aid of those dedicated to defending journalists from the threat of lawfare, including the Legal Project of the Middle East Forum and the Horowitz Freedom Center.

Kaufman explained that the plaintiffs' goal was to stop him from criticizing "those who wish to do harm to the United States, specifically those tied to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood."” Last Friday's decision has frustrated these Islamists designs.

A Texas tradition of vigorous commitment to free speech is evident in its founding documents. The 1836 Texas Independence Constitution went even further than the First Amendment by guaranteeing an affirmative "liberty to speak" rather than simply restricting governmental interference with debate. The Texas Supreme Court's decision preserves this legacy and we should applaud it.