Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Paula Abdul Theory of Foreign Policy by Brett Stephens

Is it better to be a sucker?

Consider three examples where conventional wisdom tells us, in effect, that it is. Tomorrow, negotiations resume in Washington between Israelis and Palestinians. A fool's gambit? Not at all, says U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who likes to say that, in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland, he had "700 days of failure and one day of success."

Next is Iran. The Obama administration is fond of explaining that last year's outreach to the Islamic Republic was a no-lose proposition, since it meant that either diplomacy would succeed in curbing the regime's nuclear bids, or its failure would expose the regime's duplicity and obstructionism, thereby facilitating tougher measures.

And then there is the Ground Zero mosque: Among its virtues, say supporters, is that it will advertise American tolerance and strengthen the hand of moderate Muslims in America and abroad.

To all this, one might say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results; that there's no such thing as a free lunch; and that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

But put the clich├ęs aside: The deeper political idea at work here is that moral inputs are the essential ingredients to—and ultimately more important than—pragmatic outputs. Charitably speaking, this means leading by persuasion and example, always going the last mile for peace, giving others (or, "the other") the benefit of the doubt and so on. The real-world benefits are supposed to flow naturally from there, but if they don't, so what? Doing right is its own reward.

Uncharitably speaking, this is what might be called the Paula Abdul theory of foreign policy, after the famously forgiving former judge on American Idol. Never mind that you can't sing, or that you're letting yourself be played for a sucker: What counts is that you feel good about yourself, presumably because you're doing something good. Another name for this kind of thinking is moral narcissism.

No wonder there's something slightly frantic about all the testimonials—more often asserted than demonstrated—to the "moderation" of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the would-be imam of the Ground Zero mosque. In fact, the imam's record of political and theological pronouncements is mixed, often slippery and sometimes disturbing, as when he urged last year that President Obama endorse the theocratic foundations of Iran's government.

But none of that really matters much to Mr. Rauf's supporters, not because they are his fellow travellers politically, but because supporting the mosque is an opportunity to flaunt their virtue by the simple means of making a political declaration. Question to mosque supporters: Has your check to Mr. Rauf's Cordoba Initiative been mailed already? Or would you rather the Saudi government pick up the tab?

The Obama administration's approach to Iran is another instance of moral narcissism in action. It took a peculiar political conceit to imagine that the Islamic Republic was a misunderstood creature, offended by Bush administration arrogance, that would yield to President Obama's charm offensive.

Then again, President Obama's approach wasn't dictated by a long train of examples of the Islamic Republic rebuffing every diplomatic overture made to it, or by a sober assessment about the drift of its politics in recent years. Nor did the president seem much concerned about the consequences of Iran playing the U.S. for a fool while it again played for time for its nuclear programs.

But, again, none of this really matters, because the real point of the diplomatic outreach wasn't pragmatic; it was about the administration and its supporters demonstrating that they were the good guys vis-a-vis Iran. I doubt even Glenn Beck needed proof of this.

Finally, the Israeli-Palestinian talks, whose chances of success may be safely predicted at nil. Yesterday, I spoke with Aaron David Miller, the former U.S. Middle East negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson Center, to ask him what was wrong with the view that it is better to try and fail than not to try at all.

"That's what Bill Clinton said to us," he replied. "I was inspired; it's quintessentially American. But it's not a substitute for a serious foreign policy on the part of the world's most consequential power." The risk, he added, "is that when the small power says no to the great one without cost or consequence, whether that's Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Arabs or the Israelis, we lose street cred. Right now, we are neither feared nor respected nor admired to the extent we need to be consistent with our interests in the region."

Mr. Miller is a liberal, but he's also what Irving Kristol would have called a liberal who's been mugged by reality. Part of that reality is that foreign policy is blood sport not beauty contest, and that those who suppose the latter will be defenseless when they discover it's the former. Which is all to say, it sucks to be a sucker.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

A New Ronald Reagan is Emerging in New Jersey

In Argentina, in the late 60's, there was a TV comedy show that every week featured a sketch called "The Little Tree." The routine consisted of a person going to municipal office to get a permit to plant a little tree in front of his house.  Of course, after several minutes of hilarious dialogue, and a search for the correct form, the permit was denied based on a missing word, number or piece of paper.  The poor schnook would leave the office carrying his little tree and no permit.

I was reminded of this sketch when I watched this video.  Here we can see how Governor Chris Christie takes responsibility for a one page mistake by a bureaucrat in Trenton, and turns the tables to illustrate what is wrong in large bureaucracies.  Brilliant!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The North Pole is Melting; Again

Last Sunday the New York Times published Disaster at the Top of the World, an article about global warming by Thomas Homer-Dixon, professor of global systems, whatever that might mean. 

After an introduction that describes the disastrous impact of global warming on the Arctic, the article proceeds to describe the political ramifications and the need for Plan Z.  As usual using the term Plan Z gives the author an aura of scientific knowledge.  I read the article wondering how come so much ice has melted without flooding the coastlines on the planet. 

Here in Boca Raton, Florida, where last winter we were experiencing some of the coldest days in decades, the beach is in the same location it was when I walked the beautiful sands 25 years ago.  But I digress.

What I asked myself when I read the article was who is this expert on global warming?  Well, a quick googling and I found his resume.  The picture on the resume shows him without a tie which gave me an inkling as to his ideology.  But the resume was more enlightening.  He holds a BA in political science and a PhD in international relations.  This qualifies him as a climate expert.

Lets see when will the New York Times begin to publish articles about politics written by experts on meteorology?  I wont hold my breath waiting.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ground Zero Imam Says U.S. Worse than al-Qaeda by Jason Matera

New audio has surfaced of the imam behind the controversial mosque near Ground Zero allegedly telling an audience overseas that the United States has been far more deadly than al-Qaeda. "We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non Muslims," Feisal Abdul Rauf said at a 2005 lecture sponsored by the University of South Australia. After discussing the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Rauf went on to argue that America is to blame for its testy relationship with Islamic countries.

"What complicates the discussion, intra-Islamically, is the fact that the West has not been cognizant and has not addressed the issues of its own contribution to much injustice in the Arab and Muslim world." The audio was uncovered by blogger Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Albinos Sold in Africa For Body Parts

A Kenyan man was sentenced to nine years in jail for trying to sell an albino boy to witchdoctors in Tanzania. Albinos are killed and their body parts sold for “magic potions”, good luck, good fortune, or changes in love life.

Tanzania is one of those nations that consistently votes against "Israeli brutality".

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Brutality of Muslim Jurisprudence

Whenever I begin to question my attitude towards Islam, a new story emerges that reinforces my earlier opinions. The last couple of days I saw two stories that exemplify the savagery of Islam. The first one came from Afghanistan where a young couple that fell in love and eloped despite the man being engaged, was captured, tried and stoned to death all in the course of one hour. No trial, no evidence, no extenuating circumstances and no appeal.

The next story came form the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi-Arabia where the family of a man who was left paralyzed after a fight, asked a judge to have the attacker paralyzed under the doctrine of "an eye for an eye." The judge has began the search for doctors to perform surgery that would damage the spinal cord of the accused, despite the fact that he has already served time in prison for the crime he was accused of committing.

This is not a punishment that is promoted by a specific brand of Islam, it is Islam, a religion where any attempt at reform is meted with death.

If we removed God from the Koran, what we have left is a philosophy of hatred that makes Mein Kampf look like a progressive book.  And the mainstream media continues to describe the majority of Muslims as peace loving.  Where are the statistics to support this?  The silence of more than a billion Muslims is enough enough evidence of their support and compliance with the violent edicts of Islam. 

Isn't it time that we called it like it is?  Islam is incompatible with Judeo-Christian philosophy and it is a threat to Western civilization.  Muslims who live by the tenets of their religion should stay as far away as possible from the regions of the world that they so despise.

Extreme Right?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Items of interest in the news media's coverage of "moderate Muslims

Items of interest in the news media's coverage of "moderate Muslims"  by Bret Stephens at The Wall Street Journal

• The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2001: "Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, spiritual leader at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Virginia, one of the nation's largest. . . . is held up as a new generation of Muslim leader capable of merging East and West."

• NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Dec. 9, 2004: "It's the TV industry's newest experiment, 'Bridges TV,' billing itself the 'American-Muslim lifestyle network,' featuring movies, documentaries, cartoons. . . . It's the brainchild of Aasiya Hassan, an architect, and her husband, Muzzamil Hassan, a banker, who are disturbed that negative images of Muslims seem to dominate TV, especially since 9/11."

• Boston Globe editorial, Aug. 4, 2010: "The simple fact is there's nothing threatening about the proposed Islamic center, which is being spearheaded by Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the most respected moderate Muslim leaders in the country."

See where this is going?

Most readers probably know of Awlaki as the U.S.-born imam who presided over the mosque attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers. Awlaki also served as theological mentor to Fort Hood killer Nidal Malik Hasan, would-be Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. President Obama has authorized the military to assassinate Awlaki, now thought to be living in Yemen.

As for Bridges TV, the saccharine story told by Brian Williams and reporter Ron Allen (complete with scenes of the family's domestic bliss in their modest home in Buffalo, N.Y.), came to an abrupt end in February 2009, when Mr. Hasan beheaded his wife after she had filed for divorce, evicted him from their home, and won an order of protection. Last week, Mr. Hasan's attorney defended her client on the grounds that he was, of all things, a "battered spouse."

Now we have the controversy over the Ground Zero mosque, opponents of which are being widely branded as bigots. As, no doubt, some of them are: There are bigots in any crowd.

Then again, is it bigoted to oppose bigots? Consider an interesting historical antecedent. In 1993, a controversy similar to the current one unfolded when residents of a Washington, D.C., suburb sought to use zoning laws to shut down the local mosque, ostensibly on grounds that it was a traffic nuisance. "Worshipers of many faiths said closing the popular mosque . . . would amount to discrimination against one of the area's fastest growing religions," the Washington Times reported at the time.

The mosque in question? None other than the Dar al-Hijra, later to be known as the "9/11 mosque." So were the petitioners who sought to shut it down bigots? Or is it that they got a whiff of its extremism, and didn't like the smell? "We are appalled at the ill will and friction," the paper quoted one Sylvia Johnson, "who said mosque-goers have yelled at her and blocked her driveway."

Here, of course, the argument will be made that, unlike Awlaki, Mr. Rauf really is a moderate. And that might well be so—by the standards of his native Kuwait. But a man who claims to condemn all forms of terrorism yet refuses to call Hamas a terrorist group is not a moderate by American standards, which happen to be the relevant ones when you're trying to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. Mr. Rauf still has a perfect legal right to go ahead with his scheme. But his supporters need to choose between defending him on grounds of his alleged moderation (in which case his views are relevant), or on the principle of religious liberty (in which case they're not). They can't have it both ways.

Which brings me to the fundamental problem with too many self-described moderate Muslims. A few years ago, my friend Irshad Manji made the point to me that "moderate Muslims denounce terror that's committed in the name of Islam but they deny that religion has anything to do with it." By contrast, she noted, "reform-minded Muslims denounce terror that's committed in the name of Islam and acknowledge that our religion is used to inspire it."

That's a distinction worth pondering. It's also a considerable comfort to know that there are Muslims in the U.S. like Irshad who are working, tirelessly but mainly out of view, toward the cause of reform. They could use more support and recognition. As for the professional charlatans and secret radicals who claim to be moderate, it would be well if their cheerleaders in the media could inspect their credentials a little more carefully before lavishing them with praise. Because, when it comes to heralding the arrival of the long-awaited moderates, there's nothing more embarrassing than a case of premature congratulation.

Bret Stephens at The Wall Street Journal

Monday, August 16, 2010

Harvard Divests

Harvard Management Company. which manages Harvard University's endowments, has notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has sold all its holdings in Israeli companies.

No reason was given for the sale.

Although the word divestment has not been mentioned, if this move isn't divestment I would have a hard time defining it.

Are Jewish contributors and Jewish parents going to raise hell against this blatant anti-Israeli act? I doubt it?

Is the media going to give this news report as much attention as is given to the Ground Zero mosque? Of course note?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Going Down

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cheering Immaturity by Thomas Sowell

A graduating senior at Hunter College High School in New York gave a speech that brought a standing ovation from his teachers and got his picture in the New York Times. I hope it doesn't go to his head, because what he said was so illogical that it was an indictment of the mush that is being taught at even our elite educational institutions.

Young Justin Hudson, described as "black and Hispanic," opened by saying how much he appreciated reaching his graduation day at this very select public high school. Then he said, "I don't deserve any of this. And neither do you." The reason? He and his classmates were there because of "luck and circumstances."

Since Hunter College High School selects its applicants from the whole city on the basis of their test scores, "luck" seems a strange way to characterize why some students are admitted and many others are not. If you can't tell the difference between luck and performance, what has your education given you, except the rhetoric to conceal your confusion from others and perhaps from yourself?

Young Mr. Hudson's concern, apparently, is about what he referred to as the "demographics" of the school-- 41 percent white and 47 percent Asian, with blacks, Hispanics and others obviously far behind. "I refuse to accept" that "the distribution of intelligence in this city" varies by neighborhood, he said.

Native intelligence may indeed not vary by neighborhood but actual performance-- whether in schools, on the job or elsewhere-- involves far more than native intelligence. Wasted intelligence does nothing for an individual or society.

The reason a surgeon can operate on your heart, while someone of equal intelligence who is not a surgeon cannot, is because of what different people actually did with their intelligence. That has always varied, not only from individual to individual but from group to group-- and not only in this country, but in countries around the world and across the centuries of human history.

One of the biggest fallacies of our time is the notion that, if all groups are not proportionally represented in institutions, professions or income levels, that shows something wrong with society. The very possibility that people make their own choices, and that those choices have consequences-- for themselves and for others-- is ignored. Society is the universal scapegoat.

If "luck" is involved, it is the luck to be born into families and communities whose values and choices turn out to be productive for themselves and for others who benefit from the skills they acquire. Observers who blame tests or other criteria for the demographic imbalances which are the rule-- not the exception-- around the world, are blaming whatever conveys differences for creating those differences.

They blame the messenger who brings bad news.

If test scores are not the same for people from different backgrounds, that is no proof that there is something wrong with the tests. Tests do not exist to show what your potential was when you entered the world but to measure what you have actually accomplished since then, as a guide to what you are likely to continue to do in the future. Tests convey a difference that tests did not create. But the messenger gets blamed for the bad news.

Similarly, if prices are higher in high-crime neighborhoods, that is often blamed on those who charge those prices, rather than on those who create the higher costs of higher rates of shoplifting, robbery, vandalism and riots, which are passed on to those who shop in those neighborhoods. The prices convey a reality that the prices did not create. If these prices represent simply "greed" for higher profits, then why do most profit-seeking businesses avoid high-crime neighborhoods like the plague?

It is painful that people with lower incomes often have to pay higher prices, even though most people are not criminals, even in a high-crime neighborhood. But misconstruing the reasons is not going to help anybody, except race hustlers and politicians.

One of the many disservices done to young people by our schools and colleges is giving them the puffed up notion that they are in a position to pass sweeping judgments on a world that they have barely begun to experience. A standing ovation for childish remarks may produce "self-esteem" but promoting presumptuousness is unlikely to benefit either this student or society.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

If it's a victim it must be Palestinian

The AP reported that this was the picture of a Palestinian man in fear of the Israeli army. 
The picture was taken by Nasser Shiyoukhi, an Arab photographer working for AP.

Below we have the eventual correction.  As you can read in the caption, there was tiny mistake,  The person in fear is an Israeli.  For most news organizations, the initial reaction to seeing a victim in the Middle East, is to identify him as a Palestinian.

Nancy Pelosi Explains

Nancy Pelosi explains the benefits of unemployment insurance as a stimulus.  I was particularly impressed by her using the "economists will tell you" qualifier.  Nancy, can you name the economist? 

The voice is Nancy's, the animation is you and your neighbors.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Muslim Becomes Islamist Because of Sex and Alcohol

Adnan Shukrijuma

Yesterday we were greeted with the news that the position held by Khalid Sheik Mohammed in al-Qaeda was filled by Adnan Shukrijumah, 35. What made this newsworthy was the fact that Shukrijuma lived for 15 years in the United States.

Once again reporters gave us the mantra of the poor Muslim who became disillusioned with the promiscuity of America and the use of alcohol. Later on he travelled to Bosnia where he became radicalized.

Where are our journalists being trained? How do they come with these cliched conclusions? Do they really believe that those of the ilk of Shukrijumah came to America out of love for the West and then became disillusioned?

Shukrijumah is a Wahhabi Saudi whose father worked for the local indoctrination post, also known as the local mosque in Miramar , Florida. These characters are allowed to reside in on-Muslim nations only if they do so with the intention of spreading Islam. The trip taken by Shukrijumah to Bosnia did not radicalize him; this trip was taken by him because he was a radical Muslim to begin with. Do journalists really believe that one day he pondered where to vacation, and he had to decide between Puerto Vallarta and Bosnia and he chose Bosnia where he became a radical murderer?

Muslims who become disillusioned with the West should stay in medieval Saudi Arabia, a country I have been disillusioned with for many decades. Of course it never crossed my mind to to fly a plane into their edifices. If Muslims don’t like the west, you are welcome not to come here.

In the meantime I hope that the drones are being programmed to help achieve a quick encounter between Shukrijumah and 72 virgins. On the way back the drones should take care of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.

It's Raining Cats and Penguins in Argentina

Frozen orange tree in Florida

Over the last decade I have become accustomed to being asked every summer if I still don’t believe in global warming despite the high temperatures we have just experienced. What intrigues me is how come no one asked me if I believed in global cooling when in January and February I was freezing my butt in Florida, and iguanas were dropping dead from trees because of the low temperatures.

I was reminded of this while reading the paper and seeing that Argentina is experiencing a colder winter than Antarctica.

So here is what I believe in: Global Climactic Fluctuations. Next summer somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere a new record high will be recorded, while in the Southern hemisphere some Argentinean gaucho will chase penguins from his farm.

You can bet your last dime that liberals will demonstrate demanding legislation to outlaw global warming while the United Nations will demand a global tax. Both the UN officials and liberals will then get into their SUV’s and drive away to fundraising in a hotel in Washington six miles from the White House. President Obama will attend after being flown the six miles by helicopter.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

No Mosque at Ground Zero

Talking with many New Yorkers, I have noticed a feeling of guilt whenever the subject of The Ground Zero mosque was brought up.  Most seem to think that it is the wrong place, but few seem able to articulate why.  Well, once again Pat Condell has come to the rescue.  In six minutes he explain eloquently why the Muslims  have chosen this location and why America should reject it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Daniel Pipes on the Threat of Islamism

Daniel Pipes on Canadian TV on the threat of Islamism.  47 uninterrupted minutes of one of the top authorities on the Middle East and Islam. 

Click here to watch the video

Investigating Corruption of Blacks in Congress is Racist!

As many of us expected, the investigation into allegations of corruption on the part of Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters has led to the use of the "R" word, when the Congressional Black Caucus accused the Congress of double standard when it came to investigating black members.

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Congressman at Town Hall: ‘The Federal Government Can Do Most Anything in This Country’