Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is Bobby Jindal Eligible to be President of The United States of America?

Bobby Jindal released his birth certificate a few weeks back, and I'm surprised it didn't get more press.

He was born in Louisiana, so he is a citizen by birth.  His parents were immigrants here on green cards.  Is he natural born?  It's an important question since Jindal is regarded as a potential future candidate for President of The United States.

Like President Obama, I'm no legal scholar.  I do know that despite the insistence of Obama haters who TYPE IN ALL CAPS, the issue is neither simple nor settled.

I have four presumably unbiased links below and all are inconclusive, because such a case has never been decided in a US court of law.  The US Constitution does not define "natural born citizen."

If anyone has some authoritative references, please share them in the comments section. 

US Constitution - Citizenship
FindLaw.com - Qualifications
Eugene Volokh - Natural Born Citizen Clause
Eugene Volokh - Correction about Natural Born Citizen Law

Monday, May 30, 2011

Superman's Dead: Happy Memorial Day

America has become the despised superhero

Among nations, we really are a superhero.  We assimilate immigrants like no other nation, we come to the aid of everybody, destroy dictators and kill bad guys...  Our frightful military prowess is unrivaled.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
We've earned nothing but hatred for our efforts.  We are Batman, fighting nihilistic Jokers but pissing everybody off in the process.  They level charges of torture, illegal prisons and habitually bombing Muslim wedding parties and killing innocent civilians.

We are excoriated for invading Iraq and Afghanistan...  by the same crowd that urges us to kill Khadaffi and wonders why we didn't stand up for the Shia in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

I think we should respect the wishes of our critics and stop interfering in the affairs of other nations unless invited and unless such involvement is vital to our national security.

What business is it of ours if other nations choose to enslave their daughters, kill gay people, perform genital mutilations and stone adulterers?  How is it in our national interest to stop such barbarity?

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines now and throughout history have fought for all that is good and right, but ungrateful bastards worldwide repay them with hatred, slander and sneering, sniveling scorn.  Our troops fought like lions and opened up opportunities for the oppressed and benighted.  It is not our military's fault that some are too stupid, too venal or too corrupt to take advantage of this gift paid for with blood and treasure and ultimate sacrifice.

Our military has served with honor, and the nation is grateful

We should show our appreciation by demanding an end to altruistic foreign policy where those we are fighting for end up accusing us of war crimes and branding our troops international criminals.  We must also honor our troops by swearing off wars to make the world safe for other nations to scoop up Iraqi oil contracts.  We must demand our government explain why we are fighting and dying in corrupt Afghanistan while China extracts that country's mineral wealth.

The ultimate thank you for our troops would be to reunite them with their families and forswear global community organizing.
* - For a related post a few years back, see Bush as Batman. I've changed my opinion since then.  I still believe we are Batman, but I think the superhero needs to hang up the cape and let the carping whiners fight their own damned battles.

** - Yes, I realize I have conflated three different superheroes...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Not-So-Special Anymore Relationship

Is this picture a royal setup?

Payback for Obama unceremoniously dumping the Churchill bust, Hillary's taking Argentina's side in the Falklands dispute, and the Obamas' embarrassingly cheesy gifts last time they visited?

Her Highness is playing it cool, but The Duke just can't hold it in...

Britain has never really liked us

Sure, they were cool with us after the revolution.  Other than the little matter of the British setting Washington DC on fire and burning down our White House in 1814, things have gone just swimmingly between us.

Peter Osborne makes the acerbic point that the US-British special relationship isn't really so special anymore, and that its demise is of no great importance.  He notes how back when it really mattered, ornate ceremonious visits by American leaders on British soil were rare.
When the relationship between Britain and the United States really was the hinge on which the world was constructed – think Churchill and Roosevelt, Macmillan and Kennedy, Reagan and Thatcher – nobody needed grand state ceremonial occasions to make the point. Now that it matters very much less, we do.  (Telegraph - Peter Osborne)
As the global influence of the Anglo-US alliance wanes, ostentatious ceremonial displays increase, and our leaders pretend they are important.  Kinda like how the most hapless armies (like Italy and Spain) have the shiniest uniforms with the gold brocade and all the dangling accoutrements.  Or how the Soviet Union, in its last, tottering days, could put on one hell of a ceremonial parade through Moscow, complete with legions of goose-stepping soldiers, tanks, cannons and all manner of armament.

Michael Savage is still Banned in Britain, but hate-filled imams preach jihad from the new home of militant Islam.  Two powers, too apologetic to stand up for Western Christendom and our classical liberal values.  The "special relationship" is slouching towards farce.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Palin Bachmann 2012!

Happy Saturday!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pawlenty For President

OK, I’m not endorsing anyone yet, it's too early!  But I find Tim Pawlenty’s candor to be just the bracing dash of cold water to the face that our nation needs:
Tim Pawlenty made in his presidential campaign announcement in Des Moines, Iowa yesterday. Federal ethanol subsidies "have to be phased out," Pawlenty said, countering much of the agricultural community in Iowa, including many conservative Republicans in the state.
And he added that, "Tomorrow, I'm going to Florida to tell both young people and seniors the truth that our entitlement programs are on an unsustainable path and that inaction is no longer an option." (Weekly Standard
You may consider T-Paw a weak cup of tea, but his honesty is refreshing, especially coming from a presidential candidate.  Ethanol is immoral.  It is corporate welfare that drives up the price of food, starving people to feed cars, to the tune of tens of billions in taxpayer handouts.

Pawlenty also swore off all climate change tomfoolery, begging forgiveness for his cap and trade sins.  I like a person who can admit he was wrong.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Barf Alert! Obama Compares Himself to Reagan, Again

I apologize to my fellow bloggers for employing such a trite phrase as “Barf Alert,” but British PM Cameron and US President Obama comparing themselves to Thatcher and Reagan pushed me over the edge.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  Mr. Obama, you're no Ronald Reagan!

In a sternly worded column in The Times of London, the two leaders liken the effort to free Arab people from authoritarianism to the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1980s.

They liken their personal efforts to two leaders who came before them: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. (USA Today)

Not even close! 
Reagan did not dither and stumble, pander and bumble as President Obumbles has done on his staggering, jagged path of narcissistic self aggrandizement. Reagan would have shined a light on the plight of the Iranian freedom protesters being slaughtered by that bloody regime, not turn his back on them as Obama did.

Reagan and Thatcher marshaled morally righteous global forces in opposition to the dictatorial slave masters in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Obama thinks he's Caesar, but he acts like Nero.

The Arab Spring Could Yet Bear Rotten Fruit
Eastern Europeans instinctively rushed towards liberal democracy once the wall fell. We do not yet know what direction the North Africa and Middle East uprisings will take. And regardless of the outcomes, Cameron and Obama didn’t have a damned thing to do with them. We were actually on the side of the dictators, and the Arab street hates us for it.

If these two men really believe themselves to be the avatars of Reagan and Thatcher, they are seriously delusional,  and we are in big trouble. Our leaders are unhinged from reality and ready for the nut house.  Do they really believe us to be so dumbed down that we would believe such tripe?  Even worse, our intellectually vapid and historically-challenged press, in the thrall of His O-ness, doesn’t even challenge such absurdities.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's Wrong With America

Walter Russell Mead is a classical liberal and a Democrat.  Other than voting for Obama, he is a paragon of lucid thinking. He wonders if Americas decline can be traced to the decline and debasement of our elites.

We Americans have a disdain for royalty. Like most of my fellow countrymen, I paid scant attention to the recent royal wedding in Britain (I can’t even give you the names of who got married).  But reading Mead’s article, I realized one practical purpose for royalty:  To be a shining example of moral virtue and self-sacrificing patriotism, thus inspiring the rest of us to similar heights.  America’s elites, whether we like it or not, have historically served a similar purpose here.

Of late, American elites, like British royalty, have fallen into debased decline, and it puts our society in peril.
Here in the early years of the twenty-first century, the American elite is a walking disaster and is in every way less capable than its predecessors. 
It is less in touch with American history and culture, less personally honest, less productive, less forward looking, less effective at and less committed to child rearing, less freedom loving, less sacrificially patriotic and less entrepreneurial than predecessor generations. 
Its sense of entitlement and snobbery is greater than at any time since the American Revolution; its addiction to privilege is greater than during the Gilded Age and its ability to raise its young to be productive and courageous leaders of society has largely collapsed. (Mead)
While conceding that religion is no guarantee of moral virtue, he nonetheless fingers a lack of moral virtue as a contributor to our troubles
What a surprise!  We raised a generation of bright kids without a foundation in religion, and they’ve grown up and gone to Wall Street.  We never told them that the virtuous life was both necessary and hard, that character was something that had to be built step by step from youth, that moral weakness was both contemptible and natural: and we are shocked, shocked! when, placed in proximity to large sums of loose cash, they grab all they can. (Mead)
Today's Wall Street makes the robber barons look like Mother Teresa.  Add in Arnold's groping infidelities, an IMF Chief raping a hotel maid, serial crimes and outrages by the Kennedy family…  It’s rape, pillage and plunder at the hands of the world's "elites."
Many problems troubling America today are rooted in the poor performance of our elite educational institutions, the moral and social collapse of our ‘best’ families and the culture of narcissism and entitlement that has transformed the American elite into a flabby minded, strategically inept and morally confused parody of itself.  (Mead)
Worse, it has trickled down to the Hollywood pseudo-elite that so much of our society lamentably now looks to for guidance.  Is it any wonder a libertine anti-intellectualism has seized much of middle America?  The Establishment is perpetually disappointed in us.  It’s bad enough being preached at by your “betters,” but ordinary Americans can no longer abide the perpetual lectures from the morally and intellectually flabby.

The elites have historically taken the slings and arrows of the hoi polloi with magnanimity, earning a grudging if hidden respect from us in return when they did something right.  No longer.  The waters are poisoned, we are jaded.

Lecture me?  Screw you!  I'd rather go hunting with Ted Nugent and Sarah Palin.

Walter Russell Mead – Establishment Blues
Maureen Dowd - Powerful and Primitive
Globe and Mail – French Morals, American Justice

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Roots of Evil: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

It’s not often I agree with citizen of the world Thomas Friedman.  He’s the NY Times staff pseudo intellectual who writes glowingly of his admiration for the Chinese Poliburo.  In a rare spasm of lucidity, he nailed the Pakistan situation:
“Looking for Bin Laden became a side-business for Pakistan’s military to generate U.S. aid.  As the Al Qaeda expert Lawrence Wright observed in The New Yorker this week: Pakistan’s Army and intelligence service “were in the looking-for-Bin-Laden business, and if they found him they’d be out of business.” (Friedman - Bad Bargains)
Whatever we're looking for, a rotten pseudo-ally is willing to pretend to provide it

Iran:  Good People - Bad Government

Iran has a stranglehold on Lebanon via proxy Hezbollah.  It tentacles stretch from Afghanistan to Iraq and even to Venezuela and Argentina.  If Iran had a people’s revolution that brought true parliamentary democracy to the country (Iranians are more capable of democratic success than any other country in the region), that would put a stop to funding these global terrorists.  A newly-democratic Iran would have too many pressing issues at home for it to mess with funding terrorists, and no legitimate government wants to cultivate trouble with other nations, especially via such direct violence.

Why was Obama silent as the Iranian protesters were being slaughtered by the Revolutionary Guard?  Is it because they didn’t have Muslim Brotherhood or Al Qaeda membership cards?  I pray to God we are clandestinely helping the free people of Iran topple their rotten regime.

Saudi Arabia:  America's Most Shameful Alliance

We protect them in exchange for oil, and the Saudis maintain a pact with the Wahabbis.  Out of this dynamic metastasized militant Islam that has infected the globe:
During the 1980s, Saudi Arabia spent some $75 billion for the propagation of Wahhabism, funding schools, mosques, and charities throughout the Islamic world, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Yemen, Algeria and beyond. ...  (Friedman - Bad Bargains)
We sought out and cultivated a relationship with Pakistan.  This is the grain of truth that spurs conspiracy nuts to claim the CIA trained Bin Laden.   The Pakistan bargain resembles our Saudi one;  We pay them to marginally cooperate with our goals in Afghanistan (first against the Soviet Union, now against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces), and they pretend to comply.  Meanwhile the Pakistani army rules the roost, papering it all over with a sham democracy.  And they’re a member of the Nuts with Nukes club.
What both countries need is shock therapy. For Pakistan, that would mean America converting the lion’s share of its military aid to K-12 education programs, while also reducing the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan. Together, the message would be that we’re ready to help Pakistan fight its real enemies and ours — ignorance, illiteracy, corrupt elites and religious obscurantism. 

Ditto Saudi Arabia. We are in a ménage à trois with the al-Sauds and the Wahhabis. We provide the al-Sauds security, and they provide us oil. The Wahhabis provide the al-Sauds with legitimacy and the al-Sauds provide them with money (from us). It works really well for the al-Sauds, but not too well for us.  (Friedman - Bad Bargains)
All three countries are full of good people, but our relationship with them is dysfunctional.  We are the bogey monsters of America-hating Mullahs, and our every action is twisted into a sinister threat to Islam.    

Unintended Consequences

I heard an older caller to a talk show say his father called WW II “The war to make the world safe for communism,” and there’s some cynical truth to that.  When confronted with the dual threat of communism, and fascism, Churchill made the smart choice to leave fighting the Bolshies until after we had defeated the fascists.  It took us another 45 years after the first victory to achieve the second.

We made a deal with the Saudis and the Pakistanis to dislodge the Soviets from Afghanistan.  Did we defeat Communism only to make Southwest Asia safe for Wahabbism?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Prison America

Rotten turd infesting Britain--We don't need that here
The United States government is letting in people we don't trust.  The result is we are all now being treated like criminals, guilty until proven innocent.

The United States of America is becoming one big prison camp

The federal government's legitimate efforts to keep the nation safe has morphed into a liberty-crushing steamroller.

Tidbits such as this leads the TSA to plot grope and fondle operations at train depots, bus stations, and malls across this formerly-free country:
He was well aware of U.S. counterterrorist defenses and schooled his followers how to work around them, the messages to his followers show. Don't limit attacks to New York City, he said in his writings. Consider other areas such as Los Angeles or smaller cities. Spread out the targets. (My Way – Osama Eyed Smaller Cities)
This has led to such stupidities as Senator Schmucky Schumer’s suggestion that Amtrack use a “No Ride” list similar to the No Fly list.

First of all, anyone who makes this No Ride list should not even be in the country, and that goes to the heart of the problem.  If someone is deemed a danger to America's people and our infrastructure, he doesn't belong here and we must expel him immediately.  Do not pass immigration court, do not collect 200 dollars. 

Instead we get government propagandizing us via cell phone messages and fleets of X-ray trucks prowling neighborhoods to see inside our homes.  Where will it all end?

We are no longer a free people

The right answer is to cut off immigration from lands known to produce America-hating terrorists.  This would block a lot of good people, but it would also stop “lone wolf” plots, like the one just busted up in New York.  We open our doors to people from third world toilets, and they thank us by bringing violent 7th century religious chauvinism to the country that welcomed them.

Here’s the lowdown on the two Jew haters we made American citizens…
Ferhani, a 26-year-old unemployed resident of Queens, is a native of Algeria who traveled to the United States in 1995, claiming asylum.

Mamdouh, 20, also a Queens resident, worked for a local delivery service and came to the United States in 1999 with his family from Casablanca, Morocco.

Both, however, were "committed to violent jihad," telling police that they wanted to kill Jewish people and also hoped to attack New York's Empire State Building, Vance said. (CNN)
In addition to being more circumspect about who we let in, we also need a much longer period of residency before granting citizenship.  Any misbehavior gets the whole family deported.  We don’t want troublemakers plunking down and going “Ahhh…  Made it!  Now let's stir up some trouble.”  We want them on their best behavior and working feverishly to obey our laws and become good Americans lest we bounce them for being a danger to our society.  Once we grant someone citizenship, it's all over.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So Much We Know That Just Ain't So

Loose Links

I don't know how you guys roll, but I generally bookmark things I find interesting and potentially blog-worthy.  I always end up with more links than posts, and I figure it's a shame to just throw them away.  Here are four quick bites for your Sunday..

Christopher Hitchens slams Noam Chomsky

Some of you may be only vaguely familiar with Noam Chomsky, that lecturing hero of the America-hating international left.  Shunned here at home, he travels the globe with the grateful earnestness of one who has finally found credulous fools willing to listen to his 9/11 troofer nonsense.  Euro-lefties and third-worlders eat up his contradictory message that "America deserved it" and "Osama didn't do it, maybe it was a neo-con Jewish conspiracy."

Hitchens focuses like a laser beam on the Chomskyite "cognitive dissonance" as he describes traveling in the Middle East and ...
"...meeting the hoarse and aggressive person who first denies that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center and then proceeds to describe the attack as a justified vengeance for decades of American imperialism." (Slate)
He proceeds to dismantle such America haters in a crisp, acerbic fashion.  This is a good one to save for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.

T Boone Pickpockets is at it Again

His Quixotic windmill plan flopped a few years back when we learned the windmills would be powered not by wind, but by billions in taxpayer funds whooshing into Pickens' pockets.  Now he's back, this time with a different angle involving gas and hot air.

We should challenge all grand progressive projects with one question.  Is it economically viable?  If yes, then the private sector will jump at investing in it.  End of story--No taxpayer money needed. 

"Fair Trade" is a Crock

Dalibor Rohac provides a public service by exposing "Fair Trade" for the guilty liberal feel good scam that it is.  Only a naive liberal could believe such fairy tales.  If they think America's rich and powerful are rapacious, they should travel to the third world. 
And the main benefit flows to fair-trade cooperatives -- groups of landowners, not laborers. The certification includes no incentives for the owners to pay higher wages to farmworkers, who tend to be poorer and more vulnerable. (NY Post - Dalibor Rohac)
Newt's Operatic Flameout

And finally, Rich Lowry at National Review has the best take on Newt's latest flameout involving his characterizing the Ryan plan as "Rightwing social engineering."  I love Lowry's vivid use of the language.  I wish I could write like that...
Gingrich’s hesitation about the Ryan plan is understandable and shared by other potential GOP candidates. Only Gingrich, though, felt compelled to take a rhetorical flamethrower to the document endorsed by almost every House Republican.

He can’t help himself. Gingrich prefers extravagant lambasting when a mere distancing would do, and the over-arching theoretical construct to a mundane pander. He is drawn irresistibly to operatic overstatement — sometimes brilliant, always interesting, and occasionally downright absurd.(NRO - Rich Lowry)
Have a happy Sunday!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Is Obama Stupid, an Israel Hater, or Both?

I was pondering this question as I shook the snow off of my BBQ grill cover last night.  I guess his ignorant Israel pronouncement just came naturally to him...

Marinated in Reverend Wright's Church of Jew Hating, as well as academic America-loathing third-world victimology, Obama's call for Israel to retreat behind indefensible borders was not surprising. He knew nothing about foreign policy when he assumed office, and he's apparently learned nothing about it since.  Not surprising since he is surrounded by pseudo intellectuals just as ignorant as he is.

What will this inept man do next? 
Unilaterally return Texas and the American Southwest to Mexico?  Think that's funny?  We took that territory in a war, just like Israel took the territory they now hold.  Only Israel did it because the nest of rats and snakes that surround her attacked the Jewish state, upon her UN-sanctioned birth, again in 1958 and in 1967, when finally Israel had enough and carved buffer zones out of the asses of the militarily inept belligerents.

Stupid International Meddlers Drew this Untenable Map

Who the hell thought this would work?  And what Jew haters gave the City of David to the Muslims?  This partition, drawn up by pointy-headed anti-Semites, was doomed from the start.  It's an unworkable  monstrosity.  I ask the Jew-hating liberals in this country, how would you like to live in an hour-glass shaped country, only 6 miles wide at the narrowest point? 

This is an abomination, just like the president's arrogant, ignorant speech.  Jerusalem synagogues and churches were shuttered under Muslim control.  Under Israeli stewardship, all religions worship in peace, punctuated only by the violent eruptions of blood-lust cultists of the religion of pieces.

The Age of Stupidity
We are in danger.  Obama has ushered in the Age of Stupidity.  Slap our friends, embrace our enemies is his policy.  Saudis spend billions stoking virulent wahibbism here in the US and around the world.  Obama studiously and callously ignored young Iranian protesters being slaughtered in the streets, as he now ignores Basher Assad systematically killing protesting Syrians.  Meanwhile, he half-asses it in Libya.

Nobody can be this dumb and inept.  I shudder to think of the alternative...

Israel's Story in Maps
Mideast Web - Israel Map  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Left - Right Libertarian Link

When arguing with liberals such as a Truth 101, or a Jerry Critter or even a Jersey McJones, I become frustrated because I see that underneath the arguments, we share some fundamental goals, like a prosperous and free America.  It is the means we disagree on.

Roderick Long is a left-libertarian and he laments, as I do, our failure to bring those from the left into the libertarian fold.

His article, How to Reach the Left, is a masterpiece. It gives great insight into just what left-libertarianism looks like.  It is far from the loony left that haunts the Democrat party.  He disdains that crowd as the "Aristocratic Left," and is quite hostile to it...
These are left-wingers who have a particular vision of an idyllic society and are prepared to hammer into place anyone whose preferences or behavior don't align with the vision; in effect they see other people as their property.
More importantly, I think he has staked out some libertarian common ground where liberty lovers on the left and right could unite, if each group could drop some preconceived notions.

His argument rests upon the premise that we do not have a truly free market, and I agree with him on that...
Consider, for example, the recent debate in the United States over healthcare, in which the choice between our prevailing corporatist system of healthcare and a somewhat more socialistic one was presented as a choice between a free market and socialism — so that opponents of prevailing corporatism were tricked into supporting socialism as the antidote, and opponents of socialism were tricked into supporting the prevailing corporatism as the antidote.
it is true that free markets penalize irrational business decisions; but it will be difficult to convince people of this if [...] they continue to labor under the conflationist delusion that current economic conditions are a reasonable approximation to a free market. 

How do you like your tyranny?  Democrat or Republican?

Long’s thesis identifies the source of our contention:  The left's attempts to protect people from the tyranny of big business ends up making us slaves of the state.  The right thinks it is arguing for free markets, but the result is corporate fascism.  False freedom for the people, a gilded cage (to protect them from predators) for businessmen and bankers

Here's an Example:
So when conservative lawmakers strip away regulations on risky loans without repealing deposit insurance, what they are "deregulating" is not a purely private business, but rather a business that enjoys government-granted privileges — which is not the sort of deregulation that libertarians favor.

Libertarians favor taking away the government-granted privileges as well.  Doing otherwise creates a moral hazard.

The Problem of Corporations

I see some problems with big corporations, and I share some of the left’s unease with them.  Here is a left-libertarian critique of the corporation in a nutshell:
The problem with the corporate form is that it grants to private business a distinctive governmental feature — legal personhood, and the accompanying privilege of limited liability — without the correlative burden of democratic accountability; granting such a status, van Eeghen argues, constitutes an un-libertarian surrender of individual responsibility, and confers the benefits of ownership without its corresponding costs, thus enabling corporations to concentrate power and externalize risk in ways to which libertarians should object. (Mises Daily)
Piet-Hein van Eeghen readily acknowledges the benefits of corporations, but his critique makes sense.  For the pro-corporation argument, see  In Defense of the Corporation - Stephan Kinsella

Mo Bigger Government is Not the Answer

The answer to corporate behemoths can’t be to make government even bigger.  Too often government becomes the teammate of corporations instead of being the referee.  This spurs corporations to ever greater heights of irresponsibility, thanks to the government-provided safety net.

We need look no further than wall street, where whizz kids wrecked our economy and nobody went to jail because nobody broke any laws. Financial chieftains can crash an investment firm and destroy billions in wealth, paying no price whatsoever.  If that is not an invitation to irresponsibility, I don't know what is.

Making corporate heads, board members and officers financially liable for the actions of the corporation would go a long way towards snuffing the wild speculation and reckless gambling that continues to endanger our nation.  Knowing you will have to eat your losses engenders prudence.

Can left and right agree that exposing the big behemoths and the pseudo-capitalists to the vagaries of the free marketplace would be a good starting point?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bill Bennett Schools Newt Gingrich over Paul Ryan Comments

Bill Bennett is a model of staunch but polite conservatism

Bill Bennett is a national treasure. He provides children and parents a world of humanities and history education with “The Book of Virtues” and the “America, The Last Best Hope,” definitive volumes of classical literature and American History.

In addition to being the rare beacon of conservatism and common sense on CNN, he is also the professor of morning talk radio. No bombast, no liberal bashing, just crystal clear logic and an honest, educational examination of the issues.  And he makes it fun.

I listen to him on the way to work in the morning, and it is refreshing to hear him address the issues of the day in a thoughtful, philosophical manner (he has a PhD in Philosophy as well as a law degree.) His application of logic is astringent and unbiased and he does it all with “Intelligence, Candor and Goodwill,” the watchwords of his show.

Newtered Gingrich

Dr. Bennett had Newt Gingrich on Tuesday morning, and he completely dismantled poor Newt over his stupid comments about Ryan’s budget plan. Please go listen to this segment to see how it’s done. No personal attacks, no shouting, just a merciless examination of what newt said.

You could hear Newt squirming, fumbling and backpedaling in the face of Bennett’s powerful onslaught. I have no sympathy for Newt, but it was still painful to listen to.

Newt starts out with the audacious claim that the Washington establishment is afraid of his candidacy, which is laughable since he is a member of said establishment.

The fun starts at the 3:40 point. Bennett confronts Newt with his exact language, asking why he attacked Ryan. Newt responds with a cloud of plaintive bluster, and Bennett becomes impatient and intones in his deep rumble, “Let’s play the tape.” Bennett focuses in on his phrase “Right-Wing Social Engineering,” and it’s all over for the blabbering egotistical blunderbuss; Newt’s a dead man walking at this point, and he doesn’t even know it.

"A False Equivalency"

He charges Gingrich with equating Ryan’s plan with Obamaism and asks why Newt is “shooting at him from the rear.”  Going on to point out that unlike Obama, Ryan has opened a dialog on his plan,  Bennett reduces Newt to a whiny, sputtering third grader caught by the principle shooting spitwads at the teacher

Bennett throws him a bone and appeals to his sense of ego, “You’re a brilliant man, an intellectual,” displaying a fatherly magnanimity while still not conceding one iota of his argument.

The fireworks are over at 8:15 with Newt reduced to bleating out some weak excuses, and effusive praise for Paul Ryan. Bennett let him up because there is no use in completely pulverizing your opponent. The facts stood for all to see, it was obvious. Bennett won in a knockout. He didn’t need to gloat.

After the break, Bill generously offers Newt advice on how to extricate himself, talking it through as a battered Newt smartly seizes the opportunity to perform a rhetorical climbdown. Bennett allows Newt to reclaim some dignity after the dressing down, switching to a matter-of-fact discussion of Newt's pre-canned talking points. Bennett then concludes by reinforcing his central point, that there is no equivalency between Ryan and Obama and that Newt need to explicitly make that clear. Newt is “yup, yupping” in the background as the segment closes, .

This is how an intelligent gentleman argues his case.  Bennett's  intellectual stare was withering and unblinking, but he remained polite and focused on the facts. Thank you Dr. Bennett for another stellar lesson in debate and argumentation.

Newt apologized to Ryan on Tuesday, but I still think he's toast.  Not just toast, but yesterday's toast.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Middle East Meddling

The Brits, Belgians, French and other old colonial powers had a habit of giving the guns and the power to the weaker party, tribe or ethnic group. 

That is how the Hutus came to dominate the Tutsis, which then led to the horrible slaughter in Rwanda.  It's also how the minority Sunnis ended up running Iraq, and all kinds of crackpot borders came into being.  These lines on maps roped together strange and unnatural agglomerations of disparate peoples, while splitting apart kin and tribes of natural affinity.

I'm not saying the old colonial powers are responsible for the on-going troubles of Africa and Southwest Asia, but all their good intentions haven't appeared to accomplish much outside a few rich Gulf States and India.

Intervention Means Picking Sides

When Britain left Palestine after the Balfour declaration but before Israel became a state, they turned over all their forts, magazines and armament to the Arabs there, not the Jews.  It could be interpreted as a spiteful move.  The Jews lived up to their Biblical reputation as a stiff-necked people, spitting in the master's eye at every opportunity, while the Palestinians had perfected the art of kowtowing and currying favor.  But that's not it.  The Brits knew that the ragtag Palestinians stood no chance against the hardy and stubborn Jews.  Giving the Arabs all the arms salved the retreating empire's conscience and at least gave the Palestinians a fighting chance.

Shia vs. Sunni
Being the biggest guy on the block has its disadvantages.   People are constantly seeking help in advancing their cause, almost always at the expense of a rival group.  Hossein Askari steps in a writes a cogent defense of the Shia, offering evidence for why the west should weigh in on their side in that simmering Middle Eastern rivalry.

Far be it from me to take sides in the Sunni-Shia debate (and the US should not either), but based upon my experience, this article rings true, as far as a generality can. We had an influx of Iranians into the US after the fall of the Shah, and don’t recall ever hearing a negative news story about even one of them. They went to work becoming Americans and serving their new communities as doctors, restauranteurs, business owners, and military officers.

While the article rings true, it's main purpose is propaganda, to shame us into action, lest the Shia of the Middle East come to hate us (as if they don't already):
US duplicity has begun to enrage Shia throughout the Middle East. Chants in Bahrain already confirm it: protesters shouting death to the Al-Khalifas and Al-Sauds are also asking whether their rights are less important than those of people marching in the streets in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

If the US does not adopt an evenhanded approach to upholding basic human rights in the region, the disenfranchised Shia will start including Washington on their list of oppressors. It is high time for the US to recognize how closely aligned its national interests are with those of the Shia communities in the area that is at the heart of the Middle East. (The Myth of Sunni Power – Hossein Askari)

If a Son of a Bitch Falls in the Middle East…

I don’t doubt what he is saying, but it smacks of more propagandistic manipulation designed to lure us into kicking the ass of the propagandists’ tormenters, ending in another expensive disaster for the US that empowers a new enemy.

All the more reason to take a principled stand and stop playing favorites. When a Son of a Bitch regime begins to fall in the Middle East, and we are afraid of the crash, that is a sure sign we’ve been dirty dealing in somebody else’s back yard.  The world is a dangerous place, and dirty deals sometimes must be reluctantly made, but can't the Ivy League "best and brightest" who infest our government come up with something better than this? 

We need to stop taking sides and instead take it as it comes and judge each extended hand based on its fruits. The Saudis are nasty people spreading a nasty, poisonous ideology. But this Shia’s article, although well-reasoned, nonetheless is laced with Shia bigotry against Sunni. These are deep issues fraught with cultural biases and historical perspectives we in the West do not understand, and it's not our place to sort it out.  We need to stand aside and offer assistance only when it clearly advances our national interests.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Predatory Governing

Government is consuming us

Progressives believe that the government must be the biggest guy on the block, to protect us from a host of imagined predators, be they corporate, environmental, or some other bogey monster.  Well, big government has become the all-consuming predator, leaving nothing and no one unmolested.

Haley Barbour announced last week that he would not run for president. Most notable was the reason he gave:
"A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," (Politico)
Roger Pilon at CATO observes.
We are moving inexorably not simply to news but to politics 24/7/365.

...politics has taken over so much of life. When government was more limited, and we didn’t look to it to provide our every need and want, those who “governed” didn’t feel such a need to cater to us — and we had better things to do anyway than obsess over politics.  (CATO – All Consuming Politics )
The imperial presidency, enlarged by President Bush and taking on baroque bureaucratic grotesqueries under Obama, will end up killing America.
The presidency is too-large-for-life because the president is the head of a government that is simply too large. (Kyle Wingfield)
I'd go even further and say that politics has become a societal corrosive.  Hope-filled naifs and crony crapitalists wait for governmental deliverance, lashing out at anyone who suggests senile old Uncle Sugar can't afford it anymore.

Even college football can't keep government off its back.  Government has poked its snout in every corner of our lives, making more and more decisions for us, stoking a 24/7/365 political shouting match.

Any member of even a small family who has tried to decide on what kind of pizza to order can see the fallacy of applying a one-size-fits-all approach to a nation of 300 million people.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Religious Wars in America

John Boehner, a Catholic, spoke at the Catholic University commencement yesterday.  Of course, the left had to cook up some controversy.

The American left is so predictable. Whatever ignominy is visited upon one of their heroes, they will be sure to do the same to someone on the right, justified or not.  The right tried to delegitimize Bill Clinton, so the left delegitimized Bush.  The right talked about “cleaning up the mess” left by Clinton, so Obama parrots the line to hooting crowds of hopium smokers.

The latest tit-for-tat is an attack on John Boehner by Catholic university professors.  It is a return volley against those who protested Notre Dame conferring an honorary degree on pro-abortion Barack Obama.

The false equivalency cooked up by these snooty statists is to attack Boehner for voting against an ever burgeoning welfare state. The academic left has always been in open contempt of conservatism, but the latest strategy is to cloak their attacks in religious terms.  Unfortunately for these aggressors, Christ left no instructions to governments.

There is no moral equivalency between supporting abortion and cutting government spending

The Catholic Church teaches as dogma that abortion and homosexual acts are evil.  It has no similar iron laws concerning how to run a national government. Father Sirico, a Catholic priest, explains is better than I can…
To jump so seamlessly from the Magisterium’s insistence on the fundamental and non-negotiable moral obligation to the poor to the specifics of contingent, prudential, and political legislation is wholly unjustified in Catholic social teaching. (Fr Sirico – NRO)
He goes on to give a detailed Catholic rebuttal to this uninformed criticism.  This is one of my favorite quotes:
And then there is that passage in Pope Benedict’s most recent social encyclical Caritas in Veritate: “The Church does not have technical solutions to offer.”
He also cites the role of Subsidiarity in Catholic social teaching, which these progressive professors must not be aware of:
The social teaching of the Church is based on the human person as the principle, subject and object of every social organization. Subsidiarity is one of the core principles of this teaching. This principle holds that human affairs are best handled at the lowest possible level, closest to the affected persons.  (Catholic Culture – Subsidiarity)

This passage from the Catholic Catechism sounds dangerously libertarian...
Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. (Catholic Catechism)
What escapes these statist professors is the notion that perhaps, just maybe, Speaker Boehner and other like-minded legislators hope to break the government shackles that have enslaved successive generations.  Perhaps small government advocates hope to diminish the clanking, soulless bureaucratic beast and return the usurped power to individuals.  Which is more empowering to the impoverished, a food stamp or a job and a bank account?

These pontificating professors need to go back and do their homework.  Short of that, reading this George Will column will put it all in historical context:  History Lessons for Obama and Other Liberals

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'll Take The Koran for $500 Alex!

One thing that wears me out is hearing people sling Koran quotes back and forth

I heard two Muslims on Hannity on the way home from work excitedly scolding one another over Koran interpretations.  They were citing hadiths and suras, pronouncing it "Koor-Ahn," and over enunciating everything.  It was enough to make my ears bleed.  I angrily turned the channel, steamed that this discussion was even happening here in the United States of America.

I don't like it any more when Islam critics do it.  Unless the people are scholars who can put it in context, I don’t want to hear it any more than I want to hear a Christian-hater playing Bible bingo and throwing quotes at me to prove I'm a superstitious moron for believing in Jesus.

Leonard Pitts is one of those columnists I rarely agree with, but he is always thought-provoking, especially when he is putting the shoe on the other foot.

He presents us four quotes and asks us to guess where each came from…

1) “. . . Wherever you encounter [non-believers], kill them, seize them, besiege them, wait for them at every lookout post . . .”

2) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

3) “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ . . . do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death.”

4) “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

The first is from the Koran, the second is a quote from Jesus contained in the Gospels, and the third and fourth are from the Old Testament.

His point is well made: Anyone can take anything out of context. He calls such selective plucking a “cheap parlor trick,” and on that narrow point I agree with him.

My only criticism is that he fails to mention is that it’s not just Islam-bashers who do this. Murderous islamists themselves take Koran passages out of context, just as human stains like Fred Phelps and his band of America haters butcher The Holy Bible.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do What You Can, Stick to What You Know

Now that our SEALs have put down the diseased dog and dumped him in the ocean, talk of getting out of Afghanistan has increased.  Regardless of where you stand on that issue, this is a time for us to reassess our strategic posture and shape our military accordingly.

Americans are good at war and not very good at remaking other countries in our image. It's an invaluable revelation that has yet to be incorporated into our approach to foreign policy and national security. (Steve Chapman - Bin Laden's Big Mistake)
Remaking a society that does not want to be remade is a fool’s errand and we should officially take the pledge and swear off any future nation building.

We should retool our defense establishment with recent lessons in mind. We can continue defense cooperation with willing partners, dispatching special forces teams, intelligence gathering, and terrorist bug swatting as needed. Big footprints and occupations should be regarded as relics of the past, to be dusted off only in case of an immediate and existential threat to the United States of America.

Bogging ourselves down in stone age toilets diminishes us, wasting valuable national resources and killing good soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. Technology is a double-edged sword.  We exploit it well when we swoop down out of the shadows, lean, light and lethal.  It works against us when we deploy big static masses of troops, 70% of which are support tail, sitting vulnerable to the bad guys' employment of cheap, available technology.  A big fat presence no longer plays to our strengths.

Keep our superstitious enemies paranoid

A big foreign presence also removes the mystique of US power.  The 21st century US military needs to be about speed, stealth, mobility, and surprise.

I want the bad guys and the superstitious hordes who cheer and shelter them to think our soldiers are hiding underground right now spying on them, ready to come up through the soil and strangle them at any moment. I want these 7th century obscurantists to believe we can read their thoughts, see through the walls of their grimy cinderblock huts, and swoop down and grab them at any time with trained invisible eagles. I want them jumpy at the thought that every crawling bug and slithering reptile is a trained US spy.

It's not so far-fetched. The primitive Muslim throngs blamed the shark attacks off an Egyptian coastal resort on Mossad-trained predators. If the gullible dingbats actually believe Israel made a pact with King Poseidon to produce a trained flotilla of sharks just to wreck Egypt's tourist industry, they'll believe anything.

The Stage is Set for Smart Defense Cuts

Defense cannot be exempted from budget cuts. Vietnam veteran Col. Douglas MacGregor (US Army, ret.) lays out some smart ideas on how to do it. Reducing overseas presence, eliminating whole headquarters while downsizing others, as well as collapsing the creepily named Department of Homeland Security and returning some functions to where they came from while abolishing others. He also recommends consolidating intelligence functions and reducing redundancy.

I worked at a combatant headquarters in the Middle East. We were lean and mean with no bureaucratic overhead. Paperwork was minimal. We actually did real stuff like engineer combat communications solutions, and then we deployed into the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq to build and fix commo used by the warfighters.

I’ve also seen non-combatant headquarters, and they are the complete opposite. They are stilted, sclerotic bureaucratic sinks that are increasingly reliant on contractor support, even as they grow their military and DoD civilian rosters.

There is plenty of fat there to cut as we put our military on a leaner, deployment-focused footing. Especially if we swear off global community organizing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Strong Horse, Dead Horse, Wagging Dogs, Sharpened Razors

As usual, Mark Steyn nails it...
The belated dispatch of Osama testifies to what the United States does well – elite warriors, superbly trained, equipped to a level of technological sophistication no other nation can match.

Everything else surrounding the event (including White House news management so club-footed that one starts to wonder darkly whether its incompetence is somehow intentional) embodies what the United States does badly. (Mark Steyn – OC Register)
Two questions trouble thinking Americans:

1. Why did we get Osama Bin Laden when we did?
2. Is President Obama purposely screwing things up?

We Got Him!
There are many corollaries to the first question: Was Osama already dead, and we just held that knowledge in our back pocket to wait for the opportune time? Did the raid even really happen, or was it faked?  Is Osama still alive?

Al Qaeda answered the last question in the negative, essentially confirming the official story.
“Occam’s Razor is a principle that generally recommends selecting the competing hypothesis that makes the fewest new assumptions, when the hypotheses are equal in other respects” (Wikipedia)

Occam's Razor says the most plausible answer is the official story. Intelligence has been working this for years, and the time became ripe a month or so ago. That doesn't disprove other theories, it's just that this is the most plausible one.

What do you get when you take a community organizer from Chicago...

The second question can also be explained by Occam’s razor. Barack Obama had nothing in his past experience, training, or education that even remotely qualified him to be president, so his poor performance is no surprise.

He compounded our nation’s ills by surrounding himself with pointy-headed intellectuals who share his embarrassing poverty of real-world experience. National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon may be a fine man, but his foreign policy experience consists of being a lawyer on the periphery of US diplomacy. The administration is full of people like him.  No wonder President Obama is screwing everything up.

Hanlon’s Razor also comes to mind…
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” (Wikipedia)
This paragraph of the Wikipedia article is also instructive…
A practical observation on the risks of stupidity was made by the German General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord in Truppenführung, 1933:
"I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities.
Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!"
I’ll leave it to you to decide if the paragraph fits, and if so, which part.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Congratulations Utah!

The Brady anti-gun nuts have come out with their annual scold of "irresponsible" states who refuse to jump on the gun grabber bandwagon.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence this week gave Utah, Arizona and Alaska all scores of zero, and said they “do not have a single common sense gun law on their books.”  (Salt Lake Tribune - Utah Scolded for Gun Laws)

Utahans are taking the news like the rugged westerners they are...
“I’m glad we got a zero from that group. I actually wish we would get a negative score from them — like an F-minus-minus,” said Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield
I hear that.  I was ashamed to see Colorado tied for 17th best on the Brady list.  Must be because of the Mile High Crime city of Denver's restrictive gun laws.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman — who this year passed a bill to make the Browning-designed M-1911 handgun the official state firearm — chuckled when he heard that the Brady Campaign gave California the highest score for gun laws among the states.

“Would the head of the Brady Center feel safer walking down the street at midnight in Salt Lake City or in south central Los Angeles?” he asked.
Statistics Show Liberalism is a Mental Disorder

"Crazy" Utah, has less gun crime than "responsible" California.  Alaska has even less.

How about Arizona?  Only in firearm robberies and assaults does California beat Arizona.  California still has a higher firearm murder rate than mean ol' Arizona.  So despite California's multiple violations of people's 2nd Amendment rights, it is still more violent than the Brady Bad Boy States of Utah, Arizona and Alaska.

Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Idaho have some of the overall lowest gun crimes in the nation, but none cracked the Brady Top 20.

Anti-gun liberals are willfully ignorant
There is no correlation between gun laws and gun crimes.  Indeed, by definition, criminals break the law.  The data does show that restrictive gun laws leave law-abiding citizens unarmed and vulnerable, just the way criminals like their victims. 

Salt Lake Tribune - Utah Scolded for Gun Laws

Sunday, May 8, 2011

GOP is Winning the Budget Debate

Those poor Democrats are looking more and more like Wiley Coyote. They buy the Acme Socialist Propaganda kit guaranteed to defeat that GOP roadrunner, but they end up dropping an anvil on their own heads.

From a DNC fundraising letter, courtesy of Johah Goldberg at NRO…
“Under the Republican budget, if you’re a millionaire, you win the lottery. If you’re a senior, you lose your Medicare.” (Jonah Goldberg – NRO)
Great propaganda points perfectly tuned for the true believers, but blatant lies. Tax rates go down, but loopholes (overwhelmingly used by the rich) disappear. The tax proposal is revenue neutral, and it comes from Obama’s Debt Commission.

Democrat Mediscare Lies and Propaganda

USA Today calls it counterintuitive: Despite Democrat demagoguery, seniors back Ryan’s budget plan. So do those in their prime working and family-raising years. Only with the under 30 crowd does Obama’s sketchy plan outpoll Ryan’s. It’s simple really. Older people study the facts. Younger people tend not to, especially those in the thralls of political hero worship.

Responsible adults who have pulled their heads out of their MSNBC and studied the facts realize that Ryan’s plan changes nothing for those over 55. Obama’s plan is just a sketchy scheme with no hard details, full of gouge the rich and ration the care.

Republicans are winning the Budget Debate

Contrary to what the lying liars on the left are saying, USA Today/Gallup polling shows Americans are reluctantly coming to grips with the harsh realities of deficit reduction. Better yet, the GOP has not just touched the third rail; they’ve tapped into it to light their budgetary platform, and lived to fight on. I can’t believe it, but it looks like the GOP may actually be winning the debate.
“Republicans hold a 12-percentage-point edge over Democrats as the party better able to handle the budget, and a 5-point edge on the economy in general.” (USA Today)
Also encouraging…
“By more than 3-to-1, those surveyed say the deficit stems from too much spending, rather than too little tax revenue.” (USA Today)
Even more bad news for liberals: A growing cohort of Democrat congressmen and senators oppose raising the debt ceiling and voters overwhelmingly want spending cut, while only 11% dream the impossible dream of solving the debt with tax increases: 
“When it comes to solving the deficit problem, about half of Americans, 48%, want to do it entirely or mostly with spending cuts. Some 37% support an equal mix of spending cuts and tax increases; 11% prefer mostly tax hikes.” (USA Today)
Two Stubborn Facts:
+ Government Spending = 22% of GDP;
+ Taxation Stubbornly Sticks at 18% of GDP

Government spending is at around 22% of GDP and rising, which means government gets almost a quarter of every dollar the economy produces. Meanwhile, regardless of tax rates (Eisenhower = high; Reagan=low) the percentage of taxes collected as a percentage of GDP stubbornly sticks at around 18%.

The Solution
This leads to what I consider the smartest thinking on the issue: The federal government should base taxation, spending and budgeting upon these two facts. Size the budget to 18% of GDP and the problem is essentially solved.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Government Intrusion Distorts the Marketplace

Jeffrey Miron asks, Should Government Subsidize Health Insurance?

I say no, based upon real-life examples.  Government heavily subsidizes higher education, and Big Ed keeps demanding more...
“A good rule of thumb is that tuition rates will increase at about twice the general inflation rate.  On average, tuition tends to increase about 8% per year.” ( FinAid – Tuition Inflation)
Government already is neck deep in health care, to the point it doesn't even resemble a free market anymore...
“The cost of hospital services, which grew by 1.1% in March and 8.6% in the last 12 months, almost quadruple the 2.3% increase in the overall Consumer Price Index for the same period, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced today.
The rising costs of virtually every healthcare-related index have easily outstripped overall CPI for decades.”  (Health Leaders Media – Medical Care Outstrips Inflation)
Government subsidizes the sugar industry, and we all pay more.  Government subsidizes ethanol, causing the price of everything to skyrocket and touching off food riots worldwide.

I'd say we've had about all the government interventions we can stand...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Understanding Islam

I thought I would read the Koran during my one-year deployment to the Middle East.  It was boring, and the literary commentary and criticism I sought out to help me through it was so uneven or obviously biased that I ended up selling the book to a captain who worked in C-130 Ops.

If you really want to understand not so much Islam, but it's history, its people and the cultural milieu that stretches from Turkey to China, I recommend three sources:  Anything written by Bernard Lewis; The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai; and and The Arabian Nights, unexpurgated edition.

In addition to these works, you should read the history of whatever area or era you are interested in.  Muslim culture and its history is rich and varied.  Reading a book on the Taliban and saying you understand Islam is like saying you read a book on 1930's Germany and now have an understanding of Christianity.  The Muslim world and it's varied cultures and history is a vast topic.

Bernard Lewis, now 95, is the West's leading Middle Eastern scholar.  He understands the culture and can explain it quite well.  Of the current uprisings...
"I think that the tyrannies are doomed.  The real question is what will come instead."

"We should have no illusions about the Muslim Brotherhood, who they are and what they want." (WSJ - The Tyrannies are Doomed)
Lewis is no Muslim hater.  Just the opposite.  He has written essays in an attempt to explain the Muslim point of view to fellow westerners.  His overarching themes in these works is that their ways are not our ways.

Indeed Muslims have tried "our ways" in the form of authoritarian statism and fascism.  It's been a poor fit to cultures that were historically steeped in decentralized government where even kings and sultans must consult with the various guilds, tribes and scattered interest groups.
Iranians' disdain for the ruling mullahs is the reason Mr. Lewis thinks the U.S. shouldn't take military action there. "It would give the regime a gift that they don't at present enjoy—namely Iranian patriotism," he warns.
"We have a much better chance of establishing—I hesitate to use the word democracy—but some sort of open, tolerant society, if it's done within their systems, according to their traditions. Why should we expect them to adopt a Western system? And why should we expect it to work?" he asks. (WSJ - The Tyrannies are Doomed)

The Arab Mind, written in 1973, has come under sustained attack since 9/11.  The neocons read it and the military used it, so it must be bad!  Dr Patai is a cultural anthropologist, and this is a well-documented and scholarly work.  His downfall is that he sometimes takes specific knowledge from a narrow part of the Middle East and extrapolates it out to the whole.  The Arab world is such a large and varied place that many generalities just don't fit and end up smacking of stereotype.   

He also engages in some amateur cultural psychology that so many anthropologists are guilty of.  So it may not be the definitive work it was once thought to be, but it is still a good jumping off point to at least get yourself oriented.

Arabian Nights is a collection of highly entertaining folk tales from Arabia and South Asia.  Some of the stories take place as far away as China.  You'll recognize some of the characters:  Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, Sinbad the Sailor (Who was actually a merchant from Basra, Iraq), Aladdin, as well as scimitar-wielding warriors, sultans and Genies (Jinn).

It is not history, it's folklore, so any facts you garner will be incidental.  Regardless, you will gain enormous insight into the history and culture of the Islamic lands of the Near East.  Read the unexpurgated version, and you'll get the tales complete with the murder, mayhem and ribald randiness missing from the tales you enjoyed as a child.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

TMI: Beautiful Operation Overshadowed by Shabby Messaging

Our government gives up way too much information. And not just under the Obama administration--Bush did it too.

We ascertained UBL’s whereabouts by patiently studying the ways of Al Qaida, watching their movements and methods. The enemy learns about us the same way, only instead of spying, they simply read newspapers and watch TV. Our government needs to curb its urge to brag about every accomplishment. Much of it serves no purpose besides feeding our entertainment culture's prurient interests anyway.

President Obama is Right on the Bin Laden Death Pictures

It’s the right decision to not publish the pictures. It would have become a holy icon to the macabre jihadi death worshipers, a gruesome propaganda poster to the sweaty hordes, and it would not have convinced the skeptics. And to those Taliban idiots and other terrorists who taunt us to produce the picture as proof we capped him, the burden is on them. Produce the picture? You produce Bin Laden!

Unfortunately, there is little else about this operation we are unwilling to release.

“There I was…”

Everybody likes to tell stories, especially if they’ve played even a marginal role in it. Whether it’s a forklift accident at work or a world-famous terrorist takedown, everybody wants to be first to spread the news, and we just can’t help regaling others with the juicy tidbits. It is understandable coming from ordinary folk, but it is irresponsible when the United States government does it. In the past, congressmen have inadvertently released damaging classified information in their rush to look important, and VP Joe Biden does it practically every time he opens his mouth.

Multifarious government officials rushing to the microphones has produced an incoherent message that leads a slavering press and fever swamp conspiracy theorists to put hammer and chisel to the exposed fissures, eventuating more official explanations and further fractured incoherence.

Are they lying, or are they simply stupid?

As time goes on, more details emerge. We know how many troops were involved, how many helicopters, how long it took. We even know which eye the skilled marksman shot out. All of this information, that none of us needs to know, fills in the blanks for bad guys hoping to dodge Osama’s fate.

Less serious but still troubling, as the “facts” change and the different government agencies struggle to amend earlier comments and keep their stories straight, the US government loses credibility and risks tarnishing the brave deeds of patriotic Americans.


This is all too much information. "TMI!" as my sassy daughter would say. Unless it’s disinformation, in which case our government could do a much better job.

Here's how you do disinformation...

I want the bad guys and the superstitious hordes who cheer and shelter them to think our soldiers are hiding underground right now spying on them, ready to come up through the soil and strangle them at any moment. I want these 7th century obscurantists to believe we can read their thoughts, see through the walls of their grimy cinderblock huts, and swoop down and grab them at any time with trained invisible eagles. I want them to think every crawling bug and slithering reptile is a trained US spy.

It's not so far-fetched. They blamed the shark attacks off an Egyptian coastal resort on Mossad-trained predators. If the gullible dingbats actually believe Israel made a pact with King Poseidon to produce a flotilla of submersed Muslim eaters just to wreck Egypt's tourist industry, they'll believe anything

This should have been the only official statement:

“Through diligent intelligence work, we discovered Bin Laden. We dropped into his walled hovel and shot him and his son dead."

Let the speculation, conjecture and fearmongering run rampant. It would all work to our favor by leaving the press, the European pacifists, and the pompous UN global citizen crowd sputtering with outrage. Best of all, it would strike fear of the unknown into evildoing America-haters everywhere, leaving them glancing nervously over their shoulders, knowing no haven is truly safe.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama's Dead, Bert in Hiding...

So Osama was living comfortably in Pakistan…

Is anyone surprised by this?  Pakistan has been double-dealing us for years, using us to schwack the terrorists they don’t like, while shielding their own little trained vipers from the wrath of Uncle Sam. Can’t really blame them, all nations rely somewhat on deception and diplomatic double-talk, but other nations put up with it only if they can get something in return from the whole kabuki.

Is there anything left for us to gain by dealing with these duplicitous bastards?

Pakistan is using us much like rival tribes in Afghanistan and Iraq have: As a revenge tool against their enemies. If we get inside their loop and understand the dynamics we can actually use this to our tactical advantage, but at some point you’ve got to stop and assess if it’s all advancing our goals. I think the Army understood and worked this dynamic to good effect in Iraq. It’s not perfect, but we got the country to a relatively stable state. Notice there are no “Arab Spring” riots there, and if there was outrage at Osama’s death, it was subdued.

Afghanistan is a different story.  Spring fighting season has just started, so we'll have to wait and see how it goes…

Women and Children First

Now they’re saying maybe Osama didn’t use one of his wives as a human shield. I don’t buy it. I choose to believe the original story.   Jihadis are famous for hiding behind women and children.  They reported that Osama’s son also died cowering behind a woman, and I noticed that the government spokesman left that report stand without correction.

Our Muslims are Better than Their Muslims

American Muslims are relieved to have this stone around their necks removed. More telling, they are relieved and satisfied as Americans that Bin Laden has crossed the river Styx.   The language they use is telling.   They talk of justice, of the shame and the consternation felt after 9/11 as they lost the blessed normalcy of their lives.  They speak of “our country,” and indeed it is.

President Obama Done Good

Finally, a hearty salute to President Obama.  It was a tough call and he did the right thing. Those upset that he has won a political windfall should contemplate the alternative. Would you rather that this operation had failed, with loss of American lives and national embarrassment?  We should take any opportunity we can to praise the man; they are so rare.

Gitmo and “black site” interrogations led to this successful operation.  Now that he has access to all the information, does Obama now realize the utility of these tactics?

Bottom Line

Killing Bin Laden was a victory for America, and it's thanks to the diligent intelligence community and a highly disciplined military, especially that SEAL team.  The piddle-down-the-leg Euro-whiners and the military-hating scribblers in this country yapping about Osama being unarmed can shove it.  The POS killed over 3000 unarmed people on our soil, and our Special Forced put him down like the cowardly dog he was.

For comments more thoughtful than these, see Jack Camwell's  "The Meaning of Osama Bin Laden's Death"