Tuesday, December 14, 2010

As luck would have it, luck saved NYC's subway commuters

The New York City subway bombing plot was just five days away from being consummated when it was discovered.
The suicide attack, planned to mark last year’s anniversary of the September 11 attacks was to be the biggest plot in the US since 2001.

Previous reports had suggested that the men were under surveillance by the FBI for some time before their planned attacks but sources now say the plot came close to success.

The plot was only foiled when one of the men emailed an al-Qaeda fixer in Pakistan to ask for advice on mixing chemicals, security sources on both sides of the Atlantic have told The Daily Telegraph.

Three men were allegedly planning to strap bombs to themselves and attack the underground with coordinated explosions planned to emulate those on London five years ago.

The lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of New York subway riders were saved by the faulty memory of a would-be jihadist and his failure to take notes.
The New York investigation began on September 6 2009 when an Afghan-born man brought up in Queen’s, New York also began emailing [the 'fixer'] Sohaib.

Najibullah Zazi was desperate to be reminded of his bomb-making instructions from a visit to Pakistan a year earlier.

He had already bought hydrogen peroxide and other bomb-making chemicals but wanted to know what proportions to use.

Luck is a good ally but a highly capricious one. Better to de-fang the Pakistani jihadi networks -- which may entail forcing their supporters in Pakistan's government and military to cut them off. As messy and difficult as that may be, it is likely a necessary precondition for stopping plots of this type at the source.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Racism, Obama and the Progressive Left

In The Best of the Web blog at the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto considers the proposition that criticism of Barack Obama from the Left could be racist (prompeted by a joking comment by Rush Limbaugh):
As NewsBusters.org reports, Ed Schultz of MSNBC took Limbaugh's remark personally: "[Limbaugh] is now accusing me of being a racist," the talking horse said on MSNBC's "The Mr. Ed Show."

This leads NB's Noel Sheppard to observe: "Any person with even a room temperature intelligence quotient would know that Limbaugh was claiming racism because any time anyone on the right has criticized Barack Obama since the moment he threw his hat into the presidential candidacy ring in February 2007, said person has been accused of racism by the Left." Sheppard thinks Schultz didn't get the joke, which seems unlikely. After all, Limbaugh explained the joke.

But maybe it's not entirely a joke. That thought is prompted by a pair of opinion pieces that appeared in liberal newspapers over the weekend, both by black writers: columnist Colbert King in the Washington Post on Saturday and novelist Ishmael Reed in the New York Times on Sunday. Neither man goes quite so far as to call Obama's progressive critics racist, but both travel a significant distance in that direction.

Taranto presents the kernels of the arguments by King and Reed, and concludes:
As we have argued, the leftist charge that conservative opposition to Obama is racist is in part a cynical appeal to fear, aimed at persuading blacks to continue voting Democratic. But this could backfire. If Reed and King are right, there is no reason to assume that the progressives' self-definition is widely accepted among blacks. Thus the progs' harsh attacks on Obama are likely to look as racist as the conservatives' attacks do.

In our view, progressives are largely innocent of the racism charge. As we argued Friday, they have turned against Obama because they are infantile, not because he is black. To put it more gently, their quarrel with Obama is over policy, not race--and that much they have in common with conservatives. Which of course was Limbaugh's point.

I would argue that Progressives (and others) are guilty of racism toward Obama from a different perspective. Progressives are prone to believe in the myth of the "Noble Savage" and to idealize the "Magic Negro."

Taranto summarizes Reed:
His central argument is that those who "criticize President Obama for keeping his cool"--who urge him "to 'man up' " and start "slapping people left and right"--do not understand the cultural constraints under which black men operate in America: "If President Obama behaved that way, he'd be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people."

But at the same time, Progressives have their own set of cultural constraints that they impose on Black Americans. Progressives are more likely to see Barack Obama, because of his skin color, his direct African parentage and his partial upbringing in exotic Indonesia, as a being outside of the dominant American ethnocentric and nationalist culture.

Surely as a Black man born of an African Muslim father, Obama must (in their view, and the view of those less Left-leaning but equally seeking a healer for America's racial wounds) possess the power to resist the pernicious influences of American culture and history and to be able to govern differently. To them, Obama represents both the Noble Savage, untainted by inbred Americanness, and the Magic Negro, untainted by the victimhood and resentments of the African-American experience.

When Obama cuts a deal to preserve tax cuts for the "wealthiest" Americans as a response to mere political considerations, he violates the trust that Progressives put in him to be truly different from other American Presidents. Obama himself seems not to understand this: not only has he lashed out at disappointed and angry Progressives with anger and disappointment of his own, but he's fed the perception of being the "same old, same old" by relying so heavily on Bill Clinton, to the point of leaving Clinton to handle a Presidential press conference without the presence of the present President.

During the Clinton Presidency, Progressives seem to have forgiven Clinton a multitude of sins against Progressivism. They didn't necessarily expect any more from a Southern good ol' boy. But seeing Barack Obama commit some of those same offenses has sparked an outpouring of rage, and I contend it's not unfair to say that he's being held to a different standard by the Left because of his race.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Credence Calamity Survival

This is the video message that President Obama sent to the Democratic Caucus meeting:

I keep the tax rates from risin'.
I see the Democrats get mad.
I see the Progressives fightin'.
I see the optics going bad.
Don't look with crossed eyes
At historic compromise,
There's some tax rates on the rise.

I hear tax deadlines a-nearin',
'Cause New year's Day is coming soon.
I fear jobs a-dissapearin'.
My Presidency gone to ruin.
Don't look with crossed eyes
At historic compromise,
There's some tax rates on the rise.

For Twenty-Twelve let's stick together,
I know this vote will be a bitch.
Help me ride out this nasty weather:
Next term, I'll help you screw the rich.
Don't look with crossed eyes
At historic compromise,
There's some tax rates on the rise.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Those Money-Grubbing Israelis vs. A Self-Hating Jew

Writing on The Atlantic's website, Jeffrey Goldberg says, "Don't Give to the Jewish National Fund."
Israel's per capita GDP is nearly $30,000. Israel is a rich country. The fact that it doesn't possess adequate firefighting equipment is its own fault. The fact that the leadership of its fire service is incompetent is its own fault. At some point, the good-hearted Diaspora Jews who still think of Israel as a charity case are going to have to tell their cousins to learn to fully-fund basic services like firefighting if they want to be thought of as citizens of an advanced country.

There are a great many good causes in Israel that deserve help, and a great many causes here in America that deserve our help. It seems to me, however, that Israel's national fire service should be funded by Israel's government, not by the people of Boca Raton, Potomac and the Upper West Side.

I've e-mailed Mr. Goldberg to thank him for his insight.
Dear Mr. Goldberg,

Thank you for your item, “Don’t Give to the Jewish National Fund. ” Your argument is so persuasive that I only wish you’d made it six years ago.

You see, if Israel is a rich country, the USA is still much, much richer. Since it was the Government that failed to maintain the levees in New Orleans and the Government that failed to evacuate the people of New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina, it’s the Government’s fault and sole responsibility for the havoc, loss of life and material destruction that occurred there. Now that I understand this, I feel like such a putz for sending donations for Hurricane Katrina relief. Is there some way, do you suppose, that I can get my money back?

Incidentally, it’s pretty outrageous that those schnorrers in Israel are asking for donations for disaster relief from their Jewish cousins overseas. The Israeli government wasted so much money sending medical teams and a field hospital to Haiti after the earthquake – clearly they should have used that money for firefighting equipment and personnel, and let the Haitians fend for themselves.

Best regards,


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Waldorf Salad Effect

Remember the 'Waldorf Salad' episode [edited: not the last episode as I originally posted] of Fawlty Towers? A hard-ass American and his English wife arrive at the hotel late, and Basil is too cheap to bribe his chef to stay and cook their dinner. It's not a hard order: screwdrivers to drink, steaks, and a Waldorf salad. Needless to say, Basil screws everything up and makes it worse by trying to make it look like someone else's fault, and the American tells his wife to get her bags -- they're leaving.

As the American gives Basil what for in the lobby, all the resident guests of the hotel line up to watch. The American tells Basil that his is the worst excuse for a hotel that he's ever had the misfortune to set foot in, and Basil asks his resident guests if they're satisfied. None say a word, and Basil starts to offer the American a refund with a supercilious sneer -- and then a voice pipes up, "I'm not satisfied."

And one by one each of the guests pours out a litany of complaints about the hotel's lousy service and shabby accommodations. The American's assessment of Fawlty Towers and its proprietor are fully vindicated.

This is what we are seeing in the American political landscape today. It's the end of what rdbrewer at Ace of Spades HQ called the Abilene Paradox: because a few individuals were pushed past their limit and spoke up about how crappy the ruling regime is, the people at large have now discovered that everyone else around them is as unhappy and fed up as they are.

The polls bear this out:

Tilted toward the GOP from the start of the year, the political environment has grown even more favorable for Republicans and rockier for President Barack Obama and his Democrats over the long primary season that just ended with a bang.

With November's matchups set and the general election campaign beginning in earnest Wednesday, an Associated Press-GfK poll found that more Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction than did before the nomination contests got under way in February. Also, more now disapprove of the job Obama is doing. And more now want to see Republicans in control of Congress rather than the Democrats who now run the House and Senate...

"I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that they're out of office," said independent voter Robbin Payton of Newport News, Va., reflecting just how toxic the environment is for the party in power.

This is why we get such perverse pleasure out of watching the floundering and flopping of Gibbs and Pelosi and Reid and Obama: they're playing the comic role of Basil Fawlty, insisting against all objective evidence that everything is fine and that any problems that might exist are definitely someone else's fault. What made Basil such an enduring character was his obvious knowledge that everything was on the verge of total collapse and only his desperate machinations could keep his entire life from falling down around his ears -- and that's what makes today's Democrat leaders and Obama Administration officials just as funny as he was.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dirty tricks in Egypt's election campaign

Mohammed El-Baradei is best known outside Egypt as the do-little head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Inside Egypt, however, he is a critic of the Mubarak regime and a putative proponent of democracy.

Apparently the Mubarak regime, which has the next generation Mubarak in the person of Gamal preparing to take over from Papa Hosni, takes El-Baradei seriously as a threat. El-Baradei thinks so, and thinks the regime is behind a dirty trick on Facebook.

The Egyptian government has been blamed for the emergence of photographs of Mr ElBaradei's daughter Laila variously dressed in swimming costumes or sitting in places were alcohol was served, in an attempt to outrage more conservative members of Egyptian society.

The photographs, apparently taken from her Facebook profile without her knowledge, were posted elsewhere on the social networking site under the title "ElBaradei's Family Secrets".

Although the creator of the group by claimed to be a friend of Laila's who was opposed to her father's activities, Mr ElBaradei told a local newspaper that he believed the government was behind the Facebook group because he had called for "democracy and economic reform" in Egypt.

"Such a campaign is the usual and only response of the regime towards whoever demands democracy," he told the independent Dustour newspaper.

Since he returned to Egypt in February, after serving 12 years as the head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr ElBaradei has emerged as the most recognisable dissident in the country which has been ruled by President Hosni Mubarak for nearly three decades. Mr Mubarak, 82, is widely believed to be preparing his son Gamal for succession.

I haven't ever been to the Red Sea coast of Sinai, but I tend to think there are plenty of Egyptian women there wearing something more revealing than a "Burkini." It remains to be seen how scandalous the Egyptian public will see these photographs as being. Moreover, the Islamicist wing of Egyptian society (including the Muslim Brotherhood) are the ones most likely to find the pictures lascivious, and yet they are themselves staunch opponents of the Mubarak regime, and so may be willing to overlook Laila's immodesty in order to use her father to bring down the dynasty.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jonathan Alter, Closet Birther?

Look at Newsweek's latest cover:









* who isn't actually any of these things


Wow, Jonathan - are you telling us that Obama isn't really the President of the United States? What do YOU know that the rest of us don't?

From Bee Lo Obama's new CD, "The Economy-Killer"

At Ace of Spades HQ, Ace notes that the Democrats are losing the "millennial generation" of voters. This prompted me to consider how the White House might try to counter that trend -- and, combining that with the likely result of the mid-term elections, I envisioned this Presidential Address from the Oval Office:

I see you swept into office by the voters I love
And I'm like, FUCK YOU!
Oo, oo, ooo!
I guess the change and the hope just weren't enough
And I'm like, FUCK YOU
And FUCK THEM, too!
I guess you would be richer
if your job was still wit'cha
Now, ain't that some shit?
And now Pelosi is out I just stand here and shout,
Hey, voters! FUCK YOU!
Oo, oo, ooh

I was only too willin to spend eight hundred billion
But that didn't seem to make a dent
You love the Tea Party but I'm more of a soiree
A Kobe-eating President

I pity the fool who gets elected by you
(Oh shit they're spoiled brats)
(Gave up on the Democrats)
I got some news for you
Yeah run and tell your Sarah and Glenn

I see you swept into office by the voters I love
And I'm like, FUCK YOU!
Oo, oo, ooo!
I guess the change and the hope just weren't enough
And I'm like, FUCK YOU
And FUCK THEM, too!
I guess you would be richer
if your job was still wit'cha
Now, ain't that some shit?
And now Pelosi is out I just stand here and shout,
Hey, voters! FUCK YOU!
Oo, oo, ooh

Now I know that I had to borrow
From China and your grandchildren
Trying to keep ya, trying to please ya
But unemployment is still pushing ten

I pity the fool who gets elected by you
(Oh shit they're spoiled brats)
(Gave up on the Democrats)
I got some news for you
Yeah run and tell your Sarah and Glenn

Now all you little voters, why you wanna hurt me so bad?
(So bad, so bad, so bad)
I thought you were sick and tired of W and his dad
(His dad, his dad, his dad)
Uh! Whyyyy? Uh! Whyyy?!?
Uh! Whyyyy, people?!?!?
Ooo, I'm the one -- oh! -- you waited for!!!

I see you swept into office by the voters I love
And I'm like, FUCK YOU!
Oo, oo, ooo!
I guess the change and the hope just weren't enough
And I'm like, FUCK YOU
And FUCK THEM, too!
I guess you would be richer
if your job was still wit'cha
Now, ain't that some shit?
And now Pelosi is out I just stand here and shout,
Hey, voters! FUCK YOU!
Oo, oo, ooh

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Left used to think triumphalism was bad

Prior to the Coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Left warned of a bloodbath. Saddam's army was the third-largest in the world; it had advanced weaponry, much from France and other top armament producers; its chemical weapons would rain down on the invaders. Media reports of the military ordering up 200,000 body bags for U.S. service members deepened the atmosphere of dread.

In the actual event, Iraq's military proved extremely weak. The invasion moved swiftly and Baghdad fell in just three weeks.

But rather than exult in the swift victory and express gratitude for the light loss of American and British lives, the Left instead invoked an even greater danger ahead. America, it warned, was going to fall victim to a demonic force of its own making: Triumphalism.

American triumphalism, they said, would turn the Iraqi people against us. Shi'ite triumphalism would alienate the Sunni and cause them to engage in sectarian violence. The British in Basra were held up as a model of moderation: unlike the Americans with their imposing and fearsome helmets and dark glasses, the Tommies patrolled Basra in berets and uncovered faces.

Looking back, certainly Shi'ite triumphalism stoked Sunni fear and anger, but not as much as the Sadrite Shi'ite militia or the Islamofascist influence of Al-Qaeda or the resentment of deposed Ba'ath party members did. And the British seemed early on to be winning the hearts and minds of the people of Basra -- until the city started on a downward spiral of terrorism and murder, and a few of the British soldiers turned out to be bad apples willing to torture and kill Iraqis in their custody.

But the Left had a valid point about Triumphalism: putting up monuments to act as a constant reminder to the people you defeated of their failure is much more likely to make them hate you than love you. And even if your intention and belief is that the monument should only represent respect and honor to the victors and not malice or humiliation to the vanquished, it's unlikely the vanquished will see it that way.

So who in their right mind would defend the Park51 project as a good idea for promoting respectful dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims? Even if the developers' intentions are pure, they should be now realize that a lot of non-Muslims don't see it that way.

And there are a few Muslims who go further and ascribe malicious intent to the developers. The Dubai-based general manager of Al-Arabiya television, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, says, "I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime." Canadian Muslim writers Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah go further:

New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it's not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshippers. The fact we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith and in Islamic parlance, such an act is referred to as "Fitna," meaning "mischief-making" that is clearly forbidden in the Koran.

The Koran commands Muslims to, "Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book" -- i.e., Jews and Christians. Building an exclusive place of worship for Muslims at the place where Muslims killed thousands of New Yorkers is not being considerate or sensitive, it is undoubtedly an act of "fitna."

Maybe we ought to believe these people, who understand Islamic sensibilities from the inside, when they say that they understand how Park51 could be seen as triumphalist, and may indeed be intended as an expression of triumphalism.

But the Left, which used to rail against the evils of Triumphalism, now gives it their full-throated endorsement. And they turn a blind eye to the actual Muslims warning against Park51's triumphalism. Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast writes, "It’s telling that the people Republicans are turning to for their anti-mosque street cred are not 'moderate, peace-loving' Muslims, since even Muslim Republicans are disgusted by their party’s actions. The GOP’s new heroes are former Muslims like Nonie Darwish and Ayaan Hirsi Ali." Nor does he reserve his venom exclusively for Republicans: "We’re supposed to believe, we savvy, pragmatic liberals, that the Democrats fleeing the anti-Muslim stampede are mere opportunists, not actual bigots."

This isn't narrow-mindedness, it's razor-thin-mindedness, and it ignores the fact that America is in fact a far more tolerant and accepting country for Muslims than even many Muslim countries are. In the United States, Sunni or Shi'ite or Sufi or Ahmadi Muslims need not fear being murdered in their homes or mosques by the religious majority or oppressed by their government; the same cannot be said in Pakistan or Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Jonah Goldberg at National Review writes, "In any decent society, tolerance must work both ways. If the majority is expected to show respect for a minority, the minority must also show some tolerance for the values of the majority. I’m no strict majoritarian – one with right on his side is the majority as far as I’m concerned. But this isn’t a clear-cut issue of right and wrong. It’s more complicated than that. It’s about deference and decency and common sense. And one of the things common sense should tell us is that it is not only unfair but terribly ill-advised to portray 7 out of 10 Americans as bigots when they are anything but."

Common sense also tells us that anyone sincerely seeking dialogue between faiths and communities should avoid even the appearance of triumphalism -- and that anyone who persists in giving that appearance in the face of protests from a majority of his neighbors isn't at all sincere about peace and harmony.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"A stubborn man without conviction"

James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web points out that President Obama’s nearly-instantaneous pivot on the issue of the “Ground Zero mosque” (the Park51 Islamic cultural center) shows that “Barack Obama is a stubborn man without conviction.” While this latest episode is a very stark and visible example, the insight it offers into Obama’s character and political modus operandi is hardly new.

Obama’s long had the habit of saying something to pander to an audience and then “explaining” to a different audience how he didn’t really say what he said. The only thing that’s changed is that the mainstream media is unwilling to cover for Obama when he contradicts himself.

One of the best examples is his 2008 speech to AIPAC.

“Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

It took very little time for that last sentence to be “clarified” by the candidate’s campaign.

“…Barack Obama did not rule out Palestinian sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem when he called for Israel’s capital to remain “undivided,” his campaign told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

“‘Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided,’ Obama declared Wednesday, to rousing applause from the 7,000-plus attendees at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.

“But a campaign adviser clarified Thursday that Obama believes ‘Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties” as part of “an agreement that they both can live with.’

“‘Two principles should apply to any outcome,’ which the adviser gave as: ‘Jerusalem remains Israel’s capital and it’s not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967’.”

It is pretty clear that Obama operates on the principle that voters’ memories are short and that he will therefore not be held to account for any position he takes or promise he makes that later gets “clarified” into its diametric opposite.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Will Bill Clinton drive Barack Obama to forgo re-election?

This could be the event that drives Obama not to seek a second term: Barack Obama and Bill Clinton back different Colorado candidates.

Barack Obama's influence over the Democrat party is under threat after Bill Clinton backed a rival candidate to that favoured by the President in a key US Senate seat.

The former president recorded a telephone message for voters backing Andrew Romanoff, who is hoping to be the Democrat senator for Colorado, a key state in the forthcoming midterm elections.

The intervention of Mr Clinton threatens to undermine Mr Obama, who has been a prominent support of Michael Bennet, the incumbent Democrat senator who is also fighting to contest the seat.

Obama has already had to turn to Bill Clinton for political help, both in the 2008 campaign and in office. If this midterm election demonstrates that the past President and not the sitting one has the most influence in the Democratic Party, Obama may decide that living as a past President is a pretty sweet deal compared to the meat grinder he'd face in his re-election campaign... especially if Bill manages to persuade Hillary to run again.

UPDATE: Bennet wins with 60% of the primary vote, allowing the Democrat Party establishment to claim that Obama is still politically relevant.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The leak was in Obama's Presidency, not just the Gulf

At the NRO Campaign Spot blog, Jim Geraghty asks who benefits from the capping of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico:

On Obama, clearly it’s better for him that the oil stop leaking than that it continue leaking, as it is for everyone else. But I think the damage has been done, and in fact the likelihood of additional political damage to the president from the slow spill response was pretty minimal. The second month of this mess was when the public began concluding Obama wasn’t moving with much urgency or improving the situation; in the third month, disapproval of how Obama handles this issue increased by only four points. That’s about 1 percentage point for every eight days. For Obama’s approval rating, I suspect the issue of the spill is now baked in the cake.

If the cap holds, it’s not likely that voters will see Obama’s response as any quicker or more effective; most will continue to wonder why the federal government creaked and groaned and took so long to respond to Louisiana’s plans and requests and why skimmers sat in port for Coast Guard inspections. Obama ripped his predecessor’s response to Katrina and repeatedly promised a more effective, more efficient, more confident and active federal government. In the spill response, many Americans saw the same old, same old. Of course, the fact that the president seems to be on the golf course more frequently than Tiger doesn’t help.

I think the political damage to Barack Obama from the Gulf oil spill goes far beyond the voters' reaction to his Administration's lackluster, even lackadaisical, response.

Until the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Obama was managing to make the "I inherited it from Bush" ploy work. Around half of the electorate bought the idea that whatever the problem, since Obama inherited it from Bush, they needed to cut him more slack in solving it -- maybe it was bigger than he thought, maybe Bush had set him up somehow to make a solution more difficult.

But the Deepwater Horizon happened on Obama's watch, and as such, he owned it. His effort to blame it on the Bush-era holdovers at the Minerals Management Service fell flat. The electorate watched to see how he would handle this disaster, the first one of his Presidency that they felt was in no way Bush's fault, and he failed. One might say he failed spectacularly; though he didn't order a specific effort that crashed and burned, like Kennedy's Bay of Pigs or Carter's Desert One, he did something even worse: he demonstrated total impotence, combined with incompetence and inattentiveness.

That gave voters a reason to reflect back and reevaluate the "Bush did it" excuses of the prior year and a half. No longer could they take it as given that a competent, powerful Obama was overmatched by problems created and amplified by an ineffectual or even diabolical Bush. They were faced squarely with the possibility that Obama had been unequal to the challenge of being President from the start.

And now we see that even those polls with the strongest Democrat sampling bias are showing Obama's disapproval above his approval -- in some instances, above 50 percent -- with large numbers of those polled expressing little or no confidence in his leadership on the economy, the most important issue on which Obama drew a contrast with the "policies that got us into this mess." This isn't just dissatisfaction with a three-month-long oil spill, it's a fundamental reevaluation of his entire Presidency.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Legislator + Regulator + Disaster = Quagmire

In the two months since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank, the ruptured wellhead has been spewing crude oil and gas at a terrifying rate. At the same time, news reports about the Obama Administration's response to the spill have more resembled water torture: they've come out in a slow dribble. But we've finally seen enough to detect a pattern:

The pattern, of course, is the slavish adherence to regulatory regimes during this catastrophic spill without regard to the scale and nature of the disaster.

The question has been asked widely: why didn't President Obama issue an executive order waiving the Jones Act restrictions, as President Bush did in the wake of Hurricane Katrina? Some speculate that he's been reluctant to offend the maritime unions due to his reliance on support from organized labor.

But that doesn't explain why he has also failed to issue executive orders to waive EPA restrictions and other regulations. After all, doing so would facilitate workers getting onto containment and cleanup jobs, even if it would potentially dismay environmentalists. And even environmentalists must be at a loss to understand why the regulations that protect wetlands and coastal ecosystems in normal times should prevent defensive measures against a massive flood of oil.

Maybe it's not his obligations to special interest groups that make President Obama reluctant to waive these regulations. Maybe he just likes regulations.

President Obama had little executive experience before ascending to the Presidency. His public service was as a legislator. Legislators create laws, which become regulations. That's as far as legislators go: the implementation of laws and regulations fall to the executive.

So a politician with legislative experience but no executive experience becomes conditioned to believe that all you need to solve any problem is a law and the regulations that translate that law into specific instructions. The legislator isn't tasked with implementing that law in the real world, nor is he directly exposed to the direct results of the law and the measures of its success or failure -- there may be many years and obfuscating factors separating the passage of the law and the first election after its failure becomes evident, so the verdict of the ballot box is an inefficient tool for teaching legislators how to craft laws that work.

So here is President Obama and his coterie, trained up in the belief that laws and regulations solve problems. The idea that solving a problem might require waiving regulations never enters their minds.

And here's David Axelrod on The Daily Show, confronting Jon Stewart's question about whether the Obama Administration has demonstrated sufficient competence to be trusted with ever more regulation of Americans' lives:

JON STEWART, HOST: It's clear that this administration believes that government can have a stronger hand in regulating Wall Street, in regulating energy, in doing these things. But, has government during this time proved itself competent? And are our only two choices sort of an incompetent bureaucracy that doesn't quite regulate properly or free market anarchy? Before you can make the case that this administration and government can effectively regulate shouldn't they, you know, the MMS case makes a pretty clear point that the regulatory system is somewhat broken, and you guys had a chance to...

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR OBAMA ADVISOR: The answer Jon is not to abandon the notion that there have to be rules and oversight. The answer is to make it, to make it work better. There's a long legacy there at MMS, and frankly at other agencies of government because the last administration wasn't really interested in regulating.

STEWART: But why then, why not then go in and really, with the urgency? You know, the fear is the government is not agile enough, is not urgent enough to deal with things like a catastrophic oil spill.

AXELROD: There is, there is no doubt that in retrospect we would have liked to move faster on the MMS situation, but understand that we were also dealing with the economic crisis, and, and, and, and, and the wars, and a whole range of issues, and we, that was, that was a defect that we're correcting and moving aggressively to correct now. But the answer isn't to walk away from it. I think we tested the proposition of what no regulation means. What you get, you get the leak, you get the mine disaster in West Virginia, and you get an economic crisis. And everybody recognizes that government has to play a role. It shouldn't be an oppressive role, but there has to be some firm oversight and some rules of people respond to. These, you know, it's pretty clear the oil industry is not going to regulate itself.

STEWART: But do you think, I guess my point is before you have the opportunity, before you can earn the ability to go in and, and, and do that, don't, don't we have to show a certain baseline level of competence.

Note that Axelrod mentions both the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the West Virginia mine disaster as "what no regulation means." But here's the thing: there were and are plenty of regulations on offshore oil drilling rigs and on coal mines. The problem was not the absence of regulation, but the Obama Administration's blind belief that merely having regulations in place ensures that those regulations will be followed properly.

So have a little sympathy for President Obama. When he refuses to waive Federal regulations in order to allow an all-out effort to contain and clean this ever-burgeoning catastrophe, it may just be because he doesn't know any better.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Too bad I can't draw.

(image by buzzsawmonkey)

Being that it's Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.

However, I can repost.

It wasn't always haram to display images of Mohammed.

A Persian depiction of Mohammed preaching to his followers.

An Uzbek depiction of Mohammed on his flying steed Buraq on his Night Journey to (what has been interpreted as) Jerusalem. [Note: why would he have gone to the Temple in Jerusalem if, as modern Muslim fanatics suggest, there was no Temple in Jerusalem?]

But somehow we are now supposed to believe that Islam prohibits depictions of Mohammed on pain of death.

Screw that.

One of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons that set off the current assault on free speech.

And an image composed by one "tadpole" that pretty much illustrates the same idea of a religious figure being perverted into an excuse for murderous oppression.

But here may be the most provocative image generated for Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, by Day-By-Day cartoonist Chris Muir. Do you see a man of peace, a religious fanatic, an object of idol worship, or perhaps the death struggle of Western freedoms against medieval religio-political values?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why the Truth Will Only Make the AGW Cult Stronger

James Taranto notes in Best of the Web that the AGW "settled science" is rapidly unsettling, and that Warmerists are facing a crisis of faith:
For an amusing example, listen to this New Yorker podcast on Climategate, featuring writers Elizabeth Kolbert and Peter J. Boyer. Boyer acknowledges that the emails raise serious questions about Climate science, but Kolbert denies it. Listen, though, to Kolbert's tone of voice: She sounds extremely defensive, as if she feels personally threatened by questions about global-warmist doctrine.

And maybe she does. There are, no doubt, lots of true believers in global warming--not scientists, but people, including many journalists, who have embraced global warmism as a political and quasireligious doctrine based, they have been led to believe, on the authority of science.

Even Phil Jones acknowledges climate science is rife with uncertainty, but global warmism's popularizers refuse to brook any doubt or acknowledge that the "consensus" they have touted is a sham.

And they used to call us deniers.

Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote a very good primer called "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion." One of its chapters deals with the reason that millenial cults often survive the failure of their founders' predictions of world destruction -- and indeed why it's often the case that the failures drive the cult followers to intensify their belief in the cult.

Warmerists NEED AGW to be real in order to give their lives meaning in the larger context of being the vanguard of the planet's saviors. To them, the failure of the science doesn't mean that the science is wrong, but that it needs deeper exploration -- backed by more fervent belief -- to reach the underlying truth that proves that mankind is the controlling factor in the biosphere's condition and future. The alternative, that humankind is at the mercy of an unthinking, uncaring and implacable Nature, is too horrible for them to comprehend, because it means that at any moment, the Earth can shake humankind off its skin like a dog flinging off its fleas.

(Of course, I am speaking of the garden-variety Warmerists, not the cynical manipulators who know AGW to be a fiction but whose intent has been to use that fiction to start a worldwide cult that would demand an end to capitalist freedoms in the name of ecological survival. Those hucksters will simply move on to the next scam that promises to let them panic the masses into giving them political control.)

Moron Misses Mitt's Mug

Hey, someone took a swing at Mitt Romney!


Mr Romney, 62, was sitting in the economy section of an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles on Monday when he asked a man sitting in front of his wife, Ann, to raise his seat back.

A spokesman for the former Massachusetts governor said the passenger became enraged and tried to hit him.

Mr Romney did not retaliate and his assailant was removed from the flight by police after the pilot returned to the gate, said the spokesman.

Uncharacteristically impolite Canuck? Or characteristically psycho American moonbat? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, January 29, 2010

President Barack Hussein Shepherd

Commenter Bill R. at Ace of Spades HQ notes that in President Obama's visit with the Congressional Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore, he said something familiar:

OBAMA: No -- no, but here's my point.

If the main question is going to be what do we do about Medicare costs, any proposal that Paul makes will be painted factually from the perspective of those who disagree with it as cutting benefits over the long term.

Paul, I don't think you disagree with that -- that -- that there is a political vulnerability to doing anything that tinkers with Medicare. And that's probably the biggest savings that are obtained through Paul's plan.

And I raise that not because we shouldn't have a serious discussion about it. I raise that because we're not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, "Well, you know, that's -- the other party's being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z."

That's why I say if we're going to frame these debates in ways that allow us to solve them, then we can't start off by figuring out, A, who's to blame; B, how can we make the American people afraid of the other side.

Bill R. recognized that last line. It's from the movie The American President, written by Aaron Sorkin:
President Andrew Shepherd: For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I've been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren't you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago. America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free". I've known Bob Rumson for years, and I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President's girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she's to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, 'cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.

I am old enough to recall the kerfuffle over President Reagan's remarks at Hickam Air Force Base in 1984:

You know, many years ago in one of the four wars in my lifetime, an admiral stood on the bridge of a carrier watching the planes take off and out into the darkness, bent on a night combat mission, and then found himself asking with no one there to answer, just himself, to hear his own voice, he said, "Where do we find such men?" A decade or so ago, after spending an evening with the first returning POW's from Vietnam, Nancy and I found ourselves -- as the evening ended, having heard the stories of horror and brutality by men who had been confined as prisoners of war longer than any other fighting men in America's history -- found ourselves asking that same question, ``Where do we find such men?'' We find them where we've always found them when we need them. We find them where we found you -- on the main streets and the farms of America.

Of course, no one at the time recalled that Reagan had used that quotation before:
In James Michener's book "The Bridges at Toko-Ri," he writes of an officer waiting through the night for the return of planes to a carrier as dawn is coming on. And he asks, "Where do we find such men?" Well, we find them where we've always found them. They are the product of the freest society man has ever known. They make a commitment to the military—make it freely, because the birthright we share as Americans is worth defending. God bless America.

Exit question: is it really authenticity if you crib your lines from Hollywood movies without attribution?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Barack Obama cares nothing for the safety of Americans

A harsh blanket statement, to be sure.

But what other conclusion can one draw when the President puts a premium on closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay -- and is willing to entrust the "rehabilitation" of its current residents to YEMEN?!?
Yemen 'to host Guantanamo rehab centre'
Yemen and Washington are in talks to set up a rehabilitation centre in the Arab state for Guantanamo detainees.

By Alex Spillius in Washington
Published: 12:23AM GMT 27 Jan 2010

The move would help President Barack Obama achieve his elusive goal of closing the controversial US prison.

The issue will be raised for the first time in an international setting on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting in London on Wednesday...

A source close to the Obama administration said the Yemenis had agreed in principle to the establishment of a Reintegration and Risk Reduction Initiative, which would be internationally funded and monitored.

Aimed at steering detainees back into society, it would be modeled on previous efforts in Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Let's recall that the Christmas Pantybomber (the "Fruit of Kaboom Bomber," as Rush Limbaugh dubbed him) was dispatched to the USA by Yemeni handlers that included past graduates of the Saudi version of this rehabilitation program. So of course to the Obama Administration, it only makes sense to quintuple down on this approach: after all, the guy's underwear didn't actually detonate, so it's all cool, right?

I note that this stupidity has the tacit approval of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State:
The project has support from within the US state department and is gaining ground among White House advisers, said the source, because it would help the president dig himself out of a large hole created by his pledge to close the prison while trying to avoid releasing terror suspects back into the militant fold. Having missed his Jan 22 deadline to close the detention centre, as things stand Guantanamo is unlikely to shut this year.

God protect us from idiots such as this:
"If Guantanamo was a recruitment tool before, it will be a super-recruitment tool once Yemenis are the majority there," said Sarah Mendelson, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that has helped draft the proposal.

"Obviously we don't want a situation where former detainees could just leave or where they simply faced indefinite detention in Yemen rather than in a US facility," she added. "But programmes that include job skills, family support and carefully watched re-integration have been shown to work."

If the Obama Administration goes forward with this suicidal insanity, it should at least condition the program on Ms. Mandelson going to Yemen to work directly with the "retrainees." After all, she should have nothing to fear from them, right?