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,