I've never been a fan of vanity plates (W8 4 MI, KROOZR, etc), but as a source of revenue for states, I prefer them to say, higher taxes. In Vermont, state law allows you to order up a vanity plate with any message you like - except a religious message (specifically, any reference to a "religion" or "deity"). A Vermont resident took the State to court over the ban on religious plates, and the Second Circuit has -- OMG -- just struck down Vermont's law.
The Court's opinion, by GW Bush appointee Debra Ann Livingston, demolishes Vermont's purported rationale for prohibiting religious expression. According to Vermont, the "disruption and distraction" caused by religion is a safety issue. Well, that's pretty convincing. I'm sure Dave Carter can weigh in with stories of 23-car pile-ups caused by those pernicious "honk if you love jesus" bumper stickers.
Vermont's other rationale is that it wants to avoid the perception that the State favors certain certain ideas or "viewpoints." And yet, the State had no problem approving such "viewpoints" as CARP DM, PEACE2U, LIVFREE, BEWILD. Oh, and HOPE4ME. (Hope? Hmm, where have I seen that one before?)
Having opened the door to allowing citizens to express all sorts of things on their license plates, the State cannot single out religious messages for exclusion. More commentary here and here, but suffice it to say that Debra Ann Livingston is a GR8 JDGE.
Name-checking "what Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal once called demosclerosis," David Brooks devotes his latest column to the fact that "governments have become entwined in a series of arrangements that drain money from productive uses and direct it toward unproductive ones." The crescendo:
States across the nation will be paralyzed for the rest of our lives because they face unfunded pension obligations that, if counted accurately, amount to $2 trillion — or $87,000 per plan participant.
All in all, governments can’t promote future prosperity because they are strangling on their own self-indulgence.
In his original article, Rauch nails the what of 'demosclerosis' while dancing around the why, and Brooks furthers the mystery by pinning the blame on simple 'self-indulgence'. What is it about ourselves that 'we' are indulging?
I'd put it very plainly: our fear and loathing of suffering. The growth of the entitlement state has been driven by a powerful desire to prevent Americans, whether in the public or private sector, from suffering. And the frightful lesson of the past several decades is that minimizing suffering cannot be the mission of government -- certainly not among a free people, and apparently not even among a people willing to slip into servitude. Not only is government uniquely bad at funding the sorts of outlays that minimize suffering -- the sensitivity to suffering, and the appetite for its minimization, seems to have no limit in democratic times. Put these two pathologies together, and what you see today is what you get.
The real reckoning behind the economic crisis is a crisis of democratic culture. Brooks, dinged by conservatives for his love of muscular government, at least can envision a purpose for government beyond and besides minimizing suffering. That alone puts him on the side of a democratic culture with a future. On the other side are those for whom the war on suffering is the pursuit of justice. Bill Clinton was smart enough to know that government can feel your pain for free; the hard facts of the Obama era make plain that government will go broke before it can take your pain away. Forget, for a minute, the Surveillance State, the Police State, or any familiar symbol of government gone hopelessly wrong. What we can least afford is the Analgesic State, and the fears that it so dearly indulges.
Regardless of whatever else one may believe about President Obama and his motives for advancing an agenda that is bankrupting the nation (Cloward-Piven, committed Marxist, garden-variety statist, etc.), I am convinced that he is a die-hard Keynesian. His faith in this failed theory is so strong that he cannot digest empirical evidence disproving it.
Leftists like Obama, who fashion themselves as open-minded and academically curious, are largely indoctrinated with liberal revisionism in history and economics and reinforce their myths and errors via echo chamber by limiting their intellectual interaction to likeminded colleagues. They are further intellectually burdened by their emotional commitment to redistributionist policies, from which they seem to derive their sense of self-worth.
Their worldview dictates that large-scale redistributionism (and that’s putting it mildly now that we’ve seen them in action with control of both political branches) is not only morally imperative, but creates prosperity as well. I know, I know, Obama admitted for a moment to Charlie Gibson that he favored increases in capital gains tax rates “as a matter of fairness,” even knowing such increases reduce revenues. But in his heart of hearts he really believes that socialism can work – that confiscatory taxes do not shrink the pie – as evidenced by his recent absurd remark about the wealthy not being deterred from spending money (e.g. buying flat-screen TVs) with increases in marginal income tax rates.
So when socialism doesn’t work anywhere in the world, leftists rationalize that it hasn’t been properly implemented or distort the data to suggest that it does work. And when it doesn’t work in the United States, they always blame the market, not government intrusion.
It’s a recurring pattern: they force government intervention in the market, completely mess things up, scapegoat the excesses of capitalism, greedy capitalists, and “deregulation,” and then demand yet more government. The subprime meltdown and our experience with healthcare are two recent egregious examples.
These committed Keynesians are impervious to evidence suggesting that New Deal spending exacerbated rather than ameliorated the depression. They are oblivious to what Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow J.D. Foster calls the “simplest of realities: Government spending must be financed. So to finance deficit spending, government must borrow from private markets, thereby reducing private demand by the same amount as deficit spending increases public demand. In effect, the theory says that if I take a dollar from my right pocket to my left, then I’m a dollar richer. No wonder it always fails.”
Obama was so convinced that Keynesian pump-priming would work to “jump- start the economy,” that he promised that if implemented, his stimulus package would keep unemployment from exceeding eight percent. (Neither he nor his Keynesian brain trust ever bothered to explain how the nation could afford an extra $1 trillion in debt even if his spending would have worked, but that’s another subject). Though unemployment jumped above ten percent and has hovered between nine and ten percent ever since, there is no indication that Obama’s blind faith in Keynesian is remotely shaken. That’s why he can tell us with a straight face that he wants $50 billion more for infrastructure to create jobs when $868 billion (not all of which has yet been spent) did not make a dent in the unemployment rate. You see, he doesn’t accept that his stimulus package didn’t work. All the evidence indicates it was a miserable failure. But he has something better: his economic theory says it must have worked, therefore it did.
How many times have we heard him make the unprovable assertion that without the stimulus, things would have been much worse or that because of his spending we averted another Great Depression? His illustrious sidekick Joe Biden applies a different spin: “The Recovery Act didn’t do enough because we couldn’t spend enough.” For these people enough is never enough. Heritage reports that since Obama’s term began federal spending is up more than 21% and the national debt has risen by $2.9 trillion.
If all this weren’t bad enough, Obama is in the process of further destroying any prospects for growth by saddling our economy with the largest tax hike in U.S. history, according to Heritage. “Taxes on individual income, capital gains and dividends are all set to rise.”
In his little Marxian bubble, Obama believes that punishing the wealthy will not harm the economy as a whole, as another article of the leftists’ faith is that trickle down growth or constriction is a construct of evil corporatists and capitalists.
In the end it really doesn’t matter much whether or not Obama is deliberately trying to harm the economy because his reckless agenda is destroying the economy and bankrupting us irrespective of his motive.
Which is all the more reason his band of congressional enablers must be ousted in a few weeks.
I have often wondered whom I would have liked to play for if I were a professional baseball player. (That's different, of course, than whom I would have liked to interview. Cox wasn't going to give you much if you were a New York sports reporter, I'll tell you that much. But as a manager? I think I would have liked it.)
It’s very simple what he expects out of you. Show up on time, play the game right, wear your uniform the right way …Because things were so simple and so easy to follow, it lent itself to there not being a lot of drama.
... Back in the day ... you better not wear your sunglasses on the bill of your hat. You better not even wear sunglasses; you better have the flip-downs. You better not go out there and not have the right T-shirt on underneath ...
I’ve seen him after a game in Pittsburgh, there might have been a ball that was dropped because nobody called it and he came in after the game and everybody is getting undressed and getting ready to go eat and he comes out of his office and just tips the table over with all the food on it, like ‘All right, none of you guys are even trying.’ Stuff like that the used to do. He wasn’t one of those guys that did stuff on a whim and tried to get a reaction out of people. When he would do stuff like that, it went a long way and people took notice. You better pay attention to whatever is bugging him.
Cox is retiring after 29 years as a manager -- 25 of those years were spent managing the Braves.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. I don’t think I’ve cried in uniform since I was about 8. You spend as much time with Bobby as I have, it’s hard. He’s been a father figure to me, he’s been my only manager. It’s hard to swallow that this is going to be the last time.
Jesse Jackson has a piece out today called the "GOP Runs on the Big Lie." That headline, The Big Lie, might be better suited to Jackson's column than anything the GOP is doing. The column is full of one half-truth after another and yet, its tone would be enough to make any passive voter conclude that Republicans are greedy rascals who eat puppies for breakfast--so, vote Democrat.
Republicans are marching in virtual lockstep with banks and corporations in resisting reform. Republicans pushed to weaken the recovery plan, and now pledge to repeal what is left of it. They opposed extending unemployment insurance. They opposed curbing Wall Street. They opposed health care reforms that would stop insurance companies from cutting off your coverage if you get sick. Now, they are holding the extension of tax cuts to middle class families hostage unless the richest Americans get an additional tax cut, demanding that the government borrow another $700 billion over 10 years to pay for an extra tax cut for the wealthiest Americans....
So what do they run on? They run mostly against -- seeking to harvest votes cast in protest against the lousy economy. But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a different idea: He wants them to run on the big lie. In a memo to Republicans, he urges them to contrast Republicans as the party of "paychecks" against Democrats as the party of "food stamps." The only problem with this formulation is that it is simply a lie....
Unless Republicans decide that the cost of offering $100,000 annual tax cuts to millionaires is not worth thousands more hungry children, more families will be eligible for food stamps.
Jackson's piece, which ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, comes to us as the race for Obama's old Senate seat is tightening in Illinois. Mark Kirk, the Republican, is barely leading in the polls, so far besting Democrat Alexi Giannoulias by 1.2%. Though the race is a toss up, Kirk's edge surely has Giannoulias hoping that Jackson's column will bring some votes his way.
None of my family and friends is allowed to appear on Wheel of Fortune. Same goes for my kids' teachers or the guys who rotate my tires. If there's not a real conflict of interest, there is, at least, the appearance of one. On another level, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from nearly half the cases this session due to her time as solicitor general. In nearly all private and public endeavors, there are occasions in which it's only fair and correct that a person or group be barred from participating because that party could directly and unevenly benefit from decisions made and policies adopted. So should state workers be able to vote in state elections on matters that would benefit them directly? The same question goes for federal workers in federal elections.
I'm not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote, but that there are certain cases in which their stake in the matter may be too great. Of course we all have a stake in one way or another in most elections, and many of us tend to vote in favor of our own interests. However, if, for example, a ballot initiative appears that might cap the benefits of a certain group of state workers, should those workers be able to vote on the matter? Plainly, their interests as direct recipients of the benefits are far greater than the interests of others whose taxes support such benefits. I realize this opens a Pandora's box in terms of figuring out what constitutes a true conflict of interest, but, after all, isn't opening those boxes Ricochet's raison d'être?
For years, we've endured the nonsense about the "population explosion." You know the litany: too many people on the planet, not enough resources to sustain them all -- in fact, that very word, "sustain" and its creepy twin, "sustainability" have become ubiquitous -- and the prescription is always the same: population control, contraception, and inculcating a culture of Less and Smaller and Diminished Expectations.
Here's Long's Law: whenever the assembled experts agree that a Certain Thing is a Major Problem, they're not only wrong, but exactly wrong.
We don't have too many people on the planet. We have too few. At least, too few young people. Old people, apparently, we're lousy with. And that's a problem.
...birth rates are dipping below replacement levels even in countries hardly known for luxury. Emerging first in Scandinavia in the 1970s, what the experts call "subreplacement fertility" quickly spread to the rest of Europe, Russia, most of Asia, much of South America, the Caribbean, Southern India, and even Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Morocco, and Iran. Of the 59 countries now producing fewer children than needed to sustain their populations, 18 are characterized by the United Nations as "developing," i.e., not rich.
The only part of the population that's growing is the elderly one. Which is bad news for us. Social Security benefits, pension fund draw-downs, health care costs -- all of these will be borne by a small-and-getting-smaller group of younger wage earners.
But if the news is bad for us, it's really bad for China:
China, for now, continues to enjoy the economic benefits associated with the early phase of birth-rate decline, when a society has fewer children to support and more available female labor for the workforce. But with its stringent one-child policy and exceptionally low birth rate, China is rapidly evolving into what demographers call a "4-2-1" society, in which one child becomes responsible for supporting two parents and four grandparents.
Asia will also be plagued by a chronic shortage of women in the coming decades, which could leave the most populous region on Earth with the same skewed sex ratios as the early American West. Due to selective abortion, China has about 16 percent more boys than girls, which many predict will lead to instability as tens of millions of "unmarriageable" men find other outlets for their excess libido. India has nearly the same sex-ratio imbalance and also a substantial difference in birth rates between its southern (mostly Hindu) states and its northern (more heavily Muslim) states, which could contribute to ethnic tension.
That's right: there are one billion Chinese, and that's not enough.
In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, there is a brief article, entitled “House Race Turns into Colorful, Costly Dogfight.” Written by Michael M. Phillips, it describes a South Florida congressional race pitting incumbent Democrat Ron Klein against conservative Republican Allen West, a retired army lieutenant colonel who fought in Iraq. Two years ago, when the same two candidates squared off, Klein beat West by 9%. This year, if the polls can be trusted, they are running neck to neck.
This otherwise informative article omits only one fact worthy of note. This particular race is “colorful” in more ways than one – for the conservative Republican candidate running in this South Florida district is African-American, and the Democrat is white. In the print edition, the photographs of the two candidates on p. A6 make this clear. But, on the internet, neither photograph appears.
If this country was color-blind, if race played no role in American politics, this omission would not be worthy of note. But we now live in a setting in which one of our two political parties persistently plays the race card. The existence of competent, competitive black Republicans – especially, their candidacy in districts that are not overwhelmingly African-American – disrupts the narrative spun by those intent on branding Republicans and conservatives as racists, and the mainstream media – even, alas, the news pages of The Wall Street Journal – are in cahoots with those pursuing this cynical and dangerous political strategy. Shame on them all.
That's the headline of Richard Cohen's column today, it's a doozy.
The premise of his piece is that President Obama, like Carter, is misunderstood. Carter had his energy crisis, which at the time he called "the moral equivalent of war," and he had his plan to win that war--solar power, sweaters, earmuffs. Cohen, ever the earnest pundit, describes Carter's energy plan as "right and bravely so." Fast forward to today, and Obama has his stimulus plan, the health care law, and the bailouts, which Cohen calls "the right things."
You may wonder at this point why, above, I placed Obama in the same paragraph with Carter. It is not because Obama is as politically challenged as was Carter, and it most certainly is not because I think both presidents pursued dumb policies. On the contrary, from health care to the stimulus, and including the Bush-initiated TARP, Obama has done the right things. He staved off both a collapse of the financial system and a deepening of the Great Recession while, paradoxically, being lambasted for doing so. As Carter himself once said, life is unfair.
The problem, as Cohen diagnoses it--the reason that Obama is suffering in the polls (with nearly half of his supporters falling into disenchantment)--is because "Obama's insistence on realism comes across as pessimism." Insistence on realism? That's a good one.
Carter's energy program was right on the money. The message was fine; the messenger was awful. This is exactly the case with Obama, who is far more likable than Carter yet is being cuffed around in a similar manner...This is because Obama's insistence on realism comes across as pessimism.
Then of course, there's the required dig at Reagan who, unlike Obama and his ostensible "realism," apparently had a hard time coming to grip with certain realities:
Reagan had his virtues, but coming to grips with energy reality was not one of them. In contrast to Carter's scolding approach to energy policy, Reagan simply declared it was morning again in America (his 1984 re-election campaign slogan) -- and left it at that. The wonders of the free enterprise system would provide. God would provide. It was a very Third World approach to a First World problem.
Maybe Reagan did not have time to pontificate about the "moral equivalent of war" because there was an actual war that he was busy fighting (and winning) at the time. And maybe the reason Carter got the door in 1980--and Obama may in 2012--is because their hard-nosed ideological agendas failed to account for the difficult economic and political realities of each's times.
I suppose it's not really breaking news to note that Noam Chomsky's an international pest, but man, is he an international pest. He's on a whirlwind tour of Turkey right now. Here's how his visit is being reported in the pro-AKP Today's Zaman:
Europe can claim with some justification that Turkey has not satisfied all of the human rights conditions. On the other hand, I don’t really think this is the reason. …I think it is plain racism." ....
According to Chomsky, the stalemate in the EU membership bid is one of the factors exacerbating tensions between Turkey and the West, simmering since 2003, when Turkey refused to allow US forces to use Turkish territory to open a northern front against Iraq. These tensions, in turn, hamper the reconciliatory role that Ankara wants to play between the Middle East and the West.
“Turkey is trying to play an intermediary role between Europe and the Middle East, which is a good position to maintain, but it’s difficult. And it’s particularly difficult because the US wants to make sure that it remains difficult,” said the renowned intellectual, giving the US reaction to a compromise deal on Iran’s nuclear enrichment brokered by Turkey and Brazil as an example. When Iran said it agreed to ship some of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for uranium enriched to higher levels, the US dismissed the agreement and pushed, successfully, for sanctions at the UN Security Council against Iran.
It would seem the renowned intellectual has changed his mind about quite a few things, because it was not all that long ago that Chomsky himself was a bit bearish on the Turkish human rights record:
Chomsky visited the southeastern part of Turkey, which he described as “a dungeon.” He cited examples of severe repression, including the arrest of the head of a local human rights commission for using the Kurdish spelling for the word referring to New Year’s celebrations. He said people are sentenced for playing Kurdish music or wearing the colors of the Kurdish flag. He told of his surprise when during a press conference in Turkey he was presented with a Kurdish-English dictionary, which is banned, with an inscription about the desire to speak in their mother tongue. “While this may not seem like an extreme demand, it is enough for torture and imprisonment, destroying people and villages,” Chomskycommented.
He also recalled that he was taken to see the remains of an Armenian church in Diyarbekir. He said there was not much left to it, that it was just ruins with no roof and pieces falling off. He was able to meet the caretaker of the church, an elderly man, and he learned that there was supposed to be a small Armenian community, but that no one talks much about it. “That’s what’s left of this major center—another monument to Turkey’s positive experiences in countering terror,” commented Chomsky.
Chomsky said that in 2002. The claim that things have improved so vastly since then that only racism could account for European reservations is not precisely where Occam's Razor might lead most of us, but I suppose optimists will at least take comfort in the immutable laws of nature--Chomsky is Chomsky and the sun will rise tomorrow.
He's off joining a protest against global warming here right now, apparently. Glad he's making himself useful.
The uproar of the moment here is over the Israeli cabinet’s approval of an amendment to the citizenship law that requires prospective citizens to swear loyalty not simply to Israel, as the oath currently stands, but to Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state.
The passage is viewed variously as:
a sop to the right in advance of more concessions to the Palestinians to try yet again to lure them to substantive peace negotiations. This seems on the face of it to have some basis in fact, since Netanyahu is now talking about extending the building freeze if the PA recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu knows, though, that the PA has no intention of doing any such thing. (Viz.: Claire let me know the other day that PA television recently ran a quiz show in which contestants were awarded $100 to name five cities in Palestine. Answers like Haifa, Jerusalem, Nahariya, Nazareth and so on all won the money. Those cities are, of course, all in Israel, but any contestant who acknowledged Israel’s existence forfeited the cash. Any offer to the PA that’s contingent on its prior recognition that Israel exists at all, let alone is a Jewish state, is dead in the water.)
a fascist act designed to make Israel’s current Arab residents feel even less at home, which ties in with
an ugly double standard. And while the “fascist” charge (as leveled by Haaretz) is extreme, it’s hard to deny that the amendment as it stands will further alienate Israeli Arabs, who constitute a fifth of Israel’s population. That is because as currently written, the amendment applies only to non-Jews wishing to naturalize, and they are usually Arabs who want to marry Israeli Arabs. The extra language will not have to be spoken by Jews wishing to naturalize under the Law of Return.
Aside from being gratuitously offensive, the double standard strikes me as insidious, since it permits anti-Zionist Jews to immigrate without hindrance. If I were, say, a non-political, Belgian Muslim accountant who wanted to marry my fiancé in Akko and had to stand on line at the registry office behind members of the Neturei Karta – religious Jews who see the creation of Israel as a disastrous calamity that will impede the coming of the Messiah, and who go out of their way to befriend Israel’s enemies – I would be offended and angry as they were waved through while I had to swear my loyalty to the Jewish state. It would certainly affect my attitude toward my adopted country.
The amendment is being promoted by FM Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu camp (one of Lieberman’s campaign slogans was “Only Lieberman Understands Arabic”), but with the exception of the far right, support elsewhere is not shaking out along party lines. Quite a few prominent Likudniks are just as uncomfortable with the amendment as Laborites; those who oppose it perceive it as unnecessary, provocative, internally dangerous and fodder for Israel’s enemies abroad. And the uproar is being listened to. Israel’s justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, who wrote the amendment, said that on second thought, maybe it should apply to everybody after all, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak has proposed adding the words, “in the spirit of the principles of the [Israeli] Declaration of Independence” to the loyalty oath. (All Israelis were granted equal rights in 1948.)
It seems reasonable that if the amendment is to become official, it ought to apply to all immigrants, not just some. But that's not the real issue. The problem – the reason everybody’s getting hysterical – is the inclusion of the word “Jewish” in the new oath. But is “Jewish” a statement of religious belief, a nationality, what? Deputy FM (and Israel Beitenu member) Danny Ayalon, in a defense of the amendment, puts the issue well while making his party's point:
Much of the uproar derives from the simple misconception as to the meaning of the term “Jewish.”
While many like to constrict the term as merely referring to a religious belief, its meaning is far greater. To be Jewish is to be part of a nation, civilization, culture and people. I frequently tell visiting dignitaries who are similarly uncertain that Jews are to Israel as the Chinese are to China and the French are to France.
When we ask prospective citizens to emphasize Israel’s status as both a “Jewish and democratic state” we call on them to embrace the true meaning and substance of the State of Israel, without compromising their civil rights. Without these terms, Israel’s unique significance is rendered meaningless.
There is a reason that the American Pledge of Allegiance evolved from the original, “I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The additions, “of the United States of America” and “under God” addressed supplementary facets of the American national character and served as a guide for prospective immigrants.
Those who refuse to acknowledge Israel’s national character wish to strip it of any defining features, to make it a “Hebrew-speaking republic” which leaves us little to be proud of. The unparalleled assault on our legitimacy is both from without and within, and we need strong and certain leadership to stand our ground.
Those non-Jews who become citizens need to fully appreciate that the State of Israel is the national expression of the self-determination of the Jewish people.
Those who object to the new formula are doing untold damage to the sincerity of the Zionist mission, and make our case harder to explain.
Only by adhering to and proudly reinforcing our national character, not only to those who wish to join our people, but also to the nations of the world, will we validate our presence. Many nations actively promote their national mission, whether it is “American exceptionalism” or France’s “liberté, égalité, fraternité.”
Every nation has its national ethos, and Israel’s “light unto the nations” can only be expressed through its Jewish character, which we must state clearly and unequivocally.
Those who disparage clearly describing Israel as the eternal aspiration of the Jewish people provide ample ammunition to those who seek the end of our national existence.
This new version [of the oath] crosses the line from what is commonplace in democracies to what is commonplace in countries Israel would not want to associate with. It is one thing to require adherence to the law; it is another altogether to demand that free individuals in a democracy sign on to a specific ideology or identity – and specifically one with particular religious content.
ONE MAY theorize that these are just words, they carry no concrete implications. It is symbolic, not practical. But symbols do matter, and in fact practical implications, and very troubling ones, do exist.
Symbolically, the new declaration of loyalty sends a clear message to all non-Jews in Israel, whether they were born citizens or have naturalized. It tells one in five Israelis: You are less a citizen than your Jewish neighbor, you have less ownership of your country, less stake in its future than other citizens. Thus, it introduces an oxymoron into the to-be-amended Citizenship Law: Telling some citizens that they are less equal than others is essentially anti-democratic. Requiring an oath to a Jewish Israel immediately makes that very Israel less of a democracy.
I tend to agree. I grew up in the US with a clear perception that it was a Christian country, but its Christian character never threatened me or made me feel an outsider. If I had been told, though, that my hypothetical Jewish fiancé from East Grinstead would have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Christian State of America before receiving citizenship, I would have felt that I was being reminded that I was not quite as American as my Christian neighbors.
Israel has plenty of problems, and the biggest revolve, as always, around her relationship with the Palestinian Arabs. It strikes me as a terrible time to go out of our way to offend Israeli Arabs, who already often experience life at a notch below that of Israeli Jews. Israeli Arabs are Israeli, but a move like this seems designed to push them ideologically into the arms of the Palestinians. Strategically speaking, that doesn't look like a good move to me.
Here’s what you need to know: The whole story [of "a huge expansion of government"] is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: we never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.
But then what gave rise to the Tea Party movement, widespread concern over the record federal budget deficit, and the Republican surge in recent political polls? Right wing lies. Krugman explains:
The answer to the second question — why there’s a widespread perception that government spending has surged, when it hasn’t — is that there has been a disinformation campaign from the right, based on the usual combination of fact-free assertions and cooked numbers. And this campaign has been effective in part because the Obama administration hasn’t offered an effective reply.
Asked if the prospect of Republican control of one or both houses of Congress concerned him, he said: “It does, because I think they are pushing the wrong policies, but I’m not in a position to stop it. I don’t believe in standing in the way of an avalanche.”
Meanwhile, Krugman's expurgated Kubler-Ross model is a lot easier to memorize: all you need is denial.
At the highest level, politics turns less on elections than on argumentation and the formation of public opinion. If, for example, a party wins an election while forcefully making its argument, it will have a mandate and be in a position to govern with success. If it does so while abandoning its argument, it will be paralyzed and unable effectively to govern. And if it loses an election while forcefully making its argument, it may well be on the road to victory – for, if events confirm its wisdom, it will win a mandate and a genuine opportunity to govern in the next electoral cycle. Winning the argument – in the long run, this is what really counts.
In consequence, you know that you are about to win a decisive victory when the candidates of the other party begin to abandon its argument and, in desperation, adopt yours in whole or in part. Hypocrisy is, as La Rochefoucauld observed, the tribute that vice pays to virtue. Triangulation of the sort pursued after 1994 by William Jefferson Clinton was a reluctant, if respectful bow in the direction of Ronald Reagan, and something of the sort can be said regarding George W. Bush’s disgraceful championing of the prescription drug benefit.
To their credit, this year’s Republican candidates are advancing their argument – the argument for limited government – with great vigor. And, in an increasing number of races, the Democrats are on the run. Next to no one in the Democratic camp is touting the virtues of Obamacare or singing the praises of the so-called “stimulus” bill. Instead, they are fleeing from their record. Moreover, in Wisconsin, Russ Feingold has ostentatiously embraced the Tea-Party Movement – so recently denounced by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid as Astroturf, Teabaggers, Nazis, Racists, and the like. And in West Virginia, Joe Manchin has now publicly acknowledged that Obamacare may need to be repealed.
To this one can add that the Republicans are giving no ground. In California, for example, as I have pointed out at some length elsewhere, which is a state as blue as blue can get, Carly Fiorina is pulling no punches in the battle of ideas, and step by step she is closing in on Barbara Boxer.
Were Fiorina to win, her victory – seconded by the defection of Feingold and Manchin in Wisconsin and West Virginia – would confirm the impression left by Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts in January, 2010: that the electorate loathes everything that Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have done since January, 2009.
Dessicated novelist Gore Vidal recently stood from his plate of roast child, unchained his latest romantic conquest from the cellar wall and tottered over to one of those new-fangled electronic speaking devices to deliver his views to Daniel Trilling of the New Statesman. This, for instance, on the Republican Party:
These are the small-town enemies of everybody. They just dislike everyone. They couldn't come out and say: "We don't want a black president" - we've finally got past that roadblock. So what they did was set out to slaughter the opposition party, the Democrats.
The rest is equally considered and sage. And okay, I'm joking about his personal habits, but this is a phenomenon I noticed first listening to Norman Mailer give an interview toward the end of his life. I noticed it again only recently debating former talk show host Dick Cavett on NPR. To wit: Lefty celebrities of the sixties age badly. Really badly. Once their wit or talent or gift for invective is gone, they have nothing left but crotchety and unreasoned distaste for the Others who disagree with them. They have become, in fact, conservative in the pejorative sense of that word: inflexible, immovable, cantankerously defiant of change.
Age is no friend to any of us, of course. But these are people whose every idea failed spectacularly, who have lived to see that their considerable talents were used in a way that ultimately debased American discourse and themselves. They are a bitter, disappointed and secretly self-disgusted generation. Ciao, baby.
This could prove to be an interesting dynamic in Obama's bid for reelection:
[A] study released late last month by Election Data Services reported that some of the biggest states Obama carried are poised to lose electoral votes while some of the biggest that opposed him are likely to gain.
New York, the nation’s third-largest state and an Obama stronghold in 2008, is likely to lose two electoral votes. The same is true for Ohio, another state carried by the president, which also will lose two. Other likely one-vote losers are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — Obama won all of them except Missouri and Louisiana.
“It does make it a little bit tougher on Democrats,” said EDS President Kim Brace. “It basically throws the electoral vote a little bit more toward the Republican side, with the shift going from the Northeast and the upper Midwest and to the South and to the West.”
In total, the movement represents a net shift of only twelve votes — six leaving the Obama column and moving into what was the John McCain column.
Here at RicMinInform, we try and keep everyone out in front of what Her Inexorableness will be decreeing, so that everyone can get their bowing, scraping, and denouncing on the same page. Here, we suspect, will be a prime source of discussion when she returns from occultation (it is not permitted to imply that the junta sleeps).
The “virus” of Saudi-financed Wahhabi radicalism has “destroyed every chance” for the development of European Islam, according to a leading Muslim theologian from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Professor Resid Hafizovic of the Sarajevo Faculty of Islamic Studies, in an interview with the Bosnian secularist daily Oslobodjenje (Liberation), condemns Wahhabism as “a new plague,” promoted by “Muslim puritans and perpetual world fixers.” He chastises the radicals as “unschooled, uneducated, confused people, who forbid their own children, for example, to study biology in school.” He describes the followers of the Saudi state sect as “a movement unsatisfied with and intolerant of everything which does not fit its ideological views, and which therefore is often predisposed to the methods of murderous ideologies that use any means to achieve their goals.”
In a broad critical assessment of European Islam, Hafizovic, an expert in traditional Islamic texts, assails the adoption by Muslim women of the burqa and face veil (niqab) as a recent affectation in which “faith and religious belief” are the least element. “Some Muslims," he says, "are unable to comprehend that a billion more important issues than this exist.” He describes the world’s Muslims as capable only of presenting themselves as a large part of the world's population, but lacking “vital influence in the global market of ideas and related achievements.” He continues, “I would be happier to see in tomorrow’s Bosnia as many of the best trained Muslim women university professors as possible, with a strong consciousness of their own religious identity and values, whether they wear a headscarf or not, than to see a crowd of women trapped in the burqa and face veil, cut off from the world and life.”
Regarding the 2009 Swiss vote to ban minarets from mosques, Hafizovic says, “Muslims in Europe and in the West often bear responsibility for such a climate. Inept in their own intellectual tradition and infected by the virus of Muslim puritanism, they are unable to establish communication even between Muslims, and even less communication with their environment.”
Sun-like leaders. The quintessential sun-like leader is an entrepreneur, one who takes the lead in everything, just as the sun illuminates everything. Their subordinates get close supervision. These hands-on leaders sometimes feel like if they're not involved, they've lost control — as their follower, you need to be aware of this sense of insecurity.
Moon-like leaders. The moon reflects the light of the sun; a moon-like leader reflects the light of his employees. He is more open-minded and trusting of his people. Only when you lose your way — just like someone walking a dark road at night — would he step forward to shed light on what he thinks you should do.
Star-like leaders. Leaders of this type will only indicate a direction, like the North Star. Their teams, however, still need a light source, so star-like leaders need followers who can step up and light the way for others. Only those leaders with great wisdom have the confidence to be star-like.
Personally, I'm the fourth kind of leader: the Black Hole leader. I tend to suck up all of the light and energy in my universe and then collapse into myself and into the time-space emptiness.
Or so I've been told.
But it's an interesting set of descriptions. And I think they hold up -- we're all, basically, both leaders and followers throughout our days (and lives).
Politically, though, I wonder if we've got too many Suns and not enough Stars? Was Reagan a Moon or a Star? (We know he wasn't a Sun....)
Obama seems like a Moon -- he totally reflects the will of his real employees, his direct reports in the federal government. He runs the federal side of things like a CEO who is wholly-owned by the labor union bosses in his company.
Something tells me, though, that what we need is a Sun -- a hard-charging, hands-on leader to make real change. Chris Christie seems like a Sun to me. So does Mitch Daniels. What they may lack in Star-like vision, they make up for in sharp elbows and real accomplishment.
A stinging observation this morning from an unlikely source -- Time:
With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.
I don't know to what extent this sweeping indictment is fully true -- but even if only partly true, it represents an enormous sea-change in the attitude of the "elites," who until now (Fox News pundits aside) have been front-and-center in lauding the Obama Administration’s “competence.” And the echo from 30+ years ago is unmistakable – it was not Republican opposition per se, but the loss of confidence and support among the “elites” that really began the unraveling of Jimmy Carter’s presidency (recall, for instance, the New York Times’ famous printed-by-mistake “More Mush from the Wimp” headline).
Take this, too, in conjunction with Peter Beinart’s column from a couple of weeks ago in which he asserted that Obama would assuredly not attempt any sort of Clintonian “triangulation” following Democratic losses in November. Again, I don’t know if this is true, but if so, is there any way for Obama to regain an aura of competence, even among friendly “elites,” without effectively coming to terms with a vastly more conservative Congress? If not, does this increase the likelihood of a primary challenge to Obama in 2012? Is there any mainstream Democrat who would plausibly take on the task of challenging the First Black President – especially in light of the fact that, historically, in-party challenges almost always fail and almost always doom the incumbent at the general election?
Fascinating questions all, and rich grounds for speculation – and a useful reminder that the November elections are merely Act I in the drama that will play out over the next few years.
The European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg recently ruled that Spanish fathers are allowed to leave work for an hour during the day or reduce their working day by half an hour to breast-feed their infants, even if the mother of the child is not employed.
A few thoughts here:
Spain's GDP contracted by 3.6% (2009 est.), its unemployment rate is over 20%, and its productivity has been essentially stagnant at an annual growth rate of 0.2% since 1994 (compare to growth rates of 1.8% and 1.4% in the productivity of American and German workers, respectively, over the same time span). Surely, silly measures like sending men home to breast-feed their babies is not going to help the situation any.
The EU Court of justice in Luxembourg? What do some judges in Luxembourg know about what's right for Spain's situation? Let this be a lesson for us American spectators: abdicating domestic matters to foreign judiciaries is a recipe for disaster.
I’m sure it’s happened to you, as it did to me again last night: Some starry-eyed collegian told me Christopher Columbus shouldn’t be celebrated because of his treatment of Indians, armed with nothing more than her University professor’s insistence.
If Mark Twain was right that a lie can travel halfway around the world before truth has a chance to put on its shoes, imagine the damage a lie can do over 500 years.
Let me introduce you to Francisco de Bobadilla – liar and Columbus usurper. The criticism of Columbus today comes from de Bobadilla. Who was he? The man who wanted Columbus’ job as Governor of Hispaniola.
In 1500 the King and Queen sent him here to investigate claims that Columbus wasn’t being fair to the European settlers (which means Columbus was protecting the Indians). So de Bobedilla came here, and in just a few short days investigated (with no telephones or motorized vehicles to help him), then arrested Columbus and his brothers for Indian mistreatment and sent them back to Spain, sans a trial. Oh yeah, he appointed himself Governor. Coup de Coeur for power lead to Coup d’ etat, as usual.
The King and Queen called shenanigans and sent for be Bobadilla two years later, but he drowned on the trip home. Columbus was reinstated as Admiral. So what we know of Columbian malfeasance comes from a defrocked liar, de Bobadilla.
Nor was Columbus involved in the slave trade, as America haters like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky have asserted. One of his boats crashed in Haiti. He had no room for 39 men, so he started a colony there. Columbus came back a year later to find the Taino Indians killed all of them and left them where they fell. Columbus went to war with the Tainos and took 500 POWs, not slaves. They were released after the war. Big difference.
Also wrong is blaming Columbus for bringing genocidal microbes to kill the Indians. His detractors make fun of him for thinking he was in the East. So was his evil plan then to bring disease to wipe out the East?
Europeans didn’t know of germs until Italian physicist Girolamo Fracastoro proposed the theory 40 years after Columbus died. Also, had an Indian built a boat and traveled to Europe and back, he would have contaminated the Indians too. Trans-continental contamination was going to happen at some point, making the first carriers irrelevant.
Brown University recently changed the name of the holiday from Columbus Day to “Fall Weekend” due to the Columbus slave allegations. Hypocrisy alert: Brown University was founded with slave trade money, according to their own report. But they didn’t vote to change the name of their college! Hypocrites.
From a distance, Great Britain seems to have become a yowling moral mudpit where ASBO-yobbos slop around eating crisps, getting the pox, cashing dole checks, and throwing up. That’s the impression one gets from certain sources. Then you read something else, and your faith in the permanence of green & decent England is restored. Aww! A community has banded together to build a rest home for widowed hedgehogs! Then . . . there’s this.
The New York Times reports that residents of a small town are wondering what they can do about all the people who pull off the highway and have sex by the nursery school. This form of public recreation is called “dogging,” and it’s not entirely illegal. The poor little town of Puttenham has found itself besieged by al fresco enthusiasts, and residents wonder if there's anything they can do.
No. As these things usually go, the state will obliged to facilitate it:
Residents have been pressing the authorities to do something, arguing that the government should simply close the rest stop that provides access to the offending field, just off the busy A31 road. That way, people hoping to have sex would have nowhere to park.
But local government officials refused, saying closing it would unfairly penalize motorists who genuinely wanted just to rest and would deprive the owner of the Hog’s Back cafe, also at the rest stop, of his livelihood.
Alternative suggestions, discussed at a recent meeting of the Surrey County Council Cabinet, included deploying rangers to patrol the site on horseback; encouraging hikers to roust doggers with actual dogs; and filling the field with potentially bad-tempered bulls.
“It was like, ‘Are you taking this seriously?’ ” Ms. Paterson said. “One cabinet member said, ‘If you close this site, there could be an increase in suicides because these people have nowhere else to go.’ ”
A line comes to mind about the wisdom of a certain action, and its effect on decreasing the surplus population.
The latest polls have the Democrat from Arkansas down by double-digits (RealClearPolitics has the most recent numbers aggregated here). Rasmussen has John Boozman, Lincoln's Republican challenger, up by 18 points; Reuters has him up by 14 points; and Talk Business has him in the lead by 27.
Lincoln's numbers are consistently falling below 40% in the polls, and if she drops below 35% on election day, she could set the record for the lowest re-elect in history. According to RCP:
Only six incumbent senators have seen their re-elects drop below 40 percent of the two-party vote since we began directly electing senators. Given the polling we’ve seen recently, Lincoln stands a good chance of becoming number seven. She might even become the recordholder if she falls below 35 percent (set in 1932 by Sen. Wesley L. Jones of Washington). You never want to bet against an incumbent, but it is hard to see how Lincoln pulls this one out.
Suzi Parker, over at Politics Daily, reminds us of why Lincoln is in trouble:
On the surface, it appeared that Lincoln, a seasoned, victorious veteran of four federal campaigns, had adroitly threaded the political needle in preparation for re-election. Since becoming a senator in 1998, she has played the role of independent Blue Dog centrist, often voting against her party to curry favor among conservative Democrats and independent voters back home.
Lincoln found herself in the controversial waters of the health care overhaul, an issue that she vacillated on but supported in the end. In the spring, she drew two primary opponents and engaged in a bloody battle that she survived in a June run-off.
Dark clouds gathered around Lincoln exactly at the same time that the national Tea Party and Republican rabble-rousing made some inroads in Arkansas, which has been a predominantly Democratic state since the Reconstruction era.
The Republican tide that washed over the South in the 1980s and '90s may finally be rolling into Arkansas.
Even though Lincoln is often painted as a conservative Democrat, she has voted with her party 83.1% of the time, which is why she has alienated the conservative and independent voters in her state. Her voting record includes: voting for ObamaCare, voting to expand and reauthorize SCHIP, and voting for the stimulus.
That's the charge coming out of this new (Washington Post/Harvard) poll:
most Americans who say they want more limited government also call Social Security and Medicare “very important.” They want Washington to be involved in schools and to help reduce poverty. Nearly half want the government to maintain a role in regulating health care.
The study suggests that come January, politicians in both parties will confront a challenging and sometimes contradictory reality about what Americans really think about their government. Although Republicans, and many Democrats, have tried to demonize Washington, they must contend with the fact that most major government programs remain enormously popular, including some that politicians have singled out for stiff criticism.
Here's something different this study could suggest: Americans want to break our national addiction to entitlement spending. But they know that'll restore some burdens. And they're already feeling pretty burdened. It's not incoherence at work. It's a recognition that things have gotten so bad that it's going to hurt to steer our federal governance back toward our founding principles. Who wants to volunteer to feel that pain? More than mere discomfort or emotional distress, we're talking something akin to -- at best -- personal financial ruin.
The solution? This very poll makes it plain. Jobs. People are hesitant to translate their political dreams into practice because the employment picture (theirs; their neighborhood's; their state's; their country's) is disturbingly bleak. Desperation reinforces the powerful notion that government can create jobs by spending magic money. But look about you, America. How's that working? Washington needs to make way for a real alternative to Obamanomics. The realization needs to set in that Obamanomics can't solve the jobs problem. And anyone who wants to move from wistfully dreaming of small government to seeing the dream come alive ought to help that realization along.
Of all the spectacles of human existence, few are as personally satisfying as watching the last throes of politicians who know the gig is up. Case in point: Florida's 2nd Congressional District.
Incumbent Democrat Allan Boyd is in trouble, and with good reason. One of those mythical beings heretofore known as Blue Dog Democrats, Boyd previously presented himself as an independent spirit who would represent the will of his constituents. So when the disastrous Cap and Trade bill proposed to tax the very air we breathe and make energy virtually unaffordable, I along with many of Boyd's other constituents urged him to vote against it. He ignored us.
When Obamacare proposed to extend the federal government's reach well beyond all Constitutional limits, we again urged Boyd to stand by his oath to uphold the Constitution. He said it was up to the courts, not congress, to determine the constitutionality of legislation. He voted for Obamacare and against the wishes of his constituents.
So now that his Republican challenger is leading him some 16 points in the latest polls, how does the Congressman respond? By running ads that contain one outrageous charge after another. Any move toward the Fair Tax, which is predicated on the repeal of the personal income tax, is misrepresented as a 23% tax increase. This blatant falsification of the issue is little more than a clumsy effort to take the spotlight off of the enormous tax hiking schemes proposed by Obama and Pelosi, and supported by Boyd.
The fear from Boyd and his fellow travelers on the left is palpable. You can almost smell it. This isn't a wave, or even an approaching tsunami. It's a reckoning.
Yesterday afternoon, I caught a radio interview with Mr. Justice Stephen Breyer, now promoting his new book, Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View. In my fumbling, uncertain, not-a-lawyer-but-a-layman’s way, I found the Breyer interview shocking.
You see, I thought I’d understood just what was proper and what was improper for a sitting justice of the United States Supreme Court to discuss in public—prepping for my Uncommon Knowledge interview with Mr. Justice Scalia a couple of years ago, I’d gone to some pains to read up on the matter. There was a clear consensus, I learned, that whereas justices may discuss legal reasoning, constitutional principles, and cases from the distant past, they must never, ever go into the disagreements on the Court concerning recent cases. As Mr. Chief Justice Rehnquist once explained, declining to discuss a recent case, the Court’s published documents—the decisions and dissents—represent the Court’s considered and final thinking. No justice should ever attempt to re-argue a case in public—or even to add nuance or color to the published documents.
When the Court speaks, it does so in writing. And that, every justice recognizes, is that.
Every justice, that is, except Mr. Justice Beyer.
Breyer effectively re-argued Heller, the 2008 case in which the Court overturned a handgun ban in the District of Columbia, finding that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to own firearms. Breyer discussed the case for only perhaps five minutes, but he went into it quite deeply for all that. Madison agreed to add the Second Amendment to the Constitution, Breyer argued, because some feared the states might simply disband their militias leaving the new federal government powerless.
The first phrase in the amendment, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” is therefore the operative, load-bearing phrase, a view that of course reduces the next phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” to merely secondary, and limited, importance. (Roughly speaking, this is just the opposite of the majority finding. Writing for the majority, Mr. Justice Scalia devoted nearly 60 pages to close historical and textual analysis, concluding that the second phrase played the crucial role, the first merely establishing the context.)
The District of Columbia, Breyer argued, had made a decision that “having a lot of pistols around” (I’m quoting from memory) would prove dangerous, leading to “a lot of deaths” from suicide or accidents. The ban, therefore, was made “for a pretty good reason,” and nothing in the Constitution empowered the Court to second-guess the District.
I’m not asking here whether Breyer was wrong in his constitutional analysis. I’m asking whether he was wrong to discuss a specific, recent case in so much detail and so one-sidedly.
The British Daily Mail is reporting what the mainstream media in the U.S. are ignoring: that yesterday, at a campaign rally in an African American neighborhood in Philadelphia, someone--literally--"threw the book" at President Obama:
This is the astonishing moment a book was apparently hurled at the head of U.S. President Barack Obama during a campaign rally in Philadelphia.
The flying missile narrowly missed hitting the President yesterday.
It is not clear what the book was, where it came from in the crowd, or why it was thrown at Mr Obama - who did not appear to notice the danger.
Watch closely or you'll miss it--the book whizzes by the president's head around 39-40 seconds into the clip:
The rally, which attracted 18,000 mostly black participants, was meant to energize the president's most loyal constituency: the African American community. And yet...
Recall that when, in a similar incident, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoe at George W. Bush, who ducked and avoided it, the mainstream media's coverage was endless:
The bizarre incident recalled the moment in 2008 when an angry Iraqi journalist hurled a shoe at then-U.S. President George Bush during a press conference in Baghdad.
The surprisingly nimble Mr Bush ducked the shoe - and the moment became immortalised with online parodies and internet video games.
Yesterday's book-thrower was not the only one misbehaving at the rally in Philadelphia:
The rally was clearly an eventful one - other images showed a naked man being led away in handcuffs by police.
It is not clear if the man was involved in the book-throwing incident - or why he was not wearing any clothes.
Twenty-four-year-old Juan James Rodriguez will apparently receive one million dollars for his stunt. Billionaire Alki David offered that sum to anyone who streaked yesterday's event (via The Weekly Standard):
If billionaire Alki David is an honest man, the man who streaked in front of Barack Obama at the president’s rally today in Philadelphia will be paid $1 million for his stunt. The man who performed today’s stunt, which captured the attention of the Drudge Report and an Associated Press photographer, is 24-year-old Juan James Rodriguez, THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned.
I’m one of those who believes the 2010 midterm election will be a blowout of historic proportions. Put me down for around a hundred seats in the House and at least ten in the Senate. I say this based on my political savvy, my close reading of the polls and trends, and, of course, the significance of the number 2010 in the Mayan calendar. But, like in the ‘50s science fiction films that put a question mark after “The End,” it’s not the election that will determine the course of the nation, it’s what happens afterwards.
Just as the Democrats misinterpreted their “mandate” after 2008, the Republicans had better take a deep breath the morning of November 3 and remind themselves that they could suffer defeat again in two years if they think this is all about party politics. The coming vote is a rejection of liberal policies, but not necessarily a rejection of everything people thought they were getting with this administration. Americans don’t want a massive new bureaucracy involved in their healthcare decisions, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t want some kind of tweaking of the healthcare system. They may not buy into the anti-capitalist ravings of the Left, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a certain lingering suspicion when it comes to some big businesses and financial institutions. Do they want a series of Congressional investigations? I’m not so sure. Do they want a dramatic turn to the right on social issues? Better make certain.
The electorate is so upset with the direction of the nation, they’re willing to vote in members of the party they voted out just two years ago. And with that, they’ll be sending a message to politicians of both parties: they’re serious about this, and they’ve figured out how to make term limits work! And both Democrats and Republicans could find out that when voters come to believe in neither party, they’ll come up with a third. This could be the GOP’s last chance.
Having presented several examples of men and women who are genuine moderates, I now turn to the question apparently on everyone's mind: How do you tell the real moderates from the frauds?
The question is entirely legitimate. Yes, there is a long-established Islamic doctrine of taqqiya--variously translated and interpreted as “precautionary dissimulation,” “religiously-sanctioned deception,” “keeping one’s convictions secret,” “tactical dissimulation,” "holy deception," and "lying." Even if there weren't, any radical with half his wits about him could see that Westerners just adore the word "moderate." The very utterance of the word seems to have a soothing, soporific effect on them. So long as you just keep enjoining the words, "I'm a moderate," a parade of hopeful Western buffoons will assuredly line up on your doorstep with roses and the Barry White mix tapes, eager to embrace you in moist gratitude and admiration even as you face the television cameras and call for their enslavement and destruction. If you do this in a language that your interlocutors haven't bothered to learn, you'll be just fine.
What's more, you can almost always convince the West to do business with you or look the other way if you insist that since you're a moderate, it is important to engage you or support you to stave off the radicals. If you want evidence of this, look no further than what is apparently our new strategy in Afghanistan: cut a deal with Mullah Omar on the grounds that he represents the moderate wing of the Taliban.
So yes, good question.
You can't answer it by saying, "All true Muslims are radicals." This answer is fundamentally unserious and no one concerned with the West's survival should accept it. If you wish to fight this war without all of our natural allies by our side you might also wish to consider renouncing the use of tanks in favor of the outstandingly simple pogo stick. It makes about as much strategic sense.
If you're serious about distinguishing real moderates from faux-moderates, however, here are two quick and easy ways to start. Look for Saudi financing, and look for connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. Both are apt to be opaque--sometimes not very opaque at all, but opaque enough that most people don't notice--and both should immediately raise your suspicions that you're not dealing with a moderate.
... broadly speaking, a cross-fertilization of ideas took place between the exiled Brotherhood and the austere teachings of what might be described as the Wahhabi rank and file. That interaction, combined with the new organizational and financial backing of groups like the Muslim World League, would eventually lead to the rise of a new, internationalist form of Salafism. The Brotherhood played a crucial role in shaping this new ideological universe, which is now, in important ways, the dominant cultural force in the Arab Middle East.
The recent position statement of the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme guide, Muhammad Badi', should persuade you that people who hang with the Brothers are not apt to be moderates, no matter what they say.
I'm going to start slowly with the list of American organizations that accept large donations from the Saudis and have close connections to the Brotherhood, because there are a lot, and I'm hoping these names really sink in. The Muslim Students Association was founded by the Brothers. The Council on American Islamic Relations--loads of well-documented Muslim Brotherhood ties. The Islamic Society of North America and Fiqh Council of North America (they're associated): pure Brotherhood goodness, enriched with nourishing Saudi vitamins.
This final observation would have some wry comic value if it weren't so unfunny. ISNA insists on its website that it has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood and "does not accept funding from foreign governments."
In my earlier post I cited a few examples of Democrats projecting their bad practices onto Republicans and conservatives. It often skews their analysis of the political landscape, as illustrated by St. Petersburg Times columnist Robyn E. Blummer’s latest column, “A Time when Republicans Could be Moderate.”
Blummer begins with an expression of anxiety over the upcoming congressional elections and the inevitable shellacking in store for the Democrats.
No matter how kooky, mean or incoherent Republican candidates get, voters seem willing to support them.
She proceeds to refer to Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell as a “former witchcraft dabbler and perennial deadbeat.” Even if O’Donnell doesn’t win, she notes, in many other states “radical tea party-backed Republicans have a good (or certain) chance of victory. Extremism, she writes, “is the new Republican must-have accessory for fall, and it’s working for them.”
If you haven’t noticed, that’s the pet Democratic talking point about the elections. Tea Partiers are extremists and they have taken over the Republican Party. They are mouth-foaming, mean-spirited bigots motivated by partisanship rather than love of country and the vindication of liberty.
Just look at the projection in Blummer’s few statements. She accuses O’Donnell of meanness (for who knows what) while she meanly excoriates her as a witchcraft dabbler and perennial deadbeat. (You might also note the flagrant inconsistency of her denunciation of anyone as a deadbeat when the normal liberal line is to glorify deadbeatery.) There is also projection in her depicting of Tea Partiers as extremists and radicals. I’ve been to many (and watched many other) Tea Party protest events and Tea Partiers are the most peaceable, law abiding, rule of law respecting, Constitution revering people on the planet. It is not the Tea Partiers who behave like caged animals and leave filth and destruction in their wake as we saw with the Moonbats' “One Nation” march.
Tea Party “fulminating,” according to Blummer is centered on the $787 billion stimulus bill (it ended up being $868 billion, Robyn), Obamacare, and TARP. She says conservatives ignore the “huge up-sides” to these programs. She says we overlook that Obamacare is already keeping health insurers from dumping people who get sick, and the stimulus bill “probably prevented another Great Depression, according to economists.” You see, “a crowd with pitchforks doesn’t much care about facts, as long as someone hangs, which in this case are Democrats and establishment Republicans.”
To the contrary, facts are precisely what is driving our protestors. How glibly she glosses over the horrors and frauds of Obamacare. Employers are already dumping their plans left and right. Obamacare’s wildly misrepresented costs are coming to light every day. Insurance companies are already denying coverage to people based on their mandated coverage of others. Democrats are already predicting the unfolding of the public option in the short term. Students are bailing out of the medical field in droves.
And the stimulus bill? The Democrats' absurdly improvable claim that the economy would have been worse without the stimulus is insulting, as is their mantra about saved or created jobs – a specious metric by any rational standard. While Obama eschews accountability for his profligate spending debacle, we can at least hold him to his own promise: that unemployment would not exceed eight percent if the stimulus were passed. He said it would jump start the economy. As I document in Crimes Against Liberty, the Heritage Foundation reports that we’ve seen a net loss of 3 million jobs – not a gain of 3.3 million jobs. On top of all this, Obama, die-hard Keynesian that he is, has demanded $50 billion more in stimulus spending, expecting us to believe that this amount will stimulate the economy when more than 17 times that amount not only didn’t stimulate it, but exacerbated the recession.
But what Blummer and her fellow liberal projectionists don’t grasp is that even if Keynesian economics worked, which it doesn’t, it could never be justified because it is accelerating the nation’s path to bankruptcy. What neither liberals nor establishment conservatives understand is that the Tea Party protests are not just about “the economy, stupid.” They are about “America, stupid,” and “liberty, stupid.” They are about the assaults on American ideals and our liberties by a president who doesn’t have the same love for pre-Obama America as they do. They want to stop Obama’s assaults on our liberties, his bankrupting of this nation, and his undermining of our national security.
It is Obama and his band of enablers in Congress who are the extremists. If you need proof of this you haven’t been paying attention and haven’t read my book. Tea Partiers merely want to stop, then reverse their extremism and put us back on a path to restoring American ideals and liberties.
Barry Goldwater famously said, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” Well, to put this in perspective, Tea Partiers aren’t even being extreme. They are just trying to defend liberty by working within the system to throw out the extremists who are destroying our nation and our liberties.
Obama has nothing left in his playbook except to demonize his opponents. His phony platitudes of “hope and change” can now be measured against his destructive record and his pledge to usher in a new kind of politics can be measured against his hyperpartisan, bullying record.
Tea Partiers are just conservatives and conservatives are mainstream, not extremists. Just think about it: two times more people identify as conservatives than as liberals. By definition, how can the majority be extremists?
The true extremists are going to get their comeuppance in a few short weeks.