Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Deficit reduction not that complicated--without tax hikes

Deficit reduction -- must tax increases be on the table?  by Paul Mirengoff/Powerline

A few days ago, In a post about deficit reduction, I wrote: "If tax increases and reductions in the defense budget are on the table -- as I believe they will have to be -- then so too should [Obamacare] the enormously expensive new entitlement the Democrats created against the will of the American people." In response, a reader pointed me to an analysis by the Cato Institute's Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation.

According to that analysis, "it's simple to balance the budget without higher taxes," Indeed, the budget can be balanced without any dramatic spending cuts. All that's required is to "limit spending growth and allow revenues to catch up." Under a hard spending freeze at current levels, says the Center, citing CBO numbers, the budget would be balanced by 2016. And if spending growth is limited to 2 percent, the budget would be balanced by 2020. This is true even if the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are extended.

I have no doubt that the budget can be balanced without raising taxes. And it may be that the budget can be balanced through the freeze the Center suggests.

However, it's still my view that to reach a deal that would achieve meaningful deficit reduction, tax increases will probably have to be on the table. For any deal struck in the next two years -- and quite likely thereafter -- will have to be negotiated with the Democrats.

In any event, the Center's video, presented by Dan Mitchell, is well worth watching.




Monday, November 29, 2010

Sarah Palin just nails the whole Wikileaks fiasco re: Obama

Serious Questions about the Obama Administration's Incompetence in the Wikileaks Fiasco

by Sarah Palin on Monday, November 29, 2010 at 12:17pm.

We all applaud the successful thwarting of the Christmas-Tree Bomber and hope our government continues to do all it can to keep us safe. However, the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.

First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months? Assange is not a “journalist,” any more than the “editor” of al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a “journalist.” He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?

What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?

Most importantly, serious questions must also be asked of the U.S. intelligence system. How was it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?

The White House has now issued orders to federal departments and agencies asking them to take immediate steps to ensure that no more leaks like this happen again. It’s of course important that we do all we can to prevent similar massive document leaks in the future. But why did the White House not publish these orders after the first leak back in July? What explains this strange lack of urgency on their part?

We are at war. American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms. They are serious about keeping America safe. It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task.

- Sarah Palin


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chandra Levy--another life lost to illegal alien scum

Chandra Levy died for INS' sins (of omission)  by Paul Mirengoff/Powerline

Ingmar Guandique has been found guilty in the murder of former federal intern Chandra Levy. Guandque is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, a fact that reports from some major MSM outlets failed to note.

Assuming the jury reached the correct verdict, Chandra Levy presumably would be alive today if the federal government had enforced the immigration laws as to Guandique. But even with the stakes of immigration enforcement this high (and higher -- think of Mohammad Atta), the feds attempt to block states like Arizona from taking effective measures to assist in enforcing the immigration laws.

It is difficult for the feds (and would be even with assistance from the states) to secure our borders to the point that no illegal immigrants can slip into the U.S. and remain here. But Guandique didn't exactly slip into the U.S. As Michelle Malkin reported, in an article she wrote about Guandique way back in 2002, he applied for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This is a program under which we allow the victims of natural disasters to remain in the U.S. while their homeland recovers.

Because Guandique applied, the feds knew he was in the country. Yet they did not track him down (and as far as appears did not go looking for him) after his application was denied. That left him free to attack several women in Washington D.C."s Rock Creek Park, before he eventually attacked and killed Chandra Levy.

AP, ABCNews.com Omit Convicted Killer's Illegal Immigration Status, MS-13 Gang Membership By Ken Shepherd

Correction: My initial post incorrectly conveyed that Chandra Levy was an intern for then-Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.). She was in fact an intern for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

"Salvadoran Immigrant Ingmar Guandique Found Guilty of Murdering D.C. Intern Chandra Levy [12:45 p.m. ET]"

That was the breaking news headline that was blasted to my inbox from ABCNews.com regarding today's murder conviction of the suspect in the 2001 murder of federal government intern Chandra Levy.

In the Associated Press story by Matthew Barakat at the ABCNews.com website, there is no mention of the fact that Guandique is an illegal immigrant nor of the fact that he is involved in the ruthless gang Mara Salvatrucha, more commonly known as MS-13. This despite the fact that numerous news reports during Guandique's trial noted that he often wore turtleneck shirts in the courtroom to hide his gang tattoo.

You can clearly see that gang tattoo in an April 2009 file photo ABCNews.com included in their breaking news story.


Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/ken-shepherd/2010/11/22/ap-abcnewscom-omit-guandiques-illegal-immigration-status-ms-13-gang-me#ixzz16D0WNwQh

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Compromise Verdict, and No Winners

A Compromise Verdict, and No Winners - Andrew C. McCarthy - National Review Online

The Ghailani verdict was irrational, but no more so than the decision to try him as a civilian in the first place.

A federal jury in Manhattan has returned what is transparently a compromise verdict in the terrorism trial of Ahmed Ghailani.

The case centered on al-Qaeda’s bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. There were 285 counts, including separate murder charges for each of the 224 people killed. Ghailani was acquitted on 284 of them and convicted on a single charge of conspiracy to destroy government buildings.

That sounds like a great victory for Ghailani, but it is nothing of the kind. On the one count of conviction, Ghailani faces a sentence of up to life imprisonment, and there is a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in jail. In that sense, it is a victory for the government: The object of a terrorism trial is to neutralize the terrorist, and one count will do the trick.

But beyond that, the Justice Department walks away from the case as a big loser. That’s because the Obama administration made this much more than a terrorism trial. It cherry-picked the case to be a demonstration that the civilian criminal-justice system is up to the task of trying terrorists. This was to be the “turn the clock back” moment — specifically, back to the Clinton years, when Eric Holder was deputy attorney general and when prosecution in civilian courts was the U.S. government’s principal response to the jihadist onslaught that began with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

This was the model that Barack Obama campaigned on and that the anti-anti-terrorist Left takes as an article of faith. No more Bush-era counterterrorism: no enemy combatants, no military commissions, no indefinite detention, and certainly no aggressive interrogation. The president and his attorney general are adamant that “the rule of law” must be restored.

Never mind that the laws of war — which support all the Bush-administration measures — are the rule of law during wartime. Never mind that at no point in our history have the nation’s wartime enemies been given access to the civilian justice system and endowed with all the protections and presumptions that American citizens receive. To the Obama Left, the law-enforcement approach is effective national security, a way to win the hearts and minds of Muslims and consequently make ourselves safer. It makes no difference that the country was demonstrably unsafe — and repeatedly attacked — during the Clinton years. Nor does it matter that people in Islamic countries have no idea of the legal differences between American civilian and military proceedings — they care only that we are imprisoning Muslims, not about the abstruse details of our basis for doing so.

The Obama Justice Department saw the Ghailani case as the perfect opportunity for the civilian system to prove itself. After all, the case had already been tried successfully: In 2001, before the 9/11 attacks, four terrorists were convicted and sentenced to life terms. Moreover, while critics of the law-enforcement counterterrorism model emphasize that civilian due process requires the government to hand over too much sensitive intelligence, thereby educating the enemy while we are trying to defeat the enemy, that argument was significantly diminished in Ghailani’s case. Because the case had already been tried in the civilian system, most of the relevant intelligence had already been disclosed. You could contend that this was not a good thing, but for better or worse it had already been done.

But instead of a shining moment for proponents of civilian prosecution, the Ghailani case is a body blow.

Even before the trial began, the trial judge ruled that prosecutors could not call a key witness, the man who had personally sold explosives to the defendant. The court reasoned that the government had learned of the witness during the CIA’s coercive interrogation of Ghailani, so permitting the testimony would have violated what the judge found (and the government did not dispute) were the alien terrorist’s Fifth Amendment rights. Similarly, the jury was not allowed to learn that Ghailani had confessed, and that after the bombing he had become a celebrity in al-Qaeda circles.

That is, swaddled in the protections of civilian due process, Ghailani was allowed to pose before the jury as a victim of circumstances who had no idea that the terror network was preparing simultaneous massacres at American embassies.

It seems to have worked, at least with one juror, who reportedly held out for a complete acquittal for several days. But even without the key witness and the post-bombing evidence, the circumstantial case against Ghailani seemed strong — strong enough to convince most of the jurors.

The verdict is obviously a compromise: In exchange for the holdout’s agreement to convict on one important charge, the other jurors apparently agreed to acquit on all the rest. And like most compromise verdicts, it is irrational. As a matter of law, a member of a conspiracy is responsible for all the foreseeable criminal acts of his co-conspirators. If the jury found that Ghailani was a member of the al-Qaeda conspiracy to bomb government buildings, it made no sense to acquit him of the other charges, particularly the murders of the people killed when the buildings were bombed. That is, a rational jury either convicts him of everything or acquits him of everything.

This irrationality should not be a problem for the Justice Department on appeal. Compromise verdicts are a seedy but well-recognized feature of the criminal-justice system. Trials are extraordinarily expensive and burdensome, and we want them to have finality — that’s why judges push juries hard not to hang. But sometimes, when jurors are at an impasse, the only way they can reach a resolution is by compromising on the charges. It’s not logical, but it’s a decision, and an appellate court won’t look behind it.

But that is the only good news for the Obama administration. It put all its “rule of law” chips on Ghailani and came away with 284 acquittals. Americans will naturally ask: If the civilian justice system couldn’t get this case right, how can we responsibly trust it to handle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 plotters, a more difficult case that would require massive disclosure of sensitive intelligence under civilian due-process standards?

Though an opponent of civilian prosecutions for enemy combatants — precisely because I’ve seen their wages up close — I am inclined to cut the DOJ some slack on this result. Ghailani has been convicted and will never be able to kill Americans again. Moreover, what appears to have gone wrong here is the selection of a terrible juror. If there hadn’t been one, if there had been twelve rational people, there would have been 285 convictions and no acquittals. I’ve had nutty jurors before. It happens, and it can happen to any prosecutor.

But it’s far less apt to happen in a military commission, where the jurors are military officers. And that’s the important takeaway here: The Ghailani civilian prosecution was a mistake long before the verdict was returned, not because of the verdict that was returned. This civilian prosecution was a misadventure because politics was permitted to trump justice and, predictably, justice was not done.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Sharia Law: Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You

Sharia Law: Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You - Hans A. von Spakovsky - National Review Online

An Oklahoma judge rules against the public interest.

If you thought only U.S. laws ruled the land, you thought wrong — at least according to a crazy decision recently handed down by a federal judge in Oklahoma.

On November 2, Sooner State voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum that directs courts to “rely on federal and state law when deciding cases” and forbids “courts from considering or using international law” or “Sharia law.” Muneer Awad responded by filing suit, and Judge Micki Miles-LaGrange, a Clinton appointee, promptly issued a temporary restraining order, putting the people’s voice on hold.

The plaintiff asserted that his First Amendment rights would be violated if Oklahoma’s constitution was amended to implement this ban against consideration of Sharia law. The amendment, he claimed, would constitute official “disapproval” of his religion. Moreover, it would invalidate his last will and testament, which incorporates various teachings of Mohammed.

Judge Miles-LaGrange bought the argument that banning foreign law would inhibit the practice of religion — in this case, Islam — and lead to excessive government entanglement with religion. She confused the practice of religion — which is not banned under the referendum — with the imposition of a foreign body of law derived from Islam.

In coming to these erroneous conclusions, the judge misunderstands the purpose of the First Amendment, as expressed by the Founders. The Establishment Clause was solely intended to prevent a national church from being funded with tax dollars, and to prevent the government from favoring any particular religious sect.

James Madison, the chief proponent behind the enactment of our Bill of Rights, said the Establishment Clause meant that “Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.” Judge Miles-LaGrange does not explain how Oklahoma’s amendment would “inhibit” a Muslim from worshiping in his own way as dictated by his own conscience. Nor does she explain how it would prohibit a Muslim from abiding by Sharia law if he chose to do so.

To appreciate how strange the judge’s decision is, imagine if Oklahoma had passed a law saying that state courts could not substitute Roman Catholic canon law for state and federal law. No serious person would protest that this somehow inhibited Catholics in the practice of their religion.

This thought experiment also illustrates the broader point that only state laws passed by legislatures or referenda — and U.S. laws passed by Congress — provide the rule of decision for issues that are properly before our courts.

If Mr. Awad wants to live his life by his perceptions of Sharia law, he is entitled to do so, to the extent that it is consistent with federal and state law. But no one has a First Amendment right to require U.S. courts to rule according to foreign laws, including those that implement religious views. (For an example of where such a requirement might lead, read this Cully Stimson post about a New Jersey trial judge excusing a husband’s criminal conduct “because under Sharia law, [a] Muslim husband had a ‘right’ to rape his wife.”)

Our society and legal system are flexible. We make reasonable accommodations for various religions. Throughout American history, religious principles have served as a basis for decisions in many different contexts, and our precedents and traditions recognize this. But neither Jews nor Christians are allowed to force their religious laws and views into our state court systems as a substitute for the laws passed by our elected representatives.

That difference is illustrated by an example. If a mortgage lender wants to structure a mortgage for a Muslim in order to satisfy certain Islamic principles prohibiting interest, the lender can certainly do so by writing the contract terms accordingly. But if a lawsuit is filed over the mortgage, the deal will be construed according to applicable state and federal mortgage and contract laws.

That is much different from adding a contract provision that says any court dispute over the contract will be resolved under Sharia law. Such a provision should not be allowed, as it would permit foreign, religious-based law to override our state and federal laws.

In a blatant example of political correctness run amok, Judge Miles-LaGrange concluded that granting injunctive relief would not be adverse to the public interest. She is wrong. Striking down a constitutional law passed by the direct expression of the public will is certainly adverse to the public interest.

One final odd note: Judge Miles-LaGrange didn’t enjoin the new law from going into effect, which is what a judge normally does when a court finds a law unconstitutional. Instead, she enjoined the state from certifying the election results, something I have never seen before. So Oklahoma is prohibited from declaring the official outcome of the election. Although that effectively prevents the law from being implemented, it is a bizarre holding that helps obscure the fact that more than 70 percent of Oklahomans approved the primacy of American law in their state court system.

— Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former Justice Department official.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

I’m Going to Miss This Congressman--Speaking truth to power

I’m Going to Miss This Congressman - By Kathryn Jean Lopez - The Corner - National Review Online

By Kathryn Jean Lopez

From retiring congressman Pete Hoekstra:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, issued the following statement after a jury cleared African embassy bomber and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Ghailani of all but one charge in the attacks:

“The ruling in this case confirms that the decision by President Obama to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other Gitmo detainees in civilian courts was a mistake and will not work. This case was supposed to be the easy one, and the Obama administration failed — the Gitmo cases from here-on-out will only get more difficult.

“The sites of the terrorist attacks against our embassies were processed as crime scenes and ample evidence was gathered, yet the administration still failed to convict Ghailani for the murders of 224 innocent men, women and children. It is unrealistic for the administration to continue even considering civilian trials for the remaining Gitmo detainees, most of whom were picked up on the field of battle or as part of terrorist takedowns.

“Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that he is close to making a decision on whether to move forward with the Obama administration’s plan to try KSM and the other 9/11 conspirators in court in New York City. This ruling should serve as the wake-up call that the Obama administration needs to reverse course and do the responsible thing — to reinstate military tribunals for all Gitmo detainees.

“The families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and the citizens of our great nation have cried out for justice in those attacks. Military tribunals remain the best, the only option for that to happen. It’s the only real choice left for President Obama and his attorney general to make.”


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Remember when protest was patriotic?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds: Remember when protest was patriotic? Washington Examiner

"Protest is patriotic!" "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism!"

These battle-cries were heard often, in a simpler America of long ago -- that is, before last November. Back then, protests -- even if they were organized by the usual leftist apparatchik-groups like ANSWER or ACORN -- were seen - at least in the media - as proof of popular discontent.

When handfuls of Code Pink ladies disrupted congressional hearings or speeches by Bush administration officials, it was taken as evidence that the administration's policies were unpopular, and that the thinking parts of the populace were rising up in true democratic fashion.

Even disruptive tactics aimed at blocking President Bush's Social Security reform program were merely seen as evidence of boisterous high spirits and robust, wide-open debate. On May 23, 2005, the Savannah Morning News reported:

“By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush's proposal to overhaul Social Security.

“Tinkering with the system is always controversial. To make Bush's plan even more so -- political foes are sending people to Social Security forums armed with hostile questions.

By now, Kingston, a Savannah lawmaker and part of the GOP House leadership, has held 10 such sessions and plans at least seven more.”

On March 16, USA Today reported that Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum "was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers."

This was just good, boisterous politics: "Robust, wide-open debate." But when it happens to Democrats, it's something different: A threat to democracy, a sign of incipient fascism, and an opportunity to set up a (possibly illegal) White House "snitch line" where people are encouraged to report "fishy" statements to the authorities.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the "Tea Party" protesters Nazis, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman --forgetting the events above -- claims that left-leaning groups never engaged in disruptive tactics against Social Security reform, and various other administration-supporting pundits are trying to spin the whole thing as a deadly move toward "mob rule" and – somewhat contradictorily -- as a phony "astroturf" movement.

Remember: When lefties do it, it's called "community organizing." When conservatives and libertarians do it, it's "astroturf."

But some people are noticing the truth. As Mickey Kaus notes, "If an 'astroturfing' campaign gets real people to show up at events stating their real views, isn't it ... community organizing?" Why yes, yes it is.

As someone who's been following the Tea Party campaign since the beginning, it seems to me to be the most genuine outbreak of grassroots popular involvement in my lifetime. People have been turning out, in the tens of thousands at times, because they feel that Obama pulled a bait-and-switch and is moving the country much farther to the left than he promised during the campaign.

More significantly, most of these people are turning out to protest for the first time in their lives, and they're planning for future political involvement in years to come. Perhaps that's what's got the critics worried.

It's true, of course, that conservative and libertarian organizations -- ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's American Solutions to FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity -- are getting involved and providing advice and support, just as numerous lefty groups have always done with left-leaning movements.

But, as I noted in an April 15 column in The Wall Street Journal, those groups were playing catch-up to a movement that was already rolling on its own.

The truth is that for my adult lifetime, "protest" has been a kind of Kabuki engaged in by organized groups on the Left with help from the press -- as in the recent bus tour of AIG executives that was organized and paid for by an ACORN affiliate and in which the protesters were heavily outnumbered by the media, who nonetheless generally treated it as an "authentic" expression of populist discontent.

Things like that tour led President Obama to warn bankers that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks, one of a number of thuggish statements he's made along these lines.

Funny how fast the worm -- or maybe it's the pitchfork -- has turned. Now that we're seeing genuine expressions of populist discontent, not put together by establishment packagers on behalf of an Officially Sanctioned Aggrieved Group, we're suddenly hearing complaints of "mob rule" and demands for civility.

Civility is fine, but those who demand it should show it. The Obama administration -- and its corps of willing supporters in the press and the punditry -- has set the tone, and they are now in a poor position to complain.

Whether they like it or not -- and the evidence increasingly tends toward "not" -- President Obama and his handlers need to accept that this is a free country, one where expressions of popular discontent take place outside the electoral process, and always have. (Remember

Martin Luther King?)

What historians like Gordon Wood and Pauline Maier call "out-of-doors political activity" is an old American tradition, and in the past things have been far more "boisterous" than they are today.

Rather than demonizing today's protesters, perhaps they might want to reflect on how flimflams and thuggishness have managed to squander Obama's political capital in a few short months, and ponder what they might do to regain the trust of the millions of Americans who are no longer inclined to give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt.

The Washington Examiner’s Sunday Reflections contributor Glenn Harlan Reynolds blogs at InstaPundit.com, and hosts "InstaVision" on PJTV.com.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The ever-present, enviro-commies on Climategate anniversary

On the anniversary of Climategate the Watermelons show their true colours

By James Delingpole Politics Last updated: November 19th, 2010

Green on the outside, red on the inside....

Watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside. This is the theme of my forthcoming book on the controlling, poisonously misanthropic and aggressively socialistic instincts of the modern environmental movement. So how very generous that two of that movement’s leading lights should have chosen the anniversary of Climategate to prove my point entirely.

The first comes courtesy of German economist and IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer who has openly admitted what some of us have been saying for some time: that “Climate Change” has nothing to do with man’s modest and thoroughly unthreatening contribution to global mean temperatures, nor even with the plight of baby polar bears so sweet you could almost hug them if you didn’t know they’d take your arm off in a trice. All it is, really, is a Marxist exercise in minority grievance-mongering and wealth redistribution on a global scale.

Or, as Edenhoffer so helpfully puts it it Neue Zurcher Zeitung: (H/T Global Warming Policy Foundation):

First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.

And if that sounds sinister, wait till you hear what our old friend Nicholas “Lord” Stern has gone and done. Nicky, you’ll remember, was the funny little World Banker responsible for possibly the most hysterically overblown policy document in the entire history of the great Global Climate Change Scam: the infamous Stern Review which recommended, inter alia, that we all go veggie in order to spare the planet from hideous boiling man-made meltdown.

Now, “Lord” Stern (of Brentford, no less) has gone one better. He has got it into his dear little head that he has the power, influence and importance to dictate terms to the US economy. If America doesn’t toe the line on CO2 emissions reductions, he has threatened, then it could jolly well find itself the victim of an international trade boycott.

I would give you the link to the Times article in which Ben Webster’s interview appears, but sadly it’s hidden behind a paywall. Still, Watts Up With That has the gist:

Lord Stern said that Europe and the Far East (sic) were forging ahead of the US in controlling emissions and switching to low carbon sources of energy. They would not tolerate having their industries undermined by American competitors that had not paid for their emissions. “If you are charging properly for carbon and other people are not, you will take that into account,” he said. “Many of the more forward-looking people in the US are thinking about this. If they see a danger on the trade front to US exports that could influence public discussion.”

Asked what type of US products could face restrictions, Lord Stern said: “Aircraft, clearly, some cars, machine tools — it’s not simply what’s in the capital good, it’s what kind of processes the capital good is facilitating.”

What a mellifluous turn of phrase the man has: “what kind of processes the capital good is facilitating.” Doesn’t it just make you SO happy to think that this veritable Gerald Manley Hopkins among economists has the ear of several G20 leaders?

But I don’t believe a word of his threat, do you? Not, at least, in so far as the Far East is concerned. Can anyone seriously imagine China or Japan or any of the Asian tiger economies severing trade links with the US in order to make a political point about a non-existent environmental problem based on “science” which they all know is a crock. For China, for the BRICs economies generally in fact, AGW is just a handy pretext for milking the Western nations of what money they can. It’s certainly not an issue over which they’d choose to lose money on a point of principle.

Where the European Union is concerned, on the other hand, Lord Stern’s toys-out-of-pram scenario looks frighteningly plausible. Frightening, that is, for those of us unfortunate enough to live in the EU and to be one of the US’s bigger trading partners; not frightening at all for the US, though, for whom if we carry on going in the direction we’re heading at the moment the EU will soon be a sclerotic, socialistic irrelevance.

Here’s my prediction: with the exception of crazed socialist relicts like California (which really ought to be allowed to secede and take its proper place on the North American continent as a kind of comedy pariah state), the US is going to grow increasingly bored with the Great Global Warming Scam. Cap and trade will go the way of the failed Chicago carbon exchange – and with it all prospects of a binding global agreement on carbon emissions.

But that’s only the beginning of the fun. Thanks to the glorious mid-terms, the House is about to fill up with red meat conservatives who know “Climate Change” is a crock and will be hoping to secure some kind of Climate Nuremberg. Then, when Obama goes in 2012, the whole AGW issue will as far as America is concerned be dead in the water.

Not in Europe, unfortunately. Increasingly, the EUSSR will look as irrelevant as the old USSR, burdened with entirely unnecessary eco-taxes and regulations, destroyed by the watermelons of the green movement. Sad, isn’t it?


Monday, November 22, 2010

Revolt against the TSA--Americans tire of being suspects

Revolt against the TSA   by Scott Johnson/Powerline

The revolt against the TSA seems to me a sign of the times. Popular frustration with the TSA dates back to its establishment during the Bush administration. It is another big government bureaucracy that appears inconvenient and inept. It provides more security theater than security.

The TSA It is bound by a form of political correctness that has long rendered it a joke. With its newly implemented scanning and patdown procedures, however, the TSA has become something worse than a joke. It has become intrusive and humiliating to a degree that is difficult to accept. Reader Kim Nelson writes, for example:

I thought the TSA uproar was probably much ado about nothing until tonight when I flew from Providence to Philadelphia.

I have an artificial hip which sets off metal detectors every time I fly. Tonight I found out that the metal detecting wands are no more. Instead, there was an extremely personal pat down, .leaving no part of my body untouched. I was appalled by the experience.

The fact that I had to go through it though I'm a man in my 50's with nothing more serious than a speeding ticket in my lifetime is pretty ridiculous. There is no reason in the world to think that I'm a threat.

I believe that this approach is more of the politically correct approach that the federal government has taken since September 11, 2001. The authorities make the general public jump through all kinds of hoops that add nothing to airline safety (such as chasing people away from waiting in their cars to pick up someone outside an airport) instead of a more intelligent approach focusing on people who are likely to pose a threat.

In its absurd and humiliating intrusiveness, the TSA has become a perfect metaphor for the Obama administration. And presiding over the organization is Janet Napolitano, the lady who has been dubbed Janet Incompetano and Big Sis.

Big Stupid would also fit. Napolitano is of course most famous for her public reassurance of the American people in the aftermath of the attempted Christmas Day bombing that was thwarted by a brave passenger. According to Napolitano, "the system worked."

Asked how the system could have worked when the Nigerian charged with trying to set off the bomb was able to smuggle explosive liquid onto the jet, Napolitano responded: "We're asking the same question."

Michelle Malkin issued a clown alert. Michelle observed: If the "system" had "worked," the U.S. consular officials who granted Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab a short-term visa last June would have revoked it immediately upon being informed by his father that he was a Muslim radical with al Qaeda ties."

Napolitiano provided similar reassurance in the aftermath of the recent discovery of concealed cargo bombs headed to the United States. Napolitano contended that the bombs that made it on board should not be taken as a sign that the security system didn't work. "We use a multilayered system, out of which intelligence-sharing is the first layer," Napolitano said.

In its absurd intrusiveness and glaring incompetence, the TSA has become a perfect metaphor for the Obama administration. Thus the revolt.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pelosi/Democrat electoral Hindenburg

Via Michael Ramirez:

Is Barack Obama a socialist? Part Two

Is Barack Obama a socialist? Part Two   by Paul  Mirengoff/Powerline

This is the second in series of posts that, inspired by Stanley Kurtz's compelling book Radical-In-Chief, considers whether Barack Obama is a socialist. In Part One, I suggested two ways to analyze the question -- biographically and doctrinally -- and then proceeded to examine Obama's ideological biography from his time in college until 1996 when he first ran for elected public office.

I found that Obama unquestionably was a socialist as a college student; pursued the career path -- community organizer -- recommended by socialists as the best means of advancing their agenda; and did in fact advance such an agenda as a community organizer. As a result of his successes in this enterprise, he ran for the Illinois State Senate as the handpicked successor to an avowed socialist, Alice Palmer. He launched that campaign at the home of a communist (and former terrorist), his political collaborator Bill Ayers.

Now let's turn to the ideological content of Obama's career as an office holder.

In the Illinois State Senate, Obama won high marks for his legislative skills and his ability at times to work with Republicans. But the substantive thrust of his work in Springfield was quite consistent with the contemporary socialist agenda.

Obama ardently pushed for redistributionist social welfare legislation. Two political scientists who graphed the legislation Obama sponsored as a state senator found that the bar for social welfare legislation towered over every other category. The result was similar for legislation that Obama co-sponsored. The two professors concluded that other than social welfare and a sprinkling of government regulation, Obama devoted very little effort to most policy areas. This is how we would expect a socialist state legislator to behave.

Not surprisingly, Obama was focused on health care. Working with a socialist colleague, Quentin Young, Obama repeatedly proposed a state constitutional amendment mandating universal health care. And he openly favored a single payer system. Again, his conduct is entirely consistent with the hypothesis that, during this period, Obama was a socialist. Coupled with the evidence that he came to the state Senate as a socialist, there is little basis for concluding that he was other than a socialist during the state Senate years.

As a state Senator, Obama probably was best known for his effort to combat racial profiling by the Chicago police. The Republicans thwarted his anti-profiling legislation when they held the majority, but when the Democrats took control in 2003, the bill passed.

Anti-profiling legislation is not distinctively socialist, of course. But Obama's pursued such legislation in a way that dovetailed with the hard left's long-time goal -- the goal of his allies Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger -- of promoting "liberationist" black churches. Thus, in 2001, the Hyde Park Herald praised Obama for organizing a "grassroots lobbying effort" on racial profiling that featured, among others, Pfleger and the associate pastor of Wright's church. This effort was straight from the socialist-community organizer playbook by which a mainstream liberal grievance becomes the vehicle for organizing discontent around a hard-left, incendiary narrative promulgated by radicals.

Perhaps the most telling ideological judgment of Obama the State Senator comes from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and its stance in 2000, when Obama ran for Congress against Bobby Rush. Rep. Rush, a former Black Panther, had received a 90 percent rating from the liberal ADA in 2000 and a 100 percent the year before. His ACU rating was zero.

Obama was a long shot in his race against Rush, and the Chicago branch of the DSA wisely remained formally neutral. However, it tilted towards Obama, speaking of him in glowing terms while describing Rush as a disappointment to the left. It's doubtful that there is any non-socialist space to the left of Bobby Rush.

Four years after his failed bid for Congress, Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate. It's well known that Obama was rated by one prominent index as the most liberal member of the Senate. Sometimes overlooked is the fact that the U.S. Senate contains an avowed socialist member -- Bernie Sanders of Vermont. To the left of Sanders there plainly is no non-socialist space.

Thus, Obama's biography strongly suggests that, when elected U.S. president, he was, and had long been, a socialist. In my next post on the subject, I'll consider whether his presidency is consistent with the thesis that he is a socialist.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Is Liberalism Dead?

Is Liberalism Dead? By Roger L Simon

Not long ago, September 2009 to be exact, Random House published The Death of Conservatism [1] by New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus, which, according to Publisher’s Weekly, “argues that Republicans must moderate their focus on ideological purity if they are to return from the political wilderness.” The same review also tells us the book “argues that the contemporary Right define[s] itself less by what it yearns to conserve than by what it longs to destroy — and that pragmatic Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have usurped the Republicans’ once winning focus on social stability.”

Well, fourteen short months later, we could all say to Tanenhaus — depending on our level of rudeness and vulgarity — hardeeharhar, ROTFLMAO, or eat my shorts.

But this isn’t to make fun of the editor – or even to get back at him (well, maybe a little) for there having been no review of my latest book in the NYTBR when all the previous ten, written when I was a liberal, had one.

No, this is to point out how treacherous, even foolhardy, political predictions are [2]. Nevertheless, I am going to make one. For the foreseeable future, liberalism is dead. To go further, as the great Preston Sturges [1] once said of chivalry, liberalism “is not only dead, it’s decomposed.”

Whence comes this decomposition? Primarily from the fact that society is aging so fast it can no longer afford liberalism’s various Ponzi schemes engendered by Keynesian economics. We can barely pay these entitlements now, which are the principal ornaments of liberalism, let alone in the future. Then it will be a disaster. We’re all growing broke. Some of us are just going broke faster. And going broke fastest of all may be the United States of America.

And — here’s the scary part — that’s true no matter at what level we tax ourselves. Tax the rich at ninety-nine percent and the numbers still will not crunch. There aren’t enough rich people to make up the gap. Not even close. It’s all an illusion — a myth of “fairness,” which is in reality unfair. In the world of hard facts, we’re stuck unless we cut government handouts — Social Security and Medicare — almost beyond recognition. It’s sad but true. If we don’t, it’s bye, bye, Miss American Pie. Take that state-owned Chevy, drive it to the levee and let it sink in quick sand. In fact, it’s already mostly disappeared with only the antenna showing.

Now of course I am referring to modern liberalism, not classical liberalism. And when I say liberalism is dead, it does not mean that everybody knows or acknowledges this rigor mortis — or that it will act dead. Its adherents, especially the legions with a vested economic (unions, etc.) or social (Hollywood, media) interest, will never admit it. They will change the subject from economics so they don’t have to debate or examine concrete conditions. They will seek bailouts [3] to push back any day of reckoning. To distract us and themselves, they will continue to insist the Tea Party movement is racist, even though that is a demonstrable lie, a form of nostalgia, and there are already black congressmen elected with the support of the movement. For those liberals, the truth is not important — preservation of self-image and lifestyle is.

But I would remind those people that they have children too. Someone has to pay for all this. If we don’t, our kids will. And that makes the assumption that we can get away with it within our remaining life spans. I doubt we can.


Friday, November 19, 2010

What the mid-term results really said

The 2010 verdict  by Scott Johnson/Powerline

RealClearPolitics has posted the forthcoming Claremont Review of Books essay -- "The 2010 verdict" -- by Professor James Ceaser on the midterm elections. There is nothing better that has been published so far on the subject, and it is must reading in its entirety. I love this passage:

Republicans have agreed on the importance of the economy as part of the explanation for their victory. Yet in their account the anemic recovery is not unrelated to the core elements of Obama's "change." The problem in Obama's approach has been his failure to appreciate what generates productive wealth, which comes not from bigger government and more spending but from the activity of private business and entrepreneurs. Economic "philosophy" in this large sense was in fact the main voting issue in this election. It was for this reason as well that Obama's "populist" appeal against the big banks, Wall Street, the insurance companies, and the wealthy gained so little traction. While most Americans, including many on the right, were angered at "big business" and Wall Street, many also became convinced that Obama's populism struck squarely at the sources that generate wealth. Even Obama's plan to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, considered by White House advisor to be a sure-fire winner as an electoral issue, made little headway. The economic question in the campaign went back to the great colloquy in 2008 between Barack Obama and Joe the Plumber. This time, however, Joe seemed to have the upper hand.

For many Republicans, and especially for the allies in the Tea Party movement, the issues of economic policy were also linked to a deeper concern. The size of government and the extent of the federal debt represented not only a burden on future generation and a threat to American power, but also a violation of the spirit and letter of the Constitution. The Tea Party in particular, with its belief in Jeffersonian ideas, has been responsible for re-introducing the Constitution into the public debate, a place that it has not held in the same way for over a century. This theme is what connects the Tea Party to the American tradition and makes their concerns matters of fundamental patriotism. The stakes in the 2010 election for these voters went far beyond economic questions, and for Democratic leaders to reduce everything to frustrations about the "Economy, Stupid" represents a final act of disparagement and belittlement.

There was accordingly an additional factor that played in this election outcome that was hardly noted or tested in the polls. It was a cultural clash between an elite and much of the public, between liberal intellectuals and the Obama administration on the one hand and the mass of Tea party activists on the other. The one has shown disdain and the other has responded with resentment. It is impossible, then, not to say that the person of Barack Obama was a major factor in this election, for when he was not himself the leader he became the frequent enabler of this dismissal of middle America. That Obama would have to descend from the lofty heights that he inhabited during the campaign and after his election was something that no sane observer, and no doubt Obama himself, could fail to have foreseen. But this loss of bloated charisma has never been the real problem. It has instead been his demeanor as president. Obama modeled himself on Abraham Lincoln, and it is painful in retrospect to draw the contrast in how they have behaved. One showed humility, the other arrogance; one practiced sincerity, the other hypocrisy; one made efforts at cultivating unity, the other seemed to delight at encouraging division: and one succeeded in becoming more and more a man of the people, while the other, despite his harsh populist appeals, has grown more distant.

You will want to read the whole thing.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Religious persecution you won't hear Obama condemn

Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan 'for blasphemy'

The Tel;egraph reports:

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.

Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.

Her supporters say she will now appeal against the sentence handed down in a local court in the town of Sheikhupura, near Lahore, Pakistan.

Ashiq Masih, her husband, said he had not had the heart to break the news to two of their children.

"I haven't told two of my younger daughters about the court's decision," he said. "They asked me many times about their mother but I can't get the courage to tell them that the judge has sentenced their mother to capital punishment for a crime she never committed." Mrs Bibi has been held in prison since June last year.

The court heard she had been working as a farmhand in fields with other women, when she was asked to fetch drinking water.

Some of the other women - all Muslims - refused to drink the water as it had been brought by a Christian and was therefore "unclean", according to Mrs Bibi's evidence, sparking a row.


Christian areas targeted in Baghdad attacks

The BBC reports:

A series of bombings and mortar attacks targeting Christian areas has killed at least five people in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, security sources say.

Six districts with strong Christian majorities were hit, and at least 24 people have been injured.

The attacks come days after more than 40 people died when Islamist militants seized a Catholic cathedral.

The violence comes as top-level talks on resolving the country's political crisis ended without agreement.

Iraq's political leaders have been negotiating on forming a new government since inconclusive elections in March.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Brilliant take on Republican/Tea Party win via Hitler downfall

Politicizing science? Obama--Yes; Bush--No.

IG: W.H. skewed drill-ban report By: Dan Berman

The White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling, the Interior inspector general says in a new report.

In the wee hours of the morning of May 27, a staff member to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited versions of the department report’s executive summary back to Interior. The language had been changed to insinuate the seven-member panel of outside experts – who reviewed a draft of various safety recommendations – endorsed the moratorium, according to the IG report obtained by POLITICO.

“The White House edit of the original DOI draft executive summary led to the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer-reviewed by the experts,” the IG report states, without judgment on whether the change was an intentional attempt to mislead the public.

The six-month ban on offshore drilling installed in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill became a major political issue over the summer, as Gulf State lawmakers and industry groups charged the White House with unfairly threatening thousands of jobs. House Republicans have said they plan on investigating the circumstances surrounding the moratorium when they take power next year.

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and several other Gulf State members of Congress asked the Interior IG to investigate the moratorium and the peer review claim.

"The inspector general's finding that the blanket-drilling moratorium was driven by politics and not by science is bitter news for families who, because of it, lost their jobs, savings, and way of life,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “Candidate Obama promised that he would guided by science, not ideology. If that were true, at least 12,000 jobs and 1.8 billion dollars of economic activity would have been saved on the Gulf Coast.”

Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the changes were part of the normal editing and consulting process.

“There was no intent to mislead the public,” Barkoff said in a statement to POLITICO. “The decision to impose a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling was made by the secretary, following consultation with colleagues including the White House.”

A White House official said the report "only reinforces that there was no wrongdoing," noting that three experts the IG interviewed and included in the report "agreed that it was a misunderstanding."

Steve Black, energy counselor to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, was the department’s point man for the safety report, which Obama requested to review deepwater drilling practices and make recommendations for improvements.

On May 26, one day before the report was released, Black said he was directed to “begin working closely with a member of Carol Browner’s staff at the White House to draft the executive summary to include the moratorium.”

According to Black, Browner’s staff drafted some of the text to be included in the executive summary because she was concerned the document from Interior did not summarize the recommendations and associated timetables well enough.

“At 2:13 a.m. on May 27, 2010, Browner’s staff member sent an e-mail back to Black that contained two versions of the executive summary,” the IG report states. “Both versions sent by the staff member contained significant edits to DOI’s draft executive summary but were very similar to each other.

“Both versions, however, revised and re-ordered the executive summary, placing the peer review language immediately following the moratorium recommendation causing the distinction between the secretary’s moratorium recommendation – which had not been peer-reviewed – and the recommendations contained in the 30-Day Report – which had been peer-reviewed – to become effectively lost.”

Interior’s draft safety report discussed peer review on the second page, following a summary list of safety recommendations. As completed and eventually released, the suggestion of a moratorium immediately precedes the discussion of peer review.

Black said he didn’t have any issues with the White House edit; he and his staffer both told the IG it never occurred to them that an objective reader would conclude that peer reviewers had supported the six-month moratorium.

Nevertheless, Interior apologized to the peer reviewers in early June after some of them complained they were used to support the controversial ban. Salazar also held a conference call with the peer reviewers and met personally with some of them.

“As the report makes clear, the misunderstanding with the reviewers was resolved with the June 3rd letter and a subsequent conference call with the experts we consulted,” Barkoff said.

Robin Bravender contributed to this report. © 2010 Capitol News Company, LLC


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The decline of the Obama brand

"The Decline of the Obama Brand" by Billy McCormac 
 by: Hugh Hewitt at 8:06 AM

A guest post from Billy McCormac. McCormac is a senior advisor at the Prime Group and a resident scholar at the free market think tank Timbro. Both are based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Decline of the Obama Brand, by Billy McCormac

In the March 1999 issue of The New Yorker, author Malcolm Gladwell examined advertising and its role in the cultural evolution of the hair color industry in America. Toward the end of the essay, he states, rather matter-of-factly, that “commercials come with products attached, and products offer something that songs and poems and political movements and radical ideologies do not, which is an immediate and affordable means of transformation.”

An immediate and affordable means of transformation. For many consumer products this is indeed the central brand promise. Toddle off to the drugstore, buy a bottle of hair dye for 10 dollars and voil?, you’re a new person and the world is your oyster. Change is just that quick, easy and gratifying.

When he burst on to the scene, Barack Obama was unlike anything the American voting public had ever seen or heard. He was more than just a political candidate; he was a lifestyle. And he was rolled out in what felt more like a corporate, nationwide product launch than your run-of-the-mill political campaign.

There was the “O” logo, the product-placement-like ads embedded in video games, as well as the numerous celebrity endorsements and appearances on prime time TV-shows. The brand promise, articulated ad nauseam, pushed and pulled in every imaginable channel and splashed on everything from bumper stickers and baseball caps to buttons and boxer shorts, echoed across the nation: Hope and Change.

As with other consumer brands that speak to the owner’s social stratum and tax bracket, displaying Obama-branded gear communicated a distinct set of values and beliefs to one’s environment. Two Obama supporters could meet for the first time and need little or no introduction before striking up a conversation. All the information they needed was coded into the DNA of the campaign brick-a-brack adorning their person or possessions.

The brand promise was simple. Barack Obama represented everything a Bush-fatigued progressive wanted to be: a smart, hip, hoop-shooting Ivy League-intellectual who made tons of money but still managed to “keep it real.” He was a new breed and he was going to change Washington—forever.

No more business as usual. No more partisan bickering. No more red states and no more blue states. All ideas were welcome. Things were going to get done – and they were going to get done together. And talk about bang for your buck! All you had to do was cast a vote. Barack Obama was going to prove Malcolm Gladwell wrong: political movements could offer an immediate and affordable means of transformation.

Two years later, Hope and Change are spent, empty slogans. The Democratic Party has suffered an historic defeat and witnessed devastatingly low voter turnout and enthusiasm in the midterm elections. Worse still, Barack Obama’s popularity is headed to Bushville with the pedal to the metal. Why? Simply put, they failed to deliver on the brand promise. The country became more divided than ever. Partisan bickering appeared to be at an all-time high. The marketplace of ideas was closed due to lack of interest. The political discourse seemed noisy, rancorous and vicious. Everyone was talking and no one was listening.

The cynical read is that Obama has done everything in his power to deliver Hope and Change to America, but that the Republicans have done everything in their power to stop him. Perhaps. Yet it’s hard to escape the feeling that Barack Obama made a fatal mistake that’s cost many hotshot companies their reputation and customer base: he became ordinary and bland. There was no longer any way to differentiate him from other politicians. His brand had promised a lifestyle it couldn’t deliver. And when you can’t deliver on your brand promise, well, people start shopping around for someone who can.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Why businesses (and hiring employees) are hard to start

Is Barack Obama a socialist? Part One

Is Barack Obama a socialist? Part One

On several occasions, I have strongly recommended Radical-In-Chief, Stanley Kurtz's excellent study of Barack Obama's political ideology. My recommendation is based on what Rich Lowry calls Kurtz's "political and ideological excavation" - the information Kurtz has unearthed about Obama's political past and about the history of the American Socialist movement. Those who are interested in either subject will likely find Radical-In-Chief a compelling work.

This is true whether or not one agrees with Kurtz's conclusion that President Obama is a socialist. Nonetheless, the question is hardly beside the point. Thus, having written so much about the book, I thought I should state my view of the matter.

Kurtz has persuaded me that Obama probably is a socialist. Before reading his book, I did not believe this to be the case.

The question can be approached in at least two related ways - biographically and doctrinally. I will begin by approaching it biographically. I will ask first whether there are points in time when it is reasonably clear that Obama was a socialist. Then, after finding that there are such points, I will ask whether there is a point in time when there is good reason to believe Obama stopped being a socialist.

In our culture, we are, perhaps, conditioned to regard this approach as unfair somehow, at least as applied to leftists. But there is nothing unfair about it. A socialist is a socialist until he or she stops being one. And when someone stops being a socialist - or a neo-conservative or whatever - there are likely to be clear indicators of the change.

For example, I was a socialist in college. But in law school, I stopped going to the meetings and associating much with socialists. After law school, I took jobs that a committed socialist would have been very unlikely to perform. Thus, well before registering as a Republican or writing conservative commentary, my biography provided clear evidence that I was no longer a socialist.

In Obama's case, the evidence is strong that he was a socialist, or worse, during his college days. He began at Occidental College. There, according to John Drew, an acquaintance of Obama's who himself was a radical, the young Obama was a pure Marxist-Leninist. According to Kurtz, David Remnick's sympathetic biography of Obama confirms that the future president and many of his closest friends at Occidental were socialists. Obama himself says in his autobiography that he gravitated towards "Marxist" professors and other radicals.

Obama completed college at Columbia. There, as I noted in this post, Obama by his own account attended major socialist conferences. It is possible to attend such meetings (or at least one of them) out of curiosity. But since Obama almost certainly was already a socialist when he came to New York, it is highly unlikely that Obama attended on that basis.

Moreover, the career he chose after leaving Columbia - community organizer - was the career path being pushed by the socialists at these conferences. In fact, the importance of community organizing was a major theme at a socialist conference Obama acknowledges attending at Cooper Union. For example, an all-star panel on "Social Movements" was devoted to community organizing. One of the panelists, Peter Dreier, characterized such work as developing "socialist incubators."

The idea was to combine diverse community organizations into a national grassroots movement to "democratize control of major social, economic, and political institutions." In this vision, a grassroots movement for such public control would gradually overcome American cultural resistance to state-run enterprises. This would only happen, though, if the "socialist incubators" developed by community organizers moved into the political arena. Thus, Dreier's vision pointed not only to Obama's first important career -- community organizer -- but also his second -- political candidate.

From the time he became a community organizer until the time he became a political candidate in 1996, there is nothing to suggest that Obama stopped being a socialist. Rather, the evidence strongly suggests that he continued to be one.

First, Obama's work as a community organizer conformed closely to the goal of developing "socialist incubators" - grassroots movements "to democratize control of major institutions." One such institution was the church. Obama worked closely with an organization called UNO (United Neighborhood Organization) of Chicago. According to Kurtz, under Jerry Kellmann, Obama's first organizing mentor, UNO sought to transform local Catholic congregations into "progressive" political shock troops. In his autobiography, Obama makes a villain out of a minister ("Reverend Smalls") who rejected the idea of an alliance with Alinskyite organizers on the theory that "it was a political thing" and that the organizers just wanted to "take us over." Kurtz shows that, regardless of the unpleasant traits Obama attributes to him, "Reverend Smalls" was right.

Another such institution was the banks. As I discussed in this post, Obama was, by his own admission, allied with ACORN. Its major mission was to "democratize control" of banks (and indeed other parts of the financial system) by coercing them into making subprime loans. While Obama's substantive work with ACORN centered around voting issues, Kurtz shows that Obama also helped train ACORN personnel. ACORN leader Madeline Talbot summed things up nicely when she said in 1995: "Barack has proven himself among our members; he is committed to organizing, to building a democracy."

A third institution was the schools. Kurtz demonstrates how Obama worked with Bill Ayers (no longer a terrorist, but still a communist) in his crusade to transform the Chicago public schools in accordance with Ayers' radical vision. It was Obama who directed foundation money to Ayers for this purpose.

Second, as should be clear by now, Obama's key associations in Chicago during the period before he entered electoral politics were with socialists. The list is a long one. It includes, in addition to Kellman, Ayers, and Talbot, the likes of Heather Booth, Ken Rollling, Greg Galluzzo (another of Obama's mentors), John McKnight (who wrote a law school recommendation for Obama), and Alice Palmer. In a sense, it also includes Jeremiah Wright whose black liberation theology is, as I discussed here, aligned with socialist doctrine.

Third, when Obama went into electoral politics as a candidate for the Illinois state Senate, he did so as the hand-picked successor to the aforementioned Alice Palmer, an avowed socialist. (Palmer, however, decided to fight Obama for the seat after she lost a special election for Congress; Obama kept her off the ballot by successfully challenging her petition signatures). Palmer is the author of such articles as "Socialism Is the Only Way Forward." And she attended the Twenty-seventh Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1986.

Palmer picked Obama to succeed her after lengthy conversations with him. Moreover, Palmer, like Obama's other socialist supporters, was well aware of Obama's record as an activist (including the aspects of it described above) and of his political convictions. As Kurtz argues, it's difficult to believe that these savvy socialists would have trusted Obama with their seat in the Illinois Senate unless they were convinced, as Madeline Talbot said she was, that he was one of them.
Obama, then, was a socialist when he left college. As of 1996, there is no good indication that he had abandoned socialism. To the contrary, the best evidence is that he was still a socialist at that time. My next post on this subject will consider the post-1996 biographical evidence.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hugh Hewitt: No more time for California dreamin'

Hugh Hewitt: No more time for California dreamin' Washington Examiner

This was going to be the year that California put its political and fiscal houses in order. In Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, the state GOP had nominated two well-qualified candidates who were also well-funded and disciplined. The national political climate was favorable, and the state is teetering on the brink of a fiscal collapse.

Fiorina lost by more than 9 percent and Whitman by close to 12 percent to Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown, respectively.

Explanations are more plentiful than roses on Jan. 1, but the short answer is that California's public employee unions play to win -- and they do. The secular tithe extracted from the paychecks of the state's more than 350,000 government employees is expertly banked and deployed against any enemy, real or perceived, of the state's public-sector bosses.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's now famous glass jaw was revealed when, after the drubbing the unions gave him in a special election over crucial ballot reforms in November 2005, he rolled up into a big green ball and spent the balance of his tenure in office extolling the virtues of deindustrialization under the moniker "green jobs." At the time of his beat-down, Arnold complained that no one could win a ballot race in the face of $160 million in negative advertising.

He was right, of course, and even though Whitman dug deep into her own fortune to try to match the unions, their infrastructure and ever plentiful treasury overwhelmed even that effort. Fiorina went down under the same avalanche of negative ads. A blue state went deep blue even as the rest of the country went decisively red.

Redistricting reform will fundamentally change the congressional politics of California in 2012 and beyond, but only the looming bankruptcy of the state may change the statewide lock of the unions. There just isn't any more money, and state voters on Tuesday shut the door on destructive tax hikes by installing a two-thirds approval requirement in the legislature on any new tax or fee increase. The state has a shortfall of hundreds of millions in the pension fund and already state vendors are long overdue routine payments. The state's bond rating is already downgraded from the glory years, with plenty of opportunity to fall further. Businesses and high income-earning individuals are fleeing -- and that exodus will increase.

The new Congress will hear pleas for help, but why will representatives of states with responsible governments approve a bailout for California and other profligate, government-employee dominated states like New York and Maryland? The U.S. isn't the EU, and Texas won't play Germany to California's Greece.

The one tool the new GOP majority in the House ought to propose to the Democrats in the Senate is a state version of bankruptcy: power to void the impossible-to-meet contracts with the public employee unions and other state undertakings made to special interests. This ought not to be a jam-down of a solution, but a proffer of an approach.

And there is a small chance -- a very, very small chance -- that Jerry Brown, at the end of his career and recognizing his legacy is on the line in the next 12 months, will pull a Nixon-to-China and force the unions that elected him to yield for the state's long-term good -- and their own.

That's a fantasy of course, and a happy ending for which there is no evidence.

But it is California. The state is full of dreamers. They voted their dreams on Tuesday, but the rent and the car payment are due now.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com


Saturday, November 13, 2010

What’s So Great About America | The Weekly Standard

What’s So Great About America The Weekly Standard

Andrew Ferguson

November 15, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 09

Marco Rubio will have to write a new speech sooner or later, but he shouldn’t hurry up on our account. We still enjoy the one he’s been giving all year. He delivered it again to a national television audience on Election Night, after walloping not one but two formidable opponents in his campaign for a vacant Florida Senate seat. Along with his gift for wooing voters, the speech has made Rubio, according to a chorus of news accounts, a “rising star”—even, said one Vanity Fair writer who should know, a “matinee idol.” Republicans might want to ponder why.

The theme of the speech, and the source of its power, is American exceptionalism. “It’s sometimes easy to forget how special America really is,” Rubio says. “But I was raised by exiles .  .  . by people who clearly understand how different America is from the rest of the world.” Rubio’s parents, who fled Castro’s tyranny, taught him this difference by their words and by their example. Rubio makes his case for American exceptionalism with both an appeal to authority—the word of his parents​—and an appeal to experience: The good life America offered them is itself proof that his country, in its political, social, and economic arrangements, is unlike any other in history.

Rubio’s speech dares to cast our political differences in the grandest terms. Politics becomes a matter of history and ideas rather than motive-mongering and pie-slicing. It has been heartening to see other Republican politicians pick up his theme of exceptionalism, and we commend it to those who haven’t. During the campaign Sarah Palin and her hand-crafted candidates repeated the “E” word as though it had magical powers. And maybe it does. Lt. Col. Allen West, like Rubio a Floridian and one of two African Americans to win congressional seats for the Republicans last week, tucked every one of his policy positions, from modernizing the military to cutting the federal budget, under the rubric “Restoring American Exceptionalism.”

Not every candidate needs to go so far as West. Some political issues, after all, do not necessarily touch on first principles. Republicans must take care that “exceptionalism” doesn’t collapse through thoughtless repetition into a mere slogan, another bit of political cant like “Take Our Country Back” or “Move America Forward,” losing all meaning even as it wows the focus groups. For the line of argument that Rubio pursues, his way of framing the choice that voters face in the Obama era, is uncommonly—you might say, exceptionally—useful, for three reasons.

First, the idea of American exceptionalism has the benefit of being true. The United States is fundamentally and demonstrably different from other countries. It is bound together by a founding proposition, and properly applied the proposition has brought freedom and prosperity to more people, and more kinds of people, than any other. Second, a large majority of Americans believe American exceptionalism to be true. And third, it drives Democrats right around the bend.

It’s not clear why. Maybe liberal polemicists don’t quite understand what the phrase means, and so they pummel it into a caricature. In Politico last week, under the oddly truncated headline “U.S. Is Not Greatest Country Ever,” the columnist Michael Kinsley wrote that exceptionalism is “the theory that Americans are better than everybody else.” The next day, on a well-trafficked liberal website, another columnist said much the same thing—they tend to run in packs, these guys. Other countries, this columnist wrote, are “investing in infrastructure,” unlike the United States, which apparently just spent $780 billion in stimulus on chopped liver. At the same time, he went on, “the Republicans have taken refuge in an antigovernment ideology premised on the lunatic notion that America is the only truly free and successful country in the world.”

Assuming they were offered in good faith, these characterizations are hopelessly confused, conflating exceptionalism with jingoism or xenophobia or mere self-aggrandizement. (He got the antigovernment part right, though.) But even if they do understand what the term means, we can’t be sure that professional Democrats really believe it. Liberalism in its present degenerate form is reactionary—a gesture of irritation at the backward quality of ordinary American life, at its culture, its food and dress and amusements and politics, and especially at the mindless and sentimental patriotism that unsophisticated Americans are so quick to embrace.

President Obama—who in other venues, such as his Nobel speech, has given eloquent testimony to America’s uniqueness—last year made a now notorious remark that nicely summarized the off-the-shelf liberal view. “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” The logic is straightforward. Since every people believes it’s exceptional, none is. And thus our belief in American exceptionalism merely shows how much we’re like everybody else; the assertion disproves itself. We all of us here on Spaceship Earth indulge in a kind of touching childish delusion, akin to a toddler’s belief that he’s the center of the universe. We really should grow up.

For many sophisticated Democrats the belief is not merely childish but dangerous. It distracts us from the urgent matters at hand. “This conceit that we’re the greatest country ever may be self-immolating,” Kinsley wrote. “If people believe it’s true, they won’t do what’s necessary to make it true.”

This strikes us—and will strike most Americans, we’ll wager—as the precise opposite of the truth. Americans through time have already done “what’s necessary to make” the country unique in all the world; that’s why Glenn Beck and all those Tea Partiers prattle endlessly on about the Founders. Thanks to the ingenuity, persistence, and sacrifice of earlier generations, our obligation now is to conserve the arrangements that make us exceptional, reaffirm them, and prepare to pass them on, with an abiding faith in personal liberty. And this much should be obvious: If Americans don’t believe “we’re the greatest country ever,” we won’t be for much longer.

Sounds like a campaign theme.

—Andrew Ferguson


Thursday, November 11, 2010

God Bless the Tea Party: saving America from the left!

God Bless the Tea Party - Michael Novak - National Review Online

More than a rejection of big government or high spending, it is a revolution against moral decline.

I doubt that what happened in the United States on November 2 could have occurred in any European country. In fact, it was almost unprecedented in the United States.

No president in American history has ever been so thoroughly discredited after two years as Barack Obama. When Pres. Bill Clinton’s party lost 54 seats in 1994, that number was shockingly high. But in 2010, the Democrats have lost at least 60 seats in the House (the branch closest to the people) and six in the Senate. Counting as allies some conservative Democrats, the Senate Republicans, while slightly less numerous than Democrats, might emerge with a working majority, though not the two-thirds necessary to override a veto.

In his first two years, the president convinced many millions of Americans that he wants to make the U.S. more like European welfare states. The American people hate the very idea, and they simply rebelled.

What is most striking about this election is the rising up of a huge popular movement with virtually no visible national leader — a movement spontaneously arising out of the refusal to lose the country our Founding Fathers (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the others) built solidly on certain fixed, eternal principles: firm principles about the dignity and responsibility before God of every woman and man, about the freedom of the economy from State management (but not from necessary State regulation), and about the universal opportunity of every citizen to rise as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

President Obama pays obeisance to these principles, but his heart is not in it. He mainly trusts government, national government, one powerful central government. The record of his two years in office is repellent — and many, many Americans simply refuse to march in that direction. The Democrats have controlled everything for two years, and their leadership, with too much left-wing enthusiasm, allowed President Obama to take the bit into his mouth and run pell-mell toward the European model.

He could not get all that far, in this deeply whig country. “Whig” is a way of saying “the party of liberty,” the party of personal responsibility, the party of economic opportunity and personal creativity, the party fiercely committed to the defense of liberty (whence the eagle as our national symbol, the eagle with seven arrows in one claw and a large olive branch in the other). The whig tendency in America has always been suspicious of government (as the source of most abuses of human rights, as inefficient, as a breeding ground of corruption). The Whig party, transformed into the new Republican party after 1856, became the party that abolished slavery, and is alive and well today in the Tea Party movement. It is the party of the individual — not the atomized individual, the individual alone, but the civic individual in free cooperation with other individuals.

In recent years, I have wondered how much longer God would continue to bless America, that country so favored by Providence for so long. The mass-media culture of America, its movies, its glitzy magazines, and its public speech (even in churches) are becoming more and more decadent, less and less under the sway of personal moral responsibility, more relativist, less under the self-control of reason. That “superculture” of the media hangs over the nation like a miasma of moral smog. Below it, thank God, there are still tens of millions willing to resist it.

That is the hope of America today. It rises up from the people not yet incapacitated by the moral decline of our elites.

The election of 2010 signified a moral revolution, a cultural revolution, much more profoundly than a political revolution.

We will see how long it can endure and grow from strength to strength — or whether it will self-destruct, as so many movements do.

God, if You can no longer bless the whole nation, please bless the Tea Party movement.

Worried that Obama retains desire to "transform" America

Works and Days » Stay Worried

Economics 101

What worries me about President Obama is really one general issue: his very concrete enjoyment of the good life as evidenced by his golf outings, Martha’s Vineyard vacations, and imperial entourages that accompany him abroad, and yet his obvious distrust of the private sector and the success of the wealthy. Yet my discomfort here is not even one that arises from an obvious hypocrisy of, say, a Michelle on the 2008 campaign trail lecturing the nation about its meanness or her own previous lack of pride in her country, juxtaposed with her taste for the publicly provided rarefied enjoyments of a Costa del Sol hideaway at a time of recession.

No, my worries run deeper. Apparently, the president is unaware that after some 2,500 years of both experience with and abstract thought about Western national economies, we know that a free, private sector increases the general wealth of a nation, while a statist redistributive state results in a general impoverishment of the population. At the root of that truth is simple human nature — that people wish to further their own interest more fervently than the more abstract public good (e.g., why the renter does not wash the rental car, or why the public restroom is treated differently from its counterpart at home), and can be encouraged to invent, create, and discover which in turn helps the less fortunate, lucky, healthy, or talented.

Texas or California?

We all accept, of course, that the question is not one of a laissez-faire, unchecked robber baron arena, versus a Marxist-Leninist closed economy, but rather in a modern Western liberal state the finer line between a Greece and a Switzerland, or a California and a Texas.

In the former examples, the desire to achieve an equality of result through high taxes, generous public employment, and lavish entitlements destroys incentive in two directions — creating dependency on the part of the more numerous recipients of government largess, and despair among the smaller but more productive sector that sees the fruits of its labor redistributed to others — with all the obligatory state rhetoric about greed and social justice that legitimizes such transfers.

In the latter examples, an equality of opportunity allows citizens to create wealth and capital on the assurances that the incentives for personal gain and retention of profits will result in greater riches for all.

Neither Baron nor Insect

We in America more or less understood that dichotomy, and so neither idolized a Bill Gates or Warren Buffett with titles like count, lord, or baron, nor demonized them with revolutionary spite (i.e., “insect,” “enemy of the people,” or even “greedy” and “selfish”). Instead, we assumed that Buffett had enriched his investors and more or less could not possibly use all the vast billions he accumulated (he, in fact, lived rather modestly and much of his treasure will probably end up in the Gates Foundation). One way or another, it was worth having Microsoft Word with the expectation that the zillionaire Bill Gates’ shower is still no hotter than ours, and his private jet goes not much faster than our own cut-rate Southwest Airlines flights. All that seems simple enough — until now.

So, again, what troubles me is that the president seems unaware of this old divide — that what allowed the pre-presidential Obamas, respectively, to make quite a lot of money as a legislator, author, professor, lawyer, or hospital representative was a vibrant private sector that paid taxes on profits that fueled public spending and employment or made possible an affluent literary and legal world. All that was contingent upon the assurance that an individual would have a good chance of making a profit and keeping it in exchange for incurring the risk of hiring employees and buying new equipment.

Grows on Trees?

Instead, Obama seems to think that making money is a casual enterprise, not nearly so difficult as community organizing, and without the intellectual rigor of academia — as if profits leap out of the head of Zeus. I say that not casually or slanderously, but based on the profile of his cabinet appointments, his and his wife’s various speeches relating Barack Obama’s own decision to shun the supposed easy money of corporate America for more noble community service in Chicago, and a series of troubling ad hoc, off-the-cuff revealing statements like the following:

As a state legislator Barack Obama lamented the civil rights movement’s reliance on the court system to ensure equality-of-result social justice rather than working through legislatures, which were the “actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.” To Joe Wurzelbacher, he breezily scoffed that “my attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” When Charlie Gibson pressed presidential candidate Obama on his desire to hike capital gains taxes when historically such policies have decreased aggregate federal revenue, a startled Obama insisted that the punitive notion, not the money, was the real issue: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.” And as President Obama, again in an off-handed matter, he suggested that the state might have an interest on what individuals make: “I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

In other words, for most of his life Barack Obama has done quite well without understanding how and why American capital is created, and has enjoyed the lifestyle of the elite in the concrete as much as in the abstract he has questioned its foundations. Does he finally see that the threat of borrowing huge amounts to grow government to redistribute income through higher taxes risks greater impoverishment for all of us, despite the perceived “fairness”? That suspicion alone explains why those with trillions of dollars are sitting on the sidelines despite low interest, low inflation, and a rebounding global economy. In short, millions of profit-makers believe not only will it be harder to make a profit, but far less of it will remain their own— and all the while the president will deprecate the efforts of those who simply wish do well for themselves. With proverbial friends like those, who needs enemies?

Until that mindset changes and can be seen by the public to change, the recession will not so easily end.