Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THE FUTURE THAT DOESN’T WORK


Scratch a Progressive, and they’ll tell you that their ideal for what America should look like is the “social democracies” of enlightened Europe.  That’s why we need higher minimum wage laws, pro-union mandates, and other regulations on the job market.  (One new idea in The New Yorker this week is a three-day work week.)  Meanwhile, younger Americans are finding it harder than ever to get started in today’s economy, and surveys show a larger number of Americans than even the late 1970s now think future generations will not be as prosperous as previous generations.
I hope everyone catches up with the story in today’s Wall Street Journal about conditions for young workers in Spain and Italy—and especially the reasons why:
. . .  In Europe’s weaker economies, people in their 20s and 30s often have little hope of achieving the careers, wealth and economic security enjoyed by their parents. In places like Spain and Italy, the employment rate has tumbled for people under 40 since 2008, even as it has stayed relatively steady or grown for their parents’ generation.
Their predicament is exposing a painful truth: The towering cost of labor protections that have provided a comfortable life for Europe’s baby boomers is now keeping their children from breaking in.
The older generation benefited from decades of rock-solid job protection, union-guaranteed salary increases and the promise of a comfortable retirement. All this has allowed them to weather Europe’s longest postwar crisis reasonably well.
By contrast, many younger Europeans can hope for little more than poorly paid, short-term contracts that often open a lifelong earnings gap they may never close. Employers in many countries are reluctant to hire on permanent contracts because of rigid labor rules and sky-high payroll taxes that go to funding the huge pension bill of their parents.

 http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/08/the-future-that-doesnt-work.php

A WAR BY ANOTHER NAME (DP: lengthy but worth the time to really understand the enemy)

A WAR BY ANOTHER NAMEThe Geography of Horror
We are in effect at war with Islamist radicalism. It is very unhelpful if this reality is denied, as the Obama administration has tried to do.

Two news items, spread within days over all the media, must be seentogether so as to disclose an ominous reality. One was the news that Meriam Ibrahim and her family had finally arrived safely in the United States. The other news was that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was proclaimed Caliph of the new Islamic State. The story of Meriam Ibrahim tells of yet another horrendous cruelty perpetrated in the name of Islam. The new Caliphate expresses the intention of globalizing the horror.
There are two ways of looking at the record of these atrocities. One is to see them as intrinsic to Islam, the other as an aberration of genuine Islam. The first view is rarely proposed publically in the United States, though it may be quietly held by some Americans less affected by the prevailing culture of tolerance. It is more openly stated in Europe, for example by the Dutch populist Geert Wilders, who admitted that he hated Islam as an enemy of freedom (among other things he proposed that the Quran, like Hitler’s Mein Kampf, should be banned in the Netherlands). It is also interesting to compare the different attitudes to Islamist terrorism by the successive administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Immediately after the attacks of September 2001 President Bush made a speech in which he declared that we are not at war with Islam but with terrorism. (He also said that “Islam means peace”, which it does not. A linguistically challenged White House speech writer must have confused two Arabic words—salaam/”peace”, a common form of salutation among Muslims, andaslama/”submission”, the root of the religion’s name.  Not that this matters; Bush meant well.)
The “war against terror” unleashed by the Bush administration has not gone well, to put it mildly. But the domestic reaction to the aforementioned speech was very positive. Numerous churches and synagogues went out of their way to express friendship for Muslims, courses on Islam proliferated in academia, and there was hardly any violence against Muslims (one terrible exception was the murder of a Sikh taxi driver, who was wrongly identified as a Muslim because of his turban). Early after his election President Obama gave a speech in Cairo in which he expressed his admiration for Islam (barely stopping short of apologizing for not being a Muslim). The response to the speech in the Muslim world was decidedly muted. Obama had no problem with Bush’s Islamophilia; he did have a problem with the word “war”—ever since the Cairo speech the Obama administration has maintained either that there was no war to begin with, or (presumably because of Obama’s wise foreign policy) the war was now over. Both Bush’s and Obama’s approaches are in tension with empirical reality. To suggest that Islamist terror has nothing to do with Islam is rather absurd. There is a great shortage of Presbyterian suicide bombers; the Muslim ones, as they blow themselves up, shout “Allahu akbar!”/”Allah is great!” To deny that radical Islamism (aberration or not) is not at war with us is also quite absurd. Barack Obama may not think that we are in a war, but the news has not reached Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Let me say what I think about this matter: Islam is one of the great world religions, and it has created one of the world’s great civilizations. The resurgence of Islam in our time is not coterminous with Islamist terrorism, but is grounded in the fact that millions of people have found meaning and moral direction in this faith. One must never forget this. However, as a courageous Egyptian commentator wrote some years ago, most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists today are Muslims. Radical Islamists have committed unspeakable horrors.  And the Al Qaeda of 2001 has morphed into a global alliance of kindred movements and organizations, who constitute a real threat to the United States and its allies. It cannot be defeated or contained by “soft power” alone, but must be met, if necessary, by “hard power” or its credible threat.
Meriam Ibrahim was born as the daughter of a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Christian mother. The father deserted and Meriam was raised as a Christian by her mother’s family. She subsequently married Daniel Wasi, a Christian holding U.S. citizenship, with whom she had one child and was pregnant with another when she was arrested. The charge was apostasy and fornication.  Under Islamic law the father’s religion determines the child’s, so Meriam is a Muslim. Unless she recants her professed Christianity she is guilty of apostasy. Marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman is prohibited, so her union with Wasi is fornication. She refused to recant her Christian faith. She was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy, and for fornication to be whipped with one hundred lashes. Both sentences were to be suspended for two years after the birth. Her first child, a son then aged twenty months, was kept in prison with her and became sick under the brutal conditions prevailing at Omdurman Women’s Prison. [I cannot refrain from noting that in 1898 the self-styled Mahdi, a messianic title, was defeated by British troops at the Battle of Omdurman. These of course were the bad old days of colonialism. I am always intrigued by hidden connections.] Meriam was kept in shackles throughout her imprisonment and remained so while giving birth to a daughter, who may have been damaged as a result. [In fidelity to balanced reporting it should be noted that the practice of keeping pregnant women in shackles through labor occurs in some American prisons, although this is prohibited by law in several states. I am not suggesting moral equivalence between American democracy and the Sudanese dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, who incidentally was indicted in 2009 by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Dafur. I merely observe that there are underworlds of barbarity even in basically decent democracies.]
The Caliphate was proclaimed in the large territory seized by the rebel movement that called itself ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The name has now been changed, quite simply, to IS—the Islamic State. The name change is significant: It implies that this territory straddling the border between what have been two sovereign states, is now the Islamic State, potentially with universal jurisdiction. The title of Caliph (khalifa) designates a successor of the Prophet, by definition Commander of the Faithful demanding allegiance by Muslims anywhere in the world. The name of Abu Bakr is also significant: He was the very first Caliph after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE; under him began the creation of an empire which at its height stretched from Spain to the borders of China. The imperial fantasy seems unreal now and is unlikely to be achieved in the foreseeable future, but it has a transcendent aura that will appeal to many potential holy warriors.
The list of Islamist atrocities is a long one. No useful purpose would be served by compiling one here. I will only mention some egregious ones. One should distinguish between two different phases—when Islamists are insurgents fighting governments (this has been called “asymmetrical warfare”) and when they have become governments themselves. The trajectory from ISIS to Caliphate is exemplary. ISIS committed many atrocities before it set up a (still rudimentary) state: indiscriminate massacres of (mostly Shia) civilians, persecution of Christians, assassinations, torture, imposition of the cruel penalties of sharia law on populations even temporarily under its control. What happened when ISIS conquered Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, gives a good idea what the Caliphate would be like if it became a more established state. Immediately ISIS imposed the harsh rules and penalties of what it understands Islamic rule to be. In the footsteps of the Taliban in Afghanistan, it destroyed historic monuments dating from pre-Islamic times. But the most horrible atrocity was the treatment of the large Christian community, one of the most ancient in the world. At first ISIS seemed ready to extend to Christians the traditional protection of “People of the Book” if they accepted the status of dhimmi (second-class subjects paying a special tax). The new ISIS authorities then changed their mind. Christians were given the options of conversion to Islam, execution or exile. Most chose exile, preferably in the nearby Kurdish-controlled area (about the only part of Iraq where something like law and order prevails). On the way there they were robbed of the few possessions they were allowed to take with them. The atrocities of Sunni ISIS were duly reciprocated by Shia militias operating in collusion with government forces. The spillage into Syria of the Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq is what made the Caliphate possible.
When Islamists actually run a state, they commit horrors in a more orderly fashion. Iran and Saudi Arabia have become the big states supporting, respectively, the two sides of the Shia-Sunni conflict now dominating much of the Middle East. Domestically Iran brutally persecutes Baha’is and hangs homosexuals; it is a major sponsor of international terrorism, such as the massive attack a few years ago on Jewish institutions in Argentina); and it has been playing a delaying game with the powers that want to stop its project of acquiring atomic weapons (which would make it the hegemon in the region). Saudi Arabia has also been a source of funding (by the government and by wealthy individuals) for various terrorist groups. Domestically the Saudi regime does not allow any non-Muslim public worship; its criminal law imposes stoning for adultery and amputation for theft; let me not go into its treatment of women [Saudi Arabia is also a more or less reliable ally of the United States.]
Just some pickings from the list of atrocities perpetrated in the “asymmetric” phase: The Taliban, who operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, have specialized in the murder of young girls who commit the crime of going to school; they have recently been murdering health personnel giving polio vaccines to children, an activity they consider un-Islamic. Boko Haram, an Islamist movement in northern Nigeria, has killed thousands of (mostly Christian) villagers; its most spectacular coup has been the kidnapping in April 2014 of over two hundred Christian schoolgirls, who were forcibly converted to Islam and threatened with (presumably sexual) slavery (at this time of writing they are still in captivity). Kidnapping of Westerners for ransom has been a common practice in Africa, first by religiously unaccredited Somali pirates, now a major source of funding for terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda-central (which, according to the Obama administration, no longer exists). The New York Times reported on July 30, 2014, that one of its reporters, Rukmini Callimachi, found documents in an abandoned Islamist site in Mali, which prove that European governments had used intermediaries to pay millions of dollars in ransom for captive citizens. Al Shabab, the Islamist movement that for a long time controlled parts of Somalia, has extended its activities to Kenya, supposedly to revenge the deployment of Kenyan troops in Somalia. Al Shabab terrorists occupied a mall in Kenya and interviewed all the patrons they managed to capture; those who could not credibly identify themselves as Muslims were murdered on the spot. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, has traditionally had a moderate version of Islam. It still has. But radical voices have become louder. The Islamist group Jama’a Islamiya has been thought to be responsible a few years ago for the attack on a resort hotel in Bali. There was a massacre of its guests, most of them Australians.
One of the ugliest actions of radical Islam has been its important role in the revival of anti-Semitism in EuropeOne of the ugliest actions of radical Islam has been its important role in the revival of anti-Semitism in Europe, typically disguised as opposition to Israel. [I’m not implying that Israel does not deserve criticism, especially for its settlement policy in the West Bank.] On July 13, 2014 [on the eve of Bastille Day!] a crowd of between 10,000 and 30,000 people, mostly Muslims, demonstrated in Paris, supposedly to protest the Israeli campaign in Gaza. The crowd flnally besieged a synagogue, trapping worshippers inside. The crowd shouted “Death to the Jews” and “Hitler was right!” Some shouted “We are all Mohamed Merah”; this is the man who killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse. [It is remarkable that many who deny that the Holocaust ever took place are proposing to repeat it.]
Let me conclude: Islam is not the enemy. Radical Islamism is. It has spawned unspeakable horrors, a veritable “axis of evil”. Its global proliferation is a very real threat to the United States (though not, or not yet, like the existential one posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War—a nuclear-armed Iran would change that). To say this is not to recommend any particular direction for US foreign policy. Obviously this country cannot intervene militarily in every place where horrors are taking place, or even where there are potential threats to American interests.  I doubt whether an overall strategy can be devised that will fit all cases. But viable policy depends on a clear view of the empirical realities. One reality is that we are in effect at war with Islamist radicalism; it is very unhelpful if this reality is denied (which the Obama administration tries to do.) The denial is popular, because Americans are understandably tired of war. But another reality is that Americans  want government policies to be morally charged; they will not easily accept a foreign policy based on sheer Realpolitik. To strike a balance between these conflicting realities requires political leadership in sparse supply on either side of the aisle.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Amnesty’s Worst Enemy

Amnesty’s Worst Enemy
How Senator Jeff Sessions helped stop comprehensive immigration reform
By Eliana Johnson

“We don’t understand real evil, organized evil, very well. This is evil incarnate.”

“We don’t understand real evil, organized evil, very well. This is evil incarnate.”

 by Hugh Hewitt

Baker’s quote of Crocker, who served as President George W. Bush’s Ambassador to Iraq and President Obama’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, is worth reading in its entirety:
“This is about America’s national security,” said Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador to Iraq under Mr. Bush and to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama. “We don’t understand real evil, organized evil, very well. This is evil incarnate. People like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the ISIS leader, “have been in a fight for a decade. They are messianic in their vision, and they are not going to stop.”
This is the chilling reality of the war in which we continue to find ourselves, a reality that the American left –of which the president is the condensed, 100% concentrated version– refuses to believe: that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or Hamas, or any Islamist not named bin Laden is a threat to the United States.  The president and his ideological allies especially refuse to consider any facts that are inconsistent with their conclusions, even facts that line up as direct threats to America, because they’d rather live in ignorance and danger than validate in any way W’s view of the world and of the crucial necessity of staying involved in the Islamic world, helping our genuine allies and fighting our genuine enemies there.
That was the terribly difficult”middle ground” that Bush and Vice President Cheney knew the U.S. had to occupy, possessing as they did (and still do) a perspective that understood that we and the rest of the West are not at war with Islam but with a virulent, radicalized and very violent strain of Sunni Islamist extremism, every bit the match of the Khomeinism that gripped Iran in the late 1970s and holds on to it still.  This latter terror was not opposed by Jimmy Carter and nearly 40 years later still threatens the West in new and more menacing ways.  The Sunni equivalent nested first in Afghanistan, was beaten back there, in western Iraq in the person of Zarqawi, and across the globe until, after the election of President Obama, it was granted a reprieve and regrouped and reorganized, and is growing fast and very strong now in western Iraq and other places around the globe.
The left will want to argue that Bush created ISIS, an absurd but predictable last ditch effort to build a weak wall against the reality that people like Lawrence Wright and Bernard Lewis have been arguing against for more than a decade.  Indeed, Baker found the pitch perfect representative of the school of pretend-it-doesn’t-exist to quote for his piece:
“This is a slippery slope if I ever saw one,” said Phyllis Bennis, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, a research organization for peace activists. “Whatever else we may have learned from the president’s ‘dumb war,’ it should be eminently clear that we cannot bomb Islamist extremists into submission or disappearance. Every bomb recruits more supporters.”
This point of view is sadly the dominant one within the White House, and the president’s very minimalist response last night should not confuse people about the crucial fact that he is one with Bennis in worldview.  I quoted on my show yesterday but requite here to emphasize its importance, President Obama’s very revealing, very candid assessment of ISIS, made to the New Yorker’s David Remnick in a much overlooked but crucial piece from January:
At the core of Obama’s thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs. And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone’s mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”
He went on, “You have a schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the region that is profound. Some of it is directed or abetted by states who are in contests for power there. You have failed states that are just dysfunctional, and various warlords and thugs and criminals are trying to gain leverage or a foothold so that they can control resources, populations, territory. . . . And failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement—all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security. But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically, so that we’re not using a pliers where we need a hammer, or we’re not using a battalion when what we should be doing is partnering with the local government to train their police force more effectively, improve their intelligence capacities.”
This point of view cannot be reconciled with the facts on the ground in western Iraq, or Nigeria, or Mali, or Somalia or indeed in Gaza.  It must oblige the president o almost double over with the pains of cognitive dissonance when confronted with the rampage and slaughters of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  As Remnick pointed out, this worldview is “the core” of the president’s understanding of the world, the equivalent of Reagan’s view of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.”  It is the Rosetta Stone to understanding everything President Obama has done –and mostly notdone– since becoming president in 2009.  He departs from it only when the televised pictures he and his advisors see –whether from Libya as Qaddafi marched towards Benghazi with the intention of slaughtering his opponents or of ISIS trapping children on mountains– persuade him that, if only because the poor, emotional American people won’t put up with such picture, he has to pretend to do something.
It isn’t really “appeasement” which at least recognized evil and tried to buy it off, though it issues in policies that look like those that were produced by appeasement.  It is rather a child-like anti-intellectualism, an academic’s withdrawal from reality into endless faculty meetings where debates about parking spaces and tenure displace the reality of the world outside of the 90-minute meeting committee process.
Because this worldview is fully in control of the American military, national security and diplomatic powers, we will do nothing about al-Baghdadi for at least two more years when, hopefully, an heir to Reagan arrives to reintroduce American power and influence in the world.  American power does not always and everywhere mean military power, but it does include it and it ought to be used, especially when a long standing ally like the Kurds are threatened by barbarians at their gates, and not in a haphazard, half-gesture of concern from the skies.  A reflexive horror of “boots on the ground” gripped Carter as it grips Obama, and the president who follows Obama will have to reintroduce the world to the prospect of dealing with American military might.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi understands he is up against a paper mache president right now, and is acting accordingly, as are his arch enemies –the mullahs in Iran– and their half-brothers in Hamas and their generous uncle in Moscow.  As do the Chinese.  The good news is that there are Abbotts and Harpers about, and especially Netanyahu.  They have their counterparts within the GOP and those men and women are finding their voices.  Even this pretend-to-be-president president may be obliged to act if the ISIS fanatics go too far and too fast.  They lack brakes because they believe God is on their side.  What they might do that might wake even this president is pretty horrible to consider but if you have seen what they are doing in Iraq, you must understand they’d gladly do whatever they could to deeply injure America again.
It is an ongoing, never-ending-in-our-lifetimes global conflict and it isn’t going away, no matter how many iPads we produce or where LeBron plays or how Johnny Football does.  I like most Americans treasure my diversions from the reality of this awful situation, but presidents don’t get to live a life disconnected from them and deeply connected to fairways and greens.
It is hard to imagine how far ISIS will have spread its evil by the time January 2017 brings a new resolve to the White House.  Hopefully the seriousness of this situation adds to the repudiation of the president and his party of go-along yes men and women at the polls in November, and a rebuilding of the Department of Defense can begin in earnest in January 2015.
It didn’t have to be this way.  W’s generals and their troops won the war in Iraq.  President Obama booted away the peace and the intricate coalition that held it in place when he abruptly pulled a residual American force from Iraq in 2011.  This is a sequel to what happened in Vietnam in 1975.  This time there are no boat people because there is no ocean and there are no boats.  Just slaughter.  And this time the enemy isn’t going to stop with conquering their country and incursions into a few local countries.
“This is evil incarnate,” as Ambassador Crocker put it so succinctly and well.  Evil incarnate doesn’t fill out brackets, or rest or grow weary.  It marches on and sneers at the  delusions of its enemies who don’t even know they are the target.

Don's Tuesday Column

THE WAY I SEE IT   by Don Polson  Red Bluff Daily News   8/19/2014

Liberal foolishness, mendacity

Thinking about the Ann Coulter book, “How To Talk To a Liberal (If You Must), which I briefly described last week as a compilation of her columns from the late 1990s through 2005, it seemed worth another column. If this were a liberal-dominated area, the regular derision she unloads on the Left might come across as gratuitous but, in our conservative part of Jefferson, I mean California, those easily offended can simply move along while the rest of us appreciate some of the foolishness, lunacy, hypocrisy and mendacity of liberalism from that period.
Since only Human Events regularly published her columns, this is, to me, original, rarely seen material. Regarding the “How to talk to a liberal” theme, her advice and warnings started with “Historically, the best way to convert liberals is to have them move out of their parents home, get a job and start paying taxes. But if this doesn’t work, you might have to actually argue with a liberal.” She warned that “when arguing with liberals, you are always within inches of the ‘Arab street.’ Liberals traffic in shouting and demagogy.” Their political Tourette’s Syndrome includes “Bush lied,” “racist,” “Halliburton” (or now the all purpose, mindless repetition of “Koch brothers”), and the recently fabricated “War on Women.”
Then there is their inability to follow one line of argument. Don’t take Ann’s or my word for it, just listen to any of the talk radio hosts trying to engage a liberal caller who can’t respond to one issue without jumping around to 3 or 4 other, usually irrelevant, talking points. Sunday show panels are notorious for stacking several liberals with one, lone conservative who politely allows the others to finish their thoughts; the conservative will usually get 2 sentences out before the liberals interrupt, gang up and shout him or her down.
That happened to Rich Lowry on “This Week” when he attempted to truthfully point out that it was President Obama’s singular obsession to leave no residual troops in Iraq to keep the relative calm that prevailed when President Bush turned Iraq over in 2009 (BTW, we’re still in Bosnia—result: no ethnic strife). The liberal harpies converged on Lowry mercilessly—how dare he lay any responsibility on Obama’s doorstep. In fact, the refusal by Obama to heed wise military advice for 20,000 troops was then cloaked in the duplicitous charade that Iraqis didn’t want them.
The Germans and Japanese probably didn’t want the Americans military, either; responsible leaders honor sacrifices by keeping troops stationed to secure peace in the midst of potential instability. That prevents subsequent chaos and bloodshed requiring going back into a country like Iraq—the vicious, slaughtering hordes of ISIS are Obama’s lasting legacy.
As her subtitle, “The World According to Ann Coulter,” suggests, her pithy, often caustic take on events, liberal actions and reactions is a tour-de-force of outrageousness from the political, media, judicial and cultural left. The largest section, “This is War,” organizes dozens of columns on the broad topic of the War on Terror, beginning with “How 9/11 Happened.” It is riveting to read a summary of President Carter’s timidity and appeasement of Muslim extremists, compared to Reagan’s decisive military response (Democrats, not Reagan, insisted on withdrawing militarily from Beirut after the Marine barracks were bombed). Bush 41’s less-than-Reaganesque response to the terrorist destruction of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Tarnished his record.
Then, through his 8 years, President Clinton had no less than 9 opportunities to respond to Muslim or other terrorist attacks or threats. On 6 of those occasions, Clinton did nothing. 18 dead American military in Somalia resulted in withdrawal, which Osama bin Laden referred to on ABC News as proving “that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat.” Then there were ineffectual responses like lobbing bombs hundreds of miles from Iraqi troops or just threatening to bomb until the UN objected.
After Clinton’s serial fecklessness, President George Bush, having no chance to deliver on his determination to eliminate al Qaeda, (told to his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice), was faced with the previously unimaginable attacks on 9/11. (To be continued)
“Imagine” (with apologies to John Lennon’s version)
Imagine there’re no liberals;
It’s not that hard to see.
No Left to goad or force us
To give up living free.
Imagine all Americans
Living in liberty.
You might say I’m a dreamer;
But I’m not the only one.
Perhaps some day you will join us,

God-given freedoms shall be won.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Spreading Scourge of Anti-Christian Persecution

Intolerance that fosters pogroms abroad is taking root in U.S. communities. Sobering and unforgettable images are projected across our television and computer screens. They should elicit the most basic instincts of both fear and compassion.
I'm referring to images of showing the persecution of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of our fellow brothers and sisters by incomprehensible religious zealots. Their intolerance of Christianity is beyond horrible. People are beheaded for their faith. Women and young girls are sexually violated, and whole families are wantonly slaughtered in cold blood. Perhaps just as abhorrent is the profound silence of the current administration. Even though President Obama has declared that we are not a Judeo-Christian nation, we are still compassionate people who should not ignore humanitarian atrocities, much less ones where the victims are only guilty of maintaining a belief in the principles espoused by Jesus Christ.
We have an obligation as Americans to denounce these acts of persecution. Even those who do not worship a higher deity should be concerned. For when we stand up to such intolerance, we are defending the root of freedom. We are defending choice -- the ability to worship and call on the name of a heavenly being without fear of torture and abandonment.
The president, who very early in his tenure won the Nobel Peace Prize, now has an opportunity to truly be the broker of peace in a very troubled part of the world. He can be a champion of freedom of religion, a founding principle of our nation. As long as religious practices do not infringe upon the rights of others, he can make it clear that it is wrong to interfere with those practices.
In our own country, we must become more reasonable in disputes about religious symbols. For instance, if a Christmas tree or manger scene has been a long-standing community tradition, and a few offended people come along and claim that it must be removed, should those few individuals have the power to interfere with the seasonal joy of thousands who rejoice in the viewing of those symbols? If someone is offended by a menorah in a Jewish community, would it not make more sense to give them sensitivity training rather than disturb the entire community by removing the symbol? I could go on, but I think the point is clear. When we reward unwarranted hypersensitivity surrounding religious ceremonies or beliefs, we add fuel to the hatred and intolerance that subsequently produces religious persecution.
Some will say religious persecution in other parts of the world does not concern us and we cannot be the police for the planet. Certainly, there is some validity to the latter part of that statement, but if we continue to ignore or tolerate religious persecution elsewhere, it is just a matter of time before we will experience it here at home.
As far as the Middle East is concerned, we are not helpless and can dispatch the State Department to do all it can to help. Some conservatives and cynics might argue that such a move requires government dollars. Who's to say? We don't fully comprehend how besieged these people are, much less know what it would take to grant them relief.
Governments need to decry such persecution, and root it out wherever and whenever they can. The United States should lead in that effort -- just as it has with combating sex trafficking and other problems the world has decried in the past. It is hard to find an issue that demands a sharper clarion call for leadership now.

CHARLES KOCH: HOW TO GET OUR ECONOMY MOVING AGAIN


If there is anyone in the world who knows how to create wealth and generate good, high-paying jobs, it is Charles Koch. In USA Today, Koch sets out a basic prescription for how to improve our economy, accompanied by some eye-popping statistics:
Like most Americans, I am deeply concerned about our weak economic recovery and its effects on millions of families. Opportunity, especially for the young and disadvantaged, is declining. High underemployment has become our new norm. …
Too many businesses focus on getting subsidies and mandates from government rather than creating value for customers. According to George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, such favors cost us more than $11,000 per person in lost GDP every year, a $3.6 trillion economic hit.
That is astonishing. Everyone knows (unless he is a liberal economist like Paul Krugman) that cronyism promotes inefficiency. But the magnitude of the problem is stunning: if the Mercatus Center analysis is correct, cronyism is deflating the economy by around 21%! Imagine if every American got a 21% raise: that is only a small part of what free market economic policies could accomplish, if they were not blocked by the Democratic Party. Then, of course, we have the problem of excessive government regulation:
Federal rules cost America an estimated $1.86 trillion per year, calculated the Competitive Enterprise Institute. At Koch Industries, we’ve seen how punitive permitting for large projects creates years of delay, increasing uncertainty and cost. Sometimes projects are canceled and jobs with them. Meanwhile, 30% of U.S. employees need government licenses to work. We need a system that rewards those who create real value, not impedes them.
The main thing standing between you and a higher income, assuming you own an alarm clock, is the government. More:
[W]e should eliminate the artificial cost of hiring. Government policies such as Obamacare have given businesses a powerful incentive to hire two part-time people to do one full-time job. This trend was reflected in June’s employment data, which included the loss of half a million full-time jobs. In 2007, 4.4 million Americans worked part-time jobs because they could not find full-time work. That number now stands at 7.5 million, up 275,000 in June.
The Obama administration hailed the June employment data as a triumph, even though the number of full-time jobs declined by a half million. They want you and your children to accept a “new normal” in which part-time employment as a barista is a reasonable expectation for a college graduate.
Government likes for its citizens to be lazy, incompetent and dependent. That’s bad for the citizens, but good for the government:
Finally, we need greater incentives to work. Costly programs, such as paying able-bodied people not to work, are addictive disincentives. By undermining people’s will to work, our government has created a culture of dependency and hopelessness.
Government control over the economy, promotion of dependence and cronyism have been tried. They have failed. It is time for something different:
Our government’s decades-long, top-down approach to job creation has failed. Its policies have made our problems worse, leaving tens of millions chronically un- or underemployed, millions of whom have given up ever finding meaningful work. In doing so, our government has not only thwarted real job creation, it also has reduced the supply and quality of goods and services that make people’s lives better and undermined the culture required to sustain a free society.
When it comes to creating opportunities for all, we can do much better. It’s time to let people seek opportunities that best suit their talents, for businesses to forsake cronyism and for government to get out of the way.
A friend who knows Charles Koch well describes him as a genius. I can believe it: creating tens of billions of dollars in wealth and tens of thousands of productive, high-paying jobs probably does require a touch of genius. But when it comes to politics and the economy, what Charles Koch has to say is just common sense

Sunday, August 17, 2014

BARACK OBAMA AND “FOLKS” WHO KILL FOLKS [UPDATED WITH COMMENTS BY JOHN]


The word “folks” has a plasticity about it. “Folks” can refer to a group as small as one’s parents (“I’m going home to visit the folks”), the people in one’s community, or the “salt of the earth” inhabitants of a region or a country (the way Bill O’Reilly annoyingly uses the term). This plasticity is illustrated by the definition of “folksinger” that a local radio personality used in the early 1960s — someone who is only good enough to sing for his folks.
President Obama loves to say “folks” and apparently has for years. His Harvard Law Review colleagues brilliantly ridiculed him for it.
Why does the word appeal so much to Obama? Perhaps because it has no fixed meaning. Or maybe because it enables him — arrogant and standoffish though he is — to sound folksy. Perhaps too, he likes the fact that the word can be used to drain the individuality out of people. For collectivists, this has appeal.
It’s unusual to use the word folks to apply, transnationally, to the people of the world. Although the word does drain much of what makes us individuals, “folk” implies some commonality besides just being human. “We Are The World” is not a folk song.
Even so, it doesn’t shock the conscience to refer to people in other countries as “folks.” Foreigners are people too.
For me, however, it did shock the conscience to hear Obama say last week that “we tortured some folks.” He was referring to the use of certain harsh interrogation techniques on some of the terrorists we captured after 9/11 in an effort to obtain information that might prevent more attacks on the United States, our allies, and our interests.
By using the word, Obama drained the terrorists of what made them unique — and what made them the subject of harsh interrogation — namely, their desire to kill and terrorize. Even for a “one-worlder” like Obama, “folks” should not include those who reject the norms of civilization that bind people into some form of a collective suitable for that term.
The juxtaposition of the words “folks” and “torture” was also striking. To describe the subjects of U.S. interrogation, Obama used the most bland, least conclusory word he could come up with. To describe what was inflicted on them, he used the most emotionally charged, most conclusory word available.
Whatever Obama’s other shortcomings — and they turn out to be legion — he is a master at choosing his words. By saying “we tortured some folks,” Obama, it seems, decided to cast his country in the worst possible light.
He turned the terrorists into “just folks” through a choice of words that ignores the biographical context that landed them in our custody and the rationale for interrogating them at all. And he cast what we did to these “folks” in the worst possible light, using a term that typically encompasses far more severe interrogation techniques than the “folks” at Gitmo endured (assuming for the sake of this discussion that what they endured is encompassed by “torture” at all).
Obama did provide some context for the interrogations he deems torture. “You know, it is important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had,” Obama allowed. “And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.”
Actually we should assume that all of them were working hard under enormous pressure. But note, again, the use — twice — of the “f” word. “Folks, Obama would have it, were torturing “folks.”
Regardless of whether some CIA interrogators went too far, the American president should be able to find the words to differentiate the interrogators from the terrorists. If he wants to give the terrorists the benefit of the doubt and call them “suspected terrorists,” that’s acceptable.
But a president who sees the interrogators and the terrorists as just a collection of “folks” isn’t fit to protect this country from the ongoing threat of terrorism.
JOHN adds: It is also noteworthy that “torture” is a term of art under US law. If what was done to terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was torture, then it was illegal. This is why the Bush administration went to the Department of Justice to get clarification of the legal concept of torture, which led to the famous “torture memos.” I think those memos correctly interpreted the law in concluding that the enhanced interrogation techniques contemplated by the CIA did not constitute torture.
As I have said many times, I think that waterboarding, the only such technique that could plausibly be considered torture, is in fact a humane alternative to torture. It takes only a few minutes and does zero physical harm, which is why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself suggested that we should waterboard “all the brothers.” If anything that scares the subject of an interrogation or makes him uncomfortable is torture, then we can forget about ever getting information–which may well be a matter of life and death–from any terrorist.
In subscribing to the view that the CIA’s interrogation of a handful of high-level terrorists (a grand total of three were waterboarded) was illegal and wrong, Obama probably thought he was only selling out his immediate predecessor, and maybe the CIA. In fact, he was selling out his country, just as he did with the various apologies that he extended shortly after his inauguration. Like his wife Michelle, Barack Obama appears to think that the first thing America did that was worthy of pride was elect him president.