Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year In Review - A Political Pinata One!

The Year In Review:

This was a year of a considerable Political Pinatas.

It began with The Messiah criticizing everything American, in the distant hope it would buy friendship and make terrorism go away or at least abate.

It ended with The Messiah criticizing the government's Home Land Security System's ineptness for failing to observe red flags.

This is the same government The Messiah believes is best suited to take over administering our personal health and running the health care system.

In between, The Messiah attacked doctors for being more conscious of their income than the welfare of their patients, Wall Street for greed, corporate executives for unconscionable salaries (agree there), Capitalism for failing to make everyone equally wealthy, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for their criticism unlike the other national media lap dogs itent on wagging their tales, threatened to close Gitmo, bring the troops in Iraq home in 2009 - (he has one day to go) and some other assorted words, speeches and public commitments that he should eat.

The Messiah also attacked Republicans for being constructionists and when one of their members told the truth, calling him a liar, that Republican was sanctioned by House Democrats.

I have not resurrected all of The Messiah's inconsistencies, his campaign rhetoric versus his actions once he became president. That, in itself, would take several memos. Nor have I listed the arrogant way in which Pelosi and Reid and their self-congratulating minions shoved radical and unwanted legislation down our throats. I have discussed that enough in previous memos.

What we have been witnessing this year is a neophyte functioning beyond his element and way below his pay grade. The Messiah remains a young man who has a lot to learn and we can only hope and pray he does so quickly because the world is a dangerous and fluid place and our enemies mean us no good. That is something The Messiah, in my humble opinion, still does not fully grasp.

The Messiah remains conflicted by what he learned during his youth, what he learned from subsequent radical associations, what he learned while attending elite schools and listening to his radical 'uncle like' minister and what he continues to learn from those who comprise his closest advisers and by looking in his self-congratulatory mirror.

Every year brings twists and turns - seldom predictable and I am sure 2010 will bring its share. Nothing is linear and if it were I would conclude war with Iran is in the offing. Still a reasonable bet but as events unfurl in that sad nation who knows where the current insurrection leads? (See 1 below.)

Of one thing I am certain. Government bureaucrats will continue to protect their precious turf and thus, things that should be obvious will be missed, the consequences will continue to plague us, make us less secure and cost us huge sums because waste is part and parcel of what big government is all about.

The second thing I am certain of is Pelosi and Reid have dug a ditch for their Party and the public backlash will not subside. Whether this might temper future behaviour on their part is problematical.

Suppose it had been GW who was off playing golf. Would the press and media folk not have been more critical accusing him of being indifferent etc.? Suppose GW was returning Gitmo prisoners back to Yemen? Would the press and media not be screaming for GW's scalp? And had Napolitano been working for GW would the media and press not be demanding she be fired?

Americans are a fair minded lot and are not stupid. They see the press and media duplicity and this is why members of the Fourth Estate have sunk so low in the public's esteem and why the three major broadcasters have lost much of their audience.

Elitists may not comprehend the sour mood because they remain in denial mode but the biggest 'change' that occurred in 2009 is how The Messiah's popularity sank.(See 1a below.)

What Don Rickles might say about the current state of affairs. (See 2 below.)

Let's hear it for Israeli technology. (See 3 below.)

An update involving 'Cheetah's' whereabouts and prospects of holding his strained marriage together. (See 4 below.)

Surprising criticism from a staff writer of one of The Messiah's protecting newspapers - Washington Post. (See 5 below.)

Victor Davis Hanson's own year in review. (See 6 below.)

Cheney on Obama and Steve Benen on why Cheney is a coward. (the pissing contest continues and you decide. (See 7 and 7a below.)

Socrates and what he might think about America at this time. (See 8 and 8a below.)

To all The Happiest, Healthiest and Best off New Years. Would it not be nice if it were a peaceful one but that remains a dim hope.


1)Iran's opposition leaders Mousavi and Karoubi may have fled Tehran for their lives

The huge pro-government demonstrations whipped up by the Iranian regime Wednesday, Dec. 30 shouted "Death to Mousavi, Karoubi and Khatami!" after they were promised "great events" in the course of the day. At nightfall, the waiting crowds learned from the national news agency: "Two of the chiefs of the sedition left Tehran for the north of Iran after learning that the population was increasingly angry and demanding their punishment."

Their relatives denied this, saying that both are still in Tehran but did not specify whether they were free or in custody.

Iranian sources report: The gunning down of Mousavi's nephew earlier this week instilled the fear that top opposition leaders were in danger of their lives. Wednesday, government media accused them of desecrating the holy day of Ashura and deserving "execution" for their weeklong protest rallies until Tuesday, Dec. 29.

Security forces clamped down on the protesters, shooting live ammunition and tear gas. The officially admitted death toll of 15 is said by our Iranian sources to be at least three times that number. Hundreds were arrested, among them several leading dissidents including clerics.

Iran's state media claimed the two purported fugitives had fled to Mazaneran Province (on the coast of the Caspian Sea) ahead of the angry population. According to our sources, the Iranian authorities appear to be gearing up to feed the Iranian street more drama and fuel its anger.

The opposition website Rahesabz said "members of the Revolutionary Guards and the intelligence ministry had picked up Mousavi and Karroubi in the city of Kelar-Abad to protect them from the anger of the people."

If this is true, they are both in custody and can expect to be put on trial for treason against God and the Islamic regime, charges which carry the death sentence.

All three of these figures are pro-reform, pro-democracy politicians who were once leading lights of Iran's Islamic revolutionary regime: Mousavi was prime minister until 1989, Khatami a former president and Karroubi ex chairman of parliament.

1a)Obama gives Interpol free hand in U.S.

No presidential statement or White House press briefing was held on it. In fact, all that can be found about it on the official White House Web site is the Dec. 17 announcement and one-paragraph text of President Obama's Executive Order 12425, with this innocuous headline: "Amending Executive Order 12425 Designating Interpol as a public international organization entitled to enjoy certain privileges, exemptions, and immunities." In fact, this new directive from Obama may be the most destructive blow ever struck against American constitutional civil liberties. No wonder the White House said as little as possible about it.

There are multiple reasons why this Obama decision is so deeply disturbing. First, the Obama order reverses a 1983 Reagan administration decision in order to grant Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, two key privileges. First, Obama has granted Interpol the ability to operate within the territorial limits of the United States without being subject to the same constitutional restraints that apply to all domestic law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. Second, Obama has exempted Interpol's domestic facilities -- including its office within the U.S. Department of Justice -- from search and seizure by U.S. authorities and from disclosure of archived documents in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by U.S. citizens. Think very carefully about what you just read: Obama has given an international law enforcement organization that is accountable to no other national authority the ability to operate as it pleases within our own borders, and he has freed it from the most basic measure of official transparency and accountability, the FOIA.

The Examiner has asked for but not yet received from the White House press office an explanation of why the president signed this executive order and who among his advisers was involved in the process leading to his doing so. Unless the White House can provide credible reasons to think otherwise, it seems clear that Executive Order 12425's consequences could be far-reaching and disastrous. To cite only the most obvious example, giving Interpol free rein to act within this country could subject U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence personnel to the prospect of being taken into custody and hauled before the International Criminal Court as "war criminals."

As National Review Online's Andy McCarthy put it, the White House must answer these questions: Why should we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies? Why is it suddenly necessary to have, within the Justice Department, a repository for stashing government files that will be beyond the scrutiny of Congress, American law enforcement, the media, and the American people?

2)What if Don Rickles Roasted the Dems....

Hello, dummies! Oh my Godness, look at you. Anyone else hurt in the

Seriously, **Senator Reid** has a face of a Saint - A Saint Bernard. Now I
know why they call you the arithmetic man. You add partisanship, subtract
pleasure, divide attention, and multiply ignorance. Reid is so physically
unimposing, he makes Pee Wee Herman look like Mr. T. And Reid's so dumb, he
makes Speaker Pelosi look like an intellectual. Nevada is soooo screwed! If
I were less polite, I'd say Reid makes Kevin Federline look successful.

Speaking of the Speaker... **Nancy Pelosi,** hubba, hubba! Hey baby, you
must've been something before electricity. Seriously, the Speaker may look
like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you. She really
is an idiot. Madame Speaker.... want to make twelve bucks the hard way?
Pelosi says she's not partisan, but her constituents call her Madame

**Charlie Rangel**... still alive and still robbing the taxpayers blind.
What does that make, six decades of theft? Rangel's the only man with a
rent-controlled mansion. He's the guy who writes our tax laws but forgot to
pay taxes on $75 grand in rental income! So why isn't he the Treasury
Secretary? Rangel runs more scams than a Nigerian Banker.

**Barney Frank** - he's a better actor than Fred Flintstone. Consider.. he
and Dodd caused the whole financial meltdown and they're not only not
serving time with Bubba and Rodney, they're still heading up the financial
system! Let's all admit it... Barney Frank slobbers more than a sheepdog on
Novocaine. How did this guy get elected? Oh, that's right... he's from
Massachusetts . That's the state that elects Mr. Charisma, John Kerry -- man
of the people!

You know, if **Senator Dodd** were any more crooked, you could open wine
bottles with him. Here's a news flash, Dodd: when your local newspaper calls
you a "lying weasel", it may be time to retire. Dodd's involved in more
shady deals than the Clintons . Even Rangel looks up to him!

Press Secretary **Robert Gibbs**, I really respect you... especially given
your upbringing. All you've overcome... I heard your birth certificate is an
apology from the condom factory. I don't know what makes you so dumb, but it
really works for you. Personally, I don't think you're a fool, but what's my
opinion compared to that of thousands of others?

As for **President Obama**, what can I say? They say President Obama's
arrogant and aloof, but I don't agree. Now it's true when you enter the
room, you have to kiss his ring. I don't mind, but he has it in his back
pocket. His mind is open to new ideas -- so open that ideas simply pass
through it. Obama lies so much, I was actually surprised to find out his
first name really was Barack.. Just don't ask about his middle name! But
Obama was able to set a record... he actually lied more in 60 days than
**Bill Clinton**.



3)1. Scientists in Israel found that the brackish water, drilled from underground desert aquifers, hundreds of feet deep, could be used to raise warm-water fish. The geothermal water, less than one-tenth as saline as sea water, free of pollutants, and a toasty 98 degrees on average, proves an ideal environment.

2. Israeli-developed designer-eyeglasses, promise mobile phone and iPod users, a personalized, high-tech video display. Available to US consumers next year, Lumus-Optical's lightweight and fashionable video ;eyeglasses, feature a large transparent screen, floating in front of the viewer's face that projects their choice of movie, TV show, or video Game.

3. When Stephen Hawkins recently visited Israel , he shared his wisdom with scientists, students, and even the Prime Minister. But the world's most renown victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, also learned something, due to the Israeli Association for ALS' advanced work in both embryonic and adult stem cell research, as well as its proven track record with neurodegenerative diseases. The Israeli research community is well on its way to finding a treatment for this fatal disease, which affects 30,000 Americans.

4. Israeli start -up, Veterix, has developed an innovative new electronic capsule that sits in the stomach of a cow, sheep, or goat, sending out real-time information on the health of the herd, to the farmer via Email or cell phone. The e-capsule, which also sends out alerts if animals are distressed, injured, or lost, is now being tested on a herd of cows, in the hopes that the device will lead to tastier and healthier meat and milk supplies.

5. The millions of Skype users worldwide will soon have access to the newly developed KishKish lie-detector. This free Internet service, based on voice stress analysis (a technique, commonly used in criminal investigations), will be able to measure just how truthful that person on the other end of the line, really is.

6. Beating cardiac tissue has been created in a lab from human embryonic stem cells by researchers at the Rappaport Medical Faculty and the Technion- Israeli institute of Technology 's biomedical Engineering faculty. The work of Dr. Shulamit Levenberg and Prof. Lior Gepstein, has also led to the creation of tiny blood vessels within the tissue, making possible its implantation in a human heart.

7. Israel 's Magal Security Systems, is a worldwide leader in computerized secur ity systems, with products used in more than 70 countries aroun d the world, protecting anything from national borders, to nuclear facilities, refineries, and airports. The company's latest Product, DreamBox, a state-of-the-art security system that includes Intelligent video, audio and sensor management, is now being used by a major water authority on the US east coast to safeguard the utility's sites.

8. It is common knowledge that dogs have better night vision than humans and a vastly superior sense of smell and hearing. Israel 's Bio-Sense Technologies, recently delved further, and electronically analyzed 350 different barks. Finding that dogs of all breeds and sizes, bark the same alarm when they sense a threat, the firm has designed the dog bark-reader, a sensor that can pick up a dog's alarm bark, and alert the human operators. This is just one of a batch of innovative security systems to emerge from Is rael , which Forbes calls 'the go-to country for anti-terrorism technologies.'

9. Israeli company, BioControl Medical, sold its first electrical stimulator to treat urinary incontinence to a US company for $50 Million. Now, it is working on CardioFit, which uses electrical nerve stimulation to treat congestive heart failure. With nearly five million Americans presently affected by heart failure, and more than 400,000 new cases diagnosed yearly, the CardioFit is already generating a great deal of excitement as t he first device with the potential to halt this deadly disease.

10. One year after Norway 's Socialist Left Party launched its boycott Israel campaign, the importing of Israeli goods has increased by 15%, the strongest increase in many years, Statistics Norway reports.

In contrast to the efforts of tiny Israel to make contributions to the world so as to better mankind, one has to ask what have those who have strived to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth done other than to create hate and bloodshed ? ? ?

4) This is allegedly from Mark Steinberg. Tigers agent. Who knows what to believe anymore, but this is interesting.

On Thanksgiving Day, after he and Elin and the family had Turkey Dinner, he spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch watching football and texting Rachel. After each received and sent text messages he would clear his message box to rid himself of the evidence. Sometime in between there, one of his Orlando buds called him to see if he wanted to get together at the Clubhouse to play poker with the guys, to which Tiger said yes. Tiger left the house around 7:30 to go play poker, and left behind his cell phone....and one message he had forgot to delete from Rachel.

When Tiger returned home around 11:30 -12 that night, Elin confronted him about the text message in the phone, and that started a heated discussion. According to what I was told, there was more "incriminating evidence" than just the text message (i.e. photos). Tiger tried to play it off by telling Ellin she was reading too much into it, and did not know the story, etc. Tiger went upstairs to change into his gym shorts and t-shirt, came back down, and Elin confronted him again; to which Tiger gave the same story.

Tiger sat down in a chair in the living room, and Elin sat across from him urging Tiger to just come clean. Tiger stuck to his guns and denied everything. At one point Tiger turned away to look at the TV, and as he turned back, Elin hit him on the right side of the face with the head of a 9 iron. When she struck Tiger, she put a huge gash in the right side of his face next to his nose (causing his nose to bruise some), virtually knocking two of his upper teeth out, and breaking the bone on the upper right side.

Tiger ran scared as hell out of the house (which is why he had on no shoes.) Elin followed swinging the golf club thoughout the hallway to the garage (i.e causing the severe damage which has been reported). Tiger hopped in the Escalade and tried to leave; and as we know Elin knocked out the windows in the Escalade. When Tiger crashed, Elin panicked and was not sure what to tell the police (which is why there are two conflicting stories from her). When this happened, Elin immediately called Mark Steinberg to tell him what happened, and Mark told Elin to tell him what hospital they were going to, and he would meet them there.

Tiger was transported to the hospital with Elin in the ambulance, and as they arrived Mark met them. The people from the hospital and the doctors took Tiger in for X-Rays etc. to check the damage caused. The doctors told Mark there was not much they could do to repair the teeth and the gash. The doctor recommended a cosmetic dentist and plastic surgeon in Phoenix who could probably make Tiger look as if nothing happened. Tiger told Mark to get the jet ready and they head to Phoenix.

Friday after Tiger was released from the hospital, he did not return home. He and Mark boarded the plane for Phoenix. If you remember FHP kept showing up at Isleworth to talk to Tiger, and was told by another FL attorney (who Tiger hired for PR reasons) that Tiger was not ready to talk. Well now we know why, he was in Phoenix, and did not arrive back in Orlando until either late last Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. The surgeries were more extensive, which meant Tiger was in PHX longer than assumed.

Upon arriving in Orlando, Tiger and Elin have been in intense marriage conseling sessions (up to 6 to 7 hours a day) every day! Both Tiger and Elin have told the conselors they love each other, and want to make the marriage work. The reports you are reading on TMZ and RadarOnline are about 30% accurate at best according to Mark.

In regard to Tiger's boat being in Palm Beach this week, along with Rachel; that part is true. However, Tiger is not on the boat, and is not in Palm Beach; and Rachel is not on the boat. Her parents live 6 blocks from where the boat is, but that is it. Tiger has not returned to his house at Isleworth since the day of the accident. IMG has enlisted the assistance of one of its most recognized sports figures, and Tiger has taken up residence in his neighborhood; Bay Hill.

IMG contacted Arnold Palmer because of the high regard in which Tiger holds Arnold. Arnold has agreed, and IMG has said if anyone can get through to Tiger, Arnold may be the only person who can based on his own public persona. The moving trucks being shown on TMZ and RadarOnline are moving out pictures and furniture which was damaged during the Thanksgiving Day fracas; not because Elin and their kids are vacating their home. Yes, Elin has retained a divorce attorney, but has not filed, and as of yesterday had no intention on doing so. Tiger has not made any public appearances or statements due to the plastic surgery he had in PHX. It will be about another month, if not more, before he gets in front of a camera.

Yes, Tiger is back hitting golf balls late at ngiht at Bay Hill out of their teaching center (which is equipped with lights).

That is up to date as I have it.......

The most expensive car crash ever? Final estimate to be determined by Elin Nordegren.

5)Eight years after 9/11, another cascade of security failures
By Ruth Marcus

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration's initial, everything's-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction.

I understand: When it comes to a terrorist attack, we live in an age of not if but when. What seems obvious in retrospect is rarely evident at the time; hindsight needs no Lasik. For every Abdulmutallab who slips through the inevitable cracks, many more are foiled. Or so we hope.

And so we have learned, because we must, to live with a new layer of risk. Like climbers adjusting to a higher altitude, we have grown so accustomed to the changed circumstances that we forget about the thinner air, the omnipresent danger. Until moments like the episode on Flight 253 yank us back to the new reality -- and, worse, to the realization that, eight long and expensive years later, not nearly enough has changed.

"Information was not shared. . . . Analysis was not pooled. . . . Often the handoffs of information were lost across the divide separating the foreign and domestic agencies of the government."

"Improved use of 'no-fly' and 'automatic selectee' lists should not be delayed. . . . This screening function should be performed by the TSA [Transportation Security Administration], and it should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government."

"The TSA . . . must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers."

A trenchant analysis of the Christmas attack? No, quotes from the report of the 9/11 Commission.

As with the numerous missed opportunities to stop the 9/11 hijackers, the Abdulmutallab story that has emerged so far is an enraging litany of how-can-it-be's.

How can it be that his visa was not revoked after his own father went to U.S. authorities to report concerns about his son's radicalization? "After his father contacted the embassy recently, we coded his visa file so that, had he attempted to renew his visa months from now, it would have triggered an in-depth review of his application," one U.S. official told CNN. How reassuring.

How can it be that, after the father's alert, the most that seems to have been done was to place Abdulmutallab's name in a database so sprawling as to be nearly useless? There was, one administration official explained, "insufficient derogatory information" to bump Abdulmutallab to a higher status of watch list. Excuse me, but how much more derogatory can you get?

How can it be that British authorities denied Abdulmutallab's request for a visa renewal -- without triggering a comparable review by U.S. officials? Was the United States not informed or did U.S. authorities simply not take action in response? Either there is a continuing problem of intergovernmental communication or a continuing problem of bureaucratic lassitude. How can it be that an individual passenger (a) traveling from Nigeria, with its known security lapses, (b) not checking luggage and (c) purchasing a ticket with cash was not singled out for additional screening? What did he have to do -- wear a sign saying, "You might want to check my underwear"?

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for "priority attention" to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery -- incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration's communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

This was not just one supposedly out-of-context stumble by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; it was the official line. Making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs resisted every effort to get him to acknowledge that something had gone seriously wrong.

President Obama finally got it right Tuesday with his acknowledgement of "systemic failure" that was "totally unacceptable." Whether this is an effort at damage control or a belated realization of what seemed obvious from the start, it's a better strategy than the previous approach.

The American people are not as stupid as the administration's initial approach assumed. They accept that a smart, determined terrorist can -- and eventually probably will -- slip through the best-constructed defenses. They cannot accept -- nor should they -- a system so slipshod as to let through a bungler like Abdulmutallab, with all the red flags that were waved, and ignored.

6) Our Year of Obama: Obama is in a great race: Can he remake America before the next elections?
By Victor Davis Hanson

America is at a day of reckoning that it never quite expected to face.

Not long ago, tired of eight years of Republican rule, terrified by the September 2008 financial panic, unimpressed by the campaign of John McCain, and mesmerized by the hope-and-change elixirs and landmark candidacy of Barack Obama, the American people voted for change.

But change of what sort?

I think voters wanted an end to the Bush deficits. Big government and Wall Street insiders sickened them. They were tired of the expense of two wars. By 2006, the scandals of the Republican Congress had turned them off. But mostly voters just wanted an end to the shrill politics that had torn the country in two.

Barack Obama saw all that. So he gave the crowds what they wanted: promises of vetoes of wasteful spending, no more lobbyists, an honest Congress for once, financial sobriety, and no more red-state/blue-state, at-your-throat politics. For millions of believers, Obama was to be our version of Truman or Eisenhower — centrist competence, but spiced up with 21st-century postracial pizzazz.

The people took Obama at his word, and here we are a year later with the largest drop in popularity of a first-year president in poll-taking history. A clear majority of the country is now opposed to almost all of the Obama program — more stimuli, bailouts, deficits, and takeovers; statist health care; cap-and-trade; and therapeutic-apology/reset-button diplomacy abroad.

I think it is a fair generalization to say that both the Right and the Left agree that Obama ran as a moderate in order to move America sharply to the left. The former calls it perfidy; the latter, necessary politics to achieve the desired ends. So what we now have is a progressive, grass-roots populist who is doing his best to obfuscate his own goals and ignore the desires of the great majority of the people.

Despite his obfuscation, the American people are starting to see a common thread in almost everything Obama does, from the significant to the trivial. The purpose of health-care reform was not really to lower medical costs and broaden access. The current system could have been tweaked to do just that with more intrastate insurance competition, tax credits, modest state grants, and tort reform.

Instead, the real aim was to create a vast new trillion-dollar bureaucracy, staffed by hundreds of thousands of new government auditors and clerks, and necessitating new redistributive taxes to pay for it. The more numerous such government workers, the more plentiful the loyal constituents who receive and hand out more government entitlements — look at the public-employee unions, higher taxes, and resulting financial implosion in California. And the more the “good” people receive, the more the other, “bad” people must pay — and that way we can remedy the unfair and arbitrary nature of individual compensation.

Cap-and-trade proposals are similar. We could have had an honest debate on both the nature of climate change and the catalysts for it. The public could have been apprised by our leaders about the Climategate scandal. Concerns could have been aired about the disturbing conflict-of-interest pattern of international green advocates like Al Gore, who are increasingly combining doomsday sermonizing with old-style multimillion-dollar profit-making. The trade-off of higher carbon taxes in a recessionary economy should have been explored.

Instead, the Obama administration has asserted, not explained, climate change. It has even hinted that if future green legislation is blocked in Congress, then some of it may be implemented by executive fiat through the Environmental Protection Agency. Once again, we should expect new government agencies and thousands more government employees — all working in concert with their foreign counterparts to monitor American energy use.

On the dubious claims that man himself is alone responsible for any heating of the planet and alone can stop such change with radical changes in his daily lifestyle, the Obama administration wants to see to it that the average consumer will have less disposable income and less choice — but we will have more government elites sermonizing about what is deemed correct and tolerable.

On the trivial side, the exhortations of many of Obama’s appointees reflect this world-view — which is innately unpopular with the American people, but nonetheless felt necessary for their well-being.

Former communications director Anita Dunn praises not just any mass murderer, but the greatest and most statist of them all, Mao Zedong. Van Jones, the Truther, talks proudly of his Communist past and the need to castigate whites for their assorted illiberal sins. At the National Endowment for the Arts, where good politics is now equated with good art, Obama is to be an iron-fisted populist Caesar whose intellectual and political powers are put to the service of the populus. Rahm Emanuel plays the enforcer and threatens the unbelieving with warnings that Obama will have a long memory, and that none of these crises will go to waste.

Like the rejection of public campaign financing last summer, almost all of Obama’s promises of reforms — no more lobbyists, health-care debates aired on C-SPAN, legislation posted on the Internet — have been ignored as impediments on the path to a universal equality of result. Obama’s various assertions are as much to be believed as were his supposed deadlines on the closing of Guantanamo, Iran’s nuclear compliance, and health-care reform.

The old congressional “culture of corruption” has been replaced by the well-meaning efforts of Charlie Rangel, Chris being Chris Dodd, and cranky uncle John Murtha. Controversial decisions are quietly announced late on Friday afternoons. Congressional debates and votes on controversial legislation happen on weekends and holidays — all the better to ensure that the American people won’t tune in to see the making of what they don’t want but must have. Chicago-style bribery buys the votes of senators like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu with tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars.

Here we are one year later in a great race. By almost any means necessary, Barack Obama is trying to remake America at home and abroad before he is stopped by the 2010 and 2012 elections. He knows that his agenda is not what he ran on, and not what the American people want, but it is one nevertheless achievable by majorities in both houses of Congress, despite his own waning popularity.

Obama quite simply believes that those like himself — Ivy League–trained, having spent their lifetimes on government payrolls, untainted by private-enterprise entrepreneurship — not only know best what is good for America, but understand how to implement it through redistributive taxation and vastly expanded entitlements.

In such a vision of the blessed, a Platonic guardian class — so much better educated, better intentioned, better motivated than the rest of us — will direct our lives and yet be exempt from the constraints they place on the less capable.

Our Al Gores to come will still fly on private jets. The next progressive John Edwards, of two-nations fame, and more Tom Friedmans, of hot-and-flat warnings, will appear, still living in carbon-spewing mansions.

More well-meaning Timothy Geithners will dodge their taxes. The Larry Summerses and Robert Rubins of the brave new world will still make millions in a year for their Wall Street expertise while damning fat-cat bankers. Bill Clinton will reemerge to make tens of millions more while talking up his global initiatives.

The wealthiest man on the planet — and the man with the biggest tax-exempt foundation — will support more inheritance taxes, as Bill Gates has been advocating. The second wealthiest, the Warren Buffett of the future, will want higher taxes, whose steep rates the actual Mr. Buffett has so successfully managed thus far to avoid. Such is always the way of the guardian class, from Platonic fantasy to its darker manifestations as so aptly depicted by Orwell.

And what will be lost if this race is won by the Obamians?

Consider: The reason that Obama himself enjoys such international stature, such ability to weigh in on matters insignificant and monumental, is not his teleprompted rhetoric nor his utopian world-view. Instead, Obama’s own singularity is tied to an exceptional United States that has always been different and, in the end, far more moral and powerful than the alternatives.

Almost alone in the world, America has never had a command or socialist economy. Its old creed was merit, and confidence in the freedom of the individual to run his own life rather than being told what to do by the state apparat. Its Constitution was antithetical not only to monarchy, but also to Enlightenment statism of the European 18th-century brand.

Freedom of the individual explained not only why America became wealthy and the world’s dispossessed flocked to our shores, but also why it had a moral sense about the world in its willingness to confront, rather than appease and apologize to, thugs and totalitarians. Everything that the United Nations Human Rights Council is now for, we used to be against. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” has now been replaced by égalité and fraternité.

The final irony is that should Obama and his revolutionaries prevail in their remaking of America, their own progeny will not enjoy the opportunity and affluence that they so cavalierly take to be their birthright, which was bequeathed to them by less liberal others.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the editor of the forthcoming Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome.

7)Cheney: Obama pretends we’re not at war
By Ed Morrissey

It’s not too often that one can put Dick Cheney and the New York Daily News on the same side. Both blast Barack Obama for fundamental unseriousness about the war on terrorism and national security after Obama’s poor handling of the Christmas Day terrorist attack. But where the Daily News contents itself with merely scolding the President over his too-casual approach, Cheney asks whether Obama may have some ulterior motives for downplaying terrorism.

The NYDN editors tells Obama to “get a grip”:

What the public was left with was a never-to-be-repeated case study in crisis mismanagement. It’s time to get a grip, Mr. President.

The attempted bombing occurred at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Christmas. When finally Obama spoke after the weekend, he vowed to hunt down “all who were involved” and promised, as has become standard, to “use every element of our national power to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us.”

Nothing less is required, and there can be no arguing with the stated mission.
Even so, Obama’s description of Abdulmutallab as an “isolated extremist” was remarkable and disturbing. This radicalized young Nigerian is nothing of the sort. He operated, in fact, as an Al Qaeda-recruited, Al Qaeda-supplied, Al Qaeda-directed foot soldier – as, to put it directly, an enemy combatant, and not as the criminal “suspect” of Obama’s description.

In similarly distant fashion, the President ordered up a “review” of how Abdulmutallab smuggled explosives onto the jet and a “review” of how he slipped through the government’s various terror watch lists despite signals of clear and present danger.

Missing then was a statement about those obvious and unacceptable security cracks; the name, rank and serial number of the officials who would conduct the inquiries, and a deadline for completion and a report to the public. Tuesday, Obama filled in those rather basic blanks.

But Cheney argues in a statement to Politico that Obama has his own reasons for downplaying the significance of the attack:

“As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.

“He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency – social transformation—the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.”

Mike Allen points out that George Bush waited six days to publicly address the Richard Reid shoe-bombing attempt in 2002, which is a fair point, but that’s more of a response to the NY Daily News than to Cheney. In his statement, Cheney goes beyond Obama’s performance this week to make an entirely different point than just incompetence. In fact, Cheney believes that Obama’s response fits a pattern that has a rational purpose, which is to move America away from a war mentality entirely and bring the effort against al-Qaeda into the law-enforcement realm instead.
And Cheney has a fair point, too. The more Obama forces the issue on detention and habeas corpus, then it becomes more difficult to use military and intelligence personnel at all. One cannot have CIA agents offering Miranda rights and committing to compulsory appearances in court, after all, or they will wind up dead and our sources of intel will dry up entirely. Obama appears to want the CIA and other intel services to become nothing more than advisers to the FBI, who will swoop in and conduct arrests with fully-detailed warrants, which will allow us to try everyone in federal court.

We tried this before, however, in the 1990s. It didn’t work out so well. Oddly enough, Osama bin Laden never appeared in federal court to answer his indictment, and the Clinton administration declined to have him delivered to US custody because we weren’t sure we could get a conviction in court. This approach resulted in an escalating series of attacks on US assets around the world during the 1990s, with hundreds of lives lost, and it culminated in 9/11.

The Daily News is right to tell Obama to “get a grip.” We’re at war, not in the middle of a crime wave, and it’s high time Obama started acting like he understands it.

7a) DICK THE COWARD.... It was only a matter of time before Dick Cheney decided to trash the president again.
By Steve Benen

"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war."

Let's review a few pesky details. First, it was Cheney's administration that released some of the alleged terrorists who plotted the attack into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" in Saudi Arabia, only to see them become terrorist leaders in Yemen. It was also Cheney's administration that gave Abdulmutallab a visa to enter the United States in the first place.

Second, let's compare some "low-key responses." President Obama addressed a failed terrorist attack three days after it occurred. Eight years ago, when a terrorist tried to blow up an airplane under nearly identical circumstances, then-President Bush waited six days before making brief, cursory public remarks. Five days after the attempted terrorist attack, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused substantive comment altogether, telling reporters, "That's a matter that's in the hands of the law enforcement people." A White House spokesperson would only say at the time that officials were "continuing to monitor events."

Democrats, at the time, didn't launch an assault against the Bush administration, and we didn't see Al Gore condemning the White House. It simply didn't occur to Democrats in 2001 to use the attempted mass murder of hundreds of Americans to undermine the presidency.

Eight years later, Dick Cheney believes his principal responsibility is to destroy President Obama -- the man Americans chose to clean up the messes Cheney left as a parting gift after eight years of abject failure.

This recent piece from James Fallows continues to ring true: "The former vice president, Dick Cheney, has brought dishonor to himself, his office, and his country. I am not aware of a case of a former President or Vice President behaving as despicably as Cheney has done in the ten months since leaving power.... Cheney has acted as if utterly unconcerned with the welfare of his country, its armed forces, or the people now trying to make difficult decisions. He has put narrow score-settling interest far, far above national interest."

Dick Cheney is a coward and a disgrace.

8)Arguing to death: From The Economist

From Socrates, history's quintessential nonconformist, lessons for America today

IF THE most famous philosopher of all were alive today, he might find America remarkably similar to his own Athens of the fifth century BC. Socrates would witness a vibrant and proud democracy, and disdain it as an indulgence of the benighted, unphilosophical “herd”. He would interrogate America’s politicians, talk-radio and cable-television pundits in search of honest discussions that lead to truth, and thereby expose their confusion, contradictions and ignorance. He would avail himself of America’s as of Athens’s freedom of speech, and simultaneously be horrified by the speciousness of the speech that Americans choose to make. And he would challenge America just as he had provoked Athens, and possibly be prosecuted and condemned for it a second time.

Socrates throws down a gauntlet from antiquity to America and all other democracies. How could Athens, which prided itself on its freedoms and had for decades not only tolerated but delighted in the stings of the man who described himself as its “gadfly”, turn on its greatest mind and condemn him to death when he was 70 years old? Had Socrates exposed a terrible flaw in democracy? Or had democracy responded to a mortal threat from the likes of Socrates?

His influence today is usually felt in academia, through the legacy of his ideas. He founded Western philosophy in the sense that all intellectual inquiry before him is deemed to be “pre-Socratic” and all Western philosophy since him, in the words of Alfred North Whitehead, an English philosopher of the early 20th century, mere “footnotes” to the 35 Platonic dialogues in which Socrates was the main character. It was Socrates who made the momentous “turn” of Western thought away from speculation about the composition of the physical world and towards the liberal questions of morality, justice, virtue and politics.

But Socrates casts his influence far beyond academia, beyond even his ideas. His main contributions, arguably, were his method and style as well as the example of his life. His method was to question one or a few individuals in small settings (the “Apology”, which records his address to the 500-man jury at his trial, was the exception). Through such intimate probing he elicited and tested his interlocutors’ deepest and most hidden opinions, a process now known as Socratic dialectic. His style during the discussions was “ironic” in the original sense of eironeia, meaning that he pretended to be ignorant to prompt his interlocutors to open up.

His life, above all, was dedicated to the love of wisdom (philosophy). His wife, Xanthippe, and three sons lived in near-penury while Socrates loitered around the marketplace of Athens looking for debaters. In the end he sacrificed his life for philosophy when he was offered the opportunity to escape from prison before his execution but chose to swallow hemlock instead.

What, then, had Socrates revealed in Athenian democracy that made this martyrdom necessary? And would American democracy be capable of repeating Athens’s sin?

The town-hall meeting

Visiting America today, Socrates might have dropped in on last summer’s “town hall” meetings, in which members of the public allegedly came to debate the reform of health care with their elected representatives. Socrates would have beheld hysterical firebrands shouting that America’s president and senators were Marxists, Nazis or both. Reaffirmed in his disdain for democratic rhetoric, Socrates would have left to seek better conversations, as he used to do in Athens, where he conspicuously shunned the public assembly and the jury courts in which male citizens were expected to serve.

Socrates considered the debate in such settings unedifying, pointless and unworthy—in a word, “eristic”. Eris was the Greek goddess of strife (the Roman Discordia). It was Eris who cunningly dropped a golden apple with the inscription “to the fairest” into a feast, inciting three goddesses—Hera, Athena and Aphrodite—to bicker over who deserved it and thus launching the ten-year Trojan War. Eris is present in presidential debates, in court rooms and wherever people are talking not to discover truth but to win.

Sympathising with Sparta—the equivalent of an American having kind words for Islamic Jihad

In 1968 Stringfellow Barr, an historian and president of St John’s College in Maryland, wrote a Socratic critique of American discourse: “There is a pathos in television dialogue: the rapid exchange of monologues that fail to find the issue, like ships passing in the night; the reiterated preface, ‘I think that…,’ as if it mattered who held which opinion rather than which opinion is worth holding; the impressive personal vanity that prevents each ‘discussant’ from really listening to another speaker”.

Socrates’s alternative was “good” conversation or dialectic. To converse originally meant to turn towards one another, in order to find a common humanity and to move closer to the truth of something. Dialectic, in other words, is decidedly not about winning or losing, because all the conversants are ennobled by it. It is a joint search. Unfortunately, as Mr Barr put it, it is also “the most difficult” kind of conversation “especially for Americans to achieve”.

On a good day, Socrates’s conversations bore all the marks of dialectic. There was little long-winded monologue and much pithy back-and-forth. The conversation often meandered and sometimes Socrates contradicted himself. In the “Protagoras”, for example, he argues that virtue cannot be taught but in the “Meno” that it can. The conversations were at times humorous and invariably surprising. He hoped to bring all involved to a higher state of awareness.

Because Socrates wanted to win converts to this conversational culture he often chose young and malleable men who appeared tempted by the eristic rhetoric he believed democracy encouraged. For instance, Socrates tried hard to educate Alcibiades, the hedonistic and ambitious young man whose guardian Pericles was Athens’s greatest statesman. He also went for a long walk in the countryside of Athens (which he hated leaving) with a young man named Phaedrus in order, very gently, to make the youth see the hollowness of a rhetorician he admired.

Socrates as talk-show host

But Socrates also sought out those whom he saw peddling the skills of eristic conversation. These were the travelling teachers who charged wealthy fathers to teach their sons the tools of power, the “sophists” such as Protagoras or Thrasymachus. And there were the rhetoricians. Socrates manoeuvred the most famous of them, Gorgias, into admitting that the aim of rhetoric is “rule over others in one’s city”. Gorgias even boasted that a master rhetorician unqualified in medicine could get himself elected as surgeon general over a qualified doctor who is not rhetorically gifted. In America today, Socrates would recognise sophists and rhetoricians in partisan spin doctors such as Karl Rove and David Axelrod or equally in talk-show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Keith Olbermann.
Illustration by M H Jeeves

Using his irony, Socrates would make them feel overconfident, draw them out and then, through his questioning, expose their confusion and ignorance. Often this was done for the benefit of an impressionable young student who was listening. Because such conversations had to be bespoke for the participating individuals, Socrates refused ever to write anything down. As he said in the “Phaedrus”, text remains dumb when questioned and will be understood or misunderstood depending on who is reading it.

The trouble was that, although his students, including Plato and Xenophon, who passed on Socrates’s conversations for posterity, saw him as noble, much of Athens did not. Instead, many Athenians detected an underlying arrogance in Socratic irony. Socrates thus resembled, say, the wiser-than-thou and often manipulative comedian-commentators Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in today’s America. Those who agreed with him found him funny and enlightening. The rest found him merely condescending.

Socrates fed this image of arrogance. In his defence before the jury, he said that he acted on a divine mission from Apollo’s oracle at Delphi in exposing so many as ignorant. In Plato’s version, Socrates claimed that the oracle had said “there is no one wiser”. With this presumed superiority, Socrates set out to prove the oracle wrong. Xenophon’s version is more arrogant yet. “Apollo answered that no man was more free than I, or more just, or more prudent,” Socrates told the jury. “Apollo did not compare me to a god…he did, however, judge that I far excelled the rest of mankind.”

Socrates resembled, say, the wiser-than-thou, often manipulative comedian, Jon Stewart.

It is a tribute to the Athenians that they mostly embraced such megalomania as a charming quirk. They did, however, mock it. Aristophanes, a comic playwright who wrapped serious messages in humour—as, say, Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat) does today—wrote an entire play, “The Clouds”, to lampoon Socrates.

In that comedy, an old farmer named Strepsiades wants to get out of the debts of his horse-racing son, Pheidippides, and sends him to an eccentric philosopher named Socrates who runs a “thinkery” where students learn to talk themselves out of any situation (sophistry, in other words). The son successfully evades his creditors but also returns with strange ideas. Because Socrates has taught him that wisdom is the only authority, Pheidippides proceeds to beat up his uneducated father, then threatens to do the same to his mother. Angry that his son has been corrupted, Strepsiades burns down Socrates’s school.

The Socrates lampooned in the play, and probably laughing heartily in the audience, was 46 at the time and got on well with Aristophanes. Plato presents both men as having a jolly time together in the “Symposium”. But already in “The Clouds”, there are the familiar charges of Socrates corrupting the young and threatening to subvert society and of being impious. Indeed, Aristophanes has Socrates arguing in his thinkery that “Zeus does not even exist.” Addressing the jury 24 years later, Socrates claimed that this is where the charges originated.

In the coming years, many Athenians, and especially those who had been embarrassed by him, would learn to loathe Socrates. His dialectic was indeed surprisingly negative. Typically, he became obsessed with defining something abstract—What is justice? What is virtue?—and then twisted words to dismantle any opinion offered.

In Xenophon’s “Memorabilia”, a man named Hippias refuses to debate Socrates: “You mock at others, questioning and examining everybody, and never willing to render an account yourself or to state an opinion about anything,” he says. In Plato’s “Meno”, his interlocutor compares Socrates to “the flat torpedo sea-fish; for it benumbs anyone who approaches and touches it.” Socrates had a talent for making people feel bad.

He also, in effect, boycotted Athens as a society. Socrates did his military duty but not his civic or jury duty, which he considered beneath him. By opting out of ordinary public life, he chose to be what Pericles in his funeral oration called an idiotes, a person who remains “private” when his country needs him in public life.

Socrates as American Taliban
Worse, he was suspected of sympathising with Sparta, Athens’s enemy in the Peloponnesian War. An oligarchy in which rulers, warriors and workers had prescribed stations in life, Sparta had aspects of the “ideal” city that Socrates sketched in Plato’s “Republic”, and it was fashionable among his students to admire Sparta. The equivalent would have been for a prominent American intellectual to be pro-Soviet in the cold war, or today to have kind words for Islamic Jihad.

If Socrates had subversive tendencies, he never acted on them overtly. But he did seem to have a bad record with his students. Most famously, there was Alcibiades, who rose to power, talked the Athenians into sending an army to Sicily in a pre-emptive strike that turned into disaster, then defected to advise the Spartan enemies on how best to fight Athens, then defected again (after sleeping with a Spartan king’s wife) to Athens’s other enemy, Persia. When Alcibiades speaks in Plato’s “Symposium”, it is to lament his failure to persuade Socrates to have sex with him.

Another young man, Meno, is Socrates’s chosen interlocutor on the subject of virtue. The same Meno then led an Athenian army to Persia where he betrayed his country and troops by seeking favour at the court of the Persian king. (Admittedly, another student of Socrates, Xenophon, then rescued the stranded Athenian army.) One of Socrates’s three future accusers, Anytus, was present at his debate with Meno.

Socrates’s oldest student was Antisthenes, who apparently became so frustrated with Socrates’s habit of demolishing every conceivable opinion but not offering anything positive that he became the first of the Cynics. He concluded that all of democracy and politics was silly, taunted the Athenians that they should have a majority vote declaring asses to be horses, and then suggested that everybody withdraw from public life altogether. The Cynics became “apolitical”—without a polis (city), apart from society.

And there was of course Plato. But Plato never divulged his own views except, perhaps, through the words he attributed to Socrates. It is safe to say that he, too, disdained democracy and was attracted to the Spartan alternative, all the more so since he was the cousin of a certain Critias and the nephew of a man named Charmides, both of whom he appears to have admired and who became the rough Athenian equivalent of what Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are to America.

Ancient Athens after September 11th

For Athens did have its version of September 11th 2001: an attack on its basic way of life, its freedom and security as a democracy. It had two such events, in fact. In 411BC, during the Peloponnesian war, a group of aristocratic Athenians including students of Socrates overthrew Athens’s democracy in conspiracy with Alcibiades, who promised (but failed) to bring Persian support. This oligarchic junta lasted only a few months.

Then, in 404BC, a second coup toppled Athens’s democracy. Among its leaders were Plato’s relatives, Critias and Charmides, who appear in Plato’s dialogues to be students of Socrates and who were in cahoots with the Spartans who had just won the Peloponnesian war. For much of a year, the oligarchs conducted a reign of terror, before Athens reclaimed its democracy. In 401BC the oligarchs were scheming a third coup, but failed.

Socrates was put on trial two years later. He had played no part in the coups, but he was deemed suspect by association. His speeches, in light of recent events, struck the wrong chord and were considered inflammatory—like, say, the sermons of the American pastor, Jeremiah Wright, which forced Barack Obama, formerly in his congregation, to disavow him. Vaguely but plausibly, Socrates was accused of corrupting the young.

The other charge, also familiar to Americans who distrust atheism in their public figures (even though their constitution would not admit it in court), was impiety. Socrates almost certainly was an atheist. As was his wont, however, he cared more about debating, with a man named Euthrypho on the steps of the courthouse before his preliminary hearing, what piety even meant.

In his perplexing defence before the jury, Socrates never addressed either charge directly. True to form, he attempted dialectic with his accusers, making them look confused and thus insulting them even more. Nonetheless, and to the great credit of the Athenians, the verdict was close. I.F. Stone in “The Trial of Socrates” estimates that 280 jurors voted guilty, 220 innocent.

In his second speech, before his sentencing, Socrates stepped up his invective. To his acquitters he was kind. But to the rest he was mocking. Xenophon believed that Socrates intentionally antagonised the jury because at this point he wanted, or needed, to die and become a martyr. If so, Socrates succeeded. Stone estimates that the margin in the second vote grew, to 360-140 in favour of execution. When his friend, Crito, came to Socrates’s cell with an escape plan, Socrates chose to stay and drink the hemlock.

The nonconformist hero

Who and what, then, was Socrates to Athens? Part of his glory derives from his incorruptibility, his brave nonconformism, his determination to think as an individual not as part of “the herd”. Nonconformism became a heroic value in the Western tradition that Socrates helped to found, especially in societies such as America’s that value individualism.

But nonconformism is not an absolute virtue and easily veers off into sedition, subversion or other actions deemed unpatriotic. Psychologists suggest that people make constant trade-offs in social settings between, on one hand, insisting on their notion of truth and, on the other, the cohesion of a group. Sometimes truth and virtue require dissent and rebellion. Other times the survival or security of the group takes precedence and requires solidarity. If Socrates the free thinker belonged to a team, a club, a firm or a country today, he would never compromise his values, but he might well compromise his group.

Stone concluded that Socrates was on the biggest “ego-trip” in history. He probably was. And yet Athens would soon regret having convicted him. His trial was an overreaction, a betrayal of Athenian values just as torturing terrorist suspects or wiretapping Americans after September 11th were betrayals of American values. Democracies do betray themselves. Challengers such as Socrates exist to test society in its commitment to freedom and, if society fails the test, to remind it of the virtuous path.

8a)Simple, straightforward and way overdue.

Amendment 28
Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Carter-Obama - Two Milquetoasts? Gov't Ferdinands?

Obama finally admits the system failed. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to remind us it was a system put in place by GW.

Since everything Obama inherited came from GW and previous presidents why has Obama continued with their implementation and use? Why has Obama not reveiwed and 'changed' everything. I thought Obama was going to bring about'change.'

Ah, but Obama believes he needs to continue blaming Bush. It worked for a few months but now every time Obama blames GW, he looks increasingly foolish and incompetent.

Criticize Obama and those who would defend him resort to attacking GW as well. It is in their DNA.

Since we chose incompetence over experience we should be happy and not surprised. After all we are being well rewarded and it did not take long either.

Meanwhile, editorial writer, Joan Walsh, defends Obama by suggesting Republicans are equally to blame and thus that evens the score.(See 1 and 1a below.)

Charles Hurt asks where is Obama's passion? Apparently Hurt does not understand Obama is too cool to breathe!

What I find depressing is when Obama explains what has happened he sounds more like he is informing himself. Most Americans understand what is going on - incompetence is not terribly hard to detect.

Obama is so far behind the curve when it comes to fighting terrorism he winds up meeting himself. Public outrage must be getting to him and his staff and screwing up his golf game!

Obama told us yesterday everything we already knew, but he must have been advised to appear more presidentially dramatic and thus used stronger language by saying that forbidden word 'catastrophic.' However, he also chose not wear a tie and promptly left to play a round of golf. Was that a way of assuring us we are safe and secure or was that president cool again. Being a Compassionate Conservative I feel guilty Obama had to disrupt his golf game to tell me what I already knew.

On another note, December has come and gone and Iran's fist still remains closed. I expect Obama will now reset the negotiation goal post. Terrorist nations do not seem overly frightened by Obama. Why? Because what they see is a milquetoast who they can roll as they did Carter.

De-ja vu all over again? (See 2 below.)

We should also feel further comfort by virue of the fact our government is taking over more and more of our economy.

Think of it this way. In virtually every sector the government sits in the middle either as an enabler, decider or arbiter and in the process is choking and/or crippling virtually everything it touches or comes in contact:

Financial sector - government - salaries, rules and regulations

Health sector - government - thousands of rules

Mortgage sector - government - home buyers (responsible and irresponsible ones)

Lobbyists - government - taxpayers

Deficits - government - taxpayers

Auto industry - government - drivers

Stimulus - government - failure

Unions - government - unemployment

Air we breath - government - soon to be taxed

Death - government - estates taxed for third time

By now I hope you get the idea.(See 3 and 3a below.)

Something to ponder. It would be nice if you could buy insurance that would protect you from costly mistakes of an existing condition of stupidity. (See 4 below.)

Steele writes far more eloquently what I have been trying to say - we have deluded ourselves into believing we see what is not there in order to expiate our feelings of historic guilt.

A fascinating article as only Steel can write. (See 5 below.

Are government bureaucrats Ferdinands? They seem to enjoy smelling the flowers but ignore the red flags. (See 6 below.)

Finally, I would feel more secure if those who work at airport security would ask these simple but critical questions:

a) Are you a terrorist?

b) Did you pack your own bomb?

c) Have you been to Yemen in the past week?

d) How many times a day do you think about killing Americans?

e) How many times were you dropped on your head when you were an infant?

f) Does your mother wear a bhurka?

g) How many virgins do you know and are you anxious to visit them?


1) Playing politics with national security: Questions about the Flight 253 attack, and what to do about Yemen, may be obscured by petty bickering over blame
By Joan Walsh

President Barack Obama speaks to the media about the recent air travel incident, Dec. 28 at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.Yes, it's aggravating to see Republicans savaging the Obama administration over the Christmas Day bombing attempt. After all, Republicans have blocked additional funding to purchase TSA explosive-detection machines, and Sen. Jim DeMint placed a hold on the appointment of a new TSA chief because of fears the nominee is pro-union. On Monday ABC News revealed that two attack plotters had been released from Guantánamo — in November 2007, by the Bush-Cheney administration. Clearly, if Mary Matalin can claim President Bush "inherited" 9/11 from the Clinton administration, Democrats should be able to blame Bush for the actions of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The fact is, blundering the interpretation of genuine terror data, and spinning the blunders after any scary threat, is a bipartisan game. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have perfect records when it comes to keeping us safe. But the GOP is proving itself far more willing than Democrats to play politics after a terror incident, which is a shame, because it means that political ass-covering may drain energy that ought to go to national security. DeMint had the gall to blame the administration: Its allegedly "soft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo — these things are not going to appease the terrorists," he said. "They’re going to keep coming after us," DeMint told Fox News, "and we can’t have politics as usual in Washington, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve got right now with airport security."

Even I think Obama should have spoken publicly about the incident earlier than today, but I'm relieved that, unlike press secretary Robert Gibbs and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the president didn't pretend that the security system "worked" to thwart the Christmas Day bombing attempt. He promised a review of the watch-list system, in the wake of news that Abdulmutallab's father had warned U.S. and British officials of his son's radicalization. The British were so concerned they denied him a visa and put him on their no-fly list. In the U.S., the 23-year-old Nigerian merely went on a watch list with half a million other names, so officials could investigate whether any future student visa requests could be denied. It's important to get to the bottom of why the U.S. and British responses to the information were so different.

1a)Editorial: It's time to revisit U.S. terror policy: Has President Obama's shift to a law enforcement strategy for fighting terror left the nation less safe?

President Barack Obama came into office vowing to change the tone on terrorism and swiftly set about transforming the war on terror into a law enforcement exercise that places a greater emphasis on apprehension and prosecution than it does on deterrence. After two recent terrorist attacks on the United States -- one successful, one failed -- this is a good point at which to stop and examine whether the new strategy is working to keep Americans safe.

The attempted Christmas Day bombing of a flight landing in Detroit by an al-Qaida-linked Nigerian suspect raises serious concerns about the nation's ability to deter terrorist attacks.

Despite premature declarations from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that "the system worked," the system failed miserably. Only the good fortune that the terrorist couldn't detonate his bomb kept Northwest Flight 253 from becoming a horrific holiday tragedy

Several issues must be addressed. Chief among them is why Umar Farouk Abudulmutallab was allowed to get on a flight to the United States. His name is on a list of possible terrorists, and yet his two-year U.S. tourist visa was never revoked.

The State Department shouldn't be giving visas to any of the 550,000 people worldwide identified as terror risks. Some people on that list certainly may be wrongfully named. But it's better to offend an innocent few than to risk allowing a bona-fide terrorist access to the country.

Congress should look at sharing responsibility for issuing visas between the State and Homeland Security departments, so that at least one set of eyes looks at visitor requests with the potential for terror in mind.

Better airport screening policies and equipment are also in order. If the current practices can't detect the sort of explosive device that Abudulmutallab strapped to his leg, then upgrades are needed and should be put in place as soon as possible.

But beyond procedures, Congress should have a vigorous debate about whether the administration's approach to preventing terror is valid.

The Obama administration is determined to treat terrorists as criminals. But that can limit the ability to prevent attacks. For example, Abudulmutallab was quickly charged and moved into the federal court system, where the ability to interrogate him is limited. Would more aggressive interrogation reveal whether his was an isolated attempt, or part of a broader plot? We're less likely to find out now that he's a criminal defendant, with all the rights that come with that status.

Similarly, intelligence agencies had information that should have raised suspicions about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan before he went on his rampage at Fort Hood last month. Were we less free to act in advance under the rules of a criminal investigation than we should have been?

What are the links, if any, between the Fort Hood massacre and the botched airliner bombing?

Abudulmutallab reportedly was schooled by al-Qaida in Yemen, a country of growing concern. Hasan also had connections to Yemini al-Qaida members.

The U.S. intelligence agencies are moving to get a handle on terror activity there. Should more be done?

Congress should fully air these issues and questions. Unfortunately, its ability to do so is limited by a lack of cooperation from the Obama administration.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, says that requests for the information needed to hold hearings have been rebuffed.

"We need to look at where we've drawn the line on policy and see if it's where it needs to be, or does it need to be moved," Hoekstra says.

"The only way policy can be moved is by joint action by Congress and the administration."

Obama was heavily motivated in shifting terror policy by a desire to improve the United States' standing in the international community and, in his words, to return the nation to its values.

But terrorists shouldn't be allowed to use our values against us. Nor should we make appeasing America's critics a greater priority than keeping our own people safe.

We got lucky on Christmas Day. Some would say we got a Christmas miracle.

But luck and miracles are no substitute for aggressive deterrence.

2)Passion out of fashion for O

Responding to the attempted terror attack on an American plane in US skies, Obama took a break from the sandy beaches and golf links of Hawaii to make his first remarks about the simple thwarting of what were supposed to be the highest security procedures.

It was three days late and Obama mailed it in.

Unaided by his trusty TelePrompTers, the president read through his statement like a school kid dutifully treading through his book report.

"Here is what we know so far: On Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit," he said in those monotone stanzas.

"As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body, setting off a fire."

Allegedly? This is not a courtroom, Mr. President. Or a law school.

You are the leader of the greatest beacon of hope in a world filled with unyielding and mindless evil.

Where is your passion?

It's not like he had to come out and say something like wanting the guy "dead or alive."

But something? Anything?

As disappointing as Obama's dearth of vigor is, truly alarming is what he said a little later as he complimented the fine Americans and great passengers from other countries who stepped in and, once again, picked up where the government had colossally failed.

"This incident demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist," Obama said.

Again, this was a prepared statement that he appeared to read word for word from a sheet of paper.

This was not a slip of the tongue.

An "isolated extremist?"

Amid all of the current confusion over how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab got on to a flight bound for America despite ample warning that he was planning to attack the country, one thing is clear right now: the so-called "isolated extremist" was working for al Qaeda -- a worldwide terror group.

No matter what kind of vacation Obama finds himself on right now, al Qaeda remains fully at war with America. And will remain so until every last one of them is killed.

It was almost like Obama yesterday really would have rather been surfing.

3)Is the Government Taking Over the Economy?
By Noam Scheiber

The Journal has a wide-ranging story today on the extent to which the government's role in the economy has grown. The gist of the piece is that the expansion has been significant, which is almost certainly true, at least in the short-term. (Much of the intervention will be unwound in the next few years, though some of it won't.)

Still, I'm not entirely sure this is the right question to ask. Given that the whole financial system came close to disintegrating last fall, and that the real economy nearly followed, anyone but a complete neanderthal would have expected a pretty significant government expansion. The question is whether government expanded more, less, or about as much as we would have expected. Coincidentally, the editors of our web site have re-posted the piece Frank Foer and I wrote on this subject back in May, which argues that the expansion of government under Obama isn't as significant as you might have predicted. Ditto for his ambitions going forward. We now have about eight months' more data to work with, but I think the argument still holds up reasonably well.

Relatedly, a subtext of the Journal piece is that the consequences of all the government expansion are more negative than positive at this point. Take, for example, this detail:

Bank of America Corp. also has repaid its aid, freeing itself from the condition lenders hate most about the bailouts: Treasury oversight of executive pay. Even so, it sought the Treasury's advice on a pay package before hiring a new chief executive.

The bank was considering paying $35 million to $40 million to hire Robert Kelly, CEO of Bank of New York Mellon Corp., much of it to buy out his unvested shares and options. The Bank of America board wanted to know how that would go over in Washington. Treasury paymaster Kenneth Feinberg told the bank that if it were still under his purview, he would reject the package. Around the same time, President Obama publicly bashed "fat cat" bankers.

With those two signals, the talks with Mr. Kelly fizzled, according to officials involved with the decision. The bank instead promoted an insider, Brian Moynihan, who had been working to repair the bank's reputation in Washington. ... Mr. Moynihan, by contrast, told Obama aides in October that Bank of America wanted to work with the White House to achieve U.S. policy goals in areas like small-business lending and foreclosure prevention.

I think we can all agree that, in an ideal world, a board should be able to hire the best possible candidate for a job, regardless of his political skills. But, of course, we're pretty far away from that ideal. When it comes to the financial sector, one of the things that makes the world fall far short of the ideal is the government backing (both explicit and implicit) that makes it much, much cheaper for big banks to borrow money. As Dean Baker pointed out to the Journal:

Although smaller banks have long had a higher cost of funds than big ones, the gap has widened. The gap averaged 0.03 percentage point for the first seven years of the decade, but it jumped to a 0.66-point disadvantage for smaller banks in the four quarters ended Sept. 30, estimates Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank. That suggests investors think the government would bail out big banks, but not small ones, if crisis erupted anew, he says.

The Journal holds this up as another reason to worry about government intervention, since it advantages big banks over small banks. And it clearly is. But, of course, this concern doesn't run in the same direction as the previous concern: It's not the big banks who have a problem with this; they're happy to borrow cheaply.

When executives at big banks complain about government intervention, what they're really saying is they want all the advantages of government intervention (cheap borrowing) without any of the disadvantages (like constraints on hiring decisions). But that makes no sense. Why on earth would the government provide the former without the latter? How could one even exist without the other?

I'd guess that if bank investors or board members or even executives we're being honest, they'd probably admit that the cheap borrowing is worth much more to them than the cost of not being able to hire their ideal CEO. After all, the notion that the "ideal CEO" (i.e., pure financial brilliance, political skills be damned) is ever available to a major bank is kind of ridiculous. Even before the crisis, banks benefited heavily from the presence of, say, the Fed as a lender of last resort, and the (explicit and implicit) presence of the U.S. government of a backer of their obligations. The idea that this didn't require a CEO to have some savvy in dealing with the government is pretty ludicrous, even if the banks liked to pretend that all their profits came by dint of financial savvy. So I'm just not seeing how the current reality is so different from the paradise we've ostensibly lost.

3a)On the Obama River and Headed for the Falls
By Harold Witkov

Did you ever imagine what it might be like to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel? How about going over the Obama Falls?

Life has many warning markers. Some of these markers represent points of no return: where one must make a commitment so forceful that there is no turning back. The phrase "point of no return" is a poignant characterization of what is taking place politically and economically in our country today.

President Obama and his Democrat Congress are presently attempting to do away with our free-market system and the personal liberties we enjoy. Via a head-spinning series of sweeping changes and fast-paced "emergency" bills, they are doing everything they can to get us beyond the irrevocable point of political and financial no return.

In case anyone has missed it, allow me to point out the obvious. President Obama and the Democrats are taking over the banks and the auto industry. They are one step closer to government-run health care. In their sights is cap-and-trade taxing and amnesty resulting in citizenship for those here illegally. Not too far down the road will be the elimination of conservative talk radio. We have a trillion-dollar deficit balloon that is expanding and ready to burst. Our enemies abroad grow stronger and ever bolder.

Some days I feel as though the die is cast and our nation has passed the point of no return. There I am, in a barrel on the mighty Obama River, headed for the Obama Falls, with its jagged rocks awaiting me below. Of course, it's not just me, but all of us.

If this is our destiny, I think we should know that we are not the first to go over a waterfall in a barrel. There have been others. Some even survived the treacherous experience. From those exalted trailblazers, regardless of whether they lived or perished, I take inspiration.

So how did they who went before us prepare themselves? Here is what some did before going over Niagara Falls:

Annie Edson Taylor went over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1901. Her preparation was a padded mattress.
Bobby Leach went over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1911. His barrel was made of steel.
Charles Stephens went over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1920. He tied himself to an anvil. (He, by the way, did not survive.)
Steven Trotter went over Niagara Falls in a barrel on two different occasions. In 1985, he wrapped his barrel with inner tubes. He also did it in 1995. This time, he packed lady-friend Lori Martin.

So what should we do to make ready our personal barrels so that we might survive if and when we go over the great Obama Falls? Here are some of the suggestions I have been hearing:

obtain a medical degree so you can practice medicine on yourself
stock up on a lifetime's worth of nonperishable foods
build a bomb shelter
learn to blame Israel for all the problems of the world
purchase a handgun and learn how to use it
buy gold
take your money out of your bank account and bury it
learn to speak Spanish
take your money out of the stock market and hide it
sew your jewels into your clothing
diversify, diversify, diversify
leave the country before it is too late
get a Swiss bank account
join the ACORN team
convert to Wahhabi Islam

It seems to me that we who love this great nation have but two choices. We can give up and try to protect our own personal barrels, or we can hope we have not yet reached the much-feared point of no return on the Obama River and fight for the principles that our Founding Fathers laid out.

If we have not yet reached the point of no return -- and I believe we have not -- then even slowing down health care "reform" legislation (or other bankrupting entitlement foods on the liberal plate) can be a victory in that we have bought time. And time, as they say, is of the essence as we close in upon 2010 and the next round of elections.

Too often, I hear conservatives ask, "How can we stop what seems inevitable?" Now, I could respond to this question with a number of inspirational clichés. I could say, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings"; "[We] have not yet begun to fight"; or "You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it."

Instead, the best advice I can give is, "Pray as if everything depends on God. Work as if everything depends on you."

4)Modern Day Lunacy
By Walter Williams

Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, and Rep. Joe Courtney D-Conn., a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, have introduced the Pre-existing Condition Patient Protection Act, which would eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions in all insurance markets. That's an Obama administration priority. I wonder whether President Obama and his congressional supporters would go a step further and protect not just patients but everyone against pre-existing condition exclusions by insurance companies. Let's look at the benefits of such a law.

A person might save quite a bit of money on fire insurance. He could wait until his home is ablaze and then walk into Nationwide and say, "Sell me a fire insurance policy so I can have my house repaired." The Nationwide salesman says, "That's lunacy!" But the person replies, "Congress says you cannot deny me insurance because of a pre-existing condition." This mandate against insurance company discrimination would not only apply to home insurance but auto insurance and life insurance as well. Instead of a wife wasting money on costly life insurance premiums, she could spend that money on jewelry, cosmetics and massages and then wait until her husband kicked the bucket to buy life insurance on him.

Insurance companies don't stay in business and prosper by being stupid. If Congress were to enact a law eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions, what might be expected? Say I'm a salesman for Nationwide and you demand that I write you an insurance policy for your house that has already gone up in flames. I send an appraiser out to your house to get an estimate how much money it would take to make you whole. Let's say it comes to $400,000. Guess how much I'm going to charge you for the policy? If you said somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000, you'd be pretty close to the right answer. You might say, "Williams, you're right. Forcing fire and auto insurance companies to sell policies for a pre-existing fire or auto accident is bizarre and stupid, but it's different with health insurance." Yes, health insurance is different from fire and auto insurance but the insurance principle remains the same.

If Congress and the president are successful in making the Pre-existing Condition Patient Protection Act the law of the land, their treachery won't stop there. Insurance companies will attempt to charge people with pre-existing health conditions a higher price to compensate for their higher expected cost. Those people will complain to Congress. Then Congress will enact insurance premium price controls. Insurance companies might try to restrict just what treatments they will cover under such restrictions. That means Congress will play a greater role in managing what insurance companies can and cannot do.

The dilemma Congress always faces, when it messes with the economy, was aptly described in a Negro spiritual play by Marcus Cook Connelly titled "Green Pastures." In it, G0d laments to the angel Gabriel, "Every time Ah passes a miracle, Ah has to pass fo' or five mo' to ketch up wid it," adding, "Even bein G0d ain't no bed of roses." When Congress creates a miracle for one American, it creates a non-miracle for another. After that, Congress has to create a compensatory miracle. Many years ago, I used to testify before Congress, something I refuse to do now. At several of the hearings, I urged Congress to get out of the miracle business and leave miracle making up to G0d.

For a president and congressman to shamelessly propose something like the Pre-existing Condition Patient Protection Act demonstrates just how far we've gone down the road to perdition. The most tragic thing is that most Americans have no idea that such an act violates every principle of insurance and it's something that not even yesteryear's lunatics would have thought up.

5)Obama and Our Post-Modern Race Problem
: The president always knew that his greatest appeal was not as a leader but as a cultural symbol..

America still has a race problem, though not the one that conventional wisdom would suggest: the racism of whites toward blacks. Old fashioned white racism has lost its legitimacy in the world and become an almost universal disgrace.

The essence of our new "post-modern" race problem can be seen in the parable of the emperor's new clothes. The emperor was told by his swindling tailors that people who could not see his new clothes were stupid and incompetent. So when his new clothes arrived and he could not see them, he put them on anyway so that no one would think him stupid and incompetent. And when he appeared before his people in these new clothes, they too—not wanting to appear stupid and incompetent—exclaimed the beauty of his wardrobe. It was finally a mere child who said, "The emperor has no clothes."

The lie of seeing clothes where there were none amounted to a sophistication—joining oneself to an obvious falsehood in order to achieve social acceptance. In such a sophistication there is an unspoken agreement not to see what one clearly sees—in this case the emperor's flagrant nakedness.

America's primary race problem today is our new "sophistication" around racial matters. Political correctness is a compendium of sophistications in which we join ourselves to obvious falsehoods ("diversity") and refuse to see obvious realities (the irrelevance of diversity to minority development). I would argue further that Barack Obama's election to the presidency of the United States was essentially an American sophistication, a national exercise in seeing what was not there and a refusal to see what was there—all to escape the stigma not of stupidity but of racism.

Barack Obama, elegant and professorially articulate, was an invitation to sophistication that America simply could not bring itself to turn down. If "hope and change" was an empty political slogan, it was also beautiful clothing that people could passionately describe without ever having seen.

Mr. Obama won the presidency by achieving a symbiotic bond with the American people: He would labor not to show himself, and Americans would labor not to see him. As providence would have it, this was a very effective symbiosis politically. And yet, without self-disclosure on the one hand or cross-examination on the other, Mr. Obama became arguably the least known man ever to step into the American presidency.

Our new race problem—the sophistication of seeing what isn't there rather than what is—has surprised us with a president who hides his lack of economic understanding behind a drama of scale. Hundreds of billions moving into trillions. Dramatic, history-making numbers. But where is the economic logic behind a stimulus package that doesn't fully click in for a number of years? How is every stimulus dollar spent actually going to stimulate? Why bailouts to institutions that only hoard the money? How is vast government spending simultaneously a kind of prudence that will not "add to the deficit?" How can such spending not trigger smothering levels of taxation?

Mr. Obama's economic thinking (or lack thereof) adds up to a kind of rudderless cowboyism combined with wishful thinking. You would think that in the two solid years of daily campaigning leading up to his election this nakedness would have been seen.

On the foreign front he has been given much credit for his new policy on the Afghan war, and especially for the "rational" and "earnest" way he went about arriving at the decision to surge 30,000 new troops into battle. But here also were three months of presidential equivocation for all the world to see, only to end up essentially where he started out.

And here again was the lack of a larger framework of meaning. How is this surge of a piece with America's role in the world? Are we the world's exceptional power and thereby charged with enforcing a certain balance of power, or are we now embracing European self-effacement and nonengagement? Where is the clear center in all this?

I think that Mr. Obama is not just inexperienced; he is also hampered by a distinct inner emptiness—not an emptiness that comes from stupidity or a lack of ability but an emptiness that has been actually nurtured and developed as an adaptation to the political world.

The nature of this emptiness becomes clear in the contrast between him and Ronald Reagan. Reagan reached the White House through a great deal of what is called "individuating"—that is he took principled positions throughout his long career that jeopardized his popularity, and in so doing he came to know who he was as a man and what he truly believed.

He became Ronald Reagan through dissent, not conformity. And when he was finally elected president, it was because America at last wanted the vision that he had evolved over a lifetime of challenging conventional wisdom. By the time Reagan became president, he had fought his way to a remarkable certainty about who he was, what he believed, and where he wanted to lead the nation.

Mr. Obama's ascendancy to the presidency could not have been more different. There seems to have been very little individuation, no real argument with conventional wisdom, and no willingness to jeopardize popularity for principle. To the contrary, he has come forward in American politics by emptying himself of strong convictions, by rejecting principled stands as "ideological," and by promising to deliver us from the "tired" culture-war debates of the past. He aspires to be "post-ideological," "post-racial" and "post-partisan," which is to say that he defines himself by a series of "nots"—thus implying that being nothing is better than being something. He tries to make a politics out of emptiness itself.

But then Mr. Obama always knew that his greatest appeal was not as a leader but as a cultural symbol. He always wore the bargainer's mask—winning the loyalty and gratitude of whites by flattering them with his racial trust: I will presume that you are not a racist if you will not hold my race against me. Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and yes, Tiger Woods have all been superb bargainers, eliciting almost reverential support among whites for all that they were not—not angry or militant, not political, not using their moral authority as blacks to exact a wage from white guilt.

But this mask comes at a high price. When blacks become humanly visible, when their true beliefs are known, their mask shatters and their symbiotic bond with whites is broken. Think of Tiger Woods, now so humanly visible. Or think of Bill Cosby, who in recent years has challenged the politically correct view and let the world know what he truly thinks about the responsibility of blacks in their own uplift.

It doesn't matter that Mr. Woods lost his bargainer's charm through self-destructive behavior and that Mr. Cosby lost his through a courageous determination to individuate—to take public responsibility for his true convictions. The appeal of both men—as objects of white identification—was diminished as their human reality emerged. Many whites still love Mr. Cosby, but they worry now that expressing their affection openly may identify them with his ideas, thus putting them at risk of being seen as racist. Tiger Woods, of course, is now so tragically human as to have, as the Bible put it, "no name in the street."

A greater problem for our nation today is that we have a president whose benign—and therefore desirable—blackness exempted him from the political individuation process that makes for strong, clear-headed leaders. He has not had to gamble his popularity on his principles, and it is impossible to know one's true beliefs without this. In the future he may stumble now and then into a right action, but there is no hard-earned center to the man out of which he might truly lead.

And yes, white America conditioned Barack Obama to emptiness—valued him all along for his "articulate and clean" blackness, so flattering to American innocence. He is a president come to us out of our national insecurities.

Mr. Steele is a senior research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

6)Red Flags Waved -- And Ignored
By Ruth Marcus

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn inside his underwear. And at the Obama administration's initial, everything's-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction.

I understand: When it comes to a terrorist attack, we live in an age of not if but when. What seems obvious in retrospect is rarely evident at the time; hindsight needs no Lasik. For every Abdulmutallab that slips through the inevitable cracks, many more are foiled. Or so we hope.

And so we have learned, because we must, to live with a new layer of risk. Like climbers adjusting to a higher altitude, we have grown so accustomed to the changed circumstances that we forget about the thinner air, the omnipresent danger. Until moments like the episode on Flight 253 yank us back to the new reality -- and, worse, to the realization that, eight long and expensive years later, not nearly enough has changed.

"Information was not shared. ... Analysis was not pooled. ... Often the handoffs of information were lost across the divide separating the foreign and domestic agencies of the government."

"Improved use of 'no-fly' and 'automatic selectee' lists should not be delayed. ... This screening function should be performed by the TSA, and it should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government."

"The TSA ... must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers."

A trenchant analysis of the Christmas attack? No, quotes from the report of the 9/11 Commission.

As with the numerous missed opportunities to stop the 9/11 hijackers, the Abdulmutallab story that has emerged so far is an enraging litany of how-can-it-be's.

How can it be that his visa was not revoked after his own father went to U.S. authorities to report concerns about his son's radicalization? "After his father contacted the embassy recently, we coded his visa file so that, had he attempted to renew his visa months from now, it would have triggered an in-depth review of his application," one U.S. official told CNN. How reassuring.

How can it be that, after the father's alert, the most that seems to have been done was to place Abdulmutallab's name in a database so sprawling as to be nearly useless? There was, one administration official explained, "insufficient derogatory information" to bump up Abdulmutallab to a higher status of watch list. Excuse me, but how much more derogatory can you get?

How can it be that British authorities denied Abdulmutallab's request for a visa renewal -- without triggering a comparable review by U.S. officials? Was the United States not informed or did U.S. authorities simply not take action in response? Either there is a continuing problem of intergovernmental communication or a continuing problem of bureaucratic lassitude.

How can it be that an individual passenger (a) traveling from Nigeria, with its known security lapses, (b) not checking luggage and (c) purchasing a ticket with cash was not singled out for additional screening? What did he have to do: wear a sign saying, "You might want to check my underwear"?

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for "priority attention" to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery -- incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration's communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that they were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

This was not just one supposedly out-of-context stumble by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; it was the official line. Making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs resisted every effort to get him to acknowledge that something had gone seriously wrong.

The American people are not as stupid as the administration's initial approach assumed. They accept that a smart, determined terrorist can -- and eventually probably will -- slip through the best-constructed defenses. They cannot accept -- nor should they -- a system so slipshod as to let through a bungler like Abdulmutallab, with all the red flags that were waved